Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ultraviolet Season 1, Episode 6: Persona Non Gratis

Captured vampire is getting more shirty, refusing to drink the bag of blood Vaughan brings him and smearing it across the glass. Father Kill-them-all-and-let-god-sort-it-out Harman shows this is proof that vampires would never give up feeding on people. Angela, rightly, question why they would be researching synthetic blood if that were true.

And Mike gets a recorded message from a vampire on his car – someone called Jacob (journalist fellow of Kirsty’s) demanding to meet. Oh and Kirsty sends her regards.

Switch to Kirsty hiding in a large building with Jacob who tells her he’s hiding her for the sake of the story. She’s afraid because he had a gun and he gave her a mucky look she felt Mike was going to kill her – and is working for a group that killed Jack.

At base the gang is trying to identify who their captured vampire is. They know he’s relatively young because he has a thyroid surgical scar on his throat. They can’t take finger prints because vampires show up in now recorded medium – so even their prints can’t be taken. They’re working on an artist rendition. Harman suggests identifying the surgeon who performed the thyroid operation, but recognising a surgeon’s “style” would require a full autopsy. And yes, Harman does consider slicing up a vampire while he’s still alive to be an “autopsy”.

The gang set off and Angela brings in Harman’s pills which he doesn’t take. They banter for a bit but he tells her he needs his full faculties and can’t take pain killers until the case is over. She accepts this but has her own barb – pain affects judgement and, also, people who want quick answers tend to cut corners. Oooh Angie, you’re beginning to grow on me you are.

Mike is busy with his personal life and goes to see an increasingly irritated Frances. She doesn’t understand Mike’s issues, Kirsty is with Jordan, what’s the problem? Mike says  she doesn’t know what he is which is nicely cryptic so Frances decides she really needs to know what Mike does. But he doesn’t answer, saying she’d have to see it for herself and he hopes she never has to. Which is actually a pretty good answer.

To Jacob’s paper, where he’s now quit apparently. He uses Frances’s technical skills to restore his files and it seems Vaughan is after the same man – because he’s been researching thyroid cancer patients. Frances manages to recover all of his files but Mike tells Vaughan that they didn’t get anything and they leave.

Harman decides to banter with the vampire, asking him about his travels in South America – whicht eh vampire responds with “go see the rainforest before it’s gone, see who the real parasites are.” Score 1 vampire. Harman protests that he thought vampires were beyond nature, vampire responds “we’re all part of the same ecosystem.” Score 2 vampire. Harman scoffs at the idea of humanity making itself extinct and vampire counters that some of the fires in Brazil have burned for years and humans talk about cutting emissions in 20, 30 years, humans live in the now, vampire consider the next 50 years to be “tomorrow.” Score 3 vampire. Harman questions synthetic blood and the vampire says it’d be peace, why would they need to exterminate vampires if they were no threat; Harman says “you exist”. Uh-huh, because that’s a good reason. Score 4 vampire. Harman accuses the vampire of abandoning his humanity to save himself from cancer and the vampire asks who they’re talking about – the vampire or Harman? Score 5 vampire. Harman then flails out and clutches at religion  and the vampire hits back very well, asking what drove Harman to the priesthood – was it vampires? The expression on his face says yes. Has he seen any other indication of god? Again, face says no. So the vampire presents this little logic trap: Harman doesn’t understand vampires, so they must be evil, if there is evil there must be a god. If vampires aren’t evil… then what is Harman doing as a priest? Score 97786557658 Vampire. Priest should leave interviews to Dr. Angela.

Mike and Vaughan continue their investigation and Vaughan can tell there’s something up with Mike. They go to Jordan’s place to search it (Jordan is still hiding with Kirsty and she’s making little comments like “why don’t you ever smell, how do you find time to shower” to remind us what he is – that and him zoning in on Kirsty’s neck. He asks Kirsty if she trust him and the answer’s clearly no – she trusted Jack and Mike). There Mike finds Kirsty’s dressing gown and has a sad moment. They also find a file he has on Mike (old stuff – and Mike denies knowing what set Jordan onto Mike) and a video tape.

Back to the HQ where they watch the tape and see it is footage of forest fires, cutting and burning, Indonesia this time but there are others of Brazil. They connect them to a green conference in Rio in 92.

Kirsty is still suspicious  and, with Jordan gone, checks his lap top but can’t get past the password. She goes to the empty security guard’s seat and checks the CCTV but sees the place empty – except for one person sat in a car in the garage, apparently alone. She goes to investigate – and finds Jordan sat next to the man, sucking on his neck. He jerks away when she arrives and the man he was drinking from slumps, there’s blood around his mouth. He gets out the car, she runs screaming. He chases her, catches her and everything goes black.

She wakes when a man touches her shoulder asking if she’s ok. It’s the security guard and the man who she saw Jordan feeding from. She stares at his neck but there’s not a mark on it. The security guard says Jordan is around and he doesn’t mind Jordan hiding out if he has to (the vampireness may have something to do with that) but her wandering around tripping alarms is going to cause problems. The guard leaves and Jordan appears to point out the guard is fine, he doesn’t take much and it doesn’t hurt (so he’s not going with the “you dreamed it” excuse). He also adds if she’s that terrified she can leave, he won’t stop her and she’ll never see him again. Just like Jack – which is why Michael killed him by the way. Oh that got her attention.

Kirsty asked who did it to him, but he points out vampires consent to change. She says he can’t be the same so he says go home then, Mike was right to kill your husband. She asks what jack would have done and he  says Jack would have invited her to join him if she wanted but she never got the choice.

Back at HQ, Harman, sore for being beaten in rhetoric, has the vampire restrained so they can get on with that wide-awake-and-alive autopsy. Angela holding the knife, which gives the vampire a lot of time to point out they accuse the vampires of losing their humanity but look at what Angela is doing. She tries to draw blood, but only gets air.

She doesn’t cut but she takes all the readings she took to Harman and basically has nothing, but she knows he’s fading. Harman decides to go see him again ad the vampire’s request - he wants to give  a full confession as a dying man, only Harman, no guards.

He goes in and the vampire informs him he was dying once too. He asks what Harman wants to know and he asks why he crossed over to become a vampire – simple, to save his soul, since the soul dies when the person dies.

45 minutes later, Harman emerges, visibly shaken (I think the Vampire hit quadruple rhetoric score and blew dear priesty out of the water). Vaughan is furious that he dismissed the guards but Harman won’t talk about what they discussed.

Mike goes to the meeting Jacob set up and demands to know if Kirsty is ok. Jacob takes out his mobile phone and dials a number before handing the phone over to Mike. Mike quickly tells Kirsty “you don’t know who he is” oh dear, yes yes she does. Him and Jack – and people don’t stop being people you murderer who had a gun pointed at me! Ouch that gotta hurt.

Jacob says they want Robert March, that they’re willing to kill for a “just war” as Mike’s priest would say and he adds a potshot at Mike’s group’s complete lack of ethics. He questions why Mike’s organisation would want to stop the vampires from developing synthetic blood. All they want to do is drag the war out by demonising the other side.

Mike returns to HQ, and sees Angela cutting into the vampire’s scar – while he’s awake and aware. It seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back – he goes to the vault and looks up Robert March. Meanwhile, Vaughan ransacks Harman’s office - Harman having left to go to church. He finds the pills and goes to see Angie, furious that he’s been kept in the dark. Angie protests that it was Harman’s decision and it’s treatable – Vaughan counters that Harman isn’t taking the pills. He also took a recording of those 45 minutes Harman and the vampire were alone (naturally, the vampire isn’t recorded) and Vaughan is especially worried by the way Harman asks what he will lose if he crosses over as well as discussing “poison”. Angela dismisses it, but Vaughan points out that Harman is now terminally ill, he’s vulnerable

Mike takes the ashes and goes to Frances to help with the exchange – Robert March’s ashes for Kirsty. Frances wants to know what it’s about and when she refuses to tell him, she refuses to help. She draws the line and says she doesn’t want to see him any more; she leaves and cries in her car.

Vaughan and Angela confront Harman and he continues to dismiss them. He refuses to type up transcripts of his conversation with the vampire or talk to them about it. Angela’s temper snaps and she points out the word poison – if the vampire had thyroid cancer that’s a classic sign of radiation poisoning and they should be checking the nuclear industry not just hospitals. Harman’s ignorance and unwillingness to share with the scientist Angela nearly cost them a vital clue to finding out who the vampire is.

They hit on Paul Hoyle who went to cover the Chernobyl disaster and got thyroid cancer, he was a nuclear scientist who became an environmental activist. And their questions turn up someone who asked the same questions – Frances – who they drag in. But looking at Hoyle’s research they discover the concept of nuclear winter. Suddenly they see a more sinister use for synthetic blood – something they can live on after humanity is removed.

Questioning Frances leads them to finding out Mike took out ash from the vault – leading them to find Robert March missing. To convince Frances to co-operate, they show her Paul Hoyle the vampire – and kill him in front of her, making him explode.

Mike goes to the meeting where Jordan and Kirsty are waiting – with Vaughan and Angela watching through a sniper scope. But he can’t see the vampire through the scope – he’s prepared to shoot Mike, but Angela orders – orders – him not to fire.

Harman arrives at the ground to tell everyone his paranoid scenario of a nuclear winter and Jordan grabs Kirsty. For Kirsty’s sake he gives the ashes to Jordan. He pours them out then adds his blood to the ash – and Vaughan shoots him, causing him to explode. But, it’s too late, in a whirlwind of sparks and smoke, the ashes manifest into something more horiffic, more terrifying, more nightmarish than we ever imagined

Yes, it’s not Dr. March’s ashes, they’re Jack’s ashes. Jack, seeing that there’s snipers, grabs Kirsty, kisses her, tells her to get a life then jumps over the bridge into the water

Conclusion, Harman takes his pills, Kirsty’s not happy with Mike, considers bringing Jack back a paternalistic way to “teach her a lesson”. And Jack hovers to menace Mike a bit more

Ok this whole nuclear winter is based on? What, that they’re possible? And they think an environmental activist who is driven to investigate Chernobyl with such dedication he gives himself cancer is going to unleash global nuclear winter? This theory is just pulled out of nowhere and presented as an obvious goal because of Harman’s own preconceptions.

Which is a shame, because I thought this series was finally getting good on the last 2 episodes. It finally was growing into what it could have been

Which is the problem, this series was too short. With more time, Vaughan could have lived up to the development he finally got in the last 2 episodes and been more than an intimidating scary Black man – but his development was too little too late. With more than 6 episodes Angela could have continued her newfound determination to rebel against Harman’s “because I said so” style of leadership and refused to allow his superstition and arrogance trump her science. With time they could have developed the complex character of Kirsty into something more than a woman constantly looking for the man she loved or Frances, a woman whose ex exploits her old feelings to make her into his servant. With more than 6 episodes we could have had more analysis of the severely poor ethics of the team, their willingness to torture, to kidnap, to kill, could have been more thoroughly analysed and questioned. With more than 6 episodes we could had some more detail behind the whole “they’re evil and want to cause a nuclear winter” that rests on evidence and investigation rather than Father Harman just saying “because it’s so” and everyone going along with that.

I mean, all of these things are on the show, so the writers are aware of them. Angela, Vaughan, Kirsty and Frances were all being developed, thinking for themselves, revealing backstory and personality. We were getting challenges of Harman, of ethics etc etc. They were all happening – but because there were only 6 episodes they were all only very lightly touched upon leaving it all so very inadequate. With the development they had, I want to be at least vaguely positive on the race and gender angles (though, again, a series with no GBLT people at all in the genre) because there was a sorely under-developed core to each of the characters which, along with plot and world setting, they series didn’t advance.

Stylistically, it was low budget and it really showed (especially Stephen Moyer’s hairdresser) and the director was awful – too much overdramatic music, ridiculous camera angles, camera shakes and silly close ups going on by far.

Though I still get a little bewildered when I see people like Idris Elba, Stephen Moyer, Susannah Harker and even Jack Davenport in such a minor cult series – ah what time changes!