Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ultraviolet: Season 1, Episode 1: Habeus Corpus

It’s sunset in London and a man looks very intimidated in the fading light, watching a stationary car with heavily tinted windows.  The panicking man, Pollard, makes a phone call to a bar to speak to a man called Jack, getting Jack’s friend Mike instead. Mike’s not in the mood to put up with Pollard’s “shit”, especially with it being Jack’s stag night and Mike’s the best man. Pollard protests that Jack will understand and it’s the man in the photos; but Mike got the photos and they’re just empty negatives. No-one in them. Then Pollard starts crying.

Being a sucker for tears, Jack drops Mike off at his house and promises to be back in an hour.

Meanwhile, the bad guy (the music tells me he’s evil. Very helpful, that. Just in case I missed it, he’s also got this narrow-eyed squint going on). He menacingly approaches Pollard who is playing in a computer arcade then the camera focuses on Pollard’s face, then evil man’s back, then Pollard has a hole in his stomach. Ok, someone sack the director – that was just weak. You couldn’t afford the special effects budget on a vampire show to show a man being shot?

Mike arrives just in time to hear the screams and see the running man. He rolls Pollard over, then abandons the corpse (not that he checked to see if it WAS a corpse, poor guy could just be badly hurt) and gives chase to the running man who runs down a Tube station. The man ducks down an empty corridor, Jack starts to follow but sees, in a convex safety mirror, that the corridor is deserted and turns back the other way. The Bad Guy doesn’t cast a reflection (just follow the sound of ominous music, Mike!)

Mike goes to check the tube’s CCTV (he’s a police detective) but the cameras have caught no sign of him. The Bad Guy pauses to give us a dramatic evil glare. Just to drive the point home. Mike goes home – but stops off to see Jack’s fiancée, Kristy, first because… I’m not sure why. Possibly to establish illicit sexual tension (if so, 1:30am on the night of your best friend’s stag party, the night before the wedding is sorely lacking in class)

Meanwhile, the drunken, dishevelled Jack is happily staggering down the streets when the music turns Ominous. Yes, the Bad Guy is there. Jack recognises him and asks him what he’s doing there; Bad Guy responds “time’s up.”

The next day, the church is full, the bride, Kristy, is waiting anxiously – and Jack, the groom, is missing. And Mike’s police contacts seem even more concerned than the bride – calling Mike into a briefing while the Bride gets to tell everyone that the wedding’s off.

Mike goes into a full task force which seems to be linking Jack’s disappearance with Pollard’s death and gets introduced to DI Angie March and DS Vaughan Rice (from CIB) who are interested in the case. There’s also no CCTV footage.

Angie asks Mike about the blank photos Pollard took and Mike tells her they were from a counterfeit ring they asked Pollard to investigate and those were what he sent. Pollard was an informant who was rapidly becoming useless.  Angie is pretty heavy with the questioning which Mike objects to; she establishes how little Mike knows and how he only agreed to speak to Pollard to avoiding him gate crashing the reception. She continues to act like he’s run over her cat then reversed over it again for good measure.

Reviewing the CCTV, Mike sees Pollard hit and dramatically die while being completely alone. He goes to check with the pathologist but the bullet wound has burns around it, pointing to a very close range shot. The pathologist assumes he was shot outside and had a delayed reaction due to the large amount of drugs in his system.

Mike goes to comfort Kristy who is very angry – CIB have been to see her and shown her that Jack had an offshore account with £58,000 in it she never knew about; the suspicion is he was corrupt. Mike defends Jack but Kristy is furious, especially since Jack has made no effort to contact her. She collapses into tears and he holds her.

On the drive home, the Ominous Music starts again – bad guys must be about. Mike looks through his rear-view mirror so the Ominous car following him must be Suspicious. Mike goes home and finds his flat being watched (not very subtly) – and Jack waiting for him. Jack tells him to get rid of them so they can talk. Mike drives off again, managing to give them the slip with skilled driving and his pursuers being more than a little incompetent. Having lost the tail, Mike meets Jack in a wide open playground (subtle, reaaaally subtle. Not obvious and suspicious at all) and greets him with a punch in the face. Jack protests that Angie and Vaughan are a death squad out to shoot him on sight and he had to run. He says the phones are tapped, he doesn’t want Mike to tell Kirsty he’s ok since it’s not true, with the death squad and all. Hearing a helicopter he runs off in a complete panic, calling for Mike to meet him in the same place tomorrow night (oh that won’t look suspicious at all. Perhaps you shouldn’t meet in wide open spaces?)

Next day, Mike finds a witness who produces a very good ID sketch of the Bad Guy and confronts his boss about Angie and Vaughan, because he’s checked and they’re definitely not CIB. Boss man knows nothing as well, only that they have a lot of pull. Which is when Vaughan pulls Mike in for another interview revealing that Pollard was giving Jack money and it was Pollard they were following, not Jack (which gives Mike chance to snark about them not being there when Pollard was killed). Vaughan warns Mike not to trust Jack and that he’s lying which Mike, obviously, doesn’t take well and tries to leave. They have a brief scuffle and we see Vaughan has a scar on his neck.

Mike goes to see a woman he clearly has fraught history with – she’s the one who told him that Angie and Vaughan aren’t CIB, but she’s reluctant to do more digging to find out who they actually are. Meanwhile Angie has been playing dirty and told Kirsty that Mike has met Jack and knows something. Mike tells her what Jack said and that he’s trying to find things out – he also urges her to take her honeymoon and get away just in case – she, unsurprisingly, disagrees.

Mike manages to find an address for the Bad Guy using his new ID picture and goes to do some breaking and entering – all on his lonesome as well. He finds counterfeit money and the tools for making more, a blood stained bed and all the windows have been boarded up. But he’s not alone – the Ominous Music has kicked in. Bad Guy is at the bottom of the stairs – they have a dramatic stand off in silence before the door is broken in, a gas canister thrown and guys in balaclavas with big guns rush in shooting. Mike tries to stagger out through the smoke and sees Bad Guy fall to the floor, choking. While laid on the ground, one of the masked men shoots him in the head.  The masked man makes a call saying “Code 5 neutralised” and calls for the cleaners – and Mike jumps out of an upper storey window, falling into a pond below.  One of the men removes his balaclava – it’s Vaughan and we end with a random camera shot of a pile of ash (come on director, context for some of these images, please!)

Mike makes it to his contact-ex who takes him in, shocked. She has the background on Vaughan (ex-soldier) and Angie (haematologist). He’s managed to snag a gun/camera and finds the bullets are highly illegal dum-dums and covered in an odd charcoal substance. The tear gas also smelt of garlic but had little effect on him.

Now it’s Mike’s turn to follow Angie to a church, but when he goes in the main area is empty. Queue the camera focusing on the “V” roman numeral for the order of service. Why? Because the director is damn unsubtle. Vaughan comes in at this point to take Mike on a little trip back to the police station in handcuffs, to a small room where he can be questioned.

While there a boss man comes in and assures Mike they’re on the same side and he must know what they’re dealing with – Mike responds that he knows what they think they’re dealing with. I would like to point out I don’t have a clue what we’re dealing with. Well, I do, but that’s because I read the show’s synopsis. How was Mike supposed to know again? He didn’t even see the body turn to ash as far as I could see (I certainly didn’t get to see that, cheap special effects budget!) After being told Jack died 3 nights ago and is no longer Mike’s friend, boss man leaves.

Mike is released and he loads the carbon bullets into the gun with the camera attached he got during the battle. He goes to the playground to meet Jack. As Jack arrives, looking considerably more calm, he looks through the camera on the gun – Jack is invisible to the camera. He holds Jack at gunpoint who mocks Mike for throwing away 10 years of friendship because of what a group of strangers have told him. Mike lowers the gun and starts asking questions – yes Jack chose this (and yes, he was corrupt and working for them for money), they don’t need to kill to feed but they do need money to organise against the people trying to wipe them out. He adds that the group is funded by the Vatican – but the Inquisition no less – and just because they say something is evil doesn’t make it so (he does a quick horrendously appropriative run down of all the groups the Vatican has called evil over the years and slots vampires at the end). He protests he’s part of nature and Mike responds “so’s smallpox” he considers going to Kirsty and Mike shoots him.

In the bullet proof vest. Oopsie. Also confirming to Jack that Mike has the hots for his fiancée. Jack insists that one way or another Mike will work for them – grabbing Mike’s arm and neck and forcing him back. Jack draws a grenade (also from the fight) and Jack kicks it aside. The explosion destroys a round-about and shards of wood impale Jack. Mike rushes him and pushes on the wooden shards, hurting Jack who then bites him on the neck… which causes him to explode (not even messily. The special effects are awful) leaving a small patch of fire on the ground.

Mike goes to get the injury treated – but after the nurse wipes the blood away there’s no wound underneath. He staggers to church (either that or the cameraman is drunk. Steady it a bit!) but on the steps to the entrance he becomes ill and vomits.

He goes to work, in his blood stained shirt, and everyone looks at him like he just walked in naked, until the Grim squad of Angie and Vaughan step out. Mike tells Angie she can pick him up now (the flaming ash. Hope she has a hoover). She takes him to her odd dentist chair where she uses a burning device over the site of the bite on his neck. She shows him her own scar on her neck. If it’s not treated, the mark heals over in minutes leaving most people unaware they’ve been infected and then leaves you susceptible to suggestion meaning the vampires don’t have to do their own dirty work. Mike asks about crosses and holy water (just to confirm we are talking about vampires because they will not say that word) but Angie says it’s faith – on both sides, since vampires can be superstitious as well; she sees religion as a placebo (albeit it may work).

She also adds that vampires don’t leave drained bodies – parasites don’t kill their prey – unless they want to recruit which they’re very careful about. Just as her organisation is. Hint Hint. Time to go see the boss man again who assumes he’s being recruited and won’t say no since they really need investigators.  Mike is highly reluctant: “it was self-defence not a career move.” (um… you pointed a gun at him. You shot him all before he made any aggressive moves. Other than that hair, he was doing nothing offensive. Though the hair? The hair was, indeed, most offensive).

They take Jack’s ashes to a huge vault where they’re stored encased in steel. Mike is astonished by the numbers and the boss man says this small collection only represents 7 years. Y’know, that points far more to Jack being right and the vampires needing to defend themselves against people who are massacring them. And they’re tax payer funded since it’s a “defence and public health” issue.  They also say that the ashes are encased in vaults because vampires can regenerate from them.

Mike calls their actions a vendetta and points out the vampires don’t want to massacre humanity, they need humans. But the boss man says they’re organising (against vampire hunters, maybe?) But boss man believes the vampires are going to control mankind, to stop mankind destroying itself, and putting humans into battery farms.

Mike goes to see Kirsty and tells her that Jack was on the take – and he confessed to him. Much grief follows.

I am traumatised by Stephen Moyer’s hair.

I don’t know if I want to applaud the gloriously over-dramatic director, or cringe.  Especially since ominous music is used as a stand in for actual suspicious activity. The random camera shots of facial expressions or piles of ash are annoying, they serve just to make things look important when there’s no reason why we, the viewer, would think they are and they’re often devoid of any kind of context. It’s sloppy.

You also have a lot of actors who seem to be taking their role really seriously – and then a director who is drunk (and spent the special effects budget on booze) and a composer who  is positively in love with cheesy horror films and is really going for it with the score.

I’m also really traumatised by Stephen Moyer’s hair

As police or as vampires, they’re pretty damn bad at this whole covert operations thing. I’m also a little irritated that Mike didn’t explore the very real possibility that Jack raised – maybe these people ARE wrong? He has been given no real indication of inherent vampire evil and every indication that the people investigating aren’t exactly squeaky clean. I hate the appropriation but the whole being evil because they say so did need exploration. Especially since we see just how many vampires the hunters have killed in a short time and throw in that even the vampire hunters concede that the vampires don’t kill people. It’s hard to see the good guys as the good guys in this situation.

Did I mention Stephen Moyer’s hair?

Obviously the shows a little dated – but it was made in 1998 and it feels older s – it feels more dated than it should be. And I’m not especially impressed with the writing or directing so far (honestly, it was a major problem). But it does have enough concepts to make it interesting. I’m guardedly interested with a side of hoping they up their game. I also quite like how no-one no-one no-one is going to say the word “vampire”. It’s all implication
And I’m still traumatised by Stephen Moyer’s hair.