It's been six years of villains, swapping romantic partners and doppelgangers but the writers of The Vampire Diaries have managed to breathe new life into what some have come to acknowledge as a show past its prime. Saying goodbye to Michael Trevino and Nina Dobrev clearly proved to be a challenge as the need to craft a satisfactory finale that would push the show forward to the next chapter battled with the desire to pay homage to these two gifted actors' swan song. Did they achieve that feat? Honestly, I'm still conflicted about the finale and S6 overall. While there were a lot of highs this past season, the lows seemed to have reached even lower levels with each episode.

But there was one shining light this season and that was my favourite character on the show: Bonnie Bennett.

As rough as it has been trying to get through the pointless storylines that bloated this season, at least with Bonnie, I'm comfortable in knowing that her story and her overall importance to the characters in the show is at an all-time high. She's always been important to the plots of the show because of her magic but I have generally felt that the other characters only needed her around when they were in peril. Now, not only has this season proven that Bonnie is important and valued by the people around her but it has also taken character connections generally ignored throughout the series and given these relationships the depth and the potency they deserve.

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Bonnie Bennett hasn't had it easy on The Vampire Diaries. She's not the centre of the universe like Elena and she's not the blond sexpot that is Caroline. Bonnie is the best friend who discovers she's a witch early in S1 and that is used mainly as a plot device to lend a hand when needed (which if you watch the show is all the damn time!). Basically, she's the good girl who is low level attractive (not my opinion but what I've gathered from the series). She doesn't ask for help but is willing to lay herself on the line for others. She's kind, lonely and lost. Bonnie Bennett is the type of character that people should like because she's selfless and sacrificial. But of course on a show like TVD where men who kill pregnant women are defended, there's not going to be much love for genuinely good characters. Especially when you're talking about a female character of colour who is mostly regulated to the background.

As I've watched these past years, Bonnie has been beaten down by both the show and the fandom for calling out murderers and sacrificing herself to save the people she loves and for protecting the town she feels is under her protection.

In the S5 finale, we see Bonnie die (again) as the other side collapsed into nothing and we knew we'd see her again but we weren't sure how we'd see her. There was a lot of hype from the writers about Bonnie's story in S6 but as it progressed we started to see a lot more of the same old story. Everyone but Bonnie gets a love life. Everyone but Bonnie matters. Bonnie's friends were sad that she was stuck in 1994 but rescuing her was never important enough to attempt from anyone but Damon. Then she returns after trying to kill herself and it's never discussed by anyone. Her torture at Kai's hands and the resulting change in her was also never brought up for discussion. It felt a lot like we were going to be getting the same, old tired TVD treatment for our beloved Bonnie, yet again.

As a Bonnie fan from the start I am almost embarrassed to admit that I was so sure that her story would stay the same that I had made my peace with the inevitability of bad writing for her. But then the show surprised me in the best possible way by changing the narrative of Bonnie's story to be one of a person who wants to survive, someone who matters and most of all someone who loves themselves. Bonnie has always seemed to carry around the idea of her doom as a reality given her witch status and she admits it early enough in S2 when she states it never ends well for people like me. And really who can blame her? She knows what happens to witches who involve themselves in the affairs of vampires. Emily, Grams, the Martins, countless Bennett's, etc. are all dead because when it comes to witches and vampires, the witches lose. What changed for me and what I think became the most important ingredient in Bonnie's story this season; the facet that gave it life and meaning and believability for us disillusioned fans, was consistency.

We didn't see bits and pieces of Bonnie, forcing her fans to fill the blanks in themselves. For the first time, there was an attempt to flesh out the character of Bonnie Bennett. Bonnie has terrible things happen to her and she fights back. Kai stabs and abandons her in 1994 but one phone call gives her the hope to believe that this will be over. When that falls apart, she breaks down and gets back up and tries, really tries to make it but almost kills herself. Then she recalls the wise words of her Grams, finding that inner strength that has always been her saving grace and she saves herself. Instead of just having her come home and leaving her in the background until they need her again we actually get to see the fallout of her trials and tribulations from being so alone and at the mercy of psychopath. Bonnie comes home damaged and we consistently see that she's not just saying that she wants to survive: she's proving it. By stealing the ascendant from Lily. By getting her revenge on Kai. By fighting Damon when he puts her life in the line for his current Elena/Salvatore drama. By being completely honest with the people she loves even when it's not what they want to hear. Her story wasn't choppy, it wasn't a disjointed mess where we the fans have to fill in the blanks, it was fluid and fully realized. It was as complete as it gets on this show.

Bonnie is proving that she wants to live by any means necessary. The best example of this is when she finds out about the curse, there isn't even a moment when Bonnie thinks about ending her life for Elena. Bonnie wants to live and she's going to do it even if it means never seeing her best friend again. As a fan, this is something I have been waiting to see for six long seasons. It's wonderful that the girl from S1-5 isn't here any longer and that the woman in her place is actually putting herself first for once.

The show didn't just drag her down to the coffers and have her heal off camera until she's ready for the next crisis as it has done on numerous occasions. It didn't have her make proclamations about being badass only to be smacked around by both the narrative and other characters. There were times when the story made Bonnie out to be a liar and that's the worst thing a story could do. Even when a character lies to themselves, the story should be the truth and yet the story has never valued Bonnie enough to do this. Not until S6 when it finally stood by Bonnie, it stood by her belief that she had worth. And with that newfound understanding Bonnie's relationship were also able to become fully realized.

Now that Bonnie loves herself it's easy to distinguish between false relationships and real ones. Which is why I strongly believe that Matt is the best friend that Bonnie needs. Obviously the show is still beating the dead horse that is the Bonnie/Elena/Caroline trifecta but besides some nice words in the beginning of the series when missing Bonnie and a couple of short reunion/apology scenes, I'm still not super convinced that who they are now can connect the way that those kids did before vampires were real. And that's realistic, it happens to all of us.

Bonnie isn't a vampire, she's the antithesis of it. Matt is the only character to not become a supernatural entity while still being a steady victim of that world. He's lost in the dark and his friends (Tyler and Jeremy) have their own problems/lives so it was a pleasant surprise that the end of S6 focused a lot on the Bonnie/Matt team up. Matt genuinely cares about Bonnie for who she is and he respects her intuition, he's not just here for what she can do for him. Bonnie is still human and she hasn't lost her sense of morality in a world where Matt's friends have turned into literal monsters that tried to kill him. So it made a lot of sense that these two characters would find themselves on the same side of things so often. In this fast paced TVD landscape it's nice that while so much has changed, Matt and Bonnie's friendship hasn't disintegrated under the stress. It's gotten stronger as they have gotten stronger as people and I'm very excited to see where this leads them. I don't see Bonnie as a law enforcer but I can see her and Matt working together in the future to catch bad guys, both alive and dead.

Where Bonnie and Matt are a steady moving river, Damon and Bonnie have been more of a rollercoaster in the best possible way. They went from awkward hand holding to forehead kisses with a lot of fighting in the interim. He is arguable the biggest chunk of Bonnie's story this season and they have changed the focus of this show from the safe but boring theme of romantic entanglements to a deeper bond that isn't dependent on the idea of a fairy tale. It's a relationship that relies on the strength of their friendship but also on their need to be around each other. It's not Romeo and Juliet and that's why it works. Too many of TVD's relationships are painted as the be all of romance until they're not and their biggest romance involved lack of consent for most of the big moments. Bonnie and Damon are not presented as a viable romantic option hence they are not tarnished with this shows polluted idea of romance. Instead they are allowed to blossom and grow and love each other and not have it be a total nightmare.

I see a lot of their development in sequences of turning points so I'll just organize my thoughts with those. We started with Damon and Bonnie trapped in 1994, hating each other but also clinging to each other as the only familiar face of their new world. The first turning point was during a quiet dinner when Bonnie said I miss them too because Damon is selfish and in being selfish he focused on his pain instead of realizing that they were both hurting. They both missed their loved one's something fierce and maybe it's my shipper goggles informing this but I don't think Elena would have spoken up, she would have coddled him and his pain for their stay with lots and lots of sex. What's important about this scene is that all the bickering and fighting has been pretty vitriol in nature but now that Bonnie has spoken up for herself Damon can see past himself, he can see a bit of his pain in her. Empathy is powerful and it formed a bridge of solidarity between Bonnie and Damon in 1994.

The next turning point is the introduction of Kai and how he muddles up their stay in 1994. We get to see Bonnie and Damon from an outside perspective that isn't going to be bogged down by Elena or Jeremy, someone who sees them as they are now. We learn that even though they fought a lot she always comes back and from what we see of Damon when he's back in the future without Bonnie, he needed her to come back. His life is empty without Bonnie around. Kai's violent nature also brings out the protective side of both of them. When Kai's hurting Damon, Bonnie's able to harness her magic for the first time in 1994 to save him while Damon repeatedly has to get in between them so she doesn't get hurt. Not that Bonnie doesn't get hers against Kai as well but it's a sweet gesture from a being that has shown very little care for a lot of the people in his life. The climax of this Three Company's nightmare is a wounded Bonnie physically freeing a reluctant Damon from their prison world at the cost of her own freedom. What's important to note is that Damon does not want to leave without Bonnie which is a huge leap from the Damon of S2 that would gladly sacrifice her at the cost of his having Elena. He loves Elena and Stefan, misses them desperately, but that love directly conflicts with having Bonnie in his life.

What follows next is true to the asinine nature of TVD where Bonnie's "best friends" are too caught up in their own lives to do much while Damon works to free Bonnie. Call it guilt, call it redemption, call it what you want but the truth is that Damon's bond with Bonnie is intrinsically lined within the canon of this show as a facet of the development of these characters in S6. What happened to them in 1994 is so profoundly attached to their psyches that it overwhelms Damon's subplot with Elena and her missing memories. As important as that is, it doesn't detract from Damon leaving voicemails and sitting in Bonnie's empty room so he can feel a piece of her now that they're apart. It doesn't prevent Damon from visiting Lucy and using Liv to go save her. Elena's best friend is living a nightmare with a sociopath yet it's Damon who needs comforting when they fail her. When it comes to light that Bonnie plans to kill herself, Damon does everything in his power to leave her clues to find the magic she needs to escape.

Jeremy leaves, Elena has other worries, Caroline's mother is sick and Matt has his hands full being abused by Enzo. In the end Bonnie saves herself with the help of the only person she can rely on: Damon Salvatore. Who would have thought?

The next turning point is what I call examples of love and those are the cues that show us the depth of their connection. Damon telling Elena it's not about her but Bonnie would be one. Bonnie freeing herself and heading straight to the Salvatore Boarding House to return to the only type of normal she needs is another. Damon opening his arms as Bonnie jumps into them would be a major example. These are characters that thrive on physicality to prove that the good is real in their live and not an illusion they're using to survive the bad. In the past they only touched when it included violence while these days they touch for comfort and support. Another important example is the return to Bonnie and Damon calling each other all the time but there has been a progression with these calls where they used to be about end of the world calamity's to now needing to hear each other's voices. Lastly, there were a lot of smiles and flirting to complement their new-found relationship.

If this was a romcom, this would be the conflict stage of the courtship and boy did we receive conflict. In the next turning point, Damon betrays Bonnie twice. Once in a plot to free his mother from her prison world by attempting to get Bonnie to work with Kai aka the sociopath that tortured her for weeks in 1994 and the second time by giving Lily (his mother) the ascendant, a device used to go to and from the prison worlds, knowing that it could free Kai who would make it his goal to kill her.

What happens next is magical because we're used to Bonnie cowing to the silly plans of Elena and co. for years at the cost of herself but this Bonnie has a new sense of self preservation and she wants to live. Her response is to wound Damon in a manner reminiscent of her wounds in 1994 while describing how they were inflicted on her by Kai to force Damon to understand the hell she experienced when he left. It's powerful and moving to see her both vulnerable as she recalls her hell but also empowering as she unleashes this calculated fury on Damon. In the second instance, Bonnie gives Damon exactly what he wants while feeding him tough love on why the thing he wants (the ascendant) is actually not the thing he wants because he's Damon Salvatore and selfish and as always he's trying too hard to be the guy that the girl wants when Bonnie's here seeing him exactly the way that he is. And as frustrating as that is all the damn time that doesn't mean she's giving up on him but she won't coddle him into lying to himself either. In both instances Bonnie is brutally honest with Damon and forces him to be better. These fights are brutal and harsh but they prove that what Damon and Bonnie share is too powerful to overcome because each time Damon comes crawling back to beg for forgiveness. Unfortunately our two leads are not in a position to go further than this but at least these situations prove that Damon and Bonnie are unmovable forces. They can stand whatever comes their way.

The last turning point are all of the scenes in I'm Thinking Of You All The While which position Bonnie as the new woman in Damon's life now that Elena's been cursed. I will state that it's not a romantic replacement because the show runners are very clear about Delena being endgame but since when is romance the be all in human interactions? The episode see's Bonnie finding out that Kai has linked her life to Elena in what is possible the most ridiculous plot device ever where Elena sleeps as Bonnie lives, only to come out of her coma when Bonnie dies. Kai believes this will torture Damon as he'll have to decide whether to kill his best friend (Bonnie) so he can have the current love of his life (Elena) or he can let Bonnie live and be without true love or whatever for the next 60 plus years. Clearly Kai didn't realize that the choice would be very easy. Damon cannot live without Bonnie. Her voice calms him during stressful times, she's the only person he trusted enough to discuss the curse ramifications with when he couldn't even tell his brother or Alaric. She's his rock, his lobster and what makes the sauce so awesome. There was no way that he was going to kill Bonnie.

Now Bonnie's scenes are what gives this story grit because Bonnie isn't sure that Damon won't kill her. Even Matt, her best friend, is convinced that Damon will kill her and urges her to run to save herself. Bonnie doesn't run because that's not who she is, she goes after Kai and in what I can assume was meant to be an epic showdown that lasted about a minute with Bonnie lying on the floor dying. Damon comes in and pretends to have chosen Elena which crushes Bonnie because not only did she want to live, she deserved to live after everything she's survived. For some reason Damon decides that kissing her forehead and holding her hand was necessary for Kai to buy his copout and well I'm not complaining because I love it. Then Damon decapitates Kai with a pun and saves his girl saying I'm not out of nicknames for you yet before lifting her up and carrying her out of the disaster area reminiscent of a scene out of The Bodyguard.

This last scene is significant in that Bonnie doesn't save herself for once. Fictional black female characters generally are not depicted to be worth saving, hence they are written to be strong women who can save themselves. And Bonnie Bennett has always been the archetype of this trope until this scene. She's allowed to be saved while Damon is the one person all season who wanted to do it. In fact he's also the only character on this show (besides Jeremy and Matt) to have earned it. Damon has spent a lot of time saving Elena as proof of his love, needing to show that he's a hero but with Bonnie there was never that particular need. Bonnie knows him better than anyone, he doesn't have to pretend with her. Hence Damon saving her is about his need for her, rather than being about Elena. On the other end, Bonnie has finally been shown to have value on this series. Sad as it is, this series has devalued Bonnie as someone not worth being saved until this scene. These characters are always willing to go to the ends of the Earth for Elena but not so much for Bonnie. Yet Bonnie was saved at the cost of a present happily ever after because she's vital to Damon. She's vital to Matt. She's vital to the characters and to the series.

I'm not sure what the future hold for Bonnie Bennett and her relationship with Matt and Damon. I don't expect a romance because this show has only recently seen the value in Bonnie enough to give her the story she deserves but I do expect strong stories and a multifaceted Bonnie who is able to show all of her colours instead of just her strength. Let's all hope that with Elena asleep, the show has more time for Bonnie Bennett.