Friday, March 25, 2016

Grimm "Lycanthropia" Review

Grimm’s mythology continues to grow in season five. Prior to “Lycanthropia”, season five tapped into previous mythology, such as the keys and the revelation that Hitler tried to lead a wesen uprising in Germany. “Lycanthropia” introduced the lycanthrope, an old disease that plagued blutbads. No cure exists for lycanthropia. Monroe offered that burying a lycanthrope alive was the cure he learned about as a kid. By the climatic final act, when Nick, Hank, Monroe, Rosalee, and Wu discover the twist that their suspected lycanthrope’s mother is the lycanthrope, they have no cure, but they’ve a tranquilizer that won’t kick in for five minutes. Their helplessness against the forgotten wesen disease means more when Wu, who never, ever has a solo scene, in a solo scene, discovers a scratch on his leg. Later, with the full moon in view, Wu profusely sweated and shook in his bed. It seems lycanthropia has him.

The twist of the episode seems obvious after the twist, but the epigraph pointed to the idea of missing the obvious. The lycanthrope of the episode, the mother of the suspected lycanthrope, told Hank and Nick that she didn’t call the police after her son didn’t show, and she reminded him that ‘7 was too late.’ Those two lines suggested that she’d protect her son, regardless of the cost to the public. Grimm used the tropes of other werewolf stories, or any story in which one character has a deadly secret, to slightly reverse expectation. A story about a mother protecting her son at all cost became a story about a son protecting his mother at all cost; but mother and son act as plot devices. Jeff Miller’s script is more about establishing the threat of lycanthropia, its incurability, and the little twist than it is about developing either character. They’re from a wealthy family, the son’s a successful commercial real estate agent, he lets his secretary buy a gift for his married friends, and she’s even less developed and defined because if she had either the twist wouldn’t work.

Monroe and Rosalee joined Nick and Hank on the beat of the investigation. It’s rare to see Rosalee outside of the spice shop. Her and Monroe walked the Oregon woods following the scent of the shirt. Unfortunately, they’re again relegated to solving much of the case for Nick and Hank. Like a lot of Grimm characters, they lack a clear arc. Adalind recently got an arc (the return of her powers, AND the news about Diana); Renard’s part of the Black Claws plot to run the town of Portland; however, Rosalee and Monroe mostly helps Nick pro bono. This episode was the closest Nick’s police life intersected with his grimm life since his department investigated murders he committed. Nick could form his own agency next season. No drama really happened from juggling both worlds. Maybe if Renard turns against Black Claw’s plan for him, Rachel and Lucien expose the precinct, forcing them to work underground to take down the group.

This episode had more secrets. The funniest secret was Eve’s. She told Nick and Hank what she found at Rachel’s, but wouldn’t tell them she found the Renard poster and postage date at Rachel’s, but she mentioned Rachael. Renard met with Adalind about Diana, told her about Meisner’s heroics, but he didn’t want her to tell Nick. Adalind still didn’t tell Nick about her powers returning. Also, Nick seemed to hide the treasure box behind the wall in the tunnel he explores every so often. Secrets sometimes work for drama conflicts. The first season of The Americans has some effective secrets-for-drama that stem from the specifics of characters instead of needlessly having characters keep secrets because keeping the secrets allows writers to waste time. That’s Grimm, though, and that’s part of the problem with 22 episode orders.

“Lycanthropia” is a neat episode, and more substantial than last week’s “Silence of the Lambs”. Grimm’s stand alone episodes work better when the case affects the characters. “Silence of the Slams” didn’t matter for the characters the audience cares about. “Lycanthropia” does. Shooting to kill worked for taking out the threat of a superfluous character, but it won’t work for Wu. Perhaps this episode is a springboard for returning to the central arc of the season with the treasure and Black Claw.

Other Thoughts:

- Wu last had a wesen affliction in season one. Has it been that long? Wu used to eat paper clips and coins. Do you think a piece of the true cross, if it is indeed a piece the true cross, holds the cure for lycanthropia?

-The tunnel leads to another tunnel. It’s either bottomless or shallow. I couldn’t tell. I thought of Spike’s “There’s a hole in the world. Feels like we ought to have known”. Greenwalt only directed “The Girl in Question” in ANGEL’s fifth season.

-Interestingly edited teaser, wasn’t it? Maybe there’s a connection between what’s deeper in the tunnels and the forgotten disease, or there’s not a connection. The editing suggested a parallel.

-Jeff Miller wrote the episode. Lee Rose directed.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Grimm "Silence of the Slams" Review

The 101st episode of Grimm was a stand-alone case of the week about a Luchador discontented with his booking. Goyo, the frustrated Luchador, lacks a foundation and a history. Benito, the neighborhood maker of masks, thinks it’s a shame that Goyo doesn’t understand Spanish nor what he carved in wood, an emblem of the first Meso-American civilization. The epigraph of the episode concerned the idea that man reveals his true face once he wears a mask. Lucha libre wrestling has a deep history with masks. Each mask has a story. Goyo believed he needed a mask to take him to the top of the card. Benito emphasized the gravity of what Goyo asked. The dude had to sign a blood oath before Benito cut the face off a man to make the mask. “Silence of the Slams” was a mixture of Goosebumps, WWE style nonsense, with a touch of the hottest wrestling promotion going, Lucha Underground. Lucha Underground’s own Chavo Guerrero, Jr. appeared as the star.

Goyo’s a jobber for the nameless wrestling promotion. If a camera passed the name of the promotion, I missed it. The promoter, one of those dime-a-dozen uninspired wrestling promoter characters that appear in every wrestling episode of television, can’t elevate Goyo on the card. See, Goyo’s a jobber, aka an enhancement talent. Enhancement talents in losing enhance the talent a promotion wants to promote. So, Goyo goes for a magic mask, made in blood, and defeats the promotion’s star in his next match. Benito warned Goyo not to wear the mask outside of wrestling. Of course, Goyo doesn’t listen. The frustrated enhancement talent kills Vasquez aka Mirorama (forgive the spelling; it’s from memory of how I remember the sound) and it slowly dawns on him that he’s entered R.L. Stine’s “The Haunted Mask” of Goosebumps fame. The mask becomes his face, he becomes the monster of the mask’s original, and he kills Benito when Benito announces he’ll prepare the ceremony to free him from the magic mask. Is Goyo the murderer he was when he wore the mask? Did it reveal his true face, his true identity? It seems the character never knew himself as he never knew his history or his language.

Nick and Hank barely work the case. They guessed the murder was wesen related because of the neurotoxins found in the victim. The death of Vasquez led them to the promotion which led them to Benito’s where they found Goyo trying to kill him. Benito died, but not before telling them how to remove the mask, which brings Rosalee and Monroe to the shop. Rosalee performs the ritual. Goyo’s released. The voices continue talking to Goyo. Afterwards, Nick read an entry from one of the books Monroe’s uncle brought from Europe in a scene that underscores the theme of the episode that began with the epigraph. The case shows the sort of ease with which Nick and Hank work cases. Every single murder they get is wesen related. They deduced that the killer used the face, and these wesen always reveal themselves someway.

Getting back to a stand-alone case was welcomed after the run of mythology centric episodes. “Silence of the Slams” picked up immediately after the stick of wood healed Monroe. The gang agreed not to tell anyone what they found (and definitely not about its miracle parts). Nick lied to Adalind about not finding what was in the box. Adalind didn’t tell Nick about her powers returning. Rosalee didn’t mention what happened to her to Monroe or Nick, because that would’ve naturally included how her and Adalind stopped him.

The ambitions of the 99th and 100th episodes probably made “Silence of the Slams” a necessity. It’s not demanding on the main cast. The mask story carries a good part of the episode. It’s a ho-hum episode, light on the central narrative and its arcs, and heavy on the mask story.

Other Thoughts:

-The wrestling choreography lacked the explosiveness of lucha libre wrestling. I wonder how much footage the director shot. The crowd booed Goyo’s character. Wrestling crowds barely react to the enhancement. He faced the promotion’s top star every show, but the promoter told him he wasn’t main event material. No other wrestlers used the locker room except for the two wrestlers and the promoter. His motivation was win and not lose. He wanted to go over one time, but he identified himself as a jobber. I’m nitpicking. I’ve watched wrestling since the 90s.

-The episode ended with a Diana cliffhanger. Renard told Adalind he had an idea for getting her. However Adalind learns about Diana not being with the Royals all this time won’t end well for anyone. Rachel continued trying to villain Renard up. What a bland, bland, bland subplot. Connecting it to the Black Claw upgrades it to a beige.

-Chavo Guerrero’s an executive producer of El Rey’s Lucha Underground. He’s part of the legendary Guerrero family. He once lost a feud to Hornswoggle.

-Brenna Kouf wrote the episode. David Straiton directed.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Grimm "Into The Schwarzwald" Review

Grimm’s a show defined by its lethargic attention to its history. The Keys, for instance, have barely been a thing until they became a thing again this season. Depending on the message board members or the blogger, Grimm returning to The Keys is a stroke of brilliance that gave the current narrative urgency, that it’s representative of the wide scope of the series, and the many exciting ways of its mythology, or it’s maybe one or two of those things.

“Into The Schwarzwald” highlighted other parts of the series besides The Keys that were forgotten. Renard, after the death of Andrew Dixon, became the person Black Claw wanted to lead Portland into a brand new world. The writers originally planned to make Renard a villain in season one, but they loved Sasha Roiz, and Renard remained on the side of good. Since season one, Renard’s been mostly an insignificant part of the show aside from a cool arc here and there. Renard became the first of a few characters that continued in the narrative without a clear purpose. The producers will keep actors despite their character having little purpose—but, eventually, the writers will find an arc for a character. Enter Adalind, an extraneous character this season, who sat in a kitchen or showered or worried about Nick. Claire Coffee’s great, but Adalind’s been pointless for two seasons. The writers obviously wrote domesticated Adalind for a reason over the first dozen episodes of the season. Like Eve/Juliette, the audience needed to think what was was, but what was wasn’t. Adalind found peace and domesticity with Nick. She connected with Nick for the first time without deception before he left for The Black Forest. Nick expressed great ambivalence about how he felt for her when Monroe asked him how he felt, but he seemed willing to give it a shot. Adalind’s old hexenbiest powers returned, though, as he begun his return to Portland. The thing that he hated about her is the thing she can’t stop or suppress. It is her. The audience definitely doesn’t root for them. Their strong antipathy towards the two should dull whatever ‘making it work through the trials’ storytelling looms.

Tonight’s episode marked Grimm’s 100th episode. Returning to the roots of Renard and Adalind was designed. A show’s 100th episode is about the present story, sure, but it’s about weaving the past into it to show it all meant something. Rosalee’s past returned to terrorize her, which led to the women sharing their pasts together. Rosalee wanted to know if Adalind wished she could forget a period in her youth. Adalind said no, adding that she became a lawyer to free herself from a bad life with her mother. Becoming a lawyer didn’t lead Adalind to a desirable place, of course. Lucien and Rachel used Renard’s nature to make him part of their group. Renard never exactly fit into the group. Nick never entirely trusted him. When Lucien told him ‘You’re one of us’ and Renard doesn’t immediately kick ass it’s because of bad writing and because Renard hasn’t belonged. They tried to Macbeth him. Rachel showed him the poster for his mayoral run. Lucien assured Renard that he was meant to kill Marwan.

Black Claw is a more gripping story if Renard becomes an antagonist working against Nick. Nick didn’t share the revelations about The Keys to Renard. There’s tiny foreshadowing about a divide; however, Lucien’s far from a charismatic, convincing villain that the writers could dream the audience would believe he’d turn Renard with a derivative political poster and a Spike ‘You belong here, with us, in the dark’. The 100th episode needed dramatic fireworks. Renard and Adalind were the best fireworks the episode could, however limply.

The treasure hunt continued beneath the earth in the near-millenia old church. The priest and his goons looked for Nick and Monroe above ground, somehow missing the giant hole in the earth mere feet from their search party. Nick used creative thinking to discover where his ancestors hid the treasure. They couldn’t open the key because they lacked his blood (as well as the final act). The priest and his goons were plot devices, with a two-fold purpose: be obstacles to Monroe and Nick leaving The Black Forest, and to bite Monroe so that the treasure could cure him.

What’s the stick all about? It’s all about healing Monroe’s arm. For a second, I thought the plot would dictate a return to Germany for a magical antidote from the sacristan. Grimms slaughtered wesen for centuries. Does the stick represent an olive branch from Grimms to wesen? Will the stick forever alter the world of Grimms and wesen in ways Black Claw never dreamed? We’ll see.

Other Thoughts:

-Happy 100th episode to Grimm. The professional critics didn't think Grimm would make it to 13 episodes. Those fools of tooks.

-So, that’s it for Tony? I didn’t like the character. Hitting Rosalee is a mortal sin.

-Working around, I assume, budget constraints by having Nick and Monroe slash tires was nifty.

-I understood Hadrian Wall’s plan, but why didn’t they take Marwan and do what they did to other Black Claw members?

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

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Grimm "Key Move" Review

Buried treasure is buried treasure. Nick and Monroe searched one church and then re-drew conclusions about their treasure hunt; the evil priest exposited helpful information to the boys about the age of the local churches despite his villainy. After they left, he basically said to his sacristan, “Oh no, no way will those knuckleheads find the buried treasure!” I mean, him and the sacristan could not kill Nick or Monroe. The sacristan was, essentially, a frightened squirrel, and the priest had not the youth. They needed goons; goons they indeed got.

The treasure hunt recalled the earliest Grimm episodes. Nick remembered his aunt handing him a key in the “Pilot” as well as what his mother told him about the keys. Adalind warned him that death follows the treasure hunter. Nick felt he owed it to his aunt to try, even if it meant dying. Adalind said she owed her aunt, too, on account of trying to kill her in the “Pilot.” Adalined remained, of course, so her sacrifice would be, in theory, not urging Nick to stay. Grimm returned to the roots of the show because “Key Move” was the 99th episode. Next week’s episode is number 100. If a series dramatically changed since inception, which Grimm sort of has, the writers like to retrace the show to where it started. The keys, for all anyone knows, may fade after the 100th episode.

“Key Move” concluded exactly when Nick and Monroe dropped through the earth towards the treasure. The priest, his sacristan, and the goons arrived to challenge the heroes. Nick also hunted for some clarity about his feelings for Adalind. The pair slept together the night before he left for The Black Forest. The episode included brief flashbacks of Nick’s complicated past with Adalind, the attempted murder of his aunt, the attempted murder of his friend and partner, Hank, the deceptive sex she had with him, and Nick, in telling Monroe about their night together, said, “She changed so much.” Monroe offered that he hoped her change would last. So, obviously, her change won’t last. Maybe something with Diana will spark Adalind’s regression. Adalind’s been an inactive character all season. Nick, it seems, needs another key: a key to unlock his feelings for her.

Elsewhere, Black Claws’ sought after terrorist assassinated the mayoral candidate. Grimm propped Renard up as a more viable candidate recently. Rachel took a call shortly before the Black Claw terrorist shot Andrew. Renard will step in Andrew’s place. Rachel likely works for Black Claw. The mayor storyline seems pointless. Wu or Hank—I don’t remember whom—wondered why the terrorist would attack a small-scale local election. Apparently, Portland’s the Rome in the Wesen world.

The police’s search for the Black Claws member had logical loop holes and convenient plotting for the sake of moving the narrative. The bike officer did a horrible job following their person of interest. That allowed Hanano to rethink his plan, his look, and elude the police and Hadrian’s Wall until he struck at the local rally. The plotting showed the slitheriness of Black Claw, and Hanano’s adaptability, and it showed that Portland PD and Hadrian’s Wall aren’t incompetent (but their collective timing sucks). Urgency didn’t exist either. Wu and Hank lounged in the precinct. Renard ordered not to approach the suspect when spotted. Hadrian’s Wall seemingly stopped tracking him after he attacked the bike officer and fled the scene.

Nick, or someone else, mentioned the Black Claw probably knows about the keys’ location. This season has tried to reinvigorate the series’ roots through this Black Claw storyline. Grimm continued to struggle balancing their stories in “Key Move.” Nick and Monroe went off alone while Wu and Hank took care of business in Portland, except they didn’t. Maybe Nick’s absence will send the city into chaos. Trubel’s on her way out to Santiago. Why not instead write an episode solely about Nick and Monroe hunting for treasure in The Black Forest? Back in the day, it was those two, and those two alone, against the wesen world.

Thomas Ian Griffith wrote the episode. Eric Lanueville directed.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "I Would For You" Review

The Vampire Diaries would benefit from shorted seasons, right? 10 or 13 episodes? “I Would For You” and the preceding fourteen episodes weren’t needed for a three year flash forward. A great look for the post-Elena series would’ve been throwing the viewer into the flash forward narrative. Damon and Stefan always had a complicated relationship. The Lily plot, the hell plot, the Elena death fakeout, and the Rayna Cruz marking acted as reminders that the brothers have a complicated relationship. Damon’s the dark, uncontrollable one, and Stefan’s not. Elena was the only person to tame the wild beast of Damon’s nature. Damon chose a coffin over life without Elena? That’s par for the Damon course. Matt chose humans over vampires? That’s two or three seasons in the making. The other argument for continuing a twenty two episode production schedule would be the three part structure of the season. The writers can write three mini-seasons within a season. They can explore the brothers’ Mommy issues, new characters derivative of The Originals, personal hells, etc. The flash forwards hooked me. I would’ve preferred not slogging through fifteen episodes to get there—only to get there and find the narrative entirely the same.

The episode title does not refer to Damon. He wouldn’t sacrifice his life for anyone (except, of course, when he does, after three years chilling in a coffin). Stefan sacrificed himself for Damon, which created a ripple effect that made him sacrifice his happiness to keep Caroline and the babies safe. Matt sacrificed his sense of security for years because his friend Elena liked some of the vampires. Damon killed his sister, but he let it slide. His future dead girlfriend, Matt’s future dead girlfriend that is, wondered why he protected not quite good vampires. So, Matt chose to be selfish and kicked Stefan out, and all the vampires, of Mystic Falls. Bonnie, too, gave herself for Damon over and over. What did Damon do? He left her letter because he couldn’t endure a face-to-face goodbye.

Damon’s maybe the most annoying character on television presently. He whines. His letter to his friends was the worst. A life without Elena isn’t a life for him. The character’s petulant, whiny, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, narcissistic, and solipsistic. The TVD writers in interviews will gush about Damon Salvatore, complex character. Damon possesses shallow complexity. His complexity is a mirage, or his complexity compares to a body water one thinks has bottomless depths but when one walks into it one finds one may walk the surface. Last week’s episode portrayed a Damon momentarily possessed with self-awareness. His fatal flaw—and tragic-ish characters need a fatal flaw, I guess—is making the wrong decision. His momentary moment of clarity led him to a stupid, selfish decision that hurt the only people left willing to die for him. Instead of working to become a better person, a person worth the sacrifice, he chose a coffin. Yes, such a decision has more drama than a Damon-improves-his-personality storyline, but nearly seven seasons into a show characters cannot continue doing the same thing over and over for seven years without the viewer going a little insane.

Rayna Cruz was cooler as a badass shooting at the vampires from the shadows. Now she has a decent backstory reminiscent of ANGEL’s Holtz, but she has tortured epic love connection, all but confirmed by her silence after Damon asked her about a lover. Bonnie learned from the Armory, which includes Enzo, that killing her a final time kills all marked vampires she hadn’t killed. I still root for her. The Salvatore brothers grated in “I Would For You.” Stefan moped and felt sorry for himself because Caroline found pure happiness mothering in Dallas, her first experience of happiness since her mother died, and, though depicted as a sacrifice, he leaves Caroline for Valerie. Damon moped. He acted like psychopath from an 80s slasher movie. Rayna’s heart softened in her time locked away in The Armory. Magic exists to switch the markings.

This roundabout season has explored the relationship of Damon and Stefan, more so in this recent run of episodes. When will Stefan let Damon go? When will Damon stop being a shitbag? Never, and never.

Other Thoughts:

-I always liked the brotherhood of Damon and Stefan. I’ve written about why over the years. Writers, move past his repetitive bullshit next season about why they’re bad for each other. They’re worse off without each other.

-Rayna shot Julian’s remaining vampire posse dead, including the vampire that looked sort of like her who I once thought was Rayna in the most elaborate convoluted use of magic on the show yet. I was a fool.

-Stefan reminded me of Spike in the “Pangs” scene wherein he looks forlornly into the shack of vampires feasting on a victim’s blood while he stands hungry, alone, and neutered outside as he stood outside Alaric’s Dallas house.

-This post has been brought to you by the letter Z.

-Kat Graham rocked Bonnie’s goodbye to Damon. “I Would For You” had a few cringe-inducing lines of dialogue. I dug, though, the simplicity of “This hurts me.”

-Matt and his lady friend whose name I forgot confronted a vampire in my least favorite scene of the series because of the stupid dialogue. “You’re a clown.” “No, you’re lunch!”

-Damon called Rayna ‘Crayna’. Seven hells. Did no one do a final dialogue pass? That was the best professionals had?

-The next new episode airs April 1, April Fool’s Day.

-Brian Young wrote the episode. Michael Karasick 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.