Are you a fan of The Vampire Diaries? If you are, then you might enjoy the spinoff coming to The CW this fall called The Originals. But what about everyone else? If The Vampire Diaries isn't already a part of your viewing diet, is there something here for you to love?
Sadly, the answer is no, not unless you like a heaping amount of mystery and unexplained relationships in an opening episode. If you are OK with waiting for future episodes to explain much of the history referenced in the show, then you might be able to pull through, but if you want to be a casual viewer and understand what's going on right from the pilot, then you might want to skip this one. The confusion makes it hard for a new viewer to get absorbed into the world.
As the last pilot screened during Comic-Con's preview night, the crowd was thin when The Originals appeared on the screen. It probably didn't help that this show already aired as an episode of The Vampire Diaries in April, but the promise of never-before-seen scenes may have kept the few fans who stayed in their seats.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]
The episode opens with Klaus (played by Joseph Morgan, Casualty, The Vampire Diaries) traveling to New Orleans after learning a witch there is threatening him. We find out that Klaus is a hybrid werewolf/vampire and actually played a hand in founding the city with his family, who are the Original family of vampires from The Vampire Diaries. It's at this point as a new viewer that I already had questions. What does it mean that Klaus is a hybrid? Everyone continues to mention it and make a big deal about it during the show, but no one ever really explains why we should care. Also why is his family called the Originals? It seems like they played a role in the founding of New Orleans, so maybe they were the original vampires there, but they make the term sound so grandiose it feels like there should be a bigger payoff.
As Klaus (who made me think of Twilight due to his constant broody mood during the pilot) explores what's become of New Orleans, he discovers his old mentee Marcel (played by Charles Michael Davis, Grey's Anatomy) is running the show and has an unprecedented amount of power in the city. He completely controls the once-formidable witch community, and Klaus is stumped and clearly pissed that Marcel has used this secret to gain the power Klaus himself always wanted. After Marcel kills the witch Klaus came looking for, he goes in search of her family, and here is where as a new viewer the show completely lost me. Klaus' brother Elijah (played by Daniel Gillies, Saving Hope) shows up talking about how close their family used to be and how Klaus can be redeemed, and nowhere do they explain what happened that caused the family rift or why they all had to leave New Orleans in the first place.
The witches, who are led by Sophie (played by Danielle Pineda), talk to Klaus and Elijah about stopping Marcel's rule. They use a human, Hayley (played by Phoebe Tonkin), as leverage against Klaus. Hayley is apparently pregant with his child, and the witches will kill her if Klaus doesn't help. This is apparently a major revelation, since vampires can't have children but werewolves can. Why can werewolves have kids but vampires can't? I suppose it has something to do with vampires being part of the undead, but does anyone bother to explain? Nope, we're led to believe Klaus' werewolf half just got lucky, and the show moves on to more moody conversations between the brothers as Elijah tries to talk to Klaus about family and Klaus tries to explain he just wants Marcel's power.
In the end, of course, Klaus can't leave the girl to die, which was quite predictable once we learned she was pregnant. The baby seems set up to be Klaus' chance at redemption. The episode then ends abruptly as Klaus puts a plan into motion with his brother's and the witches' help. It's clear that they're setting up the battle between Klaus and Marcel to be a full-season arc or at least the first couple of episodes.
There was no applause when this pilot ended, and frankly there wasn't much about the ending that left me wanting to see more. I went into the pilot intrigued but turned out disappointed that there was so much going on that was never explained. The relationships and history of the characters are never filled in, making it hard to understand why we should care about what these characters are doing. As a new viewer, this made it hard to follow, so unless you're already keeping up with The Vampire Diaries, you might find yourself bored with this show in the first 20 minutes. New viewers who want to give the show a chance may need to stick with it for a while and just put up with unexplained mysteries until the show finally brings viewers into the loop.
The Originals will return to the CW Tuesday, Oct. 15.