[Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.]
Elena is in trouble on The Vampire Diaries.
Things between Elena (Nina Dobrev) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) are rockier than ever following Elena's discovery that Damon had been secretly killing off Whitmore family members as part of his sketchy Augustine past, as recently as several months prior when they were happily together. The Dec. 12 fall finale, "Fifty Shades of Grayson" (more on the meaning behind the title later), kicks off with Elena trapped on Dr. Wes Maxfield's (Rick Cosnett) medical slab and learning that Damon's former friend Enzo (Michael Malarkey), whom he betrayed, is actually alive and kicking.
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter previewing the fall finale, executive producer Caroline Dries discusses Elena's sticky situation, Damon and Elena's shaky future and pairing up Katherine and Stefan.
What is the overarching theme for the fifth season that has helped shape the arcs?
We knew that it would be a season of Elena dating Damon and what does it means to date the bad boy. And if you date Damon, you date all of his baggage too. You have to believe in him and be able to justify his backstory to even love him. A lot of it for Elena is meant to be this gray area: "Am I changing because of my boyfriend or can I find a way to bring the light out of him?" The gray area is what we were trying to go for thematically. We wanted to pay attention to Damon's backstory and deepen his history on the show. That's where we introduced Augustine. That also helps us connect him to Elena's college world.
This is an interesting season because usually there is one clear goal Elena and the others are working toward, but this time, there seems to be several different arcs, first with Silas and now Augustine.
That was intentional. We're five seasons in -- we learn a little bit every season -- and last year was the season of the cure, the year before that was the moonstone and the sacrifice. When we found that we were stretching that out over 22 or 23 episodes, the mythology gets so dense and hijinks-y that the audience is like, "Wait, what?!" So we were like why don't we break things down into chapters, a little cleaner, so we're not having springs pop out of our ears every time we're pitching something to the studio or the network or the audience. That's what we're trying to do. We wrapped up the doppelganger thing with Silas and Amara, but the travelers are still around in the ether. They still have an agenda that they haven't carried out yet. Not to say things won't come back that we haven't seen. They certainly will. But it's more about trying to make the stories have a beginning, middle and end. Have a conclusion.
What was the biggest challenge in implementing this new way of approaching the season? Was there a particular difficulty in transitioning out of the doppelganger story into the Augustine arc?
We knew in the first episode, we created this mysterious Whitmore vampire. Megan died mysteriously at the house, so we teed up the mystery. Now episode 10, we're starting to delve into what Augustine was doing and what Augustine doctors like Wes have learned from that history. It's all going to come full circle and we're going to answer those questions that were teed up in the premiere.
Last we saw, Elena wasn't in the best situation, being pinned down on the medical slab in Dr. Maxfield's lab. What can we expect when the fall finale kicks off?
Wes has taken what he's learned from the Augustine doctors of the past and is implementing his take on it. He, being the sophisticated scientist, hates vampires and is trying to build something he'll use on Elena. Whether or not that happens, it will have massive effects on the series so far. That's going to be a huge problem for our guys. Meanwhile, her relationship [with Damon] is up in the air a little bit because she's just learned that he's killed all of the Whitmore family, which is a horrifying thing to have done -- let alone, to have done while they were dating. "Who am I to be dating this guy? Can I save him?" Elena actually comes to -- having lived through what she goes through in episode 10 -- a surprising conclusion. The way she decides to move forward with Damon won't be what the audience guesses.
Is this causing Elena to question her own choices and decisions after learning about Damon's Whitmore murdering spree?
I think she has to. If she avoids it, Wes is there to remind her of everything Damon has done. Wes is justifying why he's so anti-vampire and Damon is the exact symbol of why he's anti-vampire. Elena has a lot to process, but at the same time, Elena's learning about other things of her past that shed a new light onto what Augustine is doing. She's torn. That's why [the episode] is called "Fifty Shades of Grayson." Nothing in our world is black or white; nothing is so simple as saying good versus evil.
Fair to say that the future of Damon and Elena will be forever changed following the fall finale?
The dynamic will certainly change. Moving forward, it will continue to hit some speed bumps here and there. I think the audience will be surprised by what we do. I think it's one of my favorite parts of the show.
How impactful is the Enzo reveal at the end of last week's episode in Elena's attempt at getting out of her situation with Wes?
Enzo comes in carrying 60 or 70 years of being tortured on the slab table and the last thing he remembered of Damon was that he had betrayed him. When Damon and Enzo meet face to face, which is something we're teeing up as a big moment in the episode, Enzo has a clear agenda with what he has to do but there are layers in their relationship. It's a complicated relationship. It will pull out interesting shades for Damon too. They're both very good together.
Does Damon actively try to redeem himself with Aaron for killing off his family?
(Laughs.) You would think that because they spend the episode together that Damon would make some effort to do that but I don't think it ever occurs to him.
Another pairing that has sprung up is Katherine and Stefan. When did that become a reality?
We've known since season two since they were first onscreen together one she was established to him as a villain, that their chemistry sizzled. They just had a different feel than Elena and Stefan. There's an element of danger to it. There's intrigue. You know it's a no-fly zone but that's what makes you want it more. It finally felt earned in this moment because he needed someone and [even though] she's such a villain, but she opened up and helped Stefan. Even though she has a clear agenda, which is "I want Stefan," there's something lovable about her too. I think the audience has embraced Katherine even more this season because she's been so fun and fallible. It finally worked in this moment. This episode will be about the fallout of when you sleep with the woman who has been your enemy for 150 years.
How much of a factor is Caroline knowing about Katherine and Stefan?
Well Caroline is not even in this episode, so it will be about who knows and who doesn't know. But in the 100th episode, it comes out in a surprising way.
Matt had a storyline with the travelers earlier this season, which seems to have ended. You mentioned that the travelers are still around so might that story line come back around? And if not, what can we expect for Matt?
That's always a possibility with Matt, but now it's more about him building a relationship with Nadia. We saw it in the premiere and we're going to tee it up again in this episode and the next episode. They have a very complicated relationship where he just has a big heart and he's human so and finds him lovable in a way. But at the end of the day, she has a very clear agenda and if she has to hurt him or betray him in any way, she's going to do it.
Watch a scene between Katherine and Matt below.
The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.