Friday, October 31, 2014

Grimm "Octopus Head" Review

The title of the episode refers to the villain, the hired spy whom Trubel follows for 3/4s of the episode until he forcibly takes her with him inside the house where he’ll then use his octopus head to steal her memories and figure out what she is. If only life worked so simply that one could use tentacles to get inside the head of another so that he or she may learn more about that person. The villain experiences pain and anguish from the effort required to burrow in the head/mind of another person and extract memories. The ability to do so comes at the cost of his sanity (and what little is left of that crumbles upon learning Trubel is a grimm, and he becomes similar to the rats in Adalind’s Vienna cell within Viktor’s castle). Wu’s the opposite of the villain in his approach to extracting information from others. Wu uses his own memory to piece together the fragments of a bizarre period in his life and to piece together why a criminology protégé of Nick would behead an intruder. His mission, too, involves a nightmarish pursuit of the truth; however, Wu returned from insanity, whereas the episode’s villain broke from sanity into the always-waiting arms of insanity.

Memories mean something specific and different to every individual. A series of impressions, accumulated knowledge, and such, make up one’s very individual and personal ‘reality.’ Included in that is memory, at times a muse and at other times a cursed beast. The main thread of the episode in wrapped in the villain’s ability to extract memories and the intriguing scene in which Nick and Adalind share a mind and a double vision. Nick cannot tell Wu and Juliette what he sees nor his location. He sees rats, a heavy door, dirty, concrete walls, and two rats in the center of the circular cell. It’s a different way of expressing the opposite of the villain’s ability to take what he shouldn’t know or understand and possessing it. One’s memory, one’s mind, one’s perception, may be the key to unlocking the self; and since the self is so isolated, one goes mad within a different circular cell. The key to the detective case is within the villain’s mind, and the key to Nick’s individual grimm case is within a vision that’s not even his own but is within his mind, which isn’t so unfamiliar a thing as one may think.

Beyond that main crux of the episode, “Octopus Head” continues to move at the same pace as last week’s premiere episode. Trubel’s tail of the villain-of-the-week moves slowly, very slowly, and rehits the beats of her first two episodes of last season. She doesn’t follow directions; she’s reckless; she’s put in dangerous situations; she’s saved and then the process repeats. There are also inconsistences. Trubel told Nick and Hank where she tracked their guy down to the address, but they pursue the suspect at the hotel he left hours earlier and then re-learn information already told to them by Trubel. Nick and Hank save the day. The part of the plot involving the guy paying the wesen for his memory stealing services doesn’t reappear. Juliette enters the story halfway through to tell Rosalee and Monroe not to search for a grimm remedy. Renard wakes up and hangs out while his mother, after hearing about Renard’s adventures, only cares to comment on the birth of her granddaughter. Wu asks his questions about what’s going at the worst times.

Another bummer storyline that doesn’t so much rise to action as limply lugs itself along on barely working legs is the return of the least urgent story in television right now: the royals’ war with the resistance. Adalind’s put in a cell because Viktor wants her to give up the names of the men who assisted her escape. His betrayal reveals that he didn’t have the baby, which will create a conundrum for Adalind when she’ll have a choice to lash out at the resistance for taking her baby or lashing out at Viktor for being Viktor. Viktor patiently waits for her to break and give up the information he needs. He, too, could’ve used octopus head’s special gifts for accessing valuable information. Viktor’s patience is unmatched in current television procedural drama. He actively pushes Adalind in the cell, but besides that Viktor passively waits and waits while he eats a well-cooked dinner with a glass of wine-his refinement juxtaposed against his violent, merciless streak to do what he must for the sake of the crown.

The theme of mysterious yet quietly effective mothers continues in Grimm. Renard’s mother looks younger than him, and she can conjure a double-headed snake that resurrects the dead. Perhaps she’ll hold in her mind the power to heal Nick and Adalind and to disappear when she matters most and only then return when she’s nearly forgotten. Like any newly introduced character in Grimm, her screen time doesn’t extend beyond the length of a Zac Rinaldo shift, but her impossibly attractive appearance and her double-headed snake conjuring leaves an impression.

“Octopus Head’ is a fine second episode. Octopus Head is a decent villain, but he’s methodical. By methodical, I mean slow. Thus, the action in pursuit of him is slow. Nick’s little more than a supporting piece. The only scene in which Trubel stuck out was when she casually ate the sandwich while spying on a reputed spy. Yeah, Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt seemed to have a tiny political bent to their story (spying, covert operations, and etc). I don’t the ending came together well. The last two acts were dull and were not aided by the gaffes in the script.

Other Thoughts:

-The FBI agent took Trubel to see, presumably, the person she phoned about the identity of the Portland Grimm. I look forward to but also dread the introduction of another shadowy organization that may act with the speed of a rare tortoise.

-Jim Kouf & David Greenwalt wrote the script. Terrence O’Hara directed it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" Review

The second half of “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” rolled along way better than the first half. The first half repeated the essential beats of the first four episodes. Damon and Bonnie want to leave their 1990s hell but can’t because of Kai; Elena doesn’t want to remember her love for Damon, resists ending the compulsion, and flirts with her male model classmate before inviting him to the local corn maze; Alaric struggles to socialize with people, especially women, because of his new bloodlust; Tyler doesn’t want to become a werewolf again, and he also wants to date Liv; Caroline wants old Stefan back-the one she may love, not the jerk who flees town as often as Jeremy pumps iron, swigs whiskey, and sulks. Oh my goodness gracious does he sulk. He sulks more than season one Dawson Leery after he initially failed to attract Jen Leary. Elena and male model go to another party. Stefan has to fend off crazy vampire Ivy. Alaric sits in his classroom, reading a book and drinking vodka. Kai smugly addressed Damon and Bonnie while bullying them. And then Tyler runs his car through the corn maze, which injures dozens, and moves everything forward.

Yes, indeed: Tyler ‘crashes’ the corn maze party after receiving a text from Liz. One of Ivy’s victims ran into the street. Tyler swerved. The car ran over dozens of incredibly attractive young people, dressed to the nines in the trendiest styles one will see displayed in a mall fashion store. The mass carnage caused by the car crash puts different characters in difficult, challenging situations. Elena clearly never listened in her medical classes because she looks at a loss to help the injured. Immediately she resorts to vampire healing while her male model love interest helps and heals more people than a Zen Buddhist guru. The Mystic Falls gang must heal everyone or else Tyler becomes a werewolf, which is why Elena will let the hurt drink her blood. Male model character, though, naturally heals and raises eyebrow when he sees a previous hurt victim walking away from carnage with smiles and peals of laughter. Alaric helps Jo with the injured, resisting blood all the while, which challenges his vampirism and his growing interest in Jo-a kind, compassionate, sexy, fun doctor who instructs to Liv to provide comfort for a dying man.

Where does the crisis lead each character? It’s a wonderful plot device for such movement. Elena kisses male model again, unaware about Damon’s return from the 1990s hell. She continues to move on and away from him while he thought about his first night back with her leading up to his comical escape from hell. Liv kills the injured, dying guy to prevent Tyler from becoming a werewolf. Death is used in many ways in The Vampire Diaries. The deaths of Damon and Bonnie caused intense grief and anguish. The death of the young guy brings Liv and Tyler closer. It’s one of the rarer moments in TVD when characters reflect about a death rather than ignoring it like the human was no more than a gnat. Liv feels bothered, bummed, depressed, disturbed, or what-have-you, about what she did for Tyler. Tyler’s rarely had moments when he humanly connects with others, but he helps her cope with her lifechanging decision. It shows Liv’s decision mattered; she acted to save Tyler’s humanity. In that scene Tyler’s never been more human (except for the time he flipped out at Caroline for having sex with the guy who killed his mother). For Alaric and Jo, the night ends in failed compulsion. Alaric looks intrigued and curious. How does she know? Oh these mysteries.

The Caroline/Stefan story continues the strongest thread of the season: Stefan’s depression over his brother’s death. One of the earlier scenes, with Alaric, showed his frustrations about Elena’s choice to forget Damon and live so easily afterwards. Alaric confronts him about lying about his mission to save Damon. Stefan laments the difficulties and challenges of his life, how he cannot start anew because Enzo and Caroline show up, and that leads to Enzo killing Ivy with his blood in her which leads her to becoming an uncontrollable hungry vampire. Caroline and Stefan do not reconcile. Their relationship further regresses. In a later scene, near the episode’s end, Caroline bids him adieu. She doesn’t want him around. But when people feel completely lost, a ray of light, to use a common phrase, will shine. Indeed, a light comes to Stefan in the darkness of the Salvatore tomb during his tearful conversation with their memories about how lost he feels without his brother only to look and see when he throws his bottle of bourbon, in frustration, into the waiting hand of Damon, newly returned from hell. Again, the strongest love story in The Vampire Diaries is the fraternal one.

Damon returned alone because Bonnie took an arrow to the chest, shot by Kai, and couldn’t stand in the magic light back to Virginia. The 1990s storyline repeats the essential beats. Kai bluffed his way to the precipice of escape. The way he left will motivate Damon to find a way to save Bonnie. The entire episode follows this idea that’s prevalent in television: “don’t become comfortable; change it up when characters become comfortable.” “Comfort” isn’t the best word to use. Complacency works better for the specific context of this specific world and the fictional inhabitants of this world. Sadness and inaction doesn’t create awareness. The only aware one is Caroline and so, of course, she sees Tripp take Ivy into his death van. Damon’s the catalyst. Now it’s on to the next segment of season where inaction becomes action.

Other Thoughts:

-Jo tells Alaric that she thinks she was meant to know him. I never thought a thought of mine would find an echo in The Vampire Diaries. Once upon a time I thought I was meant to know a girl. I had never been surer of a feeling and of a person I barely knew more than I was of her and her meaning on my life; I have never been more wrong in my life.

-Kai’s desire to escape is very similar to the professor’s desire last season to resurrect his wife. That’s not good. Both are equally dreadful stories.

-Brett Matthews wrote the episode. I missed the name of the director.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Grimm "Thanks for the Memories" Review

Memories, interpretations, intuitions, instinct—these things Nick has. No longer does he have the sight, the grimmness, or whatever you prefer, but that doesn’t hinder him in the premiere. Instead, his challenge is domestic, and his only ally is trust. Trust that Trubel will nail the story for the Feds during her interview about what happened at the house when Weston shot Renard and she later beheaded him. Trust that his relationship with Juliette won’t break because of the unexpected Adalind element. “Thanks for the Memories”—the title—comes from the villain’s part of the episode, which is very small, incremental way to set up next week’s more concentrated episode that doesn’t need to resolve last season’s finale. The title refers to the villain’s ability to steal the memories of others, but it also acts as a tongue-in-cheek ironical thing because memories, the mind, basically fail the characters at important moments.

Grimm’s episode structure is still a throwback to an different time in television before four acts changed to five and then five to six and then six to seven. Seven acts in a 41 minute episode of television seemed unheard of as much as 5-6 years. Only few shows played with seven acts. LOST stood out, for many reasons, but one of those reasons was the new, hip five act structure Lindelof and Cuse used. Writers want to pack in two acts worth of plot, character, and action within a 5-7 minute act; the goal is to write toward the act-out. So in any procedural in broadcast television the audience will see bursts of plot, character, and action, sustained and building, building, until the act out. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf do not follow the new formula. Grimm’s definitely not paced like The Vampire Diaries or Sleepy Hollow where things happen fast, hard, and everything’s immediate. TVD’s urgency bubbles during quieter scenes because of the sound design. Some rock-pop sentimental tune pushes and forces the moment. Not Grimm, though. Greenwalt and Kouf broke into television almost two decades ago in the bygone days of four acts. Two of Greenwalt’s previous shows, Buffy and ANGEL, could move, but the pacing and storytelling didn’t depend on ensuring the audience would stick around despite yet another commercial break. Grimm’s formula, its ambling pacing, the embrace of very slow rising action, seems most similar to Cris Carter’s X-Files, which never sacrificed mood, tone, pacing for the advertisers, and which would let Mulder and Scully listen to a victim of sexual abuse tell her story for five minutes. “Thanks for the Memories” doesn’t ‘move’ until the last two acts, which is when Nick and Hank learn about the memories monster.

“Thanks for the Memories” doesn’t have a long powerful scene such as the one in The X-Files’ “Die Hand Die Verletzt.” Greenwalt and Kouf need to hit definite and diverse beats in each condensed act, but they don’t rush resolution and action. Besides Trubel’s role in Weston’s murder, nothing resolves. Action rises, but it doesn’t fall. Renard continues to die, and does, but that story has mysterious intrigue in the form of the mysterious blonde lady who seems to change Renard’s vitals by her presence. Juliette won’t allow Adalind to further ruin her relationship with Nick though the relationship’s off and she’s off and Nick’s off. Juliette dislikes knowing Nick couldn’t tell between her real self and someone playacting her. His memory of her and all that means failed. Nick’s senses were supernaturally sharp. His sight was sharp-he saw through faces; he saw the essence of things: what existed beyond the face, under the face, in the face, in the soul. But he missed it with Juliette.

Much of the episode concerns the Renard’s shooting, of the local police and Federal agents deciding that Trubel acted in selfdefense through her story that Nick and Hank help prepare for her. For all of their precautions, new and old characters learn more about Nick through skimming his grimm books. Wu paged through the book and almost heard the truth from Hank about nightmares. The new federal agent, a wesen, suspects something about Trubel and Nick. Grimm continues to expand the world of the show. More people know what Nick and Trubel are. The FBI suspects Weston worked with another organization, which potentially brings together one organization working within its own specific system with another organization, a royal ancient one, working within its own specific system, and finally with Nick, Trubel, Monroe, Rosalle, and etc. Grimm, of course, moves at a specific sloth-like pace. The FBI may investigate for two seasons and not find anything. The attention Nick receives in season premieres and season finales inevitably dwindles as the show returns to the standalone case-of-the-week format.

The aforementioned villain of the episode moves along without notice, murders a woman, tries to leave his situation but returns to it after his boss refuses to let him stop before the ‘work’ is done. The police bring him in. He leaves. Trubel sees he’s a nasty kind of monster. Nick and Hank accidentally told him where his only living victim heals and will need to pursue before he kills the problem. “Thanks for the Memories” is ¾ a continuation of the season finale, and ¼ the extended teaser for episode two. Monroe and Rosalee show love and support for their friends. New, interesting characters do mysterious and/or intriguing things. The Austrian Royals storyline continues to exist. Yes, that’s all.

Other Thoughts:

-The wardrobe department dresses Silas Weir Mitchell in the coolest vests and sweaters. Monroe and Rosalee opt against going away for their honeymoon because of their friends’ situation. I would’ve liked to have seen Monroe and Rosalee assuaging family members about the grimm that served as best man to the groom. Deleted scenes maybe?

-Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt wrote the episode. Norberto Barba directed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Black Hole Sun" Review

Why save or mourn or care about the very worst, morally deprived characters in The Vampire Diaries? That question likely had space on the writers’ room white board. The writers probably discuss the question, ponder it, dwell upon it, and so forth, for stretches during any and all seasons. “Black Hole Sun” is littered with reminders that these characters maimed and killed, drink themselves into oblivion, and loathe themselves more than anyone else loathes them. Damon’s always been the problem character in the series. We exist in a culture where audiences treat characters like people and thus the character’s morality matters more than anything else in the story. Damon cannot be an unrepentant monster; but rather he must repent and suffer for what he’s done. The writers have a trick or two to maintain the essence of the character without obviously retconning him (though they’ve retconned the retconned that retconned the retcon) or making him overtly remorseful.

“Black Hole Sun” flashes back to May 1994. Damon returned from his worldwide romp to reunite with his brother. Stefan returned to Mystic Falls determined to create a new life, a more normal life, which parallels Stefan’s goal twenty years later, on the outskirts of Mystic Falls. Damon ruins Stefan’s happiness in 1994. He slaughters a family along with a pregnant woman. His Uncle Zack will die fifteen years later because of Damon’s remorse and regret. Stefan explains to Damon why Damon acts out, which also acts as an explanation for the audience: Damon doesn’t want Stefan to find happiness and contentment. The twist to their complicated fraternal relationship is that Stefan, free of Damon in 2014, cannot enjoy a happy, contented life without Damon. He cannot live without his brother, for good or ill. Elena, for the same reasons, can’t live without him. Stefan explains it in a way that’ll relate to the rebel spirit of impressionable teenagers and the ‘dark’ parts that write bad poetry: Damon helped Elena find comfort in the darkness-the only part that felt alive-and when he died, that part died. So, yeah, Damon’s a monster; however, he’s a noble monster. Save him.

Stefan and Elena spent the episode traveling together. Stefan wanted to prove he could live a happy, normal life. He can’t. He fails. The aforementioned happiness and contement of his breaks apart when a bar patron breaks his face. Elena witnesses Stefan’s habit of letting others beat the hell out of him. Stefan’s retort hits a number of significant beats that lingered from past seasons as well as from the first three episodes. Elena uses compulsion to forget, so why can’t he do what he needs to get by without Damon? As always, the brothers’ love story trumps the romantic love story. Stefan’s grief is a more adult kind while Elena’s is more adolescent. Alaric offers to restore her memories, but she declines. Her diary, which Alaric showed her, allows her to continue to exist without devolving into a chaotic murderous vampire. Perhaps there’s a deeper idea there about memory and the written word. Memory deteriorates, fades, mixes, confuses events, people, where and when, who was there; however, the written word, the most faded ink (as an old proverb or fable goes) is stronger than the strongest memory. Elena will not meet Damon’s inevitable return with confusion, hatred, and the like. Also a nice touch: the diary. It is The Vampire Diaries.

Damon essentially cops to feelings of regret and remorse through his admittance for why he killed his uncle Zack. Kai, the latest villain and plot device, asks for a story. Kai functions as an antagonist-to Damon, to Bonnie. He’s a villain for murdering his siblings, and for wanting to murder the rest of his coven/family. He’s a potential mass murderous problem whenever the trio leave his hell. Kai’s a frustrating character. Part of that’s designed and part of that isn’t. TVD follows the same formula season-after-season. Season 6 is no different; however, the flashback episode that reveals various inciting incidents’ for various characters happened in episode four. Kai, like previous villains, belabors everything for the sake of exposition for the sake of characterization. Damon’s story matters more than the specific plots, which is fine. Plots don’t make a story. Kai’s motivations come together laboriously: he murdered his brothers and his sisters, and he’s a powerful witch banished to hell by his coven. He wanted Bonnie and Damon to do the hard work for him. Bonnie won’t. He helps her regain her magic and the concentration necessary for magic and only after all that does he threaten to kill them both. He never will. He’s either a bad guy who the fans will like, which is all of the bad guys except for Markos, and will hang out with the gang come season 7, or he’s a bad guy the fans will like who will die but then occasionally return (like Kol). Kai’s as lively and charismatic as the originals.

The framing of “Black Hole Sun” is Kai’s-he suggests Damon tell of his horrible action the day of May 10, 1994. The 90s pastiche of previous episodes disappeared. Damon holds up a newspaper showing the news of Kurt Cobain’s death. Damon, we learn, makes pancakes everyday because the lady he killed loved pancakes. Okay, then. The brotherly conflict deepens. Damon explains why he killed Stefan’s favorite people. His reasons seem more sociopathic than anything, but Stefan nods and decides not to take a road trip with him. His decision not to take a road trip with Damon happens before Damon slaughters an entire family and goes all Dawson on Stefan in the Salvatore living room.

I think part of Kai’s deal involves unearthing truths. Any non-supernatural character digs and digs for truth. Human memories for Mystic Falls civilians are foggy and confused. Entering Mystic Falls removes magical compulsion, reveals truth, and reveals that those who people though monstrous were not monstrous but only manipulated by monsters. It’s like they open a book and there it is: the world within a word, or, rather, words within created worlds. Tripp found the vampire that killed his wife, Enzo. Sarah remembered Elena. Jeremy helped clear up, for her, the identity of her father. Tripp and Sarah will together, with Jeremy and Matt mixed in as foils and spies, as conflicted humans who’ll eventually succumb to the orders of their supernatural bully friends. Maybe that’s what season 6 will dwell upon: the idea of unearthing, of seeing what’s there when something’s not, of trying and failing to fill a hollow.

Other Thoughts:

-Jodi Lyn O’Keefe returns and sasses Alaric for looking at bloodied patient instead of her. Alaric, when not screwing up his chances with the cute doctor, helps Jeremy deal with sadness.

-No Caroline or Tyler. Damon and Sheriff Forbes met in 1994, but he compelled her to forget him. I assume she remembers their meeting now

-Kellie Cyrus directed it. Melinda Hsu Taylor  & Neil Reynolds wrote 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.