Friday, March 29, 2013

Grimm "Nameless" Review

David Greenwalt helped run Buffy, the Vampire Slayer during its early years as Joss Whedon learned the ropes of the television industry. Season 1 of BtVS is sort of a mess. The season boasts some of Buffy's best episodes but also some of its worst. The budget was small, monsters looked horrible, but it didn't stop Joss and Greenwalt and the other writers from telling risky stories about a giant praying mantis or a computer demon boyfriend. "I, Robot, You, Jane" is possibly the worst episode of BtVS. Television shows rarely use the video game medium for stories because the ideas are apparently lacking, meaning that video game episodes tend to be really bad. It is fascinating to return to "I, Robot, You, Jane" after watching the complete series several times and sort of just marvel at how Joss and David produced that and then, about a year later, "Lie To Me" or "Surprise" and "Innocence."

David Greenwalt returned to the ol' video game story for "Nameless." The A story sucks. I won't beat around the bush, my friends and well-wishers. The A story absolutely sucks. The internet was in a relative infancy in late 1996 when Joss, David, and the other writers, broke the episode and then wrote it. "I, Robot, You, Jane" boxes the problems of the internet into a narrow generalization about the dangers of internet dating; you know, that strange men are on the other side of the program. "Nameless" doesn't deal with online dating but it deals with the perceived gaming culture. Whenever a mass shooting happens, the media jumps on the 'the killer must've played violent shooting games and the games must've inspired him.' Someone's killing off members of the code team for a game-changing video game, which is game-changing because it allows hundreds of people to play at the same time without any lag. So, Nick and Hank start tracking the killer through the game since the killer is killing his future victims' video game characters

The worst scene of the episode takes place in a person of interest's apartment. The killer cut a man named Brody in half moments after his girlfriend told him they wouldn't have sex. The person of interest, whose name I already forget, is named such because he took the break-up badly. Nick and Hank go to his place to ask a few questions. The dude is playing a game with his sister, and they're so detached from reality. The sister reacts like a vampire when Hank opens the blinds. The siblings hear about Brody's death and explain that Brody died in the game hours before his death. The siblings state that they felt happy his video game character. Hank and Nick think they meant the actual person. No, they explain, just the video game character. One's video game life and one's actual lived life are separate; however, Nick and Hank don't seem to get it, and the writing's definitely not on the side of the gaming siblings. Their insight into the gaming community helps Nick and Hank, though, and it does change the trajectory of the case.

The A story has the worst possible outcome. I couldn't shake the late 90s/early 00s slasher feeling I got from it. The killer makes phone calls using a voice modifier that makes him sound menacing and threatening. He reenacts kills he made in the video game, just like Ghostface reenacted horror films, and the Urban Legends killer reenacted urban legends. The conclusion is almost certain to be terrible. The recurring question the killer asks the police is, "What's my name?" He leaves ripped out title pages from books authored by men who used a pen name and sudoku. Wu, since his non-work life is spent alone in his apartment with a cat, investigates the clues for meaning. Nick and Hank eventually realize the killer is Wesen (a Fuchsefflein, or some name similar). They learn his name (Lipsulms), and then he kills himself. I re-watched the ending, thinking I overlooked a crucial aspect of the story. I did not. I spent a minute figuring out whether or not the killer's name was Flip Flops. Lipsulms had the laziest motive: jealousy/revenge for losing the girl and the money to code he fixed. Blah.

I thought the bits about the feuds in creative environments were interesting because they reminded me more of the TV writing business than the video game industry. One guy tells Nick about the competition for individual credit but assures him the team as a whole is supportive. If what they're working on hits big, all of them benefit. I thought about the competition for story credits in TV and about how the overall success of the show is indeed beneficial to all. The acting from the bit players is average at best. The story is exceptionally terrible. I hope David Greenwalt never tells another video game/internet story again.

Meanwhile, Juliette realizes she's getting her memories back. Monroe accidentally tells her what she's seeing are memories of a night at Nick's trailer. Specifically, Juliette sees a soaking Nick, telling her something. Juliette wants to know what the thing is. She's tired of being left in the dark and promises to leave Nick for good should he choose to keep the thing secret from her. I'm with Juliette. Just let her in on the nonsense that's going on. I was real tired during the episode so there were times I thought I dozed off and woke up 2 seconds later, believing the Juliette story took place in season 3. Just get it over with, writers.

"Nameless" also advances the royal family storyline. Honestly, the royal family storyline comes and goes, and I forget what's come before and what it means for what happened in the episode. Renard kills one of the royal’s spies. Next week's going to bring the royals arc into focus, which will be much welcomed.

So, no, "Nameless" wasn't the best episode of the series.

Other Thoughts:

-Nick and Hank thought they were investigating a human being for awhile. Have Nick and Hank investigated a human being once in the entire series? I don't think so. I also thought about how excellent their clearance rate is. They get a murder mystery; they solve it. Of course, Nick often forgets about his badge in bringing Wesen to justice. Maybe they aren't The Dudes at the precinct.

-I really do miss the hole in Juliette's floor. That was a cool effect.

-Monroe gave Rosalind an old clock for the spice shop in the episode's sweetest scene.


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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.