'The Originals' Creator Explains Exactly What Happened In That Shocking Series Finale

by Sydney Bucksbaum
The CW

Major spoilers ahead for The Originals series finale, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

The Originals are just dust in the wind. Or at least, the two main characters at the center of The Vampire Diaries spinoff series are. By the end of the series finale, Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and Elijah (Daniel Gillies) chose to kill each other with the last remaining white oak stake Klaus had kept stashed away for years. After taking the dark magic from his daughter Hope (Danielle Rose Russell), thereby saving her life, he planned to kill himself with it, ending the dark magic along with his reign over the supernatural world once and for all. But Elijah, finally seeing his brother redeem himself by sacrificing himself for his daughter, completed his own life's mission and decided to die alongside his brother. While the rest of the Mikaelson clan found their happily ever afters, Klaus and Elijah broke the white oak stake in half, gripped each other's shoulders and staked each other, hoping to find peace together. The Originals series finale ending showed the two legendary vampires desiccating and turning into dust, blowing away in the air.

With the two main characters of the series dying in the final moments, fans might be inclined to call the finale tragic. But The Originals creator Julie Plec hopes that viewers will see it differently. "Klaus and Elijah, being able to free themselves and release themselves from the curse of immortality that had been placed on them against their will by their parents, is a happy ending. They got their happy ending," she tells Bustle. "What awaits them on the other side of that ending is probably beautiful."

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Plec knows (many) tears will be shed as that scene plays, but she doesn't see it as a tragic ending for those two characters. "I know that a lot of people see death as definable as the unhappy ending but to me we worked hard across Vampire Diaries and The Originals to show that after death is the possibility of ultimate peace within themselves and the quieting of their demons and a life lived in eternal love," she adds. "I think there's some solace to be found in there, if anybody's feeling a bit too wounded by the loss of these characters."

The über-producer also knows that some fans will be disappointed (and very vocally so on Twitter) that the finale didn't cater to any one specific relationship, and that no 'ship was revealed to be "endgame" for either Klaus and Elijah aside from their brotherly bond. But she wants to remind fans that this series was never meant to revolve around romance. "I fundamentally believe that Elijah and Klaus are the soulmates of the series," she says. "Anybody that would get between that was probably not going to be part of the endgame of this show."

So dry your eyes and read on to see what else Plec had to say about that ending, including why those deaths had to happen, how and why it so closely mirrored The Vampire Diaries series finale, the alternate ending that almost came to be, and more!

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RIP Klaus and Elijah (and our hearts)

While the story for the series finale changed over the course of five seasons, Plec and company always knew The Originals would end with the two brothers. "The thing that never shifted was that we were heading always to a place where Elijah was able to witness Klaus' redemption," Plec says. "We started the series not entirely sure how we'd dramatize that in terms of what the ending was but knowing that the journey of this series was for Klaus to understand the meaning of unconditional love and to find redemption in his own self and therefore for Elijah to be complete as well."

But there was a world in which the brothers didn't end up dying in the finale. "The decision to have both brothers die did not come up until the beginning of the fifth season," Plec reveals. "We always knew that the end of the series would be Elijah realizing that Klaus had finally found his redemption. Therefore, both of their journeys were complete in terms of where we started the series and where we were going to end it. We didn't know if that would be as literal as them both dying."

As for why she decided this season to kill them both in the finale? "It just felt right," Plec says. "It's funny because we had started talking in the room that Klaus needed to die and then Joseph Morgan came in to say hello at the beginning of the process and he started making a hard sell that he thought Klaus should die."

Plec messed with him a little by resisting his idea despite having already decided to do just that and couldn't help but laugh at how the same thing had happened on The Vampire Diaries. "Paul Wesley had made a hard sell that he thought Stefan should die and I already knew Stefan was dying but I messed with his head for like a good week and a half," she says with a laugh. "And it wasn't until he read the script that he knew that's the road we had gone down."

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Why that ending felt so similar

Ending the series finale with a shot of two vampire brothers dead but happy to be together could describe the last scene of The Originals finale ... as well as The Vampire Diaries finale. "The similarities were similar in spite of themselves in that no matter what choice we had made on one series, it honestly felt like we were on a path that only had one ending," Plec explains. "We followed our own path and it took us to a similar place. It created a nice symmetry between the two shows but it was by no means an intentional choice to make them both end the same way. Each story led us there independently."

Looking at the symmetry of both series ending on the same note, Plec loves how the similar endings came about naturally. "Vampire Diaries was such a love story but when all is said and done, it was a love story about those two brothers," she says. "The shows are so deeply rooted in the bond between family and brotherhood specifically and so when you've got two pairs of brothers, they have to end up with each other at the end of it all. In The Vampire Diaries case, it was peace and here it was their decision to approach peace together. But it does feel like that was really the only way to go."

Did Klaus and Elijah find peace after they died?

If Vampire Diaries' Stefan and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) found peace after they died, one would assume that Klaus and Elijah would be rewarded with that same fate. But with The Originals ending on Klaus and Elijah becoming dust, fans didn't get a definitive answer.

"We made a very deliberate choice not to tell you," Plec says with a laugh. "Because Klaus' fear in that last moment of, 'What's ahead for us? What if it's not what we think it is? What if we've done too many terrible things to find peace?' and Elijah says, 'We'll get through it together,' I thought that was so beautiful. The promise of that is ultimately they'll find their way there. Whether it's right away or not depends on how much you think they've redeemed themselves for their sins."

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Did they actually kill each other ... or did Thanos snap them out of existence?

Is it just us or did it look like Klaus and Elijah had suffered the same fate as half the universe in Avengers: Infinity War? They turned to dust in the exact same way, begging the question of if the Vampire Diaries/Originals extended universe is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ... and when we brought that question to Plec, she burst out laughing for a long time.

"When I saw Infinity War, I was like, 'Oh! Okay, well … we were original when we did this back in December when we shot it,'" Plec says, pausing to laugh again. "The Marvel joke aside, the thing we loved the most is that Klaus and Elijah, in this town, this city they had helped build, are not forever a part of the fabric of the dirt and the dust of the streets of the French Quarter. That's why we wanted them to become dust."

The alternate ending that almost happened

After coming up with the idea for Klaus and Elijah to become a part of the city they helped build, another idea came to Plec and the writers.

"We actually had pitched watching the dust fly and settle and then watching a kid run across the cobblestone and realizing that it's a time jump and it's Freya [Riley Voelkel] and Keelin [Christina Moses] and Vincent's [Yusuf Gatewood] young child playing in Jackson Square," Plec reveals. "We didn't shoot that but I liked that. Honestly, when we were doing the budget of who we could afford to take to New Orleans, that extra three characters made it un-produceable."

Yes, that means that The Originals did move the Atlanta-based production to shoot that final scene on location in New Orleans to make it the perfect ending for the series. "That was shot in exactly the same spot where we shot that part of the pilot," Plec says. "That's in Jackson Square in front of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. And it was the last thing we shot. It was the final shot of the entire series in New Orleans where we started and it was so powerful and beautiful and we all cried."

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The last supper

Were you sobbing uncontrollably during that Mikaelson family dinner? You're not alone. Watching Klaus, Elijah, Rebekah (Claire Holt), Kol (Nathaniel Buzolic), Freya, Keelin, Hope, Vincent and Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) gathered around the table, laughing, smiling, and just having a good time together was a rare, beautiful sight for this beleaguered family. It's Plec's favorite scene of the finale.

"It's a little thing but I love the dinner table scene which basically is just turning on cameras and letting them roll while the cast improvs," she says. "Seeing them happy, seeing them smile, seeing them make jokes, really seeing that family unit together one last time in happiness just was so special. They had so few moments where they were happy over five years and you want to grab onto them with all your might and squeeze them and hug them tight and capture that moment forever."

Plec reveals that "special" moment was the very last day of production on the Atlanta set for The Originals. "We were saying goodbye to our Atlanta crew and a lot of our actors," she adds.

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All those happy endings

Aside from Klaus and Elijah, the rest of the Mikaelson clan essentially lived happily ever after. But that wasn't always the plan. "Especially since Kol was dead at a certain point early in the series," Plec says with a laugh. "We didn't know that we'd be bringing him back." But he left New Orleans after one last family dinner to continue living his marital bliss with Davina (Danielle Campbell). Freya and Keelin decided to have a baby with Vincent as the father. And Rebekah proposed to Marcel, with a catch: she was going to get the cure from vampirism and take it, and he agreed to live out the rest of her human life with her.

"We always knew that we wanted Rebekah to find her childhood wish to get back to living a normal life and the white picket fence and the children, the stuff she never thought she'd be able to have and was taken from her with her mother's choice to turn her into a vampire," Plec says. "That was always something that was really important to us."

And now that Marcel gave all the vampires in New Orleans a one-way ticket out of the city, he finished dismantling the "kingdom" he had built at the start of the series. "We wanted Marcel always to release the trappings of feeling like he needed to be the king which was really just a reaction to his upbringing and to find personal happiness and personal purpose," Plec says. "We at one point talked about Marcel becoming almost a surrogate father figure to a young boy like himself, much like Klaus had found Marcel."

Ultimately, that didn't happen on the series. "But in our hearts I think that's in his future," Plec says. "At one point we had Marcel moving to Rio to start over and build a new vampire community but when all is said and done, we really liked the idea of him realizing that he didn't need to be the king of anything."

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About that spinoff ...

While this is goodbye to The Originals, thankfully Plec's extended universe isn't going anywhere. The third series in the trilogy, Legacies, is set to premiere this fall on The CW and will follow Hope as she goes back to her magical school in Mystic Falls. And while Klaus and Elijah have seen the last of their time onscreen, that doesn't mean the rest of the Mikaelsons are gone for good.

"The two [characters] I have my eye on the most to appear [on Legacies] I believe would be Vincent and Freya," Plec says. "I think they each have it in them to end up somehow at the school as teachers and mentors and witches."

But don't hold your breath for a Season 1 appearance. "I'm going to give everybody a breather and let them recover from their time with us and decide if those are characters they want to revisit at any point or not," Plec adds. "I also would love to have Auntie Rebekah do a parent-teacher visit."

Upon hearing that seeing Rebekah standing in the old Salvatore house again (where the school is located) would be amazing, Plec laughs, then pauses before letting out an interested, "Hmmm ... " So maybe we shouldn't count out Rebekah's return just yet! As we've learned over two series and with an upcoming third, never say never when it comes to immortal vampires.