Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "My Brother's Keeper" Review

The business of being a vampire hunter is a bit dicey. Hunters lack free will essentially. "The Five" showed the origins of the hunters’ brotherhood, with the map and the witches and all that. "The Five" suggested the hunters made an active choice, which they did. Future hunters also make a choice when they kill their first vampire, but the desire to kill consumes them in an unnatural way. Nightmares of killing vampires come as they sleep. Weapons are by their side when they awake. Hunters are similar to the vampires they want to kill. Hunters and vampires are turned, become monstrous, and kill, and continue to kill, because it's in their nature. Matt explained to Jeremy, and to the audience, that the hunter's subconscious takes over until the desire to kill becomes instinctual. Vampires need to kill to complete their transitions. Vampires make an active choice to become vampires when they kill; the other option is to not feed and then fade away.

A developing theme of the fourth season is the effect of a bond, not only a sire bond but a bond to one's nature, one's purpose. Tyler and Haley work with their hybrid buddies to break each individual hybrid's bond with Klaus. A broken sire bond is about empowerment, a return to self. The early episodes of the episode were about the importance of Elena giving into her new nature, of accepting the necessity of feeding. The other vampires are independent of sire bonds. They exist alone and are responsible for their own actions, unless Klaus gets a hold of Stefan and compels him to be the Ripper for a few bloody months. Damon did some awful things to people because he wanted to; ditto for Klaus.

The exploration of the bonds, sire or no sire, is really interesting and relatively subtle. The Vampire Diaries love the macro stuff. In season two, it was all about the sun and the moon curse; in season three, it was all about the originals; in season four thus far, it's been about the cure, the hunter's map, whatever Silas is up to, etc. It's not until Caroline has her 'OH MY GOD!' moment that the sire bonds theme of the season, of this thoughtful exploration of what it means to be a vampire, a wolf, a hybrid, and a human being. What separates the monsters, i.e. the werewolves and vampires, from the humans? Werewolves and vampires are like humans. They are some good wolves and vamps and they are some bad, just like human beings. Dostoevsky observed that man is the most monstrous of all in his last novel, The Brothers Karamazov.

Jeremy's losing his humanity slowly. The first kill opened his subconscious to the hunter in him. He's haunted by nightmares that end with his sister's death; he wakes up to weapons around him, including freshly cut stakes. Stefan's rabid in completing the map. Elena needs to be human so that she returns to him, so that she's fixed. Stefan forces Jeremy to kill another vampire. The second kill seriously changes Jeremy. He stabs Stefan in the gut and almost kills Elena, right after he stabbed her in the neck. Elena pleads with her brother as he hovers over her with a stake, ready to drive it into her chest. "I'm still your sister," she tries to remind him. Jeremy just wants the kill. He's like Elena at the college party, totally out of control and dangerous. He would've killed her. Stefan stopped him. It was Stefan's dumbass plan that created the whole mess.

Later, Elena explains why she'd prefer not having the cure to Stefan. Jeremy shouldn't lose his humanity to save hers. Stefan listens quietly. Elena's mature and articulate in her feelings that encapsulate the theme of the season. She's bound to her vampiric life, but she's not bound to bad behavior. Jeremy will never be harmed by her, because she loves him. Elena changed, though. The old Elena died after the crash off the Wickery Bridge. The new Elena cannot love Stefan like the old, because she's changed. Of course, we learn Elena is bound to Damon; he's her sire.

The reveal ties into another important idea of the idea: our ideas are not our own. Tyler's working to break hybrid sire bonds to Klaus not knowing Haley's going behind his back with Silas for an specified plan. Elena's attraction to Damon is intensified by her vampire nature and because she's sired to him. Silas provides Damon with what seems to be important information about hunters, the maps, and the cure. The completed map leads to an object that only a Bennett witch can hold; but Silas is working with the hybrids, and he talked Pastor Young into murdering himself and the council. What really separates him, in his own mind, from the vampires he wants dead?

TVD's fourth season is a bit more intriguing now that it's not all about the quest for the cure.

Other Thoughts:

-There were other plot points worth discussing, like the Klaus/Caroline date, but Caroline was more awesome during her Damon rants. Damon used Caroline early in season one, before Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec figured out the show's identity, and the characters. Elena's annoyance with Caroline's obviously explained through the 'she's sired to Damon' reveal.

-Matt's going to live with Jeremy while Jeremy tries to stop wanting to kill vampires so much. April's tangentially involved with the two human boys. April won Miss Mystic Falls. I'm waiting for something to happen with her. There's a twist coming for the character, right? Some badass moment that reminds you why TVD's the most insane show on TV.

-Phoebe Tonkin wears short, tight dresses incredibly well.

-Stefan was near-Ripper in his scene with Jeremy in the Lockwood basement. Elena suggested he let her go, though it's all muddled now because of Damon. Stefan was desperate to find the cure. Paul Wesley's awesome whenever he's asked to play a darker version of Stefan.

-Nina Dobrev was excellent yet again. The girl is killing it this season.

-Caroline Dries & Elisabeth R. Finch wrote the episode. Jeffrey Hunt directed it.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Arrow "Muse Of Fire" Review

The most impressive aspect of the Arrow "Pilot" was the fight scenes and Oliver's movements as the vigilante of Starling City. Fight scenes in television shows are a mixed bag. Anyone who's watched a Syfy Original Movie understands the pitfalls of the lowest kind of film budget. The fights in Arrow move like a video game. Doug Petrie gave Spike a great line in the "Fool For Love" episode of Buffy when Spike tells Buffy that they aren't fighting but dancing. Buffy and ANGEL, though amazingly coordinated by stunt coordinator Mike Massa, never staged fights like the fighters were dancing. They were great, but not smooth nor elegant. Arrow's fight scenes are masterfully smooth and elegant, balletic and breath-taking. The fights elevate episodes and deepen character interactions. Characters are revealed through their fighting style, as shown with Oliver and Helena the Huntress.

Oliver's pain in not being truthful seemed like an obvious feeling for the character, though he'd been portrayed as essentially unfeeling; however, I missed the subtle hints to his loneliness. Laurel's moved on, and Tommy, his best friend, longs for the woman whose heart was broken by Oliver. Helena's the daughter of a Starling City businessman with deep ties to the mob. A series of murders have been committed on hit men around Starling City. One hit nearly killed Moira Queen. Oliver's investigation into finding out who shot the gun leads him to news about the various murders or severe beatings by local mobster Nick Solvano. The important part about the mobster story is the daughter of the connected businessman, Ms. Helena the Huntress, a woman who projects a deep sadness, but who's sadness hides a secret that will bond her and Oliver.

The Starling City assassin is like Oliver Queen. The assassin has a board of pictures, of men whom she needs to kill, and this is Helena's secret. "Muse of Fire" seems like an episode that'll be about Oliver bringing the assassin to justice because of her ties to the mafia, but it veers away from that when they have dinner and, later, when Oli finds out who's been killing the hit men. Oliver had to listen to Thea yell at him for hiding secrets, for darting away from their injured mother to find out the license plate number, and for saying nothing about any of his activity. Thea just misses her brother. Returned from a desert island Oliver Queen's a stranger to her. Moira reminds Thea of what her brother had been through and sympathized with his desire to keep secrets, stating the importance of every person's secrets being kept. Thea softens up and instead insists Oliver confide in someone.

Helena, the tragic daughter of Paul Bellitrane (I'm sure I botched the last name) that carries the air of a 19th century female Russian character, has a sad story. Her fiancé was murdered by the men who worked for her father. Michael Station, the fiancé, was suspected of giving the feds info on the criminal doings of Helena's family. Helena fed the feds information. Michael took the fall. Since then, she's vowed to put the men who murdered her fiancé to justice. She shares Oliver's motivations for disguising herself and shooting guns at people. Oliver, of course, wants to atone for his father's sins by restoring Starling City. Restoration happens only after destroying the decay and cleaning out the filth. Helena and Oliver are quite alone, though. Their interfacing over dinner is the most honest either have been with another human being in months. Oliver talks about his time on the island differently and Helena alludes to her tragedy by telling Oliver about her fiancé’s death.

Arrow's displayed a certain cunning in plot points. Two weeks ago we were treated to the "Will Oliver be revealed as the vigilante?" Tonight, we were treated to the formation of a new vigilante tag team. Oliver's revealed to Helena as the vigilante as she's revealed to him as the assassin. They kill bad men together, and they kiss when their walls collapse in a bit of honesty that's like a drink of water on a hot day in the desert. The tag team won't end well. Their objectives differ. Helena's similar to Emily on Revenge, and Oliver's like Bruce Wayne, or Angel. They won't reconcile their differences. The key moment for the two vigilantes or whatever-you-want-to-call-them is when Helena has Nick, the man who murdered her fiancé, by the throat. She has a choice to kill him or to spare him, to put him in jail. Oliver watches her intently. Helena kills him and essentially shrugs her choice away. That's going to be a problem.

Another problem facing Oliver that isn't yet known to him is the problem of morally bankrupt Mr. Merlin, Tommy's father. You'll know him as the man who targeted the yacht, and who threatens Moira when she's bed ridden with injury. Merlin's a puzzle. He cuts his son off from the family's wealth because he's a dick, but he's obviously vested in protecting his own ass. The actor's not very good. He's a little too CW muahaha-y for my tastes. The writing's either weak or the actor's weak or it's a lethal combination of both. The quality of his character will be dictated by his motivations. Why is Moira betraying her family for a schmuck? Questions, indeed. For the foreseeable future, though, it's all about Oli and Helena. I'm looking forward to it until it all goes awry and Oliver's forced into making his own choice.

Other Thoughts:

-I've had a bad day. The sight of Willa Holland in various dresses, in shades of eyeliner, and wearing a crimped hairstyle, picked me up. I think she's the most beautiful actress on television.
-Diggle was resigned to computer duty. Diggle's interested in saving lives. Oliver's colder in his interests. He just wants to bring bad men to justice. I hope this conflict is explored further.

-Thea's drug habits seems to be part of the past--just chalk that mistake up to lazy writing early in the season.

-Walter returned. His trip to Australia must've resulted in more information about what's going on. Characters rarely leave town without returning with important exposition for the next episode. Sayid went into the jungle with Rousseau, had a horrible experience being tortured, but he fixed an awesome music box; anyway, he got back to camp with a ton of a useful information for the other characters. Make Walter's trip to Australia matter, show.

-Tahmoh Penikett was a guest star tonight; it’s always good seeing a Dollhouse alum on the TV.
-I missed the writing credit for the episode. David Grossman, of Buffy and ANGEL and a lot of other shows, directed.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Go On "Back, Back, Back...It's Gone!" Review

Lauren Graham gave Ryan the motivation to get back into the dating game. Ryan changed his profile picture on Facebook, changed his marital status to 'widowed,' arranged an afternoon of beach volleyball with athletic goddesses, and tried to kiss Lauren when his earlier efforts failed. "Back, Back, Back...It's Gone" is about the difficulty of moving on through dating after the death of a spouse. Anne went mad when approached by a single lady a couple of episodes ago and needed Ryan to keep her sane. Ryan hurts his back and can't move.

Ryan's volleyball injury works well with his mental frame of mind. Ryan can't move because he threw his back out in a fun game of beach volleyball with Misty May Treanor and a group of dynamite looking women, and he can't move on to dating other women because he misses his wife and would really prefer married life to what he has now, which is stress and worry about what to say to women and how to act, and most importantly, how to relate. Ryan's like an old pitcher who missed two years with shoulder injury. Perhaps he's like Ben Sheets, a Cy Young caliber pitcher for a few seasons but elbow problems derailed his career. Sheets made a comeback with Atlanta this past season and he threw like his old self for 3-4 months until the elbow forced him to retire before the season ended, denying him the opportunity to pitch in a post-season game. Ryan badly wants to prove to himself that he's capable of dating new women and playing the game the way he used to, but he's not healed.

Go On's reliable when telling stories about Ryan's process of moving on. "Back, Back, Back...It's Gone" marks a second consecutive solid episode. The A, B, and C stories were set up in a single scene. Ryan committed to dating; George committed to celebrating the fact he's still alive despite a doctor's warning he'd be dead; and Sonia wants to find her cat. Ryan stumbles in his attempt to date. He doesn't relate to the volleyball players, and he stands up a 23 year old volleyball goddess because the mention of his wife sends his back into an uproar, so he drives over to Lauren's where she assures him he'll find someone who loves his sense of humor and kind qualities, which compliment he mistakes for a sign and then leans in to kiss her, to which she moves and he falls to the floor, pained and humiliated; that's what trying to date is and failing--lying flat on your back, in pain and feeling sort of humiliated, and Ryan hates that feeling.

George gives Ryan insight none of the other group members would've given him because of their collective insanity. The group declined to indulge George in the activities he wanted to do to celebrate his life continuing on after doctors said it'd end a year ago. They thought George would get hurt traveling to Mexico and Las Vegas, living it up basically. George accomplished half of what he wrote down on his list because he refuses to adhere to age and what's expected of him. It's a bit beautiful listening to George's affirmations of his life as Ryan listens, inspired. George imparts wisdom to him even though he feels incapable of imparting wisdom ("I'm not wise. I just talk slow), telling Ryan that the right one will come along, and when she does, to let it happen. George is a testament to will-power, of overcoming life's difficulties beautifully. He's a good example for Ryan.

The attempted kiss with Lauren is handled easily: Lauren's been kissed or given flowers and paintings by so many people she's helped. The series seems likely to return to Lauren and Ryan as a couple; she's the woman he's closest to, and she's not in love with her chiropractor boyfriend Wyeth (or Wyatt). Ryan entertains the idea of trying something with Carrie, but Carrie prefers not being a terrible mistake for him. Ryan's going to overcome, though.

The C story gives Danny a chance to find love through assisting Sonia in her search for her cat. Danny's last meaningful screentime was in the Twilight Zone inspired episode about the world Danny goes to in his head because his home life is horrible. Danny's always going to be a weird character. Fausta finds Sonia's cat in her oven but Danny wishes to continue the search. He doesn't want his growing connection with Sonia to stop. He's also the hero when he returns the cat to Sonia during group time.

So, we know the group will never get better, because Lauren's a horrible group counselor and the show needs the group to stay together, but this episode had progress for central characters in the three stories. The humor was light, the emotions were genuine and moving, and the group's more grounded. Owen's absence was mysterious and unexplained (most likely it was because of the show's budget). His presence would've made the episode feel more whole, but overall, it was solid.

Other Thoughts:

-It's nice that Danny and Sonia will go steady, but I hope the audience sees absolutely nothing of their romance. I don't think that'd be fun to watch. Both characters are one-note. Danny's insane. Sonia's obsessed with cats. There isn't a whole lot to explore that hasn't been explored already.

-Allison Miller's Carrie is great. Go On integrated Steve into the group naturally. When will Carrie be integrated? Her role is reduced because of Ryan's separate worlds. Allison Miller's funny and lovely. She shouldn't be on the sidelines so much.

-The episode opened and closed with Ryan watching a pretty woman jogging past his house. Ryan ran behind her at the end, a sign he’s listening to George’s advice. Will the pretty jogger be seen again in Go On? One doesn’t know when characters in the group will be present, let alone silent pretty women who draw Ryan’s gaze. I’ll stop thinking about that and instead focus on the symbol of Ryan running after her: he’s moving on.


Monday, November 26, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "Twelve Horny Women" Review

Mr. Belding's on the New York State Judiciary Board, so if Marshall wants to become a judge in the state of New York, all he needed to do was tell jokes and compliment the other judges. Mr. Belding succumbed to Zach Morris' charms every episode. Marshall's going to become a judge. I probably should've seen the 'Marshall wants to be a judge' conclusion coming once he sat down in front of them to make his case; however, the framing device was misleading, as all CBS shows are (whether drama or comedy). HIMYM writers cheat when they want to to keep up the ruse in hopes the audience will be floored by an ending. It's cheap. Marshall's significant character arcs seem reserved for his career since his child's never present, and no other character needs his insight or advice about their choice of romantic partner.

Marshall's decision to be a judge should have been inspired by the horrible work of the judge presiding over the Frog Lake pollution case and not his old law buddy deciding to fight for the little guy mere hours after saving the guilty company millions in fines. HIMYM exists in the bizarre sitcom universe where juries consist of young-to-middle-aged women who are horny for the attractive lawyer with the beard fighting for the bad guy, where a judge can show blatant bias and explain a $25,000 fine away with a terrible reason just before skirting away to attend a Broadway production of Annie with his wife--if that man can be a judge, Marshall shouldn't even need to be reviewed. Suspension of disbelief is a must to really enjoy an entire episode of HIMYM.

The case dominates the episode. Barney and Robin don't talk about their kiss. Instead, they join Ted and Lily in a competition over who was the most badass teenager. The case moves quickly. The show covers three days in about 14 minutes. The case is played for laughs. Brad shows his ass off to the jury and the judge; he makes a video of his visit to the lake that prominently features his bare chest, with cuts to a hot-and-bothered jury. Marshall seems doomed to lose the case. The jury and judge hate him because he's not showing his ass to them or making videos showing off his pecs. A stroke of logic hits Marshall and he demands Brad remove his shirt. Brad has the same rash as the birds, frogs and otters that have been hurt by Gruber's pollution. Marshall wins the case but loses the $25 million because the judge doesn't want to kill a company for something minor. What? Again, Marshall shouldn't have trouble landing a judgeship if the precedent for judges was the joke of a character presiding over the lake pollution case. HIMYM's flimsy, though, and I suppose I should remember Future Ted narrates all so maybe he's making the judge into more of an ass to emphasize the odds stacked against Uncle Marshall. I don't know. I just blog about the show.

Marshall's dream about pre-teen Marvin (or is it teen Marvin) encouraging his father to believe in the ripple effect of doing good deeds was sweet, especially since Marshall thought about the impact his work would have on his son (which includes Marvin's disinterest in drugs, alcohol and rebellion). The judgeship decision won't be made until May sweeps, though. Marshall's restored by Brad's decision to do good, the dream, and the knowledge that ripples of good are real.

Ted, Barney, Lily and Robin's competition for the title of most badass teenager isn't anything special. The appearance of Robin Sparkles is the highlight of the B-story. I liked the true story of Robin's most badass teenage moment, which was winning a best hotel guest award. The other characters lied about their badass behavior. Indeed, none of them were teenage badasses. Ted went to renaissance fairs. Barney joined a magic group to fit in. Lily never went to juvenile detention for being a street tough.

"Twelve Horney Women" was about setting up a payoff to the judgeship plot point. There were some laughs, but it was typical HIMYM. Oh yeah, Barney and Robin had a chat. Barney promised he wouldn't try anymore and insisted he was done, that they'll just be friends and forget about their past. Robin sat there and reacted with, "Huh." Remember, these two will marry by season's end.


Revenge "Lineage" Review

Flashbacks to the past contextualize the present. Revenge's flashbacks to the past usually contextualize the present in advance of a climatic episode, unless it involves James Purefoy and art, like next week's winter finale. It's hard to think of "Lineage" as anything but a waste of an episode, except for the brief scenes set in the present in the final act, especially when the cataclysmic events of Thanksgiving Day 2006 could've been introduced in other less time consuming ways. Better writing is always the solution when something doesn't work.

"Lineage" traces the various storylines back to 2006 so we understand the charged history of Accent Guy and Emily, the reasons the Porters will get hurt in the immediate future and why they'll lose their most treasured possessions and the roles of the Graysons in Daniel's plan to assume full power in Grayson Global. I barely stayed awake during the first half of the episode as Emily and Accent Guy Aiden entered the plot of a direct-to-DVD/BluRay thriller about a Russian gang who traffic girls as prostitutes out of a nightclub and the steps Accent Guy and Emily take to bring him to justice, and as Daniel comes home for Thanksgiving with poetic aspirations, and as the Porter men just couldn't avoid nonsense. As for Nolan, his story involved money, hurt feelings, and a sexual relationship with his CFO, Marco, who will more than likely try to bring down Nolan's company next week.

The worthwhile part of the Emily's direct-to-DVD story with Aiden involved her bond with him and the series long exploration of her complicated character, i.e. her lover for her father motivates her plans for revenge, but she cannot succeed in her plan unless she's cold and distant with others. The Fire&Ice theme of the party that the series opened with was perfect for Emily. Takeda brought in Accent Guy because Emily lost her way with Daniel. Now, Emily might fall into the more danger by feeling for Accent Guy. She asks that he not leave her again, which suggests she still can't resolve her cold quest for revenge with her basic desires to be loved, to love, to cared and to be cared for, as a human being. Their history is intensely heightened by gun fights and the acting of saving each other's lives, so no wonder they have a rich sexual chemistry (that was no doubt enhanced by the rockin' dress Emily wore in the club). They don't need to playact. He knows her tragic past and she knows his; that matters in this nonsensical soap opera where no one really knows anybody; but I can't imagine their storyline ending any other way than Aiden leaving her again. The 2006 story was essentially Revenge's version of Taken but without any of the awesome. The emphasis was on Emily's connection with Aiden so that his inevitable abandonment will sting her.

Meanwhile, Conrad brought about his own ruination by denying his son's poetic dreams. Daniel the poet wrote about his family and wanted to be published, and he didn't comb his hair and cared not for family wealth for he is an artist. This story suggested relative poetic fame for Daniel would lead him to break with the family, which Conrad opposed, so he bribed magazines to reject his submissions. Conrad's a dick. Victoria, meanwhile, used to be a sweet teenage girl who was eager to please but her mother made her life miserable because she blamed Victoria for various romantic failures. It all led to Victoria taking the blame for murder, but the parallels were clear: the Graysons create their own monsters through neglect and manipulation. Victoria ruins her mother's life during Thanksgiving dinner. Conrad makes a remark about the darkness lifting, unaware of what's to come in the future with Emily and, also, his son's power play.

Of course, Daniel's trying to head a company that's in bed with a dangerous shadowy organization known as The Initiative. Victoria and Conrad wish to protect their son from them. Daniel, of course, is the least consistent character on the show. One week he wants to flee to Paris; the next week he's rigidly talking money and glaring evilly at Emily Thorne. Mike Kelley could drop the power play storyline next week and place Daniel in a barbershop quartet and I wouldn't raise an eyebrow about the change because why the hell not put him into a barbershop quartet; it's as in character as Daniel the poet, though at least his poetry was horrendous. Inconsistent writing hurts the writers' depiction of Daniel as a sympathetic victim of circumstance, which is a problem considering his inevitable victimhood at the hands of The Initiative.

The Porters' story just made sense of Declan's robbery fallout with Rich Bearded Guy. Rich Bearded Guy and brother think the Porters murdered their father so they're going to do a little murdering of their own. Jack's oblivious to it, but that's Jack Porter. Anyway, Fake Amanda's going to kill Rich Bearded Guy and his brother, though it's a damn shame the sailboat will sink.

"Lineage" was unnecessary. These backstories could've been condensed into exposition in the previous seven episodes. Flashbacks are a bore and momentum killers when not written by writers working under Joss Whedon or Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. 34 minutes were spent on the 2006 stories with nothing of significance happening until the final act. It's a mistake to jump back in time during sweeps. I guess everything's set for next week's winter finale.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Once Upon A Time "Into The Deep" Review

Once Upon a Time started promising tonight and devolved into a flaming pile of shit.

The use of 'flaming' is intentional because of the scenes set in the netherworld of poor CGI flames, yelling, and bad acting. The pace of "Into the Deep" was absolutely blistering, like an in-their-prime Bilbao in the Europa League against Manchester United last year (in the 90th minute, Bilbao streaked down the field while Man U struggled to catch up--they were an unforgettable European football team). Scenes connected and transitions were organic to the end of the previous scene, like Henry waking up from his sleep curse nap after Aurora told him who she was and with. Scenes mattered like they haven't before. A sense of urgency dominated the action--an urgency the first season of the show never cultivated or even tried to--and it carried two acts before the intrigue, excitement, adventure, dramatic stakes and emphatic displays of character growth and personal triumph, grinded to a halt.

Once Upon a Time seems like a show written by talented individuals who get distracted with all their playthings. With literally the entire Disney fairy tale characters available to insert into the show, which offers an opportunity to reinvent classic fairy tales for a 21st century audiences, the writing staff gets distracted. Season two, if anything, has been about showing off the writers creativity in reinventing Lancelot, Mulan, Frankenstein, Sleeping Beauty, and Captain Hook. Characters, like the evil Cora, grew from antagonists in a character's personal story to a grand villain whom Storybrooke will quake in fear in the presence of. Every episode introduced a new character, or reused the beats of a familiar character's previous fairyback, and Once was stuck in the mud. All the while characters are separated, with Snow and Emma in fairy tale land, and everyone else in Storybrooke. Snow and Emma disappeared for stretches. The urgent search for Snow and Emma disappeared so Belle could be saved from a mine car or Regina could experience similar feelings to the feelings we saw her experience two weeks before. Now it's episode eight and the writers decide to push the start button and finally push their major narrative forward.

"Into the Deep" had a riveting pace, but the poor writing significantly affected the story. The sleep curse is the laziest plot device the show's used since its uses of magic whenever the writers don't want to follow through on a story. Magic is problematic in genre shows (I wrote about this in the season one OUAT review). The sleep curse combines magic and nonsense to produce a completely ridiculous stew of personal relationships, conflicts, magic, urgency, and suspense. I understood the magic curse, but it was like listening to a rabid bearded man rambling on about the relationship between God and mathematics at a bus stop in Center City. Sure I'm going to follow the words but it still won't make any sense.

The cursed stand in a flaming room and yell for awhile. Only the cursed experience the flaming room, unless a sleeping powder magically transports the uncursed to the flaming room, thereby making the previously uncursed one cursed. The sleeping curse is serious because Goodwin and Dallas use serious voices to communicate the dangers of the flaming room, and Aurora and Henry woke from their cursed sleeps with burns along their arms. The flaming room's the lone place for two people from different worlds to converse and figure out what to do to get back to Storybrooke; the flaming room needs to be dangerous and an abyss because everything depends on it.

Snow and Charming inevitably enter the flaming red room to resolve the question of how she and Emma will return to Storybrooke. The plan for Charming to be cursed involves Gold and Regina, two former antagonists for him but who're now softened by love. Henry absolutely trusts Gold and Regina. The audience should trust Regina, too, because of the consistent writing for the character, and because of Parilla's altered Regina performance. Charming sleeps knowing the risks of possibly not waking up, but he's confident Snow's kiss in the red room will free him from the curse. The plan fails, though Charming informs Snow of how to defeat Cora and return to Storybrooke safely. Charming's stuck in the curse. Snow's going to return and wake him with a kiss, of course.

Meanwhile, characters are running away from other characters and villains are turning on each other only to turn right back and disclose what his or intentions are. Mulan's been as active as Fernando Llorente since her introduction. Once Aurora disappears, she's a lunatic. Mulan's behavior is consistent with her vow of protecting Aurora, but why must she run off with the compass (oh yeah, it's because nothing happens in this show without a goddamn chase scene). Cora betrays Hook; Hook betrays Cora; Hook and Cora agree to work together. Hook appeared to Aurora as her hero when he freed her from Cora's pit, but he took her heart and gave it to Cora in exchange for safe passage to Storybrooke where he'll avenge his lover's death by killing Rumplestiltskin. Aurora returns to the group just in time to lead them to Cora's trap, since her heart is in Cora's hand. The story advanced, but it's like Grand Theft Auto when every bridge is under construction so you just hang around, complete missions, or devise various public transit bus routes.

Conflicts and road blocks are integral elements to any story, whether it's a children's story about a duck who doesn't know how to swim or a story about a single day in Dublin in the year 1904. The roadblocks in "Into the Deep" were contrivances and convolutions, though. They were convenient and an example of the biggest issue any serialized network drama with a 22 episode order has, which is the episode order versus making the story last over those episodes without it dragging or consisting of filler. So, the end of "Into the Deep," with its twists and turns, felt forced rather than organic storytelling; it was another example of the show throwing shit at a wall because of the handsome pay that allows them to and the astounding number of viewers tuning in week after week to watch it. I'm specifically thinking of the penultimate episode of season one in which stuff happened because the finale was next week, and I feel the same as the winter finale looms for the show.

Other Thoughts:

-Once should use more of their budget on graphics and less on name actors.

-Rumple's story to Henry about his capture and imprisonment was well-done. Rumple's breakfast with Belle was interrupted by Regina, who told him about Cora's plans. Belle sat silently and gradually appearing more petrified. Emilie de Ravin played it nicely.

-You won't believe me, but I think "Into the Deep" is the best episode of the season. I won't ignore its flaws, though.

-Ron Underwood directed the episode. I didn't write the names of the writers down. This was their first credited episode.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Go On "Dinner Takes All" Review

Go On attempted to tell four stories in a 20 minute plus window tonight. The episode description was worrisome. Go On struggles to balance the absurd humor of the group with the heartfelt human moments of the characters overcoming their grief; how the heck would Silveri and his writers balance four stories within one story in which every character is together? Ryan contemplates dating for the first time since Janie's passing; Steven's interested in the same woman Ryan; the group eats Thanksgiving dinner in the radio office, with Owen's mother who challenges Lauren's qualifications; Anne brings her children and then watches them gravitate to Ryan because he's on the radio and is on a standee.

Ryan's recovery from grief has been natural and well-paced. One week, he has trouble sleeping because of his wife's absence; the next week she's with him because he needs her, i.e. he makes her be there with his mind; the following week he deals with his first birthday without his wife. So it follows Ryan will wrestle with the idea of dating other women after Janie. Ryan's thoughts about other women happen in reaction to an old college friend's visit, Amy (portrayed by Gilmore Girls' and Parenthoods' Lauren Graham). Amy's the female Ryan. She loves sports, radio, and matches Ryan step-for-step, joke for joke, sports reference for sports reference. Amy's personality is infectious. She's down-to-earth, casual, and attractive. Steven falls for her. Ryan, though, falls for her despite not wanting to, feeling that feelings for her are happening too soon and that it's disrespectful to his love for Janie. The Janie feelings doesn't prevent Ryan from entering a battle for Amy's affections with Steven, who, it should be known, was given the blessing of Ryan not more than one day ago.

The selfishness of Ryan is his major flaw and a driving element in each one of his stories. Ryan's already been selfish with Steven, but this is a different kind of selfish: he fears losing the girl he could have to his best friend who just genuinely wants her. Ryan's basically a dick throughout the episode, arranging Thanksgiving dinner to prevent Steven from having a night alone with Amy, and interrupting their afternoon walk because of what might happen if he doesn't. Carrie's not allowed to fly home to Kentucky, because she needs to prepare the Thanksgiving feast in the office kitchen. The dinner is vast once finished, and his group, and Carrie, sit down to enjoy their meal; however, Ryan's absent from the table and with Steven because of the Amy situation.

Lauren Graham's good as Amy, but the character suffers from a lack of sufficient screen time. Amy's essentially only who Ryan and Steven remember her as. Amy's attraction for them is their memory of her, and because she's a woman who talks to them and who isn't Carrie or a walking advertisement like the K-Ball girl. Ryan needs to re-learn the valuable lesson about friendship over anything else, but he also needs to re-learn how to be with another woman. Janie's gone, and he likes Amy, but he's not ready. Amy's in sync with his feelings about her. She likes him, but she won't be the first girl after Janie because of the pressure and for other reasons. Ryan needs to heal and find peace. Go On is usually excellent in its human moments, and Ryan's narration about re-building, and of the importance of one great player changing the entire re-building process, is spot-on and a nice button to the Amy story. The story got lost within the other stories, but it resonated.

The Thanksgiving meal in the radio station allows some of the characters to deepen and interact with others they normally wouldn't. Anne's motherhood has been unexplored, but her children's affinity for Ryan amounts to nothing. Owen's mother challenges Lauren's qualifications, and is not impressed that Lauren earned a certificate in comfort. Owen's mother is a puzzling character. Presumably she sent her son to the group after he stopped talking following his brother's accident and subsequent coma. Owen's mother challenges Lauren and desires Owen spend less time with the group. Owen needs to stand up for himself, and the group, for his mother to understand the necessity of the group in his life and in his healing. New bonds are formed at the Thanksgiving table: Yolanda and Owen discover a shared string instrument talent; Mr. K doesn't weird so many people out, though he does weird people out. The group's more like a family now, considering less than half of them have family to eat with on Thanksgiving, which is ignored and not a big deal in the show but makes a blogger wonder about the deeper issues of sadness and loneliness within the group aspect of Go On.

"Dinner Takes All" was the funniest episode to date. Mr. K had his best jokes; Lauren Graham's comedic timing and energy brought some laughs; Anne's hardened exterior always gets a chuckle or three out of me. John Cho's an excellent comedic presence, and Matthew Perry's brand of comedy is becoming more familiar. Some of his sight gags fail miserably, like the pull-out couch and the montage of Ryan staring at the ceiling while Amy hugs and cuddles him like a stuffed zebra.

Go On's come together nicely as a sitcom. Through nine episodes, it's not the best sitcom on TV nor the worst. It's not reinventing any tropes or trying to be Community, despite the comparisons. Go On's going to struggle with its balance and it'll hit the emotional points. Overall, Go On is what it is: a mildly pleasant sitcom with a likable cast and plenty of heart.

Other Thoughts:

-The Brady Bunch homage that closed the cold open was slightly annoying but slightly not. I mean, it took all the characters and put them in a situation that usually irritates me any other episode; but the Bobby Brady reference, and the ridiculous smiling by the cast sort of saved what could’ve been an absolute disaster.

-Carrie needs more to do. I love the character and can’t wait for her love life and career to go the right way.
Where was Ryan’s apology for screwing up her holiday plans?


Monday, November 19, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "The Stamp Tramp" Review

The autumn of break-ups is over, and now it's time to shift the focus to the arcs of mid-season. HIMYM impressively ignored building any story arcs through six episodes. The writers hung their hats on the idea three couple break-ups would be enough for six episodes. I had no idea what "The Stamp Tramp" was about prior to watching. I saw an episode title and didn't bother to read the episode description. The first six episodes of season eight were like the cage episodes of LOST's third season--self-contained, and the real action of the season doesn't begin until the seventh episode when Juliet's husband gets hit by a bus, followed by the next week when Desmond has a flash before his eyes (LOST's six episode arc before their hiatus in season three is light years better than HIMYM's first six by the way). So, what's in store for the next batch of episodes? Marshall's going to have the case of his career; Barney and Robin will get back together; Ted will do stuff; and Lily will continue to bum me out as I watch Alyson Hanigan deliver horrible comedic performances weekly.

HIMYM's most charming aspect, its gimmick element, is the worst part of any episode. The idea of the stamp tramp is terrible on paper, and even worse in execution. HIMYM always needs a gimmick to carry an episode through. Once the gimmick is set, the beats fall into place. The first act establishes the gimmick, the second act consists of goofy nonsense, and the third act packs in the emotional resolution. Barney needs a new strip club to go to because Quinn's dancing at his favorite one again. Ted lives in fear of being a 'piggy-back' stamper. Marshall tries to help an old law school friend of his, Brad, when he finds him begging for cash and food outside of Marshall's place of business.

Marshall's environmental law career hasn't been a story point in nearly a year. Marshall's career lends to better stories because Jason Segal's able to play many different sides of Marshall effectively. Environmental Law Marshall is a good side of the character. The story of Marshall trying to help an old law school friend who's down on his luck is a natural extension of his character. Marshall's in law to save the world, so of course he'd try to save and friend and get him back in the game. Typically, though, the friend is a terrible person without any etiquette during his job interview. Marshall looks awful for recommending him, yet he continues to push for his friend because he used to be #3 in his class at Columbia. Marshall needed a break to get his career where he wanted it to be; maybe Brad just needs a break to turn his life around.

Brad inevitably screws Marshall over for his kindness. The law business is full of dickheads except for Marshall Erikson. Sunnywell even needs pampering before he forgives Marshall for introducing Brad to him. The biggest case of Marshall's life coincides with Brad's treachery as Brad is working for the enemy. Brad intentionally played homeless to learn the strategy of the environmental firm. Marshall's boss demands he win the case or lose his job, prompting Future Ted to say it was the biggest case in Marshall's career but that he'll get to that, because any interesting story is put off for nonsense.

Barney's search for a strip club parodies LeBron's free agency nonsense. In no way am I surprised Bays and Thomas waited til November to parody an ancient news item. Lebron James is beloved by all of America now. The strip club search was a bad idea, and I don't know how it got past the pitch stage. Robin and Barney needed to share a story; I wonder why it had to be this story. Robin's a news anchor. She's too busy to search for strip clubs for Barney, right? They could've been shopping for samovars or a shiny penny--it didn't matter. Anything would've led to them drunkenly walking the streets of New York together, embracing singledom, only for Barney to kiss her on the mouth, and for Robin to back off in fear, repeating that they can't do this, not again.

Robin and Barney, of course, will do it again. Future Ted said as much. The flash-forwards showed as much. We're stuck watching the snail-like progression of their friendship turning into a renewed romance. They're the characters to follow and invest in the most. Their wedding will lead Ted to a train station where his future wife will wait for a train, in the rain, with a yellow umbrella.

Ted's not going to have a significant story until he's at Farhampton, and even when he gets there, season eight will most likely end. Ted's story tonight sucked and might be what to expect. Since Ted's single, he doesn't have much to do. The show gave up on following his career after the Jennifer Morrison arc. Now he's reduced to watching old tapes in hopes he put his stamp of approval on something; that he's original. None of his great ideas were his own; however, Ted gave Lily his stamp of approval after Marshall briefly freaked out after his third date with Lily. I thought the moment was false and forced, and an example of how lousy the writing's been.

So, Marshall's story could be worthwhile. Robin and Barney's storyline will be something to get through, and Ted/Lily will be used in both stories as seen fit. I imagine heavy emotion for Ted when he finds about Robin and Barney, and Lily in a support role for Ted. Overall, "The Stamp Tramp" is about showing the shape of things to come.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gobble Gobble 2012: Boy Meets World "Turkey Day"

Cory and Shawn learned about the Hutus and Tutsis conflict in Rwanda on the day before the dawn of Thanksgiving Day, a conflict which Feeny waters down tremendously as if he were being written by men and women employed by Disney (Oh wait, he was being written by those people). The Hutu-Tutsi conflict spurs Cory and Shawn to join their families together on Thanksgiving in the trailer park. Feeny's words about the hardships of class struggle stuck with the consistently portrayed disinterested students, Cory Matthews and Shawn Hunter. "Turkey Day" tells an honest story about rejecting prejudice,  intolerance, and accepting people for who they are and not what they have; but it's mostly horrible because of horrible writing.

The theme of Gobble Gobble 2012, and of Thanksgiving, is characters coming together to break bread and
give thanks. The coming together and giving of thanks is rather difficult. We saw the typical Dawson's Creek nonsense two weeks with Jen and her mother and Dawson being Dawson with everyone, but the four friends sat around a campfire to drink cocoa and be friends for two minutes. Felicity was refreshing in its depiction of holiday drama. I felt so cheerful watching mature college students work out issues in a rational and reasonable way. Abrams' drama never got preachy about giving thanks. On holidays, it's sure nice to think family disputes and deep-seeded issues will fall away as the turkey's served, and everyone remembers what the day is really about. Felicity worked out its conflicts realistically by showing the beginning of improvement, the chance of it; not an eternal magic elixir.

The Hunters and Matthews gather for Thanksgiving dinner in the trailer park, one of the many that doesn't actually exist in the city of Philadelphia. Shawn could've lived in a poor neighborhood without the trailer park element. Philly, unfortunately, has many poor sections. The Matthews, who live in the suburbs, apparently never tried to make friends with the Hunters because they're poor and live in a trailer park. Alan and Amy walk through the trailer park as if they'll catch a disease from the area. They're surrounded by trailers, and grim-faced men who want them out of the trailer park. "No outsiders," is what Unter says, and what the Elder trailer park man reiterates. Why the hell does an Elder of the trailer park exist? What kind of backwards ideas did BMW writers have about Philadelphia? The show should've been set in western Pennsylvania. I digress. Eric, Alan and Amy are loathsome throughout the first two acts of the episode. They're an example for the families at home to watch, and to then instruct impressionable youth on the people they shouldn't be like. Prejudice is bad. Judging a person's value, or worth, or character based on material possessions in bad. Boy Meets World stresses that.

Any Matthews/Hunter scene involves open discussion about what the Matthews possess versus what the Hunters do not. Verna serves cheese on a plate, but she assumes Amy wouldn't, which leads to an accidental admission of Amy selling something Verna gave her because it was cheap and for poor people. Sitcoms used to become preachy once or twice a season in the late 90s. The series changed for one half hour twice a season, whether it was for class tolerance or domestic abuse. Characters aren't characters but mouth pieces for the writers or the network. Alan and Amy were portrayed as normal, nice, and accepting; a typical suburban couple who worked hard and welcomed others, and even took Shawn under his roof when his parents left him. A season six episode contradicts Alan's behavior in "Turkey Day." An angry Cory blames his father for being average. Cory's taken to South Philly to find out what average looked like when Alan was growing up. The Matthews were poor and struggling until Alan changed it with his hard work throughout life, first as a grocer then a small businessman. Alan, if written by good writers, would not have reacted with disgust while walking through the trailer park. He would've related, but BMW wrote themselves into a corner with its previous three seasons. BMW did not depict the diversity of Philadelphia; their Philadelphia was white-washed. BMW had no choice but resort to the trailer park and the poor for an episode that preaches against prejudice and intolerance, which was hypocritical, because BMW didn't give a damn about diversity or depicting a public school without African-Americans, Asians and Mexicans. For Thanksgiving, the show served a half-assed and absolutely disingenuous episode.

The Staccino brothers, sans Big Van Vader, prepare their Thanksgiving dinner in the center of the trailer park, where the Matthews brothers sit and feast in view of the grim-faced trailer park folk who don't like their kind in their dwelling space. Amy makes a faux-pas in the trailer as they fail to eat their food (Chet takes it away too quickly to consume for he fears the wrath of the trailer park ownership committee) by remarking her and Alan struggled when they started. The Hunters haven't just started; they just failed to achieve the life of their dinner mates. Of course, Verna was on the run for awhile, and Chet followed her, so Amy's observation wasn't out of line. Verna and Chet are horrible for each other, and they bring out the worst. Living in trailer park didn't inform their actions. Verna would have run out anyway; unless BMW wouldn't have written a story about a suburban housewife running out on her family. I think the writers were worse than the trailer park ownership group in their view of the haves-and-have-nots. The trailer park gets a damning portrayal. Only two families dine with the Matthews, and the Mattews are heroes for walking into a poor neighborhood and sitting down to break bread. Class, in the end, does not matter for the Mattews; what matters is the words of their son, Cory, who is thankful for parents who raised him to befriend anyone regardless of class (but, really, when the hell did he learn this? His parents were bad examples in the previous two acts). Little Staccino welcomes all to his table, as the Unter and random extra look on, displeased.

The story of "Turkey Day" is forgotten immediately. The next episode of season four is about Shawn dating a girl who bans Cory from his life. The worst part of PSA sitcom episodes is the fact they don't matter. The writers don't really seem to care about the issues, even if the issues are written horribly. They just need to get the episode done so they can return to Cory sneaking Shawn pastries in the school library. Here's an example: the tag of the episode involves Shawn getting his first A+ for his Thanksgiving paper. Shawn's a horrible student within seven episodes again, and his observations of the world disappear like his sister and half-brother Eddie.

If TV writers paid attention to TV With The Foot, the one thing I want them to not forget is the importance of a story mattering past the third act fade-out (or whatever act closes an episode in this day and age). Make a story matter. "Turkey Day" does not matter. TV writers have an incredible opportunity to tell stories for a wide audience. Josh Friedman told a great story about David Simon meeting with The Wire writers prior to the production of season one. Simon told his writers they had 13 hours of front-page space with which to tell a story and do not waste it. Friedman wanted his fellow writers and aspiring writers to remember that. No matter if you have 13 hours or 18 or 22 or 24, just don't write bullshit. Do not waste your 21 or 42 or 60 minutes on bullshit.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Grimm "Season Of The Hexenbiest" Review

Grimm will never abandon the case-of-the-week episodic structure, which is a shame, because their serialized episodes are always amazing. Grimm's an infinitely better show when the storytelling comes from within the mythology rather than outside it. Every episode ties into Nick being a Grimm, and a crime committed by a Wesen or some other hard-to-remember German name. The story doesn't come from within the characters or their history as much as it is a response to something involving their profession, which works, but it's not the same. David Greenwalt's former colleague, Joss Whedon, stressed the importance of story coming from the character instead of anywhere else. I loved Matt Weiner's example of a Mad Men break when the writers think Pete Campbell needs to learn how to drive because he lives in the suburbs, so he takes Drivers Ed and meets a 17 year old girl he's attracted to, and then his arc progresses in a natural way that's organic to the character.

The first half of Grimm's first season had its ups and downs. It was like riding a SEPTA bus driven by a driver with no care for proper speed so that the bus ride is as smooth as a mountain. Season 2 opened smoothly, like SEPTA cruising along 76 until it exits at 30th street to begin the long, arduous journey down Chestnut to Walnut. Stop; start; stop; start. Grimm's first two episodes of the season were a tremendous and successfully carried the momentum over from season one, which made sense considering the quick turnaround the writers, crew, and cast had after season one wrapped. NBC wanted to launch it after the Olympics to capitalize on the millions and millions of viewers tuning in. Season 2 hit a lull but regained its form the last 2-3 weeks.

"Season of the Hexenbiest" works so well because it pulls together the various stories and arcs meaningfully and teases what's to come in a genuinely suspenseful way; it's not like Once Upon A Time and the mystery of who the goddamn 8th dwarf is. Adalind's back; the Verrat are active threats; Nick's so close to figuring out who the Royal in Portland is along with the identity of the other man in Juliette's life; Hank's beaten up, allowing Monroe to take an active role in helping Nick, saving us from Monroe being wasted in the spice shop.

Nick learns Juliette kissed another man in the spice shop because Monroe lets him know that happened; this sets the episode in motion. Adalind's already back and in pursuit of destroying the lives of people who helped destroyed hers, but she also wants The Key that unlocks absolute power for the Royals. The Key is the key to the episode. Adalind will reveal Renard's identity to Nick if she doesn't receive the key in two days. Two of the Verrat's muscles beat Hank into a hospital bed, and a coffee date between Juliette and Adalind is possibly dangerous after the cat scratch of coma and memory loss. Nick doesn't trust her; neither does Renard.

Adalind's an excellent source of conflict, but she's neutral. Adalind won't reveal Renard to Nick, because Nick's 'A-ha' moment in regards to Renard doesn't happen until the closing scenes as a hiatus looms. Adalind teases and prods; however, she cannot influence Nick one way or the other. Monroe's account of Juliette's kiss in the spice shop cements Nick's feelings. Juliette's confession about the kiss is met with a steely gaze (Guintoli was terrific in that scene). Their discord drives the plot. Nick feels played, so he plays her to arrest Adalind in the coffee shop. Nick eventually moves out of the house and in with Monroe, who's
already prepared the guest bedroom for his friend.

Renard's a less of a mystery at episode's end but in no way an open-book. He finds the trailer in the storage
yard, where he believes the key is, though Nick took it from the trailer before he fought the four assassins hired by the Verrat. Scenes when Nick's about to learn about Renard, only he doesn't, are a little frustrating, but Grimm's done that before with Juliette and Hank in season one. The writers will get to Nick v. Renard in time, definitely by 2013. Monroe lets Nick know who kissed Juliette in the spice shop just as Renard approaches the trailer. A 'to be continued...(sorry)' pops up before the credits, no doubt causing a number of fans to freak out and demand the hiatus end so they can watch Nick v. Renard.

"Season of the Hexenbiest" suggests a tighter focus on the serialized aspect of the series. The show won't instantly return to cases of the week, because Nick won't want to work with Renard. The story could unfold in several different ways. I'm hoping for a strong second half to the season with a better balance between the necessary procedural storytelling and the excellent serialized element.

Other Thoughts:

-Monroe continues to be the best character on the show. SilasWeir-Mitchell continues getting the best lines.
My favorite line was Monroe's reaction to news that Hank's in the hospital again.

-Sgt. Wu is great even when he's serious. It's amazing how wasted Reggie Lee was on No Ordinary Family. Every scene Lee's in improves because of his presence.

-Nick's mother hasn't been forgotten. Adalind's curious about her mother's killer. Nick doesn't say a word about his role in her mother's death. Mother Grimm is somewhere around Portland. She is Nick's safety net.

-Renard's involvement in the mythology was scattered in season one and season two. I appreciated Renard and Adalind's scene in which she rehashed every rotten thing he did against Nick, which includes attempted murder of Nick's aunt and kissing the woman Nick proposed marriage to before the cat of coma and memory loss.

-Juliette remembers the trailer on that rainy night when Nick told her the truth; however, Nick's absent from those memories. Monroe, in his words, awkwardly evades questions about what he was going to show Juliette that night.

-Grimm won't return until 2013. Everyone involved in the production deserves a nice, relaxing break. Grimm's aired 12 episodes already in season 2, I'll, of course, continue writing Grimm reviews in the new year.

-Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt wrote the script, with Mr. Kouf receiving the story credit (that's a nice bonus). An E. Gaviola directed it. I apologize for forgetting the woman's first name.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Vampire Diaries "We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes" Review

Elena hallucinates Connor's presence in her room, thinks she's being haunted by his ghost, so she yells for Jeremy to come downstairs to rescue her. Jeremy's eyes open. Connor's ghost physically accosts Elena in the kitchen, showing her the difference between a ghost and whatever it is he defines himself as (maybe a really pissed off dead guy). Elena stabs Connor in the neck, only it's actually Jeremy who's been stabbed, and soon we learn Elena's been cursed via killing a vampire hunter. The witches made sure vampires would die even if the hunter died before them. It's magic! "We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes" is also a transitional episode. Connor died so Jeremy could become the next hunter. Elena was cursed because she needed to be saved, and the lone way to save her was through a potential vampire hunter killing one to break the curse. Elena stabbed Jeremy, and then he stabbed for her later. I'm waiting for the scene when brother and sister stand face-to-face as blood enemies. It'll come full circle. Elena's been obsessive about 'being there' for Jeremy, but she stabbed him, and that's going to come back around.

Elena's hallucinations seemed inspired by Buffy, the Vampire Slayer's "Amends," Buffy's lone Christmas episode in which Angel is haunted by the people he killed, and he's led to stand outside to burn when the sun rises. Buffy meets him before the sun rises and makes a beautiful plea for Angel to keep his life. Elena's hallucinations are similar. The people she sees challenge her for being a killer long before she personally ended a life with her own hands. Connor blames her for her parents’ death; Katherine blames her for all of the loss her friends suffered, including Grams, and, really, anyone else who's died since the "Pilot." Elena's mother implored her to end her life because she should've died twice already; that it was her time to pass on from the earth. "But what about Jeremy," Elena sniffled. Her mother looked at, sorrowful and mournful yet disarmingly motherly, and told her not to worry about him. Elena removed her ring, saying aloud, "I'm a monster and I deserve to die."

She stood on the Wickery Bridge, awaiting morning to break. Klaus said a vampire who murders a hunter will not rest until she or he commits suicide, or the vampire transforms into a hunter. Stefan tried to help her, but she stabbed him. Damon is sent to calm her down and talk to her while Stefan works with Jeremy and Caroline to save Elena from the curse. Stefan and company save Elena's life. Damon talks her down and then saves her life when the curse is lifted but she's without a ring and the harsh light of day bears down on her skin and burns her. Stefan and Jeremy kill an innocent hybrid that just helped them find Elena. Tyler reacts badly to the murder as he and Haley dedicated their time to freeing hybrids from Klaus' sire bonds. Once again, Elena's life is placed above other people; as long as she lives it doesn't matter who dies to keep her alive. Tyler has a problem with this, and Caroline doesn't understand why, which was a rare moment I disliked her.

The transition from Elena the human to Elena the vampire has been okay in an overwrought kind of way. Elena's inevitably going to accept who she is now and quit hoping for a return to her old self; she's never coming back from being a vampire even if she's cured. Elena learns about the cure from Damon during a intimate scene featuring hand-holding and significant affection. Damon plays the role of devoted brother and won't let Elena think about him differently just because she's mad at Stefan (the vamp whose made sacrifices in the hope a cure is found). Stefan and Elena break-up soon after Damon leaves. Stefan can't be with her the way she is, fully apologetic for she stood by him during his Ripper days. Elena understands. She wants to be with Damon; her feelings for him were magnified since her transition.

The love triangle stuff was the least interesting aspect of the episode, with Elena's self-lashings a close second. "We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes" wasn't great. Bleiweiss and Plec's script took a breather in the final act for the triangle progress, but the other acts were about moving their pieces to the right spots for whatever lies ahead, i.e. Jeremy becoming a hunter, which is ignored after the hybrid is killed, or Caroline agreeing to go on a date with Klaus because why the bleep not, or Tyler and Haley making mad faces after Jeremy, Stefan and Caroline conspired to kill one of the pack in cold blood (okay that was interesting and worthwhile), or the advancement of the Atticus Shane plot.

Shane assists Bonnie and Damon in the hunter's curse after delivering important exposition about a dude named Silas and witches and a rock that's going to be important by February sweeps if not sooner. With the exception of the triangle scenes, the final act moves like the final act of a finale. Quick scenes designed to pique the interest of the audience; in this case it's Shane requesting Bonnie let her know who the hunter is when his mark completes. Matt informs Damon of Shane's connection to April's father, a discovery that's surprising to just Matt and Damon. I'm curious about where the story is going; it's just a drag when a transition episode happens.

Other Thoughts:

-Nina Dobrev's excellent. Katherine and Elena shared a scene, and Nina portrays both so differently that it felt like two different characters. It's a testament to the quality of Dobrev's acting, but also, the writers.

-Elena should choose herself after she dates Damon. I've been over this before, but it bears repeating: neither of the Salvatore brothers are keepers, especially Damon. Stefan's at least solid when not drunk on human blood and committing horrific acts on the corpses of people he murdered. There's an argument to be made for why every character would be best off being alone for all of their unlives.

-The Mystic Grille was repaired and open for business just one day after two explosions--that's good hustle.

-There's absolutely no sign these characters still go to high school and are seniors. I know the prom episode is coming and probably graduation in which it'll be more about Elena graduating into this other life she struggled so hard with in the beginning. I don't know.

-New episodes return November 29. I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving next week.

-Evan Bleiweiss & Julie Plec wrote the episode. Wendy Stanzler directed it.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Arrow "Legacies" Review

"Legacies" would've worked well as the second episode of a season. If only I had close connections with every show I write about and could get information about episode production codes so I'd know if The CW pushed an episode forward and moved "Legacies" back. Diggle's role beside Oliver Queen ends any speculation about "Legacies" being meant for the second episode of the season; however, the idea might not have had enough life in the early weeks of the writers’ room. Perhaps it was put on hold, and when they figured it, the story that is, out they just added Diggle to the mix.

Oliver's father, Robert, committed suicide so that he, Oliver, would live and atone for the sins of the Queen family. The island flashbacks involve Oliver speaking to the ghost of his dead father. Oliver burned pages of his father's book to keep the fire burning, apparently, so the origin of the book of names is revealed in the episode. The legacy of the Queen family in Starling City isn't good. Robert's a Mitt Romney-type, a big businessman who outsourced a ton of jobs overseas, screwing American families and their ownership of homes without a care, until the boat was sunk and Robert demanded his son do what is needed in the city the family poisoned. Oliver was starving and without hope on the island; he simply laid on the ground, burning pages from the book, looking vacantly above him. Robert's ghost appeared with a gun and told his son to end his life if he didn't plan on surviving and redeeming the legacy of the family.

Oliver pulled the trigger. The gun was empty. Robert launched into a brief speech about the importance of surviving and finishing the work in the city, because he was a bad man for a long time. Hamlet's scene with the ghost of his father was the first thought when Oliver saw his father. The Hamlet similarities have been mentioned by the show in #102. Arrow's Hamlet touches are light and a serious reduction of the work as a whole, a rendering for a teenage audience who probably groan when their high school literature teachers announce the class will read it. Robert stresses atonement, not vengeance. Oliver's not storming into his mother's chambers and launching into a three minute monologue about her transgressions with Walter.

The Royal Flush Bank Robbers of the B story were forced into crime by Robert's outsourcing factory jobs to China. The Reston family had a house, but then they didn't. The nuclear family transformed into an amazing bank robbery team who traveled from city-to-city eluding cops and stealing sizable coin to set them up for life. Things went awry in the place they needed to leave five years ago. The oldest son shot a cop, which alerted Diggle, and then Oliver, to the case. Oliver wanted to ignore it in an impressive anti-Batman speech. Arrow's been similar to the tone of Nolan's Batman films, if Nolan made his shows for a CW audience. Oliver won't stop crime. The task is hard, and he's busy bringing rich folk to justice. Diggle reminds Oliver the importance of helping others. Oliver's pulled into the robbers situation upon learning his family's responsible for the desperation of the family. Derek Reston lost his job and his house after Robert outsourced the jobs and found a loophole in a contract to not pay

Oliver offers Derek an opportunity to quit robbing banks. Derek won't. Oliver decides to take action. The
family's conflict is their unstable son. The son refuses to stop until they rob one last bank. The son character hurts the story a lot. Derek's a problematic character. The bank robbery angle is a corner the writers wrote a potentially sympathetic character into. Derek won't accept Ollie's job offer out of pride, but he can't stop robbing banks for fear his son will kill. Neither angle really works, because Derek's underwritten. Diggle makes a great point in stating Derek's active choice to commit crimes; that Oliver is not responsible for him. Ollie won't listen, because his family's part of the Reston family's problem.

It's nice to see Oliver help a family instead of terrifying rich folk to death with a bow-and-arrow; specifically, it's nice knowing Arrow will tell more stories about Ollie helping the hopeless, as a vampire with a soul once did in the City of Angels, but one hopes they're better written than the Royal Flush story.

Oliver commits to his father's vision of saving Starling City after the fire reveals names written in the book. Oliver's eyes widen when he realizes which names are written and the depth of Robert's commitment to atoning for his sin's. It's like the magnitude of his father's suicide hits him in that moment, what it meant for him and his son. Oliver's not a video game character yet, but he became The Man in the Hood while laying by the fire in the quiet.

Other Thoughts:

-Tommy threw a fundraiser for Laurel's firm in hopes of winning her heart. I thought they were a couple. It seems they only hooked up but stopped. Tommy's not the most interesting character, but Thea Queen thinks he's quite dashing and special. Willa Holland portraying insecure and drunk Thea wasn't very good. Holland's eyeliner wear is still arresting, though. Thea lashed out about no one caring about her, citing her brother most of all.

-Moira wanted her son to stop hiding secrets and disappearing. Mrs. Queen is quite the hypocrite, eh? She, after all, has the boat in a warehouse. Oliver takes her out for a burger and milkshake to show he's sorry for his behavior. He nearly says he wishes he could tell her all, but he does not. Walter's still in Australia on business.

-Warren Christie guest starred as an uninteresting wealthy friend of the family. Christie portrays Cameron Hicks on Syfy's excellent series, Alphas.

-Moira Kirland & Marc Guggenheim wrote the episode. John Behring directed it. Behring's directed several TVD episodes, two Hellcats, a Dawson's Creek episode, and even Touched By An Angel.

-Arrow will return with new episodes on November 28.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Go On "Videogame, Set, Match" Review

Go On tries to marry the world of support groups and sports on a weekly basis. Ryan's narration was more overt about the crossover in "Videogame, Set, Match." A forgettable game involving forgettable teams had a wild play that kept Ryan up all night; he wondered why he cared so much about a trivial thing, in the grand scheme of the world, with its problems of war and hunger. The crossover of sports into support systems isn't seamless. Go On puts a button on the story with a neat narrative resolution in which Ryan emphasizes the value of distraction in sports. Distraction is important in the support group. Members might tell themselves they've gotten better and are ready to move on, or they might focus on cats or photographs of feet or videogames to distract them from their sad reality in which they're without someone they care deeply about.

Owen is the man of the episode in "Videogame, Set, Match." Ryan's spent time with one group member a week. He helps them, they help him. Ryan stumbles upon a truth when he acts stupidly (usually Lauren lets him know about it). Rinse; repeat. Ryan randomly develops an obsession with the video game Halo. The obsession might not be random. Ryan's loneliness at night has been established. Video games are the ultimate distraction; they're like books or movies or TV show. A whole world awaits a gamer to transport him or herself into, and their real world falls away for a couple hours as they absorb themselves in the fictitous world of their game. Owen obsessively played Halo since his brother's been comatose. He quit school, didn't work, and spent his days in front of the television with his system and controller.

Ryan and Owen bond over video games. Their bond deepens after Owen's mother lectures Ryan for hanging out with her son but not helping him. Owen doesn't need a video game buddy; he needs a buddy who'll push him to be more, do more, and live more. Owen's been in a rut for four months. Now, four months isn't a long time to be in a rut after a loved one's been in a coma or passed away. TV writers think differently. Four months is a lifetime for TV writers. Owen will make progress by episode's end, because he's a television character with an arc.

Ryan hires him as an intern at the radio station where Owen soon falls for the K-Ball girl. Owen's progress is stunted. The internship is an illusion of progress. The dudes just play Halo. The illusion idea is present in Yolanda's story with the group. Lauren's excited about Yolanda's graduation. The group is a temporary thing, a means to a peaceful end to grief and loneliness from loss. The takeaway from Yolanda's story is the importance of support. The inherent question about Go On is about the longevity of the group. What happens when everyone heals and moves on? The characters WON'T heal or move on, at least not for awhile. There are murmurs about NOT getting better, getting worse, and how Lauren's not really very good at her job. After all, it's usually the responsibility of a self-centered talk show host to help the group members. It was fun to see Go On address the issues people pointed out.

Owen and Yolanda make progress differently. Yolanda admits her need for the support group. Damn Lauren's ego, Yolanda isn't better and doesn't want to be! Owen breaks out of his rut by messing with Ryan and, eventually, visiting his brother's bedside for the first time since the accident. Ryan learned about what it means to care deeply for other people, and why people need to lean on each other in support. Go On's written that revelation for Ryan already, but oh well. The Owen/Ryan stuff was well-written and well-acted. The scenes in the radio station were great; even Chris Bosh's cameo didn't detract from the strength of Owen and Ryan's friendship.

"Videogame, Set, Match" is similar to previous Go On episodes, but it's still early and there are characters that need to be fleshed out. This episode had a better balance of comedy and heartfelt emotion. Go On tends to be goofy to a fault, which renders the quality content about loss and grief weaker by association with the goofy nonsense.

Other Thoughts:

-John Cho was great once again. I loved how he consoled the K-Ball girl.

-I thought Carrie would be involved in a substantial cute subplot with Owen, but Owen wanted to give flowers to the K-Ball girl. Personally, I'd try to woo Carrie over the K-Ball girl.

-The timeline was confusing. Yolanda and the group had a series of scenes, with each scene representing a day; so nearly a week passed; however, Owen and Ryan’s story didn’t seem like a week-long. Of course, they might’ve been playing video games for nearly a week before Owen’s mother whipped the two into shape. It’s probably not worth thinking about.


Monday, November 12, 2012

How I Met Your Mother "Splitsville" Review

Robin and Barney will marry in the season finale, so it's fair to wonder when they became a couple again. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas mastered trolling the audience over three years ago. I'm thinking of last season's Robin story about her children specifically. Bays and Thomas seem like they write what fans want on a white board, develop an idea around satisfying fan desire, and then concocting a way to piss the fans off in an alienating way. "Splitsville" isn't a trolling episode. The only rancor the audience might feel is the tease of the Barney-Robin kiss in the final scene. Strangely, though, HIMYM will satisfy fan desire, presumably, by successfully marrying two characters fans love together despite the fact its forced and clear pandering.

Robin needs a full episode to end a poorly written and developed relationship with Nick. HIMYM originally wanted Nick in season seven, but the actor was not available. Kal Penn stepped in as the decently written Kevin, but Robin ended it with him when Ted decided he loved her again. Nick's barely a character, more of a regurgitation of a character seen too many times on TV throughout the years. Sit down, friends and well-wishers, for what I'm about to write: Nick is dumb. Oh, it's true. Robin was drawn to Nick's body. The sex was great. Robin was content with copulating and sleeping soundly afterwards. A basketball injury to his groin temporarily put the brakes on their terrific sex life. Robin's wound and in need of 'some.' The couple talked a lot since they couldn't fornicate. Robin learned her boyfriend was dumb. He misunderstood the four letter word for cut for his actual name; he believed gypsies were made-up, like elves and leprechauns.

Robin won't dump him because of the sex. The threat of a fun day with Patrice motivates her, but not enough. Robin took Nick to Splitsville, an ice cream place in the city famous for the hearts broken in between scoops. Nick receives a devastating phone call that makes Robin hesitate. Nick won't disclose what the phone call was about; his hysterics suggest he suffered a catastrophic personal loss. The hysterics are misleading. Indeed, Nick's upset because he tore a muscle and will not be able to play any more games for Marshall's recreational basketball team.

Robin continues to hesitate. Barney marches over to Splitsville to declare love for his ex-girlfriend. Barney's speech of love is equal parts any character in Dawson's Creek asking another character out, Holden's monologue to Alyssa in Chasing Amy, and to a lesser degree any male lead in an average romantic comedy. Barney's speech includes the words "hopelessly" and "irretrievably." Honestly, the writing is riddled with clichés. Holden's monologue in Chasing Amy is the only exception of great writing in an otherwise poor crop of comparisons. Neil Patrick Harris executes the emotion of the speech excellently. The writing may be poor, but Barney feels every words.

Afterwards, Barney praises his acting ability. Robin looks at Barney differently, with eyes that betray a new
feeling for her old beau, a feeling of love. Barney spoke truths in his speech, detailing how impossible he thought it was to love until he met Robin, and how overwhelming the feeling's been for years. Robin wants to kiss him; Barney wants to kiss her. Patrice's phone call interrupts the moment. It's typical HIMYM. The Barney and Robin coupling is happening again because of fan desire. The relationship was horrible in season five, and the creators clearly trolled the audience in their break-up episode. Whatever. It's happening again.

The recreational basketball subplot was enjoyable. I played recreational hockey for a decent amount of time, and I'm familiar with the nonsensical competitive spirit of teammates. Jason Segal's grief over Nick's torn groin was the best acting in season eight. I wanted to watch more of the basketball drama and less of the Robin/Barney nonsense. How did Marshall's team perform post-Nick? Did the accountants receive their comeuppance? It doesn't matter. None of HIMYM's stories matter anymore.


Revenge "Penance" Review

Some quick thoughts about last night's Revenge, the seventh episode of the season:

-Emily was back in the center of the action, making sure her plan goes accordingly. Emily's been on the sidelines too much in season two. As Emily goes, so does Revenge. The Graysons are horrible characters even when Emily has them in the palm of her hand. The Graysons storylines sans Emily were dreadful to watch, on par with the James Purefoy mistake of latter season one. Mason Treadwell needed to be removed from high society reporting but without being murdered or threatened into exile on a plush tropical island, with a bank account the size of a MLB bench. Fake Amanda tried to murder Mason, but she failed when Emily arrived in the nick of time to prevent a crowbar from penetrating Mason's skull.

Mason Treadwell's one of my least favorite characters in what is actually a long list of least favorite Revenge characters. The wardrobe is ridiculous, and the acting is outrageous. The previews promised Mason figuring out the identity swap all by his lonesome, which seemed bold for Revenge. Revenge is comfortable in writing the illusion of a major turn in the story. How many season 1 episodes were about Emily being found out until she wasn't, and what we thought would happened turned out to be something else superfluous entirely? Many episodes is the answer to the question. Revenge won't advance the story in a significant way until Emily reveals she's Amanda Clarke to the world, which will happen at some unknown date.

Mason thought Amanda and Emily were lovers in prison, which is a theory stolen from yours truly here in The Foot. I wrote 2-3 paragraphs about the sexual tension between Margarita Levieva and Emily Vancamp last winter. Mason's red thread and puzzle piece board led him to a dead-end. The genius author who hits no.1 on the NYT Best Sellers List noticed the absent tattoo, connected the young women through their time in juvenile prison, and shrugged his shoulders, settling on the 'they're lesbians!' theory. Emily looked as amazed as me sitting on the couch when Mason made his grand statement about Emily's connection to Amanda. Emily said, "No, I'm Amanda Clarke," and then she made him his bitch.

Mason will take the fall for the silver-haired man's death and spend an extended period of time in prison writing the story about the real Amanda Clarke's quest to exact vengeance of the Graysons and any other bastard who helped frame her father, which led to his eventual death in prison. Credit should be given to the writers' room for consistently writing themselves out of explosive situations. Anytime the show's about to becoming exciting and unpredictable, someone must speak up and remind his or her colleagues that the show's about to become exciting and unpredictable. Mason's put down. The wild card role is intercepted by Jennifer Jason Leigh's crazy Kara character.

Emily may plot out her plans like meticulously, but someone will pull a Mason Treadwell and disrupt the best laid ones by informing a mentally unbalanced woman of the Graysons role in David Clarke's downfall. Kara holds Conrad and Victoria at gun-point. The near-death incident brings Conrad and Victoria closer together. Accent Guy takes Kara before she shoots both Graysons in the back of the head. Later, she'll explain her intent to scare the truth out of them. Victoria won't tell Conrad about Daniel's plan to assume control of Grayson Global, not even after they nearly died side by side, because Conrad's tired and not in the mood anything involving his children. I love those plot contrivances: "No, I am tired and need a bath. It'll wait til morning." The other character, who of course desperately wants to tell the one intent on bathing, sits like a statue.

The whole of the Mason story concludes with Emily and Accent Guy kissing because that's what the audience wanted at the end of a potentially seismic episode.

-Daniel's going to assume control of Grayson Global in the next episode, pending drama from Conrad and nonsense from the writers. Daniel's all over the place as a character. I'm waiting for Ashley to raise her middle finger at every Grayson and reveal a massive plot that blows everyone away. Ashley just distracts people. She's literally a pawn, a plot piece; the last significant character moment for her was in a conversation with Emily about the status quo of the Graysons. I thought it'd lead to her doing something about it. She just plans on marrying a Grayson and getting very rich.

-The Initiative element is a bore and unnecessary addition to the show. Bit by bit the Graysons look less guilty in the David Clarke framing. Conrad bluntly stated his reasons for transferring blame to David when the plane crash happened: he was jealous of his wife's affair with him. As The Initiative's role increases, what little quality the show has will decrease. No fictional organization named The Initiative is very good; not even Buffy had a cool Initiative.

-Robin’s boyfriend from How I Met Your Mother was introduced as the bearded man’s brother. I cannot remember the specifics of any Jack content in “Penance.” Jack’s way too happy with the bearded guy for the bar to work out in his favor. It’s just a matter of time until the Porters are screwed by wealthy, and the Amanda sinks. Fake Amanda’s a fire-cracker, though, so the evil brothers might not live to enjoy the fruits of their con.

-#GiftofRevenge aired through the hour. I didn’t bother watching it. I noticed a story developed throughout. The Porter brothers and their girlfriends attended a concert in expensive jackets. I thought about watching the nonsense after the episode as TV With The Foot tries to leave no stone unturned; however, once the concert began, I knew I didn’t miss a thing.

-Revenge will air a new episode in 2 weeks. The American Music Awards are on next Sunday.


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.