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The only thing worse than losing a character is losing two characters … in the same episode. In tonight’s Vampire Diaries, fans said goodbye to two familiar faces—Liz Forbes and Jeremy Gilbert—both of whom have been around since season 1, back when magic was a mystery and The Originals didn’t exist.

After weeks of build-up, Liz finally died of cancer, while Jeremy—in a twist—went off to live life as a vampire hunter. Elena, of course, thinks he’s at art school, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her (though it might hurt Alaric).

We got some intel on both the characters’ goodbyes, as well as what’s next, from executive producers Julie Plec and Caroline Dries, writer Brian Young, and the actors themselves, Marguerite MacIntyre (Liz Forbes) and Steven R. McQueen (Jeremy Gilbert).

Why they felt Jeremy’s exit was the best way for him to go: “Jeremy’s died a few times. So, we really wanted it to feel special but official too and we mean it this time,” Dries said, with Plec adding that this was their way of giving the character “grown-up closure.” And for Young, “It feels like a victory in a way. He got out, he made it out, he’s gonna be great. He’s gonna succeed in the world.”

But fear not, Plec said “he’s got a standing invite for weddings, funerals and whatever else might come along.”

Why he left before Bonnie’s return: “I think our decision to say goodbye to Jeremy in the middle was born out of really wanting to feel like his character made a strong decision in spite of his circumstance,” Plec said. “We don’t know when she’ll be back or what will become of her, but he really needed to make decisions for himself. There will still be a conversation to be had or at least a reunion of sorts once we get our Bonnie back, but Jeremy needed to get up, get on that bus and go.”

Why they had him become a hunter: “The biggest point for us to make is that when you come out of Mystic Falls, there is no such thing as a normal life,” Plec said. “Jeremy was someone who went through so much and needed a purpose. For Elena, she thought, ‘Oh just get out, be normal. Go to art school and you’ll be fine.’ But Jeremy sees it as, ‘I’m forever changed, but I’m going to use this change for good.’ Of course, Elena would never go for it because she’s trying to be the protective big sister, but Alaric gets it.”

“Him being an artist would feel like he’s settling,” Dries said. “It felt like it was his destiny, what he’s good at.” McQueen added: “If it was draw or kill stuff, I’d rather kill some stuff.”

Jeremy could show up in New Orleans. “Anything is a possibility, for sure,” Plec said of Jeremy’s potential to show up on The Originals. “Once we get him on his feet and see how he is as a hunter, you never know.” But when asked about a spin-off, Plec was quick to say that although ideas are always on the table, there is no official pitch for another spin-off at this point.

All about Sheriff Forbes’ final speech: “When Brian and I were trying to think of what the theme of this episode, we liked the idea of that there was no mystery to Elena’s parents’ death [and] that that cancer just chooses you,” Dries said. “There’s no up-side to cancer. Julie asked Marguerite to write up like a ‘What would the sheriff say to her daughter at her funeral?’ kind of thing.”

“I sort of loved it because you know she is ordinary,” MacIntyre said. “Her successes are sort of few except for her relationship with her daughter and the fact that she loves this town. You see that she is sort of this ordinary touchstone and she’s okay with it. You see somebody who is okay with dying with it, but also she recognizes what’s so special about her daughter.”

“This episode and next week’s episode, we like to hit the theme of the ordinary business of dying and death because there’s so much emotion attached to it,” Plec said. “I think we’ve really enjoyed exploring the simple, basic logistics of having to accept the death of someone that you love and literally and figuratively put them in the ground. So that’s been something that is surprisingly emotional. If you’ve ever lost someone, just picking out what outfit you’re going to wear to the funeral—it kind of kicks you in the gut a little bit. We wanted to make sure we captured all of those moments.”

Sheriff Forbes almost didn’t make it to season 2: “She has been on the chopping block of death since episode 4 of season 1,” Plec said. “Over a certain amount of time, her relationship with Caroline became so profound that we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll never kill her. She can never go anywhere because this mother-daughter relationship is one of the most important bonds in the show.’ Which when you realize you can never kill anyone is exactly when you start talking about if you should kill them. Every time we talked about it, I would burst into tears.”

Will there be a new sheriff? “The seat’s going to remain vacant for a little while, but I think that it’s an answer that will come in season seven,” Plec said. “But her death definitely puts a lot of people on some new paths to decide who they want to be and what kind of person they want to be and what they want with their lives.”

On Caroline and Liz’s final moments: “The original idea of the episode was, Caroline creates the perfect day with her mom. But then there was no conflict in [that] story,” Dries said. “We wanted it to feel like it was a real death, so I think if Caroline were to have a talking conversation with the sheriff and then she were to die like 30 seconds later, it wouldn’t feel like a real death.”

Plec added: “It’s the idea of, in the midst of all the pain and sadness, there is some beauty and peace to be found in your last moments, and to send somebody off feeling like a character gave them that, I think is really important.”

Now, Damon gets to struggle with writing a eulogy: “The two people that are carrying the most weight in the next episode is Caroline obviously and Damon,” Plec said. “Because when all is said and done, Liz was sort of like a surrogate mother and a best friend to him. A lot of what we talk about in the next episode is how he has been tasked with the burden of writing a eulogy. He’s got a line where he’s like, ‘This is ridiculous, this is making me have to be a nice person and I’m not a nice person. I don’t want to be a nice person.’ And Liz is laughing from beyond the grave. So he’s struggling with hero Damon as always, that he wants to do right by his friend, he wants to fix a mistake that he made in his past in regards to his mother, but it’s putting him outside his comfort zone in a way that is really messing with his head.”

Stefan and Caroline need to … talk? After finally locking lips, Stefan and Caroline need to figure out if their relationship is about more than comforting each other. “That’s the first conversation you have after your first kiss and right now something really dramatic has happened,” Plec said. “The next episode is judging what, and when, and how that first conversation is going to go.”

Sarah has a surprise for Enzo: “Enzo of course has this whole master plan that you can say is smart or dumb depending where you stand on it but she’s going to throw him for a little bit of a loop when he finally comes face to face with her again and reacts to the fact that he’s of some supernatural origin,” Plec said. “He’s going to be surprised with her response there.”

Matt’s still finding himself: “He’s about to embark on a new path for himself,” Plec said. “This experience of what he’s had to go through being Enzo’s little bitch boy as he calls it, and watching his friends all sink deeper and deeper into their supernatural lives, it’s going to make him take a stand and have a real clear point of view on who he wants to be.” Could that be a sheriff?

Nobody’s going to find out about Jeremy hunting anytime soon: “That’s going to be Alaric’s little secret for a while,” Plec said, adding, “Oh he’s going to be in trouble if Elena ever finds out.” Although, that’s not likely. “It’s a father-son secret. I think that what Alaric’s giving Jeremy is the gift of being able to go on with the life he wants to live. I think he’ll be just fine keeping that to himself.”

No familiar faces will return for Liz’s funeral: “We made the choice to keep the sheriff’s funeral very intimate with our core group and the town. It’s really as much about the town and the police and Caroline and her friends as anything else, so we didn’t bring anybody back for their final farewell,” Plec said before adding with a laugh, “Everyone’s dead.”

–Reporting by Will Robinson

Episode Recaps

Best Starting Point: ''Growing Pains'' (401) — A lot changed in last season's lead-up. It's probably best not to miss this season opener, which shows…
The Vampire Diaries

Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley star in the CW’s romance-infused vampire soap opera.

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