Credit: Jordin Althaus/ABC

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” – Confucius

When Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) set out to destroy the Grayson family for their role in the supposed death of her father, she probably had no illusions of a happy ending. After all, how do you come back from destroying so many lives, both innocent and guilty? And now that Revenge appears to be inching closer to the story’s conclusion, the question of whether Emily will survive her quest has come back to the forefront.

Looking back on the source material, The Count of Monte Cristo, protagonist Edmond Dantès did survive his entire ordeal, though he didn’t quite get the happy ending he probably imagined. (We’re talking about the 1844 Alexandre Dumas novel, not the 2002 film that wraps everything up in a nice little bow.)

Will Emily ultimately have to pay for her sins with her own life? “Regardless of how the story ends, there has to be something bittersweet to it, because of all the losses that have come along the way and because of everything that’s happened,” showrunner Sunil Nayyar says. “Her appearance in the Hamptons at the beginning of the show has caused a ripple effect that has led to victories and losses that are so epic that I think it will be hard—however it is we choose to end her story—for her to just walk away feeling perfect about everything.”

“Whether she lives or die, honestly we don’t know yet,” Nayyar says before referencing the Confucius proverb listed above. “That is such a moving thesis for the show, because there is such loss that comes with this journey. What’s interesting to me about how she would finish this journey is what sense of victory does she take and who does she get to walk away with, if she walks away at all?”

Revenge returns Sunday, Jan. 4 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.