Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer DVR Dump: The Walking Dead 1.02: "Guts"

“All I am anymore is a man looking for his wife and son. Anybody gets in the way of that is going to lose. I’ll give you a moment to think about that.”

Like the series pilot, “Guts” featured plenty of zombies and gore. I’m guessing from what I saw in this episode that the series has a structure more like “Game of Thrones” than a broadcast network show, where each episode is like a chapter in an overall narrative arc. This episode mostly dealt with Rick getting out of Atlanta. What makes it interesting is that he meets a few of the big group of survivors who have their camp outside the city. These new characters were sort of cliché at first, and their dialogue was a bit painful, but by the end of the episode, they seemed to be a bit more fully realized. I thought the fate of one of the new characters was especially bold, but I’ll talk about that more when we get to it. One thing I will say overall about this episode is that it made me very glad that nobody has invented televisions with smell-o-vision. This would have been one darn unpleasant episode on that front.

While, like I said, the episode mostly focuses on Rick and his new friends getting out of Atlanta, we begin in the more rural survivors’ camp. Lori goes out hunting for mushrooms, and she keeps hearing rustling in the woods. It’s shot in fairly typical horror movie style, so I was expecting something bad to happen to her, but not too horrible because she still has to reunite with Rick and deal with the fact that she’s seeing his best friend and partner. Speaking of Shane, he’s the source of the noise. The hunting for mushrooms thing was all a rouse so they could have some forest floor sex. They’re so hot for each other that they only pause briefly when Shane notices the locket Lori is wearing. Presumably it contains a photo of Rick. Lori and Shane really gross me out. And boy is Rick in for some interesting times when he finds out what’s going on.

The action in Atlanta picks up right where the last episode left off. Rick is still in the tank with the dead body, and someone is talking to him over the tank’s radio. The voice says that he should make a run for it while many of the zombies are still distracted by feasting on Rick’s horse. It’s still dangerous, but it may be the only chance he has to escape. Rick grabs and gun and a grenade, and when the voice asks about weapons, he only tells him about the gun. The grenade appears to be a Chekhov’s gun (if you see it in Act 1, it better go off in Act 3), but unfortunately, we don’t get to see the payoff in this episode. Outside, Rick meets the source of the voice, a young Asian man named Glenn. He’s part of the survivor’s camp, and he and a small band of fellow survivors have traveled into Atlanta to get supplies for the camp. Glenn hurries Rick inside a department store (they just barely escape a few stray zombies on the way), where he meets the rest of the survivors who have joined Glenn on the supply run. A woman named Andrea points a gun at Rick, saying that because of him, they’re all going to die. Apparently the gun shots Rick fired to get from the tank to Glenn attracted a whole mess of zombies, who are now pounding on the department store door like there’s no tomorrow.

The group hears gun shots coming from the roof, and the rush up to investigate. The source of the gun shots is an older rough looking redneck named Dixon. He’s part of the group of survivors, too. A survivor named T-Dog chides Dixon for making so much noise and drawing more zombies to them, and the two men get in a huge fight, escalated by Dixon’s use of racial epithets. Dixon beats the crap out of T-Dog, and he tells the group that he’s taking over leadership. The rest of the group starts to cower, but Rick sneaks up from behind and handcuffs Dixon. This makes Dixon even more unhappy, naturally, but at least he’s no longer an immediate threat. The group realizes that the only way out of the city is through the sewers. Glenn and Morales are going to test out a potential route, while Rick and Andrea try to keep the zombies from breaking through the department store door. Jaqui, who is on the city planning commission and was able to tell the gang where to find the building’s sewer entrance, is going to yell down to Glenn and Morales if there are any problems above ground.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, Dixon is trying to convince T-Dog (who is too injured to really help with the escape plan) to let him out of the handcuffs. Which is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Why would you ever let the guy who just beat you senseless out of handcuffs? Even if he promises gobs of money. Thankfully, T-Dog doesn’t give into Dixon’s demands. Down in the sewers, Glenn and Morales run into a dead end- a metal gate-like barrier, to be more precise. On the other side of the gate is a zombie, who is eating a rat, of course. Got to have our quota of gore for the episode. By the doors to the apartment store, Rick and Andrea look at a mermaid necklace that Andrea has been eyeing. She mentions that her sister loves mermaids, and she kind of wants to take the necklace for her sister. Rick thinks she should go for it, even though he’s a cop, telling Andrea that he doesn’t think the old rules apply anymore. Right after Andrea pockets the necklace, the zombies break through the first set of doors, and Glenn and Morales pop up to say that the sewer plan isn’t going to work.

The new plan for getting out of Atlanta is going to involve driving a construction vehicle. Getting the construction vehicle is a bit complicated, though, because the area around the department store is still zombie central. They come up with a rather disgusting solution to the problem. Rick gets a dead zombie and starts chopping it up. Morales helps with the chopping, too. The idea is to get enough gore for Rick and Glenn to smear all over their jackets. They can look like zombies by walking slouchy, but they needed the gore to smell like zombies. Overall, they want to blend in with the locals on their way to the construction vehicle. Rick and Glenn shuffling through the streets towards the construction vehicle is really more comical than suspenseful. The zombies don’t suspect a thing.

Up on the roof, T-Dog finally gets through to the base camp on his radio and lets the rest of the survivors know that the supply group is trapped. At base camp, Shane doesn’t want to do anything to mount a rescue, and Andrea’s sister Amy is understandably pissed about that. I presume Amy is the person for whom Andrea stole the necklace. At the most inopportune time, it starts to rain. The supply group watches from the roof as the rain washes the zombie smell off of Rick and Glenn, and the zombies start to take notice of them. This seemed a bit unrealistic to me. Gore like they were smearing on themselves is powerful stuff. I’ve watched enough “Dirty Jobs” and “Mythbusters” to know that it takes professionals to get rid of those kinds of smells, and sometimes even that’s not good enough. I guess then we wouldn’t have any action at the end of the episode, though. Rick has to start cutting through the zombies with the fire axe he brought along.

Rick and Glenn make it to the construction vehicle, but in order to safely get the rest of the group out of the department store and into the vehicle, they’re going to need a distraction. Glenn provides that distraction by driving a sports car with the car alarm going off. Rick, meanwhile, drives the construction vehicle to the department store’s loading dock. T-Dog has a moral quandary as everybody is rushing off the roof and down to the loading doc. To leave the racist redneck behind or not? T-Dog, against his better judgment, decides to unlock Dixon, but just as he’s about to do so, he accidentally drops the key. T-Dog has no choice but to leave Dixon on the roof, cursing to high heaven. Rick picks everyone up just as the zombies are breaking into the store, and Glenn has quite a good time driving out of Atlanta in his new sports car.

Monday, June 27, 2011

True Blood 4.01: "She's Not There"

“Apparently I have to go. But understand this. Everyone who claims to love you, your friends, your brother, even Bill Compton, they all gave up on you. I never did.”

So last night the fourth season of “True Blood” premiered on HBO. The fourth book in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse mysteries is my favorite of the bunch, so I’m kind of worried about going into this season with major expectations based on my love for the book. Especially considering the show’s creator, Alan Ball, has never felt the need to be especially faithful to the source material. I’m going to do my best here and try not to be like the “Song of Ice and Fire” fans whose book enthusiasm got on my nerves while watching “Game of Thrones,” but I think it’s going to be difficult. Oh, and George R.R. Martin fans, before you get on my case about that last comment, I just started reading “A Game of Thrones” the other day (I wanted to wait until after the TV season), and so far I think it’s excellent. I just really didn’t want to be spoiled in my TV watching. Anyway, the problems I have with this episode are the problems I’ve had with the show ever since I read the books. Basically that Alan Ball has completely opposite perceptions of Bill and Eric from my own. Bill in the books is nowhere near as noble as TV Bill, and Eric in the books is nowhere as near blatantly evil as TV Eric.

We begin the episode with Claudine, Sookie’s faerie godmother, essentially bringing Sookie to faerie land. It’s a rather idyllic-looking place at first. Sookie sees her friend Barry the Bellboy there, which makes sense, considering they’re both telepaths. An even bigger surprise is that Sookie also sees her grandfather, Earl, played by the always entertaining Gary Cole. The faeries are being really aggressive about encouraging the people gathered to eat light fruits (they look like what they sound like), which makes Sookie very wary. Because she’s not being lulled into complacency by the fruit, she sees a flash of faerieland looking really ugly. That makes her think that the whole thing is a trap, and she warns her grandfather about it. This brings Sookie to the attention of Mab, faerie queen. Map thinks there are too many humans with faerie genes still living on our plane of existence, and she wants to seal off faerieland. She tries to force Sookie to eat a light fruit, but she uses her power to reveal faerieland for the ugly place it actually is. Claudine’s brother Claude helps Sookie and her grandfather escape, but to truly escape that plane of existence, they have to jump off a cliff.

Bill and Eric both of course notice immediately as soon as Sookie is back among us. Sookie and her grandfather have landed in the cemetery where Sookie’s family members are buried, and her grandfather is going to join them soon. He can’t survive on the human plane anymore because he ate a light fruit. Sookie takes him to see her grandmother’s (his wife’s) grave, and he gives Sookie a fancy pocket watch to give to Jason before he dies. Devastated, Sookie makes the long walk up to her house. She sees contractors working on it, and one of the construction workers says she can’t go in. Sookie disregards him and goes inside the house anyway. Everything has been covered up. Jason stops by, presumably at the request of the contractor, to check on the house. He’s a full blown deputy sheriff now, or at least he’s wearing the uniform. He tells Sookie she has been gone for a little over a year, and in that time, he sold her house to a random real estate company. Sookie is furious, but she gives him their grandfather’s pocket watch anyway.

Once it’s dark, Sookie starts having to deal with her parade of suitors again. I do like that this is one aspect of the books that seems to have been captured in the show, because it’s damn funny whenever something bad happens to Sookie and all her boys come running to beg and plead for the chance to help her out. Bill is the first to arrive, and Eric isn’t far behind them. They engage in some silly bickering. A fang measuring contest, I suppose you would call it. Whatever it is, it’s very entertaining. Stephen Moyer and Alex Skarsgard seem to play off each other well in these scenes. I noticed similar comedic chemistry when I watched the last few episodes of season 3 recently, where they’re pretending to fight each other so Russell Eddington won’t suspect they’re plotting against him. Eric makes the very good point that he is the only person in Sookie’s life who didn’t give up on looking for her, and then Bill asks him to leave. For some reason, Eric complies.

Andy, now full Sheriff since Bud quit his job last season, arrives on the scene and throws quite the fit. He’s upset about the resources that were used looking for Sookie and how not solving her disappearance made him look really bad in the law enforcement community. Jason suspects that Andy is using V, and those suspicions are confirmed when Jason finds a vial of the stuff in Andy’s squad car. Later in the episode, Andy tries harassing Lafayette into supplying him with some more V, but Lafayette gave his entire stash to the werepanthers out in Hotshot. Jason has to put a stop to Andy’s verbal abuse of Lafayette. It’s interesting to see Jason actually be a functional human being in this episode. He’s been taking care of the folks in Hotshot since Crystal had to leave, but the werepanthers don’t seem to appreciate it. Near the end of the episode, they lock him in an ice box.

Meanwhile, the rest of the usual Bon Temps cast of characters all have their own drama to deal with that is only mildly interconnected. Jesus takes Lafayette to a cover, where a witch is channeling the spirit of Eddie, the vampire Lafayette used to visit back in season 1. That freaks Lafayette out, and he leaves the meeting. At a later meeting, the same witch asks the coven to say prayers for her recently dead familiar, a bird. The group goes along with it until it turns into a spell to bring the bird back from the dead. Arlene’s still freaking out over her Rene-spawn, who has spontaneously decided to pull the heads off a bunch of his half-sister’s dolls. Tara’s living in New Orleans and shacking up with a fellow MMA fighter. When Lafayette texts her to say Sookie’s back, Tara just tells her new girlfriend that her grandfather died, but she won’t be going home for the funeral. Hoyt and Jessica are trying to get used to living together, which isn’t made any easier by the fact that Summer and Hoyt’s mother (who is now providing a home to Sam’s degenerate younger brother Tommy for some reason) continue to team up to try and get Hoyt to leave Jessica. Tommy, by the way, only suffered a leg injury when Sam shot him, and Sam’s paying for his physical therapy. Sam has also formed an anger management group of sorts with fellow shifters.

The real heart of this episode, though, is Sookie, Bill, and Eric. Bill and Eric are both spending heir days, when not pining over Sookie, trying to help the vampire PR cause post Russell Eddington killing that news anchor on TV. Bill presides at an old-fashioned ribbon cutting ceremony, and Eric does a TV commercial. It’s interesting that even though Eric is older, he’s been more able to adjust to modern times. When he has to step in for Pam, because Pam can’t give heartfelt answers, it’s absolutely hilarious. Sookie, meanwhile, is just trying to get her life back together. She goes to Merlottes, and even though Sam is really upset that she’s been gone for so long, Sam gives Sookie her waitress job back on a part time basis. Sookie also has to meet with Portia, Andy’s sister, about to sale of her home. Portia, an attorney, has been investigating AIK, the company that bought Sookie’s house, but she’s come up empty.

A lot has changed while Sookie has been away, and not just her house being sold. Bill is now sitting regally at his desk and having people call him “your majesty.” That was definitely a huge surprise. Then Eric shows up at Sookie’s house while she’s getting changed. He says he’s the one who now owns that house, and that makes Sookie “his.” Sookie looks furious, and I don’t blame her. Book Eric never would have pulled a stunt like that, although given what’s in the fourth book, I’m predicting Eric gives Sookie the house back to repay a debt by the end of this season. If they don’t, I will seriously consider removing “True Blood” from my television line-up. It’s just evil what’s been done with Eric, usually. Eric was definitely not this malicious at this point in his character arc in the books, and I definitely prefer the really dangerous but gentle around Sookie version from the books.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "The Constant"

“I know I’ve ruined things. I know you think things are over between us, but they’re not. If there’s any part of you that still believes in us, just give me your number.”

We’re finally finishing up “Lost” Fifteen Favorites with what is not only, in my opinion, the very best episode of “Lost” overall, but my absolute all-time favorite episode of television. It’s “The Constant,” of course. “The Constant” works so well for two major reasons. The first is that it tells a largely contained story. Someone new to the series could probably figure out the basics of what’s happening. Crazy Scottish dude is traveling back and forth in time, and he needs to talk to his estranged girlfriend in order to fix it. The other thing that makes this episode work so well is that even though it’s goes a bit off the deep end with the genre and the timey-wimeyness, it’s grounded in emotion. It’s grounded in Desmond and Penny’s relationship and history, and that is universal. And okay, because it’s “The Constant,” I’m going to add a third wonderful thing about it to my list. The editing of the final, iconic phone call scene is sublime. I still tear up a bit when I watch it, and I can’t even count how many times that’s been. The actual lines and the acting are both wonderful too, of course, but the way the scene cuts back and forth between Desmond and Penny gives it an urgency that couldn’t be achieved otherwise. So in a nutshell, that’s why this is my favorite episode of television.

The episode opens with Frank flying Desmond and Sayid to the Kahana via helicopter. It looks like there’s a storm rolling in, and Frank has to fly right through a thunderhead to stay on the vector Daniel figured out. I guess the turbulence from the storm must have knocked the helicopter of its course slightly, because Desmond suddenly wakes up back in his Army days with the Royal Scottish Regiment. He’s just waking up in the barracks, and he gets in trouble from the Drill Sergeant for lagging behind everyone else. Desmond thinks that what he remembers of being on the helicopter was all a dream. To punish the troops for Desmond’s perceived laziness, the morning PT is extra rigorous. In the middle of crunches, Des finds himself back on the helicopter. But it soon becomes apparent he has no clue where he actually is. He doesn’t even know Sayid, and he freaks out demanding to know how Sayid knows his name.

On the Island, there’s been no word of the helicopter’s fate, and by their perception, it’s been about a day since Desmond and Sayid left. Charlotte is evasive when Jack starts to demand to know what happened. Juliet, who learned to be quite perceptive during her time with the Others, points out that Charlotte must know something she’s not telling, otherwise she would be more worried. Dan, always wanting to make peace, tries to give an explanation for what’s going on. And also because he’s Dan, the explanation doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He talks about perception of time and such, but the important part is that if people leaving the island don’t follow the precise bearings he calculated, there could be “side effects.” Desmond is showing side effects alright. Somehow Sayid and Frank get him calmed down enough that Frank can safely land the helicopter, but as soon as they land, he starts ranting and raving about how he’s not supposed to be there. The crew are going to take him to sick bay.

Again Desmond is transported back to his Army days. He tells one of his buddies what he saw, and of course the buddy’s first reaction is that Desmond must be trying to get kicked out of the service. Desmond realizes there was only one thing he recognized form the helicopter world, and that was the iconic photo of himself and Penny. Thinking that maybe Penny is a part of all this, he heads for a phone booth to call her. A fellow soldier, pissed as Desmond because of the tougher PT, knocks the change out of his hand, and as Desmond bends down to pick the change up, he zooms back to the freighter again. This is where we first get to know the surly and loving it Martin Keemy. Keemy is evil, but he just has so much fun with it that he’s entertaining to watch. Keemy and an equally surly looking guy named Omar lock Desmond in the sickbay, and of course Desmond starts furiously pounding on the door and yelling that he’s not supposed to be there (sensing a theme?).

Sayid thinks maybe someone back on the Island will understand what’s going on, so he asks Frank to use the sat phone. Frank trades the phone for Sayid’s gun, and Sayid uses the phone to call Jack. Jack passes the phone to Dan, and Dan immediately wants to know if Desmond has been exposed to high levels of radiation or electromagnetism. Jack and Juliet both give quite the WTF faces at this remark, which I find odd considering there was that little thing called a purple sky at the end of season 2. Desmond was right smack in the middle of a whole mess of electromagnetism when he turned the failsafe key. I guess that shows that Desmond wasn’t really all that close to Jack and Juliet. Charlie and Hurley and Jin were more his people, even if Jack was the first Lostie he ever met, before either of them even got to the Island.

When Des calms down a bit, he meets another patient in sickbay, George Minkowski. Minkowski is unstuck in time as well, although it’s his present-day consciousness traveling back to when he was riding on a Ferris wheel. With Desmond, it’s his past consciousness traveling forward in time. The ship’s doctor arrives and gives Minkowski a sedative, and this makes Desmond freak out (again). The doctor barely has time to ask him a few questions before Des is back in 1996. He finally uses the phone booth to call Penny, but she’s not having any of it. She is understandably still really pissed that he ran off and joined the army instead of proposing to her, so no matter how much he says he needs her, she doesn’t want to speak to him. She’s even moved out of the flat they shared.

Back in 2004, Sayid arrives with the sat phone just as Desmond is coming to. The doctor doesn’t think talking to the Island is a good idea, and he sets off the alarm. Sayid has to barricade the door to keep Keemy and his goons out long enough for Des to talk to Dan. After hearing Desmond’s story, Dan tells Desmond that the next time he’s in 1996, he should go to Oxford and find him in Queens College physics department. Desmond does just this, but Dan doesn’t quite know what to make of him when they first meet. When Des tells him that he’s from the future, Daniel thinks his colleagues are playing a practical joke on him. Des has to use the code words future Dan told him. He tells him certain settings (which include some of the Numbers, of course) for a device, and he says that he “knows about Eloise.” At that, Dan ushers Desmond into his lab to see “the things that Oxford frowns upon.” While Dan is setting up his experiment, he tries to understand what’s going on. He wants to know why he doesn’t remember this meeting in the future. Probably because future Dan’s brain is a bit scrambled. After treating Eloise the rat with some radiation set at the levels Desmond told him, Dan and Desmond watch as Eloise runs a maze perfectly that she isn’t supposed to learn for several hours.

Back in 2004, Des and Sayid are locked in sickbay by Keemy and his goons. Minkowski tells Desmond that he’s been getting a lot of calls on the ship for Desmond that he wasn’t supposed to answer. The calls were from Penny. Des doesn’t have much time to process that before he wakes up in a chair in Dan’s lab back in 1996. Unfortunately, Eloise is dead, and Desmond probably will be soon as well if he doesn’t get himself stuck back in time where he’s supposed to be. At this point, I actually wondered if the show’s producers might actually kill Desmond. Desmond demands to know how to survive this, and Dan says he needs a constant. Right now, Des isn’t anchored in either time period. He needs to find something or someone familiar to him in both 1996 and 2004. Desmond instantly thinks of Penny and tries to call her, but the number has been disconnected.

The switches between time periods start coming faster now. In 2004, Minkowski offers to take Desmond and Sayid to the radio room to try and call Penny, even though the communications equipment has been pretty badly sabotaged. They find that the once locked sickbay door is now open, and Minkowski speculates that Des and Sayid have a friend on the boat. Before they can leave, Des flashes back to 1996, where Charles Widmore is trying to win the diary of the Black Rock’s first mate at auction. I remember this being a really great surprise when I first saw it. “Lost” is certainly a rewarding show for those of us who keep track of the mythology. Desmond talks to Widmore because he wants Penny’s number, and Widmore makes Desmond follow him into the reset room to continue their conversation. Widmore does like to take any possible opportunity to demean Desmond, of course. Widmore gives Desmond Penny’s address, because he thinks it would be good for Penny to tell Desmond off personally, then he leaves the rest room, still leaving the water on in the sink.

When Des flashes back to 2004, he, Sayid, and Minkowski make their way to the communications room. The place is a mess, with seemingly every wire cut. Sayid, because he’s badass like that, just nonchalantly says that he only needs a minute to rig up a way for Des to call Penny. And then the stakes get ratcheted up big time. Sayid notices that Desmond’s nose is starting to bleed like Minkowski’s has been. To make things worse, Minkowski starts to struggle to come back from a flash, and he dies in Desmond’s arms. Sayid does get a phone rigged up quickly, but there’s still one problem. Des doesn’t know Penny’s new phone number. He decides to take care of that on his next flash to 1996. He goes to Penny’s house and just flat out begs for her phone number, promising he won’t call her until December 24, 2004. And for some reason, Penny actually listens to him and gives him the number. Then she kicks him out.

Back in 2004, Desmond gives Sayid the number, and Sayid dials before handing the phone to Desmond. After quite a few rings, Penny actually picks up, and I think Desmond is just as surprised as I was the first time I watched this episode. Penny tells Desmond that she knows about the Island, and when she spoke to Charlie, she knew Desmond was there. As the battery on Desmond’s phone wears out, Des and Penny both pledge their love and promise to reunite. That’s the scene that gets me every time. After the battery dies out, Desmond is back to his old self again. He recognizes Sayid, and when Sayid asks if he’s okay, Des says he’s “perfect.” That would be a great note to end on by itself, but we take a quick detour back to the Island, where Dan is going through his notebook. He has made the notation that if anything should go wrong, Desmond should be his Constant. Unfortunately, I don’t think that ever came into play, because it was good fun at the time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer TV Rewind: Robin Hood 1.02: "Sheriff Got Your Tongue?"

Sarah joins us again this week for the second installment in this summer's MMTVP rewind of the BBC's "Robin Hood."


“I do not know why Englishmen travel two thousand miles to fight evil, when the real cancer is right here.”
- Robin Hood

We begin back in Locksley. The sheriff and Gisborne are looking for Robin, and find he is not at home. Their guard gathers all the peasants together, and the sheriff quite angrily shouts at them to admit Robin’s location. When no one speaks, Gisborne orders that their tongues be cut out as an incentive to talk. According to the sheriff, one person’s tongue will be cut out per hour until they know where Robin is. In about two seconds we find Robin tied to a tree in Sherwood Forest being robbed by the men they encountered at the end of the pilot. The robbers (they say they are dead men and outlaws) don’t like Robin because he’s a noble. Luckily, they’ve only managed to catch Much, Robin, and Allan. Will is in hiding, ready on Robin’s signal. The outlaws head off with their belongings and horses, and Will sneaks in to untie Much and Allan. Robin’s already worked himself free, and they’re going to teach the others a lesson.

It goes well to a point. They overtake the four guys led by Little John (who is, in fact, not little at all) and tie them up. Robin makes them dance by shooting arrows at their feet. His point being, these men treat their fellow humans like animals, and if they must steal, they should steal from the Sheriff. That is exactly what Robin is going to do. The plans change when a huge group of John’s men appear and fill Robin in about Robin being wanted by the Sheriff with a reward of twenty pound. So John knocks Robin out and drags him back to Locksley. The Sheriff is giving some blustery speech about how Robin was in the wrong with his actions and that the war changed him. John’s about to hand Robin over when the sheriff is about to cut out John’s wife’s (Alice) tongue. But Robin convinces Little John to let him go and ends up saving Alice and turning himself in. Gisborne snaps back at Robin that his services are no longer required in Locksley, as he is no longer lord of the manor. He quite literally drags Robin back to Nottingham. The Sheriff really is an evil prick, thinking he can abuse his subjects the way he does.

As Robin is led into the castle (down to the dungeons) he sees Marian, and she basically shakes her head at him in a ‘you-knew-this-was-coming’ sort of way. The jailer is quite pleased to be throwing Robin in a cell and gives him a shot to the gut for trying to claim Will and the others had taken up the priest calling. Out in the woods, Little John says he’s going to fetch Alice, but Will says she can’t just leave and live in the forest. Much is off to rescue Robin, even if no one else is going to help. He ends up at Knighton Hall. He doesn’t get much help from Edward or Marian (though we learn she’s got her own theme music). Edward says he’ll speak out at the Council, but there really isn’t much he can do on Robin’s behalf. He did, after all, warn Robin what speaking out so publicly and defiantly would do.

Little John’s gone to Locksley, and he ends up meeting a boy called John Little. It turns out he has a son. His son likes that Robin’s back and says he’s a good lord and makes sure everyone has enough food to eat. His mother comes to collect him, and Little John dashes off before his wife sees him. Back in the dungeons at Nottingham, the sheriff has come to pay Robin a little visit. He is surprised that given how good a marksman Robin is, he didn’t kill the Sheriff when he had the chance. Robin says he would kill the Sheriff in an instant but refuses. He would be more willing to sacrifice himself for the people he loves. That’s really something the Sheriff doesn’t understand. He’s really not a people person. But he craves power beyond measure. To test Robin, the Sheriff says he is free to go, but that if he leaves, a few of his peasants will lose their tongues in the morning. Robin promptly sits back down in his cell. After the Sheriff and his men leave, Robin starts doing pull ups (I don’t entirely know why, but really I’ll take a hot Englishman doing physical things any day if he looks like Jonas Armstrong).

We jump back to Locksley where Alice is singing Little John’s son to sleep. Little John is outside listening and crying that he can’t be with his family thanks to the choices he’s made and because he’s an outlaw. Back at the camp, the outlaws are arguing. Will gets defensive of Robin, and Little John returns and says they’re going to Nottingham. Back at Knighton Hall, Gisborne has come to pay Marian a visit. He wants her to visit him at Locksley. He plans on changing the name and is quite happy to have lands to his name again. When Marian remarks that Robin will contest his acquisition, he says that Robin will hang in the morning without trial. Being an outlaw means Robin is held and executed without trial. This clearly doesn’t sit well with Marian. For all her fuss over Robin being rather rubbish at flirting and a fool for speaking out, it’s quite clear she still cares for him.

Much has finally made it to Nottingham in the middle of the night, and he tries to climb over the wall but ends up being chased a bit by a dog and ends up falling asleep partway up the ladder over the wall. The other outlaws find him in the morning and wake Much. With a boost from Little John, they make it into the town square and head off to find Robin. Marian gets there first. She begs him to let her help him escape because it’s not honorable or noble for him to be dead if his people still need him. It really seems that she is just upset he went off to the Holy Land and left her. Much, Will and Allan arrive in the dungeon, but they are not undetected. Luckily they manage to get out before the guards arrive.

They meet up with Little John and some of his band in the square. Robin takes one of Little John’s men (the one who was being extra annoying and rude to him), and Robin ends up in the sheriff’s chambers while a fight rages down in the square. Robin tells the Sheriff that if he ever uses someone innocent to get to him (Robin) again, then Robin will kill the Sheriff. Robin ends up nicking a bag of money from the Sheriff and orders him at arrow-point to say he’s going to give 500 pounds to the people he hurt, but the Sheriff can’t do it. By this point, Robin’s already gone. Robin joins in the fray (once Little John has anchored a rope and Robin slides down zip line style), and in short order the outlaws have all escaped. Back in Locksley, the outlaws are watching as the villagers discover their strategically placed baskets of food and money. It ends with them around a fire in the woods, settling in to their new lives.

Summer DVR Dump: The Walking Dead 1.01: "Days Gone Bye"

“One thing I do know, don’t you get bit.”
- Morgan

So this is the first week of the “real” summer schedule here on MTVP. For the first half of the summer, I’ll be blogging AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” This is a show my mom really loves (she’s a big-time horror fan), and she said it was one of the few things (other than Lord of the Rings) that will keep her glued to the television. With this endorsement, I decided to give it a try. I did watch the pilot back in the fall, but with such a busy schedule, I kind of let it go after that. That’s kind of the entire purpose of the new “Summer DVR Dump” series, really. I’m going to be looking back at two shows, “The Walking Dead” and “Doctor Who,” that aired this past season but got kind of lost in the blogging shuffle. Normally, these posts will be happening on Tuesdays, but I was at one of the special “Lord of the Rings” screenings last night and had a work deadline to meet earlier, so that didn’t quite happen this week. While “Days Gone Bye” didn’t hold my attention quite to the extent that it did my mother’s, I thought it was a decent first effort for a new show. There were some stand-out performances, and there was certainly a lot of horror and gore. I can see why this was a perfect show to premiere on Halloween.

The episode starts with some in media res. That must really be the “in” way to structure TV episodes right now. We see Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes pull up to a gas station in middle-of-nowhere Georgia. The world is clearly post-apocalyptic (or maybe still apocalyptic, considering the threat that caused the apocalypse is still around). Carrying a gas can, Rick carefully walks between abandoned cars, some of which contain dead bodies. There’s a makeshift sign hung on the gas station that says “no gas.” Rick spots what looks like a little girl walking away from him, and he calls out to her. She turns around, and it’s clear she’s a zombie, and Rick has to shoot her. I think this part of the scene was important, because it shows just how far the show’s producers and AMC are willing to go with the violence. Usually you don’t kill kids like that on TV, even if they are already undead.

We then rewind in time to before the zombie apocalypse, with what is by far the weakest scene of the episode. It’s so bad that I couldn’t believe what I was watching back when I saw this in the fall and when I watched it again last night. Rick and his partner, Shane, are in their squad car on patrol, and Shane is passing the time by essentially going on and on about how annoyed he is that women never turn lights off. Rick is going through a rough patch with his wife, Lori, and I guess Shane is trying to make him feel better by ragging on women in general, but I just found the whole thing really immature and offensive.

Thankfully, that foolishness is broken up pretty quickly when Rick and Shane get a call to help with a major car chase. They set up a road block- one of those metal strips that are supposed to rip up the tires. The target car comes careening down the road, followed by two cop cars. The target car hits the metal strip and flies off the road, turning over several times. That’s not the end of it, though. The three suspects in the car all somehow manage to survive. One by one, they manage to crawl out of the wreckage and shoot at Rick and the other law enforcement officers. A shot by the second suspects hits Rick, but it’s a fake out, because it only caught his bullet-proof vest. A shot from the third suspect also hits Rick, and this one is most definitely all too real.

Rick wakes up in a hospital, but there are some things about his room that just don’t seem right. There is a vase of dead flowers by his bed, and the clock on the wall has stopped. Fighting serious pain, Rick forces himself out in the hallway to find out what is going on. And that’s when things start to get rather gruesome. The hospital is abandoned. Blood is spattered everywhere, and gunshots have made holes in the walls. The most disturbing bit is when Rick comes upon a locked and barricaded door with a warning that the dead are behind the door. Zombies must feel Rick’s presence, because they start groaning and putting their hands through a crack in the door. Outside the devastation is even worse, Rick has to pick his way through rows of body bags to even make it off the hospital grounds. He starts to head for his house, but while biking through a park on his way there, he encounters half a zombie. Literally. The top half of the zombie is crawling around, like a decomposing version of the “only a flesh wound” guy from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

When Rick arrives at home, his family isn’t there, and he’s devastated. I think this is Andrew London’s most powerful moment in the episode. He sits on the floor and just screams for his family. Up until this point, there hasn’t been a word of dialogue since Rick woke up in the hospital. I think the whole sequence was very effective. After he somewhat gets himself back together, Rick sits outside, only to be hit in the head with a shovel by a kid named Duane. Duane’s father, Morgan, wants to know what Rick’s patched-up wound is, but he doesn’t have a chance to answer. Rick wakes up in bed yet again, and after explaining that he’s been shot, Morgan and Duane start to trust him a little. Over dinner, they begin to tell Rick the story of what has happened while he was in a coma. People started getting fevers, and the fevers would kill them. Then they’d come back to life. If you get bitten or even scratched by a zombie (or “walker” as they call them), you get the fever. A car alarm goes off in the neighborhood, drawing zombies towards the house where Duane and Morgan are squatting. One of those zombies is Duane’s mother, and understandably, Duane’s very upset about it.

The next morning, Rick takes Duane and Morgan to the Sheriff’s Department for hot showers and to see if there are any guns left. It has been so long since Duane and Morgan had hot water that they’re positively joyous about it. They split up the remaining guns and have a parting of the ways of sorts. Rick is going to go to Atlanta, where Morgan has been told a refugee center is set up. Morgan and Duane aren’t ready to go to Atlanta just yet, though, mostly because of Duane’s mother. Before Rick leaves town, though, he has some business to take care of. He goes back to the park and puts the half- zombie (as in only the top half is still around) out of its misery. Morgan and Duane go back to their house, and Morgan is on a mission. He takes his new shot gun, goes up to the second floor, and starts shooting zombies. He’s trying to attract more zombies to the area in front of the house, because he wants to put his wife out of her misery. Sure enough, his wife shuffles towards the house, but Morgan can’t bear to pull the trigger. Instead, he just breaks down.

Rick starts driving towards Altanta, and he uses his squad car’s CB radio to broadcast that he’s approaching the city and looking for survivors. His broadcast is picked up by a survivor’s camp just outside Atlanta. They try to answer Rick’s call, but for some reason, their replies aren’t getting through to Rick. They desperately want to warn Rick away from Atlanta, but the plan isn’t working. One of the people at this camp is Rick’s partner Shane, and he gets into an argument with a woman who has a son. They go off to a tent to continue their argument away from her son, and they end the argument by kissing. A quick cut to Rick looking at a family photograph in his squad car reveals that the woman and her son are actually his wife and son, Lori and Carl. Rick keeps driving towards Atlanta, not having heard the warning of the folks at the camp.

Before he gets to Atlanta, Rick runs out of gas for the squad car, and he stops at a random house to see if he can syphon any out of the cars parked in front. Everyone at the house has committed suicide to avoid becoming zombies. Like I said, this show doesn’t skimp on the gruesome. Rick doesn’t find gas, but he does find a horse, so he enters Atlanta on horseback. Rick riding down the highway into the city as a bunch of abandoned parked cars crowd the outbound lands is quite a stunning visual. As you might expect, given the survivors’ warning, Rick runs into a massive crowd of zombies. Who eat his horse. Rick uses the distraction of his horse to get to safety inside a tank, where he has to kill a zombie inside. When his hearing comes back after firing that gunshot in an enclosed space, he hears a voice over the radio. Someone was watching him get into the tank and now wants to know how he’s doing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Game of Thrones 1.10: "Fire and Blood"

“They have your sisters. We have to get the girls back. And then we will kill them all.”

Unlike most broadcast television season finales, the season finale of “Game of Thrones” was more the denouement than the climax of the season. Yes, there were several important, soon-to-be-iconic “Hell, yeah!” moments, but there wasn’t a big adrenaline rush. This episode was mostly about showing how people reacted to the huge events that happened last week and setting up the status quo for next season. In achieving those two goals, I thought it was successful. Do I usually like a bit more flash and bang in my season finales? Yep, I definitely do. But I think this worked in the sense that, as being a faithful adaptation (so I’m told) of a novel, the structure was naturally going to be more novel-like. And novels tend to have a decent-length denouement. Of the three big cathartic conclusions in this episode, it’s probably no surprise that I liked Robb’s best. I also really loved the scale of the resolution to Jon’s season arc. The big moment that didn’t work for me quite as well was Daenerys’. I guess this is kind of surprising, considering I’ve generally found Daenerys to be a compelling character in a story that has a bit of a dearth of compelling female characters. I guess Cat and Cersei would also be in Daenerys’ company, but they don’t have the power that Daenerys now has. Overall, while I didn’t find “Fire and Blood” to be as compelling as episodes 5-9, it was still a satisfactory effort. I also like the symmetry of this season’s episode titles. We begin the season with House Stark’s words, “Winter is Coming,” and we end with House Targaryen’s, “Fire and Blood.”

We begin the episode directly in the aftermath of how we ended the last one. It’s seconds after Ned’s execution. We see the bloody sword, and we see Ned’s head held out to the jeering crowd. Sansa faints, and Arya is still in the clutches of Yoren. Yoren hustles Arya away from the crowd, constantly calling her “boy” in a rather rough attempt to help her remain undetected. Relatively safer in an alleyway, Yoren hastily cuts Arya’s hair off to make her look more boy-like and even less recognizable. Arya ends up with a rather rough group of boys and other assorted criminals that Yoren is planning to take up to the Wall. One boy in particular tries to pick on her, but she uses the threat of her sword, Needle, to defend herself admirably. She has some help from a new friend we’ve seen before, too. The armorer’s apprentice who Ned discovered was one of King Robert’s bastards. Apparently, the armorer is getting tired off all the nosing around, because he asked the apprentice to leave.

Meanwhile, the news of Ned’s fate spreads quickly. Up at Winterfell, Bran is riding on Osha’s shoulders, and he asks her to take him to the Stark family crypt. He had a dream his father was there. Osha is pretty freaked out by the idea, but she eventually obliges. Bran points out all his relatives to Osha, but the conversation is interrupted when a vicious creature approaches. It’s just Rikon’s direwolf, Shaggydog. Rikon, the youngest Stark, is quite the creepy little kid. It turns out that he had the same dream as Bran about Ned being in the crypt. All three return outdoors, only to be greeted by Maester Luwin. He’s got the bad news of Ned’s execution, of course. I like little reminders like this that even though it’s usually only on the fringes, there actually magic in this universe.

We switch perspectives to Robb’s camp, where the bad news has already been delivered. The troops all bow to Cat as she walks by in acknowledgement of her grief. She walks faster and faster because she desperately wants to get to the woods to have a cry in private. She breaks down as soon as she’s out of view of the soldiers. She doesn’t have much time to cry, though, because she hears a horrible noise. Robb is using his sword to furiously chop away at a tree. When he sees his mother, he completely breaks down, and they share a hug. It’s really a beautiful moment. Robb wants to take a stand and kill all the Lannisters immediately to get revenge for his father’s death. Cat reminds him that they need to rescue his sisters first. Then she’s all about the killing.

Later at a war council, Robb’s bannermen are trying to help him decide who to pledge to. They can’t pledge to Joffrey for obvious reasons. Several bannermen seem in favor of pledging to Renly, but Robb, like his father, will have none of that. If a Baratheon is to be king, it must be older brother Stannis. One of the bannermen comes up with the best idea of them all. They’re going to separate from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms entirely. In an iconic moment, all the bannermen (and Theon) lay down their swords and proclaim Robb “King of the North.” I love this moment for its hopefulness and for the pride Cat shows in her son. After Robb is declared King, Cat goes outside to have a not-so-nice chat with Jaime. She really, really wants to kill him and send his head to Cersei, but she stops with just one blow to his head with a rock. Jamie admits he pushed Bran out the window back in Winterfell, but he stops short of telling Cat why, despite her repeated demands to know.

It turns out Cersei herself is doing just fine without Jaime back in King’s Landing. She’s sleeping with Lannister cousin Lancel, King Robert’s squire. My reaction was a very loud “ewwwwww.” Cersei certainly likes to keep it in the family. That’s not the only thing that’s horribly wrong at King’s Landing, though. Sansa is watching court, where everyone is listening to a minstrel sing a song about Robert’s death. The song is offensive to the Lannisters, so Joffrey orders the minstrel’s tongue cut out. Having had his fun for the day, Joffrey leaves the throne and demands that Sansa join him. He takes her to an area outside where all the heads of the Northerners who were just killed are displayed on pikes. He specifically points out Ned’s head and wants Sansa to look at it and see what happens to traitors. Sansa says she just wants to go home, and when Joffrey is crude in response, she finally grows a spine. She actually tries to push him off the balcony where they are standing, but unfortunately, the Hound stops her. Joffrey says that he’ll have another gift for her soon- Robb’s head. Sansa retorts that maybe Robb will be bringing her Joffrey’s head instead. A much preferable option, I’d say.

At the Lannister camp, there is talk of potentially suing for peace. Tyrion wisely guesses that that probably wouldn’t go well, considering Ned was executed and all. Tywin and Tyrion end up having a private chat, which is one of my favorite moments of this episode. Tywin admits that maybe Tyrion isn’t an idiot after all. He wants Tyrion to stand in as Hand of the King to keep Joffrey in line. This arrangement can’t possibly last long, because Tyrion seems like the only person who can keep Joffrey in line. And an in-line Joffrey is not good for the drama. Tywin actually acknowledges Tyrion as his son, which was quite surprising. The only condition Tywin places on Tyrion is that Tyrion can’t bring “that whore” to King’s Landing. This leads to a bit of an argument between Tyrion and Shae (who really wants to come along). Tyrion ends up deciding to disregard his father and bring Shae with him.

Despite the new, more cruel regime, the scheming schemers of King’s Landing continue to do there thing. We get a final, obnoxious “sexposition” scene where Grand Maester Pycelle tells Ros all about the kings he has served as Ros washes herself following sex. I think the point of the scene was that as soon as Ros leaves, Pycelle starts doing calisthenics, clearly not the doddering old man he pretends to be. Petyr and Varys have another of their throne room circling and threatening each other chats, which was refreshing bit of familiarity among the chaos.
Dany wakes up, Jorah says son didn’t live. Witch says baby looked like dragon- price for Drogo’s life. The horde is gone. Drogo is catatonic, out in the sun. Witch did it on purpose because the Dothraki burned her temple.

Jon is the last of the Stark clan to get the bad news, and his reaction is to try to desert the Night’s Watch to go fight with Robb. Sam desperately tries to keep Jon from leaving, but he’s not successful. Sam then leads a group of fellow new Brothers to follow Jon, but they’re held up when a low-lying branch knocks Sam from his horse. Jon stops riding and goes back to check on Sam. His friends convince him to return to Castle Black by reciting the Night’s Watch vows and reminding Jon to have honor. The next morning Jon and the Lord Commander have a chat about Jon’s brief absence. Luckily, the Night’s Watch doesn’t execute brothers when they’re only gone for a night. The Lord Commander reminds Jon how bad things are getting north of the Wall and asks which war Jon thinks is more important. That one or his brother’s. To sweeten the deal, he tells Jon that he’s personally leading a contingent to ride beyond the wall, and he wants Jon to join. In a very stirring speech, the Lord Commander declares that he’s going to find out what’s going on with the White Walkers and find Benjen, dead or alive.

The final plot left to deal with in this episode takes us back across the Narrow Sea to check in on Daenerys and Khal Drogo. Daenerys wakes up from her ordeal to find out that her baby did not survive. To make things worse, the lamb woman witch describes something that looks more like a dragon than a human. That’s not all, though. Drogo is still alive, but he’s completely catatonic. Daenerys cares for Drogo as best she can, but the witch has told her that he will only wake when the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. In other words, not gonna happen. She let Daenerys go ahead with authorizing the blood magic in retaliation for the devastation the Dothraki caused to her people. Daenerys tries to argue that she saved her, but the witch says she was raped three times before Daenerys had a chance to “save” her. Devastated that her sun and stars will no longer live a worthwhile life, Daenerys suffocates him with a pillow.

A funeral pyre is set up, and Ser Jorah is concerned that Daenerys will want to burn with her husband. She assures him that he shouldn’t worry and kisses him on the cheek. That kind of squicked me out. The Dothraki horde has moved on, presumably with a new leader, but Daenerys doesn’t let that stop her. There are slaves and others who couldn’t keep up with the horde still left behind, and Daenerys draws them to her with a big speech. Now she has her own Dothraki-style horde to lead. The witch is bound to the funeral pyre, and Daenerys is satisfied when she hears the witch’s screams as she burns. Finally, Daenerys decides to walk into the fire herself, but I wasn’t worried, because we’ve seen two examples where she seemed unusually resistant to heat (the bath in the very first episode, and the dragon’s eggs more recently. Speaking of the dragon’s eggs, Daenerys placed them on the funeral pyre, too. The next morning, Ser Jorah walks through the smoking rubble of the pyre. Daenerys is sitting in the center of it, alive, naked and surrounded by three baby dragons. Everyone who sees her bows in awe.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Silence Will Fall: Checking in on Series Six of Doctor Who

I'll be blogging the first half of Doctor Who series 6 this August on MTVP as a "Summer DVR Dump," but Sarah and I thought we'd team up to give you a little preview and check in with the now completed first half of the series closer to the time when it actually ended. Enjoy!


The first half of Doctor Who series six had its share of highs and lows. One of those highs was most definitely the opening two-parter. Neither of us were really sure how we were going to feel about these episodes, which were set in America, when we first heard about that production decision. Doctor Who is quintessentially British, and tossing the Doctor and his companions into the American West worried us. The casting of the wonderful Mark Sheppard lessened these concerns somewhat. We were more than pleasantly surprised to see just how well suited Doctor Who was for the big budgets of America. The production was spectacular in the opening two episodes, “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”. Monument Valley, Utah provided soaring mountain ranges and dazzling blue skies that were really there (not just photoshopped in or done through CGI). There was certainly some stuff filmed back in Cardiff, but the scale that they managed with going to the US to film was evident. And it really helped bolster the grandness of the beginning of the series.

Head writer Steven Moffat likes his two-parters, and as we were to find out, series 6 would be chock full of them. The opening set of two episodes not only set up the arc for at least the first half of the series, it moved character storylines along. Sarah squee’d like a little girl when River showed up and there was actual mutual flirting with her and Eleven. Kicking their relationship into high gear (or at least past idling) was rather unexpected, and it left Sarah in such a state that she re-watched the first episode not once but a total of four times the week it aired (and a fifth time during the Memorial Weekend marathon). Admittedly, there were several questions posed in the first two episodes (Who was the little girl and how could she regenerate? Why did she shoot the Doctor? Was Amy really pregnant?) that would somewhat be answered later on. It was nice to have some continuity with the villain in the episode, as well, in the form of the Silents. We heard vaguely about them in series 5, and it was good to find out who they were in the opening two episodes. We probably haven’t seen the last them of them, either. The character of President Nixon was also a lot of fun. He was over the top, and he had a habit of announcing himself as “President Nixon” every time he walked into a room. Harriet Jones anyone? We trust we weren’t the only ones expecting people to say “We know who you are”.

After the opening two-parter, a major highlight of this first half-season was the Neil Gaiman-penned episode, “The Doctor’s Wife.” Of the two of us, only Jen has read any of Gaiman’s work, and even she has only read “Stardust” (and okay, we both have seen the movie of “Stardust”), so we didn’t really go into it with a lot of expectations based on the Gaiman name. He seems to have a real sense of how to tell a Doctor Who story, of how to get in and out of a new world and predicament in 45 minutes. It was good fun to see the Doctor finally get to truly interact with the TARDIS. Not being viewers of the pre-Russell T. Davies era episodes, there was also some information about the Doctor’s history with the TARDIS that was new to us, like the fact that his TARDIS was an outdated model when he first found her, and he actually stole her (although the way she tells it, she stole him). Amy’s reaction when the Doctor tells her the TARDIS consciousness has been placed in a woman is perfect. She wonders if he “wished really hard.” Overall, what was nice about this episode was how it paid homage to what has come before- not just “classic” Who, but the Russell T. Davies era as well. It turns out that the TARDIS saves copies of all her old control rooms, and in “The Doctor’s Wife,” the gang ends up in the control room used by the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Who would have thought that familiar green glow of the center column could invoke such nostalgia?

Another positive aspect of this half-season has been the development of the character of Rory. It was nice to put the Doctor/Amy/Rory triangle behind us after seeing multiple reassurances that Amy loves Rory and considers the Doctor to be her best friend. Beyond that, however, Rory’s experience in the series 5 finale, where he watched over Amy for 2,000 years and became “the Last Centurion” seems to have been the real springboard for his character growth in the first half of series 6. This began to be apparent in the season opener, “The Impossible Astronaut,” when Rory takes charge of the Doctor’s funeral, insisting that they “do it right” by using a boat out in a lake, Viking-style. The arc was completed in the mid-series finale, “A Good Man Goes to War,” when Rory, in full Centurion garb, angrily demands from all sorts of intergalactic baddies to know the location of his wife. Rory has come such a long way from the kind-of-goofy nurse to being someone strong and dependable. Arthur Davrill has also given some of the more memorable performances this season, especially in the opening two-parter. He has created a very memorable, distinct character in Rory.

When Sarah heard Moffat say we would find out who River Song was in series 6, she was excited. Very excited. She had been fascinated by River since “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” in series 4, where we first met her, and where she died, leaving Ten to wonder just who she was. As mentioned earlier, she was on cloud nine to see River and Eleven flirting so openly in the first two episodes. In true fan form, Sarah watched their scenes from “Day of the Moon” so many times she could quote dialogue (and in the case of the flaily kiss, do all the hand motions….yes she has no life). She’d been hoping (and Jen too) to be vindicated in the belief that River is in fact his wife, given what we’ve seen of them in the past 2 series. So hopes were high when we learned that River would reveal her true identity in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Too bad that revelation didn’t happen. All we got was River revealing in the last few minutes of the episode that she was Amy and Rory’s daughter (Melody). No mention of her connection romantically to the Doctor. Just that she was the daughter of his latest companions. While River seemed so concerned with the Doctor finding out her true identity, she seemed nonplussed about her parents learning the truth. The explanation for this wasn’t clear.

At the time (and she still does almost a week later) Sarah felt that this revelation was weak storytelling and too easy. Moffat says he’d been planning this since he introduced her in series 4, but that doesn’t mean it works well. What is intriguing about River is the mystery and how she knew so much about Eleven (and Ten). It was possible to recognize that there was a connection when the story of how River met the Doctor as a young girl mirrored Amy’s journey with her Raggedy Doctor. But maybe denial was better. Sarah liked that River knew how to fly the TARDIS better than Eleven and the way they verbally sparred. They were equals, in a way that the Doctor hadn’t had since Donna. Now Jen would argue that the Doctor and Donna were more equals than the Doctor and River, because River often seems to surpass the Doctor, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time. The bottom line is that finding out that River is Amy’s daughter honestly squicked us both out. It doesn’t sit right that the Doctor is getting involved with the child of his companion (even if that child is part Time Lord- which is really the only thing that makes it at all understandable).

Another issue that crops up is why in fact River differs from Donna in being part Time Lord. On the one hand, Donna did have all those crazy Time Lord brain waves dive into her head all at once. But it seemed pretty clear that there weren’t supposed to be part Time Lord-part humans in existence. It just didn’t work. And yet here we are, with River being part Time Lord from conception, and she seems to be fine (well okay that’s relative considering she’s in prison for murder). It just seems that the continuity of how species can interact in the scope of the Who-verse has been messed with. What made sense in the Russell T. Davies era now seems to not make any in the Moffat era. There are ways to fanwank this difference, of course, for instance, that Donna’s brain, since she wasn’t part Time Lord, wasn’t designed to handle those powers. But we shouldn’t have to do such mental gymnastics to enjoy an episode of “Doctor Who.” We both enjoy “Lost,” but “Doctor Who” should not be “Lost.”

Along that same line, it seems that with the Moffat era, we get handed a bunch of questions and just when you think you have answers, ten more unanswered questions spring up. Sure we know that Amy was really pregnant and why the little girl could regenerate, but it seems as though we really are no closer to learning why the eye patch lady wants Eleven dead and why they’ve chosen to use River as their weapon. Or how the young River possibly killing the 1100-year-old Doctor ties in with everything else (more on arc and continuity later)? The overall arc this season is much more twisty and “wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey” than anything we saw in the Russel T. Davies era. There is still, of course, some hope that the awesomeness of River will return by the end of the series. Cautious hope, but hope nonetheless.

Even more troubling than the squickiness of the River reveal was the structural problem created by the BBC’s decision to air series 6 in two segments separated by several months. Overall, it feels like the series was just starting to pick up steam when all of a sudden we were thrown into another hiatus. The problem created by the break might not have been apparent if the decidedly sub-par two-parter about the Flesh hadn’t come just before the mid-season finale. Sure, other series of Doctor Who have had unsatisfying early two-parters, such as the Sontaran two-parter in series 4 or the two-parter in series 3 where the Daleks are in Depression-era New York City, but there were plenty of other good episodes coming soon after those sub-par episodes to make up for it. For every “Daleks in Manhattan,” there was a “Human Nature.” We won’t get to see the good episodes to make up for the sub-par until September, and that brings down the show overall. While Moffatt seemed to think that splitting the series would add excitement because it creates opportunity for more cliffhangers, it has really just killed any momentum the series was beginning to pick up. His explanation that he was splitting the seasons so the younger viewers wouldn’t have such a long time to wait (they wouldn’t grow a foot while waiting for new episodes) just doesn’t work. If perhaps they’d planned it better and not had the Flesh episodes right near the end, it might not have been as noticeable. Nevertheless, we’ll both be anxiously awaiting the continuation of the Doctor’s adventures in September.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "Live Together, Die Alone"

“I have a lot of money, Desmond. With enough money and determination, you can find anyone.”

So, over a year after it was supposed to happen, we’re nearing the end of “Lost” Fifteen Favorites. Number two on my list is the season 2 finale, “Live Together, Die Alone.” Now that I look back on it, especially having just watched “Through the Looking Glass,” “Live Together, Die Alone” doesn’t have as many of those really iconic moments as the typical “Lost” season finale. What I really love about it, though, is how it develops the character of Desmond. Since, as I’ve said many times before on this blog, I’m an unapologetic Desmond fangirl, that’s enough to make me rank this above all other “Lost” season finales. We also get an answer to one of the important mysteries of the show- just what caused Oceanic 815 to crash on the Island. It also added some depth to the Others and set up the beginning of the next season rather nicely. There was a good sense of menace and dread, although not in the same way as “Exodus” or “Through the Looking Glass.” “Exodus” was about fear of the unknown, and “Though the Looking Glass” was about taking a stand against a known enemy. “Live Toegether, Die Alone” was more psychological. There was Locke’s devastation over what he discovered in the Pearl and his incredibly stupid new perseveration on finding out what happens when you don’t push the button in the Swan. There was also Jack and Sayid’s attempt to string Michael along long enough to find out what the Others were trying to make him do. It’s really an episode where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

The episode opens with all the Losties really excited about the sailboat that appeared during Libby and Ana Lucia’s funeral. Several of the guys swim out to the boat only to find a really drunk and surly Desmond. He shoots a few rounds with a shot gun when he first hears intruders, and when he sees it’s just the Losties, all he can do is laugh hysterically. When they get him to the beach, Desmond says that with the time he’s been sailing, he should be on Fiji by now, but he’s right back where he started. He’s convinced the Island is in a snowglobe. There isn’t much time for the Losties to dwell on Desmond, though, because Sayid needs to talk to Jack about Michael. Sayid has a plan to deal with Michael. Sayid’s going to take the boat and meet up with Jack and company at the beach where they believe Michael will take them. The hope is that they will be able to overpower the Others. In order for this to work, however, Michael can’t know that Jack is on to him. He has to think his plan to take a list-worth of Losties to the Others is still working perfectly. The final major plot of the episode involves the Hatch. Locke is begging Eko to stop pressing the button, but Eko refuses. Locke gets so irate that Eko kicks him out of the computer room and locks him out.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, this episode features a number of Desmond flashbacks. We first see him released and dishonorably discharged from military prison, and he tells the warden about how he’s saving the Charles Dickens classic “Our Mutual Friend” to be the last book he ever reads before he dies. The slimy businessman Charles Widmore pulls up in a car to pick Des up once he’s released. Widmore reveals that he’s been keeping all of Desmond’s letters to Widmore’s daughter, Penny, and he tries to buy Desmond off. Widmore promises a large sum of money if Desmond never contacts Penny again. Desmond then finds himself in a coffee house in Los Angeles, where he negotiates use of a sailboat from none other than Libby. Desmond wants to participate in a sailing race around the world sponsored by Widmore, because, as he explains to Penny when she finds him training at a stadium, he has to get his honor back before he can truly be with Penny again.

The rest of the flashbacks cover Desmond’s time on the Island up until the Losties found him at the beginning of season 2. He’s found on the beach by the rather surly Kelvin Inman, who takes him into the Swan and teaches him all the ropes of living there. He learns about pressing the button and how to fake a lockdown so that Kelvin can continue to draw the invisible map of the Island on one of the blast doors. He also learns about the failsafe key when he sees a very drunk Kelvin planning to use it to “blow up the dam.” Kelvin has Desmond convinced that he’ll get sick if he ventures outside. One day, as he’s watching Kelvin leave the Swan, Desmond notices a huge tear in the protective suit Kelvin is wearing. This prompts Desmond to think that maybe it’s not so dangerous to go outside after all, and he decides to follow Kelvin. Desmond discovers Kelvin has been working on fixing Desmond’s boat as an escape route. Furious that Kelvin has stolen several years of his life, Desmond rushes to fight him. Kelvin hits his head on some rock and dies instantly. Desmond rushes back to the Hatch to find everything in chaos because the button hasn’t been pushed. “System failure” is blaring over the PA system and scrolling across the computer, and everything is shaking. Desmond barely has enough time to enter the code before the place is totally destroyed.

Charlie sees Locke moping about being kicked out of the Swan, and he tells Locke he should have a chat with Desmond. Locke takes Charlie’s suggestion, and he tells Desmond to sober up, because the next day, they’re going to find out what happens when the button doesn’t get pushed. Desmond uses his triggering a lockdown trick to get Eko out and Locke and him into the computer room. Desmond begins to question what he’s doing when he discovers Eko’s Jesus stick, and I love his reaction when Locke confirms that he just locked out a priest. Eko recruits Charlie to help him get back into the computer room. They’re going to use some of the dynamite from the Black Rock. Because the computer room is protected by very thick blast doors, that plan obviously doesn’t work, and Charlie and Eko get a little battered by the explosion for their trouble.

While all the Hatch drama is going down, Michael is leading Jack, Sawyer, Kate, and Hurley on an expedition to supposedly get Walt back. Jack is the only one besides Michael who knows it’s a trap. The tables are turned when Kate sees they’re being followed, and she and Sawyer start shooting at the Others who are tracking them. Jack makes Michael fess up to what’s going on. Things turn from bad to worse when the group notices black smoke. This is Sayid, Sun, and Jin’s signal when they arrive on the beach where they are supposed to meet up with the rest of the group. Only problem is that the signal is miles away. Jack realizes that Michael is taking them somewhere else, but he realizes it too late. They all are hit with darts that zap them with electricity, completely incapacitating them. Next thing we know, they’re gagged and kneeling on the Pala Ferry dock. Ben appears, and he lets Michael leave the Island on a boat with Walt (which is a pretty iconic moment). Hurley is also released to deliver a message back to the other Losties that they shouldn’t come looking for Jack, Kate, and Sawyer.

This episode is really notable more for its creepy visuals than big, iconic moments. There’s the infamous four-toed statue that Sayid, Sun, and Jin pass while sailing. There’s also the abandoned fake Others camp they discover once they make it to the rendezvous beach. I think my favorite thing about the fake camp is that the Others even created a fake hatch of their own by putting a door with a DHARMA Initiative logo up against some large rocks. The other kind of odd/creepy visual that stuck out to me in this episode was something Michael, Kate, Sawyer, Jack, and Hurley discover just before the electric darts start flying. It’s a massive pile of pneumatic tube canisters out in the middle of a field. Inside each canister is a notebook filled with observations. These obviously originated from the Pearl hatch. It has interesting implications for both the Pearl and the Swan. The Pearl orientation video said that the people stationed at the Pearl were to write down observations about what was going on at the Swan and send those notebooks through the pneumatic tubes to DHARMA headquarters. Clearly nobody really cared about those observations if they just piled up in a field somewhere. It seems that Desmond was right when he suggested to Locke that maybe the Pearl folks were the experiment, not those stationed in the Swan.

The crowning moment of this double-length episode occurs when Desmond looks at records Locke obtained from the Pearl and puts it together that Oceanic 815 crashed the same day he killed Kelvin and arrived back at the Swan to all the system failure chaos. Locke refuses to believe Des when he insists that the Swan is real, and he throws a really obnoxious tantrum, breaking the computer in the process. I kind of wish the Desmond/Locke dynamic had been explored a bit more in the show. We learn that around the time Boone died in the first season, Desmond and Locke saved each other. Locke was despondent over Boone’s death and banging on the hatch, and Desmond had just opened “Our Mutual Friend” and read a letter Penny left for him. Desmond turned the light on in response to Locke’s commotion, and both gained some solace. Desmond knows there’s only one way to save the Island now that nobody can push the button. He grabs the failsafe key from the bookcase, and with a “See ya in another life, Brother,” to Locke, hops down into the room with the failsafe. He remembers the letter Penny left in his book, whispers that he loves her, and turns the key. All of a sudden, everything goes a sort of violet white. At the very end of the episode, we see two men in a scientific station in Antarctica. They’ve picked up an electromagnetic reading from Desmond turning the key, and they have to notify someone about it. The person they notify is none other than Penny herself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Friday Night Lights 4.13: “Thanksgiving”

“I had to get out of here. If I tried to say goodbye to you, I never would have left.”

The finale of the penultimate season of “Friday Night Lights” was the only finale during the show’s run where the writers and producers were sure it would not be a series finale as well. I think that showed in some ways. There was more set-up for next season than could be found in the earlier season finales. There was less of a sense of closure because it wasn’t necessary. That said, it was still an excellent episode. I kind of wish, in a way, that I hadn’t committed to blogging all of “Friday Night Lights” season 4 here, because it would have made a great Thanksgiving Classic Recap episode, and good Thanksgiving episodes are kind of few and far between. It was kind of obvious from the episode’s title that this was a Thanksgiving episode, right? It’s a time of big change for all of our characters. Matt finally faces up to the way in which he left Dillon, Julie’s contemplating finally getting the chance to chase her dreams, Coach finally has made his team into one that can succeed, Landry is going to be going to college, Tim makes a big choice for the sake of his family, Tami asks for a new job. The list goes on and on, really. The centerpiece of it all is Thanksgiving dinner at the Taylors and the big “Clash of the Cats” game between East and West Dillon the next day.

Coach and Tami are very much the heart of this episode. Both are feeling the pressure for different reasons. Coach has the biggest game of his career coming up, and Tami has the speech of her life coming up. Tami practices the apology statement with which the school board provided her, but it just doesn’t sit right. It’s so bad that she doesn’t even want Coach to watch her practice. It’s too embarrassing. Not surprisingly, on the big day when she’s actually supposed to give the statement, she goes off script. Instead of apologizing, she says that everything she does is for the welfare of her students, and this was no exception. This isn’t good enough for the more reactionary segment of the Dillon population, especially Becky’s mom, who starts screaming hysterically at the school board that the promised an apology. Tami just hightails it out of there, knowing she probably lost her job. The school district schedules a meeting to talk about her options, and although her lawyer wants to fight whatever the school district wants to do tooth and nail, Tami’s got another idea. She wants to head up the counseling program at East Dillon, and the school board decides to allow that. After all that anguish, Tami is satisfied.

While going through all that drama, there’s also Thanksgiving dinner for Tami to think about. The Taylors are hosting quite a big shindig, with the Saracens and Rigginses invited. Then Coach has the oh so good sense to spring on Tami that Buddy Garrity wants to join them for Thanksgiving too. And he’s bringing a turkey. And a deep fryer. To say Tami is less than thrilled is an understatement. Two turkeys is kind of crazy, but Coach doesn’t offer to tell Buddy not to bring one. Complicating things further is the fact that Matt is back in town to visit his grandmother for the holiday. Julie runs into him unexpectedly when she stops by the Saracen house to see if Grandma Saracen needs a ride to Thanksgiving. They have a really awkward grocery shopping trip together. Julie, rightfully, has still not gotten over the way Matt left Dillon. Landry hasn’t either, come to think of it, which is kind of hilarious. Landry won’t even really talk to Matt the first time he shows up at his door. Matt mutters that Landry is “like a girl” as he leaves.

Thanksgiving dinner itself was a really beautiful scene. The Taylor dining room is packed, with poor Matt and Julie at the “kids’ table. They’re cool with it, though, because it means they get more cranberry sauce. Tami is still peeved about Buddy making a second turkey, and when Grandma Saracen starts raving about how juicy Buddy’s fried turkey is, Tami goes into hilarious overdrive trying to sell everybody on her own turkey. Billy makes the mood more serious when he gives a big toast thanking all his family and friends for their support. He’s nearly in tears because he thinks that pretty soon, he’ll be in jail and separated for all of them, most importantly his newborn son. I thought this scene really encapsulated everything a good Thanksgiving episode of television should be. There’s holiday related humor and humorous true-to-life interactions between characters that really care about each other a great deal. There’s also heart and depth of emotion which comes from Billy’s predicament. I should have known “Friday Night Lights” would succeed at achieving this balance!

There’s also a much more informal Thanksgiving dinner between Vince and his mom at the rehab facility. They’re sharing some barbecue from Ray’s, and Vince’s mom is trying to convince Vince that he’s going to succeed in the big game the next day. Jess arrives to join them and brings a pecan pie. She broke up with Landry earlier in the episode due to her feelings for Vince, which is part of the reason Landry was rather cold to Matt. I know we’re supposed to think Jess is where she belongs with people who need her, but I have to be a little sad. I think Vince has a good heart, but he’s been too unpredictable in a dangerous way. Landry was good for Jess and treated her like a queen. Ah well. I wasn’t really all that invested in that particular triangle, anyway. Although I will say that Landry/Jess was certainly better than Landry/Tyra. I never did really believe in Landry/Tyra, and its connection to the murder plot that will not be spoken of again from season 2 doesn’t do it any favors.

The day after Thanksgiving is time for some football (guess they don’t do Black Friday shopping in Texas). The big game against the Panthers means so much to Coach because of all the pain connected with his leaving the Panthers. Everything is riding on this game for him emotionally. The game itself is rather silly, as “Friday Night Lights” football games generally are. I was glad to see a good solid chunk of an episode devoted to football, though. I get that “Friday Night Lights” is about more than football, but I think that ever since the Panthers won State in season 1, the show has embraced the “more” a little too much. I love the small town dynamics and the characters, but I think that what made the show special in the first season is that all that was told through the lens of football, the town obsession. Anyway, some highlights of the game included two two-point conversions, Luke getting to play a little bit (and being awesome) before taking another bad hit to the hip, Vince acquitting himself well, and Landry kicking a 46 yard field goal to win the game. The end of the game was my real problem. Landry is supposed to be a mediocre kicker to begin with, and NFL players don’t even make 46 yard field goals reliably unless they’re David Aikers.

The end of the episode gives us a good sense of where all these characters are headed. Matt and Julie spend some time at the lake, and Julie tells Matt she can’t go to Chicago because she needs to find her own dreams. Matt ends up taking Landry to Chicago instead, which I thought was sweet, although Matt doesn’t seem especially happy about it. The biggest event is that Tim decides to take all the responsibility for the chop shop. He spends the whole episode watching Billy interact with Steven, and Becky gives him a lecture about how she’s disappointed in him, and Tim decides to do something about it. There are no witnesses to connect Billy to the chop shop, only Tim, which is how Tim gets away with it. Billy is tearful when he realizes what his brother is willing to sacrifice for him, but they both know it’s the right decision. It’s a shame that Billy’s foolishness has led to Tim’s life being shattered, but I suppose those are the cards life deals sometimes, and “Friday Night Lights” has never shied away from showing all of life’s ups and downs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer TV Rewind: Robin Hood 1.01: "Will You Tolerate This?"

Guest blogger Sarah is returning this summer to once again do a Summer TV Rewind of a British show. This summer, instead of "Merlin," she's going with the first series of the BBC's "Robin Hood." I've watched most of the first series, and I would definitely recommend it for its cheekiness. Enjoy Sarah's write-up of the series pilot, "Will You Tolerate This?"


“Show me an argument ever settled with bloodshed, and then I’ll call it winning.”
- Robin

We begin in Nottingham Forest, where a man is attempting to kill a deer. He’s stopped before he can fire, surrounded by several of the King’s men. They say the punishment for killing one of the King’s deer is the loss of his right hand. But if he admits guilt now, they’ll only take a finger. The man initially agrees to just the finger but says he wants to change his mind. Before they can even get the ax near him, arrows begin flying from somewhere off in the forest, and they land quite expertly between the soldier with the ax’s fingers. The man, wearing a hood, emerges and lands a well placed arrow in the saddle of the lead soldier. Lots of trees rustle as he talks and the soldiers believe they are outnumbered until the archer’s servant makes it clear there are only two of them. Bad move!

As they take off running, it becomes quite clear that the archer is Robin of Locksley (soon to be known as Robin Hood), and his servant’s name is Much. They’ve just returned to England after fighting in the Holy Land for five years. They end up evading the soldiers and make their way on towards Locksley. They stop at the home of a cloth worker and his daughter, and in exchange for a meal, Much and Robin dig a trench. It doesn’t take long though for Robin to get in more trouble. He ends up snogging the man’s daughter, and when the cloth worker sees, he’s goes bonkers. He and Robin end up in a fight (after trying to tell Much that there’s a new sheriff in town). First, Robin fends him off with just a wooden spoon, the top of a wooden barrel and some well placed kicks. I do have to say that the fight sequences in this show are phenomenal. More evidence of that comes when Robin does a back flip off the second story of the house to the ground in slow motion.

The next morning, Robin and Much arrive in Locksley. They are expecting a warm welcome, but they find people hiding in their houses and avoiding them. They finally find a friendly face in Dan Scarlett. He and Robin seem to be old friends (judging by the sadness Robin shows upon hearing Dan’s wife died two years previous), and Robin is horrified to learn of the harsh punishments being doled out by the sheriff. He’s none too pleased to know that Sir Guy of Gisborne has taken over managing his estate while he’s been at war. We meet Sir Guy soon enough as he rides in with his men. Guy couldn’t be more different from Robin. Dark looks, dressed in black leather from head to toe. [ed. note: can’t forget the eyeliner either] He’s kind of a pompous ass to be honest (albeit a hot one). He’s going to punish the people responsible for stealing from the stores until Robin steps up and quite coolly announces that he is Earl of Huntington and lord of the manor. All the villagers bow and murmur words of happiness at his return.

Back at his manor, Robin says that Much is now a free man and will be given the lodge and fields at Bonchurch in reward and payment for his services. Much rushes up to take a bath (after Robin’s head of house points out that he was going to the servant’s quarters) along with a big plate of food. Guy stops by to chat and says that he wants more respect from Robin in front of the populace. Robin makes the comment that Guy’s been there a long while and hasn’t yet earned their respect. They argue a bit more, and Guy informs Robin that the Council of Nobles meets the following day in Nottingham and Robin is expected to attend. Robin says he will be pardoning all of his people who are awaiting trial or punishment, and Guy angrily tells Robin to take it up with the sheriff. I have to say the writers have set up their rivalry quite nicely in just a couple of scenes.

Robin heads off to see the former sheriff (with a rather disappointed Much in tow). Before they head out, Robin tells his head of house to bring all the villagers to his manor and feed them all. None of the household staff (including Robin when he returns) eats until all the villagers have had their share. He’s quite generous to his people. They stop off in Knighton Hall (where the former sheriff lives) and are promptly told off by Edward (said former sheriff). They also see Marian, Edward’s daughter. She’s got a bow and poise pointed straight at Robin. He’s quite happy to see her and comments in a rather pleased tone that she’s still unmarried. Much scoffs at Robin’s pretense of visiting but says nothing more as they head back to Locksley. They get back to find most of the villagers happy and well-fed. But Dan’s quite upset. His two sons, Luke and Will, have been arrested for stealing the flour from the stores. Robin swears he’ll sort it, and the next day he and Much ride to Nottingham. The market is deserted, even though Robin suspects it is still market day. There’s just nothing to sell since the people have no money left after all the tithes they must give to the sheriff.

And then we meet the man himself. The Sheriff. Gold teeth, balding, a bit plump and the biggest mustache-twirling villain I’ve ever seen. We see him talking with Gisborne and of being no help. The Sheriff is too busy laughing at the fact that Robin bested him and his twenty-four men. And the Sheriff’s not pleased during the Council meeting that the taxes aren’t being met. I really just wanted to reach into the screen and throttle him. Robin shows up and speaks his mind quite clearly. He wants the Sheriff to stop all taxes and allow the people to recover, so that they can trade again. That will help support the King and the war in the Holy Land. It seems he’s not very popular with the rest of the nobles. Then again, they could all just be terrified of the Sheriff. The Sheriff is not happy with Robin’s vocal dislike of his policies and ends up killing his canary. Meanwhile, Marian catches Robin in a corridor and tells him to come to her father’s house after midnight because he wants to speak with Robin. Robin rattles off a few flirtatious compliments, and Marian tries to act like she’s not flattered. It’s quite clear they had something in the past (turns out they were supposed to be married).

Robin and Much head down to the dungeons to deal with the boys from Locksley who had stolen the flour. It turns out they’ll be hung for their crime. We also find the guy from the beginning of the episode (Allan A Dale) locked up, and he starts shouting that he’s from Locksley when he sees Robin. Unfortunately for Allan, he gets lumped in with Will, Will’s brother and one of the other boys to hang. Robin is furious and makes it known to the Sheriff during Robin’s return feast. The Sheriff makes comment that there are rumors abounding that Robin has returned weak from the war. As a test, the Sheriff has ordered Robin to oversee the hanging in the morning. Marian and her father are there, and she ends up going off with Gisborne, much to Robin’s disgust. After midnight, Robin and Much make their way back to Sir Edward and Marian. Edward urges Robin to keep his dissent quiet and to consolidate his power. Robin says there isn’t time. As night wears on, he sits alone in his manor contemplating how best to handle the situation.

In the morning, Robin arrives in Nottingham and the prisoners are brought out. He reads the sentence, and just as they are about to hang, a man claiming to be a bishop says they cannot be killed because they have all made it known that they would like to be men of the cloth. Unfortunately, Robin’s little diversionary tactic doesn’t work too well, and the boys dangle. But Robin, being the handsome hero that he is, steals a bow from one of the nearby archers and expertly severs all four ropes. In the ensuing mayhem and chaos, Marian ends up saving Robin with a hair pin (knocking an archer’s bow astray so it doesn’t fire at him). Robin, Much and the boys manage to get away and end up in Sherwood Forest for refuge for the night They’ve just settled in when they hear footsteps crunching on the fallen leaves. A group of ragged looking men appear and claim the forest is theirs. Thus ends the pilot episode of Robin Hood.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "Through the Looking Glass"

“We have to go back, Kate. We have to go back!”

So if you haven’t been able to tell from the “Friday Night Lights” post from Friday, I’m taking the beginning of what I’m considering the summer season here at MTVP to finish two series of posts that should have been done a long time ago: Friday Night Lights season 4 and “Lost” Fifteen Favorites. Number three on the Fifteen Favorites list was the gamechanger for the entire series, the third season finale, “Through the Looking Glass.” As I mentioned on Saturday in my late discoveries post, this was the first episode of “Lost” I ever saw. I watched a recap show before it, so I could kind of figure out what was going on, but my main concern was whether or not the spoilers I had read about Charlie dying were really true. I was a massive Lord of the Rings fan at the time (still am, really), so that’s what ultimately drew me in. I think I already had heard a spoiler about flash forwards as well, so the moment that was really gamechanging about this episode didn’t really affect me all that much. I suppose I missed something special because of that, but there’s still a lot about this episode to enjoy. It’s the culmination of season 3, which is by far my favorite season of “Lost.” It’s kind of fun to hate on season 3, but I really like it. Desmond gets a great arc and a couple of centric episodes. Charlie has a great arc as well. Sawyer and Kate get together and then it promptly falls apart. Sawyer learns to be a leader of the Losties when he’s needed. Lots of good stuff.

I was going to try to structure this like my write-up of “Exodus” a few months back, but while watching, I realized that a big difference between “Exodus” and “Through the Looking Glass” is that in “Looking Glass,” there isn’t a whole lot in the way of iconic moments in part one. More of the really memorable stuff happens in part two. So there’s going to be a little bit of commentary on part one, than a rattling off of some of the best moments from part two. Of course you can’t discuss “Through the Looking Glass” without commenting on the switch to flash forwards. This breathed new life into the series for about a season, and it was a lot of fun trying to figure out what these early flash forwards meant. They were a good gag at the time, even if they probably don’t have as much impact once you’ve seen the whole series. The episode opens with an angsty, drunk Jack on a plane ride. The angst is really kicked into high gear when a flight attendant gives Jack a newspaper and he reads something troubling which later turns out to be an obituary. Then we see an angsty, drunk Jack about to jump off a bridge, only stopped by a woman crashing into his parked car.

One of the things that makes the flash forwards in these episodes intriguing instead of just pathetic is the contrast between an obvious low point in Jack’s life to a high in “present day” on the Island. He’s getting ready to lead his flock of Losties to the radio tower in the hopes of using Naomi’s satellite phone to get them all rescued. It’s rather epic, and it plays into Jack’s pathological need to be a hero and fix things. While Jack leads his people, Jin, Bernard, and Sayid stay behind. They are going to use their mad shooting skills to blow up three tents when the Others stop by to take all the women. This sounds rather silly out of context, doesn’t it? I promise, it’s really a rather genius plan! There’s a third part to the overall plan that’s going down, too. Others are in an underwater hatch called the Looking Glass jamming all signals to and from the Island. In order for Jack and Naomi to use the sat phone, the jamming signal needs to be disabled. Charlie makes it into the Looking Glass only to be greeted by two rather surly looking Other women. He spends most of the first half of the episode pestering them while tied up in a chair, which is rather amusing. Des makes his way down to the Looking Glass too, but he has to hide so the two women don’t realize Charlie has help.

The blow-up-the-Others plan doesn’t go quite as planned. Sayid and Bernard both make their shots and blow up two tents, killing seven Others in the process, but Jin, who has a pistol as opposed to the shotguns Sayid and Bernard were using, misses his shot. The three Lostie men are captured in the ensuing firefight, and when Ben finds out about the situation, he instructs Tom and his raiding party to kill Jin. Before any murder can happen, though, Bernard caves and tells the Others that the rest of the Losties are headed for the radio tower. Ben is losing his grip on his leadership position with the Others, Richard specifically warns him that everyone is getting antsy to get back to normal life, but Ben wants to go off and intercept the Losties at the radio tower by himself. He decides to take Alex along with him as a punishment, explaining it as giving her to her “new family.”

The only thing I really didn’t like in part one was there was some especially poor material regarding what I call the “Quadrangle of Doom” (aka Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Juliet). Sawyer and Juliet are going to go try to rescue the three guys who stayed behind, and Kate, naturally, wants to come along. Sawyer gets nasty to keep Kate out of danger, telling her he hopes she isn’t pregnant. This just reminds me of future Quadrangle stupidity in Season 4’s “Eggtown.” Before she heads off with Sawyer, Juliet kissing Jack while Kate looks on witheringly. Make up your mind, Kate! Jack doesn’t really help Kate’s wishy-washyness when he tells her that Sawyer was trying to protect her, just like he does. And then Jack says he loves her. I’ve always found Jack and Kate to be rather nausea inducing, and this was no exception.

The real iconic moment of the episode all seem to occur in part two, so I’m going to run through just a few of my favorites. Ben and Alex meet up with the Losties, and Ben takes Jack aside for a chat. He warns Jack that Naomi’s not who she says she is, and everybody on the Island will die if a call is placed to her freighter. He wants Jack to give him the satellite phone, and he’s got some leverage. He calls Tom and his crew on the walkie talkie, and he tells Tom to kill Jin, Bernard, and Sayid if he doesn’t hear Ben’s voice within the next minute. Jack takes a gamble, doesn’t hand over the satellite phone, and after a minute passes, shots ring out over the walkie talkie. Jack’s face contorts more with each shot, and he becomes enrage. He beats the crap out of Ben, which is something that is always enjoyable. We then move into what I call the “dysfunctional family portrait,” which happens after Jack drags a bloodied Ben back to the rest of the Losties. Ben tells Alex that Rousseau is her mother, and the first thing Rousseau says to her daughter is “help me tie him up.” It’s a beautiful thing.

Over at the beach, Jin, Bernard, and Sayid aren’t dead after all. We discover this is one of my favorite scenes of the episode. Sawyer and Juliet arrive at the beach and realize they’re seriously outnumbered. All of a sudden, Hurley, who had been feeling rather useless, barrels through in his VW bus, runs one Other over, and creates enough of a distraction that Sawyer and Juliet can start taking care of the rest. Sayid even kills one Other with his feet. Which I thought was very badass. Sawyer gets himself a gun and points it at a cowering Tom. Sawyer shows no mercy, shooting and killing “Mr. Friendly” while saying “That’s for taking the kid off the raft!” The other Losties are a little taken aback, but he said he didn’t believe Tom when Tom asked for a truce. Sawyer probably had the right idea, given the Others’ history.

Then, of course, we get to the moment I dread every time I watch this episode. Evil, one-eyed Other Mikhail has been sent down to the Looking Glass by Ben to clean up Ben’s mess. He’s been instructed to kill everyone, including the two Other women in the hatch. Desmond shoots him with a spear gun, but while he and Charlie aren’t looking, Mikhail disappears. Charlie goes into the communications room and starts tapping out “Good Vibrations,” which one of the Other women had told him was the code for the jammer. I love that it’s a challenge Charlie is particularly suited for, because Charlie is so often on the periphery of the real action. Jammers off, Charlie gets a transmission from Penny. She knows nothing about the freighter approaching the Island, which is really bad news. Charlie calls Des to come speak with his girlfriend, but at that moment, Mikhail appears at the window of the communications room holding a grenade. Charlie shuts the door just in time to keep Des from getting hurt, too, and Mikhail sets of the grenade, sending water rushing into the communications room. Before he drowns, Charlie hastily scrawls a note to Des on his hand and presses it up against the window in the door. It says “NOT PENNY’S BOAT.”

The final flash forward of the episode is the most iconic and provides the first definitive proof that we have definitely switched over to flash forwards. Jack steps out of his car at LAX, where he had previously arranged a meeting with an unknown person over the phone. A second car pulls up, and out steps Kate. Jack says they’re not supposed to be in LA, and they need to get back to the Island, but Kate’s not having it. She seems perfectly content with her life in LA when a drunken and high Jack isn’t bothering her. Jack mentions the death that upset him on the plane ride at the beginning of the episode, but Kate doesn’t care. She seems to despise whoever the deceased was. Saying she needs to get back to someone (fans at the time speculated Sawyer, and though I wish that were true, they were most definitely wrong), Kate gets back in her car, leaving Jack standing alone.