Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Arrow "City of Blood" Review

Oliver’s response to his mother’s death was isolation, seclusion, in a secret lair that served as backup in case the other lair was compromised. Felicity and Diggle find him there, with the help of A.R.G.U.S., and Oliver seems annoyed his trusted friends would search for him to see that he’s okay. Slade Wilson wanted to destroy Oliver’s life and kill the fighting spirit that carried him through the island and beyond, that helped him transform from killer to city champion. And Oliver looks destroyed. His absence from his mother’s funeral makes people mad. They don’t understand why he didn’t attend. Thea’s anger about her mother’s death, her frustrations about what her mother thought she felt when she died, is directed towards her absent brother. Thea doesn’t understand why Oliver wouldn’t warn anyone about the psychopathic Slade Wilson’s vendetta against him, brought about by a mysterious thing on the island. Thea doesn’t understand. Oliver and Sara are the only ones that truly understand. Both disappear at the prolonged moment of crisis.

Oliver’s ready to die before the start of act three. He puts in a call to Isabel to offer his surrender to Slade. Slade wanted to ruin the kid’s life before he killed him. Oliver sat in his large, empty room—the place he set up for an emergency but which became a sanctuary for him: somewhere he could be alone and think. Superheroes act. Thinking is a detriment to their duties. Hamlet would’ve spared lives had he acted against his uncle; instead, the Prince of Denmark thought and contemplated as Polinius died, and then his Ophelia, who drowned herself in a pond, surrounded by flowers. Hamlet’s lack of action—his agenbite of inwit—kills him in the end. Oliver thinks and he dwells and he feels sorry for himself and he feels that he is powerless to stop the menace hellbent on ending him, having already ended the life of his mother. So, he’s ready to die. Oliver thinks action is useless. The opposite of action is inaction. In the genre, a superheroes inaction means death, regardless if it is the hero that dies or innocent people that die while the hero sulks in a cabin in a faraway place.

Felicity and Diggle want to rouse him from his dwelling and move him to action, but he’s sad and broken. Laurel, though, won’t let her friend and former love died so meekly and sadly. Sebastian Blood’s smooth ascent to mayor of Starling City after Moira’s death fills her with the feeling she had during her earlier correspondence with Sebastian—as potential lover. Quentin and Laurel illegally accessed Sebastian’s files and found a statement written in response to Moira’s death written the day before Moira’s death. Oliver listens to Laurel tell him what he means to her, her sister, and to the city, with little interest. Dejection convinced him he’s no match for Slade. Sebastian, though, wakes Oliver from his internal, deadly sorrow; that is, Sebastian’s involvement with Slade, and his assent to do what Slade wants in exchange for City Hall. Oliver sits down for a drink with Sebastian to share a meaningful conversation that involves head nods and the truth. Sebastian’s in the role of triumphant villain’s accomplice, while Oliver’s had his heart ripped. But Oliver’s the hero.

A brave man freed from Ivo’s ship sacrificed his life for the sake of other lives on that island, which is where Oliver learned what makes a hero. The selfless hero of the flashbacks told Oliver he wanted to give back from Oliver saving him from Ivo’s tortures. Oliver admits he didn’t think about saving anyone’s lives on the ship because he only thought about going home. Oliver learned, though, how to enact what he learned on the ship in the days and weeks and months after whatever happened after the submarine and Slade’s ship collided. Oliver laments not curing Slade when he had the chance, which may return to the theme of inaction causing death.

Arrow, though a series full of family, friendship, and romantic relationships, singularly singles out Oliver Queen. He is the Arrow. His safe haven is a place no one knows about where he can be alone. Thea hears his apology. He tells her about his shortcomings, his regrets as her brother, but underlines his love for her, for his little sister, his Speedy. Oliver apologizes and tells her loves her because he’s ready to walk into Slade’s secret bunker and die. He feels alone, singularly responsible for what’s happened and whatever will happen unless he dies. His singularity represents a weakness, though. Slade’s objective is to make him separate by destroying all he loves. He’s nothing without the people he loves. The final act shows Slade’s mirakura army marching towards the city, Isabel about to demolish Diggle, and Oliver overwhelmed by the onslaught of superpowered people, with Laurel to protect. In the penultimate act he tells Felicity and Diggle he’ll need them to finish what they started, together, as a trio.

Other Thoughts:

-The last two acts reminded me of The Dark Knight’s third act.

-Director Michael Schultz blocked the Laurel/Oliver scene very well. I especially liked the slow camera that stopped, peering through glass and the bow at Oliver and Laurel.

-Cisco called Felicity, probably with good news about the antidote.

-Holly Harold wrote the episode.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Game of Thrones "Oathkeeper" Review

“Oathkeeper” is split into three distinct parts, with a few asides to continue stories happening elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms. Across Slavers’ Bay in Essos, the freedom of Meereen, which was interrupted by the end credits last week, completes with the freeing of the Meereen slaves. In King’s Landing, Jaime continues his progression to decency. North-of-the-Wall, and at The Wall, there are, uh, happenings. The structure of the episode isn’t that different from previous episodes in the show. Benioff and Weiss, and whomever is credited with the actual script, whether it’s the world-builder himself George R.R. Martin or Jane Espensen or Bryan Cogman, like to move from character to character (and story to story) with nary a theme present. Benioff or Weiss—I can’t remember whom—once told a critic that connecting everything with a theme was too similar to an 8th grade book report. One of the issues of adapting the books is the elimination of point-of-view storytelling. The audience can’t perceive the Game of Thrones story through any of the characters because of a need for an objective point-of-view, the demands imposed by the camera. Of course, TV shows and film can follow the mind of a character through a myriad of ways that don’t require the ballyhooed narrative device. A character needn’t tell the audience what’s what like in Veronica Mars or My So Called Life. Game of Thrones, though, maintains an objective point-of-view. There are small moments that penetrate a character: Arya’s reaction to her father’s beheading; all of Bran’s story; Brienne’s deliberate way of being; and etc. “Oathkeeper” adopts a style similar to the structure of the books. The story stays with Jaime when Jaime’s story begins. Cogman’s script finished the Meereen conquer in the opening ten minutes. In the final 20-25 minutes, the Night’s Watch, and the rebels of the Night’s Watch, set in motion a distracting but entertaining aside for the next episode or two.

The best of the bunch in “Oathkeeper” is the Jaime section. Some of the beats from “Two Swords” are repeated in “Oathkeeper.” Jaime actually says the line about writing his own story in the Kingsguard book, three weeks after “Two Swords” implied that through Joffrey’s condescending attitude about his uncle’s blank chapter. Jaime’s story begins with a sword-fighting session between he and Bronn. Bronn guilts Jaime out about not visiting Tyrion in his cell, his brother who thought Jaime would ride through wind and rain to fight for his life at the Eyrie. Jaime and Tyrion have an honest conversation about the truth and what may or may not happen. Jaime shows no desire to follow his sister’s pleas to take their brother’s life or, later, to hunt down Sansa Stark. Tyrion explains simply that his dislike of the child would not motivate him to murder the son of his brother and sister. Tyrion’s words are oddly touching. Cersei wants the head of Sansa and her brother and is so grief-stricken that she thinks not about what the Martells plan on doing. Jaime continues to act opposite of his mother’s wishes by arming Brienne with his Valyrian sword, his armor, and the task of keeping Sansa safe, thus keeping his oath with the dead Lady Stark. Jaime’s story doesn’t end; his transformation continues. “Oathkeeper” allows for the audience to follow Jaime from point A through Point E in the episode though. Benioff and Weiss and Cogman didn’t reduce his time to a scene.

Similarly, the writers committed to the Night’s Watch for the last chunk of the episode. The show runners have underserved Bran’s story, as well as the Night’s Watch story. Jon Snow’s story at The Wall and Beyond-the-Wall is at times a sweeping epic but other times, such as when he’s at Castle Black with an angry temporary Lord Commander, it can drag. Bran’s story involves long treks through the cold wilderness in the north. Bran wargs. He sees many sights and hears many sounds through Summer. Bran’s on a quest for something specific, but that specific goal is vague and elusive. “The Lion and the Rose” had a montage of Bran’s future, of important images that will mean more later but not now. Bran winds up near the mutineers at Craster’s Keep, sixty or so miles from Castle Black, right when Jon wants to take care of the mutineers while also hoping to find Bran. Locke shows up in the Night’s Watch from out of nowhere not too long after hearing about Bran’s faked murder, and he overhears Jon’s idea about Bran’s possible distance from the Keep. Bran’s taken by the mutineers, along with Jojen, Meera, and Hodor. Jon enlists volunteers to join him on the clean-up mission at Craster’s Keep. There’s now a reason to feel invested in this story. Jon needs to save Bran; Bran and Jon may finally see each other again; the mutineers act horribly towards women and babies. Jon’s story also shows the growing support he has in the Night’s Watch that adds more tension to him and Ser Allister Thorne.

“Oathkeeper” concludes with an unsettling glimpse at the white walkers. Craster’s final offspring is sacrificed to ‘the gods.’ The white walker takes the baby, places it on a sort of ice baptismal font, where then another white walker picks the baby up and touches the baby’s face with his index finger. The baby’s eyes turn ice blue. The purpose of the scene is two-fold: to provide a clearer idea of those supernatural beasts that seem more threatening than all the armies in the Seven Kingdoms, and to show the audience a commitment to the supernaturally strange in advance of things.

All in all, “Oathkeeper” is another successful Game of Thrones episode. The structure was a welcome change. Hopefully the structure will be used going forward as the story constrains and constricts.

Other Thoughts:

-Arya’s still my favorite, but Dany’s very close to topping her. My goodness how awesome the first ten minutes of this episode were.

-Tommen’s one of my favorite characters in the series. Margaery’s working her charm on him in a power play triggered by Olenna. I think it’s clear that she poisoned Joffrey. Littlefinger intimated it; Olenna confirmed it. Anyway, the best part of the Tommen/Margaery scene was not Tommen’s incredible stare at Margaery as she worked him, but the debut of Tommen’s cat, Ser Pounce. I thought Benioff and Weiss dropped Tommen’s love for cats. There are more, but Ser Pounce may be it. I think his love of cats is adorable and a wonderful departure from Joffrey’s everything.

-Bryan Cogman wrote the episode. Michelle MacClaren directed it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Grimm "Nobody Knows the Trubel I've Seen" Review

No one knows the trouble T. Rubel has seen, Grimm’s newest character, who arrives in Portland when Viktor’s plotting an attack against the one current known grimm in Portland. No one knows the trouble Nick’s about to find himself in. Oh, that was lame.

Nick, Juliette, Monroe, Rosalee, and Sean, look like they’re walking on a pond of ice that may possibly break apart under their feet, which would send each to an unpleasant icy death, whenever Adalind stops by to scream and cry about her lost baby. Adalind’s among the least sympathetic characters in the series, but the baby storyline has done wonders for the characters. She’s relatable, a victim, and she’s been strung along, controlled by men, a passive observer when she should be the active force. Her baby’s gone. She seeks the help of people she thinks she can trust, unaware of their role in whisking the baby away with Nick’s mother. Adalind, desperately sad, calls on Prince Viktor to beg and plead for her baby. Viktor won’t tell her he’s without the baby, because he’ll use her anger and desperation to settle scores without leaving his palatial Austrian estate. His initial act of manipulation with Adalind is to set her on Nick, the Grimm he views as a problem. Adalind, with grimm blood in her, has the strength to complete Viktor’s mission.

Nick and Hank spend most of the episode free from baby-drama. A double homicide draws their attention, involving two violent Wesens, who in the teaser seemed about to pounce on a skinny, unsuspecting, vulnerable girl, but wind up dead. The mystery of the case is who would have the strength to take out these nasty Wesen. Another girl who picks a fight with Trubel is killed, because the Wesen girl wanted Trubel’s pair of shoes. The audience should wonder, too, about what exactly this proficient killer is. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf reveal she’s a grimm early in the episode when Hank tells Nick he’s only seen him kick ass the way this anonymous murder has—with these beastly creatures. Nick nods and doesn’t follow that line of thinking. The NBC promos gave away the woman’s secret two weeks ago, a reveal that’s not directly discovered until the second to last act break.

The majority of the episode follows the soon-to-be-named Trubel from murder to murder. She’s a loner, eager to avoid trouble, but unable to control what happens when trouble finds her. Two men, the aforementioned dead bodies at the crime scene, try to force themselves on her. The other girl tries to take what isn’t hers. Trubel’s body language is as troubled as her life. She walks with her shoulders slumped, her head dropped, trying to be invisible in a visible world. Two scenes in her apartment show her vulnerable and shaky. Her body’s cut and scraped. Her hands looked burned. In the shower, after the second murder, she sits down and cries. Trubel wandered from state to state, without a home, with nightmarish images in her mind that she rendered on paper, with sentences about how the monsters won’t destroy her. She went to psychiatric wards.

Nick finds her at the precipice of madness. Monroe sees she’s a grimm after he woges. Nick and Hank followed the tip to get their murderer, but they instead find a victim in need of counsel and understanding. Nick has a companion of Trubel’s notebook in which she drew monstrous creatures. Nick has stories to share. He can bring her back and show her the different ways of handling Wesen. Nick stood out in the show because he treated his role as a grimm differently from his ancestors. His mother represents the old guard of grimms, fiercely unsentimental and proactively murderous; however, Nick forged bonds with different Wesens, and he’ll serve as best man at Monroe’s wedding. He’s a perfect antidote for Trubel’s perceived madness, which isn’t at all madness. She doesn’t understand the role she has in a specifically unique world to her and Nick. By the end of the episode, Nick convinces Trubel to listen to her after showing her the items in the trailer.

“Nobody Knows the Trubel I’ve Seen” continues a recent string of engaging and entertaining Grimm episodes. Quite a bit of the episode is reminiscent of Greenwalt’s previous projects with Joss Whedon, which isn’t bad at all.

Other Thoughts:

-The baby fall-out continued as a strong aspect of the back-end of Grimm. Adalind’s desperation for the baby was moving. She dreamt about Diana’s return to her. Viktor’s uncle surprised him with a visit that oozed with foreboding. C Thomas Howell wants to kill Renard.

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Man on Fire" Review

The vignette drive season five has started to cohere into a united narrative during the final stretch of season five. The Vampire Diaries’ writers told the season five in fits and starts, sidetracked by more exciting tales about mothers and daughters and hijackings, eager to show more of Damon’s bad side from the 1950s when a prisoner of the Augustine’s and how their torture of him created a vengeful monster that killed off-screen during these last five years of focused and determined writing that rehabilitated that character (if you will). Season five, though, had a through-line nestled in its seemingly unconnected stories that now connect: vengeance/revenge. Damon wanted to take revenge on the Augustine’s for what they did to him. Tessa wanted to take revenge against Silas. The Travelers want to avenge the witches curse. And so on, and so on. The vengeance-driven characters create end-of-the-world consequences. Sometimes the end-of-the-world means the end-of-the-world, or, rather, the end of the other side; and sometimes it means the end of relationships—brotherly relationships, sexual relationships, and so on. TVD combines both.

Enzo drives the action in “Man on Fire.” The Travelers alerted him to the fate of his Maggie, the poor soul that kept him human during the years of tortured confinement, who felt for him deeply enough that she tried to avenge his death when she thought Damon burned him alive in the fire he set. Enzo suspects Stefan murdered Maggie. Her death modeled The Ripper style of slaughter: head detached from body in an artful style. Savagery requires perfection. Enzo threatens Elena and Bonnie; he threatens Liv and her brother. Stefan accepts blame for Maggie’s death, and spares Bonnie from death. Enzo tortures him for a bit. Damon, having received a call from Enzo, researches the night. The research jars his memory and he then recalls the night he murdered Maggie. Damon’s murder of Maggie devastates Enzo. His only friend in the world murdered his only love in the world. TVD characters react in one way to trauma: flipping the switch and creating chaos for those who care for the emotionless friend. Very few care for Enzo in Mystic Falls, among them Damon. And “Man on Fire” becomes problematic when Enzo flips the switch, and Damon’s emotional stability suddenly hinges on the salvation of his dear, dear friend, more dear to him than Alaric, who once was the dearest.

Damon’s arc this season involves what tethers him to humanity. Elena keeps him sane. Stefan keeps him sane. Alaric keeps him sane. Enzo, more than these three, was most important to his sanity, to his desire to not flip the switch. The Enzo revenge plot moves quickly through beats and important plot points to create the important conflict, which is brother vs. brother. Enzo’s plan for revenge involves pitting the brothers against each other. Enzo loses his mind as the writers lose track of the story. “Man on Fire” bounces from plot point to plot point with the direction of a ball thrown against a brick wall with no one around to catch it. Enzo threatens Elena. Damon has murdered Elena’s brother, has murdered Matt, has threatened their lives, has murdered many other people for Elena’s safety, and yet will not resort to murder to take care of Enzo. Part of Damon’s reason involves their sacred bond forged during their tortured years in the Augustine lab/prison. Another part is convenient writing. Enzo uses Stefan’s hand to rip his own heart out, making Stefan the killer. His dying words remind Stefan of Damon’s reaction to the news. Enzo hates both brothers at his death because he flipped the switch. Other Side Enzo stands in the large Salvatore living room to remind the audience about purposeful vendettas.

Damon’s heart-to-heart talk with Stefan follows a wildly chaotic penultimate act in which Enzo dies, Damon searches for him like an owner searches for a lost animal, and Bonnie learns she’ll die when The Other Side disappears, and Stefan ‘kills’ Enzo because Enzo put Stefan’s hand in his chest. Damon threated Bonnie’s life dozens of times in the series’ history because Elena’s life was in danger. Stefan listens to his brother explain why Enzo’s salvation matters to him. The reasons include their sitting together, talking. Enzo helped Damon forgive Stefan for not saving him during the five years of his imprisonment. Stefan listens to his brother tell him that he owes Enzo as much as he, Damon, does for their relationship. The frustrating part about Damon’s fragile mind is his list of suggestions to Enzo after his confession about his role in Maggie’s demise. Damon’s pragmatic, calm, and helpful. He asks Enzo to let go, to do whatever he needs to but to not hurt his brother or the love of his life. Yet he’ll unravel upon learning about Enzo’s death, upon learning Stefan kept it a secret from him, and he’ll do something rash that will horrify Elena but will be forgiven by her within the episode or by the next.

Other characters’ emotional development or lapse in development depended on new characters this season, retconned in to fit a particular character’s emotional journey: Nadia and Katherine, Liv and Bonnie, the history of the doppelgangers and the history of Stefan and Elena, Aaron’s importance to Elena and his later death at the hands of the vampire Elena loves most. There’s nothing inherently wrong in introducing new characters that affect a character; however, sometimes such plotting seems like a lucid dream that betrays itself as a dream when the dreamer realizes that he or she cannot feel, touch, taste, or smell anything in the dream—that there’s something off about it that doesn’t fit with the continuity of his or her life. Enzo informs so much of Damon’s past life, but he didn’t matter during the previous four seasons. So, Enzo didn’t inform anything; he was a straw writers grasped for and created for x, y, and z purposes. Nadia fit more naturally into Katherine’s arc because significant parts of her life were not colored in on the canvas.

The first half of “Man on Fire” reminded me of two episodes—one from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and ANGEL. The two respective episodes told a similar story to “Man on Fire.” Those episodes stand out in my memory, especially ANGEL’s “Damage,” because of the way the writers depicted the past. The Vampire Diaries’ tone is reactionary. It reflects the culture. The characters don’t think about their actions. They don’t contemplate. Past actions mean little. “Man on Fire” could’ve been way more than what it actually was, which an excuse for violence, for conflict, for chaos.

Other Thoughts:

-The Travelers’ storyline is a drag. Markos wants to eliminate magic so that he and his people can have a home. I’d actually like way less magic in The Vampire Diaries.

-Where was Caroline?

-Michael A. Allowitz directed the episode. I missed the names of the credited writers.

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.