Thursday, November 27, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 10

Michael's need to be a white knight is what is behind his interest in Simon. He wants to know who pulled his strings and how he can stop them. He gets what he wants when he arrives at a palatial beachfront mansion where Vaughan and a vast number of armed guards have housed Simon for his meeting with Michael.

I don't know where the CIA have been hiding the dangerous rogue agent, but he hasn't been enjoying it. His face bears the marks of some rather severe beatings. Like many dangerous fictional characters it's obvious that Simon's talents go behind the physical, he achieved academically as a child before covert affairs got hold of him.

He knows he can't give information to Michael while there's a camera in the room, so he breaks his cuffs and launches himself and Michael out the window, using the little time they have to make it look convincing and at the same time tell him where he can find another piece of the puzzle.

While Michael's with Simon, Sam meets an old friend in prison. Juan has served most of his stretch and is due for release, but a prison overlord has targeted him and he doesn't believe he'll live long enough to be freed.

Michael agrees to go into prison and protect Juan, as long as Sam and Fiona go after Simon's clue, which is hidden in a cemetery. When Jesse asks Michael how he's going to get into prison, he answers that there are any number of people who would like to see him behind bars.

I actually thought he may be contacting Paxson to do it for him, but it turns out to be Lane and Harris, still paying off their favour.

Juan's tormentor is both dangerous and well connected, as well as having guards in his debt. It takes a riot and everything Michael has at his disposal to take the guy out and keep Juan alive long enough so that he can be released and rejoin his family.

Fiona finds the retrieval of Simon's package rather difficult as not only is it located in a grave in a historical cemetery with an aged, but vigilant caretaker, but it's also been sealed explosively, and will blow up anyone who tries to get it out of the crypt without knowing what they're doing. Fortunately Fiona has spent enough time working out how to blow things up that she also knows how to disarm almost anything explosive.

What's in the crypt really only brings up more questions and while Simon won't give everything away, he does tell Michael the name of the man who had his leash; a wealthy and highly successful industrialist by the name of John Barrett, who will do almost anything to get hold of Simon's encoded Bible, currently held by Michael.

There's also the revelation that Vaughan is far more involved than he ever let on from a long way back, he also knew about the burning of Jesse and in fact engineered it. A dangerous friend to have and possibly a much worse enemy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 9

There's a storm coming, and I'm not just talking about the weather.

Michael is desperate to find out more about Simon. I must confess to being about as perplexed as Fiona and Sam are on this. Yes, he did bad things and yes he got away with it, but he's not Michael's problem, unless he comes to Miami, and as long as Michael Westen is there he's unlikely to do that. He calls in Vaughan to help him. It's not a good idea to bring Vaughan into home territory, fair enough if he comes himself, but to actually call him. Even Vaughan tells him to leave the Simon thing alone, the only way someone gets into Simon's head is if they let him into theirs and that can create a very dangerous and deadly situation.

Vaughan is to a certain extent playing his own game and he tries to get Fiona onside by offering to give Michael access to Simon and even get Jesse back in if she throws in her lot with the CIA. Fiona refuses, but the knowledge that Vaughan knows so much about Jesse is unsettling. What if he decides to tell Jesse the truth about his burning?

Maddie is meanwhile refusing to leave Miami, despite the tropical hurricane bearing down on the city. She's a Floridian and claims she knows when a hurricane is going to hit and when it's going to be someone else's problem. At times seeing Sharon Gless as Maddie brings up comparisons with Patricia Arquette's turn as Sally, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) Thompson's Floridian girlfriend in HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

Having Maddie stay turns out to be a blessing in disguise when FBI agents Lane and Harris call on Michael. The rather bumbling agents have learned to tolerate Michael and even work with him since their first appearances in Season 1 when Sam was informing on Michael to them. This time they effectively hire him to track down and neutralise a hit man who is trying to kill a witness they want to protect. They pay in favours, not money, though, and having an FBI agent or two in your pocket can be useful.

Michael tracks down the hitter by his gun and he turns out to be a former army bomb disposal expert, who turned to assassination when he got discharged from the army for something he didn't do. Over time Michael and he bond (they have shared experience of the service) and team up to protect the witness from an even more dangerous hit man.

Lane and Harris repay the job by threatening Vaughan. He laughs it off, saying that he could have them both killed if he really wanted, but also winding up on the most wanted list for any period of time would seriously mess up what he does, it would ruin his anonymity if nothing else.

Another storm comes in just after the warning about the first one. It's not called Simon, but it very well may be.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 8

This was the sort of episode where you think you're getting one thing, but wind up with something entirely different.

There are hijinks of two sorts. One is Jesse and Michael getting Maddie to help them steal a safety deposit box. Jesse has really been a bad influence on her.

The other is Sam and Fiona playing Mr and Mrs Finley (Charles and Charlotte) to do security at a party held by a very wealthy individual and his glamorous wife. The husband was played with just enough weasel by Steven Culp, who excels in playing this type of character. He was last seen weaselling in Revolution as a dodgy US general.

Back to the safety deposit box. Maybe I wasn't watching hard enough, but I don't think Jesse really knows why they're even stealing it. Mainly because the information in it relates to Simon and Jesse doesn't know about Simon, because if he did he may eventually link Michael with Vaughan and that would wind up tipping him off about who burned him. The bit at the end when Michael finds information about Simon definitely hints that Jesse doesn't have a clue what's going on.

When Sam and Fiona's security job goes wrong and the wife is kidnapped by a Mexican gang who do this for a living, and Fiona goes with the lady to make sure she's safe, Jesse and Michael drop their other plans and go after Fiona. Maddie is particularly insistent on that score. She's adopted all of Michael's friends and she's particularly tight with Fiona, who she definitely sees as the daughter she always wanted, but never had.

With a little help from her friends Fiona takes care of herself and her fellow kidnappee. Even before she turns the table and the cavalry arrives in the form of Sam, I think the kidnappers were rethinking their choice of target. The audience also found out that you can make a nice miniature incendiary device with an electric light bulb and a small amount of vodka.

The story spices up once Fiona is rescued. She goes straight to Michael and from the look on Jesse's face, he's both surprised and disappointed. I can see why. Every time Michael has been asked about Fiona he's been at pains to say that she is not his girlfriend, but she so is. Maddie also counsels Jesse about that and tells him that the two were made for each other. She does care for Jesse, but she's not letting anything get in between her son and the daughter she's always wanted.

The mention of Simon at the end is mouthwatering.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 7

Another effort by Jesse to find out how he was burned and have it overturned results in a rather sobering experience for Michael.

The gang go to a swanky hotel in Miami because a spy convention is being held there (apparently spies do have conventions) and Jesse wants to see if he can get help from his old boss; Marv, to unburn him. Marv was played by Richard Kind. I first saw Richard Kind as the quirky gynaecologist in Mad About You, but since then he's made a career out of playing the same sort of odd, often hen pecked, or under pressure type of character. He's currently the mayor in Gotham. He does like Jesse, and does wind up having evidence that could alter his burning, unfortunately if it gets out it will lead to Michael and that will not end well. Someone will die and I have the feeling it won't be Michael. At Michael's request Fiona destroys the evidence, but doing so causes a rift between her and Michael, because she's come to feel for Jesse in the time they've known him and he's very much part of the team.

While scoping out the hotel Michael spots a group of Russians who simply scream hit squad to him. They kidnap one of them and find out that they're Spetznaz and are in Miami to kill a former spy with whom they and their government have an issue.

This was Paul Anderson and played by the big guest star Burt Reynolds. The story around Anderson isn't really that important. It gave Reynolds an opportunity to chew the scenery and be effortlessly charming and cool. Burt Reynolds was for many years a Hollywood A lister. These days he appears in the occasional movie or even TV show like this. Although Reynolds never actually played a super spy I felt his casting had some creed, because at one point he was rumoured to have been looked at as a possible James Bond. I think this was in between Connery leaving for the second time (Diamonds are Forever) and hiring Roger Moore (Live and Let Die) as his replacement. I can see why the studio wanted to cast Reynolds, he was big at the time and he would bring a younger audience in as well as a big part of the US market. Conversely I can also see why Cubby Broccoli and Harry Salzmann vetoed the idea. Reynolds is identifiably American and Bond isn't (yes, at the time they hadn't cast a Brit, Connery is a Scot and Lazenby an Australian, but neither were names when they were cast and hadn't been identified by their nationalities), then there was Reynold's height. He's 5'10". Broccoli always saw Bond as at least 6 feet tall. (Interestingly enough Daniel Craig doesn't fit that requirement, but he was never cast by Cubby Broccoli). Of course there was also the moustache. Reynolds is, and was, known for the moustache. Bond could never ever have a moustache.

For Michael looking at Paul Anderson is like seeing himself in 20 years time and I think that's the point the show was trying to make. Michael probably doesn't want to wind up like Anderson, but if he doesn't start making some changes he most definitely will become Paul Anderson.

There was a nice little thing with the Russians about Michael's reputation. He's a sort of bogeyman for them. The stories about him and what he's done have reached mythic proportions. At one stage 4 of them surrender to him without him even having to fire a shot, because there are only 4 of them and he's Michael Westen!

Maddie got to do her spy thing, by accosting a congressman and threatening to make a scene in public unless he went with her to help clear Paul Anderson's name.

Anderson went into a sort of witness protection program with a new name and identity, so that ended happily, although there was a very strong hint at the end that he has Alzheimers.

The spectre of Jesse's burning and Michael's part in it hangs over the heads of everyone else, though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 6

The dynamic of the two teams that the addition of Jesse allows for was altered for this one. Michael and Fiona worked predominantly on the main story, while Sam and Jesse teamed up to interrogate Kendra for information on the overarching story.

The guest cast list for the main story was of interest to me, it featured the name Alan Dale. Alan Dale is an actor from New Zealand, who had success in Australian soap operas before heading overseas, where he's worked fairly steadily playing politicians, senior military officials and hard edged businessmen. Given that before upping stumps and heading for the bright lights of Hollywood, Dale was best known for his role as semi retired suburban engineer Jim Robinson in Neighbours, I always find it odd that he's cast in those roles, because to me he's always Jim from Neighbours. In this he was in his businessman role and he was the guy who had purchased a sword belonging to Alexander the Great that was about to be stolen by someone who had targeted Michael's client.

After nearly killing the client; a rather effeminate, inoffensive character who specialised in making high quality replicas of high priced designer items like shoes (in fact I think Fiona collected their payment in knock off Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks), a few times, it works out that the 'thief' is actually a patsy being used by Alan Dale's character's head of security. In fact both villains in this episode, Kendra being the other, were female, proving that espionage and double crossing is not a male only area.

Kendra is very on edge mentally, prepared to severely injure herself rather than offer up any useful information. She finally tries to turn Jesse, and in return for her release gives him what he wants in terms of information and the promise of significant financial return. That allows Barry access to her finances and she winds up believing she's broke. It also lets Sam give the FBI the details of her activity. They get more pieces of the puzzle and Kendra winds up heading for federal custody. She went down a little easy for mine.

It was a standard episode, but Michael and Fiona did have fun with their part of it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 5

A more traditional sort of episode in terms of structure. Mike works one job, mostly related to tracking down Kendra (the kick ass female assassin) and getting the information that is on the tape they found at the end of the last episode, because it's old tech and no one can crack it. He does some of this with Fiona and some with Sam, I don't recall seeing Jesse involved, and at the same time is white knighting with the rest of the gang.

The main job is protecting a free medical clinic from a nasty drug dealer (played with relish by Rhys Coiro, who will always be maverick avant grade film director Billy Walsh from Entourage to me). Jesse and Maddie actually got that job. This plays well with Jesse's background and his sense of fair play. In fact they later use a clip of Jesse from this episode when he makes the opening credits. Maddie seems to have developed a social conscience over the time the show has been running, and I like that, but this season so far she's become very preachy and that's at odds with how she usually presents herself. Fortunately I don't think this particular version of Maddie lasted all that long. She does have a soft gooey centre inside a hard shell, but at the moment she's more goo than shell.

Unfortunately the guy running the clinic is an idiot who doesn't like Michael and won't take a backwards step even when that's the right thing to do and will ultimately make Michael's job easier and keep the clinic open and drug dealer free long term.

Sam takes a beating when doing some reconnaissance and shows that he may be old and out of shape, but he's still got what it takes when he has to. Man has some skillz.

There was a cameo from Michael's former neighbour and drug dealer Sugar to get them an in with Vince (Rhys Coiro) and explain how things worked. I'm not really sure why he was in the episode to be honest. He didn't give them anything they couldn't have found out and while they brought him in to get them a meet with Vince he didn't do that either. Maybe it was easier to use a character that the viewers were familiar with than create a new one.

There was little doubt that Michael and his team would see Vince and his crew off. They did give the doctor at the clinic a chance to be a hero, though and Fiona got to blow lots of things up. There was a nice comment from Jesse about how many explosives she had and how they were using all of her explosives and she said, 'If you think this is all I have then you really don't know me very well.'

Kendra was interesting, she clearly knows her spy stuff and she knows about Simon, but they can't find anything on her or where she learned what she knows. They do eventually get her and her information, but it comes at a cost, she manages to slice open Michael's arm and not many can do that. She's also partial to a knife rather than a gun, which is unusual in modern covert affairs.

We haven't seen him yet, but it looks like Simon may be returning as a thorn in Michael's side this season.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 4

For the first time this season we had definite separation between the team. Fiona and Jesse are working one job involving a recently deceased gun runner, while Sam and Mike do something different and completely unrelated.

This is what the addition of Jesse allows for. With a 3 person team it's hard to have 2 groups (I guess you could include Maddie, which makes it a 4 person team, but she's not really a 'field agent' most of the time), but with a 4th member you can do that.

Jessie and Fiona had to go to the Bahamas to find and identify the body and they took the opportunity to have a bit of fun. Fiona was letting people buy her drinks and Jesse was doing body shots on a nearby table.

Once Jesse and Fiona get back to Miami, Sam has a gig he wants Michael to help him with. He says it's not a job, and in the sense that they're not getting paid for it, it isn't, but in every other way it so is.

Unfortunately what starts out as an effort to help a friend who was ripped off by an unscrupulous con artist turns into a hostage situation for Sam and Michael.

They're so locked down that while Michael can rig a line out and get some minor assistance from Jesse and Fiona on the outside most of the time he and Sam are on their own. They have a multiple issue situation. They have to bring Sam's friend down from his revenge trip, he's not that kind of guy, he didn't even load the gun he went to heavy the con artist with. Then they have to find the money the scam artist stole and convince his secretary what a creep he is and once the siege is broken hope she'll lie and not drop them in it.

Jesse and Fiona also hit a dead end when trying to break into the dead gun runner's place. They were stymied by his ultra watchful neighbour.

Once Michael's job with Sam has been done and dusted. The bad guy put away and they set Sam's friend up with Barry to help him manage his own finances and that of the charity whose money the scam artist stile, he helps Jesse with the gun runner.

They have more luck breaking into the place, but it's clean and no sign of the information they want, which I think will at one point lead them to either Simon or his current employer.

In a nice bit of continuity Michael uses his fake FBI id from the previous episode as well as the name of the agent he was impersonating then to question the neighbour and that's when alarm bells start ringing.

Michael sees pictures in her unit, but none with her in them. Jesse then wonders why someone with a body like hers would run covered up in hot weather, unless she was trying to hide some visible scars that were left when she killed the gun runner.

The two of them bust in on her and she can't get away with what she had hidden in the wall, but she personally makes an escape, although what they find in the wall will get them a step or two further with their own investigation. I can't help but think we haven't seen the last of the female assassin either, she's too devious and dangerous to waste on a one episode cameo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 3

Any doubts that anyone harboured about Jesse becoming part of the team after episode 2 were dispelled at the beginning of this episode, with the rest of the gang hanging out at a local bar waiting for Jesse. I know I've harped on this a bit, but Burn Notice is a show which worked very well with it's ensemble cast from day 1 for 3 seasons, so introducing a new principle into the mix at this stage is a big thing and it needs to be noted.

Sam still doesn't like Jesse. It's not just the jealousy and his doubts about Jesse's ability to be a team player, it's what Jesse used to do. Every time Sam speaks about Jesse negatively he mentions counter intelligence. There's something hidden in Sam's past where he had a bad experience with a counter intelligence operative.

Before being burned Jesse was working on something down at Miami's docks and it concerned someone he had code named Cobra. Sam thinks Cobra is a ridiculous code name, especially compared to one like Chuck Finley (yes Chuck does appear again in this episode, he's a mob hit man this time).

It's Jesse's inability to turn a blind eye to bad things that involves the gang with a local mob boss who is heavying defenceless port authority officials to steal high end goods like TVs.

Maddie later gets the story about how Jesse's mother was killed as part of a small time robbery and understands why he followed the path he did, she also becomes quite maternal about him and knows that Michael burned him, and has it out with her son at the end of the episode. She won't tell Jesse the truth, but doesn't understand how he can lie to someone and at the same time say he's trying to help them. Both Maddie and Michael have a point and how they get around it will be a key to the season. Fiona has some of the same issues and she doesn't want to see either man get hurt, but can't see how it can end in anything but tears.

Michael tries to impersonate an FBI agent, but all that gets him is a beating when the mob boss uses his own contacts at the FBI to blow Michael's cover. That's when Chuck Finley enters the picture.

Jesse again goes off book to help win the mob bosses' confidence, by getting Sam to tell one of his war stories about a wounded comrade in El Salvador. The story is true, but the point of it is that Sam doesn't like to use his past in that way. It pisses him off and Jesse is told in no uncertain terms by both Sam and Michael that when they're working Sam's past is out of bounds unless he says otherwise, but if that happens it has to be his decision, not someone else's.

They do put things right by once again playing one against the other. The fake double cross is Michael's go to plan. If someone were planning a major heist or job they could do worse than watch Burn Notice for advice. I'm not sure that all Michael claims is true or as easy to rig as he says it is, but it would be fun to find out.

The spectre of what was done to Jesse continues to hang over the show and it will be a major arc.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 2

The ending of the first episode kind of made it a foregone conclusion that Episode 2 would be all about Jesse Porter and exactly what Michael could do for him.

Jesse, like Michael before him, has been unfairly burned and he's out in the cold without a friend to call his own. He isn't like Michael in that he has an ex girlfriend who likes blowing things up and shooting people and is highly skilled at both, and a good friend who was a former Navy SEAL with some useful skills and even more useful contacts from his former life. He also doesn't have a mother that gives a damn, even though Maddie does drive Michael to distraction on occasion.

Because he was the reason Jesse got kicked out, Michael feels a sense of duty to help him out. Sam and Fiona, particularly Fiona, agree, and I don't think in Fiona's case it's entirely because she thinks Jesse looks 'fine', although she does.

First Michael has to call Vaughn off. Jesse has some useful and dangerous information in his head as before his burning he worked counter intelligence and again Vaughn shows that he is a company man and doesn't much care if there's one less burned spy walking around out there. He will however let Michael do what he can to keep Jesse alive, just as long as push doesn't come to shove with the CIA.

Michael witnesses a botched attempt to take Jesse out and it's too amateurish to be a government sanctioned hit. In getting himself out of it Jesse displays skills that he didn't get from driving a desk. He does later confess to Fiona that before moving into counter intelligence he was a field agent. He didn't have the right temperament for it, though, in that he couldn't let something like seeing a target beat their girlfriend and not hand out some payback. Fiona very much approves of this, as domestic violence is one of her hot buttons, but she can also see why this makes him a liability in the field.

Jesse actually comes to Michael for help and this is where Michael starts to walk a very fine line. He wants to help Jesse, but he also doesn't want to let him know that he was the one who got him burned. Jesse's not the sort of client Michael wants. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and he can work certain things himself, which occasionally means he's going to go off on a tangent and that hurts what Michael's trying to do.

Interestingly this episode dealt with one job, which isn't something that happens a lot. The job was all about keeping Jesse alive. It was also probably an audition to see if he could become a member of the team. That has a double edge to it, too. In one way it's Jesse Porter the character seeing if he can add himself to Team Westen and in another it's a way for the show to test out Coby Bell the actor with audiences and if they react favourably he's the new regular cast member.

Sam doesn't react that well to Jesse initially. I had forgotten this. In the later years of the show Sam and Jesse form a very a strong team, so I'd forgotten Sam didn't really like him. He felt sorry for him, but in some ways he saw himself being replaced as Michael's right hand man, so the jealousy crept in. It's understandable. Jesse is younger, he's got a recent background in intelligence, he's fitter, good looking, why wouldn't you trade in the old model for a younger, better performing one with more features?

Sam does have a point though in that Jesse is a loose cannon, it's his own reckless behaviour that throws Michael's plan out the window at one point, gets Jesse caught by the bad guys, tortured and requires both Michael and Barry (yay!) to do some very fast improvising to pull it all off and save Jesse's life.

While all this is going on Maddie's trying to rent out the garage that Michael, Sam and Fiona like to use to stash and make stuff in, to prospective tenants. The first one leaves after his cat gets blown up when it finds some detonators that Michael hadn't managed to clear out.

Jesse winds up taking the room, and Maddie winds up liking him. They can swap tips about how to clean guns. Maddie doesn't even like cats, she does like people Michael like, though. With Jesse living at Chez Westen and getting the Maddie seal of approval there's very little doubt that this will be the last mission he works with Michael and Co. Welcome to the family Jesse Porter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Burn Notice, Season 4, Episode 1

Once upon a long time ago I was watching and blogging TV show Burn Notice, episode by episode. Then I finished Season 3 and went on a holiday to England. Things got kind of busy and now I'm back at the stage where I can watch a few episodes a week and share my thoughts.

Season 3 ended as the show tends to do on a cliffhanger. After saving Management's life and having Simon get away to continue creating havoc, Michael had a bag put over his head (he just loves it when that happens) and was taken to an undisclosed location, seated in a well appointed room, bag removed and he waited.

From the start Michael knows the room is a front, very nice, but still a front. The character that enters it matches the room. Expensively dressed and very urbane.

Vaughn Anderson (Robert Wisdom) is a contrast to the type of attack dogs that Management have set on Michael and even Agent Bly who tried threats before being sent off with a flea in his ear by Michael. I found it an interesting role for Wisdom, because he's a big scary looking guy and the last thing I remember him in was Supernatural, where he played an angel and not a good one at that.

Anderson doesn't threaten Michael or his family or his friends. He's reasonable and understanding. He even admits that the CIA don't play nice or by the rules, but he does make it clear that it is in Michael's best interests to play with them.

Because of the approach Michael decides to see what this is all about and before he knows it he and Vaughn are in some sort of rebel camp in a jungle in South America. I know it was South America, because there were squirrel monkeys there and they're native to that continent. Anderson's teeth come out when dealing with a gun runner played by Michael Ironside, and he shoots him callously in the leg. They can't get much more before the camp is targeted by a drone strike and Michael and Anderson are running for their lives.

Michael decides to throw his lot in with Anderson and is reunited with his old life and his family and friends. Maddie is happy to see him, but what the FBI told her when they took her into custody about him, bothers her and she's more concerned for him than ever before.

Next stop is Fiona. I was half expecting her to hit him, she generally does that when he returns from somewhere and she doesn't know if he's alive or dead. However this time she hugged and kissed him, then immediately went back to assembling the machine pistols she had laid out on the table.

So Michael is once again pulled back into his regular job of white knighting around Miami. In his absence Sam and Fiona agreed to help out a lawyer who was being heavier by a local biker group called The Breakers. They did it because it was what Michael would have done.

By the time the trio arrive at the lawyer's house three of The Breakers have started a fire on his lawn and are threatening dire consequences. They're not quite as tough when Michael Westen appears with two fully loaded machine pistols that he's not afraid to use.

I found The Breakers a fairly soft villain. They came across as somewhere in between the incompetent Hells Angels Clint Eastwood's truck driving, street fighting Philo Beddo and his orang-utan Clyde tangle with in Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can and the Sons of Anarchy in the AMC show of the same name. They're not as tough or as hard edged as SAMCRO, but they're a bit more competent than the Hells Angels in the Eastwood films.

They solved it all fairly simply with some help from Barry the Money Launderer (happy to see him back) in tying the lawyer into the club's financials, which means that if anything happens to him the FBI will investigate the club and their dealings. There was one quite amusing and well choreographed fight between Michael and Big Ed (the club president) and Sam and Big Ed's 'old lady'.

Anderson is well aware of Michael's 'extra curricular' activities and unlike Bly and Carla who hampered his other jobs, he didn't. At times it almost sounded like he approved, although he did warn Michael not to let it interfere with what he was doing for them.

He wound up accessing some sensitive information. This resulted in some poor innocent taking the fall for it. He later finds out that the innocent's name is Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) and Michael has just managed to 'burn' another spy.

I honestly don't remember seeing this episode before. It was a pretty standard season opener, no real indication if there is a 'big bad', although Vaughn has potential, and who called out the drone strike on the rebel camp when they knew two US agents were there? I knew Jesse came into the show this session, and his history, but I don't think I ever saw how Michael burned him.

It's good to be back.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Fairies, or faeries or even the fae as many like to refer to them are relative newcomers on the urban fantasy block, despite being around for much longer than other staples like vampires and werewolves.

There are all different types of fairy, hence the various forms of reference, and they come from every culture, although we mostly tend to think of them as originating from European folklore.

Fairies are generally lesser creatures than gods, although they often do their bidding and associate very closely with them. Some types of fae are more closely associated with certain gods than others, and some don't have any association with a higher power at all.

For as long as people have been writing and telling stories they've used fairies in them. In days gone by the fairy folk ranged from mischievous to malicious and often didn't care for mortals at all. In a literary sense this started to change in the 19th century, when writers began to depict fairies as little brightly winged creatures that delighted young girls.

The other type of fae was still around, but they didn't appear as often.  J.M Barrie used his famous Tinkerbell in Peter Pan and Enid Blyton often wrote about fairies. Although her fairy followed the accepted form of little winged female she also mentioned other fairy folk like pixies, gnomes, etc...

Unlike many of the other urban fantasy staples I've covered Hollywood never really discovered the fairy. Being a part of the original story Tinkerbell appeared in Disney's animated version of the classic, and the little fairy proved so popular that she was briefly part of their Princess Pantheon before being migrated into her own very successful spin off franchise. Disney also used the Blue Fairy from Carlo Collodi's classic Pinocchio when they animated that.

Fairies tended to appear in animated form only in films and TV, because they weren't easy to depict otherwise and before the days of advanced CGI it was both difficult and expensive to film fairies. Even now it's still not easy and CGI still isn't cheap.

There were efforts in the early to mid 80's to give movie going audiences better fairies with films like The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story and Labyrinth. I also kind of liked what they did with the second Hellboy film and it's depiction of an elf king.

The Tinkerbell franchise aside there hasn't been a great effort by Hollywood to give audiences a whole genre of fairy films, and it has to be said that the Disney Fairies films are largely made with a young, mostly female audience in mind.

Shows like Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have dealt fleetingly with fairies, and so has Grimm, but the show that's made the best attempt and tried to make it a more adult concept is the SyFy show Lost Girl. The show is of varying quality, but it does feature genuine fairy folklore in it and shows creatures like succubi (the main character is a succubus) and shape shifters. It also deals with Celtic mythology and pits the 'light' fae and the 'dark' fae against each other. It's a choice that main character Bo is often forced to make.

I'm not sure exactly when urban fantasy writers started to tackle fairies taking them out of the province of epic fantasy writers. I think it began sometime in the mid 80's. That was when I first encountered the work of Tom Deitz.

Deitz isn't read much now, but his YA urban fantasy stories of David Sullivan, his friends and their dealings with the Celtic fairies (the Sidhe Seelie Court) that lived under the nearby mountain in David's native Georgia were always entertaining and probably should get a bigger audience than they ever did.

Laurell K. Hamilton got into the act with her Merry Gentry series. Unfortunately as with the better known Anita Blake series, the sex took precedence over the story and they became rather tedious to read.

Keeping the younger readers in the loop J. K Rowlings made regular references to fairies of various sorts in her Harry Potter books, the best known example were the house elves, (Dobby), a variation on the form of helpful house sprite from British and European folklore.

Kim Harrison also included fae in her Hollows series, mostly in the form of the pixie detective Jenks. I actually stopped reading the books when Jenks disappeared from their pages, although I am informed he returned, so I may have to reread that series.

Jim Butcher also had fae in his Dresden Files. I'm quite a fan of Toot Toot and his band of pizza hungry warriors. Toot is generally referred to as a fairy, but he behaves more the way modern writers depict pixies.

Larry Correia has played around with the idea in his Monster Hunter books and we get things like internet savvy trolls, gangsta gnomes and trailer park elves. Oddly enough this actually works most of the time and comes across as quite funny.

Charlaine Harris gave Sookie Stackhouse a fairy godmother and Sookie herself is a fairy, it's why she can read minds and what makes her irresistible to vampires. The ideas filtered from the books into the TV show True Blood, and while I don't think she was in the books I did like Andy Bellefleur's half fairy daughter Adalind.

The first urban fantasy author I saw deal largely exclusively with the fae in her series was Seanan McGuire in the October Daye books. Oddly for urban fantasy books there's not a vampire or a werewolf to be seen, admittedly one of the main characters can become a cat whenever he wants, but that's because he's a cait sidhe, not a were of any sort. The author majored in folklore in college, so has a good working knowledge of the medium and can mess around with things quite successfully. While October, generally known as Toby, prefers to work and live in the human world, most of her adventures and investigations take place in the fairy knowes and deal with fae, whether or not they're in the human world or their own.

Yasmine Galenorn kind of went the same route with her Otherworld series. That one is about 3 sisters, who have a power in the fae world, but work as go betweens in the human world to try and prevent both places from exploding into open warfare. Each of the sisters has a separate, but useful power. One is a witch, one a shapeshifter and one a vampire. The first 3 books were each told from a different sister's viewpoint.

Nancy A. Collins wrote a fun little trilogy about Golgotham; a New York neighbourhood where magic works and various mythological races and cultures live quite happily side by side and tolerated, if not exactly welcomed, by their neighbours in the rest of the city.

British writer Emma Newman took a different tack with her Split Worlds series. That one deals with Mundanus (as the fae refer to our world) and the Nether (the fairy world) and the efforts of one fae girl to live on her own terms in Mundanus and not be drawn into the power games and restrictive Georgian society in the Nether.

Emma's series could be inspired in part by Marie Brennan's Onyx Court books, which deal with the fae and their interference with the human world at various points, generally the British royal family over the years.

Epic fantasy author Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel) entered what I found to be a superior entry into the urban fantasy field featuring the fae with her Agent of Hel series. That one is about a half incubus girl Daisy Johanssen living in the Michigan town of Pemkowet, that makes its large fae community a tourist attraction.

Suggested reading and watching:

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar
The David Sullivan series by Tom Deitz
The Hollows by Kim Harrison
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
October Daye by Seanan McGuire
Otherworld by Yasmine Galenorn
Golgotham by Nancy A. Collins
Split Worlds by Emma Newman
Agent of Hel by Jacqueline Carey

Pinocchio (1940)
Peter Pan (1953)
The Dark Crystal (1982)
The Neverending Story (1984)
Labyrinth (1986)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 - 2003)
Supernatural (2005 - )
True Blood (2008 - 2014)
Lost Girl (2010 - )
Grimm (2011 - )