Monday, 31 October 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E05 - 'Confinement'






Even considering the fact that we haven't even reached the half-way point, yet, I think that it's fair to say that the previous episode of Ash vs Evil Dead definitely had a 'series finale' feel to it. It was an episode which brought a very decisive end to the plot-line concerning Ruby's demonic children – with Ruby and Kelly proving to be a very effective team, as they took them all out. It even managed to end with a seeming victory for Ash and Pablo, as they defeated Ash's possessed car and tossed the Necronomicon through a portal to hell.

Of course, as we also learnt in previous episode's final moment, things aren't quite so straightforward – as it seems that, in keeping with the spirit of the Evil Dead franchise, it is Ash's own actions that will be responsible for the mayhem to come (although, to be fair, the decision was really Pablo's – Ash simply supported it). With Baal seemingly set free, in spite of Ruby and Kelly's best efforts to prevent it, it is obvious that there is still much worse to come.

But, Ash has no way of knowing any of this, as the fifth episode begins – and, instead, we find him eager to celebrate his apparent victory over the forces of evil. Or, at least, that is the case up until the moment Sheriff Thomas Emery (Stephen Lovatt) tracks him down, seeming almost gleeful at the prospect of being able to place him under arrest for the murder of Amber (the Deadite who he decapitated, two episodes ago).

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E03 - 'Shogun'





At this point, I think that it's probably fair to say that the first two episodes of this season of Legends of Tomorrow have managed to get things off to a very impressive start. Those disappointing elements of the first season (weak and underutilised members of the main cast, an unconvincing romantic sub-plot, and a disappointingly underwhelming villain) have been brushed to the side – replaced by a strong sense of a series that is eager to start fresh. More importantly, though, that very genuine sense of fun which the first season was able to manage, when it was at its best, was also very evident, on those first episodes – as was the often very entertaining rapport that had developed between the series's wildly varied cast of characters.

With all that in mind, it's disappointing to have to admit that the third episode seems to represent something of a misstep – especially coming so early in the season. The basic premise of the episode is a lot of fun, of course – with a trip back to feudal Japan having quite a bit of potential. But, the execution of the episode just seemed to be a bit off, in a variety of ways.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E04 - 'Penance'





On its own, the previous episode of Arrow had been entertaining enough – but, not especially memorable. Despite its weaker elements, though, the episode had still managed to set some interesting character-arcs in motion – for Diggle and Felicity, in particular. And, the fact that Oliver's new team had truly begun to work together effectively gave the impression that we would soon be moving on to conflicts that were a little more interesting than the internal bickering we had seen, so far.

With all of that in mind, it probably makes sense that the season's fourth episode would seek to capitalise on that strong sense of forward momentum. Here, we have Diggle in military prison, framed for a crime he didn't commit – but, with Oliver and Lyla are working on a plan to break him out, quite clearly against his own wishes. Rory, meanwhile, has come to the conclusion that he can't be part of the team, after all – after having learnt that Felicity was the one who guided the nuclear warhead to Havenrock. In a somewhat surprising, and nicely character defining moment, though, Rory seems genuinely understanding of the fact that the deaths of his family and friends wasn't actually her choice, and that she did the best that she could in a terrible situation – but, perhaps understandably, he has still come to regard her as a painful reminder of everything he has lost.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S03E04 - 'The New Rogues'





Setting aside the 'Dr Alchemy' plot-line, for the moment, this season's fourth episode instead chooses to dip back into the familiar well of the particle accelerator explosion – resulting in an episode which, at this point, feels like something of a deliberately throw-back to the first season. There doesn't seem to be any real reason for this sudden change in focus, though – other than the fact that it allows new villains, Mirror Master (Grey Damon) and Top (Ashley Rickards), to exist independently of whatever Dr Alchemy might have planned.

Of course, Mirror Master isn't just any regular villain. As a member of that loosely affiliated collection of villains known, in the comic-books, as 'The Rogues', Mirror Master exists on roughly the same level as Wentworth Miller's 'Captain Cold' and Mark Hamill's 'Trickster'. So, with that in mind, it's probably fair to say that Mirror Master's eventual appearance on the series was something that fans have been anticipating since the beginning. It seems that the same can't really be said for Top, though – especially given that the version of the character to appear, here, feature a change in both powers and gender.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E03 - 'Welcome to Earth'





With Project Cadmus being set up as the primary villains for the second season, and with their goal apparently being a concerted effort to turn the human race against aliens, it feels as though there is a very real need for Supergirl to take a step back, and to provide a bit of much needed context for this impending conflict. Up until this point, after all, the series simply hasn't done a very good job of establishing the fact that there actually is any sort of significant alient presence on Earth – let alone one that would justify this sort of attention.

Sure, there are Superman and Supergirl – but, they have each been accepted as well-meaning heroes, by the general public. There's also the Martain Manhunter, J'onn J'onzz – but, his emergence into the spot-light seems to have been relatively well-received, also. There were the Kryptonian villains of the previous season, of course – but, they have been dealt with. The many 'one-off' villains who have put in an appearance have also been dealt with – and, many of them weren't even of alien origin, anyway.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E04 - 'DUI'





While the half-hour episode structure of Ash vs Evil Dead might be the source of occasional issues, the one thing you can never accuse the series of is wasting the audience's time with 'filler'. Sure, there were moments in the first season where the rapid pace of the series resulted in disappointing lack of focus on certain side-characters, or a glossing over of certain seemingly important plot-points – but, when everything comes together, this rapid pace becomes one of the series's greatest strengths (I say 'one of'', because its greatest strength clearly is, and will always be, Bruce Campbell).

With the season's fourth episode, for example, we have two important plot-lines brought to a sudden, and very surprising, end – each reaching an equally exciting conclusion, as the series clearly sets about wrapping things up so that it can move on to something else.

First, we have Ash – who, at the end of the previous episode, had just been forced to watch his estranged father killed by the car that he loves (which was, of course, possessed at the time).

Monday, 24 October 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E02 - 'The Justice Society of America'





The previous episode's introduction of the Justice Society of America had been a fun way to end the second season's premiere – but, it had also been, without doubt, the cheesiest 'comic-book' moment in a series that has never been shy about fully embracing its own cheesy 'comic-book' roots. Those moments have always been when the series has been at its best, though (at least, as far as I have ever been concerned) – and, the idea of these two, very different, teams of super-heroes joining forces certainly had a strong appeal.

But, of course, before we can even get to that point, it seems that the two teams will have to work through a fairly significant misunderstanding – as the JSA initially assume that the Legends must be Nazi spies. So, before we can even get to the inevitable team-up, we are treated to a brief, though very entertaining, fight sequence – as the Legends find themselves to be hopelessly outclassed by a much more experienced team of super-heroes.

Of course, their problems don't end there – as, not only do they find tossed into a cell, but they also learn that Rex Tyler (Patrick J. Adams), who initially gave them their warning against travelling to 1942, has no knowledge of ever having done so. On a more personal level, too, Nate Heywood's meeting with his grandfather, JSA member Commander Steel (Matthew MacCaull), proves to be an awkward and disappointing experience for both men.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E03 - 'A Matter of Trust'





Oliver Queen may have, finally, brought together his new team of vigilantes, as we move into this season's third episode, but that doesn't mean that they are prepared to work together, in the field – or, at least, not as far as Oliver is concerned. Forced to contend with a new figure in Star City's criminal underworld, and a dangerous new drug called 'Stardust', Oliver is just as adamant as ever that he needs to work alone – ignoring offers of support from his newly formed team. This, of course, doesn't sit well with Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), who believes that his knowledge of the seedier elements of Star City would give him an edge in determining the source of the new drug.

Of course, it turns out that he's absolutely right – as, heading out with Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin), the two quickly find themselves infiltrating the base of operations of Derek Sampson (Cody Rhodes), a dealer of the new drug. Despite Evelyn's uncertainty, the two launch a surprise attack on Derek's operation – resulting in Derek's apparent death, when he falls into a vat of chemicals.

Review - 'The Flash', S03E03 - 'Magenta'





If I'm being honest, I would have to admit that I'm always going to be a bit disappointed by the manner in which Barry Allen's trip into the alternate time-line that he created come to an end. The idea that a story-line as important to the character, and the DC Universe as a whole, as 'Flashpoint' would be resolved by the end of the season's first episode just felt incredibly underwhelming, to me.

At the same time, though, the fact that the lingering consequences of Barry's meddling are set to be the source of much of this season's conflict does go some way toward mitigating that. In the previous episode, we had 'The Rival' – a somewhat underwhelming villain, admittedly. But, one who was made very interesting due to the manner in which he came to exist. 'The Rival' had, after all, been an entirely ordinary man in this new universe, until Dr Alchemy had, somehow, merged this version with the one that had existed in 'Flashpoint'. And, with evidence that Dr Alchemy has already put others through the same process, it is clear that there are going to be many more new meta-humans to contend with.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E02 - 'The Last Children of Krypton'





The first season of Supergirl might have been somewhat inconsistent, but there had been a lot to like about the second season's first episode. There were the great moments of humour, and character-driven drama. There were a handful of genuinely exciting action sequences. There was a very entertaining portrayal of Superman, provided by Tyler Hoechlin. Most importantly, though, the episode also ended with a great set-up for the rest of the season, with the reveal that Project Cadmus was set to emergy into the spotlight – and that, through them, the hit-man, John Corben (Frederick Schimdt), would become the classic 'Superman' villain, Metallo.

John Corben hadn't been an overly impressive villain in the previous episode, of course – but, the thought that he would go on to become this much more formidable figure (a cyborg who, thanks to a Kryptonite power source, actually posed a significant threat to both heroes) definitely had potential. So, it was a promising set-up – although, to be honest, it wasn't one that I was expecting the series to return to, immediately.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E03 - 'Last Call'





After the pure insanity of the previous episode, it probably makes sense that nothing that takes place in the season's third episode would be quite as shocking – even if only by comparison. Honestly, at this point, I'm not even sure how Ash vs Evil Dead could hope to top the truly disgusting, and absolutely hilarious, series of disturbing sights that made up Ash's desperate battle in that hospital morgue. Although, I'm fairly certain that the people behind the series will make an effort to do so, before the season ends.

For now, though, we have what appears to be a much more personal, and reflective, episode of Ash vs Evil Dead – as the loss of Ash's beloved car (stolen, at the end of the previous episode, by a couple of unruly college students) serves as a catalyst to bring the main cast's various issues into the open. Of course, this is still Ash vs Evil Dead – so, the emotion comes with plenty of the franchise's usual absurd humour, and there is still plenty of fake blood splashed about(though, fortunately, it's only blood, this time).

With Ash's precious Oldsmobile stolen (with the recently recovered Necronomicon left lying on the backseat), Ruby is understandably eager to lead the team off on a recovery mission. Ash (who, clearly, seems more concerned about his care than the book) as a plan of his own, though – one that involves teaming up with his old buddy, Chet (Ted Raimi), in order to organise an epic party which will, hopefully, lure the teens into a trap. It is exactly the sort of hilariously bone-headed plan that the audience can imagine someone like Ash Williams coming up with – yet, in the absence of any better ideas, even Ruby is prepared to admit that it might actually work. As the party kicks off, though, it seems to draw everyone but the teenagers who stole Ash's car – including Ash's father, Brock.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E01 - 'Out of Time'





While the first season of Legends of Tomorrow had its share of issues, it had also, more often than not, managed to prove itself to be a genuinely entertaining series. It was, to put it simply, just a lot of fun – and, for that reason, I found myself inclined to forgive some of its more troubling flaws. Sure, the season's villain may have been somewhat underwhelming, and it may have been weighed down by an entirely unconvincing romantic sub-plot, and some members of the team tended to feel a bit superfluous – but, when it was at its best, none of that really mattered.

Also, there was a notable improvement in the season's overall quality as we approached the end – all leading to a genuinely exciting climax, and some intriguing promises about what was to come, in the future. Now, with the second season finally here, it is time to see whether any of that promise can be realised.

Rather than picking up right where things left off, though, the first episode of the second season takes the somewhat unusual approach of kicking things off in Star City, in the year 2016, with an eccentric historian, Dr Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), paying a visit to Mayor Oliver Queen. Dr Heywood, it seems, is a man who knows all about time travel – and, he is convinced that he has uncovered evidence that the 'Legends' are in trouble. Believing that their fate is somehow tied to covered-up rumours of a nuclear explosion in the Atlantic Ocean, in 1942, Nate's goal, now, is to convince Oliver Queen to help him – making ample use of his impressive array of knowledge which, it seems, includes the fact that he happens to know that Oliver Queen is the Gree Arrow. And so, the two set out on a trip that takes them to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – where they found they do, indeed, find the remains of the Rip Hunter's time-travelling ship, the Waverider. But, of course, there is no one on-board.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E02 - 'The Recruits'





The previous episode of Arrow had gone out of its way to introduce us to an Oliver Queen who was clearly struggling to meet the demands of his duel responsibilities. The network of allies he had so carefully cultivated over the past few season had all left or retired (save for Felicity, who still seems just as committed to Oliver's mission as she ever was) – and, he has found himself forced to carry on, alone. Without the guidance and support that these former allies offered in the past, it seems that Oliver has also regressed back to the brutal, and much more ruthless, methods of his first year as Star City's premier vigilante – with his previous promise to avoid killing abandoned, in favour of simple 'practicality'.

As someone who had appreciated the fourth season's early efforts to inject a slightly lighter tone into Arrow, it hadn't been a development that I was all too thrilled with – though, at the same time, thee was also some sense to it. After all, in keeping with his standard behaviour over the past few seasons, it was clear that Oliver blamed himself for the death of Laurel Lance. So now, in his determination to never let anything like that happen again, we have an Oliver Queen who has gone back to being quite comfortable with justifying the deaths of his enemies (though, at least this time, he doesn't seem to be setting out specifically to murder people – so, I guess that still counts as progress).

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S03E02 - 'Paradox'





In DC's comic-book universe, 'Flashpoint' was an almost ponderously large cross-over event which ultimately resulted in the entire DC Universe being rebooted, in the form of the 'New 52'. On the previous episode of The Flash, though, 'Flashpoint' was a somewhat underwhelming affair that was, effectively, over by the end of the episode. With the focus placed firmly on Barry Allen's circle of friends, it was obvious that this version of 'Flashpoint' was much more interested in exploring the personal ramifications of Barry's decision than it was in the 'world-shaking' events of the comics.

Unfortunately, even with this much reduced scale, the episode still seemed to fall a bit short. Barry's decision to change the time line in the first place might have come across as reckless and ill-advised (and, possibly, even a little selfish) – but, it also didn't feel like there was any real weight behind his equally sudden decision to try to change things back.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E01 - 'The Adventures of Supergirl'





Despite its issues, the first season of Supergirl had proved to be reasonably entertaining, overall. Some of its villain may have come across as a bit poorly developed, its special effects may have been a bit shaky at times (though, with notable exceptions), and its seasonal arc may have been somewhat underwhelming – but, to balance that out, it had also managed to quickly establish itself as a series featuring some great characterisation. The true stand-out here, of course, had always been Melissa Benoist – who, even during the first season's weakest moments, had always managed to be genuinely entertaining in the role of Kara Zor-el/Kara Danvers/Supergirl.

Overall, though, the first season hadn't quite been the success that its creator's clearly wanted it to be – with a worrying period of potential cancellation finally resolving itself with a change in network from CBS to the CW.

While, I do have to admit, American television networks don't really mean much to me, down here in Australia, I am still familiar enough with the way that these sorts of things work to know that this is likely to bring in a number of potential changes. For one thing, we have already learnt that the change in filming location is going to result in a reduced role for Calista Flockhart – which is definitely a shame as, despite a shaky start, her character quickly evolved to become one of the more entertaining aspects of the first season. On a similar note, the change in network also seems to have resulted in a reduced budget for this season – which is especially worrying, when you consider that some of the special effects of the first season were already a little shaky.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E02 - 'The Morgue'





These is no possible way that any description I could give would do justice to Ash's desperate battle with a dead man's demonically possessed intestines – so, I'm just not going to try. All I'll say is that, while I have never really had a problem with the truly absurd amounts of fake blood that we have seen so often on this series, the events that took place within that hospital morgue left me feeling genuinely queasy. Ash vs Evil Dead has always been a series which, much like the franchise as a whole, has been quite happy to indulge in more than its fair share of blood and gore – but, with this single scene, the series has truly managed to outdo itself.

It was, to be honest, a genuinely disgusting scene – but, it was also just as genuinely hilarious (which is, of course, exactly the combination that the series has always strove for). It was, also, a very creative scene – featuring a truly brilliant combination of stunt work and practical effects. The early moments of Ash's battle actually brought to mind the classic horror of The Thing, rather than anything we have ever seen in the Evil Dead franchise, before now. Considering the fact that one of my recurring issues with this series is that any scene involved the franchises classic Deadites has begun to feel a bit repetitive, these displays of creativity are always very much appreciated by me.

Review - 'Luke Cage', S01E06 - 'Suckas Need Bodyguards'






Throughout much of the first episode, the one feeling I couldn't quite shake was that the rapidly escalating conflict between Luke Cage and Cornell Stokes seemed destined to come to an end fairly soon. It has just begun to feel as though, unless something drastic were to change, there was a very real limit on how long it could be extended. Also, with Cottonmouth's efforts to deal with Luke Cage proving to be increasingly ineffective, as he found himself almost entirely out of his depth up against his invulnerable foe, it became increasingly difficult to see him as the genuine threat he had seemed to be in the first episode.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Review - 'Luke Cage', S01E05 - 'Just to Get a Rep'






With the previous episode coming to an end with Luke Cage having his very own Tony Stark-style "I am Iron Man!" moment, it seems as though all of his secrets are now out in the open. Indeed, Luke no longer seems all that interested in even trying to hide his superhuman abilities – as his first appearance in the episode shows him casually tossing aside the rubble of the collapsed building he had been trapped under only days earlier, while being watched by a handful of stunned onlookers.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E01 - 'Legacy'


 



Given the fact that I wasn't even really a fan of Arrow, throughout much of its first season, I can't honestly say that I was all that enthusiastic about this fifth season's promise to return to that original 'gritty and grounded' tone. In part, that is because I always found the idea of a version of the DC Universe stripped of all of its wonderfully outlandish elements (no superpowers, no aliens, no magic) to be kind of dull. In part, it was because I could never quite shake the feeling that what they really wanted was to make a series about Batman, but were forced to settle for Green Arrow (an impression which only seem to grow stronger, over time. In part, too, it was because I never found the overly grim and gritty tone of the first season to be done all that well.

I may be in the minority on that point, of course (and, in fact, I'm sure that I am) – but, the fact remains that an entire season based around Oliver Queen murdering people based on a list of names that his father gave him did not make for particularly compelling viewing. Oliver Queen wasn't a hero in that first season. He was a violent anti-hero, in the same vein as the Punisher – except for the fact that his actions weren't treated with anywhere near the same degree of seriousness. In fact, Oliver still hasn't faced any type of consequences for his early exploits – and, it has become fairly obvious that he never will. The only way in which I have ever been able to like this version of Oliver Queen, as a character, has been to mentally push aside that first season, and to think of the second as the series' true starting point.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S03E01 - 'Flashpoint'





While I had my issues with the way in which the second season of The Flash chose to resolve the season-long conflict with its primary villain, I had still been quite willing to admit that the episode's final moment offered a very interesting set-up for the third season. After all, by choosing to travel back in time and save his mother's life, Barry Allen was recreating the same circumstances which, in DC's comic-book universe, lead to the large-scale 'Flashpoint' even – and, eventually, to DC's reboots 'New 52' universe.

Of course, it probably shouldn't come as any real surprise to know that the version of 'Flashpoint' that we get, here, doesn't have quite the same scope as the comic-book story-line it draws inspiration from (that version did, after all, involve the entire roster of DC's characters). But, the fact that the first season's episode is actually titled 'Flashpoint' does, at least, create some expectation that it will borrow some thematic elements.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Review - 'Luke Cage', S01E04 - 'Step in the Arena'






With Luke Cage and his landlady, Connie (Jade Wu), trapped beneath the rubble of what would have to be one of the best named business establishments to ever appear in a work of fiction ('Ghenghis Connie's'), the situation looks somewhat bleak – not necessarily for Luke, of course (since, he remains as indestructible as every), but certainly for Connie. With the 'present day' story-line effectively contained for the moment, though, it also seems that the season's fourth episode is the perfect time to finally begin to delve into Luke Cage's so far largely unexplored history. So, while in the present day we have Luke forced to reveal his superhuman abilities to yet another person as he struggles to save an injured Connie, we also have flashbacks to Luke's time in prison – in a time before he actually acquired these abilities.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Review - 'Luke Cage', S01E03 - 'Whose Gonna Take the Weight?'






Following on from the tragic events of the previous episode, the third episode of Luke Cage introduces us to a title character who finally ready to fully 'step up', and take on the role of lead protagonist of his own series. In fact, 'stepping up', and taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions (or, inaction) seems to be the primary theme of this episode – something which we see not just with Luke Cage, himself, but also with Chico.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Review - 'Luke Cage', S01E02 - 'Code of the Streets'






Despite its slow start, the first episode of Luke Cage still managed to do a great job of laying the foundation for the rest of the season. With its three (so far, almost entirely separate) plot-threads, the first episode had been able to pain an impressively detailed picture of both the current situation in Harlem, and the character arcs in store for the series' primary cast. Luke Cage simply wanted to be left alone, but was obviously on a path toward becoming a reluctant hero for the people of Harlem. Cornell Stokes and Mariah Dillard were firmly set on a path toward grasping whatever power they could – regardless of what they had to do to claim it. And, Misty Knight was drawn deeper into her investigation, as she tried to uncover the truth of what really happened at that Harlem scrap-yard.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Review - 'Luke Cage', S01E01 - 'Moment of Truth'




Marvel's partnership with Netflix has already given us so many hours of quality entertainment (with two seasons of Daredevil and one of Jessica Jones, so far) that it almost feels a bit greedy to want more. At the same time, though, we already know that there is still plenty more to come from this partnership – so, it seems as though that sense of anticipation is actually entirely justified, in this case. Luke Cage is the latest addition to Netflix's corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and, much like with the earlier entries, it is a series which has promised its own unique tone.

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E01 - 'Home'





Throughout much of its first season, Ash vs Evil Dead came to rely pretty heavily on a few key elements – there were the moments of extreme violence, a truly absurd amount of blood, moments of genuine horror, and a truly bizarre sense of humour which combined black comedy with pure slapstick. Then, of course, there was Bruce Campbell.

These are, in fact, the very same elements that the franchise, as a whole, has become famous for – so, it had definitely been a truly wonderful experience to see them embraced so enthusiastically by the show's first season. It had been bloody and very violent. It had been occasionally scary, and often very funny. And, it was all topped off with Bruce Campbell giving the sort of performance which he has, quite rightly, become famous for – fully embracing the overblown bravado of this popular character.

Of course, Bruce Campbell wasn't alone in turning the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead into a success. It might be his show, but he also received some great support from Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago throughout the season. Lucy Lawless was also great, in her time on-screen – though, unfortunately, her character often felt underutilised.