Thursday, 30 April 2015

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Love in the Time of HYDRA

"Well, then. I guess it's safe to say we all hide our true selves, don't we?"

Nicely structured, this episode. Coming after the revelatory cliffhanger that Bobbi and Mack are working for a rival SHIELD, we get most of the exposition done in the form of a flashback to the big HYDRA eruption during Captain America: Winter Soldier, with all the flashback scenes being tinted distinctly blue. We learn how this other SHIELD, led by Edward James Olmos's Gonzalez, featured Bobbi and Mack (and Hartley!) from the start.

We also learn what makes them different: they disagree with Nick Fury's choices, and in particular his appointment of Coulson, whom they see as quixotic and alien obsessed- which, to be fair, he is; we only side against them because we happen to like and trust Coulson in spite of these things.

Back to our SHIELD, and there is still debate about what to do with the post-Terrigen Mist Skye: May wants her removed from operations, and Coulson eventually acts on her views, moving get to a safe house against his better judgement. He feels guilty, meaning that Very Bad Things are likely to happen as a result as such is the way that drama works. This way she's alone and a massive target. 

Oh, and we also see Agents Ward and 33, after a long, long time. Their motives have never seemed more mysterious, nor their motives so interesting. A game of Operation is played, giving all people my age a nice nostalgic glow. There's a nice comedy scene with General Talbot and a bunch of female US military "spies". Fitz and Simmons clash again, Coulson and Talbot deepen their mutual respect and Bakshi is captured, kinkily, by Ward and Agent 33.

We end with the discovery that Coulson and May are both distrustful of Mack, that Hunter has escaped. It's a good individual episode but, even betters ham that, a link in a superlative chain. I'm loving this run of episodes.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


"I'm worried about Nick. He's in a bad place."


I tend to write up my blog posts late these days, what with having become a father for the first time in February, but I just had to get this one out before the General Election and what looks like being a much more tortuous set of coalition negotiations over what could be a lot more than six days.

Also, cards on the table time: I'm on the left of the party, and some way to the left of all of the party's Cabinet ministers, with the possible exception of Vince Cable, but I've always voted Lib Dem until now. And the only reason I won't be voting Lib Dem on 7th May because I have now moved to a Tory/Labour marginal where a Lib Dem vote is fairly pointless under First Past the Post (why oh why is there not a site where I can swap my vote with a Labour supporter in a threatened Lib Dem seat?). I may not be a supporter of Nick Clegg (see below) or Orange Bookers generally, but I don't demonise him as many Labour tribalists do, but he hasn't been good leader since 2010 for various reasons, although he does have genuine achievements to his name and can, on the whole, be proud of his career. This one-off drama, with Clegg taking centre stage, is rather good at showing both his vices and his virtues.

Coalition is as good as this sort of thing tends to be, although you can never get a huge amount of dramatic depth out of a fairly straight reconstruction of recent political events. Obviously the standout cast member is Mark Gatiss who, as every review and preview has said, steals the show as a weary yet still dangerous Peter Mandelson, but all the portrayals ring true.

We begin not with the night of the election but with the leaders' debates, and those heady days of Cleggmania when everything seemed possible. This gives context for the slight deflation felt by many Lib Dems on election night, but the absurdity of election night is best portrayed by David Cameron receiving a call of misunderstanding congratulations from the Governor of California. Hasta la vista, baby. We also establish the relationship between Clegg and Donald Sumpter's elder statesman Paddy Ashdown, both a more left-wing and more substantial figure than Clegg, first shown consoling his protege on the mildly disappointing results, showing him to have rather more steel to him; it's not hard to see that the authorial voice sides with Ashdown rather than Clegg. So do I.

The morning after the night before sees Cameron make his big offer of coalition and Ashdown's prescient remark that "They'd string us up." The personal relationships are fascinating here; Camerpn subtly shows his dominance by insisting on immediate negotiations without sleep, and Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell puts pressure on both parties for a quick deal. Soon there are parallel negotiations going on with Labour, and the contrasts between Clegg's two suitors are fascinating; the Tories are hungry and devious, while Labour are half-hearted (sans Mandelson, a bit), unprepared and saddled by the fact that they simply haven't got the parliamentary arithmetic. Clegg's relationship with Gordon Brown is awkward, while Cameron runs rings round him; a Con-Lib coalition was inevitable, but a Blair clone like Clegg does not a good negotiator make and the script implies, not unfairly, that he was at least partly motivated by the prospect of power. He could have held out for a better deal, Brown leaving Number 10 prematurely notwithstanding. And, although a coalition of course makes it understandable that both sides have to compromise on their respective manifestos, that tuition fees pledge was different. It should have been inviolable.

Clegg's ultimatum to Brown- that he has to leave as PM for a coalition to happen- is both awkward and terrible, and Clegg is right to feel guilt. Brown deserved better, and Clegg cannot feel aggrieved if Labour were to make a similar demand in a week's time. Still, I have no doubt that all sides will be much better prepared. 

There's a nice cameo from Michael Crichton as an ancient Tory backbencher who remembers 1974, reminding us that Cameron too faces pressures, but the dramatic focus remains on a harried Clegg and a dignified Brown. We're reminded of how haphazard the final hours were, with Cameron becoming big PM, in the dark, before negotiations are complete. There will not, I suspect, be such chaos next time.

We end with the rose garden, and actual footage, bizarre in retrospect. Looking back the whole understanding of how coalitions were supposed to work looks extremely naive. I'm sure all parties are now much, much wiser.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Grimm: Marechaussee

"Back to reality!"

Even by the standards of this arc-heavy season, this episode feels big and pivotal. It's the Wesen Council! They've sent someone to kill Nick! They've threatened Monroe and Rosalie with dire consequences if they don't stop helping Nick immediately! All this will have consequences. And it's all wrapped up in a story of the week that also serves to further integrate Wu into the world of the Wesen. It's a bloody good episode, with a bloody good ending: in a hostage situation, Juliette saves herself from the baddie by, er, killing him with Hexenbeistliness. And then not telling Nick.

Speaking of Juliette, she, and we, learn more of Henrietta, herself a Hexenbeist, but apparently not so big and bad a one as Juliette. And apparently Juluette is like this for good. Oh dear. 

Sean, meanwhile, warns Nick and Hank of visitors from Vienna, but is himself paying a private dick to chase after Kelly Burkhart. Nick, meanwhile, let's his mother know,and gets in return a photo of the baby, and she's being all telekinetic and that.

What an episode! Must be a mid-season break coming up then...

Cube (1997)

"This may be hard for you to understand, but there is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It's a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan."

Wow. What a gloriously cynical concept- a giant Rubik's cube, with 17,526 cubes, some with deadly traps, into which people are placed from time to time for reasons seemingly lost in the mists of time. It's a superb concept and, as it happens, a brilliant film. Not bad for a film requiring so few sets.

Indeed, it's not just the superb concept, neat plot and gruesome deaths that make this film work, but the carefully orchestrated mix of characters. The limited sets makes this feel something like a stage play (not often said of films like this) which emphasises this.

We have, firstly, the contrast between the reactionary Quentin and the left-wing conspiracy theorist Holloway, alongside the cynical Worth, mathematical prodigy Leaven and autistic savant Kazan, the only survivor. The relationship between Quentin and Holloway, and their inevitable clash, is handled superbly. Quentin, of course, turns out to hide a murderous anger beneath his UKIP-friendly views, making him the definite villain. Holloway is too strident, so she dies. Worth is morally compromised, so he cannot be allowed to live. And Leaven must die because she's too clever by half. The only survivor is Kazan, seemingly the least equipped to survive.

Oh, and we get the big twist; their best chance of survival would have been to stay in the room they started in. It's a satisfying end to a well plotted and characterised film with a kick ass concept. Cube is brilliant. And that's another reference in The Cabin in the Woods that I now get. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Daredevil: Cut Man

"Word's getting around..."

There's a certain logic to the structure of this second episode. Last episode introduced the characters and the format; this time we get a slower episode in which an injured Matt Murdoch is treated by a kindly person who agrees both to help him and be exposited at, although it isn't anywhere near as crudely obvious as all that, and Claire is allowed to be mildly disapproving of some of his ways.

Said exposition is balanced by the inevitable flashback to Matt's childhood, the loss of his sight in a terrible accident involving bizarre chemicals, and his close relationship with his poor and put-upon father Jack, a decent man at the mercy of organised crime who dies because of his principles. Matt shares those principles but, unlike his father, he refuses to be a victim. Still, these are early days. He's making dangerous rookie mistakes, and even his outfit is a "work in progress". We also explore more of his powers in the form of his superhuman hearing.

Meanwhile, Karen and Foggy bond through the happy medium of an alcohol-fuelled all-nighter. And who's that Battlin' Jack is fighting in flashback? Why, it's "Crusher" Creel, the Absorbing Man, so recently seen in Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.

All this is still just set-up, but it's very good indeed.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Daredevil: Into the Ring

I'm "I'm seeking forgiveness for what I am about to do..."

Daredevil was never a title I followed much as n my comics reading days, although I followed Ann Nocenti'scrun for a bit in the early '90s. I have, though, read Frank Miller's iconic work on the title and, much as Miller's star may have since fallen with his increasingly apparent right-wing obsessions and his inability to move beyond what Alan Moore has called "hard-boiled", his run on Daredevil is truly great and possibly the highlight of his career.

It's good, then, to see that Drew Goddard's 13 episode season, released all at once on Netflix, haas retained the mood and approach of Miller's work. This episode is a perfect introduction to a very likeable Matt Murdoch and Foggy through the eyes of a desperate Karen Page, but also an introduction to a world of incredible darkness. Hell's Kitchen is a realm of crime, despair and entropy where hope and goodness are stamped out by cruel, amoral cynicism. Corruption and conspiracy conspire against the innocent and the good. And yet, amazing just all this, like Philip Marlowe, stands Matt Murdoch, starting out as a vigilante but not quite Daredevil yet.

(Intetsstingly, dialogue shows him to have a more robust attitude to crime and the law than Foggy. Is this setting something up?)

We're introduced, significantly, to Matt's father Battlin' Jack, a huge influence in his life and no doubt to appear in many more flashbacks. There's only a slight reference to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe,  as it's inferred that the destruction of New York in The Avengers afforded the opportunities now available to organised crime.

The pivotal scenes, I think, are of Karen staying with Matt. On the one hand it illustrates Matt's blindness- he never uses the light switches- and on the other it helps the two of them to bond. We are also introduced to Matt's ability to tell if someone is lying by their heartbeat. And towards the end we see him as a mysterious hero in black, fighting the bad guys in the dark and the pouring rain. 

We end with Karen being hired by Matt and Foggy, and the corruption behind her persecution is out in the open. Yet only the foot soldiers are punished; those truly behind it are untouched. We end with a boy being kidnapped by a gang; crime and cruelty go on, and Matt has a Sisyphean task.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Scooby-Doo (2002)

"I'm so over this damsel in distress nonsense."

Let's admit it: a live action Scooby-Doo film was never on my peoples' wish list, especially not one starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, an actress who has loads of natural talent but, sadly, is rather prone to phoning in her performance, as she has done ever since halfway through Buffy. This is no exception but, annoyingly, she has just enough natural talent to pull it off. Just. Still, we have the consolation that this film is rather excellent, mainly due to a splendid script from James Gunn, now famous for helming Guardians of the Galaxy.

This film is great because it's funny, and it's funny because it nods and winks,in a delightfully metatextual way, at all those drunken/stoned conversations about Scooby-Doo that we all had as students. You know, the ones about how Shaggy was a massive stoner who always has the munchies. I mean, he's so stoned he thinks his dog can talk. And that's the only reason why this film gives us a little snippet of Pass the Dutchie

There is also, of course, the spectacle of seeing cartoonish running in live action an thus incredibly expensive. And the deconstruction of the gang's personalities- Fred is vain, Daphne superficial and Velma the only clever one and, bizarrely, not gay. And Rowan Atkinson. Rowan Atkinson is always a good thing.  

Best of all, though, is the twist with Scrappy. This is a witty and enjoyable bit of metatextual fun and a cut above most similar films.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: One of Us

"We want SHIELD exposed for its barbaric crimes against exceptional humanity!"

This episode is, obviously, superb. It's also getting at the series' big question at the moment; yes, Cal wants revenge on Coulson. But he also has an agenda, as per the above quote; is SHIELD's treatment of duper humans right? He is most obviously worried about his daughter, of course, and his fears may be confirmed a little as Coulson faces the recommendation to remove Skye,now on the creepy-sounding "gifted index" from active duty. Will Coulson go along with recommendations or will he go his own way again? His idiosyncratic decision making is really being foregrounded as we (and Hunter) end the episode by learning that Bobbi and Mack are secretly working for a rival "SHIELD".

Interesting that we get our first supervillain team in this context. Cal brings together a gang of misfits in an episode whose title recalls Tod Browning's Freaks. With the exception of Angar the Screamer, though, they aren't really villains known to us old followers of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. 

In other news, we meet May's curiously well-adjusted ex-husband Andrew Garner as she gains a little hinterland. Fitz and Simmons slowly start to rebuild their relationship and Skye is slowly learning to control her powers. We get a glimpse into Coulson's Wisconsin upbringing.  And, interestingly, Simmons proposes to  Coulson that there should be two categories of superhumans- "enhanced" and what sounds awfully like Mutants, Sony notwithstanding.

At the end of it all, though, Cal ends up in the clutches of Gordon, our mysterious and eyeless teleporting Inhuman. Sooner or later we will find out what he's up to.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Grimm: Death Us Do Part

"What kind of police are you?"

This begins like an episode of Most Haunted mixed with The Blair Witch Project. It ends as one of the most brilliant episodes to date. The story-of-the-week is both devilishly clever- a ghost story that turns out to really be a Wesen is predicable enough, but the circumstances, and the identity of the killer, are a genuine surprise through some clever storytelling. Best of all, it's the perfect case with which to show Wu now being fully involved in the investigations, Wesen and all.

Meanwhile, Juliette continues to hide her Hexenbeistliness from Nick, causing no little awkwardness between them. This can only get more awkward, as she had confided in Sean of all people. Sean refers us to the mysterious Henrietta, of whom we know little for now. But it is Sean who gives us the cliffhanger; he dreams of being shot, but wakes up to some real blood...

Grimm is very good at the moment, but this is genuinely exceptional.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Who You Really Are

"Skye is my friend. That's different!"

A game-changer of an episode, but aren't they all these days? We meet Sif again, we meet an actual Kree, and we get the backstory behind the Kree genetic engineering of humans that created what we're not calling the Inhumans- although it seems the Kree now want to "put down" the results of those experiments. Including Skye.

Oh, and, in the midst of all this, Skye is outed as having earthquake superpowers, and this leads to friction between Fitz and Simmons which will, no doubt, go on for a while. It's an eventful and entertaining episode.

Other stuff: Coulson offers Hunter a permanent post with SHIELD. There is still obvious friction between Coulson and a disapproving Mack. The Kree home works of Hala gets a mention! We get a glimpse of Bifrost, last seen on the big screen. 

But we get quite an ending; Hunter confronts Mack over whatever he and Bobbi are plotting. And gets knocked unconscious...

Grimm: Tribunal

"Oh no! I prematured again!"

Last episode was the set-up. This is where it all kicks off in the parallel storylines of Monroe being tried for his life by a bunch of Nazis while Wu gradually comes to terms with the fact that the world is not what he thought it was.

We begin light-heartedly, as an enthusiastic and magnificent Wu is shown how to handle a Woge via the harmless medium of Bud, who is responsible fur the classic line up there. Sadly, the poor nervous chap is swiftly kidnapped by the Wesenrein and forced to testify against Monroe, who would be in a lot of trouble if only the viewers were not all confident of his last minute rescue (although Mrs Llamastrangler wasn't!). So it proves to play out, but not without a magnificent speech from Monroe. Silas Weir Mitchell is fantastic here.

In parallel to all this, Juliette learns that not all Hexenbeists are born, which seems to be somewhat relevant other own situation. We also get clarity on the two types of Woge, only one of which is visible to those of us who are not Grimms.

The ending is dramatic and brilliant as the Nazis are taken out the hard way. Hank gets to see his captain in Wesen form, while Monroe and Rosalie, fittingly, get to personally kill the Grand Wizard. It's an awesome conclusion, followed by one o our gang's trademark wine-fuelled dinner parties and a police escort for Monroe and Tosslie as they head off to their Hawaiian honeymoon.

And then Juliette decides to talk about the fact that she now send to be a Hexenbeist- to Sean. This won't end well...

Brilliant. Just brilliant. Again.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

"You gave me life, and then you left me to die."

This is a very different cinematic version of Frankenstein. The point is not that it follows the broad outline of Mary Shelley's novel- which, not splitting hairs, it more or less does, including the Arctic bits- but that it is quite self-consciously made as part of a different genre. This doesn't have the trappings of a horror film and, unlike every other version I've seen, isn't a melodrama. Instead, this is presented simply as an adaptation of s classic novel, owing more to Merchant Ivory than to James Whale or Terence Fisher. The very presence of Helena Bonham Carter would signify that, we're it not for the fact that she would go on to meet Tim Burton.

Obviously, this means a focus on scientific ethics. But Kenneth Branagh's take on the themes of the novel seems to emphasise the Gothic, and not just in terms of mood; he includes the prominent lecture room scene in which Frankenstein stands up for an older, "philosophical" approach to science, and the controversial Professor Waldman (played by John Cleese in an entirely serious role) stands for an older, more alchemical tradition. This makes the monster, in a sense, a creation of the knowledge of a dark past- true Gothic.

It's also worth pondering Branagh's take on the links to Romanticism too, what with the original author being married to a certain writer of Ozymandias (and the thematically relevant Prometheus  Unbound) but not really in tune with the movement. Frankenstein here seems to be no fan of rationalism, yet he is hardly a sympathetic figure.

The film works well enough; Bonham Carter is excellent in the film's (and novel's) only significant female role from the pen of a daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft. Branagh is competent although, outside classical parts, he is not the most charismatic of actors; next to Colin Clive and Peter Cushing his take on the character is not overly memorable. Robert De Niro is superb as always. But there's a reason why film versions of Frankenstein lend themselves towards melodrama. This is a good film but not a great one, simply because the source material doesn't really lend itself to a straight adaptation.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrecked

"It was like a meat party in my mouth!"

This episode is quite a shock. It's not as though Willow's journey to rock bottom hasn't been gradual, but to see her reduced to such uncharacteristic junkie behaviour is a huge shock. I mean, this is Willow.

I still think the metaphor of magic for drugs is a little awkward, but it's very well executed (I love the trippy direction of the "hit", and the obvious metaphor of her giving her body for drugs is suitably creepy) and a fairly straightforward dramatisation of someone reaching rock bottom and coming to terms with her addiction. No more magic for Willow, then. Ever.

Buffy, meanwhile, is dealing with her own addiction to meaningless sex with Spike; he's "just convenient". She begins the episode waking up in a destroyed house and full of a self-disgust that will remain for as long as she continues to use him for sex. And, while Buffy is distracted, and putting her energies into hiding this from her friends, the Scooby gang are divided, dysfunctional and much less effective. They have never looked more vulnerable.

And then there's Tara, newly single Anderson stuttering again without the lift that being with Willow gives her, especially upon seeing Willow with Amy, for all she knows a potential new girlfriend. 

Willow finally hits rock bottom, complete with evil black eyeballs, putting Dawn in terrible danger and needing to be rescued by Buffy, who instantly knows what Willow has done. Buffy giving Willow the cold shoulder here, and Dawn then slapping her, is a powerful and devastating moment. And I should take this opportunity to praise the performance of Alyson Hannigan, the awesomeness of which I too often take for granted. She, far more so than Sarah Michelle Gellar, is the star of the show here and always.

At the end we see the real psychological cause of Willow's problems; she still sees herself as the nerd she was and desperately needs to be "Super Willow". Poor girl. She has no idea how awesome she is.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Angel: Lullaby

"There will be no birth. Only death!"

An interesting episode this, with very lasting effects which pull Angel very nicely away from Buffy and into being its own thing. On the one level, Angel is now father to a baby boy and Darla is dead, fulfilling the above prophecy. But most interesting is the reaction of Holtz to all this, now knowing (courtesy of Lilah and a little light torture) that Angel has a soul. He may rave at Sahjahn for his Satanic layers of duplicity but, it seems, Holtz will not kill Angel but still has every intention of exacting his revenge through more insidious and psychological means.

It's all very well structured dramatically, with the revelation in flashback that Holtz,  back in the age of wigs and sentimentality, had to kill his own vampire daughter by means of sunlight. This sort of thing makes the episode impressive enough to outweigh the suspiciously TV nature of Darla's labour, which bears very little relation to Mrs Llamastrangler's experiences in February this year. Still,it's moving to realise how her love for the baby, her new-found behaviour, all stem from the baby "infecting" her. She's terrified that, after the birth, she will no longer love the baby and will want to drink it's blood. It's a stark reminder of what vampirism means. Her staking herself to save the baby us a fitting resolution.

In short... Angel: still on fire.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Grimm: Wesenrein

"I'm gonna looove watching you die!"

I'm genuinely at a loss as to what the subtext is here; obviously the Wesenrein are Neo-Nazis and their objection is to "miscegenation", but these are ideas that have no serious currency in 2015. It isn't that extreme racists don't exist, but only in a nihilistic sort of way. So I'm assuming there must be another subtext, possibly against a more insidious form of racism that's more worth discussing. But I can't see it.

Aside from Monroe's plight, though, this is where Wu finds out about Wesen, the reason behind Portland's weirdness, and the fact that he's actually been perfectly sane all the time. He seems to take it well, but there's an edge to Reggie Lee's performance that suggests a kind of suppressed unease. Wu will do fine for a few episodes, I think, but in the long run this will not end well. Certainly there's a sense of simmering resentment at Nick and Hank for lying to him for so long. And for that you can't really blame him. I'm a little worried about his extra layer of shock that the Captain is in on it.

Much of the rest of the episode is simply set-up, showing how nasty the Wesenrein are and how much trouble Monroe is in; this will pay off next episode, when Monroe will be "tried" and possibly impaled, like his poor cell-mate. So, good episode, but I'll leave it until next time to say more.

In other news, Juliette frets about how people will react to her new-found Hexenbeistliness. Frets to the point of a vivid dream sequence.

Oh, and Adalind and Prince Viktor are off to Portland? Good. About time they stopped trying to be dramatic in their little narrative cul-de-sac in Vienna and actually did something.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Aftershocks

"There's something wrong with me."

"No, you're just different now."

At last Agents of SHIELD is back. It's been a long wait since that cliffhanger, and it's great to see both some things getting resolved (although further mysteries also arise) and lots of geeky Marvel stuff to satisfy fanboys like me. But, well, this episode seems a bit forced, as though it only exists to move or threads forward for the next episode at times. When not geeking out o must admit that it's not the best possible episode to return to.

Time has passed. There's a flashback to 1983, Skye's mum (Dichen Lachman!) and that eyeless Inhuman from last episode who, it seems, can teleport, is called Gordon and is a little distressed, having just gone through the Terrigen must. There are obvious parallels with Skye and Raina in the present day.

We are introduced to another load of senior HYDRA personnel, most of whom due through Coulson's machinations but one of whom is played by Henry Goodman. Coulson wants revenge; Trip's death hurts. Trip was a model agent, burn to join SHIELD and a calm, competent presence in a team that suddenly looks alarming night divided, especially with Bobbi and an awesome visually angry Mack planning something in secret. Mack appears damaged, remembering all tje things he did while mind control, and only Fitz seems to understand. 

There was an earthquake at the end of the last episode which we, the audience, know to have been caused by Skye (Quake). She can't hide her newly acquired powers for long, as the Earth shakes when she's agitated. Yet it's uncertain how the team would treat her. Especially with Simmons mouthing off about how deadly people with superpowers are. We reach the point where Fitz has to hide her true test results to keep Skye's secret, illustrating what could grow to be an important rift between the respective halves of Fitz-Simmons.

Incidentally, if Skye is Quake, who's Raina, with all those spines? I'm sure we will find out. And so will Gordon, seeing as he has her and all.

Sod it. In spite of my earlier criticisms, this season continues to be bloody good.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Grimm: Chupacabra

"This is not the time."

"No, it never is."

It was, of course, inevitable that Grimm would do an episode about the Chupacabra, and equally inevitable that said beast from latter day mythology would turn out to be a Wesen, although recent episodes have seemed to push the concept of supernatural threats not necessarily being Wesen. It's a nice twist, though, that Diego, the Wesen in question, should turn out to be an infection, caught in Puerto Rico. And we end with a nice bit of melodrama, reminiscent of Doctor Who's The Caves of Androzani, in which Diego refuses the only existing dose of the cure and dies to save his beloved.

But what of the metaplot? Well, Rosalie receives a threatening phone call from the Wesenrein, which makes Monroe exceedingly angry. It becomes increasingly untenable not to let Wu into the secret of what lies behind all this Portland weirdness. Meanwhile, in Austria, Prince Viktor and Adalind resolve to research Kelly Burkhart, knowing she had the child. Not only that, but Sean also tells the Wesen resistance that Kelly has the baby, in a clandestine meeting with an agent late at night. Much will surely come of all these things.

For now, though, it's all about Wu, who again sees a Wesen and, again, is troubled, ending up drunk and spending the night in a cell. Things can't go on like this. Oh, and something's still up with Juliette. Just to top it all, though, it's the night before Monroe's and Rosalie's honeymoon, and their olive bodyguard is not only Wesen but Wesenrein.

Topping even this, incredibly, is yet another cliffhanger: Juliette is a Hexenbeist. So much going on, and it isn't even the half season cliffhanger yet. I'll say it again: this season is on fire.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Cucumber: Episode 8

"Right, I'm off for a wank."

And so it ends, with a slow-paced, philosophical and reflective episode to tie things up. And I'll begin with the ending; Henry and Freddie meet for a chat six years later, and Henry (no longer a virgin, although penetration will never be his favourite sexual pastime) finally lets slip the central fact about his character; he still needs to come to terms with being gay. Freddie's generation may be utterly relaxed about sexual orientation, but Henry's generation were the pioneers in the long march from AIDS and Section 28 towards Equal Marriage a quarter century later. He's young enough to have tasted of the fruits of equality but old enough to remember when gay people had no rights at all. Unlike Freddie, Henry sees these rights as precarious, which probably has a lot to do with why he wouldn't marry Lance. And he could be right. Time will tell. Nevertheless, all of Genry's behaviours over the series is interesting to consider in this light, which is why the television grammar of a cliffhanger ending clicks in as soon as Henry says  "Being gay."

Before this, though, we have a whole episode in which Henry's little commune slowly dissolves, hippy fantasies slowly punctured by real life, and his mid-life crisis ends as, with Cliff's assistance and in the episode's most amusing scene, he not only gets his job back but gets a promotion. It's all brilliantly structured, both as an episode and, we can now finally say, as a whole series.

We begin, again, with our usual opening motif of Henry in the supermarket, a sign of renewed normality at first. Yet this time he stalks a fellow shopper whom he fancies, following him all the way to... his wife. This sort of thing is, of course, a universal part of being gay.

The most dramatic part of a quiet episode, and very much harking back to last week, is where Veronica, instinctively disgusted with his Bohemian lifestyle, accuses Henry of being responsible for Lance's death and re-opens a very tender wound. Yes, this is cruel of her, but it stings all the more because she's such a convincing Everywoman. Both Vincent Franklin and Anjli Mohindra are extraordinary here. This is an important prelude to the silent and tense scenes as Henry waits for the verdict on Daniel, which is guilty in spite of everyone's fears.

We end with a nice coda, with everything and everyone being brought up to date in a quiet chat between Henry and Freddie. It's a low key end, but appropriately so. RTD is s master of how to balance high drama with calm. Indeed, on the evidence of these eight episodes, he has a good claim to be the best dramatist currently working in British TV. Cucumber is right up there with the likes of Edge of Darkness and The Boys from the Black Stuff.