Two episodes in, and The Originals really seems to be hitting a new level in its second season. It's not just the fact that the stories are fast-paced and kind of insane — there were some serious emotional bombshells this week. And this episode actually had some new things to say about the show's theme of "family."

Spoilers ahead...

The thematic weight of this episode of The Originals rests on a series of flashbacks about the cruddiest member of the original vampire family, Kol — who was killed by Elena and Jeremy on Vampire Diaries a while back, and now is back in the body of Isaac from Teen Wolf.

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At first, the flashbacks seem to be all about the relationship between Klaus and Kol — first Klaus daggers Kol because his crazy blood-drinking rampages are too reckless and will bring the wrong kind of attention down on them, then Klaus un-daggers Kol because he's bored and wants someone to go on crazy blood-drinking rampages with.

But really, it's all about Klaus, Elijah, and Marcel — and both Klaus and Elijah make intense decisions with respect to Marcel, which wind up shaping everything that's happening now. Klaus only un-daggers Kol because he's feeling left out of the new bond between Marcel and Elijah, who's teaching the ex-slave literature and music. But once Kol goes too far and stages a completely crazoid blood-spattered version of Hamlet for Marcel, Klaus chooses Marcel over Kol, and daggers his own brother — saying that Marcel, too, is part of his family.

The question of how to define family, and whether your loyalties should be according to blood, or what sort of creature you are, or other sorts of affiliations, runs through this episode and is actually brought up in some interesting ways.

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And then later, we see Elijah making his own apparently selfless decision — Elijah cares about Young Marcel, but he sees Klaus being willing to dagger his own brother for the boy. And Elijah wants to encourage that selflessness in Klaus, so he pretends not to care about Marcel any more so Marcel and Klaus will be forced back together again.

This comes around in the present, in two ways: 1) Elijah sees Klaus starting to mentor Haley on how to be a hybrid and also how to win the leadership of her own werewolf pack (although Klaus could write a book on "how not to inspire loyalty" and it would be everything Klaus knows about everything.) And Elijah thinks, once again, that maybe caring about someone will make his brother a better person, so he pushes Haley away.

2) We see that even after all this time, Marcel is still bitter about the way Elijah blew him off as a child, and Marcel gives Elijah an actually quite moving lecture about how even if Elijah looks down on the other vampires, they all came from him and his family. And he encourages Elijah to mentor the latest vampire Marcel has just created — and maybe do a better job than Elijah did with Marcel.

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Of course, if Elijah hadn't been such a jerk to Marcel decades ago, things might be better in all sorts of ways. Like, Marcel might trust Elijah more. But also, Elijah might have a real friend at this point — instead of just another person who used to be friends with Klaus until things went south. The person Elijah hurt most by blowing off Kid Marcel was Elijah.

And Marcel's point is well-taken — all of the vampires in the world are the descendants of Elijah and Klaus. They're basically reflections of the two brothers (and Rebekah, of course.) There's an interesting thread sticking out here, about what you owe to the people you helped to create, and how that obligation is different than your obligation to family.

And it's tough times for vampires, who are at the mercy of the new witch-werewolf alliance, and the army of werewolves who suddenly have their own "moonlight rings" that allow them to control their transformations. (These new rings apparently aren't tied to Klaus' blood?) So Marcel is trying to create a whole new vampire community, and in the process he shows how he became such a powerful leader the first time around.

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And meanwhile... pretty much everything happens in this episode. Klaus figures out that Cassie the teen witch is actually his mother, back from the dead in a teen girl's body. Elijah sees that his father is alive again, under the control of Davina (for now) — and he has the deadly white-oak stake. Marcel and Elijah team up to find the stake, and botch the job amazingly. Kol goes on a date with Davina and then starts plotting against his mom, already. Haley visits her werewolf pack in the Bayou and convinces most of them to come live with her at Klaus' house. And yeah, Cassie/Esther has created a bazillion moonlight rings for her new werewolf army.

This show is still kind of insane, and still centers around people whom it's hard to root for — but Klaus' real pain when he says things like "You keep calling me by my full name. I find it insulting," is kind of a marvel. Plus, it's hard to beat a line of dialogue like, "Congratulations, you're drunk." Which is also what you say to someone who's been playing pretty much any kind of drinking game during this episode, to be fair.