Saturday, April 30, 2016

Grimm "The Taming of the Wu" Review

Taming Wu seems as challenging as taming Black Claw. Taming Wu’s probably easier. Black Claw returned to the forefront, along with Meisner and Trubel. Diana’s safehouse, an isolated house somewhere in Oregon, was infiltrated, and her protectors brutally murdered. Conrad Bonaparte, an elite member of the organization, emerged as a replacement for Lucien. Grimm habitually replaces evil figureheads every seven episodes. Bonaparte follows a long line of dull evil figureheads. He acted as a walking and talking threat for Adalind. Either she join Black Claw or she loses her children forever.

Nick and Adalind shared their honest feelings after she revealed her hexenbiest secret. Nick emphasized why he wouldn’t hurt or abandon her: he didn’t want Kelly to grow up without his mother, as Nick did. The episode ended with Adalind’s choice to leave Nick, with Kelly, and join with Black Claw. Her note had a hidden message (“I’m doing this to protect you”), but the shot of Nick standing alone showed all that was needed to convey how it affected him. The show's been moving towards this plot development at a glacial pace, but the writers wanted the audience to think she'd go bad again. The twist is that she did it for the greater good. Possibly.

Black Claw could’ve kept her against her will, but Renard’s presence offset the group’s aggressive tactics. Maybe that scene hinted that Renard has an ulterior motive; however, it’s speculation. Renard’s been portrayed as a pawn, and nothing more.

Bonaparte asked Renard to convert Nick to Black Claw’s side because Nick belongs to the wesen world. Perhaps the writers have finally decided to make Nick choose between the two worlds he works in, or it’ll be an opportunity for Nick to reaffirm his intentions to make the world a place where wesen and humans can cohabit—or it’s a thoughtless way to add stakes to the last three episodes. The Black Claw plot has become messier since a somewhat clear beginning at the beginning of season five.

Other Black Claw pieces fell. Zuri is indeed working Hank for the group, which solidifies Hank as the Xander Harris of Grimm.

Diana’s voice haunted Adalind—and Eve—throughout the episode. Diana nearly destroyed a building during her demand for her mother to remain with them. Juliette’s connection with Adalind crossed the magic wires, giving Eve a bead on the situation. It acts as an easy way to bring Eve and Nick closer, or build the trust between them for the inevitable scene when Eve says, “I was Juliette the whole time!” She could be the key to taking Black Claw down. Can Black Claw stop a hexenbiest and her powerful daughter?

Wu was not tamed. His condition confused Rosalee and Monroe, who are the only ones that could help him. The Lycanthrope infected him, turning him into a Neanderthal, not a wolf. He killed a member of Black Claw, frightened a nurse, and ate a burger and fries. Grimm subplots really do develop slowly.

Other Thoughts:

-Grimm’s next new episode is May 13—an odd time for NBC to skip a week. It appears the last two episodes will air on one night in a two-hour block, which NBC will misleadingly promote as an explosive two hour season finale.

-NBC ordered a minimum of 13 episodes for Grimm’s sixth season, with an option for more episode orders. The move seems to guarantee a mid-season premiere in 2017 for the Grimm gang. Maybe season six will be the end of the show.

-I liked the episode. It shifted the narrative towards end. The stand-alone episodes weren’t bad. Grimm usually ends a season really well, even if it’s been largely incoherent.

-Brenna Kouf wrote the episode. Terrence O’Hara directed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Kill 'Em All" Review

Nifty twist, Vampire Diaries.

The season of ‘Hate Damon’ seemed headed for reconciliation. Stefan told him to continue with the good deeds. Enzo felt tempted to make the deal with The Armory that Damon ultimately made. The deal involved Bonnie opening the vault in return for murdering the rest of the vampires. Of course, Rayna still hates Damon for what he did to her, which was trying to end her lives before she sent Stefan to hell. Julie Plec and Caroline Dries once had a habit of redeeming villains until Kai went out a true villain last season. Rayna seemed headed for a redemptive end. She worked with her enemies to rid the world of her blasted vampires before finding peace in eternal sleep where the unconditional love of her father awaited, only she used her last moment to wreak vengeance on the crew that tormented her over the last three years of her life.

TVD’s twists used to be their hallmark. The early seasons were all about twists. Season seven’s been a dull season, a mostly pointless and filler bunch of episodes full of tiresome storylines with the heretics and why everyone hates Damon. The hate will continue. Bonnie the Huntress will want Damon dead, and she’ll want her other vampire friends dead. Stefan, Caroline, Alaric, and Enzo will hate Damon more.

Bonnie the Huntress has promising potential. The storyline won’t be a laborious retread like The Heretics earlier this season or the seemingly never-ending stretch of Stefan/Damon issues. Rayna didn’t work as a badass villain outside of 56 second teases, but Bonnie could because of the investment factor. The gang will want to save her, the audience will want her saved, because everyone loves Bonnie. The audience loves the gang, and no one wants anyone to die.

“Kill ‘Em All” circled around the same narrative angst as last week’s episode. Bonnie’s mad at Damon. Damon’s trying to kill all the bad vamps. Enzo and Damon can’t kill ‘em all because of that old bastard time. Damon makes a dubious moral choice. You know how that old beat goes. The moral choice backfired. Bonnie opened the vault. Rayna gave Bonnie the Huntress powers. “Kill ‘Em All” ignored the incomprehensibility of Rayna’s vampires’ souls finding dying vampire bodies to hijack when the Marty story clearly showed most of the souls, like the one that inhabited Jo’s body, would soon die.

Stefan and Matt shared a side story in Spartanburg, South Carolina that added to Matt’s tragic life. He thought Stefan murdered Penny, but Matt accidentally shot her as she chased Stefan through the woods.  Zach Roerig can cry well when asked. Penny was a plot device. She had no defining characteristic besides ‘only other cop in town’. But the moment Matt remembered what happened was effective. That moment and Rayna’s rumination about the freedom of her death were two stand-out moments in the episode. Matt still blamed Stefan. If he hadn’t returned, Penny wouldn’t have chased him and….The storyline cast Stefan in a lot of Damon’s light. Stefan returned to Mystic Falls for Liz’s anniversary, hoping to find Caroline there. The storyline synthesized the dangling threads from the time-jump: Matt’s disdain for Stefan; the passive effort made by Stefan to reconcile with Caroline; the mystery of Penny’s death; how Matt knew Caroline would be effective bait. Paul Wesley plays tortured Stefan well.

Elsewhere, in the C story, Caroline and Alaric solidified their relationship in an instance of the writers hoping the audience would run with it. We’ve seen them bond during the pregnancy and labor, but Candice King’s real life birth took her away from the show, and we haven’t seen any part of their Dallas life together. Caroline said, “We’ve tried to live a normal life the last three years” as if they can’t anymore ‘cause it didn’t work for them. Alaric wanted to find historical artifacts. I guess Caroline missed supernatural nonsense that leads to fun such as her best friend being magically turned against her.

The Alaric/Caroline/Stefan triangle was never an anticipated triangle. A CW show, though, must always have a love triangle. It’s an odd one, an instance of the show telling more than showing. Caroline used the vamps she helped slay with Alaric to work through her issues with Stefan. The lady vamp abandoned her lover during the raid like Stefan abandoned her. Despite her platonic declaration to Alaric, significant reconciliation with Stefan will come. Maybe Alaric will take the girls on a search for historical artifacts.

Besides the nifty twist, “Kill ‘Em All” acts as a busy filler/transitional episode to the last two episodes of the season. The show needs a summer reset.

Other Thoughts:

-I’ve been badly wrong about many aspects of the story this season, so I won’t bother speculating about the future of the force in the vault. I groaned upon realizing a flashback opened the episode.

-Frankford, Delaware, eh? I want a Julie Plec EW blog about how the writers chose random small towns. I’ve driven the entirety of Delaware many times in my life and never came across Frankford. It exists. Google Images shows a map of Delaware. No photos of the town.

-Chad Fiveash & James Stoteraux wrote the episode. Kellie Cyrus directed.

-Damon counted three times that Bonnie died. The mean is probably three for the characters, right?

-Bonnie trapping Alex and The Armory in the vault house reminded me of Angel locking the lawyers inside the wine cellar in ANGEL’s second season. Matt/Stefan reminded me of Angel/Wesley in “Origin”. Wesley thought his true memory contained in the magic box would change things as Matt did, but the true memory made life worse for both. ANGEL rocked.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Grimm "Good to the Bone" Review

Charlie Higginbotham, this episode’s murderer, is like a killer from an 80s slasher movie. The director shot him from a low angle, never extending the shot past his waist, to show his boots, to focus on the sound of his steps, as a way to add a little horror, tension, and mystery to the case of the week. Charlie did not deserve such an ominous introduction, because he’s a dull, passive character. He has a 80s serial killer back-story: he kills for his parents; he hates himself for killing for his parents; he kills after apologizing to his victims; and he doesn’t really kill because he’s a Barbatus Ossifrage, the vulture of the Wesen world, who comes for the bones of the dying. “Good to the Bone” didn’t seem to intentionally use 80s horror movie iconography. It was padding for the sake of the run time.

The teaser ran eight minutes, half of which set up the simplistic case of the week, and the other half involved Hank running into Zuri, his old physical therapist who’s probably working for Black Claw because Hank’s has the misfortune of Xander Harris in Grimm, and Adalind asking Nick to have sex with her. Claire Coffee and David Guintoli again displayed the chemistry of a butter knife and a gray fox together. Adalind still hasn’t told Nick about her powers returning. Nick didn’t tell her he knows or about what he found in the underground. There’s no drama about them not sharing information. It’s a stall tactic.

“Good to the Bone” is one of those unavoidable late season filler episodes. The wesen of the week is a grayer character than other criminal wesens introduced throughout the series. Monroe defended Charlie after they identified the Ossifrage as the culprit of the flabby corpses. Ossifrages remove a person’s skeletal structure. Monroe offered the vulture comparison—they prevent diseases and do necessary cleanup. Hank retorted that he’s an accessory. Charlie killed people he could’ve saved. Only a few lines touch on the arguable innocence of Charlie, though. Much of the episode is about Hank and Nick investigating the murders. The audience, as always, had more information than the detectives, which makes the case sloggy.

Wu’s werewolf side bridges the case and gives it a personal stake in the last act. Earlier, he coughed up a hairball. Wu seems to chase and eat dogs during the middle of the night. Nick and Hank witnessed his dizzy spells. He ran off from the trap plan, involving Monroe as the bait with the scent of impending death on him, to chase a dog, bumped his head, and nearly ended up crushed and eaten by Ossifrages. Charlie met his end via truck. His parents then ate his bones. Wu’s role in the case enlightened his friends to what’s going on with him, so they’ll have to tame him next week.

The rest of “Good to the Bone” hit the same beats about Black Claw, Eve, Renard, and Diana. Eve will hurt Adalind if she hurts Nick. Rosalee called Eve Juliette after she left. Obviously, Eve’s always been Juliette. One has known this since October. It’s a roundabout character rehabilitation plot. Black Claw needs to Renard in office to control politics, even though they’ve achieved disruption across the world. Nick asked Adalind to let him know when Renard reached out to him agan, but she won’t after meeting Diana. She’ll choose her over anyone. It’ll lead to nonsense for sweeps. Juliette and Adalind will battle once more.

Soon, the stalling will cease.

Other Thoughts:

-Zuri experienced a change of heart upon reflecting on Hank accepting her for who she is. She appeared in “Eyes of the Beholder.” Werner directed that episode too.

-Martin Weiss wrote the episode. Peter Werner directed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On The Staggering Popularity of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones has reached a reached a Breaking Bad/Walking Dead kind of popularity. The iTunes podcast Top 150 list includes several GoT recap podcasts. HBO launched a post-GoT recap show, produced by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, and hosted by two Hardwick-lite personalities in Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald. The Ringer’s newsletter will run an “Ask The Maester” special weekly in which Jason Concepcion answers fan questions about the world of Westeros and Essos. Prior to the premiere of the series in 2011, George R.R. Martin insulted LOST for ‘botching’ the ending. Martin promised he wouldn’t repeat LOST’s fatal flaws; however, in season six, Game of Thrones has reached the heights of LOST’s heyday in pop culture. LOST           inspired the first micro-critical eye in the 2000s. Podcasts, fan boards, and EW’s Jeff Jensen made LOST into an event every episode. Theories abounded. Fans broke down teasers shot-by-shot. The same happens for Game of Thrones. Pop culture writers ‘break down’ every episode, or they rank the winners and losers of every episode. Bloggers and critics write about the episodes from a book report perspective, as D.B. Weiss and David Benioff jokingly called it (“Themes are for 8th graders, they told Andy Greenwald three years ago). Everyone wants a piece of Game of Thrones.

Martin, who was derisive about LOST five years ago, finds himself in a similar spot as Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. He hasn’t published book six. Benioff and Weiss wrote the season without the books as a guide. The freedom from the relying on the books books will either enhance the show or it’ll hurt it. Season five was the worst of the series because it drew on the weakest narratives from the fourth and fifth books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Benioff and Weiss commented that Martin has given them the broad essentials for the last seasons of the show. They know the ending. But such things don’t guarantee quality or coherent storytelling. Game of Thrones has become sort of a mess. LOST sharpened its narrative focus over the last three seasons and had a wonderful ending, while GoT has continued to widen its world as it nears an ending in 3-4 years. The Wire was the closest series in TV to a great novel. Game of Thrones is an attempt to translate an epic sprawling series of novels to TV. Does it work?

It worked well enough in the earliest seasons, though the showrunners’ decision not to include the history of Westeros, which is deeply integral to the weave of the novels, negatively affected the show. The first three novels in the series are the best, written when Martin pictured a trilogy, and so the first three seasons of Game of Thrones are the best of the show. Martin decided to continue the series. He didn’t outline; he let the story guide him. His haphazard approach to novel writing turned one book into two because he accidentally tied a knot he needed to untie. “The Red Woman” emphasized the downside of trying to produce an epic, sprawling story on TV in contemporary popular culture as well as the downside of Martin’s series as it circles around before the endgame. Season premieres must establish the storylines for the season, which always bogs premieres down. The premiere darted between storylines across Westeros, from the death of Jon Snow to the coup in Dorne. There were deaths. Jaime and Cersei mourned their Myrcella. Melisandre removed her flaming red jewel. Arya began her training as an assassin as a blind girl, begging for change in Braavos. The Boltons contemplated their imminent war with the Lannisters. Sansa accepted Brienne’s protection. Margeary awaited trial in the cells. Ser Davos and Edd, plus a small band of the Night’s Watch, kept watch over Jon’s body, as Thorne and his minions waited to slaughter them. Jorah and Daario tracked Dany to Dothraki land, and Dany won her freedom via her one-time bethroal to Khal Drogo, though she’s bound to spend the rest of her days in Vaes Dothrak with the other widows. And Varys and Tyrion set about finding the head of the Sons of the Harpy. Like the old serialized novels of the 19th century, “The Red Woman” was another chapter, and like those novels, it ended with a cliffhanger to keep the audience coming back. Those serialized novels always came in too long. Writers were paid by the word. HBO owns the biggest series in the world. No wonder Benioff and Weiss mentioned concluding the series over two half-seasons. Final seasons broken in half and aired over a two year period is the latest trend in TV. Benioff and Weiss tried to spin it as a natural adaptation to the storytelling process, as if mini-seasons of six episodes will enhance the experience of watching it despite ten episodes not being enough for this epic, sprawling story.

The premiere began the story of season six. Benioff and Weiss never pretended to tell self-contained stories within an overarching narrative. Their commitment to telling a story over ten episodes transformed the show into a collection of moments that pop culture sites use as clickbait, e.g. “How about THAT moment in last night’s Game of Thrones?” “The showrunners spill all about THOSE deaths!” Individual episodes serve as a jumping off point for critics, bloggers, and folks on the message boards to write anything they want, such as the disintegrating male ego or sexual politics, because serious highbrow storytelling needs serious highbrow ideas, as a way to hide the blush of enjoying a series with Ice Zombies in it. The show has become everyone’s show, which isn’t new--one’s sense of ownership of a show has been widespread for a long time. The Internet gave a platform to everyone, though. Recap shows and podcasts and articles promise to ‘break down’ the episode but offer little to its audience beyond summaries, conjecture, and theories, which all can be fun to engage with, but very little of the overwhelming amount of post-GoT content elucidates the deeper textures of the show. The weekly review culture created a reactionary rat race. Critics dash off a 900-1200 word piece in 90 or 120 minutes, with a bit of the latest sociopolitical issues of contemporary life thrown in mixed with shallow surface-level observations about general themes and general ideas.

Coverage of the show will continue even if this season continues the show’s removal of its own red jewel necklace, because, like the verbose novels of the 19th century and networks holding onto shows for as long as the show makes them comfortably wealthy, Game of Thrones is where the clicks and money is. The people can’t get enough it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Somebody That I Used to Know" Review

“Somebody That I Used to Know” filled in the blank space of the Enzo-Bonnie relationship. The title of the episode comes from a popular song from the 2010s. Bonnie and Damon developed their bond in a 90s hell loop (every episode borrowed from a popular 90s song). Bonnie and Enzo developed their relationship in similar circumstances. Replace the 90s hell loop with solitary confinement in a forest cabin and Damon for Enzo and one has the story of their (Bonnie’s and Enzo’s) relationship. Elena stopped Damon from escalating his bond with Bonnie to something more, and one may assume Bonnie fell for him during their isolated time together.

The Salvatore brothers shared a similar arc. Both wondered “what if?” What if Stefan came to Caroline after the Armory locked away Rayna? What if Damon didn’t give up and stayed to protect Bonnie from the Armory? Bonnie and Caroline moved on with their lives. Caroline fell into domestic normalcy with Alaric and his daughters. It’s not true love, but it’s a stable life. Bonnie and Enzo fell in love. Enzo and Alaric spat out what Damon and Stefan knew. They got the girl because they were there and the brothers weren’t.

Damon took flowers to Bonnie. She slammed the door in his face. Stefan tried to apologize for going Dawson on Alaric during his effort to re-integrate himself into his and Caroline’s life. Stefan stood by an open door when Caroline walked into frame. She glanced at Stefan, kissed Alaric on the cheek, and went to put the twins to bed, without acknowledging him. Damon hatched a plan to gain Rayna’s cooperation to win back Bonnie’s friendship and trust, a plan that will save her life. Stefan has no such plan for Caroline. Her and Alaric sleep in separate beds; they’ll be married by a Justice of the Peace; and Alaric knows he’s not the prize of her life, but he’s been more to her than Stefan was over the last three years.

The parallel stories about the girls and their damaged relationships depart from the seemingly never-ending brothers angst, though Stefan said he would’ve rather ignored Damon’s calls after his brush with death as Marty. Saving Bonnie brought the two together. Damon offered to kill Rayna’s list of bad vampires for her in exchange for her life. Rayna agreed because she wants to experience one day of her life free from vampires, complete with a cheeseburger. The old gang gets back together because it’s Bonnie. There’s a nifty montage of the gang going to various cities taking out the worst of the worst. Their mission allows Stefan and Damon to redeem themselves after bad choices made three years ago.

It’s a wonder that the writers haven’t been able to make the three year jump matter. The timeline jump was a bad choice. It worked because of the hook early in the season. The juxtaposition between the present and the future hinted at a narrative that would be freed and invigorated by the absence of Nina Dobrev; however, the flash forwards were allusions. The characters were in stasis. The actual changes have been nothing more but placeholders—characters settling because it’s better than the alternative. Caroline cried every night waiting for Stefan. Bonnie, it seems, would’ve fell in love with any character that kept her safe for three years in the cabin. Enzo happened to be in the right place at the right time. He watched Woody Allen films, bought a Billie Holliday record, and wooed her on New Year’s Eve. Bonnie didn’t even read Damon’s letter. Season seven’s been a placeholder season. The writers undid the end of last season (except for the Elena coma) and have spent season seven putting it back together because twenty two episodes is a lot to make. Few characters have grown or evolved. The arcs haven’t revealed new depths. Matt seemed to be an active vampire hunter—not officially—but he’s only anti-Stefan and entirely remorseful about his role in using Caroline as bait. All the stakes in the flash forwards were sterile. No character was in danger.

This episode returned to meaningful stories, which is why I liked it. Damon’s and Bonnie’s friendship matters. Stefan and Caroline share a history and bond worth saving. The flashbacks to Bonnie and Enzo didn’t work. Alaric’s continual antagonistic characterization is unfortunate. The brothers first have to reconcile with their respective girls, and then they’ll reconcile with each other—again. This season cannot be saved, but, perhaps, like Rayna, the writers can give fans a nice ending.

Other Thoughts:

-So, Beau returned in a different body and died more quickly than he did last time. The writers wanted to remind the audience of the superfluity of the Heretics.

-The difference between Bonnie three years ago and present day Bonnie was her hair. She curled it three years ago, and straightened it in the present. I used to make nonsense films. My friends played multiple roles. They used hats to differentiate characters. “Ah! You do not wear a hat; therefore, you are a different person!”

-I posted my review late because I traveled South for a Smoky Mountain experience. Road signs beckoned me to Asheville, but I resisted.

-Kat Graham looked gorgeous in the black dress. The Billie Holliday song was the best song TVD ever selected. My second use of a song in a scene was Anberlin’s Depeche Mode cover in “Lost Girls.” Maybe it wasn’t “Lost Girls.” It was an early episode. Caroline and Damon danced on a bed. TVD used Anberlin’s “Impossible” to great effect in a season four episode. Was it season four? Was it “Memorial”? Who can say?

-Holly Brix wrote the teleplay. Matthew D’Ambrosio received the Story By credit. Chris Grismer 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.