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The Dresden Files Concordance

The Dresden Files is a new series on the Sci-Fi Channel. Based on the best-selling series by Jim Butcher, it tells of Chicago’s only practicing wizard, Harry Dresden, and his adventures in the dark, supernatural underbelly of the city.

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Episode reviews by J. Click on an episode title to get a full review.

Title

Episode 1 - Birds of a Feather

The episode opens with a flashback of the young Harry Dresden in bed, and something appears to be coming out of the closet. He yells, and his father comes in and reassures him, giving him a bracelet that he assures young Harry has protective powers and that came from his mother. In the next scene, the adult Dresden is in bed with a woman named Laura who works at the local diner. From that point on, I knew we were deviating pretty quickly from the books.

The pilot of The Dresden Files was "OK" in my opinion. I think I had the idea they were going to do the first book pretty closely, though in retrospect that was probably not really feasible. Instead, it seemed like a fairly standard mystery plot with some supernatural elements grafted on. It had the feeling of the books...sort of.

The actor who plays Harry in the show, Paul Blackthorne, is well cast in the role. He has a combination of rugged good looks and a bit of self-deprecation which is sort of how I figured the character in the book to be. The same thing goes for Lt. Karin Murphy, even though she's blonde in the books and a brunette here. She was well cast, and I thought the way the actress played her fit pretty well with how the character in the books was. Smart, and definitely not the type to play shrinking violet to anyone, least of all Harry.

However, after the core was established, the characters started to get a little weak. Weakest of all, I have to say, was Bob. What happened with Bob? The character in the books had the demeanor of a kind of dirty old man, but one that still knew how to have fun. In the series, he's been turned into a TV version of Alfred the Butler from Batman! I've read that it was for storytelling reasons that he's been changed from the spirit in the skull because, frankly, you can't do that much with that concept on TV. But to make him a stuffy butler? I think this is where the series fell down for me, at least in the pilot. I hope later on they will give Bob something more to do, or let him languish in the skull where he belongs.

My next point was the kid. I have an irrational hatred of any kid in a show or movie because it supplies fake and cliched reasons to involve the hero in situations that in real life he or she wouldn't have anything to do with. I'm really hoping this is the last we'll see of the kid for a while, as I think any kid is the death of a show, especially a show like this one where you're looking for the situations to be just a little edgy, maybe a bit frightening yet not going over the top with violence.

*** Spoilers Ahead ***

The main villain in this piece is clearly Justin, the evil uncle. Yet, didn't we hear from Bob and Harry right from the beginning that he's been "self-defensed to death"? Wouldn't both Bob and Harry know if this was the case? This was a plot point that needs to be dealt with in future episodes.

The "big bad" in this episode was a skinwalker, a creature that can evidently flay you with some sort of magical power. In its human form though, it's a schoolteacher who, quite frankly, looks like a model. I had a little bit of trouble believing that in her human form, she could have even made a dent in Harry, who looked to be about six feet tall. I mean, I'm willing to suspend disbelief but when she's hoisting him up to the rafters and using him like a punching bag ... COME ON! She should have just put the mojo on him from the beginning instead of showing us this drawn out scene.

The flashbacks were interesting, because they put the main character in a context that we'll see more of as the series progresses. But I hope they'll cover more than just his early years with his father.

Where's Mister (Harry's cat, featured memorably in the books)??? And where's the Blue Beetle?

Overall, I'd give the pilot 2.5 stars out of 5: it was a decent start but they certainly didn't hit it out of the park. I'm intrigued by the fact that this episode was not the actual pilot, and the first two episodes that were actually shot were based on the first book (which I hear is now 1 hour?). I'm drawn by the premise, but the show has to find the right tone for Bob and for Harry's interactions with Lt. Karin Murphy and this new gal, who is definitely not in the books (at least the one's I've read yet). But I'm looking forward to next week and seeing where the series goes from here

Episode 2 - The Boone Identity

This was a big step upward from last week's episode. In this one, Dresden has to find out why the spirit of a girl murdered in a shop won't leave. It turns out to have a link to Egyptian gods, a broken stone tablet, and a strange tattoo that appears on the back of people's necks. Dresden has a way of getting to the bottom of the case though, and it doesn't take him long to find out that the tablet is providing a conduit through which the villain can jump from body to body, with the complication that the original host body has to die first. And when Murphy gets possessed...
The episode was much better paced than last week's. There was a lot of ground to cover, but the exposition actually went smoothly as compared to other shows I've seen.
** spoiler ahead **
The only glaring point was that when Dresden was waiting for Murphy to show up couldn't he have sent the poor shop owner (the murdered girl's father) away rather than having him risk his life? I guess he did serve a purpose in that he was able to distract Murphy long enough to get Dresden back on his feet, but I don't think his presence was all that crucial other than to let him see his daughter "move on" at the end.
Bob is still not integrating all that well. I think that the creators have not quite figured out how to make him more of a partner to Dresden and not so much an annoyance.
I thought one thing they did do well was how there seemed to be sort of an attraction between Dresden and Murphy at the end, but it was coupled with distrust from Murphy's side, which goes along well with how it's done in the books. I don't think they've brought out the private investigator side of Dresden enough though; it doesn't really seem like he has a way to make a living as of yet. They should show him maybe struggling a little bit to make ends meet, that sort of thing.
Also, he hasn't really come up against a worthy adversary as of yet. The implication is
**spoiler ahead**
that it is the uncle he thought was dead will come back, but only time will tell if that's the direction that the show goes in.
Good things about the episode: With the exception of Bob, everyone seems to be settling into their roles. I'd still like to see if they have someone play Susan (the reporter in the books) or maybe one of Desden's friends in the later books.
Bad things about the episode: Bob is still not done very well, still no Mister or Blue Beetle. The series is getting better. Next week, no new episode because of the Super Bowl, so the episode review will return on the 11th of February.

Episode 3 - Hair of the Dog

Unfortunately, I thought this one was a step down from last weeks. We first see a man being pursued by a creature of some sort (we don't actually see it). It appears as if the man is killed. The next day, we see Karin and Harry at the park, where they have found the body of a dead woman, but not the man. It turns out that the dead woman was accosted by another woman in a bar days ago(Harry finds this out from her friend, who figures prominently later in the story) and that the dead girl was, before her death, a lycanthrope (werewolf)! That sets Harry down some dangerous investigative paths that involve some unusual federal agents, a series of killings involving werewolves, and some pretty cheesy werewolf effects.
**spoilers ahead**
I think that the series is still trying to find its legs. I thought the premise was well conceived, but the execution of it left a lot to be desired. First of all, the werewolves looked way too fake, its tough to do real fur on a creature with a budget like The Dresden Files has, so its no surprise it didn't look up to snuff. The second was that there was no rhythm to the story, it seemed like a series of events strung together for effect and an ambiguous conclusion at the end. I like how they played up Harry's reluctance to go out and kill the woman after she'd been bitten, but it was too little, too late. Also, it wasn't clear how the female FBI agent had gotten infected in the first place, that should have been dropped into the story so we would have had a little context as to why she was searching out all of the other werewolves.
I still don't think Bob fits into the story all that well. One part of the books that has not been part of the shows so far is the fact that Harry is hell on electronics. That's one of the reason's why Bob is there, to serve almost as a magical database for all of Harry's spells and potions. We aren't getting a very good idea of that in the show, and it is something that would be relatively inexpensive to show.
One part of the show that was done very well though was right at the end, where Karin asks Harry out for a beer. I thought there was real chemistry between the two at that moment, and I hope its something they pursue throughout the run of the series, if they stay away from the cliche of having her be in trouble and Harry having to rescue her. That would not fit in with the characters as they are depicted in the books at all. I give Hair of the Dog 2.5 stars.

Episode 4 - Rules of Engagement

This was one of the weakest episodes of the show, in my opinion. In this one, Harry has to help a girl get her fiancé back from the brink of turning completely evil. It seems as if a demon has taken possession of his soul and turned him into a "hellion", and only by breaking something called "The Chain of Sin" can he be released from his imprisonment.

Well, it's not really an imprisonment, because he seems to be able to come and go at will. In fact, he kills another hellion who was going after him to get the chain back, which is what brings Harry in trouble in the first place.

I really didn't mind the story that much. Sure it was clichéd, but it moved at a quick enough pace. But sheesh, get over the sentimentality already! This was the most saccharine-infused episode yet, and that's saying something.
I really don't like the Morgan character as he's played in the series: he's obnoxious but he's not menacing like he is in the books. It's clear that Morgan isn't supposed to like Harry very much, but the way it is done in the series is way over the top, and does not make you want to like him at all. Bob is his usual self. At least he gets to do something useful towards the end of the episode.

** Spoilers Ahead **

Harry has to go into the lair of the demon (with Morgan as his guide). The demon looks like someone out of the latest episode of "The Sopranos". But it seems like Harry has struck a deal: the chain goes to the demon, the girl goes free, and the girl's fiancé? Well, if it were me, I'd say, "tough luck, kiddo ... that's the last time you should mess around with a demon!" and leave him to his own devices. But Harry's made of strong stuff, evidently, and comes up with a plan not only to break the "Chain of Sin" forever, but to keep the gal and her fiancé together as well. Even Bob seems to be showing some common sense when he tells Harry to just let the whole thing go. It's never clear what Harry's motivation is. It's apparent he just wants to help people, but come on! (To be fair, he's that way to a lesser extent in the books as well.

As Harry is completing the ritual to break the "Chain of Sin" (which just looks like a bunch of cheap jewelry strung together), our gangster demon barges on in and sets our hapless fiancé on fire. The fiancé proceeds to go up like a puff of smoke. Now, Morgan is supposed to destroy anything that even hints of black magic, especially Harry Dresden, whom Morgan is just looking for an excuse to kill. But he sees this demon kill an innocent right in front of him ... doesn't even bat an eye! That to me is sloppy, inconsistent writing, and if the show comes back, I hope they manage to work on that.

The same with Murphy: she seems incredibly hostile to Dresden, and at the end will barely even take a coffee and donut from him. She's always been a bit gruff with him, but this episode put her over the top. Of course, Harry ends up saving both the fiancé and the girl, and getting something out of Morgan as well. But that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. This was a two-star episode at best.

Episode 5 - Bad Blood

Review coming soon!

Episode 6 - Soul Beneficiary

Review coming soon!

Episode 7 - Walls

I had mixed feelings about this episode of the Dresden Files. I thought the premise was very good, a spirit that inhabits a Hand of Glory has taken over a bunch of college kids and is making them do evil, and Harry has to stop it. However, it seemed like there were parts of the show that just didn't seem to mesh with each other. For example, it seemed that Bob was all over the place, as was Harry's interactions with Bob. At one moment, Harry seems to be telling Bob to not feel guilty about saving a girl (who, in the intro, goes to Harry's place to get help, sees he's not there and leaves, only to be hit by a car driven by one of the possessed kids). Then, Harry almost seems to be taunting Bob in the sense that like the spirit in the Hand of Glory, he's stuck there for all eternity, and how does Bob feel about that? Well Harry, how would you like it if you were stuck in a skull most of the day? Then, later on, he's praising Bob again! All those pieces just didn't seem to fit together very well. After the girl gets killed, Harry remembers that she was wearing a frat pin around her neck (but he says in the episode he's going to visit "her" fraternity...huh?).

** Spoilers ahead **

He goes and finds a guy whose picture is in her belongings and questions him. Of course, he seems very evasive, and he even has an iron-clad alibi, that he's was taking care of his sick mother in the hospital and therefore he couldn't have been involved. Well, of course its more complicated than that, it turns out he's using this Hand of Glory to make portals through walls so that him and his friends can steal stuff and, coincidently, make enough money to pay for his poor, sick mother's medical bills. It turns out that one of the other kids got the Hand of Glory from his father, who also died a mysterious death (while clutching the hand, no less!). It's possessed by the spirit of someone called Caleb, who wants to gather enough strength to become corporeal. When he does, well he looks like a refugee from the school of underfunded makeup artists. Anyway, it ends up killing everyone except the kid whose mother's in the hospital, and of course Harry brings him back from the brink. Not only that, he shames Morgan (the High Council's attack dog) into bringing the kid into the fold, so to speak, because he showed he had latent talent by giving the Hand of Glory over to Harry. Huh?
Another aspect of the show that I think needs to be worked on is Harry's whole relationship with Murphy. In some episodes, its clear she's haunted by the incidents in Episode 2 (The Boone Identity). In others, it seems like it never happened. A problem with the show seems to be that some episodes are being shown out of order, so you don't get continuity from show to show. If the show gets a second season, I hope they work on that aspect of it, because its clear that they are supposed to have some chemistry together. But it hasn't been consistent throughout the series.
Anyway, I thought the episode had potential, but there were too many inconsistencies and the performances were all over the place. 2 stars for this one

Episode 8 - Storm Front

This was supposed to be the first show of the series and a two-hour pilot to boot. Instead, they cut it down to an hour and decided to show it 8th in the sequence. Which, to tell you the truth, didn't make much sense to me, since it introduced characters that we had already seen in the show (and some that we never saw again, like Mister the cat!) and generally had a much different feeling than the rest of the show has had in the past few weeks. Even the street outside Harry's office looks different than it has in previous episodes, so you can tell this was not filmed in conjunction with the other ones. It follows the plot of the Storm Front book fairly closely with some notable exceptions. For one, there is no femme fatale that walks into Harry's office at the beginning, instead we cut to the two people who get killed by black magic right from the start. In the book, the murdered mobster was only a henchman for a much more important character (Johnny Marcone), one of the biggest mobsters in Chicago. In the episode, he was made out to be much more important than that. There was a revenge factor for the dark mage in the tv show that was not in the book, at least not for the character its intended for, and the Monica Sells character in the TV show ends up being the dead girl's mother, rather than her sister as it is in the book. There are lots of little changes like this that may be offputting to the people who have already read the book, but for someone that hasn't, it probably doesn't matter all that much. One big change...not a sign of Bob anywhere, and that is probably a good thing, since they have really messed up in regards to Bob, at least to me. The only interesting power he has shown so far is when he becomes the person that's been magically attacked or killed so that Harry can see what they look like. Otherwise, he's like the bad butler who won't go away when he's told to. He should have been more like he was in the book, which seemed to be a cross between a wise old man and a sophmoric college student who's just rushed for the local frat.
I thought Murphy was well done here, her character was consistent with the rest of the show's episodes, at least. I have been a little less enamored with the way Morgan has been done, but he was pretty good in this episode. I liked how they showed the Blue Beetle (another staple of the book) in the shop (henceforth the jeep he has been driving around in). And they should have kept Mister...I don't think it would have made a big difference in the budget if they had managed to have a cat every week. One big omission...Toot-Toot the pizza eating fairy...that would have been a lot of fun!
I'd give this episode 3 stars, mostly because it really seemed like the true beginning of the series, and I'm always willing to give the pilot a break. I hope they release the full two hour pilot on DVD some day, because it seems like they cut out a lot of the story.

Episode 9 - The Other Dick

Despite the funny title, this was actually one of the best episodes yet. Harry has to go to Private Investigator (PI) school to get a license so he can stay in business. The PI teacher ends up dead, and only Harry can find out why.
But he gets a lot of help from Liz Fontaine, the teacher's assistant, who is very well played by Claudia Black. (Black played Aeryn Sun in Farscape and is now playing Vala in the last season of Stargate SG-1. )
It turns out that the PI teacher was also working for a client, trailing the client's wife to see if she was having an affair. Harry begins retracing the PI teacher's steps, constantly running across Liz who is doing the same thing. Liz is determined to avenge her murdered boss. It turns out the wife wasn't having an affair, but Harry and Liz follow her to a fertility clinic!
To get inside, Harry and Liz have to pose as husband and wife having problems in a very funny scene that plays to the strength of the Dresden character: his unusual way of interacting with the other characters in the show. Claudia Black is perfect here as she goes along with his plan but gets in her own digs at him.
Harry goes off and finds a secret room with candles, a bed, and an unusual symbol hanging from the ceiling. He takes pictures of it right before the fertility doctor's assistant Anya walks in with the wife whom they've been following. As it turns out, the room and the weird symbol are a gateway for an incubus, which is using the wife as a way to bring its offspring into the world.
Later, the fertility doctor gets murdered, and all the clues point to Anya. In the meantime, Bob, who actually does something useful in this episode, is looking at the photos that Harry took of the fertility clinic and notices an unusual feature in one of the pictures. It turns out that the offspring of the incubus has been captured in the photo.
Liz goes to the house of her murdered employer's last client, the man who thought his wife was having the affair. Anya is there with the wife, and the client turns out to be the incubus itself! Liz gets caught by the incubus, but Harry shows up just in time and sends it back to wherever it came from.
And Liz ... it looks like the show's writers may be setting her up to come back. The ending had her taking over her dead employer's PI business. So maybe after Claudia Black finishes with Stargate SG-1, she'll do some more Dresden Files.
Like I said, this was one of the best episodes so far. Both the dialogue and the chemistry between Dresden and Liz were good. It may be sort of nit-picky to say this, but the Paul Blackthorne (Dresden) is by far the best actor on the show, and when he got paired with Claudia Black, you could see how much better the show got.
I think Valerie Cruz (Murphy) has potential, but is barely given anything to do. And Bob, well Bob is not what he could have been in the first place, so I guess we'll have to see how he develops.
For now, the writers should center good stories on Dresden, leave some of the lesser characters out, and give Murphy more to do. Murphy and Dresden had hints of chemistry before but that hasn't come across in a long time, so hopefully before the season ends they'll have more.

Episode 10 - What About Bob

In this episode, a one night stand for Dresden comes back to haunt him as the girl sneaks out with Bob's skull and takes it to Dresden's uncle. If you've watched the first episode, you'll remember that Dresden's uncle was supposedly killed by Dresden five years ago, but at the end of the episode was mysteriously back to life. Well in this one, we see what he's been up to. Evidently, he needs Bob to bring him back to life, and he's going to use the memory of Bob's great love to do it. Bob's biggest wish is to be mortal again (as opposed to being trapped in a skull for all eternity) and the only way that Bob can bring his great love back is if he brings Dresden's uncle back first. The episode was fairly well done, there was some good tension between Harry and Murphy as she starts investigating the death of Dresden's uncle and her own suspicions of what happened to her (in episode 2 "The Boone Identity"). You can tell she's reluctant to take him down, yet there's part of her that also wants payback for what's happened. I thought the Valerie Cruz (actress who plays Murphy) played that well. I also thought that the idea was interesting, but the way it was played out in the end was not believable.
** Spoilers Ahead **
So why would Bob, after been trapped in the skull, even want to go back to his former life? In the previous episodes he'd shown a great amount of disdain for his situation and for Harry for keeping him trapped there. It's not even clear if Harry could release him if he wanted to. So given this opportunity, why didn't he just go and smash his skull at the first opportunity so there'd be no way to go back? Was it because he had schooled Harry all along and had some fondness for him? If that's the case, then why didn't Bob not give in to Harry's uncle in the first place? It was a convenient device for the show's plot, nothing more. It's irritating to have all the build-up, and yet have it come to nothing in the end. If I wasn't so sure that there's "another" doppleganger in place for Harry's uncle, I'd even be more annoyed that they wasted the character that quickly in the first season, since he seems like the only enemy that's lasted over several episodes. I don't have any doubt there's more out there. Finally, there's a shot of Harry looking morose over Bob's "corpse". Of course, Bob materializes with nary a scratch a second later. I'm thinking...does Harry know anything about Bob? Of course he's coming back, he's immortal!!! Or did Harry think that he wasn't coming back because he'd been made mortal by his uncle? If that was the case, then did the uncle dying turn him back to an immortal? That's dumb, because if Bob was obsessed with being mortal, then he'd have to make sure that 40 or 50 years down the road, he killed himself before the uncle died, otherwise he'd go back to being immortal. Either that, or the uncle was somehow planning to become immortal himself. The perils of TV plotting...
The episode was ok, but only 2.5 stars for this one.

Episode 11 - Things That Go Bump

Review coming soon!

Episode 12 - Second City

In the season finale of the Dresden Files, we get to meet Murphy's dad, a hard-bitten cop who evidently never bothered to keep in touch with his daughter after she left home. Why do all female cops have a dad who is also a cop and is somehow estranged from them? The only show that did not hew to that cliche (that I can remember), was Karen Sisco, and we all know how long that lasted (Carla Gugino is one of the unluckiest actors in Hollywood, along with Taye Diggs and Paula Marshall). In any case, it seems that his visit just happens to coincide with Dresden becoming involved in the case of a mysterious death by drowning, seemingly in the Pacific Ocean(!) by a man found in front of a convenience store. Murphy has come to depend on Dresden for help in mysterious cases, even though he's starting to become skittish about helping her because 1) she might find out too much about his powers and 2) he's attracted to her and vice-versa. But he ends up helping her anyway, which leads to some complications with another officer and an annoying reporter who happens to be hanging around him.
** Spoilers Ahead **
This was a decent way to end a rocky first season for the Dresden Files. There was not a single story arc that tied the shows together, other than the one with Dresden's uncle, and that resolved itself several shows ago. There should have been much more made of the fact that Dresden is sort of living hand-to-mouth, and that he's barely scraping by on what the police and the occassional missing persons case can get him. I would think that a storefront, somewhere in Chicago, would actually cost a fair amount of money to keep every month. But I guess that would be nitpicky. It turns out that the cop who's coming in on Murphy's case...he has an ulterior motive. He's been surviving situations that, for a normal cop, would probably see them get knocked off in a few years (which is why the reporter's so interested in him). But he's not a normal cop, he has a little supernatural help (in the form of some type of branding iron) that takes the spiritual energy from people that have had a second chance in life and gives it to him, which effectively takes the life of the unlucky person. And, coincidentaly enough, Murphy's dad was given a second chance (by Murphy) and is in the same city so...you can probably figure out where it goes from there. I thought that both Valerie Cruz and Paul Blackthorne acted this episode pretty well...they really seemed to have some sort of chemistry between them ('shippers take note) and the idea, though it resolved itself in sort of a clumsy manner (a woman was threatened by the evil cop near the end, we never figured out what she did or what her second chance was or what, she just ran out of the scene right when Dresden, Murphy and her father come to save the day). Needless to say, her father wouldn't have been let near the place (another cliche...if you're the father of a police office, you can go whereever they go, no questions asked). In the end though, the father and daughter make up, there's definite chemistry between Murphy and Dresden, and...that's it. No hint on whether or not the show will return. I hope it does, it deserves another chance (and maybe a better time slot), but I'm not going to hold my breath. But for this episode...3 stars.