A Sashurai’s Review: The Vampire Diaries – Season 7×02 (When Matt crosses over a tenth time, he gets a free drink at the Mystic Grill)

TVD 7x02

SUMMARY

Family politics can be a tricky business to write and write well. However, when everyone is technically a villain, there’s little room for sympathy, even when you play the acoustic like a sad cowboy just trying to get with your old best friend’s mother. Tonight’s episode of the Vampire Diaries plays at in-fighting from both sides of the Salvatore line while Alaric continues with the subterfuge of resurrecting his wife. The Salvatore home is brought under a title dispute that involves Bonnie needing to kill Matt to relinquish ownership, and in the future, Caroline is attacked by an unknown assailant while reciting hateful remarks over one Stefan. All in all, it was a normal day in and away from Mystic Falls.

INITIAL THOUGHTS

One thing I say I’ll like as a whole about this series is the nature of unpredictability. Each plot per episode can get a little formulaic as most shows do and you can really spot the tells when the main characters act a certain way, but when it comes to season long arcs or even half season arcs, TVD can keep you guessing till the moment passes. Having said that, tonight was a little above average with a few moments that could use some fine tuning. Not an air tight premise, but mostly solid all around. Damon’s fragmented attitude was enough to push even Stefan into near violence with him. The biggest issue though is the alignment of the three sisters, Valerie, Nora, and Mary-Louise. Their game of “who’s the more evil of the three” isn’t one I’m that interested in seeing and in all fairness to Lily and her need for familial ties, one of them needs to abscond from the group.

RECAP

After Stefan finds out about Caroline’s kidnapping, he sends Damon to make right with Lily but finds out that their house is now under a new human’s ownership, keeping uninvited vamps out. They discover it’s Matt and Bonnie devises a plan to temporarily kill Matt to vanish the deed’s hold. Meanwhile, Alaric shows Bonnie the phoenix stone and hopes she can uncover its secret of resurrection. Bonnie encounters a horrible vision and tells him to destroy it. Alaric, attempts but ultimately refrains and visits the mortuary to test the stone out. He places it on a dead body and it begins to react with life. Alaric removes it and realizes it works. After Bonnie kills and resuscitates Matt, Stefan and Damon attempt to break Caroline out during the funeral of Malcolm where Lily has Elena’s coffin stolen by the siblings. Enzo uses a human maid to compel new ownership of the house and Stefan is removed from it leaving Caroline once more in Lily’s grasp. Later, Damon tells Stefan that Lily wants him far removed from Mystic Falls or he’ll never see Elena again. Damon uses this opportunity to find the sixth sibling, who has been sent elsewhere. At the Salvatore house, Nora gives Caroline an old journal of Stefan’s that recounts his meeting Valerie and essentially falling in love. And finally, 3 years in the future, Caroline is working as a floor director/manager at a tv news station and is someone’s fiance. When her aid mentions Stefan, she grows upset just as he is killed and she is shot by a stake just below the heart.

THE GOOD

Getting Elena’s body completely out of frame this soon is the best bet right now. There could be too many scenarios that revolve around saving her by some inexplicable means which we’ll know always end up in failure because of our knowledge of the future and a lack of contract in Nina’s name. Plus it gives Damon something to fight for which forcibly gives him the aura of fighting for love because if he’s not fighting for love he’s sure as hell gonna whine about it. We may know that eventually Damon gets Elena and her coffin back, but the how is still under wraps, assuming his trade plan isn’t the first success, and they never are.

Bonnie is showing more signs of life than ever with her plans and her accountability toward the actions she undertakes. Parting her from Jeremy was the best thing and it continues to pay in dividends. While some may play around with pairing Damon and Bonnie up, I think it’s best if she’s remains fiercely single to make room for independent growth. She’s fighting for her friends and so far doing a decent job at it. She won’t quit and she’ll make hard calls. All I have to say is poor Matt.

At first I didn’t like this concept, but using an old journal of Stefan’s against Caroline is actually a clever surgical strike. If Caroline were head over heels in love with Stefan, something like this probably wouldn’t faze her, but as it stands, their feelings are still new and reading something like this is bound to raise questions about what went on and how far it went. Maybe we’ll even get some flashbacks, this show could use a few.

THE BAD

Enzo going after Lily, romantically. Her surprised look with the small dimple of a grin at the end didn’t help this situation because as conflicted as they may be, Enzo is still a colossal prick and he gets no points for trying to do right by Lily. The strangeness is that she wanted him a part of the family but secretly may be ok with Enzo’s desire of her. This kind of drama can get really freaky especially when Damon finds out. Stefan will probably just shrug it off, but I always get the feeling that Damon will be resentful of it. My thoughts on it.

The sisters are all over the map in their alignment. They’re essentially loyal to each other yet they’ll play these games that will probably escalate into a war between them. That’s the end result of this and it’s the one path that feels very easy to understand. Is Valerie really the most evil of the three? Why does that even matter? They’ve all shown to be heartless psychopaths, and using Caroline as some sort of victim in their political tirade doesn’t feel like the optimal approach here. I think they should have held back with Valerie’s true nature until later, but that’s over and done with.

That horrible opening. Found footage and its cringe-worthy dialogue does not belong on this show. Had they made a Ghostfacers reference I’d have gave it a pass, but instead they went with Blair Witch and that dated reference makes this whole segment a bad start to the episode.

FAVORITE MOMENT

I’m really enjoying these future-tense scenes. They’re chalk full of mysterious twists and they’re able to tell these short stories really well. It may have been obvious that Caroline’s fiance wasn’t Stefan, but the fact that she’s so far removed from the Salvatore’s and Mystic Falls is very interesting. Is she seeing a human? Is it Matt? Probably not, but still. That’s the point, they’re good bumpers and so far I like the seasonal formula of them.

CHARACTER MVP

Bonnie gets it this week. She’s made a few interesting decisions, but again it goes back to her accountability and owning what she’s done. Her confession to Matt after nearly letting him die and her overall concern with what’s going on. She’s experiencing these crazy flashes of torture and knows something bad is coming. I’m looking for her to possibly take the lead on some hairy situations coming up.

ENDING THOUGHTS

Never tie a vampire to a wooden chair even if you use vervane in whatever capacity. Steel chairs that don’t break will do just fine.

All Alaric had to do was place the stone on the body to resurrect it. That is incredibly convenient, silly, and makes me wonder if he’s going to use duct tape to keep it on Jo.

Okay, so Stefan gets pulled from the back out the window and Caroline gets pulled from the back down the stairs in the opposite direction. Wouldn’t the path of least resistance work in this case? Shouldn’t Caroline have flown out the same window as Stefan? Or is it really based on the direction they’re pointed because it pulls from the back every time? Strange rules.

As it turns out, Lily’s comment about Elena being cloaked right next to Damon or a million miles away is essentially the same spot, relatively speaking. The planet Earth is roughly 25,000 miles around, which means if Elena was a million miles away and we’re not talking about space miles, she would spin around the world 40 times and pretty much end up back in Mystic Falls. Geography checks out.

Poor Matt. He went through a few death stints like this back when he was a medium for the other side back in season 5 I believe. Hasn’t the guy died enough already? We don’t want to have him end up psychotic like Alaric did, right?

OVERALL SCORE

7 out of 10. The anchored future scenes show good promise even though I still feel the time gap is a little wide. The heretic vampire family still has a ways to go before I think they’ve become capable and worthy villains. I absolutely don’t like Enzo hitting on Lily at all, and Bonnie continues to evolve impressively. Caroline’s capture and how it’s been handled could have been worse, but I get the situation and the need to put here there to help sow the seeds of dissention among the triplets sister-gang. The Valerie and Stefan connection was a little left-field but I’ll buy it for now provided we get some good flashbacks to tell this story. All in all, it’s holding steady as far as vampire dramas go. Let’s see what whacky adventure Damon rolls out with next. Thanks for reading!

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A Sashurai’s Review: Sons of Anarchy – Season 7×02 (Formidable Jax and the Sons lay their foundation)

Sons02

Wrapping up the second week means more mayhem, murder, and meticulous planning as Jax and Samcro carefully plan their revenge against Lin and his crew. Tara’s murder echoes throughout this episode’s (Toil and Till) while Gemma uncovers Wayne’s involvement as a consulting investigator for Charming’s new Sheriff. She helps Juice skip town and Wendy and Nero swap life stories between action scenes.

There’s a lot to this episode, maybe a smidge of metaphor, but mostly a lot of key moments that foreshadow the calamity that’s to come in the near future. Our formula sets up Jax’s plan to ruin Lin and his operation. A smooth hit takes out both Lin’s sellers of guns, and the Triad’s currency of heroin. All hits go according to plan until Jax makes an unforeseen error predicated by using his own charter for his consequentialism. I was puzzled at first with Jax’s offer to pay out the muscle that helped with the earlier hit. Once Jax, Chibs, and Bobby arrived, it all made sense. A lasting shot of a silver shotgun was further explained when Jury arrived to the house and found both bodies made to look like they planned their own hit against Lin’s men and killed each other over the drugs. Jury knows his favored crew was set up by Jax. Is it completely spelled out? I think so at this point. Was Jury related to the younger man? It probably doesn’t matter except that Jury took his death hard. I wouldn’t have suspected Jax to utilize a distant charter for his own means like this, but it happened and fall out is soon to follow.

Wayne is also playing his role too close to home as he meets and accepts Sheriff Jarry offer to be a consultant. The first thing Wayne wants is to view Tara’s case file. Already he’s dipping into his old method to sniff out the truth. What I wasn’t expecting was for Gemma to find out so soon. Gemma also has a keen sense of understanding and knows that if anyone is capable of finding out the truth, it’ll be him. This raises a very tricky scenario with her convictions and friendship of the guy. First thoughts go to her killing him to save herself. Let’s face it, she’s done worse and she’s not above doing whatever it takes to save those kids for herself.

Nero and Wendy have a few scenes together, but I honestly felt like they were just filler moments between Jax’s strike and Lin’s discovery and plans for payback. They seem to work as a pair of ex drug users who can reminisce honestly about their choices in life and their struggles to come back from it. They’re very polite and it’s good to see Nero endlessly connect with more characters. He maintains fascinating charisma. I believe what should be resonating is his message to Wendy that being honest no matter what is what’s best. This could help her in the future with Jax or possibly Gemma. Tara had a way with being honest and Jax respected that immensely. The same could work for Wendy.

That leaves Juice and his escape from Charming. It was good to see him get out of Wendy’s house…and into another one. Doh! It’s okay, he’s continued to establish trust with keeping Gemma’s secret and for one moment it looked at though he’d try and contact Chibs on phone, only to hang up while driving through town. It’s important to keep their connection alive in this season. Chibs took is personally with what happened to Juice in previous seasons. That kind of blame and guilt doesn’t vanish easily. Those two will eventually cross paths again. Does that mean Chibs will do away with Juice in this season? Is that a viable ending to the character? More importantly, is Juice’s life worth more than his secret of Gemma murder of Tara? That more than anything feels like a strong possibility. Though I doubt it would truly save his life considering the payback Jax feels is coming.

Barosky (Weller) returns and clearly makes his dislike of the Stockton Mayan pres. known. It’s a lesser sideplot, but I expect Barosky to play to his strengths soon. I think when it was mentioned how greed plays a part in ruining people was placed for good reason. There is weakness to be exploited there, but it’s too early to tell what side of the fence Barosky will fall on. He needs to interact more with Samcro. Better scenes will be had.

 

FAVORITE MOMENT

My favorite scene is when Juice and Wayne chat once Juice sets him free. Something resonated there for a few reasons. Those two haven’t (to my recollection) shared many scenes together and Wayne has a very trusting personality. Even saying the words “old sin” brought out the last six years worth of craziness Samcro has been put through, and beyond. I liked the dynamic because it felt new. When most familiar characters have moments like these they stick to their traits strongly and it just feels fresher when you switch those relationships around a little. Wayne appears to understand Juice’s plight and offers to help even after being tied up for an entire night. He doesn’t hold grudges like that and even seeks to find his own advantage even if it seems altruistic. It helped give him perspective on Patterson’s offer and is currently leading him on a path to finding Tara’s true murderer. I’d like to see Wayne find out on his own, but that could also mean his death if Gemma feels too threatened by the truth.

 

CHARACTER MVP

Favorite scenes will likely include the MVP of the episode and in his case, Wayne fits that bill too. He had three important conversations with Juice, Jarry, the new Sheriff, and Gemma, all poking and prodding over Tara’s murder. He’s generating clues and somehow instinctively putting the pieces together and he doesn’t even know it yet. It will be priceless when he realizes what Gemma did. There’s heartbreak for sure coming his way, but there’s also the possibility that even with the truth, he’ll still protect Gemma. It’s a long shot, but we can’t forget that he loves Gemma and has done plenty in the past to help her when she got into trouble.

 

LONG TERM THOUGHTS

One thing that struck me was the Jax waking to the sound of a nearby lawnmower. In his groggy state, we see both tattoos of Abel and Thomas on him during this moment. It’s not always easy picking apart metaphors on this show, but I feel like there’s subconscious foreshadowing here with this scene. A lawnmower chews up and tears apart grass, grass that means to grow and thrive. Jax in a way is turning into this lawnmower, something that tears up what’s meant to grow and the grass is inevitably the club. His sons’ tattoos are what’s closest to him, but that’s the most important thing he stands to lose.

Gemma and Jax are still deeply affected by Tara’s death. Jax stares at the spot in the kitchen where he found her, and Gemma saw the police photographs of Tara lying in the same spot. Jax may be trying to let go, but Gemma is forced to hold on.

Brooke appears twice in a row. While only showing up for a bit scene in the premiere she has a moment with Gemma and is, for the most part, playing babysitter for the boys. There’s still a mystery with her that involves her mother and let’s not forget about the homeless woman who has been at least fingered as the same person, in theory. Will more light be shed on this in the future?

I like that Annabeth Gish has joined SOA. I recently watched season 8 and 9 of X-files and once more got used to her character Monica Reyes. She seems easy going and not quite as hard pressed as Eli, but I’m sure she’ll play it smart when she meets Jax, who Wayne correctly warned about as being “Formidable”

Two episodes and hardly a word about Clay. Forgotten so soon?

 

OVERALL SCORE

I give this episode an 8 out of 10. Jax sticks to his plan to corner Lin, Wayne is on the path to uncovering Tara’s murder, and Juice is further on the run. Not many twists save for Jury’s muscle getting killed and fingered as the hit crew against Lin’s men. Jury arriving on scene surely means that Jax will be issued his first real dilemma soon. It was an entertaining episode complete with sick-filled antics by Tig, who remains to be the only current Son who tries to get his jollies in even under dubious circumstances. I’m sure. I liked this episode slightly more than the premiere. Wendy and Nero’s scenes were filler to me, but their content was interesting to listen to. Nero continues to be the best guy he can be to save the peace. He’s got his work cut out for him.

 

 

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