May 14, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “The Originals”


The first season of THE ORIGINALS has been entertaining, if a bit more sprawling than it needed to be.  A good season finale makes up for a lot, and tonight’s climactic hour, written by Co-Executive Producer Diane Ademu-John and directed by Matt Hastings, did a very satisfying job of resolving the season’s major storyline while providing plenty of material for Season 2.

The biggest adjustment The Originals might want to consider for next year is some streamlining.  It wasn’t just that the show’s vision of New Orleans featured vampires, werewolves, witches and humans all at war with one another (not to mention vampire/werewolf hybrids), but that each of those factions were divided–sometimes multiple times–among themselves, with all the subfactions constantly doublecrossing each other and making (and then breaking) allegiences both within and across species lines.  The witches alone had seemingly endless conflicting agendas, casting spells on their own behalf and for just every other group at one time or another.  And that’s not even to get into the various grudges characters had against each other for reasons that sometimes went back centuries.  The writers managed to keep things reasonably clear, for the most part, but there was little chance to build a bond with any of the characters, since someone who seemed sympathetic one week would as likely as not turn villainous a week later, and after a while one tended to observe the in-fighting dispassionately more than being engaged by it.

The Originals stems, of course, from The Vampire Diaries, and its main protagonists hybrid Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan), his vampire half-brother Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), who spent the season carrying Klaus’s baby, originated on that show, but the tone of Originals is rather different.  Vampire Diaries is ultimately a romance, both gothic and rom-com (not infrequently both at once), while Originals is a family saga, and it’s a family that usually likes each other even less than the Salvatore brothers do–when Klaus and Elijah aren’t vowing to kill each other, father Mikael (Sebastian Roche) and the occasional other sibling is usually plotting to wipe out the rest of the clan.  There’s also less of the sardonic humor that Vampire Diaries usually supplies, since Klaus and Elijah are a notably moody pair.  It was a loss for the show that for whatever reason (all sides claim that the parting couldn’t have been more mutual), Claire Holt as sister Rebekah left midway through the season, because her character was the most human (and funniest) of the Mikaelsons, and her star-crossed love story with Klaus’s protege and rival Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) was the warmest part of The Originals.  Even though there are other major woman characters, like human Camille (Leah Pipes) and teen witch Davina (Danielle Campbell), Rebekah was also very much the show’s leading lady.

Rebekah did make an appearance at the end of the Originals finale, as the vampire equivalent of a deus ex machina who could take care of Klaus’s and Hayley’s daughter (named Hope) far from New Orleans, where just everyone craved her baby hybrid blood to further one scheme or another.  It was a nice touch, and certainly keeps the door open for further visits in the future, but her absence still leaves a hole in the series.  The rest of the finale was the lead-up to that moment, as Hayley gave birth only to be murdered by the witches (lucky for her that her baby’s magic hybrid blood in her system merely turned her vampiric and thus only temporarily dead, so she’s now a hybrid too), Marcel helped Klaus kill the witches who were about to sacrifice Hope (with the help of a particularly nifty throwing star that literally delivered the death of a thousand cuts), and then Hope’s death was faked so that the various supernatural entities of New Orleans wouldn’t go after her.  Putting pieces into place for next season, super-witch Davina brought back Mikael from the dead and decided to keep him prisoner until she was ready to make use of him against Klaus, while Mikaelson mommy Esther, who cast the spell that created Klaus as a vampire in the first place, and who’s already ordered Hope’s death, brought the season to an end by returning from the grave herself.

It was all rather non-stop, and director Hastings made good use of the show’s limited budget in visualizing it.  As The Originals prepares for what should be an extended CW run, it could use some of the down-to-earth quality that Klaus had on The Vampire Diaries when he was courting Caroline (for that matter, it could use a character like Caroline), and it’s not quite as polished or as much fun as Diaries was in its first season.  (The fact that series creator Julie Plec was stretched across Diaries, Originals and The Tomorrow People this season may not have helped.)  Nevertheless, Originals is one of the class entries on CW, and a superior member of TV’s ever-growing supernatural realm.

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."