The Originals "Tangled Up in Blue" Review: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
We usually conclude these things with discussion questions, but this time I want to start with one: Exactly how many episodes of a TV series do YOU need to watch before you can safely conclude that it's maybe just not very good? Here at TV.com we do something called The 4-Episode Test, but even that is admittedly not going to be the most accurate barometer for how good a show will eventually be. If we're being real, The Vampire Diaries and maybe even Teen Wolf could not have been accurately assessed after only four episodes. Both shows revealed their strengths after their season-long plots built in intensity and their side characters grew richer and their villains stepped up their respective games. Also all those late-season towel scenes, those helped a lot. Good TV often takes time, basically. However: Four episodes is A LOT of chances to give a show you're not quite sure about. We have so many options, like SO many. Too many? And people who make TV shows— even the bad ones—are usually very, very talented. There's just no excuse for us to have to put up with things that aren't great, and we don't owe anybody our unconditional loyalty if they can't deliver that for us.
So, uh, this is a review of The Originals. What a dire introduction, right? Haha sorry. Look, I quite liked many aspects of the season premiere and last week had some white-hot Rebekah action. But in both cases my enjoyment of this series has been enhanced and influenced by outside factors like my love of the characters as they appeared on TVD and especially the trust I've placed in the people who make both shows. After this week, those initial feelings of cautious appreciation have started to fade, and they're being replaced by this other feeling that's now welling up inside me. It's a feeling closer to anger. The Originals has now had FOUR chances to wow me and it has avoided them at every turn and now I'm feeling restless and impatient and, yeah, I'm sorta mad about it.
"Tangled Up in Blue" had the advantage of being the first episode of The Originals to not be a pilot episode. There were new, forward-moving conflicts and, finally, character interactions that that felt spontaneous or surprising. But these moments were scattered and insanely fleeting. Like, we're talking maybe 10 good minutes of show and about 30 minutes of excruciating exposition. EXCRUCIATING. How is this possible? How do you put dynamic, powerful, literally immortal creatures in a room and have them do nothing but explain things to each other and then quietly leave? This show has very, very badly miscalculated how interested we are in backstory and as time presses on it's becoming clear just how terribly conceived its premise is and how underbaked its supporting characters still are. Oh well, at least there are three amazing characters at the forefront EXCEPT WHOOPS, NOPE, at least one of them has been completely marginalized in each episode. What is happening?
Sorry guys, I'm definitely in a HOW DARE U mode right now with regard to The Originals. Because how dare u, The Originals. You couldn't even make a masquerade ball interesting. Oh well, let me just take a deep breath and find my serenity for a second. There WERE some good things about this episode, because, as is still true, this show has just enough cleverness and sense of cinema so as to render its shortcomings that much more maddening. Did you get a thrill when Rebekah and Klaus decided work together and do a Vampire Mission: Impossible type scheme? I DID, so much. The episode started so strong with this stuff! I was like, "Wow, things might actually happen this week." And then Rebekah tore up that witch's shop and threw her all over the place and I was like, "Wow, Rebekah actually seems like the most powerful female vampire in the world this week." And Klaus's plot to systematically drain Marcel's minions of Vervain and turn them into sleeper agents—I was like, "Whoa, Klaus is actually scheming again, great." You know? No more hanging out on Bourbon Street for four unexplained months while accomplishing nothing, not even learning the basics of how vampire nightclubs work. This show was finally on track! But all of these hopes would be dashed by episode's end as they essentially culminated in nothing. NOTHING. Elijah was not freed. The reprogrammed vampire died. Rebekah and Klaus were mad at each other again. Cami was brain-damaged into forgetting everything. Davina still hadn't figured out how to kill an Original. Quick question: What was the point of this episode?
Again, the most frustrating aspect of this weird show is just how much it gets RIGHT, yet it's all in the service of ending up so underwhelming. For instance, I still am definitely intrigued by Davina, especially the fact that she refers to the Mikaelsons as the Old Ones. Very H.P. Lovecraft of her! I also borderline enjoyed the forbidden romance this week between Thierry and his witch girlfriend, if only because those two characters had no backstory to make speeches about and it felt SO refreshing. And again, the heist aspect (in which the booty was Elijah's booty) was very promising and would have totally paid off had The Originals exercised enough storytelling bravery to actually let Klaus and Rebekah win in the end. But nope, Elijah was still lyin' in that coffin when the hour was up! It's frankly incredible that the #1 lesson anyone learned from The Vampire Diaries—to always cycle through set-ups and pay-offs as quickly as possible—was summarily dropped when the makers decided to create this spin-off. Yes, having a rich and complicated backstory is indeed important, but it's not a replacement for a forward-moving story. Game of Thrones (and I am NOT ashamed to compare the TVD universe to Game of Thrones) has the most complicated character histories of any show, but you better believe a child is still getting pushed out that window in the first episode. Things HAPPEN on that show, and those things cause other things to happen. In the present tense. Because the present is the only thing that matters, everything else is just shading.
Last thing: We need to talk about whatever new thing is being set up with Hayley's character. First a werewolf came over and looked at Hayley, then one of the rando witches offered to help Hayley figure out her baby's gender, and then at the end of the episode we learned that during the aforementioned ceremony the witch fell into a trance and started muttering something in a different language. The last scene was Hayley attempting to translate the phrase on the internet and failing. And failing. And failing. And never finding out what it meant. THAT was the cliffhanger. The only thing shocking or interesting about this cliffhanger was how truly terrible it was. Just the worst. I laughed out loud and rewound it just to make sure I hadn't gone brain-damaged and missed the actual tease but NOPE. I had gone brain-damaged, but it was only because this show made me that way. Between all the insulting, pedantic over-explanation and then the distressing lack of creative ambition, The Originals is really doing a number on my brain cells lately.
SORRY, maybe I will change my mind next week. That is my right as an American with mental problems. But for right now I'm mad at The Originals. I know it's capable of better. Get it together, weirdo. Stop talking and start DOING.
... Too harsh?
... What exactly did this episode accomplish, story-wise?
... How long do you normally give a show before you stop watching?
... When Davina finally moves out of the attic, should she draw street portraits of tourists for cash?
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