This was easily one of my standout episodes of the season.

The whole season has focused on Stefan dying physically and metaphorically. From his drowning repeatedly all summer in the safe at the bottom of the lake, to losing all his memories (allbeit briefly), to destroying his century and a half of diaries. Even his acceptance and realization that the feelings that tied him to Elena (and Katherine) were in part a dream for a human life that couldnt happen represented a death of self. It feels surprisingly appropriate for the season to culminate in his "true" death and transition to the Otherside.

I thought Stefan's death was quite well done and emotional. And even though I accidentally spoiled myself that he would die, I was surprised in how it happened. I expected him to sacrifice himself to save Elena from being the doppelganger that died. I love that at no point during the attack from the twins did he show concern for Elena's suffering or put her well being above his own.

I LOVE Stefan getting to be his own person with motivations based in something other than his bonds with Elena or Damon. I feel this season has had so many glimpses of this more emotionally healthy Stefan.

I appreciate that Caroline has been the one to infect Stefan with this postive thinking pver the season. If Lexie was the one to help him get over his addiction to blood, I appreciate the parallel of Caroline helping Stefan let go of his addiction to Elena.

Stefan's death had odd ring of atonement in how it happened almost like how he killed Enzo two episodes prior. Enzo's death was a relief and not something Stefan carried emotional weight for. I think in the moment as he died, Stefan recognized the irony of how he trivialized Enzo's death. I was shocked and sad, but I couldnt help but feel that karma made this moment inescapable. Next week should be interesting with them both on the Otherside, most likely forced to work together.

The scene where he meets Bonnie to cross over was powerful. I was impressed with his strength and determination towards action in how he didnt hesitate to leave the world. It was also sad how there was no final embrace before crossing over.

The imagery with Caroline's distress over Stefan's body was utterly haunting with all the shadows.

The Caroline we know didnt really exist in S1. It wasnt until becoming a vampire heightened her tendency towards optimism and proactiveness that she really turned into the girl that Stefan and Elena wished for in their hour of desolation. (An amazing moment also this ep in how Stefan thought of needing Caroline instead of any of his own issues with Elena). That Caroline would not exist if it had not been for Stefan believing in her and helping her in those early days. He was her biggest and maybe only cheerleader when she was all alone and her tendency towards neuroticism threatened to consume her.

Seeing Caroline screaming helplessly rather than being able to take any action was very symbolic in how Stefan was the one who encouraged her and now he was gone.

Stefan has rivaled Caroline for my favorite character many times this season. There were plenty of things I hated happening to his character, but sitting at episode 21, I am appreciative at how much the character has grown and how subtlely Paul Wesley has played this journey. I would hate for Stefan's death or time on the Otherside to last too long.