The Vampire Diaries Review: “The Originals” (Season 4, Episode 20)

The Vampire Diaries

There’s something extremely problematic about an episode of The Vampire Diaries that’s pegged as the pilot to a spin-off series being the most entertaining episode of the current season. Although there was a smattering of scenes that tied The Originals to the current plot line, there was a clear cut separation between the two entities. Arguably there has been a downward trend in interest level since mid-season, and the change in scenery and cast – for the most part – served as a solution to several problems at once.

One of the growing problems on The Vampire Diaries is where to take the character of Klaus (Joseph Morgan). This is a character that has substantial potential and has in many ways been stunted by his claustrophobic role in the Mystic Falls vampire hierarchy. He cannot become an inherently good guy because it would clash with the vampires already cast in that golden light. At the same time, his evil façade has clearly began to diminish and fans are demanding something altogether different. Viewers like Klaus, and they want him to deserve it.

On top of that, the hunt for the cure that the entire cast of The Vampire Diaries has been wrapped up in has quickly lost steam and now with it firmly in the hand of Silas, no longer pertains to the Mikaelsons. The necessity for members of the Original family to remain in Mystic Falls is beginning to hinder the plot more than support it. Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stephen (Paul Wesley) are gearing up to throw all of their attention toward saving Elena (Nina Dobrev) from herself – a task that neither requires or warrants any intervention from Klaus, Elijah (Daniel Gillies), or Rebekah (Claire Holt).

The obvious dilemma is effectively pushing out this element of the story – The Originals – that has taken up considerable importance over the past few seasons, and replacing it with something equally compelling. Additionally, how do you do that without losing something that you’ve spent so many episodes and seasons nurturing? The most obvious solution is a spin-off. The CW has already reportedly picked up The Originals as part of their fall line-up and after the performances offered in this episode, it’s not a surprise.

This episode was beautifully shot – New Orleans provides an equally organic and dramatic backdrop for the narrative – and written. There was continuity maintained between the two shows, all while posing a whole handful of new and dramatic, open-ended problems that a series order could definitely begin to fulfill. It also showcased the characters who will likely become season one heavyweights: Klaus’s vampire protégé Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), influential witch Sophie (Daniella Pineda), and brave human Camille (Leah Pipes). If you took out the scenes taking place in Mystic Falls, it’s not hard to imagine that with a few re-writes, this could have been a completely legitimate pilot. As it stands, it was still an extremely compelling effort.

However, the single most frustrating casting choice on The Vampire Diaries, is the already the most aggravating thing about the new show.  I was hoping that the change in scenery would bring with it a new chance to appreciate Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), but it has only served to bring about the same lackluster performance we have come to expect. Even more so, now that her role on the new show has become exceedingly clear, it is even more disheartening that she will be taking on a leading role in the new endeavor.

When the notion of Klaus fathering a child with Hayley during their liquor-induced one night stand was first revealed in this episode, I cringed. The past four seasons explicitly differentiated The Vampire Diaries from its genre-mate, Twilight, and for good reason. In fact, one of the first things that writers did in season one was include a scene in episode 104 specifically addressing the issue.

Caroline: “How come you don’t sparkle?”
Damon: “Because I live in the real world, where vampires burn in the sun.”

Here we are four seasons later, on the verge of a spin-off, and we have finally come full circle. It may not be the vampire-human child of The Twilight Saga, but a hybrid-werewolf offspring isn’t exactly the birth of originality either.

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