The Originals: “The Battle Of New Orleans”
B+

The Originals: “The Battle Of New Orleans”

Plot accelerates, characterization fades

B+

The Originals

"The Battle Of New Orleans"

Season 1, Episode 21
B+

The Originals

"The Battle Of New Orleans"

Season 1, Episode 21

Community Grade

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F
?

Your Grade

?

So much for Klaus’ redemption. Over the past few episodes, our protagonist has actually demonstrated growth. He’s respected others’ decisions, resisted the urge to violently destroy the truce he knew would collapse anyway, and shown mercy to Marcel. For The Originals to answer the question I posed a few weeks ago about whether it’s smart or not, it would have needed to acknowledge this, to indicate that this was a trend in the show’s history where Rebekah’s departure led to a new push by Klaus to be a good person, even if it was a failure.

“The Battle Of New Orleans” forgets Klaus’ recent kindness. Or perhaps, it never acknowledges it, treating it as an unhappy accident of a dream. As soon as the instigating event of the story occurs—Marcel capturing Jackson, Oliver, and the supplies needed for the moonlight rings—Klaus returns to the old ways. He bullies, Elijah enables: “Disregard my brother. Over the course of the last millenium his capacity for tact has somewhat diminished.” Then, in his wild flailing for clues disguised as a plan, Klaus moves a step up from bullying, biting Josh in order to manipulate Davina, one of his oldest tricks from his Vampire Diaries days.

Problem is, there’s no actual crisis here to justify Klaus’ behavior. I’m sure it’s annoying that he can’t find his werewolf allies, and he must expect an attack from Marcel, but the show never makes this clear. Klaus never says “I desperately need these rings, now, because otherwise my people will be attacked.” Instead, he immediately reverts to Petulant Toddler Klaus, throwing a tantrum because he didn’t get his way. His characterization from this last third of the season is tossed aside because the story needs to be moving quickly and violently enough to maintain momentum.

The thing is, this isn’t necessarily bad for the show. “The Battle Of New Orleans” was one of the better single episodes that The Originals has done, and it’s in part because of Klaus’ reversion to villainy. His bullying of Genevieve leads directly to the biggest betrayal, at her hands, when she invests his essence into the moonlight rings. The biggest attack next week seems likely to come from Davina, now working directly for Mikael’s resurrection in order to save Josh’s life. As plot developments go, anything that makes Klaus something less than the dominating and invincible force that he is is probably a wise move for the show. It’s clever plotting, but it comes at the expense at the idea of actual redemption. The Originals is much more comfortable and better at being the fast-paced soap, but it’s mildly disappointing that it’s not trying to be something more.

Perhaps the best plot development of the episode is the big twist: Francesca Correa, leader of the Human Faction, is actually a werewolf the believed-extinct Guerrera clan. This caught me totally off-guard, but also felt entirely plausible, which is the ideal state for a plot twist, and probably worth examining.

First, it wasn’t a major surprise. If you’ve been paying attention to the show, you’ve probably heard them mentioning the Guerrera werewolves for the last 10 episodes or so—I remember them first being named in the early flashbacks to 1919, when Celeste took over the Harvest ritual and Tundé, Genevieve, and Mikael got flashback focus. So the reminder in this episode, when Marcel declared that he’d exterminated them in ‘25, didn’t stick out too much.

Second, the build-up was properly paced. We knew that Francesca had an agenda: her aggressive questioning of Elijah, demands to be the leader of the Faction, insistence that Cami give her the key, and the bombing of the werewolves all suggested that much. But there was never an indication of secret identity, no “if only you know who I truly was.” I expected Francesca to make a play, and it became increasingly clear once she brought her brothers to Klaus’ compound that she was going to do something, but exactly what was undetermined. Thus when it happened, it could have been anything, and the revelation fit.

Or, to put it another way, most shows go out of their way to indicate when a certain character has a secret, but Francesca always played the part of the ruthless businesswoman, never implying more. The Originals seems to be fairly good at this sleight-of-hand, having pulled it off fairly effectively with Sabine/Celeste earlier in the season as well.

Finally, the twist itself integrated into the series. At a conceptual level, having another faction of werewolves makes the series more interesting and complicated than the simplistic race war it was started as. In general terms, the twist didn’t change the nature of the show in a drastic fashion. It helped explain prior events, like the Bayou bombing, and integrated with the moonlight ring storyline. Most specifically, by connecting to Genevieve, and turning her romantic entanglement with Klaus into an essential part of the plot, it redeemed that character’s existence. Of the four of the resurrected witches, she was the least inspiring, and her continued placement in the story instead of Sophie Devereaux never really made sense. But Klaus and Sophie hooking up would never really have made sense, either from a story or an actor chemistry perspective. A cipher like Genevieve worked for that, and made the betrayal part of the plot plausible.

“The Battle For New Orleans” also broke from Vampire Diaries structure, as much of the season has. TVD has generally put its climax in the second-to-last episode of the season, then used the finale to pick up the pieces. With The Originals saving its two potential biggest events of the season—Hayley’s baby and Mikael’s return—for the finale, that’s not the case here. This makes sense; The Vampire Diaries is about the “heightened emotions” of being a teenager while The Originals has tended to be more direct and less focused on a protagonist’s inner feelings. Regardless, this penultimate episode got the job done: it was entertainingly fast-paced at nearly a TVD-season-two level, and got me excited for the finale. I just wish it hadn’t been at the expense of its slower, effective characterization of its main character.

Stray observations:

  • Francesca demands the key from Cami, and Cami lies. But why? Cami already has the most critical piece of information from the key, and there was no real indication that anyone else could have figured out what she did. Why doesn’t Cami just give her the key and say “Good luck finding anything with this”?
  • I remain mildly annoyed at the efficacy of torture on these shows.
  • “No one’s blaming you.” “I’m blaming you!”
  • “If you fail to uphold your side of the deal, the consequences for you will be apocalyptic.” “You say the most romantic things.” This is possibly Genevieve’s best-ever line, especially in retrospect knowing the scope of her betrayal.
  • Klaus likes Marcel’s plan. “No surrender this time.” “Okay!”
  • Speaking of plans, how horrible was Diego’s? They’re supposed to get past Elijah in order to steal the grimoire, so they attack two by two and never actually go around him.
  • Poor Mohawk Vampire never did get a line.
  • “Did you care about me even for a moment?” “I suppose you’ll never know.”
  • “If your friend needs Niklaus’ blood to survive, I plan on spilling much of it.” I hope Mikael gets a long run on this show.
  • The only thing worse than Diego’s tactics: the witches’ attempt to calm Hayley as she goes into labor by telling her they want to sacrifice the baby.  

More TV Club