Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why Can’t People Just Think?

How many times can we walk towards camera in one episode?

How many times can we walk towards camera in one episode?

At the risk of gushing, I’ll call Sherlock’s premiere brilliant.  The component pieces were all working from almost the outset of “A Study in Pink.”  Serial suicides make for an intriguing procedural hook and the writing and characters are more than enough to reel us in.  Benedict Cumberbatch brings the necessary measure of realism to Holmes’ brilliance and acerbic wit while Martin Freeman carries the dramatic weight as the damaged Dr. Watson.  Very few series work anywhere near this well right out of the gate and so it’s a surprising risk when they choose to make Holmes an actual sociopath instead of simply an entertaining one. Continue reading

Have I Ever Told You, You’re a Very Beautiful Woman?

Yes, we're all confused

Yes, we’re all confused

So… what was the point of that?  At it’s best, Angel delivers stories in which its characters learn something about themselves which can be applied to all of us.  Or it may give us some innovative narrative or original piece of genre bending.  Or it might be thrilling, convincing us that the stakes are real and that a price may need to be paid.  Or it could just be some laugh out loud comedy.  At it’s very best, it delivers all of these.  At it’s worst, as in “Carpe Noctem,” it delivers none.  There aren’t any real stakes in this monster of the week as we never doubt that Angel will end up back in his body without any permanent damage done.  Nor is there much made of the body-swapping conceit.  Nor does anybody do any significant learning and growing.  I guess that leaves hollow comedy, but this episode isn’t that funny.  I really am curious as to what they were trying to achieve. Continue reading

We’re Like Super Villains

Like a living mirror

Like a living mirror

“Life is the Big Bad” was the ME’s conception of season six’s unifying villain.  While there’s some divide among fans as to whether or not this worked, for my money it was a brilliant way to explore the profound and painful issues facing the Scoobies this year.  None of us have ever returned from the grave, but most of us have had an identity crisis at some point and know how difficult they can be.  In this sense, Buffy remains thoroughly relatable.  That’s why it’s ironic that episodes like “Flooded,” which presents Buffy dealing with a far more everyday financial crisis, only serves to damage her Everyman credibility. Continue reading

Farwell to Piracy

It will come as no surprise to most readers that I have sometimes used extra-legal means to watch the shows I review for this blog.  I don’t think that I’m just speaking for my own social circle when I say that that piracy’s a crime that we’re all guilty of to some degree.  At least, anyone under forty’s guilty to some degree.  Despite the histrionics of most media companies, it’s not something I think is a big deal.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty minor vice.  That said, it’s still a vice and I’ve never really been able come up with a moral justification for it.  So it is, with some trepidation, that I feel the need to swear off piracy going forward. Continue reading

You Lost the Mission, Bro

Evil incarnate

Evil incarnate

I’d forgotten what a fantastic episode “That Old Gang of Mine” is.  I’ve complained plenty about Gunn but the root of the problem isn’t his character, it’s the fact that he’s seldom given anything to do. As this episode demonstrates, Gunn’s as compelling as anyone else at Angel Investigations when he’s given a story of consequence.  What’s really surprising here is that we’re able to sympathize with Gunn without sharing his dilemma.  The Angelverse has long established that demons aren’t all evil.  Some work for the Powers, others are just average Joes.  So it’s no stretch for us to accept that some might become innocent victims.  But then, Charles’ problem isn’t denying that demons can be people, it’s accepting that people can be monsters. Continue reading

I Was Finished. Complete.

Subtle

Subtle

“After Life” could easily have been “Bargaining Part 3.”  Sure, the Hellions have left and we’ve now got the Thaumogenesis Monster to deal with, be that’s not really the point.  Like it’s predecessor, this episode’s still all about the consequences of bringing Buffy back and that still goes for both the character and the series.  Of course, that descriptor could be used for all of season six.  It seems odd to say this, given the lack of a central villain driving the action, but this is Buffy’s most serialized season.  This show’s always been about the characters, but that’s more true here as it certainly isn’t the plot that ties this season together. Continue reading

Yeah. And You’re an Evil Bitch

He sure seems like a nice guy

He sure seems like a nice guy

There are some good moments in “That Vision Thing,” even a great one, but it’s hampered by some truly broken storytelling.  Cordy’s visions manifesting in physical injury is a good hook, but the mystery of why it’s happening dominates the first two acts and leaves little space for a resolution that desperately needed room to breathe.  There’s plenty of exposition regarding what a big deal/bad idea Angel cooperating with Wolfram & Hart is, but there’s no real sense of desperation here.  It’s not that Cordy being in danger doesn’t make for sufficient motivation, just that Angel’s dilemma needed to be what drove the story. Continue reading

Final Thoughts: Dexter Season Three

I had originally set out to defend what I thought was an underrated season against its detractors but, having now finished, I must say that Dexter’s third season isn’t as good as I remember.  While many of its component parts were strong, they never really came together the way they needed to.  At it’s best, this season was still great but, at it’s worst, it exhibited many of the flaws that would derail the series in years to come. Continue reading

I Lived. You Just Existed

Oh yeah, we have a new cast member

Oh yeah, we have a new cast member

Heartthrob is a good episode made great if you enjoy meta-storytelling as much as I do.  James’ kamikaze revenge quest provides a compelling illustration of why Angel’s right to move on after Buffy’s death, but this story also provides a commentary on the new divide between their respective series.  It’s natural that a serialized drama give characters time to grieve, but extremely rare for one to, even obliquely, make reference to the realities of network/studio conflicts. Continue reading

Is This Hell?

Oh yeah, this'll end well

Oh yeah, this’ll end well

I’ve complained for four seasons in a row now that Buffy can’t seem to manage a decent season premiere.  While I’ve highlighted some specific problems, it wasn’t until I rewatched “Bargaining” that I understood the general flaw that has kept all these episodes from working.  Each season begins by asking the question, “Is Buffy still Buffy?”  The question’s uninteresting because we already know the answer; of course Buffy’s going to reject Dracula, triumph over the big vamp on campus, lead the worker’s revolution, and stop being a bitca.  We also knew the answer in “Welcome to the Hellmouth / The Harvest” but it worked because we didn’t exactly know what it meant.  Since then we’ve known what the series’ status quo is and the premieres always felt like needless reintroductions to it. Continue reading