Monday, October 31, 2011

How I Met Your Mother "The Slutty Pumpkin Returns" Review

Ted Mosby dreamed about the slutty pumpkin for a decade. The woman made such an impact on him that he'd spend several Halloweens awaiting her return at the roof party. The memory of the lost kit-kat bar, with her number on it, haunted her. Ted the romantic had grand dreams for himself and the slutty pumpkin. Once upon a time, he imagined their story would end in marriage, and be a magnificent tale for their children. Years and years passed until one day he learned the woman's address, knocked on her door, and a relationship began.

I suppose the story of Ted and the slutty pumpkin, Naomi, is a lesson in the adventures of expectations. Each soul on this earth has waited for something in expectation whether it's seeing a significant other, waiting for the latest Twilight movie or Harry Potter movie, or waiting for the next delicious plate of jerk chicken that'll never come unless one returns to Negril. The passage of time allows for the imagination to work in wild ways.

Ten years ago, I was a freshman in high school. I looked like a stick and had terrible hair. The weekend before Halloween loomed. I attended a Catholic school, so that meant a longer weekend because of a Holy Day of obligation. Somehow, I found myself in detention on a Thursday or Friday. Detention at my high school was a tremendous pain in the ass. I lived quite a distance away from the school, which meant I needed to wait for the late bus to return. The late bus returned shortly before 6PM to accommodate the athletes and wayward youths who had detention. I forget how I spent the 2+ hours before the late bus. Detention lasted less than an hour, so it sucked a whole lot getting trapped within the halls of my high school. One needed to find something to do or else the time moved as slowly. My friends were detention-free so they went home.

I spent the bulk of the time aimlessly wandering the halls. Sometimes I ran into someone, and sometimes I didn't. Somehow, though, I ended up on the front steps of the school, hanging around with a guy I went to school with as well as someone else. A girl I had a major freshman crush on happened to be hanging around with a friend in the same general vicinity. The front steps were quite long, so we were separated by a sizable distance. I was a clueless freshman with little idea about how to introduce myself to her. The girl was intimidating with her pretty features and Russian accent. Suddenly, she and her friend were ascending the stairs towards my small group. They were in pursuit of cigarettes as well as something to mask the smell of the smoke because the parents were bound for the school. I probably said something stupid. The girls departed. I felt like a king, though, because of the brief interaction with the girl. We might've been in the same group in a class earlier that day or the day before. I don't remember. I just remember I had her name and eye contact. So, I went home and experienced the longest damn weekend of my 14 year old existence. I just wanted to return to my high school halls so that I could talk to her more. I re-lived the events in my head and even gave it a soundtrack. Of course, I don't remember what happened when I returned to school. The point is--I built this image in my head over a weekend that I still remember vividly. Inevitably, the return to school didn't turn out the way I imagined it because my expectations were the size of bloody Eastern Europe.

So, Ted and the slutty pumpkin aren't bound for happiness. The slutty pumpkin isn't the mother of Ted's children. She's just a girl who caught Ted's eye ten years ago, and who didn't live up to his expectations. I'd be remiss if I ignored Naomi’s side of the story because Ted didn't live up to the expectations she had in her head. The lesson seems to be that love's an entirely different animal than a four day or ten year period of expectation about a girl you have the wrong idea about. Not that there's anything wrong the girl, of course; it's impossible to dream about someone you don't know. All of the romantic ideas are wonderful and fun until reality barges into fantasy. Craig Thomas and Carter Bays could've easily told a story about Ted meeting the slutty pumpkin again and learning that she hadn't thought about him at all in the ten years since they met. I've met a girl or two who've had a tremendous effect on me but I didn't have the same effect on them. I liked how the series explored this area of Ted's romantic side. Time is a gift. Time grants perspective. Now I know that me and the Russian girl wouldn't have worked, and I know this about other girls who I used to feel a great deal for. Ted and Naomi experienced that "What if?" scenario, but it didn't lead to the life they thought it would. And I like that.

Elsewhere, Lily nearly moved into the suburbs with Marshall, and Barney learned he's a 1/4 Canadian because his grandmother was born in Manitoba. I don't like when the spotlight's on Lily. For whatever reason, the character irks me. Alyson Hanigan provided me with so much joy on Buffy but she's irritating on HIMYM. The idea that Marshall and Lily would move into the suburbs wasn't ridiculous. Both earn a good living and couples often move to the safety of the suburbs. The Eriksons are city slickers, though, and they'll never leave.

I enjoyed the scenes between Barney and Robin as Barney tried to resist his Canadian heritage. I always enjoy when the series amps up Robin's Canadian background. Robin dished out many Canadian-isms tonight. I won't bother wondering about the whereabouts of their significant others because I realize TV shows have a budget, and actors have contracts. I knew the slutty pumpkin wasn't meant to be because Katie Holmes is too expensive to cast on a regular basis. I always welcome Katie Holmes onto a TV show because she once was Josephine Potter on America's beloved series, Dawson's Creek.


Once Upon A Time "The Thing You Love Most" Review

I watched the second episode of Once Upon a Time last night, following the Eagles-Cowboys game. I intended on bolting from bed, powering the computer up, and writing my thoughts about "The Thing You Love Me Most." However, I forgot about the episode. I watched the episode less than 12 hours from the time I woke up, so it was fresh, yet I had no memory. I wondered, was episode two really a forgettable 43 minutes? Well, yes, it was a forgettable episode. Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz came to their own series with nearly six years of writers’ room experience in the LOST room. The writing team stated that OUAT wouldn't be lost, that it'd answer more questions than it asked, etc. I'm one of the biggest LOST apologists you'll meet. Several weeks ago, I found myself defending not only my 10,000 word review of the series finale but, also, my positive feelings toward it. I never cared about questions or answers as long as the story entertained me or moved me. Once Upon a Time is treading some dangerous ground already--things are too vague and the story sort of sucks.

The Evil Queen, or Regina, earned the episode's focus tonight. The scenes in fairy tale world took us to a time shortly before the curse. We followed the Evil Queen as she gathered the ingredients she needed to cast a cursed doom on her fellow fairy tale characters. The scenes in Storybrooke revolved around her schemes to oust Emma Swann from their humble, small town in Maine, and away from Henry, her adopted son. We should've learned more about the Evil Queen than we did, though. Nearly every scene include Regina/the Evil Queen, yet she remains a mystery. Her motivations are unclear, and the path she took to power is mysterious. I thought the most interesting aspects of the character's back story were the parts only hinted at in dialogue. The Queen spoke to her father about all she needed to do to acquire her power. Naturally, I want to know what choices she made to become the all-powerful evil queen of fairy tale land. The story will wait, though. The boring story of the sacrifice she made to fate Snow White and her neighbors to a miserly life of unhappiness took precedent to the potentially good origin story of the Queen's.

Emma and Regina's battle of wits wasn't engrossing. The scenes followed last week's showdown by the characters with little variation; however, we learned a tiny bit about Regina's over-protection of Henry as well as her desire to keep her adopted son all to herself. The key character of the series, its Desmond David Hume, appears to be Mr. Gold (or Rumplestiltskin). The Evil Queen used him to learn about the key ingredient to the curse. Rumplestiltskin told her that she needed to sacrifice the thing she loved most; that great magic requires even greater sacrifice. The price she needed to pay Rumplestiltskin with was great power. He required greatness in the place she was taking everyone to. She swore he wouldn't remember; he swore he would, and he does. So, when Mr. Gold cuts to the core of Regina's feelings for Henry, he's right. Regina named the child after the father she killed in order to successfully execute the magic for the curse. Emma wondered aloud when Regina lost her soul. Well, she lost her soul the moment she took her father's heart out of his chest.

The revelation turned me into an inquisitive fellow. The Evil Queen informed Rumplestiltskin that she lost the thing she loved most because of Snow White; that the curse will happen because of Snow White's crimes. Now, I don't particularly care about what Snow White did to the Evil Queen. I suspect that it involves Prince Charming or some such romantic nonsense (if it doesn't then great). I just wonder if Kitsis and Horowitz dug a hole for themselves. I wonder what could've happened that would cause the queen to murder her own flesh and blood, her father, just to damn Snow White to a world without happy endings. It needs to be damn good now.

I didn't like any of the dialogue nor the action. I thought the fight between Maleficent and Evil Queen would've made the executives at Syfy embarrassed. None of the dialogue felt natural nor did the interactions between the character. One of the most important relationships in the series, Henry and Emma, is weak. I thought the scene between the two when they officially conspired against Regina was clunky, considering we never saw Emma reach these conclusions herself. I won't begrudge the series for a lousy second episode, though. I don't want to dwell on the episode's weaknesses. I just want to move past "The Thing You Love Most."


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Grimm "Pilot" Review

I'm pleasantly surprised that at least 6.4 Americans tuned into Grimm's premiere last night. Critics sounded the death knell when the Cardinals staged their epic comeback (twice) in Game 6 Thursday night, forcing a Game 7, which was a serious threat to NBC's premiere night. Critics, in general, thought the series was complete trash. I, however, enjoyed the pilot. I liked the humor, the characters, and the procedural element. A procedural with fairy tale characters is infinitely more interesting than a procedural set in Manhattan or Miami with gritty cops and one-note characters.

Genre television appeals to me because the writers always have something substantial to say about the human condition. Years ago, I tried to express my affection for ANGEL's ability to cut the core of humanity on a message board but my youth hindered me, and it ended poorly. I'm older now, more equipped to explain why genre television, with its supernatural aspects, provides windows into the souls of every man and woman. On a conference call, Grimm creators Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, succinctly stated Grimm's purpose--to explain bad behavior by people through fairy tales. Those few words are enough to keep me engaged and interested in this story.

The "Pilot" is every inch a traditional pilot episode. The world and its characters are quickly established. Nick Burkhardt receives a hero's introduction. By that, I mean he's a committed man--to his work and to his woman. Nick bought an engagement ring early in the episode, an act that symbolizes the character's stability and contentment. Nick and his partner work well together, uncovering tracks and clues that their colleagues don't find. The case in this episode involves the abduction and murders of people wearing red hoodies or jackets. The abductions and murders confound the detectives because the violence suggests an animal attack; however, boot marks suggest that a human's guilty of the violent murders. Fortunately for Nick, his aunt drives into town to reveal a family secret--he's a Grimm and he sees things no one else can.

Nick noticed the transformation of people's faces on the streets. A beautiful woman's face transformed into the ugly visage of a demon before reverting back to the more pleasant face. I liked how Nick acted with calmness to his aunt's news. I understand someone's criticism of Nick's casual attitude to the news because the setting's the real world, and people wouldn't react calmly to the news his Aunt Marie brings him; however, I'm tired of characters who resist their calling and who need 2 or 3 episodes to embrace the life they've been brought into. Once in awhile, it's nice to see a character receive the news, shrug, and get to work. And that's what Nick does. The knowledge is a gift. Aunt Marie warned her nephew about the dangers to come, but she's in a coma for the most of the episode so I don't need to deal with the dangers of Nick's family calling. Without the knowledge of his Grimm ancestry, he'd never save a little girl's life that was taken by the Big Bad Wolf, or a blutbad.

Nick's ability to recognize the fairy tale folk amongst the ordinary citizens of earth leads him to a weird partnership with Eddie, a reformed blutbad and big bad wolf. Eddie's initially a prime suspect in the abduction/murder case until no evidence ties him to the crimes. Nick can't let Eddie go, though, so he stalks Eddie. Eddie tires of the stalking and introduces himself to Nick. It turns out that Eddie's a wolf who attends church and no longer indulges in his baser blutbad instincts. The character's a example of the diversity of the fairy tale characters we'll meet in the episode. None of them will be painted with black and white strokes. Instead, some could be good then be bad; others could be bad then good; others more could be all bad or all good. I liked the way Eddie interacted with Nick--their exchanges reminded me of early ANGEL when Angel relied on various demons.

I liked the main character because he lacked the traits of other leading men in procedurals. If Nick had a drinking problem or fidelity problem, an estranged wife or child, or if he was loathed in the office, a loose cannon or a wildcard, I might feel differently. I've been conditioned to expect those types of leading males in a procedural format. Nick's different. I already wrote about his stability and contentment. I made mention of his easy acceptance of Aunt Marie's truths. Tortured and complicated leading males are trendy. I'm glad Greenwalt & Kouf realized there's room in television for a light-hearted main character with a sense of humor.

Grimm films on location in Portland, Oregon. The Portland setting gives the series a lush and whimsical look. There were beautiful scenes in the pilot episode, such as the march in the stream towards the isolated log cabin in the woods where the big bad wolf held little red riding hood captive. The interior of Marie's trailer had an airy quality because of the lighting. The atmosphere's great for Grimm. The daylight scenes had an overcast quality but that quality didn't dwarf the scene. The Killing suffocated its narrative with its use of rain whereas Grimm used an overcast atmosphere without harming the tone of the show. What is the show's tone? Well, it's dark, sometimes scary, with instances of humor and light-heartedness. It resembles the tone of early Buffy and ANGEL, when Greenwalt had significant influence.

I look forward to future episodes. I'm glad the show performed so well because Grimm was one of the series I looked forward to most. I'm glad it didn't disappoint.


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Secret Circle "Masked" Review

Halloween isn't fun in Chance Harbor, Washington. Not when a group of witch hunters target the secret circle and come within inches of murdering each and every one. The costumes were great, though. Faye stole the episode with her sexy witch doctor outfit followed by seductive red riding hood. Cassie's sexy bumblebee costume was a success. Melissa as sexy catholic school girl also impressed. The costumes were terrific. The rest of the episode was just okay. The circle found themselves in danger once again. We learned more about Cassie Blake's powers. Jake didn't become any less bland.

"Masked" was a focused effort, unlike last week's "Wake." Cassie and Jake were involved in the A story. Adam and his father were involved a B story sparked by last week's breakup between Adam and Diana. Jane left Chance Harbor to check on the elder murdered by Dawn and Charles, which meant the vulnerable teenagers witches were left alone in a town populated by people who want witches dead. The A and B stories were told well. It's interesting to watch Cassie balance her increasing feelings for Jake with her suspicions about his character and motivations. Jake's not an interesting villain; however, he acts quickly and unapologetically--a strength for any fictitious villain. There were layers added Adam's father tonight. The man's unwilling to let go of the idea that he belonged to Cassie. A tertiary character helped him become aware of his fatherly affections for Cassie--the child he wanted wasn't Adam. Adam's dad doesn't deny it, just sits and stares blankly as the truth registers.

So much of the series has been about discovery. The witches discover something new every week whether it's about one another, a parent, magic, etc. "Masked" featured more discoveries. The members of the circle and the circle's family aren't the lone witches in the town. The circle's just a more powerful breed of witches. The town could be populated by less powerful witches. The series introduced such a witch and killed him off after he revealed a huge fact about the Blakes' power. We discovered things about the history of witch hunting in the town. The witch hunters aren't part of a fundamentalist religious sect (I assume because that'd be too controversial). Instead, witch hunting's a family business. The act is passed down through generations. The witches and their hunters aren't too different after all.

The most interesting discovery of the episode belongs to Cassie and her dark magic. As per usual, a scene took place with two adult characters using too many pronouns to keep information mysterious. The adults discussed Cassie's father, Jon Blackwell. The magic shop owner wanted to tell the girl the truth because she needs to control and contain the dark magic inside herself. Adam's father wanted to keep the truth from Cassie. Well, Cassie learned about the power inside herself when she burned a classmate to death when he tried to murder Diana. The power shocked her. The existence of dark magic altered Jake and Head Witch Hunter's plan for murder because it's more difficult to murder a witch with dark magic. There are more layers to unearth about dark magic, though, and I won't bother speculating.

The Secret Circle isn't a bad series. The show's slowly finding its footing. I like the expanding mythology. I simply do not have many thoughts about "Masked" though. I wrote about the ladies costumes, which was my favorite part. November sweeps should provide a clear view of what the show wants to be and will be. So, stay tuned.

Michelle Lovretta wrote the episode. Charles Beeson directed it.


The Vampire Diaries "Ghost World" Review

Well, I'm glad the ghost storyline concluded. Sometimes a story arc doesn't work out. The ghost arc definitely did not work out. I'm not sure if the writers needed an entire episode to conclude the arc either because the creative juices weren't flowing for whatever reason. Old characters returned to wreak havoc on the lives of the living or the undead. The living watched the ghosts act in confusion. And then the ghosts disappeared but the necklace remained in tact, and Alaric found a history lesson about the original vampires.

We learned that Bonnie's resurrection spell altered the balance of nature. The revelation wasn't surprising because I assumed that in May when Vicki and Anna haunted Jeremy for the first time. According to Bonnie's grandmother, the resurrection spell opened a door for spirits from the other side to infiltrate the physical world in order to finish unfinished business. The theme of the episode was letting go of the past, of one's own ghosts, whether figurative or metaphorical. Elena told Stefan that he'd lose her if he couldn't find his humanity because she won't continue loving a ghost. Elena went into big sister mode when Jeremy wanted to hold onto Anna. Jeremy's big sister explained how it's unfair for Jeremy to love a ghost when he's just beginning his life. The message of the episode, as conveyed through those two stories, was someone cannot grow if they hold onto the past.

Of course, I thought about the writers’ room and the conversation that occurred during the breaking process of "Ghost World." On one hand, it's great fun to bring back old characters. Lexi was one of the great one-episode-and-done characters in the show. Mason Lockwood died a sad, painful death at the hands of Damon. Anna needed to find her mother somehow. The random villains from season one weren't an essential component of the episode; I suppose Williamson and Plec had a soft spot in their respective hearts for those disposable vamps intent on murdering the family members of the founding families. Anyway, I thought about how the season was temporarily stunted by this complete focus on the ghosts of Mystic Falls. In the same way the characters would've been hampered by the past, the series was hampered by its one episode in the past. The Vampire Diaries lives and breathes on narrative momentum. "Ghost World" lost that momentum. I guess I'm just a spoiled fan of TVD, expecting each episode to be excellent.

I don't have much to write about the various plot threads of "Ghost World." Usually I'm all too eager to write about the dramatic happenings between Stefan, Elena and Damon; however, the Stefan-Elena story felt stale and recycled. The addition of Lexi didn't add much. Elena wanted Stefan to remember his essential self, which meant she thought about Lexi. Lexi, of course, acted as Stefan's sponsor. The two vampires were best friends for many, many years, and she had an ability to pull Stefan from the darkness. Ghost Lexi provided a crash course in Ripper Detox for Elena. The detox involved some weird vampire mojo and a decent dose of physical pain. Stefan cursed the two most important women in his life and swore he loathed the time he spent with both. Elena couldn't stand the process and vowed to destroy the necklace; of course, the necklace symbolized Stefan's hope that good could prevail. How lovely then that the necklace survived the spell. Stefan can resist the darkness just as the necklace resisted flames and magic.

Jeremy-Anna transformed into a weird love triangle. I thought the storyline had more potential than CW love triangle. For example, Anna and her mother found one another just before they returned to the other side. Couldn't her story involve Jeremy and Bonnie helping her find her mother? Who the hell cares about Bonnie and Jeremy in the first place? Do the writers? They've barely shared the same scene since their coupling. Meanwhile, Ghost Mason gave Damon a lesson in redemption. On the other side, spirits exist in isolation, watching over the people they left behind, feeling nothing but regret for the past. Mason accepted his fate, and he just wanted to help people who needed it (including Damon). Their time together inspired Damon to truly apologize to Alaric for the attempted murder incident. Damon seems bound for a redemptive season.

Overall, "Ghost World" was a disappointment. The stories weren't worth the time allotted them. It was sort of a transitional episode. I'm ready to return to the wild world of original vampires.

Rebecca Sonnenshine wrote the episode. David Jackson directed it.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Revenge "Intrigue" Review

Sexual intrigue, murderous intrigue and revenge intrigue are all present in the aptly titled "Intrigue." I've written too many words about how ABC and their show runners treat the audience like pre-schoolers, so I'll spare you from that this week. Still, though, ABC and Mike Kelley perceive their audiences as robotic pre-schoolers with no thoughts of their own. And so, as always, Emily Thorne opines in a narration about the concept of revenge while struggling to compare revenge to anything, then a whole lot of nothing unfolds over the following 42 minutes of the episode.

Last week concluded with the dramatic murder of Lydia. Well, it turns out she's just in a coma; however, Nolan's considerably freaked by the video he found. Likewise, Emily's freaked but only because something happened without her knowledge of it. After all, she's the revenge queen in the Hamptons. The conspirators move quickly to rid themselves of the dangerous head of Grayson security, Frank. Nolan anonymously sent the video to Conrad, who then fired Frank for his actions. Unfortunately for Emily, Kevin doesn't disappear like the other characters that were one-episode-and-done. Frank, in fact, is better than Nolan and Emily combined in their game of manipulation and revenge. Nolan learned this fact when Kevin threatened him at gunpoint at the Grayson's 4th of July party. Emily wasn't angry--just super pissed off.

The focus on Frank essentially removes the revenge-of-the-week formula of the initial three episodes. Perhaps this was never the formula as three episodes are hardly a pattern in the grand spectrum of a 22 episode season. Emily's been recently distracted, though, and the distractions have disrupted her plans. I suspect the series won't return to its procedural format because the narrative has a clear direction and purpose--the events at the engagement party.

Anywho, the depths of Emily's plans are unknown beyond her desire to take revenge on the Graysons for destroying her family's life. Thus, it's to figure out the main character and her motivations. I expected Emily to be smarter when dealing with Frank. Her line of thought went: Frank attacked Lydia in her apartment, he clearly snooped around; therefore, he saw the incriminating photo. And now, he must be removed from the picture. I felt the behavior was inconsistent with what we've seen or, perhaps she thinks poorly when under pressure. WHO KNOWS. I'm not in the writers room.

The serialization of any series is better than the alternative--episodic or stand-alones (whichever term you prefer). Episodic formats are boring. The storytelling needs to be so damn tight for the audience to invest in a whatever-of-the-week story. Usually, TV writers can't meet that quality of storytelling because of their insane schedules, so plots and character types are recycled each week, which makes for boring television. Revenge is in a good place because of the focus on a serialized narrative. The story's full of characters we've been watching for five weeks; now we're familiar with them and invested in their arcs. At least, Mike Kelley avoided the NOF disaster of too many terrible stand-alone episodes.

Besides the drama with Frank, which is actually quite light considering the one paragraph I devoted to it, "Intrigue" is a quiet episode. Nothing happens. The Graysons threw another party because the writers can't figure out how to bring the characters together in any other way. Tyler continued to push Daniel in the wrong direction, though Emily caught on to his deceptions. The Tyler character's an example of the show's weakness in characterization. Revenge is essentially built on the expectations that the audience will care enough to continue watching despite weak characterization and non-existent motives. Through three episodes, we know Tyler's focused on hurting Daniel more than helping him, and that's it. The actor wears a scowl in every scene to convey evil intentions. We'll find out soon enough why he's bad but the writing for the character makes me indifferent about the reasons for his behavior.

Tyler's not the only victim of weak characterization. The whole damn series is full of terribly written characters, even Emily and Victoria. Maybe there isn't more to Emily than revenge, but there should be more to Victoria than adulterous relationships and anguished looks when she recalls her painful past. I assume the audience should care about the Grayson marriage because there were several scenes in which Conrad and Victoria discussed their marriage. Why should we invest in their marriage? Both parties have clearly broken their marriage vows. I guess I'm just wondering, in the written word, about how someone can give a damn about story full of loathsome characters. I'm trying to make sense of devices disguised as characters. It's not as fun to analyze plot devices as it is to delve into character. Unfortunately, there's little to write about the characters that populate the Hamptons.

Next week's supposed to be the "game-changing" episode of Revenge--how timely that the game-changing episode arrives when November sweeps does.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Top 7 David Greenwalt Episodes

Friday marks David Greenwalt's triumphant return to television with NBC's Grimm. Greenwalt worked as Joss Whedon's right-hand man during the first three seasons of Buffy before leaving the show to run the series he co-created with Joss in 1999, ANGEL. Greenwalt has worked for many other shows during his successful television career. He penned three episodes of The Wonder Years, one episode of Doogie Howser, an episode of The X-Files, and quite a few episodes of Buffy and ANGEL. In between these shows he created or worked on Profit, Jake 2.0, Miracles and The Commish. His post-Whedonverse career has included numerous consulting producer stints. Greenwalt wrote scripts for Surface, Kidnapped, and Moonlight.

Grimm is the newest series from David Greenwalt (and also Jim Kouf). Unfortunately, the series is getting destroyed by critics. The success of Once Upon A Time seemingly doesn't help Grimm because message boards and TV sites already consider Greenwalt's series inferior to the ABC drama. Some critics stated that Grimm belongs on Syfy, not prestigious network television. Instinctively, I think, "How dare you!" because Greenwalt's responsible for some of the best television I've watched in my life. So, today, I wanted to share my opinion of David Greenwalt's best episodes to show how talented a writer, director, and producer he is. I'm only writing about Greenwalt's work in the Whedonverse because I haven't seen any of his episodes from other series'.

As for Grimm, I will write about every episode because I trust in David Greenwalt to produce worthwhile television. A pilot is only one episode, after all, and even the ANGEL pilot wasn't perfect.

1. "Sleep Tight"

I wrote about "Sleep Tight" earlier in the year. I think it is ANGEL's saddest episode. Nothing is the same afterwards. The episode begins ANGEL's most personal and intense arc in the series. The last scene between Angel and Baby Connor is heartbreaking and contains ample amounts of dramatic irony. We know where Wesley plans to take Connor, but Angel doesn't, and the only person who can help is knocked out behind the Hyperion desk. The next time he sees his son, his son will want to kill him.

2. "Dear Boy"

Season 2 is a terrific season of television, and "Dear Boy" kicks off the major arc of the season. The episode's a culmination of weird, bizarre, vivid, erotic, and lucid encounters Angel has had with Darla, his sire. Angel's nemesis, the law firm Wolfram & Heart, brought her back to life in "To Shanshu in LA". Why? There's a certain ironic poetry to Darla returning to kill him once again, but we learn that Wolfram & Hart brought her back not because they wanted Angel dead, but because they wanted him dark. The Darla of it all drives Angel nuts. Angel is near madness as he searches for Darla. Their confrontation is an awesome scene--and an example of scene economy. it's so well-written. Greenwalt tackles their history, and a myriad of themes and ideas, in only five minutes.

3. "Faith, Hope and Trick"

Joss wrote the wittiest scripts throughout Buffy. Greenwalt, though, wrote some witty scripts himself. "Repitle Boy" abounds in wit. Sure it has flaws, but wit isn't one of them. This episode's delightful to listen to because of that witty dialogue. Did Joss polish the dialogue at all? I don't know. Greenwalt was the number two. I wouldn't think that Joss polished the script because of Greenwalt's rank; but what do I know?

 4. "Dead End"

"Evil Hand!" This episode explores the nature of evil and the power of influence as it writes out the Angel's most interesting and complex antagonist. The board room scene at the end shows more of Greenwalt's expertise in structure, pacing, blocking, dialogue, and characterization.

5. "The Wish"

Greenwalt directed this reality-bending episode in which Anya creates a wish world for Cordelia wherein everything is different. The characters, aside from Giles and Oz, are alternate versions of themselves, and Sunnydale's an apocalyptic wasteland. This episode includes several iconic images. Who better to oversee the vision and direction of Buffy's opposite Wish world than Joss' number two? (Joss was busy prepping to direct "Amends" during the production for "The Wish"). The episode is ambitious and epic in its scope, and a triumph for episodic television.

6. "Happy Anniversary"

A largely unpopular episode, I know, but I like it. I liked any episode when Lorne and Angel worked together. In this one they work together to try to stop a love-sick guy from accidentally freezing time and ending the world because his girlfriend wants to leave him. The best scene occurs after Lorne and Angel save the world. They dine with the broken-hearted man, and Lorne gives him the best advice after Angel offers nothing helpful.

7. "Angel"

Anytime one reads about Buffy's first season, someone mentions "Prophecy Girl" or "Angel" as the only good episodes. That's not entirely true, but "Angel" really sets off his and Buffy's romance, and his long, long arc in the 'verse.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How I Met Your Mother "Noretta" Review

There isn't much to unpack in "Noretta." Of course, How I Met Your Mother episodes are never thematically loaded. In "Noretta," each character (besides Robin) recognizes the resemblance between their significant other and their parent. The characters accept this resemblance, and even feel glad that they found someone as good as one who raised them. The episode's more interested in jokes than storytelling, which made it a more entertaining 21 minutes of HIMYM. For the second week in a row, I have mostly good words to write about the series.

Before I compliment the episode's second act, I'd prefer to begin with the Nora problem. Oh yes, it is now the Nora Problem. Nora's introduction last season was successful because I respond well to people with accents. I began listening to The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast a year ago and nodded my head in agreement for an extended period of time because the English accents made the pundits and podcast host sound so darn sophisticated. Now, I'm annoyed whenever James Richardson ignores fantastic points made by Sid Lowe or cuts him off before the run-down of La Liga is complete. Once, Lowe painted a vivid picture of the scene in Madrid during the two weeks young Catholics flocked to the city for World Youth and Jimbo ignored it entirely, but I digress. Likewise, I responded to Nora because of her English accent. Perhaps Bays & Thomas were equally enamored with the actress' accent because they've done nothing to develop the character or her relationship with Barney.

I wonder about the writers rooms for sitcoms. I've heard questions directed at sitcom writers about the emphasis on story vs. the emphasis on jokes. The NBC sitcom writers focus on story first then pepper in jokes later. I've no idea how an episode's broken in the HIMYM room. I theorize that the jokes come first because characters have been sacrificed in the telling of a joke. Anyway, this is a long-winded way of stating my opinion that Nora and Barney are dating because the writers want them to. The summer, seemingly, wasn't a time for the writers to think about why Barney and Nora are together. The second episode of the season focused on the relationship and why Barney would wait all night in a diner for her. Barney wanted to change. I think Barney would've jumped into a monogamous relationship with an ice cream sundae. By that, I mean there's nothing about Nora that convinces me Barney's dating her for her--he's dating her for himself and to prove something about himself to his friends. I felt the same way about last season's terrible 'Barney-meets-his-father' arc. I suppose one would argue that "Noretta" showed what Barney liked about Nora. I'd retort that the traits Nora shared with Loretta weren't in existence until tonight.

Anyway, I thought the second act of the episode was a blast. I laughed. I thought the use of the fathers of Lily and Marshall was terrific for every joke. I didn't care to overanalyze the oedipal themes because psychoanalytic theory sucks so much. I just wanted to laugh. I'd like to know how many takes the actors did. Ted, Robin, and Kevin were involved in a successful C story. Robin wondered how Ted felt about Kevin's presence in the apartment, which sparked a story about relationship dynamics. Kevin felt weird about the former couple living together until he realized how platonic the relationship truly is. Several things cracked me up, including Ted's choice to watch a documentary about a coin collector. Kal Penn's reactions to Ted's quirks as well as his delivery were terrific. Penn's been a fantastic addition to the series. It's a shame he's too famous to stick around until the end of the series because I wouldn't mind Robin and Kevin ending the series together.

I don't have much else to write about "Noretta." I probably should've mentioned how Marshall's trying to make his wife feel sexy throughout the episode but it doesn't matter enough to earn two sentences. Next week's the much anticipated Slutty Pumpkin episode, which marks Katie Holmes' return to television. Don't be surprised if I write one or two paragraphs about Katie Holmes, even though I wrote several paragraphs about her during my beloved Dawson's Creek re-watch over the summer. My feelings about HIMYM are mostly positive now--I laugh and I feel satisfied after episodes (albeit only two episodes). Perhaps it will continue for the entire season.


Joss Whedon & Shakespeare: Casting Whedon's Actors in other Shakespeare Plays

News of Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing shouldn't surprise his fans devoted fans. The Shakespeare Readings that took place between Whedon, his wife, and his actors are legendary in the fandom. Commentary tracks on Buffy, ANGEL, Firefly, and Dollhouse always made mention of those readings. Each Sunday, if my memory is correct, several of Whedon's actors would flock to Whedon manor to perform the works of William Shakespeare. Amy Acker used to knock the socks off of everyone when she would read her parts, which then inspired Joss to kill off Fred in ANGEL so that Illyria could be born--a role designed to showcase Acker's dramatic chops. I also heard Vincent Kartheiser owned the material he was given. Nathan Fillion and Alexis Denisof were also praised (even J. August Richards) for their portrayals of various Shakespearean characters.

When news broke about Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, it wasn't long before casting details were leaked. Unsurprisingly, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof portrayed Beatrice and Benedick. Nathan Fillion would've worked as Don John, but I think he'll own the role of Dogberry. Dogberry's the kind of character that allows Fillion to showcase his playful acting style. Sean Mahar-as-Don John is the surprise, thus far, but the lack of Summer Glau surprises me even more. I suppose she's too old to portray Hero. Hero and Beatrice are the only significant female characters in the entire play.

Of course, I'm not writing a speculative post on how each actor performed in their roles. I'll wait patiently for the day I watch Whedon's adaptation of one of The Bards' best comedies. You see, I'm a fan of Shakespeare. During my college years, I actively sought out classes on Shakespeare. I took one in community college followed by some more in university. I read the plays and wrote many, many words about them. If Whedon adapts one of the plays, perhaps more adaptations will follow. With that in mind, I present some plays I'd like to see adapted by Whedon along with which Whedon actors I'd like to see in the adaptation.


Henry IV is one of Shakespeare's more underrated histories. It's basically a prequel to Henry V because this play follows young Hal as he goofs off with Sir John Falstaff. In between the adventures of Hal and Falstaff is a political drama about who should sit England's throne. The play features fantastic scenes between Hotspur and Bolingbroke. Sean Mahar would be well cast in the role of Prince Hal. John Falstaff's a rotund character, so Whedon would need to branch out beyond his trusted group of actors. I'd like to see Tony Head in the role of King Henry. Just for the hell of it, Robin Sachs would do well as Hotspur.


Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of As You Like It is a masterpiece. I pondered including the play at all because Branagh's film came out five years ago, so it's quite fresh; however, Shakespeare productions happen all the damn time, so that's my counter. Rosalind's an interesting heroine as she dons the guise of a boy when hiding from her pissed off Uncle. Amy Acker or Summer Glau would be terrific in the role. I lean towards Summer because she seems more suited for Rosalind. If Summer's Rosalind, Amy Acker should be Audrey, with Fran Kranz as her William (not really her William as Audrey resists him for Rosalind). Touchstone brings to mind Nicholas Brendan. Duke Senior and Duke Frederick are more difficult roles to cast because none of the core Whedon actors are old enough. J. August Richards-as-Orlando is perfect. Alexis Denisof's probably the best actor to portray Jaques, the melancholy lord who delivers the play's most iconic soliloquy. I can't think of anyone else but Mercedes McNab for Celia.


Certainly, this cross between tragedy and comedy is among the lesser read plays of The Bard's. The BBC version of the play's fine but Whedon would add a ton of life and color to production of this play. The play's about the issues of mercy and justice. Isabella and Claudio are two important characters. Isabella's a novice nun. Claudio, her brother, is in prison for having sex before marriage with Juliet. Angelo, the deputy duke, holds Claudio's fate in her hands. The Duke, meanwhile, posed as Friar Lodowick to observe how the city's run without him. It's quite a good play that I'd recommend to people. Anywho, Isabella seems like an Amy Acker role. I've ignored other wonderful actresses, so Morena Baccarin would be my choice for Juliet. Nathan Fillion as Claudio would work well because it'd allow fans to see Mal and Inara in love (even though the characters aren't from Firefly). Angelo, the villain of the piece, seems like a role for Adam Busch. Vincentio the Duke would played well by Tony Head.


The Tempest fascinates me. I wrote so many words about the play in college in which I analyzed the post-colonial aspect of the play. I won't blowhard about The Tempest in this space, though. Simply, the play follows the exiled Prospero and his daughter on a magical isle. In an act of revenge, he creates a tempest that boat wrecks the people who took the throne from him. Among the inhabitants on the island are Caliban and Ariel. I really have no idea who I'd cast for what role. I'd like to see Joss himself take on the role of Prospero. Critics argue that Shakespeare is Prospero; that the play is Shakespeare's way of bidding farewell to the theater; thus, I'd like to see the auteur Joss Whedon as Prospero.


A piece about Shakespeare wouldn't conclude without Hamlet. Hamlet's one of my favorite plays. Some might roll their eyes but the play is an amazing work. The depth of thought is astounding. Hamlet's among the best characters ever created. Vincent Kartheiser would be my choice to portray the tortured Prince of Denmark. The role of Ophelia would go to Amy Acker. I'd cast David Boreanaz in the role of Laertes, even though he's a few years older than the role. I'd bring Sam Anderson in for the role of Polonious. Hamlet's loyal friend, Horatio, should be Alan Tudyk. I'm not sure who to cast as Claudius or Gertrude. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would be portrayed by Alexis Denisof and Tahmoh Penikett. The role of the two clowns (among my favorite characters in Shakespeare) would go to Fran Kranz and Ron Glass.

I could write more about other plays such as Macbeth, A Midsummer's Night Dream, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, and The Taming of the Shrew, but they'd follow the same formula. Obviously, I'd put Amy Acker into any prominent female part. Jewel Staite would find her way into a role. Fran Kranz, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, and Vincent Kartheiser are my top choices for any prominent male character.

Also, I'm excited for the day Much Ado About Nothing is readily available to watch. 2012 will be the year of Joss Whedon.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Once Upon A Time "Pilot" Review

From the writers and executive producers of LOST comes Once Upon A Time, a series in which fairy tales collide with the real world. For the most part, the pilot's a successful episode; however, I'm reluctant to write a sweeping essay about the themes of the series or speculate about the kind of stories the writers will tell as the series continues. The creators, Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, promised more adult portrayals of the classic fairy tale characters that have made Disney a fortune since the late 1930s. The fairy tale characters in Once Upon A Time include Prince Charming, Snow White, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, Gepetto, Jimminy Cricket, and Red Riding Hood.

I have a slightly different format in mind for this review because the Once Upon A Time pilot's entirely set-up with character moments few and far between. The reason for this is it’s an ensemble show. I assume the episodes will follow LOST's structure in which a single character's spotlighted. Pilots, in general, are difficult to write about because so much is unknown about a series after one episode. I wrote about many pilots in September, so I wanted to change things up for my own sanity.

-Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are a very talented writing team. The gentlemen began their TV writing career in the rooms of various WB shows. One such show involved Carlton Cuse. Their friendship with Carlton eventually led them to LOST during its first season. Kitsis & Horowitz spent nearly six seasons writing for LOST. In their last two seasons, they were executive producers and tasked with some of the most important episodes in the series. Following LOST, they developed Once Upon A Time with Damon Lindelof. Lindelof left the series because of his commitment to the Alien prequel as well as an untitled sci-fi script for Disney. The pilot episode of Once Upon A Time includes several references to the series that essentially defined and re-invented their careers.

I felt a certain temptation to write about the pilot through the lens of two writers who were letting go of LOST because the references sort of asked for such an interpretation of the pilot. There's a scene when Jennifer Morrison's Emma Swann wakes up in a prison cell. The scene begins with an iconic LOST shot of the eye opening. The mystical town of Storybrooke is frozen in time--8:15 to be exact. The house number of the Evil Queen is 108. The references are fun for LOST fans. There's a symbolic scene that closes the episode, though. The frozen clock moves to 8:16, which signifies that Kitsis and Horowitz aren't frozen in the narrative or world of LOST. More importantly, no matter how many advertisements and commercials connected the new series and LOST, Once Upon A Time won't be LOST and doesn't want to be LOST. Thankfully, Kitsis and Horowitz worked for LOST, so they know that LOST will never be copied or repeated.

-The story behind the collision of fairy tales and reality isn't complicated. I won't summarize the story because the bulk of the pilot's devoted to telling the story of that collision. I know that it's rare for The Foot to write a review without massively spoiling each and every aspect of it; however, pilots are easy to write about without spoiling much. The majority of people are interested in the acting. Jennifer Morrison is terrific as Emma Swann, the daughter of Snow White. Morrison's taken her bumps as an actress because of House and How I Met Your Mother. I've always been fond of Morrison, though her time on HIMYM left a bad taste in my mouth. I adored her in Urban Legend: Final Cut. Emma's a woman with walls around her. Since birth, she felt like she was abandoned. On her birthday, she wishes for company because she's lonely. Moments later, the son she gave up on for adoption arrives on her door step and invites her to Storybrooke, Maine because she's the key to saving the town from the curse.

-Fractured childhoods as a result of absentee parents is a major theme in the series. Henry, the little kid, and Emma are connected biologically, but they're also connected because they've been given away by parents who seemingly didn't want them (in their respective perspectives). Of course, this isn't the case in either situation. Both parents wanted to give their child the best shot to succeed in life, and find happiness. Emma's arrival's met with resentment by Henry's mother because she feels threatened by the presence of the biological mother. It's a basic story about a mother's fear of losing her child to the biological mother. The dramatic scene between the mothers is a great indicator of what to expect from the series' villains.

-Ginnifer Goodwin's Snow White was a bit bland. In fact, the entirety of the flashbacks to the fairy tale world was bland. The sets and the graphics were alive with color and dimension, but the acting and the writing needed some work. The show might have trouble integrating the different fairy tale characters into one world. The characters appear together in two or three scenes but none are distinctive unless they're recognized by name. Goodwin's Snow White possesses a back bone. For instance, she draws a sword when her step-mother confronts her and Prince Charming on their wedding day. In Storybrooke, she helps Henry locate Emma and allows the boy to wander where he wants to because she empathizes with the child's plight in Storybrooke. Snow White doesn't know why she's so sympathetic to the adopted boy's situation because she doesn't remember her own life because of the curse. Goodwin and the show runners promised a more complex Snow White, so I hope she emerges in the second episode.

-The pilot's succeeds because it lays the foundation and successfully builds the world with all the important connections between characters. The two narratives allow the audience to understand how much enchantment and magic the show will use in its episodes. I'm really interested in how the ensemble will be used. The show boasts several interesting characters that includes Rumplestitskin and Jimminy Cricket. I need to watch several episodes before I form an opinion on the sustainability of the series. Certainly, the ingredients are present for a satisfying season. The main character, Emma, has a number of things to overcome. The fairy tale characters need to remember who they are. I suppose the series is about identity. Emma sort of lacks one. Professionally, she tracks down criminals who shouldn't be out of jail then returns home to a lonely life. I'm encouraged whenever a series or a book focuses on the human heart because that's what makes a compelling story. I liked the pilot but I'm anxious for episode two and three and four and so on.

-Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz wrote the pilot. Mark Mylod directed it. I should mention that the show runners hired one hell of a group of writers. I'm hopeful the ratings are good for the premiere because the series has a ton of potential, based on just who's in the writers room.


Friday, October 21, 2011

The Secret Circle "Wake" Review

This episode is a bit of a mess. TSC introduced a new character as well as a group of big bads. The inconsistency of Diana's thoughts about her relationship with Adam continued. Adam's father came out of nowhere as an authoritative voice. Dawn tried to help Charles feel less guilt for drowning an innocent teenager. All the while, the episode seemed designed to remember Nick but he barely figured into the story at all. The writers tried to tell too much story in 41 minutes. Hopefully they won't make the same mistake in other episodes. The world isn't familiar enough to pack A-E stories into one hour. The writers just need to take a deep breath, relax, and decide on what three stories deserve the focus in an episode.

"Wake" isn't about any one character or situation because it's entirely set-up. There's been sufficient enough world-building to integrate the Big Bads of the first season. The set-up in the episode's quite vague, though. Jake, Nick's brother, came to Chance Harbor to take care of business. Since Cassie's our eyes and ears, we learn all about him through other characters. Without wasting words, Jake's a wildcard--someone Cassie first sees around a fire (so she thinks he's a possible arsonist). Faye hates the guy because he used her two years ago and left her feeling like a piece of junk. Adam hates him because of something that happened between him and his father, and there's a hint that Diana once dated Jake because she loathes 'jealous boyfriend Adam.' The circle doesn't trust him. Cassie, though, argues on behalf of Jake, insisting that he's a darn good fellow, and trustworthy, because he saved her from a knife-wielding female who actively hunts witches to scavenge their powers (none of that's true but it's the tale Jake tells Cassie later in the episode).

The reason for the vague-ness in the episode's set-up for future storytelling is because Cassie is our lens. Cassie trusts Jake; therefore, we trust Jake because we've seen him save her life. Of course, the doubt creeps in (for the audience) when he secretly meets with the assassin and curses her for beginning the blood-letting process so soon (on the witches). The writers wrote the character to be more ambiguous than the actor actually portrays him to be. The actor's not very good at playing the mysterious Jake because it's not surprising when he meets with a group of witch hunters. Any time multiple characters utter the words "it's been two years! HE'S CHANGED!" the character, most certainly, hasn't changed.

I'm already tired of Jake's arc because the built-in conflicts he has with the life-long inhabitants of Chance Harbor are interesting. Faye wants revenge for how he treated her, which is fine, but she just complains throughout "Wake." Melissa finally tells her to shut up when she reminds her that the wake's for Nick, not her. The tension between Jake and Adam is non-existent. Thomas Dekker tried to make it believable but their confrontations had no life. The most ridiculous exchange occurred during the wake, where Jake is supposed to be in mourning: Adam, with an abundance of macho bravado, approaches Jake and asks, "WHAT ARE YOU UP TO?!?" Now, the brother of the recently deceased Nick could've easily said, "I'm mourning my brother." However, Jake acts like a jackass, insults Adam's father, and a fight ensues. I know that it's a matter of time before we learn more about his relationship with Faye and his feud with Adam, but this episode destroyed any investment I had in discovering more about both.

The reveal that he's a witch hunting other witches as an act of revenge wasn't shocking either. The middle-aged male who heads the group of hunters could be problematic because middle-aged male Big Bads usually suck. The group's fervent and absolute beliefs about witches aren’t interesting either. Give me complicated Big Bads with complex motivations instead of black-and-white 'they-are-bad-and-need-to-die' villains.

Diana broke up with Adam because his father told her his son and Cassie was written in the stars. He warned her that bad things happen to those who mess with fate. Diana went to Cassie's, told her the truth about the break-up, and accepted her friend's consolatory embrace. Adam hasn't ruined their friendship yet. However, a tidbit like 'you are doomed should you mess with fate' isn't put into a script if it won't matter later. Diana's honesty was refreshing, considering how characters usually keep secrets for seasons on CW dramas. Speaking of Adam's father, he made mention of a blackwall (or blackwell) that devastated Cassie's father. The hints continue to drop about the boat fire but they're only hints, thus the specifics are vague. I'm not sure if a flashback episode would be a good idea for this show.

So, his previous two episodes were good enough to distract me from the flaws in the series. "Wake" had its problems. I barely wrote about Dawn and Charles because they weren't interesting. I hope the threat that Dawn and Charles pose to the circle comes back because I thought that idea was awesome. The group of witch-hunters, as I already wrote, is less awesome. The binding spell continues to have flaws. Apparently, the circle binds blood lines, which means it's tough to break. The elders probably stripped Dawn, Charles, and the others of their powers because of the boat fire and the whole demon nonsense. The series is in a proper mess now thanks to "Wake." It wasn't a successful episode, friends and well-wishers.

Of course, I look forward to "Masked" because I'm a fan of Halloween-themed episodes.

Andrea Newman wrote the episode. Guy Bee directed it.


The Vampire Diaries "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" resembled the series' pilot. Last week revealed that only one year passed between the pilot and "The Reckoning." The confirmation of that passage in time blew my mind because so many things have happened, and so many characters have changed. As our characters began their senior year of high school, they recalled where they were last year. Elena remembered meeting Stefan just one year ago, Matt remembered dreading the thought of facing Elena in the halls, and so on and so forth.

The characters' entire world is different one year later, though. No one's the same. People have died or become vampires or werewolves or both. Stefan's the villain now, not Damon. Damon's the hero, not Stefan. As the characters remembered life one year ago, Julie Plec and Caroline Dries wanted the audience to remember the pilot. So, we had a bonfire in the woods complete with murder attempts, football and cheerleading practice, as well as Vicki trying to hurt people--not even death corrects her flaws.

I've begun nearly every review with verbose musings on the dramatic events in the lives of Elena, Stefan, and Damon, so I'll wait a few paragraphs before more verbose musings. Instead, I'll begin with Vicki Donovan, the ghost who’s desperate to exist in the physical world again. The sixth episode of season one was the one in which Vicki the Vamp met her demise. How fitting, then, that #306 is the episode to bid farewell to character for good. The ghost arc hasn't gone the way I thought it would be. The arc seemed directionless and meandering for a decent part of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" until Matt performed some blood magic that allowed his sister to physically touch and hug things. Blood magic has a price though: one life for another. On the other side, Vicki became friends with the all-powerful witch who tried to trick Klaus into killing the source of the hybrids. The witch failed, so she promised Vicki another crack at life if she'd just kill the doppelganger. Vicki was never someone who could reject temptation. The girl was an addict in life, and an addict in death.

Vicki used Matt because they're joined by blood. Matt loved his sister with all his heart and tried to protect her. He died last week just so he'd be able to communicate with her. The tender moment between brother and sister was interrupted when she bludgeoned him with a tool. When he woke, he realized the mistake he made and sought Bonnie's help. Vicki, meanwhile, walked the grounds of the bonfire with a confidence and swagger only the invisible possess. The ghost stole a joint and smoked it before lighting Alaric's car on fire, hoping that Elena would burn inside. Stefan helped Elena escape before the fire killed her. Bonnie's spell worked before Vicki could try again. The spell brought her back into the school and into the room where Bonnie performed the spell. Bonnie informed Matt that he's the only one keeping Vicki around, so Matt had to say goodbye. Vicki apologized, swore that she wouldn't hurt anyone if he let her stay, and cried as Matt let her go. Matt told Vicki that she shouldn't be here anymore, that he needs to let her go no matter how painful it is. Vicki disappeared into the world she was so desperate to leave when he said goodbye.

The Other Side's a profoundly sad place. The dead are isolated, unable to find the peace or contentment that they found in life. I have questions about the other side in The Vampire Diaries universe. Vicki and Anna barely talked about the other side except to comment on how lonely and sad it is. I wonder if the Other Side is a place where the damned supernatural folk go whereas the humans go to the afterlife. I doubt that, though, because TVD's a show about acceptance and the writers wouldn't damn characters to an eternity of pain, sadness and isolation because they became vampires against their will. The emphasis with Vicki was on her destructive personality to herself and those around her. Lost in that story was the fact that she was a victim. Damon was bored so he turned her and effectively wrote her future; however, she's the villain of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Matt's goodbye seemed like a courtesy because Bonnie was casting her out of the physical world and damning her to this terrible place. The writers think through each scene, each piece of dialogue, and each choice but the conclusion of Vicki's ghost arc seemed rushed with little thought about the character and what happened to her. I'm a disappointed in how the story concluded.

Anna's still tethered to the physical world (without the ability to physically interact with it of course) because Jeremy constantly thinks about his old girlfriend. Considering the timeline, it's not surprising that Anna hadn't left Jeremy's thoughts. The courtship with Bonnie seemed like a decision made because the writers had two characters without much to do with. Anna wondered why she's allowed to stay after Vicki was cast out with magic. I feel like Anna's story will be told with the sympathy and thought that was absent from Vicki's story. There isn't much more to write about Anna's ghost because she and Jeremy were on the sidelines; however, Matt's blood magic seemingly brought the ghost of Mason Lockwood to Mystic Falls. The ghost isn't too happy as evidenced by his thorough beatdown of Damon Salvatore. Ghosts can tough and fight now. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, Elena confronted another day post-Stefan's-loss-of-humanity. Her day begins at 5:15AM with a training session, in the woods, with Alaric. Elena felt weak and down because of Stefan. Alaric assured her that she's the strongest person he knows. Soon, she'll be equally strong, physically. Stefan's lost humanity turned him into a jerk. The combination of zero humanity and a major blood high produces a Stefan who’s less likely to woo the hearts of women with his stoic heroism and brooding habits. There isn't much meat to their story this week. Stefan reminds Elena that he's her protector. Elena tries to blow him off, then she, Damon, Alaric, and Caroline conspire to lock Stefan in one of the many cells in Mystic Falls.

The plan involves plenty of acting. Elena acts drunk and Damon acts interested in Rebekah. Elena's successful whereas Damon isn't; however, Stefan's never locked away inside one of the many Mystic Falls cells because he saves Elena's life in the fire. The story's about whether or not Elena and Stefan still have a cosmic connection that not even compulsion can erase. Elena falls from the top of bleacher and lands in the arms Stefan. They gaze at one another like they always have, a sign that Stefan hasn't lost his love for Elena no matter how controlled he is by Klaus. The tender moment's short because Alaric shoots him with vervain darts. Later, Elena tells Stefan that she'll never give up hope. Stefan remarks, "Do you know how pathetic you sound?" And she said, "No, it makes me strong" and she punches him in the stomach with weapon Alaric taught her to use in the teaser. Damon called her Buffy as she lifted weights. The punch in the end was such a season two Buffy moment that it made me want to re-watch the Angelus arc again. And anytime a show's compared to Buffy, that's a very good thing.

Additional Thoughts:

-Katherine waited patiently for Michael to restore. As soon as she undid his chains, he bit into her like she was an apple. Michael is a vampire vampire hunter who feeds only on vampires. Quite an interesting character.

-Tyler’s pro-Klaus because Klaus sired him. Rebekah fed him a teenager girl after Caroline left. The hybrid thing won’t work out well for Tyler.

-Julie Plec & Caroline Dries wrote “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Rob Hardy directed it.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Revenge "Guilt" Review

Sometimes I feel as if Revenge creator, Mike Kelley, intentionally bludgeons the audience about the head with an episode's theme. ABC, the network, has a long history of employing show runners who consider the audiences to be morons incapable of picking up on the most basic themes of an episode. No Ordinary Family's writers treated its viewers like a kindergarten class most weeks. Revenge's writers room write dialogue like the audience is in 6th grade. The writing's atrocious, made even worse by the unnecessary narration at the beginning and end of every episode.

"Guilt," shockingly, is about guilt. Most individuals feel the need to make amends for a wrong they've done when guilt overwhelms their conscience. The characters in Revenge have completely different reactions to guilt though. Lydia, the exiled Hamptonite, returned to Victoria's territory with $10 million in the bank account. The guilt she feels for her adulterous affair is non-existent; therefore she must die. Emily Thorne, the daughter of the framed David Clarke, feeds off of the guilt she feels during her plans for revenge. Victoria, a woman who set the events in motion to frame David for the plane crash, couldn't overcome the guilt she felt. After all, she and Conrad were responsible for a plane crash that claimed over 200 lives, affected many families, and ruined one family. Instead of ignore the people involved, she created a Victims Outreach program to aid the families grieving over the loss of loved ones. A benefit for the Victims Outreach program's at the center of the dramatic episode in this week's episode.

Revenge, if nothing else, is a convoluted series. In my opinion, Nolan and Emily have enough evidence to destroy the Grayson empire; however, Emily's a sociopath, as is Nolan, and the series needs to tell a season's worth of stories, so the revenge scheme continues with more nonsense complicating Emily's delicate plans. Tyler, Daniel's old college roommate, is the wildcard Emily didn't foresee. Likewise, Lydia's confidence and swagger took Emily by surprise. I suppose $10 million in the bank will make anyone more daring and confident. Lydia returned to the Hamptons with intentions to reclaim her former life: her former house and her place within Victoria's circle of wealthy white women. Lydia carried the truth in her arsenal, in her threats perceived as empty. She made it clear to Victoria and Conrad that she meant to expose them for their role in the terrorist attack if her needs weren't meant. And all she wanted was a little friendship.

Emily circled the situation from afar, like a shark, waiting to pounce when she needed to. Lydia demanded some of her things be returned from the house, which Emily had no problem doing because she filled a box full of evidence tying the woman to the recent sequence of events in the Hamptons--the disgraced senator and leaked therapy tapes; however, Emily wasn't aware she parted with a picture that had her in it. After her release from a federal facility, she took a job as a caterer to gather information on Victoria and Lydia at a ball--as Amanda Clarke. Lydia noticed Emily Thorne in the back and smiled venomously. Emily and Nolan moved like lightning to remove all traces that she's actually Amanda Clarke. Kevin, the chief of security, actually helped the two sociopaths out when he murdered Lydia following a confrontation about her involvement in the senator fiasco as well as the therapy sessions. Lydia pleaded innocence but that made no matter--he threw her off of a roof.

"Guilt" is designed as a game-changer because no one's died before, and Emily wasn't involved in the murder. In the teaser, she remarks that 'every action has an opposite and equal reaction' in revenge. Even though she's innocent of the murder, her influence in the community caused Lydia's death. Nolan's freaked by the murder. Emily hasn't heard about the death but I imagine she'll react with a coolness she wears like armor. Things will continue to get messy as a result of the domino effect she's created in the town.

We learned guilt drives Emily more than revenge because, for years, she loathed her father for his involvement in the horrific terrorist attack. The revelation makes the character more human. Emily's been more robotic thus far. The truth that she needs to make amends for the years she despised her father should make it easier to invest in her; however, the writing's so damn bad. None of the emotions feel natural because of the clunky dialogue. The whole thing about 'guilt feeds me' made absolutely no sense when first uttered because it lacked context. I just remembered the flashback placed in the episode to tie it together.

Daniel Grayson learned more about his family than he wanted to know, which caused him to shun the family business for a life of freedom (trust fund be damned). Daniel's becoming more saint-like each week because they're going to kill him during sweeps (as the pilot showed). This week, he apologized to Jack and Emily, bailed Charlotte and Declan out of jail, yelled at Tyler, and took a job bartending at the Porter tavern.

I have nothing else to write about this episode. I expect my reviews of these episodes to take on the tone of my NOF reviews because the series is bad, but I'm going to continue writing about it.


Monday, October 17, 2011

How I Met Your Mother "Mystery Vs. History" Review

How I Met Your Mother's a fun and tolerable series when it's commenting on dating and modernity. "Mystery vs. History" is about how social media's impacted the dating scene, as well as everyday life. One can't avoid someone on a smart phone in a crowded public place. Someone's always texting or googling. A couple of years ago, before the iPhone exploded and only a minority possessed one, my friend would call his girlfriend to google something we were discussing at lunch. He termed it as 'the roundabout iphone.' Now, foreheads are constantly crinkled as people peruse and use their pricey smart phones.

Social media and the smart phone changed the way Ted Mosby dates. Barney and Robin acted as his agents, combing the interweb for facts and secrets about the woman he's about to date. The information they found about the date invariably altered Ted's behavior around the woman. One autumn night in 2011, though, Ted decided he wanted to return to the days before everyone's life was displayed on a wall; before people were easily found in .11 seconds by Google's search engine. Mosby's ever the romantic--a man who reveres Annie Hall, and no doubt wants to discover a woman in the same way Alvy Singer discovered Annie Hall. However, his friends insist on intruding upon his love life like a bunch of co-dependent and incestuous individuals (Kevin's analysis, of course). Ted's date begins in mystery because of a mutual agreement to not google the other prior to the date.

Inevitably, the rest of his friends insist on Ted clicking a link that will reveal all he wishes to learn naturally. The truth about his date's so shocking that it causes five separate spit-takes in a ten minute span (Kevin even does a spit-take but the beer went down the wrong pipe). The link causes Ted's mind to wander and to imagine what's coming when his date lets him know about her. Maybe she had a sex change, or maybe she lied about her affection for Annie Hall. Ted caves into the pressure and learns about her rich, philanthropic life. The woman's an amazing human being, who works for other people, and stumbled into billions of dollars because of her good intentions. Ted confessed and his date left, disappointed that he couldn't keep one promise.

I thought the writers made a good point about social media's affect on how people interact and date; however, I was disappointed by the lesson Ted learned. Ted was basically disappointed in his inability to keep his promise; therefore, destroying any possibility of a future with this amazing woman he happened to hit it off with while ordering food from the bar. Ted opined that mystery always trumps history. I would've preferred the character opining on how a wall of information about a person isn't the embodiment of one's personality or life, that the traits one will love about another person can only be learned through dates and time spent together. I liked how the show commented on the way conversations are constructed and manipulated by one's knowledge of another's life without their knowledge. The A story was just really well done.

In the B story, Marshall and Lily wanted the gender of their child to be a mystery but that didn't work out. Barney bothered them about it. Later, he and Robin would learn the gender of their friends' child because Marshall tired of Barney's incessant complaints. The parents-to-be found out when the piece of paper with the gender of the child stuck to Ted's foot. Suddenly, they didn't care they know. The moment transformed into a joyous celebration with friends.

"Mystery vs. History" is a very good episode of HIMYM. Kal Penn's Kevin worked extremely well this week. The writing wasn't strong for the character but Kal Penn's so darn likable that he overcame the weak writing. I just liked the focus on the group hanging out without a bunch of contrived nonsense.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Secret Circle "Slither" Review

It took just five episodes for The Secret Circle to kill its first significant character. The death, and the people responsible for the death, provides a clear picture of what The Secret Circle aims to be for the rest of the season. Anyone looking for a fun series about witches using magic should rent the Halloweentown movies. TSC is dark. Last week, Heather told the circle that darkness follows magic. This week, after Cassie told her grandmother the truth about her and her friends, Grams told her granddaughter that magic's not simple nor fun--in fact, it's dark and dangerous.

Kevin Williamson's shows have been show-and-tell. In other words, TSC characters aren't just hearing about the dangers of magic without experiencing it firsthand. The teenagers have been stalked and nearly killed twice within the last two episodes. The escaped demon from "Heather" sets up the show's darkest moment yet. The only way to ensure the audience will believe what a series tells them is to witness it, just like the characters. The demon possessed Melissa for the majority of the episode, with evil intentions in mind. Specifically, an old suitcase full of demon snakes was buried in the woods, waiting to be found and opened. The demon lied to the circle about another Book of Shadows being inside of the suitcase. The circle soon knew what waited inside because the suitcase constantly moved--that's when the chaos began.

The circle bound Melissa's hands and feet. Demon-possessed Melissa tried manipulation to lure her friends into freeing her. No one budged. The demon freed itself then nearly murdered Nick to scare the group into using their collective powers to unlock the box. Meanwhile, Cassie went to her grandmother to tell her about the trouble they've gotten into. Grandma had suspicions, especially after Heather's death, but she kept them to herself (actually she knew), opting for a more open and trusting dialogue with her granddaughter. Grandma belonged to the same group of Elders as Faye's grandfather. Unlike the previous circle, the Elders never lost their magic. The binding spell implemented a checks-and-balances system. The Elders are the ones who physically react should the checks-and-balances be violated by a witch. They're a powerful group--powerful enough that they removed the previous circle's individual power following the boat incident.

Grams immediately restored order. She exorcised the demon from Melissa; however, the demon found another host in Nick. Nick took off into the woods once Grams discovered the demon's possession of the innocent boy. The demon found Faye's mother in the boat house, none too pleased with her. The demon promised to possess her body in punishment for what she did when she raised the demons from the darkness. Faye's mother alerted Charles. Together, they agreed to drown Nick to kill the demon. Demons die only from extraction and drowning. The murder was dark. TVD hasn't had a disturbing death but Nick's death was disturbing. The executive producers and Liz Friedlander kept the camera on Charles as he struggled to drown the boy. So, we saw the thrashing and the struggle between killer and victim. Charles succeeded but he felt disgust by the knowledge that he just ended a teenager boy's life. Faye's mother was cold in her insistence that Nick was an unfortunate but necessary victim to kill the pissed off demon.

Nick's friends were shocked and upset. Diana cried in Adam's arms. Cassie rested in her Grandmother's embrace. Faye consoled a heartbroken Melissa. Nick's death is a game-changer for them. Before, magic offered the possibility to do whatever they liked. Diana insisted they be responsible but she never imagined what kind of danger accompanied magics. Now, the circle needs to grow up quickly and to uncover the truth of the boat accident because the demons aren't the most dangerous thing about magic--their parents are, and that's awesome.

"Slither" is the second consecutive really good episode of The Secret Circle. "Heather" is the best of the season but "Slither" challenged that title. This episode succeeded because Dana Baratta and the other writers took the show's biggest weakness (Faye's mom and Diana's dad) and turned them into strengths. Perhaps I should've realized how threatening the two adults are but I didn't. It took a visceral drowning scene to open my eyes to the true evil in Chance Harbor. I'm on board with any series that chooses to make humans scarier and more threatening than demons because their pursuit of power's so tremendous that not even murder distracts them. And this way, the writers can explore human behavior and the human condition in ways the Russian titans did in the 19th century (maybe it won't be like 19th century Russian literary is The CW).

TSC has been a pleasant surprise. I'm glad I continued watching and writing following two underwhelming episodes to start the series. The series has issues to work through, of course, such as the episode-by-episode structure. "Wake" promises another villain who wants the circle dead. Adam's a character in need of more development. Diana needs consistency. Two weeks ago, she was insecure. Last week, she was completely secure in her relationship with Adam. This week, she tried to use sex to keep Adam close to her. I suppose all of that is Diana's character, though, but her drive for passionate intercourse came from nowhere. Overall, though, "Slither" gave me confidence that the writers know what works.

Dana Baratta wrote the episode. Baratta wrote for Dawson's Creek in 1997. Williamson brought her in as a consulting producer. It's due time for Van Der Beek to join the show for a guest spot. Liz Friedlander directed it.


Friday, October 14, 2011

The Vampire Diaries "The Reckoning" Review

How can I write about TVD without being repetitive? The truth is, I can't. Every episode manages to top the previous one. The writers continue to pack a season's worth of story within 43 minutes. The Vampire Diaries is the best series on television right now. Snicker as you please or roll your eyes because of the unfortunate title of the show but believe me when I tell TVD's the best series currently running. The third season had the potential to be one of those special seasons of television, the kind that have been less frequent in years. "The Reckoning" essentially declared the third season's intention to be an unforgettable season of storytelling. I wonder if any series will produce an episode as awesome as #305 this TV season.

TVD's never been a series to waste the audiences time, so Klaus found Elena by teaser's end. The Mystic Falls High School seniors were gathered in the school to partake in the traditional senior class prank. Klaus quickly disrupted the prank and scattered the group of extras so that the terror and horror could begin. Klaus and Rebekah worked together to turn Tyler into a hybrid, which forced Bonnie to brainstorm a way to save her friends' life before the transition took his life. Klaus put Stefan and Elena in the gym, set a countdown, and compelled Stefan to drain Elena's blood. Matt killed himself to communicate with his dead sister because he believed she had valuable advice for the current and dire situation within the school (Bonnie saved his life). Damon, Katherine, and Jeremy were on a road trip to find the vampire-hunter-who-is-also-a-vampire because he's the only one capable of murdering Klaus.

Obviously, the episode was extremely busy. The action never stopped nor the tension nor jaw-dropping moments, but there was a ton of character stuff throughout "The Reckoning." In fact, the episode dealt exclusively with the theme of loss. Elena lost Stefan to Klaus' compulsion. Caroline lost Tyler to his newfound hybrid-ness, though he claimed he felt spectacular. The worried expression on Caroline's face conveyed all she felt about the change. Matt sacrificed his life just so he could see Vicki again. TVD essentially returned to its roots by using this theme as the series began with death and loss--the Gilbert parents, specifically. Elena's loss in the beginning of the series led her and her friends to this supernatural world, so where will these various losses lead?

Klaus removed Stefan's humanity when he fought against the compulsion to drain the blood from Elena's body. Elena and Stefan had twenty minutes to talk with one another before the chaos began. Neither declared their unwavering love for the other or acted differently. Elena encouraged Stefan to resist his nature and urged him to fight the compulsion because he's done it before. Her love for him and his love for her was actually enough. Stefan wouldn't apologize for his urges, though, because his nature's to feed on blood. Of course, Elena wasn't interested in apologies, just his ability to fight and resist. Once upon a time, Stefan saved her life, and when she was awash in grief, he came into her life and rescued from it. Elena repaid him during "Blood Brothers" when he briefly returned to his Ripper self. She led him from that darkness. The relationship was built on love and trust. Elena trusted Stefan enough to allow her into his life. Stefan trusted her enough to let her rescue him from his baser instincts. This is a long-winded way of writing about how much it sucks for Elena to lose Stefan. She watched Klaus remove his humanity and felt his brutal bite as he drains her blood.

Elena awoke in the hospital, alone and wounded , to news that she was donating blood to Klaus. Klaus experimented on Tyler, as the werewolf struggled to survive. The sun and moon curse is complicated, and not actually real. The final twist of the hybrid nonsense was revealed, and that is, the doppelganger's blood is the key for hybrids. The original witch tried to screw Klaus all those years ago by swearing the doppelganger needed to die for the curse to take effect; however, he just needed blood. The witch meant for Klaus to walk the earth alone as the lone hybrid. The twist is very cool. It solved a huge issue in a sensible manner, unlike what happened when the sun and moon curse was revealed to be fake. Though Elena's death isn't sought, she's a huge target because of the special blood pumping through her body.

Klaus and Rebekah fled Mystic Falls once Damon threatened them with Michael, the vampire hunter. Klaus left his loyal servant Stefan behind to watch Elena and Damon closely because the hybrids will have need of her before too long. Evil Stefan's a character with potential now that the tortured and reluctant Stefan's going to the sidelines for the time being. The change in his behavior was exemplified when he interrupted Damon and Elena's heart-to-heart. He dismissed them as people not worth his time unless they pose a dangerous threat to his vampire overlord. The heart-to-heart between Damon and Elena should've made their shippers swoon because they're closer than ever to a romantic relationship. It's worth exploring but I prefer Stefan and Elena because they've been an interesting couple throughout the series.

Matt's temporary death resulted in his ability to communicate with his sister from beyond the grave. Bonnie couldn't use magic to restore his life, so she used simple CPR to bring him back. Matt's been a maligned character because he's the normal one amongst characters with supernatural abilities. Also, Williamson, Plec, and company didn't know how to naturally integrate him into the action. Well, over the summer, they figured out the integration problem. Caroline and Tyler discussed Matt in Act I. Caroline felt bad for her ex-boyfriend because he's a lost soul without a family, and barely any friends, to lean on. Matt felt sad because Jeremy could see his sister. I felt sad watching Vicki's attempts to reach her brother. Ditto Matt's attempts to hear his sisters. Death gave him access, though. Bonnie tried to persuade him to let go of the idea he needs to be like everyone else. Matt asked for time to say goodbye to his sister because he knew she was present. Of course, Vicki didn't plan on saying goodbye at all--she wanted to say hello.

Speaking of ghosts, Ghost Anna led Katherine and Jeremy to Michael's tomb. The purpose of the ghosts isn't clear. For one episode, they were sources of exposition for the characters. Anna's mother happened to know about Michael. Vicki happened to know the doppelganger needed to be dead to create hybrids (because the original watch told her). I still don't know why the ghosts need help. This episode suggested the ghosts aren't evil spirits, though. I hope there are more consequences for Jeremy and Matt for defying the laws of life and death. Likewise, I hope Tyler deals with hybrid consequences. Three characters returned from dire circumstances in the last six episodes. Something should happen to one to avoid the ol' 'illusion of danger and death' that plagues many TV series'.

Other Thoughts:

-I do love Nina Dobrev as Katherine. Katherine's tremendously fun and sexy. Dobrev looks amazing as Katherine--curled hair, pursed lips, suggestive dialogue, and sexy wardrobe.

-I complimented The Secret Circle's use of the high school setting two weeks ago. TVD deserves the same praise because the action never left the school. I am a fan of supernatural teenage dramas set during characters' high school years.

-Michael Narducci wrote the episode. John Behring directed it.

-"The Reckoning" is the best episode of the season and, quite possibly, the series.


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 in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.