The Originals "An Unblinking Death" Review: Unforced Terror
Stow your pony in the barn and throw your Koosh ball into a tar pit and let's talk about horror for a second. No, not the kind of horror you experience every day on public transportation or when you make the mistake of looking into the eyes of a toddler (toddlers love murder). I'm talking about entertainment horror. Movies or TV shows that use fright-catapults to lob adrenaline grenades at our serotonin sprinklers. The horror genre's most enduring curse is that nearly everybody likes to be safely scared by entertainment (in order to exorcise our very real fears), yet this difficult-to-get-right programming category never seems to garner any critical respect. Much like humor, horror operates on a subconscious level, and its effectiveness is often inversely proportional to our ability to articulate why it's effective. What that means is, for the more lazy-brained critics in our culture, describing good horror is not only hard, it's personal. Might as well just write off an entire genre as a base exercise, right? Well, the problem is that horror has gone rogue, basically. No longer limited to déclassé slasher movies and carnival rides, horror has been seeping into (and enhancing) every other genre. Romance, comedy, drama—horror is like the MSG of entertainment! When it's present, everything tastes better.
The Originals got REAL
horrifying this week. When a TV show has 22 episodes to throw
concepts and storylines at us, it's natural for certain installments to
skew differently. Some are more comedic, some are sadder,
some feel like TED Talks. "An Unblinking Death" was one of
the scariest hours of this show to date. A lot of that had to do with
our increased familiarity and empathy for these characters we've gotten
to know over the past 18 episodes, but let's not undersell just how
scary the concepts and the execution here were. Demonic possession of a
loved one! Terrorism! Straight-up slasher moments. Gore! The
Originals tends to straddle many different genres at once, but as
a horror fan I'm never more captivated by this show than when all the
banter falls away and the darkness seeps in. Yeah, I really liked "An
Unblinking Death." Just a terrifying heartbreaker of an episode.
Of the two main storylines, the more resonant one was certainly Father Kieran's agonizing demise. It's to The Originals credit that even in the opening moments, wherein Cami and Josh tended to the chained-up priest's increased madness—complete with hallucinations of Cami's deceased brother and also my beloved Bastiana—there was still a light and playful touch. Josh earned episode MVP status for the line, "Remind me not to piss off a witch!" while restraining a man who was trying to murder them both. As it turned out, Cami enlisting a vampire for assistance was a master stroke; Josh's casual strength and fearlessness came in handy, but his ability to compel a local physician to cart an electroshock therapy machine up into a haunted attic was truly invaluable. You know a plan is intense when even Klaus cringes in disapproval, yet Cami zapped her uncle anyway. It should go without saying that it didn't work, but one thing cannot go without saying: Father Kieran BIT OFF HIS OWN THUMB to escape his shackles. That was so unexpectedly gruesome I clapped at my television.
It's amazing that nobody had suggested curing Father Kieran's brain problems by turning him into a monster earlier (unintentional echoes of Teen Wolf!), but it finally happened here. Klaus tried to talk Cami out of it, but there's only so much you can do when you've shoved your hand into the ribcage of your lady crush's uncle, you know? Next thing we knew, Klaus had bitten into his wrist (ugh, that biting-an-apple sound effect) and fed the priest a taste of immortality. Upon waking, Kieran felt much less hexed and, declining to drink human blood, he instead said his goodbyes and sent Cami away, only to suddenly relapse into hex-town and go after Cami with a huge knife (which was hidden in a crucifix, awesomely enough). Those images of a vampire priest in a long robe stalking his frightened niece through a darkened church were as troubling as they were terrifying, especially when he slashed her with the knife, licked the blade, and turned into a full-blown vampire right before her eyes! And that was before he picked her up and started destroying the church with her body. TV logic mandated that Klaus would show up at the last minute, and he did, but that still didn't make his final act of murdering Father Kieran (with Cami's battered face giving pained consent) any less harrowing. Ugh, so good. And in this case, good means horrible. Tough times all around.
Meanwhile I've never been more
riveted by the werewolf plotline, and that includes the time they
were all naked on the lawn. (Spoiler alert: I will never be mad at
Oliver for anything he does, not after the lifetime pass he earned in
that kitchen scene with Rebekah.) Anyway, at first it seemed like the
swamp-side shanty village was enjoying yet another day of smoky
nostrils, screaming insects, and chill vibes, but then a SUICIDE
BOMBER drove up on a motorcycle and blew up the campfire. Luckily
Elijah was there to take most of the blast, but then another, more
elaborate bomb went off and decimated all the brokedown trailers and,
I don't know, cardboard boxes? That village was honestly not the best
place to live, but still. Terrifying! The senseless death and carnage
was enough to rile up all the wolves and strengthen their resolve
against the faction they believed was behind the attack: Marcel and
his vampire minions. The surprise reveal ended up being that Oliver
himself had been behind the bombing, and all to steal power away from
Hayley while also destroying Jackson's truce with Klaus. Credit where credit's due, Oliver's motives were actually logical and
understandable. But then he went and smothered that one
blonde ponytail werewolf lady who'd discovered his secret, so he's
definitely a villain now. Except he spent most of the episode flexing
in tank top and that is what's known as MIXED SIGNALS, The
Originals. How can I possibly stay mad at him? With that
hair? Can't do it, sorry.
Hayley was absolutely fantastic this wek. First her take-charge response in the wake of the
bombing (her ears still ringing, she picked up a scared child and
later tended to somebody's wounds like a BOSS). But then she busted
into the vampire bar and nearly staked Diego before tracking down Marcel at his new loft and threatening HIS life, too. After he explained
he wasn't involved in the bombing, he went on to tell Hayley that
he'd known her parents, and that after they'd been killed, he himself had been responsible for
shepherding her infant self to safety. The
scene was great in that the two had a mutual respect for one another,
but they openly acknowledged that soon they might be facing off in
battle. Just a tense yet enlightening exchange between two very
"An Unblinking Death" ended with one of my favorite storytelling elements (one so unfairly maligned during Lost's run): the closing montage. Klaus calling up Marcel to offer a temporary truce so that Marcel could comfort an absolutely wrecked Cami? D.E.V.A.S.T.A.T.I.N.G. Earlier in the episode we'd seen Cami plead with Klaus to keep her company, and he'd complied knowing that Hayley also needed his help elsewhere. So if he's back to feeling romantic toward Cami, it's all the more powerful that he'd allow his biggest rival for her affections to go to her. Ugh, so good. And then that final moment where Elijah all but disavowed his hard-earned monster-truce and clinked glasses with his brother? Also so good. The town was about to go to war, and when that happened, Elijah was prepared to fight alongside his brother first and foremost. Mikaelson and Mikaelson: THAT is the show we want to watch.
P.S. We NEED to talk about that teaser for the next episode, but we can't! That would be too spoilery and it may involve something HUGE that might be about to happen on The Vampire Diaries? But let me just say that if the major thing that teaser hinted at DOES happen, it could singlehandedly redeem TVD's entire season AND provide some insanely good storylines for The Originals. But we can't talk about it yet, can we? Anyway, it's hard for me to type with my fingers crossed so hard.
... What was Father Kieran's key for?
... Are you mad at Oliver?
... Have you ever bitten off your own thumb?
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