This week, Fringe is off while new episodes of Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, Caprica, and The Event presented some strong plot motifs and character motives into their storylines. Also this week, I present a new one, the premiere of the Sherlock miniseries, which way exceeded my expectations.
DEXTER (Ep. 54 “First Blood”) Dexter is always looking for himself in others; it’s one of the major symptoms of sociopathic behavior. Occasionally he’ll take cues from other people and search for normalness in his comparison to them. Dexter has a narrow and diluted definition of normalcy, and while he understands that he is abnormal, he embraces his differences as supremacy of character and control. In this week’s episode, he begins to see the personal qualities he cautiously holds dear in others around him. Caution and control are his constants, the variables that allow him to kill with principal and skill. But what happens when these qualities reflect in others, and caution comes second to revenge? Lumen, the girl with whom Dexter has taken a leap of faith and honesty, is his biggest blind step away from caution yet. In season 3, Dexter revealed himself to Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smitts) in a costly duel of wits, which ultimately led to Miguel’s death at the hands of Dexter. But Lumen is different, she is touched, revenge driven, desperate even. Lumen is a loose cannon, and Dexter’s faith in her could lead to an even darker place than his faith in Miguel’s did. Then again, Dexter sees more of himself in Lumen than he did in Miguel. Dexter was “born in blood,” his mother murdered before him. Lumen however, was recently violently victimized, and it is her forever-changed mental state that has been born in blood. The difference here is that Dexter grew into his sociopathic bloodlust, while Lumen was thrust suddenly and violently into hers as an adult. This week, Dexter discovered how deep Lumen’s obsession with revenge truly is. In her motel room, she has an evidence wall filled with newspaper clippings, maps, and photos, a collage of paranoid conspiracy and a desperate desire to regain control over her life. Dexter is not the only one looking into the deepness of Lumen’s victimization. Lumen herself is ready to take revenge sloppily, and without much control. In an attempt to beat her to it, Dexter kidnaps one of the men from her wall, and readies him in the kill room he had created a couple of weeks back for Boyd. At Harry’s behest, he takes a moment to regain his composure and evaluate the situation he’s created. It turns out that Lumen was targeting the wrong man, and Dexter almost killed him without caution, or control. The guy was a creep, but did he deserve to die? No. But Lumen didn’t get the memo, and attempts to shoot the man in daylight, in the middle of the sex-offender camps beneath Tuttle Bridge (which are real), with an obvious lack of foresight or care. Dexter intervenes last minute and prevents her from killing the wrong man. Freaked out, she decides to take a plane home and out of Dexter’s hair, only to be further freaked by the panic inducing pat down in airport security. In the end, she stays, and Dexter doesn’t know it yet, but his unclassified role in Lumen’s life has just begun. The rest of the episode was interesting, but as usual, not nearly as intriguing as Dexter’s actions. Deb found a big lead in the Santa Muerta case, as well as a disgusting duo of maggot covered, partially mummified corpses that provided the gore moment of the week for the show. Exciting to me, Peter Weller (Robocop) entered the season as a tough-as-nails Hard Ass cop on suspension that’s agreed to investigate Dexter on the down low for Quinn. This is going to be an amazing turning point for the season. The side-stories of Dexter are better than most shows, but it’s the great look into Dexter’s sociopathic psyche that really drives this show week to week. Seeing himself in others, including his young son, Dexter is the greatest ego on TV.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE (Ep. 6 “Family Limitation”) There was a load of table turning on this week’s Boardwalk Empire. The tough guys and gals on this show about 1920’s organized crime were outsmarted by their more intelligent counterparts as big changes shook up the family dynamics in Atlantic City and Chicago. As the weeks move on, I find that I’m getting more used to these flashes to New York, Chicago, and Atlantic City. At first, it bothered me, and I didn’t see the big picture that the producers were laying out for us. I think now I’m starting to get it, or at least grow more familiar with the player’s from each of these cities and how they all tie into the greater scheme of things. As with most gangster dramas, control is the driving characteristic of almost all of the major players. In Boardwalk Empire, there are factions in all three cities that are vying to control the same piece of the pie. In Chicago, Jimmy outsmarted Al Capone to take a more respected seat in the Torio crime family. Capone, the ever-tough guy of the bunch, had his tables turned by Jimmy’s intelligence and wit. Capone is from Brooklyn, while Jimmy is from AC, so I question whether these guys may be plants from their hometowns in an attempt to take control in Chicago. These are the things I still question, but I do feel that the three cities will somehow unify in a more cohesive storyline as the season progresses. In Atlantic City, Nucky struggles with his righteous upbringing and his overflowing desires of unrighteous behavior. In an attempt to do good, and be with a more real and respectable woman, he moves Margaret and her kids into a large apartment, where she has ultimately sold herself out as Nucky’s call girl, his concubine. This shocked me. Last week, Margaret and Nucky hooked up, and I expected some sort of relationship to form. It seems out of character for the intelligent, feminist Margaret to stoop to such levels, but I suppose desperation and a desire for a better life can be poison to even the most righteous soul. In a verbal sparring match with Nucky’s dimwitted hussy Lucy, Margaret compared her to a circus chicken, remarking that her “cunny is not the draw she thinks it is.” Tables turned, but at what cost? In the end, Nucky blows off a date with Margaret for a couple of call girls, proclaiming to a topless ukulele player; “I try to be good, I really do.” Righteousness is a virtue earned not desired, a fact that the episode ends by exploring deeper. Sitting alone in his room, looking at a picture of Margaret, Federal Agent Val Alden (the creepy Michael Shannon) flagellates himself for having inappropriate thoughts about the young widow. Balance is formed, as Van Alden suffers for Nucky’s sins.
CAPRICA (Ep. 12 “Things We Lock Away”) This week’s episode was far better than lasts. I think the inclusion of Zoe Graystone, or her avatar, should be a priority for each episode. She is undoubtedly the strongest, most complex character on the show. The scenes set in the visually striking V-World are by far the most interesting and sci-fi relevant in the series. V-World is a virtual reality world where people can log in and live vicariously and without real repercussions thru their avatars. The post-apocalyptic ruins of New Cap City, a sin-filled virtual Garden of Eden in V-world is where this weeks episode found Zoe. In V-World, Zoe is considered a deadwalker, the undying virtual remnants of a dead human, and obviously the first step in the human/cylon hybrids we know from Battlestar Galactica. There is another deadwalker in V-World, a younger girl whose human form was killed in the terrorist attack Zoe was responsible for, the one that led to her death as well. The other deadwalker outs Zoe as a terrorist in front of the people logged into to New Cap City. A group of pipe, nunchuck and sword wielding New-Cappers beat Zoe into a bloody mess, even shooting her a couple of times with a shotgun. Zoe cannot die, but she can feel pain. During the beating, she realizes that she is not the real Zoe, but rather a new, separate being, which should not have to lie down and pay for Zoe’s sins. She doesn’t. Zoe is now a separate and living being, the first freethinking, and emotion feeling virtual incarnation of a human. She is the first Cylon. The episode reveals that the human Zoe was responsible for creating the Cylon design and avatar for which her father took credit. When Clarice, the leader of the terrorist Monotheists discovers this fact, she begins her plans to incorporate Zoe’s designs into her creation of a virtual afterlife. And here we are, the first hints of the origins of the human/cylon hybrids we came to know in Galactica. Perhaps Caprica will clear up all of the problems and questions us Galactica fans had with the final season.
THE EVENT (Ep. 5 “Casualties of War”) This was a far better episode than the last couple, an episode that spared us the flashbacks to what’s already been established, and spent some time showing us something new. It still wasn’t a great episode, and while NBC may have picked up the full season, I have my doubts about it getting picked up for a second. Somehow, this show has been getting better ratings than the far superior Fringe over on Fox. This is an obvious result of Fringe being time slotted against a shitload of ratings champs, like CSI, Greys Anatomy, and The Office. On this week’s episode, there were flashbacks of course, but they were more focused on establishing the long cons of two of the shows core antagonists. Thomas, one of the aliens assimilated among the populace, the one who caused the planes disappearance, tries to play a strong card against what he considers to be a weak leader. President Martinez is given an ultimatum that in order to save the plane crash survivors from the alien disease Thomas has somehow put inside them, the President must free the other alien captives in Alaska. Flashbacks reveal that Sophia, the leader of the alien group, has sanctioned Thomas as her second in command. As the 60 plus years of her capture progressed, Sophia slowly lost her control over Thomas who now believes himself to be a far better, more capable leader. In these flashbacks we learn that in order to speed up their time on earth, Thomas heads up the Manhattan Project, hence introducing Nuclear Fission to the humans. Human technology, he explains, is far too primitive to provide them what they need to return home, so he has taken it upon himself to move things along. Thomas writes off the human races violent dependence on these technologies as a necessary casualty of his people’s survival. Casualties of War is the name of the episode, and Martinez must decide whether to give into Thomas’s demands or refuse to negotiate with the alien terrorist. Martinez holds strong, refusing to release all of the prisoners. In the end, negotiations are made anyways, and the President agrees to free only Sophia to Thomas’s control, in exchange for the anecdote to save the Avias 514 survivors. While all of this is happening, Sean is able to rescue Layla by using blackmail about one of her captor’s children. The Sean story is the core storyline, and unfortunately, the weaker of the two. There’s not a hell of a lot of compelling mystery and intrigue here to keep me interested week to week. This was the best episode since the pilot, and it really was nothing special at all. The Event is a terrible name for a show that is so clearly uneventful.
SHERLOCK (Ep. 1 “A Study in Pink”) When I heard that PBS Masterpiece Theatre, which has been rebranded Masterpiece Mystery, was doing a Sherlock miniseries, I thought, does the world need another Sherlock? It’s easy for me to pass on these Masterpiece Theatre shows because I long remember writing them off as dime-a-dozen period pieces, with overwrought drama, and costumed boredom. The past few years my wife has watched a few, and I don’t know if it’s just because I’m older and more mature, but I actually kind of enjoyed them. They weren’t amazing, but they were entertaining enough, and generally well cast. But Sherlock? I freaking love the Sherlock stories, and I really dug the Guy Ritchie directed, Robert Downey Jr. starring Sherlock film last year. But then there’s the BBC Sherlock series, and sequels in the works for the Ritchie movie, and I figured, cue the Sherlock exhaustion, here comes another one. Then I heard it was starring Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson, and my interest was piqued. Who the hell is Martin Freeman you ask? Not a stupid question really, as just last week he came onto the radar in the States when he was cast as Bilbo in the soon to be directed Hobbit film by Peter Jackson (thank god Jackson’s directing). I figured I’d give the miniseries a chance, and I’m DAMN GLAD that I did. What a great time this was. It’s a highly stylized Sherlock set in modern times. Sherlock, played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch (what a name!), is just the right level of modern day sociopath. He is a text message obsessed introvert, with the obvious obsessions of the beloved character. Sherlock wears a long coat and scarf, and himself looks straight out of the 1890’s London of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. But this is set in present day. Sherlock is an oddball, he sticks out, and everyone around him perceives him as some sort of psycho. To that he wittingly replies; “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high functioning sociopath.” Indeed he is, and his art of deduction is brilliantly crafted into the richness of his quirky personality. Cue Dr. John Watson, another brilliant performance by Freeman, whose Afghanistan war veteran Watson suffers a psychosomatic injury only Sherlock can cure. The characters first meet and become flat mates in this initial episode, but the connection is so oddly perfect that there is no question of their fit. There are loads of innuendos here, as Sherlock and Watson have long been suspected gay partners. It’s completely unclear whether or not these innuendos are on to something, and that’s the point. Sherlock toys with our perceptions, which fits perfectly into the theme of the storyline. This is a three-part mini-series, each one telling a different mystery. I didn’t go into the mystery of this episode, which was good, because I was so intrigued by its characters. Sherlock is a character piece above all else. I can’t wait until next week’s episode, and I highly encourage all of you to check it out as well.
Much more to come next week including the premier of THE WALKING DEAD! So excited!