For someone who loves The Vampire Diaries as much as I do, I approach any spin-off with an equal amount of excitement and fear, particularly a spin-off that takes us back to the town where Elena first met the Salvatore brothers, and the house that holds so, so many memories. (Damon and Vicki’s dance party! Countless “I love yous!”) But the goal of a spin-off is always to enrich the established world while building its own identity, and I’m happy to report that Legacies does exactly that. As much as I loved every mention of the characters and the town that I know and love, I walked away from this premiere feeling as if Legacies stood on its own. It wasn’t trying to be The Vampire Diaries, and it wasn’t trying to be The Originals. It was trying — and succeeding — at creating a fresh and exciting world filled with new mysteries and yes, a few callbacks. (But not enough to pull you out of the moment.) So without further ado, let me either welcome you — or welcome you back — to Mystic Falls.
The episode starts with the familiar voice of Hope Mikaelson. She’s a student at the Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted, and tonight, she and her headmaster, TVD‘s Alaric Saltzman, are off to find a new recruit. That business takes them to Atlanta, where a young guy named Rafael is meeting his foster parents at a Catholic church to confess his sins after he apparently threw a lawn mower through their patio doors. His foster brother Landon — whom Originals fans will recognize — is there with him but is asked to wait outside. It turns out, this is less of a confession and more of an exorcism. Rafael’s foster parents think he’s possessed, but really, he’s just a werewolf. And tonight is his first transition under the full moon.
Alaric and Hope show up just in time to stop the priest, knock out the parents — all of which Hope does with magic — and chain Rafael up before he completes his transition. And once that’s taken care of, Rafael and a very confused Landon return to Virginia with Ric and Hope.
While Lizzie and Josie Saltzman — the twin daughters of Alaric and Caroline Forbes (who’s MIA) — give Rafael a tour of the Salvatore School, Ric and Hope have a chat with Landon. Ric gives him the rundown: The Salvatore School is a school for the supernatural, but the citizens of Mystic Falls think it’s a private school for the rich and troubled, and they want to keep it that way. As Ric tells him, “I used to have a speech prepared, carefully unpeeling the layers of mystical history, but it turns out most people have read Harry Potter and are actually cool with me skipping the tee up.” Although, unlike Harry Potter, this school has a multitude of supernatural creatures, from witches to vampires to werewolves.
As for what they need from Landon, Ric wants to know who Rafael killed recently. See, the werewolf gene isn’t activated until you kill someone, so if Rafael transitioned, well, you can figure it out. And Ric needs to make sure they’re not about to accept a cold-blooded killer into their school. Landon assures them that Rafael is no killer. About a month ago, he was driving with his girlfriend when they got into a car accident. Rafael’s girlfriend didn’t make it.
With that figured out, Ric brings in MG, his vampire student aid, to compel Landon and erase his memory of the school. But when the compulsion doesn’t work, Landon is taken to the cellar, where Hope explains that they think Landon has ingested vervain. Sheriff Matt Donovan (!!!) sometimes slips it into the coffee at the gas station that they stopped at earlier in the day. Vervain prevents vampire compulsion, so until it passes out of Landon’s system — which will take approximately 24 hours — he has to hang out in the “werewolf transition space,” which is essentially a jail cell.
While all of that is going on, the Saltzman twins show Rafael everything from what classes are offered at the school to the sport of choice: Wickery, a game that Caroline and Ric made up when their daughters were 10. As Lizzie puts it, “Alyssa Chang made a broom fly in physics last year but Rick Rogers fell 30 feet during practice so real-life quidditch remains an elusive pipe dream.” Sitting in the stands, Josie hangs out with MG — who clearly has a thing for Lizzie — while Lizzie puts her foot in her mouth with Rafael, something she definitely inherited from her mom. Lizzie tries to offer her condolences about Raf’s girlfriend, but when she says the wrong thing, he ends up walking away. And that leads us to, as Josie calls it, a “clean-up on aisle L.”
Just as Ric is in the middle of sparring with Hope — something he used to do with Elena — and trying to convince her to be more social, Josie gets him to check on her sister. As for Lizzie, she’s in the middle of a witchy temper tantrum that’s completely destroying the school’s kitchen. However, I will say that Jenny Boyd’s delivery of “Hi daddy” when Alaric walks in — which he follows with a “Hey baby” — is my favorite part of this episode.
Ric tries to get Lizzie to meditate with him because, as he tells her, her “biological mother’s crazy ass witch ancestors left you with a legacy of darkness that you have to work through.” (For those of you that didn’t watch TVD, Caroline Forbes is not their biological mother. Their biological mother was named Jo, and she was a member of the Gemini coven, which I’m sure we’ll learn much more about in this show.) Lizzie, cutting to the core theme of this show, tells her father, “I don’t ever want to hurt anybody,” and her dad assures her that’s why they opened this school, so that young supernatural beings could learn control before they enter the real world. As for why Lizzie hates Hope, she explains that she’s tried to be friends with her over the years, but Hope’s experienced a lot of loss in her life and isn’t exactly looking to let anyone in.
(Next: Landon makes a bold move … or two)
Hope does, however, seem to like Landon. She pays him a visit when she can’t sleep and the two of them talk about the day they danced, which happened roughly two years ago (and on The Originals). She explains that she needs to keep her distance from him because she can be dangerous to people, a fact that results in her feeling restless. She leaves Landon and asks Alaric for permission to run the woods as a wolf — oh yeah, she’s a wolf too — and he tells her to steer clear of the “secret party” that he’s going to break up in 10 minutes.
Speaking of that party, Josie uses magic to break Landon out of his cell so that he and Rafael can have some fun, but when Landon sees how wonderfully Raf is fitting into his new environment, he decides to leave his foster brother behind and try and make a break for it. Meanwhile, Raf is bonding with Josie. The two clearly share a connection as he tells her about his ex-girlfriend, but she, ever the good sister, encourages him to give Lizzie another chance.
As for Rafael, he doesn’t make it very far before Hope tackles him. And seeing as how she ran after him in her wolf form, she has some explaining to do. So, she takes him to the Stefan Salvatore Memorial Library — R.I.P. Stef! — and explains to him that she’s the daughter of Klaus Mikaelson, one of the world’s original vampires, and a werewolf alpha, both of whom are now dead. Combine her parents with her witch grandmother, and that makes hope a hybrid of three creatures, or a tribid if you will. She is the only one of her kind.
Using her powers, Hope shows Landon her memory of the day that they danced in the town square. Mostly, she shows him that she was the one who got revenge on the guy who’d bullied Landon when he was working at the Mystic Grill.
Taking Landon back to his cell, she once again uses her magic to make the ceiling look like the night sky in the hopes that it will help Landon — who’s not good with small spaces considering he was locked in closets as a kid — sleep. Realizing he won’t remember any of this come tomorrow, he decides to go for it: He pulls her in for a kiss.
But not everyone’s night ends so perfectly. After the party, Penelope, who’s Josie’s ex, tempts MG with a good time in the kitchen. She wants him to drink from her neck — which is not allowed — and he nearly does. The two make out, but before he can take a bite, Josie catches them, which prompts her to end her night in Lizzie’s bed with a sisterly chat. Lizzie tells her that she should find a new crush to focus on, but considering that Lizzie also announces that SHE is setting her sights on Rafael, things could get complicated.
The next morning, Landon asks Alaric if he can stay. He doesn’t have a home anymore, and he could work at the school. But Ric wants to make one thing clear: His students are predatory creatures, and it is not safe for a human (other than Ric) to be here. So, MG compels Landon, and he says his goodbye to Rafael … but here’s the thing: Dorian discovers that one of the supernatural artifacts — a knife — is missing from the library. And when they realize that Landon never went home, which is what he was compelled to do, Ric tells Hope that this can only mean one thing: If he can’t be compelled, then Landon must be a supernatural being.
Alaric enlists all of the students to help find Landon and the knife that he stole, and when Hope witnesses an angry Josie set Penelope’s arm on fire, she sees a “kindred spirit in revenge.” Hope asks Josie to use dark magic with her in order to track Landon, and it works: They can see him sitting on a bus when the knife starts glowing red.
Cut to Matt Donovan welcoming Ric and Hope to the crime scene. It seems the local police think that whatever happened on the bus was a chemical spill, but it’s up to them to figure out what that knife really did. As they walk onto the bus, they find nothing but charred corpses, and Landon is nowhere to be found. As Hope’s voiceover says, “Turns out Landon isn’t the hero of my story at all, but when I hunt him down, I’m going to be the villain of his.” And THAT is the line that gives me chills every time I see this episode.
In one hour, Legacies has me fully invested in what feels like a brand new show that has the added bonus of using nostalgia when it wants. In other words, if a compelling story is the sundae then nostalgia is the cherry on top.