We're still not over "The Vampire Diaries" series finale or any of the beautiful scenes that brought tears to our eyes. From Elena's (Nina Dobrev) reunion with her family to the ghost of loved ones past watching over Mystic Falls to Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Caroline's (Candice King) tearful goodbye, the finale was basically a rollercoaster of emotions and nostalgia.
The most contentious decision executive producers Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson made in the finale, however, was the one to kill off Stefan Salvatore in a final, epic moment of sacrifice.
Steroline fans were devastated, Stelena fans felt like they got their hearts ripped right out of their chests and Defan fans ... well they're probably still huddled in a corner somewhere sorting themselves out. This may be an unpopular opinion, but while Stefan's death was certainly heartbreaking, it was also the perfect choice for the end of the series.
If the love triangle had played more of a factor in later seasons, we would have been less sure about Stefan dying, since there's a certain poetry to Damon (Ian Somerhalder) sacrificing himself to finally bow out of his brother's love life. Unfortunately, Stelena hasn't really been a viable option for "The Vampire Diaries" in four years, so that ending no longer made any sense.
When you look at the trajectory of Stefan's arc in Season 8, it becomes obvious that while his death was tragic, it was also completely necessary.
Stefan spent most of Season 8 bemoaning his life as a vampire, steeped in regret and guilt. In his mind, his eternal life was not a gift, it was a curse; an endless cycle of falling off the wagon and clawing his way back on, with a heavy dose of remorse and hopelessness weaved in between each round. Not to mention, Stefan's first and most terrible sin as a vampire has and would continue to haunt him for an eternity: Forcing his brother to turn and endure a blood-soaked life with him. When viewed through that lens, it's easy to see why Stefan was made human during his final arc.
We would have been happy to watch Stefan live out his happy human life too, if not for one tiny detail.
At the bottom of his long list of ripper murders was Enzo (Michael Malarkey) -- killed right in front of the love of his life.
It's easy to dismiss the countless, faceless masses Stefan cut a bloody swath through in his 164 years of life (though we admit it totally shouldn't be), but this final murder hit home in a way the others didn't. We got to see the fallout of that death; specifically Bonnie's fallout. Caroline and Damon tried their best to dissociate Stefan's crimes from the man and brother they both loved, but Stefan never could.
In the end, he took full responsibility for the murders he committed as a ripper, and in that sense, he deserved to die. Not as punishment, but as redemption.
Saving an entire town, including the only family he had left and the two women he loved along the way, was as close to wiping the red out of his ledger as Stefan was likely to ever get. And in that sense, his death was incredibly noble.
Redemption wasn't the only reason Stefan's sacrifice made sense though.
Logistically, Stefan couldn't just hang around growing old and grey.
While Bonnie tried endlessly to wake Elena early, we can't imagine Stefan and Damon hovering nervously nearby, aware that at any minute, Damon would need to suck the cure (and life) right out of Stefan to have any hope of a future with Elena.
More importantly, Stefan's marriage to Caroline was a wonderful, happy ending for Stefan's character, but the next 80 years of his life would likely not have been. At what point would he start having to call Caroline his daughter? His granddaughter? Love is love, and we're sure Caroline was ready to tackle those hurdles when they got to them, but it's admittedly a more problematic future than we'd have been able to handle for this couple.
And in a way, Stefan proved his love for her more by letting her go than staying with her ever would have.
Caroline has always desperately wanted to be loved by someone who would put her first, and though Stefan undoubtedly loved her more than any man has before, Caroline knew that Stefan would always and forever make Damon his first priority. She seemed reconciled to that fact, but it still put a dark mark on her own happily ever after.
Stefan did put Damon's happy ending before his own -- yet again -- in the finale, but there's something wonderful about Stefan's decision to let Caroline leave town to preserve her future with her daughters. In his last moments, he managed to put Caroline's well being and Damon's on the same level. And if that's not the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, then I just don't know what to do with you.