Thursday, April 30, 2015

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 21


Arrow
Episode Title: “Al Sah-Him”
Channel: CW
Director: Thor Freudental
Writers: Brian Ford Sullivan and Emilio Ortega Aldrich
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: April 29, 2015

This week on Arrow we heard a new intro voice over from Stephen Amell, proclaiming that he was Oliver Queen. What followed was a montage of his training at the hands of Ra's. We're supposed to believe that he was broken down and brain washed into following Ra's orders without question. There just wasn't enough in the montage to give me the feeling that such a thing had happened over the course of the three weeks he'd been there. Even with the herb they've been giving him making him think he'd killed Diggle I didn't really get the feeling that Oliver had gone to the dark side. After three weeks of training Oliver was ready to go out and do Ra's' bidding, and he was sent out to deal with Nyssa, who is apparently a threat to his heir-ship (Heir-ness? Heirity?). This sets “Al Sah-Him” up as a villain of the week episode, with Oliver as the villain.

The rest of team Arrow is learning how to do things in Oliver's absence, again. Nyssa is still training Laurel, and we saw that the training isn't coming along very quickly as Nyssa had to step in and keep Laurel from getting hurt. This is important to a gripe I have regarding a moment later in the episode. Then they went to a diner for food, which was actually a good scene. Seeing Nyssa act more like a human was important because otherwise we wouldn't really care that she was Oliver's target. After Laurel told her that Oliver had accepted Ra's' offer Nyssa realized her time was short and went out to meet the threat headed her way. Diggle carried the load for the rest of the team, doing his best to pull them together during such a trying time. When Laurel told the team that Oliver would be coming for Nyssa they decided to face him and see if they could talk some sense into them.

The confrontation didn't go well for Nyssa. She was quickly subdued by Oliver and only saved when Diggle and Laurel made an appearance. We got our first look at Laurel's 'Canary Cry' and it was a underwhelming to say the least. Laurel looked as if she was screaming, but the sound coming out barely resembled a voice at all, which made her look a trifle silly standing there with her mouth hanging open. Oliver fled the scene and realized that now the team would be protecting Nyssa so he'd need to draw her out. What better way to get them to do what he wants than to kidnap and threaten Lyla? Diggle did the predictable thing and advocated turning Nyssa over to Oliver and the League.

Of course it was a swerve from Diggle and Co. Once Lyla was handed over they started an all out battle with Oliver and the League. During the rumble Laurel held her own for a period of time against two assassins, which is ridiculous after seeing her have trouble with a single mugger. The battle turned in Oliver's favor and he was prepared to strike a killing blow to Diggle when an arrow pierced his arm. The camera panned over to reveal Thea, in full vigilante regalia, with another arrow aimed at Ollie. She threatened to shoot him in the eye, and he retreated with Nyssa as his prize. There were moments each time we saw Oliver that make me think he's pulling a long con on the League. He gave up easily twice when confronted by his former friends and family, and if he's really wanted to get a reaction out of Diggle, little Sara would've made a far better incentive. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I just can't see them making him the villain in his own show, no matter how briefly he may occupy that role.

The flashbacks this week were more of the same. Oliver, Maseo, and Tatsu doing their best to stop the release of the Alpha/Omega virus, and failing. In the last flashback sequence they're trying to get out of Hong Kong when Akio develops a nosebleed, signifying that we may finally see what drove the wedge between Maseo and Tatsu. The flashbacks this season have felt like there was enough content for half a season and it's been stretched to cover all twenty three episodes. At least the importance of the events in Hong Kon was finally made apparent when Ra's revealed the final part of Oliver's transformation.

When Oliver returned to Nanda Parbat, with Nyssa in tow, Ra's found the item Nyssa had stolen from him. The culmination of Oliver's metamorphosis into the Heir of the Demon is to be his destruction of Starling City. His tool for doing so is to be the stolen item, a vial of the Alpha/Omega virus. Ra's told Oliver to kill Nyssa, which he seemed willing to do, but Ra's stopped him at the last second to reveal his real plan. He intends for Oliver and Nyssa to marry and assume control of the League in his stead. Neither of the two seemed thrilled at the prospect of their union.

Conclusion: The flashbacks finally matter to the present day in a more important way than simply containing the Yamashiros, but they feel as if they were spread too thin over the course of the season. Seeing a cold-blooded and detached Oliver do whatever it takes to get to Nyssa was a fun concept, but I just can't shake the feeling that Oliver is still in there and waiting to make his move.

Rating: 7.75/10

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 20


The Flash
Episode Title: “The Trap”
Channel: CW
Director: Steve Shill
Writers: Alison Schapker and Brooke Eikmeier
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 43 min
Rated: TV-PG
Original Air Date: April 28, 2015

With a big confrontation on the horizon, and only a few episode left to set it up the audience knew this week was going to be a big one. “The Trap” picked up right where we left off in “Who is Harrison Wells?” with Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco in Dr. Wells secret hideout. The new facts being discovered by the team came fast, the newspaper article we've gotten so used to Wells staring at contains a lot of information. For one, Iris ends up married to Barry. Also the Flash teams up with the Green Arrow, the Atom, and Hawk Girl to take on the Reverse Flash. When Gideon, Wells' AI companion, awoke she revealed that the Flash is a founding member of … before Barry cut her off, which has to be a Justice League reference. Also, she will follow any orders Barry gives her, because he's her creator. Although in light of the ending of the episode I don't think we can trust anything she said, after all, Wells has been planning for every contingency.

The team concludes that the visions Cisco has been experiencing are memories left over from Barry's foray into time travel. They concoct a convenient to the plot, but completely unbelievable way for Cisco to relive his dream in a lucid state and relay what he's seeing to the others. It was chilling to see that moment play out again, and Cisco's terror at seeing his death approaching made me worry for his well being, even in a dream. After learning the particulars they came up with a plan to coerce a confession out of Wells, by recreating the circumstances of the dream.

This week contained several flashbacks dealing with Barry's time in a coma and how those around him handled it. Joe was distrusting of Wells from the beginning, Iris told him how important he was to her, and Wells laid out his master plan, speaking mostly of his hate for the Flash. Besides some vitriolic background from Wells the most important part of theses scenes was a tiny static spark in the scene with Iris. It would play a big part by the end of the episode.

There were a couple of distracting side-arcs that threatened the pace of the show. The major one dealt with Eddie's plan to propose to Iris. Joe refused to give his blessing and Eddie went to Barry to see if he could change Joe's mind. Joe is convinced that it would be a mistake for Iris to marry Eddie, since she would realize she was with the wrong man, but would stay out of commitment. It was an awkward situation, with Barry arguing Eddie's case despite his feelings for Iris. The other distraction was a brief building fire, in the exact building and floor where Capt. Singh's fiance works. I guess the purpose of this scene was to provide a bit of action and to reiterate to the audience that Wells so often appears helpful that it's hard to believe he's the villain. It just felt extraneous though. We've had plenty of moments when Wells has seemed like a good guy, and the episode didn't need any action; there was plenty going on to keep it interesting.

The team set their trap for Wells and waited for him to show up. When he did everything proceeded just as it should. Cisco had set the force field they intended to trap the Reverse Flash in to keep speedsters out instead, it was intended to be his safety net upon getting Wells to confess to the murder of Nora Allen. He doesn't quite confess, fearing for his life Cisco activated the force field, which Wells walked right through. Joe fired three bullets at Wells, Barry manages to stop two of them, but one hit Wells in the chest and killed him. I'm not sure they'll broach the subject, but in the next couple of episodes Cisco might wonder if Barry was willing to sacrifice him to get the confession they needed.

In an amazing twist Barry's phone rang and Wells was on the other end of the call. The body on the floor we thought of wells reverts to last week's villain, Everyman, and Wells revealed that he has been watching every aspect of Barry's, and his friends', lives and knew exactly what they were planning. This explains some of the subtle, significant looks we've seen out of Wells in the past few episodes. Fearing for Iris' safety Barry speeds out to find her, but the Wells gets there first. He interrupted Eddie's proposal and threatened Iris before Barry showed up. When Barry arrived Wells made off with Eddie, and the Flash promised Iris he would get him back. They touched hands briefly and the same static discharge happened again. It dawned on Iris that Barry is the Flash. I'm glad she figured it out for herself, instead of being told. We are left to wonder why the Reverse Flash took Eddie with him. Since he is a descendant of Eddie I supposed Barry could end all of his problems by getting rid of the present day Thawne, but that just doesn't seem like a move Barry would make, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Conclusion: I'm really excited to see how they wrap up the first season of The Flash. There was so much going on in this episode I'm glad they decided to forgo the villain of the week formula and focus on the story. Hopefully, now that Iris knows Barry's secret she can get back to being a good character, and not just a source of conflict. The middle dragged a bit as everything lost focus, but overall “The Trap” was a great episode.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gotham: Season 1, Episode 21


Gotham
Episode Title: “The Anvil or the Hammer”
Channel: Fox
Director: Paul Edwards
Writer: Jordan Harper
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: April 27, 2015

Here we are, the next to last episode of the inaugural season of Gotham. It's also the third part of a running villain arc, which has been a rarity on the show so far. Last week the audience was left with a bit of a cliffhanger, as the Ogre revealed to Barbara his true nature, and she didn't immediately go screaming into the night. What did her apparent acceptance mean?

Unfortunately, it didn't mean much. Her freak out was just saved for this episode. Instead of doing something new with her character the writer fell right back to the Barbara's life is in danger schtick that we've already seen before. Instead of finding a kindred spirit the Ogre managed to push her to the brink of her sanity. When she finally broke he told her to pick his next victims. I was briefly allowed to believe that she had named Dr. Thompkins, but shortly after the Ogre made a taunting call to Gordon it's revealed that the real targets are Barbara's parents. On the phone Gordon and Bullock recognized noises distinctive to a certain path out of the city and began pursuit. They were too late to save Barbara's parents, but after a struggle they did managed to bring the Ogre down. Barbara is in a shell-shocked state, seemingly unable to cope with recent events. I had a brief thought of Barbara assuming the role of the Joker, but I doubt the writers will take such a leap away from the source material.

Bruce finally has the key to Bunderslaw's safe and managed to gain entry to the man's office. The safe proved to be empty and Bunderslaw confronted Bruce. The executive admitted to the illegal activities of Wayne Enterprises, but also told Bruce that his father had known the same things Bruce has uncovered. He claimed that Thomas Wayne was on board with the company's criminal ventures, which just doesn't match up with what Bruce knows of his father. Lucius Fox made an appearance and covertly encouraged told Bruce that his father was a good man. With the new revelations Bruce added a picture of his father to the investigation board. Whether he believes Lucius or Bunderslaw didn't seem apparent at the time.

On the Penguin front, the Penguin's plan to take out Maroni is in full swing. The crew is hired, the weapons are hidden, and the final words Maroni will hear are decided upon. But of course Maroni is supposed to survive until the time of Batman, so we knew something was going to go amiss. Penguin double-crossed the hitmen and set them up to be slaughtered by Maroni and his men. The statement Penguin had asked the gunman to make before shooting Maroni implicated Falcone in the hit. So Penguin is once again using the two crime families against each other. Some serious movement needs to come of it this time, this is something that we've seen before, and this is still the first season. It's a little early to be returning to that particular well.

Nygma spent the entire episode disposing of his first victim's body. Those scenes were relatively uneventful, with one close call when Ms. Kringle stopped by the forensics lab to get a report from Nygma. Then he left a letter from her missing boyfriend telling her she was going away. In a particularly ridiculous moment he mentions reading between the lines when dealing with men, and then revealed that the first letters of each line of the letter spelled out his name. That's not between the lines, it doesn't make sense in the context of the clue he offered, and in general just doesn't seem like a good idea. Instead of seeing Nygma become more than the just the strange medical examiner following his first homicide he's been returned to his usual goofiness.

Conclusion: The Gordon side of this episode didn't seem to do much to set up next week's finale. The content regarding Bruce and Penguin is what promises to carry the finale. Of the two I'm anticipating what Bruce might find regarding his father and his company more than the imminent Mob war. It seems like there have been so many false starts in the Penguin, Falcone, Maroni story line that the finale must be where it all comes to a head.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 3


Game of Thrones
Episode Title: “High Sparrow”
Channel: HBO
Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Runtime: 55 min
Rated: TV-MA
Original Air Date: April 26, 2015

It's starting to look like the most interesting things to happen in season five of Game of Thrones are going to happen in the North. Whereas the other characters' stories have taken on a very localized feel the North is continuing a broader story. The other stories are sure to be engaging in their own way, but the big moves are happening away from King's Landing, and I'm all right with that.

Following his election as Lord Commander, John Snow formally refused Stannis' offer of legitimacy and his father's castle. It was a great moment between the two characters as Stannis remarked on Jon's stubbornness and sense of honor reminding him of Ned. Jon chose to take the comment as a compliment despite that not being Stannis' intent. After the meeting concluded Davos stayed behind to work on Jon from a different angle. If one of those characters can convince Jon to take the name of Stark it would be Davos, but I don't see it happening. Later, in an attempt to mend fences and shed enemies, Jon named Alliser First Ranger, which seemed to placate the older man. Then he ordered Janos Slynt to take command of a ruined castle, which went about as well as expected. Janos railed at Jon with insult after insult and refused the order, the punishment for which is death. After some crying and begging from Slynt, Jon did the deed himself, perhaps convincing Alliser to keep in line and earning a measure of respect from Stannis. Seeing one of the bad guys get what he deserves seems to happen far less often than seeing our favorite characters die, so this was a rewarding scene for the vindictive among the audience.

Elsewhere in the North, Littlefinger is hatching his own plan to establish a Stark in Winterfell, by marrying Sansa to the newly not-a-bastard Ramsay Bolton. I'm finding it hard to believe that he has anything but his best interests in mind with this plan, despite him telling Sansa that this was her opportunity for revenge. For one thing, the talk he had with Sansa, convincing her to go to Ramsay, seemed a little too much like a talk he would've given one of his new girls back in his brothel running days. Also, what exactly is he expecting out of Sansa in this situation? If it were Arya I wouldn't doubt for a second that she'd stab Ramsay to death the first chance she got, but Sansa? Maybe she'll surprise us, I really hope she does. I just want it to be believable if it's taken in that direction.

Back in King's Landing the marriage of King Tommen to Margaery Tyrell is officially consummated in a scene that can only be described as awkward when you remember that he's supposed to be a young teen. It seems as though she already has her hook planted deeply in the impressionable young man, which is made apparent when he begins to hint that Ceresi might be happier back home at Casterly Rock. The High Septon was accosted by Sparrows at a brothel and made to walk the streets naked while being beaten. Ceresi went to visit the High Sparrow and seems to have acquired a new ally in her struggle to maintain power, although her endgame isn't clear.

Tyrion finally got some time outside of his carriage when he and Varys arrived in Volantis. Although a brothel was his obvious first stop he found himself unable to resume his whoring ways. This was the first significant thing we've seen from Tyrion this season, drinking doesn't count. In the same brothel we were reacquainted with our old friend Jorah Mormont, who recognized Tyrion and kidnapped him when the eunuch wasn't looking. It seems clear that Jorah is planning on bringing Tyrion to Daenerys, a move that he probably thinks will put him back in her good graces.

And finally, in Braavos, Arya has been sweeping the floor in the House of Black and White. It appears that they have a shrine to every god in the world there, and people show up there to die. A fellow apprentice exposed her for caring too much about who she was, and not what she wants to become, and in an attempt to prove she's ready she threw most of her possessions into the sea. Needle was hidden in some rocks, so she's still not ready to forgo her revenge but apparently it was enough to begin the next step of her initiation. So she was promoted from sweeping to washing dead bodies. It's hard to say where her story is headed right now, just that she seems so far away from her stated goals at this point that she may never find the revenge she's looking for.

Conclusion: So far this season Jon Snow has been given the most interesting things to do, which is good for a character that had been boring in large stretches up to this point. While I can see everyone's arcs this season being important, they seem important at a much more personal level than in previous seasons. Between Margaery's passive-aggressive harassment of Ceresi and Ceresi's past actions it is hard to choose who to root for in their coming power struggle.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday is Haul Day 40!!


Just comics this week, nothing else really caught my eye.  Even so there is so fun stuff here.

Beyond Belief #1 by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, Phil Hester, Maurico Wallace, and Marshall Dillon, The Empty #3 by Jimmie Robinson, Intersect #6 by Ray Fawkes, Postal #3 by Matt Hawkins, Bryan Hill, Isaac Goodhart, and Betsy Gonia, Star Wars #4 by Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, and Laura Martin, and finally Tomb Raider #15 by Rhianna Pratchett and Derlis Santacruz.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 20


Arrow
Episode Title: “The Fallen”
Channel: CW
Director: Antonio Negret
Writers: Wendy Mericle and Oscar Balderrama
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: April 22, 2015

“The Fallen” was a drama heavy episode. Ra's has finally forced Oliver's hand, and with Thea's life hanging in the balance he had no other choice than to accept Ra's offer and become the Heir to the Demon. Throughout the entire episode Stephen Amell shined, conveying his grief over Thea's circumstances and leaving his friends behind, and the resigned acceptance of his place in Ra's plans. He was asked to carry the majority of the episode, and succeeded.

In an episode filled with powerful scenes the audience was treated to a good one very quickly. With Thea stabilized, but likely to never awake, Oliver was at her bedside when Malcolm came in. The devastated look on his face was a perfect moment from John Barrowman. His sorrow helped humanize a character that has become easy to dislike over the course of the show. After Maseo revealed to Oliver that there was still a way to save Thea's life, by accepting Ra's offer and joining the League, Malcolm argued against it. He claimed that the Thea that emerged from the Lazarus Pit would not be the one that she had been in life. His prediction proved briefly correct as she attacked Oliver and had severe gaps in her memory, but seems to have returned to normal after her initial confusion. This was a bit disappointing and I hope in coming episodes we are treated to more side effects of her resurrection.

Both Maseo and Ra's were the recipients of important character moments. One of the best scenes in the episode occurred between Maseo and Diggle. With Diggle accusing Maseo of cowardice, Maseo finally revealed what we all had presumed to be the case, Akio, his son is dead. That conversation would prove to be very important later on in the episode. Ra's himself was the focus a good piece of dialogue between himself and Felicity. He explained how he had come to be who and where he was an encouraged her to do something that had been impossible for him to do and tell someone she loves how much he means to her. This wasn't just a great scene because of the background information the audience got regarding Ra's, but it also served as one of Felicity's better moments this season.

Really Felicity was good this whole episode, which isn't something that can be said for her character much this season. She told Ray Palmer and Oliver how she really felt about her romantic entanglements, did her best to verbally confront the Demon himself, and when it looked like everything was lost formulated half of a plan to get Oliver out of Nanda Parbat. Even if that plan didn't go the way she wanted it was good to see her do more than flip flop her stances on things and follow others around. During her failed rescue attempt Maseo showed up trying to help, showing the audience that maybe the good man Oliver knew is still in there somewhere.

At the end it was all for naught, there's just no way for Oliver to break his commitment to the League. Although it seems like team Arrow has to say goodbye to each other far too often; this week's round of goodbyes was pretty touching. Oliver told Diggle how highly he thought of him, and once again had to leave Felicity teary-eyed and convinced that she'll never see him again. The whole scene was handled well and featured quality performances from everyone involved.

As has been the case for this entire season, the flashbacks were rather lackluster. This week they were used to inject some action into what was a drama heavy episode. The chase involving the cargo truck was fun, although I'm not sure how the team missed that transfer of the bio-weapon to the food cart. It was a little ridiculous that the vial Oliver and company were after was robust enough to survive the fight between Oliver and the street vendor, but shattered on the ground. They were hitting each other with the fist holding the vial, it simply broke when it could conveniently add to the tension in the scene. With failure apparent in the flashbacks it's hard to say where they go from here.

Conclusion: Having been placed in a situation he could no longer avoid, Oliver was forced to assume the role of Heir to the Demon. The character interplay in the present day scenes helped to keep the action-lite episode engaging. Now if only the flashbacks could be so successful.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 19


The Flash
Episode Title: “Who is Harrison Wells”
Channel: CW
Director: Wendy Stanzler
Writers: Ray Utarnachitt and Cortney Norris
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 43 min
Rated: TV-PG
Original Air Date: April 21, 2015

“Who is Harrison Well?” didn't really answer any questions the audience has regarding the character, we already know much more than the characters on the show. It did serve to get Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, and Joe up to speed on most of what the audience knows. Cisco is already on board with the idea that Wells isn't who he says he is, but Caitlin is going to take some convincing, so to that end Joe and Cisco headed to Starling City to investigate the crash that made Wells the man we know, and killed Tess.

While seeing the Lances pop up on The Flash might not have been the crossover we wanted, it proved to be pretty fun and important to some of the characters going forward. Cisco's fanboy reaction to learning that Laurel is also the Black Canary was humorous, and allowed her to acquire the character's trademark Canary's Cry. The interactions between Joe and Capt. Lance served another purpose, one which won't be noticed on The Flash going forward. They bonded over the complications in their lives in regards to work and their daughters and near the end it almost seemed that Joe got through to Lance. Maybe the next Arrow will show us a softening of his stance towards his daughter's supposed betrayal of his trust. The most important thing to come out of the Starling City scenes was the discovery of the body of the real Harrison Wells.

Before finding the body Caitlin was unwilling to accept the possibility that the man that has helped them all so much was actually the Reverse Flash. She went so far as to show up at Wells' house, ready to talk about their suspicions. Only Barry's appearance and a super speed fueled moment of Ding Dong Ditch, got Caitlin out of there before she could inadvertently tip their hand to the bad guy. With the incontrovertible evidence of Wells' body sitting in Barry's lab hopefully she's on board now.

The metahuman case was better than usual this week. A shapeshifter, who can assume anyone's physical form upon touching them, was running around committing crimes and leaving innocent people behind to take the blame. This resulted in Eddie being arrested for shooting two cops, shenanigans with Barry including a kiss with Caitlin, and Iris and Caitlin being set upon by some angry construction workers, being accused of kidnapping. The last one bothered me a little bit, it just seemed like sloppy writing. If they were transporting a shapeshifting metahuman, and had developed a serum that took his power away, why wouldn't they give him a dose of the serum before driving through town with him handcuffed in the back seat? That writing snafu aside it was a well handled baddie of the week. After the apprehension of Everyman he instantly became one of the more sympathetic villains on the show when he revealed that he doesn't even know what the real him looks like anymore.

Other odds and ends included Eddie revealing half of the truth to Iris, admitting to working with the Flash, but not revealing the hero's secret identity. Also it was necessary to show evidence of a metahuman to the District Attorney in order to clear Eddie's name. I'm interested in how officialdom reacts to their new knowledge. I might be reading too far into things, but Capt. Singh seemed to give a knowing look to Barry when the information came to light, almost as if he suspects Barry of being more than meets the eye. It's probable that I was imagining that, but it would help Barry replace some of the resources he might lose once the imposter Wells is dealt with. I hope it doesn't come to that though and that the writers find some way to keep the real Harrison Wells around, Tom Cavanagh has been superb on the show and it would be a shame to lose his presence.

Conclusion: With the new evidence Cisco and Joe discovered it appears that everyone is on board with the idea that Wells isn't really Wells. With the season arc barreling towards an exciting conclusion and the case of the week being more entertaining than usual this was a very enjoyable episode of The Flash.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gotham: Season 1, Episode 20


Gotham
Episode Title: “Under the Knife”
Channel: Fox
Director: T.J. Scott
Writer: John Stephens
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: April 20, 2015

Right out of the gate, Gotham did one thing right this week. There isn't a single scene with Fish Mooney. Leaving that absurd arc out of the episode allowed the other things happening more time to develop and the entire show was better off for it. How much better off? They managed to insert Barbara back into the story, and she was actually interesting.

With Gordon on the serial killer case, the Ogre has designs to strike at him through a loved one. Unfortunately for the Ogre he gets his information from a newspaper article containing an older picture of Gordon, a picture showing him with Barbara instead of his current flame. The killer went after Barbara, convinced her to take him back to her place, and then had the rug pulled out from under him as she reveals that there is no one in her life that would miss her. This new dispassionate side of her is an improvement over the mopey drunkard the audience has grown accustomed to. He left without killing her and we're left wondering what his next move will be.

Bruce and Selina briefly discuss the murder of Reggie Payne, with Bruce espousing the unwillingness to kill that will form the foundation of his future endeavors. The next subject of their investigation is the man that hired Reggie, an executive at Wayne Enterprises. As a cover for their investigation Bruce and Selina attend a charity ball that is sponsored by the company, all as part of a ploy to obtain the key to the man's safe. The plan goes off without a hitch, which was a nice surprise considering that most of the time the way 'plot' is added to a show is to subscribe heavily to Murphy's Law. The real highlight of the foray to the ball occurred when Selina told her sometimes roommate Barbara that they'd be seeing each other at the ball, and that she was the guest of Bruce Wayne. Selina's little digs at Barbara are some of the more humorous aspects of the show when they pop up, and Barbara's puzzled expression was priceless.

Another character that has been more of a distraction that integral to the story up to this point has been Edward Nygma. This week he finally had something of consequence to do, and boy did he do it. After seeing the signs that Ms. Kringle's boyfriend is abusing her he gathered up his courage and eventually confronted the man. Just outside her front door, Nygma stopped the cop from entering and after getting punched once in the stomach he pulled a knife. The first stab seemed to surprise even him, at first his face is shocked he even did the act, and then he goes to work with a gusto. There's actual delight in his eyes as he reenacts a scene from earlier in the episode involving a watermelon.

Maroni popped up in Penguin's club and managed to introduce himself to Ms. Cobblepot. After spending most of the night flattering her he dropped a bomb at the end of the night. He told her all about Penguin's murderous side, and accused her of being either too stupid to know about it or complicit in her son's actions. This act pushed Penguin over the edge, after taking her home he killed a delivery man from Maroni and set out to put his plan into action. I'm finally excited about this arc again because it gives the showrunners of Gotham a chance to really surprise the audience. Neither of those characters can die according the all of the Batman stories we've seen so far, so I'm hoping that they do something really surprising and ignore canon. Most likely Ms. Cobblepot is going to be the casualty in this scheme, but I hope they prove that this show is its own animal. The people we think are safe because they're destined to be in Batman's story have to be in as much danger as the characters original to the show, otherwise there's little tension to be found.

The one element that worked to the detriment of this episode is the actual investigation into the Ogre by Gordon and Bullock. The actual case work has never been Gotham's strong suit, and some of the leaps that the investigation is forced to make to keep up with the events in the show are a bit unbelievable. A random cartoon-ish drawing of the suspect that looks like just about any white adult male, sure that's the guy. Gordon remembering specific headlines and the pictures that accompanied them? Yeah OK. A doctor unwilling to answer questions about his patients out loud, but willing to nod in answer, and then providing said cartoon drawing? Ugh. It's a bit much.

Finally, I'm not sure about that ending. The Ogre and Barbara reconnect at the ball, and I guess the Ogre has found someone he looks at as a kindred spirit. He took her to his place and showed her his BDSM/torture room and instead of running away, Barbara seems strangely accepting of the whole thing. I can't imagine that she's going to wind up his accomplice, honestly I don't think they have the guts to so drastically alter a character, so what's the endgame there?

Conclusion: The absence of the Fish storyline is perhaps the greatest asset of “Under the Knife.” Without out her story eating chunks of the episode's time everything else got to expand a little. At this point I'm hoping that something happens that I'm not expecting, anything that tells me that the things I think I know about this show aren't true. Turn someone bad who's not supposed to be, kill someone I think it supposed to live, do something to keep it interesting in the last two episodes of the season. Give me an incentive to come back for season two, because thus far I'm finding it hard to be excited for another season.

Rating: 7/10

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 2


Game of Thrones
Episode Title: “The House of Black and White”
Channel: HBO
Director: Michael Slovis
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Runtime: 55 min
Rated: TV-MA
Original Air Date: April 19, 2015

There were lots of updates on characters journeys and plans in “The House of Black and White.” Some of them worked better than others. The most glaring mistake in my opinion was the way in which the viewers' introduction to Dorne was handled. Dorne is a place completely unlike anywhere else in the Seven Kingdoms. Whereas the differences in most of the places we've seen in Westeros are smaller things, like the temperature, Dorne is a culture unto itself. They are a conquered people, yet still call their leader a prince, the kingdom consists of many deserts, and bastards are not treated with the same disdain that is common in the rest of the kingdoms. The episode in which we're introduced to Dorne should have been about Dorne, not a brief conversation.

The other scene that felt unnecessary this week involved Varys and Tyrion. I know Tyrion is a fan favorite, so they'll do their best to work him into every episode, but I don't think the audience needed to hear the two of them lament how unappreciated they've been. We've already been told where they're headed, and if nothing remarkable happens on the way there then so be it. If their travel is uneventful lets give them an episode or two of rest until something noteworthy occurs.

Back at King's Landing, Ceresi revealed a package she had received from Dorne to Jaime. The package contained a serpent statue with a pendant in its mouth that belonged to Myrcella, their daughter. Ceresi perceived the package as a threat and apparently Jaime agrees, because the next thing we know he's off to see everyone's favorite mercenary, Bronn. This is a change from the books that I've in favor of, Bronn has been a fun character, so finding a way to keep him on screen is a good move. In other Ceresi news, she's doing her best to run the king's small council in a way most advantageous to herself. Aside from appointing her pet disgraced maester as Master of Whispers, she managed to gain Lord Tyrell's favor by increasing his duties. All did not go according to plan though when her uncle, Kevan Lannister, knowing he was taking orders from Ceresi and not the king, decided that he was unwilling to take part in the farce that is the child king's rule.

Arya has finally reached Braavos, but when she reached her final destination, the lair of the Faceless Men, she was turned away. She is shown, briefly, fending for herself on the streets. Then, just as we think we're going to see her take it two some street roughs, she was interrupted by the man from the black and white doored building. It turns out the man was Jaqen H'ghar, who has decided that she is now ready to learn the ways of the Faceless Men. Taking Arya, who is already disturbingly comfortable with causing other people's deaths, and training her to be an assassin, is an intriguing concept that I can't wait to see play out.

On the Wall, Jon Snow is being tugged in two different directions. Stannis offers to give him legitimacy with the Stark name, in return for the North's aid in the coming war. Even having one of his childhood dreams available to him is not enough to convince Jon of breaking his vow to the Night's Watch. Following his decision to refuse Stannis' offer the audience gets to sit in on the election of a new Lord Commander. Janos Slynt encouraged everyone to vote for Alliser Thorne, another nomination is made, and right before voting begins Sam puts forth Jon's candidacy. This was probably my favorite scene of the episode, Sam verbally destroys Slynt and points out all of the heroic actions of Snow. The vote is made and there appears to be a tie between Jon and Thorne until Maester Aemon breaks the tie in favor of Jon Snow.

The rest of the episode was mostly focused on Daenerys and the trouble she is running in to trying to assert her control over Meereen. I really try not to compare the show to the books too much while I'm watching, they've made enough changes at this point that they're two separate stories as far as I'm concerned, but this was one of my least favorite parts of the book series so far. It hasn't been improved much in the show frankly. For me every time we rejoin the Mother of Dragons the rhythm of the show is halted and I can't wait to move on to something, anything, else.

Conclusion: I felt that “The House of Black and White” was an improvement on last week's episode. Instead of still dealing with the fallout of last season's events we finally get to see the direction a lot of the character arcs are going to head in. The all too brief scene in Dorne didn't do the new setting justice, but the new developments at the Wall and with Arya helped to elevate the episode.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday is Haul Day 39!!


Another week, another Haul.  Getting things started is Mortal Kombat X from NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.  It's the tenth game in the series, and honestly the first I'll spend a considerable amount of time with since the first.

My Monster Hunter obsession continues this week with two more of Larry Correia's books; Monster Hunter: Legion and Monster Hunter: Nemesis.  I find myself tearing through these books very quickly, and you should keep an eye out for the reviews, they'll be popping up before you know it.

That brings us to the comics, which is a very strange mix of things this week.  Archie vs. Predator #1 of 4 by Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski, and Jason Millet, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #2 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack, Hexed #9 by Michael Alan Nelson, Dan Mora and Gabriel Cassata, and The Kitchen #6 of 8 by Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 19


Arrow
Episode Title: “Broken Arrow”
Channel: CW
Director: Doug Aarniokoski
Writers: Ben Sokolowski and Brian Ford Sullivan
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: April 15, 2015

Beware of Spoilers.

In “Broken Arrow” Oliver has been neutralized by the scrutiny Capt. Lance has leveled in his direction. Aside from harassing Oliver in the Arrow Cave and at his and Thea's home, he's making life for Oliver very difficult by keeping a very close eye on him. Lance knows Roy isn't the Arrow, but he can't prove it, so he's waiting for Oliver to slip. As if being unable to fulfill his quest to deal with crime in his city Oliver found himself at the mercy of those around him. They did a great job of conveying Oliver's feeling of helplessness in the face of a metahuman threat robbing banks in Starling City.

Oliver's inability to suit up and go catch the bad guy led to Ray Palmer entering the fray in the ATOM suit. There were some humorous moments involving Ray and Felicity's interactions with the rest of the team. Ray's first encounter with the metahuman goes very badly for him and when he returned to the team's backup control center Oliver gave him a pretty uplifting pep talk. I was a little disappointed that instead of learning his way and getting into a better mindset for the job Ray's second encounter with the villain involved him putting on the suit and ceding complete control to Oliver. I think it would have been more effective to have him achieve victory on his own, but I guess they had to keep the Arrow involved in the action somehow.

The conflict this week was two fold. On one hand we've got Roy. After confessing to being the Arrow he's in serious trouble in prison. Colton Haynes really shined this week. In what has to be one of the best action sequences of the season we got to watch a handcuffed Roy take out several fellow inmates. His arc very smoothly shifted gears after that with Thea's visit to prison. It was an emotional scene that seemed to foreshadow something big coming for the character, although I didn't anticipate it happening so soon. Another attack on Roy left him dead, in anticlimactic fashion, and it was revealed quickly that Lyla's contacts in ARGUS allowed the team to fake Roy's death and get him out of prison. Oliver's guilt over the situation before he learned the truth was one of Amell's better acting moments in the series so far. With Roy dead in every legal sense he left Starling City to start anew. The send off could have used a little something more, but overall it played out pretty well.

Lest we forget about Ra's and his plan to force Oliver to accept the mantle of the Demon's Head, Ra's popped up at the end of the episode to confront Thea. She tried to go toe to toe with him, with predictable results. When it was all said and done the leader of the League of Assassins had stabbed Thea and left her for dead. Clearly it was an attempt to force Oliver to accept his offer and take his place, surely with the promise of a Lazarus Pit capable of saving Thea's life as a major bargaining chip. It appears that Ra's has backed Oliver into a corner with little choice but to accept his new role.

Other odds and ends in the episode: the Hong Kong flashbacks improved somewhat this week. It at least appears that there something for the last few episodes to work towards on that front, even though even in her present condition I don't trust Amanda Waller at all, especially after Diggle revealed that ARGUS has in its employ a man that specializes in stabbing people in such a way that they bleed a lot but survive. The writers did a good job this week of incorporating almost everyone in the cast. Besides the tension relieving presence of Ray and Felicity, Diggle and obviously Roy got moments to shine, with the sole overlooked character being Laurel, who was only in the episode briefly. The final scene involving Ray and Cisco at S.T.A.R. Labs metahuman prison was good for some laughs, and revealed very important information. Apparently there is something else out there causing metas to pop up, meaning we may be seeing more super-powered villains in Arrow.

Conclusion: Ra's plan has reached a new level of insidious and there doesn't seem to be any way out of the situation for Oliver. It was interesting seeing Oliver nearly powerless to act in such a dire situation, hopefully pointing to better integration of the supporting characters into his plans going forward. It's hard being too concerned for Thea's well being, if nor no other reason than the show already relieved itself of Roy and I can't imagine them shedding two characters in the same episdoe.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 18


The Flash
Episode Title: “All Star Team Up”
Channel: CW
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Writers: Grainne Godfree and Kai Yu Wu
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 43 min
Rated: TV-PG
Original Air Date: April 14, 2015

Ray and Felicity made a guest appearance this week on The Flash and it seemed to fit them much better than the dark tone on Arrow. There was a lot of humor to be had this week, and the two guest stars were in the middle of most of it. If more of the crossovers in CW's DC universe end up this way the audience is in for a treat. Perhaps most entertaining were the interactions between Palmer and Cisco, you could almost hear them saying out lout, “Did we just become best friends?”

The villain this week was the one glaring weak point in “All Star Team Up.” As is so often the case there wasn't much time devoted to getting to know the character at all. She didn't even get to share her own grievances and what drove her to her actions. Instead that information was passed on to the audience through some clumsy dialogue from Mercury Labs' Dr. Tina McGee. If there was one thing I could change about the show it would definitely be the way the villains are handled.

The main focus this week was on who Barry can trust. His knowledge that Dr. Wells is not a good guy has been taking a toll on his ability to work with the S.T.A.R. Labs crew, but he's not ready to bring Caitlin and Cisco in to the inner circle. Between Barry's inability to trust all of those around him and Eddie being forced to keep Barry's secret from Iris there is a lot of distrust going around. Although Barry decided to let Cisco and Caitlin in on what he knows at the end of the episode the secrecy hasn't ended yet, although Eddie and Iris' relationship might have.

Iris has, in general, been more tolerable than a lot of other love interests on television, but the extent to which she's taking her dissatisfaction over Eddie having a secret is starting to wear thin. I'm not saying she's reached a level of unlikability on par with say, Barbara Kean on Gotham, but she's starting to become an annoyance. I find it hard to believe that someone in a relationship with a police detective would not understand that he can't tell her everything that is going on. I hope they wrap that bit of the story up soon because I'm not sure how much longer it can be dragged out before the audience starts groaning whenever Iris appears on screen.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the episode revolved around Cisco. He's getting flashes of the events that occurred before Barry turned back time. At the end of the episode when Barry and Joe decided to bring Caitlin and Cisco in on their suspicions Cisco realized that maybe there was something to the visions he'd been experiencing. One has to wonder what kind of catastrophic effect Barry revealing that those visions were a reality could have on Cisco and the world at large. In the same vein, Harrison Wells seems aware that something isn't quite right, but he's playing along for now, waiting for more information to present itself.

Conclusion: “All Star Team Up” was a fun episode of The Flash that still managed to move the season's arc along. Ray and Felicity feel much more suited to the light-hearted surroundings of Central City than the dark atmosphere of Starling City. Now that almost all of the secrets are out in the open it's time to reveal the truth to Iris, before it costs her and Eddie their relationship, and the character goodwill from the audience.

Rating: 7.75/10

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gotham: Season 1, Episode 19


Gotham
Episode Title: “Beasts of Prey”
Channel: Fox
Director: Eagle Egilsson
Writer: Ken Woodruff
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: April 13, 2015

Gotham is the latest show to return from its March break. With four episodes remaining in season one, this is the point where the show should be ramping up for its season finale. Instead I have no idea where the season is going to end up or what the big moments are going to be. This stems from things being poorly built up and there being too many things going on. In “Beasts of Prey” there are four separate stories being told, and the lack of time to develop any one of them makes it hard to predict what the viewer is supposed to care about.

Gordon had a case brought to his attention, an unsolved murder that a seemingly sincere patrolman asked him to look in to. After spinning their wheels for a bit Gordon and Bullock discover that the murderer is a serial killer that targets the loved ones of the detectives that investigate him. Further investigation into the matter revealed that Commissioner Loeb had to case taken to Gordon in order to set him up in a convoluted revenge plot. It's hinted that Leslie will be the killer's next target, with a plethora of clues and comments pointing to that possibility. It's so obviously what the writers want the audience to think that there seems little chance of it happening. That's the kind of thing that is supposed to come out of nowhere to surprise the viewer, not something we're supposed to see from a mile away. The best thing about these sequences were the flashbacks. They allowed the villain to be more fully realized than most of the case of the week culprits that we've become accustomed to.

After Alfred suffered a setback in his recovery, Bruce set out to discover the motivations behind Reggie Payne's infiltration into their home. After some bumbling about he meets up with Cat and they find Reggie in a drug house. Following their interrogation of Payne, when he admitted to who had him go after Bruce's evidence and Alfred, Cat dropped Payne's drugs from an open window. Reggie's desperate attempt to recover his drugs saw him hanging out the window. Bruce briefly considered pushing the man from the open window, follow Reggie's threats of exposing just how much Bruce knows about Wayne Enterprise's dealing, when he lost his nerve Cat stepped in and pushed Reggie out the window. It was pretty shocking to see a murder committed by a child, although I found myself feeling that Cat's motivation to do such a thing wasn't strong enough for me to buy the whole thing.

Fish is still on the Dollmaker's island, and planning an escape. Every time scenes with Fish come up I find myself just wishing they'd be over. We definitely didn't need to spend so much time with Fish away from Gotham. It seems like Fish's glorious return to Gotham could have been handled very differently. Perhaps a single Fish-centric episode would have been better than the bits and pieces we've been subjected to over the course of the past several episodes. It would have helped with the pacing of the episodes that her story interrupts if nothing else. The other out of place scenes in “Beasts of Prey” were the ones featuring Penguin's storyline. It's another plot line that should have had one big episode devoted to it, instead of the small pieces we've been given so far. Penguin wants to own a rundown bar, has the fingers cut off of a musician in order to make it happen, and then reveals that it's all part of a plan to bring down Maroni. How? Who knows, we were only given four or five minutes to find out that much. It just highlights the fact that there is too much going on for an episode to contain everyone's story. The desire to hit upon every character is really hurting the storytelling in general.

Conclusion: This was a lackluster return from hiatus. There are just too many threads and not enough time to adequately cover them all in every episode. The lack of focus in the storytelling is hurting the individual stories, as there isn't enough time devoted to any one thing to make it seem significant. With only three episodes remaining there doesn't seem like a good way to bring it all into focus in time for the finale.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, April 13, 2015

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 1


Game of Thrones
Episode Title: “The Wars to Come”
Channel: HBO
Director: Michael Slovis
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Runtime: 55 min
Rated: TV-MA
Original Air Date: April 12, 2015

Game of Thrones has consistently been one of my favorite shows on television in recent years. With so few episodes per season the wait for new episodes is always excruciating, but on premiere night the waiting feels worth it. Usually. Sadly, “The Wars to Come” didn't usher in the new season with the same level of excitement I've grown accustomed to. Was it bad TV? Well, no, but it wasn't a good episode of Game of Thrones either. For me this is a show that gets judged against its previous successes more so than the other things on television.

So, where did it go wrong? Game of Thrones has done something very interesting with its season structure. Instead of it all going down in the finale, and the audience waiting for the next season to see the consequences the creators have altered the formula. The ninth episode of the season contains the big blow up, the tenth shows the audience was the ramifications will be, and then the new season's premiere sets us on the next part of the journey. “The Wars to Come” feels more like episode eleven of season four.

That's not to say that nothing interesting happened. The episode opened with a flashback, Ceresi and a friend visiting a witch. Ceresi insisted on hearing what her future would hold, and the news wasn't good. In the present day Ceresi and Jaime are feeling the heat, Tywin is dead and their house is in serious danger. If that wasn't enough, Margaery is already making attempts to get close to Tommen, the new king. Ceresi can see her possible irrelevance on the horizon, but will surely do whatever she can to keep that possibility from coming to pass.

Daenerys is struggling to maintain control over the relatively small kingdom she has accumulated. Despite doing all the things she finds morally right there are elements working against her, the Sons of the Harpy, that are trying to sow discord and bring her down. Additionally, she has one dragon that's loose upon the countryside and two more that she has no control over chained up in a dungeon somewhere. The Mother of Dragons is without the symbol of her power, something that will surely bring her down in the esteem of those whose respect she needs. An eventual meeting between Dany and Tyrion was hinted at, which should help to keep things in her part of the world from getting too boring.

At the Wall, Stannis wants to use Mance's men to retake the North from the Boltons. He offers to spare Mance's life if he'll bow to his authority and encourage the wildlings to fight for Stannis. Jon Snow delivered that message to Mance, and it was met just as expected. Jon tried to point out the good that could come of it, but Mance couldn't do it and maintain the principles he'd preached in bring so many wildling clans together. Mance was led to a stake at which he was to be burned and given one last chance, which he refused. When the burning really got started, Snow couldn't take Mance's attempts at muffling his screams, fetched a bow and arrow, and put the man out of his misery. I know this was supposed to be an emotionally heavy scene, but it just seemed to be missing something. Maybe because we've only seen Mance a few times, I just didn't feel the impact that I think was intended from this scene.

Conclusion: As far as Game of Thrones episodes go, especially premieres, “The Wars to Come” fell short of the mark. There were hints of big things to come this season, but not enough happened to make the ten month wait for more GoT seem worth it. You never want a season premiere to be disappointing, unfortunately that's the best description for it.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Saturday WAS Haul Day 38!!


It's been a bit of a weekend, but it's finally time for the Haul.  This week is only comics, as nothing else really struck me while I was out; so here they are!

Angel: Asgard's Assassin #5 by Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Phil Jimenez, and Stephanie Hans, Darth Vader #4 by Keiron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, and Edgar Delgado, Rat Queens #10 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Stjepan Sejic, Saga #27 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan, and S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 by Mark Waid, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, and Dono Sanchez Almara.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saturday is Haul Day 37!!


So, I hadn't planned on making any big purchases for a while, but a buy one, get one 50% off sale on all PS4 games is tough to pass up.  My weakness explains the new video games.  First there's Bloodborne by From Software, from the creator of the Dark Souls series, and following in its footsteps it's supposed to be really hard.  Then we've got Borderlands:  The Handsome Collection which features both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands:  The Pre-Sequel by 2K.  I played the first Borderlands game for hundreds of hours, so I'm pretty excited to dive back into that world.

It was a light week in comics this week, with only Lady Killer #4 by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich, Rocket Raccoon #10 by Skottie Young, Jake Parker and Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and Wolf Moon #5 of 6 by Cullen Bunn, Jeremy Haun, and Lee Loughridge coming home with me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 18


Arrow
Episode Title: “Public Enemy”
Channel: CW
Director: Dwight Little
Writers: Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: April 1, 2015

“Public Enemy” occupied both ends of the spectrum that Arrow has managed to occupy this season. When things are good they're still really good. But when something isn't working it's almost hard to watch. Lets start with the big reveal from two weeks ago, in the flashbacks Oliver has run into Shado! Only it's not Shado it's her twin sister, Mei. It didn't signify a change in direction for the Hong Kong flashbacks. Oliver and Akio are still fleeing ARGUS's men, and Mei allowed them to take refuge in her home. She is understandably perplexed by the American that seems to know her sister and when no answers are forthcoming she calls the police. Of course the police don't show up, an ARGUS goon squad does instead. Luckily for Oliver and Akio, the Yamashiros pick that moment to pick up their trailer and fight the goons off. They decide to leave, and on the way out Oliver tells Mei that her sister and father are dead. She's grateful to him for finally delivering the truth, the reunited Yamashiros and Oliver leave her in a destroyed house. How many more weeks can the flashbacks consist solely of running from ARGUS? After how well the flashbacks of the first two seasons complimented the present day story this season has been a major disappointment in that arena.

Back in the present day things are getting really bad for team Arrow. After Maseo's hit on the mayor, Captain Lance has mobilized the entire police department in an attempt to capture the Arrow. The team believed they had tracked down the League's safe house, and after a brief fight during which, surprise surprise, both Laurel and Roy held their own, Ra's showed himself. He gave Oliver another chance to assume leadership of the League, and upon being refused again revealed that the authorities were on their way. The team's desperate flight from the scene was one of the highlights of the episode, and despite a couple of wrinkles they all managed to get away. Later on Lance was captured by the League and had a face to face meeting with Ra's, who revealed the Arrow's secret identity. Armed with his new information Lance redoubled his efforts to catch Oliver Queen.

In the attack on the mayor's office Ray Palmer was severely injured. He has a clot that could cause a stroke, but the surgery to remove it is very likely to kill him. He has his nano-tech back at his lab that could solve the problem, but the doctor won't allow it. Surprising no one, Felicity brought the nano-tech to him anyway and Ray was cured. What followed was a bit of soap opera that felt like another show entirely. Ray confessed his love and Felicity ran away. Her mother stops her and muddied the waters further by extolling the virtues of both of the men in Felicity's life. These scenes all felt out of place in the rest of the episode. I think it would have been better if there had been a few Palmer-centric episodes, and not this awkward attempt to have him in every episode. With the desperate straits team Arrow is dealing with the Ray/Felicity material just doesn't feel right.

Oliver, faced with no where to run made a decision regarding his next move. I'm not sure if Ra's' plan was to force Oliver to accept his offer, with no where else to run, or to see Oliver captured. Clarification in that regard would have helped the audience know whether to be excited that Oliver had outwitted the Demon's Head or to despair because he'd been driven right where he was wanted. Oliver has apparently confessed everything to Lance and the Starling City Police in return for immunity for the rest of his team. The team of course is unwilling to let things go that way. We saw Lance and Oliver riding in the back of a police van, and having an intense discussion regarding Lance's feelings towards Oliver and all the lies that have been told. Paul Blackthorne really brought it in this scene, sadness and anger alternating on his face. There's a thump on the roof of the vehicle and it stops. Lance got out of the van in time to see a man in the Arrow costume jump down and confess his identity. Roy then pulled the hood from his face, to the surprise of everyone, especially Oliver. This scene was a little problematic, Lance knows Roy isn't the Arrow, he's even called him out on his identity while wearing the Arsenal get-up. Somehow the audience is supposed to believe that this ruse is going to work, but the writers of the next episode are going to have a hard time convincing us of that.

Conclusion: Ra's al Ghul's plan seems to finally be coming to fruition. Oliver is left with very few options as the manhunt for the Arrow finally nabs him. Although the season has finally gotten to a point that feels as dire as last season's Slade Wilson arc the build up has been far less interesting. I feel like the Ray and Felicity content would be better off contained to a few episodes instead of so drastically altering the tone of each episode. The flashbacks have got to improve, it seems like they've been spinning their wheels for weeks.

Rating: 7.75/10

The Flash: Season 1, Episode 17


The Flash
Episode Title: “Tricksters”
Channel: CW
Director: Ralph Hemecker
Writer: Andrew Kreisberg
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 43 min
Rated: TV-PG
Original Air Date: March 31, 2015

I'm going to start this off by lamenting that there isn't a new episode of The Flash next week. It seems like they just started back up, taking a week off really kills the momentum for me. Can't let the disappointment of an empty week color my thinking on the episode though, so moving on.

Andrew Kreisberg jumped into the writer's chair this week and it paid immediate dividends. He brought the flashback structure from Arrow over to The Flash in order to finally give us some Harrison Wells back story and the night Barry's mother was killed. The fight scene between Barry and the Reverse Flash in Barry's childhood home was very well done. They must really be stretching that effects budget. As a result of the tussle with the Flash, the Reverse Flash manages to somehow sever his connection to the Speed Force, rendering him normal. When he unmasks the audience sees, not Harrison Wells. We were treated to a couple of scenes featuring Wells and Tess Morgan living their normal, ambitious lives before before the mystery man from Nora Allen's murder crashes their car. Tess is killed and when Harrison escapes the vehicle the man reveals that he is Eobard Thawne. He plugs a device into Wells and then into himself, somehow transferring Wells' likeness onto himself; killing the real Wells in the process. The device seemed like a cheesy way to get there story-wise, but now we know that the Wells Barry knows isn't the real Wells.

Mark Hamill guest starred this week as the Trickster. After an attack on the city by a man claiming that name Joe and Barry go to visit the real Trickster in prison. I know I criticized the villains last week for the over-the-top corniness, but for some reason with this villain the extra cheese just felt right. He was a strange mix of the Joker and Hannibal Lecter, with some really great lines. The one that stuck out was hearing Mark Hamill say the words, “I am your father.” Even though I suspected it was coming it was strangely entertaining to hear him say it. His plan, after reuniting with his son, was a little disappointing though. I would have thought the Trickster would have contingency plans on top of contingency plans. One good thing to come out of it was his plan to deal with the Flash, with a bomb that explodes once his speed drops below 600 MPH. This allowed for Barry to discover one of his abilities. Dr. Wells (I'm going to keep calling him that until the show gives up on it) talks him through phasing through solid materials. Wells recommended a wall, and Barry chose and oil tanker, which should have been more catastrophic than it was, but it put an interesting wrinkle into what Barry knows and thinks he knows about Wells. The other pleasing side effect of this particular arc was that it gave Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp a chance to interact. The father/son relationships that Barry shares with both Joe and Henry make for little pieces of 'real' in a show with so many fantastic things happening.

Barry no longer trusts Wells. It's not just a lack of trust, he can barely stand to be around him at this point, he's so convinced that Wells is responsible for his mother's murder. He and Joe have decided that they're going to keep things quiet for now, trying to be more patient than the man that's apparently been planning all of this for the last fifteen years. At the end of the episode Barry seems to have finally reconciled the fact that he's going to have to remain civil. In order to stop Iris from snooping into the case and potentially endangering herself, Joe and Barry made one last shocking decision. Barry revealed his identity to Eddie, enlisting his aid in protecting Iris and in the investigation into Wells. Eddie mentioned at one point that they were going to have a serious discussion regarding deceiving her, but the way it was shown made it seem a little to easy get get him to do it. There's no doubt that it's a decision that will come back to bit all of them, all that remains to be seen is how much damage can be done.

Conclusion: Hamill's performance was fun and full of memorable dialogue, but the real meat and potatoes of this episode came as we finally got some background on Wells and Nora Allen's murder. Taking into consideration the quality of the villain, the revelations regarding the past, and Joe and Barry taking a proactive approach to exposing Wells this was my favorite episode of The Flash yet.

Rating: 8.5/10