By Samantha Highfill
Updated April 01, 2016 at 03:17 PM EDT
Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW

When The Vampire Diaries returns, viewers will finally get to find out what life is like three years into the future. Are Alaric and Caroline happy? What’s going on with Matt? And will Damon take Stefan’s scar?

Those questions will get answered, but first, second-time director Ian Somerhalder really wanted to focus on making the first hour back different from the season 6 episode he directed (which featured no-humanity Caroline). “Last year it was a really conceptual episode, it pushed a lot of envelopes, having Candice [King] turn and go to that really super dark scary place. This episode was really a pivotal setting up the rest of the season, so it was a very different animal to begin with. There was a lot of stuff to tell that was setting up for what was to come.”

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But aside from setting the stage for the future, this episode will also feature a few very emotional character moments. “We lost some amazing characters,” Somerhalder says. “And rather than what I attempted to do the last time I directed, which was shock the hell out of you, this one was about, let’s really tug on the heartstrings of the audience and really let them feel what these characters are feeling. And that is a very very different dynamic.”

According to Somerhalder, this episode is about taking out “the glitz” and honing in on smaller moments. “It was a different type of script and it was really just about getting these moments, these beats with these actors, so that you really felt what they were feeling and that was all it was. That simple.”

The Vampire Diaries airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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The Vampire Diaries

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

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