Fans are still reeling after that major death in the series finale of The Vampire Diaries. After eight seasons and 171 episodes of heartbreak, death, and vampire angst, you'd think we would have been used to the pain, but the finality of the character in question's selfless decision left us cold. However, according to showrunner Julie Plec, the ending could have been even more brutal.
In a post-finale interview with Entertainment Weekly, Plec revealed the finale idea she and cocreator Kevin Williamson conceived years ago during Season 2 — and why it all had to change after star Nina Dobrev's departure from the show. (If you don't want to know how The Vampire Diaries ended, you should probably look away now.)
In the episode's final act, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) sacrificed himself for the greater good. Not only did he take down Katherine (Dobrev) once and for all, but he also saved Mystic Falls and gave his older brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) a long, happy human life with Elena (Dobrev) by injecting him with the Cure from his bloodstream. Adding even more salt to the gaping wound in our chests, his new wife, Caroline (Candice King), tried to call Stefan moments before his death to tell him that she understood why he was doing it and that she supported his last heroic effort — but he never answered. (He still magically heard her, though.)
This all sounds pretty morose, right? Well, Plec and Williamson's original plan was to have Stefan and Damon both sacrifice themselves for Elena to give her the long, happy human life she always wanted. Surprisingly, that's what stars Somerhalder and Wesley always wanted too.
"Back in Season 2 when Kevin and I were sitting in the mall and we had fallen in love with this series and this story about two brothers who loved the same girl and the love triangle was kicking into high gear, we said to ourselves: When all is said and done, when this show is over, both brothers should die in the name of saving their girl and then be watching her like ghosts ... as she went off into the sunset to live her life and maybe marry Matt Donovan or maybe become a doctor, but that those brothers would be side-by-side watching her live," Plec said.
But when Dobrev left The Vampire Diaries at the end of Season 6, things changed. Though Plec would have liked to revive the show's love triangle to see if Stefan and Elena "could've found their way back to each other" — to really leave Elena with a choice — Dobrev's departure made Elena and Damon endgame.
"[It] sealed the romantic contract between Damon and Elena," she said. "In that moment, to me, the show ceased to be about a love triangle and became a show about the power of these brothers and their love for each other. And so there was no way in hell I was killing both of them and leaving neither of them with the happy ending."
So you chose to break Caroline's heart instead?! (I'm still not over it.) OK. At least the episode's final montage showed all of the characters finding some semblance of peace, whether in the real world or on the Other Side. Even Damon and Stefan managed to find their way back to each other, and at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.