The Vampire Diaries franchise came to an end when Legacies was canceled last May. While there have been talks of new TVD spinoffs, the cancellation has hopefully helped showrunners learn which aspects of The Vampire Diaries were so compelling, to begin with. Fans preferred that previous shows focused on humanity, and in particular how vampires could extinguish it.
While fans loved seeing their favorite heroes go wrong, it was equally interesting to see how they returned to the dark side, as these scenes often touched on the heart of what each character matters. Between The Vampire Diaries and Legacies, seven different characters reestablished their humanity, but some scenes took advantage of the opportunity for character development while others ignored it.
Legacy (season 2, episode 13)
After losing control of her hunger, Jade killed her friend Inez and immediately turned off her humanity. It remained off when she was sent to a prison world, which made her relish the cruelty. Then Josie forced her to relive emotional memories and her humanity had magically returned.
This plot twist was not well liked, as it contradicted the original lore of The Vampire Diaries. Although there was precedent since Sybil brought back Damon’s humanity, Jade had no emotional arc to deal with and Josie never explained how she did it, making it a doom arc. disappointing humanity.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 5, Episode 19)
After learning that Damon had killed the love of his life, Enzo flipped his switch and tricked Stefan into killing him to divide the two brothers. As a ghost, he remained vindictive and attempted to torment Elena and the Salvatore brothers. Viewers then had to guess when and why Enzo reignited his humanity.
He remained violent and vengeful in season six, but also seemed to genuinely care about Damon and Caroline. This feels more like a case of weak writing than an explicit choice to bring Enzo’s humanity back over time, as it was hard to tell the difference between Enzo with and without humanity until later seasons.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 4, Episode 21)
Elena couldn’t cope with Jeremy’s death, so Damon used their father bond to make her turn off her humanity. Putting it back together was not so easy. They tried physical and emotional torture, but she finally responded when Damon snapped Matt’s neck.
Elena started to feel, but quickly channeled all her grief and guilt into trying to kill Katherine, which managed to block the emotions from fully returning until she finally went to Jeremy’s grave. Loss is central to Elena’s character, so it makes sense that the loss of her first love would wake her up, but some of her actions without her humanity involved trying to kill her friends, so that seems like an inconsistent trigger.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 3, Episode 15)
Klaus forced Stefan to deactivate his humanity, but he didn’t seem able to reactivate it even when Klaus removed the constraint. What finally did the trick, over the course of a few episodes, was Elena. Between his actions endangering her and his growing feelings for Damon, he began to act as if his emotions were back, despite not admitting it.
We wonder exactly when the switch flipped, but it’s definitely back in the finale when he was left sobbing over Elena’s corpse. It was one of the most convoluted moments where a humanity switch was flipped again because it’s hard to tell what actually brought it back. He had several minor seizures that gave a glimpse of humanity until everything was back for good.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 6, Episode 18)
Stefan repeatedly tried to stop the non-human Caroline from doing something she would regret, prompting her to have him deactivate her own humanity. Fortunately, Stefan returned his humanity just two episodes later, when he was reunited with his mother.
One of the most interesting parts of this scene was that Lily was actively lying to Stefan, as she fully intended to give him up for his new family. The words she used were custom-chosen by Damon to bring back Stefan’s pain and give him hope. Despite the deception, it was one of the easiest humanity comebacks portrayed in the franchise.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 8, Episode 11)
Stefan turned off his humanity in the final season to save the Caroline twins from Cade, but his Ripper side was more determined than ever to prove he was in control. He killed Enzo in front of Bonnie, and his lack of remorse seemed to confirm that Stefan had gone too far to come back. Bonnie therefore used the cure on him instead, bringing back his emotions as he became human.
Stefan had no choice in his return to humanity this time, but he had to face the consequences. He was arrested, and while Caroline coerced him out of trouble, the guilt was overwhelming. The Vampire Diaries once asked if a vampire should be blamed for their actions without their humanity, and Stefan certainly seemed to believe the answer, in this case, was yes.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 8, Episode 10)
Although Damon lost his humanity for much of his immortal life, audiences only saw it return once. Sybil forced him to turn off his humanity to do his bidding, and as he clung to a shred of humanity through his love for Elena, he killed many innocent people, including Tyler. When he retaliated against Sybil, she forced her humanity to torture him with her own guilt.
While Damon wasn’t personally responsible for turning his humanity off or on, he fought to keep his love for Elena and put himself in mental hell, so the emotional journey still worked. He and his friends were forced to confront the good and the bad he did as a vampire, and the return of his humanity brought him one step closer to becoming truly human.
Legacy (season 4, episode 15)
Hope extinguished her humanity when she was forced to kill Landon, which made sense considering she was young, in the throes of loss, and too attached to Landon overall. She walked down a dark path but began to regain her humanity through a combination of Lizzie’s company, her family confronting her with her father’s ashes, and her own epic fight for control.
Hope took several episodes to regain her humanity, but her humanity took on its own mind-doppelganger form. While it worked well for Hope’s morality to be portrayed as a literal battle, the show’s cancellation meant fans barely had a chance to experience Hope after her humanity returned, limiting the actual arc efficiency.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 8, Episode 5)
Enzo was forced to turn off his humanity by Sybil, but how he turned it back on was key to why parts of season eight worked so well. Although he had a rushed introduction, Enzo had an epic romance with Bonnie that rivaled Damon and Elena. Bonnie set fire to their cabin – trapping herself inside – to force him to turn on his humanity or watch her die.
This strategy proved incredibly successful, as Enzo’s love for Bonnie outweighed any reason to keep her humanity apart. He’s the only vampire shown to immediately turn on his humanity at the sight of his life-threatening partner, proving that Bonnie and Enzo were The Vampire Diaries’ best couple.
The Vampire Diaries (Season 6, Episode 19)
Caroline planned to disable her humanity for a year, but Stefan forced her to re-enable it after a much shorter period of time. He dunks it in his head, creating the illusion that his mother is rejecting her, then showing a memory between him and Liz about finding the right words to say to Caroline, alluding to a letter Caroline had previously forced Stefan to burn.
Caroline’s love for her mother has made for one of the most consistent portrayals of humanity in the franchise. She turned it off out of grief and turned it back on because she realized she would never know her mother’s last message to her. The idea of never having another conversation with his mother was painful but realistic and was humanity’s most powerful comeback on the show.