Archive for January, 2010

415 – Pass/Fail

Here’s a shocker for you – a good episode that revolves around conversations between three groups of people. It shouldn’t work – every single part of this is utterly doomed to fail – but it works and it manages it in a very comic book way.

Sylar pursues Claire to her college, intent on finding out why she is his destiny and his random fear of dying alone. They spend their time exchanging barbed comments as Sylar uses what methods he can to find out why he and Claire are bound together. It’s a fairly interesting revelation, albeit one that sort of breaks Sylar’s character completely.

Meanwhile, in the much more interesting subplot, Hiro passes out at Bennett’s and wakes up in a courtroom in the Burnt Toast Diner, where Judge Kaito is presiding over whether or not he altered the timeline for his own personal gain, with the prosecution taking the form of Adam Monroe. This is classic comic book stuff – the hero on the stand for the few crimes they’ve committed, with the penalty for a guilty verdict being that Hiro succumbs to the brain tumour. It all builds to a proper climax where Hiro must fight Adam Monroe to stay alive.

Least interesting part of the whole thing is Samuel’s attempts to convince Vanessa to stay with him. It turns out that he’s made the valley beautiful so he could build her dream cottage right in the centre of it all. But she rejects him and we finally get to see what he’s capable of when he causes an earthquake to swallow an entire town.

It’s an enjoyable episode that seems content on solving all the minor quibbles for the characters before we get plunged into the build-up for the final few episodes of the season. It’s a really curious choice of David Anders as guest star though – didn’t they use all of Volume Three to sever any and all ties to the much-maligned second season?

All in all, it’s a merciful break from the usual craptastic plotlines. If the Claire and Samuel plots were slightly faster in pace and if the Hiro plotline wasn’t resolved in exactly the same way it was cleared up in Volume Three (seriously, it’s the second time they’ve used the same conceit to unscrew his brain) then this would get full marks. As it stands, it gets four stars simply for not being shit.

4 stars

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414 – Close to You

Opening with a monologue by Bennett who mourns over the deepening void between he and his daughter – who really should be on Jerry Springer by now, with all the backstabbing and lies going on – the episode gets off to a moody start. Things get bleaker for Bennett when Lauren leaves him to his quest to find Vanessa, a woman Samuel claims to be in love with.

Bennett gets in touch with Parkman, who is slowly becoming the world’s fattest and least relevant character in any TV show and tries to convince him to join up and stop Samuel. Parkman refuses only to show up later and hypnotise Vanessa into talking with them and set up a trap for their target. Just when you think it’s about to get interesting, Samuel makes a measly crack in the earth, blinds Bennett and runs away with Vanessa. Admitting defeat, Parkman and Bennett head home, with Bennett apologising to his increasingly irritating daughter and Parkman feeling like a coward for not stopping Sylar WHEN HE HAD ALL THOSE CHANCES.

Lydia meanwhile contacts Peter via the plot device compass tattoo that Samuel installed on his arm back in chapter two. Emma uses her siren song to call him to her and the two meet Angela Petrelli, who informs Peter that Emma is going to help kill thousands at some point. Peter takes her power – making it pretty irrelevant that he took gained flight last week – and dreams about Emma playing her cello in the hall of mirrors to the sound of screams before Sylar appears, grinning. To solve this, Peter hilariously and heroically smashes Emma’s cello, taking away the only light in a deaf and dumb woman’s extremely bleak existence.

In Florida, Hiro has himself committed to the same mental home he sent Mohinder to, leaving Ando to rescue them both with his red lightening powers that everybody forgot he had. This leads to a high-larious sequence where Ando accidentally takes medication intended to knock out Mohinder. The three of them escape and Ando magically fixes Hiro with his red lightening (don’t ask) before the three of them teleport to Bennett’s – just as the old dog finally gets it on with Lauren.

There’s nothing to say about this episode. It’s pretty fast and gets a lot done, with the major saving grace being that a lot of plot strands are finally beginning to come together.

2 stars

413 – Let It Bleed

As Peter and the others mourn at Nathan’s funeral, convinced he’s died in a plane crash (despite being able to fly), the sulky one himself decides to get a massive strop on and attempts to tackle a random hostage taker armed only with the Haitian’s rather ineffectual ability. Naturally he gets shot but luckily Claire is on hand to get him through it.

Meanwhile Sylar goes after Samuel but gets erectile dysfunction in his head-sawing finger leading to a truly awesome image of Samuel creating a sandstorm that tears Sylar’s face apart. He absorbs Lydia’s power (at least there’s some consistency in the writing office) and his tattoo reveals to him his destiny: Claire.

Edgar returns and goes to Bennett, intending to bring him to Samuel, but is bested, leading to several pointless scenes with the two and Lauren where Edgar flip-flops his allegiance before running away from them both.

It’s just slightly more interesting than the previous episode, but that’s still like comparing getting hit in the crotch with a hammer to being stabbed in the face. Annoyingly, it plays its trump card (seriously, Sylar getting his face chewed off by a sandstorm is absolutely outstanding) before the opening credits, which leads to an episode of cock-teasing and stilted dialogue instead of genuine superheroics.

What’s staggering is that the season is almost at its end and the viewers still don’t know what Samuel is planning, why he needs the Heroes and why it concerns the valley near the carnival. It’s a monumental mess in need of a desperate clean. Hopefully this can all be sorted out and tidied up before the end, allowing a neat finale. Just pray they can bring it all to a satisfying climax and not resort to slamming a goddamn door on the camera again.

2 stars

412 – Upon This Rock

Welcome back, everyone. Good Christmas break? Remember where we left off? Well, Claire is staying at the carnival with Samuel, Hiro has had his brains tampered with (again), Mohinder is locked up in a mental home, Ando is marrying Kimiko, Bennett is on his way to scoring with Lauren, Sylar is back, Peter and Angela are frowning lots, Emma is utterly irrelevant to the plot, Tracey is off on a mission continued in the equally incomprehensible comic series and nobody has any idea what’s going on.

Fittingly, the episode opens with Claire picking trash with a pointy stick. Symbolism – it’s a bitch. Her part of the episode sees her trusting Samuel, distrusting Samuel, finding out that Samuel plans to do something in a desert valley nearby, and finally trusting Samuel but not wanting to stay. It drags out for the whole damn episode.

In other stories, Hiro has returned to Japan to get Ando to help him with something. Unfortunately, Samuel’s interfering with Hiro’s brain, along with that tumour, have left everybody;s favourite comic relief character speaking gibberish. Luckily, Ando deduces what he wants and the two head off to Florida – to rescue Mohinder.

Meanwhile Emma is seduced by Samuel, who finally reveals what her power can do: act as a siren call to other specials. This brings in a man who can bring nature to life at a touch, setting up the episode’s big CGI moment – a valley full of grass.

To say that it’s a disappointment is an understatement, like saying you were a little upset when the Hindenburg exploded with all your family on board. Admittedly, it’s at a much quicker pace than it was before, but the only ongoing mystery is what Samuel is up to. Frankly, it’s not enough to keep viewers hooked. What if the biggest mystery was how Samuel is going to get to the point where he is ludicrously powerful?

As this pathetic story arc limps towards it climax, we’re all left scratching our heads and remembering just how bloody good it used to be. Where did this show go so wrong?

2 stars

Doctor Who the End of Time Review

Part One

So here it is at last. After a year with only two episodes, one shit, one average, David Tennant’s reign as the tenth Doctor finally comes to its cataclysmic end. At the same time, the tenure of Doctor Who showrunner and head writer Russell T Davis comes to its close. Will the two manage to bow out gracefully?

After accidentally causing a woman to kill herself by messing about with time, the Doctor has followed the Ood to their home world for a council with the elders. Unfortunately, they show him a vision of what all of humanity is dreaming at nights: the Master (John Simm), returned and triumphant.
Meanwhile, Wilf (Bernard Cribbens) is being contacted by a mysterious woman who informs him of the prophecy – the Doctor will die and something will return.
Elsewhere (another word for meanwhile…) two evil black people (thank you, BBC) want the Master for their Plot Device Alien Technology.

First off, any episode that features John Simm’s utterly wonderful Master is guaranteed to be at least watchable, and this episode is no exception – it’s plenty watchable. What is a huge shame is that it never really stretches itself out to become something other than just average.

The Master’s resurrection makes next to no sense (he wrote it down? HE WROTE DOWN THE RECIPE TO LIFE AND DEATH?) and the fact that he now has the ability to shoot lightening with his hands and jump huge distances actually reduce him as a character. Here it is, folks: the Master as viewed by Tex Avery.

Tennant is as reliable as ever, with much less gurning than usual, thankfully. It’s one of the very rare instances where the Doctor seems like an underdog, as opposed to a man waiting until he can build a magic device that undoes everything. (Naturally, we all know that what’s going to happen, but it’s nice to not expect it for once.)

Bernard Cribbens’ Wilf has come on in leaps and bounds this time, presumably because he’s not saddled with trying to carry Donna (Catherine Tate) throughout every scene he stars in. Mercifully, the ginger witch herself is kept to the bare minimum of scenes, with very little dialogue. It’s like Russell T knows how awful she is and isn’t being forced to use her anymore…

The constant references to Obama are infuriating – it’s like the BBC are still amazed at a black man on TV outside BBCThree. Likewise, the stupid green aliens almost manage to ruin the entire episode simply by being there.

As with all Doctor Who two-parters, this first instalment is mostly setting up the bigger story and lots of running around, with a few silly gags thrown in for good measure. It’s not great, it’s good, and if the rest of the episode matched up with that utterly stunning cliffhanger, (your jaw might severe on the epicness of the final reveal) this would be a huge leap in quality. Unfortunately, Tennant’s swansong is off to a patchy start.

3 stars

Part Two

So… the Master has turned himself into everyone on Earth (apart from Wilf – apparently one Alien Technology trumps another), the Doctor has all but lost, Donna is about the remember the past and thus die (shame, huh?), the Time Lords are about to return from the Time War, Tennant is about to go out all guns blazing and Russell T Davis is going to craft a masterpiece for the ages! What could go wrong?

Where do we begin? To start, the previous episode clearly didn’t do enough of a job setting up the story, apparently, because the first forty-odd minutes of this episode continue the setup. The story bounces back and forth between the on going battle between the Master (all seven billion of them) and the Doctor, who does a remarkable job of running away, and the plan of the Time Lords to escape from the Time Bubble the Doctor placed them all in.

Unfortunately, what this plan does is over-explain and destroy the Master’s brilliant character. The drum beats that drove him crazy were actually a signal to get the Time Lords to returns somehow because they knew he would manage to turn himself into all the humans on the planet and triangulate the position of the magic diamond that brings them all back. Still here? Good, it’s about to get worse.

Donna, annoyingly, doesn’t die. The Doctor lied in the previous episode – she won’t die if she remembers, because he’s placed a magic widget in her head that does something in a wide radius. Still here? Really?

The green aliens return to save the Doctor before buggering off in a completely unresolved subplot. Until then, they spend their time on screen gurning, making stupid noises and flying a silly ship with an infuriating sound effect engine.

But all of this could have been forgiven. Could have been forgotten, ignored and buried just for one moment. One shining example of awesomeness that might have tipped the scales completely and seen this as possibly the best Who episode ever… Seven billion Masters, the Time Lords, led by Timothy Dalton, and the Doctor caught in the middle. It could have been brilliant. A cataclysmic showdown for all time.

But no. Russell T decided that would be far too good and instead gives Dalton a magic glove with a big undo button that erases all the extra Masters and then the Doctor shoots a computer and gets rid of all of them for good.

Yeah.

Even Tennant’s death scene is agonising – a full fifteen minutes of slow wandering to musical montages as he rubs shoulders with every single creature Russell T invented in the most hideously painful moment in all of Who history. His death doesn’t even make sense – if the Doctor’s chamber of the pod will be filled with radiation, why not just trigger it from outside with the Sonic Screwdriver?

The good points of the episode are genuine highlights – the production values are the most incredible to yet grace a British TV show, that moment when the Doctor realises his time is up (four knocks…) and Matt Smith’s scenery-chewing entrance are all great. Such a shame the rest didn’t want to be like this.

Tennant and Russell T could have gone down in history on this one. Instead, we’ll remember Tennant as the gurning clown who just wouldn’t lay down and die and Russell T as the man who solved two hours of plotting with a magic glove and a single bullet. Roll on the next series – new Doctor, new assistant, new showrunner, new Tardis, new logo. Get in.

2 stars