“The Originals” back door pilot

The Vampire Diaries SEason 4, Episode 20 (“The Originals”)
Joseph Morgan and Charles Michael Davis, The Vampire Diaries

After almost three seasons on The Vampire Diaries, the show is finally saying goodbye to the Originals as they move to New Orleans and begin their own show. In those three seasons Klaus has gone from villain to more of a sympathetic adversary (who also sometimes fought with the protagonists instead of against them when they had a common enemy). We have learned a lot about the three Original vampires in this time. Klaus is paranoid, lonely, and hungry for power and loyalty. Elijah, never a regular on the show, has at times been useful to them, but he will always put his family first. He has an interesting sense of morality and honor, he condemns Klaus for the evils he has done, but in many ways he hasn’t been much better. Rebekah has been controlled by her family drama and her promise to stick by them. But she has grown weary of her role and is ready to strike out on her own and have a real life. The three siblings have a 1000-year history that involves a lot of bloodshed and betrayal, but they always come back to each other, “always and forever”. This rich history that has been built on The Vampire Diaries makes for a good set up for a spin-off series. They have over stayed their welcome a bit on The Vampire Diaries, so it is time for them to move on. Having their own show allows them to dive into that history and further mine their characters and their relationships. In that sense I can 100% get on board with The Originals.

At the time of writing this I am actually in the middle of watching that show for the first time, I am somewhere in the middle of season 2 and am mostly enjoying it. The show had a rocky start but like The Vampire Diaries, eventually finds its footing and becomes more interesting. Klaus heads to New Orleans based on a tip from Katherine that there is a plot brewing against him by some witches in the French Quarter. This back door pilot sets up two of the most important, and most interesting, parts of The Originals. The first is that Klaus and Hayley’s one-night stand resulted in a pregnancy, Klaus’s werewolf bloodline allows him to still procreate which he somehow has not figured out in 1000 years. Maybe with his werewolf side dormant for most of that time he could not then, but now that he is a hybrid he can? It is best not to think too much about the mechanics of this plot, it is simply a way to get him to New Orleans and have a chance at redemption.

The other major aspect of The Originals that is set up in this episode is the relationship between Klaus and Marcel, a vampire Klaus sired and mentored over 100 years ago. As far as I am in the show, their relationship is probably the most interesting part of the show and this episode does a good job of setting that up without giving too much away. Back when New Orleans was a french settlement, Klaus and his siblings did a lot to build the city into what it is, though they are never really clear on what that means. Did the literally build buildings? They are certainly not responsible for the culture so I am never really sure what they mean by it but the important thing is that their family has a long history with the city. Elijah says it is one of the only times they lived together and were happy. In Klaus’s absence, Marcel has gained power and a group of loyal vampires, in a way that Klaus has never been able to achieve. He wants to take that power from Marcel. They don’t reveal too much about their past in this episode, but it is clear that Marcel and Klaus were very close in the past, though something happened to change that. Marcel is happy to let Klaus join him in New Orleans, but he wants it to be clear who has the power.

Another aspect of The Originals that this episode sets up is the power dynamics for the supernatural community in New Orleans. It is very different from Mystic Falls which is mostly a place for vampires and the Bennett witches, and one werewolf (who is without a pack). In The Originals, the three supernatural factions are constantly at war, fighting for power in the city, specifically the Quarter. Marcel has driven the werewolves into the bayou and he controls the witches, not allowing them to do magic in the Quarter (somehow he knows when they do). This power structure doesn’t always last on The Originals but the fight for power is what drives a lot of the plot on the show.

The writers are clearly interested in Klaus’s redemption, but there was no way to do it on The Vampire Diaries. It is already busy with redeeming the Salvatores and has a decently large cast without the Originals. This is clearly going to be an overarching theme in The Originals, and it is Elijah’s primary motivation for moving to New Orleans with Klaus. Elijah believes that the baby can bring their family back together and remind Klaus of what is really important. Family and love are more powerful than fear. Klaus is still only interested in taking Marcel’s power and building his kingdom in New Orleans, a legacy he can perhaps pass onto his baby. Elijah is always a great presence on The Vampire Diaries so I was excited to see him on his own show, though was afraid that his awesomeness was because he was only there sometimes. So far I am glad to say those fears were unnecessary, he is a very complex character that was not able to be explored in The Vampire Diaries. The Originals allows for his and Klaus’s relationship to be explored beyond being a parallel for Stefan and Damon. Watching this spin-off episode already made me want to start reviewing The Originals, but I will not have the time until I finish The Vampire Diaries.

Episode Grade: A-

Other Thoughts:

  • Having seen this episode and the actual pilot, this is so much better than the other pilot. Because this one was built into the regular run of The Vampire Diaries, they didn’t have to explain the history that we already know about the Originals. On the actual pilot they had to make it so that someone who hadn’t seen TVD could watch it and it is a mess. It basically slices in some of the footage with this episode with a lot of exposition that is painful if you have watched TVD and is probably too brief for those who haven’t. I gave the backdoor pilot an A- because I really think it does a great job of intriguing the viewer to the spin-off and sets up all of the best parts of that show. But I would probably give the actual pilot a C-.
  • I lived in Louisiana (though never New Orleans) for a good chunk of my life and New Orleans is close to my heart so I was very excited to see all of the Louisiana imagery. They start with a Dr. John song which made me very happy.
  • Elijah initially doesn’t know what to do about Klaus and the witches in New Orleans “I’ll either stop them, or I’ll help them… depending on my mood”
  • Marcel: “Niklaus Mikaelson. My mentor, my savior, my sire” – it is noteworthy that Marcel calls him “Niklaus” the only other people we have seen do that are his family.
  • In this episode Marcel was a bit over the top, but he reigns it in a bit on the actual show.
  • Elijah: “I’m Elijah, you’ve heard of me.” after killing the two vampires after Sophie. He knows how to make an entrance.
  • Elijah: “Family is power”
  • Rebekah to Katherine: “I know you consider yourself an expert in brotherly dynamics” shading her for her interest in both the Original brothers and the Salvatores.
  • They also set up the character of Cami, a bartender/psych major that befriends Klaus and Marcel. Even in season 2, I am still not sure what he role on the show is – she is the only real human and I guess moral guide but she just doesn’t work for me.
  • Rebekah doesn’t join them in NOLA in this episode but we know she is going to get sucked in.
  • Body Count: 3, Marcel kills Jane-Anne Devereaux and Elijah kills the two vampires that were after Sophie Devereaux. In general, The Originals is a much bloodier show than The Vampire Diaries.

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