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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ask An Author: Night Music's Jenn Marie Thorne [Contributor: Megan Mann]


New York is a magical place. It's considered one of the most important food cities in America, it's home to Broadway, an inordinate amount of books, movies, and television series have been set there, it's a worldwide fashion capital and girls from around the world vie for a chance to be part of the city's illustrious ballet companies. It's also known as a city that embraces dreams and offers up a world of possibilities both large and small. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

However, Cartier and caviar aren't the only things that New York is known for. As a mecca of American and global culture, New York is home to one of the most famous halls of classical music: Lincoln Center. Famed musicians and singers from around the world have graced its stage and wowed audiences for decades. But I bet you wouldn't expect that to be the subject of a YA novel, right?

The worlds of New York and classical music is, in fact, at the epicenter of Jenn Marie Thorne's newest release Night Music. Ruby Chertok is classical music royalty. Or at least her family is. Her mother is a world-renowned pianist, her dad is one of the most notable composers and conductors in modern classical music, her sister is a first chair violinist, her brother is a conductor and composer, and her oldest brother has always been incredibly gifted in terms of music. No matter how hard she tries, Ruby just doesn't feel like she belongs. She can play piano, but not as well as the rest of her family and she can't really compose. So where does this leave her?

In the summer of her contemplation — and eventual liberation from bottom of the totem pole to forging her own path — Ruby meets Oscar. He's an internet phenomenon that her father has personally brought to the Amberley School of Music to make his mentee. He sees potential for Oscar, but he also sees dollar signs and donations. Of course, Oscar doesn't know that he's being used as a pawn as he creates his first symphony because he's under so much pressure to succeed.

The pressure to find yourself not only in the classical music world, but in the world itself is at the heart of Night Music. Ruby is desperate to find her purpose while Oscar just wants to find his place in a world that doesn't accept who he is or who he loves. It's a dual coming-of-age story that explores the steps we need to take to figure out who we are and what we want out of life.

Luckily, I was able to talk to Jenn Marie Thorne about her lovely new novel.

Congratulations! Night Music is finally out there! How does it feel?


Jenn: It’s a little surreal! Night Music has had a long journey from initial idea to publication. My totally unscientific theory is that the longer you’ve worked on a book, the harder it is to let it go and hand it over to readers. But at the same time, the response has been really positive so far, and of course I’m proud to have it out there.

Classical music, whether it be through composing or performance, is an interesting choice for a YA story. What inspired that?


The first spark of the idea was actually for a fantasy novel, if you can believe it. I was interested in the idea of a non-magical person in a magical world with a sort of failed birthright falling for a very powerful magician. The idea kind of got stuck there until I realized why I’d come up with it in the first place, as a way of processing my own disappointment over not pursuing a career in music.

I’ve always loved classical music and studied classical voice for many years; but deep down, I always knew I didn’t have the natural ability that would enable me to really make a go of it. It’s hard to accept that the thing you love doesn’t fully love you back — but it does help to write a whole book about it!

What was the research like for this project? Did you go and experience the magic firsthand?


When I lived in New York, I spent a lot of time at Lincoln Center. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my friends and I used to buy really cheap seats for the Metropolitan Opera, then sneak into empty seats in the front row during the first intermission. I did, of course, research the music world in more detail with the help of a few friends who are professional musicians. I must say, I’m desperate to get back to New York after spending so much time there in my imagination over the course of writing the book.

(Megan's note: I, too, have bought cheap seats and moved down during multiple Broadway shows. Broke, but cultured, you know?)

Music is also a huge part of NYC culture, especially the Met Opera and Lincoln Center, but are very rarely the center of the NYC story. Why do you feel that is?


Well, there’s a lot going on in New York, right? And much of it is probably more accessible than the classical music world. I think to people who aren’t avid fans, Lincoln Center can feel a little insular and off-putting. Another reason I think you don’t see music as a central theme as much as, say, ballet is that it’s really hard to write! There’s that old expression, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” and I do think it presents a daunting challenge.

Something that's clear throughout the story is the difference between Ruby, Oscar, and Jules. Ruby has it all while Jules is struggling, but Jules is much more confident than Ruby. Oscar has all of the talent and charisma, while Ruby's family is a classical music legacy and she's extremely shy. Did you want to create those differences between the characters or was it organic?


I would love to say that I carefully planned and outlined each character to serve as a useful counterpoint to each other, but it was a happy accident in this case.

Funnily enough, Jules was the first fully-formed character that I got my head around, then the adult characters, then Oscar, and Ruby arrived last — probably because she’s the character who’s closest to myself and I’ve always found it excruciating to write about myself.

What wound up informing the confidence levels of each of the characters was their histories. Jules is essentially a foundling with a fantastic guardian, and as a result, she’s been able to bolster her confidence in a way that’s often a bit defensive. Oscar comes from a loving and supportive home, whereas Ruby’s upbringing has been extremely haphazard and left her feeling like an add-on who should just be grateful to be along for the ride.

Another thing I found interesting was Oscar pointing out that his talent, his love of classical music, and desire to be a composer made him the odd one out even more than his ethnicity did. Why do you think that is? Do you think there's a sort of racial bias in terms of classical music?


There’s an absolute racial bias in the classical music world, despite the prevalence of blind auditions today, and the problem starts early. Nonprofits like the Sphinx Organization and Castle of our Skins provide music education for Black and Latinx children and promote the work of Black musicians and composers, respectively. There’s a lot left to be done on a systemic level to acknowledge and address the diversity issue within classical music. That being said, I think anyone being raised outside of the classical music bubble with Oscar’s level of genius would feel like the odd man out.

There's a lot of mental struggle throughout the book. Ruby is constantly wondering what she can do to have an impact as she navigates moving out of her family's spotlight, while Oscar starts having dark days filled with panic attacks. I would say that most people in the arts are often riddled with anxiety. Did you want to highlight that for any particular reason?


Maybe this is my own personal lens, but it seems to me that anxiety is a huge issue for a lot of teens and adults that often isn’t explicitly portrayed in fiction, so in Night Music, I wanted Oscar and Ruby to deal with the pressures that have been placed on them in a way that to me felt authentic.

Okay! Now to the fun questions! If this were to become a movie, who would be in your dream cast?


I’m so bad at casting my main characters, because they are so particularly themselves in my brain that I have a hard time picturing someone new in the role. I’ve got some adults, though, for the supporting cast: Bryce Dallas Howard for Nora and Mandy Patinkin is Marty Chertok. This doesn’t often happen, but he was head-canon as Marty before I even started writing the book!

(Megan's note: Oh my GOD. I cannot unseen Mandy Patinkin as Marty. It's the most flawless casting.)

What was the writing process like?


Epic. I wrote a very quick rough draft before I moved to England, then almost completely rewrote it after moving to England. There was a lot of back and forth and incredible beta reader input and then one day, magically, it was in ARCs!

What did you listen to when you were writing this? (I think it would be hilarious if you had to write a novel entirely about music in complete silence!)


You’re not far off! I listened to classical music constantly while I wasn’t writing, especially the pieces featured in the story, but I am an extremely distractible person, so while I was doing the actual work, I needed silence or I would just, like, start singing opera and two hours would have passed with zero words written.

What would you like readers to take away from Night Music?


Your life is your own and it’s your one true art. Your worth is inherent, whether you’re gifted or not. Be kind, be brave, love wildly, and enjoy yourself.

And finally, what are you reading right now?


I’m finally reading Circe by Madeline Miller (who I went to high school with!) and it’s as incredible an achievement as everybody said.

Night Music (from Penguin Teen) hit shelves today! Make sure to pick up a copy for your spring break reading or for a lovely love story to devour in a weekend!  
Happy reading, friends!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Flash 5x16 Review: "Failure is an Orphan" (Things Happen!) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


 "Failure is an Orphan"
Original Airdate: March 12, 2019

The main plot is back on The Flash, which means no more silly episodes about disappointing shark/gorilla battles that barely happen. Instead: Cicada! Dr. Ambres! Barry making questionable, but kind of nice, decisions! West-Allen Family Stuff!

Let’s go.

PERPETUAL CICADA


The episode begins with Nora in the future, where the still-caged Eobard Thawne is freaking out about timeline changes related to Cicada. Thawne pulls up a newspaper article on a confrontation between Cicada and Barry, assumed to be the last chance for Barry to use the cure on his foe. Nora claims she’s been trying to “engineer” such a moment the whole time she’s been in her past, which makes no sense since the cure’s only just been formulated. What would have been the point in getting Barry and Cicada to meet up without the cure? But whatever — turns out, a new timeline is trying to manifest, and the unpredictability of said timeline could ruin Thawne and Nora’s plans. Nora must ensure that Cicada is found before this new timeline comes along, and we have ourselves a ticking clock for the episode.

Nora is all-engines-go on the Cicada front, much to the annoyance of the rest of Team Flash — and the pride of Barry (which is adorable), until she turns on him and asks if he has his “convince Cicada to take the Metahuman Cure” speech down. Hey, Barry’s been ad-libbing inspiring speeches for five seasons now, I think he’s good. With the fun of watching his daughter organize the rest of the team thoroughly run out, Iris distracts Nora with a fake emergency at Jitters. Instead of a metahuman attack, it’s the reveal of an XS-themed coffee drink.

I’m actually really charmed by this little moment. It’s just a super cute West-Allen family moment without any drama or angst or secrets. Barry and Iris are just happy, proud parents who are thrilled to see their kid excited about something. The proud parents have also apparently been keeping a list of things they want to do as a family with Nora, including road trips, karaoke, teaching Nora to drive, and a Star Wars movie marathon. Adorable!

The adorable-ness is interrupted by an actual, not-a-distraction metahuman emergency, however. An acid-based meta is drinking chemicals in a college classroom. Weird, but we all have our quirks. After Barry uses his science knowledge to briefly neutralize the acid man, Nora notices the acid burn patterns and recognizes them as the same ones in the future picture of Barry battling Cicada. Surprisingly, Nora doesn’t withhold this information and just straight-up tells Barry that he’s going to confront Cicada later.

This knowledge puts Nora even further into a frenzy over the Cicada thing. Since Barry’s still trying to figure out how he’s going to talk Cicada into taking the metahuman cure, Nora tries inspiring him with some direct quotes from his history of big, heartfelt speeches to villains. The sticking point in the case of Cicada, though, is the fact that Orlin Dwyer doesn’t actually care if he lives or dies, and Barry doesn’t know how to appeal to that kind of mindset.

Whether Barry is ready or not, the time to meet with Cicada has come. Killer Frost helps pull a little switcheroo when Cicada chases the acid meta from earlier into an alley, safely depositing Acid Master into a cell while she freezes Cicada’s dagger to a wall and uses a breaching device to skedaddle. I think it probably would’ve been a wiser plan to breach the knife out with you, KF, but you go ahead. The Flash shows up to talk Cicada into taking the cure, but since we’re only twenty minutes into the episode at this point, it goes poorly.

With the failure to get through to Cicada weighing on Barry, it’s time for Joe to provide a classic pep talk that basically boils down to “appeal to Cicada as Barry Allen, not as the Flash, since Cicada hates the Flash and stuff.” Good advice, Joe. In exchange for this good advice, Barry gives some advice of his own to Joe regarding his little subplot with Cecile stealing his thunder with her lie-detector powers during the interrogation of Dr. Ambres. Man, this episode is really nailing the West-Allen family interactions. Case in point: the next scene’s little moment between Iris and Nora, in which Iris confesses she’s pushing that whole list thing on Nora because she wants to get as much out of her time with her daughter as she can. Aww!

Bolstered by his chat with Barry, Joe apologizes to Cecile and they tackle the case of Dr. Ambres together. They manage to figure out a motivation for siding with Cicada (the doctor’s fiancĂ© was killed by metahumans during the Zoom season) but even the Joe-Cecile interrogation tag-team isn’t enough to jar Ambres from her hesitation to help. She says that CCPD’s two choices are “kill [Orlin]” or “put [Orlin] in jail” and… uh, does the good doc not realize that murder, regardless of the murderer’s feelings on dark matter, is a jailable offense?

Bizarrely, neither Joe nor Cecile bring this up, instead choosing to reveal the creation of a metahuman cure as a way to “save” Orlin’s life. After Ambres agrees she’ll try to get Orlin to cooperate, Cecile senses she’s hiding something else, and Dr. Ambres reveals that Orlin’s niece, Grace, is a meta! Dun dun duuu— wait, the audience already knew that.

After a brief meeting with Team Flash, Barry reiterates that he’ll be confronting Cicada as Barry instead of the Flash. When the time comes, I gotta admit — as stupid as the whole “just talk to the maniacal serial killer” plan sounds on paper, Barry delivers a pretty fine speech. Mostly, it’s about how Orlin’s choices, should he continue his vendetta as Cicada, are limited: he can adhere to his anti-meta plan and kill Grace, who is a meta, or he can let her live and force her to grow up in a world where she’s terrified of the murderer killing people like her. Barry draws on his (admittedly strange) experience as a father to relate to Orlin on a human level, even unmasking to show how serious he is about just wanting Orlin to try the cure. I notice the continued failure to mention that Orlin has to go to jail.

Oh hey, I spoke too soon. During Orlin’s agreed neutralization/surgery (on account of his sucking chest wound opening up when his powers are gone) Joe mentions he’s going to jail for a long, long time. Thank goodness someone on this show is finally being logical. Unfortunately, before Orlin can be sutured up by Dr. Ambres and shipped off to jail, the power goes out and a new Cicada leaps through the S.T.A.R. Labs window. Caitlin quickly freezes Orlin’s wound (not sure that’d work, but fine) and Dr. Ambres skedaddles with her patient while Team Flash confronts Cicada II: Destructive Boogaloo.

The power outage means Dr. Ambres is too slow to get out out of dodge, so when Cicada II shows up to steal the still-unconscious Orlin, things do not go well. The doctor begs for her life, but Cicada II stabs her with the newly-empowered Cicada dagger anyway. It’s revealed at the end of the episode that this new Cicada is a future version of Grace (which pretty much everyone saw coming), but I don’t really get why Grace would stab the only friend and ally her uncle had throughout the whole Cicada ordeal. Maybe the glowing head wound made her crazy?

Other Things:

  • “You two did this.” “You made her.” “You’re responsible.” Hee.
  • Hey, if Team Flash spritzed the meta-tech devices like Cicada’s dagger with the cure, would it neutralize the dark matter?

Grey’s Anatomy 15x17 Review: “And Dream of Sheep” (Erratic Behavior) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“And Dream of Sheep”
Original Airdate: March 14, 2019

This episode is brought to you by a delusional doctor and his nowhere near approved baby in a bag idea. Dr. DeLuca Sr. is off the rails and causing problems left and right, yet his own son is still blind to the truth. Things quickly go from bad to worse, leading to bad blood between family members. Mental illness is at the forefront at the episode, including looking at Helen Karev and Bailey’s statuses. Elsewhere, could romance be budding for two doctors who have both experienced loss?

BREACH OF PROTOCOL


A majority of the episode is dedicated to the DeLuca family science project of growing fetal lambs in bags. Yes, you read that right. If this sounds crazy to you, make sure you go rewatch the previous episode before watching this one. DeLuca Sr. is moving at a fast and furious pace to show that his idea is functional. Carina still doesn’t believe that her father is mentally stable enough to be running the research project and continues to voice her concerns to whoever is willing to listen. DeLuca Sr. proves his daughter’s point when he verbally attacks her after they lose one of their two baby lambs just a few days into the study. It is clear that DeLuca Sr.’s emotions change abruptly and that he is outwardly displaying signs of bipolar disorder, but Andrew won’t open his eyes to the truth and protects his father.

DeLuca Sr. kicks Carina off the study and goes back to work like nothing ever happened. Elsewhere in the hospital, a married couple is brought to the ER with injuries from a car accident. The woman is five months pregnant and happens to be Teddy’s patient. Owen tells Teddy that he is willing to work on the woman and she can take the man since the case might get tough. Teddy denies Owen’s cautions and runs full steam ahead on her patient, who is suffering from bleeding in her abdomen. Tests show that one of the woman’s uterine arteries is bleeding, and Teddy knows that there is a possibility that the baby might not survive. News travels around the hospital quickly, and Andrew accidentally spills the beans to his father, who quickly makes his way to the woman’s bedside.

Alex, Carina, and Andrew arrive right as DeLuca Sr. finishes his pitch to the parents-to-be to let him save their baby with his revolutionary sack, which is nowhere near being ready for human trials, let alone FDA approval. All of the doctors involved are beyond upset that DeLuca Sr. is giving the couple false hope when he knows that they cannot legally or ethically experiment on the baby. DeLuca Sr. begs Alex to let him save the life of the baby, and Alex does the right thing by shutting him down and not allowing him to play mad scientist with a fetus. The woman continues to go downhill and loses the baby when surgery becomes the only option.

DeLuca Sr. can’t believe that Alex wouldn’t give him the chance to save the baby and goes into another verbal attack. Alex shuts down the study, and DeLuca Sr. decides to leave and take his work back to Italy. Through all the chaos, Andrew finally sees how unstable and unhinged his father has become. He realizes that he should have stuck by his sister and believed her claims. It’s a little late for Andrew to come to the obvious conclusions, as he has strained his relationships with his father, sister, and Meredith in the process. Andrew’s behavior about the study and his father has left Meredith with a stale taste in her mouth, and this new relationship may be coming to a close before it even begins. Honestly, it’s good that Meredith is seeing that Andrew isn’t mature enough to handle a relationship with her now before they get too serious, because there’s no way that it could ever work out long term.

ADMITTING ONE'S PROBLEMS


Mental illness is discussed thoroughly throughout the episode not only with DeLuca Sr., but also with Helen and Bailey. Helen has been staying with Alex and Jo for a week now and extended her trip to stay longer. Alex is very happy that his mother has been doing so well, given that she is in a strange place and outside of her normal routine. He truly believes that she has made a lot of progress and has gotten better. Bailey runs into Helen in the hospital cafeteria and has a conversation with her about her trip. Helen admits that even though she is having a great time in Seattle, she is very nervous about her return trip home. She isn’t sure whether she can do the reverse trip, which is why she has extended her trip without setting a date to leave.

Bailey tells Alex about her conversation with his mother to let him know that she isn’t comfortable asking for help. Alex takes the news the wrong way and accuses Bailey of being prejudiced towards mentally ill people. Bailey firmly reminds Alex that she is a person living with mental illness and that even though one may seem all together, it can be very difficult to ask for and accept help from others. Bailey rips him a new one until Alex understands her point. At the end of the episode, Alex asks Bailey to take back the chief job for two days, that way he can travel to Iowa with his mom. Bailey accepts and is happy that they are on the same page again.

FINDING YOUR ROOTS


While Alex struggles to understand his mother, Jo wants to dig deeper into her family tree. The results from her genetic testing are in, and Jo asks Maggie for support since they are both adopted. Maggie is happy to lend a hand to Jo and reads the DNA report for her. Jo is happy that she has nothing scary hidden in her genes, and Maggie tells her that she should continue to look for more if she really wants to. Jo asks intern Parker if he would be able to find her potential cousin, who is listed on the genetic testing report as a near-certain match, and he is more than happy to look into it for her.

The search leads Jo to wonder whether she should try and find out who her birth mother is. She takes it as a sign that she should find the truth when she encounters Maggie taping a segment for a local TV morning news show about how she came to learn about her famous surgeon parents. Jackson tells Jo not to be fooled by the process because it might not be all sunshine and rainbows. He tells her about how he met his birth father a few years ago and how much of a disaster that was. His warning seems to sink in, but Jo decides to ask Parker to widen the search to find her birth mother. Parker tells her that he was curious on his own and already found her. It turns out that Jo’s mother is living in Pittsburgh, so the Karevs might be taking a trip to Pennsylvania in the near future.

MEDICAL CONFERENCE GETAWAY


In the comedic relief side plot, Amelia and Link find themselves continuously bumping into each other when they attend the same medical conference on alternate pain relief. The chemistry that first started to appear a few episodes back during the opioid overdose crisis takes center stage, with both characters realizing their awkward tension quickly. Amelia tries to avoid Link, yet fate keeps pushing them together. She eventually gives up and decides to go to Link’s lecture, which he tells her might not be the best idea. He was right, as Amelia leaves quickly when she hears him talk about prescribing opioids to a teen athlete years ago, who later died from a car accident while under the influence.

Link catches up with her later to fully explain that she missed the good part of the lecture and didn’t hear him talk about how he has been fighting since then for better opioid reform to prevent addiction and death. Amelia is surprised to hear Link’s views and decides that he isn’t so bad after all. Link proposes that they tackle the problem together, since they both have a personal stake in it. They start their partnership by engaging in some “alternative pain relief” with no strings attached, but I think we all know that this isn’t a one-time fling.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Flash 5x15 Review: "King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd" (All Talk, No Versus) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd"
Original Airdate: March 5, 2019

Anyone who’s read my reviews knows that I love when The Flash goes Comic Book Stupid. Regular stupid, where the characters act like idiots or the plot makes no sense? Bad. Comic Book Stupid, where angry man-sharks battle it out with psychic genius gorillas? Excellent. This is the kind of nonsense I watch for, so you can guess how thrilled I was to read the title of this week’s episode.

And you can guess how disappointed I was when the episode actually aired. Honestly, The Flash, what is it with you getting my hopes up with cool episode titles and then dashing them? First “Gorilla Warfare” and now this.

SOMETHING’S FISHY


Team Flash officially has a metahuman cure. All they need to finalize their breakthrough is a volunteer to test whether it works or not, but of course most metahumans they’ve encountered in Central City would have no interest in getting rid of their powers. But, uh... really? No villains in Iron Heights who might want to be able to transfer to a regular prison rather than spending life in a cell for bank robbery and jewel heists? Just thinking back to the villains on the show, I’m sure some of them wouldn’t mind getting rid of dark matter. Did you ask Norvock? ‘Cause that guy has a snake in his head and I know if I had a snake inside my head I’d want to get rid of it.

But alas, the only person Barry has in mind is King Shark. I guess that makes sense. Not many people want to be a giant angry fish. So Team Flash plays a visit to Lyla (still bitter about that time Barry erased her baby, by the way) and Lyla directs them to the ARGUS-sponsored King Shark rehabilitation lagoon run by Tanya, the wife of King Shark’s former human self, Shay Lamden. Well. One of them is from a different Earth, so they’re not technically married, but I guess Tanya and Shay are similar enough that there are still feelings there. She communicates with King Shark via a mental amplification system like the one Team Flash developed to help Cecile with her psychic powers and help Caitlin communicate with Killer Frost.

That connection between the Lamdens despite one being a fish man is, by the way, the primary emotional weight of the episode. That’s right: the title promised me Megashark vs. Super-Gorilla and delivered The Shape of Water. Which is fine if you’re into romantic dramas between a woman and a fish man, but I’m into ridiculous comic book monsters punching and/or biting each other, dag nabbit, so I’m miffed.

Anyway, King Shark gets turned back into Shay fifteen minutes into the episode. Barry stabs him with the antidote to save Cisco from being eaten, which causes something of a rift between Cisco, Caitlin, and Barry since they promised the antidote would only ever be used on people who volunteer.

Okay, let me rant about this “the antidote can only be voluntary” deal real quick. First, Barry’s decision to use the antidote against King Shark was correct. It just was. The show trying to frame Barry as anything other than correct makes Cisco and Caitlin look comically naive. King Shark was rampaging (for reasons we’ll get into later), he was hardly in a state to be reasoned with, and Cisco was about to get eaten. Barry couldn’t use his powers against King Shark without putting Cisco at risk and he couldn’t let King Shark eat his best friend, but there wasn’t enough time to think up something clever to subdue the enemy and get Cisco out of danger. So he used the antidote. He was right.

Second — and I’ve raised this before — how is it better to throw metahuman villains in jail forever than it is to give them the antidote and allow them to serve out a basic prison sentence? Because the metahumans who go into Iron Heights do not come out. They can’t come out. There’s no rehabilitation program for them and they’re too unpredictable and difficult to re-capture, so once they’ve behind power-dampening bars, they have to be there forever. The argument that keeping their powers is more morally just than simply dosing them and letting them live their lives outside of a prison cell is ridiculous and the only reason the show keeps bringing it up is to sow manufactured drama where there just isn’t any.

Rant over. Moving on, Barry’s (unnecessary) apology to Caitlin and Cisco about giving King Shark the cure is interrupted when the two suddenly turn on him. Cisco gets zipped into a holding cell, which give Caitlin time to hand the Lamdens’ mental amplifier over to — dun, dun, DUN! — Gorilla Grodd! And, uh, if Gorilla Grodd’s sudden presence in Central City was ever explained this season, I’ve forgotten it. He’s just here now.

Gorilla Grodd uses the psychic crown device to stretch his mind control powers across Central City, thus becoming a near-unstoppable villain. But wait! After some reconciliation between Shay and Tanya, now’s the perfect time for Shay to do a typical self-sacrifice and turn back into King Shark. Grodd can’t control King Shark. Yes, he caused King Shark to go berserk at the beginning of the episode, but that was due to the psychic crown (probably). Shay will just turn back into a shark, somehow keep his human consciousness despite not having the crown that helped him control his animal impulses, and give the audience the King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd battle the episode’s title promised. It’s... fine? It lasts like a minute or two. The CGI is cool.

Once the battle is done, King Shark is stuck as a shark but I think he and Tanya are still a thing? Uh... anyway, Team Flash doesn’t even try to use the antidote on him again because, somehow, Caitlin knows that the antidote only works once despite never using it on anyone before. Hey, aren’t these people supposed to be scientists? Doesn’t some level of trial and error come with that label? The etymological root of trial is TO TRY, people.

Whatever. Barry, feeling (unwarranted) guilt over his (totally warranted) decision to give King Shark the antidote, comes up with the team’s next outrageous plan: offer the metahuman cure up to Cicada. The insane serial killer, Cicada.

Sigh. Yeah, remember in the first paragraph of this review where I outlined the difference between regular stupid and Comic Book Stupid? We’re in the former more than the latter.

Other Things:

  • Holy moly, Iris was so separated from the main plot that I just realized I didn’t mention her at all. Here we go: Iris is scared of going to her office because of the horror stories she heard from Nora about Cicada killing her, or friends and family, over and over again during last episode’s time loop. Jesse L. Martin is (thankfully!) back, so the episode uses this as an opportunity for Iris and Joe to get father/daughter bonding in. I love the both of them. I wish they’d gotten to do more.
  • Did anyone else think it was really bizarre when Tanya made up a bunch of stuff to get King Shark to take the antidote at the start of the episode? Like implying the antidote would work especially well on fish people?
  • Who made King Shark’s giant cargo pants?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Remembering Luke Perry: How The 90s Heartthrob’s Final Television Role Epitomized Who He Was [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]


The world is mourning the loss of one of the most recognizable faces of the 1990s. Actor Luke Perry died yesterday in Burbank, California after suffering a massive stroke last week. He was just 52. To say that his death has been a shock to the world is an understatement. The loss of an idol isn’t something one is ever prepared for, but the loss of a man so many people in Hollywood could call a friend...well, let’s just say shock is the only word I could come up with.

Luke Perry will always be known for his iconic role as Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. His James Dean-esque swagger coupled with his heart of gold catapulted him to stardom almost overnight in the early 90s. Fans of Perry and his bad boy alter ego still yearned to see what would have become of his character more than 30 years after he inhabited the role. (Note that three decades later, the Brenda vs. Kelly debate is still raging.)

And as grateful as Perry was to have had that experience, you’ll find over 90 onscreen credits to his repertoire. That level of stardom tempered down a bit as Perry found numerous other projects to spread his wings on. No doubt his fans are consuming as much of his work as they can in the hours since his death.

One of his last roles was as Fred Andrews on the hit CW series Riverdale. If you’ve been to Comic-Con recently, you’ll know that Riverdale has reached a level of cult-fandom all its own — success which Perry was very familiar with. This time however, he got to play a role which most closely resembled who he truly was: a dad. And not just any dad, but the most humble, down-to-earth parent.

I was lucky enough to meet Perry at a Wondercon roundtable two years ago. Here’s the thing about working your way through Hollywood — whether it’s on camera or behind-the-scenes in whatever capacity — you start at the bottom, work your way up for years building connections, and fully prepare for your experiences with big stars to pass quickly and without too much impact. You get in, do your job, and five minutes later, the experience is over. But occasionally you will meet someone who leaves a lasting impression, someone who doesn’t give generic answers to your questions. Someone who is honest and humble and takes the time to shake hands with everyone at the table, even when you’re on a time crunch.

That was Luke Perry.


My immediate impression upon meeting Perry was that this was a guy who had quickly built bonds with the younger generation on Riverdale. In my joint interview with him and his on-screen son KJ Apa (who plays Archie Andrews of the original Archie Comics), you could see the relationship they’d built as friends. At that time, Perry had this to say about his relationship with his "son":

“A lot of times when we’re playing the scenes, we’re not necessarily father and son. We’re just a couple of guys. Depending on what the issues are, I have to step in and be the father. But I also think, I learn from my son. He teaches me stuff along the way. As a father, you look back and it makes you proud to realize that your son is someone you can lean on. I feel like he’s got my back.”

That was Luke Perry talking about playing Fred Andrews, but also about being himself. And so when it comes to this role, was Luke really playing anything? Or was he just being who he was? A father figure to these young kids thrust into stardom, an experience he was quite familiar with. A friend to co-stars young and experienced, sharing stories and talking about their day-to-day lives. How much of Fred was Luke, and how much of Luke was Fred?

When you realize that Perry’s final teen show role was more close to who he really was, it makes the heartbreak that much more raw. Because we’re not mourning a teen icon or a superstar or a fabled legend. We’re mourning a man who was as humble and kind as you’ve heard.

So to Luke Perry, from a working writer who met you for six minutes one March afternoon, thank you for your courtesy, your honesty, and your generosity in sharing a laugh or two.

Gone but never forgotten.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Grey’s Anatomy 15x15 Review: “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (The Record Breaker) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“We Didn’t Start the Fire”
Original Airdate: February 28, 2019

It’s official: Grey’s Anatomy is now the longest running primetime medical drama series in television history! Over the past fifteen years, Grey’s has managed to capture audiences through its unique blend of medical oddities and character-driven stories. The show has been incredibly successful thanks to the amazing writing staff, who continually keep the viewers interested in the characters’ lives and personal growth through plots that hit every emotional high and low.

However, Grey’s Anatomy wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for the very devoted fan base. Whether you have been watching for all 15 years or started recently, the fans have been an integral part of the show’s success.

And what better way to celebrate the record-breaking episode than to have the main plot of the week center on a party?

CELEBRATION


It wouldn’t be a proper milestone without a party, and having the episode focus on Catherine’s successful surgery bash was the perfect way to incorporate the show’s celebration. Of course it also wouldn’t be a Grey’s Anatomy party unless something went terribly wrong. Hint: did you catch all the blatantly obvious fire symbolism, from actual fires to the powder keg heating up between certain characters to the many-meanings title of the episode? Jackson is hosting Catherine’s get-together at his penthouse at her request... except that the guest of honor doesn’t want to show up at all. In her absence, everything starts hitting the fan.

The fun starts with the Grey-Shepherd-Pierce sisters’ struggles. Maggie learns that her med school rival, Kimberly, has published an article about her life-saving surgery from the previous episode that makes her look like the hero instead of Maggie’s risky and groundbreaking procedure. Maggie is furious that Kimberly is stealing her thunder and that all the other doctors like the article. Later in the episode, she has a candid discussion with Richard, who gives her the best fatherly advice in telling her that she needs to be bolder and take her thunder back by publishing her own paper.

Amelia is having a rough day of her own and doesn’t even want to attend the party, which is partially in her honor for saving Catherine’s life. After two weeks of recovery from her aortic dissection, Betty/Brittany is ready to move back home with her parents and baby Leo. Owen and Amelia both have a hard time saying goodbye to their children, especially since Betty/Brittany doesn’t actually say goodbye before leaving. Their bad moods continue at the party, where several things go down.

First, Owen is once again visibly upset by seeing Teddy and Koracick together. He becomes even angrier when he learns that they are going on a trip together. Second, Amelia feels like her relationship with Owen has hit another rut because they only got sort of back together when Betty/Brittany and Leo came into the picture. They have an argument about their relationship, in which Amelia accuses Owen of still being in love with Teddy. Owen refutes and says he just hates Koracick, and Amelia decides to break things off with Owen. As if things couldn’t get any worse, a third event occurs during Catherine’s toast.

Meredith is nervous about attending the party with DeLuca because they haven’t taken their relationship public yet. Before the party, Meredith tells Alex that she is dating DeLuca just to get it out in the open and make things less awkward. Her strategy doesn’t work very well because telling one person doesn’t equal telling everyone, which the couple finds out the hard way. Amelia bombards Meredith with her current issues at the party and says that she might spend the night with Meredith, who was happy to have the house to herself for once and wants to spend it with DeLuca. Being the nice person she is, Meredith doesn’t object or tell Amelia about her plans with DeLuca. Meredith breaks the news to DeLuca, and the two of them go into a guest room for some alone time... which gets interrupted when Richard accidentally walks in on them making out. A very embarrassed Meredith decides to “act normal” by taking over the caterers’ jobs and helping with cooking food.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?


Catherine’s party is crashed by a surprising guest: Helen Karev. Helen shows up at the hospital a few hours before the party to see Alex, but when Helm tells him Mrs. Karev is looking for him, he thinks she means Jo and ignores the message. Alex goes to the party and has Helm tell his wife to meet him there. Jo finds Helen in the waiting room of the hospital before she leaves for the party and takes Helen with her, as Helm told her to meet Alex there. To say that Alex is surprised to see his mother is an understatement, and he immediately jumps to the worst conclusions about why she is visiting.

It’s sad that after all these years and everything he has done to help her, Alex still can’t trust anything that his mother says or does. He doesn’t believe that she has shown up in Seattle for a simple visit. Instead, he thinks that she might be having another episode or psychotic break and calls her doctor to see if she has been doing well. Alex is even more concerned about his mother’s mental status when she starts freaking out about smelling smoke when no one else does. Helen tries to tell Alex that everyone needs to get out of Jackson’s apartment because there is a fire, but Alex doesn’t believe her.

THE KICKERS


As all of the chaos is erupting at her party, Catherine plans to not show up and convinces Bailey to go to the party together in her limousine. Catherine goes on a long rant about how Bailey needs to live life more and splurge, yet she won’t even allow herself a little happiness by attending her own party. Eventually, Catherine tells Bailey that she has no intentions of attending her party because she doesn’t feel right about celebrating a less than perfect outcome. She is terrified of living with cancer for the rest of her life. Bailey convinces Catherine to go to her party, and they arrive just in time for the fireworks to start.

Once they walk in the door, Jackson starts a toast to his mom and her recovery. At the same time, Owen confronts Koracick about him preying on Teddy, and Helen is freaking out about a fire. Owen and Koracick exchange heated words, which ends with Owen being punched in the face when he says that Koracick isn’t a father. Too bad Owen hadn’t previously known Koracick’s backstory and had to be told in the moment by Teddy, who immediately defends her boyfriend. Amelia leaves the party before the toast, since she can’t stand to see what is happening. After Owen gets punched and the fight is broken up, the fire alarms start going off as Helen exclaims that the fire is coming from the kitchen. Smoke starts pouring out of the kitchen, and everyone starts running out of the apartment. Alex is weirdly excited about the fire because he realizes that Helen wasn’t delusional.

Ben and other firefighters come to the rescue, and it’s too bad that a crossover with Station 19 didn’t happen. It turns out that there wasn’t a fire, but the smoke was caused by a plastic pan being put in the oven. Meredith and DeLuca are pretty sure that they started the fire while helping out after their make out session, but they don’t confess. The “fire” doesn’t really ruin the night for everyone, as Maggie, Jackson, Catherine, and Richard take the limousine for some family time. Catherine realizes that the most important thing for her is to celebrate each scan and test with her family, whether the results are positive or not.

Owen gets a big surprise when he gets home and finds Amelia there, who tells him that the Dickinsons have decided to bring Leo back. Betty/Brittany decided that she didn’t want to keep Leo, even though her parents did, because she wants to be a normal kid again. Owen and Amelia are once again Leo’s parents, but their relationship status is very much up in the air. Meredith and DeLuca are also surprised when they go back to his place to spend the night. Carina shows up with their father, which doesn’t seem to sit well with Andrew. Remember all those things that Andrew revealed about his father in the elevator to Meredith? Sounds like we are going to see that whole fiasco play out in upcoming episodes.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine 6x07 and 6x08 Recaps: "The Honeypot" & "He Said, She Said" (#AmyToo) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]


“The Honeypot”
Original Airdate: February 21, 2019

Now that Gina is officially gone, it’s time for Holt to choose a new assistant and it’s a struggle. After hiring and firing three assistants in three days, Jake steps in and offers to find Holt someone great. Sure enough, Jake quickly finds Gordon Lundt, who has recently moved from Philadelphia, where he worked as an assistant in a precinct. He looks perfect on paper and even better, he has the exact same personality as Holt: super serious and straight to business. Holt doesn’t like him from the start, and is convinced that Gordon is flirting with him, and feels it’s inappropriate.

Jake doesn’t see it, but agrees to look into Gordon and actually check his references (not realizing that he should have done that before hiring him). It doesn’t take long for Jake to discover that Gordon lied on his resume. He never worked in Philadelphia, and in fact, he actually works for Commissioner Kelly! Jake determines Gordon is a spy who has been sent to the Nine-Nine to discover what Holt is up to. Now that they know, Jake and Holt hatch a plan to uncover evidence against Gordon and Commissioner Kelly.

Meanwhile, Terry, Rosa, and Charles enlist Amy’s help to declutter the Nine-Nine, which has been a mess since Commissioner Kelly closed the first floor and all the uniformed officers had to move into the bullpen. Amy pulls out all sorts of organizational tricks to try and whip everyone into shape. First, she tries to Marie Kondo the office, but it doesn’t work well because Terry and Boyle insist everything on and in their desks brings them joy and they can’t part with anything. Hitchcock and Scully have the opposite reaction and try to throw out all their paperwork, because it does not bring them joy.

Next, Amy tells the team about the Norwegian organizational art of “Munkensmat,” where you get rid of all personal possessions except one. Then, you incinerate all of them. Amy leads the purge, and even convinces Boyle and Terry to join in, despite the fact that they have more personal clutter than anyone else. Terry has a difficult time parting with a fancy pair of suspenders still in the box, and Boyle has a hard time parting with, well, everything, including his great-grandfather’s shoes and eight framed photos of his father.

Meanwhile, Holt agrees to accompany Gordon to the Barrel Making Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Industry so Jake can snoop on Gordon’s laptop and look for email exchanges between him and Commissioner Kelly. A thoroughly ruffled Holt returns hours later, relaying all the subtle ways Gordon flirted with him while they were there. Jake still can’t believe a lengthy discussion on barrels is what passes as flirting in Holt’s mind, and much to Holt’s dismay, it seems it was all for naught anyway, because Jake couldn’t find anything on Gordon’s laptop.

But just then, Gordon comes in and admits that he was sent to spy on Holt by Commissioner Kelly, but has had a change of heart. He tells Holt he’s fallen in love with him and just can’t bring himself to spy on him any longer because he cares too much. Jake decides they can use this to their advantage and “double dragon” Kelly. He asks Gordon if he’d be willing to turn double agent. If they can stage a meeting between Gordon and Kelly where Kelly admits all the dastardly things he’s been up to since taking office, they’ll have the proof they need to go to the mayor.

Gordon readily agrees, saying he’d do anything for Holt, and meets up with Kelly at a cafe. But Gordon triple crosses them! As soon as he gets to the cafe, Gordon tells Kelly that Holt asked him to wear a wire and spy on Kelly, and that Jake and Holt are sitting in a surveillance van right now wearing terrible mustaches as disguises. Holt and Jake rush in and Kelly threatens to go to the mayor with this if Holt doesn’t resign. But Holt has a trick or two up his sleeve. He tells them he knew Gordon would “triple dragon” them and was prepared. He set up multiple recorders and cameras in the cafe before the meeting and says he will show the mayor these tapes which clearly show Kelly and Gordon plotting and threatening him unless Kelly agrees to Holt’s demands. Holt then demands that Kelly re-open the first floor of the Nine-Nine and allow the uniformed officers to clear out of the bullpen.

Between Holt’s win with Kelly and Amy’s Munkensmatting, the bullpen is looking incredible. Amy asks Terry if she can take a photo of his desk to submit to “Organizer’s Quarterly.” He begrudgingly agrees but when she says she’ll need the drawers open too, he freaks out. She pulls one of the drawers open and discovers that Terry didn’t Munkensmat his fancy suspenders after all! He finally confesses that he just couldn’t do it because he bought them the day of his lieutenant’s exam. He failed the exam and could never bring himself to wear the suspenders, but part of him still hopes that one day he will earn the right to wear them. Amy relents and admits that Munkensmat is stupid, and even buys Terry a bunch of study materials so next time he takes the exam he’ll ace it.

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:

  • “You don’t have to turn everything into a Thomas Cruise film.” 
  • “Do what I do: embrace the mess.” “You have a bagel stuck to your sweater.”


“He Said, She Said”
Original Airdate: February 28, 2019

In the latest episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Jake and Amy take on the case of a finance guy, Seth Haggerty, with a broken penis. He claims it was broken by a female coworker, Carrie Brennan, who “just went crazy” when he kindly offered her advice on how to do better at her job. She claims that she broke his penis when he tried to sexually assault her. Captain Holt assigns Jake and Amy to the case. Carrie tells them that even though she was sexually assaulted, she’s not interested in pressing charges. It’s a he said, she said case, and she knows how these things play out. Without evidence, he’s going to walk and she will have been dragged through the stress of a trial for nothing. Plus, her firm offered her a $2.5 million settlement if she signs a non-disclosure agreement.

But Amy convinces Carrie to press charges anyway, and says they will find evidence, she’s sure of it. Carrie hesitantly agrees. When Rosa finds out what Amy did, she completely disagrees with Amy, which shocks Amy, who thought Rosa would have her back on this. Amy says that Carrie’s courage will get other women who might have been sexually harassed or assaulted by Seth to come forward, too. But Rosa says she’s a realist and it’s Amy’s job to put this victim’s needs first. Even if they can find evidence, winning at trial is a long-shot and meanwhile, Carrie is out the settlement money and probably a job by the end of it, not to mention having her whole life torn apart. Rosa says Amy needs to think about the victim right in front of her and her needs, rather than hoping this will be the case that changes the world.

Next, Amy and Jake pay a visit the finance firm, where they interview all of the employees to try to get someone on the record about Seth and establish a pattern of behavior. Everyone has the exact same thing to say, though: that the office is “extremely professional” and Seth is “a really good guy.” The boss also tells them that the $2.5 million settlement is now null and void and they’ve terminated Carrie.

This makes Amy dive into the case even more than before, and after working for three days straight and not coming home, Jake starts to worry. He reminds her that sometimes the evidence just isn’t there for some cases. Amy finally admits that this isn’t just any case for her. When she was a rookie, her mentor and boss helped her get detective, but as soon as she did, he took her to dinner and tried to kiss her, telling her that after making her career for her, he deserved something in return. She ran out and the next day put in her transfer request for the Nine-Nine. She never told anyone because she was afraid he would sabotage her career if she told. So this case hits really close to home for her. Jake tells her they’ll find the evidence they need and they get to work again.

Meanwhile, Charles and Terry bring Captain Holt news that Ernest Zumowski, a.k.a. The Disco Strangler, a serial killer who terrorized New York City for six years in the 1970s, has died. Holt is the one who brought him to justice and ended his reign of terror, and everyone in the Nine-Nine has heard the story a thousand times. Holt asks Terry and Charles how Zumowski died and they tell him he was on a prison transport van which burst into flames and he burned to death. After hearing this gruesome tale, Holt is convinced that the octogenarian criminal escaped and staged his death. Terry and Charles are convinced Holt is just trying to relive his glory days and isn’t able to admit that the most notorious criminal he ever put away is dead, but they follow Holt on his hunt anyway.

First, they pay a visit to the medical examiner’s office. The ME tells them he couldn’t match any dental records because Zumowski didn’t have any teeth left (because he was so old). Holt demands to know why the burned body is five centimeters shorter than Zumowski’s record says he is, and the ME has an answer for that too (old people tend to shrink a bit as they age). Next, Holt demands to know about the yo-yo string that was discovered in the wreckage. This was, after all, the Disco Strangler’s preferred method of strangulation and Holt is convinced that it was left to taunt him.

The ME can’t speak to that, so they pay a visit to the woman who was driving the transport vehicle. Even though she barely survived the crash and is covered in burns, Holt has no mercy. He’s convinced that she was seduced by the Disco Strangler and helped him escape and stage his death. Terry and Charles are horrified by how unmercifully he interrogates her, but she convinces them she doesn’t know anything and Zumowski truly did die in the crash. Deflated, Holt returns to the precinct and admits he was having a hard time letting go. But just then a fax comes through and it’s an aerial photo from a highway camera that clearly shows the Disco Strangler. He’s alive!

Holt, Terry, and Charles lead a huge manhunt and tell all the dozens of officers not to underestimate this guy, or to be lured into a false sense of security by his elderly appearance. He’s a wily killer and won’t hesitate to take them all down! They corner him in the city and re-arrest him, though Holt’s big moment of confrontation is rather anticlimactic for him since Zumowski is deaf and can’t even hear Holt’s taunts. But at least they’ve gotten a dangerous criminal off the streets, and it turns out the transport driver did help him escape after all. Holt is vindicated!

Back at the Nine-Nine, Amy and Jake finally have an employee who gives them the evidence they need: a group text that outlines exactly what happened that night and where Seth admits he assaulted Carrie. This employee comes forward not because he’s interested in doing the right thing, but because he knows if Seth gets fired then he’ll get his job, which would be a great promotion for him. They’re able to arrest Seth, and Carrie gets her job back. But when they go to follow up with her, they find that she’s packing up her things anyway. She tells them she’s just quit. The whole atmosphere has changed and everyone at the firm looks at her as either a traitor or a victim. She’s being left out of team outings and activities, and it’ll only be a matter of time before that means she starts being looked over for opportunities and promotions. She tells Amy that despite this, she’s still glad she pressed charges and that Seth got fired. She feels good knowing she did the right thing.

When Jake and Amy return to the precinct, Rosa has something to tell them. It seems Carrie wasn’t the only woman Seth harassed, and another victim has found the courage to come forward, just like Amy hoped would happen. Rosa tells Amy she was right after all, and that “two steps forward, one step back is still one step forward.”

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:

  • “You can never watch too much DuckTales. It’s my dream to have a gold coin pool.” 
  • “You’re lying! You’ve succumbed to his groovy voodoo!”