Fans of “The Vampire Diaries” aren’t going to be entirely shocked at the end of the Season 6 finale given they already know Nina Dobrev is leaving the CW television series. However, executive producer Julie Plec revealed the finale is very different from what it would have been had Dobrev chosen to stay with the show for Season 7.

Dobrev, who announced her exit in April, will make her last appearance as Elena in episode 22. Viewers will know whether Elena is dead or alive by the end of the episode, but, apparently, they wouldn’t have known that if the actress were sticking around for another season. Plec said her previous plans for the Season 6 finale left all the characters’ lives at risk.

“You can call it whatever you want, but it goes back to the Moldavian Massacre of ‘Dynasty’ back in the ’80s when you just end your season with everyone’s life completely in the balance,” Plec told Entertainment Weekly. “One hundred ways to die on ‘The Vampire Diaries.’ This year, that was the plan, was to end with such a ridiculous and horrific cliffhanger and really not tell the audience who would return and who wouldn’t until the very end.”

Last week, Plec revealed those original cliffhanger plans were attached to an approach to “The Vampire Diaries” Season 7 that was designed to convince Dobrev to stick around. “The first plan was like ‘Here’s this pitch for how you could like be in 10 [episodes], but really only have to work for half of that time,’” Plec said on the KCRW podcast. “You know, ’cause I, I actually know Nina really well -- I thought it was about freedom ... But it became a symbolic freedom for her.”

The writers didn’t completely change the show’s direction for Dobrev. What was planned to be the finale will now be episode 21 (being shown Thursday), so fans should still expect to be left hanging, but only for a week. “We had two pitches,” Plec told EW. “We had one for our cliffhanger ending that leaves everybody’s life in the balance and then we spend the first part of next season saying goodbye to our character, or we have the, ‘Well, she’s leaving, so therefore the entire thing we were going to do for half of next season, we now have to do in one episode, and our cliffhanger can no longer be a cliffhanger, which means it has to be the penultimate episode.’”

It looks like plenty of lives will be in the balance in episode 21. Although Dobrev’s exit is the biggest loss for the series, Matthew Davis (Alaric) and Michael Trevino (Tyler) are both making pilots for other shows. It isn’t clear whether they’ll die or leave the door open for returns, so their futures will be at risk as well. It’s particularly awful timing because Alaric’s wedding is also in the penultimate episode of Season 6.

Even though the cliffhanger will be put in one episode early, it doesn’t sound like the finale will be a boring cryfest for Elena. Kat Graham (Bonnie) previously teased it would include “an epic battle.”

“The Vampire Diaries” Season 6 is on the CW Thursdays at 8 p.m. EDT. Do you think anyone will die in the episode 21 cliffhanger? Sound off in the comments section below!