Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blood Ties Season 1, Episode 3: Bad Juju

Vicki has a new case and a new client – Angelique has lost her brother, Royal. They come from New Orleans after Katrina and she can’t go to the police because she suspects her brother has fallen into criminal activity with a man called Henri Gregoire. And as they leave the club they’re meeting in they’re attacked by a clumsy, moaning man who has zombie written all over his forehead (C’mon no gooey rotting effects? I am cheated by the substandard quality of this zombie), he knocks Vicki down, kills the man guarding Angelique and then chases after Angelique

She calls the police and in comes Mike Celucci and his partner Dave, but they can’t get in touch with Angelique. And Vicki takes the time to point out to Mike that the attacker wasn’t breathing – causing him to have a rant about her losing touch with reality –and makes a dig at her vision which is, thankfully, recognised as crossing the line.

On to Henry Fitzroy – who else are you going to talk to about zombies other than the vampire you know? And yes, Henry confirms that it was a zombie – resurrected by a bokor, a voodoo practitioner and he gets all dramatic to try and scare Vicki off – but agrees to help in the end. We also get some dramatic flirting over his half-finished graphic novel.

We switch quickly to the bokor – and he’s dressed like Baron Samedi on a limited budget, sat on a chair of bones and making his minions vomit snakes. Someone spent all of 10 minutes researching these stereotypes.

On to some investigation, leaving Coreen (Vicki’s new sidekick) to do some research they go to the bar they met Angelique in where Henry, for reasons that aren’t apparent, decides to accost the bar tender and rile the clientele. It achieves nothing but they do leave the bar and follow the bar tender instead.

This leads them to Angelique, practicing at a Voudoun altar who tells them her history as a child of a mambo and a hougan (Voudoun priests) who were murdered by members of the Sac Rouge, dark Voudoun practitioners who are now threatening her and her brother. Vicki is quick to offer to help, much to Henry’s disagreement. But you don’t disagree with Vicki.

Check in to Celucci for some investigating but mainly sniping between Henry and Mike – thankfully broken up by Vicki before it got too childish (these 2 are supposed to be grown men?) before moving on to the next scene and another dead body. And another zombie they have to subdue. But this sets Vicki into a guilt trip because the zombie is so unstoppable even for vampires. But she hardly spends a second wallowing before demanding to know why Henry is so afraid of magic – cue a reminiscent to the 1920s when Henry went to Haiti and a woman he liked was murdered and turned into a zombie

Back to Celuccis for more info and a frustrating conversation where Henry demands to be told the truth but nothing about the supernatural – as Vicki says “you’re the one who keeps beating your head against an open door” which is a great line I may have to steal. And Vicki lays it out to him concisely and clearly – she’ll share the info and he can take it or leave it. Mike doesn’t seem to take it and asks Dave to run a background check on henry – and even Dave very clearly points out how much this is about Mike’s jealousy rather than any actual police work.

So they track down Baron Stereotype and we get some more drama and tacky plastic skulls – he has killed Royal, her brother. But he claims he has done it because Angelique and Royal are the dark practitioners and they had to be stopped. While he serves good and bad (a bokor serves with both hands) he claims Angelique and Royal are all bad – and that they’re both ancient but look young because of the children they sacrificed. He also says Angelique will want to use magic soon to resurrect her brother

And at Vicki’s office Angelique is casting a spell and sealing Coreen’s mouth when she tries to interrupt. The spell uses the charm she gave Vicki wasn’t for protection – it was to channel her spell to kill Baron Stereotype. The run to confront Angelique – but she has a voodoo doll of Vicki.

Some research during the day and Vicki runs off alone to find Royal’s body in the crypt they discovered (she fills in Mike as well, to his usual scepticism).

Fight scene in the cemetery – Coreen has researched that salt is nifty zombie repellent (and it works on slugs as well!), Vicki is rescued by Henry, but at least she’s the one who lands the punch (though I don’t know if that’s empowerment for Vicki or the show writers not wanting to show Henry hit a woman).

I have to say, the minute I saw this was an episode that centred around voodoo I cringed. Voudoun is so poorly represented in this genre – and nearly always covers dark magic and the same sinister tropes over and over again (voodoo dolls, zombies, snakes and bones.)

There is a lot of knowledge of various voodoo terms and practices. But even Angelique considers growing up in a household that practices voodoo, children of parents who were mambos, was a bad thing and bad for children. It’s also interesting how they twisted the villain round – but even the “good” practitioner is only good in comparison and that same sinister theme is continued throughout. Yes there was some balance, some good Voudoun, some counteraction – but it was still, at best, dubious and always sinister and frightening

We do have a lot of black people in this episode beyond Celucci’s token sidekick – but they’re pretty much all linked to the evil voodoo. Which, I suppose, is better than voodoo being all about white people like Vampire Diaries managed, but still it’d be a lot better if voodoo itself weren’t portrayed as such a terrible, dark menacing thing and, by inference, all these magical black people weren’t part of the same. And it doesn’t help that just about all of them die

I like that Vicki fiercely resists both pity and Celucci’s “over-protective crap” and how even Henry’s over-dramatic vampire games don’t cow her in the slightest. I really do love this character. Except – 2 rescues now. Count them, 2. That’s a lot of manly rescuing of the female protagonist so early in the series.

I don’t like Henry and Mike. Together they are like 5 year olds – yes, they’re both competing for Vicki’s affections but there’s no need to be so ridiculous about it. I don’t like love triangles at the best of time, but if we must have them, could the adults (and 5 century old vampires) at least remain adults?

I still like the series – and it was better with some of the old tropes than most are (but that’s not saying much). Still it was shaky. And I’m beginning to think Coreen is a stand in for Tony from the books. Now I didn’t like the portrayal of Tommy at all – but am even less pleased at the gay character (and Henry’s bisexuality) being completely erased