The Vampire Diaries may be over, but it won’t soon be forgotten. Good shows never really die, they live on in syndication (and on Netflix and Amazon.) To mark the passing of our favorite, sexy supernaturals, we’ve compiled a list of must-see episodes — a binge-a-thon to end all binge-a-thons. These are the best of the best and include the most epic moments: everything from Elena’s and Stefan’s meet-cute outside the boys’ bathroom at Mystic Falls High to the big finale — not necessarily in that order. So grab your popcorn, your Kleenex, some vervain and let us guide you through the ultimate Vampire Diaries’ viewing experience!
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15. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Whether you’re a diehard fan or have never watched The Vampire Diaries before, this episode is a must. It introduces all of the major characters and establishes the crazy chemistry between Elena and Stefan. Elena’s best friends are all in their pre-supernatural states, making Caroline just a mean girl, Bonnie a bit boy crazy with an inexplicable “psychic” ability (very underdeveloped), Tyler a bullying jock, and Matt Donovan, well, he’s pretty much the same. Stefan is as brooding as ever, and Damon is far more frightening than charming. The pilot is mysterious, scary and sexy as hell.
14. “The Departed” (Season 3, Episode 22)
Seasons 1-3 focus on a normal girl dealing with the extraordinary repercussions of falling for not one, but two vampires. The finale is the penultimate episode as Elena finally admits her love for both Salvatores and makes a decision between the two, culminating in a heartbreaking goodbye.
We learn that Elena and Damon, while not doppelgangers, have their own destiny to fulfill in a scene that becomes pivotal during season 8. In the last moments, there’s an unforeseen twist that will permanently change the dynamic of the show (goodbye ordinary.) This also sets in motion the demise of Stelena for good.
13. “The New Deal” (Season 3, Episode 10)
If you want to know how Elena becomes torn between two brothers, it all starts when Klaus reawakens Stefan’s Ripper side, paving the way for Damon to step into the role as Elena’s go-to guy. But instead of focusing on winning back the girl, Stefan becomes obsessed with exacting revenge on Klaus.
Not only do viewers get to see Klaus do some of his best villain-ing, Stefan’s inner darkness is front and center as well. Stefan’s seemingly callous attitude for Elena pushes her and Damon even closer together. Aside from a major character making an unexpected — albeit brief — exit, the biggest OMG moment from this episode is the long-awaited kiss between Elena and Damon. It’s not their steamiest on-screen moment, but it’s a good start.
12. “The Turning Point” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Damon’s and Elena’s ability to overcome a multitude of insurmountable odds to be together makes her’s and Stefan’s romance seem like kid stuff in comparison. Elena and Damon may live out their mortal lives together in bliss, but nobody should forget the intense love Elena and Stefan once shared.
Elena finally declares her love for Stefan, and they take their romance to the next level in two very significant ways. Elena discovers Stefan’s second darkest secret (it begins with a “K.”) And a still Katherine-obsessed Damon busily bonds with Sheriff Forbes who is destined to become one of his closest friends.
11. “Katerina” (Season 2, Episode 9)
If there were no Katherine Pierce — one of The Vampire Diaries’ wickedest villains — there would be no Elena. Stefan’s and Damon’s one-time shared obsession with the manipulative vamp is what reunited them in Mystic Falls, and once again, had them falling in love with the same girl.
But before Katherine became the custodian of hell, she was Katerina Petrova, the first doppelganger. As a young girl, Katherine is disowned by her father and destined to become part of a ritual sacrifice at the hands of Klaus Mikaelson.
Katherine shares with Elena her journey from an innocent young woman to a vampire on the run, willing to do anything to survive. Katherine becomes less one-dimensional as a result, and it marks the most significant screen time shared between Katherine and her doppelganger descendant.
10. “Ordinary People” (Season 3, Episode 8)
Over the years, The Vampire Diaries constructed a very complex werewolf/vampire folklore, including Klaus’ determination to embrace and combine the best of his werewolf and vampire sides. This motivated his 500-year-search for doppelganger Elena, and resulted in Katherine’s “aka Katerina’s” determination to survive and maintain her freedom no matter what.
This episode gives viewers a crash course in Vampirism 101. Rebekah recounts to Elena just how she and her brothers became the Original bloodsuckers, and she doesn’t sugarcoat the pros or the cons. This is a very Original-centric episode, giving fans of this particular “first family” insight into why they put the “fun” in dysfunctional.
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9. “Blood Brothers” (Season 1, Episode 20)
The Mikaelson siblings weren’t the only ones to have undergone difficult transitions from humans to vampires. This episode chronicles all the events surrounding the Salvatore brothers’ transformations, including the game-changing moment when Stefan forces Damon to turn, just as Mikael forced his children’s transformations. All the sexy, super-power stuff aside, it is a curse — one with tragic consequences for all involved. Stefan’s guilt and Damon’s resentment fractures their relationship for over a century.
8. “Brave New World” (Season 2, Episode 2)
Caroline Forbes isn’t the first character to become a vampire, but she is the first one in Elena’s inner circle to undergo a supernatural transition (Tyler, Alaric, Jeremy and Bonne will all follow.) The very first seedlings of Caroline and Stefan’s close friendship are planted as he tries to spare Caroline from suffering the same fate as Vicki Donovan or going off the rails like himself. Recently rejected by both Katherine and Elena, a disgruntled Damon, convinced Caroline doesn’t have what it takes to survive her new “lifestyle,” is determined to put her out of her misery.
It’s not just vamps who are cursed. There are some other supernatural creatures in town, and Damon is determined to figure out who and what they are, and one of the most memorable Stelena moments (hint: a Ferris wheel is involved) caps things off.
7. “We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Turning vamp isn’t easy for anyone, but after Elena kills a mystical vampire hunter, the consequences are dire. Plagued by hallucinations that play on her deepest fears that she had, indeed, become a monster, Elena considers a drastic course of action to find relief.
Word of a cure — that factors heavily in the futures of Elena, Stefan and Damon — for immortality quickly spreads through Mystic Falls, just as Elena’s falling apart. But news of the possibility of Elena going back to her old self comes too late, and her burgeoning feelings for Damon brings one love story to its end. Another couple whose story has yet to completely unfold grows closer (there’s hope, Klaroline shippers!)
6. “The Hybrid” (Season 2, Episode 2)
Someone with a vested interest in Elena’s status as dead or undead — until he ran off to the Big Easy and got his own series — was Klaus. The key to creating hybrids (vamp-werewolves) hinges on Elena’s blood, although Klaus hadn’t figured out that missing piece of the puzzle when he and a reluctant Ripper Stefan began brutally slaughtering werewolves as part of Klaus’ grisly science experiments gone bad.
Elena, refusing to give up on Stefan’s humanity, enlists Alaric and Damon to find her boyfriend and bring him home. It’s the first of many times that the Salvatore brothers commit to bringing each other back from the edge, both for Elena, and themselves.
5. “Home” (Season 5, Episode 22)
Damon’s journey from bad guy to hero isn’t straight and narrow (there are many, many detours) but getting sucked into oblivion for the sake of Tyler, Alaric, Enzo, Elena, Luke and Stefan remains one of Damon’s most selfless acts.
Lexie and Stefan make a pact to find peace together (and they will), and Stefan’s bestie sees the first stirrings of his love for a certain perky, blonde vamp before he does. This episode marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship — Bonnie’s and Damon’s.
4. “The Last Dance” (Season 2, Episode 18)
Before Damon and Bonnie are banished to the Prison World where they become besties, Damon is willing to sacrifice Bonnie so that Elena won’t be sacrificed by Klaus to break the sun and moon curse. It marks the first time Bonnie is ready to use her powers to save a Gilbert, and it’s far from the last. Elena may resent Damon’s willingness to let her pals throw themselves on top of the metaphorical grenade for her, but he makes it clear that he will always put her first.
3. “I Was Feeling Epic” (Season 8, Episode 16)
Bonnie risks being consumed by hellfire in her attempt to, once again, save her friends. And she isn’t the only one ready to walk into the light and risk whatever the hereafter holds. The Salvatore brothers’ story comes full circle, and their fates are sealed by a last-minute switcheroo. Damon becomes the man he once was, and Stefan figures out how to become the man he wants to be.
As far as happy endings go, this is the best the crowd from Mystic Falls could possibly hope for since great villains don’t die. Instead, they’re vanquished back to a hell dimension. Some stories end while others are just beginning.
2. “Rose” (Season 2, Episode 8)
Even though Damon and Elena eventually walk hand-in-hand off into the sunset, generations to come are bound to argue who is really Elena’s soulmate, Stefan or Damon?
Amidst the first appearance of the formidable Elijah Mikaelson who comes to claim the doppelganger — Elena learns of her tragic date with destiny — for Klaus, Damon’s quest to become a better man takes a giant leap forward. He declares his love for Elena, but understanding he can’t come between Stefan and his girl, compels her to forget.
1. “I’m Thinking of You All the While” (Season 6, Episode 22)
After deciding to ditch being a vampire for the woman he loves, Damon gets dealt a cruel blow, putting his happy ending with Elena on a 60-year-hiatus. Nobody walks away unscathed during Kai Parker’s return as he wreaks havoc and revenge on Bonnie, his twin sister, the entire Gemini Coven and Damon.
This season finale marks the exit of Elena (Nina Dobrev) from the series, and it also serves as an emotional walk down memory lane, highlighting memorable moments Elena shared with her nearest and dearest over the years. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is more emotional and exquisite than Elena and Damon’s big goodbye.
What is your favorite episode? Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Seasons 1-7 of The Vampire Diaries are available for streaming on Netflix and seasons 1-8 are available on Amazon.
(Images Courtesy of The CW)