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Originals: Season 1, The

Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 2, 2014
List Price: $69.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted September 15, 2014 | E-mail the Author
The Originals Season 1 Blu-ray Review

The Originals is a spin-off series based upon characters created and introduced in The Vampire Diaries, and it is a creation of writer Julie Plec, who is the head-writer and showrunner of both series. The concept of the show revolves around a group of characters referred to as being the 'originals' - i.e. the first vampires to ever exist. They also happen to be family. These original vampires have existed for centuries and have the longest history of all: a complex back-story which unfolds over the course of the series storytelling, which alternates back and forth with telling the long-running back-story of these original vampires while focusing on a modern day setting in New Orleans.

The world of television has spawned an immensely high number of series that take on some sort of science fiction or supernatural aspect, and one of the most popular staples has been found in vampire tales: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries being popular series chiefly placed amongst the pop culture echelon. Then there's the fact that vampires are popular in films, too (including the teen-sensation series Twilight). Can another show join a lineup of other successful vampire-lore creations? It seems so, as The CW network has once again teamed with the creative mind behind The Vampire Diaries for another successful and entertaining entry in the genre's growing list of successes.The cast consists of Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies), Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), Camille (Leah Pipes), Davina (Danielle Campbell), Sophie (Daniella Pineda), and Rebekah (Claire Holt).

The basic plot of the series is to revolve around the story of the original vampire family after they decide to return to their former home in New Orleans. Upon returning, the originals find that the land they once knew has changed a great deal and their home and rule has been replaced by a character they once considered their own: Marcel. Meanwhile, there is also a war is brewing between vampires and witches and things complicate with Marcel working with a powerful young witch named Davina, who has abilities that could pose a threat to all the vampires. Klaus, Elijah, and Rebekah are the main characters of The Originals. They are each returning characters from the Vampire Diaries universe. Klaus continues to make things difficult for everyone with his typical brooding self getting into the way of other vampire's own agendas. Klaus finds a friend in Camille, a psychologist major who starts to have an unlikely connection to him. Meanwhile, Klaus's blood-line as a werewolf/vampire hybrid (and his one-night stand with Hayley) results in Hayley's pregnancy and a cult following for a baby born to a vampire. Elijah acts as if a guardian vampire of sorts who keeps his word (but who can also go totally vampire-bananas at times, as "necessary"), and Rebekah is a insecure and lonely vampire who gets into lots of mischief, causing problems for the originals (amongst others), but who really just wants a friend by her side and to be a normal human again. Of course, these characters (and their back-stories) lead to lots of surprising revelations and storytelling detours over the course of the show.

Marcel is a past connection to the original vampires who is now calling himself 'the king' and is ruling over New Orleans vampires as a sort of leader-vampire who calls the shots and has a big company of "minions" working for him (so to speak). Marcel makes vampires do his bidding to keep New Orleans a vampire-safe haven. Vampires will do his bidding to try and earn 'daylight rings', which allow for a select few to live in the day. There's a big history between Marcel and Kalus, too, as Klaus raised him when he was a boy.

Aside from the pilot, which combines too much footage found in the "backdoor pilot" produced on The Vampire Diaries Season 4 under the title "The Originals", the series finds a distinct and interesting creative voice. The first episode is a bit disappointing for fans of both series as it had borrowed so much (some scenes were basically "copy and paste" versions already featured upon the former),  The Originals is interesting, original, and well-made with quality writing/directing. Assembling a hugely talented group of people for the production, the series reunites many of the same behind-the-scenes crew who made The Vampire Diaries a huge success, from some of the cinematographers, to the costume designer, o the composer to the production designer. It's a big family of creative talents who united to create this compelling drama series.

The Originals has many things in common with its predecessor - starting with the fact that the characters that predominately reside are many of the same characters featured on The Vampire Diaries, but now with expanded roles - and that the group of writers and directors responsible for making the program are largely from the same creative pool. Yet it's still a standalone series that newcomers who aren't as familiar to previous lore should be able to discover. It offers a slightly different storytelling approach, though stylistically it shares a lot in common. If one can like The Vampire Diaries then they will surely enjoy The Originals, and vice-versa, so there's certainly room for the show to both be followed by longtime fans of the characters and perhaps by new audience members.

There have been so many vampire series and films that the market seems flooded with them and it can be a bit frustrating to see so many stories being told simultaneously with this concept. It's certainly a concept that has been done again and again, and shows no signs of going anywhere. Yet the good news is that there are still writers who are telling vampire stories with writing of note, who are drawing forth more interesting elements by focusing on the dramatic elements more than anything else. This is a perfect example of what is happening here: the writing is elementally the main key to the quality of the program, and in this case, that's a good thing.

The writing here is solid. Fans of quality storytelling who have an inclination towards the supernatural genre will find this to be a well-produced, written, directed, and acted program. Without a good storyline backdrop, one could easily see The Originals being a faltering series. Yet there was more than enough storytelling potential for the core group of characters as seen in the storyline its parent series offered, and the writers have expanded on that universe of ideas so that a fully-fledged program can exist. This is a series well worth seeing out as one of the more interesting programs currently on air. Television viewers who enjoy a well told story will find much to appreciate.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

The Originals arrives on Blu-ray across four 50 GB discs with MPEG-4 AVC encodes for each series episode. The show is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. It is presented in 1080p High Definition. This series is unmistakably a dark one - from the color palette to the style of the cinematography employed liberally throughout, The Originals takes on a decidedly un-colorful appearance that befits the tone of the series writing. The transfers have a element of black crush at times, and some digital noise occasionally presents itself, but otherwise this is a strong presentation that is luckily free from any major issues and presents a clean, strong transfer of the show that will please fans with good detail, depth, and overall clarity for a notable high definition presentation.  

Audio:

The series is presented with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. For the most part, the audio presentation does the trick and is a impressive soundstage for a television production. It's not quite on par to a more dynamic presentation found on parent-series The Vampire Diaries, but the mix offers up a good range for dialogue and music. There is reasonable oomph to the bass as well. Alas, while many elements of the sonic presentation impress the series presentation does have some minor issues with background noise distortion, which was disappointing to discover. Still, the audio presentation quality remains impressive enough that this release should still please most fans.  

French and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital audio is also provided. Subtitles are offered in a variety of languages, including English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), French, Spanish, Finnish, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish.


Extras:

There is a decent selection of supplemental materials included on this Blu-ray/DVD/HD Digital Copy release. Video extras are presented in HD.  See below for a list of included supplements:

First up is a pilot episode commentary track featuring creator/writer Julie Plec and director Chris Grismer, covering the creation of the series and it's approach as a spin-off from The Vampire Diaries.

The Originals: The Origins (13 min.) is a brief behind the scenes making-of about creating the show and the development process.

Re-mixing History (10 min.) is a look at the writer's take on approaching the lore of the series concepts and mythological ideas explored (as far as the supernatural aspects go).

PaleyFest 2014 Panel (30 min.) features an assortment of the cast along with creator Julie Plec and series executive producers discussing the show in a Q+A format.

Comic Con 2013 Panel (29 min.) was actually filmed prior to the show's debut (when the series premiere was being teased at comic con). The panel includes more discussion about the series origin with more question and answer style-fun with fans.

Deleted Scenes are also provided. There is a large collection of deleted scenes from 13 episodes included here. As is the norm for many television series, there is usually more material filmed than can fit in a episode (with the run-time having to remain very close in each episode), and sometimes moments are merely cut for being less essential.

The Original Vampires: A Bite-sized Backstory (6 min.)  Never watched The Vampire Diaries before? Here's a quick recap of some of the things you might have missed with The Originals backstory.

Final Thoughts:

The Originals manages to be an enjoyably entertaining vampire-series that follows in the steps established on The Vampire Diaries but manages to be something distinctive at the same time. While it's most likely going to be enjoyed by fans who have seen both series, newcomers can join in and give the series a chance even with no previous knowledge of the Vampire Diaries should they want to. Season 2 premieres on Monday October 6th at 8/7 central. The Originals will air on Monday's weekly this fall. For fans of supernatural television dramas, this is a good effort that is well worth checking out. WB has released a generally strong Blu-ray release that fans will certainly want to pick up and add to their collections.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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