Saturday, November 30, 2013

In Which I Review Dracula (1x5)

In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Renfield is a bug eating crazy bastard. His role, apart from serving his master, is to demonstrate what happens to those who become entangled with the Count. He has no will, no desire, no passion, outside of serving Dracula. So naturally, the TV show Dracula decided to subvert parts of this relationship and make it one of friendship, companionship, while--on some level--maintaining the servant/master relationship. Our Renfield is a lawyer, well spoken, capable, and undeniably loyal. On this weeks episode, "The Devil's Waltz," loyalties are called into question, the hunt for Renfield parallels how the lawyer met the vampire, and Mina begins to fall under Dracula's spell. I'm starting to realize that the appeal of this show isn't the plot, with its magical coolant (giggle), but rather the appeal is wondering who is going to end up in bed with whom. This week I had Mina pegged as going home with both Lucy and Dracula, Lucy going with Blonde Ninja Lady, and Harker standing dumbly around, waiting for Dracula to pull his strings. As usual, this episode was chaotic and messy and whatever Dracula and Harker are doing with the Order was totally irrelevant; it was all about the sexy escapades of our characters. Sail on, you ships. Sail on.

 Poor Mina. No, really. I almost feel sorry for her. In the novel, Mina is to be pitied, slowly being drained of her life by Dracula due to his infatuation. And a lot of that pity is carried over to the television show. Mina is a girl who is supposed to have it all: money, family, reputation, opportunity, love. She is the ideal modern Victorian woman; strong and capable and intelligent, she can stand up to her fiancee and social conventions while at the same time embracing her femininity and the conventional roles her society has dictated are best for her. Mina loves Harker and wants that comfortably controlled life; but at the same time, she can't deny her inner rebel--the one who entered into the medical profession--and her growing attraction to Alexander Grayson. The episode opens with Mina in bed, dreaming of Alexander. Here's a good question: is it really a dream? It seems like it would be a dream; Dracula appears, tells Mina she is making a mistake and that Harker can't make her happy before a heavy make out session occurs. Lucy comes into Mina's room and wakes her, but based on what Dracula's powers are supposed to be, it wouldn't surprise me if he was either really there or had placed himself into her subconscious and is wooing her through dreams. The dream is enough to put Mina on guard, wary of everything Grayson is doing for her and her fiancee. Mina can't help notice that as Dracula elevates Harker in his company that Harker is loosing himself. Harker rejects his old friends, eschewing them for his new shiner, wealthier, better connected friends. Was this Dracula's plan all along? Did he want to drive a wedge between Mina and Harker knowing Harker's ambitions and Mina's desire to be a rebel, but only in so far as she is able to rebel while staying true to her heritage?

The long anticipated engagement party finally arrives and finds Mina worried about her future with Harker. The night before her party and she is dreaming of being in the arms of another man; a man she barely knows but who, upon their first meetings, literally brought light to the dark. (See the light bulbs were a metaphor...) I think Dracula has awakened Mina from her sleepy comfortable life. Mina likes to think of herself as modern and a bit of a rebel, and to an extent she is. It takes courage to enter into a strictly male profession, but it wasn't hard for her to do. She didn't have to claw her way into medical school and thus far we haven't seen her classmates and peers regard as anything less than the best and brightest. If they are uncomfortable or resentful of Mina, it hasn't shown. Her father is a doctor and she is obviously wealthy enough and beloved enough that her father could arrange her entrance into medicine. The real rebellion for Mina is giving into her desires for Grayson. And yes, they danced. Well. Let's be fair. That wasn't a dance. That was sex. That was upright, tension filled, angst driven sex. I honestly expected Dracula to drag Mina off the dance floor, throw her up against a pillar and rip her dress off with his teeth. The two actors don't have that much chemistry, but in this weeks episode, they did their hardest to sell the sexual tension. And it worked, actually. I found myself leaning closer and closer to the screen waiting for the inevitable kiss or declaration of love. And then Harker had to come in and ruin it all. (I did enjoy that in a vision Dracula opened Harker's throat and watched as he bled out for daring to interrupt his sex/dance with Mina). Harker is obtuse but he isn't blind. He saw the chemistry. He saw the heat. And what makes it all the more delicious is that Harker gave Mina to Dracula. He handed her over as "his most precious object" as a gift in thanks. Way to be a tool, Harker. And here you promised Mina that you didn't view her as an object for his disposal.

Lucy noticed the sex/dance too. Lucy, who runs home, tears staining her dress as she realizes that even when Mina wants to rebel and finds herself attracted to someone who isn't Jonathan, it still isn't her. Speaking of Lucy, though, there were some looks passing between her and Ninja. My friend Jo and I decided they are now VixenBoobs. When Ninja and her boobs showed up, she instantly started looking for Dracula. She is utterly in his thrall and he knows it. And he revels in it. I think Dracula might have a sadistic streak (thank God) when it comes to Ninja. He enjoyed breaking her, just for the sheer joy of breaking her. Of course, it can't last forever as even Ninja noticed the heat of the sex/dance. And in the final moments, her cohort (who's name I do not know and only call Monty in my head because of the actor's roll in "The Forsyte Saga") clues Ninja in to the fact that Grayson has never been seen outside in daylight. He only comes out at night. Isn't that peculiar? Deny it all she wants, Ninja might have finally realized that she is sleeping with the enemy (literally). Will she turn on the man she has fallen in love with? What is more important: her heart or her loyalty?

12 years ago, Dracula boarded a train in order to talk to some tycoon of industry wanting to make a deal and buy his company. The deal making went sour, but not before Renfield, working as a bartender on the car train, stepped in with a mouth-full of legalese, assisting Dracula in getting a fair deal. Of course the tycoon and his associates did not like that and proceeded to beat Renfield to a bloody pulp. Dracula, very calmly, took care of them, their blood splashing around Renfield's face. And that is how Renfield came to work for Dracula. Renfield had been a lawyer in America before his race became an issue and he was forced to take work elsewhere. But he is smart and savvy and Dracula takes an instant liking to him. If Renfield will come and work for him, then Dracula will tell him all his secrets and they can be best friends!

Meanwhile in the present day, Renfield was kidnapped by the Gray Lady (no idea what her name is, but it doesn't matter). He is beaten, tortured, poked and prodded for the answer to one question: whom does Alexander Grayson love? Naturally, Renfield refuses to answer, his loyalty to his master is too strong. Dracula does eventually find Renfield by putting his nose to the ground (no, I'm being completely serious. He sniffed him out). Just like he did in the past, Dracula rescues Renfield from his captors and then takes him home and put him to bed, nursing his wounds. Subversion of the master/servant relationship: they actually care for each other, these two. My friend Jo and I decided that they are now DracField. Of all the changes to the Dracula story, this is the one I like. Renfield as a bug eating crazy person was fine in the novel, but getting to explore the friendship between these two is much more satisfying, though I am still bothered that the only person of color on the show thus far is in the servant role. I just said something about this show was satisfying. There must be something in the water.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Devil's Waltz

--The actual PLOT of Harker and Dracula doesn't interest me in the slightest. Some general in the Ottoman Empire who is embezzling money? Meh. Whatever.

--Some seriously odd camera angles in this show. Half the time I thought I was looking up their noses

--Van Helsing continues to try and find a cure to Dracula's sunlight affliction. They got pretty close last night but then their test subject, a young vampire girl, burst into flames. Who wants to bet that Mina is Dracula's cure? They kiss and suddenly he can walk in sunlight.

--During the dance, Dracula began to picture is wife. Pre-Mina was pretty and I would like to know the specifics of how she died. I know it was the order, but how exactly did that come about. 

--For those keeping track of the ships: Mucy (Mina and Lucy), Macula (Mina and Dracula), DracField (Dracula and Renfield), VixenBoobs (Lucy and Ninja), VampireNinja (Dracula and Ninja), VixenPireIna + Coolant (Lucy, Dracula, Mina, and the magical coolant). This is really the best part of the show.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Which I Review Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (1x9)

I've been trying to figure out why I am so offended by this show. To be sure, there are worse TV shows out there. There are no vampires, no sordid love triangles, and there is a (marginal) attempt at a cohesive plot. I think my main problem is my expectations. I expected more. I expected the level of greatness I have come to associate not only with the Marvel Universe in general, but with Joss Whedon himself. I fully expected that this was a Joss Whedon show and would give me compelling characters who have a unique chemistry alongside intricate story lines. What we got were cardboard cuts outs and cliche overdone plot. This weeks episode, "Repairs," is no exception. It dragged and plodded along, trying to be witty or fun while at the same time driving emotional development with a few characters, but nothing was startling or new or fresh. May has a troubled past that led to her being called the Cavalry, a name she resents. Raise your hand if you're surprised by this. You know what would have been surprising? If May was called the Cavalry because she rode into situations with a devil may care, take no prisioners, attitude. Not some semi-redundant sob story about how she went into a situation to save lives and came out a different person, having lost a part of herself in the process. I don't even really want to blog this one. Or any of them anymore. I look forward to blogging all the other TV shows I watch, but this one has become a chore. So let's do this one last time with the likilhood that this will be my last attempt at SHIELD. 

This is Hannah. Hannah is this weeks "superhero we must help come to term with their powers." I suppose the big change with this storyline is that Hannah doesn't actually have any superpowers, but we'll get to that. Out in the middle of nowhere, Hannah is the town outcast. After a freak accident left four people dead, Hannah and her incompetence were blamed and her small quiet town turned on her. From the start it looks like Hannah is telekinetic, the ability to move objects with her mind. According to FitzSimmons, it's a rare power that no one really believed in but there's Hannah in a grocery store, causing objects to fall of shelves and gas stations to blow up. Erm...something like that anyway. The team is sent in to investigate, to be a welcome wagon but of course it goes wrong due to the level of hatred the town feels for Hannah. Coulson has to get her out of there before she kills people by running them over with police cars and in order to facilitate Coulson, May shoots Hannah with a tranquilizer and its back to the wonder plane.

That's just the kind of girl Melinda May is. She's tough and hard and doesn't laugh. It would be awesome if May was just that way without needing some story to explain but alas. There is a story. It is not as if the TV world has a problem with curmudgeonly people. Look at Archie Bunker, or more recently, Dr. Greg House. The latter spent 8 years a selfish, hostile bastard and the world loved him for it (and, FYI, he was like that before his leg so there goes that excuse). May could just be a bitch, and I'd be totally fine with it. Before we tell May's story, let's talk about one development that makes absolutely no sense. May and Ward have sleeping together. I suppose this was the shows attempt at being shocking and different. Obviously, most people (myself included) thought that Ward would be joining the mile high club with Skye, but instead he and May have been hooking up for Lord knows how long. I seriously cannot understand why. They have no chemistry together; they've barely even been together in scenes--May flies the plane and Ward tries to make Skye be less of an annoying flighty idiot. They're both decorated agents so I guess there's that. But outside of SHIELD merits, how did this even happen? And it's clear that there is no emotional attachment between the two. They don't want to be seen together; they are sneaking around and when Ward shows up late to work because of their tryst, May is stern and unforgiving about his tardiness. So May's story, let's just get it out of the way. There was a hostage situation, some civilians and agents being held by a cult. May got them out. That's it. Coulson doesn't know how (which makes no sense as he is in charge of all the things and agents have to be debriefed) but in the process she lost herself. May used to be different but now she's cold. Oh yawn. I was hoping May had died and come back cause that'd be more interesting than this, especially with the lack-o-details.

The agents take Hannah to the plane and secure her in a padded room. Skye does her whole, "let me be a team member! I can talk to her! Let me talk to her!" thing. Oh the level of annoyance I have for Skye goes higher every episode. And the fact that Coulson is still petting and stroking her ego makes it worse. No, Skye is not going to be a good agent someday; no, you do not need to coddle her and hold her hand. Put her back on the ground, give some money to not say anything about SHIELD and let her go live her life. May and Coulson go in to talk to Hannah and learn that prior to the accident that killed four people, she was trying to repair a piece of scientific equipment that was being used in experiments to open portals between worlds. This one coupling kept coming loose and finally the equipment fell apart and people died. Hannah believes that God is punishing her and has stopped protecting her because demons are haunting her. Yes, this is the God episode. The one where some of the characters either express disbelief in the divine and are firmly routed in science, and others espouse ideas of a loving creator. Frankly, I don't care. The only thing you need to know is that there is some sort of apparition that keeps vanishing in and out of frame and looks very menacing. To spare you all anxiety, his name is Tobias, he was in love with Hannah and he was one of the four people who "died" in the accident. He is also the guy who kept loosening the coupling on the equipment because he wanted Hannah to visit and since then he has been popping in and out to protect Hannah. I am fresh out of sympathy. Where is he popping to and from? An alien world. He thinks it's Hell, but it's another world. He is trapped between worlds (I'm pretty sure the original Star Trek did a similar episode...better). No idea what happened to the other 3 people and they are never brought up.

May takes it upon herself to fix the problem and after a freak plane landing, she hauls Hannah off to a barn where Hannah must confront Tobias. May tells Tobias to "let go" and I guess he does cause he glows and then vanishes. But he wasn't dead. He was just trapped in a portal. So where did he go? Did he go to live on some desolate alien world? Is there even oxygen there, or food? Are you basically condemning this man to oxygen deprivation and starvation? Does he wind up somewhere back on planet Earth? Or does he vanish into some great metaphysical unknown and God is love so yadda yadda yadda? Apparently the letting go process is important cause it's what Coulson told May after the life changing but incredibly vague thing. "Let go." Excellent words of wisdom. SHIELD, I think I'll let you go. So May saves the day, Coulson strokes Skye's ego again, FtizSimmons did nothing but stay in their lab, Ward fights and I yawn. All in all, a typical SHIELD episode.

Miscellaneous Notes on Repairs

--I will probably continue to watch but not blog this show anymore. It's just such a hassle.

--FitzSimmons spent most of the episode trying to pull pranks on each other and their coworkers. None of the pranks were good or funny.

--If Tobias was caught between worlds then when he vanished back to the other world, unless the atmosphere is the same as Earth, why didn't he die?

--We need a shipping name for Ward and May. FighterPilot?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (1x9)

I really love it when I'm right. Honestly, having a headcanon confirmed is an amazing feeling when you're a part of fan culture. Several episodes back, I hypothesized that Katrina gave birth to a baby and most likely sold him to Moloch in some sort of deal. This weeks episode of Sleepy Hollow, "Sanctuary," at least proved the first part right. Whether or not Katrina sold her babe to Moloch has not been confirmed, but I wouldn't put it past her. Sanctuary is defined as a place of refuge or safety; a place where the soul can retreat and the forces that seek them can not penetrate. But sometimes sanctuary isn't enough and the forces of darkness are too strong. In other words, sometimes the crows can still get in. 

The real meat of this story involves a look into Katrina's past after she lost Ichabod in battle with the Headless Horseman, who is actually her ex-fiancee Abraham. (odd sentence is odd)
 Soon after Ichabod and Katrina are married, they visit their good friend Lachlan Fredericks at his Manor House, near Sleepy Hollow. The Manor is a sanctuary where everyone who comes to stay is welcome there forever, by choice. They will never be forced to stay. The African slaves are free men and women who choose to work for the family. They are as much a part of the family as the white members. This was a nice historical moment; we tend to think of abolitionists as only existing in the years leading up to the Civil War, but they were around long before then. The head of house, Grace, is also a skilled midwife and protects her master's secrets. The owner of the house, Lachlan, is part of Katrina's coven, those witches and warlocks who fight the forces of darkness that resides in Sleepy Hollow (except for Katrina, of whom I am deeply suspicious).  Lachlan has secured his estate with magical hexes, intended to ward off all supernatural forces of evil that wait on the periphery. It's a sort of utopia that hasn't managed to actually distance itself from the evil in Sleepy Hollow. But, of course, any linguist will tell you that utopia has two meaning: eu-topos, meaning the good place or ou-topos, meaning the place that is not. The Manor might appear to be the good place, but in reality, the dangers that lurk just outside are closer to invasion that one might think.

A few months after Ichabod "dies" in his battle, Katrina finds her self in a motherly way (I secretly hope this isn't Ichabod's child) and is fleeing from some dark force who wants to steal her child. Or if you're me, then she is fleeing from fulfilling her end of the bargain she made with a dark demon. Maybe she had second thoughts about giving her baby to a monster. Katrina has no where to turn except to her coven and the sanctuary they can provide at the Manor. There, in the dead of night, Katrina gives birth to a son. But the second the baby is born, the menacing crows that sit on the edges of the estate begin trying to break into the house through the windows. Of course, the dark demon after the baby is Moloch. What kind of bargain could Katrina have made? Maybe she agreed to give Moloch the child if he would reunite mother, father, and son someday and spare Ichabod's life, even if he is one of the witnesses. So Moloch holds the son and Katrina hostage in his dark purgatory like forest until the end of days is brought about and in return he will spare Ichabod and give Katrina back her family. I am also suspicious that Katrina was powerful enough to unite the Headless Horseman and Ichabod so I wonder if Moloch had a hand in that as well. Maybe the demon gifted Katrina with this one time power to save her husband. After all, Moloch needs Ichabod alive. Am I trying to hard to make Katrina evil? Maybe. But she is just so suspicious and sneaky and wears a lot of black. Beware of women in black on TV.

Meanwhile, in the present day, an heiress named Lena has purchased the manor because it once belonged to her family. She wishes to restore it and figure out how it went from a place of refuge to a desolated abandoned haunted house. We know, after all the flashbacks, that it is because Katrina brought the evil to the front door by having the baby in the manor. The house is covered in vines and trees and branches. That come alive and grab people. I had a very dorkish moment when I saw the walking tree because all walking trees are Ents and I started looking for two little Hobbits as well. (Nerd jokes!) The house, now full of dark spirits and under the control of Moloch, has a mind of its own and bars Ichabod and Abbie from leaving the house. It's all very spooky and I wonder if this episode would have worked better as a Halloween episode. All the right elements were there: chase scene, random birds flying in your face, demons and monsters, ghosts, bloody hand prints and a sense of never getting out alive. Abbie is separated from the group at one point; Abbie has a serious aversion to haunted houses, she has never liked them. But luckily there is a friendly ghost of the former head of household, Grace, who is guiding her. Grace guides Abbie to the room in which Katrina gave birth and Abbie has a vision of the whole flashback. I'm glad Abbie told Ichabod what she saw. She could have kept it to herself in an attempt to spare Ichabod pain but she knows that it is important they have all the information if they are going to stem the tide of darkness. Abbie has a lot of visions though and I have to wonder if she is more than just the second witness. Maybe she has some seer blood?

Everyone gets out of the house and Ichabod has a very scary intense moment where he hacks the walking Ent tree to death by chopping at the roots, which produce huge quantities of blood. This episode was very horror movie-tastic. Ichabod, now mourning both his wife and the son he never knew he had, mopes on Thanksgiving day and Abbie comes to pay him a visit. They have a very deep conversation and share some rum. And of course, in a shock to no one, Abbie turns over all the files Lena, the heiress, gave them about her research into the Manor. Included among them is a family tree of Grace, the servant. Abbie is a direct descendant. Abbie's ancestor birthed Ichabod's son--connected through time and space, these two are. My hope is that by the time Katrina makes her way back to Ichabod, it is too late. Ichabod has discovered what a horrible person she is, has fallen out of love with her, and is with Abbie.

Miscellaneous Notes on Sanctuary

--Brief review, I know. Outside of the flashbacks, there wasn't much in this episode.

--Subplot involving the Captain and his disabled daughter, Rue Macy. We don't know how Macy got into her wheelchair but I think we can assume that she wasn't born handicapped. The Captain is a bit of a neglectful father and his exwife is fed up. She is filing for sole custody unless the Captain gets his act together.

--Jenny and the Captain have a fun little flirty meeting. And Jenny seems to understand Macy and why she wants little to nothing to do with her father. I wonder if Macy is in the chair because of the Captain.

--Ichabod went through the drive-through and finds it horrifying.

--"Did you say billionare? As in she has a billion dollars? That's the sum wealth total of the entire 13 colonies. In my WHOLE lifetime." I love when Ichabod reacts to modern society.

--"Your company holds the greatest value to me." Oh Ichabbie is adorable.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In Which I Review the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

Finally. Finally. When I began this blog, which has more or less morphed into a straight up television blog, the seventh season of Doctor Who has just ended and therefore I was unable to ever properly review an episode. Until now. 
I have a very long and lovely history with this little British show. When I was a freshman in college, in 2005, one Saturday I became bored. It was one of those Saturdays as a freshman in college where you don't want to do anything. You have homework but you can't be bothered to do it. My friends were away and my roommate was out; so I decided to flip through the channels of my incredibly tiny TV and see what I could find. Like all good nerds, I eventually stumbled upon the Sci Fi channel (when it was still the SciFi channel and not SyFy). I was rather puzzled by what I was watching. It was the final moments of some British show, where the main character (who I gathered rather quickly was called the Doctor) appeared to be glowing. I was almost positive he wasn't supposed to be glowing. There was a British blonde chick who was concerned about the glowing because then the glowing got worse and the main character, this Doctor, changed. And I don't mean he turned green. He actually changed into an entirely new actor. But he said he was the Doctor but he clearly wasn't the Doctor. The blonde girl looked like she thought the same as I. If you have no idea what I just said, let me fill you in. What I am referring to is the episode "The Parting of the Way," the season finale of the first season of Doctor Who. I was so utterly confused by the glowing and the changing, but somehow also entranced, that I got my laptop, went to Wikipedia and looked up this "Doctor Who" show. 

And then everything changed. I remember spending all day watching the marathon on SciFi, the episodes bouncing around between the 9th Doctor and the 10th so that I was never sure what was really happening. I kept my laptop with me so I could continuously look up information about the show. Surprise of all surprises, this wasn't some newly minted British show. This show had history. And I do mean history. As of Saturday, November 23rd 2013, 50 years worth of history. You see, it all started out as a mild curiosity in a junk yard, but it has turned into quite the spirit of adventure. Alright, I'm actually going to spare you all any sort of history lesson about Doctor Who. But briefly: The Doctor is an alien from the planet Gallifrey; his race are the Time Lords. They have the ability to travel through time and space using a machine called a TARDIS (that's Time And Relative Dimension in Space). When the Doctor is injured and about to die, he regenerates, literally becomes another person (hence the glowing) but with all his memories. To date, there have been 11 Doctors. (Well. Sorta. But we'll get there!) Also, The Doctor has a tendency to travel with companions, mostly of the pretty female variety. Good? Got your scarf, celery stick, umbrella, 3D glasses and Fez? Excellent. Let's do this! 

I want to admit something up front. I am having a hard time blogging this. Not because I don't have things to say. Oh, I do! But mostly they are of the "fangirl spazzing out all over the place" variety. Where do I start? Do I start with the intense mystery surrounding the whole project? How everyone thought Steven Moffat, the current head show writer, was going to keep the 50th to strictly the current incarnation of the Doctor, Matt Smith. How upset the fandom got when they heard NO Classic Doctors? Or how very slowly, bit by bit, information began to leak out? David Tennant, the 10th Doctor and the most popular Doctor (and forever MY Doctor) was coming back, as was his most noted companion, Rose Tyler? How at the end of Season 7 we got our first big hint about the plot of the 50th: a mysterious Doctor no one has ever mentioned? The Doctor's greatest crime and sin? An event that would change the nature of the show for years to come? All of this happened leading up to "The Day of the Doctor." And along the way, I think we all forgot something very important: Moffat lies. Quite a lot, it turns out. And more to the point, he lies well enough to have made a career out of it. When Moffat really sets his mind to it, he can create incredibly well honed, tight, interesting, morally gray, heart-wrenching, wibbly wobbly timey wimey works of art. His episodes can make you laugh, cheer, cry, and scream all in the course of 5 seconds. So I shouldn't be surprised that the 50th anniversary, penned solely by Moffat, was, to put it simply, everything Doctor Who is, at its core.

At its core, Doctor Who is about hope. It is about knowing that there is always hope, and though you may feel alone in this great expanse of darkness, you're not. There is always someone willing to press a giant red button to destroy your home world with you. Or, you know, not destroy your homeworld. My final year of graduate school, I wrote a paper about Doctor Who and the idea of transcendence and what I aruged, mainly, was that what an audience member gets out of Doctor Who is that there is more than just this life. There is adventure and great spirit of the heart. And by God, there is always hope. And sometimes, if you're very lucky, a little man in a bright blue box will appear in your living room and take you to see it all. As Rose Tyler put it in the 50th, "the sound of the TARDIS brings hope to anyone who hears it." And sometimes a little hope can go a long way. (say on a heroic quest to find your people from being frozen in time against their greatest enemies? Oh shoot. Getting ahead of myself.) "First things first. But not necessarily in that order" (The Fourth Doctor)

The episode was not for the faint of heart. Like most Moffat penned episodes, it's almost unnecessarily complicated and convoluted. One of Moffat's greatest trademarks is multiple timelines that somehow weave together and eventually collide. In this case, there are three. The first is present day London with the 11th Doctor and his companion, Clara. In case you missed it, the opening scene is an exact replication of the opening scene of the first episode of Doctor Who ever; a police man walking slowly past a sign and then flashing over to a school. Clara has become a teacher and for the brief moment that we get to see her in her chosen profession, she gives us the moral par excellence for the episode as a whole, "waste no more time arguing what a good mans should be. Be one." (Marcus Aurelius). Is the Doctor a good man? Sometimes, even he doesn't seem to know. He has a host of rules to keep him in check and in those cases where he chooses to forget or ignore his own self imposed rules, he is shown as an all powerful god like figure who can control space and time. How can we call him a good man if he killed every Time Lord and Lady in existence during the Time War? But was that action a heroic action if it ensured the end of the Time War and the salvation of creation? Moral quandaries. They are replete in Doctor Who.
Clara receives a message from the Doctor to come and meet him; he wants to take her to the moon or Mesopotamia (same thing, really). But just before they can materialize out of London, they are picked up via helicopter and take to the heart of London, near the Tower of London. U.N.I.T has need of the Doctor and they know how very hard he runs when they need him. It was great to see U.N.I.T. again, now under the command of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of the longest running companion of the Doctor. Even though the Doctor finds U.N.I.T tiresome, he knows when they need him and this is such a case. He and Clara are taken to the National Gallery where a 3D painting known as "Gallifrey Falls" or "No More" is on display. It is a piece of Time Lord science, bigger on the inside, and a moment in time, frozen. 11 tells Clara that this painting is the fall of Arcadia, the second city of Gallifrey. Specifically, this is a painting of the last day of the Time War when the Doctor decided to end the war. This moment is not one the Doctor enjoys revisiting, "the other me was there--the one I don't talk about--there is one life I've tried very hard to forget." (Yeah, all of this going to be important). Elizabeth the First of England has sent The Doctor orders (from 1562 England) that he was brought to the Gallery because something has happened. Turns out there are a few other paintings, three to be exact, with the same science as before in which the figures previously in the paintings are now missing and wandering about the gallery. These figures are dangerous and the Doctor has to stop them and their machinations. And then a time window opens up. Naturally, the thing to do is throw a fez through.

Which leads us to our second timeline: England 1562 where the 10th Doctor and Queen Elizabeth herself are enjoying a picnic. I need to fangirl for a second. When David Tennant left, I thought my heart would never recover from breaking. He was (and always will be) MY Doctor. He was the lonely god who was surrounded by love but was constantly loosing people he loved. I almost stopped watching the show when 10 left so having him back again was ecstatically wonderful and ecstatically painful all at once. The fact that they made his first word of the episode "Allonsy" induced tears. But, back to the plot. The 10th Doctor suspects that his lady Queen is not who she claims to be. You see, he has a little machine that goes ding when there's stuff and it keeps dinging around her. He suspects that Queen Elizabeth is a shape shifting alien known as a Zygon, a large red alien with suckers known from the classic episodes. There is a bit of chase and back forth trying to figure out who is really the Queen and who is the Zygon (because, you see, the horse was the alien all along). As the Doctor confronts the two Queens, a time window opens up and a Fez falls through followed shortly by the 11th Doctor. And there we go. 10 and 11 meet. They interacted spectacularly, as I always suspected they would. They are both kooky and strange, desperately lonely and haunted souls. They joke with each other, try to get the best of each other, and mock each other. The time window is still open and Clara and 11 have a chat before 11 throws his Fez back through, but it doesn't make it to Clara in 2013 London. Instead, it goes to our third timeline, Gallifrey the final day of the Time War.

This is not the Doctor. Shortly before "The Day of the Doctor" aired, a small short of the 8th Doctor aired in which we finally saw how he regenerated. But the strangest thing about 8's regeneration is that he regenerated into something new. This new man wasn't the Doctor, but the Warrior. This new man was capable of fighting in the Time War, doing what needed to be done to stop both the Time Lords and the Daleks. What he did, on that final day of the Time War, he did in the name of peace and sanity and reason, but not in the name of the Doctor. So therefore, because he is not called the Doctor, he is not really the Doctor and our numbering system stays the same. The war is going horribly; both sides are hemorrhaging losses and every weapon available to the Time Lords is gone. All except one. This weapon is called the "the moment," a galaxy eater who was so expertly built by the Time Lords of old that it achieved conscience. It is alive, can sit in judgement on creation, and destroy everything in a matter of seconds. This weapon has been locked away for a long time, but of course, the Warrior has it now. This is the final solution to end the war, kill all the Time Lords and Ladies (and their children) and the Daleks with one blow. But before he can do it, the conscience of the "the moment" appears to him. In the form of Rose Tyler, our Bad Wolf.

I'm sort of torn about how Moffat brought back Rose and the fact that she only ever interacts with the Warrior. As someone who loved the story of Rose and 10 and will never get over that particular heartbreak, I do appreciate that I was spared more emotional turmoil involving those two. On the other hand, though, it would have been nice to see Rose and 11 interact. I've always been curious about how 11 feels about Rose, having moved on to other companions and love stories, like his wife River Song. But I have to hand it to Billie Piper; she hasn't lost a beat when it comes to playing Rose. Even if this Rose is slightly devious, she did it wonderfully. And of all the companions the sentient Interface could have chosen, it chose Rose, knowing how deeply she reverberates through the Doctor's life. The Interface/Rose wants the Doctor to be absolutely sure that this moment is what he wants. He can't take it back once it happens. Billions will die and his punishment for killing all those souls is that he will be forced to live, alone in the universe. It's a hard decision to make and so the Interface/Rose decides to help him out and opens a time window, and a Fez falls out. The first twenty minuets of this episode could really be summed up as, "follow the Fez!" Because of course, the Warrior follows the fez and goes in search of the Doctor to see his future, to see if it is worth killing all his people.

10 and 11 are not happy to see the Warrior. There is a sense of dread about seeing him again; both have worked their whole incarnations to forget the Warrior, to erase from their minds what he did because it was not done in the name of the Doctor. I have to applaud all three actors and the writing here. The banter between the three of them was spot on. The Warrior's incredulousness about how childish 10 and 11 can be was reminiscent of how the the 1st Doctor reacted when he met the 2nd and 3rd Doctor, horrified at what he would someday be (a Dandy and a Clown). And here is where things are going to get even more complicated because we still have those Zygon's to deal with. The Queen (or not the Queen) surrounds all the Doctors and orders them taken to the Tower of London. Conveintely enough, the Tower is now Kate's office and with some wibbly wobbly timey wimey explanation, she can get the Doctors out of there. Except, there is a hitch. Kate isn't Kate! She's a Zygon! There are Zygons in present day London! The Doctors, back in ye olde London, learn that the Zygon's master plan was to someday invade Earth and take it over, but only when Earth had reached a state of advancement that would suit the Zygon's. In order to preserve themselves, the Zygon's put themselves into paintings, frozen in a moment in time. So those figures from the paintings the 11th Doctor was called in to investigate were Zygon's. While the Doctors and the Warrior are locked in the Tower, waiting to get out, they discuss "the moment." The Warrior wants to know how many children were on Gallifrey that day--how many young souls he killed. Turns out it's 2.74 billion, a number the 10th Doctor has rattling around in his head, but a number the 11th Doctor has forgotten. And that really does sum up the difference between the two: 10 is the Doctor who regrets and wears his scars on his sleeve; 11 is the Doctor who forgets because after the Time War his losses continued to pile up in an alarming amount to the point where it's better to not think of his crimes and misdeeds. 10 is an old soul who thinks too much on his past; 11 is an old soul who refuses to think on them anymore and so acts childlike.

Through a bit of science mumbo jumbo (the time manipulator from Captain Jack Harkness), Clara manages to get to 1562 London and rescue the Doctors and the Warrior and now the four of them get into the TARDIS. I love that the TARDIS glitches when all those time streams converge. We got to see 10's TARDIS, a classic TARDIS "desktop" before it finally settled on 11's new TARDIS (which 10 doesn't like). They speed back to 2013 London where the real Kate has been found and his having a stand off with her Zygon doppleganger. The real Kate is willing to destroy all of London if it means saving the world from a Zygon invasion. This should sound familiar; it's essentially what is happening back on Gallifrey on the last day of the Time War. Is this destruction the lesser of two evils? And does that make it "ok?" The Doctors don't think so. They know how this decision sits in the heart(s). They made that decision a long time ago and they don't want Kate to make the same mistake. They force the Zygon and humans to come up with a peace treaty. Meanwhile, The Warrior watches all this carefully, but knows that "the moment" must happen. He cannot change his own personal history and this is the only way to ensure that creation doesn't fall. What are 2.74 billion lives if it means that the Universe is still here?

Going back to Gallifrey, the Warrior is ready to press the big red button the Interface/Rose has provided him. But 10 and 11 have followed (and 10 put on his coat!!) because while they know it has to be done, they don't want the Warrior to do it alone. Let it be the three of them this time. Just as they are about to press the big red button, 11 sees Clara out of the corner of his eye crying and shaking her head. "When you told me you killed all your people, I just never thought it would be you," she tells 11. Clara argues that there has to be another way. Any other way. Ok, so remember how the subplot of this whole episode was the idea of a moment frozen in time? Well, that's the solution of course! Remove Gallifrey and the Daleks from the universe, put them in a parallel pocket universe, frozen in time. Everyone in the universe will think that the Daleks and the Time Lords killed each other, but really they are just missing, tucked away in their own corner of time and space. But performing such a task is going to require a few friends. Enter EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR EVER. I about had a spazz attack when 12 TARDIS's surround Gallifrey, the image of every Doctor lighting up in the Gallifrey War Room, preparing to haul their beloved planet out of danger. And then, lo and behold--a flash of steely eyes, and a 13th TARDIS. Hello, Peter Capaldi. I'll see you in another month, 12th Doctor. I look forward to it. Instead of Gallifrey falling, it stands. The Time Lords have hope that someday, just maybe, they can be saved. Hope. Always at the core of Doctor Who. Hope for a tomorrow, hope for a future, hope that sometimes there are second chances. And for the Warrior, hope that for one bright shinning moment, helping out his former and future selves, he got to be the Doctor. Honestly, it was a beautiful moment.

But all great moments come with a price. While for one shinning moment, the Warrior was the Doctor, once the time streams straighten back out, he won't remember any of this. He'll think he killed all his people and be forever haunted by it. But he's ok with that and he steps into his TARDIS and begins to glow. His time is over; he did what he needed to do. I wish that the 9th Doctor would have agreed to come back, if only for this one brief moment. The Warrior's regeneration happens off stage but at least now we know how it happened. The 10th Doctor also needs to leave, go back to his stream, which is slowly coming to a close. 10 asks 11 about what is coming and all 11 says is that he has seen Trenzelore (where the Doctor will finally die) and 10 tells him, "we need a new destination. Cause I don't want to go." And that is his final line in the episode. And you better believe I about died from the feelings. "I don't want to go" was 10's final words before he regenerated into 11. You don't throw those words around lightly. And in the final moments, Clara tells 11 that the Curator wanted to see him before he leaves and then she goes to wait in the TARDIS. The Curator, of course, is the Doctor himself. The magnificent, irreplaceable Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor. If you were to gather up 200 Whovians and put them in a room together and ask them who is the most iconic and beloved Doctor, most of them would say Tom Baker. Still the reigning champion of longest tenure as the Doctor (7 years), his poofy hair, 12ft long scarf, and penchant for Jelly Babies are iconic images of the show. He represents the show when it was at its height, the best it ever was. His Doctor was part mad man, part funny man, and incredibly wonderful. I saw him appear and I lost it. I had cried several times at this point, but nothing shook me like seeing the 4th Doctor there. Moffat told us no Classic Doctors and then the most classic of all classic Doctors appears. The 4th Doctor tells the 11th that the name of the painting of the fall of Arcadia is actually titled, "Gallifrey Falls No More," and that they are out there somewhere. Waiting. And now it's time to find them. YES. Give me Time Lords in funny hats again! And with that, we are ready for the next great adventure.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Day of the Doctor

--So many funny or epic piece of dialogue or speeches.
"Stuck between a girl and a box. Story of your life, eh Doctor?"
"Someday you could just walk by a Fez"
The 10th Doctor's entire epic speech to a bunny rabbit.
"Look the round things!!"
"I love the round things!"
"What are the round things?"
" idea"
"Great men are forged in fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame" 

--Obviously the entire plot was complicated and even with 4 pages of notes, I had to sit and really think all this through. We'll never know what the Zygon and Human solution was, but it was a subplot that was only there to serve the larger story of the Doctors and the Warrior, so I'm ok with it.

--My heart did leap when 10 and 11 realize that The Warrior is talking the "the bad wolf." 10 looked like all he wanted was to see her, and 11 had a sweet smile of remembrance.

--The Christmas special is up next, complete with a regeneration. It is going to be hard to say goodbye to Matt Smith. While it was a long road for me to warm up to him at first after loosing 10, I've come to really care for 11 and loosing a Doctor is never easy.

--That final shot of all 11 Doctors standing next to each other was gorgeous. Thank you Steven Moffat for remembering the history of this show. I've gotten so wrapped up in other shows, like ONCE, that that I forgot just how much Doctor Who means to me. I've been avoiding all spoilers about this episode, wanting to be totally surprised by everything. And I was. It really was one of the best episodes I've ever seen.

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (1x6)

Of all the possible questions in the world, I believe that the hardest to answer is "who are you?" How exactly do you answer such a question? What defines us as person? Who we love? Who we hate? What we do for a living? A random slew of adjectives: short, tall, skinny, heavy? Do we negotiate our identity based on family and society and a peaceful but false happiness? Or is it something deeper, something that can only be discovered by trial and tribulation? Do we ever really know who we are? On this weeks episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, "Who's Alice?" Alice must choose between a fraudulent happiness or taking the hard path and being true to herself and her quest to find Cyrus. And in the past, Alice is presented with a chance to move on from her genie love, as her family puts pressure on her to conform to their societal expectations and give up her dreams of Wonderland. As was inscribed at Delphi: γνῶθι σεαυτόν. It really is the hardest task of all. 

Welcome Home, Alice. We Totally Forgot You Existed 

Our flashback this episode deals with the fallout of loosing Cyrus at the Boiling Sea. Alice finds herself back home in London, deeply shaken from loosing her fiancee. It has been years since Alice was last at home, having set out to Wonderland to find evidence for her father that she was not insane. Yes, Alice has daddy issues. Are you surprised? Everyone in the ONCEiverse has daddy issues, apparently. I'm not shocked that this episode comes on the heels of ONCE proper 308, "Think Lovely Thoughts." Alice and her father have a complicated history, he was sad and neglectful of Alice as a child. Alice has told us twice now that her mother died early in Alice's life. Sidenote: Doubtful. If characters keep bringing up dead characters, especially if the death of that character had some sort of psychological impact on the lead, then they aren't really dead. My current theory is that Alice's mother was from another world--The Enchanted Forest, Oz, Wonderland itself--and left Alice and her father when Alice was young for some as yet to be disclosed reason, but is also having trouble finding her way back to Alice, probably because of the Curse. Anyway, Alice arrives back home after years away only to find that her father has moved on not only from her mother but from Alice herself. He has remarried a woman named Sarah and had a daughter, Millie. Bit of a twist that now Alice is the elder sister in this tale; traditionally Alice herself is the younger sister. 

 Did you notice how similar Millie was to Young Alice? The costume designers even put young Millie in a dress that is very similar to young Alice's classic blue dress; but they went to the opposite end of the color wheel, and made it a soft pink. I believe they are trying to draw the contrast between the two girls. Alice, with her blue dress and messy blonde hair, was loud and excitable and prone to wild storytelling. Millie, with her perfectly plaited hair and delicate blush dress, is a respectable Victorian child, exactly the daughter Alice's father would have wished Alice could be. Of course, this doesn't stop Alice and Millie from bonding as Millie is a sweet little girl.

Alice's father, who is more or less under the control of his new wife (a Victorian prig of a woman if ever there was one,) insists that Alice needs to "be better" if she is going to stay with them. No more talk of Wonderland, no talk of Cyrus the genie, no more fantastical tales of adventures because Millie is impressionable. In other words, don't make my new daughter into what you've become; she's my second chance with a family and it's working out really well so far. It was heartbreaking when Alice actually had to ask her father if he was happy to have her home and her father could barely muster up a lie that of course he was happy to see her, barely touching her hand with his fingertips. He's not happy of course. From what we know of Alice's father prior to Alice's disappearance, the loss of his first wife deeply affected him. He spent most of Alice's childhood in mourning and not being a father to Alice. Alice, then, is a reminder of all that pain and darkness he faced. Having her back is like having a giant neon sign that reminds him of what he lost years ago. With Sarah and Millie, he can forget everything of the past, drug his mind with the false reality that he loves his new wife and is perfectly happy. (Drugs were an important motif this episode as were drugged induced realities). Sarah and Alice's father try to force this drugged out reality onto Alice, insisting that she meet her familial and societal obligations, which in Victorian England means marriage to a gentleman from a good family. And so Sarah presents Mr. Darcy to Alice. Yes, this is a thing that happened. I almost fell off the couch while watching the episode. First, that young man, charming though I'm sure he is, is NOT Mr. Darcy. That is not Colin Firth. Do not give me a Darcy if you aren't going to give me Colin Firth. Second, way to confuse your audience if they don't understand that this is *fictional* London and not *real* London. If you don't know that this is Fictional London and not London of the past, I bet this little interlude into Austen was confusing. 
Alice runs from Darcy, wanting nothing to do with him and more to the point, wanting nothing to do with Sarah's designs of marriage and becoming a proper lady. And heaven's above, why would she? In the past few years, she has seen exotic worlds, fought monsters, worn pants. In other words, she's completely broken out of the Victorian mold for women which could be rather suffocating. Look at Alice's clothes from Wonderland, loose and free; and now compare them to the clothes Sarah put her in, high choking collars and devoid of all personality. Alice is expected to become a wallflower when she has been a heroine up until her arrival home. And to top it all off, her whole family thinks she is insane and that Cyrus is a fictional person. And so, when it becomes clear that Alice will not be bending to conformity and will never believe that Cyrus isn't real, her father gives her a choice: if you stay here, then you will do as Sarah says. If you choose not to do this, then you will go to the Bethlem Asylum to be treated. Alice could stay in her father's own drugged out universe full of false happiness or she could continue to believe in her delusions but do it elsewhere. Of course what ends up happening is that Alice will enter her own drugged out world in the Asylum when the Curse hits and she's frozen for 28 years and then, as we saw in the pilot, Alice will break enough to accept treatment for her delusions, another drugged out world. 

Don't Go Into the Light, Alice!

In present day Wonderland, Alice begins her journey toward Cyrus, now that the magic dust has shown her where he is. This part of the episode dragged on quite a bit, moving from Alice in the psychedelic woods of doom, to Cyrus running from the Red Queen, and to the Knave's search for Alice. A lot of the themes I've already touched on, like drugged out universes of false happiness were again touched upon. Let's stick with the major one, though: the Borrow Grove Perfume Bottle of Death (ok, it was just called the Borrow Grove but in the words of the Knave, "it's like a bloody perfume bottle.") Part of Alice's adventure to find Cyrus involves going into the Black Forest, which was actually pitch black (it's a metaphor, guys). But then, just when Alice gets to the darkest part of the forest, a light appears and Alice believes she has found her way out of the darkness. But, it's a false light. The light is coming from the Grove, full of trees and flowers, and wonderful purple smoke that make all that enter want to stay because it induces a false contentment. And as it slowly takes your will to leave the Grove, you forget who you are. Another drugged out reality. There in the Grove, Alice meets the Carpenter--sadly missing his Walrus. So, Alice is an oyster. In the long poem in the Alice in Wonderland books, the Walrus and the Carpenter lure Oysters out of the ocean with promises of fun and happiness, only to consume them, the oysters forgetting that man and beast are their natural enemies. Alice is lured into this false reality by the purple smoke but also because part of her does want to stay. The magic of the Grove doesn't work if at least part of you doesn't want to stay. 

So why would Alice want to stay? Well, like I said, it's another drugged out reality, something Alice is familiar enough with to know that there is a certain level of comfort to be found there. Her father found a false happiness with Sarah and his new more well mannered daughter; Alice almost found an equal happiness in the Asylum when she agreed to undergo surgery to rid herself of the memories of Wonderland and Cyrus. This grove is the equivalent to those experiences. But it's a false happiness. Alice could never really be happy there. But luckily she has a cunning best friend in Will Scarlett. The Knave, thinking Alice freed him from his stone prison, goes looking for Alice and eventually waltzes into the Grove. It's interesting that the Knave isn't affected by the magic perfume (more on that in a bit). And there he finds Alice, sad lost girl Alice who had dropped her necklace and is determined to stay in her false paradise. The Knave discovers that all who stay in the Grove eventually become part of its surroundings, morphing into trees. He and Alice fight and it is only when he manages to get the necklace back to Alice just when Cyrus is trying to find Alice, does she remember who she is. Alice, like Cyrus, carries the most powerful weapon of all: true love. Yeah, that's gag worthy but that's ONCE for you in all honesty. True love is the most powerful magic of all, powerful enough to break any curse and transcend realms. Having woken out of her drugged induced coma, Alice and the Knave flee from the Grove. Once outside the Grove, all the hurt and pain Alice had forgotten while inside the Grove comes flooding back all at once. Pain is part of our identity. It's part of what makes us who we are. As the good dwarf Grumpy said to Snow White, "I need my pain. It's what makes me Grumpy." Alice needs the loss of mother, the neglect of her father, and the loss of Cyrus to be Alice. But she also needs her courage, her best friend Will, and her undying love for Cyrus to make her the whole package. So why was Will unaffected by the Grove? We know that Will had his heart ripped out at one point and that Alice helped him get his heart back but it turns out that Will never put his heart back in his chest. Will is choosing his false reality, his own drugged out universe, instead of facing the broken heart that was left in the wake of Ana leaving him to be a Queen. Who ripped out Will's heart? If it is anyone but Cora, Queen of Hearts, I'll eat the Rabbit's hat. I guess part of this adventure now will be trying to find Will's heart. 

Miscellaneous Notes on Who's Alice?

--A few other subplots in this weeks episode, the most signifciant one being Jafar's arrival in London to speak to the Doctor. He manages to get information out of the Doctor about who Alice cares for and then goes to pay a visit to Alice's father. Wanna bet Alice's father ends up in Wonderland? 

--Another drugged out reality: the Doctor was seen taking laudanum, a *highly* addictive substance, in an effort to forget that he saw a talking White Rabbit. 

--Cyrus spent the episode on the run from the Red Queen, only to wind up back at the same cliff from which he fell the first time. This time, however, Cyrus takes his destiny into his own hands, took a magnificant swan dive off the cliff to the ocean below. I really need Cyrus and Alice to find each other now. They are dragging it out a bit too much. At least with ONCE proper David and Mary Margaret were having an affair and together that way, even if they didn't know they were Snow and Charming

--Not enough Bunny Rabbit for my taste; poor thing spent the entire episode inside Jafar's bag. Oh speaking of Jafar, he got himself a nifty little hat!

--No Wonderland next week, but when we get back I'd really like to see more of Will's story. Especially if it deals with Cora.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In Which I Review Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (1x8)

Something occurred to me last night. I was sitting in a car, with 10 minutes to spare until SHIELD came on. I was watching the clock, hoping I got home in time, when it suddenly hit me: I didn't care if I missed the first few minutes. I didn't even really care if I missed the first ten or fifteen minuets. Or the first twenty. Now, I did end up making it home in time to catch the whole episode, but as I sit here this morning, coffee in hand, to write my blog on this weeks episode, "The Well," I realize that I have almost nothing to say. Well, nothing good. There was one and only one purpose to this episode: Thor 2. The number one movie in the world, the next movie in the Marvel Superhero saga, following in the wake of the Avengers, this episode was simply fodder to promote a movie. It wasn't even subtle. By my count, the name "Thor" was dropped five times by various individuals, including Coulson, the only character to have actually met the blonde Asgardian. Oh and apparently we learned more about Ward and his greatest secret, which isn't actually a secret since he told Skye several episodes back. 

The whole episode starts with the Agents discussing Asgardian relics. Gee, I wonder if that's significant. I mean, I know I stand around randomly discussing alien technology and the hotness that is Thor. Skye, as usual, is saying stupid things about wanting to fly an Asgard ship and meet Thor because of his dreamyness (Skye, you're supposed to be familiar with the internet. Come on, now. You should know that everyone is obsessed with Loki, not Thor). There is a little set up about how aliens and humans don't mix well. *yawn* I'm sorry, what were you saying, Agents? Was it important? I was too busy rolling my eyes over to obvious set up. Raise your hand if you now think this episode will focus on how humans and aliens cannot mix well. *Raises hands and feet and eyebrows.* Oh, what's this? Random hikers out in the woods who decide to cut down a tree. Well, I'm sure that is perfectly normal and isn't a reflection of what the Agents were just discussing. So these random hikers start cutting down a tree and find a metal rod. From henceforth, I shall refer to the metal rod as a stick. I'm sure it has a fancy name, but considering the idiocy of this entire episode for it be anything but "the stick" would just be silly. The stick makes you HULK out. Oh. Look at that. Another Marvel reference. A person touches the stick and it glows and then you have super human strength and anger and you must embrace the rage. Random Human Angry! Random Human Smash!

The team arrives in the forest and I guess there is some sort of banter (I actually wrote in my notes "some sort of banter" because I couldn't be bothered to pay attention to what the stiff cardboard cut outs were saying to each other). They learn that the stick is not of this world. SHOCK! I am in total SHOCK. You mean the beginning conversation about aliens and Asgard was setting something up? Miracle of miracles. Anyway, there is a cult obsessed with Norse mythology and they want the stick. (Another sign this show is loosing ground fast is when even I'm not interested in the mythology episode. I have a degree in religion which heavily focuses on myth and I'm bored!) Also, the stick is only a third of a stick. The real stick is much bigger. Two other sticks out in the world. Oh dear. I wonder if we have to go in search of them. Better call in some random plot device guy who can tell us everything we need to know about the sticks in an info-dump; and while we're at it, let's make him seem somewhat suspicious.

Meet random plot device info-dump suspicious guy! I think he has a name. Elliot Randall is what I wrote in my notes, but it is *very* possible that I made that up. Let's just call him Suspicious Professor. Suspicious Professor is an expert in Norse history and myth and has the ability to read the writing on the stick. The agents of SHIELD, the top secret government agency who have dealt with the Asgardians, have a working relationship with the future king and had his younger brother in captivity once CAN'T read the writing, but Suspicious Professor can. Golly, what a wonderful plot device. Alright, here comes the info-dump. Long ago there existed a set of warriors known as the Beserkers who fought in an almost trance induced state of rage and anger. They were the stuff of nightmares. But one lone Berserker fell in love with the Earth and decided that the way of peace was for him. So he took his stick and broke it into thirds and scattered it throughout the earth. Which is dumb. All someone has to do is touch one third of the stick and they Hulk out. So if you loved the earth and its people so much, maybe you should have drowned the stick or destroyed it with fire. Or sent it back to the Asgard. Or, anything else really. At any rate, now the Agents know their mission and they go off to search for the other pieces of the stick and they wind up in an underground tunnel where--lo and behold, wonder of wonders--the Suspicious Professor is seen carrying off another piece of the stick! Ward confronts him, only to touch the stick and is infected with rage! Ward Angry! Ward Smash!

Honestly, I could care less. Ward is about as compelling as watching cheese become moldy. Apparently when you touch the stick, you start to relive your worst memory. And this is a memory Ward has pushed deep down and tried to forget. Remember when he told Skye about his brother and his brother's cruelty? Yes, his worst memory has something to do with that. Apparently his older brother threw him down a well as a child and made him tread water before allowing the other brother to pull him out. Which is horrifying, I grant. But it wasn't exactly revelatory. And then there is Skye. Ward doesn't want to talk about this moment with anyone and Skye tells FitzSimmons to drop it and leave Ward be except then she turns around and butts into his life with her, "I'm here if you want to talk. Maybe we can talk. Can we talk? Let's talk" nonsense and someone make her shut up! At least Ward shuts her down, completely going off on Skye and I cheered. If she were to "accidentally" fall out of the plane, I'd be ok with it.

Meanwhile, Coulson is questioning the Suspicious Professor (they captured him. Did I mention that?). And then the big moment: the Suspicious Professor is an Asgard alien. He's like the Anti-Thor! Thor is big and muscular and full of the sex. This guy is small, mousy, and balding. Oh, I get it. We weren't supposed to suspect Suspicious Professor of being a god. And naturally the only one who guessed was Coulson because of a random clue? Oh, and Suspicious Professor is also the warrior from the stick story, but I'm guessing you already put that together too. The Suspicious Professor gives one more piece of background on his stick, "it shines a light into your dark places." The frack does that even mean? That is a line written by some writer who has lofty ideals about self and being. It is also dirty and my mind is in the gutter. Thankfully, the rage and the memories the stick invokes will wear off, but while Ward has all that simmering rage, might as well put it to good use. So the team packs up to find the third piece, which was located in a church. But the crazy cult is also there and a fight breaks out and Ward...goes berserk. Yeah, I've been waiting to use that line. For some reason the Suspicious Professor is injured and Coulson sticks his hand into the alien chest. In the end it isn't even Ward who takes down the cult but May who uses the stick to defeat them but instead of going crazy like Ward, she is able to channel her anger. It's all that tai chi.

Miscellaneous Notes from The Well

--Ok, so in case you missed it, you should now be properly conditioned to go see Thor 2.

--More Tahiti references and still we won't be getting that story next week. Stop making me wait. Coulson is the only thing saving this show right now.

--May tells Ward that unlike him, she sees her worst memory everyday. Again, writers, you need to develop her. No one cares about the rest of your cast/characters. Work with your strengths and maybe I'll come back next fall.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In Which I Review Sleepy Hollow (1x8)

When I blogged Sleepy Hollow for the first time, 8 episodes ago now, I remarked on how the show was taking vast liberties with the original story, essentially removing all traces of the Irving work and repackaging it as something that was Sleepy Hollow in name only. Unlike other TV shows doing essentially the same thing (*cough* Dracula *cough*), Sleepy Hollow got away with it because of its kooky nature and ability to have fun instead of being bogged down in too many ideas. So I was perfectly ok with the lack of original material, in other words. And then this week, Sleepy Hollow decided to go and prove me wrong. This weeks episode, "Necromancer," revisited the original source material to shed some (confusing) light on who the Headless Horseman is and just why he was so determined to ruin Ichabod Crane's life. And with so many things in life and on TV, it all comes down to a girl. 

 Necromancy is defined as a form of magic that involves communicating with the dead. (Unless you are myself and my best friend, in which case it is sleeping with the dead). When we left off last week, the Headless Horseman had been captured by Ichabbie and was held hostage in a tunnel with UV lights. Go with it. This week, we pick up right where we left off with Ichabod and Abbie wanting to interrogate the Headless Horseman. Which might be difficult seeing as how he is in fact, headless. But thankfully this is something Ichabbie recognize and acknowledge as a problem. Enter Sulu Brooks, last seen with a creepy neck and rumors of his death being accurate but complicated. We know that Brooks was in service to Moloch, the demon who is in charge of the Headless Horseman. Ichabod and Abbie have also previously used Sulu Brooks to send messages to the Headless Horseman so they deduce that they can use him again. Smart people. I like it when they use their noggins. Turns out, Sulu Brooks is a Necromancer, someone who can commune with the dead. In this case it means the spirit/essence/something of the Horseman inhabits his being and uses him as a mouth piece. The effect was quite creepy to be honest; his eyes turned black and he spoke with a lower voice--well, once he stopped speaking German that is. (Why German? Is that the language of death? Is that at all racist?)

Ichabod might need to work on his interrogation skills. I'm not sure if my first question to the Headless Horseman would be "what is your name?" I might ask something like "if you've been asleep in a lake for 200 years because of our blood connection, then why isn't the Earth teeming with humans ?" Or "if you're death why does sunlight affect you given that people can die under any condition." But I digress. Obviously Death is not going to tell you its name but at least we were spared the religious drivel of "I have many names. I am called Legion or Beelzebub or He Who Walks Between the Rows" (wait. What show is this again? Right, Sleepy Hollow).  Instead the Headless Horseman drops a pretty little jeweled necklace on the floor causing Ichabod to have quite a reaction. The necklace means something to him and now we get to do the flashback thing. First, let's remind ourselves of the original story of Sleepy Hollow: Both Ichabod Crane and Abraham Von Brom are in love with Katrina Van Tassel. It is also heavily implied that Abraham is the Headless Horseman who spirits Ichabod away after a party in order to have Katrina to himself.
(If you just went "OH" and made a connection to the television show, then congratulations. You win today's prize). So why is the necklace a big deal? It was given to Katrina by Abraham way back during the Revolutionary War; they were engaged through an arranged marriage, one that Katrina resented and from which she wished to be free due in large part to her undying love for Ichabod Crane. Ichabod and Abraham were allies and best friends in the war against the British army. Now in the original, the two men resented each other, but in modern TV it makes for a much better storyline if the dudebro code is broken and your best friend takes your girl away from you. Let's stay with the flashback for awhile longer before we return to the interrogation. After Katrina tells Ichabod that she is going to break off her engagement to Abraham, the two men are sent on a secret mission to Philadelphia where Ichabod finally confesses his love for Katrina and his desire to marry her. Don't do it Ichabod! She's most likely evil and working for Moloch and probably sold your yet to be conceived child to the demon in return for powers! (Wut? It's my headcanon). Besides, someday you will meet a lovely Lefteniant and you need to not be tethered to Katrina because clearly you are meant to be with Abigail Mills instead! Oh, also clearly telling your best friend that you love her girl is going to have lasting repercussions. And indeed they do.

Upon learning that Katrina and Ichabod love each other, Abraham challenges Ichabod to a duel. Chivalry! They clang swords for a bit and then suddenly, out of nowhere, Abraham is shot in the back (symbolic and such). And lo! British soldiers come riding up the path toward the men. This is bad news for Ichabod who is currently working as a spy for George Washington against the Red Coats. If he is captured, he will most likely be treated as a prisoner of war so flee Ichabod does. This leaves Abraham near death and the British soldiers, who are wearing creepy BDSM masks, prop him up against a tree and then a surprise guest appears with a most enticing deal. Yeah, it's Moloch. You get that Abraham is going to be the Headless Horseman, right? Moloch offers him the following: come work for me and be Death on a pale horse and I will hold Katrina captive in my afterlife until your job is done and then you can have her all to yourself. This is something Abraham agrees to and so his conversion begins, which apparently involves a change of clothing, a head shaving, and being branded with an arrow on his hand and a tattoo on his freshly shaved head. So the over all problem here are all the questions this raises, specifically "if Death is a man named Abraham, then is Death just 'inhabiting' Abraham?" And why in the name of everything is Death working for a demon? That is just not how this works. It would have made much more sense if the Headless Horseman was Abraham and the demon Moloch inhabited him and this delightful trio of weird was working for Death.

Also, man does Katrina cause a lot of problems! She's the one who saved Ichabod on the battlefield and thus ensured that the Horseman/Death two-for-one special would survive as well. There is no way this chick isn't evil and working for the forces of Darkness! She probably wants to be with Abraham and is waiting for Ichabod to be disposed of so she and Death can ride off into the sunset. (Do evil people ride off into sunsets?) Speaking of Ichabod being disposed of, back in the present day, the Horseman breaks free (because of a subplot involving a Druid tablet, Hessians, and electric power grids) and he and Ichabod get into a sword fight, which is how Ichabod figures out that Abraham is the Headless Horseman. In the final moments of the fight, the Horseman is presented with an opportunity to kill Ichabod but then our Necromancer comes back into play with an order from Moloch that the Horseman cannot kill Ichabod and POOF the Horseman vanishes. But during this nice little exchange, Ichabbie do learn one valuable thing: the Horseman's weakness is Katrina and the final words of the episode, "We need Katrina." No! You don't! Leave her in her afterlife.

Miscellaneous Notes on Necromancer

--Abbie teaching Ichabod to fist bump was adorable.

--"I shall never loose my cool." Oh Ichabod.

--Why doesn't Moloch want Ichabod to die yet? My guess is that first the end of days must actually begin before the witnesses can die.

--Jenny and the Captain have a certain chemistry. New ship! CaptainCrazy