Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reaper, "Cancun": A death in the family?

"Reaper" season finale spoilers coming up just as soon as I get rid of a mold stain...

Hmmm... I'm a little conflicted on how that all played out.

On the one hand, the finale introduced a whole bunch of interesting new angles for season two: Sam is now marked for death (or worse) by all the non-Tony rebel demons, Sam believes his father to be dead even though his father somehow (by being a demon himself?) survived being buried alive, Sam is either the harbinger of the Apocalypse or an important part of God's plan, etc. To trot out the now inevitable "Buffy" comparisons, this is the sort of territory that "Buffy" was heading into by the end of its uneven first season, which led to its kick-ass second season.

On the other hand, I don't know that this show, with this particular assemblage of talent in front of and behind the camera, is really up for much weightier material. Bret Harrison's a talented comic actor, but he doesn't seem up for the more serious moments, as evidenced by how flat the few scenes were in between the apparent death of Sam's dad and the revelation that he was alive and well. I don't know if that's on Harrison, or on the producers not wanting to go to a very dark place knowing that, within minutes, they'd be telling us that it all was a lie, but Sam seemed mildly bummed-out, at best, at the thought that his father (biological or adopted, he was still Sam's dad) was dead, that he was now Demon Enemy #1, that he could be Satan's son, etc. The idea to have Sock try to help Sam cope with his grief in the only way he knew how -- acting juvenile and blowing stuff up -- could have been both funny and moving at the same time if the moments leading up to it seemed more tragic, but instead it came across like the show itself only knows how to deal with tragedy by being juvenile and blowing stuff up.

I remain glad that the show got renewed and will be back at midseason, and that Fazekas, Butters and company got away from the tedious Soul of the Week format that was killing the show in the early going. I just wonder if they've maybe bit off more than they can chew here.

What did everybody else think?

20 comments:

kwig said...

I was expecting a third nipple moment when they went to see the Tarot reader, this being a Kevin Smithish joint and all. But I guess the psychics in Seattlecouver are classier than the ones in Jersey ;)

Bill said...

To continue the Buffy comparison, Buffy was often the least interesting character on that show, the center of a group of more interesting supporting characters (and maybe generally stronger actors, although I've got nothing against SMG). I don't know if *this* group holds up against *that* group, but figuring out what to do with Missy Peregrym would help, and so would involving demon society more. I'd love to see Jeff Kober on a regular basis, and I think this show could do a much better job with the "supernatural subculture" elements than the Buffyverse did (it was interesting on an episode-by-episode basis on Angel but inconsistent and sketchy overall, while Buffy seemed to take place in a completely different California where demons played out afterschool special allegories).

I definitely like it a lot more than other recent shows of its stripe, but I also don't feel compelled to seek out the episodes I missed in the middle of the season, and I don't know I would have made it this far if not for Ray Wise.

the2scoops said...

I'm feeling optimistic about the next season (assuming the CW survives another year), and am curious about casting changes - Sock's ex-girlfriend was seen less and less in the second half of the season, Sam's brother went the way of Chuck Cunningham.

I'd love to see Curtis Armstrong pop up again in a manger's role at the workbench, and Lord knows I wouldn't be unhappy if Candyse McClure popped up more often. Maybe we'll see Angels playing more of a role in the year to come as well.

All in all, way to shake off the first half of the season and drop the Soul of the Week that made the beginning of Smallville so weak.

Mrglass said...

I was bugged by the last few minutes and Sam's (lack of) reaction to his father being buried alive. It is a shame, because otherwise this episode was very good and funny.

Reaper is not Buffy, a show that lived by teen angst. At its best, it is goofy and campy, closer to Scooby-Doo.

There was actually a Soul of the Week in this episode, but blink and you miss it. Let's hope the writers get rid of those Souls (along with the annoying vessel "fights") next year because they really don't bring much.

Anonymous said...

Funny, but this episode seemed like a Good Omen to me. Heh.

Eric said...

One thing that struck me is the fact that demons can make it (back) into heaven (Buffy: Heeeeea-vun) could be a game-changer. It's a possible secondary mission for Sam, to help redeem demons who want to change, rather than just send the most evil back to Hell. And the fact that Tony felt he needed to save Sam but not his father to keep his shot at redemption points to Sam's father being a demon, or something of that sort.

I'd still like to see Sam encounter another Reaper, or an ex-Reaper who "Knows How it All Works." Steve and Tony served some of that purpose, but they had their own agenda and perspective that limited how much information they doled out to Sam. Andi could even serve this purpose to an extent - she seems to have more interest in the rules and structure of Hell than any of the boys. She could turn into early-years Willow- chief researcher.

Rain said...

I can't really remember, but wasn't the whole selling of Sam's soul to the devil thing supposed to be to save Sam's dad's life? So, perhaps the same hold true, although the real truth is that the parents agreed to give birth to the son of Satan in exchange for Sam's (non-bio) dad's life, with the result that he is now immortal?

Tracey said...

I liked this episode a lot. It pretty definitively answered the "is he or isn't he" question (at least, the demons certainly thought that his little trick with the falling object definitively answered the question ... but maybe the devil gave Sam that power to screw with the demons), and opened up all sorts of new ideas for next season. It looks like they plan to move away from the soul-of-the-week plots (the devil tells Sam to take some time off) and into the idea of demons-out-to-get-Sam.

I definitely did not like the way they had Sam react to his father's death. Fireworks? Really? No sadness, no nothing. I mean, maybe Sam has some bitterness about his father lying to him all his life, about his father not telling him he's adopted, but still... as far as Sam knows, his father died trying to save his life. That deserves more than a juvenile display of explosives. I do, however, like the way they skipped over Sam telling his mom. They do that a lot in this series, and I really like that. It feels so very bad-fanfic-ish to have a drawn-out scene where characters tell other characters things that the audience already knows, and yet it happens on TV all the time. Reaper usually avoids that trap.

Is Sam's father a demon? I don't think so, because we saw that Steve and Tony had to file down their horns every day; Sam certainly would have noticed that growing up! Or would have recognized the sound as familiar! I think maybe Sam's father is a soul escaped from Hell... or rather, a soul on a work release program from Hell, "working" as a surrogate father for Sam.

FYI: I don't think they've forgotten about Sam's brother. I could have sworn that I saw his picture on the table behind the father at one point. It occurs to me that the brother might not be entirely normal either, given whatever it is that Sam's father is (and perhaps his mother too).

Steven said...

The big revelations would have played out better had they not been dealt with so perfunctorily. As it was, the only real moving scene in the whole episode was Tony finding out Steve got into heaven. ("It's even better than Cancun!")

And my word, did the rest of the episode fail miserably. The soul of the week got a grand total of one brief scene; Andi is still a total pushover; and the succubus thing allowed Sock to operate at his loudest--which wasn't exactly much different than normal Sock.

Alan, I agree with you that Buffy season 2 was fantastic, and I dearly hope that Reaper follows suit, but I'm not exactly confident it will. By the end of its first season, Buffy had a clearly established, sympathetic stable of secondary characters, to say nothing of the strength of Whedon's vision. Reaper doesn't any of that.

the2scoops said...

Anon: Good call on "Good Omens" - the show could benefit by heading a bit more into the direction of that novel.

So Sam's dad is... something. What if Sam is something else - what if we find out one of his folks is a demon, the other an angel? Not sure how it would fit into the series, but it's a direction. (Sam as hybrid).

Alan Sepinwall said...

(at least, the demons certainly thought that his little trick with the falling object definitively answered the question ... but maybe the devil gave Sam that power to screw with the demons)

Sam's had those telekinetic powers since the pilot, though they've appeared -- and worked -- irregularly. When Sam used them to save Andi from being crushed by a falling appliance crate, the Devil told him the TK powers and the opportunity to use them in such heroic fashion was "my gift to you."

Mike Mac said...

I was actually pretty pleased with the finale overall, with the exception of the lack of emotional depth starting around the midpoint. I don't think Reaper will ever achieve the status of a truly dramatic show, but I don't believe that this is their intention anyway.

A few things they did well, though... Andi finally managed to drum up some personality and even demonstrated her intelligence and understanding for the first time I can recall on the show. Of course, the producers robbed her of any possible good will after the 'death' of Sam's father with that horrid scene in the restaurant/bar where she and Sam were sitting and talking as if it was his goldfish that was just buried.

Sock (and then, regretablly, Ben) having demon-related storylines that didn't involve Sam... how great a supporting actor is Labine? The succubus was a great way to suck the secondary characters into an otherwise lonesome plot, and I wish they would have done more with this, or at least introduced the succubus an episode earlier to give that story time to really breathe and grow.


The throw-away comment Tony made about Sam's powers, though, and how he 'can't control them yet', was the signal that there is much more to come. I think the strike really limited what this show intended (not that it was on a great run from the get-go) but a few episodes have touched on the idea that Sam does have some powers that have not been fully revealed to us (or to him, for that matter). I would like to see a REAPER where Sam kicks a little more ass, Sock is a little more grounded and gets his own stuff to deal with, Ben stops playing the rag doll, Andi gets more to do and doesnt have to play damsel in distress, and, mostly, they return to the idea that, quite frankly, being a reaper for the devil is funny, wild, risky and occasionally takes a toll on its characters. We've had two fake deaths in two weeks, and zero emotinal resonance... underambitious, but still showing enough promise that I'm optimistic for a season two.

David said...

I agree with everyone about Sam's carefree attitude regarding his father's death being off-putting.

The question is his father said he could not reveal anything or it would all come crashing down (or something to that effect). However, since the Devil allowed Sam to read the entire contract, and only because Sam is lazy and/or stupid, he chose not to read it, the answer regarding his lineage should be allowed to be revealed.

That First Andrew said...

The idea of the father dying would have had so much more impact if we had seen or heard from him since around episode 5 when we saw him burning pages of the contract.

Do you think this breakup for Sock and Josie means we won't have to see her anymore? That would be pretty dope...

I think Sam's father's "immortality" has to be a sort of side effect of the deal with Satan. Maybe it is that they raise a half Devil (or Demon, or perhaps Angel) child, so that the Devil can turn him to the dark side (as he has been trying to do all along) in exchange for the father living. The catch (there's always a catch, dammit!) would be that once the Devil has achieved this, the father dies. More like a bet than a bargain...

This was the first time someone besides Sam used the vessel, correct? Am I the only one who was struck by that?

We need more Ben. He is easily the MVP of this show. From how he feels in bike shorts to the expression on his face when Sock was propositioning the succubus, he is always the strongest part of the trio.

So your father dies trying to protect you from demons and you have to tell your mother her husband of 30 years is dead. What do you do next? Grab a drink with your ladyfriend, of course! And when your buddies swing by and say "Come with us," you tell her not to come and you do a happy dance in the parking lot of your job while a prop model from the Wicker Man remake shoots off pinwheels?

Am I the only one that hopes the ghost of Michael Ian Black becomes a regular character? Tony is pretty good, and the two of them were the first signs of life the program had shown in a while. I just love him when he busts out the soft, delicate voice and the personable gay stereotype. That hush, whispered "It's even better than Cancun..." was dynamite.

Despite the compaints, it was a damn good episode that left me really wanting to see what happens next.

Tracey said...

"the Devil told him the TK powers and the opportunity to use them in such heroic fashion was "my gift to you.""

...and you believed what the devil said? ;)

"since the Devil allowed Sam to read the entire contract, and only because Sam is lazy and/or stupid, he chose not to read it..."

I thought they said that the contract was written in Latin? At the very least, it was written in legalese. And Sam didn't choose not to read it; he trusted his father to understand it better than he could. How was he supposed to know that his father was going to trick him?

daveawayfromhome said...

The Devil knew that the demons were going to use the cage, and Sam's dad showed up out there on his own. How did he know where to go? And Sam's mom went to the site where her husband was buried with a shovel, and when found, he said, "what took you so long?" I suspect that there was some collusion with the Devil in the actions of the parents, and I worry that the whole heaven thing with Steve may be a trick of some sort.

david said...

Tracey-

The point regarding the contract was that clearly the Devil would have allowed Sam to know the truth if he could read the contract....which means his father was lying to him, which means he should be allowed to reveal it.

Kevin said...

The one great thing about this episode was Sock was actually funny rather than annoying.

I'm not getting how the cage works. The Son of the Devil couldn't escape it, but his non-biological ordinary demon father can?

I'm also thinking that Sam's father's deal with the devil has a provision that involves an impossibly hip haircut on a normal suburban dad.

Anthony Foglia said...

@Kevin said, I'm not getting how the cage works. The Son of the Devil couldn't escape it, but his non-biological ordinary demon father can?

When Tony rescued Sam, he ripped the top off the cage. It's lying on the ground next to hole as they fly away. The other demons probably didn't bother putting it back on when their prey escaped.

I think the demons-out-to-get-Sam can really help the show. What made Buffy more than just a monster of the week, was the recurring villians, the (half-)season long plots and machinations. Introducing recurring villians (as long as they don't appear as inept as Wile E. Coyote) can only help.

But yeah, this show isn't as deep as Buffy, and in the final act it really showed.

Michaela said...

So at some point, they've got to introduce someone as God, don't they...?