Saturday, 28 November 2015

Het Huis Anubis: Episode 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10

It's 10 o'clock. Victor wants everyone in their rooms in five minutes and then he wants to be able to hear a pin drop.

All the kids are scurrying around but Appie saunters by unconcerned. After all, they still have three minutes. He even whistles just to annoy Victor. The pin drops and Appie shrieks  from his room like a banshee just to piss off Victor even more.

In his office, Victor is complaining to Corvus that the house is now a boarding school. I don't understand why his own house could be turned into a boarding school against his will? Maybe this is an order from the Society? You know, the one I'm not going to pretend I don't know about yet. Either way, Victor hates the "spoiled brats" disturbing his peace and quiet.

It's Victor's most interesting trait that he loathes the life he's determined to cling onto.

There's lurking going on!

It's Appie, who lures Victor out of his office so he can steal the attic key for Nienke's hazing. He hides behind a suit of armour that I don't remember seeing either before or since. But convenient!

He goes back to his room where he, Jeroen and Patricia are conspiring. Patricia here is being mean at this stage as a kind of catharsis and because she just wants Nienke to go away. Appie mostly thinks pranks are just good, clean fun. And Jeroen is whispering in everybody's ears, encouraging their worst aspects for his own enjoyment. In this version, he doesn't come off as an insecure ass but a genuine sociopath.

In Nienke and Amber's room, Amber is raving about Mick and the bracelet and how amazing it all is while Nienke is trying to sleep. We need this reminder about the bracelet because then it's...

...the next morning. There's bathroom hijinks (this boarding house has only one bathroom and one toilet? Really?) before breakfast and Amber is trying to win Mick's love by feeding him again before seeing that he also gave Mara a bracelet to thank her for helping him study.

Mara says she and Amber are now "like sisters' in what is the most tone-deaf thing I've heard a character say so far. Mick enters the room and of course Amber loses it and throws a glass of water in his face. Patricia says, "Oh look, Amber made breakfast for you." This is a) her first piece of dialogue that didn't involve the words Joyce and/or Nienke and b) considering Amber's ongoing Hausfrau routine, is hands down the best line ever.

Meanwhile, Nienke has gone to visit her grandmother where she runs into Sarah who gives her the locket. Which is huge, by the way. Like, massively huge. So huge that no human could or would wear it. Why? So she'd be forced to carry it in her pocket rather than around her neck? I have no idea. This is not a locket; it's a training weight.

Sarah does her crazy old lady routine with the 'dark house, dark shadow' warning, and then the person who did the subtitles for this really loses the plot. So, Sarah says she can see that Nienke has the power to break the curse. She says there's a treasure in the house that Nienke has to find and hide. (It's already hidden so she's telling Nienke to find it and then re-hide it but Nienke doesn't think this request is strange so I won't either).

So far, so Sibuna.

But then the subtitles tell me someone will never be unravelled as long as the treasure is in the black night with the twinkling stars. And I get she's supposed to be losing the thread of the conversation herself but... ?unravelled? A person? No clue.

Nienke, rattled and a bit disturbed, comes back home and is, of course, jumped by the Anubis Initiation Team who tell her she has to go up to the attic at midnight and bring something back. Because the attic is forbidden, Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) is concerned about the consequences if she gets found. Patricia tells him he needs to choose between her and Nienke.

At midnight, they gather around the attic door while Victor does something weird involving dead animals in his office. Nienke goes up into the attic. Of course, someone makes a noise so they all scatter to their rooms while Appie (really? Appie?) locks Nienke in and returns the key to Victor's office.

Later, Amber comes barging in to Patricia's room demanding she let Nienke out before she gets eaten by ghosts. These kids are super superstitious, hey? Patricia's all like, "Hey, if that means she's gone from my life then..."

For some reason, Mara's pretty much okay with this kind of bullying which I find perplexing. This Mara doesn't actually seem that nice.

Down in the boy's room, Amber's arguing with Jeroen and Appie about Nienke. Mick washes his hands of the situation because he's having "How to Not Do Your Relationship Any Favours" kind of day. Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) comes in and of course he's furious that Nienke's locked in the attic. He and Jeroen have a fight about it in which Fabian says many true things that will no doubt secretly hurt Jeroen's feelings or something. Because stoking people's worst instincts and then watching them go is his thing and Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) seems to have his measure more than most.

Amber and Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) try to work out what to do and decide they need to go to Victor and tell him they're responsible for Nienke being in the attic and that it's a joke.

Meanwhile, on the attic stairs but not actually yet in the attic, there's mice and lots of blank looks from Nienke who's ?scared?, ?annoyed?, ?intrigued?, ?determined?, ?resigned?, ?hungry?. Who would ever know? Crack an expression. Please. She remembers what Sarah said about the treasure and goes looking for it. Only joking. She just keeps sitting there. This is the world's most exciting protagonist right here.

Then she rather epically gets herself out of the attic by using a hair pin and I have to eat my words. But only just a little.

Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) and Amber see her before they throw themselves on the fire, make some kind of silly excuse and everyone gets off to bed where Amber can be impressed by Nienke's awesomeness.

The next morning the worm has turned in Nienke's direction, much to Patricia's annoyance. Everyone thinks she's brave for going into the attic and getting herself out and for once her natural quietness and silence just makes her look cool.

She goes to ride to school but realises she left her keys in the attic so can't unlock her bike. She sees Joyce's bike and notices it has the same symbol as on her locket. She goes to look but Patricia yells at her because it's Joyce's bike and reminds her she's still watching her.

I have to say, Patricia is not even vaguely sympathetic in this. At least in the American version, I felt sorry for her. This Patricia is just a vicious bully. Even at school she's giving Amber and everyone "my friend or my enemy" ultimatums and alienating them all. Mick has good grades in science for once and his gratitude to Mara doesn't go down well with Amber. Patricia then deliberately creates a situation where she tricks Mara into admitting she has a crush on Mick in earshot of Amber.

In the girls' toilet, someone has bored a hole into the wall between the bathroom and the Principal's office so they can eavesdrop. That's awesome. Patricia hears van Swieten and van Engelen discussing Joyce's disappearance and finally, finally, she has actual evidence that something weird is going on here and that there is, in fact, a conspiracy.

Realising she has to rescue her keys from the attic before Victor sees them, Nienke borrows Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) bike and returns to the house; this time going right into the attic and looking around. She finds a secret room in the attic with a painting in it of Sarah - similar to the one in the locket. She finds a parchment in the back and takes it.

No magic going on here though, unfortunately. The room wasn't opened by the locket, just by touching something on the wall. Anyone could easily get into this room. So easily it makes me wonder why Victor, who owns this house, hasn't.

Speaking of Victor, he's come home and caught her in the house. She tells some lie about looking for a book and heads back to school where Patricia is trying to tell everybody about the teachers' conversation but of course they don't believe her. A whirlwind of crazy will do that.

Victor discovers something on the floor in the house. No idea. Something from the attic? Either way enough to make him suspicious.

Back at school, Nienke is looking at the parchment. It's covered in pictograms of some kind. They're not hieroglyphics so must be some kind of earlier Egyptian pictographic writing. I mean, in the show. I don't expect they're real early Egyptian pictographs. van Engelen confiscates it.

Patricia uses the lesson to grill van Engelen on Joyce's disappearance. And I hate to flog a dead horse here but she's saying that it's weird Joyce's parents haven't contacted the school when their daughter has disappeared. Except, again, she didn't disappear from school. She just didn't come back from holidays. And that's all van Engelen has to say. But of course for some reason she doesn't.

As they're leaving the classroom Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) steals the parchment back from van Engelen's desk. Flove. Nothing says Daniel Jackson in training like some minor larceny.


It's 10pm and Victor wants to hear a pin drop and Amber is in bed telling Nienke about the conversation she overhead between Patricia and Mara. Nienke gives her the great advice to tell Mick how she feels. And considering how obtuse the guy can be, that's a really good idea. He has no idea that Amber's jealous of Mara so of course he hasn't changed his behaviour to ward her. Amber, whose romantic ideas really were formed in the 19th century and are therefore about as useful, says she's not going to because "he's the boy and he has to fight for her".

Bad romance novels really do have a lot to answer for. And I still can't blame Twilight.

Mara and Patricia are also talking, firstly about Patricia's festering obsession and then about Mara's crush on Mick. At this stage, I care about neither of these things.

The next day...

Nienke sees Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) in what I assume is some kind of school common room? I still don't know. Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) gives her the parchment back, which makes me wonder why he waited an entire day to do it. But I guess we can't have the real plot moving too fast in a season with 114 episodes.

Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) says he never looked at it because he thought it was personal. And then he doesn't even hint that she should tell him what's in it. The fact she hasn't already written Nienke en Fabian voor altijd across all her notebooks is beyond me.

Meanwhile, the Amber school of romantic bad decisions is in session as she pursues a "make Mick jealous" campaign with Appie. And Patricia notices her second actual genuine clue there's something wrong: Joyce has been removed from one of the pictures in the common room.

In drama Amber chooses Appie to be her Romeo and kisses him in front of everybody. So now her insecure boyfriend is even more convinced she's not interested in him and Appie is convinced it's him she wants. Good plan!

Patricia finds more photos with Joyce removed and confronts van Swieten and van Engelen with predictable results.

Nienke decides to show Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) the parchment with the pictographs. They do some research and decide it's referring to a ladder or stairs. Nienke decides to go back to the retirement home to visit her grandmother (but really to see Sarah again). As she leaves, Patricia interrogates Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) about where she's going and why and demands he spy on her. Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) has had enough of her stupid conspiracy theories.

Back at the house, there's a boorish confrontation between Mick and Appie and Jeroen the Puppetmaster sees his opportunity to pull everyone's strings again. He devises a plan to ostensibly do something romantic to show Amber he likes her but is of course just him getting Appie to do something stupid so he can stand on the sidelines and laugh.

In this case, it's leaving a message on Amber's bed in lollies to meet him in the laundry night at 11pm the next night (why would it be the next night? why not that night? this show drags some things out for no reason). He signs it with an edible A so of course Jeroen eats it.

Nienke finds Sarah but she's confused and doesn't recognise her. So, that trip was kind of pointless huh?

Back home again, Nienke and Amber find the message and Amber thinks it's from Mick. Because she really doesn't understand him at all. Jeroen manages to both lurk and gloat all at once, which only he could pull off. He then tells Appie she read it and is super excited about meeting him.

To quote someone else from the other version of this show, he's a real nasty piece of work.

Downstairs, Nienke and Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) are working on translating the parchment while Patricia is in the room. Which I find hard to believe but it means we can see things from her perspective - Nienke and Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) apparently whispering and conspiring.

Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) decides it's a rebus, which is quite a complicated medieval reference for a children's show. Unless they use it in Europe in daily conversation. So the letter refers to something under the stairs, which Nienke goes to get later that night. I wish she'd do more of this stuff with Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) but I'll take what I can get.

Victor catches her out of bed and is suspicious. At least until the stair she pulled up gives way and he falls down them. Heh. Funny in both versions.

The next day, Nienke and Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) give a class presentation on Egypt while Patricia complains about their continuing existence. She wants to break into van Swieten's office and steals Joyce's file. Amber refuses to help so she recruits Mara.

Mara's attempt to distract van Swieten is nowhere near as funny as the 'hedgehog' story from the American version and Patricia doesn't get the file this time.

We finish off episode 10 with Amber and Appie getting ready for their dates and heading to the laundry room.

And that's all for now

Het Huis Anubis: Episodes 1 ,2, 3 and 4

As a huge fan of House of Anubis, I decided to go back to where it all began. Het Huis Anubis: the original show. And since nobody reads this blog that hasn't been updated for several years, I can start something that may never get finished.

I've decided to knock over several of each of the 10 minute episodes at a time. I have most of Season 1 with (poor quality) English subtitles from YouTube but after that you'll be relying on my knowledge of Dutch.

NOTE: I do not speak Dutch.

The first episode starts, as the American version does, with Nienke (Nina) arriving at her new school for the first time. This time, she's with her grandmother who is sending her to boarding school so she can move into a retirement home.

As Nienke arrives, a car barrels out of the driveway. Those of us who've seen the other version suspect this may be the car with Joyce (Joy) in it? Although the later exposition given in this episode suggests this isn't the case.

Nienke arrives with an eerie, Gothic creaking door to the impressive Het Huis Anubis. She is, once again, greeted by Victor who declares her 'late' and gives her a potted history of the house, owned by the Winstbrugge-Hennegouwe's until inherited by his grandfather. So we know upfront that Victor owns this house.

This time when Nienke sees the photo of the Anubis residents, Joyce is still in it suggesting they hadn't yet gotten around to removing her from the photos.

We cut to the school where van Swieten is giving students either a make-up test or a study group before the start of term (not entirely sure, actually). We meet Mick (sporty) and Mara (brainy) before cutting back to the house to hear Victor's hilariously dated house rules. We meet Trudy and of course Corvus (which literally means 'raven' so Victor named his Raven, Raven).

That is so awesomely literal and so Victor that I don't know why the writers changed it to Corbierre for the American version. The raven has long been associated with death so when Victor strokes Corvus, he's stroking death. Corvus is taxidermied, showing a desire to control death. But stuffing it only gives it the appearance of life, which tells you all you need to know about Victor and his perpetual failures.

Everything that happens in this show and at the end we still have Victor, alone and mortal, stroking his Corvus in a house full of youth that will never begin to understand him because they're not at the end of a life devoted to a hopeless cause.

Continuing Nienke and Victor's house tour, we find out that Patricia is sharing a room with Mara before meeting Patricia back at the school. She comes off as intense and extroverted and a bit of a rebel but far more comfortable in her own skin than the American version is.

"Where's Joyce?" she asks, for what new viewers will be unaware is the first of about a billion times.

And the beginning of why the American version got this, at least, right and the original went wrong. Joyce did not come back to school from holidays. So what? If my best friend didn't show up at school after the holidays and then didn't answer her phone or emails and I heard her family had taken her out of school, I would have been angry and upset and confused - not convinced she'd been kidnapped. Having her arrive at school and move back into her room and make plans and attend classes and then disappear was much more effective at explaining Patricia's obsession than this.

Back to the house, where the music is telling us that Victor's being creepy while he explains that the cellar and the attic are out of bounds. And then he takes her to her room. Which is with Amber. So, in this version Joyce was sharing with Amber? Ok.

Downstairs, Amber (the Barbie) has received a bright pink gift, which she opens while an actually creepy figure lurks in the background. It's Appie (the clown), we find out when the present explodes and Amber is covered in soot. But I have to admit that lurking figure in the background was the first time I got a genuinely creepy vibe off this show.

Amber's crying and yelling how she almost died. It's a nice introduction to our little drama queen, and paves the way for her over-the-top reaction to Nienke being in her room. Although it still makes more sense when this is Patricia. Amber throws Nienke and her belongings into the hallway.

And that's the end of episode 1, with Nienke totally and completely alone in the hallway of a strange house with her life scattered around her. Very nice.

As episode 2 starts, Nienke is back in her room unpacking and making her bed and I feel like I've missed something. I guess she went back in and Amber left and there was some sort of explanation for everything in Offscreenville (so much happens there, I should set a story there myself).

Patricia storms in and grabs Joyce's stuffed toy and, again, if Joyce's parents decided not to send her back to school this term then of course some of her things would still be there. Another small thing that makes more sense in the American version.

"Where's Joyce?" asks Patricia. Again. It's dinnertime at Table Anubis. Her obsession is starting to show already as she's completely ignoring Mara here. Nienke comes in and I guess she's so shy and overwhelmed and upset about her grandmother going into a home that she just sits down and doesn't introduce herself. Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) smiles at her but she says nothing.

Mara, loudly, asks Patricia who she is and Patricia sneers, "Joyce's replacement!" and Nienke still says nothing. Is this Nienke mute or something? I get that she's supposed to be really shy but she could at least tell these people she's going to be living with her name.

Amber comes in and does the "you're in my place, where's Mick?" thing and Nienke silently moves next to Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) and still doesn't say anything. How do these two painfully shy dorks ever hook up?

I remember reading a comment about this show that said Fabian "fell in love with her at first sight". If that's the case, then "love at first sight" looks like mild curiosity and general pleasantness.

Mick comes in and we're made aware that Mara has a thing for him and Amber's insecure about their relationship, mostly I suspect because she has romantic fantasies based around bad young adult romance novels.

Back at the tables, Jeroen (the bad one) and Appie are mucking around and Amber is serving Mick like she's his fucking hausfrau or something. So I guess her real problem is her romantic notions were formed in about 1876 (since this is pre-Twilight and I can't blame that). Either way, this relationship is doomed the minute she gets a life.

Patricia hooks into Nienke about who she is and what she knows about Joyce and Appie throws spaghetti at her and it come across as the whole table bullying her so when she goes up to speak to her grandmother she's even more alone and miserable than she was before.

Back downstairs, Patricia demands Victor tell her where Joyce is and he just says that Joyce is gone. Patricia pulls out the bear and says, "She'd never leave this behind" and again, show.... she didn't. She just didn't come back from the holidays. Patricia later says to Fabian that Joyce "left important things behind and didn't say goodbye" but neither of those things are true because she wasn't there at all.

Appie's sorry about the spaghetti but Patricia's congratulating him on making Nienke leave the table (even though she really left for the phone) and Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) castigates her. Patricia's all like, "It's totally weird how my friend didn't come back from holidays and now this boarding house that's a business put a new paying customer in her bed just like that! It's a CONSPIRACY and Nienke has everything to do with it."

And, as I promise I will stop saying, this comes across as totally batshit in this version.  At least in the American one, Joyce leaves during the day and so Patricia wakes up with one roommate and goes to bed with another and her seething brain adds 2 and 2 and comes up with 57. This just makes her sound barking mad.

As Fabian says, "Why would they leave her room empty for three months?"

Patricia basically says Fabian's a selfish idiot whose good grades are meaningless so he leaves the table. Neither Mara nor Amber back her up so she storms off.

Later, Victor is monologuing to Corvus about having promised not to tell anyone where Joyce is when Patricia comes in for another round of "Where's Joyce? I want to speak to Joyce. Give me Joyce's number" and Victor throws her out. She vows to find out what he has to do with Joyce's disappearance.

As the second episode ends, Victor stands in the middle of house yelling that it's "10 o'clock and he wants to be able to hear a pin drop". He also drops an actual pin, which is just as awesome in both versions.

Appie defiantly runs around the house because he "has 3 minutes left."

In the office, Victor burns Joyce's teddy bear and I'm forced to conclude the only reason for him to do this in either version is that he's a massive dick. Mara admits to Amber she's worried about Joyce and Patricia and Nienke cries herself to sleep.

The next morning, Mara wants to throw a party but can't get anyone excited about the idea. Maybe that's because my English subtitles tell me she wants to "cut the arts" ???!? which doesn't sound like much fun to me. Patricia says it sounds like she wants to pretend nothing's wrong because JOYCE (I'm working around the hilarious subtitles at this stage) and so I guess this party idea is DOA.

Mick asks Mara to tutor him and Amber attacks some cakes instead of her but is obviously seething with jealousy. This Mick comes off as more of a player than the American version (who mostly just seemed self-absorbed and oblivious) so I think her jealousy here is probably not without cause.

That night, Patricia finds the message in the fog on the mirror that will propel her into her new stage of crazy while downstairs Mick and Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) talk about girls in a way that's actually kind of adorable.

When Mick raises the issue of Nienke, Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) shows his first hint of personality by defending her. He points out that blaming her for existing is kind of stupid and Mick, of course, interpets this as romantic interest. He actually refers to Nienke as an "ugly ducking" so either he's blind or teenage boys really are that stupid. Still, I remember having a crush on a gorgeous guy at school that some of the sillier girls told me was ordinary looking because he didn't fulfill some sort of stupid TV/magazine ideal. Boy did they eat their words when he hit 20. Damn.

Upstairs, Nienke is clearing the steam off the mirror and is discovered by Patricia who went to get Mara to see the message. Which was, of course, "Help me Joyce". And in either version, I have no idea what Patricia thinks that was. Also, whoever did it didn't punctuate it properly so it looks as though someone is asking Joyce for help.

Either way Patricia is now convinced that Nienke was "erasing evidence" or something and, since it's not the craziest thing she's believed, we'll just move the next day. Nienke gets up early to go and visit her grandmother, which means we endure more of Patricia's increasingly deranged conspiracy theories at the breakfast table. This time even Appie tells her to stop (although does that mean he wasn't the one who wrote on the mirror to tease her? Who did?).

Amber's too distracted by Mara rather intimately tutoring Mick in the background to pay much attention, although she does break in to point out that Nienke's just gone to visit her grandmother. Patricia declares this ailing-grandmother Sunday morning visit convenient because she is a crazy person.

Jeroen says something that doesn't translate, which I assume was basically massively sexist. Either way, everybody ignores him and Patricia asks Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) to spy on Nina. You can imagine how he reacts to that suggestion.

In the retirement/nursing home, (Benelux aged care is outside my experience, I'm afraid) Nienke sees a painting of Anubis and meets Sarah for the first time who rather vaguely and creepily tells her the house is dark and evil and watched over by a black bird so she should be careful. Nienke looks appropriately freaked out.

Probably not surprising she has a nightmare about it that night, which Patricia and Appie make worse by breaking into her room and screeching at her while she's dreaming. Amber's mother duck instincts kick in and she turfs them out. Nienke then tells Amber about Sarah and the dream.

The next day, Patricia - and I usually refuse to use this word for obvious reasons - is still being a vicious little bitch about the dream, running around telling everybody and screeching "black bird!" to Nienke whenever she sees her. Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) asks her to stop her bullying behaviour and start acting like the Patricia he used to know.

Meanwhile, the Amber, Mara, Mick triangle is continuing nicely - albeit without Mick's knowledge. Amber's annoyed about him and Mara but, since there is no him and Mara, he sees her withdrawal as a rejection.

On to drama, where we meet new teacher Jason Winker who's supposed to be so totally hot that all the girls swoon or something. I don't see it, personally, but I do remember being 15 and thinking any teacher under the age of 25 was gorgeous merely by being under 25 so I guess it makes sense.

We get even more footage of Patricia being an asshole to Nienke before suggesting, with the backing of Jeroen and Appie, that Nienke be initiated into the group (the translator has used the word 'hazed' here, not sure which is better as the latter is more of an Americanism). This initiation will apparently involve the attic and will happen "when she least expects it".

Fabian (oh Fabian, my Fabian) is against it but Nienke agrees because....? I have no idea. This Nienke is so reserved and so shy I have no clue what she's thinking. Nina agreed because she was tired of the bullying and wanted to show strength. Let's just assume Nienke's motivated by wanting to fit in.

Meanwhile, Mick and Amber reconcile and he gives her a friendship bracelet he had made (although we know from a previous scene with Fabian he has more than one so...that'll end well). Mara sees them and makes jealous face as Mick and Amber totally make out. Wow. What happened to closed-lip kisses and hand holding? Naughty! I like it! Or maybe this show hadn't yet worked out just how young their audience was going to end up being.

Either way, that's it for the first four episodes. The soapy nature of this show made it a little less interesting to recap than I thought but I'll keep going for now.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Merlin Season 4: Better than expected

After the truly mediocre season 3, I had little incentive to watch Merlin this year. The first five episodes have been sitting on my hard drive unwatched and I was debating whether I should subject myself to it at all. To my surprise, the first two episodes of the season were very good; mostly due to Santiago Cabrera's Lancelot. The actor managed to make me fall in love with the character; something I didn't think was possible.

The Darkest Hour Part 1 and 2 were probably Merlin's most cohesive episodes since season 1 and for the first time the show has managed genuine character growth and development. By now, Merlin and Arthur must be 26 and 28 respectively and it's high time the show gave them the maturity needed for their age and positions. The bromance factor was off the scale but for once it wasn't of the cheesy slash fan fiction type. The writers are still obviously reading too much fan fiction but at least they're now reading the right ones. The shoe-horned Deus Ex Dragon I could have done without but I guess if you hire John Hurt you need to find a way to use him.

While The Wicked Day made me once again annoyed that Merlin didn't just man up and admit his magic to Arthur, it was nonetheless quite well-executed. Still, like Smallville before it, the show continually shows that Albion's biggest threat is Merlin himself. Are we supposed to cheer on a hero who constantly makes his own enemies through sheer cowardice? First Morgana, now Arthur. Surely he should start to realise that his problems are consistently of his own making?

The season fell down slightly in Aithusa and His Father's Son: a microcosm of everything that can be wrong with this show.  The slapstick, the bad fan fiction slash, the annoying reliance on Deus ex Dragon, Merlin's stupid use of magic to do dumb things and the fact that he doesn't stand up to Arthur like he used to. And Viridis Lupus should demand royalties.

Still, there wasn't a single episode in Season 3 that was worth rewatching so Season 4 is already a significant improvement. Now all I can hope for is that the BBC learns how to write a female character. I will not, however, hold my breath.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Haven: Who, What, Where Wendigo

After last week's D episode, we get another. Poor continuity, poor plotting, inconsistent characterisation: why is this show so uneven?

SFScope has a fantastic review of this episode that is a lot more measured and detailed than I have time to be and which pretty much sums it up. You can read it here

This show has so much potential and there is a part of me that truly loves it. The other part wonders why I keep tuning in to something that's only half good.

After a much stronger start to this season and some truly great episodes, Season 2 of Haven seems to be careening off track; substituting contrivance for craft and using poor characterisation to drive the story forward. It's damn disappointing and I can only hope that the last few episodes pick up.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Haven Lockdown: That made no sense

Yay! Evi’s finally dead!
Is it my imagination or did that episode make no sense?
But yay! Evi’s finally dead.
You know what makes a character’s death more emotional? Not knowing that she’d been brought in to die from the second she walked on screen. I fist pumped the air and my only regret is that it wasn’t more drawn out and painful. Actually, my only regret is that it didn’t happen eight episodes ago.
But apart from that, that episode made no sense. I thought nothing could come close to Roots for contrivance. Boy was I wrong. No one’s reactions to anything made any sense, no one was in character, the entire plotline was driven by convenience, not logic and, just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, they had some sort of “the Rev is behind it all” epiphany complete with slow motion that would have been effective if the Rev hadn’t told us that straight up at the end of last season.
I mean, he sat in Nathan’s office and said “I’m in the middle of all of this”. Then he came back in the first episode of this season and said it again. Then Nathan said it last episode. Then Nathan said it at the beginning of this episode.
And even though it was one of the Rev’s men who shot Evi, the Rev came in and told Duke it was the fault of the Troubled and Duke… thanked him. For what? In fact, if anyone can explain to me why anybody behaved the way they did in this episode, I will give them cookies. Virtual ones but cookies nonetheless.
Oh yeah, for those who want recap as well as review: the police station gets locked down after an outbreak of what looks like a contagion. Then there’s lots of running around. It’s ridiculous.
But yay! Evi’s finally dead. And that almost made it worth it.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Haven Audrey Parker’s Day Off: Best Episode Ever

For an episode that had as its premise one of the most overused concepts in sci-fantasy – the time loop – ‘Audrey Parker’s Day Off’ is probably the best episode of Haven so far. So good in fact that it may be one of my favourite episodes of television ever.
From the minute Audrey was woken by Chris at 7:32 on her ‘day off’ to the final scene of her hiding - white-faced and shellshocked - from the three most important men in her life, the writers gave us a perfect blend of drama, humour, tragedy and action.
Emily Rose’s performance as the day repeats is fantastic: giving us confusion (first repeat), determination and relief (second repeat), shock and fear (third repeat), and finally sheer emotional exhaustion. That the show gave us a resolution to the main plot that is both happy (nobody Audrey loves dies) and gut-wrenchingly tragic is a tribute both to them and to the performances of the actors involved.
I cannot pour down enough praise on the writers for integrating Chris (the increasingly bemused love interest), Nathan (Audrey’s rock) and Duke (whose man-crush on the Troubled Chris was downright hilarious) so successfully into the plot and for bringing subtlety back into the love triangle (or square as it is these days). After last week’s anvil-fest, it was nice to see Nathan and Duke’s feelings for Audrey telegraphed without being clunky and trite.
The variations of the waffle conversation were some of the funniest Duke scenes since his cupcake and shotgun dialogue from last year’s finale. I’ve been hanging out for a Duke/Chris man-crash scene and this episode gave us that in spades.
Since the show started, we’ve seen Audrey develop an increasingly-narcissistic martyr complex. This was in full force in this episode as she comes to the belief that the tragedy of the day was all her fault, simply because she took a day off. This facet of her personality is nicely represented by the Trouble of Anson Shumway: the OCD man whose need to repeat actions to stop bad things happening causes the day to repeat as he subconsciously tries to stop the deaths he witnesses.
“Just because you believe you’re responsible for these things, doesn’t mean that you are,” Audrey tells him in the episode’s climax. If only this was advice she could take for herself. As she packs Chris off to London at the end and then hides at the Gull, face white at the thought of losing Duke and Nathan, you can only hope that she doesn’t throw off the support the men give her in dealing with the town’s Troubles in some misguided attempt to protect them.
The writers, Nora Zuckerman and Lilla Zuckerman, didn’t write for Haven in their first season. The only other episode they’ve been involved in, Love Machine, was arguably the second-best episode of the show ever. So I’d like to send a personal message to the showrunners: keep these two on. Jim Dunn, while I love that you helped co-create this show, you should probably let others do the writing. Between Roots and Fur, your batting average is not looking good.
PS - And no Evi. Thank the Lord. My only problem with this episode is the knowledge in the back of my mind that she's still out there, lurking around Haven and manifestly not dead. Is it too much to ask for her to be killed soon? Please. I'll give you cookies.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Haven Roots: Worst episode ever?

There was a point during the episode ‘As You Were’ in Season 1 when I found myself contemplating whether it was the worst episode of television I’d ever seen. It turns out it was merely a small taste of the awfulness that would be ‘Roots’ a season later.
My disappointment then was minimal. After all, I’d enjoyed the show so far but wasn’t invested in it. Episodes like ‘Fur’ and ‘Butterfly’ had inured me to the show being poor and I did enjoy the interactions between the leads. Coming as it was after a couple of great episodes this season, my frustration with ‘Roots’ was somewhat more palpable. 
I’ve noted before that the writing in the show can be somewhat clunky. This episode added extraordinary contrivance to the clunkiness to leave us with some serious cranial damage from all the anvils.
Of course, the main Trouble for this week was always going to be weak. Killer plants have never worked in a storyline. Ever. And Haven does not have the budget to pull off realistic CGI roots slithering out of the forest to rend people limb from limb.
Combine that with poor dialogue, clumsy plotting and inconsistent characterisation and you have a truly abysmal effort by the writers.
When an episode is as bad as this one was it’s difficult to know where to start in outlining the depths of its awfulness. Last week, Nathan was encouraging Audrey to go out with Chris Brody, the new character played by Jason Priestley. This week he’s apparently mindlessly jealous about it. So much so that he fights his way through the plants only to be left standing alone as all the ‘couples’ exit together at the end. And that was only one of the crashing piles of metal descending on me from the sky.
Why was Audrey at the rehearsal dinner? Because she was delivering the marriage license. What on Earth does that have to do with the cops? Nothing! It was in the script.
Parker finds out she doesn’t have mobile phone reception even though they can’t be more than half an hour from town? Does she go to find a phone to call for backup? No. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
The plants attack and all the guests run. Except for Duke and Evi who stay. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
The plants attack and Audrey sends Chris to investigate the barn. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
Parker, who tells Nathan everything, didn’t mention she was going on a date with Chris. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
Nathan goes out to rescue Vince and Dave from their broken-down van and the plants attack them even though they’re not at the house and aren’t a member of either of the feuding families. Why? Who knows! It was in the script.
Put on top of this the wedged-in joke about the Teagues’ Twitter feud (which would have been funny if they weren’t promoting actual Haven Twitter feeds), the clunky ‘Love Conquers All’ ending (this apparently being the ‘theme’ of this season) and the forced reintroduction of the love triangle (which I believe just became a love quadrangle), and you have the new lead contender for worst episode of television I’ve ever seen.
There were a few positives about the episode of course and this review would not be complete without mentioning them. Firstly, after the introduction of the painful Evidence Crocker, I had considerable concerns about Jason Priestley’s involvement but his portrayal of troubled marine biologist Chris Brody is excellent and I enjoy the character’s storyline. Parker can be (understandably) self-absorbed and I like that he calls her on her crap and questions her methods of doing things.  
I’m also very glad to be wrong about Evi’s storyline and, while I would still like to see her die in some suitably gruesome way that benefits from repeated viewing, having her be evil (or at least evil in a different way) is a nice twist.
This does, however, bring me to my main problem with Season 2; a problem that I hope the writers will overcome in the back half of this season. Duke, Audrey and Nathan are not just supposed to be friends; they’re supposed to be confidants. They’re supposed to be the ones working together to untangle the mystery of Haven. This episode in particular had them all cocooned in their own little worlds without reference to each other. I understand the reasons but this just feels wrong to me.
Audrey and Nathan talk to each other about their romantic entanglements. They always have. And why wouldn’t Duke tell Audrey about his investigation of the tattoo; choosing instead to confide in Evi whom he doesn’t trust? Answer: he wouldn’t.
Or, possibly, it was just that it was in the script.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Haven Love Machine: Season 2 is 2 for 3

Haven is two for three after this weekend’s fantastic episode; arguably the best of the show so far.

Admittedly the main ‘trouble’ – about machines coming to life to kill anyone who might come between them and the man who fixes them – was in some places hilariously ridiculous (the first scene had a fisherman being pelted by a load of dead fish by a homicidal boat), the rest of the episode was a nuanced and emotional study of the way in which the troubles can ruin ordinary people’s lives.

I’ve loved every bit of screentime we’d had of Audrey 2 (or the Faudrey as some, rather inaccurately, call her) and so the unexpected and poignant exit of the character was downright tragic.

Whether Howard wiped Audrey 2’s mind to ensure Haven’s secrets stay in Haven, to protect our Audrey’s cover, or for some other reason we’re not aware of, the final scene where ‘our’ Audrey realises that she’s lost not only a valuable ally but the one person who can ever truly understand her was played perfectly by Emily Rose and brought a genuine tear to my eye.

Heartbreaking too was the tale of Louis Pufal; forced to stay isolated in Haven to tend the machines that refused to let him leave lest they kill anyone who might distract him from their needs.

The image of the crockpot sitting alone in front of the locked warehouse – that single image of love and loss – will stay with me and perfectly represents the true tragedy of the troubles for the afflicted of Haven.

If I have one criticism, it’s that we once again had to endure scenes with the ludicrously-named and shockingly miscast ‘Evidence’. Not only is the character painful (no fault of the actress BTW) but the plot line is boring.

Duke Crocker is by far my favourite character and his potential within the show is limitless. Weighing down his scenes with this insipid garbage just detracts from the show, particularly when he’s the link to the Colorado Kid’s murder and the one pursuing the mystery of the Haven tattoo – seen at the end in a file Audrey 2 procured for him from the FBI. I can only look forward to the day when they finally kill her – hopefully horribly – and trust that it will drive him closer to Audrey not further away (as the writers currently seem to intend).

All in all, the show just seems to be getting better and better at the moment. Let’s hope it continues for the rest of the season and that the promised Jason Priestly episodes are better than I fear.

Best moment: Duke and Faudrey bonding on the boat. Duke declaring at the beginning of the episode that she was "not as nice as the blonde one".

Second best moment: Nathan getting shot in the back by the possessed nail gun and running around for the rest of the episode with the nails in his back.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Haven Fear and Loathing: What a difference a week makes

Dear writers of Haven

I apologise profusely for last week’s rant. After the awesome season finale last year I was, I’ll admit, slightly disappointed in the big sloppy mess you served up to me last week. But this week you’ve really come through and have given us one of the best episodes of the show so far.

Firstly, Evidence was not in it (hallelujah), you had both a victim of the Troubles and a villain of the Troubles, which was a welcome duality, and your main plot was gripping, compelling and not marred by a sudden inexplicable insight by Audrey at the end (e.g. I know, it’s reading!).

Fauxdrey was so well used in this that I hope she sticks around for a whole season. She and ‘our’ Audrey work really well together and it’s amazing how convincingly the actors are playing the same character.

Duke was well-integrated into the plot and we finally got some payoff from his tattoo assassin (you remember Duke… he’s the character you didn’t know what to do with last episode).

As for Nathan’s quiet and pragmatic sacrifice that was ultimately truly heroic, brava. We’ve seen Nathan’s struggle with forgiveness; the natural repression caused by his condition leading him to be insular and slightly self-absorbed. We’ve always known he has the potential to put this behind him and start to live life again. Now we know he’s also willing to sacrifice his own wellbeing for others.

All in all, this episode was tight, enjoyable and expanded our knowledge about Audrey’s past. I would probably appreciate a little more mythology being worked in to keep the momentum from last season but hey, I’m not complaining.

Keep making more like this and I’ll be staying tuned.

PS - Oh, and Dave Teague's revelation that his worst fear was the return of a so-far unmentioned third incarnation of the Lucy/Audrey line was just great, even if half the internet misunderstood this as him fearing Lucy (just look at the clothing and awful hair - she's from the 60s or maybe the early 70s). I've often wondered if the show were setting up Nathan/ Duke as the new Dave/Vince and this adds weight to that theory. Hope they develop this more soon.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Haven starts second season off with a clunk

So, Haven is finally back on our screens and the first episode can be summed up in one word. CLUNK.

Not to say the first season was a thing of wonder and beauty because it certainly wasn’t. It had its flaws but they weren’t the mythology, direction, acting and characterisation. Plotting? Yeah. But the fundamentals of a show - the things we tune in for every week even if an individual episode is bad – were all there.

So, the main plot of the first episode of season two was poorly-conceived and executed (It's biblical plagues caused by literacy! Quick, stop teaching people how to read!)  but… whatever. That’s not why we’re here.

The problem, for me at least, was that there was almost no payoff on the reasons we were there and most of the revelations in the last episode weren’t mentioned at all or were totally glossed over.

So, let’s recap: the end of the first season left us with a blast of twists and turns to navigate that left us on the edge of our seats waiting for them to be resolved. This episode picks up exactly where we left off last year in a standoff with the real Audrey Parker. And here we have my first nitpick.

Firstly, they reshot the scene. Why? I have no idea but it looks disturbingly like they had to because they wanted the actors to wear more makeup and because whoever directed this episode can’t handle a shot wider than a closeup. Honestly, if I had to watch one more scene of bunched up actors trying to make hand gestures in a box I was going to have to jump through the screen and tell the cameraman to pull the f**k back.

And I can only assume it was the director who insisted that everyone deliver their lines rrrreeeealllly sloooowwwly, so they all had to drag their words out and pause inexplicably in the middle of sentences.

Secondly, this entire episode happened in one day; by definition the same day that the whole of the last episode happened in. Now, I’ve never been to Maine so I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty confident that even that far north they don’t have 40 hour days. And that can’t be blamed on an idiosyncratic director or a poorly-conceived freak of the week: it’s just plain sloppy.

So, here we have a day where: Max Hansen showed up and died; Nathan found out he’s his father; the Chief has exploded; Nathan and Audrey had a massive fight and fantastic reconciliation; Audrey admits she thinks she’s Lucy and Nathan admits he can feel her; and we’re supposed to believe, only ten minutes later and after the appearance of another Audrey Parker, that Nathan’s response is “So, lunch?”

Duke’s revelations were no less painful and we last saw him scribbling names on a blackboard like some sort of half-deranged conspiracy nut after finding out there's an entire graveyard of headstones with the tattoo. But now here he is bouncing around between the boat and the Gull like he wasn’t cooped up terrified with a shotgun that morning. Or afternoon. Or whatever the hell time of day it was supposed to be when Max Hansen managed to have at least two meals in the first half of the last episode.

This is the same day where he ran careening to Audrey in terror the minute he saw Max Hansen’s tattoo, had a belligerent Nathan accuse him of murder and expressed quite a considerable amount of jealousy over Audrey’s relationship with her partner… but now, on seeing the blood outside the church, it’s Nathan he calls and his reaction to Audrey is “oh hey, bud!” *not his exact words*. 

“You could have told me about your Dad,” Duke says in the otherwise-lovely last scene between the two. It’s a shame we have no idea of when Nathan was supposed to pull off this miracle of communication. I was hoping Nathan would point out that he only died two hours ago and he’d been kind of busy since then but the writers seemed insistent that the ten seconds between last season and this lasted several weeks.

“You could have told me about your wife,” Nathan countered, a nice little segue for me to launch into a rant, for a total of only one paragraph I promise, on the bizarrely named Evidence Crocker.

Maybe if she’d been introduced later in the season I would not have reacted so strongly to her but honestly, there were so many things they needed to do with Duke’s character this episode (the tattoo, Julia Carr, his desire for Audrey to confide in him, his investigation of the Colorado Kid murder) and instead we had him mouldering away in a painful B plot with his annoying, improbably pneumatic, totally miscast, con artist ‘wife’. (Dear Duke – it’s called divorce. People do it all the time).

The fact that she’s obviously been introduced so they can kill her off and drive Duke to the Rev’s side is as contrived as… well… the Rev’s whole part in this episode. Knowing that the Rev sent Max Hansen to shake Duke up so he could recruit him was obvious from last season and done with a great deal of subtlety. Having the Rev state his plan to recruit Duke outright after ranting about God and sinners and lions and lambs for 45 minutes? Like I said… CLUNK.

I can handle a lot from this show, particularly when Emily Rose's last scene with the 'real' Audrey Parker was emtoinally pitch perfect and wonderfully acted, but there comes a point when even those of us who are genuinely intrigued by the mystery behind Haven start to get annoyed.

We sat through approximately ten episodes of mediocre television last season because we were intrigued, the interactions between the characters were spot on, and they got the Audrey/Nathan/Duke pairing exactly right. If you lose that... you got nothing. It's certainly not the 'freak of the week' that we're tuning in for, even if your guest star's performance in this episode was extraordinary.