By Kelly Etz, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 9, 2013
As a spinoff that already aired a back-door pilot in April, CW’s racy new series “The Originals” found itself in a tight spot when it had to release yet another premiere of sorts last Thursday.
Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
More like this
Fans of “The Vampire Diaries” already have copious background on the original vampire family; we’ve seen their whole sordid story in repeated flashbacks since “TVD” season two. In the new premiere, “The Originals” had to work around this previous knowledge while providing enough token exposition for newcomers to gain a shaky foothold.
To get around this, the series essentially recycles the previously aired pilot, but reworks the unfolding events through Elijah’s (Daniel Gillies) point of view. While it’s not oh-shit-what-is-going-on exciting like a top-of-its-game episode of “TVD,” the premiere manages to get all of its ducks in a row with a satisfying amount of shifty looks and secret meetings to heighten suspense. As if we haven’t been waiting on the edge of our seats for months now.
Elijah, while a supremely boring character in “TVD,” makes an excellent narrator here. We find out even more twisty details about his rocky relationship with Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and see him get a little too up-close-and-personal with Klaus’s baby mama Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin). Turns out starchy, proper Elijah is human (well … you know what I mean) after all. Props to “The Originals” for handling the whole hybrid baby thing without delving into “Twilight” territory — though the super prolonged pause to hear the heartbeat was toeing the line.
While “TVD” isn’t completely forgotten — there’s a shoutout or two to Mystic Falls — it’s clear the series wants to stand on its own. With a wealth of stake-happy family drama and a darker, sultrier mood, “The Originals” has all the right elements of a juicy CW drama. The premiere is far superior to the premiere of “TVD” — there’s no fog, ravens or awkward actor fumbling. Instead, the actors are comfortably settled into their characters already; the heavy lifting is already done. Even Rebekah (Claire Holt) who spends the entire episode in either the bath or a robe (where is she, exactly?), seems completely in character. After all that drama with the cure, she deserves some down time.
The best part of the premiere is unquestionably Marcel (Charles Michael Davis, “Grey’s Anatomy”), one of the only new characters specific to “The Originals.” The self-proclaimed King of the Quarter enlivens every scene he deigns to appear in, looking gorgeously at place in the rich, smoky setting of New Orleans. Klaus’s old mentee dominates the supernatural around him, preventing the witches from practicing and killing anyone who gets in his way. It’s refreshing to see Klaus pitted against essentially himself; he enjoyed the upper hand for too long in Mystic Falls. If “The Originals” wants to stay relevant, it should put its efforts behind Marcel — he’s the clear oomph factor behind the new series.
Even though essentially nothing happens plot-wise in the premiere, the last two minutes set up enough intrigue to make the next episode (returning to its regular time slot on Tuesday nights) explosive. Marcel has a secret weapon, Klaus is loveless as usual and Elijah is staked — again.
Even if you’re not a fan of “TVD,” “The Originals” is worth the watch. It’s new, it’s fresh and it’s full of gorgeous people — seriously where does the CW find them all? As yet another show about vampires, werewolves and witches (oh my!), “The Originals” isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel here, but why should that be a bad thing? Reworking an established formula is part of the fun. It's nice to know there’ll be a lot of blood-ringed mouths, slightly sadistic threats and bare abs. Bring it.