December 4, 2013

THE SKED Fall Finale Review: “The Originals”


THE ORIGINALS and its creator/showrunner Julie Plec have been fearless about plunging viewers of the New Orleans-set supernatural soap into a veritable bayou of mythology.  We’re half a season in, and already swamped by vampires, werewolves, vampire/werewolf hybrids, an impossible unborn hybrid baby, a teen super-witch, an assortment of garden-variety witches, and the occasional hapless human, all of them surmounted by the titanically dysfunctional (and titular) Mikaelson family, a trio of millennium-old vampiric siblings–Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah (Claire Holt)–who scheme against each other murderously while longing for one another’s loyalty and love.  Despite some lurches here and there, it’s all gone very well so far, not least for CW, for which it’s been an instant hit on the order of its maker The Vampire Diaries, from whom the Mikaelsons are spun off.

Tonight’s fall finale, written by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, and directed by Joshua Butler, while leaving its protagonists in a rare moment of relative stability, provided plenty of potential trouble for the back half of the season.  Marcel (Charles Marcel Davis), once Klaus’s protege, then his rival, and now once again his second-in-command (for the moment) after Klaus defeated his attempted ambush by slaughtering his soldiers, professes to have given up on his longing for Rebekah, but it’s only a matter of time until that romance is back again, fueled by Rebekah’s desire for vengeance against her brother.  Meanwhile, while Elijah is the brother who most wants family reconciliation and a peaceful life, he’s nursing his own barely-hidden feelings for the werewolf mother of Klaus’s hybrid baby, Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin).  Teen witch Davina (Danielle Campbell) now knows that she’s no longer being hunted by the other witches to fulfill her part in a deadly coven ceremony, so she’s about to become unleashed, and there’s some connection between a group of nearby werewolves and Klaus’s biological father (his witch mother’s adultery a thousand years ago helped give rise to all the ensuing troubles for the family and the world at large).  Even the part of the story that’s been weakest so far, the mortal woman Camille (Leah Pipes) whom Klaus has kept around him with one awkward contrivance or another since the pilot (recently she’s been transcribing his memoirs, compelled after each session to forget whatever she sees or hears–even a Memento-type notetaking ruse didn’t work for long), may become more interesting, now that Davina has fully restored her memory.

The Originals got off to something of a lurching start, with alternate versions of a pilot that was recut instead of reshot, apparently to save on costs, but it’s quickly found its way.  The show isn’t quite as much of a hoot as The Vampire Diaries at its best–the tone of Originals is more gothic, and since virtually every character is already supernatural, there’s much less interaction between creatures and humans (and as noted, the one major human character has so far been the least well-drawn).  I particularly miss the side of Rebekah that on Vampires once wanted to be a normal high school girl.  Sometimes, too, the ancient curses and arcane rules of the characters’s powers pile up so high that just following it all can feel like work.  (I’m still not absolutely sure about everything the witches have been doing, and recently they seem to have been pushed into the background of the overall story.)  It’s also hard to get hooked on the show’s romances, since they seem to be wrenched apart almost as soon as they’re established (Rebekah and Marcel have had about 15 happy minutes together this season.)  Still, the show has a fiery pace, and an assortment of charismatic, smart anti-heroes to carry it through its tangled plotting.  Morgan has perfected the curled-lip expression of reluctant generosity; he could be an indolent Roman emperor in his court, and the principled but practical bloodsucker Elijah is a unique creation in the wide vampire universe.  Visually, the series, which is shot in Georgia, will never be mistaken for Treme, but it does a decent job of suggesting The Big Easy on a small budget.

After four thriving years of Vampire Diaries, it’s clear that Julie Plec isn’t going to run short on storylines anytime soon, and The Originals should sustain its success just as well.  A reign of a vampiric thousand years is probably overambitious, but the series has plenty of its own undead life to live.



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."