Some Thoughts on Dialogue, Hybrids, and Disidentification
Not sure if I’ve ever made it this explicitly clear here on my blog just how much bad (amazing) TV I watch and how much I love it (hate it). After I finished Dark Matter, which I mentioned briefly here, I started The Vampire Diaries and then switched over to its spinoff The Originals. Both of these shows reminded me of having watched Being Human (probably mostly because of the hospital blood bags, lol, vamps today don’t have to bite anyone, they can just sip from a blood bag like it’s a Capri Sun). Anyway, my favorite part of The Originals is how the main characters alternate opening monologues. So, for instance, in one episode, Klaus catches up the audience by saying:
My siblings and I are the first vampires in all of history, the Originals. Three hundred years ago, we helped build New Orleans. Now, we have returned to find the city has a new king, who rules with the aid of a powerful girl. They’ve taken possession of my brother, Elijah. A coven of witches want this girl for themselves; they seek to enlist my help, using my unborn child as leverage, though I suspect they have ulterior motives. So, I’ve made a plan of my own: I will free my brother, and reclaim the city for my family. Then, I will be king.
But in the next episode’s opening monologue, Elijah says:
My siblings and I are the first vampires in history, the Originals. Three hundred years ago, we helped to build the city of New Orleans. We were happy here, a family. Recently, a coven of witches lured my brother back, using his unborn child as leverage. I tried to help him, but he betrayed me to his enemy, the vampire Marcel. Since then, I’ve been held prisoner by a powerful witch. My brother seeks to manipulate others to procure my release. But, I have my own plan. If this witch proves to be an enemy, I will stop her. By whatever means necessary.
So many plans!
But yeah, that’s what I like about these opening monologues, how the show rotates their different perspectives to set up the dramatic tension of the episode ahead, to some extent inviting us to watch the episode through that character’s quest/plan/frame of mind.
My next favorite part is how the dialogue in the opening scenes (which is so bad, but performed well enough by the actors to be slightly less ridiculous) also functions to catch up the audience. For instance, now that Elijah’s been released from the witch and the opening shot reveals both brothers sitting around at home, reading books, their sister Rebekah walks in and says, “So, this is what you do the first time we’re back together as a family? Vampire book club?”
Or, in another episode, Klaus yells at a witch: “We had a deal! You protect my unborn child, I dismantle Marcel’s army. And whilst I’ve been busy fulfilling my part of the bargain, you allowed Hayley to be attacked and almost killed by a gaggle of lunatic witches.”
I mean, is this a lesson on how to write dialogue? Noooo, but it is delightful to watch how the actors manage, generally, to pull it off. Usually with much feigned boredom/amusement (book club?) or enraged violence/show of superhuman fury (we had a deal, witch!).
Which begs the question, a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately: Why do I watch what I watch? And I think I kind of figured it out. First of all, you don’t have to pay much attention, since characters are always catching you up. And I’m usually reading or editing or grading while watching, so. And also because these characters — vampires, witches, werewolves — are marginals in society but central to the show that celebrates their power, their speed, their ability to take lives and save lives. And the extra layer that’s most interesting is how Klaus is a hybrid, a vampire/werewolf, who’s more powerful than either vampires or werewolves, whose werewolf bite can kill a vampire, whose vampire strength can kill werewolves, and whose hybrid blood can heal all. (And there’s a baby on the way, probably even more magical!?) So, here’s a marginal figure (in the world of humans) who’s been made central to this show. While he’s also an inferior species, a freak of nature, and the only one of his kind, who’s been made in this show to be far superior in speed and strength and invincibility.
And that’s it exactly, right? What we like and need in our nonhuman heroes? Outcasts who, despite the outright hate of humans, save humans anyway?
And that’s what I like about this show, that this outcast gives zero shits about anyone but his immediate family members, sort of, sometimes, but maybe not really since he’ll overpower them and lock them in coffins for centuries when they displease him.
He’s horrible. On the one hand, I hate everything about him. On another, he’s a powerful hero/villain/neither with whom an adoptee like me might positively disidentify — the werewolf part of him makes him unlike all his vampire family members; his biological werewolf father is a complete mystery and not (yet) part of his story; other werewolves are uncomfortable around him (if there exists an older Korean person in America who doesn’t express immediate sadness and deep shame for Korea, upon learning I am adopted, I’ve never met them). Also, he has zero interest in his baby, until he learns what his baby can do for him. So now I’m watching and waiting with somewhat morbid interest to find out what happens with this tribrid about to be born. . . .