Storytelling is hard. Hear me out. Whether it's writing novels or even just explaining to your dry cleaners how your fur coat became matted in melted Skittles, there's a specific way to impart information for maximum impact and entertainment value. Obviously you need to end on a punchline, even in a serious story. You also have to set the scene up front—location, characters, stakes—so that people will feel more riveted as the events unfold. It's not "I got melted Skittles on my fur coat because I sat on them," it's "We were at the Prime Minister's daughter's debutante ball and I'd been gifted a fur coat by a mysterious vagabond with a false arm and an eye patch, and he warned me to protect the fur at all costs lest a terrible curse befall my family. I then proceeded to sit on some melted Skittles." THAT is storytelling.
As good as The Originals has been about spinning engaging yarns from an originally inert premise, this new Mikael storyline has not been very well delivered! The first problem was informing us up front that Rebekah and Marcel had summoned him. Why were we supposed to care? What was so bad about Mikael? Then we spent an entire episode where the tension was supposed to come from Klaus learning a fact we already knew. We should've learned who summoned Klaus right alongside Klaus. But even if we had, why would it have been shocking other than The Originals simply telling us it would be? The Originals should've first shown us Mikael's reign of terror AND THEN revealed that Rebekah had been the one to send for him. Plus, we already know the ultimate punchline of this story: Mikael gets staked in Mystic Falls sometime in the 2010s like it's no big deal. Our knowledge of this kiiiinda undercuts the tension a lot. See, this is why I don't like prequels: We usually know how they end.
Fortunately, despite the storyline's out-of-order reveals and this show's previous insistence on telling us information rather than showing it to us, "Le Grand Guignol" went a long way toward finally, finally making us afraid of Mikael, and hence more understanding of Klaus's rage. Honestly it's still hard to care that much about a century-old grudge that Klaus didn't even know he had, but now that we finally have the full picture of what Mikael did, it's much easier to be invested. Personally I hope this is the last time that an Original discovers something about the past and it becomes some crazy-huge blow-up. What, will Elijah discover that back in the '70s Klaus once used his jheri curl activator without asking and then declare a vendetta against him in 2014? Let's maybe keep our grudges present-tense from now on, show.
The centerpiece of "Le Grand Guignol" was without a doubt Mikael's literally theatrical massacre. His entry into New Orleans entailed several dramatic conversations with his children and Marcel, but it wasn't until the curtains rose on his particularly grisly opera rewrite that we finally learned the extent of his cold-blooded madness. For me it finally clicked: "Oh, he wasn't just a threat to Klaus, he was also a threat to everything Klaus cared about." Yes, the show had certainly mentioned this aspect of the situation, but it never deigned to demonstrate it until now. A crucified Marcel, an impaled Werewolf Queen, the compelled laughter of an audience of Klaus's neighbors—THIS was the nightmare Rebekah wrought. That final image of a burning opera house (in which Marcel was believed to have been incinerated) finally brought home why the Mikaelsons had to flee, and why it took so long for them to want to return. It was powerful, evocative storytelling. It was just lamentably told out of order.
The episode's foundation for the flashbacks was Klaus's bedridden exposition to a babysitting Cami. Elijah removed Klaus's dagger (in an extremely disgusting chest-fisting) and tasked Cami with feeding him blood (Cami is such a good sport!), but this pairing went a long way toward getting us back on Klaus's good side. Even when he's refusing Cami's advice, Klaus's general respect for her has made him seem much less monstrous. Shortly before the big flashback to the opera house scene, Cami made a plea for Klaus to chill out a bit about murdering his own siblings, and for a second there I thought it might even work. I'm very into Cami now, and that's admittedly a hard-won victory on The Originals' part. While I never believed she'd ever be an equal to the very powerful main characters, as it turns out her role as Klaus's confidante elevates her status within this world in a very believable way. She seems to be the angel on his shoulder and it's a terrific dynamic for both characters. Very into it.
Another thing I'm into: Rebekah and Marcel's scramble to save themselves. The main reason being that it involves murdering the resurrected witches and bringing Davina back to life! Yes, yes, YES. I've really missed Davina. While I was sad to see Bastiana go so easily (Marcel popped her head right off!), it made me so happy when we got Davina back. It's not clear whether she'll be as powerful as she once was now that her magic has been redistributed, but still. She's kind of the heart of the show and her involvement in Marcel and Rebekah's safety will surely give Klaus pause, right?
Then there was the Sabine-Hayley-Elijah stuff, which was similarly amazing. After Hayley shovel-clocked Sabine last week, she took her to the swamps where she and her werewolf pals held Sabine at shotgun point. At that point Sabine rather easily agreed to make a mystical green smoothie to break the werewolf curse—an act which, as she gleefully pointed out, would ruin Elijah's relationship with Hayley either way. If Elijah prevented Hayley from breaking the curse she'd hate him for it, and if he allowed it, she'd leave him to be with her people (who wouldn't want to hang with a bunch of naked hunks?). Obviously Elijah allowed Hayley to have the antidote, he's not that much of a dick. Plus he had his own clever scam going: He'd enlisted Sophie's niece to place a curse on Celeste's remains, should Sabine attempt to jump bodies again. So after Sabine locked all the Originals in the cemetery and dramatically committed suicide, she was surprised to find herself back in her original form. At that point Elijah straight-up murdered her! So uh, yeah: Sabine/Celeste is dead, but her number-one scheme appears to live on. The episode ended with all three Mikaelsons trapped in the cemetery, getting all fanged-out and crinkly faced at each other. It's like a Mexican showdown but with 1,000-year-old vampires!
While I still think Mikael's story wasn't revealed as well as it could have been, the fact remains that the story itself is GOOD. I think the main problem is that The Originals needed to parcel it out over too many episodes and attempted to derive shocking twists from things that wouldn't have been shocking if they'd taken place in the correct order. But I should stop backseat writing this thing. "Le Grand Guignol" was a very entertaining hour of television and it finally made me understand Klaus's rage. I'm obviously still rooting for him to chill out and get over it (and we know he will, because I really doubt Rebekah or Elijah are going anywhere), but the bigger picture of these characters is starting to come together and it looks pretty great from here.
... Klaus's biological father was referred to TWICE in this episode. How long until we meet him?
... Alaric's super mega white oak stake was back! Did you get nostalgic for TVD Season 3?
... Do you think Mikael himself will be resurrected somehow?
... How much will you miss Bastiana?
AIRED ON 5/11/2015
Season 2 : Episode 22