Arrow: Season 4/Episode 15 – “Taken”

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THERE BE SPOILERS HERE!

“Well, that happened.”

 

I should have talked about this more in my Flash review this week but I was glad to see some real progress on the season long fight against the bad guy, Zoom, and was similarly glad to see the same play out in this week’s Arrow as we see our heroes finally strike a meaningful blow at Damien Darhk.

This week’s episode is all about Darhk holding William, Oliver’s son, hostage to get Oliver to drop out of the mayoral race and endorse Darhk’s wife, Ruve Adams.  Our heroes quickly decide to try and fight but realize that they always get their asses handed to them when they fight Darhk head on.  This leads them to call in the help of, Vixen, a hero from Detroit so they can fight magic with magic.

Now as big a comic book nerd and TV lover as I am, I knew very little about Vixen’s backstory and her powers most of which I got from the amazing Justice League: Unlimited cartoon series.  I knew that she could take on the powers of certain animals via a totem of some sort as far as where that totem came from, her real name, and her origin story I was in the dark.  Unfortunately after watching this episode I am still mostly in the dark, only garnering a few details about her from conversations between her and Oliver.  I remember seeing something about an animated series about Vixen but even with being as plugged in as I am to the world of nerd stuff, it slipped by me and I never watched it and from the way that Arrow introduced the live action version of her character, it’s clear that I was supposed to have watched that series to know everything. (And after Oliver drops the line about them having an “animated” adventure, I half expected Stephen Amell to wink at the damn camera.)  I think that was a bit of a disservice to her character and the episode at hand because I felt that I was missing some needed info and had to stop to Google.  As annoying as that might be, I still think  Megalyn Echikunwoke did a great job of portraying her on screen and I would absolutely watch a full series with her as the title character. Arrow did a good job of translating her powers into live action and I would love to see them explored at length.  Although maybe redesign her costume so it doesn’t look like the wardrobe department bought it at the X-Men: First Class rummage sale.

After Oliver and Felicity leave a physical therapy session with Curtis’ husband, whom it was good to meet and get more back story on Curtis, they are approached by Damien Darhk who tell them that he has kidnapped William. Felicity, of course, asks who William is and Oliver is forced to tell her he was a 10-year old son.  Felicity is clearly shaken by this revelation and Oliver’s grave only gets deeper as Felicity finds out more and more people knew about William before her, including Malcolm Merlyn.  I think that was the final straw for Felicity.  At the end of the episode Felicity takes off her ring, tells Oliver she can’t do it anymore, gets up and walks out the door.  Yes…. Felicity can walk again! Thank you Curtis!  As great as it is to see her walk again I think is way too quick.  Curtis only have her the chip last episode and at the beginning of this episode she falls down after one step.  I get that it was a great scene seeing her literally walk away from Oliver but when looking back it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny.

The action in this episode was on par with what Arrow puts out on a weekly basis although nothing particularly stood out to me as amazing. Some rough spots did stick out to me though….  The scene where Oliver zip-lines between buildings was CG and it looked a little dodgy as well as the scene where Vixen flips over Darhk to steal his totem, that CG was just bad.  “Well that happened.”  Indeed Damien, indeed.  And speaking of the totem, I know a magic totem is the source of Vixens power so she sees it easily but how have the main heroes not figured out that Damien also has a magic totem until now?  Seems like something Constantine could have mentioned when he was in town.  (The line about Constantine LITERALLY being in hell was hysterical [for several reasons]).  And, again, speaking of not figuring things out that are right before your eyes, does Darhk really not know that Oliver and Co., are really Green Arrow and Co.?

Despite some dodgy computer graphics and some plot contrivances, this was another solid episode of Arrow.

Other notes:

  • It was really refreshing to see Oliver almost immediately cop to being Green Arrow to help calm Samantha down when she’s questioning how he will find William.
  • I can clearly tell, in this episode at least, that when Oliver and Darhk are fighting that Oliver is fighting a stunt double not Neal McDonough. Wig department needs to step it’s game up.
  • Why does anyone trust Malcolm Merlyn anymore? Seriously. I love John Barrowman and would like to see him continue on Arrow in some capacity  (until they write Captain Jack Harkness back onto Doctor Who as Capaldi’s companion for a full season, please and thank you) but people need to stop trusting him.
  • Dawwww, William’s new favorite hero is Green Arrow. Proud papa moment for Ollie.
  • I still think Samantha is going to be the one in the grave at the end of the season and William will have to come live with Oliver who will eventually train him in a pseudo Batman-and-Robin relationship.

 

WildeBeard’s Rating: – PATCHY BEARD – A mostly decent beard with a few all-to-noticeable bald spots.

The Flash: Season 2/Episode 15 – “King Shark”

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WARNING THIS IS A SPOILER REVIEW!

“We’re gonna need a bigger Flash.”

So how does a show follow up two amazing episodes like “Welcome to Earth 2” and “Escape from Earth 2”?  With an equally impressive episode with humor, heart, and a huge reveal that all comes together to feel like a turning point in the season.

One of the best things about The Flash, is the way the actors and writers handle emotion and emotional situations. Since day one the series has had a through line about loss and the relationships between father and son and that is on full display this week.  The decision made by Barry, Cisco, and Wells to not talk about the events that happened on Earth-2 clearly weigh much heavier on Barry and Cisco than they do on Wells.  As the episode progresses we see Barry withdrawn and almost standoffish (especially with Wally) and we see Cisco grow paranoid that the loss of Jay Garrick has sent Caitlin down the dark path to villainy like her Earth-2 doppelganger, Killer Frost.

When Barry finally breaks down and talks to Iris and Joe about what happened to their doppelgangers and his relationships with them, it comes as both as a release of burden for Barry and an admittance of guilt, at least in his eyes.  A lot of Barry’s character arc in this episode comes from him dealing with the guilt of having blood on his hands and the loss of life that surrounds him.  In the moment at their house, Iris and Joe try to tell him that it’s not his fault but he doesn’t really hear them.  That all leads to one of the best moments of the episode.  Once the battle with King Shark is over, Barry and Diggle have a moment alone and Barry tells Diggle how he feels.  Diggle tells Barry that he knows exactly how he feels, having lost brothers in the field, telling him that it is perfectly natural to feel that way and to own that feeling and get better to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Cisco is also heavily affected by the events that took place while on Earth-2.  Cisco saw the complete opposite of one of his best friends be cruel, homicidal, and uncaring instead of the warm, charming, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly person that she is on Earth-1.  After the surprising death of Jay Garrick at the hand (literally) of Zoom at the end of the previous episode, Caitlin has again lost some one that she loved (or at least was beginning to love). Like an emotionally healthy human, she grieves of this newest loss but Cisco takes her grief as a sign her becoming Killer Frost. Cisco continues to overreact and it eventually comes to a head when he lets slip about Earth-2 and tells Caitlin about her doppelganger and how afraid he is of her becoming Killer Frost.  Caitlin of course reassures him that she is still very much herself and just grieving over Jay.  The overreaction by Cisco in this really shows how much he cares about her and how deep their friendship goes. It’s good to see strong male/female friendships that are completely platonic.

It was great to see King Shark return and get an episode as the Monster of the Week.  Like Gorilla Grodd before him, the CG looks awesome especially on a TV show’s budget.  The only time that it looked odd or off to me was the scene where King Shark jumps out to attack the “bait Flash” on the buoy. My favorite scene with him was the final battle, when he is chasing Barry in the ocean and there is a slow-mo shot of him leaping out of the water with lightning all around. Very well done scene. One of the few problems I did have with this episode was that King Shark clearly says that he can smell the Flash when he’s breaking down the West house but then all our heroes can’t figure out how he found Flash.  It’s nitpicky but a clear “whoopsy daisy”.

Wally and Barry’s relationship in this episode is clearly strained but I’m not sure if that’s from Barry’s emotional state in this episode or something deeper.  It’s clear to see that Wally is, in a way, jealous of Barry because it seems like everyone thinks Barry walks on water. (Technically he can run on water but you get what I’m getting at.)  Hopefully we see their relationship mature sooner rather than later and I think Joe’s speech at the end of the episode about how Barry and Wally are both his son’s will go a long way towards that.  It will also be very interesting to see how Wally takes it, if and when he finds out Barry is the Flash and if and when he gets powers of his own.  I’m also curious if Jessie will become Jessie Quick this season.  It would be very cool to see a speedster Battle Royale as they all fight Zoom.

And speaking of Zoom…. HOLY CRAP!  Zoom is Jay?!?! Which Jay is he? Earth-2 Jay? Earth-1 Jay?  Earth-X Jay?  Jay split in half? Jay that needs to eat a Snickers? At this point there is no telling what’s going on, only that finding out who’s behind the mask raises more questions than it answers.

WildeBeard’s Rating: – FULL BEARD, THICK AND LUXURIOUS – A great looking beard in a long line great looking beards.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 2/Episode 15 – “Homecoming”

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SPOILER WARNING! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! (MAYBE ALSO WARNINGS!)

 

I’ve been watching through The X-Files on Netflix since I never followed it when it was originally airing and I have noticed that there are two main types of X-Files episodes: Mythology and Monster of the Week where the Mythology episodes deal with the main plotline of the whole show (the government and alien life) and the Monster of the Week episodes are rather self-explanatory.  Along the same lines, I’ve also found that Star Wars Rebels has three main types of episodes: Mythology – Empire v Rebellion, Mythology – Jedi and Force User, and Adventure of the Week.  I think that “Homecoming” falls into the first category.

“Homecoming” focuses on the crew of the Ghost embarking on a mission to steal an Imperial carrier so they can get their fighters into and out of space battles easier, however there is an issue.  The carrier is stationed over Ryloth and the leader of the Rebel cell there is Cham Syndulla, the resistance leader we saw back in The Clone Wars show and also, as it turns out, Hera’s estranged father.  It doesn’t take long for us to figure out why they’re estranged as they have different ideas about how to fight the Empire.

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Daddy issues – Not just limited to the Skywalker family

Cham wants to keep the fight on Ryloth and free his people while Hera focuses on the bigger picture and work with the Rebellion to fight the Empire on a larger scale.  This difference in ideals comes to a head when Cham wants to destroy the carrier so all of Ryloth can see it burn while Hera wants to steal it to help the Rebellion.  The two groups seemingly agree that the better plan is to let the crew of the Ghost steal the carrier but as the plan is set into motion, Cham and his group turn on Hera, knocking them out with stun blasts while they go to set charges in the munitions rack and the engine room. Now our heroes fighting both Cham and the Empire for control of the ship.  Next to the carrier, there is also an Imperial Light Cruiser that sends out fighters and a shuttle to try and take the carrier back and to save themselves, both our heroes and Cham’s group have to set aside their differences to win the day. In the end Hera gets the carrier to the Rebellion and the Light Cruiser is destroyed and goes down in a fireball for all of Ryloth to see.

The outcome of the episode was rather predictable, as was the betrayal by Cham’s team but in the end I’m not sure I care.  The episode was well done and I care enough about all the main characters to stay invested in the story. The arguments between Cham and Hera were also compelling, you could see where both of them were coming from and felt that both truly believed that they were in the right. All in all a great character story for Hera.

A couple other great character moments came when Ezra and Kanan were using the Force to throw each other down the long corridors as the blast doors were closing off the sections.  I love seeing those two become more in tune with the Force (Kanan reconnecting with it and Ezra learning how to wield it) and more in tune with each other as Master and Apprentice.  Ezra using the Jedi Mind Trick was also well done.  If I have one nitpick, it’s that in the last episode Ezra almost died because he couldn’t use the Force to stop himself from falling and Kanan had to save him.  There’s a little bit of a disconnect between that episode and this one as far as Ezra’s control of the Force.  Not a huge thing but something I noticed watching the 2 episodes within a day of each other.

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“Today’s Jedi lesson – grabbing a roll when you’re stuck on the toilet. Tomorrow – Getting the remote after you’ve already sat down.”

Ok – Two nitpicks.  I swear they reused a shot in this episode.  In the space battles, there’s a shot where a TIE fighter moves from right to left across the screen and a turret follows it across and blasts it right when it gets to the upper left corner of the screen.  I’m pretty sure they just replaced the TIE fighter with a TIE bomber later in the episode and reused that sequence.  I should have rewound to confirm but I’m 95% sure that’s what happened.

All in all, a better than average episode of Star Wars Rebels but I do hope we get into some meaty Jedi stuff pretty soon.

WildeBeard’s Rating: FULL BEARD WITH A SOPHISTICATED GREY STREAK– Standard full beard seen on many a man but with a streak of grey that conveys a little extra character.

Arrow: Season 4/Episode 14 – “The Code of Silence”

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Man this was, as always, a packed episode of Arrow and, also as always, it was packed with both good and bad.  Let’s unpack this one.

BUT BEFORE WE DO… SPOILERS ABOUND READ WITH CAUTION

Arrow has always had some humor but before this season it was a little more self-serious especially last season (which I think we can all agree was the weakest) and it seems like Season 4 is finding more and more room for humor.  Maybe The Flash is rubbing off on its older sister show or maybe DC is learning that it can’t be up its own ass all the time. Regardless of which, it’s good to see quips, sarcasm, and even a little slapstick soften Arrow up a bit.  I loved the glitter spewing wedding invite.  Another great moment of levity came when Captain Lance thanked Diggle for the “needlepoint” after suturing his cuts in the Arrow Cave. (Arrow-cave? The Quiver?)

The action was on par with what Arrow usually brings to the table and we got a good bit of it to boot.  Even though I don’t always buy that Laurel and Thea have had enough training to go toe to toe with the likes of Hive or the League of Assassins, I guess that’s part and parcel with a group highly trained Hive operatives not being able to gun down one lone guy in an open parking lot as he runs away and they’re all using fully automatic weapons.  Maintaining a deep suspension of disbelief is basically table stakes for super hero shows so if I’ve committed this long why nitpick now? I’ll be very interested to see what type of battle wounds Laurel is sporting next episode as that nail gun seemed to do a number on her face.  Also, the magnetic field generator gadget that Diggle used to repel the sledgehammer the second time he fought Sledge Hammer Guy was fantastic.  Diggle needs more gadgets.

Speaking of Diggle, I think his costume is really growing on me.  When I first saw promo pics of it, I thought it looked like Magneto’s and Boba Fett’s helmets had a baby and Diggle had an unhealthy obsession with black leather.  I’m also really happy that Diggle, as well as Felicity, finally got codenames with Spartan and Overwatch (because Oracle was taken dontcha know). It always bugged me that both of their real names were clearly spoken aloud by the team while they were in the field.  Seems like someone could have easily overheard that and put together who Arrow and crew really are.

A couple of continuous tracking shots stood out to me this episode – the shot of Damien Darhk and his wife, Ruve Adams walking down a hall, then down stairs, and then across a room as well as the shot of Laurel and Captain Lance have to escape the exploding, collapsing building. I don’t think we’ve seen long, complicated, one-take shots like that on Arrow before and if we have then they weren’t nearly as memorable as these, especially the shot in the exploding building.

One thing I’ve noticed about Arrow is that the writers like to use parallel storylines, one big storyline across the whole season or part of the season and one smaller story line that only lasts the episode at hand.  This was on full display this week with the Oliver and his son, William, and with Captain Lance and Donna.  We know that Oliver can’t tell anyone about his son because that was the ground rule Samantha Clayton laid out when Oliver found her and Oliver agrees to it because he knows that it will help keep William safe from Green Arrow’s enemies.  That season long storyline is paralleled in this episode with Captain Lance feeling the need to lie about having gambling debts to Donna, his girlfriend/Felicity’s mother, in order to deliberately push her away to keep her safe from Damien Darhk.   Donna immediately sees right through Lance’s lies and leaves but they later reconcile at Oliver and Felicity’s engagement party, where Lance tells her the truth.  Donna forgives him and then all is well again.  I want to believe that this is indicative of what will eventually happen with Oliver and Felicity but he has been living a much bigger lie. Also the fact that in the graveyard flash-forward scene, Felicity is no longer wearing a ring puts a bit of a damper on that hope.

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I sense a Quiver in the Arrow-Cave…..  

Now let’s talk about the completely unexpected, emotion bomb that got dropped in our laps at the engagement party.  Curtis Holt gives Felicity a microchip as a present and as soon as Felicity, and the audience, question it Curtis makes us all tear up a bit.  It’s not just a microchip but an “implantable biostimulant” designed to help Felicity walk again, maybe even in time to walk down the aisle.  What the hell Arrow?  I didn’t think I’d cry watching this but damn if you don’t know exactly how to pull a guy’s heart strings.  I fully expected Felicity to walk again but not so soon and definitely not like that.  Way to completely surprise us guys.

Side note:  Oliver calling Curtis “terrific” gives me hope that we will actually see Curtis suit up as Mr. Terrific this season.

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Yes, we all need this to happen! Get on it CW!

Like I said at the top, Arrow often has good and bad and now that we’ve covered the good…..

The flashback sequences…..  I’m kind of over them.  I understand that that is the format for the show but the flashback stories truly peaked in Season 2 with Slade Wilson/Deathstroke.  This season’s flashback storyline has been better than Season 3 but I still feel like it’s just kind of there.  Sometimes the writers use that to give us back story on present day plots, like Andy’s history in the military, or introduces us new characters that show up in present day, like Constantine, but overall the flashbacks have become the weakest part of the show.  I wonder if they will do away with them after Season 5 since that’s how long Oliver was supposedly on the island, even though he was off it for most of Season 3.

 

WildeBeard’s Rating: FULL BEARD WITH BALD SPOT – When a guy has nice, thick, full beard but there’s that one spot that just won’t fill in.

P.S. – VIXEN LOOKS AWESOME IN THE TRAILER FOR NEXT WEEK!

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Grey’s Anatomy: Season 12/Episode 9 – “The Sound of Silence”

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“What happens when a TV show aborts an idea?”

More like the sound of silence followed by the death kneel of what could have been a great hour of television.

The premise of this episode is that Meredith is brutally assaulted by a trauma patient and spends the rest of the episode recovering. Cool. It’s been done before but should make for a decently compelling 45ish minutes of television. Let’s pull it up in the DVR and hit play.

We open with Meredith in her classroom teaching and she, as per usual, is narrating over top of everything to set the stage for the episode.  As the camera focuses on Dr. Penelope Blake, Penny Meredith begins talking about how women are less likely to speak up in certain setting because they get overrun or interrupted by male colleagues, The is especially poignant as it was Penny’s  lack of speaking up that was ultimately the fatal blow in the death of Derek Shepard, Meredith’s husband.  Ok – I like it, I see where this episode is going and that the show as a whole is continuing the development of the relationship between Meredith and Penny.

Then we cut to Meredith, Maggie, and Karev stuck in traffic on the way to work.  After realizing that there is a huge wreck in front of them causing the traffic, they all get out to run to help and end up riding to the hospital in the ambulances.

Now at the ER, Meredith is in an enclosed trauma room treating a patient with a handful of other doctors, nurses, etc. and then as the patient stabilizes Meredith ends up being alone in the room with the patient. Ok here we go.  The patient, after having a seizure, is in a sort of fugue state, lashes out and brutally beats Meredith.  This is where the episode starts to lose me a little bit.  Rather than staying in the room and showing us the full on assault, we start to see outside of the room where the ER is super noisy so no one can hear the commotion inside the trauma room.   We also see the blinds moving as the assault continues but all in all we really see a minimal amount of violence given the damage done.

To me, Grey’s Anatomy is usually one of those shows that doesn’t pull its punches and in this instance, it definitely pulled a lot of punches.  A large part of this episode is meant to force the audience to look at things from Meredith’s perspective and to undercut that by not making us watch the full assault just serves to get the episode off on the wrong foot.

Penny is the one that finds Meredith after the assault is over and as her fellow doctors start to treat Meredith, we start to experience things from her perspective.  We get first person camera angles, medical instruments and flashlights coming right at the screen, doctors talking right at us – looking into the camera, but most importantly we experience deafness because, as one of her myriad injuries, Meredith has lost her hearing.

To this viewer, that’s a cool premise for a show and it was executed well until it was completely abandoned.

For about 20 minutes of run time we, the audience, get to experience what it must be like to be incapacitated and deaf in a hospital bed.  There are scenes of doctors looking at x-rays and talking amongst themselves as if you weren’t in the room and when they do turn to look at you, it’s with pity and sadness.  There are scenes where people are talking directly to you, clearly trying to comfort and reassure you but it does no good because you can’t understand them. It was some really good, inventive storytelling and then it happened…..  Meredith got her hearing back and the show lost some of its luster.

A good idea cut off at the knees. Maybe even a great idea given how people watch TV these days. Eyes glued to their phones, half listening at the show playing in the background, only looking up when something snaps their attention away from Facebook, Pintrest, Snapchat, or whatever.  But a show where you have to give all of your attention to it because there is no sound….  That draws an otherwise ADD audience back in and forces them to watch.  It grabs them and holds them.

But as quickly as it grabs the audience it lets them go again.  A very Meredith-centric story gives way to catching the audience up on other plot threads and reminding them of what the other characters are up to.

-April and Jackson are still fighting and he wants a divorce and she doesn’t.

-Amelia and Meredith are angry with each other and Amelia falls off the wagon.

-Jo and Karev are on the rocks a bit because he has become Yang’s replacement as Meredith’s “person”.

All worthwhile plot threads and ones that should be followed, just not in this episode.  I get the show took a three month winter break and you need to level set after being off the air that long but forcing this episode to fulfill that need takes away all the room that Meredith’s story needed to breathe.  The full runtime of this episode should have been devoted to the assault, its aftermath, and executing on a creative storytelling idea.

A show breaking its own mold to tell a story in a different way is absolutely nothing new.  One of the strongest examples that comes to mind is the Family Guy Episode “Brian & Stewie” (Season 8 Episode 17) in which the titular characters get locked in a bank vault for the entire episode.  This episode broke away from the normal Family Guy set up by having no cut away gags, no music, no song and dance for the opening credits, only featuring two characters (both voiced by show creator Seth MacFarlane) and letting its usual inflammatory humor and style of storytelling fall by the wayside to tell a rather heartwarming story of two best friends connect on a deeper level by helping each other make it through the weekend and exploring hard-to-talk-about subjects like suicide. It’s a great example of an already remarkable show finding a way to stand out even further.

But the key to “Brian & Stewie” is following through on the concept and that’s where “The Sound of Silence” fell apart.

WildeBeard’s Rating: QUITTER BEARD – When a guy has a nice beard going, stupidly grabs a razor and only ends up with razor burn.