'The Originals': A treat for 'Vampire Diaries' fans, but will it compel others?
But is it enough to lure in new viewers? That is not so certain.
Originally a backdoor pilot embedded in the "Vampire Diaries" Season 4, "The Originals" follows the first family of vampires -- Klaus ( Joseph Morgan), Elijah ( Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah ( Claire Holt) -- to their old home of New Orleans. Once there, the vampires have to deal with rebellious witches, a protege-turned-vampire-king and one very unexpected bundle of supernatural joy.
Will the bonds of family be enough to deal with all of this? That seems to be the central question at the heart of "The Originals."
Interestingly, the premiere episode of the new series, "Always and Forever," tells pretty much the same story as the backdoor pilot, only from the point of view of Elijah (not Klaus, as before). This works on some levels but stumbles on others.
For a show focusing on the evil creatures of the night, "The Originals" brings a lot of good to the table. The new character of Marcel ( Charles Michael Davis), for example, is a gleeful example of corrupting power in its absolute form. His appearances in "Always and Forever" are tantalizingly brief, but he isn't going anywhere.
The mystery of how Marcel controls New Orleans' witches also seems certain to create an ongoing appeal to fans. There is a hint of that control's source at the end of the premiere, but there has to be more story to come.
And then there's Hayley ( Phoebe Tonkin), the sassy werewolf stuck in the middle of "The Originals." She really doesn't want to be part of any of this, and her dismissive attitude throughout the premiere is nothing but entertaining. In a shadowy, eternal world, it's nice to have someone around who knows what century it is.
Finally, Elijah is always a pleasure to watch. Never has a walking death been sexier than in the form of Daniel Gillies.
There are two major complaints that can be made about "The Originals." One has already been mentioned -- fans have seen this episode (altered only in point of view) before. Do viewers really want to see the same story one more time?
The second problem is bigger and potentially devastating to this new show: The focus of the episode, Elijah, doesn't actually do much for an hour. Elijah wanders the streets of New Orleans and asks a lot of questions, but he is mostly an observer when it comes to the action. This passive mode of storytelling decreases the impact of what we see. Should "The Originals" stick with this, fans are likely to lose interest.
This is The CW. Nothing is ugly.
Even though the story repeats what is already known to "Vampire Diaries" fans, the suave presence of Elijah and the vicious hotness of Klaus should be plenty to keep the converted around. A few quick reminders of things seen before may be a bit tedious in the moment, but the story has enough promise for vampire fans to keep with it.
The problem might come from the newer fans. There is plenty of back-story in "The Originals" premiere -- it's just that enjoying this back-story presupposes that viewers already care about the vampires. Tragedy, love and anger all lose some of their power when those experiencing it are strangers. "Always and Forever" gets in all the plotting it needs for a new fan, but it seems to somehow lack the emotional power that could hook fans for life.
I hope I'm wrong about this, because "The Originals" has a lot of promise walking the dark and atmospheric streets of New Orleans. If a slightly flawed premiere means that we won't walk with them, that could be our loss.
"The Originals" premieres Thursday, Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. before moving to its regular timeslot Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.