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"The Originals": The Complete First Season Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

The Originals: The Complete First Season Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Originals: Season One (2013-14)
Show, Blu-ray & DVD Details

Creator: Julie Plec / Executive Producers: Leslie Morgenstein, Gina Girolamo, Julie Plec, Michelle Paradise

Writers: Michael Narducci, Julie Plec, Diane Ademu-John, Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, Declan de Barra, Michelle Paradise, Marguerite MacIntyre, Charlie Charbonneau, Michael Russo, Christopher Hollier, Carina Adly MacKenzie

Directors: Chris Grismer, Jesse Warn, Jeffrey Hunt, Leslie Libman, Matt Hastings, Brad Turner, Michael A. Allowitz, Joshua Butler, Rob Hardy, Michael Robison, Kellie Cyrus, Sylvain White

Regular Cast: Joseph Morgan (Niklaus "Klaus" Mikaelson), Daniel Gillies (Elijah Mikaelson), Claire Holt (Rebekah Mikaelson), Phoebe Tonklin (Hayley Marshall), Charles Michael Davis (Marcellus "Marcel" Girard), Daniella Pineda (Sophie Deveraux), Leah Pipes (Camille "Cami" O'Connell), Danielle Campbell (Davina Claire)

Recurring Characters: Todd Stashwick (Father Kieran O'Connell), Eka Darville (Diego), Steven Krueger (Josh Rosza), Callard Harris (Thierry Vanchure), Sebastian Roché (Mikael), Shannon Kane (Sabine Laurent), Elyse Levesque (Genevieve), Yasmine Al-Bustami (Monique Deveraux), Karen Kaia Livers (Agnes), Shannon Eubanks (Bastianna Natale), Raney Branch (Celeste Marie Helene Dubois), Peta Sergeant (Francesca Correa), Owiso Odera (Papa Tunde), Tasha Ames (Eve), Shane Coffey (Tim), Malaya Rivera Drew (Jane-Anne Devereaux), Alexandra Metz (Katie), Matt Kabus (Sean O'Connell), McCarrie McCausland (Young Marcel), Michael Trevino (Tyler Lockwood), Nathan Parsons (Jackson), Chase Coleman (Oliver)

Notable Guest Stars: Nathaniel Buzolic (Kol Mikaelson), Alexandra Ficken (Tina McGreevy), Andrea Powell (Dr. Paige), Aiden Flowers (Young Klaus), Callie Brook McClincy (Young Rebekah), Perry Cox (Young Elijah), Lyle Brocato (Dr. Sheksi), Natalie Dreyfuss (Cassie), Yusuf Gatewood (Vincent)

Running Time: 932 Minutes (22 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-14 on air)

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French, Castilian, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Portuguese)
Blu-ray Subtitles: English SDH, French, Castilian, Dutch, Latin American Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish; DVD Subtitles: English SDH, Chinese, French, Latin American Spanish, Portuguese
BD Video Extras Subtitled in English, French, Castilian, Dutch, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese
Suggested Retail Price: $69.97; Not Closed Captioned
Nine single-sided, dual-layered discs (4 BD-50s & 5 DVD-9s) / Thick Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: September 2, 2014 / Season One Air Dates: October 3, 2013 - May 13, 2014
Also available as standalone DVD ($59.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

Buy The Originals: Season One from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraVioletDVDInstant Video

The CW almost never attracts the audience or acclaim of their older network brethren, but the teen-friendly network, launched in 2006 as a merger of The WB and UPN, isn't afraid to dabble in genres other than comedy or drama.
In fact, much of the network's primetime lineup can be classified as thrillers of some kind. While they've yet to produce anything close to a "Lost", the shows seem to be doing okay with ones like "Supernatural", "Smallville" and "The Vampire Diaries" outlasting most modern TV programs given more fanfare.

A spin-off to "The Vampire Diaries", "The Originals" centers on vampires, werewolves, and witches. Don't assume it's cashing in on the Twilight craze too late. The CW's genre fare is its own thing, designed to keep you coming back for more than five installments. Episodes' closing credits cite that the series is based in part on the character of Klaus, first introduced in L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries novels. Wikipedia informs me he was the main antagonist of the second and third seasons of "Vampire Diaries."

Here, he is one of The Originals, the immortal original vampires who helped build New Orleans three hundred years ago. Illegitimate middle child Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) and his half-siblings, elder Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and younger Rebekah (Claire Holt), reunite in present-day NOLA, where vampire Marcel Girard(Charles Michael Davis) is now in control. The three Originals seem to take turns occupying the series' lead roles (though one takes off two-thirds into the season). Meanwhile, the adversary with whom they go way back, is the obvious focus of the cover art on Tuesday's release of The Complete First Season to DVD and Blu-ray combo pack.

Two very old vampire half-brothers -- Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Klaus (Joseph Morgan) -- do not always see eye-to-eye in the CW's "The Originals."

Marcel, rescued from slavery as a boy centuries ago and mentored by Klaus like a son, is ruling the area with some questionable practices. He has banned witches from using magic and is less than respectful of their customs. Klaus wants what Marcel has and plans to take over his otherworldly empire piece by piece. At the same time, Klaus, who is half-werewolf, is awaiting the birth of his own illegitimate child with a one-night stand, a werewolf named Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin). Witch Sophie Deveraux (Daniella Pineda) has intertwined her own safety with the young expectant mother. Then there is Davina (Danielle Campbell), an all-powerful 16-year-old witch who is working with Marcel.

In refreshing contrast to Twilight, romance is something like a tertiary element of "The Originals." Created by "Vampire Diaries" co-developer Julie Plec, this series is most interested in developing a compelling universe of shifting and strategic allegiances. Though complex and weaving with a number of active threads, the show is easy to follow and requires neither prior knowledge nor appreciation for "Vampire Diaries" to enjoy.

These vampires do not sparkle, but they can heal wounds with their blood. They can also control minds to varying degrees, with Originals' compulsion powers effective on both humans and other vampires (although there is an antidote). Klaus makes greatest use of this, turning others into pawns who cannot resist his mental manipulations.

Nowadays, vampire Marcel Girard (Charles Michael Davis) runs New Orleans' French Quarter his own way.

"The Originals" is not terribly conventional or predictable for a series that ranked in the bottom quadrant of the network Nielsen ratings last season with an average audience of just 2.6 million viewers (Friday night reruns of the show scheduled against the Winter Olympics ranked dead last among all network offerings with just 465,000 viewers tuning in).
The pilot ends with the surprising murder of its protagonist, though death is far from an irreversible fate here. The series is bolstered by semi-frequent flashbacks providing looks at these ageless vampires in other historical periods.

Though shot primarily in Atlanta, the series boasts an international cast, drawing heavily from Australia. There are no big names among the young principals, whose most realistic immediate film prospects may be contributing to a horror movie ensemble. Those portraying the Mikaelsons have all appeared on "Vampire Diaries" from spring 2011 to as recently as January 2014.

Given a full season order in November and renewed for a second season in February, "The Originals" is sitting pretty with the public, if its 8.6 average user rating on IMDb is any indication. By comparison, "Vampire Diaries" only has an 8.1 (though it has five times as many ratings) and the critically adored "Mad Men" currently holds an 8.7 (with three times the sample size).

One of countless current shows whose previous season hits stores over the next month, "The Originals" arrives in a 5-disc DVD and this review's subject, a nine-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack leaving no stone unturned.

Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) throws a lavish Gatsby-style party. Klaus (Joseph Morgan) challenges the Human Faction in their meeting place of St. Ann's Catholic Church.

Disc 1

1. Always and Forever (42:26) (Originally aired October 3, 2013)

2. House of the Rising Son (42:21) (Originally aired October 8, 2013)

3. Tangled Up in Blue (42:25) (Originally aired October 15, 2013)

4. Girl in New Orleans (42:23) (Originally aired October 22, 2013)

5. Sinners and Saints (42:24) (Originally aired October 29, 2013)

6. Fruit of the Poisoned Tree (42:19) (Originally aired November 5, 2013)

Davina (Danielle Campbell) has got the power! Papa Tunde (Owiso Odera) is in the house and with a deadly blade to boot.

Disc 2

7. Bloodletting (42:18) (Originally aired November 12, 2013)

8. The River in Reverse (42:25) (Originally aired November 26, 2013)

9. Reigning Pain in New Orleans (42:24) (Originally aired December 3, 2013)

10. The Casket Girls (42:24) (Originally aired January 14, 2014)

11. Après Moi, le Déluge (42:10) (Originally aired January 21, 2014)

12. Dance Back from the Grave (42:22) (Originally aired January 28, 2014)

Throughout history, Rebekah (Claire Holt) and Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) have been lovers at various different times and circumstance. Genevieve (Elyse Levesque) conducts some unfinished business.

Disc 3

13. Crescent City (42:24) (Originally aired February 4, 2014)

14. Long Way Back from Hell (42:22) (Originally aired February 25, 2014)

15. Le Grand Guignol (42:26) (Originally aired March 4, 2014)

16. Farewell to Storyville (42:27) (Originally aired March 11, 2014)

17. Moon Over Bourbon Street (42:27) (Originally aired March 18, 2014)

18. The Big Uneasy (42:22) (Originally aired April 15, 2014)

Klaus (Joseph Morgan) makes his best vampire face of bloody fangs. Witches intend to sacrifice Klaus and Hayley's newborn baby in the Season 1 finale.

Disc 4

19. An Unblinking Death (42:25) (Originally aired April 22, 2014)

20. A Closer Walk with Thee (42:25) (Originally aired April 29, 2014)

21. The Battle of New Orleans (42:22) (Originally aired May 6, 2014)

22. From a Cradle to a Grave (42:27) (Originally aired May 13, 2014)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Unsurprisingly but satisfyingly, Warner treats "The Originals" to outstanding picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 video is sharp, spotless, and suitably cinematic. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is agreeably immersive, directional, and active. As an added bonus for international fans importing this, Warner has loaded the set, especially the Blu-ray, with foreign subtitles and dubs.

Creator and showrunner Julie Plec is seated next to her top-billed actor Joseph Morgan at The Originals' 2013 Comic-Con Panel. This Francesca-led gathering is but one of more than twenty deleted/extended scenes presented here.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras are spread across the four Blu-ray discs and repeated on the five DVDs.

Disc One supplies an audio commentary on the pilot by creator Julie Plec and director Chris Gremer. Their remarks are screen-specific and upbeat, identifying locations and actors with enthusiasm in addition to dispensing general facts about this series,
its filming and its relationship to "The Vampire Diaries."

Also on the first disc is a 2013 Comic-Con Panel (29:21). TV Guide's Debra Birnbaum asks fitting questions of creator Plec and actors Joseph Morgan, Claire Holt, Daniel Gillies, Phoebe Tonkin, and Charles Michael Davis, before turning the floor over to the excited potential viewers in attendance. Topics covered include the cast, the characters, the New Orleans setting, and the protocol of telling actors they're being killed off either temporarily or permanently.

Deleted scenes appear on the same disc as the episodes they were intended for and are easily accessible by episode. Thirteen of the twenty-two episodes have something to offer on this front, though as you can guess nothing too significant for the most part (some characters would have featured more prominently in the pilot). Altogether, the material runs 42 minutes and 27 seconds long. Oddly, the DVD makes it easier to watch the deleted scenes in bulk than the Blu-ray, which only lets you watch one episode's cuts at a time.

Leah Pipes' audition for Cami is excerpted in "The Originals: Origins." The Mikaelsons' past is presented in this Bite-Sized Backstory.

The remaining video extras, all encoded in HD, are found on the fourth and final Blu-ray Disc.

"The Originals: Origins" (13:24) functions as something of a general making-of documentary. It features comments from cast and crew about the series, some behind-the-scenes footage, and even audition tape clips as it addresses the cast being assembled.

"The Original Vampires: A Bite-sized Backstory" (5:33) compiles clips and narration explaining how The Originals came to be. Since these are scattered throughout the season, there is some value to assembling them here.

"The Originals: Re-mixing History" (9:32) considers the series' use of New Orleans history in flashbacks and storylines.

The actors who play the Originals (Claire Holt, Joseph Morgan, and Daniel Gillies) share a laugh during the Paleyfest 2014 panel. The cover art is adapted for the simple static main menu of all nine discs.

Finally, we get the show's playful Paleyfest 2014 Panel (29:49) from last March, in which Jarett Wieselman questions Plec, executive producer Michael Narducci, and actors Davis, Tonkin, Gillies, Morgan, Holt, Leah Pipes, and Danielle Campbell over unbridled audience enthusiasm. They talk about the show's setting,
characters, opportunities, and other topics already addressed by now.

The DVDs here, the same discs sold separately on their own, include all of the same bonus features, dispersing the deleted scenes throughout the set and holding all the other videos on Disc 5.

The too similarly-labeled four Blu-rays and five DVDs occupy four swinging trays in blue keepcase that's as thick as two standard Blu-ray cases. The keepcase, which also holds your Digital HD UltraViolet code and a useful eight-page booklet supplying episode information (redundantly, for both Blu-ray and DVD), is topped by a sturdy cardboard slipcover reproducing the same artwork below.

The main menus attach finite score to a wide rendering of the cover image. The Blu-ray's menus allow you to see the contents of every disc in the set, making moving from one platter to the next a breeze. The set doesn't support bookmarks, but does give you the chance to resume playback of any unfinished viewing, a much-welcome feature on a collection of this size.

The Originals -- Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Rebekah (Claire Holt), and Elijah Mikaelson (Daniel Gillies) -- have seen a lot in their centuries of vampirism.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"The Originals" does not look like a show I would ordinarily get into and I'd stop short of calling myself a fan. But, this CW vampire series is quite a bit better than I expected to be. It has certainly made me less quick to dismiss the network's no-name genre fare.

Warner's Blu-ray treats the season to first-rate picture and sound, a solid 3½ hours of bonus features, and all the versatility that a combo pack affords. While I won't go so far as to recommend this to the unacquainted, anyone who either likes the show or thinks they might is unlikely to be disappointed by this fine release.

Buy The Originals: Season One from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet / DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed August 31, 2014.



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