The Originals "An Unblinking Death" Review: Unforced Terror

By Price Peterson

Apr 23, 2014

The Originals S01E19: "An Unblinking Death"

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 sympathetic characters.

"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.

Great episode.

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?

... Bastiana.

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  • JessicaDoty1 Jun 11, 2014

    Really irritated with The Originals for handling ECT so poorly. I have had ECT for depression and it literally saved my life, so to see The Originals make it out to be some sort of horrific, dangerous thing and potentially dissuade even ONE person from doing it and saving their own life makes me too mad for words. It is NOT dangerous, the most dangerous part is that you need to be anesthetized (so no you don't scream in agony for long periods of time while zapping sounds fill the room) like any procedure and all the obvious risks of anesthesia. You get put under and wake up with no pain, and no memory of the procedure and it doesn't hurt at all. It is a life saver, and for a show as modern as The Originals to perpetuate old information and flat out MYTH about it is not only irresponsible, but downright unethical

  • JessicaDoty1 Jun 11, 2014

    Also it isn't used only in cases of "extreme psychosis" but rather quite regularly for depression, anxiety, PTSD and all sorts of mental illness minor and severe. When I went there were about 10 other people having it done that same day, all perfectly sane

  • Madelynn1984 May 03, 2014

    I'll miss Father Kieran. I guess I was hoping he'd pull through, since he's the only human that I've ever bought being able to stand up to the other factions. All the other humans just seem oblivious to reality when they act all tough. Like, they get that all of the other factions can rip their heads off in 2 seconds, right? But he seemed stronger somehow. Perhaps partly it's a sense that he has God and integrity on his side. The only way to fight evil, when you're clearly the weaker party, is to be tough but GOOD. Random conniving casino-owners are just gonna get torn limb-from-limb if they piss off any of the other factions. Well, I HOPE they get torn limb-from-limb. Onscreen. RIP coolest human character.

  • Scrabble Apr 29, 2014

    'I will never be mad at Oliver for anything he does, not after the lifetime pass he earned in that kitchen scene with Rebekah.'

    That. It's so true, it's almost a problem. They seem to want to set him up as a bad guy (yes, yes killing the sweet lady was very wrong) but I just can't be annoyed at him.

  • niamhmorwennaslaneyambrid Apr 27, 2014

    Hayley was epic this episode. SO GOOD. Everything she did whilst pregnant, and everything - that is a strong female character, something TVD is severely lacking. I'm not trying to compare the two shows, seeing as one has been running for 5 years and one is only at the end of its first season, but TVD needs strong females. I mean, Caroline doesn't get enough justice - her storylines are always about guys and love.
    But anyway, team wolf mama for sure. &3

  • dude19 Apr 26, 2014

    This was one of my least favourite episodes. From the cliched writing to the atrocious acting (that Oliver smothering scene was painful) to the even worse direction. This was amateur hour. Also, is it really wise to include a line like "you get a good education when you run away at 13" on a network that targets youth?

  • alcalde Oct 10, 2014

    Unless you think kids are going to jump at the chance to learn about how to treat severe trauma and blood loss on the streets, I don't see how that line could make running away sound appealing. Put it this way: if someone said they learned about treating injuries while on tour of duty in Iraq, would that entice anyone to sign up?

  • PhilKessler Apr 27, 2014

    I totally agree! In fact, I scrolled down to the comments just to find SOMEONE that also hated this episode. The acting was atrocious!

  • fun_kay Apr 25, 2014

    This is the most kind and compassionate I've seen Klaus EVER! Suits him well :)

  • parmissm11 Apr 25, 2014

    I can't emphasize how much I love, love, love this show! The brotherly chemistry between Elijah and Klaus is outstanding! Oh and don't get me started on Klaus's facial expressions and Elijah's hand gestures!!!!

  • Panther927 Apr 25, 2014

    never thought I'd ever hear klaus saying massaging his heart lool . and got to say elijah in a torn suit after the bombing looked even better than when he is perfectly suited up. Got to say klaus does have his moments which makes me forget he is a psychotic mass murderer with daddy issues, I especially loved how sympathetic he was towards both father kieran as well as cami!! and letting Marcel return just to comfort her , what drugs were you on klaus ?? I just know that its temporary and we'll get back the klaus we all know and love without the sweet side sooner rather than later.

  • Magiteknight Apr 25, 2014

    I'm sad to see Father Kieran go (I think he's a hottie) but the way he went out was creepy, scary and amazing. A definite highlight. I feel for Camy, it's terrible losing loved ones.

    Speaking about her, there seems to be an unusual amount of hate for Camy. why? Is it because she's one of the few humans and therefore considered "useless"? I for one like her, she falls into the relatable category for me. She does what she can. I don't fault her for not being able to let go of her loved ones.

    I don't care about the wolves or the witches really. Josh and Devina I do care about. Haley is... I get what her character is about, but I don't like her.

    Big fan of kind Klaus.

  • Madelynn1984 May 03, 2014

    I agree with all this, except actually Haley has grown on me quite a bit. Couldn't stand her on TVD, but she's so badass on this show. :)

  • Veronikamdov Apr 25, 2014

    People don´t like Camille mostly because she isn´t Caroline, that´s all. I also like her character and find her quite relatable and mature but it is true that they should give her a proper storyline.. but I think it´s coming because she will replace her uncle´s place and discover something about family, soo...:)

  • Magiteknight Apr 25, 2014

    Yeah I suppose that makes sense, but I still think it's silly. They're two different characters XD

  • NightOwl_Nena Apr 24, 2014

    Hayley was a BAMF in this episode. LOVED IT!

    Have to admit that I'm glad that Cami's uncle is finally dead. I didn't hate him, I just didn't like his storyline. And his dying-process during the entire episode... Just when you thought it couldn't get any more dramatic, it did... XD

    No, I'm not mad at Oliver. I simply don't like him. Never did. I'm waiting for his death since he betrayed my precious Rebekah. *miss her*

    But I need a Captain over here to explain me something. It's not a denunciation, I just don't get it:

    1) How did Oliver get the suicide bomber to do this assassination? No one knew him, so he wasn't from the pack. And Oliver can't do mind control…

    2) How was he able to place so many bombs without his pack recognizing ANYTHING? Is he a ninja-wolf or are the other pack members just really careless?

  • helyanwe89 Apr 29, 2014

    1) Oliver made a deal with the human faction. Marcel told Hayley that the suicide bomber owed a lot of money to the humans who own the casinos. We found out in 1x17 that Francesca (the new leader of the human faction) owns the Place Royal Casino and is into drug-trafficking - so I think we're supposed to assume that Oliver was working with some of the humans.

    2) I didn't get that either but I'm not sure Oliver was the one who set-up the bombs. It sounded like when he was talking to Eve that he hadn't agreed to all those bombs - he just wanted some big act of violence that he could blame on the vampires that way he could use the attack to his advantage and get the werewolves riled up so they could make some sort of power-play.

  • NightOwl_Nena Apr 29, 2014

    Thank you very much, my Captain! :) It doesn't satisfies me entirely, but now I can focus on something. But I still do not like those kinds of lacks in a show... Just too less background information.

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