December 11-12, 2021
The Originals began as a show about a powerful family – the original first vampires in existence. A spin-off from The Vampire Diaries, the focus is on the Mikaelsons, a thousand years old and intent on taking back their former home city of New Orleans after a lengthy absence. Over the course of the show’s five seasons one character in particular became a fan favourite; Elijah Mikaelson, portrayed by Supa-Star Daniel Gillies.
As Gillies prepares to touch down in Australia next month, we take a closer look at Elijah Mikaelson, The Originals, and why they’re so original.
The character of Elijah is a complex one, he began as a mysterious force of nature, touted as part of this unkillable family of vampires, with his introduction in The Vampire Diaries (which starred fellow November Supa-Star Ian Somerhalder) a brutal and intimidating one.
Being the eldest of the Original vampires makes him the strongest and fastest, and generally only bested by his half-brother Niklaus, aka Klaus (Joseph Morgan), who happens to be a hybrid werewolf-vampire. His long life has seen him party to, and witness, many battles and thus he can be strategic and decisive, unlike his more impulsive younger siblings, which results in him often having to clean up their messes or mediate disputes.
Elijah feels a perpetual bond to his family, and in particular, Niklaus, feeling responsible for his younger siblings and duty bound to protect them. He is often the most reasonable and sensible, but when challenged or his family threatened can turn ferocious and merciless. His relationship with Hayley Marshall (Phoebe Tonkin), a werewolf carrying Klaus’ child, becomes the show’s long love interest for Elijah.
It’s complicated due to the tenuous nature of Hayley and Klaus’ connection along with her kinship to her werewolf pack. Despite all of this, Elijah remained loyal to the very end and true to his objectives of protecting his family and redeeming his brother.
The most fascinating aspect of this character, though, is his almost bipolar personality. Having been told by his mother to shut away all the horror and atrocity of his vampire nature “behind a red door”, he locks the darkest parts of himself hidden away. Instead, keeping a more restrained and calculated demeanour to all he meets.
Over time he develops this twisted logic that maintaining a clean outward appearance would somehow absolve him of his sins. Throughout the course of the show, he is almost always wearing a dress jacket, shirt, dress pants and tie, and striking a stylish first impression, yet despite his clean and dapper appearance he constantly harboured a vicious and dark monster underneath.
The Originals took a decided turn away from its The Vampire Diaries roots, with the latter focusing on the dramas of high school and the complexities of dealing with supernatural elements like vampirism and werewolves, and a love triangle between its three leads. The former opted to focus on the dysfunctional Mikaelson family and their interactions with other supernatural factions living in New Orleans, including the witches of the Quarter and the werewolves in the Bayou.
Often the Mikaelsons were viewed as overruling tyrants forcing their decisions upon the rest, but they were also not opposed to working collaboratively in order to defeat common enemies. The complexities of the relationships on the show makes for viewing that was more nuanced and layered with more emotional challenges.
It also meant that with each new season you would be invested in different characters and their plights. Of course, it had its OTT soapie moments too, where characters who you thought were dead would be resurrected – but it’s a supernatural show so it’s a safe bet that nobody really stays dead.
One of the other interesting things about the show is how the city of New Orleans, particularly in the early seasons, is so intricately entwined with the goings on of the characters.
The Mikaelson Compound, the Lafayette Cemetery, Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, St Anne’s Church, aka the real-life St Louis Cathedral, and the cabin in the Bayou all feature heavily and are integral to the atmosphere of the show.
The locations are connected to particular characters or factions, and as we hop from place to place we can immediately know who may feature in the next scene. Added bonus that quite a few of the exterior scenes and shots are also places you can legitimately visit in New Orleans.
The show always championed the idea of facing challenges together as a unified front, and that, despite being broken or maladjusted, that each member of the family could have their redeeming qualities. In order to take on whatever adversity they faced, they needed each other.
For a show about vampires, it has a distinctly human emotion and notions at its core. Coincidentally enough, the end of the show leads into a new spin-off series titled Legacies that will focus on Hope Mikaelson, the daughter of Niklaus and Hayley, attending the Salvatore School For The Gifted and learning to control her supernatural abilities.