28 February 2011

The Vampire Diaries S2 E16 "The House Guest"

Spoilers Ahead

The producers of The Vampire Diaries are evil. There's no other explanation. First the show goes on hiatus from 9 December until 27 January. Fine--everyone deserves a holiday. But after only five episodes it's another month-long hiatus. In the judicial system I think this would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment for the fans. I suppose we'll have to make do with Being Human until TVD is back, but Aiden is a poor substitute for Damon (or Stefan, or even Caroline).

Anyway, "The House Guest" begins with Elena at Stefan's getting ready for *gasp* school! So she is still enrolled. Of course, getting an education is no match for Stefan's smouldering charms and I'm not sure she ever actually makes it to any classes. Later she rushes past the den/living room, pausing to greet Damon. A second later he's got her up against the wall, hand around her throat. Figuring out that he thinks she's Katherine, Elena starts asking whether Katherine is still in the tomb (she isn't). By now Stefan has shown up and--oh crap--he realizes he just spent the morning with Katherine. Back to his room and another girl pushed against another wall. But it turns out this really is Elena and Damon was right in the first place. I wonder just how long Katherine could fool any of them. Future trouble?

It turns out Katherine has invited herself to crash with the Salvatores. Lucky them. She also isn't afraid to get threatening ('maybe Jenna is free for a bite') when the boys and Elena don't show enough enthusiasm at her insistence on helping kill Klaus. Talk about a nightmare house guest. But she does have a point about knowing Klaus better than any of them (e.g., what he looks like) so maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe.

The most satisfying moment of the episode happens in this next scene, immediately followed by the least satisfying moment. Damon finally takes a flamethrower to Elijah! I swear he's the only character with any real sense on this show. Too bad we discover within seconds that the body's not burning. Katherine shows up and informs him that Originals are indestructible. That's a handy trick for them. [My SO suggested they should just encase Elijah in concrete. Hey, it worked on Russell in True Blood...] Damon is clearly weary of Katherine, and when she claims she's still there because he hasn't made her leave he aims the flamethrower at her. Alas, her logic wins him over and he relents (Come to think of it, this is another highly unsatisfying moment in this scene. I still wish he would have singed her a little). Never one to leave well enough alone Katherine has to make a point of mentioning that she knew the dagger would kill Damon if he tried to use it on Elijah--but she really wanted out of the tomb so she didn't particularly care. That's it--twist the knife (or the dagger). And she wonders why no one welcomes her with open arms.

She can't leave Damon alone, either; she spends the episode clinging to him trying to get information, alleviating boredom, or just being hurtful. As he pores through the Gilbert journals trying to find out the location of the witch massacre Katherine vies for his attention like a little kid whose mommy is on the phone. At least she is somewhat useful, letting him know that witches who die violently release mystical energy on the site of their deaths.

Speaking of witches, Luka and his dad agree to meet with Stefan for a chat, although they're not exactly open to hearing what he has to say after he tells them Elijah is dead. They finally grudgingly admit that Elijah had been counting on them to channel enough power to kill Klaus, the power being located at the witch burial ground. They all agree to work together to find the massacre site/burial ground, kill Klaus, and get Luka's sister (Greta) back. At least, that's what they tell Stefan. Doc Martin has other plans: he's going to let Elijah kill Stefan, Damon, and anyone else who gets in his way.

In other news, Matt tells Caroline to make up her mind about the two of them, so she does just that...in song. Granted, Candice Accola has a (surprisingly) good voice but I could have done without this scene. If you didn't know the episode was written by a woman you definitely would after watching the musical number followed by the big romantic moment complete with giddy girlfriends cheering and hugging each other in triumph. One word: ick, followed by pronounced eye rolling. I also have a problem with the choice of song; I doubt anyone Caroline's age would be that familiar with the Bangles' "Eternal Flame." The writer maybe should have remembered that the characters are not the same age as she is.

Meanwhile, powerless Bonnie seems to be coping just fine. I was hoping for a little more angst at the loss of her witch abilities. I was also hoping for this storyline to last a little longer, but sadly we reach a resolution all too soon (more on that in a bit). At least she finally tells Elena about her and Jeremy and we're "treated" to another sappy girl moment.

But all is not well in romance land--tension between Jenna and Alaric mounts with plenty of cold shoulders, wistful looks, and heartfelt confessions. Alaric even asks Elena's advice on the situation, which is just weird considering he's not only her aunt's boyfriend but her history teacher (then again, Jenna hangs out with Elena and the girls like she's one of their classmates. Because kids these days love nothing more than socializing with their authority figures). In any case he reaches the conclusion that things with Jenna have to go on hold until he can come clean with her--after they deal with Klaus. Jenna still has her insane sense of entitlement re: full disclosure of Alaric's past. Unless he killed his wife, you really don't need to know--and he certainly isn't obligated to tell you. They haven't even been going out that long. I can't tell if this is TV drama or if this is really the general attitude people have these days.

While all this is going on Luka and his dad perform a spell to find Elijah. Basically Luka astrally projects to Elijah's location (the Salvatore mansion) where he can see, hear, and touch but can't be seen, heard, or touched himself (although both Damon and Katherine pick up on something in the room with them). After continuing to get on Damon's nerves Katherine goes to the basement to retrieve a blood bag. While she's gone Damon lets Stefan know that he found something important in the journals. Back downstairs Katherine senses something but can't quite figure out what. She's about to leave when she sees the dagger slowly being removed from Elijah by some invisible force. Why Luka didn't wait until she'd gone back upstairs is either poor judgment on his part or (more likely) poor writing (the kind that makes characters temporarily stupid in order to conveniently move the story forward). Whatever the reason for Luka's decision, Katherine jumps on the dagger and holds it in place.

Back in spellcasting central, Luka tells his dad what's going on and Jonas realizes it's Katherine. He tells Luka to find a stake and kill her. Again--why not retreat and try the spell again later? It's unlikely the vampires are going to guard Elijah's body 24/7. Anyway, Luka does manage to get a stake into Katherine's stomach but by then she's called for Damon, who came running. Damon helps her remove the stake but then she alerts him to the dagger being removed yet again (okay, really? The vampires are on to you--it's time to leave). Ever the practical and direct one, Damon hauls out the flamethrower (and that's really when Luka should have left). When Stefan comes running Damon tells him matter-of-factly that it's a "crazy psychic witch attack" and orders Stefan to head over to see what's happening with Luka and Jonas.

What's happening is that Luka burst into flames when Damon turned the flamethrower on the area around Elijah. It's pretty brutal as he burns and promptly dies. I guess we've got some mystical witch energy to work with now. Dad is understandably devastated and then enraged. He grabs the items he stole from Elena's room way back (I'd forgotten all about that) and starts working some magics. When Stefan shows up Jonas brings him to his knees with pain (looks like the same multiple aneurysm spell Bonnie used), at which point Stefan notices the Elena paraphernalia on the floor.

Back at his place Damon and Katherine showcase their mutual cruelty (although I have to say I think Katherine is more vicious by far). Damon brings her blood and then stakes her in the stomach again for not telling him the dagger would kill him. Katherine then informs him that she made a deal with John--if she stayed in town and helped get rid of Klaus/protect Elena, he'd spare Stefan. See--she could only choose to save one of the brothers and she chose Stefan. The pain on Damon's face as he realizes this...I can't praise Ian Somerhalder enough for his amazing, expressive acting. Mute the volume and just watch him sometime. After her admission Katherine keeps twisting the knife, blaming him for the hurt he feels because, you know, he wanted her to be honest. What choice did she have?

At the Grill Elena gets a call from Stefan warning her about Jonas, who happens to show up just then. Bonnie sees him first and, without knowing what's happened, asks if he's okay. Jonas is in the "blame everyone else" stage of grief, demanding to know where Elena is and deciding that no one leaves until he gets her. As he shatters glass and starts fires, Stefan and Elena fill Caroline in on the situation and ask her to create a diversion. When Caroline tries attacking Jonas he throws her into a world of hurt. Matt, seeing her in distress, tries to get to her at which point Jonas breaks a glass and shoves it into Matt's neck. WTF? Overreact much? But at least Caroline's going to finally come out of the coffin to him after having to give him her blood to save his life. Too bad he flips out when he hears what she has to say.

At Elena's Bonnie is there with Jeremy when Stefan and Elena arrive. Elena goes upstairs to wash her hands when suddenly Jonas appears behind her. It's no surprise at all that "Elena" is actually Katherine, although her attack is brilliant: quick and effective (kudos to everyone involved in this scene). The others run upstairs and Bonnie, upset, moves to close Jonas's eyes. It turns out he's not quite dead and it's actually pretty frightening when he grabs Bonnie. At this point Stefan reacts and breaks Jonas's neck. Hey--more mystical witch energy!

Afterward Elena is less than grateful to Katherine for her help, which Katherine is none too pleased about. And even though she admits she's not Elena's biggest fan either, she still maintains she's no threat to Elena. It's a disappointing night in general for Katherine--even her "sure thing" (Damon) denies her, pushing her aside as she tries to seduce him. I guess 150 years of abuse and rejection will dampen a guy's ardour.

The powerless Bonnie storyline comes to an abrupt end when she admits to Jeremy that rather than attacking her, Jonas returned her powers when he grabbed her. He also let her know that he wanted her to kill Klaus and free his daughter. And, oh yeah, he told her how she could do it. Not bad for the split second before Stefan stepped in. I really think the Jonas revenge storyline should have been stretched over two episodes, which would have given us more time to watch Bonnie deal with her loss of power. Unfortunately The Vampire Diaries has had a tendency from the beginning to rush storylines. They've gotten better but they still don't seem to quite have the hang of it.

The episode ends with late-night ice cream therapy for Jenna when the doorbell rings. She answers it and finds--dramatic pause--Isobel, Alaric's supposedly dead wife and Elena's biological mother! Oh, the irony...

This wasn't the best episode ever, and it was definitely a disappointing one to lead us into the hiatus. It did give us some good moments, however, as well as a few surprises and maybe some interesting future storylines. Still, let's leave the sap for the Lifetime network from now on and keep TVD's focus on the fangs.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale human until the vampire emerges, then dark/red eyes, prominent dark facial veins, and sharp curved fangs.

Strengths: Super strength, speed. Heightened senses. Quick healing (physically at least; emotionally not so much).

Weaknesses: Fire. Stakes. Magic.

Mythology: An Original's body is apparently indestructible (and they're only "dead" as long as the special dagger remains embedded in their heart). Vampire blood heals humans.

Sound Bites

Matt: [to Caroline] So just make a decision or leave me alone.

Katherine: You can hate me. But we want the same thing. And you know I always get what I want.

Katherine: [to Damon, after having admitted she knew he would die if he tried to kill Elijah with the dagger] If it's any consolation I'm glad you're not dead.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 16 "The House Guest." Written by Caroline Dries. Directed by Michael Katleman. From The CW.

22 February 2011

True Blood Season 3 Finale "Evil Is Going On"

Spoilers Ahead

And so we reach another season finale in Bon Temps. It's amazing how much gets packed into twelve episodes (sometimes a little too much). And the wait until the next season is always interminable. But at least we're given plenty to think and speculate about as we wait. Season Three's finale does not disappoint in this regard.

"Evil Is Going On" picks up where we left off last episode--with Eric and Russell slowly being roasted by the sun. I would enjoy this scene a whole lot more if it hadn't already been established in Season Two's "I Will Rise Up" that when exposed to direct sunlight older vampires (like Russell and maybe even Eric) burn up almost instantly. These two have been out there long enough for a proper immolation to be in progress, rather than a little skin crisping. Sorry but I'm not a fan of series that can't stick to their own mythologies. But at least this is probably the weakest point of the episode. Then again that depends on how you feel about ghosts.

As Eric is dying Godric appears to him and urges him to forgive Russell before they both meet the true death. Eric refuses to forgive Russell for what he did to Eric's family and he's not too happy to hear Godric say that only peace follows death, even for Russell. Overall I didn't love Godric's appearance. I'm not sure it really added anything to the story and while I appreciate the acknowledgment of an afterlife, it's been done to death (sorry--couldn't resist that one).

Meanwhile, Sookie wakes from a dream about the fae realm and instantly goes into bitch mode, slapping Bill and blaming him for just about everything wrong in her life. And yet when she finds out that Eric--whom she supposedly hates and who, I think, did far worse to her than Bill--is about to sacrifice himself she can't run outside fast enough. She even pulls the perennial brat favourite "You don't own me" when Bill tries to stop her. If Sookie is supposed to represent the modern strong and independent woman, I think we're in a lot of trouble.

Urged (and goaded) by Russell, Sookie manages to manifest the light from her hands strongly enough to break the handcuffs keeping Russell and Eric together before shooting Russell across the parking lot. She then drags Eric's smoking body (and I'm not referring to his abs here) inside where he's apparently too weak to even pop fang. So Sookie gets Bill to bite her wrist so she can feed Eric and heal him. Again I have to wonder why she's so angry at Bill but Eric gets a pass.

As Eric feeds he's moaning ecstatically to the point where I'm thinking he and Sookie might need to get a room. But the others stop him before things get out of hand. As soon as he's recovered he insists they bring Russell inside because Godric wants him to spare Russell. Funny--I don't remember Godric saying anything about that. The others think he's lost his mind but when Eric threatens to go out himself and get Russell, Sookie relents and drags the crispy critter back inside via a silver chain around his neck. The makeup/special effects people did an amazing job on burned Russell (see photo above, click to enlarge). He's not only gruesome but realistically so--you can completely believe this is what a vampire would look like after some time in the sun. You've also got to give credit to Russell for being able to tolerate what has to be an insane amount of pain.

Although she really doesn't want to, Sookie agrees to watch Russell (since he can't glamour her, unlike Ginger) while the others get some rest. She's also incredibly rude to all the vampires, calling them "creepy cold freaks." So, consistency--not really one of Sookie's strong points. Before they go Eric calls someone with a van and arranges for their help. Maybe he should load Sookie up and send her where she might actually be happy.

As Sookie reads a copy of Star magazine with a cover photo of Russell ripping out the news anchor's spine, he attempts to bribe her into letting him go. He promises her everything from leaving her alone to killing Bill and/or Eric (her choice) to giving her his house. But Sookie only plays along to torment him--she has no intention of releasing him. It's not a shocker that this upsets him but as he taunts Sookie about her tasty, tasty blood it is on the shocking side when Sookie sprays him in the face with atomized silver. Talk about kicking a man when he's down. When did Sookie get so mean? But it gets worse. When she figures out that Russell is hanging on to Talbot's liquefied remains because he believes he can use Sookie's blood to bring Talbot back to life she decides to pour what's left of Talbot down the drain. As Russell screams and curses in anguish, Sookie giggles psychotically. I think the girl has finally snapped. Yes, Russell is evil but at the moment he's also badly wounded and helpless. And while his recent actions have been motivated in large part because of love, Sookie doesn't seem remotely capable of love anymore. You have to wonder who the real monster is.

Elsewhere Tara watches Steve Newlin vs. Nan Flanagan on TV as Sam makes her breakfast: hoe cakes cooked with bacon grease. I see a reconciliation with Lettie Mae on the horizon. Sam seems to be ready to start over in a positive way, telling Tara he's a shifter and finally accepting himself for who and what he is. Tara, unfortunately, has had enough of all things supernatural. She's clearly majorly traumatized and wishes she could just be a new person in a new life. Well, why not?

The reunion with Lettie Mae doesn't go quite as Tara planned. She walks in on her half-naked mother with the married minister. But it's okay because he's going to leave his wife and marry Lettie Mae and then she'll be a minister's wife! Tara's anger fades to resignation and she wishes her mother happiness in what seems like a final goodbye. Lettie Mae's too wrapped up in herself to realize that anything's amiss, though.

Back at home (that is, Sookie's) Tara stares into the mirror as she holds a massive pair of scissors. It looks as though we're about to witness a bloodbath but the next moment Tara starts cutting her hair as she cries. Rather than getting into all the symbolism a haircut like this entails I think I'll just comment on the style: very cute indeed. I never thought the braids suited Tara so this short, fluffy cut is a nice change. Things seem to be looking up for Tara. But then again, maybe not. After promising Sookie she'll be back soon she heads out to see Lafayette. But instead of actually heading inside Merlotte's Tara just stays in the car looking at the building. She then drives off and disappears into the darkness. Since she never returns as promised it looks like Tara might be gone for good (or at least for a good long while).

Speaking of Lafayette, there's a nice scene when Sam lets Lafayette into Merlotte's. Sam is lit up in the sun while Lafayette, in a dark hoodie, seems to be in a perpetual shadow. Both metaphor and irony as Sam is the one with the shadowy past and Lafayette seems to be achieving some sort of enlightenment. In any case Lafayette's V-induced hallucinations don't seem to be going away as he sees blood on Sam's hands and hears Sam's voice saying "Cross me and you're a dead man." Creepy. And it's freaking Lafayette out. Later, when he hallucinates Rene strangling Arlene and claiming to be inside her, Lafayette makes a panicky call to Jesus, who drops everything to come see him. What really worries Lafayette is that he's turning into his mother (what I'd be more concerned about was that maybe I'd institutionalized my mother when she wasn't actually crazy). When Jesus shows up he manages to assuage Lafayette's worries somewhat, although it might not have been the best time to admit that he's a brujo-- a male witch (not to be confused with manwich).

Sam spends the rest of the episode focused on Tommy. When he stops by the house to see him he finds the place in a shambles and clearly abandoned. On a hunch Sam heads back to Merlotte's, where he discovers his safe is missing. In a rage he screams for Tommy before grabbing a gun. I'm not quite sure how Sam finds Tommy but after a short chase Sam shoots the gun in the air and brings Tommy to a stop. He wants his money back and doesn't care at all that he tore Tommy out of his old life just to abandon him, or that Tommy has no way of supporting himself or anywhere to live. I liked Sam a lot better when he was sweet. As Tommy tries to walk away Sam shoots. We don't get to see what, if anything, the bullet hits so I guess that's for next season to reveal.

Jason is kept busy trying to thwart the DEA from raiding Hotshot (never mind that he was the one who ratted on Hotshot in the first place). Andy's on to him and warns Jason that his future career as a cop is on the line. Jason tries to reason with Andy (well, Jason-style reasoning anyway) and although he's not getting anywhere he does catch a break when Andy accidentally lets slip that the raid is taking place that day. Jason runs to get Crystal and they both head to Hotshot. It's hard to believe this is a functioning community: everyone looks dirty and underfed and helpless. It's even harder to believe that Jason is their only hope. After a V-addicted Felton kills his/Crystal's father (the town patriarch), grabs all the V, kidnaps Crystal, and steals Jason's truck, Jason is suddenly in charge (and he seems to actually want the responsibility). This is an annoying turn of events and would be a disappointing storyline even if it were remotely believable. Definitely weak sauce.

Starting anew is the big theme in "Evil Is Going On." Hoyt shows up at work and finds an intervention waiting for him. His mom, Summer, and his high school guidance counsellor try vainly to bring him back to the side of light--in other words the anti-vampire side. But finally having grown a pair, Hoyt shuts them down and tells them he loves Jessica. End of discussion. Later he take Jessica to see their new place because not only does he want to live together but he wants to marry her. Their happiness is clear...until Hoyt mentions that she'll never have to find out what she'd do without him. That's a sure sign of impending doom. And to underscore that, the camera slowly pulls out. As we see the happy couple in the background the shadows in the foreground reveal a baby doll lying on the floor. Strangely enough it's one of the creepiest images ever on the show. And for one last nail in their coffin (so to speak) Hoyt's mom heads to the local gun shop and buys a rifle. Somehow I get the feeling that Hoyt won't be with us much longer, whether by accident or intention.

Back at Fangtasia there's an amusingly morbid moment as Ginger unknowingly washes and dries the urn that held Talbot. Suddenly Alcide arrives. He was the one Eric called earlier and has agreed to help Eric in exchange for his father's debts being cleared. Although Alcide is there on business it doesn't stop him from taking a few moments to flirt with Sookie. And she flirts back, including after the vamps have woken and joined them. Bill's helplessness is practically palpable. As Eric grabs Russell he orders Sookie to stay at the bar, where Pam will protect her. Now while I applaud Sookie's decision to protect herself I'm not enjoying her sudden attitude toward the vamps, particularly Bill. She rightly doesn't want to be controlled or used by them, yet she seems to expect them to be at her beck and call and to behave the way she believes is appropriate (and if they don't acquiesce to her demands she treats them like complete scum). It doesn't work both ways.

Bill, Eric, and Russell end up at a Herveaux construction site where they're preparing to encase Russell in a cement foundation. This won't kill him--it'll just be long-term torture and starvation, likely destroying what's left of Russell's sanity. It turns out that when Eric wanted to "save" Russell it was only because he didn't want Russell to enjoy the peace of death. No, he wants Russell to keep suffering. Ghostly Godric looks on, disappointed and saddened. As Eric pours cement on top of Russell, Godric steps back and fades away.

Once Russell is fully encased, Bill extends his hand to shake Eric's. Then he snaps a silver handcuff on Eric and pushes him into an adjoining hole, which he then fills with cement. Gotta say--I wasn't expecting this. Bill also calls one of Eric's lackeys and, imitating Eric's voice, orders the lackey to kill Pam. What the hell has come over Bill?

We find out when he shows up a while later at Sookie's. She invites him in despite making a point earlier of revoking all the vampires' invitations and telling them not to follow her home. Like I said--consistency is not her strong suit. He tells her that Russell, Eric, and Pam are gone; that he will get rid of anyone who has tasted her blood or knows what she is (he's okay, though because he has self control). He also tells her that even if they part ways, he'll still always do whatever he can to protect her. Then he adds that he's never loved like he's loved her, and he never will again. That's enough to melt even Sookie's icy demeanour. As he's leaving she gets up to stop him, but he's already opened the door--and there stands Eric (looking surprisingly hot covered with a layer of cement).

Eric gets right to the point telling Sookie that Bill first came to Bon Temps because the Queen sent him to get close to her. Not only that but Bill let the Rattrays beat Sookie nearly into a coma just so he could have an excuse to feed her his blood. Yikes. Bill admits that what Eric is saying is true. Eric then adds that Bill tried to get rid of him not because he was protecting Sookie, but because he was protecting himself from Eric ever telling Sookie what he knew. Her rage pushes Bill right through the doorway. Tearfully he tries to tell her he loves her and always will but that just pisses Sookie off even more. (And as with Eric's coating of cement, Bill looks surprisingly hot with bloodied eyes. I have issues.) Bill leaves.

Eric tells Sookie that, for what it's worth, he wouldn't have given her to Russell. This prompts her to hurl abuse at him too. But rather than get angry he tells her he's sorry to see her suffer like this but he thought she had a right to know. Then he's also gone. And since Tara hasn't come back (and likely won't) Sookie is truly alone. After crying for a while she suddenly gets up and runs out of the house.

A knock at Bill's door has us thinking Sookie's come to him but it turns out to be the Queen, wearing an amazing dress (want!) She believes Bill has Sookie waiting for her but he lets her know he's got other plans for the evening (namely killing the Queen). He claims he has nothing left to lose. A moment later their fangs are out and they're literally flying at each other. Best of luck, Bill.

Meanwhile Sookie ended up running to the cemetery where she visits her Gran's grave. She tells Gran that she's lost and has never felt so alone. Suddenly Claudine the fairy is there inviting Sookie to come with them. From behind the trees fairies start appearing everywhere. Sookie goes to Claudine and a bright light appears between them. Then they all disappear.

The show covered a lot of ground this season, and there's plenty set up for Season Four. But I can't help feeling that a lot of the storylines this season were forced and the characters have lost their spark (with a few exceptions). I think True Blood would have been better off following Harris's novels more closely, as it did in Season One--the best so far, rather than straining to come up with increasingly weird or extreme situations and storylines. There's already plenty in place to work with and deviating as much as the show has seems to not be working out as well as it could. I'm looking forward to next season, but with a lot of reservations.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans with red-rimmed eyes and long, snakelike fangs that descend or retract at will (occasionally the vampire has no control over his or her fangs). Vampires cry blood.

Strengths: Vampires can heal bite wounds with a bit of their own blood. Fast healing. Ability to glamour/hypnotize humans. Super speed, strength. The older the vampire the stronger they are. Ability to fly, levitate.

Weaknesses: Sun, silver. Staying up during the day (causes "the bleeds"). Starvation. Vampires need an invitation to enter a private residence and the invitation can be revoked at any time (forcing the vampire to leave).

Mythology: Apparently makers can appear and offer advice to their "children" from beyond the grave (the force must be strong with them). Vampire blood is a powerful drug and aphrodisiac with unpredictable effects. Once a human has consumed a vampire's blood, the vampire can sense their emotions and find them wherever they are.

Sound Bites

Sookie: You fucking betrayed me. Again.
Bill: I only pretended to betray you so that I could save your life. Again.

Pam: [re: saving Russell] Eric, do the world a favour and let that little fuck fry.

Russell: [trying to bribe Sookie into releasing him] One million dollars.
Sookie: Five.
Russell: Two.
Sookie: Seven.
Russell: Okay five.

Lafayette: [to Jesus] You a witch? You a witch who's a nurse who's a dude. [pause] Oh shit, I guess I lucked out then, huh?

Godric: [to Eric] You make me bleed, my child. So much hatred.

Pam: [to Eric re: Bill] Did you kill him? Please tell me you killed him because I will never get all the cement out of my hair.

True Blood, Season 3 Episode 12 (Finale) "Evil Is Going On." Written by Alan Ball. Directed by Anthony Hemingway. From HBO.

Read my other Season 3 reviews:

Episode 1 (Season Premiere) "Bad Blood"
Episode 2 "Beautifully Broken"
Episode 3 "It Hurts Me Too"
Episode 4 "9 Crimes"
Episode 5 "Trouble"
Episode 6 "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues"
Episode 7 "Hitting the Ground"
Episode 8 "Night on the Sun"
Episode 9 "Everything Is Broken"
Episode 10 "I Smell a Rat"
Episode 11 "Fresh Blood"

20 February 2011

The Vampire Diaries S2 E15 "The Dinner Party"

Spoilers Ahead

Did you see it coming? Because I sure as hell didn't, and neither did most of the characters. It's another episode of surprises and I'm loving it.

"The Dinner Party" starts off with Elena, still at the lake house, reading the previously lost and found Johnathon Gilbert journals. Funny enough we're taken via flashback to a post-vampire-massacre dinner party attended by Johnathon, his friend Thomas, and Thomas's wife Honoria (whose name, I was informed by someone more knowledgeable than I, was mangled by the actor playing Johnathon. It should be "hon-OR-yia, not hon-or-EE-a. Honest--M.A.S.H. apparently did a whole episode about it). As the three chat the sound of someone creeping about outside grabs their attention. Thomas and Johnathon head out to investigate. At first it seems nothing is amiss, but then a vampire begins wreaking havoc. Just before he doesn't quite kill Johnathon, we discover that the murderous vamp is...Stefan.

Back to present-day Stefan skipping stones on the lake. When he decides to take a break from broodily staring off into the distance and comes back inside, Elena asks if he's still upset with her for wanting to sacrifice herself (he is). She also hands him the journal, where he soon discovers he's the subject matter. He admits that he and Damon wanted revenge on the town founders for what they did to Katherine, and also that he never realized he didn't actually finish Johnathon Gilbert off (I wonder if we'll be seeing Johnathon sometime in the future, perhaps with a pair of fangs. People seem to have trouble staying permanently dead in Mystic Falls...) Via another flashback we see Stefan revelling in his monsterhood while Damon is overcome with disgust. Interesting how they ended up switching roles. In any case, flashback Damon decides to leave Stefan and leave town, believing little brother will get them both killed if he stays.

Stefan's salvation ended up arriving in the form of Lexi, whom he stalks and attacks not realizing she's also a vampire. Needing a safe place to stay in Mystic Falls, Lexi decides to show Stefan how to regain his humanity. She also tries to help Damon as he's leaving, warning him that his hatred will consume him. I really wish Damon hadn't killed her, as does Stefan--and even Damon. When Stefan later mentions Lexi, Damon looks stricken, almost tearful. No wonder vampires are so tormented--imagine all the regrets they amass over the years.

Back in Mystic Falls Jenna and Elijah are surveying the town's old property lines. He claims the real town founders were witches from Salem. That would explain a lot. Jenna seems pretty taken with the uber vamp, and since she and Alaric are already experiencing relationship issues, this doesn't bode well.

The tension doesn't ease when Andie later suggests that she and Damon host a dinner party that night for Jenna, Alaric, and Elijah. Sounds like a fun time, doesn't it? Then again, Alaric seems to be the only one not enthused. Damon, meanwhile, can't wait, thinking the party will give him a chance to finally off Elijah. But first he stops to visit Katherine, trying to get her to tell him whether the dagger and ashes will actually kill an Original. I hate how Damon is still Katherine's bitch. She's clearly manipulating him as she "accidentally" confirms the dagger's ability and then begs him not to kill Elijah (arguing that if he dies while she's still compelled she'll be trapped in the tomb forever). Damon thinks he got one over on her (his overconfidence will be his downfall) and claims he'll be killing Elijah that night.

The dinner party doesn't start off well. Damon has to lie to Alaric about there being no plans for violence that evening. Jenna admits to Andie that she doesn't trust Alaric. Elijah threatens to kill everyone there if Damon makes a move against him. And worst of all--John crashes the party.

Over dinner Damon picks up on Elijah's interest in the burial ground of the Salem witches (who ended up massacred in Mystic Falls). He even admits to Damon that he wants to find it, although he won't say why. But Damon can't be bothered waiting to find out--he's too focused on killing Elijah as soon as possible. While this is going on Elena is back to reading the journals, where she discovers that Johnathon had been studying the Originals. She also finds out that the dagger will kill an Original--as well as any demon that tries to use it. This is interesting because I believe it's the first time vampires are referred to as demons on the show (a hint to their origins?) It's also interesting because (a) John was attempting to screw over Damon when he gave him the dagger, and (b) Damon is in imminent danger of destroying himself.

When Stefan desperately calls Damon in order to warn him, he gets no answer. Luckily Alaric, who's just had to put up with John smirkingly informing him that he's been messing with Jenna's mind in an apparently successful attempt to turn her against him, answers his phone. A moment later he bursts into the study where Damon is about to make his move and announces that they forgot about dessert. Elijah moves along but Damon is less than impressed. What follows is a silent exchange between Alaric and Damon in which Alaric lets Damon know about the dagger's fine print. When they return to the table Damon's hatred for John is written all over his face. He then makes a point of letting Elijah know that Elena hates John so there's no reason to keep him on the "endangered species" list. I would have loved to see Elijah take out John, but he instead informs them that if either of them become a liability he'll take Elena with him and they'll never see her again. Killjoy.

A few minutes later as Andie is talking to Elijah he suddenly lets out a tortured scream and then turns grey and veiny. It turns out Alaric stabbed him from behind in what has to be the awesomest moment of the show. I know I was caught completely off guard, and the looks on John and Damon's faces are priceless. Damon's reaction when Alaric orders him to get the body out of there is also brilliant.

Unfortunately, the whole awesome scene is negated when Elena reads that the dagger needs to stay in the Original's heart in order for them to stay dead "for all intents and purposes." Of course Alaric removed the dagger after "killing" Elijah. Sigh. Stefan gets on his phone again and a moment later we see Damon running to the cellar room where they took the body. Surprise (not really): the room is empty. Next scene is Elijah telling Luka's dad to find Elena.

Among the younger set, Luka confronts Bonnie about what she did to him but she claims she's unaware that anything happened. She also puts her relationship with Jeremy on hold until she can get Elena's blessing. Um. Okay. Has anyone ever met a teenager that would actually do this? What--is she afraid that Elena will think she's corrupting Jeremy or something? This isn't the episode's shining moment. And Jeremy's plans for a romantic evening turn into a night of witch practice. This could have had some promise when Jeremy suggests Bonnie "channel" his energy, but, alas, Luka's dad shows up in a really bad mood. He magically pins Jeremy against the wall and orders Bonnie to tell him what Luka told her while under her spell. She shows how weak she really is in this scene--just a little girl playing with a bit of power. And a moment later she doesn't have even that power anymore because the more powerful witch drained it all out of her. I should probably feel sorry for Bonnie but I think she really needed a comeuppance like this. Let's see how she copes with being an average human.

Up at the lake, Elijah arrives to collect Elena. He can't come inside the house but he can wait her out. So Elena threatens to do what she maybe should have done in the first place: she wants to renegotiate their deal or else she'll stab herself. But before she dies Stefan will turn her, making her useless to Klaus and, thus, Elijah. She wants Elijah to promise not to hurt anyone she loves even if they've hurt him. No deal: he decides to call her bluff instead.

My respect for Elena really shoots up when she actually does stab herself--in the stomach, no less. The girl's definitely got intestinal fortitude (pun more or less intended). Elijah panics when he sees she's in real danger and he begs her to let him heal her. He even gives his word not to hurt anyone she cares about. Once Elena is satisfied he'll play nice she stumbles over to him. And then she stabs him with the magic dagger. It seems Damon got there well before Elijah ever showed up, giving them time to come up with a decent, if painful, plan. Well played, gang. Then again, they store Elijah's body rather than, oh, I don't know--BURNING it, so we know that's going to come back to bite them (pun definitely intended). When will they learn?

Back at casa Salvatore, Jenna and Alaric are cleaning up after the disappearance of most of the dinner guests. He's trying to make things right with her but she's being cold, demanding to know what happened to Isobel. Alaric won't answer, and rightly so! What business is it of Jenna's anyway? But his lack of response somehow proves she can't trust him. Whatever--I think he can do better. Of course John chooses this moment to continue being an ass to Alaric. I thought Ric might kick his ass but instead he gives John back "his" immortality ring and tells him that after what he did to Damon, he'll need it more. Watching Damon get back at John should be quite entertaining.

Speaking of Damon, the episode ends with him heading into his room and finding Katherine in his shower. She tells him that she knew if she begged him not to do something he would go right out and do just that. But she also claims that she could have left town and didn't, and that she wants to help protect Elena. Yeah, not too sure about that but Damon doesn't seem to have much of an opinion either way (probably a little distracted by her nudity as she chats with him). And the plot thickens...

The show can go in any number of directions from this point, but it's probably safe to say that Elijah won't stay dead for long and Katherine will cause all sorts of mayhem. Then again, you never know with The Vampire Diaries. (I vote they find a way to bring Lexi back.)

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale human until the vampire emerges, then dark/red eyes, dark facial veins, and long, curved fangs. Dead vampires look extra veiny and grey.

Strengths: Super speed, strength, efficiency. Ability to move silently. Highly developed lurking abilities. Ability to compel humans (Originals can also compel other vampires).

Weaknesses: Starvation (ultimately turns a vampire into a living cadaver). Mystical daggers.

Mythology: Vampires need an invitation to enter a private residence. The only thing that will kill an Original vampire is a particular dagger dipped in the ashes of a particular tree and plunged into the vampire's heart. But the dagger can only be wielded by humans as any demon that attempts to use it will be destroyed along with the Original. Emotions are intensified for vampires; when they hurt, they really hurt and when they love...

Sound Bites

Stefan: Wow, Damon--don't tell me you're actually going to be careful for once.
Damon: Yes, Stefan--I've become you. How tragic for both of us.

Elena: It sounds like you were Damon.
Stefan: I was worse.

Stefan: [re: after he was turned] Hunt, prey, kill. That was all I knew.

Lexi: [seeing the dead girls left by Stefan] My god, you're a ripper.

Damon: There's no such thing as a bad idea...just poorly executed awesome ones.

Alaric: You said there wasn't going to be any violence.
Damon: Says the guy who did all the killing.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 15 "The Dinner Party." Written by Andrew Chambliss. Directed by Marcos Siega. From The CW.

16 February 2011

Trailer & Clip: The Bleeding

Oh, Michael Madsen--what have you lowered yourself to? Playing second fiddle to DMX and (gag) Kat Von D. Even I can't use the vampires as an excuse to watch this movie, which seems to aspire to being a hybrid of Buffy, From Dusk 'til Dawn, and John Carpenter's Vampires (and from what little I've seen of it, utterly fails). But judge for yourself (and don't say you weren't warned).

THE BLEEDING: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: DMX, Michael Madsen

11 February 2011

The Vampire Diaries S2 E14 "Crying Wolf"

Spoilers Ahead

Well, "Crying Wolf" was an episode for surprises. At least for me, which is partly why I have come to love this show so much (it rarely goes where I think it's headed). But if you've been following season 2 (and I'm not sure why you'd be reading this if you haven't) then settle in and get ready for what's coming.

First of all, someone should tell those werewolves that campfires are not capable of completely consuming a body (unless the body happens to be made entirely of marshmallow). But once again we find them doing precisely that (this time disposing of their buddies killed last episode by Stefan and Damon). As they work, one particularly twitchy little were shares that he's figured out the moonstone is the curse-breaker. Hearing this, Brady decides that they can't let the vampires break the curse, even if they have to kill every last vamp in Mystic Falls (no surprises here).

The first surprise comes courtesy of Damon. Newsgirl Andie lives! I thought for sure she was a goner last episode--way to hold off on the homicide! Of course he compels her not to tell anyone about the bite (they need to find a way to heal those things--jaunty scarves tied around the neck are getting old). The next surprise--not as good--happens when Damon compels Andie to fall in love with him. That was a definite WTF moment. I can't figure this one out: does he really need to be loved that badly, or is he planning on taking out some of his Elena frustration by breaking Andie's heart? Or maybe he thinks he'll make Elena jealous? Strange.

Speaking of Elena, after her slumber party with the gals she asks Stefan to take her away from it all. Again I have to ask--does she even go to school anymore? I'm fairly sure it's not summer vacation. Whatever. They finally break out Stefan's gorgeous vintage car and head up to Elena's secluded family lake house. Is anyone else expecting some guy with a chainsaw (hockey mask optional) to come out of the woods?

Back in Mystic Falls Alaric and Damon occupy themselves with a visit to the Lockwood mansion for a tea party being held in Elijah's honour (in his guise as historian researching local history). Alaric is sidetracked by John, who is acting his usual charming self. He "suggests" that Alaric should no longer spend nights at the Gilbert residence and threatens to tell Jenna about all of Alaric's extracurricular activities (I'd like to hear that conversation. John: Your boyfriend hangs out with vampires. Jenna: Excuse me while I give the nice men in white coats a call...) He also informs Alaric that he wants "his" immortality ring back (uh, maybe you shouldn't have given it to Isobel in the first place).

Meanwhile, I think Damon missed his calling as a diplomat. Yes, I am being sarcastic. Don't get me wrong--I love straightforward, to-the-point characters (probably because I can relate to them, although I tend to be far less successful with it than they usually are). But attacking Elijah--who is not only older and stronger but is also an Original--is just plain stupid. I guess Damon figured he had nothing to lose by trying, although the high likelihood of being killed maybe should have occurred to him. In any case, Elijah has no trouble putting Damon in his place (with a pencil in the neck--ouch). The fact that Damon is still of use to Elijah is the only thing that keeps him alive.

At Damon's later, he and Alaric talk about the impending difficulty in killing Elijah. Neither of them are particularly convinced they can trust John's dagger and ashes. As Alaric is letting himself out Damon suddenly hears crashing sounds. Going to investigate he sees Alaric stumbling with a knife in his stomach. Before Damon can help him the twitchy werewolf jumps out and manages to empty a syringe of sedative (I don't think it's vervain as Damon and Stefan have been dosing themselves with the herb to build an immunity) into Damon's neck (again with the neck. And we aren't done yet). Damon doesn't go down without a fight but things aren't looking good for him.

He ends up regaining consciousness chained to a chair with a spiked collar around--duh--his neck (the spikes turn inward, and another chain is attached to it like a leash). The twitchy were is a little too proud of himself as he describes how he was inspired to create the torture collar. The weres proceed to use it on Damon as they try to get him to tell them where the moonstone is.

Elsewhere Bonnie, Caroline, and Jeremy drug and kidnap Luka so that Bonnie can entrance him and find out more about Elijah's plan. When exactly did people finally decide that the ends do justify the means (I'm guessing sometime post 9/11)? It's one thing for adult weres and vampires to cross moral boundaries but I find it a little creepy when human teens are regularly doing it. You've got to wonder what Bonnie will do when she wants to get her way in a relationship (Jeremy should watch his back).

Luka tries to resist but Bonnie eventually wears him down. He finally admits that he and his dad are working for Elijah because Elijah wants Klaus dead and Klaus has kidnapped Luka's sister (another powerful witch whom he is using to try to break the curse without needing a doppelganger). Elijah has promised to free the sister if they help him. When Bonnie presses him on how to kill an Original, Luka finally admits that their only chance is to get Klaus when he's vulnerable--which will be after the sacrifice of the doppelganger (i.e., Elena). Seems a little fishy to me--there's got to be another point of vulnerability. Either that or it's all a little too convenient. Also convenient is that Luka won't remember anything of his time with Bonnie beyond passing out.

Ty meets up with Jules and the other weres, where he's informed that they need his help to find the moonstone. They fill him in on the curse details (like how if they break the curse they can then control when and if they change into wolves) and also mention that they need to find Mason's vampire girlfriend "Kathy." When they show Ty a photo of Kathy he accidentally lets slip that Elena is the doppelganger. The hunt is on. After Ty not-so-stealthily steals Caroline's phone he uses it to text Elena, who then lets "Caroline" know she's at the lake house. So maybe not so much a guy with a chainsaw coming out of the woods as a bunch of rabid werewolves. I think I'd prefer chainsaw guy.

But before the weres show up Elena and Stefan stumble across a secret weapons room in the lake house--full of vamp-hunting supplies, as well as the missing Johnathon Gilbert journals. Too bad--I was hoping for treasure. Or at least a trapped vampire. I'm sure the journals will ultimately prove more useful, though.

While Elena pores over the journals Stefan heads out to collect firewood (he's so manly). That's when chainsaw guy comes out of the woods. Well, okay, it's actually Brady with wooden bullets. He puts Stefan down and leaves Ty to guard him while he goes after Elena. Desperate, Stefan asks Ty to help him and Ty responds by shooting him in the knee. Seriously--WTF is up with the teenagers of Mystic Falls? And Stefan must have the patience of a saint. Instead of threatening to tear Ty apart, as anyone else would be doing, he instead takes a moment to inform Ty of the consequences of his actions (in other words, what the weres are really planning on doing with Elena).

Elena, meanwhile, is starting to realize that something's up. Sensing danger, she's prepared when Brady appears, stabbing him and running. There's a bit of a chase through the house, which ends when Elena runs outside. Brady follows and Stefan is waiting just outside the door. A moment later Brady is missing his heart and all is well again. Ty apologizes, claiming he had no idea what the weres were going to do to Elena; he just wanted the lycanthrope curse lifted. Verging on saintlike herself, Elena gives Ty a comforting hug.

No hugs for Damon, though; he's still being tortured. But he's nowhere near breaking. I knew he'd find a way out of the situation but I wasn't expecting Elijah to show up. He teases the weres with the moonstone before killing them one by one (except for Jules who skulks away). Damon gives a fantastic impressed look as Elijah easily kills the weres; I get the feeling he's suddenly got a whole lot more respect for Elijah. Once the weres are done, Elijah releases Damon and leaves. Alaric eventually returns to life, while Damon catches up on everyone else's news and cleans up (has anyone else noticed that it's always Damon who cleans up after attacks? Ladies, he's hot and domestic!) The upshot of all the drama is that Damon and Stefan agree to keep Elena at the relatively safe lake house a while longer.

There's also a fair bit of relationship upheaval this episode. Things start out rocky for Matt and Caroline as he gives her a particularly frosty shoulder and informs her he knows she was lying about spending time with Bonnie the night before. He then takes out some of his frustration on Ty, snapping at him that he (Ty) and Caroline shouldn't lie about the relationship Matt believes they have. Oh, Matt--you know what happens when you assume.

Stefan and Elena start out sickeningly lovey and end up strained when Stefan finds out that Elijah's plan all along has been to kill Elena...and that Elena knew and accepted it. The fact that Elena is so willing to give up her life upsets and disgusts Stefan. Looks like things are going to be tense around the lake house.

Making good on his threats to Alaric, John decides to stir up trouble for him and Jenna, making a point of mentioning what a liar Alaric is and telling Jenna she should ask him what really happened to his wife. By the end of the episode things are still okay between the two of them but it's clear Jenna is starting to have doubts.

Bonnie and Jeremy finally kiss! Woo. As this particular relationship holds no interest whatsoever for me, I don't care one way or the other. But I do like how Bonnie decided to give Jeremy a chance only after Caroline pointed out that the two of them (as a vampire and a witch) can't really be picky about who they date. Classy.

The episode ends on a "Ty" note (ha ha). He actually does leave a note, though--for his mom, no doubt explaining why he's running off with Mason's annoying friend Jules. Before he leaves he also stops by to see Matt, where he tells Matt to be good to Caroline because she loves and needs him. Ty takes a final moment to watch Caroline from a distance, although he doesn't approach her. And then he elicits a promise of "no more lies" from Jules before they drive off together into the night.

So that kind of sucks about Ty leaving, although I have the feeling he'll be back. I wonder if Damon and Stefan are ever going to get tired of bailing Elena out of one crisis after another. And is Alaric going to come clean to Jenna about Isobel and vampires in general? Also, is anyone else kind of hoping Elijah will stick around after Klaus is killed? After all, you can never have too many vampires around (I should stitch that on a pillow).

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans until the vampire emerges; then dark/red eyes, dark facial veins and long, curved fangs. Vampire bites are vicious looking.

Strengths: Ability to compel/hypnotize humans. Super strength, speed. Ability to withstand pain. The older the vampire the stronger they are.

Weaknesses: Wood. Heavy sedation.

Mythology: Vampires need an invitation to enter a private residence. The way to (supposedly) kill an Original is to dip a specific dagger in the ashes of an ancient tree and then plunge the dagger into the vampire's heart.

Sound Bites

Jeremy: What kind of witch roofie was that?
Bonnie: A strong one.

Elijah: [to Damon] The moment you're no longer of any use to me you're dead. So...you should do what I say. Keep Elena safe.

Alaric: Just don't kill her [Andie]. Please.
Damon: Who would report her death if I did?

The Vampire Diaries, S2 E14 "Crying Wolf." Written by Brian Young. Directed by David Von Ancken. From The CW.

09 February 2011

Moonlight S1 E15 "What's Left Behind"

Spoilers Ahead

"What's Left Behind" features monsters, war, miracles, regrets, family, and a really nice Victorian house. And unlike the last couple of episodes (read more) it's not disappointing. In fact, I really liked it. And since the series is approaching the end, it's nice to see it concluding on at least one high note (and hopefully another one in the finale).

The episode starts at night with a frightened little boy lying awake in bed. He hears strange noises around him and it seems as though someone is creeping around in the hallway. The next thing we know the boy is grabbed out of his bed from above.

The next morning Beth meets with Ben (his request). Apparently the previous year she covered two similar kidnappings and Ben wants to use her expertise and fresh eyes to help in the investigation. Since the boys in the previous kidnappings were found dead within a week, finding this boy (Jacob) is imperative.

Mick, meanwhile, has spent a night out with Josef...window shopping for couches. (We shall never speak of this again.) On returning to Mick's place he is transfixed by the TV that's tuned to the kidnapped boy's father pleading for his return. The next day when Beth arrives at the crime scene, Mick is already there. It turns out he grew up in the neighbourhood.

Through flashback we find out that the house the boy lives in used to belong to Mick's best friend since childhood, Ray, and Ray's wife, Lilah. We also find out that Mick and Lilah betrayed Ray. So when Mick goes inside and sees a picture of Ray and Lilah he realizes that the kidnapped boy's father (Robert) is their son. Or is he? In the age of paternity melodrama (thank you, Maury Povich) my first thought was that Robert is more than likely actually Mick's son.

Mick has the same thought and even manages to scrounge up some pre-vampire DNA for a test. But that comes second to finding Jacob alive and well. He is possibly Mick's grandson, after all.

As he and Beth investigate the kidnapping he tells her about him and Lilah. It turns out that when they hooked up they both thought Ray had been dead for months (so not sure where Mick's sense of guilt is coming from). Mick left them both alone after Ray's miraculous return from the war, and he'd had no idea that Lilah was pregnant. But the fact that Ray was partially paralyzed and not expected to be able to father children, as well as the fact that Robert was born seven months after Ray's return definitely point to Mick being the baby daddy.

Meanwhile he and Beth have figured out who the kidnapper is. Unwilling to wait for a search warrant, Mick goes after the guy. The kidnapper is as creepy as you would expect, monologuing about his twisted philosophies. He then tries to shoot Mick. But when he sees that Mick is completely unaffected he tells him it's his fault that Jacob will die afraid and alone in the dark. And then he blows his brains out. Things are looking grim for Jacob--until Mick hears a faint heartbeat. It turns out psycho kidnapper bricked the poor kid up into a wall (is anyone else completely freaked out at the thought of that?) Mick breaks down the wall with his bare hands and saves the day.

Later, as Mick and Beth sit in his car outside Jacob's house, Beth hands him the results of his DNA test. For a second I thought Mick wouldn't even look but he does. He's not Robert's father. It turns out Robert really was a miracle baby for Ray and Lilah. Mick is happy for his friend but he never realized how much he wanted a family of his own.

As this is happening outside, inside the house Robert is astonished when Jacob points out Mick in an army picture on the wall. Robert (aware that Mick is just outside) grabs the photo off the wall and runs out as Mick is pulling away. As Robert watches Mick leave he drops the photo. On the back we see Mick's name written (you'd think he would've changed it in 60 years). But thinking about what must be going through Robert's mind gives me shivers. Ghost stories involving a dead person coming back long enough to help someone in trouble are my favourites, so this episode really appealed to me on that level. But the acting was also good, the emotion was real, the house was enviable, and the story compelling. Even though there was no real progression of Mick and Beth's relationship, I (surprisingly) didn't miss it. Overall "What's Left Behind" is an episode I would go back to and watch again, something I can't say about too many shows.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale human until the vampire emerges; then ghostly white, bruised-looking eyes and long, elegant fangs.

Strengths: Heightened sense of smell and hearing. Ability to see clearly in the dark.
Super strength. Ability to heal quickly. Not affected by being shot. Menacing growl.

Mythology: Vampires give off a distinctive odour of decay. Vampires love children's blood: it is purer than that of adults and some believe it tastes better. Vampire DNA is fundamentally changed from the original human DNA.

Sound Bites

Mick: Should I be jealous of him?
Beth: Of course. Even if I have no romantic interest in him your jealousy makes me feel desirable.

Josef: I hope you get the kid back. Your last contribution to the human gene pool.
Mick: Yeah, I guess he is.
Josef: Unless you and Beth rewrite the rules of vampire love and figure out how to procreate-- [sees Beth] Hi, Beth. [stage whispers to Mick] Beth's here.

Beth: Family's not only about DNA.

Moonlight, Season 1 Episode 15 "What's Left Behind." Written by Jill Blotevogel. Directed by Chris Fisher. From CBS?The CW.

04 February 2011

The Vampire Diaries S2 E13 "Daddy Issues"

Spoilers Ahead

Damon fans, prepare to be happy. Not only does he have some great moments in "Daddy Issues" (Ian Somerhalder seems to be particularly on top of his game this episode) but he even looks especially good--and he gets two bathing scenes. The television gods have smiled upon us this week.

The episode starts with Ty approaching Caroline after his "illuminating" conversation with Jules last episode. When he tells Caroline they need to talk, she thinks he means about the kiss they shared. After they agree that they can't go there (Caroline still has feelings for Matt), Ty bluntly asks her what happened to Mason. He also mentions that he knows Stefan and Damon are vampires. Caroline is shaken and she apologizes for hiding things from him. His anger flares (kudos to Michael Trevino--he does rage well) but he keeps control and walks away.

But you'll soon forget all about Caroline and Ty as we cut to Damon in the shower. When I saw this scene I tried to be mature about it, commenting about the shower enclosure itself (nice...um...tiles). While it really is a great bathroom I don't think I was fooling anyone. This is a pure eye-candy scene--enjoy it while it lasts. Too soon his attention is grabbed by the TV in the next room. He gets out of the shower to watch a news report about the group of missing campers (courtesy of Jules), three dead people (Rose), and a missing girl (Damon). The town is planning on holding a memorial service later that day.

From there we go to Elena (also looking particularly good) as she exhibits her version of the episode's title. She and John are not getting along, which isn't exactly anything new. But it doesn't help that he refuses to tell her why he's there or what exactly he's going to do to help. And poor Jenna--first she suffers the shock of seeing John in the house when she never expected to see him again; then, just as she's about to exert her authority as Elena's legal guardian to kick him out of the house, he pours the cold water of biological fatherhood all over her (the first time she's hearing about it). Mind you, in reality I still think Jenna would actually have final say but it's a trifling point.

Elena isn't the only one who distrusts John; Damon's right there with her and he's beyond irritated at Stefan's decision to bring John back. Stefan, on the other hand, thinks they're too desperate to be picky. Since they can't trust or kill Elijah, and John can apparently help them with the latter, it seems John is the lesser of evils. Kind of like how I feel during elections. Nevertheless, John hasn't told Stefan how he can help any more than he's told Elena. Can you really trust an ally who keeps you in the dark? Damon decides to go have a chat with John.

After Damon leaves, Stefan suddenly has a whole new set of things to worry about when Caroline tells him what's going on with Ty. She begs Stefan to talk to Ty and convince him they're not his enemies. They both agree not to tell Damon about it as his response would be to simply kill Ty--something he wants to do anyway given Ty's werewolf status. Caroline is anxious not to lose her friend, though, and she thinks Stefan will say the right things to reassure Ty.

Meanwhile Jules is busy telling Ty that all vampires are their enemies. She's also trying to convince him to leave town with her. Something about pack loyalty and it being her duty and honour to help him. Whenever Jules is onscreen I just spend the time hoping one of the vampires will come along and kill her. She's one of those characters that seem to have a natural gift for eliciting revulsion. Meanwhile Ty is just confused about who he can trust.

Maybe it would help with Ty's trust issues if vampires weren't so sneaky and menacing. Stefan shows up without warning in Ty's house and proceeds to threaten him into listening to what Stefan has to say (but in a nice way--more or less). Yeah, that'll convince him you're not the bad guys.

Speaking of bad guys, it turns out Jules's werewolf boyfriend Brady (fellow Torontonian Stephen Amell, Heartland) has been hiding out in a trailer in the woods. And he makes Jules seem positively vamp-friendly. While she claims she wants the boy (Ty) more than vengeance for Mason's death, Brady decides he wants both.

Back in town John's not exactly getting a warm welcome. After finding out from the mayor's wife that Damon is now head of the (anti-vampire) Council, he gets told off by Jeremy for his anti-vampire sentiment. Then he pathetically has to ask Jenna and Alaric if he can sit with them at The Grill (they're less than enthusiastic). And finally he has to deal with Damon, who informs him that if he doesn't start talking about Klaus he will kill John in his sleep. At least John manages to stand up for himself, telling Damon he won't talk until he knows he can trust him.

John's not the only reject around. Luka's father gets the (very) cold shoulder from Bonnie, who informs him she wants nothing to do with either of them since he and his son are working for Elijah and are clearly not to be trusted (it's all about trust this episode). He attempts to defend himself and Elijah but gets shut down by Jeremy, of all people, who checks that Bonnie's okay and then walks away with his arm around her. Some days it just doesn't pay to even try.

Back to Stefan, who is still trying to convince Ty that the whole werewolf-vampire enemy thing is just an antiquated idea. He believes they can all get along fine and that Mystic Falls is their home. Ty nods as if he agrees, but when his cell suddenly rings he lunges for it, yelling "help" as he answers. Of course it's Jules on the other end, who proceeds to inform Brady that they have a problem.

The trouble begins as Caroline is getting into her car. Jules approaches from behind and starts talking to her sweetly. Caroline's not stupid but she is a little over-confident. As Jules starts getting nasty, Caroline vamps out and turns on her. Unfortunately Jules is ready and sprays Caroline in the face with vervain. Caroline turns away, her face burning, until she heals. When she turns back--really pissed now--Brady is waiting. He shoots Caroline point blank. She drops. When Caroline wakes up she's in a cage and she's in a hell of a lot of pain. She manages to get the wooden bullet out of her forehead but Brady's waiting. He shoots her again. Why? Why not?

Meanwhile Stefan is still trying to get through to Ty when he gets a call from "Caroline." It's Jules with orders to bring Ty to the woods within twenty minutes or Caroline is dead. In the background Brady continues to torture Caroline.

Damon and Elena are at The Grill; she's playing pool and he's drinking at the bar when Jenna brings over her friend Andie who wants to meet him (what--only one friend?) He turns down her offer to buy him a drink and walks away. As he passes her, Elena comments on his indifference. He says he's staying away from women at the moment, which is in the best interest of women everywhere. Just then she gets a call from Stefan telling her about the situation with Ty and Caroline. Elena begs Damon not to hurt Ty (when did everyone get so protective of Ty?) but Damon's not interested in playing nice anymore. She tries her usual tactic of guilting Damon into doing what she wants and I'm happy to see him call her on it. He also orders her to stay behind while he goes and takes care of things. No wonder Damon is stressed--he's the one who always has to clean up everyone else's messes, whether he wants to or not.

Brady continues to torture Caroline, both for fun and to try to get information about the vampires of Mystic Falls. Even screaming and writhing in pain Caroline doesn't give in. This character has done a complete 180--from whiny and useless to, frankly, awesome. And I have the feeling she's going to get even better. But back to the episode: as Jules waits outside the trailer she suddenly senses something nearby. Stefan walks out of the shadows with Ty in tow. He wants to be civilized about the situation, telling Jules it doesn't have to get any messier and that she should leave town. A moment later Damon arrives. As the latecomer he graciously allows Stefan to try it his way before he switches to his own methods, which--according to him--are a little bloodier.

I guess overconfidence is a general vampire characteristic because as Damon points out that Jules is outnumbered and overpowered she whistles and several weres come out of the woods, one of them carrying what looks like an industrial strength flamethrower. I like how the weres are disgusted with how vampires have "overrun" Mystic Falls (never mind that all three of them are natives--Katherine doesn't count as she's trapped in the tomb and it's not clear where Elijah is) but they have no problem showing up and causing all sorts of mayhem and violence. Reminds me of the idiot out-of-town "protesters" who showed up for the G20 summit last summer and smashed up local businesses.

Trying to remain confident about their chances, Damon tells Ty to go on back to Jules. Then the fight begins. It is quite an impressive melee, with--among other things--Damon ripping one were's heart out in an instant and Stefan catching a stake mid-air and whipping it back into the thrower's neck. The guys are kicking were ass but the wolves' greater numbers start overwhelming them. Crap.

As this is going on, Ty creeps inside the trailer and finds Caroline trapped and wounded. She begs him to unlatch the cage and at first it looks like he's not going to. But then he relents and releases her. As they head back outside Damon and Stefan are down and Jules is quick to put a gun to Caroline's head. Ty does nothing to help any of them--he doesn't even say anything. As Brady is about to stake Damon, the weres (all except Ty) start screaming and clutching their heads. Before long they're unconscious. It turns out Luka's dad has arrived to work some mojo and uphold Elijah's word to Elena. He tells the vampires to get out of there and then he tells Ty to inform the other weres that it's time for them to leave. Ty looks even more confused than usual. Meanwhile, I'm kind of wishing the witch had exploded all the weres' heads instead of just knocking them out for a while.

Stefan makes sure Caroline gets home okay and offers to stay with her if she wants. She insists she's okay, that she can handle herself now and just wants to take a shower. He acquiesces and leaves.

Meanwhile, John has showed up at the Salvatore mansion to talk to Damon. He claims that he believes Damon and Stefan will do anything to protect Elena, which puts them on the same side. He's brought along something that can kill Original vampires: a dagger and a bottle of ashes from a particular ancient white oak tree. To kill an Original the dagger needs to be dipped in the ashes before being plunged into their hearts. Rather ritualistic, I'd say. According to John, Isobel is the brains behind the operation and he claims that if she accomplishes what she's trying to do, Klaus will never step foot in Mystic Falls. This seems like a whole lot of effort. You'd think the witches could cast a protection spell on Elena or even over the entire town. But I guess since everyone seems to have ulterior motives of their own a simple spell would be counter-productive.

Back to Caroline appearing (understandably) traumatized as she's painfully digging splinters of wood out of her flesh. Suddenly she gets a call from Matt, whom she was supposed to meet. Shaken Caroline tells him she's helping Bonnie with something. Matt looks over at Bonnie and Jeremy looking pretty cozy at a table in The Grill. He goes along with Caroline's story but things aren't looking so good for those two right now. As soon as she hangs up Ty comes knocking. He actually has the audacity to ask if she's okay, claiming he had no idea they would go after her (it's so embarrassing when your wolf buddies attack and torture the one person who actually cares about you). He also whines that he doesn't know who to trust. Caroline is beyond angry at him. She informs him that she only lied to protect her friends and to protect him (she can't believe he doesn't understand that). Then she tells him it's too late for apologies as they're no longer friends. What happened that night will never happen to her again and she makes sure to tell him to let his pack buddies know.

Over at Elena's there's a fun echo of the scene from "Founder's Day" where John closed the fridge door and "Elena" (actually Katherine) was standing there. In this episode it's Elena who closes the fridge door and finds John standing there. John gives a sappy speech, claiming he knows he's not her real parent but he does care about her and wants to protect her and the family. He gives Elena a peace offering in the form of a charm bracelet that used to belong to her mother, Miranda. (I have the sudden notion that there might be some kind of actual magical charm attached to that bracelet.)

As John leaves, Stefan is there and he and Elena embrace. She tells him she doesn't believe John. When she asks how Caroline is doing Stefan says he needs Elena's help. They head back to Caroline's, along with Bonnie. The BFFs are ready and willing to offer some slumber party therapy, which--surprise--is exactly what Caroline needs. As the girls all hug, Elena looks over at Stefan and mouths "I love you" and he mouths it back. My romantic side thinks it's sweet, while my cynical side is gagging.

Back in the woods the weres are awake and dejected. Ty arrives and asks if it's always like this but Jules claims it's not, and Brady says it's only because Ty is in "vamp country." I guess Ty decided he can trust them because he tells them about the moonstone. They perk right up when they hear about it. Too bad Ty has no idea where it is (his exact words: "I couldn't tell you where it is," which may or may not be significant).

And finally we get back to Damon, this time sharing a bubble bath with Jenna's eager pal. Suddenly he says he has a problem he needs help with because it's really messing with his mind. He's in love with a woman he can never have. You have to wonder what it is about Elena that makes her so damn irresistible to vampires (and how do I get it?) Anyway, not being in control is driving Damon crazy. Yup, love can do that to you. Unfortunately he takes the confession a little too far when he admits he's a bad man who kills people. He compels her not to be afraid and she asks why he kills people. He says he kills because he likes it, because it's his nature. But Elena wants him to be a better man so to make her happy he can't be who he is (a killer). Thus his problem.

Andie suggests that maybe he is a better man now, that love changes you. The anguish on Damon's face and in his voice is just so perfectly executed (someone please give Ian Somerhalder a raise). He tells her to stop talking and to just be his distraction, which she's only too happy to do as they start kissing. Then there's a beautiful shot of Damon's fangs extending and a moment later he bites into her neck. The camera cuts between her face and the blood running down her back as Damon drinks. The whole thing is just so well done from the acting to the cinematography. It's also dead (no pun intended) sexy. And people don't get the appeal of vampires.

The episode ends with John paying a visit to Katherine. I'm sure no one had any doubts that Elena was right when she said John's motives weren't trustworthy. Now he proves her right. Katherine wants to know why Isobel didn't come since it was her she told Stefan to contact. John replies that Isobel got the message and was busy so she sent him instead. It seems John's real purpose for coming back to Mystic Falls is to get Katherine out of the tomb. Dumbass. I hope she finishes him off this time.

So this was quite the enjoyable episode: good story progression, vamp action, character development, and plenty of Damon awesomeness. I think we can now safely say that The Vampire Diaries stands up to (and even surpasses) all the other vampire shows currently out there, not to mention the fang-free shows. I'd even go so far as to say it's almost up there with Buffy and Angel, which is high praise indeed since they are the gold standard of all things vampire. Best turnaround ever; they've done themselves proud.

Fang Files

Appearance: Pale humans until the vampire emerges, then dark/red eyes, dark facial veins, and long, curved fangs.

Strengths: Super strength, speed, creativity. Heightened senses. Quick healing. Ability to compel humans (Originals can also compel other vampires).

Weaknesses: Vervain, wooden bullets, fire, stakes. Blood lust.

Mythology: Original vampires can only be killed by a dagger dipped in the ash of a specific ancient white oak tree. Stefan and Damon are now regularly consuming vervain in order to build up an immunity to it, as well as to make it impossible for an Original to compel them.

Sound Bites

Damon: [to Stefan] You brought back John Gilbert? That was your big 'save Elena' move?

Damon: [to Stefan] Better watch your back because I may just go out and get a hero hairdo of my own and steal your thunder.

Elena: Please don't do anything stupid.
Damon: Yeah, but stupid is more fun.

The Vampire Diaries, Season 2 Episode 13 "Daddy Issues." Written by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec. Directed by Joshua Butler. From The CW.

03 February 2011

Clip: Iwai Shunji's Vampire

Courtesy of Sundance (where it was screened), a short clip of Iwai Shunji's Vampire, a movie about a "new" kind of vampire, as well as an interview with Shunji about his movie. I've read some negative comments about Vampire, but I think it's probably still worth checking out. It can't be worse than some of the other movies I've seen (I hope).

02 February 2011

Death's Excellent Vacation

Spoilers Ahead

It's been awhile since I've read any short stories. I'm not generally a fan of the genre--you have to be Alice Munro to really pull it off (if you haven't read her Open Secrets, I highly recommend). But when Penguin sent me a review copy of Death's Excellent Vacation, a collection of paranormal short stories, I was excited to get into it. Unfortunately, I ended up disappointed.

First things first: out of the fourteen stories included, only five involve vampires (and in one of those there's only minor vamp action). Nevertheless, it's worth reading some of the other stories as well even if you're in it mainly for the vampires (particularly "The Innsmouth Nook" by A. Lee Martinez and "Meanwhile, Far Across the Caspian Sea..." by Daniel Stashower).

The first vampire story is "Two Blondes" by Charlaine Harris (who is also one of the editors of the book). Yes, it is a Sookie Stackhouse story (previously unpublished). Too bad it's also awful. The story revolves around Pam and Sookie (the two blondes of the title) spending a weekend in Tunica, Mississippi. What's supposed to be a vacation turns out to be a dangerous errand. Besides the preposterous premise, Harris spends way too much time on exposition and--worse--novel recaps. Given the limited number of pages you'd think it would have been obvious that more time should have been spent on story development. While the majority of "Two Blondes" is simply boring, the conclusion seems like it was created for (or by) skeezy high school boys with overwrought masturbatory fantasies. It's just bad. Harris didn't just phone this one in--she texted it.

Fang File: Pale humans with fangs that extend or retract at will. Sleep during the day and can't tolerate sunlight. They greet one another by nodding (no hand shaking). Elf blood is toxic to them.

Text Bite: "Pam put on her blinkers (she was an excellent driver) and following the signs, we pulled up in front of the casino/hotel where we had a reservation."

The next vampire story, "One for the Money" by Jeaniene Frost, is--thankfully--much better. In fact, it's my favourite story of the bunch. An offshoot of her Night Huntress novels (which I think I'll need to be checking out soon), "One for the Money" has vampires Cat and Bones teaming up with Cat's mom (a recently turned vampire) protecting a spoiled brat heiress from the various nasties out to kill her. This is one of the better-paced stories in the anthology, which is probably a big reason why it's also one of the better stories. It also doesn't hurt that it's an interesting story with decent tension and engaging characters. Clearly Frost can work as well in shorter form as in her longer pieces. Buffy fans might get a kick in seeing Ohio described as a "supernatural hotspot" (of course it is--there's a Hellmouth in Cleveland). And although I didn't get a real sense of it here, on her blog Felicia Day has described Bones as a Spike-like character (works for me).

Fang File: Heightened senses, super strength and speed. Ability to compel humans. Ability to see ghosts. Different vampires have different skills (Bones can fly, Cat can shoot flames from her hands). Sun, crosses, and stakes don't affect them. To kill you have to destroy a vampire's heart with silver.

Sound Bite: "Right. And we shrink back from crosses, can't travel over water, can't enter a home unless invited, and always get staked in the end by the righteous slayer. Really, who'd be afraid of a creature like that? All you'd need is a Bible, a tanning bed, and some holy water to send us shivering to our dooms."

Story number three, "Safe and Sound" by Jeff Abbott, isn't the most creative story I've ever read. It's about an obnoxious reporter named Nancy Grace Nora Dare who works for CNC ("Constant News Channel") and is obsessed with the case of a college student (Jason Kirk) who disappeared one night while on vacation on a Caribbean island. She's determined not to drop the story until Jason is found. None of the characters are exactly believable, especially when they're so exaggeratedly good or bad. It also seems to go on for too long and then rushes to the conclusion. But at least, unlike poor Natalee Holloway, Jason Kirk's story ends on a somewhat more positive note.

Fang File: Vampires only come out after dark. They can feed on animal or human blood. Ability to hypnotize humans and alter their memory.

Text Bite: "Nora had to decide whether to play that comment as a hurtful blow to the Kirk family or as an exciting, intriguing new twist in the story's worn fabric. She tilted her head again--she was known for the beauty and forcefulness of the head tilt--and decided the audience was hungry for a bit of the inspector's flesh."

"The Heart is Always Right" is an intriguing concept--the life of a gargoyle--marred by a poor execution and a predictable, cheesy ending. At least our hero (a nameless gargoyle) is interesting and sympathetic. Vampires make only a brief appearance.

Fang File: Vampires are minions of the "Big Bad" and are always found in the presence of kolthulu (squid demons). They can't speak when their fangs are out so they emit a whistling hiss instead.

Text Bite: "The lights were out here in the corner of the lot. That was the first wrong thing. The next was the thickness in the rainy air, like rancid soup. Last was the shadows crowding around, and the red pinprick lamps of eyes blinking on and off. What the hell? I dropped my plastic bags and my trueform shredded out through the mask of disguise."

This brings us to our final vampire story, "Pirate Dave's Haunted Amusement Park" by Toni L. P. Kelner, the other editor of Death's Excellent Vacation. The story, which does in fact feature an amusement park and a Pirate Dave, revolves around a newly turned werewolf visiting the amusement park of her childhood vacations and discovering a whole lot of sabotage going on. Teaming up with Pirate Dave (who turns out to be a vampire) they solve the mystery and find romance. There are no real twists to the concept and the pacing leaves something to be desired. The introduction is all right but everything after that is way too rushed, with no tension or build up of the story. It is, however, nice to see vampires and werewolves getting along for once. I think Kelner and Harris's stories serve to prove that editors should not include their own work in anthologies.

Fang File: Human appearance. Ability to glamour humans. Super speed. Can only come out at night.

Text Bite: Joyce: I thought we could go out for a bite. And for dessert we can come back here for a bite.
Vampire Pirate Dave: Prepare to be boarded.

Overall this is a book with a few decent stories and a lot of poor ones. If you're a diehard fan of the paranormal (there's a bit of everything to be found here, from squid monsters to gargoyles to leprechauns and even super heroes), borrow it from the library. The rest of you can feel free to give it a pass.

Death's Excellent Vacation, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner. From Ace Books (Penguin).