REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 6

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Main Cast

Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)

Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Anna Hopkins (The Expanse)
Kathleen Gati (THe House Bunny)
Adrian Holmes (V-Wars)
Jack Moore (Republic of Sarah)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
David Nykl (Stargate Atlantis)
Venus Terzo (Beast Wars)
Sydelle Noel (GLOW)
Chastity Dotson (Veronica Mars)
Michael Emerson (Lost)
Kris Holden-Ried (Vikings)
Johann Urb (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Laara Sadiq (2012)
Celina Jade (The Man with The Iron Fists)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Kirk Acevedo (War For The POTA)
Liam Hall (The Fault Line)
Pej Vahdat (Bones)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Tom Cavanagh (Yogi Bear)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Dominic Purcell (A Fighting Man)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Franz Drameh (See)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Colin Donnell (Chicago MED)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Tom Amandes (Everwood)
Enid-Raye Adams (Good Boys)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)
Eliza Faria (American Conjuring)
Tina Huang (Drive)
Colton Haynes (Rough Night)
Kyra Zagorsky (Helix)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)
Wil Traval (Jessica Jones)
Catherien Dent (Terminator:TSCC)
Katrina Law (Spartacus)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)

David Ramsey and Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)It’s not always easy being a fan of Arrow, as the show’s sixth season frequently proved. The show was at its most uneven and frustrating this year. For a while it seemed as though Season 6 was doomed to go down in history as the show’s worst to date. And while it did finally turn things around in the last couple months, it may have been too little, too late for many viewers.Juliana Harkavy in Arrow (2012)The show’s sudden drop in quality is all the more surprising given the strong foundation Season 5 had put in place. Season 5 ended with the series best episode yet, wrapping up the conflict between Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) and leaving viewers with a cliffhanger wherein the fate of nearly every member of Team Arrow was in doubt. That’s how you end a season. The Season 6 premiere, “Fallout,” is not how you begin one. That episode squandered most of the potential from “Lian Yu.” Rather than delivering a dramatic overhaul of the status quo and showcasing a Team Arrow left reeling from Chase’s final attack, it showed that annoyingly little had changed in Star City during those missing three months. The impact of that attack was minimal, with almost zero casualties and a handful of easily reversible changes to the norm.
Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The only truly compelling addition to the formula to arise in the premiere involved the increased focus on Oliver’s son William (Jack Moore), now mourning the loss of his mother and living with a father he barely knows. The resulting family drama often resulted in some of the strongest material in the first half of Season 6, with William both lashing out against and needing his father and Ollie struggling to figure out how to care for a boy whose existence he only discovered a couple years ago. That played into one of the larger themes of the season – Ollie’s struggle to figure out how to balance his job as mayor, his crusade as the Green Arrow and his responsibilities as a parent. That dovetailed with Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) own struggles as she found herself being drawn deeper into the lives of both Queen men.Katie Cassidy in Arrow (2012)As a backbone for the season, that’s not bad. The problem is more the scattershot approach the writers took to crafting the story. It worked well early on as Ollie contemplated giving up his hood and focusing on being a better mayor and father. After five years of getting nowhere in his mission, that seemed to represent a positive step forward for the character. But it wasn’t long before that approach took a backseat to more traditional vigilante adventures. Only in the final third of the season did Ollie’s need to achieve balance in his life become paramount again.Manu Bennett in Arrow (2012)Season 6’s biggest problem, it quickly became clear, was one of focus. The series never seemed entirely sure of what direction to head or how to juggle the various members of Team Arrow. Each character had their respective struggles, whether it was Diggle (David Ramsey) dealing with the lingering fallout of Lian Yu, Curtis (Echo Kellum) becoming a small business owner or Rene (Rick Gonzalez) dealing with yet more problems surrounding custody of his daughter. Yet rarely did these subplots leave a particularly strong impression. Too often, the series begged the question of whether these supporting characters were truly necessary any longer.
Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Two long-running story threads proved especially disappointing this season. The first involved the dynamic between Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) and Vigilante (Johann Urb). The latter’s identity was finally revealed early in Season 6, though the answer to that long-running mystery proved thoroughly unsatisfying. Nor did the ensuing drama between the two characters redeem Vigilante as a character. Instead, he felt like just one more unnecessary addition to an overcrowded cast. The other involved the relationship between Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and the Earth-2 version of Laurel (Katie Cassidy). After so many years of seeing Quentin grapple with the death of one daughter or the other, more Lance family drama is not what the series needed. It didn’t help that Laurel’s redemption arc proved so repetitive. You can only see a character make apparent progress, only to pivot and back-stab everyone around her, so many times before the formula gets old.Rick Gonzalez, Stephen Amell, Juliana Harkavy, and Echo Kellum in Arrow (2012)Perhaps nothing weighed down the season more than its uninspired choice of main villain, hacker extraordinaire Cayden James (Michael Emerson). Emerson is a talented actor, but he frequently felt wasted in the role. James proved to be a bland, redundant villain whose motivations failed to set him apart from the crowd. Even at the series lowest points in Seasons 3 and 4, villains like Ra’s al Ghul and Damien Darhk elevated their respective conflicts. James merely dragged the series further down. It’s telling that the most enjoyable episodes in the first half of the season were generally those which took a break from the overarching Cayden James thread. For example, the series took a welcome two-part detour as Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) resurfaced and Ollie joined him on a very personal mission overseas. Bennett’s return late in Season 5 was a reminder of how much he brought to the series back in the early years, and those two episodes made great use of the ever-changing relationship between Ollie and Slade. The “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover also proved entertaining, with Team Arrow joining forces with their superhero comrades against some pesky, wedding-ruining Nazis.David Ramsey and Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The good news is that Season 6 did eventually find its footing, even if that didn’t happen until the final two months. March brought about a major status quo upheaval, one that finally began addressing the season’s problems in terms of poor pacing, lack of focus and underwhelming villain. Why that upheaval couldn’t have come sooner ) is a question worth asking, but better late than never, right?Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The season’s saving grace came with the sudden death of Cayden James and the elevation of formerly minor villain Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) to the season’s primary antagonist. Diaz proved to be everything James wasn’t – a compelling villain whose motivations and actions set him apart from the shows previous big baddies. He cared little for the sort of theatrics preferred by Deathstroke or Damien Darhk. His goal was money and control, not making a grand statement or destroying the city. Acevedo’s performance helped further elevate the character, with various episodes highlighting Diaz’s dark past and the inferiority complex that fuels his present actions.Stephen Amell and Jack Moore in Arrow (2012)Diaz’s rise to power coincided with a breaking point in Team Arrow’s tenuous dynamic. After suffering through a destructive civil war and seeing his political career crumble, Ollie finally decided to abandon everything but the mission. That shift in gears helped the series find the focus it had been struggling to achieve for months. It suggested that maybe the best thing Arrow can do is to abandon the ensemble format and become centered around Oliver Queen once again. On the other hand, the season managed to maintain that sense of focus even as Team Arrow grudgingly reformed and built a united front against Diaz.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)It seems the problem is less the amount of characters than how the writers choose to balance them.Season 6 wasn’t entirely without problems in those final two months. “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” in particular proved a disappointing chapter with the melodramatic way it handled Ollie’s murder trial. The way the season ended, with Ollie winding up in prison anyway, makes that whole episode seem even more pointless in hindsight. But ultimately, Season 6 finished strong enough to restore much of the good will that had been lost early on. The feud between Diaz and Team Arrow ended on a satisfying note, while at the same time leaving plenty of room to grow in Season 7. And Ollie’s new status quo as an incarcerated felon promises a huge change in the fall. The only question is whether Season 7, with its new showrunner behind the scenes, can do a better job of utilizing the potential given to it.Stephen Amell and Jack Moore in Arrow (2012)Arrow’s sixth season may not qualify as the show’s worst, but only because it improved a great deal in its final two months. Prior to that, the season squandered most of the potential afforded by Season 5, failing to balance its many characters and languishing under a disappointingly bland villain. It’s good that the show eventually regained its footing, but there’s no reason things should have gone so far off the rails in the first place.

REVIEW: ARROWVERSE: INVASION!

 

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Starring

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Keiynan Lonsdale (The Turning)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)
Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)
Victor Garber (Alias)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Franz Drameh (See)
Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Originals)
Amy Louise Pemberton (The Laundromat)
Nick Zano (2 Broke Girls)
Dominic Purcell (Prison Break)

Dominic Purcell, David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Willa Holland, Caity Lotz, Melissa Benoist, and Franz Drameh in The Flash (2014)
Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Donnelly Rhodes (Battlestar Galactica)
Christina Brucato (Th Intern)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Jerry Wasserman (Paradox)
Lucia Walters (Stargate: Atlantis)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Neal McDonough (Van Helsing)
Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Joe Dinicol (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Jamey Sheridan (Homeland)
Erica Luttrell (Westworld)

Barry Allen investigates a meteor crash outside Central City which is a spaceship from which aliens emerge. Lyla Michaels tells the team that the Dominators had landed during the 1950s, but mysteriously departed. Barry assembles the original members of Team Arrow, Thea Queen, the Legends, and Kara Danvers, Supergirl of Earth-38. The team begins training at a S.T.A.R. Labs facility, sparring with Supergirl to prepare for the aliens. Kara struggles to earn Oliver Queen’s trust. Cisco Ramon finds and reveals a message Barry’s future self sent to Rip Hunter, which exposes Barry’s manipulation of the timeline and its effect on other team members. As a result, only Oliver, Kara, Felicity Smoak, Martin Stein, Jefferson “Jax” Jackson, and Caitlin Snow still trust Barry.David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Stephen Amell, Melissa Benoist, Franz Drameh, Grant Gustin, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)After the Dominators abduct the President of the United States, the team goes to rescue him; however, Barry remains behind since most of them distrust him with Oliver staying behind in support of Barry. Kara leads the group, but the Dominators kill the President and activate a mind control device to take over the group. The controlled heroes return and attack S.T.A.R. Labs, where Barry and Oliver confront them. While Oliver holds them off, Barry lures Kara to the device and manipulates her into destroying it, freeing everyone from the Dominators’ control. When the team regroups, Ray Palmer tells Barry that everyone forgives and trusts him. Sara Lance, Ray, John Diggle, Thea, and Oliver are then abducted by the Dominators.Nick Zano, Melissa Benoist, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)They are held in pods on a Dominators’ ship, each one unconscious except for a shared hallucination of simulated reality. In the hallucination, Oliver is living at Queen Manor, having never gotten on the Queen’s Gambit, and is about to be married to Laurel Lance. His parents are alive, and Diggle is operating as the vigilante the Hood, instead of Oliver. The captives begin seeing flashes of their real lives, and realize what the Dominators have done to them. Their escape attempt is blocked by personifications of their enemies: Malcolm Merlyn, Deathstroke and two of his Mirakuru soldiers (who killed Ray’s fiancée Anna Loring), and Damien Darhk and two of his H.I.V.E. soldiers. The adversaries are defeated, and the five awaken in the Dominators’ ship and escape in a shuttle. Felicity, Curtis Holt, and Cisco try to hack into the Dominators’ mainframe. Aided by Barry and Kara, they recover a device to locate the captives, who are rescued by Nate Heywood in the time ship, Waverider. Aboard the Waverider, Ray deduces that the Dominators were gathering information about metahumans, using the hallucination as a distraction, to help them build a special “weapon”. Meanwhile, the Dominator mothership heads towards Earth.Victor Garber and Melissa Benoist in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)Nate says that the first Dominator invasion occurred in 1951 in Redmond, Oregon. He goes there with fellow Legends Mick Rory and Amaya Jiwe and Felicity and Cisco to kidnap a Dominator for information. Although they are successful, the three Legends and their alien captive are taken prisoner by N.S.A. agents. The Legends learn from the Dominator that the aliens have arrived to assess humanity’s threat, now that metahumans have appeared and formed the Justice Society of America. Felicity and Cisco rescue the Legends, and also set the Dominator free, carelessly altering history. In 2016 Central City, the team learns that the Dominators know about Barry’s manipulation of the timeline, deem him a threat, and are demanding his surrender in exchange for peace.Dominic Purcell, David Ramsey, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, Stephen Amell, Caity Lotz, Melissa Benoist, Carlos Valdes, Emily Bett Rickards, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)After the Legends return, the team discovers that the Dominators’ weapon is a bomb that will kill all metahumans on Earth, with millions of collateral human casualties. The teams dissuade Barry from surrendering, and he and Cisco reconcile. The team manage to destroy the bomb and force the Dominators to retreat with a pain-inflicting nano-weapon. As the heroes celebrate their victory, Oliver offers Kara his friendship; Cisco gives her a device which will enable her to interdimensional travel and communicate between Earth-1 and Earth-38. Martin persuades Jax not to tell the others that his daughter Lily’s existence is the result of a temporal paradox he inadvertently caused when the Legends were in 1987.

Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Melissa Benoist, and Grant Gustin in Legends of Tomorrow (2016)The first major Arrowverse crossover brings together all 4 shows in one epic stpryline. It’s so nice to Supergirl implemented into arrowverse properly, the crossover really showcases her as a character and a show and gives her the ability to crossover more often as and when the universe needs to her to be. This crossover is a must see for all Arrowverse fans.

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 5

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Main Cast

Stephen Amell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: OOTS)
David Ramsey (Blue Bloods)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Girlfriend’s Day)
Josh Segarra (Trainwreck)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)

Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Alexander Calvert (Supernatural)
Rick Gonzalez (Reaper)
Chad L. Coleman (The Orville)
Tyler Ritter (Merry Happy Whatever)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
David Nykl (Stargate Atlantis)
Emy Aneke (Izombie)
Aaron Pearl (Bates Motel)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Joe Dinicol (Diary of The Dead)
Madison McLaughlin (Chicago PD)
Garry Chalk (Beast Wars)
Carly Pope (Popular)
Cody Runnels (WWE)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
Vincent Gale (Van Helsing)
Wil Traval (Jessica Jones)
Dolph Lundgren (Aquaman)
Christopher Rosamond (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
John Barrowman (Torchwood)
Neal McDonough (Van Helsing)
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Susanna Thompson (Cold Case)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Nick Zano (2 Broke Girls)
Melissa Benoist (Jay & Silent Bob Reboot)
Jamey Sheridan (Homeland)
Erica Luttrell (Westworld)
Amy Louise Pemberton (Suspense)
Garwin Sanford (Stargate SG.1)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Lexa Doig (Andromeda)
Steve Bacic (Smallville)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Patrick Sabongui (POwer Rangers)
Olivia Cheng (Warrior)
Samaire Armstrong (Stay Alive)
Laara Sadiq (2012)
Kelly Hu (X-Men 2)
Amy Gumenick (Supernatural)
Adrian Holmes (V-Wars)
Rutina Wesley (Hannibal)
Venus Terzo (Beats Wars)
Eliza Faria (Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2)
Jack Moore (Republic of Sarah)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Katrina Law (Apparition)
Nick E. Tarabay (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Anna Hopkins (The Expanse)

Michael Dorn in Arrow (2012)More than any other Arrowverse series, Arrow had a lot to prove when it returned in fall 2016. The series had fallen quite a bit from its peak in the Deathstroke-dominated Season 2. Following the thoroughly disappointing Season 4 finale, Arrow was at its lowest point ever. It wasn’t clear at that point whether the show would continue beyond Season 5. Moreover, it wasn’t clear whether the show should continue. But thanks to a change in approach, a terrific new villain and a generally more consistent level of execution, Season 5 wound up redeeming a troubled series and recapturing the appeal of those first two years.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Arrow had fallen pretty far down the metahuman rabbit hole in Season 4, what with the focus on supernatural villain Damien Darhk and all the magical tomfoolery that resulted. Even ignoring the various interviews leading up to Season 5’s debut, the premiere made it plainly obvious that showrunners Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle were eager to take a “back to basics” approach this year. The series didn’t necessarily ignore the more colorful side of the Arrowverse this year, but it did downplay those elements in favor of a darker, more grounded take on Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) ongoing crusade. The early episodes were very much about Ollie getting back to his roots and shooting arrows into the criminal scum of Star City.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Initially, there was a worry that the series might be playing things too conservatively, recycling old conflicts and well-worn tropes rather than actually pushing Team Arrow forward in meaningful ways. A lot of that worry was personified in new villain Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman), a would-be criminal kingpin cut from the exact same cloth as Vinnie Jones’ Danny Brickwell. As enjoyable as Coleman’s performance was, those similarities were impossible to ignore. Nor did it help that the season introduced another dark-clad archer villain in the form of Prometheus (voiced by Michael Dorn). With little real connection to the Prometheus of the comics, this villain initially came across as a poor man’s Malcolm Merlyn.
Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The other major focus early in the season involved expanding Team Arrow into a true, ensemble fighting force. Alongside returning allies like Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), Diggle (David Ramsey) and Curtis (Echo Kellum), the team ranks swelled with the addition of up-and-coming vigilantes Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), Artemis (Madison McLaughlin) and Ragman (Joe Dinicol). Ollie also assembled a secondary Team Arrow for his new day job of Star City’s mayor, with Thea (Willa Holland) becoming his chief of staff and Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) his deputy mayor and new District Attorney Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) joining the fold. Coupled with a new love interest for Ollie in the form of intrepid reporter Susan Williams (Carly Pope), and the new season was never short on character drama.Joe Dinicol, Rick Gonzalez, David Ramsey, Stephen Amell, Madison McLaughlin, and Echo Kellum in Arrow (2012)Looking back, the biggest flaw with Season 5 is that it tried to juggle more characters and conflicts than was really feasible. The second episode of the season, “The Recruits,” exemplified that problem more than any other. That episode focused mainly on Ollie and Felicity’s efforts to build the ranks of the new Team Arrow in Diggle’s absence. And even though each new member showed promise, there was a strong sense that these new characters were falling over each other competing for limited screen time. The show struck a better balance after that point, but it never felt like there was enough room to do each supporting character justice. Artemis felt especially under-served. The writers never devoted much energy to fleshing out her background or motivations beyond what was already established in her initial Season 4 appearance. That didn’t change even after a major Artemis-related twist midway through the season. Susan suffered a similar fate, as she never really developed into a compelling love interest and was treated as little more than a damsel in distress.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Ragman fared somewhat better. It was nice having at least one metahuman member of Team Arrow just to maintain that bridge to the larger Arrowverse. And the quiet, contemplative Rory made for a welcome counterpoint to testosterone-fueled characters like Ollie and Rene. But Rory was unceremoniously written out of the picture, for no apparent reason other than the fact that he gave Team Arrow too much of an advantage in their war with Prometheus. Between that and the late introduction of new Black Canary Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), it was clear the writers were still fine-tuning and experimenting with the ensemble cast well into the season. But those problems aside, the show tended to make pretty good use of its supporting cast this year. The unlikely friendship between Quentin and Rene helped both characters immensely and allowed Quentin to do something other than wallow in grief-induced alcoholism for a change. Curtis underwent a memorable transformation this year, finally claiming the “Mister Terrific” name and learning firsthand the terrible toll the costumed vigilante game can take on one’s personal life. Even Felicity fared well, with the writers wisely downplaying the Olicity romance and focusing more on her induction into the sinister hacking group Helix.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)But even with the growing supporting cast, this season really was all about the Green Arrow/Prometheus rivalry. Prometheus not proved himself to be more than a mere Dark Archer redux, he developed into the series’ best villain since Deathstroke. That was due both to the actor’s strong performance and the very personal nature of his feud with Oliver Queen. Prometheus wound up being a breath of fresh air for the series. His plan didn’t involve holding Star City hostage, but merely putting Ollie through a complex, painstakingly designed gauntlet of psychological torture. The midseason finale, “What We Leave Behind,” did a great job of establishing the threat posed by Prometheus and setting the stage for everything to come. There were still a few lackluster episodes that followed, including the pseudo-bottle episode “Underneath” and “The Sin-Eater,” an episode predicated on the questionable idea of grouping together several of the series’ more forgettable villains. But for the most part, Prometheus’ revenge plot gave the series a momentum that carried it forward.
Michael Dorn, Stephen Amell, and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)The personal nature of that conflict tended to bring out the best in Amell’s acting, as well. The increasing darkness wasn’t merely superficial. Ollie was put through hell this year as Prometheus tested him both physically and psychologically. Amell rose to the challenge with a series of raw, emotionally charged performances that really highlighted his characters inner torment. In many ways, Season 5 as a showcase for how far the show has come in the last five years, and that goes for Amell’s acting as much as anything else.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)The Green Arrow/Prometheus rivalry also allowed the writers to explore the use of violence on the show and address Ollie’s often nebulous stance on killing. As the season opened, Ollie had once again become a dark vigilante not averse to killing his opponents should the need arise. Prometheus forced Ollie to confront his actions, both past and present, and question whether he had actually done any real, lasting good for his city after five years. Nor did the show have any easy answers to provide. The moral wasn’t “Killing is bad,” but merely that actions have far-reaching, unintended consequences. Even going into Season 6, it’s not clear what Ollie’s stance on lethal force is or how his final showdown with Prometheus will influence his actions in the future.Stephen Amell in Arrow (2012)Season 5 marked the final go-round in terms of Ollie’s five-year flashback odyssey. The flashbacks had pretty well worn out their welcome in Season 3 and 4, often doing little more than filling space and drawing pointless parallels between past and present. The Season 5 flashbacks weren’t immune to these problems, but they were a significant improvement. It helps that the flashbacks were used to fill in a key hole in the Arrow tapestry, fleshing out the shared history between Ollie and Russian gangster Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl). The flashbacks added much needed context to that relationship while also banking on the viewer’s knowledge that the two characters are doomed to have a falling-out later in life. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Ivan Drago himself, Dolph Lundgren, was cast as the main villain for the Russian storyline. In a season full of strong action sequences, Ollie’s brutal clashes with Konstantin Kovar ranked among the best.
Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)Again, the flashbacks still dragged from time to time, especially in the final couple months of the season when the Russian conflict was all but resolved. But in addition to fleshing out the Ollie/Anatoly relationship, this running subplot helped enhance the season’s larger focus on lethal force and the struggle that men like Ollie face to keep their souls once they position themselves as judge, jury and (sometimes) executioner. The flashbacks showcased Ollie at his darkest – a man who now possesses all the skills needed to become a great warrior but still in search of a symbol to shape his crusade.Stephen Amell and Josh Segarra in Arrow (2012)All of this culminated wonderfully in the season finale, as the series literally and metaphorically came full circle and Guggenheim and Mericle rolled out a who’s who lineup of heroes and villains. Compared to the Season 3 and 4 finales, both of which only managed to make their respective seasons seem worse in hindsight, “Lian Yu” gave Season 5 the punctuation mark it needed. It proved to be not just the best episode of Season 5, but of the series as a whole. Considering where the show was at the beginning of the season, that’s quite an impressive accomplishment.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARROW – IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES

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MAIN CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
David Ramsey (Con Air)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Echo Kellum (Ben and Kate)
Rick Gonzalez (Mr. Robot)
Juliana Harkavy (The Walking Dead)
Paul Blackthorne (A Christmas Carol)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kirk Acevedo (Dawn of The Planet of The Apes)
Charlotte Ross (Drive Angry)
David Nykl (Stargate Atlantis)
Tom Amandes (The Magicians)
Tobias Jelinek (American Woman)
Johann Urb (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Michael Emerson (Lost)

Oliver is his own worst enemy  in the mid-season finale of Arrow. This episode follows an unusual pattern for one containing a wedding – it’s dispensed with early on so that the real business of the episode can get underway, rather than being the moment of celebration and reflection at the end. The wedding is mostly useful for allowing characters to point out how weird it was for Ollie and Felicity to get married in the way. Thea and Felicity’s mother are deservedly upset, which is a reminder of the fact that only.The wedding is also a nice time to check in on what a mess everyone’s personal life is, and how many of them have had pasts with one another. Curtis gets drunk on champagne and memories of his marriage to Paul, Rene talks about his dead wife, they both learn that Dinah has been engaged multiple times, Thea misses Roy and I’m sad he is once again absent during a time that he would obviously be there for her. And of course Felicity’s criminal father is in attendance and flirting with her mother, who briefly reunites with Lance. I’d like to point out that while Oliver seems to have jumped to the conclusion that the witness is a current member of the team other than his best friend or his wife, there are many more contenders. The witness could theoretically be Roy, Ragman, vigilante, the Russians, Quentin, Lyla, or anyone named al-Ghul.   Of course Rene soon fesses up, but not before Oliver reveals that the original 3 have been spying on the new kids. With every new member of the team there has been some sort of transition period, but with this group (as well as the two members they have since lost) that seems to be a rougher and longer transition. Evelyn’s betrayal, mentioned frequently here, certainly contributed to that. But there’s also more distance between the original team and this crop of newbies because Roy, Thea, Sara, and Laurel all came and went. That makes them two generations removed, a gap Oliver has never fully closed, nor does he seem to want to.Oliver’s poor judgment, aided and abetted by Felicity and Diggle respectively, drives Dinah to quit the team and reunite with Vince. Rene is gone, and Curtis’s departure seems to hit hardest. That may be because he’s been with them the longest, but it could also be due to the level-headed way he notifies them. The original team can pretend they’re right with the other two, but there’s no justifying how they drove Curtis away. I can’t help but feel happy for Rene and Curtis, in particular. Curtis clearly needs some time to think over his priorities in life, and spending less time with Felicity might help him gain some perspective and stick up for himself more when she walks all over him. And Rene has a good job and his daughter back, and as we’ve seen with Dig and Ollie, having a kid makes a person question their place in the vigilante business.I doubt this break-up of the team is for long, but it honestly seems like a healthy choice for everyone except Dinah, who is spending time with her murderous ex. Watching Dinah and Oliver go toe to toe is some of the best chemistry this season, since they’re so similar in temperament. But it’s Diggle who usually spends time with her and therefore truly betrayed her, and that relationship won’t be easily repaired. I’m eagerly awaiting Lyla’s reaction when she finds out what her husband did, as well as the continued relationship between Quentin and Black Siren. Her dad was killed by a drunk driver (perhaps that world’s Quentin Lance?) on her 13th birthday, and Quentin forged just enough of a relationship with her to make her defy Cayden James’s orders to kill Lance. Those relationships are complicated, and will only become moreso in the New Year.This episode ends on a tough note. Oliver is without most of his team through his own actions, as Cayden James pointed out. And of course that happens when pretty much every living member of Oliver and the Green Arrow’s rogues gallery assembles to creepily watch Oliver in the lair via a hidden camera. It’s particularly frustrating to see Oliver regress after spending this season so far showing emotional maturity in a way that is really new for the character. He at least acknowledged that he would have (and has in the past) done the same thing as Rene, and I’m hoping he has the good sense to keep following Thea’s advice. If he doesn’t,  Team Arrow is going to have a hard time keeping their enemies in check, never mind taking them down.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 2

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Powers Booth (Sin City)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Seymour Cassel (Dick Tracy)
Takayo Fischer (Moneyball)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Giselle Loren (Happy Feet)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween)
Kim Mai Guest (G.I. Joe: Reneages)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Alexis Denisof (Avengers Assemble)
Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time)
Juliet Landau (Aquaman)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Oded Fehr (V)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Amy Acker (The Gifted)
Virgina Madsen (Highlander II)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator)
Joanne Whalley (Willow)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Michael Ironside (Scanners)
Bud Cort (MASH)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)

MV5BMjQwMjQ0MTUzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTAwOTM2MjE@._V1_Since I was just a young lad, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have been showing me exactly what a superhero should be. They were some of the people behind the sublime Batman: The Animated Series, which is the definitive version of Batman in my eyes. They helped bring a certain Kryptonian to television screens in the late ’90s, taking an extra step into forming a coherent version of the DC universe to life. Hell, they even went so far as to help create a true successor to the Dark Knight. After doing all this, they managed to bring a clean, faithful and truly amazing assortment of champions of the DC Universe to life, showing us all exactly what a superhero should be.MV5BMTQxMjk3MTgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDAwOTM2MjE@._V1_JLU – Season Two  remains faithful to its source material, which isn’t something you’ll find too often when translating a comic to a TV show or movie; whether it’s Green Arrow humming his own theme music while he’s fighting villains to Batman always being the baddest man in the room, the show conveys everything perfectly. A huge strength of the show lies within its voice talent, which is an assortment of voice-over veterans that have had some time to perfect their takes on characters: Kevin Conroy expertly delivers every line as Batman; Michael Rosenbaum has a wonderful, playful performance as Flash; and Clancy Brown is nothing short of brilliant as the ever-scheming, truly egotistic Lex Luthor. Though some of these actors have had over a decade to perfect their take on their respective characters, the guest stars who have little to no VO experience, much less know their characters, manage to be spot-on with their takes, making their characters memorable and charismatic.MV5BMTk4NTY4ODY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDYwOTM2MjE@._V1_Not only that, some of the guest stars who appear are more than enough to cause a nerdgasm to any self-respecting comic geek. Names like Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Amy Acker, Morena Baccarin, Juliet Landau, Michael Ironside, James Remar, and Daniel Dae Kim all bring their characters to life in the best way possible, creating a lasting impact on the series. As the series progressed from the seven core heroes, requiring the talent of so many guest stars, some viewers may be inclined to think, “Wow, DC has a lot of lame heroes in its roster.” Almost at the exact point in the series that the thought occurred to me, the show comes out swinging with the episode “Patriot Act,” hitting the nail on the head. This episode has an Incredible Hulk type character wanting to face off against the JLU varsity squad (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc&#Array;), but what he gets is a slew of D and E-list heroes, like Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E., Shining Knight, Vigilante, Green Arrow and Speedy.MV5BMzcyNjI0Nzc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODI5ODM2MjE@._V1_Though you may be thinking “who?” at this roster of leaguers, and though they get thoroughly trounced, the episode manages to make the point of despite who they’re fighting, these champions won’t ever quit, and it’s a theme that’s brought up more than once during the series without beating you over the head with it nor becoming cheesy, and that’s fine by me. The writing of the series is easily its greatest strength as it has fun with its storylines and it’s very obvious that everyone involved knows their craft. They don’t bother setting up any more characters – they already had four seasons to do so. Rather than exploring the universe further, they jump into tales that can be enjoyed by newcomers and longtime fans alike. The main story-arc of the season is a huge nod to an older crowd as it deals with the Legion of Doom – well, maybe not in name, but without a doubt in spirit: A gaggle of villains led by Lex Luthor who use a giant Darth Vader helmet as a base of operations.MV5BOTE5NTA5MTc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTIwOTM2MjE@._V1_If that isn’t the Legion of Doom, I don’t know what is. The storyline revolves around Luthor’s quest to reunite with Braniac and become a god. Unfortunately, he unleashes one of the most dangerous and powerful foes in the DC universe and the events that follow make for one satisfying bookend to one of the most prolific takes on a comic universe.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
George Eads (CSI)
Eric Robert (The Finder)
Dana Delany (Tombstone)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games)
Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Fam)
Fred Savage (The Princess Diaries)
Jason Hervey (Back To The Future)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Michael York (Logan’s Run)
Patrick Bauchau (Panic Room)
Rachel York (One Fine Day)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Annimator)
Robert Foxworth (Transformers)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Tom Everett Scott (Because I Said So)
Billy West (Futurama)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Jeremy Piven (Old School)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Oded Fehr (V)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Tim Matheson (The West Wing)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Ioan Gruffudd (Ringer)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clark)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Robert Englund (2001 Maniacs)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Jason Bateman (Office Christmas Party)
Susan Sullivan (Castle)
Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Steve Schirripa (Must Love Dogs)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Nathan Fillion (Serenity)
Elizabeth Peña (The Incredibles)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)

MV5BMTk4NTc5Mzg3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc5ODM2MjE@._V1_Fantasy now runs your life? Comic books become your vice? And your best friends still have their virginities? Then look no farther, friends, because this collection of episodes is so good you don’t need friends, significant others, or a single reason to emerge from your Geekdrome. But you know what the best part is? It’s not just for geeks – Justice League Unlimited stands tall as the best collection of American action/adventure animation you’re likely to find. While there is, of course, a certain geek charge some may get out of seeing characters like Powergirl and Green Arrow in action (not to mention an episode featuring Nathan Fillion voicing Vigilante and Gina Torres voicing Vixen – come on, how cool is that?), these episodes will entertain because of good characters, good humor, and good storytelling, even if you don’t know your Booster Golds from your Blue Beetles.MV5BMTA3OTAzMDYwMjdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDMzMDkzNjIx._V1_While the first two seasons of Justice League nicely expanded upon the world first established in the early ’90s with Batman: The Animated Series, it wasn’t until this, the show’s third season (or first, depending on how you look at it) that the format and structure was perfected for the genre. It was an interesting experiment having the previous seasons’ episodes run for one-hour, but with JLU the format is scaled back to stand-alone half-hour stories and, ironically, it fits like a bat-glove. It’s strange, but these shorter episodes actually manage to pack in more than the double-length ones. A lot more. And what a roster of characters to fill a show with! You’ll see everyone from The Atom to Elongated Man. Because this is a full-blown, all-star take on these characters, each character can shine their brightest. When you get Superman, you get the best of Superman. Wonder Woman? The best of Wonder Woman. B’wana Beast? Uh… well, I guess this is the best he’s ever been.MV5BMjIwOTMxMzk2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTU5ODM2MjE@._V1_The surplus of great characters is fun, but what really sells the show are the stories. Or, more specifically, story. No doubt borrowing a page from the work of Joss Whedon – showrunner Bruce Timm admits in a commentary that Whedon was a big influence – these episodes highlight a large and complex season-spanning plot that actually has meaning in today’s world. This is certainly the most mature and thoughtful storytelling you’re likely to get from a cartoon of this type. What elevates the show from great to brilliant is its ability to tell stories that are exciting and also manage to propel the larger narrative forward. For example, Dark Heart – penned by famous comic book scribe Warren Ellis – manages to mix a great science fiction plot (a self-replicating AI) with humor (Wonder Woman, needing both hands to fight, rests The Atom in a very interesting holding place) and its plot still manages to play a part later on down the road in the season’s climax.MV5BMjAwMTU4NDI0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIwOTM2MjE@._V1_The writing is the best the show has ever seen, no doubt a result of staff writer Dwayne McDuffie coming into his own; his versatility with the characters is fantastic. Comic book writers Warren Ellis and J.M. DeMatteis join in on the fun, and new series director Joaquim Dos Santos infuses the episodes with a dynamic energy that allows the show to compete with the best of today’s cutting-edge, anime-inspired programming. It’s like the entire DC animated universe has been supercharged in the best way possible.MV5BMTk3NjM3NzI3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQwOTM2MjE@._V1_This collection contains two seasons, and both season finales are just fantastic. The Once and Future Thing is an exciting time romp (with a great Western segment) and Divided We Fall is a showstopper of epic proportions. Either finale would make for a better DVD movie than any of what has been released thus far. Then there’s Epilogue – just brilliant. It manages to tie in the entire DC animated universe – including films Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker! – and still say something meaningful about a very important character. The episode isn’t just great animation, it’s great television.MV5BMTk1MDgzMTYzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUwOTM2MjE@._V1_There really is nothing bad to say about these episodes. The new rock-inspired opening credits do ring a bit too much of cheesy ’80s electronica, but you get used to it, and, after a while, it fits. Of course, the fact remains that if you aren’t into cartoons in the first place you probably won’t be willing to hop on the bandwagon no matter how cool a series is. But if you consider animation to be a legitimate and respectable medium, then this is the pinnacle of the form.  While there are bigger and more influential cartoon shows out there – namely, comedies like The Simpsons – Justice League Unlimited is still one of the best American animated programs you’ll find. With this show the genre has been perfected – it’s fun, exciting, and thoughtful. In other words, this is exactly what superheroes should be.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER

CAST
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Neil Patrick Harris (The Smurfs)
John Heard (Home Alone)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Kyle MacLachlan (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Lex Lang (Constantine TV)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
Brooke Shields (The Blue Lagoon)
Jeremy Sisto (Wrong turn)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Joe Mantegna (The Simpsons)
Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014)
Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
Darwyn Cooke entered the comic book world via an animation career that included a stint on the staff of Batman: The Animated Series. He quickly impressed fans with his clean, classic illustration style, using old ideas as fodder for fresh visions. It’s kind of fitting, then, that things have come full circle, and now his old animation cohorts are adapting one of his comic books into a movie. Justice League: The New Frontier is directed by frequent Cooke collaborator David Bullock, and it is based on the 2004 comic book miniseries The New Frontier. In that drawn adventure novel, the writer/artist used his love of 1950s comics and culture to weave a complex tapestry using a host of genres, characters, and real world political touchstones. It is a gorgeous book, and for the most part, massively entertaining.

A 75-minute film is actually a far more compact means of expression than a sprawling comic book miniseries. Bullock, working with Cooke as a creative consultant, has dropped a lot of the backstory, relegating subplots on Monster Island with the Losers and the original Suicide Squad to quick mentions. This leaves the full running time devoted to the superhero mission and the rise of two new heroes.

Justice League: The New Frontier starts just at the end of the Korean War, putting America in the middle of the space race and the Red Scare. Superheroes have been swept up in the xenophobic hysteria, with the public being convinced that men hiding their identities behind masks are no better than the communists who plan revolutions behind closed doors. Superman (voiced by Kyle MacLachlan) is still functioning above board, having signed a loyalty oath to America. So does Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless), though she is less enamored with the American Way the more paranoid and oppressive it gets. Other heroes, like Batman (Jeremy Sisto) and the Flash (Neil Patrick Harris), are still serving the public, but they risk arrest with every good deed they do. In the midst of all this fear and loathing, a primordial psychic force that has watched from the shadows as mankind has grown more dangerous and self-destructive over the centuries has begun shoring up its power to put an end to the human scourge. Calling itself “the Center” (as in “of all things”), this creature has become the stuff of cults and legends, controlling the minds of men and monsters alike.

Also coming to the fore at this time are two new super beings, and they are ostensibly the leads of the ensemble cast. Hal Jordan (David Boreanaz) is a veteran and a test pilot who many believe to be a coward due to his refusal to fire his guns in battle. His nobility will eventually lead to him being chosen as the Green Lantern, a cosmic defender assigned to protect Earth. The other hero is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter (Miguel Ferrer), who through a quirk of science was teleported to and stranded on our planet. He is the most representative of the “other,” the things we fear because they are different. Jordan’s political ideas make him like the communists, whereas J’onzz’ green skin gives the storytellers room to tie his plight into race.

Justice League: The New Frontier is an entertaining animated adventure. Based on a multi-leveled comic book by Darwyn Cooke, it features the greatest heroes of the DC Comics universe banding together in the 1950s to fight a villain who is feeding on the hatred and paranoia of the times to rid the Earth of the human scourge. The movie is more streamlined and has a solid story that fits well into the new Warner Bros. effort to bring slightly more adult cartoons directly to DVD. The animation is mostly clean and dynamic, and as a whole, it’s an impressive two-disc release filled with lots of extras.