This Friday’s episode of “The Vampire Diaries” marks the end of an era.

Julie Plec, co-creator and executive producer, says the decision to end the series after eight seasons and 171 episodes — on a network where one of its other flagship shows, “Supernatural,” is currently on 12 seasons and counting — was just a matter of perfect, bittersweet timing.

“It felt right, you know? The reason that we decided to actually end it in the first place was that the themes in the season were so specific to an ending,” Plec said in an interview with Variety.

On a season all about the existence of Hell — the Mystic Falls crew took on Cade, an interpretation of the Devil, this season — and redemption, the finality of that felt crystal clear. Plec explained, “You kind of want to see that happen to these characters. And you want to answer those questions. Does peace exist? Is Hell real? Am I going one way or the other? And so, it just felt like what we were doing was bringing the story to its proper close at the proper time. And that’s something not a lot of people get to do, so we felt really good about that.”

But the question remains of whether the viewers will also feel good about “The Vampire Diaries” ending.

“There is so much in this last episode that is either calling back on, celebrating, or mentioning things that happened in the early seasons,” Plec promises, giving a nod to the long-time fans. In fact, the finale title, “I Was Feeling Epic,” is in reference to the first season line from Stefan Salvatore’s (Paul Wesley) best friend Lexi (Arielle Kebbel). Plec ensures that “so many familiar faces” show up.

But, the finale isn’t just for hardcore fans — viewers who have slipped in and out of the show over the years will also be satisfied, Plec says, explaining that “seeing where these characters grew up, how these characters grew up, and what they grew into and what their future is going to be, I think it’s an emotional experience. I watched it the other night with someone who hadn’t seen an episode since season two, and they loved it. So I feel like people can easily drop back in and say goodbye with us.”

The key, of course, was to make sure the final season truly felt like the final season. And that’s why Plec “absolutely wanted a wedding.” She added, “I mean, it was clearly obvious it should be the ‘June wedding’ that we referenced in the pilot. But even if Stefan and Caroline had not ended up together, I didn’t want to end this show without being able to have a wedding. Those episodes of shows that I loved growing up, you know, you always want the seminal moments — you want the graduation, you want the babies being born, and you want the wedding. That was the one thing we hadn’t been able to take off our wish list, so that was definitely going to happen.”

“We’ve had so many funerals on this show that it was about time to see somebody get married for a change,” Plec mused, which just might be an understatement — the sixth season finale saw a wedding become a massacre before the bride and groom, Alaric (Matt Davis) and Jo (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), could even say “I do.”

The sixth season finale also featured the departure of series star and one-third of the original “Vampire Diaries” love triangle, Nina Dobrev, who is set to make her official return in this series finale episode as her doppelganger characters Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce (the latter of which is the final threat to the series’ characters). But Dobrev isn’t the only familiar face viewers should expect to see when they settle in to say goodbye. “I think between Instagram photos and little Twitter hints and promo pictures and stuff like that,” Julie explained of the character returns in the series finale, “most of them [are] just out there for the clever detectives. But I do think that most people that watch the show…will be plenty surprised.”

A word of warning, however: Plec advises keeping a box of tissues nearby when watching the finale.

“I’ve had responses from the writers who have seen it, one who said she started crying the minute the title card came up and didn’t stop for 42 minutes. Others who said, ‘Oh, I didn’t think I’d cry.’” As for her own emotional state at the episode she directed and co-wrote with her series co-creator Kevin Williamson? “I sobbed my way through the last five minutes, so there’s definitely an emotional tug to this episode, deliberately and with respect. So I think everyone who watches will have some kind of an emotional experience that might come in a different place than others.”

As for Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham), who’s possibly the latest casualty after last week’s penultimate episode, not to mention the character whose life is conveniently linked to Elena’s, Plec made sure to slightly lower the stress levels of fans who were worried the series finale might drag that cliffhanger on her fate out. “The finale immediately answers that question,” Plec says. “You’ll know by the end of the first four minutes. You should have a sense whether you should be planning the funeral or celebrating.”

But Plec had one final bombshell that might sell viewers on the series finale: “Dot dot dot dead.” Obviously, you’ll have to actually watch the episode to fill in the dots, though Plec was a little more open about the legacy of “The Vampire Diaries.” “It’s a show that kind of launched out of grief. Elena’s character had just lost her parents. And it’s a show that ends with a sense of what peace means, and that was on purpose. So I hope people enjoy that.”

“The Vampire Diaries” bids farewell March 10 at 9 p.m. on the CW. A series retrospective, “Forever Yours,” will air before the finale at 8 p.m.