The Vampire Diaries season 4 episode 20 review: The Originals

This week's episode of The Vampire Diaries proves just what a good idea The Originals spin-off really is. Here's Caroline's review...

This review contains spoilers.

4.20 The Originals

We’ve all been nervously awaiting the appearance of this backdoor pilot episode for The Originals aka The Adventures of Klaus the Lonely Snowflake, and here it is. Taking a moment away from the tedious and troubling goings on back in Mystic Falls, we spend an hour in New Orleans with Klaus and Elijah (with Rebekah to join them soon), and it was pretty darn good. The Originals borrowed a few problems from its parent show but, by and large, this was a darker, more adult take on the world the exec producer Julie Plec and co. have already spent four years building.

I’m going to ignore the unnecessary bookends, which I thought took away some of the power of the self-contained episode at their centre, and it’s really nice to review an episode of The Vampire Diaries without dwelling on the various love triangles. The Originals won’t be trifling with such matters of the heart, for this is a show about family and the power that familial loyalty can offer you. We’re told that the original family built New Orleans many years ago but, with their father chasing them away at every turn, they had to leave soon after. In their absence, Klaus’ protégé, Marcel, took over as king of the castle.

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Klaus has returned because of the tip Katherine left for him last week, and he soon discovers that Hayley is also there. It seems that their drunken one night stand has led to an unexpected consequence – Hayley is pregnant with Klaus’ child. Well done show – I didn’t think you could remind me more of Angel, but you managed it anyway. This is the element of The Originals (which has been picked up for series by The CW) that will cause most controversy with the fans, but it’s the issue around which the rest of the thematic elements are built. Elijah wants to rebuild the Mikaelson family, and a new baby would allow them to do that.

The dynamic between the two brothers was the most exciting thing about this episode, and it reminded me of a time when The Vampire Diaries was also about the broken bond between Damon and Stefan. Elijah and Klaus are a little more ‘mature’, since they’ve had endless eons to work out their differences, but it also means that they are, as individuals, more damaged. Elijah’s sensible words do eventually break through Klaus’ stubbornness, and their quiet mission-statement conversations are a real treat for fans of these characters. It makes you realise what a good idea shoving them off to a separate show really was.

And that mission statement is a war between two rulers – Marcel and his former mentor. This is bigger and grander than anything being handled in Mystic Falls, where the worst thing they have to deal with is who’s dating who, and hopefully sets us up for exciting things to come. Marcel is a fabulous baddie, possibly even more devilish than Klaus, and allows Klaus to be the sympathetic hero despite all the things he’s previously done. I naively thought that they’d have to change him fundamentally for this to happen, but it turns out that good writing trumps all. His journey will be an emotional one, with the promise of a family at the end.

The Originals even looks and sounds ever-so-slightly different from its predecessor, with an environment ruled by vampires and under the thumb of one particularly nasty character. I doubt that the series will be filmed in New Orleans once it really gets underway, but we can all dream. It still fits on The CW, with lots of pretty young people with perfect makeup and white teeth, but everything feels more disordered and dangerous than the high-school setting of Mystic Falls, still governed by human rules.

My only worry is that taking such strong characters away from The Vampire Diaries will cause more damage than they thought. There are a lot of fans who are invested in the Caroline/Klaus relationship, for example, and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get a satisfying resolution to this now. The phone call at the end of the episode suggests that there will be story elements that carry over from show to show, but The Originals also has to stand on its own. If it is to work as well as Buffy and Angel did in their heyday, then both shows have to work without the other.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Pictures of You, here.

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