When The Vampire Diaries premiered, the series focused on a young woman named Elena Gilbert, who was trying to navigate the ups and downs of life after losing her parents in a tragic accident. A year had passed, and everyone around Elena assumed that she’d be getting back to “normal,” but what is normal when you’ve lost the people you love?
Elena’s storyline brought her face-to-face with everything from the usual teenage drama to vampires and otherworldly beings in her hometown that remained unknown to her until she met brothers Damon and Stefan Salvatore. The pair brought out different sides in Elena, and she grew to love them both. We’re forever (and proudly) Team Stefan, but it goes without saying that they both had an essential part to play in her story.
Her arc was one of beauty and magic, heartache and pain, and a lot of love. While the twists and turns were enough to make the heads of audience members spin, it all came together as one of the most beloved television series in pop culture history. The love triangle between Damon, Stefan, and Elena stands the test of time — and like we said above, people are still very passionate about who won the heart of Elena, be it for better or worse.
Elena Gilbert was played by Nina Dobrev, whose storyline wrapped up in season 6 of The Vampire Diaries. Dobrev’s departure from the series has remained a heavily-debated topic. Why exactly did Dobrev want to leave The Vampire Diaries? Was the decision a sudden one, or had she been planning it for some time?
Why was Dobrev ready to hang up her hat as Elena?
While fans could have continued watching Dobrev as Elena for years to come, in an Instagram post, Dobrev explains that she always wanted Elena’s story to be a “six-season adventure”:
“I always knew I wanted Elena’s story to be a six-season adventure, and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime. I was a human, a vampire, a doppelganger, a crazy immortal, a doppelganger pretending to be human, a human pretending to be a doppelganger. I got kidnapped, killed, resurrected, tortured, cursed, body-snatched, was dead and undead, and there’s still so much more to come before the season finale.”
Dobrev also shared that the weekend on Lake Lanier with her Vampire Diaries family wasn’t a holiday season wrap party; it was the party to celebrate the end of her time as Elena. She knew her goodbye would surprise some fans and leave others heartbroken, but this was the arc she had always envisioned for herself and the character.
Some fans were convinced that Dobrev’s departure had something to do with her breakup with her on-screen and off-screen love interest, Ian Somerhalder. Somerhalder played Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries alongside Dobrev’s Elena Gilbert, but they remained friends after their separation.
After her time on The Vampire Diaries wrapped, she even gave an exclusive interview to SELF, where she spoke about her journey of becoming Elena and what it meant to leave that world behind. Dobrev had this to say about the adventure:
“I’ve loved working on this show. It’s been such a crazy, awesome adventure, and I’ve been surrounded by so many people who I consider family. I know this is a new exciting step in the right direction for me, but it’s going to be so strange not to be with them.”
It seems that whatever the rumor mill spouted, Dobrev’s departure from the series can be chalked up to nothing more than a completed story arc for someone who still held a deep fondness for her on-set family. In fact, in recent years, Dobrev has spent time with co-stars, a few of them becoming her closest friends in the following chapters of her life.
Plus, even with Dobrev’s exit, fans of The Vampire Diaries were overjoyed when she returned for a finale surprise. As the series wrapped, we find out what became of Elena Gilbert-turned-Salvatore. That’s right — she married Damon, and they lived a beautiful life together. It was the dream for her character, the life she had hoped for.
While some fans wished that she’d ended up with Stefan (read also: we are some fans), it was a storyline that wrapped quite “epically” for everyone involved. You can rewatch The Vampire Diaries on MAX to relive the drama, romance, and friendships in Mystic Falls.