The Originals "Dance Back from the Grave" Review: Papa's Turf
No matter what else happens in 2014, let it be known that this has been a GREAT year for villains with the first name "Papa." It's not just that Papa is a wonderful name in general, it's that the characters who've worn it have been straight-up amazing. Between the voodoo hell devil Papa Legba on American Horror Story: Coven and now his much more dapper, French-accented Papa Tunde on The Originals, expect to see a whole new generation of children named Papa in the coming years. In the case of The Originals, Papa Tunde wasn't just a terrific villain-of-the-week (though HE WAS), he was also a badly needed reminder of how wonderful this show can be when the various warring factions unite against a common threat. I craved a bigger villain earlier in the season when elements still hadn't gelled yet (and the low-stakes bickering felt, well, low-stakes), and though I can't claim to have predicted something that was always inevitable, I am feeling very relieved and justified about that initial feeling. In a show filled to the brim of back-biting Judases, it's just so nice to have a clear-cut monster for once.
Going into "Dance Back from the Grave" I had concerns that it wouldn't quite stack up to last week's apocalyptic, instant classic episode that saw Davina die during an undercover witch's all-out magic-jacking. In classic TVD style, The Originals threatened to bust out a flashback episode to take our minds off the trauma, but unlike its mothership, The Originals has established that the presence of flashbacks doesn't mean the episode will be boring. (Flashback episodes on TVD are boring to me, sorry. Costume parties are only so interesting without forward momentum.) Yes, we flashed back to WWI-era Bourbon Street, but BIG THINGS still happened in the present. Rebekah basically DIED, for one thing! That meant the flashbacks were limited to need-to-know information rather than the weird fantasy interludes they often feel like on TVD. Marcel looks terrific in a WWI soldier uniform, but I'd much rather see him tussle with a voodoo witch in the present day. Call me a simpleton.
Papa Tunde was only one of four witches that Celeste exhumed, but I'm loving the notion that she carefully selected a rogues' gallery of mini-bosses that our heroes must face. Just slightly over-the-top with his French accent, crisp white suit, and creepy twin sons, Papa Tunde was also VERY powerful in a way that finally felt threatening and scary. For one thing, he WILL throw an albino python onto a bonfire just to make a point. For another, he can suck the magic out of anybody like he's a kid drinking Capri-Suns after a soccer game. Because it turns out witches don't always rely on weaksauce ancestral magic or whatever it was Bonnie got into last season: You can just straight murder someone and absorb their powers. Between that and the Harvest, The Originals has finally cracked the code on making witches threatening. That was another thing I complained about a lot at first: Witches really sucked, so the Mikaelsons had nothing to be afraid of. That's different now! Don't get me wrong, Sophie is still the show's worst character (and is so weak that now she basically just walks around drunkenly explaining witchcraft to people), but the sight of Rebekah's insta-desiccation will stick with me for a while. Things just got REAL, magic-wise.
Despite the rash of vampire sacrifices that announced Papa Tunde's resurrection, Klaus and Marcel's relationship remained fraught in the wake of Davina's death. As we all know, Klaus took a quick day trip to Mystic Falls to have SO MUCH SEX with Caroline, but now he was back and Marcel was moping around, unwilling to help Klaus investigate the murders. So while Klaus did a few things of note (including freeing Thierry and consulting with Sophie), his biggest contributions to the plot were in flashback: He'd been the one to murder Papa Tunde originally, and because he'd also murdered Papa Tunde's creepy twin sons in the process, that meant Papa Tunde now had revenge on the brain. Meanwhile Rebekah had gone missing and was now lying in a circle of protection down at the docks, so Elijah and Hayley spent some quality time together figuring out that situation. I love whenever Hayley demands to be involved and they actually let her. In this case she came in handy because they needed witch blood to break the circle of protection around Rebekah's body and it just so happened that Hayley's baby was 1/4 witch. Because oh yeah! I'd forgotten about Klaus's mom! So that means the baby is human, witch, werewolf, AND vampire? Insane.
Anyway, not much new on the Elijah-Hayley flirtation except that a reawakened Rebekah called Elijah out for endangering the currently drama-free zone around the Mikaelson house. In my opinion Klaus had more or less given Elijah implicit permission to get close to Hayley, but Rebekah was probably correct that it wasn't going to last. And on the subject of Rebekah, I was on her side 100 percent when it came to her argument with Elijah. He came down on her very hard when she owned up to plotting against Klaus, and Elijah (who had allowed Rebekah to be daggered over and over throughout the centuries) really had no place to condemn her for protecting herself. Like, he's well-spoken and looks great in a suit, but he's a fairly massive Klaus-apologist on those matters, and I found it very satisfying when she called him a hypocrite.
The primary mechanism for flashing us back to the past was a long conversation between Marcel and Cami, which proved to be a centerpiece of sorts. Not only did she get to assert her role as a compulsion-proof human with a taste for schemes, the situation also reignited Marcel and Cami's flirtations from a while back. Obviously Cami is much improved now that she has agency, but Marcel was also very correct when he said that she'd be a fool to plot anything against Klaus. She really should just do her homework or whatever and stay out of things. I like her more and more, and she could prove to be a good voice of reason for these troubled guys, but let's not get TOO ambitious, lady.
Back to Papa Tunde: He ended up sacrificing all the inhabitants of The Garden and then sacrificed his own life in order to transfer power to Celeste. I'm already sad he's gone because Celeste is a bit of a snooze so far compared to Papa Tunde. But I'm willing to give her credit for exhuming him in the first place, and I'm super curious about the other witches (one of whom we saw in flashback and who apparently once helped Marcel and Rebekah in an old scheme against Klaus). But my tastes run extreme and I'm not sure any of the other witches will compare to the casual menace and crazy-flavor Papa Tunde brought to the table. I miss him already. Farewell, Papa Tunde!
This was a great and surprisingly important-feeling episode despite my expectation that it would be a wheel-spinner. The Originals has some pretty terrific momentum going right now. It's starting to do the things I wished it had done earlier and that means I won't know what will happen next. Unpredictability is the root of any show's greatness, so it's such a relief to see that it's here to stay.
... Will you miss Papa Tunde?
... How much does Thierry suck?
... Are you willing to put up with Davina's (temporary) death so long as the villains are this cool?
... Should Rebekah recuperate from this trauma by going back to Mystic Falls again?
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