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MTV’s Teen Wolf Season Two, available now on DVD, is a three disc-set that features all twelve episodes of the series that aired last summer. This batch continues the story started in season one, and takes things to a new level, with new, more sinister dangers and fresh additions to the mythology.
Each series has its own way of approaching what werewolves are and how they work, but a generally accepted part of the conceit is that when a person is bitten by a werewolf, they turn into one. Teen Wolf challenges that notion this year as Jackson (Colton Haynes) gets bitten, but does not turn. How? Why? What does this mean?
I like that Teen Wolf makes this kind of bold move, surprising characters and viewers alike. The reasoning behind Jackson’s apparent immunity is not immediately apparent, and has everyone trying to figure out what’s going on. Jackson is affected, but not in the way we expect him to be. Among the various monster types, I’m not sure something like this has really been attempted before, so I praise such an original idea.
Jackson’s resistance presents a problem for Derek (Tyler Hoechlin), who is now an Alpha. He is supposed to be able to lead his pack and tell them what is going on, but this not something he knows anything about. Luckily, there are others that are more susceptible to what Derek offers, newcomer Isaac (Daniel Sharman, Immortals), for one, which means that Derek isn’t without followers. But Jackson does present a challenge to his position, both in theory and in what soon becomes a very real way.
Of course, Scott (Tyler Posey) can’t just fall in line behind Derek. He is the star of Teen Wolf, and isn’t one to cower in a shadow. Scott and Derek may work together sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that Scott will just accept Derek’s actions when he doesn’t agree with them, whether Scott is in his pack or not. This creates some fresh conflict between the two, which is quite interesting.
Posey, while not the strongest performer on television, is growing into the role. Others do a little better than the show’s lead, but his acting is improving as his goes, and he does present a character viewers will root for. Given more time, he will likely continue to get better as the show progresses.
This being an MTV show, most of which are geared towards a certain age bracket, there is also a focus on the romance. Scott continues to see Allison (Crystal Reed), in secret, of course, since she is part of a family of wolf hunters. This does feel very much like the classic Romeo and Juliet tale of the warring families, despite the fact that not all of Allison’s relations are evil, which makes their relationship exciting to the young folks, but also prevents stability. While not completely original, the actors fill the roles well, making for good television.
The other love at the center of this year’s story line is the one between Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) and Lydia (Holland Roden). Sadly, unlike with Scott and Allison, this attraction seems to be one-sided, with Lydia not interested in Stiles’ advances. But the mental breakdowns Lydia suffers and the secrets surrounding her provide plenty of fodder to keep viewers, and Stiles, engaged, even if they aren’t really a couple.
It would actually be quite difficult to give a full summary of this second season in a few hundred words. Teen Wolf packs an incredibly amount of story into each of these episodes, and boasts an ever-expanding cast. In season two, things really ramp up, with the pacing taking off, and the plot flowing along. I liked season one, but I think the second year is when the show really begins to demonstrate what it is about and what it can do. It’s definitely one of the best things to come out of MTV, a sort of cable version of The Vampire Diaries.
And, as one might expect, there is plenty of cliffhanger at the end of Teen Wolf Season Two. However, fear not. The popular series will return this summer with all new installments to continue the saga.
Teen Wolf Season Two has an adequate amount of special features, though skews anything technical or deep in favor of those targeted at their main viewership. There’s a “Shirtless Montage,” alternate Stiles takes, a gag reel, a reel featuring fight scenes, and an introduction to Derek’s pack. There are also audio commentaries on three episodes, a look at season three, and highlights from the series panel at Paleyfest. Nothing groundbreaking here, but enough.
Twenty years ago, Neil Jordan’s film Interview With The Vampire was a sexy and provocative shot in the arm for the vampire genre.
Gemma Arterton is paying the rent with a lap-dancing job when the film opens
Since then we’ve had Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Let Me In, Underworld, Dark Shadows – teen vampires, lovesick vampires, socially integrated vampires, action hero and comedy vampires. Just when the genre seemed sucked dry, Jordan returns to replenish it.
The central dynamic of Interview was a twisted vampire “family” involving a homoerotic Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise and their surrogate daughter, a child forever trapped in a body that little suited her hungry disposition. There’s a family foundation in Byzantium too, though this time the unit is more conventional, namely a mother and daughter. That said, one is in her early twenties, the other 16, fixed in time at such similar ages that they could be sisters. Theirs is a unique parent-teen conflict which they’ve had to deal with for two centuries.
Nor are Clara (Gemma Arterton) and daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) ordinary vampires: they can exist in daylight and don’t have fangs, instead cutting their victims open with a chillingly reactive thumbnail. They’re also less glamorous than we’re used to. While Clara is lap-dancing to pay the rent, Eleanor mopes around a dingy estate, writing the story of their lives, only to toss it away when it’s finished and start over – mum’s house rule being that if anyone happens to read it, they must die. The pair may be bonded by blood, but are chalk and cheese: Clara brassy, no-nonsense, instinctive, choosing to feed off assorted misogynists; Eleanor melancholy, reserved, only killing people who are already dying or wish to.
A brilliant scene-setter sees a semi-clad Clara chased from her sex joint by a powerful man, a tracking camera thrillingly following them through busy streets and into a shopping mall. It’s a little reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s pursuit of the snake-charming android in Blade Runner, though this time the conclusion is, spectacularly, in the woman’s favour. Nevertheless, the vampires must now relocate to a down-at-heel seaside town, where Clara sets up a brothel in a former guest house known as Byzantium, and Eleanor joins a new school, her urge to let her history be known growing ever stronger.
Eleanor’s prose provides a back story set in the early 1800s that explains how she and Clara became vampires, and why a glum bunch of male vampires, the Brotherhood, is hunting them down. Jordan takes us back and forth in time, giving us two stories for the price of one – a Gothic tale introducing a vampire lore different to anything we’ve seen, and a baroque contemporary thriller. The whole thing drips with atmosphere – vibrantly photographed, the locations brought vividly to life, the violence suitably shocking.
Interestingly, both Jordan’s vampire films have been written by women – Anne Rice adapting her novel for Interview, Moira Buffini penning an original screenplay for Byzantium – lending a female perspective on a genre dominated by men. Buffini posits her female vampires as the chief protagonists, men trailing in their wake.
Johnny Lee Miller, as a syphilis-ravaged rogue, and Sam Riley as an enigmatic member of the Brotherhood are the best of those male combatants, but the film belongs to Arterton and Ronan, who bring very different energies and acting styles – respectively, in-your-face and introspective – to bear on their dysfunctional kinship.
Around them Jordan lends this vampire story the air of a fevered fairytale. Some of it is daft as a brush, but this director likes to push boundaries, and is invariably good enough to get away with it.
Supernatural: Season 8 Review
Note: Full spoilers for Supernatural: Season 8 follow.
While the previous season of Supernatural was a disappointment, they at least had the good grace a year ago to leave things in an interesting spot, which gave Season 8 a good chance of starting things off well. And the show did not drop the ball. What we got was a solid season-long mythology storyline, some great supporting characters, and of course, a lot of the always reliable backbone of the show – Sam and Dean Winchester.
Beginning a year after the events of the previous season, things kicked off with Dean’s return from Purgatory. While Dean was gone, Sam had given up hunting, fallen in love and was living a normal life. During the first half of the season the separation between the brothers in terms of what they wanted out of life was reminiscent of the first year of the show, with Dean fully committed to the hunting lifestyle and Sam yearning for what he had with Amelia.
The visuals were especially great in the flashbacks to Dean’s time in Purgatory with the washed out colors giving the place a bleak, war-torn look. Another element that worked well was the introduction of Benny (Ty Olsson), the vampire who helped Dean escape. The friendship he forged with Dean during their time fighting side by side was fascinating, since Dean was not the Winchester brother who would have been likely to work alongside a vampire in the first place. After such an intriguing set up, it was disappointing when halfway through the season Dean told Benny that he couldn’t be there for him anymore. It was even more disappointing when Benny was sacrificed, ending up back in Purgatory. If they don’t rescue him somehow in Season 9 it will have been a frustratingly early end to that character.
While the Purgatory storyline with Dean was pretty successful overall, Sam’s break from hunting to live with Amelia had its problems, problems that continued to bring this plot thread down as the season progressed. The first issue was the fact that Sam had abandoned Dean. Sure, Dean would have wanted his little brother to live a happy life, but there was no getting around the fact that Sam didn’t put much effort into trying to find out what had happened to Dean. Even putting that aside, Sam also left Kevin behind which only compounded the problem. It was a tough spot for the writers to put Sam into. If the story with Amelia (Liane Balaban) had been worth it, maybe it would have been easier to see past Sam’s actions, but in the end there was no chemistry between the two. As much as it would have been great to see Sam happy, it was a relief when we saw the last of Amelia.
I appreciated that the writers must have been looking for new ways to explore the relationship between the brothers, but hopefully in the future they can come up with something that isn’t quite so tough on one character or the other. Luckily Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are both so damn lovable that when the brothers reconciled it was easy to forgive along with them and move on.
The idea of being able to shut the gates of hell permanently was an intriguing storyline right from the beginning. It effectively tied back into the first five seasons of the show, which were their strongest years, while avoiding the trap of trying to create a villain that was somehow scarier than Lucifer.
Keeping Crowley as the main adversary had its benefits – Mark A. Sheppard’s fantastic work in the role being one of them. No one can throw insults at the Winchesters as well as this guy. Sheppard was never better than in the final episode of the season, when Sam’s attempt to cure Crowley put him through the emotional wringer. It will be interesting to see whether the experience changed Crowley permanently when we see him again next season. I for one am hoping there will be a change, if only to keep things interesting. When you have an actor as compelling as Sheppard playing the villain, there is a danger in keeping him around too long. It’s likely any other demon would have switched bodies at least once in the amount of time that Crowley has been on the show, but Sheppard has made the role his own and it’s almost unthinkable to have any other actor playing Crowley at this point.
The introduction of the three trials that would shut the gates of hell was good in that it set up some tangible goals for the second half of the season, but there were some glitches with the execution. The second trial in particular was problematic, with its fairly boring vision of hell and the fact that Bobby was so easy to find. When the trials were discovered, it was assumed by Dean that they were a suicide mission, although Sam promised he’d find a way to survive. For them to spend so much time on the trials, only to drop it at the very end when Dean realized that it really was a suicide mission after all was odd. This is not to say that I’m unhappy that both Winchesters survived the season. That they chose to abandon closing the gates of hell in order to continue fighting together was a classic Winchester brotherly love moment.
Castiel’s (Misha Collins) return and his involvement with both Naomi (Amanda Tapping) and Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) were strong elements of the demon/angel war. Naomi’s mysterious introduction and sinister methods made her an effective villain and Metatron was also successful as an adversary, although he got there in a much different way. His helpfulness gave way to betrayal, one that was set up well but also surprising. The twist in the end of making Castiel human was a good one; it is one of the things I am most looking forward to watching unfold next season.
Although Kevin (Osric Chau) spent the majority of the season cooped up and stressed out, his best moments to date were in “The Great Escapist.” Between the mixture of anger and desperation in his message to Sam and Dean and his refusal to back down when facing Crowley, Kevin really came into his own. He was still around at the end of the finale, so here’s hoping he continues to be part of the team.
“As Time Goes By” was significant for introducing a young Grandpa Winchester and the Men of Letters organization whose headquarters were co-opted by Sam and Dean. It was surprisingly wonderful to see them finally have a place to call home. The episode also did that awesome Supernatural trick of taking what we know of the past, tweaking it and expanding the show’s horizons. I was happy to see that they could still accomplish that in the eighth season.
Felicia Day, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki in Supernatural.
As usual, the mythology episodes were spread throughout the season, which meant that there were still a lot of monster-of-the-week episodes. Every season has some good and some forgettable installments, and while Season 8 didn’t have any instant classics, there were some fun episodes. With “Bitten” the show did a found footage episode, which had the unique twist of showing Sam and Dean almost exclusively from the guest actors’ perspectives. Other successful stand-alone episodes were “Hunteri Heroici” with its Road Runner style action, and “LARP and the Real Girl” and “Pac-Man Fever” which both featured Felicia Day as the likable Charlie Bradbury, who is as close to being a sister of the Winchesters as anyone has ever gotten.
Although there were some missteps along the way, for the most part Season 8 of Supernatural delivered the goods. It ended on a high note with the excellent finale “Sacrifice” which left us with a handful of cliffhangers to think about while we wait for Season 9.
Byzantium is set in modern day England and follows the daily survival of a mother and daughter who just happen to be 200-year old vampires. The mother Clara (Gemma Arterton) is ruthlessly protective of her daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan, apparently it’s pronounced Sur-Shuh) and would not hesitate to rip the head off anyone who threatens them. Eleanor is forever sixteen and longs to lead a normal life and in diary style writes her life story every day, only to tear it up every day. Eleanor has accepted her fate and her instinct draws her to take human blood but she chooses to feed only off the old or weak that are ready to give up their life when their time comes.
Forced to leave their grime ridden flat they both flee the city suburb to escape The Brotherhood, an ancient sect that have been tracking the pair since the early 19th century. They hitch a ride to a seaside town where Clara meets lonely and depressed Noel (Danny Mays) who allows Clara and Eleanor to stay in his recently departed Mother’s run down B&B which Clara soon turns into a brothel to earn a living. Eleanor is sick of constantly living a lie and yearns to tell the truth about who and what she is. She befriends a young man Frank (Caleb Landry Jones) who is of a similar human age. Frank has a strange personality and an open mind as well as being a leukaemia sufferer which intrigues her. Frank becomes smitten with Eleanor but will Clara allow this relationship to grow or will her over protective instinct rise up?
The story moves from the current era to the early 1800’s when the pair were created and we have a back-story involving two young military men. Darvell (Sam Riley) is a gentlemanly officer while his fellow officer and companion Ruthven (Johnny Lee Miller) is a complete cad with a real nasty streak.
This is more ‘Let the Right One In’ than ‘Twilight’ and the mother daughter relationship is a nice touch. You really care for these two blood sucking fugitives. There is a slight similarity with the ‘Interview with the Vampire’ two main characters. Clara has the vampire killer instinct of Lestat, whereas Eleanor reluctantly takes lives to survive as did Louis.
The film is based on a Moira Buffini ‘young adult’ drama called A Vampire Story which played at the National Theatre. Brit producer Stephen Woolley took his daughter to see the play and was so impressed that he asked the author to write the screenplay for a film version.
According to Moira Buffini they only ever had Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan in mind for then two lead roles. Arterton looks absolutely stunning throughout the film and plays the role with a dangerous edge. Ronan is still only nineteen years old but is very much a seasoned performer already with an Oscar nomination under her belt. She always puts in a great performance. Also watch out for an understated performance from Tom Hollander as the college teacher.
I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it as an alternative to the normal Vampire genre.