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Unwrap me and get a surprise

What in the name of all that's holy was THAT???

:: deep breath :: Sorry. Better now. Really.

This had to be the first Friday I've been able to watch this show at airtime? And then I was supposed to sleep?

I dimly recall making a mental note to comment that I'm not loving Vicki's haircut. The shape isn't bad, and I'm sure it's quite a bit of weight off her head -- that woman has some serious hair -- but my first thought was that her habit of yanking it out of her way in a single ponytail holder in mid-task has been rendered completely impossible.

But wow, is that ever beside the point now. O.o

I didn't start crying until she put her glasses away. I'm starting again now just thinking about it.

And OMG, could they have blindsided us a little more? I mean, yes, I've been totally living in expectation that Vicki's implacable only-go-forward-ness was going to result in her dropping a Great Big Bomb of Bad. Especially as we've watched her slide into being almost comfortable with the demon marks -- watching right along with Henry, who might almost as well have been on the safe side of the screen with us, for all that he's been able to do to stop it happening. He's known all along that the will he loves in her is equally unshakeable on any path she sets it to.

But I truly did not expect to be at this place now. Especially with the way the ep started, looking for all the world like just another slightly silly MOW plot. One more funhouse ride before the season arc ramps up to the finale.

And then everything went horribly, horribly wrong.

Mike. Oh, gods, Mike. I almost started crying then, but I think I was too stunned. He doesn't do half-measures any more than Vicki does. He didn't step over that line. He took a great big hopscotch leap. And of course it's killing him. I'm still having trouble believing he did it. Even before I saw this ep, when I was marathoning the early ones with Mother-in-Law in the afternoon, my stomach took a little lurch at that long-ago exchange: "You could lose your job for this." -- "Well, I'll just have to open up a private investigation agency, won't I?" These days, of course, not only is that not even the half-joke it was at the time, but his job is the least of what he stands to lose.

And then Vicki sitting there telling him he did the right thing??? I wanted to grab her and shake her, because she believes that. I know she can't afford to believe anything else. But, as much as they have in common, they're not the same, and the things she's clinging to can't stop Mike from drowning right in front of her. What the hell is he going to do?

Speaking of grabbing and shaking, did Henry honestly think she was going to take it as anything but bravado and stubbornness when he claimed to be sure he could take down the avatar of a god of death? It was especially exasperating coming minutes after I had been scolding the screen during one of the nightmares, that he really has to come up with a better strategy one of these nights than flinging himself bodily at things that are bigger and badder than he is. If those are your "arts of war," cookie, you would have been better off with crayons!

Vicki didn't have the benefit of seeing that as we did, of course, but she knows him. She knows he doesn't have a plan. Or he better not have had one. Because if he did have anything in his head more solid than "whack at it until it dies," and he didn't tell her what it was, I'll... actually, I'm not sure what I'll want to do, but there are swords in my house too. *baleful glare*

Because, of course, while what drove Vicki to this extreme was saving Henry for his own sake, that wasn't all she accomplished. Complicated-Name-I-Should-Have-Written-Down could not be allowed to take him, or there was going to be a whole lot more suffering and death with no way to stop it. As far as I can tell, the options available to Henry were "whack at it until it dies" (which I think he knew at some level was not going to work)... or making sure he died before it could get his hands on him. If that was what he had in mind, if that was what he meant when he told her in that awful, awful scene in her office that there was another way... Sorry, hon, but as bad as this is, and as much worse as it is no doubt going to get? My vote is going to have to go to Vicki. And yes, I know I'm wrong. Just like she did.

Except I'm on the safe side of the screen. I haven't mortgaged my soul for it.

Once again, I find myself wondering if Henry would have been in quite as bad a place if this hadn't come hard on the heels of two big shakeups. I really don't think he had quite gotten his equilibrium back from the Christina mess when the Maya mess happened, and I don't think he's gotten it back from either mess when this comes along.

Coreen. Oh, gods. "He wouldn't even look at me." She's convinced Henry flat-out hates her now, just as she's finally starting to get what he's been afraid of all along, every time she started bouncing about how "cool" something was and he gave her that worried look. It's no surprise at all that he wouldn't accept her blood, no matter how much he was hurting; even starting that ritual probably tainted her to his senses -- the earlier comment about smelling her wasn't just there to fill time. (Let's not even get into his having to come home to where it happened, or how long the taint is going to cling there.) He knows she didn't stand a chance of stopping Vicki, and when he thinks about it I'll bet he knows she tried anyway.

Feeding him was the only thing the poor kid could offer to try to make things right. And that was very clearly what it was about, with no resemblance whatsoever to past innuendoes and awkward attempts that were about her own curiosity and dark romantic notions. I hope he sees that, and takes the time to tell her he does. He's terrified for her, and I don't think she really understands that. And she needs to. She needs to know he's still on her side. (I am very pleased with them for giving him that line to Vicki about how she "put Coreen on their radar too." Not that she wasn't before -- there's a demon somewhere who's still obsessed with her, after all, which is how all this started -- but actively working magic herself makes her noticeable at a whole different level.)

Especially because I think Vicki is just plain scaring her at this point. She's sure as hell scaring me. Not that I see any other way it could have gone down, unless she were someone else. But now we have three long weeks to see what it's really done to her. To see the "price" Henry mentioned. Because here's the thing: We still don't know exactly what this ritual is. She knows, Coreen knows, Henry damn well knows. (I have no doubt that he's seen it before, and that it's how he has the book in the first place.) But all we got was hints. "Poisoned my life-force"? Sounds like it's telling us something, but apart from the immediate effect on the Big Bad, it didn't tell us much. And the fact that it had that immediate effect on the Big Bad is terrifying in and of itself.

One thing I know: if anyone can survive it, Vicki Nelson can. I have faith in that much. But oh, there is hurting on the horizon.

[xposted to bloodties_tv]

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Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
splash_the_cat
Nov. 24th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC)
I wonder, too, if Vicki is, consciously or unconsciously, putting herself in harms way in hopes she does get killed, so that she's no longer a danger to everyone because of the marks. She clearly thinks she's the cause of all the bad that's happened to everyone, and after this episode? I see that getting worse.

Still, I think this should have been a two parter. The emotional buildup was great, but they didn't have time to really build up the stakes to make it clear that while on the character level this was about sacrificing for love, that on the story level this was potentially a world-ending mess.
wiliqueen
Nov. 24th, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC)
I wonder, too, if Vicki is, consciously or unconsciously, putting herself in harms way in hopes she does get killed, so that she's no longer a danger to everyone because of the marks.

Excellent point, and I definitely agree it's at least some of what's in play.

When we looked at the clock and saw that there were five minutes left, we were figuring it would be a two-parter. Then it turned out to be a one-off with arc fallout. I agree that the plot could have used more attention, because it did still end up being a slightly-silly-MOW, just on steroids, and having that support the weight of the character stuff is dicey.
kjaneway
Nov. 24th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
Yup. Definitely, a dodgy MOW plot... and whole heck of a lot of character development in very worrying directions.

And three weeks, you say, until the next one? Bloody US TV schedules.
wiliqueen
Nov. 25th, 2007 12:32 am (UTC)
And three weeks, you say, until the next one? Bloody US TV schedules.

Whoops! No, sorry, didn't realize that was ambiguous. Three weeks (i.e. three episodes) left in the season. Which is at least one episode longer than I expected them to be dealing with fallout this huge. Assuming I even expected fallout THIS huge.
kjaneway
Nov. 25th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC)
Oh, right.

Phew. I don't think I could have coped with a three week break, *now*. ;-)
wiliqueen
Nov. 25th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
You and me both! O_O One is going to be hard enough...
kevenn
Nov. 25th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
Oh thank god! I didn't want to wait 3 weeks for a new episode either! That one totally kicked ass!
unclehyena
Nov. 26th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
This episode irritated me on several points, and I think it is easiest the weakest of the series to date. Not that it was BAD, really, just not up to the established standards.

First, they got the history wrong: The oldest of the three cultures mentioned (Aztec, Inca, Maya) is the Mayans, not the Incas. That set my teeth on edge, a bit.

The monster was fun. The Vicki and Henry show was just irritating: "Let's see who can do something stupidly self-destructive first!" Given that Vicki's approach was marginally less stupid (it actually WORKED) and marginally less self destructive (she survived, for now), it's a good thing she won, but really: These are supposed to be highly competent people who respect each other, not panicky hormone crazed adolescents.

The "ancient book of arcane secrets written in human blood on human parchment in LEGIBLE MODERN ENGLISH" irritates me whenever it comes up. I understand the trope, but I hate it, and seeing it when I was already grinding my teeth didn't help.

Finally, Mike. The "Do I bring another person into this world I don't want to be in myself?" question is dramatically rich, just as the "hide the weird stuff from your partner" trope is tired as hell. I would love to see this show rise above the common patterns, but I am not hopeful. Then there is Mike's guilt over destroying evidence. Excuse me? Anything that damages a human body so much that the bones are ready to crumble to dust is likely to have destroyed the DNA ANYWAY, and if not, the DNA is probably still available in the dust. So while Mike definitely HID evidence, the chance he actually destroyed it is minimal.

Uncle Hyena
wiliqueen
Nov. 26th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
Ah, to be able to step back so. Alas, as a writer or a critic or even a fan, I make a pretty good actor. *wry g* I default ever and always to "this is how it is, and we go from there," and my ability to say "this was written wrong" is minimal to nonexistent. I'm too well-trained to figure out why a character is doing what they're doing to even consider that they shouldn't have been written doing it. (Which is why the tired old "What's my motivation?" joke grates on me so -- anyone who asks it inspires me to snap back "Figuring that out is YOUR job.")

That said, I can compartmentalize and analyze beyond my default, and you make excellent points. After all, when Coreen is the voice of reason, something is certainly askew...

Edited at 2007-11-26 03:21 pm (UTC)
wiliqueen
Nov. 26th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
Addendum
Re: Mike... While I agree that his logic string as specifically regards DNA was faulty, there was still the possibility of something identifiable in the physical form of the remains, like the first guy's tattoo. So I have to call it as he did destroy evidence.
unclehyena
Nov. 26th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Addendum
Well, again, it is more sloppy dialog than bad story stucture in this case. The thing Mike talked about was DNA; I would have been happier if he had mentioned the possibility of an identifiable tatoo, or even just said that because of what he did, questions that should be asked will not be.
unclehyena
Nov. 26th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
The light dawns. I have been feeling there was something about your perspective that I didn't quite understand, and here it is: Your primary craft leads you to rationalize everything, and my leads me to note it and consider alternatives. Though, like you, I CAN work the other side of the street...
wiliqueen
Nov. 26th, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC)
And one result is that I simply get more enjoyment out of examining it entirely in "in-universe" terms. That has its limits, of course, and in some cases I eventually wind up with people I simply no longer care about or want to invite into my living room. BSG is well on its way there, for instance.

These folks, OTOH, are far, far from it, the urge to grab and shake them notwithstanding. I quite like to want to grab and shake my fictional heroes once in a while.

You mentioned "manipulative" in your latest post with the movie reviews. I have a very high tolerance for that, and admittedly so, because I'm in for the emotional ride. And very often it's my job to do the manipulating. ;-) It's better if the ride can happen within a flawlessly executed story structure, of course, but if I can only have one or the other, I'll go for the ride every time.

Meanwhile, my husband operates exactly as you do -- we're seldom out of the movie theatre before he's saying "If they had done X and Y and Z," even if he enjoyed it immensely. It took me a long time to get used to and comprehend that.

Edited at 2007-11-26 05:23 pm (UTC)
unclehyena
Nov. 26th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
I have developed a pretty good ability to invoke MPD while reading and particularly while watching movies; the critical part of my brain makes its noises, and the more innocent part of me (which does exist, somewhere) just sits back and enjoys the ride.

You might find this post ( http://unclehyena.livejournal.com/162699.html ) interesting in that regard...
studiesinlight
Dec. 12th, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC)
Catching up on BT: the "I Have No Choice" Drinking Game episode
Oh, fascinating! I watched "Unwrapped" while exercising this morning, and only have time for the briefest of reactions before going to work, but your response to it was quite a revelation!

I was completely over on the "This is poorly written" side, as my first response. My opening remark was going to be: "They just set a new record for most uses of 'I have no choice' in a single episode of a genre show." The questionable dialogue and the narrative gaps -- e.g. the sudden switching of sides during the argument while Henry got dressed -- blunted the emotional impact for me. I will have to watch it again.

I did enjoy that Mike, of all of them, followed his "I have no choice" with the realization that he darn well does have choices, and is therefore responsible for the ones he makes. Vicki answering that with a "You had no choice" made her completely alien to where he was, emotionally and morally, at that moment, and, I think, caused the break.

I also enjoyed that Henry has all those books, showing again that his animosity toward magic in this universe is well informed, not prejudiced. And I was excited, on a dramatic level, by seeing his convictions about magic play out in such a potent personal way, hurtful to everyone and yet the cost of conscience and probably more. I loved his pointing out to Vicki that you don't get something for nothing, and who did she think she was calling on with that spell? I'm looking forward to the next episode.

But if they're pulling a Willow with Coreen, I think they're making a big mistake.

More later?
wiliqueen
Dec. 12th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Catching up on BT: the "I Have No Choice" Drinking Game episode
"They just set a new record for most uses of 'I have no choice' in a single episode of a genre show."

*snorfle* They really, really did. It's such a funny thing -- I see and concede almost every one of the flaws various people have pointed out, and even saw a lot of them while it was in progress. But it's a completely separate mental process for me, and takes no force away from the sledgehammer to the gut at all.

I did enjoy that Mike, of all of them, followed his "I have no choice" with the realization that he darn well does have choices,

Yes! His choices can and increasingly do suck, but he does indeed have them. That's right up there with the speech to Henry in "Bugged" about how "I get to go tell this girl's parents why their daughter isn't coming home." He's holding onto his integrity by teeth and toenails, but he is holding on.

Vicki answering that with a "You had no choice" made her completely alien to where he was, emotionally and morally, at that moment, and, I think, caused the break.

Absolutely. They have always been (as Tanya phrased it in her blog) each other's safety valve, and Vicki's ability to be that for him really broke down there.

But if they're pulling a Willow with Coreen, I think they're making a big mistake.

At this point I'll be very surprised if they make it. There were several points early in the season where I wondered if they weren't making her too much of a copy of Willow. But lately it seems like her arc is almost an inversion of Willow's. Willow started out nervous and doubtful of her own ability, then gained confidence through success and approval, culminating initially in the curse to restore Angel's soul. That huge effort and risk were rewarded with what everyone regarded as a positive outcome, and set the stage for her to get fatally overconfident later.

Coreen, meanwhile, started out treating it as a game where anything was possible, an attitude that met with unambiguous disapproval from Henry and mostly with semi-patient eyerolling from Vicki, both of whom have made a (frustrating to her) point of keeping her away from the front lines. Now suddenly she has Vicki demanding that she ignore whatever caution she's accumulated and try to pull off a huge and dangerous undertaking whose outcome cannot possibly be unmixedly positive. Her own instinct that this can't end well is enough to tip the balance in Henry's favor when she's faced with critically disappointing one of them (back to what you were saying yesterday about her need for approval!), and she can't go through with it. A couple people (including Tanya) thought she actually threw up as Vicki was leaving, but after checking it a couple times I'm pretty sure that's Vicki coughing/choking while Coreen is bending over crying. Even if it didn't make her physically sick, though, it was a huge shock for which she was in no way prepared. I think it's pretty safe to say that she won't treat any of this lightly EVER again, and probably won't be in a hurry to mess even with much simpler permutations. So I don't see them going the Willow route in that sense.

Henry's comment to Vicki makes it clear that he doesn't think Coreen dodged the bullet entirely, though, and presumably it's there for specific foreshadowing reasons. She's "on their radar," and was already the most vulnerable of the regular characters. This was the inevitable Very Hard Lesson, which miraculously didn't cost her everything outright, but will probably still have more consequences fall on her just as she's starting to go forward a little more wisely.

Edited at 2007-12-12 07:31 pm (UTC)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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