Monday, April 30, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "Good Crazy" Review

I never investigated why people love this show, or used to love this show, so much. I peruse message boards for shows long since off the air, like LOST and all of the Whedon series, as well as Dawson's Creek and Everwood boards. I even peruse message boards for shows on the air like Game of Thrones, TSC, Revenge, Lost Girl, Hawaii Five-O, TVD, and so on. Yet the HIMYM boards never captured my consistent attention nor have I researched what fans responded to so strongly. The series premiered in 2005 when I was still a teenager, and I meant to watch, but didn't. Of the episodes I saw, I liked how clever it was, particularly, the Barney Stinson character. I began watching the show regularly a couple years ago. I was older. The show was older too. As I watched "Good Crazy" and its derivative stories any average Hollywood rom-com writer could churn out, I wondered what was ever special about How I Met Your Mother.

The Ted storyline is perfect for Josh Radnor. Radnor's carved out an indie niche for himself with two independent romantic comedies. Seven seasons in and a struggle to move on after a relationship seems old and done. There's perhaps a message about how one will always experience the same emotions post-rejection and post-relationship. The cycle of life brings people back to the same basic emotional points. Ted's part of the cycle, which he doesn't mind. Barney wants Ted to cleanse his mind of Robin though. Barney arranges three dates for Ted, but the three dates all remind of Robin in some way. Indeed, the tiniest things can remind someone of someone else. Ted hears the name Wayne, thinks of Bruce Wayne, and traces everything to Robin, which ultimately depresses him. Robin is always on his mind and until she's not he can't honestly be with someone. This isn't new territory for the show. The execution is the problem. Ted's dates are bland as any one-note character in a forgettable Kate Hudson film. The first girl is a Canadian named Robyn; the second girl is a black hair, tattooed, depressed nihilist; the third girl needs her palate cleansed. I get the intent of the storyline. Bays and Thomas can't keep Ted in an apartment, alone, isolated, thinking of only Robin. Ted needs to be active, involved, evolving. The execution of his psyche could've been better. I loathe the tropes of romantic comedies and "Good Crazy" employed the worst of them.

Ted's epiphany in McClaren's was a good for the character if indeed I understood it. Ted seemed to accept Robin's platonic love for him. If so, do proceed, show. Ted couldn't tell Robin about his epiphany because they needed to help a suddenly in-labor Lily. Lily and Marshall fought over future parenting skills. Marshall prepared for the baby by setting alarms at intervals during the night, comforting a practice baby (a watermelon), and such. Marshall took on the role of mother and Lily the father. Their argument led to a scheme of Lily's to get rid of Marshall for a night for much-needed peace and quiet. The reversal of gender roles was amusing. It's the sort of wacky story Segal excels at portraying. I knew Lily would go into labor just when Marshall got drunk in Atlantic City. The story wasn't great. The writers exhausted any interesting baby-related storyline already. I dread the 'Marshall-and-Lily-as-parents!' storyline; these storylines never go well.

The romantic comedy tropes extend into the Barney/Quinn storyline. Heck, it's the plot of a bad romantic comedy. I've never seen Pretty Woman but I'm certain a parallel exists between the two. Barney finally tells Quinn how he feels about her profession. Quinn doesn't want to quit because she'd sacrifice a part of herself for Barney, find herself in a cage, and she'd never want to hate Barney for something in her life. I don't care how their story resolves; I just want resolution. I can't stress enough how much I loathe lousy romantic comedies. Every Barney romance is stuff of generic romantic comedies. Quinn told Barney she'd quit if he married her. One doesn't need to be Anton Chekov to understand what will happen next, as Barney exhausted his other options.

The seventh season finale airs its one hour season finale on May 14. Next week belongs to 2 Broke Girls. Things are set up for a significant hour. Lily and Marshall will be parents. The wedding supposedly happens. Ted is supposed to meet the mother. I'm indifferent about "Good Crazy." Perhaps the finale will breathe new life and energy into the series and make it special once more.


Once Upon A Time "The Stranger" Review

Once Upon a Time knows how to waste time. The writers introduced August in the 10th episode. Several episodes later delivered the biggest moment in August's short time on the show: the reveal of his name. He stole Henry's book for a period of time to add the story of Pinocchio. Now that pointless murder mysteries are finished, and every character returned to his or her own life, August decides to quit eating pie and conduct the business he was sent to Normal World years and years ago. This business involves the salvation of the fairy tale characters and their world.

The Fairy Tale World High Council (for lack of a better name), as witnessed in the "Pilot," tasked Gepetto with building an enchanted wardrobe. Emma needed to escape before the curse ruined her. Gepetto actually lied to the council members about the wardrobe's capacity for people; he struck a deal with the blue fairy to send Pinocchio through the wardrobe; and, later, he ignored the blue fairy's commands for Gepetto to allow Snow White through to help her daughter BELIEVE enough to save everyone from the curse. Gepetto taught his son about lying for people you love, which contradicted the advice he received since becoming a boy about being truthful and honest, but Gepetto was more desperate to save his son than save his world. Everything is screwed up now.

"The Stranger" is about redemptive heroism. August received a gift when the blue fairy made him flesh, but he never valued his gift. August and Emma have been connected since the day of the curse. Both entered Normal World through a tree. Little Pinocchio needed to take care of Emma always and eventually teach her about her destiny and help her believe in it. The Blue Fairy wisely didn't trust a child to successfully accomplish this feat. Gepetto just didn't want to chance his boy becoming wooden when the curse hit and magic disappeared forever. Gepetto isn't a villain; he's just a father who trusted his child to do the right thing. The story of Pinocchio conveyed a simple moral truth: don't lie. OUAT's Pinocchio is a good kid too. The worst thing he does is tie Jiminy up inside of a wooden clock. The actions of children can be innocent, actions that'll be corrected when disciplined. Little Pinocchio possessed an innate selfishness. Again, he never valued the gift he received. The blue fairy restored him to life after the storm after all; however, the little boy lost the guidance of the most important people in his life. He strayed.

Once Upon a Time's storytelling methods drive me insane. The writers always get to Point B from Point A and then to Point C and so on but it's never smooth nor organic. It's like the writers hit a point in the story where something needs to happen but the legwork required to make the 'something' organic didn't happen. I just accept that August would sit around and waste time for weeks because the writers couldn't tell his story too early. The crux of the story is Emma's panic and her decision to leave town with Henry--it shows a frazzled heroine unable to do what's needed and time is running out. Albeit, time isn't running out in the narrative; a rush to save the town doesn't seem to be an issue--August's decision to make Emma believe is a result of selfishness. The dude is turning into wood. Emma's decision to run is immediate to the audience because the season is coming to an end. Obviously, something will happen in the finale. Another instance of their infuriating storytelling style is the scene in which Pinocchio leaves the foster home. The head of the foster home tells him that he possesses NOTHING. Some kid then shows him a wad of money and says he's leaving, but he refuses to let Emma come along because no kid can care for a baby. It happened because it needed to happen. Blah.

August isn't a lost cause. He volunteers to assist his father at work. August said he just wants to fix things now. He completed a satisfying arc in "The Stranger"--from selfish kid to redemptive hero (at least he's on the path to redemption). He failed to convince Emma. Like the Mad Hatter before him, he rambled on about curses and magic like it was as accepted a fact as a hook echo signaling a tornado. Emma freaked out, emphasizing how overwhelming it is to get custody of Henry. She doesn't feel at all capable of being responsible for an entire town's salvation. This is all part of the hero's or heroine's journey though, and her journey is very much by-the-books. Since Oceanic Airlines popped up this week, and Kitsis and Horowitiz reference LOST nearly every episode, I'll compare Emma to Jack and August to Locke. Will the season end on both looking down into the Fairy Tale World, followed by season 2 opening with Henry Ian Cusick portraying SOMEONE? Anyway, Emma is the reluctant heroine, and August is the fervent believer, desperate to make her believe that she's special, that she's the key to someplace special.

Regina continues to lose her grip on Storybrooke. The Kathryn angle blew up on her. Mary Margaret is the town saint again. Mary, in fact, forgives Regina for whatever she might've done. Regina's so pissed off by Mary's good nature that she attempts to seduce David in her home. The balance of power is shifting in Storybrooke.

Gosh darn it if only Emma believed and stayed in town then all would be solved!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Game Of Thrones "The Ghost of Harrenhal" Review

"Anyone can be killed." Arya looks Tywin Lannister dead in the eyes when she utters those words to him. Tywin wanted to know what the North says of Robb as she claims home to be Barrowtown. Arya tells Tywin that he's known as the Young Wolf and no one thinks he can be killed. She lets a small smile form, and for a moment or two, she is Arya Stark again, back in Winterfell, admiring her older brother Robb, with quiet pride. It lasts only a moment or two before she's a nameless girl from Barrowtown, Tywin's cupbearer, and sent to fetch water. Arya dutifully goes to collect water and runs into Jaqen on her way, the man whose life she saved. Jaqen became a Lannister soldier. For that, Arya wishes she let him burn in his cage. But, ah, what if a wish could become a reality? Jaqen tells her the Red God demands three lives for the three she stole from him by saving Jaqen, Biter and Roller from the fire. Arya looks around, skeptical of this man and his curious phrasing, but he tells her once more she need only say three names and she'll have her deaths. "The Tickler," escapes from her mouth. Jaqen nods. Later, Arya stand around with Gendry as he wields his newly made sword, gives him fighting tips, and then rushes to see what the sudden commotion is about. Arya sees a dead Tickler on the ground. She looks above and meets Jaqen's eyes; he signals 'that's 1' to her. Now, Arya is the ghost of Harrenhal.

The Tickler isn't the lone character to die via a shadow or a ghost. The opening minutes of "The Ghost of Harrenhal" are absolutely shocking as the Melisandre's Shadow-Baby with the visage of Stannis puts a knife through his heart, killing him. One King down, Three to Go, for he with the perpetual scowl, Stannis Baratheon. The deaths are linked only through the metaphor of the shadow and the 'ghost.' This episode is the busiest yet. It's the midway point of season 2. Nearly every major character is involved. The other kings look ahead to battle at King's Landing. Tywin worries about Robb because the North continues to kick Lannister ass. In Essos, at Qarth, Dany receives a proposal from Xaro Xhoan Daxos, which would give her the money to buy ships and army to invade Westeros and claim her throne. Yara and Theon set out to attack the North. Bran dreamed something terrifying. The men of the Night's Watch made camp at the Fist of the First Men, met up with the Halfhand, and developed a plan to get closer to the wildlings spotted in the distance. "The Ghost of Harrenhal" is the best episode of the season. The set-up is over. The fall out begins.

Ideally, I'd love to use my Arya-centric opening paragraph as a jumping off point for the rest of the season. Indeed, one could use 'anyone can be killed' to explore the other storylines. There are so many power hungry individuals who cannot possibly imagine that they, too, could be killed. Truthfully, I simply love the Arya storyline in A Clash of Kings. I haven't written about her storyline too much because Benioff and Weiss kept Arya on the sidelines mostly, though she's been in the final scene in three of the five episodes. Arya, aside from Daenerys, is most separate from the central action. Tywin briefly connects her to the central action, but she can't reveal herself to the Lannister patriarch. Arya's able to listen and observe; and if she's a ghost now then, well, no one can kill a ghost. Benioff and Weiss essentially omitted a crucial part of Arya's early journey in season two (or book two): her ever-changing identity from Arry to Weasel and so on. Arya as ghost, as a faceless girl in the crowd, is immensely significant.

Meanwhile, war is coming to Westeros. Renly and Catelyn negotiated a truce which, unfortunately, never materialized because of a murderous shadow baby. The opening scene is fantastic. Renly's clear-headed and reasonable; Cat is open-minded and willing to negotiate. Robb would hate her for the truce. The truce, though, would infinitely tip the scales in the war against the Lannisters. The Starks would avenge Ned. Renly would've gotten his throne. Cat and Brienne fled the Stormlands after the murder. Loras grieved; Margeary not so much. She talked Loras down from his ledge. Loras wanted Stannis' head, which she sort of promised but at an undetermined date--the Tyrells needed to be smart. Stannis' army sailed to the camp to take Renly's men. The Tyrells fled. Margeary wants to be THE queen. Loras wants revenge. Neither will happen in the army of the other Baratheon.

Renly's death has a ripple effect throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Cersei toasts the death. Stannis moves ahead to the thought of invading King's Landing. Tyrion worries when he hears of his nephew drafting war plans for Stannis (as anyone would and should). Stannis is entirely confident. Davos is his wet-blanket though--he tells his king that no one would respect a king who relied on a foreign woman with a foreign to win a throne; loyalty requires hard truths. Stannis doesn't like this truth, so he retorts by ordering Davos to lead the fleet into Blackwater Bay. The King's Landing contingent is less confident, at least Tyrion is. Stannis isn't the lone war he might have to fight. Zealots took to the streets to defame their king and the rest of the Lannisters. Tyrion reacts curiously to the 'demon monkey' insult. Bronn explains that the citizens of King's Landing believe he, Tyrion, is controlling the king. Lest anyone forget: King's Landing is an utter shit hole. Tyrion learns from Lancel of his sister's plans to use wildfire, a magical kind of fire. The pyromancer, and the other alchemists, made enough wildfire to destroy Stannis' army. I'd comment on how Tyrion worries about the lack of men in the city, but the wildfire seems to make that less of a worry. Fire is a little theme in "The Ghost in Harrenhal." Harrenhal used to be a Targaryen stronghold, now ruined by dragon fire. Dany and Doreah watched Drogon learn how to use fire to char his meat. Melisandre looks into the flames for messages from R'hllor (yeah the show doesn't use the name but I'M using it). Fire IS power.

There are significantly interesting happenings in the North--in Winterfall and Beyond The Wall. Isaac Hampstead-Wright, in my opinion, delivered the second most important monologue of the season. Bran is a tough character for the show to adapt. Currently, he's doing his best as Lord of Winterfell. Bran becomes more of a Stark when Rodrik informs him off an attack on Torrhen's Square. Bran learned how to be a good lord from his father and his brother; he won't leave his bannermen without aid from Winterfell. A fellow called Dagmer (Cleftjaw) planted a bad seed in Theon's head: specifically that an attack on Torrhen's Square leaves a certain Northern stronghold vulnerable. Theon smiles a treacherous smile. Bran dreamed of something frightening. Osha continues to dismiss his dreams as 'just dreams.' Bran told her about his frightening dream, of the sea coming to Winterfell and drowning everyone. Nonsense, Osha remarked the sea is miles and miles away. Bran looked around, expectant and fearful.

The audience, too, should be expectant and fearful. Insanity looms.

Other Thoughts:

-The Qartheen are expectant and welcoming though. The warlock, Pyat Pree, invited Dany to visit the House of the Undying. The city welcomed Dany with a feast. Dany wore a bright blue gown that Doreah assured would make her the belle of Essos. Xaro proposed marriage along with money and ships and men. Jorah warns her against the marriage and advises her not to take Westeros by force. The words of a mysterious masked woman are in his mind; this woman warned Jorah of struggles and hardships for his queen, then disappeared. Jorah asks his queen, "You'll a trust a man who only cut his hand for you?" Dany has a lot to learn.

-The Fists of the First Men is exactly as I imagined. Fantastic location. Jon's going to be a ranger now instead of steward. I'm really looking forward to spending more time with the Night's Watch.

-Brienne swore an oath to Catelyn. Catelyn swore an oath to Brienne as well. Brinne told Cat she respected her strength as a woman. Cat opened up about her desire to return to her two boys. Benioff and Weiss excel with these little scenes. They aren't given the freedom of a book; therefore, they cannot spend pages on Brienne. This scene showed the essential Brienne. I can't imagine any viewer not embracing the character after it. Cat continues to be one of the more underrated characters on the show. Bran, of course, is the most underrated character.

-Benioff and Weiss wrote the episode. David Petrarca directed it.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Grimm "Leave It To Beavers" Review

Nick is increasingly more badass with each passing episode. "Leave it to the Beavers" had his most badass moment to date, a moment which makes him feared within the sub-world of Grimm and creature. Nick is an enigma to the many hard-to-pronounce names of the creatures in the world. The death of Aunt Marie and his succession of her in the Grimm line created a huge question mark. Perhaps crimes among creatures jumped because of their preconceived notions of this inexperienced Grimm. Nick always handled his business though. Not every case went smoothly though. The ogre destroyed him. Monroe carried his ass for weeks. Now, he's discovered more about his ancestry, his abilities, learned from his mistakes, picked himself up, and started kicking ass alone. Monroe helped Nick train in the woods in the teaser and remarked at how good Nick is with weapons and hitting his target. His adeptness with super bow-and-arrow and super baseball bat comes in handy when those brutal and cold Reapers stroll into town intent on killing the Grimm.

The Eisbibers, or beavers, were important tonight. Arnold, one of the beavers, witnessed the brutal murder of a man in a construction deal gone horribly awry. The murder is a helshleesen (positive I botched that), a troll-type figure who requires money before anyone crosses the bridge. One of the beavers makes this direct reference to the fairy tale. Sal, the killer, is a mob-type figure; he employs nasty-looking men, of the same species, and they generally rule with their fists in construction-bridge deals. Sal saw the person who witnessed the murder but couldn't kill him. Arnold isn't brave though, heck, none of the beavers are. By nature, they're a cowardly bunch. Arnold hides and none of the other beavers want to 'out' him to the world because they're afraid of the consequences. Bud wants his people to change though; his friendship with Nick, to him, is significant progress in transforming the mind frame of the Eisbibers. It's hard for anyone to change overnight.

Nick didn't change overnight. Parallels were drawn between the Eisbibers and Nick. Nick wasn't always brave or smart. The dude made mistakes, got his ass kicked, but he kept getting up and fighting. The beavers aren't blessed with those qualities. Strangely, I thought of Ned's line to little Bran in A Game of Thrones during various scenes with Bud and his Eisbiber clans: "Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?" "That is the only time a man can be brave." Nick tried to instill this sense of bravery within the Eisbibers when he met with them at their lodge. Arnold stood in the back, slouched when Nick called for him to come forward, and went back into his hole; however, he overheard a conversation between Bud and the other guy whose name I missed, in which Bud says he's never been so ashamed to be a beaver as he was during the meeting. Arnold, though scared, decided to be brave. The connection to GoT isn't smooth because Arnold's a grown-up working in construction, and Bran is a child. Regardless, the essence of Ned's words translates to Grimm. Nick needed people to be brave. Arnold comes forward and identifies Sal. Overnight, he became a hero. Nick, too, as evidenced by the multitude of fruit baskets and pie delivered to his home. I really liked this story of bravery and overcoming fear.

Creatures all over Portland obviously fear Nick. I didn't mean to dismiss him as a threat in my first paragraph. Sal was one of the rare creatures who reacted in annoyance to the presence of a Grimm. One would think news would've spread throughout Portland of the Portland detective who doubles as a Grimm, but creatures still feel surprise when they see him. Sal wants to take care of the problem, so he calls for the Reapers. The Reapers kill Grimms. Monroe ran into a beating for working closely with Nick. Nick fought the two Reapers and won convincingly. The dude tapped into his supernatural ancestry and dispatched of both in less than 90 seconds; and then he sent both heads to Germany with a message, "Next time, send your best." This could be season 1's iconic moment, when Nick became a true and fearsome Grimm.

I loved the dinner scene between Nick, Juliette and Monroe. Monroe and Nick needed to make up a story about how they met and became friends without revealing the truth. Guintoli and Weir had great moments in silence as they reacted to Juliette's acceptance of their story. Hank is the odd man out still. I'd like for Hank to be integrated into the story more. Russell Horsnby is great in the role and it seems like there should be room for the Hanks and the Wus of the world when things with Renard and the Portland PD explode.

I can't write it enough times: Grimm is a really enjoyable show. I have fun watching it every week.


The Secret Circle "Traitor" Review

The Secret Circle writers were clearly spinning tires for the majority of the season because the last two episodes have been very good. The storytelling and plotting in "Traitor" were terrific. "Traitor" is a sign of a show with confidence in its choices, its characters, and its direction. The scenes at the abandoned Hudson Theme Park were of the stuff of 90s slasher films. There are deceptions and manipulations. John Blackwell's become quite a compelling villain. I'm just amazed a show that produced some truly dreadful moments mid-season came out of their short hiatus with tight storytelling and plotting. I couldn't give a shit about the endgame of the season 1 one month ago. Now, I'm somewhat hooked and even engaged in the action. Good job, TSC.

"Traitor" began with a wake for Jane. The frenetic energy that would dominate the latter portion of the hour was non-existent in this contemplative and morose teaser. Cassie's sad. The circle feels sad for her. Blackwell spun a yarn about how the witch-hunters were responsible for Jane's death and how the murder signifies the true beginning of their war. Blackwell is a villain though. I speculated about Blackwell's motivations last week and basically dismissed the Jane death because genre shows have made heroes out of murders (for evidence of that, watch ANY genre show). Blackwell does not seem destined for the hero throne. If anything, he'll be a recurring figure whom Cassie cannot help but allow into her life time and again. He's her father and so on. Jane's death is part of Blackwell's larger plan to finish the work he failed to finish in 1996. Blackwell used the power of his friends and then watched two of them die. The new circle is engaging in the same work as the previous circle. The story about Jane's death provides the group with a clear goal and more incentive. The search for the crystals becomes more urgent; and so then every subsequent scene is more urgent and more immediate.

Blackwell and the circle split off into their own stories. Adam and Melissa search for Adam's crystal. Cassie, Jake, Faye and Diana search for Faye's crystal, which mysteriously disappeared into a hole in a table. Ash around the house led the foursome to conclude that the witch-hunters were behind the magical theft. Blackwell, meanwhile, encouraged the circle with great paternal warmth which only makes him more villainous. Suddenly, those scenes with Melissa and Faye aren't so sweet. Then Blackwell had some business with Dawn and Charles. The A and B circle stories were well-done. Adam and Melissa used their brains (and some alcohol) to figure out how to uncloak an object and, later, how to find something they thought was found but wasn't. The writing was slick enough to throw in one or two essential emotional beats too. Both stories managed to be effective on the macro and micro level. The writers struggled to do this for most of the season.

The A story fun led to an awesome amusement park described as 'the creepiest place in Chance Harbor' by Faye. The group met up with a witch-hunter, Ian from the Halloween episode, to find out if they took the crystal. Jake wanted to meet with Isaac but Eben killed him. The circle went to Hudson Park because of the crystal, still following Blackwell's orders and trusting him. Cassie nearly killed Ian with dark magic until Diana intervened and stopped her. Hudson Park was a nifty little set-piece. I loved the reveal of the dead witch-hunters on the amusement ride because it reminded me of Scream, Urban Legend, and any other 90s slasher flick. The group also needed to look out for the traitor witch. The traitor witch wanted witch-hunters and witches dead. Cassie and Diana eventually learned the identity of the traitor. The traitor is a resurrected Nick, in one of the show's coolest reveals.

The episode succeeds on the micro level, in the emotional and character beats during the drive to find answers and exact revenge. Diana struggled to accept the news that she's a Blackwell. Cassie tried to talk with her half-sister about it; but Diana refused to, wanting only to shut her eyes and hope the whole thing disappears when she opens them. I like this initial chapter of their sisterhood where Diana is an antidote for Cassie. Cassie needs someone to watch out for her. The girls engaged in a serious conversation about the ethics of murder and whether or not one life is worth saving the lives of others. The debate should be more prominent on that other Thursday night CW show. Diana ends the conversation by stating her desire to never kill anyone with her magic because she'll never tap into dark magic. Cassie defended what she did on Halloween. On genre shows, in these created worlds, murder is okay in instances. I'm sure academic scholars explored these issues in long pieces for journals within the context of the Whedeonverse (at least). Cassie had no answer for Diana. Diana took the moral high road.

The adult problem of the show is quickly becoming less of a problem. Charles punched and kicked Blackwell a few times for the whole Diana-is-your-daughter thing. Dawn listened carefully to John about his plans to kill the witch-hunters, off the elders, and make a world where magic isn't controlled, or trapped in a system of checks-and-balances. Dawn would kill anyone or commit any act to get her power back. She seems to be playing Blackwell though. Charles and Dawn want to protect their children from the fate of their own circle. Finally, Charles and Dawn are interesting.

I'm confident the show's momentum will continue into the final two episodes. Again, I never thought I'd care about these characters, their fates, or the endgame, in January. It's a testament to the cast and crew for finally reaching their potential and making people care.

Other Thoughts:

-Cassie kissed Adam in her room during her grandmother's funeral. Whenever Blackwell's plan blows up in his face, Adam's going to be one pissed off dude for believing in a curse that would kill a circle member if he and Cassie hooked up.

-Faye and Jake had some sexy time tonight and then remembered an old date of theirs at the amusement park. Phoebe Tonkin and Chris Zylka have great chemistry.

-Faye had the line of the night in the abandoned amusement park when creepy music played. I should quote the line because I won't have any idea what it is when I re-read this. Alas, I don't write down good quotes during the episode.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "Do Not Go Gentle" Review

Being a victim is one of the most prominent themes in The Vampire Diaries. Each of the main characters are victims in some way. "Do Not Go Gentle" alludes to the Dylan Thomas poem in which the poet urges his father to fight against death, to pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age (The Dead, Thomas, or rather The Voice to responsible blogger with an English degree, urges this person to not be a victim. Victimhood is the dominant theme of the episode is what I'm getting at, and Alaric is at the center of the action. I thought of Gabriel's thoughts in "The Dead" as he sat in the tomb waiting to die, with a tear streaming down his cheek, wishing he could live some more. But the contemplative and melancholic tone wouldn't last. After all, this episode #20. A Big Bad in season three has been as rare a thing as a two goal Philadelphia Union effort. Alaric's the only character left to wreak havoc on Mystic Falls; and, boy, that is a sentence that wouldn't make a lick of sense in September.

"Do Not Go Gentle" is a chaotic episode. Julie Plec revealed that she kept everything TVD in her head, never committing the show bible to the computer. Plec might've been joking; maybe she wanted to horrify the Nerdist Writers Panel; but she's still a newer showrunner--I probably would be arrogant enough to think I didn't need a physical bible--and that confession gave some insight into the inner-workings of the show. It's nearly impossible to stick to a masterplan throughout a season no matter how well the show runner can plot and arc. The vitriol against LOST for 'making it up as they go along' is an instance of a bunch of morons on the internet groupthinking and never letting it die for SIX years. No, LOST making it up as they went along wasn't a detriment; it's just part of the process. Any TV show can make it up as they go along. This creative process isn't used against the show until a show goes off the rails. If HEROES maintained the quality of its initial 14 episodes, no one would've given a shit about Kring's process. In another interview, Plec revealed that the Original storyline came from her and Williamson's desire to keep Elijah around. The process is the process.

Season 3 of The Vampire Diaries produced a string of great-to-amazing episodes in the initial weeks of the season. I daringly compared it to masterpiece seasons such as the third season of Buffy. Tonight's episode taught me a lesson about jumping to conclusions though. Of course, I'm always hesitant to jump to conclusions or needlessly speculate because I don't know the whole story of the season. I just know what's come to before. For example, the Alaric serial killer reveal wasn't expected, seemed out of nowhere, and reckless retcon; but if I waited until "Do Not Go Gentle" to hear about the origins of Evil Alaric than my criticisms would be rendered null and void. Alaric went to other side each time he died and Esther planted the darkest seeds in him so that he could be transformed into a super hunter of vampires. It works. It's clean. Still, I can't shake my feelings that everything is a mess now.

Perhaps this is exactly the sense one should have of the series because everything is a mess for the characters. Alaric is being controlled by a super bitch that created the entire vampire race and now wants to destroy them. Elena, Damon and Stefan have no idea who will die if Klaus is killed because the death of an Original results in the death of his entire line. Amidst all of the madness Elena still needs to make a choice between the Salvatore brothers. Much of this episode, though, seemed like a retread of what we've seen before. Klaus threatened people to get what he wants. Bonnie reluctantly used magic. Elena was in danger. Rebekah got screwed again. Esther was in control of everything and everyone. The gang dressed as 1920s civilians was nice, but everything else felt like 'been there and done that.'

The Alaric storyline is different. The idea of a super vampire destined to kill every other vampire is a cool idea. The old Alaric won't die a villain. The old Alaric received his heroic moment, which was an acceptance of death to keep the people he loves safe. He's still a victim though as he was brainwashed on the other side, manipulated into doing Esther's dirty work. Elena and Jeremy will always be victims. Elena lamented the loss of another guardian, another parental figure, and wondered who would take care of her. Stefan assured her that he would. The show's very effective when they focus on this side of the Gilberts. It was moving when Elena broke down into Stefan's arms. Elena's and Jeremy's tragedies can only strengthen their resolve and will; specifically, for Elena, it can only make her into more of a heroine.

Bonnie's been on the outskirts of the group for most of the season. The writers never seem able to grasp this character. Bonnie's not even a character anymore as much as she's just a plot device. Esther visited her in a dream and told her that her sisters needed Bonnie to finish her work. Bonnie completed Alaric's transformation (and he took a decent bite out of her so not sure if she's near death). The girl found a little happiness with Jamie though; but, still, Bonnie's responsible for indestructible vampire Alaric. I am interested in why all of the witches want the vampires wiped out (and if it's been explained and I've forgotten then my bad).

Two episodes remain. The chaos will continue. I didn't really like "Do Not Go Gentle" because of its chaotic and messy quality. But I worried about how season two would wrap up last season because of a strange plot choice in one episode. I just need to sit back, relax, and not think so much. But, of course, I have other thoughts:

Other Thoughts:

-Damon's last conversation with Alaric was bittersweet. Meredith as Damon's conscience sucked though. Alaric doesn't seem long for this world. I quite honestly forgot about Meredith. I hope she's not a recurring character after this episode.

-Caroline danced with Klaus. Klaus told her he'd show her the world whenever she felt the desire to let him show it to her, no matter how many years pass. Tyler remains jealous. Klaus doesn't know that Tyler broke his sire bond. So Tyler should be an important player in the final two episodes.

-Klaus plans to leave Mystic Falls again. He also thinks the final white oak stake is destroyed, but Vampire Alaric possesses it. It should be bad times for SOME vampires in the final two episodes.

-Michael Narducci wrote the episode. Joshua Butler directed it.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Revenge "Justice" Review

Hollywood does exist in a bubble--a bubble of sunshine and delightful temperatures. No one involved with Revenge has any idea what winter in New York was like in 2011. "Justice" wisely moved the narrative forward three months. It's not like anything interesting would've happened in those three months. Maybe certain individuals would've liked 19 minute acts of case preparation for and against Daniel Grayson. That's doubtful. Mike Kelley and his writers knew they had no story to tell so they skipped ahead to day fifteen of the trial. Tensions and emotions were high. Amazingly, the trial wrapped up in a scant 42 minutes. Less amazing was the show's depiction of winter, but I'll get to that.

The Graysons were in damage control for most of the episode. They needed to prevent a conviction against Daniel, which meant threatening one of the jury members through a hired muscle. Victoria set her sights on Jack Porter as the fall guy. Nothing changed between 1995, when David Clarke suffered from their power, and 2011, when their own son's fate was in the hands of twelve anonymous jury members. Viewers won't like the Graysons any more after "Justice." Seeing them manipulate people and abuse their power is rather infuriating to watch. Victoria and Conrad treat people like puppets or pieces on a game board; they're selfishly driven, and seeing it really makes one want to see Emily successfully complete her revenge on the bastards who ruined her life and her father's life.

There were numerous twists and turns throughout "Justice" and none are crazy enough to single out specifically. No one's jaw should've dropped when Victoria used Lee, her muscle, to threaten a jury member's kid. Likewise, every other horrible thing Victoria or Conrad did isn't a surprise anymore; it's just part of their characters. Of course Conrad would threaten the fraud painter to leave town with everything but his wife; and of course Victoria would tell her daughter to seduce Declan into saying what Daniel needed to give him a chance with the jury. The jury tampering and the later murder of Lee in the prison cell is also par for the course. Victoria's been written with some depth during the course of the season. She hasn't been the ice queen we met in the "Pilot," but she hasn't been a likable character. The Lifetime movie-of-the-week storyline with the painter accomplished nothing for the character. Emily explains Victoria's move with Lee against the jury member as a sign of a mother doing whatever she can to protect her child; indeed, Victoria's acted on behalf of her family in most of her actions. Unfortunately, her actions are morally wrong, regardless of the motivations behind her actions.

The biggest 'twist' of the episode is when Emily learns the truth about her father's death. A tale was spun that her father died in a prison melee at the hands of a nameless convict wielding a knife. The truth, naturally, involves the Graysons. The storytelling was smooth throughout "Justice" so the scene when Emily learned the truth about her father's death was a triumph. Emily was at her best tonight. She framed Lee, ensured Jack's safety from prosecution, and exonerated Daniel in the process. I liked the domino effect of it all, especially how Lee's brutal beating of Jack came back to haunt him in the end. I criticize Revenge alot, but I appreciate their attention to the details, because details are everything in a story. The resolution was a bit too neat, a little too convenient, but the trial would've been a bore if extended another week or two. The narrative would've been stuck in quicksand. Anyway, Emily figures out that the Graysons hired someone to kill her father. The twist isn't surprising and, in fact, is quite expected; Emily wanting revenge for framing her father is incentive enough, but this other element suggests we'll see an Emily we've yet to witness this season. And with four episodes left, she'll have plenty of time to get her hands and dirty and conjure a new part of her plan that will no doubt delight a sadist like Takeda.

The time lapse wasn't too jarring. Jack spent 50+ days driving around the east coast searching for Fake Amanda. Declan continued attending prep school and lost his relationship with Charlotte for refusing to alter his story about seeing no on at the beach. Daniel became more jealous of Emily and Jack and took to drinking at nights on his upper balcony which overlooked Emily's beach house. Nolan controlled things, as much as he could, from a distance. Emily acted and made decisions. Nolan didn't let her actions or decisions blow up in her face. Victoria continued her affair with fraud painter. Charlotte continued to take painkillers. Declan doesn't change his story at the trial, which drives Charlotte back into the arms of her bland ex-boyfriend who happens to deal painkillers; Declan's moment on the stand is his most heroic act in the show, it's an active decision to stay true to himself, and to his brother.

Daniel's jealousy was the biggest 'reach' of the episode. His entire episode with Emily in the house when he broke house arrest and seemed destined for a miserable fate happened so that viewers would think he hung himself in prison. The note he writes Emily ends on the promise of an act. The next image of the prison is someone's feet dangling. The trick was admirable, but it was the roughest part of the episode. Daniel's behavior didn't track with what we've seen. The time lapse didn't spell things out so viewers were left to fill in the blanks about what could've caused Daniel to act so aggressively toward Emily. But oh well whatever. His mistrust of Emily seems like a permanent thing. It's quite possible he'll fluctuate between trust and mistrust during the final four episodes. Who knows. Emily's going to be a busy girl these next four weeks.

Other Thoughts:

-The depiction of winter was atrocious. Aside from the fact that the east coast had a mild winter, with barely any snow, the writers had no idea how to present winter without snow or an actor randomly shivering; but, of course, the actor quickly behaved as if it were a balmy summer's day. New York wasn't Moscow or St. Petersburg where flurries and snow are a constant. Heavy coats and some physicality would've been enough to let the viewer know it is indeed December.

-Sallie Patrick & Liz Tigelaar wrote "Justice." Bobby Roth directed it.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Once Upon A Time "The Return" Review

People need a little magic in their lives. The world of Westeros in Game of Thrones is a miserable place full of war and violence and not a single soul believes in the magic that once existed. Storybrooke is mostly a miserable small town. Characters are quick to ostracize one of the town's more saintly women in Mary Margaret; Characters are trapped in dead relationships; or characters are unable to be with who they're meant to be with because their memories have been wiped away by a curse. The weather is always shitty in Storybrooke. Grey clouds cover the sky during day. Random showers fall upon their heads. Fairy Tale Land is vibrant. The colors are alive. Nature is alive. Characters are happy. Sure, not everyone is happy. There are wars, broken relationships, abandoned children, shattered people and unhappiness. At least some of the characters smile once in awhile. Plus, a little thing called magic exists there; it's the kind of magic where a simple kiss can transform someone completely. A lost man with a hobby for merciless killings can be redeemed by a small bean and a hole into another realm, a place where he won't be corrupted by his own power. A world without magic leaves people hopeless--that's the power of the curse.

"The Return" is the nineteenth episode of the season. Only three episodes remain. The shape of the season hasn't formed very well. There have been digressions and tangents. The story should lead to Emma taking an active role in bringing magic back to Storybrooke or some other such action. This episode ruminated on magic and its power. Rumplestiltskin and his son earned the spotlight. The events of "The Return" took place some time after Rumple took power from Brad Douriff. His son, Balefire, does not like his transformed father. Rumple gave into temptation after being humiliated and embarrassed for much of his life. Balefire just wanted his father to be the way he remembered him, before he turned men into snails and crushed them for giving his boy a scrape on the knee. Bale sought a blue fairy to help him solve his problem. Rumple promised his son to do whatever he needed when his son found the cure to the darkness; however, when the hour came and the bean created a hole for them exit into a world without magic, he chose his darkness over his son and then watched his son disappear into the ground.

The A story was well-done. Rumplestiltskin's been all over the place this season: a tortured lover one week, a disgraced father the next, and then a weak and evil man torn between his power and his son. Robert Carlyle must enjoy acting out these many facets of the character, and the writers must love writing the role. Jane Espenson gushes over Rumple more on her Twitter feed than every other character on the show. Once Upon A Time never surprises me; but a surprise isn't need to tell a successful story. Regina and Gold's exchange about the origins of the curse were vague enough to leave some speculation about why Gold created it. I'm a sucker for stories between parents and their children, so the reveal that Rumple/Gold created the curse to find his son again, to sacrifice his power for a world without any magic for his son, was touching and moving and effective. In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold thought August was his son, returned to him to kill him. August just played him and tried to use Mr. Gold for his power, his magic, to cure him of an incurable illness. The scene allowed Mr. Gold to work through personal issues, allowed him to repent and feel reunited and at one with his son. August's deception didn't sit well Mr. Gold. In an instant, we saw how magic doesn't make the monster--Mr. Gold wanted to stab August but contented himself with the knowledge that he would die anyway in a world without magic. Some people are just monstrous.

The rest of the episode consisted of the same old crap. The return of Kathryn led to essentially nothing. It's well known that Regina and Gold conspired together to frame Mary. Regina's pissed that Gold threw a curveball. Emma wanted to zero in on her. Regina was a step ahead of her when she enlisted Sidney to take the fall. Earlier, Sidney and Emma had a conversation which ended with Emma feeling pity for him. His actions stem from an unrequited love for Regina. At least Emma made the decision to fight for her son instead of meekly submit to the orders of the town mayor. Emma's been bossed around and bullied by Regina for too long. I liked her moment of triumph when she declared to fight for custody of her son. Things changed around Emma in Storybrooke, but now she's actively part of a quite significant change. It's a nice step.

David and Mary were the worst part of the episode yet. Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin are fine actors but they have as much chemistry as a hyena and a lion in a tango class. The problem with star crossed lovers, fated lovers if you will, is that the writing can't be anything short of bipolar. No middle ground exists for their emotions--it's all high or it's all low. Everything is low between them presently. Understandably, Mary is hurt that David thought of her the possible killer of his fiancée. David feels remorseful because his former fiancée is alive. The actors were too overwrought in their performances. Goodwin's line, "That's what make it so sad" is probably my least favorite delivery of the 2011-2012 TV season. The writing also annoys me. The line practically concussed the audience to beat the message over their heads that David and Mary are meant to be together, and their inability to get it right is what makes it so sad. The writing's always been the problem with the relationship. Again, it's the bipolar quality of the relationship.

Overall, "The Return" is a solid episode of Once Upon a Time. The A story stood out. The season still seems directionless with just three episodes left. So we'll see what kind of nonsense is left in season 1.

Jane Espenson wrote the episode. Paul Edwards directed it.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Game Of Thrones "Garden Of Bones" Review

I used to write about LOST completely differently from the way I write about every other TV show. My reviews were 2,000-4,000 word celebrations of each episode with a mix of insight and speculation. I considered every review as love letter to my favorite show on TV. Truly, I haven't written about other shows like that. I haven't found a show since LOST I've loved enough to abandon 'criticism' for outright celebrations. I probably never will write about any show in the style I wrote about LOST. Game of Thrones is a series that captured my imagination in a way no series has since LOST ended. I've gotten caught up in writing about the theme of power, powerlessness, protection and other such themes during the early part of season 1. Other bloggers love to ruminate on the same themes. The themes, the characters, the set-pieces, are all reasons why Game of Thrones is beloved and celebrated in popular culture. It's worthwhile to think about and articulate one's thoughts on the narrative. It's also worthwhile just to celebrate how fun the experience of watching Game of Thrones is,

Admittedly, it's strange for one to focus on the fun of Game of Thrones after one of its bloodiest hours to date. Torture and death dominated most of the scenes. When death and torture weren't the dominant in scenes, Tyrion continued to use his intellect to win allies, or Cat tried to stab Littlefinger, or Melisandre gave birth to a shadow in a cave. But I want to highlight the scenes when I had goosebumps like when Arya uttered her prayer for the first time, and then the second time when she added the names Polliver and The Mountain. Dany's epic speech at the gates of Qarth displayed the strength and power of the Khaleesi witnessed when she sent Mirri Maz Duur to her death and walked into the fire herself to burn with her Khal. The Mother of Dragons was lost in The Red Waste, in desperate circumstances as women, men, children, and Silver, died around her. The Thirteen of Qarth, Elders of the Greatest City That Was and Will Be, refused her admittance after she refused to show them the dragons, but a 'savage' from the Summer Isles invoked an ancient rite to allow her and her people admittance. Two of my favorite Tyrion scenes in the books came to life tonight when he saved Sansa from a brutal beating by Joffrey via Sir Meryn Trant; and the other was a total takedown of Lancel. I cheered when I read them, and I cheered again when I watched it on my television screen.

Anyway, "Garden of Bones" began on a conversation between two Lannister soldiers right before Grey Wind destroyed them. The screen went black as Robb and his Northern army charged into the camp for battle. The next morning was smoky and grey. The field was covered in bodies and blood. Young men screamed for mercy. Robb walked among the bodies covered in dirt and blood, hair stuck to his skin with sweat, and he looked beyond his young years. Roose Bolton talked to him about inflicting more carnage, but Robb does not want to be a monster; he doesn't even want the Iron Throne. The other kings are interested in terror, torture and bloodshed. Renly seems the most harmless, but his conversation with Stannis seemed to ignite a spark in him. As always, the Starks are the exception in Westeros. Robb met a woman (Elise?) from Volantis on the battlefield who gave Robb a piece of her mind about the war that made him think about his actions more thoroughly.

Joffrey, the King of Westeros, wanted to punish Sansa for her brother's treasons. Joffrey stood on his throne with a bow-and-arrow pointed at her. Cersei wouldn't allow her to be killed so he settled on watching Ser Meryn stripping and beating her. Tyrion saved the day though. Sansa left with the Hound's cloak around her shoulders but maintained her 'acting' when told by Tyrion she could end the engagement if she wished. Sansa doesn't trust a single goddamn Lannister. Bronn and Tyrion decided to send some whores to Joffrey in hopes he'd stop picking wings off of flies. Ros and her worker were treated horribly by King Joffrey. Joffrey cared not for a quickie; he just wanted to watch a girl be beaten and bloodied in his presence, as a message for his Uncle. The boy is a monster, unfit for a crown, but he is king. He craves absolute power that's free from his mother and uncle. He makes life hell for the people of King's Landing. But he's not the most dangerous king in the land.

The Baratheon brothers are different kinds of dangerous. Renly has 100,000 men in his army. Stannis has a red priestess for Asshai. Their scene near the coast of the Stormlands is one of the best in the show's run. Renly showed the character of a king. Stannis remained stoic, undeterred by threats, absolutely confident in his claim by rights and law. Catelyn urged the brothers to talk their issues out, to join together to beat the common Lannister enemy. Stannis felt disappointed by Lady Stark's presence with his brother and told her anyone not on his side is an enemy. Melisandre sat on her horse with a smirk on her face. Renly's threats didn't move Stannis. Stannis cryptically responded that come dawn Renly'd recognize his power. Renly said, "I can't believe I loved him once" and rode off. Renly is a king to root for. He tried to persuade Ned to leave King's Landing instead of personally confront Cersei. Renly just wants the Iron Throne, and he already swore to revenge Lady Stark, though Cat didn't want vengeance, just peace and her little girls.

The night is dark and full of terrors though. Stannis sent Davos on a mission with Melisandre during the dead of night. Their conversation touched upon their shared past, how Stannis took four fingers of Davos instead of his head, how that event transformed him from smuggle into an Onion Knight. Davos would row anywhere and anytime for his Lord, his King. Davos took Melisandre to shore on the Stormlands where revealed herself to be pregnant where gave birth to a shadow, a child of the Lord of Light. An army of 100,000 won't have an answer for Red Magic, for Shadow-Men. The scene could turn off people from the show. Magic and supernaturalism isn't everyone's forte. These elements won't overwhelm the series. No one should be discouraged by the use of magic, but it's important when magic happens in this story. Magic is part of the story's fabric.

Jorah Mormont told Dany that anyone turned away from the gates of Qarth became part of the garden of bones, the vast desert surrounding the city. The garden of bones works thematically with any king in the story. With each battle a garden of bones is left behind. With each act of cruelty a garden of bones is created. Harrenhal is a haunted place for reasons beyond the acts committed by Polliver and The Mountain. Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry could only wait as Lannister men randomly selected people to kill on a daily basis. At night, Arya slept and said her prayer, which is all the names of the people who harmed her or her family and friends. Sometimes, all anyone has in Westeros is a prayer, a dream of some hero or knight to take care of the bad people like Cersei, Joffrey, Ilyn Payne, Polliver, and The Mountain.

Other Thoughts:

-Cruelty, torture, torment and death came to a stop when Tywin restored order. Tywin said the captured men are more useful for labor and trade work. He quickly pointed out Arya's gender and called a solider a moron for not noticing. Then he appointed Arya his new cupbearer. I can't wait to see where this goes.

-Lancel is such a little shit before Tyrion owns him in the Tower of the Hand. Lancel urged on his cousin to beat Sansa. As soon as Tyrion used his cousin's trysts with his sister again, he became the whimpering ponce he was when Robert walked the earth and bossed him around. Tyrion successfully used his info on Lancel to turn him into a spy. Lancel will now report all of Cersei's acts to him.

-Littlefinger traveled to the Stormlands to negotiate with Renley. Margeary had a little conversation full of meaning as she took him to his tent. Later, he delivered Ned's remains to Catelyn. I can't call Littlefinger a spider because that's Varys title. Littlefinger's like a serpent, slithery and manipulative. He promised Cat both daughters though no one in King's Landing knows what happened to Arya. With Renly, he offered to leave the doors wide open in King's Landing for his army to march through.

-Bronn remarked, about Joffrey, "There's no cure for being a cunt." Bronn is an awesome character.

-Roose Bolton spoke more loudly than I expected, but he was on a battlefield.

-Emilia Clarke was amazing when she delivered her monologue to the Thirteen.

-Vanessa Taylor and David Petrarca have moved on from their humble WB days. Taylor penned tonight's disturbing and brutal episode. Petrarca directed it and did justice to the insane Melisandre birth scene. The post-production team deserves credit for creating a truly beautiful Qarth behind those golden walls.

-In case it didn't come across already, I thought "Garden of Bones" was tremendous.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Grimm "Cat And Mouse" Review

A deepening of the show's mythology continued in "Cat and Mouse." There was a major mythological download in the middle of the episode, which helped to contextualize the mysterious Capt. Renard at least. Grimm consistently reminds of ANGEL. As AtS's first season concluded, Wolfram & Hart took on a more important role. For much of season 1, the evil law firm appeared here and there. Grimm's first season borrowed the same basic structure (which isn't a surprise considering Greenwalt's role in the series). There were hints about Renard's allegiance and his investment with Nick. It's been a slow burn though, and critics have attacked the show for its narrative methods. Not every show is as fast as The Vampire Diaries or Lost Girl. This doesn't make Grimm a bad show--it makes it a patient show.

Ian Harmon is being pursued by a bounty hunter when "Cat and Mouse" kicks off. Before the teaser ends, the bounty hunter is dead. Another bounty hunter, or agent of the Verrat, shows up shortly after. The Verrat will continually send out agents to kill any dangerous persons opposed to their organization. The Verrat means betrayal in journal if the internet can be considered a reliable resource for correct translations. The Verrat is made up of seven royal families who corrupt anything susceptible to being corrupted. Their influence is widespread in politics, law enforcement, organized crime, and so on. Ian's part of a resistance group opposed to the Verrat. The freedom fighter anticipates a war and singles out the Grimms as disrupting everything by working for the royal families. This information suggests Renard is part of one of the royal families, and his protection of Nick is part of the royal families stake in their Grimm. Once again, I'm reminded of Wolfram & Hart and Angel. The law firm hated him and wanted him dead, but the prophecies foretold a vampire with a soul stopping the apocalypse. They needed him. The royal families need him. Nick is different, ignorant of his history, an honest man of the law, and prone to help the helpless or the hopeless (to borrow a phrase from ANGEL). I can't wait to watch him wage war with the Verrat.

"Cat and Mouse" is a fun episode with a cat-and-mouse-like atmosphere. Sebastian Roche's Edgar Waltz is a terrific villain. His German accent and European mannerisms adds a nice quality to the character. As an agent, he's a representative of the Verrat, and only one man of many just like him that waits to take his place and that guy will be no less violent. Edgar Waltz possesses a cold and calculated sense of violence. He doesn't run after Ian or lose his temper around people who might know something; he just threatens peoples families or innocent civilians. Waltz is a terrorist. A threatened fake ID maker tries to serve two people, but he ends up dead. An innocent barkeep is killed when Waltz frames Ian for murder. Ian, meanwhile, went to Rosalee at the Apothecary in search of Freddie because of documents he needs to escape the country safely. Monroe convinces Ian to meet Nick because he'll help him. Ian's a skeptic because a Grimm works on the side of bad. After a sour first meeting, Nick makes Monroe's word gold when he sends Ian on his way.

Ian is an unremarkable character though Neil Hopkins brings energy to the role. Ian and Rosalee used to date and their families worked together in the resistance group. Rosalee never involved herself in the actual group. Her past with Ian matters to Monroe because he's been an interested in her. Ian's going to be back eventually. Amidst the war or whatever's going on the Verrat and the resistance group, Monroe's hopes for he and Rosalee will be complicated. I hope Ian's characterization is richer what he was tonight which is 'freedom fighter on the run that once dated Rosalee.' The details are vague. The exposition consisted of generalities.

Nick and the other good guys find and stop Waltz before he kills Ian. Ian kills Waltz though. Nick acts like he's arresting him when in fact he's setting him free and using Monroe to move Waltz's body for a later discovery. I have a minor quibble about the end of Waltz: he clearly never honored his word. The 'truce' meeting with Nick didn't an iota of honesty. Waltz threatened to kill Rosalee in fifteen minutes unless Monroe brought Ian to him. Waltz seemed like the kind of bounty hunter who would kill Rosalee immediately after the call. I never thought she was in danger though. Grimm will play it predictably safe when their main characters are threatened. Such predictability is a let-down. Waltz was a bad dude but the writers neutered him for plot convenience. But it's only a minor quibble. I had fun watching the episode. Nick continues to be my favorite fictional hero on network TV.

Other Thoughts:

-There was a lot to process with the Verrat. I'd compare them to The Scourge in ANGEL's "Hero." They  crave purity and used to kill any mixed creature. Renard remains a question mark in the whole affair.

-Nick started to write about his Grimm experiences in the book.

-Hank and Juliette were in one scene. Hank doesn't quite understand his bizarre attachment with Adalind nor does understand why he awoke to find two strangers in Adalind's room. Juliette assured him that Adalind isn't good enough for him. They hugged. Nick walked in and said, "Hey! He's mine." I chuckled.

-Jose Molina wrote "Cat and Mouse." Molina is a veteran of the Whedonverse. He began as a PA for Mutant Enemy. Joss hired him onto the Firefly writing staff. Molina wrote "Ariel" and the infamous airlock scene. Molina recently ran Terra Nova. The dude was smart to join Greenwalt's show. Molina is also one of the best screenwriters to listen to for advice on writing. My respect for Jose Molina is huge, and I'm glad to be watching his work once more.

-Felix Alcala directed it.


The Secret Circle "Crystal" Review

I don't think a day passed between TSC's last episode and "Crystal." John told the circle members to find their family crystals for protection and so the circle members tried to find their family crystals. "Crystal" is the best episode The Secret Circle's produced since January though. Usually, I'm full of complaints and criticisms following a TSC circle, but I thought the writers executed very well last night. The Blackwell child mystery became an important plot point again; the binding spell gained a newer and more dangerous consequence; Blackwell becomes more intriguing with each passing scene; the circle members worked together and were functional in doing so. The episode had a lot of confidence. The dynamic between Melissa and Adam hasn't been explored very much but the two worked together. Faye, Cassie and Jake worked together and none of the sexual tension between the three became an issue at all. The scenes between Jane and Charles possessed an urgency and confidence none of the adult scenes til now had.

TV shows always pile on plot and stakes the episodes move towards the season finale. The threat of the witch-hunters is well-established. The binding spell done in "Bound" hasn't been a major plot point since "Bound." Characters bicker whenever they're unable to use individual power in out-of-the-blue dangerous situations. Beyond that, it's just a spell they did. Jake, Cassie and Faye went to Jake's father to get his crystal. His grandfather lives in rural Chance Harbor, or on the outskirts thereabout, in a log cabin. The inside is full of newspaper piles as well as newspaper clippings on the wall. Jake refers to the wall as the 'conspiracy wall.' Among the pieces of paper is a list of the current circle members and their birth dates which freaks the girls out. Jake dismisses it all as a product of his crazy grandfather's mind. Grandpa is convinced that the circle will kill them all, including the elders and any other witch. The elders have been portrayed as paranoiac and on-edge throughout the season. Diana's grandmother tried to kill Cassie because of her dark magic. The crystals are hidden because of their deadly power when combined to make a 'crystal skull' (sounds like the name for a death metal band). None of the circle members know what to make of this information. They just want the crystals because Blackwell said the crystals are their only means of defense.

However, the character of John Blackwell is hard to pin down. Ambiguity is a great trait in the character. If nothing else, ambiguity makes a character interesting. John is either a master manipulator or a reformed dark magic witch; but he could be both things. Jake's grandfather seemingly contradicted everything Blackwell told the circle about the crystals. Charles and Jane plotted to murder John. John, of course, anticipated Jane's treachery and reversed the spell on her. Charles went from dominant to submissive faster than you can say Pobedonestov. I don't know which way John really leans. There are scenes in which he's portrayed with virtue, class and genuine warmth. Melissa got reassuring advice and warm smile from him. Faye felt convinced of her being his daughter after reading her mother's diary. She nearly killed herself trying to feel the dark magic within her genes, but she was wrong. John told her he'd be there for her though whilst complimenting her deceased dad. Phoebe Tonkin deepened Faye tenfold in one scene; she sat near tears as she tried to figure out the truth and one could see how sad Faye still is to not have her father in her life. Ultimately, it'd be difficult to fathom an evil John Blackwell when he's such a stand-up guy to the kids; but maybe he is just that damn good at manipulating. John still has a plan he needs Charles for. The specifics of the plan are unknown.

Charles' hatred stems from John's friendship with his deceased wife Elizabeth. The friendship had a more intimate quality when we learned about Diana's biological father being John Blackwell. The choice of Diana is initially surprising. I felt genuine surprise during the reveal. Then I felt disappointed by the potential cop-out to come. Charles is a bad and loathsome dude. He killed Amelia and then Nick. His brief moral bouts were as brief as a passing summer thunderstorm. One aspect of the show I looked forward to since September has been the teenagers' discovery of their parents past and sins. I'm interested in watching these kids grapple with ugly, hard truths. I don't think the show will head in that direction anymore. Diana's father is no longer Charles so she should be able to grapple less when she finds out what he's done. Blackwell isn't a saint, but if Cassie's reactions are any indication, Diana will conveniently forget about the badder things he's done. I wonder how much this reveal will matter, or be dwelt upon, by Diana when the larger interest of the writers seems to be how Diana and Cassie could be a dangerously dark duo. Sometimes a blogger needs to get out of his or her own head and just patiently wait for the rest of the story to play out before too much lousy speculation is vomited onto the page.

The reveal made Diana an infinitely more interesting character. The writers seemed to have figured out their other secondary characters like Melissa, Adam, Jake and Faye (not that the writers figuring out these characters make them any more interesting (this refers to Adam)). Diana cared only about the Australian deckhand Grant during "Crystal." The life of the circle complicated her uninteresting love life. She told Cassie that she'll take a break once the danger is over. Cassie told her that she can't abandon the group when she's the lone reason for the group. Diana got upset. The scene eventually led to the reveal. The point, though, is how Diana's motivation stemmed from a lousy tertiary character. There hasn't been any growth. Melissa has grown and evolved as have all of the other secondary characters. But Diana's been stuck. Hopefully this Blackwell business makes all the difference in the writing for her.

"Crystal" gave the show positive momentum heading into the finale on May 10. I dare say I'm again interested in where this is all headed.

Other Thoughts:

-The writing for individual characters was great tonight. Micah Schraft is the credited writer. He came over from HBO's Hung it seems. Dare I compliment him for making little scenes between Adam and Melissa, Cassie and Jake, Jake and his grandad, etc very good? Eh why not. Hopefully he stays on board if the show is renewed.

-Callum was the episode's lone threat. He wanted to steal a crystal to make money on the black market. He's an awful character. He won't be returning after Jake marked him. How biblical.

-Omar Madha directed.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "Heart Of Darkness" Review

There were two references to famous literary works in "Heart of Darkness." Strangely, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness didn't make the cut. Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was referenced in a joking/throwaway gag; Herman Millville's Moby Dick is also referenced, only to suggest how long Stefan waited for Alaric to return to life after being temporarily murdered by Klaus (Moby Dick is thick). Obviously, Louis Stevenson's novella relates to Alaric's duality; and Moby Dick is a novel full of themes about good and evil and the existence of God. But, for whatever reason, I'm not motivated to view this episode through a famous work because I've been there and done that LAST SEASON with "The Sun Also Rises." T.S. Eliot, though, offered worthwhile insight into Heart of Darkness; specifically, he suggested an ambiguity of "both the dark motives of civilization and the freedom of barbarism" and noted that morality is ambiguous.

The Vampire Diaries is a show interested in ambiguity, although it's neither widespread nor dominant. The Original family, with the exception of Elijah and Rebekah, are painted in bad guy colors. The show's worst villains deal in absolutes which means the heroes must counteract with absolutes. Klaus sees a killer, a ripper, in Stefan and compels him to be a pure killer. Klaus sees Elena as a fountain of blood with which to make an entire race of hybrids. Anyone who stands in his way is collateral damage, as he explained to Caroline several episodes ago. The heroes wanted to kill Klaus since the first day he stepped into town and never thought about the consequences of killing him, specifically ending an entire line of vampires that started with him. The white oak stake used to kill Finn revealed that unsettling truth for the more moral and upstanding vampires in existence. No longer can they think in absolutes. No longer is it just about Klaus, but it's about who else will die when Klaus dies. More to the point: it'll be about the decision of who can live with the knowledge of killing an entire line of vampires, a means to a desired end. None of the characters wrestled with that yet (TVD doesn't seem interested in exploring that issue but it's my mind because I recently read the "A Hole in the World" script). Tyler's the lone vampire in danger of being killed regardless whereas the others will be spared because Damon cares more about that vampire than he does about Tyler. Not even Caroline shows much concern for Tyler. She essentially treats the matter like a high school student would treat a looming test or project, and so shrugs and decides she'll handle it when she needs to.

Alaric's double is at the center of "Heart of Darkness." The writers found their title during Stefan's violent interrogation methods on his friend. Alaric said Stefan needed to access his darkest self if he wanted to bring out Alaric's darkest self. Many of the characters have doubles and not all doubles need to be violent. Elena, for example, is torn between two brothers. One side of her longs for Stefan whereas the other cannot resist Damon. The hotel room scene when Damon climbed into bed with her to talk began curiously as a sleeping Elena woke to find Damon walking around the bedroom, looking out windows as a safety measure, pouring himself a drink and then sitting in a chair, contemplating something or someone before taking a drink. Damon looked over and saw Elena. Then Elena closed her eyes but quickly re-opened them to stare him in the eye. Her face was a mixture of curiosity and lust (it was at the very least a significant glance). She resembled Katherine in that intense gaze. When Damon got into bed, she asked him about what he did for Rose (giving her a paradisal dream) because she constantly seeks consistent good in him. Their entire trip to Denver to get Jeremy happened because Elena needed to figure out her feelings for Damon. Damon told her he hides his goodness because he can't let people expect him to be good. That line is a microcosm of Damon's duality.

Stefan beats Alaric's bad side out of him (literally) and quickly finds out where Other Alaric hid the deadly white oak stake. Klaus makes a reference to Stefan the Ripper when he sees Alaric's bloody and bruised face. Earlier, Stefan told Alaric about the effort he put into controlling his blood lust and ripper ways for Elena. He felt the effort would've been wasted if she fell into the arms of his brother; however, his violent interrogation of Alaric produced a moment of clarity for the tortured Stefan Salvatore. The blood that caked his friend's mouth briefly tempted him, briefly brought out the ripper, but he controlled his impulses and realized he could never repress these feelings; but if he could control them he can exist peaceful and live in contentment, with or without the girl (presumably). Stefan leaves Klaus the better man. It's a tremendous scene. Stefan's arc was one of my favorite parts of season three.

The Originals achieve victory in "Heart of Darkness." Rose's successful location of the vampire who sired her leads Damon and Elena to her corpse in Kansas. Kol had been there and killed the vamp. None of the Originals are interested in being obliterated. Klaus sent Rebekah with Alaric to retrieve and destroy the white oak stake. Other Alaric refused to leave the cave though and wanted to negotiate with Rebekah. Rebekah, though, isn't Rebekah. Esther used her body at the point of death to finish off her plan to kill her children who've lived 'unnatural' lives. The reveal wasn't surprising but one can't help but feel sympathy for Rebekah, the Original child whose constantly spit upon or staked and kept in a coffin for centuries. Before her mother robs her body, she says that she's barely lived at all. Claire Holt's gave the saddest reading of the line. If any Original should survive, let it be Elijah and Rebekah. I'm thinking Esther might finish her work and return Rebekah to her body so that she may live; however, Mother Original is a bitch. I don't have a clue about how the Original storyline will be resolved.

Elena and Damon passionately made out outside of their hotel room after her very significant glances at him. They were interrupted by Jeremy and a trip to Kansas. After the Kansas thing was done, they had an opportunity to talk about things. Damon took offense when he heard how Elena essentially waits for him to sabotage his chances with her by doing something wrong; his behavior lets Elena off the hook so to speak. Damon won't let her off so easily this time. This time, he insists, she'll need to look inside herself to decide which brother she wants. Jeremy nervously watched the weird tension between his sister and Jeremy. Rose helpfully outlined the situation for him and any viewer confused. TWoP made the word 'anvilicous' popular in their recaps whenever a show used a character to spell out a theme or an idea. Rose was quite anvilicious tonight. What she said isn't anything different from what I or any other TVD fan has written on the internet about the triangle. If this leads to a Dawson's Creek moment for Jeremy where he platonically makes Elena's choice for her a la Dawson in season three, it will be terrible. The decision needs to be Elena's alone. The character needs to fully take control of something in her life for once. This is it.

Other Thoughts:

-A "Roaring 20s" dance was in the planning stages this week. Next episode is set during this dance. I would've done a spit take if I was drinking water when the episode had a scene in which the characters were actually in school. I felt more sadness for Rebekah when she freaked out at Matt for driving her home because she expected a catch in the friendly gesture. Matt did distract her but he denied doing so. Caroline suspected Rebekah would interfere in her sexy reunion with Tyler.

-I wrote all that I thought about Tyler/Caroline already. Klaus' illustration of Caroline and the horse made Tyler jealous. The life-and-death issue took a back step to teenage romantic melodrama. Also, Tyler wants to test himself against Klaus. Blah.

-Brian Young & Evan Bleiweiss wrote "Heart of Darkness." Chris Grismer directed it.

-I didn't mention it yet so I will now: I really enjoyed the episode.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Revenge "Doubt" Review

Sadness. Sadness pervades in "Doubt." And doubt too (hell, it's the title of the episode) but it's mostly sadness and, well, revenge. Revenge finally returned to the airwaves after a six week hiatus. ABC ran an hour long Revenge recap to help anyone who wanted to join in on the fun. All over the interweb people anticipated the return of America's favorite guilty pleasure. The drama and the twists and turns were abundant tonight. There were scenes of passionate lovemaking and brutal beatdowns. Plots were hatched. Characters resorted to blackmail and outright deception. It was nighttime soap heaven; and if you've been reading my reviews all season, you'll know that none of this really excites me or captures my imagination. "So stop writing about it!" some will type but, alas, I cannot stop writing it about for reasons I'll keep to myself. So, people were sad and doubtful in Revenge tonight.

I did not miss the Emily Thorne narrations during the six week hiatus. Emily told us about doubt and how it infects people's brains. Many people doubt the guilt of Daniel Grayson. Weeks ago, the Grayson lawyer theorized the public would attack Daniel because he represents the loathsome 1%. The judge felt no sympathy for Daniel when she sentenced him to a maximum security correction facility. Victoria and Conrad quickly returned to their roots of trying to find the first innocent person to take the fall for the crime. Initially, Amanda Clarke became their target because of her arsonist history at Mason Treadwell's. But Amanda disappeared. Charlotte's testimony of a hooded man near the scene of the crime placed Jack Porter into the spotlight. Emily, though, masterminded the Jack Porter/Mason Treadwell/Daniel Grayson investigation blog; in fact, Emily's reasserting herself as the most dangerous person in the Hamptons after Takeda's forceful message to her through Daniel.

Emily returned to the Hamptons under a different name to avenge her father for the crimes Victoria and Conrad made him take the fall for years ago. The journey hasn't been smooth. Emily admits to Nolan how her feelings complicated her grand plan for revenge. As the Daniel case moves forward and the future looks grimmer for him, she witnesses his parents returning their old tricks. Victoria gets her shady criminal friend with the buzz cut to arrange a beating for Daniel in the prison so that the judge is forced to reverse the decision and let Daniel be under house arrest. When Conrad and Victoria stumble upon the idea of Jack, they immediately plot how to connect with the crime and then resort to their daughter and her boyfriend who claimed to witness a hooded man flee from the beach. Emily's disgusted by what she sees and so she indulges in her favorite hobby which, of course, is the act of revenge. She uses Mason to get to Victoria by tying the tapes and the fire to her and using Amanda to convince Treadwell of Victoria's guilt. As for Jack, she counts on Declan to protect his brother, which he does.

Emily is an excellent actor. She's so prim and proper and conforming through most of the episode, which makes it more exciting when she dons a wig, a sexy top, and a sexy way to take her next step. Takeda wanted Emily to remember her old self, the one who spent years in a juvenile facility and could kick ass. Emily meets up with Victoria's criminal dude in a bar and flirts with him. She's a tease and incredibly convincing so much so that he lets her know some of the secrets of the Grayson clan. They leave together, and he assumes they're going to his place for sex, but she just kicks his ass for Jack and Daniel (note how she thought of Jack Porter first). Revenge is at its very best when Emily Thorne AKA the real Amanda Clarke is kicking ass and offering no apologies. I think the writers found a great balance for her. Her love for Daniel humanizes her and her interactions with his parents keeps the fire burning. She's learning how to balance both and that's good.

An old beau of Victoria's named Dominick Wright came into town to woo her once more. The show resembled a crappy Lifetime movie during their scenes. Dominick should be more trouble than he's worth to Victoria. He's a supposed art forger, and his presence might complicate the divorce. The Grayson clan continues to divide instead of unite. Mason reports on Charlotte's drug use, which infuriates Victoria, but not as much as Charlotte recanting her statement about the hooded man infuriates her. This, in turn, damages Declan's relationship with her because he told Mason these things without her consent. Charlotte decides to hurt him with her words by revealing that he didn't have the smarts to get into that pricey school and that her grandfather paid the admissions board off. She remarks how he's also a puppet in the Grayson play (or something like that; a teenager would never say those words). Declan later laments how he's a good brother but a bad boyfriend. Kid, it's better to be a good brother. Anyway, everything is crumbling. Victoria even threatens her relationship with Daniel when she tries to plant seeds of doubt into his mind about Emily. To Victoria's credit, she's finally putting the pieces together with Emily; and, really, Revenge needs to get to the point when Victoria is truly aware of Emily. All in good time, I suppose.

Revenge hasn't missed a beat during the six week hiatus. "Doubt" is soapy and over-the-top and full of intrigue, and that's why people tune in.

Other Thoughts:

-Emily Vancamp is a long time TV crush of mine, dating back to the Everwood days. Emily looked amazing throughout the episode. Her highlights didn't remind me of a loaf cake too much. I wanted to marry her when she donned the brunette wig and wore the green top. I also wanted to dance with her.


Monday, April 16, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "Now We're Even" Review

I thought "Now We're Even" was disjointed and without purpose before Act I ended. By the end of Act III, the disparate elements came together to form a cohesive thematic whole. The three stories ruminated on themes of parenthood and loneliness. I didn't think any of the three stories were successful. Perhaps it was the acting or the storytelling or both. Things were forced. The writers seemed to waste time early because of the lack of substance in all three stories. I don't know--it just wasn't a great episode.

Seven seasons is a long time to be telling stories. How I Met Your Mother's been lousy in storytelling and characterization for a solid three seasons now. Barney Stinson is a character who continues to get worse as the seasons go on. Neil Patrick Harris remains incredibly passionate about the character and delivers Barney's lines with gusto. The writing fails him though. If Barney's involved in an emotional arc, it's weird; and if he's involved in a silly arc, it doesn't work because of his transformation since Robin, Nora, and now Quinn. Of course, if the writing is strong enough, Barney can work.

The Barney story in "Now We're Even" wasn't good at all. Barney beamed about his girlfriend's stripper profession and then urged Ted to join him in legendary night after legendary night. Each of these ideas came with a smash cut to a title card displaying the idea in text, which got old fast. The more loyal HIMYM fans probably went crazy for it, but I loathed it from the get-go. Barney just wanted distraction. The story could've gone several ways but it settled for 'Barney has issues with Quinn's profession' angle. Barney could've been worried about his 'legendary' life disappearing into domesticity and wanting as many legendary nights as possible before he sat around in his apartment or home watching TV and resting comfortably with his significant other. I suppose Barney's issues were related to that because he doesn't want Quinn to be intimate with anyone else. His nightly efforts were for distraction, to rid himself of the image of Quinn with any other person. Ted sympathizes with his friend and dresses in drag to distract him one night. While Ted is comfortable eating ribs and drinking beer alone, his friend needs someone by his side when he is alone and vulnerable.

Robin was in pursuit of fame. Despite her promotion and head shot on a gigantic poster, no one bothers to take the time to truly identify Robin as Sandy's co-anchor. The need to be identified, recognized, stared at and known, is an essential part of Robin. The show presents it as a hardship, another instance in which she is ignored, spat upon and disrespected by her peers. Throughout her professional life, she's been disrespected or nearly sexually harassed by co-workers. This story felt forced though. Four months ago, the New Year's episode depicted a Robin who saved the day at the New Year's Celebration when Sandy was too drunk to host the show. Robin literally brought in the New Year for all of New York. Now, the security guard doesn't know her, but he knows someone who isn't on TV. I didn't know what the point was, especially when Robin landed a helicopter. Yes, the helicopter thing brought her fame; but didn't New Year's Eve already do that? If the story existed for Ted and Robin to talk again then it wasn't worth it. This seemed like a clear instance of the show not knowing what to do with Robin when she's separate from the group.

Marshall and Lily were involved in a parenthood plot. Lily had a wet dream about someone she knew which made Marshall neurotic. Rajett told Marshall that he can't be crazy anymore because he'll be a father and a father needs to be stable and a role model. Marshall accepts Rajett as the man who has sex with his wife in her mind because it means she's attracted to strong father figures. Three hours remain in the seventh season. Marshall and Lily seem quite prepared for their new roles in life. Could the pregnancy happen in #722?

"Now We're Even" is a filler episode. I've no issues with fillers in general. But some filler episodes aren't good and this is an example of such a filler episode.


About The Foot

My photo
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.