Television, week of 3-15.
I don’t know how to talk about Star Trek Picard without just going back into gushing. That tends to get tedious really quick, so all I’ll say is.. wow. We discover that the changeling infiltration is far worse than anyone had imagined. Remember back in the middle of Deep Space 9? The episode homefront? It was a two parter with Sisko back on Earth, and the paranoia wrapping up as to how Many people might the changelings have already replaced, and how high up the fleet might be compromised. Turns out, there were only six changelings on Earth at that time, and what they really managed to do this stir up paranoia. Well, decades later, all of our greatest fears from that episode have in fact, come true. The changelings are everywhere, And they’ve evolved to the point where traditional blood screenings don’t show them. Trust no one.
By the way? Trust no one? It’s not just Doctor Crusher telling Picard that… it’s…
I’m not gonna tell you. I want you to watch this episode and if you’re a TNG fan, You are going to plotz.
So, remember last week when I was talking about The Mandalorian? When I was describing how Baby Yoda is essential and this theory is head really refocused? Well just throw all of that out the window. This week we’ve got a very good 10 minutes at the beginning, and an OK 10 minutes at the end, the problem is the 35 minutes in the middle which have nothing to do with anything. This week’s episode bookends the restoration of mando, tying up loose ends. By the way, I heard more about living water on this episode than I have anywhere since my day is back at Moody Bible institute. The main story however, the middle section, is all about the evil mad scientists that was going to do unspeakable things to baby yoda when mando 1st picked him up and delivered him to Moff Gideon’s people. I suppose it’s an interesting enough story, but it’s really not the sort of thing you can get away with in a short season. I’m not sure where this belongs. Indeed, it feels more like a comic book supplement or a novelization spin off then something that should be a part of the series proper.
Really, I don’t know what it is about this week, because the Flash is doing the same thing! We ship off Barry and Iris to one last romantic getaway before the baby comes. Their friends are gonna throw baby shower and all that kind of stuff but first, they have to contend with a young woman who was previously dead, but brought back to life during Crisis. When she was brought back, she discovered she has good luck powers, except recently they’ve gone awry. Now she’s at the center of a police investigation, her fiancee is in a coma and the local gangsters are trying to kidnap her because of a elaborate plot involving gambling debts and The local underground casino. Flash isn’t in this at all. In fact there’s no costumes in this at all, it’s like we’re back in the early 2000s when The CW still wanted to make super hero shows like Smallville and Birds of Prey, but were too ashamed of them to actually make them look like super hero shows. All of this should annoy me. The problem is, the story is just so cute and quirky, I chuckled all the way through it. Look, this is still a definite skip if you’re binging the series or trying to do a speed run, but it is the sort of thing that can get away with in the middle of a full season of network TV. Of course, The Flash isn’t getting a whole season, so i’m still not sure what they’re thinking here.
Finally, it’s the return of Superman and Lois. I feel like they’ve done some tweaking on the S on the costume perhaps? It looks a little different. But not as different as Jonathan Kent does! Oh man, this new actor is just all kinds of throwing me off. They’re not even really dressing him the same as the previous iteration. At least some blonde highlights in that hair probably would have helped.
telegraphs sets up a bunch of storylines that we’re gonna be seeing this season. A weird and cringe love triangle with Lana’s ex husband and Lois’s boss, Health problems and a pregnancy scare for Lois, and the continued weirdness in Sarah and Jordan’s relationship. That’s the one that annoys me the most. She wants space, and he’s supposed to be just wait around for her and be okay with that. To me it feels very much like Sarah is stringing him along, and it’s a little ugly. It makes me suspect that they’re prepping to dissolve her relationship with him and put her with a lesbian POC like they were setting up last year. Part of me is also betting it’s gonna be John Henry’s daughter. I just don’t like any of that. It’s an ugly way of treating both Sarah and Jordan. But perhaps I’m overreacting, I’ve been burned enough times that I spent a lot of the series just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like Picard, It’s been so good that I have a hard time believing they haven’t jumped the shark yet! Perhaps I should just unclench and enjoy myself while I can. The villain this time around was good, with a nice old fashioned look to him. “Ugly” Bruno Manheim is in the mix, and anytime you give me one of Kirby’s contributions to the Superman cast, it’s almost always brilliant.They don’t skimp on the action either. We get some good rescue action, and a spectacular knock-down-drag-out with Superman and the villain of the week. It’s everything that I ever asked for in a Superman show. We’ve got compelling hero action, and a great supporting cast of characters. Not to mention that the actress playing Clark and Lois are still knocking it out of the park. Tyler Hochen and Bitsy Tuloch may well become my definitive actors for these characters. They’re just that good.
I also fell down a rabbit hole this weekend. Remember a while back when I mentioned the film Nintendo Quest? Well there’s an entire series featuring Jay Bartlett, the protagonist of that documentary, and his action figure quest. You see, he’s trying to amass a collection of highly sought after action figures to auction off for a London hospital. It’s absolutely riveting. It’s the thrill of all the toy shows I go to but for a better cause. It’s familiar faces and spectacular settings – taking us all the way to Power Con (The ultimate He-Man convention in Anaheim CA – I desperately want to go and I know I’ll never be able to afford it!). I actually passed on this early on because it didn’t capture my imagination enough. Things looked different on this Saturday afternoon and I was channel flipping. It’s amazing and I can’t recommend it enough!
Wow! I’m not used to having this many programs to watch all at once! Kind of nice for a change. Can’t wait to see what happens next week. In the meantime, I’m gonna head back and finish my DVR of history’s greatest heists. I’ve never actually heard of the Museum of Natural History robbery before!
Last week! 3-11-23!
It’s pretty common knowledge that Baby Yoda was supposed to be basically written out of season 3 and a lot of the Mandalorian going forward. I’ve heard talk that the marketing department basically came to John Favro and told him “You can’t do that period it’s the only mech we can actually sell!”
Whatever happened, The Mandalorian definitely got the message and Baby Yoda is absolutely pervasive the series. He’s so ever-present to the point where he actually gets some of his own action, piloting a ship and going to get Bo Katan to rescue Mando. Mando on the other hand is wondering “How did I end up on the set of the Descent?”
It’s funny, because I watched The Mandalorian and Star Trek Picard back-to-back. It’s interesting to note how differently they both treat technology. I’ve never noticed it before, but star trek still tries to fill you with wonder at the high tech. The characters on screen are impressed and astonished by the bounty hunter ship. The method of communication that the bad guy uses to talk with her evil overlord is shocking. There’s a real healthy respect for technology and what it can and can’t do. On the other hand, Star Wars is very casual about its tech. We just assume that Baby Yoda’s antigrav stroller is just gonna float. It’s just a matter of fact that this stuff works. High Tech robots are sold with the same disdain and casual flare as a beat up ’89 Chevy. In star trek, technology is still a miracle, where it is in Star Wars it’s just a fact of their existence. I think it’s an interesting contrast.
Picard basically a bottle story this episode. Our heroes are trapped in a gravity well due the miscalculation on Picard’s part, and everybody’s going to die. It’s kind of an examination of what do you do when you know there is no hope…
Of course they eventually escape. I mean come on, we know we have another 5 episodes are so to go so that’s not really a surprise. What it is, is a chance to sit back and watch some character development. It’s an exposition heavy episode, but it doesn’t feel like it. It never drags, and because these are characters that you genuinely care about… and they’re acting in character, (Along with a few new fan favorites) It’s really just a nice little hang out at the bar with friends. That’s one of the things that I keep pointing out about how Picard really gets star trek right… for the first time In probably a decade and a half.
I remember talking a little bit last week about how the first part of the red death 2 partner here felt like it should have ended with that episode. I’m actually still of that same opinion. This second part felt a lot like filler to me, and when you’ve only got half a season, you really can’t afford to be wasting time on filler. Sure, there’s some shenanigans, with the Red Death duplicating herself like Agent Smith in the Matrix and then going all Minority Report on central city… but it still feels stretched out. Like we could have gotten this earlier. I almost wonder if this 2nd part was Entirely so that we could squeeze in a Batwoman cameo. For those who weren’t fans of the character of the show, it’s OK, it’s brief. But It really serves to showcase the service that Leslie was given a real disservice in that character. When Ruby Rose left, it always felt like they just reached out and grabbed the first lesbian they could to fill the suit. Add POC for a diversity upgrade…and that was it. That didn’t give Leslie a chance to really spread her wings as an actress, that didn’t give her a great deal of characterization beyond “gay and black”. I enjoy far more watching her chew the scenery as the Red Death. When you put this character with flaws and depth next to the fairly flat and bland Batwoman, it really becomes apparent that Leslie has a lot of talent that she just wasn’t given a chance to use in her own series. Despite being a bit of a filler episode, the Flash is maintaining a good baseline of quality, and I really am going to miss it when it ends. The news about Grant Gustin hanging up the suit for the final time last week really hit me. I’m gonna miss these characters, but after 9 years of it? It’s really a case of “Don’t be sad that it’s ending, be grateful that it happend.”
Speaking of things that I’m grateful are happening, The Food That Built America has just been piling up on my DVR. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten to this recently, because it’s just such a good show, and I caught up this weekend.
They’ve moved from a lot of stuff that you would expect… a lot of the staples of American food and are getting more specific. It’s not just breakfast cereal in general now, it’s Pebbles and Pop Tarts and Eggo waffles. We explore the origins of the Buffalo wing, And marshmallow peep. One of the things that really strikes me, is how recent a lot of these innovations are apparent if you’re a Gen Xer like me, you grew up always having holiday candy for each season. But a lot of that stuff got started within my parents lifetime. It’s Interesting to understand that Pop Tarts and leggo my Eggos were born right around the same time I was; indeed, just a few years earlier. It’s almost unthinkable to realize that until the last thirty years or so, nobody really ate chicken wings or Buffalo wings outside of New York. We tend to forget that wings only gained national prominence and came of age in the early nineties… around the same time I was coming of age myself. We take a lot of the stuff for granted, and this show is particularly good in reminding us of the rapid innovation and development of our society. It helps really put us in our place in history. That’s the thing that I’m thoroughly enjoying about it, and if you missed the first season, it’s usually in frequent reruns on the History Channel. Set your DVR and get to watching this. You won’t be sorry.
Week of 9-22-22
I finally did it! I finally got around to catching up on Stargirl! I’m not sure why I dropped off exactly… I know that Maddie wasn’t really interested in watching it much anymore, but honestly, I thought I Was way further behind than this. There were only four episodes left in the Summer School season, and maybe it’s just because we’re at the climax, but wow, did they deliver.
So, where were we? Eclipse it was free, he’d blasted shiv into oblivion, and was now in the process of haunting each of the JSA members. That’s not too big of a problem, because they’re each dealing with her own baggage. Yolanda still has guilt over killing Brainwave Jr, Beth is watching her parents marriage fall apart, and her only solace is the slight contact she’s managed to get with the original Doctor Midnight. Hourman’s hourglass is broken, and for some reason he’s developing a bond with Solomon Grundy… All of this is fertile ground for Eclipso to work in. Nevertheless, they manage to come together to try and defeat a clip so… And the process, Stargirl is blasted away. It’s pretty shocking, considering how close to the end of the series we are… But we discover that what’s happened is she’s been banished to a shadow realm. a sort of purgatory where Eclipso can toy with her and others, to feed off their negative emotions. It turns out, Shiv is also there… As well as Dr. Midnight. With the help of the shade end guidance from Dr. Midnights goggles, Courtney’s parents managed to rescue them, and heading for the final showdown.
It’s really good, really well done. The characters are rich and complex, and current politics, while sneaking in around the edges, are kept to a minimum… Kind of feels like the good old days.
With that finished, it’s time to move from the summer school season into the Frenemies season. I don’t know if this will be a full 22 episode run or another 13… I have to admit, doing the 13 episode runs has really worked for stalker all. It’s giving them just enough time to do what they need without bogging everything down with filler.
If I have any real complaint about the Frenemies season… It’s that they’re building it as a murder mystery, but the title doesn’t feel congruent with it. Frenemies is a very high school kind of term, well this is leaning heavily into the sort of Agatha Christie murder mystery milieu. On the other hand, it makes sense because the beast storyline is an exploration of whether or not villains can really change… Whether they can truly reform and become allies. This is a very superman take. I pointed this out both and superman and early Supergirl… That part of what they want to do is take the bad guys, find them and fix them… Maybe turn them into friends instead of enemies. Courtney’s cut very much from that same sort of mold… Really trying to embrace shiv and incorporate her into the justice society. Of course sports master and his wife have also moved in right next-door to her, complicating things more than a little bit. Artemis also wants a spot on the GSA… And let’s just say, her mother is quite insistent. Hon
She Hulk on the other hand is a whole different story.
I gotta tell you, it almost feels like a chore watching the show now. Like, I don’t want to give up considering how far into the season we are, and I’ve managed to stick it out this far… But the show is just such a disappointment. This week sees Jen at a wedding, and it really reinforces the whole victim complex that she constantly revels in. Everybody’s mean to her, nobody’s nice except for her… Course the fact that she gets raging drunk and then gets into a fight with a super villain… Well that’s not her fault. Titania hit her first right? Of course back in the B storyline, the assistant and the lawyer from last week are taking over her current case… A “mister immortal“ who can’t die… So he gets married to unsuspecting people, then once he’s gotten what he wants financially or if it just starts to go to Dale, he dies, which terminates the marriage contract, and then comes back to life. It’s one of these stories that you could almost watch them going down a checklist. Seriously, it’s custom made… A “men are bad“ story with room to display a conveniently diverse group of ex-wives… And one ex-husband. Everyone’s different ethnicity, and everyone has a different beef… And it’s just so intentionally politically correct that it knocks you right out of the story. If it had been a group of white haired ladies in their late 50s and 60s, it would actually ring more true and feed into the stereotype they’re going for. I’d also be more convinced if they looked similar. Same race, same general figure. And you can’t make them all black… Because that would just mean Mr. Immortal is a racist. But seriously, most guys have a type… Just look at Hugh Hefner.(sorry, but he’s on my mind because of the trashy podcast Holly and Bridget from the girls next-door are doing). That sort of guy who can get just about anybody he wants is going to go for the same type repeatedly. Doesn’t have to be blonde and busty like Hefner, but skinny, fat, African-American, Latino, men… This is not a natural pattern, and again, it’s smacks of a diversity checklist Rather than organic chemistry, and it’s so jarring that it yanks me right out of the story.
Not there’s really much story here to begin with. She hulk shows up at a wedding, gets to complain about how they don’t want her to be Seahawk at the wedding and take attention away from the bride… She feels like everybody’s being mean to her, Gets into a fight,and then goes home. Seriously, I had a bridesmaid like this. We kicked her out of the wedding party. It is true, that most of the people in this episode are portrayed as jerks and pretty bad folks… The problem is, so is Jen. I don’t like Jen… But I’m supposed to be following her and rooting for her. And that’s kind of the root problem with she hulk in general. She’s just written as such a jerk, and that’s not the Seahawk that I know. It’s a shame too, because I like she hulk. The CGI model looks just fine to me, and I can’t wait to see her team up with the fantastic four. But man, this version is just a drag.
It’s no wonder the show is hemorrhaging viewers, and even though I’m sticking with it for the sheer masochistic duty of it, it’s not one I could recommend. Ugh. Just give me more Stargirl instead.
Man, it’s all finales all day over here! Admittedly, I’m a little late. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but in the meantime I didn’t even know that Superman and Lois as well as the flash we’re both ending on the same week! When I referred to the penultimate episode in the last blog, turns out, I was actually accurate! There’s not a whole lot to say about Superman and Lois. They wrapped up the storyline, gave us a good climax, and then spent a good 15 minutes after all that tying up loose ends and resolving the whole thing. I enjoyed it. I also particularly enjoyed them slipping in what may be the most obscure Easter egg ever. If you know what that Miracle Monday banner actually refers to… You can absolutely be my friend.
The Flash on the other hand felt a little abrupt in it’s ending. The whole thing really sped along… No pun intended… In creating its own climax. I felt like I needed another two episodes or so, not surprising considering the season was only 20 episodes. The plague still affecting us and giving us shorter seasons I think. Nevertheless, it was a spectacular ending, with the ultimate fight between Flash and Thawn (Who’s your tailor? SATAN???) and you can genuinely see where this was designed to be a series finale. That may be one of the reasons it feels so rushed, because the renewal for this show came very late, and they were trying to tie it all off. Last minute changes had to be made so they could pull one more season out of this series, and I for one am actually glad. The Flash has actually really rebounded in the last season and a half, and I’m definitely up for one more ride. I swear, part of me thinks that the reason the movie keeps getting delayed is because the series just won’t die… Somewhere, somehow, Barry keeps messing with the timeline to make sure that the film doesn’t come out until the TV shows ready to end!
Ms Marvel may actually be the strongest of the Marvel shows right now. It’s almost as if Marvel discovered superhero action again… There’s still not enough of it mind you, but definitely more than what we got in WandaVision or Loki. Episode four gives us a pretty spectacular fight and chase, and they almost gave us a costume. Not quite, but almost get there. It’s back to a very talky story though once we hit episode five. It’s almost entirely made up of a flashback, going back to Kamala’s ancestors and more of the bracelets origins. It’s actually the exact sort of thing that would get cut if anybody was trying for anything resembling normal pacing. Indeed, I think the filler in these shows is a lot more onerous, because they’re such short series. When you got 22 episodes, yeah, give me a flashback episode. Let’s explore every bit of the history. When you’ve only got six episodes? Just put her in the mask and let me see her punching things. Still, the finale does that’s good. It’s a nice big chase, it’s a nice big fight, it almost feels divorced from a lot of the rest of the series. Come on was protecting the son of the ClanDestine leader… resolving in New Jersey the big adventure that we had in Pakistan. We also finally get the costume. Seriously, this has been one of the thanks it’s really annoyed and frustrated me in this series. Why do we wait till the very end, the last episode to get the costume? I was supposed WandaVision did a similar thing, but then again, it pissed me off there too!
Nevertheless, Ms Marvel seems to be the closest thing to getting it right that Marvel has done on television. It’s not there yet, and they still seem obsessed with a certain formula that isn’t quite working. I’m hoping somebody starts to fine-tune this a little bit more, because for the first time I really see the potential here. it doesn’t hurt that the actress playing Kamala is cute as a button and perfectly adorkable in the role. She gets the character and really pulls it off well. Indeed, I hope they jump straight into some more with her, because a big part of her charm is her youth. And she’s not gonna stay that age for very long… But much to my pleasant surprise, they may actually get me to watch the marvels just because of her! Imagine that.
So much TV! – week of 6/22/22
It’s gonna be a crowded week. I know my wife was just complaing that it’s all summer reruns for her, but for me, everything is firing on all cylinders, full speed ahead.
Superman and Lois is back, and there’s something to be said for a series like this… Where every single episode feels like the penultimate episode. As bizarro world attempts to merge with earth, Superman is down for the count and powerless. It’s up to all of our second string heroes, including Jordan as well as stealing his daughter to protect Smallville. In the meantime, The evil doppelgängers are back, looking for their counterparts and looking to take out Clark while he’s still vulnerable. All of this goes on, Lana finds herself coping not only was just learning the job of being the newly elected mayor, but also dealing with an extinction level superhero crisis and trying to pull the town together in the midst of it.
The Orville has done an excellent job of really being Star Trek… Copying the aesthetic and the trajectory… And for the first time I wonder and worry if they’ve also swallowed the poison pill of modern Star Trek. The Orville hasn’t been without its social justice and political points… Although it’s generally been fairly evenhanded with them. But with this episode, featuring the election of the Krill… The bad guys, basically religious Klingons, I wonder if they’re getting a little heavy handed with their political commentary. We have an election that changed suddenly… mysteriously… almost overnight! And yet we have the leader who wins being very much A nationalist and an ideologue… All the things they said President Trump was. Of course one could also apply that to current President Biden, who governs every bit as an extremist as they all said Trump would be. The fact that there is suggestions of a stolen election… Or a challenge to it… Like I said. It’s heavy-handed and I’m feeling a little attacked. I actually chatted with us a little bit with one of my friends who does not share my political leanings. He’s not necessarily my opposite or even in the middle, but more of a cynic… and unlike other people who I hear frequently say “I hate all politicians“ and claim to be independent… He actually is. From his viewing, he saw a bit of skewering of both sides… And I’m content to leave it at that. I know my bias. Still, it’s clumsy and really not what I want to watch The Orville for. It’s a shame too, because the episode is gorgeous. The Krill homeworld is shocking how detailed and well realized it is. It’s just gorgeous and a monstrous bit of science-fiction design. Is everything you want from a future alien city.
Week of 6-15-22
The Flash kicks things off right this week, jumping right in showing a race between the flash and another speedster dressed like a ninja. It’s a funny coincidence, considering I spent the weekend watching a bunch of ninja movies…
The black suited speedster in question is Dr Mina, a scientist who seems to have developed a machine that can grant a person artificial super speed. Or is it really artificial speed force? Barry’s taking it upon himself to help train her, but things go sideways when he meets her partner… Ebon Thawn, the Reverse Flash. This is the blonde hair blue eyed version of Thawn, and he’s lost his memory. It’s suspicious enough to send Barry running to check on Tom Kavanaugh‘s reverse flash, still stripped of his power, and cooling his heels in iron heights prison. Together they realize that what Mina has created is a machine that Thawn designed 200 years from now in his own quest for super speed… But it’s not creating artificial speed force. It’s tapping in to the negative speed force. Much like an atom can have a negative charge and a positive charge, Barry is the avatar of the speed force and carries the positive charge. What Mina has discovered is the negative charge of the speed force, and a lightning bolt from her hand can cancel out Barry’s powers.
It’s just a great solid superhero adventure. Mina actually stopped just short of kind of becoming a female reverse flash… And indeed, Barry even says “Central City can always use more heroes“. No it can’t! What it needs is more villains! and I’d love to see her go full Reverse Flash here. When you’re at the eighth season like this, it wouldn’t really be just a gender swap replacement of an existing character, but rather a variant that moves right along in the continuity, not taking away from the already established character. let her be a reverse flash for an episode or two, and maybe even climax it with three reverse flashes after Barry. Either way, you can tell that I’m digging on this episode, because of all the speculation…
Moreover we get not one, but three stingers at the end, it seems that there wasn’t really enough time to dedicate to the b storylines, so they’ve got a cliffhanger us at the end here with glimpses of Cecile and her powers going off the scale, A potential resurrection for killer frost, and new devious plans hatching with the reverse flash. It gets me very excited for what the back end of the season has to offer. You also can never go wrong with a cameo from Ray Palmer. Even if it is just Brandon Routh skypeing in, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Everything that Brandon Routh brought to the table with Clark Kent… All the charm and gawkiness without being… Well, stupid… (The way Christopher Reeve played him) it’s all dialed up to 11 when Routh plays the atom, and it just works so well.
But then we get to Ms Marvel. And see, I don’t understand Disney. They bought Marvel… A company mostly built on superhero adventure franchises. Colorful characters in colorful costumes punching people. Then they proceed to make these Disney+ shows with very few costumes, muted colors, and nearly no action, adventure or punching. I understood there wouldn’t be tons of action in the first episode because we’re basically getting an origin, but the second episode seemed even flatter. It’s Kamala’s got a crush, and somebody’s stealing shoes at the mosque. That’s basically what happens. There’s about 10 minutes of a superhero rescue towards the very end and quite the cliffhanger, but the 40 minutes or so that proceeded… It’s all just people talking. You know, I feel like I’ve said this before… Oh wait, I have. I said it for six weeks with Loki.
Part of me wonders if Marvel just hasn’t gotten The formula right… I mean, the Disney+ shows sure seem to be following a specific structure, but it’s not the right one. In a film, the first act is world building. You get 30 or 40 minutes of that before you move into the second act which is conflict, usually resulting in a big problem or falling out that has to be resolved shortly into the third act just before the climax. It’s a reliable structure, and when you deviate from that, you start feeling like the film is dragging. On a traditional 22 episode network television series, you probably get about 20%-25% of each episode divided world building, maybe a little bit more or less depending on the story, as well as character development all throughout, while never neglecting the action and adventure itself. For all of my talk about how the CW shows really do love their scenes of attractive people talking about their feelings in dimly lit hallways… They still understand that balance, And don’t deprive us of the important punching moments.
And yet every week I hear my friends gushing about “Marvel has done it again!“ And have the newest Disney Marvel show is the best thing ever! And I just don’t get it. I almost wonder if they’re reacting more to that shocking cliffhanger that they do seem to like leaving us with rather than the contents of the absolute self. That would make sense to me, but honestly, it’s not enough to run a series on that alone.
Fortunately, they haven’t forgotten about the action when it comes to making Obi-Wan. The imperial forces are bearing down on the underground railroad base, and it’s basically up to Obi-Wan to buy them time to evacuate… and get Princess Leia to safety.
We finally get some of Reva’s backstory… But it’s no exaggeration when I say literally everybody I knew, whether they were Star Wars fans or not, whether they like the show or not, EVERYONE ABSOLUTELY KNEW she was going to end up being one of the kids in the Jedi temple and that somehow she would’ve survived the massacre from Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan suggests that the reason she’s doing all this is really to able to get close to Vader to kill him… Which is weird, because she’s been serving Vader for a decade or two now, but it’s only now that Obi-Wan’s dreamy eyes are enough to convincing her to try and kill him? No, I still insist that this character feels very clumsily inserted into the story for purposes of padding out the length to get it to six hours, and to make sure that there’s some sort of diversity first. It’s not even that she’s awful, it’s just that she’s unnecessary. The imperial turncoat that’s been helping Obi-Wan and Leia escape…? The one that will occasionally don her old imperial officer uniform? You could have given Reva’s entire backstory to her and not missed a beat. She could have still headed up to confront Vader this episode and had a far more interesting death. And all the tracking and torture and villainous stuff Reva’s been doing? It’d all be WAY more interesting if that were Vader. I’ve said it before, but it bears reapeating. you have one of the greatest cinematic villians of all time at your disposal. Not just of sci-fi, not just of star wars….ONE OF THE GREATEST VILLIANS IN THE HISTORY OF ALL MOVIES….but you’d rather use Reva.
I can kind of see how Obi-Wan really did start off life as a film script. You can feel the pacing, especially now that we’re fully immersed into the third act, and this thing absolutely would’ve blown our socks off as a three hour film, rather than a six hour miniseries. In fact, I could go for a couple of two-hour Obi-Wan films with these kind of production values. Still, while this probably wasn’t the series best destiny, it’s still been the best of any of the Disney Star Wars that I’ve seen.
With no Superman and Lois this week, we’re rounding things out with the Orville. The thing is, I’ve never been a fan of imaginary stories. I don’t enjoy the stuff like Shore Leave, or the holodeck hijinx of Casino Royale or the Big Goodbye. Still, I’ve gotta admit, Seth MacFarlane is not gonna be able to fully realize his dream of doing a Star Trek series without at least one of these type of stories. He provides us with a sufficient McGuffin, and to his credit, the story actually gives us more of a twilight zone feel to them than a fantasy diversion. It’s an interesting aesthetic, but for me these still always feel like a waste of time.
McFarland also manages to tack on what Harlan Ellison used to refer to as “that dopey utopian bull$#@% that Gene Roddenberry loved” tm. McFarlane puts it in the mouth of the MacGuffin, a highly evolved creature, that’s at least 50,000 years beyond us… more really, since they learned how to manipulate and control their evolution. She suggests that humanity is on the right track, having left behind it’s gods and it’s myths and it’s nations, but when you become as involved as they are, you even move beyond any other identities… Explorer, captain, husband, even man or woman. Now, before people start pointing fingers and triumphantly exclaiming “See! Star Trek was always woke!“ Not only can I just kind of brush it off as one line of dialogue… (And being a student of history, I’ve noticed that every generation seems to think that they’ve evolved past a lot of those traditional concepts and identities… past ideas of God and nation and identity (and then history or reality reassert themselves and we find ourselves drawn back to those traditions). Sure I CAN address that myself, but I don’t actually have to, because in true Star Trek fashion, the show plunges forward to explore the statement further. McFarlane points out that while humans may not be as involved as our McGuffin, we’re old enough that we don’t run experiments on lower life forms the way the McGuffin has just done on us. It’s an interesting statement. It doesn’t necessarily contradict her, but it certainly gives you something to think about… and makes you wonder whether or not the McGuffin’s evolution is truly progressive and positive or not. The crew discusses it over dinner in the mess hall that night at the ship…
McFarland is pushing an atheist view here, that when you die there’s nothing, but that’s something to wrestle with. It’s an idea that we can’t truly wrap our heads around. Even the idea of it just being a formless black void after we die… We still have to be conscious in some way to perceive that… How do you perceive nonexistence? Bortus on the other hand suggests that death is noble. It’s a part of life and it has it hazards on virtue. McFarlane dismisses it as the traditional philosophical idea, but even in the dismissal, we get to listen to the point. Despite all of this, the first officer seems shocked that McFarlane would wish to live forever. He gives a marvelous justification though…
“I want to see what happens.”
I love this. I disagree with the primary tenant that McFarlane really wants to espouse, but he does it smartly – it’s classical liberalism which wants to debate the comcept, talk about it and chew it over and eventually come to a conclusion. It’s a difference between this and any of the modern Star Trek we see on Paramount plus which merely wishes to push it’s message, unquestioned. The Orville maybe stating its own opinion, but more importantly, they want to start the discussion. That’s why a single line can spark so much explanation from me here in this blog. That’s what Star Trek used to do.
Of course, you could justifiably say that I’m over thinking things here. But then again, hasn’t that always been the point of science fiction in general and Star Trek in particular?
See you next week.
Week of 6-1-2022
One of the things that always bothers me about serialized shows over episodic are these kind of in-between shows like we had on Superman and Lois this week. It’s not really filler… Well, the subplot about Lana‘s daughter and her music might be, but for the most part, these are all story threads that need to get into the series but can’t necessarily be wrapped up in a solo adventure. There’s not so much a story going on this week as there is connective tissue being developed.
Nevertheless, we’ll see what happens next week.
Not much to speak of and comics last week so I may as well tag it on here. I did pick up Deadpool bad blood… This is sort of Rob Leifield‘s triumphant return to the character he created. Thing is, the Deadpool that Rob Leifield created is not really the Deadpool we know today. There’s significant differences in tone and in general zaniness and all that’s fine. But life is treating him the way he always did. That’s his prerogative, he’s the creator. But what the sense of being, is very much a Rob Liefeld book for Rob Liefeld fans. And boy, is it ever Liefeld. I mean, Liefeld on steroids. It’s a little jarring, almost enough to make me rethink my constant emphatic defense of the man’s style.
Still, I expect that Liefeld fans will really dig this, but I got admit, it’s just not for me. Issue one didn’t do a whole lot for me, and I’m jumping off this title with issue two.
Ghost Rider on the other hand, continues to blow my mind. I’ve dipped my toe in Ghost Rider here and there over the years. He’s a staple of the Marvel universe, but he’s usually treated mostly as a superhero. Perhaps supernatural superhero adventures, or Scooby Doo – kids Halloween party levels of spook. But it’s always comic book spooky. It’s always super hero affair, it’s always comics code levels of terror.
That’s not what we’re getting from this Ghost Rider series.
This Ghost Rider book is straight up horror. Not dark fantasy, not horror edged or supernatural heroics, this thing feels like straight up horror. Not even comic book horror, like Man Thing or Tomb of Dracula… Reading this book gives me very similar vibes that I get from old Garth Ennis Hellblazer back in the day. We’re constantly seeing unspeakable monstrosities slither into existance. The writer knows he can’t pull off a jump scare but he can definitely shock you. He can create imagery that just lingers and disturbs and that’s exactly what he does. There’s a real brilliance to it and I feel like this is what Ghost Rider always should’ve been… What it always wanted to be. This one’s a book you absolutely need to go out and pick up.
Superman and Lois Return, Loki concludes!
First and foremost, I’d like to thank The Flash for not making me wait two weeks to resolve a cliffhanger the way that Superman and Lois has. The Godspeed war has been consistent, fun, intense, and genuinely good stuff. I still wish they’d stop race swapping characters, but at least Impulse was fairly well done.
Over on Superman and Lois, my biggest observation is that Elizabeth Tulloch just keeps getting better. I look at her, and I just see Lois Lane. She may be the best Lois I’ve ever seen… and that’s saying something. It’s a hard role. You have to balance softness and femininity and the occasional damsel in distress role with being hard-nosed, persistent, brilliant, and brave enough to give off a vibe of this isn’t the first time I’ve had a gun in my face. Some Loises veer too soft, like Amy Adams, Noelle Neil, and even sometimes Teri Hatcher. Others just get way too hard, like Margot Kidder, or Kate Bosworth. Phyllis Coates may have been the only one I ever saw balance it perfectly for her era, but Elizabeth Tulloch’s version is unprecedented in how well-rounded it is.
It may help that she’s at a different time of life. She’s emotionally grounded with her two sons, and we don’t have the on-again off-again, will they won’t they, Superman or Clark debate. She’s chosen Clark, and in fact, was never so shallow as to be infatuated with Superman. I like that. And either way, knowing that they end up together and have established this long lasting relationship, it adds character and depth and just makes her more likable. But she’s still tenacious, she’s still a reporter, and a force to be reckoned with.
I put all this out there, because this week is really her episode. We do get some stellar stuff with John Henry Irons as Steel, but with Superman being mind controlled on the other side of the planet, this episode is really all about Lois taking charge, convincing them not to kill Superman, and trying to support Lana’s family as they suffer the backlash from the community that got possessed by alien beings. The series is just so good, and Steel looks great (although he needs a better helmet). But I got plenty of resolution, in fact, once again I almost feel like it’s the end of the season… Even though I know it’s not. Edge is imprisoned and still planning something nefarious.
As good as the Flash and Superman were, we then have… Loki. Seriously, what happened to Loki?
After such a great episode last week, we come back for the series finale, and… nothing happens. This episode is literally just people talking at each other. Mostly people talking at each other from one side of the desk to the other. It’s an oral history of the marvel multi-verse. That’s all. Nothing happened. Even during a brief sword fight, it really is only there to mask the fact that they’re still just talking back-and-forth. I am utterly disappointed, and genuinely bored. And I’m getting an enormous amount of heat from Loki STANS online, not just because I think it was a wasted opportunity, but because I didn’t think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Literally. I tried to find nice things to say about it, amazing music, beautiful imagery, and I mean that. It IS a gorgeous show, with some of the best music I’ve ever heard in television. There was also one cute bit that made Miss Minuets, the animated clock girl look very sinister – but after that intro, nothing happens! Not a single thing happens in this episode! It’s all just exposition… and me saying that seems to offend some people. The common response is “it’s setting up phase 4!“ I’ve heard that 1000 times. I understand. I agree actually, Kang is the big bad and it’s setting up the multi-verse. But there still was no story to this series! Iron Man set up the MCU. So did Thor, so did Captain America. And all of them manage to tell individual adventures while setting up the universe. They didn’t just info dump us and walk away. I literally had somebody tell me “I’m tired of adventures, I just want to see the set up for the new movies and the character development!“ Well that’s not really what the MCU is it? It’s comic book adventures. You want a balance between worldbuilding and story (interestingly, episode five hit that balance perfectly). Say 80% story and 20% world building. Loki has that ratio flipped on it’s head, completely backwards. Of all the MCU TV shows, this one has had the absolute LEAST story.
Moreover, there’s no character development here. Loki is the same person at the end of the series that he was in the beginning. He’s not even a character, he’s a sounding board for exposition who occasionally provides positive affirmation for Girl Loki. And Sylvie? She’s also the same character from the beginning to the end. She is the best Loki ever, and that’s all. There’s no heroes journey, there’s no great awakening, the series just… Is. Someone tried to tell me this is a masterclass in storytelling. (You’d have to tell a story for that to be true). Someone actually told me I need to read Shakespeare and I’ll appreciate it more (Shows how little they know about me. Also, try Wagner instead. Loki is far more rooted in the epic northern tales than in Elizabethan England).
I don’t hate Loki (although the MCU stans are really making me dislike it more every day) but I am disappointed. This could’ve been so much more. This could’ve been Doctor Who and Rick and Morty on crack. And it should’ve been. Instead, all we got was a history textbook. A D&D source book. Tom Hiddleston (Who is still brilliant in the role – pity he isn’t given anything to do) staring charmingly at the camera, but no storytelling, character development or adventure of any sort. I could cut this thing down into a 100 minuet film and still get all the necessary world building and character introductions in with better pacing and less filler. (About 80% of episode one, the Sylvie stuff from two, all of episode five and about ten minuets of three, four and six).
All I can say, is I hope What If and Hawkeye are better.
Last Weeks TV
All I can say about The Flash is that I really wish it had started off the season this strong. The whole Godspeed War they’ve got going on has been really good stuff. Even though we’re going back to the kind of tired old trope of Barry losing his speed, this show feels dangerous again. I’m enjoying it. Throwing Diggle in for an episode also brings back some of that magic from that original Arrow crossover. With Arrow being over, any further crossover seemed as impossible as it did when the Flash first started. Nice to see Diggs again, and to keep the Arrow flame burning.
The surprise this week though, what is Loki. It’s the first episode of the series that’s really grabbed me and held onto my attention The whole way through. We’ve got multiple variants this week, along with consistent action, and a lot less needless exposition. Oh they still talk, it’s just that when they do it’s actually there to move the story along. Also, Alligator Loki is superior to all other locations. Much like the Flash, I wish the series had started out this good, running along at this pace. Considering how short this run is going to be, it really needed to kickstart itself right off the gate, and it kind of didn’t do that. If it had, I would’ve probably been an instant devotee, instead of reluctantly jumping on the bandwagon at this late date.
So. Who went out to see Black Widow this weekend?
This weeks picks
With no Superman and Lois last week it was up to the Flash to pick up the slack – and it did with a vengeance! The episode opens with Barry dreaming of his dead future daughter (Look, either you’re watching the show or you aren’t. I’m not explaining that one for you!), just before team Flash is drawn into a conflict with an army of Godspeeds. I know the show has been derailed by the plague, but it’s kind of been dilly dallying all season and this is the first time I’ve really felt stakes. It’s a great episode that grabs you and holds your attention all the way to the shocking cliffhanger. It’s a good reminder of why I’ve stuck with the show for so long, when all the other CW shows have fallen away.
Loki on the other hand….
I do not get this show. All of my friends tell me it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but I’m bored out of my mind. I’m still convinced that this was originally conceived as a film that they just filled out. 2/3rds of every episode is just talk- info dumps, and the frequent favorite, attractive people sitting in offices talking about their feelings (as opposed to the CW model where the attractive people talk about their feelings in HALLWAYS). This sort of stuff works when there’s a good “B” storyline to shift to, but this…..it’s ALL the “B” storyline. We get a plot point or two dropped in each episode, but this thing just moves so slow, it’s infuriating, and survives entirely on it’s brevity and on Tom Hiddleston’s charm. I only hope Hiddleston makes it to the end (He’s booked for all six episodes, despite the cliffhanger last week). I’m not certian he will – it’s just too tempting in this current political climate to swap him out with Lady Loki as the main version of the character in the new MsheU. Sophia Di Martino is perfectly fine in the role of the variant doppelganger, but she’s no Tom Hiddleston.
AND WHAT OF MISS MINUETS???
Week of June 21st
Getting the reviews in JUST before it’s time to watch this weeks new episodes!
I have repeatedly said over the years that Superman works better on television than he does in film. The thing is, counterintuitive as it may be, Batman works better in movies because Batman is all about spectacle. Superman on the other hand, isn’t. For him, it’s all about character. It really is. It’s about reconciling the man with the super and the exploration both of him and he is supporting cast – one of the things that Superman and Lois has really gotten right. That balance, that exploration, all wrapped up in a slow burn. Last weeks episode paid off set ups I didn’t even noticed had occurred. It was all about exploring the past for half of the episode, and then crashing straight into the newest crisis. But it couldn’t of done it properly without the previous nine hours of set up and character exploration.
There’s also a wise effort to homage what’s come before without explicitly connecting to it. We begin the episode with the creation of the fortress of solitude… And it’s obviously trying to evoke the first Superman movie. Of course in a world where that first Salkind Superman film exists, anything else is going to feel a little hollow… And indeed, the same is true of Jor-el. I feel like this actor is miscast, certainly he doesn’t stand up well against luminarias like Marlon Brando and Russell Crowe. The less we see of him the better. Perry White, he is similar miscast, or perhaps we’re just not getting enough of him for me to judge fairly. That’s OK, because they dangle just enough of that Superman and Lois relationship budding that I feel good about it. I feel like I’ve seen everything I need to (and it’s the most realistic one we’ve ever seen – a natural evolution of thier working relationship, as opposed to a meek Clark trying to get the attention of a callous Lois who is preoccupied with an unattainable Superman). We’ve got the whole Lois and Clark vibe, every bit as much as we get the Smallville feeling every time we’re back in town. Overall, this show is about expanding the mythology, and building on everything that has come before.
Building. You know, that’s an interesting turn of phrase. And it perhaps best represents what I’m really liking about this series. It’s building. Instead of falling into the trendy habit of deconstructing, this one’s trying to build and expand, and that’s what makes it the best Superman we’ve seen in nearly 2 decades. And they’re not done with us yet. We’re only halfway through the season. At the end of the episode, when Lois calls John Henry Irons, to tell him things are beginning… I had chills.
Good thing that Superman was so good, because the Flash… UGG.
Seriously, is it just me or has this season of The Flash been a little bit light on… Well, THE FLASH??? Barry and Iris are off to some deserted island with no cell coverage to go make babies, which leaves Team Flash alone to deal with the villian of the week. Except, it’s not really Team Flash anymore. I mean we’ve got all these minor characters that have kind of gotten promoted in the wake of Wells and Cisco and eventually Caitlyn leaving. We’re going to do this Flash-lite episode just with them? This isn’t Legends of Tomorrow where it’s a pure ensemble, this is a show with a clear lead and all of these jumped up minor characters just doesn’t do it for me. It’s almost as if, let’s say in the fifth or sixth season of Star Trek the next generation… What if they decided to replace Geordie Laforge with Barkley, jettison Troi and just give Guinan a full-time role on the show… Maybe Nurse Ogawa gets promoted to doctor and we get rid of Crusher, throw Ensign Sito into the main security role on the bridge… heck while we’re at it – let’s make a depowered Q second in command!
My buddy Mike says it sounds like an interesting alternative universe, while my friend Bobbie says it makes her eye twitch. But either way, as the prime timeline, as the main series, how weird with this be? That’s kind of what I feel like happening on the flash right now, and I really don’t dig it. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t even finish this episode.
Loki was similarly disappointing. Again we have a lot of X position, a lot of talk, but it feels like so much filler. I almost feel like they had more material than they could fit in a simple movie, but not enough to fill a proper series or miniseries, so it’s getting stretched out. In a film you’d get rid of a lot of the stuff and just hit the two or three plot points that were given Each episode expeditiously. On the other hand if it were a full TV series, or even say a full Netflix run Dash 10 to 12 episodes, we spaced this talky stuff out a lot more instead of dumping it into 2/3 of each episode. Of course that would also necessitate a B storyline, which is also really lax. Low-key just isn’t all that, and it’s being driven on the sheer likability of Tom Hiddleston. I’m not sure if that’s enough, but considering we are already halfway through it, I’m hoping things will really start to pick up. Otherwise the next few weeks are going to be a bit of a slog.