Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Reaper, "Episode IV: A New Hope": Right back where we started from

Brief spoilers for the "Reaper" season two premiere coming up just as soon as I call Senor Trampoline...

I expressed some of my concerns about the premiere (and the season's third episode, which the CW also sent out for review) in yesterday's column, so I want to focus on a few specific points here:

• I don't like the way so much of the premiere feels like hitting the re-set button to the dreary early episodes from last season: escaped souls with no personality, Sam again keeping secrets from Andi, etc.

• At the same time, I don't like that they've apparently changed their minds on how ambiguous they want to be about Sam's parentage, what Sam believes about it, what the Devil wants to say, etc. I mean, you could read Sam's conversation with the Devil as still ambiguous, in that Satan never comes right out and says he's Sam's dad, but he comes a helluva lot closer than he did at the end of last season.

• On the plus side, Sock's Brady Bunch problem with his cute new stepsister was well-played by Tyler Labine, and Ray Wise continues to be genius. His delivery of the line about radishes was hilarious.

• Those two performances and two outstanding music choices -- The Hold Steady's "Constructive Summer" (which is all about getting drunk when you're supposed to be getting stuff done) over the all-night kegger montage, and Joe Esposito's "You're the Best" (aka the awesome montage song from "The Karate Kid") over the Devil's latest attempt to taunt Sam -- just barely give me hope that the rest of the show will come back up to par, but overall, not a good start.

What did everybody else think?


Bill said...

I've come to the conclusion that I'll watch this show as long as Ray Wise is on it. But you know, the train of thought leading to that conclusion would never leave the station if not for the number of episodes that seem a little directionless ... and for a season premiere, this really didn't have much punch.

Is it wrong that I wanted Sock to succeed with his stepsister? Can I defend myself by saying it's because that type of subplot -- both the "oh no I'm attracted to a sort-of-relative" subplot and, more broadly, the "this subplot can only resolve in one way" subplot -- comes up so often that, you know, once in a while I want Chandler to actually move to Yemen?

I'll keep watching, but I'll keep thinking "I like these ingredients, so what's wrong with this sandwich?"

jcpdiesel21 said...

I'm a little frustrated with how dumb Sam can be. Why in the world did he give the vessel so willingly to that guy who admitted that he got out of his contract with the Devil? Talk about gullible.

I like this show, but I think it could be a lot better with a bit more direction. The second half of last season had some really interesting storylines that re-energized the show. This premiere doesn't give me a lot of hope.

I adored Ray Wise's dance to "You're the Best" in front of the car. It was so goofy.

dez said...

I thought it was mostly enjoyable, though it petered out a little at the end. Sam was too gullible, but it sets up an interesting story arc, so I'm good with it.

Anonymous said...

If you know your 80's Kay Parker porn, you know the riff played as Sock was going to meet his stepsister in the bedroom. lol

I missed the show a lot and therefore enjoyed the heck out it.

Teev said...

It was fun watching that "You're the Best" clip now that I know that Cobra Ki were the real heroes of the Karate Kid.

spiderpig said...

I really liked this episode because of Ben and Sock. Those guys really bring the funny. From them reading their fake letter "I would like to talk to you about feelings" to Ben's holding his hand up for a High-five when Sock was going upstairs to "help" his stepsister.

But even Sam was likeable this time. He came up with a way to capture all those souls without using brawn. But most importantly, he now has hope which I thought he played perfectly in that last scene showing just how happy he was. The show was getting to be such a downer because as Sam put it his situation was "hopeless" and I could even see why he'd never be able to be together with Andi. At least now he has found a possible way to get out of his deal with the Devil and I like that direction for the show.

Anonymous said...

I think this show does not get enough credit for the physical comedy. Sam swinging on the fire hose and Sock flinging his step sister onto the floor were both hilarious moments.

Tracey said...

Hmn... I've been very eager to see this show come back, but this ep was a little disappointing. The show was firing all cylinders in the last few eps of the first season, and this ep just seemed to be coasting.

I see why you asked previously where they had left the question of "is Sam the son of Satan". At the end of last season, there was certainly no question in my mind that the devil was Sam's father -- "don't ask because I'll lie to you and I don't want to do that" certainly seemed clear enough to me. But the devil never actually admitted it, and it seemed very odd for the devil to so casually say it in this episode, talking about Sam's use of nepotism, about how many children he has fathered and they're all duds and you'll be a dud too... all the wonderful subtlety was gone.

I know a lot of people liked the stuff with Sock lusting after his new stepsister, but it kind of skeeved me out.

Other than that... still lots of good stuff here. Blackmailing Ted was awesome. Loved the way Sam got the cattle prod to work on them all at once. Loved the whole mission-impossible/sugar-plum-fairy business in fact. The pull-back to reveal that Sam's pentagram is a Magen David ... mazel tov.

Is it just me (yes, I read the other comments first, hee hee) or does anybody else suspect that the last guy didn't actually get out of a contract with the devil. It looked to me like the cattle prod hadn't recharged at the time Sam hit the last guy, and the last guy was faking him out claiming that he got out of his contract. After all, he called Sam a sucker (or something like that) in the end. I'll have to go back through my recording on this one, but I'm pretty sure I saw the thing turn from red to green after Sam stopped prodding him.

dez said...

But the devil never actually admitted it, and it seemed very odd for the devil to so casually say it in this episode, talking about Sam's use of nepotism, about how many children he has fathered and they're all duds and you'll be a dud too... all the wonderful subtlety was gone.

Given that this is the Devil we're dealing with, I wouldn't take anything he says at face value. He could easily be encouraging Sam's belief because, as he said, the nepotism thing showed moral weakness in Sam, and the Devil's all about moral weakness. There's more than one way for the Devil to claim Sam's soul, contract or no.

captcha "trich" = games German people play

Lance said...

I was amused by Sock, Ben, and the Devil, but wasn't terribly impressed with anything else. The MOTW were particularly bland. Still, all they have to do to keep me coming back is continue to make Ray Wise dance to 80s tunes. I laughed something fierce at him rocking out there at the end. Good times.

Tyroc said...

I really liked it. And I agree that Sock tossing his step-sister off the bed was hilarious (and so wrong.)

While the show will never reach the heights of Lost or Battlestar, its a really entertaining hour and hope it stays on a long time (which seems unlikely but hopefully can go to SciFi or ABC Family.)

drake lelane said...

Great catch on the Kay Parker riff, Anon1. Parker's 'Taboo' series was famous for it's depiction of incest, so it was even more apt a reference. And a pretty ballsy (if obscure) one at that.

Tracey said...

@Dez: True, he could be messing with Sam, but I preferred the way it went last season: Sam asking the devil if Beelzababe was his daughter, the devil smirking and saying "no," things like that. FYI: your captcha was my network login! (first intial, first four letters of last name)

spiderpig said...

@Tracey - I don't think that guy who said he beat the Devil was faking because he didn't die the first time Sam zapped all of them and he was standing in the water with the rest of them. Plus, Sam zapped him a few times afterwards. He's got a secret he's not telling as to how he got out of the deal.

Maybe an angel pulled him out like Dean on Supernatural? :)

P.S. And speaking of Supernatural, why don't you review that show Alan? It's teh awesome!

Wiz said...

But why the title of "Episode IV: A New Hope"? I am totally searching for Star Wars parallels -- but can't find any. Although Ben makes a great C3P0 type.

drake lelane said...

RE: Star Wars

If we assume Ben is Luke, and the Devil is Darth Vader, perhaps Andi is indeed Princess Leia, and is also progeny of old scratch (ie, the real beelzababe).

You might recall her mother, who we saw ever so briefly last year (episode 1.05,) was played by Battlestar Galactica's Jill Teed (Sergeant Hadrian), and it seemed at the time like there was something fishy about her as well.

Probably nothing more than a far-fetched notion, but it's entertaining to theorize (while I wait for Lost...)

dez said...

I don't think that guy who said he beat the Devil was faking because he didn't die the first time Sam zapped all of them and he was standing in the water with the rest of them.

Wasn't he standing on a box, elevated from the water?

@Tracey--I wonder if the Devil is making up these captchas? If so, Ed Gies is in trouble :-D

HautieTx said...

I was so happy to have this show back... I am so tired of all the medical & cop drama's I watch.

Odd thing is I did not recall that Sam's father had died. I thought the last season had ended with the Devil killing off the demons. Makes me wonder if I missed the last show. I hate when I am completely blank on a important fact.

So my question would be... how did Sam's father die?

Yemaya said...

I liked it. I've been looking forward to its return and I enjoyed it. The only thing that bothered me was: in the past, hasn't the devil always known everything that everyone else was up to, unless they were in a circle (or something like that)? In that case, wouldn't he have known what played out between the Sam and the soul? So why did he act like he didn't? And that is one thing that does bother me about the show, cause if he does knows everything, nobody can beat him.
Favourite lines:
Ben: She's hot!
Sock: Dude, that's my sister - I've got first dibs!

Alan Sepinwall said...

So my question would be... how did Sam's father die?

He didn't, but Sam thinks he was buried alive. Somehow -- possibly because he's a demon -- he was fine and dandy when Sam's mom came to dig him up.

Always Leaves a Note said...

Tracey, I agree...I just watched it, and the button on the cattle prod definitely looked red to me when he tried to zap Beat the Devil guy standing on a box.

While there were a lot of hilarious elements to this ep--Senior Trampoline, the Beer Baby/Leprechaun in a bib, "Your pentagram is really a Star of David"...somehow it didn't add up to a major laff fest.

Maybe because it seemed as though approximately 50% of the whole show was commercials? The pacing was off, or something...

And yeah, not like my memory's the best, but I thought last year Sam's mom went and unburied the dad.

spiderpig said...

But why the title of "Episode IV: A New Hope"?

Because Sam now has a new hope (like I said in a previous post Sam initially thought it was all hopeless)! That small glimmer of hope is the guy that said he "beat the devil". So now Sam has hope he can get out of his deal also and live a "normal" life. All he has to do is track him down and make him talk.

amadis said...

I was really disappointed with how they decided to continue with the "Sam is the Devil's son" storyline. It wasn't really a reset, more of a complete missed opportunity in milking the aftermath of Sam finding out. At the end of last season, they built it up as this big reveal and then the premier comes along and . . . well, nothing. We never see Sam's reaction at the realization. Where's the scene where he freaks out? Where's the scene where he confronts the Devil? Hell, where's the scene where he questions his mom about the whole mess? Instead the writers just skipped over all that juicy goodness and Sam is at the complete acceptance point and we're back to the no personality, escaped soul of the week plotline. What a waste.

Despite that, there were a lot of other things I did really enjoy, like the new step-sister story, Sock and Ben being awesome, Ray Wise. I'm just worried that this show hasn't really figured out what saved it from being a funny, but ultimately forgettable show last season.

Jon Delfin said...

I gather they've just disappeared Josie? Or might she be at least spoken of at some point?

Pirate Alice said...

I liked the episode. It was totally fun. My favorite part was when Sock called Sam "Samalamadingdong" Since that's what I've been calling my little sister (also Sam) since she was a kid. I laughed out loud at that.

Tom said...

I really enjoyed the first episode. I don't really mind the writers concentrating on the funny stuff for a premier, because they do need to appeal to new viewers. Getting too wrapped up in last season's plot on a show with relatively low ratings can be alienating.

I have to say that I honestly really like this show. I think it's spectacular.