The Vampire Diaries

Who Is Sarah Nelson on ‘The Vampire Diaries’?

Stefan and Damon aren't the only Salvatores in Mystic Falls...

Over the course of The Vampire Diaries‘ 8-season run on the CW, the show racked up an ensemble cast the size of which rivaled Game of Thrones. From vampires to witches to doppelgängers, the series’ massive character roster had more than its fair share of supporting characters whose role on the show may have been brief, but who were important nonetheless. Though it can sometimes be a headache knowing your travelers from your heretics, The Vampire Diaries‘ 22-episode arcs and longform storytelling style meant that even if a character only popped up for a few episodes, they could end up being a need-to-know face in the world of Mystic Falls.

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One such character was Tristin Mays’ Sarah—a supporting player who made a handful of appearances over the course of seasons six and eight. While “Sarah Nelson” may not be the first name that pops into your head when you think of The Vampire Diaries, her role on the show held surprising importance for a character whose tenure on the series didn’t even reach ten episodes. So, whether you’re watching the series for the first time and want an explainer, or it’s been a minute and you’re in need of a refresher on where she slots into The Vampire Diaries‘ sprawling universe, here’s a breakdown of Sarah Nelson and her time on TVD.

After appearing briefly as a baby in a flashback, Sarah made her first appearance on TVD in season six episode four, “Black Hole Sun,” and is introduced as an art student at Duke whose exhibit Stefan Salvatore is attending. Though Enzo (and the audience) are initially confused as to why Stefan takes such an interest in a random college student, the major bombshell about Sarah is revealed soon after: her name isn’t Sarah Nelson, it’s Sarah Salvatore.

That’s right—Damon and Stefan have relatives! Sarah turns out to be the daughter of the late ‘uncle’ Zach, one of Stefan and Damon’s distant nephews, who was killed by Damon all the way back in season one. We find out via Stefan that although Damon also killed Sarah’s mother, Gail (who was pregnant with Sarah at the time) Stefan took Gail’s body to the emergency room in secret, where she was successfully delivered. Stefan then made sure that Sarah was adopted by a good family, and spent the next few years checking in on her from a distance, but being careful to hide her existence from Damon, for fear that he might kill her like he killed her parents.

After her initial introduction and the surprise reveal about her relation to the Salvatore brothers, much of Sarah’s role on the series is closely tied to her relationship with Enzo—out of hatred for Stefan, Enzo initially plans on turning Sarah into a vampire as a form of revenge on the Salvatore brothers. Enzo insists Matt to help spy on Sarah, but after Matt is hit by a car and Sarah witnesses it, Enzo is forced to reveal his status as a vampire when he feeds Matt his blood to save him. Sarah, spooked but curious, ends up following Enzo to a bar and photographing his ‘vamp face’.

While bonding with Enzo at the bar, Sarah is kidnapped by a humanity-less Caroline as a part of a plan to take revenge on Stefan and Elena: Caroline straps Sarah to a table and compels Elena’s then-boyfriend Liam to surgically remove her heart. Luckily, Elena is able to find Sarah and Liam in time, and saves her by snapping Liam’s wrists, thus preventing him for being able to operate. In the wake of her near-death experience, she gets a visit from Enzo at the hospital, where he admits to using her and addresses her by her real name—revealing he knows her secret.

Enzo then drives Sarah to the boarding house with the intention of introducing her to the rest of her family, but when Lily answers the door, Enzo is spooked. He attempts to compel Sarah into forgetting the interaction, but she jabs him with a vervain needle and convinces him to reveal the entire truth about his identity, his status as a vampire, and his relationship with Lily. After Enzo lays his cards on the table, Sarah lets him go, marking the end of her appearance on the series until she’s killed by Sybil two seasons later.

The decision to introduce another non-vampire Salvatore family member was certainly an exciting one—and though Sarah’s role on the show didn’t end up being all that important in the long run, her bond with Enzo, chemistry with Matt, and curious relationship with Stefan made her a stand-out supporting cast member.

(image: The CW)

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Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates