Monday, 28 November 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S03E07 - 'Killer Frost'

The previous season of The Flash had brought things to a close with a pretty entertaining cliff-hanger. The new villain, Savitar, had just been introduced – and, he already clearly had the upper-hand over Barry. Wally had, in the end, been unable to resist the power promised to him by Doctor Alchemy – and, as a result, he found himself trapped in a strange cocoon. Unable to even see Savitar, let alone help stop him, Joe had been left with little other choice but to watch, entirely helpless, as the SWAT team he had brought into this dangerous situation were murdered right in front of him.

So, with all of that in mind, it makes sense that the season's seventh episode would pick things up right where the episode left off – as Savitar took the opportunity to show off the extent of his own powers. As effective as it was to see Barry so hopelessly outmatched by this 'God of Speed', though, I do have to admit that glimpses we had of Savitar dragging Barry around the city would have to count as some of the most disappointing CGI work we have seen on the series, so far. There was just something a bit off about the whole sequence – with both Barry's and Savitar's movement feeling stilted and unnatural, while the environment around them felt oddly flat, and underdeveloped.

Review - 'The Flash', S03E06 - 'Shade'

One regularly occurring issue with this series (and, indeed, with all of the CW's DC related content) is with the fact that so many of the 'one-off' villains that we have met, over the past few years, have tended to feel rather generic and undeveloped. More often than not, they seem to receive very little in the way of either back-story, or motivation – leaving them as little more than 'one-dimensional' villains. In all of those past instances, though, you could at least make the argument that the writer's did, at least, make some token effort at characterisation. Shade, the new villain introduced in this episode, doesn't even receive that much – something which is especially surprising, considering the fact that the episode, itself, is named after him.

While the action sequences based around this mysterious figure are somewhat entertaining, that is really all that Shade was able to bring to the story. Shade is, in fact, treated as little more than a 'movie monster' by the episode, itself – a nameless, and faceless, threat who does not even warrant the very basic level of characterisation that past villains have received. His role is a simple one – to act as a distraction while Doctor Alchemy moves forward on his current plans for Wally West.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E07 - 'The Darkest Place'

In a world where we already know also includes Superman, it is actually starting to feel a little strange that it would actually be Supergirl who is the first to encounter some of her cousin's most notable villains. Since the second season began, we have already had Metallo and Parasite – both of whom have presented challenges to the Man of Steel, in the past. And, with this episode, the series also gives us its own take on the Cyborg Superman – who, as many in the audience already suspected, turned out to be the original Hank Henshaw.

Or course, while it may have been a development that many in the audience were already suspecting, that doesn't mean that the actual reveal wasn't also very entertaining. Finding himself playing two roles on the series, now (as both an iconic DC hero and villain), David Harewood does a fantastic job with portraying the genuine sense of outrage that this man would feel at seeing his work at the DEO be 'corrupted' by alien influence. Also, the very brief, though very tense, physical confrontation between Supergirl and Henshaw is fantastic.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E06 - 'Changing'

Supergirl takes a somewhat unexpected trip into the realm of science-fiction tinged horror in the second season's sixth episode – with its introduction of its own version of the comic-book villain, Parasite.

Initially introduced in a very entertaining homage to John Carpenter's classic horror film, The Thing, Parasite certainly had the potential to be the series's most genuinely frightening villain. Even his early scenes had plenty of that classic paranoia, as the audience was left with little certainty about whether it was the alien parasite, or the human host, who was truly in control.

The human host, in this case, is Dr. Rudy Jones (William Mapother), an initially well-meaning scientist, specialising in the effects of climate change, who seems to be driven to violent extremism once he falls under the influence of the alien creature. So, with Dr. Jones now intent on hunting down, and brutally killing, those who have hindered his research in the past, it seems fairly obvious that he needs to be stopped – though, with his actions clearly being driven as much by the alien parasite infecting him, as his own desires, it seems just as clear that he is a man in desperate need of help.

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E08 - 'Ashy Slashy'

With the previous episode of Ash vs Evil Dead taking us on a brief journey into the realm of the surreal and disturbing, it was actually a little bit jarring to see how abruptly this episode pulled us back into more familiar territory. In many ways, the season's eighth episode felt like a very conventional one – giving us everything that we have come to expect from the series. There was the mix of gore and comedy, there was a cackling and maniacal Deadite – and, there were the sudden, and violent, deaths of certain members of the supporting cast.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, of course – these elements are, after all, practically the foundation that the entire franchise was built on. It's just that, with Baal finally seeming to become the genuinely threatening figure he was clearly always meant to be, I was expecting the series to continue heading in a different direction.

With Kelly, Pablo, and Ruby finally tracking Ash and Baal down to the abandoned asylum (by, hilariously, using Ash's ridiculous 'pet tracker' plan, mentioned a couple of episodes ago), it was definitely interesting to finally get some 'behind the scenes' details about exactly how Baal's plans for Ash actually worked. It was interesting, for example, to finally meet the 'real' crazed inmate who Ash had imagined as Kelly – and, to learn that Linda's appearance was actually the result of blackmail, since Baal currently held her daughter, Lacey, hostage. There had been some lingering uncertainty, at least for me, over whether the events of the previous episode were actually real, or if they were taking place entirely in Ash's head – so, it was interesting to learn that the answer actually seems to be a bit of both.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E07 - 'Delusion'

For all the build-up that he had received before his appearance, Baal hasn't exactly been all that impressive, so far – and, he certainly hasn't seemed to measure up to everything we have been told about him. But, of course, that is likely a large part of the problem, as far as Baal is concerned – so far, we have just been told more about him then we've actually been shown. We know that he is dangerous because Ruby is afraid of him, but we haven't been shown why. We've seen some examples of his apparent talent for manipulation, but nothing that struck me as overly impressive (honestly, I can't imagine that turning the people of Elk Grove against the man they already believed to be a murdered really required much effort, on Baal's part).

Clearly, what Ash vs Evil Dead needs is an opportunity to show Baal at his most dangerous, and at his most manipulative – if for no other reason than the convince the audience that he actually is the threat we have been told he is. Fortunately, it seems as though the writer's happen to agree – as it soon becomes apparent that the season's seventh episode is intent on doing just that.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E05 - 'Compromised'

For those of us of a certain age, there is quite a bit of (possibly entirely unwarranted) nostalgia for the 1980s – and, while this episode didn't go out of its way to play on that, the time period still added an additional element of fun to an already very entertaining episode. The fashion and music of the 1980s were very much on display throughout this episode, of course (with Damian Darhk's appearance, dressed in a Miami Vice style white suit in the opening scene, being the clear stand-out) – and, the writer's were also clearly able to have a bit of fun with some vaguely cringe-inducing trends (such as, for example, shoulder-pads for women).

But, of course, music and fashion aren't enough to drive an entire episode – so, instead, it is actually the tense political situation of the 1980s that serves as the true backdrop, here. Learning of another aberration that threatens to change history, the 'Legends' soon find themselves fully immersed in Cold War paranoia, as they learn of Damian Darhk's plans to use his new position as an adviser to President Ronald Reagan to make a secret deal with Soviet spies. Of course, just as in his first appearance, Damian Darhk isn't working alone – as, Eobard Thawne is also working away in the background, on some mysterious plan that is still to be revealed.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E06 - 'So It Begins'

Tobias Church may have had his moments but, looking back, there was never really any chance that he would have been able to act as the driving force for much the the fifth season of Arrow. With his sudden, though not entirely surprising, death in the final moments of the previous episode, though, it seems as if the creators of the series may have felt the same. Church's death had clearly been intended as a way to bring a pretty conclusive end to the season's first story-line – and now, as we move onto something new, it is time for the mysterious figure known as Prometheus to finally step into the spot-light.

With a level of interest in the Green Arrow that is clearly very personal, an array of impressive skills at his disposal, and a suitably intimidating appearance, Prometheus certainly does seem to have some potential – though, unfortunately, his appearance in this episode didn't really live up to that. For one thing, for all the talk of this season's commitment to an overall tone of 'grounded realism', I couldn't help but find the details of his plans to be somewhat absurd. The whole idea that this mysterious figure would choose to introduce himself to Oliver with a vaguely ominous flaming message seemed almost laughably melodramatic – while, the idea that he would choose to focus his efforts on picking out, and brutally killing, innocent bystanders whose names happened to form anagrams for the people on Oliver's original 'kill list' struck me as ridiculously convoluted.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E05 - 'Crossfire'

So far, I have to admit that I'm not overly convinced by Cadmus, as the primary villains of the second season of Supergirl. Their methods, based on what we have seen so far, just don't seem all that well thought out. Their leader is coming across as a fairly bland and one-dimensional villain. And, the 'propaganda' videos that we have seen so far come across as cheaply produced nonsense. At this point, I'm just having a hard time believing that they are actually capable of getting the people of National City behind their 'anti-alien' agenda – and, this episode doesn't do much to change my mind.

Here, for example, the secretive organisation's entire plan seems to revolve around giving dangerous alien weapons to human criminals – and, in allowing those human criminals to cause chaos in the city. The idea behind the plan is, obviously, to inspire a general sense of panic which could, in turned, be directed into a more focused fear and distrust of the alien visitors who brought this technology to Earth – but, the whole thing still feels incredibly counter-productive. I just don't understand how plan that involves a gang of human criminals using alien technology was ever supposed to turn anyone against aliens.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E06 - 'Trapped Inside'

The second season of Ash vs Evil Dead has had a pretty impressive run of consistently strong episodes, so far – and, the reason for that would have to be, at least partially, a result of the decision to delve so deeply into the past of its central character, Ash Williams. The franchise's mix of blood-soaked horror and absurd comedy has been as entertaining as ever, of course – and, the supporting cast have been as consistently entertaining a presence as they have always been. But, overall, it has been those moments in which Ash Williams (a character who does, admittedly, occasionally feel like a bit of a caricature) has been allowed to confront his own past, and evolve as a character, that have stood out the most.

We have already met Ash's father, for example – and, the moment in which they seemed so close to reconciling is probably the most genuinely emotional the Evil Dead franchise has ever been (even if this moment was almost immediately undermined in a hilariously morbid fashion). And, with the season's sixth episode, we have the opportunity to meet Ash's sister, Cheryl (played, notably, by Ellen Sandweiss – returning to the franchise for the first time, since the original film) – brought back to 'life' through the power of the Necronomicon, currently working through Pablo.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E04 - 'Abominations'

While the second season of Legends of Tomorrow had managed to get things off to a very impressive start, I still can't help but feel that the third episode represented a disappointing low-point. Not only did the episode break the momentum built up by the season's first two episodes, by giving us an entirely self-contained 'filler' episode so soon after hinting at the stakes for this season – but, the team's trip to 16th Century Japan proved to be somewhat underwhelming, even as 'filler'.

Of course, it makes sense that not every episode would be directly focused on whatever Eobard Thawne and Damian Darhk have planned, or on Amaya's desire to track down Rex Tyler's murderer, but it still felt a little strange for all of that to be so abruptly set aside, so soon. Of course, with the season's fourth episode also set to be entirely self-contained 'filler', this time revolving around a trip to the American Civil War, it seems as though some of my same issues with the previous episode might also apply, here.

Review - 'Arrow', S05E05 - 'Human Target'

Tobias Church may have had his moments but, all things considered, it was never likely that he was going to play a large part in the fifth season of Arrow. Even with the promised return to a more 'gritty and grounded' tone, he was simply a little too mundane, and too ordinary, to pose a significant challenge to someone who has been through everything that Oliver Queen has. It's worth remembering, after all, that Church's most effective moments came when the Green Arrow was temporarily out of the picture – and, whenever Oliver was involved, Church has seemed to be conspicuously outclassed.

Here, for example, we have the episode opening with Church brutally torturing Rene Remirez, after capturing him at the end of the previous episode. Rather than the desperate mission to rescue their team-mate that this set-up would suggest, though, 'Team Arrow' was actually able to rescue Wild Dog surprisingly easily – and, very early on in the episode. While Church, meanwhile, is left with little other option but to flee.

Review - 'The Flash', S03E05 - 'Monster'

It feels a bit strange to have to admit that, in an episode based around a giant monster terrorising a city, it would actually be this central plot-line that would prove to be the episode's weakest element. Yet, that seems to be exactly where I find myself with the third season's fifth episode – as The Flash gives us what, at first, feels like an episode promising some fantastic action, only to spoil things with the reveal of what is actually behind this current conflict.

It was, more than likely due to the simple fact that The Flash was never going to be able to pull off something as ambitious as a true 'Kaiju' attack (not without it all starting to look like an old episode of 'Power Rangers', at least) – but, still, the reveal that this CGI creation was actually little more than a hologram wasn't nearly the interesting twist that the writer's probably hoped it would be. Even worse, though, the reveal that the actual creator of this surprisingly sophisticated hologram was actually little more than a bullied kid, angrily lashing out at the world around him, was just frustrating. Bullying is a very serious issue, of course – but, while we were clearly supposed to have some degree of sympathy for this anonymous kid, I found that I just couldn't quite manage it. In the end, I think the main problem is that we never actually learn anything about him beyond what he tells Joe during his only real scene in the episode – and, as a result, I just didn't really care.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E04 - 'Survivors'

On paper, the basic premise of the fourth episode's main plot-line does actually sound pretty great. Not only does the whole idea of an underground alien fight club suggest the strong possibility of some great action sequences – but, the whole idea of one being run by opportunistic humans, who are clearly taking advantage of aliens from other worlds, feels like a great way to play on this season's themes. There is plenty of great potential, here, for a very interesting story about the abuse of power, the struggle of an oppressed minority, and the overall theme of racial tension – all of which could have been wrapped up in some entertaining action.

It's really just a bit of a shame, then, that such an interesting idea should prove to be so underwhelming, on paper. While it was a plot-line which, naturally, allowed for a some very entertaining action sequences, there was still a very notable lack of any real sense of tension to the episode's central conflict. I think that the main reason for this is the simple fact that the stakes are never really made clear. We learn, for example, that some participants are forced to fight – but, beyond the encounter which leads Alex and Maggie to the illegal operation, we never really learn much about this aspect of the underground fight club. Instead, upon learning that M'gann M'orzz (Sharon Leal) is also a frequent fighter, the focus seems to shift more toward J'onn J'onzz's sense of moral outrage toward the actions of his fellow martian – who, it should be remembered, is an entirely willing participant.