Friday, May 20, 2016

Grimm "Beginning of the End" Review

Grimm usually delivers a riveting and entertaining season finales. Finales of season pasts were always broken up by one week. This year, NBC decided to combine the two into one two hour block, either because they botched the schedule, or it was their plan all along. “The The Beginning of the End” was no different

The first part of “The Beginning of the End” primarily concerns the destruction of Hadrian’s Wall via the Hank trap. Black Claw dropped the bodies of the men Nick killed in “Bad Night” in Hank’s house knowing Nick and HW would work together to free him. Black Claw, having assumed power in Portland, wanted to eliminate its last strong enemy. The wesen in town feel empowered. Portland’s north precinct is made up of wesen, all angry with Nick for killing their kind. Part one shows what a Black Claw world is. Wesen feel free to act against whom they consider oppressors.

Nick and the gang rescued Hank but they lost Hadrian’s Wall. Renard, now a blank slate of a character, watched and meekly pleaded with Bonaparte not to prolong Meisner’s suffering, which led to Nick and him facing off in the precinct, putting Nick right where Black Claw (and the North precinct) wanted him. Season five carefully placed Nick and Renard on opposite sides. Besides the fight, Renard’s barely a presence. He continues to be a pawn of Black Claw’s and the writers’ in both parts. He’s an easy way to inject personal history into the main arc. Diana murdered Rachel. He expressed rage about it but moved past it; ditto with Meisner. At the end of the episode, he stabbed Bonaparte in the back; however, Diana made him do it. So, someone else forced his biggest act of the episode. Is Renard never his own man/character?

The end pits Nick and Renard against each other again. Renard stood with a bloody sword. Nick looked ready to fight, but their blood feud is hollow. Bonaparte freely acted throughout the finale. Renard betrayed Nick by urging Adalind to reveal Nick’s address to Bonaparte. The writers write Renard ambiguously all the time, so he urged her to tell Bonaparte for her safety after seeing what his phantom stranglehold did to Meisner. He would not let go. What will they fight about? Renard assured Hank and Wu they’d have a safe place in Black Claw’s world. His interests align with his former friends. Neither him nor Nick wants to watch the world burn.

Season five promised change. Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt emphasized change during press tour in August. Some changed occurred. Renard switched sides. Juliette became Eve. Adalind and Nick built a domestic life with Kelly. Diana returned. Meisner returned as part of a secret government organization not even the Federal Government knew existed. Monroe and Nick found the keys, new grimm books, and a magic healing stick.  The end of season five, though, sort of went backwards. The magic stick brought Juliette back (in a plot move so obvious I guessed it in August). Nick eliminated most of Black Claw’s Portland base. Network procedurals can’t change. This season had its string of stand-alones and its string of serialized episodes, as always, though the show weaved its serialized elements more deftly into the stand-alone episodes, but it’s Grimm. It won’t reinvent itself this late into its run.

“The Beginning of the End” had lots of flash and moments made for a finale. Overwhelming stakes. One pregnancy. Characters making big decisions, such as Adalind trying to show Nick she didn’t abandon him or betray him through Diana’s magic. Secondary characters gruesomely died. Nick died for a second before the stick brought him back. Wu used his newfound ability against Black Claw members. Grimm did not put a ribbon on the season (or a bow or a button—whatever the parlance is). The finale ended on the cliffhanger mentioned above. The season began with them as a threat and, presumably, they remain a big threat. Renard ascends to the top of the executive chart. It has operations throughout the world. But Grimm will have to reset by the third episode next season, and it’s such an odd mess of a show that it will work through the murder of an entire Portland precinct.

The finale highly entertained me, though. Grimm’s a crazy batshit show. The thought that it’ll ever bring its many disparate parts together for a coherent ending is ludicrous and totally impossible. This show begins well and ends well and everything in between is like a fever dream. What matters? What doesn’t? Does any of it matter? What’s the meaning of life? It can be great fun once you stop thinking about it all.

Other Thoughts:

-Eve’s probably the longest rehab plotline in recent network broadcast history, or in the history of television. Trubel asked her how she felt after the stick brought her back. She seizure and then awoke all Juliette like. Juliette, with tears, said she feels a lot. Yes, she feels the pain and regret of her massive heel turn last season. She’s still responsible for the death of Kelly.

-Most of the Portland PD North crew blamed Nick for killing their friends and family, which means they were related or connected with many of the gruesome murders in Portland. Nick only took out the worst of the worst.

-I wanted to see Meisner bond with Diana and Adaind again. Oh well.

-Diana’s mood has a body count. She took out Rachel and Conrad. No one will survive hurting her mother. Will Diana age to 18 overnight?

-Jim Kouf & David Greenwalt wrote part one. David Greenwalt directed his first episode in some years when he directed part one. I love a Greenwalt directed episode. He directed many fine episodes of ANGEL and Buffy. Thomas Ian Griffith wrote part two. Norberto Barba directed part two.

-Season 6 will air in the fall. NBC announced its schedule last Sunday. Grimm’s reduced episode order (with an option for a back-nine pickup if it performs well) could’ve meant a midseason premiere in January. I’ll guess Grimm premieres October 28. The episode will open not with Renard’s and Nick’s bloody standoff but with them enjoying sea breezes at a karaoke bar.

-Thanks for reading my reviews and following along, if you did either or both.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Grimm "Bad Night" Review

The face-off between Nick and Renard had been delayed since season one because of the writers’ fondness of Sasha Roiz. Season five has returned the most intriguing elements of Grimm’s early mythology, particularly The Keys. Perhaps the writers decided to give Renard vs. Nick a go to see where it would take them. “Bad Night” clearly sets them against each other. Renard took his son. Don’t take a man’s son in a David Greenwalt show. Wesley did the same thing in Angel’s third season, assuming it was for the greater good because of a scary prophecy. Angel wanted to kill him the same way Nick wanted to kill Renard. By the end of “Bad Night,” as Nick watched Renard introduce Adalind, Diana, and Kelly to Portland, he said, “They’re dead.”

Their conversation in the precinct concerned the concept of the greater good. Renard’s characterization suffers from marginalization. He’s always far away from the central group. Besides his negative reaction to Black Claw’s assassination of Andrew, he has ‘gone along’ with the motions of Black Claw without understandable motivations. His side of the story represents the first instance of Renard taking ownership of his role in the organization. He believes in the cause, and he pitched ‘minimizing bloodshed’ to Nick as the reason they should align in the organization. In other words, it’ll happen with or without him. Nick has the power to reduce the amount of innocent casualties during the rough part of the revolution. Renard’s not playing a long con in Black Claw. He’s one with the bad guys. Family marks the difference between the men. Renard fabricated his own. Nick slowly built it with his son and Adalind.

Nick’s the good guy; he’s the hero, the Grimm. Conforming to a deadly cause is the antithesis of his calling. He’s one of two Grimms in the world. His internal struggle in the episode concerns his primal rage about the loss of his son. He can’t make a deadly move against Black Claw due to the risk of putting Kelly’s life in danger. Instead he works with his friends to unravel the group’s agenda against Hank. They uncover Zuri’s duplicity after Tony blows his cover in her house. Black Claw works in the shadows. Despite the revolutions across the world no one knows they exist. Zuri and Tony represent the bland normalcy the group uses to accomplish their goals. Now, Nick seems to understand the workings of Black Claw. He now knows more about them than they know about him.

Midway in the episode, Nick showed Trubel the magic stick. He told her no one knew its location except for her, and that she’s one of few to know he has the stick. Eve’s constant threats to Adalind about Nick’s safety combined with the stick scene suggests Nick will fall into Black Claw’s control for next season; however, the writers never met an intriguing plot turn or a piece of foreshadowing dialogue they wouldn’t inexplicably drop. The full power of the stick remains a mystery.

“Bad Night” worked to show the tiny threads that knotted together the over-arching Black Claw plot. The stretch of stand-alone episodes re-introduced Zuri and introduced Tony, as well as the punk stalking Wu, as part of Black Claw. The characters didn’t know (we, the audience, sort of did). Grimm often seems like a disjointed, oddball of a show. It is, but those tiny threads, however delicately, hold season five together.

Other Thoughts:

-Wu controlled his Neanderthal side, maybe not for good, but maybe enough to use it when the fight against Black Claw escalates in next week’s finale.

-Diana will, probably, kill Rachel next episode. I’m waiting for Diana to go off-script and mess up Black Claw’s plans. I hope the finale has something similar to the Meisner twist in the season four finale.

-Hadrian’s Wall showed Black Claw’s power structure. Renard’s near the top. I saw Lcuien and heard his name, which means he’s still around and totally not forgotten by the show. The group’s leader is a question mark. Let’s hope they cast Treat Williams, the ruggedly bearded version.

- Eve and Trubel conversed about Nick and Adalind, in another scene that emphasizes the obvious fact that Juliette and Eve are one in the same. It’s a way to rehabilitate the character. Eve’s opinion about choice gave the goat away.

-Sean Calder wrote the episode. Norberto Barba directed.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Gods & Monsters" Review

“Gods & Monsters” hit the typical finale beats in its effort to tie together the major themes of the season before transitioning to next season, and the new problems created by the old. There’s a moment in the finale when Alaric and Caroline discussed using their three old twins to re-open the house imprisoning the ancient evil, and they decide to do it for Bonnie, because the Mystic Falls gang always choose who they love over the unknown evil to come.  The unknown evil always has to come as a consequence of the greater good so that the heroes are absolved of their involvement in unleashing the evil.

The epilogue/prologue absolved Enzo and Damon of their brutality streak across the western coast of the United States, as the episode absolved Bonnie of her actions while cursed, and as the series absolved its characters through the ‘switch’ in previous seasons. Bonnie nearly made a grave mistake under the Huntress curse by killing Enzo until Damon saved the day. The nick of time always arrives—unless an actress or actor declines to return for another season. Damon saved the day by burning the body of the final Everlasting. He saved Enzo’s life and Bonnie’s soul. She forgave him. Stefan experienced his brother asking him to walk out on him because Damon walked out on him enough—his way of making up for choosing the casket over spending the next fifty years with his family and friends.  He did good, but he’s still bad.

Damon’s selfless act to enter the vault alone gave Stefan a chance he lost three years ago when he took Rayna’s knife to the chest protecting his brother. Alaric recognized his place outside Caroline’s romantic heart. Before he let her go, he delivered a speech typical of characters in a melodrama: about how knowing her changed his life for the better and filled his heart forever of love for her.  The twins only opened the door because they thought about someone taking Caroline away from them. Alaric’s speech seemed to imply she would live a life separate from him and the twins. Stefan, then, becomes the villain in the twins’ eyes trying to take away their mother from them. Will the twins become Big Bads next season?

The Stefan/Caroline dynamic was great last season, but marred this year by narrative flaws and real-life. The writers chose to write in Candice King’s pregnancy, and they chose to introduce another True Love of Stefan’s life. The three-year time jump fractured the narrative and relationships. Alaric described a domestic life with Caroline unseen by the audience. Caroline told Stefan her feelings ‘thawed’ after he exited the evil mansion. They kissed and began a new life tracking down Damon and Enzo.

Bonnie’s last hours as The Huntress followed her struggle between her destiny to kill every vampire and humanity which wanted to spare and save her friends.  Her emotional centerpiece was the cabin scene with Enzo, in which she almost killed him. He believed in her humanity triumphing the curse, a tribute to his love for her and his appreciation of finding such love after over a century of torture and loneliness. It seemed the misery of Bonnie’s life would include reluctant murder of her truest love so far in her life. She hid in a psychiatric ward during The Armory’s search for her. Enzo rescued her from there, and he continued helping her hide from them. The tragic twist of things in her life would’ve been returning to the ward because she killed the man who saved her from it.

The central conflict of the finale was resolved two acts before the end of the episode. Damon saved the day. Bonnie forgave him before she lost him again.  “Gods & Monsters” was underwhelming, because of the aforementioned fractured storytelling in the season. Last week I described it as a ‘loose, baggy mess’, which I owe to Henry James. Henry James used those words to describe Tolstoy’s War and Peace (which was anything but). This episode lacked oomph and gusto because “Requiem for a Dream” reached the emotional zenith of the season. Unfortunately, tonight’s finale was bogged down by resolution to the curse plot, which had a half-heartedness to it.

I’d describe the finale as weary and tired. The writers may or may not have struggled writing a season without their heroine and heart. We’ll never know. Julie Plec will never admit it. Visions and a sense of Elena motivated Damon to return to the vault—a suggestion that Elena will continue to be central to the show, even if freeing the narrative from her would benefit the series. Next season may be the last, though.  We will see.

Other Thoughts:

-Season seven was a struggle for long-time fans, maybe for the writers, and for me. I made a few terrible blunders in my reviews this year. But everyone’s trying his or her best.

-Matt asked the ghost of his fiancĂ©e to take him with her to the hereafter. She said no, because he needs to find a better life for himself on earth. Matt finally left Mystic Falls, a Mystic Falls long since free of vampires. Zach Roerig’s always solid when asked to play heavy emotion.

-Alaric doesn’t seem to fit in the show anymore. Him and Matt probably will return next season. If not, it’s down to five characters, two of who have gone evil.

-Bryan Young wrote the finale. From what I read it was his last TVD episode. He’s off to, I’d guess, work with Caroline Dries on Kevin Williamson’s new FOX drama. Michael A. Allowitz directed.

-That’s it for season seven. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Vampire Diaries "Requiem for a Dream" Review

This seventh season has been a loose, baggy mess held slightly together by loose themes, namely the Damon/Bonnie bond, the Stefan/Caroline bond, and Damon’s bad behavior. Julie Plec and Caroline Dries discussed returning Damon to his season one bad boy ways, adding a little twist that he wants to make up for his previous poor choices. But Damon the Character has never been a choice between being bad and good. He is who he is, a selfish, violent, brutal person without remorse for what he’s done. Stefan told his brother he thought his advice, which was choosing the extreme option for saving the one you love, was terrible advice. It is. Damon’s choices are mostly terrible. His myopia limits him and leads to pain for the people he cares about most.  

The story of Damon Salvatore in season seven has been a growing self-awareness, beginning in his personal phoenix stone hell in which he admitted he missed his mother. Damon, though, was unused to a self-aware life. When Stefan and the other people in his life blamed him for each and every bad thing in their lives, Damon retreated to a coffin next to Elena’s. His choice caused more pain than not, particularly for Bonnie who felt bonded and tethered to him in a special way after their time in a hell-loop together. The final act of the season concerned the fraught relationship between Damon and Bonnie. How would they reconcile after he broke her trust by abandoning her and leaving only a letter behind to explain himself? Obviously, the letter’s the key to their reconciliation.

The only way for the writers to escalate the drama is through a narrative device. The Heretics storyline existed for the sake of taking the brothers through their complicated relationship with their mother. The hell world’s allowed the writers to explore the fundamental psychology of both brothers to find what they needed and didn’t need from each other. Bonnie as the huntress lets the character work through her aggressively angry and violent feelings about Damon without sacrificing the character—like the ‘switch off’ storylines. Damon and Bonnie haven’t meaningfully untangled their twisted relationship until the shaman imbued her with the huntress’ hatred of vampires; then, they got deep into the past: how Damon only saved Bonnie early in the seasons because Elena wouldn’t forgive him if he didn’t, to name one of things they worked through late in “Requiem for a Dream.” This experience will bring them closer together.

Bonnie didn’t immediately wake after Rayna died. She wanted to die rather than hurt her friends. Stefan pitched an idea to help her fight the demons of the curse by her friends entering her mind to remind her not all vampires deserve death. Caroline volunteered first, and she quickly failed. Enzo did a little better, but Bonnie marked him with a broken guitar. Damon tried next. The conceit of the episode probably came out of the writers discussing Damon getting through to her. He got two shots: one to convince her to wake up by making her hate him more and desiring his death (where they worked through the unpleasant muck of their past).

His second happened during their climactic fight scene. A caveat of Matt helping her hold onto her humanity was him helping her kill Damon. Again, they worked through their issues, physically this time. Bonnie bloodied her boy up, and Damon took every shot. As she prepared to kill him, he asked her to forgive him for hurting her before he died, and he took responsibility for his own death. Bonnie cried, paused, and then acted to drive the stake through his heart, but Matt saved the day. He stopped her from making a grave mistake she’d hate herself for all her life. Damon getting through to her was the emotional crux of the episode. Now, the gang will fix her. Unfortunately, they’ll release the next Big Bad from the vault.

For Caroline and Stefan to work through their issues, Caroline needed to experience Stefan’s experienced as a marked vampire. Experiencing it for herself didn’t put her in a forgiving mood. Why would someone who loved her abandon her? Her on the run with Stefan seems to be a slight detour. Stefan’s questions about her feelings for Alaric went unanswered. The triangle has the dramatic juice of a block of wood, so it won’t linger through the summer. She’ll have to make a choice between her domestic life and her love for Stefan.  The former couple failed to make progressive strides, but it was nice to see Candice King and Paul Wesley share an episode together.

The Bonnie and Damon story strengthened “Requiem for a Dream.” The audience feels invested in the relationship, so it matters to them. So much in this wayward season hasn’t meant much to the audience, or meant much to the narrative, but they matter, their history matters, and their catharsis matters. Likewise, Caroline and Stefan’s a dynamic that has infinitely more to it than Stefan and Valerie. The characters have come together at the end, which might promise a less confused, more stable season. Shows don’t need shallow hooks such as a time-jump if they’re hitting the right beats. Finally, late in the season, the show is hitting the right emotional beats.

Other Thoughts:

-Enzo saw Bonnie in her season one style. The song that played in the beginning of the scene was The Starting Line’s “Anyway”. I rarely know any songs in an episode, but I know The Starting Line. I’ve been a fan of the band since 2001. I interviewed them in 2003. I created a fanzine for the purpose of interviewing them. “Anyway” is a wonderful song with a parallel theme to the heart of the Bonnie/Damon conflict. Kenny sings about the past, his life, and making up for past mistakes. My favorite line is, “I know we’ve undergone a lot of pain, because it’s so hard to be human in so many ways.”

-Jeremy couldn’t help his ex-girlfriend with her huntress cruse? Young bull’s a hunter.

-Matt’s scene with Bonnie prior to the Damon fight scene was great, a little narrative flashback to the days he was close to her, Caroline, and Elena.

-Brett Matthews & Neil Reynolds wrote the episode. Paul Wesley 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.