Week of 6-8-22
Oh wow, Superman and Lois just went full on soap opera this week. I mean it. It’s nothing but drama… With a little bit of superheroics tacked on in the last 12 minutes or so. This may actually be the first bad episode they’ve had… And quite frankly, you can skip it. Anything that was important in this episode will almost certainly be recapped when the shower turns on June 22. I’ve got to admit though, for the series to have gone some 35 episodes or so and only so now hit a bad one, it’s actually pretty good. Supergirl jumped the shark almost immediately in her second season, and this is way better produced than that. It’s not enough to put me off, but yikes. They’re making up for turning the soap opera dial down a little bit the last couple episodes this week.
One thing that I am noticing though and it bears mentioning is the character of Kyle Cushing… Lana‘s husband. Lana and Kyle are currently separated because she discovered he cheated on her years ago while he was still drinking. In general, I don’t side with cheaters. I despise them. And even when I can understand the events that led to it, I am always on the side of the person who got cheated on. That’s mostly true here as well, but what impresses me is the links to which Kyle is going to try and win Lana back, as well as being a good father and try and keep his family together. Early in that first season most of us pegged Kyle as the “grown-up frat boy“ or “craft beer douche bag“, “former high school football hero”. It would’ve been very easy for them to just slip into the abusive husband or bad dad or dumb Republican kind of tropes. Instead, they’ve given him a great deal of nuance. The fact they’re showing him trying so hard and actually being a good father… The fact that they’re treating him as a character instead of a caricature – they absolutely deserve props for that.
One of the criticisms I’ve been hearing about Obi-Wan is how much it’s reminding people of the last Jedi… Specifically comparing sad Luke Skywalker in exile and saying Ewan McGregor is kind of sad Obi-Wan also in exile. I can see where they’re coming from on this, but at the same time I think things like the Last Jedi, and the constant bait and switch tactics we’ve seen ramp up over the last few years, and a lot of the diversity stunt casting rather than organic diversity… I think all of that has made us more sensitive to things we probably would’ve dismissed 10 years ago. I think we really wouldn’t be looking at this quite so critically if it had come out say, right after the Force Awakens. Imagine this and rogue one coming out within a year of each other… and then giving us the second sequel, making us wait three years instead of two. In any event, I think some of those criticisms have been answered here. Because in episode four, Obi Wan is driven, and singularly minded. He is on mission and finally giving us the Jedi action hero that we’ve been waiting to see. It also restores something that’s been missing from the D+ SW shows. For me, growing up, I could never figure out who was the actual hero of Star Wars. Was it the space pirate Han Solo or the cosmic mystic Luke? I think that this balance of those two aspects was really the key to Star Wars success. When the prequels came out, we were really missing this as they overfocused on the Jedi, and they never quite figured out how to strike that balance in the sequels. at first it looked like Finn would become the new streetwise space cowboy, but then Disney couldn’t figured out what to do with him so they shrunk his role and his space on the poster (because China doesn’t like Black people) and basically turned him into little more than a damsel in distress for Rose Tico – really a disservice to both characters.
With the release of the Mandalorian, we finally had our gritty shooty bang bang space western hero back, but now, the Jedi were all but absent. Oh sure, we’d get a guest appearance here or there, but for the most part, they weren’t a big part of that story. Obi-Wan feels like the other side of that coin. Like we’re getting a little bit of each depending on which series you watch. I’d love to see the balance achieved a little bit more, but it seems that we may actually be getting somewhere here. I sure hope so. There’s a lot of people who have lost their love for Star Wars because of how mishandled it’s been, and Obi-Wan should’ve been a good step towards getting them back… If it’s not too far gone already.
Ms. Marvel premiered this week as well, and I’m of two minds about it. They definitely have their target audience… Leaning heavily into the fangirl, convention fiend sort of element. Indeed, the entire episode really centers around Kamala Khan and her friend trying to figure out how they’re going to get to avengers con, in the heart of the city. I recognize a lot of myself in this, especially recognize a lot of my daughter in this. I’m surprised however, at how much I also relate to the parents… And they are of course, cast as the unreasonable bad guys. That I don’t like. But then again, we’re not the target audience. (However, people my age also weren’t the target audience for Stargirl….and I was completely all in on that show pretty much from the word go)
Ms. Marvel is one of those characters that is moderately popular, but that Marvel wants to make way more popular… Much like the way they hype Captain Marvel. And this first episode is very much a Captain Marvel hype machine. I’m not sure how successful that’s gonna be, but then again, I’m not seeing a ton of stuff here that bothers me or that I’d object to in the first place. It’s also very early in the story, and we haven’t gotten much happening yet except introducing our characters and learning the source of Ms. Marvel’s powers.
The Orville seem to be full of homage this week. Every time we turn around, I kind of felt like I was watching something lifted from a bit of one episode of next generation or another. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re watching the Orville because it’s the best Star Trek out there right now… Which is saying something considering it’s not Star Trek.
The ships get permission to cross through Krill space… Those were the white and scaly bad guys from last year. Crossing through there and gives them access The areas of the galaxy previously unexplored… And everyone’s excited. Everyone but the Krill. When they learn that the Orville will be going through a dark expanse… Let’s just put it this way; they pray the last rights over them before they leave. They have legends about that area… Demons that possess people and hide unimaginable terrors.
That’s quite a set up. And it’s worth noting… They’re gonna pay this thing off in spades.
Just past Krill space, they come across an area that just seems like a void. There are no stars. It’s hard for sensors to penetrate, but undaunted, they had in. Inside this large dark cloud they find a bizarre looking space station. They’re explorers, it’s time to explore. Shuttlecraft is dispatched and the whole thing has a very Star Trek the motion picture feel to it. The tiny ship as it penetrates the black clouds, and then enters the looming space station. Watching the bizarre hatchways open in a sort of star/claw formation… And the essential alieness of it all.
Inside, I actually start to get extremely strong Borg vibes. The best of both worlds, where they’re exploring the ship and trying to figure out what different nodes and lights do in signify. what those notes do, is infect visitors. One of the away team is infected with a virus that completely rewrites his DNA and turns him into… Let’s just call it a monster. It’s very reminiscent of the episode of TNG where Barkley turns into a spider… Only there’s more of them, and as monsters go, they’re pretty horrifying. Perhaps too intense for broadcast television, but then again, the Orville no longer have to worry about that. Being on Hulu allows some fair that’s slightly more R-rated.
It’s interesting, because I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the sort of horror violence that we’ve seen in modern Star Trek… Myself included – though not quite so publicly – and yet here, it doesn’t bother me quite so much. Perhaps it’s because we’re dealing with monsters. There’s always been monsters on Star Trek… As opposed to watching people get their eyes gouged out by other people or watching a bunch of Falcons see a vision so horrible they blast themselves in the head with tasers… here, it’s just not so mean-spirited. Modern Star Trek is Saw, whereas the Orville is still the old-fashioned 80s slasher movie style or a 50s Wolfman flick. monsters, not cruelity. All of our characters get a chance to be heroic, and despite the other horror of the situation, the show and the crew still managed to retain an optimistic outlook. This is great stuff, and I am totally on board for the season. The weekly episodes… Honestly it’s the highlight of my week, much of the way Doctor Who used to be.
Another thing that’s striking me about the Orville is how distinct its ships look. The union ships them selves still have a lot of the Starfleet clean look to them… Definitely that same color scheme, But the design itself… Well, you’ll never mistake it for Star Trek. The same is true with a lot of the computer consoles, though everything else about the show really could be another TNG era spinoff. That of course is what has made this thing so strong. But I do sometimes find myself wishing for prettier ships… Then again, I was never a big fan of the look of the Enterprise D. The Orville is filmed exquisitely, almost to the point where I may actually like it better than the TNG flagship. Isn’t that strange?
The Flash is in a weird place this week. They kind of need half an episode to use as a bridge episode, connecting us to the greater storyline, but they also insist on throwing a big storyline that’s unrelated… And quite honestly, not that compelling. The B storyline involves the temporary editor at the central city citizen… And it’s another example of this show really dying to be and ensemble show, the problem is it’s not. The main character of the show… Well quite frankly his name is in the title. And he’s off on a secret mission… so in the mean time, the show is trying to push the supporting cast. Even worse, it’s the new supporting cast, not the characters that we really got attached to over the years. I understand, with this many episodes you do have to shuffle a little bit, but… they’re not pulling it off. We’ve had a really great run this season, but now, it’s almost like it’s catching up to them. Between this and the cast turnover, I know I keep vacillating back-and-forth, but it’s swung me back towards this should be
And man, it’s a good thing that television has been halfway decent lately, because there’s not a damn thing I want to read in comics right now.
Spider-Man number three is just depressing. It’s nice to get a recap of tombstone‘s origins, but man, that beat down Spidey takes… It bothers me kind of the way the beat down in Superman Returns bothers me. It’s just not what I want to see.
I tried to get the Poison Ivy issue this week a chance, but… Just ugh. I don’t recognize these characters anymore. And none of the politically charged pride books, or the new and improved justice league full of anything but what we’d actually like from justice league… Say Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman? (And the real ones I mean, not the great value brand that DC is currently trying to pass off). I mean, seriously, if Grant Morrison could get this right while hopped up on whiskey and amphetamines, chain-smoking a dozen clove cigarettes at once, this can’t be that hard.
At least Archer and Armstrong is still interesting enough. It’s really more of an alternative comic… And I like the direction they’re going this time around. And the current stories are trying to find a way to restore Armstrong’s immortality, and it’s been a lot of fun. Exactly the sort of weird alternative Loopy fun that this title has never gotten enough credit for.
Hopefully we get better next week.