Monday, December 16, 2013

How I Met Your Mother "Bass Player Wanted" Review

Not even 20 seconds into tonight’s episode I thought negatively about the episode. Marshall began a five-mile walk that was portrayed as longer than five miles, complete with a musical number and a cameo by Bigfoot. Marshall’s subsequent ride to the Farhampton Inn with Ted’s future wife furthered my irritation with the episode. One assumes Marshall began his trek and traveled, at the very least, a half-mile, which means he’d have four-and-a-half miles to go before he reached the Inn. Ted’s future wife picks him up and they immediately bond over their separate challenges in their personal lives. An involved personal conversation ensues, and the breezy four-and-a-half mile car ride to the Inn stretches into eternity. Time elapses more than ten minutes in “Bass Player Wanted.” Ted has time to break-and-enter into a liquor store and steal the expensive bottle of scotch in the basement. Barney has time to stew over Ted’s secret move to Chicago. Robin and Lily have an involved fight followed by reconciliation and an impromptu boxing session with Marshall pillow. Obviously, the car ride never existed. Future Ted imagined it as he told his children the story of how he and their mom met, or I should get Nabokov out of my head and roll with the improbable drive to the Farhampton Inn.

“Bass Player Wanted” is the second or third best episode of the season. It was without fluff and filler and flashbacks. The writers weren’t leaving long marks in the ground from dragging their feet. My mind didn’t wander during the episode. I didn’t feel the precious time ticking away with each second. The writers weren’t wasteful this week. Three important plot points were addressed. It took a tertiary plot device to move the stories ahead, lazily tied into Ted’s future wife to make it more earned and organic, but it wasn’t. Close friends shouldn’t decide to be honest whenever a stranger throws a tree branch into embers. Barney, for the first time ever, had a right to act petulant and childish. Marshall should’ve worried about meeting Lily after other plot device let the judgeship secret slip. The Lily-Robin conflict happened.

The tertiary plot device, aka the singer for Future Wife’s band, charmed Lily, Robin, Ted and Barney before tossing the aforementioned tree branch into the embers. Lily and Robin squabbled over Robin’s opinion about Italy and the judgeship. Robin sided with Marshall selfishly because she doesn’t want to lose Lily, but she understands why Lily feels hurt and betrayed. Robin helps Lily work through her motions through a physical release, which is preferable to the alcoholic treatment she’d contented herself with since her arrival at the Farhampton Inn (initially because of Marshall’s absence and then because of the judgeship revelation). Her arc in “Bass Player Wanted” is scattered but she reaches a necessary emotional point by the time Marshall arrives: she’s raw, without that annoying comical desire for revenge. Alyson Hanigan and Jason Segel express very much without speaking when Lily and Marshall look at each other. The space between them is uninspired direction (considering Boy Meets World made fun of that staging trope 13 or 14 years ago in the sixth season Valentine’s Day episode), but regardless it’s the best acting this season. Hanigan’s very good when she’s asked to induce sadness in the viewers.

Ted’s secret move to Chicago baffled, saddened, and angered Barney, but no one else finds out about the move. Ted needs to move because he can’t bear to stay around married Robin to his vey good buddy Barney, which Barney eventually realizes after he pulls his head out of his own ass. The writing tries to get Ted and Barney to a vulnerable place when Ted embraces Barney with an “I love you” following Barney’s earnest “I’ll miss you.” Ted’s gesture was executed better. Radnor and Harris were good in the “I love you” scene but it was neat a minute after Ted created a mess (or three-four minutes). Barney searched for reasons to convince Ted to stay, unaware his reason was within a mile of the Inn and, later, a room apart from him.

Ted and his future wife were the closest they’ve been in the present day narrative, which led to their first connection through a mutual dislike for Darren. Darren caused Ted to break the third glass of expensive scotch. Darren forced the nameless one from her own band. The scenes between Marshall and The Mother showed more of her than in previous episodes. The Mother’s previous portrayals, as the perfect woman who’s not even human but more of a metaphysical goddess, was poked fun at when she described Marshall’s situation to Marshall. Their scenes showed off her personality. Milioi is good fun with the right material. The story devolves into contrived, sappy, sentimental, and gooey stuff from romantic comedies. I liked, though, that she was separate from her fate with Ted, i.e., that her portrayal wasn’t dependent on where she’ll end and on defining her as Ted’s perfect mate. Initially, at least, it was not that, but the third act brought their destined union to the forefront over the bit of karmic justice done unto Darren, ending with Ted receiving his first drink from her, though without seeing her or even knowing who bought him the expensive scotch.

“Bass Player Wanted” was not the best episode, but it wasn’t wasteful. Nearly every episode has shown why the season-long wedding was not a good idea. After thirteen episodes, the gang’s finally together, and the mother is definitely at Farhampton. How I Met Your Mother can easily screw the rest of the season up, but it’s nearing the New Year, so I’ll hope for good things in 2014 for HIMYM.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Grimm "Cold Blooded; Twelve Days of Krampus" Review

Grimm’s two-episode two-hour mid-season finale had little connected. “Cold-Blooded” told a specific story that delved into the mythology of the Grimms, and “Twelve Days of Krampus” put a twist on seasonal Santa stories. Renard’s business in Austria connected the two episodes. The credits billed the two hours as part one and part two. I do not know why NBC executives resist honesty about lumping two episodes together for the sake of reaching the hiatus. The JFK 50th anniversary special bumped an episode. The lone way for NBC to meet its schedule demand was to lump two very different episodes together. The Austrian plot carries through into “Twelve Days of Krampus,” which offers a sense of unity between the two; however, “Cold-Blooded” concludes with Alexis Denisof’s Victor watching Adalind via camera, and Nick returning his new powerful weapon to the ‘toy’ chest in the trailer.

Fans have waited—I’ll only write that I waited—for significant screen-time devoted to the nonsense happening in Austria between the Royals and the Resistance. For seemingly forever, which isn’t true and really a crutch for lazy writers to use when writing fast for who knows why, the Austrian storyline happened in a different narrative universe. Nick’s been connected to the Austrian subplot since the first season, without his understanding of the connection for over a season and a half. Renard connected the audience to the action in Europe. Two or three episodes of the series involved Nick in Renard’s business. There was the episode with the coins, the finale last season, and the unnecessary Renard-Juliette storyline. Nick reacted to what he faced in the moment and then stopped reacting after it was over. He’s like a surfer ready for the wave but when that wave’s just gentle lapping against the board he goes back to bobbing on the board, waiting for the break.

Renard’s involvement was portrayed as passive for long stretches. Phone calls would detail him about the situation. The episode with the coins showed the audience Renard’s visions, his aspirations of grandeur, but that was followed by nothing. Eric, the Prince, the supposed bad guy, did very little for long stretches. Eric dined with Adalind, engaged in sexual intercourse with her, and talked cryptically with his brother about business. The Verrat were established as villains through its roots in Nazi Germany. Remember that ridiculous conclusion in which we learned Hitler used those coins to rise to power? The Verrat want absolute global power. Renard wants to prevent his family absolute global power. The race between the tortoise and the hare finished before the writers decided to do anything with Renard, with the Verrat, and with the Resistance. The Resistance episode has been the lone intriguing, engaging, exciting and worthwhile story involving these insufferable rebels and royals, Renard, his brother and, now, his cousin, Victor, portrayed by the quite excellent Alexis Denisof.

Tonight’s two episodes defined the specific conflict between the two factions. Eric’s assassination happened off-screen. Renard learned of it through a phone call. The confusing depiction of the pivotal plot point seemed like a deliberate attempt to mislead the audience, but why bother misleading an audience about a story so seemingly inconsequential? It seems inconsequential because of the forty-five seconds devoted to its movement per episode. The conflict is mainly about keeping the royals from securing the power they seek. The resistance killed Eric, killed one of its own for betrayal, and plans to fight Victor when he becomes the Prince. (I think I have that straight). The Resistance accepts Renard because of his ‘bastard-ness’ as well as his connection with Nick, the Grimm. Tonight’s episodes had the lengthiest scenes of this storyline in awhile, but nothing more happens than what I recapped. Renard sent a message to Adalind about the cameras set up to watch her in the hotel, a message that also served as a beseechment for her to meet him in a cafĂ© to learn about what’s going on, and for him to finally learn about the very important royal baby. The writers have yet to integrate the story well into the show. Renard’s a difficult character to root for and Adalind hasn’t been interesting since she left Portland following Nick’s victory over her. Adalind was a decent character when in the role of the noir femme-fatale making Nick and Hank’s life more difficult. Ever since her arrival in Austria she’s been dependent on powerful but uninteresting; she, of course, has been dependent on others since her introduction; however, as a hexenbiest she had some agency. Renard’s finally driving the action in Austria compared to barely seen Eric and Adalind last season and that should help the story along. Denisof’s role as Viktor should help, too, but this show botched Eric so badly that I worry Alexis Denisof’s immense talents will be wasted.

Nick and Hank stop the bad guys in two consecutive episodes. The second episode stood out more. The legend of Krampus was a fun twist on the story of Santa, even if it reminded me of Goldberg’s turn as evil Santa in 2005’s Santa’s Slay. Nick discovered a powerful weapon in “Cold Blooded” that stopped three monstrous brothers. Hank’s life was threatened in the final act. Wu got his most significant action in the case when he went into a sewer to look around after a worker was murdered. Wu got more action in the second episode when he found the shocked, hysterical teenager in the car after the Krampus attack.

“Twelve Days of Krampus” returned to an idea the writers hadn’t returned to in awhile, which how to bring a Wesen to justice. Some Wesens won’t make sense to law enforcement, to courts, and Nick hasn’t had to deal with figuring out what to do until he comes across evil Santa Claus. Krampus takes naughty children to eat before midnight on the night of the winter solstice. The teenagers he took stole presents from shoppers. Nick and Hank don’t break the case open until Monroe remembers something about coal that connects the case to a Wesen legend. Nick and Hank stop Krampus but then don’t know how to deal with him. Monroe and Hank suggest outright murder, even though Nick stopped him by tapping into the side of him responsible for the biker’s death in the premiere. The Wesen retakes human form, so the human’s brought in for questioning and all that. Nick still hasn’t found a good way to deal with Wesen as a detective. I think Nick’s struggle between his work as Grimm and his work as detective worked better when he worked with Monroe. It added a cool dynamic to him and Hank’s investigation in season 1.

Monroe and Rosalee experience their first unharmonious moment in their relationship over Christmas. Monroe embraces the Christmas season, stringing lights across his rooms, assembling a Christmas train set, adorning the Christmas tree with decorations, while Rosalee feels the way Joni Mitchell feels in “River.” Tragedy in her past soured her on Christmas. Monroe’s sad about her sadness. Rosalee feels badly and figures out love will turn their frowns into smiles. Rosalee’s love for him motivates her to put up what Monroe took down for her. It’s a sweet story that shows what someone can do for someone else during the happiest and saddest time of the year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Vampire Diaries "Fifty Shades of Grayson" Review

Season five of The Vampire Diaries has aired ten episodes without any theme, narrative, plot, arc connecting one episode with the other. In other words, this season lacks cohesion. Things happen each week. Characters have changed, yes. Character pairings changed. Character dynamics changed. I suppose what holds each up and together is what’s missing from the season. Bonnie’s dead arc mattered because her friends wanted to bring her back, and would once they found out she could (after finding out she died). Damon’s revelation about the Whitmore murders matters because of its affect on Elena, and however Elena is affected affects Damon. Stefan’s psychological trauma post drowning and Silas nonsense mattered because of his brother and Elena. I dig continuing character stories. I’d like for the character stories to be consistent with the characters, though.

The diabolical experiments performed by Dr. Wes were a long way to break up Damon and Elena by the hiatus. That’s the entire reason for everything Whitmore, right? Enzo was introduced last week to vividly remind the audience of the kind of person Damon was and still is. The confessional about the murderous rampage through decades of Whitmores further cemented Damon’s monstrousness. Damon’s monstrous side was a major part of the first two seasons until the writers decided to redeem him through his love for Elena. His good acts, I guess, made up for his bad acts. Damon developed into a decent person, and so Elena chose him over Stefan. Last week’s episode suggested Damon hadn’t changed, had only feigned what Elena perceived as change. Essentially, the episode suggested one cannot change, that who one is will forever remain. It’s an interesting angle to continue in “50 Shades Of Grayson” considering the emphasis on change and redemption, as seen in Katherine’s scenes, as well as in the scene wherein Stefan lets Aaron live.

Elena witnessed Damon at his worst when he killed her brother twice or thrice times, when he threatened Bonnie’s life a dozen times, when he used Caroline as his plaything, and when he made her life hell in general. I didn’t think Elena would’ve chosen him after he snapped Jeremy’s neck in season two. Damon’s actions against the Whitmores resulted in a higher body count but his actions in seasons one and two hurt characters we care for and invested in. Enzo’s an example of the detachment one feels for the Whitmore plot. Enzo tries to tell his heartbreaking story in which Damon betrayed him and left him for dead, only to survive and get picked apart day after day for over fifty years. The Salvatore brothers don’t care to listen. Damon knows the story, and Stefan cares about finding Elena. Caroline Dries, who wrote that scene, is telling the audience, ‘Enzo’s story doesn’t matter, don’t invest in this whole thing because it doesn’t matter, what matters is the brothers’ investment in Elena.’

Together, Elena and Damon aren’t interesting. In two seasons, the writers did not bother with them together. Compared to the epic portrayal of Stefan and Elena, it’d odd, but tortured love makes Elena and Damon beat. Conflict drives teenage soaps, especially this one with immortal vampires vying for one’s girl’s eternal love. My least favorite scene of the season was Damon’s admission of his monstrousness and subsequent decision to free Elena from him because he doesn’t want her to change for him, to accept what he’s done out of love for him. Damon forgets he pulled her to him through the sire bond, initially, along with the other horrible stuff he did to people she loves. Whatever, though; I’ve covered that. Elena chose him and would’ve continued to stay with him. Damon’s choice is an expression of selfless love, delivered coldly to drive her away and to send young girls into convulsive fits their parents won’t know how to treat.

Elena’s doppelganger, Katherine, experiences guilt, remorse and a desire for someone to see her as redeemed before she dies. In Stefan she sees an opportunity for redemption: for someone to absolve her of the wrongs she’s done to people in her life. Stefan can’t absolve her. Katherine hears, “I’m sorry you’re dying” from him a scene before she dies. Nadia returns to town to help her mother, though she leaves town right before Katherine changes her mind about the traveler idea. By that time, Katherine’s heart fails and she falls to the ground, presumably dead. Characters don’t so much die on TVD anymore, though. Katherine’s relationship with Nadia showed a softer side of Katherine, but Katherine’s the best when she’s unapologetically Katherine.

So, at the end of the mid-season finale, Katherine is dead, Elena lost Damon, Stefan lost no one but displayed restraint in his scene with Aaron, Aaron cut Wes out of his life, the lab remains, as well as Enzo. The terrible Whitmore storyline continues. Elena learned her father experimented on vampires so he could help people heal. Damon wonders why she didn’t focus on the 100 pages of torture. Sometimes life comes down to how we look at things.

Other Thoughts:

-The flashbacks of little Elena walking down the stairs reminded me of the loop in the penultimate episode of Buffy’s fifth season. Buffy’s flashbacks in “The Weight of the World” were brightly lit unlike the lowly-lit black and white flashbacks in tonight’s terribly titled episode.

-“50 Shades of Grayson”? Really, Julie Plec and Caroline Dries?

-Ian Somerhalder is doing his best to make Damon’s arc work. Paul Wesley’s still the best actor on this show. This episode is bad. Wesley’s acting was the only enjoyable part. Nina’s amazing right now as Katherine, but those scenes with Nadia drag.

-Caroline Dries wrote the episode.

-The Vampire Diaries returns wih new episodes on January 23. Everyone watch Community’s fifth season on Thursdays, beginning January 2.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Arrow "Three Ghosts" Review

Oliver’s journey from series beginning was to save Starling City after saving his father’s reputation, restoring his memory, and forgiving his father for his sins. The journey ended badly. Oliver was more killer than hero. He hurt the people he love, put them in danger whether he meant to or not. A certain detachment existed in Oliver once he returned from his five year ‘exile’ after the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit. Laurel tethered him to the present; his friendship with Tommy also acted as a tether. They kept him level, sane, behaved, inhibited. Things went bad with Tommy in the season finale. Malcolm Merlyn’s insanity resulted in over 500 deaths and the death of his son. Oliver resolved to become someone else—no longer a vindictive vigilante hell-bent on a blood for blood philosophy. Oliver wanted to be the hero the first season teased he was. Oliver vowed not to kill, to do what’s right, to protect those he cared about from what Tommy faced.

Tommy, however, unbeknownst to anyone in the series, besides Slade, and to the audience, was the final life Oliver watched die that he had a direct role in, and he couldn’t be that guy anymore. The past made him who he is and defined him throughout the first season. The island scenes were, initially, a way to show how playboy billionaire Oliver Queen transformed into The Hood. Impossible and dangerous situations changed him, choices he made informed his character, and he looked more a victim refusing to succumb to victimhood. The past hovered over the first part of the two part mid-season finale. Oliver’s looks whenever he discussed the serum suggested a disturbance he felt, as if a memory hit him as unexpectedly as a sudden wind.

Oliver’s past confronts him during his hallucinations. Shado and Slade haunt him after Barry saves his life using rat poison. The rat poison does not affect Oliver. His mind does. Barry explains his hallucinations aren’t pharma-logical but rather psychological. Oliver feels guilt and remorse. Shado comes to him gently, softly recommends letting, which doesn’t mean to let go of the fight to live but to let go of the guilt he feels for what happened on the island. Ivo gave Oliver a choice between Sara and Shadow, just like the Joker gave Batman a choice between Harvey and Rachel. Unlike Batman, Oliver wants to save both. Batman yelled, “I’m going to Rachel,” unaware of the trick played on him. The critical moment is oddly staged and confusingly shot. Oliver runs forward, kneels down, shouting, “No!” Ivo shoots Shado in the head afterwards. It looked like Oliver dropped to his knees between the women, but from the angle of Ivo, which the episode cuts to when Shado is shot, it looks like Oliver’ kneeling in front of Sara. Shado’s death is cataclysmic.

The formerly dead but instead very much alive Slade awakes asking for Shado and then unleashes incredible power on Ivo’s men, throwing soldiers through trees and ripping a man’s still beating heart from his chest. The prone dead body of Shado unleashes a torrent of grief, proclamations about what he’ll do to those responsible for her death. Sara lies to him about why Ivo shot him, leaving the part about Oliver’s choice out. Slade eventually learns what happened because he’s in present-day Starling City to work with, or rather oversee, Blood’s work with the serum. Slade’s plan of revenge involves destroying Oliver’s life. It’s not an original vengeance plan but it is a plan. I assume Slade spent time watching ABC’s Revenge and liked Emily’s approach to vengeance (though that character is more hands-on than Slade). The reveal of Slade as the man overseeing Sebastian Blood is framed for the effect of the surprise, though his profile is visible in the monitor on his desk. The camera pans up from his hand to reveal Business Suit Slade who wants to hurt Oliver as much as he hurt him the day he chose Sara over Shado.

Previous to the reveal, Cyrus Gold unleashes carnage on the city. Quentin follows Oliver’s advice to bring men in an attempt to take down Cyrus, but all of the men except him die at his hand. Slade anticipated every one of Oliver’s moves, seemingly. His goal is to crush his life, so Blood goes after Roy, will go after Felicity, and has nearly killed Quentin through Cyrus Gold. Cyrus is killed after an explosion. Sebastian Blood leaves, which leads to the aforementioned reveal. The end cuts between the past and present—Slade cradling Shado followed by present-day Oliver trying on his mask. I should mention Oliver’s third ghost (his second was Slade, who he lost to in an imaginary fight) is Tommy, who tells him to continue fighting, to not blame himself for his death for any death. Quentin tells Oliver the same thing. He cannot continue blaming himself. It’s an important truth for him to embrace for that inevitable fight with Slade, which he’ll have to engage in without guilt, without remorse, or else he’ll lose and the bad guys will win. That won’t happen. Oliver won’t triumph soon. Slade will hurt the people he cares about.

The scope of the second season is really impressive. The writers haven’t lost track of the characters (well, the ones that matter—Laurel’s doing nothing) in the midst of tremendous plotting. There are big bads all over the narrative. Big moments and little moments are written with equal nuance. Oliver’s internal psychological struggle with the past is important as Felicity’s feelings for him, as Oliver’s way of making right what he did to Roy’s leg, as Diggle’s issue with Deadshot, as Thea’s whatever. The writers haven’t thrown in these bad guys willy-nilly the way Sam Raimi was forced to in Spiderman 3, which derailed the film. Ivo, Blood and Slade connect. Merlyn’s shadowy operations above and beyond Oliver and Diggle tie into the actual Queen family. Arrow’s set up well for an awesome 2014.

Other Thoughts:

-The . episode concluded with Barry Allen’s Flash transformation event. The CW’s planning a spinoff for next season. Right before his transformative event, he tried to transform Felicity’s idea of whom she wanted by asking her out on a date sometime.

-I’ll miss watching Celina Jade light up the television with her transfixing beauty. Did the writers just run out of ideas for Shado? Her death’s important for the Slade v. Oliver, I know; however, the character had nothing for this season besides being involved with Oliver while Slade looked on enviously.

-Geoff Johns & Ben Sokolowski wrote the episode. Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisburg got the story credit. John Behring directed the episode.

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.