This week, a look at fatherly turmoil in DEXTER, heady midgets in FRINGE, Alien answers in THE EVENT, abdominal fisting in BOARDWALK EMPIRE, Greedo shoots first theories in STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, and a subpar reality in SCREAM QUEENS.
DEXTER (Ep. 50 “Hello, Bandit”) The greatest line of “Hello, Bandit” came during Dexter’s self narration when he explained, “The better killer I am, the better father.” This sums up the episode. Tormented by his responsibilities as a now single father, Dexter is torn between making room for his Dark Passenger or a car seat. He explains that he has no time for the other six stages of grief, just anger. When renting a moving van, Dex hones in on a small stain of blood in one of the trucks. Intrigued, he rents the van and holds an impromptu blood examination in the middle of the night, his baby son smiling cockeyed at the glowing fluorescent blood splatter on the trucks door. Dexter turns his sons intrigue into a wonderful little fairy tale about a mean ogre, blunt force trauma, and a victimized princess on her hands and knees. If only I was as good a father as Dexter. Turns out there is another serial killer in Miami. Serial Killers must enjoy sun, salsa music, and Cuban food, because goddamn is there a lot of Serial killers in Miami. This is Season 5 of Dexter, and Serial Killer number 3. Not to complain, I just find it funny. Anyways, this new killer is an Animal Control agent who kills women, collecting a lock of their hair before dumping them in a waste barrel in the middle of a Florida swamp. Dexter has a new obsession. There appears to be another killer on the loose as well, a Santa Muerta (Saint Death) cult decapitating people and cutting out their tongues. Yikes Miami! Will Smith never sang about this side of your city. The developments of LaGuerta, Batista, Deb, and Quinn all seemed like a bit of a pointless departure from Dexter’s intense storyline. Sure, they’re important characters, but right now I’m more keen on following Dexter further down his rabbit hole. Quinn however, is coming dangerously close to discovering that Kyle Butler is really Dexter Morgan. The episode ended with the inevitable departure of Aster and Cody. Rita’s kids went to Orlando to live with Rita’s parents, so now its just Dexter and little Harrison, that poor blood stained tabula rasa that will inevitably shape and be shaped by his killer father. Down, down, down, the rabbit hole we go.
FRINGE (Ep. 45 “The Box”) At this point in the alternate universe arc, I figured Fringe would return from time to time back to its original case by case storytelling. I was right and wrong at the same time. This week’s episode took place in the prime universe, and began with the strange occurrence format on which Fringe was founded. Three men dig up an alien looking metallic box, which looks like HR Giger himself created it. Upon opening the box, two of the men, and their hostages go into a trance, their eyes rolled back and noses bleeding out. Thinking this to be either a random case, or part of the pattern, I figured the episode would focus on Fauxlivia’s attempts to fit into her new surroundings. Actually, it was an episode about Fauxlivia being able to manipulate her surroundings. Season 2 antagonist Thomas Newton returns, and we learn that although he’s been working in the prime universe for so many years, he has to answer to Fauxlivia who’s been there less than a week. This is sure to cause some interesting tension later in the season. I wondered if Fauxlivia would show a compassionate side for the prime universe. Wonder be gone! When confronted with the survivor of the opening incident, she swiftly shoots him in the head, and manages to seduce Peter in an attempt to keep his attention away from the bloody scene. She’s cold, and calculated. Fauxlivia works with Peter and Walter to solve the case, which led to an awesome encounter in a subway tunnel. Newton leaves the box on a bench and a little person (Eric the Midget) opens it, leading the Fringe team to intervene. The scene played out like a twisted David Lynch movie. Peter walks into the tunnel, his ears humming, and sees a large dead rat on the tracks. Shining his flashlight along the wall, he sees the little man holding the box, his eyes rolled back in his head. Waiting for the little man to say “Garmanbozia,” I was shocked as his head unexpectedly exploded into a bloody mess. DAMN! Peter recognized the box as part of the doomsday machine Walternate wanted him to build in the alternate universe. Fauxlivia’s mission is revealed; Walternate wants Peter to build the machine on the other side. This is really the big mystery of the season. What is this device? As shocking as the head explosion scene was, I was even more surprised at the gift Walter receives at the reading of William Bell’s will. Walter is given sole ownership of Massive Dynamic, along with a note that simply said, “Don’t be afraid to cross the line.” Is that like crossing the streams? One thing is for certain, any limits Walter once had are now gone, and the seasons sure to wind into a fury of insanity.
THE EVENT (Ep. 2 “To Keep Us Safe”) Lost has left me prejudicial of the serialized mystery genre. God I loved that show. I still do, but not without a feeling of total betrayal at that terrible finale. The Event promises to avoid the shortcomings of Lost, but here at the beginning of episode two I couldn’t help but wonder if that promise was a hollow ploy for viewers. The pilot was decent enough, but left a load of unanswered questions in the end. To my surprise, this week’s episode quickly answered quite a few of those questions. The opening scene is set in the Arizona desert, cleverly filmed to make us question if this is actually another planet we are looking at. There’s no doubt at this point that most people suspect the mysterious prisoners to be aliens, but we don’t expect to actually find out for quite some time. That’s the thing with this genre, we anticipate long waits for small answers, and impatience leads to a lapse in viewership. The big question at the end of the pilot was, where has the plane gone? In the opening, it crash-lands in that Arizona desert and Sean Walker quickly flees the scene, moments before the other passengers are killed. Well, that question was answered; I guess now the big secret is how it disappeared in the first place. The episode moves back and forth in an annoying and somewhat insulting narrative style. Moving back weeks, days, decades, the writers try to weave a complex story of a long con, and bore the hell out of us viewers in the process. At one point, a flashback takes us to the first meeting between Walker and his girlfriend. What the hell was the point of this scene? It’s already been established that they are in love, it doesn’t need to be shown again and again, we get it. The cover-up scenes between the President and CIA are equally annoying. It’s been established already, move on please. To my surprise, halfway through the episode it is revealed that the prisoners are indeed aliens. They are Aliens with only a 1% difference from human DNA. And yes, we are even told that they are responsible for the plane’s disappearance, and shown sleeper cell aliens who are blended in with other humans. The mysteries I thought would take us at least through an entire season were all answered in this one episode. The only big questions left are; what the Aliens motivations are, who killed the plane passengers and why? The big question I have is, has this aliens among us genre been overplayed on these kinds of shows? Maybe The Event does set out to answer more questions than it presents, but with such an odd and annoying structure to it, I predict it will mysteriously disappear into a void much like that plane.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE – (Ep. 3 “Broadway Limited”) Last week’s episode ended with one of the victims of Jimmy and Al Capone’s botched heist coming back from the dead. Well, it turns out he was never dead to begin with, and “Broadway Limited” begins by rushing the dying man into a hospital, a gaping hole in his overweight gut. News of the man’s arrival sparks a contest of wits between Nucky’s police chief brother Eli and Federal Prohibition Agent Val Alden. Eli arrives first, his attempt to smother the man interrupted by Agent Van Alden’s arrival soon after. Eli’s ruthlessness is foreseen. At this point in the series I expect the lawless vengeance and violence from Nucky and his criminal elements. Agent Van Alden on the other hand, is someone I have come to understand as intensely dedicated to his job, righteous, pious even. I expect him to work within the strict confines of the law, a model of efficient lawfulness. Goddamn am I bad judge of character. Van Alden fabricates a federal warrant to take the man into his own custody. When the man refuses to cooperate, spouting flagrant Yiddish insults at the agent, Van Alden thrusts his fist into his gaping abdominal wound, pulling at his intestines and infected sore with wide-eyed fervor. The man fingers Jimmy before dying, and Van Alden unleashes a sermon on evil as his last rites. Nucky finds out and banishes Jimmy from Atlantic City. I assume the banishment is more for Jimmy’s well being than Nucky’s, as we are shown over and over again that Nucky is actually a compassionate man with a dark business sense. The rest of the episode followed Nucky’s Ying and his Yang. The wholesome Margaret Schroeder is the polar opposite to Nucky’s immature, sexpot girlfriend Lucy. These women are the physical representation of Nucky’s inner conflict. The other major development of the series was the introduction of Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams AKA Omar from The Wire), a Black gangster Nucky hires to water-down his booze. At one point Chalky calls Nucky a Motherfucker, as Nucky confusedly asks what the hell that phrase means. The origins of the word are steeped in slavery and inadvertent incest, and actually make one think twice about using the word when you hear its horrifying origins. The history of racism and cultures is richly explored in Boardwalk Empire, just one of the elements I really dig about this series. My only qualm remains the flashes to the NY gangsters, which I find confusing and out of place when presented in the middle of an episode. Single qualm aside, who doesn’t love this breed of authenticity, depth, violence, nudity, foul language, and subtext that only Terrence Winter and HBO can deliver?
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (Ep. 48 “Sphere Of Influence”) Yet another planet is in peril, as the Trade Federation blockaded Pantora this week. Political posturing took over for the second week in a row, during a season, which seems committed to exploring the inner workings of politics and war in the vast Star Wars universe. In a move of aggression, the Separatist backed Trade Federation hires Greedo to kidnap the Pantoran Chairman’s daughters. You heard right, Greedo returns from the grave for a prequel to his exploits as Jabba the Hutt’s smarmy bounty hunter. The great thing is, this is the backstabbing, greedy, cowardly version of Greedo us original Star Wars fans grew up with. This was certainly not the Greedo hat would shoot first, but rather a slimy gutless patsy. Jabba also makes an appearance in the episode, showing his unforeseen compassionate side as a sympathetic father with his small slug-like baby by his side. Overall, the trip down Greedo lane was a fun moment in an otherwise uneventful episode.
SCREAM QUEENS (Ep. 208) I really can’t say I’m a fan of Scream Queens. In fact, reality TV in general leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. In reality, I mean the reality you and I live in, there are no scripted moments or producers pushing us to do one thing or another. On reality TV, the majority of the moments we see are totally contrived. Scream Queens is no different. Sure, there were some strong moments in the season, but overall it was just another less-than-memorable product of the VH1 reality TV factory. This week’s finale began with three remaining girls vying for a role in Saw-3D. The opening challenge was a pretty vigorous undertaking, a single shot scene where the girls were stalked then chased through a playground. It was a smart challenge, testing almost every element the girls were given throughout the season. To go from happy, to nervous, to terrified, then chased to the point of fighting back and taking charge was a roller-coaster challenge of emotion and technical accuracy. In the end Christine was cut, leaving Gabby and Jessica to endure one final challenge towards that “groundbreaking” role in Saw 32, I mean 3D. The rest of the episode was a Saw love fest. I can’t tell you how much I hate the Saw movies. The first one is, eh, ok at best, but the rest are terrible. I don’t see how these things continue to make money. Well, of course, the girls are shown a series of Saw clips and asked to reenact a scene from the original movie as their final challenge, a pretty weak final if you ask me. The director for the challenge was Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saw 2-4, Mother’s Day (remake), and Repo the Genetic Opera. UGH! You thought I disliked Saw, don’t even get me started on Repo, that movie is the WORST! The girls were both just ok, and in the end Gabby won the title of Scream Queen. Now she gets to go on to play a small role in a sure-to-be terrible film that will no doubt take an already gimmicky series of films, and further push them over the top with the exploitation of 3D. They give better prizes on Hoarders.
Come back for more TVEYE next week, including the season premiere of Caprica. Battlestar Galactica fans won’t have to wait until January for the premiere, as Syfy has pushed the series forward to October 5th. Nice!