Snow and the premiere of The Dresden Files (review, mild spoilers).

Mar 17, 2016

It snowed pretty much all night last night. I made the mistake of going out again for some last minute groceries, a jaunt down the block that wound up taking a solid hour, most of which was occupied by my trying to nagivate the TARDIS safely over frozen roads with no traction whatsover, and horrible visibility due to the huge snowflakes and Virginia drivers who think that high beams are perfectly acceptible to use in an environment filled with highly reflective particles. I got home and stayed home.

Last night Lyssa and I watched the first half of the second season of Slayers, and made it through two out of four DVDs before our brains were sufficiently fried by the series (in particular, some of the character-silliness) that we had to take a break from it. Thankfully, at 2100 last night was the premiere of The Dresden Files television series on Sci-Fi, an event that we've been waiting for since it was announced last summer. If you aren't familiar with The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, they are a series of modern fantasy stories that even I like. They are detective stories told in the first person (rather like Raymond Chandler stories) set in present day Chicago by one Harry Dresden, a modern-day wizard. Yes, a wizard - the fireball throwing, technology wrecking, wind summoning wizard, complete with Bob, an air spirit living inside of a skull in his workroom, who happens to have an ad in the Yellow Pages. The stories take a while to get going, but they start slow to give you a chance to get used to how the story is told, and to get a handle on recent events in the story. The character of Harry is delightfully sarcastic, and has some excellent lines in the novels. The style the stories are told in takes some getting used to, but it's worth it to read at least one of the novels to see if you like them or not. By and large, they're all stand-alone stories, with the backstory from earlier filled in as necessary in case you don't know or don't remember.

Anyway, Sci-Fi bought the rights to turn The Dresden Files into a series last year, and it's just started airing at 2100 EST/EDT on Sunday nights. They didn't show the intended pilot episode, an adaptation of Storm Front, but instead showed what was supposed to be the fifth episode of the season. I'm not sure that I'm entirely okay with that, but it gave a good introduction to Harry's world: Cops who call him for help (on the clock, no less) for assistance, getting his jeep ticketed and booted, waking up late, and running headlong into the supernatural encroaching upon the life of a fourteen year old boy with an uncertain past.

The special effects weren't really over the top, which I very much liked. The episode was driven by the plot more than the FX, and there was a decent amount of character development, vis a vis, Harry and Bob, who is not an air spirit inside a skull (in the novels) but the ghost of a dead wizard with a shady background, by all accounts. Paul Blackthorne, at first scratch, has the character of Harry down quite well, and looks quite a bit like what I pictured him to look like in the novels. Terrence Mann makes an excellent Bob, even if he was only sarcastic and not a pervert (BS&P has its limits, in all things). His voice reminds me very much of what I always thought Bob sounded like (and what James Marsters portreyed him as in the audiobooks). There were also a couple of flashbacks that filled the viewers in on his backstory, which to date have had only a few minor changes. What rubbed me the wrong way was how a major plot point at the beginning of the episode very obviously set up the finale; I prefer something a bit more hidden, something that I forgot about because it was so subtle. Still, it was a decently written, well acted episode. It had a cohesive storyline, good pacing, and didn't bean the viewer over the head with references that he or she wouldn't get.

I will reserve judgement on the series as a whole until I've seen one or two more episodes. You can't always tell what a show will be like from the pilot. I will also reserve judgement because Jim Butcher, the author of the novels, was on set for the filming of a few episodes, and had a hand in the creative process. Judging by his posts on the forums, he's very excited about it, and very pleased with the adaptation.

My overall rating: Three and a half blasting rods out of five.