It was a pretty mild week on television. No shocking twists or turns, and a few shows were a little tamer than I’ve grown accustom to. That said, here’s a look back at a new leaping Dexter, Electric Sheep Dreaming Shapeshifters on Fringe, a St. Patrick’s Day where green beer is as illegal as heroin on Boardwalk Empire, and the Sci-Fi 700 Club better known as Caprica.
DEXTER (Ep. 52 “Beauty and the Beast”) This was an episode full of conundrums and inner conflicts for all of the characters on Dexter. Last week’s episode left us wondering what would happen to the young girl who witnessed Dex killing Boyd Fowler, the Animal Control officer with a penchant for murdering young women. Would he kill her? If he did, it would be the second time Dexter has killed an innocent this season. His shoulder angel/devil of reason, Harry, encourages him to kill her, and cover his tracks. Dexter has been sloppy since Rita’s murder, and the code he uses for killing has been compromised by his own emotions, something completely alien to Dexter. The young woman is Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles), the mysterious kidnap victim referred to as the Beauty to Dexter’s Beast in the title of this week’s episode. While tending to her injuries, long infected whip gashes, Dexter is asked by Harry what the first rule of the code is. Dex replies, never kill an innocent, but Harry corrects him by saying no, don’t get caught. The code he’s been following for most of his life is crumbling to a sea of reason and compassion that Dexter didn’t even know existed. A sociopath of the highest order, Dexter has been the poster boy for narcissistic selfishness. These traits are still there, evident by him using his son as cover for his sleazy exploits, but they are undoubtedly beginning to fade. Is Dexter becoming a, GASP, real person? Dexter grapples with his own reasoning, and holds Lumen captive while he figures out what to do with her. At one point, Lumen escapes, and Dexter catches her, taking her to the swamp where Boyd has dumped the barrels of his preserved victims. Showing her one of Boyd’s gruesome trophies, Dexter explains that he’s saved her from this fate, and passes control over to her, even explaining that his wife had just been killed by a monster of Boyd’s character. He frees her, explaining that he has decided to take a Leap of Faith, and her trust would be a similar leap. Dexter was able to show trust and honesty with Lila and Miguel, but Lumen is different. Lumen is a victim, and she warns Dexter that Boyd was just a small part of a larger network of bad, murderous, raping men. The Lumen arc has just begun, and it will be interesting to see if this connection will help repair Dexter’s disconnected disposition, or reignite his calculating callousness. There were other Leaps of Faith taken by characters throughout this episode. Quinn confronts Trinity’s son, Jonah Mitchell with a picture of Dexter, asking if this was Kyle Butler. Of course, Quinn gets arrested, and his suspicion is about to become public record. Deb has a dangerous encounter in the Santa Muerta case, and holds back her usual rage to save a victim. Batista apologizes to the cop he’s put in the hospital, an attempted leap to save his career, that seems likely to cause more conflict in future episodes. This was a good episode, an appropriate setup for the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see Dexter juggle his new vengeful, victimized companion between his son, career, and his own need for blood. Will Dexter be the Harry to Lumen’s rage? Where do you foresee this new character driving Dexter’s conflicts this season?
FRINGE (Ep. 47 “Do Shapeshifers Dream of Electric Sheep?”) With an episode title like that, I was very excited for this week’s Fringe. Phillip K. Dick’s seminal work, the epic motivation for the film Bladerunner, was “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Fringe takes the premise of Dick’s novel, which explores the link between AI and emotion, and puts the premise to the shapeshifters they have created as dimension crossing assassins. Yes, it sounds a lot like Terminator, and in a way it is, even the mercury the shapeshifters bleed resembles the oozing metallic T-1000 robots from Cameron’s films. But that’s where the similarity begins and ends. Fringe has taken a concept, long explored in fiction, and made it their own. This week’s episode takes place in the prime universe. U.S. Senator Van Horn, a longtime friend of Broyles, is admitted to the hospital after a bad car accident. Turns out, the senator was actually a shapeshifter, one of the mercury blooded robotic amalgamations that are part fibrous being, part flesh and blood intruder. Newton, the lead assassin from the other universe, intervenes, shooting the shapeshifter in the eye so as to prevent any of its data from leaking to the Fringe team. Walter’s scientific persistence leads him to theorize that there could be a possible emotional trigger that has resulted from the shapeshifters assimilation into the lives of normal people. Using the Senator’s wife, he triggers the shifter back to a momentary state of consciousness during which Walter locates the source of its data memory. The best part about Walter’s methods is the fact that he’s tripping throughout the entire first half of the episode. In a pep talk with his new employees at Massive Dynamic, Walter creepily rubs the back of a scientist, moment’s later dropping trou while speaking about technology. Ah yes, the emotional link between technology and feelings, a drop of the trou for scientific genius. Phillip Dick would be proud. No, seriously. The levels to which the episode explores the emotional link between the shifters and the human camouflage they must create to sustain cover, is quite well conceived. In the end, it turns out that Newton was a shapeshifter as well. He commits suicide moments after warning Fauxlivia that she must commit to her cover as the shifters living in the prime universe have. The episode ends with Fauxlivia seducing Peter, sealing the emotional bond she needs to sustain her cover as Olivia. Fittingly, the episode was a great tribute to Dick’s work, an awesome exploration of the links between emotion, commitment, and deceit.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE (Ep. 5 “Nights in Ballygran”) Learning that this was the Saint Patrick’s Day episode of a show about Prohibition, I thought, this should be interesting. It was, but not as interesting as I might have hoped for. It was a pretty tame episode, dealing more with the complex connection between Nucky Thompson and Margaret Schroeder. Saint Pats was the backdrop to the episode, with business shifting to midget boxing leprechauns negotiating their rates, and Margaret and her Women’s Suffrage League fighting to get the barrels of green beer being stored across from her home off of the streets. First seeing the barrels, the smart and independent Margaret ignored them, focusing her time on making a loaf of soda bread from scratch for Nucky. Nucky gives her the cold shoulder, brushing her off, as no better than one of the many delegates he meets with daily. Insulted, she goes to the Feds in order to report the barrels of beer she had witnessed, knowing damn well that they are somehow connected with Nucky. Margaret is an intelligent woman, a strong woman with bigger balls than most of the men parading around as gangsters in Boardwalk Empire. This is no mistake; she is the icon of change, a symbol of a time of great strides and impassioned people. Being brushed off again by the Feds, Margaret asks “what of the law that creates the criminal?,” a smart question that triggers an angry response from Federal Agent Van Alden. This sends Margaret into a fit of anger herself, proclaiming her frustration with men who speak boldly and do nothing. The most Saint Patrick’s Day relevant scenes of the episode came at a Celtic Dinner, where Irish folk songs were crooned behind the drunken arguments between the Ireland born, and America born Irish. Raided by the Feds, it looked like Margaret’s pleas paid off, as Nucky and these other prominent Irishmen of Atlantic City were kicked out at gunpoint, Margaret and her women’s league holding banners and chanting as they were escorted out. Nucky sees her, and at the end of the episode, comes to her home in the middle of the night. It looks like a show of her teeth was all it took for Nucky to fall right back in love with the woman who reminds him so much of himself. The rest of the episode followed jimmy in Chicago, dealing with the call girl he’s grown fond of. Disfigured in a stabbing during last week’s episode, the girl falls on a fit of depression that Jimmy can’t help but feel responsible for. She commits suicide, and Jimmy falls deeper into his well of turmoil and regret. Michael Pitt plays Jimmy with the strength of a leading character, and I hope he comes back to Atlantic City soon, because the whole Chicago, New York side stories are getting a bit annoying and out of place. This was a good episode, but a far cry from the great episodes we’ve seen thus far on Boardwalk Empire.
CAPRICA (Ep. 11 “Retribution”) For the record, I REALLY loved Battlestar Galactica. I didn’t love how the series ended, but it’s still one of my all time favorite Science Fiction shows. When I first heard that they were making a prequel series to Galactica, I was pretty damn excited. I watched a few episodes, didn’t love it., but hung in there for some of the elements I loved about Galactica. Just to hear FRAK used repeatedly made me happy. But there were some BIG problems I had with Caprica, and now that the seasons picked back up, I can express these problems here. This week’s episode, “Retribution,” is the perfect point from which to voice these complaints. Battlestar Galactica had that perfect blend of Sci-Fi and drama. Some complained that the drama was very soap-opera-esque, but I didn’t think so. Caprica on the other hand is far too soap-opera-esque, with so little Science Fiction mixed in that it’s a wonder the SyFy channel still runs it. The series is about the religious aspects of the Galactica universe, and while I liked this aspect of the original series, it is also what brought it down in the end. Caprica tries to be a lot like Bladrunner, using neo-noir sets, fedora wearing protagonists, and rainy cityscapes lined with Tokyo-like neon lights. Visually, the shows not half bad, but thematically, it tries way too hard. The plot is so complex and overwrought at this point that it’s not even worth going into detail over. I’ll try anyways. Basically, the monotheistic Soldiers of the One terrorist group, led by Clarice Willow, is out to enact all-out religious war on the polytheistic religions that dominate the worlds. In the middle of all of this mess is Daniel Graystone, the ousted CEO of his own company, Graystone Industries, where he has created the first Cylon, and placed an AI version of his daughter Zoe into its mainframe. The integration between the religious aspect and technological innovations of Graystone are sure to collide soon enough, as we will hopefully begin to learn how the Cylon’s were created, and manipulated to become the human hybrids we came to know on Galactica. This would all play out very interestingly, if the writing was not so heavy handed, and absent of that good Sci-Fi charm. I don’t hate this show; in fact, I’m intrigued to see where it takes the lead in to Galactica. I just hope the storytelling gets a bit more focused and the execution a bit more badass. We’ll see in the coming weeks, if BSG fans will finally get the prequel series we’ve hoped Caprica could become.
Come back next week for more, including the debut of the Sherlock mini-series!