Heading into season eight of The Vampire Diaries, showrunner Julie Plec wasn't necessarily sure that it would mark the end of the long-running CW hit series. But she told The Hollywood Reporter that, thanks to a combination of logistics and story, she realized quickly that the show was coming to its natural conclusion.
"There were a lot of things that went into [the decision to end the series]," Plec told THR. "Some logistics, some contractual, where you were just like, 'OK, if this person doesn't come back, is the show still going to be good? What if they do come back, but we don't know until the end?' A lot of that silly stuff you're not supposed to talk about. Logistical stuff."
Aside from the logistics, the final decision came down to story. "What it came down to for us was, let's start talking about the season and see what it feels like, see what stories we want to tell, see where those stories take us," Plec said. "And then if it feels like it should be over, then it should be over."
Once the writers decided to tackle the mythology of sirens in the final season, they realized that that's where the story had to end. "When you look at siren lore and siren mythology, the one recurring idea is that they are somehow servants of the devil," said Plec. "We thought, 'Hmm, we've had the Other Side, we've talked about peace, but we've never talked about what the Vampire Diaries version of hell is, so why don't we get into that? Obviously [we visited] the hellscape in the previous year, but what is the Vampire Diaries version of the underworld?'"
She continued, "Once we started talking about quote-unquote 'hell' and quote-unquote 'peace,' which is the Vampire Diaries version of heaven, it felt like if we're telling those stories, and we're telling stories about our characters trying to find their ultimate redemption and salvation with the end result being peace or hell, then it certainly now feels like this is the last season. Because if you can't take those journeys all the way to their conclusion, then why are we telling these stories in the first place?"
It was only then that the final decision was made. "Once we realized that and we made the decision that it should be over, then all the phone calls happened and all the 'OK, let's call it, when are we going to call it, how are we going to call it' conversations were had," said the showrunner.
While the idea to announce the end of Vampire Diaries at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016 had occurred to Plec, it wasn't until The CW president Mark Pedowitz and Warner Bros. Television president Peter Roth suggested it that it became the official plan. "It was my hope to be able to do it that way, but I hadn't expressed that, and when I spoke to Mark and Peter, who had been talking amongst themselves, they said, 'If this is it, then we think that you should announce it at Comic-Con to the fans,'" she said. "And so it was their idea that validated my instinct and so we were all on the same page. Mark doesn't typically like to commit to being the last season of the show in case it isn't the last season of a show. Shows have been known to have resurgences or find a new life, and so he certainly was in no hurry to say when the end of The Vampire Diaries would be, but he was really gracious and willing to let us say it was the end."
After the decision to end the series was official, Plec created two lists of what she wanted to include in the lead-up to the conclusion: "We had two hit lists. We had one, who do we want to see again? Because in a season when we're leading up to goodbye, being able to get one final look at some of our beloved characters was most important. And then the other was, what have we not resolved? In 171 episodes, what are those dangling chads that will haunt us until the end of time if we don't get answers to those questions?"
While mostly everyone, including star Nina Dobrev, who exited at the end of season six, agreed to return, there was one single storyline they weren't able to wrap up. "We just couldn't find a place and a way to answer one — which plagued me because we tried," Plec said. "It's certainly disappointing."
Head back to THR.com after the Vampire Diaries finale on Friday to find out what burning question will remain unanswered!