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The Originals, Ep. 1.01, “Always and Forever”: Solid pilot, despite storytelling obstacles

The Originals, Ep. 1.01, “Always and Forever”: Solid pilot, despite storytelling obstacles

The Originals promo pic S01E01 Always and Forever

The Originals, Season 1, Episode 1, “Always and Forever”
Written by Julie Plec and Michael Narducci
Directed by Chris Grismer
Airs Tuesdays at 8 pm (ET) on The CW

On this week’s The Originals premiere, Klaus wreaks havoc in New Orleans while Elijah cleans up his mess, Sophie blackmails everybody, Marcel rants about power, Rebekah takes a really long bath, and Hayley contemplates motherhood.

Somewhere there’s an unwritten rule insisting all vampire-related projects must open with a vampire attack in a dimly-lit place (extra points if it’s during a flashback). We get it–vampires like to stalk their victims at night. The Vampire Diaries began this way and The Originals, its spinoff, follows suit as well, albeit in flashback. Lazy opening aside, The Originals is a fairly solid pilot, especially considering what it has to accomplish in an hour. For starters, The Vampire Diaries fans have already seen the backdoor pilot and are familiar with half the shows’ characters, so The Originals has to craft a pilot that will not only keep them entertained, but also draw in new viewers. Unfortunately, this means a lot of exposition and not nearly enough action. Plus, basing a show’s premise on a werewolf woman impregnated by a psychotic vampire who wants to be king in a city overrun by vampires might not exactly sell new viewers to this Louisiana-set show.

Props to the writing team for doing their best to adapt an old pilot into a new one while simultaneously creating a piece of entertainment for both a pre-existing fanbase and potential new viewers. In lesser hands, this could’ve easily been messed up, but Plec and Narducci handle the challenge with seeming ease, by switching the episode’s POV character and introducing several new storytelling elements that, minor stumbles aside, work incredibly well.

The episode has plenty of strengths–first up, the music. Music supervisor Chris Mollere (who also covers The Vampire Diaries) knows what he’s doing, and he’s obviously having a ball with the music for this show, creating a lovely mix of jazz and bluesy rock that fits the style and mood of The Originals beautifully. The characters, with few exceptions, are wonderful, already thoroughly gifted with strong personalities and unique character traits. Klaus is still the vicious monster/petulant 1000-year-old child The Vampire Diaries fans loathe and love, and his power struggle with progeny Marcel (whom Klaus describes with blatant Jesus imagery: “I made him in my image, and he has bettered me”) works well story-wise, as Marcel is a charismatic charmer with a secret weapon against witches and a horde of loyal vampires. Poor Elijah is once again the sentimental sap, caught between the dueling pair and the neutered witches, along with Hayley and her unborn hybrid child. The Vampire Diaries fans are treated with new insight into Elijah’s character, especially the subtle ways in which he cleans up Klaus’s reckless messes. Sophie’s a bit unlikable now, but, having just lost her sister, her wild unpredictability is understandable. And, as of now, bartender Camille is simply a psychology graduate who’s slowly being sucked into a dangerous world.

The best shows are only as good as their cast of characters, and The Originals is working with a team of highly-gifted individuals. Even new viewers will quickly pick up on individual characters’ nuances–a trait few pilots ever handle successfully. And, thematically, The Originals is working with several new, and arguably more adult, story threads than The Vampire Diaries. Power and family especially stand out, and they make for a compelling show when mixed.

On The Originals, family is power, but only if the family is an immortal team working as one. Elijah’s clearly the brains within his family, and Klaus will always be the leader–at least in terms of appearance. Unfortunately, a good leader’s only as powerful as the team behind him, and Klaus only trusts himself, as evidenced by the final shocker of a scene. It’s too bad–everything he needs for happiness is right in front of him: family, a child (soon, anyway), and a city of vampires willing to accept him if only he would cooperate.

All shows need time to get into their groove, and a spinoff’s no different. It might take The Originals time to hit its stride, but the show’s in thoroughly capable hands, on and off the screen.

Ashley Laggan