MILD SPOILERS BELOW
The inherent problem with a show like The Originals is introducing compelling and believable antagonists. You may recall that our dysfunctional protagonists first showed up as Big Bads for the 2nd season of The Vampire Diaries. Notably, the plucky Mystic Falls crew faired quite poorly against the Mikaelsons, and it was only by some creative thinking and sacrifices that they managed to survive. Even then, Klaus & co. literally came to town, took what they wanted, hung around to gloat for a bit, then left. No other antagonist did nearly as well against the Salvatores... in fact most wound up with their hearts ripped out, or worse.
So when trying to come up with narrative obstacles for the most OP’d family in history, the writers have often struggled.
That’s why the writers had to go to their bench and resurrect Mikael, a.k.a. Klaus’s abusive stepfather, or upgrade Marcel to an Ubervamp, or invent clever weapons that could do them harm. Some of these worked (Aunt Dahlia, The Strix) and some not so much... I’m looking at you, The Hollow.
The Hollow was such a drag on last season that it became maddening. Poorly explained, unconvincingly written, and having no clear goal other than the desire to enslave people and blow up street lanterns, not even its possession of Hope was really all that interesting. It did, however, lead us to a uniquely satisfying dilemma for the Mikaelsons: they can’t be physically close to Hope or each other because they each house a chunk of The Hollow, and proximity to each other gives it the chance of resurrecting itself.
The first cluster of Season 5’s episodes show us the fallout of this problem. Hope is rebelling by siring a hapless werewolf into a hybrid because Klaus is being an absentee father. Klaus is murdering his way across Europe in what is either an attempt to convince everyone that he’s gone mad over Hope’s alleged death or just a “don’t fuck with me or my family” message to the supernatural world. Rebekah’s separation anxiety is interfering with her ability to fully commit to Marcel. Elijah is an amnesiac piano player in France and Kol is just being Kol. I don’t think housing a chunk of The Hollow changed his life plans much. Oh, and Hayley’s missing.
The development the characters have shown in the 7-year time jump is quite good in some respects. Freya and Vincent are bffs after spending all those years running NOLA peacefully. Josh gets some screen time as the surrogate head of the vampire faction while Marcel is living in New York. And Caroline shows up for one of her patented “drop your bullshit” talks with Klaus. I will never get tired of that.
The Hollow is still very much a problem for the family, but is no longer an annoying blue hypnotic glow. Now it shows up in the form of king snakes, maggots, and dead flowers (what’s up with all the snakes? Everyone just ignores them. Shouldn’t someone call animal control?)
Again, we have the same narrative dilemma that the show has always faced: what circumstances stand as a challenge to the Original vampires? Klaus searches for Hayley, Elijah is totally cool with his new life and renounces Klaus when he comes asking for help. Rebekah is... somewhere... and Hope is playing teenage rebel. While the search for Hayley gives Klaus something to do for a bit, I’d be surprised if it takes much longer to track her down... Which brings us back to The Hollow. Extracting it will most likely be Klaus’ main goal of the season, but a disembodied ghost thing makes for a poor antagonist.
This is a show that thrives on big antagonists, it’s just how the whole formula works. While I wouldn’t mind watching Klaus go on some epic quest to be reunited with his daughter, The Originals just doesn’t have the patience (or the pacing) to pull something like that off.
I am hoping for a decent conclusion to this spectacular-but-uneven show. Like it’s predecessor, the highs have been very high, but the lows have been a slog. Seeing Klaus find peace in being a father is certainly a worthy end. Elijah retiring from a millennium of supernatural royalty in the French countryside with that chick from Dexter season 2 is also cool. Rebekah will always be all over the place, and Freya is one good decision away from happiness. It may all go to hell in the last season of this show that has never shied away from a body count, but I am looking forward to it.