While The Vampire Diaries could often get bloody - that's probably a given for a show about immortal killers who typically feed on humans - it maintained a relatively light tone throughout its eight seasons on The CW thanks to the romance at the heart of the series.
Spinoff The Originals, on the other hand, has always been a darker, more political drama about the power struggle between supernatural creatures in New Orleans. And in season four, The Originals creator Julie Plec tells The Hollywood Reporter that things will get even scarier.
"We wanted to shape it like a Stephen King novel this season and really draw from our favorite books, like It, and introduce this really dark presence that is controlling the supernatural community of New Orleans," Plec explained.
The Originals follows the original family of vampires, which now includes the part witch, part werewolf, part vampire 7-year-old daughter of all-powerful werewolf/vampire hybrid Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan).
"This upcoming season really was created to put the original family to its greatest test," Plec said. "They now have a child in the mix, a young 7-year-old girl who has all these abilities she can't totally control and this desire to be a good girl but also to explore her magic. There is a very insidious and dark element that exists in the alleys and the gutters of New Orleans that has a point of view about what it wants out of New Orleans, and it is in deep conflict with the health and protection of the original family and Hope Mikaelson herself."
That presence, Plec explained, "is not seen and is targeting children and is targeting innocents and is just really vile."
Season four will begin with a time jump (Hope was barely a toddler in season three) "and then slowly tell the story of what that presence is, what its origins are and what it wants," Plec said. The Mikaelsons, who are yet again feuding with Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), the vampire in control of the New Orleans supernatural community, will have to decide whether they can team up with their former ally and current enemy to eradicate that evil.
"It's definitely darker than what we've done in the past and has a lot more great, traditional horror elements to it," Plec said, "and yet also some pretty great family dynamics, which is, of course, what really makes the show. It's that tone that creeps along, and it's got a layer of evil hovering over it all season long - which, who knows, maybe is a result of how we feel about the world that we live in at the moment."
The season will see the return of a few deceased characters (including Leah Pipes' Cami, as seen in the trailer (below), "and definitely a few others before the season is over," Plec said, as well as The Vampire Diaries' Alaric Saltzman (Matt Davis). "He will bring with him some valuable information and also a suggestion for the future," Plec said. And yes, as teased in the Vampire Diaries series finale, there's room for Caroline Forbes (Candice King), Klaus' former love interest, to join the cast - just probably not until a potential season five.
"Caroline and Klaus are not coming face-to-face in this season," Plec told THR after the TVD finale. "That being said, we do have crossover elements in the upcoming season of The Originals … and it all brings it back to what I see as a future for either The Originals or another piece of the franchise to launch off of the end of The Originals."
The Originals airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on The CW. Watch the trailer, below.