THE WINTER SOLDIER plays less like a Marvel film, more like a political action-thriller. And that's a-okay by me!
Season 1, Episode 8: “El Valero”
Directed by Kate Dennis
Written by Olivia Dufault
* For a review of the previous episode, “He Gone” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Finish the Song” – click here
In a ski lift heading up a mountain, the Quincannon family drop off the wire and to their certain death. Odin (Jackie Earle Haley) sits in his office with crates in front of him. Is this his family? He looks dishevelled and worn out.
Simultaneously we hear him talking to John Custer (Nathan Darrow), as we switch to Odin covered in blood, organs in his hands; either his daughter’s organs, or the dead cow’s next to him. In those boxes are his family, indeed. He’s looking for proof of God, though Custer will not denounce his faith. Outside waits a young Jesse, catching a slight glimpse of the horror inside before leaving with his father.
Whoa. Preacher steps up the game with this one.
At the church in present day, Odin finds his guys aren’t having much luck infiltrating the church of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). Speaking of the preacher, he’s inside drinking, brandishing guns and speaking with God. Or at least speaking at him.
When he makes a deal not to use his powers again, he manages to lift Eugene (Ian Colletti) right up from out of the earth beneath the floorboards. He’s back! Poor dude has been places. He’s alive, though. When they talk, Eugene says that hell was pretty “crowded.” Not surprising.
Outside Odin and his gang are frothing at the mouth. Inside, the preacher doesn’t sweat it. He’s busy trying to lay bare his ego, though I’m not so sure if that’s going to last. Either way he admits, for the time being, Eugene was right about God being the only one to judge him re: Tracy Loach. In this moment Jesse has clarity. He knows that DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) and Fiore (Tom Brooke) were right to come take the power from him. But then we start to see that Eugene isn’t just thirsty because he’s been in hell for a little. He’s FROM hell. An apparition of Jesse’s guilty mind.
The ever fun Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) is on the look for a dog. She finds one named Brewsky. Perfect. At the same time, Emily (Lucy Griffiths) is experiencing a slight crisis. She’s also got Mayor Miles Person (Ricky Mabe) sniffing around, as usual. Plus he drops the bombshell about Jesse supposedly giving up his church to Quincannon. Man, is Miles ever a creepy dude. Sure he helps out around the house, but that’s not exactly his place.
Donnie (Derek Wilson) leads the charge for Odin’s men on the church. They head in, weapons ready and bulldozer going hard. Except Jesse can shoot a rifle like nobody’s business, as well as tosses a few molotov cocktails. When Odin thinks the preacher won’t hurt anybody he’s swiftly proven wrong: one of the boys, Clive, had his dick shot “clean off” by the renegade Custer. Oh shit. Is this Custer’s last stand? Too on the nose.
Jesse asks for the agents – our heavenly hitmen. They go to see him with all their equipment in tow, as Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) stands out with Quincannon, wondering about his kid inside. He also doesn’t like that Odin is trying to tear down the church. We know, from that vicious opener, he is not a religious man. Not for a long time.
Everyone’s worried about Jesse and his mental state. He still sees Eugene. Although Fiore lets sleep there is actually a way to bring a person back from hell, which DeBlanc doesn’t seem too pleased about. Outside, Mayor Miles talks a good game about Quincannon and his plans to Emily, conning her in. He’s got blood on his hands, literally, so I wouldn’t trust him. That’s for sure.
DeBlanc and Fiore plan to use their little tune to draw out Genesis. For his part, Jesse wonders why he was chosen. Why he didn’t explode like the others. “No one understands God‘s plans at first,” Jesse wonders to them aloud, trying to hold onto Genesis awhile longer. “And what good have you done with it?” questions DeBlanc. Good point, dude.
Just about the whole of Annville is waiting outside to see the show at the church. They’re all hoping for more shooting. Y’know, yeehaw! Fitting that Donnie is dressed in his Civil War reenactment costume. Looking like an asshole. Then he heads over to his car, puts his head in the trunk, then places a gun inside before pulling the trigger.
It seems like Genesis has been pulled from out of Jesse. With DeBlanc and Fiore heading off, not planning on helping with Eugene, or not so concerned really, Jesse is not playing nice. Not to mention Genesis isn’t done with the preacher. It’s found a home, even blowing the can apart. Then they’ve given up. What’s the next step, though? Is there a more extreme measure DeBlanc and Fiore will take now that their basic methods aren’t working?
Now a gunfight is raging. Bullets fly through the walls of the church, as jaded Texas residents stand watching; some in awe of the violence, others nearly sexually aroused by the carnage. Jesse holds tough inside, shooting back between swigs of liquor. Then Donnie shows up. Whaaat? Has something taken hold of him? No, he’s popped his ear drums. He can’t be forced to do what it is Jesse (and Genesis) wants him to do.
Donnie gets the upper hand. Inside the church, Jesse signs over the deed to his father’s land, the church. “The God of Meat” is now a thing, ruling over the tangible and everything genuine. Well, in this comics universe, God does exist. As does the Devil. As does some other intense creation, Genesis. And so all of that logic Odin tries using means nothing. Jesse opts to make a double or nothing deal, of sorts. He says he’s literally going to bring God to Sunday’s next service. If not, he’ll denounce his faith, God, all of it.
And that dog Tulip picked up? I think she’s fed it to Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun).
Sheriff Root takes Jesse off to jail. He’s also still wondering about where his boy has gone with no answers from the preacher, either.
Down in a dark room, Pappy (Biff Yeager) stops a pressure overload, working in Quincannon’s factory. What exactly’s happening, and where is this leading? Another good bit of mystery.
Loved this episode. Very different, very cool. Also, we’re seeing the ego of Jesse come out, more and more. Likewise we’re starting to understand the power of Genesis. And all the mystery, the intrigue, it’s so gradual in the right kind of way that I dig the writing so much. Next episode is titled “Finish the Song” – the penultimate Season 1 finisher.
30 Days of Night. 2007. Directed by David Slade. Screenplay by Stuart Beattie/Brian Nelson/Steve Niles; based on the comic by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith.
Starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Rendall, Amber Sainsbury, Manu Bennett, Megan Franich, Joel Tobeck, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Nathaniel Lees, and Peter Feeney. Columbia Pictures.
Rated 18A. 113 minutes.
To start, while I don’t like that director David Slade did one of those junk Twilight movies, I’m a big fan of his work on Hard Candy, the episode “Open House” in the 4th season of Breaking Bad, and most of all I love his directorial efforts in the 5 episodes of Hannibal he directed (“Mizumono”, “Ko No Mono”, “Savoureux“, “Potage“, & “Apéritif“); he’s also produced nearly 30 episodes of the show, as well. One of the reasons I think he actually ended up involved with Hannibal might be due to his work here in 30 Days of Night because of the level of blood and how it looks, the visuals. I don’t think this is a spectacular movie, though, one of the things I do enjoy most about it is the overall aesthetic – from the atmosphere and tone to the actual look of the blood and the effects.
I have mixed feelings about 30 Days of Night. On one hand, I think there’s some decent acting along with incredible visuals and plenty of good ole blood and gore. But on the other, I do feel as if the script is pretty flawed in a few places where it ought to be much stronger.
Right off the bat, even though the tone of the movie is awesome and that aspect often takes time to build, I feel as if 30 Days of Night is a tad too long. I mean, I’m a person who loves both atmosphere and character development in horror. Really helps a movie sort of grab hold and not let go if you can fall into it those ways. Yet there’s a point where things go on too long. I think there could’ve been 15-20 minutes cut from and it wouldn’t have damaged the film, but that’s only my opinion; I’m not a director, I’m not a screenwriter. I just think that, while the concept of this movie is awesome, it isn’t particularly tough to grasp. There’s no need for this pushing two hours. And I get it – 30 days – but that’s the funny thing, even in that amount of time I still felt like those 30 days had passed quickly, so I find it all very strange.
That being said, I do really love the story. Funny enough, the comic series started as a film pitch. Ended up as a comic then began a movie; weird how the system works, as soon as it’s viewed as a commodity in the comic world THEN the execs want to use it because it has a base already. Sad, funny, weird.
Unfortunately, I have a few problems. Right off the bat, Barrow can be flown to almost every day of the year – like anywhere else conditions can vary, but it’s not inaccessible and especially not for 30 days at a time. Then, it’s as if Barrow is completely lit up one day then the next day there is complete darkness, stretching on for a month. Totally unrealistic. It’s a slight process until the darkness has sort of spread over the entire town. But, y’know, I guess if we’re talking vampires there’s a slight suspension of disbelief going on in the first place. Still it’s hard to get past blatant and upfront errors like that when the whole plot pretty much hinges on some of these facts. While it originates from the comic, it might’ve been better had the adapted screenplay tried to fix some of these mistakes. I don’t know how that whole adaptation process works, so I’ve no clue how much liberty the screenwriter would’ve had in terms of crafting a slightly fresh story. Either way, I don’t like how parts of the story’s logic works against the film, I don’t care if it went that way in the comic series or not. They would’ve been better off coming up with a fictional Alaskan town instead of using Barrow and so obviously distorting factual stuff.
There are pieces of the film I do truly enjoy.
Love the music. Of course, it turns out Brian Reitzell – another Hannibal alumni – is the composer. Great score, honestly. Lots of strings and some brass, interesting percussion for which he seems to have a fondness.
As I mentioned earlier, I think part of why David Slade ended up on Hannibal himself as both director and producer is because of how he works visually. For all the crappy storytelling and logic in 30 Days of Night, Slade injects a ton of brutal and beautiful imagery. One of my favourite shots – and everyone’s I’m sure of it – is the aerial view as the vampires first really take hold of Barrow; it’s this amazing shot sort of floating above, all the creatures feeding, blood spurted everywhere in the snow. All that white against red, the music, everyone screaming and the vampires making hideous noises. The movie is overall nothing special to me, but I have to say that this particular shot is one of the best shots in a horror movie over the last decade. Too bad the entirety of the film couldn’t hold up to the aesthetic Slade tried to give it. Unfortunately for him, the story’s just not there.
Big thing I did enjoy are the vampires themselves. It’s strange how Slade went from vampires like this to those of the Twilight persuasion; a conversation for another time. Here, though, the vamps are how they ought to be: cruel, Other-ish, savage. I thought the way the production of the film came up with a language for the vampires was interesting because it worked, as well as the fact it sounded pretty damn eerie to hear them communicating. Very mysterious and cool. I liked this aspect of the movie a lot. Naturally, a vampire movie’s main aspect needs to be the vampires – regardless of anything else, the plot, the subplots, the story, it’s all secondary to the vampires. Honestly, if you don’t have good vampires it won’t work no matter how fresh a story ends up.
At the same time, no matter how god damn scary your vampires are, no amount of savagery from them can save the lack of proper story and logic which is so evident in 30 Days of Night.
I don’t care how visually incredible I find this film, I can’t in all good conscience give this movie more than 3 out of 5 stars. To be honest, I want to give it 2.5 instead but I won’t simply because I think there’s a great all around look and feel to 30 Days of Night. There is a good story in there, however, I just cannot bring myself to get past glaring errors. Straight away, the whole inclusion of Barrow is a terrible decision; from the comic to the film, bad idea. Extreme weather would keep flights out maybe a day, possibly two, but there’s no way in hell Barrow would find itself cut off for longer than that. Certainly not for 30 days. Anybody with Google can figure out – from proper sources – all the information they need about Barrow, or any other god damn place on the map for that matter.
Okay, you know what? This gets 2.5 out of 5 stars. There’s too much bullshit nonsense happening for me to ignore and while I love the vampires, plus all the bloody, gory intensity which comes along with them, I can’t ignore enough for that to make this worth it.
30 Days of Night is good enough for the vampires. Come and see them, enjoy their bloodletting. Don’t come and expect to get a story and plot that’s ultimately going to make you think something fresh and innovative happened here. While the idea is great, using Barrow to accomplish it, trying to root this in reality, fails because REALITY WILL NOT LET IT WORK. There was a time I didn’t think too much about the logistics of this movie, I turned my brain off I suppose. I let the movie whisk me away with its aesthetically pleasing blood on snowy landscapes and the dripping gory faces of its vampires.
Now, I see you for what you are, 30 Days of Night: a farce and a letdown. You’re no better a movie than half of the crap getting churned out. This movie works for me only in the way any other mindless, nonsensical movie does, like that type of action or comedy or whatever you don’t need a brain for – switch off, tune out, enjoy. Took me a while to figure this out. If you want David Slade’s best work, go watch some Hannibal, or the excellent Hard Candy.