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"The Casket Girls" 

The Vampire Diaries was never terribly good at working themes into its episodes, at least, not intentionally. It was all on the surface, all wild plotting and direct characterization. It generally worked, of course, but it also meant that the show rarely strayed away from surface storytelling. The Originals, in its short time, has been more willing to play with thematic depth (especially with free will and vampiric compulsion), but there may be growing pains. Case in point: “The Casket Girls,” an episode that feels it just discovered thematic resonance and shoves it an episode as awkwardly as possible.

Rebekah is the mouthpiece of those themes. Apparently between the last and this one, she listened to a bunch of Spice Girls, because superficial “girl power” is all she can talk about. “Us girls have to stick together,” she says, both in flashback and in present day. That's not the only way she frames it. “Well, I've never been a fan of the boy's club” she tells Hayley as she watches Klaus, Elijah, and Marcel conspiring.

So suddenly, every line from Claire Holt's mouth is about girls or boys (she even gets a little faux-narration out of it), and it's as confusing as it is annoying. We've never seen Rebekah out there as The Feminist Avenger before. Then again, to be fair, Rebekah's been one of the more malleable characters across both shows. She started as a femme fatale, became an immortal mean girl, then got written off temporarily for being too effectively annoying at being a mean girl. Her return coincided with a massive upswing in quality on The Vampire Diaries directly related to her having a real motivation (to take the cure for vampirism), but she's been wobbly on The Originals since that was no longer an option.

For the bulk of this show's run, she's been used primarily to illustrate how abusive Klaus is, a role which took away the agency she'd managed to seize on TVD. Therefore I'd be quite happy if this was the beginning of a new characterization for Bex, but I'm going to need a little bit more of a theoretical underpinning for her motivations. If she's going to rule New Orleans as an undead matriarch, she should find some time for some Simone de Beauvoir or bell hooks along the way. I'm only being partially facetious, to be honest. It's unclear if this focus on the women of The Originals is a one-off for an episode about Sophie and Davina attempting to take power or revenge (with notable roles for Cami, Hayley, and of course Rebekah), or if it's actually going to turn into a consistent thrust for the show. If it's the latter, it's going to need something to make it less grating.

It's a pity that the girl power framing of “The Casket Girls” is so annoying, because apart from that, this was one of the more intense episodes of The Originals thus far. The confrontation between the witches, Davina, Marcel and Klaus that I expected to come a couple of episodes ago occurred, to some exist here. At the very least, all the characters were involved in the episode, and all made some kind of choice as to where their allegiances truly lay.

Davina was the most critical of those, with most of the episode focuses on what she's doing, or what the people looking for her are doing. She's pissed off because Marcel lied to her, but her plans to leave town are derailed by a gaggle of witches (in costume, quickly dispatched!) and Klaus & company, very nearly as easily dispatched. In other words, Davina went from being a secret weapon to an active player in New Orleans' power struggles. Not coincidentally, this was, by far, the most I've liked her character thus far.

Similarly, after a half a season where Cami is an emotional weapon similar to Davina's magical one, she starts to fight back. It's not much, but her telling Klaus that she'll expose him is a likewise a major step forward for the character.

Finally, there's Sophie Deveraux, who The Originals seemed to forget about in the past few episodes. She's still off to the side of “The Casket Girls,” seeking out the body of Elijah's old lover Celeste in order to gain witchy power somehow, and using Hayley to do so. I still believe that Sophie's character could be an important and effective one for the show, and bringing her back into the fold is a good start to that.

But here in this episode, she's less important than the final revelation of the episode: that her attempt to do whatever she's doing with Celeste is going to backfire in some dangerous way. As I said, I didn't really enjoy the Rebekah-based framing of this episode, but its completion led to the Sophie-Celeste revelation, which I really liked. It was fairly conventional genre work—two characters put together a creepy puzzle, one tries to tell the another that she's about to unleash something she doesn't want to unleash, can't reach her, then boom, cliffhanger. It's just really well-done genre work. I got excited about the idea of Celeste both based on the music and the editing and the creepy pictures as well as my normal structural analysis that a powerful external villain could do a lot for this show. I'm looking forward to next week, hoping the good from “The Casket Girls” is accented, and the bad disposed with.

Stray observations:

  • Josh's role as the funny everyman works better and better: “It's very Memento of you! Nice work.”
  • “Hey, I was just telling her the truth.” Hayley, what about this world has led you to believe that “telling the truth” is a forgivable motive?
  • An interesting subversion of the “male gaze” as Sophie's random makeout partner doesn't even receive a face. Sorry, bro.
  • “Are the maudlin theatrics really necessary, Niklaus?”
  • “Don't worry, Elijah. I'm still as redeemable as ever.” I'm happy that everyone, especially the writers, have started seeing through Elijah's bullshit. 

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