Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "I'd Leave My Happy Home for You" Review

Now that’s a crazy episode of The Vampire Diaries. Bonnie had glass in her neck that quickly drained blood from her body while Elena, human for seconds, faces a pissed off Lily who’d love to rip her neck off. For a minute I thought the writers would kill off Elena two episodes before the finale. Julie Plec challenged fans to predict how Elena leaves the series. Killing off the heroine of the series before the season finale would’ve been a pleasant surprise. I imagined the final two episodes devoted to the brothers Salvatore and their complex relationship with Mom. Elena escaped through a vent. Damon and Stefan knocked their mother out with a shot of vervain to the neck, placed her in the Salvatore detox dungeon, and hoped for the best.

Lily promised her Stefan “devastation” once she found a way to bring her friends to her from the 1903 prison world. Alas, the hoped for best did not come to fruition. Lily’s a broken, sad, and insane vampire. Stefan and Lily shared a few scene monumental scenes together that were about their lost mother-son bond, Stefan’s quiet desperation to pull her back from brutal ripper murders, Lily’s disconnectedness from life, and Stefan’s attempts to remind her that she needn’t murder or maim, because of him and Damon. The latter happened after Stefan lied to her. Lily could tell. He can’t look her in the eye when he lies. The second time he looked her in the eye as she held a stake of wood inches from her heart. The scene would end in one of two ways. Lily, after telling Stefan she forgot how beautiful his eyes are, stakes herself, turns to stone, as Stefan gasps and furrows the brow; or she attacks her former pride and joy and bundle of love, her sweet Stefan. I liked the quiet depiction of Stefan’s arc in “I’d Leave My Happy Home For You.” He didn’t lie to her during their chat in the Mystic Grille, but he lied to himself-that is, he didn’t believe what he said. In his desperate moment, though, as he watched her hold a stake to her chest, he let it out. I thought it was touching.

Secondary to the troubles with his mother was Damon’s consideration of taking the cure so that he could live the rest of his days with Elena, which Damon kept from Stefan. Enzo informed Stefan, because Enzo’s the washerwoman who knows everything about all and will one day turn into a willow. The brothers barely chatted. Damon took Elena into memories she forgot. They ate fries atop the Mystic Falls clock tower. I wanted Elena and Stefan to talk about her choice. They hardly share scenes anymore. Elena took the cure without any drama. It differed from the heavy drama of the season four cure that took the gang to damned Nova Scotia for the first time. Stefan ignored that Elena took it and only felt concern for his brother leaving his happy home for Elena, the girl he also loved. TV writers habitually choose to ignore parts of characters’ pasts in service of other plots. Pacey dated Joey’s best friend and roommate during season five, one season after one of the great teenage TV romances in teenage melodrama history, with nary a mention or reference to the relationship that led Pacey to sailing the seas after their breakup (which he caused by losing his bleeping mind at the Capeside High senior prom). Plec, Dries, and the other writers for The Vampire Diaries won’t acknowledge the intense and far superior romance of Stefan’s and Elena’s because they don’t want it to impinge or devalue or decrease Elena’s and Damon’s own intense relationship, as if people may only have one intense love in their life, as if exclusivity and convenient amnesia makes one better than the other. Of course, Stefan called Damon about waiting to take the cure until after Lily’s murder spree ceased. I guess he felt concern for Elena’s life; however, Damon comes to her after Lily’s locked away so that she can tell him about the memories that returned to her of him and her.

Alaric seemingly compelled me to forget their relationship, Damon’s and Elena’s, for I did not recall the scene about the cure in season four where Damon walked away damning humanity like a character in a William Gass story. Bonnie stated her opinion that Elena feared being human with Damon because her feelings may change. Jo challenged the idea that going supernatural could change a person so much. Jo, the poor character, does not know she’s a fictional character in a fictional world in which going supernatural will change a person so much because it’s a way to transition a character from an epic romance to another epic romance without incurring the backlash of vocal internet fandom folk. The memories returned to Elena, good and bad, and she still loved Damon. It’s not about her not loving Damon anymore; it’s about her love for Damon. He loves life as a vampire. The episode title hints at the final two episodes. People say “I’d” when they can’t do whatever it is they would. “I’d go with you, if you’d like” or “I’d have bought a pint of ice cream if the store re-stocked the ice cream shelf.” Damon would, but he won’t. Something terrible will happen.

Lily’s psychotic vampire-witch friends from the 1903 prison world walk in from their cold, snowy morning walk around Nova Scotia for a Kai prepared breakfast. Kai’s neck looked covered with punctures from vampire teeth, but that crazy witch knows how to return to Mystic Falls. It involves either porridge or gruel.

The teaser of the episode was among the cleverer of in the series. Alaric sat in his classroom, grading papers in the dark, unaware that Constance Garnett suffered from increasingly bad eyesight from her dedicated work of translating great works of Russian literature by candlelight, and he heard a noise. Damon kidnapped him from the classroom and took him to a bachelor party. Bonnie and Elena hired a male stripper to get Jo’s party started. It was a great, great teaser that played on something terrible always happening to Alaric whenever he’s happy. The looming threat of the witch-vampires and Kai’s return makes Matt’s warning to Alaric seem foreshadowy. Matt’s a drunken mess, picking fights with Tyler, and telling Alaric that he’s a bastard for choosing to bring a child into a world with vampires, witches, and werewolves. So, Alaric, the wise old soul he is, promised Jo, after learning from her about the twins, that they’ll raise their children somewhere far away where her family won’t find them, where they’ll be safe, and I know that something terrible will happen before that happens.

“I’d Leave My Happy Home for You” had near-deaths, palpable dread, and plenty foreboding, and also a promise from Lily to devastate Mystic Falls. Though the series will return for a seventh season, it had a finale vibe. The writers, not every season, build stories to great emotional crescendos. I’m indifferent about the devastation the witch-vamps will cause in Mystic Falls. There’s a lot of great personal character stories being told as the sixth season closes. I hope for the best finale of TVD since the Elena’s death in season three in two weeks. Fingers crossed.

Other Thoughts:

-Nina Dobrev and Kat Graham dancing with the police officer dancer was an unexpected highlight of the episode.

-Tyler’s the least essential character on The CW.

-Jo mentioned Liv, but not by name.

-Enzo and Damon shared a scene after a long period apart. Damon razzed him about not telling him his own mother turned him in 1903. The writers didn’t know that then, Damon.

-Brett Matthews & Rebecca Sonnenshine wrote the episode. Jesse Marn directed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A thought about Game of Thrones' "High Sparrow"

“High Septon” has a storyline that drastically differs from the last two A Song of Ice and Fire books. I’m interested in learning what Benioff and Weiss are made of. I have conflicting opinions about Game of Thrones. One week I think it’s amazing television, and the next I think it’s overrated, because it manages to tell no story in an episode, and it gets eyeballs because of what happens. The ‘What happened’ culture is the only reason anyone paid attention to Grey’s Anatomy this week. People remember what happened but not the details that led to what happened. I missed the end of Littlefinger’s monologue to Sansa about ‘not being a bystander’ because of my consideration of the different between Benioff and Weiss as storytellers and Benioff and Weiss as adapters. Adapting books into long-form television, especially Martin’s fantasy episode, is challenging, and adding new material to an unfinished story is doubly challenging.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Grimm "Iron Hans" Review

Iron Hans’ Youth Camp for Wesen helped young boys prepare for their Wesen futures. What does it mean to be a wesen? Beyond that, what does it mean to have power? What does it mean to feel the pull of evil and the pull of good simultaneously? “Iron Hans” could’ve been an adolescent coming-of-age story, but Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt didn’t seem interested in telling that story. The girls don’t have guidance. Maggie told her father at episode’s end that he never saw her as she was. Juliette, like Maggie, is an outsider, in a boys club. Ideally, she’d destroy Kenneth. Kenneth’s like the others. The boys run the wesen world. Some of the girls get lost in the cracks.

The Maggie reveal comes out of nowhere. The story sets up the young buck son as the killer. He disliked Monroe’s friendship with Nick. There’s a shot of him during Monroe’s story about tasting blood that implicates him. Suddenly, though, Maggie comes out of the woods, tackles Monroe, and asks him to join her for the hunt. The last time Monroe went on a hunt was with his ex-girlfriend in season one, if my untrustworthy memory culled a trustworthy memory from the murky depths of my mind, and that ended in sadness for Monroe. It was his last time as a ‘wild’ wesen. She pulled him back. A season later he met Rosalee. Maggie’s characterization was bare. The boys left her out of the tame rabbit hunt, the camps, and the everything. She barely formed a connection before attaching herself to Monroe in the last act. Her dying scene is borderline gibberish. A lot of emotion coming through that didn’t exist before the hiker put a knife into the side of her abdomen.

Was there a parallel between Maggie and Juliette? Perhaps. One may argue that Dostoevsky’s Demons is a prophetic vision of McDonalds if one has the textual evidence to prove it in the body of the essay. If a parallel exists, it was bare. Juliette continues to increase her antagonistic behavior to everyone she holds dear because she blames them for her transformation. A helpful amount of convenient soapy writing aids her ‘me vs. the world’ mentality. Kenneth planned to turn Juliette fully by telling her about Adalind’s pregnancy and the identity of the baby’s father. Kenneth refers to the baby as the baby Juliette should’ve had with Nick. Pissed off and wanting to kill Adalind, Juliette visits the police station-well, running into her might’ve been a cruel twist of McFate-and learns that Nick will also protect Adalind from her. Juliette hates that, but by protecting Adalind he’s protecting Juliette’s precious humanity. After the writers have fun writing bad Juliette, Juliette will return to her do-good attitude, and she can’t return to goodness with a body trail.

The rest of “Iron Hans” involves Kenneth taking orders from the King to kill Renard, Renard continues to investigate the person he assaulted, and Rosalee begins to work on a way to help Juliette return to normalcy. Renard’s the least essential character in Grimm. Adalind explained what needed to happen to help Juliette in exchange for Nick protecting her from Juliette. Nick and Adalind had a moment in which he felt his baby kick. Adalind then leaves. Nick, freaked out, stands still, and Renard says, and I’m paraphrasing, “This is highly complicated.” Earlier in “Iron Hans” he stood in the pouring rain like an early 2000s emo kid in an imagined Taking Back Sunday video for “Great Romances of the 20th Century.” Also, he wastes department resources on a case he created by assaulting a man. I hope that he still investigates the case in season 7, having, of course, made no progress.

Other Thoughts:

-Enjoyable episode, overall, I’d say to an inquiring mind over bottled water. Jeff Fahey is great. I’d like Iron Hans to return. It’s a cool part of the wesen world.

-It’d be amazing to camp in Oregon, eh? The woods at night there look magical.

-Jim Kouf & David Greenwalt wrote the episode. Sebastian Silva directed it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "Because" Review

The Vampire Diaries’ writers have a few cheap tricks they use to move plot forward. The cheapest trick is magic; the second cheapest trick is the vampires’ ability to transport memories from one head to another head in the ‘make the switch turn on’ expedited manner. The writers had fun with switch-off Caroline, the dead bodies, the sexy times with Stefan, the bad, bad, things she did, and Damon had the best dark humor of the series as he dropped the various criminal reports of Caroline’s body dump in Whitmore, but it needed to stop, and so it stopped.

Stefan played the villain for awhile, but Caroline sniffed his humanity out after he declined taking advantage of her humanity-free sexual advances. The plan, which he relayed to his friends, and which the writers relayed to the viewers in flashbacks, involved draining Caroline of blood, starving her, pushing memories onto her, and hoping she’d switch her humanity on. The key was a letter written by her mother and mailed to Caroline after her death. Caroline asked Stefan to burn it. Stefan, playing the part, burned it. Later, Caroline begged Stefan to let her see the letter in the memory he gave her, not knowing that it was gone, like her mother. She can’t see the letter, and she can’t see her mother. That’s why she needed to turn her humanity on-to deal and to recover.

The Stefan/Caroline story was the best of “Because.” Paul Wesley’s excellent whenever he plays compassionate, empathetic, understanding, honed in Stefan, and I thought he and Candice Accola gave the best performance of the season in the memory scene. Caroline reacted like an addict to the intervention scene, but vampire stuff has an addict undertheme. She attacked, mauled, and nearly killed Stefan. The best shot of “Because” was when Caroline’s humanity clicked back. She removed the dagger from Stefan’s heart as Stefan’s skin began to harden. Caroline then freaked. The next melodramatic part of the story unfolded after Caroline experienced rock-bottom and she decided she couldn’t see Stefan anymore after what they did. Stefan nodded. She didn’t say it, but she walked away from him. Stefan told Jo and Alaric that she wouldn’t want to see him.

Elena and Damon imagined a future which Elena realized Damon did not dream of sharing with her, because any future involved her as human, growing old, and Damon, cure in a box, knew could not involve him. Elena congratulated Alaric on his happiness. She relieved Jo and Alaric of their Caroline duty and referred to herself as Jo’s replacement. For Elena Jo represents a future with a husband, kids, a practice, a normal life. The cure, which Lily uses as leverage against Damon because she wants the ascendant, finds Elena in a ring box. Lily, knowing her son would like to live forever with Elena, doesn’t destroy the cure (but she destroys the box before she destroys the body of a driver). Caroline puked in her mouth-figuratively so-when she heard Damon and Elena imagine their future. It is, dramatically, a little stale.

Damon/Elena drama, Lily’s desire for her psychotic family in the 1903 hell, Enzo’s random deep connection with Lily, and Bonnie’s…okay, so not Bonnie’s anything, but the previous three seem like streaks of mud running down a white board. No one knows what the hell to do with Enzo. He stalked Sarah for awhile, he tortured Matt Donovan for awhile, and now he’s devoted to Lily, an insane vampire who fears feeling and reacts to feeling by removing heads from bodies. Bonnie hid the ascendant from her. Okay, well, she stole the ascendant. Damon wanted it, and Bonnie used truth to remind him why he didn’t want the ascendant.

The final moving piece of the Damon and Elena drama, which spun like a top from last episode through this episode, was Damon’s vow to Elena to take the cure with her. It dramatically ended the episode. The episode had a lot of convenient starts or convenient starts-whatever you, my dear reader, prefer. Starts of conflict, that is-Caroline’s unwinding for her humanity-free violence, her separation from Stefan, and her acceptance of her mother’s death; Elena and Damon shall drone on about the cure, should they really split it; and those damn witch-vampires will make an appearance from 1903 along with a pissed-off-and-no-longer-teddy-bear-like-Kai.

Apt title the writers chose for the episode. “Because.” Things happen because it’s episode 19 of a 23 episode monster season.

Other Thoughts:

-Matt continues to recover from the stab wound. The look he gives to the mirror is one of weary resignation tinged with irritation. I look forward to his next scene with contrite Caroline.

-Stefan snapped at Alaric about being familiar with the process of returning from switch-off mode. Oh, how I hope no other vampire turns off the switch in season seven.

-Candice Accola was so good in “Because.” Her anguish in the dream scene when she couldn’t enter the door to her home and visit with her mother and learn what she wrote in the letter was intense. I know that dream wherein you can’t get close enough to a dead parent.

-Geoffrey Wing-Shotz directed it. Ah, I missed the credited writer.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Game of Thrones "The House of Black and White" Review

Your reviewer, who is me, and your other favorite reviewers, which does not include me, will write that the second episode of the season continues to set up storylines, establish relationships, introduce new locations and new characters, and that once things have been established and set up, the crazy stuff that’ll allow click-bait sites, which is every site but mine, to generate the most click-baity headlines. “WHICH GAME OF THRONES CHARACTER MET A SHOCKING AND BRUTAL END?!?” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss hate book report style reviews in which the reviewer targets a theme and writes about the whole episode through that lens. It’s similar to a beat writer or sports columnist writing on deadline and snatching the easiest storyline from the game that night. “Felix Hernandez ate a cupcake before the game and knew he’d strike out 15 batters” and I don’t know; that’s nonsense. TV reviewers, professional and amateur, quickly write reviews to beat the utter deluge of reviews. So, you may read, “This was about power” or “this was about identity” or “this was about gender dynamics” or “this was about the Marxist idea of nonsense” which is fine. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, Ross Perot has done it, and I note it because I will not bloviate about the annual setting up of storylines for the season or that this episode was about anything at all.

Arya made her first season five appearance on a boat to Braavos. Her ultimate destination is The House of Black and White. A Feast for Crows had too little Arya and too much Cersei, but the Arya chapters show George R.R. Martin at his finest. The small alleys of Braavos that Arya walks, the docks she observes while riding in on the boat, and that house she’s taken to by a good Bravoosi man, are wonderfully described and made alive in the Arya chapters. I’m delighted season five will add more to Arya’s time at the House of Black and White. She doesn’t enter until near the end of the episode, and we don’t enter the house with her. A man denied her entrance after looking at her coin and stating that a Jaqen H’gar never lived at the house. Arya said her daily prayers before wandering Braavos. The man returned to her as she engaged three brutes over a dead pigeon. Arya learned that Jaqen doesn’t exist, but she saw the man change his face from old to who she knew as Jaqen. I dig this story a lot when it’s supernaturally weird, when shadows with the faces of kings kill potential kings, when Melisandre delivers a shadow demon from her body, when Sam sees white walkers, and Bran’s warging and seeing what he can’t see because he no longer walks.

Cersei’s increased paranoia and insecurity in King’s Landing led to Jaime’s decision to head south for Dorne, as a diplomat, for the purpose of bringing Myrcella home to her mother. The Dornish leader, Doran, who Ellaria scolds for allowing the Lannister girl to walk freely, eat freely, and breathe freely, is sedate, neutral, accepting of his brother’s death. The law is law, he more or less feebly says to Ellaria. Dany uses ‘the law is the law’ when scolding a former slave for killing the son of the Harpy before a trial, too. The viewer sees Doran and knows he’s not like his brother; he’s without passion, without fire, and he’s stricken to a chair. Cersei worried Dorne will murder her in retaliation for Oberyn’s gruesome death. Jaime went to Stokeworth for Bronn’s assistance in bringing his “niece” back to King’s Landing. The Jaime/Bronn partnership was the best part of the King’s Landing scenes. Kevyn’s sharp opinions about Cersei also delighted me. He’d rather return to Casterly Rock than be the Queen’s puppet. The council seems weak and comical with Mace Tyrell as master of coin and ships, and Qyburn’s sadistic self as Cersei’s most trusted councilmember.

The Night’s Watch elected Jon Snow as the Lord Commander. Sam spoke for Jon. His monologue was great character work. Timid Sam wouldn’t speak for anyone before he met Gilly and before he slaughtered a white walker. Sam may take jabs at the men who jab at him. Jon’s still dour, honorable, brooding, but Sam is Sam. His presence lightens the dark and dour Castle Black. Jon’s burdened by responsibility. He’s the secret hero following the hero’s journey. He’s Frodo, and Sam’s Sam. Heroes need a Sam. Stannis wanted Jon to become Lord of Winterfell, but Jon reasons a man who breaks his vows’ word would mean nothing. Stannis also repeats that the law is the law. The line echoes in “The House of Black and White.” Now there’s a Lord Commander and a self-righetous and deluded King sharing a castle.

Finally, Dany continues struggling to rule Meereen. Ser Barristen explains the history of her father, the mad king, who acted because he loved power. He loved the screams of burning men and women that disobeyed his rule. Barristen does not want Dany to become her father, to rule with fire, to rule with murder, to instead let the law be, and to deal out justice by the law and only the law. The suggestion is, throughout the episode, that rulers make the law. Whoever is King is the law; however, Dany begins to change that. The law, for her, exists separate from her. The final 10 minutes of the episode shows Dany executing her new justice by executing the former slave she saved who killed the son of the Harpy before the trial determined his guilt or innocence in Dany’s Meereen. I noticed a particular thing during the scene, which was that Dany wouldn’t look at the man about to lose his head, because Ned Stark would never take the life of a man without looking him in the eye and swinging the axe himself. Winterfell was mentioned three times, if I remember, in the episode. Bear Island wouldn’t aid Stannis because the only true King of the North is the Stark.

All that’s dead is not lost.

Other Thoughts:

-I liked "The House of Black and White" quite a bit more than "The Wars to Come."

-Drogon said hello to his mother at the end of the episode before flying away into the Meereenese night. I loathe the use of “Chekhov’s gun.” Read a story of his before copping something he wrote in a letter which he may not have meant (I liked Nabokov’s opinion about the “Chekhov’s gun"). However, ending the episode with Drogon flying away seems significant.

-Tyrion and Varys held for Volantis. Cersei put a bounty on Tyrion’s head. She received the wrong head. She’ll probably receive more wrong heads. Tyrion dropped a line in his conversation with Varys that one may want to remember.

-Sansa rejected Brienne’s offer for protection, opting to remain with Littlefinger. The tavern scene led to a great action sequence with great fight choreography and horse work. I love Pod and Brienne together. I do not like Sansa with Littlefinger. Littlefinger, though a criminal mastermind, has a dramatic flatness to him that can span seasons. He needs Varys.

-Ellaria mentioned the Sand Sisters. The Meereen citizens hissed at Dany like snakes. I’m looking forward to seeing the Sand Sisters and more of Dorne. I love Dorne.

-D.B. Weiss and David Benioff wrote the episode. Michael Slovis 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.