Synopsis: A family of thousand year old vampires returns to their former home, New Orleans, becoming embroiled in the power struggles between vampires, witches, and werewolves. The head of the house is the paranoid, erratic, and controlling Klaus–a force to be reckoned with for his allies as well as his enemies. And the rest of our protagonists have to navigate his moods while trying to protect their own.
Series: Second season.
I’ve Watched: Everything up to the second season finale.
Verdict: Really good.
The show began with a premise of unshakable family bonds, even in the face of Klaus being awful to all his siblings. Those bonds have been tested since the beginning of the series. As I’ve mentioned before, this season brings out a lot of past family drama into the present. But because the threat is so personal, because our characters are willing to go so far, and because Klaus is a truly awful person, that loyalty isn’t just tested–it seems to be coming apart.
And that’s awesome. This show has an ensemble cast, and while Klaus may function as something of a designated protagonist, he easily feels like an antagonist at times. And it works.
Especially intriguing is how much he has in common with the villain. They’re very similar, the difference being that Klaus’ siblings didn’t abandon him (against all reason) while Dahlia’s sister did leave her. Since her abandonment made her the way she is, that implies something interesting about Klaus himself.
And I really love the way Klaus is his own worst enemy. He wouldn’t fit into his role as the lead–a villainous lead, with only a few redeeming qualities–otherwise. Of course he continually drives even those closest to him away from him. He demands loyalty instead of earning it. He values being feared more than he values being trusted. He follows the example of many a stereotypical bad guy in threatening his minions’ lives should they fail him, demanding their obedience while treating them as disposable, and betraying allies whenever he deems it useful. And he actually thinks this is practical. That he will get the same loyalty through fear and manipulation that others get through genuine caring.
When he miscalculates people’s reactions, that’s usually what he underestimates. How far love and trust will push people. Though the series centers around Klaus finding a heart in his love for his child, that doesn’t fundamentally change him as a person. He’s still paranoid, cruel, and controlling. His best intentions don’t always mesh with what anyone else considers the best way of moving forward. He’s trying to keep his daughter safe in the only way he knows how, and imagines that’s the best way to do it. Many other characters disagree, with good reason.
And it’s fascinating how, despite being at least a tiny bit sympathetic (though not much more), he can still function best as the villain, even in his own story. I have been waiting for two seasons to hear Elijah say he is done with Klaus’ nonsense. It’s glorious.
And somehow Klaus still manages to close the season with the most romantic declaration in the show (Cami: “When I first got into town..I’d taken a shift from another girl. If not for that, could’ve been someone else standing here right now instead of me.” Klaus: “You know, I prefer to see it the other way. If it wasn’t that night, this bar…it would’ve been Jackson Square staring at a painting. Or Frenchmen Street listening to Jazz.”) You’re not allowed, Klaus! Least of all with the most virtuous character in the series, who he’s not actually with.
Although it is nice that their entire relationship is about not having a relationship. The subtext is that there is no way that would ever go anywhere. It kinda subverts the standard nice-girl-and-bad-boy-vampire romance angle, because they’re both adult enough to know that this is not a good idea. Both of them acknowledge their connection without ever trying to or wanting to pursue it.
On another note, Klaus has been calling Hayley the Queen of the wolves for a while, which is totally corny and weird, but makes sense for him because he’s old and big on the drama. Everyone else has been mostly just ignoring his terminology, which I thought was cool–until now. Because now the show is trying to convince me that people are actually buying that line.
And that Hayley is a proactive character, when mostly, she’s a reactive character. She doesn’t come up with her own ideas, so much as decides who to side with. She has a very inconsistent relationship with decision-making and agency.
Davina is another character who has been pushed around as an accessory to others’ stories rather than getting to stand on her own–that’s at least more forgivable, since she’s a teenager. But her recent speech to the witches to get herself put in charge of them was strong and hit all the right notes. (“The question isn’t whether I should be made regent. It’s, what the hell would you do without me?”) A lot of that was the actress bringing gravity and power to her performance. This scene gives me hope that she might finally be allowed to stand on her own as a power in the series. The downside is that her entire motivation at this point in the series is her boyfriend. Seriously, he is her only concern, and you would think she’d have a myriad of them after everything she’s been through.
At least Freya has the makings of a complex, powerful female character with agency, which is fantastic because we really need one of those aside from Rebekah.
As for Rebekah, her return(?) to her original body is both good and bad. Good, because despite the fantastic actress portraying her, being in that body seriously limited her usefulness. She was a total novice with witch powers, having been a vampire for so long. And while she still had skill and all of her knowledge, she didn’t have her super strength or speed, which put her out of the fight against most supernatural beings.
Bad, because we’re losing yet another (great) non-white female character on the show. The male non-white characters are better represented, especially with Marcel on the main cast–though the prominence of the white Mikaelson family blocks a lot of roles from being racially diverse. And a black man from the previous story line seems to be sticking around as a sidekick to a secondary character.
But we’ve been losing non-white female characters like crazy. I’m still mourning Sophie from season 1. There’s Sabine/Celeste. Monique. One incarnation of Esther. And now, Gia. That one hurt. Add to that this incarnation of Rebekah kind of in the air, and we currently have a dearth of non-white women on the show. I honestly don’t know if having all of these compelling characters is progress, or if having them then losing all of them just rubs salt in the wound, or what.
While we’re on the topic of diversity, I should mention Aiden’s loss. It totally made sense for the story and he was a character whose loss would hurt the audience without being pivotal for any plot points, but I don’t know if we have enough happy homosexual relationships on TV yet to be okay with losing them like this.
Overall, I really do enjoy the show, problems and all.
“Or maybe it’s just what I do. Kill my enemies. Sometimes my friends. This may come as a surprise to you…but I’m not a terribly good person”
“It hurts me to see you pretend you don’t deserve happiness. That you don’t deserve her.”
“And what about you, sister? Where is your happiness?”