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

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

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

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

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Spotlight Director: John Carpenter [Contributors: Lynnie and Chelsea]

CHELSEA

John Carpenter is my brother Luke's favorite director. Year-round, I am subjected to him torturing me with marathons and re-watches of every possible Carpenter film. When Lynnie approached me about this new film series spotlighting different directors and John Carpenter was on her list, I started to pay more attention to my brother's incessant re-watches of the films. Carpenter's films prey upon the simple fears that we humans have by creating stories that viewers reason could actually happen. Modern horror films have taken advantage of his style and have tried (and failed) mimicking the anxiety and terror he induces through his directing.

LYNNIE

When I think of John Carpenter’s directorial style, I think of atmosphere. He has truly mastered the art of setting an atmosphere that reels the viewer into the drama on the screen. He paints a picture, sets a stage, and allows for the landscape and the people to tell the story he wants to convey, instead of hitting you over the head with fancy slides and zooms meant to distract and impress. Known for static shots and minimalist lighting, Carpenter is the type of director you forget is there. He reels you in and builds up toward the climax of his films with precision and aptly drawn scenes framed to perfection.

His movies feel real –– they’re a glimpse into the human condition and the fears and emotional suppression that modern time has drawn out of us. People are his focal point –– the stories they have to tell the lens in which he paints pictures of drama, excitement, fantasy, science fiction, humor, and action. He is a genuine storyteller, and his films reflect his total understanding of pace.

And, since it’s Halloween, I thought it apt to highlight a few of John Carpenter’s horror movies (in no particular ranking).


Fog doesn’t seem like all that scary of a nemesis to face until you watch Carpenter’s 1980 film about the small town of Antonio Bay, California and its dark history. The town is facing its centennial and there are some mostly deceased residents who have something to say about it. They come with the fog, and fog can go anywhere.

The movie focuses primarily on Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), a local disc jockey, and her desire to get back to her son as the fog encroaches on the town. I love that the main character is a woman and that the only love story she has in the film is with her son. Beyond that, the film is creepy –– there is impending violence in every frame of the movie. It is a movie that waits, is patient, and it’s perfect for your Halloween viewing.


Everyone knows about Halloween. It is the quintessential scary film. It is the movie that sparked a hundred knockoffs and far too many sequels. Carpenter directed the first film of the franchise, and he left his mark on the most famous serial killer in fictional history.

This is another film where Carpenter lets the dread grow. The voyeuristic nature of the film lets you see what Jamie Lee Curtis’ character does not. You feel the impending violence. Every scare is a build up from something Carpenter began working with at the beginning of the film. The implied things in the film are often more terrifying than what is seen, and it is through Carpenter’s mastery that the film remains so firmly embedded in the psyche of us all.



A theme that Carpenter loved to play with was isolation –– how we react to it and what paths humans will take when thrown into a cage. There is nothing more isolating than a scientific research station in the middle of the Antarctic, and this film plays out with growing terror and a broiling sense of being alone. The way in which the various scientists deal with an alien that can change into any physical matter it touches is a study in basic psychology, as much as it is a scare-worthy plot that will have you itching never to see snow again.

Carpenter made the isolation and the escalating fear palpable in every frame. The camera movements are far more chaotic than the typical long shots of dark hallways that set the stage for the horror.
Just don’t watch this movie while cuddling next to your furry friend. Trust me.

LYNNIE

Carpenter knows atmosphere, but he also knows patience, humor, and how to tell a far-fetched story without neglecting the elements that make the film feel real and human. He lets the story speak for itself in a way that few directors manage well. A composer, writer, producer, and director, Carpenter is probably overqualified for this month’s director tribute.

CHELSEA

It's the balance of the humor, horror, and knowing when to execute a scare that makes his films so iconic and truly terrifying. Carpenter's direction is only noticeable in style and how he lets the actors feel raw fear without being over-the-top. He set the standard of the horror genre having strong, iconic female characters that are smart and can fight back. When history looks back on the great directors, Carpenter's work will be among the top in his field.

American Horror Story 5x04 "Devil's Night" (If You Called it Mischief Night, This Wouldn't Have Happened) [Contributor: Melanie)


"Devil's Night"
Original Airdate: October 28, 2015

So there are a few things to discuss about this week’s Hotel. One is a little less pleasant than the other, so let’s knock that out first: this episode was a little insensitive. James March is based on H.H. Holmes, considered America’s first serial killer, who built a hotel in Chicago for the purposes of committing multiple murders. Ryan Murphy’s refusal to acknowledge Holmes as a basis for March’s character is clunky, and it stands out even more given the events of this episode, where real serial killers all claimed to be disciples of March.

From a historical angle, I could understand using H.H. Holmes as a “founding” figure in terms of American serial killers, but the fact that James March is fictional makes it pretty distasteful. Further, this rewriting of history came off as fairly disrespectful to the victims of these serial killers and their families — especially when you show Jeffrey Dahmer actually killing another victim on screen as a gift from March. Nothing about it was fun, and it felt more like Murphy trying to show off as much as possible.


The other large discussion point with this episode, which is a little less socially and morally heavy, is how American Horror Story does their Halloween episodes. As someone with a year-long countdown to Halloween on their phone, it’s a very big deal to me, and Halloween episodes tend to be pretty high on my re-watch list. I prefer the shove-it-in-your-face, include-as-many-references-as-we-can style Halloween episodes. But AHS has generally always been subtle about theirs, which is understandable considering the whole series is a horror fest. But this episode specifically takes place on the night before Halloween (here called "Devil’s Night," though where I’m from we call it "Mischief Night") and focuses on the satanic connotations with the night before Halloween (which are all extremely fictitious), which makes it a little less fun. Overall I can’t complain too much about it as a Halloween episode except that it just wasn’t super interesting and kind of harped on a muted aspect of the Halloween tradition.

Now, on the with show...

The episode begins with a man checking into the hotel as a special guest of March’s (Anthony Ruivivar), claiming to have died in 1993. Liz Taylor welcomes him and directs him to an occupied room where he brutally murders a sleeping man before chasing the fleeing wife down the hall and right into March, who welcomes him before they head off to kill the wife. It turns out the man is Richard Ramirez, so that’s probably not great for the residents of the hotel.  

Lowe wakes up to a phone call from his daughter and offers to take her shopping for a Halloween costume but she rebuffs him. After hanging up, Lowe finds blood leaking through his ceiling. He goes to investigate and finds a maid, who’s busy scrubbing bloody sheets that she can’t seem to get clean. She flashes back to Halloween in the 1920s when her son was kidnapped while she was talking with a neighbor. She speaks with Lowe for a time, revealing her son was murdered, and Lowe seems to commiserate with her before she abruptly leaves.

Alex brings Holden home and notices his vitals don’t seem to make sense. While getting him juice, as he said he was “thirsty,” he attacks and kills the family dog, drinking its blood and claiming he wants his “mommy.” At work, Lowe is shocked to discover that the maid’s story of her lost son took place in the 20s, and considers that it could be connected to the serial killer he’s currently investigating. Alex returns Holden to the hotel where he climbs into his glass coffin. Then Elizabeth appears, ready to answer Alex’s questions: Holden has been infected with “an ancient virus,” and after repeating the explanation she gave Duffy a few episodes ago, she reveals that she takes children to protect them. She offers to turn Alex as well so she can be with her son, but Alex refuses.

At the hotel bar, Lowe considers the possibility that he’s not an alcoholic and orders a double martini. He encounters a woman he believes to be dressed up as Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), and he quickly develops some intense alcohol goggles in her direction. They go up to her room where she ties him up and insists she is the real Aileen Wuornos. He fights back and handcuffs her to the sink, confirming from her drivers’ license she is, in fact, Wuornos. He goes to the lobby to use the phone, but finds it dead. He also discovers an invitation to join March’s dinner party, though it’s not really made clear why.

At the party, Lowe quickly runs into Wuornos, who apologizes for their previous altercation. Also present are Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Ramirez, and a masked Zodiac Killer. After a round of absinthe, it’s revealed the serial killers at the table were all protégés of March (again, insensitive) and they gather every year the night before Halloween to pay homage to him, referring to him as “the master.” They go back and forth reveling in pride over the murders they’ve committed, and then they produce a male victim, gifting him to Dahmer. In the midst of all of this, Sally reels in a man from outside who mistakes her for a drug dealer. After getting him high, she delivers him to March’s party as “dessert.” The killers all grab a knife and mercilessly stab the man to death.

Suddenly, we jump to Lowe waking up alone on the floor in an empty party room. Then Sally appears, cleverly asking Lowe if he’s been drinking. She tells him he hallucinated the whole event, then helps him up and back to his room, claiming to be his protector. The party carries on with March and his guests, while elsewhere in the hotel, Elizabeth turns Alex.

American Horror Story airs every Wednesday at 10 PM on FX. Check back here for more updates every week!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sleepy Hollow 3x05 "Dead Men Tell No Tales" (Rise Up) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Dead Men Tell No Tales"
Original Airdate: October 29, 2015

In this TV world of carefully delineated universes, crossover events are rare and special. They also –– usually –– take place between two already connected universes, like how The Flash occasionally crosses over with Arrow. When these events happen and the two worlds aren't connected, it's usually more common for a show to make it "all just a dream" or some kind of fantasy sequence rather than allowing a dramatic shift in the rules and realities of their programs. So I really have to give kudos for a show like Bones playing this all very straight. Opening up their world to Sleepy Hollow's apocalyptic escapades and allowing it to remain canonically sound takes some nerve.


A brief summary of the pertinent information from the Bones part of the #HollowBones event:


The Jeffersonian crew is called in when some young people stumble upon a dead body, and while investigating they find the skeletal remains of a Revolutionary War-era British Redcoat. Without a head. All of these factors have the Witnesses' Apocalypse Senses tingling, so they show up and want to hear about what's happened with the old dead guy.

Thanks to technology (and not, surprisingly, Ichabod's eidetic memory) they find out that the victim is General William Howe –– previously seen on the show, shouting at Ichabod in an effort to get him to turn over information on the Patriots. Howe's body was involved in the death of the episode's actual victim –– because magic? –– and Abbie decided to help them with the murder investigation so that Sleepy Hollow can get the bones of Ichabod's old enemy.

Also, Agent Booth knew August Corbin? It's mentioned out of nowhere halfway through the episode. I have no idea how that works. I'm going to just assume that Corbin called up all the FBI agents in Virginia because his protégé was heading to Quantico and he wanted her to know some people. Don't really get why Booth would have remembered such a conversation, but... Yeah, crossover episode, just move on.

... And now back to Sleepy Hollow


We're not going to have a lot of depth to this review, because although the crossover was well-executed and fun, there weren't many big themes running through the thing. It plays out very much like a regular episode of Sleepy Hollow, except that Abbie and Ichabod drag Agent Booth and Dr. Brennan on their journey through occult artifacts and super secret Freemason technology. Brennan still exits the experience with her cynicism and skepticism intact, and also with an urge to tear up historically important locations just to see how they work. I'm not an expert on anthropology as a profession at all, but is it really just okay to go around saying: "Oh, this is really cool! Let's break it." all the time? That doesn't seem like a very good mentality when dealing with priceless artifacts.

Ichabod and Abbie secured General Howe's body thanks to a letter Ichabod found at the Jeffersonian... that he wrote, in the 18th century, but no one really needs to know about that. Dr. Brennan had the bones delivered to Sleepy Hollow, but the delivery truck was intercepted by none other than Pandora, who raised General Howe from the dead and ordered him to do her bidding, as is her wont. General Howe was more than willing to acquiesce, since he really, really doesn't like Ichabod.

General Howe has been raised as a draugr, which people who play Skyrim might know as those zombie things that sneak up on you when you're trying to explore spooky crypts. Ichabod just knows them as nocturnal, unstoppable undead warriors, and that Howe maybe turned himself into one by making a promise back when he was alive. Abbie figures out that Pandora's plan for pandemonium will likely involve a lot of undead warriors attacking Sleepy Hollow trick-or-treaters on Halloween night and Team Witness starts... you know, making sure that doesn't happen. With the help of Booth and Brennan, Ichabod and Abbie uncover the weakness of the draugr creatures (Greek fire) and, in the end, General Howe steps into the flames himself rather than be defeated by Crane directly. That works, too.

Outside of the Pandora plot with the draugr, there was an important development for each of the Witnesses. The first was for Ichabod, who was struggling with the idea of asking Zoe Corinth out on a date. It was mostly about his desire to put the memories of Katrina behind him and move forward with his life, while still acknowledging the important role his wife played in making him the man he turned out to be. Throughout the episode, Abbie is urging Ichabod to just go for it with Zoe, and he actually does. Clearly neither one of the Witnesses have thought this plan through because, really? Ichabod dating a woman he's going to have to lie to, constantly? Yeah, that's a fantastic plan. Not going to end badly at all.

The other development was tangentially related to the Adventures of Jenny and Joe happening in this week's episode. The affairs of the J-Duo (can we call them that? I'll try it out once and see where it goes) are still connected to the Anubis Shard that has been popping up throughout the season. It's revealed that Atticus Nevins –– the person who ordered the Shard stolen in the first place –– was friends with August Corbin, and both Joe and Jenny wonder if they ever really knew the man at all... Jenny and Joe confront that woman they found –– the one who seemed like she'd been trained by Corbin –– and, in a moment of desperate need to know what other secrets his dad had been keeping from him, Joe Corbin makes a deal to trade the Shard for information on how Nevins knew his dad. It's not a deal Jenny is happy about.

But how does it tie back to Abbie? Well, Agent Reynolds has pictures of Abbie's sister talking with a known associate of Atticus Nevins, a black market dealer and all-around bad dude. And Abbie needs to explain herself.

All in all, this was a pretty entertaining crossover event. I'm sure a lot of people fretted over the idea of bringing the supernatural into the world of Bones, but –– like I've said multiple times on Twitter –– the show had already established that ghosts exist and psychics are real, so going one step beyond that isn't really pushing it. As for Sleepy Hollow's part in it all: nothing has changed. The idea that Agent Booth knew Sheriff Corbin is interesting (if slightly confusing) but I'm sure Corbin knew a lot of people. A lot of possibly dangerous people, judging by the new information brought up at the end of this episode.

Next week, things go back to normal and we might find out more about the mysterious life of August Corbin.

Other Things (XL #HollowBones Edition!):

Bones:
  • A pumpkin falls into the headless corpse's coffin. You know, where the head was supposed to be. Because Headless Horseman. How is it that the show about murder seems to take things less seriously than the one about magical incantations and purgatory?
  • Once again, someone calls Sleepy Hollow a "small town" and once again, I have to mention that it has a population of 144,000 people. NOT SMALL.
  • Ichabod seems even weirder outside of Sleepy Hollow. How did he survive without Abbie when he goes around waving his finger at people and diving into thousand-yard stares at odd moments?
  • Everyone at the Jeffersonian ships Abbie and Ichabod. For good reason.
  • The text that shows up on the book from the computer graphic candle was... so bad. It just goes to show that the spookiness of Sleepy Hollow does not transfer perfectly to brightly lit, high-tech atmosphere of Bones.
  • Things Ichabod has done off-screen: Watched Star Trek; read Sherlock Holmes.
  • The bar that the Bones people go to is called "Founding Fathers"?!
  • "Benjamin Franklin invented 'Sex on the Beach'?" "He called it 'Fondle in the Forest'." (Cue adorable giggling.)
Sleepy Hollow
  • Abbie as Beyonce! Jenny as a Canadian Mountie! Wonderful!
  • Joe gets no credit for his costume of dirty scrubs, though. He works as an EMT, so that's basically cheating.
  • And finally, Ichabod is John Adams? Why, Ichabod? I have it on good musical authority that Adams was very unlikable.
  • Is the show trying to parallel Betsy Ross and Zoe Corinth? Why?
  • Please go back and watch the moment where Ichabod starts in on the sacredness of Ye Olde Halloween. Jenny does a full-body eye-roll and it's glorious.
  • We get more of Ichabod and Betsy this episode, and even some Ichabod and Katrina. Ichabod confirms that he was married to Katrina for six years, but I am still so confused by the whole timeline and I think the writers probably are, too.
  • "I'm sorry if it cuts into time with your roommate." That wasn't very smooth, Daniel. I'm demoting you from Agent Suave until you're back up to your usual standards.
  • I'm loving the relationship between Jenny and Joe more and more each episode. They're a perfect mix of friendly and flirty and functional.
  • "Faith results from our fear of death, art from our ability to discern an attractive mate, and love from our need to procreate." Dr. Brennan, I bet you're fun at parties.
  • "I've dreamt about this for years. I don't want to mess up my shot." Abbie is young, scrappy, and hungry.
  • "I have a bad feeling about this." Second time this season Ichabod's uttered a TV/movie cliche. We better learn that he and Abbie had a movie marathon weekend at some point.
  • "Do you understand what this means?" "I don't know –– George Washington was a complete badass?" He was, actually. It's on record that he found the sound of bullets whistling past his head "charming."
  • Nicole Beharie can shoot guns without blinking and it's THE GREATEST THING EVER.
  • "Love is what the victors bring." I am very curious about Pandora's foreboding tree poetry.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Style Tips From 'Jane The Virgin' [Contributor: Rae Nudson]


Jane Villanueva, the main character in hilarious and heartwarming Jane the Virgin, is a hyper-organized, careful young woman who landed in a situation she never could have planned for. After being accidentally artificially inseminated and becoming pregnant with the child of a man she barely knows, Jane is throwing out her planner and following her heart. (Hypothetically of course — Jane would never actually get rid of her planner.) Amid unexpected, life-altering news during just about every episode of this telenovela-inspired series, Jane continues to do her best handling each and every twist in her post-insemination life.

Last season opened with two hotties who wanted to marry her, then transitioned into Jane getting to know her superstar dad, and fighting for herself while remaining a kind and generous person. This season opened with the kidnapping of her newborn baby boy, balancing motherhood and the life she wants for herself, and still having two hotties who want to marry her. Somehow throughout all her ups and downs, Jane stayed true to her heart and true to her closet. In spite of every super-crazy situation she found herself in, Jane’s outfits remained super-stylish. And because Jane is practical, as well as fashionable, there is plenty to glean from Jane’s style that you can apply to your own wardrobe — even if you’re not a new mom, currently in the middle of a love triangle, or trying to protect your family from a terrifying crime organization.

Here are some of the best style tips you can take away from Jane the Virgin!


Cute pajama sets help everything.


It’s a fact that when you wear a matching pajama set, you are 10% less sad about getting over your ex. When Jane and Rafael (the father of her baby) break up, and when Jane and Michael (her ex-fiancé) start talking again, Jane hangs out at home in adorable pajamas. Feeling cute, even when no one will see you, helps you feel a little stronger to handle the drama in your life — boy drama or otherwise.

Develop your own style to celebrate being yourself.


Jane dresses less high fashion than Petra, the ex-wife of the father of her baby, and more reserved than her mother, Xiomara. After facing her unexpected pregnancy, Jane learned that she needed to take risks in order to be truly happy. Dressing in clothing that makes you feel more like who you are and who you were meant to be is a brave act in itself, and defending your own tastes can make you feel vulnerable. Jane is brave by wearing what she wants and saying no to wearing something that doesn’t feel right to her her. When her friend asks if Jane wants to dress “accidentally sexy bohemian” for their high school reunion, Jane confidently says that’s not her thing. Jane’s style is comfortable, colorful, and feminine, and she stays true to that throughout the show.



Wrap dresses are almost always flattering — even when your body is going through many, many changes.


Diane Von Furstenberg knew what she was doing when she made the wrap dress famous in the '70s. For the past 40 years, the wrap dress has looked flattering on almost every body type. It hugs women’s curves, cinches at the waist to help define your figure and creates a flattering look that is easy and comfortable to wear. Jane often dons a wrap dress throughout her pregnancy, and no matter what size she is, she looks put together and comfortable.

Keep a cardigan handy to turn any nighttime outfit into daytime appropriate.


After Jane has a romantic, all-night talk with Rafael, she goes straight to her student teaching job in the morning. The nuns at the Catholic school where she works are none too pleased to see her show up in last night’s party dress, but she quickly throws on a sweater that she keeps at her desk to become work appropriate. This is one of Jane’s most practical tips, and, honestly, an extra cardigan is helpful any time — whether it’s to combat extra-cold air conditioning or to cover up spilt coffee on your blouse.


Dress appropriately for the occasion.


Whether she’s going on a date with her ex-fiancé Michael or her baby daddy Rafael, Jane looks perfectly sweet in one of her many floral dresses. The ruffles and soft fabric are feminine and romantic, and a flowy skirt is perfect for twirling in happiness after you kiss under a starry summer sky. When she’s going to a professional meeting, Jane turns to a fitted sheath dress that is more structured and more business-like. And when she’s messing around at home, she’s comfortable in boyfriend jeans and a tank. Jane is always prepared, so she is always appropriately dressed for every event.

It wasn’t just pregnancy or the rush of new love that gave Jane a glow, it was also her romantic, yet practical, outfits. Whatever twists are in store, Jane will be dressed and ready to face what comes.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3x05 "4,722 Hours" (It's Lonely Out In Space) [Contributor Alice Walker]


"4,722 Hours"
Original Airdate: October 27, 2015

One of my main complaints about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been that the show often feels like it's trying to do too much at once –– focusing on too many characters, laying groundwork for too many other movies/spinoffs, telling too many stories. The vast improvements that came after the great HYRDA takeover of season one also brought an influx of new characters, which benefited the show but pulled the focus off of the core six and on to a much bigger universe.

You will find none of those complaints in this review. In fact, you will find no complaints at all, since "4,722 Hours" was one of the best S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes of all time (it wasn't quite enough to upset "Turn, Turn, Turn" for the number one spot, but it was close). Director Jesse Bochco did an outstanding job taking us back in time, immersing us in this new alien world and the dangers that come with it. We pick up six months ago, right as Simmons has been sucked into the monolith, and we watch as she slowly comes to terms with what really happened to her. Her actions felt natural, perfectly in step with the Dr. Jemma Simmons we've spent the last three years getting to know. Of course she would follow S.H.I.E.L.D. protocol when she's not even in the same solar system as her team, waiting expectantly for Fitz. Of course she would begin to track her findings with a scientific interest, killing time until she can pop back home. What else would Simmons possibly do?


For the first time ever, Elizabeth Henstridge was in every scene of the episode, and she has never been better as she flawlessly navigates through the stages of grief and takes the audience with her on her harrowing emotional odyssey. Her denial of the gravity of her situation and planning for her date with Fitz made her previous restaurant breakdown retroactively more heartbreaking. But her situation isn’t totally bleak –– after going through her own Cast Away survival journey, she eventually finds the one other person on this planet, hunky astronaut Will (Dillon Casey).

Henstridge is outstanding, giving an emotional depth to Simmons that we’ve only been able to glimpse before, and she has a worthy scene partner in Casey. We have less than one full episode to become emotionally invested in Will and he delivers –– rocketing from possibly enemy, reluctant ally, and finally, to love interest and partner. Will is largely resigned to his life on the alien planet, having been abandoned there by NASA in 2001, and on the run from some sort of evil alien that led three of his teammates to their own deaths. In a classic rom-com meet cute, Simmons plunges through his booby trap and he keeps her locked in a cage, afraid that she is the alien manifested in some new way.


We're on a time crunch here, so we only see flashes of their relationship as it develops but it's enough to convey intimacy, compassion, and affection. They work well together as astronaut and scientist, balancing each other with optimism and realism. Once the depression of a failed attempt at getting a message in a bottle through to Fitz, possibly due to the alien planet's manipulation, passes, they transition into acceptance of their situation, and create a new life together that actually doesn't seem so bad.


After sharing a tender moment watching the rare sunrise, Simmons sees Fitz's flare and they run for it, only to be stopped by the alien force that really doesn't want them to go. When it takes the form of a creepy astronaut, Simmons thinks for a moment that they are saved; but Will isn't fooled: the alien has him, and doesn't want him to go. He pushes Simmons to safety where she finds Fitz and just like that, we're back to the present, with Simmons finally telling Fitz the whole story. True to form, Fitz doesn't say a word at first, just sets to work restoring the portal to rescue Will who –– wouldn't you know it –– is visible for a brief moment. But his gun has no more bullets, and he is alone.

This episode is the closest S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever come to a bottle episode and it is a risk that paid off with dividends. The emotional stakes have never felt higher for the two scientists who were once known for being merely "adorkable." My only hope is that they don't let up on the emotional throttle as they mount another improbable rescue.


All highlights, no low-lights:
  • I sighed with relief when Simmons addressed the everlasting-battery elephant in the room. When will that tech be on the market? 
  • The phone as an emotional touchstone to Fitz felt right, and the beat she took when she decided to sacrifice it felt earned. Losing the phone meant saying goodbye to Fitz and opening up to Will, and neither were taken lightly.
  • What world is that really? Looking forward to exploring the planet of mood swings.
  • Swoon-worthy chemistry between Henstridge and Casey. That was a really great casting job there.
  • I literally cheered when they flashed to Will alive. I doubt we will get a clean rescue (that alien seems intent on keeping his toy) but my God, am I rooting for him.
  • Iain De Caestecker was hardly in this episode, but Fitz loomed large and De Caestecker did so much with his one brief scene. I have never felt closer to FitzSimmons, and I've never wanted to know what comes next more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Arrow 4x04 "Beyond Redemption" (Save What Had Been Lost)


"Beyond Redemption"
Orginal Airdate: October 28, 2015

Is anyone ever too far gone?

Sometimes I think about that, honestly. Sometimes I wonder if people are just past the point of redemption. You give them more chances to apologize and correct their ways, and they keep on making the same mistakes. You hear their sob story and it sounds like the exact same story they've told you the past ten times you've talked. They say that this is the last time (and they said that ten times ago, too). I understand that people can change and I truly do believe that, in my heart. Because I believe in redemption, even if I occasionally doubt.

Redemption is a really interesting thing. I love stories of redemption because they permeate our culture with such beauty — the story of the hero falling and then rising again to conquer the villain. That character we thought was a villain being redeemed in the final act. The moment that the timid, meek character got to save the world. (If you're thinking about Harry Potter right now, congratulations! Because that is one great redemptive story.) In order to have redemption, there must always be sacrifice. Someone has to give up something — someone has to pay a price in order to save another person's soul or life. That is what redemption is, really.

And the title of "Beyond Redemption," is so striking to me, especially when comparing it with last week's. "Restoration" is the literal returning of something to what it once was. Literally, Laurel restored Sara — from death, to life again. But was Sara Lance really restored? Was she brought back the same as when she departed? Because if you recall, Sara died finally hearing and believing that she was a hero on that rooftop. Is that the woman we see chained to a wall this week? Arrow asks whether or not there is a difference between restoring something and redeeming it.

(Spoiler alert, there is! And we'll discuss that now.)

THE LANCE FAMILY: MORE DRAMA THAN AN EPISODE OF MAURY


If you think your family has it bad, you should probably spend a day with the Lance clan. In case you slept through the first three seasons of Arrow, let's talk about all this family has gone through and done — to themselves and others.

First, you have Sara sneaking around with her older sister's boyfriend and seemingly dying on the same boat he did. That sends Quentin into a spiral of alcohol addiction and leads to the disintegration of the family unit (Dinah, Quentin, Laurel). While Sara is presumed to still be dead, Oliver returns to Starling City and he and Laurel rekindle their romance, briefly, before breaking it off. Laurel falls in love with Tommy who dies at the end of season one, sending her on her own spiral of addiction and pain. Sara returns though, before this happens, alive and as happy as ever. Oh, and then she and Oliver briefly rekindle their romance. I know, right?

Unfortunately, all of the stress and exertion of saving cities and fighting and thinking Sara was dead and then seeing her alive again, and then seeing her leave again causes Quentin serious health issues. At the beginning of season three, we have a sober and healthy Quentin along with a sober and healthy Laurel. That can't last long, so Sara returns to Starling City, only to be killed by Thea (under Malcolm's influence) and falls off a roof, practically into Laurel's arms. The real death of Sara this time causes Laurel immense anguish and sends her on a spiral of more self-destruction. Instead of a bottle, though, Laurel tries to use a mask and a leather suit with way too many buckles to heal her. In the process, she keeps up the facade to Quentin that Sara is alive, healthy, and happy somewhere else, even going so far as to pretend to be Sara and talk to him. Again: I know, right?

Eventually (after far, far, FAR too much time has passed), Quentin is told the truth by Laurel and the two grieve Sara, with Papa Lance's justifiable anger at Laurel's lies driving a wedge between them. Laurel and Quentin still don't see eye-to-eye by the time this season begins, but their relationship is at least on some sort of path toward reparation, except for the fact that Quentin Lance is now Damien Darhk's lapdog. 

Oh, right, I almost forgot: Laurel discovered the Lazarus Pit and ended up bringing the year-dead Sara back to life and back to Star(ling) City. How many times, you wonder, can people presume Sara to be dead before she's actually, permanently dead? Your guess is as good as mine. And that's what you missed on Glee!... er, Arrow.

Which all brings us to "Beyond Redemption," which — as I noted above — is an interesting title for an interesting episode. Here's the thing: you all know that I played devil's advocate for Laurel last week, because — as an older sister — I got why she wanted to save Sara. I would do anything for my baby sister, too. But this week, Laurel's not going to get much sympathy from me as I try to understand exactly what her logic is behind believing that Sara will be okay again. Did ANYONE tell her she would be? Has anyone said "just give it a week, and the Lazarus Pit will wear off"? Because unless they did and I missed something, I have no reason to believe that Sara will ever be the same again, and Laurel shouldn't either.

But she's pathologically delusional at this point. And, again, while I can't support her, I'm trying my very best to understand her and this is the first episode where I feel like Laurel was completely irrational. I want to like her, truly I do. Often, I can at least try to understand the reasoning behind her actions. Unfortunately though, from start to finish in "Beyond Redemption," Laurel made poor decision after poor decision — all while scowling and lying to everyone besides Quentin.

Sorry, baby bird. Better luck next week?

HEART OF DARHKNESS


(No, I'm not worried that I'll run out of puns for Damien this season.)

Have I mentioned lately that I love Damien Darhk as the big bad for this season? He's literally all I could hope for in an Arrow villain — biting and sarcastic, terrifying, and still somehow human. This episode he wasn't extremely prominent, but in the scenes that he was, he was powerful. When Quentin discovers that Sara is alive, he is overjoyed and confused (as you would be). But then, as Laurel is talking to Sara, the woman tries to strangle her. And that's when Quentin Lance becomes a bit desperate (what can I say? It runs in the family) and approaches Damien Darhk for assistance.

Laurel may be delusional about Sara returning to normal, but Quentin is under no such belief. He takes one look at Sara and says that he doesn't even know that woman. It isn't his daughter. And he wants to know — wants Damien to reassure him — that there is some way he can save the woman who bears Sara's likeness. But our Darhk baddie says there is no such way. In fact, they speak father to father and Damien notes that if it was his own daughter, he would put her down. That's not Sara's soul within her body — it's a soul of rage and hatred and animal instincts. Let me pause momentarily to talk about Quentin and Damien's conversation. What Damien was suggesting was murder, yes, but it was more like he was describing a mercy killing. And he talked about the entire subject rather calmly and compassionately, from a similar stance as Quentin. We don't get the chance to see many villains on this show talk with the heroes as equals. This was a nice touch, honestly, and makes me excited for what we will learn about Damien in future episodes.

Let's talk about Quentin, shall we? Because this is a man who is self-righteous and eager to tear Oliver apart. And yet, in the episode, Oliver discovers Damien and Quentin have been conversing. When approached with this, Quentin still — rather emotionally and angrily — tries to take the moral high road, but Oliver quickly strips him of that opportunity. Quentin Lance used to be the kind of man who was a bit bristly, but he had moral standards. There were lines he did not cross. Heck, even Damien Darhk has lines he won't cross. The scariest and most dangerous people are those whose moral codes fluctuate. Quentin Lance is a desperate man, and desperation leads people to do stupid, reckless, selfish things (again — it runs in the family) in the name of a better or higher or worthier cause. The truth is that it is so easy for Quentin to judge Oliver: to look at him and sneer at his choices and his decisions. But Quentin has never had to make any of the complex decisions Oliver did... until now. And when he is faced with the choice? He chooses to do business with the devil.

In one of the best displays of acting on Arrow to date, Quentin Lance and Oliver Queen have an intensely emotional screaming match, in which the former tries to justify what he did to protect the people he loved. Oliver knows that there is ALWAYS another choice to make and — really powerfully and boldly — tells Quentin to stop hiding behind Sara and Laurel as his excuse for wrongdoing. Quentin and Laurel are alike in a lot of ways. They blame other people for their problems in an effort to justify their poor behavior. That's why they are both addicts, too. Oliver then, more calmly, tells Quentin that he looked up to the man for so long and wanted his approval.

Let's not forget something here — Quentin was essentially another father to Oliver when he was dating Laurel. Do you have that kind of person in your life? The kind of person who lives and acts like they have all their crap together and are better than you because of it? The kind of person who touts their moral compass like a prize and seems to stand taller because of their pride? This was Quentin — this IS Quentin — and it disgusts Oliver that the man he once thought was better and more righteous than he was turned out to be someone who was cowardly and amoral.

But people can be redeemed. Stories can be redeemed. Life can be redeemed... if only people are willing to make sacrifices in order to do so. When Oliver is stabbed and almost killed by this week's bad guy (uh, girl), Quentin saves the man by appealing to our assailant's humanity. The truth is, Quentin reasons, everyone has done horrible, unspeakable, desperate things because they think it will save their city. But the only way Star(ling) City will truly be saved is if people are brave enough to stop being desperate and bold enough to step into the light and fight for the city in honest, moral ways. "We've all been made to do desperate things," he says. "But I gotta believe we're not beyond redemption."

Isn't that the whole point of Arrow? The whole point of heroism? That no one is beyond the reach of grace. That being a hero comes at a price, but that the price you pay is ultimately far less than what you will gain in return? The day we stop believing people can be saved — in any sense of the word — is the day that we succumb to the dar(h)kness and allow it to permeate our souls. Redemption requires sacrifice, though, and if Quentin is serious about redeeming his soul... he must be willing to pay the price to do it.

A CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD


As the team re-acclimates to Star(ling) City now that Oliver is back — and as they readjust to a new team dynamic — it seems only fitting that the New Team Arrow have a new lair as well! It's built, conveniently, right below Oliver's campaign office and... oh, that's right. Oliver is running for mayor. He announces this to the team and their faces are about as hilarious as their dialogue. No one really thinks Oliver can do this whole mayoral thing (or at least they don't believe he's thought it through), but there is one thing they do love: the new underground lair, complete with the salmon ladder, lots of LEDs, and what appear to be technical glitches. Nevertheless, the team is happy to have a new place to call their own... until inevitably some baddie finds it and they have to relocate. Again.

Oliver and Thea have a rather wonderful conversation later on in the episode, after Oliver's blow-up with Lance. It seems that our hero can shoot arrows at bad guys all day with confidence, but he doesn't know if he should be running for mayor because he doesn't know if Star(ling) City is even able to be saved. Is it too far gone? With Lance's dabble in the dar(h)kness, Oliver rightfully wonders whether anything is sacred anymore. If Lance — the officer of the moral high ground — is working with a villain, then maybe there is no hope after all. But Thea, beautiful and precious baby Queen, knows her big brother better than anyone in the world. And so she writes him a speech for when he announces his campaign. And since the writers were probably busy eating pie or cookies, the speech sounds a lot like the opening monologue Oliver delivers before the start of every Arrow episode.

Nevertheless, for at least one day, there is something in Star(ling) City to be hopeful about. There is no redemption without sacrifice. And there is no redemption without the foundation of hope and trust. If "Beyond Redemption" sought to teach us anything, it was that.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • For those keeping score at home, yes this is the second week in a row that the subtitle for the review has been a lyric from Tangled's "Healing Incantation." Ask me how many regrets I have about that.
  • MVP for this episode goes to Paul Blackthorne, by a MILE. That confrontation between Quentin and Oliver was some of the best acting I've ever seen on this show. I come down hard on Lance a lot because yeah, he's being a complete hypocrite. He's lied to Laurel and the team and has been working with the enemy — the devil himself — for months now. And he justifies it because he wants to believe he is still a good and righteous person. And yet, in spite of all of those things or perhaps because of them, Blackthorne managed to make me feel for him and ache for him. And while the scene in the apartment was amazing, that was nothing compared to the scene where Quentin decides to kill Sara. Every single bit of emotion Blackthorne extracted from that scene — horror and anguish over what he almost did, pain, desperation, grief — are all so palpable and powerful. Seriously, I can't say enough good things about Paul Blackthorne in this episode. Easily the strongest performance of his to date.
  • "What type of secret lair has windows?"
  • "Oh my God, where is it? Why aren't you wearing it?" THEA THINKING THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT WAS THAT OLIVER PROPOSED. So obviously Oliver told her about him wanting to propose with Moira's ring. I'm such a fan of this whole exchange, really.
  • "... Oh. You're serious." Everyone's reaction to Oliver running for mayor? Absolute perfection.
  • Laurel, why are you treating your sister like a puppy/baby? I talk to pre-schoolers better than you talked to your ADULT SISTER. 
  • Deb brought up an excellent point — how do you hire contractors for a secret lair? Did they come from Central City? We need to know these things. My assumption is that they're the Starling City Window Repair crew, moonlighting as construction workers.
  • The quickest way to give Lance a heart attack would be to show him his definitely-not-dead daughter chained up in a basement. Because HE HAS A HEART CONDITION, LAUREL. A fact that I'm so happy was actually stated later in the episode.
  • "We're gonna need some money." "... Don't you mean MORE money?" "... Mmm."
  • "What? I don't get a code name like the rest of you?" Take it up with Cisco, dude.
  • "Your texts were 911, OMG, ASAP, and five exclamation points."
  • "Oh my God, this must be what talking to me is like."
  • I didn't mention it above, but Felicity had a little sub-plot this episode with Curtis. The man spent time in the episode figuring out that Felicity's freaked-out phone was like that because it was being sent messages from Ray's old super suit. Rather than listen to whatever message Ray recorded before his death, Felicity vehemently refuses to do so. And when prompted further by Curtis, she explains that it would be too painful since she and Ray were once together. Curtis and Felicity then have a conversation that's reminiscent of the one Brian and Rebecca had in Limitless together a few weeks ago — if you found something of your deceased loved one, would you want to read it or see it? Curtis says what Brian does in Limitless: if he had the chance to hear his loved one speak again, he would want to take that chance. The moment between these two character was so beautiful. Kudos to Echo Kellum and Emily Bett Rickards for really selling me on the emotional connection they have already. At the end of the episode, Felicity does open the audio file from Ray and hears his voice before breaking down in tears. I may not have liked Ray, but I know that — creepy or not — Felicity cared about him. Hearing a message from someone who loved you and who you cared about is painful. I'm glad she did it by herself though, because she needs to hear the message to heal.
  • "You're doing that... crinkly thing with your eyebrows." There was not much Oliver/Felicity this episode but I'm totally okay with that, if it means we get little adorable gems like this in the episodes. HOW CUTE THAT OLIVER NOTICES LITTLE THINGS.
  • We got a "you have failed this city"! Yes!
  • Oh, I made it this far without discussing flashback-land. You guys should be proud. Basically this week, Oliver lied to the evil army dude about killing the woman he let escape. Army dude believed him and then found the communication device Oliver had been using to talk to ARGUS and Waller. So now evil Army dude knows and Oliver is screwed (probably).
  • "... You got your own key or something?"
  • Laurel, I don't know why you thought a TRAINED ASSASSIN would be completely and permanently shackled by whatever little chains you used on her in the basement.
Whew! Well, there you have it folks. Did you enjoy "Beyond Redemption"? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me. Until then! :)

iZombie 2x04 "Even Cowgirls Get the Black and Blues" (No Such Thing as Fate?) [Contributor: Isabella]


"Even Cowgirls Get the Black and Blues"
Original Airdate: October 27, 2015

This week's homicide case got sent to the backburner, while the true heart of the show — character relationships and interactions — were at the forefront. From Ravi to Clive to Peyton, it seemed like everyone got their fair share of screentime and that screentime was with each other, I might add. What makes iZombie memorable isn't the action, or trying to solve the cases or how to get rid of this season's baddie, but the actors' ability to become their characters so completely that it makes us feel all the emotions we didn't think possible.

What I'm trying to get at is that this was one of the most emotional episodes and I need someone to cry with. Applicants may use the comments section to do so.

THE CASE

Sometimes I feel like I have get the discussion about the case over with before I can move onto the really good stuff. This is one of those times.

What I enjoyed most about this particular case is that Liv seemed to mostly be herself, even when singing in the bar. She sang a song about letting Major go and moving on, which I will discuss more about in a little bit. The persona Liv embodied this week was a waitress at a country music joint — Lacy — who was murdered in her bedroom. Lacy ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The man who murdered her hadn't intended to kill her.

Liv had a Texan accent from time to time, but wasn't very prominent. The one takeaway from the case I enjoyed was Liv's musical talent. Writing and singing the song about her relationship with Major brought her to realize that she really does need to move on from him. It doesn't seem like he wants to be in a relationship anymore, so neither should she. Then again, at the end, she throws away the song she wrote about moving on just in time for Major to come to her door and ask for help. She threw away the paper because she knew it wasn't true. Moving on wouldn't be that easy for her.

With that note, let's get to the good stuff: the characters' relationships with each other.

First up...

PEYTON AND LIV

By far, this is my favorite relationship in the entire show.

When we last saw them, Peyton had run out on Liv after seeing her transform into her zombie self and killing someone right in front of her. Last episode, although they didn't see each other face to face, Peyton did take the time to deliver a birthday cake to Liv. She was also the only person to remember Liv's birthday.

It seems like taking that break for a couple of months did Peyton some good because she's back and ready to work on the Utopium case. But, most importantly of all, she is ready to continue her friendship with Liv, as exemplified within the first few minutes of this episode.

There's no fighting. There's no yelling. It's as if nothing ever happened between them — as if Peyton simply went on a vacation for a time. This isn't to say that Peyton didn't get mad. As she tells Liv, when she left, she resented Liv for being a zombie and for not telling her.

Peyton — being a great person and as empathetic as she is — understood how hard it must have been for Liv to 1) become a zombie, 2) lose her job as a surgeon, and 3) lose the love of her life, all in the span of a few months. Liv dealt with those things the only way she knew how, which makes me think I might have been too hard on her last year. I definitely didn't agree with a lot of Liv's actions last season, but she was doing what she thought was best. Now, Major's doing the exact same thing — killing zombies because it'll keep Liv alive. Luckily Peyton understands this and is able to determine when there's something off with Major. She is able to be Liv's support system through all this.

Luckily, Aly Michalka and Rose McIver have bucketfuls of chemistry and we get to see more of it when they're catching up at Liv's house. Peyton has incredible people skills and instantly gets the hint that Glinda's a sketchy character and maybe Liv should do a background check on her. Unfortunately, Peyton doesn't get that feeling with Blaine who seems to be her newest romantic interest. Yikes.


#LadiesSupportingLadies

CLIVE AND DALE

Malcolm Goodwin hinted at the fact that Clive might be getting a love interest this season and it seems to be coming to fruition. FBI agent Dale Bozzio was introduced as someone working on several missing persons cases in the area. She mentions a few like the famous astronaut who went missing. This should ring a bell, seeing as he was one of the guys Blaine had his henchmen kill for his brains. Matt Fowler from the "Real Housewives" episode is also mentioned. Blaine had him killed too. But the most interesting is the mention of a man that went missing jogging in the park — the man that Major killed.  

She'll be using the desk next to Clive's, giving them plenty of time to interact. Becoming involved with her will most likely propel Clive even further into the whole zombie situation. Like I said, this show is fantastic at weaving separate storylines together. It makes me all the more excited to see how everything will connect by the end of the season.

I'm also mildly frightened and preparing for the worst with this relationship. She's made Clive smile multiple times already, which I love since Clive deserves all the happiness, but after years of TV pulling stunts on me, I can't help but suspect that she's going to be "bad" or she's going to die. TV shows can't all be too good to be true.

GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM

Major completely hit rock bottom this episode, with his addiction to Utopium now messing up the relationships in his life. First, with Ravi. After Major leaves the back door open and Minor — their new dog, walks right through it, — Ravi and Major are forced to go look for the dog. Someone finds the dog back in the same park where his previous owner was killed by Major and then dumped in the river (cue my crying). 

Ravi confronts Major about how weird he's been acting and tells him he needs to get his act together because the night before, he didn't even respond to his name and the question of when he'd last seen Minor. Ravi's also pretty angry that Major didn't tell him Peyton would be living with them for a bit while she's trying to find a new place.

Liv's decided that it's about time for her to move on from Major, no matter how much it hurts, and sings a song about their relationship: "they love each other desperately, but they can't seem to stop hurting each other."

"It's Time I Let You Go" by Olivia Moore:
There's only nightmares ahead of us
And sweet dreams long ago.
It's time to wake up, baby.
It's time I let you go.
I've got to let you go.
After her song, she heads to Major's house to tell him this face-to-face:

From the moment that I met you, I knew that we were meant to be together. I was sure of it. It was like fate.  
But that was before I had witnessed a mass murder. Before I had eaten fresh brain. Before I had lied to you or let you put yourself in a mental hospital. It was before I watched you die. And it was before all this cruelty was directed at me.  
I don't think space can fix what's wrong with us. We're a dream that's dead. And I doubt I will ever stop loving you, but it's over now. I've got to let you go... completely... forever.

Major seems hurt by what she said, but quickly closes the door. Liv doesn't take any of this crap, and confronts him about how cold he's being to her. It's not fair because she didn't ask for any of this. She couldn't be this monster and his wife. Her confusion over what had happened to her made her distance herself from the people she loves. And, most of all, all of the decisions she made last year were to keep Major safe. Even if he doesn't agree with them, it's the best she could do.

While Liv wants to get closer to him, Major wants some space. But no matter how many times he tells her this, she's always there. It's like no matter how many times Liv decides to move on or officially end it, something always brings them back together. Although it seems pretty final.

Major doesn't fully realize how low he's sunk until he goes to buy some Utopium from a kid he had tried keeping off drugs while living in the shelter last season. The realization that he's become who he's tried to keep other kids from becoming hits him hard. So he turns to the only person he knows will help him. The only person he truly does miss. Liv.

He goes to her door and says, "I need help." She instantly pulls him into a hug, completely understanding. When they hug, it seems like such a relief to both of them. They exhale. This is how it's supposed to be. As they pull their heads away from their embrace, they kiss once. Major looks at her before they continue. It seems right. It seems like a good ending, but we know there's still a lot more that needs to be fixed before they can be fully happy and at peace together.

As this is all taking place, Angus and Julia Stone's "Crash and Burn" plays in the background. Apart from it being a gorgeous song that I can listen to over and over again, the lyrics are pretty telling of their relationship:
Will you come back
If I turn and run?
Will you come find me
If I crash and burn?
Will you come find me
If I crash and burn?
I definitely don't think they're in the right place to resume a relationship right now, since Major still has things he's keeping from Liv — like being a zombie killer. Although I'm pretty sure he'll tell her about his addiction to Utopium, he wouldn't tell her about being a zombie killer and his short-lived relationship with Rita, who also happens to be Liv's roommate "Glinda." That could get pretty messy and even more terrifying for Major if he finds out that Rita's gotten herself even closer to Liv.

If they do happen to resume the relationship, I don't think it'll end up too well for Major. Liv wouldn't take him being a zombie killer well. It'll be just like last season with her, but this time, Major's the one making all the decisions that he thinks are best — the ones that keep Liv safe.

In the long run, maybe these two will crash, but I don't think they'll burn. They'll just keep going back to each other. Maybe it is fate.

Brainy Quotes and Undead Notes:
  • Peyton and Liv are friends again. My heart is floating.
  • So Glinda's real name is Rita. Is this the first we've heard of this? I feel like it is.
  • "I hate that phrase, 'made love.' It's like sex went and hired a PR firm." — Same, Liv! There's just something about it that doesn't sit right with me.
  • "I just say 'do sex.' You know, like uh... Thank you for doing sex with me." — Ravi to Clive
  • "That's the smell of sex and self-loathing." — Major, I just want to hug you. Don't turn to Glinda/Rita, turn to meeeeee.
  • Ravi named the dog Minor. Major and Minor. This is great.
  • Okay, the more they show Liv cooking her brains into fancy dishes, the more I want to eat them. The fried brains she made looked so good. What's wrong with me?! This is like when I marathoned Hannibal in the confines of my bedroom and suddenly wanted some of what Hannibal was cooking. Never again.
  • I adore every scene involving Clive, Liv and Ravi together. They're so hilarious when they mess with Clive.
  • I'm so glad they were able to incorporate Rose McIver's gorgeous singing voice into an episode, especially with her singing the song "I Have to Let You Go."
  • I literally gasped when Peyton walked in on Ravi and his girlfriend, Steph. There are still feelings there and now I want them to get back together. I did chuckle when Steph wanted to high five Ravi for having dated Peyton. I see you, Steph. I see you.
  • "Have you heard the good news, brother? Jesus saves." "That's good news... where does he shop?" — Blaine
  • Ooh, Clive's getting a love interest. I don't know how I feel about this yet, but they actually seem sort of cute.
  • Blaine and Peyton. Oh lord. They're just matching up everyone aren't they?
  • There wasn't that much of Liv acting like someone else on account of the brains she'd eaten, which is a positive for me.
  • iZombie always has great music in their episodes, but playing Angus and Julia Stone's "Crash and Burn" during the Major/Liv kiss completely tied the episode together.

The Flash 2x04 "The Fury of Firestorm" (Watching It Burn) [Contibutor: Deborah MacArthur]



"The Fury of Firestorm"
Original Airdate: October 27, 2015 

The Flash gives us a double voice-over this week: not only the usual "I am The Flash" montage before the "previously on" clips, but also one with a contemplative Barry talking about destiny and leaps of faith and making big choices that cause big changes. I could be remembering incorrectly, but I think this is the first Scrubs-esque summary of the episode's lessons we've had in a long time. Why is Barry voice-overing now? Is he writing in his diary again after ignoring it for a while? I do that too, Barry. Diaries are really hard to keep.

Actually, I kind of suspect that it has a lot to do with why I found this episode a little underwhelming: it's pretty scattered, and the voice-over is necessary to make it seem less so. In contrast with last week's fairly solid episode –– which didn't need the themes spelled out for us through a voice-over and let us figure out the connections ourselves –– this episode feels less unified and the blend between character development and superhero shenanigans is not as smooth. Without Barry’s voice-over tying together what’s happening around and within Team Flash, "The Fury of Firestorm" is just a bunch of moments that only work to set up the Legends of Tomorrow spin-off and introduce two of its soon-to-be-main characters.

The villain is... a villain. That's it. Dr. Henry Hewitt as Tokamak only truly makes himself known about halfway through the episode, and then he doesn’t even pose a much of a threat because Team Flash takes him down in no time at all. He has very little motivation, not a lot of depth (he's just REALLY ANGRY ALL THE TIME) and absolutely zero chance of being anything other than a villain. Seriously, they kind of imply a "Who will be the new Firestorm?" mystery, but ruin it before it has even begun by giving us a flashback of Jefferson "Jax" Jackson and nothing for Dr. Hewitt. I've learned from years and years of TV watching that the person in the flashback's going to be a new main character. Or in this case, a new main character for a spin-off.

Okay so, what's the voice-over message from Barry for this week's episode? "You're left with a choice: you can either embrace the change, and move forward — or fight it, and be left behind."

Um... Yeah, okay, Barry. Thanks. That does indeed apply to Jax Jefferson and his decision to become the other half of Firestorm versus his decision to keep his quiet, unfulfilling life after the Particle Accelerator explosion ruined his football career and college plans. It also kind of –– in a much, much smaller capacity –– applies to Barry's unrequited love for Iris and potential match with Patty Spivot. I also want to apply it to Iris's relationship with her estranged mother, but I think that would be stretching it a lot –– regardless of how Barry’s ending voice-over tried to include Iris’s difficulties into the overall theme. Iris neither “embraces” the change that might come with he mother’s reappearance nor “fights” it and gets left behind. She more like... acknowledges the change, then rightfully punts it out the door because she’s strong and understands that life is difficult, imperfect, and saddening but just accepting the people who have done you wrong isn’t the way to go about things.

And that actually brings me to the big positive of the episode: Iris West and how she deals with Francine West. Candice Patton freaking owns the scenes she gets this week, and I love how Iris handles the arrival of Francine (and that she calls her Francine, and not "mom" –– because Iris realizes that being connected to someone by blood does not automatically permit them a place in your life –– AHEM, Thea-and-Malcolm-Merlyn on Arrow). Even though the dismissal she delivers seems harsh on TV –– a world full of quiet anger followed by forgiveness when it comes to estranged parents –– it's a realistic way to react to something like this. Iris also struggles with the knowledge that she could have a brother somewhere out there in the world, and how she should handle that. Maybe that’s the “embraced change” that Barry talks about in his voice-over –– not so much the change that would come with letting Francine into her life, but the unrealized, unpredictable change that could result from finding her brother. It still doesn’t quite fit with the “embrace it or be left behind” ultimatum that Barry posits, though.

Like I said before, this episode is a bit scattered. In addition to trying to find a second half to Firestorm and Iris dealing with her mother, there are some smaller subplots woven throughout. One of them is Patty Spivot trying to find information on a man-shark that's been spotted around the city and the other is the fact that Harrison Wells is back, bein' creepy and stealing things. Both these subplots show up, then fade out, then really re-emerge at the end of the episode, when King Shark attacks Barry in the middle of his voiceovering about how he should try and ask Patty out on a date. And then Harrison Wells shoots King Shark! At least, I really hope it's just Harrison Wells, because I'm sick of calling the character Tom Cavanagh plays things like "Not-Wells" and "Thawne-Wells" in these reviews.

BARRY ALLEN PUPPY GIF OF THE EPISODE:

* Credit for finding this week's Barry Puppy GIF goes to Lizzie, by the way.

THE AWKWARD AT RELATIONSHIPS PUPPY (WITH BONUS PATTY PUPPY)


Other Things:

  • "Oh, Dios mío." Is that the first time Cisco has spoken Spanish in the show?
  • "Okay, cool, so how are we going to do that? Are we just gonna make a Tinder app for potential metahumans? Because I'm pretty sure merging with Stein and randomly bursting into flames sounds like the biggest 'swipe left' of all time." That was a long line to deliver so perfectly.
  • Oh my word, the awkward-cute levels of Barry/Patty are off the charts.
  • "Hewitt is a scientist! Clearly, he's trying to make something of his life." Kinda judgey there, Caitlin.
  • "People call me Jax." "Ooh. Catchy."
  • Iris says that it "wasn't fair" to make Joe the "bad guy" but I... don't recall her ever doing that?
  • "He's got an ego the size of Texas," says Cisco, accurately hinting at the probability of Hewitt becoming a supervillain.
  • "Oooh, look at that, that's so cute! We'll have two Professor Steins if this works!"
  • I really feel for Jax. It turned out well in the end, but he still can't really do what he wants with his life. But he can fly, so... that's nice.
  • "Definitely not a man-shark. Not even a landshark, ma'am." So much adorable in one human being. How is it possible? Will the world ever know?
  • Does anyone on Team Flash stop and ask why villains constantly get the metahuman powers? Not a single other good-hearted person (unrelated to the team) got caught in the blast and gained abilities? It's like superpowers are attracted to evil.
  • I like that the thing Jax throws at Hewitt hits him right on the head, perfectly. Because he was a football player and that makes sense!
  • "I'm an investigative reporter, Francine. I uncover things that people want to keep hidden." YOU TELL HER, IRIS.
  • King Shark interrupting Barry's voice-over by grabbing his head actually made the voice-overs in this episode worth it. 
  • "Put your hands... your fins in the air!"