Spin-offs have a tall glass to fill when pitted next to their primary showrunner. “The Originals” plans to bite and claw their way with the oldest vampires in the business. It begins it’s tale with a retelling of season 4’s 20th episode of The Vampire Diaries, this time from mostly Elijah’s perspective. Being a show on its own course, The Originals use Elijah as an instrument of both historical context and as the “bring the audience up to speed” guy, narrating and explaining various bits of his family’s origin and their current predicament in New Orleans. As a watcher of The Vampire Diaries, this first episode isn’t new so much as it is a, “fill in the gaps” premiere, which dampens some of the impact the show could have easily used to strengthen it’s run out of the gates. Still, it’s meant to expand on the franchise and sprinkles some potential here and there.
The Originals begins with a scene from the past. 300 years ago, vampires Elijah, Rebekah, and werewolf/vampire hybrid Klaus arrive in the French colony of Louisiana at known as New Orleans. They murder all but one of the colonials who search their empty ship. The Originals are here to stay and make a town for themselves.
Fast forward to the present and the episode intertwines the story we know with mostly new scenes of Elijah piecing together why Klaus has returned to New Orleans and why current king and Klaus protégé vampire, Marcel, has subjugated the small community of witches who live there. He finds that a young werewolf named Hayley (Who once helped Tyler from VD and had a one night stand with Klaus) is being helped by the witch coven and is pregnant with Klaus’s child. Sophie is the sister of a witch that died by Marcel’s hand after performing a spell to determine the validity of Hayley’s pregnancy. Marcel decreed that magic is forbidden in his city and rules unjustly passing immediate judgment on those who cross him. Elijah finds Klaus and tries to get him to see that the child could be the key in restoring the family back together, but Klaus is uninterested and only seeks to reclaim the throne of Louisiana.
Rebekah, still in Mystic Falls, is unconvinced of Elijah’s plan and refuses to join him, still harboring a grudge against Klaus for all his mistreatment over the centuries. Klaus and Elijah eventually come to blows with Klaus inevitably agreeing to help the witches and pretend to settle his dispute with Marcel by giving him his blood to cure one of Marcel’s men, who he attacked earlier.
It is revealed, seemingly, that Marcel is in league with a young witch named “Devina”? who has powers that rival that of the original vampires and she is the one who knows when magic is being cast in the city.
Elijah takes Hayley to his sanctuary in New Orleans hoping to keep her safe. Klaus arrives and daggers Elijah, saying that his love for family makes him weak and that his war against Marcel must be fought alone.
This first episode wasn’t an impressive start for me. At first I found the retelling of the episode was interesting except that the story itself existed months ago. Showing it again for any new audience will only serve to confuse them. The history segments were quick and more used as a catalyst for the mindmeld Elijah gives Haylay (can vampires do that, or just the originals?) and only offered small amounts of new information regarding what base fans of the franchise already know. The only part that felt truly engaging was Klaus’s action in daggering Elijah. This is a move that Klaus is very famous for, yet to maintain his status as a true neutral character, he imprisoned the one character who could make him see reason and believe in the bond of family. Elijah was by far the strongest piece of this episode. His presence since season 4 of Diaries has only increased and taking him out of the equation so soon was unexpected. This can only mean that Rebekah will soon be forced to join the family drama and, like Klaus, does not play well with others. How and why she goes to New Orleans, not sure on that yet.
Beyond the plot, I’m left wondering whether it’s the characters that will define this show, or the expansive world the franchise has introduced. A power hungry, heartless immortal on a path of either redemption or further damnation may seem fresh, but Klaus has nothing to lose at this point, nor can he truly die. At worst, he fails and is forced to go back to Mystic Falls and resume a quiet life of megalomania. At best, he defeats Marcel and rules New Orleans…then goes back to Mystic Falls to resume a quiet life of megalomania. Not sure what devices they plan to use to lure Klaus back to the good side, but he certainly took out the one character who gave a damn about him.
What I do like about sister shows like these is that it leaves room for plenty of crossover plots and those hook me in. Characters shifting over, guest starring, dabbling and running amuck, I enjoys those kinds of stories. The current plot feels like it can be wrapped up quickly if the show is not expected to finish beyond it’s first season, but if the fanbase is loyal enough, it will continue on it’s path. Not a terribly great start, but we’ll see who shines the most.
Oh, and I do not agree with the same title format. The Originals should have…an original title sequence, not a major gripe, but a small suggestion.
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