REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 2

CAST

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)
Carlos Valdes (Arrow)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. MArtin (Injustice)
Keiynan Lonsdale (Insurgent)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
Robbie Amell (Scooby Doo 3 & 4)
Dominic Purcell (Ice Soldiers)
Wentworth Miller (Underworld)
Teddy Sears (ugly Betty)
Vito D’Ambrosio (The Flash 90s)
Isabella Hofmann (The Promise)
Patrick Sabongui (Stargate: Atlantis)
Adam Copeland (Highlander: Endgame)
John Wesley Shipp (The Flash 90s)
Victor Garber (Alias)
Kett Turton (Saved)
Shantel VanSanten (The FInal Destination)
Vanessa Williams (Candyman)
Tony Todd (Chuck)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Malese Jow (The Vampire Diaries)
Peyton List (Flashforward)
Amanda Pays (The Flash 90s)
Franz Drameh (Edge of Tomorrow)
Ciara Renee (Legends of Tomorrow)
Violett Beane (The Leftovers)
Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2)
Willa Holland (Legion)
John Barrowman (Reign)
David Ramsey (Con Air)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Neal McDonough (Paul Blart Mall Cop 2)
Casper Crump (The Legend of Tarzan)
Falk Hentschel (Knight and Day)
Anna Hopkins (Defiance)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Michael Rowe (Arrow)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Matt Letscher (Her)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Audrey Marie Anderson (Lie To Me)
Michelle Harrison (Tru Calling)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Greg Finley (Izombie)
Jason Mewes (Dogma)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)

Image result for the flash FLASH OF TWO WORLDSThe Flash’s first season has become the benchmark by which all other DC Comics-based shows on The CW are judged. It offered a truly winning blend of humor, heart, and romance, and superhero action, culminating in a terrific season finale that showed just how much emotional depth there is to the story of the fastest man alive. The cast and crew faced a real uphill battle in living up to the standard with Season 2. And more often than not, they succeeded. This season met and occasionally even exceeded the heights of its predecessor.Season 2 got off to a solid start as the writers explored the fallout of Season 1’s big cliffhanger. But rather than pick up right where “Fast Enough” left off – with a giant temporal vortex threatening to swallow up Central City – “The Man Who Saved Central City” jumped ahead several months to the somber aftermath. The question wasn’t whether Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) could save his city once again, it was what kind of life Barry would return to when he got back. As we saw, it was a pretty lonely existence. The premiere opened on a surprisingly somber note, but one that offered an effective look at Barry’s fragile emotional state and the current status quo of Team Flash, including Cisco, (Carlos Valdes), Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) Iris (Candice Patton) and Joe (Jesse L. Martin). That darkness was a way to bring the gang back together while reminding viewers that many challenges awaited Barry even after defeating Reverse-Flash (Tom Cavanagh).Image result for the flash versus zoomEven as those early episodes touched base with some familiar faces from Season 1 (including Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Peyton List’s Golden Glider), they also spent a great deal of time setting the stage for the next major villain in Barry’s life, Zoom. Rather than continue to rely on the familiar Season 1 formula, where Barry and his friends battled various metahuman villains spawned by the particle accelerator accident – this year they confronted foes like Atom-Smasher (Adam Copeland) and Sand Demon (Kett Turton) who crossed over from Earth-2 to Earth-1. The addition of parallel worlds this season wasn’t just the latest example of Greg Berlanti and friends delving into all corners of DC’s mythology, it was a fun shake-up that resulted in a wealth of both comedy and drama. Seeing characters like Cisco, Caitlin and Linda Park (Malese Jow) face off with their alternate universe doppelgangers never got old.No character benefited more from the doppelganger concept than Harrison Wells. Wells might have died at the end of Season 1, but thankfully the writers found a way to bring the character back in a very different role. Earth-2’s Dr. Wells made the trip to Earth-1 and began assisting Team Flash in their ongoing fight against Zoom. Cavanagh excelled in his rejiggered role. He consistently played this new Wells as a much different character than the cold, calculating villain of Season 1. This Wells was all nervous, agitated energy, driven by nothing but a desire to stop Zoom and rescue his daughter, Jesse (Violett Beane). His character arc was among the strongest of the season, as Wells formed close bonds with his new friends and worked to counteract some of the destruction his counterpart wreaked on Barry’s life. Most of the cast benefited from the ongoing Earth-1/Earth-2 status quo this year. Grant Gustin was frequently a highlight of the show as he explored Barry’s lingering guilt and heartache after briefly reuniting with his mother and tried to disprove the parting message from earth-1 Wells – the idea that he’d never allow himself to be truly happy. Wells’ words proved distressingly accurate and on-point over the course of the season. Barry went through a lot of emotional highs and lows this season, including a second tear-jerking, phone call reunion with his mother in “Welcome to Earth-2” and multiple traumatic clashes with Zoom. To their credit, the writers didn’t try to force a happy ending out of Barry’s arc, either. By the end of the finale, Barry was at an even lower point than he was a year before, which fuelled his decision to make another ill-advised trip back in time. He’ll no doubt be dealing with the consequences of that act for some time to come.Image result for the flash welcome to earth-2Both Cisco and Caitlin frequently stood out this year, as well. Cisco always served as a reliable source of comic relief, particularly as his bond with Wells deepened and the two bickered with one another. But on a deeper level, this season allowed Cisco to come into his own as a hero. He grew more familiar with his powers, even finally adopting the name and trademark glasses of Vibe. He caught a glimpse of what he could become when he met his doppelganger, Reverb, and began testing the limits of his courage and his abilities. Similarly, Caitlin was shown a glimpse of the villain she could become when she met Killer Frost. But even after her failed romance with Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) and subsequent ordeal at the hands of Zoom, Caitlin never lost her heroic streak. If the writers ever decide to morph her into Killer Frost for real, that’s going to be one devastating emotional gut punch.The Flash also deserves credit for the way the writers are able to weave romantic drama into the narrative without it coming across as forced. The ongoing romance between Barry and Patty Spivot (Shantel Van Santen) was always entertaining, thanks in large part to the stellar chemistry between Gustin and Van Santen. And if Iris was never the most compelling character in any given episode, she definitely improved this year thanks to her more proactive behaviour and her deepening bond with Barry.Image result for the flash invincibleThen there was the debut of Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) to the Team Flash lineup. Looking back, I’m not entirely convinced Wally needed to be introduced this year. With everything else going on this season it didn’t always feel as though the character received the attention he deserved. But Lonsdale proved to be a solid addition to the cast nonetheless. And despite all the foreshadowing, at least the writers weren’t overzealous in terms of rushing Wally into becoming a speedster. There’s plenty of time for that in a later season.Image result for the flash the race of his lifeThere was a lot to love about Season 2. At its best, this season was easily a rival to its predecessor. “Welcome to Earth-2” stands as probably the best single episode the show has delivered to date, with episodes like “Flash Back,” “Rupture” and “The Runaway Dinosaur” also ranking among the best.Image result for the flash the race of his lifeThe Villain of the year was Zoom. This villain was tricky in that he was simultaneously one of the best  aspects of the season.  Zoom left a pretty strong impression during his first clash with Barry in “Enter Zoom.” Between the demonic costume and the gravely rasp of voice actor Tony Todd, Zoom was by far the scariest and most physically imposing villain Team Flash had yet encountered. That certainly counted for something.  Zoom’s characterization was even more intriguing in the second half of the season unfolded. We learned much more about the villain’s past and motivations, including the big twist that Zoom was actually Hunter Zolomon/Jay Garrick and that Team Flash’s newest ally was no ally at all. With all the emphasis on doppelgangers this season, it was fitting that Zoom himself was really Barry’s dark mirror. Both men had childhood’s defined by similar tragedies and grew up to become speedsters. But whereas Barry had a close circle of friends and family to help guide him along his way, Hunter had no one. He was utterly alone on his world and all others, and that gave the villain the humanity and pathos he needed. And it was nice to see the writers acknowledge just how crucial characters like Joe, Cisco and Caitlin are to the show. Without them, Barry would be as empty as Zoom.Image result for the flash the race of his lifeThe season finale, “The Race of His Life,” was a great way to wrap up Season  Zoom’s defeat was satisfying and his metamorphosis at the end was intriguing, it will be intresting if we will ever see him come back in season 3. Also in the finale  there was the reveal of the real Jay Garrick, an act which allowed Shipp to don a Flash costume for the first time in decades, then there was the final cliffhanger, with Barry traveling back in time and almost certainly sparking the beginning of a Flashpoint-inspired status quo for the series. That alone is cause to be excited for Season 3.Image result for the flash the race of his lifeThe Flash season 2 was firing on all cylinders and continued through too the end top form an awesome season and leaves you hanging waiting for season 3.

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12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE FLASH – RUNNING TO STAND STILL

Image result for THE FLASH TV LOGO
RUNNING TO STAND STILL
MAIN CAST
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jess L. Martin (Law & Order)
Keiynan Lonsdale (Insurgent)
GUEST CAST
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Teddy Sears (American Horror Story)
Shantel VanSanten (Beauty and The BVeast 2012)
Patrick Sabongui (Stargate: Atlantis)
Violett Beane (The Leftovers)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
It seems we can always rely on The Flash to deliver a great mid-season finale that’s not just a brilliant instalment of the show, but also an unashamed Christmas episode with presents, Turkey and festive soul-searching for our viewing pleasure. I’d even be tempted to say that this, Running To Stand Still, was one of the strongest episodes the show has delivered so far this season, what with the effortless mix of great villains, attention given to the relationships between characters and some nice forward momentum for the Zoom story thread. We begin with Zoom running Wells down before wishing him a particularly threatening ‘Merry Christmas’, setting the tone for the rest of the episode before we flit back to our main gang. It wasn’t much of a secret that Mark Hamill would be returning as the Trickster, but pairing him up with the Weather Wizard was a stroke of genius. The Trickster is threatening enough in his madness but, combined with the guy who actually managed to win last year makes it more than just the run-of-the-mill meta-threat. It also makes for some terrific punning, excused just this one time entirely because it’s the season and all that. Captain Cold isn’t even around for most of it, making a feeble attempt to help Barry out by filling him in on his cohort’s dastardly plans before running for the hills. This is obviously all in service of his role on Legends, which is dangerously close now to actually being on our tellys now.
Because this is a mid-season finale, much of the episode is dedicated to parental angst. Chiefly, Iris finally tells Barry about the existence of Wally West in what was actually a very sweet scene between the two, and they later decide it’s probably best to present a united front to Joe. I worried when we heard about another West sibling that the show would muddle the relationship between Barry and the family, but this episode did a lot to allay those fears. Joe gives Barry his own father’s watch even after he finds out about Wally, for instance, and it highlights the nice place that part of the show is in now that the Barry/Iris romance is done (or at least on pause). But Joe’s understandably upset to discover that he has a son he never knew about, and we’ll have to wait until January to find out how that particular family reunion goes. We’re fairly sure that he’s going to become some kind of speedster, entirely because of his name, but it’ll just be interesting on its own to see how he slots into the show’s existing dynamic. It’ll also presumably give Iris something to do at last.
My highlight of the episode, though, was the fleshing out of Patty’s character, giving her layers beyond the cute Felicity-esque girlfriend for Barry she’s been so far. We already knew that her father had been killed by a metahuman, but here we discovered that metahuman was in fact the Weather Wizard. It’s slightly frustrating when there are two adjacent relationships going on – that between Barry and Patty and between The Flash and Patty, because while we know what’s going on, Patty has no clue that she’s opened up quite that far with her boyfriend yet. Her lack of Flash knowledge hasn’t been actively annoying yet, but it’s getting there. I’d like her to become a bigger part of the show and, to do that, she needs all the facts. We’re left on a cliffhanger that’s simultaneously very similar yet very different from last season’s – Wells is going to help Zoom take down Barry in exchange for his daughter. He doesn’t want to do it because, unlike Thawne, he’s fundamentally a good person, but it’s still his love for his child that drives him. I’ve been so impressed by how The Flash has slotted Wells back into things, all coming to a head in that scene between Barry and an unwitting Harry. It’s the equivalent of his through-glass talks with Henry while he’s off fishing , but it was done so beautifully. Barry has been struggling with what happened last season all year, and maybe this is his way of finally moving on.
All in all, the first half of season two has proven that the show is more than capable of measuring up to its first, with a inordinate amount of intricate pieces in place for an even better string of episodes once we come back.

REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF HERCULES

 

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CAST

Kellan Lutz (Twilight)
Gaia Weiss (Vikings)
Scott Adkins (Universal Soldier 4)
Roxanne McKee (Wrong Turn 5)
Liam Garrigan (Once Upon A Time)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Rade Serbedzija (Batman Begins)
Jonathan Schaech (Legends of Tomorrow)
Luke Newberry (In The Flesh)

In 1200 BC ancient Greece, King Amphitryon of Tiryns invades Argos. Amphitryon eventually fights rival King Galenus in personal combat, killing Galenus and seizing his kingdom. Queen Alcmene is disgusted by her husband’s thirst for power and warmongering. She prays to Hera for guidance and Hera, wife of Zeus, tells her that she will allow Zeus to impregnate Alcemene with the savior of her people, a demi-god son to be named Hercules. The only other witness to this is Chiron, the queen’s loyal adviser. Amphitryon names his new “son” Alcides, though Alcmene secretly acknowledges his true name as Hercules. Twenty years later, Prince Alcides (Hercules) is the lover of Princess Hebe of Crete. Hercules and his older brother, Prince Iphicles, are attacked by a lion, which Hercules wrestles and kills. Iphicles takes all the credit and arrives at a royal banquet wearing the lion’s pelt as a cloak and calls his brother a coward, though Hebe sees through this lie. At the banquet Amphitryon announces the engagement of Hebe and Iphicles, while Hercules is sent away to a military campaign in Egypt.

Alcemene tells him of his true lineage and that his name is Hercules, not Alcides. Hercules vows to return to Hebe in three moons, before her impending nuptials. He joins the command of Captain Sotiris in the Egyptian desert, where their small company is ambushed, leaving “Alcides” and Sotiris as the last survivors. When the leader of the ambush demands to know where the prince is, Sotiris gestures to the body of a slain soldier, while Hercules finally uses his gods-given name to conceal his identity as the prince. It is revealed that Amphitryon arranged the ambush to eliminate Hercules. The two are sold off as slaves to a promoter of gladiator style fights, where they excel. The two ask the promoter to take them to Greece to fight in an arena battle, where the two will fight six undefeated gladiators and potentially make the promoter a wildly rich man. When Sotiris is injured in a battle before leaving for Greece, Hercules convinces the promoter to set Sotiris free and he will fight all six gladiators himself. Sotiris secretly follows him to Greece.

Alcmene and Hebe mourn the death of Alcides/Hercules. When Alcmene seeks guidance from Hera, Amphitryon discovers her and learns the truth of Hercules’ parentage and that he is fated to overthrow him. Amphitryon stabs Alcmene with her own dagger, then tells Chiron that the Queen committed suicide in her grief. Meanwhile, Hercules arrives in Greece and easily beats the six gladiators in battle. The people celebrate his victory and deserters of Amphitryon’s army join him and Sotiris.Hebe is in anguish after the death of Alcides and dreads her pending wedding to Iphicles She tries to leap off the roof of the palace but is saved by Chiron who brings her to Hercules. Amphitryon’s army begins to desert him, forcing him to hire foreign mercenaries when Hercules and Sotiris begin a fight against Amphitryon’s campaign of tyranny. Iphicles threatens Sotiris’ son’s life, forcing Sotiris to lead him to Hercules. Iphicles is surprised to discover that Hercules is Alcides. Hercules is chained and publicly flogged, then watches in horror as Iphicles murders Chiron under Amphitryon’s orders. In anguish he acknowledges Zeus as his father and calls upon him for strength. Hercules breaks free from his chains and kills Amphitryon’s guard, though Amphitryon and Iphicles escape.Hercules and Sotiris raise an army and storm Amphitryon’s palace. Amphitryon’s palace guard join Hercules and his army and they battle Amphitryon’s mercenaries. Hercules calls upon his father who infuses his sword with the power of lightning. Hercules defeats the mercenaries with his lightning sword, then meets Amphitryon in personal combat. Hercules nearly defeats Amphitryon but Iphicles holds Hebe hostage and threatens to kill her if Hercules does not let Amphitryon go. Hercules hesitates but Hebe thrusts the dagger through her shoulder, killing Iphicles. Hercules finally avenges Alcmene’s death and kills Amphitryon with the same blade that killed his mother. Hercules rushes to Hebe’s side as she slowly drifts into unconsciousness. Nearly a year later, the cries of a baby are heard, Hercules’ and Hebe’s baby boy. That night, he watches over his kingdom, finally fulfilling his destiny.After listening to all the bad reviews and press this movie has had, I didn’t fancy it much. Having watched it, I’m glad that I did. It may not have big named stars but it is of no consequence as the movie is entertaining and action packed.

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)

NOTABLE / RECURRING GUEST STARS

Chad Rock (Sanctuary)
Michelle Harrison (Tru Calling)
Patrick Sabongui (The Cabin In The Woods)
John Wesley Shipp (90s Flash)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Michael Smith (Fringe)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Anthony Carrigan (Gotham)
Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Dominic Purcell (Blade: Trinity)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Kelly Frye (Rake)
Greg Finley (Izombie)
Robert Knepper (R.I.P.D.)
Michael Reventar (Kidnao Capital)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
David Ramsey (Con Air)
Anna Hopkins (Defiance)
Robbie Amell (Scooby-Doo 3 & 4)
Amanda Pays (90s Flash)
Andy Mientus (Smash)
Victor Garber (Alias)
Malese Jow (The Scoial Network)
Britne Oldford (AWOL)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Peyton List (Smallville)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Matt Letschr (The Mask of Zorro)
Viro D’Ambrosio (90s Flash)
Devon Gaye (Dexter)
Brandon Roth (Superman Returns)
Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Peter bryant (Dark Angel)
Martin Novotny (Art History)
Paul Anthony (American Mary)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Ciara Renee (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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

REVIEW: SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED

CAST

Liam McIntyre (Legend of Hercules)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Dustin Clare (Wolf Creek TV)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)
Cynthia-Addai-Robinson (Arrow)
Pana Hema Taylor (Dead Lands)
Simon Merrells (The Wolfman)
Ellen Hollman (The Scorpion King 4)
Anna Hutchison (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Ditch Davey (Crawlspace)
Christian Antidormi (Strike Back)
Jenna Lind (Burning Man)
Colin Moy (Xena)
Jared Turner (Filfthy Rich)
Anthony Ray Parker (The Matrix)
Stephen Lovatt (Neighbours)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Todd Lasance (The Vampire Diaries)
Joel Tobeck (Young Hercules)

And so comes the beginning of the end as War Of The Damned brings to its conclusion series’ creator Stephen DeKnight’s take on the story of Spartacus. Picking up where the last arc in the continuity left off, the ever controversial show once again takes us back to the days of ancient Rome to offer up the final chapter of the slave revolt around which the show is based. As with the story arcs that preceded it, the show does not want for sex, nudity and graphic violence, much stronger than most have seen on TV before, but that there is half the charm. Everything about the series, from the performances the set design to the digital effects work is so over the top that it’s hard to imagine the series being nearly as fun had the exploitative elements been toned down in the least. When the story beings, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) has teamed up with Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Gannicus (Dustin Clare) to lead the slaves in bloody revolt against the armies of the Roman Empire. They won’t win an easy victory but Spartacus figures that to really win their freedom they’re going to have to set up a city fortress of sorts in order to have a location that will serve not only as a stronghold but also as a headquarters.As they set about making this a reality in hopes that once accomplished it will allow them to really ramp up their military operations, the powers that be in Rome lick their wounds and look for ways to replace soldiers lost in battle and refill their coffers. The Senate decides that the best man for this job is a wealthy Roman named Marcus Licinius Crassus (Simon Merrells). He comes in with enough money to help and is more or less put in charge of the military forces dedicated to putting the slaves back in their rightful place. While Crassus sets about doing this, a young Roman man named Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance) is brought on board for the specific purpose of going undercover and making his way into Spartacus’ inner circle. The series sticks to the same formula that made the earlier storylines so much fun: lush production values,  epic and bloody battles, sex, backstabbing political types. A series that makes no qualms whatsoever about playing up not only the decadence of the Roman Empire during which it has been set  but also the more violent side of life during those times. The series is all the better for it. Underneath all of this surface level insanity, however, is the final chapter of a pretty well told story. Characters develop nicely and are given interesting personalities and the various plot lines that are woven throughout the series can occasionally be intricate and genuinely surprising. As such, there’s a good amount of suspense here.McIntyre shines in the lead again, showing a confidence and a naturalness in the part that really helps to carry the series. The other cast members all do good work here as well. Merrells and Lasance are both great on the opposing side of McIntyre and company as the soldiers. Performances are rarely, if ever, subtle but they fit the tone of the story and of the series as a whole. Merrells, in fact, tends to steal any scene he’s in even if he occasionally chews the scenery. Throw Ellen Hollman as a female warrior named Saxa and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Naevia, Crixius’ main squeeze, and you can see that the ladies not only look great here but they hold their own in front of the cameras as well.The series ends on a high note, bringing together everything it laid out beforehand rather nicely. Would it have been possible to stretch it out further? Sure, but then you run the risk of the series starting to become old hat and with it already being repetitive in certain ways this far in, that was probably a legitimate concern on the part of the writing crew. As it stands now, the series remained a solid watch all the way through, a show that put entertainment first and succeeded in doing so. It’s easy to see why this quickly became and stayed a fan favorite.

REVIEW: SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE

 

CAST

Liam McIntyre (Legend of Hercules)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Peter Mensah (Sleepy Hollow)
Craig Parker (Reign)
Viva Bianca (Showing Roots)
Katrina Law (Arrow)
Daniel Feuerriegel (Winners & Losers)
Nick E. Tarabay (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow)
Dustin Clare (Wolf Creek TV)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Brett Tucker (Thor: The Dark World)
Kevin J. Wilson (Legend of The Seeker)
Brooke Williams (12 Monkeys)
Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Acolytes)
Tom Hobbs (Winners & Losers)
Pana Hema Taylor (The Dead Lands)
Mark Ferguson (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Peter McCauley (The Lost World)
Bede Skinner (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Delaney Tabron (Deathgasm)
Stephen Ure (Xena)
Ellen Hollman (The Scorpion King 4)
Michael Hurst (Hercules: TLJ)

After triumph and tragedy, the Spartacus saga returns to the small screen to continue the tale of a former slave who has lost everything and will do whatever he can to exact vengeance on those that have done him wrong. Spartacus: Vengeance picks up after the events of the first season, which was called Blood and Sand. The show went into production, but had to be delayed due to Andy Whitfield’s illness and subsequent death. Gears shifted and a prequel was created that follow the events that led up to Blood and Sand called Gods of the Arena, which introduced more characters that carried over into Vengeance.

Spartacus: Blood and Vengeance picks up shortly after the events that culminated with the House of Batiatus massacre where Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) freed all of the gladiators and led them to revolt. He and his comrades carry on freeing slaves and adding them to their ranks. Since the House of Batiatus no longer stands Spartacus’ new quest is to kill the man who committed his wife to slavery, Gaius Claudius Glaber (Craig Parker).

Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) has returned, and this time she bears the gift of foresight from the Gods. Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) is back and even colder,conniving, and more delicious than ever. Along with her husband and Rome emissary  husband, they will try to squash the uprising led by Spartacus and his legion.

I loved Andy Whitfield’s performance in Blood and Sand, because it’s what cemented that season’s success. We were there for the journey, side by side with him until the end. Gearing up for season two, he took ill, and would not come back to finish the series. I was sort of skeptical, because I didn’t think the show could carry forward without Andy. Gods of the Arena was awesome, because it introduced Gannicus (Dustin Clare).

The show retains its quality while adding colorful embellishes here and there – more notably, the slow-motion scenes seem to have been tweaked, which gives them a faster look even though we’re watching it in slow motion. I really enjoyed that the full supporting cast was made the primary character of the series.

As far as the new Spartacus goes – Liam McIntyre had some pretty big shoes to fill, although it takes a few episodes to get use to him, he becomes a welcome addition to the cast and makes the character his own. The relationships of some of the other characters like Crixus (Manu Bennett) and Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt); and the Gannicus and Oenomaus dynamic carried over from Gods of the Arena were fascinating.  Spartacus: Vengeance brings on the blood, sex, and violence and reaches new heights in its depiction of it all. It’s hardcore to the max.