The Originals: Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review

Klaus and his destructive family of immortal vampires are back in this complicated season two

Season two of The Originals is a sprawling story with various vampire, werewolf, and witch factions fighting it out for control of New Orleans once again. The stakes are higher than ever for everyone’s favorite twisted family. The Vampire Diaries’ spin-off has blazed its own path away from its mother show, though Nina Dobrev (Elena from VD) does make a guest appearance. Klaus has a new goal in life, protecting his new baby at all costs. The rest of his clan are intimately involved as ever in scheming and fighting their way to power, making this season more about the Mikaelsons than ever before. This is a show that pays dividends for careful viewing but more casual fans may feel lost at times in its complicated plotting.

The Originals has some of the most dense serialized mythology in television history. What some long-time fans may find interesting also makes it intimidating for newcomers. Many of these characters were around for years on the Vampire Diaries before starring in their own show. One unfortunate trick the show has resorted to for season two is the magical process of body-hopping. Some of the original actors cast for these roles, most notably Rebekah as played by Claire Holt, have moved on to roles on other shows. Claire Holt does make an appearance or two in this season, but another actress eventually replaces her. On the show itself they explain the body-swapping by using magic, but this season goes to the well one too many times with that trick.

One of the big conflicts related to the familial themes running throughout the season are the return of Esther and Michael Mikaelson, parents to the entire extended clan of vampires and now witches. Fans know that Klaus and his siblings don’t get along that well with their parents, leading to an extended arc pitting them against Esther. Fans will also be happy to see the return of Kol and Finn in some form, though once again the original actors have been magically replaced.

This is a larger, more ensemble cast that doesn’t rely on one or two critical characters for its best moments.

Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) gets sucked into becoming queen of the werewolves when she becomes a hybrid vampire. Her pregnancy dominated much of season one, so this arc is nice change of pace for the character. Marcel has to bide his time now that he’s no longer the boss of New Orleans, hoping to rekindle his romance with Rebekah.

Season two is a bit uneven for The Originals. The series has definitely drifted away from the formula created by the Vampire Diaries. This is a larger, more ensemble cast that doesn’t rely on one or two critical characters for its best moments. The New Orleans setting continues to be a stroke of genius, a seemingly perfect setting for a generational war between werewolves and vampires. Some will be disappointed that the popular Claire Holt doesn’t remain as Rebekah, but those are the breaks in a tough industry. She has since moved on to NBC’s Aquarius. Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Phoebe Tonkin and Charles Michael Davis all return to their starring roles, among others.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

The Originals Season Two Blu-ray screen shot 12

If you have not been paying attention, television on physical media has been dying a slow death of late with several studios abandoning it for streaming. WB continues to service Blu-ray owners with a wide array of television shows on the format. That leads to some compromises on this set due to economic pressures. I would guess that the show may not have received a Blu-ray set if WB hadn’t cut the package down to 3 discs. Hardcore videophiles may get disappointed but the show’s fans will likely accept the slightly reduced picture quality to have their favorite show in Hi-Def video.

The 22 episodes of season two fit on three separate BD-50s. I saw most of the season during its initial broadcast in HD and can report this Blu-ray presentation duplicates it to a perfect degree. The Originals is framed in an eye-pleasing 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio in 1080P resolution. It has always been a good-looking show with sharp definition and excellent clarity. The palette opens up into bright, saturated imagery in the city of New Orleans. This is typical video quality expected from most network television shows these days. The digital transfer has no problems regarding filtering or halos. The days of ugly digital artifacts and visible seams evident on television productions are gone.

Warner Bros. does make some curious choices slotting the episodes between the three BDs, cramming as many as eight episodes on a disc. That leads to a sub-par AVC video encode, usually averaging 11 Mbps per episode. Some banding definitely creeps into the picture during duskier shots. Exterior shots are so cleanly-filmed that artifacts are not a worry, but one might question the occasionally limited shadow delineation due to starved compression parameters. Much of The Originals take place in crypts and cemeteries at night, the solid black levels are a necessity. There is the occasional shot when detail and overall definition drop, this is a television production after all with a limited production budget.

Video★★★☆☆

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is a fine audio experience, one of the more immersive and powerful mixes heard from a television series on home video. The regular bouts of surround activity and convincing sound effects help to set a menacing mood in the darker scenes. The fidelity is perfect, rendering crystal-clear dialogue and the sweeping instrumental score in beautiful fashion. Television mixes don’t have quite the impact and theatricality of sound design made for big-budget films, but this surround mix will surely satisfy fans craving for better audio than the broadcast experience. The video quality may have been lowered due to economic pressures but the lossless audio sounds as crisp as last season’s Blu-ray set.

Warner has loaded this set up with a plethora of subtitles. The optional subtitles display in a white font: English SDH, French, Spanish, Dutch, Latin American Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish. The only included dub is in French 2.0 Dolby Digital at 192 kbps. The usual assortment of dubs have been removed due to the tight space of using only three BDs.

Audio ★★★★☆

The Originals receives a fairly similar set of special features to its sister show, The Vampire Diaries. WB has stripped out the once-included DVD versions, leaving a 3-disc Blu-ray set that includes an UltraViolet digital copy good for the entire season in HDX. Enclosed in a single Amaray case, a cardboard slipcase is provided.

The special features here seem a little more perfunctory in nature than the ones we got from the Vampire Diaries this year. The most interesting bits are the brief web shorts that feature the original actor for Kol and the yearly Comic-Con panel discussion.

The Originals: Always and Forever (13:00 HD) – The two executive producers and members of the cast discuss the twisted dynamics of the Mikaelsons. Built up as some kind of mythic, dynastic family with their vampire blood spanning the centuries, The Originals at its heart is about the intense relationships that brew between the various factions in it. In this featurette, we hear from cast and creators on how season two explored new depths of what it means to be a family.

The Originals: The Awakening Web Series (All in HD) – Explore this companion series on Kol Mikaelson (Nathaniel Buzolic) and his quest to form an alliance with the witches of New Orleans in 1914. Also go behind the scenes with the cast and creators of the digital series in a featurette with Julie Plec. The four episodes run 02:10, 02:08, 01:54, 02:09. The featurette runs 05:02 minutes.

Gag Reel (04:31 in HD) – Funny outtakes when the actors forget or flub their lines.

Come Visit Georgia PSA (02:41 in HD) – Despite the show being set in New Orleans, The Originals is filmed in Georgia like the Vampire Diaries. This light featurette has members of the production crew discussing technical set design.

2014 Comic-Con Panel (29:56 in HD) – Writer Julie Plec and the main cast members appear in this discussion from before the season aired. This discussion didn’t seem as relaxed and jovial as I’ve seen from Comic-Con panels. Some backstory was discussed and what direction some characters may take in season two. This is one panel that could be skipped if pressed for time.

Unaired Scenes (All in HD) – Seven episodes have separate unaired/deleted scenes included as bonus material. There isn’t much to them beyond extended character beats.

Episode 1 (01:32), Episode 9 (01:28), Episode 14 (01:22), Episode 16 (01:40), Episode 18 (01:24), Episode 20 (02:02), Episode 22 (01:23)

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.