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Vampire Diaries bosses on the series finale, that letter, and who almost died

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Bob Mahoney/The CW

Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers from the series finale of The Vampire Diaries.

In its final hour, The Vampire Diaries stayed true to the themes of death, loss, and love that centered it for eight seasons. But it also introduced a new theme: Peace.

It’s an idea that first came to Plec when they were working on season 3’s “Ghost World,” which featured an Anna-Pearl reunion worth quite a few tissues. “Anna has a scene where she says, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. They say my mom found peace but I don’t even know if peace exists.’ That’s when all of this locked in for me,” Plec tells EW. “For me personally, I am writing a show about that fear of loss and not knowing that someone’s okay and not knowing if you’ll ever see them again. So watching Anna and her mom reunite in that episode is what launched this whole notion of peace for me.”

And keeping that in the back of her mind, when her team started planning season 8 and realized that they were going on a journey of redemption, Plec says she realized that this season would have to end in peace. “If Cade’s hell exists then shouldn’t peace exist for everyone? The minute we realized redemption had to have an end point is the minute we realized it had to be the last season,” she says.

From there, the writers built a final season around the themes of redemption, family, and love, a season that ended with Stefan sacrificing himself to save everyone, Damon and Elena living a long human life together, Caroline and Ric opening a school for their girls, Bonnie traveling the world, Matt remaining in Mystic Falls, and eventually, Elena and Damon reuniting with their families.

RELATED: ‘Vampire Diaries’: Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, more react to the series finale

Below, EW breaks down some of the finale’s biggest moments with Plec and Kevin Willaimson, who not only created the show together, but wrote the final script as a team.

“Hello, brother.” 

When Damon reunites with Stefan, he speaks the final words of the series, one last “hello, brother” before they hug and the show ends. Bringing back the phrase from the pilot wasn’t something that Plec and Williamson had necessarily pre-planned, but as soon as they thought of it, they knew it was right. “It’s full circle,” Williamson says. “A finale should be about saying goodbye, but it should also be about saying thank you to the audience who has stuck by you through eight seasons. And the way to say thank you is to fill it full of memories because when people look back on the show, I want them to remember it fondly and smile.”

Stefan’s sacrifice

Stefan wasn’t always going to die. “There were two pitches on the table: one that gave perfect closure to the season and then another that gave closure to the whole series,” Plec says, admitting that they had “just as many discussions over killing Damon as we did over killing Stefan, and let me tell you, for a very long time the pendulum swung the other way.”

Although the writers contemplated Damon being the one to achieve his redemption by saving the day, ultimately, it made more sense for Stefan to step up. “He killed Enzo; there’s no coming back from that,” Williamson says. “As a Ripper, how many people did he kill? He turned his brother into a vampire and stripped him of his humanity. How is he going to make up for that? He’s our hero! He had to be heroic. He had to make up for it and he did, and by doing so, he secured Damon’s fate: Now Damon’s going to be the hero forever because he has to do that for his brother. And this show has always been about the two of them and their love and their sense of family. And now Damon’s going to be worthy of Elena.”

RELATED: The 20 Best Episodes of ‘The Vampire Diaries’

The love triangle

Speaking of Damon and Elena, for Vampire Diaries fans, the Stefan-Elena-Damon love triangle will always be a thing, but with Nina Dobrev’s departure in the season 6 finale, the triangle hadn’t been prominent for the show in a couple of years. That’s why one of the greatest challenges that the finale faced was paying homage to that love triangle without trying to act like there was a choice to be made. “Having stepped away from the show at the end of season 2, Kevin really lived very deeply in that love triangle and I’ve had the extra six years of it really being skewed most heavily to Damon… When we were writing, Kevin asked, ‘Is there anything that we should do to boost the power of the triangle and the choice?’ And I said, ‘There is no choice, unfortunately.’ When Elena left, a promise was made that Elena and Damon would be reunited. If Nina had wanted to come back for a final season, maybe there would be a choice there, but with her coming back for a final episode, there is no choice.”

Williamson adds: “It’s no secret I was always a fan of Stefan and Elena ending up together. In another universe, that would’ve been the ending, but we didn’t have time to tell that story in the last season because we didn’t have Elena. We couldn’t get them back together.”

The idea then became: How do they pay homage to a relationship that was such an important part of their show? “It was important that even though we were celebrating the return of Elena, that we didn’t forsake the power of the other relationships that had been built over the years,” Plec says. “I really wanted to make sure each friendship and each relationship was honored, including the relationship between Stefan and Elena, which really needed its final powerful moment. Getting that scene right was the most important to us when we were writing, because Kevin and I have said repeatedly how much we loved that relationship and we wanted to experience a proper goodbye between the two, as fans of that coupling.”

At the end of the day, they brought the love triangle back through raising the question, “Who is the better man?” Early in the episode, Katherine claims Stefan is the better man; and after Stefan’s death, he tells Elena that Damon is, finally, the better man. “It’s all about who is the better man,” Williamson says. “And being the better man means you wake up every morning and you just do better. And that’s what Damon ultimately learns and he wakes up every morning just to do better and he’s doing it for his brother and he becomes the better man. It’s an ongoing struggle.”

That Klaroline letter

In the show’s final moments, Caroline and Ric’s new boarding school receives an impressive donation from none other than Klaus Mikaelson, and with it, he wrote Caroline a letter that included a phrase that more than likely set Klaroline shippers back on their heels. “First of all I have to give a special shout-out to Carina [Mackenzie], who wrote that letter for me,” Plec says. “We have her to thank for that. And when I read it and I saw ‘however long it takes,’ I just about died. She nailed it.”

In the moment that Caroline read the letter, the voiceover declared it “the beginning of another story,” though it’s not one Plec can promise they’ll tell. “I can’t make any promises for many reasons: One, because we don’t have a fifth season of The Originals. Two, because while I love the world of the boarding school and all that it represents, that would be an entirely new show that I haven’t even begun to think about, but the doors were not left open unintentionally.” Picking her words carefully, Plec says, “They’re open with a hope, not a promise.”

The peace of it all

After a season about hell and the idea of eternal torture, the show introduced the idea of peace. “We created this other side that was full of darkness and we really never lived in the opposite of that, which is, what does the light look like,” Williamson says. “And we wanted to show that light in the final moments, and it looks like a family sitting on a front porch being reunited and it looks like two brothers hugging each other. That’s what the light looks like.”

As for the technical side of it all and whether the final moments of the series mean that Damon and Elena are dead, Plec says it’s left open to interpretation, although she will say what it means to her personally: “It’s each of them, at the end of a long life together, finding their version of peace,” she says. “That’s not to say that their version of peace doesn’t include the other — maybe they’re going to have a barbecue in an hour — but being reunited with those who you’ve lost and mourned the most is my idea of peace. That’s the meaning I chose to give it.”