Warning: this story contains major spoilers from The Vampire Diaries series finale, "I Was Feeling Epic." "Hello, brother." With two iconic words, The Vampire Diaries ended its eight-season run on Friday night. The series finale, "I Was Feeling Epic," had so many heartbreaking moment, joyful reunions and shocking twists, but by the end of the powerful hour, every character had eventually gone on to find peace in beautiful, heartwarming moments that felt truly earned.
For some like Stefan (Paul Wesley), that peace came early as he sacrificed himself to kill Katherine (Nina Dobrev) when Bonnie (Kat Graham) destroyed hell, all on his and Caroline's (Candice King) wedding night. He saved the day, and because of his sacrifice, he found peace with his BFF Lexi (Arielle Kebbel). For others like Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Elena (also Dobrev), peace came much later, after they both lived out their human lives (Stefan had given Damon the cure before he died) together in Mystic Falls. Elena found peace with her family, and Damon eventually found his way to peace ... with Stefan.
The series finale ended on a shot of Damon finding Stefan in the afterlife, and the relief on Stefan's face when he saw Damon again was amazing to see. And that's when Damon, hugging his brother tightly, uttered the same first two words he said to Stefan way back in the pilot: "Hello, brother."
"I kept searching for ways to include callbacks that would be natural and organic," co-creator Kevin Williamson tells me over the phone as we discuss the series finale. "We have to do the 'Dear diary.' We had to hear Elena first in the voiceover montage. We have to show her in the graveyard. We have to show the crow one more time. We did all the callbacks. And some lines here and there, but the most important was, 'Hello brother.' The final line. I really wanted that line. It was the first line spoken [between Damon and Stefan] and I liked it being the last one. That final moment was important."
That moment was just one of many in the final hour of TVD that called back to the very first episode. From quotes to visual reenactments to songs, the series finale was a true love letter to The CW's vampire hit. After watching the finale, I went back and rewatched the pilot to make sure I caught every single one. Here are all the callbacks that were included in the series finale (and one that didn't make it!).
When Stefan first heard these words eight years ago in the series premiere, he turned around to see his older brother Damon for the first time in 15 years. He replied, "Damon," but the feeling could not have been more different back then than it was in the finale. At the time of the pilot, Damon was a cold-hearted killer hellbent on ruining Stefan's life as payback for Stefan forcing him to turn into a vampire. These two hated each other.
By the end of the finale, they had finally gotten back to the place their relationship was when they were human teenagers. They loved each other and would literally die for each other. It was a true full circle journey for the Salvatore brothers as Stefan heard Damon say those two words as he finally found peace.
The other two most important words of TVD are "Dear diary," as the series began through the lens of Stefan and Elena's journal entries. In the pilot, Elena wrote in her green journal about her first day of school after her parents' tragic deaths four months prior. She was sitting in the cemetery against an angel statue next to her parents' graves and a crow appeared, fog rolled in and Damon scared her from the shadows.
In the finale, Elena wrote her final diary entry in that same journal, sitting against that same angel, but this time she's outside of the Salvatore tomb where Stefan has been laid to rest. A crow appears, but this time she's not scared since she knows it's Damon, and lo and behold, he's standing in the sunlight, waiting for her to join him. She's happy, and they walk hand-in-hand into the sunset. Just like the Salvatore brothers, Elena came full-circle in eight seasons, going from faking happiness while really being sad about losing her parents to being truly happy and living a fulfilled life.
"Never Say Never"
TVD has always known how to do a truly perfect, instantly iconic musical moment. One of the most iconic music moments of the entire series came at the very end of the pilot when Stefan and Elena were writing in their diaries about their first days with each other, as The Fray's "Never Say Never" swells in the background. The song added another layer of epic emotion to the scene, and became one of the series' most famous songs.
And the series finale used that very same song in one of the hour's biggest moments. When Stefan says his goodbye to Elena, he walks out of the high school to find Lexi waiting for him against his favorite vintage car. And "Never Say Never" once again swells in the background.
Mystic Falls High School
In one of the finale's most literal callbacks to the pilot, before Elena wakes up from her curse for real, she finds herself in the hallways of Mystic Falls High School before sharing her final goodbye with Stefan. Before she sees Stefan, she looks at the trophy case holding a photo of her, Bonnie and Caroline in their cheerleader uniforms, audio plays of her first encounter with Stefan outside the boy's bathroom after she had just busted her brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) for being high at school.
"Is this the men's room?" Stefan asked her. "Yes, I was just ... um, it's a long story," she awkwardly replied with a smile. While Elena thought this was their first encounter, she would later go on to learn that Stefan was actually the one who saved her from drowning after her parents' car went off Wickery Bridge that fateful night four months earlier. Other pieces of audio can be heard of Caroline, Bonnie and Elena, back when they were all just innocent human teenagers. This moment really highlighted just how far they've all come since those early Season 1 days.
Katherine's Big Moment
In one of the finale's biggest twists, "Elena's" long-awaited reunion with Stefan and Damon at the top of the hour was actually Katherine pretending to be Elena. Classic Katherine prank! When Damon and Stefan angrily question her about what she did with Elena's still cursed/sleeping body and what her plans were with them, she cheekily replied, "That's for me to know, and for you to ... dot dot dot!"
While that quote isn't from the pilot, it was said by Damon to Stefan in Season 1 episode 2, "The Night of the Comet." It's hilarious to hear Katherine say that quote now, since Damon was actually talking about her when he first said it. Longtime fans remember that back in Season 1, Damon was trying to find Katherine and "save" her from being trapped in a tomb, but he later would find out she was never trapped and didn't want to be with him. In the finale, Katherine trapped Elena, and that led to her own downfall.
The Daylight Rings
During Stefan's memorial, the now human Damon took off his precious daylight ring that he had worn for almost two centuries and left it at Stefan's tomb, no longer needing it to walk in the sun. That was a direct callback to the pilot when, after Stefan tackled Damon and fell out of the second-floor window of the Salvatore mansion, Damon stole Stefan's daylight ring off his finger and gave it back after taunting him about the sun's deadly rays.
Elena, Caroline, and Bonnie
One of the series' best friendships was the trio of Elena, Bonnie and Caroline. But two-thirds of that girl power squad weren't always as close as they are in the finale. Back in the pilot, Caroline and Elena reunited after summer break in one of the fakest "sincere" hugs ever, as Caroline condescendingly asked Bonnie — in front of Elena — how Elena was doing after her parents died. Elena lied and said she was doing OK, knowing Caroline wouldn't be able to handle the truth about how she was actually doing. Back then, Caroline was a shallow, insecure, vapid teenager, the worst version of herself. But when she became a vampire, she was one of the very few people who actually became all the better for it.
The series finale had a beautiful callback to that hug when Caroline and Elena reunited after Elena finally woke up from her curse and Caroline had just lost her husband, and their happiness and tears were genuine. Over the past eight seasons, they had bonded and become real friends, not fake friends, as they grew older and became who they were truly meant to be. The scene where the trio sat in the cemetery together for the first time in a long time was a cathartic moment for both the girls and the fans.
The Bennett Witches
When Bonnie defeated Katherine and diverted the hellfire about to destroy Mystic Falls back into hell itself, destroying the entire mystical dimension, she couldn't do it alone. So it was a good thing she wasn't alone.
Along with Enzo (Michael Malarkey), Bonnie was joined by her Grams (Jasmine Guy) and the entire Bennett witch line, and TVD actually got all the actresses who played Bennett witches over all eight seasons to return for one big set piece. It's a real testament to how loyal the TVD family is that people like Jaz Sinclair who played Beatrice Bennett in one episode, and Natashia Williams who played Katherine's witch Lucy all the way back in Season 2 would return six years later for only a few seconds in the series finale. But those few seconds were so incredibly powerful, as Bonnie realized for the first time in her life with the help of her entire lineage that she was in control of her witch powers.
It was also heartening to see Bonnie go on a full-circle journey herself from joking about her Grams being crazy and not believing in her "psychic" powers back in the pilot to taking control of her witch heritage and embracing her powers in the series finale. You go, Bonnie Bennett.
The Bonnie Callback That Wasn't
And speaking of Bonnie, remember in Season 1 when Bonnie's necklace resulted in her sleepwalking and waking up in the woods with visions of Emily Bennett (Bianca Lawson)? Williamson reveals that there was actually going to be a callback in the series finale all about that, but it was cut. "We had so many moments that got cut out because we ran out of time," he says.
"I Was Feeling Epic"
The title of the series finale episode alone was a major callback to Season 1. As Stefan's best friend of over 150 years, Lexi's first appearance on the series was also the episode in which she died (staked by Damon). Before that tragic twist, she helped convince Elena to give her blossoming relationship with Stefan a chance after Elena discovered the truth about him being a vampire. Stefan overheard their conversation, and thanked Lexi for her help, to which she replied, "I was feeling epic."
In the series finale, as Stefan discovers that he finally found peace, he sees Lexi hanging out in the school parking lot waiting for him. She tells him his goodbye with Elena was beautiful, and he replies, "I was feeling epic." Their bear hug as the music swells was a real tearjerker.
Although Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) only showed up in the series finale for a second, it was an important piece of information to include. He joined Caroline and Alaric's (Matt Davis) Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted as a teacher, which was a far cry from where he started the series. Back in Season 1, he was a troubled student, cutting class, failing out and getting high, so to see Little Gilbert excel on the other side of the classroom was a happy little twist, especially since Alaric was the teacher who helped get him back on track to begin with.
Steroline June Wedding
The line in the pilot that got payoff in the penultimate Season 8 episode, appropriately titled "We're Planning a June Wedding," was said by Caroline to Bonnie as a joke on Stefan's first day at Mystic Falls High. Caroline was crushing hard on the new guy, but he forcefully told her at a party later that week that they're "not going to happen." He was already in love with Elena, after all.
But Stefan and Caroline got married, and in the series finale, as he died on their wedding night to save everyone, Caroline leaves him a tear-filled voicemail, explaining that she understands his choice to die to save his brother, and promising she'll love him forever. He didn't get to say goodbye in person or even over the phone in the chaos of killing Katherine and destroying hell, so he told Elena in their final moment together to tell Caroline that he'll love Caroline forever, too. Another full-circle moment, albeit a heartbreaking one.
Vicki and Tyler
Two fan-favorite characters who were killed far too soon were Vicki Donovan (Kayla Ewell) and Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino), but in the series finale it was revealed that they both found peace ... with each other. That couldn't be further from where they were back in the pilot, in a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship.
But my favorite callback in the series finale by far was the surprise appearance by Tiki's (Brandi Gerard) grandpa (Bob Banks). As Mystic Falls was evacuating before Bonnie saved the town from the hellfire threatening to destroy it, he can be seen being wheelchaired out of the hospital asking, "Where's Tiki? Where's my granddaughter?" Eagle-eyed fans will remember his first appearance on the show back in Season 1 episode 5, "You're Undead to Me," as the old man who recognized Stefan from a vampire attack in Mystic Falls 50 years prior.
Like I said before, the TVD family loyalty is immortal.