vampire diaries cold as ice
Courtesy of Eli Joshua Ade/The CW

SPOILERS: Do not read unless you’ve seen all “The Vampire Diaries” episodes through the winter finale, “Cold as Ice.”

“The Vampire Diaries” winter finales never really go out quietly, but this season, that ending cut deep — specifically with deep wounds into not one, but both Salvatore brothers who were staked and now trapped in the vampire purgatory known as the Phoenix Stone. And while Damon (Ian Somerhalder) is shown suffering in peril as he relives his days as a Civil War soldier, it’s unclear what tortuous acts lie in wait for Stefan (Paul Wesley).

To add to the sorrow: Good witch Bonnie (Kat Graham) was no match for Heretic witch Nora (Scarlett Byrne) when she paid the price for the kidnapping of Mary Louise (Teressa Liane). And another flash forward to three years into the future confirms what we learned earlier –that Stefan is not with Caroline (Candice King) — but also tells us he’s actually with his first love, Valerie (Elizabeth Blackmore).

As the show starts its mid-year hiatus, “The Vampire Diaries” co-creator Julie Plec shares with Variety some details about what’s in store for these heroes and Heretics.

Damon and Stefan are both trapped in the Phoenix Stone. Damon’s dealing with Civil War flashbacks. Can you tell us what Stefan will be dealing with?

I won’t actually. What’s great about the episodes that are coming up in the next chapter is that our winter season launches with a really great concept episode that features Damon’s experiences as a result of being trapped in this personal hell. The way that we unveil his journey and we unveil Stefan’s are completely different and that’s kind of the fun of it.

Ian Somerhalder recently talked about how grueling the Civil War stuff was to film.

It was the first time we’d ever worked with Deb Chow, who directed the episode. There’s always a bit of nervousness when a director joins the family, but we were all really excited that she had directed “Mr. Robot,” so we had high hopes. She just came in with such an incredible point of view, physically and visually, and really understood the show and the story and characters and really created a small movie in the eight days that we gave her to make it. It was spectacular. We had cannons and amputees and an entire Civil War combat village.

We learn in the flash forwards in this season that the Salvatores manage to get themselves out of the Phoenix Stone and are, eventually, alive and well. But we’re not all clear about what happens with Bonnie.

Bonnie is in the middle of a newer mystery. What we’ve seen of her is she appears to be in some kind of mental institute or under some deep psychiatric care and seems to be in love with Enzo. That’s something that is a mystery that we’ll get to unravel during the winter season as we start telling stories about how all that came back.

Stefan is with Valerie in the flash forward.

I can definitely tell that not a lot of people will be all that happy about that. Stefan and Caroline were supposed to be in this beautiful relationship and yet, we saw in the beginning of the season that she refused to speak with him and now he’s with Valerie. You have to ask the question: What came first, her fury or his new relationship?

We’ve also ruled out some of the suspects for which woman was chasing Stefan and Damon at the beginning of the season in the flash forward. When do we find out who that is?

That story line starts to open up the minute we get into the winter chapter. Julian (Todd Lasance) had a similar scar to the one that Stefan has that opens. Beau (Jaiden Kaine) had a scar and that’s how he lost his voice. By the time we get to end of February, we’ll have our answers.

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