Tag Archives: the cw

Review and Recap: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow S3E6 Helen Hunt

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow S3E6 Helen Hunt has our rag tag gang of superhero misfits trying to get Helen of Troy back into her own time in order to save Hollywood. Helen of Troy has a face and presence that launches a flurry of fists between any man who lays eyes on her. Everyone seems to be infected by her beauty, except for Jackson who has Stein’s mind thanks to a freaky Friday Body swag. Jackson only has eyes for Hedy Lamarr and her beautiful brain, there’s a nice historic shout out to Lamarr which is very much appreciated in an episode that takes aim at male gaze.

This episode is another well written win for the Legends Writers Room, this time around taking on (white) male entitlement. The ladies take the lead and have to save the day giving us an amazing action packed romp through time. We get a nice glimpse into what it must have been like to be Helen of Troy and have wars fought in her name without allowing her any agency. There’s a nice sense of sisterhood when Helen drives off with the female Legends as the men of Hollywood go to war over who gets the girl.

Back on board the ship those who don’t know learn quick, without Hedy Lamarr becoming famous and sharing her work, the ship can’t run because, her patents laid the groundwork for everything awesome. Damien Darhk is up to his old tricks with some bad ass chicks as his seconds in command and, big plans for his new new world order as a hybrid born again body. There’s also a lot of reveals on the family lineage front, Darhk has a daughter who’s even more ruthless than he is and OG Vixen has a granddaughter who is living her life in the dark side. We also get to see Helen find agency by being her own hero and coming to Amaya’s rescue and Hedy fixes Firestorm after mansplaining some science to them.

While women reigned supreme tonight, the show ends with Ray coming clean about the Vixen family tree and the ship being captainless as Sarah lies in a coma but there’s some solace in knowing that Kira drops Helen off on Themyseria and letting her live her own life, with some of the baddest warrior women we know.

Overall: 9.9

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E5 When A Stranger Calls

In episode four our young sleuths and lovers discovered that, in a fictional reality that denies them consistency of motivation or action, the only way to take control of their lives is through consistency of affiliation. In episode five that’s taken away from them too. Everything’s in the wind.

Everything’s Riverdale!  

WEIRD MYSTERIES

This is the first episode in which the Black Hood is interesting. How did they do that?

Having him on the end of Betty’s phone completely changes how he works. He now functions more like ‘A’ from Pretty Little Liars in that he’s something our characters are being told they’re responsible for creating and something that can have a direct effect on any of the other subplots.

Until now then “an ineffective serial killer stalks the night” has integrated poorly with the teen romantic melodrama, remaining an external threat, creeping around the periphery, taking shots at peripheral characters. The Black Hood has been sold as this season’s big deal, but hasn’t ever felt like much of one because of the wall between him and the regulars. The sense of fear that he’s provoked in the community, and the chaotic choices arising from it, have been interesting. He hasn’t, in and of himself,  because he could have been anything, from the airborne toxic event in DeLillo’s White Noise to the lone bear that strolled into Springfield in that Simpsons episode.     

Look at him now though! Up in everyone’s romantic storylines, in thier peer pressure drug storylines, and their My Parents Just Don’t Understand storylines. The Black Hood has found a way to play nicely with the kids.

Okay… when Betty gets her first phone call from the Black Hood in ‘The Town that Dreaded Sundown’ then her mobile rings with a standard tone. But all through this episode it announces incoming demonic calls with ‘Lolipop’ by the Chordettes.  

Has, in the midst of all this, Betty decided that ‘Lolipop’ by the Chordettes is to be her new general ringtone, or has she assigned it specifically to the Black Hood?

We need to know everything surrounding that choice.

Doubles and shadows and mirrors abound. The Black Hood is keen to prove that he and Betty are ‘the same’, but we’ve been reminded recently about ‘Dark Betty’, that she also puts on black headgear to become someone else. The way in which Betty and the Hood are most importantly ‘the same’ is in that neither are always the same as themselves.

Add to that the information that the two letters from the Black Hood have different handwriting and we’ve lost the certainty that the Black Hood is the Black Hood. This situation has at least two Black Hoods, at least two Betty Coopers, and no guarantees that the boundaries between any of them are stable. Alice has already said out loud that, as far as she’s concerned, one of the Black Hoods was Betty. The voice on the phone is telling her the same.   

How much does Betty lean into real feelings when going after her friends and family?

She really is angry with her mother for all the reasons she gives when having to explain why she exposed her serpentine past. Watching that scene you have to actively remind yourself that she’s saying this stuff because of the murderous blackmailer telling her to.

She really is revolted by the posh druggy party side of Veronica’s life and deeply uncomfortable that she can fit back into it easier than she’d assumed. Watching her go for Veronica you have to actively remind yourself that it’s because of the murderous blackmailer telling her to.

Then there’s breaking up with Jughead. Up until that point the Hood’s exhortations have been more like permission slips for Betty’s darker desires. But she doesn’t seem to want this, does she? It’s very interesting having Archie do that speech on her behalf as his lies come from an honest place too. Betty doesn’t want to break up with Jughead. But Archie lists all the reasons he thinks she should.  

 

YOUR PALS

Josie seems to have let go of her previously very clear idea of the Pussycats’ brand. Veronica and Cheryl both seem to drift in and out of the group so regularly that at least one of them keeps her ears within easy reach for whenever the Cat Signal is lit.

Valerie and Melody are consequently back to being undifferentiated by the script, functioning as a single character called ‘the Other Pussycats’, no more individuated than ‘The Bulldogs.’ This is a generally a shame although collective action and unity of purpose are super-enjoyable to watch as they kick the shit out of a rapist.  

Archie can not be shown to drink rum but can be shown to take fictional ‘gutter drugs.’ I bet there were Meetings about this. Archie Comic Publications Incorporated surely haven’t adopted as laissez faire an approach to brand protection as Josie has.

Jingle Jangle being a fictional drug probably helped this get to the screen – nobody was ever going to snort what Nick was offering earlier. There’s also an expectation in teen drama that drug use will be shown to have Horrible Consequences, an expectation which, in the context of the story being told here, created the anxiety that Riverdale was about to tell us that drug users carry the responsibility for leaving themselves vulnerable to sexual predators.

Happily the show doesn’t go near that. There’s no suggestion that Veronica or Cheryl’s decision to jingle jangle made them in any way culpable for what happened to them with Nick. A bullet was really dodged here as, out of eagerness to make it clear that Drugs Are Bad, a lot of shows would have failed to make it crystal clear that rapists are responsible for rape.        

Betty has avoided Game of Thrones. That has positive and negative consequences, one of which is that she doesn’t know to say “You” when the Black Hood asks for his next sinner to kill.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that Nick St. Clair isn’t an excellent choice, just that it would have been really funny to hear the Black Hood go, “Oh…like on Game of Thrones. Shit.”

And then Betty say, “Well kinda, but it just seemed the obvious answer anyway, really. In the circumstances.”

And then this long and awkwardly hesitant conversation in which the Hood tries to think of a solid reason not to top himself that isn’t just “We can’t resolve our through-arc mid season with another show’s schtick.”

Pop Tate greets customers with “I don’t judge you.” A fun policy. Put it on your badge.

Sweet Pea is keen to do some terrorism.

Jughead has to become a full Serpent so that there’s someone who’s allowed to discourage this. As we see more of the different areas in which the Serpents are active – the school, the biker bars, the law offices – it becomes more and more interesting how independently these work. There seems to be no adult oversight over Sweet Pea’s branch of the Serpents – The Shouty Man from the bar isn’t going to tell Sweet Pea not to do any terrorism. He’s just allowed to get on with it.  

Toni is ambivalent about doing some terrorism. She’s still a very mechanical character really, there to guide Jughead around rather than to want or think anything.

Someone Next Episode, on learning what Betty has done, will say, “You couldn’t have just done the thing from Game of Thrones?”      

Fred is happy to hear the Red Circle is over. It mildly concerned him.

Kevin nods and smiles while Veronica tells him about her life. Very much back in role after his brief rebellion.

The Black Hood threatens Polly with sharp objects. Has abandoned trying to aim at things. Wise.

Cheryl would have been a better person for Betty to go to than Archie, don’t you think? She’s invested in Polly’s survival. She’s sneaky. She’s someone the Black Hood is less likely to have expected Betty to go to and therefore been watching. So far that’s two ways this episode that Betty could have wrapped this whole thing up.   

Hiram gets this week’s super-dramatic Biblical metaphor, promising “A new Eden” in the South Side. No direct talk of the Devil this week, I don’t think, but this at least associates the serpents with the serpent.

Hermione remains a timebomb, as it all goes off when her loyalty to Hiram snaps. She straightened Fred’s tie this week. Intimate.    

Alice is such a great character, isn’t she? Her real moment of glory this week is publishing a Lodge-critical article when thus far Hiram’s been treating her as a useful idiot. That and her appearance at the party establish DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE ALICE COOPER as a major theme of the episode. I love her as everything except a parent.   

Veronica is a good person.

Hal has got a little moustache.  

Hot Dog 3 appears.

Sheriff Keller does not appear, but provokes much of the action with his extraordinary choice to question the motorcycle gang over last week’s fracas while taking no equivalent action against the squad who publicly said they’re out to kill someone.   

Harry Styles does not appear but is heard.

Gal Godot does not appear but is heard of.

Hot Dogs 1 to 2 do not appear.

 

THE TOWN WITH DEMOLITION ORDERS

However much the Black Hood’s sinister commandments might align with Betty Cooper’s darkest desires, the align more perfectly still with the producers’ practical needs. Keeping things moving in a romantic drama, while keeping your audience from rioting, is hard.

The pieces have to stay in motion, the stories cannot be allowed to end. Couples brought together must be brought apart again so more things can happen. Here in real life plenty of interesting things happen to stable couples. Plenty of interesting things also happen to stable couples in detective fiction and SF; Paul and Steve Temple solved loads of mysteries and Valerian and Laureline have been been shot at by loads of political metaphors holding laser guns. But the sort of sensational event that teen romantic drama wants to offer cannot be offered if everyone settles down and gets cats.

Trouble is… teen romantic drama is very good at getting people invested in the couples it throws together. Or people are very good at getting themselves invested. It doesn’t matter which way round it goes. It just means that you get segments of the audience whose attachment to the show is closely linked to that show’s portrayal of particular relationships. That’s certainly happened with Riverdale, where Betty and Jughead’s romance is the draw for many people.

Most relationships end when one or more party notices that it’s not a very good relationship. That’s the basic mechanism by which couples frequently break up, as good relationships, or terrible-but-oblivious ones, tend not to. Yet that basic mechanism is denied you if you’re trying to keep an audience sweet. Bad enough you’re breaking them up, worse yet if you’re breaking them up in a manner that in way implies they had anything less than a miraculous love.

So external agencies will often come in as demolition squads. Heading into Riverdale’s second season, with Archie paired off with Veronica and Betty paired off with Jughead, we all knew to look out for these external agencies. These forces from outside the relationships that’d come along, break them up, set the show in motion again, but leave the concept of the relationships untarnished and ready to be revisited down the line.

This is so familiar that the show has been able to play some sneaky tricks with our expectations. Every press release about Vanesa Morgan’s role in the show promised that Toni Topaz would ‘shake up’ Jughead and Betty. Oh hello, we thought, here comes the girl who understands a side of him that Betty doesn’t to usher in a storyline about jealousy and temptation. Which isn’t really what happened at all. There’s been one scene that gestured at it, but the real way in which she’s shaken them up is just by being his guide into Serpenthood.

Then we get something similar with Nick St. Clair. Before he arrives we’re very much invited to assume that this old flame of Veronica’s is there to ‘shake up’ her and Archie. Turns out that is not his function in the story at all. It now looks like the character will have several functions, but none of them are likely to be as effective as the consolatory pleasure offered by watching his vicious beating.       

Meanwhile, as these decoy ‘shake up’ characters play out their roles, there’s the Black Hood, shuffling the deck and rearranging the furniture. His cruel dictates perfectly in accord with what needed to happen anyway.  

The Flash, Supergirl, Legends Of Tomorrow and Arrow Co-Creator/Executive Producer Suspended Over Allegations

Andrew Kreisberg has been suspended from his duties over allegations of sexual harassment. Kreisberg is a co-creator/executive producer of the The CW/Warner Bros. DC Comics based series The Flash, Supergirl, Legends Of Tomorrow and Arrow. Warner Bros. Television has launched an internal investigation.

In a statement, Warner Bros. TV Group said:

We have recently been made aware of allegations of misconduct against Andrew Kreisberg. We have suspended Mr. Kreisberg and are conducting an internal investigation.  We take all allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and are committed to creating a safe working environment for our employees and everyone involved in our productions.

Kreisberg has been a top staffer for Greg Berlanti who oversees The CW DC universe and is primarily the showrunner on The Flash.

Berlanti Productions principals Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter released a statement:

We were recently made aware of some deeply troubling allegations regarding one of our showrunners. We have been encouraging and fully cooperating with the investigation into this by Warner Bros.

There is nothing more important to us than the safety and well-being of our cast, crew, writers, producers and any staff. We do not tolerate harassment and are committed to doing everything we can to make an environment that’s safe to work in and safe to speak up about if it isn’t.

The investigation revolves on some accusations including what’s described as an “inappropriate” interaction with a female writer and “hostile work environment.” The situation has also been called a “toxic” environment. Another complaint cited “inappropriate behavior” by Kreisberg.

(via Deadline)

TV Review: Arrow S6E4 Reversal

arrowJust as Oliver starts getting things in order, Black Siren launches another attack on Star City.

Arrow has a rather bizarre plot of taking down the internet which is clearly a feint but generally it’s an episode that feels like it needs to get us somewhere, but isn’t sure how to do it.

The episode revolves around Felicity and her attempt to have a renewed relationship with Oliver while superheroing gets in the way. That’s the best aspect of the episode. We get to see Oliver deal with what he’s pulled so many times on so many others. There’s something solid about seeing a woman doing this to a man. Yay progress?

But, the bad is that what’s distracting her is her past dealings with Helix and her hacker friends. I wasn’t a big fan of that storyline and it seems like for at least the short term that’s going to be the focus of a big bad. We get a plot about taking down the internet and of course it’s a small piece of the big picture but there’s just such a suspension of disbelief of “this is how the internet works” that took me out of the episode. The “action” aspect of the episode lacked. It lacked a lot. So, it’s best to try to focus on the positive, Felicity and Oliver’s relationship, but that has issues too.

Oliver has a son… remember? This episode feels like it forgets that as the kid feels like he’s nowhere to be seen as Oliver bounces around being Mayor and also having time to meet with his former team. When’s he taking care of the kid? For a person who wants to focus on raising his son this episode feels like he’s not really doing that.

A low point in an otherwise improved season, the episode just had too many frustrating aspects that take you out of what is clearly an episode getting things focused on where the season is going.

 

 

Overall rating: 6.75

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E4 The Town That Dreaded Sundown

All-Star Serial Killer line-ups loiter in our libraries! Wilbur Wilkins stalks the night! Elbows are being thrown! Actual elbows!

It’s chaos out there. But don’t worry. Reggie’s brought pizza and I’ve brought a recap.

Everything’s Riverdale!

 

THE TOWN WITH TIES

Jughead declares the night of the Town Hall Meeting to be an existential turning point for Riverdale, a change in what the town fundamentally is. Now, to be fair, he’s always saying things like this, he’s an excitable young man, but he’s got a point with this one. The events of this episode see Riverdale changed as it arrives at and consolidates a new unity between its narrative quirks and its content. What’s going on in Riverdale and how stories work in Riverdale come together in a way I’m not sure they have before.   

Here are three things I think are true about this show. Firstly that there is, at the heart of it, an emotional truth about adolescence, namely the pace at which it’s experienced. The tiny windows presented to teenagers in which to make choices on which they’re told their whole lives will depend accelerates everything going on in those already melodramatic years of one’s life. Huge choices are demanded of one in a social space set up to minimise one’s ability to make considered choices, and I think Riverdale does a pretty good job of capturing how fast and dangerous and frustrating that can feel. 

Secondly, that it’s currently exploring how a community that has lost its illusions, and with them its sense of identity, behaves. Everyone in the Town Hall meeting applauds all of Alice’s arguments, and then everyone applauds all of Fred’s counter-arguments, and then everyone applauds all of Alice’s again, and then all of Fred’s. For as long as those two keep care to keep talking, the crowd will keep switching between their contrary positions. Riverdale doesn’t know how Riverdale is meant to behave so has excused itself from having to behave consistently from moment to moment.    

Thirdly, that the writing on this show is erratic. We’ve learned how to watch Riverdale by now and we know what we can and can’t expect in the way of consistency. When we rejoin characters for each week’s episode then we know there’s no reason to assume that they’ll be positioned where we last saw them, neither in terms of their motivations or in terms of their relationships. It might be disappointing seeing Kevin walk in this week and act like last weekend’s character development didn’t happen, but we know that’s in the rules of Riverdale. It might give us whiplash watching the entire football team go from being super-hyped to do some vigilantism, to being very opposed to the whole thing, to being passionately up for it again as soon as they learn that Archie protected one of them from getting into some demonstrably trivial bother, but we know that that’s how Riverdale likes to pop, patch and re-inflate its story-balloons. We know this show is a bit of a mess.

The flashing lightning fuses these three things and illuminates Riverdale as a town in the grip of teenage impulsivity, civic trauma and flailing storylines. As a town in a radical state of flux.

This episode is about Betty and Veronica solving puzzles. Betty’s puzzle is that thing with the code. Veronica’s is more profound. While everyone else is coming to terms with what Riverdale/Riverdale is, she’s on the next level trying to answer the question of how you live a life inside a town/show like that. What can you base your choices on when the people who surround you and the people who write you are a chorus line of jerking knees? What can you hold on to?

“These are fraught times,” she recognises. “No one’s thinking straight,” she further recognises. “We have to hold on to each other,” she concludes.

Her answer is loyalty, the proper application of which has been a theme of this season since its first episode juxtaposed Betty’s resolution to support all of Jughead’s choices with the awful consequences of Jughead’s choices.

Veronica’s not so hasty. She doesn’t arrive at loyalty as her conclusive answer to the Riverdale problem until she’s tested it out from a couple of different approaches and found a way it can work. A way it can be something better than fetching your boyfriend’s gun and designing a fashion line around his attempt at suicide-by-proxy.

Part of what gets her there is a brief scene with her mother that stands out as the most honest we’ve ever seen the two characters have. As Hermione tries to explain that supporting someone cannot mean putting yourself in a position where you cannot criticise them, it’s finally made explicit what Hermione wants. She wants her daughter’s life to be entirely unlike hers.      

 

WEIRD MYSTERIES

The Black Hood leaves messages for Betty in envelopes marked ‘BETTY’ but messages for Alice in envelopes marked ‘COOPER.’

There’s potential for confusion here. The killer needs a more consistent system for how he communicates with this household. If, as seems as likely as anything, the Black Hood is Hal, then the way things are going he’ll be unmasked while sloppily delivering a message labelled ‘ME.’

What does it mean to be a South-sider? The North/South divide is more tangible than ever this episode, partly because it’s a story about people actively working to make that happen, and if this is going to be a thing then it’s a thing that probably needs to be thought about carefully.

Most of the time it appears to be a division based on class and economics. Other times it seems to be a division as arbitrary as the Ghoulie/Serpent battle lines being drawn over whether cars or bikes are best. But one way or another, the show’s now very clear that the South-siders are a group over which the North-siders have privilege, and that privilege is an active force in the narrative. It’s very clear because Toni told us. Riverdale knows it wants to associate Toni with that social justice lingo that the kids have nowadays, but doesn’t yet know if it wants her to be for or against.    

Is this a Batman story? Jughead raises the question in response to the villainous riddle, and it’s weirdly apposite. Telling stories about what happens to a community’s self-perception in the face of catastrophe was the new function that Scott Snyder put the Riddler to in ‘Zero Year’, and that’s to some extent carried through into Tom King’s recent War of ‘Jokes and Riddles.’ The version of the Riddler that’s been prominent in the comics over the past few years would be very at home in this town right now.

While Hiram Lodge sounds like a more cinematic Batman baddie, gloating over all the delicious “chaos and confusion” his dastardly schemes have provoked among the unsuspecting populace. Even then though, his ultimate goal looks like it’s about driving the town towards gentrifying the South Side so he can cash in on the redevelopment. That would be quite a Scott Snyder-ish Batman story too.    

 

YOUR PALS

Veronica puts on her cape and makes someone dispose of a gun. Definitely thinks this is a Batman story.  

Betty has more reason to think she’s in Buffy, finding herself an unwilling Chosen One whose best option is to rustle up a study group and a pile of library books.

Jughead is very proud of being the first person to call the Black Hood a serial killer, beating all those cowards who were waiting for him to kill more than one person.

Fred isn’t happy about his son’s choices but acts generally more resigned to them than he did towards the music career.

Archie has an alarming remix of his naff video going round his head. I wonder how his music sounds now? Never mind all this autotuned milkshake, let’s have him up on the stage performing this catchy little number about the B-B-B-B-Black Hood.

The Zodiac Killer is returning some Catherine Cooksons.

The Axeman has come to pay his fines.

The Phantom Killer just dropped in to do a bit of photocopying.

That Librarian seems a likely suspect. Judging by where Juggy plucks his selections from, then at least three stacks of Riverdale’s modest public library are given over to books on serial killers. Who’s stocking this place? She is, I reckon. According to her own murderous interests. This same shady character admits to being afraid of the Red Circle and would have known that Betty always used to take out that Nancy Drew book. She’s the Black Hood, I tell you. Who else could have known that?

Hal just sits there quietly through the episode again.

Weatherbee has no evident sense of embarrassment over supporting the Red Circle last week.  

Sheriff Keller is very gracious not to give him shit about this.

Dilton gets the ever-mobile devil imagery applied to him this week, toying with a shiny red apple while leading Archie into temptation.  

Wilbur Wilkins was a safer bet than Bingo Wilkin.

Reggie speaks for the Bulldog hivemind, brings pizza to the apocalypse. So it is written in the Book of Reg.

Toni is an expert on serial killers because she is from THE DARK SIDE.

Betty’s ponytail flicks against the fourth wall.

Fangs Foggarty appears. Presumably he won’t be Penny Peabody’s boyfriend in this continuity, although actually you never know with Riverdale.  

Cheryl appears.

Adam the Alien does not appear.

TV Review: The Flash S4E4 Elongated Journey Into Night

Cisco is shocked when Gypsy’s father shows up and takes an immediate disliking to Cisco; Barry runs into Ralph Dibny, his former nemesis.

The Flash has a lot going for it in this episode that sees a new classic character brought into the live action DC Universe and an interesting character in Gypsy’s father.

Danny Trejo is Breacher, Gypsy’s father and when things are going really well, ahem, between Gypsy and Cisco he shows up. Sadly, the episode only really uses him for most of the episode in a protective father sort of way. It’s a bit of a waste of Trejo, but to get any Trejo is awesome. And, he’s a lot of fun. There’s some solid back and forth between Breacher and Cisco and the episode features an entertaining running joke about their real names. It’s a fun aspect of the episode and gives Cisco something to do and sets Breacher up for something towards the end.

The episode really focuses on Ralph Dibny who comic readers will know as Elongated Man. The show has him as the latest Meta to be discovered and plays with his stretching ability to some entertaining results. The special fx are ok for television but slightly behind some of what this show has displayed before. There’s a lot of it and the jokes are delivered mainly through it. The biggest issue though is that Dibny is not very likeable. He’s not someone you want to see get ahead and wind up on the good side of things. That negative vibe just doesn’t go over well and gives the episode an odd feeling about it all.

It’s not a bad episode though and adds yet another classic character to the live action universe and does so in a way that will see him around for some time to come. While everything doesn’t land, it’s generally a fun episode that has interesting moments and understands its strength is in its new stretchy character.

Overall Rating: 7.65

Legends of Tomorrow Commemorates Trump’s Pussy Grabbing Remark with a Plaque

Donald Trump hasn’t even been President for a year and he’s already getting plaques commemorating him. A small metal plaque has been posted at the studio where the now President commented to Billy Bush about grabbing women “by the pussy.”

The plaque was posted by producers of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow which airs on The CW. The comments which was recorded by Access Hollywood occurred on the same lot for the show.

The hot-mic recording happened in 2005 when the then Apprentice host bragged to show host Billy Bush about kissing and fondling women without their consent, assault.

The plaque reads:

On this spot in September 2005, Donald J. Trump bragged about committing sexual assault. In November 2016, he was elected President of the United States.

The plaque was taken down 15 minutes after it was put up. Now, the Legends team just needs to work this into their show…

(via The Hill)

TV Review: Arrow S6E3 Next of Kin

arrowA rogue team led by Onyx breaks into Kord Industries and steals something lethal; Oliver struggles to connect with William, so he reaches out a surprising source for help.

Arrow has Diggle taking the reigns in his first outing as group leader and as the Green Arrow. Things don’t go all that well though. The episode has a rather boring villain, instead focusing on the team and their interaction with this new dynamic.

To see Diggle not be perfect is actually interesting and to see him doubt himself does quite a lot to really get you think about Oliver’s leadership. The episode’s strength is really focused on that and by the end of the episode things look in a better place, a good thing because playing this out too long and it’d all get rather dull and down.

But, there’s not just Diggle’s leadership but also how everyone reacts to that. Not everyone is on board and folks are noticing that it’s not a smooth transition. Where that dissatisfaction will lead to the future will be intriguing and it sets up a good dynamic between everyone.

What’s also good about the episode is that it allows Oliver to spend time with his son and attempt to bond with him. This is not his father’s son and the episode focuses on his son being a kid and having issues at school. It takes a series that has had issues with the fantastical these last few seasons and grounds things making them relatable. It also forces Oliver to rethink priorities and his relationships with some major movement in his love life by the end of the episode.

With a downplayed villain “Next of Kin” focuses more on the character than the actions creating an episode that’s much stronger for it.

Overall rating: 8.05

Everything’s Riverdale: S2E3 The Watcher in the Woods

At the end of each episode of Riverdale my daughter writes a flurry of texts to her friends, because she’s the intended audience, and I write a recap for a geek culture website, because I’m not. Here’s what you get to read.

It’ll be okay. Everything’s Riverdale.

YOUR PALS

Sheriff Keller is active or relevant in every single plotline this episode offers; the formation of the vigilante group, the activities of the gangs, the behaviour of his son. In normal television this might serve to centre his character, but normal television isn’t what we’ve got here. We need talk no more about the fellow. Well, not much more more anyway. His name will necessarily come up when we discuss Jingles the Christmas Elf.

Betty, in a departure from her stated policy this season, questions one of Jughead’s stupid choices. He quickly overrules her objections with a snog and the observation that she likes him when he’s reckless. Jughead should know, as he appears equally turned on by the thought of Archie going “all Travis Bickle.” With Veronica’s solitary reference to her boyfriend putting himself in the sights of a murderer being one that suggests she finds this trivial and cute, then the impression is given of a friendship group who find each other’s self-destructive behaviour to be either endearing or arousing. Except in the case of Kevin. The straight kids all agree that he should behave.

Jingles the Christmas Elf has been bringing festive cheer to Archie since 1961, but has never manifested in as surprising a form as he takes in Riverdale.

When Sheriff Keller said the words ‘Jingle Jangles’ in this season’s first episode then I think we all felt sure what was happening; The writers were fondly remembering the “hopped up on goofballs” line from The Simpsons and thought they’d give their own comedy policeman some old-timey drugs speak.

Then when the phrase recurred through the second episode I think we felt equally confident as to what was up; the writers had been tickled by a phrase and couldn’t stop typing it; like ‘waste extraction system’ and ‘self-sealing stem bolt’ on Deep Space Nine.

Now, as of the third episode, the truth is clear. ‘Jingle Jangles’ are how we are to talk about drugs in this show going forward. In the decade where music channels now censor metaphors about clinical use of morphine out of old Pink songs, ‘Jingle Jangles’ is the vocabulary in which the show is permitted to have this conversation.

Veronica alludes to both Audrey Horne and Hamilton in the same conversation. I find this relatable as that’s how I live my life – before this recap is done I’ll allude to Audrey Horne and Hamilton in the same sentence – but I’m not sure Veronica should talk like me.

Kevin. Kevin, oh Kevin. Kevin, my child. I knew you could do it. Sweet Kevin. You’re a real boy now. A whole episode in which you take a week off from reacting archly to the terrible and dangerous choices all the straight kids are making and get to make terrible and dangerous choices of your own. As if you want things! As if the things you want are different to them and as if your opportunities to pursue them are subject to different cultural constraints! Not only this but you get to articulate that effectively. Good Kevin. Best Kevin. But not a Kevin we’ve never seen before. This is the kid who was in the leaked pilot script. Riverdale’s Kevin Keller has finally caught up with where he was before Riverdale was filmed. Hopefully it’s all forwards from here. Oh, Kevin.

The Black Hood has killed 100% of the people he has tried to kill with cello bows and 0% of the people he has tried to kill with guns. Needs to have a rethink.

Cheryl and the lighting department are endgame.

Jughead has remembered which school he goes to and that it is not the one he appears to have been attending for the previous two episodes. “Can’t you just keep going here?” asks Betty. Unclear why he dismisses this plan as he seems to have been getting away with it undetected.

Archie tries rum. Presumably. We never see him take a sip. The scene cuts away at the exact point it would be really weird for him not to.

Fred doesn’t like guns. No wonder he was unsure about Archie having musical instruments in the house last season. Deadlier. Proven.

Hermione’s position becomes clearer and uglier. She knows she’s failing to protect herself and Veronica from Hiram but, since the toothpaste of shame always squirts out of the tube at inconvenient angles, how she feels about this has turned into a sozzled resentment of Veronica.

Polly is also squeezing that tube. It’s unclear how much poor Polly’s belief that she’s “the poster child for sin” comes from self-disgust and how much from an attempt to see through the killer’s eyes. But with her and her newborn twins all off to toil in the fields together then the important thing for the show is that they’ve now got somewhere to park these characters.

Hiram’s reactions to The Matchelorette are unrecorded.

Alice continues to serve as the voice of the press this season, a role I trust she’ll continue to enjoy until one of the two school papers scoops the killer.

Weatherbee is bold to think that “it’s a school club” is sufficient to end all questioning of an armed vigilante gang. Oh! Oh they’ve got a treasurer? Oh, then that’s fine.

Moose gets to talk about his queer identity, but it’s framed by him diminishing the idea that he might be attracted to Midge. Getting frisky in the woods was all her idea. He’s not sure if they’re ‘a good match’. We can’t talk about Moose being into blokes until we’ve cast doubt on the idea that he’s into a girl. Nothing in this show makes me so anxious as where it’s going with its framing of bisexuality.

Toni, our officially licensed bisexual, uses the implication of male homosexual desire to shame Sweetpea, shooing him off with the jibe that Jughead is “not that into” him. The way the character is being positioned is very telling and deliberate. Look! She uses ‘safe space’ and ‘snowflake’ mockingly! So don’t worry everybody, she’s not one of those bisexual teens.

Midge is unhelpful at identifying people. Reports that the killer’s eyes were blank, satanic and devoid of all humanity. Okay, fine, but you just cut off someone who was about to tell us if they were green or not. Let’s get the basics down first.

A Cuddly Toy Moose appears on screen for the first time during Midge’s ‘devil’s eyes!’ speech. Undercuts sense of infernal dread.

The Ghoulies solve a problem. The Serpents are established as a frequently sympathetic organisation. The Serpents are also established as a drugs gang. Morality on this show is exactly as black and white as it keeps telling us it isn’t, so we need these guys; the bad gang who distribute the bad drugs. They are street racers while the serpents are bikers but it remains to be seen if that will be mapped on to the moral schema.

Reggie is immune to these considerations. A free floating ‘bad kid’ unrestricted by consistency of action or facial features. As the comics used to superposition B&V as both best friends and bitterest rivals, Reggie is traditionally both an integral part of the gang and an external bully. Riverdale’s version of the character is an equally adaptable ne’er-do-well. When there are drugs to sell, he’s there selling them. When there are skulls to crack, he’s bought the wrench. He is naughty.

Dilton fits in better with the Bulldogs than you might have thought. That someone who has previously just been ‘dangerous outsider nerd with a gun’ happens to be sat comfortably and confidently in the room with the football team as the Red Circle is no accident. Archie drops the ‘no weapons’ pretence as soon as he gets in the car with Reggie; He wanted Mister Guns invested in this from the start.

Sweetpea is our new voice of young serpenthood in the show, there to articulate the Serpent party line within the apocalyptically lit halls of Southside High. Shame it couldn’t have been Joaquin really. That would have been more fun. Presumably a reimagining of an old Archie Comics character, but I’m going to pretend he’s the baby from Popeye.

Hal appears.

Captain Murder has yet to appear. Suspicious.

WEIRD MYSTERIES

Is there a cascade of educational damnation? We know that if you fall from the grace of Riverdale then you plummet down to Southside High. So if you get expelled from Southside High, do you then go to Ghoulie Schoolie?

What is the provenance of the Cuddly Toy Moose? Either it’s a gift from Midge (which would be weird as their relationship seems too far along for “Ha! You’re name is MOOSE! Like a moose!”) or Midge has brought him his favourite Cuddly Toy Moose from home to make his stay in hospital more comfortable.

What is sin? Jughead often packages events up for us in a Manichean “LIGHT VERSUS DARKNESS” narrative where light is an idealised nostalgic fantasy of small town Americana and darkness is pretty much anything else. But the notion of sin that debuts here feels different, like the Al Hartley Archie comics have somehow sneaked in.

Presumably the Black Hood has a conception of what he thinks sin is, but his language is all over the place. Fred’s shot for adultery. Classic. Classic religious taboo, your adultery. Bang to rights there, Fred. Then the Hood identifies his next victim as “the child predator” which isn’t particularly theological language, but okay.

After that though, he says the teenagers got shot at for being “drug and sex addicted.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Whatcha doing there, Mister Hood? Addiction’s a whole different discourse and one that noticeably manages the concept of attribution differently to a discourse of sin, and noticeably is one that nobody else is applying to Midge and Moose.

What sort of a comics reader is Archie? I feel like the sort of kid who has DC Rebirth posters on their wall and the sort of kid who treasures a stack of ‘80s Red Circle books are at different stages of their journey with the medium. More data is needed.

 

THE TOWN WITH LIE$

There are two sorts of agent in this story, two sorts of people that make things happen. People making dangerous choices in pursuit of their goals and people escalating the consequences of those choices to serve goals of their own. Archies and Cheryls.

What Hiram wants is unclear. What Archie wants is very clear. The audience is with Archie, inside his head, as we follow every step that takes him towards the posting of an embarrassing YouTube video that will blight his entire life as much as Michael Rosen’s has been blighted by that one clip from his mashed potato poem. Nice.

We know what he wants and we know where it gets him. But we also know that Archie doesn’t get there, attempting to menace a 25% effective angel of death with his personal exploration of BDSM aesthetics, without being nudged by Hiram. The formation of the Red Circle and their adoption of these tactics are outcomes that Hiram wanted and has brought about to suit his sinister schemes, but there’s no intimation of what these sinister schemes relate to. To be honest, it’s hard to pretend that the writers have settled on what Hiram’s sinister schemes are, isn’t it?

Over in the woods, Cheryl is exploiting Betty’s concern for Kevin to drive a wedge between them. We know which desires motivate Kevin’s choices. We know which desire’s motivate Betty’s. And we also know what desires motivate Cheryl – She’s re-asserting her power over Betty and getting some revenge for last week’s blackmail – but we only know that because we saw last week’s thrilling instalment. None of that stuff is in the recap and no reference is made to it in the episode whatsoever. This is a story about Cheryl taking a shot at Betty that creates a deliberate distance between the viewer and the reasons why Cheryl’s taking a shot at Betty.

Cheryl’s sinister schemes aren’t like Hiram’s, her motives are established while his are [tbd], but their presentation is identical. At this stage in Riverdale there are people who make choices, like Archie and Betty with whom we ride along in their heads as they do, and people who steer those choices like Hiram and Cheryl. Their desires, even if known to us, are positioned at a remove. As Audrey Horne sung in Hamilton, isn’t it too dreamy in the dark?

TV Review: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow S303 Zari

DC Legends of Tomorrow continues to tackle complex issues and “Zari” gives us one of the feistiest and action packed episodes so far. The team resides to save Time Bureau pencil pusher Gary when he sends out a distress call after an attack from the mystical water woman seen at the end of last weeks episode. While half the team sets off to find out who was in the TB’s mystery transport box, aka the reason for the water assassins attack, the other half tries to solve the mystery of Amaya’s glitchy totem power.

While the professor and Nate decide to mansplain the power of the totem to Amaya (nice Job writers for calling it what it was) the rest of the team go out on the hunt for the escaped prisoner. The future is hella bleak, religion and being a metahuman are both illegal and Argus sends out drones to hunt them down which is challenging enough without the “water bitch” hot on their trails. When push comes to shove, newcomer Zari fights against the water walker and when there’s a moment of space she saves Ray, while Sarah plays chicken with the Time Bureau’s ships to save Zari. Amaya gets much of her toughness back just in time for the episodes final battle against the big bad and embraces her inner totem , after a long talk with her one of her ancestors. Tonight’s episode gave us a heist as a jail break, glowing necklaces, impromptu metahuman rescue from a detention center, and a vision quest, all rolled into one amazing hour of television.

The writers continue to tackle biases, societal norms (newcomer Zari is a Muslim female with metahuman adjacent powers courtesy of her very own totem), gender issues (so much mansplaining and attempts at manfixing). I love the way that they keep things fresh, honest and relatable enough that the diversity calls for the viewer to question their own issues with “the other.” The stunningly diverse cast stays refreshing and openly allows for chances to view the world through people outside the norm/default (cis white/male) views. There’s something hella awesome about a show that manages to inject some social theory into an action packed, camptastic series but, the writers manage to do it and I’m all the way here for it,

Overall: 8.9

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