Friday, January 30, 2015

Grimm "Death Do Us Part" Review

“Death Do Us Part” is a ghost story for the weary in January. Why don’t people tell ghost stories in January and October? January’s the most ghastly month of the twelve. It is gray, cold, and almost apocalyptic looking. Everything is dead; it is the ‘dead of winter’. I felt more drawn to ghost stories in the last seven days. I re-read Vladimir Nabokov’s remarkable ghostly short story, “The Vane Sisters.” I ordered Henry James’ ghost story, titled “The Turn of the Screw.” “Death Do Us Part” introduced three ghost seekers, who find ghostly goings on in an abandoned house where a married couple were brutally murdered five years ago. The most passionate ghost seeker dies the same death as the couple. The Wesen (it’s not a ghost) electrocutes the ghost seeker to death and he also crushes his skull. Nick, Hank, and Wu investigate who and why it happened. It’s not a ghost, so, then, it’s Wesen. It’s always Wesen.

Grimm, because of its creators, reminds one of the great WB series, ANGEL, mixed with a rote police procedural. The beginning of the episode seemed inspired by early X-Files. The two living ghost seekers found their friend burned to death, his skull crushed, and the woman, Carol, screams. Mark Snow’s iconic theme song seemed bound to follow. Grimm’s much different from the X-Files. The characters don’t clash over belief and empiricism. Either the character knows or the character doesn’t. The nifty teaser leads to a traditional Grimm case-of-the-week episode, with a side of Juliette trying to tame her hexenbiest. Oh well.

The case-of-the-week follows the beats of a procedural mystery. A former Portland police officer who worked the original couple murder drops helpful clues: the bodies were never identified, and the suspected killer was never caught. Nick, Hank, and Wu interview the wife of the suspected killer, now missing, and soon learn that the suspected killer was the lover and died that night, and the suspected dead husband is the killer. The ghostly apparitions have a cool, creepy, haunting quality. The dead wife smiles teasingly and seductively at her husband. He’s now more insane and bearded. Stetson, the name of the aforementioned husband, watched in horror as the ghosts of his dead lover and dead friend dance and romance. It combines Wesen murderer with a tropey ghost love story. The best part of the story was the explosive end. The tertiary wife character of the dead friend shoots Stetson dead. Stetson’s death released the electricity. A wave of light and electrostatic energy blew out the upstairs of the haunted house. One of the living ghost seekers filmed Stetson’s electric Wesen transformation and uploads it to the internet. The explosive denouement to the episode will not ripple into other episodes though. Hank asks Renard about the ramifications of the video for the case. Renard shakes his head and says, “No one believes in ghosts.”

No, no one believes in ghosts. Nick learned new facts about a new wesen. The trick to beating Stetson is Nick piercing his ear and rubbing paste into the hole to prevent the electricity from killing him. Carol watched Nick and Hank do the ear piercing and paste rubbing. She wonders what kind of cops they are, which continues the loose cop vs. wesen theme that seems likely to crescendo in the warmer spring months.

The theme of poor communication and knowledge continued for Juliette and Nick. The theme of knowledge and one’s lack of it is a character wide theme, not specific to a character. Juliette uses Renard to help her control her hexenbiest side. Nick notices oddities. Juliette used the trailer for hexenbiest research, but he disregards it as a follow-up to their her-as-Adalind healing thing with him. Rosalee asked about Juliette’s headaches. Nick stood dumbly by, as if he couldn’t decide between cocoa puffs and cocoa pebbles. Secrecy and horrible communication between characters in love seems a constant in Grimm. Those things don’t raise the dramatic stakes. The constant lack of communication between characters becomes tiresome four seasons in. It works for short stretches in the storytelling but when it keeps up season after season, it reflects poorly on the writers. TV writers will hit the same tropes, plot devices, narrative tricks over seasons, but mystery and obfuscation wears out.

“Death Do Us Part” is not without surprises. Renard sees his three bullet wounds re-bleed. Juliette meets a mysterious woman that knows about hexenbiests. That’s it for the surprises.

Other Thoughts:

-No more scenes of Wu’s late night fast food/wesen book binges. The callback to Wu’s carpet eating days was great. I watched part of a middle season 1 episode when Wu began eating bugs (episode 16, I think. Find the review in the archives). I’ll miss Wu eating horrible shit.

-Whenever I visit Portland, I’d like to visit that remote house. I want to visit Ogden, Utah because of Everwood. I want to visit Wilmington, North Carolina to re-create Dawson’s Creek. Yes.

-I mentioned two ghost stories I re-read/will read. The former is Nabokov’s “The Vane Sisters”, originally published in The New Yorker: The latter is Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw”- (it’s longer than “The Vane Sisters”). I also podcasted about “Ghosts”. I don't have a direct link for "Ghosts". The url for the podcast is

-Constantine Makris directed the episode. Jeff Miller wrote the episode (his first writing credit).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "Prayer for the Dying" Review

“Prayer for the Dying” is a topsy-turvical episode in which the writers managed to write off the least developed and essential of the Gemini coven siblings. No one prays for the dying. The closest thing to prayer is the incantation of the spells. The Vampire Diaries is totally secular. Miracles come from people, not from deities, from magic seen and rendered by flesh and blood and undead folk. A prayer for the dying in Mystic Falls is atheistic; it’s a gesture, a thought, a gentle kiss on the hand, an adieu, a kindness, a social nicety; however, the Mystic Falls gang wants a miracle. Vampire blood does not magically cure cancer, and that truth does not send any of the characters into a philosophical exploration about why. It is. It is unexplainable. The characters know spells, know ways around supernatural death by using supernatural rings or incantations, but they don’t know a way around Death.

The death of Liz Forbes seems inevitable at episode’s beginning, but she lives past “Prayer for the Dying.” Timely magic from Kai extended her life, however briefly, but it did not extend it infinitely. Kai’s magic prevented an agonizing death after her transition to a vampire that would grant her immortality but not a termination of the tumors in her body or the end of the pain of those tumors. Caroline listened to her mother ask Stefan to be there for her when she’s gone because she’ll need help moving on in her life. Stefan will help her smile and feel less sad, Liz thinks. Stefan stood stolidly, listening, grasping her hand. He reflected on the death of his mother and his absence during it when he convinced Caroline to leave the flower shop, to quit preparing her mother’s memorial, and to be with her while she still lives. That kind of guilt, Stefan’s story suggests, along with his face, lingers. It lingered with another fictional character that had nightmares about his dead mother, whose vomit mimicked the green sea.

Kai’s magic syphon sent Sheriff Forbes into cardiac arrest. The doctor tries to revive her. The scene alternates between the attempts to save her and her letting go and saying goodbye. Liz packed a suitcase and asked her daughter to say goodbye to her. She turned to her mother, her face burned and deadened by the sun, and it shocks Liz back to life. The scene may forebode an ending for Caroline, or it represented to Liz that she’s still dying, and her life will continue to disappear and burn away.

Long stretches of the episode happen without Caroline and her mother and Stefan. Another character has to die. The Vampire Diaries’ peak years had exciting storytelling that didn’t stall. The problem of the 22 episode network season for a show is that the production team burns out. The story stalls. The writers push out a bad filler episode. TVD didn’t burn out. It didn’t stalled. It moved. “Prayer for the Dying” moves. The 1 month wait for the merge? Damon decides he doesn’t want to wait and that he wants Liz to survive more. He wakes the comatose Kai. Kai demands a merge. The siblings’ father, the insane father from the Thanksgiving episode andyet another insane father in The Vampire Diaries, will kill one of his kids to ensure Kai does not merge and become the most powerful witch (warlock). Luke decides to become an active character about his fate. He challenges Kai to merge. Kai accepts. Luke loses. Damon breathes a sigh of relief: Alaric won’t punch him for contributing to his girlfriend’s death.

Luke was the Jeremy of the new witch characters, underserved, irrelevant, a nuisance, and purposeless. He was an antagonist in season five. This season the writers decided he’d be a quasi-sacrificial selfless hero. He helped Elena cope without Damon by giving her magical psychedelics. Finally, he offered his life to save his sister’s. The look he gave to her before he left confirmed his inevitable death. Jodi Lyn O’Keefe wrung emotion from the death scene. She cradled him in her arms like she did Kai wanted to kill him and Liv in their Portland home. She channeled 1997 Kate Winslet when she pleaded with him to wake up, to open his eyes. He did not. Poor Luke was not in love with anyone.

Love’s the great cure in The Vampire Diaries. Sheriff Forbes’ near death in Elena’s arms leads to a passionate kiss with Damon. Death on television, or a tragic event that’s not the death of someone, invariably leads to two characters that had preexisting sexual tension engaging in passionate intercourse or makeout sessions. Only the romantically uninvolved don’t stand a chance. Kai won’t win. He says he always wins, but he won’t win.

Other Thoughts:

-Damon planned to repeat a date that worked with Elena. Elena accused Damon of cheating. Damon accused Elena of having cheated. Something terrible will happen. She’s ready to experience love with him. She doesn’t want to waste time not being without him. The writers essentially moved her through multiple seasons of falling for Damon in six episodes. Seven? Who knows.

-Julie Plec promised the episode would break my heart. Did it break my heart? No. I forgot to watch the end of the Flyers game because I wanted to begin my review.

-Jeffrey Hunt directed the episode. I missed the names of the credited writer or writers.

-Alaric went off for a magic thing. Will he return with a magical plot device?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Grimm "Tribunal" Review

After nearly three and nearly half a season of Grimm, there’s a hero shot. The group hero shot exists for iconography. David Greenwalt’s former shows with Joss Whedon, Buffy and ANGEL, had iconic hero shots. The end of Buffy’s first season features a hero shot. Buffy, 16 and in her prom dress, walks with her friends for a showdown with The Master while the Nerf Herder’s Buffy theme plays. ANGEL had a couple. What immediately comes to mind is the “Darla” and “Fool For Love” two parter when Angel, Darla, Spike, and Drusilla, walk through the burning streets. There’s also the gang early in season three walking together to help the helpless somewhere. The group hero shot shows unity and conveys that the group is more than a randomly assembled group of people, that the group transcends family, and that the group is a family.

The Wesenrein are the antithesis of Nick, Monroe, Rosalee, Juliette, Renard, Hank, Bud, and Wu. The Wesenrein seem rooted in the past, a mix of Nazism and the KKK. Monroe’s put on trial for marrying a fucshbau despite being a blutbad. Nick’s a grimm, who’s best friend is a Wesen, and who upholds the law with humans. Monroe explains to the tribunal, in Silas Weir Mitchell’s most triumphant scene in the series, that the purity of his love for his wife and her love for him is more pure than the purity the wesenrein revere, and that life is messy and impure. It reminded me of James Joyce who, when someone asked to shake the hand that penned Ulysses, told that someone he wouldn’t because that hand did a lot of other stuff too. Monroe’s right. Life’s messy and dirty. The oceans and the rivers carry so much dirt but it’s also so pretty and translucent. The tribunal ignores Monroe’s defense of himself and sentences him to death.

Monroe’s trial by the tribunal is an unnecessary plot device. He kills a member in front of members of the wesenrein but yet the trial continues because of tradition. While seemingly unnecessary, the trial represents the types of rituals cults do as a way to rationalize what they’re doing and as a humanizing thing though it is ultimately dehumanizing. Nick and friends are the thesis, the tribunal is the antithesis, and the synthesis is what Nick and friends do, which then may create a new thesis: a Wesen community that accepts all diversity. They work together, they help each other, and they’ll risk their lives for one another, whereas the wesenrein will kill their own. Ultimately, last week’s episode and “Tribunal” is about the Grimm family. Thus, there’s the hero shot before they save Monroe from the tribunal’s execution. Once they save him, they gather in the home of Rosalee and Monroe to celebrate them, their love, their makeshift family, and to send them off in style and with protection to their long-awaited and delayed honeymoon.

Nick, Hank, Wu, and Renard need 3/4s of the episode to learn where the wesenrein took Monroe. The treacherous police offer falls for the myth of the grimm, the myth that Nick’s acted against, the myth of the vicious unrepentant killer, that he’ll murder his sister if the wesenrein murders Monroe. Wu becomes initiated into the group and seems almost obsessed with the other side of life he sees is real and that’s not a hallucination, a symptom of a broken mind. The time it takes sort of adds tension to the tribunal court and eventual sentencing of death. Last week’s episode returned, briefly, zombie Nick. His temper leads to intense interrogation scenes with Jesse, but he doesn’t look zombie; however, the thin line between the law and lawlessness is briefly broached. Nick throws his badge onto the desk. Okay, no, he gently places his badge on the desk of Renard and tells him, ‘this is getting in the way.” Renard, Hank, Nick, and Wu leave their badges in the back of a truck before breaking up the execution of Monroe. Perhaps Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt will return to Nick’s choice between the law and the lawlessness of being a grimm, because it’s really an inviting, interesting, and engaging storyline.

Other Thoughts:

-“Tribunal” was a really great episode. The episode seemed like the last episode before a hiatus. It had some cliffhangers that’ll probably not resolve next week or even next season.

-Juliette revealed her hexenbiest side to Renard. Nick is clueless. I thought the show might not have ever returned to that dynamic. Juliette almost eviscerated the bratty teenager that kicked and punched Monroe.

-Wu eats fast food and pages through Nick’s books.

-Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt wrote the episode. Peter Werner directed.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "Woke Up With A Monster" Review

Elena is in peril. It must be Thursday.

Magic, for a long time in The Vampire Diaries world, acted as the magic elixir, the deux ex machina. “Woke Up With A Monster” establishes parallel magical storylines. In another storyline, Caroline rejects the limits of magic while Stefan, the wise old vampire, offers cautious optimism that’s really skepticism. What are the limits of magic in a world dominated and upheld by magic laws? It’s tricky writing and plotting. How does one benefit from magic healing other natural causes for death but resisting others? The idea that cancer’s too powerful and deadly for even magic is sort of incredible. Jo struggles to maintain a cloaking spell. Kai struggles to control his magic. Magic won’t save Sheriff Forbes’ life.

Stefan responds to Sheriff Forbes’ question about whether or not he’s seen a stage IV cancer patient by telling her he hasn’t and that the benefit of being an immortal vampire is he could start anew every couple decades and skip past the sad parts of life, and he’s startled by the intrusion of real life. Supernatural series will make an episode or two about the reality of lived life that’s far from super and sadly very natural. Buffy’s mother died from an aneurysm, which was part of the saddest episode Joss Whedon wrote, and Angel, Wes, Gunn, Lorne, and gang, couldn’t stop Fred from dying. Angel and Spike go to The Deeper Well as a last resort. What they find is by saving Fred they’ll kill thousands. Angel remarks, “To hell with the world.” But he’s Angel. He won’t sacrifice thousands for one girl. What Spike finds is more nihilistic and hopeless: a hole in the world. “It feels like we should’ve known,” he flatly says. Indeed, there’s a hole in the world. Caroline senses the hole in the world. Her impassioned speech to her mother near the end of the episode centers on why she needs her mother around because she’s her mother and without her there’s a hole. So, Caroline uses her blood to save her mother’s life, and her mother doesn’t want to die. Of course, magic has limitations, unpredictably and inexplicably so; Caroline’s test patient, a man whose condition parallels her mother’s, except that he tried treatment (which the body rejected), whose full of vampire blood that temporarily restored him to life, restored him to a point wherein he could joyfully buy food from the hospital vending machine, vomits blood and crawls on the floor, in agony until he dies. Magic has limitations.

Elena’s in peril because Kai decided to use her in his attempt to control his magic. He overloaded on magic. For example, he tries to snap Elena’s neck, but he overturns a cafeteria table. He accidentally brutalized The Grille manager to death while merely trying a cloaking spell. The brutal murder of the manager further motivates Matt. He only internalizes his anger and growing resentment for Mystic Falls’ more insane and sadistic inhabitants. The kidnapping of Elena allows for another hero Damon moment. He rescues her. She plays nearly dead. They bond and fall more in love with each other. Damon shows concern for Jo, and Alaric swears she’ll beat her brother when the merge arrives.

Stefan traveled with Caroline to Duke University for the second opinion, but he went his own way to check on his niece at the university. She’s an artist who paints angels. Enzo followed him. The two vampires engaged in a brief impotent mental chess match. Stefan left. Enzo hung around to tell the curator of the student art exposition his elaborate plan for revenge in a monologue. His elaborate plan consisted of vagueness, of revenge succeeding when a person least expects it, and then he flirted with the curator. The Stefan-Enzo plotline is weak and more an instance needing Enzo involved in something. He’s the character the audience loves to despise, but he’s yet another iteration of Klaus. Kai is Klaus as he would’ve been before Joseph Morgan stole the writers’ hearts, and Enzo’s Klaus-lite. His purpose is entropic.

Liv and Luke, the wonder twins, represent another instance of magic’s limitations. It is limited when love is limitless. Their father wants Luke to bring her to Portland for the merge spell, but Luke tells his father no. The father-son scenes happen off-screen, but he’s been established as a psychopathic warlock father in a previous episode. Liv and Luke have shifted allegiances more than The Big Show and Mark Henry since their introduction into the story. Liv worries about her brother’s strength. Twin magic isn’t equal magic. He’s stronger.

The early part of the New Year always seems a more reflective stretch of The Vampire Diaries. Characters are in a rush to do things, but they stop for a second to cry, to smile, to laugh, to reject family tradition, and etc. Alaric describes Kai as ‘on ice while the magic drains from his body, which will allow Jo to have enough strength to beat him when the merge happens. Until the merge happens, the characters may cry, because Sheriff Forbes will probably die. Magic has limitations.

Other Thoughts:

-Steven R. McQueen mostly looked super masculine throughout the episode. The width of his chest is comparable to the state of Nebraska. He offered to help save Elena, and everyone ignored him.

-Paul Wesley directed the episode. Critics tend to comment about the directing only when an actor directs. Nothing changes because of the actor. It’s as if Joshua Butler or Chris Grismer directed. I will only comment that Wesley shot a lot of coverage in the scene at the Forbes’ house.

-Melinda Hsu Taylor wrote the episode.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Grimm "Wesenrein" Review

Of the two major cliffhangers from the last episode in December, Grimm begins “Wesenrein” with a truth session for Wu. Nick and Hank take Wu to the trailer where Wu looks at the books, pages though the monsters, and wonders why he should believe he’s still not being told lies. Four minutes into the episode, Rosalee discovers the Wesenrein took Monroe. The Wesenrein plot has come and gone infrequently during the early part of season four. Rosalee and Monroe experienced threats, but didn’t become consumed with worried. Their reaction to the early threats, where it’s at first alarming but then that sense of alarm decreases as days pass and no one acts on the threat, contributed to quite a lack of urgency to the storyline. Now that it’s here with life-and-death stakes, it’s still flat, unengaging-it’s more of a way for the writers to bring Wu into the Wesen side of policing, it’s more of a way to continue showing the continual struggle for Nick between being a grimm, lawless, and being a cop, living by the law, but no way will Monroe suffer the death of Timmy or Tommy or Trevor or whatever the name of that tertiary character was.

No, the writers essentially showed their collective hand in the dream scene involving Rosalee and Juliette. Juliette, reeling from seeing she’s hexenbiest, loses it during a fight with Rosalee and rips her throat open. She stares down at dead Rosalee, horrified, her hand and arm covered in blood, for several beats. Suddenly, Rosalee wakes her up. It was only a dream. It would’ve been the most unexpected thing Grimm would ever do or ever have done and move the show in a very interesting direction; however, Juliette only dreamed it. It represented her fears and what she could do if her new nature can’t be controlled. No, Monroe won’t die. Nick and Hank will save him.

David Greenwalt, and even Jim Kouf, already told a story about a hate group that kills impure folk. It happened almost sixteen years ago in an ANGEL episode titled “Hero”-a group of Nazi-like demons round up half-demons in Los Angeles for obliteration. It’s a good episode with a great ending that changes the series. The Wesenrein, led by the poorly named Grandmaster, share similar beliefs with the Scourge. The execution of the episodes differs. Doyle makes it his personal mission to help demons like him. Nick’s motivated by friendship. It’s also personal, yes, but it’s also more drawn out. “Wesenrein” had maybe a nod to “Hero” when Monroe finds his cellmate’s burned body.

“Wesenrein” also sets up a lot and tries to build the audiences’ anxious sense of anticipation. Will Monroe die? Will he escape? Oh, he escaped; but, oh, the Wesenrein caught him again. Shaw, the only lead in the case, becomes a victim of the Grandmaster. The Shaw interrogation scene involves Nick turning pale zombie again, which hasn’t happened since season three. Renard then denies Shaw any sort of civil rights because of the Wesen nature of the crime. Nick, Hank, Renard, and Wu, work the case together. At Shaw’s home, they see the cop parked outside Monroe’s and Rosalee’s in a picture with the Wesenrein. Characterization doesn’t advance, though. Nick repeats he’s doing it for friendship. Hank helps Wu. Meanwhile, Rosalee hangs out, while Juliette internally freaks. Grimm establishes life-or-death stakes in its world, but sometimes the characters behave brazenly or the writing slows. That’s also a problem of stalling for a second episode. The tribunal drama, which will decide Monroe’s fate, happens in episode ten, and the police won’t question the treacherous cop until episode ten. Rosalee expresses concern about Monroe, but the worst he deals with is a punk kid who likes bad music and yelling awkward sounding hate-filled dialogue at him.

The episode ends as Monroe faces the chanting tribunal, with a look of alarm and dread. The tribunal uses a Nazi-like symbol and dress in the garb of the Ku Klux Klan. The sand in the hour glass is running low.

Other Thoughts:

-Angel dealt with a tribunal in the season two premiere “Judgment.” It was great.

- Juliette and Nick never shared space during the episode. Her surprise may wait for two more seasons, or she’ll tell him in episode eleven. Episode ten seems busy.

-One scene in Vienna this week. Viktor reminds Adalind of the essentials of the storyline. He wants to find her daughter and thinks Nick’s mother has her. He might not have said that. I accidentally tuned out the dialogue.

-Wu asked, did the grimms take the name from the Grimm brothers? Nick said, yeah, more or less. Yes, the series was once about fairy tales coming to life.

-Thomas Ian Griffith wrote the episode. Hanelle M. Culpepper 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.