September 12, 2011

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 12: Conclave

Original Air Date: September 13, 2006
Director: Alex Chapple

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com

House of Chthon Conclave

This is the conclave Marcus has worked for years to sabotage? Five vampires? I thought it would be hundreds. Did he really have to work so hard to just kill five vampires? Couldn't he have just done that by hand?

Here we are at the season finale (and unwilling series finale) of Blade: The Series–an episode entitled Conclave.

While this is the culmination of everything Blade: The Series has done, or ever will do, I will review it individually as I have all the other episodes.  If you want my overall “final thoughts” on the series, come back tomorrow.

In Conclave, after a dozen hours of show, the stage is set for Marcus’ attack on the purebloods.  Unlike all the past episodes of the series, Conclave doesn’t have an A-story, B-story, and a C-story. There is just the one final arc to quite literally bring down the House.

Despite the insane deadlines and his protests last episode, architect extraordinaire Tucker (Tom Butler) met every demand put on him by House of Chthon conclave organizer Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson).  The Aurora virus, which will kill only pureblood vampires, is ready.   Marcus, in preparation for being the first turned vampire to head the House of Chthon, is trying to forge peace between his right-hand vampire Chase (Jessica Gower) and his new vampire lover Krista Starr (Jill Wagner).  Marcus envisions a time soon where the three can rule in harmony when his plot, and the pureblood vampires, are executed.

As mentioned last episode, Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) doesn’t want to stop Marcus.  Marcus and Blade share a goal–kill vampires.  Despite that, Blade is obsessed with attending the conclave.  Blade’s partner Shen (Nelson Lee) tries to dissuade the daywalker from interfering, to which Blade responds, “Seeing is believing.”  While the mindset is consistent with Blade’s character, it feels like a lazy way for the writers to put Blade in the thick of action again without justifying the stakes.

However, Marcus must have read the script, as he sends Chase to ambush Blade’s lair.  Krista, despite her recent romantic feelings towards Marcus, fulfills her duty as Blade’s spy and warns him of the coming attack– only she’s too late.  Shen is captured and, in a scene reminiscent of Blade: Trinity, Blade sets off explosives hidden throughout his lair.  Most of Marcus’ troops are killed in the blast, though none with speaking parts.

Shen in Sunlight

Every character gets their moment in the light this episode.

Marcus and Chase presume Blade was also killed in the blast, but decide to pump Shen for information anyway.  Marcus, knowing of her experience in the Iraq War, asks Krista to do the torturing of Shen.  Krista tries to stall but eventually must apply a scalpel under Shen’s fingernails.  “I’m sorry”, but I feel like the one being tortured with this painful sight.

Wagner’s performance actually works for this scene – showing different emotions depending on who she’s facing.  We see her inner pain, while she pretends to be playful about it for Marcus.  That said, Wagner’s acting range for 11 episodes has never stretched farther than angst and so her Playboy Bunny of Death routinue doesn’t feel genuine.

Krista slips Shen the scalpel while breaking his finger, and later when he’s left alone the man is able to cut his bonds and begins his escape. Shen picks up a sword, then instead opts to arm himself with a pen (a “pen is mightier than the sword” visual gag?  Seriously?!)  He writes the guard a note and then takes him in hand combat after a tough battle that leaves him pretty bloody.  I kept wondering why Shen didn’t keep the sword and save himself a beating.  Shen opens the room’s window blinds and dusts the bodyguard, and again I wonder why he didn’t do this before hand combat.  Shen’s the brains of the operation, but he’s not showing that here.

Tucker Sex Scene

I really never wanted to see the father from Freddy vs. Jason have a sex scene. But now that I've seen it, it's burned in my mind.

Meanwhile Blade somehow deduces the Marcus’ association with the architect Tucker, shows up at his office, and finds the man about to get his groove on with a hot, naked, ready and willing Familiar that Marcus sent him as a thank-you.  It’s a sight I found even more repulsive than Shen’s fingernail torture, and was glad to see Blade interrupt by staking the woman to the desk and cutting out one of Tucker’s eyes.  He’ll use the severed eyeball to the retinal scanners at the conclave.

I have to pause and wonder why this scene was put in the episode.  Sure, another gratuitous titty shot may be appealing to Spike TV’s barely post-pubescent, testosterone filled base, but seeing the father from Freddy vs Jason ready to take the woman from behind was truly repugnant.  More, he pauses to get a condom, saying Tucker has “passed around” this woman.  Is this supposed to be a safe sex message, alerting viewers to be aware of diseased skanks?  Is it just another moment of raunch?  Misogyny perhaps?  I am dumbfounded.  But I’ve already spent more time on Tucker than Blade did, so we move on…

The episode moves to Toronto, where the House of Chthon Pureblood Council awaits Marcus’ presentation.  The purebloods have long, self-important speeches explaining how they manipulate tragedies, like the dropping of the H-bomb in Nagasaki, to their benefit.  Why is this relevant?  It’s not–the screenwriters are just stalling while Blade and Shen reunite and break into the complex.

The episode shows its foolishness when the two vampire killers use Tucker’s eyeball to bypass the retinal scanners and gain entrance to the building.  The eyeball is preserved in liquid that makes it revolve in the bottle.  Yet somehow the door opens with the retina facing the wrong way from the scanner.

The delays continue as Marcus gives a grand speech to the purebloods and reveals to them that Aurora never worked.  Huh?  Instead of being sneaky and poisoning the unsuspecting purebloods, he’s just going to stand there and announce his betrayal?  I fully expected this idiocy to be Marcus’ downfall, but the joke was on me.

The effects of Aurora

Aurora isn't pretty, but it is pretty gory for television.

It’s revealed that Chase was a triple agent who’s really aligned with Charlotte and the House of Chthon against Marcus.  The special air vents meant to deliver the Aurora poison were shut down, and replaced with a poison to choke Marcus (making me wonder why that wouldn’t also harm vampires.  Who doesn’t need to breathe?).

Suddenly, Blade barges in.  He throws the vial of Aurora into the air and shoots it while delivering the lame one-liner “Can’t have the party without the keg”.  The purebloods begin to writhe and melt away.  The effects are full of blood and prosthetics – one of the best, most horrific, visuals of the series.

That only leaves our final showdown a dozen episodes in the making — Blade versus Marcus.  Blade states the obvious: “I should have let them kill you” as the two engage in some swordplay and wire-fu.  While not even on par with Stephen Dorff’s blade-work from the original film, this stands as the best fight in the whole series.

Meanwhile Chase and Krista go at it in a series of spins and martial arts kicks.  Compared to the Blade/Marcus fight, this battle falls short.  Generic lines such as “Who belongs to who now bitch?” are given flat delivery, the editing is rapid to hide the actresses’ inability to fight, and often the characters’ faces are blocked by wigs and posts to hide the stunt doubles.  In the end, this entire secondary fight comes off like a commercial for Axe body spray, with two girls fighting over Marcus.

Chase and Krista's final fight

Chase and Krista fight...or discuss Krista's Minolo Blahniks, I'm not really sure.

The fight ends as Chase is thrown down a huge staircase, and the show’s limited budget again reveals itself–the fall looks like the same effect used in 1989’s Batman Jack Nicholson death.  Of course a fall is not enough to kill a vampire, but Krista doesn’t follow up with the death blow and returns to Marcus and Blade’s fight instead.

Shockingly, Blade and Marcus are evenly matched, despite the vampire never really seeming like a fighter.  Jackson sells us on Marcus’ physicality, and the wire-fu may be the best I’ve ever seen on television.  Unsurprisingly, Blade finally gets the upper hand and goes to deliver the killing blow–when he is stopped by Krista!  The distraction allows Marcus to get Blade down.  Shen enters, shoots Krista in the back, and Blade uses the distraction to dodge Marcus’ attack.

Krista and Marcus flee.  Alone in the conclave, Shen inexplicably chooses this exact post-fight moment for a heart-to-heart.  The sidekick claims the fight wasn’t worth it because they ultimately aided Marucus in his insurrection for the House of Chthon.  Blade feels that the death of five purebloods, and Krista’s cover kept, is a win.  That dubious proclamation ends Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones’ run as Blade.

As for Krista and Marcus, they escape back to Detroit and hide out in Blade’s abandoned lair.  Marcus believes Aurora will allow him to rule Chthon, though he believes Chase will come for vengeance.  He states: “Even if I watch her ash I’d still watch my back for the rest of my years on Earth”.  Wish I knew that a few episodes ago!

Blade vs Marcus

Blade and Marcus' final fight takes the show to new heights.

Krista has one remaining question: how did Marcus know the location of Blade’s compound.  The vampire reveals his full hand–he intercepted Krista’s phone call to Blade and knows she’s a double agent.  Fangs out, Marcus grabs her face and says: “How long have you been working for Blade?” as the screen cuts to black.  It’s a cliffhanger never to be resolved.

This episode had all the hallmarks of the Blade series–gratuitous nudity, innane character decisions, and lots of action (of varying quality).  In contrast to previous episodes, however, the Aurora plot finally moved forward considerably, though not in a satisfying manner.  I was left shaking my head at so many stupid character moments courtesy of Blade, Shen, and Marcus.  In Blade: Trinity a Familiar asks Blade “Why aren’t you smarter” – a line that kept running through my head this entire episode.  Even Shen and Chase, my two favorite characters of the series, make dumb choices in their moments in the spotlight.

Marcus confronts Krista

The final shot of the series--Marcus knows of Krista's betrayal. Will he kill her? The world will never know. Or care.

The quality and quantity of fight scenes in this episode made it my second favorite of the series after Hunters.  Taken on its own, this was a satisfying episode full of action and excitement.  But as a season/series finale it feels lackluster.  It felt like we were building to something big, but all that’s here are five dead purebloods.  I expected more.

As for the series as a whole?  Tomorrow on NowPlayingPodcast.com Stuart, Jakob, and I finish our Blade movie reviews as we look at Blade: Trinity.  Take a listen tomorrow afternoon, then come back here for my final thoughts on Blade: The Series.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

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