Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Caprica "The Things We Lock Away"

Non Spoiler Review:
Wow! This episode opened up so many cans of worms, it's worthy of a rewatch just to catch all the subtle bits. Everyone continues to behave really badly, except the two dead ones. We get the climactic board meeting which determines Daniel's future with his company, and it has several unforeseen consequences for Daniel and Tomas. Amanda starts to settle into her knew role as Jordan's spy in the STO and Clarice is as zealous as ever, answering every question with "Because it is God's will."

This episode provides a lot of focus on the deathwalkers...Tamara and Zoe finally meeting again in New Cap City, dealing with the ramifications of who and what they are in v-world. We also get several flashbacks to Zoe's childhood which provides a shocker that really sneaks up on the audience. I had no idea the writers were going to go there, but it opens up so many possibilities, and firmly ties this series to the Battlestar mythology.

Easily the best of the first three episodes back, and one of the more compelling ones of the series to date. Once again the writers have us guessing what direction the myriad storylines will take.

Spoilers Now!
It's interesting that everyone survived the cliffhanger, but the last three episodes have continued an ongoing massacre of lesser characters.

First, Graystone Industries has its surprise board meeting. Tomas is not impressed at all that he's so unanimously removed as head of the company. Daniel has won, but Joseph informs him that Tomas is Tauron and as such, the Ha'la'tha must return him to the soil. Ever rational Daniel thinks he can put the brakes on all this Tauron nonsense and wants to talk to Tomas as two reasonable businessmen rather than two thugs.

Amanda, meanwhile, goes through the cabin top to bottom but finds nothing at all that could tie Clarice to the STO. Jordan wants her to get in deeper—as in move in with the polyfamily. Clarice at first thinks that notion is ridiculous, but that could be because she's keeping Lacy hostage in the attic of their house and playing all sorts of good cop/bad cop mind games with her via Nestor and Olaf (it's difficult to keep track of her husbands).

Interestingly enough, we assume now the entire family is involved in the STO, that they would allow Clarice to conduct her interrogation in the house (as long as she doesn't talk terrorism in front of the kids, stresses plain bitchy wife Mar-Beth). But Clarice needs to find out if there was a backup to the resurrection program and Lacy informs her the robot was destroyed, but...Zoe used to store all sorts of data in her STO infinity broach, so maybe...

That sets Clarice back to chatting with Amanda about how nice it would be if she got all of Zoe's things back from the Planetary Defense Department, including any bits of jewelry, too. Amanda is able to use this to get to move in to the Willow household, which is getting a bit crowded. Clarice decides to send Lacy off to the terrorist training camp on Gemenon to make room for Amanda.

The main story involves Zoe tracking down Tamara in Thunderdome (actually the New Cap City version of the Sea Bucks arena). Tamara knows who she is via newspaper clippings that peg her as the maglev terrorist. "Oh, that," Zoe sighs. What follows is quite a trial of pain and suffering for Zoe, who is confronted by several v-world players who lost loved ones in the bombing. She can't die, but she can feel everything.

While she's suffering this Christ-like trial, we start to get flashbacks to real Zoe's childhood. We see a young girl drawing a picture of a fire in which she's trapped inside while her family can do nothing to save her. Except for an angelic pink figure on the roof. "Thanks for rescuing me from the fire," she tells this older Zoe who is in the room with her (!).  Yes...this is a Head Zoe.

A later flashback shows a more spunky adolescent Zoe chatting with a younger Daniel who is busy working on robot designs. "Those look like the pictures I used to draw as a kid," she says. Daniel brushes it off, but as she looks through her little box of memories, sure enough, there are several drawings of the familiar grey chassis and glowing red eye. Head Zoe appears suggesting that she should be angry with her father for stealing her ideas. But Zoe at this point is pretty easy going and knows she's not good enough build an actual robot like her father. How about creating something really life, Head Zoe suggests.

Next we get real Zoe initiating her avatar program for the first time. V-world Zoe appears and real Zoe is pretty pleased with herself. But it's not an act of hubris. Rather she wants this new Zoe to be her own person. Zoe's memory has been scanned up to the point of her creation, and from here on out, she will be creating her own set of experiences independent of her creator.

In New Cap City, Zoe climbs to her feet, battered and bloody, and challenges Tamara to consider their true purpose. As they fight, she tells her that they are not just ghosts of the dead girls, but their own selves free to make their own choices, including abandoning New Cap City and the decadence of its inhabitants. As Head Zoe watches in approval from the crowd (acting very Sixlike), V-Zoe tells Tamara she knows she has a greater purpose, and she thinks Tamara is part of that. The two of the them come to terms and leave the arena together.

Ha'la'thaHa'la'tha, with their combined resources. It looks like maybe Tomas is considering that. But really it's just a way to get Daniel to agree and swear on his knife, which allows Tomas to plunge the dagger into his own stomach. Tomas has a prolonged and messy death scene on Daniel's floor, which prompts Daniel to call Joseph and Sam to clean up the mess. 

What Worked:
The flashbacks to Zoe were done very well, including recasting a much younger actress for Zoe, and later an adolescent Zoe without all the makeup we're used to seeing in V-world.

Tomas Vergis' death was another solid shocker. I would have assumed this character was in for the long haul, so I'm very curious to see what will be served by his sudden death. The writers continue to pull out the unexpected twists—I was expecting a long drawn out struggle to regain Graystone Industries, but all of that is resolved and Daniel is back in power making Cylons.

Of all the mythological ties to Battlestar Galactica, I did not anticipate a head character. Head Zoe is a bit chilling when we see how happy real Zoe is when chatting with her father. The devil/angel temptations of the head characters is evident here with Head Zoe suggesting she be bitter with her father for taking her ideas. Is Zoe's rebellion and angst a result of this continued poisoning by Head Zoe throughout her young life?

Wouldn't it be interesting if the Graystones are a family with a destiny just like the Thraces? How long before we learn that Amanda's maiden name is Thrace? That might be a stretch, but just a thought.

The series has really hit an exciting stride with these first few episodes. All the slow buildup of the first half of the season is paying off now.

What Didn't Work:
While I don't mind Lacy, I'm not in love with the character yet, or really sure why she's becoming a terrorist in the first place. She's not an overt zealot, so I hope we get some kind of flashback that explains why she would devote herself to the STO when she just seems to be going with the flow. Or does she have other motivations to infiltrate the STO?

We need to get back to the Adamas at some point, because right now they're serving nothing more than hired muscle and clean up for Daniel's mess. Hopefully next episode brings us back into the Adama household because another installment focusing solely on the Graystones is getting a little much.

The memory transfer of the avatars has been glazed over a little too much. At first Daniel said it was a collection of multimedia, online presence and journals to construct memories and personality. Well, that doesn't really cut it. Here, Zoe comments that Virtual Zoe was scanned so will possess her experiences up to that point. Does she mean scanned memories? Like Cylon resurrection? And what about Tamara, who was constructed well after Real Tamara died and is only the sum of what was collected about her. This needs more explanation, especially in the context of apotheosis.

Finally, as we've seen, Caprica seems to get a lot of torrential rain, so what's up with Clarice's rickety attic with sunlight flooding through the slats of the wall? That place must be full of mold. Raising a house full of terrorists is probably the least of Mar-Beth's problems.

Review: The Event "A Matter of Life and Death"

Non Spoiler Review:
For the moment, the airliner passengers are alive again, and proving a source of a lot of questions for the government. Sophia's colleague, Thomas, emerges from the shadows to makes threats and demands for the detainees' release. 

Sean and Scully continue their road trip to investigate the mysterious Vicky in the hopes it leads them to Leila, while Leila continues to be thrown into trunks, shipping containers and basements.  Just another uneventful episode with more running and vague threats.

Spoilers Now!
The resurrection of the passengers has put everyone in a tizzy, and they're locked away at a hospital to undergo close observation, including Michael, who is grilled by Sterling about what could possibly have made him want to fly a plane into the president. Michael confesses they have his daughters and begs for Sterling to look into it. The vice president isn't so sure Sterling can be trusted, given he was against the press conference in the first place.

Thomas comes out of hiding to contact the president and demand the release of all the detainees or he will start using their alien weaponry. Martinez demands that Sophia start cooperating, but all she can suggest is to listen to what Thomas is saying as he can make life really difficult for them all.

We get a flashback to when Sophia and Martinez were friends and she came to the White House for dinner with him and the Mrs. Sophia speaks of her dream to integrate her refugees into the American mosaic, much as how Martinez mother was a refugee from Cuba who's son became president.

Sean and Scully track an address from Vicky's records and show up to interview an older woman. Scully's FBI skills are as ineffective as ever, but Sean takes the lead and rummages around the house while they're talking, stumbling upon a small boy who can only be Vicky's secret son. So he takes his photo with his iPhone which is starting to power down (important plot point for later).

With this new information they confront the grandmother (Vicky's mother) and get an emergency contact number for Vicky. With that success, they're off on the next leg of the their cross-country road trip.

Leila, meanwhile, is now in the basement of a house and D.B. Sweeney accidentally breaks a beer bottle down there because he's a mess and has a drinking problem. His character also does, apparently. Leila is able to use the glass to cut her ropes, grabs a gun from Vicky and nearly shoots her, escapes to find a cop and is taken to safety at the local police department. What a relief!

We also get another charming flashback to Leila and Sean road tripping to her home for Thanksgiving to meet the folks. Dinner is great, but for the fact of Michael asking Sean personal and uncomfortable questions about his parents, and forcing Sean to go into detail about how terrible and drunk his folks are. But they ultimately think he's a keeper.

Leila confides her story to the cops, who are a bit skeptical, but allow her to call Sean which is awesome if not for the fact his phone dies and he decides he'll check his voicemail at some future point when storyline dictates.

We then get Vicky and D.B. Sweeney's perspective on things, and we flashback to earlier in the episode when they faked the whole escape in order for Leila to get to the police (whom they killed and replaced with their own men) in order to call Sean and have him come there. Sean is very important to their operation now because he's on to them.

Meanwhile, Martinez decides not to give up the detainees so Thomas gets all pissy about it and all the passengers in the hospital abruptly begin to hemorrhage.

Another very frustrating episode that is starting to become a trend. It seems the writers teased a lot of information in episode two and are now firmly spinning their wheels in letting us know anything further. There's a whole lot of talking among the upper echelons of the characters—Sophia, Thomas, Martinez and Sterling, and a whole lot of driving and running with Scully, Sean and Leila. Disappointing.

Review: Mad Men "Blowing Smoke"

Non Spoiler Review:
SCDP continues to collapse under the weight of Lucky Strike's departure, as accounts begin to question whether the firm will exist in six months time. Don runs into Midge (flaky artist from season 1), which provides an interesting and disturbing portrait of where these two characters are in their lives.

Sally is doing well in therapy with Dr. Edna, but is it really all that it seems? She continues to have friendly meetings with Glen, but it's not long before Betty stumbles upon them and throws out her patented vindictive brand of parenting.

This penultimate episode provides a lot of depressing developments as characters are raised up and knocked down throughout. The principles struggle to save the firm but seem to be spinning their wheels, set against a backdrop of layoffs. It's left to Don to go nuclear and risk everything to bring SCDP out of its spiral. A very poignant and dark hour that promises what is sure to be an interesting finale.

Spoilers Now!
SCDP is searching for ways to stop the hemorrhaging accounts, and Don is meeting with Heinz. Heinz is open to working with SCDP, but in six months, which really means, if you're around in six months, we'll be happy to work with you.

The agency consults with Faye's boss who suggests they do what they do best—tobacco. So Atherton sets up a meeting with Philip Morris. But that also comes to naught, and further damages the morale at SCDP.

Lane has returned and mentions he just brought his family back (whatever that might mean given his marital situation). But all the partners must throw in funds to keep the revenue stream going for the next six months in order to secure a bank loan. Pete cannot afford the $50,000 to do so, however, and feels extremely betrayed by the partners when the likes of Roger are doing nothing to help the firm survive.

Trudy forbids him to put any more money into SCDP, so he's left to consider his options until Lane advises him by the end of the episode that Don has paid for his share. Pete shares a glance across the room with Don, a silent thank you and acknowledgement of Pete's value to the company. Well done, Don.

While leaving the office, Don runs into Midge from Season 1, who is attempting to sell some artwork. It's an interesting exchange as they catch up and Midge says she's married—rather, openly married—to another artist. She invites him over for dinner to meet the husband and maybe purchase some art.

Something is not quite right with Midge, as we soon realize when they get home and Midge's husband is ready to hustle her to Don for any amount of money. Don sends him away to buy food, and Midge reveals she's thoroughly addicted to heroin. "You haven't changed at all," she compliments him. Don is thoroughly disgusted with her, and buys a painting, but to add insult, she asks what she can do with just a cheque. So he gives her the little bit of cash he has on hand, and leaves her.

That sombre note tarnishes the entire episode. Staring at Midge's sad painting at home, struggling to figure out a way to get new business, Don has an epiphany, tears pages out of his journal, and begins a letter to the editor that appears the next morning in the paper. "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco" amounts to a full page ad for SCDP and its new direction to refuse to ever work with cigarette companies ever again because of the health dangers.

Madison Avenue is buzzing with the news, and Roger and Bert are infuriated—Bert, so much so that he resigns(!), declaring that they've created a monster (in Don). But the ad has done what it intended—getting people talking about something other than SCDP's imminent collapse. After a flood of crank calls (including Robert Kennedy via rival Tad) the gamble seems to have failed. Only at the partners meeting does Roger tell Don the American Cancer Society has been calling for him, and perhaps they should return the call.

Against this partner dispute, the office initiates a round of lay offs and Don notifies Peggy ahead of time. That spells the end of Danny, thank god, as well as a host of others. But when Don asks Peggy's opinion on his letter, she manages to get in a great retort, "I thought you weren't in for those kinds of shenanigans," echoing his reaction to her canned ham escapade at the beginning of the season.

Don's actions have had other repercussions—Faye's firm can no longer work with SCDP as they want to continue to do business with big tobacco. But Faye is pleased with that as they can now have a more public relationship. Peggy and Faye share a nice scene where they say their good-byes and Peggy declares how she admires Faye for being true to herself and not letting the men push her around.

Sally has been progressing well in her sessions with Dr. Edna, so much so that Edna is cutting back on her therapy. But Sally is just doing as she's told and taking the path of least resistance with her mother. Both Edna and Sally know Betty is unhappy, and Sally seems quite mature about the whole thing with an attitude of just waiting it out.

Sally and Glen are enjoying a secret friendly rendezvous in the neighbourhood discussing such profound things as life after death. Sally doesn't believe in heaven (much to Glen's horror). In fact, the only thing that bothers her is the forever part of death. Betty, however, stumbles upon them and sends Glen running away, and Sally home for a scolding. Despite Sally's protests that Glenn is nice, Betty assures her she knows better.

As Stan and Peggy attempt to work amid the crowds of staff being paraded by the doors as they get laid off, we leave the episode with Don ushering in his next firing, but confident he has changed the message.

What Worked:
The feelings of this episode were quite morose, from Midge's self-destruction, Betty's ongoing mistreatment of Sally, and the overall sense of despair permeating SCDP. The only shining moments were Peggy's confidence and sense of humour, and the ongoing Don/Faye relationship (but I have a sense that's living on borrowed time). Megan and Don's working relationship seems normal, but in a few scenes she's framed in the background behind Don and Faye.

There are several hints throughout that Don might be abandoning his progress this season, including tearing out the pages of his journal he's been updating the last few episodes. Faye continues to urge him to let go of Don Draper and stop living the lie of Dick Whitman, but Don absolutely refuses. Even his behaviour with the letter is true self-preserving Don Draper, thinking nothing of consulting the partners, or that his actions might result in Faye losing the SCDP account.

There was a tiny moment of redemption doing good by Pete and seemed to acknowledge in that brief glance the amount of work both men have put in the firm and their conflicted past together. He also continues to rely on Peggy as his only real confidante, asking her opinion of his actions above anyone else.

Sally's somewhat chilling attitude about death has me a little concerned about her. Things are too calm with her at the moment, and Glen has even grown somewhat less creepy. I'm unsure how that is going to unfold now that they're going to move.

What Didn't Work:
Does anyone care about Bobby? He's been a prop the whole season, just happily eating dinner in the background. Maybe he will be the wild card and something crazy will happen with him.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Caprica "Retribution"

Non Spoiler Review:
A quieter, more intimate episode that focuses primarily on Amanda and Clarice's relationship since the suicide attempt/car bombing. Daniel and the Adamas get bad ass on the Graystone Industries board of directors in order to initiate their upcoming coup. Lacy screws up a terrorist attack and sets in motion a lot of problems for her STO cell. And, as the title suggests, Clarice initiates her own revenge against those who have betrayed her.

After the myriad plot points from Unvanquished, this episode is a bit of a breather to catch us up on some other characters, and to set up some further developments. Amanda is still very messed up, and is forced to face truths about Clarice, Zoe and Daniel, as Planetary Defence officer Jordan is more determined than ever to destroy the STO at pretty much any cost.

Retribution played out like The Godfather on a couple of levels, and worked very well. Caprica has proven it can do both action-oriented sci-fi and more intimate character driven episodes that are equally compelling. But can the show handle all the characters turning to the dark side?

Spoilers Now!
Lacy and the STO gang royally screw up a plan to bomb the spaceport, resulting in the death of a guard. Lacy is to blame for everything going south because she got cold feet at the last minute, which sends everyone off in different directions to avoid the heat from authorities. But the authorities are the least of their worries, because...

Clarice, freshly back from Gemenon with her new author-i-tay starts getting rid of her former turncoat terrorists, including Hippolyta and Pann (also former students of the Athena Academy), which ultimately leaves Barnabus, Lacy and Keon to hole up in Barnabus' apartment.

Jordan from the Planetary Defence Office wants to smash the STO in a big way. With news of former students of Clarice turning up dead, he ties her to the STO, then harasses Amanda to become his inside agent. He pulls out all the stops to get her to cooperate, including playing the Zoe card, so Amanda is completely torn up throughout the episode while putting together all the pieces and wondering whom to trust. It doesn't help that Clarice is muttering Zoe while she's lying in bed with a holoband.

We also fill in the gaps of what Amanda's been up to since she jumped off the Pantheon Bridge. She escaped with a broken leg and Clarice hung out at the hospital with her because Amanda was in no mood to talk to Daniel after Tomas Vergis' revelations. The two have formed a bond, living together in Clarice's cabin somewhere in the woods while she takes a much needed Daniel break.

Daniel did get a chance to speak with her in the hospital but totally says all the wrong things, equating her accusations of killing Tomas' men to Amanda being responsible for Zoe's death. Not the best analogy to make under those circumstances. Amanda is not impressed.

Daniel and the Adamas are going through the files on the Graystone board of directors, pulling up dirt on everyone in order to assure every one's vote. This ultimately results in one board member killing himself, but Daniel is firmly set on regaining his company at all costs. Cyrus does give him the banged up Cylon prototype he saved from being melted down. Daniel advises him to keep his head down with what's coming with the company.

Barnabus is unhappy with Lacy, considering his other operatives are starting to drop dead. Keon just wants out at this point, but it's too late for everyone. Clarice arrives with her allies and Keon is shot in the head, Barnabus is handcuffed and blown up in his apartment, and Lacy is hauled off with them.

"Are you going to kill me?" she asks. "I hope not!" Clarice answers honestly.

As both Clarice and Daniel seem to have their pawns in place, we're left with Amanda. She's concluded that Clarice was responsible for Zoe's involvement in the bombing and has even gone so far as to retrieve a gun from the Graystone home. But as Clarice relaxes with her after her long day, confiding she's the only one she can talk to, Amanda opts to delay her personal revenge and Jordan now has his insider in the STO.

What Worked:
It rained the entire episode, which provided a nice moody backdrop to all the terrible things our characters were doing.

I love Caprican corporate machinations. But will taking back the company be so easy? It seems odd to set up Vergis' takeover only to have it revert back after a few weeks, unless it sets up something bigger we have yet to see. Caprica is getting its battle robots, but without sentience, won't they behave like the messed up prototype at the beginning of the pilot?

Polly Walker continues to excel as her character. Clarice has become a force to be reckoned with in the charismatic tradition of Gaius Baltar. Amanda's choices here weren't entirely expected. My initial thoughts from last season pointed to Amanda becoming part of the STO, but now it looks like she's smart enough not to fall for Clarice's lies.

Joseph hasn't really gotten the needed focus yet to bring us up to speed on what's going on in his head. He and Sam are turning into Daniel's muscle, so we need to see what's going on inside the Adama household at this point to address how Joseph has dealt with being severed from New Cap City.

What Didn't Work:
I do enjoy Amanda's crazy cam viewpoint, but we don't necessarily need to see a montage of flashbacks every time she makes a decision, including flashbacks to the previous scene which are still fresh in our mind.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: The Event "Protect Them from the Truth"

Non Spoiler Review:
Sadly, the dreaded deux ex machina has started to show its face big time this episode. Coming so strongly off of last week's promising pace and plot developments, we slow down significantly with plots that go nowhere and more focus on Sean and his new partner, agent Scully (I know her name is Collier, but I'm calling her agent Scully because of her fabulous pantsuits and moxie).

Of course, this means that President Martinez and Sophia get short shrift again. We get even more conspiracy elements, and our beloved flashbacks show no sign of diminishing.

This episode was the weakest so far, and I hope it turns out to be a hiccup rather than a trend.

Spoilers Now!
Sean walks into a hotel room with a bunch of medical supplies, where we find he's beat up a hooker...wait, it's the FBI agent and it's two hours earlier, and instead of slowly panning away last week from the road block, the FBI car is hit out of nowhere by an RV which pretty much kills everyone necessary, except for Sean, who can get out of handcuffs and everything by swiping Mulder's keys. Mulder's dead, of course (that's what he gets for missing the cast photo shoot). But luckily Scully is alive, albeit bloody, and Sean pulls her to safety. 

Sean doesn't have much time to do anything more than a quick visual scan of the RV driver, the cop and Mulder, who all must be dead. He hops in the cop car and drives off as the scene erupts in flames behind him.

Back to the present, Sean's got Scully handcuffed to the bed, because that's how he rolls. She's being quite the bitch about it, but Sean's found Vicky on the Internet and has managed to figure out Scully's FBI password on her laptop (which he spent time retrieving from the wreck rather than, oh, I don't know, maybe checking on other survivors) but he still needs her help. She won't cooperate but he's determined to find Vicky Roberts. While he's cleaning up, though, he leaves her enough time to contort a way to get her cell phone and make a call for back up. But that appears exactly what he wants her to do.

Vice President Jarvis confronts Blake about the current investigation, suggesting that Blake might have wanted the press conference stopped. We jump ahead to the Arizona crash sight where Blake and the president review the field of bodies and discuss moving the wreckage and corpses to a more acceptable crash location (Brazil).

Agent Lee is also there, and explains many survivors appeared to have been fleeing whatever killed them. To get answers from Sophia, Martinez goes to see her again. He shows her the dead passengers. She won't defend her comrades, but can't betray her people. So Martinez makes an offer to all the detainees for freedom for whomever talks.

The FBI rescues Scully from the hotel and she's brought back to a field office for debriefing, but Sean has hidden in the trunk of the car to get into the FBI field office with Scully's laptop. Meanwhile, the news report finally makes mention of the plane crashing in the Brazilian rain forest.

Meanwhile, ironically enough, Vicky's got Leila in her trunk, but gets stopped by the cops. When flirting doesn't work, she shoots him. She drops Leila off in a shipping container for safe keeping.

I neglected to mention that for this episode, Sean's developed computer hacking powers and has gotten into the FBI database to find Vicky's identity, just as he's discovered. But Scully decides he might be on to something as they drag him away, and confides in Mulder II that he could be on to something. At last, that FBI training is bearing fruit.

Blake meets one of the turncoat detainees who has decided to take the amnesty. And we get his flashback in which we learn...

Back in 1944 Sophia clears out the able-bodied survivors, but our turncoat, William, can't leave as he's one of the wounded. Sophia sends his girlfriend Maya away with the others, but refuses to let William slow them down. It is imperative to her that Thomas escapes as he apparently has a critical mission. Maya elects to stay with her boyfriend.

Back to the present, William now wants his girlfriend back, forcing Blake to arrange that release and delay this confession even longer for Martinez and us. Martinez is watching them on a two way mirror and agrees to his demand.

Lee gets a meeting with Sophia and has some private time to talk with her, because apparently any FBI agent can get a private meeting with the aliens. She orders Lee to deal with the William problem.

Back to Blake. Though the plane's black box was mangled, they get some of Sean's voice on the recording, finding him on video surveillance getting on the plane in a maintenance uniform. They tie him to Michael's daughter, and also reveal he was quite the computer hacker in his youth (plot hole sealed). They decide to investigate this lead, as he's the only survivor of the crash, and need to track him down.

The background check on Vicky shows she may work for the government as an underground operative. With all the weirdness surrounding the disappearance of the plane, Scully gets suspicious when a prisoner transfer for Sean comes through too quickly. She tries to check with the field office but the call is cut off and the mysterious G-men arrive and go all Terminator on the field office, killing pretty much everyone (including Mulder II—also not in the cast photo). Scully protects Sean and makes off with him after they manage to finish off all the bad guys (except for one who is only knocked out and can therefore fill in his bosses about what happened and then pursue Sean and Scully).

Blake arranges for Maya (Sophie from Carnivale!) to be brought to William. She's not too impressed that he's spilling the beans. But when she finds out he was holding out his information until he was assured of her release, she's pretty happy, as she can then stab him because she's the worst girlfriend ever. And so she does.

Vicky gets a call that Sean has gotten away again. That buys Leila some more time, as they will need her to draw out Sean before he starts to put everything together. Sadly, that means we get more Leila next episode.

Meanwhile in the temporary morgue for the crash victims, we hear breathing, and it turns out a girl is still breathing. Then another. And suddenly it's zombie morgue because everyone is waking up. They were apparently all having a siesta in the hot desert and nobody bothered to check before carting them off to the morgue.

Such a letdown! The moment an RV comes out and conveniently kills everyone, this episode was on a downward spiral. We get a possible confession plot line that serves nothing but fill up time and goes nowhere. And like everyone born after 1990, Sean is a part-time hacker coupled with the intuitive abilities of correct password guessing. The weakest episode so far.

Review: The Tudors "Bottom of the Pot"

Non Spoiler Review:
The court goes crazy as Queen Catherine's indiscretions are brought to light via the mystery letter from last episode. We see a retread of Anne Boleyn's fall from grace as the episode moves through the accusations, trials and interrogations at breakneck speed.

Catherine's fate was a foregone conclusion, but with the slow build up over the last few episodes, this hour seemed to be extremely rushed, as if the writers realized they had multiple plot points to wrap up in order to move on to the next developments. It was still an exciting episode, but Catherine's accelerated fall was paled somewhat in the shadow of the long, sad decline we saw with Anne Boleyn.

Spoilers Now!
We jump into the storm right away as Henry grills Edward Seymour about that mysterious letter that reveals Catherine's checkered past. Edward conducts the necessary investigations. Catherine is confined to quarters without much explanation as interviews with a man from her time with the dowager duchess lead right to Francis. He doesn't last long before confessing to having carnal knowledge of Catherine, but assures them he's been a good boy since he became her usher. That doesn't look well no matter how it's spun, so Francis is tortured. Joan is also interviewed, which leads to Lady Rockford, which ultimately leads to Thomas Culpepper, and soon everyone has been implicated in the scandal.

Henry seems to take this all in stride for awhile, but court is in an uproar at the rumours. Mary is delighted when she hears the news from Chapuys.

Once everything is out in the open, Francis has been thoroughly tortured and condemned to death. Culpepper is also condemned to death but is characteristically unrepentant. For her role in the affair, Lady Rockford is thrown in the tower and goes mad seemingly overnight. For a moment, that's a good thing, as it's illegal to condemn to death a mad person. Except Henry, in his out of the box thinking, orders parliament to pass a new law making it legal to condemn a mad person. Poor Lady Rockford.

Catherine is taken to the tower, and we see Culpepper and Francis' heads on a pike. Catherine is distraught but the bishop offers a letter of forgiveness from Henry if she confesses to all her crimes, which she does. But she is very much in love with Culpepper, and she is ultimately doomed to die. After a few crying fits, a calm finally comes over her, and as a final request she asks for the axe block the night before her death, in order to properly, and with dignity, position herself on it.

Henry is none to happy with his councillors, particularly Seymour and Charles Brandon, who had urged him to marry Catherine. But old friendships take precedence, and he is more forgiving of Charles.

Come the execution day, Lady Rockford and Catherine are led to the gallows. Rockford offers up some last words of craziness, and goes under the axe. The ladies in waiting, including Joan, who has managed to survive the whole spectacle, tearfully gather up her head.

Catherine innocently announces she dies a queen but would rather have lived as Culpepper's wife, and does her best to imitate Anne Boleyn. Meanwhile, Henry parties it up with many, many lovely women of court as he is wont to do when one of his wives is being executed.

So we have this storyline wrapped up and it unfolded just as expected. We don't have any real answers as to Culpepper and Rockford's motivations, aside from a feeling of invincibility or complete stupidity in their actions.

Catherine's fall lacked a lot of the emotional gravitas of Anne Boleyn's. Anne was allowed to develop over two seasons, while Catherine got a handful of episodes. Anne's morally ambiguous character provided both sources of anger and sympathy for the audience, so her death was quite poignant. Catherine's lack of intelligence and innocence grew tiresome pretty quickly and I found little empathy for her at the end. But perhaps that was the point.

Review: Caprica "Unvanquished"

Non Spoiler Review:
Thank the Lords of Kobol, Caprica is back! We jump right into the action as viewers are brought up to date after a few weeks have passed since the cliffhanger. 

This episode was all over the place, but in a good way. Pretty much all the major characters had a moment to see where they were at. Daniel and Joseph are grappling with their respective tragedies, and circumstances once again are tossing the Graystones and Adamas back into the same orbit. Meanwhile, Clarice is off to Gemenon to meet with the church of the one true god, and their Blessed Mother (Meg Tilly!). 

After seeing the briefest glimpse of Tauron last season, it's a treat to finally get off Caprica to Gemenon and a taste of the monotheistic movement that is both church and terrorist organization. 

Light on action, but heavy on dialogue, the mood of this episode was solemn and foreboding as we see that Graystone Industries is well on its way to meeting its battle robot quota (and nothing bad can happen with that).

Aside from one spectacular action sequence teased in the preview that turned out to be just a v-world bit, this was a welcome back installment in what is sure to be a great back end to the season.

Spoilers Now!
Three weeks later...and Daniel is a mess having lost both Graystone Industries to Tomas, and, apparently, Amanda. But he's not done for yet. As Graystone Industries pumps out 1000 (non-sentient) Cylons a week, Daniel meets with the head of the Ha'la'tha where a stoic Joseph and Sam watch as he offers to sell the mob boss on the software program for life after death. Joseph is a little startled by the offer as he thought it would be for battle robots, but the Ha'la'tha is intrigued, and offers Joseph the opportunity to be the liaison with Daniel, which is a significant promotion. It looks as though Joseph is returning to his Tauron roots hardcore.

The Ha'la'tha tests Daniel, seeing just how far he's willing to go—putting him in a position of sacrificing his mother's life for the deal. It looks as though crazy Daniel just might do it, but he backs down and shows his limits. Joseph suggests he reconsider the offer now that they know his limits.

Lacy is hanging with the terrorists, standing up to Barnabas and impressing him with her moxie. But it's Clarice's storyline that gets quite the injection. Apparently she's more well known than just the small terrorist cell on Caprica. She's popular enough to prove a threat to the conclave of religious leaders on Gemenon.

Clarice is selling them on her PowerPoint presentation of apotheosis, which seems to intrigue all but one of the leaders, who confides in Mother (Meg Tilly) about the danger Clarice poses if she accumulates more power. Mother gives the go ahead to take her out, but they've all underestimated Clarice's power and feminine wiles when it comes to recruiting allies. When the assassination attempt is made, it turns into a Julius Caesar moment as the conclave member is killed by both the terrorists and his brethren while Mother watches in horror. Mother is a smart cookie, though, and opts to give Clarice anything she wants for her afterlife science project, including total control over the STO on Caprica. "Lord save me from the Capricans," she sighs. Indeed!

Clarice returns home to a cabin on Caprica where we find Amanda Graystone (!) replying to Daniel's voice mails that she needs more time alone. Apparently Daniel hasn't just been speaking to her ghostly answering machine, but is in fact still communicating with her.

The Cylon prototype is all smashed up from the car crash, and Tomas orders Cyrus to "box the toaster" (giggle!), but luckily Cyrus is still loyal to Daniel and keeps him in the loop on such things, saving it for him if he should ever get back to it. New Cap City we see Zoe dressed all bad ass, ambushed by some thugs who ask if she is one of the deathwalkers. Maybe, who wants to know? She then goes about thoroughly kicking their asses and they won't be playing New Cap City ever again.

What Worked:
The morose tone of this episode is no stranger to the series, but coming off the events of the cliffhanger, Daniel's loss and Joseph's stoicism were a nice balance. Both men have dealt with their loss in different ways, and again they find themselves thrown together.

Getting off Caprica was great, and I hope to see more of the other colonies. We were teased with the conflict on Gemenon (the polytheist forces and the Hephaesteans, whoever they might be). How powerful is the church of the one god? And the blessed mother (Meg Tilly) seems very uncertain and paranoid given her position as a female pope of this church.

I'm very happy that Amanda survived her jump and it's no surprise she's ended up with Clarice. Both actresses are magnificent to watch, and playing two equally unbalanced characters. Clarice's nature has evolved so much since the pilot, she is truly a force to be reckoned with and drips crazy religious zealot with every word. I'm not satisfied until Clarice says apotheosis at least ten times an episode.

What Didn't Work:
While being all over the place, the show can't be faulted for bringing us up to speed on as many plot points as possible. So no William this week hopefully means he will be seen soon, given his plot line fell off the radar last season.

So Daniel has a mother? Why haven't we seen her? Especially since he's lost a daughter, a wife and a company in such a short time. You would think Mrs. Graystone would be playing a bigger role in her son's life.

Clarice's coup of the STO seemed a bit fast and quite thorough. We got a sense she was the head of a minor cell, but is apparently far more popular than we ever knew and has managed to win the hearts and minds of all the religious leaders. What happened is akin to someone taking over the Catholic Church and intimidating the pope. It seemed a bit much to swallow in so short a time. We also have the mystery voice that counsels Clarice in the v-world confessional. Is this going to be a major revelation?

Clarice's heaven is a bit confusing still. Apotheosis requires more explanation, because right now we don't have a sense of how memories are scanned into these avatars. And who gets into the heaven? From her presentation it looks as though only the suicide bombers will get a reward in her Elven paradise. It does provide a lot of food for thought, though, and the writers have me guessing at any number of ways this can play out: Cylon resurrection, the source of Cylon souls? There are many possibilities.

Finally, I must balk at the trend of misleading trailers. The destruction of the Sea Bucks stadium was teased through the Season 1.5 preview and was an epic moment—only to reveal it's all a v-world program. Let this be the last time this happens, please!

Review: The Tudors "Natural Ally"

Non Spoiler Review:
The king's tour of the north continues, culminating in a meeting with James of Scotland, while rumours of war with France continue. Mary's influence and popularity continues to grow at the expense of Catherine, who's past begins to catch up to her. Accompanying the king, Charles is reminded of the death and carnage he inflicted at the king's behest last season to crush the rebellion.

Easily the best episode so far this season, many plotlines are kicked into high gear. Events begin to accelerate, particularly Catherine's indiscretions. Coupled with the ties to last season's rebellion, it made for a very interesting and enjoyable episode. Charles received some much-needed focus, and it's a treat to see so many plotlines from previous seasons taken up again.

Perhaps most important, Elizabeth and Edward Tudor both receive more focus, really making this feel like The Tudors for the first time during the series. 

Spoilers Now!
Henry continues his tour into Yorkshire, which brings dark memories for Charles, who brought the rebel leader Darcy to his death last season. Henry  forgives the former rebel peasants, and Mary's star continues to rise as the beloved daughter of their late catholic Queen Catherine.

Current Catherine, however, is pushed to the sidelines during the tour, continuing her affair with Culpepper. To add to her difficulties, Francis, another indiscretion from her past, arrives to blackmail her and forces her to hire him as her usher. Chatty Joan confides the truth of Francis to Lady Rockford.

Catherine continues to dote on Thomas, while Francis enjoys the wine and food of his position, outing the queen about her past in front of her ladies. Francis is finally confronted by the king's men, and a fight ensues. Such behaviour is not going to go unnoticed for long (like one episode at most!).

Charles has visions of Darcy's ghost, still racked with guilt for causing the deaths of the rebels. He hasn't been the same man since. Meanwhile, Surrey only shows disdain for the peasants. It's still unclear what his role in the series is going to be at this point as he just seems to simmer in the background scheming for position.

Back home, Elizabeth helps to tutor her charming and courteous little brother. But later, Edward develops a fever which threatens to be lethal. Edward Seymour must decide weather to alert the king in the north, and when the prince's condition continues to worsen, Seymour is faced with alerting Henry that his male heir's life is in jeopardy.

Henry, meanwhile, awaits to meet with King James, but is alerted at the very last moment that he is not coming at all, but also that the Scottish army has invaded the north. Henry orders retaliation in a rage, and shortly thereafter is alerted by an unfortunate messenger that Edward is ill. He returns to Windsor.

We're left with a vignette of the Tudors maintaining vigil over Edward while Catherine continues her affair. But Edward comes out of his fever, and Henry holds a special mass of thanks. At the mass someone leaves a mysterious letter for the king, who looks very much like it could be one of the king's groomsmen, judging by the cuffs and uniform.

So we have one of the more epic episodes, as the king's party continues to travel through the north. One major continuity faux pas is that James is Henry's nephew, but when producers decided to combine Henry's two sisters into one character (Charle's deceased wife) we're left with no maternity for James—something they likely will not elaborate on at all, but bears mention.

Culpepper's motivations continue to be left up to the audience and still aren't working well with me. Are they simply sociopaths who want to ruin the queen with no idea of the outcome? Perhaps Culpepper, but Lady Rockford's need to destroy Catherine seems to have no motivation at all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Madmen "Chinese Wall"

Non Spoiler Review:
It's no surprise, coming on the heals of last week's Lucky Strike bomb, that Roger's delaying tactics would not last forever. What unfolds plays out much like a "Where were you when Kennedy was shot", except now it's "Where were you when SCDP lost Lucky Strike".

Mad Men hits the ground running and doesn't let up as SCDP must contend with the ramifications of their worst nightmare. Don, Roger and Peggy lapse into self-destructive behaviours, all against the background of a protracted labor for Trudy and some soul searching for Pete. An intense and aggravating episode.

Spoilers Now!
We start with a nice dinner with Ken and his fiancee Cynthia, and her parents (Leland Palmer!), when he is interrupted by a rival accounts man, who is sorry to hear about the news. Ken thinks it's regarding the death of a well known ad man at his previous firm, but it's really about losing Lucky Strike. Panicked calls ensure, first with Pete, who is waiting for Trudy to give birth, then to a horrified Don, prompting a partner's meeting.

Roger lies and lies about Lee Garner, even faking a phone call in front of the partners (apparently Lee did not honor his thirty day promise). Don berates Roger for being unable to even handle just one account, and everyone goes into damage control, including an all staff meeting which promises no changes for the time being.

Peggy, meanwhile, has run into Abe again and opts to indulge in a fling with him. He doesn't seem crazy anymore, and rather quite likable in an awkward way. She's thrust into the limelight to deliver a Playtex presentation on her own, while Don is out scoring business. Stan thinks she's easy pickings now that their in the final days of Rome, but is rebuffed by her again. He gets his revenge when Peggy delivers a great presentation to the client, but finds out she had lipstick all over her teeth, and he neglected to tell her.

In the aftermath of the news, SCDP loses the cleanser account for which they won the award earlier in the year, prompting Don to berate Pete this time, for not being focused. Don is completely in panic mode, striking out randomly at whomever enters his frame. He asks Faye to tell him which of her clients are unhappy and could be easy pickings for them. She's horrified he would ask such a thing, but his attitude that it's no big deal prompts her to storm out. This, of course, sets up a perfect opportunity for Megan to want to get to know the business and stay late working with Don. He indulges in their office tryst, and heads home to Faye at his apartment. He thinks she's breaking up with him, but instead she's given him a meeting with Heinz

Pete has a daughter, and amid being both praised and berated by Don, his father-in-law is setting up a meeting with CDC who wants to poach Pete. It's time to grow up, his father-in-law says, now that he has a family.

Roger can't seem to get a break, as he reveals to Joan that he lost Lucky Strike earlier, and didn't even go on a trip to meet with the board. She's torn about what to do with the news, but she does decide to end their association once and for all. Roger is devastated, and goes home to his wife, where his brand new book has arrived, Sterlings Gold.

What Worked:
This episode moved along at a brisk pace, much like last season's finale, as the domino effect of Lucky Strike's collapse sent all sorts of bad things into play. We get a sense of what this loss truly means, after four years of hyping the importance of the tobacco company—other accounts beginning to jump ship once they smell blood, and worries that staff will start to get picked off by rival firms.

The partners attend the funeral of the ad man, with a great scene in which they deconstruct the crowd for potential clients while the eulogy drones on. Equally effective is Don and Pete musing over the wife and daughter (looking surprisingly Sally-like) while the speaker comments how they gave up their father/husband over to his work.

Don's self-destructive streak returns, sabotaging his relationship with Faye. This was inevitable, sadly, but very effective watching the train wreck unfold. On the plus side, he is still limiting his drinking. And it's no surprise he fell for Megan, given she's completely his type.

Stan was actually somewhat tolerable this episode. He is extremely attracted to Peggy, so her constant rebuff has brought them to a playful flirting. I do not want them to hook up, but this was the first time his teasing of Peggy seemed less mean-spirited and more schoolboy crush.

The dilemma facing Pete is a sympathetic one. Given how he has been treated in this and previous episodes, the fact that he has put his family as a priority is admirable, and that may mean he jumps ship and helps seal SCDP's face. Would we blame him?

Peggy's presentation could easily have turned into a grand failure given all the other shenanigans going on around the office, but she nails it, and aside from the embarrassment of her lipstick faux pas, has likely saved the account. It was nice to get that positive moment in an otherwise morose episode, and especially pleasing was yet another exchange of confidence and respect between her and Don.

Roger's destruction continues. With Joan's slapdown and the end of any relevance he has at the firm, I'm expecting a suicide/heart attack moment at any time. Tick tock.

Review: The Tudors "Something For You"

Non Spoiler Review:
We get to see the benevolent side of Henry VIII as he deals with his people and in particular, the rebellious north country from last season. There continues more scheming in court, ranging from Surrey (Catherine's uncle), to questions about the succession for Edward, and Mary's role in the minds of the people.

Another episode with little action, and continued court intrigue, this instalment was made interesting by the king's journey to Lincoln, which provided an interesting setting. Culpepper and Catherine's affair continues, but her childlike giddiness and obliviousness to the schemers around her is getting a bit tiresome after three episodes. 

The rivalry between Surrey and the Seymours continues, as well, but this is very similar to what we've seen in the past with the Boleyns and the Seymours. But this is court, after all, and the machinations are a part of the drama. 

Spoilers Now!
The king returns to court, informing Catherine he was unwell but is now recovered. After a romp with Catherine in which he makes it clear he wishes she conceive a child, he disappears for a few days. He, in fact, goes to see Anne and young Elizabeth, who flatters her father and makes him proud of her intelligence and diplomacy. Anne continues to be the good woman that bears the king no problem at all, which further enamours her with him. While he's away, Catherine continues her tryst with Culpepper with Lady Rockford's aid.

Henry returns to meet with his council about their upcoming tour of the north, including meeting with King James of Scotland. Catherine bursts in to announce she's pregnant, which makes the king quite happy...for a brief time. Until she tells him she was mistaken, and he angrily returns to visit Anne. Despondent, Catherine pines after Culpepper and continues her affair while the king manages to seduce Anne.

Mendoza informs Mary that the succession is in question, given Jane was never formally crowned queen and some in court do not support Edward as next in line. If Catherine remains childless, then the question of succession would fall to Mary. Henry prepares to depart for the north, and while Catherine can now accompany him given she isn't pregnant, Mary is also travelling with them, as she is beloved by the more Catholic northerners. 

Surrey receives a knighthood given his blood ties to the queen, a position he eagerly accepts, given his ancestors were all members of the same honour. He is especially venomous to Seymour whom he sees as a low man elevated by the king at the expense of the true nobility. However, Edward is later informed by the bishop that Surrey's behaviour has been less than fitting a knight, receiving sworn statements of his behaviour, and that Surrey (gasp!) may actually be a Lutheran. In addition, Surrey flirts with Lady Hartford, Edward's wife.

In Lincoln, the king arrives to pardon his subjects who participated in last season's rebellion. But Catherine wants another liaison with Culpepper while staying in Lincoln castle, and has even composed a letter of her love for him that he and Lady Rockford read and mock in bed together.

This episode shows a considerably more mellow Henry than last. There is a nice scene of Henry blessing the poor and infirm, which shows he still possesses some humanity. He spends time visiting Anne and Elizabeth, whom he dotes on for her intelligence, and later on, with Edward. He is becoming pensive about his children, and Catherine's mistaken pregnancy quickly ends his honeymoon period with her.  He is nostalgic for his previous marriage, falling into bed with Anne, who has been the perfect wife more in divorce than in marriage. He caps his trip north with a grand gesture of forgiveness for the rebellion.

Undoubtedly the imminent reveal of Catherine's betrayal will smite his good-nature and the tyrant will come out, but that Henry can still illicit sympathy at this point is a credit to the writers and actor. Mary's greater roll and desires for the throne are also a welcome plotline as we see all the factors that will shape her bitter rule in the future.

Again, we get more two-dimensional villainy from Culpepper, Rockford and now Surrey, who seems to take delight in disrespecting his honoured position as a knight, despite the fact that he regards himself as royal blood. Lady Rockford's motivations for arranging (and now watching) the liaison between Catherine and Culpepper remain unclear. I hope some of these plot points are explained and not abandoned as The Tudors is sometimes wont to do.
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