The Originals introduced many great new characters to us: Camille the brave bartender, Davina the young but powerful New Orleans witch, newby vampire Josh. All of whom have their own dynamics with the originals. But perhaps the most complex new character-dynamic introduced, in my opinion at least, is the one between Klaus and Marcel.
This article aims to take a look at the basis of that dynamic in Marcel’s childhood and the time he spent living as Klaus’ son before Mikael came to New Orleans.
Marcel’s childhood begins before he ever meets Klaus. He is born to a young black slave mother impregnated by her master at the time, the governor of the area. He gets motherly love for a while, but when his mother dies he is left all alone in the world as a small child. No hope of ever getting his true father to recognise him or treat him well. Marcel rebels in small ways against his master and the paid servants (we know this as he said that he got his “ass beat” several times trying to eat the apples from the plantation), perhaps trying to find an outlet for feelings of anger towards life and his father. Trying to define for him some sort of identity and find some sort of strength to make it in this world alone. Perhaps he even picks up some of his social skills here. After all, being a kid in this situation has to be tough and without physical strength to defend yourself against other slaves taking stuff from you, etc. you’d best get along with them really well.
Then one day comes Klaus Mikaelson. After Marcel launches into another little rebellion, throwing an apple at a slave driver, Klaus Mikaelson siezes on the moment to free Marcel. This strange new man then takes Marcel to his father and demands Marcel’s freedom. When Klaus doesn’t get the reaction he wants from the governor initially, he takes to violence. A trivial thing to Klaus, but likely quite important since it gets results. Here Marcel, perhaps for the first time, sees that violence and dominating physical force is rewarded (not to mention that he himself is being adopted by Klaus because of the step towards defiance he took in throwing that apple). His father yells some rather insulting things at the young Marcellus, no doubt hurting already open wounds, but for the first time ever those wounds are mended. Klaus tells Marcellus that he can choose his family and shows a great deal of empathy towards him. Likely something that he hadn’t truly experienced since the death of his mother.
It becomes clear that Klaus showers Marcellus with affection and attention, and so does Rebekah and even Elijah for a while. But Klaus remains the father figure, remains the one that determines what his education will be like and when Elijah tries to steal that role from him, Klaus makes sure to claim it once again. This makes clear at least two points: Klaus as a father to Marcel gave him lots of attention and Klaus was a very overbearing father. The first is likely to have resulted in a great deal of love from Marcel and seeking further approval from Klaus (something which I think can’t always have been easy considering how controlling Klaus can be and something which seems to have stayed in part to the present day) whereas the second is likely to have clashed with both Marcel’s own personality (how he resisted control as a child) and Klaus’ own lessons to Marcel of seeking independence and strength.
It is also during this time that Marcel first develops feelings for Rebekah. They’re not full-grown romantic feelings yet, he’s too young for that. But the sweet Rebekah, who lacks Klaus’ temperament and Elijah’s distance must have felt like quite the safe space for Marcel. And the first woman other than his mother to give him any attention and care for him. It is then, I believe, he develops a predeliction for strong, blonde women, specifically for this reason.
It’s also worth mentioning that this environment Marcel grew up in likely had another characteristic. And we briefly see it after Kol awakens. The original family is after all a family of vicious vampires, criminals who controlled the French Quarter through fear and violence. Being near this, there’s no doubt that Marcel grew up in a climate where using violence would feel very normal to him. He likely was, even long before becoming a vampire, desensitised to violence and death. It likely also impacted his view on life, to see these beings get what they want through fear and blood. It’s no wonder he says to Camille that he thinks all people are monsters and people who are powerful like Klaus just don’t have to hide it, it’s exactly what his environment would have looked like. No matter how much Elijah and Klaus may have tried to shield him from it. Much like we’ve seen with Hope, specifically the fight between Klaus and Hayley at the start of season 3, there’s no way to truly hide this all the time. And there’s no doubt that living in this environment, with these role-models would do irreperable damage to Marcel’s personality.
However, being raised in what is essentially vampire royalty likely also gave Marcel a sort of… fame. The sort of implicit power that comes with being even a young member of a very important family. But it was a fame, a power that he seemed to feel was overshadowing him as a person. For all Klaus’ talk of being your own person, Klaus was likely very controlling of Marcel and with the Mikaelson name stamped everywhere and the Mikaelsons rulling the French Quarter, there’s no doubt that Marcel eventually felt eclipsed. He had respect and power in a sense, but it wasn’t his own.
This all changed when he found a way to get out from under Klaus. Having been chafing under Klaus’ shadow and desperately seeking for an identity of his own, away from his controlling father, Marcellus joined the army. Initially he was a brave soldier, but unremarkable. The same somewhat queit background figure as he had been around the much more powerful Klaus. Still stuck in a pattern of staying in the background. But when the time came, as detailed in the episode Brotherhood of the Damned, Marcel lead his men to victory. An event that shaped him forever. Finally he had gotten out from under Klaus’ shadow and finally he knew who he was, found the identity he’d been searching for for almost a century. No wonder then how highly he values his position as vampire king of New Orleans and his men at the beginning of the series. It is literally how he defines himself. How he gives himself worth as a person. And the positive reinforcement from leading them, well it gives him the respect and power he always wanted, ever since he was a slave on his father’s plantation (but something he couldn’t truly get with the domineering Klaus and living in the shadow of the original family).
And so we come to the end. Where Marcel finds the courage to bring Papa Tunde to town and summon Mikael with Rebekah. His finding of his own identity, his finding of inner strength away from the Mikaelsons finally gave him the confidence he needed to truly fight for Rebekah (whom he’d never gotten over). And in the wake of the destruction Mikael wrought, is it any surprise that he stayed in New Orleans and did what he did? That knowing he couldn’t go to Rebekah and Klaus again, he pieced together another army. A family not only to replace the Mikaelsons (but that would respect him) but a group of people who would look to him as their leader, as their parent. As a good guy with worth all on his own.
He takes the name Marcel now too, because Marcellus is a name Klaus gave him and he’s no longer in Klaus’ shadow. While the name Marcel is the one he used when he enlisted in the army and finally found who he truly was as a person. This is also why in The Battle for New Orleans he so strongly insists that “my name is Marcel.” Because he knows that he’s no longer one of Klaus’ puppets, but his own man in whole. Defined by himself, not by his biological father (for which this is a good coping mechanism) and not by Klaus (who himself is the one that taught Marcel that he can’t be defined by anyone except himself).
I can imagine one of the vampires from the brotherhood laying there on the ground dying after Mikael leaves, the entire French Quarter having been shaken up after the originals leave. The remaining vampires in panic, now that the witches and the werewolves were no longer kept in check by the originals. They needed a saviour. And Marcel, well there’s no place he’d rather be.
I hope any readers enjoyed this. I wrote this on impulse and may improve it later, but I certainly did enjoy writing it.
- Becoming the Destroyer – A Psychological Analysis of Mikael
- Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler – New Orleans After the Mikaelsons
- He’s Back – Psychological Analysis of What Fifty Years of Suffering Can Do to the Protagonist
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.