Category Archives: Television

TV Review: Legends of Tomorrow S3E2 Freakshow

Tonight’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow starts off with a loving flashback to Nathaniel and Amaya spending some quality time, having fun with some baking. The team sets off on a new mission that Sarah refers to as a “slam dunk,” so you know things are going to go six ways from sideways. They end up in 1870 Wisconsin in PT Barnum’s, played by Billy Zane, circus in search of an anachronism, that turns out being a sabertooth tiger. A mix up with Atom’s don’t-call-it-a -shrink-Ray leaves the team with an even bigger problem their hands and since none of the current roster of Legends has any experience with animals, Sara in all of her boss chick, girl squad glory, takes a dip back in time to grab former team member Amaya (aka OG Vixen).

While Nathaniel deals with his abandonment and relationship loss issues, Sarah and Amaya take on the prehistoric beast and prevail. But, since it’s never all good in the Legends hood Nathaniel’s attempt at drinking away his feelings with his boys, leads to half the team getting captured. It was fun and authentic to see Nate try and mask his feelings, while showcasing the fragile male ego and, nice guy syndrome after the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Instead of tackling his feelings he masks them and blames Amaya , he’s so caught in trying to come off unbothered and hyper masculine he ends up getting Amaya and himself taken while mid-rescue mission.

There is some resolution and hope in Nathaniel realizing his ego was to blame and he finally talks it out with Amaya giving some clarity to the situation. While they work out their issues and attempt to gain closure, Sara rallies the remaining crew members, Rory and the Professor, while she goes toe to toe with Time Agent Sharp.

Overall, the episode is a straight up banger filled with superior action, a big baddie reveal, a trust fall, a team reconnection, and a glimpse into human nature. There’s a lot packed into the episode but none of it was useless or fluff. “Freakshow” serves up a solid hour of awesomeness.

Kudos to the Legends writing room. In this episode they tackle the bond of sisterhood in friendships, the fragility of male egos, and showcase strong female characters who not only save the day but, are secure in themselves being undefined by who they’re dating. Legends continues its tackling of complex issues, racial, gender and sexual, while telling an action packed camptastic story. The writers make sure that even the placeholder episodes that pop up during the season have meaning, explore a message and keep it real and I’m all the way here for it.

Overall: 9.1

TV Review: Lucifer S3E3 Mr. and Mrs. Mazikeen Smith

Realizing she wants more from life, Maze heads to Canada for a tricky case; Chloe worries Maze is being targeted by a con man; Lucifer and Chloe discover their target may be closer then they realized.

Lucifer puts the focus on Maze in this episode that’s beyond entertaining and evidence that we need more Maze-centric episodes!

Having to go after a con man, who may be a murder, Maze heads to Canada, and from there the jokes are pretty non-stop and we get to see her badass self.

For those unaware, Maze is no longer just Lucifer’s enforcer/right hand woman, she’s also a bounty hunter trying to make a living, so here she’s focused on that and then some. But, even though she’s focused on making some money, she also is enjoying the chase to some extent. It’s cute, it’s entertaining, and it’s Maze at her best. She kicks ass, she is beyond flirty with a dangerous sexiness about her. There’s teases of BDSM and she delivers it all in a way that you’re not sure if you should be scared or go along with it all.

The humor in the episode is awesome, placing Maze in the snow and cold, a place she shouldn’t be and there’s some good jokes of her being in Canada but it’s not constant. The episode does a fantastic job of balancing action, humor and sexiness and does it all in an hour that seems to flow by.

The episode also breaks the usual formula of their being a murder and then the team has to solve it while the greater storyline plays out. We get a different type of story which shows the show can do more than its usual schtick. More of this please.

A solid episode that puts the spotlight on a character who definitely doesn’t get enough screen time. It shows that the series has a solid cast and any of them can take the lead and continue to entertain.

Overall Rating: 8.45

TV Review: Supergirl S3E2 Triggers

Everybody has their something and “Triggers” brings fear to the forefront in the most brilliant way. The villain in this episode is female and she uses fear to rob banks and, while fear is a human emotion, Kara finds herself affected and unable to fight her without succumbing to literally, crippling fear. While Kara tries to figure out how to defeat a villain who uses everything that scares her against her, Maggie and Alex are going toe to toe on how to beat plan their wedding, often using their friends as tie breakers and sounding boards. Triggers also shows how the work/life balance can be when your best friend is your boss… at both of your jobs and, we dig deeper into the rise of Reign.

This episode is extremely well written and even though the writers cram so much into a very psychologically draining episode, there is no shortage of action or connection. We get to see Kara getting close to her Kryptonian roots as she goes old school to meditate and get her panic attacks in order. Giving Kara these human fears and feelings that lead the way to a torturous existence in ones own minds, makes Kara more relatable especially with her character turning away from her friends and lashing out against her allies. It was nice to see the writers taking a moment to address even the tiniest bit of depression and terror in such a way that it didn’t seem cliched or like an unnecessary emotional manipulation was amazing. It was nice to see fear taking hold of a wide array of people regardless of gender, race, sexuality, age or superpower and shedding a light on it.

We also got to see Lena in full boss lady mode. She played nice until she felt like she didn’t have a choice but, laying down the law. Her actions with Kara seemed so real because it is 5e dilemma that most women in power feel, especially when working with friends. There is often a sense of a need to be nice and cordial so that people like you, a lesson that men don’t get. There was a nice parallel between Lena’s fear of losing her friend , or feeling like the bad guy at work and Kara dealing with her fear of absolute isolation, especially following the loss on Mon-El. Triggers shows two very powerful women dealing with fears without making them seem weak or heartless and I love it.

In addition to the humanization and building upon their already complex character development, the writers also treated us to some light heated bickering and tender moments between Alex and Kara as well as Alex and her fiancé Maggie. I love that the show showcases their relationship in a way that shows the couple for what they are, normal. The writers never play the couple for shock value or as a cliched storyline and they show them in a way that carries into the homes of people who never see LGBTQ representations in real life. I also loved the episodes resolutions and reveals, which you I will not spoil and thoroughly encourage you watch and enjoy.

Overall: 8.9

The Top 60 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

With Star Trek: Discovery debuting to rave reviews and a level of quality that justifies paying for CBS All Access, the Star Trek universe is back in the fannish consciousness. If you’re suffering from Trek withdrawal in the week-long breaks between new episodes – and you just shelled out for the streaming service – the classic series from the 1990s Trek renaissance could be your methadone. There’s just one problem: those ’90s Treks are wildly uneven. Whether you’re a new fan looking to catch up, or you watched years ago but can’t remember which were the good ones, here is a thumbnail guide to the top 60 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Season 1

The consensus is Skip with Extreme Prejudice, and most of it is indeed terrible. There’s no reason to watch the interminable pilot episode. You can get by on the following three:

  1. “Datalore” (S1 E13): Brent Spiner acts his shiny metal ass off in the first of many episodes where he gets to play Data and Data’s evil twin. This is exciting and darkly funny in exactly the way that the rest of the season fails to be.
  2. “Skin of Evil” (S1 E23): The effects are tacky and some of the dialogue is ho-hum, but it features one of the most brutal character deaths in TV history. It’s also one of those stories that looms over the whole rest of the series.
  3. “Conspiracy” (S1 E25): A tight, paranoid thriller that plays with Cold War fears in a satisfying sci-fi way. One of Badass Picard’s shining moments.

Season 2

Most of season 2 is not actually better than season 1, but its handful of high points are among the best of the entire series.

  1. “A Matter of Honor” (S2 E8): Riker goes to a Klingon ship in an officer exchange program, resulting in character development for him and worldbuilding for Klingon-kind.
  2. “The Measure of a Man” (S2 E9): Data’s humanity goes on trial, Picard and Riker show off some lawyering moves straight off of Law & Order, and we wind up with one of the uncontested classics of the series, a meditation on the boundaries of personhood.
  3. “Q Who” (S2 E16): There were two Q episodes before this, but this is the first where the character and his role in the show come into focus. Also, a creepy rough draft version of the Borg, and some of the series’ most lyrical dialogue.
  4. “The Emissary” (S2 E20): Come for the hot Klingon holodeck sex, stay for the well-paced political intrigue and set-up for a series-long Klingon arc.

Season 3

Arguably the best season of the entire show, despite some mega-turds that we will be skipping. Everyone got new uniforms, and this show finally figured out what it wanted to be. Even the comedy episodes are solid.

  1. “Who Watches the Watchers” (S3 E4): An underrated gem, in which Picard has to convince a colony of early modern Vulcans that he is not God.
  2. “The Enemy” (S3 E7): Geordi gets stranded on a hostile planet with a Romulan. This manages to say smart things about disability as well as raising a big middle finger to Cold War prejudice.
  3. “The Defector” (S3 E10): A taut, quiet character piece masquerading as big Romulan political drama, with satisfying twists at each act break. Also, bonus Shakespeare.
  4. “Deja Q” (S3 E13): Q gets in trouble with the Continuum and is dropped, naked and terrified, on the Enterprise John de Lancie’s comic timing is so perfect that it’s infectious, but the concept is played for empathy as well as humor.
  5. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (S3 E15): The Enterprise time travels into an AU dystopia, and the only way out is painful sacrifice. Saying more will ruin a near-perfect hour of Trek.
  6. “The Offspring” (S3 E16): Data builds an android child, and if you are not weeping at the end, you have no soul.
  7. “Sins of the Father” (S3 E17): Worf gets wrapped up in other Klingons’ political drama, and we get a glimpse of the underappreciated bond between Worf and Picard.
  8. “Captain’s Holiday” (S3 E19): This features a Ferengi in a Hawaiian shirt, a running bit with an alien sex totem, and a love interest for Picard. In spite of the above, it is a delight.
  9. “Hollow Pursuits” (S3 E21): There are a few off-putting moments here, and the message about addiction and gaming is an artifact of the late ’80s. But it’s key as an introduction to Barclay, and as a prescient exploration of geek culture at its exploitative and objectifying worst.
  10. “The Most Toys” (S3 E22): Data gets kidnapped by a rich creep who wants to “collect” him as a priceless artifact. This covers a huge amount of ethical ground in an hour and features Data at his most human.
  11. “Sarek” (S3 E23): A meditation on aging and dignity, with Vulcans. Once you stop crying, you will seethe with rage that Patrick Stewart was never nominated for an Emmy for this role.
  12. “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I” (S3 E26): Imagine a pre-internet era when nobody was spoiled for the season finale, and cliffhangers were rare. Then imagine the impact of this brilliant hour of sci-fi horror.

 

Season 4

Still peak TNG, with a greater focus on character arcs and emotional development. There’s even a good Lwaxana Troi episode.

  1. “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II” (S4 E1): The stunning conclusion is a minor affront to principles of computer science, but it’s so tense and emotionally affecting that the Federation’s victory feels plausible and earned.
  2. “Family” (S4 E2): Rather than bounding along as if the events of BoBW were a distant memory, the show stops to acknowledge the lasting psychological effects of Picard’s experiences. Also, bonus unsexy mud wrestling.
  3. “Brothers” (S4 E3): Everyone in this episode is played by Brent Spiner. It’s another quiet, character-focused hour, and a companion piece to “Family.”
  4. “Remember Me” (S4 E5): Four seasons in, and one of the female leads finally gets to sink her teeth into a strong episode. Gates McFadden navigates smartly through a twist on a classic nightmare tale.
  5. “Reunion” (S4 E7): More Klingon intrigue, the second most brutal character death of the series, and Michael Dorn acting through his prosthetics like a true professional.
  6. “Future Imperfect” (S4 E8): Riker wakes up in the future with retrograde amnesia, and of course nothing is as it seems. The twists are more predictable than in some other, similar episodes, but it’s a popular one and a clever sci-fi concept.
  7. “The Wounded” (S4 E12): My hipster pick for best episode of the series, perhaps because it’s an O’Brien episode. Or actually because it’s a brilliant meditation on racism and the psychological toll of war.
  8. “First Contact” (S4 E13): Come to watch Riker get sexually assaulted by Lilith from Cheers, stay for one of the smartest “day the aliens came” narratives in TV history.
  9. “The Nth Degree” (S4 E19): Flowers for Algernon on the holodeck, but more than the sum of those parts.
  10. “The Drumhead” (S4 E21): I’m including this one because the fan consensus is that it’s a classic, which I guess is true if you like slow courtroom dramas with an extra helping of didacticism. Eh, you’ll probably enjoy it more than I do.
  11. “Half a Life” (S4 E22): Lwaxana Troi finally gets an awesome boyfriend, and she has to fight to keep him alive. Who knew this show had so many great episodes about aging?
  12. “Redemption, Part I” (S4 E26): Big, knotty, compelling Klingon drama, with cliffhanger.

Season 5

This season was really uneven, but you’ll never tell from my picks, which include many of TNG’s finest moments.

  1. “Redemption, Part II” (S5 E1): The Klingon drama gets knottier when the Romulans show up.
  2. “Darmok” (S5 E2): If you ever doubt that science fiction inspires, note that this is my non-hipster favorite episode, I have a Ph.D. in Shakespeare, and I currently work in English Learner education.
  3. “Disaster” (S5 E5): One of TNG’s best moments of trashy fun, as the ship breaks down and everyone is thrown out of their element. As with all the best trashy fun, there’s genuine character development, especially for Picard and Troi.
  4. “Unification, Parts I and II” (S5 E7-8): Fun stunt makeup, bonus Spock, and a depiction of reform and revolution that both celebrates the fall of the Iron Curtain and presages Arab Spring.
  5. “The Outcast” (S5 E17): Some aspects of Riker’s romance with a rebel from a repressively mono-gendered species have 1992 stamped all over them, but overall, this is a remarkably sensitive exploration of transgender experience.
  6. “Cause and Effect” (S5 E18): Crusher gets trapped in a Groundhog Day loop, in what remains one of the most effective examples of my favorite standard genre fiction plot.
  7. “The Perfect Mate” (S5 E21): What could have been a self-undermining bro-feminist lament about the objectification of women is instead a complex and tender Jean Grey/Professor X AU romance.
  8. “I, Borg” (S5 E23): Geordi finds an orphaned teenage Borg and attempts to raise him as his own, in a very special episode of Different Strokes that never takes the easy way out of its ethical questions.
  9. “The Inner Light” (S5 E25): Picard experiences the life of a man from a planet destroyed in a long-ago natural disaster, in one of the simplest and most touching episodes of the series. One of TV’s great format-breaker episodes, too.
  10. “Time’s Arrow, Part I” (S5 E26): Data travels back to 19th-century San Francisco in search of his own severed head, and then Mark Twain shows up.

Season 6

The show started showing its age at this point, but it also got deliciously weird and dark.

  1. “Time’s Arrow, Part II” (S6 E1): The rest of the crew goes back in time to retrieve Data, meet Guinan, improvise Shakespeare, and practically break the fourth wall begging you not to think too hard about this.
  2. “Schisms” (S6 E5): This eerie body horror mystery is an underrated gem with twists that swerve just as you see them coming.
  3. “The Quality of Life” (S6 E9): Adorable Roombas achieve sentience, and Data’s impassioned defense of their right to life is a lovely extension of his series-long character arc.
  4. “Chain of Command, Parts I and II” (S6 E10-11): My other other favorite episode splits its time between a harrowing torture and interrogation plot and a more mundane depiction of a dangerously horrible boss.
  5. “Face of the Enemy” (S6 E14): It took TNG 6.5 seasons to give us a decent Troi episode, but when they finally did, it was one of the best of the series. Troi goes undercover as a Romulan, and Marina Sirtis’ acting skills get let out of their corset, too.
  6. “Tapestry” (S6 E15): Q rescues Picard from the brink of death and gives him the It’s a Wonderful Life treatment, only with more stabbing and homoeroticism.
  7. “Starship Mine” (S6 E18): What, you’re going to skip Die Hard in space with Picard as McClane? Didn’t think so.
  8. “Frame of Mind” (S6 E21): Riker is trapped in an alien mental institution! Except he’s not crazy! And except this avoids most of the cliches and is maybe the scariest episode of the series!
  9. Second Chances (S6 E24): Because there were not enough evil twins on this show already, it turns out a transporter accident created a duplicate Riker. It’s played for angst, which surprisingly is the right move.
  10. Timescape (S6 E25): A trippy mind-screw of a temporal mechanics episode in which the nerds save the day.
  11. Descent, Part I (S6 E26): OH CRAP THE BORG ARE BACK.

Season 7

This was the planned last season, and you can smell the producers scrambling to wrap up most storylines and punt the rest to DS9 and Voyager. Nonetheless, TNG finished strong.

  1. Descent, Part II (S7 E1): OH CRAP THE BORG BROUGHT LORE WITH THEM.
  2. Phantasms (S7 E6): When androids dream of electric sheep, they figure out how to save the Or, the one where Troi is a cake. (The episode itself makes approximately this much sense.)
  3. Attached (S7 E8): Shameless fan service for the Picard/Crusher shippers, which is fine, because you’re one of them by now. Resistance is futile.
  4. Inheritance (S7 E10): Data meets his mother, and the acting is terrific.
  5. Parallels (S7 E11): You make an episode about a character drifting from one parallel universe to another, and it’s a Worf episode? No, actually, that’s a brilliant idea, carry on.
  6. Lower Decks (S7 E15): As if to prove that the show still had a few format-breaking tricks up its sleeve, this episode features a quartet of young, low-ranked crew members and turns our perceptions of the main cast on their heads.
  7. Eye of the Beholder (S7 E18): Troi unravels a psychic murder mystery in a well-paced, emotionally intimate take on a classic ghost story plot.
  8. All Good Things… (S7 E25-26): A series finale so perfect that it improves everything that came before.

What’s Next?

Watch the first two TNG feature films, Generations and First Contact; skip the others. Then, move on to Deep Space Nine (Abridged) and Voyager (Abridged).

TV Review: Marvel’s Inhumans S1E3 Divide — And Conquer

MARVEL'S INHUMANSThe Inhumans desperately search for each other in the wake of Maximus’ coup; They must learn who they can trust on Earth.

While the first two episodes of Marvel’s Inhumans weren’t the disaster that everyone made them out to be, the third episode isn’t much better as it feels like it expands upon the first two and not much else.

We catch up with the various characters whether they’re on Earth, being pursued on Earth or on the Moon. They wander around and try to figure out what’s going on (everyone is) and by the end of the episode things feel like they’re almost in the same spot.

There’s some plot movement in that Black Bolt rallies some allies as does Gorgon. But then there’s groan inducing moments like Maximus allowing Crystal to escape and Medusa attempting to get money from an ATM. Karnak’s issues are explained but overall the episode and plot moves at a glacial pace. Maximus unleashes what’s hinted at as a deadly Inhuman but even that feels rather ho-hum when things get rolling. It’s all rather… boring. Again, it’s not bad, it’s just not very interesting or good either.

The other issue is that Maximus, who’s supposed to be the villain, actually is right in many ways. He wants to throw off the caste system and remove his people’s history of determining citizens’ roles based on their abilities. At its core, he’s right, it’s just he’s also a major creep, especially when it comes to Medusa and Crystal. So, right message, wrong messenger.

With a muddled plot (where the bad guy is right) and characters we could care less about, we’re left with a bore of a show that only feels like it should be watched to see how it connects to the great Marvel universe. The show isn’t good. The show isn’t bad. The show is flat, like its acting.

Overall Rating: 5.0

marvel-inhumans

TV Review: Broad City S4E4 Mushrooms

Man, I think a got a contact high from this episode. In Broad City Season 4, Episode 4 “Mushrooms”, writer Abbi Jacobson and director Nicholas Jasenovec cut loose animator Mike Perry, who has mostly worked on the show’s title sequence, to do an almost fully animated mushroom sequence. “Mushrooms” is one of Broad City‘s most stunning episodes to date with vibrant colors and little visual jokes like a skateboarder using a pat of butter to get across a pancake and a kooky blend of animation and live action when Abbi and Ilana run into the real world, namely, getting macarons for Abbi’s boss, Dara’s (Wanda Sykes) wife. But, like a bad trip combined with smoking weed, “Mushrooms” gets a little dark at the end, and Abbi gets some consequences for doing drugs around her boss, oops.

But before the comedown, there’s a glorious trip courtesy of the imagination of Jacobson, Jasenovec, and Perry. It’s a cliche to say that New York is a living organism and/or character in Broad City, but this tired sentiment is truer than ever in “Mushrooms”. Even though they’re playing their characters in voiceover, Jacobson and Glazer bound with energy and big thoughts about love, how moms are basically superheroes, and how pickles and French people are cool. Jasenovec revels in Abbi and Ilana’s trip for the first third or so of the episode and doesn’t cut away to live action people gawking at them, but explores the alleys and tunnels and rivers of this experience with a Bingo Bronson cameo playing the cherry on top. After their separation in previous episodes, it’s also nice to see Abbi and Ilana together enjoying life. The word “love” pops up a lot so this whole sequence is basically an animated dream world version of their friendship. I could look at the color palette of the animation all day and definitely smiled when their tripping-balls-high-five activated the Broad City 1-2-3-4.

Jacobson, Jasenovec, and Perry somewhat (He gives Abbi and Ilana big eyes to differentiate their tripping selves from the regular people they bump into.) continue the happiness into the real world as even tripping on mushrooms, Abbi and Ilana successfully deliver the macarons to Abbi’s boss. Yay, adulting! Also, the macaron buying sequence is another excuse for pretty colors and for Perry to animate an entire scene set in Paris with the character who sells the macarons to them speaking only French. Abbi and Ilana’s speaking patterns are a little off, like Ilana speaking on a beat and clapping when talking with Dara, but they find success to match the color of their trip. Dara has seen Abbi’s old art school website and offers to take time out of her busy schedule to meet with her while Ilana somehow has lucked her way into what ends up being a very kinky three way with an attractive, wealthy couple at the party. However, drugs and professional/sexual opportunities don’t mix unfortunately, and Jacobson takes “Mushrooms to the dark side as Abbi and Ilana come of their trip.

Towards the end of “Mushroom”, Jasenovec and Jacobson give consequences for Abbi and Ilana splitting up just before they’re having a bad trip and mixing mushrooms and weed too early in a logical, very non-anti drug PSA way. When Abbi and Ilana smoke a little too much weed mixed with the mushrooms, Jasenovec slows down the camera speed while showing puffs of color as they become even more incoherent. They have no idea how to act at a party or do sexy things with Ilana constantly going to the bathroom and having hallucinations of Lincoln (Hannibal Burress) because deep down Abbi’s situation is a lot of worst even though initially it looks like her boss is going to be cool with her tripping balls because it’s a weekend, and she’s artsy. But, then, it gets dark and funny when Dara discovers her cat dead and smashed against a door. Yes, Abbi is a pet killer, and it will be interesting to see the upcoming episodes explore the fallout of something I definitely laughed at, but is terrible. So, the girls’ first experience with mushroom didn’t go as planned even though there were definitely some pretty colors in the early going.

“Mushrooms” is definitely one of the most creative and definitely immersive episodes of Broad City thanks to the animation work of Mike Perry, who uses bright colors and dream logic to reinforce the show’s most primal ideas of friendship and having a good time. To be honest, the animation in this episode is superior to a lot of current animated shows like Adventure Time or any of the Netflix animated originals not named Bojack Horseman. But, like a lot of this season and the year 2017 itself, it ends up having a darker bent and consequences. Abbi especially takes one step forward at her boss’ party and then gets thrown off the path five states over.

Overall Rating: 9.8

TV Review: Arrow S6E1 Fallout

arrowOliver must deal with the fallout of the explosion on the island.

Arrow kicks off the sixth season diving right into the ramifications of the previous season finale and setting up what’s to come this season.

For the most part, this episode is vastly improved over all of last season. The first part I like is that the episode deals with the last season in flashbacks teasing out what happened with each and we’re presented one character at a time and how they’ve been impacted. The bad is, we know how everyone is, something that could easily have been played out longer to create more tension. I can’t help but think this way of plotting out the story could have been stretched out a few more episodes for a reveal one or two more episodes down the line. Instead, we’re caught up and while seeing how everyone is going forward it feels like an opportunity has been missed.

The good about the episode is that things are rather grounded in a way and it’s all presented so that it’s more “street level” than the previous few episodes which went off the rails as far as that. Black Siren is back and we’re told why she’s out for revenge in flashbacks so we get a few head fakes.

The episode also has a twist at the end which unfortunately feels like something we’ve seen multiple times and is the “go to” plotline that’s been tread too many times in the television series and I’ve lost caught in the comics. Crossing my fingers that it plays out better than past stories.

The season has started stronger than the last few and it’s one of the stronger episodes of the series and the strongest in quite some time. A good start so we’ll see where it goes.

Overall rating: 8.45

TV Review: Gotham S4E4 A Dark Knight: The Demon’s Head

Bruce puts lives at risk to uncover the meaning behind his prized knife from the auction; Ra’s Al Ghul proves his deadly devotion; Sofia Falcone is on a mission to win back Gotham from Penguin.

Gotham focuses a bit in this episode as we move into four main focuses, what’s with the knife, who’s Ra’s, Sofia Falcone vs. Penguin, and Penguin vs. Riddler.

The first two plot threads feel like they get amble time to play out and a lot of that is used to explain things and why they matter. All of this is actually pretty decent. How Ra’s is presented feels like it’s a bit more grounded than what we’ve seen in other iterations with a focus on myth more than anything else. Presented as a legend there’s something that works and works better than say a guy with a giant cold gun. And that presents some of the issues and hurdles this series has, the fact that it has to balance these two settings, the fantastical and the real. This episode is a bit more on the real side.

That is helped a bit by the Falcone plot which has Sofia going through her own history and out of all of the current plots, this one has the most potential. The series feels its strongest when it sticks to the “mob wars” type storyline and hopefully we get more of that this season.

Then there’s the Riddler vs. Penguin storyline. The quicker this is over, the better as it not only feels played out but it’s downright silly. In the comics we recently had the Joker vs. Riddler and that feels like Shakespeare compared to what’s being presented on the small screen. It’s bad. It’s really bad. Frustratingly bad. The acting is silly, and it took me out of the rest of the episode which was an improvement.

There’s some brutal stuff here as Ra’s kills quite a few to get in a position that he clearly wants. Is it weird to say, more of this and less of the other rogues?

 

The episode has some ups and downs and isn’t good but isn’t bad too. There’s bright spots, and in this episode we’ve gotten more of those than low points.

Overall Rating: 6.65

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E1 A Kiss Before Dying

Fourteen years ago the legal department of Archie Comic Publications torpedoed Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa satirical play about a gay Archie Andrews. Four years ago, Aguirre-Sacasa and Jason Moore walked out of Perks of Being a Wallflower with the idea of filtering the Archie characters through something a bit like that. Earlier this year, season one of Riverdale aired.

What a winding route to the screen it took. Along the way there were versions where it was a movie with time travel and dinosaurs. Along the way there were drafts where Kevin was an agentic and autonomous individual. There were all manner of things, and following them all came season one; Camp, compromised, and with an insistent heart pumping pure molten television around its overheated veins, boiling your syrup and cracking your ice.

Now here’s season two to follow that. Season one got to be a response to seventy five years of a peculiar strain of American pop culture and to one peculiar writer’s efforts to understand how it relates to his life. Season two gets to be a response to all of that and also a response to Riverdale. Here’s where things get really interesting as its success and its strong foundation free it up to take bigger risks and ask bigger questions. Or maybe here’s where things get really boring as its birth cry hushes and it settles down to become a well-behaved CW show.  

I’m hoping it’s the former, as I’ll be writing these weekly recaps, Everything’s Riverdale. Welcome. Let’s see what we get. Let’s see what we do with it.

THE TOWN WITH A PAST

Teen drama series, as they go on, have to negotiate the problem of the parents becoming people. Watching early episodes of Pretty Little Liars and it feels inconceivable that the mothers or fathers could ever have storylines of their own in which they’re the viewpoint characters and the stakes are their personal wellbeing. Then by season two you’d die for Hannah’s mum. Early UK Skins had a neat trick for managing this, casting Eighties comedians we hadn’t heard from in a while as prominent parents, their recognisable faces a clear signal that their characters weren’t to be understood as ‘real’ in the same way the kids were, that they weren’t to be understood as something that mattered right now.

Riverdale went for a related strategy, looking to actors associated with shows in this show’s DNA. Luke Perry is here as Luke Perry from 90210. Mädchen Amick is here as Mädchen Amick from Twin Peaks. There to show us where this came from, not what this is. What seems to have disrupted this “Remember these Nineties guys? From the Nineties?” function of the casting is that most of them then turned in unignorably brilliant performances. So here we open season two with an episode where many of the set piece scenes are not only from Fred Andrews’ perspective but set inside his brain.

What parents are for isn’t the only question about how the past relates to the present that this episode has to wrestle with. Having treated itself to the fun of doing two big finales to season one, Riverdale now has to open its second season with an awful lot of aftermath. Amazingly little happens here, as characters mostly turn up to visit the hospital and fill each other in on the various different forms the apocalypse manifested to each of them.    

And as we look back, the town itself starts to acquire more history. What were these riots all about then, Pop Tate?  

 

YOUR PALS

Jughead is the character most in motion this week, finding himself with the power to hurt people and trying to work out if he can handle that. Being the central character interferes with his always shaky ability to function as an outsider narrator, and he delivers the opening voice over in the most extraordinary way, putting the stress on Archie not owning a driver’s license as if that were the most curious aspect of Fred’s shooting. When we talk about others we’re often talking about ourselves, I suppose, so I suspect what’s really on Juggy’s mind there is that he shares Betty’s concern with how he himself instantly learned to ride a motorbike.

Kevin, conversely, never talks about anything except other people. He stresses that everyone’s thoughts are all about Fred but that if they weren’t they’d all be about Betty. He is briefly invited to consider his own life but moves things swiftly on.  

Pureheart the Powerful is chosen by Jughead as Archie’s superhero name. Sounding unlike any superhero name in current popular culture, this only really makes sense if Jughead somehow knows that ‘Pureheart the Powerful’ is his superhero name in the comics. This isn’t like in Season One when Kevin plucked the name ‘Madam Satan’ out of thin air – that was obviously his unconscious mind trying to alert the gang to the proximity of Actual Madam Satan in the form of ‘Miss Grundy.’ This is something else. My theory is that Jughead has been secretly writing Pureheart the Powerful fic for some time.

Archie continues to be someone unable to name his traumas. It remains unclear if he’ll ever understand that he’s been sexually abused and it’s very clear here that he doesn’t have the foggiest idea why he feels so guilty about not having got himself shot. He’s also very cross with himself for enjoying dog walking and sex while his dad is at death’s door. This anger at having enjoyed sex he then takes out on Veronica. In the Pureheart the Powerful comics, Archie loses his powers when he thinks sexual thoughts. Not sure Pureheart the Powerful is an altogether healthy hero to be. 

Cheryl can name her traumas. She knows what was done to her and can say it out loud. Magnificent and terrifying in her always significant white, she resembles an Angel of Life and Death more than anything else in an episode replete with references to such. Moving from establishing her control over her mother to acting like her kiss can resurrect Fred Andrews she appears to genuinely believe that she can damn or save any of us. I’m not suggesting she can’t. She’s for reals, Baby Jane.   

Sheriff Keller continues to be entrusted by the state with the investigation of serious crime. This one, he suspects, may be jingle jangle related.

Doctor Master is an unusually large man in usually sized scrubs.

Alice has been kind of reset. She’s now a fussy but protective mother with a role as one of the show’s main anti-Serpent voices. Her redemption arc seems to have left her as funny-controlling rather than sinister-controlling. 

Hermione remains Schrodinger’s Mother. Owed either jail time or innumerable apologies.

The Virgin Mary looks suspicious, judgemental. Knows more than she’s saying.

The Pussycats appear at the hospital, looking as if they’re all set to support Fred with an immaculately choreographed dance routine.

Reggie appears at the hospital looking as if he’s all set to support Fred with the secrets of true immortality, timeless perpetual bodily regeneration.

Veronica is exploring two new roles. Having drawn a line between Old Veronica and New Veronica then she’s feeling her way to how New Veronica works as someone’s girlfriend. ‘Incredibly giving and supportive’ is her answer to that so far. Meanwhile, she’s also puzzling out how the well-established rules for domestic squabbles among the Lodge family apply when those squabbles might involve a body count. How do her tactics apply when the stakes have changed? For her the episode ends with a scene that looks like something out of The Godfather but is pretty much just her being told off for raiding the fridge.   

Betty is not blessed with such narrative complexity, as her entire episode is just about the learning to be a supportive girlfriend thing. Her arc this week ends with her announcing that she’ll back Jughead’s choices no matter what, before we cut to a scene that illustrates she was doing uncannily better back when she was questioning them.

Hiram appears.

Count Drago, Betty’s Vampire Uncle, has yet to appear.

 

WEIRD MYSTERIES

 

What is Jughead writing? Is this a sequel to his novel about Jason’s murder or a continuation? If it’s a sequel then what’s he doing with his completed Jason book? Will we see him seek publication over the course of the season? If it’s a continuation then what does he even see this book as being about? Just ‘all the stuff that happens to my friends’? Tighten your focus, Jughead, or you’ll never finish the thing.

–  

As Twin Peaks first season opens with “Who Killed Waterborne Teen?” and its second opens with “Who Shot Grown Man?” then so goes Riverdale. Hold on for a wild ride in season three.

Or maybe sooner. Greendale, you guys! Greendale! Home of actual teenager and actual witch, Sabrina the Teenage Witch! From Sabrina the Teenage Witch! And also from the forthcoming CW series based on the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic.

Now look. Here’s the thing about that. Sabrina’s main antagonist in that comic is Madam Satan, a pre-Archie Archie character whose deal is that she’s a dead woman who goes around wrecking people’s lives with sex. Specific to the Chilling Adventures version being adapted as a Riverdale sister show is the fact that Madam Satan is also a substitute teacher.

Our first look at Greendale in this show also sees us witness to the death of Jennifer ‘Miss Grundy’ Gibson, an itinerant sexual predator working as a music teacher.

At this point I would tell you that ‘Miss Grundy’ is Madam Satan. But I think you’ve always known.   

A First Look at Constantine

First Look! New York Comic Con attendees received a first look of Constantine, an all-new animated digital series from Warner Bros. Animation and Blue Ribbon Content following DC’s popular comic book character John Constantine (voiced by the live-action series star Matt Ryan), a seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult. Armed with an arcane knowledge of the dark arts and a wicked wit, he fights the good fight. With his soul already damned to hell, he’ll do whatever it takes to protect the innocent. With the balance of good and evil on the line‎, Constantine uses his skills to face the supernatural terrors that threaten our world and send them back where they belong. After that, who knows…maybe there’s hope for him and his soul after all.

Executive produced by David S. Goyer, Greg Berlanti, and Sarah Schechter, the series, which will premiere on CW Seed, is produced by Butch Lukic, written by J.M. DeMatteis, and directed by Doug Murphy.

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