REVIEW: LEGENDS OF TOMORROW – SEASON 3

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Starring

Victor Garber (Alias)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Franz Drameh (See)
Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Originals)
Amy Louise Pemberton (The Laundromat)
Tala Ashe (American Odyssey)
Keiynan Lonsdale (Love, Simon)
Nick Zano (2 Broke Girls)
Dominic Purcell (Prison Break)

Victor Garber, Dominic Purcell, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Caity Lotz, and Franz Drameh in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Christina Brucato (The Intern)
Jes Macallan (Mistresses)
Adam Tsekhman (You’re The Worst)
Simon Merrells (Spartacus)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Billy Zane (Titanic)
Johnathon Schaech (8MM 2)
Tracy Ifeachor (Treadstone)
Courtney Ford (Supernatural)
Echo Kellum (Rick and Morty)
Neal McDonough (Van Helsing)
John Noble (Sleepy Hollow)
Bar Paly (Pain & Gain)
Evan Jones (Titans)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Rick Gonzalez (Coach Carter)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Wentworth Miller (Underworld)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Isabella Hofmann (Burlesque)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Katia Winter (Sleepy Hollow)
Emily Tennant (Motive)
Thor Knai (The Outpost)
Graeme McComb (UnReal)
Matt Ryan (Layer Cake)
Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who)
Jonathan Cake (Chuck)
Adrian Hough (The Fog)
Eric Breker (Jingle All The Way 2)
Luke Bilyk (Lost Girl)
Violett Beane (God Friended me)
Matthew MacCaull (Tomorrowland)

Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Legends of Tomorrow was the best part of the Arrowverse during its second season, and that didn’t necessarily change in Season 3.  The show continued to deliver its unique blend of zany humor and larger-than-life superhero antics. But the fact that it stayed on top this year also goes to show how troubled the Arrowverse as a whole has been lately. Season 3 had plenty of high points, but it also struggled to build an overarching narrative to rival that of Season 2.

Dominic Purcell in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)It was a season that showed us the best and worst of the series. Historically, Legends has never had the best track record when it comes to crafting villains as dynamic and compelling as its cast of heroes. The whole Vandal Savage/Hawkman/Hawkgirl mythology was the clear weak spot in Season 1. And while the Legion of Doom made for fun villains in Season 2, there the series was really just building on foundations laid by Arrow and The Flash. Season 3 tended to struggle in that department as well. I’ll give the writers credit for creating a wholly original villain in the form of Mallus (voiced by John Noble) rather than adapting a preexisting DC character.Brandon Routh and Jack Fisher in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)But that blank slate seemed to work against the character from the start. Mallus remained a vague, shadowy presence for the majority of the season. And when he finally did appear in the flesh late in the game, he came across as little more than a generic CGI demon. Nothing about Mallus’ personality or motivations left much of an impression. Heck, Noble stood out far more during the lone scene in “Guest Starring John Noble” where he played himself than he ever did as Mallus. Nor did the running storyline involving the hunt for the six totems of Zambesi make for the most compelling narrative throughline. The totems came across as simple MacGuffins designed to move the plot along.Neal McDonough, Courtney Ford, and Caity Lotz in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Fortunately, this season did find greater success with its supporting cast of villains. It often felt like the writers weren’t entirely willing to abandon the Legion of Doom premise, with the result being that Mallus assembled his own team of familiar Arrowverse antagonists. Gorilla Grodd was never used to his full potential (understandably, given the heavy special effects cost involved), but the trio of Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), his daughter Nora (Courtney Ford) and Kuasa (Tracey Ifeachor) made for a winning team. All three of these characters had extended arcs that focused a great deal on redemption, which helped to prevent this new group from playing like a mere rehash of the Legion. Damien in particular proved his continued worth as an Arrowverse antagonist, with many episodes banking on McDonough’s magnetic performance and the character’s gradual shift from gleeful sadist to desperate father.Rick Gonzalez, Chyler Leigh, Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Stephen Amell, Caity Lotz, Grant Gustin, Tala Ashe, Juliana Harkavy, Echo Kellum, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)If Season 3 was hit or miss with its villains, it had a much stronger track record with its heroes. The series has really honed that group dynamic by now. And while some characters proved more integral to the series than others this year (Sara’s ongoing struggle with her leadership role, Nate and Amaya’s doomed romance) none of the main characters felt like they were given short shrift in Season 3. For example, while Ray (Brandon Routh) wasn’t generally one of the more critical players this year, he really shone in the delightful E.T.-inspired “Phone Home.” The same goes for Mick (Dominic Purcell), who underwent a subtle yet crucial evolution after being confronted with Earth-X’s Leo Snart (Wentworth Miller).Neal McDonough in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)It was especially nice to see the writers devote so much time to paving the way for Victor Garber’s exit. Professor Stein was given the heroic sendoff he deserved, and one that carried a huge amount of emotional weight. In fact, the midseason finale, which dealt as much with the fallout of Stein’s death as it did a trip back to Viking times, may well be the best episode of Legends to date.Matt Ryan and Caity Lotz in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Thankfully, the series was diligent about adding new faces to the cast to make up for other departures. Keiynan Lonsdale’s Wally West immediately made himself a comfortable home on the series, proving again just how poorly that character had been used on The Flash. Matt Ryan’s John Constantine made for a welcome recurring presence on the show, basically giving viewers a test run before Ryan becomes a series regular in Season 4. The show struggled a bit more when it came to Zari Tomaz (Tala Ashe). Ashe’s relatively low energy performance as the sardonic Zari made it hard for her to blend well with the rest of the cast, and it wasn’t until late in the season that Zari really seemed to find her place.Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Caity Lotz, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)The most successful new addition, however, proved to be Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan). Initially a stern foil to the Legends, Ava developed new layers over the course of the season and formed an engaging bond with Sara (Caity Lotz). I do wish the writers hadn’t waited so long to introduce Ava’s back-story as an unwitting clone from the future. That whole subplot felt a little tacked on, given how little room there was to actually explore its ramifications, but ideally we’ll be seeing plenty more of Ava in Season 4.Jonathan Cake, Dominic Purcell, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)In general, Season 3 succeeded in spite of its underwhelming main conflict. The strongest episodes – “Phone Home,” “Beebo the God of War, “Return of the Mack,” – were those that either downplayed the Mallus storyline or managed to balance it out with a healthy dose of goofiness. Legends’ sense of humor has always been its greatest asset. That remained very much true in Season 3. The writers frequently pushed the series into some pretty strange and wonderful places this year, but never did the humor and silliness get in the way of the character drama. Legends strikes a balance between light and dark that the rest of the Arrowverse too often struggles to find.

REVIEW: GOOD OMENS

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)

Starring

David Tennant (Mary Queen of Scots)
Michael Sheen (Passengers)
Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland)
Jon Hamm (Baby Driver)
Josie Lawrence (Humans)
Lourdes Faberes (Knightfall)
Adria Arjona (Life of The Party)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Jack Whitehall (Bad Education)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Mireille Enos (Hanna TV)
Yusuf Gatewood (The Originals)
Brian Cox (Rise of TPOA)
Reece Shearsmith (Stag)
Nina Sosanya (Marcella)
Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders)
Ariyon Bakare (Rogue One)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Grinch)
Steve Pemberton (Psychoville)
Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones)
Nick Offerman (The Lego Movie 2)
Daniel Mays (The Bank Job)
Sian Brooke (Sherlock)
Simon Merrells (Legends of Tomorrow)
Susan Brown (Game of Thrones)
Paul Kaye (Anna and the Apocalypse)
David Morrissey (The Walking Dead)

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Once upon a time, Good Omens was considered unadaptable. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s sprawling, 400-page fantasy novel was notorious within the film and TV industries. Screenwriters turned their noses up at the project, and various attempts over the years to bring page to screen ended in disappointment. However, an adaptation of the unadaptable proved to be Pratchett’s last request to his co-author before he died in 2015, and Gaiman set about writing the screenplay for what would become an epic six-part BBC/Amazon co-production.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)So first things first: was the unadaptable, well, adaptable, after all? The short answer is, yes. Gaiman — also showrunner on the series — has pulled off a colourful, quirky, funny, poignant (although not entirely flawless) feat. One might even suspect there’s been a spot of divine (or devilish) intervention… The true triumph is the casting. Michael Sheen shines (quite literally, in some scenes) as the angel Aziraphale, a celestial field agent who teams up with his opposite number, the stylish demon Crowley — played with a Bill Nighy-esque swagger by David Tennant — in order to prevent Armageddon.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)It’s this pairing that proves to be the beating heart of the series. Crowley and Aziraphale have been on Earth since the very beginning, and in their own ways they’ve both “gone native”. Aziraphale owns a Soho bookshop, and likes gravlax salmon with dill sauce. Crowley drives a pristine 1926 Bentley and listens to Queen. They’ve formed a professional agreement not to meddle in each other’s affairs, and in their spare time they’ve enjoyed a series of rather nice clandestine lunches. Every time either actor appears onscreen, you can almost hear the costume department’s (and fandom’s) squeals of joy. David Tennant in snakeskin boots! Michael Sheen with artfully tousled bleached hair! A tartan bow tie! Tennant also sports appropriately flame-red hair (not in the books, but worth it for Doctor Who fans’ realisation that the Tenth Doctor finally got his wish) that frequently changes style. In one particularly memorable moment during episode one, Crowley disguises himself as a bobbed-haired nanny, a Satanic crossover between Nanny McPhee and Mrs Doubtfire.good-omensHe and Aziraphale have a teasing, love/hate relationship that fans of the book have shipped for almost two decades. Gaiman has since promised that “the TV series gets deeper into Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship,” and some viewers will be hoping that that will translate into a burgeoning romance. Certainly in episode one, Aziraphale seems rather overexcited at the prospect of he and Crowley becoming joint “godfathers” to the infant Antichrist, whose arrival on Earth threatens to catalyse the apocalypse. Gabriel has bright purple irises in the series, a nod to Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary lilac eyes according to the show’s companion book, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion. However, as anyone who’s worn thick coloured lenses for Halloween and lived to tell the tale will know, the effect is rather distracting and painful to look at, as are Crowley’s reptilian yellow eyes (thankfully hidden away under trendy shades for much of the show). Gabriel barely appears in the book, and he’s a welcome and much-needed addition to the series: someone to put the proverbial heat on Aziraphale.Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens (2019)Various sets are also new for the TV show: Heaven is now a vast corporate headquarters, while Hell resembles an overcrowded basement office. A rather gloomier version of The IT Crowd, if you will. Some of the show’s special effects can feel a bit hammy (think Russell T Davies-era Doctor Who with a couple of rubber frogs thrown in), but the scene depicting the entrances to both Heaven and Hell features a pretty cool bit of cinematography, including a mirror effect and an upside-down Tennant. However, despite the addition of characters like Gabriel, much of the show remains doggedly faithful to the books. Reams of dialogue are almost word-for-word during episode one, to the extent that there are certain moments and scenes where one feels that the show’s pace has been sacrificed in favour of preserving the ‘voice’ of the book. Of course, it’s understandable given the circumstances — Gaiman has spoken about the pressure to protect Pratchett’s narrative creations in his absence. For example, he made sure that one of Pratchett’s characters, the 17th century witch Agnes Nutter, remained in the show despite calls to replace her (and an expensive, explosive period shoot) with a series of woodcuts.good-omens-key-art-600x314In Agnes’s case, it makes sense to preserve her: her spookily accurate prophecies drive much of the plot and predict the present-day apocalypse. But there are chunks of God’s narration (voiced by Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) that feel a bit laboured. Some sections, like the bit about demons’ talents for “lurking” around graveyards, must have read well on the page in that distinctive Terry/Neil voice, but in reality they fall rather flat — much like a certain angel’s misguided attempts to pull a rabbit out of a top hat at a children’s birthday party. At the end of the day, however (and according to Agnes Nutter, there aren’t many more days left), the series is a love letter to the book, combining Gaiman and Pratchett’s brilliant characterisation and quippy jokes with vivid, gorgeous sets and memorable costumes.

 

 

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.