Saturday, May 5, 2007

Robin Hood—Peace? Off!

In a rather strangely choreographed opening scene, an apparently crazy guy sets fire to the church. Robin intervenes as the villagers are trying to drown the mysterious stranger. The man has strange tattoos on his body. Djaq claims not to know what they mean, but kind of acts like she does. Robin says he has "Crusader's Sickness," presumably some kind of PTSD. The Merry Men aren't happy about having to look after him.

Robin, et al, find a tipped-over wagon in the woods. (I couldn't decide if the anachronistic language used here when they raved about the wagon was amusing or just painful.) There's a strange mask in it that freaks out Little John and the others, though Robin doesn't seemed bothered. They think it's some sort of black magic, and that there's a sorcerer at the castle.

In the castle, the sheriff entertains a Saracen guest with chilled monkey brains. I mean goat brain. He's the owner of the wagon. I'm not sure why a Middle Eastern type would have to have such weird stuff on the menu. I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant last weekend, and it was all hummus and baba ganouj. Not a goat brain in sight. Falafel must just be too boring for this show.

In any case, Robin eventually abducts him. Turns out he's a prince, coming to offer peace to King John. The "black magic" mask is an acupuncture tool he's brought as a peace offering. And the sheriff of course has no intention of entertaining peace negotiations. Rather, he intends to collect a ransom for the prince. But when another Saracen arrives to retrieve the prince, he has no intention of paying the ransom, and instead he has his own double cross in store. And Robin's traumatized guest proves to have a darker secret than even the other veterans of the Crusades could have imagined.

A few things: Was it just me, or was Guy's attempt to distract the Saracen "rescuer" awfully flirty? Also, the ending of this episode annoyed me. Harold was tortured and made to commit atrocities during the Crusades, apparently while receiving training to become the same kind of assassin as those sent to kill the prince. If he had the same training, then he was able to take out the four of them almost single-handedly why? Because he was a man and they were women? Or was his training supposed to be even darker and more sinister and thorough? Whatever the case, it didn't work for me.

On the other hand, I did like the fact that they've addressed the darker side of the Crusades, which in most Robin Hood stories is still represented as the great and righteous Holy War, or mostly treated as an off-screen plot device. I also like that they've presented the Saracens not only as human, but have also brought into the story some aspects of the greater scientific knowledge prevalent in the Middle East at that time. Although I'm not entirely sure they would have known much about acupuncture... I could be wrong there, though.

Jericho—Coalition of the Willing

While I do enjoy this show, it frustrates me, too. More on that later...

Jake, Eric, Hawkins and Heather return to Jericho with news of what happened in New Bern. At the same time, a mysterious figure approaches the borders of Jericho. He's come from New Bern with a message from Constantino. You know, if some mysterious guy wandered in and didn't say anything (and what was up with that? Could they not pay him to say, "Hi, I'm from New Bern, here's a radio?"), under the circumstances I'd probably shoot him, or at least incapacitate him. I thought that radio was going to blow up and take half the cast with it. Anyway, Constantino wants Jericho to surrender to New Bern.

As usual, Gray and Johnston have a difference of opinion about how this should be handled. The deadline is allowed to run down, and New Bern starts dropping mortars on Jericho. Gail is injured in the first blast. New Bern gives them a new deadline to hand over the 7 farms they want, and says they'll continue to shell Jericho until the town gives in. Stanley and some others go out to find the source of the mortars. Another altercation ensues regarding how to handle the reconnaissance. Gray orders them to take out the men guarding the mortars, against Johnston's recommendations. Stanley's end of the radio connection goes quiet just in time for a commercial break.

After the break, Stanley returns, the only survivor of the reconnaissance expedition. The timeframe here isn't clear, nor is it clear how Stanley could get back when nobody else did. But it of course shows us once again that Gray is the less competent of the two mayors. You know, just in case we forgot.

Jake and Emily go out on horseback to follow up on the unsuccessful reconnaissance. Eric catches up with them--there's a truck on the way to Jericho from New Bern. The boys catch up with the truck--yes, they're still on horseback--while Hawkins takes potshots at it. A motorcycle gang shows up, then a guy in a car. It's Emily's dad, whom we haven't seen for quite some time, this time coming to the rescue. Or maybe not, because he's not pleased with the way Jericho treated him earlier in the season. He does want Emily to go with him, though. She refuses, then bargains with him to get him to help them.

Hawkins takes his family into his super secret basement room. He and Darcy reconcile and smooch in the safe room while the kids are in the less safe room. This bugged me. A lot. They should have had their chat in the less safe room and left the kids in the safe room under the circumstances.

Dale offers to defend a local's farm in return for the farm itself. He recruits an army of refugees to help him out. If they successfully defend the farm, it'll belong to all of them, giving them a permanent stake in Jericho. Johnston approaches them, asking them to help defend the entire town. Dale bargains for more territory in Jericho, but Johnston walks off before that little conversation is finished. Apparently assuming, as usual, that everyone will eventually agree with him.

Jake and Emily return with their newly recruited army of miscreants. At the same time, Gray has arranged to turn over the farms New Bern demanded. Eric confronts Gray. Weapons are drawn on both sides, resulting in a standoff. Gray seems to be having a bit of a breakdown. Eric convinces him to negotiate to buy some time for Johnston and the others.

Johnston arrives in the commandeered truck, Jake and Hawkins and the others in the back of it. It's a Trojan Truck. The New Bern guy driving blows the deal for Johnston, who was stupidly looking out the window instead of keeping an eye on him. A big gun battle ensues, with Jonas' men coming in to mow down everybody in charge of the mortars. Jonas cold-bloodedly kills the wounded driver. And then changes the deal he made with Emily, basically taking all the guns and supplies and leaving the Jericho men with nothing. Well, except for Hawkins' giganamous gun stash. Did we know about this, or is this a big deux ex machina (gun)? Also, what happened to the tank they commandeered a couple of weeks ago? Seems like it'd be useful. Maybe it'll save the day next week?

Back at Jericho, Constantino comes back on the radio. All deals are off, and New Bern is on the way. There's a-goin' to be a war. Just in time for the season finale! Gray asks Johnston for help. They shake hands on that deal. Johnston gathers the town and gives a stirring, heroic speech. Jake and Hawkins pass out the guns.

While the tension and the overall sense of paranoia are escalating, so are the plot holes. Most of this episode hung together fairly well in spite of them, but the time lapse during the commercial break after Stanley's moment of Dramatic Radio Silence really didn't work for me. And I know the thing about Darcy and Hawkins and the kids is probably a personal pet peeve, but it really made me want to hit them with a stick.

Anyway, the season finale promises to be explosive (literally...), and so far it looks like there's a renewal in the offing--all good things.

Foo Fighters--Times Like These
Foo Fighters - One by One - Times Like These

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Supernatural—What Is and What Should Never Be

Wow. Just... wow. Just when I think this show can't get any better, they air another episode and raise the bar again. This episode took several threads that have been running through the season and wove them together to heartwrenching perfection, as Dean was forced to choose between the life he thinks he wants and the life he feels he's stuck with.

The monster of the week proves to be a djinn--and a damn creepy one, with crazy tattoos, glowy blue eyes and funky teeth. As Sam says, not like Barbara Eden in harem pants. (I find it amusing that Dean has the hots for women in all the shows I used to watch after school. Daphne... Jeannie...) Dean decides to go after it on his own. (Dean! That is never a good idea! What are you thinking?) In any case, he tracks the djinn to an abandoned building, and it corners him and lays blue glowy hands on him. That can't be good.

Dean wakes up in bed next to a woman. Then he puts his shirt back on for no really good reason (I consider that a plot hole), and calls Sam. Dean doesn't know where he is. And for good reason--apparently he's in an alternate universe where he has a cool TV and wakes up next to a hot chick named Carmen on a regular basis. And Sam is still studying law. Dean's in Lawrence, Kansas, the old hometown. He's also wearing a different necklace, or at the very least it's on a nicer chain. (I'd like to know what the necklace was, but they never showed a close up. I have to assume, though, that it wasn't the protective amulet he normally wears.)

Freaking Carmen out, Dean runs from his new home and heads for his old home. Where he finds his mother alive and well, and not burning on the ceiling or stranded in the house as a ghost. His father, however, is dead--but of a stroke, and presumably not burning in hell after a deal with a demon. Dean is understandably shaken. When he wakes up the next morning and is still in the alternate universe, he starts to research djinn, trying to work out what has happened to him. Has the djinn granted his dearest wish? Or is something else going on?

Dean falls into his persona in the alternate reality every bit as easily as he's fallen into every other alias he's assumed. And alternate reality Dean isn't the greatest person. It's heartwrenching to me that he accepts this--even says it sounds like him--so easily.

At first, Dean finds lots to love in this new life. Sam is back in law school. Jessica is alive, and she and Sam are engaged. Dean's found a woman who really gets him, he has a normal, everyday job at a garage, and he gets to mow his mom's lawn (with endearingly unadulterated glee). But strange, seemingly dead people keep appearing in odd places, like his closet and the fancy restaurant where they take Mary for her birthday. And worst of all, Sam and Dean are mostly estranged.

It seems to be the latter shift in reality that disconcerts Dean the most. His one wish, that Mary hadn't died, hasn't given him the perfect life he's thought it would. And then there's the kicker--the hundreds of people the Winchesters saved when they became hunters are dead in this world, sacrificed so Dean and Sam can have a "normal" life. Dean is devastated by this. In a scene that had me weeping on my chaise, he talks to his father's grave, wondering why he and his family have had to lose so much.

As it turns out, the alternate world isn't real, but it feels real to Dean. In reality, the djinn has dosed him with some sort of hallucinogen, and is feeding off Dean's blood, as well as the blood of other victims, all hung like slabs of meat from the ceiling of the abandoned building. In the fantasy world, Dean chooses the sacrifice--willingly this time--just before Sam arrives to save him and one of the other victims from the djinn.

Some particularly nice touches--when Dean breaks into Mary's house for the silver, the sequence mirrors Dean's initial arrival in the pilot episode almost exactly--though it's a bit shorter, especially since Sam, being a wuss in this reality, barely fights back. But in spite of their estrangement, Sam tags along with Dean on the djinn hunt, though he doesn't know how to respond when Dean calls him a bitch. Also, Dean still has the Impala, though the license plate is different.

So Dean has, perhaps, finally accepted the burden of his life as a hunter. But even knowing it was the right choice, his scars obviously run deep. And I can't say enough good about Jensen Ackles' performance tonight. Padalecki did a great job, too, though his screen time was severely curtailed.

Led Zeppelin--What Is and What Should Never Be
Led Zepellin - Led Zepellin II: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin - What Is and What Should Never Be

Lynyrd Skynyrd--Saturday Night Special
Lynyrd Skynyrd - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Lynyrd Skynyrd - Saturday Night Special

Joey Ramone--It's a Wonderful World
Joey Ramone - Don't Worry About Me - What a Wonderful World

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bones—Spaceman in a Crater

Tonight's episode was fun but not stellar (no pun intended). The highlight for me was recognizing several of the guest stars from other favorite shows. The story itself was well-served by the unusual occupation of the victim, but I felt the ending was a bit too obvious. And if they're going to have an obvious ending, they should at least have Booth take his shirt off to distract us so we don't notice.

Anyway. A body lands in a cow pasture and makes a crater. I'm not sure what it says about me that that quick opening scene made me laugh myself right off the chaise. Seriously. Hysterical.

The body is really smushed. I mean extremely smushed. Luckily for me, I remembered not to start snacking during the show this week.

Back at the Jeffersonian, everybody feels the need to razz Hodgins about his conspiracy theories involving space people. And then Brennan discovers significant demineralization on this body--enough to indicate the body is either 130 years old, or came from outer space. Hodgins is all over that, but Zack thinks the victim was an astronaut. Since that makes a little more sense than a space alien, Cam decides to go with that theory.

The body's identified as a Colonel Calvin Howard, who spent six months on the International Space Station. Howard had been training other astronauts. They think he might have been tossed out of his own plane. And when they go to look at the plane, PsiCorps shows up--no, wait, wrong show. But it is Andrea Thompson (Talia Winters of Babylon 5) as Equivalent-to-a-General Sandborn.

Booth consults Hodgins as a conspiracy nut expert, while Hodgins asks Booth for advice on proposing to Angela. Apparently he tried this before and it didn't work. Maybe in the episode that was pulled from the schedule, because I don't remember it. Either that or I'm having short-term memory problems again. Booth takes on a straight-to-business attitude when approached with this question--also hysterical.

Hodgins suggests they question Commander Adams (Ian Anthony Dale, Day Break), the astronaut Howard was training to be his replacement. Booth and Brennan interview him on board the Vomit Comet, the zero gee testing plane. Adams insists nobody would want to kill Howard. Booth and Brennan get to be weightless for a while. It strikes me as highly unlikely they'd be blithely allowed on that plane, but Booth looked kinda funny trying to catch his pen.

More strange evidence rolls in. Cal had been planning to fly for the Space Tourism Coalition, an organization made up of alien abductees who want to return to space. Cal had previously sighted something unusual when he was in space, and refused to withdraw a formal report, providing a nice red herring to send us off into government conspiracy land. Then we discover he was undergoing experimental surgery to correct bone loss, and that he was going to attempt to go back into space, taking the mission Adams was being trained for. In the end, it proves to be Adams and his wife who killed Cal, to keep him from supplanting Adams on the mission. See? Kinda too obvious. Maybe we were supposed to not notice because Ian Anthony Dale is hot?

But after that, we're treated to a sweet denouement in which Hodgins proposes to Angela. And she says no. Angela, sweetie, STOP THAT!

Another guest star of note: Lisa Waltz--Cal's wife--played Lauren Kyte in "Shadows," a first season episode of The X-Files.

Next week, the interactive episode, clues to which can be found at

Shane Alexander--Shipwrecked

Shane Alexander - Stargazer - Shipwrecked

Monday, April 30, 2007

Heroes—Five Years Gone

aka "String Theory"

Tonight's episode is set five years in the future, after our Heroes have been unable to stop the destruction of New York City. Hiro and Ando have arrived in Isaac's loft and have found a timeline of the events of the last five years. This turns out to be the work of Hiro himself, or rather his badass future self. He's been trying to figure out where he needs to go to save New York. He's determined that our Hiro needs to go back and kill Sylar on the day of the explosion. When future Hiro tried it, Sylar had Claire's powers and was able to regenerate. A bunch of cops, including Matt and the Haitian, break into the loft and drag Past (Present?) Hiro off. Apparently Future Hiro has a reputation as a terrorist.

In Vegas, Future Hiro and Ando find Peter's girlfriend in a bar, dancing. It turns out to be Niki. Or Jessica. Or whoever the heck she is in this timeframe. She's a little tense--must be Jessica. And it sounds like both DL and Micah are dead. Peter has a big scar on his face. That's kinda hot. Plus--stubble, for the win!

Reading Past Hiro's mind, Matt realizes he doesn't remember the terrorist acts he's being accused of. Nathan--now going by Mr. President--is suspicious about Hiro's sudden apprehension, thinking it's a terrorist trap. Mohinder's working for him, doing scientific research to stop the mutant-types from causing more damage, but more and more of them are showing up. Nathan suggests extinction might be necessary. And Mohinder looks particularly hot tonight, too. I like this future where nobody shaves.

At Primatech Paper, Bennet's putting folks into a mutant protection program. He and Matt have an agreement--Bennet alerts Matt to dangerous mutants, while Matt passes benign folks over to Bennet for protection. Claire is still alive--wait, if she's alive, how did Sylar regenerate? Anyway, she's in a diner in Midland, TX, going by the name of Sandra, and with dark hair which I find much less annoying than her regular hair.

Things just get plain complicated after that. Matt's apprehension of Past Hiro as well as Future Hiro leads him to break off his agreement with Bennet. He goes after Claire, who's about to leave Texas with her boyfriend in only partial defiance of her father's orders, and turns her over to Nathan. Peter wears a long back coat and goes completely badass on everyone. He is just smokin' hot tonight. Partially because he's combed his hair back, but then there's the coat, and the kicking down of doors... Goodness.

In other nice tidbits of future backstory (is that middlestory?), we discover that Matt's arrangement with Bennet has come about at least partially to keep his own wife and son safe, and that Hiro's personality transplant came about because of Ando's death. He's spent the last five years trying to work out how to go back in time to save New York not so much to save New York but to save Ando. Peter has taken on the weight of the world and turned into Broody McBroodster Hottiepants because he was the one who blew up New York, not Sylar. Okay, that's making sense now, given Claire's not-deadness.

Well, not dead yet. Because when Matt turns her over to her dad, we find out Nathan's not Nathan at all. He's Sylar, and he's finally getting his chance to appropriate Claire's powers. He's also decided to kill off the other mutants in the world by giving them a "vaccine" supposedly to "cure" their powers. (Didn't they do that in X3? And Astonishing X-Men? And... Okay, never mind.)

A big showdown ensues as Nathan leads a service commemorating the fifth anniversary of the destruction of New York City. Convinced of Hiro's abilities to go back in time and fix things by panels he's seen from Isaac's comics, Mohinder betrays faux Nathan and uses the "vaccine" on the Haitian. But as they all try to escape, Future Hiro is shot to death as a Peter/Nathan showdown ensues. Ando's usual earnest cheerleading convinces our Hiro he can return them to the past. They manage this just as all hell breaks loose between Peter and Nathan/Sylar. Hiro sees the comic panel of him killing Sylar, and realizes it's up to him now to save the world.

All time paradoxes aside--and, honestly, there's no way to avoid those in time travel stories, so why bother?--this was a stellar episode. I was caught out by plot twists a couple of times, and I really liked the way the episode fit together both on its own and in relationship to the other episodes of the season. The writers really seem to be weaving their story together in a complex yet comprehensible fashion, and that's great to see.

Plus--future Peter? Totally hot.

Goldfrapp--Ooh La La (Niki's pole dance song)
Goldfrapp - Supernature - Ooh La La