Fall 2013 Review: The Originals

6 Dec

The Originals

I started watching every new TV show three seasons ago, but there remain a handful of network shows still on the air that started earlier which I have never seen, shamefully. The Vampire Diaries, of which The Originals is a spin off is one of them. I know nothing about The Vampire Diaries except that two brothers fight over the same girl and I think maybe they’re both vampires but I’m not even sure of that much and one of them is Boone from Lost. Moving on.

The titular Originals are the original vampires, created by a witch in the middle ages to save her children from werewolves. Yes, witches and werewolves also exist in this show and are both older than vampires, for what that’s worth. The Originals include at the least Elijah, his sister Rebekah, and his half-brother, Klaus, who is half-werewolf and half-vampire. They’re all extremely powerful and possibly immortal.

Elijah and Rebekah are apparently level-headed as far as ancient vampires go, but Klaus is a notorious psycho. Still, Elijah, unlike Rebekah, feels a familial responsibility towards Klaus, and when Klaus gets into trouble in New Orleans, Elijah feels like he has to go track him down and at least try to help.

Elijah arrives in a city of New Orleans at supernatural war. A vampire named Marcel, a former protégé of Klaus, rules the city with an iron fist, oppressing witches left and right. The witches are desperate so they capture a werewolf named Hayley who is pregnant with Klaus’s baby after an ill-advised one-night stand. The witches use her to try to get the uber-powerful Originals on their side to take out Marcel. The gambit works well enough as Elijah believes the baby might make Klaus more responsible and less sadistic, and while Klaus doesn’t necessarily feel that way he at least doesn’t like the idea of his protégé Marcel being higher on the pecking order than he is.

The big ending, and within first episode SPOILER is that Klaus stabs Eljiah at the end of the episode, either killing or injuring him seemingly severely, saying thanks, but no thanks, you’ve convinced me to take down Marcel, but it’s for me to do and not you. It would have been super ballsy if they actually killed off who seemed to be the main character from the pilot, but some IMDB work (spoiler, I’m not planning on continuing to watch, so I didn’t feel bad about checking) assured me Eljiah remains on the show, so I guess the whole immortal thing was no lie.

Vampires are seemingly everywhere in culture today so it’s honestly impossible to watch a show about vampires without comparisons to other prominent vampire shows on TV flashing through my mind, which, since I haven’t seen The Vampire Diaries, are True Blood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. True Blood in particular is similarly set in Louisiana, which makes a classic home for vampires because it has a much older feel than most of America and because if its omnipresent tinge of vice.

The Originals is lacking in either of the qualities that made either of those vampire shows successful. It has neither True Blood’s sleazy sense of trashy fun (before that show went insane around the fourth season) or Buffy’s ability to mesh the supernatural action adventures with the realities of being a teenager. Hayley, the pregnant werewolf, is the best attempt at Buffy-ness, matching supernatural talk with a sense of humor and modern slang, while every other character is super serious, perhaps understandably so since people are dying around them, but it deadens the show a bit.

I’m not sure if The Vampire Diaries fans, coming into this pilot with more information, would have a different outlook, but I was unimpressed. I have to add this as a caveat for many shows, but it’s important to say; The Originals wasn’t awful. The Originals was watchable enough and although I didn’t really care about the major battle brewing between the vampires and the wtiches ( I mean Marcel was obviously the villain and was easily hateable within his two minutes of screen time, so there’s that), I didn’t cringe or take tons of breaks to get through the show as I have with the worst shows every year.

The plot, battles between vampires, werewolves, and witches, and whatnot is started to get tired. This is not necessarily The Vampire Diaries’ fault, but you have more leeway with an original idea than you do when you’re the fourth or fifth show with a similar idea in a decade. It’s possible to transcend a tired premise, as Broadchurch did with a premise I thought The Killing had poisoned for at least a few more years, but it’s more difficult and The Vampire Diaries doesn’t do it.

I think, and I could be wrong, that Klaus, who seems like an obvious villain, is being flipped to be the protagonist in this show and that’s supposed to be intriguing because of the juxtaposition; this obvious psycho is ostensibly being the good guy, helping the witches, protecting his unborn child, and defeating his protégé. If I’m going to spend this much time with this psychotic character I’d hope that he’d be, if not easy to root for, at least charismatic, drawing me, but he isn’t, and he doesn’t. The show just falls flat overall. The plot seems kind of generic and boring and for better or worse True Blood has soured me on immediate interest in vampire mythology. Hayley, in her little screen time, was the character I enjoyed the most for the Buffy-esque qualities of humor and modernity and a greater dose of that would help this show that frequently feels like it’s taking itself too seriously.

Will I watch it again? No. The show was tolerable but not good.

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