“The Vampire Diaries” first posed the question of whether someone as evil as Klaus (Joseph Morgan) is redeemable. That question still lingers, but this season of “The Originals” turns the interrogation lamp on Elijah (Daniel Gillies). Always considered the wiser, more temperate Mikaelson, we’ve seen that his past is nearly as dark and twisted as his brother’s. Despite his often nobler intentions, do Elijah’s continued violent actions make redemption an impossible concept for this murderous vampire?

Blame the Mother

Aside from her original sin of turning her children into bloodthirsty monsters, Esther (currently played by Sonja Sohn) did a number this season on Elijah by torturing him into remembering his past crimes. The cool vampire learned his crisp, immaculate suits are a way of mentally cleansing himself of evil deeds. He’s even altered his most brutal history in his head, as a way of moving forward without guilt.

The psychic damage his mother caused made Elijah lose his famous sense of control. In a misguided attempt to protect his infant nephew from harm, he brutally killed an entire diner’s worth of people. We’ve always known Elijah is dangerous, but it was rare to see him lash out indiscriminately. He also dismissed the event later as a minor incident involving irrelevant humans.

The only guilt that really melts this Original’s brain is crimes against those he loves. This is another legacy from Mama Mikaelson. She instilled her children with a love of family so fierce it wipes out any other loyalty to friends, morality, common decency, logic, and even the rules of time and death. Elijah always felt preserving some semblance of family, no matter how psychotically dysfunctional, means redemption is possible. Previous efforts were mostly applied to his brother, but now we see he was seeking his own forgiveness as well.

The Trouble with Hayley

Things are dangerous now that Elijah and Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) have truly acknowledged their love for one another. With Hayley’s impending marriage to werewolf Jackson (Nathan Parsons), a Haylijah happily ever after isn’t in sight. On one level this suits Elijah fine. It’s easier for him to maintain control for a short, blissful time, and he won’t fear harming her unintentionally.

Often because of Klaus, the Mikaelson family has spent decades depriving themselves of pursuits of happiness they know will inevitably go awry. But a life of deprivation eventually means lashing out with all of those unfulfilled desires. And enduring love for Hayley and her child could give Elijah some of the peace and harmony he so craves. But with another man in the way, his new lack of impulse control could overwhelm him and turn very deadly. His path to redemption is so close, but could instantly spiral away even further.

Skewed Vampire Morality

When “The Originals” introduces the idea of redemption, we think we have to grade on a curve. It is difficult to apply everyday values to a universe populated by serial killers with body counts in the thousands. The humans who associate regularly with these villains would have to be the equivalent of people who send fan letters to prison inmates and marry criminals on death row. Elijah is ridiculously handsome and charming, but any average woman who escaped with her life would never willingly interact with him again.

“The Originals” psychology expert Cami (Leah Pipes) would also suggest we sympathize with an immortal’s existence. Think of all the guilt and regret we build over one lifetime, then imagine how overwhelming it would be for eternity. While humans might break a dish or smash a window in anger, a raging vampire with hopelessly inflated emotions snaps someone’s neck. The way the Originals eventually detach from valuing life is understandable, even if we can’t applaud it.

If we grant Elijah a sort of battlefield morality, where protecting your own is the most important thing, he has a chance to find redemption. The guilt he carries means he isn’t past saving. Caroline (Candice Accola) saw that glimmer of humanity in Klaus, so surely Elijah has the potential to be more man than monster. With his soul torn apart by his mother, however, the sensitive vamp has another big war to fight. If he can’t accept a world of skewed vampire values, he’ll never get past the first step of forgiving himself.

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