It seems unfair to declare a finale the best episode of a season, doesn’t it? Season finales are meant to be pull-out-all-the-stops affairs, constructed for maximum plot and emotional impact, therefore giving them a leg up in the grand scheme of a television season. It’s the pay off, the grand moment of resolution. We go into a season finale expecting our asses to be kicked and our hearts ripped out. Yet The Originals season finale, From a Cradle to a Grave, managed to surpass my already heightened expectations and I feel wholly confident, and not at all apologetic, in saying it was the best episode this show has done to date. From its exquisitely wrought cold open to its menacing final scene, this finale not only capped an admirable freshman season but promised a world of hurt in Season 2. Ready to relive every agonizing moment and cry all over again? Oh, you’re still crying? Me, too. Let’s go.
The most remarkable aspect of this episode was that despite its breakneck pace and bloody horrors, every second was infused with an undeniable humanity. Hayley’s letter to her then unborn daughter could have come off as saccharine, but the genius of those first few minutes was in experiencing that quiet moment of parental anticipation between Hayley and Klaus in flashback and then hearing a mother’s hopeful words over a scene of such terror and trauma. This is the reality Baby Mikaelson is being born into literally: a knot of magic, blood, and death; a world that would see her dead in the name of power and slit a mother’s throat while she holds her newborn child in her arms. After months of struggling to protect this child, her birth finds her parents at their most helpless. How soul-crushing was it to see the hope on Hayley’s face when Klaus busts into the church, only to watch it vanish as the witches pin him to the wall? Klaus Mikaelson has had his share of chilling moments, but to hear him roaring “I will bring hell to your doorstep! I will bathe in rivers of your blood! You will die screaming!” as Hayley gives birth was the hybrid at his most furious and desperate, and to see that rage all but collapse when he lays eyes on his daughter for the first time is a scene I will not forget any time soon.
Family is, of course, the primary and most enduring theme of The Originals, and From a Cradle to a Grave gracefully pulled the show’s various story threads together with a series of heartbreaking parallels. Hayley, who once traded the lives of thirteen hybrids for information about her family, is now a hybrid herself; she has finally found her werewolf family, but makes the agonizing choice to give her child up so that her daughter can have a chance at a better life. Of all the characters in this story, Hayley is set to undergo the biggest transformation as we head into the second season, and not only because she has been physically changed. Now that she’s a hybrid, her place within the Crescent wolfpack is in question, let alone her position as werewolf royalty. She has become what the wolves despise – half-wolf, half-vampire – and Francesca is set to take away what she has left in New Orleans, what she has spent her entire adult life looking for. The emptiness that her daughter’s absence leaves her with cannot be filled with Elijah and Elijah alone, no matter how much he might try to comfort her, and Klaus will be struggling with that same emptiness, even as he executes his inevitable revenge. So does Hayley follow Klaus’s path, with fury driving her to “clean up the mess we made”? Does she shut Elijah out, or does she let him in?
For Elijah, his feelings for Hayley are a foregone conclusion. We’ve seen Elijah Mikaelson filled with righteous anger before, but never have we seen him collapsing beneath the weight of despair. Hayley’s death and the baby’s kidnapping are too much for him to bear. “This was our hope,” he rages at Klaus. “I let her in. I don’t let people in…. I needed her, and you have broken me.” How profound and devastating to see the cool, calm, and collected Mikaelson, so often the rock at his fragmented family’s foundation, bare his soul to his brother. And how doubly devastating to see Klaus abruptly pull back his own defensiveness to comfort Elijah, even as he himself is reeling. He doesn’t apologize or justify his actions, only gently reminds his brother that hope is still alive; that they can still find his niece.
You know an episode is exceptional when Klaus is the most stable influence throughout, driven by a singular and honorable purpose, and ultimately drawing his own family back together in extraordinary circumstances. He storms the City of the Dead, keeps Elijah focused, reinforces Hayley’s decisions, and ultimately proves he is capable of a father’s love when he heals Marcel. One of the most powerful images in this finale was Klaus walking into the compound’s courtyard, knee-deep in dead vampires, to find his newborn daughter in the arms of his weakened, defeated adopted son. The profundity of that moment was breathtaking, for Klaus and us. Marcel’s anguish and regret is real. “This is the last note in a song that I started a century ago when I brought your dad to town. And for that I am sorry.” There’s double heartache in that admission because Marcel doesn’t know that Mikael is the one who finished off his dying friends; it’s a tragedy come full circle, just as Klaus taking his daughter from Marcel’s arms is another song’s beginning. The last time Marcel rescued a child from a heinous witch ritual, he changed the landscape of power within the French Quarter. This time, he may have changed his relationship with Klaus – the only family he has left – forever.
Ultimately, Hayley and Klaus end up sacrificing so that their child may live. My favorite dynamic this episode was between Hayley, Klaus, and Elijah as they discuss the safety of the baby, and it’s Hayley who decides their course of action. Elijah, who has had so much hope invested in this child, immediately protests, and it’s Klaus who steps up to reinforce Hayley, putting the child’s safety and happiness above his own desires. Despite his ultimate design when it comes to vengeance, this was Klaus’s first major turning point on the road to redemption, though it may take Elijah a while to fully realize the implications of his brother’s decision, or how difficult it is for Klaus to turn Cami away, to protect what he holds dear by rejecting what he finds beautiful. After all, Elijah’s not there when Klaus and the baby wait in the dead of night for the only possible person who could keep the child safe and love her unconditionally. Who else would Klaus trust with his daughter’s life than Rebekah, who once longed for children of her own? And what a tremendous ending (of sorts) for the Original sister, who is now inextricably tied into the story but able to live her life away from New Orleans, raising her niece and pursuing a dream that once seemed out of reach. Despite their differences, always and forever is as strong as it ever was, even if it’s gone through a transformation of its own. All of the tears.
And in case you were wondering whether Klaus had changed his spots, his fierce, teary promise to his daughter that he will make New Orleans her home carried with it the dark promise of violence. Would we have it any other way? Let’s raise a glass to Season 2.
Compelling Moment: “What’s her name?” “Hope. Her name is Hope.” A little cheesy? Maybe. A whole lot appropriate and utterly soul-crushing? Absolutely. Also, in that moment, we know Klaus has finally bought into Elijah’s dream, his hope. It’s a dagger right in the heart and you can almost feel Elijah’s words in the cemetery reverberating through Klaus’s bones.
The Rules: The baby is born on the night of the full moon and must be sacrificed before the moon sets in the morning sky.
Davina is able to cast a spell that lifts and gathers Klaus’s spilled blood from the car and street where he fought Marcel. And while an Original can’t die from a werewolf or hybrid bite, Klaus’s blood can neutralize the effects almost immediately.
Davina refers to having read about the Devil’s Star, a dark object, in the Lycée, which is French for secondary school, but here seems to imply the grimoire of the French Quarter witches.
Reminder that “dark objects” (previously referred to as “cursed objects” by Sophie Deveraux in Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, when she was explaining the Needle of Sorrows) are magical items created long ago, each imbued with a very specific purpose. The French Quarter witches used these as a workaround for magic during the eight or so months Davina was monitoring witch activity in the Quarter. Davina says the Devil’s Star kills with a thousand cuts when thrown, as we see happen to Monique Deveraux.
Esther’s grimoire states that the spell Davina needs to resurrect Mikael requires a “nexis vorti,” a rare occurrence, such as an astrological or miraculous event, from which to channel power; in this case, the Mikaelson “miracle” baby. Davina uses four of the dark objects she finds in Father Kieran’s secret lair, dropping one in each quadrant of her casting circle, with Mikael standing within its boundaries. The spell makes Mikael collapse and he awakes as flesh and blood, but Davina adds a magical fail-safe of some kind, allowing her to control the vampire. She seems to be binding Mikael to her via the bracelet she found in Father K’s witchy weapon cupboard, which she is wearing when she forces Mikael into the attic.
Because the baby’s blood was still in her system post-birth, Hayley awakes from death as a hybrid and requires the baby’s blood to complete her transformation into a hybrid.
With the baby’s life saved and Genevieve killed, the fourth Harvest girl – Cassie – resurrects…only it’s Esther in Cassie’s body.
Foggy Moments: Considering how little blood is needed to transition into a vampire or hybrid, why is so much of Klaus’s blood needed to counteract the effects of a werewolf bite? Especially when we’ve seen him drip far less into a beer bottle for Stefan Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries?
Do the witches need to sacrifice the baby because the full moon is needed to fuel the spell, or because the second the moon disappears, Klaus is back in full fighting mode? Maybe both?
In A Closer Walk with Thee, Genevieve implied the witches of New Orleans linger in “a different way” after death, being consecrated and their power channeled, but doesn’t Finn (that was Finn, right? “Yes, Mother” seems to indicate that) returning alongside with Esther mean that Quarter witches are on the Other Side like everyone else? My feeling is yes, they do go to the Other Side, but it has been explained in such a way that makes it justifiably foggy, at least for me.
Thoughts & Questions before The Originals Season 2:
- I cannot overstate how phenomenal the entire cast was in this episode. From the smallest, most intimate moments, to the epic ones. Every single player ripped my heart out, but I have to give a special shout-out to Phoebe Tonkin, whose “third option” speech in the final half allowed her to shine in a way we haven’t seen before. I cannot wait to see more Hayley in Season 2.
- Just to clarify Hayley, Klaus, and Elijah’s plan: While Hope is safe with Rebekah, the others will perpetuate the ruse that the baby died. Marcel finds a stillborn newborn in upstate Louisiana and gives the body to Oliver, and Klaus later tells Cami that the child died a few hours after the Guerrera werewolf attack on the compound. Marcel agrees to let Klaus compel him to forget what actually happened to the child in exchange for vials of Klaus’s blood (in case he gets into a scrape with a werewolf). The only real hole in the plan, as Elijah points out, is that the witches will eventually figure out that the child lives, presumably because she is part witch and will not have been consecrated. Not to mention the entirety of New Orleans dead witchdom knows for a fact that the baby was born alive. Klaus commits to selling their deception despite this rather huge hole in the plan, even encouraging Elijah and Hayley to mourn publicly while he takes the child to Rebekah. He does stress to Rebekah to find a witch she trusts to cast a cloaking spell as soon as possible, so perhaps he’ll deal with the witches after he has his vengeance on the Guerrera wolves.
- What did I say about consecrating Esther? What did I say?! But Finn returning with her is just the icing on the damned cake. And with Mikael back as well, Season 2 is looking quite dark indeed. Will we be seeing the whole Original family back together, minus Rebekah? (There’s hope yet, Kol fans, if he hasn’t been sucked into the Other Side’s dark vortex of doom. And wouldn’t Henrik also be on the Other Side, having died a witch?) Also, Esther putting a rose on her own gravestone? Ugh, she is the worst.
- Speaking of Esther and Finn, notice they have hijacked the bodies of others; they’re not returning to life in their original forms. Does that mean they will have Celeste’s ability to jump from body to body as they see fit, even though Esther has technically been consecrated? (Remember: Celeste wasn’t consecrated until after she returned to her original body and Elijah killed her in Le Grand Guignol.)
- If three witches tied with Harvest power died (Genevieve, Monique, and Abigail), is that power once again rerouted? We know Esther was resurrected within the fourth Harvest girl after Genevieve’s death, but was Finn brought back with that same power, and does that mean another resurrection could happen? Or were Monique and Abigail’s deaths, having been resurrected Harvest girls, just the end of a cycle? In short: Did Esther hijack the Reaping again?
- Is Hayley sired to her own child? Does their shared hybrid blood create a supernatural bond that is above and beyond the bond of a child with its mother?
- Oliver calls Marcel the “last man standing.” But Josh is one of Marcel’s guys now, Oliver, so you shut up. And Marcel relieving Davina of the burden of choosing who to save with her cup of Klaus’s blood – Josh or Marcel – may have been his most loyal and selfless move to date, and a subtle callback to the moment when Josh was turned into a vampire at Marcel’s command; when he refused to choose between a friend and eternal life.
- According to Julie Plec, Jackson had a few scenes that were cut for time, which is really a shame because I would’ve loved to have seen this and this. But, to be fair, other than vaguely wondering where Jackson was while watching the finale, I can’t say I missed him much. There was so much going on. However, I will never forgive the network for not stretching the limits of space and time so this scene could have been included. (Extended episode cuts for all Season 1 episodes, please and thank you!)
- Loved the touch of bringing back Tunde’s twins that Klaus decapitated in Dance Back from the Grave during the cemetery showdown. And apparently Elijah was meant to encounter Celeste but it was cut from the final edit.
- How is Marcel going to feel about Davina keeping Mikael locked up in the St. Anne’s attic, especially now that he’s made his peace with Klaus? And how long will Davina keep Mikael in her back pocket before deciding Klaus needs to be “punished”?
- With the Guerrera wolves in charge, and with a clear agenda of making the Quarter a vampire-free zone, does this mean Klaus, Elijah, and Hayley will be evicted from the compound and forced to live across the river, like Marcel?
- Now that Hayley is a hybrid, has she lost any potential she may have had to lead the Crescent pack? Will she lose Jackson’s loyalty? Does this make her more or less of a threat to Francesca? Also, there is a strange, dark poetry to Hayley becoming a hybrid after her actions in Vampire Diaries Season 4, no?
- R.I.P. Diego. Go to hell, Genevieve, Monique, and Abigail. (Ugh, witches.) Do you think Genevieve, in particular, got what she deserved, or did you feel sorry for her in the end? (Go, Hayley!)
- The lighting throughout Klaus and Elijah’s City of the Dead search was amazing, as was that epic shot of the witches’ labyrinth from Klaus’s viewpoint atop the crypt. Also, it was such a throwaway detail in the scheme of things, but Klaus marking the walls in the crypt to indicate he and Elijah had already been through there twice before was a tiny moment of understated genius.
- How exactly did Father Kieran (and other O’Connells before him) get their hands on all of those dark objects? He even had the Needle of Sorrows, which was last seen in Fruit of the Poisoned Tree.
- “We should have known she would not be bound by anything as obvious as death.” Such a fantastically droll and tragic line, delivered perfectly by Joseph Morgan.
- “Camille…I appreciate you being here, but we cannot be friends.” The scene between Klaus and Cami becomes far more layered on subsequent viewings, and I’m particularly interested in this Cami O’Connell who has used her family’s legacy to aid her supernatural friends and how she will rise to the occasion within the New Werewolf Order in Season 2.
- Now that Hope is safe with Rebekah, where does Klaus’s revenge begin?
And that’s it! The end of The Originals Season 1. When I first pondered reviewing this show prior to its premiere, I was intimidated at the prospect, but thank you for reading and watching with me, for the kind words here and on Twitter, and for sharing your thoughts and theories. I’ve enjoyed this entire experience so very much. Thank you for making it unforgettable.
Heather Vee is the co-owner of Vampire-Diaries.net and the co-author, with Crissy Calhoun, of Love You To Death – Season 4: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries and the upcoming Love You To Death – Season 5. She is also co-editor of A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls: Your Favorite Authors on The Vampire Diaries. You can find her on Twitter @dieslaughing and at heathervee.com. You can also visit the official Love You to Death website.
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