“LOST” – Musing on Season Four and the Finale

“LOST” – MUSINGS ON SEASON FOUR AND THE FINALE

ABC’s megahit series, ”LOST’ is considered among the best television series on the air during this past decade. The magazine,”Entertainment Weekly” considers it to be the fifth best series in television history. I have to admit that it is one of the most original series I have ever seen. But after watching its Season Four finale – (4.13-4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home (Parts 2 and 3)”, I cannot help but wonder if the series’ reputation might be a little exaggerated. 

To put it bluntly, ”There’s No Place Like Home (Parts 2 and 3)” left me with mixed feelings. Mind you, it had its virtues. One of the best moments during that two hour broadcast was watching Yunjin Kim’s performance as the complex Korean wife who may or may not have witnessed the death of her husband, portrayed by the equally talented Daniel Dae Kim. Her performance was fantastic, whether she was expressing Sun Kwon’s horror and grief over witnessing her husband being blown up, while trying to escape a freighter that had been set up to explode. Whether he is dead or not, will be revealed in Season Five. But she believes he is dead. Which would explain the cold, avenging angel she has become in the months following the birth of her fatherless infant daughter.

There were other virtues in this episode:

*Evangeline Lily’s performance in a scene in which Sawyer (Josh Holloway) says good-bye to Kate. Yes, I am actually complimenting Lily’s performance. She is no Yunjin Kim, but I think that she managed to rise up to the occasion in that scene and in the episode’s opening scene that featured a continuation of Jack (Matthew Fox) and Kate’s meeting at the L.A. airport in the flash forward, carried over from Season Three’s (3.22-3.23) “Through the Looking Glass”. However, I still dislike the Kate Austen character.

*The Two Kisses – For me, I was impressed not only by Sawyer’s good-bye kiss to Kate, but Desmond and Penny’s reunion kiss. Actually, I would say that the last one was more spectacular.

*The fight scene between Sayid (Naveen Andrews) and Keamy (Kevin Durand). It seemed fitting for two men-of-action characters, such as themselves.

*I also liked the moment when Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Sayid joined Frank Lapidus for the first time, aboard his helicopter. There was nothing particularly special about it, but it seemed to have its own sense of magic.

*And there was Sawyer’s return to the island, where he meets Juliet on the beach. The scene started out light-hearted, until Juliet points out to the former con man of the freighter’s (and possibly the passengers on Lapidus’ helicopter) fate.

Unfortunately for ”There’s No Place Like Home (II & III)”, the flaws seemed to outweigh the virtues. Flaws that had a lot to do with contrived writing. First example? The bomb on the freighter. What was the purpose of that bomb? Why did Keamy even bothered to plant C4 explosions on that freighter, ‘The Kahana’? Even worse, why bother to wear a remote trigger linked to a heart-rate monitor in order to blow up the boat? What was the point of this plot twist . . . other than to kill Michael Dawson and place anyone aboard the freighter in danger? Did Keamy assume that the castaways would start making their way to the Kahana? What? It all seemed so contrived.

Speaking of contrivance, there is the object dubbed by ”LOST” viewers as ’The Frozen Donkey Wheel’. Apparently, this is the wheel that Ben (Michael Emerson) had turned to move the island or make it invisible. According to a ”Popular Mechanics” article, the wheel changed the island’s space-time connection to the rest of the Earth. Yeah. Whatever. Let’s just say that it did not impress me.

Another problem I had with this episode was the fate of Claire’s infant son, Aaron. Yes, I know that the fourth episode of this season – (4.04) “Eggtown” – made it clear that Kate ends up as Aaron’s guardian back in the States. Even after seeing how Aaron ended up in her custody . . . it still does not make any sense to me. I keep thinking of that scene near the end of the episode, when Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun and Hurley part from Desmond and Penny, so that they could complete their rescue with a nine hour voyage to some nearby island. Why would Penny hand Aaron over to Kate? Why would Kate take custody of Aaron? Surely, she should have considered the possibility that her chances of keeping Aaron was not that hot, considering her fugitive status. Or why did Kate fail to ask Penny for cash and place where she and Aaron could hide out? The moment when Penny handed Aaron over to Kate seemed so contrived and stupid.

*And can someone please explain how a two-month old child was able to survive so many hours without his mother’s milk or food, along with a helicopter crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and nine hours of exposure to the sun, while in lifeboat with other castaways? I suppose one could say that ”the island” protected him. Yeah. Whatever. God, who wrote this shit?

Returning back to the Kahana, I have this question to ask – why didn’t Michael, Desmond and Jin warned the other Losties and crew members on the freighter to abandon ship, when they first discovered the C4? Why in the hell did they keep the matter a secret from the others? Why? What was the point? Drama? Another contrived reason to bump off Michael? This has to be one of the most stupid moments I have ever seen on television. To make matters even more idiotic, Jin hesitated to jump ship at the end, so that he could drag Michael along. ”Jin . . . darling, you have a wife and unborn child waiting for you. Why didn’t you get your ass up to the deck when Michael first told you?” Dammit, I hate such stupidity! I especially hate it when writers drum up this mess.

Finally, we come to the biggest pile of horseshit of the episode . . . namely, Michael Dawson’s death. After watching this episode, I can only say that Harold Perrineau’s return to ”LOST” was the biggest waste of his time and the time of his fans. What in the fuck were Cuse and Lindehof thinking? In a TV Guide interview, Perrineau had accused the two producers of bringing him back so that they could appease the bloodlust of the fans who hated Michael for his Season Two actions. I am beginning to believe that he might be right. Cuse and Lindehof could have kept Michael on the show for a while and allow him to deal with the consequences of his actions by facing the Losties. The only castaways who saw him were Sayid, the Kwons and Desmond, who did not even know him. And nothing much really came from his reunion with him. Sayid did expose him to the captain of the Kahana as Ben’s spy. But Michael did not really suffer from the betrayal, aside from one or two beatings. Sun seemed more upset about him being Ben’s spy on the Kahana than over what he had done in Season 2. And with the immediate discovery of the bomb, Jin and Michael immediately resumed their old friendship. After Cuse and Lindehof’s big announcement of Perrineau’s return, the actor managed to appear in at least five or six episodes out of fourteen, before his character was blown sky high in the Kahana’s destruction. All I can say is – ”What in the fuck?”

But the mixed quality of ”There’s No Place Like Home (II &III)” seemed a reflection of the entire Season Four. Some are claiming that this was the show’s best season. I wish I could agree. Season Four had started out as very promising. But in the end, it has not usurped my belief that Season One remains the best. Like its finale, Season Four turned out to be a curious mixture of the good and the bad.

There were plenty of good episodes during this season. Episodes like (4.01) ”The Beginning of the End” and (4.02) ”Confirmed Dead” not only led to the Losties being split into two camps, but it also introduced four new characters to the show – Daniel Faraday, Miles Straume, Charlotte Lewis and Frank Lapidus. Then came (4.03) ”The Economist”, which turned out to be my favorite Sayid-centric episode. Its flash forward eventually revealed Sayid as Ben’s troubleshooter – or hitman – who was killing colleagues of Ben’s enemy, Charles Widmore. Another standout episode turned out to be (4.05) ”The Constant”, a Desmond-centric episode. In it, the Scotsman encounters time traveling side effects from his exposure to an EMP discharge. Mind you, I found it a little confusing at times, but the emotional payoff was worth the confusion. Two other outstanding episodes – at least for me – were (4.08) ”Meet Kevin Johnson”, which revealed what happened to Michael Dawson and his son Walt, following their departure at the end of Season Two; and (4.09) ”The Shape of Things to Come”, in which the group of Losties under Locke, encountered Charles Widmore’s murderous henchman, Martin Keamy, and his band of killers.

There were also episodes that I found . . . decent, but not exactly mind blowing. There were (4.07) “Ji Yeon”, (4.11) ”Cabin Fever” and (4.12) ”There’s No Place Like Home (Part I)”. I take it back. The revelation that Jin did not make it off the island with Sun had taken me by surprise. And so did the appearance of Claire inside Jacob’s cabin with Christian also shocked me. Like the finale that aired on May 29, I have mixed feelings about (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”. I found the circumstances surrounding Jack’s appendectomy rather pointless. In fact, I am still a little confused over how it was supposed to add to the story. But I must admit that the events that led to Jack and Kate’s breakup in that episode’s flash forward was fascinating. This episode also provided another glimpse at Matthew Fox’s superb acting skills.

There were three episodes – out of fourteen – that I found troubling. One was (4.06) “The Other Woman”, a Juliet-centric episode. In this, we learned that Juliet had an affair with Goodwin – the Other who had been killed by Ana-Lucia Cortez in Season Two. We also learned that Goodwin had been married. The episode also revealed that Ben harbored an obsession of Juliet. And it also featured a knock-out, dragged out fight between Juliet and one of the Freighter passengers – Charlotte. But this is an episode that belonged to Season Three. Even worse, there was no real follow-up over Daniel and Charlotte’s presence at the Tempest Station and their actions with the gas. Frankly, I found the ending to be rather vague. Still . . . it provided another outstanding performance by Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliet.

The second episode I had trouble with was the season’s last one – ”There’s No Place Like Home” (Part III)”. Since I have said all that I could about that episode and its predecessor, I might as well focus on what I consider to be THE WORST episode of Season Four – the Kate-centric ”Eggtown”. In this episode, Kate joins Locke’s group at the abandoned Otherville quarters, so she could find out if the quartet from the Kahana and the outside world knew about her status as a fugitive. The episode’s flash forwards revealed her trial, how she avoided jail time and ended up serving ten years’ probation. It also revealed that she became the guardian of Claire’s son, Aaron. Frankly, that last reveal proved to be the only interesting thing about this episode. Everything else struck me as a joke. One that left a bad taste in my mouth. And although I had praised Evangeline Lily’s performance in the finale, ”Eggtown” proved that on the whole, she has remained, at best, a mediocre actress during the show’s four seasons. The biggest travesty proved to be the trial, in which the defense called its witness – namely a lying Jack – first; the prosecution’s only witness was allowed to see the defendant in private; and because of this, the prosecution gave Kate a plea deal, because the witness (Kate’s mom) refused to testify against . . . conveniently forgetting the former castaway’s other crimes. One that includes attempted bank robbery. And what really annoyed me about ”Eggtown” is that it served as the beginning of a series of contrived events that led to Kate’s possession of Aaron. For me, Kate’s story arc proved to be the season’s biggest weakness.

Watching the finale made me realize something about ”LOST” that has made me reluctant to dub it as one of the finest shows in television history. Even some of the best shows I have seen – ”BABYLON FIVE” and ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” had its share of weak episodes or storylines that were dumped at the wayside. But those two shows and a few others have been consistently top-notch. I wish I could say the same about ”LOST”, but I cannot. I will admit that it is one of the most original television series I have ever watched. But that originality has been sabotaged every now and then by contrived writing and some pretty bad characterization. This has especially been obvious to me during the last half of Season Two – including the badly written (2.20) “Two For the Road”. Like ”Eggtown”, it was partially saved by a surprise ending. At least two-thirds of Season Three had left a bad taste in my mouth, including the contrived departure of Mr. Eko in (3.05) “The Cost of Living” and the atrocious ( 3.06) “I Do” and (3.09) “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

Aside from Season One, the series’ quality for each season always seemed to flip-flop. This show has yet to maintain a consistently top-notch season since the first one.

Advertisements

“SAD CYPRESS” (2003) Review

“SAD CYPRESS” (2003) Review

Adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1940 novel, ”SAD CYPRESS” is a story about Hercule Poirot’s efforts to discover the truth behind the case of a young woman facing conviction for the murder of her ailing wealthy aunt and a lodge keeper’s daughter who has become her aunt’s companion. Directed by David Moore, this 90-minute movie starred David Suchet as the Belgian detective. 

The story began with a doctor from a small town named Peter Lord who hires Hercule Poirot to clear the name of a young woman Elinor Carlisle. Elinor is facing trial for the murder of a young woman named Mary Gerard, the beautiful companion of her late aunt, Mrs. Laura Welman. Through interviews and flashbacks, Poirot learns that Elinor was engaged to Mrs. Welman’s nephew by marriage, Roddy Welman. Unfortunately for Elinor, Roderick (or Roddy) falls in love with Mary. Realizing that marriage to Roddy would be useless, Elinor ends the engagement, freeing him to pursue Mary. But her resentment toward her aunt’s companion fails to fade. And when Mary dies from poisoning during an afternoon tea, suspicion falls upon Elinor and she is arrested for murder. When Poirot and the authorities discover that Mrs. Welman had died of poisoning and was the real mother of Mary Gerard, Elinor is charged with the murder of her aunt.

I have one complaint about ”SAD CYPRESS”. The revelation of the murderer produced a contrived ending to an otherwise first-rate murder mystery. I am not joking. The method in which the two crimes were committed and how Poirot came to the truth seemed rather unbelievable.

With that out of the way, I did find the rest of ”SAD CYPRESS” to be very satisfying. Hell, it was more than satisfying. One, Poirot found himself with a case that seemed nearly hopeless for Elinor Carlisle. Two, it was a case that featured two murders committed in the distant past. I have a soft spot for murder stories that come close to resembling historical mysteries. Three, not only did Poirot play a major role in this story – much stronger than he did in ”THE HOLLOW”, but so did the Elinor Carlisle character. One would think that the Mary Gerard character had a major impact upon the story. And she . . . plot wise. But for me, Elinor Carlisle had a stronger impact. On the surface, she seemed like a pleasant and well-bred young woman who kept her emotion in check. But that was simply a façade. Despite her reserved nature, Elinor’s raging emotions seemed to be felt or sensed by those around her. The impact of her personality gave the story an emotional punch that I found rewarding.

The producers of ”SAD CYPRESS” certainly selected the right actress to portray Elinor Carlisle. Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh was the right woman to project an air of English gentility that masked the personality of a passionate woman who loved just a little too heavily. Especially in scenes that required little or no dialogue, Dermot-Walsh did a superb job in displaying great pathos. Also superb was David Suchet as Poirot. I must admit that ”SAD CYPRESS” featured what I believe to be one of Suchet’s better performances in the role. In this particular movie, his Poirot projected a large array of emotions – frustration, patience, perplexity and cunning – that I have rarely seen in many other Poirot movies.

The rest of the cast struck me as pretty solid. Rupert Penry-Jones proved once again what a chameleon he could be in his dead-on portrayal of Elinor’s fiancé, the supercilious, yet proud and shallow Roderick Welman. Phyllis Logan gave a complex performance as one of the nurses, Nurse Hopkins. Paul McGann was vibrant as the passionate Dr. Peter Lord, the local doctor who was in love with Elinor Carlisle. Kelly Reilly portrayed the story’s catalyst, Mary Gerard. But the character struck me as so bland that I felt Reilly could hardly do anything with the role.

Production designer Michael Pickwoad did a solid job of supporting the movie’s setting of 1937-38 rural England. And Sheena Napier’s costume designs seemed historically accurate and colorful without being too theatrical. Thanks to a first-rate cast led by David Suchet and Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh , along with Dave Moore’s adaptation of Christie’s emotional tale of jealousy and greed, ”SAD CYPRESS” turned out to be one of the better versions of a Christie murder mystery I have seen in the past decade.

“FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” (2010) Review

“FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” (2010) Review

On the heels of last year’s action hit, ”TAKEN”, producer/writer Pierre Morel released another action packer last month called ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE”. This movie centered around a pair of CIA operatives portrayed by John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers hunting for Islamic terrorists in Paris. 

Rhys-Meyers portrayed James Reece, an aide to the U.S. ambassador to France who also happened to be a low-level CIA operative with duties that include changing cars license plates for field operatives. His constant requests for a promotion to field agent finally led to a senior-level assignment as an escort for a visiting CIA agent named Charlie Wax sent to stop a possible terrorist attack. What started as a simply task of getting Charlie cleared by French Customs agents, eventually led to a series of dangerous and sometimes humorous adventures in the French underworld in search of Islamic extremists.

Unlike last year’s ”TAKEN”, producer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel presented a tale that relied more on comedy and less upon family angst. I must admit that Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak’s screenplay for ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” did not seem all that original. The movie seemed like your typical action flick filled with one-liners, hair-raising stunts and explosions. However, like ”TAKEN”, the movie did provide plenty of interesting views featuring the steamier side of Paris and some very hilarious moments between Travolta and Rhys-Meyers. I am also grateful that cinematographer Michel Abramowicz’s photography lacked the shaky camera work that has occasionally marred some action films over the past 5 ½ years.

I do have one major problem with this film. Aside from one character, all of its villains – minor or otherwise – came from France’s immigrant population. Wax and Reece encountered criminals of Asian, African and Arabic descent. And although the movie featured one French villain, the character happened to be a recent convert to Islam. At least”TAKEN” featured a corrupt French cop and an equally corrupt American diplomat. Not even ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” can claim this brand of diversity.

Another aspect of ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” proved to be the screen teaming of John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Quite simply, they sizzled – much to my surprise. Travolta’s Charlie Wax bore a strong resemblance to some of his other over-the-top characters that he has portrayed over the years – including his performance in last year’s ”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3”. However in ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE”, Travolta portrayed a protagonist. One of the good guys. Instead of being slightly overbearing, Travolta turned out to be funny as hell. But he was not the only one who provided humor in the movie. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers proved that he could match Travolta in the humor department, as his character James Reece reacted to Wax’s lunacy. And there were several scenes in which he also proved that he could be just as over-the-top as Travolta. Of course, this should not be a surprise. Rhys-Meyers has been portraying the extroverted King Henry VIII on Showtime’s ”THE TUDORS” for the past four seasons. My only quibble with his performance was that his American accent seemed ridiculously flat at times.

Would I be inclined to rent or purchase the DVD release of ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” in the near future? Sure. Why not? Granted, I found its portrayal of Paris’ immigrant population rather one-dimensional. And its plot seemed to lack any originality, whatsoever. But Besson and Hasak wrote a solid story with plenty of action, tension and humor. And Morel’s direction did justice to their screenplay. So, yes . . . I would consider buying the DVD version of the movie. After all, it is damn entertaining.

“Return With a Vengeance” [PG-13] – 11/18

 

 

“RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE”

CHAPTER 11

“Who in the hell is Dako?” a perplexed Piper Halliwell demanded. “I feel like I’ve been asking that question ever since we left the hospital.”

The grandfather clock inside the McNeill manor read three-forty. After nearly an hour in the operation room, Paige’s doctor had declared her stable. He also advised her family and friends to leave, since the only thing left for her to do was rest. The Halliwells, the two McNeill women, Cecile, Leo and Cole accepted the doctor’s advice and headed for the McNeill home to discuss the situation.

Cecile spoke up. “Dako was a bokor. A sorcerer who practiced dark magic.”

“Was?”

Cole added, “He was an eighteenth-century bokor.” Cecile glanced at him. Cole stared back. “Andre once told me about him.”

“And who is this Andre?” Phoebe asked.

Cecile replied, “My boyfriend.”

“How do you know about him?” Phoebe directed her question at Cole. There was something in her manner that annoyed Cecile. It seemed almost accusatory. Suspicious.

Apparently, Cole felt the same. Instead of answering his ex-wife’s question, he snapped back, “Why do you want to know?” He gave her a cool stare. Phoebe looked away.

Sensing the tension in the drawing room, Cecile continued, “Dako was a powerful 18th century bokor who was the illegitimate son of a female sorcerer and a Dahomey prince. At least we think so. The mother named her son after her lover’s ancestor, a 16th century king named Dako. After his mother’s death, Dako had offered his services to a local trader. Needless to say, thanks to Dako, the trader became a rich landlord, and later something of a tyrant. His people killed the former landlord and tried to get rid of Dako. They failed. Unfortunately for them, Dako took over his former employer’s holdings and property and became an even worse tyrant.”

“From what Andre told me,” Cole continued, “a powerful houngan, or Vodoun priest named Ehioze eventually came up with a spell to vanquish Dako.” He added, “And please don’t ask me what that spell is, because I don’t know. But Cecile might.”

Leo asked, “Why is that?”

Cecile sighed. “Because one of my ancestors was a houngan named Ehioze.” All eyes turned to her. “Unfortunately, I have no idea what that spell is. It probably hasn’t been used in over two centuries.”

Olivia added, “And how does Darryl fit in all this?”

With a shrug, Cecile replied, “Looks like he’s been possessed by Dako’s spirit.”

“His spirit?” Piper shook her head. “I thought you said that Dako had been vanquished.”

“He was,” Cecile insisted. “His corporeal body was destroyed and his spirit, sent to the afterlife. Apparently, someone has managed to summon his spirit, again. Maybe those warlocks you’ve been so concerned about. Vodouns believe that death isn’t permanent. Which is why it’s possible that Dako’s spirit still exists.”

Phoebe sighed. “Great! Because some sorcerer’s spirit refuses to die, our friend might be possessed and our sister is in the hospital. Why couldn’t he just stay dead like the other demon and warlocks we’ve gone against?”

“Ten to one, their spirits aren’t completely gone, either,” Cecile commented. “Look at the Source. Despite you killing him, he managed to possess Cole.”

Both Halliwell sisters stared at Cecile. Then at Cole. “Possessed?” Piper said in an arch tone. She glared at the half-daemon. “Is that what he told you?”

“Yeah, I did,” Cole retorted. “Is there a problem?”

Another moment of uncomfortable silence followed. Then Piper spoke up. “Since we don’t have the spell to vanquish this Dako, does anyone have any other ideas? Perhaps a potion?”

Olivia commented, “I’m sure that we can get our hands on that spell.” She glanced at Cecile. “Maybe your parents or Andre might know where it can be found. Then you can use it.”

“Why don’t we just create a potion or a spell to vanquish it?” Phoebe asked. Everyone stared at her. Especially Cecile. “I mean, why is it so important that Cecile use that particular spell?”

“Because she’s Vodoun,” Olivia coolly replied. “And the spell that had been used to vanquish Dako came from a Vodoun priest. Chances are a Vodoun would know the right spell to use.”

Leo frowned. “Are you saying that those who don’t practice Voodoo . . .”

“Vodoun,” Olivia corrected. Cecile smiled at her friend’s blunt tone.

“Right, Vodoun. Are you saying that those who don’t practice it, cannot vanquish this guy?”

Olivia sighed. “All I’m saying, Leo, is that a Vodoun spell might be the correct one to use against Dako. And I don’t recall Piper and Phoebe being Vodoun practitioners.”

Cecile realized that her friend’s answer deserved an explanation. “You have to understand. Vodoun is an ancestral religion. West African ancestry. The spirits of those like Dako – whether they are good or evil, are part of that ancestry. This spirit is also known as the Diaspora. And those who possessed the Diaspora are namely those with West African ancestry in their blood.”

“Not exactly an equal opportunity religion, is it?” Piper murmured sarcastically. However, she had spoken loud enough for the others to hear. Including Cecile.

The New Orleans glared at the oldest Halliwell. She did not care for the witch’s words or tone. “I’m sorry. What was that?” she demanded coldly.

“What?” Piper’s eyes widened in innocence. Too late, as far as Cecile was concerned. “I didn’t . . .”

Cecile snapped back, “Do you know anything about Vodoun?”

An embarassed Piper cleared her throat. “Uh . . . no, I don’t. Sorry.”

Her eyes still boring into the oldest Charmed One’s, Cecile relaxed. Somewhat. “It’s okay. Apology accepted. As for Vodoun, non-Africans who are interested are not excluded. In fact, you don’t have to be born in Africa or have brown skin to have African ancestry. But Vodoun is an ancestral religion, like it or not. Those with no ancestral ties to West Africa probably lack the lwa or spirit. Of course . . .” Her mouth briefly curved in a mischievous smile. “. . . there is a good chance that all of us in this room might have some African ancestry.”

Piper’s eyes grew wide before she murmured, “Oh. Huh. Yeah, of course.”

Cecile returned her gaze to Olivia. “I’ll call my folks and Andre, tonight. See if they know how to get their hands on that spell and a potion to free your friend, Darryl. If not, I’ll try to think of something. Meanwhile, I suggest you all keep your eyes open for Dako. He’s very powerful. And I’m not joking.”

“She’s right,” Cole added. “Andre told me that he might be more powerful than the Source.”

Phoebe rolled her eyes. “Again, how do you know about this Andre?”

Cole hesitated. He glanced at Cecile, who merely shrugged. “Andre is Cecile’s boyfriend.” He paused. “And he’s also an old friend of mine. Andre used to . . .”

“He used to be a bokor,” Cecile finished bluntly. “Like Dako. Only Andre decided to reject black magic and become a houngan.”

Cole added, “Andre and I first met ten years ago. During my glory days as Belthazor. He was a bokor at the time.”

Unease crept into Phoebe’s eyes. “Wait. Are you saying that your boyfriend used to be evil?”

“Well, he practiced magic for evil purposes. If that’s what you mean.” Cecile gave Phoebe a direct stare. “Anything else?”

Phoebe turned away. “No. I guess not.” She immediately switched to the subject of their present problem. “As for Dako, I guess we should be able to handle him. Vodoun or not, we are the Charmed Ones. I mean, with the two of us and the magic of Piper’s baby, we should be able to handle him.” Phoebe hesitated, as she spared Cole a glance. “Or maybe Cole can.”

In other words, Cecile translated, the Halliwells planned to create a potion or spell to use against Dako. Despite Olivia’s warning. She shot a look at her friend . . . who merely glanced away. How on earth did Cole Turner fall for this one? Cecile failed to see the attraction.

“We still have one matter to consider,” Olivia added. “Darryl. Before Cecile can vanquish Dako, we have to free Darryl. I mean, after all, we don’t want a repeat performance of an innocent getting killed, along with evil.”

Phoebe opened her mouth for a retort. Not one word came out. Piper glared at the red-haired witch. Leo merely squirmed with discomfort. Mrs. McNeill maintained an innocent expression. Cecile glanced at Cole, whose mouth formed the beginning of a smirk. Apparently, everyone fully understood the implications behind Olivia’s words.

The phone rang. Olivia’s cell phone. She stood up and walked away from the others, while they continued to discuss Dako. The Halliwells made plans to create a potion that would free Inspector Morris’ from the bokor’s spirit. Cole tried to explain that it might not be possible for them to accomplish this, but both sisters seemed determined to ignore him.

Olivia returned to the group, looking grim. “What’s wrong?” her mother asked.

“It’s Mallard. Ben Mallard. He’s a U.S. Customs agent I told Cole about. It seems that he’s dead. Someone found his body in an alley off Kearny Street. Stabbed with a sharp object.”

* * * *

Ben Mallard’s employers proved to be very difficult. And uncooperative. They tried to claim Federal jurisdiction over the agent’s death, but Olivia reminded the agency’s head that Mallard’s body had been discovered by a city police officer. And that the agent had been linked to a local murder.

Following a cool interview with the office’s head honcho, Olivia interviewed Mallard’s secretary. She was a pleasant-looking woman in her late thirties named Ms. Dominguez. “Nothing special really happened, today,” the latter said. “In fact, Mr. Mallard had lunch inside his office.”

Olivia asked, “So why did he leave the office early, today? A meeting?”

Ms. Dominguez, who continued to look stunned over her boss’ death, paused to wipe a few tears from her eyes. “He had received a call after lunch. No, wait. The phone never rang. It was sometime after one, when I got back from lunch. I saw Mr. Mallard on the telephone. He immediately left after the call.” The secretary led Olivia to Malllard’s office. “I think I saw him scribble something on his calendar pad, before he left.”

A quick glance at the calendar pad revealed an address scrawled in Mallard’s handwriting. 5725 Kearny. Right next to the alley where the agent’s body had been found. Olivia flipped through the previous pages. She spotted an inscription on the page for Tuesday – ”S.S. Enigma; Pier 34 @ 11:30 am.” Interesting. What was so important about the S.S. Enigma? Olivia felt tempted to ask Mallard’s supervisor. However, instinct told her that he might prove to be difficult.

“Is there anything else you want?” Ms. Dominguez asked.

Olivia shook her head and smiled. “Not at the moment. I’m afraid I have a dead end, here. But I might return with more questions.” You can bet your sweet ass I will.

* * * *

“What happened to the Halliwell witch?” Cousin Henry demanded. “She’s still alive. And so is the McNeill witch!” Edward winced, as his cousin confronted the Vodoun sorcerer with his usual bluntness.

Seconds later, a bolt of lightning struck the warlock and sent his body crashing into a wall, thanks to Dako. The latter glared at Cousin Henry’s semi-conscious body. At least Edward hoped that the man was semi-conscious. “Don’t you ever talk to me in that tone, again!” Dako boomed. Then he glared at the others. “Either learn to hold your tongue or suffer the consequences! All of you!”

Three of the other Crozats squirmed with discomfort. Edward bowed deeply to the bokor. “Yes, Your Eminence. It will never happen, again.” Silently, he damned the turn of events. Nothing seemed to be going well. Dako not only failed to kill both Paige Matthews and Olivia McNeill, the latter managed to discover Ben Mallard’s connections to the janitor that Rudolf had killed. Which forced Edward to order the death of the Customs’ agent. Even more frustrating, Suzanne had failed to begin the first step that would give them Belthazor’s powers. In other words, everything seemed to be going wrong. Perhaps he should use the spell given to him by his old friend, William Dagbani, and vanquish Dako. And find another way to get rid of the McNeills and the Halliwells.

“As for the two witches,” Dako continued less spiritedly, “I could not kill the one with the red hair. Someone had appeared. As for the other witch . . .” He looked disturbed. “This mortal . . . Morris . . . He stopped me from killing her and the old couple. He is stronger than I had thought possible. Are you sure he is a mortal?”

Keeping his frustration in check, Edward assured the bokor that Darryl Morris was mortal. He delicately added, “Perhaps you’re not as strong as you thought, Your Eminence.” The other Crozats stared at him as if he had gone insane. Edward ignored them.

Morris/Dako gave the warlock a long, hard stare. “You might have a point,” he finally conceded. Relief flooded through Edward’s body. “Perhaps I need a little more meditation to gain more control over this body. But first, I will go after the third witch you had recommended. This Harry McNeill. Where can I find him?”

Edward replied that the McNeill telepath could be found at the family’s business office. “At the McNeill-Ross Building on Montgomery. According to my nephew, his office is located on the 23rd floor. He usually works late at night. At least on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And today is Thursday. He should be alone.”

The sorcerer paused. Gave Edward another piercing stare. “Is there something I should know about this particular witch? You failed to inform me that the last one could teleport.”

Fear threatened to overwhelm Edward. He took a deep breath and answered, “Other than him being a telepath . . . no. And I apologize for failing to inform you everything about the other witch. I should have. As for this second McNeill witch, not only is he a telepath, but a powerful one. Like his grandmother.”

“That should be no problem,” Dako said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I have strong resistance to those with psychic abilities.” He smiled. “And when I’m finished with this witch, I’ll tend to his sister, followed by the other two Charmed Ones.” To Edward’s relief, he disappeared.

Suzanne sauntered over to Edward. “God! I can’t wait to get rid of that bastard!” she seethed. “Exactly when can we vanquish him?”

“After he has killed the others and we kill Belthazor,” Edward calmly replied. All of you be patient. And Suzanne, perhaps you should see about setting up another date with Belthazor.” A sigh left Suzanne’s mouth. “What?” Edward demanded. “Do you have a problem with Belthazor?”

“It’s not Co . . . Belthazor I’m worried about,” a petulant Suzanne shot back.

Cousin Louis, along with Rudolf, helped Cousin Henry stand up. He asked, “Then what’s wrong?”

Suzanne continued, “It’s the Halliwell baby. I don’t like the idea of being pregnant for the next four or five months.”

Edward sighed. Not only did he have a megalomaniac sorcerer to deal with, but a petulant cousin as well. Of course, he could understand Suzanne’s reluctance to carry the Halliwell baby. His cousin was not exactly one would label as the maternal type.

“Perhaps you will not have to carry the baby,” Edward suggested. “If we can get hold of Belthazor’s powers, together with our friend, Dako, we might be able to destroy the baby. And the oldest Charmed One.”

Rudolf frowned. “Do we really need Dako’s help in getting rid of that baby, Uncle Edward?”

“According to my sources, the witch might be carrying a powerful baby. Perhaps just as powerful as Belthazor. A group of whitelighters seemed to view it as some prophecy child. Only, they did not count on Belthazor returning from the Wasteland just as powerful. But once we steal his powers, we and Dako can destroy the witch and her baby.” He looked at Suzanne. “It’s either that, or we steal the womb and you carry the child.”

Suspicion gleamed in Suzanne’s dark eyes. “How did you get all of this information, anyway? Surely not from some daemon in the Source’s Realm. It’s chaos over there.”

Edward smiled. “Like I said, I have a source. A very interesting one.” His smile disappeared. “Now, don’t you think it’s time to call Mr. Turner?”

Suzanne rolled her eyes and headed for the nearest telephone.

END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN

“BEULAH LAND” (1980) Review

“BEULAH LAND” (1980) Review

In the fall of 1980, NBC Television had aired a three-part miniseries called, ”BEULAH LAND”. Starring Lesley-Ann Warren, Michael Sarrazin, Dorian Harewood and Paul Rudd, the miniseries told the story of an 19th century Savannah-born woman named Sarah Pennington and her impact upon the Kendrick family and their cotton plantation in Georgia during the years 1827 and 1872.

The miniseries was based upon two novels by Lonnie Coleman – ”Beulah Land” and ”Look Away, Beulah Land” It featured a cast that included television and movie stars Lesley-Ann Warren, Eddie Albert, Hope Lange, Michael Sarrazin, Dorian Harewood, Meredith Baxter, James Eachin, Paul Rudd, Don Johnson, Jonathan Frakes, Jenny Agutter, Franklyn Seales and Madeline Stowe.

Recently, I had just finished watching “Beulah Land”. To my surprise, I still found it enjoyable. Unlike other antebellum and Civil War sagas like ”NORTH AND SOUTH” and ”THE BLUE AND THE GRAY”, the setting for Beulah Land seemed to be restricted to southeast Georgia, with brief forays to Charleston, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. It has its usual stock of family melodrama – sometimes portrayed in an over-the-top manner by some of the cast members. It also gave an interesting look at the ambiguous relationships between slaves and slave owners; whites and blacks – regardless of whether they were free or slave; and between wealthy and poor whites in the antebellum South. There had been accusations by some that ”BEULAH LAND” had skimmed the darker aspects of American slavery or indulged in a negative and clichéd portrayal of the African-American characters. All I can say is that whoever made these accusations had not seen the miniseries. Here are more observations I had made:

1. The period in which Lauretta Pennington (Meredith Baxter) and her son-in-law, Adam Davis (Jonathan Frakes) experienced The Siege of Atlanta, is erroneous. According to the miniseries, the actual siege took place during mid-November 1864. William Sherman’s siege of Atlanta occurred between late July and early September of the same year. Lauretta and Adam left Atlanta around the same time Sherman began his march through Georgia.

2. I have noticed that Lauretta and other citizens fleeing Atlanta hardly seemed to be expressing any signs of panic, while dodging Union shells. Very odd.

3. Jonathan Frakes is a first-class actor, but his Southern accent was not very good in this miniseries. It was a good thing that he had portrayed a Northerner in the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy.

4. Unlike most of the actresses in the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy, the ones in ”BEULAH LAND” must have avoided wigs. Which would account for their loose and natural hairstyles.

5. The first fifteen minutes of ”BEULAH LAND” was set in 1827. Yet the female costumes had resembled fashions of the 1840s. As the miniseries progressed, the costumes became more accurate. But not completely.

6. For me, the following actors and actresses gave the best performances – Lesley Ann Warren (Sarah Pennington Kendrick), Dorian Harewood (Floyd), Eddie Albert (Felix Kendrick), Paul Rudd (Leon Kendrick), Paul Shenar (Roscoe Coltray), James McEachin (Ezra), Jean Foster (Pauline), Don Johnson (Bonnard Davis), Hope Lange (Deborah Kendrick),Franklyn Seales (Roman Kendrick), Allyn Ann McLerie (Edna Davis) and Jenny Agutter (Lizzie Coltray).

7. Meredith Baxter would have made the list, if it were not for her occasional bouts of hammy acting. However, I have noticed a good number of other performers like Illene Graff (Annabel Davis), Clarice Taylor (Lovey), Laurie Prange (Rachel Kendrick Davis), K.C. Martel (Young Benjamin Davis), and especially Bibi Osterwald (Nell Kendrick) really tend to chew the scenery. Along with a good number of performers in minor roles.

8. Below is a list of what I consider to be the best scenes:

*Selma (Madeleine Stowe) and Bonnard’s wedding night
*Slaves’ talk in the kitchen during Sarah and Leon’s wedding reception
*Sarah and Floyd become aware of their attraction toward one another
*Lauretta’s revelation of her affair with Leon
*Rachel and Edna Davis’s deaths
*Death of corrupt Union sergeant
*Floyd’s death

”BEULAH LAND” is not what I would call a work of art. And to be frank, I can say the same about the novels in which it is based upon. As for this belief that the African-American characters were portrayed in an embarrassing and clichéd manner as ”docile and happy” slaves – it is not true. The only times the slaves appeared ”happy and docile” over their situation, occurred when they were faking this attitude toward their white owners. Although ”BEULAH LAND” is not great television, I have to give it kudos for its accurate portrayal of the surprisingly complex and ambiguous society of the antebellum South. I say . . . give it a shot.