Playing Catch-Up: The Stanford Prison Experiment and The Tribe


The_Stanford_Prison_Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment (dir by Kyle Patrick Alvarez)

The Stanford Prison Experiment tells a true story.  It’s important to point that out because this is one of those films that, if you didn’t know it was based on a true story, you would probably be inclined to dismiss as being totally improbable.

In 1971, Professor Philip Zimbardo (played in the movie by Billy Crudup) conducted a psychological experiment at Stanford University.  A fake prison was built in the basement of a campus building, complete with cells and even a room to be used for solitary confinement.  15 students volunteered to take part in the experiment.  For $15.00 a day, some of the students were randomly assigned to be prisoners while others got to be guards.  The experiment was supposed to last for two weeks but Zimbardo ended it after 6 days.  Why?  Because the students had started to the take the experiment very seriously, with the guards growing increasingly sadistic towards their “prisoners.”  Afterwards, many of the prisoner students claimed to have been traumatized while the guard students felt they were just playing a game.

(As one of the guards says in the film, “Am I still going to get paid?”)

The Stanford Prison Experiment tells the story of that controversial experiment and it is, at times, quite a harrowing experience.  Interestingly, when the film begins, the focus is on the prisoners.  I immediately noticed that Ezra Miller was one of the prisoners and, being familiar with his work in Perks of Being A Wallflower and We Need To Talk About Kevin, I naturally assumed that the majority of the film would revolve around him.  After all, among the actors playing the prisoners, Ezra Miller was the “biggest name.”  And, when the film began, it did seem to be centered around Miller’s likable and rebellious presence.

But then something happened.  Miller faded into the background.  In fact, all of the “prisoners” faded into the background and the actors became almost indistinguishable from each other.  Instead, the film started to focus on one of the guards.  Outside of the prison, Christopher Archer (Michael Angarano) is a laid back and rather amiable California college student.  But, once he shows up for the night shift, Archer starts to talk about all of the prison films that he’s seen.  He starts to speak in a Southern accent.  He says stuff like, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”  And soon, Archer is making the rules inside the prison.

In much the same way that Christopher Archer takes over the experiment, actor Michael Angarano takes over the film.  While Zimbardo and his colleagues watch Archer’s actions with a mix of fascination and fear, the film’s audience becomes enthralled with Angarano’s intense performance.  Wisely, neither Angarano nor the film allow Archer to turn into a cardboard villain.  He’s not a bad guy.  Instead, he’s playing a role.  He’s been told to act like a guard and that’s what he’s going to do, regardless of whatever else may happen.  The most fascinating part of the film becomes the contrast between Archer the likable student and Archer the fascist authority figure.

It’s frustrating that more people didn’t see The Stanford Prison Experiment when it was released in 2015.  Considering the blind trust in authority that is currently so popular in certain parts of the American culture, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a film that a lot of people really do need to see and learn from.

The_Tribe_poster

The Tribe (dir by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy)

Anyone who says that they truly understand everything that happens in the disturbing Ukrainian film The Tribe is lying.  Taking place at a school for the deaf and exclusively cast with deaf actors, The Tribe is a film where everyone communicates in Ukrainian Sign Language and there are no subtitles.  However, the actors are often filmed with their back to the camera and occasionally, their hands are out of frame so, even if you do know Ukrainian Sign Language, there’s still going to be scenes where you have no idea what anyone is saying.

And it’s appropriate really.  The Tribe is a film about alienation and, by refusing to give us either an interpreter or subtitles, it forces the audience to feel the same alienation that the film’s characters have to deal with on a daily basis.  It quickly becomes obvious that these permanent outsiders have created their own society and the least of their concerns is whether the rest of the world understands it.

What can be learned about the film’s story largely comes from the body language of the actors and the audience’s own knowledge of gangster movies, which is what The Tribe basically is.  A new student at a boarding school for the deaf is recruited into a gang that deals drugs and pimps out two female students as prostitutes at a truck stop.  When the new student falls in love with one of the girls, it leads to some truly brutal acts of violence, all of which are somehow made more disturbing by the fact that they take place in total silence.

(The talkative criminals of most gangster films allow audiences to focus on something other than the violence.  When people talk about the opening of a film like Pulp Fiction, they talk about John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson talking about Amsterdam.  They don’t focus on the guys getting gunned down in their apartment.  In The Tribe, there are no quips or one-liners before people are hurt and we are forced to pay more attention to the consequences of brutality.)

The Tribe is made up of only 34 shots.  The wide-angle lens forces us to consider these alienated characters against the barren Ukrainian landscape and the camera constantly moves with the characters, tracking them as closely as fate.  Intense and dream-lie, The Tribe is a hauntingly enigmatic film.  It’s not an easy film but it is a rewarding one.

Review: True Blood 7.1 “Jesus Gonna Be Here”


Sookie

I have to start out this review of the 7th season premiere of True Blood with an explanation and an apology.

I always like to think that I can write a good review regardless of what else might be going on in my life.  If I took a break from writing every time that I felt less than great, I certainly would not have ever reviewed Black Swan or The Perfect Teacher.  Sometimes, you just have to take your medicine and get things done.  That said, I should let you know that summer has just begun down here in Texas.  Pollen is everywhere and I have spent today battling my allergies.  I am definitely under the weather as I write this review and I apologize if that has effected my ability to properly consider tonight’s episode.

However, for the season premiere of a show that’s known for its complex storylines and huge cast, it doesn’t really seem like there’s much to analyze about what happened tonight.

Don’t get me wrong.  True Blood has always been an uneven show.  For every great episode of True Blood, there’s also a mediocre one.  For every brilliantly drawn and acted character (like Kristin Bauer van Straten’s Pam), there’s been characters who have never quite reached their potential but yet remain in the cast.  For every storyline that worked, there will be memories of Bill getting possessed by Lillith.

In the past, mediocre episodes or creative misfires did not worry me.  I accepted them as being just a part of what happens with all long-running television shows.  I accepted the occasional bad because I knew that the good would be great and I always knew that there was a chance that any creative miscalculations would be corrected in a future season.

However, we’ve now reached a point where there are no more future seasons.  This is it!  Season seven has ten episodes and then True Blood — as a television series — is over.  Rumor has it that there will be a Broadway musical and I’m certainly looking forward to it eventually showing up on the community theater circuit because I really do think that I’d be a natural for it.  But, until then, these final 10 episodes are all that we have left and True Blood — being True Blood — has a lot of storylines that it needs to somehow resolve so that viewers like me don’t feel like we’ve spent the last 7 seasons being set up for an anticlimax.

After all, we don’t want True Blood to end up like Dexter.

That’s why I can’t simply laugh off a mediocre or uneventful episode now.  As I sat through tonight’s premiere, a part of me was thinking that things were moving slowly because the show is setting up the foundation for a proper and satisfying finale.  However, another part of me wanted to scream, “HELLO — WE’VE ONLY GOT 10 EPISODES LEFT!  THESE HAVE TO COUNT!”

And I will admit — though this may have been the headache talking — I did end up hissing at the screen, “Where.  The.  Hell.  Is.  Erik!?”  As we all remember from last season’s finale, Erik was last seen naked on a mountain, bursting into flame as the sun shined down on him.  The important thing, however, is that we never saw Erik explode into red goo.  I chose to believe that Erik is still alive and, apparently, Pam agrees with me because tonight’s episode found Pam in Morocco searching for Erik.  There really weren’t enough scenes featuring Pam but I was happy for what we got of her.  Pam’s snarkiness always brings True Blood to life.  Hopefully, Erik will show up next week.

As for everyone else:

Tonight’s premiere began where season 6 ended.  A group of infected vampires attacked a human-vampire mixer at Bellfluer’s.  During the attack (which was well-filmed but still a bit too chaotic for its own good), vampire Tara is apparently killed and Holly and Arlene are kidnapped by the infected vampires.  Sam, who is now the mayor, orders that all the humans go home with an uninfected vampire, the idea being that the human will feed his vampire in return for protection.  Nobody is really happy with the arrangement and, as quickly becomes apparent, everyone blames Sookie.  What people don’t consider is that Sookie can hear their accusatory thoughts.  At the end of the episode, she goes to church and tells everyone off.  So, it looks like Sookie is once again frustrated with living in Bon Temps and thinking about saying goodbye to all of the drama and going off on her own.  Then again, that’s pretty much what always happens to Sookie.

(Sookie, incidentally, is now in a relationship with Alcide and good for her!  I still have a feeling that she’ll end the show with Sam but when you’ve been through everything that Sookie has, you’ve earned the right to spend a few nights with Alcide.)

Meanwhile, Sheriff Andy and Bill spent the episode looking for the kidnapped humans and I have to say that Andy has actually turned into a badass, even getting to save Bill from a group of human vigilantes.  However, Andy assures Bill that, even if there are temporarily allies, Andy still hates Bill and every other vampire.

Jessica, meanwhile, is stuck outside of Andy’s house, protecting Adelyn.  Despite the fact that Andy ordered his daughter not to invite Jessica inside, Adelyn does allow Jessica to enter to escape both the rising sun and to thank her for protecting her from a random vampire who wanted to drink Adelyn’s blood.  Once inside the house, Jessica nearly attacks Adelyn but manages to stop herself.

And finally, Jason has sex with his vampire girlfriend.  It’s not an episode of True Blood unless Jason is having sex with his vampire girlfriend.

I always enjoy watching True Blood and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with tonight’s premiere, which seemed to move slowly and, oddly for True Blood, didn’t really seem to be too concerned with moving any of the show’s dozen or so storylines forward.  Hopefully, future episodes will pick up the pace because, after all, we’ve only got nine more left and they have to count!

And, hopefully, Erik will return.

Soon.

Review: True Blood 6.10 “Radioactive”


True Blood

Eric better not be dead!

A lot happened on tonight’s sixth season finale of True Blood.  Along with wrapping up Warlow and Billith’s storylines, it also set up what’s presumably going to be season 7’s major storyline.  A lot of strange things have happened over the past two seasons of True Blood and tonight’s finale promised both a return to normalcy and a new beginning.

And with all that in mind, my number one reaction to tonight’s finale was this:

ERIC BETTER NOT BE FREAKING DEAD!

Admittedly, when we last saw Eric, things did not look good.

Warlow, having revealed himself to be just as evil as we all knew he was and refusing to allow Sookie to back out of their arranged marriage, was finally killed by Sookie’s grandfather (Rutger Hauer), who, in this best tradition of dues ex machina, managed to pop out of his little prison dimension and drive a stake through Warlow’s heart.  Warlow dissolved into red goo and, with the death of Warlow, all of the vampires who had drank his blood lost their ability to walk in the daylight.

The majority of the show’s vampires were safely inside when this happened.  However, Eric was sunbathing naked in the Swiss Alps and, as he lost his special Warlow powers, he burst into flames.

A collective cry went up on twitter as thousands of Eric fans (present company included) tweeted out a massive: “NOOOOOOOO!  NOT ERIC!”

However, there is hope.  The scene cut away from Eric before we actually saw him explode.  So, maybe Eric managed to bury himself in the show.  Maybe he ran into a nearby cave.  Maybe Lillith reached out and saved Eric’s life.

As far as I’m concerned, until I see definite proof of his true death, Eric lives!

Warlow’s demise occurred about halfway through tonight’s finale.  At that point, season 6 officially ended.  Warlow’s gone.  The vampires can no longer walk in the day.  Bill, having refused to go off with Lillith’s sirens, is finally starting to act like Bill again.  And hopefully, Eric’s not dead.

The second half of the episode felt like a preview for season 7.  We jumped ahead 6 months into the future and we discover the following:

Sookie is living with Alicide.  (You go, girl!)

Sam is now married to annoying Nicole and is mayor of Bon Temps.

Andy is still very protective of his last remaining daughter.

Bill Compton is now a published author.  He’s written a book about his experiences as a God.  In the book, he writes about ripping the Governor’s head off of his body.  He also reveals that Hep V was a creation of the government.

Hep V, meanwhile, has become an epidemic.  Although only vampires are killed by it, the virus can live in humans as well.  Mayor Sam arranges for a human/vampire mixer so that the citizens of Bon Temps can pair up — one human to a vampire.

And while everyone in town gets acquainted, an army of infected vampires shambles towards the gathering like zombies from a George Romero film…

And that’s how season 6 ends.

So, what did everyone think of season 6?  I thought it was one of the better seasons of True Blood and a definite improvement on season 5.  That said, I was definitely happy to see Bill acting like Bill again at the end of tonight’s episode.

Hopefully, Season 7 will start with Eric showing up on Bill’s front porch and saying, “The weirdest thing happened in Switzerland…”

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Unofficial scene count: 45
  • As fun as it was to see all the daywalking vampires happy at the start of tonight’s episode, I’m kinda glad that they lost that power.  I’m not sure how many more scenes of vampires playing volleyball I could take.
  • My first tweet after the end of this episode: “Fuck you, #Newsroom!  I’m too concerned about Eric on #TrueBlood to care about some maniacal news anchor!”
  • Alcide was wearing the word’s worst wig at the start of tonight’s episode.
  • I had forgotten all about that whiny scientist until he showed back up tonight.
  • Again, we never saw Eric explode into red goo.  That’s the important thing.
  • “You don’t want a vampire bride!  You want a faerie vampire bride!”
  • I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing True Blood this season.  I look forward to doing it again next season.  Thanks for reading!

Review: True Blood 6.9 “Life Matters”


True Blood

When the history of True Blood is eventually written, Life Matters will be remembered as the best episode of season 6 and perhaps as one of the best episodes of the entire series.

For a show that has occasionally been a tad too complicated and a bit too dependent on easy snark as opposed to genuine sentiment, tonight’s episode was both focused and sincerely emotional.  If an episode of True Blood could ever make you cry while still making you laugh and occasionally jump, Life Matters is that episode.

Tonight, True Blood was all about death.  While the citizens of Bon Temps gathered to say a final goodbye to Terry, the vampires got their revenge on the humans at Vamp Camp.  The Rev. Newlin finally met his well-deserved demise at the hands of Eric and the sun while Jason came close to murdering Sarah Newlin before finally relenting.

At the end of last week’s episode, Bill and Sookie were standing over Warlow’s drained body.  Well, it turns out that Warlow is not dead.  He’s just weakened.  After Sookie allows him to feed on her, she leaves for Terry’s funeral while Bill heads to Vamp Camp.

The rest of the episode very skillfully cuts back and forth from the powerful emotion of Terry’s funeral and Bill and Eric’s bloody rampage at Vamp Camp.  While those at the funeral speak of the value of celebrating life, Bill, Eric, and the vampires are literally killing every human that they can find.  While Andy and Sam talk about (and we see flashbacks of) the first time they ever met Terry, Bill is killing a human scientist by stomping his face in.  While Sookie gives her eulogy and also outs herself as being a telepath, Eric is releasing all of the female vampires and announcing, “Go forth and kill all the humans!”

Sarah Newlin, realizing that she’s literally one of only two humans left alive at Vamp Camp, climbs up to the top of the roof of the sun room and turns a wheel that opens up the ceiling.  The sun shines down on the vampires below but all of the vampires have now fed on Bill’s blood and are now immune to the sun.

Every vampire except for the Rev. Newlin, of course.

Newlin begs to be allowed to feed on Bill’s blood but none of the other vampires are willing to allow Newlin to get near him.  Finally, Eric grabs Newlin by the throat and holds him in place as the sun shines down on him.  As Sarah watches from above, her ex-husband starts to burn and then explodes into a mess of red goo.  Newlin’s last words are to declare his love for Jason Stackhouse.

As for Jason, he catches Sarah as she tried to flee Vamp Camp and, in a rather uncomfortable scene, holds a gun to Sarah’s face while she begs for her life.  Jason finally allows her to escape, saying that he doesn’t want her blood on his hands.  As hateful a character as Sarah is, I’m glad that Jason didn’t kill her.  Jason may be many things but he’s not a cold-blooded murderer.  That’s one reason why we all love him.

Bill, weakened after having been drained, lies on the floor of the sun room and has a vision of Lillith’s sirens approaching him.  They tell him that it’s time for him to come with Lillith.  Bill says that he’s not ready to go.  Fortunately, Jessica and James find him and James feeds him.

Meanwhile, Terry’s funeral ends with Arlene accepting an American flag from the Marine honor guard and Big John singing “Life Matters.”  A random old lady wonders why there’s so many black people at Terry’s funeral.  That’s just life in Bon Temps.

As the episode ends, Bill and the other vampires are celebrating in the daylight.  However, Pam sees Eric standing some distance away.  Pam tells Eric that he better not leave her.  Eric responds by doing just that, shooting off into the sky and leaving Pam by herself.

Tonight’s episode of True Blood felt almost like a series finale.  As I watched it, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t watching the end of the show or even the end of the season.  Instead, I was watching the 9th episode of a 10-episode season.  There’s one more episode and at least one more season to go before True Blood concludes.

I just hope that Eric comes back.

Random Observations:

  • Considering just how marginal his character often seemed to be in the grand scheme of things, I was a bit surprised at how touching Terry’s funeral truly turned out to be.
  • Still, as a friend of mine pointed out on twitter, dead Terry got more screen time during tonight’s episode than he ever did while he was alive.
  • If an episode of True Blood ever deserved an Emmy for editing, this is the one.
  • How is Season 6 going to end?  Is there more to the Lillith story or will next week’s episode just be about setting things up for season 7?  Your guess is as good as mine.
  • I’m sure that those of you who got this review in your e-mail might be wondering if I really did accidentally type Big Brother instead of True Blood in my initial draft of this post.  Yes, I did.  Whoops.  I also write a daily blog over at the Big Brother Blog.  My mistake was the result of me trying to write reviews of two very different shows at the same time.
  • “I love you, Jason Stackhouse!”

Review: True Blood 6.8 “Dead Meat”


True Blood

If nothing else, this episode will always be remembered for confirming what all of us ladies already knew.  High heels are murder!

Seriously, if you had any doubts about whether or not Sarah Newlin (played, with manic glee, by Anna Camp) truly was batshit crazy, all you had to do was watch tonight’s episode.

First off, she’s refusing to tell anyone that Gov. Burrell is dead and it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s got his severed head in the trunk of her car.

Secondly, when Mrs. Suzuki came by Vamp Camp to check out what was going on with the Tru Blood production, Sarah ended up chasing her through the prison.  Now, I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that it is next to impossible to successfully run away from a crazed maniac while wearing high heels.  That still doesn’t stop Mrs. Suzuki from trying but, once she ends up tripping on a steel grating, Sarah proceeds to beat her to death with one of her own high heels.  Underneath the grating, a grateful group of male vampires feast on Suzuki’s blood.  “Thank you, Jesus!” an orgasmic Sarah proclaims.

This macabre chase scene — coming towards the end of tonight’s episode — perfectly sums up season 6 of True Blood.  It was over the top, silly, melodramatic, vaguely sordid, and yet definitely effective.

Mrs. Suzuki was murdered to prevent her from telling the FDA about Sarah’s plan to give all the vampires Tru Blood that’s been spiked with Hep V.  The first batch of infected Tru Blood was given to the prisoners during tonight’s episode.  James, the hot new vampire who Jessica is now in love with, warned the Rev. Newlin not to drink the infected blood.  This led to Sarah demanding to know why Newlin was refusing to drink the blood.  Since Newlin is a weasel, he quickly revealed the names of every vampire who knows the truth about the new Tru Blood.

As a result, Newlin, James, Pam, Tara, Willa, and Jessica all found themselves in that white death chamber that Bill keeps seeing in his visions of the future.  As Jessica quickly figures out, this is where they’re going to stay until the sun rises, the ceiling opens up, and they’re all burned to death.

Bill, however, has a plan.  As he tells Sookie, he wants to allow all the vampires at Vamp Camp to drink Warlow’s blood so that they can be immune to the sunlight.  Warlow tells Sookie that he’ll only do it if Sookie agrees to be “his.”  So, once again, the future of the vampires pretty much depends upon Sookie surrendering any shred of independence from the whims and needs of the men in her life.

So, as must happen at least once during every season of True Blood, Sookie prepared to sacrifice herself.  She took Bill to the faerie dimension so that she could give herself over to Warlow and then Warlow could give himself over to Bill.  However, as soon as she and Bill arrived, they discovered that Eric had gotten there first and had already drained Warlow.

And that, quite simply, is why I love Eric.  While everyone else talks and broods, Eric gets stuff done.

Finally, in case you were wondering how long it would take Sam to get over Luna, the answer is eight episodes.  Sam returned to Bon Temps for Terry’s funeral and, upon arrival, he discovered that Alcide had rescued Nicole from the werewolves (and, in the process, had surrendered the title of pack leader to Rikki).  Sam discovered that Nicole’s pregnant and, within a few scenes, the two of them were declaring their love for each other.  Nicole is a boring character and werewolf politics tend to put me to sleep unless they involve Alcide getting naked.  Since Alcide kept his clothes on tonight, I have to admit that I pretty much zoned during the majority of the Sam/Nicole/Alcide scenes.

But no matter!  Between Sookie preparing (yet again) to sacrifice herself and Sarah getting crazier by the minute, tonight’s episode was a lot of fun.  I assume that Eric is now heading towards the Vamp Camp and I can’t wait to see what happens once he arrives.

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Tonight’s unofficial scene count: 48
  • I always enjoy it when Bill and Eric get to argue.  Alexander Skarsgard and Stephen Moyer really throw themselves into those scenes.
  • Nora may be dead by Lucy Griffiths — much like Arliss Howard and Todd Lowe — is still listed in the opening credits.
  • Rev. Newlin seemed to have a thing for people who have had sex with Jessica.
  • I was a little surprised that Alcide didn’t know who Terry was.
  • I’m proud to say that, in last week’s review, I totally guessed Bill’s plan for Warlow’s blood.
  • “Mother, I can fly!”
  • “The only way he’ll agree to help you is if I agree to become his faerie vampire bride!  So there!”
  • “How about that, you motherfucking monster!?”
  • “I’m trying to decide if I’ll be more uncomfortable in here or out there!”
  • “Sarah Newlin!?”  “Don’t tell me you’re a fan!”

Review: True Blood 6.7 “In The Evening”


Bill_embraces_lilith

Poor Eric!

Going into tonight’s episode of True Blood, I knew that another major character was expected to die but I was really hoping that it wouldn’t be Nora.  Not only did I feel that the character (and Lucy Griffiths) has never quite been used to her potential (not an uncommon occurrence on a show that has a huge ensemble, like True Blood) but it also seems like Eric is always losing the vampires who are most important to him.

However, I also knew that, story-wise, Nora had to die if just so we could understand how dangerous Hep-V truly is.

And so, after bringing Nora to Bill’s mansion and even going so far as to pray for her recovery, Eric ended up holding Nora while she literally melted in his arms.  Adding to the pathos of the situation, we were treated to a flashback to 1666 where we saw how Eric originally turned Nora into a vampire in order to save her from falling victim to the Great Plague.

It was a highly effective moment in an otherwise average episode of True Blood.  If the show often struggled to figure out what exactly to do with Nora, it at least allowed her to make a powerful exit.

Tonight’s episode was all about death.  While Eric watched Nora die, the rest of Bon Temps struggled to deal with the demise of Terry.  Sookie abandoned the post-coital bliss of Warlow so that she could comfort the grief-stricken (and quite drunk) Arlene.

Sookie’s return allowed Bill to track her down and, in a wonderfully tense scene that was very well-acted by real-life husband and wife Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, Bill told Sookie that if she doesn’t lead Bill to Warlow than all the other vampires will die.  I imagine that Bill’s plan is for all the other vampires to drink Warlow’s blood.  Once they, like Bill, are immune to the sunlight, the LAVDF will no longer be able to burn all the vampires to death.

Back at Vamp Camp, Jessica, Pam, and WIlla are aware that the new tru blood is tainted with Hep-V but, as Pam explained, they can’t say anything because, if all the vampires refuse to drink the tru blood, then the authorities will know that the secret is out.  That said, Jessica still asked Jason to arrange a meeting between her and the surprisingly sensitive vampire James (Jake Grimes).   Jessica informed James about the tainted tru blood and then proceeded to lose her vampire virginity to him.  And good for her because James is seriously superhot!

Meanwhile, Sarah Newlin discovered the massacre at the Governor’s mansion and, after kissing the Governor’s severed head, she took command of his plan to destroy all of the vampires.  She returned to the Vamp Camp where she tracked down Jason, cut his wrist, and then tossed him into a cell full of female vampires.  Tara jumped up to defend him but then, a vampire named Violet announced that Jason was hers.

FInally, Sam found out about Terry’s death and is now planning on returning to Bon Temps, despite the fact that he promised Alcide that he wouldn’t.  Alcide, it turns out, lied to the rest of the pack and told them that he had killed both Sam and Nicole.  As tonight’s episode ended, Alcide discovered that Nicole and her mother had been captured by the pack and his lie had been exposed…

(Seriously, I can understand why Alcide didn’t want to be packmaster.  The werewolves are way too much drama!)

As I said, this was an average episode of True Blood.  It featured a few memorable moments (Nora’s death, Arlene getting drunk, and the James/Jessica sex scene) but, for the most part, it felt like the main purpose of this episode was to set things up for the season finale.  There’s only 3 more episodes left before the end of season 6 and there are rumors that at least one more major character might be leaving before the end of the season.

Here’s hoping it’s not Eric!

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Tonight’s unofficial scene count: 49
  • I noticed that Todd Lowe is still listed in the opening credits.  Was Arliss Howard listed as well?
  • Willa really does look a lot like Nora.   It’s a bit distracting.
  • In my notes, I wrote: “Ewwwwwww!” when Sarah Newlin kissed the Governor’s head.
  • The attempts to provide therapy for the vampires are a pretty obvious comment on the whole “ex-gay” movement.
  • Alexander Skarsgard made me cry tonight.
  • During tonight’s show, I tweeted the following: “When Sheriff Andy is the voice of reason, you know bad things are going to happen in Bon Temps. #TrueBlood”  As of this writing, it’s been retweeted 77 times and favorited by 52 people.  That’s a personal best for me so yay!
  • “How deep do you want to go?”

Review: True Blood 6.4 “At Last”


true-blood-season-6-episode-4_0

(BEWARE!  SPOILERS!)

I knew it!

Seriously, I suspected the truth from the minute that Ben (Ryan Kazinsky) conveniently first showed up.  And it was even more obvious when Niall (Rutger Hauer) just happened to find Ben hanging out in that field.

Even before I saw Ben open up his veins and allow his blood to drip into Jason’s open mouth at the beginning of tonight’s episode, I knew that Ben was Warlow.

Fortunately, for once, Sookie (Anna Paquin) figured things out ahead of time as well.  After inviting Ben to her house for dinner, Sookie ended up in her underwear, straddling Warlow on the couch, and holding a ball of deadly faerie light in her hand.

Of course, before all this happened, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) ended up drinking Warlow’s blood and then started having a dream where he helped Warlow shave. (Jason’s panicked reaction — and the way Kwanten played that panic — was a definite highlight of tonight’s episode.)

Niall (Rutger Hauer) also attempted to kill Warlow but, for all of his trouble, he ended up getting tossed into another dimension.  Hopefully, this won’t be the end of Niall because Rutger Hauer’s permanently disheveled appearance has been a highlight of the season so far.

As I said, I’m not surprised that Ben turned out to be Warlow.  His sudden appearance at Bon Temps was just too convenient.  I am, however, happy that Sookie figured everything out on her own for once.

While the revelation of Ben’s true identity was the main thing that happened last night, it was hardly the only thing.  It wouldn’t be True Blood if there weren’t a hundred little subplots running through every episode.

First off, in the storyline that I really don’t care about, Alcide and the werewolves continued to search for Emma while Sam and Nicole continued to bond.  I’m not a huge fan of Nicole’s self-righteous character, nor am I that happy about the idea of Sam getting a new love interest when it’s only been a few days since Luna died.  I also don’t care much for the one-dimensional way that Alcide’s been portrayed this season.

Far more interesting was what went on between Eric and Willa Burrell tonight.  Having escaped from the governor’s storm troopers, Willa asked Eric to turn her into a vampire.  Eric proceeded to do just that in a scene that proves — as if there was any doubt — that nobody makes blood sucking as sexy as Alexander Skarsgard.  If season 5 underused Eric, season 6 is definitely making up for it!

Once Willa was transformed into a vampire, Eric ordered her to go to her father and show him what she had become.  This angered the previously virginal Willa who, now that she had been transformed into a vampire, had discovered the joys of being decadent.  However, Eric pulled the “as your maker, I order you” card and Willa went to confront her father.

When Willa arrived at the governor’s mansion, she discovered Gov. Burrell (Arliss Howard) with his lover, Sarah Newlin (Anna Camp).  The governor was shocked by what had been done to his daughter and, for a few brief moments, it was obvious that the usually smooth Burrell had no idea what to do.  However, Sarah handled Burrell’s hesitation by grabbing a gun and shooting Willa with a silver bullet.

Meanwhile, Bill (Stephen Moyer) has kidnapped Dr. Takahashi, imprisoned him in a laboratory and ordered him to synthesize a new form of blood.  Bill sent Jessica (Deboran Ann Woll) to kidnap Andy’s (Chris Bauer) four faerie daughters.  Andy’s daughters, of course, are aging at the rate of several years a day and, by the time Jessica tracked them down, they had magically transformed from being a group of mildly bratty 12 year-old to a bunch of wild teenagers.

(While I’ve been critical of this storyline in the past, tonight’s episode made perfect use of the faerie girls, as both a plot device and as a symbol of the parental fear of waking up to discover that your children have become strangers.  Add to that, there are four wild faerie girls and there are four Bowman sisters.  A coincidence, you say?  Well … yeah, probably…)

However, after getting the faeries to the mansion, Jessica lost control and ended up attacking all four of them.  As tonight’s episode  came to an end, Jessica and Bill were in the mansion, surrounded by four apparently dead faeries.  Meanwhile, Andy — having figured out where his daughters were taken — was outside, holding a silver-loaded shotgun and demanding that Bill come outside.

And that’s how things ended tonight.  Between Eric being all sexy and dangerous, Sookie seducing Warlow, and Jason acting like Jason, it was a pretty good episode.

But, seriously, here’s hoping that Rutger Hauer isn’t gone for good…

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Scene Count: 52
  • For those keeping count, the latest two vampires to be captured and arrested for breaking curfew are Nora and Pam.
  • Gerald Webb, one of my favorite actors and a veteran of several Asylum and SyFy films, had a small role in tonight’s episode!
  • Rutger Hauer kicks so much ass.  He needs a show next fall where he solves crimes.
  • I loved how hyper Jason was after he first woke up.
  • I related to Andy’s faerie daughters tonight.  Waking up and discovering that you apparently developed big boobs overnight?  I know what that’s like.
  • Sam made a regal horse, didn’t he?
  • “We might be thirty by the time we wake up!”
  • “Is it going to hurt?”  “Not the way I do it.”
  • “What happens next?  Are we going to fuck!?”

Review: True Blood 6.2 “The Sun” (dir by Daniel Attias)


1371435960_6152_1

After last week’s anemic season premiere, I have to admit that I was a bit worried about the direction of season 6 of True Blood.  I watched that episode and I thought to myself, “I don’t want to have to spend an entire season with Bill acting weird, Eric not having sex with Sookie, and Jason chasing around Rutger Hauer.”

What a difference a week can make!

Tonight’s episode was a return to form for True Blood.  Tonight’s episode reminded me of what made me fall in love with this show in the first place.  In short, tonight’s episode was True Blood the way I wanted it to be.

It helps that this episode featured a lot of Eric acting like Eric.  But I’ll get to that in a minute.

First off, tonight’s biggest revelation was that, despite what he said last week, Rutger Hauer is not Warlow.  Instead, he’s Sookie and Jason’s faerie grandfather and he’s specifically come to help Sookie defeat Warlow.

And I have to say that this is brilliant casting.  We, as viewers, have been so conditioned to automatically view Rutger Hauer as a villain that it’s actually surprisingly refreshing to see him playing a good guy and Hauer seems to be having a lot of fun with the role.

Anyway, Grandpa explains to Sookie and Jason that Warlow is obsessed with the Stackhouse family, specifically because the Stackhouses are actual royalty (making Sookie into a literal faerie princess).  However, Grandpa explains, Sookie can defeat Warlow by harnessing all of her light and literally going supernova.  The only side effect is that Sookie can only do this once and she’ll no longer be a faerie after doing so.  Sookie, who spent most of last season trying to deplete all of her power, immediately starts practicing harnessing her light.

And that’s probably a good idea because Warlow is already in Bon Temps.

Speaking of Sookie, before she meets her grandfather, she meets another faerie.  This one is named Ben (Rob Kazinsky) and when Sookie comes across him, he’s lying on the ground after being attacked by vampires.  Sookie nurses him back to health and it becomes obvious that the two of them are attracted to each other.  I have to admit that I groaned a little when Ben showed up.  It’s not that Rob Kazinsky isn’t cute, because he is.  And it’s not that he and Anna Paquin don’t have a lot of chemistry because they do.  However, Ben is not Eric.  For that matter, he’s not even Bill.

Speaking of Bill, he began tonight by going into a catatonic state and he remained that way for most of the episode, despite the best efforts of Jessica to wake him up.  At one point, Jessica even brought in a hilariously trashy prostitute named Veronica so that Bill could feed.  Even in his catatonic state, Bill still ended up graphically drawing out every drop of blood from her body.

While catatonic, Bill has a vision where he stands in the middle of sun-drenched field and talks to Lillith.  Lillith explains that Bill’s purpose is to save all the vampires from destruction.  The scenes between Bill and Lillith were perfectly filmed and acted, with an obvious emphasis being put on the fact that the bright sun was effecting Bill and Lillith not at all.  When Bill finally does wake up, he tells Jessica that he can now see the future.

And what is that future?

Every vampire in Bon Temps being herded into a stark, white room where, once the roof opens up, they are all burned to death by the sun.

Meanwhile, Eric has also taken it upon himself to try to prevent the future that Bill has seen.  Eric sneaks into the Governor’s mansion, confronts the governor, and attempts to hypnotize him.  The Governor (and have I mentioned how much I love Arliss Howard’s villainous performance) responds by laughing.  It turns out that the Governor is wearing special contact lenses that make it impossible for him to be hypnotized.

After managing to escape the Governor’s armed guards, Eric tracks down the Governor’s daughter, Wilma.  In a nicely gothic touch, Wilma looks out her bedroom window and sees Eric floating outside her window.  Eric asks for permission to enter and she gives it.

And seriously, who wouldn’t?

I got so caught up with the vampires tonight that I nearly forgot that some pretty important things happened to Sam as well.  I always feel bad for Sam because he literally cannot catch a break and tonight was not any different.  First off, he found himself being harassed by Nicole, a political activist from L.A. who wants Sam to come out publicly as a shape shifter.  (I have to admit that I have a sinking feeling that, with Luna dead, Nicole is going to become Sam’s new love interest.  I’m not looking forward to this development because Nicole is kind of self-righteous and annoying.)  Then, Sam ended up getting beaten up by Alcide, who has taken it upon himself to make sure that Emma is raised among the werewolves.

Seriously — bad Alcide!

I loved tonight’s episode.  If last week’s premiere felt like True Blood fan fiction, The Sun felt like true True Blood.  Hopefully, the rest of Season 6 will follow its example.

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Unofficial Scene Count: 53
  • That precredits sequence with Warlow appearing on the bridge was pretty effective, I thought.
  • Rutger Hauer deserves an Emmy for his delivery of the line “I am your fucking faerie grandfather.”
  • Alexander Skargard is so hot and sexy!  Oh.  My.  God.
  • The sudden appearance of Patrick’s wife reminded me of how much I disliked last season’s Iraqi smoke monster subplot.
  • I’m sure that the writers of True Blood meant for the Governor to come across as some sort of right-wing boogeyman but, to be honest, he reminds me more of our current President.
  • I love the way Jason got so excited when he said, “That makes me a faerie prince!”
  • It’s interesting to note that both True Blood and the Walking Dead feature a villain called “The Governor.”
  • “They attacked the Chuck E. Cheese yesterday.”
  • “You’re not going to read me my rights?” “You don’t have no rights, vampire.” “Well, that’s not nice.”
  • The performers on True Blood never get enough credit.  Tonight’s standout was Deborah Ann Woll.  Jessica’s episode ending prayer is definitely the highlight of the season so far.

Review: True Blood Ep. 6.1 (“Who Are You, Really?”)


Who_Are_You_Really_Main

True Blood (or, as my aunt calls it, the show with all the naked people) is back!  Last night saw the premiere of the first episode of the sixth season of the venerable HBO series.  That also means that, for the next ten weeks, we’ll be reviewing each episode here at the Shattered Lens.

Last night’s episode started right where last season left off.  Bill drank the rest of Lillith’s blood, was reborn as some sort of blood-covered demon, and then proceeded to go on a rampage through the Authority HQ.  While all the characters that we care about — Sookie (Anna Paquin), Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), Jason (Ryan Kwanten), Pam (Kristen Bauer Von Straten), Tara (Rutina Wesley), Nora (Lucy Griffiths), Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), Sam (Sam Trammell), Luna (Janina Gavanker), and Emma (Chloe Noelle) — manage to get out safely, it appears that crazed Bill kills everyone else in the building and then, for good measure, blows it up.

Soon after escaping, Luna asks Sam to take care of Emma and then dies of her wounds.  Luna’s death was a genuinely surprising moment, though I do have to admit that I wish Sam could at least have an episode or two where something either weird or terrible didn’t happen to him.  Sam takes Emma back to his bar where they run into Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) and Sam watches a TV news report on how Louisiana’s governor (the wonderfully sleazy Arliss Howard) is declaring martial law on all vampires until the True Blood shortage is taken care of.

(At this point, I realized that I couldn’t remember whether or not Lafayette still has that demon inside of him.  Was that resolved last season?)

Meanwhile, Andy (Chris Bauer) is a still a dumbass but he’s now also a father of a bunch of faery kids who are aging very fast.  I have to admit that I’m not really that interested in Andy’s subplot, though I’m sure that the vampires of Bon Temps will be very interested in having all that new faery blood to choose from.

Alcide, meanwhile, is now pack leader, which means that he gets to eat his enemies and have sex with anyone he wants to, as long as he remembers that Rikki (Kelly Overton) is his “number one bitch.”  I’ve read comments from a few reviewers who have complained that Alcide’s scenes felt gratuitous.  Over on the A.V. Club, they complained that the only reason Alcide was in last night’s episode was so we could see Joe Manganiello naked.  To those reviewers, I say, “Shut up!”  Seriously, it’s not True Blood without Naked Alcide.

And trust me, we needed some Naked Alcide last night because the main storyline was kind of depressing.

After Eric, Nora, Sookie, Tara, and Pam all agreed that they would kill Bill if they had to, Jessica found herself being summoned to Bill’s mansion.  It was there that they discovered Bill, looking very normal.  After Bill explained that he was still Bill Compton but that he was also something much more, Eric attempted to attack him.  Bill easily defended himself, just to then be staked from behind by Sookie.

And how did Bill respond?

By removing the stake from his chest.

So, apparently, Bill is now a demigod of some sort.

After Bill ordered everyone but Jessica to leave, Sookie and Eric returned to her home.  After Eric signed the house back over to her, Sookie then took away his invitation and forced Eric to leave.

Meanwhile, Jason — who had earlier run off on his own after escaping the destruction of the Authority HQ — was picked up by a passing motorist.  Now, as soon as I saw that motorist, I knew he was going to be trouble because he was played by Rutger Hauer.  And sure enough, it turns out that Hauer is playing Warlow, the same vampire who previously killed Jason and Sookie’s parents.  Before vanishing, Warlow says that “nothing will keep me from getting Sookie.”

So, to summarize:

Sookie is trying, once again, to live a life free of vampire drama, Eric is thinking about abandoning Bon Temps all together, Bill is acting strange, Jessica is being used as a pawn, and Alcide’s naked.

The more things change, the more thing’s stay the same, right?

Overall, I had mixed feelings about last night’s episode.  After the excitement of last season’s finale, it’s hard not to be disappointed that tonight’s episode didn’t offer up much of a resolution.  In many ways, it felt more like an episode that you would expect to find in the middle of a 24-episode run, as opposed to the start of a 10-episode season.

That said, this episode did feature Alcide naked so who am I to complain?

Random Observations:

  • Tonight’s unofficial scene count: 45
  • Last night’s episode was directed by Bill Compton himself, Stephen Moyer.
  • “I’m your number one bitch,” is something that I often say, as well.
  • Where’s Rev. Newlin?
  • With the death of Luna and the “possession” of Bill, last night’s episode was unusually somber.  I hope that’s not going to be the way the rest of this season is going to play out.  True Blood is always at its best when mixing comedy with melodrama.
  • This is the first season without Alan Ball as showrunner (though he’s still an executive producer on the show).  It’s tempting to say that Ball’s absence is why last night’s episode felt somewhat off but, of course, it’s still to early to say one way or the other.
  • Because of Anna Paquin’s pregnancy, this season is only going to last 10 episodes.
  • And I’m looking forward to reviewing all ten of them!

Review: True Blood S5E12 “Save Yourself”


(BE WARNED!  SPOILERS AND PROFANITY AHEAD)

As I sit here writing this, it’s been about an hour since the 5th season finale of True Blood and I’m still trying to figure out how to start my review of the episode.  Foolishly, I’ve got the finale of that terrible Aaron Sorkin male egofest, The Newsroom, on for background noise and I’m hoping that it ends with the entire cast getting staked and exploding into red goo.  It’s only a distraction though from confronting the issue of what happened during the final five minutes of True Blood tonight.

Seriously — what the fuck was that?

Up until Bill drank what remained of Lilith’s blood, the season finale was playing out in a rather predictable fashion.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was exciting and there were plenty of good scenes but it all felt somewhat familiar and I was fairly sure that Eric and Sookie would confront Bill and Sookie would be able to talk some sense into him.  I knew there would be some sort of macabre twist at the end because it is True Blood and all.  I thought maybe Lafayette’s demon would pop up or maybe Roman would suddenly materialize out of thin air.  What I was not expecting was that Bill would dissolve into a red puddle just to then suddenly rise out of the pool of blood as some sort of male Lilith.  As Sookie so correctly put it, “Fuuuuuuuuuck….”

Though tonight’s finale was dominated by the fall of the Vampire Authority, there were a few other things going on.

First off, dumbass Andy is now a father as Maurella, the faerie he impregnated earlier this season, gave birth to four girls.  Somewhat inconveniently for Andy, she did so at the exact same time that he was trying to explain the situation to Holly.  Even more inconveniently, Maurella then promptly vanished, leaving Andy to raise the four babies.  To be honest, I wasn’t really a huge fan of this plotline when it was introduced last week and I’m still not.  That said, it could be interesting to see, in season 6, how all the show’s vampires react to having four new sources of faerie blood in Bon Temps.  Especially since it now appears that humans, vampires, and practically everyone else is going to be very much at war with each other.

Speaking of war, the war for control the wolfpack was finally resolved during tonight’s episode and, not surprisingly, it was won by Alcide who not only defeated J.D. but killed him as well.  A friend of mine e-mailed me during the show to say, “I know you ladies love this Alcide guy but the werewolves bore me shitless…” I have to say that my friend is right on both counts.  We do love Alcide and yes, the werewolf storylines are never as interesting as whatever’s going on with the vampires.

And, believe me, a lot was going on with the vampires tonight.

Last week ended with Russell, having just feasted on a faerie, now approaching the faerie night club while Sookie and friends vainly tried to hold him back.  Tonight’s episode began with Eric and Nora conveniently showing up and promptly saving the day by killing Russell.  That’s right — Russell exploded into red goo.  He’s dead and you know what?  I’m going to miss him.  Denis O’Hare brought such a wonderfully decadent sense of evil to the show and, to be honest, it was hard not to feel that he (and the character) deserved a better send off than just being killed during the pre-credits sequence.

I was probably not alone in hoping that the Rev. Newlin would be killed right alongside Russell but instead, the sleazy little toadsucker managed to scurry off and was missing for the rest of the episode.  This, however, did prove convenient for Sam and Luna because, with Newlin nowhere to be found, that allowed Luna to shift into Newlin’s form and then try to walk out of the Authority HQ with Emma (who was still in adorable wolf puppy form).  In the past, I’ve often felt that Michael McMillan has gone a bit overboard with his performance as the Rev. Newlin but he deserves all the credit in the world for his performance in tonight’s episode.  Luna-as-Newlin was a wonder to behold.

Unfortunately, right when Luna/Newlin is on the verge of escaping on wolf puppy, she’s grabbed by a very angry Rosalyn.  Apparently, the video tape of Newlin and Russell attacking that frat house has been released by the U.S. Government and Rosalyn drags Luna/Newlin downstairs to the media room so that she can do an interview and practice a little damage control.  However, during the interview, Luna/Newlin starts to have convulsions and shifts back into Luna form.  Before she apparently faints, Luna manages to tell the world that humans are being held captive at the Authority HQ.  I’m not really sure what was happening to Luna, if it was a lingering effect of her having been shot earlier this season or something even worse.  Fortunately, for Luna, she was saved from Rosalyn’s wrath by Sam who, having shifted into a fly earlier, flew into Rosalyn’s mouth and then apparently shifted back to human form inside of her, causing Rosalyn to explode into one big mess.

While this was going on, the Authority HQ was being attacked by Eric, Nora, Sookie, Tara, and Jason (who, oddly enough, is now having hallucinations where his dead, and surprisingly bigoted, parents talk to him).  After killing every vampire that they come across and freeing Jessica and Pam (which leads to a Pam/Tara makeout session), Eric and Sookie go to confront Bill, who has just finished staking the final member of the authority, Salome.

And that, of course, led us to this season’s final scene — Bill being reborn as some sort of blood God.

So, is Bill now truly evil?  Are Pam and Tara a couple?  Is Jason going crazy?  Is Luna dying?  Can a war between humans and vampires be prevented?  And who, in their right mind, would trust dumbass Andy with one baby, let alone four?

For answers to all of those questions, we’re going to have to wait until season 6…

Random Observations

  • Tonight’s unofficial scene count: 60.
  • I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed with tonight’s finale.  It’s not that it was a bad episode as much as it just really annoyed me that, after taking so long to reach this point, tonight’s finale still didn’t resolve or explain much of anything.  Nor did it even really attempt to.  That said, I’ll still return to watch season 6 so, obviously, tonight’s episode must have done something right.
  • Again, I was disappointed with how easily Russell was finally dispatched.  I also wish that Rosalyn and Salome hadn’t been killed off as they were both interesting characters and I think the series could have done more with them.
  • I also felt bad for Chelsea, the receptionist.  My sympathy is always with the receptionists.
  • Does Lafayette still have that demon inside of him?
  • Is Emma going to be in Wolf Puppy form forever?
  • I have mixed feelings about season 5 on True Blood.  It definitely was not a season to use to introduce someone to True Blood for the first time.  That said, I also think that this season featured a lot of really good moments and I’m looking forward to Season 6.
  • Hopefully, Season 6 will not feature any Iraqi fire demons.
  • I also had a lot of fun recapping each episode here on the Shattered Lens and thank you to everyone who read them!  It was fun!
  • By the way, The Newsroom did not end with Jeff Daniels getting a stake driven through his heart and that’s a shame.