HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SUPERGIRL – SURVIVORS

1

CAST

Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Chyler Leigh (That 80s Show)
Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years)
Floriana Lima (Lethal Weapon)
Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries)
David Harewood (The Man Inside)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Laura Benanti (The Detour)
Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls)
Katie McGrath (Dracula)
Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse)
Ian Casselberry (Get Out)
Ian Gomez (Cougar Town)
John DeSantis (Thirteen Ghosts)

In Mon-El’s flashback, the remains of the destroyed Krypton rain down onto Daxam. During the chaos, Mon-El escorts the prince to a Kryptonian ship. When Mon-El enters the pod to start up the engine, the prince closes the hatch and stays behind leaving Mon-El to escape. After Mon-El finishes telling the team of his job as the palace guard and his recollection of how he got to Earth, he is confined to the D.E.O. headquarters. J’onn leaves to attend to personal manners. Maggie contacts Alex about a dead Syvillian. Alex and Supergirl arrive but after Supergirl isn’t any help to them, Alex and Maggie leave to gather more information.At CatCo, Kara relays the alien murder story to Snapper. Snapper then peppers her with questions which Kara doesn’t have answers to. He tells her it’s just a half-baked idea and tells her to go get more on the scoop. At the Alien Bar, J’onn meets up with M’gann asking her about how she escaped the genocide. She told him that a White Martian broke rank and rescued Green Martians, smuggling her off-world to Earth. Winn tells Alex about her alien perp, a Brevakk, and prepares to organize a strike team. Alex turns it down and calls Maggie instead. They question the Brevakk, but he fights back. They pin him down to arrest him, but armed men show up, taze them, and kidnap the alien.At the D.E.O., J’onn prepares to go after the armed men. Alex and Kara notice the extra grumpiness. J’onn tells them of M’gann and how she didn’t seem to want to psychically bond with him as Green Martians usually do. They tell J’onn to apologize and let M’gann know how he feels. Kara talks to her A.I. “mother” about her first published article. Mon-El accidentally barges in and asks about the hologram. After Alura starts to talk bad about Daxamites, Kara shuts the program off. She tells him that the hologram helps her feel less alone. Mon-El proposes that Kara could accompany him outside the D.E.O. instead of confinement but Kara refuses and leaves.Alex meets Maggie at an illegal alien fighting ring attended by National City’s elites. A woman introduces the attendees to the fighters, Quill the Brevakk and M’gann M’orzz (aka Miss Martian). The fighters battle, but M’gann uses her Martian powers to subdue Quill. Supergirl arrives and the organizer pits her against Draaga. As the fight turns against Supergirl, Alex and Maggie fire shots into the air to disperse the crowd and rescue Supergirl. At the D.E.O. infirmary, they tell J’onn of M’gann’s participation in the fight club. Meanwhile, Mon-El convinces Winn to take him into the city by letting Winn design him a superhero costume and name.Kara returns to CatCo and tells Snapper of the murder’s connection to an alien fighting ring. Snapper asks about her sources and prompts her to not to come until she brought him a source. Winn and Mon-El go partying at a bar. After a while, Winn gets wasted. Mon-El accidentally breaks someone’s arm in an arm wrestling match so they leave. J’onn confronts M’gann about her participation in the fights. M’gann defends herself saying she does it for survival, not for the money and that she has never killed anyone in the ring. J’onn retorts by saying that as the last of their kind, they should be preserving the memories of their people but she claims that she would rather forget. As J’onn leaves, she gives him the name of the ringleader, Roulette known by the real name Veronica Sinclair.Supergirl attacks Sinclair’s limo. Sinclair claims that aliens aren’t people so they don’t have any rights. She believes she is doing them a favor by giving them an opportunity to earn glory and money. Sinclair tells Supergirl that she is naive for thinking that anyone cares what happens to aliens. The next day, Kara tells them of the encounter with Sinclair and J’onn tells them that he knows of Winn and Mon-El’s escapade last night. J’onn also tells them of his encounter with M’gann and stresses that he has worked so hard to make humans trust aliens and that it can take one to undo that work. Kara tells Mon-El about how it will take time from him to adjust to his new powers and living in the world. They talk about their parents and how both of theirs were flawed people. As Kara walks out, Mon-El mentions having seen Draaga before on Warworld and that Draaga had an injury to the right leg.

J’onn apologizes to M’gann outside the Alien Bar. Roulette and her goons arrive on scene, subdue J’onn, and kidnap him. At the D.E.O., they work on finding J’onn. Kara goes to Lena Luthor for help. Lena reveals that she knows Roulette from boarding school and gives Kara the location of the next fight. At the fight, Roulette introduces the two Martians to the crowd and forces them to fight to the death. They fight and transform into Green Martian forms. M’gann manages to pin J’onn down and tells him she will do anything to survive but J’onn convinces her that she fights because she is guilty for surviving. M’gann tells Roulette that she refuses to kill J’onn. Roulette releases Draaga to fight the Martians. Alex, Maggie, and the police arrive and arrest crowdgoers. Supergirl also arrives and is able to defeat Draaga with a well-placed kick to Draaga’s right leg. Supergirl and the police go to arrest Sinslair, but she is surrounded by her alien followers. Sinclair claims that they protect her because she provides for them. Supergirl convinces the other aliens that fighting against each other distracts from fighting against people like Cadmus and Roulette who think aliens are a menace. Roulette turns to escape, but her alien followers turn on her. Maggie arrests her. Later, Maggie is forced to release Roulette due to orders from higher-ups. Alex tells Maggie she is a great cop and asks Maggie for a drink, but Maggie has plans with a date.Kara shows Snapper her full article, complete with police reports and a first person account from Supergirl. Later, Kara tells Mon-El that she had the D.E.O. release him into her custody rather than for him to remain confined. Kara agrees to help him train to be a hero to make up for her lost opportunity to raise her cousin. J’onn meets M’gann at her her apartment. M’gann apologizes for her actions. J’onn tells her that he will always be around if she needs him. After J’onn leaves, M’gann shapeshifts, revealing herself to be a White Martian.As far as the story plot itself this episode, I thought that the fight club stuff was really fun. It really added more to the whole political side of the show with aliens vs humans. That is an overall story I have really liked this season so far and I’m liking the different ways it is being played out each episode. Overall, another great episode of Supergirl. While it wasn’t at the heights and intensities of the previous few, it was a fantastic episode for a needed quiet episode.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: LEGENDS OF TOMORROW – PHONE HOME

Legends of Tomorrow (2016)

 

Starring

Victor Garber (Alias)
Brandon Routh (Chuck)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Franz Drameh (Edge of Tomorrow)
Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Originals)
Amy Louise Pemberton (Storage 24)
Tala Ashe (American Odyssey)
Nick Zano (Mom)
Dominic Purcell (Straw Dogs)

Brandon Routh and Jack Fisher in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jack Fisher (The Last Ship)
Susie Abromeit (Sex Drive)
Christina Brucato (The Intern)

Tala Ashe and Jack Fisher in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Sometimes I wonder if Legends of Tomorrow will ever become too cute and lighthearted for its own good. The trailer for “Phone Home” made it seem as though this episode might go over the top, with its depiction of the team joining forces with young Ray Palmer for a saccharine-sweet spoof of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. But as always, the series manages to temper its goofy, earnest sense of humor with a touch of serious drama and a strong, if very dysfunctional team dynamic. “Phone Home” captures Legends at its most charming and lovable. This episode makes no bones about the fact that it’s lampooning E.T. Sure, there are plenty of other amusing references and callbacks to other films (including a great Aliens reference courtesy of Amaya), but this isn’t a Stranger Things-style mashup of all things ’80s. That said, the E.T. formula lent itself very well to this episode. The whole point was to explore the root of Ray’s inflappably cheerful and optimistic personality. Who else would befriend a hungry alien he met in a sewer pipe?This isn’t the first time an episode has revolved around the team meeting a younger version of one of their own, but it’s a trope that paid off just as well this week as it did way back in “Pilot Part 2” when Stein met his younger self and set a whole chain of events in motion. This time, it was Ray meeting himself circa 1988 (played by Jack Fisher) and realizing that maybe his childhood wasn’t as wonderful and idyllic as he remembers. That dynamic made for a great examination of the character. It quickly became clear that Ray’s cheerful positivity is less an innate quality than something he honed over years of trying to cope with a world where he never quite fit in. Fisher’s charmingly precocious take on young Ray contrasted nicely with Brandon Routh’s take on the character.Tala Ashe in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)For the most part, this episode did little to tie into the larger conflicts building this season. It did, however, build on the events of last year’s Invasion crossover by framing the conflict around a lost baby Dominator and the search for his “Mom-inator.” It’s fun to see these aliens cast in a different, less villainous light, one that fueled a predictable but charming story about a boy finding a friend at long last and adults learning not to judge others based on appearances. Definitely a low-stakes conflict, but a very entertaining one. And the Back to the Future-style struggle to prevent adult Ray from being erased from the timeline did add at least some tension to the mix.Jack Fisher in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Mostly, though, this episode was about capturing that Spielberg-ian adventure quality and celebrating the power of movies in general. I found myself openly grinning at multiple points watching this episode. How can you not be won over by the shot of a baby Dominator nodding along to Singin’ in the Rain and kicking its feet, or Mick admitting he’s a big fan of Fiddler on the Roof or Zari using her powers to recreate the iconic climax of E.T.? But even those moments paled to the scene where the Dominator defeated the evil government stooges by forcing them to break out into song and dance. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that two of the greatest, most spontaneous moments of brilliance on this show involve characters unexpectedly launching into song. I’m still holding out hope for a dedicated musical episode at some point.Zari’s arc is the only piece of the puzzle that left me feeling a bit underwhelmed this week. Other than exploring Ray’s background, the main goal with this episode seemed to be to strengthening the new team dynamic and making Zari feel more like a legitimate member of the group. It’s a nice sentiment, especially with Zari’s talk about people eventually finding their families, but it didn’t quite feel earned. It doesn’t seem like we know Zari well enough for her to be making that leap yet. Nor doe sit feel like the writers have quite figured out what role they want her to fill. Sometimes she’s played as the team’s wide-eyed newbie, and others more like the jaded, futuristic cynic. Either way, Tala Ashe doesn’t quite have the energy level necessary to stand alongside her co-stars Did it strike anyone else as a little weird that Zari has never heard of the Dominators before? Doing the math, the events of “Invasion!” happened 24 years before she was plucked from the future. Even if you assume that the authoritarian government in her time suppresses most media, you’d think humanity would remember its first alien invasion. Heck, it’s very possible Zari herself was alive when the invasion happened. On a sadder note, this episode began the process of writing Professor Stein out of the picture as Victor Garber gears up for a new Broadway role. It’ll be a shame to see him go, but if it has to be done, at least his exit is being handled gracefully. You can’t really fault Stein for wanting to be there for young Ronnie (a welcome nod to the late Ronnie Raymond) when he completely missed Lily’s entire childhood. And it gave us a wonderful little moment involving Stein, Jax and Mick at the hospital.Zari,_young_Ray,_and_Atom_fly_away (1)Phone Home captures so much of what makes Legends of Tomorrow the most entertaining branch of the Arrowverse. This episode delivers a lighthearted, entertaining and sweetly innocent look at a young Ray Palmer and his bond with a most unlikely new friend. The show really wears its influences on its sleeve here, but in a way that pays loving tribute to some truly classic films. With a few more episodes like this, Season 3 may soon come to rival Season 2 in overall quality.

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: CONSTANTINE – RAGE OF CALIBAN

Image result for constantine 2014

CAST

Matt Ryan (Layer Cake)
Charles Halford (Agents of SHIELD)
Harold Perrineau (Lost)

960You can tell “Rage Of Caliban” is gonna be a good one from the last-minute excuse for Angélica Celaya’s absence: “Zed’s in art class.” All week? Apparently, because John and Chas spend the run-up to Halloween in Birmingham, Alabama figuring out how to exorcise a young boy safely after What Happened In Newcastle. Creator Daniel Cerone writes and Neil Marshall directs, in case you needed any more proof that this was originally the second episode of Constantine. Why sit on it? Just to get the ball rolling on the post-Liv version of the show? Yes, “Rage Of Caliban” sounds like a lost third-season Star Trek about some neglected godlike alien, but it’s actually a demon seed story that’s about as good as a network demon seed story can be.See, there just isn’t that much life left in evil children. Nothing short of a Claire Denis rethink is going to revive childlike drawings of scary things or kids smiling with black eyes. True enough, “Rage Of Caliban” isn’t that scary, but its scary scenes are vivid. Constantine is trying its damnedest with the look, sound, and mood of those scenes. The cold open is an establishing shot of a house and then a fluid pan—like Marshall’s demon shots in the pilot—through a house and up to the ceiling where a bloody man is being held, and then we follow him to the floor where he lands in front of a cowering girl. For some reason the demon moves on from her to the next child along the psychic railroad—another pilot callback, and this time we get to see what that railroad effectively means for a certain kind of spirit—a bullied boy named Henry. With Henry we get a couple of long suspense scenes that immerse us in that house, a standoff with a dog that struggles against his leather collar so mightily the sound is still haunting my ears, and a carving knife mishap that never really feels threatening but still effectively tightens the screws. The playground fight is silly, and the telekinetic explosions are too harmless to bother a mouse, but so what? Cerone and Marshall give evil children a fighting chance.The real reason I suspect producers sat on “Rage Of Caliban” so long is they wanted to get into a groove with the new face of Constantine—John, Zed, Chas, and Manny—since they threw out the old one at the end of the pilot. Unfortunately that means we’ve gone five episodes without really finding out The Deal With Manny, which is that he can only help through guidance. “When humanity was granted free will, angels lost the power to directly influence events on earth.” John takes that to mean Manny’s just here to shoot the shit. He’s not wrong. But Manny is allowed to offer guidance, which I guess means cryptic counsel and which I don’t think actually has any bearing on John’s ability to solve the case. Manny tells him to think about when he was a child in order to appeal to Henry, or rather Marcello, the possessing spirit who was once a boy who got revenge on his abusive father by introducing him to an axe. Now Marcello’s catatonic in a psychiatric hospital. His animating spirit is off killing more parents.That’s the core of this evil children story, violent dads and helpless kids who suddenly get to be not so helpless. Marcello’s dad used to chop his fingers off on a bloody stump. John’s used to beat him so much he considered suicide. And Henry’s is a macho tough guy who wants Henry to stand up for himself. When John first arrives in the guise of the new school counselor, shirt tucked in and tie too short, Henry’s dad knocks John out while he’s leaving. He’s not abusive to Henry, although he does mock him for crying wolf about someone in his room at night. Henry’s just very sensitive to not living up to his father’s vision of masculinity and the strain that’s putting on his parents’ relationship. He can’t handle the discord in his house. Luckily his new friend and cohabitant Marcello is quite talented at dealing with anger toward parents. “Danse Vaudou” ultimately spun itself into a metaphor for survivor’s guilt. “Rage Of Caliban” is more deliberate, but it lays out a motif and mostly leaves it at at that. A child can react like Marcello and continue a cycle of violence, or he can react like John and endure? The episode never really resolves Henry’s story—what happens next time he’s bullied at school? Is it okay for him to fight back?—but at least his happy family is restored.constantine-recap-episode-6The emotion comes from John’s story. First of all it’s actually a little funny. For instance, back at the home base, Chas starts playing with a sword. He asks what it does and then segues into a story about how he drove Renee away and how John never listens. John takes the sword from him. “This is the Sword Of Night. Compels the holder to speak the truth.” Not only do we finally get some specifics on Manny but the John-Chas relationship has never been clearer. The school counselor get-up is a good sight gag on its own, but the throwaway “I told Chas this wouldn’t work” is so evocative I can picture them bickering about it. And as for the heart of the story, all it takes is a quick flashback to What Happened In Newcastle to explain why John’s so afraid of exorcising the boy. Last time he sent a girl to Hell, and what with The Engorging Evil, who knows what it might take to pry Marcello’s grasp from Henry’s body. As usual, getting rid of the spirit ultimately looks so easy Zed could do it, but there’s a healthy serving of catharsis in the moment Henry comes to in the haunted house from The Guest. John did it! There’s never any real threat of him not saving the day, but the episode imbues this exorcism with all of John’s self-doubt. Saving Henry is an act of faith. And it’s rewarded.

REVIEW: CONSTANTINE (2014) THE TV SERIES

Image result for CONSTANTINE TV LOGO

MAIN CAST
Matt Ryan (Layer Cake)
Angelica Celaya (Dallas)
Charles Halford (Agents of SHIELD)
Harold Perrineau (Lost)
MV5BNGE5NGY1MTgtZTg1Mi00YTA0LTliODEtZmNkMWMwNDEwZTViXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ2MTU1MDc@._V1_
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS
Lucy Griffiths (Preacher)
Jeremy Davies (Lost)
Leisha Hailey (The L Word)
Joelle Carter (Justified)
Michael James Shaw (Avengers: Endgame)
Sean Whalen (Superstar)
Jonjo O’Neill (Defiance)
Charles Parnell (The Warriors)
Emmett J Scanlan (The Fall)
Chasty Ballesteros (The Internship)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Laura Regan (Minority Report TV)
Amy Parrish (One Tree Hill)
Juliana Harkavy (Arrow)
Megan West (How To Get Away With Murder)
Claire van der Boom (The Square)
Jose Pablo Cantillo (Crank)
Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad)
Amanda Clayton (John Carter)
William Mapother (Lost)
Robert Pralgo (The Vampire Diaries)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)
Annalise Basso (Ouija 2)
MV5BNDc2NzU1NjMtZGU3YS00ZmU5LWE4N2UtZjg0ZjVkZWZkMzliXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDQ2MTMzODA@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1500,1000_AL_
DC/Vertigo’s John Constantine leapt from the sordid, scary pages of his Hellblazer comics thanks to EPs David Goyer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel) and Daniel Cerone (Dexter, Charmed). Matt Ryan, as the titular hero, was really effective in bringing Constantine to life on screen. Flippant when called for. Vulnerable when need be. All the while – whether casting out a demon from some poor body or battling one within himself – creating a very commanding, likable presence on screen. John Constantine was a the sort of hero you had to get right immediately and Ryan excelled.
John’s back up proved reliable from a charismatic standpoint. Chas and Zed were great characters and as the serious progressed we got to see their back story’s and what made them the way they are.I really liked that Newcastle was used as the show’s jumping off point, and that throughout the season John would have to atone in various ways with scattered members of that ill-fated team, but his own team often suffered. Even though we’re only talking about 13 episodes here, the show still made good use of a seasonal arc format. Even using the “Rising Darkness” to both inform and be the cause of a procedural “case of the week” structure . The “Scry Map” gave John demons and ghosts to chase, all under the umbrella that hell was slowly encroaching upon the world of the living. And while not every “case of the week” landed, a couple of stories ripped from the comics came alive in (remixed) cool ways (“A Feast of Friends,” “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 1” and “Waiting for the Man”). Along with some DC notables like Felix Faust, Eclipso’s Black Diamond, and Jim Corrigan.I liked that Manny turned out to be the villain right at the end of the finale. Mostly because the “Rising Darkness” needed a face. The Brujeria were mentioned quite a bit, but never shown. Was the twist worth sitting through a handful of episodes where I wondered why Manny was even there at all? Maybe, maybe not. But the show needed a “big bad,” and whether or not Manny turns out to be Satan himself or just an evil angel, he still fits the bill nicely.Constantine had a cool look, an awesome lead, and a confidence that you don’t see in most fledgling series. As the series went on it became an intriguing show with many dimensions that would of been worth exploring in later seasons, this is a show that was cancelled too soon and now with a unresolved cliffhanger we may never know where it will lead. On the plus side  Matt Ryan’s Constantine is coming too Arrow, so we at least get to see him at least one more time.

 

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 3

CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
David Ramsey (Pay It Forward)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)
John Barrowman (Reign)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Grant Gustin (The Flash)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Colin Donnell (Chicago Med)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus)
Karl Yune (Real Steel)
Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine)
Peter Stormare (American Gods)
J.R. Ramirez (Power)
Katrina Law (Chuck)
Matt Nable (Riddick)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)
Christina Cox (Defying Gravity)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Glee)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatural)
Nick E. Tarabay (Spartacus)
Jill Teed (Highlander: The Series)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)
Kelly Hu (The Scopion King)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)
Vinnie Jones (The Cape)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Austin Butler (The Carrie Diaries)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Eugene Byrd (Bones)
Marc Singer (V)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Francoise Yip (Andromeda)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)

Season 3 certainly started off on a strong note with the premiere episode, “The Calm.” That episode laid out the general status quo for team Arrow post-Slade uprising. Ollie had saved his city but found himself struggling to find meaning in his existence outside of putting on a costume and shooting criminals full of arrows. That struggle was complicated with the addition of a new recurring player in the form of Ray Palmer, a charismatic businessman who managed to steal both Ollie’s company and the affections of Felicity. Coupled with the debut of Peter Stormare as a much superior new version of Count Vertigo and the cliffhanger murder of Sara Lance.Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins emerged as the villains of the season, when we get to episode 8 & 9 we the one-two punch of “The Brave and the Bold” and “The Climb” had great momentum . The former offered the first extended crossover between Team Arrow and Team Flash, and the results were as fun as fans of the two shows could have hoped. The latter, meanwhile, saw Ollie journey to Nanda Parbat and confront Ra’s al Ghul in the flesh. Their clifftop duel easily ranks among the best action scenes in the show’s three-year history. The choreography was solid. being a mid season cliffhanger left fans hanging over christmas.Stephen Amell and Matt Nable in Arrow (2012)Ollie’s friends believed him to be dead and found themselves defending Starling City from the seemingly invulnerable crime lord Brick (played with gusto by Vinnie Jones). The three-part Brick storyline was another highlight for the season. Ray Palmer was a great addition to the show. He brought a charm and a sense of humor. Even when Ray’s ongoing story arc seemed tenuously linked with the rest of Team Arrow, the character’s sheer entertainment value and his dynamic with Felicity justified his presence. The fact that we got to see Ray evolve from billionaire industrialist to full-fledged superhero in his own right was a bonus.  Arrow continues to serve as prime breeding ground for other DC heroes to emerge.The show also deserves credit for the overall quality of its special effects and action choreography. That’s an area where Arrow has consistently improved over time as the budget has grown and the cast and crew have grown more experienced. A number of action scenes really stood out this season, whether it was the first glimpses of the A.T.O.M. suit in action, the epic street riot in “Uprising,” or the fateful duel between Ollie and Ra’s in “The Climb.” Looking back, the one action sequence that stood out more than anything this year was the shot of Roy running through a pipe while gunfire exploded behind him in “Left Behind.” There’s a growing cinematic flair to this show that never gets old.The season led to the showdown between Arrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, the resolve brought new dimensions to the character which will lead into the upcoming 4th Season. John Barrowman was also a great return addition to this season being a full time player, changing from villain to anti-hero. Katrina Law was always great to see again, every time she shows up you know it will be a great episode.Arrow continues to become a a shining beacon of the DC Universe and with season 4 on its way, it’s here to stay for a while.

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 1 & 2

CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Colin Donnell (Chicago Med)
David Ramsey (Pay It Forward)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Susanna Thompson (Dragonfly)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Colin Salmon (Limitless TV)
Jamey Sheridan (The Ice Storm)
Annie Ilonzeh (Beauty and The Beast)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Derek Hamilton (Disturbing Behavior)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Kelly Hu (The Vampire Diaries)
Ty Olsson (X-Men 2)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Euegen Lipinski (Goosebumps)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
John Barrowman (Reign)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Kyle Schmid (The Covenant)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Jessica De Gouw (Dracula)
Jeffrey Nordling (Tron: Legacy)
Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica)
Sebastian Dunn (The Other Half)
Andrew Dunbar (Leprechaun: Origins)
Danny Nucci (Eraser)
Ben Browder (Stargate SG.1)
Christie Laing (Scary Movie 4)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
David Anders (Izombie)
Ona Grauer (V)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
James Callis (Battlestar Galactica)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Chin Han (The Dark Knight)
Janina Gavankar (True Blood)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)
Anna Van Hooft (Flash Gordon)
Celina Jade (The Man with The Iron Fists)
Seth Gabel (Salem)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Dylan Bruce (Heroes Reborn)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Michael Jai White (The Dark
Valerie Tian (Izombie)Knight)
Kevin Alejandro (Ugly Betty)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes)
Cle Bennett (Flashpoint)
Dylan Neal (Sabrina: TTW)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus)
David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
James Kidnie (Robocop: The Series)
Katrina Law (Chuck)
Michael Eklund (Bates Motel)
Nicholas Lea (V)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Animated Series)
Lochlyn Munro (Little Man)
Jorge Vargas (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Navid Negahban (Legion)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)

Image result for arrow pilotAfter turning the story about Clark Kent’s evolution from humble teenager to world’s greatest hero into one of the most successful science fiction TV series of all time, what exactly do you do for an encore? The obvious answer would be a series about a young Bruce Wayne. Or maybe a crime procedural starring the men and women of the Gotham City Police Department. Instead, The CW gave us Arrow, a series that simultaneously explores Oliver Queen’s first months as a vigilante hero and the painful hero’s journey he undertook while stranded on a remote island. Even considering Green Arrow’s popularity in Smallville and Justice League Unlimited, it wasn’t the most obvious choice. Nor was it the choice many DC fans wanted. But ultimately, it was a choice that paid off.

To their credit, they succeeded. Even right off the bat, there were many notable elements that he writers introduced into the Green Arrow mythos. Generally a loner in the comics, here Ollie was given a full family and circle of allies. Some were inspired by characters from the comics, while others were entirely new creations. Probably the most successful new addition was John Diggle as Ollie’s personal bodyguard-turned-ally in his war on crime. Watching the dynamic between Ollie and Diggle morph from cold and hostile to warm camaraderie was a treat. And the two sequences featuring Diggle in the costume rather than Ollie suggested that this show could have a life beyond that of its lead character.Image result for arrow pilotAmell’s performance grew stronger over time, and the subtle ways in which he distinguished his performances during the present-day and flashback scenes stood out.With other characters, it was more a question of the scripts shedding light on motivation and relationships before they really came into their own. This was certainly the case with Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), who was a bit of a hard sell as a sympathetic mother figure until viewers came to understand her role in “The Undertaking.” Similarly, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) came across as a fairly flat and unimportant character at first. But by the end of the season, Tommy had emerged as the emotional heart of the series and Donnell’s one of the strongest performances.Jessica De Gouw in Arrow (2012)Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) was endearing, her instant charm made fans fall in love with her making her a regular was the best choice when they headed into season 2. As Laurel, Katie Cassidy was excellent as future Black Canary, dealing with her emotions of seeing her former boyfriend back from the dead and the lost of her sister.  Structurally, the season started out strong and finished even stronger. The writers managed to weave together an overarching narrative as Ollie slowly uncovered the truth of The Undertaking and his own parents’ involvement while contending with various smaller villains and conflicts. Anchoring the series throughout were the frequent flashbacks to Ollie’s five years on the island. The pilot episode offered a tantalizing glimpse of what had transpired over the course of those five years with the Deathstroke mask discarded on the beach. Various plot twists revealed just how complicated that story is, teaming Ollie with Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) and Shado (Celina Jade) in an ongoing guerrilla war against mercenary leader Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn). Particularly once Slade entered the picture and his bond with Ollie became a major focal point, the flashbacks emerged as one of the strongest elements of the show.

Everything in Season 1 culminated in two climactic episodes as Ollie fought for the survival of Starling City in the present and to stop Fyers from sparking an international incident in the past. These episodes offered a satisfying blend of big action scenes and emotional character showdowns. In particular, the final scene between Ollie and Tommy that closed out the season was perhaps the best the show has delivered so far.

Right off the bat, “City of Heroes” set the tone and direction for Season 2. We saw a despondent Ollie still crushed by the death of his best friend, Tommy, and having retreated to the island in a self-imposed exile. Though Colin Donnell only briefly reprised his role as Tommy this season, his character was very much a lingering presence driving the actions of Ollie and Laurel throughout the year. And his death formed the crux of Ollie’s renewed mission. It was right there in the revised opening sequence – “To honor my friend’s memory, I can’t be the killer I once was.” And that, more than Ollie’s battles with Slade Wilson or Sebastian Blood or Isabel Rochev, was the core conflict of the season. It’s easy enough to fight criminals by shooting them dead. But could Ollie muster the strength and the courage not to kill, even if it meant putting himself, his family, and his city in greater danger? It was a struggle, but the most satisfying element of the finale was the way Ollie definitively answered that question and established himself as a better class of vigilante.Manu Bennett in Arrow (2012)Overall, Season 2 was a good showcase for Stephen Amell’s acting talents.  Ollie was haunted by demons and shouldering heavy burdens throughout the year. He suffered more often than he succeeded, and Amell conveyed that pain well. Most impressive was the way Amell was so capable at portraying Ollie at different periods in his life. We saw plenty more of Ollie’s life on the island in the various flashback scenes. Having already spent a year fighting for his life against men like Edward Fyers and Billy Wintergreen, flashback Ollie was closer to the man he is in the present, but not all the way there. And we even caught glimpses of a pre-island Ollie, most significantly in “Seeing Red.” More than the changes in hairstyle or fashion, it was Amell’s purposeful shifts in vocal intonation and body language that differentiated the different versions of Ollie.Having established himself as one of the better supporting players in Season 1, it was very gratifying to see Manu Bennett step fully into the spotlight and become the big antagonist of Season 2. That’s despite him not even being revealed as the secret mastermind of Brother Blood’s uprising until the mid-season finale, “Three Ghosts.” But it was crucial that the show spend so much time, both this season and last, in building up the brotherly bond between Ollie and Slade and the island. We needed to feel the pain of seeing them broken apart and Slade become a vengeful villain hellbent on tearing his former friend’s life down. And it wasn’t until much later still that we saw how that rift occurred and Slade turn his wrath against Ollie. It’s a testament to both the writing and Bennett’s acting that the character never quite lost his aura of sympathy even as he murdered Ollie’s mother and tried to do the same to Felicity. This was a man driven half-mad by the loss of the woman he loved and an injection of a super-steroid. But conversely, I appreciated how the finale took pains to establish that it wasn’t just the Mirakuru fueling Slade’s anger. Even now, super-strength gone and exiled back to the island, Slade is a clear and present danger to Ollie’s world.Three GhostsThe show introduced Sebastian Blood and Isabel Rochev as Slade’s subordinates, with Blood serving as the most visible villain for much of the season. I really enjoyed Kevin Alejandro’s portrayal of Blood. Alejandro’s Blood was so disarmingly charming that it was often difficult to reconcile him with the masked man kidnapping drug addicts and turning street thugs into super-soldiers. Ultimately, Blood became the sort of villain who does the wrong things for the right reasons. He had an honest desire to make Starling City a better place. And when it became clear to him that Slade Wilson wouldn’t leave a city left for him to rule, Blood did the right thing and aided Team Arrow.Most of the increasingly large supporting cast were given their moments to shine in Season 2. I was often disappointed that Diggle wasn’t given more to do, but at least he was able to take a starring role in “Suicide Squad.” Diggle’s backseat status was mainly the result of Sara Lance stepping into the limelight early on and eventually becoming the fourth member of Ollie’s vigilante crew. The Arrow had his Canary finally. Sara’s own struggles with the desire for lethal force and reuniting with her family often made for good drama. But among Team Arrow, it was often Felicity Smoak who often had the best material.  Emily Bett Rickards had much better material to work with this year, whether it was her unrequited love for Ollie, her burgeoning relationship with Barry Allen, or her desire to pull her weight alongside her more physically capable allies. The final three episodes all featured some standout moments for Felicity as she established herself as a force to be reckoned with.
Elsewhere, Roy Harper was often a focus as he transitioned from troubled street punk to superhero sidekick. Roy’s temporary super-strength powers were a welcome story swerve and a fitting physical manifestation of his inner rage. His character arc received a satisfying conclusion in the finale when he proved himself worthy and received his own red domino mask, but lost Thea as a result.As for the various women in Ollie’s life, Felicity and Sara aside, Season 2 was a little more uneven. Moira definitely had an interesting ride. She started out Season 2 fighting for her life while on trial for her role in the Undertaking. Then, in an unlikely turn of events, she was spurred to run for mayor. And finally, her life did end when she became a pawn in Slade’s cruel game. It was a terrific finish for Moira, proving once and for all that, whatever wrongs she committed, she was only ever trying to ensure her children’s survival. Thea was more up and down throughout the season. She was often underutilized, but received a boost late in the season when she learned the truth about her parentage. Laurel’s character  had her own crucible this season, spiraling into into drug and alcohol addiction and losing her job before hitting bottom, rebounding, and playing her part in saving Starling City.The Mirakuru drug served as a plausible, pseudo-scientific way of introducing super-strength and allowing Slade to transform into Deathstroke. And even when it came time to introduce the Flash midway through the season, Barry Allen never felt too out of place alongside the more grounded characters. Season 2 really opened the floodgates as far as drawing in characters and elements from other DC properties. Barry Allen’s debut was the most high-profile, but we also saw plenty more of Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. “Professor Ivo became a recurring villain, along with a very different take on Amazo. And in a welcome twist, it turned out that even the Batman franchise is fair game with this show. Early on we learned of Sara Lance and Malcolm Merlyn’s connection to the League of Assassins. Nyssa al Ghul appeared in a couple of episodes, and we know her father is out there in the world, leading his shadowy organization in the hidden city of Nanda Parbat. Even Harley Quinn had a brief cameo.And beyond the introduction of all these new elements, the scope of Arrow really opened up in Season 2. The action was bigger and better choreographed. The scale of the conflicts was bigger. The producers simply seemed to have more money to throw around. And whether that was actually the case or just the result of experience and planning, the end result was the same. Arrow became a bigger, more cinematic TV series this season.

 

REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 1

CAST

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)
Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
Carlos Valdes (Arrow)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jessie L. Martin (Injustice)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michelle Harrison (Continuum)
Chad Rook (Timeless)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Robbie Amell (The Babysitter)
Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Emily Bett Rickards (Arrow)
Dominic Purcell (Blade: Trinity)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Kelly Frye (Teachers)
Greg Finley (Izombie)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
David Ramsey (Arrow)
Anna Hopkins (Bad Blood)
Amanda Pays (Max Headroom)
Tom Butler (Shooter)
Andy Mientus (Gone)
Britne Oldford (God Friended Me)
Malese Jow (The Vampire Diaries)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
Isabella Hofmann (Burlesque)
Chase Masterson (Star Trek: DS9)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Peyton List (Gotham)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Matt Letscher (Her)
Bre Blair (Life Sentence)
Vito D’Ambrosio (The Untouchables)
Devon Graye (13 Sins)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Danielle Nicolet (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Anthony Carrigan (Gotham)
Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery)
Ciara Renée (Legends of Tomorrow)

The Flash was unique in its first season in the sense that it never really needed to find itself or grow into something better. It simply started strong and continually got better over the course of seven months. Much of the credit rests with the fact that the Flash was hardly starting from scratch. This show is the first spinoff of Arrow and its growing superhero universe. It features many of the same producers as Arrow and several writers responsible for Arrow’s stellar second season. Not only did The Flash not have to waste much time establishing its universe, it didn’t even have to introduce viewers to its protagonist. Grant Gustin debuted as a pre-speedster Barry Allen midway through Arrow’s second season, culminating with the accident that created the Flash. By the time this show came around, viewers already knew Barry, what made him tick and what fueled his particular quest.MV5BMTUwNTM0NjAyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDA3NjM5MjE@._V1_Gustin rapidly grew into the role of Barry Allen once the spotlight was placed on him. Gustin brought a winning blend of youthful energy, latent pathos and Peter Parker-esque awkwardness to the table. He gave us a Barry Allen that’s impossible not to connect with. Barry is immensely likable. He’s less intense than Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen. He’s driven by tragedy but anchored by a small family unit. He’s faithful to the comic book Barry Allen. One of the main reasons for The Flash’s success, though, was its supporting cast. So much of the drama and the emotional core of the show centered around Barry’s ties to his core circle of friends, family and allies. There was his adoptive father, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). There was his adoptive sister/unrequited love, Iris (Candice Patton), a dichotomy that never came across as creepy or incest-y as it could have. There was his newfound father figure/mentor in Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). There were his new friends/partners in metahuman-busting, Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). And rounding out the core cast was Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Barry’s colleague and sometimes rival/sometimes ally.The show exploited these various relationships to great effect. Above all, the father/son relationships between Barry/Joe and Barry/Wells were the source of great drama. Martin and Cavanagh were the MVPs among the cast. Martin brought a crucial warmth to his role as a concerned father and a man simply baffled by the increasingly bizarre state of life in Central City. Cavanagh, meanwhile, helped mold Wells into the show’s most captivating figure. It quickly became apparent that Wells was far more than he seemed, eventually emerging as the primary antagonist of Season 1. But thanks to Cavanagh’s performance, it was always apparent that Wells cared for Barry even as he plotted and schemed and tormented the hero.Caitlin and Cisco became increasingly compelling characters in their own right as the season progressed. Caitlin, initially cold and a little haughty, grew as her relationship with Barry blossomed and her past relationship with Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) came to light. Cisco was largely a comic relief character at first. And while he remained the show’s most reliable source of comedy, he too was fleshed out and developed a father/son connection to Wells of his own.Iris and Eddie were a little more uneven when it came to their respective roles within the show. At times it was easy to forget about Eddie given his tendency to drop out of view. However, he definitely became an integral player in the final couple months of the season. I appreciated how the writers never took a one-note approach with Eddie. He may have been Barry’s romantic rival, but he was never written as a bully or a jerk, just a guy with his own set of hopes and desires. As for Iris, there were some episodes where she filled what seemed to be a mandatory quota as far as superhero relationship drama. The Barry/Iris/Eddie love triangle definitely had its moments, but some weeks it came across as pointless filler. The big offender was “Out of Time,” which featured a terrifically epic climax but dull build-up. The premiere episode,  did a fine job of laying out the cast of characters and basic status quo for the show. The idea that the STAR Labs particle accelerator created a new wave of metahumans alongside the Flash offered an easy way to start building a roster of villains and put Barry’s growing speed powers to the test. Luckily, it wasn’t long before The Flash began moving away from the “villain of the week” approach and building larger, overarching storylines. Bigger villains like Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) were introduced, paving the way for the Flash Rogues.MV5BMjM1ODYwNzY1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA3NjM5MjE@._V1_The show played its part in expanding the CW’s superhero universe, introducing Firestorm and crossing paths with Arrow at several points. The mid-season finale, “The Man In the Yellow Suit,” offered the full introduction of the Reverse-Flash and set the stage for a conflict that would drive the show all the way until the season finale. As that conflict developed, the question of just who Dr. Wells was and what he had planned for Barry became paramount. Wells symbolized just how much the show was willing to play with expectations and shake up the traditional comic book mythology. I noted in my review of the premiere episode that the show was showing signs of being too predictable for seasoned comic book readers. It wasn’t long before that concern faded away.Looking back at these overarching conflicts and how they were developed over the course of the season, it’s clear that The Flash succeeded because it managed to adopt the serialized nature of superhero comics so well. Each new episode offered its fair share of twists and surprises, culminating in a dramatic cliffhanger that left viewers craving the next installment. It served as a reminder that, in many ways, TV is an inherently better medium for superheroes than film. A weekly series can do serialized storytelling in a way a couple superhero movies every year can’t. The show started out big with the premiere episode, pitting Barry against the first Weather Wizard and a massive tornado. Even that was chump change compared to later conflicts. Barry’s battle with the second Weather Wizard culminated with the hero stopping a tidal wave at supersonic speed. But the most impressive technical accomplishment was more subtle. The late-season episode “Grodd Lives” introduced viewers to Gorilla Grodd, a completely computer-animated villain who looked far more convincing than we had any right to hope.MV5BMjkwMDA1MTYyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc0OTgzMzE@._V1_Perhaps one of the strongest episode of Season 1 was “Tricksters.” That episode paid terrific homage to the short-lived 1990 Flash series as Mark Hamill reprised the part of the prank-obsessed villain the Trickster and former Flash John Wesley Shipp was given his most in-depth role as Barry’s father, Henry. Not only was “Tricksters” a fun love letter to the old show, it proved that this series can venture into full-on camp territory without losing sight of itself.Ultimately, though, it’s the finale episode that stands out as the crowning moment of Season 1. The show bucked the usual trend by getting the physical confrontation with Reverse-Flash out of the way in the penultimate episode (via a team-up between Flash, Firestorm and the Arrow, no less). “Fast Enough” wasn’t concerned with the visceral element of the Flash/Reverse-Flash rivalry so much as the psychological one. The finale was intensely emotional, forcing Barry to decide just how much he was willing to sacrifice to save his mother. Just about every actor delivered their best work of the season. It was a tremendous payoff to a year’s worth of build-up.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)The finale ended the season with a big question mark of a cliffhanger. The great thing about the way the season wrapped is that now the door is open for practically anything. The finale touched on the idea of the multiverse – other worlds inhabited by other Flashes like Jay Garrick. The Flash didn’t suffer from the familiar freshman growing pains most new shows experience in their first season. This show built from the framework Arrow laid out and made use of an experienced writing and production team, a great cast, and a clear, focused plan for exploring Barry Allen’s first year on the job. The show was never afraid to delve into the weird and wild elements of DC lore, but it always stayed grounded thanks to a combination of humor and strong character relationships.