Friday, November 20, 2015

Grimm "Maiden Quest" Review

Grimm’s fairy tale adaptations have become infrequent as the series progressed. The first season had many fairy tale inspired episodes. David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf used the creatures from fairy tales as Greenwalt and Joss Whedon used demons and vampires in Buffy and ANGEL. These characters live beyond public knowledge. The fairy tale aspect became way less prominent and integral to the series. Whenever Grimm modernizes a fairy tale, though, it’s welcomed.

“Maiden Quest” modernizes the maiden quest fairy tale. Many writers used the basic idea of “Maiden Quest”. William Shakespeare used an iteration of the maiden quest in The Merchant of Venice (the casket test). Historically, the maiden quest story reduces the female character to an object. She’s a prize, or representative of property. The tale belongs to the men, the male who displays the most valor wins the greatest prize and attains the greatest riches. Such a rendering of the story in November 2015 would not work. Three male wesen compete in “Maiden Quest” for the hand of Emily Troyer, daughter of Daniel Troyer, a wealthy man connected to several crime syndicates. The first male to kill the murderer of his son will win Emily’s hand and the Troyer fortune. Emily’s quiet, maidenly—Brenna Kouf’s script included a typical scene of these tales in which the maiden wishes the one she’s most fond of and wishes to win her hand between Emily and the second man to die.

The target of the attacks is a local crime boss named Freddie Atkins. The first suitor, Isaac, tried, but he failed. Before he could slice Freddie’s head off, a bird-like wesen ripped his throat out. The same happened to Eli, the second suitor. He tried, but the mysterious murder ripped his throat out. The mystery, though, isn’t ‘Who’s killing the suitors?’ It is ‘What is Emily’s reason?’ I had no doubt she murdered Isaac. The Grimm staff played their collective hand openly. An attempt’s made to deceive the audience. Emily reciprocates Eli’s warm feelings for her. The big and not-at-all surprising reveal reveals the true mystery: Daniel wanted to test Emily. The maiden was not the prize at the end of the quest. The quest was the maiden’s alone. Making the quest the maiden’s was the only way to reverse the story and modernize it.

Back to the indiscreet Grimm writers: the bathroom scene with Nick and Adalind exemplified the clunky poor writing that seems more suited to a draft rather than the final production draft. Nick and Adalind behave awkwardly around each other in their new domestic life. Adalind felt embarrassed to tell Nick she felt safer with him in their fortress. Nick investigated the tunnels in their new place. He returned, dirty, and in need of a shower. Adalind needed to change her shirt. She forgot clothes. Nick couldn’t find clothes for her. Adalind doesn’t OWN clothes. He brought her his shirt. She exited the bathroom with the dress shirt covering her butt, though her pants were vomit-free. Nick used the bathroom. He stared at Adalind’s bra like a gosh darn 12 year old.

I noticed other strange bits of writing throughout “Maiden Quest.” Did the episode come in short? Nick expressed frustration about not hearing from the man that told him to keep Chavez’s phone. The narrative leaped ahead in time by a month or two last week. Nick’s frustrated because of that time jump. It’s an isolated scene which exists for the episode’s ending when Trubel returned. A month or two passed since #502. None of the characters looked for her. Nick staring angrily at his phone let the viewers know he hadn’t forgotten. It suggested Nick couldn’t act because he didn’t receive further instructions.

Another random scene, but not without purpose: Rosalee called Adalind about bringing a basketful of baby goodies for Kelly. She’d come to the fortress, but Adalind insisted she go to the spice shop. There’s no follow-up to the scene. The scene displayed growing friendship between the women. Adalind called her, in the teaser, for help regarding a crying Kelly. (Nick and Adalind learned that Kelly liked the bright light of a cell phone screen.) The women never appear in the same room together. Rosalee is only with Monroe during the episode, except for a scene when her and Monroe help the boys out with the crime and, of course, provide the pertinent information that breaks open the case.

Monroe and Rosalee thought about themselves as parents in the season’s previous episodes. They enjoyed a tranquil dinner together. I thought Adalind’s call would connect to their curiosity about having a child, i.e. the contrast of the chaotic dinner with the tranquil dinner in the kid-free home. I thought Rosalee’s voice soothed Kelly, for a second, but quickly understood the phone soothed the baby. Later, Rosalee opened a letter sent to her by someone from her past about the death of Carlos. Carlos wrote a song for her. She didn’t like the song or Carlos or the person who sent the letter. I assume the letter writer will appear to bring a bit of Rosalee’s past back to her; or, the episode came in short, and the writers put in these disconnected scenes to make time.

Other Thoughts:

-Adalind’s father abandoned her at age four. Is that the first time she mentioned her father? Will her father become a key character in season 26?

-A mayoral candidate asked Renard for his support. Grimm’s the second show I watch with a mayor plotline. Arrow’s all about mayors. Oliver’s running for office over on The CW, Wednesday nights, at 8pm.

-Grimm aired a new episode last Black Friday (in 2014). This year, NBC will not air a Black Friday episode of Grimm. I assume new episodes return December 4--with a giant rat monster.

-Brenna Kouf wrote the episode. Hanelle Culpepper directed.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "Mommie Dearest" Review

Mothers and fathers. Ivan Turgenev wrote Fathers and Sons and published it in 1862. The novel little resembles the theme of mothers and fathers in The Vampire Diaries. “Best Served Cold” had several father-centric scenes. Stefan imagined raising his child differently from how Giuseppe raised him and Damon. Julian acts as a mirror of their biological father. Lily loved and loves Julian how Damon and Stefan perceived she loved Giuseppe; however, a child’ perspective, more often than not, is incomplete. It’s impressionistic, complete with misreadings and inaccuracies.

Damon and Stefan remembered a painful upbringing dominated by an abusive father and a mother who chose to look the other way during the abusive moments. Lily explained that her sons did not know her experiences of the same moments. The storytelling occurs during a round of torturing her—the end goal being her agreement to help her sons kill Julian. Stefan and Damon share painful memories of both her lovers. Stefan revealed what Julian did to Valerie and his child while Damon reminded Lily about Giuseppe forcing him to eat his pet turkey, Sammy, during Thanksgiving dinner. Lily reacted to the stories with the expected icy, steely expression she always has on every occasion.

“Mommie Dearest” was a strong episode for Lily and Annie Wersching, particularly the latter half. Playing a rigid one-note character is difficult for actors. There’s a reason folks consider Don John an unplayable character. He’s taciturn and one-dimensional, so unlike the massive Falstaff or the diabolical Richard III or the existential despairer Hamlet. Lily’s a tough character for the fans because of her focus on the family and Julian. For the writers, she seems to inspire inconsistency. I think they want to write a complex character that cannot fit in ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ She’s sort of morally grey, except when she’s directly responsible for the sleeping beauty spell—but she doesn’t want her family to murder people. She used Elena only for the sake of Oscar. Something didn’t click for the character. I didn’t think it was the acting. It was the characterization. The culminating scene of her story in this episode, which brought together the scenes with her sons and the memories they trigged, when she realized Julian was Giuseppe repeated clicked for me. Following a broken family trying to repair and reconcile 150 years after is something better than what preceded “Mommie Dearest.” Of course, Lily could be Miss Stabby three years from now (and I’ll quietly regret writing this entire paragraph).

One significant plot point occurred during the A story: Damon stabbing Julian in the heart with a knife he thought mystical enough to kill him. Lily and Julian were linked to protect him. If he died, she died. Damon didn’t care, because he thought Lily didn’t care when his father abused him. Stefan learned that Lily cared but that she kept quiet to stay near her boys after her husband threatened to take them away to a faraway place and never return (punishment for her “duplicity”). Damon didn’t care that his mother would’ve died if the mystical knife worked. It lacked the phoenix stone, which the brothers were not aware was needed to power up the weapon. Slowly, the vague happenings three years from now become less vague.

Three years from now, Damon told Alaric he’d avoid a trap or that he’d trap the one trying to trap him. Well, Damon fell for the trap. He found an empty news stage. Someone shot him with dart tranquilizers. The villain wants to draw Stefan out. Lily or Valerie seem to be the likely culprits, but a massive twist could occur in which we find out Matt’s pregnant via supernatural means with Nora’s child.

Matt, after last week’s intrigue with the room full of compelled attractive CW extras, was the lone one interested in it. Caroline helped, but her baby drama distracted her. Valerie, now best friends with Caroline, followed her. Bonnie abandoned Matt to spend time with Enzo as well as a drunk and despondent Alaric. So, Matt reached out to Tyler and Jeremy for help. Both responded. Perhaps, the two will make an appearance during the run-up to the midseason finale next month.

The entire “Lily dies with Julian” came about because Enzo decided to duel with Julian. Bonnie helped him find the sword/knife. The duel harkens to the 19th century. Two masterful Russian artists, Pushkin and Lermontov, died fighting duels. In a curious twist of fate, or instance of fate, if you prefer, Lermontov died similarly to how his character died in A Hero of Our Time. I digress. The duel worked for character reasons. It emphasized Julian’s villainy, Enzo’s adoration of Lily, and, later, the aforementioned disregard Damon has for his mother’s life. Bonnie wished Enzo and Julian would both die, saying it’d be a win-win, unaware of the dramatic irony, for in three years she evidently can’t live without him—unless a twist is coming involving the stone and vampire souls inhabiting foreign bodies.

Stefan and Damon really need reconciliation with their mother as well as affirmation that someone loves them instead of each other and one or two girls. Stefan mourned the loss of his child because he wanted to meet the child and because it represented a chance to give someone what he lacked as a boy. Damon remains the abused boy that lashes out because he struggles to deal and to cope. Could the endgame of The Vampire Diaries be about these characters healing from their terrible experiences? Alaric got his babies.

Other Thoughts:

-Kat Graham looked gorgeous in this episode.

-Maybe Jeremy’s adventures in Santa Fe will tie into the story with the compelled people. I don’t know.

-It’s difficult to maintain suspense about Caroline’s pregnancy when the audience knows Alaric has twin girls in three years.

-Valerie told Caroline the secret about what happened to her baby 150 years ago. She’ll be the maid of honor when Caroline and Alaric marry. I hope that’s not an episode.

-Chad Fiveash & Justin Stotreaux wrote the episode. Tony Solomons directed.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Grimm "Lost Boys" Review

After two episodes that established the central threat of the season—with the appropriate vagueness for a serialized TV show—episode three of Grimm leaves the threat of the claws to tell a Peter Pan-esque story about four wesen children who need a mother. They don’t know what or who they are. Every adult has abandoned them. The lost children hope Rosalee will be the one that doesn’t abandon them after she lets Peter, the angry killer one among the four, leave with medicine to help his sister.

“Lost Boys” is an okay episode. Grimm episodes can flail around for extended periods. Rosalee’s taken about halfway through the episode. Monroe, Nick, and Hank arrived at the start of the last act. In between, she told them a story about grimms and wesen they didn’t understand. Rosalee ate a berry. Big John and his brother fought. Peter tried to look menacing. The sister beamed to have a mother. The kids have no idea about life. They’re motivated by need and act by instinct. They need good guidance. For a spell, I thought Monroe and Rosalee would take the children into their home. I wondered about the potential storytelling disaster of that choice. Peter was the lone kid with any semblance of definition. The girl coughed a lot. Big John obeyed Peter. The other kid wanted berry credit.

Rosalee laments that the kids will re-enter a system that’ll confuse them more and make them angrier at the world. The kids took another woman. She escaped them, presumably out of terror after seeing them woged. The kids don’t know that they’re scary. I suppose the twist is that they meet the hammy leader of the claws group at the end of the episode. He told the boys, “The girl is safe” before swearing them into their new family. Will these kids come back to haunt Rosalee, Monroe, and Nick? Peter promised he’d find Rosalee and kill her if she left. Now a bad person is raising him. Grimm takes a good while to return to any plot points; so, the audience may not see Peter follow through on his threat until season twelve (or it’ll be dropped, and both the audience and the character will forget four lost children took Rosalee in #503).

Beyond the central lost kids/Rosalee plot, it’s a subdued episode. Nick moved out of the house and into a warehouse with Kelly and Adalind. Near the end of the episode, Adalind asked Nick to lay next to her to help her sleep in the new place. Nick looked awkward and uncomfortable next to her. Before long they’ll probably snuggle and spoon. The warehouse looked wide open. Filming action sequences should be easier for the staff. The two future lovers reminisced about their first meeting in the “Pilot.” It was the first woge Nick saw, and a major part of NBC’s marketing campaign.  

Meisner debriefed Renard about the latest nonsense with the Royals and the Resistance. Viktor holds the throne. He paid The Resistance to help overthrow the king. The rest of the scene did not advance the overall purpose of Meisner’s shadowy wandering around Portland. He freed Trubel from her cell in the last act. I assume she’s ready for whatever The Resistance trained her for.

All in all, there was a kidnapping, some dramatic intrigue, some slow progress toward romance, and no Wu. It was an episode of television.

Other Thoughts:

-I think the store Big John and Peter chose may’ve been the most heavily guarded store in TV history. Pharmacy techs everywhere. The security guard roamed the premises. It looked like a government facility compared to the homely rustic quality of Rosalee’s spice shop.

-Nick’s back on the force. The other guy disappeared. So, that’s good. Grimm needn’t do more of the ‘He doesn’t know!’ storylines.

-The writers took the epigraph from Peter Pan. “I think I had a mother once.” I thought of the paragraph in Lolita about Humbert Humbert’s mother (“Picnic. Lightning.”) I don’t know why. VN gave Humbert a mother trauma to fool and trap the Viennese council. Well, this is becoming a digression.

-A former lawyer colleague of Adalind's told her she'll get her job back if asked. He's probably evil.

-Sean Calder wrote the episode. Aaron Lipstadt directed.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Vampire Diaries "Best Served Cold" Review

What about the classroom full of compelled attractive folk, show? What about that? Wait until next week, I suppose.

So, “Best Served Cold” serves up attempted vengeance, as well as more death, another gosh darn party, and a plot twist so bad I’m contemplating not watching the show anymore. First: Julian, Stefan, and Damon. Damon and Stefan want to kill Julian, but at different times. Damon wants to strike when Lily’s happy. Stefan wants to strike as soon as possible. Julian struck me as Klaus-lite. The brothers compared him to their father. Something about the actor reminded me of Joseph Morgan. Julian’s defined by others’ perceptions of him. For Lily, he’s her perfect man; for Mary Louise, he’s an enabler; for Beaux, he’s a sparring partner; for the Salvatores, he’s a villain; ditto for Valerie and Enzo. For Julian, he’s deranged, brutal, and psychopathic because of the spell, though all of his qualities in present Mystic Falls were consistent with his qualities in 1863. He asked Lily for help in eluding the follow-up attacks by her sons, help that would require cooperation from the entire family.

Season 7 of The Vampire Diaries has depended on the tritest tropes to sustain conflict and drama amongst the characters. Characters don’t communicate. Lack of communication leads to wrong impressions. Wrong impressions leads to relationship erosions. Stefan didn’t tell anyone about his lost child—he wanted to honor Valerie’s wish. Valerie revealed to Caroline she made Stefan promise to create drama between him and Caroline. I mean, she’s not that overt, but that’s the gist of it. Stefan refused to tell Damon why he wanted to go for Julian at the welcome party. Once Damon heard why Stefan had bloodlust all evening, he promised to help kill Julian whenever Stefan’s ready to try again. Secrecy’s not great for drama when the drama becomes tiresome, rote, a crutch,, etc. Now, Stefan and Caroline share baby drama. Stefan not telling Caroline about why Valerie stayed the night produces the most shallow of drama whereas Stefan communicating with her, while devoid of hack story choices, might produce meaningful development and understanding between not only them but also Valerie.

Caroline, via magic, learned she’s carrying the babies of Alaric and Jo. Not Jo died. Vampire souls in human bodies don’t go well together. Not Jo, named Florence, gave Alaric what he needed: a chance to say goodbye and the close that comes with the goodbye. It was a great scene. Matt Davis and Jodi Lyn O’Keefe touchingly played it. Unfortunately, more followed it. Valerie watched the wedding video and deduced the coven cast a spell to save the twins. Candice King is expecting, so Caroline became the surrogate for Alaric and Jo. It’s a horrible plot twist. I learned not to trust Julie Plec when she promises an awesome plot twist. I thought whatever nonsense would happen in the classroom would be a great twist that’d expand the series beyond the immediate narrative somnolence of Julian, the Heretics, Enzo’s feelings, the new terrible triangle, or something that’d move it forward to 2016. No; Caroline’s Cordelia. Whether it means she’s the future Mrs. Saltzman in three years, I do not know, but it probably means that. The flash forward showed that whoever hunted Stefan used Caroline as bait. Will the flash forward cohere? I’m doubtful. Will it be worth the vague dialogue, the 55 second teases at the start of each episode?

The setting for “Best Served Cold” was the remodeled Salvatore house for a celebration--specifically, the return of Julian. For reasons that one can explain through the device of metafiction only, those that don’t like the heretics show as guests with gifts. Lily’s the reason. Her 19th century upbringing won’t leave her. Also, the writers stopped trying long ago to think of any other way to bring characters together. The default’s the party.

Various subplots advanced at the party. Bonnie and Enzo continued to their destined path to loverdom in three years. Nora and Mary Louise experienced more relationship instability. Their subplot reused the beats from an episode or two (or three ago). Mary Louise needed blood—again—to ignite her passion for Nora, or her confidence, or to overcome her insecurities. I breezed past Julian examining his pectorals the way 1990s Lex Luger did. The scar disappeared during his resurrection. Julian felt ‘off’ because of the loss of the scar. The scar’s a vague something. I look forward to less passive-aggressive/ultra-aggressive Mary louise and more ‘how Stefan gets the scar.’

The lone thing that piqued my interest fell away at the end: the classroom. I want to know why 30 very attractive CW extras were compelled to sit in a classroom with an IV set up next to them. If the school exploded, will it move the narrative forward in time by three years? Is it The Incident the Dharma…ah wrong show.

The title “Best Served Cold” unfortunately reflects the episode. The story’s cold—not the Chekhov style of writing coldly. It’s cold as in cold. I’m not into season seven right now. Perhaps I’ll warm to it. Perhaps not.

Other Thoughts:

-Enzo and Bonnie shared a moment of sexual tension in an effort to make Lily jealous. They don’t even know, you guys.

-I don’t “ship” characters. If I did, I’d ship Matt and Nora. Nora’s underutilized. TVD recycles the same stuff every episode: parties, dances, formals, road trips, plans that go awry, etc. I want a Matt and Nora road trip episode.

-When Damon gave away Stefan’s plan to murder Julian to Julian during a game of billiards, I found myself frustrated that I didn’t think of that idea for a short story. Oh, well. There goes another thing someone else thought of before I did.

-Caroline Dries wrote the episode. I missed the name of the director.

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.