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'The Vampire Diaries': Life Without Elena Is Pretty Dire -- And Explosive -- In The Season 7 Premiere

Here's how everyone in Mystic Falls is coping without Elena.

For most fans of "The Vampire Diaries," the thought of the show moving on without Elena seemed scary. It seemed like setting forth into the great unknown. But you know what they say: you never know until you try -- and I'm so glad the Powers That Be tried. Because if they hadn't, we wouldn't have our show back, you guys. Our little edgy, sexy vampire show is back, and most importantly, so is its bite. See? This post-Elena world isn't so bad, after all.

In the Season 7 premiere ("Life Without Elena"), the Mystic Falls gang is moving on with their lives after (temporarily) putting their dear friend in a casket. Damon and Alaric are spending quality bro time (read: sad and mopey drinking time) away from Mystic Falls while Bonnie acts as their sober chaperone. Meanwhile, Caroline and Stefan, still as awkward as ever, attempt to cut a deal with Mystic Falls' newest residents, Lily's Heretics, after they massacre Matt's graduating class at the Police Academy.

But Caroline and Stefan's master plan involves compelling every single Mystic Falls resident to get the hell outta dodge. And that's only the beginning of the mayhem that went down in the Season 7 premiere:

  • Moving on.

    Elena’s absence is felt in this episode, but it doesn’t loom over the characters. For example, Bonnie could join Damon and Alaric on their quest to brood and mope around the world, but she's not letting what happened to Elena break her spirit, and that's a huge part of what makes this season work. Personally, I don’t want to watch an entire season of moping.

    That doesn't mean Damon has forgotten Elena. He's heartbroken. He hesitates an extra three seconds to save Bonnie from being hit by a car. (Which Bonnie is really NOT OK with, btw.) But just because he "thought about it" doesn't mean he's going to let his best friend (Bamon is totally BFF official now!) die so he can be reunited with Elena 75 years early.

  • Damon and Alaric's boozy vacay.
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    In the very first scene of the premiere, Caroline writes a diary entry for Elena, where she pretty much spells out what everyone has been up to since she went into The Deep Sleep. Damon and Alaric, with Bonnie in tow, are drinking their sorrows away in someplace sunny and warm. Well, at least that's what it looked like until Bonnie and Damon realize that Ric's been playing them all along. After losing his wife and unborn baby, Ric has been driven to the brink of madness (can you blame him?) -- and he's been wandering around Cabo trying to find a witch who can bring Jo back to life. The poor guy is really at wits' end.

  • Awkward Steroline.

    We’ve waited so long for this moment, Steroline fans. Caroline and Stefan haven't had a whole lot of interaction since she basically told him she needed time to mourn her mother's death and ~find herself~ in the Season 6 finale. But Paul Wesley and Candice King's chemistry is just SO GOOD. Even when they're making awkward small talk on a bench, they're adorable. Thankfully, Steroline quickly get over the awkwardness once it becomes clear Lily's Heretics have to be destroyed for the good of Mystic Falls. And all of that closeness eventually leads to something more...

    After months of mourning her mother’s death, Caroline realizes she’s finally ready to open her heart to Stefan -- and they have the HOTTEST makeout sesh ever. Steroline is officially ON. This is not a drill, people.

  • The Heretics.
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    Part of what made Seasons 2 and 3 so compelling was the introduction of the Originals. Klaus Mikaelson may be somewhat of a (handsome) garbage person, but he was intriguing. Better yet, his dynamic with his immortal family, specifically his brother Elijah and sister Rebekah, made Season 3 so fun to watch. On the one hand, you wanted our heroes to triumph, but on the other, you felt compelled to know more about this first family of melodrama. Sure, you didn’t want them to win, but you didn’t want them to lose either. They’d been through too much.

    I feel the same way about the Heretics. Lily Salvatore’s family of witch-vampires are definitely bad news for our Mystic Falls gang, but they're oh-so-fun to watch.

    It all starts when a young couple leaves one of the Heretics for dead after a hit and run accident. She decides to get her revenge on the couple -- and her two Heretic buddies join her. The scene is one of the show's more gruesome displays of violence, which, again, reminds me of Season 1. Of course, Mr. Hero Hair (Stafan) can't have Heretics killing people in his town, so he and Caroline come up with a plan... to essentially blow them up.

    Despite Caroline's best efforts (she sacrificed her super cute jean jacket to the cause!), the plan majorly backfires, and the Heretics get their bloody revenge at Matt's graduation from police school. They pretty much murder the entire force... except for Matty Blue Eyes. Stefan decides to make a deal with his mom: the Heretics can have Mystic Falls -- and the Salvatore Mansion -- to themselves as long as they don't go after them. Anyone who crosses the border into Mystic Falls is fair game. In order to desert the town, Caroline and Stefan go around compelling everyone to leave. It's kinda sad to see Mystic Falls so dilapidated.

  • Damon's plan.

    Of course, once Damon hears what Stefan did to their home, he's not happy -- and neither is Bonnie. So Damon and Bonnie decide to cross the border into Mystic Falls. There, one of the Heretics gets on Bonnie's bad side. She tries to unleash a can of magical whoopass on him, but his Heretic magic is way too strong for her. Just when it looked like BonBon was about to lose her magic (again), Damon comes out of nowhere and rips his heart from his chest. OUR DAMON IS BACK, BB.

    Of course, this is really bad for Caroline, who gets kidnapped (with Enzo's help!! Traitor.) by the Heretics because the Heretics are not exactly happy to find out their friend is dead. And now we have to watch Caroline get tortured again. Great. BRB, our Steroline hearts are breaking.

  • Three years later.
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    At the end of the episode, we flash forward three years, to Stefan waking Damon up from his Deep Sleep and telling him that "she's coming." That's when we see a blonde woman -- we can't see her face because she's cloaked in darkness -- storm into the place and start shooting wooden bullets at the Salvatore bros. Apparently, Stefan has also been marked by the Heretics... is the blonde woman Caroline? Does she become a Heretic?!