Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Arrow "An Innocent Man" Review

Arrow might solve its biggest problem in time for November sweeps. Superhero staples are doing good deeds and concealing their identity from the public. Mary can't know Peter Park is Spiderman. Rachel couldn't know Bruce Wayne is Batman. The man fears for the safety of those he cares about. Oliver, disguised as the Green Arrow, explains why he hides his face using the people he cares about as his reason. Oliver is never himself around the people he cares about. Thea urges her brother to be whoever he is now instead of failing to be the boy who left five years ago. Oliver shares a wonderful conversation with Laurel as Green Arrow which leaves him grinning to which his sister volunteers to help him find a spot to propose. There's a major suspension of belief during his Arrow scenes with anyone he cares about. The outfit barely conceals any part of him and then there's the matter of his voice, which hilariously changes only in scenes with Laurel. The concealment is a distracting detriment that takes away from the action e.g. when Oliver saves Laurel in the prison wearing a ski mask because she'd see his face.

What is Arrow going to be long-term? Will it mimic the comics years and years of no one knowing Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow? Did Berlanti, Guggenheim and Kreisburg realize the hilarious difficulty of Oliver concealing his identity weekly? Oliver's desire to express feelings he cannot when Oliver the Playboy gets him arrested by the Starling City Police Department. Laurel told her father of the vigilante's ski mask and officer wear. The chief-of-police watches security tape to catch a glimpse of the man behind the hood. The video clearly shows Oliver Queen, crouching down, allowing the police to arrest him under the charge of various crimes. Oliver goes off with the police as his family looks on, setting up a significant change in everything known about the decades old archery superhero.

Story-wise, "An Innocent Man" tells two stories of an innocent man; one is Peter Declan, a man on death row for killing his wife, though Oliver believes a man named Brodeur framed him; the other innocent man is Oliver. Oliver's story is worthwhile, while Declan's is typical procedural, right down to his heartwarming reunion with his daughter. Oliver's Starling City is a bit less interesting than his island life. The island is where the best story is. How did an idiot billionaire playboy transform into someone who seemed like he jumped out of a video game? Oliver's Chinese archer mentor had something to do with the transformation. Oliver's flashbacks consist of his starvation and reluctance to kill a bird for food. He's not a killer. The Chinese mentor won't speak a word to him until Oliver's desperate and kills the bird. The mentor uses English in telling him he won't survive unless he kills, and he won't survive by staring at a picture of Laurel.

Laurel's disturbed by Arrow's ferocious beating of Brodeur's man in the prison. Diggle initially refused to work alongside Oliver to rid the city of its poison because of the murders committed in the name of justice. Diggle won't work with a man who kills. Laurel tells her father about the vigilante’s brutality, how his eyes were a killer's, empty except in pursuit of the kill. Laurel's father lambastes her for working with the vigilante, citing moral and legal reasons for why, specifically regarding her career. Lauren responds to 'He's a killer' accusation by defending the good deeds done by the vigilante. Murder is murder, though; a civilized city cannot allow a man without a badge to enforce the law.

Oliver's so damn convincing in his speech to Dig about what he does, though. The best scene of the series was their diner conversation. Amell had a quiet intensity in his delivery, as Oliver explained what happened on the island and why he's going to make a difference in Starling City. Absolution for sins can only be given by priests in Catholicism, and Diggle's not about to let a crazed zealot dictate his life, one who he perceives got stranded on an island and had a religious conversion. Oliver's not a savior in Diggle's eyes; still, Oliver's words stick with him like a passionate sermon delivered on a Sunday. Diggle agrees to work with him in a scene before Oliver's arrested. Diggle weighed right versus wrong and went with his heart: he needs to make a difference, and Oliver's work represents the only opportunity to do actual good in a poisoned city.

Meanwhile, Walter looks into $2.6 billion missing in funds. Moira casually explains the money was invested in a business that never took off. Walter discovers, thanks to Ms. Smoak, that the money was put into an off-shore LLC account under the name Tempest. Tempest purchased a warehouse in the city. Robert's boat is inside the warehouse, raising yet more questions about the enigmatic Moira. The name Tempest conjures thoughts of William Shakespeare's last play. Shakespeare's most famous tragedy's been used on the show already. The Tempest involves a shipwreck and a mysterious island. Is Moira the Prospero of The Tempest side of Arrow? He caused the shipwreck that brought the people responsible for exiling him and claiming his Dukeship to the island. Is Oliver then a quasi-Prospero, intent on bringing people to justice? I won't drone on about Arrow-Tempest parallels, but its fun to think about.

It's early yet in the series. Next week's episode should reveal a great deal about the series actual intent. It's the most important hour. Thus far Arrow's been solidly entertaining. I'm curious to see how the writers handled a possible Oliver reveal so early; if he's not, will it be written horribly and give me nightmarish flashbacks to this creative team's last superhero show No Ordinary Family?

Other Thoughts:

-Gosh I have a TV crush on Willa Holland. She's so cute. Thea gave advice and was less hardened this week. No sign of late night benders.

-The villain of the week was horribly written. What kind of villain walks up to his hit man in broad daylight as he reads the paper of the crime he committed and remarks, "Admiring your handiwork?" Not all villains will be engaging, but leave out those kinds of trash lines, please show.

-I thought the tertiary bodyguard character Robb was a success. I knew he wouldn't make it to episode's end as the bodyguard.

-Moira Kirland & Lana Cho wrote the episode. Vincent Misiano directed it.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Revenge "Forgiveness" Review

Aiden, AKA The Accent Guy, asks Emily if she remembered what she came to The Hamptons for. Emily silently nods. The question is one I've had all season. Does Revenge remember the main purpose of the show? Just as Emily's been distracted by her mother, the show also got distracted by various storylines like NoleCorp, the Graysons nonsense, Declan and Jack walking into a bad situation with a scruffy individual. There's been a whole lot less avenging than in season 1. I know, I know Revenge is about more than a girl's desire for revenge. The mere fact Accent Guy asked Emily if she remembers her original mission demonstrates how far the plot's veered from it.

"Forgiveness" is another dull affair in a dull second season. Forgiveness is the theme. Conrad and Victoria forgive each other enough to marry in order to avoid testifying against one another in a court of law. Amanda forgives Emily for lying about the father of her baby. Emily confessed Jack's the father, and she lied for her own selfish reasons. Amanda forgives Emily's mother, who thinks Amanda is actually Amanda and not Fake Amanda. Emily stands outside, listening and weeping. Wealthy scruffy man forgives the debt owed to him by the Porters if Jack agrees to sell the bar. So, much forgiveness, hugs and handshakes happen in "Forgiveness." It wouldn't be Revenge, though, without possible backstabbing treachery. Padma's inquiring about David Clarke's Grayson Global contract, which unsettles Nolan and Emily. Aiden uses the knowledge to pitch a power play for Daniel to assume control of Grayson Global. The plot becomes extremely convoluted in a a short space of time, which doesn't help when I'm distracted by weather conditions outside.

The mystery of Kara Clarke is temporarily lifted through helpful flashbacks and earnest apologies in a hospital room. Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance is still all kinds of crazy. One wouldn't trust her with a butter knife much less an infant not even a week old. The revelation of her attempted drowning of little girl Emily added tension and suspense to instances when Kara held the baby. Would she drop baby Carl? Would she yell 'Go Long' to Emily and spiral the baby down the hospital like she's Tony Romo? No, Kara quietly holds the baby while Emily looks horrified. Other flashbacks show a contrite Kara hours after the attempted drowning. David told his daughter about Mommy being sick to explain her absence. The sickness is a self-diagnosis. Kara urges her husband to tell Amanda she died because it'd be simpler than the horrible truth. Maybe Kara is reformed. I doubt the sanity of any person who's true love is the silver-haired man, though. Plus, it's Jennifer Jason-Leigh in the role.

Emily's emotional catharsis is complicated by the structure of the show. She cannot directly confront anyone about their roles in her pain. She's filtered through Amanda in this episode, giving little cues about the way to respond to Kara. One scene is particularly hard to gauge for Emily. Kara apologizes for what she did. Emily listens and cries. She cries because of the apology and because of her inability to tell her she's her daughter. The same emotional texture carries over to the paternity scene when Emily confesses her lie. Jack thinks he's with the love of his life, since childhood, but Fake Amanda's playacting. The happiness Emily wants is happening to other people. Emily's plan essentially dictates she exist alone. Accent Guy desires a more personal companionship with her, arguing she needs someone. The first scene of "Forgiveness" ends with Emily pushing him away, explaining he stayed the night because he happened to be there; anyone else would've been in his spot if he wasn't.

So, it's interesting to watch a woman hell-bent on revenge lose every thing or one she cares about in the process. Nolan challenged her conviction to help her consider the consequences of it. Will it be worth it after all, when the Graysons are put down and her father's avenged, if the people she loves are gone? This question is really the only worthwhile aspect of Revenge. The rest is nonsense.

Other Thoughts:

-My least favorite character, Mason Treadwell, on television returned. He's going to figure out if Amanda's actually Amanda. Blah.

-Padma and Nolan ate breakfast along the shore line. Padma's an impossibly attractive person.

-What's going to happen when Kara learns Emily and Accent Guy killed her man? She should learn around February sweeps. The Crazy will return then.


What Happened When The Blair Witch Project Influenced Dawson's Creek?

A couple of teenagers want to make a movie about a local legend involving witches. The teenagers get a camcorder and head into the heart of the haunted area. The teenagers, of course, are the Capeside crew, good ol' Dawson Leery, Joey Potter, Pacey Witter, and Jen Lindley. 1999 was the year of The Blair Witch Project. The film took Hollywood by surprise and inspired many aspiring filmmakers to grab their camera and make a movie with just a camcorder and friends. Dawson hails the movie for blowing the doors off the industry with only a camcorder and three actors. "Escape From Witch Island" is the answer to the "What Happened When The Blair With Project Influenced Dawson's Creek?" question. The episode is a mess and a precursor to the miserable Halloween episode of season five. Why? Read on.

"Escape From Witch Island" aired on November 17, 1999, mere months after The Blair Witch Project opened. Dawson's Creek loved to be the show known as having its finger on the pulse of the hot thing in popular culture. In 1997, Kevin Williamson ripped off his own movie, Scream, in the season one episode "The Scare." The characters were hyper-aware of cultural trends, so it follows the new show runner(s) would want to tackle Blair With but with an ironic detachment that actually hurts the episode more than it helps. A sure sign of laziness in any creative medium is a character, or characters, directly mentioning which story is being ripped off in their story. Of course, Tom Kapinos, the credited writer for the episode, or his bosses Paul Stupin and Greg Berlanti, would defend this accusation of laziness with a statement about meeting the storm before the storm hits them or any number of clichés with a sentiment about averting criticism by embracing future accusations of being a hack.

Joey walks into the local video store to rent The Crucible, but Dawson tells her the video is currently out. Joey runs her hands through her air in a distressed manner. The movie is needed for her paper (Smart Girl Joey doesn't think of borrowing the play from the library). Dawson sits behind his counter, hands behind his head, listening to Joey lament her station in life. Dawson decides to be her white knight after the sob story is completing, alerting her to his genius plan to avoid writing a crappy five page paper about Salem witches through making a documentary about a local Capeside witch legend. Joey accepts Dawson's offer to assist in the project after lamenting her imagined future if she fails to produce a five page paper. Through their conversation, though, is an undercurrent of hurt feelings and choked words. They haven't been close friends since Joey's father got caught selling drugs out of The Ice House. Eve, a bombshell blonde, came through town promising sex for Dawson, which isolated Dawson and Joey from each other even more. Now, in the video store, Dawson doesn't know why she stopped working at the docks or how she did on the SATs; and Joey wasn't aware Eve left town. They are tortured soul mates.

Dawson's plan for the documentary is a direct rip-off of Blair Witch. Joey calls him on it. Dawson smiles like a jackass and continues putting away movies, one of which is near Varsity Blues, the 1998 football classic starring The Beek as reluctant-but-great high school quarterback in Texas, while he defends his idea as original; see, Dawson plans to comment on hypocrisy in religion, so he wants to bore the audience whereas Blair Witch aimed to scare the shit out of everyone in a completely new way. The writers knew they'd get ripped on for ripping off Blair Witch. Dawson's defense is their defense. The first act opens with the foursome walking casually walking to class while discussing the movie the episode is ripping off. Three of the four teens criticize the film. Not only does the show directly and unapologetically rip off the premise of the show, it insults it as well. The writers are essentially saying, "Yeah, we are stealing this idea and turning it into shit, but the movie is a piece of shit anyway SO WHO CARES!" There's a cheeky scene as the teens are about to board a boat to Witch Island where the operator pulls out a camcorder because he's filming a documentary about people filming a documentary about Witch Island. Dawson squints and looks ashamed but asks his questions anyway about the island and learns no one should stay after dark because the ghosts of murdered witches come out and cause some serious nonsense in the woods.

So far, when Dawson's Creek is inspired by The Blair Witch Project, nothing but insults are thrown at the film. The worst offense of the show, though, is turning "Escape From Witch Island" into a love story about an imprisoned witch and her devoted boyfriend which, of course, mirrors the present day soul mates Dawson and Joey. The Blair Witch premise is a jumping off point for a typical angsty Dawson/Joey story that neither clarifies their status nor makes the pairing more interesting. The Witch Island story adds flourish in minor places, but it's really a case of what David Foster Wallace wrote in The Pale King: Every ghost story is a love story. Wendy the tour guides tells the story of William and Mary, two 17th century lovers separated by the girl's forced imprisonment on Witch Island by her family. Joey devours Mary's story because she identifies with it. Joey feels like she's been forced away from Dawson; she sits alone in her house wondering why they can't be together, why he rejected her the night she offered herself to him, and whether or not they really will find their way back to each other. Are they soul mates? Mary's fate is unknown. Wendy theorizes William rescued her before the fire that killed the other girls. Joey isn't so sure Mary reunited with him just as she's unsure of Dawson.

Dawson barely uses the camcorder. Joey's presence distracts him. Dawson leaves the place with enough footage to pass the assignment. The teens just hang out in the old church. Pacey and Jen make out and agree to have casual sex while Dawson and Joey make themselves miserable by actively choosing to remain apart. Dawson reasons they'll find their way back to romance if it's meant to be; Joey's sad Dawson's become a stranger to her life, which fact stings The Forehead. "Escape From Witch Island" is the worst rip-off of The Blair Witch Project. Dawson presents the film to the class with the 'love story' thesis and receives tremendous praise despite ignoring the actual assignment to write about the history of the Salem witch trials. It's a not a film class, though Principal Green probably taught that, too (Green teaches EVERY CLASS).

"Escape From Witch Island" doesn't ignore the spooky element. While the general stance of the show on the movie is bad, they need to pay off the Witch element. Blair Witch has the iconic scene with the girl repeating "I'm so scared." "Escape From Witch Island" needs its crazy sequence of terror. Dawson's Creek executed scary stories really, really poorly. It was horrible whenever they tried to scare the audience. "Escape From Witch Island," "Four Scary Stories," and "Living Dead Girl" include scenes which do not track with what's been written, which seem thrown in there because someone thought it was cool, and which lack a source and a resolution. "Escape..." includes numerous POV shots of the church where the teens are, with heavy breathing and soft voices, as if the witches’ spirits are closing on the property. I wrote about "Four Scary Stories" two years ago, which is just an abomination of an episode. "Living Dead Girl" ends on a cloaked figure turning out the lights because why the hell not it's season six and everyone but Joshua Jackson gave up on the show. There is no build to the 'terrifying' sequences. Something happens and then it's forgotten about. The sequence in "Escape From Witch Island" includes the sound of angry villagers, fire balls, fire outside of the church, jammed doors, and then nothing. Joey theorizes Wendy and boat guy were responsible, which would explain the image of a man and woman in 17th century garb standing on the docks watching the teenagers flee the island. The insane fire ball that comes within an inch of Dawson's face is never mentioned; Dawson's more interested in expressing his opinion of the ghosts of Mary and William being reunited for all eternity.

Inevitably the episode needed to return to the 'heart' of the show, which is the Dawson and Joey nonsense. I would've thought the terrible way in which they handled the 'scary' element of the episode would have deterred the writers from trying it again. Nothing good came from Blair Witch directly inspiring Dawson's Creek (the Jen/Pacey thing is fun in this episode), but this is what happened when that inspiration happened.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Once Upon A Time "The Doctor" Review

I missed the first three minutes of Once Upon a Time because of a Hurricane Sandy update. I live in Philadelphia. ABC joined the program already in progress, which was in the middle of a Charming/Whale conversation that left me momentarily lost. Dr. Whale then stormed into Regina's office to demand the return of his brother. Somehow the episode turned into Regina's first attempts to master the dark arts of Fairy Tale land. There were some uninteresting elements in the episode. Anything involving Jefferson will cause my mind to wander. The random magical restoration of Daniel didn't entirely work. Henry and his horse don’t inspire hope for future C stories. Regina's involved in her second centric episode in less than a month, which is too much for a limited character especially when so many other characters are on the sidelines.

The Regina Redemption project is happening. Braided Fairyback Regina appeared in both the Regina centric episodes. Braided Regina means good girl Regina. It's worthwhile to simply observe the various appearances of the good and bad characters in both worlds. Jefferson's sort of slimy and untrustworthy so he appears like a frat boy who always drank too much the night before with bags under his eyes and messy hair whereas Charming and Snow are completely approachable with their wholesome looks. Regina looks like the Bitch Goddess from St. Petersburg, Russia, when she's Evil Regina, and like the sweetest rural Russian girl when she's Good Regina. It's significant when Regina removes a woman's heart with her dolled up like a beanstalk versus the earlier scenes when she's braided and unable to harm a horse. Season 1 showed only the Bitch Goddess side of the character, but we're to know the characters are both (thanks to Charming's speech). Regina didn't use to be a heart-stealing whore; she was a happy and had a braid. She wanted to use magic to bring Daniel back. Rumple told her 'what's dead is dead.' Jefferson showed up and introduced to a doctor, a doctor Victor Frankenstein specifically.

Regina's love for Daniel held her morality together in the face of tempting dark arts that would grant whatever wish she had in her pretty braided head. Love gave her the strength to reject Rumple's challenge to learn by doing. Victor treated the situation seriously and genuinely felt bad when he didn't succeed in reanimating Daniel. Regina stood outside the tent and sobbed. She went in and hugged the body of her beloved. The failure broke her. The braid disappeared. The hair went up. Hearts were stolen because her heart was stolen by DEATH.

Victor succeeds in reanimating Daniel in Storybrooke. Regina witnesses Daniel on the street and mistakes it for a ghost. Daniel came back wrong, of course--a monster, but a monster because he's battling excruciating pain. Regina is granted the one wish she had only to be forced to let go of him, using magic to do so which affects her redemptive journey. Love for Henry motivated her to live without magic, but love and compassion for Daniel motivated her to use again. Regina goes to Cricket to confess what happened. She's broken and desperate. Lana Parilla plays the scene desperately, like Cricket's a life raft she spotted in the open ocean just as she lost strength to stay afloat. Hey, atonement's a bitch.

The Dr. Victor Frankenstein revelation was and was not surprising. I figured out Whale's identity the second he corrected Regina's wizard definition. I never expected Frankstein in the Once Upon a Time universe because the character is Mary Shelley's, not Disney's. Public domain is a creative person's best friend, though. Jane Espenson teased the ending by declaring it 'the best ending ever.' It was not. Frankenstein's monster is going to appear in the future. Now that David Anders knows who he is as a character, I look forward to his interpretation of the classic Doctor. The last line about science might be a set-up to a substantially thoughtful theme of science's place in the world or it could be a nod to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I won't be surprised if Once's Victor is stripped of many of the characteristics Shelley gave her character.

Meanwhile, Emma met Captain Hook. Hook tried to conceal his identity but failed, and he broke when threatened with a flesh-eating ogre. The fairy-tale world story is lacking. Characters stand around and ask questions. Aurora and Mulan were active in the premiere, now they're background players to Emma and Snow. Mulan's been kicking ass for months, and she weakly submits to Emma because Emma scowls and repeats the word 'No.' Hook leads the women to a beanstalk where an essential magic crystal or jewel (what the hell was it) is for the enchanted wardrobe portal that'll take everyone back to Storybrooke. The beanstalk's Giant is coming to the show next week. Emma displays her sheriff skills and cements her identity and role as badass heroine of the series. Generally, the fairy tale world story is a bore.

"The Doctor" was one of the more ambitious episodes of Once. Kitsis and Horowitz introduced Frankenstein, told a humanizing Regina story as well as a Rumple/Jefferson story, and juggled those with Henry and the horse, and the Emma fairy tale stuff. It's an impressive amount of content for 41 minutes, and none of the stories felt rushed or pointless. No, wait, the Daniel story was rushed.

Other Thoughts:

-Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Frankenstein will always be my gold standard for the character. David Anders should deliver a good interpretation of Victor, but Branagh's over-the-top masculine Victor Frankenstein of the movie is terrific. Once will never have a scene as nonsensically masculine as Branagh in the lab, shirt ripped open, yelling, his golden hair blowing in the wind, as lightning strikes around him.

-Henry's anxious to ride his horse, but Charming says the horse will Henry know when Henry's ready. The plan is for Emma and Snow to be surprised when Henry's an actual knight by the time they return.

-Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz wrote the episode. Paul Edwards directed it.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Grimm "La Llorona" Review

The legend of La Llorona is an old folk tale about a woman who drowns her children to be with the man she loves. The man does not love her back, which devastates her, so she throws herself into the river. When she reaches the gates of heaven, she's turned away for her sins and spends eternity wandering the earth, weeping for the children she drowned and cannot find. La Llorona's slightly different in Grimm. She's a ghost Wesen who drowned her and her husband's children after he cheated on her with another woman, and now her ghost wanders the earth in search of three new children to give in exchange for the lives of her own children killed in an act of crazed jealousy.

Ghost stories have a poor history on television. Movies and literature are the better mediums for ghost stories. Halloween episodes are a mixed bag on network TV, too; these episodes tend to feel different from other episodes, as if the writers need to break a story separate from the ongoing story they're telling to meet the demands of the season. Various channels celebrate Halloween throughout October, running old movies day in and day out. There's a pressure on networks and the individual shows to join the Halloween trend, dress their characters up, have some fun, try to scare the audience, or delight them with scenes of the holiday.

Grimm's "La Llorona" tells the story of La Llorona. It begins on a sunny afternoon by a river in Portland. A father and son are on the docks when a woman in a white dress walks into the river, weeping, and goes under the water. The father rushes to rescue the weeping woman only to emerge from the water a third time to witness the weeping woman walking away with his son. Nick and Hank take the case. A former detective in New Mexico rushes to Portland to assist in the case, obsessed with La Llorona since the day her nephew was taken by the ghost woman. Juliette assists as a translator and meets a Hispanic woman in possession of the spiritual kind of sight--she sees ghosts and senses things others don't, e.g. Juliette's cat-scratch and her interest in both Nick and Capt. Renard.

The version of the La Llorona story Grimm tells is just okay. It mixed ghost story with typical Grimm procedural, which slowed down the pace. Nick and Hank follow the clues. The conveniently obsessive detective from New Mexico seemed like a creation that happened around 10-11pm in the Grimm offices. The detective has texture and a story, but a rather convenient and rote story for this kind of episode, right down to the consequences of her obsession that threatens to disrupt the case. She's plopped down into the story as a nod to the source of the story in Mexico and the US Southwest. Whenever Nick and Hank need to know an important detail, the former detective knows for she spent five years collecting evidence about the weeping woman. The introduction of the stereotypical mystic Hispanic woman was icing on a half-assed made cake.

Nick and Hank need to save the kids before La Llorona drowns them. The former detective helps them until the FBI arrests her for interfering with a case. Nick and Hank research in the trailer and discover La Llorana is a ghost Wesen. A former Grimm went to face her and never came back, writing he would either come back alive or wouldn't at all. The journal entry is supposed to add an extra perilous edge to the story. Writers need to keep their main characters in danger, but Nick's inevitable confrontation with La Llorona lacked the life-and-death stakes the journal entry was designed to inject into the last act. Nick and Hank save the kids. Nick fights the ghost in the water. She disappears. The former detective's key role in solving the case frees her from the clutches of the FBI; we will never see this character again.

The Hispanic woman whom Rafael's dad loathes tells Juliette a bunch of nonsense the audience figured out when she saw Renard after kissing Nick. No other character could directly talk to Juliette because Juliette barely interacts with anyone significantly, except for the rare scenes with Nick in the beginning or end of episodes. The woman should've imparted advice about why and how the amnesia is specific to Nick instead of stating that she'll need to choose between the men she loves like she's a secondary best friend character on a CW show. I identified with the emotions of Rafael's father when he yelled at the plot device, threw something against the wall, and went into a room to cry. Trusting the audience is a virtue now. Not enough writers or networks most likely, trust the audience. Case-in-point: Juliette watches Renard dress down Hank and Nick, a flash of the woman's warning shows to emphasize Juliette's indecision about the two men. Leave the beat for Betsie Tulloch's face to express. Trust the audience.

Grimm gave La Llorona a decent go, but its procedural formula sucked the fun out. Thankfully, Monroe gave out candy in the B story. He waged war with three local toughs after he witnessed the toughs try to steal a little girl's candy. The local toughs broke his window. For fun and scares and payback, Monroe volga'd in front. (Earlier, Monroe told Nick about the Wesen Halloween celebration of the past.) The village would meet in the forest and Volga out at midnight. It was cool piece of Grimm mythology. I loved the fun Halloween side of the story.

Grimm's still in a 'slump' per se. November sweeps looms along with another Grimm who's not too happy about Nick's benevolence in Portland. Renard's tracking Adalind. Grimm's comfortable moving at a glacial pace, which is fine when the episodes tell good stories; that hasn't been the case the last few weeks. I think November will be a great month for the show.


The Vampire Diaries "The Rager" Review

"The Rager" is a play on words, a code for a gathering of high school youth in an unsupervised environment wherein they drink, carouse, copulate, come close to copulation, and evaluate their night based on their memory of it. Elena is one pissed off vampire in "The Rager," though. Elena's rage hits a boiling point at The Rager. Vampire Elena is quite a different beast from human vampire. She's trying to retain what she was, and who she was, as a human but blood lust and instinct are beating her brain. She's losing control, and she doesn't like it. Stefan's the white knight she doesn't need but wants; Damon's the deep-fried Cap'n Crunch dish at the state fair who will show her how to enjoy a proper deep-fried Cap'n Crunch dish. It's unhealthy for her conscience, but she wants to kill and drink blood.

Elena's rage grows the more Rebekah treats her badly. Rebekah's a character who's largely inconsistent episode-to-episode. Maybe her inconsistency is her consistency. She may be 1000 years old but she's lived a thousand years with a teenage brain. Teenagers are stupid, prideful, and quick to hurt and attack the wound if they see blood. Rebekah's mad because her brother snapped her neck. Matt's angry with her for trying to kill him and Elena, which totally dampens the girl's mood. The Rebekah-Elena feud falls flat. The stuff Rebekah does to piss off Elena is just typical high school stuff. Yeah, the characters are high-schoolers, but it seemed too juvenile to cause Elena to almost stake an Original in front of everyone. Of course, Rebekah teases her with the blood of a classmate in the bathroom, which one could easily associate with a mean girl taunting a classmate who struggles with anorexia with a candy bar. Someone needs to piss Elena off so much she's basically one foot away from going over the edge. Rebekah serves that purpose.

Elena's true moment of vampire sadness and regret is when she nearly kills Matt as she drinks from his wrist. Stefan tried to distract her vampiric instincts with motorcycle rides through the Mystic Falls country, passionate sex in a bedroom, but his ideas weren't working. Stefan feels like he's losing Elena. He won't be able to join her unless he loses himself; the writers made it easy for Elena and Damon to have their inevitable 'thing.' Stefan's the neutered vampire. Damon's the Vampire--a vampire who represents the essence of their nature. He kills, he drinks, he doesn't regret it, because it's his nature to kill and feed just like it's a lion's to kill prey and consume it. Stefan believes the man cannot be consumed by the monster, so he's trying to save Elena from losing herself; but he was a young vampire once, and a killer, too, and Elena will need to indulge her darker impulses and those violent thoughts she can't shake from her mind. She's going to need to be vicious before she finds herself again, just like Caroline in Season 2.

Connor the Vampire Hunter continued his quest to find and kill vampires in Mystic Falls. Connor took werewolf venom from Tyler and enlisted Jeremy as his helper because Jeremy saw the tattoos (only vampire hunters or potential vampire hunters see the tattoo). Connor set himself up to be caught by Damon. Jeremy and Meredith conspired with Damon to get Connor cornered. Klaus joined the fun after taking exception with the man's attempt to kill one of his hybrids, of whom he has precious few. Connor's introduction last week was terrific, and I would've been happy with a story about one guy coming to Mystic Falls without any complicated mythology associated to him. Klaus mentioned Connor was 'one of the Five.' My excitement for the story then took a hit, and that hit took another hit when Connor didn't know what the hell Klaus meant, meaning Klaus has the goddamn upper-hand again and the beat goes on, as Macho Man Randy Savage once said. It's only episode three, though; maybe Klaus won't be the center of evil.

"The Rager," as a whole was pretty average. There were good scenes, but then there were irritating bad scenes. The strength of the episode was the Stefan and Elena, and Stefan's heart-to-heart with Caroline after he realized what he needs to do to keep Elena. Romantic intrigues aren't my forte anymore. Stefan's genuine attempts to help Elena keep her humanity were great to watch and well-acted by Wesley and Dobrev. Damon's later promise to Elena falls into the weaker part of the episode. Damon's a character in need or forward progress. He's been the same way for over two seasons: in love with Elena to the point of hurting anyone who threatens her, moping around like high school sophomore who was rejected by a girl he wanted to take to homecoming, needlessly drinking like a melodramatic caricature of a sad and tortured soul. The time has arrived for Damon and Elena to have a thing so Damon can move forward.

Other Thoughts:

-Elena's worst scene in the series is official: her keg stand to spite Rebekah. I wanted to forget about the scene the second it ended.

-Phoebe Tonkin's playing the role of the Other Woman in Tyler's life. Think of Buffy's "Wild At Heart"--that's essentially what Tonkin's Haley is. I watched (and wrote about) a full season of Tonkin's The Secret Circle. Tonkin was the best part of that show by far. She brought the same energy Faye had in TSC.

-Ragers are really any kind of party with beer and young folk, I.e they are not limited to high schoolers. TVD continued the tradition of elaborate parties thrown together by high schoolers who could hardly plan how to skip 4th period without being caught let alone a rager. Rebekah, the 1000 year old vampire, is more believable, I guess.

-Rebekah wants to change because Dream Matt told her to. She reacted to Dream Matt by pulling out his heart. Rebekah’s transformation begins with helping April figure out what happened when the house exploded.

-Shorter review for #403 because the episode aired 23 hours ago and I'm writing about Grimm in two hours.

-Bryan Young wrote the episode. I missed the director credit.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Arrow "Lone Gunmen" Review

I'm not an avid comic book collector. The only comic books I've bought were some Buffy and ANGEL, Joss' Astonishing X-Men #1 and #2, and Claudio Sanchez' Second Stage Turbine Blade comics, #1 and #2. Deadshot's not an unfamiliar comic book figure to me. I mean, he's not entirely familiar; I read about the tease of Deadshot in the Arrow trailers on Joblo over the summer. Arrow's portrayal of Deadshot is, really, my first experience with the character. My first impressions: Floyd Lawton is a regrettable name, and I expected an Eastern European accent.

Deadshot shoots one of Oliver's men on the list before Oliver finishes threatening the man with stuff unless he corrects the major mistakes he made when he provided low-income homes with faulty smoke detectors that resulted in the deaths of some of Starling City's less privileged people. "Lone Gunmen" introduces a needless narrative device that did not exist in episodes one and two after Deadshot's introduction. Deadshot is a character with a back story the audience needs to know immediately, if the narrative device should be interpreted as the writers desire to establish the assassin's importance in Arrow. Deadshot is like other great villains in that he shares many of Arrow's traits, but the traits are twisted into malevolence. Arrow's Deadshot is similar to The Dark Knight's Joker with regards to how he's thematically different from the hero.
Deadshot uses a list to kill people. Afterwards, he tattoos their names on his body. Oliver will kill people on his list if he needs to, for the greater good of the city. Deadshot alerts Oliver to their shared murders. Oliver dismisses their similarities because he's taking lives for good reasons while he, Deadshot, takes lives because he wants to. Their encounter is only the beginning of their series-long feud. Oliver takes Round 1 when he shoots Deadshot in the eye with an arrow. Deadshot also shot several wealthy people during the auction before Oliver stopped him. Among the people hit was Dig, who woke up after healing to the curious sight of Oliver wearing the suit of the mysterious vigilante working the streets of Starling City nightly. I guess Oliver won't need the night club cover to get around Dig.

"Lone Gunmen" was simply average. The introduction of Deadshot changed the dynamic of the episode and the series. It departed from the Revenge formula for an episode. Oliver's vigilante-case-of-the-week died within a minute of introduction. Oliver emerged as a hero in the Hero sense for the first time. Several scenes seemed designed to show Oliver won't remain a secretive vigilante. He clearly shows awareness of the sniper before the sniping; he thanks the Chief of Police rather meaningfully and without any prompting; and he reveals his Arrow identity to Dig. I'm probably overthinking the exchanges, but Oliver was incredibly overt, which makes me wonder about the season unfolding with Starling City aware of the billionaire playboy as their Guardian Angel in the night. It seems hard for the writers to sustain Oliver's secrecy throughout the season. His mother's spying on him; he's clearly displaying ridiculous fighting skills in public, an awareness of potentially catastrophic crimes, and exchanging unsolicited meaningful words with the chief-of-police about impending catastrophic crime. Interestingly, Oliver rescues individuals who might be on his list. Deadshot's the kind of villain that'll challenge Oliver, which isn't new to this kind of storytelling but is usually entertaining to watch.

The other side of Oliver's life were quarreling. Thea got into trouble for breaking into a clothing store and trying on dresses. Oliver took a Floyd's computer to the company's top IT girl to learn anything he could about the mysterious assassin. The IT girl opined on the Shakespearean drama of the Queen family. The observation/comparison flew over Oliver's head. The writers and I think alike, as I made the Hamlet comparison in "Pilot" review." Oliver didn't help to ease tensions within the house. Thea loathes him for being different from how she remembered. The troubled teen is looking for someone she lost the day her father passed. Oliver wants her to quit drugs and bad behavior, but she's resentful of him and won't listen. I'd be annoyed with the character if not for Willa Holland's lethal use of eyeliner and how she looks in a black dress, her debilitating eyes and curly brunette hair. Thea's a typically horrible CW teenage character; however, Holland's able to make her a bit more tolerable because of her delivery, expressions, and gorgeous appearance. Her mother tries to bond with her after enforcing a grounding on her, which fails; the women bond over a memory of the man they loved and lost. I hope their conversation signifies the end of Thea's terrible bad girl arc. It won't.

Arrow continues to be a solid show through three episodes. It's even better without the Revenge formula.
Other Thoughts:

-The island flashbacks grow more intriguing with each passing episode. The hooded archer who shot Oliver did it to save his life. The archer introduced medicinal plant and magic water to heal wounds. Obviously Oli learned a thing or two about a thing or two from hooded, goateed archer.

-I want Oliver and Thomas to open a night club just to kill Max's night club business.

-Guggenheim and Kreisburg wrote another episode from a story by Berlanti and Kreisburg. Arrow has a writing staff, right? Guy Bee directed it.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Go On "Any Given Birthday" Review

The first birthday after the death of a loved one, like a parent or a husband or wife or sibling, is very difficult. The loss group worries about Ryan as his birthday approaches and he's faced with celebrating alone for the first time without his loving and doting wife, Janie. Ryan insists the birthday isn't a big deal. Janie made the day into a headache of activity when all Ryan wanted to do was relax and forget he was supposed to celebrate his birth. The loss group wants to treat Ryan to a scavenger hunt based on his life. They aim to fill his life with adventurous fun and support. Ryan reacts like he always does, which becomes a problem and then a resolution followed by a lesson being learned.

"Any Given Birthday" is similar to the previous episodes. Ryan's stand-offish and uninterested in group events. The group's one hundred percent committed to their wacky idea. The silly bits are sort of balanced with the genuine bits of humanity: human compassion and sadness, namely. The scavenger hunt is a nice way for the other characters to stand out. I have a miserable time remembering who is who on Go On. The loss group characters blend together to the point I forget who spent quality time with Ryan versus those who didn't, and who's amusingly abrasive and who's amusingly bizarre. The entire loss group got their own chance to shine, except for the absent George. Mr. K got the most character development. The one-note bearded wacko who caresses his beard during stuffed animal playacting is an enthusiastic fan of musicals. Anne initially refuses to partner with Mr. K, but his knowledge of musicals draws him to her. The odd pair dance beautifully together in the last act.

Seth and Mr. K tee-off in a competition that requires both to run through a college campus naked. Seth's run through campus seemed inspired by Mark, Tom and Travis in "What's My Age Again" music video. Mr. K streaked like Gene Kelly, if Gene Kelly ever streaked during a slow day on set. Yolanda incessantly bothered the other group members to contribute their share to the expensive scavenger hunt. Yolanda's the most problematic character on the show through seven episodes. She's defined by her nasally screech of a voice and her fear of jazz and cats because of their overwhelming sexuality. Yolanda's overwritten and Suzy Nakamura's overcompensating because the character on the page is shit, or it's one or the other. Yolanda threatened to kill every group scene tonight, most notably when she chimed in about money seconds after Ryan walked into the hotel room his wife arranged to be set-up months in advance, before her death, so he was sort of dealing with some shit.

Fausta and Owen received as much as development as the laundry shop owner. The actors showed off their dance moves during the final act's impromptu dance party. Ryan had a moment with the memory of his life on the hotel balcony, remembering birthdays past and the man he was before the loss and the group. Ryan endured the hunt before being infected by the fun. Lauren pleaded with her toughest 'patient' to let others think about him and want to do nice things to help him feel better. Ryan listened, which is where his apology to Janie came from. From the small bits of exposition about birthday pasts, Ryan seemed like a complete shithead, badgering his wife about not planning stuff, probably scolding her for loving him enough to want to plan romantic birthday outings for them. Ryan's sorry about those days. He's sorry because Janie didn't deserve to be treated badly for caring about him. Memory Janie assures Ryan she got the man she wanted. Ryan disagrees, insisting she deserved better. It was a well-done scene in an otherwise uneven episode.

Go On nails its mourning-and-loss scenes. It makes the show worth watching and writing about every week. The loss group is the worst thing to endure when one has a headache, but Silveri and his writers are able to tie the emotional ties together twice or thrice an episode. Ryan’s journey to become a better person, to process and deal with the enormity of his loss in small ways, is engaging to watch. I’m awaiting the episodes when Ryan’s a little more open, less of a sitcom caricature, and a living, breathing personification of the hard, long road of loss, grief and mourning.

Of course, this will happen in between Mr. K pouring candle wax on his chest and reciting the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Other Thoughts:

-Sonia and Steven were in a fun B story. Steven was high from medication after a colonoscopy. Sonia needed cheering up after seeing her ex-boyfriend's happy existence on the computer. They shopped together and helped one another feel better. John Cho carried their scenes. The dude is able to make anything funny.

-I knew a Mr. K once upon a time. I frequented wrestling message boards in 2000-01. I created a fanzine titled Schwoe in 2003 and Mr. K ran the website for me. Who was this Mr. K? A Canadian fellow from one of the eastern provinces. We used to discuss Spike of Buffy. He liked the Canadian pop-punk Americans only found out about when Atlantic brought over Simple Plan and bands like that. Mr. K was a good dude, much cooler than bearded Mr. K of Go On.

-I look forward and also dread the prospect of a Go On Halloween episode. The title suggests it won't be a
Halloween episode.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Finale Fun: Alphas "God's Eye" Review

Welcome to Finale Fun! If this is your first time then this is your first time. Finale Fun is reserved for shows I watch but do not review on a weekly basis, which means they're my favorite shows to watch.
Alphas entered its second season with a slightly different creative team, a lot of drama within the team, and I didn't know what to expect from the season as a whole. Season one was a terrifically pleasant surprise. Season two was different. New characters were introduced. The dynamic was changed. Dr. Rosen was obsessed with stopping Stanton Parrish. The storytelling went to dark places, but there were light moments in between. I feel good about season two.

"God's Eye" brought the season to a rather unexpected cliffhanger. The tone of the episode resembled the previous two episodes. The focus was tight. The team had to do A, B and C. There was no time for cute Rachel scenes with her boyfriend, or Gary protecting his yogurt from co-workers, or Bill hanging out at home with his wife and adopted son. The team had a city to save (actually a world) and not a lot of time to do it. I expected a part of Parrish's plan to succeed. Global genocide wasn't going to be accomplished, but city-wide damage seemed likely. Alphas makes the daring choice instead of the safe choice. The final montage of Gary walking through the fallen bodies as he looked for his friends was strange. I have questions. The show wants people to have questions.

Anyway, I have random thoughts to share about the episode, and the season as a whole.

-The Dani elements were a little much in episodes, specifically in regards to Cameron, who seemed only to do stuff with Dani or for Dani. Their relationship reached its high point in the episode where Cameron and his son misunderstood one another. Dani used her empathic power to connect father and son. Dani was a difficult character to like. The scene helped increase her likeability. Of course, I usually associated Dani with the scene in the season premiere when Stanton and company blow up a running freight train. Dani walks on. "Need to Know" revealed Dani's knowledge of Stanton's plan all along, and she curiously did very little to stop the Ultimate Plan. I suppose her attempt in the van was supposed to be the catalyst for Stanton, but he killed her, which exploded the emotions and clear thinking of Rosen and Cam.

-Dr. Rosen was a fascinating character to watch throughout the season. His arc seemed like it'd lead to the epiphany he had while confronting Parrish on the train platform. Good Guy and Bad Guy were paralleled throughout the season. Rosen sometimes seemed worse than the ancient Alpha hell-bent on mass murder. He hit bottom when he tortured Siprio with Cameron, going behind Kat's and Bill's back to do so. I waited for Rosen to realize the errors he made. The old Rosen broke through in the hospital scene with Gary. Ghost Dani advised her father to say goodbye to Gary because he'll die by day's end. Rosen told Gary how special their friendship was and how special it was to see the world through Gary's incredible eyes. Rosen being shot in the gut was the best thing for him because it allowed him to think and consider his choices. I thought it was a great character moment when he made a conscious choice to spare Stanton's life, by acknowledging he cannot stoop to his level. Cameron made the same choice as Stanton slowly recovered from death.

-My favorite character on any television show right now, Gary, had a rather rad episode. I read the Alphas message board on TWoP because no one I know watches the show. People really expected SOMETHING from the Gary's mom storyline. I kept an open mind about his mother playing a crucial role in the events. She did play a crucial role, but in an unexpected way. Gary basically needed to get out on his own this season, but he needed to fight to break the deep roots he had at home. He left initially because he screamed for ten seconds every morning, which scared his mom. Gary was simple acting out against Anna's death. He was angry. His mother had a stroke, and he promised to take care of her and stay with her. Gary's mother, though, told him to "Go" in "God's Eye." Go and help his friends, she wished, and he did.

-Rachel, Bill and Nina had interesting arcs throughout the season. Rachel's ability to overcome her fears and anxieties was well-told and well-acted. The scene in which she consoled her boyfriend's fear about his battle scars is a highlight of the season. Nina's character was horrible in the beginning, but she returned to her season one self by season's end. I loved season one Nina. Bill had some awesome stuff in season two. The fight club episode was a highlight. I liked the bigger leadership role he took, and how he took Kat under his wing after she took him under hers during the fight club fun.

-Kat was a wonderful addition to the show. I do have a gripe about an inconsistency with the character. Two weeks ago, she murdered Mitchell's bodyguard and felt terrible guilt about it. I watched her tearful scene twice. Kat responded like most humans would. It was a human moment for the girl. Death is treated no differently than other shows of Alphas ilk. It happens. The team moves on. Kat experienced no guilt when she killed at least one man and seriously injured two others (it seems she killed three). I felt disappointment during that scene, despite how badass she was in beating the bad guys. I wanted that layer to remain.

-Summer Glau was wonderful in her return. She appeared in three episodes. A fear gripped me during the shoot-out in "God's Eye," though. It seemed inevitable she'd be shot, but I remembered Tim Minear's absence from the writing staff. He's with American Horror Story and far, far away from writing funny deaths for Summer and causing Whedonesque to freak out. I love Summer Glau. Casting directors of cable and/or network shows, cast her more.

-The series may not return for a third season. I'll need to re-watch the finale to see how it works as a season finale. I really hope Syfy gives it a third season. The channel certainly won't replace Alphas with a better show. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Also, I tweeted about Gary being my favorite character tonight and was re-tweeted by the episode's scribe, Bruce Miller, which was very cool.

-That's it for my Alphas thoughts for now. I hope to write about the third season premiere in the summer of 2013. I recommend anyone reading who's never watched the show to watch the show.


Revenge "Intuition" Review

A couple of things stood out in "Intuition," the fourth episode in Revenge's second season, which is amazingly worse than its first season. The first thing that stood out was actually Emily Vancamp's cleavage, but I won't dwell on it because I'm an independent blogger who saves such insights for the 'Other Thoughts' section. The 'first' thing that stood out was Jennifer Jason Leigh being typecast. The only film I've seen her in is Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and she was overshadowed by Phoebe Cates (who I'll still take to dinner to THIS DAY). The moment she was revealed as an attempted murderer of her own daughter was when I lost even more interest in her arc as a character by herself and her future relationship with Emily. Of course Jennifer Jason Leigh portrays a batshit crazy woman. Why would I expect an ABC nighttime soap to think outside the box and conceive a character JJL never played before?

The 'second,' which is actually the third thing, regards Victoria Grayson, a character I somehow thought about during the day. The end of season one established her as a character with layers, regardless of how Madeleine Stowe portrayed her. The season ends. The writers opt to jump ahead in the narrative. Victoria is back to being a cartoonish villain again. The scene between Victoria and Fake Amanda ended in the worst possible choice the writers could've made. Emily pulled strings, as per usual, and she pushed and pushed and pushed until Victoria actually pushed Fake Amanda over the second floor rail. The reunion of the Grayson united front was a confusing mess last week and Amanda's role in it did not clarify the choice. Victoria throws her a shower. Amanda asks too many questions about her mother, who is actually Emily's mother but I assume the people reading this are aware and will not get confused by me just referring to the characters the way they're addressed in the show, and Victoria shoves her, which sends Amanda over the rail to the floor and into early labor and a coma. The scenes afterwards are horrible, in which Victoria stares ahead like a corpse while telling Conrad that something bad happen. Conrad, to his credit, reacts like your humble reviewer: with total indifference, and he immediately focuses on the lovely Ashley.

"Intuition" was another example of what happens when Emily pushes her revenge thing too much. People get hurt; specifically, a person she cares about gets hurt. Emily-in-action is my favorite version of Emily, but the consequences of her action are terrible to watch. Literally. It's terrible to watch the show rely on the crutch of very old sitcom tropes. I often wonder how much story a creator has when writing the pilot and whether or not its in the best interest of the show to continue after the well's run dry, so to speak. Dawson's Creek had no idea what the hell it was doing once KW left, just to use an example. Revenge is making a great case for networks to make deals for one season and only renew it if the creator isn't talking out of his or her ass when pitching season two.

Season 2 of Revenge already has Nolan's financial crisis, estranged mother plots, secret and shadowy corporations who really control things, blackmail, a crisis of faith for the heroine, a recasting of Takeda, and so on. Imagine this show in season seven: Victoria will just cackle as Emily grimaces and mumbles synonyms for revenge. The surprise of the episode is Cora trying to kill her daughter. Emily remembers once she's back in town and hovering over Fake Amanda's bed. Accent Guy feels an urgency to warm his former lover of Cora's insanity. Any woman who dated the silver-haired man and considered him the quintessence of male companion is already crazy. An insane number of ridiculous contrivances needed to happen to bring Cora into the show. I opined the season was stuck in neutral until Cora shows up to play with everyone. Now it's in drive and I'm dreading every moment.

Other Thoughts:

-Nolan's new lady being a two-timing so-and-so was less surprising than Jennifer Jason Leigh portraying a crazy chick.

-Emily Vancamp's dress was wonderful. Her dress really saved the episode, along with any Ashley scene. I loved Ms. Vancamp on Everwood and thought she looked like a pretty girl in my class with the polish last name. Dan Feinberg tweeted about the cleavage on last night's Revenge. The cleavage was out, my friends and well-wishers, and I will not complain about it.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Once Upon A Time "The Crocodile" Review

Never have pirates been so good-looking and dashing. Ah, network television: the place where attractive people go to deliver lines and be paid as handsomely as their physical features. Women 18-49 must love Once Upon a Time's Captain Hook. Handsome, English, impeccable bone structure, groomed beard, and a sympathetic back-story to boot. Hook begins the story as a scoundrel who drinks with Rumple's wife in the local tavern, as she insults every aspect of her husband. Hook steals Rumple's wife and insults him repeatedly when Rumple tries to get her back. At the foot of the ship Hook drops a sword for Rumple to use in the duel to win his wife back, challenging Rumple's cowardice, knowing the man will never fight. Years pass, Rumple becomes The Dark One, "a crocodile" according to Hook; and, well, we all know what the crocodile's role in Hook's hook is.

Once Upon a Time's challenge every episode is twisting a Disney fairly tale/story so it is something new, not simply a live-action beat-by-beat remake of its beloved animated source. OUAT's fairy tale reinventions are hit or miss (more miss than hit, to be honest). The writers do back flips to change up the details here and there. Adam Horowitz promotes episodes as 'the truths' of the fairy tale stories. So, "The Crocodile" is the true story of what happened to Captain Hook, which is completely stupid, but I've used stupid clichés in attempts to get people to read what I wrote or watch what I filmed; so whatever. "The Crocodile" is a fine reinvention of the Captain Hook story. Since it's OUAT, there are plenty of lines or beats that made me want to forget this show ever existed; however, the central story of the episode was well-done. So there's that rare instance of positivity from me about the show.

The central story returns to Rumple's cowardice which was introduced in one of his episode's last season. Power didn't cure Rumple's cowardice. The Dark One used power to hide and terrify, to hurt the people who hurt him. Mr. Gold continues to be cowardly, choosing to restore magic rather than leave Storybrooke to find his son Baelfire. Belle has nightmares about her man regressing into the monster he was when they met. She catches him spinning golden thread in the basement and soon flees, unwilling to be with a man who's too cowardly to be honest with her. Gold won't be honest with her because he's afraid to be. Belle wanders around town trying to find an identity, while Gold searches for his beloved because she helps to anchor his soul and remember the man he used to be before his wife humiliated him by leaving him alone to tell his son why his mother won't be back.

I prefer the Rumple of Storybrooke to the cartoonish character of the fairybacks, where Robert Carlyle's bouncing off the walls. Rumple explains to Belle how he ended up in Storybrooke and why he's afraid to leave; it's basically about regret and atonement in a way, though he continues to fall for drugs the way an addict would. He just can't quite kick it. The Dark One Rumple is full of cackles, random inflections, and glitter on the skin. Perhaps he's bombastic and erratic because of his broken little heart which stems from his wife's betrayal and his identity as a cuckold. He's off the walls because he's off the walls. The singular moment of self-reflection might've come years later when he remembered killing his wife on the boat by ripping out her heart and turning it to dust.

Captain Hook's and Rumple's role reversal is predictable from the moment they first meet. Hook's the villain then the sympathetic figure while Rumple's the sympathetic figure then the villain. On the boat, during the deal to spare their lives, Rumple betrays Mila and Hook on the grounds they should feel how he felt since the day they set sail. Rumple is not well-adjusted. The deal's about a magic bean that'll allow the user to transport to any world by creating a portal. Rumple fails to betray them and gain possession of the bean. Hook fools him, evidently switching the bean from his left hand to right hand, as Rumple's severed hand of Hook is without the bean. Hook uses the bean to open a portal to Neverland where he and his crew will sail and cause a lot of shit for Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle. Of course, Hook will use the time to strategize a way to take revenge on The Dark One, too. Hook reappears along the shoreline of The Enchanted Forest. Cora shows him a bottle containing violet stuff, the last remnants of the magical wardrobe, and Hook blah blah blahs about revenge on the crocodile.

Belle and Rumple eventually find a common ground. Rumple's search-and-find mission with Charming taught him valuable lessons about relationships, particularly the importance of honesty and hard-work; Rumple even learns the value of compromise. Rumple explains his reliance on magic and difficulty with honesty. Belle listens and eventually forgives him when he gives her the key to the Storybrooke library. Belle senses a change in him and invites him for a future burger at Grams where they might reconnect and replant the seeds for a love destined to bloom. Whether or not Rumple changes is a matter for the writers and the devoted fans. I, personally, do not care.

"The Crocodile" continues Once Upon A Time's transition into a truer ensemble piece where main characters are completely absent. LOST used this structure the deeper the story became, and Once is following that path. Emma, Snow and Regina are absent. Henry shows up for a scene in the mines. Charming helps Rumple out but barely is involved in it. The episode highlighted the multi-faceted world of OUAT. There are many stories to follow. Rumple's enemies will bring forth more carnage, perhaps, than he or the town ever imagined. I didn't miss the three women; however, I won't miss Rumple or Belle when they take an episode off.

The Captain Hook story was the most impressive story of the episode. Belle/Rumple was an instance of the writers not trusting the audience enough. Belle repeats her 'courage' line to ensure the audience knows what parallels to draw between the stories. Captain Hook's story, though, was impressive because the writers took familiar elements and twisted them enough to make it feel like a new story even if the hook scene was a ticking time-bomb, like the sound of the clock inside the croc that makes Hook go loony in the animated movie. Twisting elements around isn't anything new, but it didn't quite annoy me as much as last season. That's a start, right?

Other Thoughts:

-Oh, Emilie. I think I fell a little into my old TV crush on Ms. de Ravin each time she showed up on screen in a new dress. If Emilie de Ravin shyly asked me to grab a burger with her some time, I would answer yes in a heartbeat. The sketch of her drawn by Belle's father, and Rumple, was terrible. The woman has bewitching blue eyes that threatens to ensnare your soul, while the sketch had her with green eyes. Come on, show.

-A part of me is curious about OUAT's vision of Neverland; however, I fear traveling through the portal to see their Neverland because I'm convinced their Tinkerbelle would be an unbearable, burdensome and intolerable bitch.

-There's a theory Michael Raymond-James will portray Baelfire. It makes sense with what we heard from Rumple about traveling from The Enchanted Forest before the curse. I am uninterested in who's who, by the way.

-David Solomon directed the episode. David H. Goodman and another lad whose name I cannot recall wrote the script together. Solomon's a favorite TV director of mine, from his Buffy days of course.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Grimm "The Other Side" Review

Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to mind as the case-of-the-week unfolded, and the sweet and dorky Pierce became the obvious suspect in the case of just who killed the two teens on the academic decathlon team. Stevenson's story isn't related to Grimm fairy tales or even Aesop's Fairy Tales. Greenwalt and Kouf aren't married to the source material, though. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde is a Victorian story. Like Sherlock, the story's gaining new fans in 2012. Steven Moffat's done a modernization of the story for the BBC, and there'll be a Jekyll/Hyde TV show in 2013 titled Do No Harm. Stevenson's character, which explores the duality of man, monster and man etc, is an easy one to mine for their own ideas.

The case-of-the-week is underwhelming, something I felt I needed to get through rather than something entertaining, engrossing and engaging. It continues Grimm's trend of underwhelming case of the weeks. The season started strong because of the serialization of the story. Nick had to investigate his own murder in the second episode. Since episode two, Grimm returned to its traditional structure of typical procedural storytelling. New characters are introduced and fleshed out as the police investigate a murder. Nick learns one or more of the persons involved are Wesen or Blutbad or some type of creature with a difficult-to-spell German name. Hank learns more about the underbelly of Portland each week. Nick confronts new kinds of creatures who sometimes defy his books. Pierce, the brainy homicidal teenager in this week's case, is one such Wesen who defied the books and took Nick by surprise, like the evil little girl in last week's episode.

I like the exploration of the varied Wesen in the Grimm universe; I prefer more interesting stories about the varied Wesen, though. The introduction of the teenagers is wonderful, one of the best pieces of character writing in Grimm for a case-of-the-week. The audience is thrown into their world. I felt immediate sympathy for Pierce when he begged his mom to let him hang out with his friends after practice. The importance of spending time with friends in high school is incredibly important. The team goes to a local diner to eat, hang out, joke, and just be kids. They wind down from the intensity of answering questions about Chinese dynasties by laughing and having fun. They were simply written and portrayed, which works in the case-of-the-week. Procedural TV writers over think their one-off case-of-the-week characters many times, but simplicity sometimes results in the best storytelling.

The dynamic between the three academic friends is the highlight of the episode. The story becomes a mess with every passing act; really, once the first murder's committed, the story devolves because of the over reliance of subverting audience expectations. Nick and Hank hang out in the Ancestral Trailer of Grimm to research what Pierce and his mother are. They are a type of innocently non-violent Wesen, which means the audience should cross their names off on the list and circle the Coach's name in red pen with giant exclamation points around it. The coach is found murdered before the penultimate act break. Grimm expects their audience to gasp in disbelief as the act break blacks out with emphasis--a boom and a blackout, the kind of act break you know the writers wanted to stick. Pierce's headaches were a dead giveaway, though; anytime a character clutches their head like a madman in any procedural, any red herring loses red herring status. Grimm's frustrating when it takes its time getting to the superfluous point of its superfluous story. Pierce attempts to commit suicide; there's a scene when Nick punches the teen in the face multiple times as Hank tsk-tsks him; however, Pierce just fades away. His tag is of him murdering two prison toughs in prison, as if he's learned to control his monster and still killed anyway.

Renard and his brother got the B and C stories of "The Other Side," respectively. Renard's obsessed with Juliette to the degree he's entering her house, watching her shower, and breaking a frame holding a picture of Juliette and Nick. Renard's obsessive behavior bleeds into his creature side. After leaving Nick's, he fights Volga'ing but punches a random dude on the street for no reason. Monroe offers no cure for Renard's obsession in Rosalee's shop. I'm curious to know to what degree Adalind planned Juliette's amnesia of Nick. Did she know Renard would have to become pure of princely heart; that it'd threaten to disrupt and explode his life? Adalind's interested in The Family. She traveled to Vienna to dine and copulate with Renard's less handsome brother. Adalind as the quasi-Darla of season two is an exciting prospect. I'd like if she revealed complete authority over Juliette's amnesia, including Renard's descent into obsessive madness. Renard's madness will lead to terrific places for the story: I'm imagining the epic one-on-one scene between Nick and Renard during sweeps period, and the eruption of the separation of personal and professional, where Grimm doesn't get bogged down telling different case-of-the-week stories weekly.

Other Thoughts:

-Nick and Hank mainly investigate the murders. Nick zips Juliette's dress up and takes her to a banquet for Renard. They don't see each other for the rest of the episode.

-Monroe's going to be involved in the Renard story. He asked the Capt. if he knew him, and Renard shook his head in the hasty manner of people who are definitely know but wish not to be known, which means they give themselves away by trying not to give themselves away.

-An intern was introduced, Tommy something. He had lines and a clumsy moment, which suggests he'll be around. I wonder if the intern thing will be similar to Bones.

-William Bigelow wrote the episode. Eric Lanueville directed it.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "Memorial" Review

Endings are tricky bastards, especially in genre stories. The Vampire Diaries became a non-stop rollercoaster ride that never stopped. The coaster just kept going and going without any let-up, without any time to catch one's breath. A character died and the plot kept going, kept chugging along, like a group of people trying to survive--can't mourn the dead when stopping for mourning means possibly giving up your life. The Vampire Diaries killed characters without abandon. Williamson and Plec's fearlessness about character deaths became its iconic quality. Fans told their friends about the insanity of TVD, how it goes through the amount of story and beats in one episode that another show would drag out throughout a full season. It hard to maintain a high-level of quality in episodic television; I mean the beast of the network TV grind specifically, where seven episodes are in some stage of production. TVD experienced some give in their relentless storytelling in season three, and I feared it would carry over. Story kept moving with barely any stops for characters to sit back and grieve the people they lost. "Memorial" went to a moving place tonight in its ending, and TVD's never been better than when they go for the human heart and what it feels.

Season 3 of course had the most moving story of the entire series--Caroline losing her father. I still think about that episode because it hit my heart in a way many of the television shows fail to do. TVD gets caught up in love triangles, romances, complicated and inconsistent arcing, but they never forget about the human heart. "Memorial" is titled such because of the memorial for the council members, who died in the explosion, but the true memorial is for the characters our beloved characters loved and lost; the characters we, too, loved and lost. Stefan gathers the team to properly mourn the people they lost. He feels the unrelenting engine of their life. Every threat desensitized the team to the point they don't really know how to feel a loss. Stefan wants everyone to remember how to feel, so, then, they can move on and fight the good fight.
Their personal memorial was genuinely moving, topped off by Damon's visit to Alaric's grave. The death of Alaric was one of my least favorite choices the show made in its three seasons. Alaric was the ultimate Good Guy. The bad taste season three left in my mouth is because of Alaric's final arc as Evil Alaric. Julie Plec and her writers began to make up for killing Alaric through Damon's sweet scene with his best friend. Damon ranted about what's going on and scolded Alaric for dying and leaving Damon to fight with his brother and care for the kids. Alaric's spirit sat on the bench, smiled, laughed occasionally, and quietly told Damon he missed him, too, after Damon wandered off into the night. The scene needed to happen for Damon as much as it needed to happen for this viewer who felt a little bit disengaged with the show after a sour end to the season (minus the finale) and a so-so start to the season. TVD still has It; it just doesn't use It very much.

Two major happenings are happening in "Memorial." Elena's trying to survive on animal blood and blood from pouches. Stefan wants to protect her humanity by aiding her in the animal-only diet. Elena's body rejects blood not from the vein. The girl endures struggle for survival like in "Growing Pains." Damon feeds her his blood, an intensely personal act between vampires (which definitely felt sexual), because he wants to save her. Elena lies to Stefan about her response to animal blood for fear of hurting his feelings, not thinking about how Damon feeding her his blood will hit him. Elena's all over the place emotionally, crying one moment and smiling the next, engaging in heavy petting in the woods and then throwing up dark red blood on the forest floor. The girl's a mess, physically and emotionally. The cure is the vein; the cure is honesty.

Unfortunately for Elena, a vampire hunter comes to Mystic Falls to kill the vampire population. The hunter scouts for the first half of the episode, sifting through clues to determine who sucks blood and who doesn't in Mystic Falls. The gang's forced to act, which spurs the ending memorial. Stefan may've realized the absurdity of needing to feign grief during a memorial for the sake of keeping appearances. If they need to keep appearances by feigning grief during a memorial then something's rotten in the state of Denmark; in their case, something's rotten in the state of their souls. Damon rants about Stefan's fear of Elena becoming a murderer and a monster. Damon believes murdering and being a monster is an inevitably for vampires; but Stefan doesn't want Elena's soul to rot. The vampire hunter inspires a catharsis with lanterns, open remembrances of the people they lost, like Jenna, Vicki, Anna, fathers and mothers. Damon scoffs at the symbol of lanterns, which is the Japanese way for letting go of the past. It's not letting go, its dealing and mourning.

The vampire hunter is a badass so-and-so of a scallywag. Julie Plec teased the new vampire hunter during the summer. The question, for me, was how to make the villain stand apart from the many vampire hunters who came before, not in TVD but in any vampire story. My gold standard for vampire hunters is Holtz from ANGEL's third season. Goateed vampire hunter may not reach Holtz status, but he's going to be interesting. He has hidden ink on his arm and does not fear taking a life (Pastor Young's daughter, April Young, is a near-victim; her blood is used to draw out vampires, but everyone keeps their cool. Matt lets Elena feed on him before she loses her mind craving April's blood. April's the anchor for Elena and it doesn't really work but Elena needed her to completely transition; no other character would have sufficed). He's been trained, evident in his ability to match the speed of a vampire. The letter he found from Pastor Young to April explained the Council's intention to sacrifice. What's vampire hunter's role in things? It remains to be seen. The villain is refreshing, especially after a season and a half of Original Vampire story.

The other emotional takeaway, excluding the memorial, is Stefan's response to Elena's little white lie about the blood and her omission of feeding from Damon. While Elena and Stefan are a terrific pairing, Elena the Vampire needs to grow and change and see what's up with Damon. The melodramatic scenes about blood links and trust work but only so much into the fourth season. Writers want fans to want. Coach Taylor and Mrs. Coach is an exemplary marriage because Katims and his writers avoided the pratfalls of cliché TV romance depiction, which is the belief that relations need to be unsettled and unstable. Instability for Elena is consistent with her character because she's transitioning to a new life, so her relationship with Stefan is going to be unsettled and unstable. If TVD continues to write scenes as moving as the memorial and Damon's talk with his best friend, and it consistently makes choices consistent with a character's emotions, season four might consistently deliver the amazing stuff of its first two seasons.

Other Thoughts:

-April's going to stick around because she and Jeremy are bound to date. Steven R. McQueen doesn't do anything except make out with girls on this show. April's back-story reminded me of American Reunion when Jim met up with the girl he used to baby-sit. This girl, who celebrated her 18th birthday, ended up topless in Jim's car. It's a lazy back story (the whole 'your sister babysat me!' thing). Oh well.

-Matt Davis owned his scene with Ian. I'm really looking forward to Cult in mid-season. I wonder if Davis knows Urban Legends: The Final Cut is played many times on premium movie channels.

-Nina Dobrev was excellent in acting out the unstable Elena tonight. Dobrev's Elena Vampire is quite different from Katherine, so props to her. Some other actresses and actors wouldn't be able to pull it off.

-Matt stepped up huge tonight. He was easily the dullest character in season one, but Zach Roerig, and the writers' commitment to the character, saved Matt.

-Bonnie's sad about Grams. That's about all for her. Still 20 episodes left for her to go dark.

-I like to state who wrote and directed the episode, but I missed the credit tonight. My apologies, TVD.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Arrow "Honor Thy Father" Review

Ken Levine suggested critics, and bloggers, be kind to the second episode of a show. Second episodes have been covered quite a bit in The Foot. The difference between a 'Pilot' and the second episode is vast. There's less time for everything, whereas the 'Pilot' is worked on over a period of several months. Second episodes also risk repeating too much for the sake of new viewers and boring returning viewers with material they've already seen. "Honor Thy Father" is a decent second episode. It expands the mythology, deepens Oliver's complicated duality in Starling City, and clarifies the murkier parts of the narrative more.

The episode opens with a terrific fight that shows Arrow's commitment to The Fight. It was a smart way for the writers to introduce Arrow to anyone curiously tuning in to see what the Arrow hype is about. A sleek montage of episode one precedes the start of #102 to help any new viewer understand the essence of the Arrow narrative. He's a guy who wants to right the wrongs of Starling City; the wrongs which helped his family get their wealth. Arrow's a little bit Batman, with a teeny bit of Revenge sprinkled in. Oliver's kicking the ass of a criminal's gang of criminals to start the episode and ends the fight by warning the head of the gang to do good or else. The villain isn't captivating; he's along the lines of the typical antagonist in a second episode. He's a bit different from last week's criminal, but Laurel's still taking him to court, and he's still a threat to her, which means her father's invested in her safety; somehow, Oliver finds himself in the middle of it.

Every aspect of the show is connected. The chief of police is the father of Laurel the attorney, who shares a romantic past with Oliver, and a relationship with Oliver's best friend Tommy. Each stone thrown into the proverbial pool creates a ripple effect which affects each character in some way. The connected characters help the storytelling feel more urgent and immediate. Characters aren't off in Montevideo doing stuff while other characters are in Starling City doing stuff. Oliver's the best example of the show's storytelling. He is Arrow, the most important character in the show; everyone interacts with him. Oliver can't walk twelve inches without causing someone to worry, or hurting someone's feelings, or hiding in plain view while Dig looks on curiously. The people he loves and cares about want the old Oliver back. Thea, AKA Speedy, doesn't understand why her brother's distant from her when all she wanted and cared about for five years was his return. When he didn't return, she turned to something else to numb her pain.

The duality of Oliver Queen is in the forefront of "Honor Thy Father." Oliver rejects a leadership role in the Queen business because he needs to honor his father by fighting crime and restoring order to Starling City. Oliver's internal struggle over how to divide his two lives in order to successfully live both lives was dealt with in the "Pilot," but his scenes of internal struggle in this episode have more meat and pathos and flashbacks. One can't forget the outrageous party he attended last episode nor his behavior as billionaire playboy. The billionaire playboy's put away in a drawer until the final act of the episode. Oliver seems genuinely amnesiac about his behavior at the party. Dig's role as bodyguard is a problem Oliver needs to deal with. His mother won't allow her son to disappear from Dig's sight, not when he's been kidnapped and a dangerous vigilante's targeting wealthy people. Oli's dilemma is how to be.

Oli explores his dual self by first apologizing to Laurel, who helps to steer him back on course; after all, he's been far off course since the boat capsized, and he learned the truth about the Queen's before his father took his life. Laurel provides practical advice: grow up, don't hide from responsibility. Oliver can't simply tell his mother and step-father "No" about the leadership position. He needs to show them. They can't know he needs to fight crime and restore the honor of the city, which itself was lost in accruing millions and millions of dollars for their own luxurious comfort. He's nearly caught after attacking the criminal who needed to testify in Laurel's case by Laurel's father. Oli needs Arrow and Oli separate, which is why he drunkenly stumbles and slurs his way through the Queen ground-breaking ceremony the next day. No one wants the old Oliver Queen who went to prison and had run-ins with paparazzo in charge of the company's future. Problem solved.

The problem though is in hurting the people he loves the most, like Thea. I may be a bit soft on the Thea character because Willa Holland's a brainlocking beauty and I want to take her on holiday to Prague and go broke wining and dining her; but her scene with Oliver about what she did when he was away and how it made her feel versus having him back and how it makes her feel worse than when she thought he was dead was really well-written and it underlined what the costs saving the city are. Is it worth saving the city if it means Oliver can't save his family, specifically his sister? It's an intriguing question and an aspect of the show Berlanti, Guggenheim and Kreisburg seem intent on exploring, what with Mrs. Queen hanging out in a limo with a mysterious man in possession of a mysterious symbol who wants to be sure Oliver is unaware of why the boat went down.

The case-of-the-week serves its purpose as device to increase tensions between Oliver and Laurel and Laurel's father. Laurel's dad demands Oliver keep his distance from Laurel because danger follows him. Another pressing question of the people is what happened to Oliver during the five years on the island. Oliver tells Thea he can't talk about it yet, while his mom wants to know what happened because of the aforementioned mysterious symbol man in the limo. The mysterious mythology of the island deepens when Oliver's hit by an arrow shot by a man dressed like him.
The best coda of the episode is Oliver's farewell to his father. Oliver struggles to let go of the body on the island, but in Starling City, in front of the erected headstones in the backyard of Queen Manor, Oliver promises his father to do what he asked of him days before death. Oli apologized, too, because his path will require him to dishonor his father's name. He's a renegade, though; a rogue; a Hamlet for CW audiences.

Through two episodes, Arrow is solid, well-written, and well-realized.

Other Thoughts:

-Arrow doesn't need to push the Tommy/Laurel romance secrecy. Oliver's ignorance of the romance might capture the imaginations of teenage girls watching. Arrow doesn't need a love triangle. The CW requires love triangles on all of their shows, though.

-I'm not a comic book guy, so the symbol's significance completely eluded me.

-Kreisburg and Guggenheim wrote the teleplay; Berlanti and Guggenheim got the story credit. David Barrett directed it.


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.