‘The Originals’ Review: ‘Vampire Diaries’ Spinoff Revisits Backdoor Pilot at Its Own Risk

'The Originals' Review: 'Vampire Diaries' Spinoff Revisits Backdoor Pilot at Its Own Risk

The CW

The new CW drama revolves around Klaus (Joseph Morgan), the first vampire/werewolf hybrid, and his family of the first bloodsuckers

It's clear that as “The Vampire Diaries” goes into its fifth season that The CW recognizes that its female-skewing fan base has grown up.

They're graduating from high school, going off to college or starting their careers and thinking of family. Thus, that explains at least some of the timing of its spinoff, “The Originals.”

First introduced as a backdoor pilot during “TVD's” last season, “The Originals” features Klaus (Joseph Morgan), the first vampire/werewolf hybrid, and his family who make up the first bloodsuckers, the, um, “Originals.”

On the backdoor pilot, Klaus returns to New Orleans, his stomping grounds from a century before, to find that his former protégé Marcelle (Charles Michael Davis) has become master of the town, its menagerie of humans, witches and vampires all under his thumb. He has created a modern fiefdom and, of course, emotionally unavailable and egomaniacal Klaus covets it.

Also read: ‘The Originals’ Hopes to Capture ‘Non-Vampire Diaries’ Fans

Thursday's premiere episode recasts the events of the backdoor pilot, but from the point of view of his more controlled, more sentimental brother, Elijah (Daniel Gillies), who arrives behind Klaus to clean up after him.

The episode does a moderately good job of balancing the déjà vu we feel about scenes we've already seen by introducing Elijah's behind-the-scenes plotting, but he's also the show's tool for introducing the family to viewers who didn't watch “TVD.” That's the pilot's biggest fault.

The pace of the episode feels very slow in its expository of the family's history. And the message that seemingly surrounds Elijah's every piece of dialogue is meant to reinforce the ideas of the family's centuries-old vow to support each other “always and forever.”

Also read: Comic-Con 2013: ‘The Originals’ Creator Julie Plec Reveals New Twist to the Backdoor Pilot

Its other major fault for a show titled “The Originals” is that one expects to meet the fabled family on the premiere episode. Yet — and I don't consider this a spoiler since its showrunner Julie Plec has already told fans that the episode is a redux of the backdoor pilot – but only two members of the family actually appear in New Orleans, Elijah and Klaus. Sister Rebekah (Claire Holt) literally phones in her scenes from “TVD's” Mystic Falls.

Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), a werewolf who has a romantic history with Klaus, may be the remedy for the lack of Originals on the show. She represents some reinvention for the family in a “miracle” pregnancy revealed during the backdoor pilot.

Another tonic for Elijah's stony demeanor, Klaus’ constant sulking and temper tantrums, and a sea of scared witches, lies in Marcelle and his welcome array of emotions. He's charismatic, vengeful, slightly off-kilter and pops in every one of his scenes.

Also read: ‘Glee's’ Grant Gustin to Play Flash on The CW's ‘Arrow’

With the pace and style of this episode, “The Originals” feels like a supernatural “Dynasty” or “Dallas,” a primetime soap opera. But, what it lacks is the ability to make someone who wasn't a “TVD” fan care about its titular dysfunctional family and its power plays. To be clear, the series does a good job of downloading the family's history. It's not tough to grasp, but isn't very entertaining.

In that way, new viewers to this world are underserved. And a new version of the backdoor pilot – while a treat for “TVD” fans — was a misfire for new viewers. The producers should have dropped us right into the action, reunited the family members and allowed their complicated histories to unravel organically.

Also read: Comic-Con 2013: CW's ‘The Vampire Diaries’ – Where Love Isn't Dead

Bottom line, there's much on this episode for “TVD” fans to relish but newcomers will find themselves searching for a reason to care about these characters. I suggest waiting for the second (or third episode counting the backdoor pilot) to see if the family comes together or the other characters fill in the void. I have a lot of confidence that showrunner Julie Plec can make things very engaging soon.

“The Originals” premieres Thursday at 9/8c on The CW.

  • marshburn

    Rebecca will be so missed from the Originals! She is the show, The True Original, this is a Big-Big Mistake.. The show will never be the same and ratings will go down with out her. Wow, this is a Hugh disappointment, this shows needs all three Original Vampires not two.

  • pow

    The show is such a big disappointement. I really liked the originals in TVD; but the show itself if just a big soap opera. It's extreamly repetitive and predictable. Klaus is the bad guy with a secret good heart, he likes people, and likes to threaten them. Rebekha (or anyone in his camp) does something bad to him, and he swears up and down that he will kiil, she swears up and down that she has no chance of escaping him, and that Klaus is badder than the worse person on this planet, they talk argue, talk argue, hit each other, fangs out, then they make up. Awwwww Klaus is not that bad. Elijah is always begging his brother to be nicer. All of this in 2-3 episodes, then it repeats. I'm so disapointed!!!