Sunday, March 25, 2007

Passing Sentences: March 25

Rome, Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus: The penultimate episode takes another leap ahead, but as kazekage points out, the narrative flow somehow remains intact despite the considerable jumps and hiccups in time, even though we're never very sure when we are, so to speak. Anyway, the Octavian/Livia sex scene was fascinating because it's another example of a Roman woman turning the tables on a powerful man - Livia has managed to exploit Octavian's S&M fetish without him laying a finger on her. The fact that the actress bears an unsettling resemblence to Christina Ricci helps a lot. As for the body count, it's just Gaia this time, and apparently Memmio wasn't dead after all (nice reveal there), and I like that we fast-forwarded through the entire Gaia/Pullo relationship just to put her in the same position Eirene was in, because it brings up all sorts of comparisons - not least of which that Gaia is essentially guilty of the same thing Pullo did to get Eirene in the first place. The only difference is that she at least cops to what she did, and accepts the punishment that follows. I have to admit, I didn't expect to sympathize with her... but I did, in the end. Some more quick observations: the decadence of Cleopatra's court was well-portrayed, it was nice to see Niobe again for a few moments, and I love that Atia has been transformed into Servilia, using her son to crush her unfaithful lover and those aligned with him (the difference being that, as history tells us, Atia will succeed where Servilia failed).

Supernatural, Heart: Yikes. Seeing Jared Padalecki shirtless was a lot scarier than it was last year, as he seems to have acquired a set of vein-streaked bulging muscles that wouldn't look out of place on a professional wrestler. Poor boy looks like he's on steroids or something. Anyway, this one was a little too transparent for my tastes - Madison (guest star Emanuelle Vaugier) was obviously a "shake and bake" character, in the sense that she only existed for the purpose of sharing an instant attraction with Sam. In fact, I don't know that we can rightly call her a character, since she's just a bunch of stereotypes and cliches that are preconfigured to work off Sam's established personality traits. All in all, it comes off like Jared Padalecki had a sex scene quota to fill and they just tossed in whoever was on call at the time.

Beauty and the Beast, Once Upon A Time: My pal Tink recommended this late '80s romance series, an urban take on the popular fairy tale. I've only been able to acquire the pilot so far, but I like what I see: it's charmingly antiquated, both in the '80s sense (oh God I'd forgotten about the shoulder pads) and in the use of classic tropes like the spiral staircase, the romanticism of poverty and the underworld, a damsel in distress rescued by a gallant but cursed stranger... but, of course, the damsel is Linda Hamilton so you just know a can of whoop-ass is going to get opened sooner or later, and Ron Perlman (as Vincent, the Beast) plays his part on the down-low rather than ham it up. It really works, and I'm looking forward to more.

Warcraft: The Last Guardian: At some recent point in its development, the backstory and lore of "Warcraft" became a horribly complicated thing. Villains were retconned as pawns of other villains, who were themselves corrupted by an even greater evil... oh, and they have spaceships now. On some level, this was inevitable once the franchise moved into the MMORPG field, where everything is always fluid and open to revision. So in that context, Jeff Grubb's novel "The Last Guardian" is a real treat, as it goes back to much simpler times, exploring events that are set in the pre-narrative world. It's the story of Khadgar (who would later appear in the "Beyond The Dark Portal" expansion), set shortly before the First War, as he begins his apprenticeship to the not-yet-infamous Medivh. Grubb successfully brings this part of Warcraft's history to life, going back to its medieval, swords-and-sorcery roots; if you've played the games, you'll know the answers to the big mysteries (where the Orcs come from, who brought them to Azeroth, what's really wrong with Medivh), but Grubb's dramatization of events that were only ever referenced in the games is a major hook - one chapter, for example, has Khadgar experiencing a vision of Magna Aegwynn's war with Sargeras and the Burning Legion, and it's a very impressive sequence. I recommend "The Last Guardian" to anyone looking for a fun flashback to when things weren't so damned bizarre in the Warcraftverse.