A Year in Review: 2014 Superlatives (via Jenn and Ann)

Like I do every year, I counted down some of the best (and worst) in television, movies, and music of 2014. This year, I was happy enough to have a regular contributor and friend added to the blog -- Ann -- and she compiled her best and worst lists too. Enjoy!

The Strong Women Series

Here, you'll find a collection of posts from my talented female friends, each defending the women in their favorite television series. These posts contain some of the most intelligent discussions ever featured on this website. I highly recommend that you read them all.

Jenn's Pick: My Top 15 Episodes of 'Psych'

Do you like meta humor? Movie references? Pineapples? If you do, you were probably also a fan of USA's hit comedy 'Psych.' In this post, I count down my fifteen favorite episodes of the series. Do your favorites make the cut? And, bonus: Can you find the pineapple in my post?

Character Appreciation Post: Felicity Smoak ('Arrow')

Felicity Meghan Smoak is one of the most captivating, optimistic, endearing characters on The CW's smash hit 'Arrow.' And in this post, I list all of the reasons why she is. Read, dear friends, and fall a little bit more in love with our blonde hacker.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ann's Year in Review: 2014 (Super Superlatives!) [Contributor: Ann]

This year, I was pleased to be able to bring another writer onto my team and I am so glad that I did. I met Ann through Tumblr and she has consistently impressed me not just with her reviews of The Mindy Project but with her professionalism, thoughtfulness, and friendship. I love that we don't agree on everything and I love that she watches shows differently than I do, but still critically. She understands the importance of good storytelling and I could not be happier to be entering 2015 with her as a part of this website!

So I asked Ann to write a superlatives post this year, like I do every year, and here's some of her best (and worst) in television, movies, and music this year. :)

Jenn's Year In Review: 2014 (Super Superlatives!)

Happy almost-2015, my dear friends! Wow, can you believe that an entire year has passed? I barely can. A lot has happened this year. We've fallen in love with new television shows, only to have them cancelled by networks. We've seen some amazing movies and had dance parties in our cars to catchy top 40 songs. Personally, I've had a whirlwind year. I ran two half-marathons in 2014, in addition to other races (I ran almost 50 miles in just races -- not even training runs -- alone this year). I've expanded the website to include the lovely and talented Ann, as well as numerous other guest contributors. I've gotten into new fandoms. I attended LeakyCon 2014 this summer in Orlando. I've watched friends get married and get engaged and get houses. I went on vacations to Anna Maria Island, FL and Los Angeles, CA. Not everything this year has been pleasant, though. I've struggled to keep my sanity at work. I lost my 91-year old grandmother and our family dog.

But if New Year's has taught me anything over my lifetime, it's that no matter how great or terrible your year may have been, a fresh start is just around the corner. And so, as I did at the end of 2012 and the end of 2013, I've compiled my yearly pop culture superlatives list! So grab those party hats and noisemakers, because we're going to review some of the best (and worst) in TV, movies, and music this year.

[You can find Ann's best/worst of 2014 list here!]

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Girl 4x11 "LAXmas" (There's No Place Like An Airport for the Holidays)

Original Airdate: December 9, 2014

I love the holidays. I really and truly do. There's something especially magical about driving down streets that are alighted with Christmas decorations -- with little snowmen and waving Santas and pristine icicles. Christmas is the time of the year where it feels like anything can happen. And maybe that's just me (but I don't think it is). In December, everyone seems a bit brighter. Everything seems a bit more hopeful. And that's what Jessica Day has always believed. New Girl's holiday episodes always deliver, and "LAXmas" is an episode that truly reminds us about what this show is really about. I've loved the fourth season of this gem of a comedy. I've loved the show since the moment the group did a slow dance chicken dance in "Wedding." And when I think about WHY that was the moment that solidified my love for this show, I think I've come to the conclusion that it's because New Girl will always be hopeful just like Christmas. It will always aim high and it will always believe in the magical things, but it will also always be grounded in something fundamental and important. And its roots are the relationships between these six individuals. Because no matter what happens -- break-ups or shenanigans or fights -- these people love and understand each other. Perhaps they're the only people who love and understand each other the way they do. In a way, I think what I'm finding is that New Girl's fourth season is delivering everything that Community did when it was at its best. Its focus is on the relationships and growth and the struggles between these people (and with people outside of their loft group). But the one thing that New Girl keeps coming back to -- the one thing that is always at its heart -- is the story of Nick and Jess and the beauty of their relationship.

Though "LAXmas" was a far cry in terms of Nick/Jess from episodes like "Cooler" or "Exes," there's an extremely pivotal moment to be found at the end of the episode and it's this thing (for lack of a better word) that the writers keep returning to. It's the idea that Nick will do anything for Jess because he knows her. And because he knows her -- because he knows what makes her scared or what cheers her up or what makes her cry -- he is always willing to do whatever it takes in order for her to be her best self. One of my favorite episodes to date is still "The 23rd," which is the show's first Christmas episode. In it, Jess and Paul struggle with their relationship and eventually break up after realizing that they are simply in different places (Paul loves Jess but Jess cannot say it back to Paul). And on the drive to the airport with a car crammed full of Nick, Jess, Winston, Schmidt, and Cece, Nick takes one look at Jess and stops the car on Candy Cane Lane -- a street that Jess had mentioned earlier in the episode was her favorite place to go on Christmas. The group had mocked her then, but the most significant thing about that moment is that Nick realized WHY Jess needed to see the houses lit up on that street and was willing to do whatever it took (he missed his flight AGAIN for Christmas for her) in order to be exactly what she needed in that moment. That's the thing about Nick and Jess's relationship that is such a thing of beauty to me: he will always be there for her. No matter what.

Furthermore (don't worry, I'll talk more about the actual episode in a bit), Nick -- at this episode's end -- comes back for Jess. He's literally in first class with Winston on a plane headed home to Chicago and what does he do? He gets off the plane, rallies the rest of the group together, tracks down Jess (after he called her and realized she was too scared to visit Ryan in London) and convinces her to fly to see her boyfriend because that's what she deserves. That's what she NEEDS ("you gotta just try"). New Girl's Christmas episodes -- if you look back on all of them -- always have moments like these: moments where the group just KNOWS what to do for each other during the holidays; moments where the entire loft rallies around one or more people. And that's what's beautiful about this show to me: it may be quirky and we may have sub-plots like Nick and Winston trying to convince passengers to give up their seats or Schmidt trying to get into the first class lounge, but the heart of this show will always be with Nick and Jess's quiet moments of understanding and the soul of this show -- the living and breathing soul of it -- will always be with the loft. Nick comes back for Jess in "LAXmas," because (as he said in season two's Christmas episode "Santa") "she's the kind of girl a guy would come back for."

(I'll pause to let you marinate on that truth, okay?)

So now that we've established that I loved this episode and have been loving everything about New Girl's fourth season (including the not-overt-but-still-there-Nick/Jess and a holiday episode written by my favorite former Community partners Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson), let's talk more about "LAXmas," shall we?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Arrow 3x09 "The Climb" (The Unmerited Favor)

"The Climb"
Original Airdate: December 10, 2014

I'm an introvert. Anyone who knows me knows this, really. More specifically, I'm classified as an INFJ by Meyers Briggs -- someone with introverted intuition and extraverted feeling. Do you what INFJs are described as by the test? They're "The Protectors." That's the thing about introverts, really: we feel things deeply. We are compassionate. We are intuitive. It may exhaust us to socialize with others, but we care a lot about them and would do anything to keep them safe. For all of his faults, flaws, and past mistakes, Oliver Queen is definitely a protector. When you are under his care, you are under a promise. And Oliver Queen doesn't break promises.

Protectors are also very self-sacrificing, in case you haven't noticed. They are the people who throw every last part of themselves into thinking about and protecting others. They are the ones who make difficult choices that no one asks or forces them to make. They are the ones who climb mountains and swim oceans to protect and to fight for the ones they love most. But when protectors embark on their journeys, they often do so alone. "The Climb" is Arrow's midseason finale and it's a doozy that centers around Oliver Queen -- protector of Starling City, protector of Thea, protector of Diggle and his family and of Roy and Felicity and the Lance family -- making the ultimate hero's journey and heroic sacrifice. The theme of thiseason is identity. When Oliver Queen looks at himself and the choices that he has made, he's plagued with a lot of questions and doubts about his humanity and his worth and whether or not he's a hero.

But at the end of the episode, Oliver tells Felicity that he is certain of two very important things in his life (we will talk about those later, no worries). And I think that in that subtle moment, Oliver -- though he did not realize it -- found his identity. People misunderstand what it means to have a sense of identity. Oliver Queen certainly does. He's been spending the entire first half of this season wrestling with himself and the decisions that he has made or hasn't made. He's plagued, as I said above, with really deep moral questions about humanity and sacrifice. Oliver is a brooding hero and he's a dark hero, make no mistake about that. It's taken interjections by Barry Allen and Felicity in order to remind him not just of his humanity -- that he is still a living and breathing person with feelings, that it is okay to HAVE those feelings (think about the conversation Oliver and Felicity had in the foundry during "Sara") -- but I don't think Oliver realizes that there is still light and goodness within him. What's so complex about Oliver is that he looks at his life as a series of dark events, most of the time: of trauma and death and destruction. But when Oliver really looks back on his life (which we see him do at the end of "The Climb") what he sees is not darkness, but LIGHT. He sees his father's proud face. He sees his mother's genuine smile. He sees Thea fling her arms around him in joy. And he sees the light surrounding him and Felicity as they kissed for the first time. And Oliver realizes for the first time (albeit a bit too late), that his life hasn't been completely marred by darkness and therefore, neither has he. Heroes make difficult decisions and that's what makes them heroes.

But HUMANS make difficult decisions too. Humans tether themselves to the light. Oliver's never seen himself clearly until he's seen his life flash before his eyes. And when he does, he sees the people he loves most illuminating his darkness. People misunderstand what it means to have a sense of identity, as I said above. They think that being self-aware means knowing exactly who you are at every moment of every day. But I think that "The Climb" told us differently. I think this episode told us that knowing who you are isn't even the right question. The things that you do in the utter chaos and confusion are what make you who you are. And "The Climb" told us the story of Oliver Queen, protector of Starling City, defender of Thea Queen to the death, and lover of Felicity Smoak.

So let's talk more about that mind-blowing midseason finale, shall we?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Mindy Project 3x11 "Christmas" [Contributor: Ann]

Original Airdate: December 9, 2014

One of my favorite philosophies is that, at the end of everything, what is most important isn’t what a person does to you or what a person says to you but the way that person made you feel. 

I love it because it doesn’t try to quantify an emotional response, doesn’t try to justify it by pulling up a list of bullet points. If someone made you feel horrible, your memories will be colored by that feeling. Our retrospect is more of a Jackson Pollock painting of feelings than a list. Memories are not like our middle school AIM profiles. They are multidimensional.

I have only seen “Christmas” once, and will only be watching it once because I don’t want to wait any more before writing out these feelings. I don’t want to talk about the pacing of the episode or try to dissect what this episode means in context of the past episodes and what the show could have done better. I really don’t. I am tired of doing that.

This is a review that is based off of how I remember feeling. It is the Christmas episode, so maybe that is the most appropriate proceeding, to move based on what is in my heart rather than what is in my finals-addled brain.

And, though the me of future rewatches may resist—may try to poke holes or point things out—the overwhelming feeling that I get when I think about “Christmas” is happiness. This episode made me happy, and even if I am not as sharp on its technical successes and failures (especially in comparison to past episodes), I think this will be the favorite episode of the season so far.

Why? Hmm, I don’t know. Easily my favorite moment of the episode—making it my favorite moment of the season thus far—was Danny’s expression as Mindy read aloud one of his letters to Haiti. That moment came at me from left field; I did not know what to expect for Danny’s Secret Santa gift. But if Danny’s gift to Mindy last year was an expression of his feelings for her, this was undoubtedly an equal expression of her feelings for him— a homage to something he loves, featuring a group of people that “at work you work” Castellano of the second episode of the series would have never imagined becoming friends with.

I have always wanted to know what the contents of those letters were. In between seasons one and two, I tried to speculate on what would have happened when Mindy and Casey got back, and my thoughts were always pretty shallow—mostly that the “almost kiss” would have been addressed. Instead the letters acted as a quiet gateway from begrudging admission of feelings to an admission of “I miss you,” something I desperately hope is put in a Youtube video as a voiceover while Danny reacts to reading Mindy’s letter to him in "All My Problems Solved Forever..."

Because it resonates, you know? That part makes sense, and it’s what I’ve been waiting for and what I’ve been wanting for so long. I do not think that Mindy and Danny’s coupling is why I’ve been so hot and cold on this season—they have very distinct and funny personalities. But I do think that the problem with their coupling is that episodes are more about goofiness and shenanigans (because the major emotional baggage is out of the way) rather than an exploration of feelings for each other and their history with each other now that they have made it this far in the relationship. 

A retrospective in two forms: the Ken Burns-styled documentary of Danny Castellano, telling his life story—and the story of Mindy and Danny, the story that I fell in love with. Acknowledgement of that story by subtle callbacks — Danny finding Mindy mid-party, “Last Christmas,” Danny’s professional awe of her (coming from the pilot), Ken Burns (referenced as early as the first season’s “Bunk Bed”) and the letters— that means so much to me, because following Mindy and Danny’s love story is such a fond memory of mine. The first and second seasons are so much more inconsistent, you know? But I remember them so fondly—and with this episode I’m increasingly more inclined to give season three the love it’s been waiting for.

I’m also amped to see Mindy chasing after something professional. I have mentioned that what I want from my season three Mindy and Danny is a deepening, a growing—which, again, comes from acknowledgement of their past (“how did we get here?”). That’s been pretty touch and go. But for Mindys Lahiri and Kaling, as individuals, there has been no dearth of growth. I mean, wow — seasons one and two Mindy Lahiri were crying over a guy. Season three Mindy Lahiri is gypped, yet again, into thinking she’s getting a proposal, but her sadness this year is because of her career—which puts the whole Project that this show is titled on back in focus. A person can improve their lives in more ways than just the romantic, after all.

Has Danny deepened? It’s questionable. I will need to rewatch but I actually felt in this episode—or at least remember feeling—that the reason Danny left during Mindy’s presentation, to propose, was because he actually did want to propose to her. (Actually, it has to be that way, because Mindy wasn’t going to go to Stanford without his recommendation, which wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t travelled to Staten Island). 

Which makes the fact that he doesn’t so exciting to me. I’m very much ready to leave “Afraid to Propose” Castellano in the dust, because that well’s been tapped about as much as all the models Leo DiCaprio took home with him after breaking up with his girlfriend. I like this Danny. In many ways, he’s reminiscent of "Christmas Party Sex Trap" Danny, who took an emotional bullet so Mindy could have what she wanted. Again that is the case, but like with Mindy, what Danny does here is more significant than feebly stepping aside for another suitor. It’s an act of trust—it’s an act of knowing that it will suck to be without her, but being without her is far different than losing her.

I don’t know, you guys. This episode was cute to me—Danny writing the letter of recommendation, Julia Stiles and Morgan hitting it off surprisingly well (him calling her beautiful, or romantically waiting outside her window), Beverly wiggling out of the hot pipe room. The callback to the Christmas dance last year by Morgan. The little drummer girl! Dr. Ludreau, a welcome addition to the revolving door of people in this cast, or TJ, who is as smokin’ as ever. The wreath! Mindy’s dress.

I harp on this show a lot—it’s kind of a part of the whole “overanalyzing television” deal—but this show will always be fond to me, even when it disappoints me and especially when it floors me. Its cast, its comedy and brilliant stack of writers, the fun and outrageous guest stars they get to come on (LEE PACE YOU GUYS)—

This show is a gift.

Stray Observations:
  • But of course, c’mon, where was the gingerbread house?!
  • There was something very sexy and spy about this Christmas party.
  • Mindy’s dress was out of this world.
  • I’m so team Jeremy, btw. Get outta here, Pete!
  • Beverly’s outfits — did you see the LA shirt and the You’ve Got Sext cardi?
  • Ugh, so many favorite jokes. Off the top of my head my favorite was the one about the neurosurgeons. My friend and I also laughed for a long time about “Meatball?” “I’ll just eat them.”
It is a month long hiatus next (gulp) and I will try to write for lovely Jenn during break, but until then here is my ranking of the episodes thus far:
  1. Christmas
  2. We’re A Couple Now, Bitches
  3. Diary of a Mad Indian Woman
  4. What About Peter?
  5. The Devil Wears Lands’ End
  6. Crimes and Misdemeanors and Ex-BFs
  7. Caramel Princess Time
  8. I Slipped
  9. We Need to Talk About Annette
  10. How to Lose a Mom in Ten Days
  11. Annette Castellano is My Nemesis
I don’t hate Rhea Perlman, I swear! Or her fun friend Dot. Just—a little at a time, I’d say.
Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me review or write about during break. I don’t know if I’d do an entire-show undertaking like The Office, unless it’s something smaller. I’d love to try out pilots (I really love pilots) or if there’s a ranking or something you’d like me to examine leave it in the comments!

Thank you all for reading, and I have to apologize for not being so analytical this week, though I’m sure it’s a welcome break. Finals weak (appropriate typo there) has been really hard, and this semester has been really hard. But I am ultimately thankful for you little nutjobs. You guys make me so unparalleled levels of happy, and while I have been of late (read: since August) very very busy, this has been very much a bright spot. You would be surprised how much I owe The Mindy Project.
My thanks extends to Jenn. I hope you’re having fun in L.A. and eternal thanks and gratitude for letting me write on here! [Jenn's Note: ANN IS AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL AND LOVELY. I seriously can't imagine this site without her, which is so weird because she hasn't even been a part of it that long. But that's how good she is, y'all. Just so you know.]


Friday, December 5, 2014

In Defense of Oliver Queen [Guest Poster: Jen]

This article was originally posted on Jen's Tumblr on October 23, 2014. She graciously allowed me to host it here as a part of my "In Defense Of" series. Hopefully I can convince her to return for guest posts in the future. ;)
I don't really know what this is. I haven't slept much, I am highly caffeinated and I am listening to WAY too much Cary Brothers. Specifically Belong. On repeat. It leads to thoughts.

I am having a thing. It's my thing. I am owning it but it's a thing nonetheless and so here we go.

Watched The Flash last night. Lovely episode. Very much enjoying Caitlin Snow. It was quite moving watching Ronnie die saving well.... everyone. Fire & Ice... subtle writers. I thought Barry was incredibly sweet & compassionate -- a good friend. Caitlin needed to grieve and she needed to grieve badly, so it was wonderful Barry could recognize that. That being said, I can't get too worked up about dear old Ronnie because we all know he's alive. Right? Right. And I gotta say...if it's a choice between Grant Gustin and Robbie Amell...you go Robbie Amell. Every. Single. Time. Sorry Grant. I think you are all kinds of adorable. I basically want to adopt you. And feed you soup. Why? I don't know. You bring out my motherly instincts. But if it's a choice for who's hotter? The Amells win every time. That family has some incredible genes. I mean, seriously. Are they genetically engineered?

I digress. So I am cruising my Tumblr dash because that's what I do. Incessantly. I saw a gif of Barry hugging Caitlin. Underneath it was the comment along the lines of: "It took Barry two episodes to hug Caitlin Snow while it took Oliver Queen TWO YEARS to hug Felicity Smoak."

Totally innocent comment. Totally accurate comment. It was also a little funny.

But it irritated me.

I decided to ignore my irritation but it stuck will me all day.  Not at the person who wrote it. I'm not even posting a link because they did ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong. Like I said... this is my thing. No, the comparison between Barry and Oliver irritated me.

HELL YES it took Oliver Queen TWO YEARS to hug Felicity Smoak.

Look, I like The Flash. I know absolutely nothing about the comics so the show is all kinds of new for me. I am enjoying it. I like Barry Allen. He's a wonderful lad, he's completely adorable & sweet, a little nerdy but that's okay...I like my men nerdy (I married an incredibly good looking man but he's an engineer. Enough said). It's got a MUCH lighter tone than Arrow. It's gonna be a successful show, last many years and make a ton of money.

(Side note: I am having a slight issue with the running. Just so I get this straight, all Barry basically did was RUN AWAY from the gas man. RIGHT? That's what happened? He just ran back and forth until gas man got tired? Yeah. That's what I thought.)

I am probably feeling unreasonably protective of Oliver Queen right now. Maybe it's because The Flash is kicking Arrow's ass in the ratings. Maybe it's because Sara died. Maybe it's because Oliver has had 7 consecutively crappy years. Maybe it's because the minute he finds a LITTLE happiness, a rocket blows up the goddamn restaurant before he can even finish his scotch. Maybe it's because it took him two years to realize the love of his life was standing right in front of him and when he finally makes a move she's nearly killed, which basically confirms his worst nightmare and thereby reaffirms his belief he can never be with her. Or maybe it's because there's all these guys are sniffing around his INSANELY HOT soul mate, who is the future mother of his children, and ONE of them is Barry Allen.

Like I said. I am having a thing.

I've never made it a huge secret that I like my heroes dark & twisty. Why? Well, honestly I don't need hundreds of hours of therapy or a psychology degree to figure it out. I believe in the power of redemptive suffering. Why? Well... I've lived it. It's real. So I like stories that reflect it.

Barry Allen has suffered. His mother died when he was just a little boy. He witnessed it. He saw her body. His father went to prison for her murder. And nobody believed him when he told the truth.
Do you want to know why Barry isn't three different kinds of screwed up? Joe and Iris. Barry grew up in a family, with a father and his best friend. He was fed, clothed, educated, cared for, supported, protected, loved. Deeply loved. Joe did everything a father does. He raised Barry. The reason why Barry is Barry is because Joe made sure that Barry didn't lose his childhood. He lost his mother. He lost his father. But somehow Joe managed to salvage a piece of Barry's innocence and it's still with him to this day.

That being said, what happened to Barry, what Barry witnessed, was DEEPLY tragic. It was UNJUST and evil and horrifying. On the surface Barry is a ball of light. Happy, sweet, kind, compassionate...innocent. But make no mistake my friends. The darkness is there. It's what happens to every hero when the life altering event, the catalyst, occurs. Barry has A LOT of rage in him. It's bubbling underneath the surface. It's why the writers have surrounded him with father figures. His biological father, Joe and Dr. Wells. Barry, like Oliver, is a powerful weapon and whoever influences him the most can harness & control him. Barry isn't all good. Nobody is. He will struggle with the light and dark just like Oliver does.

Which brings me to my Oliver Queen. Oliver suffered unimaginable nightmares for five years. He was tortured. Every single person he ever loved either died for him or because of him. He could never fully trust anyone. He had to make life and death decisions every day. He had to forge himself into a weapon, strip himself of his humanity, to survive.

The process in which Oliver Queen became The Arrow and the process in which Barry Allen became The Flash are night and day. Barry was struck by lightning. But Oliver? Oliver became The Arrow through sheer force of will. He worked for it, trained for it and bled for it.  His survival depended on it. Barry didn't lose himself when he became The Flash. Oliver had to stop being Oliver Queen. He had stop trusting. He had to stop believing. He had stop hoping. He had to stop caring. He had to stop loving. He had to stop being a person. It was the only way for him to survive.  Humanity was just another thing that could kill him.

I knew when the writers embarked on this storyline for Felicity & Oliver I would land myself firmly in Switzerland. What makes it a great storyline is that BOTH sides are understandable. I sympathize with Oliver's viewpoint AND I sympathize with Felicity's. They are diametrically opposed and I agree with both of them. That's great writing.

So today is my in defense of Oliver. Trust me, there's a defense of Felicity Smoak coming up I'm sure, but today it's Oliver.

Oliver's story isn't only about him becoming a superhero. It's about Oliver reclaiming his humanity. It's about Oliver finding a way to push past all that darkness, everything the Island took from him, to the good within. To the pieces of light that somehow he held on to. Arrow is the story of Oliver learning to be a man again.

It is a slow, painful, agonizing process. For every step forward for Oliver there will be two steps back... again... and again... and again.

Why? Because of one simple irrefutable fact. One reason. Fear.

Oliver Queen is absolutely terrified.

I know people are angry with him after "Sara" and his treatment of Felicity. I know. But let's look at how Oliver deals with grief. Tommy dies. What does Oliver do? He runs away. Where does Oliver go? BACK TO THE ISLAND. He chooses the Island willingly. The literal embodiment of his nightmares. Why? Because it was isolated. He could be alone. Alone is safe. Diggle & Felicity find him and drag him back.

Moira dies. What does Oliver do? He doesn't go to the funeral. He runs away. Where does Oliver go? Well, this time there's progress because he sticks closer to home. He goes to his secret secondary location. Why? Because it was isolated. Until Diggle & Felicity find him.

Sara dies. This time Oliver doesn't run. He stays. He's a hero now. He knows he can't leave. It's unbelievable progress for Oliver to physically stay put after a tragedy like Sara's death. Since he can't find isolation by hiding out, he retreats inside of himself.  He shuts down. He isolates himself.

The Island isn't Lian Yu anymore. Oliver is the Island. He carries it with him all the time, every day. And he isolates himself every chance he gets. The simple act of being The Arrow isolates him. He must keep secrets, he must keep walls up to protect those he loves. It also protects Oliver. Those walls are safe. He needs those walls. He wants those walls.

It's why he consistently chooses dysfunctional romantic relationships. Whether it's Laurel or Helena or Sara, if it's about fixing the past or saving them then it's about THEM, which more importantly means it's not about HIM. Whether it's hiding his life as The Arrow or it's hiding Oliver Queen or both he never truly reveals ALL of himself to any of those women. He purposefully chooses relationships he KNOWS won't last because that's safe. There's no risk there. Does he care about them? Yes. Does he need them? No. Not in the way that truly scares him. Not the way you need someone when you are absolutely desperately in love with them. He is never that vulnerable.

At his core Oliver is a survivor. To survive, you don't show weakness or vulnerability. Needing is weakness. So you don't need anyone. Ever.

He does it with everyone. Everyone... except Felicity Smoak.

It's why she confused him so much in the beginning. That spark she ignited in him...he could literally feel his humanity coming alive again. It was so unfamiliar, to be able to look at a human being and not see them as a threat. It was so unfamiliar to immediately trust someone. Unfamiliar, terrifying, confusing and...enticing. Addicting. It was like a moth to a flame. He kept coming back to her. More favors. More lies. Coming closer and closer to her until finally...he pulled her all the way in.

It took him so long to understand what that meant, what she meant to him. Her ability to harness his light. Her ability to bring out his innate goodness. Her ability to make him laugh. Her ability to make him feel like a person. Her ability to make him feel like a man again, like Oliver Queen. To not only make him feel it but make him WANT to feel it. He had no idea what it all meant until one day he just did. He could put a name to it.


It's a different kind of love than anything he's ever felt before. It's love based on trust, honestly, friendship, respect, laughter, compassion, unconditional support, understanding, and loyalty. Felicity sees him. She really SEES him. She understands and accepts all sides of Oliver...the man and The Arrow. He doesn't have to hide from her. He doesn't want to hide from her. The walls are down. He needs her. What's more, he allows himself to need her. This love... this love is the love that changes your life. It's the love that BECOMES your life.

And it absolutely terrifies Oliver to his core.

Of course it took him two years to hug her. He's afraid to touch her. He's afraid to move. He's afraid to breathe. He's afraid that if he looks away for even a second, she'll be gone. He's afraid that if he allows himself this one small piece of happiness, this person that is just for him, he'll lose her. Because he's lost absolutely everyone he's ever cared about. Anyone he's ever loved has either died for him or because of him.

Oliver Queen is a survivor. And he knows without a shadow of doubt if Felicity dies, he will NOT survive that.

Oliver knows he needs Felicity to be The Arrow. He cannot save the city without her. He understands that comes with certain risks. He also understands that every moment she spends with him, she's a moment closer to danger. So he kept his distance. His greatest fear was that his love would endanger her. It would make her a target. He knew it was a weakness his enemies would use against him.

He was right.

But after defeating Slade, the City settled to a calm. Diggle tells Oliver it's now or never. The city will never be any safer. So Oliver takes a chance. His gives himself one moment of happiness. He allows himself to believe that the life he's been dreaming of with her is an actual possibility.

This was never about a date for Oliver. He and Felicity said it: they've already been on, like, 15 dates. Life and death cuts through all the bull. They know each other. They understand each other. Do they know everything? No, but news flash: you never really do about anyone. They know enough to trust what they have. This is it. Felicity is it for Oliver. Oliver is it for Felicity. They are in love.

It's why Oliver got real on that date.

He needed her to know this wasn't about a date. It wasn't about sex (although I'm sure he wouldn't have argued if it went that away). This was about building something. Building a life. When Oliver looks at Felicity he sees everything he didn't know he wanted and everything he never believed he could have. Love, marriage, a home, babies. He looks at what Diggle has built with Lyla and more than anything he wants to build that with Felicity. She is his love. She is his home. She is his forever. He sees his children in her eyes.

And then a rocket explodes.

Why was this time so different than any other time Felicity has been in danger? Because she wasn't with The Arrow. She was with Oliver.

There has to be some part of Oliver's life that's safe. But there isn't. How is he suppose to build a life with her? How does he build a home with her? A safe place to call their own? A place where he knows she's safe & sound, sleeping in their bed, waiting for him to come home from his nightly patrol... their children asleep down the hall. How does he create that for her, if he can't even take her out to dinner safely?


How does Oliver have that when he believes that being Oliver Queen is the very thing that will put his entire life at risk? There has to be a piece of him that's just Felicity's. There has to be a piece of him that is theirs. There has to be a piece of his life that is safe. It cannot be The Arrow. It has to be Oliver Queen.

Oliver Queen is walking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is emotionally scared, battled and bruised. Everyone and everything is a threat. He is always on high alert. It's why Felicity is so important to him. With her...he feels like a person again. He can just be.

The Count took that from him. He took that possibility away. And the fear came raging back.
Looking at Felicity, bloody & unconscious, Oliver saw Tommy with a rebar through his chest.

He saw his father, Yao Fei and Shado with bullets in their heads.

His mother with a sword through her chest.

And then... Sara dies.

She is lying on that table with three arrows in her chest.

Do you know who was lying on that table not 24 hours earlier? Felicity.

What's the difference between Sara and Felicity? Felicity was just luckier.

Of course he pushed her away. Of course he refused to hold her. Refused to touch her. Refused to even look at her.

Two years. Two years to hug her.

Why? He was scared to touch her. That's why he was always so tentative, hand holding and shoulder touches. He would allow himself just a moment of contact, but not too much, not too close. He was terrified what he could do to her. What his love could do to her. Nearly everyone Oliver has ever loved has died. It's not too far of a leap, then, to start to believe that your love is what destroys people. That YOU are what destroys people. She is everything that is good and pure and warm and soft and safe.

He didn't want his darkness to infect her, to taint her soul like it did his. It took him a long time to realize how strong she was. That there was nothing about him that could ever scare her off. That she was the bravest of them all. She doesn't let her fear control her.

But Oliver? Fear is instinctual to him. Fear is one of our most basic instincts. Basic human nature. Fear triggers survival. And Oliver Queen always survives.

His fear is Felicity will die someday... because of him.

But if he stays focused? If he's vigilante? If he's just The Arrow? Assessing threats and targets at all times? Maybe he can protect her. Maybe she'll be safe. Forget dreams. All he wants is for Felicty to stay alive. He'll do anything to make sure she does.

He strikes with machine like precision. Removes the danger from her life. Oliver Queen is the danger. He chooses The Arrow. He lets Oliver Queen go, so she'll survive... so he'll survive.

But she won't stop. She's still standing in front of him, LOVING HIM, asking him to be Oliver Queen. She refuses to see the reality. What life with him means. Death.

He'll make sure that it's not her. But it will be him. He will end up just like Sara. The only thing he can ever give Felicity is a body to bury.

Of course he's retreated back into himself. This is all Oliver knows how to do.  He only knows how to survive. He's got no clue how to live. He tried. He dipped his toe into the life he's always wanted and it literally blew up in his face. Everyone he tries to save dies. Everyone he tries to love dies. So why bother trying? Why bother with any of it? No. He will honor his code. He will devote his life to a cause. He owes the people who have died for him that much. But anything more than that? No. He can't. He doesn't know how. He's too scared of what he'll lose in the process.

There is a beautiful line that Buffy said once that is so completely heartbreaking and encompasses the way Oliver is feeling right now:
I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world, if these are the choices, if everything just gets stripped away. I don't see the point.
Death is easier. It's life that is hard. It's life that hurts. He'd rather hide in his cave and wait for death. Maybe it won't hurt anymore. Maybe finally it'll all just stop.

It works. She can't stay and watch him WAIT for death. She loves him too much for that.

He doesn't say a word. He lets her go. This is what needed to happen. He needed to push her away. To protect her. So she'll survive. To protect himself. So he'll survive.

And just like that, she's gone.

He knew he had to let her go. He knew he was pushing her away. But he didn't know what it would feel like when she was finally gone. Inside of the pain and the sadness was something surprising. Something he didn't expect. He was afraid again. It wasn't of Felicity dying. It wasn't fear of living. No, this fear? This was new. Something he fears more than what could happen to her. Something he fears more than living.

He's scared he's going to lose her love. She wants so much more to life than this. She's not going to wait for him. It's what he thought he wanted, but... what if she really does move on? What if she builds a life without him?

What if she stops loving him?

Oliver Queen is a survivor. Part of surviving is knowing your basic needs. And doing anything to get them. And Oliver needs Felicity's love to survive. It's like air to him. Even if they're not together, he knows her heart belongs to him. But he pushed too hard this time. He pushed too far.

It's enough to ignite something in him he hasn't felt since he returned from The Island.

He doesn't want to die. He wants to learn how to live his life. So he can go wherever she's going. There are some fates worse than death and Oliver just discovered his.

But what she's asking of him, what WE are asking of him, he's got no idea how to do it. It's going to be a long and painful process. It'll be one step forward, two step back. But he's going to try. He's going to find a way to live life, so he can come for her. He's more afraid of losing her love than he is of trying to live. He's more afraid of losing her love than of what his love could do to her.

So, no...I am not angry with Oliver Queen. I understand why it took him two years to hug Felicity.

Two years to realize he loved her.

Two years to kiss her.

Two years to remove her doubt.

And why it took him less than 24 hours to let her go.

He's broken. He's been broken in a way Barry Allen never was.

But just because he's broken, doesn't mean he won't be able to put the pieces back together again. At least he's going to try. He'll do more than dip his toe. He's going to give it everything he has, no matter how scared he is. He loves her that much.

Jen (one 'n' because it is a CHOICE, people) is a wife, mom, and lifelong television addict. She has a background in Marketing Education in Communications and English Literature. Jen is obsessed with Arrow and is an Olicity fan. She believes in selfless love and EPIC love stories. Oliver and Felicity are both. Be sure to check out Jen's analyses of Arrow at her Tumblr, linked up above!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Girl 4x10 "Girl Fight" (*passively-aggressively texts emojis*)

"Girl Fight"
Original Airdate: December 2, 2014

Girls are manipulative.

I can say this, of course, because I am a girl. I know how we work. And it baffled my mom when I told her in college that I connected more with women than I did with men. Don't misunderstand me: I had a lot of male friends throughout  high school and college, but I always felt (and do to this day) more comfortable around women. I have more female friends than I do male friends. I attribute this to the fact that I am extremely emotional. I cry. A lot. I like to shop. I wear pink and like make-up. I connect with women because we spend hours over coffee talking about our lives and our dreams and boys and our emotions. I get girls.

But I understand why my mom told me that when she was growing up, she had more male friends. "Girls are catty," she told me. "Men don't care. Men tell you how they're feeling and they don't talk about you behind your back." For the most part, she's exactly right. Men and women are wired, internally, completely differently. Women are thinking about everything and nothing all at the same time. We are emotionally complex individuals. I haven't found the same to hold true about most men. And since men and women are wired differently, emotionally, when men fight, they fight overtly. They drop bombs and throw punches and they don't hold anything back. They get angry. They get red in the face. And then, once they've exhausted their rage... they're done. They move on.

Women aren't like that. Women fight tactically. We smile and we nod and as soon as you're out of sight, we text our best friend about that thing that you just told us and it wasn't even WHAT you said but the way you said it. We fight with strategy and purpose, not aimlessly throwing punches like men. No, we play emotional Battleship with each other, building up our ammunition until we're certain that we can get enough hits in at one time to sink you. We remember things, like Jess says in this episode. We harbor feelings and bury them until the moment we self-implode. And then something as silly as a purse triggers twenty years' worth of anger.

That's what "Girl Fight" is about -- at its core, it is an episode about how people fight and avoid confrontation. It's an episode entirely devoted to exploring the differences between the sexes. That is what New Girl does best.