Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Flash 5x02 Review: "Blocked" (Squaresville, Daddy-o) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Blocked"
Original Airdate: October 16, 2018 

While last week officially introduced Nora as a new member of Team Flash, this week acts as the official introduction of our season five villain, Cicada. Mostly because it’s the first episode where our heroes learn he exists. On top of that, there’s a new meta-villain of the week in Block, a woman who can encase people in what appear to be blocks of lemon Jell-O. Yeah, it sounds like a bottom of the barrel kind of power, but she does manage to turn a guy into a meat cube with it, so I guess that’s something.


PROBLEMS, CUBED


The episode starts with Cicada in a locker room after the events of the previous episode. Cicada thinking back to the Gridlock fight is intercut with scenes from the fight itself, including Cicada throwing his lightning bolt knife down, getting punched a bit by Gridlock, then sucking Gridlock’s metahuman powers up with the knife. His motivations are unclear, as I’m sure they will remain for a while. We also don’t really know who Cicada is in his regular life, or why his coworker walks into the locker room, sees he’s covered in gnarly cuts and bruises, and just shrugs it off.

Meta-villain of the week time! An escaped convict named Vanessa confronts an old criminal acquaintance. She uses her metahuman powers to create a yellowish energy cube around him and starts shrinking it, turning the man into a meat cube for CCPD to find later.

And leading the CSI team for CCPD? Barry Allen. I do love when Barry gets to do his non-superhero job. Why doesn’t the show let him keep his job all the time? You’d think the procedural aspect would make it much easier for the team to slip into the metahuman storyline of the episode, but I guess the writers disagree. Anyway, Nora has followed Barry to work and pretends to be a CSI intern, which leads to a lot of adorable enthusiasm from her and a lot of adorable freaking out from Barry. Nora is so much like her father, and I love it.

Also at the crime scene, doing her job: Iris! Boy, it’s just a West-Allen family event at this crime scene, huh? Iris is investigating the murder of Gridlock and gets some off-the-record information from Captain Singh. I enjoy seeing Iris in her element as a reporter, especially when the show takes the opportunity to utilize her more dynamic personality. I think the writers are finally starting to understand that Candice Patton can handle Iris as a spunky reporter, a wannabe-cool mom, whatever the opposite of a “movie buff” is — just a bunch of little, humorous, interesting personality quirks that make Iris so much more than Barry’s personal cheerleader. I just wish they’d managed it a lot earlier.

During her investigation, Iris learns that Gridlock was the only target in the attack; the guards were hurt, but they were collateral damage. She also gets footage of the attack from one of the officer’s body cameras (footage she accesses through Barry’s computer, by the way — not sure if that’s gonna come back to bite him or not) and hears a strange, insect-like sound during the Gridlock fight.

The Flash and XS go to take down Block, but Nora gets cubed and tossed away. Barry has to save his daughter, so Block escapes. Without their satellites, Team Flash’s only option is waiting for her to strike elsewhere. In the meantime, Barry tries teaching Nora what she’ll need to know as a speedster, starting with the basics. Nora’s eager to get to the more impressive, heroic stuff, and gets carried away with her exuberance. She accidentally hits her dad with lightning. Ah, kids.

Those difficulties get resolved after Barry has a chat with Joe and, as a more united front once more, Barry and Nora confront Block. Barry gets trapped for a bit, which signals Cisco and Ralph to breach to his rescue, but Nora handles Block with some superspeed parkour. When Block gets too exhausted to use her powers, Nora cuffs her and Barry’s Jell-O prison melts away. Just as everyone’s about to call this case closed, Cicada shows up and stabs Block in the back.

Barry tells Nora to get Block to a hospital. Cicada throws his dagger down, negating Barry, Cisco, and Ralph’s powers. Cicada has gets the upper hand in combat and is about to kill Barry when Nora returns. She calls Barry “dad” and Cicada looks up, sees her, and flees. It seems like it’s the word “dad” that made him run, but I don’t know.

After the fight, Iris plays the Gridlock footage for the team, revealing that the guy they fought is the same guy apparently targeting and killing metas.

WEST-ALLEN FAMILY FEELS


As is common with episodes of The Flash, the plot of “Blocked” is a crunchy outer shell that allows the gooey, nougaty emotional center to keep its shape. A few characters have their pathos through-lines, like Cisco still reeling after his split with Cynthia and Caitlin’s reaction to her dad’s faked death, but the core of the episode is the connection between Barry and Nora and how they learn to understand each other.

Nora wants to be like her hero, Barry, without realizing that her over-enthusiastic hero worship makes her exactly like him — and just as destructive. When he was a kid, Barry saw Joe as a hero and wanted nothing more than to impress him, even if it meant going overboard with science projects and setting his school gym on fire. Nora’s the same way, except with learning how to be a great speedster. But while Barry was able to eventually see the humanity in his hero, Nora grew up with only the hero, not the father. Nora learned everything she knows about Barry from a museum dedicated to Barry, which seriously skews how important and imposing he is.

So far, the show is doing a good job making the parent-child relationship between Barry and Nora interesting. The two are charmingly similar, which this episode makes a point to emphasize, but the emotional impact of Nora’s story isn’t lost in all the cutesy stuff. There’s genuine room for the both to grow and learn from each other, which means Nora’s role is elevated from a clever little plot point to a character with lasting significance.

However, I gotta say: the father-daughter relationship isn’t the one I’m most interested in. I want to know what Iris and Nora’s deal is. Iris seems so open and almost goofy around Nora, it’s hard to guess why Nora’s responses to her are always so cold. What happens to Iris in the future? Is she too heartbroken from Barry’s disappearance to be anything more than an authoritarian mom? It’d be easy to say Barry’s just a cooler, more idealized parent, but Nora seems too visibly uncomfortable around Iris for the answer to be that simple. Even with a strained relationship, I’d think Nora would at least find some amusement in her (presumably stern) mother acting so dorky, but she doesn’t.

Yeah, so I really have my fingers crossed for some mother-daughter team ups soon. Nora and Barry are amusingly alike and I love the parallels, but Iris and Nora are where all my curiosity’s going.

Other Things:

  • It’s so weird how much I’ve liked Ralph these past two episodes. Him leaving a message for Cisco was a highlight, but even his “27 Steps” were funny. I have a feeling that last season’s list would’ve been a lot more gross, but this season’s Ralph Dibny does stuff like paint his toenails (“Pastels look best”) and attend “Corgi beach festivals.”
  • “You mean you don’t have a scene-wide modified bosonic frequency field to avoid cross-contamination?” “I don’t even think we have some of those words yet.”
  • I didn’t get to talk a lot about it in the review, but I really loved the way the stories interlocked in this episode. The main Block/Cicada cross, Joe’s speech to Barry about being a good teacher to Nora being intercepted by Cecile, the father/daughter story of Barry and Nora and the father/daughter story of Caitlin and her missing dad... Things just meshed well with this one.
  • Next week... Cisco dies? Okay, one: I doubt it, but, two: if they kill off Cisco in the same episode they introduce a silly Wells character, I’m going to be mad.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How The Charmed Reboot Misses The Mark, Culturally and Otherwise [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]


Let’s face it: we live in an age of reboots, and almost all of them fail to capture the essence of the original content. It’s the risk you take trying to revitalize something that made such a significant impact in its heyday. The television fandom has expanded so exponentially through blogging and Twitter, but these vehicles are driven by one enduring factor: human memory. Human memory clings to the emotional attachment you felt the first time you watched your favorite series, not fancy CGI, or even the original characters. To truly hook people with a reboot, you must recapture the original essence. This is particularly difficult to do, as it has the original premise (or at least a variation of it), not the original cast.

I will preface my critique of The CW’s remake of Charmed by saying that I was a huge fan of the original series. To this day, I could probably recite the original pilot word-for-word, and point out more than a few guest stars who got their big breaks playing baddies/heartthrobs/demons. That’s how deep my fandom goes, so I’ll admit bias toward the original. The truth is most fans dedicated to their favorite series are biased — especially as they appreciate the rich balance between the sci-fi/magical rules of a show, and the intensity of human emotion it uses to make those impossibilities seem so real. When you get that balance right, you’re golden. The original Charmed pilot did just that, and only built from there. Sorry to say, this reboot doesn’t have that same spark.

We’re going into SPOILER ALERT territory from here on, so turn back if you don’t want details on the latest pilot.

I could be nitpicky, and harp on the fact that in the pilot: 1) The whitelighter doesn’t orb, 2) The whitelighter is a pompous Brit who is teased to be evil, and 3) Melinda Warren has no place in this lineage. To this last point, I will actually not give any leeway, for a few reasons. It is understandable that the team behind the latest incarnation of a beloved would want to honor the original in as many ways as they can.

However, sticking Melinda Warren in the middle of the story as if she is a bookmark in the Book of Shadows is not the way to do it. No matter how the writers explain it, there are just too many complications involved with bringing up the matriarch of the Halliwell line. It would imply that the new sisters are related to the Halliwells. Add to the fact that it has only been a decade since the original Charmed series went off the air (not necessarily giving the lineage enough time to progress to the power of another full-fledged "Charmed Ones"), and there seems to be more harm than good done with this decision. Having not seen the full series, I could concede that perhaps the writers have a plan in place to answer this very question. However, it seems difficult to do so, given the corner they’ve written themselves into. All the kudos in the world will be given if this can be finessed.

Which brings me to the one point that pains me most about this new Charmed series: the representation itself. Following an early screening of the pilot at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, it was important for me to take the time to hear the writers out on their vision for the series. They've made their points on what they want it to be, specifically how to honor the original series while focusing on women of color. Specifically, bringing in the practice of brujeria — the Spanish form of witchcraft — is daring, and a welcome introduction to the entertainment medium.

But there is a time when good ideas are better in conception than in practice. The idea for the current sisters to explore their ancestors’ roots in brujeria only further confuses the need for Melinda Warren’s presence in the story. The geography alone seems difficult to finesse, given that you’re talking about melding the traditions of witchcraft from two separate continents. More than that, this sends a deeper, more conflicting message to viewers — particularly viewers of color — about the way our stories should be profiled in the entertainment industry.

Why does a new show have to piggyback on a legacy of a former show that was already great and stood on its own merit and mythologies? Why can't there be a show that talks about witches for people of color without borrowing off specific tropes in the Charmed legacy? It makes no sense chronologically, since the original Charmed Ones had a clear, specific history that made a point of tracing their lineage back to the American witch trials. Likewise, Latinos have their own dense, deep history in brujeria that not only goes back centuries, but blends with a deeper discussion about mestizo culture. It would be amazing to be able to use an entertaining show to showcase the journey of brujeria from the Spanish bruixes, to the combination and eventual evolution of European and Native traditions which produced many cultures and traditions in Latin America. Make no mistake, the material is there. (Netflix’s upcoming take on the subject matter, entitled Siempre Bruja, proves just that). But with the material comes the Charmed title card.

In my opinion, it is a disservice to Latinos to borrow on the fame and legacy of the original Charmed — to not trust that a Latino sisterhood is strong enough to stand on its own, separate and away from the early American mythologies. Which is also a great shame for the original series, and the things it had to say about feminism pre-#TimesUp.

So many things about this Charmed reboot could have been great; but as I said, sometimes the blending of ideas is just better in concept than practice. In the practice of properly representing women of color, all we can do is our best to tell our truths in the medium which we are given. But sometimes, the push for a more expanded narrative can have a more significant impact in the long run.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 4x01 Review: "I Want to Be Here" (Pirates of Penance) [Contributor: Jenn]


"I Want to Be Here"
Original Airdate: October 12, 2018

Welcome back to West Covina, friends! A lot has changed, and yet... not a lot has changed too. We catch up with our group pretty much exactly where we left off last season — Rebecca pleading guilty to almost killing Trent, and everyone shocked at her confession. "I Want to Be Here" focuses a lot on the progress that Rebecca has made (and wants to force herself to continue to make) as a person, but also very clearly points out that Rebecca has... *whispers* ... privilege.

Rebecca getting schooled on her privilege is one of the strongest things about the episode, especially because though it's played for laughs, it's important that our self-declared feminist recognize that while her intentions aren't necessarily wrong, they're not necessarily good either.

SAD BACKSTORIES


So as it turns out, the meta commentary of the judge saying Rebecca's confession wasn't so much of a confession as a speech, and most of it was with her back to the judge carries weight: the judge won't accept Rebecca's guilty plea. But our anti-heroine is insistent that she pay for the pain she's inflicted on others and all the damage she's caused over the years. She tells Paula and Darryl that she's going to continue to declare herself guilty and nothing they can do will stop her. As a sentence based on pure annoyance more than anything else, the judge tells Rebecca she's sentencing her to six weeks in jail.

As she enters, Rebecca's confident that she deserves what she's about to suffer through. So much so, in fact, that it's essentially all she repeats the entire time she's in jail. Rebecca's act of repentance becomes a bit too real for her to handle. So what does she do? She uses a musical number to try and project her own beliefs about jail onto her fellow inmates. As it turns out, the song doesn't resemble Chicago's "Cell Block Tango" so much as it resembles a bunch of tragic stories unfolding. And this is where Rebecca's privilege comes in: her entire life, Rebecca has been a privileged white woman. But in jail, that privilege is checked when she reveals that she doesn't HAVE to be in prison — she's doing it for the metaphorical penance!

Her inmates are rightfully disgusted. These are women who made difficult choices because they had no other options — they stole to keep themselves warm, or took the fall for a crime that they didn't commit because it meant that their child would have one parent to look after them. The women's stories are tragedies, not fun exploits for Rebecca to entertain herself with while she wastes time feeling good about herself and her life choices.

The realization of her actions strikes Rebecca harder than most things do. Even when she is released from prison later in the episode, she's not satisfied. She thought that pleading guilty to her crimes was going to be enough to prove that she's changed — to start fresh with her life. But the thing Rebecca failed to recognize was that her motives (whether explicit or implicit) are just as important as her actions. For her whole life, Rebecca had been blaming others for her choices and refusing to take responsibility. Now that she's willing to take the fall for her actions, she's realized that even that in and of itself isn't quite enough; she has to truly understand the consequences of the noble things she does. A noble thing is only noble if it's for someone other than yourself.

Ultimately, Rebecca's confession was sincere, but the aftermath was all about... Rebecca. Notice the episode titles this season — they're all focusing on "I." And while that's such an important mental shift (no longer is Rebecca's life controlled by the men she's dating or the friends she's surrounded by), it's only once Rebecca shifts her guilt into tangible action to benefit others that true change can happen. And I think that's a lesson Rebecca is going to have to continue and learn throughout the rest of the season. Her actions, good or bad, can be good or bad for those around her.

Rebecca Bunch decides that the best way to pay for what she's done is by paying it forward and offering free legal advice to her former inmates. It's a start, but it's something Rebecca will need to take her mind off other things that are falling apart.

BOYS ARE DUMB DUMB


That's pretty much the moral of this week's B-plot. Nathaniel is dumb for a whole host of reasons (at least he's pretty), but as I think I noted last season, I'm not quite sure if Nathaniel is in love with Rebecca as she is or who he wants her to be. He gets frustrated at the end of the episode because Rebecca doesn't want to just fly off with him for vacation. His patience is wearing thin with this whole "my girlfriend wants to fix herself and is putting it before us." Nathaniel loves Rebecca and vice versa; but do they love each other as they are? I think Nathaniel loves that Rebecca is an untamed mess, because he's an untamed mess. He spends most of the episode on a survival camping trip avoiding his feelings for Rebecca. (We see Nathaniel doing this a lot, so I'd like some more nuanced or varied storylines, please and thank you.)

If Rebecca gets better but Nathaniel doesn't, will she still love him? Will he still love her? He's all about running away from his problems but for once in her life, Rebecca wants to stay put and fix hers. She's got a real shot to do that now that she's out of jail; I just hope that she allows herself the chance to grow with or without Nathaniel. (I do like them together, I should note that, but I think that their relationship right now is pretty toxic because they're both unhealthy — two unhealthy people does not a healthy relationship make.)

Speaking of unhealthy, why is Josh still in this show again? He once played a pivotal role but now he's trying to self-diagnose via Internet quizzes because he thinks he's got a psychological disorder. Sighhhhhhh. The whole point of Josh's story is that he needs to make progress in his life, but that's been Josh's story for seasons now. I'd rather see White Josh, to be honest.

It seems like this season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will focus on Rebecca's true growth and the growth of the remaining members of our squad. I sincerely hope we get developed stories for all of them before our final curtain call.

Musical notes:
  • I finally got on board doing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reviews just in time for the final season! I'll do my best to make all the review subtitles equally terrible musical theatre puns.
  • "It wasn't even a plea. It was more like a speech."
  • I MISS WHITE JOSH.
  • Heather and Hector's relationship continues to be wonderful, and I have missed them so much.
  • Bring on all of the Harvard references, y'all.
  • I have a feeling this was not the last we saw of Trent.
  • Who else loved the eleven-part harmony in "No One Else Is Singing My Song"?
What did you think of the season premiere of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? Sound off in the comments below!

Doctor Who 11x02 Recap: “The Ghost Monument” (The New TARDIS Makes Her Debut) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]


“The Ghost Monument”
Original Airdate: October 14, 2018

Last week, we got a new Doctor, new sonic, and new friends. But there’s one piece missing — it’s hard to travel in time and space without your spaceship. The Doctor is on the hunt for her TARDIS and after months of anticipation (and avoiding leaked photos...), I’m excited to see what the old girl has in store for us this time.

ANOTHER HAPPY LANDING


The Doctor’s unplanned first adventure off-planet with her new friends starts out poorly, but not catastrophically. They all survive nearly suffocating in space, at least. Ryan and Graham were picked up by a female pilot named Angstrom, who says she didn’t see anyone else floating near them. But don’t worry; the Doctor and Yaz are safely aboard another pilot’s ship. Well, “safely” might be putting it strongly, since Epzo’s ship is minutes away from losing life support. At the Doctor’s insistence, he allows her to pilot them to a crash landing on the planet both he and Angstrom were searching for. The Doctor gets them on the planet but nearly kills Ryan, Graham, and Angstrom, who had arrived moments before.

With no better option than to follow the two pilots, the Doctor and the trio of humans tag along until they reach a tent sitting in the middle of a desert. A hologram of a man named Ilin receives them. He is the creator of the rally of 12 galaxies, a massive space race with an even bigger prize. Angstrom and Epzo are the two finalists. They thought the Doctor and her friends were bonuses and that’s the only reason they stopped to pick them up. Whoops. But also, thanks?

SPACE HUNGER GAMES. ... ALMOST.


The planet they’re all on is called Desolation, so fun times are ahead I’m sure. Angstrom and Epzo must find The Ghost Monument, and whoever reaches it first will be the winner. The Doctor insists on seeing what this Ghost Monument looks like... and it’s the TARDIS! With renewed energy, she insists to Graham, Yaz, and Ryan that she can get them safely home if they can reach her TARDIS.

To keep things as fair as possible in a cutthroat space race, Angstrom and Epzo aren’t allowed to kill or injure one another. This rule is enough to convince them to share the one boat across the poisonous water to the TARDIS’ location. Ryan and Graham are able to get the boat running but Ryan refuses to talk about his grandmother as they work. The journey provides a perfect opportunity to get to know our pilots a little more. Epzo is a cynical loner who wants the prize money to live a life of comfort, but Angstrom wants to use the money to rescue her family. Her home planet is being cleansed and her family is in hiding.

Once they’ve crossed the water, the hike to a deserted, retro-looking mall, Angstrom and Epzo each pick a path. The Doctor and friends go their own way as well and very quickly run into a squad of robot guards. After escaping into the shooting range (whoops), Ryan decides his Call of Duty training is worth something and charges at the robots. But when his gun becomes empty, he runs back to the group screaming like a little girl. The Doctor smugly remarks that this is why she doesn’t use guns and uses her brain instead. She rigs up a broken robot and uses it to blast the rest of the robots with an EMP.

GOING DUTCH


The foursome regroup with the two pilots and the Doctor takes the lead now. She, Angstrom, and Graham find ruins with alien writing on them that detail how scientists were forced to work for the Stenza (the same race Tim Shaw was from). They were made to create new ways of killing other beings, including possessed mummy-like cloths that nearly strangle Epzo to death. Angstrom saves his life with her Swiss Army knife. To escape the cloth wrappings, everyone climbs up to an acetylene field, but they are quickly surrounded. The wrappings taunt the Doctor about the “timeless child,” something we’re sure to hear more about as the season progresses.

The Doctor and Ryan figure out a plan. They have everyone dig into the soft dirt with their feet. Then Graham throws Epzo’s expensive cigar into the air and, with a snap of her fingers, the Doctor lights it, causing the gas field above them to ignite and the wrappings to burn.

Realizing they would’ve died without one another, Angstrom and Epzo agree to share the cash prize. They locate and enter Ilin’s tent to tell him so. Initially, he refuses until Epzo threatens to hunt him down. They are declared joint winners and, with a snap of his fingers, Ilin takes himself, the pilots, and the tent off the planet. The Doctor and her friends are left stranded. But what of The Ghost Monument? They never found it, after all.

YOU'VE REDECORATED


An instant after the Doctor loses hope, the TARDIS engines whir nearby. It phases in and out as the Doctor points her sonic at it. Her expression is desperate and longing. The TARDIS phases through properly, and the Doctor joyously and goofily runs towards it. She lays her hands on the old box — which has a new look — and it generously opens the door for her, even though she’s lost her key.

The inside of the new TARDIS looks like a glowing cave — golden orange crystals sprout up from the floor and layers of clock-like gears line the walls. There’s a miniature crystal TARDIS on the console and a whole host of new levels and buttons. There’s even a custard creme dispenser! “I really like it,” the Doctor says breathlessly. She turns to Graham, Ryan, and Yaz, who have followed her in. She promises to take them home now.

Yeah, when has that ever happened right away?

Final Thoughts: 
  • For an episode that was mostly about introducing the TARDIS, this was a solid second installment of the season. I do wish Yaz had more to do, but I’m trusting her time will come. 
  • I love that the TARDIS’ new look is a perpetual golden hour. GIFing TARDIS interior scenes is going to be lovely. 
  • I was so caught up in the season premiere last week that I didn’t even realize until later that we didn’t get to see a new intro! We did this week and it looks like a space lava lamp and it also seems much shorter. 
  • The Doctor: “Did I not mention? I am really smart.”
  • The Doctor, willing the TARDIS to come through: “Come to daddy... I mean mummy.”

Supergirl 4x01 Review: "American Alien" (Afraid of Americans) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“American Alien”
Original Airdate: October 14, 2018 

Previously on Supergirl: Oh, please don’t make me recap what happened last season on Supergirl. I swear I’ve given more hours of my life to describing last season’s plot than a woman should ever have to give. Mostly because it was the same plot undone and redone multiple times, since the writers had about ten episodes’ worth of content to stretch across a 23-episode season. There was Reign, who was Sam, who was Kara’s new friend, and then there was no Reign, because Sam was not Reign, but she’s still Kara’s friend. That’s the basics.

In hindsight, I’m starting to suspect season three of being a bit of a throwaway. Why are the third seasons of these DC shows always so bad? Are there studies on this pattern?

It’s a fresh, shiny new season of Supergirl, though. We’ve gotta go in with positive thoughts. Brush away those negative season three vibes, everyone, and welcome to season four!

Oh, wait. Everything about the season’s promotional info has indicated that it’ll be darker and more miserable than last season, or any other season. The season four trailer ended with Supergirl wearing the superhero equivalent of riot gear. The season’s main arc is about xenophobia and hatred spreading in National City, thanks to a villain declaring himself a true patriot by hating aliens who come in and “take our jobs.”

I’m going to be sad a lot this season, aren’t I?

THE PLOT


For some reason, Superman being off-world means Supergirl has gone international and is saving everyone, everywhere. How does Superman’s absence have any effect on Supergirl’s jurisdiction? Why wasn’t she retrieving stolen paintings in Madrid or stopping runaway trains in Russia before? Kara’s also back to being an ace reporter and has a position of authority at CatCo, so she thinks she “finally” has everything in her life under control — which just means it’ll all come crashing down on her immediately.

As I mentioned before, this season’s all about anti-alien xenophobia, so the pressure point for Kara is going to be her faith in humanity. Our introduction into the anti-alien plot starts with an alien support group run by J’onn J’onzz and Fiona (who is played by the same actress who played Vicky on The Good Place, which I found amusing). One of the group members is a pointy-eared, tusk-armed scientist named Dr. Vose, who later gets attacked at his research facility.

The attackers, a man and a woman both loaded down with a lot of fancy tech, cut off Dr. Vose’s arm tusks and use one of them to open the door to his lab. Dr. Vose hits a button on his phone to call Supergirl (do you think all citizens have that?) and she crashes through the window, but before she can pull off a heroic rescue, the two villains hit her with a blast of high-pitched audio, cuff her, and send her plummeting back to Earth.

Brainy, who has taken Winn’s place at the DEO, arrives to uncuff Kara so she can at least try to stop the bad guys. They do get away in the end, though. Not only have they assaulted Dr. Vose, but they’ve also stolen a high-powered EMP device capable of taking out a power grid.

J’onn shows up at the crime scene and tells Kara he suspects the attack on Dr. Vose was motivated by an anti-alien movement growing in the country. Kara dismisses the idea, since her experience has been all gratefulness and warmth, and the country’s even about to celebrate the anniversary of the Alien Amnesty Act. J’onn doesn’t explicitly say that Kara’s experiences differ from other aliens because she presents as a pretty, blonde-haired, human young woman, but you can read between the lines.

The EMP thieves/alien racists are sibling duo Otis and Mercy Graves, according to information Brainy can pull up. At first, I was really pleased by the show introducing Mercy Graves into its canon but let me just say that she was a lot cooler when she was snarky, animated, and not so xenophobic. Brainy tracks down an address connected to the Graves: a warehouse (villains love their warehouses, amiright?) that Kara learns is an epicenter for an underground anti-alien movement. Regular suburban parents are calling in for information on how to blow up aliens attending their kids’ schools, chat rooms full of slurs, and a planned attack on the Alien Amnesty summit the president is hosting.

J’onn is, convenient to the plot, a pacifist now. That means it’s Kara’s responsibility to deal with the anti-alien threat against the Summit alone. Well, alone plus Alex and the DEO. The Danvers sisters have to do a lot of juggling in order to keep the president safe, and they manage it pretty well. Kara has Brainy restore the power when Mercy and Otis use the EMP, Alex takes on Mercy and stops her from setting off a bomb in the building, and Kara is almost — but not quite — able to capture both the Graves siblings. Mercy shoots her brother (who’s wearing Kevlar, so he’s unharmed) and Kara’s heroic nature means she has to let one Graves go free to make sure the other Graves doesn’t die.

With Otis Graves in their possession and the president still alive, Team Supergirl is mostly okay with the way things turned out. Until news footage shows the president briefly flickering into her alien form after being attacked, which will spark some outrage in America. Apparently the big-picture goal for the Graves (and their masked leader) wasn’t to assassinate the president but to prove she’s an alien in disguise.

THE VERDICT


This wasn’t a bad episode. Everyone had something to do, the story was exciting, Kara seems to be in a unique place of confidence at work (and the fact that she’s actually doing reporter things at all is a blessing), Alex’s subplot with Brainy was entertaining, and Lena’s subplot with her mother — getting dirt on the Luthor family to trade for the charges raised against James last season being dropped — will definitely have repercussions I’m interested in seeing.

However, the reservations and criticisms I have are for the season-long arc, which is clearly being presented as a heavy-handed parallel to real life xenophobia in the United States. Supergirl has never shied away from topical stories, and for good reason. The Super stories (whether it be Superman or Supergirl) have a history of dancing the line of parable, making good use of the moral paragon of these Kryptonian characters, and no story is as relevant to them as stories of immigrants, of a nation’s irrational fear of the Other. Supergirl taking on a story like this should be a perfect fit, but something is... off in the way it’s being presented.

It almost feels lazy. As if the show knows it should talk about important topics so it throws those topics into the narrative without much thought or care, hoping those heavy-handed parallels are enough to do the job. I’ve always viewed the topical plots Supergirl has dealt with in the past through a lens of cheesy sincerity.

Supergirl’s heart has always seemed to be in the right place, and its corny morality always felt genuine and true to comic book form, but this season’s arc feels like the ethical equivalent of a cash grab, more than a sincere attempt to send a message the show believes. I really hope I’m proven wrong on this, though. Only time will tell.

Other Things:
  • Sam moved away! Guess she, Lena, and Kara aren’t BFFs after all.
  • Lena and James are still dating. That remains a thing.
  • Kara meets her new reporter underling, Nia Nal, who is an awkward chatterbox just like Kara used to be around Cat Grant. I actually like the potential in this dynamic, since I know Nia is a superhero (or at least will be one) and the show could really do something cute with her trying to hide her secret identity from Kara the same way Kara used to hide her secret identity from Cat.
  • “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.” Sigh. This Agent Liberty guy seems pretentious, which is remarkable for a dude in a mask that stupid.
  • Brainy is winning me over. He’s very weird and awkward but the actor’s doing a good job making that awkwardness seem... real, I guess? More of a genuine flaw in the way he interacts with the world than just a funny quirk for TV.
  • Somewhere under a train, the mysterious copy of Kara punches a rock.

A Million Little Things 1x03 Review: "save the date" (The Struggle for Happiness) [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: ABC)

“save the date”
Original Airdate: October 10, 2018

When things unravel, they often unravel badly. And messily. Have you ever experienced that before? Maybe the lies you’ve told or the secrets you’ve kept were stacked up like a poorly-constructed tower of Jenga blocks. But then the structure wobbled and shook — one block wiggled a little too much and the whole thing came crashing down.

A Million Little Things’ title comes from a line in the pilot: “Friendship isn’t one thing ... it’s a million little things.” And with that million little things comes inevitable lies and secrets, too. Friendship isn’t just the cushy, cozy times; it’s the rough stuff you have to wade through. It’s the moments you know you love the other person but you also really, really want to throttle them for the choices they’ve made. It’s the memories and the painful realizations. It’s everything in “save the date,” really. Because in this episode we get the juxtaposition of joy and pain; of intense happiness and also grief.

It’s incredibly real, raw, and ultimately satisfying.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GARY


The episode centers around Gary’s birthday, and the fact that each year Jon would do something elaborate to celebrate it. Gary hates his birthday (more on that later), but when Jon’s secret celebration is finally revealed and it’s a Bruins training camp... well, Gary can’t pass that up. There’s just one snafu in this otherwise perfect day — everyone finds out about Eddie and Delilah’s affair.

As someone who hoped this secret wouldn’t get drawn out for the entirety of the season, I’m relieved. I also find Gary and Rome’s reactions to be rather interesting. Until they knew the woman Eddie was sleeping with was Delilah, they were content to let him cheat on his wife; they believed he really cared about this woman and no one seems to be the biggest fan of Katherine to begin with. But when the group realizes who he’s sleeping with, suddenly everything changes because she’s the wife of their deceased friend (and wives are off limits, but only within the friend group? They were okay with Eddie cheating with — possibly, since they didn’t know — someone else’s wife?).

“save the date” is ultimately Gary’s story and so this episode was ultimately James Roday’s masterpiece. We ain’t seen nothing yet (as someone who loved how much of a triple threat he was on Psych — he can act, write, and direct you guys!), but this episode was a start. Gary’s not just devastated by the news; he’s absolutely enraged.

But let’s back up momentarily: how does Gary learn about the affair? When he and Eddie go to Eddie’s house to ask Katherine for a favor, Eddie leaves his phone behind by accident. He re-enters the house to retrieve it, and Katherine had picked up a call — from a hotel, notifying Eddie that they did not find the necklace he was missing. Eddie lies, of course, but Katherine catches him. She puts the pieces together pretty quickly and threatens Eddie, wanting to know the identity of the woman he was sleeping with. Off-camera, he tells her and we see her utter devastation and anger; Katherine is rightly humiliated that someone she was friends with was sleeping with her husband.

And that’s the moment Gary re-enters through the front door, wondering what’s taking Eddie so long.

Eddie’s affair blowing up in his face is sort of satisfying to me, as a viewer. We need to dismantle Eddie and Delilah’s characters in order to figure out who they are apart from the affair. With the secret out in the open, we can finally move into a space where we learn more about who they are and what led them to this. For Eddie? I want to see more of a dimension to his character — give me more about his addiction and what led him to becoming a music teacher. For Delilah? Let’s expand on the idea of loneliness she discussed at the end of the episode.

As you might surmise, the secret blows a hole in Gary’s birthday, but Eddie is persistent. He shows up at the Bruins’ training camp anyway, further angering both Gary and Rome. (And me. C’mon, Eddie, read the room.) While there’s an initial fistfight, Gary, Rome, and Eddie eventually win their scrimmage against the other hockey players.

But Gary — beautifully delivered by Roday — tells Eddie that their little victory doesn’t change anything. He still slept with Delilah, and in real life, there aren’t happy endings like there are in movies. You have to live with the consequences of your actions; Eddie needs to learn that his actions have them.

THE DELILAH OF IT ALL


Since the men find out, the women do too. Regina and Maggie are helping Delilah go through things at Jon’s office (she hasn’t had the strength to do that by herself) when they get the news from their respective partners. Delilah is, at first, hesitant and reserved. But she finally breaks down, frantically searching Jon’s belongings for a note. She yells at the women, demanding that they say what they are all clearly thinking — that she’s the reason Jon’s dead. That he found out about the affair, and that’s why he’s gone.

None of the women say anything, but their silence is probably more telling than anything. They’re hurting and processing Delilah’s revelation too, and as much as they love their friend, they know now that she’s no saint.

Later on, Delilah is at home when Gary stops to visit. He couldn’t be angry at her earlier because she wasn’t in front of him. But his emotional reaction toward her is one of intense disappointment and questioning. And it’s then that we learn something crucial about Jon — he was everything to everyone else. Except Delilah. He planned elaborate parties and cared about the people he loved, but when push came to shove, Delilah felt like she was always the last person to be cared for and about. Gary has never thought about that before. He idolized Jon; everyone did. But Delilah delivers the hard truth — when someone is there for everyone else, they have to make sacrifices somewhere.

Gary delivers a beautiful monologue to Delilah. He talks about how he didn’t always hate his birthday; there was a time he loved it. But then his parents got divorced, and instead of wishing they’d get back together, he just wished everyone would be happy. It’s a wish he continues to this day, and it’s a sweet reminder that Gary really is a soft teddy bear.

“save the date” brought the drama for a lot of our characters, and I’m interested in whether or not the fractured friend group will ever be fully whole again.

And now, bonus points:
  • I’m glad we got a Katherine/Delilah conversation and that Katherine admitted to missing Jon — the only person who would understand why she works as hard as she does. I really want to know more about Katherine, because initially I was put off by her demeanor but now I think there’s more she’s not telling us. Additionally, I’m interested to see whether she stays with Eddie or not.
  • Rome and Maggie bonding is so cute! I just don’t think it’s a good idea that she’s his therapist.
  • In this episode, Rome mentions that he basically pushes through the days and fakes it until he makes it. It’s sad but it’s how a lot of us live our lives.
What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Grey’s Anatomy 15x04 Review: “Momma Knows Best” (Running Blind) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Momma Knows Best”
Original Airdate: October 11, 2018

Calling all Grey’s Anatomy fans! This is the episode you have been waiting for, as Meredith goes on her first blind date and some of the Station 19 crew visit Grey Sloan Memorial. While this isn’t the best crossover, there are plenty of juicy moments that only Shonda Rhimes’ shows deliver. Let’s just say Teddy and Jackson are going to need a refresher when they eventually come back.

IT'S TED MOSBY!


There’s only one obvious place to start with this episode — and no, the main plot isn’t as important as Meredith’s dating life. Patient CeCe has set up Meredith’s first blind date and has only given her a name and a photo of her match. Meredith is finally happy to comply with the process and shows up at work dressed up for her date that afternoon. Naturally, she catches the eye of every character on the show, but the doctors who have been vying for her attention have the best reactions. Alex is the only person to make fun of Meredith’s date, so they make a bet on how long the date will last. Both think she will hate the guy and only stay for twenty minutes; so maybe Meredith isn’t as open-minded as we all hoped.

Upon arriving to the restaurant for her date, Meredith finds the guy she thinks is her date — John, played by the always wonderful Josh Radnor. While John might not be a hopeless romantic architect living in New York City, he is just as charming as Radnor’s most famous character, Ted Mosby of How I Met Your Mother.

John is divorced, works in privacy technology, and is looking to find someone to fill the void in his life. It was a little surprising to see how fast he and Meredith hit it off, but their similar senses of humor and lifestyles give Meredith a glimmer of hope. They see another couple across the restaurant and start making fun of them, only to realize that the other couple is actually the two dates they were supposed to meet. As Ted Mosby would say, fate intervened and brought John and Meredith together.

They decide to text their initial dates and say that it isn’t going to work out to meet up. Meredith prolongs the date and goes for a walk with John. Everything is going smoothly until John mentions that he doesn’t like dating single moms because they always act desperate on dates and want to move too quickly. Of course, he had no idea that Meredith has three small children, but it’s too late. When she tells him that she has kids and isn’t like that, John instantly realizes he said the one thing that would stop their potential romance in its tracks. Meredith says goodbye and leaves, which is sad considering how well they were getting along.

However, I have a feeling this isn’t the last we will see of John. The character was very into Meredith, and it didn't seem like he wouldn’t back down that easily. Also, it would be odd for someone like Josh Radnor to only be cast for one episode. On the guest starring list at the beginning of the episode, he was listed last as “and Josh Radnor.” So, like Ted Mosby, I will believe that there could be a real connection between Meredith and John, leading to their eventual reunion.

CROSSOVER


When two shows have a crossover night, I expect that more than three characters from one show will make an appearance on the other. The whole crossover thing was pretty lame this time around, since only Ben, Andy, and Dean from Station 19 make brief appearances in the Grey’s Anatomy hour. Maggie and DeLuca are the only Grey’s characters that extend into the Station 19 hour, so it didn’t feel like a real crossover night. Instead of the characters moving between shows, it was more of both episodes sharing the same main plot. Ben, Andy, and Dean bring victims of a fire to Grey Sloan Memorial for medical care. Bailey sees Ben passing in the hallway and notices that he has a bandage on his left hand. He tells her that he burned his hand on a doorknob and promptly leaves. Next up, Andy and Dean’s patient is a mother suffering from a problem with her heart. Maggie and DeLuca take over the case while Andy and Dean stay with the patient’s young son.

The son wants to know everything that is happening to his mom; but when his dad arrives, he puts the kibosh on the doctors telling his kid anything. Maggie has to deliver the bad news to the father that his wife isn’t going to survive and struggles with the fact that he won’t tell his son that his mother is dying. Poor Maggie doesn’t need any more grief on her plate, but at least she gets a message from Jackson that says he will be coming back soon. She gets some much-needed laughter when Dean hangs around the hospital just to ask her out. In typical Maggie fashion, she doesn’t respond right away.

Maggie is pretty much at her limit for secrets and stress by this point. After talking to Meredith, Amelia, and Andy — who I guess is an honorary member of the sisterhood now — about the problems with the patient, Maggie decides that she can’t withhold the truth anymore. She eventually blabs to Meredith that Teddy is pregnant with Owen’s baby and that no one knows. I’m surprised it took Maggie this long to confess her secret, considering the immediate burden it put on her. On the dying patient front, Maggie brings the husband to his wife to say goodbye, but the man won’t let his son come along. DeLuca takes the boy to the roof to talk to him and pretty much says that his mother is dying. The frightened boy flees the hospital, setting up the next hour of drama on Station 19.

Don’t worry — after falling into Seattle’s underground water system, the boy is eventually rescued by our favorite firefighters and learns the truth about his mom from his father. Maggie eventually turns Dean’s offer down, but he leaves it as an open invitation in case she ever finds herself single.

Personally, I think Maggie should actually go out on a date with Dean. At least it would be a more stable relationship than Jackson can provide at the moment. Also, DeLuca joins the crew of the aid car to help the kid and gets his own nickname from Victoria. DeLuca mentions that he used to be a paramedic, so the stage has been set for more potential crossovers with him.

HAIL TO THE CHIEF


An overwhelmed Alex decides to take a day out of his new office to be a doctor again and treats another victim of the fire who is suffering from smoke inhalation. Young Julius doesn’t want to stay in the hospital because his mother’s insurance doesn’t cover much. Alex and intern Qadri notice that Julius has a fixable lung condition. Julius rejects their proposed surgery because it is a previous condition uncovered by the health insurance. Alex essentially tells the kid he is being dumb by not having it fixed because it could harm him in the long run.

Richard steps in to help, but doesn’t want to be the rock that Alex needs for the chief of surgery job. Richard tells Alex that he would have to be creative to treat his patient, but Alex takes it too far. He decides to cut the patient with a scalpel and pretend that he has a chest wound that needs surgical correction immediately. Alex commits insurance fraud to help his patient, much to the chagrin of Richard and Qadri. However, Alex feels that he can do whatever he wants because he is the chief.

Those famous last words will surely bite him in the butt sooner rather than later.

PARENTING WOES


The episode also continues the blossoming storyline of Owen and Amelia’s young family. All is well with the on-and-off again couple, who don’t want to put a label on their newly renewed status. Owen and Amelia provide the comedic relief of the episode in the form of their parenting strategies. The funny thing is that Amelia doesn’t even realize that she is being an overbearing mother to teen Betty. Amelia gets upset when Betty comes home presumably high. Like the good parent she is, Amelia freaks out and yells about how a recovering addict can’t do any drugs.

Naturally, Betty denies doing drugs and refuses to talk to Amelia when she is being irrational. Amelia drags Betty to work with her and Owen to force her into taking a drug test (which doesn’t go over very well). Owen spends most of the episode smiling and shaking his head at Amelia’s antics.

Since Amelia will stop at nothing to protect Betty, she calls in reinforcements in the form of Owen’s mom. Evelyn Hunt and Amelia have a good conversation that makes Amelia realize she is a parent and needs to handle the situation appropriately so Betty will grow and learn from it. Amelia eventually gets Betty to confess that she smoked some weed, which leads to Amelia grounding her for one month. Owen laughs while Betty seethes, and the Hunt-Shepherd family continues on! With a bombshell of a secret looming, let’s hope they enjoy their honeymoon phase while it lasts.