Alex’s Halloween Countdown, Day 4

14 Oct

Today, I’ve decided to do the first half of my Fall TV Roundup for the fourth installment of my Halloween Countdown, focusing exclusively on the horror & sci-fi shows I watch. As you know, I love me some sci-fi/horror. Probably don’t even need to say this, but SPOILER ALERT.

Fall TV Roundup, Part I-
Horror & Sci-Fi

Caprica

Caprica’s mid-season finale was incredible, ending in an exciting cliffhanger and a great shot of Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), getting a phone call about either his dead wife, and/or dead robot/avatar of his daughter. Unfortunately, the first two episodes of the season’s belated second half fail to live up to the promise of that finale. Ask any fan what they were most excited to see in the new episodes and it would be Zoe. As she’s the crux of the series, and arguably its protagonist, viewers were understandably eager to learn of her fate. Two episodes in, and we have still only gotten a glimpse of her. Meanwhile, we’re treated to a bizarre exposé of the STO leadership on Gemenon, an incredibly contrived explanation for how Amanda Graystone is still alive, and a very unsatisfying resolution to the Clarice/Barnabus conflict. The Soldiers of the One were basically revealed to be the Roman Senate- a bunch of weirdos in extravagant robes, who like to kill dissenters via mass stabbing. The leader of the whole organization is a woman in her late 30s/early 40s (which seems odd) known only as “Mother,” (hadn’t we gotten over that with LOST’s “Across the Sea?”), who comes off as a weird, nerdy nun, mumbling and quivering behind dorky glasses that don’t exactly scream “leadership.”

The first episode ended with an awesome tease revealing the Zoe avatar to be alive and well in the virtual world’s “New Cap CIty,” thus implying that the 2nd episode would focus on the first Cylon. Instead, Zoe was completely absent from this week’s installment, and we were instead treated to more of Amanda Graystone moping around. Having her still be alive is exactly the kind of piss-poor twist TV writers should avoid. Putting aside the fact that I don’t like her and the character is the weakest part of the show, making the audience think she’s dead at the end of the finale only to go “guess what! PSYCHE!!!!

Next week promises to delve into the V-World and what Zoe and Tamara are up to, so hopefully the series will regain its previous glory. My theory: Daniel’s “deceased loved one avatars” will somehow combine with Vergis’ battlebots, thus creating everyone’s favorite toasters: the Cylons.

Dexter

Season 4 of Dexter is generally considered to be its best year since the first, ending in the shocking murder of Rita. This suggested a lot of promise for Season 5, as did the awesome trailer released earlier last month. The premiere did live up to that promise, more or less, though the last two episodes fell flat and found the show treading familiar territory. The premiere, which picked up right where last year’s finale left off, was one of Dexter’s more emotional episodes. Watching Dexter feebly try to figure out how to tell Astor and Cody that their mother is dead, ultimately going with a blunt “A man came into the house and murdered your mother,” was heartbreaking. To be honest though, I was a little disappointed with the tease the episode gave near its end, when Dexter briefly considers abandoning his friends and family and disappearing altogether. I was kind of excited for a “Dexter on the run” season, and it felt sort of cheap to have him just come crawling back, especially since Ghost Harry’s argument that Dexter needs the kids as much as they need him was essentially rendered moot in the next episode when Astor and Cody left to live with their grandparents. It was another example of how constraints like actors’ contracts and meddling networks still seem to hamper a show’s creativity. In my opinion, taking a risk and essentially changing your show’s entire format always trumps keeping it the same. For example, it’s working for Weeds right now, which saw its cast stripped down to just the Botwins and Doug, and the “single mom drug dealer” format replaced by an “on the run from the law” storyline.

If Dexter kept its principals and its location but became more serialized I would be satisfied. But to have two entire episodes devoted to Dexter stalking some scumbag of the week, plus a completely uninteresting subplot about a Venezuelan death cult, one that’s likely to persist for the entire year, feels like taking strides backward rather than forward. Thankfully, the much hyped-about reveal of Julia Stiles at the end of episode 3, promises for a change of pace. I’m also excited by how close Dexter is now to being exposed. Quinn is about three steps away from uncovering Dexter as the Bay Harbor Butcher. Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the same convenient fate as Doakes.

The Event

NBC hyped this freshman drama as the “next LOST,” and while there is some truth to that- it’s completely serialized, has a rich mythology and enumerable mysteries- it’s unique and intriguing pilot still didn’t manage to replicate the wonder of LOST’s premiere. But that’s okay, because the world doesn’t need the “next LOST“; all the networks already tried that back in 2006- read: HeroesSurface, Invasion, Threshold- and with the exception of the former, none were a success. While The Event doesn’t share LOST’s incredible score or aura of freshness, its first two episodes showed promise, as it seemed it was learning from the mistakes LOST made. While episodes three and four fell a little flat, the show’s pace has still not relented. It moves at breakneck speed, pausing only briefly for character-centric flashbacks. Unlike LOST, these flashbacks vary in character and setting, i.e. Blair Underwood and Jason Ritter may both have flashbacks in the same episode, and they may take place at completely different points in the past.

The pilot was a blast- it was gripping, teased at several key mysteries but didn’t reveal too much, and ended with a genuinely surprising and exciting cliffhanger. The follow-up, which revealed the Mt. Inastranka prisoners to be of otherworldy origin, proved that the show wouldn’t necessarily tease the audience with inane mysteries for six years. Though, truth be told, all we know about the prisoners is that they crash-landed in a mysterious craft circa the 1940s, have minute differences from us in their DNA, and seem to possess special powers. What their true origin is (alternate reality, the future, another planet) is likely to be a mystery for at least the entire first season, though their agenda seems tied to the titular “event.” Speaking of which, the title is a little silly, and reminds me of that part in The Happening trailer where Alan Ruck says “It appears that an event is happening.” And while I appreciate the writers’ promise that what “the Event” is will be revealed before the end of the first season, one has to wonder if that will make the title seem even more ridiculous.

Regardless, I’m still interested enough to keep watching, though this week’s long con plot with Ritter’s girlfriend was less than stellar. I do think critics are being a little harsh. It seems whenever a show starts to dip in ratings critics and analysts blame it on the show (which can of course be the case) rather than the idiocy of the American public (more often the case). Here’s hoping it picks up from its slump and continues to innovate the dramatic television scene.

Fringe

Fringe took a big risk splitting its first few episodes between Earth-One and Earth-Two, but it’s one that’s paying off in spades. Fans of LOST often complained when the show split its cast, like in Season 3′s polar bear cage debacle, plus the first half of Season 5, but because Fringe deals with an alternate reality, we do get to see all of our principals in each episode (excluding Peter), even if it’s actually their doppelgängers. But the whole idea of the doubles is very cool, because we get to compare and contrast our versions of the characters with their Earth-Two incarnations. For example, Fauxlivia does seem to possess some of Olivia’s pathos, but is much cockier and humorous, as well as ruthless. In other words, she’s not as nice. There’s also physical differences between the two: Olivia has a photographic memory, Fauxlivia doesn’t but is a sharpshooter. Walternate is noticeably more sinister than Walter, perhaps even evil, though it’s ambiguous as to whether he was born that way or whether the kidnapping of his only son helped to turn his heart into a frigid lump of coal. Alt-Broyles and Alt-Charlie are pretty similar to their originals, and Alt-Astrid is essentially a human computer, who the Alt-Fringe team often call upon to make probability calculations that could assist them in their missions. There’s also two characters in Fauxlivia’s life that our Olivia simply doesn’t know, or who may not even exist at all in our universe. This helps the audience suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride, because thinking about the show’s concept of multiple realities for even a single second makes my mind want to explode.

The plot thread where Walternate uses pseudo-science to make Olivia think she’s actually Fauxlivia was a bit of a cheat to get her to stay in the alternate reality, but the show’s been milking it and it hasn’t bothered me. Overall, the show’s done a very good job of combining its more serialized, or “mytharc” episodes as The X-Files would call it, with its “monster of the week” episodes. It’s also exciting to learn a little bit more about Earth-Two each week, like last episode, when we discovered that it experiences random drops in air quality, forcing citizens to carry emergency breathing apparatuses at all times. Tonight’s episode, cleverly entitled “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?” is bound to be a awesome.


Proceed to Day 5

Leave a Reply