Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

Non Spoiler Review:
The penultimate chapter of the Harry Potter franchise delivers a very dark but satisfying installment. Voldemort continues to solidify his hold on power, meeting with little resistance, while Harry and company must go into hiding to find the final Horcruxes. Deathly Hallows is directed by David Yates, who also did the Half-Blood Prince. While not as action-packed as some of its predecessors, this episode is primarily character-driven while setting up events for the final act next summer.

First, I must confess that I have not read the books, but have been a fan of all the movies, so some of my plot points may find explanations in the literature and not in the films. This is an interesting movie, and difficult to judge outside of its franchise context. The series is pretty much inaccessible to anyone who hasn't seen the previous chapters, so is it even worth commenting on that at this point (aside from the occasional poor lug who is dragged to the Deathly Hallows with no previous knowledge of Harry Potter, I can wager that most viewers will already be fans).

It does suffer from the middle-movie syndrome, given it's the first part of the final act. Where previous movies had a lot of action to carry the audience through the long running time, this one seems to slow in the middle as Harry, Hermione and Ron are on the run. However, if you've stuck through the series this long, the time spent on character moments like these are appreciated.

We get a sense of the dire straits facing everyone right from the start as Hermione erases the memories of her very existence to her parents in order to protect them from the wizard war. Many of the characters, including the main trinity, go through emotional trials necessary for their continued evolution, so it is welcome that the director allows the time for this growth to progress at a natural pace. The actors all know their roles so well it's a pleasure to see them interact. 

As far as the plot, previous film continuity is starting to weigh down the series. For the viewer who has not rewatched all six movies in anticipation, I found myself struggling to remember certain characters and plot points. It wasn't convoluted, but the quieter time in the middle of the movie gave me time to consider possible plotholes (nitpicks below). 

There were some exciting actions sequences—the Dementor attack at the beginning, and on the Weasley wedding, balanced out by an especially fun infiltration of the Ministry. I don't doubt that when Part II airs in summer, the momentum will pick up, and this piece will be a nice addition to the larger tapestry of the film series. Visually it was stunning, from vast location shoots to the stylish and dark animation for the sequence that told the origin of the Deathly Hallows. 

The time spent on details really rounds out the experience. Even minor characters pop in and out, just to provide continuity with earlier films and help to breathe life into the fictional world. As always, the acting is great, so there is very little to quibble about if you're a Harry Potter fan. 

The conclusion will undoubtedly satisfy, and the saving grace of this film is that the characters are now so familiar and comfortable in their skins that we can watch twenty minutes of them just sitting around interacting together and not get bored. The series has evolved into adult themes and will be unsuitable and frightening to children, but that's a good thing, as it has matured along with its fans.

Spoilery Nitpicks:
Harry, Hermione and Ron apparently have the most versatile and stylish winter wardrobe in Hogworts, helped by Hermione's interdimensional handbag in which she's managed to stuff everything possible they may need. Each winter morning scene brought a fresh Ron, Hermione and Harry comfortably adorned in a new multi-layered ensemble.

The Nazi allegory was a bit heavy-handed. Yes, the pro-magic forces were ghetto-izing the Muggle bloods, right down to redecorating the Ministry, replete with Voldemort era statuary and brown-shirt style uniforms. The parallel was obvious with all the visual reminders and it seemed we were hit over the head with it over and over.

For that matter, I'm interested in what the greater real world implications are for this coup. Is it spilling over into the world (there's very little evidence aside from the attacks on Harry and friends in London). What would it mean when Voldemort takes control completely?

The locket Horcrux being carted around the movie between the three provides a source of corruption and conflict very much in the same vein as the One Ring, but I guess talismans of pure evil are generally very dangerous and to be handled with the utmost care.

I may have played too much D&D that I consider these things, but it seemed a blatant oversight that the Malfoys (or Voldemort) would not ward their castle against teleportation. Even Severus walked up to the gate at the beginning and enters through normal means, yet they allow slave elves the ability to come and go at will, potentially taking prisoners with them. Surely that's not beyond Voldemort's power. For that matter, could they not cast a spell to detect magicks being used (like Hermione's illusion on Harry?)

I was struggling with how easily Harry concealed his appearance from everyone at the Malfoy's, including Draco (I realize Draco is struggling with the whole turn to the dark side, so I can give him a pass for lying). Are we just presuming that Bellatrix, Lucius and others would not recognize Ron and Hermione? That whole scene left me wondering if I'd missed something.

The most potent magical artifact is buried with Dumbledore in an easily accessible grave? Would not a powerful wizard's tomb be a target for any treasure hunter around, never mind Voldemort? Who's bright idea was that?

Whenever supernatural forces are used in movies, they're bound to raise such questions, and likely the books go into greater explanations. But when you have a lot of quiet time in a film, it provides an opportunity to start musing on them.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Caprica "Apotheosis"

Non Spoiler Review:
The series finale delivers a roller coaster of surprises and plot resolutions. While it is not perfect by any means, it delivers satisfying conclusions to most of the character arcs, and provides a surprise coda that cements the series as a worthy prequel to Battlestar Galactica.

Given so much was needed to resolve, some matters are left untouched, including Tamara's entire plot line. Others are wrapped up in passing, while the main focus of the story is on the Graystones fighting against time to stop the bombing of the Atlas Arena and Clarice's apotheosis program, juxtaposed with Joseph and Sam's revenge for Willie's death.

Caprica will be sorrily missed. Despite some obvious writing and storyline problems (that aren't too out of the ordinary for a freshman season), and a bit of identity crisis early on, it consistently delivered compelling characters. At times they descended critically into unlikable territory, but the season's resolution also brings redemption to many (including Clarice, in some ways), leaving the viewer with a sense of closure and satisfaction at some happy endings. But, in typical Battlestar fashion, we are left with the ominous threat of the events now underway that bring about the Cylon apocalypse.

Spoilers Now!
Clarice and Olaf are in a panic that the authorities have been alerted to their plan, except Singh shows up, telling them he's her contact in v-world and he has flagged any alerts form the Graystones or about Atlas Arena to come through him. He's ready to throw all the resources of the GDD to help the STO, and that includes framing the Graystones as terrorists.

At the Graystone house, the GDD is rifling through the crime scene, and Cyrus is trying to call their lawyers. Amanda is on the holoband with Zoe, but Zoe's memory has gaps when it comes to Clarice's plan and where the holoband might be, as real Zoe did not want her to know about it. Amanda consoles her v-daughter, but then the holoband is ripped off and Singh orders the Graystones arrested, showing fabricated evidence of a list of STO contacts found in the house. Cyrus then pulls a gun on Singh, telling Daniel to flee, as he knows they'll never see them again if they're arrested. So the Graystones make their escape in his private shuttle.

The Adamas are in mourning, and comforted by some of their allies who are helping to protect their neighbourhood should the Guatrau attack. But Fidelia shows up, unarmed, wanting to talk and assuring them the Guatrau will make no more attacks. After Sam threatens her, she talks with Joseph alone. She does not want to see a war between them. She suggests they send robots and money to Tauron to pacify everyone. Joseph, however, wants a meeting with the Guatrau. 

The Graystones go to the park where Jordan was shot to see if they can find the holoband. On the way, they see the vids showing them as terrorists. They are dropped off by the shuttle and Daniel finds the holoband, runs through the avatar presentation and puts it all together—that Zoe's avatar program is some sort of recruitment tool promising eternal life, and the STO is going to bomb the stadium. Amanda attempts to phone in a bomb threat, but it gets routed to Singh, who prevents it from going further.

Fidelia organizes a meeting in v-world for Joseph and the Guatrau, who has not used a holoband. As they talk he begins to choke, and in the real world he is surrounded by men, being suffocated by Sam as Fidelia watches. Joseph enters the room, and as he asks for his knife (to end his life the proper Tauron way), Joseph feeds him the same suicide drug that his own parents had on Tauron, and the Guatrau dies. Fidelia realizes this is the only way for the family to go on, and Joseph gives her her father's ring, swearing his loyalty to her as Guatrau.

Clarice informs Olaf how she envies him, as Nestor never made her an avatar and she won't be joining him in death. She'll throw on her holoband and meet him in the heaven when he arrives. He's a tad outraged at her hyprocrasy, but god apparently has another path for her.

Daniel finds his employee, Dr. Whathisname (who got his finger sliced off earlier in the season) and gets him to infiltrate Graystone Industries and retrieve his laptop after activating a program that controls the Cylons, then lets him go, assuring him he'll be back working for Daniel soon. He and Amanda disguise themselves in Sea Bucks fan gear and go to the arena as Olaf arrives with his own payload of explosives.

Amanda and Daniel break into a broadcast area, tie up the cameraman, and bring in several raptors that land in the field, disgorging several Cylons. The crowd first thinks it's a pre-game show as the anthem is being played, but the robots zero in on the chemical signatures of the explosives and begin shooting all the terrorists in the crowd (!), creating mayhem. Olaf dodges them and manages to avoid getting shot for the moment.

Zoe watches her parents being eviserated on the newsvids, so she steps into another area of v-world and discovers the STO heaven and her stolen avatar program. Clarice is shocked and happy to see her. But as the dead terrorists begin to upload, Zoe realizes what her former mentor has done...a virtual heaven will mean no one will care how bad they are if they end up in heaven anyway. Clarice tells her she's wrong. It is god's will. But Zoe tells her she is god, and disintegrates the heaven into a hell. The uploaded terrorist avatars are erased. 

In the stadium, all the Cylons jump onto Olaf, shielding the explosion as he blows himself up. And Clarice is alone in her attic as the computer systems sizzle and smoulder around her.

Then...The Shape of Things to Come
We see an interview with Sarno and Daniel, talking about how the stadium bombing was the catalyst to integrate Cylons into colonial society (juxtaposed with scenes of a variety of Cylon models doing everything from construction work to dog walking).

We see virtual Zoe and Amanda watching the interview together on the sofa in their v-world home.

On an anniversary of Willie's death, the Adamas hold a ceremony in memory of William, but also celebrating their new child, Bill, who honours both his half-brother and grandfather's memory by sharing their name. Bill has very blue eyes.

Clarice is preaching in a virtual church to pews full of Cylons (!) telling them they are god's children and one day the children of humanity shall rise up. Some make the STO sign with their hand. We see a virtual Zoe in the pew. But is this Angel Zoe? Her sermon plays throughout the entire flashforward.

Clarice goes to Gemenon to meet with the reverend mother to recognize artificial sentience as part of god's children. Odin allows her to meet Mother, who turns and smiles. It's Lacie. "I think you should kneel," she tells Clarice.

The Graystones are working together above a tub and who should emerge in the pseudo-flesh over a machine body, resurrection style, but Zoe Graystone.

What Worked:
I had been under the impression that Caprica was ending on a big cliffhanger, so I don't know if they actually filmed the final montage just in case they were cancelled (or if this was indeed a preview of a season two—in which case it was outrageously spoilery), but this episode blew it all out of the park. Tense, edge-of-your-seat all the way to the end, with the unexpected, but pleasant surprise of the Shape of Things to Come that solidifies this brief insight into pre-war Caprica as a worthy prequel to Battlestar Galactica.

The Graystones—their marriage is back on track, and the two of them working together as never before, they succeed in defeating the STO. Not only that, but they are reunited with this new version of their daughter—eventually, some years later, managing to create an android body for her to inhabit. Both Daniel and Amanda have found redemption, and it was easy to cheer on the pair as they attempted to save the thousands in the Atlas Arena. Undoubtedly the Graystone family are ├╝ber-celebrities now (until the Cylons rebel, of course).

The Adamas—finally a family again, despite the death of Willie. Sam and Joseph have their revenge on the Guatrau and establish a new order for themselves. It's not too difficult to imagine Joseph charting a new course as a civil liberties lawyer and ridding himself of his mob past. Bill Adama's history is set right (though he does seem to be a tad young to be serving in the upcoming Cylon war—especially if a whole series is now going to center around it).

Clarice—With the apotheosis program destroyed (and likely the avatar creation program), she turns to proselytizing to the Cylons, and we get a very good indication of the source of Cylon monotheism. This was very satisfying to see her slip into this role as prophet—one of the more natural character progressions on the series. Though one of the main villains of the entire BSG universe now, it seemed right that she would be preaching to Cylons at the end of it all.

Lacie—In contrast to Clarice, Lacie's erratic arc comes to a decent conclusion, if not a little rushed and a bit egregious. She has used her power on Gemenon to supplant the reverend mother with her own idealistic idea of the One True God. One can assume she has cleaned house with the church and now it's core values will be a bit more focused in spreading monotheism. And now Clarice will be serving at her pleasure.

Zoe—Reconciled with her parents and her own identity as a separate entity from real Zoe, she is free to chart her own destiny, and that looks like it means a robot body in the real world. Though she's an offshoot of the real Zoe's personality, she has found a home again.

Cylons—We get an answer to the integration of the Cylon race into the Twelve Colonies, and also a pretty good idea of how they turn to monotheism and rebel.

What Didn't Work:
There were a few plot points rushed or glossed over. And some of the coincidences forced on the audience to get the storyline moving were pushing the limits—I laughed out loud when Daniel found the holoband in the park after a few seconds of looking around. No one checked that out before? Not even the Willows? Singh achieved nearly omnipotent powers to frame the Graystones and keep any terrorist threat against the arena under wraps. Poor Cyrus...hopefully he made it out all right.

Some characters fell by the wayside. We have no idea of the fates of Jordan (who shot him?), Singh, or, most important, Tamara? Whatever happened to the poor girl, just abandoned by the Adamas as well as her new friend Zoe. Did they ever hang out together again?

V-world. What happened to New Cap City? Is it still a lush fantasy land? V-world continues to exist prior to the war, but something must happen to shut it all down. It would certainly provide the Cylons a nice way to seize control of a lot of computer networks when they rise up.

The CGI was a bit weak in places, especially in the final Atlas Arena battle, but the action was gripping enough that it got a pass.

The lyrics to the Caprican anthem are kind of lame, considering it's a really rousing Bear McCreary score.

I hope Blood and Chrome builds on the history started here, and we get a flashback or two of the Cylon rebellion, and some answers to how it happened (and how they got all their war tech). There were also rumours that Daniel Graystone was the first hybrid seen in Battlestar Galactica: Razor. It would be a truly sad and fitting end for this driven character, if that were the case.

Caprica will be missed. But we now have a twenty episode chunk of BSG history that provides very complex characters portrayed by an equally talented cast, an amazing feat of world building, and the dark and morally ambiguous tone of its parent series.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: The Walking Dead "Wildfire"

Non Spoiler Review:
The fallout from the survival camp attack provides many sombre moments, especially for Jim. The survivors begin to feel the strain of their situation and must make some serious decisions about the future. 

Coming off last week's action, this was a more introspective episode dealing with the daily realities of the post-apocalyptic life—namely smashing in the skulls of the recently deceased, disposing of bodies, and deciding who is in charge. There is a lot of set up for future conflict here—especially if one has read the graphic novels it's even more rewarding seeing the pieces put into place. At the same time, this episode diverges completely from book continuity, so it's equally compelling to see what may happen. This could be both good and bad depending on how this storyline resolves itself, so the jury is out on until we see what happens in the finale. 

Spoilers Now!
Rick seeks solace from the massacre by trying to reach Morgan on the walkie talkie, telling him what's transpired and not to go into Atlanta. Andrea remains at her sister's side, despite the others waiting to dispose of her body before she turns. Daryl and Jim and the others separate out the bodies, burning the walkers and—at Glen's emotional insistence—their camp members to be buried. Apparently the walkers killed all the extras on the show. Carol takes the opportunity to bash in Ed's brains herself, and Daryl watches as she does so. Several times.

Jacqui notices Jim bleeding, and it quickly turns into a witch hunt, forcing him to reveal that he has a nasty bite on his stomach. Daryl wants to kill him immediately, but Rick's calmer head prevails and they promise to keep him safe in the RV.

The group debates on what to do next—Rick wants to go back into Atlanta to the CDC, which he believes must be the last, best hope for some solution (and possibly a cure for Jim). Shane wants to go to an army base about a 100 miles away, which would promise some safety and weapons. They pull Lori into the argument, who takes Rick's side against Shane.

Dale commiserates with Andrea as she waits by Amy's side, telling her about the death of his own wife from cancer, and how the girls were the first people he allowed himself to care about. Andrea slips the necklace around Amy's neck (it's her birthday!), and soon she begins to stir and awaken as the undead. Andrea apologizes for all the times she couldn't be with her sister, and the rest of the camp begins to move in, unsure what to do as Amy reaches for her sister. But Andrea says good-bye and shoots Amy in the head.

At the funeral for their dead, Rick needs Lori's approval for his plan, as well as vindication for leaving the first time, as Shane believes they would have stood a better chance if he'd stayed at camp. She gives them both credit, which is the best she can do right now. 

Shane asks her to talk some sense into Rick, but she turns on Shane. Rick happens to walk in on the end of their conversation, but doesn't overhear anything incriminating. He and Shane and Dale go to walk the perimeter, but when they separate, Shane has Rick in his gun sights, much to Dale's horror who has witnessed the whole thing. Shane brushes off the incident, suggesting they should all wear reflective jackets. 

It's decided they're going to the CDC, but the other surviving family opts to set off on their own. After a tearful goodbye the caravan heads into Atlanta. En route, they stop to get a new hose for the RV. Jim cant' take much more of the trip as his fever has progressed so far he doesn't have much longer before he turns. In a lucid moment, he asks Rick to leave him by the road so he can, perhaps, join with his family.

Rick's inability to let him do what he wants proves torturous for him, but the group decides Jim has a right to end his life in peace, and so say their goodbyes and leave him by a tree. Jim absolves Rick and Shane of any culpability. It's his decision. The caravan leaves.

Next we get a video of a CDC scientist providing updates to whomever might be listening. It's nearly 200 days into the outbreak, and over two months since it went global. He spends his days alone testing samples of the virus, but recklessness forces an emergency decontamination where his valuable samples are destroyed. Having all his work lost, he contemplates suicide, realizing no one is listening anyway.

The survivors reach the CDC, an area littered in dead bodies and obviously the scene of a lot of battle. As the sun begins to set, they realize they can't get in and no one is there. Shane and Lori want to leave immediately as they can't be caught in Atlanta at night. Rick sees the camera on the door and begs to be let in.

Inside, the scientist watches, and then the door opens, bathing the group in light.

What Worked:
All the character moments continue to be the fulcrum around which the series turns. The survivor camp has been weened down to its core characters. Even Daryl has grown on me. I'm curious as to why the one family took off, unless there are plans to bring them back later at some point.

Rick's inner struggle to do the right thing is unfolding very nicely. As we know, one of his crucial character flaws is always trying to do right by his conscience—whether ensuring Morgan is warned away from their camp, or trying to keep Jim alive as long as possible. This makes Rick a bit of a rose-colored glasses guy at times, when more of a decisive Shane attitude is required. Additionally, his (perhaps) one-sided conversation with Morgan on the radio is as much therapy as it is communication (and a nice bit of foreshadowing for events a long ways down the road when he takes to a similar method of communication).

Jim's death was very poignant, and once again the score provides a very sombre mood as the caravan travels towards Atlanta.

Lori is still an abrasive bitch, but she does speak the truths about needing time to mourn for the dead and hold onto some aspects of their old selves. She's obviously conflicted about Shane and Rick and even seems to be using that to punish Shane. Shane's internal struggle could have done with a bit more build up before he starts lining up Rick in his sights but at least we're getting a hint of the power struggle. 

The new characters—Daryl, T-Dog and Jacqui—continue to be interesting enough that I'm hoping they are more than just cannon fodder.

The graphic novel has never given an indication of the scope of the plague beyond the immediate environment of the characters. Here we get exposition filling us in on the global nature of the apocalypse, as well as quite a bit of time in which Wildfire appears to have been spreading.

What Didn't Work:
I was hoping for some explanation why there was no lookout during the attack. One would think Rick might have asked Shane about that when he was being grilled for leaving them to go into Atlanta.

On the issue of diverting from the book continuity—I can see the rationale given there are only six episodes this season to establish the show. But there is a key component of the virus that was revealed in the storyline of the graphic novels that may or may not be affected by this move if they get into a huge explanation next week. What I don't want to see is an infodump about the zombie plague.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: The Event "Everything Will Change"

Non Spoiler Review:
The Event reaches its mid season cliffhanger, and contrary to the episode title, not much changes at all. All we manage to learn is Martinez, Sophia and Dempsey are all extremely incompetent and weak leaders. What's notable is that the flashbacks have disappeared, at least for the time being.

The plotholes continue, without even considering Sean and Leila's ludicrous shenanigans. At this ten episode mark, it's doubtful the show can resurrect any compelling story to see it through to the end of the season. As we end on what passes for the cliffhanger, it provides little interest in what is to come.

Spoilers Now!
Sean apparently didn't kill Berg, the attacker, but he's ready to. Grabbing a syringe from him as he wakes up, Sean demands to know where Leila's sister is, and then injects the guy with it. Berg stumbles away in horror, and when they catch up, he's now an old man.

Martinez and Sterling confront Jarvis in the hospital, but Jarvis is now suggesting he has amnesia. Martinez vows to destroy him, but Jarvis muses the public won't be sympathetic to the president covering up the greatest conspiracy in history. He tells him he's just as much a bit player as he is. And he'll stay as vice president. Martinez seems to back down and leaves with Sterling, as they are summoned back to the war room after an Omalan (Pakistan?) missile installation is discoverd on satellite. The Omalan government declares they know nothing about it, and it might be a terrorist group, or (gasp) someone else.

Sophia, Simon, Thomas and Isabel are sitting in a circle sharing tea. Sophia wants to clear the air—change is difficult and they will make it through their challenging times. With the key module, they'll need an interface for the portal. Thomas takes Isabel back to the hotel. But Sophia doesn't really believe her son is giving her all the information on their financial accounts. Sophia confides in Simon—her own investigations have learned Thomas has a separate set of funds with Isabel. She sends Simon to look into Steven Grant, Thomas' banker, and learn where the money is coming from and what it's used for.

Thomas knows Sophia is on to them, and tells Isabel they need to escalate their plans. Many will die before they're done. Simon comes upon the dead banker, so assumes Thomas was behind it. Sophia finds that Thomas also took the key module and he and Isabel have disappeared. Perhaps tea wasn't such a good team building exercise after all.

Old man Berg wants to be taken to Willowbrook hospital, but Abby's dad runs up through the cornfield just briefly enough to warn them to leave it alone, then runs off again, because some things are better left unknown. And old man Berg dies. Dempsey is later advised that Berg hasn't shown up with the new subject. Their current subject, Samantha, seems to be responding better than expected, however.

Bam! Leila and Sean are at Willowbrook hospital in, like, the next scene, and decide to check it out. Leila grabs a name off the patient roster while they're at the front desk, and she poses as a poor woman's niece to get into the patient area. Sean heads off to check out the rooms and leaves Leila with the crazy woman. Unfortunately, Sean gets caught, and the two are kicked out with a slap on the wrist, except one additional crazy man who overheard Leila and shouts out he's heard little girls crying in the floor. Leila knows he's telling the truth because she sees the water tower behind the hospital.

At night, they wait until security takes out the garbage and sneak in, taking the elevator to the bottom levels. But the rooms appear to all be empty and abandoned, so Leila's plan is to run through the hallways screaming Samantha's name. What they do find is LEILA written on the wall. 

The Omala installation appears to be under control of tribal areas, and the ambassador says they can't get to it before the missile launches in two hours. A corporation built the installation for the warlords, and Sterling finds that the corporation has a board of directors composed of 97 names matching the detainees.

Martinez can't get F-16s there fast enough and the missile can reach the west coast. Simon informs Sophia of the situation. Thomas orders the launch. In the war room, they soon realize that the US is not the target, nor are sensors detecting any radiation of a nuclear payload. The missile goes into space and releases a satellite that broadcasts a transmission away from earth. 

Sean and Leila find a room full of burned records, so they search through it and are fortunate enough to find a folder for Abby's father, Paul. In all the photos going back decades, he looks the same. Sean suggests he may be an alien (as per Madeline's explanation). Leila doesn't want to think about that. Then Sean finds another unburned folder for Michael Buchanan...and guess what, he hasn't aged a day since the 1940s, as well. And so we leave The Event on that uneventful ending.

The outrageous plot devices continue. Sophia can't seem to manage the key component they retrieved, and allows Isabel and Thomas to run amok. Martinez backs down at the merest threat from his vice president, and everyone watches helplessly as events unfold around them.

Sean and Leila's misadventures have gone beyond absurd, bumbling into secure locations with ease. Dempsey should have a lot to worry about, given all his operatives are beyond incompetent—when they are not managing to get killed, they haphazardly dispose of secure information. Wasn't Michael Buchanan's photo shown among the detainees as early as episode one?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: The Walking Dead 79

Non Spoiler Review:
Following the attack on the town, this issue settles down to dealing with some character baggage and reflections on the new sense of danger, the recent deaths, and the walkers alerted by the fighting.

Nothing too surprising happened here, aside from pushing forward some ongoing character interactions inside the community, and finally ending with the ominous prospect of what the next storyline might entail.

Spoilers Now!
It begins to snow, and Abraham and his crew decide they must start to clean up some of the walkers gathering around the walls after the gunfight. 

Aaron and Eric return from their scouting travel. They encountered a woman they thought to recruit, but she ultimately stabbed Eric and stole Maggie's horse. He's all right, but Aaron refuses to go out anymore and tells Douglas they have enough people for their community. It's getting too dangerous.

Douglas is having a crisis of faith now that his wife is dead, and though they had their marital arrangement, he feels she was the better person and he treated her badly. He's happy to have Rick take charge of things. Morgan and Michonne discuss their recent fling, and he asks to get to know her better as he's not over his wife yet. 

As the issue closes, Andrea alerts Abraham's hunting party with a gunshot, and they realize that an even larger horde of walkers is approaching the walls.

What Worked:
This was a quieter issue that takes a breather from the previous action, but sets up the dynamic of the town after the attack. I'm sure much more sinister things are on the horizon given Douglas' horrified reaction to the prospect of snowfall. Will we see a virtual siege of the town over a long winter where supplies are at a minimum?

What Didn't Work:
Occasionally the black and white artwork doesn't do justice to the scene it's portraying. In this case, the final panel, I'm supposing, is showing the advance of a large group of undead. But it's not immediately clear if we're outside the walls or inside. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Caprica "Here Be Dragons"

Non Spoiler Review:
The penultimate episode of Caprica brings the Graystones to New Cap City and a reunion with Zoe, while Clarice and the Willows invade the Graystone house to get the incriminating holoband. Undermining the Guatrau brings harsh retribution against the Adama brothers, and Caprica pulls the biggest twist of the series to date.

While a bit fragmented in places and suffering from some contrived moments—Lacie's plotline seemed very rushed—it can be mostly overlooked given this episode jammed in a lot, as has been the case for this half of the season. It was satisfying on many levels watching some plotlines come to their conclusion. But the big surprise (or not, depending on how astute an observer you are) is at the end, where a lingering question about Battlestar Galactica's ties to Caprica is answered.

Spoilers Now!
The Graystones are trekking through v-world with Sam as their guide, but Amanda immediately doesn't trust his motivations. Zoe is well aware they are approaching, as she turns their horses into dragons that they have to shoot, so the rest of the way will be on foot.

Sam just wants to kill Tamara, but says he doesn't care what they do with Zoe. Amanda doesn't believe that so shoots him, sending him out of New Cap City. Daniel is a bit chagrined, but they ultimately decide they will get to their daughter together.

Back at the Graystone house, Amanda and Daniel are sitting together in the lab on their holobands. But Clarice, Nestor and Olaf break in (having disabled the home's separate power supply). Daniel has a safe room, though, and the doors come down, forcing the Willows to spend much of the episode trying to bypass the security. Poor Serge is destroyed defending the house.

Fidelia is the Guatrau's daughter, and informs her father the Adama boys are likely sending Cylons to Tauron in defiance of his wishes. Reluctantly, he orders a hit on them, and so Joseph is woken in the night by one of the Guatrau's men, who tells him he needs to come with them. Then he tries to strangle Joseph. During the commotion, grandma Ruth kills the man with her meat cleaver—in front of Willie, no less—and the Adamas attempt to figure out a plan and contact the missing Sam. They will get money and passports from their safe at the hangout, and then escape to Tauron.

On Gemenon, the young terrorists are smoking up and discussing true belief in the one god. Odin advises Lacie that it's only a matter of time before Diego and Kevin kill her given she can control the robots. Then he does something odd—he goes to see them and tells them that whatever they're planning with Lacie, he doesn't want to be involved. So of course they involve him, and tell him he has to kill her.

Later on, he takes Lacie into the caverns and gets her to kneel as he prepares to execute her. Diego and Kevin arrive, and under pressure, Odin tries to shoot them. But the gun is empty (big mistake not checking on that before). So he's failed their test. But their other friends have their back and Diego and Kevin are killed, and Lacie leads them into the Cylon barracks where she commands her new army to power up and follow them out.

The Graystones decide to sit and wait for Zoe to come to them on her terms, and she does so, confronting her parents at last, calling her mother a stupid cow. But all she really wants is a hug, and mother and daughter finally embrace. Amanda is the logical one, and tells Zoe to come to them when she's ready (in the v-world version of their house). So she disappears after saying she'll think about it.

The Graystones remove their holobands only to find the house under seige and the Willows get in. Clarice is a tad upset with Amanda, telling her she loved her, but right now she's going to kill them both. Daniel notices something happening with the Cylon prototype on the table, so stalls for time by asking to be taught about the one true god. Nestor is too impatient for that, having already burned his arm trying to get through his security. And then the Cylon rises, smashing Nestor's head in and Clarice and Olaf flee. Zoe's voice comes from the prototype telling Clarice it's her.

The Cylon collapses and Amanda and Daniel pull on their holobands and meet Zoe in the v-world house. Daniel lets her know she can stay there as long as she wants until he builds her a body with imitation flesh. A skinjob, she suggests. They can even work in tandem together in his virtual lab. She seems amenable to that, and muses she'll stay there for awhile.

Sam finally checks his messages and meets Joseph and the family outside Goldie's, and the two of them are met with some former compatriots before they can escape. But Willie runs out of the car, pushes one of the men and provokes a battle ending with Willie shot in the hand. Sam manages to dispatch both. Except Willie has actually been shot in the stomach, and he dies in front of a horrified Joseph, Evelyn and Sam.

What Worked:
Clarice's confrontation with the Graystones was played well with her familiar righteous rage. Now that Amanda and Daniel seem to have reforged their marriage, they are quite fun to watch, working together to bring their daughter home.

Clarice's harsh indictment of Amanda's mothering was very effective, and also notable that she mentions Zoe spoke to angels. How much does Clarice know of this? Nestor went out in a big bloody head-bashed in blaze of glory, leaving just one husband left. Clarice's obsession has nearly completely destroyed the Willow family.

Finally, the great controversy over Willie's parentage and eye color has been settled. Halfway through Here Be Dragons I realized Willie was witnessing an incredible amount of mafia nastiness to go unnoticed in adult Admiral Adama's life, so when he ran into the Ha'La'Tha hangout it seemed inevitable he would catch a bullet. Poor Willie and Tamara Adama are dead, and Joseph's whole family with Shannon now erased. But Evelyn is there to pick up the pieces.

What Didn't Work:
Sam's inclusion in Amanda and Daniel's trek through New Cap City was completely pointless aside from keeping Sam occupied while Joseph was attacked. There seemed to be a lot of set up to get him into v-world in order to have some confrontation with his niece, yet Amanda shoots him right off the bat (not that bad-ass Amanda isn't fun).

Speaking of Sam, where was Larry? Hopefully someone did warn him that the Tauron mob had put a hit out on everyone.

What was the point of a genius like Daniel having a safe room that could be infiltrated relatively easily by a computer hacker like Nestor? There were several plot holes here that evidently served to further the story along—the Adamas worry about making a clean getaway, but store all their money and documents at Goldie's rather than at home? The Willows barely leave the basement before the Graystones ignore the fact that the house is wide open and throw on their holobands to visit their daughter? The house is on its own power source to conveniently allow Nestor to knock it out alone.

What could Odin possibly be thinking in talking to Diego about Lacie—is he strictly out for his own skin despite falling for her? And what of Tamara? Once Zoe appears to her mom and dad, that's the last we see of Tamara or their magic land.

Poor Serge! Please tell me Daniel had a backup.
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