Saturday, February 18, 2017

Grimm "Blind Love" Review

“Blind Love” arrived at the right time for me. I feel mired in the daily doldrums of the American politics between websites, social media, and podcasts. The other show I write about on the blog, The Vampire Diaries, only has time for its ‘serious’ exploration of morality and hell. It took bringing back one of the show's most purely evil characters last night to return levity and humor to the show. Conversations with friends, family, and wellwishers invariably dovetail into the subject of our terrible president, our terrible congress, and the general overarching pessimism and cynicism of the present. Sometimes, a dude needs an escapist episode of TV with silliness and a sense of humor. Much of the humor in general right now is tinged with darkness. Grimm gave me what I needed.

The A story has been done before in TV and movies. A spell takes possession of the characters that causes them to act out of character until the spell is broken and all returns to normal. These stories are easy, fun, and light affairs. I find it easy to feel entertained by them. I really liked the reversal of the ‘kidnapped child’ trope in TV procedurals, though. Grossante, the lieutenant who killed for Renard back when Renard was 100% evil (now he’s at 45%), kidnapped Diana to force Renard into giving him what he wanted and was promised: Captain of the Precinct. Renard didn’t bother with the demands. Instead, he let his powerful daughter handle it, and she did. She beat her kidnapper senselessly throughout the day.

Nick, Rosalee, Eve, Hank, Wu, Adalind, and Kelly spent the weekend at a hotel for Monroe’s birthday. The son of one of the men Nick arrested years ago worked at the hotel and gave them a love spell. Their mad-love passion for each other would’ve eventually killed them all if not Rosalee not drinking the wine because of her pregnancy. It was a fun, slight story made near-legendary by Russell Hornsby’s turn as a Hank in love with himself. I could’ve done without the in-media-res opening, (That device is tired out in network TV) but that’s my only gripe. The birthday dinner scene also briefly transformed “Blind Love” into a throwback flashback episode with Nick recalling the time him and Monroe met in the “Pilot”, the time when Rosalee saved Monroe, and the time when they first kissed. It was a nice easy breezy nod to the show’s past as it begins its countdown to the last episode on March 31.

I didn’t like the gates of hell opening in Nick’s bathroom mirror as Juliette looked into it. I’m all helled out. Will any genre show resist using hell as a final season Big Bad? Diana showing Renard the symbols of death will likely increase Renard’s evilness to 50% if not more. (I presume the writers returned him to his default state of morally ambiguous). I’m grateful that the writers gave us a fun, silly, inconsequential episode before hell comes for Nick, Eve, and the gang in Portland.

Other Thoughts:

-The epigraph quoted Shakespeare’s A Midsummers Night’s Dream. Wu quoted several lines from Shakespeare. His knowledge of the Bard isn’t limited to Shakespeare’s aforementioned wonderful comedy. He quoted Hamlet as he prepared to jump from the cliff. Monroe, too, quoted Shakespeare’s aforementioned wonderful fairy tale comedy. He could’ve thrown in Sonnet 33 as well in wooing Juliette.

-“Blind Love” was not without awkward dialogue and awkward character interaction, which is one of this show’s marvelous peculiarities. Diana, out of nowhere, told Juliette, the person responsible for beheading Kelly, how much she liked Kelly. I’m sure Diana will never learn about what happened there. Also, Diana told Juliette that she’s sad because she, Juliette, is not Nick’s anymore. Well, that’s because of the whole beheading thing.

-Sean Calder wrote the episode. Aaron Lipstadt directed it.

The Vampire Diaries "The Lies Will Catch Up to You" Review

Ever since Kai cast his sleeping beauty spell on Elena, The Vampire Diaries’ writers made redemption a key aspect of the final two seasons. Can Damon and Stefan atone for and redeem themselves after over a century of murders and evil acts? Their afterlife looks bleak because of the deal they struck with Cade. The souls of the Salvatore brothers belong to Cade. Stefan and Damon said in “The Lies Will Catch Up To You” to Cade and Kai respectively that they hope they can use their time now to make up for their evil. Is that possible? It’s the show’s question to its audience; not my question to myself and my imaginary readers.

There are varying levels of being good and bad, of atonement and redemption, in this fictional world. There’s Kai who owns that he’s not a good person after half-heartedly pursuing an escape route from hell during the episode but who ultimately decides to continue being the bad boy by disappearing with Elena after he desiccates Damon. There’s Dorian, the intern, whose father and sister were murdered by Stefan during his bloody road trip with Klaus seasons ago, who thinks killing Stefan will be the justice he seeks (only it isn’t). Then, there’s the Stefan and Damon. Stefan can’t change the past; he can only make up for it with his remaining days.  He essentially pulled an Angel in his hospital recovery bed when he told Caroline that he needed to leave Mystic Falls alone and atone for his past, or if not Angel, he’s Jules at the end of Pulp Fiction, recognizing that he is the tyranny of evil men but now trying real hard to be a shepherd. And Damon wants to be good for Elena.

Sometimes, maybe at all times, people who’ve hurt others in their past can only forgive themselves, because it is impossible to return to the past and change it, and resolve never to do those hurtful things, whatever those are, again. “Be the change you want to be in the world,” to use Gandhi’s words. But TVD’s so consistently wishy-washy with morality and its gray characters. These characters personify the inequities of the selfish that Jules quotes from Ezekial. They’ve been driven by self-preservation of their supernatural pack. Humans have always been collateral damage. When Alaric scolds Damon for dragging Bonnie into his bad plan with Kai, Alaric becomes a hypocrite. Damon’s tactics helped him and everyone along their way. It’s not a moral stance when it doesn’t work for you anymore, as Jake Tapper said on Thursday after a presidential press conference. The last two seasons of redemptive introspection has been a bit of a chore to watch.

“The Lies Will Catch Up To You” wasn’t a great episode. Chris Wood in his full episode return as Kai was great, though Kai and Damon mostly meandered around town until he, again, made it harder for Damon to achieve happiness with Elena.  The Dorian/Stefan storyline repeated Stefan’s story from “I Went to the Woods” last season. Caroline and Matt spent their part of the episode undermining the whole ‘moral redemption’ theme of the last two seasons as they systematically re-wipe the memories of all the citizens who’ve lost someone because of Stefan. Bonnie and Cade served to enlighten us about the private dimension Bonnie created in her grief, and the uncontrollable twin siphoning seems like a setup for the Cade endgame that could happen as early as next week if we’re lucky.

TVD still hasn’t hit indulged in that sweet, sweet nostalgia in its final episodes, but there’s still three episodes to go. Who else is ready to stop hearing about bells, sirens, and hell?

Other Thoughts:

-The CW aired a short preview teaser for the March 10th finale in the middle of the episode that showed Elena and Stefan in what looked like the halls of Mystic Falls High. This teaser made moot Kai’s autonomy as a villain. For anyone who didn’t already know, now they know Elena will wake up. We don’t know how, of course. Perhaps Bonnie dies and Elena wakes, but that’s not bloody likely.

-I laughed hard at the scene with the twins at Caroline’s.

-In 2 days, Stefan was impaled and shot. He's not good at being human.

-Kai was tremendous. Everything Chris Wood did was gold: that scene when Damon called Bonnie and Kai said, “Let her know I said ‘hi’’; the physical comedy of him leaving the back of Damon’s car; the detail about Kai tweeting again that Alaric gave.

-Tony Solomons directed the episode. Neil Reynolds wrote it.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Grimm "Breakfast in Bed" Review

Jim Cornette spoke about the Seven Year Rule. The Seven Year Rule earned a spot on the TV Tropes website, so it’s not a secret unwritten rule. Cornette said that after seven years re-using gimmicks and storylines would be okay because of fanbase turnover. You can call it a fanbase or an ever-changing demographic, whatever it is it supports the re-use of stories throughout the years and decades. For someone, it’ll be new to them, while for nerdy nerds it’ll be a reminder of an earlier, better story,

“Breakfast in Bed”, an episode about a wesen that feeds off a person’s sleep in a hotel and by doing that drives the guests insane, was a pale imitation of ANGEL’s nearly twenty year old classic episode—“Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?”—about a demon that fed off people’s fears for sixty years. “Breakfast in Bed” isn’t a terrible episode; it is, at most, an average episode of the series, but it highlighted the show’s fatal flaw, which is substance. Grimm has no substance. It is what it is. The writers don’t pay attention to their self-created mythos and history, and their stand-alone episodes like “Breakfast in Bed” don’t aspire to more than show off a nasty new wesen and build to a stupid punchline. That’s fine. It’s what Grimm is.

Let me compare the substance-free “Breakfast in Bed” with the TV classic “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?” We learned that the Alpe was a selfish capitalist who took advantage of the poor and the homeless. Her clumsiness kills her. Nick and Hank move on. The entirely pointless and superfluous Mr. Lync character exults in the Alpe’s death. ANGEL’s “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?” reveals that a demon who feeds off fear haunts the hotel after the guests and Judy, the woman Angel had protected, hung him from the ceiling. Their fear and paranoia drove them to it. Their decision turns Angel against them. He tells the demon to take them all before he leaves the hotel. Angel returned to the hotel years later looking for new headquarters for Angel Investigations. Him and his team expel the demon. Afterwards, Angel finds Judy in her room. She’s older, near death, full of guilt for what she did to him, but he forgives her. “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?” is about what fear and paranoia does to people, how it drives them to hurt and kill people, and, ultimately, it is about absolution and forgiveness whereas “Breakfast in Bed” isn’t anything close to that.

One of the things that prevented “Breakfast in Bed” or any of Grimms previous one-offs from meaning much is the passivity of Nick and Hank in investigations. The murder investigation acts as a distraction from solving the riddle of the cloth symbols. Grimm, only rarely, used a stand-alone episode investigation to explore more deeply what makes up Nick and Hank. Tim Minear’s Angel script explored so much about Angel at a specific point in his long life. Grimm’s writers tacked on Monroe’s personal history with an Alpe and his Aunt Ada halfway through. If I never watched ANGEL, I wouldn’t critique “Breakfast in Bed” so hard, but I did, and the difference between each episode highlights how much better Grimm could be if the writers tried—because, as I often repeat, David Greenwalt ran ANGEL when they made “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?”

Meanwhile, Rosalee’s access to programs that easily solve ancient riddles and unearth obscure wesen is remarkable. Rosalee, Juliette, and Monroe researched the symbols throughout the episode and traced them to ancient civilizations, languages, and constellations, which interested me. Rosalee and Juliette learned that the symbols point to a future date, March 24th, but the history of the stick and from where its power stems remains unsolved for the group.

Finally, Renard’s inevitable redemption continued when he rejected Black Claw. Ghost Meisner, who did not hijack a living body last week, tipped Renard off about the Black Claw agents waiting in the parking garage to kill him. Why did Meisner help him? Renard chose the right side. The gang will likely need him for March 24.

This was the Alpe’s episode, though, and I can’t decry it too much when it finally gave the world murderous Alan Matthews, can I?

Other Thoughts:

-Did I hear right in the NBC teaser for next episode? Is it a New Year’s Eve episode? Is it Grimm’s take on the Buffy’s beloved “Tabula Rasa” and ANGEL’s beloved “Spin The Bottle”? I understand why Grimm made a New Year’s Eve episode. NBC executives informed production late that they pushed the show to mid-season. If the show premiered in late October, the seventh episode would have aired prior to the Christmas hiatus.

-Juliette’s so sad that she isn’t with Nick. Did you see that look when Rosalee mentioned that her last wish for Monroe came true? She’s in a pathetic space that I don’t think anyone cares that the writers will end the series with Nick and Juliette reunited. It’s not like anyone cares about Nick and Adalind together either.

-Kyle McVey wrote the episode. Julie Herlocker directed.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Vampire Diaries "What Are You?" Review

Death, destruction, and redemption were the three major pieces in this mostly transitional episode of The Vampire Diaries. A final season needs one of these episodes, one last piece of filler, before the important episode begins. The middle of the episode, beginning and ending with the Maxwell flashback fun, was unnecessary filler. Deductive reasoning could’ve avoided the prolonged flashback and the return of two of the show’s worst characters: Sybil and Seline. Why would the devil ask for a Maxwell journal in exchange for Stefan’s life? Alaric, Dorian, nor Matt deduce that the journal, when used with the Maxwell codebreaker, could reveal how to kill Cade.  Damon, of course, knows, and Matt, despite knowing that Damon’s now on the side of redemption and good, doesn’t seem to think Damon might already know what he, Matt, almost died for.

Redemption as a theme is also common genre shows about the supernatural in a final season. Angel learned about the Shanshu prophecy in the season one finale. That prophecy gave him hope that he could become human after he redeemed himself from all the evil he committed as Angelus. Stefan, TVD’s Angel, wants to know can he be redeemed after all that he’s done. I doubt that TVD will reach the same conclusion as ANGEL did thirteen years ago.

Where can Stefan begin rectifying all that he has destroyed? The police arrest him and show him 32 of the bodies he dropped in two weeks. Stefan saved the woman I thought he spared last week, which Caroline emphasized was a start. but he can’t imagine what he’ll say when he faces Bonnie after killing Enzo. Someone knocks him out with a taser and carries him off before he faces Bonnie, but he’s trying. That’s half the battle.

Damon asked Cade about anyone ever earning his or her way out of hell. Cade didn’t want to give him false hope, but he’s a Big Bad. Never listen to a Big Bad. Presumably, killing the devil and abolishing hell will free the Salvatore brothers’ respective souls. Damon’s never been as beset by remorse and epic guilt as his brother. His redemption tour is less of a tour and more of a one-off. He prioritized Stefan’s life over the ultimate goal of killing Cade from an outsider’s perspective, but Damon always has a plan—even when he did whatever he could to save Elena while screwing everyone else over he always had an out.

The writers will always give their characters a pass, and “What Are You?” was no different but it was their last ‘x character has regained humanity’ episode. It repeated the familiar beats of all the other episodes. Character x feels terrible, but they must Go On. TVD’s characters get one episode to feel remorseful and then it’s over. Will Bonnie forgive Stefan? She will, of course. Kai’s return supports my argument that the writers will always give their characters pass. Their best, most unapologetic villain returned at the end of the episode to help Alaric and Damon kill the devil. Julie Plec can’t help herself, can she?

Bonnie and Matt, meanwhile, the two characters that have eaten the most shit during the series nearly die. Bonnie opened a door to darkness, according to her mother, and Matt died briefly of a heart attack during his unnecessary hypnotic. They’ve lost the people most important to them in their life. How will the world repay them?

At least this episode is past. It had its moments, but I’m least interested in the season eight related mythos. I want good endgame episodes. Characters from the past have started coming back. Alaric returned from his exile. The returning Kai, of course, interrupted Damon’s attempt to make things right with his best pal. Bonnie’s mother returned from wherever the hell she went and found her at the house she bought after “Gods And Monsters” which no one knew existed except for Bonnie and a select few. More characters will return, too. Anyone agree with me that ol’ muscles Jeremy Gilbert took Stefan? I

It’s time to indulge fully in sweet nostalgia. Season 8, on its own, without the end so near, would be absolutely insufferable. It’s about as bad as last season’s dreck, but, oh, the sweet nostalgia will, somehow, redeem the end of this show. I hope. Please.

Other Thoughts:

-The preview for next week’s episode hooked me more than the entirety of “What Are You?” Man, Kai was great. Welcome back, Chris Woods. I don’t care how convoluted the reason for his return is, because he was a major part of TVD’s last good season.

-Four episodes left! Four reviews left! I patiently await my invite to the TVD finale party next month.

-Chad Fiveash & Justin Stoteraux wrote the episode. It is their last credited episode in the series. Chad Fiveash is a great name. I had to look up the spelling for Justin’s name each time they wrote an episode. Darren Genet, one half of TVD’s DPs, directed his last episode of the series.

About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot. I write regular posts about Grimm & The Vampire Diaries.