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.