The Originals "Farewell to Storyville" Review: Damaged Ends
Literally do not tell me who to root for on a TV series. I don't care if you are a superfan just doing your thing or a showrunner whose JOB it is to make me feel certain ways; when it comes to the character I will become most invested in, that is MY decision and my decision only. Personally I always like the funny, strong-willed female character and that's just how it's always been. Rayanne on My So-Called Life; Pam on True Blood; Faith on Buffy; Faye on The Secret Circle; Katherine on The Vampire Diaries; Rebekah on The Originals. (Please note that I am not trying to start a debate about the merits of these characters, I am just BARING MY SOUL to you.) But everybody is different! Maybe you tend to root for the sarcastic, witty males or, I don't know, muscular transgender shark people. But I think we ALL have a specific type we're most likely to become invested in, and from the writers' standpoint there's really no way to tell which member of an ensemble will click with individual viewers except maybe ALL OF THEM in some way to somebody. That's why the best TV shows provide a spectrum of heroes. Because options! But seriously, don't tell me who to root for, that is just too personal.
Rebekah is gone. I will keep watching The Originals, but I'm afraid it just won't be the same without her. If we're being real, The Vampire Diaries has still not fully recovered from the great Mikaelson exodus, and that show has a much richer roster of heroes and supporting cast than The Originals currently does. (Sorry, I am not trying to bum anybody out, I'm just sorting through my feelings right now, and they are RAW.) I have been really enjoying The Originals lately, but quite frankly a lot of that was due to Rebekah. I just truly love her particular brand of plucky immortality, her open-hearted longings, her wounded cruelty, and even more than that I've loved every minute of Claire Holt's wonderful, frequently devastating performance. Yes, I love Klaus and Elijah as characters, who doesn't, they are wildly entertaining. But for the reasons I explained earlier, my heart was always in Rebekah. She is the character I most cared about and it's her story that's kept me most invested in The Originals during its sometimes rocky maiden voyage.
So, uh, I kind of don't know if this is worth mentioning or not, but here goes: I've been aware that this was coming for a while now. I'm by no means an "insider," but living in Los Angeles and surrounding myself with people who work in and around and about the entertainment industry means you hear things about productions all the time. (Oh, the Teen Wolf conversations I've been having lately!) So when that sucker-punch of a BuzzFeed article went live following the East Coast broadcast of this week's episode, my only reaction was "Oh, so this is the episode where that happens." Make no mistake, it was not a sudden or surprising decision for anybody behind the scenes; from what I know, Claire Holt simply did not want to live in Atlanta anymore. If you recall when The Originals was first announced, she was the last series regular to sign on; when she did eventually agree to be a part of the series it was never for a full season. She wasn't the only one who made that deal, though; Daniel Gillies can't film full seasons due to his other, more Canadian commitments, which explains why Elijah chilled in a casket for so many episodes earlier this season. I only bring up this inside-baseball stuff to make sure we honor the distinction between what are some very normal industry logistics and the creative decisions of The Originals' producers. Rebekah's departure is not The Originals' fault. It is not Claire Holt's fault. It is not Julie Plec's fault. It's just that sometimes our favorite shows can only be perfect for a brief while and then we have to adjust to new situations. That's life! And it seems like both George Clooney and ER did okay after he left, right?
But the big reason why I wanted to comment on the behind-the-scenes stuff is that it brings insight to Rebekah's arc this season. In retrospect, her impending absence has been telegraphed since the beginning. Notice that most of her plotlines were reactionary or in service to something going on with Klaus or Elijah. No new characters or plots were spun off from Rebekah's existence in the way they have been for, say, Hayley or Cami. While even Davina's world expanded and developed independently from the leads, Rebekah mostly bounced around between the other characters providing friendship, adversity, romance, and plenty of barbed one-liners. In short, The Originals was never really playing a long game with Rebekah, and that's especially obvious now that we know she'll never really be integral to the story again. But Rebekah's exit also has the added effect of improving things I once thought were weak, in particular her final feud with Klaus over old business. If I had known that THIS was the thing that would finally be sending Rebekah off, I'd have been way more invested. I still think those Mikael revelations were not properly delivered, but again, the result was so severe and upsetting that it rendered my misgivings inconsequential. Where I once found this Mikael-summoning plotline weak and uncompelling, I now find it epic and important. A good ending can save any story, it turns out.
In a general sense "Farewell to Storyville" was a new benchmark not only for The Originals but for all network television of recent memory. Like a particularly devastating stageplay, its premise was simple and its emotions were explosive. Klaus, Rebekah, and Elijah had to spend the greater part of a day trapped in the witches' cemetery arguing about old beef. There was a temptation to find their circular arguments exhausting and repetitive, but aren't all our most vicious arguments that way? It didn't matter how many times Elijah warned Klaus away from Rebekah, nor how persuasive Rebekah could be about the times Klaus had wronged her in the past, it all kept coming back to Klaus's anger and stubborn refusal to back down. This meant we got SO MANY amazing monologues about regret and emotional violence between siblings, all delivered in perfect British accents. A.K.A. GOOD TV. Rebekah's speech to Klaus about how broken they were was one of those rare moments when it was like my TV reached directly into my ribcage and crushed my heart. If we're being honest I never truly believed Klaus would go through with murdering Rebekah, and when he intentionally plunged the White Oak stake clear of her actual heart I breathed a sigh of relief. But I'm not sure he deserves to get away feeling righteous here. After she admitted that she possibly maybe had wanted Mikael to kill Klaus one hundred years prior, Klaus clearly felt he had won the moral high ground (as though the centuries of emotional abuse he'd perpetrated against her had not justified her actions dozens of times over). But it makes sense that that's the only thing that would assuage Klaus's rage, the peace of mind of it all. He'd made his point, and for that he finally showed her mercy.
And then there were those flashbacks. From the cold open glimpse of the Mikaelsons as children, a young Klaus protecting a frightened Rebekah during a thunder storm, I immediately knew this was Rebekah's last episode. You just can't get so devastatingly poetic without the dark cloud of closure looming on the horizon. Still later when we saw a teenage Rebekah defend Klaus from an abusive Mikael and then later come VERY close to murdering her father on Klaus behalf? Just crushingly moving. Especially when it became clear that Klaus never knew the extent to which Rebekah defended him all those years ago, yet when Elijah told him, the look on his face meant he immediately believed it. Again, the Mikaelsons have been dicks to each other for a millennium, but they've also been unsurpassably loyal and gentle in their quietest moments. I never believed Klaus would murder Rebekah, but I do believe he'd banish her if only, secretly, for her own safety and happiness. THAT is the Klaus I know. And THAT is the Klaus I would continue watching The Originals for in Rebekah's absence. Very nicely done.
Aside from the next-level dramatics going on the cemetery, the supporting characters did stuff too! Davina was still recovering from being dead and it turned out her witch ancestors had NOT been very kind to her in the afterlife, having banished her to cold darkness full of whispered smack-talk. Marcel knew that meant she could no longer help non-witches with her powers and instead arranged a deal with Genevieve. Genevieve, for her part, seems to have signed on to become Davina's foster mom and in doing so may become a more integral part of the show than her monster-of-the-week status had previously suggested. We'll see!
But really the weight of this episode for me came down to Rebekah's series of goodbyes at the end of the episode. From her dramatic goodbye kiss to Marcel (who declined to leave with her, obviously) to her touching request of Hayley to speak well of her once Hayley's daughter is born, I was pretty much a mess. Oh, and that was BEFORE Klaus fished out the hand-carved toy he'd once given Rebekah as a child. "Farewell to Storyville" was about pain, actual legit pain, experienced by the characters AND we the viewers. So good. But also so tough. Like I said before, I'm going to keep watching The Originals, but I can't help but feel that Rebekah's taking a lot of my heart with her wherever she goes. I trust that the writers have had enough time to figure out how exactly to fill the Claire Holt-shaped void during these next six episodes and beyond. But the sting is very real and will no doubt be there for a while. I will really miss Rebekah.
... Did you ever imagine that Rebekah would no longer be on the show?
... Will Rebekah's absence hurt your enjoyment of The Originals?
... What kinds of TV characters do YOU usually gravitate toward?
... Do you like Klaus more or less after this episode?
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