Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: The Walking Dead 85

Non Spoiler Review:
Issue 85 takes a breather to let us take stock of the dead and wounded. As Abraham and his crew dispose of the heaps of bodies, everyone has the opportunity to reflect on their survival and the future.

Following up such an insane couple of issues, this one was a welcome respite. It focused entirely on the relationships and offered up some new troubles for characters, as well a opportunities. 

Spoilers Now!
Abraham is organizing the burning of the walkers while Rick sits with Carl. They happen across the reanimated body of Jesse (with semi-detached hand), and a horrified Glen can't bring himself to shoot her, leaving it to Abraham, who is pretty much fed up with the whole mess.

Denise wants Rick to eat something, but he chooses that moment to confess how he sacrificed both Ron and Jesse (including cutting off her hand) during the attack. Denise doesn't really know what to say, and doesn't really want to hear it. And when he suggests they keep it between themselves, she offers him an "Oh, of course."

Spencer wants to hang out with Andrea later that night, but she's not sure what she wants to do at the moment, much less with him. Maggie and Glen are just happy to be back together and feeling totally guilty about that. Abraham cleans up after the day's work, and Rosita decides it's time to let him know she's known all long he's been sleeping with Holly, so she moves out on him. He makes it even worse by trying to explain how he was initially with her because he thought there wasn't any other choice, until they moved to Alexandria (door slam).

Rick speaks at the funeral for their dead, then afterwards has a community meeting (main characters only, please). It's quite productive, echoing his thoughts from last issue about making the community thrive, and rather than simply surviving from day to day, re-establishing some sort of civilization.

Back at Carl's bedside, Andrea comes in to sit with Rick, who is feeling certain his son will never recover. Then Carl coughs.

The Verdict:
It worked. This was a chill issue, and all the drama that's been suppressed the last few months comes out after everyone has time to think and reflect on their survival. Abraham's words were the harshest, but really rang true with what the survivors have had to deal with the last couple of years. Especially given Rick's new motivation to make this life work for everyone—now they all have options, including with other people. We do need a sense of the entire town, though, as right now it's regular characters filling up the background.

Somehow Rick's confession to Denise doesn't strike me as the wisest move. Every time it looks like he's a little bit stable, he says really creepy things like how he had to sacrifice Jesse despite that he really liked her. It's bound to come back and bite him in the ass.

The waiting game continues with Carl...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Outcasts "Episode 8"

Non Spoiler Review:
It's a bittersweet ending to a promising series, and, as expected, little is resolved as far as the broader storylines. The alien intelligence launches a deadly viral attack against Forthaven (just like the original virus that killed their children). While Stella struggles to figure out a solution, Julius makes his move to take control as CT-10 arrives at Carpathia. Revelations abound about Fleur and Cass, while Tate makes a huge gamble with the presidency.

It's difficult to review what amounts to the final episode of the series that ends on a cliffhanger. Had there been a second season, it would have made a good finale. The story moves briskly and keeps the tension high to the end. 

The episode (and series) suffers from too many quick cuts between scenes when characters and plot would benefit from more time. The visuals still look great and Stella and Tipper remain my favorites. Julius makes a good sociopath, who got away with a lot for far too long. We can only wonder what interesting characters were to be discovered on CT-10.

Spoilers Now!
A peaceful dawn over Forthaven is broken as Tipper is violently possessed by a burst of energy. Fleur wakes up next to Jack. He understands she's not feeling that great, but tells her to let him know if she wants to do it again sometime. In command, Stella gets Cass to retrieve Tipper to help with the transmissions, but when he shows up he finds him seriously ill with a green haze around his face.

Stella briefs Tate that this new virus is similar to C-23 and Tipper is put into isolation. As everyone goes into crisis mode, Cass tries to make amends with Fleur, but she tells him she got drunk and slept with Jack—which doesn't help matters. 

Julius aggravates Tate with his pressure to go after the ACs. Though they tested positive for the original disease, Tate doesn't believe they were the cause, and is still keeping Julius and Jack in the dark about the alien intelligence. One of Jack's men comes down with the virus, too, and it's apparent it's starting to spread quickly.

Julius contacts C-10 about the health crisis which can be used to his advantage as the transport orbits Carpathia. Julius is also about to reveal the content of the Omega file to bring down the presidency. He next goes to Jack to reveal the truth of that project to get him onside to act immediately.

With everyone indoors, Fleur and Cass help organize the quarantine, until Jack and the XPs show up and arrest Fleur! Tate demands she be let free, but Julius heads him off and reveals what's happening with the Omega file. He's gotten authorization from the justice member of council to reveal the contents and asks Stella to choose a side, given she's in charge of security. She tells Tate he can't deny the council the file, but she's not going to throw in with Julius, either.

Tate presses Julius for what he ultimately wants to gain. He's told his ambition is too small for what's at stake on Carpathia. Julius then goes to see Fleur and drops the bomb that she's an AC, and she's been collaborating with them all this time. Fleur is horrified, and even Jack tells him to go easy on her. Julius has nothing but contempt for her and tells her she caused the virus. Stella arrives to get her out. All she knows is that Fleur was part of a project called Omega. So she sends her to get the explanation from Tate while she looks in on her daughter, and says Fleur can stay at her place in the meantime.

Julius is preparing Jack to lead a final assault against the ACs (including Fleur) once council approves, but Jack isn't buying the story that she isn't human. Julius explains that there's more information in her file about the death of Mitchell, and that Cass very likely covered up his murder for her.

Stella comes to see Tipper, and lies to him that he'll be all right. She's concluded the letters they've found in the transmissions could be DNA—transmissions geared to their particular victims, like Tipper or Josie. As she leaves, she runs into Lily, who wants to come home. It's a bad time, given she has Fleur there, so Lily gets angry and walks away, running into Julius. She immediately gives up how upset she is her mother won't let her come home because someone is using her room.

Julius heads straight to Jack, with word that Fleur is held up at Stella's and soon he'll have authorization from the council to wipe out the ACs. As he starts lecturing Jack's men, Jack steps in that he still gives the orders.

Fleur is grateful for Cass' support as she struggles with the idea that all the memories of her parents are false. Tate shows up for his big talk and tells her she was a niche project to see how ethics were shaped by genes and environment. She wonders if all her thoughts and attitudes are even real. He loved her as his own child, and during the original virus, there was no indication she was carrying any disease, so she wasn't on the list to execute. What she's really thinking is if she was made from some of Tate's genes, which he doesn't answer, so she leaves. Cass tries to get her to come back. Then the XPs attack them, forcing them to run and take cover.

She and Cass barge into Tipper's place, where Lily is waiting. They plan to stay until nightfall to get her out of the city. So he leaves her there and returns to Tate, who is dealing with a censure motion from Julius. Cass yells at Tate for treating people like chess pieces. He tells Cass to ensure Fleur is kept from harm.

At the council meeting Tate addresses the members (including Jack, who has a seat). He confesses Fleur is an Omega AC but he won't risk her life by revealing where she is. Tate says he's defied the general council, so relinquishes the presidency, deciding proper leadership is needed. He's not about the office or status, just the welfare of Forthaven. Prior to elections, he will designate his immediate successor—Jack. The choice shocks everyone, and Tate urges him to act cautiously in the best interest of humanity. Their efforts should be focused on combating the real source of the virus. Stella leaves with Tate, as Julius tries to encourage a vote, but he's quickly lost control of the situation.

Tate isn't sure Jack will do Julius' bidding now, and suggests they drive a wedge between him and Julius. Stella tells him the code is DNA—it allows them to build copies and send viruses, and they need to find a way to block it.

Lily and Fleur hang out while they wait. Fleur encourages her not to give up on Stella and a reconciliation will take time. But then she sees Lily bathed in a halo like Tipper.

Stella comes to see Jack, who's struggling with the choice of being named president. He tells her he knows now that Mitchell never killed himself, and she says he gave them no choice. Stella asks him if he really cares about Fleur being an AC. She gives him a list of DNA sequences and a quick lecture on DNA. She explains the nature of the host force on Carpathia that is making copies of them. The sequence that she's detected matches Tipper's DNA. She's telling him because he's president now. But then she gets a message Lily is infected.

Cass and Tate commiserate in the empty bar as the disease continues to spread. He tells Cass to get Fleur out safely to warn Rudi, and stay with them until its all over. Meanwhile, Stella thinks they can create a defense by setting up a jamming signal around Forthaven so the aliens can't send their viruses.

Jack doesn't want to remain in the command centre, but plan the attack on the ACs. Julius would love nothing better than to get him out of there, as he's proving less than cooperative now that he's president. He amends his instructions to CT-10 and says Jack is to be added to the elimination list, though Stella is to be spared. CT-10 reports that their thermal shields are fine and are ready to enter the atmosphere.

While Cass and Fleur get out of the city and signal for Rudi, she wants to know what happened on Earth. He explains he used to work for the cartels as an enforcer and ended up killing a kid. He gave a lot of people up and Tate saved him. Fleur says good-bye and gives him a big hug, and heads off with Rudi. He'll fire a flare when it's safe for her to come back.

Julius tells Stella the XPs have gone to attack the ACs. He says he cares about her and advises her to hold off on the shield for now until the AC problem is dealt with (as it will interfere with communication with CT-10). She wants to know what he's planning.

So she goes off to see Tate to let him know, and they retrieve Jack before he leaves. Meanwhile, CT-10 prepares for entry. Rudi brings Fleur to the AC camp. The ACs are successfully bearing children and growing in number. He wants all of Forthaven to die, so they will be moving far away to start again on their own.

Julius tries to send Jack off, but he wants to hear what Stella has to say about the shield. So Julius tells him another transport is coming and if he does what he's told he can share in the power. So they arrive in command with guns to take over. Julius tells them about the arrival of CT-10 which has been invisible to their screens. Their shield will interfere with its landing.

Stella pleads with him to use the shield against the virus. Julius orders them to stand down from the shield, but Jack tells him he's forgetting that he's president. Stella didn't treat him like an idiot, whereas Julius does. Julius says if Jack betrays him now he'll go the way of the rest. He offers him his life. Jack pulls his gun on him and resigns the presidency. Julius is led away as they activate the shield.

The incoming shuttle changes coordinates as they lose contact. Tate goes back to his quarters to see his doppelganger there. He pleads one last time for peace, but the alien says they can overcome their defences if they wish, but still find them interesting.

Stella returns to sickbay to find Lily recovered. Tipper is, as well, and thanks her. Cass watches the shuttle arrive over the mountains and head for Forthaven. Julius smiles in his cell.
The Verdict:
And so it ends. With no renewal, we're left with threats to the colonists from within and from external alien forces. For the moment, Forthaven has become a bubble of safety beneath its blanket of jamming signals—aside from the giant shuttle slowly coasting towards it. Speaking of which, where are all the other shuttles from the previous transports?

In retrospect, I would have preferred the series take a simpler approach—no evil clones, and no disembodied aliens. The struggle of colonization was interesting enough, coupled with the undiscovered nature of Carpathia, that encounters with actual primitive hominids would have made a great story (rather than their fossils). The political side of things remained the most compelling storyline, and there are indications the arrival of CT-10 would introduce another, hardline political figure.

Cass, Fleur and Jack got some closure. While I'm not too happy with the AC thing spreading to all these characters, she and Cass at least showed their feelings for one another and Cass confessed his past (which was hardly a surprise). Jack, though, got the best of the deal, showing he wasn't so easily manipulated at all, and his respect for Stella pointing him in the right direction for his decision.

But Outcasts can't be faulted for being ambitious. There was lots of fertile ground to plow for several seasons worth of stories. It's disappointing that it didn't get a chance to develop.

Review: Game of Thrones "A Golden Crown"

Non Spoiler Review:
A Golden Crown brings some interesting twists as the threat of war grows between two of Westeros' houses. Leaving the thick info-laden and conspiratorial plot from last week in favor of a more action-oriented episode, Game of Thrones continues to deliver, building on the momentum and raising the stakes again.

Robert has to deal with the Lannister and Starks feud, which is beginning to have effects across the continent. Tyrion gets his opportunity for a trial at the Eyrie, while Viserys makes a play for power in light of his own sister's growing influence. 

There some more great scenes, including a hardcore decision from Ned that looks like it's going to set the course for the whole series from here on out. There were bits and pieces from everyone else—Bran and Robb, Arya, Sansa and Joffrey, and Theon, continuing to successfully give everyone their fair share of screen time, which is an arduous task. It's the ending that provides the shocker, as the series gets its first major death.

Spoilers Now!
Ned wakes up in bed to the faces of Cersei and Robert. He's recovering from his leg wound, and Cersei demands he release Tyrion and make amends with Jaime. Robert tells her to shut up, but he orders Ned to tell Cate to let Tyrion go and make peace. Ned refuses. Jaime has fled the capital back to Casterly Rock, and he wants permission to send men to bring him to justice for killing his guards. Cersei is furious and berates Robert for being so lenient on him, prompting him to slap her. She says she'll wear the mark as a badge of honor, so he tells her to leave or she'll get more honor.

Robert apologizes to Ned for slapping his wife—it wasn't kingly. But he can't afford the Starks and the Lannisters to be fighting when Cersei's father owns most of the kingdom. He doesn't know what happened between him and the Lannisters and doesn't want to know. Robert then admits to never loving his brothers, as Ned is the brother he chose. He wants him to stay as Hand of the King, and is going off on a hunt to clear his head, which means Ned sits on the throne. Regarding the matter of Daenerys, Robert won't hear of it again. She's going to die. And if he refuses the office again, he'll make Jaime Lannister the Hand.

Bran dreams of the three-eyed raven again. This time it flies further down a hallway before he's woken up. His saddle has been completed, and he happily goes riding in the woods with Theon and Robb watching.

The two men talk about Ned's attack in King's Landing. Theon is urging Robb to retaliate against the Lannisters—blood for blood is his duty. But Robb reminds him the Starks aren't his house, so Theon walks off in a huff again. However, Bran has disappeared in the meantime, riding off into the woods where he's set upon by some wildings—two men and a woman. They want the horse and cut the straps of his saddle. The woman suggests they use Bran as a hostage to sell to Mance Rayder, but the other says to forget that, as they're going as far south as possible so the White Walkers don't get them. 

Robb arrives and manages to kill one and grab the girl, but the other has a knife to Bran. He's shot through with an arrow courtesy of Theon. Robb's at first angry that he would risk Bran's life, but Theon says he was going to be killed and had to act. They decide to take the woman prisoner after she pleads for her life. 

Syrio arrives for Arya's lesson, but she's worried about her father and doesn't want to practice. He manages to convince her otherwise and tells her to put her fear away. Her fighting style has improved considerably.

Daenerys places one of the dragon eggs in the hot coals and grasps it as her handmaiden enters. The girl rushes to push her hands away, burning her own in the process. But Daenerys sees her own are untouched.

Later, Daenerys undergoes a ritual where she must consume a horse's heart. Viserys thinks she'll throw it up and fail, but she ultimately succeeds. In the eyes of the Dothraki she's become their queen, and Drogo is proud of her. Jorah interprets for Viserys that her unborn child is going to be the stallion that mounts the world—the one who unites all the Dothraki. Viserys counters the boy will not be a true Targaryen. As Daenerys gets the cheers of the crowd, she names her son Rhaego, and Viserys realizes they all love her. 

He goes to her tent and takes all three dragon's eggs, preparing to leave. Jorah stops him, advising him not to show his sword in the city, given it's forbidden. No one has ever given him what the Dothraki gave to his sister. He can't rule without wealth or fear or love. Viserys says the eggs will bring enough money to buy a ship and an army. He accuses Jorah of wanting his sister, but says he doesn't care. He just wants to leave. Jorah tells him he can go, but must leave the eggs. Viserys angrily drops them and walks out.

Tyrion wakes up in his sky dungeon, nearly rolling off the ledge. He calls for Mord and tries to bargain for his release, but Mord gives him a beating and leaves. He later calls for Mord a second time, and is more successful at convincing him he can give him gold, given he's a Lannister, and they all pay their debts. In exchange, he asks Mord to tell Lady Arryn he's ready to confess. So he's called before an assembly and begins to recite a litany of mundane sins to make a mockery of them. Catelyn isn't impressed, but he refuses to confess to trying to kill Bran or Jon Arryn.

Lady Arryn is about to send him away but he demands a trial. She grants it, and opens the moon door, which is a big hole in the floor that opens to the canyon below. She declares her son will listen and judge him. Tyrion demands trial by combat instead, but no one will fight him, so he asks for a champion to stand in his place. While Lady Arryn's champion, Sir Egen, steps forward, Tyrion wants Jaime. But it will take too long to summon him and Arryn says the matter will be done today. So one man does step up to fight for him, Bronn, who appeared amused by Tyrion's earlier confessions.

Robert is off hunting with Renly, Barristan and Lancel. But Renly has to endure tales of his brother's love for the good old days. Renly loses it and asks him what were the good old days—when everyone was at war? Or when the Mad King killed people at his whim? Or before that when dragons burned cities? Robert tells him to watch his tongue and Renly storms off.

Sitting on the Iron Throne, Ned hears a petition from some villagers whose homes were attacked by brigands. Despite the massacre, nothing was stolen, but they left behind a bag of fish—the symbol for House Tully and Catelyn's family. The one who led them cut the head off a horse, which sounds a lot like Gregor Clegane, The Mountain. Petyr says he's been called Tywin Lannister's mad dog. Ned summons Beric Dondarrion to take one hundred men to Gregor's keep, and strips him of his ranks and titles, denounces him and sentences him to death. Pycelle is alarmed at the harsh punishment.

Ned isn't finished—he wants Petyr to summon Tywin to court to answer their questions, or he'll be branded a traitor to the realm. Petyr suggests it might be unwise to antagonize the Lannisters—gold wins wars, not soldiers, he says. Ned counters that if that's so, why is Robert king and not Tywin?

Bronn fights less honourably than Egen, but is just as good, goading him until he can gain the upper hand and ultimately kills him, freeing Tyrion. Catelyn watches all this in silence, but Tyrion happily takes his leave of them all while tossing Mord the gold he promised.

Septa attempts to make conversation with the increasingly bitchy Sansa who's upset her fairy tale life is falling apart. However, Joffrey makes a surprise appearance to woo her with an apology for his behaviour. He promises her that he'll never be cruel to her again and gives her a necklace like his mother's.

Theon finds Ros on a turnip cart leaving Winterfell for King's Landing. He doesn't want to see her go, but she says with possible war with the Lannisters there won't be many men around, while there will be ample opportunity in the capital. 

Ned announces he's sending Arya and Sansa back to Winterfell. Arya doesn't want to leave Syrio and asks if he can come. Sansa can't bear to leave Joffrey. Ned assures her he'll make a more worthy match when he's older. Sansa is furious. She wants to give him sons with beautiful blond hair like a lion. Arya says she's stupid because everyone knows the Baratheon sigil is the stag, but Sansa says Joffrey is nothing like the drunk king. Ned seems to go hmmm...and he looks through the book again, reading up on the Baratheon line, all of whom have black hair—except Joffrey.

Viserys shows up at the Dothraki feast drunk and with his sword. Drogo tells him to go sit down in the back, but he proceeds to put his sword to Daenerys' stomach and threatens to take her back given he hasn't paid for her—though he'll cut out the baby and leave it for him. As his words are translated, Drogo tells him he will get his golden crown. Viserys is pleased to hear that and backs down.

Drogo has him held down while he throws his gold belt into the cauldron and melts it. Daenerys watches as he takes the molten gold and pours it over Viserys' head, and her brother falls dead at their feet. "He was no dragon," she says. "Fire cannot kill a dragon."

The Verdict:
The series is striking a good balance between exposition-heavy episodes and more action-oriented ones. We got several fights here, with the Wilding attack exposing the growing threat of the White Walkers, a second mention of Mance Rayder, and Tyrion's freedom won at the hand of the less than honourable Bronn. 

Seeing Ned put back as Hand of the King was unexpected, but Robert's impotence in having to always answer to Cersei given her family's financial power really hit home this week. Lannisters bankroll the kingdom, and this was further emphasized with Tyrion gaining his freedom (another unexpected development). But it looks like Tywin will be making an appearance shortly.

Multiple secondary characters get some scenes, implying everyone's going to have something important to offer the plot. Sansa's fate remains up in the air. Of all the Stark children, she seems most likely to be sacrificed, and in light of how nasty she's turning, it might not be too far off before she falls victim to the Lannisters. Robb appears to be less a man of action as Theon is, but I was pleased to see the latter acted to save Bran, given there's a hint he could be moving over to the dark side of things against the Starks. And Renly took the opportunity to stand up to his brother on the hunt. Will he start working behind the scenes to move up the ladder of succession? Finally, I'm really getting to like Petyr, so I hope his help shown to the Stark family so far is genuine, and he's not part of the conspiracy.

We get another lingering shot on the Umber family but more detail about the Baratheon line and their black hair, giving further credence to the theory that Robert's children with Cersei are in fact Jaime's, and Arryn perhaps discovered this and sought to find true Baratheon heirs. That would make perfect sense to kill him from Jaime and Cersei's perspective. But is that too clean an explanation for the conspiracy? And for that matter, is everyone with dark hair a potential son of Robert (Jon Snow)? Perhaps Cersei's first child who died was the only one fathered by Robert.

It was no surprise that Viserys was going to be toast, but his death was certainly a suitable one. More interesting is Daenerys and her dragon blood, which is evidently not a myth, as more supernatural elements are coming to the forefront. What does that all mean?  Is she actually immune to all forms of fire? Does she have ambitions for the Iron Throne now—especially given her son has been declared the stallion that will mount the world? If the threat against Westeros is dead with Viserys, it would be ironic if Robert's assassination attempt provokes Drogo to invade.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: Camelot "The Long Night"

Non Spoiler Review:
Stop me if you've heard this before—Morgan hatches a scheme to bring pretty much everyone to Pendragon Castle for a feast—and everyone obliges. An apparent attack by a rival warlord puts the castle under siege and a long night of waiting begins, as everyone plans for an attack that could be a no win situation.

The lack of direction was really apparent with this one. We've seen everything in here before and it's only episode seven. Usually Morgan's intrigues are the most entertaining part of the show, but this time they dragged on and on, and served only as an elaborate set up for her newest plan (which we've known long before it even occurred to her).

What we get is Sybil and Morgan eavesdropping outside doors and advising one another that "Everything is in place," or "All is going as planned." Merlin, Arthur, Igraine, Leontes and Guinevere remain hopelessly oblivious to these shenanigans. All the progress that seems to have been made in the last several episodes—Merlin's turning back to magic, Guinevere and Arthur acting like adults—is pretty much ignored. While it's obvious in the first few minutes how it will conclude, it's a big waste of an episode that serves only to set up next week's plot.

Spoilers Now!
Morgan enjoys a bath, but is spied on by one of her warriors, whom she catches in the act. His name is Harwel and he confesses he's completely in love with her, and swears he'll do absolutely anything she wants, which should come in handy. Morgan introduces him to Sybil and tells her to get him prepared.

Merlin, Arthur, the knights, Igraine and Guinevere all ride to Pendragon Castle to take Morgan up on her invitation to attend a feast in the king's honor. While everyone has their doubts...they go anyway. Though Arthur wants to believe his sister is sincere (and also wants a feast), Merlin decides the only way to find out what she's up to is to see her in person, and the knights just want to have some fun.

They arrive to an elaborate celebration and Morgan puts on a good show, complete with dancing girls/whores who later entertain the knights (no men of virtue here, though Gawain seems more paranoid about invasion than partaking). In one odd moment the dancing girls even grab all the men's swords and plunge them into the table in front of them, yet they all laugh it off.

Igraine and Merlin both have their doubts, but they continue their mutual flirtation. Morgan uses the opportunity to tease Guinevere and Leontes, who remain devout and not into the scene at all. But she comments that her brother will now need a queen and hopes he finds someone suitable. Later on, Merlin observes her reputation has grown and she seems to have become a queen of hearts. She admits to learning her lesson that ambition for its own sake is worthless. He notes that Camelot already has a queen of hearts—Igraine. Morgan's also trying to smooth things with her, but Igraine feels pensive being back in her castle and whether she can forgive her step-daughter remains to be seen.

The knights' mini-orgy is interrupted when flaming arrows are fired over the wall, prompting a dangerous rescue by Arthur as everyone rushes to put out the fire. As they recoup afterwards, they conclude that the attack could have come from Old Wolf, a warlord who was always provoking Uther. If he succeeds in taking Pendragon Castle, he could control all the supply routes for Camelot. The pass in question is weakly defended, so they send off some of Morgan's men (including Harwel) to check in on that while they make the place siege ready. Morgan is more than happy to offer Arthur her castle at his disposal.

Igraine, Bridget and Guinevere bemoan all their men going off to fight and being so excited about it. Igraine assures them they need to support them and ensure they never doubt themselves. Sybil and Morgan watch, commenting on the influence that Igraine wields over everyone. Sybil lets her know their people are in position.

Gawain gets the men on the walls prepared for close combat, but he's not happy having Leontes in charge of everything, and the two share some terse words, interrupted by Guinevere who figures the women shouldn't be sitting around doing nothing. So he sends her off to ready bandages and medicine for the wounded.

That gives Morgan and Guinevere a chance to chat as they gather supplies. Guinevere asks if she wants to take a husband, but Morgan isn't too keen on that, and counters that Arthur won't be without a queen for long and he'll make a lucky woman happy.

Merlin runs into Sybil asking what her true purpose is at Pendragon Castle. Morgan returned from the nunnery with some interesting talents, he notes, and now here she is. Merlin wonders what Morgan gets in return. Sybil explains she needed sanctuary, and leaves.

Only one wounded rider returns—Harwel, explaining they encountered Old Wolf's men preparing to attack. Morgan abruptly gives an order for some men to ride out and head them off, which infuriates Gawain and Leontes for screwing up their plans. She apologizes to Arthur, who isn't impressed, and start forming a different strategy.

Morgan suggests her forces create a diversion to allow Arthur to make it safely back to Camelot, but her brother won't agree to that. Guinevere pipes up suggesting the women can fight, too, and not just stand around. Arthur agrees, so gets the men to train them in archery. Harwel gets bandaged up and a kiss of thanks from Morgan.

Gawain doesn't like the idea of waiting for the attack so prepares to leave to go out and kill Old Wolf himself, until he's stopped by Leontes who tells him to obey the king. Gawain doesn't want to hear orders from him, so the two get into the customary battle until Arthur has to break them up. They all fight as one, he says, and orders them all back to the battlements.

Igraine chats with Merlin as he mixes some concoctions together, asking if he believes Morgan's change of heart. He's yet to determine what's really up with her. He tells her knowledge is pain, not power, and does she really want to know everything that's going on? Yes, she says, share his burden with her. So he drops the bomb that Morgan killed Uther. Igraine is horrified, but Merlin says she can't tell Arthur. If Morgan wanted to kill him she would have already, so no good will come of his knowing.

During the long night, everyone is left to make peace with matters. Leontes prays alone until Sybil comes along. He admits he fears Guinevere will be taken from him as retribution for his sins. She tells him his faith in man is what he should worry about. Igraine gives a pep talk to her son, telling him he should let his champions fight. She doesn't want to lose him, but he assures her he knows and returns her love. Gawain admits he wanted to kill Leontes, but says he fought well. Leontes explains he turned to God when he once killed a young boy who attacked him in battle. Arthur goes to talk with Guinevere to tell her he doesn't know if they'll win their battle the next day, and he doesn't want to die without having said that he loves her. Morgan's listening in, of course, but Guinevere tells him to leave.

Sybil, Morgan and Vivian have a ritual around a pool of water, and Igraine's face appears. Everyone at Camelot confides in her, and Arthur's love for Guinevere will drive a wedge between his champions. Morgan realizes now is her time to use the gift she's been given and...impersonate Igraine (Finally!).

Come morning, there are no sign of soldiers until Morgan's men return. Only three arrive, and declare they killed everyone in the camp, and they alone are the survivors. Old Wolf is either dead or has fled. Morgan and Arthur are both pleased, but she says she has brave men to bury, and her place is at her castle.

Arthur and his men prepare to return to Camelot, though Merlin would like to see the dead bodies. Igraine encounters Morgan as she prepares to leave. Then we next see Igraine emerge to join the group as they ride out.

Sybil instructs Harwel to take some men and attack the outpost at the pass. That will draw out the king, and they will give him no quarter. She then takes some food to Igraine in the dungeon, who assures her no one will notice she's missing.

The Verdict:
This was certainly a groaner. While the whole notion of examining all these characters through a tense, long night of siege is a nice idea, it plays out rather predictably and tediously with scene after scene of conversations.

But Guinevere and Bridget did learn archery overnight, so I guess that's something. Though Pendragon Castle is apparently vulnerable to a few dozen men. Not so strange considering they have a useless wall that is highly flammable.

I don't even want to start on Merlin just letting things happen and ignoring the lies and schemes going on right in front of him. He'd like to see the bodies? Sure, why not? How about actually going to see them? Magic? I guess we're back on the wagon this week.

There were some other odd bits that just came off as head scratchers—what was the point of the dancers taking the swords? Really. When everyone at Camelot is already suspicious of Morgan and her ambition. And Ulfius sleeping during the orgy was a bit weird—I thought they were leading to something that he might have been drugged, but nothing came of it.

I was really hoping the series would start to come out of its funk, but now I'm not so sure things can improve before the end of the season, unless there are some serious goodies waiting to be brought out. There needs to be a solid focus and direction, with a sense of building to something, rather than all this meandering around the last few episodes. 

Review: The Event "Arrival"

Non Spoiler Review:
The end. The Event ends on what was a rather exciting episode, if it wasn't dragging along the dead body of its overly long season behind it. Sterling and crew fight to stop the virus from being released. Martinez engages Jarvis in a struggle for the presidency. And Sophia tries to keep control of the situation as her people prepare to arrive. 

As far as plot, the finale does bring some good stuff—we see what's coming through the portal, a few characters sort of get closure, and we find out what The Event is (!). So if the we can ignore the ridiculous behaviour of everyone—Jarvis, Leila, Sean and Sophia, to name a few—it can be endured.

Unfortunately, we can't. The way Sophia manipulates Jarvis is so outrageously unbelievable (even for this show) it was painful to watch. Leila and Sean's scenes deliver a customary groaner at the conclusion. The threads of what's hinted at in the final scene would have made a great second season had the show not suffered from poor writing, irreparably damaged characters and total disregard for any plot cohesion. Hopefully someone somewhere learns you can't build a show around one thing.

Spoilers Now!
Leila hasn't died yet. So we get some more of Sean saying things like "You can't think like that," and Leila saying "Make sure Sam is okay." Some disease people show up to help, so he tells her everything is going to be okay and leaves.

Sophia and Carlos pull off the road just as a weird atmospheric disturbance and earthquake happens. The effects of the portal opening are beginning to manifest around the world. Between the Earth and the moon a blue light appears.

Sterling's done wonders with the computer and has pulled up a model of how the disease will spread, with the three distribution points Sophia is using. He fills in Martinez, but unfortunately he can't issue any orders until he forces a vote on the cabinet to put him back into office. But Peel can send in some teams himself without advising Jarvis, except for shutting down the airport. That leaves super-team Sean, Sterling, Vicky and Simon to handle that.

Martinez takes Jarvis aside to attempt to convince him to shut down the airport because the virus is being released there. He refuses to believe that Sophia's been lying to him (!?) and thinks Martinez just wants him to look like a fool. Martinez offers a deal to let him finish his term if he does it. If not, he'll tell the cabinet he was poisoned. No deal. But Jarvis immediately calls Sophia and fills her in on the accusations about the virus. 

Sophia denies it, of course. Jarvis just wants her assurance (sigh), and agrees not to let anyone get in their way. Sophia steps up her plan to release the virus immediately as soon as their canisters are in place. Everyone's at the airport by now, and as Sophia goes through security she gets an emergency call that the food and money distribution sites were attacked by the government and stopped in time. She's pissed.

Martinez is filled in on their success by Peel as they head to the cabinet meeting. They have nothing yet from the airport. Unfortunately as Martinez goes to sit down at the meeting he collapses (bad!).

Simon and Sterling tell airport security about the impending threat, but refuse to show any ID whatsoever, so when security balks at believing them, they pull a gun, and learn someone did happen to go through with some viral canister-looking stuff. Simon and Sterling find the guy in the baggage loading area and start shooting. Simon gets shot a couple of times and Sterling loses the guy. Simon's wearing a vest, though he also got hit in the leg. They phone Sean and Vicky to take up the chase. She immediately mugs another security guard so they can get into the secured areas. 

Sophia, Carlos and their man meet up and grab the canisters just as Sean and Vicky arrive. Sophia runs off to get on the plane and Sterling shows up to shoot Carlos. With all the extraneous characters dead, they take off after Sophia.

Martinez wakes up and addresses the cabinet. Jarvis notes the medical records that didn't clear him for discharge. Martinez admits he's right, but he has no choice because Jarvis has sold out the country and is responsible for his stroke. He reveals Jarvis is working with Sophia and is about to unleash a virus. Martinez says he can prove it and pulls out a tape recorder he has from their earlier conversation. Busted! 

Martinez is, of course, reinstated. Sophia has taken to running through the airport with Sean in pursuit and locks herself in the lounge. The feds show up and rush into the terminal as all the flights are cancelled. All the exits are locked down but Sophia is going to try to release the virus anyway. Sean pleads with her not to do this and she comments (through the wall) that she admires his tenacity. He says she'll only succeed in killing the people in the terminal and that's not what she wants, but she's all "You don't know me!" Sean says she wasn't like this when they first met. Remember the tea they shared? Sophia says that's changed. After that tedious conversation he gets through to her and she stops, then comes out and gives herself up.

Simon tells Sean that Sophia is still bringing their people over and begins an info-dump—Earth was their home before it was Sean's. His people believed if they stayed something would happen to all of them—they call it The Event (oh my god, that's the name of the show!). It's the next stage in their people's evolution, but humanity won't survive it. But that's about all he feels like talking about and says all the rest of the answers are in the scroll, including how it all ends. Thanks, Simon. 

Sterling and Simon get back to the White House. Simon assumes the portal is how they're bringing them through, but doesn't know where it might be. He thinks it might be in Asia. Peel tells them that Jarvis redirected a satellite that covers Tibet. Oddly enough they're picking up anomalous readings on the Tibetan plateau and soon have a satellite (?) image of the portal.

Sean and Vicky get to the hospital where Leila is. Vicky decides it's time to show some emotion and tells him she's no longer afraid to face her family because of him and gives him a big hug. Then she says good-bye and he gives her one of his dumb looks before going in to see Leila, who is not only not dead yet, but  tells him she's pregnant. (Sigh).

Sean's all "Wha." But she's still dying, though he tells her everything's going to be okay now, so that will apparently mean everything will turn out okay—because having a deadly strain of Spanish Flu is no problem for a fetus whatsoever.

As disasters continue, Sophia is brought in to see the president. He's like, you have some explainin' to do! He wants the portal shut down, but she says they can't, and she won't answer his questions. She admits she ordered the spread of the virus as an act of mercy, but now the only choice left to remove the excess humans will be inhumane (in lieu of a plague).

Then there's another earthquake. The portal opens up and everyone runs outside. And then the alien planet appears in the sky (somewhere in the general vicinity of the moon, which might be problematic). The First Lady and her son run out on the lawn and look up at the crazy new planet. "What is it?" he asks. "Home ," she says. She's not Dominican at all!

The end.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: Game of Thrones "The Wolf and the Lion"

Non Spoiler Review:
Game of Thrones really steps it up this week with another jam-packed episode of political intrigue and consequences. Word of Tyrion's capture begins to filter back to King's Landing, prompting plenty of trouble for the Starks. News of Daenerys' pregnancy causes Robert to go ballistic, and Ned's investigation into Arryn's death continues, and leads to some further discoveries. Catelyn visits her sister, Lady Arryn, at the mountain fortress called the Eyrie. All that plus prostitutes, manscaping, dragon skulls, bastards, decapitated horses, more prostitutes, and another change to the opening credits.

The Wolf and the Lion—which should be no surprise refers to the Starks and the Lannisters—reaches a turning point in the series, and kicks off what will certainly be a perilous time for the Starks. There are some extremely long and complex scenes, which are a rarity these days on other shows—in particular with Cersei and Robert, which provides an illuminating portrait of their marriage. In addition, Theon Greyjoy gets further exposure.

No Dothraki or Jon Snow this week, allowing for the full focus to fall on Catelyn and Ned's troubles. For the pure amount of conspiracy, and the scope of ominous events that begin to unfold, this one is my favorite so far.

Spoilers Now!
At King's Landing, Ned goes to look in on the body of Sir Hugh. Barristan Selmy is there to meet him. This was Hugh's first joust, and all the knights drew straws for position—but who holds the straws, Ned asks?

Ned and Barristan once fought as enemies, though Ned is thankful he never faced him in battle, and the other man remembers the fine man his father was. Ned quickly changes the subject. How did Hugh purchase such fine armor? Barristan suggests Arryn left him some money.

Ned walks in on Robert as he's getting fitted for his jousting armor. He's much too fat, though, and he takes pleasure in belittling Lancel Lannister in front of Ned. Robert wants to fight in the tournament, but Ned's blunt and says he's too fat and everyone will just let him win anyway. That's not something Robert wants to hear, but he's ultimately convinced. After he mocks Lancel and sends him away, Robert comments his marriage to Cersei was Arryn's idea—a good match, he told him at the time.

Ned joins Sansa at the tournament, as Loras Tyrell, the Knight of  Flowers presents her with a rose (but shares a more meaningful look with Renly Baratheon). Petyr takes a bet with Renly, and subtly jibes him about his relationship with Loras.

Loras is to joust Gregor, The Mountain, but his mare is in heat which makes Gregor's stallion buck him off. Gregor's infuriated and cuts off his horse's head, then charges Loras, only to be met by his brother, The Hound. The two fight in front of the king, who finally demands they stop. The Hound immediately bows, but Gregor storms off. Loras tells him he owes him his life and holds The Hound's hand up in victory to the cheers of the crowd.

On the road, Catelyn has Tyrion bound as they stop to rest. He wants to know where they're going as he knows it's not Winterfell. She's been careful to mislead everyone to think they're going there, but actually heading east to the vale, where her sister lives. Tyrion warns her Lady Arryn's changed since Cate last saw her five years ago. He protests his innocence again, but the party comes under attack by some hill tribes. After a pitched battle, Tyrion gets Catelyn to cut his ropes. He attempts to make his way to a horse, but when Cate's in jeopardy he grabs a shield and manages to kill the attacker with it (repeatedly). Rodrik is injured, but they ultimately prevail.

At Winterfell, Theon practices archery while Master Luwin tutors Bran (and us) about the great houses of Westeros. Bran's not very interested in being quizzed and brings up the motto of the House of Tully—family comes first—which is ironic considering his mother left him alone. Luwin tells him his mother will be home soon, but he can't tell him why she left. As he watches Theon, Bran doesn't think he'll ever shoot an arrow again. If the saddle Tyrion designed works, he could shoot his arrows on horseback, Luwin suggests.

Later, Theon is enjoying the company of Ros, the prostitute everyone at Winterfell seems to know. She teases him about being jealous of Tyrion. When he calls himself Stark's ward, she laughs, given he's really a hostage to the family. That's not something he wants to hear or admit to himself.

Varys meets with Ned, asking about Bran's recovery and suggests that his sound mind is a blessing. Varys admits to suffering a mutilation himself, and while some doors closed, others opened in unexpected places. He has some information to tell him in strictest confidence. The king is a fool and doomed unless Ned can save him. Varys waited until now to tell him to see if he could trust him. He's one of the few men of honor in the capital.

Varys explains the king faces a doom similar to Arryn—the Tears of Lys, a poison that leaves no trace. A dear friend would have given it to him—Sir Hugh. But who paid him? Someone who could afford it. Arryn was Hand for 17 years, but he started asking questions.

Meanwhile, Arya is chasing a cat down into the dungeon, where she finds giant dragon skulls. Then she hears voices and hides in one of the skulls as Varys walks by chatting with Illyrio Mopatis (who is visiting from Pentos). They discuss the Lannisters killing Arryn and possibly Ned is next. Ned has found one bastard already and has the book. The wolf and the lion will be at each others throats, and they will be at war soon. Mopatis says they're not ready. Drogo won't move until his son is born. If one Hand can die, why not another?

Arya waits until they pass and then runs out, leaving through the sewers outside the city. She rushes back in to see her father, who is furious she's been missing, but she explains she heard two men talking and rattles on about the bastard and that they were going to kill him. But Jory arrives, bringing a Night's Watchman who needs to speak with him. It's Yoren, who tells him that Cate has taken Tyrion hostage, and it's a matter of a day before news reaches King's Landing.

Next, Petyr is in the throne room when Varys arrives.The two have an odd conversation, where Petyr suggests he visit his brothel and they discuss all the inclinations Petyr can accommodate. Petyr asks if someone somewhere keeps Varys' balls in a little box. Varys has no idea, but adds if the Lannisters were behind the attack on Bran, and it was discovered Petyr helped the Starks, a simple word to the queen would cause him enormous problems. Petyr counters that he saw him talking to Stark in his chambers, then shortly after with a foreign dignitary from across the sea, where Varys is from himself. Petyr wonders if the king might question Varys' sympathies, as well.

They're interrupted by Renly, announcing the king is coming to the council meeting. Ned is summoned as well, and Robert announces Daenerys Targaryen is pregnant by her Dothraki husband. He wants her dead. Ned says that would be dishonorable and they would be no better than the mad king if they assassinated a girl. He questions their information and Varys explains it came from Jorah Moremont, serving as advisor to the Targaryens. Ned hates him and says he can't be trusted.

Robert does not want a Targaryen heading a Dothraki army, but Ned says they've never crossed the sea. Robert is furious and the rest of the council agrees that it's all a messy business but should be done to save thousands who would be killed if there were an invasion. Better to err on the side of caution.

Ned tells Robert he followed him into war twice without question, but won't follow him now. Robert never used to tremble at the thought of an unborn child and he will have no part in it. He takes off the badge of his station and leaves as Robert shouts at him he'll have his head on a spike.

Ned hastily begins to pack and gets Jory to round up his daughters. Petyr comes to see him, telling him Robert mentioned treason after he left. He says if he's still there by nightfall he'll take him to the last person Arryn went to see. Ned tells Jory to round up all their men and station them with the girls, and goes off with Petyr.

Catelyn's party is met by Lady Arryn's troops on the road to the Eyrie, a mountain fortress. They arrive to see Lysa Arryn, Cate's sister, who is B.A.N.A.N.A.S. and still breast feeding her son Robin. Lysa accuses Tyrion of killing Jon and explains to Robin that all Lannisters are liars. Cate declares Tyrion is her prisoner and he will not be harmed, but her sister orders Tyrion taken down below to rest and introduced to Mord. So Tyrion is thrown into a dungeon, which is actually in a high tower that opens up to the cliffs below.

Renly and Loras Tyrell talk politics as Loras shaves Renly's chest ('cuz that's how he likes it). Renly complains how his brother doesn't think he's tough enough. Loras muses that Renly should be king, because he's not as blood-thirsty as his brother, but does what has to be done. Plus Loras' family has money (not as much as the Lannisters, but enough to bankroll the kingdom). Renly brushes all that off as nonsense considering he's fourth in line, but does seem to consider what he has to say.

Robert is brooding as Cersei comes in to see him and sits and has a drink. Without a Hand, everything will fall to pieces, and Robert suggests she wants Jaime to have the job. Ned's serious, she says, but was it worth it losing him this way?

Robert knows that if Daenerys convinces her husband to invade they won't be able to stop them. Cersei disagrees and Robert tells her she sounds like her father. Robert suggests if the Dothraki invade, the nobility will hide in their castles and stay there while the hordes go from town to town and kill everyone, steal the crops and livestock and enslave their women. The people would quickly decide Viserys is the rightful monarch.

Cersei counters that they outnumber them. But the Dothraki have one army united behind one leader. He has five armies with five leaders and their purpose died with the mad king. Everyone wants something different. Robert says they haven't had a real fight in nine years and the realm is all backstabbing now. He doesn't know what holds it together. She says their marriage does, prompting both to have a good laugh.

Cersei asks what Lyanna Stark was like, someone she's never mentioned before. She knows that's Robert's true love, but now she's realized Lyanna can do no more harm than they've done to one another already. Robert admits he can't even remember what she looked like, but she was the one thing he ever wanted.

Cersei admits feeling something for him once, even after the death of their first boy. She wonders if it was ever possible for the two of them, and Robert bluntly says no. That doesn't make her feel anything, she answers, and leaves.

Ned meets with a prostitute who has borne Robert yet another bastard—a daughter. He asks Petyr why Arryn would be tracking down all the illegitimate children Robert has, but Petyr can only suggest he might have wanted to see they were all looked after. 

Ned walks out, preparing to leave the city, but Jaime shows up with his men, wanting to know where his brother is. Ned says he ordered him imprisoned. Jaime plans on taking him prisoner himself and kill his men, so he gives the order to attack. Ned's guards are slain, including Jory. Petyr runs off to get the city watch.

Ned finally battles Jaime one on one, and but is stabbed in the leg from behind by one of the other guards. As he collapses on the street, Jaime is not impressed that he got robbed of a victory, and kills his guard. He gets on his horse and tells Ned he wants his brother back, then rides off as Ned collapses in the street.

The Verdict:
The Wolf and the Lion was probably the best so far—a balance of action, intrigue, and plot development. The rounding out of the secondary characters like Renly and the Knight of Flowers, an increasingly darker Theon, and some great scenes between Varys and Petyr, and Cersei and Robert made for a great hour.

Leaving out Jon and Daenerys was a good move, allowing focus on the conspiracies ripening at King's Landing. Is Varys plotting with Mopatis? Is Jorah the source of his information or did that come via Mopatis? His conversation in the dungeon was a big info-dump about the Lannisters, Arryn and a coming war (with the Dothraki, or perhaps someone else?). Can Petyr be trusted to help the Starks? What are Renly and Theon's respective roles in all of this?

This week is was Robert and Cersei under the spotlight, and I must admit she did illicit some empathy. Their marriage has sacrificed both their happiness for the greater good of holding together a fragmented kingdom. And we get mention again of their dead firstborn.

Did Robert really need Ned's help or agreement to assassinate Daenerys? Couldn't he have just gotten Varys to arrange the whole thing? That's really my only criticism in the way their lifelong friendship abruptly collapsed over their disagreement in council. But we've been getting several snapshots of how erratic Robert's become, so it might not be too big a stretch.

Other little details really rounded out the episode—is The Hound one of the good guys? Loras prodding Renly that he should think about being king (despite being fourth in line), and Arya's sass talk with the city soldiers. Character of the week goes to Lady Arryn, but who (what) is this Mord she mentions?

The Lannister/Stark feud is soon to explode, but it looks as though Catelyn and Tyrion may find themselves on the same side. But with the Stark family dispersed, it will be interesting to see how and if they make their way back together. It's easy to forget with all the goings on at King's Landing that winter is still coming.

Review: Outcasts "Episode 7"

Non Spoiler Review:
After last week's somewhat tedious plotline, this one jumps right into the mystery—Tate confronting himself in his quarters and the reveal that an alien intelligence is at work on Carpathia. That's not really a spoiler, considering it happens in the first minute. Unfortunately that's not the main storyline. Nor is Julius' simmering coup d'etat. Instead we get Cass and revelations about his past, all springing from his association with a girl we only meet in this episode. It's all a bit messy and contrived, and not at all successful.

As the penultimate Outcasts episode, it's unfortunate this is what we get. What should have been a shocker about Cass instead meanders around and around with numerous scenes of Cass just running to fill out the hour. And then the payoff is pretty lame, as well. If Outcasts had a season with a few more episodes, then perhaps this would be acceptable, but I just wanted more focus on the big picture stuff.

Spoilers Now!
Tate comes out of his room to face...himself. In shock, he asks his doppelganger who they are and gets an info-dump—they've been watching Forthaven for a long time and a species like humans were here before, but became extinct. Tate asks if they killed them. It tells him they will suffer the same fate, then disappears.

Cass has not told Fleur what happened in the mountains, so she keeps pressing (and flirting) with him to get answers. But he promised Tate to keep quiet. He takes the opportunity to ask her out and she suggests they talk that night.

She goes off and Cass finds a letter on his desk that says I know who you really are. Be in touch soon. That puts him into a massive panic and he rushes off home and goes through some old files in his locker to ensure everything is still there and secure.

Tate's consulted with Stella, and realizes they need to respond to whatever intelligence is making copies of them. Jack remains a problem—he'll eventually talk about what happened with Josie. Tate needs time to deal with the situation before Jack talks to anyone, so he warns him he could have court-martialed him for his black op, so now it's payback—24 hours before he tells. And he wants the AC prisoner released.

Stella gets the idea to analyze the recordings of Josie made when she was still missing. Her team isolates an anomaly in Josie's broadcast that she believes is the host force. She gets some receivers set up in the city to detect any other signals and see what they can decipher.

By nightfall Cass goes to the bar and a girl strikes up a conversation with him. She's pretty drunk and so is he, and they end up going home together. Cass wakes up to find the girl going through his locker. He's crazy panicked and struggles with her, and she gets stabbed with some scissors. She fights back, though, and manages to get away with his gun. He runs off to work trying to keep it together. Fleur isn't too impressed with being stood up and gives him the cold shoulder. 

Cass tries to explain but says he got scared and spent the night drinking. She then gets a report of a missing person, Carla, so they head off to get debriefed by her husband, James. The man's wife went missing a few days before, and he shows them her photo—guess who? Cass nearly freaks. Her husband says Carla has been increasingly down about life on Carpathia and suggests she might be having an affair. 

Julius demands to know what's going on now that Jack's clammed up, but Tate has had enough of his scheming and tells him all he says are lies and has no right to demand anything from them.

Cass and Fleur look through Carla's house with her husband's help. Fleur finds a torn note to a lover, and then gets a tip she was seen at the bar the previous night with a man. Cass lets her talk to the barman while he checks out the neighbourhood, but instead runs home to clean up his apartment of any evidence of Carla. He finds the scissors with the blood, but neglects a spot on the carpet. 

Tate abruptly shows up and tells him he's going into the mountains to talk to Rudi. He's not telling Stella, but wants Cass to watch out for Julius to ensure they don't raise tensions against the ACs. 

Tipper shows up at command to talk to Stella and tell her Lily's been arrested for stealing at the bar. Stella goes to see her and finds out her daughter just wanted to get noticed by her mother. She has her retained for 24 hours and let go. 

Julius comes by to console Stella later on. Fifteen years is a long time to live apart, and Stella still sees her as a baby she left behind. Julius wants to talk to her about Tate, telling her he's disappeared. He suggests he's losing control, but Stella assures him he has his reasons. He says he'll wake the city up to the dangers that threaten it, and wants her to be on side with him. She doesn't want to talk with him about that and leaves.

Fleur gets reports of a woman trying to buy a gun, so assumes it was Carla planning to kill her husband. Cass rushes to find James, as two other kids come in as witnesses who saw Carla running away from a man. They bring Fleur right to Cass' house. Shocked, she looks around his place and manages to notice the spot of blood on the carpet. She takes a sample to get tested and it's Carla's.

Carla confronts her husband, threatening to kill him. He's been controlling her since they arrived on Carpathia and she wants out, but he won't let her. She then threatens to kill herself, but he takes the gun, promising her everything will be just as it was. She drops the bomb she had sex with Cass so he punches her out.

Julius continues to manipulate Jack and finally gets him to tell him the truth about Josie. He also provokes him to take action about the ACs and execute his prisoner rather than release him. He tells him not to worry, as they have friends—angels in heaven.

Fleur has uncovered Cass' file and wants to know who he really is—Tom Sileg. He confesses Carla stole his gun. Stella comes to see him, telling him James is claiming Carla was having an affair for over a year and has a diary that says as much, so she wants to know how long this has been going on. She leaves the diary with him to read.

Next Stella consoles Fleur, who wants to know if she knew about Cass' past. Stella had some idea. But Fleur doesn't know if she can believe his innocence now. Then they're advised James has found a suicide note. Fleur consults with him and he seems to think she might have gone out to the lake.

Cass realizes the diary is written in the same handwriting as Carla's letter, but no one will listen to him. So he fakes an illness to escape from the cell. Fleur gets alerted about that, and also what he said about the journal.

Tate follows his phantom children through the hills, but is soon surrounded by ACs. After a bit of a beating, Rudi shows up and Tate admits he didn't listen to the first warning, but wants Rudi's help to persuade the host force that they can all live together. Rudi rebuffs the overture, telling him they killed their children when they first arrived, and it's only Tate's people who are threatened, not his.

Cass' tries to get to James' house but it's locked up. He hears Carla inside and breaks in, finding her in a cellar. James shows up as he tries to free her and pulls a gun on them. He explains Carla will be assumed drowned and the search will be called off. He'll bury them both there together. Cass charges him, and the ensuing fight breaks the ceiling bringing down the soil above to fill the chamber. But they're rescued just in time and James is arrested.

Later, Cass confesses that back on Earth Tate had taken him in and saw him as redeemable, offering him a new chance on Carpathia. When Fleur presses just what exactly he did, he tells her if she finds out she won't want to know him. So she leaves.

Julius addresses the people about the AC attack, and assures them they have avenged it. The AC has been hung, and normal rules no longer apply now that they're in a fight for their lives. He accuses Tate of doing nothing when Forthaven needs action.

Jack isn't feeling terribly great about the execution, so tells his men to give the AC a decent burial, then shows up at the bar to find Fleur. The two get pretty close and go back to his place.

Tate comes to see Cass. They knew it would all come out eventually, but Tate defends his right to be there. Cass shows him the note he got and wonders who else knows about him.

Julius communicates with the transport, commenting that the information on Cass proved useful. They then provide him with information on the Omega subject he requested, noting there is one on Carpathia...Fleur.

In the command centre, Stella shows Tate they've deciphered four letters that cycle in infinite variations, which seem to compose the bulk of the alien communications. Now they can listen in.

The Verdict:
What a convoluted and contrived mess. Perhaps if the season were twice as long, the series could afford to bring in new characters to flesh out the main storylines, but it seemed tacked on here when Cass' story could have been better served with existing characters. There was simply no emotional investment in Carla or her situation at all. And even then, we don't get any information about what Cass actually did to make him so terrible. Plus we get a groaner of a jailbreak, and filler scenes of Cass running around Forthaven like a crazy person. It was really agitating to watch (and then attempt to recap) all these disjointed scenes and make sense of it.

Cass just isn't as important when Forthaven has Julius Berger and an alien host force to worry about, both of which get too little play. While the idea of disembodied aliens is still not my preference, the idea of their communications being detectable by Forthaven was a good touch.

And we get some additional details from the alien—there are 70,000 humans on Carpathia. Plus they killed the original hominid species and, perhaps, other life forms, as well. But for what purpose? And why would they leave the ACs alone? Why would they chose to differentiate between the two?

Outcasts has been unfortunately cancelled, so this amounts to the penultimate episode. Too bad, as this show did have much promise, and something tells me not much is going to be resolved in the final episode.

Review: The Event "The Beginning of the End"

Non Spoiler Review:
With such a promising title, The Beginning of the End begins to mash up characters that haven't seen one another for half the season. Sophia does another mood swing and actually starts to feel sympathy for the poor humans she's about to exterminate. Jarvis gets some bad news, and Sterling and Simon become the new super-team we can cheer for. All they need is someone with super computer hacking powers...hey, wait a minute!

As the penultimate episode, the show teases a few more reveals about the aliens. But of course those have to wait until next week, if at all, given The Event has been cancelled. But even without that dark cloud hanging over it, there's little to get excited about anymore, and few characters left to invest in aside from Sterling and Simon. It's notable that the virus in question could have killed most of humanity in just half the time that this plot has been dragging over the last few weeks.

Spoilers Now!
All this talk of genocide manages to give Sophia a nightmare—she's walking through a town full of dead people and gets screamed at by a little girl. She wakens to get news from Dr. Liu that Leila's body has mutated the strain into a slower-acting virus, a virus that will kill most of the human population (also the virus is now bitchy and super annoying, too). Sophia is suddenly reluctant, given she only want to kill a couple of billion. Did the evil alien queen find her conscience?

Carlos lets Sophia know that they're nearly ready for all their people to come through. Time is running out on their homeworld. But they do need to move a surveillance satellite that can track the portal in Tibet, so Sophia puts a call into VP Minion. He has some news too—Martinez is improving. Jarvis wants her word she'll spare the American people if he does what she says. She swears. Liar!

Simon fills Sterling in on Sophia's mission to Siberia looking for a weapon, but he doesn't know what she might be searching for. Peel's already advised Sterling about Jarvis letting the passenger plane land. On the television, Simon conveniently recognizes the face of one of his people—the guy Vicky shot—as the news is about the terrorist attack at the mall.

Meanwhile, Sean's still upset with Vicky for letting Alexandra get away. They find an address in the wallet and arrive at some distribution warehouse. As they go searching around, Vicky gets caught—by Simon! Sterling comes out and gets a gun in his back from Sean. They have a brief standoff. Then everyone recognizes everyone and Sterling's like "Sean Walker from the plane?" And Vicky's like "Blake Sterling of the NSA?" And Sean's like "Simon, the alien?" Calmer heads prevail and they join forces to form a new super team to go through the building and see if they can find anything to locate Sophia's new base of operations.

Sterling recognizes Vicky as former CIA. She's all "I don't know what you're talking about." And that's all anyone says about that again. Sean asks if Simon thinks Leila's still alive. Maybe, but Michael's toast, he says. Seans says he'll find her when this is all done. Then the sound of a garbage truck alerts them to the fact that the agent could have tossed stuff before he left, so they start going through the bin, finding addresses and all sorts of goodies.

Sophia outlines the plan for distributing the virus, which apparently (contrary to what Jarvis believes) is all in the United States for starters. In five days most of humanity will be dead. As Leila begs for Dr. Liu to stop what she's doing, the doctor informs her they were here first. Gasp. But that's kind of all we hear of that.

At the hospital, Jarvis gets informed of Martinez's improving condition. The doctors can't explain it. The First Lady comes up and gives him a whack across the face and makes a huge scene in the hospital. Then they announce the president is awake.

It's a miracle! The First Lady brings him up to speed on what he missed and Jarvis' deception. Then Sterling gets a call from Martinez and he gets all sappy. Sterling also brings him up to speed, so Martinez says he'll deal with Jarvis and wants to return to the White House immediately.

Sophia has agents everywhere, apparently, as they manage to start distributing the virus at the airport and the treasury. She does ask about Leila's condition, and it's unclear how long she'll fight off the virus. Sophia sees she's suffering and tells Dr. Liu to end it painlessly.

Sean gets Sterling into his NSA account to search the route of the alien agent—somehow using satellites. They track his car to a building that's seen a lot of activity so they all head there. En route, Simon notices Sean's scrolls he got from Dempsey that he just happens to be carrying around, and asks what he knows about it. Dempsey must have known more than he was letting on if he could read those, Simon says cryptically. And that's all we hear of that, too, because Sean doesn't ask what he meant.

The four of them take out the guards at the entrance and head inside, just as Dr. Liu starts injecting Leila to put her to sleep before giving her the final shot to kill her. But Leila isn't as sick as she's letting on and breaks free of her bonds and injects Liu with the needle. Conveniently enough, that's when Sean arrives, but Leila's sealed inside her virus room and lets him know that the strain is going to be released soon. Leila tells him she's infected, and Sean's all "Huh?"

Martinez arrives at the Oval Office and tells Jarvis to get the hell out. But Jarvis says he's the president and everything he's done has been for America. Oh, and Martinez did have a stroke, for Pete's sake, so it's likely he won't be certified capable of resuming his office if Jarvis has anything to say about it.

Next comes suffering through Sean and Leila's long good-bye while Sterling and Simon look through Liu's computer for an antidote. Liu is revived so Simon can try to torture her to get her password. She gives it up pretty fast after he puts a drill to her head, but it's too late, she tells him. All they see are distribution figures and no way to figure them out in time. Meanwhile, the satellite is diverted and the array begins to power up.

Next week—the event?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Camelot "Three Journeys"

Non Spoiler Review:
This week on CSI:'s Morgan's turn to hold a trial at Pendragon Castle, when the tables are turned and she's forced to pass judgement on someone close to her to keep the faith of the people. Merlin decides it's time to get down to Ector's old place and get that library he's been talking about, while a family crisis prompts Guinevere to run off by herself, with you-know-who in pursuit.

On the plus side, the episode's scope is back to a grander sense of the kingdom, with the knights marking off the boundaries of Camelot's protection. The problem arises in three storylines going off in different directions. Arthur and Guinevere's travels fall flat in comparison to Morgan's more compelling challenge this week, while Merlin's journey deals again with his struggle with the magic, and ultimately feels mediocre.

It's not entirely bad—Arthur and Guinevere seem to have matured in their interactions with one another, and some more intriguing bits of mystery are added to Sybil and Morgan's relationship. It just felt bland.

Spoilers Now!
The knights are busy expanding Camelot's area of protection by planting the Pendragon standard throughout their territory. Merlin takes Kay from his task to return to his father's home and retrieve Ector's valuable library, but Kay's reluctant to revisit those memories. Guinevere gets news from a messenger that sends her off on her own away from Camelot. Arthur is informed by Bridget about her disappearance and they learn her father is on his deathbed, and she may not even reach him in time. So Arthur heads off to find her through the lawless reaches of his kingdom—lucky for him Merlin was already gone 'cuz he would have been mad!

Many envoys are arriving at Pendragon castle to get the ear of the king's sister. She hears a couple's dispute first—the mother doesn't want the father to take the son given he had an affair with another woman and he only needs help with the farm work. They ask her to arbitrate, so she offers to buy the child from them. The mother is outraged, but the father keeps bargaining with her for a good price. Morgan declares the child stays with his mother, while the man is unworthy to be called a father and puts him out. Morgan tells the boy to treasure his mother.

On the trail, Merlin, Leontes, Kay and Gawain arrive at the site of an attack, finding a dying man. Kay asks Merlin to help him, but Merlin assures him he has no powers that can save him. Gawain steps up and sits with him while he dies.

That night Merlin gets 20 questions from the knights about why he didn't help. Gawain wants to know why Merlin couldn't save him. Kay wants to know where the magic comes from. Merlin explains it as thought made manifest—there are forces in the elements that he can shape to his will to some small degree. He warns them all that using too much power would kill him—with a cost to his body and soul and to those around him. It's an addiction, which he denies himself. Christian Leontes believes it's God working through him, but Merlin doesn't believe in god and gently mocks him. Leontes doesn't appreciate his disrespect.

Arthur catches up with Guinevere at Generic Village. Her father has been living with his sister since the wedding, she explains. One of the women there warns that there was another attack in the forest through which she's travelling. People thought it would be different with a new king, but nothing has changed. Arthur says he'll accompany her. Outside of Camelot hardly anyone knows who he is, and he suggests they take the coast rather than the forest. Guinevere's suspicious of his motivations, but he assures her it's a favor to Leontes. The past is done.

En route, Arthur mulls over his problems in trying to extend the influence of his kingdom. Guinevere tells him he understands the people and cares for them, and he'll ultimately succeed. They later camp for the night on the coast, but wake up in the morning to find thieves going through their stuff. They fight them off, and Arthur kills one—Yes, the land is in anarchy! Morgan is looking like a good bet at the moment.

Finally they reach her father, and Guinevere manages to spend some time with him before he dies. Arthur consoles her and her family with some sage words of Cicero, and soon they're back on their way. This time Guinevere wants to be held as they lie on the beach together and stare up at the stars, and by the next day they're more comfortable around one another again.

Meanwhile, a veiled woman named Arwen demands to see Morgan. Sybil is impressed with Morgan's progress and now suggests she not shy away from her new powers—what she now calls a gift. Vivian interrupts and announces the guest, who says she's in terrible danger. Sybil seems pensive.

Arwen asks to speak in private, but Sybil orders her to take off her veil. The king's sister harbors a devil, she announces, and removes her veil to reveal a faced burned on one side. She explains her daughter was in the nunnery across the sea, and she arrived to find it in flames—a fire lit by Sybil. Though she managed to survive she saw Sybil hiding as her daughter died. Now she wants retribution and insists Morgan sit in judgement.

Morgan is furious with the spectacle that she's harboring a murderer, but realizes she has no choice but to have a public hearing. Sybil wants to see her but Morgan refuses, waiting for the trial to uncover the truth. Sybil sits alone, remembering the fire and praying.

Ector's old home is ransacked and the books apparently gone. Kay is morose at the prospect his father's legacy is destroyed. That night as the others sleep, Gawain asks Merlin why he insists on forbidding himself his magic. Gawain and his knights use their rage as a way to channel their fighting skills without letting it control them—why can't Merlin do the same?

In the morning Kay has a dream and remembers that as a child he and Arthur played in a cellar in the woods. He goes out and finds the secret stash of books. Everyone is elated at their discovery and the knights head back to Camelot in a good mood.

On the way Leontes is bucked from his horse and dislocates his shoulder. Gawain wants to pop it back in, but Leontes is in pain. Merlin points to a tree and a rain of leaves suddenly begin to fall in tiny flames to the ground. Distracted, Gawain pops Leontes shoulder back in. Gawain is impressed and congratulates the sorcerer for exercising control over his power, while Leontes is grateful and tells him he's an angel doing God's work.

At the trial, Sybil confesses to starting the fire. She explains there are forces in the world that must be satisfied if they are to be kept at bay. A select group of girls were chosen each year to participate in a ritual, but priests arrived looking for evidence of the ceremony, and so Sybil burned it. The fire got out of control and she was forced to jump from a window, watching the nunnery get consumed. She remains haunted by it.

Arwen wants an execution, but Morgan has other ideas. After considering her options, she drags Sybil over to the fire and orders her to put her arm in it. Sybil sees that Morgan is very serious, so finally obeys and collapses to the floor in pain with her arm burned in the fire. That will be her punishment, to carry the pain that the mother must bear. That's not good enough for Arwen, who still wants Sybil executed. Morgan will hear nothing else about it, declares her decision final, and sends them away.

Guinevere and Arthur arrive in sight of Camelot and share a spontaneous kiss, then ride home in silence. Morgan later quietly tends to Sybil's burns while the nun weakly tells her thank you. Arthur and his knights are reunited as Merlin sets up the new library. Leontes thanks the king for taking care of his wife. Arthur decides their work isn't done yet, and sends his men out to the east to continue planting their banners to show everyone they're watching out for them (good idea!). That night, Arthur and Guinevere both stare up at the sky.

The Verdict:
Another hit and miss episode that seems to revisit several themes again. Right off the heels of last week we get another trial. Granted it contrasts Morgan and Arthur's leadership styles, but some better pacing would be welcome.

Morgan's storyline was again the strongest, adding new secrets with the talk of rituals at the nunnery and ancient forces needing to be appeased. I imagine they're saving these tidbits for the end of the season, but I'm finding events at Pendragon Castle to be extremely more interesting than Camelot.

Which brings us to Sybil's motivations. Who exactly is she serving, and just what kind of nun is she? She arrived furious with Morgan for trying to use magic, but this week is all about encouraging her to use her abilities, so she's got quite a loosey-goosey interpretation of her Christianity. And now it appears Morgan likely owes her special gifts to Sybil and her ancient rituals.

I did love Morgan's tough love approach—punishing Sybil as much for lying about why she was there as for causing her to lose face in front of her subjects. Their relationship is quite interesting as Sybil fills more of the surrogate mother role. At times she does illicit sympathy, but I'm still not sure she has Morgan's best interests at heart.

Arthur and Guinevere have matured quite a bit, but their whole journey came off as pretty empty, serving only to throw them together yet again. I'm just not feeling this great love story from these two characters. There was a lot of filler there—swimming in the ocean, fighting thieves, staring at stars. Did it really need to take up so much of the episode?
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