“He’s your worst nightmare.”
And when he first walked through that door, ruthlessly calm and mysterious, I believed that instantly.
Elijah, played by the very talented Daniel Gillies, is the first Original vampire we are introduced to in The Vampire Diaries. But being the insanely clever teases that they are, the writers reveal the existence of the Originals and Elijah at the same time so we the audience are left to ponder their mystery over the course of several episodes. Because, hell, they’re not gonna tell us everything in one episode, are they? All we knew when the episode “Rose” first aired was that the Originals are the vampires. The first vampires. We don’t know yet where they came from, what being an Original really entails, how many are there, yadda, yadda, yadda. But Elijah serves as a guide for us until the veil is completely lifted.
When he first walks through the door of the abandoned mansion, you can tell that this guy is at the top of the food chain and knows damn well he is. The fact that Rose, a vampire of over five-hundred years, seems to be struggling with all her might just to keep composed around him provides an extra ‘umph’ of emphasis. He’s calm, gentlemanly, classy, courteous, and despite her terror, Rose has complete faith that he will always keep his word. Which he will. That is, he’ll keep his literal word, while still keeping his eyes peeled for loopholes. We learn this when he tells Rose “You have my word that you will be pardoned,” but then does a Darth Vader on Trevor after he grants him ‘forgiveness’ for helping Katherine escape. First thing I thought when Trevor’s head rolled on the floor was “Always watch your words with this guy. More importantly, watch his words.” Two more character traits we get the impression of in episode “Rose” are extreme callousness and arrogance. Elijah seems to have no problem in taking Elena away so she can be sacrificed, and boldly proclaims that the Salvatores cannot, cannot beat him. Needless to say it was very satisfying to see him staked by Damon after that display of pompousness, but when he pulled the stake out of his chest all by himself mere hours later I realized I should have seen that coming miles away.
We get another glimpse of his honor in the next episode when he takes some coins from a street musician’s guitar case and replaces them with a $100 bill. He then hurls the coins into a glass window as an intimidation tactic for Damon and Rose. Apparently, he has somewhat of a fondness for mindfuckery and possesses not an ounce of mercy for those who cross him. He himself reveals to Jonas Martin that the only reason he’s letting off Stefan and Damon for staking him is because he knows they’ll keep Elena safe.
What? Keep Elena safe? Why, yes, it turns out that’s what he’s been trying to do from the start. He, too, wants Klaus dead. But being ignorant as to Klaus’ whereabouts, he makes a bargain with Elena: if she stays put and stops her suicide missions, he’ll protect her friends and family. When the time is right, both of them will lure Klaus to Mystic Falls, Elijah will ensure her loved ones remain unharmed, and then he will rip Klaus’ heart out. Though once again, note his words. He will keep Elena’s loved ones safe. Elena herself on the other hand…
Over the next couple of episodes, he sticks true to his word despite Damon all but begging for a beheading with his pigheaded, asswipe attitude. Only when Alaric stabs him with a stake that can keep an Original dead so long as it stays in their heart does he renounce the deal. Though even the blind could see that he clearly enjoyed saving Damon’s ass from Jules and her werewolf pack just to see the impulsive little snot taken down a notch. In fact, he probably enjoyed it more than playing his little mindfuckery tricks on the werewolves by taunting them with the moonstone before ripping their hearts out. Oh, and when that little bitch tried to hide himself with his jacket…yeah, I can see he wouldn’t be able to resist that.
In the episode “Klaus” after Elena pulls the dagger out of him, you know it’s taking all his restraint not to tear her head off. But as the episode progresses, we learn that Elijah wasn’t always this cold, and we begin to wonder how he truly feels about Elena. Turns out that five-hundred years ago, he met and fell in love with a still human Katherine. In the present day, we already know that he loathes Katherine and looks forward to Klaus giving her a slow and painful death. He tells Elena vaguely that he simply has his own reasons for wanting her to pay, but it’s easy to fill in the blanks. He warned her of Klaus’ intentions to sacrifice her (inevitably telling her they were vampires in the process), but promised she would survive because he found a way to save her life. Undoubtedly, Katherine smiled to his face and agreed to trust him before proceeding to run off with the moonstone in hand. Elena deduces his former love for Katherine, to which he replies, “It’s a common mistake, I’m told. It’s one I won’t make again.”
The statement is vague and can be interpreted in several ways. Does Elijah believe love itself is a mistake, or just loving a Petrova doppelganger? Maybe both? I personally believe it’s both since the writers made a point of Klaus telling Elijah that love is a vampire’s greatest weakness earlier in the episode, and, spoiler, he was in love with the original Petrova. I don’t believe he’s in love with Elena, but feels a connection to her that may one day turn into love if he gets any closer to her, which he clearly has no intention of doing.
Another thing that the flashbacks in “Klaus” reveal is that Elijah used to be a wussy yes-man when it came to his younger brother. He tells Elena he once loved Klaus and would have done anything for him, but when Klaus callously writes of Katherine’s life simply because she’s human, Elijah merely “begs him to consider this.” Granted he goes behind Klaus’ back and tries to save Katherine anyway, but seriously, dude. Grow a sack. Klaus has nothing to lose by saving Katherine’s life. It’s a win-win situation for God’s sake! Just because you don’t act how Klaus thinks vampires are supposed to act doesn’t give your baby brother the right to dictate your life. Tell him to go fuck himself.
Alas, he doesn’t. When Klaus learns of Katherine’s departure, he throws a huge tantrum and shoves his brother against the wall. In the face of this violence, a clearly terrified Elijah promises that he will bring Katherine back for him. Wimp.
He does pay for his pussiness but even I can’t rejoice when the price for growing a backbone is someone’s entire family. As punishment for Elijah’s “betrayal” Klaus daggered all of the Originals and scattered their bodies out to sea where they could never be recovered. Um, Elijah? You gave a street musician a hundred bucks in exchange for a few coins. You’re not exactly a bum living in a trash bin. Can’t you hire a couple of helicopters to make a few rounds? Bodies float after all. Okay, the odds of finding even one are incredibly slim, but they’re your family for Christ’s sake! Don’t they deserve at least a little hope? But I digress.
After Elijah helps Klaus escape imminent death after he’s informed that his family is in fact safe, the desire to ram my fist into this guy’s nose begins to grow rapidly. Ironically, it’s not because he helps Klaus after swearing to Stefan’s face that he wouldn’t fail him. It’s that when Stefan begs Klaus for help because his brother is dying from a werewolf bite, Elijah looks Stefan right in the eye and pretentiously claims they both value family or else Stefan wouldn’t be here. He believes his family should be helped first. Sure Damon has probably only hours to live and is in constant agonizing pain, but hey, the Originals have had to look like they’ve decayed in water for centuries. And they’ve been blissfully unaware throughout the entire time. Boy, we’re gonna have to have some serious therapists on hand when these guys wake up. Recovering from that kind of trauma is iffy at best.
So, Elijah, you’ve broken your word to Stefan, probably doomed him, Elena and everyone that they love to the vengeance of an immortal psychopath, and you don’t show a shred of remorse for it even when you can redeem yourself ever so slightly by asking Klaus to take care of Damon first. Fuck punching, you deserve to die screaming and in agony. He doesn’t, but he gets the next best thing: being double-crossed in the most humiliating way possible. Klaus sticks a dagger in his heart and all Elijah can do is helplessly pout as he sinks into oblivion.
He spends half of season three in dreamland until he is awakened by Damon. Now it’s his turn to throw a huge tantrum in the face of his baby brother. At first it looks like he’s going to be suckered once again, even after learning Klaus tore out their mother’s heart, but it turns out his intentions were to give Klaus a taste of his own medicine. He’s finally learned not to trust Klaus’ “vulgar promises” and releases their siblings, all of whom Klaus has daggered. He spends the next episode showing us all how he most definitely does not have the hots for Elena by saving her from being mauled by Rebekah, making moony eyes at her, caressing her arm while informing her of his suspicions regarding his mother’s intentions, and staring after her with worry when she goes for her meeting with Esther. No siree, no sexual tension here. Despite being able to sense that she’s lying when she tells him Esther’s intentions are pure, he lets her get away with it for the beginning of one episode. When she confesses that Esther intends to kill all of her children, he keeps her captive in a dark, dank cave with a vengeful Rebekah as her guard. He and his brothers confront their mother, and Elijah wastes no time in spouting his righteous ideology. For Esther to kill her own children would be an atrocity. She informs Klaus that as punishment for turning her children into vampires, she was forced to watch Klaus and feel the pain of all his victims over the course of one-thousand years.
“Even you, Elijah, with your claim to nobility, you’re no better.”
Actually, he’s worse. Klaus is a monster. He has no true conscience. Though he is capable of feeling regret for hurting people he ‘cares’ about, that regret is always poisoned by a strong sense of self-justification. However, Klaus’ self-righteousness stems from his evil superiority complex. He views almost all life as a means to an end and is proud of that belief. Elijah on the other hand preaches honor while looking down on others for their so-called lack of it. But we’ve seen his hypocrisy. He compelled a non-violent vampire to stake himself while looking on almost gloatingly, he condemned Stefan and Damon for staking him though they were only trying to protect someone they cared about ( a very honorable thing to do), and he was willing to let an innocent girl die if it meant getting vengeance. Fangirls will undoubtedly bleat that he tried to save Elena’s life during the sacrifice. And to that I say: BULLSHIT. There was no guarantee that elixir would work, and he knew it. Meaning he was reluctant, but willing to get his revenge via the blood of an innocent.
To his credit, he does come to realize what a self-righteous ass he is after Esther’s ritual fails.
“Esther was right. All my talk of virtue. When it suits my needs, I kill, maim, and torment…Mother made us vampires. She didn’t make us monsters. We did that to ourselves.”
He apologizes to Elena for what he put her through and claims that he will carry his regret always and forever. But words still need to be backed up by action. Elijah leaves Mystic Falls knowing full well that his mother is still out there and plotting to kill him and his siblings. This shows that he accepts not only his inevitable fate but the fate of people he loves above all else, and chooses to live out the remainder of his life, however short, in peace.
Post character analysis follow-up, Elijah gets an 8/10. A very well done character, sympathetic, likable, and flawed. He contains just the right amount of goodness to be considered a “humane” vampire, but also a good deal of darkness that keeps him interesting and complex. Really hoping the writers keep him around for a while longer.