[Warning: Spoilers ahead from The Vampire Diaries' "Let Her Go."]
As The Vampire Diaries said its goodbye to Sheriff Forbes (Marguerite MacIntyre), most of the characters' turmoil came to a head Thursday.
The hour, which was directed by series co-creator Julie Plec, featured a pregnancy reveal and engagement for Jo (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) and Alaric (Matt Davis) as well as Jo giving up her magic to Kai (Christopher Wood). Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Caroline (Candice Accola), meanwhile, awkwardly tried to figure out the state of their relationship. Bonnie (Kat Graham) was transported to another prison world — in 1903 — where she met a mysterious woman (Annie Wersching). Damon (Ian Somerhalder) reflected on his inability to say a proper goodbye to his mother when he was a teen and found the proper way to eulogize Sheriff Forbes in the present. Elena (Nina Dobrev) realized that Caroline was planning on shutting off her humanity to deal with her grief. Bonnie finally returned to the present day, where she reunited with Damon and showed him video footage of the woman she met in the past ... and he was shocked to realize it was his mother, Lily.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Plec to break down what comes next for The CW show.
Now that we've met Damon and Stefan's mother, what can you tease about the insanity she's going to bring?
I think the key word you just used was insanity. Here's a woman they thought was long dead, having died a totally natural, human death. And there she is, what, 65 years later than they thought she died in prison world. Which means she's either wrongly victimized, or entirely deserving of her incarceration. So those are questions that are going to be asked and will start to be delivered next [episode] when we get to know more about her.
How quickly will Damon loop in Stefan about their mother being in the prison world, and how is Stefan going to react to that?
Damon has to ask himself, what do I need to learn about this person before I tell my poor little brother that has mourned her since he was 10 that she might be an evil, evil person trapped in bad places. He's got a bit of a struggle at the top of the next episode trying to figure that out.
How much will we be seeing of Lily's time in this prison world? Will there be a bigger flashback episode or will it be bits and pieces over time?
I think we'll see some flashbacks of her origins [in episode 18] -- of how she ended up there. This is not the last we've seen of this prison world.
Hypothetically, if Lily makes it to the present day and has a reunion with her sons, what would that be like?
Hypothetically, I think it will not necessarily be what it expected from a long-lost mother they loved dearly.
Interesting! Speaking of lost mothers, Caroline has now turned off her humanity thanks to her grief. What comes next for her?
I think fans can expect a surprisingly delightful and on the verge of crazy, Caroline. She really does believe when she said, "My experience will be different. I won't be basket cases like the rest of you, I'll handle myself well." So she sets out very clearly to do that. And the question is, how long will she be able to keep it together, and who might play a part in helping to unravel her.
Read more 'The Vampire Diaries' Postmortem: Producers, Star on the Heartbreaking Death
Potentially on that note, Stefan went through a journey this episode as he tried to pinpoint his feelings for Caroline — and he was on his way to her house to share his feelings for her when she opted to turn off her humanity. How will he react to the situation, and how much blame will he place on himself?
I think he's going to hold himself very responsible. Whether his answer would have changed her mind or not remains to be seen; she had to deal with grief the way she had to deal with grief. Certainly him hemming and hawing over his feelings after that beautiful kiss on the front porch — because his big brother gave him a bad piece of advice — he's definitely going to be carrying that burden with him, very determined to do anything he can to get her back on track.
There was a scene where Stefan acknowledged to Damon after Sheriff Forbes' funeral that his relationship with Caroline could be something better than the other true loves he's had in the past. How do you and the writers see that relationship going at this point? Is this going to be a different kind of relationship than the ones the show has experienced so far?
Well, I think when you look at it like the difference between young love at first sight, and the powerful, passionate, you meet in the moment and the universe collides love, which, of course, we all grow up reading about in books and watching on vampire shows, in comparison to real-life love, which is messy, and develops over time, and rooted in friendship, first and foremost. It's a much more grown-up way of looking at a relationship, and it's a relationship that we often don't explore in these kinds of shows, and that's part of the fun of it for us: getting to see as these characters get older, can they establish true, intimate and connected relationships with each other?
That makes sense. On the human side, Alaric and Jo are engaged and pregnant. What's in store for them?
Well, I might think that means there's a wedding in our midst, which makes me, of course, so happy. I love weddings — I love TV weddings. I love Alaric and Jo together. I want to see them on their way to their own version of commitment, with all these new responsibilities and how they handle their relationship, too.
How is Kai handling his new magic?
Kai, always needs something, always wants something. He's feeling pretty good about himself right now, but he does have that lingering burden of empathy which is sneaking its way into his nasty little skull. And Bonnie is going to ultimately find herself on the receiving end of Kai's process of trying to make amends for his wrongdoings. Of course, she wants nothing to do with any of that, but he's very persistent when he puts his mind to it.
This really was a huge episode, with both Bonnie and Lily returning, following immediately the loss of two important characters last week. How is the dynamic shifting with all of these changes?
With Bonnie's return, with Caroline switching off her humanity, with the mother reveal, it really does launch us into the next and final chapter of the season, which is leading us in some very clear directions. I'm not going to tell you what happens! [But] a mother with a secret; a heroine with no humanity; a leading man who feels guilt that the girl he's learned he cares for [and] feels he's had a hand in ruining her; the return of a best friend who has been gone forever; you've got a couple getting married. There's so much that's going to unfold. We're buried in story. We've got a lot of stuff packed into this journey before we get to May.
Now that's Bonnie is back, will Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) stop by to check on her? Or will that be an offscreen phone call?
(Laughs.) We're not going to see Steven. We sent him away, got him a cake, only to bring him back in the next episode. We're not going to see him, but we will address Bonnie and Jeremy as unfinished business over the course of these remaining episodes. At some point they will have to come face-to-face; the question will be, under what circumstances. Maybe a nice romantic wedding. Who knows?
Read more 'The Vampire Diaries' Postmortem: Producers, Steven R. McQueen on Jeremy's Exit Twist
And you did mention he had an open invite for any weddings. Looking forward, Bonnie was so tormented in the prison world, so now that she's regularly around other people, how is she adjusting?
Bonnie, talk about getting released from an isolation dropped back into the world that has continued to bustle and move around you and without you in your absence. It's going to be quite the experience for her. Bonnie's a trooper, she likes to think she can handle these things. There's residual trauma from the experience that have yet to reveal itself to her, in smaller, human ways. Certainly one comes in the form of Kai is suddenly a person she has to deal with on a daily basis. That's the least fair thing for Bonnie, to have to ever look at this guy's face again after what he did to her and terrorized her. So she has some unfinished business with him, too.
There was the tease that Matt and Tyler might be joining the police force. How will that play out?
One of the things I loved about this episode tonight was it served as a launching pad for a lot of character shifts; people trying to find their way and what means things to them. And for Matt Donovan to look around and see all these cops paying tribute, and to realize, "I need a calling." And to be so moved by this calling that he decides to take on this journey, I'm so excited for him to go down this road.
What else is coming up that you can tease?
Oh, God, there's so much coming up, it's insane! We have a lot of surprises. Some teases are that Stefan dealing with a humanity-free Caroline does not go the way you'd think it would. Enzo (Michael Malarkey), we finally get to get a glimpse into his backstory, which we've never heard, and it has some surprising connections to our present day world as well. Of course, we always save our biggest surprises and our biggest payoffs for the end of the season. (Laughs.) There's a lot that's going to have people talking before the year is over.
Anything coming up for Damon and Elena? Or are they on separate paths for a bit as he deals with his mother and she deals with Caroline?
There is quite the doozy of a storyline coming for Damon and Elena, which is all about their relationship, and how it will work, and how they want to make it work. The nice thing is they found their way back to each other, and that's good, we want them to have made their way back to each other. But that comes with hurdles. And when you throw a mother and some other surprises into the mix, it definitely tests them in fun and really dynamic ways. Which, while bringing them together and keeping them strong, has them asking a lot of questions about how their future will be together, and what they want out of a future together — in a good way!
That makes sense. Now that you've completed the entire journey of your directing process, was it what you thought it would be? You had mentioned that a fear was you'd get to editing and discover you missed things — did that end up happening?
(Laughs.) No! It was so gorgeous, and the experience was so gorgeous, and the experience in the editing room was so hilarious, because the editor did a beautiful job of putting it together and making an amazing piece of television ... and then called me and said, "By the way, it's 62 minutes long." An episode of television is 41 minutes. So I had to figure out how to lift 20 minutes out of everything. It ended up not being a case of, "Oh, you missed stuff." It ended up being, "Well, you got everything, Julie! You got absolutely every single beat of what was on that page of that script. So now you have to figure out which ones you don't need anymore." (Laughs.) So the deleted scenes will be great on the DVD. I had to lose a few [scenes], but when I watched the episode back, there's nothing that hurts, that I miss so much it hurts. Just a lot of negotiating and compromising with myself about what was really needed for character versus what I liked and was sad to see go.
Overall, the experience of working with Darren Genet, who was the DP, who shot it so beautifully, and Tony Griffin, who was the AD — who's been with the show for so many years, and has grown up from a second AD to a first AD, and one day he too will direct — and our editor Glenn [Garland], who felt it was so important to get it right. Everybody was so intent on making sure they did right by me, and I was so intent on making sure I did right by everybody, that we had a very experience. I call it the "first class luxury liner" experience. The actors were prepared and committed. The line producer gave me the right amount of money and didn't fight over scheduling. All of the key crew members and artists I work with every day were very, very determined to make it perfect. It was a lot of blessings and a lot of things that most directors who walk onto a TV show don't really get. I was a little spoiled. Next time I'll have to do it and be a little less pampered and see if I crumble. I loved every single second of it.
As you look back at the episode, was there a particular scene that sticks out in your mind as a memorable thing to shoot?
The funeral. (Laughs.) I was so excited to shoot that, because I love funeral scenes, because it always provides you a lot of opportunities for a lot of beautiful shots. And I had worked out the sequence so specifically and had worked out everything, and made lists of everything we needed, explaining to all the extras and the cast of how we were going to shoot it. It was very specific, and we were so ready. And the day before, we had shot the Elena and Caroline scene, which was the big five-minute scene at the end. That whole scene was shot on steadicam, and that whole scene was so grueling, and so emotional, and we just shot so much that the steadicam operator — basically, I broke him. (Laughs.) [He fell] completely down with the flu. And so our big day, when we needed our A-camera operator — he's such an artist as well — we had to do it without our A-camera operator. And so it was really funny, because it was a lot of people moving around in positions they weren't normally in, people who weren't normally [camera] operators, operating. The DP on a walkie with the camera guy in the rafters saying, "Move the camera left! Move the camera right!" It was a really fun adventure of micromanaging the process in a way I think everyone enjoyed, because it was an adventure, but it certainly we would have gotten it done in less time if I hadn't killed our operator.
Were you shocked by the events of "Let Her Go"? The Vampire Diaries returns with new episodes on Thursday, March 12th, at 8 p.m. on The CW.