Seriously, some media studies grad student somewhere has to be writing a thesis about race, gender and politics in vampire media — and she or he must be just drooling over The Originals right now. Just watch this clip, in which Marcel turns a segregated World War I unit into vampires, and see for yourself.
At this point, The Originals sort of feels like two different shows, but they fit together surprisingly well. The first show is the family saga of the 1,000-year-old Originals, who get to have the show named after them. And every week, Klaus, Elijah and the rest declaim at each other in cod-Shakespearean speeches, and debate the significance of centuries-old grudges and ideological spats. Because Joseph Morgan, in particular, loves to chew and spit out grandiloquent dialogue, it's usually highly entertaining, and yet also completely disconnected from any sense of reality after a while. Last night's episode revolved around Klaus, Elijah and their brothers Finn and Kol being stuck in a magical realm where they spent an hour debating whether the animal heads on the walls represented each of them accurately. I'm not even making that up.
(This hypothetical grad student is bound to be fascinated by the fact that half of Klaus's family members have now been transplanted into African-American bodies — his mom, his brother Finn, and his sister Rebekah. It adds a whole other subtext to a lot of these insane scenes of posturing and nail-spitting.)
But the other show is kind of an intense political mish-mash, in which things like the legacy of slavery and the ways that marginalized people get pushed out of cities get brought up in kind of a sly fashion. And Marcel, the ex-slave who was raised by Klaus as a son, is often the focal point for these storylines.
In last night's episode, Marcel and his vampires are trapped inside Chez Klaus by a magic barrier spell, while another spell massively increases their hunger. Marcel has to keep his peeps from tearing Kol (Klaus' brother) apart, but also from attacking innocent people once the barrier spell is lowered — and Marcel is also suffering a werewolf bite, which could be lethal unless he gets Klaus' blood.
But meanwhile, Marcel has hallucination/flashbacks to when he was in World War I — which turns out to be his first ever lesson in leadership and in dealing with situations where you've been pushed to the margins. In 1916, Marcel enlists and goes to the Front, where he's put in an all-African American regiment that's basically cannon-fodder. Except that Marcel convinces them they don't have to be cannon-fodder — their name, the Army of the Damned, can mean that they'll be damned before they let the Germans cross their line. Marcel soon starts to think of his comrades in arms as family, and turns Klaus' parting wisdom (about family being the people whom you fight for, and who are willing to fight for you) into a kind of motto for their unit.
And in the end, Marcel turns all of his fellow black soldiers into vampires, creating a fighting force of proudly monstrous, unstoppable killers, who are defined by their bond with each other and their resolve to keep drinking German blood like schnapps. This is juxtaposed with the present day, where Marcel is doing the opposite — rallying his people to avoid drinking people's blood, so as not to shatter the peace in New Orleans.
(And then Marcel and his crew get captured by Finn, who suspects that Klaus is hiding something.)
Also in this episode: Haley and Hawley from Sleepy Hollow are getting married, and it turns out they have to share all their secrets via some mystical herb thingy. This perturbs Klaus, because how did Hawley get all the way over from Sleepy Hollow in time to marry Haley?