The Vampire Diaries may be over, but life goes on. Here's our spoiler-filled review of the season 8 finale…

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The arguments over who needs to stay with Katherine while Bonnie redirects the hellfire (or something) are a bit tedious, but I guess casual fans would probably need a reminder of Stefan and Damon’s central conflict. Stefan has always felt guilty for being the reason Damon turned in the first place, and his human status means he’s technically giving up fewer years than Damon would be.

Knowing that someone major was going to die before the end of the episode, it always felt right for it to be Stefan. That debt could only ever be repaid by gifting Damon with the human life he should have had in the first place, and would one day be able to enjoy with Elena. Stefan becoming human earlier in the season made sense for his character, but it also made sense narratively for this finale.

So he took the cure out of himself – meaning his days were numbered anyway – and gave it to his brother.

Meanwhile, Bonnie got her big damn hero moment when she rediscovered her connection to the entire Bennett line. As Matt and his dad stood in the square waiting for Vicky to ring the bell one last time – accepting their fate if it would unite them – Bonnie managed to literally keep hell at bay with the help of her family. “Now you’re finally ready to live,” Enzo tells her.

Is it a bit anticlimactic? Maybe – I could have done with a little bit more mayhem and destruction – but at the end of the day this finale first and foremost had to wrap things up for the characters. Bonnie didn’t die, which would have been the easy way out, but instead discovered that she’s always had enough magic to break the bond between her and Elena.

In fact, no one had to die, except for Stefan.

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Feeling epic, his hero hair dashing as ever, Stefan meets Elena in the same limbo space in which she had spoken with Bonnie earlier. The rules of magic are being stretched to their breaking point in this episode, but it hardly matters when we get scenes as good as this one.

Not romantic, but familial, and with his parting words providing comfort to Caroline. I’ve always loved The Vampire Diaries for putting as much emphasis on all different kinds of love – siblings, best friends, parents and, yes, romance. Stefan’s happy place, in the end, was reuniting with Lexi after making peace with his two epic loves, Elena and Caroline. He also got to be the one to kill Katherine, which feels right.

Our final montage wraps things up for the remaining characters, which includes Elena along with cameos galore. Matt got his own bench in the square, Alaric and Caroline opened a magic school for their girls at the Salvatore mansion (recruiting Jeremy to help out), Elena finally went to medical school and Bonnie grabbed her passport and headed for the rest of her life.

The shippers even got their happy ending with some final words exchanged between Klaus and Caroline.

And what a perfect note to finish on with Bonnie, a woman who’s been trying to die for eight seasons, to finally decide she deserves to live a life not tied to the fates of her friends. Run far away and never look back, Bonnie Bennett, you deserve everything life has to offer and more.

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The episode finished in the only way it could, with Stefan and Damon – not a shred of animosity between them – reunited. For all the fanfare surrounding the return of Nina Dobrev for this finale, it always had to be them seeing the show off. After living a long and full human life with Elena, Damon chose to spend his afterlife with his brother, drinking bourbon by the fire for all eternity.

So now it’s done, and because it’d be impossible for me to sum up what this show has meant to me and so many others over these past eight years, I’ll leave off instead with words from Elena: “This life will be good, and beautiful, but not without heartbreak. In death comes peace but pain is the cost of living. Like love, it’s how we know we’re alive. And life goes on.”

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