Monday, 23 October 2017

Five Great Role-playing Video Games

As with so many of my fellow long-time gamers, I have developed my own list of preferences when it comes to the video games that I play. While I have always been willing to give just about any genre of video game a try (with the possible exception of anything racing or sport related), my absolute favourite have always been role-playing video games.

Considering that I have always been a fan of role-playing games in general (to the extent that I used to have my own collection of rule-books and oddly shaped dice), this probably makes perfect sense. The typical RPG focus on creating your own character, and having that character be a driving force in the story being told, has always appealed to me. Whether the story plays out in the form of group of friends gathered around a table, or in a video game, the primary appeal has always been in the game's ability to create a genuine sense of player agency. By this, I mean the degree to which I can feel as though the story being told is actually mine to some extent – even if, as is the case with many video games, it is all just a carefully constructed illusion.

Any video game that can create that sense of player agency, in which I am allowed to feel as though I am actually driving the story forward, is one that I am almost guaranteed to love. Games such as the five listed below, for example.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Review - 'The Defenders', Episode 6 - 'Ashes, Ashes'





In the aftermath of Sowande's ill-fated attempt to escape, and take Danny hostage, at the end of the previous episode, the team are left to attempt to process the new information they have been able to uncover. They now know that Danny is the key that the Hand needs to get what they want (something which the audience has known for a few episodes, of course – but, it's still nice for it to finally be explicitly spelt out). Also, the revelation that the Midlands Circle Finance building, which serves as the Hands current base of operations, was built over the strange pit that Matt discovered during the second season of Daredevil, gives them a likely location for whatever the hand are after.

Unfortunately, these new revelations also come with a new source of mistrust among the team. Reacting badly to the idea that his new allies expect him to go into hiding to avoid being captured by the Hand, Danny threatens to go off on his own once more – only to find himself stopped by Matt. I have to admit that the entire scenario struck me as a little contrived. Why, for example, would Danny react with such exaggerated outrage to the idea that he should go into hiding? It just seems like another example of the naive recklessness that he so often shown since the very beginning of his own series. On the other side, though, there is also the question of why the rest of the group be so adamant that Danny actually does need to go into hiding, in the first place? Danny clearly has no intention of giving the Hand what they want – and, he's perfectly capable of protecting himself. So, why not simply press ahead as a group?

Review - 'The Defenders', Episode 5 - 'Take Shelter'





The previous episode may have been a slow one, but the promise of more action and excitement made by its final scene did manage to leave me feeling something optimistic about the season's fifth episode. Netflix's corner of the MCU has, after all, managed to provide some pretty fantastic action sequences over the past few years, right up to the great hallway fight that ended the third episode of this series.

With that in mind, though, it's actually a little disappointing to have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed by what we saw as this episode opened. They were clearly aiming for something large-scale, as the Hand brought its full force down on that Chinese restaurant and the heroes found themselves overwhelmed – but, a combination of choreography and the way that the entire sequence was edited left it all feeling a bit messy. There were moments in this opening sequence were I found it very difficult to follow the action, thanks to the way that various shots were cut together. This sequence also managed to leave me with the strange impression that whoever was responsible for choreographing the action, here, didn't actually know what to do with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones – or, how to make use of their own abilities. For Jessica, in particular, this problem seemed to crop up once more in another short action scene later in the episode.

Review - 'The Defenders', Episode 4 - 'Royal Dragon'





It seems as though every series in Netflix's corner of the MCU has had at least one episode like this one – a quieter episode, after a moment of action, that forces the characters to assess the situation they have found themselves in. While these episodes have never been the high-light of their respective series, they have still usually served as a good point of transition between one distinct plot-arc and the next – covering ground that needs to be covered before the series can move on to something a little more exciting.

In the case of The Defenders, it is also interesting to note that this is technically the second such episode that this short series has had – with the first also devoting much of its time to acting as a point of transition between each character's respective solo series, and this one. Much like that first episode, this is an episode that takes a deliberately slow pace. While that first episode had to manage to tricky task of juggling four separate sub-plots, this one does have the advantage of finally bringing each member of its core cast together.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Review - 'The Defenders', Episode 3 - 'Worst Behavior'





While the previous episode of The Defenders may have ended with the first hints at how this group of heroes might come together, the third came to an end by tossing them all together for what should, hopefully, be the first of many genuinely great, fan-pleasing, moments. The sight of the four of them fighting their way through a horde of Alexandra's thugs is exactly the sort of visual spectacle that I had been hoping for with this series. The fact that this action sequence also happens to take place in a hallway just feels like a bonus.

Of course, before we even get to that point, the episode still has a bit of ground to cover, as it works to get all of the key players to the same place, at the same time. Opening with an extended flash-back sequence, revealing the circumstances behind Elektra's resurrection while also giving us some further insight into Alexandra's character, the episode then moves back to the present – where, as we have already learned, Alexandra holds Stick (Scott Glenn) as a prisoner. We still don't know much about Alexandra's plan, of course – though, we do learn that it centres around a strange wall that the Hand uncovered beneath New York and that Danny Rand, as the current Iron Fist, clearly has an important part to play. Of course, before Alexandra can get anymore information out of Stick, the ageing fighter is able to make a pretty spectacular escape – one which involves cutting off his own hand.

Review - 'The Defenders', Episode 2 - 'Mean Right Hook'





With the first episode concerning itself predominantly with reintroducing us to the cast of characters, and laying the groundwork for what was to come, it would probably be fair to say that things got off to a slow start. That wasn't something I found to be a huge negative, of course (since the slower pace of the episode did allow plenty of time for some good scenes for each member of its core cast) – but, I did still come to the end of the episode hoping that they would pick up the pace over the next few episodes.

Fortunately, with the second episode, it seems that is exactly what has happened – as we almost immediately see some of the separate plot-lines, set in motion in the previous episode, begin to come together in interesting ways. In the aftermath of the apparent 'earthquake' that shook the city, Matt finds himself compelled to briefly return to his vigilante activities in response to an overheard threat of impending violence. Rather than embracing his role as 'Daredevil' once more, though, Matt's reaction almost seems to suggest that he views it as an odd form of relapse – an idea which is further cemented when Foggy makes contact the next day, offering to share some of his own workload with his former partner, in an attempt to keep him distracted.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Review - 'The Defenders', Episode 1 - 'The H Word'





Much like with Avengers: Infinity War, the release of the first season of The Defenders on Netflix is the culmination of a great deal of planning. It might not match up to the sheer scale and variety of Marvel's various films, but Netflix's corner of the MCU still boasts two seasons of Daredevil, one of Jessica Jones, one of Luke Cage, and one of Iron Fist – a truly impressive amount of content, even if some may have found it all to be of varying quality.

For my own part, despite my own issues, The Defenders is a series that I have been eagerly anticipating – and, something that I can't help but have high hopes for. Sure, I'm aware that I might just be setting myself up for disappointment – but, I'm eager enough to actually see these characters meet, and interact, that I'm prepared to set aside whatever problems I may have had with their respective solo adventures.

Of course, with its first episode, it is clear that The Defenders isn't in all that great a rush to actually get us to that point – considering the fact that, by the end, none of the four central protagonists have actually crossed paths. To be fair, though, this is obviously due to the fact that the first episode, itself, has quite a bit of ground to cover before we get to that point. Not only did this first episode need to reintroduce us to its four protagonists, but it also needed to do so in a way that acknowledged what each had been through, and the circumstances that they currently found themselves in. The first episode does, after all, have to walk a very fine line between catering to those in the audience who have watched each preceding series while also remaining at least somewhat open, and accommodating, for potential newcomers.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Five of Infocom's Best Interactive Fiction Games

The fact that Interactive Fiction, as a genre, would reach the height of its popularity back in the 1980s probably makes perfect sense, on reflection. This was, after all, a point at which the graphical capabilities of even the best personal computers could be described as rudimentary, at best.

In that sort of environment, it is actually perfectly understandable that a style of game based entirely around the written word, and the player's own ability to visualize the action, would become popular. The fact that many of these old games actually were genuinely entertaining was really just a nice bonus.

While Infocom was not the only company to develop Interactive Fiction games, they were definitely the company best known for producing them - and, the ones most strongly associated with the genre, even today. The five games listed below, for example, are among my own personal favourites - games which I feel do the best job of showing exactly why Infocom became so popular.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E08 - 'Come to Jesus'





Throughout its first season, one of the more interesting recurring themes has been the very real difference between the Old Gods and the New Gods, when it comes to issues of faith and belief. The Old Gods, for example, draw their power from a more deliberate form of belief, that relies on prayer and open worship – and, this is the primary reason why they are struggling in the modern world. The New Gods, on the other hand, have been able to grow out of our devotion to the trappings of the modern world. No one actually prays to Media or the Technical Boy, after all – but, the time we invest into what they represent still gives them power.

This whole idea became especially interesting when previous episodes began to delve into the possibility Old Gods reinventing themselves to survive in modern America. Vulcan, as we had learnt a few episodes ago, had managed to establish himself as the god of guns and firepower in America – something which had allowed him to thrive, despite the fact that no one actually prayed to him, anymore. The New Gods had even offered Wednesday the chance to do the same – though, he ultimately turned them down.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E07 - 'A Prayer for Mad Sweeney'





On thing that I've had to gradually come to terms with, while watching the first season of American Gods, is the fact that what should be the season's overarching plot-line actually feels like its least important element, so far. Wednesday's efforts to recruit Old Gods for an upcoming war against the New Gods of America has been a catalyst for much of the drama that has taken place, of course – but, the war, itself, has always been something that existed in the background.

Instead, this first season has seemed much more interesting in simple world-building – introducing its cast of wildly varied characters, and giving each the time they need to truly establish themselves. The result of all of this has been a variety of incredibly entertaining, though loosely connected, sequences which haven't done very much to push forward any central narrative. The season's fourth episode even set aside Wednesday and Shadow's road-trip entirely, in order to focus on exploring the background of Laura Moon – and now, with only one episode to go, the seventh episode does the same for Mad Sweeney.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Film Review - 'John Wick: Chapter 2'





John Wick's quest for violent revenge may have been the catalyst for much or the action of the first film – but, one thing that becomes apparent very quickly, here, is that John seems to have found himself pushed back into a much more reactive role for the sequel.

In the aftermath of the first film's carnage, it seems that John Wick is eager to return to his retirement – even going as far as to offering to make peace with Abram Tarsov (Peter Stormare), the brother of the previous film's villain, in the opening sequence (though, not without killing a handful of faceless goon on his way, of course). Of course, while John Wick may be done with the criminal underworld once more, it obviously isn't done with him. It seems that, as a direct result of his recent activity, an old contact has decided that now would be the perfect time to call in a favour – and so, despite his obvious reluctance, it seems that John will be required to take on one more contract.

The contact in question is Santino D'Antonio (Ricardo Scamarcio), the son of a deceased crime-lord who hopes to earn himself a place on the 'high table' – the ruling body of this universe's wonderfully outlandish criminal underworld. The only problem, though, is that the spot that Santino intends to claim is currently held by his own sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini).

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E06 - 'A Murder of Gods'





After finally bringing the impending war between the Old Gods and the New Gods into the spotlight, with its previous episode, American Gods seems set on returning to somewhat familiar territory with its sixth. We may have a better idea of the nature of the central conflict, now – but, it seems pretty clear that the series still isn't in any rush to get to that point.

Returning to the basic 'road movie' structure that has carried much of the season, up until this point, this episode sees Wednesday and Shadow making their way to a small town known as Vulcan – where they hope to recruit the actual Old God, Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire and the forge. Unlike so many of the other Old Gods, though, it seems that Vulcan has manage to successfully reinvent himself in America – essentially taking on the role of god of guns and firepower in modern America. Naturally, this gives him quite a bit of power and influence – and, he certainly seems to be quite comfortable at the heart of his own personal little empire.

Meanwhile, at the same time, Laura and Mad Sweeney find themselves somewhat reluctantly thrown together, as Laura is eager to set out in pursuit of Shadow. Sweeney is just as determined as ever to get his coin back – but, realising that she is never going to return it willingly while she still relies on its magic, he has come to the conclusion that his best option is to actually help her. As they prepare to set out, though, Sweeney's decision to attempt to steal an oddly out-of-place New York taxi leads them to cross paths with Salim – who, it seems, has set out on his own quest to track down the Jinn he met a few episodes ago. So, the three resolve to travel together – their respective goals lining up quite conveniently.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

A Very Brief History of Interactive Fiction

Despite considering myself to be a life-long gamer, I have to admit that it actually took quite a while before I came to consider video games as a legitimate medium for telling good stories.

It was the arcade influence, I suppose. My first experiences with gaming all seemed to revolve around begging my mother for whatever loose change she happened to have on her, then feeding those coins into whatever arcade machine happened to be nearby (Double Dragon had been a personal favourite).

As much fun as these games had been, though, it had always been pretty clear that they weren't there to tell a compelling story. As a result, very few of those old arcade games had been able to make any sort of lasting impression on me (with Double Dragon only really standing out due to that one time I was able to beat the game, on a single credit, while a small group of older kids watched). They certainly didn't come to mean as much to me as many of the films I remember seeing, at around the same time.

My earliest experiences with console gaming were pretty much the same. The first console to be brought into the house (an Atari 2600, bought cheap as the rest of the world was moving on to Sega and Nintendo's first consoles) had, after all, only ever managed to offer a somewhat inferior version of many of those same arcade games. The second console (a NES, bought cheap as the rest of the world was moving on to the SNES and the Sega Megadrive) did seem to offer a little more, though – and, it was at about this point that my attitude toward gaming, and the games that I played, began to change.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E05 - 'Lemon Scented You'





For its first three episodes, American Gods has been a series made up of some truly fantastic sequences which didn't quite seem to fit together, just yet. The first three episodes were full of hints about what was the come, of course – but, it was also in no hurry to offer up any sort of explicit explanations. More than that, those first three episodes also had a bit of a disjointed feel to them – with each seeming to consist of loosely connected mini-episodes.

They were still great episodes, of course. But, I could also understand how they might be a bit too much of a test of patience, for some in the audience. With its focus placed firmly on the character of Laura Moon, though, the fourth episode brought a much clearer sense of focus to the season, as a whole – something which also continues into the fifth episode.

The heavily stylised opening sequence, depicting a primitive tribe making its way to what would on day become America, also struck me as feeling oddly out of place, though. It was an impressive enough scene in itself, of course – but, the fact that it was a work of CG animation, when the rest of the season has been purely live action, just left it feeling jarringly incongruous. That's how it came across to me, anyway.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E23 - 'Finish Line'





Considering that The Flash had been building up to the possibly death of Iris West for most of its third season, the idea that it would actually reach that point, and seemingly go through with it, at the end of the season's penultimate episode had struck me as very unexpected. It had always felt unlikely that the series would actually kill off such a key member of its supporting cast – so, when that moment actually came, I'm sure that most in the audience probably expected the season finale to have some final twist in store. On reflection, the previous episode had even given a pretty clear hint at what that final twist might be – a hint so obvious that I have seen the theory of H. R. Wells taking Iris's place, and sacrificing himself, mentioned many times over the past week.

This, as we learn in the opening moments of the final episode, is exactly what happened. Still feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt at being the one to inadvertently reveal Iris's location to Savitar, Wells had taken it upon himself to use the broken-off piece of Savitar's armour to lead him to the villain's lair – and, working alone, he had even managed to free Iris while the villains were distracted. Of course, they were discovered at the last moment – and, in a last minute attempt to save Iris, Wells used his holographic projector device to, essentially, change places with her. Sure, the fact that the success of H. R.'s plan ultimately hinged on Savitar's decision to send Killer Frost after them, rather than coming himself (and, as a result, actually giving them enough time to make the switch), struck me as a little odd – but, in the end, the entire sequence felt just plausible enough that I was perfectly happy to just go with it.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E22 - 'Nevertheless, She Persisted'





Over the course of the past few episodes, Supergirl had finally managed to achieve a sense of narrative focus that it had been lacking for most of the season. Sure, the previous episode may have wasted some of the potential offered by the Daxamite invasion of Earth – but, at least, we finally had some sort of clearly defined challenge to bring us to the end of the season. Also, the final moments of the previous episode did manage to significantly raise the stakes, as we went into the finale, with the reveal that Superman had, somehow, fallen under Rhea's control.

It had felt like a fairly classic 'comic-book' moment to end things on, last week. Sure, given how likable Tyler Hoechlin was back at the beginning of the season, it would have been a shame to have wasted Superman's return by having him stuck in the role of a brainwashed slave, it also would have been a shame to not capitalise on the potential of some classic 'hero versus hero' action. Fortunately, the season's final episode was able to find room for both – opening on a very entertaining action sequence that pitted Superman and Supergirl against each other, before bringing a quick and decisive end to the whole sub-plot, as the episode moves on to more important matters.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E04 - 'Git Gone'





If American Gods has had any real flaw, so far, then it would probably be in how disconnected the events of the past few episodes have felt. It's not much of a flaw, of course – since those somewhat disjointed sequences have still been very entertaining, and the series is clearly building toward establishing a broader narrative, as the pieces all start to fall into place. But, it has still been noticeable. While the season's fourth episode does not give us any revelations concerning either the Old Gods or the New Gods, or the brewing war between them, it does still manage to provide some much needed context for some of the strange events of the series, by placing the spotlight on Shadow's recently deceased wife, Laura (Emily Browning).

While the previous episode having ended on the reveal of Laura seemingly returned from the dead, and waiting for Shadow in his motel room, this episode takes the somewhat unexpected route of stepping back from that moment. Delaying what is certain to be a very interesting conversation, the episode instead focuses on showing us how this moment came to be, from Laura's perspective.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E22 - 'Infantino Street'





Given the fact that this is the penultimate episode of the season, and that the moment of Iris West's death is drawing closer, it seems a bit strange that the episode would devote so much time to what is, essentially, a rather light-hearted detour. But, given the circumstances, this odd blending of light and dark tones actually works rather well – making this easily the strongest episode of the season and, perhaps, one of the strongest of the series, so far.

The team's hopes now rest entirely on Tracy Brand's 'speed bazooka', and the slim possibility that it might truly be able to trap Savitar in the Speed Force – but, of course, there is still the very important issue of how, exactly, such a potent piece of technology can be powered. The energy required to actually activate the bazooka is, after all, well beyond anything that they team currently have access to – a piece of Dominator technology recovered in the aftermath of their recent invasion.

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E21 - 'Resist'





Over the past couple of episodes, Supergirl has managed to do a very impressive job of addressing many of the lingering issues I have had with the season. It had even managed to do so while, at the same time, significantly raising the stakes for the season's final act – setting up a conflict that promised to end things on a high note. It's really just a shame that, in the end, the season's penultimate episode seems to have squandered some of that potential.

It all got off to a pretty great start, of course. That opening image of Rhea's Daxamite fleet hovering over National City, firing down onto the streets below, was definitely an effective way of establishing just how high the stakes of this conflict truly are. Also, those early scenes of Daxamite forces working swiftly to impose martial law on the city, while dealing with any Resistance, were also very effective.

In particular, a definitely appreciate the moment in which Rhea sent some of her forces to attack the DEO headquarters, directly. Not only was it the sort of sensible strategic decision which allows her to appear as a genuinely competent, and effective, villain – but, it also created a genuinely fantastic 'hero moment' for Alex, when she made her escape by leaping from the balcony, confident that her sister would catch her. While it is a bit disappointing that the series just doesn't have the budget with which to truly create the sense of scale required for a convincing large-scale invasion such as this, there was still a lot to enjoy, here.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E03 - 'Head Full of Snow'





By the end of its third episode, American Gods is a series that still seems fairly determined remain something of a mystery. Approaching it all from Shadow's perspective, as we are, there is definitely a sense that the creator's might actually want us to feel as overwhelmed as he is – but, at this point, I have to wonder if they might be pushing it a bit too far.

While we now know that Wednesday's ultimate destination is somewhere in Wisconsin, for example, we still don't actually know anything about what he is planning, once he gets there. Also, while we have met both Old Gods and New Gods, over the past couple of episodes, the series still hasn't felt any need to make the nature of the conflict between them explicit.

Instead, the series has been content to move at its own pace – introducing its various elements, and building its world, through a series of loosely connected vignettes, and a central plot-line that is clearly in no real hurry to reveal its secrets. Anyone in the audience who actually has read the book will, of course, already have a very clear idea of where things are headed – and, as a result, I have very much enjoyed the slow and steady pace that the series has set for itself. Rather than worrying about any of unanswered questions, I have been able to simply sit back and enjoy seeing some of my favourite scenes from the novel recreated in live action – just as I have enjoyed the new additions that have been made, as the show's creators take the opportunity to expand on the source material. At the same time, though, I do have to wonder if, and when, it might start to test the patience of new-comers.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E21 - 'Cause and Effect'





The idea that The Flash would choose to follow-up the reveal of Savitar's true identity with what is, essentially, a light-hearted filler episode struck me as very strange – especially with the end of the season drawing so close. And yet, in the end, that is exactly what this episode is. Oddly enough, though, it also manages to be up there among the most purely entertaining episodes we have had, recently (not quite on the same level as the musical cross-over, sure – but, there are moments where it does come pretty close).

Following a tense stand-off his his evil doppelgรคnger, Barry is left understandably distraught by the revelation that it is actually some twisted version of himself who is responsible for Iris's death. The rest of the team, meanwhile, are just as understandably concerned about how they could ever hope to fight someone who already knows every decision that they are going to make, due simply to the fact that he can remember it.

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E20 - 'City of Lost Children'





The previous episode of Supergirl had actually managed to catch me by surprise, with the way that it directly addressed some of my lingering issues with the series, as a whole. And, now, it continues to surprise to surprise me with its latest episode, by directly addressing another – with an episode that seems set on finally doing something truly worthwhile with the character of James Olsen.

Now, while I'm perfectly aware that opinions on this point could be wildly varied, I've never actually had any issue with the series portrayal of James Olsen. I don't have any real problem with the changes that have been made to his usual personality and demeanour – and, I also don't have any issue with the fact that he is black, now. I also don't have any problem with Mehcad Brooks's performance, in the role. I feel like I have probably said all of this before. But, it's worth reiterating – especially when talking about this episode.

My only real issue with the character has been with the fact that he just hasn't ever been utilised very well. The writers of this series made the decision, early on, to take a character who was, arguably, almost as important to the story of Superman as Lois Lane, and make fundamental changes to his usual portrayal as they set him up as something of a mentor figure for Kara – then, they absolutely failed to do anything to justify any of that.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E02 - 'The Secret Of Spoons'





With its first episode, American Gods had managed to establish itself as a series content to move at its own, rather relaxed, pace. Clearly, it was going to be a series content to take its time, as it moved through it various plot-points – lingering on each as it gave its talented cast plenty of opportunity to establish themselves, and fully embody their characters. It's the sort of thing that could test the patience form some in the audience, of course. For me, though, this slow and relaxed pace quickly became one of the strong points of that first episode – and, I definitely appreciated the fact that the second episode was clearly determined to continue in much the same way.

Throughout this second episode, we have Shadow recovering from his encounter with Technical Boy's faceless thugs, tying up the last loose-ends of his old life, and setting out with Mr Wednesday to the first stop on their cross-country journey, in Chicago. Along the way, Shadow has an encounter with another of the New Gods, Media (Gillian Anderson) – who, speaking to Shadow through a television screen in the form of Lucille Ball, attempted to win him over to side of the New Gods. It's a fantastic sequence, and Gillian Anderson does a great job with the role – to such an extent that I am already looking forward to seeing her appear in other forms, throughout the season.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E20 - 'I Know Who You Are'





Barry's trip to the future, in the previous episode, may not have gone quite as smoothly as he would have hoped, but it did still provide him with one very important piece of information – a way to trap Savitar in the Speed Force, thanks to the theories of Tracy Brand (Anne Dudek). The only problem, though, is that the device capable of trapping Savitar is not actually invented for another four years, much too late to save Iris. In the present, Tracy is still just a graduate student – one whose theories and ideas have been dismissed as fantasy by her professors, and who is currently considering abandoning her academic pursuits entirely, in favour of a career as a barista.

The solution to this current dilemma seems straight-forward enough, of course – with Barry already in possession of the results of the future scientists research, it becomes a simple matter of convincing the grad student to take on the challenge of developing the technology four years ahead of schedule. But, of course, Savitar is also aware of Tracy's existence – and, with Killer Frost now firmly committed to supporting the villainous speedster's plans, it becomes a race against time to protect Tracy, so that she can develop the trap to finally stop Savitar.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E19 - 'Alex'





While the second season of Supergirl has been a fairly significant improvement over the first, in a variety of ways, there are still a handful of lingering issues which have yet to be resolved, or even addressed.

First, there is the lack of any truly compelling villains. There is, also, fact that we still don't have any sort of coherent, over-arching, plot-line to carry the season toward its final episode. Then, there is the way in which certain member of the supporting cast, particularly Maggie Sawyer and James Olsen, have been poorly handled by the writers – with Maggie finding herself stuck in a very familiar, and very thankless, 'love interest' role while James is pushed further and further into the background.

There is also the small matter of Kara, herself – though, personally, I've always tried to think of her occasional moments of unlikeability, where her stubbornness gets the better of her, as a deliberate character flaw, rather than a failing on the part of the writers. So, while it is very tempting to list this among my issues with the season, I have also held on to my belief that it was something that would eventually be addressed.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Review - 'American Gods', S01E01 - 'The Bone Orchard'





While it has been many years since I last read American Gods, I would still have to place it high up on my personal list of favourite novels – just as Neil Gaiman is high up my list of favourite authors.

It's worth pointing that out right at the start, if only to make it clear where I stand with regard to the novel being adapted into a series. Since it was first announced, the idea of an American Gods series has been a source of both concern and anticipation, for me. The opportunity to see this story play out in live-action certainly had its appeal – but, at the same time, I still found myself concerned that the bizarre events of the novel might not translate very well, or that the adaptation, itself, just might not turn out to be very good.

On both counts, though, this first episode managed to do great job of easing any concerns that I may have had. Most impressively, it managed to do so in the straight-forward manner possible – simply by fully embracing the outlandish premise of the story right from its opening moments.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Book Review - 'Burning Bright', by Tracy Chevalier





Basing a work of fiction on a real historical figure would have to be a daunting prospect.

For the writer, there's the obvious need for research - a very pronounced need to familiarise themselves with the figure in question in order to ensure that their portrayal is as accurate as possible, and that it is something that readers will be willing to accept. Assuming, of course, that the writer actually cares enough about authenticity to make the effort, this whole process would have to be much time consuming, and potentially much more stressful, then simply creating an entirely fictional character to serve as the protagonist of their story. After all, it's not enough to write for a general audience who might not be familiar with the subject matter - they also have to be prepared for potential readers who might know as much, if not more, about the matter at hand.

Even for the reader, though, there might also be the nagging question of exactly how well the writer has done their job, here - and, of exactly how true a representation of the historical figure in question this fictionalised portrayal truly is. After all, it is depressingly easy to imagine a lazy author simply not bothering to do any of the required research.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E19 - 'The Once And Future Flash'





Barry Allen slowly coming to terms with the risks associated with time travel has been a recurring theme throughout much of the third season. Barry's decision to travel back in time and save his mother had created an entirely new time-line – and, despite his best efforts, he had not been able to return things to the way that they were, before Flashpoint. More than that, though, many of the problems that Team Flash has been confronted by, throughout the season, have been a direct result of Barry's decision to meddle with the past.

Watching as Barry had slowly come to accept responsibility for the problems that he had caused, and resolved to do better in the future, had actually made for a fairly satisfying character arc – to such an extent that it actually seemed a little strange to end the previous episode with Barry's decision to travel to the future.