Art Streiber/The CW
Shirley Li
July 23, 2016 AT 12:00 PM EDT

The Vampire Diaries is leaving Mystic Falls — but not before one more season of supernatural ups and downs.

At the series’ San Diego Comic-Con panel on Saturday, creator Julie Plec announced the eighth season would be the drama’s last, but also teased what’s to come. Not only is producer and writer Kevin Williamson back for the final round, but Plec said the season will take the characters back to Mystic Falls at the start, with only Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Enzo (Michael Malarkey) still missing from the fray.

“We’ve all been together for so long, and the idea of this last season is bringing it all home back in Mystic Falls,” she explained, adding that season 8’s episode titles will be lines of dialogue from the series’ first season. “We’re visiting relationships and ideas and themes that we did in the early seasons, so I think we’re going to work together to bring everything we have to this last season.”

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A central story at the start of season 8 will focus on finding Damon and Enzo, while also crafting the new Big Bad of the show. “There is this great thing that’s about to happen, there’s this final Bad,” Williamson said, doing his best to avoid spoilers while saying the new villain would infuse “pure evil” into Mystic Falls. “When Julie pitched it to me… I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’”

In fact, the supernatural elements of season 8 will be diving into the characters’ heads themselves, Malarkey hinted. “There’s mysterious elements of mind control going on,” he said. “We’ve read four episodes so far, and it’s gripping.”

Added Somerhalder: “The mind control thing is interesting, because you’re used to seeing these characters exert that power onto someone else, so when you see them ultimately in this realm where they have no control over their actions… it’s that conflict and that struggle we’re looking for, which is truly a gem for us to play.”

Then again, some characters have more personal evils to confront: Bonnie (Kat Graham) will be dealing with the repercussions of losing Enzo and Damon now that she’s “literally at ground zero,” the actress said.

Meanwhile, Stefan (Paul Wesley) will be on the hunt for Damon. “He has a broken heart over his bro,” the actor said. “It’s back to the original dynamic of the brothers.”

If anything, at least Stefan will have Caroline (Candice King) by his side: “I like happiness, I do,” Plec said. “It’s no secret I’ve been rooting for this couple to be together since episode 202, so I’m happy to bring them to this place where they can find happiness… It’s never going to be easy.”

At that, Wesley and King exchanged “I love you”‘s in character, to the applause of the crowd.

The Vampire Diaries returns Friday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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