The long-awaited Vampire Diaries spinoff, titled The Originals (named in honor of the Original family of vampires), made it’s debut Thursday night. From the first scene, my immediate impression – similar, I’m sure, to those with knowledge of vampire pop culture – was an immediate reminder of Anne Rice’s vampires, who happened to start have their own story set in the same city around the same period.
Whether or not that was the intention, this certainly alerted viewers that this was not to be confused with The Originals’ teen drama sister-show The Vampire Diaries. The Originals has been hyped up as a more mature, adult version of Vampire Diaries, and they wasted no time in making good on that promise. Though the show differs in tone, the show unfortunately shares The Vampire Diaries’ dark look. (Don’t let these screencaps fool you: every scene could use a bit more lighting, just for the sake of viewers’ eyes.)
The episode was well-paced. The goal of a pilot episode is to present a compelling story that brings viewers up to speed on the tone of the show and adequately introduces the central characters in the story – in addition to giving viewers a feel for the relationships and personalities of these new characters. A common method of accomplishing this in one episode is to have characters’ internal dialogues through voice-overs. In this case, hearing Elijah narrate the story, viewers really got to better understand the elder, classier Original sibling.
Showing his strong propensity for morality and doing the right thing, particularly when it comes to family, he refuses to give up on his little half-brother or his unborn child – even though Klaus clearly establishes himself as being reluctant to accept any assistance or interference from anyone, regardless of familial relations. The two brothers have several scenes together, each one highly charged with anger, guilt, and a familiarity that can only come from two people having known each other so well for so long.
As I know several of the characters, being a Vampire Diaries fan, I can’t really comment on how well the writers did introducing the Original family along with all the new characters. As far as I am concerned, the episode seems to have done a good job introducing them without overwhelming new viewers. I don’t believe new viewers would have a difficult time keeping up and, even more importantly, I think even first-time viewers can easily understand the siblings’ relationships with each other.
Easily the most compelling new character is Marcel, the undisputed ruler of New Orleans’ supernatural world. Charles Michael Davis really shines in this role, and easily stands out with his commanding presence – which is essential when you are expecting viewers to buy that one lone person is able to hold such a complex and well-known supernatural city without contest.
There was some struggle in the episode with establishing any strong female characters. With it being a show about the Original family, it is expected that Rebekah should take on that role, but her character was on the backburner for this first episode. Another contender seems to be the witch Sophie, but some of her lines felt forced, as though actress Daniella Pineda didn’t yet quite have a good grasp of her character.
Making New Orleans the setting of this supernatural drama makes sense, though it arguably adds to the pressure to make this show a success. As New Orleans is synonymous with both supernatural occurrences and parties that cater to the 21+ crowd, it shouldn’t be a surprise that viewers will expect the writers and director to properly showcase that element. With this episode, the background is classically New Orleans, but it will be interesting to see if they will give viewers a glimpse into the New Orleans life that isn’t as touristy.
While we are on the subject of classic New Orleans, in an interesting choice – or possibly simply an oversight – not a single one of the New Orleans residents so far have had a New Orleans, or even remotely southern, accent. Whether accidental or intentional, it does detract from the New Orleans authenticity. However, considering the disaster that is the True Blood actors’ attempts at Louisianian accents [in addition to the variety of accents already at play, both on screen and behind the scenes], I am going to consider it a plus.
Overall, the episode was compelling, emotional, and shocking enough to keep the attention of the CW’s target demographic. Only time will tell if this show will manage to live up to the fame of The Vampire Diaries, but I think it’s safe to say The Originals is certainly off to a good start.
Network: The CW
Genre: Supernatural Drama
Starring: Danielle Campbell, Charles Michael Davis, Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt, Joseph Morgan, Daniella Pineda, Leah Pipes, Phoebe Tonkin
Directed by: Chris Grismer
Written by: Julie Plec and Michael Narducci