Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x2)

What is the cost of war? There are many obvious ones, of course. People, resources, money, land, tangible structures and intangible ideas, like peace, liberty, justice, freedom, or even negative ones like oppression that fall as the world changes in blood and battle. But what about the personal losses? Integrity, honesty, commitment, loyalty. Are these not also lost in war? Perhaps even your own soul. It's hard to make that sort of declaration when talking about Sleepy Hollow, a campy show that delights in the absurd in which a Headless Horseman uses a shotgun to kill. But questions of that tenor lurk beneath the surface of this weeks episode, "The Kindred." An apt name, if ever there was one. How do you, in war, prevent yourself from becoming the monsters you are fighting? How do you not become their kindred in violence and destruction while fighting for the greater good? It's an odd turn of phrase, the greater good. Who decides what the greater good is? And what happens when the greater good clashes with your personal desires? All questions ripe for the picking this week. Oh, and Ichabod visited a bank; that was a great. 

Katrina is still being held hostage by the Headless Horseman who intends to make her his bride in a ritual that he has plucked from an obscure non-canonical Biblical Text. See, only on Sleepy Hollow can I write that and have it make a modicum of sense. The Headless Horseman is determined to make Katrina love him, an idea she relishes. Or maybe I just want her to relish it because I still think this chick is evil. The dresses, guys...the dresses. But this is where the personal desire versus the greater good comes into play. Ichabod, after being without Katrina for so long, wants to rescue his wife before dealing with the larger problem of Moloch trying to break free from Purgatory and "scorch the earth in hell fire and damnation." It's something Abby remarks on but she doesn't press the subject, something I find odd given that Abby has always been a tough as nails type of girl. By all rights, Abby should hit Ichabod upside his head and tell him to focus cause the world's about to end. Midway through the episode, I believe we get an answer to why Leftenant Mills isn't doing this: Ichabod is her weakness. It may not be a love connection (yet, damn it) but Abby's faith in Ichabod is her greatest weakness. If Ichabod wants to hunt for Katrina, then that's what they do. She trusts him to know best. Which also means she'll help raise a monster of her own when Ichabod tells her that's the right course of action.

So, this monster is creepy. Meet the Kindred! He's a fun time guy, stitched together with various human bits and bobs, complete with the Headless Horseman's head and all designed by Benjamin Franklin. Ah, Benjy. You rascal, you. The Kindred's purpose is to protect Abby and Ichabod while they are trying to bust Katrina out of the Horseman's house. The Kindred is under their command and is the equal of the Horseman of Death. I must say, the fight sequence between The Kindred, The Horseman of Death, and the Horseman of War was well done. Very scary but also maintaining that campy nature I've come to expect and love. You've got one guy without a head and wielding an axe; you've got another guy who is made up of different humans and has a skull for a head; and still another in a knight's raiment with a flaming sword. It's so late night Hollywood B movie it's hilarious. But it works for Sleepy Hollow.

However, Katrina doesn't want to leave the Headless Horseman (because she's evil). She has finally gotten the Horseman to trust her by lying and telling him that she'll choose him but it must be of her own free will. While the Headless Horseman is off fighting the Kindred, Katrina and Ichabod meet up and she tells her poor husband that she can be a mole on the inside (cause she's evil) and that she must try to save Jeremy (or make him more evil).  I have to wonder where this is going. On the one hand, it gives Abby and Ichabod more time alone together, and as I said last week, they're the reason we keep tuning in. Katrina is an awkward third wheel (and evil) and moreover, a mole could be useful. On the other hand, Katrina might be playing Ichabod (because she's evil) and want to get in close with the Headless Horseman for nefarious reasons (because she's evil). Alright, one of those situations is more likely than the other, I know. There is a kiss between Ichabod and Katrina but I looked away. Poor Ichabod. He doesn't see that Katrina is clearly evil. Ichabod leaves Katrina to her devices and flees with Abby. Back in their hideout Ichabod tells Abby that they cannot become monsters to fight monsters. They must be better than that. Good for you Ichabod. Rise above!

I have to admit the ending the show surprised me a bit. We finally checked in with the former Captain of the Police, Irving. He's being held in jail and psych ward for confessing to murders (he didn't commit) and then claiming it was a demon. Irving knows that his wife is sending a lawyer along to help him out of this situation and who should appear but Jeremy, in a nice suit with the charming demeanor of a kind lawyer sent to help you out of your woes. Oh, and what's this he has in his briefcase? A special contract? With a pen that "accidentally" stabbed the good Captain and drew blood? Oh my gosh, do not sign this! Have you never read Faust? You're probably selling your soul to Moloch for all eternity! Of course the Captain signed and now, I'm sure, Molcoh will use him as a new toy to plague Abby and Ichabod. Oh Sleepy Hollow. Your twists and turns are ever so much fun.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Kindred

--Jenny is in prison and the new Captain of the Police, named Reyes, is all sorts of evil and bitchy. I think Reyes works for the Horseman.


--Ichabod in a bank. Bless his rant.

--"Hello...mother." RUN FOR YOUR LIVES. (John Noble is brilliant)

--"I am not the witch in the family!"

Monday, September 29, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time (4x1)

And here we are again. If I said I was having trouble forming proper thoughts on the return of ONCE could anyone blame me? Three months off during which time my distaste and dissatisfaction for the show only grew. I don't know how I relate to this show anymore. Yes, some part of me is still curious about all the ins and outs. Some part of me still cares for Rumple and Belle and Snow and Charming, though any affection I had for Emma (who used to be my favorite female on this show) has diminished quite significantly and the less I say about Hook the better. It's hard for me to find the positive in Once Upon a Time anymore because of how disastrous and rage inducing season three (well, the second half at least) was. This show has become something I watch with bitterness and resentment. And yet...and yet, here I am. Blogging, watching, and discussing, as I always have. It's a Catch-22 for me. I can't walk away because I have devoted hours (and hours) of my life to this show; but I can't find it in me to really enjoy or just "let go" of some of the more grievous errors the writers have made. In the season premiere, "A Tale of Two Sisters," we begin the Frozen arc. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and even Sven the Reindeer are all here. It's shark jumpy and it's an obvious ratings and money hog and frankly it's annoying that the creators are going for flash over substance once more but it's also not surprising. Isn't that what ONCE has turned into? Disney fanfiction while simultaneously ignoring the nuanced and intricate characters they set up from the start. My reviews of ONCE aren't going to be positive, or at least they aren't going to ignore the giant flaws in writing, logic, character development, and substance. That's not what I do anymore. So what can I say about the season 4 premiere as a whole: it's exactly what I expected and that's not a good thing. 

Welcome to Arendelle

Because my opening was so negative toward the show, let me start the proper review off with something more positive: the casting. If there is one thing that OUAT gets right about 95% of the time, it's casting. And by right I mean they pick people who are literally carbon copies of the Disney version. Wait. Did my positive just go negative? Whoops. Actually, I admit this is a fuzzy area to criticize. It's hard for a show that sells itself as your favorite fairy tales (read: Disney movies) come to life and then not have those fairy tales look exactly like their Disney counterparts. Ariel without red hair would have been a disaster; Tink not being blonde and not in green wouldn't jive for the audience. The one time they did break the mold with Rapunzel, it came off as forced and a way to silence critics about ONCE's overwhelming race issue. So when it came time to cast Elsa and Anna, they went for the actresses who look exactly like the animated version. Even down to the costuming, they are straight off the DVD cover sitting on your shelf. It is what it is. Georgiana Haig, whom I know from Fringe, is a good actress and a good choice. Newbie Elizabeth Lail is sweet and endearing though I found the way they wrote Anna to be taxing. I won't give the show too much grief over this. I know...shocking.  So, what is happening in Arendelle? Well, it's important to note that this isn't strictly Frozen. I mean, it is in the sense that Elsa, Anna, ect are coming to ONCE but we aren't going to see the movie Frozen play out before our eyes. Rather, the events of the flashback are actually after the events of the movie. So post-Frozen, pre-Regina's curse. Because we should make this as wibbly wobbly timey wimey as possible, apparently.

Elsa is trying to prepare Anna for her wedding to Kristoff but of course that's complicated for a few reasons. Quick aside, but why does everything have to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped inside family dynamics? Of course there is some super secret hidden diary that reveals a super secret plan from Anna and Elsa's parents! Of course the parents set out to find a way to "fix" Elsa because they are horrible parents. No seriously, they pretty much thought their daughter was a monster. Once Upon A Parent: You're Doing it Wrong. Anna, determined to make Elsa realize that she's not a villain, decides to go see the Rock Trolls. And when I say the rock troll looked more like the Rock Troll than Elsa looks like Movie! Elsa, that's saying something. Seriously. It's like they spliced out the Rock Troll from the movie and then put it into ONCE and added a new voice to give it gravitas. The Rock Troll is only slightly helpful: the parents traveled to the Mist Haven to find someone who could help with Elsa's wonky snow powers. Sure. Why not. Not like Frozen was about acceptance and love. Of course all of this is compounded by the fact that Anna is getting married the next day to Kristoff and Elsa can't leave her kingdom to go on an adventure. But when has responsibility and duty and honor ever stopped the characters on ONCE? I know I sound overly critical and bitter but so far the Frozen storyline is weak. I know, I know. One episode in. But while the actors are great we are dealing, once again, with a misunderstood "monster" who wants to find love and acceptance. Zelena, Regina, Rumple, and even Cora, to an extent, fit this bill. This is why I liked Peter Pan so much; he was just evil for evil's sake. There is only so many times the writers can hammer home that "evil isn't born, it's made" before they sound like a one trick pony. Which, they sorta already are. Every villain is going to have the same story. Is Elsa a villain though? Not really. Not in the Frozen movie and probably not in ONCE. But so far, she's been set up that way and it bothers me that she's the same as every other villain.

Speaking of Elsa and her complexities, she and Kristoff do NOT like each other, eh? Where did that come from? Why is that the ONCE interpretation of their relationship? Cause I don't think they even speak in the movie. Maybe it's jealousy. Anna is all Elsa has and now she's loosing her sister to Kristoff, and this is after she almost lost Anna to a frozen heart. I suppose that works, but once again, we just had a jealous sister issue. Granted, Zelena was jealous at Regina to the point of destruction and Elsa is jealous of Kristoff more so than Anna, but it's the same note just changed in pitch ever so slightly. Kristoff is covering for Anna who has run away to the Mist Haven to find a cure. Oh, by the way, Mist Haven is really the Enchanted Forest. Why? No, seriously, why? Why is the EF now the Mist Haven? We call it the EF, FTL, and now Mist Haven? Are the elves there? Is this where Gandalf and Frodo went at the end of the Return of the King? Yes, yes, I know that is the Grey Havens, but still...bizarrely similar name is bizarrely similar. But back to Anna and her adventure. I'm not thrilled with Anna's characterization. She was too flighty and dumb, which is not how Anna is in the movie. In the movie, Anna is just exited but she's smart and capable. Kristoff was a big pile of gray nothing. His moments with Sven were cute but with Elsa, I couldn't get past the fact that obviously don't like each other.

We're Squatters Now. We Squat.

And now we're back in Storybrooke. And this portion of the show is called: check in the with the ships people care about! I'm not kidding. Most of this was about the various couples circling each other and and going on little side adventures. Charming and Snow appeared for maybe five minutes in total because while they are the original couple on the show, the fandom doesn't really care about them. They aren't flashy enough. You must have flash. Or leather. Or a cross bow. Or be morally reprehensible. Snow and Charming are both heroes. BORING. Neal and Emma are both heroes. BORING. But ooooh, morally corrupt bad guy/girl and a hero? SCORE. I hate this show. Let's just get the shipping nonsense out of the way. Elsa is in town and causes havoc through a giant snowman that had terrible CGI. Though, Marshmallow's CGI wasn't as bad as the fake snow that kept falling around Elsa. That was some truly terrible CGI.

Rumple and Belle are totally cut off from the rest of humanity, in a house that is abandoned. Because breaking and entering is a thing we do now. Wait. What? Doesn't Rumple own most of the property in Storybrooke? What is this very random house that Belle decides they can squat in for their honeymoon? This is illegal. What kind of messed up ---nope. I'm not going to think about it. I'm really not. I'm going to just review the episode and ignore the horrible, terrible message that is love and romance on this show. (Belle breaks the law now! Cause love! Sorry....had to). Rumple is feeling guilty over killing Zelena so he switches the daggers again. Which totally makes up for lying to Belle and killing Zelena in the first place. Except...not. It does not. This is not the right thing. This is wrong. You need to tell Belle what you did and then face the consequences. But then I suppose the writers want me to ignore this glaring moral dilemma because I got my Rumbelle dance scene. I have wanted this scene since season one. I have prayed for it. And it's rather ruined by Rumple and his lying and his manipulation and his general addiction to magic. Just like their wedding was ruined by the stupid Hook and Emma nonsense. Whatever. They dance and have sex. All is happy in Rumbelle land (except not, and I'll get to that later).

Can I skip all the nonsense that is Outlaw Queen? I really don't care for this ship and I am 100% over love triangles; I'm really over shipping in general for ONCE but we are Once Upon a Ship now. So, turns out, Sydney, has been locked up in in a psych ward all this time. No one let him out. No one. That's cruel and unusual punishment. And now Regina needs her mirror, so she goes to let him out only to put him inside his mirror while he screams and pleads. Wow. Character development, GONE. Regina wants The Mirror's help to take down Marian so that Regina can have her happy ending. Of course, Regina's plans change when she feels guilty and ends up saving Marian from the giant snowman. Because character development should be as uneven and bipolar as possible. I rolled my eyes so hard at Regina's back and forth. It's just like in season two when Cora managed to make her evil again with just a whisper. I am over Regina on the whole, though. I've come to realize that the more I watch, the less I like her. Ah well. In the end, Regina's plans become something a bit unexpected: she wants to find the author of the book and force the writer to make a happy ending for the villains. Which is...odd. Not odd in the sense that it doesn't fit with the universe--it actually is a nice tie back to the first season--but rather it's odd that this is coming up now. I won't lie; it feels very final season. Figuring out who the author is, making all the villains get their happy ending, is very "tie everything together with a nice big bow and give it to the audience for one last hurrah." I'm beginning to suspect that this might the final season (thank God). Rumbelle married, author of the book found, happy endings for the villains....the writing, it's on the wall, kids.

If you think I'm going to talk about Captain Swan, then you're an idiot. They don't exist. Emma is now Pod! Emma and Hook...is literally not on my screen. Ever. He doesn't speak or move or think. He is just a thing that people think is there only he's not. Got it? Good. Look, Rumple has a hat! It's glowing. Will he smoke it (Grimm joke). It has...the universe inside it. Sure. It's clearly the hat from the Sorcerer's Apprentice and I bet you anything, it ties into the book. Walt Disney wrote the book, didn't he? That's where this is going. The ultimate fanwank for Adam and Eddy. They have Disney-i-fied their entire show and now Walt himself wrote the book that started Henry's journey. Maybe they'll get Tom Hanks to play Walt since he just did it so well in Saving Mr. Banks. Again, this feels like final season stuff, but I have a early seasonal issue: why is the hat in this house? It was in Rumple's castle meaning it should be in the pawn shop. We saw the hat in Skin Deep (trust me, I know my Skin Deep), so how is it here? And why? And do I really care? Probably not. So Regina is looking for the author of the book, Rumple will continue to be addicted to magic, Snow is a wallflower who only gets so speak when spoken to, Charming is making really inappropriate jokes, Emma is a pod, Hook...continues to not exist. And Hen--what's his name? Harry? Harrison? Henry! That's it! I don't know what he's going to do but he'll somehow get hurt or injured or captured. It is know. Welcome back, Once Upon A Time. I wish I was glad to see you.

Miscellaneous Notes on A Tale of Two Sisters

--Ok, so I avoided talking about the Rumple scene in which he talks to Neal's grave. I did this for a reason, namely...I don't know how I feel about it. On the one hand, it was nice to see Rumple finally acknowledge that he lost his son. On the other hand, it felt very random and out of place. Like the writers knew how upset we were by it and decided to respond with this scene. And I can't help but be angry at some of what Rumple said. He killed Zelena to avenge Neal but that is obviously NOT what Neal would have wanted. It also felt very selfish: the entire speech was about Rumple and his feelings about what he must do now to press onward, not about Neal himself. I don't know. It doesn't sit well with me at the end of the day.

--"There is no frosting."

--"She was going to die anyway, what did it matter?" Dear God. This is why you don't get a happy ending, Regina. 

--Sven was really cute. I like him. Let's keep him.

--I almost threw my TV out the window because of Adam and Eddy's line that came from Charming: "maybe we should have named him [the baby] Baelfire." Shut up, writers. Just take the flack from the audience that 90% of us are livid that Snowing named their baby Neal.

--Robin only staying with Marian because he made a vow is ludicrous. This is Robin Hood and Maid Marian. They are epic true love. Marian is not just the ball and chain. 

      

Sunday, September 28, 2014

In Which I Review Doctor Who (8x6)

O brave new world! That has such people in it! 
--The Tempest
 This weeks episode, "The Caretaker," has a bit of a Tempest-like feel to it. A normal mortal (Danny) stumbles into a magical world of magicians and monsters and in the process finds someone to love. Now, unlike Ferdinand and Miranda, Clara and Danny have known each other for longer than a few days and are obviously quite in love. Much to the Doctor's dismay. I talked about this last week in my review of "Time Heist." The Doctor seems to have a bit of back and forth when it comes to his relationship with Clara Oswald. He insults her like a brother or best friend (his insults feel exactly how my best friend and I talk to each other), but sometimes he also acts like a jealous lover who doesn't want to share Clara. In the season premiere, the Doctor said that he wasn't Clara's boyfriend so why is he acting like someone who's favorite toy is about to be taken away? And then Danny inadvertently stumbled into the answer: because the Doctor is Clara's space dad. The Doctor is Prospero and he can wave his magic stick and curse you or bless you and his obsession with Clara stems from how un-romanticaly those two are wrapped up in each other as family, alone on their island, avoiding the real. This episode was very much about relationships and how these three people--Danny, Clara, and the Doctor--will all relate to each other. Can Clara have it all? 

Let's talk about these various relationships. I want to start with the most obvious and easy to discuss: Clara and Danny. I don't know how long it has been since they began dating, but things are obviously going swimmingly. Except, Clara is keeping a massive secret from Danny, namely her double life as a time traveling, space venturing lady who sometimes finds herself in really dangerous situations. Up until now, Danny hasn't seemed too concerned about Clara's vanishing and weird acts. She's quirky! Clara is obviously trying to have both lives, much like Amy before her. Side note, but this is something that is really bothering me: companions are supposed to LIVE with the Doctor. They have their own room and bunk and they travel with the Doctor, occasionally stopping at home for laundry. This is nothing against Clara because Amy and Rory did it too at the end of Season Seven. But it's not how companions are supposed to function. I know we live in a world where woman are in the workforce and can't take massive time off but...he has a time machine.... Anyway, it bothers me since Moffat appears determined to erase certain aspects of the past. Back to Clara and Danny. Is there a ship name for them? Should there be? PinkGirl? Danny's a good guy; he served his country, he is kind to his students, he and Clara have a good time together, and he's obviously very protective of Clara. I loved the part at the end in which Danny makes Clara promise that she'll tell him if the Doctor pushes her too far. He's looking out for her. It's sweet in a pre-21st century per-feminist way because it was also total emotional blackmail when this declaration is followed up by "or I'll leave you." I'll let it slide because I think this is how Clara is going to get out of the TARDIS: the Doctor goes too far and Danny pulls Clara out. I don't know if I see the relationship between The Doctor and Clara ending well; had this been the 11th Doctor, then yes. But 12 is so different, so acerbic and coarse. He rebuffs all attempts at affection but if there is a giant take away from this episode, it's that he deeply cares for and loves Clara. If Clara and Danny decide that the Doctor has gone too far in his treatment of Clara or he has put her in danger one too many times, The Doctor--THIS Doctor--isn't going to take that lying down.

So how about the Doctor and Clara? The Doctor goes deep undercover--which means he puts on a different coat--at Clara's school. There's a giant machine that kills people, but honestly that's the least interesting and least important part of this week. When the Doctor thinks that Clara is dating someone with an uncanny resemblance to Matt Smith (bow tie and all), he's fine with it. This is a proper chap, an English teacher, and Clara is using him as a substitute for the Doctor. And this is where I have trouble. The Doctor shouldn't find this flattering because his relationship with Clara isn't that of lovers. It's father and daughter, or maybe even more accurately...it's the Doctor and Susan. For those not in the know: Susan Foreman was the 1st Doctor's granddaughter who traveled with him for some time in the first few seasons. Clara is a Susan stand-in. Think about it: she's young, idealistic, she was incredibly weepy until Moffat changed her characterization around. She teachers at Coal Hill, where Susan went to school. And now what is happening? Clara has fallen in love with Danny Pink, a former fighter. Susan fell in love with DAVID Campbell, a 22nd century freedom fighter. The Doctor eventually leaves Susan to be with David in a very teary goodbye. And here's Clara who wants to be back on time for dates with Danny. I think, subconsciously, the Doctor sees this as being Susan 2.0 and so he's hanging on for dear life, which for the 12th Doctor means being verbally cruel. He's in dad/grandad mode when he realizes that Clara is not dating the nice foppish English teacher, but a soldier who teaches Physical Education (which Danny does not) which makes him not good enough for Clara. On the one hand, it speaks to how The Doctor views Clara--she's special, she's talented, she's smart and she needs someone who is good enough. But he's so possessive and protective that even when Clara declares that she loves Danny, The Doctor is affronted by such a suggestion: "how can you date a PE teacher? You've made a boyfriend error. How can you date a soldier?" And even after Clara explains everything to Danny, the Doctor's response is, "you've explained me to Danny, but you haven't explained Danny to me." But, does Clara owe the Doctor that? Yes, The Doctor has shown Clara wonders but he is not actually her father or grandfather. He doesn't require an explanation into Clara's personal life.

Which brings us to Danny and the Doctor. I have a general issue: the Doctor hates soldiers. Now, on some level, I get why. The Doctor is a soldier; he was a Warrior for one iteration. He's soaked in blood and he's no longer running from it or forgetting it. So he sees others like him and hates them for being a reminder of what he is. I get that. It's a narrative thing. HOWEVER, I think Moffat is forgetting that the Brigadier was once the Doctor's best friend. The Doctor didn't particularly like working with UNIT, but he did it when needed and tried to curb their homicidal tendencies. But this absolute abhorrence to all soldiers is a bit extreme. So why doesn't he like Danny? Well, the Doctor may actually like him. Or he may hate him. It doesn't matter; The Doctor only needs Danny to be one thing: good enough. And it isn't until the end of the episode that the Doctor thinks Danny might just be. He's open to it, just like Propsero eventually concedes that Miranda and Ferdinand love one another. But I don't think the Doctor is ever going be open to Danny fully; he'll gladly hate him the second Danny disappoints. This is a pretty big change from past Doctors. 10 liked Mickey well enough even though he was in love with Rose; 11 liked Rory quite a bit. But 12 is just not thrilled at "his" Clara being taken away.

This is a very plot-lite episode. It's our standard "the Doctor tries to be human but fails miserably." Though, to be fair, he's better at it than 11 ever was. One of the problems I'm having is that, so far, there are no stand out episodes. There are episodes that made me laugh (Robots of Sherwood), episodes that made me think (Listen) and episodes I didn't like (Time Heist). But there are no episodes that become instant classics of that Doctor--Blink, Midnight, The Lodger, The Doctor's Wife being examples of such instant classics. So far, the 12th Doctor hasn't had one. The episodes are decent but nothing stellar. Capaldi is doing great work but the writing isn't quite up to snuff. Also, wherever this Missy and Paradise story is going, I wish it would get there faster. It's a lot of teasing but no real building the mystery. I'm kind of over this heaven and death thing. So far humans from the future, robots, and humans from present day have landed in Paradise but not everyone was affected by the Doctor. The cop from this episode never even met the Doctor. Hopefully this plot begins to pick up steam soon.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Caretaker

--Smattering of funnies:
"Why do you have two jackets? Is one of them faulty?
"Why are you being nice?" "Cause it works on you."
"I hate you!" "That's fine. That's a perfectly normal reaction."
"Why do I keep you around?" "Cause the alternative would be developing a conscience of your own."

--I have a lot of issues that they spent an entire episode at Coal Hill and there was not one reference to Ian or Barbara or Susan.

--Is Clara allowed to wear short shorts with tights as a teacher?

--"You want to know what's inside the box? I'll tell you what's inside the box! It's a time machine. It also travels in space. And it usually contains a man who just wants to get on with his work of preventing the end of the world, but keeps being interrupted by BORING little humans." This is all of Doctor Who summed up in a few sentences.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (2x1)

Ah, fall. A time of leaves and pumpkins. And more importantly, new TV. Or rather, old TV that comes back to me like a dearly departed friend. Welcome back, Sleepy Hollow. I have sincerely missed your campy goodness. And that's what Sleepy Hollow is: campy. In my review for the season finale of Under the Dome, I called it bad camp because it tries to not be campy, but Sleepy Hollow does not suffer from that problem. It knows how ridiculous it is, and instead of trying to give itself airs, it embraces the insane. Sure, why not have the Horseman of War be Ichabod Crane's son who was kept alive through blood magic and had a Gollem as a pet. I mean...why ever not? Sleepy Hollow also knows that its true strength is in the relationship between Ichabod Crane and Abby Mills, so despite season one ending with Abby being left behind in Purgatory, separated from Ichabod, the writers quickly ensured that the dynamic duo wouldn't be apart for long. Good on them. Several episodes of them trying to find each other would have been disastrous. The season premiere, "This is War," was riveting and twisted and had some laugh out loud moments. In other words, Sleepy Hollow is as Sleepy Hollow was. Let the heads roll. 

 I cannot tell a lie. For the first fifteen minutes or so, I was super lost. I've become so accustomed to TV shows having flashforwards or flashbacks, that I didn't over think that fact that Ichabod and Abby appear to have jumped a year in advance. Abby, free from Purgatory, lost her sister Jenny. Ichabod, free from his coffin, lost Katrina, his wife. The two Witnesses still work together and have that great relationship, but it's obvious that they've been through hell and back in a year. They've trained and are prepared for that hell to breech the divide and come onto our plane of existence. Somehow, in that lost year, Ichabod and Abby managed to capture Jeremy, Ichabod and Katrina's son who is also the Horseman of War. Jeremy is being kept in a windowless room with a bunch of potted plants. He likes potted plants. It's adorable, guys. Ichabod and Abby come seeking information about a key that is on a piece of parchment that is inside a book that Benjamin Franklin had that Ichabod saw when he was an apprentice for Benjy. Do you see? This is good campy fun. That entire sentence makes no sense and is long and pretty much would drive a viewer not in the know mad. But I thought it was hilarious. Of course there are all these layers to a Sleepy Hollow mystery! Of course Ichabod Crane worked for a naked Benjamin Franklin. Of course the key Benjamin Franklin so famously used for his electricity experiments had NOTHING to do with electricity. Of course. I laugh as I type this, but it's in good humor. The key is actually from the Hellfire Club of Great Britain; a club that Benjamin Franklin, super spy, has infiltrated and stole. It's no ordinary key (of course) but rather the key to Purgatory that, if used, will free not only the souls of Purgatory but also the demon Molach himself. Now, bear in mind, that you get all this information in about fifteen minutes. That should set off some alarm bells, namely that something isn't quite right.

And that's when all is revealed: this is a vision that Moloch and Jeremy are giving Ichabod in order to figure out where the Key of Purgatory really is. In actuality, Ichabod is still in his coffin and Abby is still in Purgatory. It will take the rest of the episode to reunite the two, but like I said the reunion must happen because you can't keep Ichabod and Abby apart. The first reunion, though, comes through a vision when Abby breaks into Moloch's secret lair and uses a mirror to contact Ichabod. And, oh, my friends, what a reunion it was! The hug! Oh the Ichabbie hugs will be the death of me. I'm trying so hard not to ship these two as a romantic pair, but it's hard when they hug like that and Ichabod reminds Abby that he made a promise to come back for her and he intends to keep it. Plus, I still think Katrina might be secretly evil. Ichabod promises once more to get Abby out of Purgatory then goes on a little adventure with Jenny to find the key. All the while, Ichabod is telling stories about Benjamin Franklin and what an ass he was. It's quite entertaining. They, of course, get the key and Ichabod returns to Purgatory. There must be a disturbance in the force because two Ichabod's appear! Double yummy goodness. There is a showdown between the two and Abby cuts off the head of the fake one. This is Sleepy Hollow, after all. Back out in the real world, Jenny, Abby, and Ichabod know that war (and War) are coming and they must prepare. Because after all...War is hell.

Miscellaneous Notes on This is War

--Naked Benjamin Franklin is naked

--Seriously, the Horseman of War likes potted plants.

--Ichabod Crane made a bomb out of dirt. Beat that, MacGyver.

--"....and none of that recorded." "Must learn to drive!"

--Abby only knew that "Ichabod" wasn't her Ichabod because faux-Ichy didn't call her LEFTenant. BLESS YOU SLEEPY HOLLOW.

--Katrina is still being held captive by the Headless Horseman and bestowed upon her a necklace that would allow her to see his head. Of course, we know that the Headless Horseman is really Abraham von Brunt (Brom Bones).

--Um. Giant metal man with a flaming sword is scary! 

In Which I Review Under the Dome (2x13)

I am going to repeat what I said a year ago when Under the Dome season one ended: raise your hand if you feel personally victimized by CBS's Under the Dome. Over the past 13 episodes, I've come to the conclusion that the writers really are just making it up as they go along but pretending like this is some sort of structurally sound narrative with cohesion. It's not. Under the Dome is camp, but it's bad camp because it's trying ever so hard to not be campy. In this season finale, "Go Now," people die, things do not happen, and my new theory is that all these people are actually aliens from another planet who have forgotten their real identity. Oh and there were glow in the dark butterflies. Was this season worth watching and writing about? Perhaps not. It's a fun exercise, making fun of a show that strives to not be made fun of. But each episode feels more useless than the next and a season finale should not feel like just another episode. So to Under the Dome, I say: "go now." Go now and don't look back; if I never get answers I might be okay with it. 

 So, Barbie is "the One." He's Neo. Not surprising, really. He's the guy who exists outside the law cause the law wronged him or something but he has some super magical powers and his girlfriend is equally magical and together Neo and Trinity will save Zion from the Rogue Agent Big Jim. Wait. That's the Matrix. Backing up, now. Barbie, shockingly, takes on the role as leader for this episode, trying to lead his people to safety through the magical tunnels of purple glowing rocks. So, he's also Moses. Why Barbie? Well, why not. It's been pretty clear from the get go that Barbie was some sort of protagonist who would have a special connection to the Dome. So when Pauline (oh yeah, she's alive...for now) told Julia that while the Dome loves the Red Head, there is another who remains ignorant of his true destiny. So, Barbie is also Leia to Julia's Luke and Pauline is Yoda? Can everyone please stop being so gosh-darn trope-tastic? The whole episode is focused on Barbie trying to get everyone out of Chester's Mill through the hole in the ground that Melanie created when she was sucked through. God. That sentence alone makes me want to drink. What's inside the tunnel? Glowing purple rocks and butterflies. FOR REASONS. I have no idea why. What IS with the butterflies? Do they serve a purpose? Does anything serve a purpose? Honestly, for an episode that was supposed to be about getting people out of dodge, it didn't spend a lot of time on it until the end. So what did we spend time on?

We spent a lot of time watching people die. First there was random farmer man who was killed by freak lightening (where did that come from?) Then we watched as Pauline sputtered bloody spittle and tried to tell everyone that she would be a-ok while Sam, Big Jim, and Junior freaked out and tried to figure out a way to save her. There is no way. She's going to die. Rebecca sees this and when Pauline asks for her help, Rebecca obliges. Morphine euthanasia. Yes, I'm sure Big Jim will understand this perfectly. Pauline was in pain and there was no hope. And, of course, it's what the Dome wanted and "it's was the kind thing to do." See, Rebecca, here's your problem. You're dumb. I mean it. You really are. Big Jim is a thug with a big ego and small temper. What did you think he was going to do when he learned that you helped kill his wife? Thank you kindly? Cause no. What he is going to do is pick up a hammer and beat your brains out.  Which is what Big Jim does and it's Christmas cause Rebecca finally bites it. God she was annoying. RIP Rebecca. I know you were brought on to replace Sad Linda but frankly I preferred Sad Linda over your own special brand of smug arrogance and scientific know-how. She bugged, guys. She bugged.

This, naturally, does wonders for Big Jim who has always been so sane in the past. Papa Crazy Pants, remember? Turns out Little Crazy Pants might be the sanest one in the family, and as he once held a girl hostage in an underground cellar in order to get her to love him, that's saying something. Big Jim tries to make a deal with the Dome: bring back my wife or I'm going to kill all your special little friends. Erm, that would include Junior, Jim. You know, your son? Well of course Pauline doesn't come back and so Big Jim, with his hammer a la Thor, moves into action. Getting Julia alone was easy and he tells her that she'd look pretty with a broken jaw. Wow. Big Jim has reached new level of creepdom, who would have thought. Julia does manage to escape which I'm grateful for even if I find the Monarch totally annoying. Big Jim goes after her but is stopped by Junior who tells Big Jim, "I'm not your son anymore." Attaboy Junior. Of course being Big Jim, he couldn't not say something incredibly stupid to piss off his son further and says that this is HIS town. Yeah well, Jim you only got a hammer. Junior's got a gun. And he knows how to use it. POP. Right through the shoulder because of course they aren't going to kill Big Jim when they are banking on at least one more season to tell this tale. Julia makes it back to the cave, Junior following. There is a gap in the cave that is getting wider and Julia is on one side, Barbie on the other. Julia elects to stay behind while Barbie gets everyone to safety. You see...he's the ONE. Cue some dramatic music.

And now we come to the climax of the show. Going down a tunnel, there appears to be no exit. Just a bunch of rock. Oh and glow in the dark butterflies. I don't know what that is about. Norrie has a nervous breakdown and starts screaming at the Dome to tell them what to do and the butterfly lands on a piece of rock. It is SPEAKING to them! SPEAKING TO THEM! Whatever. Barbie uses is magical hand and touches the rock. Be the rock, Barbie. Feel the rock. Become one with the rock. There is a spiderweb like light that breaks apart the rocks aaaaaand....there's Melanie. Standing, bathed in light, looking like a drowned rat. "Follow me. We're going home." What the hell. Are you people all aliens who got lost on planet earth and are now going home to Mars or something? What do you mean, home? Cause several of you are not even FROM Chester's Mill so what does that mean? If you're aliens, then fine. Be aliens. Be angles for all I care. Be butterflies that pupate and become something new. I don't care. Just answer the freaking questions!

Miscellaneous Notes on Go Now

--What are the purple glowing rocks in the cave? Is it part of their spaceship?

--Sappy Norrie and Joey moment #456216

--RIP many people. I'm sorry you had to suffer in Chester's Mill, but you're free of Under the Dome and in a better place now. Don't look back.

--Gotta get me some glow in the dark butterflies.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Which I Review Doctor Who (8x5)

A bit of up front honesty: I didn't much care for this episode of Doctor Who. I understand the overall philosophy that there are truly no new ideas, only the sames one being repeated over and over, but this weeks episode, "Time Heist," was a mix of previous Doctor Who episodes and I think I'm struggling to enjoy it because, thus far, every Doctor Who episode has been a variation on past themes. A monster that feeds on strong negative emotions, in this case guilt? Sounds a lot like The Minotaur from The God Complex in Season 6. A being that can be used to take memories that the Doctor willingly offers up? Sounds a lot like the Sun-Planet-Eater thing of The Rings of Akhaten of Season 7. And the entire episode is a riff on movies like Ocean Eleven where a team of elite experts are assembled to rob a place that is "impenetrable" and somehow succeed. Of course the denouement of the episode is what makes this episode different from other high stake bank robbing movies because it's not really a bank robbery at all, so I'll give credit where credit is due there. But on the whole, I thought the episode was rather obvious and relied heavily on Moffat-flavored effect leading to cause instead of the typical other way round. Moffat didn't even write this episode but it's easy to see that the writers on his staff have take their cues from him.

Is there a higher level analysis to be had with this one? I don't particularly think so. This episode, like I said above, is more an homage to classic bank robbing movies and the cliches are rife. There's a big bad sheriff that enters the scene in slow motion, people running in circles and getting split up, and a ticking clock. So instead of dwelling on the plot for too long, I want to talk about the Doctor and Clara. In the season premiere, the new Doctor who has finally managed to get himself sorted, tells Clara that he's not her boyfriend. And yet, he's acting like a wounded puppy who can't believe that Clara would rather go out on a date (which he doesn't understand the concept of) than go on an adventure with him. It's annoying because it feels like a retrograde, as if the Doctor has changed his mind about what is going on between him and Clara. That was my first impression; my second viewing gave me a different take. I think the Doctor is still very lonely but this time, his loneliness scares him. Last week's episode "Listen" opened with the Doctor almost maniacal, talking to himself having traveled alone for some time. This week, he's trying to convince Clara to go out with him, to do anything really, rather than attend her date with Danny. At the end of the episode, the Doctor is rather smug that his adventure with Clara--robbing a bank--must be more rewarding than the date she's going on with Danny. It's this self satisfaction that's the most troubling because this Doctor, the one who isn't a hugger and is more emotionally detached, shouldn't care if Clara has a boyfriend but this is the second episode in a row where he has expressed some sort of dismay over Clara's personal life. Thus, taking it all together, I think that the Doctor fears loosing Clara and being on his own once more. Silly Ol' Doctor. Don't you know that you always find a new one? I know. I know. In the end they break your hearts, but you're being a bit clingy. I think this season is setting up a choice for Clara: the normal life or the fantastical life. Problem is, of course, this is the choice Amy and Rory eventually had to make and we already know that in the Doctor Who universe, the companions will eventually choose the normal life. So this choice before Clara is already pre-determined which means I am less interested. Moffat could throw a curve ball and kill Clara because that keeps being hinted at, but I somehow doubt it. Never forget, at it's core, Doctor Who is a children's program. Killing a companion--actually killing them without any sort of wibbly wobbly timey wimey nonsense--is exceedingly rare. Adric is remembered for a reason, folks.

The overall plot of this episode is fairly straight forward and I would be amazed if people didn't guess it from the start. Raise your hand if you knew the Doctor was somehow the Architect from the beginning. A mysterious figure who has put into place a grand plan to rob a bank and manged to have everything perfectly aligned? Of course it was the Doctor. The memory worm should be the first big hint: why would you need to erase your memory before robbing a bank? Because this event has already been written and the future is guiding you. Well who is from the future? The Doctor with his time machine. The Bank of Karabraxos is impregnable and ruled by a Madame Karabraxos and her head of security Miss Delphox. Hats of to Keeley Haws for this role. She was probably my favorite part of the episode; sly and cunning and ruthless, like any good villain. The Head of Security employs "A Teller" who can sense guilt and once it is determined that the guilty party is in fact guilty, turns their brain into soup. Another clue that there is something different about this bank robbery is that the Teller is wearing a prison jumpsuit. It obviously isn't doing this because it enjoys its work. Was there another prisoner in this episode? Yup, Psi, the enhanced computer-human who was a former prisoner and erased all memories of his loved ones so that the interrogators couldn't locate his friends and family. Parallels, people. Parallels. So once you realize there is a linkage between the Teller and Psi, it's pretty easy to figure out that the Teller is only doing this job for Miss Delphox because it's protecting the ones it loves.

There are some twists along the way like self-sacrifice that turns out to not be self-sacrifice. The mate of the Teller is being kept in a vault to elicit cooperation from the Teller in the jumpsuit. And Miss Delphox is a clone; the only real one is Madam Karabraxos. The Doctor tells her that someday she'll have many regrets and give her his phone number because, "I'm a time traveler." So when the phone of the TARDIS rings in the early stages of the episode, it's Miss Karabraxos phoning the Doctor to ask for his help in fixing her gravest sin, locking up the Tellers. The bank robbery was all staged from there. I don't think the story is neatly put into place because I have several questions about logistics of the heist and the planning, but since, in the end, it's not really a bank robbery but a rescue mission, I guess I'm not supposed to ask those. I do like that the Doctor took a more central roll this episode; it was beginning to feel like the Clara Oswald show and while I find Clara an okay companion, it's the Doctor I tune in for. There is also something to be said here about the Doctor and heroism; he arranged all this hullabaloo in order to rescue a creature. Gruff, dark, emotionally detached and still trying to save everyone. That hero label doesn't go away so easily.

Miscellaneous Notes on Time Heist

--This episode didn't make me laugh as much as the previous ones. Not as many good one-liners. But a small sampling:
"Question one: robbing banks is easy with a TARDIS so why am I not using it." "Question two: where is the TARDIS?" "Yeah, that probably should have been question number one."
"Do you like the new look? I was going for minimalism but I think I came out with magician."

--Psi and Sabre are obvious graduates of Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted

--Anyone else getting tired of the Doctor insulting Clara's looks and clothing choices? It was cute at first but now it's starting to feel a bit misogynistic. 

--The various levels of the vaults and their colors were annoying. Yellow, red, green...was it supposed to mean something?

--"Shutitty up up up." Ok, writers we get it. Peter Capadli played Malcolm Tucker to the English world's delight. Stop that homage now, please.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In Which I Review Under the Dome (2x12)

Here's what I hate about this show: the last 10 minutes always leave me curious enough to tune in next week. The first 50 minutes of this weeks episode "Turn" was more of the same old, same old. Rebecca and Julia debate science vs faith; Norrie and Joey act like errant teenagers and no one ever calls them on it; Melanie mourns the loss of the precious; and Big Jim continues to do what he thinks is best for himself. And then the last ten minutes happened and they were interesting enough that now I need to tune in next week. It's a problem. Of course, this was also the penultimate episode of the second season which means next week is the finale. No word on the third season so far, but despite lower ratings, it will most likely be renewed. As usual, there was some sort of crisis that needed solving and while the solution was temporary, the bigger debate is whether it was faith that saved the day, or science (in the form of lima beans!) Actually the bigger debate is who I want dead more: Melanie or Rebecca. 

This weeks episode really centers around Melanie and her connection to the precious. Like the past few weeks, this review is going to be rather short and to the point, much like my own attention span and interest in Under the Dome at present. Melanie continues to deteriorate the longer she away from the precious. The precious is life, it is heaven and salvation and wonder and joy and---dear god. It's an egg, okay. It's a freaking egg that is somehow the power source of the Dome and if you just destroy it, I'm sure the Dome would fall and people could leave. Yes, I'm sure Melanie would die, but I'm really okay with that. Remember, she's out Christ figure. I expect her to die in sacrifice to free all the rest of the town. Which, actually, kind of happens this episode. But I may be jumping ahead of myself. Melanie's body is shutting down without the precious egg; her hair is falling out and her red blood cells are disintegrating, according to Science Teacher Pine. But don't worry! Rebecca and Julia both have ideas on how to save Melanie. Oh shock, one is science and one is faith based. Rebecca wants to use lima beans. Yes, I really just wrote lime beans. Because Rebecca and Sam don't know the blood type of Melanie, it's a risk to give her a transfusion. Actually, you morons, it's not. It's called O-negative and like 80% of the world's population can safely be transfused with it without risk. It's called the universal blood type for a reason. But, then if they did this, the show wouldn't be able to, once again, shove in your face that Rebeca is SCIENCE. Got that? She's a SCIENTIST. Rebecca is also informed that Melanie was once dead and now alive again which really rocks her world to the core. Poor Science Teacher Pine. Except, you annoy the living heck out of me, so I don't care about your crisis of faith (see what I did there?) Julia, on the other hand, believes in the Dome and that it has the power to save Melanie. Julia goes out to the border of the Dome to talk to it. See, Julia was chosen by the Dome. She's the Monarch. And as the Monarch, she can ask favors of the giant goldfish bowl. Julia asks that the Dome spare Melanie's life and take hers instead. Oh Julia, are you going to become our Christ figure? This show does not need two Christ figures! Now, Melanie does get a wee bit better but it's hard to tell why; is it because of the transfusion thanks to lima beans, or is it because promises were made?

 Meanwhile, back in the land of the Rennie's, Big Jim and Pauline continue to snark at each other because Pauline can no longer see her visions. Junior is desperate to heal Melanie (he's fall in love with the girl. This will end well. Junior's girlfriends are always totally happy to have his affections). Pauline promises to try and find a way to save Melanie, and thanks to Big Jim, she does. Lyle is also tagging along throughout this whole thing because Lyle is a freaking creep. He thinks he and Pauline are supposed to go to heaven together and he'll follow Pauline anywhere until he gets his wish. Yeah, we call this stalking. Pauline doesn't think she can paint any more visions, but with Jim guiding her, she's able to do some painting. It doesn't tell Jim how to get everyone out of Chester's Mill, but it does tell them how to "save" Melanie. Time for a trip into the woods!

And this is where it gets weirder. Pauline's painting suggests that in order to save Melanie they need all 8 hands, four from the past and four from now. Problem: Angie is dead. That's only seven hands. Don't worry, Science Teacher Pine has a solution: Melanie is two people! She existed in the past and now she exists in the present. Therefore she is two people. Erm, okay. Whatever you say. I guess I'll trust you since you are the science expert and your only purpose this entire season was to provide science exposition. So, all the hands--Pauline, Sam, Lyle, Junior, Joey, Norrie, and Melanie squared--touch each other (insert inappropriate joke here) and Melanie begins to glow just like the precious. Melanie feels better and gets to her feet....only for a giant ground tornado to appear out of nowhere and suck Melanie down into a giant black hole. What? What just happened? I have no idea. She just vanished into this giant hole in the ground while everyone freaked out. Is Melanie dead? If we take it metaphorically, she descended into hell (much like doctrines of Christ). Pauline in particular feels responsible since it was her painting that brought this about. Jim tries to comfort her and they kiss...only to have Lyle come up behind Pauline and stab her. Erm. Gross? He claims that they were supposed to go to Heaven together and he needs to make that happen. Big Jim, being Big Jim, handles this perfectly fine...by beating Lyle to a pulp and then stabbing him while Lyle says thank you over and over. O...kay.

RIP Pauline. RIP Lyle.

Miscellaneous Notes on Turn

--Why was this episode called Turn?

--The Dome continues to contract but it's based on the emotions of the Dome, or Melanie, or the egg. Or all three.

--"Maybe some questions have no answers." Does this mean I'll never know why the Dome fell?

--I skipped over everything to do with Papa-Q, but who orders the Men in Black around if not him? Sounds like there is still another layer to the conspiracy of the Dome.

--Joey and Norrie suck at spying. They kinda need to stop trying.