The Vampire Diaires' final season will find the Mystic Falls gang taking on an evil unlike anything they've seen before, while also honoring the show's eight-season legacy.
"We have a lot of plans to pay tribute to everything we've done in the past," creator Julie Plec tells TVGuide.com. "Our plans probably outweigh our real estate of space to actually accomplish all of it. But we've had a lot of fun in the room just reliving our favorite moments and our favorite characters and trying to think of really clever ways to reintegrate elements of the show from the past."
Some examples of how Plec will accomplish this is in bringing back old characters (such as Tyler Lockwood) and iconic events, including the Mystic Falls carnival, Founder's Day and Miss Mystic Falls. Each episode will also be titled after lines of dialogue from the series which hold particular meaning to Plec and her team of writers.
For more scoop on The Vampire Diaries' final season -- including who else might return, whether the Salvatore brothers will ever find closure and Plec's thoughts on the Steroline June wedding -- check out our full chat with Plec below.
There's a lot of mystery surrounding this new big bad. What can you reveal about her?
Plec: Part of the fun at the beginning of the season is that we don't know the identity of or the supernatural definition of the big bad. There is no description for what was in that vault and what clawed creature has literally sunk its talons into Enzo (Michael Malarkey) and Damon's (Ian Somerhalder) minds. So we are looking forward to unraveling that mystery in the first episode and laying the groundwork for a great backstory for this villain.
This villain has the ability to see evil inside of people. What is her main goal, and how does she use that power to accomplish it?
Plec: We're doing a lot with themes of good versus evil, fear of what waits for us at the end, fear of the unknown of death, and this particular entity has the ability to instill great fear of how one might get punished for one's evil deeds.
This show has always done a great job humanizing its villains. Will a similar tact be taken with this new evil?
Plec: Our most successful villains have been pretty nasty with a sliver of a heart, and this villain is no exception.
While under this villain's control, Damon and Enzo are aware their actions aren't what they want to be doing. What sort of inner conflict does that create for them?
Plec: The first episode is about turning the cards over on what each of them are going through. We'll see just how dark each of them have gotten and how hard each of them are willing to fight to get themselves out of it.
When Damon and Enzo do eventually regain control of themselves, what will the psychological fallout look like?
Plec: In addition to exploring themes of darkness and evil, we're also going to be exploring themes of redemption: Can you make amends for things you've done? Can you be forgiven? Are you worth forgiving? And what do you have to do to be the kind of person that deserves to live in spite of terrible things you might have done? We'll be exploring all those things.
What will Damon and Stefan's (Paul Wesley) relationship look like this season? Will they finally get closure on their issues with each other?
Plec: One of the benefits of knowing that you're going to the end is that you can finally take relationships and deliver them to their endpoints. Stefan and Damon have had a lot of back-and-forths over the seasons - where they stand with each other, how deep their love and commitment for each other is - and this season we'll take that, explore it to its fullest and resolve it.
What should we expect of any potential Stefan-Damon flashbacks this season?
Plec: We are going to see at least one flashback into Stefan's past, which is a story that we've been dying to tell for about five years. It's the one piece of Stefan's history that's been talked about on the show that we've never shown, which is his time as the Ripper of Monterey.
Stefan and Caroline (Candice King) ended last season in a really good place. But how much happiness will they be able to enjoy with so much else going on?
Plec: They are going to work very hard to have happiness and commitment to each other and fight off all the outside influences that would try to tear them apart. It's never easy, but it's a priority for both of them.
Steroline fans are very vocal about pushing for this June wedding.
Plec: Everything is on the board of things that we've mentioned over the years that we might like to try to deliver on. There are just no guarantees for anything.
With nothing left to lose, how far will Bonnie (Kat Graham) go to get her magic and Enzo back?
Plec: Her hope is hanging on by a thread. She's on the precipice of giving up completely and she's really going to have to fight to find something to hold on to. And she'll get that from a surprising source.
Alaric (Matt Davis) has also had a really rough go of it on this series. What does his arc look like this season, and what new obstacles will we see put in his way?
Plec: Alaric is finally right where he belongs professionally. He's in charge of the supernatural, archaeological wonder that is the Armory. He's finally getting to embrace his inner Indiana Jones geek. But he is not as easily able to embrace the action-adventure Indiana Jones side of him, because he's now a father responsible for two young girls. That balance is going to come into play in terms of the choices he makes and what he needs to do to be a good parent.
Klaus (Joseph Morgan) was such a big part of this show for many seasons. Should we expect him to pop up in Mystic Falls this year?
Plec: Well, he can't pop up in Mystic Falls because our timelines. If you match them up, Klaus is in a coffin in the back of a moving van. But I do know that there's opportunity in the series finale for us to hopefully see people then. We're a bit far off from knowing what we'll be able to accomplish, but that's certainly a hope that we'll be able to see him.
You've been very open in discussing trying to get Nina Dobrev to return for the series finale. Does that mean fans should expect the season to end with a flashforward, or could we possibly see Elena return in the present-day timeline?
Plec: I've been very clear in saying it is my hope that we will see her and that the logistics of juggling schedules and planning works out. So all I can say is my goal is to see her again and how and in what context, etc. etc., is yet to be determined.
When you first began writing the series, did you have any idea who you wanted Elena to end up with? And if so, how has that opinion evolved or been challenged throughout the show's evolution?
Plec: It's definitely something I could write a book about in the future once this is all over. It's been a fascinating journey. We knew going into the show that it was a love triangle and that we would be servicing both parts of that love triangle. The plan for how we did it and what choices we made when, there was a million things going into it creatively that always let us keep the fluidity of not knowing which brother, when all's said and done, she would end up with until we got closer to the end of the series.
Will the show have a happy ending, or do you want it to be a little more bittersweet?
Plec: I love a good happy ending. Drama loves a good bittersweet, enigmatic question ending. So I'm going to duke out my inner schmaltz with my creative writer soul and my hipster cynic side, and we're going to come up with an end, Kevin [Williamson] and I, that makes us happy. Whether it makes everyone else happy, we'll have to wait and see. But we feel good about it.
One thing I've always loved about this show is how it balances this over-the-top world of the supernatural with these very human moments, something which was epitomized when Sheriff Forbes died of cancer. Will this theme of human frailty be touched on in the final season?
Plec: Absolutely. That's one of the biggest driving themes of our series and it plays an extremely important role in this last season.
When the character description of Peter Maxwell was announced, many fans interpreted that to mean Matt (Zach Roerig) will reconnect with his dad this season. Any comment on this theory?
Plec: I think fans are filled with ideas and lots of creativity and intelligence, so they'll just have to wait and see.
The Vampire Diaries returns Friday, Oct. 21 at 8/7c on the CW.
(Full Disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of the CW's parent companies.)