Top 10 Character Deaths of 2010

This one was rough. It really made me realize that I’m not nearly watching enough TV. There were years ago when I could list ten TV deaths in an instant. This one took thought, especially when you considered that they had to have some significance. How do you define significance? Well, that’s what you’ll have to read below to see.

Note to readers: Please consider that this will include spoilers if you’re not caught up on the most recent seasons or episodes of your recent shows. So if you want to skip out, I’d stop reading now. (Note, look up. If you’re catching up on one of the series above, I’d stop reading.)

So I now present you with the Top 10 Character Deaths of 2010. I had to get some help from JC on this one. Consider this my grateful shoutout.

Top 10 Character Deaths of 2010
(in no particular order)

1. Rita, Dexter. As someone that was a late-comer to Dexter, it was pretty jarring coming across the internet the day after Rita was found dead in a bathtub, with her son crying on the floor, sitting in her own blood. The fans were going crazy, and even I had to jump ahead and watch the horrifying clip. It was a moment full of horror and feeling–the latter one being a bit of a surprise in the world of Dexter.

2. Amy, The Walking Dead. In a show about the zombie apocalypse, it only makes sense that one of the characters will eventually get eaten by zombies. Sure, I should have seen it coming, considering that the episode this death takes place in opened with an extended scene showing Amy and Andrea sharing childhood memories of their parents. Of course one of them was about to bite the dust! But anyway, the episode itself hyped us up for a reapperance by the rampaging, one-handed Merle. Instead, zombies suddenly attack the camp, and Amy can barely get out the phrase, “We’re all out of toilet paper!” before a bloodthirsty shambler quite graphically bites a football-sized chunk of flesh out of her neck. It was ugly. She dies in her sisters arms, and is later shot through the head by said sister as she begins to re-awaken as a zombie. Ouch.

3. Topher, Dollhouse. Dollhouse barely made it into 2010, but it sure got its own body count. Topher was certainly one that stood out. The poor guy went crazy after bringing about the “Brainpocalypse,” only to save the world in the end. We all knew it would happen, as he walked the device to Adelle’s office, but we had that glimmer of hope–comfort?–as he turned to the wall to see all the faces already lost. Then BAM. He was gone.

Read more after the break! Continue reading

Thursday Open Thread: Favorite Whedon Couple

I miss having Joss Whedon shows on TV, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Buffy. So with that in mind, I ask you:

Out of all of Joss’ shows, who is your favorite Whedon couple?

There are no rules here. These can be couples that were real (i.e., Buffy and Angel) or unrequited (i.e., Buffy and Xander). It can be from TV or even from the web (Dr. Horrible, anyone?).  Really, this is just my time to see the kind of shows you liked from Joss and the characters you enjoyed as well.

Personally, I think Simon and Kaylee from Firefly were cute, but the connection between Sierra and Victor in Dollhouse was great, too. I think I’ll lean toward Simon and Kaylee, though, just because the hit and miss flirting was so fun to watch on the series.

What about you?

image from twevilmonks.org

I don’t normally beg on Raked, but please don’t anyone say Willow and Kennedy. Man, I hate Kennedy.

Glee: I sound like someone put tap shoes on a horse.

KT dreams for more episodes like this one.

GLEE:  1.19 “Dream On”

Now that’s more like it.  That was Glee at its best.

Much has been made of the fact that Joss Whedon was behind the camera for this episode, and I’m confident he did contribute to making this a good episode, but I think the writers deserve a big round of applause, too.  Joss got good material to work with.   He also got Neil Patrick Harris as the cynical and conflicted Brian Ryan, Will’s high school nemesis.

The episode got itself off to a good start by fully committing to a wonderful flashback to Will and Brian as teenagers.  It only lasts a minute or so, but it’s great.  Everyone looks like they walked straight out of Saved By the Bell, while NPH and Matthew Morrison are such good actors that they’re really believable as their awkward, younger selves.

Some of Glee’s usual flip-floppiness sneaks into the Brian Ryan plot.  It’s kind of like plucking flower petals and saying “He’ll cut the club.  He won’t cut the club.  He’ll cut the club…” which makes me roll my eyes a little.  Happily there was plenty of other good stuff to make up for it.  For one thing, these two can really rock a duet.

If Brian Ryan ever comes back, I hope he gets to interact more with Sue, because their scene was a hoot and a half.  And yet, they actually have a real, meaningful conversation lamenting the real world issues of underfunding in the arts and under-appreciation of physical education.  Sue even looks like a competent educator, which is nice, for a change.

Meanwhile, Artie and Tina actually got a storyline!  And although it’d be nice if Artie could get a plot that didn’t need to revolve around his disability, this one was really nice as far as tone and pacing.  The sweet, friendly relationship between Artie and Tina was charming, as was her eagerness to be helpful and supportive.  The idea of putting taps on his wheels was pretty clever, even if it didn’t work out; likewise it was sweet of her to dig up research on spinal injuries, even though those studies couldn’t directly help him any time soon.  Emma only had the one scene in this episode, but I really liked that (A) it was with someone other than Will, just for variety, and (B) that we got to see her doing her job well, which we often don’t.  Really lovely stuff.

And the dancing!  Even though it was all in Artie’s imagination, it was great to see Kevin McHale get a chance to get up and dance.  The big “Safety Dance” flash mob was a lot of fun, and I liked the way we occasionally cut to camera views that mimicked people’s cell phone cameras.  I also loved that there was tap dancing this week, and I liked it even more because who would have guessed Tina would be a tap dancer?  Awesome.

[After the jump, Rachel’s diva tendencies make so much more sense.] Continue reading

Thursday Open Thread: All the hype

I’m one of those really annoying people where when there’s a ton of hype behind something–say, a movie or a book–I try to stay away from it. I don’t want to be part of the crowd. Of course, then I just watch a lot of TV.

But TV isn’t really hype-free. So here’s my question:

Does hype work? Do you love it? Hate it? Do hyped-up things live up to expectations?

With the recent Madonna episode of Glee (which I didn’t watch), it seems like there’s major Glee hype everywhere, and it’s really questionable as to whether the show lives up to it. And you’d think that with it being the last season of Lost, the hype would continue, but I feel like less and less people are discussing Lost now that it’s up against Glee (not to say there aren’t events going all around Facebook now for Lost finale parties). There certainly was a mad storm when it first started, though. How did it hold up?

Personally, I hate hype, and generally, it doesn’t live up to expectations. Look at Dollhouse.  Heck, look at Joss Whedon? You know I’m a huge Joss fan, but is the Whedon hype getting out of control? You’ve got him directing Glee and The Avengers. What’s next? Why is he everywhere? And I’m one that likes him! I almost want him in limited quantities to assure a better product (er, show).

Same with Neil Patrick Harris. The Neil Patrick Harris hype is killing How I Met Your Mother because they’re focusing more on Barney than anything else. Is hype really turning me against things that I like?

What’s a girl (or guy) to do? Tell me your thoughts on hype–and whether you think I’m overreacting–in the comments.

image from dose.ca

Those innocent smiles…

Good news, genre fans!

image courtesy ABC

Call it coincidence if you like, but my theory is that the stars have aligned for sci-fi and fantasy to return to the airwaves.  After long hiatuses, we’re about to see the return of V, Merlin, and Doctor Who.

V, off the air since November, returns under the direction of a new showrunner.  Maureen Ryan has had great coverage the last few days, so let me just point you over to her.  I shared her reservations about the show’s first four episodes last fall (here are my posts if you want to relive the snark), but she actually has me excited for V‘s return tonight.  Cool!

Merlin‘s first season aired on NBC last summer, but since the peacock network seems incapable of recognizing anything good these days, they’ve given it up — season two begins this Friday on SyFy.  The show is hardly the Arthurian legend you grew up with, but I think it’s good fun and I’m definitely ready for more.

Doctor Who returns this Saturday if you’re in the UK (or, you know, use bit torrent).  In the US, the TARDIS will arrive two weeks later: April 17 on BBC America.  Expect new stars and new writers, but the same old lovably insane alien time traveler.  After the generally disappointing specials we got last year instead of a regular season, this has me very excited.

Honorable mention (shows for nerds, shows about nerds — it fits, right?):  Glee comes back April 13!  I don’t love that both Glee and V have moved to Tuesday nights, but there we are.  I’ve heard all sorts of exciting hints about what’s to come — an all Madonna episode, Idina Menzel guest starring, Neil Patrick Harris guest starring, Joss Whedon directing — so I’m hoping that this show has shed the Baby Drama and is ready to shoot for the stars.

And a last note, genre fans:  I don’t cover Castle because it would turn into this big list of “hey, that bit was funny, and this thing was really clever” (um, sort of the way my How I Met Your Mother posts do) but I do love a good mystery from time to time.  Last night’s solution to the cliffhanger was great… but did you catch the Firefly reference near the end?

Dollhouse: When the end is here

Raked finally processed the finale, enough to write about it.

DOLLHOUSE:  2.13 “Epitaph Two: The Return”

I think you really have to wonder what’s going to happen as you step into the end of another Whedon series, especially when you take the leap ten years ahead, and you’re in a post-apocalyptic world of sorts–a world based on an episode that wasn’t even aired.

I’ve got to feel bad for anyone who didn’t watch “Epitaph One.” You had to have been pretty lost. Sure, you got the general idea of what happened, but who are Zone and Mag? Who is this little girl? (By the way, SO glad we got to see Zone develop as a character.)

For the rest of us, it was great. I’m not sure how I missed the memo that Felicia Day would be returning to Dollhouse, but it was worth it. Even if she lost her legs in the process.

I have to admit, Whedon knows how to create a sense of surprise. The two main deaths of the episode were, of course, Ballard and Topher. I don’t know why I didn’t see Ballard’s death coming after his conversation with Echo, but maybe that was because I was lost in Mag’s pain. The shock of having her legs hole-punched was enough. You had that moment where you thought nothing else could happen worse–and then you had Ballard.

Meanwhile, we all knew that Topher was going to die when he went up to Adelle’s office. So why was it such a surprise? We had no idea that he’d completed the device, so when he took that moment to look at the photos, we really all just paused and took a moment. His final, “Hm,” was the last thing we ever heard.

Joss sure knows how to play with a viewer’s emotions.

But I must say, the most intriguing part of this episode was the techies. Seeing Victor with his teched out face, seeing him use the tech to change the language he speaks…it was so interesting. Almost tempting. You could see how it they could have gotten hooked on the tech. Even I thought how awesome it must’ve been to have any language or knowledge easily put into your head.

And how do you think this all started? Well, I guess technically we’ll never know, but it sure made me wonder whether it all started with the Victor upgrade that we saw in “Hollow Men.” If we could upgrade Victor’s fighting skills, why not his knowledge? Why not his language? Why not everything? After all, Echo is holding all sorts of specialties in her head. Why not everyone else?

I loved that aspect of the episode. It really made you realize that in this world that was crumbling apart, it wasn’t just Rossum that was taking over the tech. It could be in anyone’s hands.

And by the way, Rossum: Was it not creepy to see Harding choosing the next body he could abuse? “Stretch out”? Uggh, just made me shiver.

Overall, it was a very powerful finale. I’m glad we really got to see the end–and the end of the end–even if we did say good-bye to two of our favorite characters. I loved how we saw Adelle become the heartfelt figure she always had in her, and Sierra finally got a happy ending. And while, true, it was a little over the top, I liked that Ballard and Echo got their happy ending, even if it was only in her head, especially since it was a final gift form Alpha.

I think I could have watched the apocalyptic episodes over and over–a series on its own, really. I guess that just shows us how much a show like this really had. And yet, it lived a life so short.

Dollhouse: Giving back

KT is sorry to see the show go, but loved its finale.  Raked will be posting her thoughts on the episode later today.

DOLLHOUSE:  2.13 “Epitaph Two: The Return”

I had a few guesses about what we’d see in this episode, both as a sequal to “Epitaph One” and as a series finale — but I was mostly wrong.  “Epitaph Two” covered so much more than I expected.”  (Although, I still don’t really understand why Mag, Zone, and Caroline were climbing to the roof at the end of “Epitaph One.”)

One thing I never wondered about “Epitaph One” was what had happened to Rossum — with the streets of LA looking all Terminator, I guess I figured they would be under the rubble, too.  But as Boyd pointed out in “The Hollow Men,” naturally Rossum would prepare for that sort of hell.  Tuscon’s transformation into Neuropolis, led by Ambrose and Harding was a neat twist, and certainly one I enjoyed.  The chance that Paul and Echo happened to be there just when Mag, Zone, and Caroline were captured bordered on being too convenient, but it was fun anyway.

On the other hand, I expected that there would be more emphasis on the vaccine against imprinting — something mentioned in “Epitaph One” and dealt with in “The Hollow Men.”  I pictured Echo being forced to harvest her own spinal fluid in order to vaccinate her friends.  And I suppose she probably did, in the unseen years, but “Epitaph Two” had higher ambitions.  At the end of “One,” three people climbed into the light; at the end of “Two,” Topher returned light and reason to the world.

In the end, the most nuanced character arc, beginning to end, belonged to Topher.  Despite his early cheerful amorality, he took care with the Claire Saunders imprint so that their difference of opinion would keep actives safer.  His conscience started to prickle, leading to Priya’s cover-up and Tony’s rescue, and a front row seat for the brainpocalypse have led to his madness in “Epitaph One” and sacrifice in “Epitaph Two.”  Oh, Topher.

Alpha’s redemption on the other hand, is a surprise twist, with a ten years’s blank to fill in as we choose.  I’m sure he’s had many adventures.

It may have been helped along by the presence of a non-psychopathic Alpha, but Victor and Sierra were giving me some major Wash-and-Zoe vibes — just something emotionally real about them, despite their very unreal scenerio and history.  I knew, immediately, that the boy would be their son, and I’m glad they were all standing at the end.  Priya’s had enough tragedy — she deserves a chance for love and family and happiness.

I guess we all knew that someone would fall, though, and in Whedon’s worlds — as in ours — not every death is meaningful.  This time it was Paul who didn’t make it through, and the Echo/Priya scene in which a conversation about Victor suddenly becomes a conversation about Paul was beautifully done.  Echo’s reunion with him inside her own head raises some odd questions about how her various personalities can interact, but regardless of how that works, there’s a poetic beauty about Alpha leaving the Paul wedge for Echo to find.  The package itself looked just like the envelopes he sent Paul at the beginning of the series — the ones with hints about Caroline.  Now, despite his own love for Echo and his anger in “A Love Supreme,” Alpha gives Echo the man she loves.

But even with the mass un-wiping, there’s plenty of room to wonder how humanity comes back from the brink (and heck, there’s the potential for a whole new series right there).  Adelle has her work cut out for her.  But at last, she can tell herself that she is helping people — and it won’t be just a rationalization.

A Dollhouse Retrospective

KT takes a moment to look back.

As you’ve probably noticed, we’re big Dollhouse fans here at Raked, and I’ll be the first to admit that the show has taken up a large enough chunk of real estate in my imagination that it’s easy to forget that the show premiered less than a year ago.  Remember this?  Aww, how cute and excited we were.  And I know I’m waiting with baited breath for tonight’s series finale.

As Dollhouse fans, you could say we’ve had a rocky time of it.  Certainly the show hasn’t been perfect, and we’ve met a compelling bunch of character who are leaving all too soon.  So before we get our last look at the Dollhouse’s future in “Epitaph Two,” let’s take a moment to look back at our Year of the Dollhouse.

There were moments of glory.  Topher’s brand of Joss-speak has been a joy to chuckle over.  His awkward romance with Bennett was so sweet and his birthday party with Sierra in “Haunted” was probably the silliest, yet most poignant sequence the series has offered.

Echo was not often a highlight for me in season 1, but I very much enjoyed her in “Spy in the House of Love.”   She had developed enough self-awareness to offer her services to Topher, and her investigations as Sherlock Echo were cleverly written.  And I’ve just loved Echo since about “Meet Jane Doe” — she’s become deep and soulful as well as badass.

A definite highlight: Enver Gjokaj and his masterful ability to slip in and out of a character.  I will definitely be interested in his next projects.

And yet, a  person always has some nitpicks.  For me, the glimpses of Caroline in season 1 don’t always seem like the same person as the Caroline we seen in season 2.  Boyd’s speechifying scene with Adelle, Topher, and Echo in “The Hollow Men,” struck me as… well, hollow.  And there’s something distressing about the way the end of season 2 has become a massive effort to prevent “Epitaph One” — to keep the tech from getting out and being abused — when part of the point of the show is that the tech is already being abused right there in the Dollhouse.  Adelle’s rationale about helping people is also hollow.  Also, despite what I said earlier about Topher’s Joss-speak: “man reaction.”  Just not a huge fan of that one.

Lastly (pending, of course, the contents of “Epitaph Two”), there are some things I’ll always wonder:

If everyone in the Dollhouse has compromised morals, what did Adelle do?  Or sweet little Ivy?

Who was Whiskey’s original self?

What was the full story on Boyd, really?  Season 1 gave us all those “ex-cop” hints, and clearly he’s got the skills (not to mention the resources to cover up Nolan’s murder).  But now he founded Rossum in the early ‘90s with Clyde Randolph?  Something’s missing from this puzzle.

All that of course only scratches the surface!  What are some of your highlights, nitpicks, and burning questions?

One season for Whedon?

With the end of Dollhouse looming, commenter CS lent us his thoughts on Joss Whedon–past, present, and future–for a Raked guest post.

And so this Friday, as we say farewell to all of our friends at the Dollhouse, it’s time to take a look back and revisit Joss Whedon’s television career. And, as self-proclaimed fans, to suck it up and admit to ourselves that maybe Joss’s creations aren’t built as well for TV as we tend to think they are. Now I’m not about to start bashing Whedon, as I’m a genuine fan of his work. In my opinion, the four series he’s created have been among the best on TV.

But let’s take an unbiased and complete look at his run on TV thus far: two successes followed by two premature cancellations. Which of these pairs is the exception to the Whedon rule? As fans, we all want to say it’s the cancellations and that given another chance, Whedon will prove the naysayers wrong. But maybe it’s not that he’s had a bad run of luck lately, so much as he had a run of good luck at the beginning. Not that Buffy and Angel didn’t deserve their success. They did. But both these shows had some help starting out. Due to its movie beginnings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was somewhat of a household name before it began. It was also a show about teens on a fairly new network that had just begun building its schedule around teen shows. Not to mention that it debuted at a time when networks were more prone to give a show a chance to build an audience. As for Angel, it was a spin-off of a very successful show with a strong and loyal fan base. It brought that audience with it and kept them by not straying too far from its monster hunting roots.

Firefly and Dollhouse didn’t have these same advantages. Whedon’s name, of course, brought in the faithful, but new viewers were tougher to find. Neither show was given a real chance to develop an audience, and we now have to come to terms with the idea that Whedon isn’t going to get a fair chance at that from the networks. Firefly had 14 episodes televised out of order. Dollhouse had a midseason start, a renewal that admittedly occurred out of fear of fan retaliation, and an early cancellation resulting in what could be considered a rush to the finale.

So we ask, how can Whedon continue to present his ideas on TV and still have everything he wants told? As a creator or as fans, we all just want a complete story, right? No missing parts. No unanswered questions. But when networks have no patience and no faith, how can this be accomplished?

Here’s my thought: Maybe Joss needs to begin creating and developing his series more in the vein of certain anime series, such as Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo, selling to networks what would be a complete single season series. Within that single season you’d get a complete story, beginning to definite end, with no intent for follow-ups (except potentially an occasional movie or miniseries). There’d still be fan hype, a built in cult following, and big DVD sales based on Whedon’s involvement. Both network and fans would benefit from a more compact and concentrated series with more quickly paced plot development and fewer but higher quality filler episodes. Many series hold off or space out certain events because they are plotting later seasons as they write the current one. There’s no need to do that when you know your series will be completed by episode 22. Consider if Dollhouse had employed this idea. If the series had been intended to only last one full season, we’d still have the same beginning and same end to the series, but the show likely would’ve been stronger with better planning and pacing, while still having approximately the same number of episodes. The standout episodes would still stand out, but each episode on average would quite possibly be of higher quality.

The argument still remains, of course, that a network would still attempt to cancel a show at midseason. But I’d like to imagine they’d think twice knowing the show would be gone at the end of the season anyways, with its story finished and ready for DVD sales. But maybe that’s just me being hopeful.

Your thoughts?

Recap Review: Buffy’s Ubervamp

The Ubervamp

Perhaps it’s because of the major vampire craze that’s going around, but lately I’ve thought about the Ubervamp, a super form of vampire that appeared in Buffy‘s seventh season. There’s one thing that’s bugged me. We’ll get to that.

In case you’re wondering, the Ubervamp (if you haven’t seen him) ain’t pretty. And he ain’t alone. There are hundreds of them (at least). And while they might not be the big bad of the season, they certainly are a badass minion that does a lot of damage.

Honestly, the first Ubervamp we saw kicked Buffy’s ass hardcore, making her basically a giant bruisy pulp. Even her super speedy healing didn’t help her out with that matchup.

And the Potentials new it. They certainly couldn’t face an Ubervamp if Buffy couldn’t. And it took Buffy a few tries to finally defeat the beast.

Which brings me to my question: If that’s the case, then how did the Potentials–even with their newly acquired Slayer powers–kill so many Ubervamps in the last battle?

Now, I’m a huge fan of Whedon, and I’ll follow his stories for quite a while, but I never really got over this small little hole in logic. True, they had been trained, but if the veteran Slayer (Buffy) needed a few tries to get it right, how did they fall in line so quickly–and so successfully?

Ok, it wasn’t all successful. A lot of them died in the process and now live in a giant crater that is/was Sunnydale. But for those survivors, and even others before they died, got some good Ubervamp carnage in…and it just bugs me.

So maybe some of you other Buffy fans can help me out with this. What do you think? I mean, even Dawn was getting some Ubervamp killing in. Dawn.

Dawn.

And that’s just wrong.

image from photobucket.com