If you’re anything like us, your jaw dropped at the sheer audacity The Vampire Diaries had in killing Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) off in last night’s episode. (Um, spoiler.) The move was so audacious, we’re not really sure it will stick. Here are three reasons why Stefan can’t be dead.

Paul Wesley has a contract through the sixth season. Here’s the thing: Paul’s contract goes through the sixth season. That being said, there is allegedly a clause in all of the TVD cast members’ contracts that dictates their characters can be killed off at any time. (Does this include Paul, Nina, and Ian?) However, we highly doubt TVD would choose to enact such a clause in Paul’s case. Stefan’s character — and the Stelena ship — has a huge following. With ratings at an all-time low, we doubt TVD would risk cutting Paul loose.

The TVD ending needs Stefan. TVD executive producer Julie Plec told Digital Spy: "I think the question in a show like The Vampire Diaries is really how Damon, Elena, and Stefan's journey ends. We know how we want Elena's journey to end as it relates to both her character and her relationship with the two brothers, and how we want the brothers' relationship with each other to end." It sounds like Stefan is a very important part of the imagined ending of the TVD story. Even if he doesn’t end up with Elena, that doesn’t mean his relationship with her isn’t important. The love triangle doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic love; the show is still structured around the dynamic between these three characters.

He is the heart of the show. Let’s face it: this show isn’t filled with the most upright of vampires-citizens. They kill. They destroy. They blow up towns. In last night’s episode, Stefan tells Elena that vampires have destruction in their nature. That being said, Stefan is one of the few characters — and, arguably, the only character out of the main three — who has held onto his moral code. Sure, he’s slipped rather dramatically at times, but he always comes back to his desire to be good and he never forgets his crimes. This show may not be about the traditional hero, but it needs the kind of moral compass Stefan represents as a barometer for how far some of the other characters have fallen.

Do you think Stefan is really dead? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments below!

Catch the Season 5 finale of The Vampire Diaries on Thursday, May 15 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

Kayti Burt is a contributing writer for Wetpaint Entertainment with a penchant for all things pop culture. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!