Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Season Seven Showdown - The Penultimate

Everyone please welcome our guest blogger!

Maestro here. Buffyfest has been hard at work wrapping up the Season Seven Showdown with this marathon lightning round in honor of tonight’s season premiere of Supernatural. Episode by episode the Winchesters have maintained a lead, but the Slayer is known to finish strong. Who will take the final episodes? We'll work it through within a minute.

Before Tara comes back here to compare the grand finales, we have a small mathematical issue to address. The creative team behind Supernatural saw fit to write an extra episode into their seventh season, stretching it across 23 parts instead of the usual 22. This leaves us with a conundrum: we are left without a fair matchup in the end and it is obviously wrong to not let the finales stand up against one another. With great deliberation your bloggers have made the only executive decision we think that is appropriate under the circumstances.

It’s time for Ben Edlund vs. Ben Edlund.

Supernatural Episode #21 - "Reading is Fundamental"
The Lightning Round Recap:
An overachieving Asian lad plays cello according to a ridiculously regimented schedule while Frank and Joe Hardy squat in an abandoned loft and chisel masonry off of the handprops. The concept for this new character is actually a bit racist.

So, the brothers hammer away at that chunk of stone that they lucked into during the whole Felicia Day incident assuming there is a creamy center inside, and expose an ancient tablet hand inscribed with ten commandments and eleven secret herbs and spices, and for some reason freeing it results in crazy stuff hundreds of miles away: the young man we barely know gets hit by lightning and Cas wakes up. 

The kid sleeps through a day of school and then steals his mother’s car to run away while displaying the an unusually orange shade glowing eyes of mystical mind control while Meg summons our protagonists back to the mental institution. They discover that our favorite trenchcoated seraphim is in fact up and about, but definitely not all there. He’s like 25% Cas, 50% Gravelly-voiced Rain Man, and 12% Teleporting Conflict Avoider. I’m not sure what the rest is, for now we’ll just say tar.

Misha better be having fun with this (probably is.)

Anyway, Crazy Angel’s reluctance to stay in one place for unpleasant conversations will be leading to a few incidents of strange script pacing for the remainder of the season. This first time it inserts a gap that allows him to give Dean a really awkward apology while Sam and Meg tackle the boy we met earlier, Advanced Placement Kevin, who had successfully slipped in and stolen Sam’s Holy Backpack with the rock of doom, which he can read for some reason.

We’re short on time so to quickly explain that reason the writers instantly beam in a hit squad of angels to tell us: the kids a prophet. Tough plot twist for you, Asian boy. You just inherited Chuck’s job. (Unless Chuck was secretly God. They never actually made that clear.)

Anyway, my watch says we’re only a couple of episodes from the end of the year, which according to the Supernatural writing formula means it’s time for the boys to find the Macguffin that will conveniently take out the big bad. Turns out the magic rock that conveniently dropped into their laps is not that Macguffin: it’s the instruction manual that tells you how to make the Macguffin. No, that’s not ex machina at all.

So Team "No Apocalypse" is on the run being chased down by a number of angels and demons and Leviathan FBI who all want AP Kevin before he can translate the ancient cookbook. Long story short: fighting ensues, demons and angels die, the Leviathans do get their hands on the prophet but not before the heroes get a marble composition book that contains the cheat sheet for the end of the season.

Also: great work on protecting God’s chosen one, entire forces of good. How has evil not won seasons ago?


Angel Season 4 Episode #20 - "Sacrifice"
The Lightning Round Recap:
This is coming out of left field for some of you with very little buildup, but while Buffy and Company have been in this middle of their Mal and the Uruk-Hai crap the Angel Crew have been fighting Zoe and her Cult of Happiness. Basically this was the year that the bastard step-child Firefly came back to wreak vengeance on its favored siblings.

So to catch you up: all of Los Angeles has been mind controlled by Zoe, who is basically a god whose parents are Comatose Cordelia and Creepy Connor, with all the alliteration and uncomfortable incest vibes that brings.

In the last minute of the previous episode our whole team of heroes is freed from the brainwashing by the magic of plot contrivance, except Connor decides to stay with the zombies anyway and betrays everyone to the cult. So this week opens with Angel having to beat the extreme amounts of pretty out his extremely pretty son’s face and then everyone escapes in the Angelmobile.

The brainwashing appears to have spread over northern California (except specifically Sunnydale, where apparently there is no longer any television or radio and also people are busy with their own apocalypse) and soon the whole world will be affected once the good guys are dead. Zoe projects herself into random individuals to try to kill the heroes, so we take to the sewers for safety.

Here we find the last temporarily un-kool-aided citizens who have been hiding out even since the extended eclipse from earlier in the season. Because without them we wouldn’t know about the strange monster that our characters really shouldn’t be wasting their time with right now but luckily will somehow tie back into the main plot although there is no way for them to know that. Wes gets to have a brief conversation with the creature, an alien from another dimension that thankfully came to our world to deliver exposition to the heroes, while everyone wanders the smelly tunnels looking for someone or another. Fred gets a line in about how even if their lives are pain and suffering she’d still prefer that to being a shell, so there’s a nice piece of cruel foreshadowing for next year (thanks for that.)

Gunn beats up a little kid while the alien tells Wes that to beat Zoe, Angel has to travel to his home dimension and find out the god’s True Name. Then Angel kills him.

Anyway, the main character has to jump through the portal alone (because the air is poison) and everyone else gets captured while Zoe creepily laughs feeling every wound and injury her minions receive. And scene!

Final Ruling: Obviously under the circumstances this would not be a fair matchup to include in the final tally, so we’re going to call this one an exhibition match. Just for fun.

This is definitely an interesting one, since both these episodes were written by a guy mostly known for doing the wacky humor episodes. But apparently at the end of a season he puts down his Tick skills and focuses and darkness and gravitas. These are both pretty decent episodes that have powerful moments, and they further the overall plot arc but still squeeze in time for big character growth as well. They both have the same major flaw: the heroes are so far behind that they need a ridiculously lucky twist if they want to win in time, so the universe has to just hand it to them in an unbelievably improbable way. You can blame that on previous episodes being too inefficient, but in Supernatural’s case I feel like this happens every year. But we’ll forgive both shows because these chapters are enjoyable enough that you don’t really get hung up on how improbable it is during the first viewing.

So, high marks all around, almost a tie but the scales tip very slightly in favor an Angel for better plot momentum.

Unofficial Tally:


Supernatural Episode #22 - "There Will Be Blood"
The Lightning Round Recap:
Hey, remember that Alpha Vampire from last season? No? Don’t feel bad, not sure anyone else did either.

So, Evil Dick has conquered the high-fructose corn syrup industry, because he wants all Americans lazy and fat and blah blah blah meta-message. He also thinks he can bribe AP Kevin with a letter of recommendation to Princeton, so that racism from last week is still present. When that doesn’t work he threatens to kill his mom, which is really a motivation that transcends all ethnicities.

Sam and Dean are debating whether or not to be smart for once or just rush in, while Bobby points out that they’ve missed the window for smart and now just have to be fast. So they call Crowley in, figuring that they need his blood to make their superweapon. Crowley agrees, but won’t give it to them until they get the other ingredient from the heavenly recipe first: the blood of the original vampire that got captured last year by Grampa X-Files.

They drive to a town indicated by Crowley but can’t eat any food because everything with sugary goodness is poisoned with happy juju like the Turducken sandwiches. We reach Casa de Vampyre where the bloodsuckers are all dead with burns on their mouths. But hey, there’s a nice traumatized thrall locked in a secret room who appears to have not mentally aged in the last decade since she was kidnapped in a really, really, upsetting writing choice. 

So, we’ve figured out the blood of the corn-syrup zombies is what killed the vampires so the boys steal some from a random person to use as a weapon. They then lock the vampire’s slave in their motel room with Bobby’s flask, completely not realizing that she’s been obviously evil this whole time and instantly calls “Daddy” to warn him. Bobby gets pissed and steals a maid’s body so he can go murder Dick.

The captured Winchesters try to negotiate with the vampires for their precious pernicious plasma, but Lethal Latino Leviathan arrives to sour the deal. Smooth Alpha Vamp chooses at first not to believe that Dick would betray the other monsters, but Triple L’s arrogance lets it slip that the black-bloods want to be the only predators on the block: their drug will not only subjugate humanity it will kill everything that eats humans except for the Leviathans. So Lethal Latino gets beheaded, the Vamp let’s us know he’ll be back next year, and Sam and Dean leave with the blood. Everything is now going their way.

Except that Bobby is missing, walking around in a maid suit.

Oh, and Dick has captured Crowley. Cheers!


Buffy Episode #21 - "End of Days"
The Lightning Round Recap:
So, at this point in Buffy there were very, very few people who had actually read Fray so the significance of the weapon in front of our heroine is not well explained, but Mal will try to convey it to us with his very expressive face.

Before any fighting can happen, the First taunts Buffy with the fact the newbies are all about to die so she has to run out the door and save all their asses. They appear to have survived the bomb but are surrounded by Uruk-hai, so obviously Buffy (who previously had to spend weeks fighting just a single one of them) is now able to dispatch three of then in 30 seconds, because “Shut up, audience, we don’t have time for this now.”

The wounded are all teleported back to the house somehow, and Buffy talks about how Faith shouldn’t be blamed for falling into a trap because she could have done the same thing (except you just did the same thing, like yesterday, but good job faking the moral high ground) and everyone can ooh and ahh about Buffy’s new magical Axe of +5 Vampire Slaying. They mistakenly refer to it as a scythe, which it totally is not, and I refuse to ever refer to it as such even if they call it that forever after. It’s either an axe or a glaive or a “fuck you medieval polearm experts”, take your pick.

Anya and Andrew have nothing good to contribute to this episode so they go off to scavenge medical supplies from a hospital. Buff assigned One-Eye the task of kidnapping her sister to take her out of harm’s way (one quick tase later and she’s on the way back). Willow and Giles waste our time not finding out about the axe in order to remind the audience how great and special the witch is.

Mal and Sarah Michelle First have a creepy sexual moment in order to roid him up into UberCaleb for the end of the episode, and then Faith has a creepy sexual moment with the new Mr. Pointy as a setup for her wasting our time in order to remind the audience how great and special the Slayer is.

It strikes me that if the creators spent a little less time talking themselves up here, we might have enough time here to build to a resolution that isn’t a total ass-pull.

So, Spike and Buffy reiterate everything we’ve seen from them a million times so far this season without getting any further than we ever have, and Buffy goes off to destiny. Destiny is a white-haired woman in a grave who apparently is that last of an all-female order of sisters that have been deeply entwined with the slayer line from the very beginning, so it makes total sense that we have never heard of them before the LAST FUCKING MINUTE IN THE SERIES. Anyway they made a weapon that could superboost Buffy’s power in case the world was ending and left it in a place that she would find it at like the tenth time in her life that she really needed it. If she had died in one of those many other times they world was going to end, this old woman would have felt very stupid.

Before she can tell us anything that’s actually useful Mal snaps her neck, an act which reaches across the universe and into another television network to anger the rightful king of neck snappings, who then leaps across the void to the UPN for his revenge.

Just as Buffy is losing her fight despite her new glaive juju, in walks the Ex to help with the killing blow. “Hey honey, I just came back from this alternate dimension with a villain destroying Macguffin and thought you might like it if I picked you up one too.”

What happens next is either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever depending on your ship: Bangel kissage.

Final Ruling: 
I don’t have much to complain about this Supernatural exactly: while there is a strange convenience to all this and weird pacing I can’t say that is anything particular bad about the episode. It really more of a sense like: this? This is what we’re doing? It’s alright, but are you sure there wasn’t a better option, some superior way of going about this? But okay, I guess. The vampire is cool at least.

As for Buffy: it was like old times. Especially with Angel being here and everything. But it was also crammed full of too many moments for the real characters because of all the wasted time in previous episodes focusing on unimportant new people. No matter which character you love or which ship you support there was something in this for you to appreciate, but no matter which character you hate or which ship you are against there was something to piss you off. I could try to make an argument for this ep as it was at least much better than the two that came before it, but it must forever be penalized for the revelation that Dawn killed Tara’s cat.

Advantage Winchester.

Season tally so far:

Well, there you have it; nothing left to do now but wrap it up. If anyone has any complaints or anything to add, well, that’s what the comments section is for. Otherwise: back to you, Tara.

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