May 12, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Originals”


As we noted yesterday in writing about The Good Wife, churning out 22 hours per season is a tough challenge for any serialized network drama, especially one that concentrates on one central story, unlike, say the multiple plots of a show like NashvilleThe Originals would have fared better with a cable-sized 10 or 13 episode order this season.  As it was, the show meandered for a long, long time among the complications of witch covens and thousand-year-old curses before even introducing its Big Bad, the Mikaelson family’s Aunt Dahlia (Claudia Black) for a generally bang-up last stretch of episodes.

Along the way, The Originals overused two of its favorite devices:  returning characters from the dead and putting ancients into beautiful young bodies.  Both can be effective when used sparingly, but constant reminders that the seemingly dead are always just a spell away from resurrection lowers the series stakes:  if characters can constantly return, even life-or-death battles risk no more than temporary absence.  As for the body-switching, it’s been a clever way to sidestep the fact that original Original Claire Holt doesn’t want to appear more than occasionally in her role of Rebekah (she was subbed for most of the season by Maisie Richardson-Sellars).  Yet it’s difficult to retain emotional commitment to characters who are played by ever-changing actors, especially when some of those performers can’t convey the gravitas of the centuries-old figures who are supposedly inhabiting them.

That latter tendency even marred tonight’s season finale, written by Supervising Producer Christopher Hollier and Co-Executive Producer Diane Ademu-John, and directed by Matt Hastings.  In order to vanquish Dahlia, our antihero Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and his more genteel siblings Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah brought their mother Esther back from the dead, and she returned in her original body (Alice Evans), in which we’ve only occasionally seen her.  To make matters worse, at the climactic moment when Dahlia was being killed, the scene flashed to a fantasy landscape of the sisters as young women, with Evans still playing Esther, but Kristin Erickson as young Dahlia, giving us two actresses at the key point of the season whom we’d rarely seen before.  It robbed the moment of a lot of its impact, despite the mostly absorbing plotting that had gotten us there.

The Originals continues to be more grim and denser in its mythology than its parent The Vampire Diaries, and without strong characters to bounce against, the Mikaelsons can become tiresome.  Klaus is always snapping and booming his pseudo-Shakespearean rage and paranoia at someone, and Elijah can seem as though his crisp suits are wearing him instead of the other way around.  For all that, there are still very good things about the show.  Morgan, when he has a scene with some substance–the finale gave him a couple of doomed love moments with the otherwise still-underused Camille (Leah Pipes)–is a powerful presence.  Meg Foster was somewhat witchy even when she was a romantic lead, and it’s too bad the show saw fit to cut her throat after just a few episodes as the elder of a New Orleans coven.  Yusuf Gatewood, originally as another citizen possessed by a Mikaelson but more recently as a witch determined to be an ex-witch, has been a good addition.  (Making the Mikaelson clan even larger by adding Riley Voelkel as witch sister Freya hasn’t felt as essential, since if the show lacks for anything it’s certainly not super-powerful witches, although again she’s presumably around to plug the show’s Claire Holt-sized hole.)  Phoebe Tonkin, as the werewolf mother of Klaus’s miracle baby Hope, probably won’t be left for much of Season 3 in her present position of being a wolf (Klaus unleashed a curse as part of his sting operation on Dahlia, and because he’s Klaus; long story) for 29 days each month.

The Originals survived its move from Tuesdays, where it was sheltered with Supernatural, to a Monday perch where it’s ill-matched with Jane the Virgin, but its ratings have turned mediocre.  Assuming CW ever plans to cancel anything on its schedule as long as there’s a Netflix, it could be in some danger next season if it keeps declining.  Series creator Julie Plec will also be occupied with the new Cordon next season, as well as her remaining duties on Vampire Diaries, so the amount of time she’ll have for Originals is unclear.  There’s enough that works in the series to justify its continued run, but in the TV world, nothing is immortal.  The Originals could use some sharpening in Season 3, before the network can take out its white oak stake.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."