Saturday, February 17, 2007

Passing Sentences #3

Rome, Heroes of the Republic: This episode marks the mid-season point, and it's been a pretty wild ride so far. In five weeks, we've jumped from Caesar's assassination to the birth of the Second Triumvirate; Vorenus went Dark Side, Octavian got a full-body makeover, Brutus lost his mind, Timon found religion, and Atia and Servilia decided to stop playing nice, because encouraging incest and having your enemy stripped and humiliated in the streets just isn't permanent enough.

It's rushed, no question about it. I accept that, because there's no choice; HBO has a limited amount of episodes to get us from last season's end-point (Caesar's death) to the next optimal jumping-off point (Augustus), while keeping every other plotline from the previous season running. But even with (necessary) compression wreaking havoc on the timeline and on balanced screen-time (Eirene who?), I'm constantly amazed at how nuanced "Rome" can be. To wit, I realized the other day that there's a near-constant tension between the characters as they are now and as they were when the story began. It's as if they're all caught in a state of flux, vacillating between their past and present selves. Octavian reaches adulthood and makes it on his own, only to become his mother's puppet again. Vorenus and Pullo have practically swapped bodies - now Pullo's the domestic, moral man while Vorenus steeps himself in violence, darkness and sex. Brutus plunges into the depths of guilt and anguish, and comes out the other side leading an army, just as he did before (and more importantly, just as his ancestors did, and just as Servilia expects him to).

And that whole mess is a microcosm of Rome itself, caught in the tides of history, going back and forth between the Republic of the past and the Empire of the future, and nobody's sure what they're supposed to do or where they're supposed to stand.

I'm really going to miss this show when it's gone.

Heroes, Run!: Not quite as fulfilling as I'd hoped, because the plot only mimicked forward movement without really going anywhere. So, yeah, Nathan is Claire's father, but she doesn't even see him or get his name. Meredith's a golddigger who's set to disappear again. Hiro and Ando get sidetracked again. "Mohinder's List" starts rolling, and it just serves to pull Sylar in so he'll be involved in an ongoing plotline. Matt and Jessica throw down, and you'd think something huge would happen there, but... well, no. So it's more or less an exercise in wheel-spinning.

Veronica Mars, Postgame Mortem: O-kay, now we've got another multi-episode murder investigation involving both Keith and Veronica, on top of the ongoing Dean O'Dell mystery, concerning a character we've seen exactly once before. Hmm. Then again, both cases progressed this week, while accomodating a rather cute Logan sequence where he gets his groove back thanks to the little God Girl from "Joan of Arcadia". Not so bad, then.

Supernatural, Tall Tales: Another really good one, though for completely different reasons than last week. Bobby arrives to find the Winchester boys bickering and at a total loss regarding their current case, which seems to involve everything from vengeful spirits to alien abductions. Dean and Sam alternately fill Bobby in through flashbacks, though each brother puts his own spin on the story (I can't believe I'm saying this, but excellent acting from both Ackles and Padalecki - and hey, that's two finger-snaps in a row for the Pads!). It's a very lighthearted episode, a surprising but welcome relief from the unrelenting angst of season 2 so far. Not that the angst hasn't been good, in moderation, but it's nice to get a little something different now and again.

Man of the Year: I've always ever had the one problem with Robin Williams - he has a certain way of line-delivery (especially the ones with comedic slants) that just blurs together all the characters he's ever played. I look at Tom Dobbs and I see Patch Adams, Philip Brainard, Alan Parrish, Peter Banning and Daniel Hilliard. It's not that he isn't funny on occasion (though I wasn't especially amused by this film), it's that I never get the feeling he's actually separating the roles in his head, as opposed to just pulling out one generic character and slapping multiple names on it.

Starsky and Hutch: While channel-surfing late last night, I stumbled onto two episodes of "Starsky and Hutch", the series finale and an episode where Hutch is forcibly addicted to heroin. I doubt I'm going to go looking for more, but it was okay, a nice way to pass some time. And those two were so doing it. :)

Thunderbolts: I said I'd give Warren Ellis two issues. I did. And I still have no idea whether this is working for me or not. I think I'll err on the side of caution for now (also, Ellis, not exactly batting a million these days) and drop it.

Batman: Dark Moon Rising: Still on the subject of comics - awesome stories by Matt Wagner (was there ever any doubt?), very evocative of Miller circa Year One without making the common mistake of aping him so closely the thing descends into parody (see: "Spider-Man: Reign"). And I was all set to give this the big review and the many praises it deserves, but then I'd just get depressed that something like "Dark Moon Rising" is the exception and not the rule, and why hasn't anyone signed Wagner on for more work, huh? And where the fuck are those Grendel trades?! So let me just say that it's an excellent mini-series telling somewhat unconventional tales of the Dark Knight, with a touch of the old Grendel flair, and that just makes for fun reading. See, Dan DiDio? Batman can be fun! And we didn't run screaming like our hair's on fire! Try it sometimes!