The Originals has been over for quite some time at this point. And many people were… not entirely satisfied with the ending. That is to say that I hope the writer’s room for Legacies is fireproof and they don’t accept fanmail without thorough inspection. But why were their dearest fans so upset? What lies at the core of the series’ failure of an ending? Why didn’t it fucking work goddammit!? Well, let me explain why I, the great and powerful Analyze, think the ending to this magnificent series fell as completely and utterly flat as a pancake under a steamroller.
TV-series, at least good ones, tend to have some themes at their heart. Some fundamental questions or topic that they examine. For The Originals there are a few questions at its heart: Can we escape what our parents made us? What made the originals into the horrible creatures they are? Can the communities of New Orleans have one single party where nobody dies? But perhaps the most fundamental of these questions is “Can Klaus Mikaelson, the supreme slaughterer of cities, the crazy killer of kings, the champion kicker of kittens, be redeemed?”
And usually, it is the purpose of a series’ ending to try to present some sort of answer to the fundamental question that was asked. To take everything that went before it and tie it into a neat little bow that makes the point the series wanted to make. In other words: for that ending to be the culmination of what lead up to it. The Originals, naturally, being a good little show, attempts to do this with its final episode and so in the end Elijah declares Klaus redeemed. After all this time he was able to do it. Yay for him! Flags and cakes and party hats and beignets all around for everyone! The answer to the question was “Yes!” This might be quite uplifting if it wasn’t for the fact that the ending as presented was utterly absurd.
I’ll grant there is a certain… poetry to the ending conceptually. A man who was incredibly self-centered and who always pawned off his responsibility on others refuses to do so again and sacrifices himself for the daughter he once rejected but now loves. And the man whose only mission in life was to redeem him finds his mission is completed and with nothing else to live for dies along with him. Their fates were intertwined all along. They lived together, fought together and now they’ve died together. There’s only a teeny tiny weeny problem with it… THE EXECUTION DOESN’T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE!
Let’s get this out of the way first before we get to the succulent meat of the issue: The mechanics of this moment are nonsensical.
If Elijah was going to choose to die no matter what, why would Klaus choose to orphan his own child? Far be it from childless old me to be giving out parenting tips but, telling your child you’re going to kill yourself for them despite there being a clear alternative hardly seems like it’s a gateway to mental health. Just shove the magic inside of the guy who already wants to die to go dance in heaven or hell or wherever-the-fuck he’s going and go get some beignets with your daughter.
Klaus’ magic trick of pulling a new white oak stake straight out of his anus is another ill-fitting puzzle piece in this picassoesque picture. Mainly since the ass-stake of uber convenience had never been mentioned before, even though throughout most of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals Klaus had been just a little, oh how do I say this… utterly obsessed with destroying every tiny bit of white oak stake he could get his kitten-strangling hands on. It is literally unbelievable.
Also, what about Antionette? You know, the woman Elijah spent like 7 years with being happy and fulfilled? Nope, forgot all about her. Elijah never even gave Antionette a telephone call before he decided to turn himself into a vampire shishkebab! Didn’t even send an email. A text would’ve been possible, but no. A carrier pigeon would’ve fucking sufficed!
But all of these things I could maybe live with. Mayhaps, I could look the other way if it wasn’t for the other 12 episodes of the season. Because the arc that came before this feel-good ending was less like putting the horse before the cart and more like putting it before the steamroller.
The Great & Bloody Backslide
From the very start season 5 focuses, more than anything, on Klaus’ regression and how the relationship between him and Hope is fundamentally toxic. The season starts with Klaus eating some doorman’s heart in front of a crowd of innocent people for godsakes. Just think of all the blood spatter on those poor people’s shoes. And as for the relationship between Hope and Klaus, we see multiple examples of his terrible influence on her.
In the beginning, for example, it is his abandonment of her and his recently rediscovered penchant for murderous rampages which causes her to feel like she needs to go chasing after him in Paris (the main reason why she turned Henry). But this relationship goes both ways. Not only does Klaus make Hope a worse person, Hope makes Klaus do horrible things as well.
The episode that best encapsulates this is probably episode 10. This episode starts with Hope attempting to rid herself of the Hollow’s anger by throwing her father around like a ragdoll. She doesn’t hate her father however, like a normal child would, and so it doesn’t work. When she tells him this (because healthy communication is important, kids) he just stands up and says “Give me a name.” Afterwards he proceeds to slaughter a bunch of nameless vampire goons (may their fanged little hearts rest in a river of blood) and kidnaps Roman for Hope to torture brutally. Roman, who was for the most part an innocent pawn in his mother’s grasp. He then proceeds to give Hope some very helpful tips on how to torture the child. This despite spending all of season 4 attempting to shield her from violence. Guess Hope hit him so hard earlier that he got amnesia. Needless to say this is bloody awful. It is a far cry removed not only from a fully redeemed Klaus, but even from season 4 Klaus.
Klaus has always been pretty brutal, even as he was becoming a better person. But in the previous season we at least saw him slowly start to try to avoid killing people, particularly innocent people, as much as he could. A good example of this being that when him and Vincent confront some witches serving the Hollow in season 4 he chooses not to kill them, despite the fact that he easily could’ve. And while he still always killed when he had to, there is a distinct difference between self-defence and kidnapping an innocent person for your daughter to torture so she can get over that Monday blues.
Now this could’ve all been part of an interesting arc. To see how his child, rather than being his redemption and making him a better man as always expected, starts reverting him back into the raging psychopath he was at the beginning of the show. That because she’s so dear to him he’s willing to do anything for her, and that anything just happens to include lots and lots of slaughter, violence and evil plots because well… that’s just the Mikaelson way. That constantly worrying about her safety and her constant attempts to get out from under his control and solve problems herself (as she did when running away with Roman) returns the paranoia that had been quieting down just mildly throughout the seasons. But the regression involved with this just doesn’t work here.
How Season 5 Poisoned Its Own Ending
Now regression certainly can be part of a character’s arc. Absolutely. People in real-life don’t generally follow a straight path to self-betterment, after all. There will always be ups and downs. This is realistic and in a show about redemption it makes sense that this would be shown. But while such an arc is potentially interesting, this was not the season for it.
This season only had 13 episodes to work with before it got to the end and on top of that it was the final season of the entire series. The final season of a series built entirely around the question “Can Klaus be redeemed?” As such this was a question that the ending had to address. And in order to avoid a big ol’ downer ending that makes the rest of the show feel like wasted time they needed that answer to be “Yes.”
And this simply doesn’t work when his arc throughout the entire rest of the season, as I hope I’ve shown, has been one of regression (or at best where he was static). One where his relationship with his daughter, despite also containing some moments of fatherly love, has been absolutely toxic and immersed in violence and death. An arc about him scheming, making enemies and killing innocents just like old times.
I think Elijah said it best in season 1 when he said: “This is the world that you created, Niklaus. All of your scheming. The enemies that you have made every single day of your miserable life, what results did you expect?” It points out that Klaus’ arc wasn’t just about him learning to be a better father, it was about him learning to be a better person. To be the kind of person who would create a world that’s better for his daughter. That’s what his final arc of the series should’ve been all about. And that’s what it needed to be about in order to make the ending, where he’s finally proclaimed redeemed, work.
But it wasn’t about that. The rest of the season wasn’t a build-up that culminated in the ending. As a result Klaus asking Elijah if he has been redeemed and Elijah responding “Yes” not only falls flat, but becomes a line that it is physically painful to hear due to its incredible absurdity. After all, if Ted Bundy got released from prison and then started killing dozens of innocent people for his daughter instead of for his own twisted pleasure, would you really have considered him suddenly a good man?
- Was Vampire Hitler Right? – How Season 5’s Ending Betrays Its Themes
- One Step Forward, Twenty Steps Back – Why Hope Mikaelson Has No Character Arc
- From Pit Bulls to Puppies – How the Originals Were Trivialized
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.