Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Vampire Diaries.
San Diego Comic Con was a changed experience for The Vampire Diaries panel and for TVD fans, with everyone feeling the absence of Nina Dobrev for the first time in six seasons. While the focus was to move forward with The Vampire Diaries and to look to the future of the show, the panel first acknowledged Dobrev's loss and, along with her, the absence of the Elena Gilbert character.
"Of course it's bittersweet [to be here without Nina]," said The Vampire Diaries creator Julie Plec.
The elimination of Nina Dobrev's character was handled in a unique way within the context of The Vampire Diaries storyline, allowing for a return should Dobrev decide to rejoin the cast. Elena was left in an undead yet non-living kind of suspension, much like a vampire's version of a coma, with Elena's life tied to Bonnie's life, which, as Kat Graham reveals, will still be an issue when The Vampire Diaries returns for its seventh season.
"I thought it was a really clever way to keep Elena there and keep her presence there and keep the door open in a lot of ways for her to come back. But it also created an interesting dynamic going into Season 7 for Bonnie and Damon and them to have to deal with the fact that Bonnie's alive and Elena's not."Nina Dobrev's departure does serve to benefit The Vampire Diaries in one way. As was revealed earlier in the summer hiatus, TVD fans will get to see Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) return to his more devilish ways, resembling the Damon from The Vampire Diaries' first two seasons.
"It's the old f---ing Damon, the Damon that we really fell in love with. That's the goal — let's bring that back, that energy, that sexy, volatile, fun, scary, dangerous — a lot of that s—- that made you guys fall in love with him to begin with," Somerhalder said. "I'm bringing it back!"
Speaking of fiendish behavior, Paul Wesley revealed something of a mean streak, when the topic of the romance between Stefan and Caroline was addressed at The Vampire Diaries panel.
"I just love making Candice feel awkward on set. Candice is married; I'm friends with her husband; I love when we get to do make-out scenes because it's uncomfortable and so funny."
The Vampire Diaries already introduced season 7's primary villains as the heretics toward the end of last season, but executive producer Caroline Dries hints that TVD fans have only seen a fraction of the danger the heretics represent to Mystic Falls.
"The challenge for the writers in Season 7 is constantly topping the villain from the previous year, and we thought [Season 6's] Kai was one of the best villains we've ever had on the show."
One concern for many fans of The Vampire Diaries has been the assumed end to the series at the close of the seventh season, but showrunner Julie Plec dismissed any idea of a planned close to The Vampire Diaries. Plec said that she feels the story of The Vampire Diaries is far from over and that the TVD family isn't quite ready to split up.
As all things must do, The Vampire Diaries will end one day and when that day does come, Julie Plec says she already knows how The Vampire Diaries will close out its run.
"I know how it ends, Caroline [Dries] knows how it ends, and no matter what happens between now and when it ends I see it ending that way."
In the meantime, fans have The Vampire Diaries season premiere to look forward to, which will air on Thursday October 8 on the CW network.
[Featured image courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images]