Yes, Elena finally chose between Stefan and Damon. But in true Vampire Diaries style, the way the decision came about was gripping and clever on an emotional level.
With the news trickling to the Salvatores that Elena was rushed to the hospital after falling unconscious last week in 'Before Sunset', Stefan opts to return to Mystic Falls while Damon continues on with Klaus's body. With Jeremy's help, Matt drives Elena out of town against her will.
Unfortunately, Elijah (Daniel Gillies)'s plan to snatch the Original-slaying stake from Alaric doesn't go as expected. Alaric easily overpowers Damon and Rebekah (Claire Holt) and - shocker! - drives the stake into Klaus's dessicated body. Klaus burns up in flames, and while Rebekah runs from Alaric, everyone realises that the Salvatores, Caroline and Bonnie's mother could be done for if Klaus was telling the truth about him creating their bloodline.
This presents a dilemma for Elena: does she go back to Mystic Falls and say a potential farewell to Stefan, or head towards Damon? Under pressure, Elena chooses Mystic Falls. Not only are her friends back there, but she admits that Stefan makes her feel like life is worth living. She lets Damon down over the phone, saying things may have been different had she met and fallen in love with him first. Though there is a divide between Stelena and Delena fans, this is a decision that feels consistent with Elena's character after everything she's been through.
However, Delena fans are given hope as a flashback reveals Damon had actually met Elena first! Initially thinking he was Katherine, he compels Elena to forget their encounter. And after what happens in the jaw-dropping final couple of minutes, it looks like Elena will remember...
The twists don't end there, because the Originals are baffled that everyone (barring an apparently-dying Tyler) is looking healthy and fine. They believed that Klaus started their bloodline. Believe it or not, they're spot-on - and Klaus is still alive! Though Joseph Morgan may be gone, Bonnie performs some serious mojo to put Klaus into Tyler's body. Klaus tricks Caroline into thinking Tyler's dead before presumably leaving Mystic Falls.
This reveal adds another layer to the heartbreaking Caroline/Tyler story - knowing that it was actually Klaus that said those genuine reassuring words to her. It's obvious that he really does care for Caroline.
The episode really does have a bit of everything and drags viewers through a whirlwind of emotions, aided by epic revelations that set up the next season. Other highlights include seeing Elena's parents and Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning) in flashbacks, Caroline and Tyler being urged to flee by their mothers and an awesome music selection with Metric's 'Sick Muse' playing at a party (even if the song may not have been released yet back in early 2009).
But it's the climax of the season finale that will probably be engrained into people's minds. With Alaric hellbent on completing his mission, the only believable way it could have ended is with him eventually being killed. Of course, that would mean Elena would have to die. Guess what - the writers actually go there. Those who have been reading the novels might have been expecting this moment for a long time now, but that doesn't make what happens any less enthralling.
Rebekah causes Matt and Elena's car to careen over the edge of a bridge and plunge into the water, echoing the night of the deaths of Elena's parents. That night, Elena's father motioned Stefan to save his daughter. In the present, Elena drowns, insisting Stefan rescue Matt first. You wouldn't expect anything less from a heroine as selfless and caring as Elena.
A devastated Damon - who was getting the beating of his life from Alaric - realises, as the Big Bad crumbles to the ground, what is happening. Alaric does get an awesome final scene, though - the good Alaric appears to Jeremy as a ghost and says he will always be watching over him. It's a beautiful moment, and I hope we haven't seen the last of Matt Davis.
There is no Vampire Diaries without Elena, though. What Meredith (Torrey DeVitto) failed to mention in the hospital at the beginning of the hour was that she treated Elena with vampire blood due to the severity of her illness. With vampire blood still in her system, Elena wakes up - and we cut to black knowing that she will surely transition into a vampire. Wow. Double wow. Just... what a game-changer. And now we must wait several months to see the repercussions and how it changes the dynamic of the show.
From start to finish, 'The Departed' doesn't let up. Each scene was meticulously plotted out - there was no filler to be seen. Add to that all-around exceptional acting (Nina Dobrev deserves much of the plaudits, but I also particularly loved Ian Somerhalder and Claire Holt, as well as Michael Trevino as Klaus) and you have a finale that is pure quality.
What did you think of the season finale? What do you think will happen in season four? Leave your comments below!