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Friday, October 24, 2014

Grimm "Thanks for the Memories" Review

Memories, interpretations, intuitions, instinct—these things Nick has. No longer does he have the sight, the grimmness, or whatever you prefer, but that doesn’t hinder him in the premiere. Instead, his challenge is domestic, and his only ally is trust. Trust that Trubel will nail the story for the Feds during her interview about what happened at the house when Weston shot Renard and she later beheaded him. Trust that his relationship with Juliette won’t break because of the unexpected Adalind element. “Thanks for the Memories”—the title—comes from the villain’s part of the episode, which is very small, incremental way to set up next week’s more concentrated episode that doesn’t need to resolve last season’s finale. The title refers to the villain’s ability to steal the memories of others, but it also acts as a tongue-in-cheek ironical thing because memories, the mind, basically fail the characters at important moments.

Grimm’s episode structure is still a throwback to an different time in television before four acts changed to five and then five to six and then six to seven. Seven acts in a 41 minute episode of television seemed unheard of as much as 5-6 years. Only few shows played with seven acts. LOST stood out, for many reasons, but one of those reasons was the new, hip five act structure Lindelof and Cuse used. Writers want to pack in two acts worth of plot, character, and action within a 5-7 minute act; the goal is to write toward the act-out. So in any procedural in broadcast television the audience will see bursts of plot, character, and action, sustained and building, building, until the act out. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf do not follow the new formula. Grimm’s definitely not paced like The Vampire Diaries or Sleepy Hollow where things happen fast, hard, and everything’s immediate. TVD’s urgency bubbles during quieter scenes because of the sound design. Some rock-pop sentimental tune pushes and forces the moment. Not Grimm, though. Greenwalt and Kouf broke into television almost two decades ago in the bygone days of four acts. Two of Greenwalt’s previous shows, Buffy and ANGEL, could move, but the pacing and storytelling didn’t depend on ensuring the audience would stick around despite yet another commercial break. Grimm’s formula, its ambling pacing, the embrace of very slow rising action, seems most similar to Cris Carter’s X-Files, which never sacrificed mood, tone, pacing for the advertisers, and which would let Mulder and Scully listen to a victim of sexual abuse tell her story for five minutes. “Thanks for the Memories” doesn’t ‘move’ until the last two acts, which is when Nick and Hank learn about the memories monster.

“Thanks for the Memories” doesn’t have a long powerful scene such as the one in The X-Files’ “Die Hand Die Verletzt.” Greenwalt and Kouf need to hit definite and diverse beats in each condensed act, but they don’t rush resolution and action. Besides Trubel’s role in Weston’s murder, nothing resolves. Action rises, but it doesn’t fall. Renard continues to die, and does, but that story has mysterious intrigue in the form of the mysterious blonde lady who seems to change Renard’s vitals by her presence. Juliette won’t allow Adalind to further ruin her relationship with Nick though the relationship’s off and she’s off and Nick’s off. Juliette dislikes knowing Nick couldn’t tell between her real self and someone playacting her. His memory of her and all that means failed. Nick’s senses were supernaturally sharp. His sight was sharp-he saw through faces; he saw the essence of things: what existed beyond the face, under the face, in the face, in the soul. But he missed it with Juliette.

Much of the episode concerns the Renard’s shooting, of the local police and Federal agents deciding that Trubel acted in selfdefense through her story that Nick and Hank help prepare for her. For all of their precautions, new and old characters learn more about Nick through skimming his grimm books. Wu paged through the book and almost heard the truth from Hank about nightmares. The new federal agent, a wesen, suspects something about Trubel and Nick. Grimm continues to expand the world of the show. More people know what Nick and Trubel are. The FBI suspects Weston worked with another organization, which potentially brings together one organization working within its own specific system with another organization, a royal ancient one, working within its own specific system, and finally with Nick, Trubel, Monroe, Rosalle, and etc. Grimm, of course, moves at a specific sloth-like pace. The FBI may investigate for two seasons and not find anything. The attention Nick receives in season premieres and season finales inevitably dwindles as the show returns to the standalone case-of-the-week format.

The aforementioned villain of the episode moves along without notice, murders a woman, tries to leave his situation but returns to it after his boss refuses to let him stop before the ‘work’ is done. The police bring him in. He leaves. Trubel sees he’s a nasty kind of monster. Nick and Hank accidentally told him where his only living victim heals and will need to pursue before he kills the problem. “Thanks for the Memories” is ¾ a continuation of the season finale, and ¼ the extended teaser for episode two. Monroe and Rosalee show love and support for their friends. New, interesting characters do mysterious and/or intriguing things. The Austrian Royals storyline continues to exist. Yes, that’s all.

Other Thoughts:

-The wardrobe department dresses Silas Weir Mitchell in the coolest vests and sweaters. Monroe and Rosalee opt against going away for their honeymoon because of their friends’ situation. I would’ve liked to have seen Monroe and Rosalee assuaging family members about the grimm that served as best man to the groom. Deleted scenes maybe?

-Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt wrote the episode. Norberto Barba directed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Black Hole Sun" Review

Why save or mourn or care about the very worst, morally deprived characters in The Vampire Diaries? That question likely had space on the writers’ room white board. The writers probably discuss the question, ponder it, dwell upon it, and so forth, for stretches during any and all seasons. “Black Hole Sun” is littered with reminders that these characters maimed and killed, drink themselves into oblivion, and loathe themselves more than anyone else loathes them. Damon’s always been the problem character in the series. We exist in a culture where audiences treat characters like people and thus the character’s morality matters more than anything else in the story. Damon cannot be an unrepentant monster; but rather he must repent and suffer for what he’s done. The writers have a trick or two to maintain the essence of the character without obviously retconning him (though they’ve retconned the retconned that retconned the retcon) or making him overtly remorseful.

“Black Hole Sun” flashes back to May 1994. Damon returned from his worldwide romp to reunite with his brother. Stefan returned to Mystic Falls determined to create a new life, a more normal life, which parallels Stefan’s goal twenty years later, on the outskirts of Mystic Falls. Damon ruins Stefan’s happiness in 1994. He slaughters a family along with a pregnant woman. His Uncle Zack will die fifteen years later because of Damon’s remorse and regret. Stefan explains to Damon why Damon acts out, which also acts as an explanation for the audience: Damon doesn’t want Stefan to find happiness and contentment. The twist to their complicated fraternal relationship is that Stefan, free of Damon in 2014, cannot enjoy a happy, contented life without Damon. He cannot live without his brother, for good or ill. Elena, for the same reasons, can’t live without him. Stefan explains it in a way that’ll relate to the rebel spirit of impressionable teenagers and the ‘dark’ parts that write bad poetry: Damon helped Elena find comfort in the darkness-the only part that felt alive-and when he died, that part died. So, yeah, Damon’s a monster; however, he’s a noble monster. Save him.

Stefan and Elena spent the episode traveling together. Stefan wanted to prove he could live a happy, normal life. He can’t. He fails. The aforementioned happiness and contement of his breaks apart when a bar patron breaks his face. Elena witnesses Stefan’s habit of letting others beat the hell out of him. Stefan’s retort hits a number of significant beats that lingered from past seasons as well as from the first three episodes. Elena uses compulsion to forget, so why can’t he do what he needs to get by without Damon? As always, the brothers’ love story trumps the romantic love story. Stefan’s grief is a more adult kind while Elena’s is more adolescent. Alaric offers to restore her memories, but she declines. Her diary, which Alaric showed her, allows her to continue to exist without devolving into a chaotic murderous vampire. Perhaps there’s a deeper idea there about memory and the written word. Memory deteriorates, fades, mixes, confuses events, people, where and when, who was there; however, the written word, the most faded ink (as an old proverb or fable goes) is stronger than the strongest memory. Elena will not meet Damon’s inevitable return with confusion, hatred, and the like. Also a nice touch: the diary. It is The Vampire Diaries.

Damon essentially cops to feelings of regret and remorse through his admittance for why he killed his uncle Zack. Kai, the latest villain and plot device, asks for a story. Kai functions as an antagonist-to Damon, to Bonnie. He’s a villain for murdering his siblings, and for wanting to murder the rest of his coven/family. He’s a potential mass murderous problem whenever the trio leave his hell. Kai’s a frustrating character. Part of that’s designed and part of that isn’t. TVD follows the same formula season-after-season. Season 6 is no different; however, the flashback episode that reveals various inciting incidents’ for various characters happened in episode four. Kai, like previous villains, belabors everything for the sake of exposition for the sake of characterization. Damon’s story matters more than the specific plots, which is fine. Plots don’t make a story. Kai’s motivations come together laboriously: he murdered his brothers and his sisters, and he’s a powerful witch banished to hell by his coven. He wanted Bonnie and Damon to do the hard work for him. Bonnie won’t. He helps her regain her magic and the concentration necessary for magic and only after all that does he threaten to kill them both. He never will. He’s either a bad guy who the fans will like, which is all of the bad guys except for Markos, and will hang out with the gang come season 7, or he’s a bad guy the fans will like who will die but then occasionally return (like Kol). Kai’s as lively and charismatic as the originals.

The framing of “Black Hole Sun” is Kai’s-he suggests Damon tell of his horrible action the day of May 10, 1994. The 90s pastiche of previous episodes disappeared. Damon holds up a newspaper showing the news of Kurt Cobain’s death. Damon, we learn, makes pancakes everyday because the lady he killed loved pancakes. Okay, then. The brotherly conflict deepens. Damon explains why he killed Stefan’s favorite people. His reasons seem more sociopathic than anything, but Stefan nods and decides not to take a road trip with him. His decision not to take a road trip with Damon happens before Damon slaughters an entire family and goes all Dawson on Stefan in the Salvatore living room.

I think part of Kai’s deal involves unearthing truths. Any non-supernatural character digs and digs for truth. Human memories for Mystic Falls civilians are foggy and confused. Entering Mystic Falls removes magical compulsion, reveals truth, and reveals that those who people though monstrous were not monstrous but only manipulated by monsters. It’s like they open a book and there it is: the world within a word, or, rather, words within created worlds. Tripp found the vampire that killed his wife, Enzo. Sarah remembered Elena. Jeremy helped clear up, for her, the identity of her father. Tripp and Sarah will together, with Jeremy and Matt mixed in as foils and spies, as conflicted humans who’ll eventually succumb to the orders of their supernatural bully friends. Maybe that’s what season 6 will dwell upon: the idea of unearthing, of seeing what’s there when something’s not, of trying and failing to fill a hollow.

Other Thoughts:

-Jodi Lyn O’Keefe returns and sasses Alaric for looking at bloodied patient instead of her. Alaric, when not screwing up his chances with the cute doctor, helps Jeremy deal with sadness.

-No Caroline or Tyler. Damon and Sheriff Forbes met in 1994, but he compelled her to forget him. I assume she remembers their meeting now

-Kellie Cyrus directed it. Melinda Hsu Taylor  & Neil Reynolds wrote the episode.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Welcome to Paradise" Review

I think one’s idea paradise would include a lot of unhealthy food. Any significant scene involving Bonnie and Damon involved food prior to the introduction of Kai. The first scene of “Welcome to Paradise” involved Bonnie and Damon strolling a deserted grocery story aisle picking and choosing food. Bonnie made a list for Damon to follow. Why? Why the damn food? Bonnie uses Damon’s evolution as a pancakes cook as an example during her explanation for why she’ll become adept at using magic. The pork rinds serve as a clue. The shelves do not magically re-stock. Bonnie assumes someone else resides in 1994 Other Side Mystic Falls because the pork rinds stock dwindled, day by day. Bonnie correctly guesses that someone stalks around, eating pork rinds and dropping quarters into a little merry-go-round. The merry-go-round represents the Twilight zone loop of their day—it’s a microcosm of their predicament. Kai could’ve gone about introducing himself differently, less murderously and more anything besides that. Also, there is no paradise.

What of Kai? Well, he’s CW good-looking, and tries to murder Damon. Bonnie regained her use of magic during her rescue of him, which Kai revealed was not merely part of the plan but the entire plan. Again, he could’ve handled the situation better. He has more information about where and why of the situation but chooses to explain it vaguely to the inquiring duo who all in present Mystic Falls want to see again, and who would feel transported to a paradise should Damon and Bonnie return from the Great Beyond. Kai’s not forthright. Mystery, indeed, enhances character, tone, setting, story, but only when used wisely. The mystery of who follows Humbert and Lolita tantalizes the reader because it tantalizes Humbert. Bonnie figured out what Kai reveals to the sound of a thunderous floor tom roll: magic is the key to their escape from loop land.

Elena, meanwhile, enjoys a Damon-less paradise. Damon, in a scene, tells Bonnie he’ll tell Elena how much he loves her when he returns to her. The memory of the car crash returns him to the immediacy of that moment. Elena, though, moves freely on in her life. She plans a party by the lake; she flirts and, later, kisses her classmate, another CW male model. She attempts to return everyone to normalcy-to give others the bliss Alaric gave her, but she fails. People still feel sad about what happened four months ago. Stefan lies to her about why he returned, and she doesn’t realize what a mess Caroline is until Stefan walks away from her. Elena can’t force others to feel a certain way; the girl can’t even compel the girl she attacked to forget because magic doesn’t work in Mystic Falls.

The writers allow for one, maybe two, of these stories for Elena per season. Elena needs to cut loose focus on being a boring college student, which means she barely studies and instead parties. One of her bonding attempts fails because only one of three (Caroline) volunteers to take a jell-o shot. That’s basically all she does is try to cut loose and then pouts when no one cuts loose with her. Carefree Elena has no direction. Sooner than later the writers will decide, “Okay, Elena’s heartbroken and she’ll learn how to cope and deal without wiping her memory, turning off her humanity, or anything else that pushes the problem aside.” Elena’s only great scene happens with Caroline after Stefan departs, having chosen to continue without her and everyone else. Elena figures out Caroline has feelings for her ex-soulmate. Caroline nods. So, Caroline’s obvious feelings from last season lingered and surfaced here in goody four zero three.

Stefan’s pursuit of Enzo seems more distracted than purposeful. Stefan’s motivated to avenge Ivy’s death. Enzo avoids an attack because of Matt’s vampire hunter friend. Stefan doesn’t care about the vampire hunter and disappears. He breaks Caroline’s heart before returning to shoot Enzo with wooden stakes and handing him over to the newest temporary bad guy in Mystic Falls. Enzo, unfortunately, returns to temporary torture and an execution he’ll inevitably escape. Stefan’s path parallels Elena’s unfortunate singular episode arc. Elena desires fun; Stefan desires Enzo’s death. The most effective/affective scene of the episode is the aforementioned Caroline/Stefan/Elena scene. Things happen. Character motivations shift and change. No character has any purpose in this episode, besides Damon and Bonnie. Jeremy wants ice in his drink and only then realizes compulsion fails on those returning to Mystic Falls, which begins the gang’s furious pursuit of the girl and the next new ‘shoot-to-kill’ mission. Purpose at episode’s end.

Soon The Vampire Diaries will blow through chunks of plot that leave less time for good characterization. Of course, Stefan’s better when not in cold pursuit of revenge, and Elena’s not blissfully ignorant of what matters to her. This episode annoys me because the writers didn’t want to create anything meaningful for their characters. Elena’s didn’t work the way she wanted it to, and the episode did not work as the writers may’ve wanted it to. Who knows, though. Not me.

Other Thoughts:

-Paul Wesley’s the only actor doing anything dramatically interesting.

-I kept a close eye on the aisles of food. The Power Aid bottles looked modern. TVD’s producing director should’ve shot in 4:3 standard def for the 1994 scene.

-Brian Young directed the episode. I missed the name of the director.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Yellow Ledbetter" Review

I read, or rather glanced at, something regarding The Vampire Diaries’ sixth season and the writers’ plans not to pack in as many plot twists. The Vampire Diaries’ writers have not put in jawdropping plot twists for over two seasons. Instead, the writers’ seem to aim for a less chaotic and less frantic style of storytelling. The A story involves Elena trying to remember the point at which she loved Damon so that Alaric can wipe it from her memory and make Damon nothing more than a monstrous memory. The B story’s central piece is the impromptu dinner with Caroline and Enzo at Stefan’s house, where he planned to cook only for Ivy. And Jeremy continued to drink and frolic. One might describe the first two episodes of season six as ‘grounded.’ I wouldn’t. The Vampire Diaries is The Vampire Diaries.

The title comes from Bonnie’s mysterious #27 crossword puzzle answer, which comes from a Pearl Jam B-side—“Yellow Ledbetter.” A website theorized that Damon and Bonnie were transported to the 1990s. Indeed, Damon and Bonnie were transported to the 1990s. May 10, 1994. They’re in an empty Mystic Falls, eating breakfast each day for all three meals. Pancakes seem to dominate the house menu with cereal mixed in for dinner and dessert. Damon and Bonnie repeat the same day for months. Why? I’m sure it’s a mystery like the mystery of the crossword puzzle. There’s a significance to the May 10, 1994 date. Near the end Bonnie and Damon agree that a third person resides in the house. The third person finishes crossword puzzles; the third person probably buys the 90s cds; the third person may’ve even supplied the nauseous amounts of pancake mix boxes. Who is the third person? Does “Yellow Ledbetter” provide a clue? Vedder said the song was patriotic, written for friend who died during the Gulf War. But why the 90s? I wondered, did Julie Plec and Caroline Dries choose the mid-90s so that Damon would dance to TLC, and Bonnie would come home like a bonafide 90s girls? The setting for their temporary hellscape seems inspired by nostalgia rather than story. The setting should serve story, and the story should serve the setting. Bonnie finds the book she learned magic from, and Damon found his favorite whiskey. Damon mentions existentialist despair, which should bring to mind Sarte’s play “No Exit” about four people, all dead, stuck in a room together. “Hell is other people.”

Damon and Bonnie aren’t stuck in a hellscape, though. Hellscapes don’t have whipped cream pancakes and sweet 90s grunge/alt-rock. No one besides Caroline, Alaric, and Enzo, think they’re anywhere. Stefan and Elena, the champions of everyone, gave up. Stefan contented himself with a simple domestic existence; and Elena wants to enjoy typical college life portrayed in TV: classes the student immediately forgets, and PARTIES. The Elena/Alaric scenes accomplish nothing until she’s honest about when she first loved Damon. The previous scenes re-imagine Elena’s longing for Damon. Later, though, she refuse to admit she’d love someone else while she loved Stefan. The audience learns nothing from the flashbacks. Elena first loved Damon during Stefan’s ripper summer with Klaus. The night of her birthday party Damon gave her the hope necklace, and she felt all a-flutter for him. Alaric erases it from her memory. Elena moves on. The best scene of the story involved Caroline as the audience proxy. Damon will return. Elena won’t like or love him. Elena thinks Alaric will return her memories, but it won’t happen that way. Caroline should’ve added that last part.

There’s a divide between the girls. Post-Damon memory Elena gleefully plans a night out while Caroline cries in a car. Stefan made it clear he intended to move on from all he left in Mystic Falls. The best scene of the episode happened at Stefan’s house when Caroline made it clear that Stefan never gave up. His one consistent character trait that didn’t involve his devotion to Elena and fraternal love for Damon was that he did not give up. He worked and he tried to find what was lost. I think Caroline cried because Stefan hurt her feelings but also because he gave up. Giving up is bleak. Enzo stands up for Caroline by murdering Ivy, which will act as a catalyst for Stefan. He’ll want to kill Enzo and wind up back with the gang he tried to move away from. His pursuit will inevitably lead him to assisting the magical transport of his brother and Bonnie from the 1990s into the present day where a new menace drives a van full of vampires into Mystic Falls for the sake of burning them into oblivion. Another potential endgame for the series: every character goes to different parts of the world to never see each other again. Everyone’s worse when together.

“Yellow Ledbetter” is more of an extension of “I’ll Remember” than its own stand-alone story. I love second episodes of a new season more than premieres. Season premieres have a pilot structure and formula. Writers structure second episodes more familiarly, less broad, way less as a ‘please consider watching this show if you haven’t yet-you didn’t need to see the previous x amount of seasons.’ It didn’t deepen the audience’s understanding of the characters. It underlined what hurt the characters most. I think a LOST-style episode about only Bonnie and Damon would’ve been a nifty departure from the norm. Maybe not, though.

Other Thoughts:

-I thought maybe Julie Plec planned to do a Charlie Kaufman homage with Elena’s story, but no. I’m convinced she wrote the story only for the melodramatic sad songs that the youths hear on the YouTube and the Pandora and the Spotify.

-Steven R. McQueen struggles when asked to portray despondent drunken slovenliness and abhorrer of purpose. Prediction for his lady friend: Bonnie’s long lost sister and key to magic’s return to Mystic Falls.

-Ivy’s breakfast for Stefan looked delicious. The breakfast scenes this season have been top notch. Of particular attraction: the orange juice.

-Julie Plec wrote the episode. Pascal Verschooris directed.

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