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: Up to episode 16 of season 2.
Verdict: Really good.
The show is still centered around family, loyalty, and belonging. The protagonists have thousands of years of history to catch up with them, and it’s never been as dire an issue as it is now–Klaus and Hayley had to give up their child for her own safety. Speaking of Hayley, she actually gets to do things now. And with her new-found hybrid abilities, she’s finally powerful enough to stand alongside the main cast in ability, if not in experience. She’s still nowhere near the most interesting character in the story, but she isn’t dead weight anymore.
Marcel (Klaus’ protege and kind-of adopted son) is more charismatic than ever, and is pretty much always in my top two for favorite character, often vying for the top spot with Rebekah. As always, he’s the good foil to Klaus’s insanity–loyal where Klaus is inconstant, supportive where Klaus is destructive. He’s the kind of leader who looks out for the wellbeing of his people, and sees it as a responsibility. Klaus is the kind of leader who expects absolute loyalty from his followers without providing them with anything in return (other than not killing him horribly for daring to defy him).
As for Klaus himself, he has to be one of the few characters who can make the sentence “Have I made you proud, father?” sound like an accusation. I actually don’t quite hate him anymore, though I do kinda despise him. Yes, he’s still a pretty awful person, if unusually aware of it. However, he’s taken some steps–not towards redemption, it’s way too early to even consider that, if it’s even possible–but towards not being quite so despicable a person. Granted, he relapses a lot. Just when you think he’s getting better, he does something else to remind you that he sucks. But that’s the fun part. He wouldn’t be as entertaining if he wasn’t so awful.
For a while, I was kind of impressed by how Hayley’s dynamic with Elijah and Jackson was not a love triangle–it’s set up like one, but it just wasn’t. Hayley and Elijah clearly had a romantic relationship either progressing or suppressed at any given time, while Hayley and Jackson never moved outside of the bounds of an (admittedly) meaningful friendship. Jackson’s feelings for Hayley were almost certainly romantic (and they both knew it), yet their relationship still never veered into romance.
Hayley and Jackson were family, they were partners, and they cared about the same thing. The show didn’t shy away from making their connection deep. A deep, platonic friendship where one party had clear romantic feelings for the other, yet never pressed on them out of respect that it wasn’t mutual. And neither of their characters were diminished by this. It was kind of an absurd level of maturity for TV.
Unfortunately, it all ended during the arranged wedding episode, where the show decided to make Elijah’s life more tragic by having Hayley actually choose Jackson. I get that people in arranged marriages can learn to love each other and all, but that’s not what the moment was about. It was about Hayley appreciating Jackson’s un-Elijah-like qualities–specifically one quality that she had never before indicated in the entire history of the show she cared about. Now all of a sudden she does? I guess this scene meant something very different for me than it did for the writers. For me, it was huge that Hayley and Jackson were friends and partners and could be that even though Hayley wasn’t attracted to him. For the writers, it appears to be more about Elijah having his flaws pointed out to him.
Maybe this hits me harder because the deep platonic friendship is a particularly meaningful thing for me. Friendship, irrespective of the genders involved, is insanely more significant in my life than romance. And I rarely get to see strong platonic friendships that don’t turn romantic, especially when the friends are of opposite genders.
But if they were going to make Hayley fall in love with Jackson (which wouldn’t be an unreasonable way to go, despite my personal issues), did they have to make it be about Elijah? Did they have to make Hayley care about a quality she has never expressed interest in before? Sure, Elijah never talked about his feelings. Personally, I imagined talking about it was superfluous given how much the two of them managed to say just by making eye contact, but whatever. The point is, Hayley never asked him to, either. On the plus side, though, the relationship still never became a love triangle. Hayley was always very clear about who she was interested in pursuing a relationship with at any given time.
Despite that, I am so happy the show went through the trouble of getting Rebekah back into the game. When she got back with the family, it hit me how much I missed her.
And I’m impressed that the show is addressing the implications of inhabiting other people’s bodies, other people’s lives. It didn’t have to–our cast is made up of a sliding scale of anti-heroes, and it would have been totally plausible and even expected for them not to care about the loss of an individual they don’t even know. Certainly, Finn and Kol never cared. And the only person prior to Rebekah’s possession to raise any concerns was Camille (the sole good character on the show).
But Rebekah’s become a much more sensitive person in her time away, and so I’m pleasantly surprised to see the show using her character to talk about the ethics involved. She’s aware that she’s in someone else’s body without that person’s consent. And she’s especially against engaging in anything remotely sexual or romantic using that body. Of course, the show conveniently made the original owner of the body a truly awful human being–and yet Rebekah still attests that this does not negate her concerns. (My personal prediction is that the original owner of that body will come back in Rebekah’s old one, thereby having them transfer ownership of their bodies, especially since Rebekah’s old body will probably die along with the other girl in it. But that’s just a theory.)
We also outright get to follow one of the victims post-possession, when he gets his body back, to see the impact it has on him. I’m really pleased that these issues are being addressed, even as I hadn’t expected it.
Several major plotlines are afoot, many of them intertwined. The main cast are, as ever, at odds with each other. Alliances are always shifting as people are drawn together by their histories, but pulled apart by their loyalties–or vice versa. This is helped along by the fact that none of our protagonists are particularly nice, and they’ve done some awful things to each other. There’s never any accounting for anyone’s motivation. That’s what makes the show work so well. Things are always happening, all the characters have machinations that they’re hiding from several other parties at once, these motivations are always character based, and the show doesn’t pull it’s punches. The enemies this season are very personal and watching this plays out is fascinating. So yeah, still a great show.