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As a loyal viewer of The Vampire Diaries (TVD), I anxiously waited for its spin-off series, The Originals (TO) to premiere in October. I had fallen in love with the characters in the Original family, and I was especially excited to see Klaus get his own show.
Thankfully, I was not disappointed by the amazing new hit series that is taking social media by storm. The plots are interwoven perfectly and the themes are more mature, which is a nice change up from its parent show.
However, if you look anywhere on Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook, the main argument you will see against The Originals is that all of the major players – primarily Klaus – are wildly out of character. The vampires that we’d grown to love on TVD were just not meeting the standards set for them in their new show.
The Originals season started out strong, as Klaus blew into New Orleans with the usual fits of violence, apathy, and sarcasm. In the first few episodes, we got some gloriously evil flashbacks, and I am still not over the brilliance that was his master plan to frame Thierry and gain Marcel’s trust. That’s my little evil genius. I thought it was a great call back to the earliest scenes with Klaus on TVD, where he was always about ten steps ahead of the Mystic Falls Scooby Gang. You cannot out mastermind Klaus Mikaelson. You just can’t.
But then came the first signs of trouble.
Cami, this fragile human who was only supposed to be a pawn in Klaus’s game, started getting way more attention than the fans were comfortable with. Strictly speaking, I don’t think we ever saw Klaus be civil to a human on TVD, much less sit and talk with them about feelings and art metaphors. Even after all his character development on TVD, it’s still abundantly clear that to Klaus, humans are food not friends. What really shocked me was that Cami threatened to expose him as a vampire and then walked away unscathed. I kept waiting for Klaus to rip her jugular out for even trying to challenge him.
Let’s take a look back at how TVD Klaus reacted to threats like this one. Caroline, the girl who so beautifully captured his attention and affection, tried to manipulate him into letting Tyler return to town in exchange for getting the phantom white oak stake out of his back. Despite his obvious feelings for her, Klaus screams that he will not have his hand forced by her or anyone else. Pain and theatrics aside, Klaus almost never gets violent with Caroline and here he is, sent into a rage at the idea of her trying to control him. Likewise, when Stefan stole his family’s coffins, Klaus didn’t just sit around and take it. If I recall correctly, Stefan got his hand held over a fireplace for his insubordination.
Worse than Cami’s superpower to stay alive though, was the way Klaus’s relationship with his siblings quickly changed once they were brought together on TO. Even the slightest hint of turmoil could evoke tears from the hybrid. On TVD, my favorite aspect of the Originals’ relationship was their ability to outwit and sass each other at every turn. They truly were just squabbling siblings, 1000 years of history or not. The way they teased each other, even if it was with threats of gruesome murder, was actually kind of endearing.
On TO, Klaus seems to have lost that taunting camaraderie with his brother and sister, and replaced it with hostility and broodiness. I love a good vulnerable Klaus as much as the next viewer, but it was the smirks and one-liners that made me first fall in love with the man. You have to initially draw in the audience with the sexy confidence, and then kill them with emotional exposure. This early in the game, I’d rather see the Originals scratching each others’ eyes out than crying and talking about their feelings.
Now this is not to say that I don’t love ‘The Originals Klaus’. I think Joseph Morgan has done a brilliant job with what he’s been given, and we’ve gotten to see some facets to Klaus’s personality that are truly wonderful.
His relationship with Marcel for example, in the past and the present, has been a personal favorite for me. It fits so perfectly with everything we knew about him on TVD. He longs for a family to ease his loneliness, someone who’s loyalty to him is so intrinsic and ingrained within them that Klaus won’t ever have to doubt it. So he adopts a son who worships him and sees him as a savior and a father. Someone who will always choose him. It also makes sense that after believing he’d lost Marcel, Klaus would go on a torture binge with Stefan in the 20s to numb the pain. I was really impressed with how congruent that storyline was with ‘TVD Klaus’.
I think the problem the writers are facing in this first season of TO, is how to make Klaus (a man who is a monstrous villain capable of intense cruelty) into a main character that people can root for.
They clearly picked the easy route of giving him a reluctant love interest, and highlighting his insecurity issues with his family. The mentality there seems to be “If we can’t make the audience love him, at least they’ll feel sorry for him.” But in doing that, they’ve run the risk of essentially neutering their most appealing character. As much as we love to see the weakness behind the mask of coldness and violence, it’s only believable if we get small sporadic peeks. I think we’ve seen Klaus tear up more times in the first half of the season on TO, then we did in over two seasons of TVD. It may be too late now that we’re already so far into Season 1, but I’d argue that there’s a better tactic they could look into.
Injecting some of the fun we loved from ‘TVD Klaus’ back into his character on TO might be just what they need to pull in the viewers that are not fans of this new broody attitude. Give him back his sarcasm and wit, and throw in some of that master manipulator behavior we saw hints of a few months ago.
The allure of Klaus is not that he’s a wounded little bird in need of family and love (though I do sometimes think that all he really needs is a good hug). The allure of Klaus is that he’s a psychotic, murderous, un-killable immortal, who’s got a take charge attitude and a bite that’s way worse than his bark. He loves what he is and he’s not afraid to have fun with it. Give us some of that humor and cockiness, and we’ll be begging for the emotional scenes.
My final word on the topic: Klaus is out character, but he’s not unsalvageable.
You don’t need the audience to adore Klaus – we already do – you just need them to believe that underneath it all, he’s a man who is capable of love.
— Lindsay MacDonald
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