Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Terra Nova "Genesis"

Non Spoiler Review:
In 2149, the world is in such a mess that the only alternative to human survival seems to be an exodus through a time fracture 85 million years into the past to start life anew. This is the last hope for the Shannon family, who with their three children, make the one way journey and begin their new lives in Terra Nova. They quickly learn that it's not a utopia and there will be many challenges to face (fitting in, dinosaurs, copious amounts of oxygen, breakaway colonists, etc.).

This highly anticipated series begins with a two hour premiere establishing the sorry state of the future, and getting the Shannons to the main setting—the past. There we meet what will likely be the rest of the regular cast. It's all a decent assortment of people, though there is a lot of pretty teenagers there eager to provide as much angst and troublemaking as possible. 

The production values are stunning, and I'm hoping the series can maintain such quality all season. The series begins with an impressive opening sequence panning down to a smoggy Earth and its horrible living conditions, contrasting with the paradise of the world 85 million years in the past. The dinosaurs work well, and there were quite a few to be seen in his episode. So it will be interesting to see if this is a standard, or they splurged for the pilot.

I was left reminded very much of Outcasts, BBC's late, lamented single season series about colonizing another planet. In fact, it reminded me alot about it. And a little bit of Land of the Lost, too. While the premise is intriguing and the setting offers some interesting bits of backstory and future development, the main protagonists, the Shannons, come off as rather unlikable, at least in this episode. And the second half suffers from cliched plot choices (missing teenagers). Terra Nova should take a lesson from Falling Skies on how to create young characters that aren't annoying. But there is a lot of promise here, so I will definitely be following it.

"A brave new world for us to turn upside-down with our bad decisions."
Spoilers Now!
Terra Nova opens in 2149 with a bleak look at Earth in environmental collapse. The Shannon family—dad Jim, mother Elizabeth, and children Josh, Maddie and (illegal child) Zoe, are enjoying an orange, an unusual treat. Jim doesn't say where he got it from (stolen, most likely!). Maddie reports that the authorities are on their away. It's apparently illegal to have more than two children in the future but Jim and Liz don't care about the law, so they hide their youngest daughter in the air vent.

Zoe is easily discovered, and when cop Jim beats up the security, he's arrested and thrown into prison—for two years. We join him when Elizabeth comes by for a visit to explain she's been contacted by the Terra Nova recruitment people given she's an awesome surgeon. He tells her she has to go and take the kids for a chance at a new life, but they won't let her take Zoe given they had the kid to flaunt the population laws. She gives him a respirator to help him breathe in the unfiltered air of the prison, but it also has a handy-dandy laser hidden in it that will shortly allow him to make the most miraculous prison break ever.

Thanks to the news, we're told it's been 20 years since a fracture in time was discovered due to some collider experiments, around which was built a huge gate to allow passage back 85 million years. Elizabeth and her two oldest kids arrive for the transport as part of the 10th Pilgrimage to the Terra Nova colony. 

Josh has a rather mundane and emotionless goodbye with his girlfriend Karen, whom he will supposedly never see again.

Meanwhile, Jim arrives (!) after managing to escape a highly fortified prison (off screen), arrange transport and an ally and pick up a mysterious duffel bag (off screen) and appropriate identification to get through the gate. Despite these miracles, he's spotted on camera, but gives Elizabeth the pack as he's called out by security. 

Elizabeth sends Josh and Maddie through the portal and then herself, trusting in Jim to find his way to them. He sees they're gone and makes a run for it, shoving everyone out of the way and arriving in the past, in the jungle. Disoriented, he pulls his gun, creating a commotion, but Elizabeth rescues Zoe from the pack before the security personal of Terra Nova decide to stab it (!) for some reason. The group heads to the colony. After all that trouble, Zoe doesn't remember her father, given he's been gone two years.

They're greeted by Nathaniel Taylor, commander of Terra Nova, who's been there for seven years (and was the first to step foot in the past). He gives them the second chance for humanity pep talk. Elizabeth and Jim are summoned to meet with him. She's in demand for her medical expertise, but his records show her husband should be in prison. Taylor doesn't care about population controls from the future, but does care if he's of use to the colony. In private, Taylor speaks with Jim, learning he was a police officer who decided to have a third child to risk everything. Instead of putting him on security, he assigns him agriculture detail. 

The Shannons settle into their new retro-future/Flintstones house and Zoe now seems to remember her father. Josh, however, begins to rebel and is resentful they had to fend for themselves because Jim threw a punch at the cop and went to jail. 

Meanwhile, we get our first dino-moment when Zoe walks out to some (plant-eating) dinosaurs hanging over the fence and everyone stares in wonderment at their brave new world.

The next morning everyone goes off to orientation (except Josh, who is rebelling). Time for some exposition, as Maddie (evidently the brainiac know-it-all of the family) recognizes the probe monument, and explains to Josh it was the first artifact sent through the fragment to see how far back in time it went. The probe carried a beacon so they could find it in the present, but they never did, which showed they were dealing with a different time stream than the one they were living in—so no time paradoxes. Um...

Jim starts work with the ag team. Josh meets a new girl, Skye, as well as her roommates Hunter and Max. They go OTG...outside the gate, where Skye shows him some odd equations carved into the stones down by a waterfall. She hasn't told anyone, given Taylor has forbidden anyone going there (hmm). They also have a still and throw back a few bevvies.

Shannon looks after a Six thief, who was caught siphoning power. Who are the Sixes? They're from the Sixth Pilgrimage, and most pretty much went AWOL to establish their own colony. He manages to get away, only Jim notices his odd behaviour and tackles him as he tries to kill Taylor. He demands to know what's going on, so Taylor takes him on a drive outside the gate.

Taylor explains the Sixth Pilgrimage showed they had an agenda, took weapons and supplies when they learned Taylor was onto them and established their own settlement. He doesn't know who sent them and doesn't know who he can trust in the future. He invites Jim to join his security team.

"Ain't we a pair, raggedy-man."
They then spy two Six transports making a beeline to the settlement, so try to head them off. But they realize they're in pursuit by two dinosaurs, so Taylor manages to divert them so all of them can get inside Terra Nova's gates. That provokes a standoff with the Sixers, and their leader Mira, who wants her man Carter back. She offers meteoric iron from the quarry in exchange for meds, her man, and ammo. Taylor says he'll give her everything but the ammo.

Later, Taylor talks to Shannon in the hospital and reveals he had a son who came through the portal, but who went missing a few years before. 

Taylor later reports one of their rovers is missing, and shows Jim surveillance of the kids, including Josh. It has apparently taken all day for this to be noticed. They go off to find them.

Meanwhile, two Sixes have taken the power cells from Skye's rover, so they're stranded. But the Sixes are attacked by dinosaurs called slashers, and one is killed, leaving the other to take refuge inside. The kids find the rover and blood, and Max finds the cells but another slasher returns, forcing them inside. Skye manages to convince the remaining Six to let them in, and they're left stranded inside as the slasher attacks.

As night falls Taylor assembles a rescue party, including both Elizabeth and Jim. Worried that the kids won't survive, he tells them he was the first man through the portal, but the ones walking through behind him didn't show up for 118 days, so he knows how to survive on Terra Nova.

Taylor makes contact with Skye and attempts to track their signal, though they run into one of the girls, Natasha, on the trail. She was injured by the slashers too and tried to make it back to camp.

One of the young security members, Reynolds, checks in on Maddie to make sure she's okay while the search team is away. She immediately falls in love with him.

The kids try to make a break for the other rover, but Max is wounded. Josh is nearly killed by the slashers as Taylor arrives to save the day. The injured Six manages to disappear, but everyone else is reunited and back home.

Skye apologizes to Taylor for disappointing him after all he's done for her. He's not upset with her, and we learn Skye's parents both died from a fever. He tells her now she knows why that area by the waterfall is off limits, but asks what they were all doing out there. Just drinking, she says, but he asks if she went near the falls. She says no.

Mira and her man are at the falls and notice the kids were there. She says Taylor won't like it. Why doesn't he just blast the rocks? Because it's the only thing connecting him to his son... who is the one behind the carvings. He apparently wants to torment Taylor and let him know the real reason for Terra Nova's existence—control of the past to control the future.

Zoe sees the moon for the first time and the Shannon family hug it out.

"Call me Mr. Kurtz."
The Verdict:
Terra Nova has all the pieces in place to make a great series. The characters all need their chance to evolve and establish themselves. It does suffer from some major plot devices to get the characters introduced and things moving. Add in a little Spielberg The kids are missing. We must rescue them! and the last half wasn't as compelling as the first. So I feel the need to nitpick some pretty egregious moments.

Jim's escape from prison was brushed off so completely, it's a wonder they even wasted the money to render Golad Prison. Let's walk through this—Elizabeth sneaks a laser to her husband that will allow him to escape a maximum security prison, make some contacts on the outside, manage to gain false identification as well as acquire his daughter from some surplus population orphanage, then sneak into what must be an incredibly secure time portal with no effort, get to the front of the line and just rush his way through after he's caught. Security advancements have stagnated considerably over the next 138 years.

After that eye-rolling sequence, the Shannons are reassembled, but they aren't the most compelling bunch, given some of the other characters we see. I found myself unsympathetic to their plight, given the peek at future Earth, that they had the nerve to break the rules and have yet another child (two's not enough?) and flaunt the authorities. Then they steal her away and take her back with them. While Elizabeth has some motherly appeal, Jim's too much of a hot-head to have made an impact on me at all yet. Add in cutesy Zoe and Maddie's sole purpose of providing exposition to the audience, and this bunch is off to a weak start.

The mystery of the rock carvings proved a bit of a letdown, as I was hoping for something grand (like reptilian humanoids!) rather than Nathan's missing kid. And hopefully we get something that makes up for Maddie's little exposition on the alternate timeline they're in. Really? That's what the future scientists concluded when they couldn't locate their probe? But that could be what Nathan's son knows—they're all in the same timeline, and the authority behind the Sixth Pilgrimage could be trying to manipulate the future? Time will tell.

Probably the biggest head scratcher is the crack in time itself. Leaving out the whole leap of faith that the absence of the probe signal means the rift is an alternate timeline, how is it the rift seems to be moving in time, as well? Otherwise, the 10th Pilgrimage would be arriving at the same time as the ninth, the eighth, down to the first, and Taylor himself. Subsequent arrivals conveniently emerge in a linear fashion. Though Taylor did mention the men following him didn't come out until over a 100 days after he arrived. If there is a disparity like that, then why wouldn't those at the head of the line emerge up to a year before those in the back, given the quantity of people going through this episode? Hopefully this gets some further explanation other than the throwaway line.

There's a good foundation to build the show on, as long as they don't glaze over the science fiction elements like they did this week. I'm hoping Jim and Elizabeth will grow on me, too. And I'm always willing to give a show a chance after the birth pains of a first episode. Given the slim pickings for new and interesting network shows, I'll be sticking with this one for awhile to see where it goes. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Contagion

Non Spoiler Review:
It's been years and years since a good (non-zombie) plague film hit theatres. I'm talking about Outbreak, which certainly had its flaws, but was a good shot at the apocalyptic global pandemic genre. Watching previews for the more cerebral and political Contagion really had me excited, so I was anxious to see this. I'm happy to report I wasn't at all disappointed, and it certainly exceeds Outbreak's melodramatic nature in favor of a more coldly logical thriller that makes the story even more chilling.

Contagion feels like Crash, or Traffic, which isn't too surprising given it's directed by Steven Soderbergh. The story begins immediately at Day 2, tracking several characters who have been infected with a flu-like virus as they travel through several parts of the world. Very quickly the infection spreads and proves to be fatal within a couple of days of exposure. The family first affected is Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow's, and once the spread of the disease reaches both the news and government attention, the likes of Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Bryan Cranston are brought in on the rapidly worsening crisis. Reporting from the sidelines to discern the truth is controversial blogger Jude Law. These are but a few of a very large and capable cast that carries the film through.

Contagion is horrifying for its simplicity. The virus is not some blood-spewing Ebola mess. It's just influenza crossed between mammals, in the spirit of the Bird and Swine Flu. That grounds the film significantly in our recent experiences, and makes it all the more relevant.

There is also no clear hero and villain, as all the characters make very genuine gray choices when it comes to weighing decisions that affect the population as a whole versus their own families. At no point can the government, the military, pharmaceutical companies, or sensationalist bloggers be deemed any more opportunistic or altruistic than the other. That's for the audience to discuss afterwards.

The movie is surprisingly short, under two hours, and I could have easily sat through another half hour. The rationed screen time, however, is a source of criticism when it comes to character development (or attachment) to the players. Given the rapid pace of the movie, plus the copious number of people, there's little time to really feel for the deaths of several of the characters that come and go throughout. But Contagion remains about the global and geo-political response, which overshadows the individual stories.

There are also a few storylines that seem to just disappear, unfortunately, or leave one scratching their head wondering what's happened. But the final scene is immensely satisfying, and brings the film to a fitting conclusion.

Contagion is probably one of the best thrillers of the year. It's not science fiction at all, and provides a good lesson on the science and procedure behind pandemics, quarantines, and the government's response to such a crisis. Everyone should watch it, if just to get a sense of how fragile the architecture of our society is, and how so little needs to go wrong to make it crumble. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: True Blood "And When I Die"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Halloween breaks the barriers between the living and the dead, Marnie launches her final assault against the vampires. Alcide makes a decision. Sam buries Tommy. Jessica and Jason come to terms. And a whole lot of magic is cast amid vampire politics, with the final minutes bringing its fair share of drama and shocks in typical True Blood fashion.

Season four ends with a bang... lots of them. But the episode was somewhat uneven in places, as if the writers just wanted to jump ahead and gloss over details here and there. This is a trend that was quite noticable all season and really promotes style over substance. Next year had better return to basics as far as the plotting, otherwise True Blood will quickly become a satire of itself.

Next season will begin with plenty to wrap up. In particular, the Jessica/Jason pairing really works and their scenes together were a nice break from the death and angst surrounding the rest of the characters. But I want to see less wasted storylines (werepanthers...Portia Bellefleur, anyone?) and more gripping ones like the witch/vampire war, with an overdue focus on the vampire politics that always hover in the background.

Spoilers Now!
In the morning, Lafayette seems rather distant to Jesus at breakfast. Jesus kisses him good-bye as he prepares to leave for work, but gets a sense something is very wrong with him. So Marnie/Lafayette stabs his hand with a fork.

Sookie is making breakfast, too, but she has a sudden vision of her gran dead on the kitchen floor. Tara's stayed over and joins her. Sookie wonders aloud if Adele is in heaven, given Marnie channelled her and told her not to give her heart to Eric. She keeps feeling like she's here (which mean she's going to show up very soon).

Sam stands over his brother's grave and is joined by Maxine, who admits he had a good heart despite lying and stealing from her. She tells Sam to call her momma from now on given they're all the family they have left. She leaves him, and he's joined by Luna and Emma. 

Jesus is tied up and Marnie calls him a traitor. But Lafayette is struggling to regain control, so Marnie threatens to hurt his body. She wants the power that Jesus' grandfather passed down to him in his blood—his magic brujo. Jesus would gladly give it to her if he could, but he doesn't know how, and what's inside him is seriously dark. But after watching Lafayette cut himself, Jesus says he'll do it, and performs an incantation that brings out his demon. Marnie stabs him and tastes the blood, taking on the demon form. 

It's Halloween, and Sookie arrives at a costumed up Merlotte's. She's come to see Sam, but only now learns about Tommy. This is the first time he finds out that he apparently fired and kicked her out. He tells her he wasn't himself that day and she can have her job back. 

Alcide pops in for a beer and Sookie inquires about Debbie. He admits she was right about her. He's done with the drama in his life and wants her to be done with hers too, which creates an awkward moment as Sookie isn't sure what to say. He gets a phone call and has to leave, and he asks her to think about what he said.

Sookie next finds Holly, who explains Halloween is Samhain, when the veil between the living and dead is at its weakest. Holly's been having a feeling of dread, as well.

Tara comes to visit Lafayette, finding the house open and Jesus dead. She finds Sookie and Holly and tells them Marnie is back and she thinks she's inside Lafayette. The three of them head off to try to stop them, and ensure Bill doesn't find out first and kill Lafayette.

Bill and Eric are already chained on a pyre at his mansion, with his guards all dead. Sookie, Holly and Tara show up, but Lafayette/Marnie appears to confront them. Holly manages to create a magic circle around her and the pyre while she's busy yelling at Bill and Eric.

Marnie ignites the pyre, but Sookie manages to shoot off another fairy blast that only brings out demon Lafayette. Holly, Tara and Sookie (who are apparently quite powerful by now and make a nice trinity of witches) cast a protective spell around the circle, shutting Marnie out. The spell also calls upon friends and family spirits to watch over them, prompting a mob of ghosts to emerge from the cemetery.

Antonia returns (just in case you thought she went on to heaven, she's been hanging out in the graveyard. Comforting thought) and blows out the fire, and explains to Marnie all creatures, even vampires, have a purpose, and she's here to take her home. Adele appears (!) wearing the worst nightgown imaginable, and manages to reach into Lafayette and pull out Marnie. She's very powerful, too, much like Sookie, Holly, Tara, Lafayette, Jesus....

But Marnie refuses to go with them. Antonia does not want to see her be driven mad by her rage as she was, and assures her she will be at peace, while the vampires will be stuck there forever. That's good enough for Marnie. She lets go of her rage and walks off with them.

Sookie asks her gran not to go, but Adele says she doesn't need her to guide her anymore. Just follow her heart. They all vanish. Lafayette wakes up.

The little spell to resurrect the dead produces another plot device. One of Terry's friends, Patrick, shows up and he introduces him to Arlene at Merlotte's. When she's taking out the garbage, Arlene sees René and freaks out. He's here to warn her that Terry is bringing trouble of the worst kind. He's met the ghosts of his past and they won't rest forever. Run, he tells her.

Meanwhile, Jason has had a talk with Hoyt and confessed he slept with Jessica, so gets beat up before Hoyt storms off. At night, Jessica shows up at Jason's but sees he's been in a fight. She asks to be invited in. As they have sex, she says she doesn't want a relationship, and he wishes she'd told him that before he got beat up. But it was the right thing to do, he admits. She doesn't want to hurt him the way she hurt Hoyt, and asks if this can be enough for them for now. He seems okay with it.

Jason is bothered by something Hoyt said—that a part of him is missing. Jessica leaves because she needs to feed after having sex with him and doesn't want it to be him. When she's gone, he gets a knock at the door and answers it...naked (probably not the wisest thing to do on Halloween). It's Reverend Newlin! And he's got fangs.

At Fangtasia, an hysterical Pam can't find Eric. She can't bear that someone named Sookie took him away from her after all these years. She's consoled by Ginger. It's the sweetest moment of the episode.

Following the defeat of Marnie, Sookie is at the mansion, allowing both Eric and Bill to feed from her. They both thank her for saving their lives. But she can't stand having to choose anymore. Bill just wants for her to be happy, so gives his blessing for her to be with Eric. Sookie admits they've all lied to one another so many times. She forgives Bill and asks for his forgiveness, as well. 

She then admits she fell for vicious Eric as much as honest Eric, but even their time is over. The only way she sees it ending is for her to walk away from both. She knows it's the right decision and leaves them. 

Lafayette is disconsolate about Jesus. Tara tells him they'll get through this like everything else. Alone, he sees Jesus' spirit, who tells him not to be sorry. Everything is temporary, and he's fine with how things went. Lafayette's a medium, after all, and Jesus says he'll always be with him, then vanishes.

Andy shows up with flowers for Holly as the night ends. He admits to being a V addict and can be good to her if she lets him. She says she could use a hug, so they do.  

Sam says goodnight to Luna, but as she drives off a black wolf appears behind him.

Alcide is meeting with one of his employees who apparently has been glamoured. There's a hole dug in the parking garage, and Alcide pulls out some silver chains that were encased in the concrete. Russel is gone!

Nan shows up at Bill's with a bunch of her guards. The Marnie situation is resolved, and Eric backs up Bill's leadership, despite what she thinks of how they handled it. She says she's quit her job with the authority—fired. There's been an order issued on their heads, too. Her last instruction was to deliver the true death to them, but she knew she would be next, so Nan's mutinying against the vampire league and the authority and she says they won't be alone. She implies Eric knows of others who are resisting the authority's authority. Eric wants to know what's in it for them. Aside from surviving, Nan brings up their fairy waitress. But both men tell her to do what she likes, as she doesn't belong to them. She calls them puppy dogs.

That's when Eric suddenly kills all her men and Bill stabs Nan, killing her. "We are not fucking puppy dogs," he declares.

Sookie returns home, calling for Tara. She turns around to find Debbie with a gun. Tara leaps in the way and is shot in the head. Sookie grabs the rifle and blows Debbie's head off, then calls for help as Tara bleeds out.

The Verdict:
An enjoyable finale had its share of eye-rolling moments, most notably the cut to Eric and Bill chained on his front lawn. We just accept Marnie can do anything at this point. And forget about a happy afterlife, or Antonia going on to her just reward...because everyone is just hanging around haunting the cemetery.

Adele's return, so brief, was wasted after all these seasons, and did she have to be wearing that awful nightgown? Plus she can somehow defeat Marnie with no problem at all. Who knew a ghost could overpower a witch. After all of that, she couldn't spare a few minutes to talk to Sookie.

Jesus' death was sad and unexpected, but certainly had more impact than Tommy's. Given the focus on his family history last year, it did come as a surprise. There has been plenty of set up for the whole spiritual side of things, but it now appears to have been geared solely for Lafayette's development.

Terry and Arlene are really the only normal couple left, so RenĂ©'s dire warning was a nice addition, too. But the arrival of his old friend screamed plot device for next season. Could gentle Terry turn evil too?

Hoyt and Jason's fight was a very satisfying moment. Hoyt's character has lost some of its lustre, but he said some salient things to his (former) best friend. Jason's ultimate trajectory remains unclear, given all the throw away episodes dealing with the panthers. Newlin's reappearance I think is a red herring. It is Halloween, after all.

Russell's return wasn't a big surprise given how he's been brought up all season. How this fits with Nan's attempted mutiny and the divisiveness within the vampire community, or what Eric secretly knows, is a big mess of politics to be sorted out next year. I'll wait to see how this is handled, because I'm not sure I'm anxious to have Russell back after just one season.

Alcide's attempt to win Sookie's heart didn't get any follow up like I'd hoped. Instead another werewolf confronts Sam. Though Sookie shooting Debbie brought an immense amount of catharsis. Finally, poor Tara. To be built back up into a strong character only to be cut down. There're only two options—death, or being turned into a self-hating vampire. Who gets to be the lucky vampire to turn her?

And one final note. I found it odd that the fairy thread received no pick up this week either. It's especially notable given the season began with such a big fairy focus, but that just hammers home the point about the weak writing this season—the fairies need to be more than just plot devices to push the series ahead in time a year.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: True Blood "Soul Of Fire"

Non Spoiler Review:
The penultimate True Blood of the season means major plotlines begin to come to resolution for what should be the usual crazy finale. Antonia/Marnie struggles to control her coven and fend off the vampire siege, while Jesus tries a dangerous plan to exorcise her from her host. Alcide and Sam seek out Marcus, Andy meets his destiny, and Sookie goes down, down in a burning ring of fire.

Soul of Fire gets my nomination for the best episode of the season, keeping a frenetic pace to the end and setting up a final showdown next week. Andy's boring arc gets a surprise kick, though that means revisiting some less than impressive plotlines again. The verbal barbs continue to fly and there was great mix of humour, action, drama and tragedy.

The writers have never let plot get in the way of telling the story, so a lot of stuff gets pushed along at a fair pace and the audience is expected to let a lot of questions slide by the wayside. Any other show, and I would be very critical at this point, but this season I've grown used to the spontaneous fairy blasts, ridiculous decisions by Bill and Eric, and egregious use of magic with no set limits, and have just decided to roll with it. Probably not a good thing for the long term.

Spoilers Now!
The vampires march on the Moongoddess Emporium, readying their rocket launchers until a frantic Jason runs up to stop them. He lets them know Sookie is inside, prompting a round of "Fucking, Sookie!" from pretty much everyone for how she manages to get in the way. Jason gives them a good tongue lashing and a lecture on how Sookie saved both Eric and Bill's lives several times, thank you very much. 

Bill sees the light and agrees the plan should be aborted. Eric concurs. Pam does not. Jason provides some further help by letting them know there's a protective spell around the whole place that must first be disabled. While Bill and Eric confer, Jason walks with Jessica and lets her know he still feels guilty. She barely has enough time to tell him he's the furthest thing from her mind when Bill's captive sheriffs attack.

Marnie tells her coven/prisoners that the vampires are about to attack, but they're not her prisoners, she protests, and they can leave anytime. That prompts background character Casey to make a break, and Marnie strikes her down with a knife to everyone's horror, thus proving that they are pretty much prisoners. She proceeds to die on the floor while Marnie experiences a brief sense of guilt before shrugging it off as self-defence.

The coven watches Marnie struggle with her inner dialogue again, only this time Lafayette sees Antonia emerge and argue it out with her. He's the only one who can see her (which is news to Tara about his new medium status). Antonia is about to abandon her host and her violent ways, but Marnie proceeds to cast a binding spell, which according to Jesus means they're fucked. Marnie wins.

Jesus gets an idea and examines Casey, letting everyone know that she's still alive—but barely—and asks to care for her. Marnie agrees, and tells him to take what he needs. That allows him to conveniently gather up ingredients for a spell while Lafayette helps him take her into the back, but he realizes she's dead. Jesus explains he's going to get up to some crazy messy brujah magic to force Antonia out of Marnie's body, so Casey's death won't be in vain.

Alcide can't get any information out of Marcus' man, but Luna shows up looking for him too, as Emma is missing. Sam tells her he killed his brother and he'll set things right. Meanwhile, Marcus is at Debbie's (who is comfortable enough with him to have a chat in her nighty). She won't go off with him, as she still loves Alcide. But Emma wants to talk to her mother, so while they're arguing about leaving together, Emma calls Luna. Conveniently enough, Alcide recognizes the number on her phone as his.

Holly and Sookie try to get Marnie to listen to reason, but Marnie resents being a doormat all her life prior to bonding with Antonia and her power. But Sookie manages to get her to agree to negotiate. 

Bill has killed one sheriff, but his female one is alive. He attempts to get through to her, but she's firmly under the spell. He calls to Antonia to come out, so she does so with Sookie, realizing it's time for a deal. She then utters an incantation and the sheriff attacks Bill again, so he throws her into the magic wall. She vaporizes. The wall, Antonia informs them, is the power of the sun, which is a death sentence to the vampires, while only making humans hurt real bad. This is how Marnie starts her negotiation.

Marnie offers to let Sookie go if Eric and Bill sacrifice their lives. Apparently this is a deal they can trust, as both agree to it with no debate whatsoever. Bill will shoot Eric and then Pam will kill Bill, they decide, despite Pam and Jessica's WTF looks. Sookie cries. Bill prepares to shoot Eric, but Pam grabs her rocket and fires it at the wall, causing a huge s'plosion. 

The barrier holds, but everyone gets shaken up. Marnie gives everyone an I told you so about not trusting vampires. She uses Casey's spilled blood to try to see the future, which unfortunately shows her with a bullet in her head, so she calls them into a circle claiming the vampires plan to kill them all. They obviously aren't into that, but she threatens them that an attack is imminent, and this seems to do the trick as they join hands and she begins to cast. 

Meanwhile...Jesus has everything he needs, drinking some blood, doing a little cutting, and getting Lafayette to help perform the spell to unbond Marnie and Antonia. His inner demon comes out to help. He tells Lafayette to ignore all the bad things he's about to say to him.

Outside, everyone else is all right, and Jessica tells Bill never to do that to her again. Oh, and Jason? Well, he's all burnt up as they discover, so she quickly gives him her blood and cures him. But he doesn't have long to thank her as Marnie's spell kicks in and all the vamps do the worst zombie walk ever towards the wall. Jason tries to pull them back and mentally signals Sookie that she has to stop them.

Sookie's convenient fairy powers act up, blowing the circle apart, which makes Marnie so thoroughly pissed she decides to torment Sookie and imprisons her in a ring of fire rather than fight the vampires. Outside, released from the spell, Eric tells Pam to get out of his sight before he kills her for disobeying him. She leaves at vamp speed.

Jesus and his demon friend manage to sever the tie between Antonia and Marnie. Antonia goes off to her just reward, leaving Marnie vulnerable and the protective spell drops. Bill, Eric and Jessica rush in and Sookie is freed from the fire. Eric rips out the heart of Marnie's bestest follower and Bill trains his gun on her. Sookie protests that the rest of the coven are all unwilling participants, so he shoots Marnie dead.

Andy is walking home through the woods at night (never a good thing on True Blood), when he sees multiple flashes of light, and a fairy-like woman in front of him. She smells the V in his system so attacks him first, but later realizes he's human. Then she proceeds to seduce him after getting him to vow never to harm her. Her name is Mirella. Andy finally gets back home, and tells Arlene what happened in the woods. She suggests it's just him coming off the V and best not to mention it to anyone.

Alcide and Sam arrive. While Luna gets Emma out of the house they go upstairs to find Debbie and Marcus. Sam and Marcus fight mano-a-mano as Alcide holds back Debbie. Sam wins, though he won't kill him. Luckily Marcus grabs his gun and Alcide steps in and breaks his neck. Marcus dies while a horrified Debbie watches. Then Alcide proceeds to cast out Debbie (informing her they will hunt and share flesh together no longer). She's quite upset, and he leaves her with the body. Sam comes out to Luna and Emma waiting in the car and tells her what happened with his sad eyes.

Eric glamours those coven members Bill requests, and consults with Bill while Jesus mourns for his friend Marnie. Sookie stares at Bill and Eric, wondering who she loves more. Jessica has another heart to heart with Jason, who is on his way to recovery. He admits she's all he thinks about even without her blood, but it means betraying his friend.

Jesus and Lafayette decompress after their day, and he comforts Jesus he had to do what was best to save everyone. Jesus goes to sleep, and Lafayette opens his eyes to see Marnie's spirit hovering over him. And then he's possessed.

The Verdict:
As I mentioned, I've been letting a lot of the crazy slide given I'm enjoying the witch/vampire storyline. It amounts to plenty of lazy writing and it's certainly going to catch up to the show at some point. Let's just recount the absurd bits this week, shall we? Bill and Eric's abrupt decision to kill themselves to save Sookie and take Marnie at her word. Punching bag Jason getting mortally wounded again, on the heals of surviving the werepanthers. Marnie wasting all her time tormenting Sookie while the vampires wait outside. Or that wild Star Trek force field surrounding the emporium?

Nevertheless, Soul of Fire was great fun. Marnie's accelerating loss of control was satisfying to watch, and the added bonus that Antonia wasn't as villainous as we were led to believe. We never really got a sense of who Marnie was prior to her possession, so I'm having a hard time accepting she was channelling all this rage and resentment in those first few episodes prior to Antonia's arrival.

WTF is up with the coven? They're all we're so done with you, Marnie, but all she has to do is say the vampires are coming, and everyone (including Tara and Sookie!) join hands? Luckily Sookie's plot device (fairy powers) show up and save the day, but somehow don't work when her life is in real jeopardy.

Speaking of which, who is the source of Marnie's power? One would think Antonia, but after their spat, Marnie is able to cast a binding spell on the much more powerful witch. Did the bond allow her to access all of Antonia's knowledge?

Andy's foray into the fairy world was unexpected. Something tells me Mirella is going to come back with a hybrid baby. But, please, writers, remember that time in Faerie moves slower than our world, so that baby can't come back as an older child.

At last Alcide is done with Debbie. Her descent was a fun train wreck to watch. But poor Tommy's death seems to be little more than the catalyst to get plot moving.

Once again, Jessica and Jason remain the one interesting couple on the show. And I certainly hope Eric and Pam aren't on the outs for good, or at the very least she gets to hook up with someone interesting (like Bill).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Justice League of America 1

Non Spoiler Review:
With much anticipation, DC has rebooted its line with 52 titles, some new, some old, but all starting at issue 1 following the Flashpoint event. While that does wipe away decades of history for some books, the first out of the gate is the Justice League, a prequel to the rest of the DC line.

Justice League has been a mess for years, despite that it should be one of DC's flagship books. What's new about this series is that it takes place five years prior to most of the upcoming titles so as to cover the beginning of the heroic age and all the goings on involved with that. It's immediately apparent this is a different DC Universe, where super-powered beings have only just made their debut (bye-bye Justice Society), mistrusted, misunderstood, and hunted by the powers that be as vigilantes.

I'm old enough to have lived through numerous DC Universe crises, all of which affected the timeline in some way and threw out or rewove character histories. So the latest really had me considering dropping most of the books entirely. Some characters, like Batman and Green Lantern, are supposed to retain most of their continuity, while others like Superman may receive a considerable revamp. I'm not sure how that will all work out, given it appears huge chunks of history, like the golden age, have been completely eliminated.

Written by Geoff Johns, with art by Jim Lee, the bulk of the issue involves Batman's first meeting with Green Lantern, as they cross paths while tracking a creature in Gotham. Hal is cocky and overconfident, while Batman trusts no one. Between annoying barbs, the two guess that this creature is alien and might be connected to that other alien operating out of Metropolis, so head there to check it out. That brings them to their first meeting with Superman. Also making an appearance is Cyborg (pre-accident), a promising football player dealing with his aloof father.

The story itself just wasn't captivating at all, and comes off as a first installment in a very big storyline to eventually assemble everyone together. What's more, Hal is a dick, and Batman continues to be cold and methodical (as well as pulling off some outrageous stunts, like pocketing Green Lantern's ring). It falls victim to the old trope of heroes either outright battling one another or at the very least mistrusting each other when they first meet. The behaviour and character of all these heroes we've grown accustomed to is now up in the air. Handled properly, it could make for some good reading and suspense, but I found myself distracted every time Hal uttered a sarcastic comment.

This is the most thorough redo of all the DC characters since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, making a clean break from the past and starting everything in the modern era (within five years of the present). It is a very different world than we're used to. As such, Justice League seems to be geared to new readers, and not the followers of decades of continuity that has told and retold the origins of how the group came together.

Even if it takes a different direction, I don't know if I have the patience to follow what could be a year long origin story (especially given the other heroes' backstories are in flux and to be dealt with in their own books, so there's no foundation to refer to for anyone at the moment). The art was fine, and Geoff John's writing is not the problem at all, just the story itself. This was a disappointing and slow issue to introduce the fulcrum of the DC Universe. I'll give it a chance, but it's started off on shaky legs.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Falling Skies "Eight Hours"

Non Spoiler Review:
The freshman season comes to an end with the anticipated attack on the Boston structure. While Weaver's crew enters the city on what could be a suicide mission, Tom is left to deal with Rick and an imminent attack by the Mechs.

Though tense to the end, I was let down given my high expectations for action were not met. While the show did deliver great character bits, some interesting surprises and raised questions, it should have packed a little more punch after ramping up the anticipation for half the season (especially given how light on actual battle it's been).

Despite that, Eight Hours is one of the stronger episodes of the season and ended things on a fitting note. The show has vastly improved since its first episode, so I really can't complain too much about where it's wrapped up. The characters have concluded season one on a solid footing, and the riddles of the alien agenda remain a strong thread to carry forward. I'm looking forward to season two.

Spoilers Now!
Scott attempts to find a way to broadcast the key frequency to disrupt the Scitters' communication, with Ben and Tom's help. Everyone else is called away, which leaves Scott alone with creepy Rick clinging to the ceiling, who's been waiting all this time to stop him. Scott is only injured, but Rick escapes with the piece of equipment.

Ben finds him and tries to convince him to give back the part, but Rick is determined to find the Scitters and encourages him to join him. Ben wants them out of his head. Rick wants the harness back and can tell Ben wants it too. He can feel himself still changing. Ben runs off to call for help and Rick escapes through the window.

Ben goes off to stop him. Rick manages to get through the barricades with some acrobatics while Tom stops one of the civilians from shooting Ben. Maggie gives him the business while Tom takes off in pursuit.

In the woods Rick finds the girl (from several episodes back) who is looking a bit more scaly and green. They'll welcome him back after he tells her everything about the camp. He agrees.

Later, Tom searches the woods and hears Rick shouting in the distance. The Scitters have abandoned him. All they wanted was his information. He feels neither human nor Scitter, and doesn't want to live like this anymore, so asks Tom to shoot him. He misses his father. Tom says he came to take him home, but Rick confesses he told the Scitters everything about their location and the impending attack in Boston.

Meanwhile, Weaver's crew is on the back roads into the city. The scouts seem to confirm the aliens are concentrating their forces on the main highway. Hal consults with him, and tells Weaver he knows he quit taking pills, which is fine enough for him. He came along to have a chance to strike back. 

They reach the first rendezvous point with the other militias, who are a no show, so Weaver lets them know he plans on going, but everyone else can make their own decision. They all opt to follow, and proceed on into the city, splitting up into four squads with their separate charges.

Tom returns to camp with Ricky, announcing he's evacuating the civilians through the tunnel, as an attack is imminent. Tom will stay behind with a small group of volunteers to draw the aliens' fire. When Jimmy raises the point that they have minimal firepower to fend them off, Tom gives them a history lesson about the Revolutionary War and Patrick Henry, with their small militia holding off a superior power. 

Everyone begins their rounds of good-byes. Matt doesn't want to leave with the other civilians. Tom tells him he's growing up and it won't be easy for him. Anne sends Lourdes off with the group in case they need a doctor. Scott gets the missing component and he and Ben try out the frequencies again. Tom wants to send Ben away with the civilians, and refuses to let him stay to help. The Scitters keep changing the frequency, so Ben protests that he's needed there. This is his chance to get back at the Scitters and prove he's not infected.

Hal and his scouts return with news the Mechs are moving in a defensive position around the structure, which means they must know of the plan. Weaver orders him to return to camp and warn Tom that he was right. Weaver still intends to attack, and wants Hal to  tell everyone the 2nd Mass drew blood in Boston to give the people hope. There will be other fights for him. Hal obeys and leaves.

A Mech approaches the barricade. Maggie tells Jimmy to stand with her and they'll watch each others' backs. The initial frequency test doesn't work, but the militia manages to take down the Mech with Pope's new bullets. Unfortunately, the next wave brings six Mechs, and they're almost out of bullets.

Ben finds the new frequency, but they need something to broadcast on a large scale. Scott thinks the flagpole will work, so Ben leaps out the window with the cable to attach it as the gunfight ensues. When it looks like the Mechs will overrun them, the frequency works in the nick of time, and the Mechs are confounded and stumble off. 

As night falls the group is elated at their minor victory. Everyone else has just about finished evacuating as Hal arrives to let Tom know the situation. Weaver and Pope are at the west leg, attempting to complete the mission. Hal rode the whole way with no interference from the aliens, so Tom thinks the frequency attack may have given them an opportunity.

Anne is packing up the last of the supplies as Tom comes to let her know he's going into Boston, so the civilians will have enough time to get to safety and to find his men. He asks her to look after the boys if something should happen, and lays a kiss on her and leaves.

Scott outfits the car with a broadcaster that can transmit the frequency. Tom sends Ben off with the others so he knows he's safe, and drives out. He enters Boston and notices the alien air forces seem to be returning to the structure, as if being withdrawn. He (conveniently) finds a wounded Pope who explains Weaver's forces were defeated but the aliens didn't finish them off. Tom sends him back home, and Pope gives him the rocket launcher (outfitted with the new metal shell) and wishes him luck.

Tom continues onward and (conveniently) finds Weaver, who has just regained consciousness. Tom explains the Scitters might be confused and maybe a little afraid after the frequency attack, and maybe called their forces home to figure it out. The city is mostly deserted.

As they ponder the activity around the structure, Tom considers taking a shot with the rocket launcher considering they're right there. Weaver says it's foolish given all their men didn't make any hits during the battle. Tom wants to let them know they were here, so takes aim and shoots one off at a ship. It clips the ship and it crashes onto the flight deck of the structure, creating a big explosion.

"Good shot," Weaver says. They manage to get a truck going and head back out of the city. But they meet someone on the road—Karen! She's harnessed, and explains they brought her there because they don't understand.

A ship lands in front of them, and one of the tall bipedal aliens emerges. They didn't expect resistance on this level and find it interesting, Karen explains. They want to talk with Tom. Not that he has much choice. If he doesn't, they will call Ben back. Against Weaver's protests, Tom agrees, as he can't let them have Ben again. He takes Karen's hand and walks with her and the alien into the ship.

The Verdict:
The tension worked well for the finale, but the focus remained on the civilian camp and their travails with the Mechs rather than Weaver's militia in Boston (which I think would be a disappointment to most viewers). There was a lot of build up to this attack, so to not show some kind of battle (and I'm aware of budget) is a let down.

Instead, we get Tom's last hurrah with the rocket launcher, which was satisfying to a degree, if not extremely unlikely. While we are still guessing at the motivations of the aliens, that they would withdraw their forces and leave Boston virtually emptied for the resistance to travel (as well as abandon an attack on the school) is equally implausible. Especially for a force that has apparently been ready to use nukes as a matter of course. And there's the fact of Tom managing to find both Pope and Weaver in the ruins of Boston (at night). A string of convenient plot developments.

The character stuff all reached a good conclusion, though... Weaver and Tom at last coming to terms, only to have Tom walk off into the light, Tom and Anne's growing romance, and Ben's struggle to be accepted as human. A part of me wishes Rick had been sacrificed, that he would actually not want to live as a human at all. That would have added some darkness to the finale. There were many good emotional moments, whether between Weaver and Hal, Anne and Tom, or Jimmy and Maggie. And we couldn't end the season without a couple of Tom's history lessons.

We get further confirmation that the harness will turn the humans into something resembling the Scitters. Still, one presumes the Scitters can't be converted humans, given they've been around so long. So what is the purpose of the green skin?

Karen's return was welcome, and Tom's walk into the light has left things on a confusing note. The worst thing that could happen is to find out the aliens are really just misunderstood, or begin to get humanized. I'm hoping that's not the case and the writers keep on track. How Tom can return is a good question. Will they just let him leave with a message? Or will he bore them with his military history stories until they just kick him out?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: True Blood "Burning Down The House"

Non Spoiler Review:
The ho-hum Festival of Tolerance becomes the second battleground in the witch war, that provides some excitement at the beginning of the episode. Andy gets special (and way too much) focus this week, as his V addiction comes to light. Alcide and Debbie are on a rocky road. Oh, and a character dies, but that's vastly overshadowed by the vampire politics.

Burning Down the House worked when it dealt with the vampires and witches, as well as a long overdue and welcome Lafayette, Jason, Jesus and Sookie team up. It got muddled down with Andy and Terry's Bellefleur family drama, though it was refreshing to see Arlene behaving relatively sane these days.

As we approach the end of the season it's obvious this week served as a lot of set up for an exciting ending to the season. There were a couple of twists, and lots of action again, which served to help overlook some of the more egregious elements (even for True Blood!), like unlimited witch powers.

Spoilers Now!
With the festival in chaos, Nan steps up to the plate and kills one of Bill's sheriffs (with a pencil), leaving Bill to fend off Eric's attack. Bill manages to shoot them all with silver, but Eric gains the upper hand and prepares to impale him. Sookie finally steps in and casts her fairy light on Eric, effectively breaking the spell, much to Antonia's shock (and Nan's).

Antonia looks down on the carnage and wounded humans and feels sympathy, then disappears with her cohort and the two surviving sheriffs. Sookie calls Bill off of Eric, and they realize he has his memory back. They share a look as Bill goes off to help Nan with the wounded.

Jason is feeling incredibly guilty about sleeping with Jessica and betraying Hoyt. He suggests she glamor him so he can't remember what happened, which of course horribly offends her, so she runs off to kill something.

Alcide drives the wounded Tommy to the hospital. Tommy admits that it's not just his beating, but turning into Sam has taken a toll. He just wants to go home to Merlotte's. Sam shows up just as Alcide arrives with his brother. Sam wants to get him vampire blood, but Alcide thinks he should have the right to choose. Sam seems pretty open to Alcide's opinions, considering I don't believe the two have ever really met before. On his deathbed, Tommy apologizes for everything and tells Sam he was the best part of his life. He dies. Sniffle. And Sam says Marcus is a dead man.

As for Marcus, he's visiting Debbie, asking about Alcide, but he never came home the previous night. She agrees that Alcide is a loner and shifts immediately to that fact he doesn't want kids, and she'd give anything for a baby. Taking V makes her want to have pups, I guess. Marcus suggests she's with the wrong wolf. Flirt flirt.

Sam and Alcide show up at the motorcycle shop in search of Marcus, but find one of his men instead. Alcide helps him beat up the guy, demanding to know where their pack leader is at. 

While the imprisoned coven members are panicking, Holly is trying to find a counterspell. Antonia returns with her two sheriffs and puts them in the back. It's clear she's struggling with control over Marnie's body.

Back at the mansion, Nan demands to know what Sookie's story is, but Bill says they have more important matters. He no longer recognizes her authority on the matter given all that's happened is her fault for preventing him from acting sooner, and he plans on informing the vampire authority. He decides to go after the necromancer and kill her through whatever means he deems necessary.

Eric tells Sookie he remembers everything, even the other Eric. She believes him, but admits she still loves Bill too after seeing him nearly killed. Eric professes his love, but won't share her with him, and reminds her that she is his. No way, Sookie says. They can't complete their chat as Pam shows up to welcome back her maker, and she begrudgingly thanks Sookie.

So Bill decides to blow up the Moongoddess Emporium given fire has worked in the past (and occult stores are exploding all the time, so it won't raise any questions), but Sookie is worried for Tara still trapped inside. Bill says they all made their choice and will have to live with it. Apparently he's okay with killing Tara this week.

Hoyt wants to crash with Jason for a little while so he doesn't have to be reminded of Jessica at their old place. Sick of his house guest, Jason goes on to see Sookie in the morning asking to stay there awhile, but she needs his help. She explains the witch situation and Tara being held prisoner (nothing can surprise Jason anymore).

That leads them to go on to recruit Jesus and Lafayette. Oh, and in case you're wondering, we learn the vampires glamored everyone at the hotel to forget what happened, which is why it's not on the news. Jesus sees Marnie as a victim of the possession, but Lafayette takes a contrarian view that if it wasn't for her none of this would have happened. Jesus wants to reach out to her first to see if he can pull another Mavis trick and free her.

Andy wakes up to Terry and Arlene having found his V stash. Terry takes Andy to Fort Bellefleur, their old tree house, for a makeshift intervention. It turns into a big fight about their childhood, but they finally come to terms and Andy vows to clean up his life. This D story seemed to go on forever.

While Holly and Tara continue to rifle through books for spells, Marnie is alone and struggling with Antonia. The witch finally emerges and let's her know she won't do this anymore. Too many humans are suffering from their actions and she didn't come back to shed the blood of the innocent. Just in case you missed the twist, it's Marnie who seems to be guiding Antonia, and wants to destroy both vampires and their human collaborators. She debates Antonia that fate brought them together to fight evil, and humans are still no good in the present as they were in the past. That seems to do it, as Antonia comes around and goes back into Marnie.

Bill, Jessica, Eric and Nan go back to ground with silver, prompting another spat. Nan threatens to execute them all. But no one seems to be worried that she will have any power by the time this is over.

Team Sookie, Lafayette, Jesus and Jason show up at the emporium, guessing that the neighbourhood has been cleared of people with a repelling spell. Sookie mentally detects Tara inside. Jesus goes in alone but when he walks up to the building he's injured by a force field from the protective magic.

Marnie comes to the door to see him. She knows who he is, but he'll have to earn her trust, and to do so cross through the painful magical wall of light. Jesus struggles to get through and briefly takes a demonic form before emerging on the other side. She welcomes him back, seeing he has power of his own (a demon to serve him).

He asks to speak to Marnie directly, as she's his friend and teacher and he wants to say hello in person. She sees he's a kind man and lets Marnie come out. But Marnie is very happy, and is surprised that he thinks she's been possessed against her will. Jesus feigns relief, but mentally informs Sookie Marnie is running the show now.

Tara and Holly perform their spell as Marnie shows Jesus their two vampire prisoners. A wind blows through the emporium, alerting Marnie that magic is being cast. Tara and Holly run out as the protective spell comes down, only to be met by Lafayette and Sookie. Marnie comes outside and casts, and they all disappear, leaving a stunned Jason who didn't reach them in time.

When night falls, the vampires drive to the emporium. Bill, Jessica, Eric and Pam, armed with rocket launchers and outfitted in leather gear, emerge in slow motion (for added bad-assery).

The Verdict:
I continue to enjoy this season and have been giving the more crazy stuff plenty of grace. But the past few episodes have overused the magic bullet of ill-defined witch powers to wipe troublesome story elements under the rug.

Antonia's limits have never been established, and she seems to carry the whole back of tricks of a Dungeons and Dragons mage. Protective spells, including a repelling spell that conveniently keeps the neighbourhood empty, arcane locks, teleportation, and mind control. I half expect to see magic missiles. Add to that Nan glamoring all the witnesses of the massacre from the hotel to keep it out of the media. How did she manage to round up everyone?

Then we get Sookie's shiny hands of convenience to save the day (and Eric's memory). It does sound a little weird complaining about the outrageous latitudes given to the magic, when we've got vampires, werewolves and shifters running around, but at least they seem to have some rules in place.

For a relatively major character, Tommy's death was handled rather quickly. It wasn't unexpected at all, but I'm happy it got out of the way before the finale. Sam seemed to accept Alcide there (and must know he's a werewolf) with few questions asked, which seems counter to his character in some ways.

Andy's storyline was an additional slowdown that served no purpose unless he's going to throw a big wrench into the finale with a fall off the wagon. The Bellefleur family is getting a lot of focus (both present and past incarnations), so what purpose is this all going to serve?

But the big twist was Marnie is really in control and Antonia's just along for the ride lending her muscle. That likely means Marnie is going to come to a bad end now. But she never really seemed that nasty when we first saw her.

Are we due for some insight into the actual vampire authority, given Nan's days seem to be numbered? It would be neat if the revelation is actually something interesting and surprising about who's really running the show, but I hope Nan sticks around awhile.

It was odd that Eric's return got relatively little attention given so much time has been spent on him and Sookie. The big pleasure this week was the foursome taking on the witches. It's been a long time since we got Jason, Sookie and Lafayette (now with Jesus) working together, and it was great to see.
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