After Klaus took it to the bridge in the previous episode, it’s not so surprising that The Originals would turn out a rather subdued mid-season coda (well, in comparison) that found our characters struggling to readjust to a new regime and forming new, tentative alliances. That’s not to say Reigning Pain in New Orleans lacked explosive moments, from Klaus’s ill-considered dismissal of the Faction to the beleaguered Cami’s autonomy being taken into surprising hands, but even significant revelations were not treated with gasp, game changer! aplomb. The Originals is playing a long game and currently the most complicated and loaded match of them all is between the show’s two kings: Klaus and Marcel.
Trust Klaus to envy and claw for what Marcel has built and then systematically dismantle everything that makes it work just by being himself. Yet even amidst all of his posturing from atop his shiny new throne, he can’t reconcile his newfound power with his own loneliness. Having rejected Rebekah and Elijah and dragged a resentful Hayley along to the old Mikaelson compound, Klaus immediately pinpoints the most useful target – the infuriatingly compliant Marcel. What follows is the classic Klaus Mikaelson modus operandi: threaten, hurt, maim, kill, and be a real son of a bitch about it, be smug about your victory…and then try to win friends and influence people with your vulnerability and charm. It’s ludicrous and delusional, but also weirdly endearing; it’s a cycle Klaus goes through again and again, as if he expects this time it will be different. This time he will retain someone’s loyalty and trust. And how telling that one of Klaus’s parameters for finding another person trustworthy is if they don’t immediately trust him.
But Marcel’s not falling for it…right? Marcel, in many ways, is the most unknown variable in this entire mess, and this episode only reinforced my belief that he must have a bigger agenda that we are not yet aware of because, if not, the alternative is beyond disappointing. Marcel is diplomatic, methodical, and shows a willingness to sacrifice pride for what he feels is advantageous. Sure, his plan to take out Klaus was probably the most ill-conceived and poorly executed plan in the history of all plans, but all signs point to a savvy leader who brought the werewolves, the humans, and the witches to heel. He tells Diego he is biding his time, that his faithful foot soldier should follow his lead, and he stands by silently as Klaus makes a disastrous decision with the Faction. While I don’t think Marcel predicted quite that level of fall-out, I do think he was giving Klaus enough rope to hang himself.
Which makes the airing of grievances and off-kilter truce near the end of the episode a mixed bag of motivation and intention. Klaus confesses that the witches threatened to harm his child if he didn’t take Marcel on, but with Agnes dead and the link between Sophie and Hayley broken, Klaus continued his pursuit of Marcel’s throne with a voracity fueled purely by his own jealousy and sense that Marcel had disrespected him. And Klaus drawing parallels between himself and Marcel as fellow rejected and abused bastard sons holds exactly zero weight because a) Marcel was a slave, and b) Klaus is repeatedly reminding Marcel of this fact. I don’t care if Klaus freed, raised, and sired Marcel – he doesn’t get to tell Marcel how he should feel as a former slave, as if this is what defines him as a person. If there is a lick of justice in this world, one of these days Marcel will look Klaus dead in the eye after another lash/chains/master comment and tell him to go screw himself.
And once again, by agreeing to co-rule, Marcel chooses Klaus over Rebekah. I loved the palpable sexual tension between these two when Rebekah first came back to town, and there is a definite chemistry here, but the idea of their tragic love story has never landed for me. Even if Marcel is only buying what Klaus is selling on a superficial, do-what-I-have-to-do level, Rebekah continuing to align herself with him contradicts what she told Elijah in no uncertain terms back in Always and Forever – that she would no longer take part in Klaus’s games. Marcel is playing Klaus’s game, at least for the moment, and Rebekah doesn’t need or deserve to play second fiddle to her brother yet again. What she needs are friends.
And you know who else could use more friends? One of the highlights of Reigning Pain in New Orleans is how characters who have never previously interacted are finally brought face to face, shifting the dynamics yet again and allowing new and unexpected connections. Hayley tells Davina and Josh that, like them, she’s just another one of Klaus’s prisoners, and while it’s true that she has spent most of this season being used as collateral, her initiative to enlist Elijah and Rebekah in protecting the wolves of the bayou, and to form alliances of her own, is not only smart, but a breath of fresh air. Hayley’s bullshit-free attitude certainly catches Davina off-guard. The super witch’s world is turned upside down not once, but twice this episode, but it’s the latter revelation – Marcel knowing Agnes, the last witch elder, is dead and that the witches (supposedly) can no longer complete the Harvest – that shakes her to her core. Despite deceiving him by making her deal with Elijah, Marcel was the only person Davina trusted. “They lied to us!” Davina told Elijah in Sinners and Saints, deeply troubled by the betrayal of her coven, by people she thought had her best interests at heart. And where does she turn when that trust is shattered?
Now that Davina has restored Cami’s memories, will she once again become a pawn, this time in whatever plan the young witch has for Marcel? Or are we about to witness the rise of a major player in the game? As excited as I am for the next chapter in Cami’s story, this bears repeating: this storyline has been thoroughly impressive. Cami’s competence and drive, Klaus’s personal Sturm und Drang, exploring the horrors and moral quagmire that is compulsion in general – this was fantastic character-driven supernatural drama. And just when you think there’s nowhere left to go, that Cami’s confusion and terror will once be wiped clean for her “protection,” she witnesses Klaus’s memories and shows compassion for him – the guy who’s been manipulating her against her will, causing her to believe she is going insane. It’s an astonishing moment not just for Klaus but for the audience as well, and nothing about it reads as weak; if anything, Cami’s capacity for empathy only makes her stronger, and it runs entirely counter to Klaus’s “love makes us weak” philosophy. Cami appeals to the better angels of Klaus’s nature in a way even his own family cannot.
The pieces of himself that Klaus hides behind cruelty and violence and bluster, the parts he can’t carve out no matter how many siblings he daggers or binding curses he breaks, are the damaged fragments of his own redemption. That is the Klaus that wearily accepts Elijah’s apology and invites his siblings to live with him in the Quarter. It’s the Klaus that feels something for his unborn child and wants to ensure they never experience the parental betrayal he did; whether he’ll ever outright admit it or not, Klaus does not want his child to become like him. That’s compassion, that’s empathy, that’s salvation. If only he’d stop glorying in his own pain long enough to realize it.
Compelling Moment: There are at least three scenes that deserve this honor, but there was something about Elijah’s softly spoken “You don’t make it easy to love you, brother” that cut right to the quick of the Original siblings’ eternal struggle. Can we add this as a sub on the show title card, please?
The Rules: Descendants of Klaus’s werewolf family refer to Klaus’s father as a “chief,” hinting at a hierarchy within wolf packs that’s never really been explored. Davina is able to sense Josh’s presence because she can sense his fear.
Foggy Moments: Does Klaus know about the curse placed on the Labonair family? Seems sketch that Marcel wouldn’t mention it before Klaus sent a bunch of his vampires – the ones he’s trying to protect – into the bayou for a wolf hunt, knowing there is a segment of the werewolf population who are cursed to be in wolf form every night but the full moon.
Thoughts & Questions before The Casket Girls (EP110):
- Where on earth is Sophie Deveraux?
- Again, what is this big, dark secret Rebekah and Marcel share that Marcel really, really doesn’t want Klaus to know? I think I have an idea what it might be, but what do you think?
- So Klaus is not only the son of a werewolf, but the son of a werewolf chief. That should do wonders for his self-esteem.
- Sassy, threatening Elijah might be the greatest Elijah, and it should be noted that not just anyone can pull off a popped collar. Related: More Elijah and Rebekah semi-lighthearted quality time, please and thank you.
- I mentioned a while ago that I didn’t find pre-Garden Thierry all that interesting, but consider me fully on board with a post-Garden Thierry returned to the Quarter fold. I also love Diego, who doesn’t even try to hide his disdain for the Originals even as he follows Marcel’s orders to cooperate with them. And his constant run-ins with Elijah and Rebekah are delightful. I’d love to see these two fleshed out even more in the latter half of the season. (Please don’t die. At least not any time soon.)
- You know who else needs to never, never die? Father Kieran. I am thisclose to starting an Eff Yeah Father K Tumblr, you guys. And that’s even with being very upset that he’s let Klaus mess with Cami for so long.
- While I’m stumping for the survival of supporting characters: Josh. Josh is also never allowed to die.
- Is Eve destined to play a bigger part in what’s unfolding in the bayou? What do she and her kin have to gain by leading the Originals to the descendants of Klaus’s werewolf family? Is it only to ensure that Klaus will lay off, or is there a bigger picture? And have Klaus’s descendants been aware of him all this time? How has Klaus not been at all aware of them?
- How exactly do Elijah and Rebekah fit into Klaus’s new court?
- What does happen to Hayley once the baby is born?
What did you think of the mid-season finale? As the holiday hiatus settles upon us, let’s give thanks that we have thirteen new episodes of The Originals to look forward to in 2014, starting Tuesday, January 14th at 8/7c. In the meantime: Happy Holidays, friends! Thanks for reading.
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. 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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