Sunday, January 18, 2009


As I said in my last blog about Demons - I hope it will get better.

I am still hoping. In fact this third episode, broadcast last night on ITV and available via their itvPlayer, was considerably worse. I shall explain.

This blog will completely spoil the episode for you if you haven't seen it because I will be going into detail about the plot. Of course I say "spoil" in the technical meaning of "give away important plot details" rather than spoil your enjoyment, which would be hard unless you have the artistic discernment of a flea.

The key sequence in this episode is the "time bomb". The good guys are tricked into allowing the bad girl, Grace, into the "Stacks", the repository of all knowledge about demons. Galvin and Luke are tricked into going somewhere else and being trapped in a sewer that's filling with unpleasantness. Grace knocks out Mina and opens the door for Mr Tibbs, he comes in, sets up a time bomb. Shoots Grace dead and leaves. (Why not shoot Mina while he's at it?)

Now, in principle, this is fine. There is one good guy still floating around, one that Mr Tibbs doesn't know about: Ruby.

I suspect you are not going to believe what happens next, but this is actually how it goes:

Mr Tibbs has set the bomb timer to 50 minutes. What? How long is it going to take him to get clear? Maximum 15 minutes more realistically 5, but 50? Insane.

Ruby has been taking her time, for various stupid plot reasons (I'll mention those later), and when she arrives 37 minutes have passed on the time bomb, 13 left.

Now, let's consider her options:

a. Run away by herself and get help.
b. Drag out Mina (conveniently still unconscious) and save them both.
c. Take the bomb and try to get rid of it.

She doesn't do any of these sane things. Instead she:

d. Looks for books on bomb-disposal. Eventually finds one. Reads it. Finds the bit about disarming a bomb. The book claims you always cut the red wire, but oh no! there is no red wire, just green and blue.

So she then wastes the next few minutes worrying about it. And then her final decision is to cut the green wire when there is 1 second to spare. Essentially she is committing suicide - unless it works. Which, of course, it does. (Oh she spends some of that time leaving Luke a message saying she loves him.)

Re-reading this it comes over as more dramatic than it actually was - that's because I encapsulated it in a couple of paragraphs whereas it took ages on screen. There were plenty of ways that this could have been made genuinely dramatic with real tension - we discussed at least three different ways after watching it. (Including one that wouldn't increase the production cost.)

As it was, it was garbage. This is an object lesson in how not to write tension, and how to utterly abuse the viewers' willing suspension of disbelief. It was offensive.

Speaking of offensive. Galvin and Luke are trapped in the sewer drowning in offensive substances. Now it would be totally obvious to absolutely anybody that this was a trap. I have no problem with heroes walking into traps in order to deliberately spring them and catch the bad guy. Unfortunately there wasn't the slightest hint that our two heroes were being even slightly cautious. Frankly it served them right.

Meanwhile Mina miraculously wakes up the very moment that the bomb fails to go off. Seriously. She and Ruby realise what's going on and head off to rescue the other two.

Now there is some genuine tension, a little bit, where the girls are figuring out which switch to flick to save the boys from drowning but they manage it and everybody survives. Phew. Even that could have been done better: You only have to ask: what would Joss Whedon have done?

(If it had been me I would have had the girls arrive too late, and the boys have apparently drowned, but no: Luke realised you could use the bodies of their torches as makeshift snorkels.)

The dialogue in this episode was appalling, especially the "funny lines" that Ruby was parroting while in the library trying to find the bomb-disposal book. In fact these lines were so un-funny that I did not even understand them until someone explained.

Let's look at the stupid plot reasons why Ruby took her time going to the Stacks. She is in love with Luke (he doesn't know). But she has decided that she's going to stop being his friend because it's too dangerous.

Why does she think this? Because early on she is given a gun to shoot demons, but when it happens she freezes and can't do it. Thing is she is being physically attacked at the time by four of them, she has the gun in her hand. As my 11 year old son said "Wouldn't she just pull the trigger?" Of course she would, it would be hard not to, and there was little chance of missing.

But she doesn't. So she wants to quit. (Plot over character here.) She takes ages going to the Stacks because she's going over what she's going to say to Luke. Obviously there was the idea that there would be tension because she's taking her time, and we know there's a bomb. It doesn't work.

Part of this sub-plot is how Galvin insists that you can't mix a relationship with being a demon-killer (I refuse to call them "smiters"). This is because Galvin's wife was killed by Mr Tibbs. Both Luke and Ruby see that this is true.

Really? If that is so how come Luke even exists? Obviously his father couldn't have had a relationship, or his grandfather, and so on. The concept is so stupid that anyone could see through it. But they don't. Now it's fine for Galvin to believe it, he lost his wife, but that's a part of his character and could be used to effect. But that's not how it's played.

It is this kind of show that gives Sci-Fi/Fantasy a bad name. I really hope it can't get any worse, better would be nice.

In case anybody thinks this is just me: The show lost 1,000,000 viewers (17%) between Ep.1 and Ep.2, and initial surveys suggest it lost another 650,000 (13%) between Ep.2 and Ep.3. It started on 5,750,000.

What's on the turntable? "Android Warehouse" by Steely Dan from "Roaring of the Lamb"


laurence timms said...

Last night's ep was the first I'd seen. Not a good place to start.

On balance, I'd rather have been watching The Dukes of Hazzard.

Adaddinsane said...

Perhaps it can only go up from here.


I note the writer of this episode also wrote most of Hex. The director has done shorts and a bit of TV.

You may draw your own conclusions.

Lee said...

I think every episode will be written by ex-Hexers. A quick look at IMDB shows that pretty much the same bunch were responsible for Hex, Merlin and now this.

Merlin was okay, but this was moronic, and doesn't bode well for future genre shows.