Sleepy Hollow – Season 2, Episode 14 – “Kali Yuga” – Trying to Get Back on Track

Sleepy Hollow Kali Yuga    “Sleepy Hollow” is trying to get back on track again, it really is…and it does do some great things this episode! Almost no Katrina, Hawley leaves and we get sometime with Jenny as a major player. This is what I like about “Sleepy Hollow” when it focuses on the Millses (who tend avoid stupid good unlike Ichabod) and of course Ichabod growing a little.

“Kali Yuga” was directed by Doug Aarniokoski and written by Sam Chalsen and Nelson Greaves with the story by Heather Regnier.

The premise is that Hawley plans to steal something for the Knox estate to bring his Godmother back to mortal since she was turned into a monster. Irving is also dealing with his relationship with his wife and being brought back to life and Abbie and Ichabod work through distrust. These are the main plot elements of the episode.

The Pros: Jaime Murray – Jaime Murray (H.G. Wells of “Warehouse 13”) Is in this as Hawley’s Godmother and is the main baddie. In the end she isn’t given much complexity sadly, but Murray elevates a very standard monster of the week who is trying to turn other and Hawley into what she is with the power of Kali (The Hindu Goddess Kali is always the villain in shows like this, I’d like to see that change). She is good, even if her character is weak and sadly one-dimensional power hungry. She deserved better after her masterful role as H.G. Wells in “Warehouse 13.”

Ichabod and Abbie – There is some conflict here! It’s contrived but it’s trying to develop their relationship at least. Ichabod finds Orion’s charm and calls Abbie out and after working things out they work there way out of Knox’s vault that Hawley put them in to save their life. They also do Karaoke, and it’s awesome. Ichabod still has issues with accountability and is way too stupid good in regards to Henry but he can still make that choice.

Jenny Mills – Still don’t get why she likes Hawley, but she does get development, even if it’s just her losing Hawley as he runs off to go take out his Godmother. She is the one driving the story for a lot of it, though she gets a lot of stupid good in the process due to her attachment to Hawley and not stopping him when she had the chance earlier in the episode and preventing the Godmother’s plan of turning others into monsters from happening.

Hawley leaves – I hate Hawley, this is a pro. He is a useless character who lends nothing but contrived drama. Finally he’s gone.

Okay: Detective Irving – The writers don’t really know what to do with him yet, which is a shame as Orlando Jones is amazingly talented. He visits Katrina and we get the implication she’s evil out of it (which would explain her inaction with the Horseman of Death”) but it’s mostly lags. He also doesn’t have a shadow, what this means is another unanswered question, Katrina was mostly there to look evil and hint at her maybe joining with Henry or Abraham I think.

The Cons: Dialogue – A lot of the dialogue felt contrived and not that well written and it was only the chemistry and talent of the actors carrying the scene. Specifically the scene where Ichabod and Abbie were trapped and the leadup to it with the discovery of the pendant.

Villain Kali – I get Kali is the destroyer but can we stop going with that cliche in fiction? It’s like having demons as only bad or Hades always be the villain. We’re so obsessed with dichotomy and we get cliche storytelling in the process rather than creative takes on mythological beings who in their mythos are more complex than they are given credit for.

This episode is trying to get on track again, we see lots more of Jenny, Abbie and Ichabod and maybe something being done with Katrina and explaining Detective Irving? I’m not going to pass judgement yet as the season is not over, but I’m worried given how the last few episodes that didn’t involve Orion went.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10. Potential. What will they do with it?

Carnivale – Season 2, Episode 8 – “Outskirts of Damascus, NE” – Management’s Legacy

Carnivale Outskirts of Damascus NE

“Outskirts of Damascus, NE” had a lot of good ideas, but they were not fully executed. The good news is this is made up at least partially by some great character moments…largely with Samson and Ben. For this reason alone, it was still a good episode.

The episode was written by Daniel Knauf, the show’s creator and directed by Tim Hunter.

The premise picks up where the last episode ended with Management granting Ben his powers and from that we learned he’d set it all up in the first place to grant Ben the knowledge and power he would need to take on the Usher, Justin. Management it turns out was a bigger deal to Samson than we knew as their friendship is revealed and Ben must deal with Samson before they can move forward. Jonesy and Libby also get married and that is dealt with in the episode too.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Samson – Samson is one of my favorite characters who is still living and in this episode shows more of why. We see him mourn the loss of his friend and how even if he didn’t trust Management there was still so much history there between them. This leads to it taking a while for him to see that Ben isn’t management and can’t lie. This leads to them forming a new partnership to save Scudder and stop the Usher.

Ben – From one of my least favorite characters last season to one of my favorite this season…Ben Hawkins is worth caring about finally. We see his making sense of his new powers and trying figure out his role and try and save Scudder. We also see him bring back the memory vault so Samson can say good-bye to Management. For this reason he starts out things solidly with Samson and we see them as partners, which Samson and Ben have never really had before. We see his embracing of his role as Avatar in a clear way that wins Samson over too when a mother begs for her life to be given for her dead child’s and Ben grants her wish to bring her child back.

Jonesy and Libby – Jonesy and Libby marry and we see the conflict with Libby’s parents because of Jonesy sleeping with her Mom, though surprisingly Stumpy is okay with it, it’s Rita who has most of the baggage. This comes to a head when Libby says she will dance until her father’s debts are paid off, but no more than dance. It’s a great character moment that showed her being active to Jonesy’s passiveness through the episode. We also have a death at the Ferris-Wheel which is powerful as the mob blames Jonesy because Stumpy shared a drink with him.

Sofie – Sofie is Justin’s maid! A sign of things to come I think.

The Cons: The Tone – I didn’t know what to make of this episodes tone. At times it’s supernatural at times it’s real but it’s hard to get to invested in invents because it doesn’t have a feel that flows through it. For this reason I have to dock it down some points.

This was a good but not great episode, which is a shame since the showrunner and creator was the one wrote it. It still does what it needs to do, so it isn’t bad. It just isn’t great. I would recommend it though if only for the moments with Ben and Samson. The silence of Samson morning management and Ben lost in his new role. These moments helped define it and made it “Carnivale.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 2 – “After the Ball is Over” – Hidden Demons

After the Ball is Over

“After the Ball is Over” goes into more behind the mysterious Carnival and also the growing power of Pastor Crowe as well as the demons he himself seems to be wrestling with. It’s a powerful story that reveals a lot about the surrounding and core characters.

The episode was written by Daniel Knauff and Ronald Moore and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.

The story begins with Ben being asked to clean out a mysterious carriage, which he finds out later never existed. It is there he finds a picture of his mother which leads to greater events unfolding in the Carnival. At the same time Pastor Crowe has set his eyes on making the Dancing and Prostitution house the new home for his growing parish and takes action that reveals the owner’s sins to them both. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Opening Vision/Dream – All the Shepherds are at a cafe and Crowe and Hawkins sit next to one another. The manager says something cryptic to them causing them to wake up. The dream establishes them, possibly her and the other person their as people of power which leads more to be discovered later. It was very Ronald Moore and reminded me of the Opera House Visions in “Battlestar Galactica.”

Pastor Justin Crowe – Crowe has the owner come to him and shows him how he used the front of the dancing and prostitution to molest boys. They face this truth together which leads the owner to giving the place to Crowe for his church and killing himself right after. We later see Crowe whipping himself in penance for leading to a man’s suicide…as we see his guilt at forcing the man to confront his evil did to him.

Ben Hawkins – Ben is the investigator this episode. When Samson says he doesn’t know the woman he later meets Ruthie after helping her get what she needs for her act. She tells him that the women fell in love with a crazy man named Scudder who is the man haunting his dreams. The blind seer says that Scudder is still alive and he finds out later both Scudder and his mother were involved with the Carnival.

Professor Lodz – Has a conversation with Samson about how he used to be in good graces with Management but how everything changed after Missouri. We see that he loved Apollonia but that she hates him. He sees the danger in Hawkins which Management seems to be aware of but going along with, for what purpose remains to be seen. He is a fascinating character who we see glimpse Hawkin’s dreams in the Pilot episode. Patrick Bauchau does a great job.

The Apollonia Scene – She awakens this episode and goes to Ben Hawkins. She is there to warn him but collapses and everyone awakes thinking he is the one who tried to steal her until Samson says that things are changing, and not for the better.

Samson – Samson has an idea that things are going bad, but for now is watching to see just how badly they unfold. He’s a practical guy so I wonder what action he’ll take in the end in regards to Ben Hawkins and the characters like Lodz who hate and fear him.

This was a solidly great episode and a must see. We learn more about Ben’s mysterious past, learn more about the Carnival, see Justin Crowe’s power in action again and also the demons he holds within. Demons were the theme as Scudder represents that in Ben’s dream and in how he is feared for his actions he did in the Carnival. More on what those actions were I expect to be revealed later.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

 

Carnivale Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Milfay” – Of Good, Evil and Outsiders

Carnivale      If you’ve been reading the blog for a while now you’ve probably found that I do love shows or movies that incorporate mythology into them, and do it well. Be it Heaven, Hell and the Apocalypse in shows like “Supernatural” and “Sleepy Holow” (and this show), or shows that play off Greek and Christian Mythologies like “Battlestar Galactica.” For me these myths have the potential to teach us about ourselves, as any good story can. It was discussing this with my Grandfather when he suggested this show, and he got me hooked.

I’ll be reviewing episodes of “Carnival” sporadically, but I do plan on going through the entire season since the show itself isn’t that long. The show was created by Daniel Knauf who served as Producer along with Ronald Moore (one of my favorite directors and producers) and Howard Klein. Daniel Knauf wrote the first episode while Rodrigo Garcia directed.

The premise begins with the mythology of the show as one of the Carnies, a Dwarf named Samson who has power says,

“Before the beginning, after the great war between Heaven and Hell, God created the Earth and gave dominion over it to the crafty ape he called Man. And to each generation was born a creature of light and a creature of darkness, and great armies would clash by night in the ancient war between good and evil. There was magic then, nobility, and unimaginable cruelty. And so it was, until the day that a false sun exploded over Trinity, and man forever traded away wonder for reason.”

From here the story unfolds following an ex-con named Ben Hawkins who is haunted by dreams of being hunted by a tattooed man. He awakes and we are in the time of the Great Depression as he is watching his mother die as she is scared of him. From here the story unfolds as two people from the Carnival stand up for him leaving him with the dilemma of recognizing his power and to join or not join the Carnival, fully leaving his past behind to start again.

Here is the assessment of the pilot:

The Pros: The Cinematography – The Cinematography is fantastic! The scenes that catch the desperation are beautiful as the dust shows how desolate Ben and other characters feel. We also see some spectacular visions that are done to give us glimpses into the minds of the characters.

The Writing – From Samson (Michael J. Anderson of “Twin Peaks” fame) being the co-manager and guy who isn’t fully trustworthy but has good intentions, to Ben’s mysterious past and the mysterious present of Pastor Justin Crowe. The elements of supernatural pervade the themes and the dreams while never fully integrating themselves except for a scene where Pastor Crowe makes a woman throw up money after she stole and Ben resurrects a kitten and makes a little girl walk again.

The Music – The music is amazing! It keeps the mysterious feel and strange of what makes the Carnival and the Carnival while keeping religious themes in it too the way “Battlestar Galactica” did. Wendy Molvoin and Lisa Coleman were perfect composers for the theme and music.

The Characters – All the characters who have scene get great exploration that shows them to be more complex than they first appear to be. This is an ensemble show even though Ben and Justin are the primary drivers of the story.

Samson – I really like Michael J. Anderson, his being co-manager with the mysterious Management makes for an interesting situation as he is the one who is practical but also can be cruel and kind. He offers himself as a mentor figure to Ben but is rejected. I’m curious to see what his relationship to Management is like, as well as the rest of the carnival.

Brother Justin Crowe – He is set up as the powerful and possible antagonist as it is left open if he made the lady who stole throw up quarters since she stole one…and he later has a vision outside an erotic dance bar of a red cross over it in neon after it snows and rains blood upon him…and we see Ben have a vision of him with black eyes jumping out. So he’s probably the well meaning antagonist when the story gets deeper in. Clancy Brown is great for this role.

Jonesy – Works the Ferris Wheel, has a kind heart towards children but is contrasted with his looking down on women. After Sofia is nearly raped in town he tells her she shouldn’t have gone out. She smacks him thankfully but internalizes what he says later. We do see him help a crippled girl ride the Ferris Wheel for free though and gives her and the boy she’s with an extra ticket.

Sofia – Sofia is the one who reminds Ben of his past by reading his guards, which reveal his past and the kitten he brought back to life that his mother killed and caused him to suppress his powers. She stands up for herself against Jonesey’s sexism and fights the rapists but is contrasted by her saying Jonesey was right to Ben showing the growth she still has to go through in regards to respecting herself. She lives with her mother who is in a coma and talks to her through her mind. They are an act at the Carnival. Clea Duvall was good for this role.

Lila – Is the bearded lady who has compassion for Ben. She is the most experienced of the Carnies as far as how comfortable she is in her face. I can’t wait to learn more about her character. Debra Christofferson plays the character.

Ben Hawkins – The primary character haunted by dreams and the protagonist of the series. We don’t know fully what put him in prison or why he is so guarded about his past but we know he can perform miracles as he resurrected a cat and made a girl walk again at the end of the pilot. I’m curious about this character even though the Carnies are at time more compelling. Nick Stahl was chosen for the role and it is a good fit at this point.

The Themes – Good and Evil, Heaven and Hell, Wealthy and Poor, Privileged and Victimized, Corrupt and Good. These themes are captured really well and I expect they’ll be throughout given Samson’s opening speech.

Okay: Slow Start – The pilot is slow at times which is good for building tension and setting tone but I would have liked more drama between characters. It’s not bad but can’t put it as a pro either.

So far I really like this series and I was glad my Grandfather got me into it. I like how the Supernatural element is subtle unlike “Supernatural” or “Sleepy Hollow,” which are both shows I really like, but are both strongest when we are being teased by the mythology and discover it over time. This is what makes this show really great, besides the amazing producers, the fact it’s on HBO (giving it more flexibility in what it can do) and working the mythology into the ensemble cast and covering the fascinating era of the Great Depression. The choosing of a Carnival as the main area of drama with Crowe’s town on the other side of the story. It gives a  nice contrast of the poor and outcast versus the wealthy and privileged.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10. A great start to the series.