The hybrid artist and original enthusiast of The Vampire Diaries, Klaus Mikaelson, has consistently portrayed himself as a heartless, selfish villain who has endured over a thousand years of tumultuous relationships; thus, the fact that he never extinguished his humanity is both impressive and concerning. When vampires intentionally turn off their humanity, it’s often because they’re suffering or avoiding the pain of a deep emotional hurt for someone they’re just as deeply attached to, as evidenced by Elena turning off her humanity to avoid to mourn the death of Jeremy. The result of turning off their humanity usually left a careless trail of dangerous impulsiveness, senseless bloodshed, and sarcastic jokes. For Klaus, it’s just another day.
Klaus walks the tightrope of pain and love in a way that could come across as emotionally inept or selfishly pragmatic. No one was worse than Klaus in this regard, but he still had a reason for his actions. However, the genesis of his ruthless and amoral behavior is not due to pure malice. Klaus’ estranged relationship with his mother and father left him with attachment wounds and abandonment issues so deeply scarred that he considered himself broken and unlovable. What remained was a silent, desperate longing for love and connection to escape the pain of isolation and loneliness her parents had left her.
Klaus from Vampire Diaries was already the worst version of himself
Klaus’ ideal family grew out of his bond and promise with Elijah and Rebekah. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his family trio or to keep their love and connection, even if he had to stab them. While on the one hand, he did these things to keep his family together. On the other hand, he also did it so as not to collapse. Despite how poorly Klaus was treated in The Vampire Diaries, his humanity remained in check in part because he believed in the “always and forever” promise of his siblings. But the most disturbing reason why Klaus never turned off his humanity is because he believed he was indeed a monster.
Thus, turning off his humanity would be pointless. His reign terror couldn’t get any worse if he was already the worst version of himself. Klaus’ possessive attachment to Elijah and Rebekah often led to threats, even murderous acts, against those who dared to come between him and his siblings. This reinforced his negative view of himself, as he was unaware that he often denied Elijah and Rebekah a chance at love and happiness outside of their circle.
Like Damon being a villain at times, Klaus understood a truth that may have helped keep his humanity intact after many losses and betrayals from those dear to him. He says: “As you may not have realized yet, Cami, the line between what hurts us and what sustains us is much thinner than we imagine. That line, for Klaus, was family. His plots and schemes to control them were to selfishly hold them together. It was a love worth fighting for and dying for. This meant that Klaus had to be in full control of himself. To that end, turning off his humanity would have been like painting without painting.
Klaus’ vicious humanity provided him with the means to ruthlessly slaughter his enemies and slaughter his family if necessary, all in an effort to fulfill the Originals’ family vow. Therefore, Klaus, if not for his humanity, if nothing else, would have hardened his heart to become impartial to his family; thus, he risked destroying the love and connection he desperately needed from the only people he believed could truly care for him. It was probably an unfathomable future that would be too painful for Klaus to bear. So he stopped at nothing to keep his family together, even if it meant being a freak.
The Vampire Diaries’ Klaus Love Interests Gave Him a Sense of Humanity
Although his childhood trauma may have primed him to fight life’s unjust cruelty and emotional turmoil with his own ferocity, Klaus’ hyperfocus on protecting his family was only briefly evaded by the few moments of romantic love. His most notable love interests were Caroline Forbes of The Vampire Diaries and Camille O’Connell of The Originals. Much like why Rebekah was always up to Klaus, these two headstrong women challenged Klaus in a way that had him confronting his actions, his past, and his demons. They saw who he was and finally weren’t scared because they also understood why.
Klaus found himself caring for them in a way that motivated him to act in their best interest without expecting a quid pro quo. Unfortunately, such rare mercy or benevolence out of love was seen by Klaus as a sign of weakness or an opportunity for his enemies to hurt him by hurting them. Romance therefore amounted to a distraction. Yet he hoped to be truly seen and understood, cared for by someone who didn’t feel obligated to do so by pact, blood, or controversial Vampire Diaries father bond. Caroline and Camille gave Klaus not only that opportunity, but also the opportunity to be more than a monster.
Why The Originals’ Camille Was Klaus’s Greatest Love
Being a monster is part of what made Klaus consider himself unlovable. For someone to love him romantically would either mean he was as broken as he himself believed, or he wasn’t as evil as he seemed. The latter was a well-kept secret that Camille was able to penetrate. After telling her about her life, Camille understood the trauma and pain that gave birth to Klaus, the monster, and his haunting demons. Then, Camille did the one thing her parents could never do. She saw the monster and still liked it.
What happened to Klaus’ humanity after living a millennium in darkness led him to believe that his demons would destroy everything he held dear. So he walked away from romance. He chose to bear being unlovable alone rather than risk hurting a lover. Camille could see Klaus’ struggle with his demons, fighting the fire of darkness with the same fury that had earned him his bad reputation, was a battle with himself never to be hurt again like Esther and Mikael had done to him. There was no strength, no power, no peace in love, only a thousand years of ineffable pain and unbearable loneliness.
As one of the most powerful vampires in the Originals, Klaus’ humanity was the one thing in life he had absolute control over. Better yet, it couldn’t hurt or abandon him. That’s why he liked to paint. Every shot was an exercise in control. Turning off his humanity would have been an admission that he had no power or control over himself, another reminder of the weakness Mikael taunted him for. Also, his deep desire to be loved would have been unobtainable had he turned off his humanity. Camille realized, however, that Klaus was afraid to let himself find love because love is unruly. Therefore, entrusting his heart to someone else was an impossible challenge.
In doing so, he was able to see the light within, telling Camille in Klaus’ most touching scene, “Don’t think for a moment that you let me down.” You have remained in my hand, you have quenched my rage, you have inspired me with kindness, and unlike all the souls I have met and forgotten in the long march of time, I will take you with me. Klaus felt powerful as a monster, but Camille helped him find the strength and power of love he never thought possible. Her love and her death taught Klaus of The Vampire Diaries to fight for hope, that spark of light worth laying down his life for those he loved.
Why The Vampire Diaries’ Klaus Never Turned His Humanity Off | Pretty Reel