Sara Canning and Nina Dobrev

Of all the deaths during two seasons of The Vampire Diaries, none were as tragic and personal as the loss of Jenna — and that was exactly the point, executive producer Julie Plec says.

"The loss of life in the sacrifice ritual needed to be as deeply personal as possible in order to show how big of a move it was that Klaus is making and how profound of an impact it would have on not only Elena's life, but on everybody," Plec tells TVGuide.com.

A Vampire Diaries post-mortem and a preview of the shocking finale

In Part 1 of our exclusive interview with Plec, she explains how Jenna's death in the penultimate episode sets up the emotional resolution for the finale (Thursday, 8/7c on CW) and addresses how the show will handle the fact that there's no characters left clueless of the supernatural. Plus: Is there hope for Caroline (Candice Accola) and Tyler (Michael Trevino) to get together? Plec previews their Season 3 journey — and conflict. 

When do you decide you were going to kill off Jenna (Sara Canning)?
Julie Plec:
Those decisions are never made lightly. We talked quite a lot about it together in a span of a day when we were writing the story for episode 20. It was not something we set out to do in the beginning of the season -- it was a late in the day decision -- and once we made the decision about Jenna's demise that's the point when we orchestrated the vampire sacrifice of it all.

Were you worried that fans would be very angry?
Plec:
We certainly did not want to piss anybody off or alienate anybody. With series regulars you're always going to have fan-bases that feel very protective of them and love them and feel like they're family so these decisions are not going to go over necessarily well all the time. But we spent an entire season building to this sacrifice ritual and bringing Klaus in and we felt like the loss of life in the sacrifice ritual needed to be as deeply personal as possible in order to show how big of a move it was that Klaus is making and how profound of an impact it would have on not only Elena's life, but on everybody.

Exclusive Vampire Diaries first look: The season finale is on fire!

Does Jenna's death symbolize getting rid of the adults on the show to force the kids to grow up?
Plec:
That's a tough one because by no means do we think there shouldn't be parental figures on this show. Some of the parents are our most colorful and vivid characters. Elena (Nina Dobrev) began the series having just lost her parents and as an orphan and that is part of what defines her. Along the road she has found her birth mother, discovered the identity of her birth father and yes, had a surrogate guardian in Jenna, but when it's all said and done this is a girl who has experienced so much profound loss and that journey is continuing for her. It's all part of who she is and it's rough and it's brutal, but we want to take Elena to the next place. Now she's going to be in her own way a parent to Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) and she's going to be the adult in the family and that's all going to be a part of the road that we're sending her down.

Along with Jenna, Matt became aware of the supernatural, but now you've lost the innocent and high school teen perspective.
Plec:
The problem is there's always a fine line between keeping someone out of the loop and making them seem stupid. With both Jenna and Matt (Zach Roerig) we felt we were hitting the end of the rope there in our world of the characters having credibility, in fact, I think we stretched almost too thin. So bringing them in felt like the right decision. Now the hazard of that is we have no clueless innocence. Maybe we'll introduce new innocence or maybe the fun will be seeing Matt continue down his path with his life which is complicated without the supernatural elements and see where his place is and where he fits into this group of supernatural creatures that are also his friends and extended family.

VIDEO: Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev dishes on her co-stars

Now that Matt freaked out and broke up with Caroline, does that leave room for her and Tyler to get together?
Plec:
Matt and Tyler aren't in the last episode so their Season 2 journey has come to a close, but the fun of where I think we'll be able to go with it is that we've got a mayor and a sheriff who are each mothers of supernatural beings and who are not necessarily compatible with each other. Where are those mothers going to stand in all this and as mayor and the sheriff of the town, what conflict is going to arise as they jockey for position to protect their children and also maybe try to keep their children away from each other?

The penultimate episode was epic, how can the finale compare?
Plec:
The last episode was clearly the season finale of our mythology storyline. We went all out and that was as deliberate choice knowing that the story we wanted to tell in our season finale is actually the emotional resolution of the season. We also want to really give the audience a window to where we're going in Season 3, a taste of what the series is going to be like as we move forward.

Check back on Thursday for Part 2 of our chat with Julie where she previews Stefan's "harrowing" journey in the finale, addresses Damon's wolf bite and shares some plans for Season 3.

For more scoop on The Vampire Diaries, follow @RobynRossTVG on Twitter.