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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Resident Evil" Review

Something’s not right in and beyond Mystic Falls. The Other Side is greyscaled. Forces beyond one’s comprehension pulls supernatural folk who’ve been in The Other Side into a black void—even an original vampire is afraid of what’s happening on the other side. Grams tells Bonnie that something happened when the dead travelers touched her, affecting the other side in ways no one understands. In Mystic Falls, visions of domestic bliss and contentment overwhelm Stefan and Elena. Marcos is responsible for the overpowering force of the black void on the other side, as well as the visions of happiness for the doppelgangers. The vampires, witches, hybrid, human, and former vampire hunter, try to find out what’s wrong and why, and what the Travelers want.

Damon and Enzo meet Marcos at a house (the address given away in one of Elena’s visions of Stefan’s—their twin vision) and ask him why he came back and what he wants to which Marcos responds that the answer is long and difficult. Goody. Marcos is another Big Bad introduced last in the season who will likely stick around for next season. The reason The Travelers make up most of the town’s population and hold the advantage over the others is because they’ll stay around for quite awhile. The explanation of the aforementioned visions includes 1500 years of history. Marcos cast a spell 1500 years ago for the doppelgangers to find each other and made the reason true love because people are driven by the hope for true love, which may be as cursed and illusory an idea as finding peace on the other side. Marcos ends the spell responsible for the visions after meeting with Damon—right when Stefan and Elena were happily married and proud parents of two children, one a biter.

Elena and Stefan conversed about true love and what their love for each other means, which was juxtaposed with the Damon of it all in “Resident Evil.” Damon sulked and complained about his lot with Elena. Damon wants what he can’t have which is an Elena free of all Stefan, and when it happens he rejects it. Stefan and Elena conclude that they have a connection beyond magic spells, that they made happen what happened between them. The visions shared by the former couple are idyllic, like scenes out of the third act of a Frank Capra movie. The vision world they experience includes all human beings, living family members, a perfectly ordinary existence that doesn’t buckle when there’s an address from the real world or an instance of someone biting someone else. The alternate world of theirs is a way to convey a philosophy about love: its unrealness, its illusion, its narcissistic pull that deludes a person into thinking his or her coupling is the centerpiece of the fates, preordained from the time the cosmos was an infant, spitting out galaxies and stars, expanding infinitely. That’s not the way it is. The spell breaks for a reason between people.

Damon’s freaked about the spell, about the infinite union between the doppelgangers, and mistrusts Elena when she tells him she’s his; of less concern is the Travelers’ situation. Once again the final act of a TVD episode includes a scene of rejection for Damon and Elena—this time Damon rejects her friendship. Elena stand still, struck by his words. Damon’s experience of his brother’s and his ex-girlfriend’s visions is the best part of the episode. Ian Somerhalder’s groans, eye rolls, and delivery of certain lines, specifically when he needs to know more about the specifics, were funnier than any scene in the last five years of How I Met Your Mother.

Relationship insecurity motives the characters more than the Travelers’ nonsense. For example, Bonnie’s concerns about someone crossing over from the other side, in addition to concerns about the entire other side sucking everyone there into a void, fall away upon seeing Liv at Jeremy’s. Jeremy won’t tell her why Liv’s involved in his life, because talking about the Travelers will alert the Travelers about something nonsensical—that the witches are on to them. Steven R. McQueen acts shady , like Jeremy has cheated on Bonnie with Liv. Perhaps in a way he has because Liv is the new witch in town, and Bonnie can’t do magic. Another character motived by LOVE is Enzo. He explains why he wants to meet Maggie again. Lingering, unfulfilled feelings on The CW is crack rock for its teenage viewers. No doubt many young girls clutch their heart during Enzo’s heartfelt lines regarding his Maggie and then make fan videos.

The Travelers remain an elusive bunch that has hijacked the majority of Mystic Falls, including Tyler’s body. Matt’s set to figure out the other side after seeing his sister go the way of Katherine (which, of course, means Katherine should return in season six).  All the other characters feel about someone else not liking them. Besides Somerhalder’s comedy, the highlight of the episode was the visual style of the visions and the other side. It expanded a world that, narratively and visually, is quite often claustrophobic. Paul Wesley’s an impressive director.

Other Thoughts:

-Ah. It seems I misspelled Markos in the review. I’ll correct that next week.

-Caroline Dries & Bryan Young wrote the episode. Paul Wesley directed it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arrow "The Man Under The Hood" Review

The best scene of the episode happens in the medical cell at the Starling City Penitentiary, where Quentin’s healing from an assault by one of the many criminals he and the Arrow put behind bars. Quentin’s in jail because he helped the Arrow and wouldn’t give the police information about him. Laurel visits her father, bothered and upset by Slade’s truth bomb in the last episode about Oliver’s after-work activity. Quentin’s freedom depends on him offering any useful information about the man under the hood. Laurel approaches her father with the information that’ll free him from the cell, free him from danger, and restore his name. Laurel reminds him that a year ago he thought of him as a killer that the city needed off the streets. Quentin acknowledges he wanted to know the Arrow’s identity and would have given over his livelihood for the information. The passage of time sometimes makes one wiser, more clear-headed about what before was a blur. Quentin doesn’t want to take the Arrow off the street, for a myriad of reasons including the thought of his sacrifice and what the man under the hood takes to bed with him every night. The symbology of the Arrow means more than whoever fights under the hood.

Laurel listens to her father with tears coming to her eyes because she had spent the better part of the episode piecing together Oliver’s time-line with the Arrow’s. Slade told her the truth for the sake of distraction. Hurting Oliver through the people he loved was phase one of the plan. Before her father told her why the Arrow mattered she thought about betrayal and couldn’t look at her sister for her additional duplicitousness. She saw the scars on her sister’s break and then remembered the scars on Oliver’s chest. The doctor told her about Sara’s deep scar tissue when she went to visit her sister after that unexpected fight with Slade. Pieces once scattered in a cardboard box waiting to fit into a patterned picture began to move about her mind in an epiphanic dance, and those scars symbolized survival to her. Oliver and Sara were scarred fighting to survive on the island and beyond until their respective returns to Starling City. So, Laurel decides not to use what she knows to hurt Oliver any more than he’s been hurt.

Slade’s layered plan to destroy Oliver continues to terrific success. By episode’s end Oliver sits alone, defeated, near tears, until Laurel hugs him. In between the start of the episode, when he and his team blow up the applied science division building of Queen Consolidated, and the end of the episode, when Oliver’s accomplished little but taking a vial of mirakura with which to develop a cure, he endures fits and starts. Important conversations are interrupted by convenient-yet-inconvenient phone calls. His attempt to repair the news that broke Thea fails because he needs to stop Slade from injecting dangerous convicts with the mirakura. Slade surprises him twice. Oliver never gains confidence against his opponent. Blowing up the applied sciences building means he needs to beat Slade to the next top science company’s campus, which he doesn’t. The flashback showed Ivo revealing a way to stop Slade that involved another dangerous mission on board the freighter that didn’t work five years ago but may work in the present. Oliver loses another fight to Slade. He’s in that bleak stage before the inevitable triumph.

Quentin’s perception of Oliver is one Oliver cannot see because one rarely realizes what’s looking back at him or her through the looking glass. Oliver acknowledges that everything happening is his fault. Slade/Deathstroke is as much a symbol as Oliver—that’s the point of a nemesis. A nemesis is the other side of a coin, dirtier and uglier, the side one groans when losing a coin toss. Slade’s not a unique character in comics or genre television. The symbol of power corrupting good that the hero sees and vows to defeat so that he or she can save whatever good is left after corrosion. Slade’s power dwarfs Oliver’s. Oliver will find in the love and support of others the strength to defeat Slade. Okay, that’s an overly sentimental idea, but the soapy Arrow writers probably tossed that idea around. When Felicity, Caitlin, and Cisco, develop the cure to stop Slsde Wilson, the personal relationship between Slade and Oliver will matter more when he’s—Slade---ultimately stopped.

Slade’s goal in “The Man Under The Hood” is to halt attempts to stop him, and so the episode halting. Thea halts efforts by her brother and mother to reconcile, to avoid losing all the money Robert earned. Quentin halts his own freedom (before Laurel sets him free using politics). Arrow’s rarely overtly soapy, but “The Man Under The Hood’ lathered the audience in soap. Among the lower lights of the episode was Thea’s horror when telling her brother that she almost kissed her half-brother and that her biological mother and father are mass murderers (and responsible for Robert’s death—which Thea and Oliver may not know yet). Oliver had to choose between stopping Slade’s super convicts and Ray’s life. The aforementioned conversation between Quentin and Laurel elevated the story above the soap-opera tropes, as well as the lovely memory Oliver shares with Isabel that explained why Robert, whose mistress was Isabel, didn’t run away with her (another soap opera element that is unnecessary).

Other Thoughts:

-The Arrow fight scenes continue to amaze. Bravo.

-Isabel was shot dead by Diggle, but Slade resurrected her. Summer Glau can kick more ass than she has.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Game of Thrones "The Lion and The Rose"

Who will the audience hate now? The king is dead. There are many characters to hate and loathe but none will repel and disgust an audience quite the way Joffrey Baratheon did in his short time as prince and the king of the realm. Jack Gleason played the part with malevolence brilliance, gleeful barbarity and brutality, and a joy barely any other character feels in Westeros. He was the worst. He chopped off Ned Stark’s head; he reminded Sansa constantly of her father’s grisly demise during their engagement period; he tortured whores for sport; his brave and macho public persona fell apart during the Battle of Blackwater Bay when he ran off from the battlefield, and the writing reminded us of the monster when he gleefully cheered the use of severed heads as weapons launched from catapults. The idea that Joffrey won—only Joffrey—when the Freys and the Boltons betrayed the Starks at the Red Wedding was the very worst. Lo and behold another wedding happens not much longer after the Red Wedding—this time a purple wedding—where Joffrey celebrates more power, more invulnerability, and where he reminds everyone in Westeros what kind of sadistic and raving mad king will rule over them for years or decades. Joffrey uses dwarfs to reenact the war of the five kings. Joffrey offends the Dornish, the Tyrells, the Starks, horrifies his grandfather, digs his claws into the still open wound of Brienne’s, and ferociously eats pigeon pie while downing rich wine from the south, insulting Tyrion all the while, and then dies, dies, dies—but not until he points the finger at his uncle.

Game-changing twists no longer change the game in the game of throne because Robb’s death, Catelyn’s death, the deaths of Renly and Robert, Ned Stark, and etc., are part of the game of thrones. Power plays resulting from power struggles motivate characters to make these kinds of moves. What matters more than what happens and how it happens in any story is why it happens. Robb died because he insulted the Freys. Robert died because of drink and a scornful wife. Renly died because of Stannis’ absolute claim to the throne, which Renly would not give up to his brother. Catelyn died because she was Ned Stark’s wife and because power does not transfer if the king dies without his mother dying too. Joffrey dies because he pissed off his uncle. Maybe Tyrion didn’t do it. Pointing the finger at a character usually absolves that character of the crime. So, after you pour your celebratory drinks and make your ‘Joffrey-is-dead!’ babies, ponder why the king died in that brutally painful way—choking, bleeding from the eyes and from the nose, and on his wedding day. There are many characters that want him dead, but most have not the power. The Starks are scattered, distracted, and Sansa can barely look at any Lannister before Ser Dontos pulls her away from the king’s death with the words ‘Come with me if you want to live.” Any wise consumer of art—whether that consumers watches a story or reads a story—should, with a microscope, pay close attentions to the details. In TV and film, the watcher should observe the quick, sudden shots of characters, particular lines of dialogue, conversations held in previous seasons, and then follow those links, until one hits upon what one missed in that initial experience of the work of art. All of which is to say the mystery of who killed Joffrey Baratheon is a jolly good one.

“The Lion and the Rose” continues the stories from last season with the fourth season now a ¾ of the way through the adaptation of A Storm of Swords. The final 20-25 minutes of the episode takes place at the royal wedding. Cersei remembers her royal venom when she makes a move against the new queen. Prince Oberon introduces himself to Cersei and Tywin with more venom, delicious venom. That introduction scene showed the tremendous character of Oberon much better than last week’s whorehouse scene that preceded his meeting with Tyrion Lannister. Oberon, in two minutes, insulted the family, their rule, the kingdom, and praised the more southern kingdoms in Westeros where the rape and murder of children aren’t ignored. Jaime threatens Loras. Loras endures the threat and then takes a shot of his own by reminding Jaime of what and whom he’ll never have. Throughout the wedding feast are reminders of what little changed with the war’s end. Brienne and Margaery bond over Renly. Oberon’s present to avenge atrocities committed by the Lannisters. Joffrey’s death underlines the line of difference between stability and instability. Reckless brutes don’t recognize the line.

Northward, Roose Bolton learns of what his bastard did to Theon Greyjoy, a very valuable hostage now rendered worthless. Ramsey, a brute but a less reckless one, lets his father know about the trick Theon played while sacking Winterfell. Roose sets men off to find Bran and Rickon, promising land and money to the men who capture either of the boys. The first scene of the episode follows Ramsey and a nameless female ridding themselves of a girl who’s play they tired of. Bran touched a tree that sent a series of vague images through his brain, confounding to the audience but understood by him. His journey with the Reeds and Hodor continues northward.

At Dragonstone, Stannis and Melisandre, along with Selyse, burned Selyse’s brother, making him an offering to the Lord of Light. Stannis continues to desire his rightful place in King’s Landing. Davos continues to look disturbed by each action taken by his king and the red priestess. Shireen’s the main piece of the little time spent at Dragonstone. Shireen is among maybe five innocent characters in the story. She tells Melisandre that she didn’t understand why her uncle had to die. Melisandre tells her of the Lord of Light, the falsity of the Septons, the Seven heavens and the Seven hells, and the truth that the only hell is present existence and only heaven the eternal embrace of R’hllor’s flames. Melisandre’s connection with her involves touching the greyscale on Shireen’s cheek. Greyscale keeps Shireen in Dragonstone’s darkness, making Melisandre’s powerful gesture an extension of her faith.

Westeros isn’t a total hell, though. The king is dead.

Other Thoughts:

-Game of Thrones re-cast Tommen. Tommen’s one of my favorite characters in the series.

-No Littlefinger yet, but Varys pushed Tyrion to cruelly force Shae from King’s Landing. Of course, Littlefinger’s a ways away from the capital.

-George R.R. Martin wrote the episode. Alex Graves directed it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Grimm "The Law of Sacrifice" Review

David Greenwalt ran ANGEL during season three’s baby Connor arc. The baby Connor arc hit a tragic end after a string of episodes that focused on adorable baby Connor. Angel worked extra cases to provide for him. Cordelia and Angel snuggled with him, creating an idyllic family tableau. Lorne babysat with him and performed a puppet show for him with characters from the Rat-Pack. Indeed, it was an adorable stretch of episodes in an otherwise terribly sad arc. Grimm, also co-run and co-created by David Greenwalt (with Jim Kouf), had limited options with a baby character: have it kidnapped or have it saved from the dangerous life she was born into. “The Law of Sacrifice” combined two ANGEL episodes: “Provider” and “Sleep Tight.” “The Law of Sacrifice” lacks the crippling sadness of “Sleep Tight,” but it hits a rather striking note near the end.

“The Law of Sacrifice” continues last week’s adventures with Nick meeting Renard and Adalind in the hotel room. Two Verrat men die before the trio leave the hotel for the refuge of Monroe’s home. The major conflict between Nick and his boss and his boss’ lady is the fate of the child. Viktor flies from Vienna to Portland in pursuit of the baby. An FBI agent is in the employ of the Verrat, allowing Viktor to access places he can’t physically access, to gather information he otherwise could not because of geography. The addition of the FBI agent serves to make Prince Viktor more threatening, though Denisof’s performance helps the character more menacing than the addition of C. Thomas Howell does. The goal for every character is the baby: the baby’s protection or possession of the baby or the baby’s safety, which means taking her far from her parents.

The singular goal shared by the characters unites them in action. Adalind’s shuffled to Monroe’s house where she receives the nurturing comfort of Rosalee. Nick and Hank concoct a plan with Renard. Renard deals with Viktor. Viktor makes menacing threats to Renard. Kelly wanders around in the shadows of Portland. She neutralizes the FBI agent problem. She sneaks through backdoors. Of all the characters in Grimm, even more than Adalind, she has a soothing effect on the baby. In one scene the baby cries and cries, and Adalind cannot calm her down. The baby’s cries unleash her powers. Monroe’s clocks swing wildly around in circles. Kelly walks into the room. The baby looks over. The clocks stop. She settles.

The goal of the writers is to separate Adalind from the baby long enough for the other characters to execute the plan to whisk the baby away to safety, thus sparing everyone’s lives from the wrath of Prince Viktor. Renard initially wants to keep the baby in his and Adalind’s care, but realizes he cannot after a conversation with Prince Viktor. The plan involves using Nick’s mother’s murder to distract Adalind while Renard takes Diana away. The scene before Adalind leaves her baby is reminiscent of Angel’s last scene with baby Connor before Wesley takes him and hands him over to Holtz—for the baby’s protection. Adalind’s goodbye to her baby is touched with the trope of the ‘name the baby right before the character realizes he/she won’t see the baby again’ Claire Coffee’s excellent after Adalind learns she’s been tricked by Renard, Kelly, and Nick. She frantically runs outside the police station, looks around for signs of the baby—now in the hands of Viktor—and then woges and wails like an animal in the wild that’s lost its baby. Her wailing cry breaks the windows of every parked car on the street.

Meanwhile, the gang took the baby from Viktor’s hands moments before Viktor and his men boarded a private jet bound for Vienna. Once the baby is safe, Nick reminds Renard that the best thing for the baby is letting go of her for a number of years. Renard does. Baby Dianna leaves Portland with Kelly, while the others will wait for Adalind to unleash total hell and carnage on those who deceived her and took her precious baby girl from her, her baby girl she carried and protected through Vienna, from the city to the forests on the outskirts. Grimm needs Adalin as the villain, though—she’s visceral and threatening when scorned and betrayed (except for that extremely slow storyline involving her and Eric last season and early this season).

“The Law of Sacrifice” definitely concludes the baby storyline with finality. It shows off the best qualities of characters: compassion, mercy, grace, comfort, etc., even with all of them reduced for the sake of removing the baby from the narrative. Adalind’s still not in control of her life, but this arc humanized the character and makes whatever she does next more sensible.

Other Thoughts:

-Michael Duggan wrote the script. Terrence O’Hara directed.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Game of Thrones "Two Swords" Review

The war is over. The king is set for a long and prosperous reign. The Lannisters have established absolute power throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Men wearing the King’s color feel they can act however they want, leaving a trail of bodies on the way to taverns and inns. Tywin splits Ned Stark’s great beastly sword into two. The war is never over, though. The Hound and Arya travel in the riverlands and see beyond miles of burning land, burnt by King’s men, those men led by The Mountain. Jon Snow prepares the Night’s Watch council for Wildlings’ assault on The Wall, risking penalty-by-death for breaking their oaths while gathering the information. A handsome prince from the south dressed in the blazing colors of the sun plans to avenge his sister who was brutally abused by the Lannisters’, by The Mountain and ordered by Tywin Lannister. East, across Slavers’ Bay, Dany and her army continues their march towards Meereen . All is turmoil and chaos throughout Westeros. The triumph in King’s Landing creates the illusion of stability throughout the lands, but a war does not end for years after its official end, when lives are restored and towns and villages reformed.

“Two Swords” continues the Storm of Swords story left off at a little more than halfway through last season. Robb and Catelyn Stark have not been dead for more than a week. Joffrey’s preparing for his wedding day with the lovely Margeary Tyrell. Tyrion’s recently married to the saddest girl in King’s Landing. And so on. Characters are scattered throughout the Seven Kingdoms and throughout themselves, broken like the sword Tywin breaks in the teaser. Incredibly shocking plot turns will happen throughout the fourth season that’ll cause people to scream in their living rooms and take to social media to express dismay, shock, and outrage. And so, with almost half of an insane book left to adapt, Weiss and Benioff use “Two Swords” to turn inward on the characters before more delicately constructed house of cards crumble and tumble.

Arya and The Hound close the episode in a rousing, suspenseful, almost ten minute scene, in a tavern north of King’s Landing,  that repurposes Arya’s up-to-now scattered and less-than-purposeful arc. Arya spots Polliver from the bushes, the violent chap who stuck a knife through Lommy’s jaw in early season two and who took her Needle, and decides she wants it back. Arya’s nightly prayer was of vengeful remembrance. Each night she spoke the names of those she wanted dead. Jaqen helped her until he went away, leaving her only a coin but leaving her alone, which is a problem being a girl and a child in a world that violently abuses both. Polliver tries to sell two chickens for Arya because he wants to break her in. Polliver ends up dead. Arya uses her Needle to stick it through his jaw after reminding him of who she is and what he did to her friend. In one scene Arya assumes some active power and control and someday may not be beholden to powerful men, men who killed her family, men who forced her to become whatever it is she may become.

Prince Oberon’s a little like Arya Stark in the important ways: he bears a grudge against the Lannisters. His arrival in King’s Landing is a surprise and an insult, in a way, because he is a second son, but he’s a warrior. Oberon’s not subtle about his intentions. King’s Landing is where Maester Aemon learned to pick out the truth from infinite grains of lies. There are spiders and birdies through King’s Landing. Oberon stabs a Lannister in the wrist while at a whore house. Oberon bluntly tells Tyrion his plans to take revenge on behalf of his sister on Tywin. He’s a lively and colorful prince, as lively and colorful as a afternoon in the Dornish kingdom but capable of exuding the bitter cold north of The Wall. Oberon adds to Tyrion’s many problems. Tyrion’s besieged by a wife who hates him, who grieves for a dead brother and dead mother killed by her in-laws, an angry lover in Shae, and he fails to welcome Oberon with any diplomacy nor any of the Dornish camp, who pass his welcoming with not much more than a slight twitch of the mouth. Tyrion’s between many things: his wife and Shae, his loyalty to his family and his hatred for his king, his king and his diplomatic responsibility.

Jaime Lannister tries to figure out a new place in his hand-less life. Cersei rejects what he is without a hand. Joffrey insults his lack of accomplishments. Jaime peers into the Kingsguard book when Joffrey makes him aware of the triumphs of those before him and the blank pages that follows his entry. Jaime replies, “There’s still time.” The scene makes it unclear that Commanders of the Kingsguard write their history. The pages of the book are in Jaime’s hand if he chooses wisely and justly. Jaime’s moved beyond his family’s cruelty. He looks at Joffrey with scorn and resentment. He tries to break his oath to help the Stark daughters, but Brienne won’t let him duck away from his responsibility. Plus, Jaime’s become more of the man who’d help children rather than throw one out of a window. Jaime can create influence and effect change for the good, like his son who can create influence and effect change through brutal violence and horribly abusive governance.

At the core—the root—of the series is change, the push and the quest for change. Dany, during her heroic revolutionary trek across Essos, finds dead bodies of children on her way to Meereen, brutal signs of warning to Dany to stay away and to stop freeing slaves. Dany does not flinch nor cry. The march continues. Many more dies if she stops. Many more suffer if she stops. Her march represents one of many signs of massive change desired throughout Westeros. Stronger signs of change are the small moments, subtle and lodged in the details, the kind where Ser Dontos gives Sansa his last treasured possession to help her feel better, the kind the audience members cries over or clutches his or her heart to keep it from bursting out of the ribcage during catalytic events. The characters are like that sword split in two during the teaser of ‘Two Swords,” broken in half, reforged through molten lava that fuses and cauterize, both as strong as the single solid weapon existed before the breakage. This is the song of ice and fire, a title that conjures in the mind irreconcilable binaries but also a image of union, change, cohesion, and fusion. “Two Swords” is another chapter in the bleak tale of misery where the meek fall to the mighty, where injustice and brutal violence win one a throne; but within the details, in the smallest exchange, the faintest expressions (like Arya’s smile as she rides astride a horse), the solemn sights, is the pervading idea that humans—these characters—are even stronger than the strongest Valyrian steel.

About The Foot

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Originally, the blog was titled "Jacob's Foot" after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. Since that ended, and I wanted to continue writing about TV, it became TV with The Foot. I write about various television shows. Follow me on Twitter @JacobsFoot. E-mail me at