Monday, July 30, 2012

Sinbad: Season 1, Episode 3: House of Games

 Sinbad is pushing his boat to race another boat – and I, like Nala, wonder why. Leading to Nala complain about Sinbad’s irresponsibility and Sinbad complain about her lack of fun. I suspect this may be the theme of this episode.

It’s time for another stop for supplies, this time at an apparently deserted dock, with Sinbad’s usual worries about stepping foot on land, and meeting up with the ship they were racing. Desperate for supplies they approach the other captain, Abdul Fahim, for food and water – though they have little to offer and are pretty much reduced to begging. The captain has an offer for them – wager with him for supplies

In the hold, Rina starts going through Nala’s things – watched, disapprovingly by the Cook (who still may be the most awesome character) who comments on her not changing her thieving nature and how it will end with her being alone.

Returning to the ship, the crew look for items of value they can wager with the captain – and Nala notices both Rina and her jewellery are gone (probably the only item they had they could wager). Anwar returns to the captain to tell him they have nothing to trade – Fahim suggests the ship. And even if they lose he will provide them with mules and supplies to walk across the desert. Anwar, incredibly foolishly, agrees without consulting the others (he’s easily lead)

Guess what happens? Yes they lose the ship and no, no-one is very happy with poor Anwar. This is when Sinbad also tells Anwar about his curse and why walking through the desert is not the best bet for him.  Running to Fahim, Anwar learns he had gone to the palace of games – which Sinbad sees as his best chance, to beat him at the games and win the ship back before the next sunrise. He also concludes that if he can beat him at a boat race, he can beat him at the gaming tables. Yes, Sinbad and logic don’t quite go together.

At Team Evil Taryn is sacrificing chickens for dark magic, as you do (y’know, I can’t get over the fact that Taryn is played by Orla Brady who plays Mrs. Sherringham in Eternal Law). After making the potion, when she drinks it she can see Sinbad and where he is. Taryn continues to make potions, but none of them work while Sinbad is in the gambling palace. Angry at her failure – Akbari banishes her from Basra.

Sinbad and co go to the palace of games, which is a series of bowls of water that open a portal when you drop a coin in them. He goes through the portal – just as Akbari drinks Taryn’s seeing potion, preventing him from seeing Sinbad. Nice timing. He wanders around the casino before being banished by a man with no eyes and a pair of brothers who run the place for not being pretty and prosperous enough. A quick visit to the merchant’s camp to steal some swaths of cloth, and the whole team is more appropriately attired to the dress code.

After losing what little money they have, Sinbad decides the best thing to do is to be impertinent to their hosts and, when they look to evict him again, propose a gamble where they can punish him if he loses or give him a free game at any table if he wins… (Ok, why do this makes  sense. Why don’t they just evict him? Why do they need to gamble? Why is having him flogged even remotely of value to the house that it’d constitute a stake to wager?)

Sinbad wins the ridiculous bet and demands access to the high stakes VIP room for his game – and they run into “Lady Samarra”, Rina in disguise. They don’t blow her cover but they all drop guilt trips on her for being a false friend.

In the VIP room they find Fahim, again gambling to get the ship back, piece by piece. And, yes, again they’re gambling with no stakes. They don’t see to know how gambling actually works. Finally catching on that a wager is necessary – Sinbad offers to be Fahim’s slave for all time as a stake to actually win the ship. Which he, predictably, wins. (Yeah, not the most tense scene out there). Fahim loses his temper and tries to stab Sinbad – leading to the man with no eyes blasting him with magic for breaking the house rules.

To which, the hosts of the casino invite them to dinner as apology – Anwar insists they have to get back to the ship, with the curse and everything, but Sinbad decides to dabble and accepts another coin-toss wager on whether to dine or not – which comes up for lunch. Y’know, a few hours ago Sinbad was nervous about even stepping foot on land because of the curse.

Gunnar leaves the party – he’s not amused and warns them that a gambling house is only fun and hospitable because the longer you stay the more they can fleece you for every penny you have. He goes exploring instead – and runs into the eyeless man.

Anwar talks to Rina and she explains she found a woman in the desert who had lost everything in the gambling house – and sold Rina her silks for a handful of silver. She came hoping to find more to steal. She also warned Rina that her husband had been captured by the gambling house and they had to be careful.

Speaking of – Sinbad goes into the back room with one of the brothers who owns the place and finds Fahim, captured (and the eyeless man there for some threats). It seems the brothers are very rich and very bored and use the gambling house to lure in compulsive gamblers then use them in rotating cage fights against each other for their amusement – with them gambling on the outcome. They pit Sinbad and Fahim against each other and Sinbad tries to get Fahim to listen and not play their game – but the brothers throw in a large amount of gold for the winner.

Obligatory fight scene later, Sinbad holds Fahim at knife point and says he’ll never kill Fahim. He also tells them about the curse – if he’s not on his ship by dawn their run will be over anyway. All of this is overheard by the sneaking Rina.

With the curse revealed, the extremely-bored-brothers have a new game. Put him in a room with many doors, (that rotates after he closes each one – why does no-one leave the doors open in these puzzles?) he can leave at any time (so get to his ship before dawn) but any of his friends he leaves behind will die. Nice fellows, aren’t they? Someone needs to introduce them to chess or cross stitch or something; a hobby without the murdering.  Someone get them a jenga set.

Each door Sinbad opens has various hazards (and REALLY simple puzzles) – and if he finds a key and puts it in a lock he rescues one of his companions. Interspaced among them are doors leading to his ship should he want to leave before dawn. With all of his people rescued, Rina shows him the way out while the brothers fight over whether to let him go or not.

Rina leads him to his friends, choking and unable to breath; Anwar tells them about his curse and why he needs to be on the ship – and Anwar invites Rina to join them again. Big happy family time

During all this, Awesome Cook has seduced the chef from Fahim’s ship with his excellent appreciation of fine food and wonderful culinary skills. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that Cook is the highlight of this show for me.

Is it just me or dot he costumes on this show change from period to modern quite regularly? Sometimes it’s just a t-shirt or shirt or jacket that looks like it could have been bought at the local shops, but others, especially in the casino, there were full outfits that looked awfully 21st century.

I can’t say the plot was overly fascinating again, more to the point, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me, it’s not consistent in its own canon. Sinbad is nervous about coming to land with his curse, yet lingers for drinkies? For that matter, the brothers who own the gambling house are rich and bored so use gamblers in cage fights? Why – especially with their wealth and dress code – prey on the wealthy (who, for the most part, probably aren’t skilled or exciting fighters) when they could go out and find some mercenaries who could actually fight? If boredom is their motivation, after all? And we just had a gladiatorial combat fight in the last episode. This world needs some new hobbies.

I know there’s a suspension of disbelief in any fantasy programme, but this is stretching its own logic. I think I could forgive more if it were more compelling. I don't think the episode was completely awful per se - but it reminds me of a filler episode from, say, the middle of season 3. The third episode ever of the show and they're shelving most of the characters, dragging up convoluted and shaky plot points and not really adding anything to the show.