REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES -SEASON 2

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Alexandra Vandernoot (Pret-a-Porter)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Jim Byrnes (Sanctuary)
Philip Akin (Robocop 2014)
Michel Modo (The Troops Get Married)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter Hudson (Lockout)
Douglas Arthurs (Stargate SG.1)
Cameron Bancroft (Legends of Tomorrow)
J.H. Wyman (Sirens)
Geraint Wyn Davies (Forever Knight)
Traci Lords (Excision)
Andrew Jackson (Earth: Final Conflict)
Kendall Cross (Van Helsing)
Travis MacDonald (Cold Pursuit)
Frank C. Turner (IT)
Sheena Easton (Young Blades)
Andrew Kavadas (The 13th Warrior)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Don S. Davis (Stargate SG.1)
Robert Wisden (Watchmen)
Mitchell Kosterman (Smallville)
Bruce A. Young (Jurassic Park III)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Adrian Holmes (Arrow)
Roddy Piper (They Live)
Andrea Roth (Cloak & Dagger)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Bruce Weitz (The Dukes)
Nicholas Lea (The X-Files)
Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad)
Lochlyn Munro (Scary Movie)
Michelle Thrush (Pathfinder)
Ed Lauter (Cujo)
Doug Abrahams (Sanctuary)
Roland Gift (Brakes)
Stacey Travis (Ghost World)
Roark Critchlow (V)
Jeremy Brudenell (Alice In Wonderland 1999)
Peter Firth (Spooks)
Angeline Ball (Keeping Faith)
Nia Peeples (Walker, Texas Ranger)
James Faulkner (Game of Thrones)
Emile Abossolo M’bo (Hitman)
Nadia Cameron-Blakey (Batman Begins)
Michael Siberry (Birdman)

HighlanderDuncan4Spring boarding from the pluses of its debut season, Highlander: The Series opens its second season strongly. Though struggling midseason with some of the same growing pains as Season 1; the 93-94 Season 2 handles character departures and the introduction of the Watchers in fine form- allowing Highlander: The Series to come into its own away from the film franchise.highlander16Immortal Highlander Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) becomes increasingly suspicious of Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) and his Watchers- a secret organization who are pledged to observed immortals and never interfere. Someone, however, is breaking the rules and killing immortals, making life more difficult for MacLeod after the loss of his mortal girlfriend Tessa (Alexandra Vandernoot). Richie (Stan Kirsch), now also immortal, has problems of his own learning how to fend off evil immortals after his head, and mortal dojo manager Charlie DeSalvo (Philip Akin) grows more and more curious about his new boss and Macleod’s secrets.Adrian Paul and Geraint Wyn Davies in Highlander (1992)Highlander: The Series hits the ground running in this sophomore season with critical departures and the establishment of its own mythos from here on out. The premiere episode ‘The Watchers’ introduces the critical organization and Season 2 stays strong thru ‘The Darkness’ and the exit of Tessa. Unfortunately, midseason the show’s writers David Abramowitz and David Tynan flounder when Highlander: The Series once again returns to the action textbook crime of the week or immortal in the regular drama ho hum. Issues about racism, sexism, injustice, and abused women are indeed handled very nicely thanks to MacLeod’s wise and chivalrous immortal angles. But again, these debates are on every other show then and now. Drastic character changes and internal fantasy mythology are enough for Highlander.Adrian Paul and Stan Kirsch in Highlander (1992)After such fine framework, Season 2 need not fall back on these stock scripts and filler episodes. Smartly however, this season distances itself from the internal inconsistencies of the film franchise by dropping mentions of The Gathering. The development of the Watchers, their deadly rogue faction the Hunters, and the wonderful observations and angst both provide pulls The Series away from the films once and for all. Further examinations of mortals dying after having full lives versus immortals who are numb to life also establish great drama beyond the standard crime villainy. Grief, infertility, and child loss also add extra depth and dimension, again proving Highlander: The Series is at its best, nay superior, when it adheres to the quality of its own immortal design.Adrian Paul and Manuel Bonnet in Highlander (1992)Yes, it is a little weird when MacLeod suddenly starts bagging some chicks so soon after Tessa’s exit, and there’s still a touch of those nineties hang ups with plenty of sweaty, shirtless dojo training montages. However, it’s nice to see less Action Mac and more on the consequences of immortality. He’s had plenty of time to develop his strict sense of honor and justice, but he also unhappily warns those around him that being his friend is deadly. Paul handles the kick ass, the somber, and the tears wonderfully. We think just as much of him when he cries as when he beheads the bad guy. The loss of Tessa Noel is also very nicely done in character and performance. Even though the leaving was largely Vandernoot’s decision, I don’t wonder if the exit of Mac’s steady girlfriend would not have happened in the future anyway. Obviously, there are so many more women and immortal bachelor angles to explore. Sometimes, MacLeod may even seem to get over Tessa too quickly, but his new cynicism and pains of mortality make their presence well known during Season 2 and beyond. Vandernoot’s exit and subsequent guest appearance in the two part finale ‘Counterfeit’ may even have the audience missing Tessa more, but her mortality reiterates that nothing on Highlander: The Series is sacred.Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)Returning favorites and guest villains raise Season 2 to a new level. The titular ‘Return of Amanda’ and ‘Legacy’ has Elizabeth Gracen’s immortal con visiting for some much needed humor and female familiarity post-Tessa. Forever Knight alum Geraint Wyn Davies also has some wicked fun in ‘Turnabout’, and rocker Roland Gift returns as Xavier St. Cloud to join rogue watcher James Horton (Peter Hudson, Cousin William) in the stand out ‘Unholy Alliance I and II’. Recurring regular Michel Modo as the bemusing and pesky French neighbor Maurice also provides some balance when the immortal life gets a little too heavy, and truly, I love the spooky Victorian joy of ‘The Vampire’.Adrian Paul, Jim Byrnes, and Stan Kirsch in Highlander (1992)Though still a little dated with the pleated pants and too much denim, the styles of Season 2 are much improved.

REVIEW: STARGATE SG.1 – SEASON 7

Starring

Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver)
Amanda Tapping(Sanctuary)
Christopher Judge (The Dark Knight Rises)
Don S. Davis (Twin Peaks)
Michael Shanks (Smallville)

Michael Shanks in Stargate SG-1 (1997)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can’t Loose)
George Touliatos (This Means War)
Kevan Ohtsji (Elektra)
David Palffy (Blade: The Series)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)
Eric Breker (Scary Movie 3)
Cliff Simon (Project Eden)
Adrian Hough (the Fog)
Michael Welch (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane)
Tony Amendola (Annabelle)
Odi Ndefo (Angel)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Peter LaCroix (Atomic TTrain)
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight (I, Robot)
James Parks (Kill BIll)
Michael Rooker (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell)
Alex Zahara (Horns)
Kavan Smith (Mission To Mars)
G. Patrick Currie (Dark Water)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Peter Kelamis (Stargate Universe)
Benjamin Ayres (Saving Hope)
Patrick McKenna (Robocop: The Series)
Christine Adams (Black Lightning)
Jolene Blalock (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Kirsten Zien (Elektra)
Carmen Argenziano (House)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Teryl Rothery (Arrow)
Zak Santiago (Caprica)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Ingrid Kavelaars (Dreamcatcher)
John Novak (War)
Sasha Pieterse (Pretty Little Liars)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Emily Holmes (Paycheck)
Anna-Louise Plowman (Black Sails)
David DeLuise (Wizards of Waverly Place)
Sebastian Spence (First Wave)
Nels Lennarson (The Cabin In The Woods)
Saul Rubinek (True Romance)
Mitchell Kosterman (Smallville)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Ronny Cox (Robocop)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Kristen Dalton (Jack Reacher)
Brad Greenquist (Ali)
William Devane (Interstellar)
James McDaniel (Sleepy Hollow)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Jerry Wasserman (Alive)
Jessica Steen (Chaos)

Richard Dean Anderson in Stargate SG-1 (1997)That is the season when Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) returns from being an ascended being, albeit on an alien world without his memory (“Fallen”). This required getting rid of Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec) to get the old gang back together again, which happens when Anubis download Jonas’ memory and the Goa’uld attack Kelowna (“Homecoming”). Wisely, this is not the last appearance of Jonas for the season (“Fallout”) as he becomes another one of recurring guest characters that are a major strength of the series.Don S. Davis, Amanda Tapping, and Michael Welch in Stargate SG-1 (1997)There are several Daniel Jackson stories that make a point of giving the actor interesting things to do, such as “Lifeboat,” where his mind becomes a resting place for a bunch of alien minds, “Enemy Mine,” which requires Jackson to show diplomatic skills, and big time flashbacks in “Chimera,” to before Daniel first saw the Stargate.Amanda Tapping in Stargate SG-1 (1997)Overall, Season 7 is really Samantha Carter’s season and Amanda Tapping has several episodes where she pretty much goes it alone. “Space Race” has her joining an alien pilot for a little intergalactic competition, while “Death Knell” finds Carter being hunted by the supers soldiers of Anubis after an attack on Earth’s secret off-world base. In “Grace” Carter literally ends up alone when the Prometheus is attacked and she wakes up to find herself the only one on a ship drifting in deep space. The other characters show up as the angels of her better nature, which is the only way that Sam and Jack are ever going to have an honest conversation.Richard Dean Anderson, Christopher Judge, Michael Shanks, and Amanda Tapping in Stargate SG-1 (1997)The whole Anubis/Lost City bit ends up being equal parts time to beat another bigger and badder system lord and find a fitting end point for the series that can also work as a transition to the spinoff.

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 2

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Sam Jones III (Glory Road)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)
John Glover (Shazam)

Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tom O’Brien (The Accused)
Rekha Sharma (Star Trek: Discovery)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Jerry Wasserman (Watchmen)
Krista Allen (Feast)
Mitchell Kosterman (Stargate SG.1)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Disturbing Behaviour)
Joe Morton (God Friended Me)
Andrew Jackson (Earth: Final Conflict)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Sara Downing (Roswell)
Garwin Sanford (Arrow)
Sean Faris (Never Back Down)
Gwynyth Walsh (Star Trek: Generations)
Richard Moll (Batman: TAS)
Maggie Lawson (Santa Clarita Diet)
George Coe (The Stepford Wives)
Jesse Hutch (Arrow)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Neil Grayston (Wonderfalls)
Patrick Cassidy (Lois & Clark)
Blair Brown (Space Cowboys)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Mark Gibbon (The 6th Day)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Amara Zaragoza (Perfect Stranger)
Gordon Tootoosis (Lone Star)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Byron Mann (Arrow)
Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
Jill Teed (Godzilla)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Jason Connery (Wishmaster 3)
Eric Keenleyside (Dreamcatcher)
Barclay Hope (Paycheck)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Shaun Sipos (Texas Chainsaw)
Haig Sutherland (The Flash)
Luciana Carro (White Chicks)
Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Christopher Reeve (Superman)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Michael Adamthwaite (Horns)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift)
Neil Flynn (Scrubs)
Jodelle Ferland (Case 39)
Ingrid Torrance (Scooby Doo 2)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)

 

Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)The first season of Smallville got off to a bit of a rocky start, as the program didn’t really find its footing until midway through the season. The show suffered from what fans called “Freak of the Week” syndrome, in which a new Kryptonite-mutated supervillain would emerge in every episode with some pretty weak storylines. The “Bug Boy” and “Coach Firestarter” episodes come to mind pretty quickly, and it makes me shudder just thinking about them. However, the show gradually shifted into telling more stories that advanced Clark Kent’s overall storyline, with multipart episodes that focused on slowly revealing Clark’s origin as Kal-El and his “immigration” to Earth, as well as the ongoing storylines of the supporting cast. Not to say that the show still doesn’t have an occasional “Freak of the Week”, but when they do they are either (1) fewer in frequency or (2) somehow related to the overall show’s story arc.Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)With that out of the way, let’s talk about the cast. Tom Welling is pitch-perfect as the teenage Clark Kent. With his tall stature and ripped physique, he certainly looks the part, but he also captures the insecurity and awkwardness of youth while portraying an inner nobility and morality for which his character will eventually become renown. As Lana Lang, Clark’s childhood crush and current on-again, off-again love interest, Kristin Kreuk is about as superhumanly lovely as one could imagine. She’s the “girl next door” multiplied by about three million, not only because of her phenomenal physical beauty but also due to her bright-eyed, compassionate, down-to-earth demeanor. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why Clark loves her, or why it rips him apart when he has to push her away in order to keep his powers a secret and keep her from being harmed (people who tend to learn about Clark’s powers generally end up dead or insane.)Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Michael Rosenbaum brings young Lex Luthor to life in what has become my favorite character of the show. Making Lex Luthor and Clark Kent childhood friends is a novel (and daring) conceit by the show’s creators, and it pays off handsomely. Lex adds a darker, more cynical dynamic to Clark’s teenage development that was missing in previous iterations of the character. Rosenbaum, who rather ironically provides the voice for the DC superhero “The Flash” on the Justice League animated series, makes Luthor a dark, sympathetic, and conflicted figure. He’s charismatic enough to make one want to like him, Machiavellian enough to make one worry if they can trust him, and – since we know his eventual fate – an overall tragic figure. We know he’s going to “go bad”; his slow transition from Clark’s trusted friend to worst enemy makes for some truly compelling material.Annette O'Toole and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)The cast is rounded out by John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, Academy Award-nominated songwriter Annette O’Toole (and a former Lana Lang herself from Superman III) as Martha Kent, John Glover as Lionel Luthor, Sam Jones III as Clark’s childhood friend Pete Ross, and Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan, whose unrequited love for Clark has emerged as a critical subplot in the development of the series. The group makes for an attractive ensemble, and there’s not a bad apple in the bunch. My only real complaint about the cast could be the little screen time Pete Ross gets (which gets worse in Season Three). As Clark’s best friend since childhood, his relationship with Clark gets laid by the wayside in favor of the Clark/Lex dynamic. Every now and then he turns up to provide some expository dialogue, and while he is featured prominently in a few episodes (especially “Duplicity”), his role in the show has slowly diminished over time.John Glover and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)Smallville: The Complete Second Season picks up from the cliffhanger ending that ended Season One, and slowly grows into a stronger and more self-assured show. Over the course of the season we get introduced to heat vision, red Kryptonite, a trip to Metropolis (with a cameo by The Daily Planet), and, in the episode “Rosetta”, an appearance by the former Man of Steel Christopher Reeve which stands out as one of the series’ best episodes. When I heard bits of John Williams’s amazing film orchestrations woven into the show’s score, I had goose bumps everywhere.Tom Welling and Amara Zaragoza in Smallville (2001)While still a little bumpy at times, Smallville’s second season is a huge step above the first, and remains one of the most entertaining shows on television.

 

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 1

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Sam Jones III (Glory Road)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)

Sam Jones III, Allison Mack, and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

John Glover (Shazam)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Disturbing Behaviour)
Adrian Glynn McMorran (Arrow)
Alvin Sanders (Riverdale)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Justin Chatwin (War of The Worlds)
Chad Donella (Final Destination)
Gabrielle Rose (If I Stay)
Jason Connery (Wishmaster 3)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heores Reborn)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Tom O’Brien (The Accused)
Beverley Breuer (Rverdale)
Eric Christian Olsen (Tru Calling)
Jackie Burroughs (The Dead Zone)
George Murdock (Star Trek V)
Mitchell Kosterman (Stargate SG.1)
Amy Adams (Justice League)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Joe Morton (God Friended Me)
Robert Wisden (Watchmen)
Tony Todd (The Flash)
Michael Eklund (Bates Motel)
Kelly Brook (Three)
Cameron Dye (Valley Girl)
Jesse Hutch (True Justice)
Azura Skye (28 Days)
Kett Turton (Saved)
Rick Peters (Dexter)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
P. Lynn Johnson (The Invisible)
Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Kavan Smith (When Calls The Heart)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man)
Eric Breker (Godzilla)
Jud Tylor (That 70s Show)
Corin Nemec (Stargate SG.1)
Mark Gibbon (Man of Steel)
Bill Mondy (Blade: The Series)
Nicki Clyne (Battlestar Galactica)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
Jim Shield (Cold Pursuit)
Brandy Ledford (Andromeda)
Rekha Sharma (Star Trek: Discovery)
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight (Chloe)
Shonda Farr (Crossroads)
Chelan Simmons (Final Destination 3)
Marguerite Moreau (Wet Hot American Summer)
Adam Brody (Jennifer’s Body)
Kevan Ohtsji (Elektra)
Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica)
Frank C. Turner (Alone In The Dark)

John Schneider and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Coming only a few years after the somewhat successful, but often corny, Lois & Clark, there were a lot of expectations and fears going into Smallville. Would the series appeal to die-hard Superman fans, or would it just be another WB drama geared toward teenagers?Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Fortunately, Smallville turns out to be super – easily the best on-screen depiction of the Superman character since the original Superman: The Movie. But it does take most of the season to get things rolling. Too many of the shows in Season One are simply “Villain of the Week” kind of deals, with Clark Kent going up against a villain who has one superpower or another (the explanation for why all these genetically altered people are showing up in Smallville is attributed to the meteor shower that hit the town – and brought Clark to Earth).Kristin Kreuk in Smallville (2001)It is obvious, however, in the early going that the relationships between the main characters would develop into something special. Clark is just beginning to discover his super powers (he does not yet have the ability to fly – following the concept that he will not gain all of his super powers until he reaches maturity), and Lex Luthor actually starts out as a good guy, who is slowly turning towards his evil ways. Also noteworthy is the developing relationship between Clark and Lana Lang, a girl whom he is infatuated with, but can’t get close to…not only because he is unsure of himself, but because Lana (whose parents were killed in the meteor shower) sports a necklace with a piece of the meteor as a way of remembering her mother and father. The meteor is, of course, Kryptonite, so Clark both literally and figuratively gets weak in the knees every time he gets close to the woman he loves!Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)But the relationship that is really worth tuning into Smallville for is the one between Clark and his adoptive parents (played by Dukes of Hazzard’s John Schneider and Superman III’s Annette O’Toole). I really like the father figure presented here for a young Clark – a man who both loves his son, yet is afraid about how his special abilities may affect his future. It’s really a relationship that has never been deeply developed in any previous incarnations of the Superman legend, so it’s nice to see a show that focuses on it so strongly.Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)By the time Season One wraps up, all the pieces are in place for Season Two – which really did a great job of exploring Clark’s Kryptonian heritage and had him start asking some real questions about his purpose in life. But until Season Two arrives on DVD (or you catch the reruns on the WB), Season One has enough to keep fans entertained. So keep in mind when viewing these shows that they do indeed get deeper and more meaningful as they go along.Annette O'Toole, John Schneider, and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)The overall episodes are fairly strong, and for the most part, presented well on DVD format by Warners. It’s getting a “Highly Recommended” not so much for the overall package, but for the overall strength of the episodes. Sure to bring new fans to the series and appease those who are already big followers of the show, this box set may not leap tall buildings in a single bound, but it has got enough spring in it to make it a worthwhile purchase.