The Originals: TV review

This Vampire Diaries spin-off is a major drain for the uninitiated.

Photograph: Bob Mahoney
Daniel Gillies, Joseph Morgan and Phoebe Tonkin star in The Originals on CW

Spin-offs are a tricky business. Ideally, they should appeal not only to fans of the original property, but also entice a new group of viewers. Unfortunately, The Originals, the offspring of The Vampire Diaries, doesn't seem particularly concerned with luring new eyeballs. Set in a world mired with dense mythology, this supernatural drama is for advanced users only.

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Set in New Orleans, The Originals is a family reunion for the first vampires that were ever created. Big brother Elijah (Daniel Gillies) has come to the Big Easy in the hopes of reconciling with his brother Klaus (Joseph Morgan), a vampire-werewolf half-breed with a temperament issue. A one-night stand with werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) has made Klaus a prospective father and Elijah is on a mission to use this new miracle baby heal the wounds in his family. Klaus and Hayley's baby has also piqued the interest of city's witch community, who are currently under the thumb of vampire Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), a former protégé of Klaus who punishes the local pagans for practicing magic. Sophie (Daniella Pineda), a witch whose sister was recently killed by Marcel, has paired herself to Hayley and threatens to injure the unborn child if Elijah and Klaus don't help rid New Orleans of its vampire overlord. Getting all this?

This world of vampires, werewolves and witches is thick with a supernatural mythology unique to this particular literary universe. Bits of information are delivered by the large cast of characters, but it can be hard to keep track of all the pertinent facts. Similarly, it's very difficult to connect with this bunch of characters, many of whom had multi-episode stints on The Vampire Diaries, if you're unfamiliar them. Elijah and Klaus get the most screen-time and both come off incredibly cold. While Elijah's goal of reuniting his family is noble, his brother does indeed appear to be a psychotic animal who should be nowhere near a baby. Despite flashbacks of the sibling's happier times and explanations for why Klaus is the way he is, there's nothing sympathetic about him and he's so selfishly cruel that he's not even the type of bad guy that's fun to root for.

There's no easy route into the world of The Originals. It's like walking into a conversation between childhood friends full of inside jokes and shorthand. For die-hard Vampire Diaries fans this could be heaven, but for the unitiated, it's an exhausting ordeal.

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