Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Revenge "Scandal" Review

So, I prepared an argument in my head during the episode about why the decision to tell an entire trial story would fail, as well as why I'm not invested in it. I was increasingly frustrated when each scene and subsequent scene suggested we'd watch an entire trial story unfold despite knowing nearly everything that happened. I felt frustrated by the insistence that Daniel committed first degree murder even though the dude probably suffered a mild concussion from a blow to the back of his head plus an additional blow to the side of his head. Tyler held the entire Grayson family hostage at gunpoint several weeks ago, he came into town ready to kill, but yet Daniel's charged with first degree murder. But hey it's a soap-opera; I can roll with the nonsense. I quite dreaded seven episodes devoted to piecing together events we've seen, but the conclusion of "Scandal" gave the rest of the season direction and purpose.

"Chaos" resembled a season finale and "Scandal" resembled a season premiere. Since I compliment TVD every week for such episodes, I'll salute Revenge for putting together two compelling episodes. I mean, I did talk to the TV aloud about various character choices, and even yelled at Jack to just tell his brother the whole truth instead of opting for complete silence because he's a soap-opera character. "Scandal" dealt with the fallout of Tyler's murder. Daniel searched under the floorboards for Emily's secrets, the Graysons performed damage control, Emily wore an expression of worry and fear for the first time in the series, Declan jumped around the major issue with his brother, Charlotte wanted to keep popping pills, etc. Things happened fast. Emily discovered Nolan's working relationship with Takeda and then threatened to kick his ass. A flashback informed the present. Characters communicated. The episode seemed slow at points even though each scene had substance, but chalk that up to the editing or the structure of the story. The episode absolutely succeeded though.

The flashbacks were a problem in past episodes. The flashback in "Scandal" isn't the first to inform the present narrative, but it was the most significant and substantial flashback. We've learned a great deal from the flashbacks. The flashbacks, thought, never entirely connected with the episode in which they were seen; however, "Scandal" shows Conrad and Victoria on the day of the plane crash, when the reality of prison and a disgraced life are tangible, and one sees how desperation caused the couple to throw David Clarke under the SEPTA bus. Daniel's situation is the opposite of them in that he's an innocent about to be crucified by the media and the public because he's part of the 1%. Victoria and Conrad's scenes show how cold they can be when desperate, and they immediately latch onto the idea of putting whoever the hooded man was in prison. I don't want to write about karma after the HIMYM review, because it nearly drove me insane, but the Graysons past actions have come back to bite them i.e. Daniel is the poor bastard paying the price for his parents' sins, karmically. It's nice to see though.

The final scene provided crucial clarity for the previous 42 minutes. The viewer learned the truth of the murder. Indeed, Takeda murdered Tyler, as I suspected. Takeda confessed his crimes to Emily 48 hours earlier, explaining that her lack of discipline caused chaos, and now she must choose between Daniel and Jack--she cannot save them both. The prospect of a who-dunnit mystery wasn't appealing because of the anvils dropped in "Chaos” regarding who actually did it. A complicated personal arc for Emily in midst of her grand schemes for revenge, in which she's conflicted between her plans for revenge and her issues of the human heart, is appealing. The scene also introduced a more compelling mystery in Takeda; specifically, one wonders what his true role in the grand scheme is, because his lines suggest that a set plan's gone awfully awry. Simply, why does he care so much?

There were many moving pieces in "Scandal." Mr. Brooks, Daniel's lawyer, is going to be a thorn in Emily Thorne's side (no pun intended). Nolan and Ashley had a moment in which he discovered something fishy within the photographs or about the photographs (I missed the two most important lines). Jack, despite Declan's urging, won't flee town despite the bad evidence against him once the investigators connect the dots and Charlotte positively IDs him. I also got a real sense that the Grayson empire will fall by the end of the season just from the flashback. I suddenly realized that the flashbacks have told a story that should naturally conclude with justice being served to those back-stabbing Grayson bastards; but that's neither here nor there.

"Scandal" needed to deal with the fallout of the murder and keep the masses intrigued and hooked enough to return when new episodes resume in April. I thought everything worked. From what I've seen on the message boards, folk can't believe they need to wait a whole month (and maybe 2 weeks in April) for the return of Revenge. Well, friends and well-wishers, the month will turn to March, and the networks take a nap as they save episodes for mid-to-late April and into May sweeps.

Elle Triedman wrote the episode. Kenneth Fink directed it.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The River "Peaches" Review

ABC promised its viewers that they wouldn't be able to sleep after the newest episode of The River. Not only will the viewing audience sleep but they will sleep soundly. "Peaches" is for people who adored the 2002 film Ghost Ship. If anyone felt so afraid of the events in Ghost Ship, avoid "Peaches." I assume no one felt afraid of Ghost Ship; therefore, "Peaches" wouldn't terrify a single soul. Of course, I also assume no one remembers the 2002 film about a ghost ship in the Baltic Sea just like no one will remember The River two days after its probable series finale in three weeks.

The crazy Magus crew got themselves into a whole bunch of trouble again. The night was thick with fog, but Tess refused to let visibility affect their search for Emmett and only Emmett. Lena quietly reminded her captain about the other man missing, her own personal daddy Russ Landry, to which Tess nodded awkwardly. Lena spent the first two acts in grief, hugging her legs, and telling anyone who listened about her feelings of loss. Russ became an afterthought the moment Emmett went missing. The news reports only used Emmett's name in the headlines. Lena's emotional breakdown is a response to the 24/7 cycle of 'find Emmett' and the complete disregard for Cole's number one cameraman. Lena feels alone, as if no one wants to deal with her wants and needs. Jonas helps her, but he wants to copulate with her, so his motives aren't pure. Lincoln's just a bystander because the writing evidently had nothing for him, except to passively watch another man try to get the girl he's liked since childhood.

Lena is sad before and after the ghost ship crashes into the Magus, which causes the ship to run aground and be at the mercy of whatever ship happens to come along with spare parts. The downtime allows Lena the opportunity to think about herself, and her memories with her personal daddy. Russ called his little girl peaches and taught her how to play the accordion because boys 'never asked out girls who played the accordion.' Russ wanted her to be a boy or a nerd, uninterested in boys asking her out. The memories produce expressions of warmth and love on her face as well as expressions of loss and suffering. Memories are good but the present reality, his absence, is difficult for her to cope with. Jonas finds video in which Russ briefly jumps in front of the camera to address his daughter and tell her everything she needed to hear at that moment.

Soon, though, the Magus situation dominates the rest of "Peaches." A band of environmental activists respond to Tess' S.O.S. and come to aid the stranded Magus with a box of tools. The activists seem innocent enough until Kurt witnesses two of the Exodus crew members conspiring to kidnap members of the ship for an unknown purpose. The Exodus crew are actually ghosts in search of people who can take their place, which will free them from the prison of their boat. The Boiuna is a weird, magical place where river ghosts drag folk into the water and tribes inflicted with grey-scale evaluate whether crews are worthy of the Amazon and where another tribe hangs people who film sacred rituals--of course there would be ghosts eventually...this is Oren Peli's show. The ghost crew are a rather shallow bunch, creatively speaking; their plan is to get the Magus Crew drunk and then lore the stupid ones onto their boat. They are ghosts so, naturally, they aren't at peace, and the lone way for them to find peace is to leave the ship, and the only way to leave the ship is by kidnapping five people and keeping them on the Exodus until sunrise. I honestly wondered why the ghosts needed five people, not even thinking about Russ as the fifth ghost.

Yes, Lena's own personal daddy was found in the brig (or cabin?) of the Exodus by Lena herself. Father and daughter shared a tearful reunion. Their happy reunion turned to panic when Kurt showed up from nowhere with news that everyone trapped was definitely screwed when sunrise hit. Eventually, Lincoln notices everyone but two people are missing. Lincoln and Clark use the zodiac to find the Exodus. Kurt busts out of their 'prison,' a brief fights ensues between the living and the dead, the living use flares to burn the ghosts as well as the ship, and then all is well. However, Russ reveals his secret: he, in fact, died months ago but Lena's presence allowed him to move on peacefully (and he told Tess valuable information about Emmett and The Source). People knock The River for a myriad of reasons, and indeed one can criticize the show for barely trying to tell substantive emotional stories. Emotional beats are the anchor of not only each episode but the series as a whole; but the emotions are broad; any character could be given Lena's story because the emotion isn't specific to the character. It feels the writers know they need an emotional anchor each week so they decide willy-nilly to give a character something to overcome; and hey, it's storytelling 101 but it's lazy. Lena's been on the ship for 22 days and hasn't mentioned her father since she flew in on day #2. It's entirely plausible that these emotions built up in Lena to the point that they exploded in torrents because no one seems to care about her father. I just remember her close relationship with both Lincoln and Tess, and her outburst seems out of character when one considers the people she could've honestly talked with about her feelings. The story would've been fine if this had been in episode three. Lena's behavior didn't track with what we've seen in the previous four episodes. And one other thing: no effort was made to make the viewer care about Russ. We didn't know a damn thing about him except for his nickname for Lena.

I thought Jahel's little moments with the young South American ghost were the best parts of "Peaces". Jahel and Lincoln conversed about her feelings as an outsider, about how language keeps her separate from the other people. Indeed, she can't communicate with the others about her visions and premonitions; if she could, they wouldn't be so scared of her and she wouldn't be so alone, and she wouldn't be so willing to spend a night on a ghost ship with a boy just because she can communicate with him. Jahel tells Lincoln she should learn the English language, Lincoln reminds her of the country they're in, but she rolls her eyes. I'd like the crew to learn her language. It won't matter though. This series is doomed. I digress. I liked her little moments because they developed her character a bit, deepened her in a way she hadn't been before, made her less of a stereotypical South American girl of exposition and more of a human being with actual feelings.

Overall, "Peaches" was another silly hour of The River. The ghost storyline was truly ridiculous. I rooted for Kurt for the first time because he finally acted like a badass security guard. For one week, at least, no one worried about his motivations (well there was one scene about that). There are only three episodes left in season 1. Next week's episode looks good.


Lost Girl "Arachnofaebia" Review

Kenzi went from almost killed to a killer because of faes. She had the misfortune of eating portions of a contaminated human foot and then a fae spider bit her in the hand. The fae spider didn't just bite Kenzi though; the spider also bit Bo and Hale, causing everyone to briefly lose their minds. The effects of the spider amplified the tension between Kenzi and Bo, like any good genre story. In fact, "Arachnofaebia" reminded me of BtVS' "Him," in which the girls are lovestruck by a jacket and resort to drastic measures to win RJ's love. I did not know what to expect from the previews. I dreaded an episode about a psychotic Kenzi trying to kill folk, but "Arachnofaebia" surprised me with its deft humor and light-hearted ton. Indeed, this episode was great fun.

It's amazing an episode that begins with a sister murdering her other sister and then turning the sewing needles on herself could be as light, funny and fun as "Arachnofaebia" revealed itself to be. Buffy and ANGEL had their fair share of dark teasers before the fun of the rest of the episode began. I remember how "Spin The Bottle" began with an intense conversation between Angel and Cordelia and, later, Lorne accidentally used magic to cause everyone to return to their teenage selves (with hilarious results). Anyway, tensions between Kenzi and Bo rise in the first scene of the episode when Bo ruins Kenzi's flirt with the pizza delivery boy. The girls argue about the cleanliness of the place along with other issues that haven't been issues until this very scene. The issues between the girls are not complicated; in fact, it's just a matter of roommates becoming annoyed with minor things the other doesn't do, or the other prevents one from doing (for instance, Kenzi getting her flirt on with the delivery boy in hopes of him getting into her grill...actual line from the episode).

The fae spider crawls into Kenzi's bag during one of her con jobs in the suburbs. A recent string of murder-suicides destroyed the property value of homes in the neighborhood so Kenzi cons a real estate agent into paying her to cleanse a house from the evil spirits left behind after their gruesome deaths. Dyson and Hale's investigation of the aforementioned murder-suicide brings them to the neighborhood, and they meet up with the ladies after spotting Bo's yellow car. The foursome go to Trick's bar where Lauren shows up for a date with Bo, only to be disappointed to find Dyson lounging on a sofa, grinning widely, uninterested in leaving Bo alone with Lauren. Yes, indeed, the love triangle between the three characters has begun. Meanwhile, Kenzi and Hale hang out at the bar, trading quips until Kenzi's bitten by something. Hale looks through her bag and remarks about the inevitably of a cut when Kenzi's lugging around an arsenal.

Anyway, the important character dynamics are established within their first two acts so that the humor can begin when the effects of the spider venom take effect in the blood stream of the bitten. Kenzi and Bo can't stop scratching themselves nor can they get rid of a pounding headache. The spider venom causes the infected to hallucinate and feel intense paranoia as well as fear AND agoraphobia. There's a nature show on the TV that Kenzi can't stop watching. My favorite exchange of the episode happens when the girls are fighting and Bo wonders why Kenzi can't just tape the program. The second best exchange happens after Bo bludgeons Hale in the head with a frying pan, looks up at Kenzi and then at the pan, and angrily says, "It's still dirty!" The tone's light, which makes the humor work.

Dyson and Lauren clash during "Arachnofaebia." The Ash wanted the spider, as well as the infected, burned. Lauren reported the situation to her superior, which Dyson vehemently disagreed with, even though she's sexually attracted to Bo. The tensions between these characters was about light fae loyalties rather than 'who will Bo choose?' There are depths to the light fae that we haven't seen yet, something about The Ash that motivates Lauren to make controversial decisions without a second thought. When Dyson tells Lauren his opinion that she'd have let Bo and Kenzi die, Lauren doesn't deny it. Dyson and Lauren's dynamic is more interesting outside of the Bo context, but the Bo-ness of it all will probably dwarf the other issues. Bo chooses Lauren at episode's end, unaware of the truth. Dyson walks away, disgusted.

The spider situation is resolved without any bloodshed, except for the spider, which's killed when Lauren stabs its heart. I thought it was cool how the spider hid its heart inside someone, making it difficult for anyone to kill it. The spider had personality for a CGI thing with no lines. For example, Bo sliced it in half, but the spider re-attached itself and dodged subsequent shots; it taunted Bo, and the effects of the venom were like psychic taunts. I found the spider strangely enjoyable--just like the entire episode. The humor and the drama came from within the characters and the situation. Nothing felt forced. Again, it reminded me of "Him" because it was a harmless and fun 43 minutes though "Him" had more charm. I like it when characters are allowed to be funny. Even Trick had a great line.

Other Thoughts:

-If I haven't written it already it bears repeating, Ksenia Solo needs to wear the blonde wig. I know the series is three seasons in, or about to begin season three, so such suggestions don't matter, heck, I'm sure that no one in Canada knows about these reviews. Kenzi's playacting as a shaman was fantastic for the hair alone. The girl is stunning as a blonde. Previews for next week showed an even sexier blonde wig.

-Hale officially emerged as great comic relief. I'm probably not the only one who sees potential in a Kenzi-Hale romance.

-Speaking of Kenzi, her and Lauren made out for ten seconds when Bo hallucinated. The scene showed Bo's affections for Lauren and subsequent jealousy for anyone who wants to kiss her. I certainly did not expect Kenzi to make out with Lauren before Bo.

-Dyson and Kenzi have a great platonic relationship. I like his role as her sort-of big brother.

-Emily Andras wrote the episode. John Fawcett directed.


Monday, February 27, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "Karma" Review

Craig Thomas and Carter Bays promised significant changes in How I Met Your Mother following "The Drunk Train." Ted's confession to Robin about his feelings was just the tip of the iceberg of what the writers have planned for the rest of the seventh season. Indeed, the situation with Robin ended when Robin flatly told her roommate that she did not feel romantic love for him. Robin then moved out, leaving an empty space in both Ted's apartment and life. People respond to rejection or a break-up in a myriad of ways. Ted's coping mechanisms are light and humorous, but his activities mask a pain, which he later admits is loneliness, adding that the room is a reminder that he's alone. Throughout his story, ghost Robin appears, making cheap jokes about masturbation; her last visitation is more substantive, and the message she delivers to Ted is about her consistency and how she'll never truly be gone from his life, which gives Ted a boost and valuable perspective about what he truly needs to do to move on.

Meanwhile, Robin briefly moved into Lily and Marshall's home on Long Island. Robin told the story of her stay through voiceover, which reminded me of Victorian novels (which I did not like). Lily and Marshall were complete converts of the suburban way of life: attending high school sporting events, playing bingo with the locals and exercising with their neighbors. Robin couldn't deal with it, she was horrified by the snuggets her friends wore, as well as their early bed time. Robin wanted to escape, but her friends locked the doors, unwilling to let her leave. Marshall and Lily were preventing her from leaving because they think the suburbs are unbearable, but they want to raise their child in a good neighborhood, which is why they're reluctant to leave.

The two stories bleed into one another in the coda. Marshall and Lily enter Ted's apartment only to find a completely bare room and a note on the wall. In the note, Ted explains that he took his name off of the lease and left Marshall and Lily's on it, meaning the apartment is theirs to live in. Ted explains that he needed to leave the apartment not because of the empty space that Robin left; but because Ted identified the apartment's true ghost: himself. The lone way for a ghost to find peace is to move on, and that is what Ted does, or at least he begins the processing of moving on. The gesture is sweet as is the note. Future Ted foreshadowed a time when the friends live apart from one another, away from McClaren's and such, and the move signifies the beginning of the next chapter in the show's narrative.

Certainly, a narrative that focuses on the changes in all of the friends' lives is more interesting than a retread of Ted and Robin, though the eventual triangle with Barney is something I won't complain about (if done right). The characters are in their mid-30s. It's past time for all of them to settle down and find some semblance of happiness and contentment. The heart of Ted's journey seems beyond simply wanting to find his other half, the ying to his yang, his soul mate and wife; at least I hope his journey's about more than finding the mother. Of course, I've probably complained about the show wasting time with Ted's central arc, but only when the story feels unearned. If Ted simply needs to 'get away' and reassess his life then fine because that's interesting and character driven and something the show earned during these wayward last few wayward seasons. No, the last few seasons won't be redeemed by a decent Ted arc, but it's the least the writers can do; however, I'm pessimistic about any significant character journey for Ted considering the flash-forward in which he's wearing a green dress in a casino.

Robin's future is less defined, and the writers didn't write a scene in which she walks through the streets of Manhattan with a determined look on her face. Marshall and Lily continue to behave like people preparing for the child but who live in constant fear of the kind of live they'll be able to give their child. Barney's future currently involves Quinn (AKA Karma). The use of the word Karma is deliberate and overt, especially in Barney's C story; however, the Buddhist roots of karma are worth pondering when assessing the episode as a whole. Karma, in contemporary society, is almost exclusively used after something good or bad happens to someone. People acknowledge that karma's about an 'action' or a 'deed;" for instance, if something good happens to someone, then that's karma, but if something bad happens to someone who treated someone badly or acted in a bad manner in general, that is also karma. But there's an existential aspect to karma: one is truly in control of his or her own life. If someone performs a good dead and then receives a job promotion, it could be more coincidence than karmic. Ted's active decision to find peace and happiness is karmic just as Robin's decisions, for good or ill, are karmic. Whatever happiness Ted, and the gang find, is their vipaka.

If Bays and Thomas and their staff intentionally titled the episode "Karma" to represent the truths of Buddhist karma then I salute them because it's a richer episode when viewed through the lens of honest spirituality rather than its contemporary counterpart which is hollower. Barney worked for Quinn's affections because she treated him like he treated many, many girls before him. Barney accepted his punishment though, aware of his past transgressions; that he embraced his fate is an acknowledgement of his karmic seed, and his effort to land a real date with Quinn is part of the vipaka process. So, I thought the episode had an apt title.

Anyway, I need to end the review because I'm thinking too much about Buddhist karma when all the episode wanted to do was move their characters in new directions with some laughs and heart. The laughs were rare, but the heart was plentiful. Oh gosh, what a lame way to end the review.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Grimm "Last Grimm Standing" Review

Nearly 12 years ago, on February 29, The WB broadcasted ANGEL's sixteenth episode titled "The Ring." It's a Spartacus-inspired story in which Angel's enslaved by two bad brothers, forced to fight for his freedom, and then accepts the role to free every enslaved demon. I watched the preview for "Last Grimm Standing" and immediately re-watched "The Ring," anticipating writing about the similarities between both episodes, connected through the show runner David Greenwalt; perhaps it'd be an hour in which Nick and the creatures of Grimm see one another as allies instead of foes. Of course, the gladiatorial ring and the bad guy at the center of the blood sport were the lone things in common with the 12 year old ANGEL episode. "Last Grimm Standing" did tease a piece of Grimm mythology though.

As per usual, the teaser of Grimm showed innocent people being murdered by one of the creatures from the Grimm fairy tales. This week's creature was a Luwen (forgive the spelling). The episode opened in the Portland forests on a misty, chilly night. A horseman knelt in the ground, letting the dirt and bits of grass run through his fingers, sniffing the odors, evidently tracking someone. Meanwhile, an elderly couple wanted their dogs to return from the wilderness. The couple were killed by a beastly luwen who ran away once the sounds of horseshoes echoed through the wood. The horsemen captured the luwen and took him to an abandoned warehouse where gladiatorial fights to death are staged for death, but we don't learn about that until halfway through the episode.

Indeed, Nick and Hank spend the first half of the episode in a typical procedural drama where the clues are baffling, the friends of the suspect unreliable, the leads mystifying. If I hadn't seen the previews, the set-up would've been intriguing. A killer who's been missing for weeks is a nice twist from the usual killers introduced in other Grimm episodes. The clues and leads about the killer's locale, who is Dmitri by the way, eventually lead them to an abandoned warehouse. The floors are covered with dry blood, circles, and Latin inscriptions about the honor of death and the honor in accepting death. Nick consults the trailer for any information about gladiatorial history in the pasts of luwens or vessens. Monroe arrives with expository lines about the gladiatorial history of luwens. From there, Monroe volunteers to investigate the matter from the creature side of things. His meeting with a bookie gets him an address, but then he's kidnapped once he arrives at the address. The tone and focus of the episode switches from procedural to search-and-rescue for Monroe, with an explosion of gladiatorial fighting.

The case takes its first interesting turn when Capt. Renard approaches Lee Taymor, the parole officer for two of the 'slaves' in the ring, and orders him to follow the 'rules.' Renard's involvement was a genuine surprise, though his role didn’t' reveal much about his grand role in everything, or any insight into his motivations. At least, Renard's been defined as a strict distributor of justice, and a firm adherer of the 'rules.' So when Renard basically tells Nick and Hank that Lee's worth questioning a second time, it's not because of police justice, but because of some other justice for a world we're not quite sure about yet. Yes, I'd like to learn more about Renard. Next week should be the week for that.

The second half of the episode had the energy and pacing that the first half did not. Perhaps, like the viewer, the writers were eager to write about the gladiatorial ring business. The reasons for the blood sport aren't complex. The Luwens have a gladiatorial history, as well as a love for money. Thus, Lee took miscreants and drug addicts who could die and disappear as if they didn't exist. Unlike in ANGEL, where Angel's motivated to free every demon from enslavement, Nick just wants to save his friend and find Dmitri. The takedown of the ring is a bonus; it's also a triumphant character moment for Nick, who's progressively stronger and more bad-ass as the series evolves. Not only does he take down Lee's blood sport business, he does so by beating the baddest creature in the ring who'd already won six fights. The creatures will be more evil in the future. Nick needs the strength of his ancestry to defeat whatever's coming to him. Monroe's advice about tapping into his family's ancestry to beat Dmitri definitely extends beyond the ring. Nick's progression has been great because it's methodical and natural. His awareness of his past didn't suddenly grant him unlimited strength and power to defeat the evil creatures in those childhood fairytales; it's all about trial by fire; the fire will get hotter, the trials will get more dire and trying.

The transition from procedural drama to ancient gladiatorial battles wasn't smooth; it was not a drastic transition though. I mean, the discovery of the ring solved the case introduced in the beginning. Dmitri physically killed the couple, but Leo's blood sport drove Dmitri insane. Leo and his bearded cronies used torture tactics to rile the creatures up into a mentality in which they could only kill or be killed with no thought given to their actions: a chain of cruelty led to the gruesome murders in the Portland forests. Elsewhere, Juliette found an engagement ring in Nick's sock drawer. Juliette and Nick shared a cute conversation about their romantic dinner later in the evening, full of double entendres and sweet sentiments about their respective regard for one another. Juliette's next scene was of her alone, at the dinner table, waiting for Nick to return home, eat dinner, and propose. But he ran late because of his bout with death, and she sat sadly on her bed, looking at the ring. The Juliette stuff was definitely separate from the tone of the rest of the episode; hell, the rest of the episode was full of testosterone and bravado, whereas this was fluffy and romantic. But, you know, it still worked.

I think Grimm's a niche show. Alan Sepinwall recently revisited the show to see if it was worth his time going forward, but he felt that the series had the same problems as the Pilot. I disagree. Grimm is finding its niche. I really think the essence of the show has been figured out by Greenwalt, Kouf and the room. Grimm isn't for everyone. But it's for me, a guy who misses ANGEL, and loves cool genre stuff.

Michael Watkins directed "Last Grimm Standing." Cameron Litvack and Thania St. John got the story credit. Sarah Goldfinger and Noren Shankar wrote the teleplay.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Random Thoughts on The Walking Dead, Awake and The Challenge

-The Walking Dead continues to divide people who watch the show. Some people loathe the show while others quite like the show. I don't have any interest in defending the show nor in insulting the show. The show's strengths are strong but the show's weaknesses are weak. The action is always top-notch but budget constraints limit the amount of action on an episode-by-episode basis. The characters are the weakest part of the show. Anyway, the Videogum recap of Walking Dead episodes is a consistently entertaining read. One thing Gabe mentioned got me thinking: he argued that the nameless 'enemies' in their episode weren't really enemies because they were shooting at the people who killed their two buddies. His argument concluded with a query about why the audience roots for the characters which is in itself complicated to answer because fans of the show don't seem to particularly care for any other characters. The only strong feelings from the audience towards these characters are negative. Now, I haven't thought too much about what I'm about to write; in fact, I'd suggest anyone reading to skip over the rest of this paragraph because I'm going to tap into my English major roots for a sentence or five. Regardless of one's feelings about the characters, they are our only transport into the world of The Walking Dead. People might loathe these creations, but we're dependent on the characters in order to witness the story. So, perhaps, fan frustration stems not from the lazy characterization but, rather, the audience's reliance on these lazy characters who are loathed to be transported into this world full of zombies and chaos. From what I've read, a large contingent of fans exist who just want non-stop zombie killing. Maybe The Walking Dead is an exception to the rule that says an audience needs one character to identify with to invest oneself in a TV show, a novel, short story, novella, film, etc. Maybe fans truly just want non-stop action. Again, my take hasn't been well thought out. Indeed, this post is titled 'Random Thoughts' for a reason.

-Community returns March 15 at 8PM on NBC. During their hiatus, various entertainment news websites reported on numerous Community happenings. One character will be killed off in an upcoming episode. Breaking Bad fans rejoiced when Community cast Giancarlo Esposito for the season-finale. Community wraps filming on season three sometime soon if I'm not mistaken. I'm glad it's returning. It's my favorite comedy on TV, if not my favorite show. I hope the episodes are as wonderfully creative and funny as ever, capable of surprising me as the best Community episodes have multiple times through 2.5 seasons.

-Awake premieres March 1. The pilot is available to watch on Hulu. I will watch the Pilot tomorrow so that I'll have a review ready by the afternoon on March 1. I've looked forward to Awake since I read about the premiere nearly one year ago. Speaking of pilots, entertainment news websites report on pilot casting more than ever before. Last spring, New York Magazine published the logline for each pilot developed. Of the many, many pilots, only a select few are brought to series by a network. Awake's a show I never thought the public would see. It took a recent production break to, presumably, figure out the kinks of turning the premise into a sustainable TV show. Kyle Killen talked about the show several months ago at the Nerdist Writers Panel. The writing will be ambitious, as will the storytelling, even though it'll be within the procedural format, but great shows happen when a writer puts a spin on an old and tired formula. Awake could be special.

-I watch one reality tv show: The Real World/Road Rules challenge. This season's theme is Exes. Former cast members who've dated one another return as teammates and must rely on one another to make it to the final for the chance to win $100,000. The best episode of this season was when the producers made the cast members spell words, because it's always disastrous, and always awesome. Real World/Road Rule alumni can drink, have sex, compete in mindless challenges, but cannot spell simple words like 'caravan' and 'attitude.' Please, BMP, for one challenge, make it a grand spelling bee in the deserted and brutally cold forests of Siberia. BMP likes to take the final teams into extreme conditions. Last challenge ended on the mountains of Patagonia. This season will conclude in Iceland. Why the hell not have a spelling bee in Siberia?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The River "A Better Man" Review

The small corner of the internet devoted to television criticism has been abuzz after an article published on The AV Club. Show runners even linked to the piece on Twitter, which is how I learned about it. The article itself poses an argument about the decline of the episode. Yes, it's blowhardy and too many critics have jumped on the idea with reckless abandon, as if they're all trying to get a taste of the only fruit on a small, deserted island. Anyway, the musings on the concept of the episode are problematic, because Ryan McGee refers to this theoretical blueprint of how an episode of television should work. Critics liked to compare The Wire to a novel, and other shows have been compared to novels (mostly HBO shows).

Critics don't mention the ever-evolving form of the novel. There are pretentious English courses devoted to the study of the novel, its history, and its evolution. Heck, Vladimir Nabokov, one of the most talented writers of the 20th century, criticized Dostoevsky because of his novel structure. Dostoevsky's novels read like plays because of the emphasis on dialogue. This caused Nabokov to dismiss Dostoevsky as mediocre because of some idea of how the novel should function. The structure of the novel is as dynamic as the structure of a TV season. Of course, novels always tell a story from beginning to end, just as TV shows do (unless cancellation abruptly causes a show to leave the airwaves). So, what I'm trying to express is an idea about the true ever-changing nature of episodic TV and the novel, but it's time for me to transition into my thoughts on The River and a 'what if?' scenario for the show, and it basically relates to my off-the-cuff opinions about episodic TV and the novel.

The Twilight Zone aired decades ago. I've barely seen three episodes of the series, but I know enough to appreciate what it did on a weekly basis. The River reminds me of The Twilight Zone more than it reminds me of LOST or any of the supernaturally-charged serials that aired in the last eight years. Oren Peli wanted to make The River into a movie until Mr. Dollar Signs Steven Spielberg told him to develop the concept into a TV, which forced Peli to think of different mysteries for individual episodes. Indeed, The River's been more about stand-alone adventures than the search for Emmett Cole. The search seems like needless pretense to tell wild ass stories about a bunch of people trapped in the 'magical' and mystical Amazon in South America. If Oren originally developed The River as a movie, that means he's got about 90-110 pages of the Emmett Cole story, which amounts to two episodes of television. Of course The River will have stand-alone episodes about wacky shit in the jungle, and that's perfectly okay with me. I'd like it if the show tried to emulate The Twilight Zone. Why couldn't that formula work in the 21st century? The River wouldn't need new characters each week. The premise could've been: these people came to the Amazon looking for someone, failed, and can't escape; now, they deal with spooky tribes, ghosts, and other kinds of supernatural things, and they might escape, but it's not an active part of the show, thus The Twilight Zone formula can work.

"A Better Man" told a decent story about one of Emmett's camera men, who pissed off the Boiuna by filming a sacred funeral, and paid for it by hanging in the jungle for six months. Whoever disrupts the sanctity of the tribe is cursed and will suffer plague-like punishment until the offender apologizes. Cole left Jonas, the offending cameraman, behind because his crew was doomed. The teaser showed the vines wrapped around the Magus suddenly becoming upright, which freaked Emmett out. The current crew of the Magus found Jonas hanging, rescued him, and restored him to consciousness. Unfortunately, Jonas couldn't remember the last six months, which was bullshit. Jonas definitely remembered, but his memory would've damned him to a fate that happened in the final act.

The first act spent several minutes on Clark asking each person on the Magus their opinions on who should captain the ship. Clark asked penetrating questions about each individual's idea of him or herself on the boat. Basically, he tried to rock the boat for the sake of his crappy reality TV production. Whatever remorse and decency he displayed last week disappeared. The Walking Dead asks the same question about its characters on a weekly basis. The first season of LOST dealt with these issues. Specifically, the questions revolve around human nature vs. nurture: how would people act in dire circumstances? Would folk be a harmonious whole, or would folk try to kill the other folk out of increasing insanity? Clark looks like someone served him pancakes with butter on top when he requested butter on the side upon witnessing Lincoln and Lena sing a song whilst playing their respective instruments (accordion AND guitar). Luckily, human decency goes to shit as the plague-like happenings increase once Jonas is awake. Things progress to the point where Lincoln steals Kurt's gun and threatens to shoot anyone who tries to leave Jonas behind, yelling that they aren't going to become people who let people die without batting a goddamn eyelash.

Tess is the captain of the ship though. The theme of the episode completes the circle, as Tess makes the difficult decision to throw Jonas off of the boat. Jonas tried to save his ass by telling them about the Source. Tess made the difficult call nonetheless, which then caused the chaotic scene in the cabin described above. Jonas, in a surprising bit of self-sacrifice, yells an apology to the power above and places the noose around his neck. Jonas had been portrayed as a self-involved egomaniac, one willing to violate ancient customs in pursuit of a possible Peabody award. The dude is cocky and abrasive. Jonas' decision completes his arc. Indeed, his self-sacrifice and apology is rewarded by the Boiuna. I'm not sure if a simple apology will satisfy the audience week in and week out. Both of the chaotic situations in the last two episodes were resolved by a sincerely contrite character. The resolution's contrived and lazy. I hope this is not a trend.

"A Better Man," the actual title, referred to Emmett Cole. The brief Emmett scenes were effective. The final scene featured a contrite Emmett for leaving a man behind, and also an apology to his wife and son for leaving them. Cole's journey took him into the heart of the Amazon where he played with fire and indulged in all sorts of nonsense, which is cool to watch and think about, but I'm quite intrigued by a story that focuses more on the character. This final thought is incredibly sentimental and lame, but oh well: I'd like to watch the journey of a character that went into the heart of darkness and found his heart again.

Other Thoughts:

-I enjoy The River. I don't expect earth-shattering horror from Michael Green and Oren Peli. I just want an hour of silly nonsense, some heart, and some intriguing mystery. "A Better Man" combined all three to produce a satisfying and harmless 40+ minutes of my time (because I watched it on DVR).

-Clark trusts in Jehel, so whenever she's frightened of something, he is also frightened. Jehel could benefit from actual depth. She's just a plot device right now.

-Aron Eli Coleite wrote the episode. Dean White directed it. White directed Sunday's Once Upon a Time. I forgot to compliment White on the terrific direction of the horse chase scenes. They were the best shot sequences in the entire series. White directed another solid episode in "A Better Man."


Lost Girl "Food For Thought" Review

Lost Girl accomplished two things in "Food For Thought." One accomplishment involved Bo's slow progression into a fae who can control her power and not kill any human who kisses her on the mouth. The second accomplishment is, hopefully, getting the audience to like and embrace Kenzi. I don't know what other US viewers think of Kenzi, but I read the opinions of our friends north of the border would struggled to tolerate Kenzi, let alone like her. Whether or not Michelle Lovretta anticipated negative feelings towards Bo's side-kick is something I do not know. Whether there was widespread dislike for Kenzi is also something I'm unsure of. Anyway, Kenzi's reduced to a vulnerable, near-death mess, and it made the audience want to hug her just as Dyson did on the bench in the cemetery.

The action began as Bo and Kenzi followed Lauren to the home of an Aswang, a species of fae who consume carrion. The Aswang fae is bleeding from the eyes. The bleeding began hours after she ate a human foot stew. Kenzi didn't actually follow Lauren into the room because the situation freaked her out. Instead, she ate cookies in the kitchen, as well as the stew. Shortly thereafter, Kenzi bled from the eyes. The investigation of the cause of eye bleeding became more immediate. Also, the reason for Bo following Lauren to the crime scene is related to the work Lauren's done to help Bo's succubus self-control when feeding on humans.

The investigation itself is fun. Bo and Lauren have sexual tension and chemistry that adds a little spice to their interactions. Anytime Anna Silk is allowed to play dress up and adopt a role in her investigation is also fun. The investigation followed the usual beats. A red herring led to a more substantial clue, followed by a period of undercover work, and then concluding with the truth. In this case, Bo dressed as a sexy doctor's assistant, because Bo learned the cause of the sickness came from the hospital. Honestly, I thought I missed something during the hospital scenes. Bo and Lauren found a toxic creature in the hospital lab. I missed how the creature affected the soup, or stew, that the Aswang and Kenzi ate. I doubt that the back story really matters. What's important is Lauren creates an anti-toxin that saves Kenzi's life. The Aswang dies mid-episode, which sets Kenzi off on a crisis in which she literally confronts death.

Kenzi is the heart and soul of the episode. Characters act for her, and, because of her. Kenzi talked about her role within their supernatural community, and how people overlook her or ignore her because she's not one of them. But she sees what goes on around her, more clearly than anyone; an argument could be constructed comparing Kenzi and Xander Harris. She genuinely cares about her. We've seen Kenzi wander into dangerous situations for Bo. Kenzi tried to protect Bo from being hurt by Dyson until she realized that it was Dyson who'd been hurt by Bo. The faes care about Kenzi too. Trick is sweet with her as is Dyson. Perhaps they care about her because she truly is an innocent. She's someone caught up in this strange world of faes with rules that aren't entirely clear and motivations that can be shady. Dyson finds Kenzi sitting in a cemetery, contemplating her imminent death if Bo can't figure out the problem and get a cure. Kenzi doesn't deliver a multi-page monologue on death; she simply asks Dyson to stay with her, and so he does and hugs her tightly, like a comforting big brother. It's the sweetest scene in the series.

"Food For Thought" kept their stories simple. The title of the episode is a pun on the fatal meat consumed by two characters, but it's also taken from a commonly used phrase to tell people to think about something or someone more deeply than before. There were instances when characters expressed stuff that was 'food for thought' such as Dyson's ambiguity as it relates to the Light, and the murky side of the Light, specifically how and why they choose to help certain faes over others. Lauren doesn't have an answer for this question. Simply, she says, it's about what The Ash wants. Additionally, the tenderness shown towards Kenzi is another 'food for thought' item considering the faes complicated history with humans. Faes like Dyson and Trick break the rules for human which should have consequences of some sort in the future.

Overall, it was a fun yet sweet 41 minutes of Lost Girl. There were differences in tone throughout the episode, but the tonal differences weren't a distraction; in fact, they were balanced well. Plus, no one actually thought Kenzi would die. I'm more interested in the complicate fae world than I was in the "Pilot" when it was presented with such dullness. Also, Lauren and Bo will probably hook up, and the self-control tests were more for Lauren than any poor bastard who kisses Bo. So, in sum, good episode.


Monday, February 20, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "No Pressure" Review

The introduction of the long-term bets is a contrived plot device. Lily and Marshall made bets on their friends' lives for an extended period of time out of boredom. The bet went as far as "Will Ted Marry Stella?" Until the very last second, Marshall didn't waver in his belief that he'd win the bet. Indeed, when Stella left Ted at the altar, Marshall and Lily felt more invested in their bet than their friend. On one hand, the long-term bets transformed Marshall and Lily into slightly less likeable characters. But HIMYM is not beyond sacrificing characterization for the sake of story when forced to; "No Pressure" is an episode that required some kind of forced contrivance via plot device. Ted's suddenly in love with Robin, though Robin isn't sure of her feelings for him, and Barney's on the outside, a catalyst waiting to become active in the triangle.

"No Pressure" lives and breathes on the A story. Conveniently, Robin needs to fly to Moscow to cover a butter festival. For one week, she's in Western Europe, while Ted frets over the possibilities of his confession on the rooftop. For veteran and loyal fans of the show, the story might've worked incredibly well and probably induced tears or something similar. I felt more annoyed by the portrayals of Marshall and Robin. Thomas and Bays needed to involve their principal characters in the drama some way, and I'm not sure why a contrived device like 'long-term' bets needed to exist to include Lily and Marshall. It felt like a cop-out on the part of the writers, a reluctance to have a character react negatively to the romance. Lily threw water onto the fire as soon as she heard the story because she made a bet with Marshall that Robin and Ted wouldn't end up together. Yes, it was a stupid bet that drove the motivations of Lily. Marshall, meanwhile, behaved like a friend, and even pointed out the times when Ted showed his love for Robin without noting it, specifically the Christmas light display in the nonsense 'Robin tells story to fake children' episode. Of course, Marshall made the bet that Ted and Robin would get together so one must question the source of his encourgement and 'go get em', champ!' attitude. Couldn't Marshall and Lily have been written like the reasonable 30-something year olds they are? Why can't this show express ideas without a goddamn gimmick?

The second act concludes with Ted realizing that Robin might not love him because she loves Barney. Ted and Barney have a heart-to-heart talk which ends with Barney granting Ted his blessing if Robin wants to begin a relationship with him. Obviously, the triange is in its infancy. I should've mentioned that Ted and Robin kissed a lot after his confession, and she left for Moscow by telling him that they'd continue 'this' upon her return--whether 'this' refers to kissing or honest communcation about their feelings for another, and for the future, is unknown. Robin returns. They have dinner. At the apartment, Ted realizes that a relationship won't work between them. Robin lists reasons for her reluctance. Ted nods, apologizes for his outburst, tells her how he loves their friendship, and suggests him and her forget any of this happened. Ted's not okay though. Marshall listens to his friend at the bar, and then goes to Robin to tell her what Ted cannot: she needs to move out, which is a fact Robin's accepted already. The string of events are handled with maturity and tact. Ted and Robin behave like 30-something year olds. Ted loves her. Robin doesn't love him--whether she told the truth or not isn't important yet. The dialogue's refreshingly honest for a TV series.

Of course, the episode ends as Lily attempts to collect the money from the bet to which Marshall replies, "Not yet." Indeed, the story of Robin and Ted isn't over. The teaser, or cold open, began with Future Ted telling his children about the first time he said, "I love you" to his wife. Ted hadn't spoken the words since that night on the rooftop, apparently. One wonders what the children think. They've spent untold amounts of time listening to the story of how he met their mother, and he's spent an awful lot of time on their Aunt Robin. The final image of the series, in which Ted walks through a sea of yellow umbrellas on a rainy Manhattan afternoon, suggests that Ted will emerge from the situation as the man who's ready to meet his wife. Ted's on a very long journey. This seems to be the last significant chapter of Ted's pre-mother years. After all, Future Ted says, "When one door shuts...well, you know."

There are many miles to travel, though, before that special door opens for Ted. Indeed, "No Pressure" barely scratched the surface of what this story will mean for Ted in the grand scheme of the narrative. I trust the series to make this story worth the audience's time, though I'm skeptical about how successful it'll be. I had a difficult time caring about Ted's feelings throughout the episode and, indeed, was more annoyed by the shitty writing for Lily and Marshall. I thought Robin's trip to Moscow reeked of lazy storytelling, evidence that one shouldn't expect Bays and Thomas to pull this story off. I didn't even mention how overwrought Ted and Robin's final scenes were, especially the somber montage as Robin packed her stuff and left the apartment. I'm willing to follow this story though. I'll give it a fair shake, I promise.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Once Upon A Time "What Happened to Frederick" Review

"What Happened to Frederick" is another chapter in the Snow White and Prince Charming story. The action in the fairy tale world picks up after Snow told Charming her feelings on not wanting to be with him. The action in Storybrooke revolves around Kathryn's decision to attend law school in Boston, which forces David's hand into choosing between the two women. What follows is a story about love's destruction, but also, love's power.

Frederick's the mysterious name in the title. Just who is Frederick, the audience might've asked prior to the episode. Perhaps Frederick's the name of the bearded gentleman who arrived on motorbike, flirts with Emma, and pretentiously writes on a typewriter. Actually, Frederick's the love of Abigail/Kathryn's life in the fairy tale world the curse wiped away. The teaser followed Prince Charming as he raced away from King George's company, and away from an unhappy marriage with Abigail. Abigail's men caught him. Charming told his soon-to-be wife that he preferred death over a forced marriage. Indeed, Abigail never wanted to marry Charming. We then meet Frederick, the love of her life and a solider who's been transformed into a statue of gold because of Midas' accidental touch during a melee on a road. Abigail proposes that Charming assist her in breaking the curse, and he can then live and love freely. Charming agrees, stating that he'll either end her misery or his own. The cure exists in the magic water of the world's smallest lake where a Siren must be defeated to obtain said cure.

I thought the storyline would totally annoy me, but it didn't. I was relieved that Abigail didn't possess a singular, one-sided love for Prince Charming. If such feelings were written for the character, it'd mean a never-ending love triangle between three uninteresting characters. The two-sided affair's insufferable enough. Charming's adventures in the fairyback didn't reveal anything new about the character. Charming's been portrayed as a courageous individual who'll do anything it takes to accomplish something he feels invested in. Once again, Charming faces nothing less than death in the name of true love. Even though Snow White totally rejected him, Charming's still willing to face off with a deadly beautiful Siren. His actions showed more nobility and devotion, romantic qualities that his Storybrooke self lost.

David read Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina in last week's episode, which offended me. As a fervent fan of Leo Tolstoy, it annoyed me to see Kitsis and Horowitz use the book title and cover alone to comment on its own adulterous relationship. The 19th century classic and this ABC nonsense fantasy show have nothing in common, not even the characters involved in a dead-end affair. Anyway, David lied to Mary Margaret about telling Kathryn the truth about their affair. David's reluctance to honestly communicate with his wife casts Mary into the role as town tramp. Mary's feelings towards David changed as she wondered how a man who supposedly loved her could allow her to endure such abuse because of his own cowardice. In their climatic scene, Mary opined that their relationship wasn't what love is supposed to be; their relationship is destructive and has hurt too many people. In contrast to this, David's actions in the fairyback is what romantic heroes are made of: triumph over the enemy, a vow to never stop loving Snow White, and a monologue on the importance of never letting go of love.

I didn't think the stories were very good. Once Upon a Time lays their themes on thick. For instance, Kathryn told Regina that she felt her love for David was an illusion, while Abigail opined that some people will do whatever it takes to make others miserable. Both were about Regina, who overtly did both in "What Happened to Frederick." The stories spent a lot of time repeating information: we know that David loves Mary and vice versa, and we know that Snow and Charming love one another even though they hit a rough patch. David's courage and conviction was portrayed already. I should give the show credit for putting the work into showing us the trials of Charming and Snow White. I did criticize the show for putting in zero effort into making Belle and Rumple feel natural as possible lovers. Of course, this is the third Charming/Snow centric episode. Nothing's changed at all--it's rinse and repeat.

The A story concludes as Frederick, in Storybrooke, looks into a wrecked vehicle and finds no one inside. Kathryn tried to leave town. No one leaves Storybrooke though. The question is: where did she go? I'm sure many fans care about this plot point but I don't. I'd also write more about Regina if her motivations weren't rinsed and repeated as well. She tried to manipulate Kathryn; she screwed over Mary; she continued to keep Henry away from her son.

Listen, Kitsis and Horowitz: this is episode 13, we know that Regina's a manipulative bitch, just as we know all about the tortured romance between Snow and Charming. It's time to deepen the mythology. Quit trying to satisfy the masses with lazy one-off scenes in which characters vaguely refer to their past selves and just dive into what really matters.

Other Thoughts:

-Elsewhere, Emma learned the name of the bearded stranger--he is August W. Booth. August took Emma to the magical water well where one sip promises to bring back something that was lost to the drinker. For Emma, she finds Henry's book under her car, in a puddle. August actually placed the book there. It's time to give August his own episode. Instead, we'll get an episode all about finding Kathryn in two weeks. Every character will be a suspect.

-David H. Goodman wrote the episode. Dean White directed it.


Friday, February 17, 2012

The Secret Circle "Return" Review

The Secret Circle whiffed on two important and climatic episodes designed to inform events for rest of this season. That's a problem. "Return" brought back John Blackwell, in physical form, to the small town of Chance Harbor. Besides Cassie, Blackwell's been the most important character. He's connected to Cassie through blood and magic, and he's connected to the adults in town because of the boat fire. The witch hunters want him dead, as they want Cassie dead, so his return suggests a more prominent role for that group of antagonists. Indeed, the witch hunters play a significant part in "Return" but they aren't interesting; in fact, the problem of TSC is how uninteresting the characters are, and the plots they're involved in.

John Blackwell's return is a non-event in "Return," even though anyone who sees him reacts like they saw a very scary ghost. Blackwell doesn't want anyone to know that he returned; he insists to Cassie that he came back to protect her, which is true, but Cassie's not eager to forgive the man who abandoned her and her mother sixteen years ago. The A story's equal parts supernatural thriller and family melodrama. Cassie lashes out about the birthdays he missed and the recitals and how his re-appearance to protect her simply won't cut it. Cassie has issues she needs to work through. I'm invested enough to watch her work through these issues. I suppose my biggest issue with the episode is how it ends before it got interesting. Blackwell's history with the adults of Chance Harbor is a story I'd like to see. The previews showed that, indeed, the story will go there when it returns on March 15. Blackwell as a contrite, yet ambiguous character does work; however, Blackwell seems like an older version of Jake.

The fates of Jake and John were intertwined. Jake's a character whose knowledge transcends every other character on the series. Jake's already been an ambiguous and contrite figure after events of #109. He's never been written as a naive teenage boy; his history with the witch hunters gave him necessary depth that helped the central arc of the season. Jake meets Evan to tell him about Blackwell's return to offer Blackwell in exchange for Cassie's safety. Evan changed the plan though. At the exchange, Eben took Jake instead of Blackwell, because Cassie's free-will had been compromised, and the witch hunters made it so that Cassie would kill her father. The other members of the circle freed Jake from Eben, impaled him against a branch, and raced towards Cassie to rescue her from killing her own father. Together, they magically restored Cassie's free-will. Eben escaped the tree somehow though, which means he'll return to wreak more havoc.

Cassie expected her father to leave town after she nearly killed him, but Blackwell wants to remain in town to help his daughter control her powers, to be able to protect herself even when she's not in control. Blackwell had a conversation with Jake in which he essentially told him to protect her. Cassie's feelings for Jake should complicate her potential relationship with Adam; more importantly, the similarities between Jake and Blackwell can't be ignored. There's the old saying that girls marry men who're like they're fathers. Jake and Blackwell are both misunderstood, repentant, yet wildcards all the same. Both wear a permanent quasi-scowl on their face. Both also seem like they're anticipating for something no one knows is coming. Now, this is just observation. I've no decent opinion on the why of it all; however, the dynamic between Cassie and Jake's more interesting than her dynamic with Adam. We know that another Blackwell offspring exists; it'd make sense if Jake were her brother (this will never happen) based on how alike Jake and Blackwell are.

I'm eager to learn more about the specifics of Blackwell's past sixteen years. The information he delivered was broad. Blackwell resembled a recovered addict; a consistent element of genre shows is a reformed supernatural baddie as metaphor for addiction. Blackwell is definitely a man who's seen, and done, bad things in his life.

The voodoo party at Callum's didn't work at all. One of the problematic aspects of The Secret Circles is the use of the secondary characters. The best Diana, Melissa and Faye were used all season was last week during the sleepover. Melissa went to the party because she likes Callum. Diana and Faye followed her because they're competing to be her best friend, and because they're concerned about her interest in Callum. All of that is fine and well from a small character stand-point. The story revealed that Callum and Lee use witches for their power. Diana and Faye would be best used in a storyline with their parents, in which they finally learn the truth about the awful deeds they've been doing together since the pilot. I cannot get invested in the Callum nonsense. A small chance exists that I'm jumping to conclusions because no one knows what the role of the once-comatose-but-now-awake-brunette-girl-at-Lee's will play in the mythology of the show. I feel like this whole storyline is in an instance, or example, of the type of danger the circle will always be in. Power drives people mad. The circle possesses a ton of power. Thus, people like Callum will always be slithering around town, like the serpent in the creation story, trying to remove something fundamental from a person.

"Return" felt like a precursor to something more dramatically interesting after the hiatus. The Secret Circle will return with new episodes on March 15.

Other Thoughts:

-I'm unsure of how much significance should be given to Callum's description of Melissa's power. I just assume each circle member has a ton of power that's kept in check by the binding spell. Cassie's the outlier of course.

-Eben's a terrible villain thus far. Maybe Andrew Miller and Kevin Williamson should craft their own villain rather than take terrible villains from LJ Smith's novels.

-Jane was going to return, but then she didn't.

-David Ehrman wrote the episode. Brad Turner directed it.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "All My Children" Review

And so Esther tried to execute the spell to kill all of her children in #315. All of the fan speculation went to hell in one fell swoop. Shouldn't we anticipate such rapid storytelling now? Indeed, the business of weekly reviews for a 22 episode of television is full of pitfalls. We fans aren't in the writer's room, surrounded by white boards and empty cartons of Chinese food; instead, we just watch and react to each episode without knowledge of how the pieces fit into the whole. The events in "All My Children" were but a detour, an episode more interested in how the characters change after the fireworks of the failed spell than in the successful execution of the spell. Spells have never been directly cataclysmic in TVD i.e. spells haven't changed anything in the grand scheme; but in a spell's failure, lives are changed or lost; relationships are broken or redeemed or formed.

The inciting incident of the episode happened when Elijah brought Elena to a forest and ran down a history of Mystic Falls when it was an Indian town. Elijah briefly soothed her soul with great descriptions about the Indian way of life in Mystic Falls, and then he confronted her deception. Elijah's the most perceptive vampire in the show, if not the most perceptive character, and he came across evidence of his mother's privacy spell. Elena confessed what she knew to Elijah and swore to help him in whatever way he could. Beforehand, Elena expressed regret about her blatant lie to Elijah because he saved her life during the sun and the moon spell. The Salvatore brothers, Bonnie, and Caroline reminded her that the Mikaelson children were simply collateral damage, a means to Klaus' permanent end. Elijah granted Elena's wish to help by stomping a huge hole into the ground. Elena spent the rest of the episode under the watch of Rebekah, who wanted nothing more than to kill the girl who literally stabbed her in the back.

The Salvatore brothers had until 9:06PM to stop the spell, which would ensure Elena's safety. The Bennett women were working with Esther to execute the spell. Esther chose the Bennett bloodline because of an old friendship with an old Bennett witch. The spell would cease if the bloodline broke because Esther drew most of her power from it. Stefan and Damon brainstormed ideas. Their initial idea to dagger one of the Originals seemed decent in theory, but Klaus' hybridity sets him apart from his siblings even when they're bound by magical blood. Klaus un-daggered Kol, which returned the Salvatore brothers to square one. Plan #1 didn't have dramatic tension. Plan #2 had plenty of dramatic attention. The only way to break a bloodline is by death, so Damon flipped a coin to decide which brother would kill one of the Bennett women.

The plan was simple yet complicated because of Elena. Damon remarked that Elena would hate whoever killed Bonnie's mother, but hoped she'd forgive in light of the act being for the greater good. The plan, of course, had a ripple effect. In season 1, Bonnie watched her grandmother die in front of her after a spell for Elena. Bonnie experienced deja-vu when Damon snapped her mother's neck to ensure Elena's safety. Damon didn't outright kill Abby--he merely turned her into a vampire. Still, Bonnie felt sad, and she felt angry at Elena for the measures taken to save her life. A theme of the season's been the constant danger the people in Elena's life are subjected to, which suggests something significant and game-changing will happen in the May finale; or, perhaps, she'll just gradually lose the people she cares most about as the supernatural world becomes more frantic and dangerous.

Elena spent the majority of the episode alone, not counting the revenge-driven Rebekah, which isn't a coincidence. Her isolation in the cave, complete with the imminent danger mere feet from her, was a microcosm of Elena. She was more alone tonight than she's been in a long time. Damon and Stefan's devotion to her didn't change. Sure, Damon was pissed about his conversation with her at the Ball. Stefan feels unworthy. Of course, their internal attitudes towards Elena affected everything in the episode. If Damon wasn't rude to her when she came to the house, she might've stayed with them; and, indeed, if Stefan weren't internally struggling with issues of self-worth and baseness, Elena could've had him by her side when Elijah approached her. Anyway, Damon and Stefan were as much to blame for Abby's fate as Elena, and I'd write that if Damon never snapped her neck and if Stefan hadn't distracted Bonnie. Their devotion to Elena is destructive, and Elena's importance in the supernatural realm's destructive to everyone around her. And so when I read Ian Somerhalder's opinion about Elena's steady feelings for the brothers, I initially disagreed, but "All My Children" made it clear that those three people need each other because, really, it is all about them.

The Originals scattered following the spell's failure. Elijah felt abhorred by his own behavior. He apologized to Elena and Rebekah for resorting to behavior he abhorred. With perception, he noted to his sister that 'mother might've made us into vampires, but we made ourselves into monsters.' Elijah left, presumably, to atone for his actions. Kol, too, fled, as did Esther and Finn. Only Klaus and Rebekah remained in Mystic Falls. Rebekah showed her brother the footage of the runes of the cave walls. The dreaded white oak tree that could kill the Originals burned down, but a new one's grown in town, and Klaus dislikes such news very, very much. The side of good has spent so much time plotting to kill Klaus that the existence of another magical white oak tree is a bit of a letdown. But nothing is as it appears in Mystic Falls. I'm just glad the endgame's still all about eliminating Klaus, and it should be fun to have Klaus back in the role as prominent villain.

Other Thoughts:

-Alaric successfully daggered Kol, which was a triumphant moment for him. A less triumphant moment for Alaric happened in the final scene when he found out that Meredith Fell is the woman who killed Bill Forbes and her ex-boyfriend with a knife. Lest we forget she also tried to kill Alaric. She had an alibi. I hoped for someone different as the killer, but the Meredith reveal makes sense. Anyway, Meredith shot Alaric before the episode smashed to black. Is Alaric actually dead? I doubt it. TVD's killed off Alaric 56 times already THIS SEASON.

-There were two lingering shots on a glass of blood, as well a scene in which Stefan held a bag of blood. Damon's observations that Stefan's trying to return to his old self wasn't surprising given the evidence. Stefan admitted that he hadn't had human blood since he nearly drove Elena off of the Wickery Bridge. I'm a fan of stable and good-hearted Stefan so I've no qualms with this.

-New episodes won't return until March 15. The previews were for the much anticipated Damon flashback episode. I'm looking forward to it.

-Evan Bleiweiss & Michael Narducci wrote "All My Children." Pascal Verschooris directed it.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Revenge "Chaos" Review

Well, that was a letdown.

Six months is an awfully long time to build towards an event. The first minutes of the "Pilot" showed the climatic denouement of "Chaos." We didn't know the characters or the context. I firmly believed that Daniel would die in tonight's episode; it was a silly thing considering the tricks night-time soaps have up their sleeves. Indeed, a twist happened. Everything we saw at the end of the pilot was completely different in context. I suppose I expected a game-changing episode for Revenge, one in which Emily's secret would be discovered, and the course of the show would change. The ABC promo department assisted in such delusions. I should've known that Revenge wouldn't produce a game-changing episode in their first season. The premise of Revenge would've been shot, and the show would've struggled to tell a story in which everyone knew about Emily's secret. Instead, Emily kept her secret, Tyler's dead, other character dynamics became chaotic, and Satoshi returned to change the game of Emily's revenge.

Tyler's return signaled a return to the nonsense storytelling. "Chaos" became 80% less interesting when Emily learned that he stole her secret box from her house. Tyler's turn from envious sociopath to full-fledged psychopath several episodes ago didn't work mostly because it felt like a sudden decision by the staff to reach a certain point in the story. This certain part of the story is "Chaos" in which he holds Fake Amanda hostage, gets $5 million from Emily, announces his plan to frame Emily for the murder of Daniel Grayson at the Fire & Ice engagement party. Tyler's actions weren't unbelievable, or unearned; in fact, his motivations made sense, were rooted in the storytelling, and consistent with what we've seen from him. His exit was abrupt, and honestly, his arc needed a little more closure. Tyler was Emily's most formidable threat, someone savvy enough to break into her house and steal from her, someone unafraid to take her head on because he's mentally unbalanced.

The enemies picked up from where they left off: threats, weaponry, blackmail, and ransom. Unfortunately for Emily, Tyler successfully turned Fake Amanda against her. Fake Amanda looked through the secret box, learned about Emily framing her for the Treadwell fire, and saw the many texts from Jack that Emily withheld from her. Of course, Fake Amanda eventually changed her mind and bailed on Tyler, taking the $5 million with her. I liked how the writers brought back the sexual overtones between Fake Amanda and Emily; that aspect of their relationship remains essentially unexplored, but Fake Amanda admitted she believed her former cellmate was, in fact, her soul mate. Fake Amanda didn't react as a betrayed friend but, rather, as a betrayed lover. Unfortunately, the story dictated just one scene between the characters. But Fake Amanda's treachery gave Tyler necessary leverage to suggest that his plan would succeed, at least for me.

Emily's been in the position of damage control for quite a few episodes. We've seen the people around her complicate matters just because they care about her. Emily can't actively stop Tyler without blowing her cover; I suppose it's a testament to Emily that she's willing to let Tyler fly about town without medication and a potentially disastrous plan. Nolan implores her to leave town, but she reminds him of the promise he made her, to help ensure the execution of her grand plans for revenge. She's resolute throughout the ordeal, though nervous about Tyler harming innocent people. Luckily, the only one harmed is the most dangerous person in Emily's life: Tyler. Satoshi's return injected a new energy into Emily's plans. Clearly, she needs help. Things around her have gone to shit; when she's not getting her childhood crush beaten to a pulp, she's putting Fake Amanda in danger, or Nolan. Satoshi's the calming presence everyone needs in their lives, revenge driven or not. He's like one's distant brother or sister, or best friend, who returns to help you clear your mind, re-focus, breathe, and start anew.

Satoshi handed Emily a present (her secret box) and told her that the time's come to dedicate herself to the "righteous path" of the revenge. Of course, I think Satoshi, somehow and someway during the party, shot Tyler in the back. Satoshi explains that he got the box through Tyler's carelessness; however, there's a rather significant series of shots between Satoshi, Emily and Nolan as all hell breaks loose. Satoshi nods, and then Nolan nods, and then Emily. Certainly, the killer is a mystery, but the writing for Satoshi felt overt; but Mike Kelley loves his twists, so we'll need to watch and whatnot.

Victoria's grand speech, and subsequent whisper in Emily's ear, was less exciting than it was six months ago, when one thought Victoria figured out the secret of Emily Clarke. I commend Mike Kelley for crafting one heck of a hook in the "Pilot." After all, I'm still writing about the series six months later because of the intrigue surrounding the pilot teaser. Victoria stated her acceptance of Emily, which was bullshit, and her pointed question to Emily was entirely about Daniel. Victoria didn't suspect Emily of trying to kill her boy; she was just concerned because Emily rejected Daniel's invitation to flee the Hamptons.

"Chaos" provided plenty of fodder for the rest of the season. We're not sure what Daniel knows; his confrontation with Tyler happened off-screen. Charlotte's resorting to drugs to help her cope with the truth. Grandpop Grayson doesn't care about a single goddamn person in the Hamptons unless they're about to disgrace the Grayson name publicly which then affects the value of the company and hurts the profit line. Fake Amanda is a wild card. Charlotte and Declan saw a figure by the body (Jack). Jack's still a character without a definable role in the series. Mike Kelley said, some months ago, that the remaining seven episodes would focus on the trial. I'm not really interested in the trial. I don't know what I'm still interested in. I hope Satoshi goes Dogen on Fake Amanda and subjects her to the same test that Sayid got, just because I miss LOST. Dogen was awesome for the few episodes he was in before MIB went INSANE on The Temple. Hm. I should end the review now.

Revenge returns in two weeks.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The River "Los Ciegos" Review

The River is a silly, silly show. Don't believe ABC's marketing department when they pull two words from reviews that describe the show as 'genuinely terrifying' and a 'heart stopper.' "Los Ciegos" featured an indigenous tribe who lacked eyes and looked like they'd been inflicted by greyscale. Each character on the Magus goes blind during the hour. There's alot of yelling and hitting of doors, as well as the protection of doors, because the doors keep the Morcegos out. I'm getting ahead of myself, but I thought the entirety of the A story was very silly. The scares were nowhere to be found. One's heart does not stop when one sees a greyscale infected tribesman crawling through the Sorrows, or rather, the Amazon River. "Los Ciegos" isn't a bad episode though. I never expected to be frightened during an episode of The River. I expected an entertaining hour, and I was entertained.

I liked how the pretense of finding Emmett Cole lasted less than one minute. Clark, the mistrustful and shady reality TV producer/director, told the rest of the crew that he had an inkling about the whereabouts of the lost Undiscovered World host. Of course, Clark's a shady reality TV producer who's entirely motivated by the best interests of the project. The dude heard about a crazy indigenous tribe and wanted to head into their territory to see what they'd get, and so he told everyone that Cole could be there. The Magus anchored. The entire crew trekked through the jungle and into a cave, which is when things got weird. AJ, the opinionated cameraman, refused to enter a cave, much to chagrin of Clark. The Magus crew discovered the corpse of a missionary. Meanwhile, AJ felt the presence of something, or someone. The presence was the Morcegos. We never saw what happened between AJ and the Morcegos, but one can assume that his reluctance to enter into the sacred cave preserved his eye sight when everyone else's went to SHIT.

The crew camp out in the jungle. Lena wonders if they're safe. Lincoln states, using a number of examples, that they aren't safe and will never be safe. Lena then flirtatiously cuts Lincoln's hair because of bat shit in his hair. Everyone sleeps. The Morcegos mark each tent during the night with white powder in the shape of an eye. AJ wakes and freaks everyone out by yelling that they need to wake up, and then EVERYONE freaks out because of the eye markings. Emilio, meanwhile, is sitting on a tree branch, in a bad way, because he lost his eye sight. One by one, everyone but AJ loses their eyesight. Through Jehel, we learn much about the native tribe. In sum, the tribe judges trespassers over a period of 24 hours. The judged either leave the jungle with their lives, or the tribe ends their lives. Jehel freaks out when the security guy accidentally kills a wild pig because the Morcegos dislike it when a life is taken for no reason. As a whole, the Magus crew pretty much fail in the eyes of the Morcegos. Mr. Security Guy shoots way too much at the faintest sound of Morcegos in the woods. The tribe spend at least twenty minutes attempting to break into the boat to kill some folk.

The intense action between our characters and the tribes interrupted briefly for important character beats. Tess loses her eyesight and seeks the arms of Clark. Lincoln watches his mom and his dad's producer exchange romantic sentiments. The episode needed internal dramatic tension. The security guy accidentally stabs Clark. Lincoln's the lone doctor on the boat; when Clark needs attention, Lincoln decides to question Clark about the affair; I expected a scene similar to Simon Tam and Jayne, on Firefly, in which Lincoln swore he'd never hurt Clark as long as he was under his medical attention; however, it did not happen; instead, the characters had a honest and open conversation about the issue. Clark told him that Cole left Tess, but advised him not to hate his mother.

AJ's actually the hero of the episode. For 4/5ths of "Los Ciegos," AJ was one pissed off cameraman. Everywhere he turned he felt disrespected. Lena, Security, and AJ trekked through the jungle a medicinal plant to cure everyone's ailing eyesight. Lena and Security lost their vision. AJ declared his intentions to leave the camp, find civilization, and go home. AJ never did. Whether through magic or poor navigation, AJ stumbled upon the tree where the special flower grew. AJ feared caves and he needed to crawl under the tree to retrieve the flower. Thus, his arc came to a proper and redemptive conclusion. He nearly died if not for the intervention of a Morcego. You see, the Morcegos forgave the Magus crew when Clark apologized for disrespecting their sacred lanes. Indeed, two characters were given personal journeys from which they emerged as more trustworthy characters, as well as better men. Their arcs were simple but effective.

The Magus crew made no progress in their search for Emmett. The security guy demanded an extraction because he felt the others would never find Cole or the Source; he anticipates death for all on the Magus, which is a fate he'd like to avoid. Later, he tried to apologize to Clark for stabbing him. Clark, who has seen Security's shadiness on camera, responds, "Fuck off." Well, then.

Overall, I thought "Los Ciegos" told an entertaining story. This mode of storytelling's so simple. There's a bunch of crazy shit, a few character beats, a beat or two for the mythology, and everyone turns the channel a happy person. I know most of the internet hates The River. I don't know what people expected from Oren Peli. Maybe people actually thought an episodic horror story could work. Maybe people wanted Paranormal Activity the TV series. I suppose it doesn't help that ABC insists on pushing the show as a serious horror story when, in fact, it's a silly and campy supernatural adventure story with thrilling moments. I'm along for the ride until ABC pulls the series (bad numbers last week), or until the shortened season concludes in six weeks.

Don't think too much about The River. Just sit back and enjoy.


Lost Girl "Dead Lucky" Review

"Dead Lucky" had ambition. The episode packed in a decent amount of information without becoming unfocused. We learned more about Bo's parents, the dark faes, the effect of Bo on Dyson, and Kenzi's place in this crazy supernatural world. Lovretta and her writers threw a bunch of balls in the air, to use an overused cliché, but none were dropped, or even fumbled; it was a solid hour of smooth expository, yet adventurous, storytelling.

Bo met a dark fae bookie named Myers who needed her to track down a human who managed to win a bet despite being void of any kind of luck. Myers is a fae who feeds off of a person's luck, and who belongs to the dark fae. Myers kidnapped Bo because she hasn't chosen between the two sides, which makes her capable of going anywhere and doing anything. Bo met Myers after being kidnapped by his nephew and some silent extras, so she didn't immediately accept Myers proposal. The dark fae bookie got Bo to bite on the deal when he introduced her to his niece, Cassie, an oracle, and promised her a chance to learn more about her parents through his oracle niece.

The investigation was interesting to watch. I enjoyed the various twists and turns. The conclusion actually surprised me, though I felt annoyed with myself for not figuring out the twist. I liked how the mystery revealed quite a bit of fae mythology and about fae creatures. Through Bo's investigation, we met a frost giant, and learned about body-jumpers. The frost giants are as silly as their names. Jasper, this episode's frost giant, tried to freeze Bo to death. Bo's arrival at Jasper's poker tournament was tipped off by a mysterious someone, whose identity we did not learn, but I'm sure the mysterious someone's involved in the battle between the dark and the light. We met a dark body jumper as well as a light body jumper. The scene in which Bo was nearly frozen to death by a frost giant led to a sex scene between her and Dyson. The healing happened in Trick's bar. Trick, as predicted, wasn't pleased by Dyson's copulation with the neutral succubus. "Dead Lucky" had several scenes in which the case-of-the-week led to scenes important to the overall narrative.

Kenzi needed to figure out her place in this crazy supernatural she found herself in via Bo. Various characters referred to her as a 'sidekick' tonight. Kenzi and a client conversed about a case in which the client felt threatened by her possessed cat. The client lost interest when Kenzi failed to track down Bo, citing her disinterest in working with the investigation service's sidekick. Bo and Dyson pursued new leads as Kenzi stood behind, shrugging her shoulders, ready to punch someone in the face for forgetting about her. Kenzi showed initiative and pluck when she followed someone to a Chinese restaurant in hopes of solving the case, but she was knocked out before she could. I liked that she discovered her necessary reliance on Bo. Kenzi's story wasn't about her absolute need for independence; rather, it was about her response to a bunch of so-and-sos who pestered her about being a sidekick. Her adventure to the restaurant was spur of the moment, a reaction to the siren's teasing; Kenzi's comfortable as Bo's friend and co-worker.

Cassie's oracle mojo on Bo resulted in smash cut editing and a bloody nose. Nothing surprising came of the reading. Cassie saw that Bo's mother lives. Cassie will be a major player in a future battle. I would've been surprised if Cassie told Bo that her parents were public transportation workers and that she WON'T be a major player in a future battle. This is genre television. OF COURSE, the heroine with powers is going to be vital to the endgame of the season, as well as the middle game--its genre 101.

Also, "Dead Lucky" intimated that Bo's just a novice, that many fae exist who can easily overcome Bo's touch. Cassie's first adventure into Bo's past revealed how she learned of her powers. Bo lost her virginity to her high school sweetheart, but she accidentally killed him. Bo tried to use the touch on Jasper, but it failed, because he's been around the block several times or so to speak. Bo's as inexperienced, power-wise, as she was the day she accidentally sucked the life out of her high school sweetheart. Bo needs someone to guide her, to teach her, or something. I'm way more than interested in following her on this journey.

Other Thoughts:

-Myers' nephew, Seymour, is the one who hired Lucas, the dark fae body jumper, to rip off his uncle. The reveal was so obvious. I became annoyed because I didn't predict the reveal in my mind. In my defense, I spent the commercial breaks watching Always Sunny repeats on Comedy Central.

-Kenzi's not a fan of Dyson in the beginning, but feels bad for him when she notices how much sex with Bo is hurting him. Now, he likes having sex with Bo, but she feeds off of his energy, and she's draining him. In other news, Kenzi and Dyson's partner, whose name escapes me and god forbid I research imdb for it, could be interesting if they ever went for frozen yogurt on a sunny Canadian afternoon.


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.