This is how you come back from a winter hiatus. This may be the best episode of the series yet. It pulls on all the threads that have already been set up, while also twisting and tangling the extant characters in exciting new ways. And Klaus actually admits it when his ass gets handed to him. Who saw that coming?
One virtue of the episode is its immersion in Big Easy culture. You could never accuse this show of not taking advantage of local color; they’ve engaged themes of slavery and oppression from the very start. But thanks to Rebekah (whose new mantra is “we girls have to stick together”), they’re also engaging issues of feminism and misogyny. Hence, the Casket Girls of the title, who were apparently a real thing involving some needy brides-to-be suffering some pretty horrid fates back in the bad old days (except for the ones Rebekah rescued by killing all their exploiters effortlessly).
It’s sort of ambiguous what she did with them herself next, but the theme is established, and the show has fun contrasting the flashback scenes to the Goth/metal/darkcore trappings of the current party-prone city. The creators have gotten pretty good at milking that contrast between the pretensions of current Goth lifestyles and the “reality” of actual vampires, werewolves and witches fighting each other violently.
At first it seems our little radical triumvirate of Klaus-haters (Davina, Josh and Hayley) dissolves pretty quickly, but then Hayley teams up with Sophie (to find something out about Elijah that matters to the witches), Rebekah offers to help Josh (Klaus’ most disloyal acolyte, maybe honorarily one of “we girls” now?), and Davina and Cami both go after Klaus in different ways, but kind of for the same reason: that he’s a stupid asshole.
Davina is a force to be reckoned with this episode, barely marshalling powers that seem to roil inside of her, directing them first at a group of witches who attack (only one survives), and then at the “boys club” of Klaus, Marcel and Elijah, handily defeating them all one-by-one. Then Rebekah comes to her with an offer of help and education, promising to be more loyal and honest than any of the men.
Can she live up to that? You realize that the reason Klaus is always daggering his siblings is that they constantly work against him otherwise, not because he’s so misunderstood (always his sob story) but because he’s usually wrong. When he lays a trap for Davina and her boyfriend, he betrays Marcel as well because, as Elijah says “Davina is his family.” Luckily, Marcel knows Klaus, and saw it coming, just not fast enough to save the boyfriend, too.
And in the midst of it all, Elijah has been sensing “something coming, something bad,” which is pretty old hat for any kind of psychic horror show, but a trope I fall for every time. This time, it seems to circle around Celeste, a witch who was killed a century ago, but who apparently was more than a one-off love tragedy episode for Elijah after all. And this is the curse Hayley and Sophie have unwittingly been unleashing, in the service of other ends desired by their characters.
With this many competing agendas, and the signature insta-reversals of fortune also practiced by the parent show now up-to-speed, The Originals has graduated from being interesting TV to actually being a good dark melodrama.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Somehow that led to him writing the Harvey Kurtzman entry for Icons of the American Comic Book: from Captain America to Wonder Woman (2013). He also writes for Art New England and is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), an NGO of UNESCO.