Monday, May 21, 2012

Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 8: Storm Front

It’s a dark and stormy night and a couple are having a romantic moment together – when they start bleeding massively from the mouth. Way to spoil the mood guys

To Harry who is, ironically, musing that he thought when he became a detective that all of his cases would start with a sultry femme fatale. Uh,  be fair Harry, a good half your cases so far seem to have involved femme fatales or, at very least, you getting awfully close to your female clients. I think you’ve hit your femme fatale quota already.

This case does not start with a femme fatale – it starts with Detective Kirmani who has come to mock harry for his wizardness (Detective Kirmani not being Harry’s biggest fan) and to reel him in for Murphy. She wants him to look at the 2 bodies – who have had their hearts exploded (the guy is a mobster, the woman a student). Literally exploded out of their chests. Only one thing does that – black magic! Ominous music time – and a lot of revelations to Murphy too.

Which leads, naturally, to the High Council who are officially in charge of stamping heavily on that. Which, of course, leads to Morgan, one of the chief stampers, who introduces himself with a sword to Harry’s throat, of course. Because he’s a nice guy like that. But Morgan’s not in charge here – it’s time to meet Ancient Mai. Who is a very very scary lady indeed and is willing to not kill Dresden for the crime – if he can prove someone else did it. Yes, not the fairest justice system in the world, but Dresden is on probation after killing his uncle with black magic in self defence.

Now highly incentivised to return to the case, he goes back to Murphy and gives her a lecture on Thaumaturgy – including the need for strong emotion to power ripping someone’s heart out. Now someone hating Tommy Tom (oh dear gods, really?) everyone can understand – but why would anyone hate poor Jennifer Randal? Time to check her nearest and dearest – including the parents of her deceased friend, Grace.

And it seems Mrs. Cutler wasn’t Jennifer’s biggest fan since she was the one who introduced Grace to the drugs that killed her. And while he’s musing about that he’s attacked by something invisible – but he drives it off with his hockey stick flamethrower! (Yes, I’m moaning about the props again)

Time for some investigating – by contacting his friend with benefits, Susan, the investigative reporter. Now she does exist in the books but she doesn’t exist in the series, not yet anyway. But she seems to have been just dropped into the series with no backstory or introduction – and as a full blown friend (and more) of Harry at that. It’s rather clumsy, we’re 8 episodes in, she deserved some kind of background presence.

Their little date is interrupted by a fire breathing demon at the door. Definitely ruins the mood (though, it has to be said, not as much as the heart exploding). I love that Susan is determined to get her coat before escaping (I think I may like this character) she also has no patience for being cast as the helpless damsel (yes I do like this character) before Harry fries the demon with a lightening bolt.

Morgan blames the demon summoning on Harry (of course) and Harry locks him in a circle (mainly for knocking Susan aside – yes, he’s a white knight through and through). Susan, well, asks lots of questions, demands respect, demands answers and generally is very demanding. Did I mention I liked her?

Meanwhile, Linda, the other friend of Grace’s who introduced her to drugs? Is also dead. Linda has the name “Bianca” in her phone so, of course, Harry assumes this means vampire Bianca. He also magically dazzles Detective Kirmani rather than explain why he’s with Linda’s body in the car – moooore magic!

Time for a dramatic confrontation with the vampire who loses her temper at the suggestion she has hurt Linda. Battle time – and again we have more magic, including bright lights and Harry’s pentacle holy symbol. And Harry learns the real reason Grace died.

Linda, Jennifer and Grace all found things at Bianca’s club – but what grace found was magic, black magic. Magic that is addictive and corrupting – and very dangerous when you do it wrong, eventually killing her. Magic runs in families and Harry tells all this to Grace’s mother – hoping that Monica would lash out with magic when Harry hit her with these hard truths – hoping to show she was responsible for killing Grace’s friends who she blames for Grace’s death. But if it’s not Monica – what about her supposed suicidal husband. Grace’s father. Who left an unidentifiable corpse and was cremated.

Now Murphy is not a happy police officer. Harry dazzled Kirmani, was seen at a crime scene and even got Murphy to tell him where Linda lived. So Harry hands all his answers on Grace and Victor to Murphy securing 24 hours to finish the case before Murphy either arrests him.

Time for Harry to track down Victor for an epic hockey game – sorry, magical confrontation (yes, I’m complaining about the props again) which is a wonderfully dramatic fight. The magic has really been ramped up this episode. And it all goes horribly wrong for Victor when he summons the demon again and, like his daughter, compromises the circle he uses to summon it – out of control, it kills him. As Harry says, amateurs.

Unfortunately Susan is also there and while she’s strong and determined and takes no grief from anyone – she’s also spunky. Yes, she decides to slap the demon and become a hostage so the demon can then use her to try and make Harry use black magic – Harry refuses and Morgan runs in to intervene – and see Harry’s refusal to use black magic.

Ancient Mai is quite literally a Dragon Lady and Morgan is, of course, the quintessential angry black man. At least they are in positions of authority. Murphy and Kirmani are much less stereotyped characters. I am curious about Susan Rodriguez who is very much Latina in the books and presumably so in the series, though they haven’t picked a Latina actor to play her. Ironically, they did pick a Latina actor to play Murphy.

Susan has potential as a strong female character but her spunkiness is going to be very annoying. Strength, courage, power and agency do not have to be linked to blithering foolishness.

I do like that we’re seeing a lot more magic in the show – Harry is using about as much magic as he does in the books – and yes, I like the shinies. Even with the Hockey sticks.