I'm almost afraid to check on the TVD fandom and see if everyone is okay after the news that Nina Dobrev is leaving The Vampire Diaries, closing this chapter of her life and leaving fans (of Delena, of Stelena, of Elena) devastated in her wake. The question of what Dobrev's departure means for the show, and for her other cast mates, has been kicked around with increasing frequency as people try to adjust to a world where the main character of an ensemble cast is skipping off into the sunset and leaving the ensemble of people connected largely through their relationship with her behind. One such question is who is the main character of TVD, now that Elena is gone? My best guess is Caroline Forbes... but fans might not accept that so easily.
Don't get me wrong. Caroline is an incredibly popular character, one that has increasingly become even more popular than Elena has over the seasons. Not only has Caroline been the love interest, confirmed or unrequited, of more guys than Elena has, but she is the star of two popular ships herself — Klaroline (Klaus and Caroline) and Steroline (Stefan Salvatore and Caroline). Okay, so one of those ships is a lot more popular than the other, but the fact still remains that Caroline is ticking off all of the same checkboxes that Elena would on the main character score card. Her storyline and character arc on the show are every bit as well-developed as Elena's, to the point where she could already be considered a main character.
However, she wasn't the main character — which was enough to give certain fans the continued hope that she might leave the show. Yes, that's right. Look at the facts. Klaus, the other half of Caroline's most popular ship, migrated to The Originals in order to star in his own spin off show with his vampiric siblings, while Caroline remained behind on TVD. Sure, there have been some overlapping episodes, but the two characters are now in totally different cities. That makes a relationship between them difficult. If Caroline becomes the main character of TVD in Elena's absence, that effectively kills any chance of seeing Klaus and Caroline together. For it to happen now, either The Originals would have to fail, Klaus would have to leave The Originals, or Candice Accola would have to be the next actress to migrate out of Mystic Falls.
For those fans who don't ship Klaroline, Caroline becoming the main character of TVD is an ideal situation. It opens up the pathway for Stefan and Caroline to become a couple — though they're already slowly making their way to that point — and it gives the fans even more of a character that they've already adored to this point. The huge shoes left behind by Elena will be tough for anyone to fill, but Caroline has a significant enough fandom that fans would warm to her as the lead character a lot more than they would warm to the introduction of any new Elena replacements.
Now, everyone needs to just join me in a prayer circle that they do not decide to turn Delena and Steroline into a Damon-Caroline-Stefan love triangle in the absence of Elena. While I can't imagine another character that could come close to filling Elena's shoes the way that Caroline could, she deserves the chance to explore her own storyline that doesn't turn her love triangle (Klaus-Caroline-Stefan) into a love square. Romantic entanglements on TVD get complicated enough.