Friday, March 17, 2017

Grimm "Where The Wild Things Were" Review

Were the wild things in Pylea?

Grimm returned to a favorite old standby in “Where The Wild Things Were”.  You know the one. Characters stand around and tell another character various things that the audience watched happen throughout the season. One could argue that the scenes between the gang and Renard existed this time specifically because of Renard’s past duplicity. Would the gang, as well as the audience, trust him? Could he earn that trust? Renard has been feeble and passive since “Oh Captain My Captain” so he seemed sort of eager to help the gang save Nick and Eve from The Other Place. Plus, his daughter is the destined bride of the devil. That’ll make someone put aside old grudges.

This episode set things up for Grimm’s endgame. Amazingly, Kouf and Greenwalt seem committed to tying this wacky and insane world together via The Other Place, Zerstorer, the stick, the cloth, the symbols, and the keys. The Other Place is clearly The Black Forest circa 1204—the time of the stick, the cloth, and the keys. The world then was full of wesen in their pre-woge nature. Zerstorer, the devil, is a creature the resident humans would like dead. Nick proved his killer aptitude by shooting dead a few Blutbaden. The villagers eagerly pointed Nick in the direction of Zerstorer.

All of “Where The Wild Things Were” anticipates Zerstorer’s appearance in The Other Place. Essentially, nothing much happens besides characters repeating information and plot details that the audience already knows. At Nick’s loft, the other characters imply or suggest things that likely will figure into the next two episodes.

The one significant character scene belonged to Nick and Eve wherein the writing finally addressed the divide between Juliette and Eve. Nick’s history with Juliette motivated his stepping through the looking glass to help her, but Eve emphasized that she’s not Juliette, that Juliette’s gone, while confirming that she remembers and “hates” what Juliette did. That will allow Nick to find a measure of closure about what happened at the end of season four without the writers pulling an about-face and admitting that they created Eve specifically to rehabilitate Juliette. The scene’s notable for clearing away any confusion about Eve’s characterization since season five’s finale yet the thin threads that remains between Juliette and Eve marred the scene.

The writing last season never addressed what happened at the end of season four. Instead, the writers introduced Eve, gave her a wig, had different characters repeat that she was a different character, even though it seemed like an overt attempt to rehab the character by giving her a different identity. Anyway, that’s evidently not the case. Beyond the confusion, messiness, and problems of Eve’s existence, the scene sneaked in a relatable real life thing about two people growing apart and becoming different people in the Nick/Juliette scene. People change throughout a relationship, except in Grimm the change is noticeable. Nick became a Grimm. Juliette became a hexenbiest. Genre shows such as Grimm and that other fairy tale show on ABC, and the many genre shows before both fairy tale shows, used larger-than-life metaphors to tell stories about the everyday. Grimm is such a loose, weird, and discombobulated show at times that one (i.e. me) overlooks how this or that thing in Grimm mythos informs something about a character or a relationship. Of course, Grimm’s writers never seemed to start breaking a story by asking how this or that thing will inform or highlight a character or his or relationship.

Sometimes Grimm got lost in the weeds.

Other Thoughts:

-Nevertheless, I liked seeing Renard interacting with the rest of the cast. The initial reluctance by Monroe, Rosalee, Adalind, Hank, and Wu to share crucial information with Renard quickly disappeared, and everyone freely shared each detail involving The Other Place.

-This episode's quote came from Shakespeare's The Tempest, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. The Tempest and "Where The Wild Things Were" had altering realities in common. Check out the audio dramatization of the play starring Sir Ian McKellen as Prospero if you can.

-Wu had a line about Alice in Wonderland tonight. Did you know Vladimir Nabokov translated that book into Russian in his early 20s? There was a time in 2014 when I drew parallels between Adalind's adventures in Viktor's castle and Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading. Ah, memories. Anyway, the obvious 'through the looking glass' metaphor connects Grimm and ANGEL yet again. One of ANGEL's season two Pylean episodes is titled "Through The Looking Glass". 

-Brenna Kouf wrote the episode. Terrence O’Hara directed.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Grimm "Blood Magic" Review

The old and elderly don’t have any presence on primetime television. Norman Lear, the legendary sitcom creator and writer, has tried to find a place for his series about life in a retirement village, titled Guess Who Died? Lear told the press in January 2016 that TV writers relegate older characters to marginal roles, either “eccentric neighbors or wise-cracking grandparents”. Their problems, plights, and pains remain invisible to TV audiences. Network executives think that young people only want to watch young people, and I think that’s wrong assumption.

I never expected an episode of Grimm named “Blood Magic” would end up telling a poignant story about aging, dementia, and dignity in dying and, thereby, making an aspect of older life more visible for the viewing public. I hope Norman Lear has a chance to watch it. Whereas “Tree People” served a pro-environmentalism and pro-conservation message, “Blood Magic” tries on, however slightly, the controversial issue of Right to Die. The Right to Die issue is complex, complicated, and better served when different individuals (politicians, law makers, doctors, patients, etc) sit down together in a room to whether or not someone who is suffering has the right to choose when he or she dies. The Wesen community leaves the choice to the family. Rosalee expects Nick and Hank to think it a ‘callous’ in an instance of the writers possibly anticipating some sort of backlash from viewers for portraying the issue in a humane and merciful light.

Norman Lear’s “Guess Who Died?” would make the issue a conversation between his characters. That’s the Norman Lear way. Grimm isn’t the type of show in which characters would pause the action to discuss the issue. Ultimately, Nick makes the decision that Mr. Stanton would needlessly suffer in prison for murders he didn’t know he committed, so the Wesen community’s Godfather of Death humanely ends the man’s life along with his sufferings. The scene in which Mr. Stanton dies brought tears to my eyes (partially brought on by Bree Turner’s acting). No, I never, ever expected Grimm to tell a humane, poignant story about dementia and dying with dignity.

The plot leading to the moving scene at the Stantons involves the problem of older Wesens who can’t control when they woged and attacked. The 91 year old woman who dies earlier in the episode tells an orderly helping her that she remembers running and the taste of blood in her mouth. When she shortly woges, Mason, the orderly, acts in self-defense. Nick and Hank must prove Mason’s innocence without implicating Dr. Lando, the Godfather of Death, who also acts as the attending physician at the elderly home, because of Rosalee’s and Monroe’s insistence that Nick not remove Lando from the community. It’s their way of protecting Wesen. Nick can’t interfere.

I liked that the writers continue to add to the Wesen world so late in the series. Each addition to it makes it more of a fluid, independent world. Nick as the Grimm sees what may be a tiny part of their existence. He faces the murderous, criminal part, and it’s a shame Grimm didn’t explore other areas earlier in the series.

“Blood Magic” also dealt more with the mirror world, its connection to blood magic, the symbols in the tunnel, and Renard’s growing curiosity about said symbols and its connection with his daughter. Renard and Nick spoke for the first time in “Oh Captain My Captain” about the symbols and the tunnel. Nick told him to “share what he knows”. No tunnel access for him. Juliette is off on her own researching. Adalind can’t help her much, or she could but she would rather protect Juliette from what awaits her in the mirror. Man, what a sentence. This show is silly.

Other Thoughts:

-Why don’t writers’ rooms institute a rule for characters saying “I don’t want to talk to character x until I have y figured out”? Nick said it this season. Juliette said it. The line sucks. It’s lazy writing. Don’t do it.

-Thomas Ian Griffith wrote the episode. Janice Cooke directed it. She directed the third season Dawson’s Creek episode “Cinderella Story”. That was the first episode she directed in her career. I would ask her so many questions about that experience if I could.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Vampire Diaries "I Was Feeling Epic" Review

In 2009, The Vampire Diaries premiered with an episode about death and loss. Elena Gilbert, our heroine, lost her foundation when her mother and her father died a car crash. How else to end a series about death and loss than with a reunion between you and the people you loved the most but lost too soon in your life?

So much of The Vampire Diaries revolved around the love triangle between Stefan, Elena, and Damon. The marketing revolved around it. Fans united and divided over it. Of course, I always thought the love triangle was beside the point of the series. Sure, that love triangle was and is a large part of the show’s identity. A supernatural soap needs the melodrama only a love triangle can provide. Aside from the triangle, I focused on the relationship between the two brothers, Stefan and Damon. They were the show’s truest love story for me. Love means more than romantic. Brotherly, familial, and filial love were also cornerstones of the series. If you want to call it a love story, don’t limit it to the love story of Stefan, Elena, and Damon.

The one thing TVD consistently excelled at throughout the series was the experience of saying goodbye to someone you loved. Remember the end of “Memorial” or when Caroline experiences the death of her mother and father or Stefan losing his best friend or Elena losing her aunt? Somehow, this show with an awful title could understand death, saying goodbye, and the precariousness of the phrase ‘moving on’. Yes, while people continue with their lives after someone they love dies, no one ever moves on. Moving on is impossible. We silently carry our losses with us throughout our lives. You may never know it, but we do. And the final act of this crazy show got that. Elena and Damon live their natural human lives together, carrying with them all the while the people they lost along their hopes that they’ll see them again.

So, what happens? Elena sees her mother and father again, her Aunt Jenna, and her Uncle John when she dies, at the home she burned down once in one of her worst moment when she couldn’t bear to feel the loss of her brother because once he’s gone they’re all gone and that’s unbearable for her, a living hell. And Damon returned to the Salvatore mansion to see his brother again, and they embraced for the first time in a long time as the show went white, the symbol of peaceful afterlife. Isn’t that the best we can hope for when our own respective lives die? I thought it was lovely and a flawless way to end the stories of Elena, Stefan, and Damon.

The rest of “I Was Feeling Epic” had the same problems that the past seasons had. Plec and Williamson repeated a lot of the beats in “It’s Been a Hell of a Ride”. The brothers fought over who will do the martyr job, the gang had to destroy the devil and hell, except this time Bonnie used her psychic mojo combined with the massive energy of hellfire to destroy hell and Katherine forever. That was disappointing, especially when it seemed that “It’s Been a Hell of a Ride” concluded the season eight nonsense. Of course, Katherine clarified that she had controlled Cade throughout the season. She made Cade bother with the brothers through the Sirens. So, Katherine’s last evil act wasn’t the hellfire stuff; it was inflicting the Sirens on us.

For all the end-of-the-world stakes, it was surprisingly minimalist. Much of the episode takes place over a period of forty-five minutes until the epilogue. Plec and Williamson pick and chose their moments, so there’s a great Bennett gathering to destroy hell, the reconciliation of the Maxwell/Donovan family, and the Elena/Stefan scene in the school, but “I Was Feeling Epic” didn’t have Alaric and Damon interact at all or a final scene for Damon and Bonnie. Alaric only says that he cares about Elena and Damon, but, come on, Damon and Alaric were bros for so much of the series until the writers chose to disrupt it in season seven because they were creatively spent and needed new avenues for drama. In sum, the finale had some curious creative choices.

The last act of the series combined Six Feet Under, Titanic, and The Return of the King, didn’t it? Elena’s awakening, with Bonnie by her side, reminded me of Frodo waking up as Gandalf stands there, a miraculous sight for Frodo because he didn’t know that Gandalf had been restored to life. They start laughing. Sam comes in. Merry and Pippin enter. Soon, everyone’s laughing, and then Frodo’s off to the eternal Grey Havens. It all feels a little rushed, especially when you remember how the writers misused a lot of their time this season, but I really liked the way old characters, in a slight Titanic homage, appeared in cameo: Jeremy helping Alaric and Caroline with the school; Vicky and Tyler together; the aforementioned Gilberts; Jo watching her family; Liz beside her daughter at the school; and, especially, Lexi meeting Stefan after he died.

It is hard to end a series, though. People really count on endings to make it the investment feel worthwhile. It shouldn’t. Endings are important, yes, but so, too, is the experience of watching something week-to-week or reading something, and if you enjoyed most of it, then it was worth it, because it helped you feel happy, but, I repeat, it’s really hard to end a series in a satisfying way for each individual fan, especially The Vampire Diaries. This show should’ve ended years ago. It lasted beyond its natural duration, and it showed. The last two seasons were terrible and removed from what made the show so good in seasons two and three. Some fans won’t like who Elena ended up with or who died or this and that. But even with the numerous problems of the show’s last two seasons and the various creative struggles the writers experienced since the start of season five, Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson wrote a great ending.

Other Thoughts:

-I watched the “Forever Yours” special. Julie Plec essentially gave away the finale. She telegraphed everything.

-Some quibbles with the Stefan and Elena scene: I didn’t like Stefan explaining everything he did to save Damon. Imagine the rush of the fans when they realize that he gave Damon the cure to save him from being damned to an eternity without the two people most important to him. Also, I would’ve liked their one scene together to be about Stefan and Elena. Those two were the best together in the early seasons.

-I understand why Julie and Kevin brought back the diary narration at the end. It served a purpose for quick resolutions to various stories, but I wish they found another way to do it.  A minor quibble.

-I guess we’ll see Caroline in New Orleans to thank Klaus for his generation donation to the school she and Alaric started. Dorian, amazingly, survived the season and the series. Good for Dorian. Poor Georgia.

-Bonnie saved the world. She rewarded herself with a trip around the world. Not bad.

-I started watching The Vampire Diaries during summer 2010 after reading that, despite the title, it was a good, fun genre show. Seven years later, here I am. When TVD was good, it was great fun; when it wasn't good, it was bad and like a slog. Writing about a show weekly for seven years was an interesting experience, one I likely will not repeat. I'm not sure whether I sort of regret writing over 140 posts about this show or not. I did bond with love interests over this show years ago. I don't know whether that counts for much now. Probably not. Those didn't go anywhere. It'd be a better story if I could write, "This show brought me and my wife together", wouldn't it? Okay, maybe it wouldn't be a good story, but it'd be a story. But it didn't. It's only me and (I'm writing this with my comedy in my heart and in the spirit of light-hearted self-deprecation.) They're off and married now, I think, or I know. I wonder if they watched the finale.

-Anyway, I'm grateful to Julie Plec, Caroline Dries, Bryan Young, Kevin Williamson, and all the other writers throughout the years who wrote for this show for giving me something to write about every week. I started this blog in 2010 (well, really, in 2009 on a different site with a different name) primarily as a way for me to continue writing consistently. Writing this blog helped me do that. There's nearly 1300 posts in the archive about all sorts of TV.

-Thank you to anyone who ever read any of my TVD posts in the past. There were some great times when hundreds of people read my posts, and there were some lean times when not a lot of people read my posts. Thank you to one of my friends for retweeting my posts over the years despite never watching a single episode. I appreciated every little thing that came this blog’s way.

-Finally, as always, I end with the credits. Julie Plec & Kevin Williamson wrote the episode. Julie Plec, of course, directed it.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Grimm "Tree People" Review

“Tree People” is Grimm’s green episode. The message is: hurt the forest, and the forest will fatally hurt you. The wesen forest protecter murdered two characters for harming nature. The first victim poached; the second victim dumped toxic waste. The creature, named a Kinoshimobe, forcefully dealt with the violators. Nick, Hank, and the gang had to determine how to fight something that protects the natural world. Kill it or not? Hank said that they had to stop something that would make humans an endangered species. Grimm rarely has a binary black and white ending.

There’s a long tradition in storytelling of the forest retaliating for the destruction man caused it, the most famous being JRR Tolkien’s Ents in The Lord of the Rings. The Kinoshimobe looks a spiritual sibling of Tolkien’s creations. Tolkien created the Ents partly as a response to the industrial boom in the early 20th century. Environmental concerns will persist for all of time. Here in the 21st century the current administration wants to strip environmental protections across the board, from Clean Water to the destruction of the EPA, so that big corporations can continue dumping waste into bodies of waters people use for drinking. During the episode, Nick told Wu to call the EPA in for toxic waste cleanup. Who will cleanup spills and dumps when the EPA is no more?

Monroe expresses ambivalence about destroying nature’s protector. His lines, too, were PSAs for why it’s wrong to ravage nature. Would any person want someone to cause the same destruction in his or her home? The Kinoshimobe doesn’t die. Its protective tree protects at the end, ensuring that in Grimm’s world, something more than human will continue protecting nature from the serial greed of man. “Tree People” takes the time to showoff the great beauty of Nature, the serenity one finds in the woods, and the wonder of watching wildlife. Wu paused to admire a deer. Hank smiled as he watched squirrels play. Nick stared transfixed at the gigantic womb of a tree deep in the woods.

The episode is pretty and part tranquil because of the forest locations. We never see the first victim’s buddy again after Nick and Hank interrogate him, but it would be fair to conclude that he’ll never harm nature after his experience with its vengeful side. Aside from the central case in the episode, we’re reminded of another outside threat to the characters—a threat from another world. Diana, who’s primarily use is exposition, delivers exposition about the inevitably of this mirror demon coming for everyone. Dasha told Renard essentially the same thing, though Dasha explicated more about Diana’s connection to the symbols and urges Renard to investigate the tunnels.

I’m not opposed to the writers ending the series with a series of case-of-the-week episodes, because I think the mythology surrounding the stick, the cloth and its symbols, and The Face from another world is uninteresting. Grimm has more often than not dropped plotlines, right? Kouf and Greenwalt won’t drop it, I know; however, with four episodes left, how satisfying whatever comes of it will be for fans is in the air. The mystery is usually better than any explanation or answer given for that mystery.

Other Thoughts:

-I liked “Tree People”. It was funny in that wry Grimm fashion, especially in the last act.

-Renard and Nick glared at one another in the precinct. They haven’t interacted since their face off in “Oh Captain My Captain”. One assumes they will become allies in the final run.

-Grimm fans over at the avclub have mentioned Grimm’s steady, solid ratings, which raises speculation about why NBC announced season six as the final one last summer. No executive explained why for the record. No one interviewed David Greenwalt or Kim Kouf about why it ended. It’s likely the cast didn’t want to re-up for more seasons. Actor contracts end after the sixth season. David Giuntoli was quoted in an interview saying that Grimm got a hospice ending. He seemed over it, anyway.

-Brenna Kouf wrote the episode. Jim Kouf, her father, directed it. He last directed “Headache” in season four.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Vampire Diaries "We're Planning a June Wedding" Review

The Vampire Diaries will end next week after eight long seasons, and “We’re Planning a June Wedding” brought those finale vibes. This episode had nostalgia, callbacks, returning characters, and that sense of something ending. That sense of something ending isn’t unique to television because life is full of beginnings and endings, but the acute awareness of something passing, apropos of nothing, is specific to television at the end of a show’s run. Yet, with all that, it was a sleepy episode.

Also, weddings work as a good narrative device for nostalgia and heartfelt conversations. Damon and Caroline had their moment for Liz. Damon and Stefan had theirs. Damon reflected, in the light of the group staging a wedding for the sake of drawing Katherine out, that Katherine connected every key moment in the series.

This was a ho-hum episode, perhaps because I expected something to happen during the wedding, but I think that was the purpose: the calm before the storm and all those clichés, etc. What would that something be, though? Would Katherine appear and start dropping bodies? No, of course, because Nina promised Julie Plec she’d return for the finale, not an episode more. Instead, we got Kelly Donovan, returned from hell and eager to destroy Mystic Falls, with Vicki, for revenge and Katherine. For Katherine? Allright, whatever. That’s not exactly what I wanted to see. Someone needed to act as a Katherine proxy. But Kelly Donovan?

Kelly didn’t make it to the end of the episode. Vicki started ringing the stupid Maxwell bell to bring about hellfire and the end of Mystic Falls. I guess Katherine wanted to destroy the town because of her torturous time in hell. That wouldn’t improve her mood. Anyway, it’s on par with proper supernatural finale stakes. How will they save the town before it burns away with everyone in it? Will Dorian and Alaric find a way to destroy hell? Will Stefan or Damon dagger Katherine? How will Elena come back? We’ll find out next week.

A wedding happened before that hellfire nonsense, a wedding that paid off a line from season one that did not need any paying off. Caroline and Stefan married. I liked the two together in season six when they were close friends, but giving them epic love, with the clichéd trials epic love faces, made them dull. Plus, I was a Stefan/Elena guy way back in the first three seasons. I knew Stefan and Elena wouldn’t reunite at the end. Julie Plec clearly divided human Elena and vampire Elena by her love for each Salvatore brother.

The wedding had toasts, compelled guests, and residual sadness. Bonnie wanted that day for her and Enzo. Alaric wanted that day for him and Caroline. The writers gave Alaric an out-of-nowhere monologue about how losing people created a new family. The monologue worked as an overarching statement about the main characters and for his little nuclear family that still lacks a wife for him. Memories of his Mystic Falls origin story and of his wife brought out that little monologue from him. I liked Isobel.

Elsewhere, Matt seemingly left his father to die outside. Kelly’s return didn’t do anything for Matt’s personal arc except remind him that his mom sucked and will eternally suck. Maybe him and Damon will make it to the bell in time for Vicki to stop. We’ll have a scene of reconciliation.

I continually expected a slight improvement in The Vampire Diaries in the final episodes, but that improvement never happened. Season eight had one decent episode. Now, with one episode left, I don’t think it will. Sustaining a series for eight seasons, seven of which that had, at least, twenty two episodes (and one season had twenty three) is difficult, and TVD’s writers made it harder to sustain the show long-term by burning through plot so fast in the early years. The difficulty grew as they lost more and more actors and especially their star. Julie Plec, Caroline Dries, and the other writers hurt the series by anchoring so much of the story around Elena as well instead of taking risks and making a show beyond the Elena of it all. I’m not surprised or disappointed that the end is scattered, nonsensical mess. It’s hard ending a show that should’ve ended two years ago.

Perhaps the finale will surprise me, but if “We’re Planning a June Wedding” serves as part one of the finale, the rest may be as underwhelming and worthy of shrugs and the sound of a long sigh.

Other Thoughts:

-I wanted Alaric to appear at the wedding in a suit after his monologue so that I could remark that it was the most unbelievable thing in a batshit series. Tongue-in-cheek, of course.

-Bonnie had magic all along. She needed Enzo to help her realize it. That scene where they danced together was lovely and my favorite in the episode. Also, Enzo is now completely separate from the character who used to make it his life’s work to ruin Stefan’s life. Enzo acts as Stefan’s greatest champion in his private love dimension.

-This episode had more ‘The Ripper isn’t you!’ dialogue for Stefan’s benefit. It’s all so meaningless.

-Those little girls will help destroy hell, won’t they?

-Melinda Hsu Taylor wrote the script. Jen Vestuto & Melissa Marlette received the story by credit. Vestuto worked as a writer’s PA. Marlette is Julie Plec’s assistant. I think it’s really cool when showrunners give assistants credited opportunities, especially near the end. Chris Grismer, who directed many episodes of the show, directed tonight’s episode, his last TVD episode.

-See you next week for the finale and for my final TVD review.

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.