Thursday, May 22, 2014

From Dusk Till Dawn: Season 1, Episode 10: The Take

In the middle of a mystical labyrinth trying to find the prize which will probably free Santanico, surrounded by people who want to kill them, Seth decides to confront Richie about killing their father. Because Priorities. Richie admits it and they get back to things while the Mob boss continues to be “colourful.” And, yes, Seth it is very very annoying. They shoot him – it’s very very satisfying

Going into the vault takes them into the tunnels under Santanico’s temple where they find a pot. Inside which is a snake which Richie swallows – the snake is full of Santanico’s blood and this is apparently a good thing

Seth is just lost and confused and has no idea what happened to his brother.

With the rest of the humans, Pastor Jacob faces off against his hissing, vampiric son while Freddie goes to find Katie – who is tied to an altar by Professor Sex Machine who intends to sacrifice her. She manages to free a hand and hit him when he gets even creepier over her – and Freddie jumps in. Sex Machine recognises him as a Tomi, a descendent of some really powerful warriors, hence his immunity to Santanico’s bite. Even when fighting for his life he has to dish out the exposition. Both Freddie and Katie stab Sex Machine at the same time; Katie saving Freddie.

Jacob talks to Scott – but it seems less about calming him down and more about making him accept that he’s evil and needing of death which isn’t very reassuring. He throws Scott onto an altar and prepares to stake him – when Scott says he was never really accepted as part of the family. Jacob is shocked and protests he just wants him to find peace in heaven – stabby time! But he can’t do it.

Scott wants them to be a family again – and bites Jacob. There’s one way of family togetherness!

Scott blames Jacob for his mother’s death – she was ill and Jacob just decided to leave it to god. Katie arrives then to dispute – he suffered for them and was a good dad (still not seeing how that changes what Scott said). He tries his recruitment pitch on Kate but she just screams at him and calls him a monster – Scott storms off. Jacob tells Katie that she and Scott need each other while still saying ominous things about “how it has to end”.

Either Jacob has to die for being a vampire – and so does Scott. Or Katie and Scott need each other. I think they’re mutually exclusive.

In the temple, Carlos brings out a chained up Narciso who taunts Santanico (who is still dressed!) and Seth and Richie arrive. Seth has decided to negotiate despite being the only human in the room; while vampires et al aren’t his thing, he does think he’s been cheated by the goal posts of his job moving quite excessively. He has a point. He wants a higher cut of the money, which is a problem because Santanico and Carlos are both very eager for the cash. It may even have worked – if Carlos hadn’t betrayed Santanico to Narciso and snuck his men into the room.

Seth changes sides again to side with Richie and Carlos makes a dramatic speech about loving Santanico and hits her when she claims she always loved him and he hates himself (really? She is the oldest vampire, she is the one who made him, but he can still slap her and she just clutches her cheek?)

He’s super jealous and Narciso’s minion injects venom into Richie’s neck while Carlos considers making Santanico his slave. Richie attacks – the venom doesn’t seem to do much. Santanico is hella pissed at being called a slave in her own temple – and grows giant wings as more minions of hers appear – women (just as Richie collapses from the venom – delayed reaction). Santanico chases Carlos as he drags Richie away – but she cannot leave the temple.#

That leaves Seth and Santanico to moan at each other good points from that is that while she has been imprisoned her whole life, she refuses to be called a victim. There’s also some about Seth not forgiving Richie over their father’s death and Santanico setting up Seth to compete with Carlos in between saying how scary the 9 lords are.

Carlos argues with Narciso and convinces him how to spin the whole thing to make Narciso look awesome with the 9 Lords and get Carlos off the hook.

Carlos calls Seth with a deal – which Seth agrees to. Which is a lie of course, he makes a deal and a plan with Santanico. She laments that everyone thinks vampires are terrible monsters to hide in the shadows, Seth isn’t moved – all that murdering isn’t exactly endearing. Nor is he in for any kind of bonding make up moments.

Carlos tries to convince Richie that Santanico will leave him (also that Richie needs to feed since Labyrinth blood doesn’t count). He tries to get Richie to drink from a shirtless woman, but before he can bite her they’re interrupted by Seth arriving – time for the deal. During which Seth and Richie argue constantly, clearly exchanging messages by referencing past crimes (which no-one catches up on). Richie leaps on Seth and appears to bite him – and Santanico’s minions attack. Under a hail of gun fire, Richie and Seth have to get in the car and drive off – apparently leaving the suitcase full of money behind.

They get back to Santanico – arguing bitterly (Seth is not pleased about being bitten, even if Richie didn’t use venom).

Back to the humans in the tunnels and we have another moment of how Katie is so special because she’s so blissed-out-positive about everything. Perhaps tired of her endless fluffy hopefulness (or maybe succumbing to the bite) Jacob sinks to the floor and pulls out a stake. Katie accuses him of being selfish, running off to heaven to be with her mother, to which Jacob counters that, as an attempted suicide, she’s probably not up there anyway. Wow Jacob… that’s a special kind of cold. I think we need to send his “world’s best dad” mug back. Katie decides that while that’s scripturally correct, it’s also damn evil and she’s going to erase that bit and go for internal loving deity rather than “deity condemns depressed suicides to hell” deity. This leads Jesus to, quite literally, have a come-to-Jesus moment and ask Katie to kill him again (how is this NOT suicide?! Seriously, what kind of black letter legalism loop-hole seeking are you playing if you believe suicide is sinful but begging someone to murder you is not?!)

As his eyes turn green, Katie stakes him.

Freddie decides he’s being guided by a hidden hand (and throws in his special bloodline and Carlos saying he was part of an ancient war to be part of that). He worries about his family and Katie throws some fluffy hope at him – and she disappears. Reality has decided that being this hopeful in this situation is just too damn annoying to keep around. But no, it’s hallucination time – Freddie gets a vision of his daughter in the future whose life was apparently not great after he just walked out on her. Frankly I couldn’t agree more – Freddie just abandoned his family on a suicidal revenge quest.

Speaking of, he comes up to the surface and stabs Richie. In doing so he ignores Santanico and Seth. Freddie? Really? Santanico reminds him of his family, y’know the reality check he just had, and he agrees to drop the stake if he can leave and no-one comes after his family.

Everyone agrees and he takes the RV keys outside to give to Katie. He and Katie are free.

In the temple a whole load of female vampires appear as Santanico begins the ritual to free herself. Richie bites her – as does the snake in his stomach and the earth shakes as the sun rises. From the outside Katie watches as the temple – revealed to be a full step pyramid – opens a giant skylight. Inside, all the vampires are bathed in the light and are reduced to dust – except Richie and Santanico who are in the shade.

Richie and Seth has a touching scene where Richie tells Seth he has to go, that they’re no longer a team and they can’t keep up their old life. He tries to be nice about it but Seth still pouts his way out because Seth kind of does that. He leaves – and is joined by Katie. They both leave in a much much cooler car than the RV.

Narciso, at the orders of the 9 Lords of the Night, sends Carlos into the Labyrinth to be re-educated which isn’t something Carlos is super happy about

And Santanico and Richie leave in a light-proof car. Presumably still able to see somehow, heading to the US

Dusk Till Dawn is a hard series to judge. On the one hand, I didn’t like it much. I’ve seen the film and, except for the last 2-3 episodes, the show pretty much follows a more long winded version of the film making the plot not all that fascinating or riveting. The show is so faithful to the film it brings over many elements that don’t work so well in the series – like the Fuller family. In the film they’re a great “normal people in the middle of chaos”  addition, in the series they’re a distraction from the main plot, we’re rarely given any real reason to invest in them, Katie’s “development” is just a little too over-the-top much the same as Jacob who may be the worst father ever. Scott just isn’t developed, at all. They’re there because they’re in the film

There’s also a lot of really clumsy inserts – the info-dumping is blatant and laughable – almost a parody of itself. Freddie got a not-entirely-sensible motivation (abandoning his family to destroy his career and repeatedly risk his life) and a very ill-defined ret-conny special bloodline to justify him being bite proof and able to fight vampires.

All of this is topped off with a lot of gory fight scenes and random nudity.

So, it wasn’t great

But. But it wasn’t great because of the source material (and, while it was certainly a cult classic, a compelling, deep story it was not) that the show was determined to stay loyal to. And the things they did change which I’ve mentioned before – toning down the random nudity, re-addressing Richie as mentally ill and using visions instead, adapting the serial killing, removing the sexual aspect of them – are all definitely attempts to make things better and an awareness of the problems of the material they’re working with. I think the same applies to a lot of the clumsiness I complained about – the info-dumping is a desperate attempt to bring some depth to a show that is “RAWR vampires, tits and blood!”. The development of Katie and Jacob an attempt to make these characters relevant and justify their presence on the show.

Yes, it’s clumsy, and no it doesn’t always work – but they’re trying to make it work with what they have. I think it points to writers who can definitely do good things with this show once the structure of the original film is done – which is now is. So I didn’t like season 1, but I do have hope for season 2 because the writers are definitely good – but they’ve been given a right trainwreck to work with.

They’ve also got some great actors, they have some really good chemistry between them, especially the Gecko brothers which also makes me hopeful for the next season.

Inclusionwise – we have a lot of Latino characters, obviously being both on El Rey and heading for Mexico. The show also made a point of going beyond “RAWR VAMPIRES!” and delving heavily into South American mythology for its structure and background. Scott and Sergeant Frost, the other POC on the show, didn’t get as much development though.

This is yet another in a long long long list of shows that have decided LGBT people don’t exist in their world.

On women – again the source material raises its head. We have Katie who is dropping purity and goodness all over, she’s not a bad character per se, but she’s fairly one note. And Santanico – I am frustrated that for all her fighting, all her being the Queen, all her searching for freedom, she was still the prize and we only got to see her show her might once – against humans. I think we’ve been given a sense of her power and it’s certainly a step up from the film – but I want to see more.

Which is basically my position on this show. I didn’t like this season – but I want to see more.