'The Originals' finale: Daniel Gillies on the show's 'Darth Vader', and 'the beginning of the end for Elijah'

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Image Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW

From the moment The Originals was pitched as a Vampire Diaries spin-off, it was talked about as the story of Klaus Mikaelson’s redemption, among other things, and what that would mean for this literally ancient family of vampires. And now, one season later, we’re only hours away from Klaus’ baby being born and what could be the start of a whole new Klaus. Then again, we could be hours away from Klaus going down his darkest road yet.

But one thing seems certain: Thanks to a romantic entanglement with Hayley, Klaus’ older brother Elijah will be just as affected by any outcome. And Daniel Gillies, the man behind Elijah, has spoken before about how this series is as much about Klaus’ redemption as it is about the undoing of Elijah. “What’s exciting about a character like Elijah is I think that I feel like he has an enormous threshold for this punishment,” Gillies said. “It’s partly to do with how I believe his psychological architecture is constructed. I think that he’s someone who carries an enormous amount of guilt and regret about his brother’s condition. He feels that he’s failed his brother, so subsequently, he’s this creature who follows his malevolent brother to all the corners of the earth in pursuit of this ideal that’s really as mercurial as sand between your fingers.”

But Elijah’s ability to withstand so much won’t last forever. “There is going to be a point of critical mass,” Gillies said. “I do think that he’s going to reach a breaking point of sorts. And when he does, I think that it could be a really frightening thing to watch. I think the fact that Hayley was exposed to the kind of danger she was when it was everything he was fighting against, I think we’re going to see sort of the beginning of the end for Elijah, the beginning of Elijah walking a very dark path.”

Option B? “He could join a barbershop quartet and travel to Vegas and Atlantic City,” Gillies joked. But in all honestly, “It feels to me like he’s sort of walked into a cave.” And if that’s the case, what does an undone Elijah look like? “I don’t know. and I’m sort of frightened/excited to discover. I think it could be the most human thing we’ve seen from him probably,” Gillies said.

However, don’t expect Elijah’s unraveling to turn him into Klaus. “I don’t think it’s that simple,” he said. “We’re two very different actors, Joseph [Morgan] and I. It’s not about, ‘Hey I’m bad guy and you’re good guy.’ It’s not that simple. [The Originals are] not good people. Elijah’s certainly not good. They’re merciless. Someone once described our show as, ‘Can you imagine what it’s like to be an Original? It must be like being the only three human beings on an island of monkeys or something.’ And yet Elijah still sees tremendous beauty in humanity, and that’s one of the things I really enjoyed exploring in his relationship with Elena on The Vampire Diaries. I really liked that he was sort of in love with human beings, someone who could reach some degree of morality, generosity, or compassion, the transcendent qualities of humanity, and had the wisdom to do so and wield them within a human lifetime.”

And Elijah’s love of humanity is precisely what makes the potential return of Mikael a threat. “I think it’s too painful for Elijah to look at Mikael,” he said. “There are huge parallels between Mikael and Klaus, and it’s got to be a fearful thing to look at for Elijah. Forget about the abundant memories and pain that this creature brings back with him whenever he re-enters their lives, but also too just he symbolizes what Klaus could become without Elijah’s navigation and nurturing. I feel like he represents what they all could become if they were just creatures of vengeance. I think Elijah does believe that they can live with a degree of decency, and it might seem like a Don Quixote-like quest, he might be charging at windmills, but by the same token, I think that Elijah continues because he believes in some sort of hope for them and their family, that they can live with a kind of dignity. He’s digging around as deeply as he can for that. But that man, their father, he’s the Darth Vader of the piece.”

That being said, Gillies doesn’t see Mikael as the biggest threat to the Original family. “I would say the biggest threat to this family is themselves. They’ve always been the biggest threat to themselves, and I think that that’s what this fable is about, that unless this family starts to recognize its own strengths and create a sanctuary for one another, then they’re going to crash and burn.”

With that in mind, will Elijah be able to keep himself from getting further entangled with the mother of his brother’s child? “He’s so desperate to hold onto this gentlemanly ideal. He’s definitely waiting for an invitation of sorts, isn’t he? Although we saw in last week’s episode that he wasn’t at all. So I don’t know. I feel like had the dreadful events at the end of last week not precipitated, he’d probably be confronting Klaus about what’s been happening between he and Hayley. I almost feel like that would be something that he would address, but he has no time to do so because they are all ruthlessly being shredded apart in this combine harvester of pain.”

And tonight, that combine harvester of pain will come to an end. But who will be left standing, and just how undone might our dapper Elijah be?

The Originals finale airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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