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Saturday, October 31, 2015

GOTHAM Burned "By Fire"

Article first published as GOTHAM Review "By Fire" on Seat42F.

GOTHAM: L-R: Benjamin McKenzie and Michael Chiklis in the “Rise of the Villains: By Fire”  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/ FOX.

This week’s GOTHAM on FOX, “By Fire,” finds Gordon (Ben McKenzie) tracking down Firefly (Michelle Veintimilla), seeking vengeance for the death of a cop. But when Selina (Camren Bicondova) helps Gordon to see the truth about Bridgit, the girl in the Firefly suit, Gordon promises to do what he can to keep her safe. Too bad Gordon’s promise isn’t enough.

I find “By Fire” really interesting because it shows us the two sides of GOTHAM, while reminding us there is a grey area, much as Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) may not want to see it. Until Gordon knows about Bridgit, he sees Firefly as only a masked villain murderer. On the other side, Selina sees Bridgit as merely a friend, not a supervillain that must be stopped. While the truth is in the middle, one side or the other has to win, and that’s where the conflict comes into play.

I do think Gordon genuinely tries to save Bridgit, but not everyone can be saved. Gordon is wise enough to get past his emotions when someone is in need of help. He sees an abused girl that has been pushed too far, where Barnes does not. Unfortunately, Bridgit is even further off the rails than suspected, and there’s no way to bring her in peacefully, per her choice.

The twist at the end, where we find Bridgit is alive in a dark subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, is interesting. Clearly, Indian Hill, the facility in question, contains many of the secrets that Bruce (David Mazouz) is looking for. We don’t yet know what is going on there or why or who is in control of it, but this is a nice setup for future GOTHAM installments.

Speaking of Bruce, he seems completely taken in by Silver (Natalie Alyn Lind) and her Uncle Theo (James Frain). This is unfortunate, as viewers know the kind face put forward by them in “By Fire” is a lie. I do think Theo is underestimating the rich kid, Bruce’s training with Alfred (Sean Pertwee) progressing nicely, but the question now is, will Bruce realize it before Theo can cause too much damage? And is Silver complicit?

Similarly, Theo is winning against the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). Sending Butch (Drew Powell) in to spy is an obvious move, and even with his hand chopped off, Theo sees right through it. Penguin is allowing too much of his emotion to cloud his judgment and he’s not making smart calls, not even realizing when Butch has been turned against him. I still think Penguin will be the one to take Theo down, possibly assisted by Gordon protecting Bruce, but at this time, the Penguin is definitely down in scoring.

While the Penguin is already the villain he’s meant to be, give or take a bit of skill, others in GOTHAM are just getting started. What happens with Bridgit may be a turning point for Selina, who no longer trusts Gordon. Selina is an interesting player because, traditionally, Catwoman has rarely been completely bad. She does bad things, sure, but her flirtation with Bruce shows her humanity and moral center. I can’t help but feel these traits might keep Selina from turning as fully against Gordon as she appears to do, but one never knows. Selina’s positive relationship is usually shown to be with Bruce alone, not the police.

A bigger defining moment in “By Fire” comes when Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) accidentally strangles Kristen (Chelsea Spack). I wondered if this specific event, more or less, might happen when Spack was not promoted to series regular this year, but didn’t expect it so soon. Nygma letting his dark side rob him of the love he so desperately wants is definitely a moment that will change who he is going forward. I expect Nygma’s growth into full-on villain is just around the corner, though he could still be hiding within the police force for awhile, the longer, the better.

Can I just remark how cool it is when Lee (Morena Baccarin) regards Selina and her gun with no concern whatsoever? Obviously, Lee is a worthy partner for Gordon and is on his level, but to barely bat an eye in the face of danger, keeping her cool, is excellent. It’s likely Lee, who is good at reading people, realizes Selina isn’t going to kill her for no reason, but still, very impressive composure.

Excellent character development and a complex villain-of-the-week make “By Fire” another strong installment of this program. Season two is doing exactly what the show needs it to do, and it is definitely worth setting the DVR for.

GOTHAM airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wicked, WICKED CITY

Article originally published as WICKED CITY Review on Seat42F.

Wicked City ED WESTWICK, ERIKA CHRISTENSEN




Anthology series seem to be all the rage these days. Cable started things off with the extremely successful American Horror Story, followed soon by Fargo and True Detective. But ABC has gotten into the game, too, with American Crime and WICKED CITY, the latter of which premieres this week on the alphabet network.


WICKED CITY’s first season tells the story of a serial killer on the Sunset Strip of L.A. in 1982. Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick, Gossip Girl) is the smooth-talking man that seduces ladies by telling them exactly what they want to hear, then stabs them to death and has sex with the bodies. He’s a psychopath who happens to love children, and can be quite scary, indeed.

Now, that description of what Kent does is pretty disturbing, but ABC doesn’t get too graphic, nor would anyone expect one of the broadcast networks to do so. The sex side of the crimes is handled without showing too much, barely any skin, and certainly none of the actual corpse desecration. Instead, it’s more about the seduction game, which Westwick does very well, talking the worst sides of his former character, Chuck, and making them bigger and more dangerous.

Several women come into Kent’s orbit in the first episode alone. There’s Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen, Parenthood), a desperate single mother who quickly falls hard for the smooth fellow. There’s also Karen McClaren (Taissa Farmiga, American Horror Story), a wannabe reporter. And these are just the two I think might survive awhile; there are victims in the pilot.

Their best hope at staying alive is Detective Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto, Suburgatory), who is on Kent’s trail. Given that this miniseries will last ten weeks, it’s surprising just how much Jack finds out in the first installment. Yet, Kent is smart, and I’m sure some of the information Jack gleans will soon become outdated and useless. The cat-and-mouse dynamic set up between Kent and Jack is immediately interesting.

Jack doesn’t work alone, of course. He has a new partner he despises, Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna, Matador), as well as a romantic liaison, who happens to be an undercover officer, Dianne Kubek (Karolina Wydra, True Blood). These two may just serve as collateral damage as the case goes on, as they certainly are taking a back seat to Jack initially.

In an attempt to make Jack grittier and more complex, Dianne is the mistress, as Jack has a wife, Allison (Jaime Ray Newman, Mind Games), and teenage daughter, Vicki (Anne Winters, Tyrant), at home. But honestly, this doesn’t do as intended, as Jack seems like a typical hero even when he’s cheating on his wife. It’s like there are two separate Jacks, both equally noble, that happen to co-exist. This may be cynical on my part, being able to segment his life without judgment, but that’s how the show feels as it plays out, with Jack otherwise not being the least bit edgy.

WICKED CITY is engaging. There are a number of scenes in the first episode where I find myself on the edge of my seat, wondering what will happen. While it is done in the ‘true crime’ style, I’m not sure if it tells a real tale, like the inferior Aquarius, or a false one, like Fargo; I am not able to confirm this is based on a real killer. As such, it feels like anything can happen, and I hope ABC makes sure it stays that way, instead of settling into a comfortable pattern, as the broadcast networks usually do. If the rest of the episodes are as good as the pilot (and continue to have catchy music), I’ll be quite happy to continue watching.

WICKED CITY premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

SUPERGIRL Takes Flight

Article originally published as SUPERGIRL Review on Seat42F.

SUPERGIRL Melissa Benoist First-Look Image (Headshot)[1]




Joining the already crowded superhero landscape is CBS’ SUPERGIRL, premiering this week. In it, Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist, Glee), cousin of the more famous Kal-El, comes of age and is ready to take on the bad guys to save the city. To do so, she has a bit of a different approach than Superman (oops, didn’t mean to say the name), and a supportive group around her.


SUPERGIRL dances around the Superman lore, but not as much as past efforts like Smallville have. Viewers will get to see and hear plenty about him; the name just isn’t uttered much, usually spoken about as a mythical ‘him.’

Doing this sets Supergirl apart from Superman. Superman is an alien who is aloof, apart from the human race. Supergirl is someone who is in the fight alongside everyone else. While Superman cares inherently, Supergirl cares because of her adopted sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh, Grey’s Anatomy), and her friend, Winn (Jeremy Jordan, Smash), and others. She’s a part of the population of the Earth far more than he i, and takes what she does very personally.

Right off the bat, it’s clear Supergirl won’t be working alone like Superman does. No less than three people know her secret in the pilot, not including Hank Henshaw (David Harewood, Homeland) and his organization. She does have a secret identity; her boss, Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart, Brothers & Sisters) doesn’t know she has the caped crusader working for her. Yet, it’s not as closely guarded a secret, and it changes the tenure of SUPERGIRL from most Superman incarnations.

Also different, Kara gets in over her head early on. While Superman eases into fighting the baddies, Kara immediately has to fight prison escapees from the Phantom Zone. This isn’t the plot of a single episode, but rather a set up for the series. There are dozens of alien convicts on the Earth and they are focused on her, for good reason, as we’ll find out. So Kara needs these others to be around her.

For fans of Superman who never really got into Supergirl, this program provides plenty of connection to that more established world. As mentioned, Cat Grant, a figure in Clark Kent’s life, is present, as is James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks, Necessary Roughness), albeit a bit older than you might remember him. The production also pays homage to past actors of the franchise, much as The Flash does, by casting Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) and Helen Slater (1984’s Supergirl) as Kara’s adoptive parents. Not to mention, the messages of Alura Zor-El (Laura Benanti, Go On) will bring to mind similar communications from Jor-El to Superman.

As society progresses, feminism has taken root. As such, some may argue it’s not right to call Kara Super’girl’ instead of Superwoman. The character of Supergirl has a long history, though, and it’s too late to change it now. Thankfully, SUPERGIRL addresses this disparity head-on in episode one, and I’m satisfied with the explanation. I think most viewers will be, too.

Because SUPERGIRL is on CBS, it’s likely to be largely a procedural. I assume most weeks will find her dealing with a single antagonist, whom she defeats by the ending credits. But there is a lot more personal drama going on than in most shows on the network, a la The Good Wife. Should SUPERGIRL follow The Good Wife’s pattern, concentrating more on the characters than the cases, it’ll do well.

SUPERGIRL is a solid entry on the television landscape. It is enjoyable, with a great cast and interesting premise. It will take more than one episode to see if it deserves to hang with its successful DC brethren, Gotham, Arrow, and The Flash, but I’d say it’s off to a pretty good start.

SUPERGIRL premieres Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

ONCE UPON A TIME "Dream" On

Article originally published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review "Dreamcatcher" on Seat42F.

LANA PARRILLA, EMILIE DE RAVIN, LIAM GARRIGAN, GINNIFER GOODWIN, SEAN MAGUIRE, JOSH DALLAS

This week on ONCE UPON A TIME, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) frees Merlin (Elliot Knight, Sinbad) from the tree in which he is trapped, but far from resulting in a happy ending, it only raises more questions. Weeks later, in Storybrooke, Regina (Lana Parrilla) uncovers Emma’s treachery against their son, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), in a “Dreamcatcher,” bringing the heroes closer to figuring out Dark Swan’s plans, but driving a wedge between mother and son.

Where Regina and Henry and Emma and Henry are now is almost completely reversed from where they are at the start of ONCE UPON A TIME. Is Henry destined to never have both of his mothers be on the right side at the same time? Is the show really about the balance of light and dark, rather than about good triumphing over evil? If so, the ending will surely be a tragedy for everyone, the core characters too intertwined at this point to cast one as a pure villain.

How much is Emma to blame for what she is doing? When Rumple (Robert Carlyle) is the Dark One, he manages to let his love shine through and even engage in self-sacrifice in the name of love. Yet, he is consistently drawn back to his fiendish ways, the good in his heart never taking hold. Knowing this, can anyone truly blame Emma for anything she does, and isn’t she as much of a victim of the Dark One as anyone else? So by that logic, Rumple should be forgiven for everything, right?

Well, this is where free will versus mind control come into play. The question is whether Emma is being corrupted or if she’s been replaced in her own body. ONCE UPON A TIME keeps saying it’s the former, but actions seem to point to the latter. “Dreamcatcher” muddies the waters more by bringing a child in this, as while Henry is rapidly growing more mature, he can’t possibly instantly forgive Emma when she’s cured, which she must be. It’s a very depressing plot to consider.

The way Emma hurts Henry is by turning Violet (Olivia Steele-Falconer) against him in order to get a tear. Look, Henry is 13 years old, so only in a fairy tale would he end up marrying Violet (though, admittedly, this is kind of a fairy tale). Also only in a fairy tale would Violet be as taken in by Henry as he is by her, which actually makes her rejection of him feel more real than it ends up being. But whether Violet is the one he’s meant to be with or not, it’s a hard thing to lose a first love. So what Emma does is cruel.

I think all of this helps identify a fundamental issue with ONCE UPON A TIME. It wants to be set in the real world and also in the fairy tale world, but the two don’t mix well when it comes to rules governing reality. Things can either magically work out and heroes can always triumph over villains, or we can live in complex shades of grey. By never making up its mind which is going on, ONCE UPON A TIME is constantly contradicting itself and feeling authentic to neither.

Which isn’t to say that “Dreamcatcher” is an entirely bad episode. Despite some issues with the things happening above, the poignant story of a mother breaking a son’s heart does engage viewers. Rumple’s struggle to become a hero, and Merdia’s (Amy Manson) frustration when he fails, is also interesting. The concept of the pensieve dreamcatchers in the show is a cool conceit, even if it’s nothing new, and uses Regina’s past well. And I’m still invested enough in the characters to care what happens.

At least ONCE UPON A TIME hasn’t totally fallen apart in sense and continuity as some past arcs have done. Hopefully, it can still pull out a decent ending from this. It remains enjoyable and good, if not as deep or cohesive as it should be.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

No "Thank You," THE WALKING DEAD

Article originally published as THE WALKING DEAD Review "Thank You" on Seat42F.

the-walking-dead-episode-603-glenn-yeun-935




No one will be saying “Thank You” to THE WALKING DEAD after last night’s episode on AMC. With much of zombie herd closing in on Alexandria, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) works on a plan to redirect the walkers, while tasking Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) with getting some of their new neighbors home safe. Walkers may be slow, but they are persistent, and as Rick predicts, not everyone makes it home.


Early in the episode, Rick tells Michonne and Glenn that not everyone is going to make it and they have to understand that. This is kind of a running theme in THE WALKING DEAD. You may want to save everyone, but you just can’t. The world is too dangerous, and if you don’t know when to cut and run, you’ll end up dead, too.

Rick isn’t being heartless when he says this; he’s being realistic. I understand why Heath (Corey Hawkins) takes offense when he overhears these words, though. While Heath has left Alexandria to go on supply runs and recruit new citizens, he hasn’t faced anyone like the Governor, nor tried to protect a community of dependents under attack, so he doesn’t have full understanding. Heath’s arc in “Thank You” is an introduction to the harsh world he now lives in, which he only scratches the surface of prior to this.

Thankfully, Heath learns his lesson in time to make it home, but the whole group is not so lucky, some of his friends falling in order to teach him the truth. I am impressed with several of these new people. Annie (Beth Kenner, Battle Los Angeles) and Scott (Kenric Green, Let Me Go) ask to be left behind when they’re slowing the others down. David (Jay Huguley, Treme) knows he’s doomed, but just wants to get back to say goodbye to his wife. These guys may not be prepared for what they’re facing, but at least they’re trying and dying with dignity, not tearing others down along the way. And one of them, Scott, actually makes it.

Of course, not everyone is so heroic. Sturgess (Jonathan Kleitman, +1) takes off running, abandoning the group and getting himself killed for it. But the real detestable weakling in “Thank You” is Nicholas (Michael Traynor).

Throughout “Thank You,” I keep looking for Nicholas to step up. Glenn rescues him and gives him a second chance, and Nicholas has become a loyal student of Glenn’s. Yet, Nicholas keeps faltering over and over again in this hour, never acting quickly to do what needs to be done. My biggest worry as events play out is that Nicholas will die before he gets a hold of himself, as I’ve come to like him.

But then Nicholas kills himself in a moment of desperation and takes Glenn out with him, the ultimate act of betrayal and cowardice. Not only does Nicholas remove himself from the fight, but he robs our group of a good man who doesn’t deserve to go. It’s one thing to act stupidly or come to grips with your own limitations; it’s quite another if you hurt someone else while doing so. For this, Nicholas has ruined any chance he ever had of being remembered fondly.

Glenn’s death isn’t a huge surprise. He’s become the moral center of the show, and THE WALKING DEAD always kills its moral center. Always. Glenn is too good and gives people too many chances. I didn’t expect him to go at this point, in the penultimate act of the third episode of the season, but it just reinforces once again that anyone can die at any time on THE WALKING DEAD.

Now, in the Talking Dead after show, host Chris Hardwick didn’t confirm his death and a theory or two are batted around about how Glenn might miraculously survive. But I think the best thing we can hope for at this point is that someone finds a trace of him to confirm his fate. Glenn is gone, and as hard as that is, losing one of the original crew, we have to live with it.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) has his own crisis of conscience in “Thank You,” not sure what to do when Rick asks him to keep leading a portion of the herd away. Daryl’s instinct is to turn around and help his friends, protecting the town that gives him, as the sign says, a fresh start. This is a noble feeling, and one completely understandable. But it’s the wrong move, and when Daryl hears Rick possibly sacrifice himself for the greater good, he decides to stay on his mission. It’s the right call, one hard-earned, and may keep him alive longer than Glenn.

Speaking of Rick, our hero tries to make it to an RV to help redirect the walkers. After the longest mile anyone has ever run, or so it seems, he finds the vehicle, but is attacked by Wolves and he can’t finish the job. Rick won’t die here; he’s on the very short list of characters I think THE WALKING DEAD cannot kill, which currently includes only himself, Daryl, Michonne, and Carl (Chandler Riggs). Seeing him single-handedly fight off five Wolves proves Rick’s worth again. I don’t know how he’ll get out of this situation, especially feeling helpless when he realizes his attackers have come from Alexandria (the only place around with baby food), but he will.

And then the preview for next week’s episode shows us that it will be the long-awaited Morgan (Lennie James) flashback. I can’t help but feel this is an awful time to air this. Three weeks spent building up a giant herd, we need to see the resolution of that before taking a moment to catch our breaths. The only reason I can think of to do the Morgan flashback now, aside from artificially drawing out anticipation, which THE WALKING DEAD doesn’t tend to do (it draws it out, but authentically), is that Morgan will die in the upcoming battle and they need to get this in first. Considering Morgan’s pacifism and morality, that feels the most likely explanation. But I hope I’m wrong.

While I don’t want to say “Thank You” for an hour that killed off Glenn, this is yet another awesome installment of the best show currently on television. It has lots of action and death, but it all plays out around the complex character studies one has come to expect. Each development means something; nothing is gratuitous. That’s why this show is so, so good.

THE WALKING DEAD airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. For those who DVR it, make sure you set for 90 minutes next week (does anyone actually still manually set the time?), as that installment will be extra long.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

10 Binge-Worthy Shows

Article first published as 10 Binge-Worthy Shows on Seat42F.

Lost Cast

The leaves are turning, the air is growing chillier, and it’s beginning to be the season where a lot of us just want to curl up on the couch and stay inside. For just such an occasion, I have a list of ten television dramas (sorry comedy fans) that would make great binge-watching projects this winter. They are not in any particular order, but all are worthy of your time.

Gilmore Girls ~ Last week, Netflix announced it was making a brand new season of Gilmore Girls! What better time to relive the seven previous years than right now? Netflix has the entire quirky, charming series ready to welcome you back to Stars Hollow. Just have some tissues ready whenever Richard Gilmore comes on screen. His presence will definitely be missed when the show returns.

The X-Files ~ Similarly, FOX is bringing back The X-Files in January. Some people say it may be a little late to tackle all nine seasons, but personally, I think it’s a challenge to accept. You’ll get all the Mulder and Scully, all the weird aliens, and all the Smoking Man. Just login to Netflix or Hulu and let the marathon begin! (And invite me over, because this is the one show on this list that I haven’t managed to get to yet, but I know it’s awesome!)

Lost ~ For my money, Lost is one of the best shows ever made. The twisty ABC drama kept fans obsessed and guessing for six years, all of which are now free for Netflix subscribers. This is definitely a series that begs for binge-watching, as so many little details dropped in one hour matter several installments later. The ending was admittedly polarizing for fans, but if you enjoy character-driven programs, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer ~ As far as rewatchability goes, Buffy is at the top of my list. The tale of the Slayer, who faces the demons and forces of darkness, never gets old. From the goofy high school days, to the uber-depressing sixth season, to the heart-breaking series finale, Buffy is great all the way through. It’s the perfect mix of humor, action, and compelling drama. And while you’re at it, stay on the Joss Whedon kick and go through Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. (On Netflix and Hulu.)

Fargo ~ Looking for a show that’s still on the air to get into? Might I recommend FX’s Fargo? Season two just began, so you can plow (sic) through the first year’s ten episodes in a weekend on Hulu, if you’re so inclined. It’s an outrageous show in the style of ‘true crime,’ with a top-notch cast that includes Martin Freeman, Oliver Platt, Kate Walsh, Colin Hanks, Keith Carradine, Allison Tolman, Key & Peele, and, surprisingly enough, Billy Bob Thornton. (Trust me, Thornton is the best you’ve ever seen him.) Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, you should definitely check out the series, which tells a different tale. And season two has a new cast and story, so you can jump in at any time.

The Wire ~ Are you tired of all your friends telling you that The Wire is the absolute best show ever made and you having no frame of reference? I was, too, but now I’m almost done with season one, and I totally get it. Last year, HBO released all five seasons of the David Simon drama in HD for the first time ever. If you already have an HBO subscription through your cable company, you can login via HBO Go to watch. If not, HBO Now is available as a stand-alone service you can sign up for directly, and if you start soon, you’ll be all ready when Game of Thrones comes back in the spring. (Or binge watch Game of Thrones on the service, too.) Simon’s excellent Treme is another great one to check out.

Justified ~ Like Westerns? FX has a doozy of one that recently came to an end in Justified. Starring Timothy Olyphant, each of the six seasons found a lawman tangling with various gangsters and locals in the underpopulated, heavily treed state of Kentucky. The first scene of the pilot will hook you right away, Olyphant’s smoldering hero radiating cool, and the ending of the show is about as perfect as any series finale I’ve ever borne witness to, with four words just as meaningful as those that famously conclude 1984. It’s all available now on Amazon Prime.

The West Wing ~ If the craziness of the current presidential election primaries are bumming you out, why not go for the ideal administration? President Bartlett saved me from my second-term-Bush woes, and I’m sure he can do the same for you, no matter which side of the aisle you fall on. With a smart, witty staff, whose dialogue is as sharp as the ideals represented, I cannot recommend it enough. Bonus points if you make it an Aaron Sorkin trilogy and take in Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip and The Newsroom as well. (I wanted to recommend Sorkin’s Sports Night, too, but it’s a comedy, and this list is only for dramas.)

Felicity ~ The original Crazy (not quite) Ex-girlfriend, Felicity is a coming-of-age drama about a girl (named Felicity, duh!) who travels across the country for a guy, and it’s available on Hulu. For four seasons, there were only a few hints of weirdness underlying the surface (the shoe box episode, Pink Power Ranger Amy Jo Johnson’s small screen return, Greg Grunberg and Ian Gomez). Then, after the series finale the writers wanted, its forced resurrection resulted in a handful of hours that push the show far outside of its genre, and give answer to the concerns of those that think Felicity ultimately chose the wrong guy. Plus, see Jennifer Garner before she was famous! (Then continue on the J.J. Abrams train and check out Alias, which features Bradley Cooper before he was famous.)

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 ~ What can I say? I’ve been a Trekkie since long before I got into television. Deep Space 9 has always been the black sheep of the franchise, never being on the air alone, trapped between more popular siblings The Next Generation and Voyager. Yet, being confined to a single locale made it different than any other Star Trek series. Seven years of religion, politics, hopeless war, and a recurring cast of dozens make this one of my favorite shows of all time, and if you missed the overlooked gem, now is the time to redeem yourself. It is available on both Netflix and Hulu.

Honorable mentions ~ The original programs made by the streaming services themselves! We’re still in the early days of high-quality, long-form shows that you can’t get in your cable package. But from Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, to Amazon’s Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, to Hulu’s… well, Hulu will get there some day, there are very good shows on a variety of platforms. Scroll through the offerings on each of these, and you’re likely to come across some really neat stuff.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

High On THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

Article originally published as THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE Review on Seat42F.

The Man In The High Castle




Amazon’s newest drama is called THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. Based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, the story is set in an alternate 1962, in which the United States lost World War II in 1947, and now lives under the harsh rule of the Axis powers. In this landscape, a film reel showing the Allies winning the war begins circulating, and those in charge become intent to kill all who come across it.


The former United States looks very different in THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. The West Coast is now Japanese territory, while the Midwest and the East wave a Nazi flag. In between is a nearly lawless neutral zone, which characters from both sides venture into, and seems to be where a large part of the action will take place. While people are generally the same, the country is virtually unrecognizable, with everything from jobs to technology affected.

It’s under these conditions that the intrigue plays out. There is no love lost between the Japanese and the Germans, who have become locked in a Cold War, being the two super powers left in the world. Only Adolf Hitler holds the tenuous peace together, and with his health failing, it looks like things may soon devolve into violence once more.

It’s interesting to see Hitler cast as a peacemaker. It makes sense, given the way the pilot plays out, and it reinforces the wisdom that history is written by the victor. Life isn’t great for the conquered Americans, having lost their freedom, but it isn’t horrible, most going on mainly as normal. With the Great Depression having exacted a heavy toll and work still scarce, many who might revile Hitler are now counting on him to hold everything together.

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE has a lot going on. I know I’ve said that about other shows, but it seems especially true about this one. There are the larger political machinations, as mentioned above, but there’s also a rebellion and the more personal story around the film reel., I give the writers credit for balancing all of this, likely inspired by Dick, who packed a lot in a relatively short novel. The show manages to tell various stories on different scales and not feel scattered or messy.

On the personal level, front and center, is Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos, Mob City). Living in San Francisco, studying martial arts, she embraces the best parts of the new world. But when her half-sister gives her the reel mentioned above, she feels compelled to follow the trail, taking her into the neutral zone, an area she knows nothing about.

Her counterpart from the German side is Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank, Bones), a truck driver who also has a reel. They come together seemingly by happenstance, but both seem destined to be intertwined. Their connection isn’t romantic, with Juliana having a steady beau at home. Instead, it seems like they are playing a part in something much bigger than themselves, with little foresight into what might happen next.

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE’s first episode intrigues and engages. There characters are interesting, and while it isn’t populated by an A-list cast, there are a number of familiar faces, all of whom do an excellent job. The world, realistically painted, is complex and vast, and the balance between the elements is expertly managed. I have nothing bad to say about it, and look forward very much to diving into the next installment.

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is available now on Amazon.com, with the first two episodes currently free for everyone.

"The Woman" Should "Live" On in DOCTOR WHO

Article first published as TV Review: 'Doctor Who' - 'The Woman Who Lived' on Blogcritics.

DW906Picking up hundreds of years (per Earth’s time) after last week’s Doctor Who episode ends, “The Woman Who Lived” finds The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in England, 1651, having a run-in with a highwayman known as The Nightmare. It doesn’t take long for The Nightmare to reveal herself to be none other than Ashildr (Maisie Williams), the Viking girl that The Doctor gave immortality to. What has happened to her and why is she robbing coaches?

Ashildr is a cautionary tale that is more about The Doctor than the girl herself, as least in “The Woman Who Lived.” It has long been known that The Doctor doesn’t function so well when he travels alone, without a human companion. Ashildr has shunned taking on someone like a companion, and instead lives a life of isolation. As such, she has lost sight of how meaningful life is, and no longer cares much for her fellow men, seeing them as disposable. It’s not a pretty outlook, and it’s one that The Doctor could share if he’s not careful.

The Doctor realizes pretty quickly what has happened. I guess an addict is always good at recognizing those traits in others, and that’s what loneliness is to The Doctor and Ashildr, an addiction, one that is very damaging to their health and those around them. The Doctor determines he must break Ashildr of this habit and help her see the value in life again. Essentially, he serves as her companion, giving her reasons to look past the surface and find the meaning of life.

Because of this, “The Woman Who Lived” is an excellent installment. The plot with the roguish Sam Swift (Rufus Hound, Hounded) is fun, and the monster-of-the-week is OK, though thankfully minimal. Instead, this is a character piece for Doctor Who that uses another person to reflect a characteristic back at The Doctor for further examination. In this, it succeeds quite well.

The consequences of “The Woman Who Lived” remain unknown. Near the close of the episode, Ashildr says she will make it her life’s work to clean up The Doctor’s messes that he leaves behind. Might this be early Torchwood or UNIT stuff? (Doubtfully the former, which has already been explored a bit.) Or might Ashildr mean something else, something more sinister? While The Doctor says positive things to her after this disclosure, there’s an edge to their exchange that feels like everything won’t be honky dory after this.

Stranger still is Ashildr appearance in the background Clara’s (Jenna-Louise Coleman) present day photograph. Ashildr is sporting a sly grin that doesn’t necessarily bode well. While this might be of comfort if the facial expression were more jovial or if Sam were with her, it instead, the way it is, raises the heckles on the back of one’s neck. Is Ashildr following Clara in order to make sure her life isn’t messed up by her travels with The Doctor? Or is Ashildr beginning to actively work against The Doctor, which she says she won’t do? It’s a question of how Ashildr sees things, as there is definitely an easy path here to put Ashildr and The Doctor at odds and have Ashildr sincerely believe she’s doing good.

Thus far, season nine of Doctor Who has consisted of two-parters, and the next two weeks look no different. Yet, I feel Ashildr’s story is not at an end, and we simply must see her again before this year comes to a close. She’s far too interesting a personality to allow to stay away, and allows the show to dig into the core of The Doctor. I’m sure Williams’ Game of Thrones commitments make her availability limited, but Ashildr has to return.

Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The "Restoration" of Team ARROW

Article originally published as ARROW Review "Restoration" on Seat42F.

Arrow Season 4 Episode 3 Restoration

Team ARROW is in need of a “Restoration,” and they get one in this week’s installment on the CW. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) tries to bring Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Diggle (David Ramsey) back together. A new villain might just help her along, though also exposes her secret to yet another person. Meanwhile, Thea’s (Willa Holland) quest for help and Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) mission to bring her sister back to life don’t go as either of them expected.

Team Arrow expands rapidly over the years. While it starts as just three people, several others are let in on the secrets as time goes on. It’s gotten to the point where it seems like just about anyone can find the lair and figure out who is on the team.

Take Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum). Just introduced as an employee of Felicity’s, he already gets into the headquarters and learns that Felicity is connected to Star City’s costumed vigilante. Now, Curtis’ discovery is due to mistakes that Felicity makes, so he can’t really be blamed. But it still seems like everyone important finds out sooner or later, usually sooner. I suppose this means Curtis will be sticking around, at least for a little while, which in his case is welcome news.

I like the separate life “Restoration” shows us for Felicity. As ARROW has gone on, her character has gotten more and more development. Seeing her as a CEO with her own activities apart from the others is gratifying. I was beginning to wonder how she balances everything, but with a base just downstairs from her job, a busy boyfriend, and being more than capable of herself, any lingering doubts are laid to rest as we see her in action this week. Though, it might get harder, depending on where the new command center will be.

Felicity even manages to survive an encounter with the metahuman villain Double Down (JR Bourne, Teen Wolf)! Now, it’s only by accident that she makes it out alive, but still, her life has become colorful, indeed!

Oliver and Diggle have a rather tame time by comparison. It does feel a little too easy, the way they come back together when Oliver almost literally takes a bullet for Diggle, but it’s needed. The tension between them has gone on long enough, and ARROW needs to move on. “Restoration” gets a little hokey in doing so; connecting Diggle’s query, Mina Fayad (Carmen Moore, Blackstone), to Oliver’s foe, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), seems way too convenient. But at least “Restoration” dispels with the drama and gets the show back to where it needs to be.

One thing ARROW is doing better and better these days is balancing characters. In the Laurel / Thea plot, the two travel to Nanda Parbat in order to seek a cure for Thea’s bloodlust and bring Sara (Caity Lotz) back to life. In Nanda Parbat, the two girls have their own very personal motivations, which somewhat clash with Ra’s (John Barrowman) and Nyssa (Katrina Law). Yet, all four intermingle their through lines nicely, combining events where they need be, but still making all feel authentic to who they are. It’s a delicate dance that is handled more deftly than some of ARROW’s other interweaving threads, such as Diggle and Oliver’s part of “Restoration.”

Ra’s brings Sara back to life not for Sara nor Laurel’s sake, but for Thea’s. He genuinely is trying to be a good dad and help her. Giving her prey to kill doesn’t work, so maybe bringing a friend back will. I don’t admire Ra’s method of assistance, but one has to admit that he is definitely devoted to his daughter and past the point of just using her.

Now that Sara’s back, all sorts of possibilities are on the table for the former Black Canary. Obviously, Thea’s bloodlust is just a taste of what Sara will go through. But we know Sara is destined for the mid-season spin-off, so her recovery time is finite. I’m not sure where ARROW will take her over the next couple of months, but I’m anxious to see and happy to have her back.

ARROW isn’t a perfect show, and some parts of “Restoration” don’t quite make sense (not to mention the nearly useless flashbacks). Yet, overall it’s fun to watch, and it does a good job keeping the audience engaged. The longer it goes on, the smarter the writing seems to get, and I greatly appreciate that.

ARROW airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Scarification" of GOTHAM

Article originally published as GOTHAM Review "Scarification" on Seat42F.

GOTHAM Recap Scarification

Last night’s GOTHAM revealed the “Scarification” that rocked the city nearly two centuries ago. This gives insight into the motives of the Big Bad this season, as well as provides a clue as to what his goals might be. Whether or not that will help him be stopped remains anyone’s guess, but at least not every character is still in the dark about him. Oh, and a new villain is introduced.

“Scarification” basically halts its action for a bit as Edwige (Mary Joy, Secretary) tells Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) the tale of the Waynes and the Galavans. Apparently, a very long time ago, a Wayne badly wronged Galavan’s family, then going by a different name. Theo Galavan (James Frain) has now returned to the city to exact revenge, supported by a coming army and a shadowy cult leader (Ron Rifkin, Alias, Brothers & Sisters).

I admit, my knowledge of Batman is mostly limited to the movies, not being much of a comic book reader, so I do not know if this plot arc is based on something in the written lore or not. What I can say is that it feels off for GOTHAM. GOTHAM has dealt in a grounded here-and-now. To have such an extended flashback to such a long time ago seems weird for this particular program, and it paints an odd picture of the Waynes, who are supposedly a force for good in the current age. I’m not saying the show can’t make this story work, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit in tonally with what’s been seen so far.

Much more enjoyable is the struggle between Penguin and Theo. Penguin works very hard in the first season to defeat his enemies and rise to the top. Granted, a victory that can be achieved in less than a year isn’t all that monumental, but Penguin is on top at the start of the season after struggling to get there To have Theo come in and threaten that position now is killing Penguin, and Taylor does an excellent job of showing that desperation and frustration mixed with lunacy.

As this battle between bad guys shapes up, Captain Barnes’ (Michael Chiklis) strike force is merely squabbling with henchmen and minor foes. They encounter new baddie Firefly (Michelle Veintimilla, Not Cool), but her story is more tragic than sinister, so even aftershe kills a police officer, viewers are likely to not blame Selina (Camren Bicondova) for helping her escape.

GOTHAM doesn’t have just one kind of villain, and those shown in “Scarification” represent a wide swath of baddies. From the idiot fire-starting brothers, to Firefly, forced into service, to the Penguin, a man with a chip on his shoulder, to Theo, a well-organized gangster, to Selina, who is only sort of a villain, there are a wide variety of personalities. The way they all interact makes for very interesting television, and it’s easy to see that Barnes, Gordon (Ben McKenzie), and the rest of the force have their work cut out for them, the city allowing all of these types of people to thrive for so long.

There’s another antagonist, though, who hasn’t yet become an antagonist, and I find his story just as fascinating as those others. Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) has killed, but no one knows it. Instead, he fakes a normal, happy life, even double dating with Gordon and Lee (Morena Baccarin). Obvious to anyone who regularly watches GOTHAM, his craziness is bubbling just below the surface, ready to erupt. Every scene he’s in has the potential to get insane quickly, which makes his presence very welcome.

“Scarification” is a great episode because of the Penguin’s madness and the threat of Nygma losing it. The bits with Theo and the backstory are far less interesting, and while Theo’s plan has much more to play out, I’m not really into that arc this year. He’s not as complex or unique as other villains on the show, so I hope Penguin or someone else disrupts Theo’s activities before he gets too far. Since Theo is already planning to kill Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), and we know that can’t happen, he likely can’t go on for an entire season. The sooner he is taken out, the better.

GOTHAM airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

Friday, October 23, 2015

DOCTOR WHO "Died"

Article originally published as TV Review: 'Doctor Who' - "The Girl Who Died" on Blogcritics.

In this week’s installment of Doctor Who, “The Girl Who Died,” The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) land on Earth in Viking times. The Doctor claims to be Odin, but is quickly exposed when another false-Odin shows up. When this alien creature kills all the able-bodied fighters in the local clan, a story-telling girl (Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones) declares war on them. Can The Doctor rescue a village from certain death?

Before I get into this episode, I would like to briefly mention the past two weeks, “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood,” since this is a weekly column and I neglected to cover those installments individually. “Under the Lake” is a solid monster-of-the-week mystery with a number of clever lines, which makes it a good, but not great, hour. Thankfully, it is improved upon by the timey-wimey craziness of the second part, “Before the Flood,” which explores a known paradox concept and some cleverness. While not my favorite episodes of Doctor Who by any means, they are enjoyable, and it was only my own busy life that kept those columns from being written. They are both better than a lot of last season.

So, on to “The Girl Who Died,” which also starts as a monster-of-the-week installment, but evolves into something else near the end. The villain who appears is scary and the situation seems dire, but the plot is relatively straight forward. It doesn’t require a great deal of concentration to watch the hour, but it’s mostly uplifting and entertaining.

Ever since Capaldi took The Doctor’s face, he has struggled to care about life as much as previous incarnations have. The Doctor helps people, and this one continues to, but he’s now a little more cavalier about those he doesn’t save. The Doctor is alien and has bouts of time where he withdraws and stops caring as much about those around him. He has been going through one of the worst periods of this lately.

Then the girl at the center of the piece, Ashildr (Williams), dies and changes everything. The Doctor suddenly remembers what his purpose is, and what he does best. His drive to be a force of good is reignited. Even were this revelation not tied into Capaldi’s guest starring role in a season four episode, it would be great, but using this to explain The Doctor’s current look, expanding the mythology, is absolutely brilliant. The Doctor has let people die in the past, but it should always be as a last resort, never an acceptable sacrifice to let go. His current incarnation is crafted to remind him of that every day.

And it’s really cool to glimpse the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), even if only for a moment in flashback. Donna is my favorite companion of the modern rebooted Doctor Who, and I’d love to see her appear again some day.

So The Doctor revives Ashildr and gives her immortality. Even The Doctor isn’t immortal, as one day he will run out of lives and pass away (or so he believes; I don’t know if the BBC will allow it). This ‘gift’ might help Ashildr now and make her loved ones feel better, but next week’s preview, set nearly 1,000 years later from Ashildr’s perspective, promises consequences. The Doctor’s intentions here are noble, but are they right?

Being a time traveler, The Doctor always has to struggle to balance what he can do and what he should do. “The Girl Who Died” makes him face this head-on, and doesn’t give an easy answer. It is a masterful piece of a larger puzzle, one that gets to the essential core of the title character in Doctor Who. I look forward very much to the next part, and hope Ashildr’s story goes far beyond two hours, at least as far as it concerns The Doctor.

Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"JSS" THE WALKING DEAD

Article first published as THE WALKING DEAD Review "JSS" on Seat42F.

the-walking-dead-episode-602-morgan-james-935

“JSS,” the title of this week’s installment of THE WALKING DEAD on AMC, stands for ‘just survive somehow.’ This seems an apropos title when The Wolves attack Alexandria and lots of people are dying left and right. The world in which this series takes place in is very, very dangerous, and all anyone can be expected to do is to try to stay alive. Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done.

“JSS” begins with a girl in a vehicle with her parents. It’s Enid (Katelyn Nacon), whom we’ve seen living in Alexandria. As the next few minutes pass, viewers witness how Enid loses her parents, survives on her own, and eventually makes her way to the settlement. It’s a brief character profile that certainly tells us more about the girl, how she has toughened herself in order to stay alive, which is also why she has trouble getting close to anyone, trying to avoid going through that pain of loss again.

It’s not unusual for THE WALKING DEAD to begin quietly, even after a cliffhanger like the one in last week’s season premiere. What is unusual is that the cliffhanger is not picked back up upon during the hour. One could argue the horn honk is to let us know about the attack on Alexandria, and it does. But it also turns an entire hoard of walkers towards the safe zone, and “JSS” doesn’t show us what happens with that yet. It’s basically a real-time event that takes place during the season premiere.

THE WALKING DEAD is terrific at teasing and drawing things out. It will eventually give us a satisfying resolution to the huge action sequence promised, but it will not be rushed in getting there. There is more story that needs to be covered first, and the show is structured in such a way as to expertly build drama until it can be built no more. It may be frustrating for some viewers to have to wait until episode three to get a promised battle between humans and zombies, but given just how good “JSS” and “First Time Again” are, I feel like there’s no room for complaint. Anticipation only continues to build, and the events of “JSS” leave our heroes much less prepared to deal with the coming zombies.

“JSS” sees The Wolves attack Alexandria, and as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) predicted, the people who have been living behind the walls don’t know how to defend themselves. Most of our main contingent is away, as we see in the premiere. It’s basically left to Carol (Melissa McBride), Morgan (Lennie James), Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Aaron (Ross Marquand), who isn’t one of Rick’s group, but has spent a lot of time in the outside world, to defend everyone else from a band of armed marauders. This isn’t a large force, but thanks to their experience and smarts, they are able to do so.

Now, not every Alexandrian is helpless. Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) does take out one woman when her family is threatened. This is clearly because of Rick’s influence, since she previously couldn’t bring herself to stand up to an abusive husband. Now, though, she’s growing quickly, and finally seems prepared to contribute.

But a lot of other Alexandrians lose their lives. Mrs. Neudermeyer (Susie Spear Purcell) is one of the first to go. Olivia (Ann Mahoney) and Denise (Merritt Wever) cower in fear, content to let others do the work for them. Spencer (Austin Nichols) helps from his tower, but then doesn’t directly counter attack on the ground.

Now, Rick has a plan, and he will be helping them get better at surviving. Some, like Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), are willing to learn, thankfully. Others are not so eager. As THE WALKING DEAD has shown us, those who do not step up and become capable of defending themselves will die. So it seems the community could end up being mostly Rick’s group when this is all over.

Morgan is a big question mark, though. He clearly abhors violence, and tries to only disarm The Wolves, not kill them. Is this an attitude that will work for him? He encounters The Wolves prior to this, and if he had killed the two he ran into then, at least the attacking group would have been slightly smaller. Can he really afford mercy in this day and age? I have serious doubts that he can, and he’ll either have to adapt or put the group at risk.

Thankfully, we’ll always have Carol. Her cover as a timid housewife may be blown, at least with Olivia, and she’s not able to save everyone, but she does a lot, arguably more than anyone, to defend the place. Carol is highly capable, and a good example of what Jessie might become in time, their histories being so similar. Yet, Carol isn’t cold, either, much as she might appear to be, as we see her holding a dying neighbor in her arms. Carol has found the right balance, just like Rick, that is needed in this world.

“JSS” ends with Enid running off. Will she be back? She is the one that tells Carl (Chandler Riggs) to just survive somehow, and that is certainly easier to do in a group, especially with some of the strong people around to help protect her. She’s a capable girl, but I hope she changes her mind before she becomes walker food. She definitely isn’t the only Alexandrian that needs help.

THE WALKING DEAD airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Is ONCE UPON A TIME "Broken"?

Article originally published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review "The Broken Kingdom" on Seat42F.

ONCE UPON A TIME - "The Broken Kingdom" - (ABC/Jack Rowand)
JOSH DALLAS, GINNIFER GOODWIN




Tonight’s ONCE UPON A TIME, “The Broken Kingdom,” is very Camelot-heavy. Viewers get the story behind the Arthur / Guinevere / Lancelot love triangle, and the search for the dagger during the missing weeks in Camelot. While it does put our main characters’ arcs on hold, it is an enjoyable installment with some intriguing story.


We already know Arthur (Liam Garrigan) is a villain prior to this hour, but that portrait flies directly in the face of the legend. “The Broken Kingdom” helps connect the disparate pieces. We see how insecure and obsessed Arthur gets. He cannot be happy without the full sword from the stone, but it has always remained out of reach. Feeling incomplete without it, he neglects his kingdom, his best friend, even his marriage, in order to pursue what he thinks is his destiny. He doesn’t see himself as evil; his narrow-vision just fools everyone, including himself, about what he’s doing.

Similarly, we already know Lancelot (Sinqua Walls) is noble, but how does that square with coveting his best friend’s wife? “The Broken Kingdom” adequately answers that as well, showing how Lancelot and Guinevere (Joana Metrass) grow closer as they try to save Arthur. Then, Arthur casts a spell on Guinevere that shuts down the true love between the pair in order to maintain an illusion.

Illusion is a key component of ONCE UPON A TIME this year. In the present day, which is not shown this week until the very end, everyone’s memories are gone, and the characters can only believe what they see. In the past, magic often disguises the truth, from the aforementioned stories, to Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas) being cursed as well, made to trust Arthur when they shouldn’t. At least they see through Arthur’s plan to distract David with a title and a seat at the round table early in the installment.

In the B story of “The Broken Kingdom,” Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) tries to break Emma (Jennifer Morrison) of her own delusions. No, not the fact that Henry (Jared Gilmore) is too young to love; that bit just results in a fun scene. But Hook tries to help Emma remember the love they share and access the good parts of her brain. This succeeds in dispelling the hallucinations of Rumple (Robert Carlyle) that Emma has, if only temporarily.

In all of this, true love seems to be the most likely answer to break all the spells, as has been the case in the past. A true love’s kiss might bring Lancelot and Guinevere together and break Arthur’s hold on them. It might help Mary Margaret and David and the others get their memories back. And it just might save Emma from herself, even if love never quite manages to save Rumple when he is the Dark One.

The question remaining is, how does Merida (Amy Manson) fit in? Seen early this season, she re-appears in Arthur’s dungeon, when Lancelot is locked up with her, as well as in the present day when Dark Swan gives her a forced mission. Right now she is the X factor that could sway the outcomes of many a storyline. Without knowing why she’s involved or what she will do, there’s no telling what role she may play throughout this fall season.

Some fans of ONCE UPON A TIME get frustrated when the focus shifts to guest characters, away from the core cast. I understand that attitude, and for those viewers, “The Broken Kingdom” will likely be a disappointment, with Merida’s likely key part only heightening that. Personally, I am just glad for a mostly plot-hole-free hour and some promising teases of what is to come. I like this one.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"The Candidate" for ARROW

Article originally written for Seat42F.




This week’s ARROW finds a friend of the Queens becoming “The Candidate” for mayor of Star City. Given what has been happening to other candidates, and that Team Arrow has made no progress against the ghosts terrorizing the town, this doesn’t seem like a good idea. But not everyone believes what Star City needs is a mask; some people want a hero in the light. Is there anyone who can be found to fill that role?

I am disappointed that Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager, Body of Proof) is brought in to play Jessica Danforth, a seemingly one-episode character. I enjoy that actress, and I liked this role for her. I was hoping she’d stick around a bit longer.

But it’s hard to blame Jessica for withdrawing from the race. With her daughter, Madison (Tiera Skovbye), kidnapped by mad man Anarky (Alexander Calvert), one understands why Jessica doesn’t want to ride things out. She’s fine with risking her own life when the city needs her to, but not her daughter’s. Few would act differently in her position, nor blame her for this.

The primary conflict between Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) at this point seems to be that Oliver keeps his identity a secret. I can see why a police officer has a problem with that, but I’m glad things are thawing a little between them, Quentin even asking for Oliver’s help at one point. Hopefully, their relationship will much improve now that Oliver is running for mayor, a position that he is uniquely suited for given his ability to stay alive.

I wonder if Oliver can keep being the Green Arrow while running for mayor. It seems like he’ll have to choose one or the other. As mayor, he will be watched much more closely than he is now. But he’s seen how bad the city is, and someone has to step up. At least Thea (Willa Holland), the one family member he has left, can take care of herself at this point, unlike Madison.

Well, Thea can defend herself, but she’s not all right. The effects of the Lazarus Pit are beginning to show themselves in her brutality. Oliver is willing to let Quentin believe he burned Anarky to protect his sister, but he won’t be able to keep covering things up for her long-term. That’s why, even though The League is dangerous, it seems a good plan for Laurel (Katie Cassidy) to take Thea back to the Pit. With her dad in charge now, surely something can be figured out to help Thea.

Less smart is Laurel’s plan to bring her own sister, Sara, back in the Pit. Laurel has already seen the negative effects of resurrection. She should definitely wait and see what happens with Thea first, to understand if the negatives can be overcome. I also wonder if the Lazarus Pit would even work on someone who has been dead as long as Sara has. I guess we’ll soon find out, though Sara’s starring role in the Legends of Tomorrow spin-off seems to indicate she will rise again.

I enjoy “The Candidate” a great deal. Besides the stories above, which are all interesting and engaging, there’re a lot of fun moments in Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) asking for a code name, or as she tries to take control of the company she now runs. New character Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum, Ben and Kate) has plenty of potential. The series is doing a great job balancing the various plot lines, while developing each character on an individual basis. As long as ARROW keeps up this trend, I’ll have no complaints.

Except the flashbacks. It still needs to get rid of the flashbacks.

ARROW airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.