Saturday, December 13, 2014

Grimm "Chupacabra" Review

Network television does not foster ambiguity in characters, especially in the villains, whether it’s a macro villain or a micro villain (i.e. a villain of the week). Diego’s a great example of the quasi (or not so quasi) morality tales that mainstream pieces of pop-art have told more frequently in recent years. Bad guys are bad because they’re bad, and they’ll receive a terrible comeuppance for being bad. I watched the end of The Internship last weekend. The movie’s essentially Wedding Crashers in Silicon Valley. I thought indifferently about the movie until the morality play ending, in which the antagonist of the film is punished severely for his cold business stratagem. Current popular culture loves to extol its progressiveness in thought and consumption of art, but Hollywood, its writers, its producers, produce stories most popular in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Grimm’s villain of the week/sacrificial lamb, Diego, falls into the other trope of safe primetime acceptable family viewing television. The episode establishes him as a great person, a loving husband, a devoted doctor, who would risk missing his flight for the sake of the sick in the Dominican Republic. His colleague tells him, “We can’t do it all on one trip!” So, he’s a great person. A rare blood disease morphs him into the violent chupacabra. He brutally murders his neighbor and his neighbor’s dog, retains no memory of it like a werewolf, and accidentally spread the disease to his wife. He’s confused and selfless by the end, committed more to everyone but himself, and so he gives his wife the only dose of the cure. Diego dies an honorable, selfless death. The character still paid for his crimes with his life, but he saved a life-his wife’s life.

“Chupacabra” is better for what happens around the Chupacabra case. Wu becomes more assimilated into the world of Wesen and Grimms. The slow assimilation destroys his mental balance, but he’s closer to truth and contentment. The nightmares will stop. Hank and Nick do their part by explaining Trubel’s situation with the FBI agent. Wu doesn’t understand. He confuses what’s real and what’s not, which is potentially fertile thematic ground for the show if the world wasn’t rooted in its absolute existence. If network television branches out into more experimental television, which will never, ever happen, an exploration of “reality,” would shatter consciousness and perception. For Wu in Grimm’s established world his arc inevitably leads to acceptance and then contribution. It seems, in the New Year, the police department may finally become an issue for Nick. Finally.

The other case Nick and Hank work involves the pure Wesen death group that terrorized Rosalee and Monroe once. Rosalee’s terrorized again by a phone call and the hanging corpse of a fox (I think it’s a fox, or maybe a cat). The group kidnapped Monroe near the end of the episode, because the series won’t return until January 9, 2015. The story’s not great for a specific reason, which is an issue that the writers don’t care to fix, or don’t notice: marginalization. The serialized stuff happens in spurts. The creative energies every week go into the case-of-the-week. Renard discusses his child with a resistance leader. The Resistance wants to find the child. Viktor and Adalind plan to find the child. Neither group will come near the child until season six. The threat to Rosalee and Monroe happened in spurts. Burning wood in front of the house; a hanging, gutted animal, and in between Rosalee and Monroe seemed relatively unconcerned-relative the other stuff happening around them. The absence of the treat does not add to the dread and doom of the threat. I mean, one doesn’t feel dread because time has passed between threats. It’s more of a bullet point the writers want to return to. For the audience, it’s a forgotten point. If not that, then it’s a point without urgency.

Other Thoughts:

-Twists and turns happen in the last act. Juliette’s a hexenbiest. Monroe is forcibly taken from his home. Wu lost it at a bar. Come back in January to see what happens next.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Christmas Through Your Eyes" Review

Magic. Blah. How does a character defeat magic in a genre show? I wrote about The Vampire Diaries’ reliance on magic in past reviews. Magic’s easy to write. Kai becomes the most dangerous witch villain in the series by sticking his hands into the earth and sucking the Travelers’ magic. It’s a cop-out as well as convenient, and Kai’s at the center of other convenient scenes. Genre television builds to the crescendo in May. Contrivance, therefore, becomes a necessary evil, routine even. Damon and Alaric nearly pulled off a plan in which they’d use a gun to shoot a magic-free Kai, who had crossed the border into Mystic Falls. Jo rushes out of the house, unwilling to let her brother die, because then her twin siblings would need to merge per the ancient customs of their Gemini coven. Alaric does not shoot. Damon throws his hands in the air. Later, in a meta moment, he bemoans the sacrifice of logic for the sake of doing what Alaric’s girlfriend wanted. If Damon had replaced ‘girl’ with ‘the season’ or ‘the story’, I would’ve swooned. Metafiction would have reared its deviously fun head into The CW demographic.

Thus, Kai lives to suck the magic forcefield into his body, becoming more of a tempest than a tempest, and immediately endangering Elena’s life. Jo disappeared after her plea to spare her brother from a gunshout wound to the head-to power up, as it were, for her magical fight with Kai. The merging seems unnecessary for the foreseeable future. The duties of the siblings for the coven are a load of bologna. One hopes, in the New Year, when the second act of the season begins, that Liv, like Luke, realizes the futility and superfluity of family obligations. A major part, or theme, of the series has been the death of parents, of grandparents, of family, and of becoming stronger through, because of, that loss; however, another major theme has been survival-doing what one must for oneself without regard for the others. The seemingly inevitable synthesis of the series may be vampire, human, brother, sister, girlfriend, boyfriend, learning to co-exist. Jeremy, that specimen, asks Matt why he won’t try to coexist with Enzo. Matt babbles nonsense. Jeremy’s correct. The only way for the violence to stop is to live in harmony, but that won’t happen until the series ends.

Stefan wonders why he and his friends have the ability to stop the most evil being but lack the power to stop cancer from growing and spreading in a person. The Joyce Summers turn for Sheriff Forbes happens quickly-like Joyce Summers in the fifth season of Buffy. “Christmas Through Your Eyes” has a scene that’s intercut between two opposing plans involving Kai. Tyler’s plan works before Damon’s. The scene’s all set-up. The Sheriff Forbes collapse has no set-up. It happened. It’s scary. It’s unstoppable. It’s real, lousy, crappy, depressing, sickness. One never feels more helpless than when a parent is dying from something medicine and doctors can’t stop. Sheriff Forbes’ sudden sickness happens on the fringe of the episode. Her sickness re-bonds Stefan and Caroline. It sets up TVD’s very own and very sad “The Body” episode in the New Year. Perhaps Enzo will deliver the equivalent of Anya’s “I don’t understand” monologue.

The cancer storyline runs parallel with the flashbacks to the Mystic Falls Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in the blessed year of 2009. It juxtaposes past and present. Caroline had her mother and father. Caroline and Elena had Bonnie. Stefan gave Mystic Falls in a snow globe to Caroline, a trite and cheap gift to her in 2009 that means more and which she places in her mother’s hand in 2014. Bonnie, all the way in magic land 1994, stages her own tree lighting ceremony. Bonnie and Jeremy work in unison. He stands by the tree, in Mystic Falls, and tells her that he misses her. Bonnie tells the tree that she misses everyone in Mystic Falls and then she burns the tree. Yet another recurring theme emerges during and after the parallels in the past and present, in Bonnie’s literal past/present situation, and all the coven craziness, which is that the characters, to truly triumph, will need to defeat the past. The Elena compulsion storyline during the early season seemed a trite way to complicate her romance, but it allowed for her and Damon to create a new path together free from the prison of the past.

Liv and Luke make a decision because of the past, the burdening past, that prison. Liv makes the worst decisions. Whenever faced with a choice, she chooses a less than wisely. Liv decides her life, and her brother’s life, are worth more than Jo’s, who saved their lives twenty years ago. Luke takes off. Liv doesn’t. Luke leaves with warning that she must remember Kai’s murders fall on them because his life was spared for theirs. Again there are burdens, guilt, responsibility, which must eventually burn away like Bonnie’s tree. Kai shifts focus to Elena. She hasn’t been in peril in awhile. Kai also acts as another foil to contented happiness for Damon and Elena. She travels to the Salvatore house, but Damon can’t see her. Kai cloaked her. Magic. Blah.

Other Thoughts:

-Matt Davis and Ian Somerhalder seemed to really enjoy the Alaric-Damon spat that culminated in Alairc calling Damon a “dick.” My favorite part of their little drama was Alaric’s disbelief about Damon acting selfishly. Damon admits to acting out of a desire for control. I wish Alaric would’ve listed the atrocities Damon committed. Maybe not. The reformation of Damon is a welcome change to the ‘I am a bad man’ Damon that’s been oft-repeated in the last two years.

-Enzo and Matt are unlikely partners in destroying Stefan’s life. Enzo envies Stefan because Caroline likes him. Enzo lists more reasons, but it’s because of Caroline. Blood feuds on The CW involve women 99% of the time. Matt’s murderous attempt on Enzo’s life failed because of Kai’s magic mojo with the Travelers’ bubble of magic.

-The Vampire Diaries will return January 22, 2015.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Grimm "The Grimm Who Stole Christmas" Review

The Grimm did not steal Christmas. The Grimm saved Christmas. Well, no, he didn’t save Christmas. The Grimm helped relax the Christmas season in a slightly less rambunctious and less Gremlins-like holiday season through fruitcake, which King Augustus used in the 1700s to quell wesen children during the mania of puberty. The name of the children is hard to pronounce, impossible to spell without looking at it, and Nick and Monroe even exchange several lines about the difficulty of the name, its pronunciation. In fact, there are a few winky lines about the difficulty of the German Wesen names. A quasi-metafictional burst, seconds long, hits Monroe when he’s asked for the meaning of a Latin name, which he knows for no reason though the reason is that the writers need to communicate the puberty line, and it’s sort of a nod to the needs of the episode, to impart information, and I’m digressing. The Grimm doesn’t steal Christmas.

Grimm’s very enjoyable when the central plot involves Nick, Hank, and everyone else whom the audience feels invested in, likes, and enjoys watching. Too many times procedural television shows develop stories around and for a character, or characters, the audience will never follow again. Too many times Grimm does that. Nick and Hank seem reduced to more device than character. Other plots are more fragmented than stories. Adalind realizes her heel broke in a series of scenes—three or four, or, Wu detects a loose bulb in his home that also resembles a nightmarish beast from his past that only Nick knows about, that only Nick can explain; or Viktor maybe realizes he wants rare steak instead of medium rare, which takes two or three scenes.

“The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” has focus, concentration, directness, and involves Nick, Hank, Trubel, Juliette, Monroe, Rosalee, Joshua, and even Bud. Grimm can juggle multiple stories, engage the audience with those stories, without sacrificing the case-of-the-week to disposable characters in a disposable case that barely involves anyone the show follows weekly, but the writers choose to tell the procedurals with very little else happening. Part of that may be future syndication deals. Channels will want to run episodes audiences can follow without knowing the ongoing story. “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” is most entertaining. It begins with Monroe’s honeymoon proposal with them surrounded by toy trains, and it ends with a possible pregnancy.

The pregnancy doesn’t involve the newly married Rosalee and Monroe. It involves Juliette, anxiety about her Adalind appearance during her magical curing sex with Nick, and the pregnancy stick. Is she or isn’t she? Does it matter? Well, that’s a theoretical tunnel one needn’t grab a shovel for right now. One needn’t dig to explore what matters and what doesn’t in storytelling. In between the honeymoon scene and the end of the pregnancy is a mystery about rambunctious children enduring a crazy puberty period for twelve days. They wreck Christmas trees, attack homeowners, and smell like a high school boys’ locker room. The story allows for fun character interaction, fun wesen history, and Wu’s continued approach to the truth about Portland and his coworkers.

Meanwhile, Trubel and Joshua sleuth for clues about the group posing a threat to Rosalee and Monroe. Their storyline allows for the departure of Trubel and Josh. Trubel’s exit happens abruptly, yes, but two Grimms in Portland seemed unnecessary. Josh wanted to return home. Trubel wanted to protect him. Also, she wanted to become distant from Chavez. One knew Trubel would disappear into the world offscreen when Nick offered her the opportunity to show Josh the trailer without supervision.

“The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” had the structure and focus of the last episode before a hiatus, but Grimm returns with a new episode next week. Indeed, a mythic monster arrives in Portland. I thought tonight’s episode was the best this season--un, enjoyable, endearing, poignant, and silly.

Other Thoughts:

-The train scenes were amazing. Rosalee’s commitment to the trains’ protections would cause any man’s heart to swoon. Monroe’s dedication to gluing Santa’s head onto his body delighted me. Silas Weir Mitchell’s intense eyes in that scene deserve an Emmy. Okay, maybe not an Emmy, but maybe free fruitcake.

-Dan E. Fesman wrote the episode. John Gray directed.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "I Alone" Review

Kai arrives in the Mystic Falls/Whitmore part of Virginia with murder in his heart. Ah, ‘tis always the season. The Vampire Diaries’ writers still move their necessary exposition and plodding plot quickly. Jo deduces that Damon compelled Alaric to steal the Ascendant. Elena quickly learns Damon compelled Alaric, which leads to her storming out of the Salvatore mansion before forgetting the matter and instead deciding to apologize for wiping her memories of him-‘they’re only half-mine.’ How un-solipsistic. Solipsism and loneliness, or alone-ness, have a direct relationship. The unendurable “I.” Aloneness is a thing in “I Alone.” Of course-it’s in the title. People are alone at the end, or about to be alone, or afraid to be alone. Kai’s driven because he was cursed to exist as “I.” His father kept nothing around him except reminders of his murders.

Bonnie’s the lone character alone by episode’s end. Damon and Elena used the Ascendant to travel to hell 1994 with the purpose of rescuing her. Damon and Elena fail because of Kai. Liv and Tyler bring the duo back after Kai’s attempted murder of Liv. Elena freaks. Damon wants to murder Kai. Neither does much in retaliation. Kai sets Elena on fire, which isn’t even a thing. Kai then sets about murdering some Mystic Falls people after Damon throws him across the border. The most Kai does afterwards is enlist Tyler in his services, which is a thing villains do with Tyler. Klaus made Tyler his evil lap dog; Klaus 2.0, of course, will follow suit. Earlier, Tyler swore to protect Liv.

Speaking of characters eating their words, Alaric swears to Jo that Damon wouldn’t compel him to betray her. Alaric believes in his friendship with Damon. Damon, though a monster, psycho-and-sociopathic, and selfish, wouldn’t dare mess with his friend’s mind and his new, exciting relationship. Alaric’s only scenes involve disbelief and then angry outburst about the stupidity of his disbelief. Yes, Alaric realizes, it makes sense Damon would betray his trust and their friendship because of his motivations. Damon’s right to tell him he didn’t let Kai out. Kai had already escaped and murdered a taxi driver near Whitmore’s campus. Alaric could’ve said, “That’s not the point.” Instead, he punched Damon several times.

“I Alone” didn’t have a specific focus. The story’s scattered among the characters. Damon and Elena want Bonnie home. Alaric and Jo think the worst about Damon. Tyler swears to protect Liv. Jeremy correctly disbelieves the news about Bonnie’s impending return to Mystic Falls. Matt and Enzo hang out while Stefan learns the new Salvatore girl isn’t a Salvatore girl. Caroline doesn’t appear. The strongest of the four stories is Stefan’s. The Monique reveal didn’t need over two months worth of build. I expected a catch after Stefan compelled her. Maybe she was a secret Bennett witch; however, she dies. Enzo kills her. Stefan compels her to forget the Salvatore name. Monique wanted a family, but Stefan wants no one to know of his remaining family member. Enzo wants to know, though. Enzo’s a difficult character. He’s essentially a less funny season four Spike, predictably unpredictable, and without the funny chip in his head. Enzo’s the wild card. Wild cards do anything. Writers may use wild cards for any pointlessly plotty purpose. Enzo wants to kill the other living Salvatore family member? Sure. He’s a specific threat to Stefan because Stefan wanted to kill him for killing Ivy, his tertiary girlfriend. There’s belabored action in the Stefan/Monique/Enzo/Matt story. Stefan orders milkshakes. The noise of the milkshake machine prevents Enzo from hearing Stefan’s plan to take her from the diner because he knows she’s lying. Matt and Enzo catch up to the two after Monique finishes her most disappointing story about why she lied. Enzo snaps her neck after Stefan won’t tell him the truth.

The neck-snapping incident snaps off a piece of tolerance in Matt. Matt, whose life has been ruined by vampires and other supernatural folk, stops forgiving the undead for their brazenly brutal murders of people. Tripp, his deceased mentor for a couple episodes, killed by Enzo, had crazy ideas, but Matt zeroes in on one he likes: vampires think human lives matter less. Matt doesn’t agree. He sees Stefan as a different shade of Enzo. They share a nature, an essence, and a loose code. Stefan’s more upstanding, thoughtful, but he let Monique die. Matt perceives a threat: Enzo. He asks Jeremy to help him kill him. Jeremy wanted to drink more after he learned Bonnie would not return from hell 1994. The beginning of the episode showed Jeremy, two weeks free from drink, beating his sister in an early day run. Jeremy seems down for the Enzo plans. People need purpose.

So, there are several things happening, a major threat, and a minor threat, along with the potential for romance and love between characters. “I Alone” sets up the final episodes of 2014.

Other Thoughts:

-Damon made more pancakes topped with blueberries; Elena added the whipped cream. Elena heard Damon tell of his daily stops at the Gilbert front porch, swinging in the swing with Bonnie, because he thought it as close to a picture of Elena he’d have. The Gin Blossoms played while they eat pancakes. Ian and Nina do work well together.

-Ian’s reaction to Kai’s magic in the forest was funny. There’s only so many ways to react to magic head pains. The reaction reminded me of my own poor acting.

-If only our lives were accompanied by contemporary emotional pop music. Bonnie races to the front porch for rescue. She doesn’t find them. She sits, sad, on the front step, as contemporary pop rock croons a lonely song about feeling lonely.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Grimm "Highway of Tears" Review

Rudyard Kipling not only wrote stories, he killed Wesen in India-Wesen of a kind that sacrifices humans. Kipling’s yet another random historical figure with grimm or wesen roots in Grimm’s specific and specialized world. The wesen in “Highway of Tears”, whose name escapes me, are an afterthought, though. They barely appear after the teaser. The Indian roots of the wesen seems more inspired by the Rudyard Kipling reveal than for the story. Nick becomes a grimm again at the end of the episode, after he’s cornered by the villains of the week. They’re a non-threat, Nick’s a grimm, and he takes care of them as quickly as the writers introduced them and then decided, “Well, this didn’t work.”

No, the case-of-the-week, the villainous wesens of the week, does not work in “Highway of Tears.” One must work at establishing the characters’ motivations, of establishing the threat, but Nick and Hank spend more snapping pictures with Wu in the forests than pursuing the leads. What leads them to the villains is happenstance, dumb luck-the new love interest character for Hank visits the junkyard after she and the boys discover scrap metal models at the crime scene. Hank thinks less about the kidnapped victim and more about the officer he met and made brief eyes at, and whom he’ll enjoy scattered C stories with in upcoming episodes. Nick kills the villains, saves his friends, and the victim, though the victim is an afterthought, nameless, and his wife, the injured almost-kidnapped victim, never appears after she’s stretchered into the ambulance and out of the story. So, the case-of-the-week is filler and forgettable, one of the barely-assed procedural stories grimm will throw out every season.

Nick waits to become a grimm. His friends, too, wait for him to become a grimm. A problem with that storytelling approach is the waiting, the passivity, and the inactivity. Any creative writing course—whether it’s fiction concentrated or screenwriting—will urge the student to activate the characters. There’s nothing to do with characters waiting. Of course, not all characters must be active heroes, storming through scenes, working to change himself or herself. Chekhov, one of the great dramatists in history, didn’t populate his plays and his stories with supremely active characters. His characters sat, waited, dwelled in the past, idealized the future, but waited, waited, waited-his three sisters, for example, for Moscow, or the doomed Nina in The Seagull, for love, or the sad-sack males, Andrey in The Three Sisters, or Dmitri in The Lady with the Dog. Characters depend upon the story into which they act. Humbert Humbert does not exist without his story, but neither does the story exist with Humbert Humbert. Okay, I’m veering, digressing, becoming lost in the literary woods. The waiting period for Nick is more urgent because of the wesen threats posed to Rosalee and Monroe. He needs the ability back before something more terrible happens to his friends. Until then, his friends’ great protection is Juliette’s gun; however, Trubel’s a grimm, too, which lessens urgency. It’s clear nothing will happen to Nick if his powers do not return by episode’s end. When it does, it’s a ‘Oh, yeah…cool.” He defeats a guy with two minutes of development.

Viktor and Adalind, over breakfast, deduce who took Adalind’s child. Josh takes shelter in Portland, in Nick’s home. Trubel handles a FBI trailer by blowing out two of his tires with a knife. Viktor and Adalind don’t appear after they deduce how and why Nick’s mother took her child. The consequences of that discovery may take centuries to unfold. Renard’s mother plans to find Nick’s mother. None of these other stories are stories, per se. It’s exposition and movement. Brief sketches. Viktor and Adalind need to move beyond the Austrian castle. There’s nothing for Renard’s mother in Portland. Josh brings the key drama to Portland. Trubel decides to tell Nick about Chavez and the FBI. It aired Black Friday evening, the day after Thanksgiving, and it’s a long season. It’s not a good episode.

Other Thoughts:

-Never drive the scenic route at night. Why bother? One may remark, “The trees look foreboding shrouded in darkness.” I’d think Oregonian scenic byways would heal the soul, such as the 101. The victims of the week chose to drive the scenic route at night.

-Alan DiFiore wrote the episode. John Behring directed.

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.