The worst case scenario when The Originals was announced was that it would be like The Vampire Diaries' worst impulses. As embodied by the Originals' place in the story, those impulses were overbaked mythology used to create artificial drama, instead of building from characterization. Ideally, with the new series, the actors and the characters of the Originals would be freed to be the subjects and prove themselves worthy of a series.
For the first few episodes, that's been the case. The surviving siblings have each expressed their personalities, made their moves, been integrated into the dynamics of the new setting/series, and the plot's been revving up. All good, right? Well, all good until tonight, when it all came to a screeching halt. “Sinners And Saints” was the worst case scenario: all mythological battles of vampires/werewolves/witches, no story worth a damn.
To be fair to The Originals, this was all at least partially necessary. Yes, we needed to know why Davina was so powerful, and yes, we needed to know what triggered the near-war between the vampires and the witches. But we didn't need every bit of that information all at once, comprising an entire episode. By turning the whole hour into an extended info-dump, the show rendered what could have been interesting revelations into filler.
For example, the biggest of the revelations is that of Sophie Deveraux's manipulation, which is considered important enough that it ends the episode. Previously, Sophie's been treated as a sort of well-meaning bumbler, dragged into her sister's realpolitik plot without really understanding the forces she was dealing with. That all may still be the case, but her true goal is revealed to be not vague freedom for the witches, but the murder of Davina in order to complete a ritual that will give the witches their power back, and may resurrect the sacrificed teen witches, including Sophie's niece and Davina herself. Conceptually, this works—it's a little overcomplicated, but granting more motivation and agency to a major player isn't inherently a bad idea.
The problem is that, by presenting it entirely as back-story, it's dramatically inert. Our perception of Sophie's motivations changes, but we don't have actions to back it up. I can't help but think that The Vampire Diaries would have handled this differently. The Originals free Davina long enough for Sophie to slit her throat out of nowhere. Marcel moves Davina, as scheduled, but the Originals attack, and it turns into a four-way battle where Sophie and the witches change sides halfway through. Or hell, at least Sophie being in the same room as someone when her master plan is revealed, so that we could get any kind of reaction. But no. The entire story of the episode is The Witch Plan From Eight Months Ago. And the Harvest ritual isn't interesting enough that this couldn't have been dealt with in a few lines or maybe a scene.
Moreover, much of the mythological explanation didn't make much sense, didn't clarify, or was just bad. The new priest character, Kieran, speaks twice as the leader of, and I wish I was making this up, “the Human Faction.” Sabine is treated as the leader of a faction of extremist witches who disagree with Sophie, but the revelation is that Sophie is firmly on the side of the extremists. And the more we learn about Davina, the less interesting she becomes.
Beyond the conceptual issues with the episode, it also simply wasn't well put-together. At multiple points within the episode, acts are finished with revelations that are treated as cliffhangers, but aren't, at all. For example, when Hayley confronts Sophie about how she was wrong about the Harvest, and that she might be wrong about the vision regarding her child, Sophie acknowledges that possibility. That's all it is, and should have been fairly obvious from the start (prophecies are ALWAYS true in stories like this, unless they're intentional manipulations) and incredibly obvious once Sophie's story is told. Yet it's treated as a major happening, implying either that the producers give the audience zero credit, or they literally couldn't think of any other way to end an act.
Over the last few episodes, I've praised The Originals for its confidence in moving forward and telling a propulsive story how it wants to tell that story. “Sinners And Saints” indicates that someone involved in the show was frightened by that confidence, and wanted to try to explain everything. As is almost always the case with that kind of storytelling, it wasn't worth it. Hopefully the show will get this out of its system.
- Sophie explains Sabine's vision: “Pretty much that your baby would bring death to all witches.” “Ah, I grow fonder of this child by the minute.”
- “Or I've given up on giving up.” Kind of a bust for the first full Elijah episode, but at least we got that line.
- And a nice Rebekah scene, when she offers Hayley a drink, says “Oh. Right” and drains the whiskey.
- Flashback hair grade: F. A whole episode of flashbacks, and everyone's hair is the same? Boring.
- Speaking of boring and dramatically inert, how about that explanation of what happened to Cami's brother? Yeesh.