29 October 2010

The Vampire Diaries S2 E7 "Masquerade"


Step aside, ladies--the men are scheming.

Spoilers Ahead

Elena is Katherine's doppelganger! Or is it the other way around? Maybe it's something else altogether. There's so much going on in "Masquerade" you almost miss it. But it's a damn fine episode and certainly a turning-point in the season.

We start off with Damon handing Caroline a drink to calm her nerves. The poor girl is freaked after seeing Katherine at The Grill and being ordered to deliver a message to the Salvatores: hand over the moonstone at the masquerade ball or she'll tear the town apart until it rains blood. You know, some people just say please.

One of the things I like about Damon is his intelligence and insight. That comes in handy now as he recognizes that Katherine is acting out of desperation and fear. Realizing this is their opportunity he resolves to kill her at the ball. But apparently he'll have to get in line because Stefan decides he wants to do the honours. And Jeremy, who shows up still in a vengeful mood after Jenna's self-skewering, also wants in on the action. Add Alaric (with all his nifty staking weapons) and a slightly reluctant witch (Bonnie) and you've got a well-oiled Katherine-killing machine. She doesn't stand a chance.

Except she does. It turns out she's got a witch of her own on retainer, and said witch (aka Lucy) gets to be Katherine's plus-one at the masquerade. It seems Katherine doesn't entirely trust the Salvatores. Hey, you don't live hundreds of years by being trusting. She's also planning on attending the ball in the guise of her "dull-as-dishwater doppelganger," Elena (who is too busy staying out of Katherine's way and nursing a recuperating Jenna to attend). May I also just say how amusing I found it that Katherine feels the need to straighten her hair in order to impersonate Elena. Because, you know, if anyone saw Elena with curly hair the first thing they would think is "evil double!" And it's not like it's a costume party or anything. Silliness.

Besides, she shouldn't have even bothered with her hair--the masks worn at the ball are not flattering, particularly to longer tresses. Now we know why masquerades went out of fashion. But Katherine's got more important things on her mind--like confirming with a compelled Matt that he's going to get Ty drunk, pick a fight, and not let up until Ty kills him. Matt dutifully gets the whiskey flowing with Ty, as well as the two girls Ty was hanging out with a couple of episodes ago: Amy (who has a crush on Matt) and Sarah (who likes Ty even though he accidentally knocked her down the stairs).

Meanwhile, our intrepid hunters have also arrived and are setting their plan in motion. Jeremy and Bonnie head upstairs; Caroline wanders off on her own; Alaric is staying at Elena's to keep an eye on her in case Katherine shows up there; and Damon and Stefan strengthen their resolve before splitting up.

Bonnie's got a lot of angst over being a witch ("it never ends well" for people like her). She's also got some major issues with continually being drawn into vampire activities. But as she tells Jeremy, she can't stay out of it because she doesn't want anyone else getting hurt. Talk about putting the world's problems on yourself. I see many years of therapy in Bonnie's future. But I digress. As she and Jeremy head through the crowded room, she suddenly senses something (a presence she has not felt in many years?) Approaching Lucy, Bonnie asks if she knows her. Of course Lucy says no and walks away, but now the witches are on to each other.

Elsewhere, Katherine forces Stefan into dancing with her ('if you don't, I'll hurt someone.') To be honest, I was paying so much attention to the song used in this scene (a great cover by Cruel Black Dove of the Psychedelic Furs' song "Love My Way") that I almost missed what was going on in the scene. But basically Katherine tells Stefan that if he hands over the moonstone no one will get hurt. Stefan insists that they have to go together to retrieve it. Just then Amy comes by looking for Matt and compliments "Elena" on her outfit. Katherine offers to fix Amy's necklace, which she claims has become twisted. The next thing we know she's broken Amy's back. Then she breaks Amy's neck. Kudos to the writers--once again, I didn't see it coming. I love it when I can't predict what's going to happen, and this show never disappoints. Anyway, Katherine hands Amy's body to Stefan and tells him to bring her the moonstone if he doesn't want more blood on his hands.

As all this is happening the real Elena has figured out that something's up--and she wants to know what. Pretending to be going to bed she sneaks out and heads over to the ball.

At the party Stefan thinks they should forget about killing Katherine in light of Amy's murder, but pragmatic Damon calls it collateral damage and insists they still go through with their plan. He texts Jeremy a single word: Now. Jeremy approaches Katherine and tells her to meet Stefan and Damon by the lake. As he prepares to text the next person, Elena arrives, demanding to know what's going on.

As Caroline gazes at Matt from afar (it's not creepy--it's romantic!), she gets a text telling her it's her turn. She starts heading outside and lo and behold, here comes Katherine. Amid many protests and tears, Caroline finally admits that Bonnie has the moonstone, and that she's upstairs in a certain room. As Katherine enters said room Caroline's tears turn to laughter. Turns out her role was to lure Katherine to the room where she is now magically trapped. Enter Stefan with a stake. As Katherine scoffs at him, Damon appears through a doorway behind her and, using a nifty gun that shoots stakes, sends one into her back.

Outside, Elena suddenly screams and lurches forward. A patch of blood appears on her back in the exact spot Katherine was just staked. Interesting. In the room, Stefan stakes Katherine in the arm of all places (to her credit, she's putting up a good fight). Outside, Elena screams again and her arm starts bleeding. Bonnie realizes what's happening and sends Jeremy upstairs to stop Stefan and Damon while she tries to ease Elena's pain.

There's a pretty decent fight going upstairs, with both guys trying to end the much older and stronger Katherine. She manages to turn Damon's hand toward himself and is about to make him stake himself when Stefan lunges at her and pins her down while Damon gets ready to finally stake the bitch. I really wanted him to too, never mind Elena (don't want to know what that says about me) but Jeremy stops him just in time. It turns out Lucy wove a connection spell between Katherine and Elena, so that anything done to Katherine would also happen to Elena (Katherine claims that Elena feels everything she feels--does that include emotions, as well?) To drive the point home, Katherine starts hurting herself just to make Elena suffer. Damon (not Stefan, interestingly) stops her. She demands the moonstone.

Outside again, Bonnie runs off to find Lucy while Jeremy stays with Elena. He offers her his immortality ring, seeing as how she needs it at the moment so much more than he does. We don't see whether she actually takes it, though, so it's just something to keep in mind for now.

In our other major storyline, Matt, Ty, and Sarah are still hanging out and drinking in Ty's dad's office. Suddenly Matt starts antagonizing Ty, insulting his dead father, pouring alcohol over a family photo. At first Ty shows a lot of restraint, but a guy can only take so much. Just as it's about to come to blows, Caroline shows up and separates them. When it becomes clear Matt isn't backing down she neatly knocks him out with an elbow to the face. Preoccupied, neither she nor Ty notices Sarah. Approaching Ty slowly, Sarah says something about Matt failing--and if Matt fails she can't. Katherine is truly thorough. Before he realizes what's happening, Sarah stabs Ty in the shoulder and he reacts by pushing her away hard. Her head hits the desk, also hard. A little too hard. Werewolf curse: activated! Ty should have known: If you could avoid it that easily, it wouldn't be a curse.

Back upstairs, Katherine is still waiting for the moonstone while the guys sit by helplessly. Stefan finally figures out that Katherine originally gave the moonstone to George Lockwood in exchange for him helping her fake her death and escaping. And it only took him 136 years to catch on! But then he starts asking why Katherine faked her death and who is she running from.

My SO mentioned that this scene bothers him because Katherine just sits quietly with the guys, reminiscing and waiting for the moonstone to be delivered, rather than making them suffer, knowing they can't hurt her back for fear of hurting Elena. Good point. One could argue that the Salvatores could just leave the room (unlike Katherine) if they needed to, but you'd think she'd at least try to get a little revenge torment in. At least on Damon if not the supposed love of her life, Stefan. Seems like a wasted opportunity for a so-called big bad. Did she miss that chapter in Supervillainy for Dummies?

Anyway, Bonnie finally finds Lucy and confronts her about the connection spell. Lucy doesn't want to fight. She'll break the spell if they give Katherine the moonstone, but otherwise she's not willing to help out. When Bonnie won't let her walk away she admits that she owes Katherine; otherwise, she'd have nothing to do with her. This time Bonnie grabs her to keep her from leaving the room and then suddenly Bonnie gets a goofy look on her face as Lucy tells her she can trust her and she should hand over the moonstone. A moment later Lucy arrives upstairs with the stone, which she promptly hands over to Katherine.

As Katherine takes hold of the stone she starts choking, soon collapsing. Lucy assures Damon and Stefan that Elena is fine--the connection spell has been broken. She then tells Katherine off for pitting her against a Bennett witch. Apologizing to the guys for her involvement, she turns and leaves. Which leaves us wondering if Katherine's suffering is real or if this is another attempt at faking her own death. I thought Stefan and Damon should have staked her just to be sure.

Before Lucy can get too far, Bonnie catches up with her and asks her what happened. It turns out Lucy is another Bennett--a distant cousin or something (she explained it but all I heard was my mother's aunt twice-removed was your father's sister's brother's grandma...) That's why Bonnie knew she could trust Lucy. Seems a little lame to me--plenty of people can't trust their relatives, let alone ones they've never met before, but maybe there's a Bennett witch code of honour or something. Bonnie doesn't want Lucy to leave, but Lucy claims she needs to get away from all things vampire. Now Bonnie, on the other hand, is apparently good people and needs to be in the middle of the vampires. But not to worry, Lucy lets her know we'll be seeing more of her. I could have done without the whole long-lost relative subplot. As well as the apparent romance that seems to be developing between Jeremy and Bonnie. Meh.

Back to Caroline et al., Caroline's stowed Matt away in her car and is telling Mrs. Lockwood an abridged version of what happened to Sarah. The sheriff is on the way and the adults already believe Sarah's death was simply a tragic accident (well, I guess technically it was, but you know what I mean). Ty is upset and confused. He tries to tell Caroline she doesn't really know what's going on, but Caroline lets him know that yeah, she really does. Whether she comes out of the coffin remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Stefan's happiness at vanquishing the evil ex evaporates pretty quickly when he realizes Elena still doesn't want to get back together with him. She claims she does, but not until she knows that she and the people she loves are safe. I guess that's sensible or something. Just how love should (not) be.

And what has happened to Katherine, you ask? Unfortunately, the guys didn't stake her. Instead, she wakes up in the tomb and quickly discovers she's trapped there, as she was in the room. Damon arrives and lets her know she's where she should have been all along. As he starts sealing her in, she gets frantic, claiming that Elena is her doppelganger and needs to be protected. Damon's response is that he'll protect her. Katherine panics in earnest now, and as she desperately screams "you need me" he finishes sealing her in. Then he walks away. I think I might have said it before but hell hath no fury like a vampire scorned.

I don't know if everyone else is too busy or self-absorbed or what, but for whatever reason no one sees fit to escort the healing-but-still-hurting Elena home. So just as she finishes telling Jeremy she's feeling better and heading home, a masked figure comes out of the shadows. A moment later, Elena's been kidnapped.

Like I said earlier: is Elena really a doppelganger? If she is, what does that mean exactly? If she isn't, what the hell is she? Why would anyone go after her and what would that do to Katherine? And who is Katherine running from, anyway? And why? Oh, Vampire Diaries--how completely you have sucked me in.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human, until the vampire emerges, then dark eyes and facial veins, and prominent fangs.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, hearing. Quick healing. Ability to compel humans. Above average skills in tormenting.

Weaknesses: Stakes, witchcraft, overconfidence.

Mythology: One of them may or may not have (or be) a doppelganger.

Sound Bites

Damon: [urging Caroline to relate Katherine's message] Skip the teen drama--get to it.

Katherine: Does Elena enjoy having both of you worship at her altar?

Katherine: You should have killed me.
Damon: Death would have been too kind.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 7 "Masquerade." Written by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec. Directed by Charles Beeson. From The CW.

27 October 2010

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

It's funny how, even though I haven't enjoyed most of the Sookie Stackhouse books, I still crave them when I've finished one. I think I've finally figured out the secret to Charlaine Harris's success: she's created the equivalent of literary crack. You know it's bad but you still want more. Luckily, I thought From Dead to Worse was actually pretty good.

For a start (literally), From Dead to Worse had the best beginning of any of the books in the series so far. It's interesting, it draws you right into the story, and it also catches you up on past events without too much repetition or dull exposition. After reading it, I couldn't wait to get to the rest of the book (in fact, I ended up having trouble putting it down).

As usual, there's plenty going on. The Shreveport weres get involved in a war, and not all of them make it (RIP to a character I liked, although not naming names). The war itself is anti-climactic (that happens a lot in the SS books), but there's a cool bit involving Sam.

Sookie gets to meet her fae great grandfather, Niall. I like him. And I like Joe Maganiello (Alcide on True Blood)'s tweet that he'd love David Bowie to play Niall even more. That would be perfect casting. I wonder if an online petition would help? Speaking of long-lost relatives, Sookie also ends up meeting Hadley's young son and, it turns out, fellow telepath. We'll definitely be seeing more of him.

Louisiana is subjected to a hostile takeover by Nevada's vamps and their King, Felipe de Castro (side, possibly interesting, note: castro means castle in Greek). This one is also incredibly anti-climactic. Suffice to say that Eric and Pam make it through okay, although Sophie Anne meets the true death (alas). And Sookie definitely benefits later, when she saves the new King (and Eric); the King repays her by offering her the formal protection of the vampires of Louisiana/Arkansas/Nevada. That protection, along with being a friend of the Shreveport were pack and a beloved relative of a fae prince makes Sookie one powerful telepath, although I don't think she understands that just yet (I hope she won't be all humble and Southern about it).

By the way, I really like Pam. I like her a lot on the show, but I think she's fantastic in the book. Not only does she show up at one point in an Alice-in-Wonderland-esque dress, but she's into embroidery. She's also been known to prove herself deadly in battle. That is my kind of girl.

And Eric has really grown on me to the point where I finally understand the whole cult of devoted fans thronging to him. I can't even put my finger on what exactly is appealing about him, but Sookie had better finally succumb to his charms in the next book. At least they've got that blood bond working for them.

As for the other men in Sookie's life, after he disappears for a good chunk of the book, Sookie breaks up with Quinn. I never liked him all that much so yay for that. And Bill is trying to woo Sookie back. Anyone else thinking she should just go for three-way relationship with him and Eric? Just me, then? I still like Bill so I'm curious to see if anything comes of his efforts (Sookie swears she's done with him but there's an air of protesting too much around it). Oh, and Jason makes himself completely unlikeable so that even Sookie tells him she never wants to see him again. I'm glad he's not quite as big an ass on the show.

There's more too, but you can read it for yourself. I do feel the need to specially mention the cover, as well. You can't see it in the photo above but Sookie's dress and the lightning are glittery and textured. It's a small touch, but a nice one, and it makes this cover that much more interesting than the previous ones. Go, girly glitter!

It's a little difficult to get too enthused about this book because there's a good chance the next one will be craptacular, but if all the Sookie Stackhouse books were like From Dead to Worse, Charlaine Harris would have a devoted fan in me.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with prominent fangs that extend or retract at will (they also tend to extend when a vampire is angry or excited). Vampires also emit a soft glow, although apparently only Sookie can see it. Some have glowing eyes, as well.

Strengths: Super strength, speed, hearing, vision. Ability to glamour humans. Some can fly or have other special talents. Ability to move silently.

Weaknesses: Silver, other vampires. A wounded vampire will usually heal, but in the meantime they're weak and easy targets.

Mythology: Vampire society is hierarchical with territories presided over by Sheriffs and Kings or Queens. Territories can merge through marriage or by killing the reigning monarch.

Text Bite

[Sookie] If this was The Lord of the Rings and I had a smart British voice like Cate Blanchett, I could tell you the background of the events of that fall in a really suspenseful way. And you'd be straining to hear the rest.
But what happened in my little corner of northwest Louisiana wasn't an epic story. The vampire war was more of the nature of a small-country takeover, and the Were war was like a border skirmish. Even in the annals of supernatural America--I guess they exist somewhere--they were minor chapters...unless you were actually involved in the takeovers and skirmishes.
Then they were pretty damn major.

Want to see what I had to say about the previous books?

Dead until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).

21 October 2010

The Vampire Diaries S2 E6 "Plan B"


Spoilers Ahead

How can something so awesome be so much trouble? Or maybe he's awesome because he is so much trouble. I'm talking about Damon (as if there was any doubt). And I'll get back to him in a minute.

"Plan B" opens with Stefan and Elena in bed. They're being cute and affectionate, as couples sickeningly in love tend to be. Suddenly the camera cuts to another room, this time featuring Mason and Katherine cavorting in bed. There are some nice juxtapositions as the camera cuts between the two couples, and at the end of the scene their words echo one another's, the main one being "promise." I guess no one told any of them they shouldn't make promises they can't keep.

I'm still convinced Elena and Katherine are the same person, by the way. I haven't worked out all the details but we still haven't seen the two of them together with anyone else there. Elena got a phone call from Katherine this episode, but we don't know that Katherine was really on the other end. She could easily have compelled Jenna into picking up the phone at a certain time (I can't remember hearing it ring) and believing someone was on the other end asking for Elena. Either that or someone's been experimenting with cloning technology. Just saying...

Anyway, Damon gets a visit from Jeremy and while he's not too impressed to see him, Jeremy's plea to help with the Lockwood werewolf situation finally wins him over. It does make for an amusing running gag (although I'm not sure it's intentional) as everyone asks what Jeremy is doing with Damon. Alaric is first when he shows up with a boxful of Isobel's research, freshly arrived courtesy of former assistant Vanessa. It's apocryphal but there's a chance the moonstone Mason was so desperate to find can be used to break the werewolf curse. But then the big question becomes why Katherine would want it

Just about everyone else is involved in this week's big event: preparing for the upcoming charity masquerade ball. Mystic Falls is one active little town. Bonnie and Elena are there and they end up having a long conversation about the big V-shaped wedge that's come between them recently. Maybe if Bonnie is so concerned about losing her friends she shouldn't be quite so judgmental.

But speaking of the wedge, Caroline visits her mom, still holed up in the Salvatores' basement, waiting for the vervain to clear out of her system (see last episode). At first Liz wants to keep pretending that Caroline no longer exists, but then she relents and starts asking questions. I guess vampires don't seem so bad when your daughter turns out to be one.

Back at masquerade central, Mason is surprised to see Stefan alive and well. Stefan lets him know that from now on Mason will have to do his own dirty work. As Mason's hurrying out of there he brushes against Bonnie, who ends up having a vision of him and "Elena" kissing. Stefan sees something's up and after Bonnie tells him what she saw, he makes the connection that the werewolf is working with Katherine.

Damon arrives looking to fill Stefan in on the moonstone situation and instead gets the news about Katherine and Mason. After finding out that Mason already has the moonstone, the guys approach Bonnie for help in what could be their one chance to beat Katherine at her own game. Bonnie, vampire lover that she is, doesn't want to help, but ultimately gives in in the face of logic and being asked nicely.

Interestingly, in her conversation with Damon, Bonnie admits that the blinding headaches she induces in vampires are actually multiple aneurysms--as soon as the vampire heals from the first one, she sends along another. That seems pretty sadistic for someone who claims to be morally superior. But it turns out she can do the same thing to anyone, and those who heal quickly (supernatural types) will survive. Bonnie puts the whammy on Mason so that Damon can knock him out. Then Damon puts Mason is his own truck and they drive off. It's a pretty effective plan. By the time Mason wakes up he's chained to a chair in the Salvatores' living room. Damon even had time to cover the carpet (you know, to protect it from stains).

Downstairs, Caroline is still chatting with her mom. I was glad to hear that Caroline is off the bunny diet Stefan had her on. That just seems so wrong. Instead she's pilfering blood from Damon who steals it from the hospital (you'd think the hospital would have better security). As Bonnie is leaving (after getting a vision of a well from Mason, but before the beginning of the torture), Caroline runs upstairs to say hi. Caroline seems harmless enough but Bonnie still wants to keep her distance. But then she has a change of heart and asks Caroline to join her in looking for the moonstone at the well. She also texts Stefan to let him know about the well. As he takes off to look for the moonstone, Elena--who's been twitchy all day because she's not in the loop--abandons their facade of not getting along and runs after him.

I have to applaud The Vampire Diaries for not holding back or shying away from difficult scenes. I'm sure most parents' groups would vehemently disagree with me but their opinions interest me about as much as calculus. Maybe less. But when Damon starts torturing Mason, the scene is not for the weak. I actually wonder how the actors got through it (I imagine with a sense of humour). Without getting into too much detail the torture involves red-hot pokers and wolfsbane (which is the werewolf equivalent of vervain). And while Damon keeps questioning Mason about Katherine and her plans, Mason's remaining quiet on the topic. Pretty impressive for a surfer.

At the well, Stefan easily removes the cover and jumps in. Only to discover he's trapped in a well full of vervain. Ouch. Elena starts panicking but luckily Caroline hears her and comes running, vampire-style. She lowers Elena into the well on a heavy chain and by the time she reaches Stefan he's not looking too pretty anymore. As Caroline pulls Stefan up Elena takes a minute to search for the moonstone. She finds it, along with at least two snakes. The scene that follows is strange: a big deal is made of the snakes, but Elena manages to get out without a bite despite her close proximity to them. Then again, if she's Katherine I guess a snakebite won't be much of an issue (and don't forget, we found out in "Memory Lane" that Katherine is immune to vervain...)

Back at Damon's House of Torture, Mason finally admits that he's getting the moonstone for Katherine so she can break his werewolf curse. When Damon asks why she would do that, Mason answers that she loves him. Damon's response is nice--he laughs and claims that now he gets it--Mason is stupid. Pretty much what we're all thinking, I'm sure. At this point Damon is done with Mason. Realizing Damon intends to kill Mason, Jeremy tries to argue that he should be let go. In a flash, Damon's on Jeremy reminding him that right now it's kill or be killed and Jeremy needs to either suck it up or leave. He then makes the unexpected observation that Mason wants Damon to kill him, that being a werewolf really is a curse to him. Mason doesn't contradict him. Jeremy leaves, looking disgusted, and the next thing we know Damon rips Mason's heart out. With his bare hands. Was not expecting that.

After the excitement at the well, Elena heads home while Caroline returns to her mom and tells her all about what happened. Liz is amazed that Caroline has become so strong and confident. She tells her that Damon doesn't need to compel her--she'll keep Caroline's secret. It's a nice idea but Caroline knows her mom will never trust the others, so she compels Liz herself, including some admirable detail-work. Caroline has clearly found her calling.

Meanwhile Stefan returns with the stone as Damon is texting the mayor's wife (Mason's sister-in-law) from Mason's phone to say he's heading back to Florida long-term and he'll send for his things. Being a known flake makes this story believable. But Damon can't resist calling the last number dialled and gloating to Katherine about killing Mason and stealing the moonstone. The smirk gets wiped off his face, though, when Katherine informs him that he should know she's always a step ahead, that she's got a plan B and C and D...

As Elena and Alaric chat in her kitchen, Jenna speaks to someone on the phone and then hands it to Elena, saying it's for her. It turns out to be Katherine. She's calling to let Elena know how easy it was to get into her house, to destroy all of Jenna's vervain and make Jenna her spy. And to convince Jenna that the world would be better off without her. In the background Jenna suddenly stabs herself with a rather massive knife. At the hospital it turns out Jenna was lucky and will recover, but Elena is rattled and Jeremy is vengeful. In fact, Elena is so rattled she heads over to Stefan's and breaks up with him for real--it's the only way to get Katherine to leave her alone. Of course it's extra tragic because she still loves him, and Stefan sheds more than a few tears. Vampire hearts are so easily broken.

Damon is upset too, showing it probably for the first time ever. As Elena is leaving he stops her and tries to put the blame on himself--he should have known better. But Elena says it doesn't matter--Katherine won.

Katherine, on the other hand, doesn't agree. She's busy compelling Matt. See, she needs a new werewolf so Matt is to go after Ty and not stop until Ty kills him. That's a creepy moment and I can't help but worry for Matt, a character I'm not normally particularly fond of.

This was a brutal episode--dark and stomach-churning and sad. And I loved it. The Katherine-Elena mystery deepens and every week I'm left wondering what's going to happen next. Just when you think nothing more can be done with vampires, along comes a show like this. Well done.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then dark eyes and facial veins and sharp fangs.

Strengths: Super strength, speed, hearing. Ability to compel humans. Super fast healing. Strong stomachs.

Weaknesses: Vervain, witchcraft.

Mythology: Basic vampire nature is the instinct and desire to kill, but it can be controlled.

Sound Bites

Stefan: You're staring.
Elayna: I'm gazing.
Stefan: It's creepy.
Elayna: It's romantic.

Mason: What happens when I give you the moonstone?
Katherine: We'll live happily ever after. I promise.

Damon: [after finding out that Katherine is involved with Mason] Mason Lockwood? Werewolf thing aside, the guy's a surfer.

Mason: I love her.
Damon: Oh, I know. I've been where you are. Katherine will only rip out your heart. Let me do it for her.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 6 "Plan B." Written by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. Directed by John Behring. From The CW.

14 October 2010

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

I'm not sure it's possible for a book series to jump the shark, but if it is Charlaine Harris has managed it with All Together Dead.

She didn't do it with her new continuity person, who showed their incompetence within the first few chapters.

She didn't do it with her resumption of endless mundane detail.

She didn't do it when Sookie and Quinn finally had sex (that was more or less okay).

She didn't even do it with Jason's last-minute wedding to were-panther Crystal. Or Russell Edgington's surprise wedding to the King of Indiana. Or Tara's unexpected nuptials with J.B. du Rone (do you see a pattern here?)

The book takes place post-Katrina, with the Queen of Louisiana seriously down on her luck and the Louisiana vampires reduced in numbers (again thanks to Katrina). I just want to interject a moment to say I think including Katrina ended up being a mistake. The idea that vampires have come out of the coffin and into human society works in the context of 'sometime in the near future' or 'vague alternate universe'. But when you link the storyline to a major contemporary event, it throws the reader out of the story. We know vampires aren't out in our world, we know they didn't suffer during Katrina; suddenly I can't lose myself in the story anymore. And after all, what else is the point of books like these?

Anyway, the Louisiana vampire contingent are determined to put on a display of strength and solidarity at the upcoming vampire conference in Illinois, which is where most of the book takes place. Sookie is being forced by the Queen to go, although she's appeased by the large sum of money she'll be receiving as payment. Once they arrive, Harris unleashes what seems to be the usual pattern of events for her books: dullness followed by multiple crises and interspersed with a few enjoyable moments.

It's at the conference when the proverbial shark is jumped. Harris introduces a pair of Britlingens, uber bodyguards from another dimension (as well as from some of her other books/stories). In this case they've been hired to guard the King of Kentucky. I'm not opposed to crossovers among characters/universes--in principle. But I have a problem with this crossover. First, I don't particularly like the Britlingens or their universe (we were first introduced in Must Love Hellhounds and I was less than impressed). Second, their inclusion comes off as forced, as though Harris felt the need to just put them in somewhere. Lastly, are vampires, weres, witches, fairies, and demons not enough; do we really need to be bringing in extra-dimensional characters? It's just getting silly at this point. The fact that they were given a larger role in the story than they merited didn't help, either. All this adds up to one massive fail.

Add to that a few plot holes (why would the bad guys alert the vampires to the presence of unclaimed coffins in the basement if the coffins are full of explosives and meant to stay in the basement anyway?), Sookie's inexplicable (and annoying) aversion to Eric, and the utter uselessness of the vampires (who apparently can't put two and two together without Sookie to show them how) and you've got one unsatisfying book. I think it's safe to say that most, if not all, the regular readers of this series are more interested in the Sookie-Eric dynamic than anything else. And yet, seven books in, we still remain unsatisfied. Meanwhile we're forced to read play-by-plays of bridal showers and minutiae about countless minor characters. I think it's time Charlaine Harris and her editors realize that the Sookie Stackhouse universe has bigger things than the weather to worry about.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with long, sharp fangs that extend when they're excited or hungry. Some have eyes that glow. Their skin also glows, although only Sookie can see it (so far).

Strengths: Super speed, strength, ability to move silently. Every vampire has a gift: some can fly, some are skilled with swords, and some have an unusually strong and loving connection with their "children."

Weaknesses: Hurricanes, sunlight, stakes, fire, explosives, decapitation, obliviousness.

Mythology: The more a human drinks from a vampire (and vice-versa) the closer a human becomes to being a vampire. Repeated blood exchanges also end up forming increasingly strong bonds where the vampire and human can sense each other and care about each other (whether they want to or not).

Text Bite

Eric: Do you love him?
Sookie: Don't know yet.
Eric: Did you love me?
...Eric waited...
Sookie: Maybe. Sort of. But I knew all along that whoever was with me, it wasn't the real you. And I knew sooner or later you'd remember who you were and what you were.

Want to see what I had to say about the previous books?

Dead until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).

13 October 2010

Moonlight S1 E10 "Sleeping Beauty"

Spoilers Ahead

I think Moonlight missed the mark in "Sleeping Beauty" by not using The Smiths' "Girlfriend in a Coma" as the theme song. But then maybe that would have been a tad irreverent. Too bad, though--it seems like an opportunity wasted. In any case, I'm getting ahead of myself (I seem to do that a lot).

If you'll cast your mind back to the last episode, "Fleur de Lys," you'll recall that it ended with Beth staking Coraline, not realizing that Mick's ex is now human. "Sleeping Beauty" picks up the story a short while later, with Coraline in the hospital. She's definitely looking all-too human as she lies unconscious with tubes attached to various body parts and a punctured lung (Beth missed the heart). Apparently infection is already setting in and it seems unlikely Coraline will pull through (we can only hope). Interestingly, Coraline protected Beth by telling the doctors it was an accident. Trying to ingratiate herself with Mick, perhaps? He's too busy obsessing over how she became human again to really notice anything else about her. Vampires are odd creatures. One thing I appreciated about this episode, though, is that Coraline is not the main focus. That would have been the obvious route to take and I'm glad they didn't go there.

Instead we watch as a sick old man hires a hitman to kill Josef. Even more intriguing, he knows what Josef is, insisting that he be killed with fire. That can't be good. The assassin is definitely thorough. As Josef hosts poker night at his office (they play for vials of blood) a hail of machine gun fire rains down on them. Before they can recover, the hitman tosses in a couple of incendiary devices and Josef's office goes boom. And just when I was really starting to like Josef.

Mick of course investigates, even as he mourns his friend and worries about Coraline. It doesn't take him long to notice that the incendiary devices used were military grade. But before he can look into it further, he gets a call from the hospital letting him know Coraline is awake and asking for him. When it rains it pours. After reminiscing a bit over Josef, Mick asks Coraline how she became human. Knowing she's got something he desperately wants she avoids the question until she finally passes out again. So Mick just takes out his handy hypodermic needle (no, that is not a euphemism) and helps himself to a sample of her blood. You've got to love his enterprising spirit.

Back at his place, Beth is waiting outside the door for him. They share a moment of reconnection and grief over Josef before heading inside. And who should be waiting but the man himself: Josef survived. We never do get to find out exactly how he escaped but he's pretty annoyed that it was so improbable that no human will believe it, thus forcing him to avoid exposure by staying "dead," thus rendering him broke and homeless. And you thought you had a bad day.

Once they're over their initial shock, Mick and Beth join forces on the investigation while Josef is forced to lie low at Mick's place. But Josef doesn't entirely get the concept of keeping a low profile, as Mick soon finds out. After hacking into the military's basic training database and finding their assassin (who turns out to be former special ops and a mercenary) Mick returns home and discovers Josef entertaining a group of women. I think Mick overreacts a little as he kicks the women out before turning on Josef and flipping over his irresponsibility and lack of consideration. It's hard not to feel sorry for Josef when he quietly says he gets lonely, but Mick somehow manages to, snapping that now he understands why. When Josef says he needs to go to his office to get money out of the fireproof safe hidden there, Mick claims he can't deal and that he's going to bed. It's awesome to have friends you can count on for support when you really need it.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, the doctors are mystified as Coraline's temperature drops rather than turning into a fever (as would be normal with an infection). Knowing her background, though, it's not difficult to guess why. Suspicions are confirmed as a nurse leans over to adjust her pillow and Coraline vamps out staring at the woman's neck. I thought the nurse was dead for sure, but when she straightens up again Coraline is back to looking human.

Ignoring Mick's outburst, Josef goes to his office anyway. He runs into the head of security while he's there and tells the man he's the only one who knows Josef is still alive, so they need to keep it between them. Not long afterward the guard is talking to the hitman, telling him he called as soon as Josef showed up, figuring there'd be something extra in it for him. And there is--a bullet (there's a nice shot here of the guard's blood splattering across the security monitor). Unaware that anything's amiss Josef retrieves the safe. But rather than grab the cash in there, he picks up a small velvet bag and removes a heart-shaped locket. As he stares at it, the assassin comes up behind him and gets ready to shoot. Out of nowhere Mick stops the guy (okay, maybe he is a good friend after all). As he and the hitman fight, Mick tries to get him to say who hired him. The hitman holds out until Mick finally dangles him out the window. At this point the guy names John Whitley, a New York real-estate developer. Satisfied, Mick knocks him out.

When Josef denies knowing John Whitley, it's obvious he's lying. And when Mick turns his back on Josef for a second, Josef disappears. After seeing the hitman safely in police custody, Mick meets up again with Beth. She's done some research and found out that John Whitley is a 93-year-old man whose daughter went missing in 1955. Worried that Josef is out for revenge, Mick and Beth decide to head to New York (although not before Beth and Josh indulge in some relationship drama).

And speaking of drama, our hitman manages to kill two cops and escape from the back of a squad car. Guess who else is taking a trip to New York? He actually gets there first and pays a visit to Whitley. After forcing the invalid to tell him what Josef is, he orders Whitley to tell him everything about vampires, including how to kill them.

When Mick and Beth finally catch up with Whitley, the hitman is gone. Whitley ends up telling them that after his wife died two years ago, he discovered his daughter's diary, which his wife had kept hidden from him. He claims that the diary revealed that daughter Sarah was seduced by a vampire named Charles Fitzgerald (aka Josef Kostyn). He believes that Fitzgerald/Kostyn killed Sarah. It's taken Whitley two years to find Fitzgerald and he refuses to die before avenging her death.

While Mick and Beth wait to hear from her hacker friend about where Josef could be, Beth reads the diary. It turns out Sarah loved Josef and very much wanted to be turned. So what happened to her? Before they can ponder it too much they get the call with Josef's possible whereabouts. As they start heading over I'm amazed that Mr. Vampire P.I. doesn't notice they're being followed by the hitman, but whatever.

Mick and Beth find Joseph at a house where he seems to be the owner. Resigned he invites them in and takes them into one of the bedrooms. Unconscious on the bed is Sarah Whitley, who apparently hasn't aged since 1955. Joseph then tells the sweet, sad tale of how he and Sarah met and fell in love, how she figured out he was a vampire and didn't care, how she wanted to be turned so they could be together always. In a flashback we see him placing the heart-shaped locket from his safe around her neck. This is a whole new aspect of Josef, who until now seemed like the antithesis of all things romantic. He goes on to tell Mick and Beth that something happened when he turned Sarah, that "she got lost somewhere in between," and has been in a coma ever since. He's never been able to let her go, hoping that someday medicine or a miracle will bring her back. This statement is punctuated by the assassin crashing in through the window.

The hitman shoots and then stakes Josef, snarling in frustration when Josef still doesn't die. That's when Mick steps in, hauling the guy against the wall and breaking his neck. Then he unstakes Josef. A while later as Mick and Josef talk, Josef tells him he hopes the universe is on Mick's side in making it work with Beth. Mick almost looks giddy with excitement at the thought. After Beth gives Josef Sarah's diary, she and Mick leave, and she can't stop thinking about what happened to Sarah. Mick's mind is elsewhere. They're supposed to be catching their flight home in a little while but Mick suddenly wants to go out on the town and do something fun. At first Beth looks enthused but then she gets serious and makes a lame excuse about having left on bad terms with Josh and how she should get home. Mick's cool about it (unlike me) and they share another moment of connection, although this time there's a figurative--and literal--barrier between them (a cab). Maybe it's the smart thing for the two of them to keep their relationship strictly platonic, but as they part in opposite directions, it's definitely not the satisfying thing. Tragic love--how I hate you.

The episode ends back in the hospital in LA. Coraline jolts awake, saying Mick's name. Then she flatlines. As the staff rush in, we discover the bed is empty and Coraline is gone. I guess her humanity didn't take.

I liked "Sleeping Beauty," despite a couple of predictable and slightly cheesy moments. The story with Joseph and Sarah was unexpected and well done. The fight scenes were good (and who doesn't love an explosion?) And much as I didn't care for it, Beth resisting Mick and returning to Josh was probably the right way to proceed with that storyline. If only they'd gone with The Smiths.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then ghostly white eyes and sharp, elegant fangs.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Ability to leap abnormally high.

Weaknesses: Fire. Stakes (paralyze). Mortal women.

Mythology: Vampires don't give off heat (and therefore don't show up on infra-red). To turn a human, the human must be drained and then fed vampire blood; the procedure is dangerous and doesn't always work. There may or may not be a cure for vampirism.

Sound Bites

Beth: You still care for her, don't you?
Mick: She was my wife.

Coraline: You look like someone just died.
Mick: Someone just did. Josef.

Josef: Well, are you just going to stand there all day or are you going to help me find out who killed me?

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 10 "Sleeping Beauty." Written by Trevor Munson and Ron Koslow. Directed by John T. Kretchmer. From CBS/The CW.

08 October 2010

The Vampire Diaries S2 E5 "Kill or Be Killed"

Spoilers Ahead

Brace yourselves: Caroline kicks ass. Yes, this once most-detested and useless character is actually getting kind of...awesome. Amazing what dying can do for a person.

"Kill or Be Killed" starts off with a flashback, setting the scene in Florida a year ago. Mason is attacked outside a bar by his drunk and seriously angry friend Jimmy, who believes that Mason is messing around with his girlfriend. Mason tries to talk sense into his buddy, but Jimmy is having none of it, going right into murderous rage mode. During the course of the fight Mason accidentally kills Jimmy, triggering the werewolf curse (if the curse was triggered during a full moon, would the person immediately turn into a wolf? Just wondering). Back in the present, Mason finishes telling the story to Ty and then immediately asks Ty to fulfill his end of the deal by telling Mason where the moonstone is. Ty leads him to his dad's hidden safe, but of course the stone isn't inside. Mason's out of luck.

Elsewhere Elena fills Jeremy in on the Lockwood curse situation, but she doesn't want him to get involved. As soon as Jeremy leaves Stefan suddenly appears. He and Elena are still pretending to be broken up (see last episode), so they go over their strategy for the day. They agree that when Stefan says "I can't do this anymore, Elena" it means he loves her, and when she says "Fine, Stefan, whatever" it means she loves him too. You'd think it would be cheesy but it's actually kind of sweet. I don't know what's happening to me.

Meanwhile, Caroline is chagrined to find out she has to spend a day with her mom--who has actually taken time off work for once to participate together in the Mystic Falls Historical Society Volunteer Day. Not only is Caroline going to be in close proximity to a charter member of the anti-vampire Council, but mom can tell something's up with her, even if Caroline refuses to talk. Nothing like a little mother-daughter friction to make a tense situation worse.

At the event, Stefan approaches Mason to apologize for Damon's "impulsive" behaviour. Mason's not interested. Stefan tries reasoning with him, pointing out that neither of them want innocent people getting hurt. Mason decides to be a complete idiot and say that Damon should watch his back. Stefan then gets his menace on (love it when he does that) and points out that Mason's only really strong during the full moon and, oh yeah, there are two of them and only one of him, so he's the one who should watch his back. Grudgingly Mason shakes hands with Stefan, agreeing to a truce. Mason then runs like a bitch to Liz, where he outs the Salvatores. At first Liz refuses to believe that her friend Damon could possibly be a vampire, but Mason says he can prove it and the doubt starts growing.

At The Grill (what--is he too good to volunteer?) Jeremy approaches Ty to see how he's doing since his dad's funeral. Ty ends up inviting Jeremy and a couple of girls (Aimee and Sarah) back to his house since his mom is out all day and the bar is fully stocked. As they're hanging out Sarah, who has a crush on Jeremy, notices his sketchbook and asks to see his drawings. At first Jeremy refuses but when the others chime in he relents. It turns out his sketchbook is full of pictures of werewolves. I just want to take a moment to point out what a good job has been done with Jeremy's artwork--it actually looks like a talented teen--not a trained artist--produced it. I have a pet peeve about artistic characters being shown putting the final touches on a perfectly executed drawing or painting. Jeremy's work is not perfect, which is exactly as it should be. Well done.

Anyway, Ty reacts to Jeremy's drawings and invites Jeremy to see a project he's been working on. Taking him into his dad's office, Ty pushes Jeremy against the wall, nearly choking him as he demands to know what the pictures are about. Finally Jeremy manages to gasp that he knows what Ty is.

Back at Volunteer Day Damon and Mason have a brief "friendly" encounter. When Stefan shows up to make sure Damon is behaving (is it just me or has Stefan taken on the protective, 'big brother' role now?) Damon asks him what's up with all the fake fighting between him and Elena. That's another reason I love Damon: he's smart as well as pretty. Stefan just tells him to drop it, which Damon does gladly and turns to accept a glass of lemonade from one of the girls serving it. The next thing we know Damon is choking as Liz watches. The lemonade is full of vervain. Crap.

As Elena and Caroline sit near the falls, talking about the breakdown of Elena and Stefan's relationship, Caroline suddenly notices her mom acting agitated. In fact, Liz is calling for backup, but all she tells Caroline is that she's sorry to ditch her for work but it's really important. Sensing that something is wrong, Caroline and Elena move to higher ground where Caroline can better hear what's going on.

Recovered from the tainted lemonade, Damon is infuriated and ready to kill Mason. Stefan holds him back, although he agrees they have to deal with him. They notice Mason heading into the woods and figure this is their opportunity. It would be pretty terrifying to be surrounded by two vampires you know are intent on the kill, and Mason looks suitably afraid. But then he ducks and Damon and Stefan are repeatedly shot. The wooden bullets paralyze them long enough for Liz to inject them with vervain. Then they're carried to the old Lockwood slave quarters/cellar. Liz orders Mason to leave since killing vampires is Council business. Reluctantly, he does.

Outside again, Mason runs into Elena and Caroline. Elena asks if he's seen Stefan and he responds that he's seen both brothers. Then he smugly offers to tell Liz what Caroline is. Before Caroline can get to him, he's grabbed Elena and threatens to snap her neck. This is where Caroline starts kicking ass. Betting she can take him, she wipes the smug right off his face without getting a scratch on Elena. And hence begins my newfound appreciation for Caroline. She and Elena continue tracking the brothers.

By now Damon has woken up and Liz is torturing him with wooden bullets to try to get him to talk--about how many other vampires there are and how they've managed to walk in the sun. She promises to make it drawn out and painful if he doesn't talk. Damon is sincerely confused about why she's doing this--she's his friend. Liz responds that their friendship was based on lies (I guess since her husband left her for another man she'd be sensitive about that sort of thing). Meanwhile Stefan isn't moving at all, not even when Liz shoots him too (apparently just for the hell of it). Realizing that Damon isn't going to talk, Liz decides to raise the stakes. (Get it? She's going to kill them.)

Luckily Caroline hears this and tells Elena, although she's too afraid to do anything, worried that her mom will find out what she is. So Elena takes off alone. But a moment later Caroline is in the cellar zipping around faster than can be seen. Blonde hair flying, she grabs one of the deputies and bites him, then uses him as a shield when the other deputy stupidly decides to empty his gun into her (when will TV cops learn?) The shooter is rewarded with a broken neck. Then Caroline steps into the light and with a thoroughly bloodstained mouth says "hi, mom." Classic.

The next scene is one I'm sure Sheriff Liz never thought she'd be part of: Damon feeds on a dead deputy while Elena comforts Stefan, and Caroline, mouth still bloodstained, watches. Caroline asks her mother if she'll tell anyone. When Liz doesn't answer, Caroline begs her not to tell anyone--not only because she's Liz's daughter but if she doesn't promise to keep quiet Damon will kill her. Liz then urges Damon to kill her because she can't take this anymore. It sure looks like Damon is about to finish Liz, looming over her and reminding her that she was going to make it drawn-out and painful. He grabs Liz and everyone panics, pleading with him not to kill her. But he's perfectly calm, and tells them no one's going to be killed--"She's my friend." Then he points out that they have to clean up the mess (i.e., dead bodies) in the cellar.

Back at Lockwood central Jeremy tells Ty he read about werewolves and the Lockwoods in Johnathon Gilbert's journals, and Ty ends up telling Jeremy everything he knows about the family curse, even showing him the moonstone. Unfortunately, the girls choose that moment to rejoin the guys and decide to play keep-away with the pretty rock. Sarah grabs it and runs up the stairs, hoping Jeremy will follow. Instead Ty goes after the stone. Can you see where this is headed? Sarah, drunk, loses her footing and falls head over heels down the stairs. The other three look on, horrified, and freak out over Sarah's prone figure. Just when I was looking for Ty's eyes to go wolfy, Sarah opens her eyes and laughs at the others. I have to hand it to The Vampire Diaries--whenever it seems they're taking the obvious route, they end up surprising you. As long as it doesn't get out of hand (the worst storylines come from shows that try too hard to keep their viewers guessing--you know who you are...)

Back at the Salvatores' the gang is dealing with the aftermath of the day. Damon is keeping Liz in the basement until the vervain clears out of her system, at which point he can compel her to forget. When she tells him to keep Caroline away from her because she's not her daughter anymore, Damon speaks up for Caroline, telling Liz she's so wrong.

Meanwhile Stefan is contemplating drinking human blood. He thinks if he takes it in small enough amounts he'll build a tolerance to it, thus becoming stronger while not going insane with blood lust. Elena does not approve. Walking out in a huff, she offers Caroline a ride home and is surprised when Caroline says she's afraid to go home. Caroline finally admits that Katherine's been forcing her to spy on Elena and Stefan, and tells Elena she's terrified of Katherine. Her fear is justified at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's Caroline who ultimately defeats Katherine. For a newbie, she's already got some mad skills.

As Elena is leaving, Damon lets her know that Stefan didn't end up drinking the "people blood"--but he needs to, and deep down she knows it. After a talk with Stefan, Elena decides Damon was right. But if Stefan's going to start drinking human blood again, she wants to be there with him. She cuts her hand and offers it to Stefan. He drinks and the vampire emerges, but as Elena kisses him it recedes again. Who says those crazy kids can't make it work?

The episode ends with Ty deciding, after nearly killing Sarah, that he wants absolutely nothing to do with werewolves or the family curse (quitter). He hands the moonstone over to Mason, which seems anti-climactic--as well as disappointing--to me. Then again, maybe Ty is crafty enough to have switched the stone (probably not, though). Later Mason joins someone in a darkened car. Turns out it's Katherine. We return to the flashback of a year ago and discover that, after Mason kills Jimmy, Katherine is there to comfort him. However would Jimmy have gotten the idea that Mason was fooling around with his girl? Poor Jimmy. And Mason too, who is clearly still being manipulated by Katherine. At first she's annoyed that he's distracting himself from looking for the moonstone by going after the Salvatores. But that frown gets turned upside-down when Mason hands over the stone. They celebrate with a little tonsil hockey. Cue ominous music and cut to credits.

Who thought Katherine was behind Mason's search for the moonstone? Not me. The girl's up to something and I think it's a little too elaborate a plan to simply be about getting Stefan back. So far so good this season. I can hardly wait for the next episode.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human until the vampire emerges, then dark eyes and facial veins and prominent fangs.

Strengths: Enhanced hearing. Super strength and speed. Ability to compel humans.

Weaknesses: Vervain, stakes, wooden bullets (paralyze), sunlight (for those without "daywalking" rings). Blood lust.

Mythology: Vampires who drink human blood are stronger than those who only feed on animals.

Sound Bites

Liz: I know you think I don't notice these things but I do. What's going on with you?
Caroline: You know, there's pretending to be a mother and then there's reality. Let's not push our luck, okay?

Damon: What are you doing?
Stefan: Negotiating peace on your behalf.
Damon: [whiny] But I don't want peace.
Stefan: Well, consider it opposite day.

Damon: Please tell me you don't seriously think a handshake will solve our problem.
Stefan: No, actually I think that the first chance Mason Lockwood gets he's gonna drive a stake through your heart, and then through mine. All because you took it upon yourself to try to kill him. So thank you--because we don't have enough problems.

Damon: I heard you talked to Stefan.
Mason: Nice guy.
Damon: Yeah. A lot nicer than me.
Mason: Nice is overrated.
Damon: That's what I think.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 5 "Kill or Be Killed." Written by Mike Daniels. Directed by Jeff Woolnough. From The CW.

06 October 2010

The Gates S1 E6 "Jurisdiction"

Spoilers Ahead

It's been awhile since I've caught an episode of The Gates (bad blogger, bad!) but the interesting thing about taking such a long break and getting a chance to watch some of the other vampire shows out there, it really emphasizes how underwhelming this show is. It's not bad, but that's about the most you can say. There's no outstanding characters, witty dialogue, or compelling relationships to draw you in. Every time they look like they're starting to get the hang of it, the show reverts back to the mundane. I don't know--I'm kind of mad at ABC right now for cancelling Pushing Daisies so they could get shows like this on the air instead.

Anyway, although the episode centres around the murder of Barbara Jansen (The Gates' resident gossip, and witness to Claire's late-night excursion with Christian--aka not her husband) by a vampire, not a hell of a lot happens. Nick suspects Dylan. Dylan has a rock solid alibi. Nick wants the names of all the vampires in The Gates. Dylan refuses and claims the vampires will carry out their own investigation of the murder. Nick has Dylan followed and finds out who he talks to (all the vampires in The Gates--convenient). Nick finds out Dylan spoke to Gloria, Barbara's best friend and former lover. Gloria admits she found Barbara and tried to turn her in order to save her, but it was too late. Gloria gets kidnapped by the other vampires. Nick suspects Dylan. Dylan had nothing to do with it but he'll try to keep the other vampires from executing Gloria until Nick can find out who killed Barbara. Cue the "twist" ending that really isn't all that unpredictable. Cleared of all wrongdoing by the other vampires, Gloria thanks Nick for saving her life. Nick asks Dylan what would happen to him if the other vampires found out he killed Teresa to save Nick. Dylan confirms the punishment would be death. Nick shakes his hand and tells him he owes him.

I just saved you an hour of your life better spent elsewhere (btw, the human ex husband did it, but it was completely accidental).

During the course of his investigation, though, Dylan discovers Christian is in town. He finds Christian at his favourite bar and the reunion isn't what you'd expect. Not only is Dylan completely unaware that anything is going on between Christian and Claire (including Christian's longstanding love for Claire) but it turns out he and Dylan are best friends. Cue the surprise dinner guest at Dylan and Claire's that night with requisite tension (unnoticed by the clueless Dylan) between Claire and Christian.

Andie almost kills Charlie--again--and finally takes the anti-succubus medication.

Claire and uptight Karen don't like each other and have an entertaining exchange where Karen makes a snide comment about Claire's excessive sunscreen use (vampire!) and Claire offers Karen a silver necklace (werewolf!) It adds a whole new dimension to catty cliques.

Surprisingly the most interesting part of the episode centers around Devon. When she volunteers to host a fundraiser at her spa, you know she's up to something, but all seems to be going well until the end when she unleashes some of her pent-up bitterness at her ex (Frank) and his new wife, Vanessa. After they're gone she opens up to Sarah about how her relationship with Frank ended (she found out on their 10th anniversary that he'd been sleeping with Vanessa for years and the entire town knew about it). But after even Sarah leaves, Devon heads to the back of the store where she retrieves Vanessa's facial peel remnants (a rubbery, creepy-looking mask) and hangs it next to a row of similar masks. What kind of spell is she weaving? Hell hath no fury like a witch scorned. I'm not a fan of Devon but I am intrigued to see her wreak her revenge.

There's also a nice camera shot earlier that's worth mentioning. As Nick watches the security tape outside the club Barbara frequented, he sees her getting into her car and driving away. Suddenly from the shadows, the headlights of another car light up--like a large predator opening it's eyes. Very cool effect.

Speaking of Frank and revenge, the episode ends with Nick paying him a visit. As Nick confronts him about all the non-humans within The Gates, Frank coolly threatens Nick. Suddenly Dylan arrives, having been summoned earlier by Frank. As he and Nick look on, confused and then horrified, Frank shows them the tape of Dylan killing Teresa. Oops. Keeping their secrets might be the best way to protect families (according to Frank) but it's an even better way to protect yourself apparently.

So, like I said--pretty middle-of-the-road stuff--basically soap opera fare with a supernatural element thrown in. If The Gates really wants to thrive, the producers should consider who the audience actually is and maybe focus more on the supernatural and less on the soap opera.

Fang Files

Appearance: Human. Vampires cry bloody tears.

Strengths: Enhanced sense of smell, speed, strength.

Weaknesses: Sunlight (they protect themselves with a skin lotion).

Mythology: No killing is allowed within The Gates; any vampire that breaks this rule will be killed by the others. To turn a human, the vampire needs to feed from the human until they're on the edge of death, then they give their own blood back to seal the bond.

Sound Bites

Christian: Claire, you and I both know it always should have been us.
Claire: Don't call me again.

Devon: Welcome to suburbia, where everyone uses their perfectly manicured nails to scratch each other's eyes out.

Dylan: You should have stayed in touch.
Christian: Yeah, well. I assumed you and Claire wanted to leave your old life behind and that's what I...am. I'm your old life.

Christian: And then your mother proceeds to drink this Irishman...under the table. Poor bastard didn't know what had hit him, right?
Claire: Language, Christian.
Christian: What, I can't say 'Irishman'?

The Gates, Season 1 Episode 6 "Jurisdiction." Written by Jared Romero. Directed by David Grossman. From ABC.

04 October 2010

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

Spoilers Ahead

Two steps forward and one step back. I don't like that dance, but apparently Charlaine Harris does. Unfortunately, Definitely Dead is definitely dull.

Just when things were starting to get good, Harris has to go back to all the things I hated about the first few Sookie Stackhouse novels: excessive exposition, a focus on mundane details, sloppy editing, predictability and, as usual, anti-climactic resolutions. Speaking of which, the "sex" scene makes me want to tell Harris to grow up.

Also, I finally understand why everyone loves Eric so much--the scenes he's in are the only really interesting ones. Too bad he's hardly in the books (except for Dead to the World--we need more like that one).

That's not to say Definitely Dead all bad, but the bad definitely outweighed the good this time around.

Some of the better bits:

*New character Amelia Broadway, the witch. She's not written well, but she's still likable. Besides, you've got to like a girl who accidentally turns her boyfriend into a cat.

*The scene where Sookie finds out the truth about Bill. Better than in the show (season 3 finale)--somehow I really felt her pain.

*The fight scene at Sophie-Anne's big party, although it was over far too quickly.

*Sookie's interaction with Pam.

As for the plot, which mostly takes place in pre-Katrina New Orleans, this is how it goes: Boring detail, Sookie has a moment of happiness/calm, CRISIS, crisis resolved. Repeat until end of book. Note to Charlaine Harris: drop the boring detail, have fewer crises/"mysteries" but concentrate more on them (same with relationships). Also, stop finding excuses to include Bubba--that's just annoying. Give him a real reason to be in the story.

Honestly, I wish this series could be rebooted with a different author at the helm. When editing (my day job) a book on accounting is more compelling than finding out what happens next in the novel you're reading, you know there's a problem.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with fangs that descend or retract at will (or when they're excited). Some vamps have glowing eyes.

Strengths: Super strength, speed, can track humans who have had their blood, ability to glamour most humans.

Weaknesses: Stakes, sunlight, petty jealousy.

Mythology: Vampire weddings are ceremonial and political (they're not based on emotion).

Text Bites

The not-so-good: [Sookie] I disengaged and buried my face against Quinn's chest again. I knew I couldn't move away for a minute or two, since his excitement was pressed right up against me. Though these weren't the best circumstances for evaluation, I was pretty sure Quinn was proportional.

The not-so-bad: Carried away on a wave of excitement, Eric kissed me long and hard and then scooped up Wybert's head. "Bowling for vampires," he said happily, and flung the disgusting object at the black vampire with an accuracy and force that knocked the sword out of the vampire's hand. Eric was on it with a great leap, and the sword swung on its owner with deadly force. With a war cry that had not been heard in a thousand years, Eric attacked the circle around the queen and Andre with a savagery and abandon that was almost beautiful in its way.

Want to see what I had to say about the previous books?

Dead until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris. From Penguin (Ace Books).