As early as the first season, Vampire Diaries fans were declaring themselves Team Stefan or Team Damon. Which brother should Elena Gilbert choose? Flash forward a few years, and Elena — who’s currently resting in a magic-induced coma — has had epic love stories with both brothers. But as the show heads into its eighth and final season, the time for debating has passed.
“Things are final now,” co-creator Kevin Williamson says. “Decisions are being made. People’s lives are hanging in the balance. Relationships hang in the balance. Who’s going to end up with whom?”
It’s a question Williamson’s had to answer before when he wrote the Dawson’s Creek finale, which concluded the Pacey-Joey-Dawson love triangle, though not in the way he always expected. “[I knew] the way it should end and I held true to it,” Williamson says. “I even wrote it, and it didn’t feel right. Something was wrong, so I rewrote it.”
To that point, TVD showrunner Julie Plec says the writers, though they have their opinions, are keeping an open mind about their ending, which is expected to feature Nina Dobrev, despite the fact that she left the show after season 6 and doesn’t yet have an official deal to return. “Fans are always talking about endgame as though endgame has been chosen from minute 1,” Plec says. “I don’t know that you could talk to a single series creator that would say confidently ‘Where I started is where I finished and there was no way in hell I was going to stray from that path.’ Dawson’s being the perfect example.”
Williamson adds: “You have to be open to change and be able to evolve and keep an open mind, because the next idea may be the best one.”
As for the kind of finales that Williamson and Plec admire as fans of television, Plec says: “Speaking only for myself, the ideal finale to me is Friday Night Lights, where you have loved and worshipped a show for all these years, you get to come back, celebrate the characters, finish up their journeys, and send everyone out with a feeling of, ‘My god I’m so grateful that I got to know these people.'”
For Williamson, Walter White’s final hour on Breaking Bad left a mark. “I felt complete when that show ended,” he says. “It was sad, it was tragic, but I felt satisfied. It was a big thank you.” That idea of saying thank you to the fans is a central component to Williamson’s idea of a good finale. “You want to say thank you to the audience and you also want to satisfy them, not just one last time, but for the ultimate time,” he says. “And you want that last episode to give them such a reward for sticking with you and watching this show all the years.”
At this point, all Plec and Williamson know about TVD‘s finale is that they aren’t working toward a Sopranos-style cut to black. “Cynicism doesn’t have its way in series finales,” Plec says. “My emotional desire when I watch a series come to an end is to be crying and laughing and cheering as the final credits roll, feeling like I just got delivered the happy ending, whether the plot ends happily or not.”
Translation: Both Stelena and Delena shippers should get their tissues ready.
The Vampire Diaries returns Friday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.