Thursday, February 24, 2011

Criminal Minds: Coda

Sammy Sparks (Skyler Brigmann), an autistic ten-year-old boy in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, plays a classical piece on the piano. This is intercut with a montage of our BAU members going through their morning routines -- Reid walks to work with a book on migraines tucked under his arm, Hotch helps young Jack get ready for the day. It’s a fitting start for a case that will hinge upon the importance of routines. More, with just these fleeting nods to past developments in the lives of our characters (Reid is now plagued with crippling migraines, Hotch is now raising a young son on his own), it’s already clear we’re in better hands in this episode than we’ve been for much of this season.

…My standards for this show are so very, very low these days. Throw me a few scraps of decent character development or intra-episode continuity, and I’m pathetically grateful.

While Sammy continues to play the piano, his mother, Alison (Jessica Lundy), struggles with a shadowy figure in the background. A spray of blood splatters Sammy’s face from some unclear burst of violence behind him. Sammy stops playing and wipes off his face. He looks at the smeared blood on his hand with nothing more than idle curiosity. Later, he shows up at his elementary school, lunchbox in hand, his face still splattered with blood.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Criminal Minds: Today I Do

Get your act together, Criminal Minds.

I know you’ve got a lot of well-publicized behind-the-scenes drama taking place right now: fired actors, new characters, upset and increasingly vocal cast members, contract disputes, shady statements from your parent network, and a wholly ill-advised and unwanted new spin-off series that seems to be cannibalizing your resources. Yeah, that all stinks, and it probably makes for a rocky work environment. Criminal Minds staff writers and producers, you have my sympathy.

Still, while all that might (or might not) be something of an explanation for why the scripts this season have been so tired and/or silly and/or sloppy and/or sensationalistic, it’s not an excuse. You’ve been on this rapid downward trajectory for well over half a season now, and it’s ruining the show. Raise your game.

This is a pallid, lifeless, repetitive episode, and while it’s far from the worst we’ve seen lately -- it’s no “The Thirteenth Step” or “Reflection of Desire,” in other words -- it’s not worth devoting much time to recapping in detail. So in the broadest possible strokes: The drowned body of a young woman, Gail, is found in a lake, her hands and feet smashed with a mallet. Another young woman, Molly (Californication’s Rachel Miner), has disappeared and is suspected of being the unsub’s next victim. The unsub is a self-proclaimed and uncredentialed self-help guru named Jane (Rebecca Field), who befriended both Gail and Molly and inserted herself into their lives under the guise of helping them with their respective emotional and mental problems -- Gail had been hospitalized for depression, while Molly has both a history of eating disorders and a long-term abusive boyfriend, Lyle (Joshua Leonard).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Devil Wears Mom Jeans

First off, a tip of the hat to Kelly, who, after reading my essay, “The Strange, Sick, Sad Career of Thomas Gibson,” clued me in to this little gem lurking in the murky lower depths of Gibson’s vast and oft-disturbing IMDB page. The Devil’s Child is a 1997 made-for-television movie, featuring Gibson as an unusually lackadaisical Devil who schemes to impregnate NYPD Blue’s Kim Delaney. It’s Rosemary’s Baby made fast and cheap, and it’s terrible. Hilariously, delightfully, endearingly terrible.

As The Devil’s Child has never been released on DVD in the United States (fancy that), I ordered my copy from overseas. For reasons that shall probably remain a mystery for the ages, the DVD box for the official UK release gives first billing not to Delaney or to Gibson, but to… Scooby-Doo’s Matthew Lillard, who has a supporting role as Delaney’s love-struck assistant, Tim.

Delaney plays Nikki DiMarco, a Los Angeles photographer who, due to a severe childhood accident, is unable to bear children. When her batty mother (Twin Peaks’ Grace Zabriskie) dies unexpectedly, Nikki inherits a windfall of cash and, at the urging of her best friend Ruby (Colleen Flynn), moves into an apartment in Ruby’s creepy old building. After a series of bizarre incidents, lapsed-Catholic Nikki begins to suspect Satanic forces were behind her mother’s death. Ruby mocks her for her religious paranoia, though in truth, Nikki’s status as the local Bible nut has been greatly exaggerated. When Ruby quotes lyrics from The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” Nikki chimes in with, “That’s from Revelations.” Well, no, it’s not -- Nikki has somehow confused the fire-and-brimstone bombast of Revelations with the mellow, hippie-friendly vibe of Ecclesiastes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Criminal Minds: Sense Memory

After that last wretched episode, and after the lengthy string of mediocre episodes preceding it, Criminal Minds is on double-super-duper-extreme probation with me. It was pretty much a coin toss as to whether I even watched last night’s episode, and I really had no intention of recapping it.

Glad I bothered. Best episode of the season, by a comfortable margin. The show made up a little of the respect it’s lost from me over the past few months. It’s still on very thin ice, but this was a sure-footed move in the direction of solid ground.

Let’s get to the Prentiss stuff first, because it’s the most interesting: Prentiss comes home to her DC-area apartment (she’s no longer living in that fabulous two-story condo we saw in the third season) and leafs through the contents of a large envelope in her safe -- several passports, redacted records, photos -- all of which hint at a past history as a secret agent (it also seems to hint that her nationality is… Belgian. Go figure). Sure, that sort of comes out of nowhere, but it’s not a bad fit with what we know of Prentiss: her globe-trotting childhood, her fluency in multiple languages, her super-cool competence. We also discover that Prentiss has an adorable black kitty named Sergio, and hey, already we’re in a much better place than we’ve been for most of this season. We’re focusing on the team members! We’re learning stuff about them! They’re not just standing around robotically spouting exposition to move the plot along!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fun With Keywords: Mohinder Doesn’t Give Up Edition

Keywords! Another month is done, so it’s time for more keywords! These are a few of the Google search terms visitors have used to find this site over the past month:

mohinder doesn't give up
As much as I adore Heroes’ beautiful Mohinder, I sort of think “giving up” is one of his core character traits, right up there with his disastrous fashion sense and his ability to turn my knees to jelly with his smile. I mean, he does flounce back to India in a huff when things go wrong for him more than once over the course of the series…

delta ceramcoat varnish dangerous
Well, yeah, if you huff it or drink it. And I wouldn’t eat off of anything you’ve glazed with it, because I doubt it’s food-safe. If it’s dangerous above and that, I’d like to remain blissfully ignorant, because I go through it in great quantities. It’s cheap, it spreads evenly, it dries fast, and it doesn’t stink up the place whenever I use it.

how sure is the apocalypse
the apocalypse is not close
Asked and answered.