It's a whole new ballgame this season on The Originals.
Not only has the show jumped five years since the end of season three, giving the Mikaelsons a talkative, opinionated seven year-old daughter/niece to protect, but it's also facing a huge new threat that's unlike anything the show has ever seen before.
In last week's episode, we saw that some mysterious "it" is requiring sacrifices of children, and of course, one of those children it's after happens to be Hope Mikaelson. In order to get a handle on what's facing the family and the city of New Orleans throughout the rest of season four, we got on the phone with executive producer Michael Narducci, who provided us with a few important tidbits about what we're in for.
1. This new threat is big and very scary.
"What we have this season is basically a giant storm is on the horizon, something that threatens all of our characters—not just Marcel, not just the Mikaelsons, not just the children of New Orleans, but everybody," Narducci says. "There's a big storm coming, and how will all the different players react to this thing that's coming? It's not a literal storm, it is the return of this very dark very scary presence and a haunting that is going to take place and will play out more and more over the course of every subsequent episode, so we're really excited to see not only what that thing is, but to play with the horror tropes that we see in a haunting but also how our characters will react to that."
2. "It" is also very old, and not new to the city.
"This is some kind of magic, some kind of a presence that is native to New Orleans, something that has been there for a very long time, and we drew some inspiration from actual New Orleans lore as we kind of constructed this fictional ghost and this presence and this evil. We wanted to play with some of the history of New Orleans and some of the different elements and things that have happened over the course of New Orleans history and we certainly wanted to tap into what we had established in our fictional universe with regard to Vincent Griffith [Yusuf Gatewood], Eva Sinclair [Maisie Richardson-Sellers], witches dabbling in very powerful magic, and there always being consequences to that."
3. The show will, as always, continue to play with the shifting power dynamics.
"The Mikaelsons used to be the most powerful creatures in all the land, and now Marcel [Charles Michael Davis] is the most powerful creature in all the land. I think what's interesting is that Marcel is different from Klaus [Joseph Morgan]. Klaus would just wipe out his enemies without mercy and that would be the end of it. Marcel has evolved to be a little bit more humane in his leadership, so he didn't kill Klaus, he kept Klaus prisoner, and he did that for political reasons, but I think you can assume he did that also for merciful reasons. He didn't want Klaus' death to lead to Rebekah's death. And then when he had the chance and he faced off against all the Mikaelsons, he decided to exile them and let them go. And as we saw in the end of last week's episode, realizing that Hope Mikaelson [Summer Fontana] is in danger, Marcel is granting the Mikaelsons permission to return. So what kind of leader will Marcel be, and how will the Mikaelsons react to someone out there in the world who has the power to destroy them? Those are questions that we wanted to play with."
4. Klaus' role as Hope's father will also play a major role this season.
"Klaus basically raised Marcel as a son and then failed to inspire the kind of love and loyalty that he meant to inspire and that Klaus kind of demands as a character. I guess the question is now Klaus has to decide if he's going to be able to raise this daughter and he's haunted by the memory of how things went poorly the last time he tried to raise a child. And it's going to be a struggle, and there are a lot of questions that Hope will ask that Klaus is going to have a hard time answering. You know, Hayley explained in the last episode that you know, Klaus is like a fairytale prince and now he has to live up to that, and Hope herself said, you're the strongest in the world, the one who's going to protect me from all the bad guys. Certainly from a lot of people's point of view, Klaus is the bad guy, so how will Klaus reconcile his nature with this role as a father who will do anything to protect his child?"
5. Don't worry about Hope losing control of her magic--that's not the story The Originals is telling.
"Hope is a very powerful witch and she is just learning how to use her powers, but they're not going crazy out of control and you know, 'what did Hope do this week to cause our family problems?' I think it's more along the lines of, there's this child in our lives now, and what do we need to do in order to be the best providers and caretakers and guardians of this child?
6. One big question this season is whether the Mikaelsons and Marcel will unite against this season's threat or go up against each other.
"There is certainly a lot of animosity between Marcel and Klaus. There's a lot of animosity between Elijah [Daniel Gillies] and Marcel, and I think at the same time, New Orleans has had five years of peace. Vincent Griffith and Marcel Gerard have managed to align the various factions of witches and vampires, but now that the Mikaelsons have returned and their child is in danger and other children are in danger, what's the smart move? Do you continue to have these grievances divide you, or do you realize that maybe, a joint effort in dealing with this third party problem is important and you need to explore it? So I like the conflict of having to make alliances with people you don't necessarily trust, and I think that's one part of the puzzle that will begin to play even in this Friday's episode."
7. This season will feature a ton of romance, despite everyone being a bit distracted by evil, including a brand new couple.
"There's one relationship that we haven't even begun to explore, which we are going to see blossom into something I'm extremely excited for the audience to see."
8. And another couple is coming back?
"There's another relationship that everybody just assumes is over, and that relationship is going to bounce back in a very major way."
9. But we can also expect a "fundamental" shift later on in the season that shakes things up.
"At first, everybody's going to be so busy, they're not going to have the opportunity for date night, but especially as the season progresses, some things are going to have to shift in a very fundamental way, and I think the romantic element is explored in a big way, and I think there's some shocking surprises in store for the audience on that front."
10. Hayley's [Phoebe Tonkin] past will be explored, as will her role within the Mikaelson family.
"We are definitely going to explore Hayley's past, and we are going to see some flashback moments to some things that directly affect Hayley's past. And I don't want to say too much more about that, but I think one of the questions Hayley will struggle with is the idea of herself being a part of this family. ... She has had to do ruthless things in order to protect her daughter, absolutely, but Hayley has lived for a mortal lifespan. She's only in her 20s, whereas the Mikaelsons have been around for a thousand years, and I think the very nature of being a vampire for a thousand years fundamentally changes your moral and ethical principals and maybe dehumanizes you in a way that Hayley has not been dehumanized. And I think it's good that Hayley starts to see herself as both beautiful and special and different maybe from what the Mikaelsons are and what they have been."
11. Freya (Riley Voelkel) and Keelin's (Christina Marie Moses) story may not go in the direction you expect.
"We're going to see a lot more of Keelin and her story of having been captured by the Mikaelsons and now being given an ultimatum and kind of made an offer by Freya—join me, help me use my witchcraft and your medicine, your science to figure out a way to neutralize Marcel and then you can be free. And Keelin willing to make this deal with the devil and how she and Freya are going to go on this mission and what will happen to the two of them I think is one of my favorite stories that we have coming up, and it's one of the things I'm most excited for the fans to see."
12. Rebekah (Claire Holt) and Kol (Nathanial Buzolic) are not gone for good after leaving in last week's episode.
"Rebekah and Kol have left for the moment, but they will be back, and I'm very excited about the story that they will return to."
The Originals airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on the CW.