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Archive for March 7, 2023

TV catchup, end of February

I think it’s fair to say that the Flash bounced back after that a miserable second episode. The red death has her team of rogues going after a special super secret macguffin And the Flash needs to get there  first. However, he can’t be seen as the Flash, breaking into a Secret military facility, so hes gonna need to assemble a team – and not the usual suspects from team Flash, but perhaps.. villains?

I’ve got to say, this is a really smart way of bringing back old faces and still prolonging the whole farewell tour. We got a lot of this last season when they thought it was the end, and We got to say goodbye to a lot of the regulars. A lot of heroes…. whereas this time around, the familiar faces tend to be the bad guys. They’re fun bad guys as well, and it’s just enormous fun to watch these two groups of rogues battle out. Boomerang and the fiddler Versus the piper and goldface and Volcano dude…it’s just fun. And really, that’s what the Flash has always been when it’s at its best.

So what’s my reaction to discovering we’ve got Ryan Wilder, Batwoman herself under the mask of the red death? My knee jerk reaction is always going to be annoyance that they’re changing the comic character.. but in this context, I find myself less frustrated than usual. It actually kind of makes sense, with us tying up loose ends… and basically putting the arrowverse to bed. The thing about the arrowverse , while Arrow may have started the series, the Flash has always been the heart of that universe. He’s where we go to cross over. Barry was the firstst character to cross over to Supergirl, and that was the same year that we had our first cross over between Green Arrow and The Flash. It also makes sense with them being one of the last men standing. We’ve already had references to Kara and CatCo from the long cancelled Supergirl series, so Reminding us of those connections to Batwoman and Gotham city makes a lot of sense. Enough to mitigate my annoyance over the “sticking the girl in the man’s costume” trope, and kind of going rogue with the character again. It’s not just a capricious change either. As we see in the next episode, there’s been a lot of thought put into this. Alternate universes, and giving Wilder a real mad-on for Barry… and maybe a justified one. Indeed, I feel like Javicia Leslie actually has more characterization and a better chance to really chew the scenery and stretch her acting chops out here then she was ever given on Batwoman. I like this. I like her as a villain. I’m I’m still looking forward to each episode.

As we delve deeper into the red deaths origins, We get some real universe shaking stakes… and we’re getting it pretty early in the season. Then again, with only a 1/2 Season order this year, I suppose 5 issues in and we better start ramping things up. We’re a 3rd of the way through our final year!

And that’s the thing, I’m gonna stand by my statement that the Flash all of a sudden got pretty good. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been racing towards the end of the series now for the last 2 years, and that’s the sort of thing that makes you bring your A game. It makes me happy to think that the Flash is actually going to go out on top.

I checked out a new series this week. My wife watches the Curse of Oak Island every week, and it’s been followed by a series called History’s Greatest Heists. I’m a sucker for Pierce Brosnan in the first place, but throw him in with some true crime? This looks tailor made for me. Nevertheless, I’ve been slow getting to it. However it’s, this week they were recapping the Lufthansa heist. It’s a good solid retelling of the story, with way more detail than you’d get if all you’re familiar with is Goodfellas. I’m liking this so far. It’s not appointment viewing. It’s absolutely DVR fodder, much like The Food that Built America (which I’m also hopelessly behind on!) But still, I’m enjoying it, and eager to dig through the back catalog.

The Mandalorian came back this week, and all I’ve heard from anyone is that it was slow. I suppose I understand that, because they do spend a great deal of time getting themselves back to speed. That hiatus for a couple of years was just far too long. between The long break, as well as the meddling we saw Kathleen Kennedy eject into Book of Boba Fett, not to mention the firing of Gina Carano and the drastic change in Baby Yoda story… Just 1 or 2 of those things could absolutely sink a show. The fact that The Mandalorian manages to rise above all of them and restart is a Testament to how strong a concept this series is (And this is coming from some of those not really even a Star Wars fan…. and certainly was never as Is fascinated by Boba Fett as the rest of the fandom is).

The Mandalorian works on its return because it evokes a nice, comfortable feeling of being reunited with old friends. The familiar faces let you sink right back in and engage. It feels like picking up where we left off as if no time had passed…. making it all the more baffling that they didn’t lean into this approach with the sequel trilogy! It is very much a setup episode. A restablishment of the worlds and reintroducing the characters. Finally, it sets up this season’s quest. In some ways, it is still by the numbers… but it’s television, and that kind of predictability is actually exactly what I want here.

One of the standouts  for this season already though, is the music. In television, the music tends to be light background and flat and boring. The goal is to enhance the mood without being noticed. This year, that music is absolutely getting noticed… with strong themes and lines announcing itself and the scene. I think I want a soundtrack.

And then, there’s Picard.

Look, I was done with Star Trek, period. I was not giving these guys another chance. The current regime running the series had spat in the faces of the fans too many times. Nothing coming out of Secret Hideout was remotely recognizable as Star Trek. The closest they were coming was Prodigy, and still… no.

It took well over a dozen people to convince me to give this a chance. Voices that I respected, more than a few people who were every bit as disenfranchised as I’ve become. Even then, I turned the TV on and sat with clenched teeth, crossed arms, and a scowl on my face. I warned my family, “I’m probably gonna be in a bad mood in an hour or so”.

A reminder of the EXACT moment I gave up on Star Trek – when the writers flat out told us what they think of us.

At first glance, it just looks like more of the same. Same dim lighting, same PEW! PEW! Same S and F bombs. But then you star listening. You start watching…and you start…noticing things. You star to notice that Patrick Stweart is acting like…..well, he’s actually acting like Jean-Luc Picard. So are the others. Jeri Ryan is acting more like Seven of Nine that we’ve seen in ages. Johnathan Frakes isn’t just being a gloomy gus, he’s acting like Will Riker with all the bluster and bravado we’ve come to expect (and if anyone has cause to act grumpy it’s him. his back must surely hurt  from carrying this series) but haven’t actually seen except for a brief moment at the end of Picard Season one. You know EXACTLY what moment I’m talking about. When Riker shows up with a fleet of ugly Kurtzman-ships to rescue Picard and company (In a scene that was actually a reshoot- and originally featured Lady Admiral Hubris). Yeah. It’s that Riker we’re seeing, and every bit of chemestry that he had with Stewart is still there.

Oh and ugly Kurtzman-trek ships? Gone. Star Trek is once again the rightful repository of the most beautiful ships in science fiction. And about zarking time.Ship design was always Star Trek’s great strength, but the last ten years have been filled with flat boats with all the personality of a paper airplane. No, the titan and the unnamed Crusher vessel are gorgeous. Starfleet clean with recognizable design. I can literally feel my body relaxing as I see them – it’s a similar feeling that I had back when the TIE Fighters and Millennium Falcon first showed up in The Force Awakens after decades of prequel era ships that just felt like an unrecognizable mess of jumbled pixels.

I got through the first episode without shouting obsenities at the screen once. I don’t understand this. I’m not used to this. In fact, I was actually caught by the cliffhanger and found myself kind of looking forward to the next episode.

Wait a minuet! Did I just say that??? What the fluff is wrong with me! That’s not…I…. That’s can’t be the right sentence. You know what? Let’s just move on.

A sort of roaming Doctor on the frontier, Beverly Crusher has found herself and her son (no, not, him. She’s squeezed out a new and improved version who isn’t nearly as irritating as Wil Wheaton). She sends out a distress call to Picard, who enlists the help of Will Riker and off they come to the rescue. Of course it’s not that simple. Riker is a Captain, but one without a ship. His plan is to scam the new Captain of the Titan to take them out to the edge of Federation space and “borrow” a shuttle.Of course once they rescue Doctor Crusher – the people chasing Her and now chasing them and the Titan. It’s a monster of a ship populated with thugs and bounty hunters who aren’t impressed with Picard, The Titan or Starfleet.  The face off is another one of those cliffhangers that makes me wish I could just instantly go on to the next one….

Okay seriously. Can we figure out where those strange sentences are coming from? Because now it’s starting to freak me out.

With episode 3, we start to get deep into the characters and storyline. A conspiracy is afoot and not everyone on the ship is what they may seem. There’s a reason why The bounty ship keeps managing to follow the Titan, evenin the nebula where sensors don’t work. Back on Earth, Raffie is getting acquainted with Worf…. her handler. This is where things actually start to get interesting. Raffie was never particularly a fan favorite…. she’s always been written dower and accuseatory. It seemed like her main purpose in the first season was to be an addict, and to constantly criticize Picard… To put him in his place. Her interactions with Worf were far different. Worf dosen’t have time forany of that. He is firm and decisive. He’s still respectful, but hes not taking any of her crap. Interestingly enough, this has a positive effect on her character. It uplifts her in a way that Picard’s wishy washy approach never did. All of a sudden, their mission to unravel the conspiracy on this end of space gets interesting. It’s all due to Michael Dorn’s performance as Worf, and the way that it makes everyone around him really bring their  A game.

But then there’s this moment… Picard is finally face-to-face with Beverly Crusher. They’re alone, and he needs answers about this lost son of his that hes never met. He’s upset, angry even… and justifiably so. Crusher points out that they had just broken up for the 5th time, it wasn’t going to work. She wanted to tell him she was pregnant, but right at that moment he gotten kidnapped by romance. By the time they’ve retrieved him five days later….

“And is that all I had?” he asks.”A five day window?”

Crusher then points out and attempts on his life by a Reman sect, and then he was off to negotiate a peace treaty…

“I lost my Husband and my son to those same stars,” Beverly protests. (I suppose. Westly isn’t dead, but he’s not quite human anymore either, but rather a travler)  and she suggests, she knew she could protect HER son from those kind of things, but not PICARD’S son…

The explanation isn’t quite good enough for Picard, He still points out that she took away his choice about whether or not he wanted to be a father said this young man.  She responds that he never wanted kids, at least that’s what he told her. After all,  he was afraid he’d be abusive like his father. Picard erupts in a rage.

“How dare you do something that was told to you in confidence to rationalize your own choice here!”

He asks why she couldn’t have had faith in him… he suggested that he could have gotten out of active duty, taken a less dangerous job so he could be that father to Jack. Crusher isn’t sure she agrees.

Here’s the thing. This is exactly when the show proves that it’s actually classical Star Trek. You see, in this argument, they’re both right. They’re also both wrong. There’s two sides to this question, two sides of the same coin, and the show explores them equally. It wants to have the conversation. Much like classic star trek, it wants to MAKE you think. Unlike current star trek which tells you WHAT to think. I will flat out say that in previous seasons of Picard, and all Discovery for that matter… the same conversation would gone very differently. Picard would have shrunk away, apologizing, and admitting that he doesn’t have any argument or justification. That he was wrong, and his entire perspective is wrong. He would immediately defer to the nearest female in higher authority.

To watch this instead, to see this man and this woman, both hash it out as equals , It’s something that’s long been missing from Star Trek.

Thats the thing. Picard is actually good. I mean it’s really stinkin’ good and I’m not sure how to process that. I didn’t go in with any hope. I didn’t even go in wanting to like it (and I’d like to think that most of the time I’m more fair than that, but I’ll admit I wasn’t this time). Picard had a high bar to clear just to get my attention..and it did it. I don’t know if this is a turning point. I’m not optimistic enough for that. But I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. For now….for RIGHT now. I’ll sit back and be content for this brief moment I can actually enjoy Star Trek for a change….because who knows? This time may never come again.

At least, not until Prodigy returns!