by Dianna Berrian
Let me take you 300 years in the past on the Mississippi River where an abandoned boat floats ominously through the night. A few powdered wigs venture to explore only to find a set of coffins aboard. One of the brave souls dares to open one of the coffins and the corpse of Kol Mikaelson, youngest of the Original brothers, lies inside. But before any of the men could spare a second glance, a wisp of wind whispers by and Elijah Mikaelson, eldest Original, appears with a gracious introduction. He’s followed by Rebekah Mikaelson, a blonde beauty and the baby of the family, wiping her dainty fangs after having taken a bite out of one man’s life. Harmless and hospitable they may come across, their beast of a half-brother, Niklaus (informally known as Klaus) makes it evident what they truly are – vampires. The original vampires, created over a thousand years ago. And where are they, you might ask? The French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Flash forward back to present day where every cliché possible that pertains to New Orleans is running amok. You’ve got partying. You’ve got colors and lights and beads. You’ve got alcohol, jambalaya, gumbo. And, of course, witches. But above all of the ruckus of the town, the voice of Elijah narrates the importance of a family bond and how it could be either the greatest strength or the biggest regret. This is the first of way too many mentions throughout the episode of how family oriented Elijah really is, as that’s the central theme of the show.
So Elijah, in all his finely tailored suit glory, is now sitting and conversing at the bar with the psychology grad student slash bartender Camille. He’s looking for a witch named JaneAnne who is believed to be conspiring against Klaus and is the reason why he and his family relocated from the quaint town of Mystic Falls. Unfortunately, the fates are against Elijah as he discovers that JaneAnne is dead, through a witch of the New Orleans coven. Her body lies in the middle of the street as a statement to all witches who don’t follow the rules laid out by the town’s vampire leader, Marcel. But JaneAnne is survived by her sister Sophie, whose only plea is to give her sister a proper burial or her spirit will not rest.
Enter Marcel. Arrogant, mad with power deviant who runs the town and lays down the law when his rules aren’t followed. His rule is, witches can’t practice magic in the Quarter. And if you’re caught you are condemned. Of course, Marcel is no idiot and he hears that Klaus was looking for JaneAnne. What he wants to know is why? And until Sophie tells him, he takes hostage her sister’s body. Ain’t no ship like dictatorship, cause a dictatorship don’t – okay, I’m done.
It’s at this point we get the first glimpse of present day Rebekah, basking in the luxury of what looks like a hotel suite. Their conversation paints a somewhat selfish picture of Klaus’ character, recalling all of the horrible things he’s done to their family and all of the broken promises. But the three made a very significant promise long ago, that “family [is] above all. Always and forever”. Though “takebacks” were called several times, they’ve always generally stuck to their word.
In an alleyway later that night – because it’s always an alleyway – some of Marcel’s vampire cronies find Sophie messing with some candles and looking awfully like she’s about to do a spell. Big no-no, Sophie. Just before she’s about to pay for what she’s doing, the vampires are attacked by her savior, who turns out to be Elijah. Tentatively trusting him, she invites him for a stroll through the cemetery for a little late night chat about betrayals. She explains that the witches want to try to fight back against Marcel but he has an army of vampires backing him. All hope seemed lost, until they stumbled upon a girl who came to town. Okay. Now you’re thinking, what does some random girl have to do with anything? Don’t worry, because here comes the clincher, guys. She’s pregnant. Oh, oh! But that’s not all! Klaus is the father. Groovy, right?
Deciding to trust him even further, Sophie lets Elijah meet the girl. She’s a very classy gal with her greeting of “Who the hell are you?”. So you could see why Klaus would sleep with her. No. No, you can’t. And unless they go back and explain that at least a little, it’s going to be a nagging thing in the background. Or is that just me? While Elijah gets to know Hayley a little better in the mausoleum, he exposes his newfound super vampire power of being able to show the past to anyone he touches. And this is where the “Vampire Diaries” fandom starts to go a little nuts.
Elijah’s flashback shows scenes from the “Vampire Diaries” when the original vampires were first introduced. He shows her how they were living peacefully one day and devastated by their youngest brother’s death the next. Henrik was killed by werewolves, and in order to survive against the wolves, their father Mikael had their mother – the original witch – perform a spell that turned them into the first ever vampires. But with vampirism came consequences, like the severe hunger. And Klaus’ was the worst of all, for a very good reason. When he killed for the first time his body began to convulse and he triggered his werewolf gene. Because of their mother’s adultery with a werewolf, he was now a hybrid – half wolf, half vampire. His mother sealed his gene so that he would never be at his full glory to appease Mikael’s wishes. But centuries later, in a rather extravagant ritual – which I think was left out, unless I wasn’t paying attention for that moment – he broke his curse and became a hybrid once again.
Hayley makes the biggest understatement of the century by stating “your father was a dick”. I think her crass way of speaking and acting leaves something to be desired. Maybe she’s an acquired taste that I just haven’t acquired yet, but based on one of the lines that followed “[Klaus] is a notorious psycho. And I slept with him. Classic me”, I almost feel like the direction with Hayley is that of troubled girl who has always screwed up her own life and rebelled because she never knew her real parents. And that is SO cliché. But I wouldn’t put it past Julie Plec.
Essentially, the witches want to see Marcel driven out and/or taken down. Their plan is to use Klaus to gain Marcel’s trust, since he is Klaus’ progeny, and then betray him with the takedown. Hmmm. Where have I heard this plotline before? A few times over, methinks. And are we going to continue along the path and down the line Marcel will find out about the baby and use it against him to one up his maker? I’m calling it now.
Halfway in, there is finally a glimpse of Klaus in present day. Interesting, as he’s supposed to be the lead star of the show. When we get around to seeing him, he’s lured by Elijah to meet with the witches so they can drop the bomb on him that he’s about to be a proud papa. Of course, denial is the first course of action. He would take down Marcel right then and there but for some reason the witches say there is a clear plan to follow and rules. I, for one, would like to know exactly what rules and plan they’re concocting because right now it just sounds like they’re pretty much winging it. But the baby is not a ruse because Elijah and Klaus can hear the heartbeat and that throws Klaus for a bit of a loop. No, wait, I lied. “Kill her. And the baby.” If only, Klaus. If only.
We cut again to a moment alone with Klaus and Elijah discussing the whole hybrid baby debacle. Klaus calls it a trick while Elijah chooses to see it as a gift. But this means nothing to Klaus because all Klaus wants it power and status and everything that Marcel has. He wants to be king. Elijah tries again to force the idea that love and loyalty are power – that family is power. Klaus just isn’t buying what Elijah is selling, and frankly, neither am I.
Back to the cemetery where Sophie is explaining to the witches how she plans to keep Klaus in check with Hayley and the baby as her leverage. She wounds her hand and the same damage is automatically inflicted upon Hayley, showing the magical link between the two that Sophie put on them with a spell. Their lives are tied, so anything that happens to Sophie will happen to Hayley. And Sophie isn’t afraid to take drastic measures, even going as far as suicide if she has to. Kinda badass. Kinda dumb. We’ll call it a toss up.
Back on Bourbon street, Klaus has a tizzy and attacks one of Marcel’s vampire comrades as a lashing out towards his old “friend”. I don’t think it was explained, I could be wrong, but a werewolf bite produces a venom that is deadly to vampires. In effect, Klaus is making a statement by breaking one of Marcel’s rules – which weren’t really laid out, by the way – and he can’t be condemned because he is immortal and nothing could kill him. (Except White Oak stakes, but we’re not supposed to know that. Shh.) Basically, Klaus let’s Marcel know he’s in his house, kicking his legs up on the furniture and there is nothing he can do about it. You mad, bro?
Later after all the drama, Elijah approaches Marcel to negotiate the return of Jane Anne’s body. He divulges to Marcel that Klaus’ hybrid blood cures the werewolf bite and he’ll save his man if Marcel returns the body. They come to an agreement, and just before his allotted time is up, Elijah brings Sophie her sister’s corpse and says with more time he could get Klaus to concede.
After that he runs into Klaus in what looks like a lot full of old tarp covered furniture or something, drinking away his miseries. A battle of semi-epic proportion takes place as the siblings fight it out. Elijah seems to have the upper hand here (kind of odd seeing as a hybrid should probably be stronger? We’ll just blame your alcoholism, Klaus) and gives Klaus a good and proper beating, even threatening to beat him like their father had. Ooh, over the line, Elijah! But despite everything, he will never let go of trying to make their family work and trying to get back the Klaus he once knew that wasn’t so self centered, angry and hurt inside. Because they are – you guessed it – family. We get it. Elijah loves his family and wants more family and family, family, family. He’s got to beat it into Klaus AND the viewers because he hasn’t said it enough. Klaus, on the other hand, still just wants to be king. The child only means power to him, whereas Elijah believes it could offer him the one thing Klaus never believed he had – unconditional love of family. Oh, Elijah. Go rip a heart out or something.
Now we transition into a mansion that for some reason looks awfully familiar. Doesn’t Mystic Falls have one like that? Hayley is apparently living there with the Originals now, coincidentally taking a tarp off a crib. Sorry, since when do Originals just happen to have cribs lying around to bring with them from place to place? Why would they even need one? I digress. We learn some of Hayley’s sob story about how she was abandoned when she was born and her adoptive parents kicked her out when she first became a wolf. Cliché city, man. I’m sorry, but I’m not warming up to a character I already don’t like just because she has mommy issues. But it’s okay because Elijah will always protect her because now they’re family. (Have you had enough yet?) Please, Plec, don’t force this into a relationship and shove it down our throats. Please give Elijah a little bit of dignity.
Finally we find out what Marcel’s secret weapon that keeps the witches in line is. Her name is Davina and, thus far, we are not sure who, what, or why she is. Just a little teaser, I guess. In the last scene, Klaus approaches Elijah, hearing the news that Rebekah will be joining them soon. Elijah is satisfied to know there will be some sort of effort on Klaus’ part. That is, up until Klaus daggers Elijah. (Since they’re so short of explanations today, a dagger dipped in White Oak ash incapacitates an Original indefinitely. It’s like they’re dead but if you pull out the dagger, they come back to life. So Elijah isn’t dead, he’s just kind of…asleep.) Just before Elijah’s last breath, Klaus rationalizes that he wants to take down Marcel alone, on his terms. Welp. First time all episode Klaus has acted like Klaus.
Now here’s the thing about this episode, and it must be said – to the newcomers, I have to imagine that it seemed sloppily explained and confusing. I’m trying not to be biased, but the scenes jumped back and forth quickly and a lot of them were repetitive. It’s very hard to stay on top of all the details when everything is so thrown together. I felt like a lot of the transitions weren’t smooth at all. There are major holes with all the history being crammed into one hour. Every circumstance is a “it just so happened to have happened” kind of thing and that hardly ever works because it’s not believable. As much as viewers want to go into another world, they also want to find something that they can connect with.
In all fairness, it’s clear that the episode is written to set up the story and inform new viewers of who these characters are and what their business is. However, it’s lackluster and not done in an attention grabbing kind of way. It’s basically, here is where it’s set. Here are the major players. Here’s the premise. This is a premiere episode. This is the first impression! It’s one thing to have the fanbase from the originating show tuning in for a spinoff, but will it grab the attention of the broader audience who has never seen Vampire Diaries? I’m guessing not so much.
Many of the better scenes from the backdoor pilot that aired back in April during “Vampire Diaries” season 4 were omitted from this version of the premiere. For example, the scene where Klaus and Camille are overlooking a tortured artist on the streets painting and she psychoanalyzes the man with a clear parallel to Klaus as a person. Or when Klaus first rolls into town and we see the friendship between him and Marcel. Or what about the moment Klaus calls up Caroline Forbes – the one thing he DID care about – to tell her, essentially, he missed her? True, Caroline has no place in the spinoff and that’s fine. But it’s hard to adjust to someone who’s had all this development as a character starting back at square one.
Instead, “The Originals” paints Klaus as a whiny brat who is throwing a fit because he isn’t getting what he wants, Rebekah as the spoiled sister who couldn’t care less, and Elijah a fiercely loyal puppy that wants desperately to have a loving family. These are not the Originals that most of the fandom knows and should not be the Originals that newcomers get to meet. It completely demeans their characters. The Originals are supposed to be a huge threat and the most intimidating creatures. Instead, they are overly humanized and, for me, and probably a ton of others, it just doesn’t work.
I suppose it’s hard to see characters who were so developed on one show become entirely new characters on their own show. But to the loyal fans who have watched both, it seems a little degrading to see all that progress lost and be expected to just deal with it because new people will be expected to watch so they want to lay out these characters all over again. And I get it. I do. But is there no happy medium?
I’ll say this: I will tune in on Tuesday to watch the second episode, just to see how an actual episode that isn’t all about set up goes. But I have low expectations. Maybe if Kol miraculously showed up to stir up some trouble it might catch my interest more.