Ah, the mid-season finale. The final hurrah before a long, cold winter. Usually a mid-season finale is the time for a new series to really prove its willingness to shock us or leave us hanging, but in the case of The Originals, the most shocking twist/cliffhanger was the revelation that this show is finally as terrific as we once hoped it would be. Yes, things started to really take shape three or four episodes ago, but this was the one in which things congealed and felt solid and compelling and confident, like a show that's been on for years. And now it's going away! What a cruel world we live in.
The beauty of "Reigning Pain in New Orleans" was how it re-situated characters, consolidated storylines, and essentially cleared the air before heading into more exciting territories. Davina's out of that attic, Klaus is officially in charge (his alleged inability to take control has always rung false), and almost every character (including Cami) is aware of the larger picture and stakes. Just the sheer fact that most of the characters now live together under one roof in the heart of Bourbon Street makes the world seem at once cozier AND more urgent. Introducing a human Faction as a formidable threat also built this world out enough to finally make New Orleans seem like a decent enough setting. (I still wish these power struggles were playing out New York or D.C., but oh well.) Most of all, it reminded us that no matter how awful these characters can be toward each other, they're always only a few scenes away from heartbreaking redemption. Nobody's really bad and nobody's really good. Now that the show has cleaned house and redecorated, the narrative possibilities seem truly endless. Let's talk about the best parts!
All good dinner parties should include the following: Bleeding waiters, hateful dinner guests, a call for genocide, and a dining table set up in a filthy nightclub courtyard despite the fact that you live in a mansion. Even better, make sure your toast is amazing. Klaus' sure was! Alternating between gloating about being in charge and threatening certain doom to those who dare cross him, this was the first time in a while Klaus has actually felt, well, KING-ly. Right away he asserted himself as the true ruler of vampires in a way that not only felt genuine, it finally, FINALLY validated this show's very premise. And I don't know if you caught his opening line or not, but Klaus said that despite being immortal and ageless, vampires like them don't tire of being alive, but rather they feel more and more alive with each passing century. It was a relatively unremarkable claim, but if you've been watching TVD this season, this statement directly contradicted that show's repeated assertions that immortal creatures inevitably grow tired of being alive and eventually crave death. Nope! Just one more subtle reason why The Originals has started to overtake TVD conceptually: THESE vampires are actually stoked to be here, and are, therefore, more fun to watch.
Anything that causes Rebekah and Elijah to team up for do-gooding is an automatic A+ for me. In this case Hayley pleaded with her baby-daddy’s brother and sister to prevent the rest of her bloodline from being massacred on Klaus' orders. This entailed a few scenes in which Elijah and Rebekah saved the lives of random swamp werewolves, stood up to that one vampire with the puffy hair, and Rebekah uttered some of the funniest lines of the season. "You know how hovels depress me" made me LOLSM (laugh out loud so much), but then later when she casually complained "I stink of the bog" I had to lie on the floor for a minute. Rebekah is the best. Oh, also an important thing came of this: Hayley's cousin Eve (can werewolves also be witches?) lead them to an encampment of werewolves descended from Klaus' biological father! Whoa, that's a big piece of unexplored mythology that this series is finally delving into. Plus, Klaus came to actually appreciate his siblings' efforts and decided to secretly provide his extended kin with safe harbor. Anyway, yeah, this plotline was but a small part of this episode but every second of it felt important and, more importantly, highly entertaining.
So first of all, the humans in this world are actually amazing? The Faction are formidable and important in a way that the Vampire Council of Mystic Falls never was. For one thing, New Orleans is a huge city, so to introduce its mayor and other powerful city figures as a coalition willing to massacre vampires on a whim, just make stakes suddenly seem so much higher. I mean, yeah, of course Klaus and Marcel went on to brutally murder the mayor in this episode, but the fact that they murdered THE MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS was so over-the-top I clapped my hands. Also, how about that back-room vampire drive-by? The Faction were such thugs for doing that! But did you catch the moment where Klaus looked really concerned about Marcel's gunshot wounds? So good.
Haha this I loved this guy. Obviously this vampire is on the Other Side now, but I just loved seeing a full-on, burnt up skeleton chillin' on the floor there. Had we ever seen one before? I thought sunlight just gave vampires super bad sunburns and they merely had to take two steps backward into a shadow, but his guy just plum burst into flames and laid down! I'm not saying I would behave rationally while engulfed in flames, but still. D for effort, dude.
First of all, hey, new set! I always love a new set. Now that everybody's moving into Klaus' old home we're getting to see more and more of the floor plan and this excites me. I feel like we might even be getting a secret passageway out of it soon? Guys, all I want is for these characters to live in a big house full of secret passageways. I love secret passageways so much. ANYWAY, Davina and Josh were secretly kickin' it in the garage, which was already a great situation for those of us who love these insta-besties. But then Hayley dropped by and tried to join the gang. Yes! I really hope these three become the teen monster club of New Orleans, that would be amazing.
The pattern will always be like this: Klaus does something terrible; Klaus has a change of heart; somebody betrays Klaus; Klaus does something terrible; repeat x infinity blackout forever. Which is good, that is a great pattern! In this case Klaus' reign of angsty terror quickly subsided when he made a heartbreaking speech about how his father had failed him, Marcel's father had failed HIM, and he had no intention of failing his own child. He then offered Marcel a co-governing partnership as "equals, brothers, friends." Touching yes, but also riveting in that Marcel had been secretly plotting against Klaus alongside Rebekah. However, Klaus' olive branch proved compelling enough for Marcel to essentially break it off with Rebekah, which meant this show continues to be a domino-effect of positive actions leading to negative ones. Such good drama.
Davina FINALLY realized the extent to which Marcel had been using her, the breaking point being the fact that he failed to mention that her worst enemy was dead and she didn't necessarily need to be living in dusty attics anymore. I especially loved that Hayley delivered the news and Davina distrusted her only to then realize Hayley was right and therefore they were allies. It's not clear what exactly Davina will do now (or why she wouldn't just high-tail it out of that puke-encrusted neighborhood), but allowing this lady to come and go as she sees fit? Yes, finally.
I mean, come on. Regardless of how you feel about this particular relationship, it's hard not to be moved by the frustrated, forbidden aspects of Hayley and Elijah's flirtations. Whatever happens, it won't end well, but this beat where they stared at each others' mouths up close was just so excruciatingly affecting.
I'm not sure it had been well enough established that Elijah is reluctant to apologize for his mistakes, but it still felt momentous and meaningful when he admitted to Klaus that he'd been wrong to accuse him of hybrid-lust. Klaus immediately accepted the apology and even invited Elijah and Rebekah to move in, but the more important aspect was Klaus' obvious softening in his hard-line stance against those around him. Perhaps he'd realized he needs the love and loyalty of others in order to rule or even be happy, but I prefer to think he might take Elijah's apology as an example of how to behave himself. It's been more than established that Klaus doesn't love to apologize for his crimes and transgressions, but it's definitely starting to feel like he's evolving into a somewhat more empathetic person. But, you know, baby steps.
Poor Cami! I'm frankly not sure why, after discovering Klaus' secret in the previous episode, she immediately 'fessed up to him about it. He obviously just compelled her again. But I did love that this time she'd left herself post-its around the apartment, Memento-style. I wish that in her research into vampires she'd gotten to the chapter about eating vervain, but oh well. At the very end Davina arrived to ask Cami for help (um, why?) and decided to uncompel Cami once and for all. Man, I love that un-compulsion is super painful in this world. That's a nice touch, it makes what could have been a narrative shortcut significantly more important and thrilling. Anyway, Cami's brain-scrub did NOT seem fun. Hopefully she'll put it to good use!
"Reigning Pain in New Orleans" was, more than ever, a solid, fully realized episode that capitalized on the show's premise. What a difference it made to have the characters move in together! What a difference it made to place the actual most powerful vampire at the head of the table! Sure, everybody's still got a secret agenda or two, but this show has never felt more organic, integrated, and cohesive. Oh, and ENTERTAINING. This episode was just a straight-up treat. And now it's going away for what will feel like forever. [sadface] Oh well. Happy holidays, friends!
... Did the Almost-Kiss hurt your heart?
... Will The Faction 2.0 be as bad-ass as the first one?
... Do you have a secret garage friendship circle?
... Should Davina be the only witch on this show from now on?
AIRED ON 5/13/2014
Season 1 : Episode 22