Who is Elijah Mikaelson without his unrelenting devotion to his brother’s redemption, without any sense of familial loyalty, without the promise of “always and forever?” Those are the questions at the heart of this week’s episode of The Originals, which explores what life has been like for Elijah in the seven years since he had Marcel erase his family (and their lifelong vow) from his memory.
The hour, which was directed by Originals star Joseph Morgan, is something new for the series — it focuses solely on Elijah’s journey, an idea that was actually inspired by another series. “The idea came from me being an absolute Damon Lindelof fangirl,” showrunner Julie Plec tells EW. “What Damon did magnificently throughout The Leftovers was to have singular point-of-view episodes. I found it to be so impressive and so powerful. I really wanted to try it and it felt like being able to see where Elijah’s been over the last seven years and trace the story over the course of one episode was such a prime opportunity for that.”
Co-writers K.C. Perry and Michelle Paradise then took that idea and crafted what Morgan calls a “concept episode,” something unlike anything the show’s ever done. “I knew it would be different,” Morgan says. “It has one story line from beginning to end instead of five, as we normally do, and I prefer that format: You can really sit with the characters and you get to feel a lot more invested in something as it progresses.”
That one story line follows a character who fans have been invested in since he first walked onto The Vampire Diaries in season 2. And yet, despite the fact that Elijah’s been in viewers’ lives for eight years — and lived for more than a thousand — Morgan calls the hour a “journey of discovery” for the vampire. Plec adds, “It was really about shaping: What would Elijah be if he didn’t have a memory of holding onto his past so powerfully and painfully that it affected everything?”
It was a task that actor Daniel Gillies embraced, the opportunity to “dispense with any sort of artifice” as he puts it. “Everything about Elijah, from his poise to his mannerisms to the way he conducts himself, dropping all of those very specific idiosyncrasies that I play with him meant that it was this raw person.” The result is a man that Gillies describes as “brand new.” After years of family drama, murderous rampages, and even a few love stories, Elijah Mikaelson is going back to the beginning. “He’s at the genesis of who he is again,” Gillies says.
Where he goes from there — and whether he still has a love of suits — remains to be seen.
The Originals airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.