When The Vampire Diaries airs its series finale tonight (March 10), prepare to cry. That shouldn't come as too much of a shock, considering that the celebrated vampire drama will claim its final victim during the epic finale, aptly titled "I Was Feeling Epic." But beyond the obvious heartbreak of saying goodbye to a beloved character — and an even more beloved show — cocreator and executive producer Julie Plec hopes you shed happy tears, too.
For all its supernatural mythology and frustrating relationship drama, at its heart, The Vampire Diaries is about family — the family you're born with and the family you create along the way. That includes, of course, the fans who have been with the show from the very beginning, who have endured the euphoric highs and devastating lows of the past eight years. It wasn't a perfect show, but it was always earnest in its messiness.
MTV News chatted with Plec ahead of the series finale about Nina Dobrev's "awkward" return as Elena, Damon and Stefan's "nostalgic" final moment together, and the true beauty of the Vampire Diaries fandom ('shipper drama be damned).
I know this is probably going to be the most emotional week of your career.
Julie Plec: No, that was probably the week we wrapped the show. I've cried so much, I don’t know how much I have left in me.
The fact that you're a crier is very endearing to me because I cry at everything.
Plec: I had to make a speech at the beginning of the shoot to say, "Listen, this is an incredibly emotional time. I'm so proud of all that we’ve done. I will be crying all the time, and if any of you make fun of me, you're dead."
This season has been about the idea of redemption and whether these characters, who have done awful things, can find it. That speech Alaric gave in last week's episode about how they've all made "terrible mistakes" really put the entire show in perspective.
Plec: I absolutely felt that way too. Kudos to the writers on that one, because in the room we had talked about how Alaric would have a reflective moment that brought everything together emotionally for the whole show. And then they went and wrote it!
Heading into the big finale, it seems appropriate that the very end of The Vampire Diaries would bring about the end of Mystic Falls. Because there's a good chance hellfire is about to rain down on everybody.
Plec: That’s certainly the threat. Katherine Pierce has said herself that Stage 4 would be the eternal destruction of Mystic Falls by way of hellfire, and as we know, she tends to get what she wants. So things are looking pretty grim over there.
It's thematically appropriate and very Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque, which I always appreciate.
Plec: Always got to give the proper shout-out to Buffy.
For me, the relationship between Damon and Stefan Salvatore has always been the heart of the show. What can you tell me about their final scene together in the finale?
Plec: The final scene they have together is nostalgic, emotional, [and] three words.
Their relationship is so complicated and tortured. Do you feel like that moment between Damon and Stefan resolves all of their issues?
Plec: Personally, it’s one of the most beautiful moments in the show, ever. Whether anybody agrees with me or not is not something I'm going to concern myself with, because it makes me smile and tear and sob.
I know the ending you originally envisioned with [cocreator] Kevin Williamson changed slightly when Nina [Dobrev] left the show. When did you finally realize that this is how the show needed to end?
Plec: There were quite a few different versions of how the show would end that evolved over the course of the last year. Since Kevin and I came up with our idea six years ago, we always knew emotionally how we wanted it to end and what we wanted to feel like at the ending. So we have maintained that course all the way through, but how we executed it has shifted. I would say the actual ending didn't really cement until Kevin came into the writers' room when we were working on the finale and started talking about what he, as a fan, felt was important and emotional. We were able to look at it in a completely different way and really settle into the perfect finale.
You said you always knew what you wanted it to feel like at the end. What were those emotions you wanted to tap into?
Plec: It was important for me to give a sense of our characters' future. Not just their present but their future — their hopes and their dreams and ... their losses. What would it look like for them to move forward? I really wanted to get a sense of each character having a finality in that we at least have a clear sense — if they survive — of how they are going to live their lives. In spite of a series of really devastating heartbreaks, I wanted to also give a sense of peace and fulfillment, so that you could walk away, after eight years with this show, smiling and not just crying.
Does that mean we'll get a possible flash forward at the end to check in on everyone's future selves? I know you've said Friday Night Lights is your favorite series finale of all time, and they did something similar on that show.
Plec: Without meaning to, if I were to compare our ending to Friday Night Lights or Six Feet Under, and even in its own small ways, Lost, you can see how much I love those shows, and how much we all, as writers, love and admire the way those shows honored character and the emotional journey that the fans had been on. So, love it or hate it, we all collectively responded to the finales of those three shows, and I think ours falls more in that realm than it does, say, The Sopranos.
This is such a jam-packed finale, and there are lots of surprises in store for fans, with some old faces returning. We already know Nina Dobrev will appear. So how do you balance all of those moments with tying up all of the storylines this season?
Plec: It was not easy! But what we were able to do was finish the plot and the mythology shenanigans of Season 8 within the first half of the program, and really dedicate the second half to the emotions, so the balance is actually pretty nice.
Fans were ecstatic when Nina confirmed she was returning for the finale. What was it like to have her back on set and to really give Elena Gilbert a proper send-off?
Plec: Her final moments on the show were awkward. The first one was at 2 o’clock in the morning on Friday night, when we were supposed to wrap at 1 — and everyone was just cranky and pissy and eager to get the hell away, myself included. We'd all missed last call, and it had been a long day in a cramped space in the tunnels, with dust in everyone's lungs. We were all like, "Love you! Bye! Thanks again!" [laughs] And then we had to reshoot a close-up of Kat [Graham] on Monday morning because we had run out of light the day before, so Nina was gracious enough to come in — after the Super Bowl — and read off lines so that Kat would have someone to act against in the reshoot. It was a real pro move, and a friend move. So we were able to give her more love and hugs on the second wrap than the first.
In reflecting on the show, is there one accident, either a coupling or a storyline, that you're happy you made?
Plec: The first thing that comes to mind is the happy accident of the scenes between Stefan and Caroline in Season 2, Episode 2, when he's helping her with her transition in the bathroom of the high school. It’s such a powerful moment between the two, and when I personally saw it, it made me start quietly and secretly 'shipping them, obviously knowing that Stefan and Elena couldn’t last forever because the show was launched off a love triangle. So knowing that she would end up being in Damon’s arms sooner than later, it gave me a sense of peace knowing that here was somebody that I could root for for Stefan to find happiness with.
Finally, what's in your Vampire Diaries series-finale starter kit?
Plec: Tissues, wine, more wine, and friends. It’s an emotional experience, saying goodbye to a show if you’ve loved it along the way. I remember just weeping my way through the Friday Night Lights finale with my best friend, and just being so happy all the way through because it was so beautiful. It’s an experience you should share with someone. So get a party together.
Do you think about all of the friendships the show has created? I feel like that's the show's lasting legacy. There are so many people who have connected on Tumblr to meet at conventions and became real friends through this show.
Plec: That's been the best part of interacting with the fan community, observing or learning about different friendships that have been created. People tweet me all the time, "I met my best friend because of this show. Thank you." To me, all the 'shipper drama aside and all of the petty little things that can brew in small factions of any fandom, the beauty of this fandom is that a bunch of people got to spend eight years of their lives building friendships with other people. It makes me really happy.