Elijah and Klaus were no doubt the dynamic duo of The Originals. The Robin and Batman of the vampire world (unfortunately for many, minus the revealing suits), the bloodsucking murderous Bert and Ernie of the CW, the Analyze and picture-of-Analyze of the fanged figures. Two pees in a pot. And a heartwarming pot it was. Elijah was always there for Klaus, no matter how much he screwed up. Which is saying a lot when you screw up as much as Klaus does. And while he might, at certain times of tribulation, have tried to take distance from his brother and maybe once or twice tried to rip out his cold, dead heart. At the end of the day he could always be found back at his side. And so suitably, by the end of the story, the suit-wearing Thelma joins his slightly-more-murderous Louise in death. Knowing that his mission is done and, by his monumental efforts over a millenium, Klaus has finally. Been. Redeemed.
Almost restores your fragile faith in the Analyze-forsaken anthill that is humanity, doesn’t it? Well in true Analyze fashion, allow me to get out my magnifying glass and baseball bat and dash that faith for you. Let me present to you an argument for why maybe the biggest obstacle to Klaus’ redemption all along wasn’t Mikael but Elijah. And why maybe Elijah’s selfless quest for Klaus’ redemption was nothing more than a narcissistic attempt to control his screw-up little brother.
34 Days Since Last Decapitation
Don’t get me wrong, Elijah dearly loves his little Klaus-muffin. And admittedly he’s helped Klaus control some of his worst impulses at least… some of the time.
Klaus in his time on this earth has done some truly horrifying shit: Killing innocent civilians and drinking their gushing blood, controlling the city of New Orleans with threats and manipulation, giving a raging alcoholic money to allow him to open a school full of vulnerable children. There is truly no end to his depravity. And we often see Elijah try to talk him out of these things, such as when he tells Klaus that maybe murdering their sister is a bit of a dick move.
We also see what happens to Klaus when Elijah’s not around to hold his hand at least twice. First in season 2 of The Vampire Diaries, where Klaus has become a paranoid hermit surrounded by lickspittles. Secondly at the beginning of season 3 of The Originals where he then goes on a nice, relaxing holiday in France to murder-stab every potential enemy he has to death. And their families, of course. Klaus is a family man, after all. Can’t forget about the children.
In other words, it’s not a pretty picture. Unless you like pictures of mayhem and violence and blood and a powerful ancient vampire using his god-like abilities to battle a secret society with a bunch of awesome moves, ripping out throats and doing black flips and fighting with a wish and a wash and a bunch of cool moves and omg I… What was I saying again? Oh right, It’s not a pretty picture.
So case closed then, right? Well, hold on there detective audience member guy . Because while Elijah’s presence certainly has had a positive impact on Klaus in some ways, there are other ways the impact has been rather negative. Ways that might not be so obvious because they require… careful analysis. Careful analysis and a metric fuckton of reading-too-much-into-things. And boy do I have metric fucktons of that. I’m told that’s why my mother abandoned me.
I Love You, But You Suck
Firstly we must examine what the simple declaration of this holy quest for redemption means to Klaus. Because while self-improvement can hardly be argued to be a bad thing, at least that’s what the guy I sent the 2.000 dollars said, redemption is just a bit more extreme. That Elijah tells Klaus (and bloody often too) that he needs to be redeemed, is a tacit admission to Klaus that currently he’s in need of such redemption. That currently he’s a bad person. You might think that’s obvious what with the horrible murdering and all that, but nevertheless this hits Klaus pretty much right in his manly feels. Why?
Back in the early 1000s, when the originals were just young and naive multiple murderers and not the cynical mass murderers they’d become, we find a Klaus who’s a pretty sad puppy. He’s a vampire now but hardly a mindless killer. While Kol casually sucks a man dry, Klaus stands there just stroking a big white horse in the distance. After killing a young lady to feed, he looks down at her just a bit like he might, gods forbid, not have enjoyed horribly murdering another human being and gently strokes her hand. And when Elijah and Kol both decide that Lucien must die for having seen their true nature, Klaus is the one who suggests they vote and is the tie-breaking vote in letting Lucien live (despite having shown no interest in living the life of a noble). So far as I could tell, no stroking was involved. But why did he do this? It’s pretty obvious. It’s clearly because of homosexual ten- Oh alright, it’s because he’s not a cold-blooded murderer yet. Guess I’ll have to write that fanfic some other time… Follow us on Twitter for updates that.
All this to say that at this point he’s not nearly as bad as he would become, but he’s ahead of the curve as he certainly feels quite bad about himself already. As he confesses to Aurora one dark and stormy night, he sees himself as a monster for having murdered his mother in a rage. Something… that’s not exactly a reach. Not to mention that with his emotional sensitivity and the way Mikael always assaulted his self-esteem, regularly calling him an abomination before he asked him to pass the potatoes, he was already primed to believe the worst about himself.
So no doubt when Elijah told Klaus he was so bad that he needed redemption, Klaus was all too willing to believe his big brother whole-heartedly. He already believed he was a monster after all. This simply confirmed to him what he already knew: that everyone, including his own brother, sees him as the bastard. The kind of monster who would kill his mother (though Elijah didn’t know that yet). But this heartwarming tale isn’t yet ove. As this isn’t the only way in which his loving big brother makes him feel like crap about himself. And he does so with dire consequences.
Why So Glum, Chum?
Elijah quite often wacks the little puppy with a stick, speaking in very harsh terms to Klaus whenever he deviates from what Elijah expects. Showing his clear disappointment in Klaus every single time. For example when Klaus tells the witches to kill his child, Elijah scolds him. Twice, actually. In short order. And each time this no doubt adds to Klaus feelings of self-loathing. To feeling like the screw-up bastard his father always told him he was. And inherent in this, is a truck-sized obstacle for Elijah’s quest to redemption: Because it is in Klaus’ low self-esteem and his self-loathing that much of his bad actions originate.
Why does he push people away and dagger his family? Because he thinks he’s terrible and therefore they’ll reject him. Why does he feel the need to prove himself powerful and strong through violence? Because his father told him those were good things, and he needs some way to feel good about himself. Why does he find it so difficult to improve? Because he’s lead to rationalize that everyone is bad, because otherwise he has to feel bad about himself. Because he is, in his mind, forever the screw up bastard. And, as I hope I’ve demonstrated, this is something that Elijah often reinforces and confirms.
Elijah tries through his corrective little stick of nagging Klaus half to death to improve his behaviour. But what he misses is that it is not when he’s told how much he screwed up that Klaus tries to do better. It is when he’s told how there is already good inside of him. It is not when Klaus is told he’s the evil hybrid that he finally heals Caroline of her werewolf bite, it’s when he’s told that he’s better than that. This is often what Klaus needs to do better and it is the exact opposite of what Elijah does.
Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Consequences
But it’s even worse. Because while dear old Elijah does tell Klaus that he’s a screw-up and needs to do better, in reality he constantly sabotages this by cleaning up Klaus’ messes.
When Klaus bites Thierry, who goes to Marcel to “negotiate” (blackmail) a deal by which Klaus can return to his good graces? Elijah Mikaelson. After he pisses off the Salvatores for the gazillionth time and they manage to desiccate him and box him up, who talks them in to handing over the body rather than dumping it in the ocean? Elijah fucking Mikaelson. When Klaus’ child’s life is tied to Sophie Deveraux’s life due to a plan by the witches to use Klaus against the wayward progeny he created, who manages to convince Davina to break the spell? That’s right, Klaus simply mans up and talks it out with her in a reasonable and adult fashion explaining to her the value of human li- No, it was Elijah.
And in doing this again and again… and again and again, Elijah insulates Klaus from the negative consequences of his actions. In doing so robbing Klaus of opportunities to learn from his mistakes and grow by himself.
Behaviour Up With Which He Will Surely Put
But if this is all so terrible, then why does Klaus put up with it? Well, for one he has come to believe Elijah is right. That he is a terrible person in need of redemption and that his big brother is the only one who can deliver it. But there’s another reason: Klaus is a sucker the pat on the head.
Because while Klaus believes he’s a terrible person, he doesn’t actually want to be a terrible person. Imagine that. And he constantly tries to get close to people who make him believe that he isn’t. When did Klaus madly fall in love with Aurora? When he discovered that she had killed her mother and that, when he told her he’d done the same, she accepted him. Why is Klaus attracted to Camille? In part because she constantly tells him that he can be better. That there is good in him. And is there anyone else in Klaus’ life who does something like this? Someone who tells him maybe there’s hope for him. Who loves and accepts him despite of what he is? Someone with impeccable taste, a penchant for the dramatic, a sworn oath to- Yes, it’s Elijah again.
So on the one hand he constantly reinforces Klaus’ belief that he is bad, something which causes him to feel a strong need to feel good about himself. On the other hand, like the smoothest of marketing gurus, he often tells him how he can be so much better. And he imprints in him that only his big, strong brother Elijah can help him get there. This of course happens to have the side-effect of making him feel he’s dependent on Elijah to be good, something which drives him to do terrible things when Elijah is not around but why dwell?
And every time Klaus screws up, at least according to Elijah himself, Elijah takes his distance. He makes his speeches before he eventually forgives Klaus and takes him back. First making Klaus feel like the bastard that nobody could love before making him feel once again accepted by his tolerant brother. Reinforcing the idea to Klaus that he is the bad guy only loved by Elijah because Elijah is oh so good.
This is all wolfnip for our beloved Klaus. In both cases Elijah helps to create the problem, and then offers Klaus the solution he so desperately wants. But just like spending quality time with friends and family, it’s not a real solution to anything, only a placebo.
Why Do Better, When You Can Just Feel Better?
Alright, so far we’ve talked almost exclusively about Klaus. But it takes two to do the codependence tango. What are Elijah’s reasons for doing this? I mean, it hasn’t exactly been a 1000 year long picnic for him. Not a piece of cake either. Nor a delicious Caesar salad from McDonalds for only 4.95. He’s paid a heavy price for this less-than-happy meal. But like Klaus himself, it’s because Elijah wants to feel better about his own atrocities.
Despite claiming to be the honourable brother, you might have noticed (at least if you weren’t wearing a blindfold for the majority of the show) that Elijah has done quite a lot of killing. This is not something that has escaped his notice either. Yes, he holds to a specific code and this does alleviate some of the discomfort from that little bit of hypocrisy. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel a certain distance from his humanity. That he doesn’t see himself as a monster. He admits as much to Rebekah after he uses Elena as a pawn in his game to stop Esther from killing them all, saying: “Mother made us vampires. She didn’t make us monsters. We did that to ourselves.”
So how does his relationship with Klaus figure into this?
Firstly, always being after Klaus’ redemption and claiming to protect Klaus gives Elijah a noble sounding way to frame his wanton violence and destruction. Oh no, he’s not a vicious gangster. Dear me, how could you even think such a thing? *wipes the blood off his hands* He’s just the noble protector of the family.
Secondly, it’s to deal with the guilt he feels for what he didn’t do. When Klaus was being abused by Mikael he didn’t intervene. Klaus even asked him to run but he didn’t. And in his mind it is Mikael’s abuse of Klaus which made Klaus into the monster he is today. So he feels at least partially responsible. As a result he wants to undo it. This in order to clean his own hands of the matter.
Thirdly, Klaus is a point of comparison to Elijah. So long as Klaus is around to compare himself with, Elijah can always feel better about himself. His screw-up brother who’s mistakes he, being the better man, must always fix. Doesn’t your heart just ache for this little martyr?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as Klaus himself points out, Elijah wants to redeem Klaus because then he can see hope for himself. Elijah has spent over a millenium as a vicious murderous vampire. Some part of him by this point must think that he’s beyond any sort of help or redemption. But, as I pointed out earlier, Elijah sees Klaus as much worse than him. And he likely has ever since they were children due to Mikael. So, in Klaus’ words “…if the bastard can be saved, maybe there’s hope for you (Elijah).” If someone that’s so much more evil than him can become good, then surely he can become good again as well.
And it is this hope to which he clings. This desire to see his worst actions in a good light, to see his own sins wiped away and turned to dust, that drives on his quest. A quest that, in reality, has done nothing more than keep them both trapped in a vicious cycle and made the problem much, much worse.
- A Doomed Relationship – Why Klaus Could Never Have Been a Good Father to Marcel
- “You Do Not Talk to Abominations” – Elijah’s Dilemma
- The Rise of the Mad Queen – Discussing Cersei’s Character Arc in Game of Thrones
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.