Around the Water Cooler: “The Originals,” Mid-Season/Season 1 Progress Report (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who:  “The Originals,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on the CW, Tuesdays at 8:00 PM.

What: “The Originals,” a spin off of supernatural drama “The Vampire Diaries,” centered on the Original (i.e. very first) vampires, the Mikaelsons who first appeared on the latter show.  The surviving siblings are hybrid werewolf/vampire Niklaus (Joseph Morgan), his older brother Elijah (the super hot Daniel Gillies), and baby sister Rebekah (Claire Holt).

SYNOPSIS In a backdoor pilot during season 4 of The Vampire Diaries, the viewer learned that the Mikaelsons essentially helped to create New Orleans, and Klaus, running from various personal dilemmas including his own ego and Mystic Falls in general, returned to New Orleans where he encountered one of his progeny: Marcel, who has taken control of the French Quarter and has declared war on other supernatural beings, including a local coven of witches.  Klaus covets Marcel’s power and hold over the city; in the premiere, Elijah returns to New Orleans in pursuit of his brother, learning that a one-night stand he had with werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) has resulted in her being pregnant.  This program follows Klaus and the other Original siblings as they work to protect their family and this unborn and unlikely child from the likes of egomaniac Marcel, Klaus’ prized pupil.

When: The mid-season finale aired on the CW, Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at 8:00 PM.  The show’s winter premiere aired on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, at 8:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in the Big Easy — New Orleans, Louisiana.

Why: Well, The Vampire Diaries is a darn good show, and with some of the same creative influence, including Executive Producer Julie Plec, as well as the charismatic Morgan and Gillies, there’s no reason The Originals can’t be just as juicy and delicious as the show from whence it spun.  Also, have I mentioned…vampires?  The non-sparkly kind?  Played by ridiculously handsome men?  With accents?

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

The Originals ultimately has become one of this viewer’s new favorite shows of the season.  While it does not run on the fuel of teenage angst and love triangles that characterize its parent show, The Vampire Diaries, the producers/writers have rightly capitalized on the charisma of Morgan and Gillies and the sweeping epic and mixed tragedy of the Original vampires’ history, in which they have lived 1000 years, somewhat unwillingly, and all with various degrees of longing for normalcy, such as they can obtain as all-powerful vampires, or a werewolf/vampire hybrid, as in the case of Klaus.

Sociopath Klaus has run the gamut of emotions for the first half of this season.  First, he was concerned with taking back New Orleans from his progeny Marcel, who rules the French Quarter via backdoor deals with human politicians and via keeping other supernatural beings at bay with the help of an all-powerful witch named Davina.  Klaus focused on reclaiming a house built by the Mikaelsons in the early twentieth century, which he somehow considers their true “home,” which Marcel appropriated for his compound of vampires.  Klaus machinated to produce Elijah, stabbed by a white oak dagger, for Marcel’s keeping in exchange for playing Marcel for information and pretending to be the old friends they were decades before.  Rebekah, who insisted that she came to New Orleans at Elijah’s behest only for the purpose of protecting Klaus’ unborn child, considered this an ultimate betrayal.

When Elijah was, more or less, saved by deal with Davina, promising spells from the Mikaelsons’ mother’s grimoire in exchange for his freedom, Rebekah and Elijah confronted Klaus, whose rage is then visited on Marcel in a climactic confrontation.  Klaus ousts his siblings from their other mansion and communicates his intent to rule, while Rebekah rekindles her love affair with Marcel, which was, at one time, forbidden by the overprotective and jealous Klaus.  Rebekah, more or less, declares war on her brother, except that Marcel chooses to pledge loyalty to the newly victorious Klaus in an effort to protect the vampires he has sired.

Elijah, in the meantime, continues to look after Hayley, pregnant with Klaus’ baby, who is both cursed and connected to witches and looking for her lost family of werewolves, who are hinted to be living in the Bayou.  In addition, some of the werewolves who have migrated to this bayou are apparently part of a genetic line related to Klaus’ biological father (as he was produced by an affair between his mother and a werewolf).  Though Elijah and Rebekah discover this information and provide it to Klaus in an effort to make peace, he waxes on about his betrayal by his siblings, as Elijah and Rebekah accuse Klaus of putting his machinations ahead of their welfare again.  Elijah apologizes to Klaus, offering an olive branch in the winter finale, and maintaining hope that Klaus can be saved.

In the meantime, Klaus toys with Cammie, a bartender and degreed psychology major, to whom Marcel is initially attracted. She is plucky, determined, and unafraid of Klaus, but Klaus continually compels her to forget their interactions and discussions of the supernatural world. Her uncle is the priest Kieran, who oversees the abbey in which Marcel hides Davina for months from her coven, which was intent on sacrificing her to the witch’s “harvest,” while she grows ever-more powerful, without the anchoring magic of that ritual.  Cammie’s identity has been created by the loss of her twin brother, who was hexed by witches and ultimately took innocent lives, and who was ultimately murdered himself.

The web of The Originals is, at times, more complicated and more intricately spun than The Vampire Diaries, partially because Klaus’ unpredictability and longstanding fear of abandonment, propagated by his adoptive father, creates twists and turns and true mystery.  His heart is never fully unmasked, even to the audience, except through the eyes of Cammie, who he clearly cares for, but he cannot allow her to see the full truth of the horrors he has wrought in his lifetime. Rebekah would be a superfluous character, except that she serves to shine the light of truth, in blunt fashion, for her brothers and her lover, Marcel.  Elijah is the Angel of this outfit, seeking redemption for his brother, through possible fatherhood if not somehow convincing Klaus to (finally) relinquish his behavioral patterns.  Hayley is a trapped pawn, scrappy and with determination to survive, so she can gain some clue to her past, while Marcel, who was initially set up to be the villain but, as it turns out, is ultimately another pawn in Klaus’ master chess match, looks toward the future and survival of the inhabitants of his former empire.  The humans in the town bluster, and attempt an attack with heavy artillery, but Klaus does not suffer these antics long.

The story ultimately centers on the possibility of Klaus’ redemption: Elijah hopes for it and believes it is not lost; Rebekah wants it but believes it is impossible; and Klaus can’t decide if it’s worth pursuing, knowing all of the horrific things he has done in his considerable lifetime, and finding himself more apt to agree with his sister.  The character of Klaus straddles the line of villain and antihero–sometimes, he even wears both hats–and all of the other characters seem to revolve around him. He’s a fascinating character, which saves both his appeal and that of the show’s, though this viewer wishes that more time were spent on Elijah’s back story. We know it’s interconnected with his brother’s, but he’s also led a life pursuing some higher callings and attempting to avoid the curse of living as a vampire for 1000 years, to the best of his ability.  Also, there seems to be an intense flirtation brewing between Elijah and Hayley, where snippets of his past both haunt and betray him, and which he tries to keep secret from her, all while fashioning himself her protector, to her occasional frustration and disgruntlement. Hopefully, the show follows more of that path, though this viewer has not yet begun watching the second half of the season.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) Klaus is so capricious, it’s difficult to determine where his heart truly lies, and that may be the ultimate question of the show: what, really, does Klaus want in the end?  I have a feeling only Cammie will be able to get to the bottom of it – or someone like her.

2) If werewolves in the bayou are connected to Klaus’ biological father, and some of those werewolves are Hayley’s family, does that mean there is the possibility that Klaus and Hayley are distant cousins generations removed as well as parents of a new kind of hybrid?  Does this fact explain the possibility of the baby?

3) Davina is annoying.  Please make her go away.

4) I don’t understand the romance between Marcel and Rebekah.  I see no sense of chemistry between those two actors.  Rebekah always comes off like a spoiled brat, and Marcel vacillates between survivor, vengeful victim, corrupt politician, and protector of all.  Maybe it’s the opposites attract thing.

5) Elijah is seriously underutilized on this show.  Daniel Gillies is such a beautiful man, and his character is tall, dark, handsome, and mysterious.  I want to know everything about his past, and why he places so much faith in Klaus, when Klaus disappoints him repeatedly and has done so for centuries.  I want to know why he and Hayley are so strongly drawn to each other.  I want him to always wear suits, and I want Elijah to suss out Rebekah’s affair with Marcel and weigh in.

6) I don’t love the character of Cammie, but I do hope she somehow outsmarts Klaus without going insane from her conflicting/compelled memory losses.

7) Have I mentioned that Tyler Lockwood, Klaus’ erstwhile hybrid sire from The Vampire Diaries, in a mission to defeat Klaus, stopped by the bayou – not without ending his sweet and saccharine relationship with Caroline Forbes on TVD?  Except – he left again.  Where did he go? He hasn’t returned to Mystic Falls.  Why is this character a part-time character on either show at best?

PARTING SHOTS

The Originals, though not the twisty soap opera characterizing its parent program, is more than decent television, spinning an epic and seductive tale with decent acting and beautiful actors doing the work.  The writers have created a steamy mix of horror, revenge fantasy, and seductive romance, capitalizing on all of the best elements of vampire lore, while providing a considerably more adult direction for this spin-off of angst-driven The Vampire Diaries.  The story is grand and twisty, though, and completely accessible to anyone who hasn’t watched TVD.  This viewer hopes this spin-off survives – if for no other reason than to be able to look upon Daniel Gillies as much as possible…

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Originals was ordered for a full first season, but renewal is still up in the air.  The ratings have steadied and/or incrementally increased for the most part, though, and with the CW’s target audience and with the smaller size of its overall viewership, renewal is expected if not guaranteed. If February sweeps doesn’t guarantee longer life, we’ll probably know by May.

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