Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you know that Nina Dobrev has announced that she will be leaving The Vampire Diaries. She made the announcement with a heart-felt letter written on her Instagram page.

And though these days I don’t blog much (if at all—sorry!), I can’t deny that The Vampire Diaries was a huge part of the NoWhiteNoise mythos, if you will. It’s basically the first show that I ever started reviewing, and it was a favorite of mine for several years. I paraded my viewing of the show around so that people could give “That Twilight show” (Dobrev’s words) a chance. And… as we all know… that joy turned a bit into contempt during the latter half of season three and beyond.

These days, The Vampire Diaries still remains discombobulated, determined to shoehorn every plot element into a soup of supernatural hodgepodge. But I must also say that I’ve actually found myself particularly enjoying the last couple of episodes, especially Ian Somerhalder’s directorial debut. He grabbed the camp and went for it. And for better or worse, that’s what the show is these days.

But last night when I learned that Dobrev would be leaving the show, I was shocked to say the least. Not that she would leave, of course, but that the show would continue without her. For as much as Elena Gilbert has been a joke to the fandom for a while, I still can’t imagine a Vampire Diaries universe without her.

I know fans will disagree with my next statement, but: The Vampire Diaries is Elena Gilbert. I mean, it’s all about her. Until it wasn’t.

I’m not one to harbor on the premise of a show. I don’t think, for example, that Jane should always remain a virgin on Jane the Virgin. “Well, she had sex! Series over!” No. But throughout all the muddled years on The Vampire Diaries, there was always one through-line: the doppelgänger. Elena was a series in a long line of doppelgängers that related to every crazy plot line, every extraneous villain, every reason for anything happening.

And then season five came, and she was no longer The Doppelgänger. Stefan was also a doppelgänger. And more so, they did away with them entirely. And since then, Elena’s been a bit part in her own mythology.

Not to be confused with the fact that the show has been unsure about Elena for a while now. Her plot lines have long been confounding, and they have always been passive. There’s no denying that the show lost its sense of its leading lady a while ago. Even Dobrev tries to bring that good ol’ Elena season one charm every few episodes, but a plot line or a piece of dialogue always makes her have to revert back to a blank slate.

It’s not surprising to realize that storylines could continue without Elena. It’s surprising because every character has always been motivated because of Elena’s existence, even when that motivation made absolutely no sense. This fact is what we all complained about for seasons now. As a result, Elena isn’t the only thin character.

So, no, I can’t imagine a Vampire Diaries universe without Elena Gilbert. And in The Vampire Diaries, anything is possible. Elena’s spirit could be transferred into another body, for instance. But even so, I can’t imagine The Vampire Diaries without Dobrev. Even a few seasons ago when I thought they might actually kill off Elena and just have Katherine, I could only imagine that because it was still Dobrev.

What I find most baffling, however, is Elena’s last season being such a lukewarm showcase for her. Rumors of one of the three main actors leaving the show began circulating in the beginning of this season. And yet, Elena’s plotline this season has been: She gets amnesia. And that’s really it. She hasn’t done much of anything since then. So if she doesn’t get put in someone else’s body, the other alternative is that she rides out in the sunset. But that seems wrong because Damon (or Stefan) would always follow after her if that were the case.

And the last scenario: she dies. Elena Gilbert goes out in a blaze of glory—except, not so glorious given her final season of meandering around. Don’t even get me started on a death finally having any sense of weight on The Vampire Diaries, a fact Dobrev has talked about publicly for a while now. On a season when Alaric was resurrected with not much purpose, Elena dying—permanently—might only result in eye-rolls.

In short: it all feels rather preposterous, doesn’t it?

I wish Dobrev much success after this season, and I hope the show can pull it off. I could say I won’t watch next season, but we all know my curiosity will get the better of me.

What do you think, though?