Monday, April 16, 2012

Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 3: Hair of the Dog

We open rather dramatically with a man running for his life in a park from something that growls, has claws and catches him at a stone monument – the camera pans away before the no-doubt grisly end.

Dresden is busy buying herbs from an Asian woman (yes, it had to be, didn’t it? On TV only Asian people grow herbs. It is known) before being called by Murphy to go and see the mauled body that has had its hair and canine teeth removed – but the body we see is a woman, not a man. There is no male body. She’s the second body that has been mutilated like this.

They do find blood at the monument whether the man was cornered. And we get to interview Heather, the room mate who happens to have dropped round to the park – but she does tell them Mina (the dead woman) was on a date that night.

At the autopsy Murphy is told that the blood on the statue isn’t hers – it’s a man’s. And that the dead woman had silver powder (from old fashioned film development) in her nose and lungs. But she is interrupted when she finds Special Agent Raskin, an FBI agent from Miami investigating a serial killer is linking Mina’s to the previous deaths and taking over the investigation.

Harry has his own methods of investigating – bringing Bob out to look at the blood. By touching the blood he can assume the form of the people it came from. He reveals what the man looks like – and that the woman was a werewolf who died tasting silver. Bob posits that the man was defending himself from a werewolf hunting him, but Harry points out that he came with silver ready and that he took teeth and hair – so who was hunting who. We have a quick cameo to the man cleaning his wound over the 8 locks of hair he had collected.

Harry goes to check up with Murphy to confirm the silver and runs into the Special Agent who is, obviously, not especially happy to deal with a wizard – and is quick to push Harry out. Harry won’t take that and decides to interview Heather instead (with a rather hokey speech about unexplained things that she can’t discuss with the police). In a club one night Heather and Mina went to, something odd happened -  Mina got into a fight in which she was scratched (or bitten: the marks apparently could be either) in a fight with a woman at the bar. It was the bar where she met the man she was dating

They go on a little trip to the bar where it all happened allowing Dresden to take a mirror from the bar and then use a spell on it and Heather to review what happened in the bar – and to see the woman: Special Agent Raskin.

That’s when the FBI comes into to arrest Harry and bundle Heather off into a car with Agent Raskin – who then bites heather with wolfy fangs. Harry gets interviewed by Special Agent Harry Bushnell – the man who the werewolf was chasing. They found silver powder in his apartment (somehow managing to get a search warrant for it) and are arresting him for all of the murders.

In prison Harry is visited by Murphy and Harry asks about Raskin’s past – including a breakdown in Bosnia (presumably when she was bitten). He tells Murphy his suspicions about the 2 FBI agents – but all of the evidence from the crime scene has disappeared so they have no more blood to compare to Bushnell’s – in itself suspicious and pointing the fingers. He worries that heather is now in their hands

Speaking of – we switch to Heather hallucinating and dreaming about Mina who advises her to find Dresden to get help. But she’s being held prisoner by Agent Bushnell. They plan on releasing heather into the park and killing her after she turns. They need to kill heather as part of a ritual to cure Agent Raskin of lycanthropy – to bring her back, at least so Bushnell says before Heather uses her werewolf strength to send him flying. Agent Raskin, meanwhile, has gone to the prison to kill Harry – only to find him sat silently and the cell door unlocked – and the Harry there is just an illusion. Wizards are hard to hold.

Back to Harry’s shop, Dresden finds the FBI has pretty much torn it apart, which doesn’t amuse him. But they completely missed his hidden lab with Bob. Between them they confirm that there is a ritual – if you kill 9 werewolves of the same bloodline then you can cure lycanthropy.

Then Heather arrives, ill and sick and turning – and yes she tells Harry she has been bitten. Bob urges harry to use silver spikes to kill her but Harry refuses – telling Bob to get out. But Heather is turning and is losing control. Harry and heather work desperately to strengthen her control – and Harry reveals he knows lycanthropes who have managed to control themselves and live with lycanthropy.

But the Special Agents arrive before Harry gets chance to go track them. Only agent Bushnell is turning now from the scratch Mina gave him as well. Begin the fight scene! It’s actually really well done the conflict, the pushing into the lab. The eye effects are good but the CGI werewolves is a bit poor – being cartoony, shadowy shapes. In the fight Raskin kills Bushnell thinking he’s Heather – and killing him makes him number 9, curing Raskin of her lycanthropy.

Aftermath? Harry consults with Murphy and it seems all has been neatly sorted out. Raskin is under arrest and in a mental health facility, harry is no longer wanted for anything and a whole lot of loose ends have been neatly tucked away.

Harry gives Heather an elixir she can use to control her lycanthropy – and she leaves town to go it alone and show she can live without Harry’s intervention. I think it’s a trifle convoluted but it’s one way of stopping her becoming a recurring character.

I don’t think that the show made any real attempt to hide that there were werewolves involved considering the episode title and the silver, but instead brought a very nice twist by having someone hunt werewolves to curse the curse instead.

I am glad that the investigation this episode was more magical based rather than leaps of logic and coincidences like the last episode. Magic plugs the gaps much better in Urban Fantasy. Still, the FBI suddenly focusing on Harry (even if they recognised what a wizard was) with so little evidence to go on (none at all, really) is shaky to say the least.

In fact, I like Harry using magic a lot more in this episode, it covers story gaps better, helps investigating and, ultimately, this is a programme about Harry the wizard not Harry the PI. It needs some magic, some power and some fantastic elements.

I don’t like how Harry seems to develop deep emotional connections with brief acquaintances. I can imagine being sad by people dying but Harry seems to grieve for near strangers. I don’t see how this suddenly big heavy relationship between Heather and Harry came from

We have some racial inclusion – Mina is a Black woman. We have some side characters and of course Murphy is Latina in the series unlike in the books. They’re not in main roles but, then Harry is, so far, the only main character in the show unless we count Bob.

I think this episode was a vast improvement on the last one because, rough points notwithstanding, it’s internally consistent and had much more magic and mayhem – and a lot less dodgy investigative nonsense and leaps of logic, faith and reason. Definitly finding its feet