This was a tough one, and I honestly didn’t expect it to be. I’ve been watching ‘The Originals’ since its beginning, and been hearing about ‘Orange is the New Black’ for about as long. So it’s a clear case of heart versus hype.
The first is a curious “premier episode” in that ‘The Originals’ was a true spinoff of ‘The Vampire Diaries’, with characters Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah splintering off as millennia-old Millenials in their own adventure in New Orleans. The empiricist that I am in debating this tournament, I attempted to count only the information presented in episode 1 of ‘The Originals’, forgetting that I had any interaction at all with these characters on their former series.
The reason ‘Originals’ has a place in the bracket and ‘VD’s’ does not is that the first episode of ‘Vampire Diaries’ is really just the first 45 minutes of ‘Twilight’.
That said, ‘The Originals’ does start off in the quintessential undead vampire fashion with a flashback to the original vampire family arriving on the shores of New Orleans 300 years ago, complete with blood-drained human corpses and pompous and arrogant undead bloodsuckers.
The series centers around the three remaining original vampires, Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah (Claire Holt) and their return to the city they left in flames long ago. The French Quarter of New Orleans has always been a hot spot for the supernatural, and in their absence Marcel Gerard (Charles Michael Davis) has taken over the city, controlling the witches, cursing the werewolves and building his own personal army of vampires. Intrigued yet?
The first scene featuring both Klaus and his former protégé Marcel is the most riveting scene of the episode; Morgan and Davis are fire incarnate on screen, with amazing chemistry and the ability to jump off the screen right into your face. Everybody loves a rebellious hipster, and this scene was two of them arguing with each other.
While the “baby out of wedlock” storyline is a bit soap opera-ish, it gives Elijah (the calm, collected balance to Klaus’s chaos) a chance to share the original family’s origin story with Haley (Klaus’s baby mama) in a way that keeps the story moving forward even as it moves the story backward.
The testosterone of ‘The Originals’ was definitely offset when I switched over to the premier episode of ‘Orange is the New Black’, the women’s prison that has taken the world by storm.
I’m still not sure what to think of this series. Is it a comedy? A drama? Although metaphorically speaking, my own doubts and questions match the uncertainty heading into the situation, with Taylor Schilling playing Piper Chapman, the newest entrée into the penal system (or penal-less system).
I had no idea Jason Biggs was even in this series, complete with a mention of a “penis shaving incident” as an American Pie easter egg. He definitely gives credit to the comedic portion of what the show is trying to accomplish, although his character is a serious one.
As for the rest of the cast, the episode felt like an exercise in character acting, my favorite being Yael Stone as the cute little Brooklyn-ite that drives the van when Piper first enters the prison. I can’t quite place Kate Mulgrew’s accent (kitchen head Red), but she’s stretching her wings in a way that I haven’t seen from her yet (and I love her in ‘Voyager’ and ‘Black Donelly’s’). Natasha Lyon plays Nicky in the role she was born to play, and Laura Prepon is Alex who is drastically different from her role on ‘That 70’s Show’.
The Laura Prepon reveal at the end of the episode was a big one, although I knew by the hype she was getting during the two seasons of the show’s run that she would be playing a bigger role than just flashbacks. Still, with the lesbianism playing a heavy part of the series, introducing the Piper’s former lover amidst the hordes of convicted carpet lickers is a major plot point that drives the series past the first episode and demands further viewing.
That said, a promise of titties (we got them in the opening scene!) isn’t enough offset the character drama going on in ‘The Originals’. What can I say, I bartend til 2am, close up by 3:30 and then see the sunrise almost everyday before I head to bed, so I’ll always have a special place in my heart for creatures of the night (even though the “daylight rings” of ‘The Originals’ mean sunlight isn’t an issue).
Both series are a set of complicated relationships interwoven within an institutionalized setting full of distinct factions and long-held grudges. But while one has boobs, the other has fangs, claws, magic, white-oak stakes and Clair Holt’s DSL’s.
Winner: ‘The Originals’