The Originals, Ep. 1.08, “The River in Reverse” proves ‘The Originals’ can deliver character-driven action

The Originals, The River in Reverse, Phoebe Tonkin, Daniel Gillies

The Originals, The River in Reverse, Phoebe Tonkin, Daniel Gillies

The Originals, Season 1, Episode 8, “The River in Reverse”
Written by Declan De Barra and Julie Plec
Directed by Jesse Warn
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on The CW

On this week’s The Originals, Rebekah and Marcel corner Klaus, Hayley shacks up with a hallucinating Elijah, and Camille calls Klaus out on his lies.

Two weeks ago, Klaus proved himself to be the true villain on this show, and this week’s episode did little to change the audience’s opinion of him. Actually, the show is desperately trying to make the viewers sympathize with the original hybrid monster, but Klaus is such a flawed character that he’d likely need a season’s worth of redemptive storylines just to be seen in a positive light at all.

Honestly, it’s still more fun to watch the others grow and develop, particularly Camille, though Hayley, Elijah, and Rebekah are fascinating, as well. Camille began this show as a helpless and seemingly unimportant human in a city of vampires and werewolves; over the course of eight episodes, she’s quickly become a subtle force of resilient intelligence–no one else on The Originals (or sister show The Vampire Diaries) has ever sidestepped their compulsion by leaving their compelled self clues to the truth. Seriously, her character development up until now has been slow but spot on–she’s easily becoming one of the show’s best, and most dynamic, characters. 

Also, initiating a subtle theme of the episode, Camille proves she has no qualms about calling Klaus out on his lies; when Rebekah, Marcel, and Elijah do the same later in the episode, it feels like the theme comes full circle. And, since Klaus has been walking all over the four since the beginning, it also feels like a nice bit of payoff for the audience to see characters finally standing up for themselves against such a ruthless character.

One of the best scenes in the episode results from Marcel and Rebekah finally taking a stand against Klaus. The beautifully-choreographed scene serves two important purposes–Klaus is finally given the chance to show just why he should be feared among the supernatural community, and Marcel surrenders his “kingdom.”

Subsequently, Marcel delivers a truly stunning speech that nails home Klaus’s total lack of comprehension about earning power–he’s only ever taken it, so of course he won’t understand what loyalty and respect truly are, or why they’re needed. This one scene fully highlights why Klaus is so ill-equipped to be a leader or even a decent character–despite being 1,000 years old, he lacks self-awareness. It’s never satisfying to watch a character, hero or villain, who isn’t capable of reflecting upon their actions. Klaus is like a wild animal, acting completely on desire and emotion rather than any sort of analytical or logical intelligence. Give us a better protagonist to root for, The Originals, because a clueless one–no matter how physically threatening he may be–is not worth our time.

There were so many great aspects to this episode that it’s hard to focus on only a handful. The set pieces for this show are gorgeous, particularly the cemetery where Camille’s brother is buried and the werewolf shack that Hayley and Elijah temporarily inhabit. The set designers have obviously been putting enormous amounts of effort into capturing an authentic vision of New Orleans, and it truly pays off well–the show itself is incredibly aesthetically-pleasing to look at. The best sets add to the mood and tone of a show, and can even influence emotions felt in certain scenes, and The Originals does this very well, especially when the intricate set pieces are paired with bluesy rock or jazz music.

However, the true winners of this episode are the writers–Declan De Barra and Julie Plec. They manage to give everyone a meaningful storyline without skimping on emotional resonance or failing to remain true to the characters. This episode is easily one of the best of the season, but in a quiet, subtle way–the true action of the episode is within the characters and their responses to the world, and other people, around them. And, honestly, that’s when any TV show is great, period–when the action is driven by the characters themselves, rather than their surroundings.

 

Ashley Laggan

 




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