This review contains spoilers.
1.2 House of the Rising Son
Spin-offs are really tricky. Even if you manage to assemble a character or group of characters complex and popular enough to spawn their own series, it means nothing if the writing can’t figure out how to translate them from supporting roles to the main event. I don’t think The Originals belongs in the same camp as other failed spin-offs just yet, but the difficulties of the process were nonetheless very apparent in this second episode. Until the show stands alone, we have no choice but to talk about it in relation to The Vampire Diaries, and the frantic attempt to construct a hit series out of these characters can be seen all over the second episode.
It is, essentially, the third part of a three hour pilot episode, the first focusing on Klaus, the second on Elijah and the third on Rebekah. It’s a good idea, since each of the siblings has enough story to fill an entire season alone, but those little annoyances we tolerate in a pilot aren’t quite so forgivable once the show gets going. We laugh about how complicated the supernatural rules of The Vampire Diaries have gotten over the years, for example, and The Originals has the unenviable task of explaining those rules away in sidebars and offhand sentences. They’ve also apparently forgotten the already established method of killing an Original – the white oak stake.
Needless to say, this inevitably comes across as clunky exposition that, while necessary, takes time away from the story. Rebekah comes off the worst, as what it took us two seasons to find out about her love life, personality and relationship with her brothers has to be boiled down to one or two monologues and we end up getting lines like “what has my evil brother done to my good brother?” No nuance or quirk is left for the auience to work out on their own – it all has to be spelled out. Rebekah is so popular because there’s more to her than either Klaus or Elijah, and I fear that a lot of this has been lost for new viewers.
That said, without the heavyhandedness, there’s still a lot to love. The fact that we get so much Rebekah is something to appreciate in itself and, while I missed Elijah, she and Klaus needed some time alone to shout hateful things at each other without interruption. We learn through flashback that Rebekah and Marcel were almost lovers before Klaus daggered his sister and offered his protege a choice. Having rescued Marcel from slavery and raised him ‘like a son’, he finally offered him the chance to become a vampire in exchange for giving Rebekah up. He chose to let her rot in her coffin for fifty-two years, as is Rebekah’s luck.
So our antagonist has history with at least two of the Mikaelsons (Elijah was largely missing from flashbacks too), and the relationship between Marcel and Klaus just became a little more interesting. Raising a human child would have taken some dedication on Klaus’ part, and stability isn’t something he’s currently known for. We understand the inner conflict here, and seeing whatever unfolds in this supernatural turf war is definitely something worth sticking around for. Now that we have a uber-witch in the mix, and Elijah’s daggered body is in the custody of Marcel, there’s also more at stake.
There are still a lot of things to fix before this show reaches its full potential. While Hayley is growing on me every week, I still don’t know why Cami and Sophie are here. Then there’s the issue with the daggers, which may admittedly have been resolved at the end of the episode, as this is something that already grew tedious on The Vampire Diaries. I realise that Daniel Gillies has another show to film, but we signed up for a series about all three of the originals, and always having one of them out of commission isn’t okay.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Always and Forever, here.
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