Monthly Archives: November 2013

It’s Not Eough

Let me show you something to add tension

Let me show you something to add tension

I was surprised to find the amount of hate there is out there for “Get it Done.” It isn’t a great episode by any stretch, but it isn’t a bad one either.  There are some perplexing character beats and an unfortunate lack of tension, but that can be said of most of season seven.  There are also some great character beats and interesting ideas in play and that’s more than can be said for much of this season.  At the outset of Buffy’s final season we were promised a return to it’s beginnings.  This episode doesn’t really get us back on that track, but it does bring the show back to its roots by offering an expansion of Slayer mythology and underscoring Buffy’s departure from it.  If only there were a good story to go along with it. Continue reading

To Kill a God you must Become One

The God of poor casting

The God of poor casting

“The Well” sees SHIELD return to playing strengths, which is a good thing even if it only raises the bar back up to “watchable.” We’ve got an interesting sci-fi/fantasy hook, some solid super power action, and more Marvel mythology than we’ve yet seen.  There’s also the glimmer of greater potential here in the long overdue expansion of Ward’s character.  I’m growing a bit cynical about the show’s ability to follow through on any of the good ideas that occasionally crop up but, to play devil’s advocate, this one does hit all the necessary beats by giving Ward some depth and damage.  The twist isn’t exactly mind blowing, but it does push the show into some darker territory and finally asks the audience for something other than indifferent acceptance. Continue reading

Destruction Sometimes is its Own Reward

Biting you is the best idea ever

Biting you is the best idea ever

The sudden departure of The Beast may cause some structural problems for season four as a whole, but the break neck pace established over the past few weeks continues here and it’s enough to make me not particularly care for the moment.  The Angelus/Faith mini arc is so good that the lone intrusion from the wider season feels like a distraction.  That said, it’s the season arc that lends cohesion to “Release” and helps it be more than just super fun chaos.  This season’s been about the dominance and submission since it began and this episode sees almost everyone jockeying for position.  Cordy manipulates Connor, Wes pushes Faith, and Faith just tries to keep a hold on herself.  The only one here who’s striving for freedom is Angelus, and he’s being fitted for a soul shaped collar on all sides. Continue reading

You’ll Have to Dress for the Ambiguity

It's serious this time, seriously

It’s serious this time, seriously

One of the myriad subplots of “First Date” sees Giles growing increasingly frustrated at the other Scoobies’ failure to take their situation seriously.  It hardly takes up enough screen time to be called a subplot (it’s more of a character beat) but it looms large because it’s so damned on the nose.  Buffy’s always shifted from the serial to the episodic, even as the Big Bad’s threat loomed, but the transitions aren’t nearly as smooth this time.  We keep being told that “this time is different” but that’s at odds with the same old structure.  The preoccupation with the Scoobies personal lives, while (at times) entertaining, undermines the supposed gravity of The First’s threat.  We can share Giles’ frustration and making it explicit would seem an ideal occasion to shift gears.  Unfortunately, the rest of the episode didn’t get the memo and does nothing to make us take The First more seriously.  Quite to the contrary,  The First is beginning to look like an incorporeal chump by episode’s end. Continue reading

Trust the System

Yes, it is shockingly stupid

Yes, it is shockingly stupid

Wow, that was terrible.  Terr-ib-le.  I was so disinterested I actually started writing before “The Hub” was even finished.  Until now, SHIELD’s been mostly successful in achieving its unambitious goal of delivering generic entertainment to a crowded marketplace.  Here it finally, finally takes some steps to complicate matters and suggest that not all is warm and fuzzy in a the world of super spy agencies.  Secrecy, deception, suicide mission; it’s pretty much what I’d been asking for… except for all the sucking. Continue reading

… Redemption

No touching

No touching

Where to begin?  “Salvage” is one of those episodes so packed with story that it shouldn’t work.  The Beast’s ongoing Amegeddon, Angelus on the loose, Cordy playing for the wrong team, and now Faith getting thrown back into the mix, it’s chaos.  Beautiful, beautiful chaos.  One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard for season four is that it’s audacious.  I can think of no better word.  The ME team just keeps upping the ante and daring anyone to say it’s too much.  Why isn’t it?  Because the bedrock structures, themes, and characters that define the series haven’t changed.  That’s been hard to see, as the AI team has been purely reactionary for what feels like forever, but it’s true.  For me, this episode’s the turning point in the whole season and it pivots on a pure character moment. Continue reading

We Thought You Might Be Non-Corporeal Evil

Bad touch!

Bad touch!

“The Killer in Me” is one of those episodes that really needs to be taken out of context to be enjoyed.  If you’re able to do I so you’ll find all the hallmarks of a great bit of Buffy; character driven, continuity laden, mystical metaphor having fun.  Unfortunately, if you can’t forget the context, you need to cope with the fact that this episode leaves the season stuck in neutral.  That’s pretty bad when you recall the fact that we’re eleven episodes away from the end of the series, but it’s still not this story’s Achilles heel.  To really appreciate all the great stuff on screen, you need to forget how much you hate Kennedy. Continue reading

There is No Going Back

Step back from that ledge my friend

Step back from that ledge my friend

While “F.Z.Z.T.” does little to address the problems at the heart of SHIELD, it does get the focus back onto the show’s strengths and maybe, just maybe, points to a path out of the mediocrity desert.  It’s surprising that that path should involve Fitz/Simmons, two characters who’ve done even less to earn an emotional payoff than Skye had but, for reasons I’m still trying to figure out, the drama actually works this time.  Questions about “how?” aside, I cared more about the characters at the end of this episode than I did at the beginning and that’s more than I can say about any of its predecessors. Continue reading

Evil Doesn’t Have to Mean Sloppy

A face you can trust

A face you can trust

You’d think that I’d have started giving Angel a lot more credit after “Awakening” but “Cavalry” also succeeds in disguising a great story as a stupid one.  Not that I actually believed that Angelus was going to get his soul back when I first saw this episode, but I was too busy thinking that this was just a thin excuse to get him out of the cage to even guess that there might be more to it than that. The swerve here is more WTF than OMG but it still works as a piece of storytelling.  Not only do AI team never-ever get off that easy but things are, naturally, far worse than they’d assumed. Continue reading

You’re Not Special. You’re Extraordinary

Who's bright idea was this?

Who’s bright idea was this?

A Dawn episode, great.  That’s just what the season needed to regain its momentum.  I really shouldn’t rag on the younger Summers as the episode isn’t awful and its faults don’t rest on her alone.  But she’s never been a fan favourite and was simply the wrong choice for a character spotlight at this point.  It not only pulls us further out of the season arc, but the whole Scooby gang’s been getting increasingly short shrift as the cast has expanded.  I’d have been happy to take a break and catch up with Xander, Willow, or Giles but Dawn?  As I said, the episode’s not awful, but its also not what we want. Continue reading