The backdoor pilot for The Originals pitched the show as a power struggle; an epic battle between Marcel and Klaus to be the vampire king of New Orleans. When the show premiered as its own series last fall, removed from its The Vampire Diaries roots, it quickly became about much more than a simple power struggle, also folding in themes of family, duty, loyalty, and the nature of being an immortal, invincible being. “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” the first episode following Rebekah’s permanent departure, immediately reclaims the idea that New Orleans is at the center of a great supernatural power struggle, with all of the city’s various factions now fighting to come out on top.
It makes sense that The Originals would go back to these larger aims after Rebekah’s departure. She was always the open wound of the Mikaelson family, the beating heart who was a constant reminder to her brothers of their family bond (even if it wasn't always a welcome reminder). Now Elijah doesn't have to protect Rebekah from Klaus, so when the French Quarter begins devolving into chaos he removes all kid gloves and begins treating Klaus like a petulant child who isn't taking care of his responsibilities. (In Elijah’s defense, Klaus is acting exactly like a petulant child who isn't taking care of his responsibilities.) So while Elijah thinks he is simply taking over rule of the city because his brother is falling down on the job, to Klaus it is yet another in a long line of perceived betrayals and becomes another opportunity to undermine one of his siblings.
One of the interesting things The Originals explores that its parent show mostly ignores is the specific power structure of the supernatural world and the hierarchies between different species and factions. We get a fairly in-depth look at exactly how that works here as Elijah brings representatives from all different sectors together to decide on a new, negotiated peace treaty to calm down the city. Being the vampire king of New Orleans is just as much about bureaucracy as it is about intimidation and power, and the ever-sensible Elijah uses a mixture of intimidation and respectful persuasion to get what he wants.
What has become increasingly clear about Elijah, however, is that no matter how slick and controlled he has always appeared to be, he has his blind spots. Elijah’s feelings for Hayley and compulsion to protect her at all costs give him a massive blind spot where she is concerned, and that dynamic takes center stage here. Hayley makes the biggest obvious character shift in the wake of Rebekah’s absence, claiming a place in New Orleans (and therefore a larger place in the show) for the werewolves and stepping up to become their de facto leader. She does it at the urging of Jackson, who started out as innocuous character but with his dealings with Klaus is increasingly becoming much more suspicious.
But Elijah’s biggest, blindest spot will always be Klaus, and this is the blind spot that consistently gets him in the most trouble. It’s unclear exactly what Klaus’ end goal might be, but he’s allowing Elijah to rule the city while still surreptitiously working behind his back to give the werewolves the power of the moonlight ring, to break them of their curse and give them much more power than they have in their current form. All Klaus wants is to create a hybrid or two in return. I’m not sure where this is heading, but the hybrids were always far more bark than bite. What does Klaus have to gain here except ruining everything Elijah is working to build? That itself might be the answer—Klaus is just petulant enough to ruin things simply because he can.
The final piece in this power struggle is coming from outside the city, as Marcel is slowly working to rebuild his following so he can reclaim his city from the Mikaelsons. The best side effect of this is the introduction of Marcel the schemer, as he uses his friendship with Cami in order to find a way to manipulate Klaus without ever coming anywhere near him, by sleeping with her and doing it in a way that Genevieve will find out and report it straight back to Klaus. What’s impressive about the encounter is that although Marcel is ultimately using Cami to get something he wants, it never quite feels like he is taking advantage of her. This is absolutely due to the careful work the show has put in building Cami’s character, making her one of the strongest, most self-assured people on the show, and then kind of letting her loose a bit. Cami is scared and lost in the face of losing her Uncle Kieran, and she gets drunk and runs into the comforting arms of Marcel, and somehow owns the whole thing in a way that when we find out Marcel will ultimately use the encounter for a more nefarious purpose it doesn't ever seem like Cami is being taken advantage of. That Cami, she’s kind of magic.
There was a lot going on in this episode—and a lot of it felt like stage setting for moments to come, like slightly disconnected bits that will eventually add up to much more. What’s abundantly clear from the direction the show appears to be taking is that although Rebekah was generally never at the center of any of her own storylines, she still leaves a ridiculously large hole to fill. The power struggle introduced here has its tentacles in all the characters, but in the end it boils down to a struggle of brother versus brother, as Elijah is attempting to build something and Klaus is simultaneously attempting to tear it down. Without Rebekah in the middle to temper this struggle, The Originals is going to have to work extra hard to make this brother-on-brother tension feel like more than just a retread of things they've already done before.
- The opening and closing voiceover by Klaus set a bit of a ponderous tone for the episode, one that dragged down the episode at times.
- I’m not sure yet about this new human, Francesca. Starting out by threatening Elijah Mikaelson doesn't seem all that smart.
- Davina’s struggles were very easy to connect to when she was locked up in a room and wanting to break free, but now she just sort of feels like an outsider floating around because the writers know they’re going to need her for a future storyline. At least her scenes with Josh are mostly pleasant.
- In a related note, the show is struggling to make the witches as integral to the proceedings as they were at the beginning of the series. Sophie was kind of a pain in the ass, but losing her and Davina (then bringing Davina back to life with very little fanfare) has been an awkward transition. Genevieve isn’t nearly interesting enough yet to carry the witch aspect of the story on her shoulders.
- “Julep, minus the sugar and mint?” Drunk Cami is kind of great.