REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 6

Arrow_season_5_poster_-_His_fight,_His_city,_His_legacy

Main Cast

Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)

Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Anna Hopkins (The Expanse)
Kathleen Gati (THe House Bunny)
Adrian Holmes (V-Wars)
Jack Moore (Republic of Sarah)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
David Nykl (Stargate Atlantis)
Venus Terzo (Beast Wars)
Sydelle Noel (GLOW)
Chastity Dotson (Veronica Mars)
Michael Emerson (Lost)
Kris Holden-Ried (Vikings)
Johann Urb (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Laara Sadiq (2012)
Celina Jade (The Man with The Iron Fists)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Kirk Acevedo (War For The POTA)
Liam Hall (The Fault Line)
Pej Vahdat (Bones)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Tom Cavanagh (Yogi Bear)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Dominic Purcell (A Fighting Man)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Franz Drameh (See)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Colin Donnell (Chicago MED)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Tom Amandes (Everwood)
Enid-Raye Adams (Good Boys)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)
Eliza Faria (American Conjuring)
Tina Huang (Drive)
Colton Haynes (Rough Night)
Kyra Zagorsky (Helix)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)
Wil Traval (Jessica Jones)
Catherien Dent (Terminator:TSCC)
Katrina Law (Spartacus)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)

David Ramsey and Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)It’s not always easy being a fan of Arrow, as the show’s sixth season frequently proved. The show was at its most uneven and frustrating this year. For a while it seemed as though Season 6 was doomed to go down in history as the show’s worst to date. And while it did finally turn things around in the last couple months, it may have been too little, too late for many viewers.Juliana Harkavy in Arrow (2012)The show’s sudden drop in quality is all the more surprising given the strong foundation Season 5 had put in place. Season 5 ended with the series best episode yet, wrapping up the conflict between Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) and leaving viewers with a cliffhanger wherein the fate of nearly every member of Team Arrow was in doubt. That’s how you end a season. The Season 6 premiere, “Fallout,” is not how you begin one. That episode squandered most of the potential from “Lian Yu.” Rather than delivering a dramatic overhaul of the status quo and showcasing a Team Arrow left reeling from Chase’s final attack, it showed that annoyingly little had changed in Star City during those missing three months. The impact of that attack was minimal, with almost zero casualties and a handful of easily reversible changes to the norm.
Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The only truly compelling addition to the formula to arise in the premiere involved the increased focus on Oliver’s son William (Jack Moore), now mourning the loss of his mother and living with a father he barely knows. The resulting family drama often resulted in some of the strongest material in the first half of Season 6, with William both lashing out against and needing his father and Ollie struggling to figure out how to care for a boy whose existence he only discovered a couple years ago. That played into one of the larger themes of the season – Ollie’s struggle to figure out how to balance his job as mayor, his crusade as the Green Arrow and his responsibilities as a parent. That dovetailed with Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) own struggles as she found herself being drawn deeper into the lives of both Queen men.Katie Cassidy in Arrow (2012)As a backbone for the season, that’s not bad. The problem is more the scattershot approach the writers took to crafting the story. It worked well early on as Ollie contemplated giving up his hood and focusing on being a better mayor and father. After five years of getting nowhere in his mission, that seemed to represent a positive step forward for the character. But it wasn’t long before that approach took a backseat to more traditional vigilante adventures. Only in the final third of the season did Ollie’s need to achieve balance in his life become paramount again.Manu Bennett in Arrow (2012)Season 6’s biggest problem, it quickly became clear, was one of focus. The series never seemed entirely sure of what direction to head or how to juggle the various members of Team Arrow. Each character had their respective struggles, whether it was Diggle (David Ramsey) dealing with the lingering fallout of Lian Yu, Curtis (Echo Kellum) becoming a small business owner or Rene (Rick Gonzalez) dealing with yet more problems surrounding custody of his daughter. Yet rarely did these subplots leave a particularly strong impression. Too often, the series begged the question of whether these supporting characters were truly necessary any longer.
Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Two long-running story threads proved especially disappointing this season. The first involved the dynamic between Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) and Vigilante (Johann Urb). The latter’s identity was finally revealed early in Season 6, though the answer to that long-running mystery proved thoroughly unsatisfying. Nor did the ensuing drama between the two characters redeem Vigilante as a character. Instead, he felt like just one more unnecessary addition to an overcrowded cast. The other involved the relationship between Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and the Earth-2 version of Laurel (Katie Cassidy). After so many years of seeing Quentin grapple with the death of one daughter or the other, more Lance family drama is not what the series needed. It didn’t help that Laurel’s redemption arc proved so repetitive. You can only see a character make apparent progress, only to pivot and back-stab everyone around her, so many times before the formula gets old.Rick Gonzalez, Stephen Amell, Juliana Harkavy, and Echo Kellum in Arrow (2012)Perhaps nothing weighed down the season more than its uninspired choice of main villain, hacker extraordinaire Cayden James (Michael Emerson). Emerson is a talented actor, but he frequently felt wasted in the role. James proved to be a bland, redundant villain whose motivations failed to set him apart from the crowd. Even at the series lowest points in Seasons 3 and 4, villains like Ra’s al Ghul and Damien Darhk elevated their respective conflicts. James merely dragged the series further down. It’s telling that the most enjoyable episodes in the first half of the season were generally those which took a break from the overarching Cayden James thread. For example, the series took a welcome two-part detour as Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) resurfaced and Ollie joined him on a very personal mission overseas. Bennett’s return late in Season 5 was a reminder of how much he brought to the series back in the early years, and those two episodes made great use of the ever-changing relationship between Ollie and Slade. The “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover also proved entertaining, with Team Arrow joining forces with their superhero comrades against some pesky, wedding-ruining Nazis.David Ramsey and Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The good news is that Season 6 did eventually find its footing, even if that didn’t happen until the final two months. March brought about a major status quo upheaval, one that finally began addressing the season’s problems in terms of poor pacing, lack of focus and underwhelming villain. Why that upheaval couldn’t have come sooner ) is a question worth asking, but better late than never, right?Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The season’s saving grace came with the sudden death of Cayden James and the elevation of formerly minor villain Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) to the season’s primary antagonist. Diaz proved to be everything James wasn’t – a compelling villain whose motivations and actions set him apart from the shows previous big baddies. He cared little for the sort of theatrics preferred by Deathstroke or Damien Darhk. His goal was money and control, not making a grand statement or destroying the city. Acevedo’s performance helped further elevate the character, with various episodes highlighting Diaz’s dark past and the inferiority complex that fuels his present actions.Stephen Amell and Jack Moore in Arrow (2012)Diaz’s rise to power coincided with a breaking point in Team Arrow’s tenuous dynamic. After suffering through a destructive civil war and seeing his political career crumble, Ollie finally decided to abandon everything but the mission. That shift in gears helped the series find the focus it had been struggling to achieve for months. It suggested that maybe the best thing Arrow can do is to abandon the ensemble format and become centered around Oliver Queen once again. On the other hand, the season managed to maintain that sense of focus even as Team Arrow grudgingly reformed and built a united front against Diaz.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)It seems the problem is less the amount of characters than how the writers choose to balance them.Season 6 wasn’t entirely without problems in those final two months. “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” in particular proved a disappointing chapter with the melodramatic way it handled Ollie’s murder trial. The way the season ended, with Ollie winding up in prison anyway, makes that whole episode seem even more pointless in hindsight. But ultimately, Season 6 finished strong enough to restore much of the good will that had been lost early on. The feud between Diaz and Team Arrow ended on a satisfying note, while at the same time leaving plenty of room to grow in Season 7. And Ollie’s new status quo as an incarcerated felon promises a huge change in the fall. The only question is whether Season 7, with its new showrunner behind the scenes, can do a better job of utilizing the potential given to it.Stephen Amell and Jack Moore in Arrow (2012)Arrow’s sixth season may not qualify as the show’s worst, but only because it improved a great deal in its final two months. Prior to that, the season squandered most of the potential afforded by Season 5, failing to balance its many characters and languishing under a disappointingly bland villain. It’s good that the show eventually regained its footing, but there’s no reason things should have gone so far off the rails in the first place.

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 5

Ming-Na Wen, Henry Simmons, Clark Gregg, Iain De Caestecker, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Chloe Bennet, and Elizabeth Henstridge in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)

Starring

Clark Gregg (Captain Marvel)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate: Universe)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Iain De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)
Henry Simmons (Taxi)
Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Bates Motel)

Jeff Ward in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jeff Ward (Plus One)
Joel Stoffer (Death Ring)
Eve Harlow (Heroes Reborn)
Dominic Rains (Jinn)
Florence Faivre (The Expanse)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (13 Sins)
Coy Stewart (Devil’s Whisper)
Catherine Dent (21 Grams)
Lola Glaudini (That Awkward Moment)
Dove Cameron (Descendants)
Brian Patrick Wade (The Big Bang Theory)
Briana Venskus (Let’s be Cops)
Maximilian Osinski (In Time)
Spencer Treat Clark (Glass)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Nick Blood (Trollied)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Zach McGowan (The Scorpion King 5)
Reed Diamond (Bones)
Ruth Negga (Preacher)
David Conrad (Roswell)
Derek Mears (Swamp Thing)
Rya Kihlstedt (Home Alone 3)
Patrick Fabian (Better, Call Saul)
Willow Hale (The Ones)
Joel David Moore (Julia X)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)
Alyssa Jirrels (Alexa & Katie)
Gabriel Hogan (Heartland)
Craig Parker (Reign)
Raquel Gardner (The Boy Next Door)

Dominic Rains and Elizabeth Henstridge in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done the impossible. It went from one of the most throwaway action dramas in recent history with season one to one of the most memorable. Over the course of five long years, the series has re-invented itself, and slowly forged a capable band of misfits that are worth watching week after week.Henry Simmons, Clark Gregg, Eve Harlow, and Michelle Toh in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)It was somewhere around season three that I started truly enjoying the show, and by the time the artificial intelligence-driven LMD arc hit in 2017, I was hooked. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the power to do what basically no Marvel film (with few exceptions) has done to date: make us laugh and cry in the same short span. Clark Gregg, S.H.I.E.L.D. star Agent Coulson always said that people should give the show time to grow, and while I’d argue four years is far too long of a wait, it’s worth investing in at this point. Season five mostly carries that legacy upon its back with a few missteps.Rya Kihlstedt and Dominic Rains in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)While I’ve grown fond of S.H.I.E.L.D. it’s very easy to poke Swiss cheese-sized holes into it. The writers still don’t seem to know how to handle Yo-Yo, the Inhuman that can run so fast that it seemingly stops time, only to return to her original location. They created a figurative monster, one that could basically end every conflict before it starts, and they’ve had to come up with weird ways to curb her power, some of which are incredibly hokey. They’re also constantly wandering aimlessly with her character arc, putting much of the burden of her budding personality onto her partner, Mack — one of the brightest parts of the show.Florence Faivre in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)The lack of John Hannah and Mallory Jansen, two of the strongest parts of last season, is felt, but others, whether it’s newcomers or old friends like Adrian Pasdar, have stepped up. Really though, the trophies should go to the principal cast, who are stuck together like a family for this long despite being on the bubble every year. Ming-Na Wen is one of the most underrated action performers on TV right now, and Chloe Bennet managed to transform Skye into the formidable Daisy mostly on her own, evolving and learning alongside of the show with charisma and relatable flaws to boot.Ming-Na Wen, Clark Gregg, and Willow Hale in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)I miss the smaller focused arcs of the past few seasons, but this year S.H.I.E.L.D. has mostly settled on two acts: the future, and a lead into Infinity War. The former was a very bold and tricky maneuver, and I think they pulled it off. For a while, there S.H.I.E.L.D. pivoted into a bleak sci-fi operation, more so than it ever has been in the past, with some of its darkest sections to date.Ming-Na Wen and Clark Gregg in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)The thing about the future portion of this season is that you never really know what’s going to happen. Coupled with an ominous theme bad things were always piling onto the crew, to the point where you really felt that they had no chance of making it out alive. By the end of it, when most of them do, it feels like their actions still have weight to them, something that was wonderfully communicated in the previous season. It’s not so much cheesy callbacks as it is genuine character development, as the team works to make this pseudo-MCU world one worth exploring. It’s also nice to see Marvel throw S.H.I.E.L.D. a bone, giving them at least one worthy villain and the entire Kree race to work with.Ming-Na Wen, Clark Gregg, and Chloe Bennet in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)Its second act isn’t nearly as strong, sometimes focusing far too much on Hydra (a concept that’s been touched on nearly every season now to mixed success), it eventually culminates in a worthwhile showdown with one of the most formidable foes yet with actual consequences. Is S.H.I.E.L.D., or the Marvel universe completely done with Hydra? Probably not, but for now it seems like new problems are on the horizon.Dove Cameron in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013)Ultimately, season five of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ends with at least one twist and several turns. It’s beautifully filmed as a series finale just in case they didn’t get that one last renewal (which they recently did), and despite the truncated action scenes that still show how little of a priority S.H.I.E.L.D. is for ABC, it more than gets the job done for a network TV show.

REVIEW: TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES – SEASON 1

Starring

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Thomas Dekker (The Secret Circle)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Richard T. Jones (Santa Clarita Diet)

Thomas Dekker and Lena Headey in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Owain Yeoman (Supergirl)
Sonya Walger (Lost)
Nick Wechsler (Roswell)
Charlayne Woodard (Glass)
Dean Winters (Rough Night)
Tony Amendola (Annabelle: Creation)
Sasha Roiz (Caprica)
Jonathan Sadowski (Cherbnoyble Diaries)
Sabrina Perez (Rebel)
Brendan Hines (Lie To Me)
Jesse Garcia (The Green Ghost)
Adam Godley (Breaking Bad)
Catherine Dent (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Floriana Lima (Supergirl)
Brian Bloom (The A-Team)
Andy Umberger (Deja Vu)
Lee Thompson Young (Smallville)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave)
Kristina Apgar (90210)
Neil Hopkins (The Net 2.0)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Jonathan Jackson (Nashville)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Karina Logue (Scream: The Series)
Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
James Urbaniak (Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay)

Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)When I heard that a TV series based on the Terminator franchise was in the works, I didn’t holding out much hope that it would be very good. Don’t get me wrong, I like the franchise. I was blown away by Terminator when I saw it during the original theatrical release and was astounded that the second film was as good, if not better, than the original. The third film was wretched however, and I just couldn’t see how they could work a TV series around the premise without it getting silly. After a bumpy first episode however, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles surprised me. It turned out to be an intelligent yet fun look at the Terminator universe that works quite well.Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Starting a while after the events that took place in Terminator 2, Sarah (Lena Headey) and her son John Connor (Thomas Dekker), the boy who will end up being mankind’s only hope in the future have still not settled down. After running for years and years Sarah doesn’t know how to stop. When her current boyfriend proposes she takes John and runs away, one more time.Lena Headey in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)John ends up in yet another new school where he meets Cameron (Summer Glau) a cute girl who seems to genuinely like him. It turns out that she doesn’t have the hots for him so much as that she’s been programmed to protect him. Yes, she’s a Terminator sent from the future, and where there’s a good Terminator, there’s a bad version too, sent to kill John. With Cameron’s help John escapes from a substitute teacher/Terminator but he’s one the run once more.Luis Chávez and Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Cameron has a unique idea to get away from the Terminator that’s been assigned to John once and for all: They rob a bank. Inside a series of safety deposit boxes are the ingredients for a time machine. In Cameron’s time, a group of resistance scientists were sent in the past to fabricate a time travel device and hide it in the bank for just such an escape. The small group of Sarah, John, and Cameron lock themselves inside the vault while the robot from the future creates the device and a T-800 Terminator tries to break in. They manage to leap to the year 2007 just at the last moment, but unbeknownst to them the head of the Terminator travels with them.Thomas Dekker, Lena Headey, and Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Neatly bypassing the events of T-3, the series jumps to the present time where Sarah is still alive and John isn’t a drug addict but the war with the robots still impending. Of course there are still dangers. The head that came into the present with them goes about trying to refashion a body for itself. There’s also a group of fighters sent into the past to aide John and Cameron, but when they are located, it’s too late; all but one of their number has been slaughtered by a Terminator.Summer Glau in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)With several interesting subplots that carry through the season, included finding the maker of a chess computer that may have started the great war and staying one step ahead of an FBI agent who has been chasing the Connors for years, this show packs a lot of excitement into the nine episodes (the season was cut short by the writer’s strike.) It definitely gets better as it goes along too. The writers become more familiar with the characters and the writing gets tighter and the show more enjoyable.The acting is very good across the board. Lena Headey isn’t a Linda Hamilton look-alike but she manages to capture the strengths of the character as Hamilton did and still make it her own. Over the course of the series she manages to show Sarah’s vulnerable side, something that surely exists but rarely peaked out in the movies. Though Sarah’s name is in the title, the show would have crumbled without a good actor playing John, and Thomas Dekker manages to pull off the difficult role. He has to be strong and independent, but not fool-hardy. Dekker gives John those traits, while still making him act like a teenager with an over protective mother. Some of the best scenes are where John is trying to deal with his mother, something that every teenager has problems with.Thomas Dekker in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)Summer Glau will be instantly recognized from Firefly. I loved her in that show, but was a bit disappointed that she basically plays the same role in this series. She has the same “not sure what’s going on” look as River did, and I was hoping to see her play a different role here. Even if it is the same character essentially, Summer pulls it off well. Though not at all Summer’s fault, the writers did put the “small waif-like girl kicks the big burly man’s ass” scene in the series a bit too often. Yeah, it’s funny, but after a while it becomes trite.Lena Headey in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)I wasn’t expecting much from this show. After all, how could you make a weekly series that could compete with the first two movies? The creators managed to pull it off and made a show with some intelligent plots and interesting stories. There are a few surprises along the way that add a lot to the show, and make this a must-buy for fans of the Terminator franchise.

REVIEW: CHUCK – SEASON 5

CAST
Zachary Levi (Heroes Reborn)
Yvonne Strahovski (Batman: Bad Blood)
Adam Baldwin (Firefly)
Joshua Gomez (Invasion)
Sarah Lancaster (Saved By The Bell: The New Class)
Ryan McPartlin (J.Edgar)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Halloween II)
Scott Krinsky (The O.C.)
Vik Sahay (Bones)
NOTABLE GUEST/RECURRING CAST
Bonita Friedericy (Veronica Mars)
Mekenna Melvin (Lie To Me)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Angus Macfadyen (Alias)
Richard Burgi (Starship Troopers 2)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Bo Derek (Sharknado 3)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Ethan Phillips (Star Trek: Voyager)
Justin Hartley (Smallville)
Jeff Fahey (Lost)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Stan Lee (Spider-Man)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
Cheryl Ladd (Poison Ivy)
Ben Browder (Arrow)
Erin Cahill (Power Rangers Time Force)
Robert Duncan McNeill (Masters of The Universe)
Mark Pellegrino (The Number 23)
David Koechner (Anchorman)
Catherine Dent (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Eric Lange (Lost)
Beau Garrett (Tron: Legacy)
Rebecca Romijn (X-Men)
Mo Collins (Fear The Walking Dead)
Tim DeKay (Get Smart)

Chuck Bartowski no longer possesses the Intersect, but has matured into a confident and capable secret agent. As he mentors the new Intersect, he also has to deal with the fact he and his team are now independent contractors with bills to pay and rival companies to compete with. When a dangerous agent comes after the Intersect, Chuck has to call upon his resources and training to stop them.

Chuck has always been a curious show, a geek comedy with dramatic and romantic overtones whose tone has often spun on a dime. The show has always done a good job of managing these different tones and styles, keeping everything grounded though Zachary Levi’s earnest-but-sympathetic performance as the title character. In the fifth season, the show experiences several additional such tonal shifts, as Chuck is betrayed by his best friend (but it turns out not to be his fault) and, most surprisingly, has his life almost ruined in the final few episodes of the series. For a show that’s always been quite warm-hearted and entertainingly cheesy, the surprisingly bleak tone of the final few episodes comes as a bit of a shock.

The season  only consists of thirteen episodes. Given the tone of the show, I was confidently expecting some last-minute solution or cure would be found. Instead, we get a highly inconclusive ending. It’s not quite The Sopranos, but the series ending without ever answering the central question poised by the last couple of episodes is an unexpected and possibly even brave choice. Whether it’s the right choice is one that fans will be arguing about for years to come. For myself, Chuck has always been first and foremost an escapist and fun show, not a gritty drama like the new BSG or something from HBO. Ending the show in this manner feels out of character for the series, and a little bit of pointless torture for our main characters who really deserved more of a happy ending.

That aside, the final season of Chuck is entertaining, well-acted and often quite funny.  the ending will be divisive, but certainly the season is worth watching for established fans. In particular, the way Chuck’s character develops across the five seasons, going from nerd to an intelligent, resourceful agent  does pay off very well here.