If you think about it, pretty much everybody has an interesting backstory involving a secret massacre. Not only are massacres very easy to keep secret, they are very common and they happen to the best of us, all the time. Personally I can't even count all the secret massacres that have touched my family throughout the years, but if I had to guess, I'd say there've been at least seven? Some of these secret massacres were misunderstandings, sure, and one or two may have been hoodoo related, but the rest definitely involved blood feuds with mythological species, and I am frankly starting to get very ticked about all these massacres I've had to keep under wraps. Don't worry, I won't bore you with tales of all the secret massacres in my past, because I know you'd just be patiently waiting for me to be quiet so that you could talk about all the secret massacres in your past. But if there is one thing we all have in common it's that most of our friends and family were killed in secret massacres that nobody knows about. That is what unites us. All our secret massacres.
On this week's episode of The Originals: Everybody in the past died! "Sinners and Saints" was basically the TV version of somebody kicking over a cobblestone and pointing at all the dead potato bugs, because holy moly was the French Quarter a grim place eight months ago. After last week's sudden turn into the realm of forward-moving storytelling, "Sinners and Saints" returned to the campfire tale format of episodes past. But it turns out massive exposition dumps CAN be riveting so long as the stories are super dark? Also it helps if we haven't heard them before. I like new stories! "Sinners and Saints" was a very sharply written, dense episode in that it finally made certain characters and elements gel while finally elaborating on things that had only been hinted at previously.
However: Shouldn't we be past the gelling stage at this point? Like sorry, dudes, but it's still a major problem that The Originals seems way more invested in the past than it does in the present. But who am I to argue with anything as entertaining as this episode was? Nobody! I am nobody to argue with anything. "Sinners and Saints" was solid, surprising, and seemingly essential to the story moving forward. (Nice work, Sheriff Forbes!)
Uh, news flash dot gif: WITCHES ARE INTERESTING NOW. Obviously witches are having a moment in pop culture these days, but I mean specifically the witches in The Originals, they are interesting now! (Sorry TVD, still no dice.) This episode filled in A LOT of the mythology The Originals had teased over its past few outings, and almost every missing piece of the puzzle was stamped with the phrase "witches did it." So first of all: Davina. As she explained to Elijah during her boudoir story hour, she'd become ultra-powerful after a botched ceremony in which four young witches were due to be ritualistically slaughtered in order to appease their bloodthirsty asshole ancestors. But Davina don't go out like that, so she fought against her elders (attracting the help of selfless do-gooder Marcel) and escaped that dumb ceremony. So now all the witches are after her in order to murder her and complete the ceremony and there's a ticking clock because if the witches fail they will lose all their powers. STAKES. Not only did this better explain why Davina hates the other witches, it explained her loyalty to Marcel. But most of all, it made the witches seem more powerful and devious than ever before. Especially that old lady witch in the flashbacks. Bastiana? How creepy was she?! Maybe it's just the shock of seeing someone on this show who appears older than 40, but I was VERY into Bastiana. Please tell me she's not dead. Lie to me, I don't care. Just please give me hope.
Even Sophie Deveraux became slightly more interesting this week. To her credit, she had attempted to stop the witch sacrifices, but she'd been too late and failed to save her niece. (Sophie's dead sister from the backdoor pilot had apparently had a TEENAGE daughter, because maybe teen witches need to start using actual birth control instead of, like, waving burning sage in front of their junk. Just a tip, teen witches!) But after witnessing Davina absorb the dead girls' powers, Sophie realized the ceremony was in fact WORKING and therefore she now needed to murder Davina in order to resurrect her niece. Or something? I frankly do not care because all that matters is Sophie is kind of a VILLAIN now and I am 100 percent rooting against her, which is a definite step up from taking a nap whenever she is on screen. But Sophie's newfound antagonistic qualities were really enhanced by how sympathetic Davina has become. In the span of two episodes I am completely invested in her emotionally. Particularly her burgeoning agency and how she vacillates between vulnerability and cleverness and Carrie-esque ESP freak-outs. Uh, and did you like that cold open wherein she teased a starving Elijah with a droplet of her own blood? That scene was either VERY sensuous or VERY troubling, depending on your local age of consent laws.
Oh, and this was fast: The church massacre that we only just learned about last week? Witches did THAT too. Turns out Cami's twin brother had been hexed by a witch. Part of me was like, "Ugh, witches are the worst." But at least witches are actually driving the story! Again, I hate to keep harping on how slapped-together this show's original concept was, but do you think it's a problem that the catalyst behind the show's very premise and now the people who are currently driving the narrative are NOT the title characters and not even the primary species of monster? Oh well, I guess I'm fine with the witches being more dynamic than the vampires at the moment. Whatever works. Oh but here's another quibble: Now that we've gotten to know more about Davina, learned what makes her tick, and seen her sort of defy Marcel's wishes, does it still make sense that the Mikaelsons haven't ripped Marcel's heart out yet? Again, The Originals has made great strides in correcting just how questionable the initial set-up was, but the unfortunate side effect of reverse-engineering these elements into coherence is that the central premise is now deteriorating rapidly. At this point Marcel can only still be alive because the main siblings WANT him to be, right? The idea that Marcel still has ANY leverage over Klaus flew out the window like an unwelcome guest in the church attic. At least Klaus finally punched Marcel across the room in this episode. At least that happened.
You know what else happened? A LOT of tingle-inducing moments. Anything with Elijah, especially the part where Hayley slapped his face and it felt like a kiss. Or the part where Rebekah forcefully informed Hayley that they are besties now. Loved that so much. Also Rebekah and Marcel's insanely sexy, mutual "I hate you" moment. Or when Klaus learned of the witch prophecy that Hayley's baby would bring about a witch holocaust: "I grow fonder of this child by the second." So good.
Look, I get it. I need to stop dwelling on certain aspects of The Originals (its premise and setting, for example) and just embrace the future (not that the show seems particularly interested in doing that either). The strengths of "Sinners and Saints"—particularly how it began building out the different warring factions and sub-factions into a sort of small-scale Game of Thrones scenario—portend big and satisfying rewards down the line. But it will always remain a personal preference of mine that the most exciting stories should NOT be past events. All my other favorite supernatural serials have had the foresight to actually begin their narratives at the most important inciting incident. That's just my preference when it comes to serials. If The Originals declines to be that kind of serial, fair enough. It's still a quality exercise in genre storytelling. But part of me is worried that this is what's known as an irreconcilable difference between The Originals and me, and we might just have to be friends rather than getting married, you know? That's not the relationship I had dreamed about, but it'll all probably work out fine for everybody anyway.
So yeah, "Sinners and Saints" was a solid and entertaining episode that still managed to frustrate me. That's just my own personal journey, I guess!
... So, Hayley and Elijah, eh?
... Are you Team Davina or Team Sophie?
... Did those werewolf tracks seem too large to belong to a normal werewolf?
... Do you miss Bastiana?