October 9, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “The Originals”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on THE ORIGINALS:  The Mikaelsons have come (back) to New Orleans.  The literally original vampire family (their witch mother cast the spell that created vampirism), brothers Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and Elijah (Daniel Gillies), and sister Rebekah (Claire Holt), beloved of Vampire Diaries fans even–perhaps especially–when they’re trying to slaughter our heroes, find plenty of deadly plot in their gumbo.  Even though vampires can’t have children, the werewolf/vampire hybrid Klaus is the exception to that rule, and werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) is pregnant with his baby.  Elijah, ever the idealist, sees the miracle birth as an opportunity for Klaus to rediscover his humanity–right up until Klaus daggers him into suspended animation.  And New Orleans itself is a dangerous town, ruled by Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), who’s killed all the local werewolves, has the witches on lockdown, and personally controls all the vampires.  He and Klaus have the kind of relationship where they profess eternal affection even while each is trying to figure out how to get rid of the other permanently.

Episode 2:  Like both versions of the Originals pilot, the one that aired as a backdoor episode of Vampire Diaries last spring and the re-edited cut that was last week’s “premiere event,” the show’s first original hour was loaded with exposition.  Much of it was the origin story of Marcel, who we learn was Klaus’s human protege in the mid-19th century, but who infuriated Klaus by falling for Rebekah.  (He’s the one who got away for her, too, a fact sure to complicate future storylines.)  Not that theirs was a storybook love:  given the choice between living as a human with Rebekah and giving her up for eternal life, he chose the fangs.  Klaus handed over the daggered Elijah to Marcel in a misguided attempt to lull him into a false sense of security, but what Klaus didn’t know was that Marcel has a super-powerful witch named Davina (Danielle Campbell) working with him, one who can wipe out even an original vampire’s memory and throw her around like a doll–and who might be able to figure out the impossible task of killing an Original.

Also of interest to those who saw the Spring version of the pilot is that bartender/psych student Camille (Leah Pipes), little more than a walk-on in the “premiere” cut, is an important character after all, the current object of Marcel’s obsession and probably having powers we (and she) don’t know about yet.  Hayley considered aborting her hybrid baby, but since even werewolves can’t have abortions on network TV, she decided not to take the wolfsbane she’d purchased.  By the end of the hour, written by Co-Executive Producer Diane Ademu-John and Declan de Barra, and directed by Brad Turner, Klaus and Rebekah were, as is so often the case, uneasy allies, this time united to get Elijah back from Marcel and his mega-witch

With so much history to lay out and plot pieces to set in place, The Originals is, so far, somewhat less fun than its maker Vampire Diaries, with barely enough room for the Mikaelsons to snipe at each other.  That’s understandable as the show gets on its feet, but hopefully now that the basic situation has been made clear, the series will be able to relax a bit and develop its characters.  Originals turns on family ties rather than romance, so its feel will never be quite the same as Diaries, and it’s unlikely that Klaus and Elijah will ever replace Stefan and Damon as squabbling supernatural brothers in viewers’ hearts, which means that other ways will have to be found for it to click emotionally.  Klaus badly needs a character here to humanize him the way Caroline did on Diaries, and Rebekah, too, is at her best when she has inferior beings to play off.

Series creator Julie Plec has shown superb ability to jolt and tickle audiences while making her characters more interesting than you’d expect, so Originals definitely merits some time to get its footing.  Even now, the Mikaelsons are good company, and that creepy little witch Davina is already at least as intimidating as Marcel.  The series is shot in Georgia (as is Diaries), so there won’t be a ton of genuine New Orleans atmosphere–which may be to the good, since by now it’s tough to shoot anything there (other than Treme) that isn’t a visual cliche.  The Originals may not live up to its title, but it still has plenty of potential.

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."