Showing posts with label DC Comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DC Comics. Show all posts

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Review - Supergirl: 2x10 - "We Can Be Heroes"

Supergirl
Episode 2x10 - "We Can Be Heroes"

Synopsis

When Livewire escapes prison, Supergirl enlists superhero-in-training Mon-El to help out but it proves to be a mistake when citizens get injured in the process. Meanwhile, when M’Ghan is victim of a psychic attack, only J’onn is able to save her, but does he want to?

Review

As one might surmise from its inspirational title, the focus of this episode was on heroism and what it is that makes someone a hero. There was a lovely bit of synchronicity throughout the heart of this episode with Mon-El, Guardian and M’Ghan’s storylines revolving around their identities of heroes, with each plot thread focusing on a different aspect of heroism. Mon-El was presented as a ‘selfish hero’, only embracing the title because he wanted to impress Kara and frankly, he had nothing else going for him. Sure, he has all the power but he also has none of the responsibility, and that makes him a reckless and flawed hero. On the flip-side, Guardian has no power and too much responsibility, making him equally as reckless and flawed but at the other end of the spectrum. It’s easy to see why Kara grew frustrated with the pair of them as they attempted to follow in her footsteps. The story-arc with M’Ghan was different, and was more about J’onn accepting her as a hero and not the villain he’d condemned her as. Even Livewire had a brief moment of redemption at the end of her journey, further strengthening the episode’s theme.

Kara’s discovery that James is the Guardian was played out as expected, with the female Kryptonian disapproving of her human friend’s attempts at playing hero. I have to admit that I agree with her as James Olsen has no real fighting skills and is largely reliant on Winn’s suit on keeping him alive. That said, this story-arc is the best thing to happen to the character and makes him much more interesting that the eye-candy and love interest role he inhabited during Season One. Part of me wonders if we’ll get a Batman vs Superman-esque confrontation between the two at the end of this season. Guardian certainly looks like the armoured version of Batman from that movie, so it could be possible that he has to fight against a possessed Supergirl at some point. It’s still not clear what the eventual endgame behind Olsen’s decision will be – given the doom-laden predictions from Supergirl in this episode, I suspect that some kind of tragedy lies ahead for the Guardian.


While some may consider him unnecessarily goofy, I find Chris Woods’ Mon-El to be one of the strongest additions to Supergirl since the start of Season Two. Having recently landed on the planet, he provides that “alien adapting to Earth” humour that Kara lacks after being raised on the planet for twelve years. I really enjoy seeing him attempt to fit in with Earth’s conventions and his awkward one-liners and greediness. The chemistry between him and Melissa Benoist is spot-on too, eclipsing the rather weak love interests that were seen in Season One. This episode focuses on his inability to put others before himself, or Kara, and it fits in line with his established personality perfectly. Given the hints from previous episodes that Mon-El may actually be the surviving prince of Daxam, it seems logical that he would be born of privilege and it adds an extra slice of motivation behind his selfish behaviour. Mon-El’s journey to becoming a true hero seems to be the main throughline of this season, and I suspect that we may see more ‘roadblocks’ when he eventually clashes with his mysterious pursuers.

Despite the fact she saved his life, it isn’t until he goes into her mind and actually listens to her story that J’onn forgives M’Ghan for being a White Martian. I quite liked the friendship that was developing between the pair before she revealed her true identity, and I’m glad that the writers have restored the status quo and put the Martians on the same side again. Of course, the threat of White Martian invasion doesn’t mean that the relationship is going to last and I wonder whether J’onn might lose another friend to the White Martians. David Harewood is one of the strongest actors in the show and seeing him incredulous with rage in one scene and full of empathy in another just demonstrates the level of range he has. Even Mehcad Brooks (James Olsen) managed to put in a half-decent performance when talking with Kara about his desire to be a hero. I’m still not a massive fan of the character, but I appreciate the fact that they are moving him into a new direction.

One thing that Supergirl does well is uniting its separate plot threads under one over-arching theme, and this episode was a wonderful example of that. With the skill and grace of a ballerina, the writers co-ordinated the various storylines together to converge and benefit each other. The reappearance of Livewire was an added treat, and even though she was featured in a reduced role, it was great to see the series establish her as both an arch-nemesis for Kara, and a potential ally one day in the future.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Martian Chronicles"
A White Martian called Armek comes to National City with the intention of bringing M'gann back to Mars to be punished for her treason.

Review - Gotham: 3x14 - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"

Gotham
Episode 3x14 - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"

Synopsis

Fixated on killing Bruce Wayne, Jerome takes advantage of the city-wide blackout to achieve his task. Meanwhile, Ed reveals himself to be the architect of the Penguin’s downfall and prepares to carry out his final act of revenge.

Review

Wow, that was a near-perfect episode of Gotham, and a much better mid-season finale than the disappointing ending to “Beware the Green-Eyed Monster”. Finally aware at how much Cameron Monaghan energises the show, Gotham made ample use of him during this episode as he took Bruce hostage in a carnival of terrors, somewhat reminiscent of “The Killing Joke” at points. Taking inspiration from all that came before him, Monaghan chews the scenery like Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier and has the edginess of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Ultimately, he is best described as a real-life version of Mark Hamill’s voice-acted Joker, which is high praise indeed. The show’s writers wisely avoided angering the series’ fan-base by not killing off the Joker at the end of this episode, but attempted to shock fans with the apparent death of the Penguin instead. Obviously, we know that he’ll be back – death doesn’t quite hold the same sense of finality anymore in Gotham, and I think he’ll return alongside his former mistress, Fish Mooney, at the end of the season.

The scenes with Bruce and Jerome were absolutely mesmerising, teasing the character’s eventual rivalry as Batman and the Joker. I loved the sequence where he begun stapling into Bruce’s arm, and how he attempted to hold in the pain to deny Jerome any pleasure. This, and the sequence in the Hall of Mirrors where Bruce beat Jerome to a bloodied pulp, demonstrated how far the character has come over the past three years and I hope that this marks a concerted effort from the show’s writers to portray Bruce as a capable force to be reckoned with. If Gotham returns for a Season Four, we need to start seeing a prototype Batman running about the streets, learning his trade on the streets. His speech at the end of the episode with Alfred certainly seems to suggest that this is where the show is headed and I think David Mazouz is now old enough to convincingly portray Bruce as a young vigilante. I mean, Robin was his age when he started out!


The other major confrontation that fuelled this episode’s narrative was the long-awaited clash between the Riddler and the Penguin. I loved his initial acid-based death-trap, which just felt so “Riddler” in nature with its Rube Goldberg Machine design. I also like that the Penguin actually proved that he loved Ed by not betraying him to save his own life – it was a nice touch, and one that may mean that there is some glimmer of reconciliation at the end of this story-arc. Riddler seemed conflicted in that wonderfully-acted pier sequence, and it actually felt touch-and-go whether he would let the Penguin go or not. Obviously, Oswald has history with these waterside executions but he wasn’t quite as lucky this time around – although I certain that he will be “fished up” by his former mentor and Hugo Strange. As for the Riddler, he still has to deal with Barbara, Butch and Tabitha but I suspect that he will begin to take the first steps to his more flamboyant comic-book identity during the remainder of this season, especially considering the title of the next episode.

This episode was the closest that the series has ever come to feeling like a true Batman prequel, placing James Gordon in the background for one episode to focus on Bruce Wayne and three of his most famous enemies: Joker, Riddler and Penguin. It was fascinating to watch, and I really hope that Gotham can maintain this same excitement and character development for Bruce Wayne across the remainder of this series, as his Court of Owls story-arc has come second-place to James Gordon throughout the season. Given Uncle Frank’s appearance at the end of this episode, I suspect Gordon will be dragged into Bruce’s troubles and we will start to see some resolution of the whole convoluted and overdrawn ‘secret society’ storyline that has dragged Season Three down. This series is always strongest when focused on a single maniac figurehead, be it Penguin, Proto-Joker or Mad Hatter – if Season Four can weed out the series’ more ridiculous elements and return the focus onto Bruce Wayne’s growth into Batman, then I’m sure the series will continue to course-correct itself with fantastic episodes like this.


Score - 10 out of 10

Next Episode - "How the Riddler Got His Name"
Edward finally gets Oswald to pay for his terrible actions and finds himself with a new dilemma on which path to take.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Review - Supergirl: 2x09 - "Supergirl Lives"

Supergirl
Episode 2x09 - "Supergirl Lives"

Synopsis

Stuck in a rut, Supergirl searches for job satisfaction when she comes across a missing person case – although she doesn’t realise the full interplanetary ramifications of the situation. Meanwhile, Winn suffers a crisis of confidence when he is almost killed helping the Guardian.

Review

After directing two episodes of The Flash, Kevin Smith makes his directorial debut on Supergirl with this eventful mid-season premiere episode. Smith certainly brings a cinematic flair to the series, aided by the decision to transport Kara and Mon-El onto a different planet for the first time in the series. As a long-time fan of Smith, I was surprised at how different this episode felt compared to his cinematic work and how consistent it was to the series’ existing tone. Known more for his dialogue-driven movies, Smith managed to maintain the action quotient with some wonderful set-pieces, such as the Rocket Launcher-powered car chase at the beginning. That said, he also handled the character moments brilliantly, especially the scenes between Maggie and Alex - it was great fun to see a different side to DEO agent as she acted love-struck and in awe of her new girlfriend. The whole cast were on-point throughout this episode, no doubt super-charged by the presence of their guest-director.

In a marked contrast to the weak romantic sub-plots of Season One, this episode focused on the Danvers sisters’ relationships to great success. I loved the little moments of intimacy between Alex and Maggie after their first night together; and then later on, between Kara and Mon-El as they snuggled under the sofa blanket. I find myself rooting for both couples to succeed far more now, than I ever did with Kara and James – in fact, I used to actively hope they would fail – and it worked! While there was plenty of ground to cover in this inter-planetary adventure, Smith ensured that the episode never felt crammed and there was a strong ‘cause and effect’ to all of the various character arcs. My only nitpick would be how quickly Winn swung from being petrified of dying in the line of duty to being gung-ho about busting crime. Surely almost dying alone at the hands of an alien on a different planet should have exacerbated his fear of a premature death.


The episode also saw the guest appearance of Harley Quinn Smith, who played Izzy Williams – the girl whose disappearance sparked Supergirl’s involvement in the case. I was initially worried that it would be a case of “nepotism gone wrong”, but Smith made the most of her limited screen time, demonstrating herself to be a capable actor. She didn’t distract from the core cast and complemented them nicely during some of the more emotional sequences. Another standout guest appearance for me was the evil Maaldorian doctor who was responsible for luring the victims to the Slaver’s Moon. Played by James Urbaniak, he had that archetypal evil scientist look and I was a bit disappointed when he got executed at the end. He was far more watchable than the true architect of this scheme, the two-dimensional Roulette, who escaped captivity to plague Supergirl again in the future.

While “Supergirl Lives” served as a perfect entry-point to any new viewers that were following the character from last year's multi-series “Invasion” crossover, it also dealt with some of the recurring plot threads from the season – namely Mon-El and his secret. Aside from wearing a sign that read “I am the Prince”, he couldn’t make it any more obvious to the audience that he was actually really the Prince of Daxam, and his tale of escape had been complete fiction. With two mysterious aliens on the hunt for him, it seems like Mon-El’s true identity will be exposed in the near future and I wonder how that will impact his burgeoning relationship with Kara. Clearly there is some kind of bounty on the Prince’s head, so his existence on Earth may bring forth some unwanted attention.

Figuratively and literally, this episode was out of this world as it condensed the plot of a feature-length film into half the time, and with a fraction of the budget. I loved the journey to another planet, and I hope that is something that Supergirl continues to experiment with in future episodes, especially since there has been a much heavier focus on other alien races during this season. Based on his work on this gem of an episode, Kevin Smith has definitely found himself at home with Supergirl and the Arrowverse, and I look forward to seeing him return to guest-direct more episodes.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Next Episode - "We Can Be Heroes"
After Livewire seemingly breaks out of prison, Supergirl is intent on recapturing her. After training Mon-El, Supergirl takes him with her when she sees Livewire attack the NCPD but things go awry when Mon-El puts Supergirl before the citizens of National City. Meanwhile, James decides to come clean with Kara, and M’Gann has a psychic attack and collapses into a coma.

Review - Gotham: 3x13 - "Smile Like You Mean It"

Gotham
Episode 3x13 - "Smile Like You Mean It"

Synopsis

Gotham City is gripped by madness as Dwight unites the followers of Jerome in an attempt to resurrect the former Maniax member. Meanwhile, Barbara and Tabitha continue their plan to ruin the Penguin’s standing within the underworld by using his love for Ed against him.

Review

Wasting little time, this episode of Gotham dealt primarily with the resurrection of Jerome Valeska, positioning the character as the latest “big bad” to appear in this season. After making an impact with his debut appearance in Season One and his untimely death in Season Two, the show’s writers seem to have finally committed to the idea of having Jerome be the series’ incarnation. Cameron Monaghan does a brilliant job at bringing the character to life (again) as he borrows elements from both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s takes on the character, creating an interesting Joker medley. Riffing on the recent “Death of the Family” storyline occurring in the Batman comics, this version of the Joker has had his face removed and stapled back on – it’s a great visual and I’m surprised the series was willing to go there. With his facial disfigurement, Valeska seems to have that extra oomph that sets him apart from previous incarnations – I particularly liked the scenes where he was wearing bandages and talking with a slight lisp. It really emphasised the maniacal nature of the character, channelling his inner Joker perfectly.

Despite this clear movement towards establishing Valeska as the Joker, Gotham still shies away from naming him as the character and part of me was hoping that this episode would end with him christening himself with the name. That said, I did get a kick out of seeing the Joker-esque logo appearing as spray-painted graffiti all over the city. One element that felt inconsistent was the size of this cult that worshipped Valeska as their “prophet”, it seemed to fluctuate in numbers and I think it was purely so that the writers could have the flexibility to bring them back again in the future. I’m not sure how I feel about the Joker in charge of an army of loyal followers, especially ones who seemed crazier than him. Now that Gotham has gone to great lengths to bring the character back from the dead, I hope they utilise him wisely and make him into a true threat for Gordon and his city.

"Let's put a FACE on that SMILE"

Whilst Gordon and the GCPD were dealing with the threat of the Joker cult, the other core storylines running throughout this season seemed to be spinning their wheels, waiting for their turn in the spotlight. The plot involving Selina and her mom fizzled out rather disappointingly, especially since everyone involved actually commented on the predictability of her mother’s deception – it just seemed like an excuse to explain away Selina’s commitment issues and then force a wedge between her and Bruce. That said, I did like the scene as Selina attempted to fight Bruce and he defended himself against her blows. It seemed very reminiscent of the relationship between Batman and Catwoman in Batman Returns, and a nice foreshadowing to their eventual costumed alter-egos. Elsewhere, the Penguin plot-line continued to plot along and Edward Nygma couldn’t even be bothered to make an appearance to advance the story. Again, this felt rather “by-the-numbers” in its approach as Penguin continued to become the “Crumblepot” reported in the Gotham Gazette.

Yet again, Gotham continues to display a schizophrenia to rival that of its most infamous residents. On one side, this episode was taut, thrilling and exciting with the Jerome storyline, but it padded out the episode with some slow, predictable elements in other areas. This split in focus has been evident throughout the season as the series lurches from storyline to storyline – compared to the operatic twists and turns of Season One’s mob-war story-arc, it feels like Gotham has become a cluttered mess of different narratives – each one vying for prominence. The Jerome storyline seems like a natural lead for the remainder of the season, but there are plenty of untouched elements to be dealt with, including the Court of Owls, Fish Mooney and Hugo Strange, the Mad Hatter and Barnes, Penguin and the Riddler. Hopefully the remaining nine episodes of the season can bring some stability to this “Mad City” arc and deliver a cohesive and satisfying climax.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"
With Jerome on the loose with one target in mind, Bruce and Alfred's safety is compromised. Meanwhile, Gordon's Uncle Frank pays him a visit whilst Nygma and Penguin are forced to confront their issues face-to-face with possible deadly consequences.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Review - Gotham: 3x12 - "Ghosts"

Gotham
Episode 3x12 - "Ghosts"

Synopsis

Despite being cleared by the GCPD for Mario’s murder, Falcone and Lee both want Gordon to pay for his crimes and hire Zsasz to carry out the assassination. Meanwhile, during a routine murder investigation, Gordon and Bullock uncover a mysterious cult dedicated to worshipping the memory of Jerome Valeska.

Review

Despite my concerns at the end of the mid-season finale, Gotham addressed the burning issue of Gordon killing Mario Falcone with surprisingly speed by forgoing the formality of having Jim protest his innocence to the police force. Opening up with Mario’s funeral, it is quickly established via dialogue that the GCPD discovered Mario’s infection in an autopsy, corroborating Gordon’s initial claims in “Beware the Green-Eyed Monster” and explaining his decision to shoot the man. Of course, while he is legally innocent of the crime, he has still incurred Falcone’s wrath - resulting in another hit being placed on the unlucky detective. It was great fun seeing Victor Zsasz in a prominent role again, hunting down Jim Gordon with a psychotic glee. Anthony Carrigan does a great job with the character, hinting at his casual disdain for human life and foreshadowing his eventual descent into a trophy-obsessed serial killer. I was a little disappointed at how quickly the hit was called off, although given Zsasz’s efficiency, it was inevitable that this plot point would have to be reversed in order to maintain the status-quo.

While it’s too early to tell, there is a sneaking suspicion that the rushed nature of this sub-plot may be due to poor reaction to the mid-season cliff-hanger and the show’s writers have quickly revised their original plans in order to push ahead with the Jerome Valeska resurrection instead. After writing out Fish Mooney and putting the Indian Hill escapees back in the bottle, Season Three of Gotham has been an odd bag of aborted storylines. In fact, aside from the Mad Hatter plot thread – there hasn’t actually been a consistent through-line. With Jerome presumably picking up the baton from Benedict Samuel’s Mad Hatter, it seems Gotham will be returning to its winning formula of a single insane antagonist tormenting the city. Cameron Monaghan’s turn as Jerome during Season Two was a highlight of the series so I am very intrigued to see how Gotham handles this ‘proto-Joker’ when he is eventually resurrected.


Another subplot that has delivered less than expected is Bruce’s battle with the Court of Owls. While this episode provides a slight hint as to the true purpose of the Owl statue, as a shining light reveals some secret blueprints on the wall – little else of interest happens in this episode. Selina’s mother seems like an unnecessary wrinkle to the plot, and I am flabbergasted that no-one has thought to ask her why she was at the Court of Owls’ hideout. Clearly she knows something about the organisation! Despite this, it was good to see Selina let down her guard and showcase her vulnerable side – sometimes her sarcastic attitude can grate, especially when it comes to her and Bruce’s relationship. Obviously, the pair are destined to break-up at some point during the series and go their separate ways towards super-hero and super-villain destinies – I just hope it isn’t for a while yet as I like their awkward relationship.

Another relationship that I liked, and has sadly ended, is that of the Riddler and the Penguin. Here we see the beginning of Riddler’s plan to drive the Penguin insane – a surprisingly simple task, it turns out. As Penguin’s father appeared and disappeared as a ghostly image, I was worried that the show wouldn’t be able to adequately explain how Riddler achieved such as special effect – I mean, he’s not Mysterio… but the reveal of Clayface was a brilliant one, and I wonder if he’ll be used again in the future to bring back other dead characters? It seems that the Riddler’s plan to “completely destroy” the Penguin will be a slow-burner as he strips away everything the former mob-boss holds dear – starting with his position as Mayor. Unfortunately, Gotham hasn’t really spent much time in showing how important this new role is to Oswald Cobblepot, so his inevitable sacking won’t have the same amount of impact as his previous ‘low points’. Hopefully, the show-writers can take this grudge-match into an interesting direction and not drop it midway through in favour of a different story-arc.

Ghosts” certainly leaves Gotham in a stronger place than its mid-season finale did, but it continues to leave plenty of narrative ‘plates’ spinning and I am very intrigued to see how they will all come together to form a cohesive storyline. While this episode manages to condense the action to three distinct storylines, Gotham does have the habit of becoming a bit cluttered and unorganised at times, and it does feel like there are a number of different antagonists (Court of Owls, Jerome, Barnes, Falcone, Penguin/Riddler, Fish Mooney and the Mad Hatter) all vying for the spotlight. Hopefully the series can streamline some of these elements and end this season with a clear format, addressing and completing the various plots it has set in motion.


Score - 9.1 out of 10

Next Episode - "Smile Like You Mean It"
On the run from Gordon and Bullock, Dwight tries to revive Jerome and, in turn, activates his acolytes around Gotham City. Meanwhile, Selina's mom's intentions in Gotham are revealed, and the power play between Penguin and Nygma escalates as Barbara's plans are set in place.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x08 - "Medusa"

Supergirl
Episode 2x08 - "Medusa"

Synopsis

The threat of Cadmus re-emerges as Lillian Luthor launches her latest plan – a deadly airborne virus that only affects aliens. With Mon-El in critical condition and J’onn slowly becoming a White Martian, Supergirl is forced to turn to Lena Luthor for helping in taking down her mother’s organisation.

Review

Rather surprisingly, this mid-season finale wraps up most of the ongoing plot threads established in these initial eight episodes of Season Two, with Cadmus seemingly defeated and the Martian Manhunter’s “affliction” cured before he could transform fully into a White Martian. I was fully expecting Cadmus to be an omnipresent threat throughout the entire season in the same way that Astra, Non and their Kryptonian army were in Season One, but it seems that they’ve been shut down already with the arrest of Lillian Luthor. Despite wrapping up its ongoing storylines, the episode did drop some hints about future events for the remainder of the season with a brief interlude that featured two mysterious aliens who were searching for Mon-El. Presumably this is related to his attempted confession in “The Darkest Place”, where he tried to tell Kara something important about Daxam but was interrupted before he could finish. While it was refreshing to see Cadmus defeated so quickly, it did feel slightly rushed – especially the Martian Manhunter’s sudden cure – and I hope that we will still see the after-effects of Cadmus’ defeat play out in the remaining episodes since the real Hank Henshaw is on the loose and Jeremiah Danvers is still missing.

One of the central aspects of this episode was the burgeoning relationship between Mon-El and Kara, and I have to admit that the pair have a lot more chemistry than Kara ever did with Winn, James or Cat Grant's grown-up son. Chris Wood does a great job at portraying the  charismatic Mon-El and I find myself rooting for the two characters to finally hook up. This romantic sub-plot, along with Alex and Maggie, demonstrates the vast improvements that Supergirl has made in its soap-opera elements compared to its debut season. There's a maturity to the love stories being told in the series now, and the show seems to have a much better understanding of its supporting characters – especially James and Winn. I'm really fond of the current ensemble and how the show is beginning to show a wider focus on developing its entire cast, rather than being the 'Cat Grant and Kara' show.


After delving into her mother and aunt's chequered pasts on Krypton, this episode focused on Kara's father – Zor-El, a scientist responsible for developing a deadly weapon that would kill any alien apart from Kryptonian. Poor Kara seems to have really bad luck with her family tree, and its interesting to see her attempt to come to terms with the crimes committed by her birth parents. I liked the comparisons between Kara and Lena Luthor, both good people attempting to fix the mistakes made by their parents and I am glad the writers avoided making Lena “break bad” and turn evil as it would have been far too predictable and a waste of a character. Having Kara working alongside Lena Luthor to help aliens on Earth is a great plot development and subverts my expectations of where the writers were going to take Lena's character.

Peppered throughout the episode were appearances of the rift in time and space which culminated in an appearance from The Flash and Cisco. Unfortunately, I don't watch The Flash – despite his brilliant cameo appearance in last year's “Worlds Finest” - and so I won't be following the upcoming four-way crossover into the rest of the Arrowverse in the near future. Luckily, it seems like it'll be relatively self-contained for Supergirl fans with most of the storyline taking place in the other three shows. When the series returns next year with the Kevin Smith directed “Supergirl Lives”, it should pick up from where the series left off without leaving single-series viewers like myself in the dark. This was a great, albeit oddly paced mid-season finale that perhaps fumbled some of the more emotional pay-offs to its established storylines in an effort to clear the deck for the back-half of Season Two. I'm intrigued to see what the writers have left in store for Kara and her friends – presumably the aliens hunting Mon-El and James' turn as the Guardian will be the main focus, but hopefully we will also see Hank Henshaw's Cyborg-Superman take over Cadmus in Lillian Luthor's absence, ensuring that plot point isn't lost completely during the hiatus.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Review - Gotham: 3x11 - "Beware the Green-Eyed Monster"

Gotham
Episode 3x11 - "Beware the Green-Eyed Monster"

Synopsis

Convinced that Mario Falcone has been infected with Alice Tetch’s blood, Jim Gordon attempts to reveal the truth to Lee and put an end to her wedding, but is Mario one step ahead of him? Meanwhile, Bruce enlists the help of Selina and Alfred to steal a powerful weapon from inside the Court of Owls’ secret safe house. 

Review

With much of the episode’s focus firmly on the relatively undeveloped love triangle between Leslie Thompkins, Mario Falcone and Jim Gordon, this mid-season finale of Gotham ended on a whimper rather than a bang. Infected with the same virus that drove Captain Barnes to murder the guilty, Mario’s affliction takes the form of a paranoid jealousy of Jim Gordon – causing him to construct a devious plot to discredit the detective in front of his bride-to-be. It’s a bit convoluted, and veers into the realms of cliché with a last-minute declaration of love moments before Thompkins is due to walk down the aisle. Personally, it would have been far more interesting if the series had avoided the Tetch virus sub-plot and instead had Lee ditch Mario at the altar, spurning him on to become a heir to the Falcone crime family out for revenge on Gordon. Instead, the show reverted to one of its favourite (and over-used) plot devices – framing Jim Gordon for murder and presumably, getting arrested or thrown out of the GCPD. When Gordon shot Mario and the knife slid from his hand into the ocean, I almost let out an audible groan – the return from the hiatus will now be preoccupied with Gordon proving that it was self-defence and not the cold-blooded murder it appeared to be. When Gordon shot Galavan, it was bold and exciting – but this, this was just frustrating.

The more interesting elements of the episode were relegated to sub-plots with the mystery surrounding the Court of Owls shuffled off to one side. As a result, the heist for the mysterious ‘weapon’ in the safe seemed extremely low-key and it almost undermined  the supposed omnipotence of the Court of Owls that two kids and a butler could break into one of their buildings and steal one of their most-guarded secrets. That said, I’m intrigued to find out what exactly is within the Crystal Owl statue that the trio stole, and the introduction of Selina’s mother is a wonderful little wrinkle to the storyline. I’m calling it up front, I predict that she may become a love interest for Alfred – giving him someone other than teenagers to hang about with. Knowing Gotham’s penchant for naming their half-seasons, I’m expecting the tail-end of Season Three to be focused on the Court of Owls – especially since they’ve begun to appear in both Gordon and Penguin’s story-arcs.


Anyone hoping for a swift resolution to the Penguin / Riddler subplot would be disappointed as once he discovered the truth behind the Penguin’s duplicity, Nygma changed his tactics and instead opted for a prolonged campaign of revenge. In an extreme case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, Riddler found himself paired up with Barbara, Butch and Tabitha in a situation which just emphasised the ineffectualness of Butch and Tabitha. Despite swearing to kill Nygma on sight, the pair reversed their position and instead traded angry scowls and gritted teeth at the man who cut off Tabitha’s hand – this makes as much sense as Butch continuing to work for the man who cut off his own hand, even after he was freed from the mind control. While the idea of a Penguin vs. Riddler gang-war is exciting, I wish the series hadn’t wasted an extremely intriguing same-sex romantic plotline to get to this point. The sudden appearance of a Miss Kringle-lookalike stretched credibility a bit too far, and felt like a way to put the pair at odds without positioning Nygma as a homophobe. While I might not appreciate how the writers got to this point – I am very intrigued to see how the show will handle two of its core cast-members going up against each other.

Unfortunately, this was the weakest episode of Season Three and one that saw Gotham reverting to some of its lazier plot devices. The series works best when it flouts convention and introduces surprises into the established continuity of the Batman mythos, but the series’ constant obsession with having Gordon kicked out of the GCPD, or framed for murder, has definitely lessened the impact. Rather than wondering “how will Gordon get out of this one”, I’m instead thinking “how long will it take for Gotham to move past this”. When the show returns in the new year, I’m hoping it will have learnt some lessons from the inconsistent tone to this first half of Season Three – the strongest episodes revolved around Benedict Samuel’s Mad Hatter, who injected unpredictability into the mix – something that felt lacking in the Court of Owls focused moments. With Selina Kyle’s mother making an appearance, and the mysterious figure from the Court of Owls bearing the Gordon family ring, I wonder whether there will be a more family-centric tone to its remaining episodes. Whatever the focus may be, the second half of Season Three will need to achieve a better sense of cohesiveness if it wishes to remain as strong as Season Two.


Score - 8.9 out of 10

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x07 - "The Darkest Place"

Supergirl
Episode 2x07 - "The Darkest Place"

Synopsis

Kidnapped and depowered by Cadmus, Mon-El and Kara must rely on each other for help in order to escape from their dire fate. J’onn experiences curious side-effects from his recent blood transfusion that leads him to discover a terrible truth about M’Ghan. Meanwhile, a rival vigilante with a thirst for blood is causing problems for James Olsen in his Guardian identity.

Review

Things took a dark turn with this appropriately-named episode of Supergirl as Cadmus made its presence known by kidnapping both Mon-El and Kara. With Supergirl depowered and Mon-El suffering from lead poisoning after a gunshot to the leg, things looked genuinely bleak for the pair of heroes and it was difficult to see Kara in such a vulnerable position. The setting of an abandoned warehouse, riddled with dank corridors and makeshift cell-blocks was suitably grim and really contributed to the downbeat tone of this episode. It was also interesting to see the real Hank Henshaw make an appearance as the Cyborg Superman – finally realising the character’s comic book destiny after the Season One misdirect with J’onn Jonzz. It’s interesting to see David Harewood tackling the dual sides of the character – putting a subtle inflection on the anger as both versions of Henshaw leapt into battle this episode. I do wonder whether the reappearance of Henshaw will lead to J’onn adopting a new identity with Harewood becoming Cyborg Superman full-time. Hopefully this isn’t the case as I like his stern, yet lovable take on the Martian Manhunter and his human identity.

The revelation that his White Martian blood transfusion was effectively changing him into a White Martian himself provided further evidence that we might be saying goodbye to David Harewood in his Martian Manhunter form. Understandably, he was a bit pissed off that his only connection to his people was a fraud and not only that, but she’d infected him with a virus that would strip him of his very identity. With so much of J’onn’s character rooted in his identity as the last Green Martian alive, taking this from him would be a devastating blow and I have no idea how he will react, especially if he also gains the White Martian’s temperament.


With the increased focus on The Guardian and his vigilantism on the streets of National City, there was a nice grounded-feel to the episode’s action sequences that felt reminiscent of the Batman franchise. In fact, the whole episode felt reinvigorated with a frenetic energy that extended beyond the gritty, street-level superheroics – the opening conversation at the alien bar had the camera moving around the cast in a 360-degrees circle, and several other scenes had a more handheld camera style. It was an interesting cinematic technique and one that definitely brought the audience closer to events.

While this episode was a slight departure in tone for the series, enhanced by the inclusion of fresh camera techniques, it demonstrated that Supergirl is capable of focusing on the darker elements of the DC Universe. Ultimately, I prefer the series to be the more light-hearted and optimistic heart of the DCEU as too many comic-book adaptations rush towards being grim and gritty nowadays. After all, most of what makes the Marvel movies so successful is their humour and relatively even-toned content. Even Captain America: Civil War, which was arguably the darkest installment yet, had bright elements and humour throughout. I enjoy Supergirl because it is more positive than its competitors and I hope that it doesn’t lose any of that upbeat persona in its transition into The CW’s Arrowverse. With one episode left until the mid-season break, it seems that Supergirl is prepping towards another ‘Project Myriad’-style Armageddon as Hank Henshaw activated the Medusa protocol in the Fortress of Solitude. I’m really enjoying the mix of different storylines and it truly feels like Supergirl has settled into its groove and become a truly ensemble show by giving all of its cast members some purpose and story development, especially when compared to the Kara-centric Season One. There isn’t really a weak link in this chain anymore – all of the characters are pulling their own weight and the various storylines are coalescing to produce a strong and consistent core narrative.


Score - 9.6 out of 10

Next Episode - "Medusa"
As Eliza comes to National City for Thanksgiving, Kara turns to Lena for help when Cadmus unleashes a virus that instantly kills aliens, then is asked by Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon for help with an alien invasion on their Earth.

Review - Gotham: 3x10 - "Time Bomb"

Gotham
Episode 3x10 - "Time Bomb"

Synopsis

Determined to get revenge for the death of Isabella, Nygma kidnaps Butch and Tabitha and begins to subject them to a barrage of torture techniques, unaware that Barbara Kean is on the hunt for them both. Meanwhile, Gordon must protect Mario Falcone from assassins targeting him ahead of his wedding to Lee, and Bruce Wayne attempts to deal with the mysterious group searching for the key that Ivy stole.

Review

Time Bomb” is an appropriate title for this episode of Gotham, not just because of the exploding car sequence in its cold open, but also the way in which the writers attempted to cram in plenty of story development before the series’ mid-season finale hits. While it was jam-packed with momentum from the outset, the episode never felt overly busy and rushed – scenes like how Riddler kidnapped Butch and Tabitha were excised in favour of exposition, ensuring a tight and brisk pace from the beginning. It was also an episode filled with revelations – Riddler discovered that Butch wasn’t the one responsible for Isabella’s death, Bruce discovered a potential ally in his fight against the Court of Owls and the audience discovered that Barnes was not the only one to be affected by Alice Tetch’s blood. Each of these revelations are set to drive the narrative of the show into the mid-season finale, and beyond – no doubt the re-emergence of the Court of Owls will result in them taking the main stage for the second half of Season Three, whilst the inevitable feud between Penguin and Riddler will reignite the gang war plot strand. Gotham has done a great job at building each of these subplots towards their crescendo, although some of its plot threads (Valerie Vale, Jervis Tetch and Fish Mooney) have been discarded throughout this first half-season.

It was great to see Edward Nygma experimenting with death-traps, something which will become a more prominent theme in his Riddler persona, and the emotional torture that he put Butch and Tabitha through was very similar to The Mad Hatter’s own trials for Jim Gordon earlier in the season in “Follow the White Rabbit”. Ultimately, I think that Tetch’s version was more effective as Benedict Samuel managed to better convey that sense of unhinged grief, whereas Cory Michael Smith was a little too maniacal in his approach. I have to applaud Gotham for having the balls to go the extra mile and having Tabitha lose a hand – too many other shows would have wimped out and had Barbara arrive just in time to save the day. While it seems likely that she will get it reattached, much like with Valerie Vale’s shooting in “Follow the White Rabbit”, it was a genuine shock and a worthy pay-off to the lengthy setup throughout the episode. Interestingly, Nygma’s antics in this episode consolidates a new threat to the Penguin’s crown as Gotham’s kingpin as Barbara Kean, Butch and Tabitha unite together with the promise of revenge and war upon the Penguin and his organisation.


The threat of war was also seen in Bruce Wayne’s storyline as he scrambled to meet with those hunting down him and his friends in an effort to renegotiate the truce, only to discover this was a different organisation committed to defeating the Court of Owls. Coming so soon after the whole St Dumas conspiracy in Season Two, there is the feeling that Gotham is retreading old ground with yet another sinister ancient organisation running things from behind the scenes. Even the Owls’ mysterious assassin feels reminiscent of Theo Galavan in his Azrael persona, albeit with much less verbal input during his attacks. Hopefully the writers will be able to offer something different with this storyline, although considering the Court of Owls are in possession of the Bruce Wayne clone – I strongly suspect we’re headed for a ‘bait-and-switch’ situation with Fake-Bruce taking the original’s place for the latter half of the season. Even though this storyline has been given little prominence during this “Mad City” phase of the season, it has been the least enjoyable aspect and hopefully it doesn’t become the main focus of the series once its returns in the New Year.

Unfortunately, subtlety is not one of Gotham’s strong points and from the opening conversation where Mario expressed too much interest in Captain Barnes’ condition and a possible test to discover who was afflicted, it was obvious he had been affected by the same virus. I’m assuming that the mysterious plaster on his neck during “Red Queen” must have been something to do with his infection – although, it’s unclear whether it was intentional or not. Poor Mario Falcone was doomed the minute he returned to Gotham with Lee as he was merely a hurdle in her relationship with Gordon, waiting in the wings to be dispatched at the soonest convenience. I’m a little bit disappointed that the show will make him into a mindless villain, especially so soon after Barnes’ own transformation, as it would have been more interesting if he’d been a genuine nice guy alternative to Gordon. I’m curious as to why the Court of Owls got involved and attempted to assassinate Mario – how would they even know he was infected? It was fun to see Falcone revert back to his criminal roots, especially when he indulged in an impromptu dental examination in the interrogation room – if Mario is killed off, I suspect he will return to his role as mob-boss pretty quickly, especially if Gordon is the one who pulls the trigger.

As a standalone episode, this was a densely-packed tour through all of the current storyline percolating in Gotham, but it also demonstrated the scattered nature of the season with plot threads being dropped or put on hiatus in favour of pursuing other ideas – it’s almost as if the show cannot decide on what its main focus. In this episode, the Court of Owls seemed to be a recurring theme and with the Mad Hatter languishing in an Arkham cell, I suspect the series will attempt to knit its disparate plot threads together and focus on one common enemy.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Next Episode - "Beware the Green-Eyed Monster"
Mario and Gordon face off before the wedding, Selina meets an unexpected face and Barbara comes to Nygma with information about Isabella.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x06 - "Changing"

Supergirl
Episode 2x06 - "Changing"

Synopsis

When a deadly alien parasite puts both Supergirl and Martian Manhunter out of action, who is left to protect National City from its latest threat. Meanwhile, Alex struggles with the new changes occurring in her personal life.

Review

One of the weaker elements of Supergirl’s first season was the series’ attempts to engineer a love story between Kara and James, placing her friend Winn and James’ ex-girlfriend Lucy as obstacles in the way of ‘true love’. At times the show felt like Ally McBeal but with super-powers, which is ironic considering Calista Flockhart’s presence as Cat Grant. The chemistry between Melissa Benoist and Mehcad Brooks just wasn’t there and as a result there was no emotional undercurrent to the relationship. Realising this, the writers quickly put an end to this plot thread early on in Season Two, allowing the characters to develop in different directions. Wisely moving away from saddling Kara with another overt love interest, although Mon-El seems to be a possibility, the writers have focused on Alex Danvers and developed her character beyond the faithful sister and devoted daughter into something far more three-dimensional. The scene where she came out as gay to her sister was impeccably acted by both Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist and for a show that features alien parasites and shape-shifters, it was surprisingly real and grounded. The raw emotion in the acting when Alex was rejected by Maggie was 100% more realistic and affecting than any of the silly love triangle nonsense from the first season and it seems like Supergirl has finally worked out how to get under its audience’s skin. I won’t lie – I did get a little red-eyed watching Alex break down in front of her sister…

Stepping away from Cadmus and human-alien relations for an episode, “Changing” was focused on the development of its supporting characters and the central threat of the episode was almost inconsequential and just a way to clear the stage for both Mon-El and The Guardian to step up to the plate to protect National City. Despite the reduced focus on Supergirl, Melissa Benoist had some great moments – from her first time drunk to her supportive attitude towards her sister.  Even James Olsen, a character I’ve openly disliked from his introduction, showed some promise as he evolved into his new superhero identity. Sure, his voice was a little hard to understand at times and he was effectively ‘Batman on a Bike’ but it was great to see the character being utilised in different ways and seeing the friendship between him and Winn which was gradually built up over Season One turning into a proper partnership. Keeping his secret from Kara is a nice touch and I like the addition dramatic tension that will result from this decision, especially if Guardian straddles the line between hero and vigilante.


For once, the action sequences were not the most impressive element of an episode as I found myself gripped by the emotional whirlwind that was happening to Alex. I applaud the writers for not having Alex and Maggie fall straight into a relationship and making her coming out into a much more realistic affair. Clearly, Chyler Leigh can handle the added emotional weight that this storyline requires and her scenes with Melissa Benoist were absolutely dynamite. Part of me was worried the writers would use this revelation to drive a wedge between the two Danvers sisters, but I needn’t have been concerned as the writers hit the right tone between the pair, further strengthening the sisterly relationship that they share. I suspect that Maggie Sawyer will eventually succumb to Alex’s charms, but that initial rejection was so well-acted that I’m sure it resonated with anyone who had been rejected by someone they loved.

While Alex, James and Mon-El went through the biggest and most overt ‘changes’ during this aptly-named episode, there was a more subtle change hinted at with the Martian Manhunter. Having received a blood transfusion from M’Ghan – it seems like her White Martian blood might be having some adverse effect with J’onn. Given the more barbaric nature of the White Martian, I suspect that J’onn may start experiencing some anger issues of his own in the near future – but who knows who far these changes may go. With Mon-El getting abducted by Project Cadmus, it seems likely that he might also be turned into an enemy against Kara – which will put a stop to any potential romance plans between the pair, although personally I think she should follow her sister's lead and start dating Lena Luthor! There are plenty of storylines waiting to be developed further as this second season of Supergirl continues to go from strength to strength – I’d even go as far to say that this might be the best episode yet as the series finally developed a genuinely effective love story between two of its characters that was strong enough to put the more action-led sequences on the back-burner.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Darkest Place"
Supergirl comes face-to-face with Cyborg Superman when she attempts to save Mon-El from Cadmus.

Review - Gotham: 3x09 - "The Executioner"

Gotham
Episode 3x09 - "The Executioner"

Synopsis

Gordon suspects Barnes is responsible for the numerous vigilante murders taking place in Gotham City, but struggles to convince the rest of the GCPD of his findings. Meanwhile, Poison Ivy finds herself in trouble when a jewel theft goes bad, forcing her to team-up with Selina and Bruce. 

Review

After building up Barnes’ descent into madness over the past few episodes, the conclusion to this sub-plot lacked any real sense of resolution as Gotham once again reverted to half-measures to prolong the storyline. Barnes’ downfall was very reminiscent of Butch’s journey in “Anything for You”, even down to the point where the writers avoiding killing off the character when it seemed like the logical conclusion to the story-arc. Locked away in Arkham Asylum chanting “Justice”, Barnes is ready to be used again whenever Gotham needs to fill an episode – given the manner in which he was defeated, I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned to threaten Lee. The reluctance to kill off Barnes renders Gotham slightly impotent and serves to showcase the series’ shortcomings – I think it would have been a much stronger statement if Gordon had put a bullet through Barnes’ head, albeit reluctantly. It would have been another reason to hate Tetch, fuelling this rivalry between the pair.

Another example of the reluctance to commit to a storyline was seen in the Penguin / Riddler subplot. While I applaud the writers’ decision to have Riddler quickly discover the suspicious nature of Isabella’s death – it felt like a slight cheat to have him instantly blame Butch for the act. Still, this prolongs the story-arc and adds some more dramatic tension between Oswald and Edward. I’m a bit disappointed that the Penguin’s love for Riddler and the sudden appearance of a Miss Kringle doppelganger were introduced purely to build this rift between the two characters. It feels artificial and forced, reliant on unrealistic comic-book tropes – it would have been far more interesting to have had the Penguin embark in a relationship with the Riddler and deal with the aftermath of a break-up. It would have been the brilliant departure from continuity that Gotham should revel in – as it is, it feels like they’ve tried to be daring but have pulled back at the last minute. Saying that, the pair might still become a couple with this dark secret lingering between them – that would be an interesting development!


The most engaging element of this episode, and unfortunately the aspect that was explored the least, was the situation that Ivy, Selina and Bruce found themselves in. The actual reveal of an older Ivy was a bit underwhelming, although both Camren Bicondova and David Mazouz’s reactions were brilliant. The most intriguing part of this sub-plot was that the stolen Emerald contained a key – presumably for the Court of Owls – bringing the characters back into the foreground. After establishing a truce with Bruce in the opening episodes of this season, this shadowy organisation hasn’t really had the impact on the series that we’d expected with the writers focused more on Jervis Tetch and his sister’s dodgy blood. Now that Barnes is locked up, it seems that the writers will be returning to the core mythology surrounding this secret society and its plans for Wayne Enterprises. Gotham still seems to be a bit patchy when it comes to its overall season development – after the Season Two finale, it seemed like Season Three would focus more on the escaped Indian Hill test subjects and the Court of Owls, but we’ve seen little evidence of either across this initial batch of episodes.

There were some bright spots in this episode though – the tense car journey and ‘cat-and-mouse’ conversations between Gordon and Barnes were some really strong moments and Michael Chiklis got to explore his character in greater detail. On the whole, however, it definitely felt like the writers were holding off on any actual resolutions in this episode and the focus was on transitioning characters into the next stage for these final few episodes of the year. Maybe it’s because I cared more about Butch as a character than Barnes, but I found there to be no real tension in his downfall and eventual ‘outing’ as a villain. With “Anything for You”, I was genuinely concerned that Butch was about to be killed off, but with this episode, I expected Barnes to get a bullet to the head and was disappointed when it didn’t happen. With the Court of Owls and the Riddler/Penguin ‘murder mystery’ still to be explored, there’s plenty of mileage for the remainder of this season to cover, but the show has dipped slightly since the Mad Hatter was incarcerated, showing that it needs a flamboyant villain to drive the plot.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Time Bomb"
A threat to Lee and Mario is exposed on the eve of their rehearsal dinner and Falcone comes to Jim for help. Meanwhile, Nygma plans his revenge and Bruce learns more about the Court of Owls.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x05 - "Crossfire"

Supergirl
Episode 2x05 - "Crossfire"

Synopsis

Project Cadmus continues to sow discontent for aliens amongst National City by providing alien weaponry to a gang of bank robbers. Meanwhile, Supergirl struggles to integrate Mon-El into her civilian life whilst both Alex and James suffer from an identity crisis.

Review

The questioning of one’s identity and purpose was the unifying theme of this episode of Supergirl and the series’ writers managed to do a fantastic job at aligning the various sub-plots to highlight this particular subject. Narrowly avoiding clichés or overwrought dramatics, the writers managed to weave a seamless narrative tapestry that saw many of its supporting characters going through the same emotional journey of self-development. First and foremost, we have Mon-El struggling to fit into Earth society and the “Mike Matthews” identity which Kara has created for him – while this was played mainly for laughs, it served as a primary focus for this central theme of self-identity as the character literally had a blank slate to create himself from. While the character is clearly developing into a love interest for Kara – something both Winn and James notice immediately – there is definitely more chemistry between the two characters than any of her previous love interests. Melissa Benoist is at her cutest here, filled with enthusiasm for her new mentor role as she preps Mon-El for his first day as ‘Mike of the Interns’. The humour is pitch-perfect throughout this sub-plot and I love Chris Woods’ ‘fish out of water’ persona as he attempts to fit in with the CatCo workers.

I’ve been quite vocal about the pointlessness of the James Olsen character since his introduction in Season One, especially when he was reduced to an ineffectual love interest. Aside from an unexpected promotion to the head of CatCo a few episodes ago, the character had little impact on Season Two thus far, but this episode finally re-calibrates the character and makes him more interesting by removing his dependency on Superman and Supergirl and allowing him to become a hero in his own right. I quite liked the way the series addressed Olsen’s predisposition towards becoming a sidekick and how little his contributions matter when compared to Kara, Alex and even, Winn. With Winn moving to the DEO and actually helping out, it has left Olsen on the back-benches and so this development makes total sense from the character’s perspective. Presumably, James will be hiding his identity from his super-powered friends, causing even more drama and tension. By introducing this new sub-plot, the writers have reinvigorated the frankly dull character of James Olsen and I look forward to seeing where his vigilante crusade takes him.


After plenty of hints across the past few episodes, we finally see Alex admit that she is unsure about her sexuality and is attracted to Maggie Sawyer. This is a great development for the character, humanising her and giving her a life outside the DEO and her sister. While I did like the idea of her forming a relationship with quasi-villain Maxwell Lord – it seems that the show has completely forgotten he exists in favour of Lena Luthor. Chyler Leigh does a great job at portraying Alex as she re-evaluates her life, and the moment where she attempts to come out to Maggie is wonderfully realistic and even though she fails to say the words, it is clear what her intention is. Hopefully, The CW will treat this relationship with respect and avoid some of the usual science-fiction tropes of killing off one of the characters to cause drama. I might be wrong but I’m also picking up some vibes between Kara and Lena too, and I wonder if her sister’s inevitable confession will lead to Kara questioning her sexuality too. I hope the writers don’t use Alex’s ‘coming out’ to cause a rift between the two Danvers sisters, as Kara quickly forgave her for killing her aunt, so if she can’t get over her sexuality, it will be something of a double-standard.

With impeccable symmetry between its storylines and a strong emotional core, this was the best episode of Season Two so far. The action sequences have become so much more dynamic and fast-paced compared to Season One and the script-writing seems to have gotten tighter and more thematic in style. Sure, we’ve lost Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant and Peter Facinelli’s Maxwell Lord, but the series seems to be far more confident and rooted deeper in Superman mythos than ever before. This season’s focus on Project Cadmus’ attempts to fuel prejudices between human and aliens is extremely relevant in this current political climate, and while the series may have jumped the gun with its vision of a Clinton-esque future, its themes regarding immigration and racial conflict remain just as important as ever before. It’s a genuine pleasure to watch this series spread its wings and grow during its second season, developing into a much stronger TV show and providing its characters with engaging and challenging sub-plots that offer more depth than ever before.


Score - 9.6 out of 10

Next Episode - "Changing"
The Guardian arrives to lend a hand when an alien parasite drains Supergirl of her power. Mon-El contemplates his motives when he considers a new career, and Alex faces a new reality.

Review - Gotham: 3x08 - "Blood Rush"

Gotham
Episode 3x08 - "Blood Rush"

Synopsis

With the virus-infected blood of Alice Tetch running through his veins, Captain Barnes struggles to keep his rage buried deep whilst the criminal underworld of Gotham commit more atrocities. Meanwhile, the Penguin plots to break up Ed and his new girlfriend, Isabella.

Review

Clean-shaven and wearing a tie again, Jim Gordon returned to the GCPD with a reduced sense of fanfare, with even Bullock pointing out that he’d left and returned too many times to make a fuss out of it. For once the focus wasn’t on the grim-faced detective, but instead one of the more undeveloped characters in the Gotham universe – Captain Nathaniel Barnes. So undeveloped, I had to google Michael Chiklis to find out his first name! After getting some virus-infected blood in his eye 28 Days Later style, Barnes has been gradually gaining super-strength and an uncontrollable sense of rage. Instead of turning into a kill-crazy zombie, he has focused his anger towards criminals and adopted a rather violent vigilante streak. After making little impact to the series’ narrative since replacing Captain Essen in Season Two, Chiklis is given a little more material to work with in this episode as we witness his inner turmoil as the rage and paranoia builds inside of him. This is a welcomed change to the character who previously spent most of his time in a wildly inconsistent love/hate relationship with Jim Gordon.

Once again adopting a streamlined approach to dealing with its ongoing storylines, there was a really interesting symmetry to this episode, which not only charted Barnes’ descent into murderous rage but also simultaneously showcased Ed’s attempts to put it behind him and move on. I liked how these two storylines dovetailed with each other, portraying the same theme of resisting the ‘killer inside’ but adopting totally different approaches to the subject matter. Another recurring theme for the episode was love triangles as the tension between Gordon, Lee and Mario heated up alongside the unlikely coupling of Riddler, Penguin and Isabella. In both cases, violence won out as Mario threw a punch at Gordon and Penguin organised his love rival’s death. I do wonder whether Isabella is truly out of the picture this early on, though. To have her flit in and out of Ed’s life so quickly seems like a waste of Chelsea Spack’s talents, besides her existence seemed far too coincidental especially in an episode that featured a doctor face-swapping. I still think she was working for Butch and part of some revenge scheme, but I guess we will have to wait and see.


I have to admit that I initially thought the murdering plastic surgeon was going to be revealed to be Mario Falcone, adding more tension to the love triangle whilst presenting Gordon as the hero. There was that odd moment last episode where the camera lingered on a Band-Aid on his neck, hinting at some mysterious secrets in the Doctor’s life, but it wasn’t followed up upon here. I’m actually surprised at how far the series has swerved away from its focus on the Indian Hill escapees and The Court of Owls to its latest fixation on Jervis Tetch and his dead sister’s rotten blood. Admittedly, it’s probably a much more exciting direction for the show and Benedict Samuel plays the Mad Hatter perfectly, but it can be infuriating to see plot threads dismissed so quickly. The show seems torn between being a police procedural set in Gotham City and a superhero prequel show for Batman and it’s this dual personality that often creates a schizophrenic narrative in the series. That said, this current direction is working for me and I’m enjoying seeing the Mad Hatter unleash his own brand of craziness into the city.

While this was mostly an origin episode for Barnes’ new persona, “Blood Rush” managed to develop other aspects of the show with a polished sense of symmetry. With the Mad Hatter behind bars for the time being, the focus has shifted over to the fruits of his labour – the hulk-like rage of Captain Barnes: the Executioner. Presumably the rest of this season will focus on Gordon attempting to discover more evidence that his former mentor is now currently mental, and possibly locating a cure to the virus. It feels like this is the beginning of the curtain call for Michael Chiklis on this show, and it’ll be great fun to see him take his leave whilst cleaning up Gotham’s streets in a gloriously gory fashion. After standing in for him during the hiatus between seasons, Bullock seems all but ready to step into his job as captain, so it seems like an inevitably that Barnes will meet his end soon. I’d also imagine that the Penguin / Riddler subplot will soon lead towards a bitter break-up for the pair, especially if Isabella survived her assassination attempt. As much as I wanted to see Gotham develop the pair into a couple, it seems that Cobblepot’s crush was merely introduced to give the friends a reason to become enemies. There’s still plenty of plot threads left to be developed for the remainder of the season, and with the Mad Hatter storyline drawing to a close, I wonder if the show’s writers will be reintroducing Fish Mooney and Hugo Strange into the mix before the mid-season finale.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Executioner"
Gordon and Bullock become suspicious of Barnes and go through evidence of a murder at Lee and Mario's engagement party. Nygma goes to Penguin when he doesn't hear from Isabella. Ivy leads Selina and Bruce to trouble when she reveals her identity.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x04 - "Survivors"

Supergirl
Episode 2x04 - "Survivors"

Synopsis

Supergirl and the DEO discover an underground alien fight club operating in National City, pitting aliens against each other to entertain the elite. Meanwhile, J’onn Jonnz attempts to connect with his fellow Martian survivor unaware that she is hiding plenty of secrets from him.

Review

One of the most prevalent themes of this second season of Supergirl is the animosity and distrust that humans have towards the aliens living on Earth, treating the outer-space refugees as second-class citizens or animals. While this was glimpsed briefly during the end of Season One with the way that J'onn Jonnz was treated once his true identity was revealed, it has developed into a more widespread threat with Project Cadmus positioned as an alien hate group. This episode delved further into the anti-alien sentiment with the introduction of an Alien Fight Club, which saw wealthy human businessmen paying top dollar to watch two alien species beat the crap out of each other. On its own, it would have been a relatively interesting story-arc, but then the writers revealed one of the willing participants to be Miss Martian, the sole surviving female Green Martian from Mars. It's a great twist, and one that really ensured that the relationship between M'gann and J'onn was enthralling to watch on-screen. David Harewood's take on Hank Henshaw / Martian Manhunter has been one of the best things about Supergirl, and it's always great when the show's writers take the time to develop the character and explore his motivations.

J'onn and his survivor's guilt was one of the most powerful story-arcs to come out of Supergirl's initial season, and its great to see the plot revisited in a different way. While it was initially heartwarming to see J'onn meet with a female equivalent, the writers continually pulled happiness away from him – firstly, by revealing her to be an Alien Fight Club enthusiast and then secondly, revealing her to be a White Martian in disguise. Clearly, M'gann is the kind White Martian she referenced in her 'origin story' but given the universe's natural hatred of the brutal alien race, it makes sense she would hide her real identity. Given J'onn's fierce temper and his own prejudices towards White Martians, I imagine he won't be too pleased when M'Gann reveals her true identity. Still, I love the concept of an alien posing as another alien who then poses as a human – it's like having a secret identity within a secret identity. Despite only meeting at the tail-end of the previous episode, the writers did a fantastic job at setting up their relationship and unique bond as Mars survivors, and I am completely invested in what happens between the pair of them in future episodes.


After three episodes focused on Kara and her new role as reporter, it was great to see some more time spent on the series' supporting cast. While James Olsen attempted his best Cat Grant impersonation, Winn got the opportunity to buddy-up with Mon-El in some rather amusing sequences. I really liked the natural friendship that formed between the two characters and while it seems inevitable that Mon-El will become the new love interest for Supergirl, I am really enjoying the 'bromance' between him and Winn. Aside from teasing potential romances from M'Gann/J'onn and Kara/Mon-El, the episode also focused on Alex and her Maggie Sawyer's womance (the female version of bromance) – although the look on Alex's face when Maggie left with her date suggests that it could be more. I quite liked the banter between the two female investigators and they would make a great pairing – aside from shows dedicated to lesbians, there is very few same-sex female relationships shown in popular drama and I would like to see Supergirl push boundaries in its storytelling. There even seems to be a hint of flirting between Lena Luthor and Kara – although I might just be picking up signals from everyone now!

Even though the Fight Club storyline has been done before in science-fiction, it felt like a natural progression of the series' main themes to include it here and the writers ensured it was an integral part of the episode, fuelling conflict between J'onn and M'Gann. There's a terrific sense of confidence about this season now that it has firmly established itself in its new status-quo and all of the characters seem to be developing nicely into their new roles. The only exception is James Olsen, who appears to be floundering about without any purpose – I have heard online rumours about potential changes to the character's situation which might make him a more interesting prospect on-screen, and it needs to happen fast as he seriously needs some reworking to earn his place on the show. While the humans vs. aliens storyline has certainly ramped up in importance since Season One, it works well as a backbone to the season and is very timely in its approach too. Even without the added boost that the Superman cameo provided, this second season already feels more confident with a much stronger narrative core at its heart. While there are plans to incorporate Supergirl into the wider 'Arrowverse', I hope that The CW still allows the show to maintain its individuality and brighter outlook as these are the keys to its success.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Next Episode - "Crossfire"
Supergirl faces a ruthless new gang that has been given new alien technology by Cadmus.

Review - Gotham: 3x07 - "Red Queen"

Gotham
Episode 3x07 - "Red Queen"

Synopsis

Dealing with the ramifications of Vale’s shooting, Jim Gordon is forced to face his inner demons when The Mad Hatter sends him on a drug-induced hallucinatory trip. Meanwhile, The Penguin must come to terms with Nygma’s sudden, new relationship.

Review

I’m the not biggest fan of ‘dream episodes’ in serialised dramas – often they are just an excuse for directors to get a bit artsy, throw in plenty of obscure metaphors and get the cast to act out-of-character for a bit. “Restless” – the ‘dream episode’ from Buffy the Vampire Slayer stands out as a strong example of the format, making the dream portion of the episode integral to the actual plot of the episode and providing genuine insight into the characters’ motivations and unconscious thoughts. Here, Gotham attempts a similar tactic as Jim Gordon is sent on a drug-induced hallucination trip into his own psyche, accompanied by his former lover and nightclub owning nut-job, Barbara Kean. While I liked the Sin City film-noir take on these sequences, the actual content didn’t seem to be that important to the narrative, visiting aspects of the character the viewer is already familiar with.

While some of the dream scenes were wonderfully abstract (Bruce Wayne wearing a weird face mask), other elements were painfully predictable (Gordon’s vision of a perfect home life with Lee) – however, the most interesting segment was when Gordon spoke with his father. Briefly mentioned in passing during Season One and Two as his motivation for becoming a police officer, this sequence flesh put a face to the name and set up his parental connections. Given the tantalising reveal at the end of this episode, it seems that Gordon’s family may end up receiving more focus than ever before – it’s deceptively vague as to whether the mysterious leader of the Court of Owls is Gordon’s father, or perhaps another branch on his family tree. A similarly intriguing mystery was the plaster on Mario Falcone’s neck – it wasn’t present in earlier scenes and the camera seemed to linger on it to emphasise its importance, although nothing was said. Perhaps it is covering up a ‘Court of Owls’ tattoo, or maybe he has injected himself with Alice Tetch’s blood? It definitely stood out, especially since subtlety isn’t usually Gotham’s forte.

"Say What Again. I dare you, I double dare you."

The focus of this episode was on getting Gordon back on the GCPD, and thankfully, the writers gave the decision much more importance than the previous times he’d left and re-joined the force. Clearly, there’s a revolving door at the GCPD entrance… It may have been a bit clunky and heavy-handed at times, but I’m glad that Gordon’s state-of-mind was finally addressed. Rather ironically, the GCPD seemed to operate a lot better without his meddling, managing to capture Tetch and his goons with relative ease. With increased self-awareness, Jim returned to his role in the GCPD and one must wonder if he’ll also attempt to rekindle his romance with Lee – now that both Vale and his sub-conscious have confirmed that he is still in love with her. The love triangle between Gordon, Thompkins and Falcone Jr. is obviously designed to fuel more tension and drama for the detective, but part of me thinks he’d be better suited with Valerie Vale – there was better chemistry between the pair and she is a strong independent woman.

Doomed romances seems to be a recurring trend in this season of Gotham as the Penguin was royally snubbed by the object of his affections, Ed Nygma. If you slow down the scene, you can almost pin-point the moment where his heart breaks in two – it’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the murderous psychopath. The suddenness of this new relationship doesn’t ring true for me, and it seems clear that Isabella is an obstacle for the pair to overcome – given the high levels of coincidence, part of me wonders if it might be some kind of trap. Perhaps Butch has employed an actress to get close to Nygma as part of a revenge scheme – it just feels too good to be true, and the normally cautious Riddler has fallen for this girl completely. Hopefully, the suddenness and convenience of this sub-plot will be given an explanation within the series, rather than being a result of behind-the-scenes interference. Another romance seemingly destined for downfall is that of Bruce and Selina. After all, we all know that they don’t end up together and if Bruce is happy, he won’t ever become Batman! As a big fan of their relationship, I hope the writers keep things going well for a bit longer before pulling the rug out from underneath the pair.

While this episode lacked the same intensity and strong pace as its predecessor, it was a solid introspective piece on the series’ lead character. It wasn’t the most innovative and striking dream sequence ever – that award stays with Buffy the Vampire Slayer – but it provided some insight into Jim’s mind and hopefully put him back on the direction to becoming the Jim Gordon we all know from the comics. Obviously, Tetch’s imprisonment is only a temporary development for the character and given that he has discovered Barnes’ secret – I suspect we may get some much-needed movement on that storyline.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Blood Rush"
Barnes starts to feel the effects of a recent incident and begins to go mad. Meanwhile, Nygma is out of his depth in his relationship with Isabella and Carmine Falcone throws Lee and Mario an engagement party
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