Spoiler alert: This post contains plot from the May 2 episode of The Originals.
“Goodbye, Elijah Mikaelson.” Those are the final words spoken by Elijah in this week’s episode of The Originals, as he takes off his daylight ring and opens a window, thereby setting fire to himself and, more importantly — seeing as how he’ll heal — setting fire to the box that holds all his possessions from his old life. That was the end of Elijah’s journey in the hour, but it took him seven years to get there.
When showrunner Julie Plec and the writers came up with the idea to do an episode all about Elijah’s journey in the aftermath of Marcel erasing his memory, they, along with episode director Joseph Morgan and actor Daniel Gillies, were forced to answer a question: What does Elijah look like without his history? How does it change him as a man, and how does it change him physically? “Daniel Gillies had a really strong role in unburdening Elijah’s physicality, in literally undoing the collar and the tie and rolling up the sleeves,” Plec tells EW. “Even in the way that he vocalized Elijah and the way that he didn’t flick his consonants and used contractions in a way that he doesn’t usually.”
For Gillies, conceiving of an Elijah without his memories meant diving into every aspect of the character, even down to his accent. “Daniel had a strong idea about coming in and making him more American,” Morgan says, with Gillies adding, “Elijah has an American accent, but his cadence is British. So he sort of speaks like Kelsey Grammer. I made a decision that everything pre-20th century, he has a British accent, because he lived in the States so much during the 20th century that he started to adopt this American sound. I was like, ‘Do I go British if he’s forgotten everything? What is he when everything is stripped away? What’s his muscle memory?’ That’s essentially what I was on a quest for. He’s been living in the States for the last 100 years, so I landed on his muscle memory resting in an American accent. It wouldn’t have anything of the Britishisms involved because all that history has evaporated. So he’s ostensibly an American guy.”
But the accent was just part of the equation. Elijah was about to embark on a journey during which he would have to relearn everything, including the fact that he’s a vampire. “He became a blank slate,” Morgan says of the character. “We talked in a lot of detail about that stuff, even stepping off the bus and he’s wearing a suit and why is he wearing a suit? Everything was a journey of discovery for him, and we shot all of that not knowing what would be in the episode, but knowing that an an actor, [Gillies] needed to explore: Who am I? What is this?”
Elijah would spend the next hour trying to answer those questions, and ultimately, he came to a decision. The old Elijah Mikaelson is dead, as he told Klaus at the end of the episode, a statement that devastated his younger brother. “I certainly carried it through in the episodes coming up after this, the devastation,” Morgan says. “Because Elijah means everything to him.”
As for Elijah, that scene was almost equally sad. Here he is, having discovered who he wants to be and having found a life that makes him happy, and yet, as fans know, there’s no way he can remain in what Klaus referred to as a fairy tale. “That’s the sadness, in that he’s lived a lifetime where he found love and he found happiness all in that span of those 41 minutes,” Plec says. “And now we get to see what happens from there.”
Speaking of what’s next for Elijah, Gillies says the show’s writers made a “bold step in a new direction.” Because, as he puts it, “The story of the Originals is really the story of Elijah and Klaus Mikaelson, and you can’t do one without the other.”
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