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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Arrow 5x08 Review: "Invasion!" (And The One With What Could Have Been)


"Invasion!"
Original Airdate: November 30, 2016

My favorite episode of Community involves a storyline in which characters roll a dice in order to determine who will leave the apartment they're in and go down to pick up the pizza that was delivered. The episode focuses on different timelines in which different characters go down to pick up the pizza depending on what number the dice lands on. Each person leaving causes something slightly different to happen. One of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who involves a simple decision a character makes to either turn left or right at a stop sign, and the result of her one decision. I think the reason I love these episodes so much is because they provide us all with the sense that one action could change our fates forever. A butterfly flapping its wings could alter the course of someone's life. And maybe you're not a big believer in fate or destiny or whatever. I get that. But for me, I believe that the choices we make — even the small ones — lead us to become the people we eventually are. If Oliver hadn't gotten on that fateful boat that led him to Lian-Yu, his life would look a lot like the aliens contrived it in "Invasion!"

But is that what Oliver wants? Does he want to reset the past? Does he want to undo all of the things that brought him to where he is in this episode? If he could go back in time and stay in those pre-shipwreck moments, would he? This is a really powerful, important thing to question, and something that builds on the conversation Oliver and Barry had in last night's The Flash. There, Oliver told Barry that he doesn't blame him for changing the past and creating Flashpoint — if he could go back and change fate so that his parents lived, he would. And yet, Oliver gives up the chance of some sort of version of that in this episode in order to continue his heroic journey.

(This might be the first time in a long time I've loved an episode of Arrow and have also really loved Oliver Queen. Maybe we should have crossover events all the time...)

THE ONE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN


There's an episode of Friends titled "The One That Could Have Been." It's a non-canon episode that imagines what the characters would be like, had their lives turned out just a little bit differently. "Invasion!" feels a lot like this episode — it dreams up what Oliver and company (not the adorable and underrated musical about singing cats, as Cisco reminds  us) would look like if Oliver had never gotten on The Queen's Gambit. In this shared hallucination between Oliver, Sara, Ray, Diggle, and Thea, everyone's life looks a little bit different.

For starters, Oliver is marrying Laurel. Sara is a pleasant, quick-witted sibling who never hooked up with Oliver (and apparently came out to her family). Diggle is The Hood, with his trusty sidekick Felicity Smoak (who owns Smoak Technologies). Ray is a business partner of Robert Queen and in the running to take over Queen Consolidated as the CEO. And Thea is stable, happy, and has a great relationship with her parents.

Who wouldn't want to live in Arrow's version of Pleasantville, right?

The problem is that it's all a mirage, and the team slowly begins to figure that out. But for a while — before Oliver knows exactly what is happening — we get the chance to see what Oliver would have been like if he hadn't been shipwrecked and become a vigilante. He's in a great relationship with Laurel. He's put his playboy ways behind him. He's grown up. And he seems happy. But just beneath the surface, something inside of Oliver knows that this version of his story isn't right. Even when confronted with visions of Diggle and Felicity, Oliver still tries desperately to cling to the last bit of happiness he can find in this faux world. Because I think there's a part of Oliver that wishes things had been different for him — that he wouldn't have been forced to lose the people he loves. Don't we all wish that? Don't we all want to dwell for a moment longer than we should in the happy memories because facing reality is often less than perfect?

But just because Oliver's life in this alternate world seemed to be perfect didn't mean that it was right.

I think that's the most telling thing about this episode. Oliver has the opportunity to look back on what he's lost — the full spectrum of it — and really question whether or not he should take it back. Had he stayed, he wouldn't have had the reality of happiness, but he would have had the feeling of it. One of my favorite speakers of all time once said that "feelings are real, but they aren't truth." I think Oliver knew that, after the visions began to become clearer. I think he wanted to desperately grasp onto the feeling of utter happiness and bliss but he just couldn't hold on. Because while the feeling of happiness was there, it wasn't truth.

Oliver has been forced to make really difficult choices over the years. Some choices he's made wisely; others he has made foolishly. And he's had to pay the consequences for those choices — just like Barry has had to pay the consequences for his choice to create Flashpoint. And rather than dwell in the bad decisions, I like that "Invasion!" (in both The Flash and Arrow) established the fact that some things we control, and others we have to live with. We can't take responsibility for everything that has ever happened because of a minor decision we've made.

What Oliver can do, and what he does do in this episode, is remember that happiness is a journey, not a result of perfection. His heroic journey has been rough in parts, but I think that what Oliver realized is that happiness can be born out of darkness. Just because The Queen's Gambit did go down, his parents did die, and he's lost people he's cared about doesn't mean that he can never find happiness. In fact, sometimes it takes experiencing darkness to understand and appreciate the beauty of the light.

ONE LAST TIME


I feel like we keep saying goodbye to Laurel, but this week's episode was the chance for Oliver and Sara (and, to some extent, Thea) to say goodbye to her one last time. I've never been the biggest fan of Laurel, but I think she was super important in this episode because she is the physical representation of the "what could have been" that we always ask ourselves. If things had been different, maybe Oliver could have been the man that Laurel deserved. And throughout the episode, Oliver tries desperately to be that man. Even when he's half-sure that the whole thing is a hallucination, Oliver tells Laurel that he wants to be with her and elope with her. He's desperate to cling onto a reality in which he's completely happy that he goes to extremes in order to secure that happiness.

(Something telling of Oliver as a character, really.)

But at the end of the episode, when Oliver has to finally say goodbye to Laurel, he realizes that even if he would have never gotten onto the boat, he still wouldn't have ever been the man Laurel deserved. This is some pretty heavy self-actualization for a mass hallucination, but props to the writers for making it really believable. And I think it's important Oliver recognize that he could never be the person who Laurel deserved to be with. It felt like the writers' way of having Oliver apologize for the way he treated Laurel for years, while also realizing they were just never meant to be in the first place. Oliver vocalizes this, essentially saying that even in the perfect hallucination he is still the imperfect person for her. They were never meant to be. But he loved her. In his own way, Oliver did love her. You can't NOT love someone who has been a part of your life... well, practically your entire life. Oliver and Laurel had history, even if they never had a future.

So while it might have seemed cruel initially to me as I watched Oliver leave Laurel on the stairs in her wedding dress in the rain, I think honestly it's the best way to bid farewell to a relationship that was never meant to be, where both parties cared about one another but just knew they would never make it work. It took a lot for Oliver to walk away. It took a lot for Sara, too, I am sure to walk away from her beloved sister. All Sara wants is her sister back. And when she had the chance to keep that, Sara realized that a mirage is not the same as flesh and blood.

Once more, we said goodbye to Laurel in "Invasion!" But this time, I feel like it made more sense for each of our characters to do so. Laurel was a part of the fabric of Arrow just as much as anyone else, and I liked the way that the writers drew her story — and the stories of our characters with relationships to her — to a close.

A MIRAGE CAN FEEL LIKE HOME


When everyone realizes they're in a shared hallucination, the one person who wants to stay in it is Thea. I can't blame her, really, because Thea has lost so much. All she wants is to stop losing — losing herself, her happiness, and her family. In the alien-induced alternate universe, Thea is whole and happy. She has her friends and her entire family together. What more could she want? In her reality, Thea can't stop losing. Her dad died. She thought she lost Oliver. She watched Moira die right in front of her. She was tortured. She learned her father wasn't Robert, but Malcolm. She was brainwashed (multiple times). She was killed, then painfully resurrected. She's killed. She's watched Roy leave. She's watched Laurel die. She's seen enough of the world to know its pain, and she can't take it anymore.

Oliver tenderly points out to Thea that their parents in this pseudo-paradise aren't real. None of it is real. But Thea doesn't care. Because when you're so broken, you'll hold onto anything that feels like home. Even if it's a mirage. All Thea wants is to feel like herself again. Recently, she's started to — working on Oliver's mayoral campaign and, now, staff has made her feel some semblance of wholeness. Still, there is a part of her that desperately just wants to be back in her mother's arms or to smell her dad's jacket. 

If you're desperate enough, the feeling of it all can be overwhelmingly tempting. For a moment, Thea decides to stay in this place with a version of her parents and Laurel. But eventually — after a tearful goodbye to him — Thea decides to fight her demons one last time alongside her family: Team Arrow. 

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME


Speaking of, everyone gets to battle their own personal demons before getting the chance to leave the pseudo-paradise. Everyone is there: Damien Darhk, ready to go hand-to-hand with Sara; Malcolm Merlyn who fights Thea; Slade's men who killed Anna duke it out with Ray; Diggle faces off against his brother (presumably, I think); and Oliver squares off against Deathstroke, the one villain who is much a part of Oliver's story as The Hood. 

As the team works together — my favorite part being Thea stabbing Malcolm and then shooting an arrow to Sara to help her defeat Damien — to fight their demons, they manage to fight their way toward an exit portal. As everyone crosses over, Oliver turns back and sees the faces of those he loves encouraging him onward.

It's an incredibly moving moment, played to perfection by Stephen Amell. And as I contemplated the meaning of such a scene — considering the fact that everyone appears very ghost-like when some of the characters in the scene aren't even dead in the real timeline — I realize now that it's meant to do just what I said above: spur Oliver forward in his heroic journey. Oliver is giving up a world in which happiness is a very tangible, very present feeling: a world in which everything seems to be right and happy. And he's returning to a world that is imperfect, where the journey is dark and the road is difficult; where he cannot see whether or not there is something like the happiness he's dreamt of ahead. But if you listen closely to what each of these characters are saying in their speeches, they're affirming Oliver.

My favorite Felicity Smoak speech is repeated here in the lines: "You are not done fighting." Roy tells of how Oliver changed his life. Laurel talks about how she knows who he is. Tommy tells him he's a hero. His mother speaks sweetly to him, and his father says goodbye. And as Oliver stands, in tears, we realize that these are the words he's most needed to hear for a long time — that he will be okay, if he just keeps fighting. That even though his world isn't perfect, there are people who love him and have fought for him and will continue to fight for him until the end of time.

They're not saying goodbye. They're not saying that everything will be okay.

They're saying that they believe in Oliver, and they believe in his journey. They spent their lives fighting for him and will continue to do so, until the very end.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • Every episode of Arrow needs more Cisco.
  • Without flashbacks, we were left with a side-plot of Felicity, Cisco, Barry, Kara, and the new recruits (sans Artemis because she's presumably off doing shady things now) figuring out how to get the team back. They manage to — ta-da! — get the Waverider to rescue our alien-bound heroes, and that's where Legends of Tomorrow will pick up/conclude tomorrow night! I'm really enjoying how the episodes are blending into one another, and the transitions between the shows and their episodes is really smooth.
  • "Good, 'cause I would hate to have to shoot you for breaking my girl's heart."
  • Did anyone else notice the Love Fern in the Diggle Arrow Cave?
  • Oliver remembering Felicity when he saw her was so bittersweet. Oh, those two idiots.
  • I think Kara needs to be on Arrow more because she's just a darn ray of sunshine.
  • Rene continued to be an unnecessary jerk this episode. This time? He's seemingly anti-superpowers until they save his life. Okay then.
  • "And I love you, mom." I missed Moira/Thea scenes more than I thought I did.
  • "You're lucky I'm not a trained assassin or anything" was one of those very heavy-handed, annoying lines in this episode to remind us that "HAHAHAHAHA OF COURSE SHE IS A TRAINED ASSASSIN, YOU GUYS. THAT'S THE JOKE." ... It wasn't funny.
  • Sara saved Oliver and Diggle from Deathstroke and I'm pretty sure my love for her grew tenfold, and for the writers for allowing their female heroes to save the male ones.
  • The mention of Tommy's absence (he's a doctor in Chicago, you guys) was so meta but I didn't mind one bit. It was perfect.
  • "And this is exactly twice as many spaceships as I ever thought I would be on." Thea has had some of the best lines in this crossover, I swear.
What did you all think of the Arrow part of the crossover event? How are you enjoying the crossover so far? Sound off in the comments below!

The Flash 3x08 Review: "Invasion!" (We Do Not Come in Peace) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Invasion!”
Original Airdate: November 29, 2016

Now we’re talking. We’ve got a massively impressive opposition with all the power. We’ve got a gathering of heroes, ready to fight despite the odds seemingly not in their favor. We’ve got kidnapped presidents and transdimensional travel. This right here is the epic, multi-night DCTV crossover event that I was promised in those cool promos. I mean, look — there’s an exclamation mark in the title of the episode and everything! That’s how you know it’s going to be exciting, people. Exclamation marks.

Oh, and also because it opens on a flash-forward battle and Supergirl nearly heat-visioning Barry and Oliver. We saw her cook a turkey with that heat vision in DC Week’s Supergirl episode, remember? Can’t imagine what it’d do to those two.

SUPERHERO ROUNDUP


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When a meteor headed for downtown Central City turns out to be a spaceship full of hostile aliens, Wally’s speedster training is put on hold (much to his disappointment) while the team prioritizes the invasion of Earth. Sorry about that, Wally. At first, Lyla of Arrow and A.R.G.U.S tells Barry that he and Team Flash should stay out of the situation, since the aliens that invaded are called the Dominators and — as the name would suggest — they’re very strong and unfriendly and will strike at the slightest hint of hostility. For some reason, Lyla believes that her (admittedly well-equipped) A.R.G.U.S research agency has a better chance of stopping the Dominators than Barry and his geniuses. I’m not sure what her logic is for that, but it does inspire Barry to go out and get Star City’s Arrow crew, the Legends of Tomorrow, and the real muscle: Supergirl. Who is apparently from Earth-38, even though I’ve been calling it Earth-3. Shrug.

The newly formed super team needs a leader and, while Oliver falls naturally into that role, it’s Barry who brought everyone together and Barry who gets the job. It actually kind of makes sense, since Barry is the one who knows the most about the people joining in on the fight. But Cisco isn’t happy about it and Barry’s own Flashpoint-induced guilt makes him unsure of himself as a hero. After the Legends ("Egotistical, but catchy." Bless Thea Queen) reveal a voice recording from the future to Barry — in which Future Barry says that Current Barry is untrustworthy — and then Current Barry reveals its contents to everyone else, Barry Allen’s role as leader gets even shakier. But I’ll save my thoughts on the world vs. Barry theme in this episode for later in the review.

After a training session in which Kara gleefully displays her wide array of incredible powers and everyone else just tries to keep up, the real business of saving the world begins. The Dominators have made the first move against Earth by kidnapping the President of the United States. Team Crossover splits off, with Supergirl leading a group intending to save the president from the Dominators while Barry stays behind with Oliver. Predictably, the whole “we kidnapped the president” thing is a trap. President Nameless gets blasted into atoms and all the members of the Supergirl-led offense team get brainwashed into turning against the good guys.

Barry knows that getting Supergirl back on their side is slightly more important than worrying about the others, since she is legitimately invincible on Earth-1 without any kryptonite there to weaken her. Even if everyone else got un-brainwashed, fighting against Supergirl plus the Dominators would definitely be a losing battle for the good guys. Furthermore, Barry realizes that he can use Kara’s invulnerability to his advantage. He lures her into attacking him around the pink, glowy stone that hypnotized everyone and she destroys it, ending the Dominators’ control.

The “mind-whammied allies” fights are the bulk of the action in this episode and what we saw in the flash-forward at the beginning, but that’s not a bad thing. Since “Invasion!” is more of an Act I for the Heroes vs. Aliens event as a whole, I didn’t expect much more than some setups to future events and one or two action sequences to pad it all out. What we did get was fun and exciting, and I always love when these crossovers happen. The characters are amazingly fun together — from the golden retriever floppy adorableness of Barry and Kara to the So Done attitude Diggle has when confronted with anything remotely strange, metahuman, or sci-fi.

But this is just the first night. There’s still plenty crossover left for us to enjoy, and when the Dominators transport “Oliver and Company” (ha!) to their ship, it’s time for the Arrow portion of the big event to begin.


WELCOME TO THE BLAME BARRY POWER HOUR, PEOPLE


Hey, guess what? Barry did something stupid at the end of last season and it affected a lot of people’s lives. Besides Wally — who is biased because Barry’s shenanigans gave him superpowers — the only person willing to completely forgive and forget Barry’s actions is Iris. Joe hasn’t lent much of his opinion to the matter. Caitlin is trying to mend burned bridges, but it’s unclear how much of that stems from her own guilt over saying terrible things as Killer Frost and how much is genuine forgiveness. Cisco is unambiguously anti-Barry, on account of the whole “Dante was alive in the previous timeline” thing (which, I still don’t get how Cisco didn’t figure that out on his own — guess the show just wanted him to be mad at Barry again) and the rest of Team Crossover falls into that camp when they learn about what Barry did.

(Except for Kara, who is Barry’s platonic soulmate and will never abandon him.)

We get a full scene of people just yelling at and berating Barry for something he has been yelled at and berated for all season, and the scene feels like serious overkill. I’m all for giving Barry the exact level of chastisement he deserves for acting like an idiot and ruining the timeline (and heaven knows I’m not going to stop calling him an idiot who ruined the timeline) but I don’t want to exceed that level. This episode, I felt like we might be reaching maximum capacity Barry guilt.

All I ever wanted was for him to understand that he made a huge mistake, make a promise never to do something so selfishly idiotic again, and then keep that promise. I have never wanted the characters (or the fans, for that matter) to refuse Barry forgiveness — he is still a hero, and one of the more positive, optimistic ones we have in the comic book TV show lineup. The world needs positive, optimistic heroes who are able to make mistakes and learn from them. A lack of perfection does not automatically void someone’s status as a hero.

To my utter shock, it was Oliver Queen: Unlikely Voice of Reason who echoed my feelings on Barry’s situation in this episode. Considering that he started the crossover out by snapping at Kara (who is not only an adorable sunshine puppy deserving of only good things, but is also fully capable of squashing Oliver Queen like a bug in a matter of seconds), I really didn’t think I was going to like him this week. Instead, he told Barry exactly what he needed to hear: Mistakes were made and Barry should pay for them, but he should not pay for them forever. He did something that anyone suffering a loss would probably do, if given the chance. Yes, Barry is supposed to be on another level from other people. He’s supposed to take his responsibilities seriously and not use his powers selfishly. But Oliver grants him a certain amount of grace, acknowledging that, while Barry’s powers might make him something “more” than human, he is fundamentally, absolutely human and prone to very human mistakes. Those mistakes just happen to be more damaging, on account of the time travel.

I’ve had my issues with Oliver Queen as a character, but I recognize his history of bad decisions as being conducive to gaining perspective and wisdom, which can probably help Barry out. At the very least, Oliver’s words should put Barry on the path of healing while not exactly forgiving what he did, or saying that what he did was with “good intentions” or in any way not terrible. Because I love Iris to pieces, but her point of view on all matters related to Barry Allen is understandably skewed, which makes her — the only one to sit down and tell Barry that he’s forgiven — the wrong person to talk to Barry about Flashpoint’s ramifications. Iris is too quick to brush Barry’s actions aside because he’s Barry; Oliver is able to evaluate the whole picture, remove any biases he might have for Barry as a friend and fellow hero, and arrive at an honest conclusion.

That honest conclusion is that Barry did something bad, it was something that most people (and definitely Oliver) would have done, and he needs to move on before he drives himself insane.

Other Things:
  • Prediction: Barry will almost die and Cisco will save him, then forgive him again.
  • "I watch SyFy Channel." Joe, the alien shows are on The History Channel now.
  • Drink every time they say “aliens” in this episode.
  • "My life was somewhat normal before I met you." Good use of the "somewhat" modifier there, Dig.
  • I could actually watch a full episode that’s just Diggle reacting to weird sci-fi stuff. Freaked Out Diggle is my favorite.
  • Kara is so enthusiastic about being part of a team of superheroes. She learns everyone’s names! She’s so eager to meet everyone and learn their backstories! She’s the best!
  • Iris’s crush on Oliver and Barry’s despair of her crush on Oliver: the best.
  • Oliver is so lucky that Kara is the sweetest nigh-invincible superhero ever to exist, or else he would be a green and red smear on the pavement minutes into this crossover.
  • “I shot him...” “He did. Shoot me.”
  • “We’re going up against a bunch of aliens and you want to tell people that their lives have been affected by time travel? One sci-fi problem at a time.” Excluding how mean he was to Kara, Oliver was pretty great in this episode.
  • Okay, in this episode Professor Stein has a time travel-caused daughter? I’m pretty sure that had nothing to with Barry, though. There’s no way he could affect things that far in the past.
  • Wally gets H.R. to train him and there is no way that’s ending well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Supergirl 2x08 Review: "Medusa" (The Plot Thinnens) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Medusa”
Original Airdate: November 28, 2016

This is it! The start of the big, four-part crossover event to end all crossover events! They’ve been delivering the epic promos, teasing the massive team-up of all our heroes, and now it begins: Heroes Vs. Aliens! It’s a plot so grand in scale that Earth-1’s heroes had to call on the might of Supergirl on Earth-3, so that the terrifying hostile alien takeover of the planet could be halted, and the day saved!

... but you have to get through almost a full hour of regular Supergirl plot, first, on account of the fact that the “crossover” doesn’t actually happen until the last seconds of the episode. And what a doozy of a plot for any poor, confused first-time Supergirl viewers, huh? J’onn J’onzz is changing alien species like I change t-shirts, Alex is still dealing with her recent coming out, Kara finds out her birth parents may have possibly been terrorists (?) and Mon-El is boring. And in love with Kara, which is boring. While probably entertaining for regular viewers, “Medusa” is a pretty convoluted episode for anyone who’s just trying to participate in the four-night crossover event that CW promised.

I have to wonder if, maybe, the folks at the network would have won over more new viewers over if they had used this episode to spotlight Supergirl’s fun cast of characters and hopeful tone in a one-off crossover episode, then saved the regular season plot for next week. Instead, the show probably alienated (ha!) potential newbies by promising the start of an epic crossover and only delivering a few moments of Barry and Cisco before the credits.

WHAT’S WITH ALL THESE GREEK CODE NAMES?



The episode opens with Thanksgiving at Kara’s apartment, where the whole team (and Mama Danvers) has gathered together to eat turkey and drink a lot of alcohol, if my family’s Thanksgiving is anything to go by. In addition to those traditional activities, James wants to confess that he’s Guardian against Alex’s wishes, and Alex wants to make her coming out official. The “Get Sloshed and Announce It at the Table” level of official. But before anyone can get their confessions in, a very Flash-y portal opens up over the eyebeam-roasted turkey. It only sticks around long enough to make viewers antsy about getting to the DC Week plot they were promised, then the portal is promptly forgotten about while “Medusa” proceeds to play out like any other episode of Supergirl.

Regular viewers who did not turn the channel to Supergirl just for the promoted crossover will remember the titular Medusa as that top-secret project Hank “Cyborg Superman” Henshaw used Kara’s blood to access information on in the previous episode, via the Fortress of Solitude A.I. Non-regular viewers are probably too confused by the events described in my previous sentence and have already tuned out. We shall sally forth without them, and I wish them well.

Our heroes take some time at the DEO to contemplate Cadmus’s unfurling plan, but when a mysterious virus kills all the aliens in that secret alien bar they introduced this season, the stakes are raised and the pressure is on. After all, a virus that attacks only aliens could mean very bad things for a couple of the members of the team. And I say “a couple” quite deliberately, because Mon-El? Meh. Of course, he is the one who eventually does get hit with the virus and knocked out of commission, but it’s only long enough for Kara to get sympathy-attracted to him. Then he wakes up and deliriously makes out with her. The less said about Mon-El’s role in this episode (and the series as a whole), the better.

Since Cadmus is run by Lillian Luthor. And since Lillian Luthor is the mother of Kara’s newest BFF, Kara goes to Lena to see if she knows anything about her mother’s nefarious schemes. Lena tells Kara that the Luthor ladies don’t exactly see eye to eye, and this is only reinforced when Lillian shows up at Lena’s office. And tells Lena that Lex was always her favorite. Oh, also, Lillian says all parents have a favorite. Try and figure out which of your siblings is your parents’ favorite during the next family get-together, kids! I swear it won’t end in heartache and bloodshed.

After some help from Eliza Danvers’ sciencing skills, Team Supergirl learns that the virus that killed all those aliens has Kryptonian origins. Kara puts two and two together to equal “Hank Henshaw broke into the Fortress of Solitude with my blood and stole information on a Kryptonion bioweapon.” Kara is good at plot math. One visit to the Fortress later and Kara has learned two things: red lights on Fortress-guarding robots are always bad, and her parents might have been involved in some shady stuff back on Krypton. Also, apparently Clark never freaking checks on his Fortress of Solitude because he had (and presumably still has) no idea any of this happened.

I probably missed something at some point, but I don’t know how Lillian Luthor knew about Medusa when even Kara had no idea what it was. It’s not clarified in the rest of the episode — it just seems like, through the sheer willpower of Evil, Lillian Luthor gained all the knowledge necessary to make Project Cadmus successful in its quest to destroy non-humans. Which she can do, once she uses Lena’s need for parental affection against her and convinces her to hand over an isotope that will allow Medusa to be launched on a city-wide scale.

A combination of expecting Lena to turn evil eventually and Lena just being clever worked together to convince me she really did choose her mother over Kara/Supergirl’s impassioned plea to do good instead of evil. Lena delivers the isotope to Lillian and even launches the rocket that would cause Medusa to cascade over National City, killing every alien resident in a suffocating shower of pretty doom flakes. But when the aliens fail to fall, Lillian realizes that her daughter changed the isotope out and that the Medusa rocket was harmless at launch. Also, Lena called the police on her and basically, Lena’s the best. I still have hope that she’ll stay a good person, because I don’t want the potential I see in Lena Luthor to go to waste for a one-off supervillain character we all know Supergirl will defeat eventually.

Anyway, the heroes save the day from Project Medusa. Does anyone else think it’s odd that both Myriad and Medusa are Kryptonian doomsday weapons named in Greek? Was that just translated from Classic Kryptonian for our benefit? Like, Cadmus at least has the excuse of being a terrestrial organization, so its highfalutin naming conventions could be expected. I’m very confused by the Greek names for the Kryptonian things.

In the end, “Medusa” cleared out some of the plots that had built up over this first half of the season while leaving opportunities for more to spring up later. J’onn no longer has to worry about turning into a White Martian, since Eliza Danvers cleared that up for him with Science! and Alex/Maggie is no longer full of angst. Although the Medusa threat is officially over, I don’t think Cadmus or Lillian Luthor are gone for good — but “Medusa” closes a chapter on them, at least. This was a decent episode, however confusing it might have been for DC Week first-timers, and it left the story at a good point for Kara to go gallivanting off to Barry Allen’s Earth and save it from extraterrestrial invaders.

Other Things:
  • I get that Kara’s heat vision might be a convenient way to roast a turkey, but I don’t believe for a second that bird is properly seasoned or evenly cooked.
  • Mon-El’s “I don’t get Earth culture, duh doy!” schtick is wearing so thin. It’s called Google, dude. Get acquainted.
  • Alex in the background sneaking out a bottle of whiskey might be my favorite part of the episode that isn’t Barry going “Heeeeey!”
  • Also cute: Alex clearly trying to give J’onn some Thanksgiving leftovers, but he’s too all-business to notice.
  • “You mean when I changed it from its ‘murdering, world domination’ direction?” Hee. Lena’s lovely.
  • Clark’s going to be super mad when he finds out Kara killed his robot.
  • “You were always gonna be different, Alex. Because you were always exceptional. And I love you, however you are.”
  • I appreciate the show paralleling Kara’s parents with the Luthors. Making sure that the audience knows that it’s the actions of heroes that make them heroes, not their parents or family or anything as simple as biology, is important.
  • “Your parents’ legacy is not death and destruction, Kara Zor-El. It’s you.” All the uplifting parent speeches, please.
  • I was really amused by the alien Instagramming the beautiful almost-doom flakes falling from the sky.
  • Speaking of the almost-doom flakes: those scenes were very well shot and nice to look at.
  • Is it just a weird coincidence that the Supergirl crossovers with other DC shows coincide with the advent of massively destructive Kryptonian superweapons? First it was Myriad and The Flash crossover, and now it’s Medusa and DC Week.

New Girl 6x08 Review: "James Wonder" (Everything You're Not)


"James Wonder"
Original Airdate: November 29, 2016

One of the reasons that I liked acting when I was in high school was because it was the perfect opportunity to pretend you're someone you're not. Sometimes pretending you were a star when you were really the class nerd was refreshing; sometimes pretending you had a great love story when you were really unhappy and alone was uplifting. And even though it was great in a lot of ways, sometimes you just wanted to stop pretending and start feeling like yourself again. Jess has done a lot of comedic things throughout the years, pretending she's someone that she is not in order to get something she wants — or to prevent people from being disappointed in her. Similarly, Winston has absorbed many jobs and just as many personalities in an attempt to determine who he truly is.

So it makes sense that "James Wonder" finds Jess and Winston trying to prove something to one another, and to the people around them. Though this episode isn't my favorite out of the season (kudos to New Girl though for taking eight episodes this season to get to an episode I feel was just okay), it provided us with some important plot progression for Jess, Winston, and Nick. Oh, Nick's plot progression? His present to Schmidt and Cece which we all know will come back for the sake of hilarious continuity throughout the remainder of the series.

WHAT WILL YOU DO TO GET WHAT YOU WANT?


That's ultimately the question that Jess has to ask herself in this episode (and the question Winston will ask himself, too, a little bit). When Genevieve (the always incredible Lucy Punch) tells Jess that she'll be stepping away from her principal role, Jess excitedly believes that the title is within her grasp. Unfortunately for Jess, she has to schmooze with the parents and — most importantly — the president of the Parents' Council in order to secure the nomination for the position. It turns out, the president, Ed, doesn't like her. At all. Ed doesn't think Jess is fit to run the school, but it's more than that: he actually doesn't like Jess because his daughter didn't do well in the math decathalon that Jess set up.

If there's been one constant throughout the entirety of New Girl, it's the fact that Jess will do anything it takes to help the children she cares about succeed. Even when she was teaching adults creative writing, Jess was still passionate about helping them become the best writers they could be. That's what sets Jess apart as a teacher — she's willing to go the extra mile because she ultimately believes in the goodness and boundless potential of her students. But there's something else about Jess that we all know by now, and it's that she's a people-pleaser. Akin to "Par 5," Jess decides that the only way to get what she wants (and ultimately do what's best for her students) is to compromise her values.

So when that parent expresses his disdain for Jess based solely on her math criteria, she bends. She decides that she'll cancel the math decathalon if it means securing the nomination for principal. But soon, she discovers, one compromise isn't enough. Every parent in the council meeting is demanding and everyone has an opinion. As a principal, Jess can't bend to the whims of everyone and she certainly can't allow herself to be coerced into decision-making by one person.

And she doesn't let that happen. In the meeting, Jess delivers a really wonderful, really powerful speech about education and the importance of dedication and perseverance in securing progress. She points out students, by name, who have had difficulties but who she has personally worked with in order to secure victories. That is what makes Jess such a great teacher. As Cece once told her, she was her first student — Jess is patient and kind and will get down on a child's level in order to help them become better. Her rousing speech earns the approval of all of the parents, and it looks like our little Jess (who, as you recall, began the series as a teacher and has progressed into the role of principal at an acclaimed private school) is grown up!

WHO ARE YOU?


I love when stories involve Winston and Jess working together because you typically know that shenanigans aren't far behind. In "James Wonder," Winston decides to adopt a persona in order to prove to Jess — and everyone else — that he's capable of being an undercover agent. Jess doesn't believe he's capable at all. To prove her wrong, Winston pretends to be the parent of a student at Jess' school. And... he just happens to catch Genevieve's eye. Obviously, this makes him super uncomfortable, but Jess tries to use it to her advantage in order to secure a meeting with Ed instead. 

Still, one of the most interesting things about Winston's plot in this episode was that it proved he's only willing to go so far, and THAT is why he can't be an undercover agent. It's not that he doesn't have the potential, necessarily: it's that he can't separate his real life from the life of his persona. He's in a happy, stable relationship with Aly and he can't pretend for very long that he's a mourning widower who is interested in Genevieve. While it's played for laughs, obviously, I  kind of enjoy the fact that Winston has grown up. He's more comfortable being himself than he is pretending to be someone he's not. Isn't that refreshing?

THE WEDDING PRESENT TO END ALL WEDDING PRESENTS


Sometimes New Girl contains a C-plot that is strictly FUN and really doesn't have much to do in the way of character growth or plot development. "James Wonder" was that episode. In it, Nick struggled to figure out what to get Schmidt and Cece as a wedding present. Nevermind the fact that he already bought a gift from their registry, or that they have a registry to buy from. No, Nick decides he wants to go off-book because they're not just any married couple to him. They're his best friends, and he wants to find a gift that is reflective of how much he loves them.

So Schmidt and Cece, touched by the sentiment, decide to let Nick choose his own wedding gift. That... was a bad idea on their part, of course. What does Nick end up getting as a gift? A tattoo of Schmidt and Cece on his leg. And not only a tattoo, but an iconic shot from Pretty Woman with Schmidt and Cece's heads replacing the heads of the characters.

Cue Schmidt and Cece panicking and trying to find a way to thank Nick, while also not thanking him. In the end, Nick decides that he has to change the present that he gave them and gets Winston and Jess added into the tattoo.

That, my friends, is what you missed on this week's New Girl!

And now, bonus points:
  • "And now you're almost gonna make what normal people make."
  • Winston's got a new alias and it combines his two favorite singers: Stevie Wonder and James Blunt. Meet James Wonder, everyone!
  • The flashback of Winston putting a walkie-talkie into the mailbox and Nick freaking out was PRICELESS.
  • "Whatever you want. The world is yours. Fly, my little hummingbird!"
  • "The Internet is so different now. Have you been on the Internet lately!?"
  • "Are you shouting at a podcast again, Jess? You know they can't hear you, right?"
  • "He's scrambling like a damn egg." This might be one of my favorite Jess-isms yet.
  • NICK GOT A TATTOO OF SCHMIDT AND CECE AS CHARACTERS FROM PRETTY WOMAN AND I CRIED LAUGHING.
  • "It's like you STOLE OUR SOULS."
  • I absolutely love that Nick's tattoo is now of all of the loft crew. It's so bad, but oh-so good.
What did you all think of "James Wonder"? Sound off in the comments below!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine 4x08 Recap: “Skyfire Cycle” (We Write Our Own Stories) [Contributor: Alisa Williams]


“Skyfire Cycle”
Original Airdate: November 1, 2016

On the latest Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the team is still stuck on the night shift thanks to Captain CJ. Things are pretty dull at night, but where others see boredom, Jake sees opportunity. They discover the janitor waxing the floor one evening and Jake decides to do the “FBP.” Which basically means he slides the “Full Bull Pen” in socks. He’s just completing his slide when the elevator doors open, causing him to slide right in and crash into Holt. Even Holt is excited that Jake is now master of the FBP.

Meanwhile, a neighboring precinct has made the local news for investigating death threats against a famous author. Jake, having never heard of the author, is unimpressed. Terry, however, is beyond excited. The author — DC Parlov — is one of his very favorite writers, and the author of the 12-book series Skyfire Cycle. Who knew there was something in the world that could excite Terry as much as yogurt?

Apparently, when Terry was young, he was lonely and overweight. Reading DC Parlov’s series is what got him through adolescence. He wrote the author for advice and Parlov sent him back a copy of the first book in the series, signed and with a nice inscription saying that Terry will always have him as a friend.

After seeing how passionate Terry is about Parlov and the effect he had on Terry’s life, Jake decides he’s going to snag the case from the other precinct so they can crack it and Terry will have a chance to meet his hero.

Gina is dealing with her own threat to survival: the Boyle family reunion. Because her mom is still with Boyle’s dad (we haven’t addressed that in a while!) she’s been officially invited to Iowa to attend the reunion. She tries to convince Boyle that they should all go to Aruba instead, but because Iowa is the “ancestral homeland of the Boyles,” Aruba is out.

While Gina and Boyle work out reunion details, Holt pulls Amy into an argument he’s having with Kevin, who’s stopped by the precinct for a visit. It seems that when he and Kevin went out to dinner the night prior (for the first time in two weeks, thanks to the night shift), they were discussing a math problem and have come to different conclusions about the solution. When they pose the problem to Amy, she sides with Kevin, causing Holt to promptly tell her she’s fired and walk away.

Meanwhile, Jake has returned with the Parlov case file from the neighboring precinct and tells Terry the good news. Terry, however, doesn’t want to meet his hero. It was 30 years ago that Parlov wrote him that letter and he’s afraid it’ll be dumb if he brings it up. Jake assures him that’s not true and before they can discuss it further, Parlov arrives, sending Terry into a sweaty panic.

When Terry is introduced to Parlov, he suddenly turns meek and timid, which is really hard for someone who’s basically a literal wall of muscle to do. Terry’s super bashful, but with Jake’s encouragement, he tells Parlov about the book inscription from 30 years ago and how it changed his life. Parlov says he does indeed remember Terry and he’s so glad to see that Terry has gone on to make something of his life.

Now it’s time to get down to business. They have to figure out which of Parlov’s fans is sending him death threats. Parlov believes the threats are because he recently revealed one of the dragons in his story is female and that has a lot of the male fans upset. Terry and Jake craft a plan to get all the fanboys (who have been camped out for three days to hear Parlov speak) to sign a petition to turn the dragon back to male. This will allow them to compare the handwriting on the letter to the signed petition.

Jake worries that they won’t exactly fit in with the fanboy crowd dressed normally and Terry’s eyes light up. Apparently, this is the moment he’s been waiting for and he has just what they need to fit in. When they arrive at the crowd of fans, there’s no doubt they belong: Terry is dressed as a warrior, complete with fur leggings and a sword, while Jake is a “noble squire” in a hooded cape.

Meanwhile, one of Boyle’s cousins shows up at the precinct to say hello, and Boyle quickly introduces him to Gina. But it turns out they’ve already met. In fact, they just came back from breakfast together — where Gina has convinced the Boyle cousin that Aruba would be a way better reunion spot than Iowa. This still leaves the vote for Iowa at 13-2 in favor, but Gina’s not worried. She has a full day of meetings lined up with the cousins. In a panic, Boyle calls a “Council of the Cousins,” to discuss the matter with everyone. He and Gina debate back and forth in front of the cousins. After they’ve finished, the cousins agree both made compelling arguments and that they’ll sleep on it and vote in the morning.

The next morning, the cousins call Boyle and Gina to deliver their verdict — they’re going to Aruba! Gina’s elated that she “won” but Boyle is not so quick to concede. He says that, while trying to get her way, she learned everything there was to know about the cousins and really became part of the family in the process. So much so that the cousins voted that she can be buried in the family plot with them when they all die. So, in the end, I guess it really was Boyle’s victory.

After a night of arguing about math, Holt and Kevin are nowhere close to resolving their conflict. Amy is beside herself, convinced that she needs to get Holt to understand his faulty math in order to save the relationship. Rosa wisely points out that the argument isn’t really about math — it’s about the fact that Holt and Kevin hadn’t seen each other in two weeks and they really just need some romantic alone time together. Amy remains convinced that she can fix it, so she creates a scale model of the math problem and tries to show Holt. But Rosa jumps in and tells Holt he and Kevin just need to sleep together.

Holt is outraged that Rosa would say this and spends the next 40 minutes yelling at her in front of the whole precinct. Amy is traumatized, but Rosa’s unfazed, claiming that now Holt realizes how pent up he is. Turns out Rosa was right, of course, and the next morning Holt is in a MUCH better mood.

Jake and Terry return to the precinct, with a page full of signatures for their fake petition to compare to the death threat. None of them match. Then Jake spies the open copy of the signed book Parlov gave Terry 30 years ago. Parlov’s handwriting matches the death threats perfectly. He’s been writing the threats to himself!

Terry can’t bring himself to believe it. Jake points out that thanks to the threats, Parlov made the news and he’s on the bestseller list for the first time in years. Terry still refuses to believe it but they agree to go to Parlov’s house and talk to him about it. When they confront Parlov with the evidence, he reveals that he didn’t actually write the inscription in Terry’s book. Terry is devastated, but Parlov tells him to grow up: does he really think he, a famous author, has time to write back to every lonely, fat kid who contacts him? Terry persists, asking why Parlov said he remembered him and Parlov says he just didn’t want to upset the cop assigned to his case.

After taking a look at the handwriting in the book, Parlov says the guy they’re looking for is his ex-assistant, Edmund, who he had to fire after he slept with Edmund’s wife and then Edmund’s sister. Parlov closes the door so he can get back to some lady companions he has waiting, and Terry immediately rips the book in half and storms off.

The next day, Terry’s still feeling down about the situation, but Jake delivers what was probably his sweetest pep talk ever. They go to Edmund’s house and arrest him, and Terry decides that from now on he’ll write his own story and be his own hero.

I really love the episodes where Jake and Terry work a case together. They’re hilarious together and seeing them dressed up as ridiculous fantasy characters from a fake book series was everything dreams are made of.

Bullets on the Bulletin Board:
  • “The Skyfire Cycle. Sand Into Glass. The Reckoning of Kalar. Man, that is a long book. Is the rest of it just more of the title?” 
  • “Boyles don’t do beaches. We’re not swimmers. We’re burrowers.” 
  • “This is the best day of my life!” “You have three kids, Terry.” “I said what I said!”
  • “You think you can pick us off one by one?” “Yeah.” “Well... you can. Boyles are very weak as individuals.” 
  • “There’s already enough female characters. We don’t need a third!”
  • “Halitosis Frodo has gotta be our guy, right?” “Oh yeah.” 
  • “Do we really wanna go where Pirates of the Caribbean took place?” “YES!” “NO! That movie gave us nightmares for months!” “Ohhhh.” 
  • “You’re who I want to be when I grow up, Terry. And you should know that some dumb inscription in some book isn’t what made you who you are and it bums me out that you can’t see that.”

Once Upon A Time 6x09 Review: “The Changelings” (Mother Dearest) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“The Changelings”
Original Airdate: November 27, 2016

This week’s episode is all about mind games and who’s playing whom. Rumple has gone off the deep end and appears willing to do whatever it takes to change his unborn son’s fate. In the other storyline, another vision has Emma wondering if she can get ahead of her own fate and find a way to change it. As the mid-season finale nears, there’s a lot of fate up in the air just waiting to play out.


MAMMA 


The main focus of the episode is Rumple’s obsession with winning Belle back and cutting their unborn son’s fate. As if that’s not twisted enough, the story plays out in typical dual timeline fashion with some past Beauty and the Beast-esque Rumbelle scenes and present day scenes. The past reveals not only how Belle can save her child from Rumple, but also a dirty little secret about Rumple. It turns out that the source of Rumple’s true bitterness is from being abandoned as a newborn without a name. In the flashbacks, he tracks down the Dark Fairy, who happens to be his mother, and tries to show her up by abandoning a child that he stole. There wasn’t an indicator as to whether this is going to have any effect in the present storyline, but there’s rarely a big revelation without later consequences.

Meanwhile, in present day, Rumple tries to use a rapid aging spell on Belle to speed up her pregnancy. Belle uses her superpower of poetic speeches to momentarily convince Rumple that he could change and start anew without harming the unborn child or her. Rumple, however, reveals that he feels that the only way he could ever be loved is by his new child, which is why he has been going to such extremes — not that that’s super rational. Rumple is eventually swayed by the Evil Queen and goes through with his dark magic-laced plan, which leads to the birth of baby Gideon. Belle realizes that the only way to protect her newborn son is to send him far away from Rumple, so she enlists the help of the Blue Fairy to protect her son. Rumple arrives a moment too late and is super upset upon finding out that Belle abandoned their son.

Rumple’s speech about how he would never harm Belle is slightly moving considering the real emotion that he emits. Rumple was caught in a rare moment of his true self, which is actually quite kind. He still doesn’t believe that he can strip away his darkness and be the man that Belle wants him to be, but it’s obvious that that person probably exists under all the darkness. Belle also denies Rumple the name of their son. There will probably be a huge cat-and-mouse game coming up to find and protect the child.

VISIONS 


The other big storyline of the episode was Emma’s visions of her death. Emma is struck by a newer version of her death vision, and it reveals the exact weapon that is used to kill her. She winds up seeing the same newer vision when she and Hook go to stun Rumple in his pawn shop. Emma thinks that something in the shop might have answers as to how to change her fate, and upon some sifting, she finds her own murder weapon.

Emma feels that by having the weapon, she can track down who is going to kill her and why. How she thinks that is going to work is beyond me, but the best option is to just destroy or get rid of the sword! If she destroys it, then it can’t kill her. This seems like the obvious thing to do, but I’m sure she will do something way more complicated. Having the sword won’t simply unlock her visions or change her fate, but what she does with the sword is what will have the biggest impact.

What did you all think of this week's Once Upon A Time? Sound off in the comments below!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

This Is Us 1x08 Recap: "Pilgrim Rick" (Dysfunctional But Traditional Thanksgivings)


"Pilgrim Rick"
Original Airdate: November 22, 2016

Thanksgivings are often a time of year in which all of a family's dysfunctions are on full display. Maybe you're one of the rare families that doesn't have drama during the holidays. But for most families, Thanksgiving is the first time an entire family, or side of the family, is together. That can stir up old arguments, feelings, and incite new drama. If you haven't noticed already, the Pearson clan isn't exactly drama-free. Even in the flashbacks of This Is Us, the kids fight with one another, Kate struggles with her weight issues and relationship with her mom, and even Jack and Rebecca seem to be on thin ice with their arguing. "Pilgrim Rick" is the absolute perfect way to bring all of the family tension — both in the past and present — to a head. The result is an emotional episode that leaves us with potentially even more fractured relationships than before.

IN THE PAST...


Jack and Rebecca are preparing for another Thanksgiving spent with her parents. It causes her immense stress, and she wants everything to go perfectly. I like the little glimpse we get into Rebecca's family life because apart from the tiny flashback in "The Game Plan," we really haven't seen much of her family life. We can assume, however, that her parents put a lot of pressure on Rebecca to have the perfect family. And, unfortunately, they seem resistant to Randall being a part of that family. En route to Rebecca's parents' house, Rebecca works on making her second batch of cranberry sauce of the day (the first, having been ruined by the boys earlier), when the family car's tire blows out and sends them straight through a fence.

Thankfully, no one is hurt in the accident but everyone is understandably shaken up. The family emerges from the vehicle, in the middle of nowhere, and decides that their only option is to walk to a gas station 3.4 miles away. Already tired, the kids and Rebecca follow Jack. The gas station isn't much help — there's no way a tow truck will come out on Thanksgiving night, and after a disastrous call with her parents, Rebecca realizes she doesn't want to even spend Thanksgiving with them anyway.

Cue the Pearson clan starting their own Thanksgiving traditions.

I love traditions. I think it's really awesome when I hear of families who give certain gifts or do certain things around the holidays, and have for years. Even though it's not an ideal Thanksgiving, the group decides to make it their own. When they check into a little motel, the front desk associate (who has named himself Pilgrim Rick) directs them to a room whose furnace is stuck and doesn't have a working television. Hot, hungry, and tired, the kids and Rebecca are ready to call the holiday quits. But Jack is not ready to give up that easily. He has an idea, and is prepared to save Thanksgiving for everyone.

Since the furnace is permanently broken, Jack returns from his trip out with a movie (Police Academy 3), the gas station hot dogs from earlier, and a plan: they'll cook cheese dogs rolled in crushed up crackers. They'll watch the movie together. And they'll do it all with Jack impersonating Pilgrim Rick. This sends the kids into a fit of giggles, and helps their spirits brighten. Later, Rebecca adds to their family's traditions: they'll use a ball of yarn to throw back and forth to one another (without letting go of their end) and say what they're thankful for. It's a cute tradition that carries into the present-day, as do a lot of the traditions.

I think that's my favorite part of traditions, really: you don't know how long they can last and how many people they can affect until you start them. And Jack and Rebcca's legacies live on through their children and grandchildren. Which brings us to...

 A THANKSGIVING DEBACLE


If you'll recall from last week's episode, Beth learned that William and Rebecca met and knew one another since Randall was born. Randall is unaware that his mother not only had a relationship with William but instructed him to stay away from her son. Beth has been stressing out about this information (understandably so), and confronts Rebecca as soon as the woman arrives for Thanksgiving. Beth's unanswered phone calls seemed like Rebecca's answer, but just to drive home how serious she is, Beth provides an ultimatum: either Rebecca tells Randall this huge secret by the end of the day, or she will.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Beth? Because while I really love Randall a lot (and I'll talk about Sterling K. Brown's performance later on), Beth is this incredibly fierce, resilient, fun, and compassionate woman who doesn't get enough credit for holding her family together. I love her so much.

Speaking of Thanksgiving traditions, Kevin invites his British Girlfriend — EW tells me that her name is Olivia but for now, she'll just get called BG because that's how little I like her — over for Thanksgiving. Apparently BG can only filter real events through the lens of acting (kind of like we saw when she "taught" Kevin how to grieve) because the only reason she agrees is because it seems like Thanksgiving will be dramatic. She says something about never staying for Thanksgiving until dessert and later on, Kevin does a sweet thing and brings her pie which sets off BG who tells him that she just can't be what he wants her to be. You can't be... a girl who eats pie? This part of "Pilgrim Rick" was odd, because we (or I, at least) don't care enough about BG for her to be a focal point in a Thanksgiving-centric story, but it does provide us with a fantastic mini-monologue from William to BG about not wasting your life and your time — about making the most of moments. At least THAT seems to stick with her.

Kevin has another conflict in this episode though, and it's Miguel. If you'll recall from the flashbacks, Jack absorbed the role of "Pilgrim Rick" in order to entertain his family. He told an absurd tall tale about the character, but everyone loved it. In the family, Pilgrim Rick visits every Thanksgiving — with Randall and Kevin alternating years they play the role — and Miguel wants to play the part this year. I'll just let the EW recap of this episode sum up my feelings about that: Why is he so insistent upon assuming Jack’s traditional duty? I totally get he wants to feel included, but he already took his dead friend’s wife — does he really need his Pilgrim, hat too?

(Seriously, Miguel, why are you so insistent on playing dad?)

Eventually, Kevin decides to make the sacrifice and lets Miguel wear the Pilgrim hat and be Pilgrim Rick. What a guy.

KATE MAKES A DECISION


I love Kate's journey so far, because it's realistic. She's struggling not just with her weight but with happiness in general and who she is vs. who she wants to be. A roadblock to her ultimate happiness? Toby. I've never liked Toby. Occasionally he gets a funny line or something, but mostly he struck me as this arrogant, myopic jerk who thought he could be what Kate needed without changing. And maybe Toby doesn't want to change — maybe he is okay with who he is and would rather be happy binge-eating than unhappy losing weight. But that's not Kate. And that is not who she wants.

Toby does not take priority over Kate's happiness, and I am so thankful for this. It would be easy for This Is Us to go on a very trope-y route — to make Kate's journey all about finding love and self-acceptance through a relationship — but I'm glad they're not. Kate has learned that there are people in our lives who may care about us but that doesn't mean they're healthy for us. Right now, Kate's focus needs to be on what makes her happy. And Toby is just as unhealthy as a bag of gas station donuts.

While on the flight back home, Kate's plane hits turbulence that scares the passenger next to her so much that she reaches out for Kate's hand (aww). The passenger then declares that she's getting a divorce from her cheating husband. Life is too short to spend it unhappy. And it's too short to resist making changes we know are right for us. Kate hates having to break up with Toby, but she does it anyway. Because she knows, eventually, it will be the healthiest thing for her. 

And then, at the family dinner, Kate declares that she is getting gastric bypass surgery. The news doesn't go over super well, but that's only because family drama erupted moments before she arrived.

BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE


On an errand to William's apartment on Thanksgiving, Randall notices a letter with his mother's handwriting. Upon reading it, he is distraught: Rebecca not only knows William but regularly has corresponded with him. Of course, Randall cannot keep this information to himself and he explodes at dinner at his mother for the way she lied to him his entire life.

The scene is played to perfection by Sterling K. Brown and Mandy Moore. I genuinely felt for Randall, who has spent his entire life feeling abandoned but has always sought solace in his mother. The relationship between Randall and Rebecca is really important in this series, because she chose him and continues to choose him even when things are difficult in his childhood. She protects him and cares about him. And, as the men pointed out last week, she always treated him like the favorite. Randall was the good child, and because of that, he built up a relationship with his mother based on trust and mutual respect — even into adulthood.

I can imagine that there are so many moments we have not even seen yet — Randall growing up, the loss of Jack, etc. — that have been formative in their relationship, but this one (however painful) will be added to that list. Rebecca tries to explain her reasons for keeping William out of Randall's life, but he won't have it. His mother lied to him, plain and simple, even after knowing how desperate he was to find his family. She kept that a secret from him — she kept part of his identity a secret. As he also rightly points out, Randall is lucky to have found William on his own when he did. Otherwise, he might not have ever known where he came from.

And that would have been on Rebecca.

By the end of the dinner, Rebecca is in tears and so is Randall. He can't even look at his mother, he's so disgusted. It's an incredibly emotional, incredibly powerful scene (undercut slightly by BG talking about how great the drama is) that may just be a turning point in Rebecca and Randall's relationship moving forward.

I don't know about y'all and your Thanksgiving dinners, but I hope this year they weren't nearly as bad as THAT.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Scorpion 3x09 Review: “Mother Load” (Right Now Everyone in America is Getting Together and Having an Uncomfortable Dinner) [Guest Contributor: Yasmine]


“Mother Load”
Original Airdate: November 21, 2016

This week, Scorpion followed up its last episode with another family themed one. But in this one, we finally meet someone from Paige’s family. After almost two and half seasons of knowing nothing about her, Paige’s past is finally revealed. And, like most of the team, it turns out she didn’t have a perfectly wholesome childhood. I think that is something about her that makes her feel close to the rest of the team — the knowledge that while she may not be a genius like the rest of them, she does share that broken childhood and carries it with her.

My love for Paige grew so much this week after learning about her childhood and then seeing how she turned out to be such a strong and independent woman, an excellent role model, despite what she had to go through.

As the team was preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, they got a last-minute job to check on the foundation of a building. It turns out, though, that the client had used a fake name to get the job and it’s Paige’s con artist mother, Veronica. Also, the job isn’t about the foundation of a building but about a nuclear reactor she found in the building. Naturally, it ends up being Team Scorpion’s job to relocate the reactor, since it’s a holiday and the people whose job it is to do that are all away for the holidays.

In order to accomplish the task, Team Scorpion has to resort to using marshmallows, turning Toby into a human piƱata, turning themselves into shock absorbers, driving through a golf range and confiscating both a churros truck and a floating Super Fun Guy. But they eventually do get the job done, sending the reactor to take a dive into the Pacific. Oh, and they also get involved in a gun-loaded car chase because, as it turns out, Veronica lied about practically everything.

The emotional weight of this episode was carried by Paige, and Katharine McPhee did a wonderful job at it. After her initial hostile reaction to seeing her mother, it is up to Toby to take Paige aside, where she opens up to him about her past. She tells him about growing up with a con artist for a mother, who spent a lot of time in prison. This forced a young Paige to lie to people about where her mother was, making up stories that she was away on business. And worse yet was the fact that Paige's father eventually left his wife, taking Paige with him. But he never stopped loving Veronica and ultimately died heartbroken because of the woman.

This was the first we have heard anything about Paige’s past, let alone learn that her father is dead, how he died, and what Paige had to go through as a child. Like I said, it just goes to show just how amazing Paige is for turning out the way she did, and being the amazing mother that she is.

Paige and Veronica’s relationship — Paige’s justified anger and her not wanting anything to do with her mother — carries throughout the episode. And as Veronica’s lies are exposed one after the other, Paige is proven again and again to be right about this woman. Even though Paige is initially adamant that Veronica will never meet Ralph, at the end of the day Veronica extends an olive branch and — with the help of Cabe — Paige tries to make an effort to cross the bridge by introducing Ralph to his grandmother. It was very much like what Walter did last week with his family.

I don’t know where the show will be taking this, or if Veronica will be a bigger presence in the coming episodes. Paige has always been the one to carry the team emotionally, and so this insight into her past is a big development not only for her but for everyone else moving forward.

Another relationship that has taken an interesting turn is the one between Tim and Walter, as the two seem to have found some common ground in order to work together. I personally hope that is real and not just an act because I kind of love that friendship, or the potential of that friendship. It helps for Walter to have a guy friend who’s not a genius. However, Veronica looks like she’s going to cause some trouble there. In the beginning of the episode, she plants some seeds of doubt in Walter’s mind as to the usefulness of Tim on the team. And at the end, she takes him aside to talk to him about his feelings for Paige and to let him know that she’s rooting for him — that she will help him get Paige back. I don’t know what her endgame there is, but something tells me it’s not that good. I still do not trust that woman.

Cabe, meanwhile, has the possibly of a flourishing relationship on the horizon. But that looks like it’s going to be a tricky one. With Sly running for elections, Cabe has become smitten by the campaign manager of Sly’s opponent. After weeks of running jokes about him being old, Cabe finally catches a break (or at least Toby finds a new topic to tease him about), when Allie starts flirting with him. Cabe’s initial reaction is cluelessness about it. I’m excited for Cabe and this new storyline. He spends so much of his time taking care of this dysfunctional team that he deserves a break.

And what does Cabe do about this? He chooses to become Sly’s campaign manager. Talk about creating your own obstacle in pursuit of a potential love interest!

These characters do not like to make it easy on themselves, do they?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Timeless 1x07 Review: "Stranded" (Home Again, Home Again)


"Stranded"
Original Airdate: November 21, 2016

If you learn one thing about me, you'll learn that I hate confrontation. It makes me uncomfortable when people around me argue. And as a byproduct of my anxiety (aren't you just enjoying learning so many things about me?), it also makes me really on edge whenever I'm the subject of confrontation. That's why I internalize my feelings — which is also not always healthy — rather than hash them out with the people around me. When we pick up "Stranded," our time-traveling heroes are still fresh off the revelations from last week. You remember? The revelations involving the fact that they all, for the most part, were keeping secrets from one another? Where this episode excels is in further developing the relationships between Wyatt, Rufus, and Lucy and using the premise of a literal battle in order to explore conflict resolution and trust. Elsewhere in the episode, Agent Christopher is beginning to suspect that Connor Mason is hiding things.

TRUST, SACRIFICE, AND LOYALTY


This episode was really one in which Rufus had the chance to shine. And since he's had the weakest character development so far out of the trio, it makes sense that "Stranded" would focus on the lengths Rufus is willing to go to in order to save the team. Because for once, living or dying isn't dependent on Wyatt or Lucy, but on Rufus — on him fixing the ship and him getting the gang out of captivity without getting killed. And of course, out of all of the places for the ship to land and get stranded, it had to be the French and Indian War. I personally didn't remember much from my history classes about this war, apart from the obvious, but I do know that it wasn't pleasant. When the group lands, Lucy wants to talk about their issues, while Wyatt wants to bury them behind subtext and icy glares. He's focusing on channeling his anger into the mission, and that's probably for the best considering the group is in the roughest terrain they've found themselves in recently.

Worst of all (and this is in addition to the awful time period and war thing), Flynn's men decide that their next best course of action is to blow up Team Timeless' (that's my nickname for them) ship. Luckily, Wyatt and Rufus manage to intervene before maximum damage is done, but damage is incurred no less. So there they are — stuck in the 1700s in the midst of a war. And to top it all off, no one wants to speak to anyone else in the team. If we've learned anything from watching Timeless though, we've learned that no one can affect change alone. People are stronger together.

And nothing tends to bond people closer than a shared goal.

In search of a way to gather materials, repair the ship, and return home, Team Timeless gets captured by Nonhelema (a Native American chief and fierce warrior), who decides to spare Rufus, believing him to be a slave, but orders the executions of Wyatt and Lucy. Before all of this happens, however, the trio talk about their fears and misgivings together. It's a deeply moving scene — one which all of the actors play so well — of confessions, both silly and substantial. Nothing bonds people together, or re-bonds them in this case, like mortal peril. Lucy and Wyatt finally make up, while the pair forgives Rufus for spying on them. They all realize that they have something in common: regrets. Each of them would do something differently, if they were only given a little more time to do so.

For instance, Rufus would be braver with Jiya, his colleague who he has a crush on and has been on exactly one date with, if he only had more time in which to do so. But when Nonhelema approaches the captives and frees Rufus, he's willing to give everything up in order to save the people he cares about — even if it means they all die together. Rufus gives a really wonderful, emotional speech about why Wyatt and Lucy deserve to live, and how he'll die with them before he lets them just be killed. Nonhelema, slightly impressed, says this to the trio: "If someone like him [Rufus] is willing to die for someone like you [Wyatt and Lucy], then you're certainly not from around here. Are you?" As an act of leadership, she grants them all their freedom and the trio heads out to a fort in order to gather the materials necessary for Rufus to repair the ship.

At the fort, they barely manage to escape the French soldiers who are looking for them, but do make it back to the ship in time to patch it up and hope for the best. We'll return to a discussion of the trio's final scene together momentarily, but let's talk about Jiya, Agent Christopher, and Connor Mason for now.

A STAR WARS REFERENCE SAVES THE DAY


Jiya is incredibly smart. We don't really know much about her apart from this — and the fact that she is the object of Rufus' affection. The two clearly care about one another, but Jiya tells Connor that Rufus is so skittish and shy around her that he would rather instant message her from his desk than have a real conversation, face-to-face. In spite of his awkwardness, Rufus and Jiya get one another. So when the trio doesn't come back from their time-jump in their typical amount of time, worry begins to set in. And it sets in even further once more time passes.

In the past, Rufus has an idea to get help from Jiya and the team: send them a message in a capsule, buried in 1754 in hopes that they will open it in 2016. It's a long shot, but it's the best idea they have. And it works! Sorta. Jiya and the team receive the message in the present-day, but even after running test after test, they can only make out a few words that don't seem to have any correlation. With the message seemingly useless, Jiya and Connor reminisce about how they met Rufus and what he was like. (Jiya, making the astute observation that they sound like they're eulogizing him already.)

But that's when it clicks for Jiya: Rufus is a nerd! And the message he sent was a Star Wars reference. The team can be saved, only if Jiya and the crew in the present work to bring the little drop ship back home. It works, albeit with a shaky landing, and the two teams reunite happily. Jiya and Rufus have an adorable, slightly awkward little interaction in which Rufus almost asks her out, but chickens out again. So Jiya kisses him.

It's super sweet and I really hope we get to see more of this relationship!

Elsewhere in the episode, Connor Mason makes a call to Rittenhouse, which Agent Christopher slightly overhears. She doesn't know the specifics, but she knows when someone is acting shady (which means she's better than like, 90% of FBI or government agents on television). So she decides, at the end of the episode, to start her own covert investigation. Let's hope that if she stumbles across Rittenhouse's plans, she is able to escape their clutches. Because they seem pretty dangerous.

DESTINY VS. FREE WILL


I love when shows explore the thematic conflict between destiny and free will, especially when these shows involve time travel. We haven't yet explored those two ideas really in Timeless yet, so this week's episode was a refreshing way to discuss them organically. At the end of the episode, the trio decides to go out for drinks and talk together. They've repaired their relationships with one another, have forgiven each other (hey, Wyatt and Lucy held hands on the drop ship ride home so I think they'll be okay), and are ready to move forward and fight Rittenhouse and Garcia Flynn together. But even though Team Timeless is back in a solid place, Lucy is still unsettled.

She vocalizes the fact that Flynn's journal, which he claims she wrote, isn't just eerily similar to her handwriting and voice — it looks identical to it. And this terrifies Lucy. Because it means that she's destined to become the person who writes the things that are in that book — the kind who hurts people and seemingly aids Flynn. While it's hard, Lucy is beginning to believe that the diary has to be real and that it has to be hers. That terrifies her.

In order to explore the dichotomy between destiny and free will, Wyatt explains it to Lucy by asking her to take a sip of her drink. When she does, he asks whether or not she was destined to take a sip or whether it was a conscious choice that she made. Wyatt's argument is that if Lucy doesn't like the person that the journal portrays her to be, she can change it. She can write her OWN destiny and not be scared that she's going to become Flynn's version of it. It's really great conversation and one that Lucy clearly needed to have with someone who can talk her off a ledge. 

This week's Timeless proved that conflict is necessary, but conflict resolution is even more necessary. Sometimes it takes going through battles in order to realize how strong you really are, or can be.

Timey-wimey bits:
  • "I'm Dr. Quinn... I'm a medicine woman."
  • I kind of enjoyed the fact that Flynn was absent from this episode and we got to see the team fight against an enemy that wasn't him. (I mean, they did fight a few of his cronies but still.) I like that Timeless shakes up the focus of the villain each week, because otherwise an entire focus on Flynn week after week would get exhausting.
  • "I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: 1754 sucks."
  • "And that's what history is, right? The choices."
What did you all think of this week's Timeless? Sound off in the comments below!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Lucifer 2x09 Recap: “Homewrecker” (Plans) [Guest Poster: Ilene Friedman]


"Homewrecker"
Original Airdate: November 21, 2016

Oh, Mamma Morningstar, how I loathe you. This week’s episode of Lucifer begins to reveal dear mom’s plan and I have a feeling Lucifer is not going to like it.

It all starts off with the victim of the week: Lucifer’s multibillionaire landlord is murdered. The deceased man’s son, mere hours after his father is murdered, shows up at Lux to evict Lucifer from his home. Lucifer, of course, will not have any of this and is ready to go to war to save the place in which he belongs. This follows the theme from last week’s episode, when Lucifer told off Amenadiel and his mom regarding going back to heaven.

Now how does Lucifer’s mom tie in? Well the first suspect is, of course, Charlotte. But Charlotte quickly points out that if she wanted Lucifer’s home, she would just take it (ominous much?). It turns out, Lucifer’s mom takes this entire situation and uses it to her advantage. She seduces Dan, becomes the defense lawyer for Dan’s case, and recruits the criminal to set up charges to blow up Lux. Have I mentioned how much I hate this woman?

As the episode unfolds, Lucifer does everything in his power to keep his home — having no idea, of course, about his mother’s plan to blow it up. Chloe insists there are legal ways to reclaim Lux from the clutches of real-estate moguls, but Lucifer is determined.

In order to stall the movers and police from closing down his club, Lucifer throws an impromptu party and gets all the workers completely smashed. The bomber, seeing the amount of people he would kill, has second thoughts and refuses to blow up the club — much to Charlotte’s annoyance.

Charlotte appears at the party and attempts to communicate with Lucifer, but Lucifer pushes her onto Linda who is all too excited to meet the Goddess of Creation. However, the chat between the two ends up with mommy dearest discovering Lucifer’s love for Chloe. This is not going to be good.

Due to the illegal party, the cops show up with Chloe in tow. She tells her crew that she will handle it, but then lets loose and allows the party to continue. She isn’t heartless, after all. Lucifer and Chloe then have the most adorable dance known to man with music and lights blazing. These two are the cutest cute to ever cute!

Charlotte then slips away, only for Amenadiel and Maze to follow her. She turns up at a bar to meet Dan, who ends up talking about Chloe the entire time, which is exactly what Charlotte wanted. She then she sleeps with him. Maze obviously takes pics of Dan and Charlotte meeting (along with a selfie of Amenadiel’s disgusted face, which — by the way — is priceless!

The end of the episode reveals that the mogul’s daughter-in-law (along with the son) were the murderers. But that leaves Lucifer confused as to why there is a double confession. Things get more confusing for Lucifer when Chloe shows up at his club with paperwork establishing Lux as a social heritage site. I was so touched that I almost cried. Lucifer cannot believe Chloe would do this for him and Chloe tells him that it’s what friends do. Lucifer tells Linda about the incident and asks him why he hasn’t shown Chloe his true face. Linda brings further insight when she points out that Lucifer came to Los Angeles because he was searching for something. And she thinks he found what he was looking for. (*cough* CHLOE *cough*)

This leads to Lucifer contemplating his session. And, inevitably, the contemplation leads to him standing Chloe up at the restaurant. My heart broke a little at her disappointment. Then, to make matters worse, Charlotte puts a bomb at the bottom of Chloe’s car, and has a detonator in her hand. And... end scene.

Final Thoughts:
  • Would it kill the writers to not put Chloe’s life in danger? Also, when do we get to discover why she makes Lucifer vulnerable? I still don’t dig that situation. 
  • How far back is the whole “standing up Chloe” thing going to put their relationship? I still don’t know if I’m mentally prepared for Lucifer and Chloe to get together (Lucifer still has some growing up to do) but still. 
  • Dan sleeping with Charlotte is all kinds of problematic. 
  • I am all here for grossed-out Amendiel and know-it-all Maze!