The Klaus Mikaelson The Originals’ audience sees in season 4 is drastically different than the Klaus we saw in mother-show, The Vampire Diaries. The once seemingly, irredeemable reprobate, now acts with mercy and thinks of the consequences of his decisions before he makes them.
After 3.5 seasons of character development, Klaus Mikaelson has gone from the sadistic psychopath, who forced a vampire to stab herself for hours on end because he was mad that she wouldn’t be his toy, to a contemplative father, who chose to save the life of the son who’s tried to kill him twice. That is character development. There was a time when Klaus wouldn’t have hesitated to kill someone who dared to defy him or put his family danger. Yet, in episode 5 of season 4, we saw Klaus save his daughter, family, and his son’s life in one swift decision.
The moment that signaled Elijah’s spiraling character (as explained in my other article: The Fractured Red Door) is the same moment that signaled Klaus’ development and the ultimate break from his father’s control. The parallelism established between Klaus and his father and Marcel and Klaus is genius when you factor in where the plot was always meant to go. (Note: All following analyses were created by myself and a friend of mine named Ashalie, who is also a critical viewer of The Originals.)
The Originals was always a show about Klaus’ redemption through his daughter Hope. And although she is the driving force for his development into a better man, Marcel acts as the marker to measure his development. In the beginning of this show, we noticed Marcel and Klaus had a… interesting relationship. Although they were capable of working together to meet certain ends, it was hard to see a father/son relationship between the two. In season 1 and 2, that father/son relationship was practically non-existent. They were more like tentative allies.
Although Klaus Mikaelson and his father’s relationship wasn’t even that cozy, both Klaus and Marcel were outsiders in their own families. Both sons were manipulated and physically abused, and both had fathers (I’m including Elijah as a father-figure to Marcel) who always kept trying to keep them down and introduced them into a cycle of blood and violence that was incredibly crippling. In Klaus’ case, it was the Viking world and the abuse his father would impose on him for being a bastard son, and for Marcel, it was a father who introduced him to the world of vampirism and the psychological manipulation Klaus and Elijah inflicted onto Marcel.
The introduction of Hayley and Hope broke this cycle. Now you have a mother that, unlike Klaus’s mother, has a will strong enough not to let her child be subject to the same violence that created the Mikaelsons. She was his headstrong little wolf, the queen to his king, the woman who could understand him better than anyone, due to their loner souls, and she was the woman who began to change him.
A key characteristic of psychopathic behavior is the lack of shame they exhibit, when people with normative behaviors would usually feel humiliation caused by the knowledge they’ve done something wrong. Klaus has never done this before. He has talked his way out of situations by using family, he has shown sadness, anger, and frustration but never shame.
We first see a marked transition from Klaus’s previously psychopathic behavior after Klaus finds out Rebekah betrayed him with Marcel by calling Mikael to New Orleans the first time. At first, he reacted as he’s always had. He had a stake and he was ready to maim her and put her back in a casket until she has “learned her lesson.” However, after Elijah reminded Klaus that he can be better than who their father was and Rebekah reminded him that it was his manipulations and jealousy that lead to her decision, he actually took a part of the blame. He’s done what he’s never done before Hayley and Hope came into his life: forgive someone who has wronged him. Then shortly after, fresh off of his new revelation, he also pardoned Marcel, seeing in him what I explained earlier – a son ruined by his father.
The second breakthrough we saw in Klaus was when Hayley finally broke the wolf curse he put on her and Jackson’s pack. Klaus cursing them, because she wanted to leave the dangers and violence of the Mikaelson family was typical, sadistic Klaus. However, what happened when she confronted him showed something we’ve only seen him show once before: shame. However, this time, it wasn’t shame brought on by his brother or his sister – it was shame brought on by his baby’s mother that he’d only met 3 or 4 years prior.
This moment of shame is further seen when he finally lets Hayley beat him up after she brings up the cycle of violence she was trying to break, in which both of them had to grow up. His body goes limp, and for the first time, we see Klaus humble himself in front of someone else. These feelings of shame only exemplified in his face when he saw Hope watching her parents bloodied and fighting one another. This scene was the second time the cycle of violence brought on by his parents is shown as the catalyst to his destructive behavior. It’s was the second time he had shown he was actually redeemable.
All of those moments and many more smaller ones strategically placed throughout the last 3.5 seasons are what lead to Klaus’s climactic decision to protect Marcel and his family. This decision was dramatically pointed with the actual presence of his father’s ghost goading him to be the merciless monster he had conditioned Klaus to be. Mikael yells in Klaus’s ear his biggest fear: him and his family dying. Yet Klaus put his faith into Marcel and himself, decidedly broke the cycle of violence (sort of), and saved his son and his family. If that isn’t painstaking character development then I honestly don’t know what is.
The difference in Klaus is hope, brought on by his daughter Hope. She, with the help of Rebekah, Elijah, Hayley, and Marcel showed Klaus that the next generations of Mikaelsons must have a better quality of life than The Originals have had. Klaus and The Mikaelsons were running for years from their vile father and vicious mother. Hayley was abandoned by her adoptive parents after her first murder when she needed them the most. And Marcel had been physically abused and shunned by his birth father and later used a chess piece of The Mikaelsons.
These circumstances lead to Klaus always trying to be better than his father by being the monster his father trained him to believe is better, and lead to Marcel always trying to be better than both his father figures, Klaus and Elijah, in an attempt to be a moral yet powerful, cut-throat ruler. Both mentalities were unhealthy and both are attempting to break their father’s holds, but we’ve seen Klaus break this cycle first.
In just 3.5 seasons, we’ve seen Klaus Mikaelson slowly growing more and more into the man that his daughter already believes him to be. It is so satisfying to see how far Klaus has come as a father and a person. While Elijah has spiraled into a monster, Klaus has risen into a great man. Hopefully, we can see more of his growth and his new outlook on the world in the upcoming episodes.
The Originals airs Fridays at 8/7c on The CW.