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.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Goodbye Christopher Robin is the Tear-Jerking Film You Expect it to Be [Contributor: Megan Mann]


Deep in the hundred acre wood, a boy and his bear would spend the day. They would search for honey, think in their thinking spot, and visit with all of their animal friends: a pig, a tiger, a donkey, an owl, a kangaroo and her joey. They would sing merry little songs, show each other love, and support and dole out wisdom that would last for decades to come.

Between the pages of A.A. Milne’s globally beloved storybook, Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh shared a friendship that was truly magical. After all, Pooh once said that “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” And he took up a major chunk of Christopher Robin’s heart for all of the world to enjoy.

But for the real Christopher Robin, the friendship that defined his life was one he wished he’d never had.

In Fox Searchlight’s new film Goodbye Christopher Robin, we learn of the Milne family and how the story of Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger too) came to be the most beloved story of all time the world over — including all of the complications that came with it.

A.A. Milne was a man who fought in World War I and struggled to put the front behind him upon returning to the bustling city of London. Now we know this affliction as PTSD, but at the time he believed he, his socialite wife, and their young son needed to leave the noise and find more peace and quiet in the countryside of Sussex. But the noise didn’t stop. He found himself unable to work, and when he did, it was on a book about peace around the world and avoiding war.

While he contemplated how best to write this, his wife could no longer take the countryside and resolved to return to London until he was fully back at work and has something to show for it. Coincidentally, it was at this time that their son (who is nicknamed Billy Moon)'s nanny had to tend to her ailing mother before she passed, thus leaving father and son alone in the house. It was during these precious few weeks that Billy shares about the lovable creatures of the hundred acre wood with his father. And their lives change forever.

I knew going in that Goodbye Christopher Robin was going to be an absolute tearjerker. And let me tell you, my fine movie-going pals — it was. The family drama tugs at your heartstrings, the story will move you and — at least for a person like me who has been a nanny for years and developed an extremely close relationship with the children — the story of Billy Moon and Nou, the two who inspired the first poem Vespers that lead to Winnie the Pooh, really got me going. I mean, this is coming from someone who also cried the moment they showed Winnie and Piglet, when he named them Tigger and Eeyore, and when his mother presented him with Kanga and Roo. So while the emotion in the film is absolutely there, what I am trying to say is that you may not cry as hard as this emotionally unstable human did.

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It was a deeply informative film. It took us to a time in British history coming off of one war, learning how to piece itself back together again, only to find themselves thrust into one far worse than before. Sure, it was about the Milne family and how we ventured into the wood in the first place, but it was also about how the stories of Winnie and his friends changed the way an entire country coped with that extremely tumultuous time in history. As someone who has been familiar with these characters all of my life, it was eye-opening to see it from a new perspective and observe just how intense the fervor was when Winnie-the-Pooh was first released and how it has sustained itself as the most beloved children’s story of all time.

The film was also just beautiful to look at. Shot in the English countryside, director Simon Curtis gives you such a stunning visual that draws you in and makes you believe this magical, fictional world of the hundred acre wood is real and accessible. He makes you realize how easy a place like that lends itself to the imagination. The story, beautifully written by Simon Vaughan and Frank Cottrell Boyce, would not have had such an immense impact had it not been for the cast. Domnhall Gleeson, a wildly underrated actor, brings the vulnerability of Milne’s suffering and his ability to maintain an imagination to life in a wildly nuanced performance. And his socialite, status-driven wife Daphne was fully realized by Margot Robbie.

But the performance that truly shined was done by Will Tilston, who played the young Christopher Robin — the boy who created the story he wished his father had written for him and no one else. He broke your heart and made you cry, but made you laugh too. He made you believe that he really was that attached to Nou, the nanny that raised Billy (played by Kelly Macdonald). Believe me when I say that this kid is bound for greatness in the acting realm.

Goodbye Christopher Robin packs a serious punch and isn’t a film you should go into if you’re looking to have a good laugh. It’s a heavy film, despite the inclusion of Winnie the Pooh, and deals with familial struggle, mental health, war, and how there’s hope even in times of war. It will remind you why these characters have stood the test of time and make you want to visit your old friends. This movie is truly special and I would be disappointed if it doesn’t make the rounds this upcoming award season.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 63

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DID YOU MISS US?!

I can't believe it's time for another round of fall television, but here we are. (Perhaps my doubts would be handled better if Florida wasn't currently still 90 degrees during the day. Is sweater weather too much to ask for, universe?) With the return of old favorites and debuts of new shows, it's more difficult than ever to keep up with all that there is to see. And that's precisely why we're here! If you're new to the series, welcome! Each week during peak television season, we celebrate outstanding performers — the MVPs of whatever shows they're in. And this week, the writers joining me to talk about their MVPs are:

Let's begin!

Scorpion 4x03 Review: "Grow a Deer, a Female Deer" (It's Time to Order Up a Little Womb Service) [Guest Contributor: Yasmine]


“Grow a Deer, a Female Deer”
Original Airdate: October 9, 2017

I hate to admit it, but I found this episode rather lackluster, especially compared to the intensity and tension of the last episode, and I think I was especially let down by how easy it was to bail Cabe out of prison. Granted, the episode did have great character moments, and — as the nerd that I am — I loved Toby’s puns that no one else on the team did.

This week’s episode started with the team learning about Cabe’s arrest and they quickly bailed him out. But to do that, the team had to put everything on the line, sell their most valuable possessions, and mortgage the business. When he learned about this, Cabe was angry instead of grateful. That storyline carried throughout the entire episode, with Ralph eventually added to it to be the voice of reason.

With Cabe sidelined — forced to remain in the garage — the team took a non-government job that saw them traveling to a fictional African country to help local activists locate where poachers have been illegally hunting endangered animals and selling them on the black market. Once there, in typical Scorpion fashion, things get more complicated when the team intercepts a poacher who had just shot a deer. Upon inspection, after the poacher escapes, they realize that it’s an endangered species and, to make things worse, she’s pregnant.

The team’s job got harder just then — saving the injured deer and the fetus, as well as stopping the poachers. One of my favorite things on this show is when Toby gets to show just how good of a medical doctor he is, and this was a great moment for him to shine. Not only did he manage to save the fetus by creating an external womb for it, but he did so while cracking one terrible joke after another. And he also did all this while managing to figure out what was happening with Walter, who had been acting strange all day long.

Walter was struggling with the guilt he was feeling with regard to Cabe’s arrest. According to Walter’s logic, he was responsible for Cabe letting Collins go and, consequently, getting arrested. Of course, Cabe vehemently disagrees with him, insisting he never does things because people want him to do it. He makes his own decisions. Both men are terribly stubborn and this carried with him through the episode. It caused Walter to make some not-too-genius decisions as he tried to be Cabe on the mission — from wearing Cabe’s sunglasses to trying to handle a weapon and also trying to knock out a poacher, failing in all these things.

With the team leader acting unlike himself, the position was open for someone to step up and run the show. And with a pregnant mother in jeopardy, Paige’s maternal instincts kicked in to the max and she was the real hero in saving the animal and her child — or at least to whip the team into shape to get them to do what is necessary. I must admit that watching Paige go above and beyond to save the deer was really great. The moment with her using her own body heat to keep the fetus alive was quite powerful.

And an unexpected added bonus was watching how all this affected Happy. Like everything else with the mechanic genius, those moments were quite subtle and perfectly portrayed by Jadyn Wong. Watching as Happy silently reflected some of Paige’s maternal instincts and drive to protect the mother and child was a very interesting thing, and moving forward that could mean a lot for the character and her husband.

And finally, another character who had a big moment this episode, albeit not as subtle as Happy’s, was Sylvester. I love Sylvester’s growth and how every week is a chance for him to overcome one of his fears and grow more and more. This week was a chance for him to overcome one his most deeply rooted fears, something stemming from his childhood. Sylvester went from not being able to come near the animal to in the end throwing himself over her to protect her from bullets that were flying in their direction and then again saving her life when her heart stopped.

Sylvester’s political career was also a topic of development in this week’s episode. He has not really been tested much as Alderman yet and even though he seems to be confident so far, this week brought him a reminder that he is a rookie at this and has no political experience. This week saw the return of the young reporter from the West Altedenia Shopper, who had endorsed Sylvester in the elections last season. As part of her school credit she is required to intern with the Alderman — much to her dismay. She might not be too excited about her new job but someone is.

Ralph. The young genius finally came back for a full episode, helping Cabe and the team from the garage, and proving once again he is as important a team member of Scorpion as anyone else. And now it seems like Ralph will be getting a new adventure to embark on. The young man was left totally smitten by Sly’s intern, something that has Paige absolutely terrified. Her young boy is growing up.

Finally, after the team had rescued the day — animals safe and poachers captured — they were back at the garage and Cabe, having heard a few reprimanding words from Ralph about his behavior, took the opportunity to apologize for it. He then left to apologize to Allie while the team gathered around to watch a live feed from the animal hospital of the deer — aptly named Jane Doe by Sylvester — and her child.

It may have not been the most exciting episode when it came to the case itself, but the character moments, and especially the closing moments with the team being a family, were important and I admit, rather precious.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Arrow 6x01 Review: “Fallout” (Moving Forward)


"Fallout"
Original Airdate: October 12, 2017

It’s been a few months, in-universe, since the events of Arrow’s fifth season finale in which seemingly everyone died in an explosion on Lian-Yu. Because of logistics like, you know, actor contracts and story, we knew that not all of the characters could be dead. But we certainly didn’t know the fate of some of them going into the season premiere (and we still don’t, to be honest — what happened to Nyssa? Or Talia?). Even though characters survived, however, it doesn’t mean they left Lian Yu unscathed. Quite a few people return with demons — including Oliver Queen.

Shockingly, I don’t have much in the way of snark for the Arrow premiere (as I look back on my other reviews though, at the beginning of the seasons, I usually am pretty positive), because it was such a jam-packed episode, mostly used to set up the plot of the season and wrap up loose ends from last year. Nevertheless, we got some glimpses into our characters and relationships that will be pivotal moving forward this season. So let’s break them down!

HAPPY “NOT-A-FATHER’S-DAY,” OLIVER QUEEN


Perhaps one of the saddest things about “Fallout” was the relationship between Oliver and William. The latter doesn’t refer to his father with any sort of endearing terms like “dad” or “papa.” Instead, he coolly calls him “Oliver,” when necessary. Raisa — REMEMBER HER?! — tells Oliver that William has nightmares, and when Oliver tries to pull his son back from the brink of one, William surprises and troubles Oliver by pointing to him and calling him the “bad man.” He blames Oliver for his mother’s death (which Oliver blames himself for, because #somethingsneverchange), and is traumatized from his experiences on the island.

Oliver as a father is definitely an angle that Arrow is gearing up to explore this season, and Slade’s pointed advice at the end of the episode proves that while we’re used to seeing Oliver handle identity crises, this one will be different because there’s another human life involved. Our Green Arrow is going to inevitably have to — or be forced to — choose whether or not his identity will be a father or a superhero. I have a feeling that this identity crisis will move similarly to Oliver’s other crises (he first is aware of the crisis, denies that he needs to choose between the two, becomes broody and/or emotionally distant to someone, does something stupid, and then apologizes by season’s end for his actions), but I’m cautiously optimistic that Oliver has learned from his past mistakes and is on a path toward healing and changing. Even though this episode focuses a lot on the trauma that other characters have faced in a more blatant sense, we can’t deny that Oliver is experiencing his own trauma too. He watched the mother of his child die (it’s not like he had a deep, emotional attachment to Samantha because none of us did, but she’s still the one who raised William), saw his sister lying on the ground, unresponsive (how many times does Oliver have to watch Thea die/be on death’s front door?), and — most significantly of all — was forced very quickly into the role of parent and provider for a child he doesn’t even know.

William and Oliver are still strangers. They’re not father and son in any sense yet, apart from biologically being linked. And parenthood is something that Oliver is not accustomed to. He didn’t have the greatest examples growing up, and no real “healthy” relationships to turn to as examples. Oliver is learning to parent as he goes, based partially on instinct, partially on what he’s seen other people do, and partially on guessing. Thankfully Oliver has Raisa to help him navigate this new role, but it’s something he’s going to have to really work hard at in order to be the kind of father William needs.

Which is why Slade’s remarks are extremely important. Unlike choosing between being Oliver Queen or Green Arrow, choosing between being Green Arrow or Dad? That’s a decision that directly impacts another human life — another innocent, human life. Oliver can’t just think of himself anymore, and though his heart is in the right place at the moment, he’s walking a thin tightrope and if he wants to truly be the kind of parent that raises a stable, mentally and emotionally healthy child, he’s going to have to be all in. That’s what Samantha meant by being a parent — not simply providing William with a house, but a true and stable HOME.

I’m interested to see how the writers take this storyline. They’re not always the most subtle (see: never, actually) so it’s already abundantly clear that Oliver will be having more heavy-handed parenting conversations in the future. Heck, we already had TWO and we’re only in the first episode of the season. Still, if tackling this difficult subject and role allows Oliver the chance for character growth and development, I’m all for it. Meanwhile, the tiniest bit of growth and development happened in this episode, and it’s related to everyone’s favorite ship: Olicity.

PLAYING HOUSE


I always thought that the role of Felicity as a mother was an interesting one to ponder. It’s not that she isn’t maternal — I think she would do a fantastic job raising a baby. But early on in our fourth season, we got the chance to see how nervous the idea of settling down made Felicity. And my argument then was in favor of this response. I still stand by that. It’s canon that there’s some sort of age gap between Felicity and Oliver, so it makes sense that Felicity got spooked at the idea of having babies. She was young and the thought of raising human life — even with someone she loved — gave her pause. Now, Felicity is a few years older and wiser, but the idea of taking the next step with Oliver still makes her a bit cautious. He’s ready for it, but she’s a bit more reserved. Why?

To understand that, we have to understand how Felicity processes information. She’s a planner and thinks through, logically, the outcomes of situations. She has to, because if she doesn’t, people die in the field. Yet she’s quick to think on her feet and able to come up with responses and solutions to problems when prompted. But when it comes to matters of the heart or emotional things, she’s a bit more reserved and cautious. It’s because of her background and experiences. Felicity, just like Oliver, has walls. She loves her mother (as do we, most likely), but while Donna did her best to raise Felicity, it was still a broken home. And Felicity still has emotional baggage because of the way she grew up. Baggage isn’t bad because all of us have it. But it does make us pause, sometimes, and take stock of our situations before proceeding.

It’s my own personal theory, so take it or leave it, but I think Felicity is worried she won’t know how to be the kind of parent that raises emotionally healthy kids in an emotionally healthy home. She and Oliver didn’t have those kind of homes growing up, and they both admire aspects of the way their respective families raised them, sure. But they both really want to make a life that is different for their future children. So when Felicity thinks of a family, she thinks of the brokenness that plagued her, growing up, but also dares to hope for the potential that someday — with Oliver — things could be different.

Blended families are beautiful. I love seeing friends and family members adopt children, raise their step-kids, and have good relationships with their ex-spouses. But I think Oliver is jumping the gun a bit on the whole Felicity-meeting-William thing. It’s only been a few months since William’s mother died, and he barely is warmed up to Oliver, much less ready to meet his future step-mother. Felicity is ready to take the next step with Oliver, but now it’s complex because it’s no longer about what THEY want or THEIR life together — it’s about William. Every decision they make from here on out factors in Oliver’s son, and I appreciate the maturity and restraint it took for Felicity to allow Oliver the space to bond with his child before she is reintroduced into the dynamic.

Just as I’m interested to see how this whole “Oliver is a dad!” story plays out, I’m interested to see the new layer of complexity and certain depth that will be added to the Olicity storyline this season.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH DIGGLE?


At first, I assumed Diggle was suffering from PTSD, which wouldn’t have been surprising. But it seems that in addition to the mental scars everyone on the team bears, Diggle has some physical scars that are preventing him from doing his job on Team Arrow. Dinah notices, of course, and is concerned. I’m curious to know how this will impact the team as they move forward. I’d hate for Diggle to be sidelined, but perhaps we will see more of him wrestling with physical and emotional demons.

And speaking of...


BLACK SIREN IS BACK


I hate to break it to Team Arrow, but Laurel Lance is dead. Yes, there is a version of Laurel running amok in Star(ling) City, but that’s not the Laurel that our heroes knew. It’s not THEIR friend — it’s just a woman who wears her face. Still, Quentin doesn’t seem to quite understand that Black Siren isn’t the daughter he raised (even though he makes some claim that it feels like his baby girl), so he fails to kill her in the episode when he has the perfect opportunity to do so. As it turns out, Dinah and Quentin kept a secret from the team: Quentin thought he killed Black Siren on Lian Yu when the villainess attacked Dinah. Whoops, guys. Turns out, she wasn’t quite as dead as you assumed she was!

There’s some convoluted plot in “Fallout” about weapons and Black Siren does a lot of stalking around rooms, smirking evilly, and pushing buttons to blow stuff up. I really don’t know what her role in this season will be, since I feel like we’ve tried the whole “Laurel is back” story about a dozen times. I guess we’ll see.

Quentin, meanwhile, is falling off the wagon and Dinah is there to scoop him up. It’s understandable that he has successes and then backslides, so I’m glad they’re committing to Quentin’s issues rather than sweeping them under the rug. What I’m hopeful for this year, really, is more scenes between Quentin and Oliver. Out of all of the people in Oliver’s life, he knows a few fathers and my dream would be that we’d get the chance to see Diggle, Rene, Quentin, and Oliver really discuss what it means to be a dad and raise a child. Wouldn’t that be a nice bottle episode, you guys?

Overall, my level of snark toward “Fallout” is pretty low, which means this season is starting off on solid ground. Don’t disappoint me, show. I beg of you. My wine budget begs of you. Let’s make this the year where my reviews are snark-lite.

Please and thank you.

And now, more stuff:
  • I’m only okay with flashbacks for this episode since they obviously helped fill in the gaps without extraneous exposition. But no more, please.
  • I’m really kind of mad that Thea is in a coma, because HOW MUCH MUST THIS ONE WOMAN GO THROUGH? Still, thank goodness she’s alive (for now).
  • “You can write?” “You can read?”
  • The stuntwork in this episode was aces! My only complaint is that the slo-mo action shots were overused last year and I’d like to not have to see so many of them again this season.
  • The Canary Cry is a one-trick pony for me, and it’s overstayed its welcome.
  • “Takes one to know one, sweetheart.”
  • I already miss Slade.
  • “Be patient but be prepared.” “For what?” “Choosing between the man people need you to be or the father your son needs you to be.”
  • THEY FIGURED OUT THAT OLIVER WAS THE GREEN ARROW! WITH A VERY CLEAR PHOTO. Let’s see how he lies his way out of this one.
What did you all think of “Fallout”? Are you excited for this season? Sound off in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Flash 4x01 Review: "The Flash Reborn" (Iris Learns to Believe) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]



 "The Flash Reborn”
Original Airdate: October 10, 2017 

Welcome back, The Flash fans! It’s been a while since the end of this show’s lackluster third season, right? Just in case there are any gaps in the old memory, here’s a brief recap: Iris was gonna die (boo!) but then she didn’t (yay!) but the alternate-Earth Harrison Wells did (oh) and Barry walked into the Speed Force to save the world (huh?) while Caitlin Snow walked off to reason her Caitlin identity with her Killer Frost identity (okay) and everyone else was also there. That’s it! Give or take a few details. So where are we in the season four premiere?

A NOT-SO-TRIUMPHANT RETURN


Six months have passed since Barry stepped into the Speed Force in order to fulfill its pointless requirement of having a speedster hanging out in there until the end of time. Team Flash is now either Team Kid Flash or Team Vibe, depending on who you ask. But no matter what the team name is, the leader is Iris. She takes control of HQ, tracking foes and telling everyone what to do and when while Cisco, Wally, and Joe are in the field following through on her orders. She’s very good at leading, and it seems like even though the team is down a few members (Barry, of course, but also Caitlin, and honorary team member Julian has gone to London) Iris is keeping everything together — still, Iris thinks their catch rate could use some improvement.

I guess lady heroes missing their significant others and coping via no-nonsense dedication to heroing is a running theme this week as, like Kara on Supergirl, Iris is committed to moving on from Barry’s absence and is using lots of crime fighting to do it. When the villain of the week — a Samurai-looking dude with a sword apparently capable of leveling the whole city — shows up to challenge the Flash, Iris is dead set against Cisco’s untested plan to pull Barry from the Speed Force so that he can challenge their Samurai friend. Why, exactly? Well, Iris is terrified of the hope that Cisco’s plan might inspire in her, and the pain she would feel if it didn’t work and Barry was truly lost forever.

I’m not sure if the writers learned from the mistakes of last season, or if they just saw an opportunity to frame this particular story in a different way than they usually would, but “The Flash Reborn” is Iris’s episode. When she was under the threat of death in season three, my main complaint was that we rarely got to see her perspective on the potential loss of her own life. Emotional threads always stemmed from Barry: How does Barry feel about Iris dying? How will Barry save Iris? What role does Barry have in Iris’s death? We had only a handful of moments throughout the arc which were specifically spotlighting Iris’s feelings rather than Barry’s. In this premiere, it’s the opposite. Iris is the emotional linchpin — she even gets the opening narration! — and Barry’s absence and re-emergence from the Speed Force is just a catalyst for her growing as a character.

We learn more about Iris and what makes her tick in this episode. It’s clear that Iris is forcing herself through her grief because Barry requested that she “run” and Iris took that to mean “run away from her feelings so she can stay strong and keep Team Flash together.” Not exactly a healthy way of dealing with this situation, but it’s a little more evidence that Iris doesn’t actually deal with feelings in a “healthy” way. Remember when she found out she was dying and then put herself in danger for a whole episode? This is a bit more of that, though less self-jeopardizing. Considering that the show so frequently sidelines Iris, I’m genuinely happy to see a facet of her personality reinforced, even if rejecting Cisco’s plan to save Barry initially seems cold for a grieving fiancĂ©e.

Cisco ends up going behind Iris’s back to find Caitlin (working in a dive bar, seemingly without Killer Frost powers) and recruit her on the mission to get Barry out of the Speed Force. The team sets up a decoy with Barry’s DNA signature to trick the Speed Force into thinking he’s still in there, then use a modified Speed Force Bazooka to blast their way to... a system failure. Ruh-roh! Iris shows up to the scene just in time to see her worst fear confirmed: Cisco’s plan failed, any glimmer of hope she had is squarely crushed, and now she’s extra devastated.

But wait! Somewhere in the city gravity goes wonky, sending a lady’s coffee flying upwards. An electricity-spouting portal opens in the middle of the street. A zippy streak appears, zippily — and coalesces into an altogether different kind of “streak,” if you know what I’m saying. (I’m saying that it’s Barry and Barry is naked.) After thoroughly destroying a poor apple farmer’s crop of fruit by nearly crashing into their delivery truck, a newly-bearded and quite naked Barry Allen faints dead away, freed from the Speed Force. But at what cost?

His sanity, apparently! When Cecile calls Joe to tell him and the team that Barry’s naked bod was found 300 miles away and hauled back into Central City, they find him jabbering nonsense and obsessively drawing incomprehensible symbols. Grant Gustin’s crazy-acting is quite good, by the way. I’m always happy when he gets to do stuff other than the usual Barry Allen personality (especially when the “usual” Barry is like last season’s Gloomy Barry). But again, it’s Iris who we’re focusing on this episode, and it’s Candice Patton who pulls on the heartstrings with her acting chops as Iris contemplates the possibility that rambling Barry with Speed Force Dementia might be the only Barry she’ll ever get back.

In the meantime, the Samurai is still threatening the city and they have no Flash to face him, so Wally tries tricking him by dressing in Barry’s suit. It doesn’t work. And also he gets stabbed in the fibula with a samurai sword. Ow.

Just when things are looking truly hopeless, Joe comes in with some words of wisdom for his daughter. “Strength means nothing without faith,” he says, reciting a message delivered during a visit to Cecile’s church. Iris has been all strength since Barry’s departure, but she’s lacked faith — faith in his eventual return, faith in Cisco’s ability to get him home, and faith, now, in his restoration to the Barry she loves. Joe tells her to have some faith, to believe that things will be okay, because faith and strength are not mutually exclusive.

Of course, Iris over-corrects her lack of faith by walking right up to the Samurai once his 24-hour ultimatum window is up and offering herself as a hostage. She believes that Barry will save her. Iris, I did say you were being less self-jeopardizing earlier in this review, and now you’ve gone and made me a liar. Still, I suppose it’s fine — she is, of course, correct, and Joe’s impassioned plea to Barry to go save Iris snaps him into action (and knocks poor Joe onto shards of broken glass for the second time in one episode — jeez, Barry!)

Barry immediately zips to the Samurai’s location at a wind farm, rescues Iris, downs a number of turbines, and reveals the Samurai to be a robot. Barry and Iris officially reunite, kissing in a field that reminds me a lot of that Tide commercial Supergirl used as its season opener. It’s a lovely ending! The foe is destroyed, the couple is together again, the city is safe, and it looks like Barry is perfect now. Like, “feeling reborn” kind of perfect, as if the Speed Force — which he doesn’t even remember living in for six timeless months — washed away all the negativity weighing him down.

Yeah, sure, that’s not suspicious at all.

Other Things:
  • Some of Barry’s rambling is definitely foreshadowing. It’ll be fun to pick out what shows up again later on.
  • I can’t believe that the words “This house is bitchin’” are probably going to be arc words for this season. Bless you, show.
  • What was up with Cisco’s look of horror when he realized they were going to that wind farm?
  • I find it very hard to believe that Caitlin never encountered a bar patron rude enough to throw her into Killer Frost mode.
  • Our villain of the season is The Thinker! I... have very little knowledge of The Thinker. So.

Legends of Tomorrow 3x01 Recap: "Aruba-Con" (Wrinkles in Time) [Contributor: Marilyn]


“Aruba-Con” 
Original Airdate: October 10, 2017

When last we left our intrepid Legends, they were trying to head to Aruba to celebrate saving the world at the end of season two. Instead, they ended up in a version of Los Angeles that included Big Ben and... dinosaurs. Clearly, the great lengths they went to to save the day caused a few wrinkles in time, but they’re more than willing to fix their mistakes. However before they get a chance to do that, a portal opens up and Rip Hunter steps out.

He reveals that while it’s been only minutes since they last saw him, for him, it’s been years. He has created an agency called the Time Bureau and their job is to fix all the anachronisms that the Legends have left behind as a result of their heroics. In fact, Agents are already working hard, putting dinosaurs back where they belong and making everything normal again. He tells them that the Legends aren’t needed anymore and disbands them, taking the Waverider and sending them back to their lives.

Their lives pretty much suck. Amaya has broken up with Nate and returned to 1942 and her village in Zambezi. Sara is working at a big box store and has a douchebag for a boss. Ray has to suck up to an entitled Silicon Valley billionaire who thinks his dating app is revolutionizing technology. Nate is trying to fight crime in Central City but keeps getting shown up by Wally West. Jax is trying to study engineering in school but is finding that he likes to practice it on board the Waverider, not study it in a classroom. Martin is at home, enjoying his family and looking forward to being a grandfather. Mick, meanwhile, is in Aruba.

He’s relaxing on the beach when who should show up, blocking his sun, but Julius Caesar himself. He’s there to conquer the world — of course — and Mick rightfully sees that as a red flag. So he calls up Sara who agrees that it’s not a great sign. Mick ties up Caesar and waits for the team while Sara gathers everyone. She tells them that this is their chance to get the Waverider back and recapture the meaning in their lives that they lost when Rip disbanded their team. Nate, Sara, and Ray all go to the Time Bureau to appeal to Rip to let them have the Waverider back. But it’s not going to be that easy. He’s proud of the Bureau and the precision with which they deal with anomalies in time. They don’t need the Legends clomping around and mucking things up. Sara says they can’t be doing that great of a job if they missed Julius Caesar romping around Aruba. She offers to go get the wayward historical figure and bring him back for the Bureau.

That’s when they learn the Bureau is using the Waverider as a training simulator for new Agents. That could be a wrinkle. Meanwhile, in Aruba, Caesar breaks Mick’s nose and escapes to the beach. He encounters a crowd of partying college kids and recruits them into his new army. Mick tries to chase after him but gets the real Caesar confused with a kid who is dressed up like him. When Rip opens a portal from the Bureau to bring in Mick and Caesar, that is who is taken into custody. The Legends realize they need to take the Waverider and go get the real Caesar. This might help reinstate their status with Rip and the Bureau. So they pick up Jax and Stein and head to Aruba.

Once there, the team realizes they need a plan to get Caesar away from the mob of drunken frat boys. Ray uses the dating app to distract the kids while Sara fights Caesar, delivering a quick and brutal beatdown right there in the sand. They take him on board the Waverider and discuss what to do next. Some of the team wants to take him back to Ancient Rome, fixing their problem themselves and showing Rip they can do it. Sara thinks it might be better to just take him back to the Bureau and let the professionals handle it. Rip shows up via a hologram, warning them to turn over the Waverider and Caesar. That, of course, leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. Meanwhile, Jax tries to appeal to Stein about staying on board the Waverider. This is what he wants to do with his life, but he can’t do it without his partner.

Sara talks to Caesar while he’s in lock-up. He tries to tempt her to join him in conquering Rome but what he does is convince her that she needs to be bolder and take risks for her team. She decides to go with what everyone else wants and they take Caesar back to Ancient Rome. Sara uses a stolen gadget from the Bureau to wipe Caesar’s memory and they leave him there, satisfied that the job is done.

However, back on board the Waverider, the team discovers that not everything is great. Caesar stole one of Nate’s history books about the Roman Empire. Caesar used that knowledge to change the whole world, including the United States (which is no longer called the United States). The team now needs to fix this latest glitch. But before they can, Rip and his fellow Agents show up via a portal and take over. Three Agents go into Caesar’s mysteriously-deserted camp and into his tent to steal the book back. It’s a trap, of course, and the army is waiting outside to apprehend them. Two of the Agents get away through portals to the ship but one is left behind when her portal device is taken by Caesar.

It’s time for the Legends to save the day! Sara convinces Rip to let them help, and he relents. This is where superheroics make a difference. The battle ensues and the Agent is freed (though she’s rather ungrateful about her rescue, I felt). Everything is restored, the Romans minds are wiped and all is well. The team insist that they intend to keep “swashbuckling through history.” Rip will allow it... at least for now, because he can recognize their worth. The Agent whom the Legends saved tries to warn Rip about trusting the Legends, but he assures her that they might need their help to fight a threat he calls “Mollus” one of these days.

Stein lets Jax know that he plans to stay on board the Waverider. He wants to see his grandchild be born but he also has family on board that ship and this is where he wants to be. Meanwhile, Nate moons over Amaya’s files and consoles himself with the belief that she’s happy where she belongs. But we flash to Zambezi in 1942 and see that maybe that’s not the case. Amaya seems to have gone a little dark, as she ruthlessly confronts a group of poachers, relishing in their slaughter. Uhh, that can’t be a great thing, can it? On the other hand, you go, Amaya! It’s nice to see her kicking some butt.

Legends of Tomorrow is a great show if you don’t try to take it too seriously. And you shouldn’t. It doesn’t even take itself all that seriously. There’s some fun chemistry between the characters and with that, coupled with entertaining situations and great battle sequences, there’s plenty to enjoy here if you’re looking for some lighthearted entertainment. “Aruba-Con” both reminded me what I love about this show the most and got me excited about what’s to come in season three. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

The Last Jedi: A Hero's Journey With a Dark Core [Contributor: Melanie]


“This isn’t going to go the way you think.”

That might as well been directed right at the Internet, who has spent the past two years coming up with theories and speculations and 12-minute long YouTube videos where they claimed to have the definitive answer to all the questions posed at the end of The Force Awakens. The final trailer for The Last Jedi dropped this week (while we were all forced to watch the most boring football game in history), and it appears we’re leaving a good deal of the camp and fun behind in this installment in favor of a sinister look at the dark side of the Hero’s Journey.

Star Wars has always prided itself on roots in mythos. Whether we’re equating the Skywalker lightsaber’s call to Rey with the Sword in the Stone and a young King Arthur, or Darth Vader with Paradise Lost’s rendition of a fallen Lucifer, this series has always been one about the epicness of storytelling. And now, it seems we’re getting a darker look at what there is to face in the journey of a warrior hero.

But, let’s break the trailer down in bits shall we? There are some questions left to be answered and some opened up by the two and a half minutes of of scream-worthy shots in the trailer.

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What is Rey?


“I need someone to show me my place in all this.”

And you thought asking yourself if she was a Skywalker was complicated enough. It looks like might be in for a bigger question than we realized. After all, director Rian Johnson spoke positively of the story behind Rey’s parents and the subsequent importance she has in the galaxy as a whole, saying “she deserves it.” Luke, it seems, wants little to do with her but Snoke seems to be very interested in what she has to offer — if the blip of what appears to be a torture scene at the end of the trailer is any indication.

I stand by my belief that Rey is a relative of the Skywalker family, though this trailer might have pushed me back in the direction of camp Solo. Ren and Rey are compared a few times in this trailer, — most notably for their equal “raw strength” that even Luke notes is rare among Jedi. Sharing the same Force-sensitive mother might be one answer to this riddle. Leia has always been stronger with the mystical elements of the Force than her brother, who was all for saber arts.

It is still highly likely that Luke is her father (the battle between the son of the daughter and the daughter of the son would make for an epic cousin showdown), in which case he will be up at that podium with his own father to accept the award for Worst Parent Ever. Did he purposely abandon Rey because of her power? Did he hope it would go unknown the rest of her life?

A neat little tidbit to add to this is the consequences of the planet of Jakku in her life and the very likely possibility that whoever left her there chose that planet with a purpose in mind. Jakku, according to the Aftermath novels I’ll reference again below, is a very precarious place. It had an ancient history as a lush place that somehow went sour, a Sith presence on the planet, and a Force that seemed to radiate Light side energy from something Palpatine referred to as a “spark of life.” Rey may have soaked up all those good vibes (literally) during her coming-of-age on the planet not unlike young Kal-El soaking up the Sun’s radiation in his formative years and becoming Superman as an adult.

We can also see in the trailer, as part of her journey, she’ll be studying the fabled Journal of the Whills — a document that, in behind-the-scenes land, goes back to the very first drafts of A New Hope. In universe, it deals with the nature of the Force. Most notably, it contains this poem:

First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight.

No matter what, the trailer has underpinned this much: where she comes from — whether it’s Skywalkers, no-name parents, or the Force itself (ha, revenge of the midichlorian plotline) — matters.

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Becoming Kylo Ren


“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”

Just when you thought patricide was enough for Ben Solo, this piece of trash continues to amaze. In his journey to the Dark side, he now has his sights set on his own mother — with what looks like a lot more conflict and hesitation on his part. The tie-in novel Bloodline hints that Luke and Leia being outed as Vader’s children was, in some way, directly connected to Ben betraying his uncle and turning to Snoke. While we never get to see his reaction (for obvious reasons), Leia is consistently concerned throughout the back half of the novel over what he’s going to think or do with the information.

Turns out, not anything good. As Kylo was forced to sever ties with his own father, he’s now left with his mother, who is standing on the opposite side of a literal and political battlefield to him. There were rumors a while back that the film would feature an assassination attempt on Leia, which still might be possible, but it looks like Kylo is taking a direct root in targeting his last true connection to the Skywalker past. But being the mama’s boy he probably is, it’s not so easy. On top of that, she is the reason he’s connected to Vader in the first place, so even in the context of his twisted logic, her murder is a tough sell. Some dialogue from Kylo in Battlefront II hinted that things would go this way (“I’ll handle the princess”). But it’s clear this won’t be as easy as offing the father he never felt a connection to in the first place.

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Black and White


“When I find you, I saw raw, untamed power. And beyond that... something truly special.”

I’m going to start this one out with calling MAJOR B.S. I see you, editors, and your ability to mismatch two scenes that have similar enough lighting to trick me. I’m 99% sure Rey’s voiceover is an extension of her speech to Luke, earlier in the trailer, asking for help. While the immediate shot of Ren holding his hand out to her looks close enough, I also know there is no version of any event in the history or past that would make Rey say: “Gee, I wonder if I should ask Kylo’s opinion on all this?”

But don’t worry: the Reylo fans won’t be shutting up any time soon, thanks to this clever bit of editing. Even though non-consensual invasion of the mind and mansplaining should be enough to say no thank you to shipping those two — on top of their likely blood relation — I really don’t think that’s what the trailer was aiming for. But we live in a world where Tumblr treats ships like religious ideology, so prepare for a war over there.

But in the context of what could be meant with all the comparisons of Ren and Rey? About a week or so ago, Rian Johnson was quoted in an interview with the New York Times saying: “Rey and Kylo are almost two halves of our protagonist.” Leia says there’s light hiding somewhere in Kylo, and it seems like we’ll find Rey has a hidden darkness. But I don’t think that means we’re in for some sort of villain-hero role reversal. Rey’s been tempted by the Dark side once and come through on her own, while Kylo has had several chances to turn back and hasn’t. However, the Jedi and Sith operating as the only two options for a millenia didn’t work out so great for anyone in the end, so we probably won’t get clear-cut moral lines this time around.

Yes, we know somewhere — under all of that — Kylo is a tortured, MCR-blasting Ben Solo wanting to return home. Not nearly as deep or invisible in Rey is a small psychopath ready to not hold back. The Jedi principles were meant to protect people around them from the possibility of someone abusing their power. The Sith principles focused entirely on personal gain by using the Force. Somewhere in the middle, is Rey and Ren. The Jedi, for all that they were, were an institution, and turning a spirituality and ideal into a strict set of dogma never goes well. So when the Sith offered the young, chaffing Anakin Skywalker freedom to pursue his own happiness with his wife, of course he took it. And when Snoke came to Ben, who was likely having an identity crisis between his poor relationship with his barely-there father and the knowledge that his grandfather was once the most feared person in the galaxy (and possibly a bit of jealousy over a budding younger sister or cousin?), of course he jumped on an offer to find himself.

Snoke is, of course, using Kylo and he is — of course — too dumb to understand that. But Snoke seems to also want to use Rey too. In a perfect world, Rey will beat some sense into her cousin/brother/unrelated associate, drag him back to apologize to his mother, and then maybe together they can take on Snoke and his plans.

Or maybe she’ll punch him in the face and walk away into the sunset. I’m fine with either.

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What Does Snoke Want?


“Fulfill your destiny.”

Where have I heard that one before? Canonical tie-in information points to Snoke being a lot older than we think. In fact, he might be Star Wars’ own version of the First Evil in Buffy. He’s confirmed to not be a Sith, but indeed a powerful Dark side user. It’s possible he was among the first Dark side users. In Chuck Wendig’s final novel in the Aftermath series, Palpatine turns his eyes to Jakku after hearing a voice call out to him and believes the planet, which had once been the site of an event of great importance centuries ago, would become important again in the future. He sets up an Imperial base there tasked with discovering the secrets of this voice and the Dark side temple once located on the planet. Possibly Snoke was slumbering there, Cthulhu style? As it turns out, Jakku’s core also boasts that “spark of life” we talked about that “disgusted” Palpatine. The planet may be both the source of Snoke’s return and Rey’s adept use of the Force, which ties those two together as well.

The Skywalkers are a unique bunch. Like or hate it, the prequels tell us Anakin was burgeoned by the will of the Force itself, having no father. This makes his descendents equally as tied to the will of the Force. Snoke may be very interested in utilizing that close connection to the Force and the power within. Some of Leia’s bits in tie-in material suggest that Snoke was after Kylo Ren’s mixture of Dark and Light and that he was seeking the right balance (he had apprentices in the past). If Ren and Rey are meant to be two halves of something, as Johnson says, Snoke might be after using them both.

All in all, it’s most likely that Rey and Ren are being used for something we don’t have enough information to fully speculate on yet. All we know is that he’s old, he apparently used to be a looker before the Dark side screwed him up big time, and that we’ll get to see him in the flesh (and really doing a number on Rey).

And finally...

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PORGS!


What a freaking gift.

Prognosis


Well apart from the fact that this is going to be a LONG two months, there are some interesting points in the works. Luke turning his back on Rey out of fear of her potential can — obviously — only end well for a girl with major abandonment issues. There’s some plot rumors that Leia’s connection to Vader (and to Kylo Ren) might be called up as a way to discredit her as a leader by rivals in her own camp (rivals like Amilyn Haldo, played by Laura Dern, who is basically the Luna Lovegood of space and a fellow teen senator from Leia’s childhood). We didn’t get much Finn but we do know he’s still on the run away-with-Rey train of thought (though it appears he might be going undercover in the First Order). More plot rumors suggest there may be a First Order bounty on his head.

December 15th (technically 7 P.M. on December 14th for me) is a little over 60 days away. We’re in the final countdown kids! May the Force be with you.