After two weeks of spandex-clad jocks running around on ice and shouting at each other in foreign languages, it's nice to be able to return to what REALLY matters in life: Undead immortals running around New Orleans shouting at each other in high English. The Originals' taking a few weeks off was a prime example of absence making the heart grow fonder, because this week's episode was nowhere near as good as the three insta-classics that preceded it yet I did NOT care. I still had a heart bursting with love for these characters and their terrible problems and I just felt so happy to be watching it again. You know? Needed it.
"Long Way Back From Hell" was just as well-acted, well-filmed, and suspenseful as we've come to expect of the series at this stage, but the fatal flaw was that it was predicated on one of The Originals' least compelling plot motivations yet: the idea that Rebekah summoning Mikael to town a hundred years prior was an unforgivable crime punishable by death. Nope! Sorry, did not buy that. I actually appreciated Genevieve's plan to turn the Mikaelsons against each other and I know that she needed to shine a spotlight on the skeletons in their respective closets in order to do it, but after one thousand years of dicking each other over I really didn't think Klaus would've batted a beautiful blonde eyelash at the revelation that his sister had half-heartedly plotted against him a hundred years prior. If anything I think he would have kinda respected her for it and then taken solace in the comfort that they were different people now and also Mikael Mikaelson was never that big of a threat to him. Sure, this episode wanted us to believe that his entrance into Old Time New Orleans nearly caused the city to burn down, but those of us who watched TVD recall Mikael's uselessness during Season 3 and his inglorious demise burning to death on Klaus' front steps like a straight-up chump. Not very intimidating! In this case Klaus should've chuckled in Genevieve's face: "So?"
Another unbelievable thing about this concept was that Klaus is just way too smart to allow a witch to manipulate him this way. Yes, he's very susceptible to his own emotions but he should've realized pretty quickly what Genevieve's game was and dealt with the Rebekah stuff later. So while it was certainly scary and unpleasant to see Klaus stalking Rebekah around a decrepit sanatorium with a witch blade, the basic concept behind it never rang true and in fact felt distractingly out of character. Particularly over the past few episodes these characters' motivations have become so strong and crystal clear that this regression into reverse-engineered plotting is kind of a bummer. It's like the writers decided Klaus needed to be so mad at Rebekah but never really figured out a good reason. Thus concludes my complaints about this episode because SO MUCH of the rest of it was VERY GOOD.
Conceptually the best part of "Long Way Back From Hell" was the way it yet again made flashbacks compelling in the present tense. After Rebekah woke up in an abandoned sanatorium sick with werewolf bites her surroundings flashed her back to the time she pretended to be a turn-of-the-century nurse during a terrible flu epidemic so that she could befriend Genevieve and manipulate her into summoning her vampire vampire-hunter father to come and neutralize Klaus. But in the present day, the newly undead and revenge-minded Genevieve linked a similarly imprisoned Klaus' mind with Rebekah's so that he'd see how grave her transgressions had been so long ago. The linking of memories was honestly very clever! Even better was when Genevieve attempted to force Rebekah to have flashbacks by playing a creepy phonograph and using other kinds of sensory triggers. I mean, of course that's not how memory works, it isn't just some kind of linear movie strip, but for the purposes of this episode it was refreshingly suspenseful to see these flashbacks unfold knowing that Rebekah would be in trouble when it got to the juicy parts. Rebekah's memories had real consequences and it's a credit to the writers for coming up with that conceit.
An equally compelling B-story had Elijah and Marcel teaming up like a vampire Law & Order to decode a witch's riddle that had been tattooed onto his skin by Sophie Deveraux's mouthy niece. (How great was Elijah's intrusion into Sophie's funeral? So rude and great!) Which meant that yes, ladies, Elijah was half-naked in this episode. Klaus too! This was a very good episode when it came to half-naked, one thousand year old vampires in my opinion. Anyway, after cruising around town questioning city leaders and investigating witch suicides, Elijah and Marcel discovered the identity of one of Celeste's most important snatched bodies (another nurse from the influenza days) and realized that the two kidnapped Mikaelsons were probably at the sanatorium. Which, okay, I said I was done criticizing the episode, but why did Sophie's niece even give Elijah a riddle to figure out in the first place? Did the witches WANT him to find his siblings? I don't really understand why that all happened. Anyway, but yeah, Elijah arrived just in time to save Rebekah from being stabbed with a witchblade by Klaus. But the shocking twist was Elijah forced the blade back into Klaus' body! So yeah, if you ask me, that's a pretty bad violation of sibling trust and a thousand times worse than simply summoning a dickish dad back to town. But that's just another reminder that the Mikaelsons have been trapped in a cycle of dickery for a thousand years now and Rebekah's supposed crimes were not all that bad or surprising when weighed against everything they'd all done to each other in general.
In a much tinier plotline but one that will probably prove more important later, Hayley took matters into her own hands with regard to that reverse-werewolf curse against her people. At some point it dawned on her that the witch who'd created the curse in the first place had most likely been possessed by Celeste at the time, so, duh, Celeste could probably break it! Which led to one of the most crowd-pleasing moments of the episode: Hayley clobbered Celested with A SHOVEL. That's our girl! Hayley is amazing.
Yeah, no, sorry to bum everybody out with a lukewarm review, but keep in mind that I really and truly loved the previous three episodes. I just felt like I didn't really quite get the central premise of this episode. But it was still full of lovely, wonderful moments, and again, Claire Holt is pulling some MVP-level performances still. (That speech to Marcel about the life she'd envisioned for them both was particularly powerful.) Also, you know, half-naked Mikaelsons. Hard to argue with that! I'm not sure how much I love seeing Klaus and Rebekah at odds like this, but I'm definitely curious to see where this goes. So far this run of witch-of-the-week episodes has set the benchmark pretty high for the series and I'm straight-up excited about where the next eight episodes will take us! Hold me.
... Did summoning Mikael really seem like the unforgivable crime this episode wanted us to believe it was?
... Can witches die of the flu?
... Should the witches curse Elijah with tattoo riddles more often?
... What do you think Davina's up to on The Other Side?