Tuesday, June 29, 2010
In scope and in ambition, this is an impressive finale. The true evil of the Conspiracy had only ever been hinted at, but the contents of the train car pretty much confirm it. Either way it's terrible: we have extra terrestrials experimented on and ultimately killed, or possible alien/human hybrids. Were the smallpox marks meant to imply the latter? Elsewhere, the revelations about William Mulder only helps in bringing his son a lot closer to the mythology at hand. The Conspiracy is actually personal, now, not merely based on assumption or theories.
I always struggle to enjoy episodes which feature the villains having their own scenes where they discuss their evil plans. Don't get me wrong, episodes told entirely from the villains' perspective work well in principle (The X-Files did their own variation on that somewhere down the line), but throwing in a scene into an episode where the bad guys plot their schemes always feels a little weak. It's why an episode like Born Again from the first season just didn't work, and it's why this episode quickly goes off the rails half-way through.
Matt's continued spiral into craziness was undoubtedly the best storyline in the episode. Christian was completely right in saying that Sean and Julia were so self-involved about their son that they'd rather yell at each other over who was to blame rather than concentrate on Matt himself. And the fact that they then went and slept together in Matt's bed was just ridiculous. As if things aren't screwed up enough for Matt already!
Erica continues to be one of the best characters in the series, completely stealing the show in just two scenes. Her talk with Matt was both honest and believable, and I loved how she later bonded with Julia over the bong. It's a great scene featuring real-life mother and daughter, and you can tell Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave had a ball filming it.
The Kit McGraw character fascinated me throughout season three. While I love everything that is Rhona Mitra (the looks, the body, the accent - woo!), it doesn't cover up the fact that she's playing somebody completely ridiculous. Her scenes in this episode feature laughably terrible dialogue ("I'm from Jack the Ripper's London" - gah!), and her seduction of Christian was so unprofessional it borders on sub-porno movie. I know this show is trashy, but Kit really was the worst example of the show's love for bad girls. She has no morals, and there's no way somebody so insane and nympho-like would have such a respected job title in the law enforcement biz.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
An important part of this week's episodes was the assumptions we make as people, and the realities we either don't know, or aren't willing to find out. Paul questions his own methods, especially when he actually encounters the people who he had so far only "constructed" in his head. Elsewhere, we have Alex's father, and his own assumptions of both therapy and parenting. And then there's Gina. Fiction vs. reality made for the most interesting theme this week.
In film and television, fear is best created from something firmly rooted in reality, something that the audience experiences or sees every day. When such an ordinary something is turned on its head and suddenly made something for us to "fear", it's where the genius happens. Soft Light, while not entirely successful as an episode, at least has a wonderful central conceit.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Here's the second and final part of my annual TV commentary, this time for the 2009-2010 season. This is a tradition that I started a couple of years ago over at TV.com, with my own feelings about the just-wrapped seasons of some of the major shows that I watch. And remember that each review features spoilers for each show's respective season.
This was a little odd. An entertaining if unsurprising "race-against-time" story is unexpectedly crossed with some conspiracy hoodoo, only the conspiracy here isn't of the UFO kind. It doesn't entirely work, but you can't fault the show for trying.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Crazy derivative, and not particularly entertaining despite that, The Calusari looks and feels like it could have been an episode from any other '90s fantasy series, especially with Mulder and Scully reduced to merely standing around watching events happen and watching guest stars save the day. I figured that was a problem the show had gotten over...
Saying Ava being outed as a transsexual was a huge shock is the understatement of the century. Looking back now, there were always subtle clues to her past. Right back in Ava's second appearance, there was that awkward silence after Matt asked her if she knew what walking around with an erection all day was like. Obviously, at the time, she said no. Ha! Famke Janssen stole the show this season, and waits till the last episode to give her greatest performance. Her scene with Adrian was completely heartbreaking. While we learned to love Ava over these last couple of episodes, you can't deny that anybody who destroys somebody's life like that is a monster in several ways. But as Ava weeps over her son's corpse, you realize that she really did love him.
The sight of Gina slowly rotting away in a hospital bed was so sad. She's a terrible woman, but nobody deserves to go through the suffering of HIV, even when she took so many risks with her crazy sex life. Avoiding any preachy dialogue, the writers instead concentrate on the effect it has on Christian, and specifically how he'd feel if Wilber was revealed to be infected. Something like HIV can affect so many people, and just the scene of Christian repeatedly telling his past conquests to "stop crying" makes you want to rush out to your nearest pharmacy.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Here's the first part of my annual TV commentary, this time for the 2009-2010 season. This is a tradition that I started a couple of years ago over at TV.com, with my own feelings about the just-wrapped seasons of some of the major shows that I watch. And remember that each review features spoilers for each show's respective season.
One of those shows that scream "network-initiated genre-crossover series", The Gates is essentially Desperate Housewives meets True Blood. While its renewal prospects are pretty much nil (this being summer, and this being network television), the pilot featured a surprising amount of intrigue, and at least a couple of notable characters. It's still flawed, but it wasn't the trainwreck I was expecting.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
With the series nearing its conclusion, the sessions are becoming a little more fragmented, and each is winding down to their respective endings. There seemed to be a sense of walls being erected or alternatively knocked down for a lot of the characters this week. Paul continues to put up walls between him and Kate, helped by the involvement of their children, walls are being broken down and exposing real vulnerability in both Amy and Sophie, and Alex is forging his own wall, because allowing himself to be vulnerable is just too much for him.
Wildly off-beat and ambitious, this is Darin Morgan's first X-Files script, and a real landmark for what the show will eventually become. For the first time, Mulder and Scully are taken out of the gloomy confines of so much of the series so far, and thrust into a literal "world of freaks". Both characters are written beautifully, even if the script pokes fun at their individual personas at various points during the episode.
Another episode treading familiar ground, once again attempting to replicate the eerie claustrophobia of Ice and Darkness Falls. But, like the majority of episodes in this increasingly "blah" season, Død Kalm falls apart in its execution, despite some interesting theories for the events of the hour, and some great interplay between Mulder and Scully.
This wasn't as bad as I remembered it. While there's another potentially cop-out ending involving aliens along the lines of Gender Bender and Red Museum, there's at least an interesting rationale behind the UFO involvement, and some intriguing real-life ideas are raised throughout.
While there are a couple of memorable moments, this could be considered an anti-climax. A lot happens, sure, but the pace to this episode is almost too brisk, meaning potentially monumental events such as the apparent "death" of the returned Samantha, and Mulder having to choose between Scully and his sister, are pretty much wasted.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
If you ignore the obvious Terminator knock-off that is the Alien Bounty Hunter, Colony is a pretty entertaining opener to The X-Files' first, real two-parter. After a run of routine case-of-the-week episodes, this is the show's attempt to go back to its supposed protagonist and Samantha's childhood abduction. While it's undoubtedly fun, there are still noticeable loopholes throughout.
Another in a long line of this season's average episodes, Fresh Bones unsurprisingly features some neat ideas floating around and its fair share of bloody violence, both of which stop it from being completely forgettable.
Fathers affected every single session this week. I figured it was a cliché in bad TV shows that pretty much every psychological problem has something to do with either a) the patient's childhood, or b) the patient's parents. Here, Laura told her father everything, Alex, Sophie and Amy all confided in Paul about their respective dads, and Paul's father trauma is still affecting his mindset. It's intriguing, but surely there's gotta be more to each patient that that, right?
Famke Janssen gives another amazing performance. Despite knowing that Ava is a demanding, manipulative, lying, soul-destroying, family-wrecking, incestuous hag, Famke's performance still makes her somehow sympathetic. It almost makes my skin crawl to admit that, but her last scene with Matt really got to me. I'm not surprised so many people are drawn to her. As sympathetic as Ava is, it's nothing compared to Adrian, who is just a tragic example of what abuse can do to somebody. His life is a mess in almost every way possible, and because of Ava's actions, his abilities to connect with people and how to treat those around him is completely screwed up. It's so sad, knowing what one woman did to him.
After killing that show dog and having his business crumble around him, you just knew Bobolit would come back a complete wreck. So, what do you know, one year later and he's become a crazy drug addicted psycho!
Monday, June 7, 2010
I understand that "breakthroughs" are an important part of therapy. That moment where the patient suddenly hits a realization, or reveals something about themselves that suddenly casts all of their problems in a new life. In terms of In Treatment, this week was a real "breakthrough". We really do know these characters now, but all of these episodes managed to create new conflicts and expose previously unknown secrets about our protagonists. By far the best week this show has produced.
Glen Morgan and James Wong certainly threw everything into the pot for their (at the time, at least) final X-Files script, from occult curses, killer snakes and eyeballs stuffed into desk drawers: this is a memorably gross episode. It's also one of my personal favorites. Nothing much is explained by the time the credits roll, but there's a palpable sense of terror running throughout the episode.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
After a run of bad episodes, Irresistible is vintage X-Files. Eerie and planted firmly in reality, compared to the more fantastical hours surrounding it, this episode is almost a pre-cursor for Millennium, from the graphic depictions of corpses to the rain-soaked cemeteries.
Aubrey had a lot of ideas. Subjects covered include motherhood, adultery, genetic reincarnation and psychic visions, but there's also a clear sense of a script unsure how to balance them all. As with many of the weaker episodes, Mulder and Scully are left as mere observers to the action, substantial screentime given to the lead guest star. In this case, it's Detective B.J. Morrow (hate the name). Despite some notable scares along the way, the episode quickly derails.
Julia finally learns at the end of the episode that her problem isn't that she chose to be with Sean all those years ago, it's that she always wants what she doesn't have. In both realities, she finds herself desperate to be with the man she isn't with, and it took her near death experience to make her finally realize it.
The audience has always been made aware of the good soul lurking beneath Christian's man-whore façade. Just look at his relationship with Wilber. But before Natasha Charles came along, nobody had really made Christian aware that he is a good person, no matter what kind of personality he tries to put across.
Kimber was so great in this episode. While it's depressing that she's ended up in the porn industry, you can tell she has her head screwed on right, seeing her sex doll as a "business opportunity", instead of some new way to become a bigger whore or something. I also liked that she acted generally nice toward people, especially Julia. Kimber's conversation with Sean about masochism was particularly intelligent for her to be talking about, and it looked like Kelly Carlson enjoyed exploring that side of her character. She's an awesome actress, and when given material like this she can shine.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
An unusual episode that starts off suitably violent, before spiralling into altogether different territory with a script that doesn't seem to know where it's going. From the atmospheric spookiness of the convalescent home itself to the contrived "room-filling-with-water" coda, it runs the gamut of intriguing to plain dumb.