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'The Vampire Diaries' Review: 'The Originals'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
April 26th, 2013 8:24am EDT

The Vampire Diaries 'The Originals'

Julie Plec recently revealed the original plan for Joseph Morgan's Klaus: he was going to die at the end of season three. Big Bads come, torment the good guys, make their lives hell, and then get defeated in the last or second to last episode of the season. TV's about as organic as any medium gets. For every Joss Whedon, David Chase, Matt Weiner, and David Simon, who all claim to have a grand plan for their series, there also exists the show runners who let the story take them wherever it may. The LOST show runners, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, tried to convince their fans about a plan. Cuse liked to say the writers knew their destination but hadn't mapped out the entire journey. The fun in television writing is in changing things up, of realizing that James Marsters fellow is doing something great with Spike and keeping him around beyond a few episodes in season two, and of recognizing what Joseph Morgan's brought to the TVD world as Niklaus Mikaelson.

I think Julie Plec might regret the number of characters she and Kevin Williamson killed off early. The number of surprising deaths early in the series gave TVD its incredible unpredictable quality that made it one of TV's stand-out shows. Had Plec and Williamson, and the room, decided to part ways with Joseph Morgan, there would not be a backdoor pilot in which to tell Klaus' grand redemption story. Maybe Klaus is killed off if TVD cast a lesser actor. But they didn't hire a lesser actor; they hired Joseph Morgan. And he's going to be the lead of The Originals.

So, how is "The Originals"? The episode works quite well as a pilot. Indeed, the episode is a pilot. I was most interested in the plan to transform Klaus into a leading character, one the audience could sympathize with and root for. Klaus is a wild and remorseless villain. He slaughtered twelve of his hybrids this season because they tried to break free of him. A few episodes ago, his mind was messed with by Silas. Caroline was a witness to Klaus' suffering. I compared his suffering in front of his beloved to Spike's suffering in front of Buffy in the seventh season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Last week, Klaus decided not to kill Tyler. Baby-steps. Klaus hasn't been nearly as murderous as in the massacre episode. Since then, the writers have worked to move the characters toward "The Originals."

The redemptive arc of Klaus will be aided by the villain of The Originals. Marcelle, the King of New Orleans, learned from Klaus. Marcelle learned that mercy is for the weak. Witches can't practice magic because it carries a death sentence. Not every vamp is allowed to wear a daylight ring. Innocent people live or die based on his assessment of their bravery versus their cowardice. The purpose of Marcelle is easy to understand--he is Klaus' mirror, and if he disgusts Klaus, then Klaus is on the path towards redemption. Of course, having a baby with Haley also has something to do with Klaus' contemplation near the end of the episode.

"The Originals" is straight-forward. Klaus comes to New Orleans after reading Katherine's letter, tracks down his old friend, watches his way of doing business, tries to figure out what's going on for himself, and then Elijah shows up to force Klaus to think through his options. The witches of New Orleans want to take the town back from Marcelle. They want to practice magic without being put to death. Klaus will work with them if he wants his baby to survive the pregnancy. Klaus, of course, doesn't like orders. He rejects the witches, as well as his brother's insistence he listen to the witches. A little power struggle crops up, though. Klaus hates power struggles. He craves power. All his life he's craved it. Years of running from Mikael added to his lust for power. Klaus wants to be King.

I liked Klaus' motivations for staying in New Orleans to help the witches because it didn't betray the character. Klaus is a bit more of a hero. There are scenes in which I rooted for him; whereas in TVD, I mostly root against him. TVD's writers, and Morgan, try their damndest to layer the character. Caroline's role in his transformation is another way to feel for the character more. Sometimes, the show just needs to embrace Klaus as a blood-thirsty, power-hungry hybrid. The character's even painted in broad strokes--light and dark, literally. Klaus chats up a bartender named Camille, a cute blond psych major (similar to Caroline in appearance), about what a street painter is painting. The painting is of a face, half of it dark and half of it light. Camille thinks the painter's depicting the duality of man and the specific darkness that exists inside every person. Coheed and Cambria's single from their latest album is titled "The Dark Side of Me," and it's hard for me not to think of the song (being a big Coheed fan and all) during this scene. The key line of Camille interpretation is about the demons controlling the man rather than the man controlling the demons. Klaus doesn't cry, but he fills up, and leaves before he connects with her. Klaus is responsible for his unhappiness. Each time someone reaches out to him, he reacts violently, and with grave finality.

New Orleans will be different. For one, Klaus is the leading man in a series, so he's not going to be a raging so and so. Secondly, Elijah's committed to helping his brother until there's nothing left to help, nothing left to redeem. I'm down with a story about a vampire with a violent past, torn between the forces of good and the forces of evil, starting to atone. You know, there was another spinoff that built the playground The Originals play in.

I think The Originals could be a captivating series. It parallels TVD's early episodes. Klaus is the Damon figure and Elijah is the Stefan figure. Family's important to the Salvatore's. Family's important to the Mikaelson's. Elijah sees Klaus' future child as a hopeful sign of brighter days for their family, as a way to escape the darkness of their past. Klaus warms to the idea. Kings need heirs. New Orleans has been ruined by Marcelle's bloody reign. Klaus has the chance to reform himself and the city he loves, the only city he loves. So, yeah, I'll definitely watch the series in the fall.

And since "The Originals" is a backdoor pilot, the twentieth episode of season four, there are some scenes with Damon, Stefan, and Elena. Elena's not going to give into their plan to get her humanity back. The episode ends with a standoff in the Salvatore dungeon.
"The Originals" is all about Klaus and Joseph Morgan, though. Joseph Morgan shined, the set-up's got a great hook, and I'm looking forward to what follows.

Other Thoughts:

-I've compared story choices in this season to Buffy and ANGEL. Why stop now? Angel also fathered a miracle child in season three. The miracle boy Connor had a significant role in the show's fourth season. I'm in the minority of fans who loved the storyline.

-I'm used to seeing New Orleans in HBO's Treme. TVD's New Orleans, as I've pointed out already this season, is much different. I liked the tour guide's words early in the episode about the supernatural history of the city. It digs into a different history of the city. It's also an intriguing line w/r/t individual episodes in the future.

Photo Credits: The CW