[Warning! The following contains major spoilers from the series finale of The Vampire Diaries. Read at your own risk!]
The Vampire Diaries series finale was not messing around. After making viewers think Damon (Ian Somerhalder) compelled Stefan (Paul Wesley) into letting the eldest Salvatore sacrifice himself to save Mystic Falls, "I Was Feeling Epic" delivered the devastating twist that Stefan was actually the one to die in TVD's final hour.
But the series finale wasn't all tears and heartbreak. It also gave us Damon and Elena (Nina Dobrev) getting their happy ending together, Caroline (Candice King) and Alaric (Matt Davis) opening up a school for (magically) gifted children and — most importantly — Stefan and Damon finally finding peace.
Co-creator Kevin Williamson spoke with TVGuide.com about why Stefan had to die, that Klaroline letter and the Delena proposal that had to be cut for time!
Why did you decide to end the series with Elena and Damon reuniting with their family in the afterlife?
Kevin Williamson: Well, that's a little interpretive, if you ask Julie [Plec], I believe. The idea was the montage shows a direction and we had our characters suggest what happened to them. And Damon, like the voiceover tell us, he was worried he would never see Stefan again. It was just Elena assuring him that there would be peace. That we've dealt with this other side of darkness for several seasons, but there's also light out there and there's peace, and Damon will find it. If you search for it, you will find it. And we wanted to get that last moment to see that yes, Elena found it and yes, Damon found it too, and it looked just like his brother.
Everyone else looks approximately the same age they were when they died. Why did Damon and Elena both still look so young? Did you just not want to mess with old age makeup?
Williamson: You know, it is interpretive. The idea that this whole show was about loss and grief and losing people and ultimately, I guess the final message is that all these people who shaped and guided us along the way live within us and if you look within, you find peace. And so we kind of stepped out of reality in that moment and showed what that would look like. In reality, they did live lives and they did grow old. But in the voiceover, I can't remember it word for word, but I think she says, "Damon will find peace." And we know what that peace looks like. And then she looks to the porch and sees her family and then Damon returns to his home and sees Stefan.
I loved that the final shot was of Stefan and Damon together.
Williamson: That was important. Well, the important thing for me, I can't speak for anyone else, but the important thing for me was that I wanted the last lines to be the last lines.
"Hello brother" has become such an important line in this show. When you were working on the pilot, did you have any idea of the significance that phrase would come to have?
Williamson: No, but there's always those lines. Like in Dawson's Creek it was, "See you, Joey." And so it's the same thing kind of. And I wanted a "Dear diary." That was the other line that was really important. I wanted Elena to say, "Dear diary." Originally in the montage, it started with everyone else and ended with Elena. And then at the last second I was like, "No, no, no. We have to start with 'Dear diary.' We have to put her in the graveyard." And Julie was like, "Yes, yes, yes!" And then we started it and ended it with her.
Do you have any other favorite callbacks that you managed to work into the finale?
Williamson: My favorite line was, "That's for me to know and you to dot dot dot." I've always liked that line and I used to say that. That was something I would just say all the time as a writer because you'd always write dot dot dot. And so I'd always go, "You know, blah blah blah, dot dot dot." And so I'd always just say it in the writers' room when I was explaining something. "Well, you know the rest, dot dot dot." And then I put it in the line and I felt like, "You know what? Katherine's older than Damon. Where did Damon get the line? Oh, he got it from Katherine. Let's have Katherine say it."
The show started out about two brothers fighting over a girl, but became much more about the intricacies of the brothers' relationships than any one romance. When did you first notice that shift happening?
Williamson: From the beginning we wanted to write a show about a family. The show was about family and loss and grief, because it was really about Elena losing her family. And it started off with her and Jeremy dealing with the worst-case scenario. And then of course, how do they find that family? And for Jeremy, it was how does he find his way, and for Elena, it was how does she find life again, and then once she comes to life, how will she ever be able to trust someone to love them? And then the triangle opened up. But it was always about Stefan and Elena both dealing with loss and grief and trying to learn how to live again. And she turned towards some good vampires along the way.
Julie told me that up until two weeks before the script was written, someone else was supposed to die. Can you reveal who that was?
Williamson: Oh, everyone was supposed to die. There were so many conversations in the writers' room. Everyone had these great ideas. I'm only sad that we couldn't put everything in there because it was only 42.5 minutes. But there were so many possibilities. It was very important for us not to kill Bonnie. Bonnie should not have to die for Elena's happiness. It was this conversation of, "Oh, Bonnie can go be with Enzo because that's exactly what she would want." Like, no. That's not what Enzo would want. Bonnie needs a full, rich life. She needs a happy ending. So that was important to us, so we couldn't kill Bonnie. And we can't kill [Matt], because if he's lived this long as a human, he needs to continue on. If we were going to kill him, it had to have been in Season 4. You can't do it in Season 8. It was really between Damon and Stefan. You know, we got rid of Katherine. We killed Katherine. We knew we were going to take her out. There was a conversation that Damon and Stefan both died. And then there was a conversation that it just ended with Damon killing Katherine and saving the town and saving everyone. For me, where the story was when I came in and got involved, Stefan had just been the Ripper for a long period of time and killed Enzo. And the only way for him to come back from that, I felt, was to kill him. That's why he had to die.
The Lexi (Arielle Kebbel) appearance after Stefan died made his death much easier to bear. Why do you think Lexi was the perfect person to lead him into the afterlife?
Williamson: She was always there for him. She always had his back since Day 1. I think she showed up in the series, and because of her, you liked him more. Once you learned, oh, they're best friends. And once we figured out who she was and what she did, in that one little moment she propped Stefan up for Elena when they were getting to know each other. And seeing Lexi gave us another whole side of Stefan at a time when he was just a brooding vampire. It just sort of opened him up a little bit. You're like, "Oh man. How did they end up friends? I'm interested in that girl. Now I'm interested more in Stefan." It really helped shape him as a character. And she's always been there for him. It turns out she was the one who helped him with being a Ripper. She's just always been there for him and had his back. She's perfect.
A recurring issue in this show has been the idea that Stefan is the better man, but the finale indicates otherwise. Do you believe that Damon really is the better man?
Williamson: I think that's kind of what Katherine said and I think she was doing it because what happened was Damon became the better man. And I think that's the eternal arc, is that he truly became everything his brother wanted. He became everything his brother was hoping he would become. And because his brother sacrificed himself for him, Damon got to live a better life.
Stefan sacrificed himself almost immediately after his wedding to Caroline. Are you at all nervous about the reaction from the Steroline fandom?
Williamson: Yeah, that one's a little tricky, possibly. I hope that the audience understands though that the greater good, which is that Stefan — he kind of said it to her. "You're not going to put your children in harm's way ever. It's always going to be about family. You understand that more than anyone. And because it's always about family, you're going to understand what I'm about to do." And she understood it. "It's always about family." And she didn't like it and life hurts and life is painful, but she understood it. And we also threw in a little nugget of Klaus (Joseph Morgan) with the letter!
Why did you decide to include that letter and hint at Klaus and Caroline having a future together?
Williamson: That's the one storyline that we sacrificed. You know, Klaus went off to another series and we never really got to play that story out, because had Klaus stuck around, clearly that would have been a relationship and road we would have gone down for at least a storyline. I miss that storyline. I always wanted to see it. But things happen. No regrets, for sure.
The letter definitely felt like nice ways to honor one of the show's most passionate fandoms. When working on the finale, how did your desire to please the fans influence the process?
Williamson: That was the guiding force. That was the whole thing. Julie and the writers, we were like, "We have to say thank you." We started talking about finales in general and why we like finales and which ones we like and why do you like them and why don't you like them. And we felt that when we watch finales, we like being rewarded. What you really want the finale to do is say thank you. And so that was our goal and I really hope the audience understands. And it really is hard to please everyone. And in another universe, if Elena hadn't left the show in Season 6, we might have had another ending because I am a Stelena 'shipper, always. But this ending just makes me cry and makes me smile at the same time, and that's what we really wanted to do. We wanted to cry, cry through laughter.
Based on the massive ring on Elena's finger, she and Damon got married in the future! Was there any talk of ever showing some of the nuptials onscreen?
Williamson: Yes. We actually had a moment, which we didn't have time for — everything got cut. I think the first cut came in 18 minutes over. And there was a moment in the show where he proposed and she responded after medical school. And the whole point of that moment was just to show that she became a doctor. And so we thought, "Oh, we'll just put her in scrubs and we can cut that piece."
Bonnie is now off traveling the world and living her life to the fullest, so how has her dynamic with Enzo's (Michael Malarkey) spirit changed? Are they still actively involved or does he only watch her from afar?
Williamson: He's watching from afar. He's going to let her have her life and live her life. I imagine that's what peace looks like — is those people who guided us and shaped us and who we loved are always going to be there within us. And we just visually showed what that looked like.
Do you imagine that when Bonnie (Kat Graham) does eventually die, she'll be reunited with Enzo again?
Williamson: If that's what she wants, I think she will be, because that's what peace is.
When we get glimpses into everyone's future, they're all off doing these great things and being with the people they love, but Matt's (Zach Roerig) big accomplishment is getting a bench in his honor. What do you think that says about who Matt is and what his priorities are?
Williamson: I think when we first started, Matt didn't know who he was. He felt like the bad pawn of some reckless parents. He had such a dysfunctional family. And he came into his own. He became a man people look up to and applauded. And he's also been in a lot of ways the gatekeeper of Mystic Falls now and he's prepared for it. And now he's going to have an entire community of people counting on him. He's turned into this beaming light of responsibility and courage and he's truly — I think he's a hero. We just see a bench, but the thing about having a bench dedicated to you, you usually deserve a lot more than that. I have a feeling that bench was representative of a lot more.
What do hope The Vampire Diaries legacy will be?
Williamson: I would hope that people look back on it with a big smile and that it's nothing but great memories. You want people to remember it fondly and go, "Wow. I loved that show. Boy, was it a great show." Big ol' smile.