Thursday, April 17, 2014

From Dusk Till Dawn, Season 1, Episode 6: The Place of Dead Roads

Do you know what From Dusk Till Dawn needs? More flashbacks! Of course it does! So we start with Richie a few years before, apparently living rough in the wilderness and not doing that great a job of it. But he has his murder knife and kills a snake with it – and eats it. Which causes/triggers/prompts hallucinations/visions of beautiful, scanty clad women calling his name and telling him to hunter her down. A much more conservatively dressed man called Warren interrupts the vision to question this whole Mountain Man look and tell him about Seth’s job.

To the present where, as you’ll recall, the whole gang has arrived at the salubriously named “Titty Twister” and Seth still isn’t willing to let Jacob and his kids go (why again? It’s not like they’re useful any more). When the barker is creepy and nasty to Katie Seth punches him for it, oh you big noble hero –please explain to me why you’re dragging them into a strip joint?

Inside Seth’s relaxed happiness is derailed by a huge carving of the eye-symbol which he saw on Richie’s knife. Jacob plays herd on his son. Seth learns that Carlos owns the place, but he isn’t there and no-one can tell him when he’s due. Switching to him, Carlos is far too busy with the fruit baskets (and a chaser of snake venom. Both apparently necessary for a war) to answer Seth’s calls. Seth’s also not thrilled about closing a deal on Carlos’s home turf. He also has the heebie jeebies which is ironic because the normally paranoid heebie jeebie magnet, Richie, is hypnotised by all the half naked women.

Seth, maybe because of the booze, also tries to make nice with Jacob and his family offering booze and randomly calling them “family” before pressuring Kate to forgive him for the random people he probably killed or at least wounded. She does so he decides she needs to confess something now. Ok, since when did Seth become the random, eccentric brother? He goes on to poke Jacob and his dead wife before asking Richie about his visions who no longer wants to talk about them since he’s enjoying the attractions of the bar. He goes out to move the money and gets attacked by the barker he punched and a whole bunch of friends.

Inside, Katie can’t figure out why they’re not running for their lives with Seth gone so long – so she and Scott believe Seth may be right, maybe Jacob does think god is punishing them. They’re not impressed and Katie actually turns to Richie for comfort – which is probably the very definition of rock bottom.

Freddie is out in the hot, dry desert, with that eye-knife and now severed heads are talking to him. Between flashbacks and hallucinations, about half of what appears on screen is meant to actually be there. I think the severed heads are real – some of Carlos’s victims. But, hey, at least it gives directions to the strip club. And he gets a free hat!

He sits in a diner and has a flashback. Oh we missed them so – talking to Earl about the bad reputation the Rangers had of taking the excuse to hunt down any Mexicans. Earl who has been around for a while expands on it and how bad it was; though he seems to go off on a tangent about lynching and burning people as necessary? And the road to tell?  He comes back to the present in time to see some of Carlos’s men arrive in the diner – and he follows them into a secret, hidden back room.

Where he ends up captured, beaten and tied to a chair. Carlos has found the knife and thinks it has shown Freddie things – he cuts Freddie’s hand and uses the knife to read his memories.

Seth is saved from being butchered by some bloke called Narciso who is apparently scary and important so probably a vampire – and he wants to know why Seth can duck 8 gazillion Texas rangers but not some fools outside a bar. He also doesn’t get why Seth is paying so much to Carlos – though he starts laughing when Seth says Carlos is getting them to El Rey – because it’s apparently a myth.

Back with Freddie, it’s time for Carlos to slice and dice him but Freddie has all kinds of visions now and tells Carlos about the 9 Houses (vampires) who are coming to his shrine, that Carlos is afraid of them – especially one who is going to ruin everything. Yup, the vision knife likes Freddie more than Carlos (or something, maybe Freddie is just more inclined after the talking heads). Carlos wants to know who his enemy is and Freddie gives up Narciso in exchange for the Geckos. Which is when his barman calls him to let Carlos know Narciso and Seth are getting awfully chummy.

Of course, revealing you have secret knowledge may stop them killing you, but torture is still on the table. Which means another flashback to Earl and the need for brutality – “the place of dead roads, the last stop before hell.” Whatever that means. You’d think someone would have questioned Earl saying things like that while still alive and a Ranger. They prepare to torture him – and Carlos fights back. Knocking one against a wall, shooting the other dead on in the eyeballs then beheading them both when they keep fighting – both are vampires. Both were vampires.

It’s Freddie’s turn to leave severed heads as a calling card, get a nifty new change of clothes and head off to the bar.

Back at the bar Richie is showing us how good he is with a knife, which is not reassuring. A woman finds him and takes him into the back room – he thinks she’s the woman from his visions. But she doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about or that it’s some kind of odd sex game. Anyway, Katie interrupts the lap dance. She doesn’t understand why the Geckos are insisting they hang around (nor do I). But Richie wants her to stay because of Vision Reasons and I think she’s definitely buying into them. She kisses him and tells him “set me free.” Which is exactly what the vision woman has said to Richie from the beginning. He kisses her back and she gasps – but then Seth arrives and she runs out.

Jacob tries to reassure Scott, but after his own run in with a knowledgeable vampire, he thinks they’re all there for a reason. Jacob decides it’s time to ask someone leaving for a ride – the price for which is apparently to “share” Scott. Yeah, that doesn’t go down well and Scott has the sense to stop his dad starting a bar fight.

Seth wants to leave and Richie refuses and gets pissed at Seth being in charge and not listening to him. So they have a knife throwing contest to settle things. Katie decides to get involved for REASONS and play the part as target and Carlos, through the bar tender, returns Richie’s serial killer knife to him – which lets him score a perfect shot (and not kill Kate).

Seth wants to know where Richie got the knife from, but he’s not telling. And the bartender demands everyone sit down. Freddie arrives and Carlos gets up on stage to announce the super special performance (and lo, it’s Carlos who gave Richie the knife) of Santanico Pandemonium, thw Queen of the Night. The woman from Richie’s visions.

I thought we were getting a point about police brutality and persecution of minorities when Freddie had his flashback, but it just went to odd places that I’m not even sure I followed. And what was the point of expositioning why Mexicans called the Rangers “Rinche” and their abuses if Freddie then goes on to claim the name? Especially with the whole “brutality is necessary” which sounds revoltingly like justifying the abuse, or implying that those murdering rangers were really hunting vampires?

I have said that the show has done a lot of good things with the film. One of the bad things its done it decide to give Pastor Jacob and his family a back story. See… I don’t care. I can’t imagine anyone watching From Dusk Till Dawn with it’s vampires, visions and gore (and promise of gratuitous nudity, which, I have to say, it has been relatively restrained with considering its source material) cares. I can’t imagine anyone looking at the Gecko brother’s flight from the law, constantly on edge to see what Richie will pull next, seeing Seth slowly disintegrate and lots of growing hints that Carlos is way more than he seems with Freddie trailing all of them would then turn round and decide we need to know more about Jacob. Apart from anything else, it is possible for Jacob and Katie and Scott to become interesting characters without them having to start with a dark past/tragic conflict/etc.

The preamble is getting old but I think we’re reaching the end. I think this episode may finally break through to making it more than just a very drawn out version of the film. When I first watched this film, I actually didn’t know about the vampires. The pre-amble worked – it worked because I was sure we’d established a whole story about these brothers running to Mexico and dealing with Richie’s problems then BOOM vampires. It was unexpected to say the least.

But this show can’t rely on fan ignorance or even the jarring nature of vampires in what is a mundane, seedy story because culture has moved on and it’s well known. In part it has acknowledged that and had vampires appear for some time – but by episode 6 there needed to be more. More development of Carlos and the 9 houses, more hints as to why they need the Geckos or the Fullers, more exposition of the vampire side of things. This isn’t a film, it’s a TV series – and to sell a TV series you can’t just build up half a season to one long action scene then have all the gory fighting – that worked in the film. A TV series is too long for that – you need more, more meat – and you need to show us that meat. By cleaving so closely to the film with only hints at more (though they are good hints) it doesn’t give me confidence that it’s going to make the transition. Building up the characters – Seth, the Fullers, Freddie – isn’t going to make the show compelling if it’s going to follow the film without enough building around it.

I’m hoping that now with Freddie joining in the vision game (and gaining 8 levels of badass), Kate getting hints, the vampire houses, Narcisso et al that we’re reaching a new level.