Saturday, February 3, 2007

Jane Eyre—Part Two

In the second part of this Masterpiece Theater presentation, Jane's abandonment of Thornfield Hall for Moor House allows for some lovely scenery and fantastic cinematography. At first, her trip to the moors seems arbitrary and unexplained, but a flashback later in the show gives us more details of her decision, as well as a strongly affecting, very sensual scene between her and Rochester. Her "romance" with St. John (here a "half-cousin" instead of a cousin) is underplayed, which is a bit of a pity, since his righteous but incredibly annoying self (if you don't marry me, you'll totally go to hell) plays strongly against Rochester's not all that righteous but completely accepting of Jane stance in the novel. The script adds some extrapolation about the final fate of Thornfield, making Bertha Rochester the explicit perpetrator. And in the end, Rochester still has his hand, but doesn't seem to partially regain his sight, as he does in the book's coda. So, a few liberties taken, but overall I felt this was a satisfying adaptation.

However, I found it annoying that the episode descriptions and the trailers for this part gave away the plot twist regarding Rochester's previous wife. Yeah, I know, just about everybody knows the story, but still. It seemed like a cheap spoiler, and if you didn't know the story, the promos would have taken a lot away from it. Maybe I'm just extra annoyed because it seems like spoiling shows in the promos has become a network hobby.

And I'm still struggling with Rochester. I like the way the character is written, and I even like the way Toby Stephens plays him, but he just doesn't look right. Maybe that's shallow of me, but I still think they needed somebody more imposing. With really big shoulders. Hey. it's in the book. "Considerable breadth of chest," it says. Go read it.

TV Tie-Ins—Angel: The Curse

Continuing my reviews of the post-series Angel graphic novels.

Written by Jeff Mariotte, art by David Messina. The first post-series story from IDW, The Curse picks up after "Not Fade Away", but doesn't give any concrete explanations as to what happened in that final battle in the alley. The story is reasonably solid, if predictable, as Angel revisits the Romany tribe in an attempt to remove the curse that dooms him to never experience perfect happiness.

Although I found this series enjoyable, I also felt it was a bit pat, plot-wise. I wasn't convinced of Angel's motivations for pursuing his release from the curse, and the ending didn't quite work for me, either. Of course, the storytelling here is hampered by the need to not disturb canon, as usual for TV tie-ins. I was hoping that this limitation might be eased a bit, since the show was no longer on the air when these came out, but that wasn't to be.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Supernatural—Houses of the Holy

The streak continues.

Tonight's episode was penned by Sera Gamble, the co-writer of "Faith", from season one, which had similar themes of faith and holy vengeance. But this episode put a slightly different spin on these themes, to excellent effect.

The episode opens with an unsavory looking woman--we find out later she's a hooker--faced with a televangelist who she can't turn off. (This has got to be one of the scariest damn things I've seen on this show ever.) Later, she's visited by Sam in a mental institution. Sam's looking good in the scrubs, and wants to know why Gloria committed a murder. Turns out she was told to by an angel.

And she's not the first person in town to be incited to commit murder in the name of divine retribution. Dean, sequestered in the hotel because of last week's close call with the Feds, and bored to the point of enjoying the magic fingers at the hotel, doesn't take too well to the angel theory.

As the story develops, the boys discover that the people who were targeted were, indeed, not nice people. One murdered at least three women, while another was a pedophile. Conversation with the priest of the local parish leads Sam and Dean to develop opposing theories. Sam believes they could actually be dealing with an angel, while Dean is convinced it's the spirit of a young priest, Father Gregory, who was killed about the time the murders started.

The Winchesters are set at ideological odds, Sam clinging to the idea that there are powers of good in the world, Dean convinced there's no such thing. Both are stripped heartbreakingly bare as they try to explain why they believe--or want to believe--the way they do. It's more than just stubbornness. Dean's cynicism is directly related to the death of his mother, and Sam's faith stems from a desperate need to believe some power of good can save him from his destiny.

In a predictable but still effective twist, Sam sees the "angel," as well, and is told to stop someone who is about to do something horrible. He's willing to accept this task. Dean, not so much--he parallels proactive retribution with what he's been told about Sam, and is not in favor. Leaving Sam to summon the spirit of Father Gregory (with a SpongeBob placemat instead of an altar cloth), Dean goes after Sam's chosen target. Again predictably but effectively, Sam discovers the "angel" is, indeed, Father Gregory's spirit. But at the same time, Dean sees evidence he can't refute that something more is at work here, possibly even the will of God.

On the surface, the general plot and setup of this episode is pretty basic, and exactly what we'd expect given the circumstances. The theme is faith versus skepticism, which we've seen a zillion times before in various contexts. When characters are made to ideologically oppose one another in this way, it often comes off as forced and pedantic, but not in this case. The plot is layered so well with its emotional repercussions on the Winchesters, and tied in so organically with the existing plot and character arcs, that the final result is more than just a series of plot points, more than just a morality play, but a story that's intrinsically important to the development of both of these characters.

And holy cow--next week's preview...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bones—The Man in the Cell

New Bones tonight!! It seems like it's been forever. I have missed Mr. Boreanaz and his giganamous shoulders. And this episode was a great way to start things up again after the hiatus. Edge-of-your-seat time, people...

Tonight's episode again featured Howard Epps, the serial killer introduced in "The Man on Death Row" who returned to torment Booth and Brennan in "The Blonde in the Game." Epps has been burned to death in his cell in a prison fire. But it's not Epps. The body in the cell is actually a firefighter, and Epps has escaped.

Booth goes Alpha Male on everyone (I'll be in my bunk), telling Brennan to not go out by herself, ever, and ordering Cam to double security on the lab. In the meantime, Brennan gets herself a big honkin' gun, which she uses to threaten Booth's masculinity. Epps plays his usual mind games, leaving obscure clues, but turning up the heat now that he's free from prison. He murders his wife and leaves her head in the fridge, then threatens both Angela and Parker. Completely wigged by the threat to Parker, Booth pressures Cam to hurry her work on the severed head. Cam, slicing open the head, is poisoned by a powder that explodes out of the incision.

With Cam dying, the stakes are ratcheted up. Brennan works to get more clues from Epps. Booth suffers extreme angst, blaming himself for Cam's poisoning. I alternate between chewing off my fingernails and sliding off the chaise into a puddle of Booth-angst induced goo. His scenes by Cam's hospital bed are lovely, as are his scenes with Parker, showing us a vulnerability we don't often get to see. The third act break, with the booby-trapped body of Epps' wife, makes me flail, and the beginning of the fourth act, with the planted news story, doesn't help, as I have not read spoilers and for a couple of seconds they almost have me fooled. Darn them...

In any case, in the end Cam is snatched back from the brink of death, and Brennan outsmarts Epps. Epps takes a dive off Brennan's balcony, though Booth tries to save him. Shaken by what happened to Cam, Booth decides to end their relationship. Which, though not unexpected, is kind of too bad, because I thought she was a good match for him.

It's also too bad that this episode proved to be Epps' swan song. "The Man on Death Row" and "The Blonde in the Game" were both very well-done episodes, and tonight's installment was one of the best this show has produced so far. With that track record, Epps will be missed as a nemesis. On the other hand, dragging his storyline out too much longer might have seemed forced.

With all that said--and yes, this was a really good episode--there were a couple of bobbles. I was particularly underwhelmed by the portrayal of Epps' mother. I mean, come on--serial killer has an obese, overly fundamentalist mother? Could we be more of a sterotype? She was a drop-in character--it wouldn't have taken much to tweak her short scene enough to push it out of the oh-so-very-obvious. Also, with Zack suggesting an X-ray of the head only a few lines before Cam makes the decision to go ahead and slice it open, this plot point is undermined a bit. Even with Booth pressuring her because of the threat to Parker, it seems unrealistic that she wouldn't go ahead and use the X-ray. It wouldn't have slowed them down much, and could have still led to her slicing it open and catching the faceful of poison.

Did I mention I've really missed this show?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

House—One Day, One Room

Cuddy totally owns House's ass now, as House is sent to clinic duty. House is bored silly and obnoxious in his House-like way, until Cuddy makes a bet with him concerning how many patients he can diagnose without actually touching them. Out of the stint in the clinic comes a rape victim who for some reason wants to bond with House, and a cancer patient, treated by Cameron, who insists he must die in pain in order to be remembered.

This was a strange episode, and not just because of the major departure from the usual Nearly Unsolvable Medical Mystery plot. It seemed to be overly focused on navel-gazing and philosophizing, in an on-the-nose manner that's atypical for this show. Departures in a show aren't always a bad thing--often they allow the actors to stretch and take their characters places they wouldn't normally go. But in this case the episode struck me as less of a show than what we normally get from House, with all the usual layers of characterization and clever writing peeled away to leave behind a didactic mess. The writers finally rallied at the end, giving us some nice moments with Cameron and House and their respective patients, but it wasn't quite enough to save the episode as a whole. Kudos to the writing team, though, for at least trying something different.

Day Break Now Online

Four additional episodes of Day Break are now available at ABC's website, along with the episodes that were originally aired last year.

And in other good news, the ABC player decided to behave itself tonight, so hopefully I'll be able to watch these. I caught "What if They Are Not Alone" tonight and enjoyed it very much. More on the additional episodes of Day Break later.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Heroes—The Fix

Here's a question, as we view the Previously On Heroes bit--I don't think it's been explicitly stated, but does Claire not feel pain? She must not, because otherwise I don't think she'd be so eager to jump off buildings.

In many ways, this episode was more filler than anything else, mostly just putting characters into place for whatever story bits are set to come next. It's a credit to the writers that they managed to produce an entertaining episode in spite of that handicap, and that they managed to squeeze in a bit of airtime for just about every major character. I think the only folks we didn't see tonight were Isaac and Simone.

Based on his dreams, Peter seems convinced that Dr. Who Invisible Guy is meant to mentor him, though Invisible Guy begs to differ. Searching for his brother, Nathan ends up teamed with Mohinder, who seems to think some research and possibly some genetic manipulation can keep Peter from making New York go boom. Unfortunately this seems more like a long-range plan than an immediate solution, so Peter is understandably skeptical.

In prison, Niki's being held in a padded room. A psychiatrist says she can help--Niki obviously has multiple personality disorder, and just needs the shrink to talk to Jessica. Niki feels this is a very bad idea, but agrees when the psychiatrist invokes Micah as a bargaining chip. In the meantime, DL is having a hard time getting by, unable to get a job, and unable to get Micah to not be a twerp. Micah, however, can do the whammy on the ATM machine, which seems to be one of the more useful skills possessed by his family.

Matt struggles to explain his powers to his wife. His attempts to hunt down Bennett lead to his being put on suspension. So now he's unemployed, telepathic, has problems with his plumbing, and his wife is pregnant. (I meant that plumbing thing literally--obviously his "plumbing" is fine... never mind.)

Hiro and Ando continue on their quest to retrieve the samurai sword from Linderman. They're grabbed by thugs who take them off to their secret headquarters. Apparently somebody has been keeping an eye on Hiro, and wants him to stop using his powers. The somebody, the Big Boss, proves to be Hiro's father, who looks remarkably like Lieutenant Sulu from Star Trek. Probably because it's George Takei. And, for the first time, Hiro looks really intimidated by someone. (Best line of the night... Gulp!)

In Texas, Claire enlists the help of both Zach and the Haitian to dig up information on her biological parents. Zach is reluctant, but falls back into his role as Claire's confidant. The Haitian is even more reluctant, and tries to get her to stop digging. But Claire is persistent. She's told her mother died in a house fire in Kermit, Texas, 14 years ago, presumably a few years too late for her to be one of the Yellow Eyed Demon's kids. That doesn't matter, though, because not only is it the wrong show, her mom's not actually dead, but alive and well, lighting cigarettes with her bare fingers.

In the meantime, Bennett seems to be getting suspicious, but he's got other problems. Back at the "paper factory," they've been experimenting on Sylar, who rudely decides to die in the middle of the proceedings. Except he really didn't, and when Bennett goes back to check on Sylar's corpse, he finds the guard dead. Sylar has escaped. In fact, he's standing right there...

Overall, a well-constructed episode, with some turns I didn't expect. And I have to say I'm really enjoying seeing Christopher Eccleston on my TV again.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Dresden Files—The Boone Identity

This week's episode was a marked improvement from last week's. The storyline seemed to me to be more coherent, and we got some additional background on Harry and his apparently guilt-ridden past. The voiceovers this week sounded more like Harry's voice from the books, and Bob showed a hint of the lecherous streak I expected to see.

We start out with a father who's being tormented by the ghost of his daughter, who was murdered a year ago. Her murderer, Boone, was killed shortly afterward. Harry experiences a vision of the ghost, as well, and begins to puzzle out what the ghost is trying to tell them. As it turns out, the killer was after an ancient Egyptian artifact called the Lock of Anubis, and he's not dead after all, but used the Lock to switch to a new body. Confronted by Harry, Boone ends up possessing Murphy (Valerie Cruz). Harry is forced to use a voodoo doll--dark magic he shouldn't be messing with, says Bob, because the Council will track him down and Bad Things will happen, and if that's not foreshadowing I don't know what is--to gain control of the situation, save Murphy, and send Boone on to the afterworld where he belongs.

Overall, I found this episode much more satisfying than the premiere. The story made more sense, and the writing felt more confident. Harry's starting to show a dark, broody side, which is never a bad thing, and Cruz put in a solid performance as possessed Murphy. If the show continues along these lines, I'll count myself a regular viewer.