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TV Review: Marvel’s The Punisher S2E6 Nakazat

Marvel's The Punisher S2E6 Nakazat

Amy (formerly Rachel) develops photographs that point to a conspiracy. Russo reads his own report. Madani’s story about Russo comes under fire.

Things are moving forward in this episode which is frustrating in so many ways. This is a season that feels like it has a bit too much going on and not enough focus on one thing to make it enjoyable enough.

We now know what’s on the photos. We also know how those photos were going to be used and what for. There’s also Billy Russo building a group which is odd since this guy’s face is all over the place but no one seems to be turning him in to the police. Then there’s Frank with Amy/Rachel and this theme of his daughter coming back.

Going with one plot, things would be a bit stronger but nothing really feels like it has enough time being dedicated to it to fully explain what’s going on or make a whole lot of sense. Sure, this is a story that plays out over 13 episodes but like comics, you have to judge the individual episode and issue as well as the overall arc. Both suffer from decompression spreading out the story over too many episodes and issues.

Then there’s the “discovery” of Billy Russo and the result? To do things as difficult as possible. About half way through the second season and at this point, I’m hoping this is it.

Overall Rating: 6.75

TV Review: Marvel’s The Punisher S2E5 One-Eyed Jacks

Marvel's The Punisher S2E5 One-Eyed Jacks

It’s not a trap if you know it’s coming: That’s Frank’s philosophy. Madani opens up and Pilgrim plans a visit to an unholy land.

This is another example of an episode dragging things out and the decompressed issue that is Marvel’s Netflix series (and their television efforts in general).

While Russo wanders around in a haze, Frank sets his sites on “Russians” that he thinks is after Rachel.

That’s it, that’s the entire episode.

Combine this episode with the last and you’d have a much better paced series and episodes that don’t feel like filler. That’s an issue with this season so far. It wants to be a drama or police procedural in ways but it’s really a fast paced superhero/action hero series.

There’s a lot of stuff here that moves the story along and is important but… it’s doing so slowly and in a decompressed way that creates a series that drudges on and on.

Watching a show shouldn’t feel like a chore.

Overall Rating: 6.0

TV Review: Marvel’s The Punisher S2E3 Trouble the Water

The Punisher Season 2

As Pilgrim’s past comes into focus, Frank and Rachel find themselves in police custody, where they’re anything but safe.

Assault on Precinct 13, is that you? Frank and Rachel are locked up as Pilgrim and his mysterious group find them. From there a massive gunfight that’s entertaining and the only redeeming thing about the episode.

Much like the first two episodes, this third one feels like something we’ve seen before and is just a build up to an action sequence towards the end. Each episode so far has followed similar structural builds where 2/3 of the episode is slow and plodding while the last 1/3 is all action.

The season so far is an interesting one with about 1/3 of each episode being interesting. There’s this villain, a religious nut that alos seems to be a former white supremacist, but not much depth makes his mission to retrieve Rachel feel more like a horror slasher film than anything else.

There’s also the plot of Russo which feels like it could have been sped up to achieve the same result much earlier. He’ll eventually clash with the Punisher as the various plotlines come together.

There’s nothing bad about the series so far but there’s also nothing that really stands out to make it special either. It just is.

TV Review: Marvel’s The Punisher S2E2 Fight or Flight

Punisher S2E2 Fight or Flight

Frank and a reluctant Rachel go on the run as a menacing adversary gives chase. Meanwhile, Madani pays Russo an unwelcome visit.

On the run and being pursued by bad guys, the episode is a typical one that we’ve seen so many times before. The victim doesn’t want to cooperate with the hero thinking he’s a bad guy. The hero makes a stand in a hotel and uses a second room (we’ve seen this one multiple times alone). It’s a very paint by numbers episode but not necessarily bad.

There’s still a lot of amusing things here. For instance, Castle was hit by a bullet in the previous episode and that has to be dug out… of his ass. There’s some slight humor to that as Rachel must help. There’s also an emphasis that Frank is really banged up and hurting. He wasn’t exactly in the best shape to begin with but here he’s really jacked up. Unlike so many other heroes, we’re reminded that he’s human multiple times. He’s also an ass towards Rachel. Yes, we’ve seen that in other stories but again, it’s emphasized we’re not really supposed to like Frank.

There’s some bad as well and that mainly revolves around Russo who’s recovering from last season and may or may not be faking memory loss. With flashes of what happened in dreams, this entire plotline feels dragged out. It’d be so much easier and to the point to have him have nightmares of the Punisher and escape while pursuing revenge. We know it’s going to happen, speed things up, get to the point, and cut a few episodes.

Much like the first episode there’s a lot to like here and some things that are rather slow and dragged out. Much like other Marvel Netflix shows, Marvel’s The Punisher has issues getting to the point and find a steady pacing to really make it engaging. Two episodes in and it’s clear like so many of those shows before it, a shorter season would benefit it overall.

Overall Rating: 7.0

TV Review: Marvel’s The Punisher S2E1 Roadhouse Blues

Punisher Season 2 Episode 1

While driving through Michigan, Frank stops for a beer at a roadside bar. But staying out of trouble has never been his strong suit.

After a surprisingly strong first season, the Punisher is back for a second that has him wandering. He’s cleared of charges from last season and has no roots to ground him. And, it’s clear he’s looking for that, looking for a purpose. Stopping in Michigan he might have found those roots but trouble is not far behind when he gets caught up in an attempted abduction. A young woman is being pursued by individuals who either want her or something she has. It’s all mysterious for the most part.

That set up isn’t anything new, exciting, or all that interesting, it’s pretty standard. And honestly, the episode is fairly boring until the last 15 minutes or so when the fighting begins. And that fight is what’s needed to wake you up from the sluggish and slow start. It’s brutal, really brutal, and in many ways creative. It’s what the Punisher is about in some ways. It’s an over the top jolt to get you to take notice.

The episode revolves around Jon Bernthal in the title role. He grumbles and mumbles his way through his lines and as a whole there’s issues with that from multiple characters. While some are easy to understand, others are too quiet, too mumbly. But, everyone is good in their roles.

The episode isn’t necessarily bad start. When the fight breaks out, it grabs your attention, but it takes a bit to get going and spends a lot of time setting up where Frank/the Punisher is with things. Pacing seems to be the issue because that latter segment is the exact opposite of the earlier and maybe that’s on purpose. But, when there’s so much on tv to choose from, it may not have been the best choice.

Overall Rating: 7.0

TV Review: Deadly Class S1E1 Pilot

Deadly SyFy

A disillusioned teen finds purpose and fights for survival at an elite academy for the Deadly Arts.

The latest comic adaptation to come to the screen is here as the much beloved and praised Deadly Class has officially debuted on SyFy.

Based on the comic series by Rick Remender with art by both Lee Loughridge and Wes Craig and published by Image Comics, the series focuses on a school that teaches kids to be the next generation of assassins.

Set in the 80s, there’s a lot taken from tropes of the time and a soundtrack that’ll take you back the 30+ years. As it’s set in high school, there’s the usual cliques and lots of references to the socio-political situation of the time.

The pilot is a slick debut that belies the fact it’s on SyFy, a channel I don’t usually associate with quality. Great looking, solid direction, and some animation thrown in, the pilot is a debut that immerses you into the world introducing you to it as it introduces our initial main character Marcus, played by Benjamin Wadsworth.

And this show is very much about the characters. This is an ensemble show featuring Benedict Wong, Lana Condor, Henry Rollins, and so many more. And the show nails the characters. Their tone, their look, it all feels like the comic come to life. Deadly Class is one of the finest comic adaptations to have come out on multiple levels.

The show knows its strength in the material with Remender involved that’s not surprising. There’s a certain cool about it all, not that we haven’t seen parts of this story elsewhere. Still, this combination, this world, is something interesting and to see it live and breathe on the small screen is pretty impressive. Here’s hoping what follows the pilot keeps it up and can deliver on what this initial episode promises.

Overall Rating: 9.0

TV Review: Runaways S2E1 Gimmie Shelter

*Warning: This review contains spoilers*

Runaways Season 2 Episode 1 Gimmie Shelter

Runaways is back, and after an incredibly cheesy cold open where the members of Pride are directed by the LAPD to cosplay knockoff versions of their children, there’s some actual running away in the season 2 premiere “Gimmie Shelter”, which is written by the show’s creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage and directed by veteran TV helmer Allison Liddi-Brown (Grey’s Anatomy, Friday Night LightsParenthood). The episode explores the new normal of the Runaways’ kids, and how they’ve become a family while struggling to survive away from their privileged Brentwood/rich part of LA existences. Like in Season 1, a big portion of the episode is dedicated to their parents and their varying degrees of evil and scheming. Aka Tina Minoru is one scary woman.

The building of community and awareness of privilege is a throughline that gives “Gimmie Shelter” depth and empathy that the prep school sequences in Runaways Season 1 didn’t have. In the beginning of the episode, Chase loses his Fistigons and the group’s money to a low level bike thief named Mike, and they have to humble themselves and get food at an outdoor soup kitchen because they have no money. Ariela Barer, whose performance as Gert, was the standout of Season 1 gets to showcase her character’s softer edges as she realizes that in her call for social justice that she had never really experienced injustice up close.

This sense of community continues in the Wiccan funeral of Graciela Aguirre, who is Molly’s last living relative and gave her a VHS tape with a warning from her parents about Pride and the mysterious Jonah, who still isn’t as great a bad guy as Tina Minoru or the Wilders. Her death is the big plot beat of “Gimmie Shelter”, but Schwartz and Savage take time to dwell on the emotional impact of her passing, especially Gert and Molly. Viewers didn’t get a lot of time to know Graciela as a character beyond her fierce protection of Molly and opposition towards the Pride (Her shooting a gun at the Yorkeses is this episode’s finest moment.), and Molly talks about this in her eulogy. She feels alone in the world until she slowly finds family in the Runaways with a loving shot of her snuggled up with Old Lace after the team finally discovers their underground mansion hideout from the original comics.

Like in Season 1, the extended scenes with the Pride aren’t effective as the ones with the Runaways that crackle with chemistry, raw feelings, and even a little humor. For example, Alex gets a solo plot line where he helps Darius, his father’s old business associate, paint his newborn daughter’s room instead of doing stereotypical “gangster” things. On the other hand, the Pride’s scenes are just a round table of scheming, and Schwartz and Savage’s writing for them is stiffer like they’re trying to get each actor a line in the scene instead of letting the natural charisma of Ryan Sands’ Geoffrey Wilder or Brittany Ishibashi’s Tina Minoru take over. This is because the Yorkeses continue to be grating, and Janet Stein and Leslie Dean sadly have no character apart from their husband/cult respectively.

A continued over focus on the parents aside, “Gimmie Shelter” is an excellent reminder of how talented the young cast of Runaways is, especially as they have to negotiate their identities, powers, and relationships while also being wanted fugitives. There’s also a pretty major surprise wedged in this episode somewhere that gives the series both a plot and character hook.

Overall Rating: 8.0

TV Review: The Walking Dead S9E5 What Comes After

Rick is forced to face the past as he struggles to maintain the safety of the communities and protect the future he and Carl envisioned.

The Walking Dead wraps up an era as Rick Grimes exits the show after 9 seasons. But, can the episode live up to the expectations that it brings? The answer is yes and no.

Injured in the last episode with a bar through his side, Rick limps his way away from the zombie horde wounded and bleeding. Through his injury and journey he fades in and out of reality revisiting friends from the past and reflecting on his life and the state of the world.

It’s an interesting episode that doesn’t quite deliver the emotional impact one would hope until the very end with the last ten minutes redeeming an otherwise eye rolling script. But, it’s the details of the episode that really stand out and when examined, the show is deeper than would seem on the initial glance.

The episode is a book end in many ways reflecting the first episode and our introduction to Rick. Much like that episode, he’s injured limping along and taking in the world around him. In each, the injury is to the same side as he slides along trying to figure out what to do and where to go.

Through his struggle he fades in and out of reality visiting by friends of the past with a hint towards the Wizard of Oz. Shane delivers a pep talk focused on courage, Hershel talks about heart, and Sasha wisdom. All while trying to get home. There’s also a bit of A Christmas Carol too with Rick visited by three ghosts to give him advice.

And all of that leads to that ending, how does it end for Rick?

I could easily ruin it and spoil the situation but there’s something about finding out for yourself. That final 10 minutes is where the emotion sits delivering “holy shit” moments one after another and an emotional punch at numerous times. The moments you hope for with characters coming together is there with each delivering their own. And the show does Rick right in the end and… well, you’ll have to watch and see.

While it’s not a perfect episode it does set up an interesting future, especially the teases toward the very end of the episode of where things are going. It’s the closing of a chapter of a book which has many chapters to go.

The episode could easily have gone for the cheap emotional punches but instead delivers something more for long time fans who will notice the subtle winks and nods. It shows the writers want to deliver viewers something a bit more than just surface entertainment and for those that can appreciate that, it absolutely pays off.

Overall Rating: 8.0

TV Review: Supergirl S4E4 Ahimsa

When Supergirl needs help, Alex asks Lena and Brainiac to team up; J’onn questions his decision to quit the DEO, but after running into Manchester Black, he realizes there are a lot of ways to help his fellow aliens.

Supergirl is all action as it feels the various plans of villains are playing out as Supergirl recovers in her suit. There’s a lot going on in this episode introducing new characters and moving character arcs along.

The main part of the episode seems to focus on Alex and J’onn. J’onn is a bit lost with his decision to step back and he figures out he can help in his own way as he sorts things out. His journey introduces him to Manchester Black, a new character but one from the comics that potentially brings a lot to the show. They quest to save Fiona and it all dovetails into what the DEO is doing, a bit too nicely.

The DEO’s story is really about Alex’s leadership. She’s new in the role and is also Supergirl’s sister putting her in an awkward spot to make decisions, it also leads to the next bit of the shows plot that’ll play out and makes me question if the plot isn’t a bit bigger than we’re lead to believe.

It’s an ok episode full of action and in many ways the end of the “first act” of the season. While it doesn’t have the depth of previous episodes, it does take us on to a next phase of where this season is going. It’s not bad but also not all that good compared to what this season has delivered so far. While an action packed episode is good, there’s just something missing as the show has shown it can be so much more.

Overall Rating: 7.5

TV Review: Supergirl S4E3 Man of Steel

Through a series of incidents, and input from his anti-alien father, Ben Lockwood slowly transformers from a mild-mannered professor into the villainous Agent Liberty.

Supergirl is not holding back this season. As people still recover from the shock of the murder of eleven individuals due to their religion by a radicalized individual, the show explores radicalization within its own world.

“Man of Steel” explores Ben Lockwood, Agent Liberty, the villain of the season. We’ve seen his rallies where he spouts xenophobic rhetoric but how did he get to that point?

Lockwood was a Professor with a wife and son and a father who owns a metal factory that’s being challenged. That factory has competition in Nth Metal (a wink and nod to comic fans), an alien metal with literal alien workers. Supergirl is taking on the current racist driven hysteria of asylum seekers and undocumented workers taking jobs and making it front and center this season.

Through a series of events we can see Lockwood become radicalized. From losing his job to losing his home, it echoes the “stories” we hear about flyover country and small town America. People whose lives are being impacted with little attention and whose anger is being directed towards boogeymen exploiting bigotry and racism. It’s a playbook we’ve seen over and over, using the other to gain politically through fear.

There’s just enough presented to make Lockwood sympathetic in some ways but his radicalization is clear and presented in a way that while you might feel sorry for him you (hopefully) aren’t agreeing with him. His actions, his beliefs, his statements, are abhorrent. By the time he dons his mask there’s no question as to his place and it’s clear he’s in the wrong and evil. He’s the embodiment of the alt-right and MAGA crowd. Lockwood plays the role of both Trump and his enforcers who murder in his name and their perceived shared outlook on the world.

With a week that has involved the attempted murder of political leaders, the actual murder of two African-Americans and eleven Jewish individuals, and the election of a far-right Fascist/racist/sexist/homophobic individual in Brazil, this episode is both cringe-worthy due to its timing but also needed. When younger kids might be asking why someone has the type of views that might lead them to commit such acts, “Man of Steel” acts as a solid introduction to our reality. It’s an allegory that can be used to explain our current socio-political climate to those who might not understand the “why” of it all.

The episode can be described as a mitzvah in both what it’s taking on, the stance it takes, and what it achieves in helping open a dialogue with the next generation and the show’s fans who might not understand what’s going on in today’s world.

Overall Rating: 10

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