The Originals "House of the Rising Son" Review: Sister Act Too

By Price Peterson

Oct 09, 2013

The Originals S01E02: "House of the Rising Son"

A great TV show demands a strong ensemble, and a strong ensemble should function like the candy aisle at a gas station. In a word: OPTIONS. You know, so many options that when you scan all the colorful wrappers you find it very difficult to settle on just one favorite. What character are you in the mood for? Peanut butter-based? Fruit-flavored? Something nourishing? Something that will make you sick because it's 3am and you haven't eaten anything since dinner, which was ice cream? For my money (which is mostly Monopoly money), TV's best gas station candy aisle is The Vampire Diaries. That is a show so stacked with compelling, heroic, villainous, sympathetic people that it can be very easy to forget that it's sort of about a love triangle. I guess the love triangle element of TVD would be the nutty, nougat-based candy bar that you could probably eat for breakfast if you were in a hurry. But me, I have always preferred the gummy candies. Are you tired of this metaphor yet? Here is the point: Ever since Rebekah Mikaelson was introduced toward the beginning of Season 3 she immediately became not just a gummy candy to me, but maybe even gummy cherries. The best gummies, basically. 

Chalk it up to Claire Holt's unpredictable, charismatic, endlessly appealing performance, but especially chalk it up to the writers' whipsmart-slash-tragic characterization of the world's oldest living lady vampire: Rebekah's limited storylines on TVD have always ranked among the show's most compelling. (Also what does 'chalk it up' mean? Does it involve gymnastics?) Personally, I'm worried about a TVD without Rebekah. And I probably would have enjoyed both versions of The Originals' pilot even more had Rebekah been more integral. But I'm pleased to report that this current weird, troubling, Rebekah-lite era of The Originals is now over. Rebekah has ARRIVED.

First of all: OH, I get it, The Originals. You went and made a THREE-PART pilot. Just when we thought last week's premiere was the end of our introduction to this New Orleans saga, "House of the Rising Son" kept the heavy-handed exposition thing going like crazy. But instead of Klaus or Elijah at the forefront, this week it was Rebekah's turn to walk around the French quarter making speeches about family. It has to be said, though: This wasn't the same Rebekah we'd known from TVD, not exactly. If we're being real, Rebekah's personality on The Originals is already noticeably different from what we've come to know. Yes, her angry sass and Britishisms remain (she called Klaus a "wanker" this week!), but gone is the high school girl who'd fallen for a quarterback and picked petty fights with her harmless rivals. This Rebekah is a Type-A ass-kicker with a short temper and a results-oriented drive. This Rebekah is the best, basically, even better than I'd remembered, and her entrance to this world of The Originals was nearly terrific (I'll explain the "nearly" part in a sec). As shown in a maddeningly brief flashback, on her way into New Orleans Rebekah massacred a group of vampires who'd stepped to her in a pool hall. It was a clever reminder that although we'd grown used to seeing her all vulnerable and conflicted lately, Rebekah was still extremely powerful and fearless and exactly the kind of person we'd want a show based around.

But let's get critical: Rebekah's entrance was nearly ruined because, instead of The Originals just giving us a cold open of Rebekah awesomely fighting off her assaulters, we were presented with an excruciatingly stupid scene in which Marcel explained to Klaus (a 1,000-year-old vampire) how his vampire night club works. WHY? Knock it off, The Originals. I'm pretty sure Klaus is NOT impressed or interested by the fact that tourists are being drained and then compelled to forget. Klaus is, again, a 1,000-year-old vampire who taught Marcel everything he knows. These kinds of conversations are just happening way, way too often so far. Characters working with the same knowledge base are constantly stating obvious things to each other, ostensibly for the viewers' benefit, but in a way that is making me want to change the channel. I'm dumb but not THAT dumb, and I hate when TV shows tell me I'm THAT dumb. Another example? The Originals are still calling each other "Brother" or "Sister". STOP IT. People don't do that. I know you smart writers out there must have a list of terrible TV cliches to avoid. Please do a better job of avoiding them? The exposition on this show is reaching deadly levels of dumb, but I'm holding out hope it's just a vestige of setting up the world. Because man, I don't know how much more I can take of the characters having these dramatically inert, off-puttingly obvious exchanges. If these are network notes we're seeing, tell those execs this: What good is a thorough explanation when I am BORED? I would never change the channel over confusion. But I WOULD change the channel over dumbness. Feel free to mystify me, guys. I can handle it.

All that being said, for every scene that landed like a dead pigeon on the patio, there were scenes both incredible and excellent. When Marcel forced the two best friends and newly turned vampires to choose who would live and who would die? THAT was the kind of scene I wanted to see. I didn't need to know any backstories, I only wanted to see how that simple conflict would play out. Then Marcel's decision to murder the more ruthless of the two in order to set an example about how much he valued loyalty? Perfect and profound, credit where credit's due. That's good writing. Or really, any scene involving Hayley this week, who is easily the most improved character of The Originals so far. Did you laugh when Rebekah and Hayley introduced themselves to each other because you didn't remember that they never actually met on TVD? I did! But I loved how their relationship began contentiously only to slowly become meaningful after Rebekah defended Hayley from a Klaus temper tantrum and Hayley returned the favor by gifting Rebekah some magic daggers she'd found while snooping around the mansion. I even enjoyed the downright gutsy plotline of Hayley attempting to get a werewolf abortion, deciding not to, and then having a quiet, powerful moment with Klaus in which they both acknowledged how much they actually want to be parents now, if only because they're both cast-offs who fight when backed into corners. "It's time to fight, little wolf," is the thing that Klaus told Hayley that gave me chills for hours. CHILLS. Look, I know a lot of people weren't thrilled with the pregnancy plotline, but right now it may be the richest source of storytelling this show's got. And now Rebekah as a protective godmother just makes it even better.

Oh! I can't believe I didn't mention this sooner: It turns out slavery DID happen in this universe! The Originals really went there this week as the flashbacks explained Marcel's origins as a child slave. That's right, slave. He was not a "handmaiden" or whatever other polite euphemism TVD would have used. He was a straight-up slave whose moxie toward his owners attracted Klaus' attention and sympathy. Before we go further: Yes, this was uncomfortable subject-matter, and no, The Originals did not overcome how icky the white-man-savior cliché felt. But these flashbacks were undeniably compelling, especially when it became clear that a grown-up Marcel and Rebekah had fallen in love with each other. (Sweaty, shirtless, dueling matches just sort of have that effect on people.) Even that particular flashback's denouement—a jealous Klaus daggering Rebekah for 50 years and Marcel's decision to become a vampire rather than undagger her—felt surprising and meaningful. Little by little, Marcel's ruthless ways seem more justified, but I'm still concerned that the character won't truly come alive for me until he and Klaus have to inevitably join forces against some much worse threat. He's too likable and practical to provide enough dramatic conflict. But maybe that will change?

Confession time: I'm starting to like the attic witch! Earlier she was merely some boring shut-in, a personality-free deus ex machina waiting to happen. But this week we got a better glimpse of her role on the show, and right now it's just creepy enough to work. After Marcel begrudgingly brought Rebekah to see Elijah's daggered body (stored right beside the attic witch's bed!), Davina tossed Rebekah around the room like a rag doll and threw her out the window. Which was rude, definitely, but it made me laugh how much the attic witch loves to throw people out the window. Anyway, then when Rebekah described Marcel's new weapon to Klaus, she described her as something different from a witch, something more powerful. And I was like, "You got me. I'm in." It's probably just that the term 'witch' has taken on a truly non-threatening, almost pathetic meaning on these shows, so if you're telling me the attic witch is not a witch, but something more powerful? That's already an improvement. Davina is starting to seem weird and naive and sinister enough that I'm increasingly curious about what her deal is, and better yet, what'll happen when she no longer feels loyal to Marcel and decides she wants to walk the streets? That's just a good example of Chekhov's Attic Witch right there.

Camille and Sophie are still so boring though. And Elijah remains daggered, which felt slightly disappointing and I really hope this won't be a series where 1/3 of the stars are out of commission at any given time. But every criticism deserves a compliment: PERFECT use of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song in this episode. Seriously, what a way to end an episode. Klaus and Rebekah bonding over a singular mission to free Elijah. Marcel and Davina bonding over a singular mission to learn how to kill an Original. Karen O screaming about sacrilege. That is all I want out of a show like this.

So we're clear: Overall I did very much enjoy most of this episode, particularly the Rebekah sections. It's safe to say this show is still in the middle of a fairly rocky take-off, but for me personally it's ignited just enough brain fireworks to keep me excited. Once we get past all the unnecessary exposition and into some real meaty storytelling, The Originals should be fine, or much better than fine. But at least we finally now have all three flavors of Mikaelson to choose from! OPTIONS.


QUESTIONS:

... Do you require more or less exposition in an average hour of television?

... Which of the Originals are you most emotionally invested in currently?

... Has an attic witch ever thrown you out the window?

... Do you think Camille zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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  • ReneeQuintero Oct 18, 2013

    Totally agreed with you...a better improvement!! and the pilot rebooted yes it was better, but it also felt a little displaced...i mean the scenes that we had seen didn't connect well with the new ones...so I felt that the episode was jumping around, with this one it felt more fluent, and maybe is the summer that I've been watching others show that don't move that fast, that I during the exposition talks, because there was too much in so little time I have to rewind to get everything the were saying and to see the acting, I love the three main cast, so I like to get stuck on the little details of their acting, but when is more talking than showing, and good acting yes the exposition gets in the way of enjoy...if I'm explaining myself i don't know...but so far the show is doing good...glad you're also recapping this...so looking forward to it...

  • bleumystique Oct 13, 2013

    • I LOVED this. I knew I was going to love The Originals but I still feel compelled to say how much I like it, each time I talk about it.
    • Finally. FINALLY! Hats off that The Originals did something in its second bloody episode that TVD has yet to do...it acknowledged history. Some people never understood why I made such a big stink about it, but it makes for richer more compelling storytelling. You can't have a series about immortal beings who have lived through all sorts of time periods and skirt around things in the time period. You can't have a show about two warring brothers whose fighting with one another went back to when they literally fought each other in a freaking war, and not make mention of name of the war, and why the war was happening. You can't have flashbacks to the 1800s involving black people and not mention that they were slaves. Handmaiden my ass. So when they mentioned that there would be a flashback to when Klaus first met Marcel...they couldn't have skirted around that issue. Hell, this show made progress in the backdoor pilot when Klaus literally told Marcel about when he was "still trembling from the lashes keeping him down". Boom. Simple enough phrase...all the meaning. This isn't hard TVD. It isn't hard! No one said you had to make an entire episode reminiscent of Roots, we just said, say the damn words and acknowledge mother fudgin history...
    • Ahem. Sorry. Ranting. So that scene was brilliant and beautiful and this is why...I know sooo many people kept making this big stink about Marcel not being intimidating or a match for Klaus. For some reason, people didn't understand how that could be. It made sense to me, but this episode confirmed it. Marcel was family. Marcel was like Klaus' son. He took in a stray and raised him as his own and doted on him like any egomanic craving for the undying love and devotion of anyone would. He more or less was his everything..a legacy, if you will. In a show where everything is about family. Always and forever. That is what makes their rift interesting and compelling. It's like brother against brother...it's like father against son. I also love the exploration of the sire bond here. It's something that I love about True Blood and often times miss when I'm watching TVD...but there are glimpses of it here, and I love that. The real thing is, no matter how at odds and at war Marcel and Klaus can become...it'll all come down to that moment when they really and truly have the other's life in their hands...that opportunity to kill the other person...will they do it? Can they do it? As ruthless as they both can be...loyalty and family is everything in this world...it is important and it matters, and I'm not so sure that either of them can really go through with killing the other. Because they actually love each other. Just like no matter what happens Klaus can't ever go through with killing his own siblings.
    • I love that the flashbacks also made it so that it's near impossible to "pick a side". Not that I ever would have anyway. I love them both...and the more the characters develop, the more I love seeing the similarities between Klaus and protege...the arrogance, the charisma, the lost soul. You understand both positions, and as with most fights epic or minuscule it all could be resolved if the two people would sit down and actually have a real talk with one another, but of course no one ever does that and fair enough because otherwise we wouldn't have a show. Klaus can't understand why the closest thing he had to a son didn't come seek him out in the hundred years since he fled. Understandable position to have, given he instilled everything in this kid and gave him immortality. Marcel reverted back to what was ingrained in him, taking care of himself, because in his mind...the closest thing he had to a family abandoned him and left him for dead. Klaus and co never realized that Marcel escaped alive and unscathed and more or less spent half a century mourning him,otherwise they probably would have went back for him, and Marcel assumed that they left him for dead and didn't question it because he wasn't really family as it was. These two need a "get-along" shirt and a hug.
    • I love how Klaus can go from psychotic "choking a wolf out" to all teary-eyed and wuvable in milliseconds. That is the appeal of Klaus, always. That was one of my favorite scenes, him unleashing on the current women in his life as to what his plans are and these kid. Something that Rebekah has seen all of her life and it is what keeps her there, with Klaus, but also something that Hayley needed to see. I think after she recovered and her blood started circulating the way it needed to, she seen the other side of Klaus that she hadn't realized existed. It made her scene with him towards the end all the more interesting. I will begrudgingly admit that they have an interesting enough dynamic. They're both broken, flawed, and have tremendous chips on their shoulders. So by the time he patted her on the shoulder and called her "little wolf" while promising to get the AC going...I actually didn't hate this baby stuff as much. I will still find myself complaining about it and Hayley as a character, accordingly however. Jut because.
    • I'm rather indifferent on Camille myself. I felt like she was set up to have this huge role and yet in two pilots and the second episode I still don't know or feel anything for her. She's just there. She'll be a nice pawn, I suppose.
    • I love that on this show witches mean something. They actually feel like they have some power, and Davina, Davina is everything witchified that we wanted and never seen in TVD, and she's everything that the witches on here could be if they were freed from Marcel. It's madness!
    • I'm going to need Elijah undaggered and back in top form immediately. I need my Elijah. He will always be my favorite Original. Always. Klaus has a special place in my heart as well though.
    • Rebekah, this is a different side of her than we've ever seen and I love it. She doesn't come across as fickle and uncessairly bitchy. I was never a huge Bex fan when she was on TVD. Here, here I feel like we have the opportunity to see her fleshed out and more layered. I love it.

  • Togana Dec 31, 2013

    Freaking THANK YOU for this post. I've been running around saying the same thing. Marcel is Klaus's son. Probably the only vampire he ever turned out of love. I"m also on "whatever" mode where Cami is concerned. I still don't see a purpose to her character. Davina comes off as a brat to me. She brags about how powerful she is and how she can do whatever she wants to ppl, yet she's hiding in an attic, being protected by vampires.
    ,

  • Raniatlw Oct 13, 2013

    Just a note about all the Brother this and Sister that... do you think the writers are doing that for the benefit of viewers who did not watch TVD before? I'm pretty sure they don't think we're dumb, but I'm sure there are some people who are watching Klaus and Rebekkah for the first time... and they just want to make it absolutely clear who they are to each other.... Just a thought.

    Also anyone else watch the Hailey and Rebekkah scenes are like hey Cleo and Emma from H2O: Just Add Water? It's so cool to see Phoebe Tonkin and Claire Holt together again.

  • Klaus-loves Oct 12, 2013

    I loved this episode. I think they added some context which helped the purpose of the show to make a little more sense-now we know why klaus wouldn't just kill marcel.
    I will always love klaus the best, he's just a lost lonely 1000 yr old boy who is too scared to love but needs it. will always be on his side.

    That great scene near the end when he told Rebecca what he'd actually been upto was so on point. And Rebecca was dynamic, powerful and endearing in this ep, nailed it show!

  • KateSullivan Oct 12, 2013

    Okay I don't hate the baby story but I also assume it will be an alien type baby who will be a precocious six year old girl then very quickly the devious teen who will be the threat Davina senses is coming.

    Davina...so here was my first thought...would the Originals go places tvd won't and she is a demon or some sort of Greek (it sounds Greek to me) minor deity or something. I am not super familiar with Voo Doo or Santeria deities (like I now only know the one who is zombing Nick and Portland on Grimm).

  • dimakosrou Oct 11, 2013

    I really hate the baby. It should be merely a werewolf but now they say it's going to be a hybrid... Is it not going to age then? Too Twili-sh... Get rid of the baby and don't hide the blood and gore and the show is going to be really good...

  • bleumystique Oct 13, 2013

    I think it's considered a hybrid because Klaus is a hybrid, but I would think it would be mostly werewolf, because Hayley is a full blooded werewolf and Klaus is half a werewolf, so wouldn't that make the kid mostly werewolf? I'd thnk that unless the kid is turned after it's born, the vampire aspect will be mostly dormant and may just contribute to aging.

  • yamachamama Oct 11, 2013

    I was thoroughly prepared to not like this show.
    I never got into The Vampire Diaries so my expectations were low.

    However, the first two episodes have been good to the point where i am actually going to go back and give TVD another look.

  • Llostris Oct 11, 2013

    Well the thing is the first 4 - 5 episodes of TVD were terrible. They were so bad that it's a miracle they didn't cancle the show. The first episode I liked and can recommend was episode 6 "Lost Girls". To this day I think Vicki and Damon's Depeche Mode scene was one of the best parts of the whole series.

  • CristiCocoroi Oct 11, 2013

    I agree, best episode of the season at least!!

  • yamachamama Oct 11, 2013

    Well that would do it because I didn't make it past episode 5! lol

  • Llostris Oct 11, 2013

    Hey, I completely understand you. The first time I tried TVD I gave up after watching about 20 minutes of the first episode - the fog in a cemetery was just too much :)

    Also remember that the first season of TVD is a totally different show then the rest of series. Damon from season 1 is a ruthless serial kiler and date rapist (instead of roofies he uses his compel power).

    The real show that we all know and love starts with the beginning of season 2.

  • MichelleHood24 Oct 11, 2013

    You should give them both a shot you will get hooked on TVD and hopefully get invested in the characters and there story's it's a great show

  • JCVeros Oct 11, 2013

    Definitely give TVD a shot. If you already did and didn't get into it, keep trying. The first season starts out really rough, but after the first 7 or so episodes things start to pick up. I'd still rank season 1 pretty low overall, but when you hit season 2? Some of the most godly television you'll ever see.

  • LauraGomes Oct 10, 2013

    Okay, I had my doubts about this show, especially about the pregnancy thing. But it looks like is going to be good, very good. Rebekkah was funny in TVD and it is amazing here. Her relationship with Klaus is borderline incestuous and it is incredible.
    PS: "The Originals are still calling each other "Brother" or "Sister". STOP IT. People don't do that" I call my siblings brother and sister. All the time. Besides that, Price, I love your recaps and I really missed you.

  • SaraStojanovi Oct 10, 2013

    I have a problem with this show. What is the point of it? Like...the premise is so dumb I cannot even begin to explain. Instead of making the show about the past lives of the Originals and what they did in earlier years (which would me MUCH more interesting), they made it about a monster baby and Klaus being a brat and wanting to rule New Orleans? Sure, ok. 1000-year-old vampire is afraid of a little boy he raised and made into a vamp? Sure.

  • QMargo Oct 10, 2013

    Yes, Camille is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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