Friday, June 1, 2012

Stuck In The Middle With You S1E04 Lonelyhearts

If you don’t know why this post is titled that, you are missing a hilarious pop culture reference and you should go watch Reservoir Dogs right now. Lonelyhearts! The Captain being Captainly! The Prince being Princely, our first sign that not only is he not what he appears, he has a whole other set of authority to call on. Also, hot and regal.

Now that I’m paying attention in more detail the initial words from our dear Captain are more surprising. His “whaddayagot” is very much a “whaddayagot” rather than the crisp articulation we’re used to hearing from him, and closer to Roiz’s more tenor tones. Yes, for those of you who doubted what a geek I am, I suspect he lowers his voice a quarter octave to play Renard. The rest of his very brief dialogue is closer to what we’ve come to know from him, very much The Good Captain. He gestures with the pen in one hand, indicating that he’s read the report by gesturing at specific things as they come up. A meticulous captain.

The next scene we get our first tantalizing almost-interaction between Earless and the Prince. He looks up from the paper and we get a good look at him looking at soon-to-be-Earless, and the Prince is Displeased. He’s sure he’s going to have to take measures against this, and they’re not likely to be the kind of measures that are either legal or peaceful. His shoulders are more rigid, his brow furrowed as he balances both aspects of his life. He needs to be sure he isn’t caught. And he doesn’t like the Reapers on his territory, and this is the second Reaper within about a month at most who’s entered his territory uninvited and unannounced. Which also says interesting things about how the Reapers view Portland. The rank and file Reapers don’t seem to know that there’s a Prince in Portland. Their superiors either don’t know or don’t care. Which makes how Renard came to be in Portland and how he came to establish himself there, so far away from his family, very… interesting. Also interesting is that at this point his tie is shades of gray and white in stripes over a gray-white shirt. I promise this will be relevant in this entry. And finally, this is the first time we get a good look at his full name, right there on the desk. Captain Sean Renard. I like that the first time we get a good look at the Prince, we also get a good look at his name, first and last, as if that makes him more human or more of someone we can relate to.

Third scene! Discussing developments in the case, and he’s back to being the Captain and Roiz is back to graying on command. I suspect it’s both a quality of the light reflection on his hair and how short they’ve cut it this time, but it still amuses me. Again, no suit jacket, implying that they’ve caught him in the middle of something, possibly just after a session of checking up on his detectives and getting caught up on the cases of note, since that’s when we’ve seen him with his jacket off. Two last notes on Renard’s clothes, his tie is broad stripes of pale blue, burgundy, and wine color bordered by silver (there’s a point to this, I promise), and he has a ball cap on the coat stand in the corner. A freaking ball cap. Oh Renard.

He’s very much the Captain in this scene. Less formal, less straight-backed, no less concerned or serious but his body is more relaxed as he perches on the edge of the desk, both for meta reasons of getting him and Nick in the same frame and in the sense of the character, to make him more approachable to his detectives. Also of note, his desk is very neat and tidy still, all the papers behind him as he’s sitting down and again in view when he stands and moves behind his desk, all the loose papers are relating to the rapist case. Presumably he’ll tidy that up and put it in one of his file bins on the desk or on the whatever it is (file cabinet?) behind him once Nick and Hank leave the scene. His ability to defy the mess of paperwork usually shown in most police captains’ lives continues to astound me.

And the final scene! I could write at least a long essay on this scene. We’ll see how long-winded I get.

We start off with Renard sitting with his back to the door, a move that’s so rare it has to be deliberate. His desk in his office faces the door, his apartment has a narrow corridor before anyone coming in the door hits any of the rooms and I’m fairly sure that’s on purpose, and he is rarely ever implied in a long term position with his back to the door. Because, as we’ve seen, he has enemies, and he is right to be paranoid. He lifts his head as the Reaper comes in and tells him to shut the door, first in English, then in French. The French dialogue is a paragraph all on its own at the end of the scene. But right now he’s giving the Reaper his back and his profile by way of saying, I’m not afraid of you. I have nothing to fear from you. You are nothing to me. And you should see me, and know me for the powerful figure I am. He likes using eye contact, the use of or the lack of it, to establish power. For further examples, the scene with him and Peter in the car much later, and the scenes with him and Adelind in the car, which balance between him establishing power over her and him establishing intimacy with her through eye contact. The Reaper isn’t afraid, and he considers this stranger who looks so out of place in the seedy no-tell motel to be in over his head, whoever he is. Little does he know.

I suspect it’s the French that startles the Reaper into closing the door as Renard commands, because when Renard speaks French his head lifts a little, considering. Renard stands, and then speaks when he turns, presenting himself as Prince of the City/of the Royal Families/whatever his official title is, even if he isn’t giving it now. We know, by the set of his head and shoulders and the posture of his body, that he carries the weight of a great deal of authority. More than that, we know that he’s used to it, that he’s comfortable with it, because there’s no sign of awkward tension in him. The stiffness of his body is more of protocol; he moves with the grace of someone very used to being a Power to be Reckoned With. “First mistake was coming to my city,” he says, and we don’t question it because neither he nor the Reaper questions it. “My city” makes sense to the Reaper, as he realizes who’s talking to him. “Second mistake was not knowing who you have to kneel before.” Which gives him a rank, at least. And the Reaper does kneel, but it’s stiff and straight-backed. He doesn’t bow his head or drop his eyes, which is its own kind of subtle disrespect. He’s obeying the letter of protocol but giving no due to the Prince. The camera moves over to the scythe.

“Your fellow Reaper brought this death upon himself.” I like the way Sasha Roiz enunciates his words just a little more when he’s being the Prince, like a trained stage performer (which he is), someone used to speaking with public projection and clear diction. He picks up the scythe and now begins a set of steps that are measured and deliberate, and more of not looking at the Reaper. Instead he looks at the scythe, as though contemplating it. He gives only a bare glance to one side as he circles around behind the Reaper and once he’s behind him, then he does look at him, when the Reaper can’t look back at him without moving out of his kneeling position. “He followed the Grimm here, that gives him the right.” Giving us all kinds of tantalizing hints as to a system of etiquette and protocol. “He came without my permission.” So, again, Renard didn’t send anyone to kill Marie until Hulda tried. “I claim my revenge for his death.” Because the Reaper knows it’s expected, knows that now that he’s been discovered by a member of the Royal families he has to at least bow to some of their rules, even if he doesn’t think much of either the Royal families in general or Renard in particular, it’s unclear. “Funny,” says Renard, clearly not thinking anything of the sort, except perhaps that the Reaper’s insistence on being an impetuous fool is funny. “I deny it.”

If he’d left it at that, the Reaper might have saved his ear. Protip: When a Prince is standing behind you having just very audibly opened or prepped a scythe, consider your words very, very carefully. The Reaper starts to turn and asks, “Are you protecting a Grimm?” And this makes for an interesting juxtaposition with what we learn of Grimms much later, that they went to work for the Royal families. It implies some kinds of rivalry between at least the Grimms and the Reapers, who may or may not work for the Verrat, who have been described as “allies of convenience” with at least the Hundjager faction of the Verrat, who work for, again, the Royal families. The politics here are deeply confused. At the moment my best guess is that none of the secret police organizations who work for the Royal families (ostensibly, in reality my guess is that they work for the wealthy and the powerful, who at the moment are the Royal families) like each other, and therefore the Reaper considers a Grimm to be not worth protecting. But who knows. Hopefully the writers do, because my murderboard doesn’t.

So. The Reaper is monumentally stupid. Turning and mouthing off to the armed Prince rather than bowing his head and accepting the Prince’s judgment. There’s about a second’s worth of lip-curling from Renard before he shifts the scythe and neatly lops off the guy’s ear. With a scythe. At close range. From behind. That is not an easy thing to do and it speaks to great coordination and physical training on Renard’s part (and great work on the part of the choreographers and director for the episode, as well as Sasha Roiz and Henri Lubatti!), so by this we know the Prince was raised to be a Power both physically as well as mentally. They don’t teach you how to lop ears with a scythe in the police academy. The Reaper falls, shrieking, and Renard tosses the scythe aside with disgust. He doesn’t seem too concerned with a spot of blood on his shirt, though for a second I expected him to lick his fingertip. He picks up the ear with delicacy that isn’t squeamishness, but his usual finely articulated movements, the same kind of delicacy with which he handles pens, file folders, and evidence. The subtitles do a poor job of translating his rebuke, and he flicks the ear on the still-gasping Reaper and makes an efficient exit.

Two points. The first being, remember how I was going on and on about Renard’s ties? Well, in this scene, which supposedly comes after the second briefing with the Captain in which he has the pale blue-burgundy-wine tie, he’s back in his first outfit with the white-gray shirt and the shades of gray tie. Meaning either this scene took place the previous night and is out of chronological order with everything else (unlikely!) or the continuity editors frakked up. Really, there is no reason I should have noticed this, but I am putting this here to show that my obsession with all things Renard does sometimes pay off! And so we can all giggle.

And now we go back to the French all through the scene, and Renard’s attitude towards the Reaper. This is one of those things where I love that Roiz is a fluent French speaker because it leads to moments like this: first, when he addresses the Reaper, he uses the informal ‘tu.’ English long since dropped the multiple second person singular pronouns, and we have only one ‘you.’ But many other languages, French and German among them, still have some sort of stratified mode of address in which you can add or leave off honorifics to the person you’re speaking to. Japanese has several layers of verb forms, depending on how much you want to boast of yourself and how much you want to humble yourself, and how much you want to give honor to the person you’re speaking to. Which is a clumsy way to put it, now that I think about it. French and German have the formal ‘you,’ which you use to strangers and to superiors and other people you want to be polite to, and the informal, which you use with friends and family you feel close to. In this case, Renard is using the informal you, emphasizing that he doesn’t feel the need to be formal to a Reaper, he doesn’t think much of him at all, the Reaper is beneath him. Je sais qui tu es, he says. I know who you are. Now shut the door. Imperative construction, informal ‘you.’ This is the way you talk to servants, both grammar and tone. Also probably the first sign the Reaper had that this is a member of the Royal family.

Then, my favorite part of the French. The subtitles would have you believe that Renard says this is so you’ll remember to listen when I speak. But what he’s actually saying is, the next time, you’ll listen to me when I speak. The verbs are stronger, active verbs, the ‘you’ is again informal, and the verb he uses isn’t the imperative tense but the future tense. He isn’t even bothering to command the Reaper, he is saying, this will happen. There is no mention of remembering, there is no question of forgetting, the Reaper will listen. So Renard says, so it shall be done. Then, earflick, and the subtitles think he says now go home. He does say, now go, but there is no sense of ‘home’ to the implied destination, it’s just, now go back, or simply now go. Away, wherever, Renard doesn’t care, leave. Get out of his sight. Still the informal, and if I have my etiquette right since it’s been a while since I was in France, the phrase he uses is somewhat politer than “Now fuck off” would be in American television, but only by virtue of not using any actual swear words. The last part, and don’t come back, is largely accurate. Point made, and at no point does he ever give the Reaper the slightest honorific. (Adsartha’s note: “Hey, Sasha, here’s your English lines, make them French now.” ”brb making this more regal.”)

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