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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.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "I'll Remember" Review

Sadness. So much sadness. The Whitmore college campus is awash in sadness—and polluted with empty bags of blood. Mystic Falls is quiet, empty of supernatural threats, but not without Jeremy Gilbert’s continually more and more impressive pectorals and biceps the size of a small nation. Jeremy, too, is sad. Matt’s sad. Stefan gave up. Caroline refuses to give up. Elena uses psychotropic therapy to hallucinate Damon, and has become the shadowy terror terrorizing the border of Mystic Falls. Alaric hates being a vampire and cannot talk to cute doctors played by a late 90s goddess. Luke and Liv belong but don’t belong. Damon and Bonnie eat cute pancakes every day in a cozy ‘nether world.’

The Vampire Diaries also has a new show runner, Caroline Dries--long time writer and former number two to Julie Plec. “I’ll Remember,” besides an episode of television, a story that unfolds over a number of acts, also seems like a fresh sleight of sorts. Elena narrates to the audience that she needs to pick a major during her sophomore year of college because sophomore year begins the forming of one’s life plan. Elena’s narration packs a lot of exposition within the teaser and the first act. It’s as if Caroline Dries wants to re-root the show, to remind fans that Travelers and an infinite number of doppelgangers doesn’t dominate the show, but it’s not so simple as to put the characters back in Mystic Falls. Magic’s gone. The supernatural friends will die in Mystic Falls. Another Caroline, Ms. Caroline Forbes, feels determined to re-root her friends where they belong. Caroline left college to solve the magic problem. Julie Plec, in a way, left Caroline Dries to plot her way through the magic problem and to find a way to bring Damon and Bonnie back from the dead.

Caroline’s the lone character who hasn’t given up on bringing Damon and Bonnie back from the dead. Every other character gave up. Giving up looks different with different characters. Elena uses ancient psychedelics that transport her to a place where she’s with Damon. Alaric listens to her, near the end of the episode, explain that the best part of life as a vampire is the eternal love she had with Damon, except now she has an eternal hole. Luke’s herbs help her avoid the grueling grieving process. Hallucinated Damon resembles her own other—both benevolent and malevolent. When she tries to say goodbye to him, she can’t. She can’t let go. Damon reminds her that she’ll threaten Luke for the magic hallucinatory juice. Elena uses her hands to cover her ears. When that fails, she destroys her mug and throws the candles off the table.

She reaches out to Stefan during her despairing time. Stefan lives in a remote area, speaks regularly only to Alaric, and works for a weekly paycheck plus commission at a car mechanic place. Alaric thinks he’s tracking leads that’ll help solve the magic problem, but Stefan’s only living an ordinary life: work during the day, the occasional love-making, and a night alone with a six-pack, staring dead-eyed and depressed at his phone. “I gave up,” he tells her after she calls him because she needs hope. Stefan basically breaks Elena’s soul because of those three words. For Elena, Stefan represents stability, hope, light. Stefan carries others through trials and ordeals. Stefan experienced more trials and ordeals. He came back from the dead many times in very specific and particular ways: from the Ripper, from the watery coffin, from Lexi’s death, from the ebbs and flows of his courtship with Elena, from his turbulent fraternal relationship. Stefan never gave up. The loss of his brother, though—it’s among the most poignant Stefan arcs in the series. The loss of a significant other hurts differently from the loss of a sibling. I always thought the true love story of The Vampire Diaries didn’t involve Elena. It’s not all about the girls; it’s all about the brothers.

There’s an ironic touch to the episode title. “I’ll Remember” becomes “I don’t want to remember” by the final act—the penultimate scene actually when Elena asks Alaric to compel her to forget she loved Damon. The decision’s unnecessarily melodramatic and will take too many episodes to reverse, but Elena can’t turn off the switch because that would repeat season four after her vamping. “I’ll Remember” also misleads the viewer. No character chooses to remember. The Mystic Falls gang are burdened by their memories. Their past is nightmare which they cannot awake from or escape. Instead, they find substances. Tyler works out like an asshole. Jeremy drinks all day, sleeps around with random girls, and plays video games. He wanders the Mystic Falls forest and gazes sadly at a photo of those he loved who he cannot see because of the magic-less Mystic Falls. Matt tries to rouse him. Matt rouses himself by training to do some good, but good intentions lead to bad things for Matt. His boss already tries to track the trail of a vampire threat on the town borders.

There’s also a lot of lines referring to grief and moving on, and about how these characters know how to grieve and have done it before and will do it again. But this time they don’t want to, and they don’t want to feel. They want to be numb. And they look numb. They act numb. They’re separate not by an invisible barrier but by their emotional barriers. Remembering doesn’t carry anything besides sadness, depression, and a constant reminder that they’re gone. That’s the thing. Damon wonders what he is because he’s been dead for over 200 years. He thinks and then gets it: he’s gone. Poof.

So is everyone else.

Other Thoughts:

-Welcome to another season of TVD reviews in The Foot. Other websites dropped TVD coverage, but my goody blog has not. I will continue to write about this melodramatic teen soap even though I near 30. Ugh.

-Liv and Luke benefitted from a summer of off-screen rehabilitation. Liv and Luke were abrasive for much of their scenes last season. Now, Liv’s doomed to be a potential romantic partner of Tyler. Tyler can’t control his anger. It’s like season 1. Luke works better cast as reluctant drug dealer, loyal and sympathetic friend.

-About the final scene? I don’t know where they are, and they don’t know where they are. I liked the LOST-style ending, though. The penultimate scene had tense emotion and a potentially heartbreaking choice by Elena. The ultimate scene had different music. Damon made smiley face pancakes. I dug it. I want an entire episode of Damon and Bonnie playing house in a cabin in the woods. Damon even wears flannel.

-Steven R. McQueen’s muscle mass continues to grow.

-Jodi Lyn O’Keefe plays a doctor, a mentor to Elena, and a potential love interest of Alaric. Ms. O’Keefe, of course, made boys swoon in the late 90s and early 2000s. She had a role in Halloween H2O. She played Matthew Lilliard’s reality star character’s girlfriend in She’s All That. She played mostly mean, popular girls. In Whatever It Takes, her character only likes a guy who’s mean to her. She’s a great comedic actress, though. The best parts of Whatever It Takes involve her, especially their date at her house. She shines throughout the late stages of act II and throughout all of Act III. I hope she’s promoted to a regular character, and that her and Matt Davis have all their scenes together. That’s some early 2000s magic.

-Caroline Dries wrote the episode. Jeffrey Hunt directed.

Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: the Returning Shows on NBC

I’ve reached the end of yet another Fall TV preview. It was, by far, the least successful in the blog’s history. I am on my way, friends and well-wishers. NBC has Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, which is about all that’s positive for the network.

THE BLACKLIST returns Monday, September 22 at 10PM

Season 2 either begins in Berlin or introduces a new villain named Berlin. Perhaps the new villain named Berlin comes from Berlin and disrupts a planned vacation for the main characters to Berlin. There’s a new antagonist to introduce. NBC wants fans to wonder “Is Red Liz’s father?” Fans speculated about that exact possibility months ago, in the weeks after the premiere. Yes, Red is Liz’s father.

CHICAGO FIRE returns Tuesday, September 23 at 10PM

Death to the main characters! Across the networks shows will kill off a main character. Ratings suck for every network except for CBS. The Simpsons taught folks that struggling shows or networks will add a flashy new character or kill off an existing character for the sake of more eyeballs. A major character will die this season on Chicago Fire.

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT returns Wednesday, September 24 at 9PM

Warren Leight, executive producer, said Olivia Benson would make choices that’d affect her life. I assume that means Mariska Hargitay will leave the show mid-season. Another character will work the traffic beat in Queens. There’s nothing of note about Ice T’s character. The remaining Dick Wolf shows may cross over this season and beyond.

CHICAGO PD returns Wednesday, September 24 at 10PM

There’s a murder mystery to solve in the season premiere, which is like saying there’s dough in chocolate chip cookies. Crime procedural solves murder mysteries every week; however, every crime procedural reserves its personal murder mysteries for premieres and finales. The Chicago police department will solve the mystery of how one of their own died—and get their answer by season premiere’s end. I inserted the dash for the purpose of drama. It’s a hook.

PARENTHOOD returns Thursday, September 25 at 10PM

NBC revealed a ‘major’ spoiler for Parenthood during Monday’s Emmy Awards. It’s the other major storyline besides ‘a character will die’, though that seems in the cards for Parenthood this season, too.

ABOUT A BOY returns Tuesday, October 14 at 9:30PM

GRIMM returns Friday, October 24 at 9PM

Nick lost his powers in the finale after falling for the classic ‘female nemesis uses magic to look identical to your girlfriend and sleeps with you’ trick. Trubel will kick ass for him while he waits for his abilities to return or while Rosalee concocts an antidote for what happened to him. Greenwalt teased that a piece of mythology introduced in season one and rarely seen since will return. Renard was left dying in the finale. Wu may piece together what’s been happening to him and around him. That will rock. Grimm’s consistently solid.

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