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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Grimm "A Reptile Dysfunction" Review

Grimm’s sweet spot is maintaining balance between the procedural and the serial. “A Reptile Dysfunction” is an example of that balance. It furthered the Black Claws intrigue, and it told a one-off monster story that let the characters have a bit of fun. Serialization tends to become intense the deeper the season gets. The narrative focuses acutely on the serial/mythology. At that point the season loses its fun. Grimm’s far off from the intense batch of episodes to come. The writers can parse out plot information while introducing fun cases such as the Diamond Lake Monster.

Perhaps “fun” should be swapped with “light.” It’s not quite a light story. The Diamond Lake Monster story is bloody: two dead bodies, attempted fratricide, followed by two more dead bodies. Genre fans know what this humble blogger means by light. Nick and Hank don’t bother with trying to tie the murders to someone because they can’t arrest a wesen that killed when woged. Instead they wait, I guess, for fate to work it out for them.

The brothers running the Diamond Lake store hired a wesen whose name I cannot remember—the aforementioned Diamond Lake Monster—to swim in the water. They need to drum up business. The plan fails because the monster decided to kill the man shooting at him. The victim and his girlfriend thought a sea creature wanted to kill him. Business boomed after the death. The brothers charged $15 for souvenirs. Their wesen friend demanded more money after he killed a second time. Wayne and Oliver possessed differing moral philosophies. Wayne reasoned the bodies were worth the business after their father struggled and toiled to make it work. Wayne did not like earning blood money. Trubel got involved. She made a deal with the brothers to kill the Diamond Lake Monster. Wayne then betrayed his brother by making a separate deal with Lou (is it Lou?) to kill Oliver. Wayne’s plan went awry. Nick and Hank burst in, for it was a sting operation. (Actually, it becomes an unintended sting operation thanks to Wayne’s idiocy).

Trubel snapped Lou’s neck. Wayne ran when he saw Nick was a grimm. Police officers in police boats shot Wayne as he swam away in the lake. The next morning, Nick and Hank explained what happened to the county sheriff. The Sheriff wondered why someone with a snapped neck was found in the lake. Nick replied, “Maybe the Diamond Lake Monster does exist!” Hank told Nick that people would believe a monster did it far more easily than what happened. Nick followed with a disparaging remark about “reality.”

“A Reptile Dysfunction” started with fallout from the assassination event at the end of the last episode. Nick covered up what happened with a rote story about gangs and murders. Meisner revealed more about the federal government operation to stop Black Claw by showing him the base, taking him to his mother’s grave, and giving Nick an opportunity to familiarize himself with Eve more. Eve reminded Nick that she’s not Juliette. Later, she wondered why Meisner did not give her a different face; however, she commented about regretting that Nick didn’t marry Juliette. Friends and well-wishers, Eve is a covert way to rehabilitate Juliette without overtly copping out of her actions last season.

Black Claws want to take over the world, which connects with the Hitler-as-wesen reveal early in the series. The Hitler reveal was quality nonsense. Grimm continued its bold and nonsense writing with another reveal about the turmoil currently gripping the world, especially throughout the Middle East: it’s not what everyone thinks; it’s wesen rising up to take over the world. I like that Grimm goes for it, however big the story, without compromise. Nick didn’t decide whether he’d work with the government. Rosalee suggested they do it together or don’t do it at all. Obviously, they’re going to work with Meisner and the government to stop Black Claw.

“A Reptile Dysfunction” was spotted with clichéd writing. Meisner left Nick at his mother’s grave. Nick knelt over it, touching the earth where his Mom rested. Meisner walked back to the base. Trubel asked, “Is he okay?” Meisner paused and said, “He will be.” The Diamond Lake story was littered with cliché and tropey plotting, as well. That’s okay, though. It shaped up as a pretty good episode of Grimm.

Other Thoughts:

-Rosalee received a second letter from her past. Monroe suggested finding out what the guy wanted. I’d guess he wants Rosalee. He made it clear he felt they had a relationship in their past. Rosalee doesn’t want to re-visit her past. Of course, she will. She expected him, so did Monroe, in the spice shop, but it was Trubel. Will the guy send a third letter after not receiving a response? Rosalee tore the second letter into pieces. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if Grimm didn’t bother casting anyone and had Rosalee re-live her past only through unwanted letter correspondences? It won’t happen. He mentioned he’ll be in Portland.

-Oregon’s beautiful. I adored the lake scenes. The Pacific Northwest is a place of magic.

-The writers poked fun at the kind of people that visit somewhere pretty and spend all of it taking pictures to show they went to the place instead of experiencing the place.

-Renard slept with a new character, a woman with red hair that coached him through an endorsement for the Portland mayoral candidate. Once again, Renard’s adrift in the narrative. I assume this mayor works for Black Claw.

-Wu returned long enough to hear the latest about Eve and Black Claw. After the exposition, he disappeared from the episode. Wu could’ve provided good quips for the lake monster case.

-The episode title amuses me. It's good nonsense. David Greenwalt wrote and directed Buffy's "Reptile Boy" during season two. 

-Michael Golamco wrote the episde. David Straiton directed.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Things We Lost in the Fire" Review

The post-hell world hurts the brothers more than the hell world. Henry continued to haunt Damon because of his duty to liberate him. Damon continued to haunt Stefan. Stefan, before his friends brought his soul out of the phoenix stone, experienced a watery loop in which he’d save his brother every time, but he didn’t find release until he let him drown. Exploring the true selves of the brothers is old hat for The Vampire Diaries. Every season explores the depths of the brothers, their dark sides, and their light sides. Damon concluded that his light parts may temporarily outshine his darkness, but he’s dark. Stefan concluded that he’d never give up on or abandon his brother. Both don’t find a secondary catharsis in their post-hell epiphanies. Stefan doesn’t know Damon burned Elena’s body, and Damon’s not feeling that nice catharsis after burning the love of his life’s body.

Re-exploring the psychology of the brothers is fine, but their respective psychologies have little surprises left for the viewer. The writers, then, must up the stakes. The longer a show continues, the bigger the stakes become when so much of the thematic ground has been traversed in previous seasons. The Elena burning was nifty, as was the fake Damon reveal. Stefan couldn’t trust Damon alone because of post-hell trauma. Indeed, Damon immediately saw Henry peering down at him from the second floor of the Lockwood residence. Stefan cannot disrupt the new violent community Julian started in Mystic Falls, because the good guys always make regrettable deals with the bad guys. Damon and Stefan toured the new Mystic Falls together while working through their respective hell experiences. Stefan felt less sharing. His experiences come in different flashbacks. His anchor is Caroline. Neither brother helps the other at all. Stefan eventually sees a false Damon. Damon, free from Stefan for a moment, kills Julian’s favorite goon after seeing Henry’s form instead of the goon.

Damon saw Henry in the coffin. Tyler brought Damon to the coffin after being threatened. Elena kept Damon sane. Being with her made Damon a being of light, the closest he’s been to emulating his heroic brother, and so in his moment of need, desperation, and emotional distress, he wanted to see the woman that changed his life. Of course, he saw Henry, the visible reminder of the worst day of his life in which he committed the worst atrocity of his life (soon followed by thousands and thousands of atrocities). Damon tried to destroy Henry in the coffin by doing what Stefan couldn’t do. Stefan had Caroline to keep him balanced. She’s his light. Elena’s Damon’s light, but Kai and his mother put her in the sleeping beauty coma. Elena can’t stop him from burning Henry (which is her). Henry caused the two worst atrocities of Damon’s life. His ghostly soldier reminded Damon that without Elena—or the promise of Elena—he’d be free to be himself.

Aside from the hell is other people concept, hell’s also heavy into solipsism. Caroline emphasized the falsity of the hell world to Stefan. She called it false, fake, and alternate. “Hell is other people” represents one perspective. Another perspective is “hell is a life without other people.” Stefan would be a lesser Stefan without Damon, as Damon would be a lesser Damon without Stefan and Elena. They need each other. Breaking solipsism breaks the loop in hell and post-hell. It’s old thematic ground. Maybe TVD crafted the hell loop within the narrative to create a secondary meta loop for the viewer around the idea of the brother’s true selves.

3/4s of the way through “Things We Lost in the Fire” Nora revealed to Bonnie the cryptic note sent to her by The Huntress, the true big bad of season seven. Evidently, Nora escaped ill feelings after sending the Salvatores’ souls into the stone. TVD episodes need a party. Caroline’s baby shower brought the party. Caroline’s baby shower largely dwelt with her growing attachment to the babies growing inside her and her mixed feelings about detaching from them after their born and in Alaric’s care. Nora showed at the party after Bonnie invited her because she, Bonnie, felt bad that Nora had no friends. Matt didn’t like it owning to the body count created by Nora. Bonnie’s indifferent about Matt’s feelings, which leads to Matt drinking (off-screen), being pulled over by a cute cop, and setting in motion events that’ll lead to him, three years from the present, using Caroline to find Stefan for The Huntress. (One may see Matt turned heel by the slight difference in his hair style; he let the bangs hang). Nora revealed The Huntress wipes out every vampire she wants to. No one can stop her. She’s the wind of their supernatural world. Melinda Hsu Taylor weaved a nifty web of stories present and future, B and C stories.

Caroline and Stefan had a substantial amount of scenes this season. The characters worked better as friends with possible romantic feelings for each other last season. Something’s not working this season for them as a couple. The Valerie of the front nine hurt the dynamic. Perhaps the flash forwards affected it. It’s clear Caroline chooses to move with Alaric and the twins to Southern. Stefan and Valerie rekindle their romance sometime between the present day narrative and three years in the future. I dug the thematic idea of Caroline as his light and Damon as his darkness; however, Elena’s always going to be the light for Stefan in my mind, because I have a memory, and I haven’t yet retconned my memory.

“Things We Lost in the Fire” maintains the solidness of “Hell Is Other People”. I liked tonight’s episode, though ending with the flash-forward continues the speculation about all the great stuff happening then, in three years. Now, it’s Julian and the biker gang? Terrible.

Other Thoughts:

-Yes, Julian found himself a motorcycle gang. The last motorcycle gang I saw in a vampire show was Buffy’s two-part season six premiere. No, it wasn’t good. Season 6 is the nadir of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Julian already lacked any compelling characteristics; he’s a lame-duck Big Bad; and he has a biker gang. A stupid biker gang.

-I should've assumed the twist ending from "Hell Is Other People" would be easily resolved within seconds. Death's so easy to correct in this show.

-Tyler returned for the baby shower. He loves his post-Mystic Falls life. Damon bashed his skull into the ground.

-I would have invited Nora to the baby shower as well.

-Enzo seems to have disappeared from the series. I hope Matt’s first date with the Whitmore cop ends with him taking her to Enzo’s cell. She asked after his weapons collection. Also, Matt mentioned he lost his entire life, including his girlfriend, when he tells Caroline to get the hell out of his sight. Whatever happiness Matt experiences will not last.

-Melinda Hsu Taylor wrote the episode. Paul Wesley directed.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Grimm "Eve of Destruction" Review

Grimm definitely does not ‘work’ all the time. Often, it’s a messy show with inconsistent pacing, strange plot choices, odd structures, and pieces the writers will ignore for months and months--for example, the Wesen council. The Wesen Council seemed like the lite version of The Watcher’s Council in Buffy. Buffy’s Watcher’s Council made her, Buffy, unhappy. They were a stuffy, rigid council more concerned about themselves than the one girl saving the world. The Wesen Council was similarly useless. Rosalee reached out to the council after the Black Claws ambush on the gang. Their response? We’ll get back to you. The council never does, because a member of Black Claws murders the entire group during a meeting about how to contain the threat of Black Claws. The elimination of the council will create a ripple effect through the wesen community. Lucien seemed to clarify that his group wants the world to know about wesen. No wesen council will probably result in chaos, or nothing. One never knows with Grimm. The writers, really, wrote off a part of the show that added nothing. Whatever shallow drama the wesen council added to the show was not dramatically interesting. The wesen council appeared and it was like, “Oh? Britta’s in this…”

Black Claws laid waste to the council. They killed Xavier. Nick and Hank learned the ideology of the group spread into suburban families after asking Billie’s parents questions about her whereabouts. Her parents believe she’s living a courageous life of convictions. Nick, Hank, Monroe, and Rosalee try to make sense of recent developments. They’re all reactive, vulnerable, and unsure. Trubel knows more than they, as does Meisner, and none can believe Juliette came back from the dead as an even more destructive force. For Nick, he needs clarity about Juliette (who and what she is). The woman was responsible for the death of his mother, and the near destruction of the people closest to him. Juliette/Eve is in character rehabilitation mode. Meisner gave her the name Eve to symbolize a new beginning. Instead of biting from the forbidden apple, Juliette/Eve will atone for ever touching, let alone biting and mauling, the forbidden apple.

The appearance of Eve upset Nick’s new domestic order. Adalind worried about the return of Juliette, you know, because of the wanting to murder her thing. Adalind and Nick have adapted to a peaceful domestic situation with Kelly. They meaningfully kissed for the first time (no one acted like the other; no one was forced to do it to save someone else). Adalind apologized for what she did to Nick. After they kissed they thought about the implications of being together. Both decided waiting until the craziness subsided before doing anything. By then, Meisner will likely have brought Diana back to Adalind, and Juliette may be redeemed. This whole storyline—the different parts cohering together eventually--could be a disaster.

Nick’s meeting with Eve had that underwhelming quality specific to Grimm. The writers build to climatic meetings or fights  or revelations, but the scene itself is a dud. Nick/Eve was a dud. Juliette/Eve sits stone-faced, offers a little about her purpose, and then stands to kill one of the leaders of Black Claws. Nick asked about what she did before he thought she died to which Eve met him stone-faced. Eve returned to her cage. She removed her wig. The last shot of the episode was of her eyes to show how precarious the divide is between her two selves.

“Eve of Destruction” established, for the third time this season, the Black Claws threat. The difference this time, I suppose, was becoming aware of how the good guys planned to combat the threat. Black Claws revealing that wesen live among ordinary humans seems the initial agenda of the group. I assume they’ll want to take over the world, too.

Other Thoughts:

-It was a decent return for Grimm. NBC only aired 6 episodes during the fall. Will NBC air an uninterrupted stretch through May?

-Renard and Wu fell off the narrative after the teaser. Renard helped question Xavier. Wu disappeared.

-Thomas Ian Griffith wrote the episode. John Behring directed.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Hell Is Other People" Review

The title of tonight’s Vampire Diaries episode comes from Jean-Paul Sarte’s existential play No Exit, which involves four characters existing in a room together. The last line of the play is, “Hell is other people.” Existentialism’s in again (existentialism AND nihilism). Existentialism’s so cool that people don’t know what it is when ascribing it to writers. One may peruse Reddit’s Book page and find the transcendentalist writers of the 1870s described as existentialist writers. Damon’s plight isn’t an existentialist or an absurd journey. Once he solves the riddle of his personal hell, he’ll return to Mystic Falls, which means he works towards an end. Damon works towards emotional catharsis. When he experienced the catharsis, the emotional drove him into a madness in, presumably, present day Mystic Falls.

Damon would need a puzzling personal hell to make him feel something. Seven seasons of The Vampire Diaries defined Damon as the erratic reactor to life, which Stefan contrasts because he’s the soul and heart, and Damon’s inability to deal with emotions led to incredible amounts of carnage in Mystic Falls. He murdered Jeremy 47 times, and he countlessly threatened everyone in Mystic Falls if something stopped or interfered with what he wanted. Lily took from Damon Elena. Elena changed Damon. She softened him. I wondered how the writers would tell Damon’s personal hell story without Elena. The trick is—and it’s not a trick—was to center his catharsis around his mother. The first act of season seven belonged to their turbulent relationship. She became a vampire after the TB and never visited. Lily never left her abusive husband. She started a new family with the Heretics, and on and on and on. Lily died. Damon declined to tell her he loved her, or anything emotionally substantial. He told, essentially, that she this to herself.

His personal hell was a loop until he solved what he needed to solve. A letter from Stefan sent him during the war served as the inciting incident. Stefan struggled with Valerie’s departure, the death of his mother, and life. Damon thought seeing his brother at home would restore him to present day Mystic Falls. He briefly came back to Mystic Falls each time, if he failed, which was a nifty twist the show once owned every episode. He needed leave from the Confederate army to reach home, which forced him to volunteer to bring deserters back to camp. Each time he went to the house, everyone but him and Henry died. Damon first killed that day. He covered the crime up. Henry and Damon never spoke of it again. The murder represented his first instance of repressing what he felt. His face expressed horror and shock, but he repressed what he felt until he didn’t think of it again. Lily appeared in the basement after the first time it happened to tell him he needed to embrace the pain and the feelings. Over and over and over again he re-lives the day at the house where everyone ends up dead, no matter how differently he changes his approach. Whatever happened, happened.

Of course, his hell’s full of imaginary people, imaginary places—real people and real places transformed into symbols and visions of what goes on inside Damon so that he knows it and so that when he doesn’t know that someone he trusts and loves tells it to him. Damon broke the deserters’ house loop by throwing a grenade at his camp. He wandered the southern countryside, found his house with Lily awaiting him, and then conversed with Stefan about what pain he, Damon, needs to embrace and feel: his pain because of how he left things with their mother as she lay dying. Stefan forced the feelings out of him in the basement of their house as their father beat Lily to death. Lily’s blood poured through the wooden floor onto Damon’s face, which was wonderfully done by director Deborah Chow, and Damon admitted who he wanted right after everything went wrong in the home of the union sympathizers: his mother. He lost her without telling her that he loved her.

The scene shifted to the battlefield where Lily lay dying. Damon told her over again why he hated her: for giving Kai the sleeping beauty coma idea for Elena, for what she didn’t do as a mother and wife, for never coming back; and he told her he loved her. Yes, Damon experienced the moment of emotional catharsis; he returned to Mystic Falls; and he killed Stefan, Matt, Caroline, and Bonnie to get back and finish what he couldn’t in his personal hell. Again, TVD executed a nifty ‘twist’, though I suspect the twist will be that he’s at the next stage of his journey through his personal hell, or that the second act of season seven’s entirely about the brothers’ respective personal hells.

It’s rare that a show can kill off with the main characters without killing them off in an effective way. Buffy did it in “The Wish” and ANGEL did it in “Time Bomb.” I think TVD accomplished it in “Hell Is Other People.” Damon, convinced he screwed up the riddle/puzzle, tried to reset. It didn’t reset, and now everyone he loves is dead. Caroline, in Damon’s personal hell, foreshadowed it by telling Damon they brought him back first because they thought the longer he stayed in his hell the less human he’d be, meaning he’d kill Bonnie to bring Elena back—except this time he kills everyone to bring his mother back.

“Hell is Other People” was a pleasant surprise and a good start to the second act of the season. It was the most imaginative and daring episode of season seven. So much of early season seven was a drag. I think a stretch of episodes that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not would be good. The episode title, as I already mentioned, comes from a Sarte play. The writers should give a tiny nod to Flann O’Brien’s fantastical novel about a murderer being transported to a surreal hell.

Other Thoughts:

-I forgot why Alaric wasn’t in the episode, in any of the planes of existence or non-existence. What a busy life that man leads.

-Matt’s mostly a fictive piece of Damon’s unlife, I think. I don’t anything but the experience is real, whatever real means. Unfortunately, we saw nothing of Matt’s badass vampire fighting army.

-No flash-forwards either. Perhaps, when Damon and Stefan wake up, it’ll have been three years. Stefan will wake first. He’ll find Damon in that coffin. Or not. I guess season seven’s a narrative puzzle like the hell-worlds.

-Tonight marked The Vampire Diaries’ first Friday night airing. Julie Plec told reporters that the show would continue until Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder decide they don’t want to continue. The CW could cancel the series before any of that. Julie Plec does seem not worried about the show ending after this season. Could The Vampire Diaries never end like Supernatural? Will I be 35 and still writing these reviews? Eh, I’ll do it. Let me write, Julie Plec, if you’re reading, the 14th episode of season 9.

-Holly Brix & Neil Reynolds wrote the episode. Deborah Chow directed.

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.