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.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Grimm "Cry Lusion" Review

The episode began with a scene of comic exposition about the specifics what needs to happen for Nick to regain his powers, his Grimm-ness-his sight. The scene is like a thesis statement for the episode. Nick needs it. The audience, possibly identifying with Juliette, may not want Nick to become a grimm again. A number of threats, new to Trubel and Juliette, appear in “Cry Lusion.” Nick, still saddled with wesen only cases, can’t adequately perform his job and solve crimes without his sight for wesen-he brings Monroe in to finish off the case-of-the-week. Other troubles roll down a mountain like an avalanche: shadowy men in search for the keys, and intolerance, signified by a fiery symbol, for the marriage between Monroe and Rosalee.

Grimm’s writers seem opposed to making the scenes breathe or to making any character thoughtfully consider a situation by discussing it with another character. Grimm episodes tend to move from beat to beat, with little introspection by any of the characters, besides the barest, most basic plot-dependent exchanges. “We may need to tell Wu things,” after Wu clearly states the existence of a wolf chasing a woman seems not only a possibility but the reality-the lone explanation for why the woman would drive erratically down a road, killing a runner during her erratic drive. Juliette expresses only that she would like a normal life with Nick, but she does not express why. Later, her decision to do the spell, spurred by the fiery symbol and what she overheard about the threats facing Nick, slips past her tongue.

The case-of-the-week in “Cry Lusion” serves to further motivate Nick’s desire to regain what he lost after Adalind’s spell. Hank and Nick suspect the husband of the mentally ill woman at the center of the case of intentionally making her crazy for the purpose of assuming the estate and all the assets. Nick and Hank can’t prove he’s wesen. Monroe, when brought in, proves the woman’s husband is a wesen and working with his two identical brothers to drive his wife crazy. There’s a therapist character that supports the woman’s hallucinations of a wolf in a well-tailored suit. The detectives consult with her about the case because that’s what detectives do; however, they know, or suspect, what’s going on. The therapist is an unnecessary part. She adds nothing to their understanding of the case. Perhaps the writers added her as a way to show the audience that this is grimm without the wesen element-the same tired procedural format of every other procedural case. The case is borrowed from a thousand Lifetime movies.

Trubel, at least, actively takes part in a story. Bud tells her about the threats facing Nick in Portland since he lost his power. Trubel begins a mini-tour of fear and intimidation, with Bud guiding her. She showed more aggression and anger than Nick has in four seasons. A running theme with her has been her habit of not listening, ignoring orders, and finding bad situations because of it. She’ll spiral, right? She almost cut the throat of Shaw because he, well, he was of a violent temperament, and he did want to kill her until he saw her eyes.

Adalind’s romp through prison continued to combine elements of Alice in Wonderland and Invitation to a Beheading. V.N. would rap my knuckles for using his novel in a post about episode five of Grimm. Invitation to a Beheading dwells on consciousness more than social commentary about injustice and totalitarian states. Viktor enchanted Adalind because he wanted to influence her consciousness. The baby does not lie in an Austrian bedroom; where is she? Her ‘escape’ through the castle leads to her prison cell. Viktor greeted her-similar to how the warden and the executioner greeted Cincinnatus after he emerged from the tunnel, which is where the faint—one might contend even indistinguishable-parallels end. Adalind will not go forth to a place where beings like himself, giant and uniquely independent, reside; she will follow the villain Viktor and allow her hexenbiest nature more reign than her more humanistic instincts.

Other Thoughts:

-NBC will air a new Grimm Black Friday night, a sure sign the network cares not for the series. Perhaps Grimm will end after four seasons. TVByTheNumbers disagrees with me. I do not know.

-Renard lives in an expensive house, thanks to his mother. His mother will soon pursue Nick’s mother because she wants to see her granddaughter.

-I had no idea who Josh was. I do not remember whether or not he appeared previously. The writers plopped the character into the middle of the episode.

-Michael Golamco wrote the episode. Eric Laneuville directed.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Fade Into You" Review

No Mazzy Star in “Fade Into You.” Season 6’s only gimmick is mid-90s nostalgia. Kai listened to the Gin Blossoms at his home, where he prepared a Thanksgiving meal for Bonnie. “Fade Into You” would’ve fit during the flashback scene to May 10, 1994, in which Jo tricked her brother and soon watched him disappear into a hellscape, orchestrated and executed by their father, a man with a salt-and-pepper goatee, Joshua Park, who disappears into thin air and lives in a cloaked house. The tragic history of that family, which includes Liv and Lucas, the other set of living twins from group of siblings split in half, is similar to The Originals--murderous parents, a psychopathic brother, other powerful family members, etc., etc. Along with that is a convoluted plan that takes an entire episode of exposition to set up.

The Originals, now its own series airing Mondays, were engaging, interesting characters for a dozen or so episodes. The story continued despite reaching an endpoint somewhere in season three. The Original family overtook the series. Characters revolved around Klaus and Rebekah rather than story happening for and because of Elena, Stefan, and Damon. Klaus always threatened Elena, Jeremy, her friends, and lovers, but The Vampire Diaries’ writers continued to write for him and his sister, and the rest of the Originals, because they loved the family, the history, the drama, the romance, the intrigue. Scholars say William Shakespeare told someone that, during the writing of Romeo and Juliet, he needed to kill off Mercutio lest he take over the play and take it from his Romeo and his Juliet. Perhaps the Gemini Coven family storyline is a way to re-invent or redo the Originals story before it spiraled into New Orleans and its own separate thing.

Kai killed his family because he wanted to make a statement. The convoluted history of the Gemini coven includes a thing with twins and merging those twins at the age of 22 to create a super person that becomes a leader of the coven. The stronger one lives while the weaker one dies. Liv’s sad throughout Friendsgiving because of her 22nd birthday and her perceived imminent death. The women seem to think the men will live while they die. Liv’s a stronger character than Lukas—more importantly, she’s a stronger witch. She went she-hulk on Bonnie last season during the poorly conceived Travelers arc. Kai’s motivated to return and merge with his sister, killing her, taking her power, and then destroying the coven. He’ll also need to kill his other siblings, I think. His father doesn’t want Kai to return and will kill his children to prevent it. Joshua created Kai’s hell because of Kai’s murders, but he’ll murder the rest of his children to prevent his escape. It’s not the greatest plot.

Plot devices abound in “Fade Into You.” Friendsgiving lacks genuine friendships. Alaric, Stefan, and Damon acknowledge they’ve experienced a plot device, in one of the niftier pieces of storytelling. A stoned John Barth may’ve allowed a begrudging smirk. Friendsgiving brings Jo, Liv, and Lukas together and they remember they are related and nearly murdered together by their brother. Liam’s there until he’s not and then he returns again only to finally disappear after he reacts to Elena’s vampire confession like Scott Hope reacted to anything-staring blankly ahead of him. Elena learned from Stefan she’ll know if Liam loves her by his reaction to her vampire truth. Liam fails. The revealed connection of the siblings reeks of bad daytime soaps. The siblings immediately exposit the hell out of the family history, the convoluted merging thing, the murderous father, the ascendant, et al. Liv’s plight brings her and Tyler closer. Her decision to kill for Tyler happened because the writers needed a character to give a damn for her besides Lukas, and because a character can’t die without someone in love with that character being destroyed (or turned into a werewolf again).

I sort of loved the unnecessary trip to Portland taken by the Salvatore brothers and Alaric. They went in search of the ascendant and failed. Jo has the ascendant in safekeeping. Damon meets Joshua. Joshua soon fries Damon’s brain and tries to kill his own daughter. They find Jo’s magic in a rusty, bloodied knife. Joshua disappears. They accomplish nothing. Stefan remarks that they traveled to a place for something they could’ve gotten at Friendsgiving. The writers essentially conveyed, through Stefan, that, ‘Hey, we need a B story, and we’ve done the new powerful character has what we want before to very mixed results; so, we’ll subvert it, make it clear we subverted it, and that’ll be that.” Alaric doesn’t want to find the ascendant for Jo’s sake, but Damon wants Bonnie back. He compels Alaric to do whatever it takes to take the magic object from his new girlfriend, which sets up conflict between lovers and between best friends.

“Fade Into You” flashes back some, moves the story forward a lot, is very soapy and melodramatic, and not a great set-up for the long arc of the season. The Vampire Diaries already struggles in its sixth season, and now they’re doing another type of originals story. Also, Elena trusts Damon now and wants him to help her find Bonnie-trust she has because he talked about her for four months. Maybe “Fade Into You” would’ve worked for that scene. “Strange things you never knew…” as Elena learns to love her guy again and the camera fades…out.

Other Thoughts:

-Every house in this show looks similar to Leery Manor in Dawson’s Creek. Elena’s looked like Mitch’s castle and so does the home of Joshua, Kai, Kol, Liv, and Lukas.

-Matt and Jeremy didn’t join Friendsgiving because of the Tripp cleanup. The Friendsgiving device failed. It was a mess. It served multiple purposes, including the Caroline/Stefan separation. Stefan apologizes to her at episode’s end, and Caroline thanks him. She walks away, friendship not fixed.

-TVD cast a different actress for young Jo-a sobering moment for me. I remember younger Jodi Lyn O’Keefe in late 90s/early 00s movies.  

-Nina Fiore & John Hererra wrote the episode. Joshua Butler directed it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Grimm "Dyin On A Prayer" Review

David, the little boy at the center of “Dyin’ On A Prayer,” controls the clay monster unknowingly with his fear, when threatened, and when intimidated. His uncle conjured the clay monster through an ancient Cabbalistic prayer. The episode’s case involves domestic abuse. David’s mother suffers the drunken blows of her stephusbad and his brother. David’s around whenever the stephusband or his brother terrifies his mother, and, also, terrifies him. So, when David tells Trubel about the monster the adults become, it’s true; and when Trubel tells David she sees the monsters, too, which one sees often in domestic abuse stories in a police procedural, she tells the truth, and she may even have seen some monsters prior to her realizing her grimm abilities. Who knows, though; it isn’t hinted at in the episode.

The clay monster looks good. David’s a solid emotional center for the episode. Unfortunately, “Dyin’ On A Prayer” is stuck in the mud like Nate’s vehicle before he receives the clay monster’s hug of death. Nick and Hank have little involvement in the story. The uncle leads Nick and Hank to every revelation. Trubel serves as David’s safety net. The mother character barely matters. A throwaway line about the clay monster by her brother, the uncle, who wants to stop it through scaring his nephew, lets one know brother and sister do not share the same ideas about ancient Cabal prayers. Any discord, disagreement, conflicts of ideas, do not happen in prior scenes with the brother and sister. It’s a throwaway line that weakly exists to put more stakes in the scene. What if she finds out and stops it before David’s uncle can kill what he prayed for? It never happens. There’s not an opportunity for them to have a back and forth before the monster arrives. She runs outside in time to see the monster rise from mud. She’s all like, “So, this is happening, now, I guess.”

Urgency in the episodes comes from David’s innocent existence, and it’s a sad and poignant idea. He feels so scared that a Gollum comes from the earth to kill those who scare him. Nick and Hank need to the monster dormant, returned to the earth, before David leaves a trail of bodies. There’s circularity to David’s arc. In the beginning he fears the monster. His fears lessen with the help of Trubel, whom he shares the ‘gift’ with, or what-have-you. They play monsters together. Trubel shows him how to tire the monster. Move fast, wear him out, and then strike. The little boy uses Trubel’s instructions to stab the Gollum to death with his good guy action figure, and he also uses a stronger feeling to stop the Gollum: his affection for Trubel. She’s threatened and in danger. One’s desire to protect and save someone is stronger than one’s fear, one’s intimidation--The strength within a person…that idea.

The coolest scene in “Dyin’ On A Prayer” happens at the Austrian prison during Adalind’s failed escape. Adalind’s escape from Vienna last season had some of the least exciting escape sequences in contemporary television. Whomever with she tries to escape a place from she and her co-escapee move like a beach crab. I like the fantastical elements in the prison. Last week’s episode recalled to mind a scene from Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. This episode is without faint echoes from an aging Russian novel, but its phantasmagoria continues in a Terry Gilliam spirit. The prison walls speak to Adalind about the location of her baby. Adalind wonders, “Where? Where is my baby?” The prison walls cry and nearly drown her. She’s no longer Cincinnatus C. traveling in a circle back to her prison; she’s Alice, the girl lost in wonderland. She, too, nearly dies on a prayer-the prayer she has to find her daughter. A prayer is a thought, a promise.

Other Thoughts:

-Rosalee and Monroe have been little else other than soundboards for other characters. They want to take a honeymoon, though. Renard’s mother discovered the magic cure for Nick’s current grimm-less plight. It’s complicated and involves Juliette as the key piece.

-Wu continues to search for anything he can find or get to figure out Trubel. Renard does not offer much for Wu. Renard returned to the office and delivered an unnecessary speech.

-Brigid Brannagh portrayed David’s mother. She worked for David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon during the second season of ANGEL. She played Virginia Madsen, brief girlfriend of Alexis Denisof’s Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.

-Sean Calder wrote the episode. Tawnia McKiernan directed.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Do You Remember The First Time?" Review

First times: first rain-soaked kisses; first time you heard or said “I love you.” First and last times matter more than the in between. Think about it. Dwell on it, if you’d like. Beginnings and endings matter more than the journey in between, which is antithetical to the human experience. We don’t remember where we began and we dread where we end. The second act of our lives, the longest and most fruitful, becomes a poor footnote, barely remembered, and not worthy of three sentences in a newspaper. Why is that? Such a question deserves pondering elsewhere. The Vampire Diaries’ episodes are broken up by advertisements directed towards young girls, pre-teens and teenagers, young college students, who experience firsts more often than the demographic of the WWE fan. First loves and first kisses, or one’s first hardships in life, a break-up, a death, the loss of friendships, has more immediacy with the young than with older men and women, where one feels nostalgia, perhaps bittersweet or perhaps not, akin to seeing a childhood toy and remarking, ‘I remember when’ and then all that remains is the memory but not the feeling.

Damon fails to recapture the memory of the middle between him and Elena. Alaric’s compulsion of Elena to make her forget limits the storytelling for the former couple. Damon will pursue her or he won’t. Elena will let him or she won’t. Damon pursues her through the past, because she asks him where he told her loved the final time. The question leads to a story and that story leads to other stories about the other parts of their love life. The night of the meteors and the pouring rain renders Damon without speech because he doesn’t want to audibly remember the night: too immediate, too painful. He can give her the memory, but he can’t return to her the feeling. People can’t force a feeling.

Of course, one of the staples of overwrought and melodramatic romances are dramatic gestures of love. Die for someone and their love will linger longer than the light from stars long dead. Elena risks death to break the compulsion; she wants to remember the rainy night when she and him were wet, muddy and cold, and went home. Leo Tolstoy, during his ascetic anti-artistic period in latter part of his life, may appreciate the cold telling of the story, devoid of details, but Elena wants the details and wants to know why Damon can’t tell more than what he barely tells, the heart of it caught in his throat, barricaded by his tongue. “Don’t die for me or for it,” Damon tells Elena, in so many words. The opening of the episode has a scene between Alaric and Damon where Alaric recalls to Damon his many poor decisions in his life that Elena remembers apart from their relationship. Bad, selfish, sociopathic and psychopathic Damon is of the past, until narratively convenient, and, selfless, heroic romantic Damon, of the present, encourages Elena to live her life. He died, she moved on, and found happiness with a model medical student. It won’t happen. Elena looks longingly as Damon walks away. Damon drinks a bottle of bourbon, which he takes with him into the cemetery, and then sees Bonnie’s teddy bear.

Bonnie remains in Kai’s personal hell made for him by his coven, surviving the wound from the arrow Kai shot into her stomach. Kai wants to leave, but Bonnie won’t take him with her. She hid her magic in a safe place—like his sister, Jo—and neither will leave the hellscape. Damon, removed from the Elena situation temporarily, motivated by the teddy bear, will act save Bonnie, whom he threatened to kill several jokes in a jokey way, will continue his heroism by saving her.

Other firsts, though: Liv reminds Tyler of the first person she killed for his sake, and Stefen learns about Caroline’s feelings for him for the first time. Liv and Tyler have only one scene together, in which she exposits the aforementioned ‘first kill’ thing with Tyler, and they flirt. The Stefan/Caroline scene of first feelings happens after Tripp dies and after they save Caroline’s mother from Tripp’s friend. Tripp’s yet another villain to die early during his villainous run. Tripp, very briefly, tries to explain why Matt picked the wrong side. Matt doesn’t counter that his friends represent the ‘right’ side, but he concedes that it’s complicated. Tripp loses any leverage because his plan if ever taken involved threatening Sheriff Forbes’ life. TVD villains can only surpass the brutality of the Mystic Falls crew in one way: attacking human, defenseless loved ones of the Mystic Falls crew (or by separating characters in a dramatic, final seeming way, i.e. death without magic to bring the character back).

Tripp’s a minor inconvenience that Enzo takes care of off-screen by vamping him. Enzo throws a further complication in Stefan’s and Caroline’s evolving complicated friendship by letting Stefan know why Caroline dislikes him so: because she likes him so. The A plot had overwrought melodrama; so, too, does the B plot. Caroline likes Stefan in more than friendly ways for his kindness, his goodness, his stability, etc., and she still hates him because if she doesn’t she’ll hate herself for ruining their friendship. Stefan and Caroline still haven’t shared one first: a kiss. After more filler and convolution, which is not only for this particular arc but general across the show’s storytelling, those two vampires will lock lips and beget new drama. There’s always the Elena of it all, isn’t there?

Other Thoughts:

-In two words, “Do You Remember The First Time?” dwelled on the past: what was and not what is. What is engages this blogger more than what was. I think TVD has done two or three Damon-Elena relationship flashback episodes. It’s a relationship defined more by those two characters’ separation than by an active relationship. Damon explained to Alaric, but really to the audience, why the compulsion didn’t break with Alaric’s vampire death. I would quibble with the explanation, but that’s insanity.

-Rebecca Sonnenshine wrote the episode. Who directed the episode? Will my memory recall the name without looking it up? It will not. My apologies.

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.