Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 11: Things that Go Bump

Harry is practicing yoga and Murphy has an explosion – a green fiery explosion. So naturally she thinks it’s Harry’s fault (he’s usually involved after all) which all looks fun and fuzzy – until Morgan and a wounded Ancient Mai arrive (and some clearly disposable extras) – power up the defences before the  big bad shadowy thing covers all the windows. And the darkness has ghosty things in it that kill one of the extras (told you they were disposable). The Dark Stuff is apparently the energy from the otherside – that living things can’t touch. The building has been painted with death.

Wounded Ancient Mai is concerned about Murphy being told anything – and Morgan is talking about soul ripping. And, y’know, it’s pitch black at 9:00am so it’s not exactly a secret that something mystical is happening. Murphy is, unsurprisingly, having trouble dealing with all of this. And finally gets the Harry Dresden “magic is real” display. Actually, I thought she was already half way to believing after last episode, but apparently not. Harry openly demonstrates magic to Murphy (yes with his hockey stick. And no, I won’t keep talking about the hockey stick)

We have a little pointless scene where Harry pouts at Morgan for bringing this to his door. Really, they were running away from a manifestation of death and you’re complaining because you were the safest space? Pouting is not a good look on him. Threatening Morgan to protect Murphy? Much better look.

We have some magical experimenting between Morgan and Harry to try and break it (doesn’t work) and some snark between them (does work – love me some snark) and Bob and Harry coming to the conclusion that the spell must have been cast from the inside. Time for Bob to spy and Murphy to investigate.

Then the darkness starts leaking in. And one of the Disposable Wardens says that Morgan should really tell Harry the whole story, despite what Mai said, to try and get them out – and Murphy throws in her 2 cent as well – maybe she’s not informed by she really speaks sense – because she’s Murphy and awesome.

So Morgan says they were attacked, from above by a greenish flame (which Murphy reported). But Ancient Mai steps in to demand silence even though she’s severely wounded. Disposable Warden also suggests a spell that would require a sacrifice to escape – vetoed for black magic.

Plan 2 is making themselves invisible to the Death Pain and walking through it – but they don’t know how thick it is and the invisibility doesn’t last long, so Bob is called on to scout. And snark of course. After a deeply traumatic scouting, Bob barely returns and says it isn’t death paint – they have been moved entirely to the Other Side.

Harry has a discussion with Disposable Warder about who could behind moving them (and she’s figured out that it must be someone in the house) and she points out she is disposable. Hey, could be worse, you could be in a red shirt. Oh and she thinks Harry’s done it because he’s a Morningway

Harry’s also visited by the ghost of his dead father urging him to kill them, kill them all. A sensible way to deal with the traitor, of course. Expendable no. 2 has the same idea and he and Morgan end up sword fighting. Murphy shoots him, Indianna Jones Style. (I suppose in that sentence I should specify whether “him” is Morgan or the expendable guy. But c’mon you know who it was). Meanwhile Ancient Mai is still ill and unpleasant and something is stopping her healing (she blames Harry, of course).

They also realise that the darkness is moving in based on where Mai is and how weak she is – Mai is the one holding back the darkness. Then people put 1 and 1 together – Mai was attacked, fled to Dresden’s to lick her wounds and then they moved here where nothing could touch them – they’re not under attack, Mai has moved to a shelter where she can heal undisturbed. So something got in as well to stop Mai healing, something invited so it wouldn’t disturb the wards. And the only thing invited was… Murphy. Who promptly breathes green fire.

And Morgan finally reveals that the enemy with the airborn breathing green fire is a dragon. For some reason Harry is actually surprised by this blatantly obvious piece of information. Harry has a quick master plan, make Mai sicker, pull Morgan’s magic shield in tight – as Mai sickens the darkness advances and kills the bad dragon. With the bad dragon gone they can pour magic into Mai to help her heal – and lo they return to the real world.

Oh and Mai is a dragon (ok probably, not outright said). Frankly, if you didn’t spot that by this point in the series then you should hang your head in shame. Also, this makes her, quite literally, a dragon lady.

The tension in this episode was really well maintained even when just mooting ideas, the menace and the worry is always clear and always present. And there is a lot of well-acted emotional bonds as well- Harry and Morgan and Harry and Bob especially well done. It was really artfully done, well-paced and well maintained.

I like how Morgan and Harry work together in this episode – there’s a lot more depth to the empty hostility we normally see and Morgan is a much more interesting and deeper character than the walk on antagonist we see time and again.

I also like how Murphy, despite being out of her depth, is intelligent, insightful and still can contribute. She knows so little but she still has sense which she uses. It shows that even when out of depth, a character can still contribute more than helplessness or spunkiness. In fact, I think the fake Murphy is really undermined and doesn’t fit the plot at all because there was zero indication that she wasn’t Murphy – not at all. It didn’t fit – how did this person know how to imitate Murphy so perfectly? The ending in general was pretty weak – even making the last expendable the dragon would have been better even if it were more predictable.

If I have another complaint it’s that we’ve introduced a whole new theme: Harry is dangerous and untrustworthy because he’s a Morningway. This was kind of dumped on us in episode 10 of a 12 episode series. Before this Harry was someone who Morgan didn’t like very much and Ancient Mai was just that unpleasant. Perhaps if they’d established a pattern and this theme earlier it wouldn’t have felt so sudden and dropped in.

Oh and another complaint – cameraman, are you trying to trigger any epileptics in the audience? I think the rapid switching between targets is supposed to be stylistic, but it’s disorientating. I actually had to take a break half way through the episode with a headache.