The first time I spoke out loud to anyone about The Vampire Diaries, I thought they were talking about Twilight.
The year was 2009. The show was just six episodes into its first season, and I was only a few days into my first real entertainment reporting job since graduating college.
“Should we do something about this vampire show?” my boss asked, to which I honestly replied, “Do you mean Twilight? That’s a movie.” (For the record, I wish I could return to this exact moment in time and do to my former self what Damon did to Kai at Jo and Alaric’s wedding.)
“No, it’s a show,” my boss replied. “It’s called The Vampire Diaries. It’s really good.”
Oh, that show. As a CW junkie — one who plans to somehow retire in Tree Hill — I had, of course, seen the commercials for the network’s “new hit series.” But like many others at the time, I had dismissed it as a passing fad, The CW’s attempt at cashing in on the nation’s apparent vampire obsession. (Again, if I could go back and “Kai” myself…)
And so began my first-ever TV binge — a term that, believe it or not, wouldn’t join the lexicon for at least four more years — as well as what would become an all-consuming love affair with the good (and not-so-good) residents of Mystic Falls.
But what exactly did I love about it? I couldn’t articulate my position at the time — “pretty people” and “fun twists” were all I could muster — but I think I’ve gained some clarity in the 164 episodes since: Not unlike the way Stefan was eternally imprisoned in a teenage body, we’re all just angsty teenagers pretending we’ve grown up. The Vampire Diaries taught me to celebrate that angst. It reminded me of the thrill of embracing the unknown, even if it leads to danger, and to defy what’s expected of me. This was a world I wanted to become a part of… so I did.
I feel like I speak for several of my fellow entertainment journalists when I say that, in a sense, I owe this show everything. Simply by covering it — speaking to its stars, weighing in publicly on its countless twists and turns — its success became my success. (Special thanks to devoted Vampire Diaries fan sites, particularly @TVDFansOnline, for consistently sharing my work along the way.)
There’s a lot I’m going to miss about covering The Vampire Diaries: tip-toeing around the set during visits to Atlanta, conducting memorable interviews with the cast at Comic-Con, and — of course — grilling the executive producers for answers after a particularly juicy episode. (As a reporter, I always appreciated Julie Plec’s effortless ability to speak in headline-ready soundbites.)
And there’s just as much that I’m going to miss about being a fan of the show; knowing that I’ll never again be left stupefied by a game-changing season finale twist, for example, is enough to put me in the fetal position. (Hell, I didn’t even mind catching the last few minutes of Two and a Half Men once a week while I prepared to devour my favorite show — and that’s saying a lot.)
But TVD‘s finale coincidentally landing on the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s premiere helped me realize something: I don’t have to miss this show. It’s not really going anywhere. The way people talk about Buffy today — how they’re still torn over the love triangle, how they still love these characters, and how it’s still their go-to comfort-watch during difficult times — is how they’re going to talk about TVD in years to come. It’s not over. It’s eternal.
I understand that not everyone loved Friday’s finale, but here’s a question for the group: What’s the right way to wrap up a rich, complicated series full of dynamic characters with complex relationships and interpersonal connections? I imagine there are endless answers to my query, but the simple truth is, they’re all wrong. There is no “right” way.
Plec and Kevin Williamson gave themselves the unenviable task of crafting an ending that would not only provide the characters with closure, but also wrap up eight years of story. Did it feel a little rushed? Sure. But with Nina Dobrev only available for one episode — I still remember exactly where I was when she announced her departure on Instagram — it kind of had to be. And while not every character/couple received the happy ending fans wanted, since when has this show ever been about happy endings?
The Vampire Diaries has always been a show about loss, about heartache, about powering through the difficult times in order to see the beauty in the world around you. And that’s exactly what this ending was — beautiful.
Tell me: How were you introduced to The Vampire Diaries? How did it change your life? And what did you think of the ending, now that you’ve had a chance to sleep on it? Whatever’s on your mind, drop it in a comment below.