OH OKAY, I think I get it now. No seriously, I think I finally understand what The Originals is supposed to be about. The Originals is not some Bourbon Street power tussle, it's not some bafflingly low-stakes, small-beans conflict between ancient ego-trippers and a rag-tag group of warring witches. What it IS is a borderline disturbing domestic violence saga. No, really. I've been harboring a creeping realization these past few weeks, but this week it finally came to the fore: The Originals is not about family loyalty, it's about family destruction. It's about how families fall apart; it's about how siblings and lovers betray one another; it's about utter self-immolation. Basically, The Originals is about suicide bombings of the heart. The initial premise and the setting, two things I was never wild about: Those were misdirects. As it turns out, it never mattered where this conflict played out. We're looking at the possible end days of the Mikaelsons as a unit, and for some reason this disturbing revelation has brought me so much comfort. It makes so much more sense! Turning this series into a study of casual cruelty invites so many more powerful feelings and so much more emotional engagement than simply being told that the characters hold old grudges and, I don't know, want to seize control of night club courtyards. That stuff never rang true to me, never really hooked me. But "Bloodletting" was an ugly episode—beautifully written—about ugly intentions. If you hadn't yet bought into the mantra "It's like a more mature version of The Vampire Diaries," we can't deny it now. This show is DARK.
Man, I'm serious, The Originals' writers have been the hardest-working people in town. They took an obviously slapped-together premise and a set of peripheral characters and furiously worked to make everything all coherent and compelling. "Bloodletting" proved that I was wrong to hope for a Mikaelson team-up, or a "Marcel and Klaus versus the world"-type dynamic. No, it turns out what The Originals needed all along was for Klaus (and also, apparently, Tyler) to become the absolute cruelest versions of themselves we've ever seen, and then witness as every other character shifts to withstand their attacks. I already loved Rebekah, Hayley, and Elijah, and felt most invested in them as heroes, but after what they went through in this episode, those feelings have really intensified. I even like Marcel again? I think I even like Marcel again.
"Bloodletting" was a terrific episode, but more importantly it felt like the start of something new, exciting, and admirably dark. Let's talk about the best parts.
So, the first phase of making me care about Marcel was unveiling Marcel's vampire fight club! It was already a very good idea to make daylight rings scarce and highly sought-after, but making vampires FIGHT for them was the best. I still have a weird aversion to seeing women get punched in the face by burly dudes, but at least the lady vampire ended up winning, right? (Until Klaus ran in and broke her neck.) But still, what an excellent start to the episode! And the moment when Klaus and Elijah stood united in the middle of the circle was particularly powerful, even though at that point I had no idea just how fleeting that alliance would be.
Davina's hair! That other witch's fingernails! This is not a related story, but the first time I ever saw an iPad in real life was on an airplane and it was being used by an African-American lady with extremely long Flo Jo nails. To this day I firmly believe that if Apple included this imagery in its advertising campaign, the iPad would finally become a hit, what do you think?
Okay, no, THIS was a very good subplot. Klaus' compulsion over Josh had turned Josh into a sloppy minion, so Marcel caught onto the scheme. But instead of murdering one of the VERY, VERY FEW GAY CHARACTERS ON ALL OF THE CW (rant for another day), Marcel decided to let Josh chill with Davina for an afternoon while she brutally scrubbed his brain of the compulsion while also becoming his bestie. Their bonding over being teenage outcasts was one of the more clever parallels this show has come up with and it both brought out Davina's personality (she smiled, even!) as well as established that Josh even HAS a personality. More of this subplot, please. So much more.
One of the more troubling aspects of The Originals has been its decision to mostly ignore the recent history in favor of ancient history. Obviously it needed to attract outside viewers (and it seems to have succeeded, so, fair enough), but I couldn't help but feel like many of the shenanigans of Mystic Falls had been forgotten too soon. But this episode contained several callbacks to the mothership, including Klaus's recounting of having to murder his hybrid army (plus Tyler's mom) during one especially weird Early Spring Town-wide Christmas Party. Further, a casual reference to the condition of Caroline's broken heart brought back tons of angsty memories, and I for one really dug that. A handful of retcons or outright divergences have started to spring up on The Originals, but I definitely hope some of the more major emotional arcs of the recent past will be honored in this way.
Well, after Tyler ignored Caroline for a summer and then basically dumped her, he was not really on my list of favorites. But I did NOT expect him to go full-on villain in this episode. And you know what? He wears it well. At no point did I ever view him as a credible threat to Klaus, but my blood was BOILING when he was mistreating Hayley. And yes, his theory that Hayley's baby's blood could create hybrids was verified, but he was ultimately proved wrong about Klaus's intentions and helped cause as big a rift between the Mikaelsons as we've ever seen. But, and this is unsolicited advice for both Tyler AND this show: Forget about the hybrids already. What an utter failure of mythology they ended up being. For entire seasons, The Vampire Diaries tried to convince us that hybrids were this big unstoppable species, but the Salvatores routinely stomped them like Goombas. Even Tyler just casually murdered Dwayne the hybrid like it was NBD. So, again, can we not with the hybrids anymore? Tyler and Klaus's epic showdown ended with Klaus easily stabbing Tyler in the chest and reminding him that he's nothing. Klaus was right! It was far more interesting seeing Tyler immediately go into scheming mode and team up with Marcel. I think he'll definitely be better at scheming than brawling. Tyler, get real about fist-fighting a 1,000-year-old immortal. Anyway, yeah: In this episode Hayley called Tyler a "piece of sh--" and HE WAS.
This was part of what Elijah charitably referred to as the werewolf "village" where Hayley's bloodline had been living. Haha oh man. Werewolves are basically hobos now. Dwayne was just a sexy hobo werewolf. R.I.P. Dwayne.
I basically like Klaus in every way, but I'd forgotten just how compelling he is when he's legitimately scary. It was one thing when he was brawling with Tyler and I was sort of on Klaus's side. But when he was merely accused of having ulterior motives and decided to BITE Elijah? Brutal. So brutal. And then came the centerpiece of the episode: his emotional terrorism of Rebekah. That's when this series for me took a turn into disturbing territory. Not only did she LIVE with someone threatening her very existence, he was also forcing her to help him against her will, under threat of punishment. The elegance of Klaus is that he's usually pretty sympathetic, even when he's evil: He's logical, but he's prone to emotional outbursts over things that are pretty understandable. But for someone who veers wildly between sympathetic and loathsome, he's definitely back in loathsome mode now. I'm into it.
Right away it was established that Klaus's werewolf venom won't actually kill Elijah, but the bite was more brutal in a symbolic sense. Klaus's argument was that if those closest to him still distrusted him (after several months of effort to earn their trust) then he should just become the villain they'd painted him as. Which: heartbreaking. But also: Settle down, jerk. Any tentative truce these wildly different brothers had been forming went out the window in this episode, and it totally destabilized our expectations of where The Originals might be headed. Personally, nothing is more poisonous to a serialized drama than predictability, and this bite was a big signal that from now on, anything can happen.
I mean, don't get me started. I probably have an unhealthy portion of my emotions invested in Rebekah. She is the best, and Claire Holt is one of my favorite actresses on TV. Notice what's going on in her eyes even when she's just listening to someone talk. EVERYTHING. Everything is going on in her eyes. That look on her face when Marcel showed her the Garden and then revealed it was the location where their Happily Ever After was meant to be built. Man, she was back to being that vulnerable creature who just wanted to be a regular high school girl in some weird Southern town. Or her look of both curiosity and terror when Marcel openly daydreamed about a life without Klaus. Or when she bit back her tears while Klaus revealed himself as the foremost domestic abuser in her life, and she lied to him about Marcel's plot, thereby aligning herself with someone who'd been her enemy only hours earlier. See what I'm saying? ANYTHING can happen now. Team Rebekah, though. Always and forever.
Although The Originals has had a few standout episodes in its brief run, "Bloodletting" felt like the most important one yet. Again, it's hard to overemphasize how much this show has suddenly transcended some rather dire set-up. YES. Here we go.
... Tyler: Sympathetic or too rude?
... Should the Mikaelsons continue to fight it out more or immediately resolve their differences?
... Are you rooting for Marcel yet?
... Should Davina and Josh become friends on social media, or will Marcel find out?