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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "18 Miles Out"

Non Spoiler Review:
18 Miles Out picks up the pace as Shane and Rick take Randal far enough from the farm to set him on his way. The journey brings out all the issues stewing between the two best friends. Back on the farm, Beth's emotional breakdown causes a crisis (plus a philosophical debate) and brings out some additional underlying issues between Andrea and Lori.

This was a good one, and a welcome change of pace from the last couple, advancing some major stuff with Rick and Shane. But one thing that was clearly evident was the budgetary restrictions. I could just imagine the discussion in the writers room about the expensive zombie sequences and cutting back half the cast who were absent this week. Despite the small cast, the two storylines were really compelling—both Shane and Rick hashing out their issues, and Lori, Maggie and Andrea fighting about everyone's respective roles in their post-apocalyptic world. Hopefully this marks a change in direction as we near the end of the season, and events will continue to accelerate.

Spoilers Now!
Shane and Rick drive to a remote spot on the road 18 miles from the farm. They're going farther, but Rick wants a moment to talk, starting with what really happened to Otis. Surprisingly, Shane comes clean and admits only one of them was going to make it out of that school. Being the good guy doesn't mean he gets to live. Rick counters that he's not the good guy anymore and makes it clear he gets what happened between him and Lori, but he didn't confront him about it, and that wasn't a sign of weakness. Shane doesn't love Lori, even though he thinks he does, and the only way they go forward is for Shane to accept everything he's said. 

Shane doesn't reply to that, but instead recounts how he tried to get Rick out of the hospital and eventually had to leave him behind. Lori and Carl kept him alive, not the other way around. He never looked at her before that moment, and he'd take it back if he could.

They return to the car to check on Randal, who is tied up and blindfolded, and get back on the road. They arrive in Mert County and find a fenced in police department that will give him a fighting chance to survive. While there, Rick decides it's best they start using knives as much as possible over the guns, and kill two police officer walkers. They take the opportunity to salvage for supplies, and Shane notes that the two they killed don't have bites on them. Just scratches (important plot point?). 

They leave Randal, who pleads for them to take him with them. Rick tosses a knife to him so he can free himself when they leave. Randal shouts out he went to school with Maggie, though she didn't know he existed. He knows who her dad is. He's not like the guys he was with. 

Shane is furious at this new bit of information, meaning he knows where the farm is and decides to kill him, firing off a shot that Rick foils. Rick wants a chance to think about it, so decides to bring him back. That sparks an argument and Shane accuses him of backing down whenever he's put to the test and doesn't think he can keep them safe. They get into a big old fight as Rick tells him he won't let him make the calls anymore.

Shane throws a big wrench at him, through a window, which just happens to be a building full of undead that pile out in a swarm. They see Shane first, so Rick hides as they go after him. Shane takes refuge in a bus, while Randal, tied up and dragging himself along the ground, attempts to get to the knife. He manages to get his legs untied and escapes a walker that comes after him.

After barely escaping his own attackers, Rick catches up to Randal. Randal wants to leave Shane and wonders why Rick still wants to save him, so asks for a gun. Rick decides to go, and Shane, trapped in the bus and barely keeping out the zombies, watches them leave. 

Rick goes back to the two dead police walkers and seems to have second thoughts when he's reminded of his friendship. He drives back in the car shooting zombies and Shane gets out the back door, and they make their escape. 

Back on the road, they tie up and blindfold Randal again. Rick tells Shane he probably will have to kill Randal, but he wants to think about it, because it can't be easy to kill someone, even in their harsh world. If Shane's going to be with them, he has to trust him and follow his lead.

Meanwhile...Maggie confided in Lori about Glen freezing in town, but Lori thinks it will all work out. Beth seems to be better, but extremely morose about everything. Lori tries to cheer her up, then notices Beth took the knife from her dinner. She gets it back, but Lori's in a panic she's suicidal. Maggie confronts her sister and the two debate continuing to live given all the death around them.

Andrea and Lori listen to the two of them fight, and Andrea suggests Lori did the wrong thing by taking the knife away, because Beth needs to find her own reasons for living. Lori tells her Maggie and Beth don't need her help, then happens to add that Andrea isn't pulling her weight with the cooking and cleaning, and instead sits on the RV working on her tan. Andrea counters that Lori's the self-centered one and takes her pretty nice life all for granted. Everyone else has piled up their losses while Lori plays house and just looks out for herself. Husband, son, baby...boyfriend. 

Beth proposes she and Maggie should kill themselves together before it's too late. She just wants to go in her own bed with Maggie beside her. Andrea comes in to let Maggie have a break, so tells Beth the pain doesn't ever go away, they just need to make room for it.

Beth then locks herself in the bathroom, forcing Maggie and Lori to break down the door. Beth has cut her wrists, but hasn't done anything permanent. Maggie and Lori are furious, while Andrea says Beth has made her decision to live. Maggie forbids her from ever setting foot in the house again. Lori doesn't want to admit Andrea was right, but does comment Beth has made her choice and they don't really need to worry about her.


The Verdict:
Getting back to some old fashioned zombie craziness was welcome. The scenes between Shane and Rick really worked, too, and I was wondering if Rick would actually abandon him in the bus. In fact, he would have, it seemed, had he not come across those two police walkers. What happens now? Is Shane castrated or will it just all explode again?

With Otis' fate outed, Rick still didn't connect the dots yet about Sophia being in the barn all this time due to Otis dying. Hopefully that will be addressed next week.

Another great scene was Andrea and Lori. I found myself agreeing with Andrea's philosophy, as tough love as it was. Lori really needed a smackdown, given how she's marching around like the First Lady of the survivors, and she's the only one who still has her entire family. She really has nerve lecturing others and bitching that Andrea's not helping out with the woman's work

As I mentioned, the obvious budget constraints really made for a concise episode—two plots, with no extraneous scenes among the survivors (who all must have been hanging out by the RV all day). It worked, though, because what we got were two very well-written plots, even if it did feel a bit small.

I was curious about all the attention to the cops that had no bites—just scratches. Is that another means of infection? Did anyone get scratched? They left that hanging, and has me wondering if it's all going to tie in to Jenner's whisper at the end of last season that will provide some additional information about the plague.

Some additional goodies—Rick's musings about winter slowing down the walkers and all the plans they need to make to ready for the cold weather. Plus the shift to stabbing the zombies and saving ammo. All nice call outs to the graphic novel.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: The River "A Better Man"

Non Spoiler Review:
The question of who's captain on the Magus comes up when the trail on Emmet runs cold and the crew finds a mysterious survivor in the jungle with ties to the expedition. The survivor brings a host of problems with him, leading to some tough decisions about his fate.

A Better Man was a decent episode that had more supernatural shenanigans for the crew to deal with (and take pretty well, considering). There's a tendency sometimes to throw really crazy paranormal stuff at the camera just for effect, rather than any actual purpose. Nothing spectacular this time, but the series is likely saving its big stuff for the final episodes and seems to be focusing on developing the cast of characters.

Spoilers Now!
The crew rendezvous with a boat of supplies to restock. Tess has run out of possible leads in the search, so they opt to head into an uncharted region and draw the map as they go. Clark notes there's an absent of leadership—just a bunch of suggestions from everyone. Tess declares she's captain. Clark muses that something will happen to make everyone show their true colours. 

Suddenly they spy a man hanging from the trees—one of Emmet's cameramen, Jonas. The body is recently dead—only he's not. He starts freaking out in the tree. They bring him aboard and find him suffering from malaria, among other problems. Tess realizes Jonas' cellphone might contain the GPS coordinates to find Emmet. 

A flashback to 2010 shows Jonas audition video to be Emmet's cameraman. It was Lena who interviewed and hired him, and there seems to be some flirtation going on. Clark reviews Emmet's footage and finds some dealing with a tribal funeral. Jonas had wanted to film it, but Emmet orders him not to. Jonas uses his cell phone camera to take a video anyway.

Kurt knows how to treat malaria and has survived it himself, so takes over Jonas' care. Lena can't reach anyone on the radio for a medevac so Lincoln wants to head back to get to a hospital. Tess is reluctant, though ultimately opts to go with his decision and turn around. A splatter of blood suddenly appears on the window. It's a bird. Then the whole boat is bombarded by a torrent of dead birds. 

Lena says there's a major storm nearby that could have caused it. That means they're stuck where they are for the time being. Jahel seems to be unnerved about something and Clark sees her and her father arguing in the engine room over what appears to be a tarot card and the word el colgardo. He asks about it and learns it's the hanging man. She warns it's no storm that's coming.

Jonas is missing from the infirmary and turns up in the editing room reviewing old tapes. One of their crew was snared by a vine that appeared to try to drag her away. Emmet is on film yelling at him for putting all their lives in danger. He takes the tape and leaves.

Lincoln tracks him down and he explains he doesn't know how or when he got lost in the jungle. He's reunited with Lena, but then asks where Emmet and the crew are, only just learning that they're all missing. Jonas was the first to get separated months ago. 

All Emmet told his crew was that they were on a path, and otherwise he wasn't part of the inner circle. Emilio calls everyone out to look at the approaching storm. Jahel spies Jonas about to toss the tape overboard. The storm is actually a swarm of bugs that forces everyone inside. Lincoln figures the storm blew them in. Clark suggests Jonas is causing it. Tess asks Jahel her opinion. Jonas abruptly has a seizure but Lincoln brings him out of it.

Jahel gets Lincoln to pick a card and he draws the hanging man. She tries again and he picks the same card. And again and again. Tess retrieves Jonas' cell phone from outside and brings it to Clark, which has the incriminating video of the tribal funeral. Kurt has heard the story of the hanged man—a grave robber punished with the torment of dying but not the satisfaction of death. Then a noose of vines falls from the trees outside. Everyone reviews the video and Jahel says they won't stop until they get Jonas. Lincoln takes Jonas' side.

Clark demands to see the missing videotape, so Jonas produces it. The rest of the footage shows that Emmet left Jonas in the jungle to save the crew from the wrath of the Bio├║na. The vines came down and hung him, and he was hanging there all this time without dying. 

The ship is battered by the storm. Lincoln is still defending Jonas while Kurt wants to return him to the jungle. Tess knows Jonas is their best hope for finding Emmet, so wants to know what he was doing there. He was looking for magic, theorizing that it comes from a single source. He points to an area on the map he was heading and says that's all he knows. Tess orders him off the ship despite her son's protests. Lincoln pulls a gun and tells them he doesn't deserve to be tortured for his mistake.

Jonas grabs his phone, runs out and says he won't let anyone else get hurt. He climbs up and puts himself into the noose after smashing his phone. A light rises from it (the freed spirit) and Jonas is released, still alive.

The next day the skies are clear and the boat is back on the move and everyone seems to be getting along again. Clark asks Jonas to be his cameraman. 

Tess joins her son as he reviews the lost tape. Lincoln is still shocked his mother would sacrifice someone. They're surprised when one of Emmet's videos addresses them both and says he needs them to understand why he went there without them. He knows Lincoln didn't love the exploring and Tess always held her tongue. He regrets leaving Jonas behind and wonders if a better man could have found another way. He doesn't expect them to forgive him.

The Verdict:
Not too much to comment on this week. Nothing really great, nothing terrible. The plot served to introduce Jonas and provide a direction for the search in coming weeks. He also seems like he'll be a source of some jealousy for Lincoln. His sudden sacrifice at the end really wrapped things up conveniently for everyone else and avoided a nasty confrontation (for the writers) to resolve.

It looks like Tess is in charge until someone says she isn't. After all the conflict over leadership, everybody apparently woke up the next morning willing to let everything slide and be friends again. Almost as much as a stretch believing that the crew immediately looks to a supernatural explanation to whatever they encounter now.

Review: Being Human (USA) "Mother Told Me There Would Be Decades Like This"

Non Spoiler Review:
The focus is on Aidan attempting to track down Henry while suffering from visions of Bishop counselling him along the way. Josh is hounded by two extremely cliched detectives looking into Will's murder, which prompts him to make some reckless decisions. Sally learns her mother is on her deathbed.

This week was just awful. I really felt a lot of contempt for most of the characters, and I've reached a turning point with the series. It's the writing and the casting, and it doesn't help that the final season of the UK version is running parallel to this one now, so it's ripe for comparison.

Aside from a few scenes with the intriguing Henry, I was left disgusted with the mess of everyone else's behaviour. Sally's scenes with her mother were a real piece of work. I'm not sure what the writers intended, but the two of them came across as absolutely vile and shallow. The acting of the supporting characters—the detectives and Cecilia—was so bad it was distracting. A total write-off.

Spoilers Now!
Aidan attempts to find Henry by tracking down Bishop's progeny, while Josh gets a note from Nora telling him she has to go away for awhile. Then he finds out Sally's mother is a patient in the hospital and dying. Sally bosses him around to get things for her father, but he crosses paths with two detectives investigating Will's death and wondering if he was with Nora the night he died the week before.

Sally comes to see Rena, her mother, and sits with her suffering father, who is then called away by a nurse. She spies her mother walking down the hall and realizes she's died. They have a momentarily happy reunion, but Rena seems to be taking the whole death thing extremely well. Sally has to remind her they should check on her father. Later at Rena's funeral, Sally finds her flirting with their dead neighbour. Sally's mortified she had an affair. 

Aidan's return to the vampire fold is nearly complete, given he's now having visions of Bishop telling him he's fun again. Apparently he's had blood trips before and this is a normal thing. A flashback to 1918 Boston has soldiers Aidan and Henry returning to Boston and Aidan making introductions to Bishop. Bishop notes he has a touch of rebelliousness in him.

Aidan comes home to find Josh wanting a favor from his vampire police contacts. He needs Cecilia to make it all go away and admits Nora killed her ex boyfriend. Aidan sarcastically (and insensitively) dismisses his idea as absurd. But Josh kept Haggeman's rifle with silver bullets and everything will blow wide open if he's arrested and it gets discovered.

Josh then confronts Brynn and Conner who come clean about the three of them murdering Will. He tracks down Cecilia directly but she turns him down, so he suggests he can get her two purebred wolves—the ones who killed Haggeman—which would certainly raise her newbie vampire status. Cecilia promises to give the case her full attention.

Sally has Rena and her beau Gerry over for dinner with Aidan and Josh. It's all very awkward as Rena can't keep her hands off him. Henry shows up at the door and wants to talk to Aidan. He came back to help him run Boston and wants back in the family.

They go off walking and Aidan tells him there is no coming back. Henry's heard about Aidan and Suren, but he's fine with that. Bishop tempts Aidan to destroy him so they get in a fight. Aidan gets the upper hand and is about to kill Henry, but admits he misses him. Henry isn't willing to return to the shadows anymore, so Aidan says he'll find a way to make it right. The orphans weren't his to save, but Henry is. Phantom Bishop is pleased, given fathers can't kill their sons—the son always kills the father. He advises Aidan he's never been so scared for him as he is now. 

Josh goes to the storage locker to clean up any sign of him being there, but the two detectives just happen to show up and want to take a look at his videotapes. Cecilia shows up too, and glamors them that Josh is not their guy, makes them forget and sends them way. She wants him to bring Conner and Brynn to her. 

Sally and Rena chat after everyone has left. Rena is still an absolute bitch and admits to being sad finding her daughter in the same house she died in. Sally hopes she doesn't get her door because she's so messed up. Two peas in a pod, they are.

Josh tells Conner and Brynn to let Nora know the police investigation has been taken care of. They're impressed. But he gives Cecilia their address.

The Verdict:
This is the first time I've felt a real dislike for Being Human. The characters were so noxious—I can somewhat see why Sally is such an unlikable woman, given her mother is ten times worse. I'm trying to guess what the writers were striving for with Rena. Aidan and Josh were acting equally bitchy and sarcastic. There doesn't appear to be any love at all between them. 

This marks the first time in awhile everyone was together socializing under the same roof, but it lacked any joy or camaraderie at all—just a source of sarcastic barbs. Why is Aidan even bothering when he talks to Josh like he's a child (I thought Josh had some valid points, despite being panicked, as usual, but Aidan's sarcasm was pretty cruel given the circumstances). 

The detectives were horrible caricatures, even Cecilia, who's first appearance looked promising. The dialogue was contrived and static cop talk. We get a quick shocker dream sequence with Josh in the kitchen. Add to that, the cliche I absolutely hate—the appearance of dead Bishop counselling Aidan. Sorry, but I'm not on the Mark Pellegrino band wagon, and haven't enjoyed a single thing he's been in (Lost, Supernatural or Being Human). Arggh. I couldn't wait for this one to be over with. I'm grateful to have the UK version to cleanse my palette.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: Chronicle

Non Spoiler Review:
Chronicle is the latest entry in the found footage genre, directed by Josh Trank and written by Max Landis. After tackling the paranormal and monsters, it's now super-heroes that get the shaky-cam treatment. I walked in really hoping this movie lived up to the very intriguing trailer.

The film deals with three high school seniors. Shy and emotionally damaged Andrew has decided to film every aspect of his life (something that doesn't make him any less of an outcast among his high school peers). One night at a rave, Andrew, Steve and Matt's lives are brought together when they find a mysterious alien-like object that has a startling effect on all of them—super-powers. Chronicle charts their evolution and growing friendship as the trio begins to hone their talent.

The plot focuses on the effects super-powers would have on three young men—one relatively normal, the other an over-achieving extrovert, and an emotionally (and physically) abused introvert. It's really the dynamic between these three actors (Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan and Alex Russell) that is the main strength of the script. The high school scenes and general interaction all feel very genuine, and there's no one who comes off as a caricature.

Another major strength is that Chronicle avoids any focus on where their powers come from, besides the initial encounter. It's all a big mystery, and while some fans might want a breakdown of exactly what happened to them, and an itemized list of their power levels, this was about the characters and how each handle their life changing abilities.

Watching the first half of the film I felt it was all very good, but nothing spectacular (comparing it to my expectations from the trailer). However, the final stretch really knocked things out of the park, delivering the same level of tension as Cloverfield during its climactic battle.

I always wonder how someone would actually react to receiving such abilities. Perhaps the three of them took it a bit more cavalierly than I would think. Though, to be fair, the film does jump ahead a few weeks after the exposure, so we're spared all the shock and awe of them coming to terms with it. There's also the other end of the spectrum—how would the media react to extraordinary and inexplicable super-shenannigans happening on camera in a major city? We get some of that too.

There's little to criticize once you buy into the concept. As with all found footage movies, there's a necessary suspension of disbelief that so much of everyone's life could be captured on film. Though they do take pains to explain this and work it into the plot, as well. There is also a variety of other camera footage (surveillance and cell phone cameras, etc) that provide additional perspectives.

In many ways it's a modern tragedy. It's not terribly complex (the trajectory of Andrew is no surprise), but it works so well just because it doesn't try to achieve any more than it is. If all the character development isn't your thing, the climax is quite intense and provides a very gritty and suitably over-the-top conclusion for a super-hero flick. If you really don't enjoy the found footage genre, this likely won't change your mind. But if Cloverfield rocked your world like me, then you should really walk out of this one satisfied.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Alcatraz "Johnny McKee"

Non Spoiler Review:
Johnny McKee is another point by point Alcatraz episode, so to recap: Alcatraz prisoner Johnny Mckee blah blah blah poisonous gas blah blah blah Diego, Hauser and Rebecca blah blah blah attempts to commit mass murder. No surprises here. Along the way, there are further clues (and some innuendos) about the conspiracy in the flashbacks, but I can't really say any of this rose above the usual Alcatraz pattern.

I'm bored with the series. Not that the backstory isn't interesting, but to watch an otherwise uninspired hour for a few minutes of clues is starting to feel like a chore. The writers need to ramp things up significantly and break this mold.

Spoilers Now!
Beauregard muses that modern technology is still lacking in some areas, given Lucy remains unresponsive to his treatments. But he can tell that she's dreaming and suggests Hauser read to her to draw her out and perhaps give her a reason to recover. Hauser poo poos that and walks out.

Johnny McKee is this week's criminal, currently tending bar at a nightclub, and spikes the drinks of some unruly patrons who abruptly drop dead. The scene gets put on YouTube and immediately spotted and identified by Diego. Johnny was a chemist who killed over 70 people in 1958. Cyanide was his drug of choice and he even murdered his high school class at their reunion, though most of his victims are usually men.

The gang get Johnny's address from the club owner. Johnny is currently being interviewed as a swimming pool maintenance man. Diego realizes the address number is actually a reference to his cell number, and he was Jack Sylvane's neighbour. Rebecca doesn't know where Sylvane is being held, so Hauser says he'll bring him to her to interview.

Rebecca interviews Sylvane in the presence of several guards and Hauser. He wonders if he doesn't answer her questions will Hauser give him to Beauregard again? Rebecca offers to give back a photo of his wife in exchange for cooperation, so Sylvane recounts how Johnny told him he once had a girl named Jenny. Johnny also used nightshade as a poison, a plant that's found all over the island. Rebecca turns the questions to her grandfather and learns he was in the infirmary a lot, and talked about the hole beneath the hole. Hauser ends the questions and takes Sylvane away.

Johnny poisons the water system as soon as he starts work and kills everyone in the pool. When word comes about those murders, Rebecca wonders if he'll tackle the city water supply next. The gang trace McKee's attempts to acquire nightshade, but arrive too late at his last base of operations but do find out he was cooking up a phosphorus chemical. They find the quote Future is Now on the blackboard, and a newspaper clipping referencing that term with the new subway. Johnny has already taken over a car and prepares to flood it with poison gas.

The gang gets to the stopped subway car and save the passengers while Johnny makes a break for it. Rebecca and Hauser hunt him down and capture him. Diego finds out his girl Jenny was injured when acid dye exploded in her face.

Back at neo-Alcatraz, Sylvane has asked to see Hauser and returns the photograph given he's done with the past that he can never reclaim. He wants to know what's going to happen to them, but Hauser only tells him he was a prisoner then and is one now. Sylvane admits he doesn't dream anymore. Hauser returns to the infirmary to sit with Lucy and read to her.

The flashback to 1960 deals with Johnny being cornered by a big wig prisoner, Cullen, to murder another felon. He has no choice in the matter, so Johnny sets about finding a suitable weapon and poison. Johnny is brought to see Lucy, who asks why the majority of his victims are men. He's uncooperative with her, but when he finally strikes, it's to kill Cullen, rather than the initial target, given he hates a bully.

In a second session, Lucy confronts Johnny about what really happened with Jenny—that he was discovered having sex with her by the football team who tormented him and threw fire crackers, and he lost his testicles as a result, leading him to seek revenge on bullies the rest of his life. Johnny admits to burning Jenny with acid. Now that he's told the truth she says she can help him.

The Verdict:
I'll skip over the entire Johnny McKee crime spree, given there was nothing at all new there. But it was interesting that Rebecca has never followed up with where the other prisoners are until now. Wouldn't there be questions about how Hauser explained them away? Why wouldn't Hauser just interrogate Sylvane himself rather than risk Rebecca and all her additional questions about her grandfather?

Finally, there seemed to be a few casual throwaway lines that could relate to the overall mystery. Why doesn't Sylvane dream? Is there any connection to how many days the prisoners have been back and where they returned? And the other secret chamber under Alcatraz is referenced again.

What is the point of all the prisoners' backstories and how they relate to Lucy's psychoanalysis. I'm at a loss to how this all gets tied together with the larger time travel arc, or is it just fluff to fill out the hour? There needs to be a significant divergence from the tired writers' to do list or I won't be sticking with this one for much longer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Spartacus: Vengeance "Empty Hands"

Non Spoiler Review:
Spartacus' group suffer an arduous journey to Vesuvius while Crixus is taken back to Capua and his former ludus. As Ilithyia hosts a party for Varinius, Roman machinations are in full swing as everyone appears to vie for position.

Empty Hands was quite effective in focusing on the struggle Spartacus faces against the never ending onslaught of Rome's might as they track his flight from the mines. It was a tense bunch of scenes, but the goings on at House Batiatus was equally effective for all the scheming and backstabbing, particularly Lucretia and Ilithyia's rivalry, which comes to a head.

Coming out of the bloody ruins of season one, it's laudable that the writers have managed to create a very interesting host of new characters among the Roman elite. Even without the primary focus on Spartacus himself this time, the intrigue was ramped up high and easily carried the show.

Spoilers Now!
As the escaping rebels hide in the woods from the Romans, Naevia freaks and takes off running, prompting Spartacus to act. Mira ultimately jumps on her pursuer and stabs him to death. Spartacus is victorious, but they lose a man and a few gladiators want to see Naevia cut lose, believing Crixus is dead already.

Albinius is angry about the insult of the absence of Glaber's troops at the games. Glaber counters that the gods decreed it via Lucretia, and that seems to appease Albinius, who has taken an obvious shine to her. Ilithyia suggests a party to appease Varinius, which angers her husband. She just wants to see their task complete and returned to Rome and warns him that Lucretia will bring them to ruin if he puts his faith in her. However, Glaber appears to trust in Lucretia, as well, and wishes his wife did the same.

While tracking the rebels, Marcus has spread his forces thin throughout the forest, and prompts a warning from Ashur that Spartacus' men are gladiators and should not be underestimated. But Marcus refuses to listen.

While preparing for the party, Ilithyia comes upon Seppia sitting with Lucretia. Seppia came seeking her counsel as she thinks she's found a suitable husband—Varinius. Ilithyia's jealousy is obvious and she feels Seppia lacks the refinement to marry a praetor who will likely be consul someday. Lucretia suggests she might encourage a different union, but Ilithyia can't abide that Lucretia's opinion now holds such weight, and snaps that when Marcus returns without Spartacus she'll lose her value.

The soldiers return to the ludus with three prisoners, Crixus among them. Lucretia watches from the balcony as Ilithyia gloats that Spartacus was not recovered. She mocks her and warns Lucretia they have unfinished business that she'll soon see brought to a close.

Crixus and the two others are taken below and they find Oenomaus is in the next cell. Crixus tells him they liberated Naevia from the mines, but Oenomaus is no longer sympathetic to those who put their trust in their desires for women.

The Romans attack Spartacus' camp again, and this time it's Nasir who falls in saving Mira. He lives, but to take him along would lead a bloody trail for the Romans. One of the Gauls wants to put him out of his misery but Spartacus refuses. Naevia points out Crixus survived worse with Theokoles and Nasir will too, if they seal his wound with fire. Spartacus sends his other man ahead. 

At the party, Cossutius (from Gods of the Arena) attends with Varinius. Glaber takes the opportunity to announce the news of Spartacus' imminent capture and at the moment presents the captured Gauls and Oenomaus. He offers Varinius their lives and presents his sword to him, but his rival refuses because he wants the men to fall in the arena before all of Capua. 

Seppius would prefer to kill them in the house to honor his murdered cousin, so Varinius suggests they pick one. Glaber allows Lucretia to chose who it will be. She puts on a good show of hearing the gods' counsel in making her choice, and then picks one of the Gauls after lingering a little long on Crixus. Lucretia whispers to him that she only delayed his passing so she could savor it. He boldy replies he would gladly give his life for Naevia. Lucretia is shocked to learn she lives, but is happy to see him die in the arena as a slave with his name lost to history.

The chosen prisoner endures a long, drawn out torture to the delight of the Romans, with Seppius cutting out his tongue to start. As they watch, Albinius comments on Varinius' power, and Ilithyia surprises her father by suggesting her marriage be dissolved. He counters that she carries Glaber's child and he holds position of praetor, warning her to strike the notion from her thoughts, given Varinius appears to be favoring Seppia.

When Seppia gets squeamish when it's her turn to torture the slave, Ilithyia takes the opportunity to grab the sword and kill him to impress Varinius, commenting on the merits of being decisive when necessary. Seppia is quite upset, but her brother consoles her and suggests they leave.

Lucretia joins Albinius on the balcony and he admits to be troubled about Ilithyia, so Lucretia encourages his confidence so she can entreat the gods on his behalf. He's only too happy to confide in her.

Ilithyia tracks down Varinius and flirts with him, suggesting if she were unencumbered of her responsibilities she would make a good match for him. He's intrigued. She admits her father never favored Glaber and wanted a more suitable husband, and advises he should make his intentions known to him. He assures her if she gets her father's approval to dissolve the marriage, he'll be waiting. 

A delighted Ilithyia wanders through the house, only to find her father having sex with Lucretia. Afterwards, Ilithyia confronts her and warns her she'll never be under her heal again. Lucretia protests that she wishes to erase the bad blood between them and admits she remembers everything that happened. Ilithyia strikes and attempts to strangle her, gloating that she'll smash her skull on the floor. Lucretia then reveals Albinius will dissolve her marriage, and that's why she bedded him. He sees wisdom in her counsel and she did it for Ilithyia to mend the rift between them. After a moment Ilithyia releases her, and says she was foolish to doubt her dear friend.

With the party ended, Varinius says good-bye to Glaber and Albinius departs with him. Glaber apologizes to his wife for doubting her, as the evening proved advantageous.

Spartacus seals Nasir's wound but the fire draws the Romans. The other gladiator returns, having run into more soldiers. They're unable to escape the forest so make a stand. Everyone is killed but Spartacus, Nasir, Mira and Naevia, but they still manage to overpower the Romans while Ashur saves and takes a wounded Marcus away. But Marcus is still defiant about sending more Romans against Spartacus, so Ashur kills him to keep him silent and save his own life. 

At sunrise, the four spy Vesuvius in the distance, but still half a day's journey. More soldiers appear behind them, and Spartacus and Mira make a stand together to hold them off so the others can make an escape. But it's not the Romans this time—Agron and his men have come to the rescue.

The Verdict:
The episode ended on a very emotional and cathartic note. Spartacus has some soul searching to do about his decision to undertake such a costly mission for one person. Was it worth it to sacrifice so many? In addition, Agron made the proper tactical choice. It will be interesting how that affects the leadership (especially with Crixus absent). He feels enough guilt about bringing Glaber's revenge down upon their heads. Now he has to come to terms with leading so many men to their deaths in pursuit of one slave.

It was Ilithyia's party that provided the real focus, however. Glaber enjoyed a lot of development as a character, as did the rest of the Romans, evolving into a very strong supporting cast in Capua.

Lucretia's role as oracle is a great twist for her, and her scenes this week with Crixus and Ilithyia were the best. We've not seen anything of what's been going through her mind. It would be nice to get a touch of mourning over the loss of her husband, given she's barely mentioned him. Ironically enough, she may now see herself rise to position she always sought as a result of the massacre.

I was disappointed to see Marcus go. I thought he was a promising character, but at least Nasir managed to survive for another day. I'm hoping Naevia isn't completely emotionally damaged from her experience in the mines, either. I miss the original actress.

The writing continues to excel. Few series could have its focus away from the primary actor and pull off side plots equally as compelling (and even overly melodramatic) as this week's Roman shennanigans. Spartacus has proven (additionally with Gods of the Arena) that there is no single, big star on this show, as everyone contributes to an amazing ensemble cast. One of its major strengths, for sure.

Next week—back to the arena!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Triggerfinger"

Non Spoiler Review:
The stand off at the bar creates a tense situation for Rick, Glen and Hershel when more strangers show up looking for their friends. Back at the farm, everyone gets anxious about where they (and Lori) are. The final result further splits the survivors into two camps that appear on an inevitable collision course.

While not as slow as last week (there was a tense scene in town, at least), the plot is still dragging. I'm getting so tired of seeing that farm, it was refreshing to have more action occur in a different setting. While most of the character bits are usually pretty good, it's all still overly talkie (and this is from someone who loves character development). Time to move this group on, because I feel I've grown roots watching.

Spoilers Now!
As Rick, Hershel and Glen prepare to head back to the farm they hear a truck approach. More men get out, calling for Dave and Tony. Hidden in the bar, Rick braces the door, alerting them they're inside. The men say they're just looking for their friends and don't want trouble. Rick finally shouts out that they drew guns on them, and he shot them in self-defence, and that's what happens now in this crazy world, so they should just let bygones be bygones. Rick appeals to reason, but it turns into a shooting match.

Glen is sent out to try for the car under Rick and Hershel's cover. Hershel manages to wound one guy who starts crying (loudly) for help. Rick goes after Glen who's having a panic attack behind a dumpster. Suddenly more men show up in a truck, warning their other guys that roamers are everywhere and they have to get out. One jumps off a roof and is injured, so both men are left screaming and drawing walkers as their compatriots abandon them.

Hershel watches the one he shot get eaten alive, while Rick checks on the other. The young man has his leg impaled on a metal fence. Hershel realizes there's no way they can get him free without tearing him to pieces and suggests they put him down. He doesn't want to see any more killing. Glen proposes they take the leg off, but the kid pleads with them not to. So Glen holds off the walkers as they make preparations, but the swarm is too large and Rick ultimately rips the kid's leg off the fence.

Lori wakes up in the overturned car to a walker scratching at the window. She barely manages to escape after killing it, finds her gun and dispatches the second one, then sets about walking down the dark highway. 

At the farm, the rest of the group and Hershel's family sit down to dinner, worried that everyone else should be back by now, and that Lori is apparently missing, too. Carol goes to tell Daryl, who assumes Lori must have run off into town. Carol's pissed he didn't say anything and pleads with him not to isolate himself from the group now that Sophia's gone. She's determined not to lose him either, but Daryl is very vicious in lashing out at her. She takes it silently, knowing he needs to vent, and he snaps that she should have kept a better eye on Sophia.

Carol comes back to advise the others. Carl's distraught and Shane accuses Dale of knowing Lori left. He heads off in the other car and gets to the crash, and ultimately finds her down the road, but she wants to keep looking for Rick. He lies that they're all back safe and sound, so she returns with him.

When they get back, Lori is, of course, livid when she learns Rick's still missing, and has a big fight with Shane in front of everyone. He explains her safety is his first priority given the baby. Carl didn't know about that and wants to know why she didn't tell him. Dale steps in to make sure Lori's all right and Andrea takes her into the farm house.

Lori is sorry for leaving without telling Carl and not finding the right time to explain about the baby. Shane shows up and apologizes for spilling the beans and wants to talk to Lori privately. She lights into him about his constant lying, and wants to know what happened with Otis. He's adamant that what they shared was real and meant to be, and he's determined to protect them no matter what.

In the morning, as the group prepares to search, Rick, Glen and Hershel return, with the wounded boy Randal whom Hershel later manages to fix without amputation. He'll recover, and the plan is to set him free to return to his group (they did blindfold him on the way back so he hasn't seen where they are). Shane is completely against the idea, given it might draw Randal's people to them and start a war. Rick counters that his own people abandoned him, so it's unlikely and he might even die on the road anyway, but he'll give him a chance. That provokes another confrontation, with Hershel laying down the law that, while he'll let them stay, it's his farm and Shane can just shut up, given they haven't even talked about what happened in the barn yet.

Next, Hershel tends to Beth, but Maggie is angry with him too for leaving without telling her and going off drinking. Glen has to talk with her about what happened, and he's upset that now that she's confessed her love, his first thought was for himself and getting back to her, while Hershel and Rick put their lives on the line for him.

Andrea agrees with all of Shane's decisions, but tells him he needs to present his ideas a little more tactfully to the group. Shane is convinced Rick and Hershel don't know what they're doing and admits he wishes he had taken off with Andrea when they had the chance.

In their tent, Lori commiserates with Rick about the Shane situation, and what's going through his head. Shane thinks the baby is his, but she assures Rick it's his no matter what. Rick says he accepts that. She also reveals her suspicions about Otis—that Shane was sacrificing him in order to protect her. Rick is still torn up with his friendship and reveals that he killed men in town to protect his family. She warns him that Shane has the same attitude when it comes to her and Carl.

The Verdict:
Another mediocre episode that's geared primarily to set Rick and Shane at odds and divide the survivors. There's definitely a confrontation on the horizon, but it remains to be seen how long I want to wait for it to stew. Worse still was Lori's car crash serving solely as the plot device to kick some of these threads into motion.

The series at this point is in a funk. It's stale—I saw the same repetitive scenes of Dale warning Andrea about something or other, Shane being the crazy contrarian, and Daryl being mean and ornery. Damn you, AMC, for your obvious budget cuts.

I can't end on a sour note, though, so I will say I'm pleased with Hershel's growth—He's willing to put up a fight and do what's necessary (even leave someone behind now) to save the group. The other cast members got some time to flesh out their relationships. Carol and Daryl specifically had some welcome screen time, despite it being a retread.

The final question is what arises from Randal's introduction and where his group hails from (Woodbury? I doubt it at this point, though a casual name drop would be exciting). It could all be leading to an assault against the farm that forces everyone to flee, and hopefully to more engaging story lines.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: The River "Los Ciegos"

Non Spoiler Review:
A more secular episode of The River, coming off the heavily supernatural premiere. A malady afflicts the group as they explore some new leads, bringing them into contact with a tribe who seems to want to test them as being worthy of survival in their jungle.

Los Ciegos is another tensely written episode that really worked. In addition to the threat, we got lots of character development. Many preconceptions about the crew are thrown out the window as they respond to this latest crisis.

Spoilers Now!
The gang search a cave mentioned in Emmet's journal, and find some bodies with the eyes cut out, though they're neither Emmet nor Lena's father. That night speedy time lapse cam captures a native approaching the tents. By morning there are odd white markings scrawled around camp and piles of stones and little animal skulls (creepily Blair Witch). Everyone gets up.

Jahel (the walking paranormal encyclopedia) explains they are the Morcegos, given the expedition has crossed onto their land, and they're watching to see if they are worthy to pass through the jungle. Then they realize Emilio is missing and find him outside of camp. He can't see.

Lincoln suggests he was exposed to a neurotoxin. AJ starts balking at being the one carrying all the camera gear. When they hear screeching in the woods, Clark panics and fires his gun, shooting what turns out to be a boar instead. Jahel warns the Morcegos won't be happy about taking a life. Then Tess begins to go blind.

The group returns to the Magus. Kurt is worried about a contagion and wants Clark to cancel the expedition, so the producer confronts him that he knows Kurt has his own radio that he regular talks through and wants him to get help if their lives are on the line. Meanwhile, Jahel uses the ship's radio to try to call for help, but begins to go blind herself. Kurt moves the ship to the middle of the river. 

Clark reviews Emmet's tapes for a clue, but he suffers the same symptoms. He stumbles into Tess, and the two blindly talk about what they're going to do. Clark let's spill how much he cares for her, and Tess warns him of the tapes recording what they say and wants them erased. They don't know that Lincoln is watching them.

Lena has learned from the journals of a neurotoxin used in blow darts and there's a special plant whose sap can neutralize it. It grows at elevations of 750 metres. Lincoln and Kurt prepare to go, but blind Clark accidently startles Kurt and he stabs him. 

Jahel goes off to find fishing line to stitch him up and Tess follows after. Lincoln uses the privacy to ask Clark how long he was having an affair with his mother. Meanwhile, one of the Morcegos has boarded the boat. Jahel screams, prompting everyone to lock themselves in where they are. Lincoln's trapped with Clark, while Jahel's with Tess and Emilio, and they communicate on the shortwave. Lincoln has to cauterize Clark's wound (blind!).

Lena, Kurt and AJ get to shore and are immediately chased by Morcegos. They hide in the brush and Lena is covered in centipedes. When they're safe, Kurt and Lena are both blind, leaving just AJ to lead the way. AJ decides it's a better idea to abandon them all and find civilization himself. He promises he'll send a helicopter when he gets back. 

Clark thinks he's going to die so wants Lincoln to know the truth. Tess never did anything wrong. Emmet left her and needed to do one last trip. She was done with all the exploring and begged him to stay, but he chose to go over remaining with her. She never cheated on him given they were separated already and she was trying to move on.

The Morcegos are trying to find a way into the cabins. Clark decides to be a hero so knocks out Lincoln and yells out that if they want to judge someone then they can kill him and spare everyone else. The rest hear him on the shortwave, but it works. The Morcegos back away and even leave Clark alone.

AJ unwittingly stumbles upon the tree from the journal illustration and gets to the miracle bulb underneath the roots. The tunnel collapses on him, but he's saved by the Morcegos who drag him out and he makes his way back to Lena and Kurt. Meanwhile, Kurt is whispering on his radio that the crew will never find Emmet or the Source, and will be dead shortly. AJ arrives and the crew get back together for Lincoln to administer the antidote.

Tess and Lincoln have a chat after everything gets back to (relative) normalcy. He lets her know it's okay for her to move on after they find Emmet. But Tess wants her family back and says she should never have let it come apart. Meanwhile sad Clark watches from the control room. Kurt arrives to apologize for stabbing him. Clark isn't as forgiving of him.

The Verdict:
The story really worked as a tense piece of drama and kept me interested the whole way through. The behaviour of all the characters this week made for a great episode—particular Clark transitioning from the cliched TV producer to a more well-rounded individual who cares about the people around him. Even AJ and Kurt had some interesting growth, and we find out that, despite the particular motivations driving the crew, it's not all black and white.

Kurt doesn't seem to be outrightly hostile to the group (unless they appear to get close to finding Emmet), and his communication seems to imply that he's only there to ensure they don't find the source (rather than looking for it himself). Who's he working for?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: Alcatraz "Paxton Petty"

Non Spoiler Review:
The criminal this week is a mad Korean War vet carrying a grudge that leads him to blow up people with land mines. The flashbacks to 1960 focus more on Lucy's role at Alcatraz, while Hauser's feelings for her provide the drive to capture Paxton in the present.

Another okay one, but Alcatraz has settled into an annoying and predictable routine. Rebecca's character has gotten better, and even Hauser (through his younger version) showed some emotion this time. But the present day stuff needs to be equally as strong as the flashbacks, and that still isn't the case.

Spoilers Now!
In 1960, the warden and Lucy greet the arrival of Paxton Petty. As he's led away, a young officer named Hauser seems infatuated with her. She gets his name and offers him a peppermint. In the present, he looks in on her at the hospital where she has seen no improvement, and there's suggestion that she might not ever recover.

Bombs blow up in a park killing several people, and state the obvious Diego declares it's Paxton Petty. He was a combat engineer in Korea who set land mines back in the States and was sent to Alcatraz. Rebecca spies him in the crowd and takes off running. He throws a mine at her and she's forced to take cover. 

They wonder who is supplying him with bombs, and Diego muses someone in the present might be helping these people (as with Cobb's rifle). The shrapnel from the mine is old, but Paxton is adding something to the mix so Rebecca takes some photos to analyze. It turns out to be a military medal, though he was never awarded one in Korea (despite feeling he deserved one). Considering he would need to rob a military grave to get one, they track him to a graveyard where he used to work and stored his gear.

In the flashback, Beauregard attempts to glean the location of Petty's unexploded bombs. Lucy tries her own methods to get the information by going through his past as a soldier—laying minds to kill women and children in Korea. She uses electroshock treatment and he begins to sing a song she later plays for Tommy Madsen. He wants to know why he spends so much time in the infirmary. If she wants to know what the song is, then he tells her to find out why he's in there all the time. As it turns out, it's a Korean lullaby used by the enemy to communicate the location of mines using keywords. The Americans did the same thing.

In the present, Hauser has gone through some of Lucy's old records, finding a note with particular words circled. He realizes they are locations throughout the city that might be the spot of the final bomb that has yet to be discovered. Meanwhile, the city has received a ransom note for a specific amount of money in exchange for the sites of the new bombs. Hauser advises Rebecca to cross reference her locations with words he's discovered in Lucy's notes. They narrow down an elementary school that is conveniently close to Diego's comic shop, but the bomb squad finds nothing. Hauser goes to another beach location where he finds Petty digging.

Hauser steps on and activates a mine, so Petty pulls his gun and advises him not to move. That night at the school, Diego and Rebecca spy Petty planting his explosives. She cuffs him and calls Hauser, only to find his phone on Petty.

Rebecca locks him up at Alcatraz and asks where Hauser is. But he wants to know how he got there. He just woke up in 2012 less than a week before, he explains. Rebecca leaves Diego with him while she finds Hauser's files and sees that Petty was his case in 1960. The circled words lead her to conclude she'll find him at the beach. Petty rants on about how important he was in Alcatraz that even the warden gave him to his lady head shrinker. Diego asks who that could be given there were no lady psychiatrists at Alcatraz. Rebecca drags them all off to find Hauser.

In 1960 the warden learns Lucy broke Petty's code with the keywords. She couldn't decipher the final bomb location but suggests the police will be able to. Beauregard compliments her, but she asks about Tommy Madsen and why he's a perfectly healthy man spending so much time in the infirmary giving blood. He advises her not to overstep herself.

Hauser is still standing where Petty left him. The bomb squad arrives to defuse it, and Rebecca learns Hauser's been searching for the final bomb all these years. They decide to just risk getting him off the mine and replacing him with one of the bomb squad guys. That works, but Petty has it rigged too tough and the guy gets blown up before he can disarm it.

Hauser goes to Petty and shoots him in the leg. He lies that the last mine went off years ago and no one died. Petty gives up the actual location and Hauser leaves.

In the final flashback Lucy stops by to see young Hauser, asking about the final bomb. He has no leads, so she offers her help, and he can start by asking her to dinner. In the present at her bedside he lets her know they found the last one. He unhooks her from her life support and takes her out, all the way to new Alcatraz where he gives her to Beauregard and tells him to fix her.

The Verdict:
There's not much to say besides what I mentioned in the intro. The episode did seem to drag, but that's the tendency right now, given all the focus comes at the end with the flashbacks. It was especially noticeable given the attempt to ramp up the tension finding the landmines. Though it's difficult to create tension when the criminals pose very little threat given the deductive powers of Diego, Rebecca and Hauser.

As far as Lucy goes, I'm wondering if her meeting with Hauser in 1960 was her first meeting, or if she was actually sent back in time to strike up a relationship with him, given she knew him in the future? Perhaps she was sent to learn the identities of the timenappers.

But seriously, Alcatraz has developed such a solid set of cliches for each episode that they can be ticked off a list with regularity. The clue of the week this time was the song and the keywords indicating the bomb locations (as well as the fortunate chance that Petty didn't change his modus operandi...but no one on Alcatraz does, apparently). There are no other locations in all of San Fransisco with those particular common words in their names? It's obvious the writers are more excited with the time travel conspiracy that they just want to throw together the criminal plot each week and get it over with, leaving it uninteresting and contrived.

Review: Spartacus: Vengeance "The Greater Good"

Non Spoiler Review:
The rebels struggle over their next course of action—finding Naevia or moving to a safer hiding place at Mount Vesuvius. Nasir gets a crush and controversy erupts when deceit makes its way into the ranks. Oenomaus endures both the revenge of Ashur and the schemes of Lucretia. Finally, Glaber makes a risky move to checkmate Seppius, and the politics are taking the toll on his marriage.

There was some good movement on the Naevia plot, some questions got answers, and cracks in the rebels' loyalties began to appear. While the ultimate conclusion became apparent early on and there were no surprises this time, it was another enjoyable episode full of intrigue and betrayals.

Spoilers Now!
The rebels ambush a wagon of slaves, with Crixus hoping they know of Naevia's whereabouts. Nasir shows off some of the fighting he's learned and earns some respect from Agron. The two of them find a surviving Roman who claims to know of Naevia and wants his life spared. Agron gets information and kills him, then advises Crixus that Naevia died en route to the mines. Devastated, Crixus has an emotional breakdown back at the villa.

In Capua, Glaber has Oenomaus tortured for information, but he is resilient and doesn't speak. Ashur advises pain alone will not make him betray his brothers. He is willing to serve Glaber now, so the Roman orders him to prove his loyalty and cut off the brand of the Batiatus brotherhood. He does so.

Lucretia counsels Glaber to be patient with Oenomaus. Albinius and Varinius make a surprise visit, and introductions are made to Lucretia. Albinius is very pleased to see her and the symbol she has become for the people of Capua. Varinius has come to present games to divert the mood of the people from Spartacus, and plans for Glaber's men to march in the games as a show of Roman strength. Glaber, already furious that Ilithyia never advised him of the visit, balks at the request, but his father-in-law warns him not to defy his fellow praetor's wishes.

Agron suggests they make camp at Vesuvius, within striking distance of Pompeii and Neapolis to recruit new slaves. Spartacus likes the idea, but wants him to broach it with Crixus. Agron doesn't want to involve the Gauls, but Spartacus insists everyone stick together.

Spartacus later visits the mourning Crixus and commiserates on losing their women. Crixus, of course, blames himself, but Spartacus says they don't chose love. For now Crixus doesn't want to hear any consolation. Nasir finds his suffering hard to watch, but Agron warns him that he must not know the truth.

The Gauls resist the Vesuvius plan, but Crixus makes an appearance and tells them they've all lost those dear to them, yet their fires still burn. They'll ignite an inferno together, and declares his support for Spartacus and the move on to Vesuvius.

With Oenomaus bound in the courtyard, Ashur is enjoying his chance at revenge. He refuses to answer his questions or even speak, so Ashur whips him into the night. Lucretia eventually stops the beating and warns him he can't die before prophecy is fulfilled. Ashur doesn't share her faith in the gods and asks her if it was they who found her near death, or stitched her back together, fed and clothed her, and delivered Oenomaus. It was all Ashur. She tells him he serves the will of the gods. He fears they are both forsaken. Oenomaus' knowledge is essential to her prophecy, so she tells him there is a greater secret buried in the walls that they will now see put to purpose.

Chadara chats with Nasir as they pack for their move, and she comments that she's noticed he's fond of Agron and he should pursue it. She envies him his attentions, given she's stuck with Rhaskos simply because he can protect her. Crixus is much more focused and helps Nasir carry a crate, and admits he was not in favor of his training because he was betrayed by another Syrian, as was Naevia. But she wouldn't have blamed him for the actions of his countryman, so he will honor that as well. That's too much guilt for Nasir to handle, so he has something to confess.

Crixus then flies out in a rage and attacks Agron, telling everyone in the courtyard that Naevia lives. The slaver told them she was in the mines. Agron admits he lied to save all their lives given Crixus would have risked everyone for her. Spartacus punches Agron and tells him such a lie would never have passed his lips if it had been his own brother in her place. He addresses them all and tells them every one of their lives must matter or they'll be no better than the Romans. He stands with Crixus. Agron calls for those to follow him to Vesuvius. A lot of them, including Nasir, side with him.

Ashur tries his new tact with Oenomaus and muses about all the secrets in the Batiatus house, and when Gannicus took his wife as entertainment for the nobles. Oenomaus speaks at last, and realizes it all makes sense how Melitta took the poison wine. His wife and brother betrayed him. Oenomaus lets slip that Spartacus and Crixus will one day find Naevia, leading Ashur to conclude that's why they moved south. He relates that information to Glaber, but the Roman doesn't believe him, nor is the knowledge very helpful given it's so vague. Lucretia steps in to ask if he would turn from the gods' guidance, given she knows where Naevia was sent.

As Spartacus, Crixus and their men ready to find Naevia, Agron says goodbye and tells them to meet up with them at Vesuvius. Nasir opts to follow Crixus. 

They infiltrate the mines using the captured slave wagon. Mira is offered up as encouragement to the foreman at the camp and he takes her into his tent. It's a ruse to find out where Naevia is, and she manages to secure a knife to threaten the information from him, as well as a map of the mines.  

Outside, Spartacus draws the attention of a guard who recognizes him from the arena. Crixus and his men take the initiative to kill them, then secure their clothes to take their places. The foreman attempts to disarm Mira and she kills him, then takes off with Crixus and Spartacus into the mines.

At the games in Capua, Varinius addresses the crowd and calls out the Roman soldiers to march, only they don't emerge from the gates, prompting boos. Albinius is furious as Glaber addresses the crowd to apologize and advise them that his soldiers are set to close in on Spartacus. He gets the crowd's cheers, much to Varinius and Seppius' chagrin.

Marcus' soldiers arrive at the mines and are greeted by Spartacus' men, who ensure him the mine is secure. That would have sufficed, but Ashur recognizes both as gladiators, runs out and kills them both, showing Marcus they both bear the mark of Batiatus. 

Spartacus wants to free all the slaves among them, but Crixus advises him there are too many and would reveal them, so he vows to return. Nasir recognizes the domina's mark on one. It's Naevia. She finally recognizes Crixus just as the Romans attack in the tunnels and Crixus spies Ashur. They flee to a tunnel that leads to the water, but they're overpowered and Crixus must hold them off. He sees Spartacus getting Naevia to safety before he's brought down by Ashur.

The Verdict:
Ashur's return brought plenty of good stuff. Not only do we get the answers that Lucretia owes her life to him, but it seems she's been scheming all along. And, of course, the revelation of Melitta's death to crush Oenomaus, as if he needed anything further to ruin his life.

I'm curious as to what will happen between Nasir and Agron given Chadara's comments. And that little scene in itself was helpful in fleshing both of their characters out from last week. I'm surprised that Crixus and the Gauls took the lie about Naevia so well, considering the damage it may have inflicted on their ranks. But the bond between Spartacus and Crixus appears strong, and that's a refreshing change from what could have been an easy way to create drama by them having a falling out.

Glaber's marital troubles have me wondering just who will be sleeping with whom in the near future. I'm guessing Ilithyia and Marcus and/or Seppius, and a Glaber/Seppia pairing is imminent. Though a Lucretia/Glaber tryst isn't out of the question either.

Naevia's recasting is unfortunate and I'll miss the original, but I'm glad she's back. Crixus' capture wasn't too surprising, but having him together with Lucretia and Oenomaus is sure to be interesting.

Again, there's nothing extraordinary that bears criticism here, aside from the usual manner the rebels manage to make their escapes. The machinations among the Romans are equally interesting as the goings on with the rebels. And we finally got a glimpse of the infamous mines that live up to all the dread the mere mention of them induces in the slaves.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: Being Human (USA) "Addicted to Love"

Non Spoiler Review:
Addicted to Love is an uneven episode that's primarily a mix of quick and erratic scenes and characters behaving oddly. Surprisingly, it redeems itself by the end with a dark and unexpected turn.

Another full moon beckons, and Josh and Nora continue to bicker, now with Brynn and Conner influencing them. Aidan continues to juggle his responsibilities and commitments to Suren, made more difficult when Mother arrives. Sally's dalliance with possession quickly gets out of control (never saw that one coming).

I wish the entire episode had been as good as the final ten minutes. The show has done well introducing a strong supporting cast. In fact, they are in danger of becoming more interesting than some of the regulars. Both the vampire and werewolf storylines are growing increasingly interesting and at least plot moved significantly forward.

Spoilers Now!
Aidan is back into his old ways with Suren, and Sally is enjoying sex in the body of her host (who is married to a doctor at the hospital). Josh and Nora are consulting with Conner and Brynn about where they go from there on researching the transformation. Nora's not keen on it at all and tells them they're kidding themselves if they think they can cure a curse

The three roommates actually all end up at home at the same time and wonder why Sally looks so hungover. She admits to experimenting with people. Aidan and Josh are a tad alarmed and Aidan warns her that it's addictive (haha). Why listen to her friends, though, when she's having so much fun. But it's not so fun when she realizes she can't leave the body.

Suren is summoned by Mother, who isn't pleased she's ignoring her responsibilities. The illegitimates have yet to be culled—Bishop's orphans are organizing apparently—despite her directive. Her daughter assures her she knows what she's doing and her mother just won't ever approve anyway. 

Sally goes to Josh (in the host body) trying to tell him that she's stuck inside. Doctor husband walks in on them and wonders why she's at the hospital so takes her home so she can hang with his mother. To make matters worse the dark shadow suddenly shows up and she freaks out in front of him. She gets thrown out of the body. 

Nora doesn't trust Conner. Suddenly her ex, Will, shows up at work. He's changed, he claims. Josh walks in on their conversation so she introduces them. He's furious for her letting him near her again. Oh, and it's the night of the full moon again, by the way. Conner suggests he and Brynn can take care of Josh's problem if he wishes. So he and Conner confront Will at his (remote) worksite in the wood, and Josh is about to hit him with a board when Nora walks in out of the blue and freaks out and goes to Will's aid. Will's okay, though, and won't press charges, but Nora's more than annoyed with Josh. She knows Will hasn't changed and she didn't need Josh to fight her battles for her.

Brynn has a girl chat with Nora and explains she and her family were raised with the wisdom of generations and she doesn't want Nora to be robbed of that kind of acceptance. Nora admits to spying on Will—she's been doing it every night. She realizes it's her wolf doing it and needs to know what it wants. Brynn suggests the wolf just wants to run free so they can become one. 

Sally's host shows up at Josh and Aidan's because she's seen the house in her dreams and something dark coming for her. They send her away but Sally is freaked and wants to help. Aidan agrees she should make it right, so Sally goes to see her and tries to communicate, then realizes she's drawing the dark shadow that's tracking Sally, and names it reaper.

In another 1930 flashback, Aidan goes to see Henry. He's risen in the ranks since sleeping with Suren. He's furious with Henry's recklessness in becoming involved with such a dangerous woman. There's a lavish party at their hotel where Suren finds her mother, who advises her it will be her last night in Boston given she's gained more than enough experience there. Suren wants to stay behind, but her mother tells her there will be other Henrys. Suren storms off to get Henry and flee, but finds him with another woman. Aidan decides not to intervene while Suren runs off. He gets into a fight with Henry as Suren kills the woman in the middle of the party. Aidan warns Henry to never come back and goes downstairs as Mother warns her she exposed them all (as the human crowd stares in horror) that leaves her no choice. She orders the doors locks and she and her vampires massacre everyone. As a result of her weakness, mother banishes her underground for a century. 

Back in the present, Suren decides to cull the vampires as soon as they find them, and if Aidan refuses her it will be over. Aidan takes Suren to Bishop's funeral home and finds traces that the illegitimates were there recently. While Suren goes off to search the building, Henry walks in and says hello. Aidan is elated to see him but he hides when Suren comes back from searching and Aidan tells her nothing. 

Will is back at his work when he's attacked and killed by three wolves. Josh wakes up and finds that Nora was never in her storage locker. She wakes up all bloody spooning with Brynn and Conner in the woods. 


The Verdict:
Addicted to Love is another uneven episode. Just when I was ready to write it off as a muddle of storylines, the last act really rescued it. The werewolf plot is by far the most interesting to me, and despite being spoiled rich kids, I really like Brynn and Conner. Nora and Josh got annoying early on, behaving so erratic with their on again/off again bickering, but it turned around when Nora revealed she was secretly stalking Will. The final scene was really quite ominous. It should provide some really interesting conflict if she embraces the wolf while Josh is attempting to rid himself of it.

The flashbacks to Suren's misstep, and the reappearance of Henry proved intriguing, as well. I really hope the Henry/Aidan dynamic turns out as promising as it looks. Aidan seemed pretty happy to find his protege alive.

Sally's story was its usual meh. Her addiction was inevitable, and I'm sure Stevie will reappear when he's most needed. The reaper plot might rejuvenate it, as long as it doesn't get just silly like Zoe's reincarnation factory. Speaking of which, why wouldn't Sally seek out Zoe, the resident reincarnation expert, if she was having so much trouble stuck in a body?

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