REVIEW: AGENT CARTER – SEASON 2

 

CAST

Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
James D’Arcy (Master and Commander)
Chad Michael Murray (Freaky Friday)
Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Bridget Regan (Beauty and The Beast)
Wynn Everett (The Heist)
Reggie Austin (Desperate Housewives)
Currie Graham (Weeds)
Lotte Verbeek (Outlander)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70sm Show)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Ray Wise (Swamp Thing)
Dominic Cooper (Dracula Untold)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass)

Image result for AGENT CARTER THE LADY IN THE LAKEAgent Carter season 2 would be it’s last. As Agents of SHIELD delves into more and more straight up superhero storylines  and the Netflix/Marvel series bring the MCU into some much darker corners than any other content they create, Agent Carter once more provided a very different source of entertainment. From its period setting, to its focus on heroes without any sort of superpowers, to its tone, Agent Carter continued to bring something different and appreciated to the Marvel TV landscape and the MCU in general.

Image result for AGENT CARTER A VIEW IN THE DARKHayley Atwell once more was as captivating and excellent as ever as Peggy Carter, a character she’s come to completely embody over the years. Peggy came into Season 2 with some of the burdens she had in Season 1 off her shoulders – she’d moved past her initial grief over losing Steve Rogers and didn’t have to deal with quite as much oppressive sexism at the SSR. But soon enough she found herself dealing with a formidable opponent in Whitney Frost – one whose Darkforce (or “Zero Matter”) supplied powers turned her into a true supervillain.

Image result for AGENT CARTER BETTER ANGELSWynn Everett was terrific as Whitney, someone who felt compelled to hide and underplay her incredible intelligence thanks to the era she lived in. The episode “Smoke & Mirrors” evocatively showed us moments that defined both Peggy and Whitney as they grew up, forging them into the very different, but equally strong-willed women they were in 1947.Image result for AGENT CARTER BETTER ANGELSAnother great addition was Lotte Verbeek as Ana Jarvis, Edwin Jarvis’ oft-mentioned, never-seen wife in Season 1. I was wary of them introducing Ana at all after the way she was an off-camera presence last year, but she was so likeable and open – and Verbeek did such a great job showing her kindness and spunk – she easily became an endearing part of the show. Jarvis himself was an interesting element in Season 2. Peggy and Jarvis’ partnership was wonderfully depicted in Season 1 and understandably became a fan favorite element. Season 2 continued that in a big way, and Atwell and James D’Arcy were as amazingly charismatic together as ever.Image result for AGENT CARTER SMOKE & MIRRORSAna being shot resulted in some very strong moments for Ana herself, Jarvis and the two together – and one hell of a scene for Jarvis and Peggy as well, as the two had a pretty brutal argument, with the two close friends each getting in some cruel jabs in the heat of the moment. D’Arcy rose to the occasion showing “Dark Jarvis,” and I was glad to see some more nuance and layers added to the character.Image result for agent carter the atomic jobReggie Austin was likable as Dr. Jason Wilkes and he and Atwell had a nice rapport as the two enjoyed some early flirtation, though ultimately, the character felt a bit bland – even as he had his own struggle with Dark Matter and his battle to stay corporeal. His would-be romance with Peggy really went nowhere, though the two had a nice scene in the season finale, with a melancholy “what could have been” beat included.Image result for agent carter life of the partyEnver Gjokaj was still easy to root for as Daniel Sousa, and tough I feel bad for his poor fiancé-for-a-second, Violet (a charming Sarah Bolger), it was hard not to be happy for Sousa and Peggy finally getting together in the finale.Chad Michael Murray continued to bring the appropriate smarm as Thompson and while it was frustrating to see him revert so much to not trusting Peggy’s instincts early on – and at times it felt murky whether he was just a straight up villain now or not – the final episodes managed to really pull together an intriguing look at a guy who was such an opportunist and so often hard to like, but ultimately did have noble intentions, albeit often coupled with horrible tactics.Image result for agent carter the edge of mysteryCurrie Graham (as Whitney’s in over his head politician husband, Chadwick), Kurtwood Smith (as Thompson’s nasty mentor, Vernon), Ken Marino (as gangster Joseph Manfredi) and the returning Ray Wise (as Roxxon Oil head Hugh Jones) all added to the proceedings as characters who came into Peggy’s orbit, while Dominic Cooper was as fun and entertaining as ever in his two appearances as Howard Stark. And a special nod has to go to Bridget Regan, who was oh-so dynamic and engaging as the badass – and Peggy-obsessed — Dottie, Season 1’s surprise Black Widow, who ended up being reluctantly recruited by an injured Peggy.Image result for agent carter hollywood endingAgent Carter: Season 2 was tightly-constructed as was Season 1 and had a great tone to it. It was another fun season filled with compelling characters – including a strong villain – and 1940s, Marvel-flavored spy heroics, which benefitted from the new visuals the Los Angeles setting gave it. And most of all, it still boasted Peggy Carter herself, who was as awesome as ever. With this being the last season hopefully we will see her show up in other Marvel Projects

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REVIEW: IRON MAN (1994)

CAST (VOICES)

Robert Hays (Airplane)
James Avery (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Ed Gilbert (Transformers)
Robert Ito (Batman: TAS)
Dorian Harewood (Sparkle)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Matt Frewer (Taken)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Lisa Zane (Monkeybone)

Although only lasting two seasons, Iron Man was the subject of a major overhaul between seasons when its production studio was changed. The result was a massively changed premise, tone, and general approach, which left the disparate seasons scarcely recognizable as being two halves of the same series.

The first season of Iron Man featured little more than a Masters of the Universe-style battle of “good against evil”, as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark battled the evil forces of the world-conquering Mandarin as the armored superhero, Iron Man. In his evil endeavors to steal Stark’s technology and Iron Man’s armor, the Mandarin led a group of villains consisting of Dreadknight, Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle (when it comes to fighting Iron Man and his team, he has a tendency to accidentally turn his fellow villains to stone), Hypnotia (Dreadknight and Blacklash were rivals for the affections of Hypnotia), Whirlwind, Living Laser, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom and Justin Hammer. To combat these villains, Iron Man had the help of his own team (based on Force Works, a then-current comic book team which has since faded into obscurity), including Century, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye (replacing U.S. Agent from the comics) and Spider Woman.

The season consisted mostly of single-episode open-and-shut-case adventures, with two two-part stories late towards the end. Unlike many other Marvel animated series, despite featuring over-the-top titles that paid homage to the early Stan Lee written Marvel comics of the 1960s (for example, “The Grim Reaper Wears a Teflon Coat”, and “Rejoice, I am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer”), almost none of the episodes were adaptations of comic book stories, consisting instead of original stories penned by Ron Friedman, occasionally collaborated on by Stan Lee himself. The closest the season came to adapting a comic book tale was in the two-part “The Origin of Iron Man”, which recounted a (modified and modernized) version of the character’s comic book origin  just before the season concluded.

This late-run recounting of the title character’s origin is symptomatic of what is generally thought of as the season’s greatest weakness – despite (or perhaps because of) having such a large cast of characters, very few of the show’s heroes and villains were actually developed in any way, leaving viewers unaware of their personal stories and powers. The show is generally held to have been at its best when filling in these origin blanks (MODOK in “Enemy Without, Enemy Within,” Iron Man and the Mandarin in their self-titled “The Origin of…” episodes), but these were rare occasions, with virtually every other plot simply consisting of the Mandarin attempting to steal Stark’s newest invention and being bested, often through very strange and illogical means (with the nadir perhaps being Iron Man somehow using the energy of a small tape-player to restore his armor to full power in “Silence My Companion, Death My Destination”).

A small sub-plot in the first season revolves around Mandarin secretly spying on Force Works. It culminates in “The Wedding of Iron Man” when Stark realizes they have been spied on by reviewing events from previous episodes (and explaining how Mandarin’s forces always knew where they would be), realising that Mandarin has acquired enough information to potentially deduce the true identity of Iron Man. The entire episode’s plot is dedicated to resolving the problem, culminating in Iron Man and his team setting up an elaborate deception where Mandarin sees Iron Man and Tony Stark in the same place with the intention being to convince him that the two men are not the same person (The ‘Tony’ in the situation was an android).

In 1995, Marvel switched The Marvel Action Hour to a new animation studio (as previously mentioned, the animation in Season 1 was provided by the Rainbow Animation Group, while the animation in Season 2 was provided by Koko Enterprises), and with it came new writers (Ron Friedman was replaced by Tom Tataranowicz for Season 2) and new music for each sequence, coupled with a new direction for the series. The first season’s subtle keyboard theme music for Iron Man (composed by progressive rock artist Keith Emerson) was replaced by an intense electric guitar theme featuring the repeated refrain of “I am Iron Man!”, while showing Tony Stark beating red-hot iron plates into shape with a blacksmith’s hammer (possibly to mimic the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man”). Tony Stark’s longer hair style in the second season was based upon the artist Mark Bright’s depiction of Stark from the late 1980s, which is where most of the episodes from Season 2 were based upon.

The new story lines spanned multiple episodes and were no longer “open and shut” cases. They formed a linking narrative, featuring themes of duplicity, consequence, and phobias. Also, the stories were no longer centered on the Mandarin, whose rings had been scattered and whose power had been depleted. While the Mandarin did appear in these episodes, his appearances were reduced to cameos in the cliffhangers at the end of the story, as he tried to retrieve each ring.

Another change was that Force Works was mostly written out of the series, parting ways with Stark after he deceives them in order to work in secret with the Mandarin when Fin Fang Foom and his fellow Dragons were plotting to eliminate Earth. When Stark’s counter plan against Justin Hammer, which includes faking his death without the knowledge of his teammates, leads to a disbanding of Force Works, Julia Carpenter and James Rhodes are the only ones who continue to work with Stark. This split would be revisited with Stark’s ensuing conflicts with Hawkeye over the course of several episodes.

Also, War Machine develops a phobia of being trapped inside his armor (also based on a then-current comic storyline), but this is resolved before the final episode. While Rhodes was active as War Machine in Season 1, he remained out of armor for the majority of Season 2 due to reliving a tragic drowning experience while being trapped underwater in the War Machine armor in the Season 2 episode “Fire And Rain”. Rhodes eventually overcomes his fear and dons the War Machine armor once again in the episode “Distant Boundaries”.

Prior to finding his last two rings, the Mandarin claims his eighth ring from MODOK in the episode “Empowered”. “Empowered” was the clip show of the season, the purpose being that the Mandarin wanted to learn of Iron Man’s recent activities. In the finale,[9][10] the Mandarin, having regained all of his rings, unleashes a mist using the Heart of Darkness to render everything technological useless. Iron Man reunites with Force Works in order to stop him. The Mandarin unmasks Iron Man before their final showdown ends in his death. More specifically, Iron Man manages to reflect the power of Mandarin’s rings, destroying them, and ultimately leaving the Mandarin with amnesia and helpless before a band of desert bandits who likely killed him, or at least cut off his hand/fingers for the rings. After Mandarin was killed, MODOK and the rest of Mandarin’s henchmen were sent to jail. After disappointing ratings, the series was canceled.

After twenty six episodes, Iron Man the animated series remains a very mixed bag. Blame for this shows disappointing quality can be attributed to constrictions placed upon the writers to feature as many Iron Man suits as possible in each episode as free publicity for the toys. On the bright side, it got better, allowing the audience at least 13 episodes of decent animated entertainment.

REVIEW: IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES – SEASON 1 & 2

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MAIN CAST

Adrian Petriw (Edgemont)
Daniel Bacon (50/50)
Vincent Tong (Death Note)
Anna Cummer (Aliens In America)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)Image result for iron man armored adventures LOGO

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Catherine Lough Haggquist (Godzilla)
Fred Henderson (This Means War)
Alistair Abell (Freddy vs Jason)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Glactica)
Christopher Britton (Thor: Tales of Asgard)
Venus Terzo (X-Men Evolution)
Lee Tockar (George of The Jungle)

When his industrialist father Howard Stark who disappears in a plane crash after refusing to weaponize the Earth Mover at Obadiah Stane’s behest, 16-year-old genius Tony uses a high-tech suit of armor he has constructed and investigates a charge that Stane may have been involved in his father’s death. As Iron Man, Tony spends his time stopping Stane’s plans and saving the world from other villains such as Mandarin, Mr. Fix, Whiplash, A.I.M., Living Laser, the Maggia, Controller, Crimson Dynamo, Blizzard, Killer Shrike, Unicorn, M.O.D.O.K., Ghost, Black Knight, and Technovore. He is assisted in his crime fighting efforts with help from James Rhodes and Pepper Potts. Tony’s activities as Iron Man usually result in his needing to make up excuses as to why he is constantly late or missing from school and other activities. Dependent on his phenomenal technology for survival, Tony must balance the pressures of teenage life with the duties of being a super hero.

The first season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures has a total of 26 episodes. Tony Stark, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Pepper Potts, Gene Khan, Happy Hogan, Nick Fury, Whitney Stane, Black Panther, The Hulk, and S.H.I.E.L.D. all appear in this season.

The first season focuses on the Makluan Rings saga as Tony, Pepper, Rhodey, and Gene Khan work together to get the 5 rings. Upon overthrowing his stepfather Xin Zhang, Gene secretly works undercover to steal the rings from his friends, and ends up betraying them (which upsets Pepper). The season also features the Madame Masque Saga, which comes to a conclusion in the episode “Best Served Cold”. Tony’s feud with Obadiah Stane comes to a partial conclusion in that episode as well. The season ends with two primary cliffhangers in the episode “Tales of Suspense”. The now-friendless Gene discovers that the original Mandarin had 5 other rings besides the original 5. Tony finds out that his father, Howard, survived the plane crash and is being held prisoner, while the armory is destroyed during Xin Zhang’s attack limiting Tony’s resources to find and rescue his father.This season featured Makluan Guardian versions of Dreadknight, Ultimo, Firebrand, and Fin Fang Foom who guard the rings the Mandarin hasn’t obtained yet.

The second season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures has a total of 26 episodes, just like the first season. Black Widow / Natalie Romanoff, Hawkeye, Doctor Doom, Magneto and Justin Hammer appear in this season. General Nick Fury, Black Panther, Mr. Fix, Whiplash and Obadiah Stane return.

The second season covers the Armor Wars saga and Stane International storylines. The first half of Season Two reflecting the Armor Wars has Tony and Rhodey as his definite partner War Machine fighting many people who have stolen Stark’s armor tech and seek to exploit the stolen Iron Man specs for their own purposes.

The enemies young Stark fights during this version of the Armor Wars include the Ghost who steals Iron Man specs and knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man. Ghost sells the specs to both Justin Hammer and Obadiah Stane but says he will not reveal Iron Man’s true identity until Tony turns 18. Justin Hammer makes an armor with the Iron Man specs with the armor being called Titanium Man. Doctor Doom joins forces with Stane to attain the Iron Man armor operating system. Stane builds the Iron Monger armor which is revealed actually to be a direct upgrade from Crimson Dynamo armor (version 3) and is much larger than in the comic book and live action movie realities. The Armor Wars conclude as Obadiah Stane discovers the identity of Iron Man. Stane steals Iron Monger and is intent on destroying Tony once and for all.

While Tony is fighting the Armor Wars, Howard Stark is shown to be alive and forced by Gene to find the other 5 Makluan Rings. Gene continues to find and secured the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth rings for himself during this time. This part of the season also included Makluan Guardian versions of Melter, Sunturion, Grim Reaper, and Grey Gargoyle who guard the remaining Makluan Rings. The second half of season two is loosely based on the “Stane International” story arc. Justin Hammer (instead of Obadiah Stane) successfully buys control of Stark International. Stark, Rhodey and Potts all agree to fight against Hammer and his weaponization of Stark International’s projects. Unlike the printed page version, Stark and Rhodes reject the title of Circuits Maximus for the new start-up and settle on “Stark Solutions” . By the end of the second season, Pepper has assumed the armored identity of Rescue.

The show is well written. The characters are three dimensional. And the story is very intriguing. But you have to watch all the episodes in order. It’s almost a serial type of show. If you miss an episode it’ll be harder to understand what’s going on.