Monday, October 28, 2013
My Brother's Keeper
Anyway, the Jones brothers manage to fly, with their Pegasus sail, to Neverland where they run into Peter Pan. After 5 episodes we finally have the classic showdown I think most of us have been waiting for. Peter and Hook are iconic hero/villain characters and the audience has been waiting for that history to be uncovered. But unlike last week where Rumple and Peter met even though they are not traditionally associated with each other, this meeting between Hook and Pan fell flat. There were no sword fights. No taunting. No "codfish" references. Just Peter being enigmatic and Killian making deals he did not understand.
Charming is a noble idiot. And I mean that lovingly, I swear. He is willing to die if it means there are no detours in finding Henry and getting out of Neverland. Hook, seeing that he can not convince Charming to tell Snow and Emma, decides to play on Charming's inner knight: he informs Charming that he may have a way out of Neverland but the adventrue is fraught with peril and most likely Charming won't survive. Naturally, Charming jumps at the chance to die for true love and family. It's what he does; it's part of his heroic code. It does make a reasonable amount of sense that Charming and Hook would grow closer. One is the White Knight with the chivalric code of honor; the other is the a pirate, a sort of Dark Knight, with his own code of honor that may not include rescuing damsels in distress but does have its own merits. In a lot of ways, Hook and Charming are each others mirror. Hook's plan is duplicitous at best: up a very tall mountain the sextant Liam used to get to Neverland is buried. They may be able to use the sextant to decode the coconut star map to figure a way out of Neverland. Sounds like a plan?
The two set off into the heart of darkness and it isn't long before Hook runs into Peter Pan. This was maybe my favorite scene of the episode. Peter has the upper hand, he knows why Hook is really doing this: Emma. It isn't so much that Hook cares about Charming as he does the affect of Charming's death will have on Emma, especially if it is found out that Hook knew all along. I'm going to take a side note here. For the first four episodes, Hook has been an honest to heaven gentleman when it comes to Emma. He held a small service for Nealfire in the bowls of the Jolly Roger; he praised Neal's pirate and survival abilities; he has been incredibly respectful about the fact that Emma just lost the man she loved AND more to the point, Hook is also grieving for Neal, the latter having been like a son to him. And then in this episode, despite it being only a day or two since that loss, he's hitting on Emma and eying her like some sort of letch. This entire episode felt off kilter because half our characters were doing things they wouldn't do. Why the sudden warp drive like pursuing of Emma? Was it just to justify the kiss? Way too strong, Hook. Way too strong.
I Sure Hope Neverland Has Insurance
Dear Henry, just because you can turn things into weapons, doesn't mean you should. Just an idea. Some people are wondering why Henry is so taken with the lost boys in such a short amount of time, but I think we need to look at Henry's life up until this point. He was friendless, in a time frozen bubble with an uber controlling mother, who was also an evil sorceress. This is the first time he has been among people who respect him as more than just the "kid." He is special to them. It does worry me that Henry became violent so quickly, but I was mollified by how guilty he felt the next time we saw him. Emma recognizes that Henry might start loosing hope and so they come up with a plan: kidnap a lost boy, bribe him with candy to take a message to Henry. What they don't count on is how loyal the lost boys are to Peter Pan. They don't want to leave or go home; they like Neverland and they like Peter. So what are two desperate mothers to do? Why take a heart of course.
Emma allowing Regina to take Devin's heart was both disturbing and justified. Poor Snow looked so traumatized that her daughter had allowed this to happen but there are lines Snow won't cross, even for family. The last time she did, she ended up with a black spot on her own pristine heart. But Emma and Regina aren't like Snow; they will go as many miles as are required to get Henry back. "I think we need to talk to our son," Emma tells Regina and with that the two of them find common ground in the midst of so much hostility.
--Once again Regina has some of the best lines:
"I don't do rum"
"What I wouldn't give for another sleeping curse."
--Who is in the box? My top guesses are: Rumple and Pan's father, Real Belle, and Wendy Darling.
--One of the regulars over at my forum also thought this episode felt off and said that it felt, in large part, "fan service-y." Quite a few fan bases were appealed to last night: EvilRegals, Hookers, SwanQueen shippers, the CaptainSwan shippers, and the bromance of CaptainCharming. Everyone felt like they were just a hair to the left of where there characters normally are.
--No Rumple, no Neal, and no Belle. Yeah, I was just gonna love this episode wasn't I?
--Next week: ARIEL. OMG. ARIEL. My blog of next weeks show will be nothing but inner 3yr old spazzing with joy.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Vlad the Impaler was a real life guy. We know his birth and death year; he know about his father and other family members. We know about Vlad's rule as Prince of Wallachia. We have actual physical historical documentation and records of Vlad's lfie. He is a historical person and is not a legend. Vlad, of course, is most famous (outside of the impalings which were numerous) for being Bram Stoker's inspiration for his famous vampire, but Vlad and Dracula are not one and the same. Dracula is not a legend, either. He's a fictional character that takes his name from the patronymic of a historical figure. Why am I harping on this? Because NBC for the past few months, in an attempt to ramp up interest in their new TV show, came up with the tagline "a legend is reborn," the entirety of which is so grossly inaccurate, that I had to start off this blog with some historical facts (the reborn part we'll get to in the actual review because this is not Dracula reborn. At all).
"OMG THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD PREPARE FOR THE APOCALYPSE WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE AND EVERYTHING IS RUINED AND OMG GRAB YOUR SWORD OR BLUNT OBJECT AND PROJECT CHRISTENDOM AT ALL COSTS AND OMG."
You must understand that the idea of the Muslims sitting literally across a tiny body of water eying the west freaked the Christians out to an absurb extent. The Ottoman Muslims continued to snatch up bits and pieces of land here and there, and Vlad's only reaction was to protect his people and his land. In Romania, Vlad is actually considered a hero! Yes, there are some pretty horrific stories about his sadistic killings and his fondness for impaling, which I will neither justify nor sweep under the rug. Best guesses put his body count at about 80,000-100,000. Cruel, yes. But historically understandable given the constant battling between the eastern Christians the Muslims who (again) were siting across an very small body of water with an almost unstoppable army. That's really all you need to know about Vlad. How about Dracula? Since this is a TV blog, I'm going to break down the characters both by who they are on screen and who they are in the Stoker book.
The fact that our leading character has an alias and isn't going by Dracula at all needs to be your first big clue that there is something amiss.
Literary Version: Transylvanian nobleman and centuries old vampire with a host of supernatural powers such as superhuman strength, levitation, shape-shifting and of course hypnotic and telepathic abilities.
Television Version: Romanian vampire brought back after existing somewhere between life and death in a coffin for some untold amount of time. He is now playing as an American business man and entrepreneur interested in safe and free electricity and power. (At this point we should shake in our boots with fear?) Alexander/Dracula has a secret plan to bring down the Order of the Dragon by taking business from them and robbing them of their riches. Thus far, shows no extraordinary abilities except brooding stare.
Literary Version: A school teacher and fiancee and later wife of Johnathan Harker. She is often depicted as being held in thrall to Dracula and is slowly turning into a vampire, the Count both feeding off of her and feeding her which causes her to move in and out of consciousnesses. At the end of the novel she and Harker have a baby and presumably live happily ever after.
Television Version: A medical student under Dr. Van Helsing who is engaged to Johnathan Harker but shares a mysterious connection to Alexander Grayson. While not definitive yet, she is most likely Dracula's wife reborn.
Literary Version: An English solicitor who is sent to assist Dracula in Translyvania. He soon becomes a prisoner of the Count and discovers that Dracula is a vampire. He also has an unfortunate run in with the Brides of Dracula. Over the course of the novel, he tries to kill Dracula several times until the climax at the end where Harker manages to slit the Count's throat.
Television Version: A newspaper reporter who is desperate for his "big break" in order to finally fit into aristocratic society. He hopes that his interview with Alexander Grayson concerning his magic electric power (for lightbulbs....) will be his big break.
Literary Version: Non-existant
Television version: Uber-wealthy wife of member of the Order of the Dragon. She is drawn to Dracula after meeting him and engages in a little risque behavior at an opera. Also...ninja who apparently is keeping a vampire in a cage in an effort to get information. Is deadly accurate with knives and swords. She is also really historically inaccurate. The plunging neckline of her dresses would cause so much scandal in Victorian England that old ladies would faint dead away. I'm all for strong female characters but at least keep them in whatever was appropriate for the times.
Literary Version: Mina's best friend and Dracula's first victim. She is slowly drained by the Count until she "dies" and is reborn. She is a sweet and caring girl who becomes sexually vivacious. She is eventually destoryed.
Television Version: The walking sex pot. She flirts and is coy and wears totally non-Victorian clothing.
Literary Version: A lawyer who eventually goes stark raving mad and eats all manner of insects after being tormented by the Count into worshiping him.
Television Version: I need to talk about race in TV for a moment. It is becoming more and more apparent that TV is suffering from an abundance of white people. In a show like this, where they are selling a brand name but giving you none of the brand (as you should already be able to tell) the casting department and writers could have really tried to mix it up and be unique. What if Mina was a person of color? What if Mina and Harker were an interracial couple? But no. They went with the horribly cliche type: the only person of color (by which we mean "not white") is the servant. I'm not even going to bother making any other comment than that. In the TV version, Renfield is perfectly sane and more than that, he's Dracula's confidant. He knows all about Dracula's plan to take down the Order of the Dragon.
There are some other characters here and there such as Abraham Van Helsing who in this TV version is a medical doctor and thus far not a vampire hunter, but in some bizarre twist is actually working with Dracula to take down the Order because his family was killed by the Order. Van Helsing is the man at the beginning of the episode who woke Dracula up. Also, some of the members of the Order who I couldn't keep straight so in my notes they were labeled "rich white guy #1" "rich white guy #2" and "rich white guy #3 who became Dracula's meal."
Are we just now getting to the plot? This is where the wheels really fall off the wagon--though they've been rocking quite a bit since we started. Here's the biggest problem with the show: it's not Dracula. At all. I mentioned the tag line at the top of this now incredibly long blog post as being wholly problematic. The "reborn" issues is now at hand. What the writers of this show have done is taken "Dracula" as a brand, divested it of anything resembling Stoker's Dracula and then given it back to the audience, lying that it is Dracula. There is nothing Dracula about this show! Dracula, as both fictional character and work, is so prolific because he is so terrifying. There is something creepy yet enticing about him. He could seduce and cajole you into giving up your life blood willingly. He could create vast armies of vampires and minions. This Dracula (Alexander Grayson as I suppose we must call him) is nothing of the sort. He is not scary, he is not magnetic (sorry Johnathan Rhys Meyers but you're no longer Henry the 8th). He's a business man who doesn't think in terms of bloodlust but in terms of stock and bonds. Grayson's whole engineered plan is to hurt the wallets of the Order. He wants to subvert their plans with his new fangled technology which allows light bulbs to be lit up without needing to be attached to any sort of lamp, which I'm fairly certain we can't even do today in the 21st century! Our Dracula, apart from being sexual, has none of those mystical powers that make Dracula, Dracula. Please don't misunderstand, I'm not asking for Legossi. I'm not expecting him to wear a cape and speak about beautiful music made from the children of the night. But could he at least do something that makes me afraid? And then to top it off, Mina--instead of being held in thrall to the vampire--is actually his dead wife (killed by the Order of course). I found Alexander Grayson annoying. Meyers is always easy on the eyes and that may be a large part of what NBC is banking on, but his acting is limited to brooding sexily and being petulant. And then there is the American accent he is adopting. Why? Why make this guy American? The British Order of the Dragon has no interest in cooperating with an American, which he knew would happen. But if you really wanted to get on the inside of the Order to take them down, why make it even harder by putting on this act of being American? Especially when Meyers American accent is so horrendously distracting I was giggling into a pillow while trying to take notes. And then the blonde lady at the Opera who got *ahem* a standing ovation from Dracula turned out to be a ninja and I knew Stoker was weeping.
--I do enjoy the rather steampunk-esque feel to the whole show but honestly it's not enough to save it.
--Dracula is trying to sell coolant. I just have no words for how unhorrifying that is.
--Given the very brief flashback we saw of Dracula watching his wife burn at the stake, I'm going to assume that they are trying to connect him to Vlad the Impaler. He certainly had the hair.
--Best moment was the rooftop fight which was at least visually interesting. The blood work is also outstanding.
Overall Verdict: It might be so bad that it's good. But more likely, it's just really bad. Watch the first episode and decide for yourself, but I'm only going to give it one more go before I write it off as simply idiotic.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Honor Among Thieves
So it turns out the Knave of Heart is Will Scarlett. Who exactly is Will Scarlett? According to legend he is one of the more traditional Merry Men in Sherwood Forest; in some instances he is Robin's nephew. He is often the youngest of the Merry Men, hot tempered and most often seen in red silks. In most of the stories he is also the best swordsman, Robin being the best archer and Little John being adept at the staff. Our Will Scarlett is both alike and not at all alike to the literary version.
Enter Anastasia. We learned last week that Will had a lady love who (most likely) broke his heart. I proposed at the time that this Anastasia was really the Red Queen. Anastasia and Will, from what we could tell, were deeply in love but poor and struggling with everyday life. They wanted magic and enchantment--so much so that when breaking into Mal's castle, Will steals a small looking glass. This looking glass, like so many do, creates a portal to another world, specifically Wonderland. I'm sure the reveal that the Red Queen was Anastasia was supposed to be shocking and gasp worthy, but the entire episode was laced with clues. When Will was in bed with Anastasia, you saw the blond up-do and heard the unmistakable voice of the Red Queen. When the Red Queen and Jafar learned that Alice was traveling with someone named the Knave of Hearts the camera deliberately panned to the Red Queen who had a somewhat visible reaction to the name. With him being Will SCARLETT and her being the RED Queen, it wasn't hard to put the pieces together.
Puns! Puns everywhere! When the title was revealed for this episode, I originally thought it might have something to do with the flower which has its own symbolic history. Or maybe even a potion that Alice considers taking to forget Cyrus, a la Snow White. But no. This is Wonderland with Clothe Horses and Dragon Flies and Dandy Lions. Of course it's an actual knot. Tricky writers.
The Grendel is a parallel to the Knave, because this show adores their parallels. The Grendel has lost the woman he loves, his wife, and then was magically transformed into the misshapen creature we see now. Like Will who became the Knave, the kind husband became the Grendel who uses the Forget Me Knot to watch his final day with his wife over supper.
And Will gets to prove that he's an honorable man. After using the Knot to see that the poor Rabbit is working for the Red Queen, the Knave burns the rope instead of giving it to the JabbaPillar because if he gave it to the Jabbapillar it would be in his own self-interest. But if he doesn't, then the whole adventure was for Alice and he has proved himself a worthy and honorable man. But now all parties have been made aware of each other: The Red Queen and Jafar know the Knave is working with Alice; Alice and the Knave know the Red Queen and the Rabbit are working with Jafar.
--The Knave is really the breakout star of the show. He gets the best lines.
""Don't pleasure me!"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
And Alice and the Knave continue to have a chemistry that is currently lacking with Cyrus and Alice. They need to fix this if they don't want people to suddenly ship Knave and Alice (which of course is already happening)
--I passed over the whole Bandersnatch episode but I do like that Cyrus knew just want to send Alice that she could easily defeat without needing to use a wish--I just wish this would have happened later so we could have avoided the whole Bandersnatch vs Grendel deathmatch. But I do wonder if soon Alice will be forced to use a wish.
--They need to stop using the CGI screen of doom. It's very distracting and is so bad and cheap looking that it takes me out of the moment every time.
--Things are progressing quite rapidly but I suspect that is because Once Wonderland is only 13 episodes.
--Doctor Who references along with the Star Wars ones. Underland is bigger on the inside and the Caterpillar was wearing a fez. My two fandoms have collided.
--No Once Wonderland next week but when it returns, I suspect wars break out between the factions. Jafar will accuse the Red Queen of caring too much about Will; Alice will confront the Rabbit; and the Knave will have to face his ex.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
One of the reoccurring themes this episode was the idea of illusions: things are not what they appear to be. A street performer has superhero powers that he might use for cheap tricks. A girl in a pretty flower dress is secretly working for a covert organization that wants to take your power. A reformed computer hacker may not be that reformed. A ideologue might be willing to compromise his integrity for the right price. "Girl in the Flower Dress" was all about stripping (maybe burning would be a better word) the layers to reveal the truth.
Our story opens in Hong Kong where a street performer is having a rather lackluster performance. Everyone is polite but from the looks of his empty coffers, they aren't overly impressed. Sensing that he isn't about to make much money tonight, the street performer pulls out a show stopping number in which he appears to throw fire balls into the crowd, while a pretty girl in a flower dress looks on approvingly. Raina, our titular girl in the flower dress, would very much like to see the street performer, Chan, do his magic again. He hesitates and in the intervening moments takes the time to give us his story. The ability to make fire in his palms started a few years ago but the truly remarkable thing is that he feels no pain when he conjures the fire. And then men in flame retardant suits kidnap him. Like ya do.
So what does Centipede want with Chan--I'm sorry. Scorch. Chan's unique ability isn't that he can throw fireballs; it's that he can do it without feeling any kind of pain. His blood platelets are essentially fire resistant. He can burn from the inside out and not be destroyed by it. Sound familiar? It should because it's Centipede's biggest problem in making their own superhero army. The plan? Remove Chan's platelets, essentially stripping him of his ability to create fire pain free (but he can still create fire) and then leave him neither super nor a hero.
And then it's a Coulson/Skye showdown. Skye has one chance to explain her actions or she's done. Let's take a step back: during her afternoon delight party with Miles we saw that Skye keeps a very tiny microchip in her bra. She hands this over to Coulson and reveals that it contains all the information she has on her parents, missing or dead she's not sure. But their entire lives were wiped away clean, except for one document that was classified by SHIELD. She wants SHIELD's help to find her parents or at least what happened to them. And because sad orphans are sad, she is marginally forgiven.
And then there is some extra scene where the Girl in the Flower Dress is talking to a prisoner who tells her to move on to stage two by using "The Clairvoyant." Cue the dramatic music.
--Loved that after a rapid Chinese exchange between May and Chan, Coulson's only response is "So we're good right?"
--Place your bets on Skye's parents. Alive or dead (mother alive, father dead) and the chances that they are working for Centipede (high).
--May got to fight a little but she's still really under utilized though I did appreciate that they let Ming-Na use her native tongue in this episode.
--Do the science brainy duo do anything? And which one is which? It's a statement of how your show is going if I can't distinguish between people and don't care enough to look them up.
--No SHIELD for another two weeks. When we come back, I suspect we'll see the return of Dr. Hill as our new villain and the hunt for Skye's parents gets under way.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Many of the characters on Once Upon a Time have habits that they fall upon when pressed. Rumple has the habit of using his power to bolster is own self interest and proving that he is not a coward. Regina has the habit of using magic to take the easy way out. Emma and Neal both have the habit of running before becoming too emotionally invested. Snow and Charming have the habit of making moralistic declarations of their goodness in the face of adversity. The point is, none of our characters are perfect and they all have some nasty habit that needs to be broken. This week's episode, "Nasty Habits" really focuses on how fathers and sons (and possibly brothers) share those habits and what it takes to break the abusive cycle.
In our B-plot for the week, Tinkerbell makes what is perhaps the best observation of the series so far: how in the name of sanity do you expect to get home? You want to rescue Henry, that's great. Now how are you gonna get off Peter Pan's magical mystery island of mismatched toys? Until they come up with a solid plan for leaving Neverland, Tink ain't got time for this. Only two people have ever left Neverland before: Hook and Baelfire. The former we learn made a deal with Peter (side note: WHAT. What deal? Tell me!); the latter--everyone thinks--managed to escape by his wits and cunning and without Pan's permission. If Nealfire did it once, then surely the intrepid Jolly Roger Five can do it again! To the Baelfire Cave!
He went in a hurry in the end because he had dreamt that his mother was crying, and he knew what was the great thing she cried for, and that a hug from her splendid Peter would quickly make her to smile. Oh, he felt sure of it, and so eager was he to be nestling in her arms that this time he flew straight to the window, which was always to be open for him.
But the window was closed, and there were iron bars on it, and peering inside he saw his mother sleeping peacefully with her arm round another little boy."
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Wendy
Peter is the elder brother. He was born in to a mostly loving family and had a good life. Then his mother got pregnant a second time. This pregnancy did not go well and she died in childbirth. The baby survived and was "gifted" with the name of Rumplestiltskin. The death of his wife but the survival of his second child turned the father into a violent and cruel man who emotionally and psychically abused his children. Rumple got the lion share of the abuse and Peter would often step in to help his younger brother. At some point, Peter began to formulate a plan to run away, promising to take Young Rumple with him. But something went wrong, with Peter at least. He found is way to Neverland but fundamentally changed (my newest theory is that the Shadow is NOT Peter's but is controlling Peter and turned him dark). Peter never came back for Rumple leaving him at the mercy of their father. Eventually, Rumple and Peter's father ran away because of his cowardice and fear, leaving Rumple forever alone with spinsters. Rumple continued to grow up emotionally scared, having been left so often, and Peter grew up much slower and continually got darker and more manipulative. We shall see how it plays out.
Papa Don't Preach
--This episode was full of fantastic quotes:
"I'm not a boy anymore Felix and I'm sure as hell not lost."--Nealfire
"You're my happy ending"--Rumple
"I would have chosen you."--Baelfire
"I'm plenty hot!"--Charming
"Cause I'm sure pre teen Baelfire made lots of pasta."--Regina
"Am I supposed to be impressed that he made a night light?--Regina
"I knew the moment I saw him that I never stopped loving him."--Emma
--Rumple gone native with war paint. Is it ok that I found it hot?
--Snow and Charming unable to be parents is very sad. All Snow wants to do is be a mother but she has no idea how to be a mother to this little girl who is so very hurt.
--CaptainCharming bromance is getting some momentum. I really need Hook to tell Snow and Emma about Charming. I think it would be a step in the right direction.
--I say this every week but Peter Pan is so creepy. And Robbie Kay, who plays him, keeps nailing it every week. He went toe to toe with Bobby Carlyle this week and was amazing. That takes SKILL.
--Hands down best episode of the season, at least for me.