'The Originals' Review: 'House Of The Rising Sun'
The only important question for The Originals is: how do the writers make the originals sympathetic and relatable protagonists? The originals were the villains of The Vampire Diaries for far too long. Klaus tortured characters, maimed them, terrorized them, controlled them. His siblings fell into protecting Klaus, regardless of his actions. Through two and a half seasons of the originals on TVD, viewers learned about the tragic history of the family: Klaus-as-outcast, centuries of betrayal, a murderous father hell-bent on; a family as dysfunctional as the Jacksons. Klaus stands out as a villain because he's unapologetically evil. Julie Plec and her writers may go for an anti-hero angle for the series, since anti-heroes are writer's choice to lead a story. Klaus is not an anti-hero. He revels in chaos. His goal isn't noble, it's selfish, but yet he's written in "House of the Rising Sun" as reluctant and sort of noble, a 'bad guy' who will be forgiven because of a plan and a smirk. I don't think I'm along for that ride.
The Originals is not very good through two episodes. It's not very good for a few reasons. The history of the characters is hurting the series. Exposition filled scenes stall progress and momentum in an episode. Spinoffs shouldn't re-tell stories from its parent show. ANGEL didn't re-tell the "Becoming" story in the first two episodes. Rebekah's arrival in New Orleans results in a story I've seen a few times on TVD. Of course, The Originals needs to be accessible for viewers new to the world. New viewers haven't seen Rebekah get screwed over by her brother twenty times on The Vampire Diaries. It's necessary to tell another story about Rebekah/Klaus for her first centric episode in the series. She's important to Klaus and for Klaus.
"House of the Rising Sun" doesn't advance the plot much. The episode repeats a lot of information from last week's re-done pilot, includes more Klaus and less Elijah, and introduces Rebekah into the world. Klaus and Marcel briefly play a battle of wits (not really) or a mental chess game, if you will, in the cafe scene. Marcel runs New Orleans, but the specifics of how he got complete power linger as a mystery. Klaus wants to learn Marcel's secret. Marcel doesn't trust Klaus (because why would anyone trust Klaus). Klaus does learn about Marcel's secret weapon, but it's secondary to contextualizing the Klaus-Rebekah-Marcel relationship. Marcel was freed from slavery by Klaus and then he fell in love with Rebekah. Klaus didn't like the idea of Marcel and Rebekah together, so he daggered her. I don't think Rebekah's past with Marcel adds to the story. Their past connection is a crutch, a lazy device that serves no purpose for the character. What's so special about their romance? They fenced and made eyes. Forbidden love usually works, though, so have at it, writers.
Klaus had better plans on The Vampire Diaries than his grand plan to pull a Henry Bolingbroke on Marcel's Richard II (the comparison isn't perfect since Bolingbroke's usurpation of Richard II was 'accidental'). Basically, Klaus' bad behavior is explained away by his grand plan to win back New Orleans, which is to compel two or three characters to tell him what he needs to know. Rebekah points out he betrayed his brother for the plan, but Klaus is a delusional characters, and his delusions justify his choices in his mind. Elijah's daggering is necessary to accomplish the plan Elijah hatched. New Orleans gets taken back, and Hayley remains safe and pregnant. The scene in which Klaus reveals his plan seems designed as a moment for the audience to cheer if watching together in a multiplex. Klaus' other short-comings, which include an incestuous entanglement with his sister and serious daddy issues, make up his complexity. He's flawed, capable of mass destruction, but he's not a monster, for he retains aspects of his humanity he lost millennia ago. Klaus doesn't want to change, though. Reluctance is an essential part of a story because it leads to change anyway.
Of course, the originals can't be killed. Marcel ordered his secret weapon to figure out a way to kill the originals, but there's no incentive for the characters to change. Change from without is less interesting than change from within. Rebekah breaks through to Klaus after Klaus tries to kill Hayley for trying to kill his baby. Klaus realizes he cares. A caring Klaus is a conflicted Klaus--that's the key for the character. The character seems destined for heroic transformation, but his resistance to it should carry a few more episodes. Klaus committing atrocities for a significant stretch of episodes, with just a beat or two of redemptiveness, gets wearisome to watch.
I didn't like "House of the Rising Sun." The Vampire Diaries usually induces a feeling in me, but The Originals induced nothing. Maybe I've become numb to Klaus' antics. I'm looking forward to The Originals breaking out of the trappings of back-story but that may not happen. So much of the characters arc is focused on history. The characters are defined by history and are trying to escape it. I'd quote Stephen from James Joyce's Ulysses here, but putting Joyce and The Originals in the same sentence will send me into clinical depression. Simply, I don't think The Originals is a finished product. The writers probably got a better idea of the series after finishing the break for "House of the Rising Sun." Yeah, I mean, the series needs work.