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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Grimm "Tribunal" Review

After nearly three and nearly half a season of Grimm, there’s a hero shot. The group hero shot exists for iconography. David Greenwalt’s former shows with Joss Whedon, Buffy and ANGEL, had iconic hero shots. The end of Buffy’s first season features a hero shot. Buffy, 16 and in her prom dress, walks with her friends for a showdown with The Master while the Nerf Herder’s Buffy theme plays. ANGEL had a couple. What immediately comes to mind is the “Darla” and “Fool For Love” two parter when Angel, Darla, Spike, and Drusilla, walk through the burning streets. There’s also the gang early in season three walking together to help the helpless somewhere. The group hero shot shows unity and conveys that the group is more than a randomly assembled group of people, that the group transcends family, and that the group is a family.

The Wesenrein are the antithesis of Nick, Monroe, Rosalee, Juliette, Renard, Hank, Bud, and Wu. The Wesenrein seem rooted in the past, a mix of Nazism and the KKK. Monroe’s put on trial for marrying a fucshbau despite being a blutbad. Nick’s a grimm, who’s best friend is a Wesen, and who upholds the law with humans. Monroe explains to the tribunal, in Silas Weir Mitchell’s most triumphant scene in the series, that the purity of his love for his wife and her love for him is more pure than the purity the wesenrein revere, and that life is messy and impure. It reminded me of James Joyce who, when someone asked to shake the hand that penned Ulysses, told that someone he wouldn’t because that hand did a lot of other stuff too. Monroe’s right. Life’s messy and dirty. The oceans and the rivers carry so much dirt but it’s also so pretty and translucent. The tribunal ignores Monroe’s defense of himself and sentences him to death.

Monroe’s trial by the tribunal is an unnecessary plot device. He kills a member in front of members of the wesenrein but yet the trial continues because of tradition. While seemingly unnecessary, the trial represents the types of rituals cults do as a way to rationalize what they’re doing and as a humanizing thing though it is ultimately dehumanizing. Nick and friends are the thesis, the tribunal is the antithesis, and the synthesis is what Nick and friends do, which then may create a new thesis: a Wesen community that accepts all diversity. They work together, they help each other, and they’ll risk their lives for one another, whereas the wesenrein will kill their own. Ultimately, last week’s episode and “Tribunal” is about the Grimm family. Thus, there’s the hero shot before they save Monroe from the tribunal’s execution. Once they save him, they gather in the home of Rosalee and Monroe to celebrate them, their love, their makeshift family, and to send them off in style and with protection to their long-awaited and delayed honeymoon.

Nick, Hank, Wu, and Renard need 3/4s of the episode to learn where the wesenrein took Monroe. The treacherous police offer falls for the myth of the grimm, the myth that Nick’s acted against, the myth of the vicious unrepentant killer, that he’ll murder his sister if the wesenrein murders Monroe. Wu becomes initiated into the group and seems almost obsessed with the other side of life he sees is real and that’s not a hallucination, a symptom of a broken mind. The time it takes sort of adds tension to the tribunal court and eventual sentencing of death. Last week’s episode returned, briefly, zombie Nick. His temper leads to intense interrogation scenes with Jesse, but he doesn’t look zombie; however, the thin line between the law and lawlessness is briefly broached. Nick throws his badge onto the desk. Okay, no, he gently places his badge on the desk of Renard and tells him, ‘this is getting in the way.” Renard, Hank, Nick, and Wu leave their badges in the back of a truck before breaking up the execution of Monroe. Perhaps Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt will return to Nick’s choice between the law and the lawlessness of being a grimm, because it’s really an inviting, interesting, and engaging storyline.

Other Thoughts:

-“Tribunal” was a really great episode. The episode seemed like the last episode before a hiatus. It had some cliffhangers that’ll probably not resolve next week or even next season.

-Juliette revealed her hexenbiest side to Renard. Nick is clueless. I thought the show might not have ever returned to that dynamic. Juliette almost eviscerated the bratty teenager that kicked and punched Monroe.

-Wu eats fast food and pages through Nick’s books.

-Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt wrote the episode. Peter Werner directed.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "Woke Up With A Monster" Review

Elena is in peril. It must be Thursday.

Magic, for a long time in The Vampire Diaries world, acted as the magic elixir, the deux ex machina. “Woke Up With A Monster” establishes parallel magical storylines. In another storyline, Caroline rejects the limits of magic while Stefan, the wise old vampire, offers cautious optimism that’s really skepticism. What are the limits of magic in a world dominated and upheld by magic laws? It’s tricky writing and plotting. How does one benefit from magic healing other natural causes for death but resisting others? The idea that cancer’s too powerful and deadly for even magic is sort of incredible. Jo struggles to maintain a cloaking spell. Kai struggles to control his magic. Magic won’t save Sheriff Forbes’ life.

Stefan responds to Sheriff Forbes’ question about whether or not he’s seen a stage IV cancer patient by telling her he hasn’t and that the benefit of being an immortal vampire is he could start anew every couple decades and skip past the sad parts of life, and he’s startled by the intrusion of real life. Supernatural series will make an episode or two about the reality of lived life that’s far from super and sadly very natural. Buffy’s mother died from an aneurysm, which was part of the saddest episode Joss Whedon wrote, and Angel, Wes, Gunn, Lorne, and gang, couldn’t stop Fred from dying. Angel and Spike go to The Deeper Well as a last resort. What they find is by saving Fred they’ll kill thousands. Angel remarks, “To hell with the world.” But he’s Angel. He won’t sacrifice thousands for one girl. What Spike finds is more nihilistic and hopeless: a hole in the world. “It feels like we should’ve known,” he flatly says. Indeed, there’s a hole in the world. Caroline senses the hole in the world. Her impassioned speech to her mother near the end of the episode centers on why she needs her mother around because she’s her mother and without her there’s a hole. So, Caroline uses her blood to save her mother’s life, and her mother doesn’t want to die. Of course, magic has limitations, unpredictably and inexplicably so; Caroline’s test patient, a man whose condition parallels her mother’s, except that he tried treatment (which the body rejected), whose full of vampire blood that temporarily restored him to life, restored him to a point wherein he could joyfully buy food from the hospital vending machine, vomits blood and crawls on the floor, in agony until he dies. Magic has limitations.

Elena’s in peril because Kai decided to use her in his attempt to control his magic. He overloaded on magic. For example, he tries to snap Elena’s neck, but he overturns a cafeteria table. He accidentally brutalized The Grille manager to death while merely trying a cloaking spell. The brutal murder of the manager further motivates Matt. He only internalizes his anger and growing resentment for Mystic Falls’ more insane and sadistic inhabitants. The kidnapping of Elena allows for another hero Damon moment. He rescues her. She plays nearly dead. They bond and fall more in love with each other. Damon shows concern for Jo, and Alaric swears she’ll beat her brother when the merge arrives.

Stefan traveled with Caroline to Duke University for the second opinion, but he went his own way to check on his niece at the university. She’s an artist who paints angels. Enzo followed him. The two vampires engaged in a brief impotent mental chess match. Stefan left. Enzo hung around to tell the curator of the student art exposition his elaborate plan for revenge in a monologue. His elaborate plan consisted of vagueness, of revenge succeeding when a person least expects it, and then he flirted with the curator. The Stefan-Enzo plotline is weak and more an instance needing Enzo involved in something. He’s the character the audience loves to despise, but he’s yet another iteration of Klaus. Kai is Klaus as he would’ve been before Joseph Morgan stole the writers’ hearts, and Enzo’s Klaus-lite. His purpose is entropic.

Liv and Luke, the wonder twins, represent another instance of magic’s limitations. It is limited when love is limitless. Their father wants Luke to bring her to Portland for the merge spell, but Luke tells his father no. The father-son scenes happen off-screen, but he’s been established as a psychopathic warlock father in a previous episode. Liv and Luke have shifted allegiances more than The Big Show and Mark Henry since their introduction into the story. Liv worries about her brother’s strength. Twin magic isn’t equal magic. He’s stronger.

The early part of the New Year always seems a more reflective stretch of The Vampire Diaries. Characters are in a rush to do things, but they stop for a second to cry, to smile, to laugh, to reject family tradition, and etc. Alaric describes Kai as ‘on ice while the magic drains from his body, which will allow Jo to have enough strength to beat him when the merge happens. Until the merge happens, the characters may cry, because Sheriff Forbes will probably die. Magic has limitations.

Other Thoughts:

-Steven R. McQueen mostly looked super masculine throughout the episode. The width of his chest is comparable to the state of Nebraska. He offered to help save Elena, and everyone ignored him.

-Paul Wesley directed the episode. Critics tend to comment about the directing only when an actor directs. Nothing changes because of the actor. It’s as if Joshua Butler or Chris Grismer directed. I will only comment that Wesley shot a lot of coverage in the scene at the Forbes’ house.

-Melinda Hsu Taylor wrote the episode.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2013 California Trip

During August 2013 I traveled across the country for the first time to visit my good friend, Bryan Jawn, and my brother, Barry. I wrote about a bulk of the trip deep within Yosemite National Park on a Thursday eve with a fire dancing to the right of me. My brother asked when I’d post about the trip. I told him I might never. I’ll always cherish this trip. It was the first major trip I took alone and it gave me a travel lust that is fierce.

-I got in late Friday after two delays in Philly and Dallas because of lightning and severe storms. Dallas thunderstorms have style. I couldn’t find the University of San Diego. The GPS didn’t recognize the address. I cursed the name of Bryan Jawn.

-I walked the Gaslamp Quarter Saturday afternoon. It’s the Main Street of San Diego, that is, it is the equivalent of Philadelphia’s Main Street. I walked along the San Diego Harbor. I enjoyed the Seaport Village. It was sunny, cool, and the sun was reflected beautifully on the water. I also explored Balboa Park, which looked like a monastery. All of this happened over an eight-hour span. Two lovers almost copulated in the park with no care for anyone walking past. 

-I drove to Los Angeles Sunday for Harmontown. I didn’t see much of the city besides a small part of the Sunset Strip. Harmontown was wonderful. Dan, Jeff, and Kumail discussed the moon colony. Dan’s monologue about his desire to leave the earth, and Jeff’s impressive grasp of 19th century Russian politics were highlights.

-Jawn and I went to Old Town Monday after eating breakfast at this local place called IHOP. Old Town takes one into the past of San Diego, into its infancy. Shops are antique. I watched a video about the history of the Wells Fargo stage coach. I visited the local Catholic church. After Old Town we traveled to John Cena Beach. I watched the surfers. I walked along the beach. I then went to La Jolla Cove. Clouds overhead denied me a sunset for the third evening in a row. La Jolla Cove is popular among tourists. It overlooks the Pacific ocean. The cliffs look carefully crafted by an adept artist. I heard many different languages while strolling along. I loved the diversity of the area. We finished the day with jack In The Box and Monday Night Raw.

-Tuesday. I woke at 6am to begin my drive north towards the Bay Area. I think I began the drive at 6:45am. Smooth driving until I hit Monday morning rush hour traffic in between Anaheim and Los Angeles. I decided to explore Highway 1 before I arrived in Anaheim. It was a mistake. Lights at every corner. I passed through small beach towns, sleepy and silent on a Monday morning. I felt a growing anxiety as time passed and I barely made any dent in mileage. I found the 5 at Anaheim. I hit the aforementioned rush hour traffic. I crawled along. The traffic eventually broke. I drove past Burbank. Something didn’t seem right, though, because I wanted to take the Pacific Coast Highway for as many miles as I could. I turned around in Burbank. I drove west on the 101 towards Ventura and Malibu. I had given up on the Hertz NeverLost GPS. The Hertz GPS never failed to get me lost. It screwed me in San Diego and Los Angeles. In Los Angeles it wanted me to fly onto the overpasses above the 5. I opted for my Google Maps application, which I used manually, and finally found the 1. I wound my way through the Malibu Cliffs. It’s a slow and magnificent descent with gorgeous canyons surrounding the road, and I then headed north towards Ventura.

It took 5 hours to drive 185 miles. Highway 1, I would learn, is a miserable road until central California. I weaved in and out of various highways. I stopped in a shopping center and got my bearings. If it took 5 hours to drive 185 miles, how long would it take to drive another 400? I saw a sign for San Francisco that had “395” next to it. My stomach dropped. I felt frantic. The sky overhead was cloudy, misty, and mournful. I’d make it, I told myself. Google Maps guided me through the next eight hours. The miserable southern part of highway 1 eventually led to a merge with the 101. I decided to use the 101 for a long time because I needed to make up time I lost. I committed to the 101. The 101 is an east-west road. The highway took me east into past California farmlands. The hills seem to stretch for miles and miles, its ridges and troughs like a great still sea, or like a turbulent sea of grass, bush, tree, tumbleweed, etc. It seemed like the west of my imagination, the west I learned about from pictures in school books, from John Wayne movies, the west perhaps as created by Hollywood, in studios, on storyboards. I felt quite a deep love for the road. I stopped at a rest stop beneath the Santa Monica mountains. The 101 continued through hills and valleys. I felt better, but I didn’t know how much longer until San Francisco. Signs showed I had 364 miles, 330 miles, then 264 to drive, and maybe I made up some time. On and on I drove. I wanted to stop in San Luis Obispo, a former haunt of the Beats, but I missed it. I stopped in Atascadero for lunch, to refresh, and to let my brother know where I was. Barry reminded me to savor the experience. “Stop at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur,” he suggested. He may’ve alerted me to the change in direction I needed to take for the Pacific Coast Highway. I had driven over 30 miles away from the coast. He helped me find the next road to drive, which was 46. 46 takes one through one of the many wine countries in the state. The road peaks at 1700 feet. There’s a nifty climb followed by a nifty descent. I was wide eyed with wonder. I snapped more photos while driving. Highway 46 became another unexpected pleasure of my long drive to Northern California. I finally reached the beautiful and transcendent part of the Pacific Coast Highway nine or ten hours after I left San Diego.

I turned right onto the Pacific Coast Highway. I raised the volume of Bear Vs. Shark. For the next three hours I experienced the greatest stretch of travel in my life. I experienced a mesmerizing, mystic, inspiring, spectacular, reflective, transformative, and moving, drive for over a 100 miles. One should capture the smell of salt and sea from the Pacific and put it in a jar. The smell will rejuvenate your soul. The specifics of the drive is impossible for me to drive in the way I want to in this haphazard format. After curve, after every ascent, I saw massive cliffs jutting out into the wide-open Pacific ocean, on and on into eternity, beaches and trails, and insane drops into the ocean. I thought about my family and about how I’d love to tell my dad of my what I saw and smelled, and I thought about how he should’ve been there with me. I thought about old friends, regrets, re-connecting with people. I thought about KLY-I thought her prettier than the immaculate world we live in, prettier than the golden cliffs ahead and behind and around me, prettier than the glassy sea. Blah. I stopped at a beach for close to one hour. I walked along the shoreline and filmed the crashing waves. I stood and admired it all. I let the amount of miles left to drive (over 130 miles) wash over me. I felt atonement. I had, by that point in the journey, passed through Big Sur, its dense forests and its many campgrounds. I missed the Henry Miller Library. The library is tucked away on the road. Alas. I relaxed at the beach. I was close to the end of the 100+ mile stretch, the near 3-hour journey.

I left the beach, returned to my beloved rental Toyota Corolla, and continued the drive, which now took me into Monterey. I hated leaving the Pacific Coast Highway. I hadn’t felt as peaceful and contented in years. I didn’t know then, but I returned to another part of the PCH the next day. I hit evening rush hour traffic immediately after leaving Elysium. I called my mother to tell her about what I experienced. Thrice and the RX Bandits helped me push through the rest of the drive. By now, it’s after 6pm, and I’d been going for 12 hours. I drove Highway 17 towards San Jose. I considered stopping in the city to look at the Sharks’ home arena. I didn’t. I drove on! The sun’s light began to fade. I drove past the Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Arena. The A’s had begun a game. If I made better time, I would’ve bought a ticket. I merged onto Highway 13 towards Berkely. I soon saw the lights of the San Francisco skyline. I crossed a bridge. I found my hotel and a metered parking spot. It’s a college town. College youths went here and there. I checked into my hotel, told my brother I made it, ordered quesadillas from a place across the street, and then relaxed in my hotel room. Total travel time: 14 hours.

-Wednesday: I ate breakfast with Barry in Berkeley at a lovely cafĂ© that baked fresh muffins daily. I had a delectable plate of bacon, eggs, and home fries. Barry and I chatted about life, of what we wanted to do, and then we finished. He showed me around Oakland, his place of residence since 2000. I saw Abco, I saw his art space, I met his friends. He drove me into San Francisco for a sightseeing tour. We stopped at a Military compound or base. I forget the name. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, stopped for a minute in Golden Gate Park, and then we explored a place where George Lucas shot some of Star Wars. I may not remember it correctly. I wrote the majority of what you’re reading in August 2013. I’m moving it to the computer in January 2015. Some specifics of that day escape me. I enjoyed seeing the headlands. He took me to Sausalito. I again enjoyed the PCH, which took us to Stinson Beach. Stinson Beach is marvelous. I finally saw a west coast sunset in California. Barry and I relaxed. We talked about life. After dinner at a small seafood place we returned to Oakland. We had decided to go to Yosemite National Park the following day, a mere five hours east from Oakland, nearer to Nevada than the coast of Northern California. He bought camping supplies, he packed gear into the car at Abco, and then returned to his place in the Oakland Hills. I slept, sort of.

-Thursday: we jawned to Yosemite National Park early. It was a gloomy morning. I drove to Yosemite. I thought it another wonderful drive. The road towards Yosemite goes through small California towns. At a gas station Barry bought two straw hats and some snacks. We ascended mountainous roads into Yosemite. The roads curved sharply with barely a barrier to stop a vehicle from plummeting over the. Elevation markers showed 4,000 feet and then 7,000 and then 10,000 feet. Maybe 11,000. I saw the wondrous green of Stanislaus National Forest as we drove towards the Yosemite entrance. Barry had asked about camping availability at the rangers office after we entered. The most challenging part of the drive was finding campground. If the grounds were filled, we could have camped in a neighboring forest. The first campground we investigated was filled. It took 15 minutes both ways, going very slowly, riding over rough, dirty, rocky ground. Another campground drive took 30 minutes. We found one. I forget the name of the campground. We set up camps. Well, Barry set up camp. I had driven over 1,000 miles in 5 days. We met our German neighbors, a father and son. They had been all over the west camping. We met a Navy officer. Barry told me he felt happy I was with him on the anniversary of our brother’s, Sean, death. We collected firewood. I strategized what to do if bears or mountain lions visited our camp site. Barry made a fire and then dinner. I stared into the fire, transfixed by it, hypnotized maybe. I wrote what you’re reading. I hit a mental wall. My exhaustion caught up with me. Barry and I did a night hike. I lay on the ground above our camp and stared at the stars and the moon. Those transfixed me, too. I worried about the next day, driving back, and then catching my flight home. Barry urged me to relax. Why worry? He said. He reminded me of where we were. I felt so tired. I felt worried and stressed. I wished I had relaxed more. I was in a magical place. We hiked down. I slept in a tent for the first time.

-Friday: I woke up and felt chilled. The temperature dropped from the 90s into the 40s. Barry cooked breakfast. We ate and then we packed. Barry wanted me to see Yosemite Valley before we left. We had too little time to explore the wonders of Yosemite National Park, its 1,190 square miles. Barry lamented being unable to take me on a good day hike. I loved the drive into the Valley. In the Valley I looked up at El Capitan and Half-Dome. The myth of Half-Dome recalled to my mind the end of ALP’s monologue in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. We returned to the car and drove away from Yosemite National Park. We had two hours of time when we arrived in Oakland before I left for my nonsense red-eye flight (that had two layovers-one in Phoenix and one in Chicago. So stupid). We ate at his favorite Oakland pizza place. That night he had a birthday to celebrate. I had a rental to return and a flight to catch. We said goodbye. 

Soon I found myself in late afternoon Bay Area rush hour traffic.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Grimm "Wesenrein" Review

Of the two major cliffhangers from the last episode in December, Grimm begins “Wesenrein” with a truth session for Wu. Nick and Hank take Wu to the trailer where Wu looks at the books, pages though the monsters, and wonders why he should believe he’s still not being told lies. Four minutes into the episode, Rosalee discovers the Wesenrein took Monroe. The Wesenrein plot has come and gone infrequently during the early part of season four. Rosalee and Monroe experienced threats, but didn’t become consumed with worried. Their reaction to the early threats, where it’s at first alarming but then that sense of alarm decreases as days pass and no one acts on the threat, contributed to quite a lack of urgency to the storyline. Now that it’s here with life-and-death stakes, it’s still flat, unengaging-it’s more of a way for the writers to bring Wu into the Wesen side of policing, it’s more of a way to continue showing the continual struggle for Nick between being a grimm, lawless, and being a cop, living by the law, but no way will Monroe suffer the death of Timmy or Tommy or Trevor or whatever the name of that tertiary character was.

No, the writers essentially showed their collective hand in the dream scene involving Rosalee and Juliette. Juliette, reeling from seeing she’s hexenbiest, loses it during a fight with Rosalee and rips her throat open. She stares down at dead Rosalee, horrified, her hand and arm covered in blood, for several beats. Suddenly, Rosalee wakes her up. It was only a dream. It would’ve been the most unexpected thing Grimm would ever do or ever have done and move the show in a very interesting direction; however, Juliette only dreamed it. It represented her fears and what she could do if her new nature can’t be controlled. No, Monroe won’t die. Nick and Hank will save him.

David Greenwalt, and even Jim Kouf, already told a story about a hate group that kills impure folk. It happened almost sixteen years ago in an ANGEL episode titled “Hero”-a group of Nazi-like demons round up half-demons in Los Angeles for obliteration. It’s a good episode with a great ending that changes the series. The Wesenrein, led by the poorly named Grandmaster, share similar beliefs with the Scourge. The execution of the episodes differs. Doyle makes it his personal mission to help demons like him. Nick’s motivated by friendship. It’s also personal, yes, but it’s also more drawn out. “Wesenrein” had maybe a nod to “Hero” when Monroe finds his cellmate’s burned body.

“Wesenrein” also sets up a lot and tries to build the audiences’ anxious sense of anticipation. Will Monroe die? Will he escape? Oh, he escaped; but, oh, the Wesenrein caught him again. Shaw, the only lead in the case, becomes a victim of the Grandmaster. The Shaw interrogation scene involves Nick turning pale zombie again, which hasn’t happened since season three. Renard then denies Shaw any sort of civil rights because of the Wesen nature of the crime. Nick, Hank, Renard, and Wu, work the case together. At Shaw’s home, they see the cop parked outside Monroe’s and Rosalee’s in a picture with the Wesenrein. Characterization doesn’t advance, though. Nick repeats he’s doing it for friendship. Hank helps Wu. Meanwhile, Rosalee hangs out, while Juliette internally freaks. Grimm establishes life-or-death stakes in its world, but sometimes the characters behave brazenly or the writing slows. That’s also a problem of stalling for a second episode. The tribunal drama, which will decide Monroe’s fate, happens in episode ten, and the police won’t question the treacherous cop until episode ten. Rosalee expresses concern about Monroe, but the worst he deals with is a punk kid who likes bad music and yelling awkward sounding hate-filled dialogue at him.

The episode ends as Monroe faces the chanting tribunal, with a look of alarm and dread. The tribunal uses a Nazi-like symbol and dress in the garb of the Ku Klux Klan. The sand in the hour glass is running low.

Other Thoughts:

-Angel dealt with a tribunal in the season two premiere “Judgment.” It was great.

- Juliette and Nick never shared space during the episode. Her surprise may wait for two more seasons, or she’ll tell him in episode eleven. Episode ten seems busy.

-One scene in Vienna this week. Viktor reminds Adalind of the essentials of the storyline. He wants to find her daughter and thinks Nick’s mother has her. He might not have said that. I accidentally tuned out the dialogue.

-Wu asked, did the grimms take the name from the Grimm brothers? Nick said, yeah, more or less. Yes, the series was once about fairy tales coming to life.

-Thomas Ian Griffith wrote the episode. Hanelle M. Culpepper 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. Now, I'm going to write about my life, books, and TV. Speak On. Follow me on Twitter @JacobsFoot.