REVIEW: SUPERGIRL – SEASON 4

october-faction-netflix-review-1Starring

Melissa Benoist (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Mehcad Brooks (Necessary Roughness)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Katie McGrath (Jurassic World)
Jesse Rath (The Howling Reborn)
Sam Witwer (Smallville)
Nicole Maines (Bit)
April Parker Jones (Jericho)
David Harewood (Homeland)

Sam Witwer in Supergirl (2015)

Recurring/ Notable Guest Cast

Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman)
Brenda Strong (Starship Troopers)
Rhona Mitra (Nip/Tuck)
Robert Baker (The Originals)
Tiya Sircar (The Good Place)
Vincent Gale (Van Helsing)
Alison Araya (Riverdale)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5)
Andrea Brooks (When Calls The Heart)
Anthony Konechny (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Kirby Morrow (NInja Turtles: The Next Mutation)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Sarah Smyth (50/50)
Graham Verchere (Summer of 84)
David Ajala (Fast & Furious 6)
Justice Leak (Powers)
Chris Violette (Power Rangers SPD)
Helen Slater (City Slickers)
Steve Byers (Immortals)
Michael Johnston (Teen Wolf)
LaMonica Garrett (The Last Ship)
John Wesley Shipp (The Flash 90s)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Jeremy Davies (Hannibal)
Ruby Rose (The Meg)
Cassandra Jean Amell (Roswell, New Mexico)
Adam Tsekhman (Legends of Tomorrow)
Elizabeth Tulloch (Ther Artist)
Russell Wong (Romeo Must Die)
Kate Burton (The Ice Storm)
Hannah James (Mercy Street)
Brennan Mejia (Power Rangers Dino Charge)
Garwin Sanford (Staragte Atlantis)
Jessica Meraz (Bounty Hunter)
Michael Adamthwaite (Stargate SG.1)
Louis Ozawa Changchien (Kidding)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls)
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Azie Tesfai (Superstore)
William MacDonald (Riverdale)
Willie Garson (White Collar)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Izabela Vidovic (Veronica Mars)
Olivia Nikkanen (The Society)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Patti Allan (The Killing)

Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)You have to admire the chutzpah of Supergirl’s writers and their choice to name the Season 4 finale in honor of what is widely regarded as the worst Superman movie of all time: “The Quest for Peace.” But it’s not so crazy when you consider how much Superman IV and Supergirl: Season 4 have in common. Both are steeped in political allegory about tensions between East and West. Both feature Lex Luthor trying to destroy one Kryptonian hero by harnessing their evil doppelgänger. Both are concerned with the need to achieve peace in our time. It’s just that Supergirl is much better about actually realizing those lofty ambitions.Sam Witwer in Supergirl (2015)Without burying the lead, Season 4 is easily Supergirl’s strongest to date; that much has actually been obvious for quite a while. While this season made some improvements to the supporting cast and other areas, it succeeded by turning what has historically been the show’s most glaring weakness into its greatest strength.David Harewood in Supergirl (2015)Prior to this season, Supergirl has never had a villain worthy of rivaling Kara Danvers. Not Maxwell Lord. Not Lillian Luthor. Not the Daxamites. Nobody. But Season 4 flipped the script by giving fans an embarrassment of riches. The season opened with the introduction of Agent Liberty/Ben Lockwood (Sam Witwer), a character who probably could have shouldered the burden all on his own. It helps that the show wasted so little time before delving into Lockwood’s tragic past and showing how even decent men can be transformed into hate-mongering bigots if pushed far enough.
Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)But Lockwood was just the start of Season 4’s salvo. Even as the series worked to establish a new mission and purpose for ex-DEO head J’onn J’onzz (David Harewood), it also gave him a new antagonist in Manchester Black (David Ajala). That wrinkle is one of the more memorable twists to the source material in Season 4. In the comics, Manchester is a Superman villain, one hellbent on proving that the Man of Steel is an outdated, useless relic. While Supergirl never captured the full impact of the critically adored Action Comics #775 (which inspired the episode “Whatever Happened to Truth, Justice and the American Way?”), transforming Manchester into a Martian Manhunter villain generally worked well. The worst that can be said is that Manchester sort of dropped out of the running very abruptly in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)But Season 4 saved its biggest guns for last. The series finally paid off on Season 3’s cliffhanger, introducing Kara’s twisted doppelgänger Red Daughter and revealing she, Agent Liberty and Eve Teschmacher (Andrea Brooks) to be pawns of none other than Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer). After alluding to Superman’s greatest nemesis for years, the series not only brought Lex into the fold but molded him into the first truly great, season-ending villain the series has had. Cryer’s casting turned a lot of heads initially, but it didn’t take him long to make this iconic character his own and establish himself as the most forceful presence in the show’s ensemble cast.Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Before getting into how the finale tied all of this together, I do want to mention the actual heroes of the series a bit. Melissa Benoist continues to be a crucial part of the series. Her warmth and inherent likability make her an ideal Supergirl, even as this season also allowed her to flex some darker muscles as Red Daughter. Lena (Katie McGrath) also fared well throughout the season, especially as her brother’s surprise return made her life a living nightmare.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)And as sad as it was to see Jeremy Jordan’s Winn written out of the picture at the end of Season 3, there’s no doubt that the series is better off for having Brainiac-5 (Jesse Rath) as the DEO’s new resident tech genius. Winn seemingly had nowhere left to go as a character, whereas Brainy brings his own brand of humor and his own foibles to the table. Not to mention his charming romance with another worthy new addition, Nia Nal (Nicole Maines). And beyond her relationship with Brainy, Nia proved to be just the sort of wide-eyed, uplifting character the series needed to balance out its growing sense of darkness.David Harewood, Jesse Rath, Melissa Benoist, and Nicole Maines in Supergirl (2015)All of these many threads paid off in the finale as Lex finally carried out his grand plan and manipulated his way right into the White House. With a secret villain pulling the strings of world governments, exploiting deep-seated fears and racial tensions and using a massive disinformation campaign to gaslight ordinary people, it’s not difficult to see how the series has been drawing from real-world events this year. The show has never been very subtle in that regard, and even less so this season.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Not that the lack of allegorical subtlety harms the finale much. Capes and tights stories aren’t good for much if they aren’t about something bigger. If Supergirl struggled in the villain department prior to this season, at least the show has made a regular habit of dipping into the X-Men’s well and preaching tolerance and empathy in the face of a rising tide of fear and hatred. The finale hit home as well as any other episode this season, particularly near the end when it became clear that George Lockwood (Graham Verchere) escaped the cycle of hatred that so utterly consumed his father.David Harewood and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)It was also fitting that the season-long conflict boiled down not so much in metahuman fisticuffs – and honestly, what little action there was in this episode wasn’t terribly memorable or well-staged – but truth and knowledge. With Supergirl powerless to stop Lex’s rise to power, it fell on Kara Danvers to put pen to paper and expose Luthor for the con artist he is. The idea that one well-sourced article could immediately topple a corrupt government and make the general public come to their senses is… pretty naive in light of current events. But once again, you have to respect the show’s optimism and faith that good always triumphs in the end.Jon Cryer and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)What really sealed the deal in this episode, beyond Kara and friends’ hard-won victory, was that final confrontation between Lena and Lex. That was such a great moment between these two estranged siblings. It was disappointing that Lex gleefully killed Red Daughter seemingly without remorse. It would have been nice to see a more human side of the character as he eliminated a woman he essentially raised himself. But we did get that with Lex’s death scene, as he finally, begrudgingly but definitively accepted Lena as someone worthy of being called his sister.Best of all, this scene fueled what is easily the most compelling new plot thread heading into Season 5. Lena finally knows the truth about Kara, and it’s already eating away at her. It was fascinating seeing Lex treat that reveal as one last bit of revenge against his sister before the end. I especially enjoyed that extra layer of irony, with Lex taunting Lena for not seeing the truth right in front of her face, even as he himself has always been too blind to see the obvious truth about Superman and Clark Kent. Lex is going to be difficult to top going forward, but Lena has the potential to outdo even her brother if she makes that final plunge into darkness.With that welcome wrinkle to the status quo, I almost wish this episode didn’t devote so much time to laying seeds for Season 5. That seemed an unnecessary move in light of the Lena/Kara twist. Still, there’s clearly a lot to look forward to come October. J’onn has a new foe who hits very close to home. Leviathan is teased as the next great threat (a twist which must set a new speed record for a comic book storyline being adapted into live-action). And the Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) is busy preparing for the Crisis to come. All the pieces are in place for another terrific season, so long as the series can maintain the momentum it’s built up over the last several months.

 

REVIEW: SUPERGIRL – SEASON 3

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Starring

Melissa Benoist (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Mehcad Brooks (Necessary Roughness)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years)
Katie McGrath (Jurassic World)
Odette Annable (The Unborn)
Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries)
David Harewood (Homeland)

Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)

Recurring/ Notable Guest Cast

Calista Flockhart (The Last Shot)
Erica Durance (Smallville)
Floriana Lima (The Punisher)
Emma Tremblay (The Giver)
David St. Louis (The Secret Path)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls)
Yael Grobglas (Reign)
Andrea Brooks (When Calls The Heart)
Helen Slater (City Slickers)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Chad Lowe (Young Justice)
Anjali Jay (Power Rangers)
Sofia Vassilieva (Black Lightning)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Khaira Ledeyo (Beauty and The Beast)
Emy Aneke (Izombie)
Izabela Vidovic (Veronica Mars)
Amy Jackson (Theri)
Betty Buckley (Split)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Tom Cavanagh (Yogi Bear)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Dominic Purcell (Blade: Trinity)
Franz Drameh (See)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Keiynan Lonsdale (Love, Simon)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Secret Circle0
Danielle Nicolet (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Christina Brucato (The Intern)
William Katt (Carrie)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of SteeL)
Briana Venskus (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Jesse Rath (The Howling Reborn)
Brit Morgan (Friend Request)
Krys Marshall (For All Mankind)
Sarah Douglas (Superman II)
Brenda Strong (Starship Troopers)
Laurie Metcalf (THe Big Bang Theory)
Brooke Smith (The Silence of Lambs)
Angela Zhou (Hell of Wheels)
Cynthia Stevenson (Dead Like Me)
Nesta Cooper (See)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Carrie Anne Fleming (Izombie)
Esmé Bianco (Game of Thrones)
Michael Reilly Burke (Mars Attacks)

Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)With The Maid of Might’s third season we find ourselves given a very different Supergirl as Season Three opens. Following last year’s heartstring-tearing romance with Mon-El, we find a Kara who is now all business. Kara Danvers is on the backburner, as Kara Zor-El fully throws herself into the superhero game. But as ever, new threats, new questions, and new revelations await just around the corner for the Girl of Steel.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)First and foremost, let’s just put it out there: Supergirl is an utter joy to watch. In terms of bringing a comic book character to life, this CW series is a fantastic example of how to do that so well. Never afraid to be fun, loud, and imaginative, Supergirl manages to be pure spectacle whilst similarly retaining a true sense of heart. And there’s certainly plentiful heartfelt beats in this third year. While Kara herself is questioning her place in the world, newcomer Samantha (Odette Annable) soon finds herself undergoing her own personal struggle as the nefarious Worldkiller known as Reign begins to cause all kinds of chaos and carnage in National City. As Samantha becomes BFFs with Kara, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), and Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), she has to rely on her new pals to help her with her ever-expanding problems. But it’s not merely Kara and Samantha who are on their own personal journeys here, for Supergirl again does what Supergirl has done so well previously: it makes each and every one of its core cast feel like a major deal, a real person with their own purpose in the show and not just simply there to fill the narrative or to let the show’s titular heroine take all of the spotlight.Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin in Supergirl (2015)As ever, Melissa Benoist is absolutely note perfect as both Kara Danvers and Kara Zor-El, proving to be vulnerable yet strong, human yet otherworldly, naive yet wise. With familiar faces and newbies all excelling in their respective roles, Benoist’s charming, multi-layered performance is just the tip of the iceberg, with Supergirl proving to again reward both newcomers to the character and those who are more well-versed in Super-lore. And that’s so often one of Supergirl’s greatest traits, that it feels so all-encompassing, be it in the array of different characters on display or in its approach to its audience.Supergirl (2015)After a slightly rocky start at CBS for its debut year, Supergirl has gone from strength to strength, and Season Three is the most intriguing, engaging, and spectacular season of the series to date. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that this most recent season is right up there as one of the best seasons offered up by the Arrowverse, period.

 

REVIEW: SUPERGIRL – SEASON 2

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Starring

Melissa Benoist (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Mehcad Brooks (Necessary Roughness)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years)
Floriana Lima (The Punisher)
Chris Wood (The Vampire DIaries)
David Harewood (Hoemland)

Recurring/ Notable Guest Cast

Calista Flockhart (The Last Shot)
Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf)
Katie McGrath (Jurassic World)
Brenda Strong (Starship Troopers)
Frederick Schmidt (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
Andrea Brooks (When Calls The Heart)
Ian Gomez (The Morning Show)
Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman)
Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls)
Nadine Crocker (Cabin Fever)
Laura Benanti (Royal Pains)
Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse)
John DeSantis (Thirteen Ghosts)
William Mapother (Lost)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Dean Cain (Lois & Clark)
Robert Gant (13 Reasons Why)
Helen Slater (City Slickers)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Harley Quinn Smith (Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Rahul Kohli (Izombie)
Brit Morgan (Friend Request)
Grant Gustin (The Flash)
Steven Valentine (Mike & Molly)
Peter Gadiot (Matador)
Ian Butcher (The 100)
Tamzin Merchant (Carnival Row)
Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark)
Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Darren Criss (American Crime Story)
Michael J Rogers (Siren)
Rahul Kohli (Izombie)
Gregg Henry (Black Lightning)
Jordana Taylor (A Wrinkle In Time)
Malina Weissman (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Mark Gibbon (Man of Steel)

Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Supergirl went through some pretty fundamental changes in the transition from Season 1 to Season 2. Not only did the series add several key new cast members (and lose another), production shifted from Los Angeles to Vancouver as the series itself hopped from CBS to The CW. That shake-up wound up working in the show’s favor. unfortunately, over time it became clear that Supergirl still has some significant problems to work through before it can stand alongside the best of the Arrowverse.
The move to The CW did seem to work in the show’s favor for the most part. Even ignoring the fact that that it made crossovers with the other Arrowverse shows much easier, that shift helped Supergirl feel slightly more cohesive when held alongside its siblings. Stylistically and tonally, Supergirl felt very much like like a good-natured sister series to The Flash. And with The Flash often being unnecessarily mired in its own darkness this year, it often fell to Supergirl to be the bright, cheery, optimistic alternative.
Tyler Hoechlin and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)There’s also the fact that the crew working on these Arrowverse shows have gotten pretty skilled at making the most of their limited VFX budgets. Supergirl was a very expensive series for CBS, yet the often lackluster special effects didn’t always make it apparent how much money was being poured into the show. In Season 2, however, Supergirl looked better despite costing its new network less. That was especially true with the shots of Kara flying or those depicting Martian Manhunter in his true form. There were still cases where the show’s reach clearly exceeded its grasp in terms of special effects (particularly in the season finale), but on the whole Supergirl became a better-looking series in its second season.Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood in Supergirl (2015)Bucking the usual trend, the new season picked up exactly where the previous one left off, with Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) examining the mysterious space pod that crashed outside National City. That paved the way for the introduction of Mon-El (Chris Wood), a Daxamite refugee and new love interest for Kara. Mon-El’s arrival signaled a general change in direction for the series, one that saw the DEO set up a new headquarters in National City and the focus shift more towards the growing tension between Earth’s human citizens and the growing number of alien immigrants. The main villains of the season (including Brenda Strong’s Lillian Luthor and the members of Cadmus) sought to take advantage of that human/alien tension. Given the general state of the world these days, showrunners Andrew Kreisberg and Ali Adler could hardly have picked a more inspired and relevant direction for Season 2.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)That general direction worked because it was clearly and immediately topical and more because it spoke to the general appeal of the Superman franchise. More than ever, Kara emerged as a shining beacon of hope and optimism in troubled times. The season’s political elements were never really more political or controversial than a call for empathy and understanding among all peoples. And with a lead actress as charming as Benoist lighting the way, it’s impossible not to be won over by the show’s feel-good approach to superhero storytelling. More than ever, Benoist is the rock upon which this series rests.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Mon-El’s debut only furthered Kara’s growth this year. Wood proved a fun addition to the cast, but his character really shone whenever the series focused on the growing romance between Mon-El and Kara. As the prince of a xenophobic and hedonistic world, Mon-El arrived on his new homeworld with plenty of rough edges. It was a lot of fun watching Kara help smooth over those edges and inspire Mon-El to become a hero even as the two fell in love. The two characters experienced their share of ups and downs over the course oft he season, and while the general trajectory of their romance was often predictable, the execution never failed to impress.
Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)Mon-El wasn’t the only high-profile addition to the series in the early Season 2 episodes. The show finally stopped playing coy with Superman and cast an actual actor in the role (Tyler Hoechlin) rather than simply obscuring a stunt double in shadow. That may well be the best change the series made in Season 2. Within seconds, it became clear that Hoechlin was a worthy successor to actors like Christopher Reeve and Dean Cain, bringing a warmth and charisma to the part that’s been sorely lacking in certain other live-action Superman performances lately. The only disappointing part about Superman’s inclusion this year is that he didn’t appear more often. I can understand the desire to keep the series focused on its title character, but the Kara/Clark dynamic is simply too good not to exploit to its fullest.Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood in Supergirl (2015)This season also introduced two members of the Luthor clan in the form of the aforementioned Lillian and her estranged daughter, Lena (Katie McGrath). Lillian left quite a bit to be desired. One of the biggest problems with Season 1 was the show’s inability to generate nuanced, three-dimensional villains. Between Strong’s overly intense performance and the character’s general lack of memorable characteristics, Lillian did nothing to reverse that trend. Lena, at least, fared better than her mother, mostly because the writers had the foresight not to treat her as a villain. Instead, her defining struggle all season was her desire to redeem the Luthor name and prove that she shouldn’t be defined by her brother’s actions. The fact that Lena and Kara became close friends over the course of the season added an extra appeal to Lena’s character arc, as it only served to highlight the question of whether Lena is truly as selfless and noble as she claims. The season failed to deliver a satisfying conclusion to that arc, but I’ll get to that in a bit.Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood in Supergirl (2015)Alex (Chyler Leigh) proved to be another dependable member of the Supergirl cast this year, with some of the season’s best moments focusing either on the bond between Alex and her sister or the romance between Alex and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima). Alex’s struggle to come to terms with her sexuality proved to be one of the more compelling subplots of the season, particularly thanks to the terrifically executed coming out scene in “Changing.” As much as the Arrowverse can frustrate with the insistence on forcing every available character into some sort of romantic subplot, the Alex/Maggie material gave this season real sense of emotional weight. In a show crammed full of metahumans and aliens, the ordinary human drama often stood out more than anything else.Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)If any portion of the show was damaged by the shift to The CW, it was the CatCo characters. Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) all but vanished this season as the move to Vancouver ƒwled to Flockhart departing as a series regular. The show was poorer for her absence. Worse, Cat’s absence called into question whether Supergirl even needs the CatCo elements at all, a question the show was never really able to answer this season. Sure, the perpetually cranky Snapper Carr (Ian Gomez) made for an entertaining foil to the Kara as she pursued her budding journalism career, but too often the CatCo subplots felt superfluous and unnecessary to the larger picture. Does Kara actually need a day job in addition to her DEO work?Melissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015)The two real casualties of the Season 2 shift were James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) and Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan). The Kara/James romance was basically cut short as soon as it began in the Season 1 finale, leaving the latter character adrift and in search of a new purpose. That was disappointing, but the real frustration came with the decision to transform James from intrepid photojournalist to honest-to-goodness superhero. James’ transformation into Guardians never felt like a logical extension of his Season 1 journey. Nor did his ongoing Guardian exploits add anything to the show. Equally frustrating is the way Winn became sucked into James’ delusions of superhero grandeur, preventing him from having any real storylines of his own (apart from a rather underwhelming romance with an alien). Just as the show has been struggling to justify the continued focus on CatCo as a whole, this season did little to suggest that James should remain an active player going forward.Melissa Benoist and Katie McGrath in Supergirl (2015)I mentioned how the move to The CW helped Supergirl in terms of facilitating more Arrowverse crossovers. The weird thing is that Supergirl itself didn’t benefit much from that trend. Yes, Kara was aMelissa Benoist in Supergirl (2015) big part of the “Invasion!” crossover, but the Supergirl episode, “Medusa,” barely tied into that crossover other than a bit of quick setup at the very end. And while the Flash/Supergirl musical team-up more than lived up to the hype, that was a Flash episode, not Supergirl. I’d like to see Supergirl benefit more directly from these crossovers in the future. Fortunately, that seems to be the case with next year’s four-way crossover. Supergirl definitely had its ups and downs over the course of Season 2, as all the Arrowverse shows tend to do. In general, the season hits its peak in February thanks to a string of excellent episodes focused on Lena’s troubled family history and the resurgent threat of Cadmus. Unfortunately, the show seemed to lose its momentum after that point, with the final three episodes ranking among the worst of the season. Supergirl seems to have inherited Arrow’s habit of completely falling apart in the homestretch.Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood in Supergirl (2015)In many ways, Supergirl improved in its second season as the show moved to The CW and bolstered its already solid cast with several new favorites. This season not only looked better, it managed to blend epic superhuman conflicts with very real, authentic character drama and a status quo marked by plenty of anti-alien sentiment in National City.

REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 3

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Starring

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Keiynan Lonsdale (THe Turning)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)
Tom Felton (Harry Potter)

Matt Letscher and Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Alex Désert (Swingers)
Michelle Harrison (Tru Calling)
Matt Letscher (Her)
Todd Lasance (The Vampire Diaries)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Tobin Bell (Saw)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Joey King (Slender Man)
Violett Beane (God Friended Me)
Peter Flemming (Staragte SG.1)
Wentworth Miller (Underworld)
Danielle Nicolet (Central Intelligence)
Grey Damon (Aquarius)
Ashley Rickards (Pretty Little Stalker)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Susan Walters (The Vampire Diaries)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
Franz Drameh (See)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Dominic Purcell (Prison Break)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Christina Brucato (The Intern)
Donnelly Rhodes (Battlestar Galactica)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Jessica Camacho (Watchmen: The Series)
Stephen Huszar (Faces In The Crowd)
Andrea Brooks (When Calls The Heart)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Vanessa Williams (Candyman)
Robbie Amell (The Duff)
Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
David Harewood (Homeland)
Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years)
Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries)
Darren Criss (Glee)
David Dastmalchian (Reprisal)
Anne Dudek (White Chicks)

 

John Wesley Shipp and Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)Season 3 appears to be the real test for The CW’s Arrowverse shows. Arrow followed up its first two seasons with a much rockier third season, leaving that series in a hole of which it’s only just now managed to climb out. The Flash went through a similar series of hurdles this year. The Flash: Season 3 was noticeably more uneven than its predecessors, suggesting that maybe Barry Allen’s best days are behind him. Luckily, the show was able to recapture its footing where Arrow continued to struggle. The strong last couple months of the season went a long way towards making up for the mistakes that came before.Grant Gustin and Violett Beane in The Flash (2014)It was clear right away that Season 3 faced a long, uphill battle. Season 2 ended with an exciting cliffhanger, as Barry (Grant Gustin) traveled back in time, undid his parents’ deaths and created the alternate timeline known as Flashpoint. Anyone who’s read the Flashpoint comic or watched the animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was surely salivating at the thought of seeing a twisted, dystopian vision of the Arrowverse. What the premiere episode, “Flashpoint,” actually delivered was slightly less exciting. Aside from a few key differences, this world wasn’t a particularly dramatic change from the norm. There was still a definite appeal in seeing Barry briefly granted the happy, quiet life he’s always dreamed of.Tobin Bell in The Flash (2014)
Looking back at  the first half of Season 3, it wasn’t until the midseason finale that any episode scored above the low 8 range. That pretty much encapsulates the problems with the season right there. The show was often perfectly fine on a week-to-week basis, but it was rare for any episode to really stand out from the pack. The general status quo in the first half of the season too often struggled to measure up to the Reverse-Flash and Zoom conflicts from seasons past. The end result of Barry’s three months spent living in Flashpoint was a handful of changes to the Team Flash dynamic, many of which became all but irrelevant after a week or two. Flashpoint also resulted in the rise of two new villains – Doctor Alchemy and Savitar (both voiced by Tobin Bell). Alchemy never amounted to much more than a shadowy, mysterious string-puller, while it wasn’t until the final few episodes of the season that Savitar truly came into his own.Danielle Panabaker in The Flash (2014)There was plenty of character drama to work through early on, much of it the direct result of Barry’s time-meddling. Iris (Candice Patton) and Joe (Jesse L. Martin) dealt with a mutual estrangement. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) mourned the death of someone close to him. Both Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) dealt with the spontaneous appearance of metahuman powers (with the former dreading her transformations into Killer Frost and the latter relishing his opportunity to follow in Barry’s footsteps). That’s to say nothing of the complications created by Barry’s new co-worker/frenemy, Julian Desmond (Tom Felton). When all else failed, the Team Flash family drama could usually be relied upon to keep the show humming along.Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)Julian proved an entertaining and somewhat unpredictable addition to the recurring cast, adding a unique voice and temperament to the Team Flash dynamic. But the best addition this year was H.R. (Tom Cavanagh), the latest alternate universe incarnation of Harrison Wells. It’s part of The Flash’s charm that there must always be a Wells in the picture, even if Cisco and friends have to go on a recruitment drive to find one. Cavanagh again proved to be one of the show’s MVP’s, playing H.R. as a wholly distinct character compared to Season 1’s Dr. Wells and Season 2’s Harry. There were even a few opportunities to see Cavanagh play multiple Wellses in the same scene, just for kicks.Grant Gustin and Keiynan Lonsdale in The Flash (2014)

This season also got a lot of mileage out of John Wesley Shipp’s new role as the real Jay Garrick. Like Cavanagh, Shipp successfully managed to set his new character apart from the old, casting Jay as a grizzled veteran not entirely comfortable with his status as mentor to Barry and his fellow speedsters. The only complaint here is that the season never used Jay as often as it could. That was especially true with the midseason finale, “The Present,” which offered a tantalizingly brief glimpse of Jay’s rivalry with Earth-3’s Trickster (Mark Hamill).Grant Gustin, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Violett Beane in The Flash (2014)Looking back, the one character who felt oddly underutilized this year was Wally. On paper, it was a big year for Wally, as he gained his speed powers and took his place alongside Barry. That paved the way for several memorable speedster team-ups (including one with Violett Beane’s Jesse Quick thrown in for good measure). But there was a specific point in the season where it seemed like the writers completely lost interest in Wally. He all but completely faded to the background and never recovered as a result. Andre Tricoteux in The Flash (2014)The character drama gave the early episodes weight where villains like Alchemy faltered, but that drama brought about its own set of problems. Not only was the scope of Flashpoint itself disappointingly limited, the fallout often felt small and perfunctory. Some subplots, particularly the Joe/Iris rift, were quickly resolved and forgotten, almost like they never happened at all. And at some point, the series simply felt too mired in darkness. Character drama is great, but this series has always thrived on its ability to balance that drama with lighthearted adventure and that ever-important sense of hope. But Barry Allen became more morose than ever this year, and his misery seemed to envelop everyone around him. It didn’t help that The Flash was airing new episodes at the same time as fellow Arrow-verse/CW series Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, two shows that did a much better job of balancing character drama with lighthearted fun this year.Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)Once the reveal came and Savitar’s true endgame became apparent. The final five episodes went a long way towards reviving the Savitar conflict and building the character into someone worthy of Reverse-Flash and Zoom. That doesn’t necessarily excuse the writers for keeping their cards close to the vest for so long, nor their decision to focus on a third speedster villain when there are so many other worthy Flash villains who haven’t gotten their due yet.. But at the same time, the reveal did make it apparent why that prolonged secrecy was necessary. Moreover, the reveal wound up tying the season together, forcing Barry to confront his mistakes and his habit of being the architect of much of his own misery. For a villain who remained so aloof for much of the season, Savitar wound up becoming a surprisingly personal villain in the end.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)It also didn’t hurt that the later episodes placed so much emphasis on Caitlin’s fall from grace. I still maintain that Killer Frost should have been the central villain of Season 3. But even as a supporting player in the Savitar conflict, Caitlin added a great deal of dramatic weight to the series, with the writers banking heavily on the strong bond linking Barry, Cisco and Caitlin and the tragedy that arose when those bonds were shattered. This was also a valuable chance for Panabaker to play Killer Frost not as an overt villain, but someone torn between her twisted metahuman side and the good, loyal friend that still remained within.
As for the dark tone, it’s no coincidence that some of the best episodes this season were those that diverged from the Savitar conflict and focused on the lighter side of Barry’s world. The two-part Gorilla Grodd storyline was very entertaining, offering fans their first real glimpse of Earth-2’s Gorilla City and suggesting that Grodd would make for an excellent recurring villain if not for the sheer expense involved in bringing the character to life. The series even took the opportunity to throw in a little levity right before the end, as “Infantino Street” offered a wonderfully entertaining Flash/Captain Cold team-up before moving into the dramatic fallout of Savitar’s final attack.But nowhere did the series shine brighter this season than in the long-awaited musical episode/Supergirl crossover “Duet.” For one glorious hour, all the darkness fell away and Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist were given free reign to sing, dance and just have fun playing superheroes. It certainly didn’t hurt that so many actors involved, including Victor Garber, John Barrowman and Jesse L. Martin have serious musical theater chops of their own. Not only did that episode strongly suggest that the musical crossover needs to become an annual tradition, it served as a crucial reminder of how enthralling The Flash can be when it focuses on the lighter side of Barry Allen’s life. Hopefully that episode, and the generally improved state of the series in the second half of Season 3, are signs of what to expect when the show returns in the fall.
The Flash: Season 3 is a clear step down from the show’s first two years. It’s not that there were many truly bad episodes this year, but more that the show struggled too long to find a compelling status quo and make the most of the fallout from “Flashpoint.” Some of the best episodes this season had little to do with the overarching Savitar conflict. Luckily, the show did find its footing in the final two months of Season 3, and that strong finish went a long way toward redeeming the season as a whole.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN II: THE RICHARD DONNER CUT

CAST

Christopher Reeve (Rear Window)
Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror)
Gene Hackman (Heartbreakers)
Ned Beatty (Rango)
Jackie Cooper (The Champ)
Terence Stamp (Yes Man)
Marc McClure (Back To The Future)
Sarah Douglas (Puppet Master III)
Jack O’Halloran (King Kong 1976)
Clifton James (Live and Let Die)
Valerie Perrine (What Women Want)
Marlon Brando (The Godfather)

Many fans of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies know the story behind the second film in that series. Richard Donner directed the first installment and it was a huge success. While he did make a very popular film, he fought with the producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, quite a bit. In a surprise move the Salkinds fired Donner from Superman II although he had already filmed 70% of it. The fan magazines at the time attributed the departure of Donner either because 1) the Salkinds were manipulative producers who insisted in micromanaging the production or 2) Donner had turned into a prima donna after the reception that the first received and was acting like an out of control mad-man on the set. The truth is probably somewhere between the two stories.


In any case Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night, The Three Musketeers) was handed the reins and created a popular but somewhat silly sequel that has one of the lamest endings of any modern film. (The ‘kiss of forgetfulness’.) A couple of year ago, in 2004, Margo Kidder stated in an interview that Donner had shot enough footage to edit together his version of the film. This started a grass roots based campaign to collect the existing footage and recreate the film that Donner was never able to make. Warner Brothers agreed to go ahead with the project and Michael Thau was put in charge of the restoration. Now, at last, fans of the series can get an idea of what might have been.Starting off at the end of Superman: The Movie, albeit with a slightly different conclusion, Superman II begins with Superman sending an atomic missile out into space to save countless lives. When it finally detonates in the vast space between planets, the shockwave destroys the portal to the Phantom Zone that three Kryptonian criminals were exiled to in the first movie. General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his accomplices, Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and the destructive mute Non (Jack O’Halloran) emerge from their imprisonment and head to Earth where they discover that they have all of the powers of Superman. Though they failed to take over Krypton, conquering Earth will be easy.

It’s made even more facile by the fact that Superman isn’t around. Like in the comics, Lois becomes convinced that mild mannered Clark Kent is really Superman. To prove it she throws herself out of a 30th story window, and when that doesn’t work she comes up with a deviously clever scheme that does.

Clark/Superman seems a bit relieved that his secret is out, because now he can share his life with someone. He takes Lois to his Fortress of Solitude and there he does something with her that never would have gotten past the old Comics Code Authority. The man from Krypton falls in love with his human companion. When he discusses this with the generated image of his father, Jor-El informs him that the only way he can give himself to an Earth woman totally is by becoming human himself. Over his father’s protests, Kal-El places himself in the red sun chamber and is exposed to the rays of his home world sun, rendering him mortal and powerless. Of course when he and Lois make it back to civilization they discover that General Zod has taken over the world and the only person who can stand up to the brute is now powerless.

This is a significantly different version of this story. It’s not just an alternate cut, this movie tells the tale in a totally different way. Though the narrative is a little rough in parts due to the nature of the creation of this film, it is superior to the original in a lot of ways. Gone are a lot of the hokey, silly parts, like most of the fight between Zod and the Texas Sheriff (Clifton James), the Mount Rushmore section and the over-the-top Superman carrying the American Flag ending. The sight gags, which were never very funny, are removed and in their place is more of the witty dialog that made the original movie so much fun. This version has Lois discovering Clark’s secret in a creative and imaginative way, not through some stupid slip on Superman’s part. This version also features Marlon Brando as Jor-El once again, and it’s great to see him playing the role which was originally cut from the theatrical release.

Of course there are some problems. There are some minor plot holes sprinkled through the film, along with several scenes that don’t quite match being forced together, but this is largely due to the nature of this edit. A more troubling aspect is the conclusion. Donner hadn’t actually figured out the ending of the film, so this edit has to fall back to the way the movie was originally going to end before Salkinds decided to eliminate the cliffhanger ending from the first film. This gives viewers a sense of déjà vu, and though it’s still a pretty dumb way to wrap up the movie, it’s better than what Lester came up with.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN II

CAST

Christopher Reeve (Rear Window)
Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror)
Gene Hackman (Heartbreakers)
Ned Beatty (Rango)
Jackie Cooper (The Champ)
Terence Stamp (Yes Man)
Marc McClure (Back To The Future)
Sarah Douglas (Puppet Master III)
Jack O’Halloran (King Kong 1976)
Valerie Perrine (What Women Want)
Susannah York (They Shoot Horsesm Don’t They?)
Clifton James (Live and Let Die)
Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter)
E.G. Marshall (Nixon)
John Ratzenberger (Cheers)
Eugene Lipinski (Highlander: The Series)

Superman II opens with a visual recap of the first movie during the opening credits. This is intended to refresh the memories of those who saw Superman, not to provide a primer for those who did not. Almost all of the surviving characters from Superman are back, some for cameos and some for more substantive screen time. The comically villainous Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) once again provides a thorn in Superman’s side; his henchman, Otis (Ned Beatty), appears in a few scenes, as does the scatterbrained Miss Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine). The three villains from Krypton – General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O’Halloran) – have greatly expanded roles. Everyone on the Daily Planet staff has returned: Perry White (Jackie Cooper), Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure), and, of course, Lois Lane (Margo Kidder). Even Superman’s dead mother, Lara (Susannah York), makes a fleeting appearance. Absent is Marlon Brando, who refused to allow his work from Superman to be used in flashbacks or otherwise. Fortunately, Jor-El’s absence isn’t an issue.

Because the roster of characters is loaded with returning faces, there isn’t much room for new players. E.G. Marshall plays the United States President in a few scenes, and Clifton James has a cameo as the Sheriff of East Houston.  Other than those two and a few other minor characters (such as the bully in the diner who has a couple of run-ins with Clark Kent), Superman II is stocked from the same pool as Superman. (Almost everyone except Brando signed for two movies at the outset.) Rectifying one of Superman’s flaws, Superman II offers not just one, but three, effective villains. Each of the criminals from Krypton is as strong as the Man of Steel, and their amorality makes them far more dangerous. They have come to Earth for conquest and revenge (upon the son of their former jailer), and are surprised to learn that Kal-El is not lording it over the inferior human beings. Upon realizing this, a bemused Zod remarks, “This ‘Superman’ is nothing of the kind. I have discovered his weakness. He cares about these creatures.” Ursa, groping for a response, ventures, “Like pets?” The prominence of the three supervillains allows Lex Luthor to fill the role of comic relief – a part that fits Hackman to a “T”. And, in addition to playing an important part in the way things eventually turn out, Luthor has nearly all of the best lines.Superman-II-645x370The film opens with Superman flying to Paris to stop a group of terrorists from blowing up the Eiffel Tower with a hydrogen bomb. Hurling the device deep into space before it can explode, Superman saves the planet from nuclear devastation. Unbeknownst to him, however, he creates a bigger problem. Shock waves from the bomb rip open the “Phantom Zone” in which Jor-El had imprisoned Zod and his two cronies. Free, they make their way to the Moon, then to Earth, intent upon conquest. Meanwhile, Clark and Lois end up in Niagara Falls doing a piece of investigative journalism. While there, things heat up between the two of them as Lois finally realizes that Clark and Superman are one and the same. Once she has confessed her love for him, and he for her, they fly to his Fortress of Solitude, where he uses a supposedly irreversible process to strip away his superpowers so he can share his life with a mortal. Unfortunately, after returning to the real world and getting a rude awakening about his new physical limitations, Clark learns that, without Superman, the world is doomed to be ruled by Zod, Ursa, Non, and perhaps Luthor (who only wants Australia). So, leaving Lois to return to Metropolis by herself, he heads back to the Fortress, hoping to find some way to resurrect his powers.
Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, and Jack O'Halloran in Superman II (1980)
Obviously, the centerpiece of the film is the epic battle between Superman and the supervillains, which takes place high above Metropolis. Pyrotechnics abound, and, while the flying sequences still suffer from the same problems as those in the original Superman, their deficiencies are not distracting enough to diminish the high adrenaline aspects of the struggle. However, while this may be the most ambitious part of the movie, it’s not my favorite – that honor goes to the Clark/Lois scenes at Niagara Falls, which are, by turns, humorous, gentle, and suffused with a quiet sense of joy. Both Kidder and Reeve shine during these moments, and they display the kind of chemistry that has us rooting for them to defy the odds and remain together. It’s the freshness of these scenes that makes the denouement unexpectedly touching.

As with the original Superman, Superman II is a comic book come to life. It is a fantasy, and, as a result, the more deeply you apply rational thought to what’s transpiring on screen, the more quickly everything will unravel. Fortunately, the rapid pacing and strong character identification makes suspension of disbelief a relatively easy task, even during the most preposterous of moments (Luthor’s escape from prison, Clark’s return to the Fortress, and the final “twist” that results in Zod and his fellows getting their comeuppance). In fact, one of the key elements that differentiates the first two Supermans from the later pair of sequels (and the tangentially related Supergirl, for that matter) is our ability to suspend disbelief. Superman III and Superman IV are so patently idiotic that no amount of goodwill on the viewer’s part will allow him or her to get past the bad writing.MV5BOTI1NDE3NDAzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTk5NTUyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1524,1000_AL_Visually, the look and feel of Superman has been replicated in the sequel. Unlike Batman, which staked its credibility on style, Superman was never as concerned with the visual dynamic. The Fortress of Solitude is the exception, but there is no attempt to hide the fact that Metropolis is actually New York City. Musically, the decision was made to retain John Williams’ signature themes from the original Superman, as re-worked by Ken Thorne. The result is effective, allowing the two Supermans to be as much musical twins as they are visual ones. Most importantly, Superman II delivers on the promise hinted at in Superman. Which is the better film? That’s a hard choice to make, since both succeed in different ways. Superman acquaints us with the characters and sets up the scenario; Superman II takes the plot threads introduced in the original and resolves them. In my review of Superman, I noted that it is possible to watch and enjoy that film without having seen the sequel. A similar comment can be made regarding Superman II – having viewed its predecessor is not a necessary prerequisite to appreciating the second installment. Nevertheless, it should be obvious that the best approach is to see both movies (back-to-back, if possible).


As promised at the end of Superman II, there was a Superman III.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE – THE EXPANDED CUT

CAST

Christopher Reeve (Rear Window)
Marlon Brando (The Godfather)
Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror)
Gene Hackman (Heartbreakers)
Ned Beatty (Rango)
Jackie Cooper (The Champ)
Glenn Ford (The Long Ride Home)
Terence Stamp (Yes Man)
Trevor Howard (Gandhi)
Marc McClure (Back To The Future)
Sarah Douglas (Puppet Master III)
Jack O’Halloran (King Kong 1976)
Valerie Perrine (What Women Want)
Maria Schell (Inside The Third Reich)
Phyllis Thaxter (The Longest Night)
Susannah York (Visitors)
Jeff East (Pumpkinhead)
Kirk Alyn (Superman 1948)
Noel Neil (Adventures of Superman)
Larry Hagman (Dallas)
Diane Sherry Case (Sins of The Father)
Rex Everhart (Friday The 13th)
John Ratzenberger (Cheers)

screen-shot-2017-06-08-at-53327-pmpng

The expanded Superman film sees several new scenes that add to the fun and magic of the film.

  • Some added dialogue when Jor-El is talking with the council.
  • The council calls an “Executioner” to hunt and kill Jor-El to keep the rocket from launching.
  • Noel Neill and Kirk Alyn’s speaking cameos
  • Little girl sees Clark running faster than train, parents call her Lois Lane.
  • In the kitchen Martha Kent takes out a box of Cheerios.
  • After rescuing Air Force One Superman returns to Fortress of Solitude and has a conversation with his father.
  • In Metropolis when the news of Superman comes out, Clark is a spectator. A stranger (played by an uncredited Richard Donner) comments “that’ll be the day when a man can fly”; Clark grins.
  • While trying to get Luthor’s lair Superman goes through machine guns, flame throwers, ice machines with Luthor taunting on loudspeaker.
  • The sequence with the Girl Scouts.