Samantha Highfill
February 16, 2017 AT 10:47 AM EST

For more on The Vampire Diaries, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday. Don’t forget to subscribe for exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Elena Gilbert’s crying. Standing in the Mystic Falls cemetery where she’s said many goodbyes — and even a few hellos — Elena’s surrounded by everyone she loves. Well, almost everyone. One person is missing. Did we forget to mention that this is a funeral?

It’s a sunny January day in Atlanta as the Vampire Diaries cast films its final group scene in the woods for the series finale. In between takes, there’s laughter and excited whispers about who’s in town for the upcoming wrap party, but when showrunner Julie Plec, the director of the show’s final hour, calls “Action,” an emotional fog sets in. This is a goodbye — and it’s a big one.

“We wanted to go big, emotionally, with the action, and with the spectacular of it,” says Plec, who co-wrote the hour with co-creator Kevin Williamson. “We were absolutely feeling epic.”

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