The Originals: character/mythology meta and episode review

Nov 14, 2013 22:00


For folks who are picking up with The Originals, the metaphor of the werewolf gene as an exploration of the cycle of abuse is my go-to explanation for why this ‘verse is several notches above what I initially expected. This is something that starts off in the pilot of The Vampire Diaries and has remained consistent across both shows for over a hundred episodes now. The “werewolf gene” is passed down within biological families (from what we can tell, it’s like what a lay person like myself would think of as a dominant trait - if a parent has it, it is far more likely than not that their offspring will as well), and its “carriers” are physically stronger and more prone to physical and social aggression than most people. Families of “carriers” tend to become explicitly physically and emotionally abusive, which means that they are likely to have mundane psychological indicators for violent behavior as well as the “genetic” (super)natural inclination toward violence.

Life is rarely easy for carriers, but they can live superficially normal lives, unless the gene is “activated” and they become a werewolf, with uncontrollable transformations every full moon. “Activation” occurs when a carrier is directly responsible for the death of a human being. (Responsible, in the ‘verse’s logic, is not the same thing as culpable. Accidents, clear-cut self-defense, and accidents occurring in the course of self-defensive actions have caused activation.) Possibly because of their biological predisposition toward violence, possibly because of the marginalization and alienation far more likely among teenage and adult survivors of child abuse, probably because of some combination of both, carriers are at a higher risk for becoming killers than you’d expect from the general population. After activation, werewolves tend to withdraw from society and form “packs” - a kind of found family of other werewolves.

Klaus and Hayley are outliers in that they are werewolves who did not have the formative experience of growing up among other carriers of the werewolf gene, which shakes up the usual nature/nurture interplay most other werewolves have experienced.

Hayley is an exploration of what happens when adoption goes wrong. 1x7 suggests pretty strongly that Hayley’s mother, whoever she was, wasn’t in much of a place to raise a child. Not only was her biological family impoverished, but a lot of them seem to have transitioned to being full-blown wolves rather than carriers, which indicates an extremely violent environment. But simple removal from that environment to what is normatively referred to as a “good” foster family did not keep Hayley from the wild thrill-seeking that led to the boating accident which triggered her transformation. The fact that they allowed her to go so far off the rails and then abandoned her as soon as she did suggests that she experienced very poor parenting at the hands of her (presumably) “normal” non-carrier family.

Klaus is unique among wolves because his formative experience was that of being the only carrier in a home full of non-carriers. While all of the Mikaelson children lived an extremely fucked-up life (and Esther doesn’t appear to have had it easy by any stretch), Klaus was singled out for mistreatment even before the crisis of Henrick’s death and the other children’s turning. The social/biological experience of being the only carrier in a family group is a killer metaphor (kind of…sub-metaphor? because of how well it fits into the wider werewolf mythology) for someone who experiences abuse as a “designated patient” who is initially singled out due to disability. Klaus was, even before his two transformations, biologically (for all intents and purposes, psychiatrically) different from his siblings in a way that set him up to be more sensitive to their violent lifestyle. On top of that, he was The Other to his horrifying father, who seems to have had his suspicions for a very long time about Klaus’ parentage. Not only did Klaus get the same formative conditioning that other werewolves did, but he had something of a basis for comparison - he really did grow up in a world where the people he was supposed to be able to depend on the most really were singling him out and targeting him for that abuse.* The horrifying scene we saw of his being cursed pushed him out of any denial he may have clung to (never, ever underestimate the human ability to delude ourselves into putting the best spin on something), but it was the logical culmination of everything that led up to it.

Werewolves generally tend to be no-bullshit cynics, as people who have lived in circumstances where betrayal and trauma is a fact of life, and Klaus is no less so, despite being a hybrid. I really do not believe Klaus is lying or even rationalizing when he says that he acts out of amoral self-preservation. Everyone who knows him and gets a little bit more footing in the world than he feels he has is a threat, either someone that might tie him to a post and light him up with pain just because they don’t like what he is or (worse) someone who will aid and abet out of craven disloyalty. His behavior may look like evil. It may look like insanity. Like anger, ego, and paranoia. Those are partial expressions, not motivations or even root causes. I think he is often tactically incorrect in an abstract universal sense, and of course that does not minimize or erase the negative effects of his behavior on others. But the key to getting Klaus is to understand that as a general rule, he is rationally applying the lessons that anyone in his shoes would learn.

So, I know a couple of us lately have been talking about the particular way Klaus and Hayley click, and I think that this is why: that they’ve both experienced this confluence of one betrayal by nature and another by nurture, which led to some very similar experiences of and takes on their lycanthropy. I don’t think it’s an accident that Hayley turns from Klaus and to Elijah when she starts to feel some bond with her biological family, however manufactured by Tyler’s attack and the hybrid stem cells it may have been. She now has some corner of her life to idealize, while Klaus has none, and this makes Elijah and his romanticism a more viable, even appealing, option. Still, they’ll have to reunite with Klaus sooner or later, and I am so, so interested in how Klaus and Hayley, of all characters, come to interact in their formation of a biological family unit. Whatever Rosemary’s Vampire Jesus-Puppy is, it’s not going to be other to them in the way they were to their families.

*This explains a great deal about Elijah as well: he clings tightly to his dreamy, untenable, special-snowflakey views on morality and interpersonal interactions because people work very, very hard to believe that they have some control in such situations, that they are escaping the abuse they see someone else suffer because they are doing something morally and strategically right, and not just because it’s the luck of the draw.

Onto the episode:

Ahahaha, I love that Klaus and Elijah embarrassed themselves flouncing in and admitting in front of every vamp in New Orleans that they’d lost Hayley. They thought they were strutting, and instead they just made themselves weaker.

We got a look at the major players’ POV on Klaus and his difference. They’re all right and wrong about Klaus - he really has learned to be this way through self-preservation. It is not sadism or evil that drives him. Elijah and especially Rebekah, though, experience Klaus and his acts of self-preservation as encroachments on the parts of themselves that they need to protect. But I don’t think he is actually more selfish than they are, so much as, Klaus giving 100% to his own self-preservation is going to be more than Rebekah and Elijah doing the same, because being the hybrid means his all is a lot more power.

The episode highlighted Klaus’ wolfiness - Elijah’s crack about leaving him in the car with the window open, his ability to sniff out a trail. There’s a part of Klaus that his family cannot understand, and the fact that he’s other still makes him easy to stigmatize even though, as Elijah says, he’s not actually worse than they are, he just stands out more. And this was a great theme to introduce MY PUPPY Tyler Lockwood to TO’s audience.

It would’ve been so, so easy to pick a good guy in this episode, particularly in the conflict between Tyler and Klaus. I kind of love the inversion that happens here? Where Klaus inadvertently created his own lighter foil - rather than a shadow self - in Tyler Lockwood.

Usually Tyler’s the light half, anyway. Not so much this time around. Tyler has every right to come at Klaus with everything he’s got. He does not have a right to kidnap, bind, and jam a needle into a pregnant girl, or go around making and killing his own hybrids. (By the way, the fact that it worked is actual support for my previously-total-crack theory of the baby being, among whatever else it might be, a Petrova, through Klaus and his mysterious biological father.) (Is there any more delicious fannish experience than watching your favorite be a total asshole? I THINK NOT.) Either character could have taken Richard III's line, and claimed he was determined to prove a villain.

Ultimately my favorite thing is the way they both walked off with the last thing they wanted. Klaus claims Tyler means nothing to him, but Tyler succeeded in getting way under his skin and driving a wedge between Klaus and everyone important to Klaus. If Tyler meant nothing to Klaus, he would be dead the first time he proved to be an inconvenience, and that was several conflicts ago. Tyler wanted to be done feeling beholden to Klaus, either to kill or be killed and just have it over with either way, but he walked off knowing that he owes Klaus his life and Klaus considers him not enough of a threat to kill.

I like Josh! And I like that Davina has a friend now, and that she’s starting to develop some sense of self without being ready or willing to really become independent. It’s a neat mirror to Rebekah’s desire to connect with Marcel conflicting with her unwillingness to leave her brothers. I feel like there’s a lot of WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST LEAVE??! wrapped in with the backhanded insistence that Rebekah is 1000% DONE WITH THOSE ASSHOLES! No, she’s not. She loves them, they’re her connection to the other people she loves, they’re at the center of the only place she thinks of as a home. It’s not that simple.

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tvd: tyler lockwood is my puppy, to/tvd: who's afraid of the big bad wolf, to/tvd: of gods and mikaelsons, the originals, disability, abuse

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