The Originals put fans through the wringer this week with an episode that zeroed in on Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and his journey of self-discovery during the seven year time jump between Seasons 4 and 5.
Elijah didn't just lose the memories of his family when Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) compelled him to forget "Always and Forever," he lost all of his memories entirely. Stumbling through the world with nothing but some "E" emblazoned cufflinks and a note telling him not to look back, Elijah had to figure out who and what he was.
While it was obviously heartbreaking to watch Elijah wander the world without a clue that he had a family who loved him deeply, it was also a refreshing look at who this character could be without the weight of the world on his shoulders.
TV Guide spoke with Daniel Gillies about crafting this new version of Elijah and what elements of the character he decided to keep and which to discard.
"I just tried to drop every sense of duty. There's something almost military about Elijah at all times, you know? He seems like a general and a strategist, and it just was time to dispense with that and explore what he would be if he was just a man," says Gillies. "I must confess, when I saw the episode [...] it was to me, of all of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals I'd seen, it was certainly one of the strongest. It felt so brand new. I kept saying to Joseph [Morgan], 'This seems like a pilot. This seems like it's own new show.' It felt like it's own spin-off in a way, this guy discovering who he might be."
Eventually, Elijah did discover who he was, and it wasn't very hard to gather information on his terrible family after that. The surprising part? Knowing his family was out there didn't make him long for a reunion. Once he got the full scope of who they were, Elijah had very little trouble deciding he was better off without them.
Of course, making that decision was the perfect cue for Klaus (Morgan) to show up hoping to reconnect. While the reunion scene where Elijah disowns and lashes out at Klaus for all he's done might have been harsh to viewers, Gillies says that it made perfect sense for this new man that Elijah became to walk away from the Mikaelson family name for good.
"I think anybody with any good sense would say the problem and the complexity and the nucleus of the character of Elijah is that he has this one cardinal flaw, which is that he loves this person who is atrocious to everybody and is unforgivable terribly to everybody always. It's kind of what I loved and hated about Elijah," Gillies says. "How absurd would it be to swear allegiance back to that monster? He's just a completely irredeemable monster, and the family kind of [is] too. The only way they were going ever to survive was by being monsters, so it's understandable within the universe. But of course he said those things. To me, it was less heartbreaking and more just obvious."
When you look at it without the perspective of Elijah the amnesiac, it totally makes sense. Avoiding a group of bloodthirsty monsters who made your past self miserable seems like a no-brainer.
From Klaus' perspective though, it was a crushing blow to the small fraction of hope he had left that his brother was still in there somewhere. "It completely killed that hope," Morgan tells TV Guide. "I'd say [Elijah] devastated Klaus... That emotion and that decision is carried forward in the future episodes. For Klaus to have any chance at peace or some kind of happy ending, he needs his brother by his side for that to happen. So that's going to be a huge part of his drive moving forward."
Eventually, we know Elijah will have to reunite with the rest of his family. After all, the trailer for Season 5 showed some hinky Hollow stuff going down with all four of the siblings back together again. When they do come face to face again, Gillies says it will be similarly tense reunion — on all sides.
"Of course there will be difficulties," Gillies says. "There's a strange amount of punishment that's going to come Elijah's way, considering what he did and what he couldn't remember."
The Originals airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW.
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