When dealing with a show where you regularly see 1000 year old super vampires, apocalyptically powerful witches and ancient culturally insensitive spirits battle it out you would perhaps not immediately jump to the conclusion that a frail little blonde human is one of the most powerful people on it. Yet, being the loveable contrarian that I am, that is exactly what I am proposing. That oft overlooked blonde bombshell Camille O’Connell was, at one point, one of the most powerful people, if not the most powerful person, on The Originals. So join me as I shift some paradigms, change some minds and no doubt look damn good doing it. I mean, just look at my beautiful porcelain face.
Catching The Shadow on the Wall
But before we start playing couch philosopher on the topic of power, we should define what the hell power even is. Note that I won’t get into all the nitty gritty here, I’d need a book for that, but hopefully this will be a sufficient overview.
On The Originals, and many other supernatural dramas, power often gets defined in the sense of physical or magical power. How many young, adorable, puppy-eyed vampires one can throw through a wall, how many fireballs you can shoot out at your cheating ex, basically how many people you can single-handedly murder the shit out of. However, as uplifting a view as that might be, in real-life that’s generally not the case.
In real-life power tends to be just the slightest bit more subtle. Less “throwing fireballs from your hands” and more “people must do as I say for I am the mighty DMV lady!” It’s a little more illusive. It is the ability to make people act in accordance with your will, even if the naughty little bastards don’t want to. And there are, of course, various subtypes of power.
A common example is institutional power. There your power depends upon your rank in a particular institution and determines who will listen to you and what tasks they can perform. Are you a president? A lord? A general? The owner of a doughnut shop? All of these grant you the power to live up to that red-blooded American dream: Bossing other people around a lot.
Next to this we also often see power in the form of control of resources. Do you perhaps have millions upon millions of lovely green bills that you can use to buy people’s services? You know what services I’m talking about. Wink. Nudge. Boing. It’s doing your taxes for you. Cuz that shit is fucking annoying. In the sphere of politics you can also use these little green substitutes for self-worth for bribes or to hold over our intrepid public servants in the form of campaign contributions. Or, if you happen to own a silver mine and someone wants to mint some shiny silver coins for their rich brat kids to play with, you can negotiate with them. Force concessions from them. This is also power.
Bewitching the Shadow on the Wall
But power doesn’t have to be held directly. We often see power as exercised through various forms of influence. Influence, in this particular instance, being the answer to the question: Do people listen to you? This can be for various reasons: Perhaps because they naively think of you as having an authoritative opinion just because you have a website. One that makes them want to do what you suggest they should because you’re the Grand Poobah with a degree in the education of marketing science consultancy professionalism with a minor in long empty titles. Or maybe it’s simply because they like you. Well not you, nobody likes you. But hypothetically because they like someone. Or maybe you just know them well and happen to be quite persuasive.
If so, what people do they have this influence over? Is it thousands of regular working class schmoes who will smash their very nice Keurig coffee makers to itty little bits at your word? Or is it just one important person? Maybe the president of the United States thinks you’re a really swell chap or chapette and, if you suggest a course of action to them, they might just follow it. So even though you don’t technically hold any power yourself, you do exercise it through someone else. Something that is exceedingly common.
These are the more traditional and realistic ways in which we see power in our own world. Now you might be thinking “That’s all well and good, oh wise master” and right you are “But that’s in the real world. The Originals is a fantasy story. You can’t expect those rules to apply there, however wise and knowledgeable you are.” And then I would say first “oh stop flattering me even though I totally deserve it” and secondly point out that these rules do. And in fact that there are some great examples from across the world of fantasy fiction.
A Song of Power & Influence
The “A Song of Ice & Fire” series, more popularly known as the “Game of Thrones” books, make great use of this more realistic approach to power. There is magical power in this setting, embodied by people like Melisandre and Daenerys, but the more realistic sources of power have not loosened the grip of their talons. Spoilers for that series ahead, btw.
Robb Stark doesn’t have any magical powers, despite what the rumours claimed about his furry little secret, and yet he conquered half the kingdoms. Because he was Lord Stark and, because of this position, controlled big ass armies of smelly, smelly Northerners.
Tywin Lannister wasn’t a secret wizard, despite the cool beard (didn’t have the hat for it though), and yet his power and influence resound through the series. Because he controls the significant gold resources of Casterly Rock… and because of his official position as Lord Paramount… and because of his alliance with the Tyrells… and the Freys… and…. he has a lot of power, alright. All of it leading to Robby losing his pretty little head and nearly securing the throne for the Lannisters. That is before Cersei fucked it up.
Podrick Payne didn’t have enchanted breeches, yet his powers of persuasion are well attested to. As any King’s Landing whore will tell you. Let’s just say the Pied Piper’s surely jealous of his flute.
With this I hope I have made clear that power is a much broader concept than just heart rips and spells, even within fantasy. And it is through this same lense, rather than the 3D glasses of magic and rivers of blood, that I want to examine Camille’s power.
It’s Not What You Know…
When we first meet Camille she’s a fairly unassuming psychologist. Just another cute love interest for Klaus and Marcel to have their little pissing wars over. But it doesn’t stay this way. As she actually becomes… a character. Yes, I was surprised too, especially after season 4 of The Vampire Diaries.
We find out that she’s related to Kieran O’Connell, who leads The Faction. We see Klaus grow closer to her, with her eventually pretty much becoming his consiglieri. Her relationship with Marcel develops. And she also develops a close friendship with people like Davina and Vincent. And it is in these things we find the secret power of this adorable little ingénue. Because these people I just mentioned are many of the most powerful players in New Orleans.
Klaus Mikaelson is the big bad wolf and the invincible hybrid king of the city. His feats of strength and power are well-attested to: Including ripping apart a vampire army, dominating the New Orleans political scene for over a century and making Caroline cry several times.
Marcel at various points commands an army of vampires who are not only exceedingly useful for going on fetch quests to get you pretty much whatever you want from wherever you want it, as many of the later seasons take great care to demonstrate, but were also one of the strongest and most organized fighting forces in the city.
Davina is a harvest girl with great magical power and later becomes regent of the witch covens (even if only briefly). And Vincent is a very powerful witch with great knowledge of magic. He also happens to hold a position of great esteem within the witch community of New Orleans. To the extent that they’re practically on their knees begging him to become their leader several times and he has to shoe them off with a newspaper. Too bad he’s such a spoil sport.
These are, by all accounts, the movers and shakers. And Camille is the only person in New Orleans who is on good terms with all of them. The only one who can call upon both the witches, and the vampires. The humans, and the originals. The normally warring factions of New Orleans can all unite between the interests of the little blonde human. But it goes even further than that.
Who Could Refuse Such a Face?
Because Camille, being a good little psychologist, is quite good at persuading people. In fact she does so ad nauseum throughout the series. Most prominently when she succesfully convinces Klaus to, without getting all murdery, tell Lucien to cut out with the killing thing because it’s just a little off-putting to go out for your morning jog and find a smiling corpse hanging off the roof of the local pub. Or, at another time, when she convinces Vincent to give them a spell to help trick Dahlia. This despite his repeated refusals just five seconds prior and his general dislike for the killy ways of the Mikaelsons.
This ability, coupled with her being on good terms with these very powerful people, gives her a great deal of influence. And in fact, if she had had the inclination to, she could’ve held their power over other people’s heads to get almost whatever she wanted.
Just think about it, if almost anyone does something she doesn’t like or if she really want something look who she has on speed dial: Klaus Mikaelson, Marcel Gerard, Davina Claire and Vincent I’m-So-Done-With-Magic-But-Shit-I’ll-Just-Perform-That-One-Spell Griffith. And with her near Tyrion-level persuasion skills she can persuade them to help her achieve whatever her goal is. And Klaus in particular was never very shy about indulging his friends and family. Pity she’s not the diabolical shake-the-city-to-its-foundations type of gal. Because that would’ve been bloody entertaining.
The Kennedys Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me!
Oh, but lest you think this article is over, it doesn’t end there. This little blonde snowflake has even more bang to her buck. As her name gives her even further power. It is implied several times that the O’Connell family holds a rather noteworthy position in New Orleans. Not only do we see that Kieran has sway with The Faction, acting as their representative at the meeting between the factions, but Kieran also mentions that the O’Connells have been peacemakers in New Orleans for nearly a century. And Kieran even told Camille (before the peace-loving chap tried to stab her to death) that after his death they would likely ask Camille to take his place at the table, to be the representative of the human faction.
And if you’ve ever heard the names Kennedy or Bush, it should be clear to you how much a famous name can do for you. In fact, simply being a distant descendant of someone important can make you someone that others pay attention to. Both because of the prestige associated with it, as well as the social connections and loyalties that come with it. The Founding Families of the Vampire Diaries make this very clear.
Camille almost certainly could’ve played to this strength. She had all she needed to re-establish the human faction, a faction comprised of all the most powerful humans in New Orleans. And while humans aren’t exactly the most powerful species, as my great idol said: quantity has a quality all of its own. And there are quite a lot of walking bloodbags in New Orleans. With lots of big guns.
Alright, It’s Also a Bit What You Know
Her being an O’Connell and essentially Kieran’s heir carries even further implications though. As she was also the one to inherit his mega important, top secret… storage unit. Alright, sounds fairly mundane, I know. That is until you realize what’s in it. Yes, there’s the flashy magical toys. Dark objects that make you bleed out of your anus or implode into a little ball of goo. And she could’ve used those quite effectively either as weapons against her enemies, or as bargaining chips in negotiations (some of that resource power we talked about earlier). But more importantly she had the sexiest thing in the modern world: information.
Don’t forget that it was Kieran’s records that uncovered the true nature of the Guerreras. And had this information been known just a bit earlier it would’ve given Camille significant leverage over the Guerreras. Because her revealing it would’ve caused their entire plan to fall apart. After all information, as Littlefinger might’ve said before he got hit with a sack of dumb, is power.
Imagine if she’d looked what other information she could’ve uncovered. Information that might’ve been over a century old. About all sorts of dark secrets. All sorts of valuable magical knowledge. Valuable information in itself and also all wonderful opportunities for that most elevated of political pursuits: cold-hearted blackmail.
Now you might say, because you’re not that bright: “Analyze-chan, she’s a piddly little human though. You could just stabbity stab her to death.” Which is true. But then again, the same could be said for Tywin Lannister and Robb Stark. And, in fact, in both cases this was demonstrated quite effectively. Yet while they were alive they were powerhouses and nobody would deny that.
So while Camille’s power is not the type that will turn cities to rubble with a single flick of her dainty wrist, nor the type that will rip out every heart in the room, she could accomplish all of this and more with a well-placed word. And that’s pretty impressive.
- Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler – New Orleans After the Mikaelsons
- Camille’s Descent – A Look at the Importance of Camille’s Choices in “You Hung the Moon”
- The Cursed Ruins of the Past – How Deconstructing Steampunk Enhances Immersion
Copyright: The images used in this article are screenshots taken from the episodes of the show. We are allowed to use them under section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976. The Originals belongs to the CW and Alloy Entertainment.