The same Elijah Mikaelson that appeared in The Vampire Diaries that was akin to Stefan, ridiculously noble but also cut-throat, has been left in Season 1 of The Originals because he is no more. Now that his Red Door has been fractured and he killed Marcel, he’s become just as bad as pre-Hope Klaus.
I used to admire the morality of Elijah Mikaelson. In the face of his brothers’ (Klaus and Kol) sadistically psychopathic behaviors, he was the brother of reason. He’s always been cut-throat and violent, but only to meet a certain end. It wasn’t that he derived pleasure from inflicting pain on others like his brothers. He would let people make their own decisions, and if they chose to be against the family, then they were taken down – simple.
We had previously seen an instance or two where Elijah wasn’t the noble brother he had presumed himself to be, before his mother’s resurrection. On The Vampire Diaries, we saw him completely back-track on a deal with Elena and the Salvatores that could have led to their deaths. We also saw him manipulate Davina by gaining her trust and appealing to her vulnerability only so she could do his bidding and backtrack on the promise he made by mercilessly killing Agnes and her friends. These instances showed a hypocritical side of Elijah, but relatively, he wasn’t nearly as bad as his brothers.
However, it increasingly became messier in the second season of The Originals when his mother was resurrected in New Orleans. To bring Elijah over to her side, she tortured him by showing him the red door he’d constructed to keep all the evil things he’d done locked away. The first? Killing his first love, Tatia, due to bloodlust. His mother cleaned up his murder, took care of the body, and helped him create the red door that would keep him from being tormented by guilt.
The incident with Tatia cracked Elijah’s psyche, causing him to be the victim of dissociative amnesia. This disorder, as the Cleveland Clinic explains, “has been linked to overwhelming stress, which may be caused by traumatic events such as war, abuse, accidents, or disasters,” and unlike medically caused amnesia, memories can more easily be recovered by “by something in the person’s surroundings.”
So, when his mother chained him up, and began to tell him the truth of everything that had happened, all his memories came flooding back. These memories included his mother telling him, “What goes behind that door shall stay there and be forgotten,” leading him to put all of his later monstrosities behind the door to keep his sanity. During this stresser event regarding Tatia’s murder, she also told him to “clean [himself] up,” because at the time he was covered in Tatia’s blood. Elijah also continued internalized this statement to mean that as long as he was immaculate with suits and pocket-handkerchiefs, no one would know the horrible things he’d done over a thousand years.
With this new revelation, he began to spiral in the world of his magically-induced dreams, where his older, bloodied self was seen chasing his younger, innocent self with the message, “one day only the monster shall remain.” Klaus saved his brother from this enduring torment with salve for the spell his mother put him under, and words for his mind, his mother had recently violated. Klaus explained, “Without you by my side I don’t think I can survive the love for my daughter… The monster in me can only be checked by the monster in you. Only together can we defeat our demons and save our family,” and just like Elijah did with his mother’s words a thousand years ago, his broken mind internalized this message and is now going full throttle with this mantra.
Elijah has always been pretty violent when it came to protecting his family, and he’d already devoted his life to the role of being the family’s (especially Klaus’s) moral compass. However, now this vow was renewed and saved him from the sinking abyss of emptiness he felt after his mother had yanked the memories from behind the red door. Now, this vow was the only thing keeping him functional. After Klaus’s speech, we saw him compose himself, and turn back into the Elijah we’d always known… at least we thought.
Apparently, ever since then he has still been battling with his true monstrous self and every murderous act he committed to save his family chipped more and more at his fractured red door. However, he continued doing all of these horrible things in the name of family, without hesitation, taking down all enemies with instant ferocity – until Marcel became his enemy.
After Elijah and Freya murdered Davina, Marcel emotionally spiraled himself. The people he’d seen as his family, murdered his adoptive daughter for their own ends, and he was done being their slave. He decided he would get revenge; maybe it was just pain induced, maybe it wasn’t – but Marcel had become an imminent threat.
The same Marcel that Elijah had taught to read and play the piano when he was younger. The same boy he saw as a son and connected with on a fundamental level but had to shun due to Klaus’s bitterness. And now, he thought the only say to save his family, was to kill the person he’d once seen as family. Elijah has never had to do this in the past. He has attempted to kill Klaus, but he has never went through with murdering a family member before.
As we know from the end of season 3, Elijah ended up murdering Marcel. However, since Marcel had already drunken the serum, he came back and wreaked vengeance on all the Mikaelsons, ending in Klaus’s torture and his family locked away in some psychological world for 5 years. This gave Elijah ample time to contemplate the repercussions of his paranoid decision, which finally lead to another mental break.
The audience was not aware of this mental break when he came back, but as EP, Michael Narducci explained on his Twitter account, Elijah had been riddled with guilt the entire time that only worsened when Klaus proved to no longer need his brother’s advice to make the right decisions. This was indicated when Klaus was faced with the same decision as Elijah: his family in The Mikaelsons or his family in Marcel. Klaus successfully chose both, whereas Elijah successfully doomed both.
This time Elijah’s mental break didn’t take form in a comatose and bloodied dream; instead, he’s is still partially functional by desperately clinging to the words that brought him out of his last mental break: “the monster in me can only be checked by the monster in you. Only together can we defeat our demons and save our family.”
This has caused the once noble brother to actually consider murdering children to save his niece and his brother. This also led to his need to kick Marcel while he was down with the eviscerating and horrifying speech in the cellar, where he unnecessarily attacked Marcel by dehumanizing him into a tool solely for Klaus’s redemption that is now trash because it wasn’t good enough. Unlike the relatively honorable Elijah The Originals audience once knew, the new Elijah tore Marcel down to make himself feel better; he has become just as sadistic as the rest of his brothers.
As Narducci further explained, Elijah Mikaelson’s actions and words are all the fall-out of his climactic decision to kill Marcel. Transformed by guilt, now he is simply trying to convince himself his actions were warranted by being as monstrous as he can in order to keep Klaus’s monster in check and protect his family.
The logic for this explanation is indeed there, as I’ve outlined above. However, Elijah needs further exploration to make this explanation warranted in the medium of this show. Narducci stressed Elijah and Marcel’s relationship will be thoroughly explored in the upcoming episodes. I truly hope it is, because, right now, all I see is a monstrous shell of a person who used to be the noble brother.
The Originals airs Fridays at 8/7c on The CW.