Okay, Dresden premiere. I ended up watching it twice, the first as it aired then again the following afternoon. The first time, I thought it was awful awful awful, with the only redeeming aspect being Valerie Cruz’s surprisingly spot-on Murphy. But between viewings, I talked with fellow fans and we worked out what changes bothered us and helped each other get over them. When I saw it the second time, I felt less frustrated and much more confident about the direction the series was taking the characters, though I still felt the writing itself was weak. Also, the magic. It is not Dresdenverse magic. This is
ranted about discussed definitely ranted about later in the post.
- Murphy. SQUEE. Going into the show, Murphy was the character I was most wary of. They’d had to change her name for legal reasons (apparently there actually is a Karyn Murphy at the Chicago PD, so “Karrin” became “Connie”), and then there was the whole casting switchup, where the actresses they found to play Murphy and Susan ended up being better-suited for the other’s role, then the bomb Valerie dropped a week before the premiere, mentioning that TV-Murphy had a daughter, whereas book-Murphy divorced her second husband largely because she didn’t want kids. But then the actress was awesome, so Priscilla is happy. In spite of all the changes, she came across as most like her book counterpart! I loved her annoyed banter with Harry, and I love that she called him out when he wasn’t behaving. I look forward to her slamming Harry into the hood of a car for hanging up on her, because he kind of deserves it. :D
- The Ravens sitting around and watching the kid eat an ice cream sundae, with the dramatic music preceding the offering of the whipped cream. Pure book-style humor. Loved it. My friends and I have named the lead Raven “Quoth,” with the option title of “Lord Quoth of the Cream that is Whippèd.”
- Terrance Mann. I had many issues with Bob, but they’re all script-related. Terrance Mann himself is great, and I certainly would not mind Bob belting 16th Century showtunes, thought I’d rather hear him sing “Where’s the Girl?” from The Scarlet Pimpernel, because it makes me think bad thoughts. On second thought, though, I should just stick to my CD. Thinking bad thoughts about Bob is icky.
- The Story. First off, this episode was clearly never written to be a first episode, and I’m wondering what on Earth possessed the higher-ups that they needed to ditch the two-hour pilot. Okay, so they replaced a bunch of the actors in the interim (Bob, Justin, and Ancient Mai–which it turns out is pronounced like the month and not like the possessive pronoun, but I digress), so they had a lot of reshooting, but bah. They should have started filming earlier!
Anyway, back to this episode. The flashback structure of the episode was totally wrong for a premiere. They would have done better in, say, the third episode of the series. And what do you know, the episode number is 1×03? Also, regarding Bob, I wish his character could have been better-established before we learned of his DUBIOUS MORALITY and DARK PAST. This was like “Dead Beat” Bob. Except how his personality bears no resemblance to book-Bob, whom I miss terribly.
- Harry. Paul Blackthorne acted the part quite well and there were only a couple tiny moments where his accent twigged me, but I didn’t like the way he was written. Not nearly enough snark, and a bit too much jerk and preoccupation with money. Sure, he has plenty of curmudgeon-y moments in the book series, but we get the full range of his personality over the course of the book, whereas we only got one sliver in this episode. Feh.
Also, wee!Harry’s threat to the thing that killed his mother scared the heck out of me. I guess in the TV-verse, Maggie didn’t die in childbirth, even though that’s what SciFi has been saying in the press pack series synopsis. Or rather, I guess that in this world, Harry and Colm know early on that it wasn’t the act of childbirth that killed her, rather than Harry finding out in the fifth book of the series. Boooo, unnecessary canon changes!
- I’m lukewarm about Malcolm Dresden, or “Colm” Dresden as he’s called here. It completely turns book canon on its ear for him to know about magic, which I wouldn’t mind normally, but to have him warn Harry to always stay below the magical radar and not let others find out about his powers seems reeeeeaaally hypocritical for Harry when he grows up and advertises his wizarding abilities in the phone book. Poor decision, writing team.
- Uh, is this Harry even capable of defending himself? I would have liked to see Harry *start* to do something to protect himself before he gets his rear end kicked by the skinwalker.
- The Skinwalker. Yawn. Actually, not yawn. ZZZZZZZZ is more like it. They kept talking about how scary she was, and I can see how she would be, but I just didn’t feel it. And Harry’s wards were a joke.
- Melissa. Awkwardly written, and ultimately I couldn’t care less about her death. Bob’s suggestion to consult her reminded me of Serenity‘s equally poorly-transitioned “We should talk to Mr. Universe!” I miss the Archive.
- Bob’s Deus Ex Gamecube of Doom. Not endearing the writing team to me by any stretch of the imagination. Apparently “doom box” was supposed to be a pun on “boom box,” but THEY DIDN’T HAVE BOOM BOXES IN THE 16TH CENTURY WHEN BOB WOULD HAVE WRITTEN HIS FIRST GRIMOIRE. Also, in today’s society, you’re just not allowed to use the word “doom” any more in a non-ironic way. Robert [Wolfe, one of the producers] has said on the boards that the episode ran long and they had to trim bits that would have made it less plot-devicey and appalling, but meh. It doesn’t change the fact that it was lamer than a duck with no legs.
- The Magic. It’s just is not Dresdenverse magic. One of the things I love most about the magic of the book series is that it makes sense. It’s all about physical and mental connections and associations. There’s also a fair share of blasting monsters with fire or wind, but there’s no hocus-pocus, wandwaving, “aha, I have transfigured this badger into a teacup and levitated this pouch of Snausages” kind of magic. It’s more a matter of manipulating forces and focusing energies. If Harry makes something move, it’s more along the lines of Storm rather than Jean Grey. He doesn’t defy gravity, he manipulates the air currents into moving the object. I could go into Dresdenverse spellcasting the differences between evocation and thaumaturgy, but this post is already long enough.
Also, there’s no “If I combine three eyes of newt with burba weed picked three days before the full moon by virgins and stir counterclockwise, I will make a fabulous tonic similar in effect to Nair.” Whereas in the Dresdenverse, “Potions are all made pretty much the same way. First you need a base to form the essential liquid content; then something to engage each of the senses, and then something for the mind and something else for the spirit. Eight ingredients, all in all, and they’re different for each and every potion, and for each person who makes them.” It’s all very deliberate and logical. When I read Harry Potter, I ask myself who on Earth could have come up with these potions and spells? One slightly wrong move and you nearly kill Neville’s toad. When I read the Dresden Files, I think “of course. That’s how magic works.” In short, book!kid!Harry could not levitate a metal ring from across the room.
- So the TV magic loses everything that distinguished the magic of the books. Well, it’s about to go further. I read a post from Robert on the boards today that “It was decided not to use “magic words” since it felt too reminiscent of Harry Potter. There will definitely still be spells, including flying staffs and fire blasts and such. Just not with the words.”
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH. It’s not like Potter is the first wizard to use spellwords. It’s times like these that make me almost wish the PTB *had* changed Harry’s name to Eric for the TV show, so people would be less inclined to make comparisons between the two series. (Re: Erik, Harry Dresden was named by his stage-magician father for Harry Houdini, but in the wake of Pottermania, the PTB considered changing his name to Eric to discourage comparisons, as Houdini was born Erich Weiss) Maybe if they kept the distinctiveness of Dresden’s magic and didn’t turn it into the common Potter-style magic swill, people wouldn’t be inclined to make that connection! And no matter how clever the etymology, no Potter spell could compare with Harry’s spell for lighting candles: “Flickum bicus.” Of course, it took me several months to get the joke, but that just made it funnier.
And this post totally devolved into Reasons Why The Dresden Files Book Series Is Awesome (and why I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted with Harry Potter), but I don’t care.
I use this icon in righteous indignation. For those with weak vision and/or high-resolution displays, it reads “Unleash Nerd Fury.” Oh, the Colbert Report! You wouldn’t wreak havoc with one of my favourite book series and turn it into badly written, near-unrecognizable sludge! And I think I need to talk with my friends again about not getting worked up over the changes they made from the books to the show…
And the sad thing is? At least for the time being, I’m going to keep watching.