Holding out hope in the face of impossible circumstances has been a steady theme throughout The Vampire Diaries‘ run — whether it’s Elena holding out hope that Stefan will find his humanity, or just about everyone holding out hope that happy endings do exist. And when season 8 kicks off, it’s Stefan who’s trying to hold onto the hope that he can save his brother.
Season 8 picks up a few months after the events of the season 7 finale, which saw Damon and Enzo off on a killing spree after being influenced by, well, whatever was in that fault. Meanwhile, Stefan, Caroline, and Bonnie have had no luck in finding either of them. “They’ve been following one trail of dead ends after another, and we pick them up trying to hold onto any remaining hope that they can that there’s a way to come back,” showrunner Julie Plec tells EW.
The problem — or rather, another problem — is that whatever got to Damon and Enzo is still out there, which means more of our Mystic Falls favorites could fall under its spell. “This particular beast has quite an influence over people mentally,” says Plec. “It’s hungry for death, and right now, Damon and Enzo are its faithful servants.”
But thankfully, there’s one thing this villain can’t kill, and that’s love. “There’s a strong romantic core to this season,” Plec says, promising “lots of big moves and big declarations” in the show’s final 16 episodes.
Furthermore, those big moments will be contained within the show’s central characters. “We really boiled it down to a very small group of core characters, so that does leave limited room for new relationships because they’re all in relationships,” Plec says, adding that the season’s “got a lot of love in it which is one thing that I’m really enjoying.”
Could that love extend to past characters fans would love to see return? Long story short: Plec has a plan. When it came to creating the Other Side, Plec says, “I took a lot of s— and I don’t care because I loved how easy it was for those who were deceased to return. I loved the Other Side; I thought the Other Side was very special to our show. It did give us that ability to stay close to those we’ve lost even after they might have left us tragically. So much of the show is an exploration of death, and I love being able to explore the idea that people remain with us in some way or another.”
As for what that means for season 8, when the Other Side no longer exists, Plec says, “I got something up my sleeve, but it’s not Other Side-y. That one’s gone for good.”
The Vampire Diaries returns Friday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.