Originally, The Vampire Diaries was a show about going to high school with vampires — and about both vampires and humans trying to keep their humanity and compassion, in the face of huge challenges. But now TVD and its spinoff, The Originals, are about tribal warfare where everybody is a casualty eventually.
This week on The Originals, it becomes clear to almost everybody that peace between the different factions in New Orleans (vampires, werewolves, witches, oh, and humans) will never be possible or lasting. And we witnessed the passing of one of the show's best peacemakers, the human leader Father Kieran.
And on Vampire Diaries, we saw more clearly than ever that this season's intensely muddled storyline has really just been about the war between the witches and the Travelers. Two thousand years ago, the witches put a curse on the Travelers, a rival group of magic-users, and now the Travelers are close to breaking that curse forever. At potentially high cost to all our peeps.
Both episodes are also about loss and people turning into monsters — the scene featured up top is one of the most moving moments Vampire Diaries has given us in the past year. Enzo, Damon's somewhat nihilistic friend and survivor of the Augustine experiments, recalls his most selfless act — saving Maggie, who was willing to become a vampire to rescue him, and giving her the chance at a normal human life. (Until Damon killed her.)
Also quite moving is the sequence in The Originals where Cami first tries to cure Father Kieran using shock therapy and then convinces Klaus to turn her uncle into a vampire. And then Klaus puts his finger on what's really going on: there's no way that Father Kieran will agree to complete his transition to vampire-hood by feeding on human blood. So all Cami is doing by turning him into a vamp is buying a few hours to say goodbye properly.
The twist in both stories is that these acts of kindness wind up turning people into monsters that cannot be saved — Enzo turns his humanity off when he finds out Damon killed Maggie, and becomes just a pure cold-blooded killer. Kieran's curse comes back and turns him into the vampire version of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. They both have to be put down in the end.
And meanwhile, like I said, these are just small tragedies against the backdrop of massive power struggles between groups of people that have been warring for centuries. Essentialy, the shared universe of these shows is starting to look like the former Yugoslavia after the fall of the Soviet Union.
On The Originals, Elijah tried to broker a peace agreement between all the factions in New Orleans — but before the blood was even dry on the thing, everybody started scheming. Including Elijah's brother Klaus, who offered Haley's werewolf clan a way to break the moon curse and control their transformations, with magic rings and shit. The witches are also wheeling and dealing, with Genevieve trying to make them way more mondo powerful and help them take over — or if she fails, she gets axed.
In any case, the peace is fracturing, thanks to Klaus' vampire surrogate son Marcel causing a massacre at the witches' party last week, and one of the werewolves faking a terrorist attack on his own werewolf camp this week. Everybody's ready to throw down.
And watching all the factions massing for war is definitely more interesting than the show's original setup — with Marcel as the King of New Orleans and Klaus as the scheming sire who wants the throne for himself. That setup dragged on for quite some time, but when it fell apart we got something with longer legs.
And it's no accident that Marcel has become a much more fascinating character as the exiled king, poised to take advantage of all this in-fighting, than as the actual ruler. The best scene in this week's Originals is probably the one where Haley goes to see Marcel, who reveals that he knows more about Haley's family than she realizes. Marcel is suave and cunning and kind of wicked — and he supports Cami after the death of Father Kieran, while also stealing Father Kieran's precious key.
Vampire Diaries, meanwhile, is increasingly a show in which two of the three main characters are McGuffins rather than active participants. We've gone from one doppelganger to two, now that both Stefan and Elena are doppeled-up. Their blood has magical properties, which can help the Travelers break the curse placed on them by the witches and finally settle down.
Did any of the Traveler exposition-wank make any sense to anybody this week? They turned one of their peeps into a vampire, then used doppelganger blood to heal her, then killed her. Why did she have to die? Because vampires aren't welcome in the Traveler paradise. But didn't they just say she wasn't a vampire any more? Bleh. It's all a bit confusing, and it's almost enough to make you miss Silas.
The good news is, maybe we'll get to see witches and Travelers throwing down soon — and with the Other Side collapsing, maybe dead will finally mean dead on this show.