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The Originals S01E22: "From a Cradle to a Grave"

Oh, right, that's what crying feels like, cool, I had almost forgotten. Man, this episode.

This being the season finale and all, maybe we should start at the beginning? Do you know that thing that happens when something is SUCH a sure bet that it can't help but disappoint? Like, either not enough effort was put into it or it simply didn't reach the expectations that tend to accompany a sure bet? In retrospect that seems to be what happened with The Originals' backdoor pilot. I don't think anybody doubted that the Mikaelsons could front their own show (and some of us had been openly fantasizing about this concept since they overtook Season 3 of The Vampire Diaries through sheer force of personality), but the resulting episode just didn't feel fully baked for whatever reason. My guess is that the legit geniuses behind TVD already had a full plate figuring out how to resolve Season 4's ancient wizard drama and that stress was compounded by how impossible it can be to work within a network's gauntlet of notes and directives. But yeah: The Mikaelsons hanging around a 6-block tourist trap with barmaids and weak witches and karaoke-singing gang leaders felt about as underwhelming as possible considering these were highly cultured, one thousand-year-old immortals we were dealing with. Remember Klaus' speech to Caroline about the wondrous world of art and culture? Or the literal castle that Elijah had once romanced Katherine in? What on earth were these titans doing in the puke-filled gutters and tchotchke-choked kiosks of Bourbon Street? As it turned out, like the writers who created them, these characters would quickly find their way.

This is the story of how a sure thing became a slight disappointment became a rousing success: The Originals knew how to course correct. It not only identified and eliminated its weaknesses (ahem, Sophie), it managed to take IRL dilemmas (Claire Holt's impending departure) and integrate them into the show with extremely effective and affecting storytelling. There was a bravery on display here that felt revelatory for a baby show. What was once confusing or unmotivated felt suddenly captivating. Peripheral characters who once made no sense were now instrumental in the lives of our heroes. So yeah, it wasn't long before this show stopped feeling like a freshman season and it started feeling like it had been on the air for years.

And that brings us up to the first season's absolutely tremendous finale. Guys, it was good. You know, if by "good" you mean "gasp-sob inducing." Which I do.

"From a Cradle To a Grave" was huge in all the ways the backdoor pilot was not. The sets were bigger and more lavish, the roster of characters deeper and more purposeful, and the emotions basically apocalyptic. The cold open alone felt like a particularly intense art film. A flashback of Hayley and Klaus getting heart-warmingly parental, then Hayley reading a letter to her unborn child, and it was all intercut with Hayley writhing around on the church altar as witches prepared to steal her child. And that was BEFORE Klaus busted in and found himself slammed against the church wall so he could watch in agony as his child was born and then Hayley was MURDERED. I mean, that whole segment was A LOT. Just a lot for the characters to handle, yeah, but even more for US to handle.

After the witches left with the baby, Elijah arrived to find Klaus cradling Hayley's dead body and he took the opportunity to scream in Klaus' face, as was his right, but it wasn't really helping if we're being honest. Later they regrouped a bit and went to the cemetery to stop the impending baby-sacrifice, but found themselves lost in a magical spell that made the cemetery miles-wide. Elijah made a truly heartbreaking speech about how he'd let Hayley into his heart and now he was broken. Then guess who showed up? Hayley. She just sorta strolled in like it was NBD. Turned out the baby blood in her system resurrected her as a hybrid in transition! Not only that, but her maternal instinct had some serious psychic vibes so she led the boys directly to the witches. They were momentarily stopped in their tracks by a gang of witch ghosts, but after throwing a potted plant and a fence post and also a ninja star, the witches were all murdered! Especially Monique, who was the worst. At that point I was like, whew, what a good finale. But then I looked at the clock and we were only 25 minutes into the episode? Madness. Anyway, then Marcel ran up and snatched the baby and ran away again.

As it turned out, Marcel was still dying from Klaus' bite and he needed Klaus' blood to survive, so that's why he showed up with the ninja star to save the day but also take the baby. Klaus was in a super good mood and gladly gave his blood to Marcel (in another knee-weakeningly emotional moment). Meanwhile Josh had already been cured by Davina after she levitated all of Klaus' dirty blood off the asphalt and put it in an empty Hurricane cup for him. The other vampires died, though. There was essentially a vampire genocide in this episode, sorry guys. Speaking of blood, in order for Hayley to continue her transition into a hybrid she had to drink the blood of her own child! That was insane. I was wondering if the show would really go there, but it definitely went there. I never thought I'd live to see the day when I'd see a newborn baby's thumb pricked by a needle, but now I have. (And that's to say nothing of the actual dead-baby-in-a-cardboard-box that showed up later).

But when we and also the future scholars of television look back at this episode we and they will only talk about THE SCENE. You know the scene. Okay, so: Hayley and Klaus and Elijah decided that the only way to protect the child from the witches (specifically Esther, who it turned out was behind the ancestors' wish to kill the baby) was to fake her death and then send her away and pretend to mourn. And then, as we were treated to heartbreaking images of Hayley and Elijah breaking down in public over the ostensibly slain baby we heard a conversation between Klaus and Elijah in which they wondered who could possibly look after their child in their absence? And then THIS SCENE happened:

YES. Yes. Yes. Yes.

This wasn't so much a surprise twist as it was a cathartic, impossibly moving moment that crystallized everything we love about this show, Rebekah, Claire Holt, the writers, just everything. Yes, The Originals will survive without Rebekah, but bringing her back for this explicit purpose both honored her and permanently enmeshed her presence into the show even when we won't see her. Man, I don't know what to tell you except that I've rarely ever had such a viscerally powerful reaction to a piece of entertainment like this. I think the last time I was this overcome was maybe during the New Caprica rescue scene in Battlestar Galactica, or certain parts of Dancer in the Dark, or maybe the finale of Big Fish. This scene just floored me, is what I'm trying to say. Even if Rebekah had remained silent I would have been ruined. But then Klaus made that speech, that angry and loving speech to his sleeping daughter while Rebekah looked on full of emotion. Then he gave that one thousand-year-old toy of Rebekah's back to her. And then he revealed that the baby's name was Hope and then kissed Rebekah's forehead. I'm crying as I type this, no lie. It's honestly a relief to know that I have normal human emotions. Thanks for the reminder, The Originals! Because wow.

Nothing else seems as important as that scene, but more stuff did happen in this episode! Uh, for one thing, Davina legit resurrected Mikael! But she's a clever girl so she created a bracelet that allows her to control him like a puppet, which is AMAZING. (That moment where she prevented him from harming Klaus and his baby was so subtle and wonderful). Meanwhile Klaus had to lie to a devastated Cami about his daughter's death and then he, in a very true sense, banished Cami from his life out of concern for her welfare. Heartbreaking. The werewolves were out in the street openly plotting about whatever. And then that final twist: Esther REBORN! And not just Esther, but one of her children also. But since they were body-hopping into strangers, it wasn't clear if it was Finn or Kol. But still: Both Esther AND Mikael and another Original are back in action. That's a pretty tantalizing tease for next season in my opinion. More Originals!

I am still thinking about that Rebekah moment, though. So much of its power was in how it took advantage of our general love for Rebekah (and Claire Holt) and just when we'd finally gotten over the fact that she wouldn't be around anymore. But it also honored that character while also providing an elegant out for the whole baby plotline. Because let's face it, this was never going to be a show with a baby to raise. I'd wondered how The Originals would solve the issue of getting rid of the baby without being too depressing and guess what? It figured out the absolute best way to do it. See what I'm saying about how good this show is at getting itself out of narrative corners? It is the best maybe. Man, I just. I'm going to be thinking about that scene for a while.

The Originals' first season wasn't without flaws, but it's astounding for what it achieved overall. Just so many high points, with its finale the highest. AS IT SHOULD BE. I will truly miss this show over the summer. It may have just ruined my life, but still. Please hurry back and ruin me some more.


QUESTIONS

... Are you okay?

... How are you though?

... Favorite moment(s)?

... Will you be okay in the future?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/13/2014

Season 1 : Episode 22

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