Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grimm "El Cuegle" Review

Grimm returned to the wesen-of-the-week in “El Cuegle” after a run of serialized episodes that began at the end of season five. The wesen-of-the-week story in this episode is a doozy. I wrote last week that one of Grimm’s strengths is the stand-alone episode and “El Cuegle” supports my opinion. It’s a dark episode that borrows from David Greenwalt’s other genre show, ANGEL.

The wesen is an El Cuegle. He has three eyes and three hands. The three eyes show him the past, the present, and the future. The future comes to him in visions. His visions give him crippling visions; his visions only point him to babies he must eat, but the babies will turn out evil. So, when Nick and Hank stop El Cuegle, he info dumps everything about why he kidnapped Auggie the baby and what’ll happen if he doesn’t eat Auggie. Auggie will kill his parents at 19 because their marriage will deteriorate and leave him isolated. Nick believes him, but what will he really do? Let El Cuegle free to eat a baby? He can’t. The end leaves us with the ominous sounds of Auggie’s parents fighting and the faces of Hank and Nick, aware that the baby will grow up to kill them. It’s good, dark stuff for Grimm, and a throwback to the darker stories of season one.

ANGEL’s Cordelia Chase experienced crippling visions, sent to her from the Powers that Be, which helped her, Angel, Wesley, Gunn, Fred, and Lorne to help the helpless. I wonder if David Greenwalt pulled the “El Cuegle” story from a pile of discarded pitches. Was there an ANGEL pitch in which Cordelia had a vision like El Cuegle’s? ANGEL was a darker show than Buffy and more ambiguous. Its morality was grey rather than black and white. I remember reading about some of the ideas that were too dark for ANGEL’s first season. Prior to the writing of “Lonely Hearts”, for instance, David Fury wrote “Corrupt”. The episode introduced a darker, drug-addicted Kate, an undercover cop, who wanted to kill a cult of pimps who worshipped a demon that possessed prostitutes and made them commit violent murders. Fury told an interviewer that it wasn’t “what you usually see on TheWB.” The WB pulled it two days before production began because it was too dark in tone. Tim Minear commented that it was “a little bit too hopeless, a little too grim” for TheWB.

“El Cuegle” has that hopeless, grim quality to it. People would die no matter what Nick and Hank did: either an innocent baby, or his parents nineteen years later. El Cuegle dies at the end of the episode, of course, after falling from second floor to the first floor.

Three other stories happen around the A story but are unconnected to it. Rosalee and Monroe discussed leaving Portland behind in light of the babynapping case. Diana created more urgency by revealing Rosalee will have twins, or maybe more. Will Portland be a safe place to raise a child? I’d say no. Also, I liked when Monroe’s eyes turned red after hearing about El Cuegle. It was a good character moment for an expecting father.

Diana and Renard bonded more in his temporary residence, and he made sure she’d choose him over Nick. They also had a feeble conversation about Bonaparte. Meisner continued haunting Renard. He hasn’t told Renard what he wants. Ghost Meisner’s more energetic and fun-loving than Alive Renard was. Renard/Meisner in his office injected the only humor in the episode. Nick, Hank, and Wu watched Renard yell and then throw coffee at the ghost.

Elsewhere, Eve’s hanging out with the stick, drawing on bricks, and getting marked by death symbols. Overall, I really liked “El Cuegle”. The episode reminded me of my beloved ANGEL, and it was a solid, dark 41 minutes of TV.

Other Thoughts:

-Grimm took a dig at the culture of oversharing of baby pictures on social media. None of the mothers of kidnapped babies (the two of them) had set their profiles to public and tagged their GPS location.

-Eve messing about with the stick made Nick lighthearted in the office. Also, she looked hurt when she overheard Nick tell Adalind that he loved her. There is no pattern to when I’ll use Eve over Juliette or Juliette over Eve. Nick/Adalind/Juliette is the least needed love triangle.

-Brenna Kouf wrote the episode. Carlos Avila directed.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Vampire Diaries "Nostalgia's A Bitch" Review

Last season, almost a year ago, The Vampire Diaries toured Damon’s personal hell. Events and scenes repeated until Damon figured out the right choice. At the time, it seemed like the writers wanted to troll the viewer with a meta episode that commented on their own inability to tell new stories. “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” seemed like a repeat of “Hell Is Other People” from the previews; however, the end game has begun for the series. Where last season emphasized how irredeemable Damon was, Damon’s return to his own personal hell revealed to him that he is redeemable.

Did other people help him understand that he’s worth saving? Did the writers intentionally comment and reverse on “Hell Is Other People”? Julie Plec could’ve titled the episode “Redemption Is Other People”. Caroline forgave him. Bonnie forgave him. Stefan forgave him. Matt didn’t. Also, Damon forgave himself.

TVD’s tradition of ‘Go Really Dark and then Make Sure None of that Darkness really Matters” continued and will continue until every character achieves his or her happy ending. Damon’s the most murderous and monstrous character in the series. Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson defined Damon by his villainy. The duo resisted softening Damon. They wanted him bad and dark. They committed to that characterization. He murdered everyone, disrupted plans, and made even saving Elena about himself, and he never apologized for his actions because he claimed he did what he needed to do and what no one else wanted to do. His commitment and conviction made his character. The Damon of “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” who’s suddenly catatonic because of his past action and because of his resentment towards for his brother making him a vampire isn’t the Damon Salvatore we watched for most of the series.

His self-awareness in the last two acts of “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” is the culmination of a long, long arc begun in the “Pilot”, yes, I guess, but TVD’s selective, and revisionist history betrays the character, doesn’t it? People loved Damon because he was bad, switch on or off, it didn’t matter. He was Spike. Of all the people he murdered, the only ones who show up in his world are Vicki and Tyler? (I know, I know: the limitations of casting). Damon, who realizes he didn’t need forgiveness after all, ends up saving Mystic Falls from hell on earth. Matt Donovan was compelled to ring the bell 12 times. Ringing the bell 12 times would bring Cade and his psychic imprint of hell to earth, burn Mystic Falls along with its residents and thousands of others nearby, but Damon saved the town and thousands of others, as well as the life of Matt and the soul of his father, at the last minute.

The best part of the episode was the letter reading scene. Season seven left the contents of Damon’s letter to Bonnie a mystery. He wrote her the letter before he left town during the interminable period when he felt he was irredeemable and that everyone was better off without him. The scene’s great because it brought Damon and Bonnie back together again—the super best friends. Their friendship in season six was a substantial part of the season’s strength. The commitment to keeping the characters apart and at odds over the last season and a half contributed to show’s terrible decline.

Half of the episode takes place in Damon’s head. Caroline and Bonnie spend some time searching for him and run into Vicki and Tyler along the way, plus Sheriff Forbes. The other parts of the episode deal with the bell and the Sirens. Caroline forgave Damon because of how hard her mother’s death hit him. Damon had a line that highlighted the fundamental part of forgiveness: it’s for him more than it is for the other person. He needed to forgive himself first before anyone’s forgiveness helped him. The best of the numerous forgiveness scenes was Damon/Matt regarding Vicki. Matt’s peace, too, will come.

Only six episodes remain in the series. The end game has begun to clarify. Cade burned Sybil and Seline alive at the end of the series. If they quickly dispose of Cade real soon, TVD will be in a great spot for the final episodes. The scenes that worked in “Nostalgia’s A Bitch” weren’t about the stupid bell, hell on earth, the Seline/Sybil feud, or the other filler stuff; they were about the characters we’ve followed for eight seasons. Let’s have more of that as the end nears.

Other Thoughts:

-The ratings have been terrible this season. I hadn't paid attention to ratings. “The Simple Intimacy of the Near Touch” got a 0.86. I think that’s the lowest rated episode in the series.

-Brett Matthews wrote the episode. Kellie Cyrus directed.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Grimm "Oh Captain My Captain" Review

David Giuntoli made his directorial debut with “Oh My Captain My Capitain”. Once I saw that he directed the episode, I understood why Sasha Roiz pulled double duty in the episode. Directing an episode takes time. Not all actors-turned-directors, especially lead actors who need to be in nearly every scene, can fulfill both duties, so the writing staff finds a way to reduce an actor’s screentime or to make it easier for an actor to direct himself or herself (David Boreanaz made his directorial debut with ANGEL’s episode “Soul Purpose” in season five; his character spent much of the episode in bed). The episode’s mostly about making it easy for Giuntoli to direct.

“Oh Captain My Captain” restored the status quo at the end, which has rendered my post about last week’s episode irrelevant. The case-of-the-week will return next episode. Nick, Hank, and Wu will return to their jobs. Renard will continue to be their captain. The return to normal is a tad disappointing, but Grimm’s case-of-the-week episodes have been good. Stand-alone episodes have become more of a rarity in TV as executives prioritize serialized binge-worthy shows over episodic series; however, I would’ve liked a version of Grimm that took more narrative risks.

If you’ve seen any body swap episode or movie in your life, you’ll have noted that Grimm ran with all the most obvious tropes in a body swap story, including the ‘How do we it’s the person we like and not the person we don’t like?” It hits the ‘actor against himself’ fight scene, the ‘you need to act more like him’ scene.It’s a pretty terrible episode. The worst scene was Adalind’s attempts to make Renard stay in their apartment while Nick-as-Renard abdicated being mayor. Nick became Renard to overturn his election and his status as Portland’s most wanted. “Oh Captain My Captain” is a long reset episode broken in a way to help David Giuntoli direct. Kouf and Greenwalt could’ve hit the reset easy last week. Alas.

The episode raises the possibility that Nick will remain stuck as Renard because he’s a Grimm. I don’t know why that matters, aside from giving the episode some stakes, but it hits the ‘magical restoration of original self’ trope of body swap stories. Diana used her magic to see Nick-as-her-father, which sent him through the doors of The Spice Shop. I’m sure Nick is Diana’s enemy now. Eve/Juliette remembered Nick’s mother explaining that Diana’s power could be used for good if she was exposed to goodness, but her time with Renard and Black Claw has tinged her powers with ‘evil’. So, that should be great. The writers telegraph everything so clearly. When Renard and Nick made their rooftop deal, Renard made sure to know make it known that his daughter loves him more than anyone.

Where does the reset leave the Nick/Renard divide? Will six or seven episodes pass without incident between the two before Renard becomes the villain again? Will Black Claw or the Royals resurface? Who will be the Big Bad for the final episodes in the spring? Kouf and Greenwalt said Nick vs. Renard would be the ultimate stand-off in the final season; now, it appears over.

Grimm’s a crazy ass show, though. Whatever they’ve come up will likely befuddle fans and be full of nonsense. Grimm never had direction, of course. The writers scrapped their original season one ‘Renard/Nick’ storyline because they liked Sasha Roiz. Since then, the writers have thrown all sorts of nonsense to see what worked. They changed things on the fly. They dropped plotlines without abandon.

It’s truly a unique show, isn’t it?  

Other Thoughts:

-The ghost of Meisner, or maybe actual Meisiner (because why not?), appeared in Renard’s apartment in the last scene to remind him that he chose the wrong side.

-No one wants the Adalind/Nick/Juliette triangle, but the writers will give us that. Eve/Juliette has moved into the ‘meaningful touches’ part of her relationship with Nick.

-Renard ordered the murder of a man to protect himself in a murder case he longer had to worry about. Grossante, a new character, yet another bland bad wesen in Grimm’s universe, will have his revenge for Nick-as-Renard reneging on their deal to make him captain in exchange for Jeremiah’s death. Also, I had no memory of Jeremiah.

-Thomas Ian Griffith wrote the episode. David Giuntoli directed.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Vampire Diaries "The Simple Intimacy of the Near Touch" Review

“Miss Mystic Falls” got a sequel seven years later in “The Simple Intimacy of the Near Touch”—yet another season eight episode to mine the past. I wonder whether Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec asked challenged themselves and their writers to rewrite parts of season one but only if they could make it worse. Miss Mystic Falls remains a touchstone of the narrative because the season one episode dealt with Stefan’s blood lust and it brought Damon and Elena together in that famous dance scene. Stefan’s blood lust hasn’t resolved itself years later nor has he, apparently, forgiven Damon for “stealing” Elena. So, the brothers sparred for much of the episode, in between Damon’s sparring with Sybil over mind control.

This episode repeats many of the beats we’ve seen in season eight, last week’s episode included. Damon’s “not in it”, and Stefan feels held back by the Elena of it all. The necklace has broken into Sybil’s control of Damon’s mind. It leads to Sybil confronting Damon with the same choice regarding his humanity. Will he confront what he’s done or will he hide from it? After he bludgeoned her in the head with the striker, she forced his humanity, and all the repressed guilt, onto him, finally freeing him from her. Of course, neither character mentions the whole ‘Damon ripped her heart out of her chest and placed it beside her on a bench’ (I know the superbell can kill her, but she treated being hit in the head by the iron ball as the worst thing he did to her when not more than 3-4 weeks ago he ripped her heart out) but whatever. I’ll drop it. Damon’s entire arc has been about showing how his ‘magical’ love for Elena will overcome anything.

Stefan, now that his humanity’s off and it’s the final season, has revealed some of his truer feelings about the Elena’s and Damon’s epic love. He told Damon that Elena wouldn’t have thought twice about him at Miss Mystic Falls if he had been there, and he mentioned to Sybil that Damon ‘stole’ from her. The writers never made Stefan’s feelings about Elena and Damon a dramatic part of the narrative. Human Elena’s best and truest love is Stefan; Vampire Elena’s best and truest love is Damon. That was, evidently, the decision made in the writers’ room. Stefan’s issues with it are tacked on like Buffy finding out about Xander lying to her about what Willow said before Buffy’s showdown with Angelus in “Becoming, Part 2”. Stefan didn’t care about it the last time he went Ripper, so why does he suddenly care now?

One of the many defects of season seven was the prolonged and forced renewal of the issues between Damon and Stefan because they achieved a wonderful and natural resolution to their strained history when they realized they were the most important part of each other’s life in the season six finale. The last two episodes renewed this tired Salvatore brother nonsense. Now, Stefan has abandoned Damon, like Damon abandoned him last season. Future show runners who have no doubt bookmarked my blog and read my posts over the years, don’t let your show continue past its natural endpoint. Season seven and eight of TVD should serve as the cautionary tale.

Stefan affirmed his commitment to kill for Cade until he no longer has fun doing it, which upset Caroline. At least the writers hit that obvious plot point before the year commitment ended when Stefan would’ve made the same intention clear to Caroline. Damon’s the one person who can bring his brother back from the edge, so his leaving him behind is an attempt to continue having fun in his Ripper ways. Caroline, meanwhile, relived the past. She would’ve killed to win Miss Mystic Falls in season one, then she did kill when she became a vampire in “Brave New World”, and then Stefan turned Victoria Fell into a vampire because he’s a dick, and Caroline becomes her guardian. Some of our characters are actively reliving the past and repeating the same mistakes (Stefan and Damon) while others aren’t (Caroline). Perhaps that’s the crux of the season.

Other Thoughts:

-“The Simple Intimacy of the Near Touch” continued the superbell subplot. Matt must ring the bell once it’s together. Seline is working with Dorian and Matt (most likely). Sometimes, my mind wanders during the superbell scenes.

-Enzo and Bonnie were off on an emotional island. Enzo wanted Bonnie to drink his blood as a safeguard in case she died. Bonnie refused on account of Elena relying on Bonnie’s natural passing from life 60-70 years from now. Bonnie, instead, proposed taking the cure to Enzo. I don’t see why he wouldn’t take the cure. His vampire life has been miserable.

-I dislike most everything about the Miss Mystic Falls stuff, but it reminds me of The WB and, specifically, Dawson’s Creek’s Miss Windjammer pageant. That's a positive.

-Sybil must’ve known the dance from the memories she hacked in Damon’s mind. Nothing in the mind-control arc made any sense, by the way.

-No cast member stood out for this week's "Which cast member has clearly checked out?" award.

-Neil Reynolds & Penny Cox wrote the episode. Geoff Shotz directed it.

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.