Last night’s episode of The Vampire Diaries ended with a shocking twist: the death of vampire hunk Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley). We’re still reeling from the suddenness of it and what it could potentially mean for this show. Will Paul return for the sixth season of TVD?!

If you missed last night’s episode of TVD, stop reading this and go watch it now.

OK, you’re back? Well, then you’re probably reading this through the tears streaming down your face because you just watched Stefan have his heart literally ripped from his chest while he was trying to protect Caroline. And, if watching Stefan ask Bonnie if she had figured out a way to bring him back (answer: er, nope) wasn’t enough to make your eyes water, then the sight of Caroline cradling his desiccated head in her lap probably was.

Will Paul/Stefan be back for Season 6? The short answer is: we’re not sure. The long answer is a bit more complicated. We’ve long believed that TVD wouldn’t kill one of its three principals off (for good) before the series finale, and we still think that’s true. Given that TVD has already been renewed for a sixth season, we’re hesitant to believe that the show would willingly axe him — even for the shock value of the entire thing. And, given that Paul has a contract through six seasons, it would be the show’s decision not to have him return, rather than Paul’s.

We’re also curious about the timing of Stefan’s death and the way in which it went about. First of all, it occurred in the penultimate episode of the season rather than the season finale. If Paul were leaving and Stefan were going to stay dead, then we think his death would go down in the season finale. We also think it would be long, labored, and include several goodbye scenes with various characters. This is a show that (usually) gives characters multiple, drawn out deaths. We imagine they would pull out all of the stops for one of The Big Three. Sure, TV could do with more sudden deaths sans dying monologues, but it’s not really TVD’s style.

The good and bad thing about watching a show that already has 100 episodes under its belt is that its formula can become somewhat predictable. Unless a TV show is really trying, viewers are familiar with what the show will and will not do. And we’ve been watching this show long enough to know that TVD wouldn’t kill off Stefan without mega-good reason.

On the other hand, the TVD Powers That Be do have a history of letting series regulars go if they don’t want to be a part of the show anymore. We’re thinking, of course, about The OriginalsClaire Holt (Rebekah), who left the show earlier this season because she wanted to spend more time with her family and living in Atlanta — where both TVD and The Originals are filmed — was not conducive to that. Claire’s situation was a bit different given that she knew going into The Originals that she didn’t want to stay for the whole season, and presumably structured her contract with that in mind. Does Paul have a reason for wanting to leave TVD? The only possibility we can think of is that he is interested in pursuing other projects, perhaps in a role other than actor. He made his directorial debut this season with an episode of TVD. Is he hoping to spend more time making film and TV through his two production companies? Our gut says no, but even vampires can get antsy…

Do you think Paul will be back for Season 6? 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+!