Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lost – Season 3 Review

US Airdate: October 4th 2006- May 23rd 2007 on ABC.

It’s the third season and for the gang it finally means knowing more about The Others as they have Jack, Kate and Sawyer in their clutches. With the remaining survivors manning a rescue and more deaths along the way, things continue to get very interesting for the islanders.

Friend And /Or Foe? – Like many shows out there, Lost suffered the difficult second album syndrome with an incredibly disjointed and all over the place second season. Although Season Three would come to the show’s strongest season yet, it’s not entirely impervious to faults.

In fact opening episode, “A Tale Of Two Cities” continued the tradition of just downright boring Jack centric episodes. In flashbacks Jack’s divorcing his wife Sarah and behaving like a jerk to his irritating father. On the island he’s been sweet talked by a female Other named Juliet. You don’t have to be blind to see that immediately Juliet is attracted to Jack and is even a bit hurt when Jack makes a piss poor effort to use her to escape. Also when we’re not learning that Henry Gale is actually Benjamin Linus, Sawyer’s getting the shit kicked out of him by everyone and Kate is put to work. The first six episodes of the season are built around this. However there are some breaks in the story. For instance we get to see a more duplicitous side to Sun via flashback in the excellent “The Glass Ballerina”. Sun even manages to kill an Other in Colleen, something which Colleen’s husband makes Sawyer pay for repeatedly in “Every Man For Himself” and “I Do”. “Further Instructions” on the other hand is one of two genuinely boring episodes, even though this one is a Locke centric episode. There’s a nice return of Boone but with the introduction of two of the most pointless characters in Nikki and Paolo, it’s hard to get completely invested in the episode.

The other woeful episode of the season is “Stranger In A Strange Land”. It’s another Jack episode (which unfairly gets four episodes this season) but it’s so bland, I just wished they hadn’t bothered with it. Also because this season cannot go a few episodes without the death of a major character, it’s Mr Eko who becomes smoke monster fodder in the disappointing “The Cost Of Living”. Given how much time the writers had spent building up Mr Eko as a strong player, his death in this episode is both lazy and cartoonish to say the least. However despite some sluggish stuff at the start, there is a lot to recommend. Locke trying to involve some of the characters in rescuing Jack, Kate and Sawyer is a good move, Desmond quickly becomes one of the best characters on the series and the cat and mouse antics with Ben and Jack are actually quite compelling. The writers also manage to make Sawyer and Kate more sympathetic as characters when you take into account the treatment they have to endure. Their episodes “Every Man For Himself”, “I Do” and “Left Behind” are brilliant in giving more of both character’s inner working and I’m sure they were plenty of people happy to see Kate and Sawyer engage in some naughty cage sex.

Juliet is also another joy in the season. Elizabeth Mitchell is a great find as the character and it’s brilliant that throughout the season, you’re constantly guessing which side she’s genuinely on. When she’s not trying to emotionally engage with Jack, she makes an attempt to coerce him into killing Ben and it’s something that nearly costs her as well. In “Not In Portland” and “One Of Us”, we learned more about how and why Juliet was reeled into joining the Others and while Ben does seem to harbour feelings for her, it’s blatantly obvious that she’s repelled by him. We also learned that she’s quite the brilliant fertility doctor, what with her successful attempts of getting her sister pregnant but even Juliet’s skills can’t save the mothers on the island from dying and by the end of the season, it’s Juliet who has no problems in betraying Ben and giving Sun a warning about her pregnancy in “DOC”.

Ben is definitely the man of the hour throughout the third season. Like many classic foes, Ben doesn’t consider any of his actions to be immoral whatsoever. It doesn’t matter that he stole Danielle’s daughter Alex and raised her as his own. Nor does it matter that he tries to brainwave Alex’s boyfriend Karl or makes with psychological threats to Sawyer’s well being or during the final moments of “The Man Behind The Curtain” shoot Locke and dump him in the same pit as the corpses of the Dharma Initiative. In a lot of ways, Ben is dangerous, smart, scary but also kind of stupid given how easily in the finale that Jack and company were able to grab him in “Through The Looking Glass Parts 1 and 2”.

Getting to the most compelling character this season, it really is Desmond when all is said and done. His episodes “Flashes Before Your Eyes” and “Catch 22” might have succeeded in getting viewers to care about his relationship with Penny and the desperation he has to get back to her in the real world but his abilities to see into the future also strikes a note, particularly as the increasingly annoying Charlie is dragged into this plot.

With Nikki and Paolo making no impact and quickly dispatched in the so-so “Expose” (an episode which also attempted to give their character’s history during crucial events in the first two seasons), Charlie was the next marked character in the series. With him and Claire slowly getting back on track, it probably couldn’t have come at a worse time for Charlie but at least the writers thought his demise out. Bringing in Naomi in the last seven episodes with the hope that her people could get everyone else of the island led Charlie to making a sacrifice in the finale. As someone who grew increasingly bored of the character, I have to admit to finding his death sad. It also didn’t help that the episode before the finale, “Greatest Hits” did a far greater job in making me care for Charlie than any of his other flashbacks. In fact a lot of the characters that I care about got hit and miss flashbacks. Hurley had daddy issues in “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead”; Sayid had to deal with the wrath of a woman he tortured in “Enter 77” while Claire more or less confirmed that Jack was her half brother in “Par Avian”. Although Locke was quite detestable this season, his remaining episodes “The Man From Tallahassee” and “The Brig” were absolute stonkers, especially given that Anthony Cooper was responsible for crippling Locke and setting Sawyer on his con man path. Anthony’s death at the hands of Sawyer were traumatic but deserving. With 23 episodes in and confirmation around this point that the show was to end in 2010 after it’s sixth season, the sudden move to introduce flash forwards was inspired. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that this season was often too good at times. After all only two episodes out of twenty three were genuinely not worth watching. The rest were gems.

EXTRAS: Well every season the commentaries seem to lessen and here we only got commentaries on the episodes “A Tale Of Two Cities”, “Expose” and “The Man Behind The Curtain”. Thankfully while commentaries might not be this show’s strong point, the rest of the extras on offer are just superb. “The World Of The Others” gives a great look into the main villains of Season Three while “Lost Flashbacks” and “Lost On Location” are successful in filling in the blanks. “The Lost Book Club” gives us a look into the numerous literary references throughout the series and the “Crew Tribute With Evangeline Lilly” is rather cute. Elsewhere other good extras includes “Lost In A Day”, “The Next Level – Inside The Video Game” as well as the “Cast In Clay” and usual array of entertaining bloopers and slightly revealing deleted scenes. Overall an incredibly satisfying package here.


3x01: A Tale Of Two Cities = 7/10, 3x02: The Glass Ballerina =9/10,
3x03: Further Instructions = 5/10, 3x04: Every Man For Himself = 8/10,
3x05: The Cost Of Living = 6/10, 3x06: I Do = 9/10,
3x07: Not In Portland = 8/10, 3x08: Flashes Before Your Eyes = 10/10,
3x09: Stranger In A Strange Land = 4/10, 3x10: Tricia Tanaka Is Dead = 7/10,
3x11: Enter 77 = 7/10, 3x12: Par Avian = 8/10,
3x13: The Man From Tallahassee = 9/10, 3x14: Expose = 7/10,
3x15: Left Behind = 9/10, 3x16: One Of Us = 10/10,
3x17: Catch 22 = 7/10, 3x18: DOC = 9/10,
3x19: The Brig = 10/10, 3x20: The Man Behind The Curtain = 9/10,
3x21: Greatest Hits = 8/10, 3x22: Through The Looking Glass Part 1 =9/10,
3x23: Through The Looking Glass Part 2 =9/10.

Season Three is currently available on DVD.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Review of Brothers And Sisters: "State Of The Parties"

Written by Molly Newman And Jon Robin Baitz
Directed by Ken Olin

Kevin (to Nora, regarding William): “Well if you ever want to miss him with someone else in the room, just call me.”

Buying the first season of Brothers And Sisters on DVD, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get a few deleted scenes. Instead the producers compensated us with this episode, appropriately titled “State Of The Parties” for our trouble.

Originally it was supposed to be the second episode but instead we were given the still good “An Act Of Will”. At least by having this episode available to watch on DVD we could see what could’ve been with certain plots.

One of the strongest things about this episode is the focus on William’s death itself. For some reason it did bother me that “An Act Of Will” barely touched on William’s funeral so it’s nice that this episode addressed that problem head on with some much needed emphasis on the man’s passing.

Kitty herself opens up the episode by getting ready for her father’s funeral and tries to be strong. Although I still don’t generally like Jonathan, it is nice that in the first half of the episode he attempts to be supportive and doesn’t push Kitty for an answer on the engagement question.

Sarah is also a bit stressed too. She goes around the house looking for her mobile phone and also goes out of her way to avoid answering Tommy’s questions. When you have all of your father’s personal files lying around the place, I guess it’s only natural that someone would ask questions.

Kevin on the other hand is sent to collect Justin. Justin is also barely coping and Fawn does a decent thing by sorting out his cuff link dilemma without too much fuss. Nora however is more preoccupied with picking out appropriate music for William’s funeral but Kevin manages to get her out of the house.

The funeral scene itself is around the same length as it was in “An Act Of Will” but with all the moments before the actual ceremony it feels a little more whole. Holly is also skulking in the background and is visibly insulted when Saul asks why she’s there. I remember early in Season One I was a little sympathetic towards Holly. I hate to admit it but I did feel a little bad for her here as well.

It was Justin who originally caught on to the fact that Holly and William were sleeping together and it’s Justin here again that confronts his father’s mistress on that as well. Instead of confronting her while she’s gardening, he goes up to her door and she lets him in.

Now later episodes have shown us that Holly has a penchant for lying but here I almost wondered if her fibbing was out of guilty or a need to protect Justin’s feelings. You don’t have to be the most intuitive of people to see that he’s something of a loose cannon and Holly basically tells Justin that her and William’s affair wasn’t of the 20 year variety. Justin actually buys it and even considers getting Holly back that letter open she so desperately wants.

I’m not sure if Holly requesting a simple letter opener that she presumably gave to William is a way of underpinning that she loved William for who he was rather than what was in his bank balance but it would come back to haunt her later on when Justin effectively told her to disappear.

Justin’s sudden turn from being sympathetic to Holly to spitting vitriol at her actually did make me feel bad for her. Justin didn’t do it to be a total asshole. It’s just when Nora started going on about great William was; Justin was reminded of how much his father betrayed him. In fairness considering the wrath of Sarah, Holly probably got off easily with that one.

Funnily enough she actually called Saul as well and told him what Justin said to her. I never really understood why the writers paired Holly and Saul together during Season One. Was it just a way to constantly keep her in the Walkers orbit or was it just biding time for the writers to explore Saul’s sexuality. It’s been alluded to plenty of times that Saul and Holly didn’t actually get up to much sexually either.

Saul’s another big point of this episode. At first in the series, he was the main suspect of Ojai’s pension fund going missing and originally it was Saul and Tommy versus Sarah. Funnily enough with this episode it’s actually Tommy and Sarah versus Saul. Given how much I hate Tommy for fighting with Sarah over Ojai, I enjoyed this dynamic more.

Another surprise is that Sarah is less critical of Saul’s actions. That’s mainly because she knows that William is responsible for the mess created at Ojai and while Saul doesn’t make a great effort to defend himself, Sarah realises that he isn’t responsible for what’s happening with the family business.

Tommy however doesn’t particularly feel that way and has no problem laying into Saul twice about Ojai’s misfortune. Saul did himself no favours by calling Tommy’s business skills into question (though he might have had a point) but even if I blocked out “Patriarchy”, I think I would’ve believed him.

Another strong point about the business side of things is that Sarah went to Kevin about it. She tried the hypothetical friend angle first but Kevin’s smart enough to realise she was referring to Ojai itself. Kevin has more of an emotional reaction here than he did in “An Act Of Will” and once again he offers Sarah some pretty sensible advice while reminding her about the threat of prison.

Not only that but Kevin also warns Tommy to control his hostility towards Saul. Tommy is unable to do that but Kevin manages to keep Nora from becoming privy to Ojai’s mess by giving some of his own money to fund Nora’s latest project. In a sense it’s a nice thing for him to do but it might have been better for Tommy and Sarah to have told Nora about it.

Nora isn’t quite as vocalised in this episode as I thought she would be but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like she’s being ignored either. We get a nice scene where her and Kevin connect rather well and while it’s not great to wake her son up at 2am, it’s also good to see want to do something good in William’s name.

Nora spent a bit of the episode talking about William’s legacy. She was adamant that the kids took as much of his stuff as possible and she also waxed lyrical about his greatness to Justin. The fact that Justin sat there and didn’t scoff or confess about Holly was surprising for him.

Nora also had a great final scene with Kitty as well. One of the main things of this episode was the two women being cordial to one another and when they were in William’s car, Nora asked Kitty to move in with her. Nora’s timing couldn’t have been any better.

At the beginning of this episode Kitty was going on about several things to Jonathan about her father’s last wishes. One of those wishes was to reconnect with Nora and this episode showed that promise. I’ve always enjoyed any scene with Nora and Kitty and it’s pretty obvious that Calista Flockhart and Sally Field equally feel the same about working together.

Kitty had a lot to do in this episode. Her first day at Red White And Blue had the usual work related hiccups you’d expect. First she had to deal with the transition from radio to television and then she had an image consultant telling her to glam herself up. To be honest, I’m with the consultant. While I don’t exactly expect Kitty to dress like someone posing for FHM, if Warren has to be all pretty, then so should Kitty.

Besides while the image consultant is an annoying bore, Lilah is a pretty fun make up artist to have. Kitty’s bright but she’s also attractive (though Sarah is obviously hotter) and both Lilah and Warren have no problem in mentioning both of those qualities during good and bad moments for Kitty.

Kitty and Warren have also had more convincing chemistry than Kitty and Jonathan. Warren might goad her but he did genuinely care when she explained about her father and while he might have ambushed her during her show, if he hadn’t, then Kitty really wouldn’t have the fire in her belly to deliver some good arguments. Warren was right to point out that Kitty wasn’t bringing her A-Game.

Besides he was also a lot more supportive than Jonathan. Jonathan clearly has some mild control issues and he never wanted Kitty to take on the Red, White And Blue gig in the first place. Instead of being supportive, he revelled in the fact that her first show wasn’t great.

Thankfully though Kitty managed to realise that Red, White And Blue is a far better bedfellow than an unsupportive would be fiancé and she did herself and the rest of the audience a massive favour by ditching Jonathan. Given that none of the Walkers, especially Nora are all that fond of Jonathan it was cute to see them slightly revel in him leaving after Kitty turned him down.

Also in “State Of The Parties”

The start of this episode has an introduction from co-writer Jon Robin Baitz. Apart from some obvious plot differences, I wished this had been episode two.

Kitty: “No, please don’t hurt me. If you do, I’ll get all wobbly and I won’t be able to make it through this day.”
Jonathan: “I don’t have to go to New York. I think I should just and be magisterially supportive of you.”

This episode revealed that Kitty sometimes suffers from low blood sugar attacks. She suffered one prior to William’s funeral.

Nora (re song): “I think he would want this played at the funeral. Something with charm. Can we do that?”
Kevin: “I think it might be too late.”
Nora: “I guess it is. Okay, let’s go.”

Saul: “You shouldn’t have come, Holly.”
Holly: “Did you really think I wouldn’t come to the man’s funeral?”

There are at least two scenes where some of the dialogue is exactly like that of “An Act Of Will”. The scene where Justin tells Holly he knows her and the scene where Nora suggests moving in with Kevin.

Tommy: “Come on, Dad told you it was Saul.”
Sarah: “Dad lied to me. Don’t you understand? He looked me in the eye and he lied.”

Holly (re William): “He thought the world of you. Your courage. Your heart. He was incredibly proud.”
Justin: “Okay, okay. I should go before I die of the weirdness of all this.”

Justin really does believe that William didn’t think very much of him. In a certain episode he conveyed that in the manner of a spoiled brat but here I pitied him.

Saul: “I’ve been working day and night Thomas to try and shield you from the truth about this whole disgusting mess which is single-handedly your father’s doing.”
Tommy: “He would never.”
Saul: “But I would?”

Warren (to Kitty): “Hey they know what they’re doing. I used to look like an escaped Berkeley lesbian. Now look at me, I’m sort of gorgeous.”

Kitty got a bunch of bibs in the American flags. Warren’s comments about the tinfoil in her hair disrupting his phone reception were neat.

Sarah: “You will not be domesticated will you? What’s wrong with two boys shopping?”
Kevin: “Nothing. Depends on the boys.”
Sarah: “You know there’s a fine line between high standards and bizarrely neurotic.”

Kevin: “Who’s responsible? Was it Saul or was it Dad?”
Sarah: “I’m not sure. Dad knew about it. That’s clear.”

We learned that Kevin had an ex-boyfriend called Hank, who he dumped due to commitment issues. I assume Kevin commitments issues rather than Hank’s.

Warren: “Kitty this is television. All’s fair in love and TV.”
Kitty: “No, don’t make nice. Now I know who you are and what you are.”

Holly: “It’s not that easy. Promises were made.”
Justin: “I’ll make it that easy. Whatever arrangement you had died with my father. It’s over. You don’t exist so get on with you life and disappear for good.”

Three significant things: This episode didn’t debut Scotty, we got nothing on William’s will and Justin didn’t wind up in jail.

Sarah: “The company will pay you back as soon as.”
Kevin: “Tell the company to take it’s time.”

Kitty: “Thanks for being nice, not calling me calling a fascist.”
Nora: “The night’s still young.”

Standout music: I’m going to give some praise to Blake Neely the series’ composer seeing as I fail to on occasion.

Nora: “Why not? Our ceasefire seems to be holding. As long as we don’t talk about Justin or the war. Or gay marriage or the death penalty. Or stem cell research. As long as we talk about the weather, we’ll be just fine and I could do with the company.”
Kitty: “Me too.”

Chronology: At least two days since the end of “Patriarchy”.

“State Of The Parties” surprised me. I wasn’t expecting this episode to be awful but I was taken aback with how brilliant it ended up being as well. If this had actually aired (with some tweaking), I could see this one being in my Top10 episodes from the first season.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x16: "Time Of Your Life Part 1"

Written by Joss Whedon
Artwork by Karl Moline

Buffy (re Fray): “Bad day. Started out bad, stayed that way. Starting with, not chronologically but in order of immediate importance … who the hell is this person? Also: where am I? Where’s everyone else? And seriously, what is up with Dawn?”

Okay so the meeting of Buffy Summers and Meleka Fray has been advertised for quite some time now but after months of waiting it’s finally here. First thing is first, I’ve never read Fray so all I know is that she’s a future slayer with the scythe in her possession.

Because of that, I’m expecting this arc to be something of an education for me. Given the amount of stuff I review on a regular basis, I wish I had actually read a few of the Fray comics prior to getting this but all going well, maybe I’ll catch up on her story some other time.

The cover for this issue saw Buffy and Fray doing battle with their scythes as they were heading for a harsh landing. It’s nice that the firs two pages also have the same thing. Buffy doesn’t know where the hell she is or who Fray is also. Fray must feel the same way given that she doesn’t hold back in attacking Buffy.

As soon as Buffy raised the question about Dawn, the girl gets something of a pain. With the way her hands are clutching her stomach it’s almost as if something or someone has stabbed her. She also looks like she’s about to take a tumble as well.

Prior to her own time travel, Buffy is having something of a relaxed moment with Xander and Willow. The three of them are sitting down; chowing on take out and there’s a funny moment where Xander mocks Buffy for talking with her mouth full. It did affect the dialogue she was saying.

It seems Willow’s snake demon friend has some vital information and the gang have to head to New York in order to find out about it. The way Willow learns about it is familiar but Buffy can’t resist chiding her friend about the mystery demon. Xander also gets into the spirit of things by trying to get some details as well.

Willow is a tad evasive but the information does seem to relate to the scythe being the power source and given that the last arc saw vampires trying to use this source to revert slayers into ordinary girls, it’s interesting that our latest arc is continuing on that particular strand as well.

It’s been hinted all season through the government and Twilight that Buffy and Willow made a cardinal error in activating so many slayers and there’s also a rather uncomfortable moment when Willow stresses the importance of her message by alluding to Renee’s death.

Xander attempts to brush it off due to the fact that danger is always about but you can see that he’s still hurting from it. If it’s any consolation, he does seem genuinely willing to consider talking to his friends about his feelings but he also reverts to jokey form and teases Willow some more about the snake demon.

As for Dawn, guess what the writers have decided to do her now. If fifteen issues of being a giant weren’t bad enough for the girl, now she has to deal with being a Centaur. You do wonder what Joss is trying to achieve with Dawn this season. As much as I was hoping for her to not be a giant, I don’t know if I’m keen on the idea of Centaur Dawn for another few issues.

On a somewhat better, at least three villains make their long awaited returns – Twilight, Amy and Warren. The three of them are working together to further wreck havoc on the Scoobies but Warren’s penchant for being an asshole also means that he doesn’t take too kindly to Twilight not being impressed with him.

Warren’s pretty convinced that his big bomb is going to make all the right kinds of noise and while Amy’s dumb enough to support, Twilight really doesn’t care much. Here’s hoping at some point Warren and Twilight engage in a brawl where Twilight emerges as the winner.

Given that we’ve had to wait a while for three to return, it’s a shame that we only get one scene between them but at the same time, it’s a relief that they are also involved in this arc. Is there any chance that they also might be responsible for Buffy’s little time travel towards the end?

As for Buffy and Willow, first off all they lose points for the lack of concern about Dawn’s latest transformation. I know Willow’s in high demand nowadays but would it kill her or Buffy to find a way to revert Dawn to human form or at least appeal to Kenny’s better side to do it?

On the plane the girls go over a couple of issues. Despite her joking, Willow’s still very disappointed that Buffy reverted to bank robbery in order to fund the slayers and Buffy is pretty mysterious herself when she tells Willow that she has a prior engagement.

There’s also a moment when the both of them admit to not knowing what they’re walking into. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m intrigued as to how this is going to unravel. What other dangers besides the government, rogue slayers, Japanese vampires, Amy, Warren and Twilight can Joss Whedon inflict on the gang?

Meanwhile Willow gets something of a stirring welcome when Kennedy picks her up at the airport. The two of them act really flirty and pretend that they didn’t really miss each other. It’s cute, fun, light and a nice way to reintroduce Kennedy as well. Plus there’s humour at Buffy’s expense.

Buffy might be a slayer but even she can’t handle carrying so many bags, choosing appropriate attire for New York. Even more fun is her overexcitement of travelling in a limo which Willow has no problem in pointing out to Kennedy. Of course Kennedy isn’t all that bothered about Buffy.

Violet (or Vi) on the other hand is stepping nicely as a lead slayer. If the likes of Satsu can inherit a squad it makes sense that Violet would get a leadership role as well. Plus Kennedy is way too flighty to lead a gang anyway. Violet starts talking about mystical turf wars that are happening more often.

Of course when Violet gets into the magic stuff and plays on the word “think” a little too much, it’s Willow who has to step in and offer a further explanation. With references to anomalies and deadlocking, a part of me keeps getting reminded of Doctor Who but that seems to be happening a lot when reviewing Buffy comics.

Slightly more fun is Buffy and Kennedy talking during Willow’s lecture. When Buffy alludes to Willow’s smartness, Kennedy thinks Buffy’s hot for her. Oh please, Buffy’s never shown an attraction to Willow and I really don’t think she’s going to now. Besides Willow told Buffy that she wasn’t her type.

Still it’s interesting that Kennedy is quick to voice her opinions on Buffy’s sexuality. The girl only knows what Willow knows and doesn’t give Buffy much in the way of a chance to explain herself. That being said if Buffy is still in ‘experimental phase’, does that mean another female love interest for the slayer?

Dawn on the other hand is more worried about her ass being huge and the urge to eat. With magic causing her new look; it’s natural for her to pissed off right now. I don’t know if I’d even class it as whining because at the end of the day, Dawn has a right to be annoyed with the way things have been for her.

She shouldn’t have cheated on Kenny but he has taken things a bit too far and the fact that the gang aren’t making a harder effort to help her is annoying. Even Xander isn’t that supportive. He’s too busy thinking being a Centaur is amazing and effectively tells Dawn not to whine. I’m siding with Dawn; the girl has got good reason to be furious right now.

As for Warren, he should be happy to know that his little bomb has made the big noise. It basically blew up the castle with Xander being unable to save anyone or anything vital. Without stating the obvious, Warren really has put the Scoobies in something of a bad position.

Things also aren’t that great in New York either. Kennedy doesn’t like that things are too quiet and even Willow has to admit that something isn’t right. Both of them mention the scythe and Buffy as well as something in the future not being particularly good.

Almost to prove that the girls are right in their fears Buffy’s barely there for a second and then she disappears. In her place is one very annoyed demon that wastes no time in attacking Kennedy.

The issue then ends with Buffy travelling through time, winding up in the future and meeting Meleka Fray. The future slayer automatically assumes that the monster in our time is using a glamour of Buffy and then proceeds to attack her. Given that Buffy has no idea who Fray actually is, she’s really going to have use her smarts to get out of this one.

Also in “Time Of Your Life Part 1”

The cover for this issue has Buffy and Fray fighting with their scythes after leaping off a building. Unless one of them can fly, they’re both screwed.

Xander (re snake demon): “Okay explain how you know that. Slowly, with many visuals.”
Buffy: “What you guys think I’m in charge just cause I can hit things?”
Xander: “Only mostly.”
Willow: “And moving on.”

A Goth vampire spoke to Willow in tongues. The snake demon used her to tell Willow whatever danger is coming.

Xander (to Buffy/Willow): “I appreciate the eggshells but …Renee’s dead. I’m dealing with it. By myself. I’m not being a guy; I’ll ask for help if I need it but we can’t turn war councils into awkward pausathons just because I lost someone close.”

Xander: “Wuzzis? Shrunk? Whuh?”
Buffy: “Yay! Dawnie, yay?”
Dawn: “Neigh.”

I noticed that the series of clouds behind Dawn’s first look as a Centaur almost look like a Seahorse.

Warren: “Look copperhead, we busted our asses on this baby and it will do the job.”
Twilight: “It will do it’s part, I’m sure but it’s only a small part in a grand scheme.”
Warren: “Hey, I have no skin. Which means I don’t have your cute little sunset symbol carved in it. I’m in this for myself and myself is telling you right now that this baby is going to bring the noise.”

Willow: “More largess from your mysterious benefactor who is actually you stealing things?”
Buffy: “You know, we do have some legitimate funding.”
Willow: “Ah, I’m just ribbing’.”
Buffy: “’Kay. Colour me ribbed.”

Interesting things with those quotes – does Amy have Twilight’s symbols carved onto her and what legitimate funding does Buffy have?

Kennedy: “Hey, Red. Didn’t miss you.”
Willow: “Didn’t even think about you.”
Kennedy: “Kinda forgot you.”
Willow: “And I would know you from?”

Buffy (to herself): “I’m the King Kong of the world.”
Willow (to Kennedy): “She’s never been in New York. Or apparently, a limo.”

Out of all the characters, artist Karl Moline captured Xander, Warren, Twilight, Dawn and Kennedy the best.
Kennedy: “Hey grubby paws off, lez-faux.”
Buffy: “What? What have you – who said I.”
Kennedy: “I love that you’re in your experimental phase cause I really kinda thought you were a phobe but you put the moves on Red and I’ll kill you like a chicken.”
Buffy: “Hamnoo?”

Xander: “You really don’t know how awesome you look? You’re a frikkin’ centaur. Majestic creature of legend! I’m actually jealous.”
Dawn: “I sleep standing up. I pee a crazy amount of pee. I want hay – I actually want to eat hay. I don’t feel like a majestic creature of legend. I feel like a freak.”

There were some ads in this comic for DVD releases of Witchblade and Birds Of Prey. I kinda liked the latter series but I wouldn’t be tempted to splash out on it though.

Kennedy: “It’s about the scythe.”
Willow: “Yes.”
Kennedy: “And Buffy has the scythe.”
Willow: “Yes.”
Kennedy: “But we don’t have Buffy.”

Fray: “This is toy! You think you can spin with a half-coi glam of a slayer been dust more than two cen? You’re lower than a lurk.”
Buffy: “Uh … English?”

This was the third issue in a row that had comments about The Doctor/Rose Tyler appearance in “No Future For You”. What was that abandoned project of Joss Whedon an Brian K. Vaughn. Was it Doctor Who related?

As starts go, “Time Of Your Life Part 1” is a tantalising start to a potentially brilliant crossover story. Given that Buffy’s stuck in the future, Warren’s managed to blow up the Scoobies’ HQ and that there’s something evil afoot, it’s hard not to get enthused by this arc.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Friday, July 04, 2008

My Review of Angel's 6x10: "After The Fall Part 10"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by David Messina And Nick Runge

Gunn: “Now I know you don’t think you can but -”
Betta George: “Shut up psycho. I’m on it.”

Let’s see, for me it’s been about a few hours since I wrote my review for Issue 9 so it’s not like I had to wait extensively for this issue. In fact when I went into collect the previous issue and Buffy’s “Time Of Your Life Part 1”, I was actually surprised to realise that there was another issue in stock.

This issue opens up with a dream sequence. There’s a group of robbers taking a woman hostage and there’s only ensouled vampire that can save her. Given that Angel is all human, it’s only right to see that Spike is the woman’s champion.

Spike stands atop of a getaway car and gloats about the robbers being screwed. It’s something they even vocalise themselves and with an old Angel in the background, it’s a good thing for Spike that his actual partner in busting crime happens to be Connor.

This makes Angel sad in a few obvious ways. Not only does being human mean that he’s no good in a fight but there’s some clear hurt in the way Angel watches Spike and Connor bond with each other and abandon him.

Luckily for Angel, it’s just a dream and he wakes up in the hotel to a snowy background. He also wakes up to find that Nina is there watching him. Luckily for us, Nina is more the Nina we met in Season Five rather than the erratic woman we’ve encountered a few times this season.

As Angel continues to think about his bruises, Nina brings up both the snowfall in LA and Connor as specialist topics. After all the fire we’ve seen in the previous issue, the snow makes for a nice backdrop here. Think of the Doctor Who episodes “The Fires Of Pompeii” and “Planet Of The Ood”. Also I tend to prefer snow to fire on most occasions myself.

Lorne, Groo and Spike’s groupies are also basking in the snow. Lorne’s in fine form as he muses about the weather but Angel is adamant about the volatile Spider rescuing everyone rather than a select few. That being said, the snow in LA also seems to be temporary given Angel’s understanding.

As for Angel, he’s also in the mood for a decent hunt and tells Connor, Gwen and Nina that they won’t be doing it in the most straightforward of manners. It’s nice that Angel is out to get some answers and even Illyria’s inability to use a door is a lot less tedious than it might have been in a different issue.

With people recognising Angel as a hero, it’s finally beginning to feel like things might be progressing after all. This issue isn’t as tantalising with hints as the previous one but it’s still pretty interesting, especially when Angel advices Illyria to put some distance between herself and Wesley.

Given that Illyria and Spike have also been joined to the hip since Issue 2, it makes no difference that he’s signed on to protect. Wesley is pretty okay with the idea even if he does try to find out whether or not Illyria and Spike were having a sexual relationship. With Spider and her mates still looming around, do we really need another female head over heels for Spike?

The thing is, Spike knows that Wesley cares about Fred and even Illyria to an extent and we know that Spike has similar feelings himself. That being said, Spike comes across as being quite patronising when he tells Wesley he’ll kill if he tries to hurt Illyria. I’d happily torture the woman to get Fred back myself. Wesley however just accepts Spike’s threat without putting up a fight.

Gunn on the other hand has finally manages to remember that he’s keeping Betta George hostage. Given that we’ve had that burly vampire beating the living daylights out of the poor fish for a good few issues; it’s nice to see Gunn interact with anything other than his new found vampire lackeys.

Betta George was curious about what exactly a slayer was so what does Gunn do to educate him? He brings the poor fish down to a basement with a few of them there. While it’s understandable for the slayers to want to attack Gunn, they do rush a little too quickly to start pounding on Betta George for my liking.

Angel and the gang meanwhile take the dragon into the more fiery parts of LA. Illyria’s getting anxious to kill anything and ignores Angel’s pleas to wait. Instead she crashes a vampire nest and starts killing the blood suckers. Angel and the rest of them then have no choice but to help her.

Seriously you can’t take Illyria anywhere; she’s like a spoiled child. However there is a fine moment when a Dracula-esque vampire has the arrogance to threaten to kill Angel, only for him to be overpowered and then left dangling from a roof. Perhaps he could’ve tried to attack Angel first before making the comments.

Getting back to the murder of the Lord from Westwood earlier on in the season, Angel tries to get some answers. Warning the vampire that there are only bad cops and primordial bad cops isn’t much of an incentive to get the guy to reveal anything potentially helpful.

In fact at one point, the guy almost begs to be killed and even has a go at Connor for his lack of self-awareness. The big bads that he’s alluding to are Gunn’s gang but Angel doesn’t figure that one out. Instead as Angel and Connor argue, Illyria really puts her foot in it by revealing to everyone that Angel’s human.

Naturally this shocks everyone and Angel explains to Connor why Wolfram And Hart would do this to him. Illyria also manages to become irritating with her goading of Angel’s mortality and I was bummed to see Connor run away from the conversation he was having with Angel.

Gwen steps up in looking for Connor. As his girlfriend she’s a tad concerned but she also doesn’t mind assigning Nina to looking after Angel. Neither Nina or Angel seem pleased with the prospect and while Illyria’s knack for obvious statements is annoying, it’s nice to have a little backstory as to why Nina is fighting.

However as Illyria is then ordered to sniff out the vampire sitting on power, the very vampire in question is having a blast fighting with a group of slayers. Betta George doesn’t particularly like having to sit through this but Gunn provokes him into freezing the slayers as well.

Almost to prove that Gunn is on the dark side, with a frozen and defenceless slayer within his sights, Gunn then goes and kills her. The horrible thing is that she can’t scream and Betta George can’t get Gunn to do it for her. It seems that Gunn is somewhat immune to Betta George’s mind control.

Gunn’s also pretty pleased with the fact that he’s got the fish under his control. Betta can’t do anything to turn the situation to his own advantage and trying to reason with Gunn is also hopeless. Gunn clearly likes this power and authority that he’s got with Betta George and tries to exploit it.

It’s also unpleasant that when Betta George tries to get some friends to come to his side, he’s unsuccessful. To them, LA is going like clockwork and isn’t in a hell dimension. Because of that they are pretty quick to dismiss the fish’s plea for help. Some great friends there.

As for Gunn, he takes Betta George up to the roof for yet another lesson. Gunn knows a lot more than he’s letting on and Betta George is also becoming aware of that fact rather painfully. However the funny thing is that with all of Gunn’s planning, the last person he’d expect to encounter was Angel.

Gunn knew that an altercation with his former friend and employer was imminent but even was shocked to see Angel so quickly. Needless to say, Angel’s reaction when seeing Gunn is priceless. To him, Gunn is another reminder that he’s doomed everyone in this hell.

You do hope that instead of trying to tear each other apart, there’s a chance that Angel could save Gunn from causing whatever destruction he’s out to achieve. With Betta George caught in the middle, it’s an interesting hook to what will hopefully deliver in the next issue.

Also in “After The Fall Part 10”

The cover for this issue I got was Angel and Illyria outside a crypt, in the snow with a blue background. It’s one of the best covers going.

Connor: “Holy overreaction Dad! Don’t forget that wherever Spike goes – his faithful sidekick Connor is sure to follow.”
Spike: “Ha-ha! We gotta make this quick. The Spike-dragon is double parked.”

While not subtle, does this dream remind you of “Soul Purpose”? Angel still has fears that Spike might go and replace him.

Lorne (to Angel): “What, you weren’t dreaming of a white place of eternal torment, just like the ones you used to know? Sorry about this Angel cakes. Minor snafu on my end.”

Angel: “And it’s not just the four of us. You ready?”
Illyria: “I saw the ashen remains of the fallen fluttering outside. I wanted to taste.”
Angel: “It’s snow and next time use the door.”

Groo got his horse back from the fourth issue of this series and Spider just looked plain – no spider legs on her back.

Spike: “I feel your pain and I’m sorry you’re forced to Christmas past it but if whatever H&R has planned involves hurting what’s left of Fred and you’re even the smallest part of it … I will find a way to kill you.”
Wesley: “I know you will and off the record … I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”

Betta George: “Um, hi, you guys seem mad but if you just stop for a second -”
Slayer: “Fish is in our heads, hit it first.”
Betta George: “Stop. Stop. Stop.”

Why is Gunn using these slayers and how come they didn’t instantly attack him? They could’ve taken him out prior to being frozen.

Vampire: “What the? Slayer?”
Illyria: “Wishful thinking.”

Head Vampire: “Take solace in the fact that you’re going to go out on a high note. I’ve been looking forward to this, degenerate. Titans do clash and an Angel shall fall.”
Angel: “What with this place freezing over, today would absolutely have been the day could have happened, yet here we are.”

The Dracula-esque vampire did look a bit like Gary Oldman now that I’ve read this issue a few times. Did anyone else think that?

Connor: “Right now he sounds formidable. The opposite of you lately. Don’t jump down your son’s throat just because he wanted to keep you safe. Any number of people have had to jump to your defence at any given time for whatever reason.”
Illyria (re Angel): “It’s because he’s no longer a vampire.”

Nina: “You moved on, that’s fine. I’m still here so where should we go now?”
Angel: “Well Illyria knew about my situation because she can read power.”
Illyria: “Or in your case, lack of. So?”

There was a preview in this issue for the upcoming Doctor Who story “The Forgotten”, which is supposed to feature all Ten versions of The Doctor –neat!

Betta George: “One question, though … did you see this coming?”
Illyria: “There. A nest of vampires atop a structure brimming with power.”
Angel: “Okay hit them fast. Don’t let up until -”
Gunn: “No George. This wasn’t supposed to happen yet.”

There was no date for the release of Issue 11. If the Buffy issues can give us constant release dates, why can’t Angel?

“After The Fall Part 10” keeps up a good consistency with the previous issues but with two issues left, can this story genuinely get a satisfying conclusion or will it fizzle out like some of the earlier editions have done?

Rating: 8 out of 10.

My Review of Angel's 6x09: "After The Fall Part 9"

Written by Brian Lynch
Artwork by Nick Runge

Angel (re Fred/Illyria): “Do you how or why?”
Spike: “If I did, I wouldn’t be here. She’s like a schizo switchblade. Fred one moment, off her rocker demigoddess the next. I don’t think this dysfunctional family reunion is helping. If I knew Wesley was back, I would have kept her away.”

Is it me or are Angel comics like buses? You wait a month just for one and in the month of June, you wind up with two. Well in my case, its July so along with picking up Buffy’s “Time Of Your Life Part 1” and the Season 2 DVD of Torchwood, I had to snag Issue 9 of Angel’s “After The Fall” along with Issue 10 as well.

We’ve had to wait three months to get some actual answers on the awesome ending of Issue 5 and with the unnecessary but not terrible “First Night” three parter, I have to say that this comic didn’t rivet me as much as I had hoped it would.

It starts off interesting enough. Fred comes back in the middle of a bloodbath and Angel notes that her sudden reappearance also means that she’s a target for every demon who wants to rip Angel and his gang to shreds. For a minute, being dead must be a preferable option for Fred.

Fortunately she has a protector in the shape of Wesley who stands in the demons way to keep his beloved safe. However seeing as Wesley can’t physically touch, never mind kill anything, he’s not the most reliable of bodyguards. Even the fire demon scoffs at his attempts to be threatening.

Luckily Angel and Spike manage to use their sometimes ability to think alike and decide to do a little demon carnage of their own. With punches being thrown left, right and centre, its little wonder then that Fred nearly gets herself killed but she seems to have another good luck charm in the return of Groo.

With Angel and Spike attempting to figure out how or why Fred has suddenly appeared, you already get that nasty feeling that her return isn’t permanent. Angel’s nihilistic standpoint about miracles never happening is a nice way on commenting on the relentlessly bleak ‘season’ this is turning out to be.

Even though on Buffy, you’ve had a fair amount of danger, characters making incredibly poor choices and a good few deaths, we’ve also had some delightful comedic moments and the odd bit of sauciness to boot. Angel unfortunately seems to be stuck in permanent misery which even as a reader can be a grind to get through.

Gunn himself just stands there with his vampire gang watching the carnage and staking a vampire who dares to disagree with him. Maybe it’s the previous issue still fresh in my mind but I really, really loathe the writers for turning him into a vampire. If anything can be reversed, then perhaps at the end of this arc maybe Gunn can become human again.

As for Lorne’s he also pretty shocked with the sudden reappearance of Fred but there’s hardly time for him to focus on that. Instead one of the demons gets a little anxious and starts killing more and more of the humans while Gunn himself looks like he might actually join in.

Angel on the other hand takes to goading the Lords who can’t be bothered to fight. Spike’s support of Angel’s defiance gives us a fragment of comedy. In fact while Angel goes on an inspired bitch fest to his new foes, Spike gets some one liners that don’t feel altogether contrived.

Gunn meanwhile looks like he’s about to give Angel a mercy killing as the Lords decide to do him in. Then there’s the Hagan Shafts which both Gunn and Spike have vague memories during the time they worked for Wolfram And Hart. Spike explains it in more detail to an eager Connor.

Not only that but Connor seems to remember everything else he’s forgotten. He knows that Angel’s more or less responsible for everyone being in hell. However Connor wants the kind of answers that only a father can give as well as help and there’s a great moment where Angel acts pretty paternal with his son.

That’s also followed by the cooler moment where one of the demons explodes and a crowd of people give Angel an interesting name. Does this mean that things are going to get better? I certainly hope so. We need something good to happen for this lot.

However one demon’s death isn’t enough. Spike rounds up everyone else including Gwen to get stuck in with fighting every other baddie and with large tentacles appearing from out of nowhere. Spike and Gwen arguing aside, those band of ladies from earlier issues have a better use.

Spike rounds up Spider and her gang by telling them how great he is. Apparently it’s a way to get them prepared to slaughter anything in sight. On a positive note, Spider is considerably less annoying in this issue that she was in earlier ones. Funnily enough she was the only one who didn’t want to get involved with the fighting here.

As for Gunn, his contribution to this comic hasn’t been overwhelming so he just leaves and lets Angel and his warriors to get on with things. He seems to have a plan and it might involve Angel and the gang but he isn’t exactly forthcoming in disclosing whatever the hell it may be either.

The gang meanwhile end up retreating. It seems to be the closest thing to a victory they can achieve but with the Shark demon actually posing no threat, things do seem to be a little better. There’s even a glorious moment with Angel and the gang moving into a hotel.

Wesley meanwhile explains to Fred that he’s no longer a member of the living. The real sting in the tail is Fred not really being Fred. It seems that Illyria is just being erratic and we’re stuck with her for the time. That being said the final scenes between her and Wesley are some of the most poignant.

Is it surprising that Wesley might have his own plan to save everyone but at the same time, he can’t tell Angel about? Not within the slightest! Does it royally suck that after three months Fred isn’t completely back? Absolutely! Is there a chance that Wesley and Fred could reunite at some point? Well this ending gives us the mere suggestion.

Illyria admits she’s finding it harder to suppress Fred and even notes that Spike is as bad as everyone else. I want Illyria to lose, I want Fred back and to be honest I hope it happens within the next three issues. As a character we can definitely lose her, especially if it means Fred coming back.

Also in “After The Fall Part 9”

The cover I got for this issue was a knife wielding Angel beside an “I Heart LA” sign.

Angel (to himself): “In a split second, Fred is back. A split second later she’s a target. Reaching her, however seems to take an eternity.”

Surprisingly with this issue there was a detailed enough synopsis of the previous events.

Wesley: “Make one move and I’ll crush your heart.”
Fire Demon: “You can’t do that”.

Spike: “Get back.”
Fred: “Oh my God, what’s happening?”
Spike: “I have a less accurate answer to that every second of the day love.”

This Issue was released a week after the previous issue but I was sure that it was supposed to come out on June 25th.

Gunn: “Vic, man. You know I don’t love this situation. No, that’s an understatement. To say I hate it with every fibre of my being, that would be an understatement. Yet I’m willing to be the better man and overlook it because we’re working towards a common goal but then you go and doubt me?”

Hoodie Vampire (to Gunn): “Angel makes it through this. Got it. We gotta get you into yoga or something.”

There was another promo for Spike: After The Fall. To be fair, I don’t think I’ll be reviewing it.

Demon: “Enough of this! Angel was suppose to battle alone! He wants to change the rules? Dandy. New plan. Champions. Slaughter the humans.”

Angel: “Bunch of all-powerful “Lords” too scared to face off against one vampire. So you appoint champions to do your dirty work.”
Spike: “You tell’em! Just, just let us get as far enough away from you and then you tell’em.”

Spike’s mock cowardice is an interesting standpoint, given that he does actually seem to be scared of what is going down in LA.

Angel (to the Lords): “Tell me something. Do you privately thank me every day for dragging everyone to hell so you D-Listers could actually pretend to be anything other than bargain bin lackeys? Can’t you do anything, just one little tiny thing for yourselves?”
Spike: “Does anyone have a car? We could get further away from Angel if we had a very fast car.”

Connor: “So you messed up! You sent the city to hell! But now you’re back and you’re doing something about it.”
Angel: “Connor-”
Connor: “I remember everything.”

Was it me or did Spider’s little gang look all kitted out like the slayers in the Buffy Season Eight comics again?

Connor (to Angel): “But it also showed me what you did. And not just for me or your friends but for anyone that needed help. Well, look around; plenty of people need your help. Like, okay, like me for instance. I’m seeing an electric girl who I can’t really touch and I know you’ve been through that whole ‘can’t be with who you love’ thing and I kinda brought it up to Spike but his advice was more of the weird uncle variety. So I wanted to talk to you about it, because you know, you’re my damn father.”

Spike: “Yo hate to bother you but the rumble isn’t over.”
Gwen: “It’s fine. Bring it then. Do you know what happens to a champion that gets struck by lightning?”

Connor must have been talking about Buffy during his speech to Angel and the latter got referenced as a vampire slayer.

Angel: “How you’d know that?”
Spike: “Have you met me? My name is Spike.”

Gunn (to Hoodie Vampire, re Angel and the gang): “Yeah. They’re all together and that – is exactly what has to happen for me to do what I gotta do.”

Spider literally has spider legs on her back. Her real name is Maria and she’s also a product of Wiccan tampering.

Angel: “Connor, Gwen … you can bring everyone back here if you want. There’s room.”
Connor: “Kinda lame to move back in with my dad, no? You’ll get all up in my business.”

Wesley (re his body): “No, I thought, perhaps, that I needed my earthly vessel to … to break my contract with Wolfram And Hart. Rituals being what they are.”
Illyria: “You don’t have the power to do that.”
Wesley: “I don’t, no. That’s why I attempted to contact the Powers That Be.”

When Wesley mentions LA’s fashion district, there’s no denying he’s talking about Cordelia. Plus the gang look like they’re living back at the Hyperion and Connor’s with Gwen?

Illyria: “But now you’re alone. Angel doesn’t trust you. Angel shouldn’t trust you. And you want to be with her.”
Wesley: “I do very much.”
Illyria: “She’s here. I try to push her down but then I see the faces of those she loved and she fights back.”

Issue 10 of “After The Fall” is released on July 2nd, the same day as Buffy’s “Time Of Your Life Part 1”.

Arguably a better issue that the previous two, with some genuinely nice moments. After some consideration, “After The Fall Part 9” is a near favourite of mine. That being said, with three issues left in this arc, can we please get some positive stuff, such as the gang escaping hell?

Rating: 8 out of 10.