In 2009, a lot was up in the air. The CW was still a new network, having launched in 2006 following the merger of UPN and the WB, and the vampire genre felt oversaturated. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had ended in 2003, True Blood was two seasons into its run and extremely popular, and the Twilight books were wreaking havoc on pop culture, with the first movie already out and already massive. So when Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec were handed the Vampire Diaries book series, they figured it wasn't the right move.
"There had been all this Twilight success, and here comes the show that really puts the nail in the coffin of the vampire trend," Williamson previously told EW. "I just didn't want to be the end of a trend."
Ultimately, Plec convinced him that this was a story worth telling, one about a young girl who has experienced profound loss but finds the will to live again through love. But even then, they had no idea what they were starting to create. When The Vampire Diaries premiered on Sept. 10, 2009, it delivered the largest audience of any premiere since the CW's 2006 debut. As Williamson said, "Turns out the vampire phase was not over."
Everett Collection Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, and Ian Somerhalder on 'The Vampire Diaries'
To say it wasn't over is putting it mildly. The Vampire Diaries became a phenomenon, as fans attended conventions and argued over which Salvatore brother Elena (Nina Dobrev) should choose. Not only did the show run for an impressive eight seasons — even surpassing Buffy — it was the start of an entire universe.
In its fourth season, The Vampire Diaries spawned a spin-off titled The Originals, which followed the original family of vampires, who'd been introduced (some of them, at least) in the flagship series' second season. Set in New Orleans, the show told a new kind of story, one still about vampires but rooted in a thousand years' worth of complicated familial dynamics. That spin-off was then successful enough to run for five seasons on the CW. And that's not where the story ended.
Everett Collection Daniel Gillies and Joseph Morgan on 'The Originals'
Following The Originals, Plec and company launched Legacies, which spun off the Originals character of Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell) and followed her as she attended the Salvatore School that was created in the Vampire Diaries series finale. So on Thursday, when it was revealed that Legacies would end after four seasons, it marked the end of not just a show, but rather a universe.
Looking at the current television landscape, it's important to note how impressive the Vampire Diaries universe is. Not many shows can create a spin-off that's both unique and complementary, that can both stand on its own while also adding value to the established universe. Not many shows can then spawn another spin-off that delivers something entirely new, as Legacies offered a more lighthearted monster-of-the-week approach to telling supernatural stories. And yet all three shows blended together seamlessly.
Chris Reel/The CW Danielle Rose Russell on 'Legacies'
Now, with Legacies' June 16 finale, fans will really have to say goodbye to Mystic Falls, a place many have visited once a week for the past 13 years. It's the place where Elena first bumped into Stefan (Paul Wesley) in the hallway. It's the place where Damon (Ian Somerhalder) first told Elena he loved her (and then compelled it away… and then told her again). It's the place where Bonnie (Kat Graham) became a powerful witch, Caroline (Candice King) became the best vampire ever, and Katherine Pierce (also played by Dobrev) stole all our hearts (and ripped out a few others). It's the place that launched countless epic moments, from declarations of love to Elijah (Daniel Gilles) saying, "I believe the term you're searching for is OMG." It's the place where Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) rediscovered the power of family, and where his daughter grew into a powerful tribrid. For a lot of fans, it's a second home.
But at least we can walk away knowing that the Vampire Diaries universe did the opposite of kill the genre. Instead, it showed us all how it could be improved upon. We'll miss it, but thankfully we'll keep the memories. And as Stefan once said, the memories are "too important" to lose.