The Originals, Season 2, Episode 10, “Gonna Set Your Flag on Fire”
Written by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson
Directed by Rob Hardy
Airs Mondays at 8pm EST on The CW
On this week’s The Originals, Finn traps Klaus’s vampires and the werewolves under one roof, Hayley and Jackson move forward with their impending marriage, Cami begins Elijah’s therapy, Rebekah remains trapped in an asylum, and Esther makes her choice.
After such a seemingly-long winter hiatus, The Originals is finally back; unfortunately, the premiere is a decidedly weak opening in the wake of such an excellent midseason finale. The episode isn’t all bad–Cami and Elijah’s brief trivia match is a definite highlight–but the episode is bogged down by some unexpectedly cheap ploys and uncharacteristic character moments.
The biggest offense of all is Esther’s decision to transition. For someone who spent a thousand years watching her children wreak death and destruction on earth, and then decided to murder every last one of her abominable offspring, Esther is awfully quick to abandon all of her morals and convictions (something Finn, acting as the mouthpiece of the audience, thankfully notices and comments on) to stay alive. Honestly, it’s so absurd that it’s laughable. It doesn’t matter how desperate or thirsty Esther was–and she didn’t seem to be suffering that much–her decision felt hollow and frustrating. Esther’s been a formidable villain for a very long time, and one doesn’t become so powerful and determined by caving to instinctual desires, no matter how tempting. To make matters worse, she is dispatched just as quickly and easily as Mikael, another formerly formidable foe. What, exactly, was the point in making Esther choose to drink the blood? If the show had been willing to explore her experience becoming the very thing she hated, this could’ve been a forgivable lapse in character misjudgment. As it were, The Originals simply cheapens Esther’s run on the show and makes her into a pathetic character.
Meanwhile, The Originals deploys a quick and dirty magic trick that manages to keep almost all of the main players under one roof for the duration of the episode. Since it’s much more effective, storywise, than Esther’s aforementioned choice, the use of magic here is acceptable and doesn’t feel cheap or unearned. Several much-needed character moments are given the chance to blossom, and the various interspecies and/or relationship tensions keep the episode flowing smoothly. Unfortunately, the Hayley and Jackson pairing is still stuttering along; their interactions ring a little false. They lack the chemistry of Elijah and Hayley, for sure, but Jackson’s affections for Hayley aren’t convincing because he’s only recently begun to express his devotion to her. While their last scene together in the episode seems to indicate the show will soon be remedying this “relationship,” there are also a lot of convoluted, mystical werewolf marriage rituals ahead, aka plenty of time for this pairing to fall apart.
A fortunate side effect of this episode is the unlikely pairing of Cami and Elijah (or not so unlikely, considering Elijah’s quickening descent into neurosis). Their interactions are lighthearted and fun, but also serious and heartfelt. The two characters play off each other so well that both sides of their hopefully-budding relationship feel natural and earned. Plus, any chance to show off Elijah’s astonishing skill for trivia is a winning move.
Lastly, Finn is becoming quite the intelligent and convincing threat. He’s always been his mother’s lackey; so much so that it’s surprising to see him finally break from her and begin his own quest to destroy his siblings. While it’d be interesting to further explore just why he’s so anti-vampire–especially considering that he was one–the show’s doing just fine letting him step into his parents’ villainous shoes.
“Gonna Set Your Flag on Fire” isn’t The Originals‘s best offering, but it does plenty to move the latter half of season two forward. Several new storylines are introduced or developed, and the show’s future still seems promising. Let’s hope next week’s episode is a return to the show’s previously-successful form.