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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Gifted is a Sweet Film About Love and Sacrifice [Contributor: Jenn]

(Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

When I first received the press information about Gifted, I was already hooked. It looked like my kind of film — funny, sweet, and featuring exceptionally talented actors. I was fortunate enough to see an early screening of the movie last night (#pressperks), and our theatre absolutely adored the film. I did, too. Gifted is the kind of film that’s reflective of life without being overtly cheesy or preachy. It reminds us that family isn’t just who you’re born into; it’s also who you choose. And with so many complex themes weaving effortlessly through the film, the end result is a sweet story about what it means to really love the people around you and make sacrifices for them.

Note: the following contains some major spoilers for Gifted. Read at your own risk!

Gifted tells the story of Frank Adler (Chris Evans), a man who is raising his niece, Mary, (Mckenna Grace) after his sister’s passing. Mary is a child prodigy in mathematics, but Frank wants her to have a normal life — to socialize, make friends, and go to a normal school. Frank’s estranged mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) doesn’t see things that way. She believes that Frank is squashing Mary’s potential and that the little girl will eventually get so bored and resentful for restricting her gifts. A custody battle ensues between the mother and son, pitting family against family.

I think the thing that strikes me most about Gifted is the way that the film doesn’t have a specific “villain.” Initially, we’re poised to believe that Evelyn is a villain — that all she wants to do is loan Mary out, in Frank’s words, to “think tanks, to talk nontrivial zeroes with old Russian guys.” We’re led to believe, because of Frank’s sarcasm and disdain for his mother, that she’s only doing this to benefit her. When we learn that Evelyn was also a mathematics genius, and her deceased daughter, Diane, was also one, it’s easier to understand why she wants what she does for Mary. It doesn’t excuse the way that she goes about it, but it was really thought-provoking. Evelyn sees Diane when she looks at Mary. And she sees all of the potential Diane could have had, if she had only stayed alive longer. (Diane, we learn, takes her own life.) But while Evelyn may not be heartless, she isn’t right in the way that she tries to affect Mary’s life.

During the court hearing, Evelyn goes on a long-winded, angry story about how when Diane was 17, she prevented her from running away with a young man she was in love with. Evelyn even went so far as to file kidnapping charges against the young man. The reason is pretty clear: Diane was subtly seeking a sense of normalcy among her prodigy-laced, isolated life. She craved human interaction, but Evelyn thought that doing so would diminish Diane’s promise. So she subtly trapped her daughter into throwing all of herself and her life into work.


It’s why what Frank says at the end of the movie hits like a punch to the gut, but we’ll get there in a bit.

Based on the trailers for the film, we’re expected to believe that all of Frank’s motives are honorable. And truly, Mary is happiest with him — she’s herself, and (as she says) Frank wanted her before she was a genius. Frank acquired Mary because his sister stopped by one night with the baby. After returning home from a date, Frank found his sister on the bathroom floor, and the baby on the couch. It’s heartbreaking, but Diane’s life was marked by her genius that when she solved her problem, she had no idea what else she would do with her life. We don’t ever see Diane in the film, apart from photographs, but it’s easy to feel empathy and pain for how trapped and isolated she must have felt.

Frank knew this. He partially blames himself for not really seeing it, but he understood the life his sister led and he doesn’t want that for Mary. He believes Diane wouldn’t want that for her either — that she would want her daughter to have fun and play and be a kid. Again, that doesn’t mean Frank always does what’s right.

It’s stated that the reason he gained custody of Mary was because he spitefully took her across state lines, away from Evelyn. He didn’t want to have to fight his mother, so he took the baby away and raised her on his own — with help from his faith-filled neighbor, Roberta (Octavia Spencer). Frank is such a complex character. He’s extremely intelligent and it’s revealed late in the movie that prior to having Mary, he was an assistant philosophy professor. He knows the value of intelligence but also the value of normalcy. While Evelyn accuses him of wanting to bury Mary’s gift, part of that is true. On her first day of school, Frank tells Mary not to show off. But show off she does, by proving to her teacher (Jenny Slate) that she can do complex math in her head.

While it’s easy to see the humanity in Evelyn (a presumed “villain” in this story), it’s also easy to see the flaws within Frank. He’s stubborn and sarcastic, and in some ways, he does tell Mary to pretend to not fully be who she is. But he’s loving. He’s the one person who is willing to make sacrifices for Mary in this movie. His life is forever impacted by that little girl, and watching Evans portray such a damaged, broken character who is bettered by the love of a child is satisfying.

(Photo credit: Den of Geek)

The twist in the movie comes when the custody arrangement is reached — a compromise has to be made, and neither Evelyn nor Frank get to keep Mary. She, instead, is sent to a foster family about 25 minutes away from where Frank lives. Evelyn tells him, coldly, that it’s better than what Mary had when she lived with him. But, spoiler alert, Frank learns within a few weeks that the foster family isn’t exactly an impartial third party in this arrangement — Evelyn is staying in their guest house, hiring tutors for Mary without Frank’s consent or knowledge.

I was actually genuinely surprised by the revelation, and our audience was too. It was another example of the ways in which Mary was being manipulated by her grandmother. But then something happens — Frank presents Evelyn with the paper that Diane finished on her millennium problem. Evelyn is in disbelief, because Diane didn’t finish. She couldn’t have. She would have published it and told the world. Then Frank reveals a harsh truth: Diane made him promise to not publish the paper until Evelyn died.

(At this point, our entire theatre made an audible gasp together, I swear.)

Frank tells Evelyn that she gets to now spend the rest of HER life defending Diane’s conclusion and cementing her legacy. Which means that Frank gets to raise Mary, because Evelyn won’t have time for that. As Frank leaves to let Evelyn decide what she wants to do — raise Mary and forfeit the paper, or call MIT and begin the process of defending it to the mathematical community — the woman breaks down. It’s an intensely intimate and touching scene, because she rummages through a box and finds all of Diane’s handwritten notes. Evelyn hasn’t really grieved the loss of her daughter, properly. Despite all of her flaws, Evelyn loved Diane the best way she knew how (even if it wasn’t the right way) and this paper is the last thing connects the two of them.

Gifted might be predictable in a lot of ways (there’s a happy ending, of course; the romance between Frank and Mary’s teacher, Bonnie, is pretty predictable but made more endearing because of the chemistry between Evans and Slate), but it’s elevated by the acting between Evans and Grace. Both are exceptionally talented, tapping into those emotional moments with relative ease. Our theatre was collectively sniffling at a few different places toward the end. Both also nail the deadpanned humor that the film has (the line that got the most laughs in our screening is a line delivered by Mary to Bonnie). Chris Evans might be the big draw to this film — and his performance is exceptional, so you should see it if you’re a fan of his — but make no mistake: Mckenna Grace is its star. This young actress carries every scene she’s in with the kind of grace (no pun intended) and poise of an actress three times her age. She’ll make you laugh and she’ll yank at your heartstrings. Her facial nuances and comedic timing are exceptional, and there’s one scene in particular where she’s screaming and crying that will have you dissolved into a puddle of tears. The chemistry between Evans and Grace was important to nail, because I needed to believe these two were pseudo-father/daughter. And that chemistry exceeded my expectations.

So while it might not be revelatory, Gifted is a heartfelt film about love and sacrifice and family. Bring tissues, but prepare to leave the theatre feeling a sense of hope. And that’s the most I can ask for after seeing a movie.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Flash 3x18 Review: "Abra Kadabra" (Say the Magic Word) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Abra Kadabra"
Original Airdate: March 28, 2017

After last week’s joyful musical extravaganza, this week feels a lot like coming back from vacation to a depressing office job where they don’t let you decorate your cubicle and also refuse to tell you what inter-dimensional pseudo-god is going to kill your girlfriend. And it’s not just the lack of singing and dancing that takes the mood of the whole show down several notches; there’s also the annoying villain of the week, Joe trying to sadly drink away the thoughts of Iris dying, Caitlin making Cisco cry and breaking Julian’s heart with her untimely demise, and the rise of Killer Frost.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?


Our villain for the week is Abra Kadabra, who is a second-place winner of the Large Ham Award for his over-the-top performance. (The perpetual first place winner is, of course, Leonard Snart for everything he is and does.) Abra Kadabra is from the future so he actually uses a lot of futuristic technology, but uses the guise of a magician for... reasons. Everyone learns that it’s not magic almost immediately and it’s not even that high tech in the century where he’s from, so why the magician theme? Why playing cards and inescapable glass tanks? Does he just like the aesthetic of 21st century goth-magicians? Yeah, I’m probably overthinking the themed villainy, but this episode gives me little else to think about, so you can’t blame me.

Because Abra Kadabra is not a compelling enough villain to take up a whole episode on his own, without any relation to the long-term story arc of the season, the writers have fluffed up the drama by pitting Gypsy against the team and giving Abra Kadabra knowledge of the Savitar/Iris’s death situation. On the part of Gypsy, she’s determined to get Abra Kadabra for multiple murders on her Earth, including the murder of her former partner. I guess the fact that Gypsy is seeking revenge for someone she loved is supposed to excuse how often she displays absolutely zero sympathy for Team Flash or concern for Iris’s future death, but I don’t really buy it.

“Abra Kadabra” is a simple episode that is ruled more by the characters’ moral questions (“is saving Iris right if it means letting this murderer go?”) than action. Abra Kadabra is captured and caged pretty early on, and the secondary chase that happens after Joe opens his cell to question him isn’t all that compelling either, save for the big finale in which Kadabra opens a breach back to the future and ends up getting pulled out of his still-moving spaceship on the way through. Even then, I was more curious about the fate of that ship and whether it crushed any people on the other side of the portal than I was interested in the plot to stop Abra Kadabra.

No, the most of the story’s dramatic thrust is meant to come from the characters struggling with whether or not they should turn Kadabra over to Gypsy. This is supposed to be an episode full of emotional struggles, characters toeing the line of right and wrong, which actions are self-serving and which ones are for the greater good. I’m not opposed to these kinds of episodes at all — they can be terrific vehicles of character development, personal arcs, and shifts in character philosophies when they’re done well — but I don’t think that’s the case for “Abra Kadabra.”

We’re given a very specific either/or situation. Either Kadabra gives up information and goes free, or he gives up nothing and goes with Gypsy. This is completely ignoring a lot of alternative solutions to the problem, not the least of which being the fact that Cisco could make an effort at vibing the truth from him, or they could hook Kedabra up to that psychic magnet machine they used on Joe after Grodd entered his mind, or they could call Earth-38 and get intimidation help from Supergirl — who would probably inform them that intimidation is completely unnecessary because, surprise! J’onn J’onzz can read minds and he can get that info out of Abra Kadabra real quick. But the episode has an incredibly limited framework that its characters can work in, which means that a bunch of geniuses thinking out of the box can’t happen. And that’s frustrating.

So the episode unfolds in a predictable manner and Abra Kadabra is taken away by Gypsy without telling anyone anything about Savitar. There is a good little speech from Barry in which he basically begs Abra Kadabra to tell him anyway, which is important because Barry has finally learned not to be smug or gloat in front of villains. The plea to Kadabra’s better nature is also significant because it hints that maybe Barry isn’t trying to save Iris on his own anymore, but then that’s ruined when he decides his next step is to go into the future and see who Savitar is for himself. Barry, how many times do you need to learn not to time travel before that lesson sticks in your dumb Labradoodle brain?

“Abra Kadabra” is clumsily handling mysteries with bait-and-switch cliches involving almost getting answers, or raising new questions, or the introduction of new, pointless barriers to the truth. Maybe part of this mystery sleight of hand was on theme with the prestidigitation of Abra Kadabra, but it’s far more likely that it was all just filler.

Here’s the problem: The show has a lot of space to fill for their long-term plot and only so many ways to keep the mysteries relevant and present in the episodes without giving away so much that the answers would be obvious to the characters or the audience. They were on the right track with Savitar’s prophecies, which were vague enough to be difficult to figure out and creepy enough to be interesting elements of the mystery, but they’ve run out of steam since then. The result? Episodes like “Abra Kadabra,” which treads water by repeatedly asking all the relevant questions and not giving us anything remotely relevant or new in terms of answers.

KILLER FROST IS HERE



In stark contrast to the writers fumbling through mysteries and moral questions, Caitlin’s plot — her injury, death, and resurrection as Killer Frost as well as the adorable budding romance with Julian — was straightforward, well-paced, and perfectly acted by everyone involved. Almost to the point where I wonder if dedicating a bit more time to it might have made this episode feel less like pointless filler.

A quick recap: Caitlin is seriously injured during one of Kadabra’s flashy escapes and she could probably heal herself if she allowed her Killer Frost powers to take over, but she doesn’t want to risk it. Instead, she remains conscious and directs Julian through a surgery to remove all the shrapnel from her wound. It’s a success! She survives, everyone’s happy to see her doing well, she and Julian have many Cute Moments™ and it looks like she’ll make it out of this dismal season with just as scar and a story to tell. But then she throws a clot, maybe, and starts flatlining and dies and Cisco is crying, so that’s basically the worst thing ever. Julian rips the anti-Killer Frost necklace off out of desperation to save her, and rather than returning it within the few-second window between Caitlin healing and Killer Frost taking over, they just stare.

Killer Frost takes over. What’s worse: whatever part of her might have been the Caitlin Snow they all knew and loved could actually, genuinely be dead.

This season has been such a downer. You know what we need? A happy finale. For heaven’s sake, These characters’ lives have been a constant stream of drama and misery for the last three years, show — give them a break. Just one little hiatus-vacation from friends and girlfriends dying, family members dying, time travel blunders, speed gods, murderous people from the future, and impending doom.

Other Things:
  • The most unbelievable thing this show has ever done is imply that anyone can get four free Hamilton tickets.
  • I suspect that Killer Frost might end up one of the main antagonists for next season, since those running the show have promised a non-speedster villain for season four and the team fighting against a former friend would be compelling enough to fuel a longer story arc.

Bates Motel 5x06 Review: "Marion" (The Shower Scene) [Contributor: Erin Allen]


"Marion"
Original Airdate: March 27, 2017

Bates Motel had a mother of a plot twist in this episode. Along with incredible performances, heartbreaking dialogue, and nostalgic cinematography it truly is a memorable hour of television — one for the history books.

CHECKING IN


Marion Crane (Rihanna) checks into the Bates Motel, and we all know where this is going. Norman puts her in Room 1, and she checks out the shower, just like the film. He makes her a sandwich, and they have a really deep conversation about parents and relationships. It doesn’t feel odd even though they have just met. Norman has been doing some self-exploration recently and he tells Marion some of his emotional musings. My favorite line of the night was a simple but eloquent take on the ultimate struggle of life: “It’s hard to be lonely. But, it’s also hard to love people. That’s the trap.”

He elaborates further: “The little private trap. Everyone lives it. We need people, but that need can destroy us. Once you care about somebody, it rules you. And who even knows, at the end of the day, if that person is really who you think they are. Or if they are even real at all.” We know he is talking about himself and how he realizes that his consuming love for his mother has destroyed the both of them. But, this thinking can probably be applied to even the most normal of people. It strikes a chord with Marion, and she empathizes with him.

PSYCH(O) OUT


Sam’s deceit is starting to show, and Marion is not having it. Why doesn’t she take a shower to cool off? She gets in the shower, and it is really suspenseful. There are some shots and angles that mimic the film, like the high angle on Marion and the shot up the stream of water coming out of the shower head. She hears something. The camera pushes in on the shower curtain. This is it. Cue the screeching violins. And then... Marion gets out of the shower, unscathed. Well-played, Bates Motel, well-played. You had me going. I really like Marion, so I’m glad she’s still safe, but if someone doesn’t get murdered in the shower, I will riot.

BROTHER TO BROTHER


Emma has to break the news to Dylan about Norma and it is HEARTBREAKING. Max Thieriot reacted brilliantly, crushing my soul. Dylan calls Norman and they have a heated and tragic exchange. Norman is already at his wit’s end, and having to explain to his brother what happened TWO YEARS ago is a lot for him to take. Similarly, it is overwhelming to Dylan who can’t believe that Norma would commit suicide. I love how Freddie Highmore plays Norman as feigning control, but also falling apart. It’s those teary eyes again. He is so good at that! Thieriot uses a perfect mixture of heartbreak and anger when he talks to Norman.

MOTHER TO SON


So, yeah, these scenes between Norma and Norman are intense. And mind-bending, too. It is a crime that neither Vera Farmiga nor Highmore have been recognized with nominations or awards. They are both putting so much into these complex characters. Season to season, week to week, I am constantly amazed by their talent.

That talent is especially evident when they have scenes together, one on one. We get a lot of that in this episode. Norman is struggling to come to terms with his psychosis. He is fighting his visions of Mother, but she will not go quietly. She fights back, demanding to be seen and heard. Norma’s intensity coupled with Norman’s fragility makes for some explosive drama. “No one made anyone up. We all exist. Like orphan planets spinning around in space with no purpose. It’s all real and it’s not real.” Norman still tries to resist, and Norma trashes the kitchen. He gives up and admits she is real. The scene ends showing Norman getting a hug from the Mother in his mind. He leans into an empty void among the wreckage.

Later, when Sam shows up at the hotel, Mother gets real with Norman. She tells him the how and the why of her existence. It’s time for Norman to face the truth and the pain that comes with it. “Like Adam wanting all the knowledge and eating the apple in the garden of Eden. You get the truth, but you also see the pain.” At first, the information is welcome, but then he retreats, succumbing to his fears again. “I don’t want to feel this. I don’t want to know anymore.” Mother continues her pep talk, and Norman builds up the courage to act on his own accord. He curbs his usual blackout where he lets Mother handle things, and handles it on his own.

THE SHOWER SCENE


**MAJOR SPOILER BELOW**

Just like Hitchcock did with Psycho, Bates Motel takes preconceived notions and turns them on their head. Audiences in 1960 were sure that the leading lady would not be killed off in the beginning of the film. Today, Bates fans were sure that there wasn’t going to be a re-imagining of the iconic movie without Marion getting stabbed in the shower.

And yet.

It is not a departure from the film just for departure’s sake. There is build up. Not just in this episode and this season, but from the beginning of the series. The gender reversal of the shower victim allows this rich storyline to come full circle. Mother has revealed to Norman the reason he created her was that he was too little to bear the pain of his abusive father. He couldn’t protect his mother from him, so he developed a way that he could. Mother says that Sam reminds her of Norman’s father. Sam also happens to be the name of Norman’s father. Norman is not too little now, and has the power to do something about it. Mother, or rather, Norman talks himself into exacting a lifetime of revenge on Sam, to have him pay for the sins of his father and of men that hurt women, in general.

Sam is the one in the shower when Norman shows up. Norman is not dressed up as Mother, like he was in the film. This is Norman making a decision to redeem his childhood weakness by murdering another “bad and scary man.” These decisions make this plot twist extremely successful and satisfying. How cool is it that in this version of the Psycho story Marion gets to live, the no-good cheater dies, and Norman takes command of himself? I love everything about it.

They may have changed the major components of the famous scene, but they paid homage to it beautifully with the blocking and the camera work. They recreated several shots, such as the hand reaching for the shower curtain and the well-known shot of the victim’s face on the floor, eyes dead. It was haunting in its familiarity, but superb on its own as its own. All around, a spectacular achievement.

I feel like I witnessed cinematic history watching “Marion,” as I’m sure viewers of the film did back in 1960. It elevates the show that I already had placed pretty high up on the scale. It was well-crafted and stunning, visually and mentally, and I could not be happier with this chapter of the saga.

Motel Amenities:
  • Correction: In my review of “Dreams Die First” I referred to Dr. Edwards as Dr. Adams like a dope. 
  • “Nothing like a crazy person announcing their own clarity.”
  • If we aren’t going to have the Psycho violins for the shower scene, Roy Orbison’s “Crying” is an unexpected, but certainly suitable substitute.
  • “If I’m not here, then why am I here?” Great delivery by Farmiga. 
  • I like the way Marion eats that sandwich for some weird reason, but I do not like when she talks with her mouth full, especially during a great line like, “Parents can be a bitch.”
  • “We are two parts of the same person. Both are very real.”
  • The way Norman moves Marion’s bra when he sits down is super awkward and creepy. 
  • Anyone else sing, “He had it coming. He had it coming. He only had himself to blaaaaaame,” when Marion smashed up Sam’s car and Madeline threw wine in his face? Just me? Okay. 
  • “The world is full of mad people that function. Many of whom are heads of state.” Haha, BURN.
  • Norma trying to force Norman to open his eyes. OMG.
  • I miss Romero, but this part of the story needed to fill a whole episode. 

Arrow 5x18 Review: “Disbanded” (Speak Life) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Disbanded”
Original Airdate: March 29, 2017

To say that Arrow is a show about identity and morality is to say that the ocean is wet and the sky is up. It’s not a surprise to any of us when the show decides to send Oliver Queen headfirst into a moral dilemma or an identity crisis spiral. So what is it that makes “Disbanded” an actual refreshing episode of the series — even after I’ve spent five years with Oliver’s angst and darkness? Because it asks a different question and demands a new answer to an old problem. The problem in this episode is that Oliver is so beaten down that he’s out. He’s done. And not because he’s frustrated. And not because he’s scared. Because he’s been broken. It takes a lot to get people to push to their breaking point, but Adrian Chase managed to do that to Oliver. Luckily for him, there’s one person in his life who will never give up on him, and who sees him for the man he really is. And no, it’s not Felicity Smoak.

It’s John-freakin’-Diggle.


DIGGLE TO THE RESCUE + A NEW TEAM ARROW


This week’s episode, ultimately, was about the power of friendship. And though that sounds like a cheesy after-school special, friendships are really fundamental to us existing as human beings. Friends are there to pick you up when you’ve fallen, but are also there to deliver hard truths even when you don’t want to hear them. But more than just that, friendship is — at its core — incredibly powerful. The best friends are the ones who stick by you and won’t give up. Even when you’ve given up on yourself.

Adrian broke Oliver, because he made him admit to the belief that his entire masked crusade was about killing, and that it was a fa├žade for his thirst for blood. Normally, Oliver wouldn’t believe that sort of thing about himself (even if he does have the tendency to spiral and self-sabotage on a weekly basis). But because Adrian tortured him mentally and physically on every level, Oliver snapped and something within him just broke. Even the way that Stephen Amell plays Oliver in this episode is different — he’s quiet, defeated, and just plain done with being around people or involved with them. He breaks up Team Arrow, breaks up with Susan (praise the Lord), and enlists the help of Anatoly and the Bratva to kill Adrian Chase.

Suffice it to say, Oliver Queen is just done with being anyone or anything.

At first, it doesn’t feel that out-of-character because we’ve watched Oliver play the defeatist card pretty frequently. This time, though, things feel different (and Felicity vocalizes that). That’s because they are. While Oliver has been defeated before, he’s never been broken. He’s never questioned who he was or his crusade, only others’ involvement in it. Even when he was ready to give himself up to Slade Wilson, Oliver didn’t question who he was. He just believed he deserved to pay a price for what had been done in the past. In some ways, Oliver still believes that in “Disbanded,” but it’s more than just that — it’s now that Oliver believes his best option for existence is to push everyone and everything away because his life and crusade have all been lies.

He doesn’t believe he’s deserving to wear a mask or a hood anymore.

And that’s the key difference, really, this time around. It’s not that Oliver doesn’t want to pick up that mantle; it’s that he doesn’t think he even should. He’s bought into the lie that all he is, at his core, is a liar and a murderer. It’s kind of painful when you really think about it, because Oliver already has self-sabotaging “the world is on my shoulders” tendencies to begin with. Couple those with intense self-doubt and you’ve got the makings of a shell of a person, rather than a whole one. It seems as if Oliver is just done — done with feeling, done with people, done with touching anyone else’s life. He mentions something to Susan which I thought was interesting, in spite of the fact that their whole relationship made no sense to me whatsoever: he tells her that this wasn’t how he wanted his life to touch hers.

Oliver’s realized that his life has touched so many peoples’ lives, but Adrian has made him only see the pain he’s “caused”: the deaths of Moira and Tommy and Laurel. The demise of Evelyn. The destruction of Thea. He tells Diggle that it’s all his fault, and that he is the person who brought so much pain and darkness and death into the city and into the lives of others. He won’t do that anymore. He can’t. He just can’t.

When we hit our lowest point in life, the only option we have is to look up. When we have fallen into a pit, a friend will show you the way out. A good friend will climb into the pit with you and climb out with you. That’s what John Diggle is and always has been to Oliver: a good person and a good friend. I know that the show spends a lot of time focusing on Felicity and what she is to Oliver — his source of light. But I think it’s equally if not more so important to focus on what Diggle is to Oliver — his way out of the darkness. While Felicity is lighting the way for the team, Diggle is the one stubbornly sitting in the pit with Oliver, pointing at the light, and saying: “That is who you are. This is not who you are. You’re coming with me, or I’m dragging you. But either way, we’re getting out of this thing together.”

We need stubborn people and we need stubborn friends who speak life into our darkness and who pull us out of the pit when we cannot stand. After Diggle leads Team Arrow to thwart Anatoly and the Bratva’s plans, Oliver angrily confronts Diggle (and punches him!) and tells him, one more time, to back off. But Diggle won’t. He’s a soldier and he knows that whatever happened to Oliver is undoubtedly painful and incomprehensible. But he is not leaving a soldier behind. And even if Oliver can’t see who he is and who he was meant to be, that’s okay. Diggle can.

Oliver confesses that he doesn’t feel like he’s ready or able to put on the hood again. He doesn’t feel worthy of it. And what Diggle says is something pretty profound: he says to earn the hood back. Atone for whatever wrongs he thinks he’s done or has actually done. But you can’t atone for a wrong if you ignore it and run away from it. For Oliver, his default mode will always be isolation. It’s the thing that drove him back to Lian-Yu after season one. When he feels at his lowest, he separates himself from the people he desperately needs to be around. Diggle gets this, and he knows that Oliver cannot be alone — that only leads to more issues. So Diggle’s solution is smart and solid. If you don’t feel worthy of something, you can’t just ignore it and remove yourself for it. You work to earn it. You work to be worthy. You fight and you keep fighting until there’s nothing left in you. And then you let other people fight for you.

That’s what I loved about “Disbanded” and tweeted last night — Team Arrow will ALWAYS be Team Arrow, with or without Oliver. That’s what they’re all about: fighting against injustices and righting wrongs. Oliver set up a legacy in that regard. Whether he’s present or not, he’s inspired and influenced so many people to fight for the good guys. So Diggle takes up the mantle of team leader, and fights for Oliver’s soul when Oliver cannot anymore. Which brings us to our second explored friendship of the night: Anatoly and Oliver.

“LOOKS LIKE WE’RE NOT IN RUSSIA ANYMORE.”


Anatoly is such an interesting character. And even though I have not been paying attention to the flashbacks, I know this much to be true: he and Oliver needed each other. Oliver needed someone he could trust and Anatoly needed someone to keep him accountable and to make him a better person. When they were together, they didn’t always do the right thing, but Anatoly and Oliver made each other better. They encouraged one another. And when Oliver left, Anatoly vocalized the fact that he wasn’t worried about Oliver’s future — he was worried about what he would become without Oliver there to guide him.

And as it turns out, Anatoly was right to be worried.

When he returns to Star(ling) City, Oliver instructs him to kill Adrian Chase. Oliver doesn’t care about the cost of his soul anymore — all he cares about is Adrian Chase in the ground, no matter the cost. Better his soul than anyone else on Team Arrow (that’s his argument). But when Oliver is finally talked off the ledge by Diggle, he goes back on his promise to Anatoly — pharmaceuticals so that an insanely addictive drug can be made and Anatoly can financially save the Bratva — which, needless to say, causes a lot of friction between the two.

Not only does Anatoly threaten Oliver’s team, but he also threatens to kill hostages if Oliver’s team doesn’t back down. That’s not the Anatoly we know. The Anatoly in the flashbacks had some moral gray areas but he and Oliver went on a heist to save a bunch of sick people in Russia. And now, Oliver is watching as the man who used to be his friend is threatening and blackmailing to get power.

The two have a confrontation on a rooftop at the end of the episode, where Oliver says that he doesn’t know who Anatoly is anymore. The man he once knew would never have threatened the lives of innocent people to maintain his status in the Bratva. With tears in his eyes, Anatoly tells Oliver that what he said all those years ago remains true — he was worried about what he would become without Oliver’s influence, and look at what happened.

I love the parallelism that we get in this episode — of what happens when you don’t have a person to guide you out of the darkness, and what happens when you do. Though I have hope that Anatoly’s soul is not doomed and there’s redemption for him, it was sad to see him so broken and so darkened. Oliver influences people, whether he realizes it or not. And sometimes NOT being around someone is just as big of an influence as staying.

Overall, I’m actually pleased with this week’s episode. “Disbanded” gave us some really great Diggle/Oliver scenes that reminded me of why I liked this show in the first place. While Arrow is on hiatus for a few weeks, hopefully it’ll come back just as strong.

Additional bits and pieces:
  • The other story in this episode involved Curtis and Felicity on a heist! Long story short: there’s footage of Prometheus with his face pixelated. At Helix, Felicity realizes that she needs to unscramble the face. And to do that, she needs information that Curtis conveniently gets from Chase, thanks to his T-Sphere. Unfortunately, the scrambler is encrypted and it’ll take forever for Felicity to get it unencrypted. Luckily, our lovely Helix leader Kojo tells them that they should just go to the source and break into the lab that created it to unscramble the footage. After a few minor mishaps, the two manage to get the scrambler unencrypted and it reveals — as clear as day — that Adrian Chase is Prometheus. That’s all well and good, but Chase is being held in federal custody. And because he’s smart, he realizes when his guards get a phone alert, people have figured out his true identity. So he kills his two guards and manages to escape (in a scene that was actually really perfect and creepy because he drives off to “It’s A Beautiful Morning”) to places unknown. Ruh-roh.
  • “Feel free to use my apartment as your secret lair.”
  • I’m kind of tired of Adrian Chase whispering all the time. Just do your evil monologues and threats at a normal talking level, dude.
  • It’s taken me this long to realize that the actress who plays Kojo is the same one who played Marina in The Magicians. I loved Marina and now it makes me love Kojo even more.
  • “John Diggle: my favorite American!” That’s how everyone should greet Diggle.
  • “You don’t deserve it? Fine. Work to become the man who does.”
  • “These hackers are mean.”
What did you all think of this week’s episode? Sound off in the comments below and see you back here at the end of April for the next new episode!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The 100 4x08 Recap: “God Complex” (Into the Fire) [Guest Poster: Ilene Friedman]


“God Complex”
Original Airdate: March 29, 2017

This episode picks up where the previous week’s foreshadowed it would: “Baylis” is in the radiation chamber. Luna’s blood transfer worked and he’s producing his own nightblood, woot, woot! The bad news? Well, when Jackson cranks up the radiation, “Baylis” becomes gross barbecue. The group insist that they have to try again, but the only option to try anything on seems to be Emori. Luna says that hunting for people to kill is not the answer and points out Baylis’s bracelet that represented his ancestors. This confuses Clarke and crew considering Baylis was supposed to be Sangedakru. As it turns out,  Emori lied to everyone — which we already knew — hence, the group imprisons both Murphy and Emori and debates whether or not they will become the next test subjects.

Luna finally puts her foot down and refuses to donate anymore marrow. The really messed up part? The group strap her down to extract her bone marrow without her permission. This causes Raven to state the obvious: “Welcome to Mount Weather.” Roan convinces Clarke this is the right thing to do in order to save ALL of humanity.

Miller then drugs Emori and carries her to the radiation chamber while Murphy screams at the top of his lungs, pleading for her life. Abby can’t bring herself to inject Emori with the nightblood, so Clarke takes the needle and stabs herself! Abby completely loses it and destroys the radiation chamber in a pile of tears. “I can’t lose you.” I am not happy. Like, okay, yeah, I didn’t want Clarke getting tested either. But now what are you going to do you idiot? You’re going to watch her die to radiation in a couple of weeks anyway.

Back in Arkadia, Skairkru is having a ceremony for the people they lost to the acid rain. Jasper decides it is time to celebrate life more and wants to take a trip to the woods to get the hallucinogenic berries from the first season. Bellamy is not having it, but decides to follow Jasper anyway to make sure he is safe. I am not okay with this. When Jasper and Bellamy eventually come back, Bellamy has become “lead life to the fullest” Bellamy. I am not pleased.

Meanwhile, Jaha has found a new mission. Apparently the Flame Keepers have a saying: “From the earth we will grow, from the ashes we will rise.” He realizes it’s the saying from the creepy cult and that they didn’t find the right bunker. Jaha convinces Kane to take him to Indra, who will hopefully lead them to Gaia. Monty goes along with them to Polis, where Trikru and Azgeda are in the middle of all-out war. Indra is upset to see them, but begrudgingly helps.

She leads them to Gaia, who has a tattoo that matches Jaha’s medallion. It turns out that the symbol is on Becca’s crypt, which is currently guarded by Azgeda. The group battles their way to the temple because Indra can’t keep her temper in check and find the crypt. The group eventually figures out that by putting the medallion in fire, it becomes a key to the crypt. As the group descends, we get to wait for answers!

Final Thoughts: 
  • Anyone think that Raven is looking a bit Becca-ish? And is everyone else concerned that Abby’s brain looks like it is frying too? It seems to be a bit ignored. 
  • Clarke’s nightblood is going to come into play, but I’m not okay with her being the new commander. She’s already taken a chip once. 
  • Can we please reunite Bellamy and Clarke? Bellamy is doing dumb stuff without her there. 
  • Luna and Roan are my favorites and you all can fight me on it.

New Girl 6x21 Review: "San Diego" (Darling, Don’t You Ever Grow Up) [Contributor: Jenn]


"San Diego"
Original Airdate: March 28, 2017

Think back to your childhood for a moment. What was the worst thing about being a kid? The inability to do the things grown-ups did? A bad hair day during school pictures? A rejection from a crush? It’s funny — when we’re young, we think that everything is the end of the world. All we want to do is grow up so we can be in charge of our own destinies and make our own decisions.

The joke’s on us, because when we finally do grow up, oftentimes all we want to do is return to those simplistic childhood days where we had no real responsibilities, where life was and easy, where our relationships were simple. Where our hearts didn’t get broken quite as badly, and everything could be solved with a pep talk from our loved ones.

“San Diego” is the penultimate episode of New Girl, and one of the strongest episodes of this season. It brings together a few different stories that have been percolating for a while, and makes me excited to see what the finale holds. In the episode, we get a deep dive into the Nick/Jess relationship (mostly on Jess’ side but we get a really nice moment between Bob Day and Nick that helps cement something Nick might not even realize), and the reveal of Schmidt’s true first name.

A CHILDISH BREAK-UP


Aly says something really poignant to Nick near the end of this episode — she tells him that he tried to break up with Reagan like it meant nothing, when their relationship meant something to him. It seems to hit Nick, whose default response is to panic-moonwalk away from confrontation and all of his issues. (That’s also Jess’ response when it comes to things, but we’ll talk about that later on.) In “San Diego,” Nick knows he needs to break up with Reagan. He wants something more out of their relationship and she isn’t able to give that to him. But he doesn’t want to do the breaking up. That requires confrontation and it might go wrong. So his genius solution? To get Reagan to break up with him first.

That solution actually works, and the reason it does is because Nick is SO bad at breaking up with people that instead of proposing a break-up, he accidentally invites Reagan on a trip to San Diego with him. While on the train to the city, Nick gets off at Anaheim and leaves Reagan on the train without any sort of explanation. It’s a cowardly move and it’s totally childish, but it takes making this decision for Nick to realize why he did it. He actually cared about Reagan. Years ago, Nick would have no problem breaking up with girls.

But he holds onto relationships that mean something to him, and even though theirs wasn’t going anywhere, Reagan is still important to Nick. He still cares deeply about her — loves her, even — and doesn’t want to hurt her (or get hurt). Sometimes we think that avoidance is the best solution to a conflict. And sometimes if we ignore a problem long enough, it really will go away on its own or sort itself out. But most of the time, we need to gather up enough courage to face our issues in order for us to actually become better people.

I think Nick became a better person over the last few years (his decision to jump off a train as a way to get Reagan to break up with him aside). He’s more mature than he once was and financially, as well as emotionally, responsible. Nick eventually does the right thing and tells Reagan that he didn’t know how to break up with her. Both aren’t good at goodbyes, but Reagan is on the same page as Nick and wanted to break up with him for some time.

Nick is now at the point in which he’s ready for something serious. And who is the person he’s ready to be serious with? Well, whether he realizes it or not, it’s Jess. It’s pretty much always been her.

When Nick is going through his struggle on how to break up with Reagan, he calls Jess for advice. He doesn’t know who to turn to, so he turns to one of the closest and most important people in his life. But Jess doesn’t answer her phone; Bob Day does. And when Bob talks to Nick, the latter sings the praises of Jess. In particular, he says this about the woman: “She’s got that giant heart that’s part-compass, part-flashlight. She’s just the greatest person I’ve ever met.”

I’ll leave you momentarily to swoon.

It’s funny to me that New Girl has done the role reversal of Nick and Jess so seamlessly and naturally that it was easy to miss. The show began with these two having a bond and connection. They fell for one another, but for the majority of the series, we’ve seen Nick’s side of the relationship — we’ve watched him cook breakfast for Jess, chase after her, and seek to give her everything. It’s only recently that we’ve watched Jess pining after Nick. The show has given us the chance to empathize with her and her journey. Now, Jess is not only fully aware of her feelings for Nick, but also prepared to do something about them. At the same time, I think Nick is subtly beginning to realize how he’s still in love with Jess.

The way the writers of the show have depicted this journey is rather beautiful. Not every episode had an overt Nick/Jess moment, but there were important, small little things peppered throughout the past season and a half. I think that’s realistic. We don’t always realize how we feel until we pause long enough to evaluate it. To see Nick and Jess date other people post-“Mars Landing” was necessary. There was no way these two would remain single throughout the remainder of the series, and it seems absurd that time would be spent on them pining after one another.

So slowly, and naturally, these two have found their way back toward one another. It’s really lovely to see the show treat their love story as honestly and realistic as possible. And speaking of their love story, Nick isn’t the only person in this week’s episode who is forced to grow up...


HIDING OUT IN PORTLAND


Jess ran away from her feelings for Nick, and this week we see her trying to take her mind off how much she loves him. So she decides to help her dad out with his love life. As it turns out, Bob and Ashley broke up ages ago, and Jess never knew. Jess then does what Jess does best/worst — she meddles. The meddling ends up going well for Bob, who finds a connection. Unfortunately, the meddling just reminds Jess of the fact that she’s alone and ran away from her feelings. She attempts to distract herself, and that’s when Bob gets the phone call from Nick.

What struck me so much about “San Diego” in terms of the Jess storyline is that I really connected with her and believed the depth of her feelings for Nick more than I ever have. She earnestly tells her dad that she’s in love with him. And as much as she wishes she wasn’t, she is. And it hurts to watch him with someone else. After Bob and Nick’s phone call, Bob tracks Jess down to tell her that Nick and Reagan broke up and that Nick might still be in love with Jess — even if he doesn’t realize that’s what it is.

Kudos to Zooey Deschanel for such subtle acting throughout this entire arc, and for the way she played that scene of Jess learning Nick and Reagan broke up. New Girl is doing things right by depicting Jess’ feelings for Nick in the way they have. It was hard for a while, because the show frequently portrayed how much Nick loved her, but not necessarily the reverse. As we approach the season finale next week, I’m really excited to see how this Nick/Jess arc ends up playing out. My hope, of course, is that Jess will confess her feelings and we’ll have a reuniting of the couple. Something tells me that it may not be as easy and quick as that, but we’ll see.

Regardless of what next week holds, I couldn’t be more proud of New Girl for their incredible season and the way they continue to delicately, intentionally, and perfectly handle their romantic pairings.

Additional bits & pieces:
  • The other story in this episode involved us learning Schmidt’s real first name — Winston! Schmidt confronts Winston and asks for his name back in order to advance his career. After a lot of back-and-forth, Winston finally agrees. ... And Schmidt then decides to give the man his name back after a moment of intimacy with Schmidt is ruined when Cece refers to him by his real first name. I’m so glad we FINALLY got this mystery solved, and think it’s hilariously perfect that Schmidt’s first name is “Winston.”
  • Aly was the real MVP of the episode, and Nasim Pedrad did a hilarious job deadpanning the entire time.
  • “DAD, DON’T TALK TO MY FRIENDS.”
  • “I said what I needed to say.” “Nothing came out of your mouth.”
  • “I feel like I should call San Diego to warn them.”
  • “I love him. I wish I didn’t, but I do.”
  • “I feel like a single mom in a mop commercial.”
  • WINNY THE BISH.
  • “I don’t even think he realizes it, but he’s still in love with you.”
What did you all think of “San Diego”? Sound off in the comments below!

Supergirl 2x17 Review: "Distant Sun" (Darn Daxam Drama) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


"Distant Sun"
Original Airdate: March 27, 2017

Did you think you saw the last of the King and Queen of Daxam last episode, when Mon-El told them to go home to their questionably-destroyed planet and leave him on Earth with Kara? Because I sure did! And I was wrong! Miserably, miserably wrong.

Note: the fact that Mon-El grew up to be reasonably well-adjusted and willing to change (while, granted, still lacking in altruism) with sai-wielding Queen Eeeeevil as a mother is actually remarkable. Credit to you, Mon-El. Clearly, your more reasonable father’s nature overpowered your mother’s poisonous nurture and turned you into the almost-good person you are today.

MON-EL’S MOM IS THE WORST


All right, first issue: the Daxam king and queen have yet to return to the planet I’m still not really sure exists anymore or not because no one has been very clear on that matter. They’re just hovering around Earth, and I would think that’d be a serious political issue — especially for the countries around the globe that have no idea who Mon-El is, what a Daxam is, or why the United States is just letting a great big spaceship chill up in orbit for days — but nah. It’s all cool. I mean, President Wonder Woman is rather concerned, but it’s really no big deal.

Well, other than the fact that Queen Daxam (okay, fine, her name is Rhea — but I’m not bothering with King Hercules’s real name, since he’s gonna die) has put a hit out on Kara. A really, really expensive hit that rewards enough space currency to buy a whole planet, by the way. How does the queen of a destroyed or almost-destroyed planet afford such a reward? Not really sure. Frankly, the whole Daxam continuity is full of enough holes to make a coral reef feel inadequate.

But a hit is out, indeed, and some aliens try attacking Kara in order to cash in. Everyone decides that keeping Kara in hiding might be the best plan, since the high bounty means a huge number of aliens might be coming after her and Kara’s fully capable of defending herself, but probably not on the scale of “lots of people after ‘buy a planet’ levels of money.” Team Supergirl tries keeping Kara out of harm’s way by distracting her with Settlers of Catan, but it lasts about as long as you’d think and she's off. Aw, Settlers of Catan is a fun board game, though. Think about your grain supplies, Kara! One more brick and you could build a settlement! Kara, no — what about your sheep, Kara!

Sorry. Board Game Night flashbacks. Anyway. One of the aliens after Kara is a mind control telepath who uses the phrase “Come at me, bro” unironically, so even if he hadn’t been trying to kill our favorite sunshine puppy, he’s an awful person and deserves DEO jail. I don’t make the rules, kids. Telepath tries getting Mon-El to do his dirty work for him via psychic puppeteering, which leads to a Kara/Mon-El fistfight that had the anti-shippers applauding and giggling. I was applauding and giggling as well, but that was because Mon-El actually told Kara to flee from his wicked, mind-control punches and Kara is freaking Supergirl. Dude, she can handle you. She can handle nearly anything. The “super” in her name is not there as an inside joke, it’s there because she could literally rip off your arm and beat you to death with it. But she wouldn’t do that because, as previously mentioned, she is a sunshine puppy.


After the whole team learns Mon-El’s mother is responsible for the bounty, Mon-El suggests that he and Kara run away together and live a romantic life away from Earth, like space-travelling Romeo and Juliet. Uh... buddy, no. Not only because Romeo and Juliet is not happy, but also because (and I realize I’m starting to get repetitive, here) Kara is Supergirl. She does not run away from threats.

Not even when those threats come in the form of Queen Rhea wielding kryptonite sai and threatening Kara’s life. Which, naturally, happens. And Kara is in so much danger from the kryptonite exposure that Mon-El actually agrees to go with them. AND he tries convincing his father to be a better ruler, give their people civil rights, stop dealing in slavery, etc. (Yaaaay!) but then the DEO storms the ship to rescue Mon-El and everything goes to crap. Also, Mon-El breaks a spaceship window in space and nearly dooms everyone to death within the sucking void between stars. He’s not the brightest. Or the nicest.

Back on planet Earth, Mon-El and Kara enjoy not being separated by lightyears. J’onn is getting a talking-to from President Wonder Woman because he took action against the Daxamites even though she expressly forbade it. Up in the Daxam ship, Queen Rhea is committing regicide and ramping up to be a long-term villain. Her motivation? Kara represents Krypton’s habit of taking everything from Daxam, right down to Kara taking away Rhea’s son. Yeah, sure, lady — completely ignore the fact that you tried murdering your son’s girlfriend and stealing him away against his will to be a dictator-in-training. Your pain is totally Kara’s fault.

MEANWHILE, IN THE ONLY HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP IN THIS GENRE


I just want to talk about Alex and Maggie, not because their story had any amount of weight in the A-plot, but because a healthy, adult relationship on shows of Supergirl’s ilk is so rare that theirs deserves some spotlighting. I have no idea what ghostwriter they’ve pulled in to exclusively write the Alex/Maggie stuff, but I hope they give that person a raise because seriously, I cannot believe that the same writers who wrote Kara/James and write Kara/Mon-El also write Alex/Maggie.

Here’s the summary for their story in this episode: Alex and Maggie are walking back from a yoga class and they run into Maggie’s long-term ex-girlfriend. Alex, because she’s very cool, is polite to Maggie’s ex and even gets her invited out to dinner so everyone can get to know each other. That’s a little weird, granted — most people don’t want to eat dinner with their ex and their current significant other, no matter how very cool the people involved are. It’s all for nothing, though, since the ex doesn’t show for dinner and it turns out that Maggie got really hurt in her last relationship... then it turns out that Maggie had actually cheated on her ex-girlfriend, and that’s why they broke up.

And you know what happens in order to unravel this tangle of romantic lies and personal issues? Alex and Maggie talk to each other. Alex recognizes that a lot of Maggie’s issues come from a fear of getting hurt by the people closest to her and she promises that Maggie won’t have to worry about that with her, but she implores Maggie to be honest. Maggie discusses their past and their breakup with her ex, and they part on friendlier terms. It’d probably still be weird if she were to third-wheel on one of Maggie’s dates with Alex, but they seem to clear the air overall and both of them are better for it.

Kudos to Supergirl for subverting just about every romantic drama trope it could: not making Alex a jealous girlfriend (and not using the “awkwardly cool because she’s trying to hide her jealousy” sub-trope), not having Maggie lie to Alex about her break-up throughout the whole episode, not having Alex nose-dive into an inferiority complex over the idea of Maggie possibly cheating on her, and even having Alex fix the relationship between Maggie and her ex rather than reveling in its failure.

Guess what the secret ingredient to all this fantastic, amazing relationship non-drama was? Communication! It’s a beautiful thing, you know. Take note, every other television show ever (but particularly the ones involving lying superheroes).

Other Things:
  • I think the title of this episode is a pun. Distant Sun. Distant Son. Get it.
  • Kara going “Hey, that’s me!” at her little hologram-self was the actual cutest thing.
  • James’s non-role on the show this season would be comical if I didn’t like him as much as I do.
  • I don’t really understand how the Daxam King and Queen have any power, money, or political sway. Their planet/society is, at worst, smoking rubble or, at best, a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
  • The President of the United States is possibly an evil alien. On the show, I mean. Yeah... totally just the show where that’s true.

It's Morphin' Time: A Review of the Power Rangers Film [Contributors: Chelsea and Jon]


This past weekend saw the release of yet another remake film in the form of the Power Rangers. Based on the 1993 television series (which itself is based on a long-running Japanese series), Power Rangers follows five outsider teens that find some magical coins that turns them into superheroes. Chelsea and Jon decided to do a roundtable review of the film. Read on for their thoughts!

What did you think when you heard the news of the remake?


Chelsea: This remake has faced an uphill battle from the beginning in its attempt to sell a more grounded rangers story, while not making it look like just another sequel/remake culture cash grab. As a fan of the super cheesy original 90s series, part of me was super jaded when I heard about this remake; but the other part of me was super pumped to see my first television obsession find new life. I unabashedly loved the show, and all my first TV crushes are from that series. It wasn’t until these last few weeks that I really started getting hyped for the film.

Jon: To start, I absolutely loved Power Rangers growing up. They were the first superheroes who ever came into my collective consciousness. The cheese of the show and how ridiculous it can get was all a part of the charm that also carried over to the original 1995 movie. That film took the mythology established in the show and expanded it on a massive scale (we're not going to talk about Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie).

The original series is known for being a kind of silly children’s show. What are your thoughts overall on the remake?


Jon: The new film is exactly what I imagined when I pictured a big-budget update of the classic series, and I mean that in the best way possible. Rather than attempt to recreate the original series' campy tone beat for beat, the film instead decides to take a decidedly more grounded approach for about 75% of the film's runtime. Here, the Rangers are given more layers and depth. There's actual reason as to why they're "five teenagers with attitude." They face everyday problems that normal teens face: social cliques, acceptance, trying to be your own individual and not someone who people simply want you to be. It's a message that rang true 24 years ago, and still rings true to the next generation today.

That being said, this film is not fully perfect. At times, some of the CGI could be a bit fake looking, particularly in the final battle. In addition, there were some questionable story choices that I took issue with, but those were few and in between. Finally, while I enjoyed Elizabeth Banks' scene-chewing performance, the nature in which she plays Rita completely offsets the tone that the movie is going for. If the film is going for a more serious tone, then Banks is trying to emulate the tone of the original show — something this movie seems to be actively trying to avoid.

Chelsea: I’m not even sure what I was expecting going into this film. Something just clicked in the last couple months that made me super excited to see it. Watching the teasers and physically seeing a diverse cast and the familiarity of those characters that I have loved for 24 years made me think this could be something fun, at the very least. I had heard that the Yellow Ranger was somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum and it was confirmed in the movie — not just a marketing thing much like the new Beauty and the Beast (which I also thought did a good job, but could have been better at addressing its queer character). That ended up being a big draw for me in deciding to watch it opening weekend.

By the end of the film, I was just craving more of these characters and what their next adventure was going to be. I truly felt for these teens and how they are struggling with their various forms of loneliness. Their struggle in trusting one another and eventually coming together as a family was something I never got from other superhero films like The Avengers or even X-Men because they always feel like they’re fighting for the sake of fighting. Watching these kids grow and develop their skills and building their team really kept this film grounded in the journey of these characters. It’s the coming of age superhero film we deserved.

The film would benefit from a slightly bigger budget to help smooth out some of the rough CGI moments but I appreciate that they were having their big battle scenes in daylight, and I could follow a lot of the action scenes without getting lost. I do have to agree with the Elizabeth Banks of it all. She was so much fun and camp, but it did end up offsetting a lot of the tone. If there is a sequel, I think giving the rangers even more humor will help balance the weird camp of her character.



How was the casting? Did you connect with any of the characters or new characterizations of the Rangers?


Jon: It's very rare to get casting so incredibly spot-on, but goodness does Saban's Power Rangers nail it on the head. The core five Rangers are all phenomenal, each getting their own time to shine. While the OG Rangers from the original show are still the best group, what the movie manages to do is take that core five (Jason, Kimberly, Trini, Zack, and Billy), and make them less a certain archetype and more relatable human beings. The campfire scene is a perfect example of this, as all five Rangers get to bare their souls and reveal their true selves to each other. This is not only a great scene because of character development, but also because the actors make this scene feel more natural due to their chemistry. They act more as a family as the film progresses to the point where, at the end, you want to cheer for them because you've been through so much with them.

I am someone who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of three years old. Since then, I've come far in trying to overcome so many obstacles placed along the path that is my life. I'm also for any kind of representation of autism in different forms of media, as long as it's done correctly (see: NBC’s Parenthood). Power Rangers is the best representation I've seen of autism in a long time. I relate to Billy Cranston on a deep personal level because I know some of the things that he experiences: social awkwardness, not being able to pick up whether something is meant as a joke, sarcasm, or if they're being serious, and an INSANE and minute attention to detail and figuring out a puzzle. At first, I was nervous they were going to play this off as a punchline. Yet, as the film progresses, it's taken seriously and never really mentioned as much — which is something I could appreciate. Yes, that person may be different from you in terms of how he thinks, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to connect to him. Different, not less. Billy is the heart and soul of the team, and RJ Cyler does a fantastic job at getting not only the representation right, but bringing warmth to the team overall.

The film also does an amazing job at showcasing a friendship between someone with autism and someone who does not have it. Jason and Billy's friendship is something I felt a massive connection to, as I know my own friends go through the same things. Jason is patient and genuinely caring for Billy, being loyal through and through. It's a friendship I have with my own buddies from grade school, and that bond that I have felt mirrored on screen

Also, I'm a bit happy that it's the Blue Ranger because given that blue is the color for autism, I can now wear a Blue Ranger shirt during Autism Awareness Month.

Chelsea: I cannot agree more about the casting. Only one of the Rangers was a white person and they found actors with rich and different personalities. They had intersectional inclusive characters with the Blue Ranger being black and autistic and the Yellow Ranger being a queer lady of color without having that be their core issue. I didn’t even know the Blue Ranger was autistic until I was watching the film. At first I was worried that it was just going to be a joke like on The Big Bang Theory but then Jason and Billy have their moment and Jason just treats him like his friend, and it was something you don’t get in films. Trini had great moments of having to open up about being the military brat who has moved so much and has trouble connecting with people because she’s never in one spot too long. Zack is alone dealing with his sick parent and has nobody else in the world. These kids are dealing with real teenage issues without it turning into an after-school special.

Just beyond the positive representation, this cast did a great job with balancing the grounded realism with the cheese of the original series. I truly felt like they were a team and I was rooting for them in the climactic battle, even though I had an idea of where it was headed. The little things of Jason and Billy bonding, or Kimberly and Trini hanging out and training at the cafe, or Zack being a reckless daredevil and that friend that gets you into mischief made me feel like they were friends and were nice little character moments.

Did the new, somewhat darker tone of the film work for you or did it miss the mark?


Jon: To keep the original series' cheesy, at times downright laughable tone would have been a terrible mistake for this new adaptation. The film stays grounded by presenting real teenagers with real problems. We see themes of acceptance and individuality: Jason with not wanting to follow the plan laid out before him, Billy trying to be accepted amongst by well, anybody, Kimberly being ousted from her social clique, and Trini being LGBTQ and not following the conformity her parents want her to follow. Each of these teenagers becomes more relatable as time goes on, making them more relatable to today's current generation or anyone who has experienced these growing pains these teens deal with. In addition, they're thrust into a bigger responsibility than their own issues, which makes their bond with each other more believable.

There seems to be an influence from Joseph Kahn's Power/Rangers, a fan film that looked at the franchise in a way darker light than this. The themes of death and loss are present in this new film, such as with Zack and his mom. Zack is terrified of being on his own, and knows if his mom is gone, then he has nowhere to turn to. Being with the group acts as a coping mechanism, which isn't uncommon among those who have experienced loss.

Chelsea: I think the “darker” tone worked well for this iteration because there was no way they could pull off the cheesy 90s tone in 2017. The world is way too cynical and memes are a part of culture now. It would have been ravaged. They kept a pretty well balanced tone and though Banks’ Rita was a bit much at first, I truly felt like they found her voice toward the end of the film and how to match it with the teens. They had more scenes together towards the end and keeping them more together in the sequel will help them be more consistent.

I know people were worried that Power Rangers was going to be too Dark Knight-like with giving the teens angsty backstories, and I said it a little above, but they really did feel like teens who were dealing with various forms of loneliness. You have the Mexican queer army brat dealing with her feelings for girls and growing up in an environment that makes it hard to open up about her identity and the confusion that comes with sorting those feelings. Plenty of students have had to take care of a sick or disabled parent and that makes you grow up too quick in the case of Zack. Having to be the provider and being that scared kids. Billy’s brain working differently than others and being bullied for his ticks. He’s never had friends before this but he really becomes the soul of the film and the heart of the team. They wrote all of these issues in the most respectful way and it was so refreshing to see that in a superhero film. 


Should this film get a sequel, is there anything you would like to see either created for the movie or anything pulled from the show?


Jon: The ending of the film definitely leaves desire to see the adventures of these Rangers continue after they SLAPPED Rita into space. Obviously, at the end of the film, we set up that Tommy Oliver, — the legendary Green Ranger — is ready to make an appearance should a sequel happen. There have been reports that Tommy would possibly be a female in the movie, though as of now that's only speculation. Personally, I think the idea would be a fascinating one, as it would not only even out the team, but give an interesting shakeup to the team dynamic we'd expect from Tommy when he arrives. Tommy is always meant to be a rival to Jason, so making him a member of the opposite sex would certainly change the dynamic a little bit and/or possibly provide fodder for another Ranger like Trini.

As for the villains, there's plenty from the original few seasons to pull from. When I say original seasons, I mean from Mighty Morphin to Space, which retained some of the original core five Rangers while adding new ones. There's Divatox, there's Rita's father, Master Vile, her brother, Rito Revolto, Pumpkin Rapper, and Ivan Ooze, to name a few (seriously, bring that villain BACK). However, there are reports that Lionsgate wishes to pursue a six movie arc. If that's the case, then the two biggest villains that could easily sustain that are Lord Zedd and King Mondo of the Machine Empire. Both of these villains played MAJOR roles throughout the course of the original series, so to see them realized within this new universe would be a blast to watch.

However, there's a certain way these two be presented. Let's take a look at Marvel for a moment: since the beginning, they've kept Thanos in the shadows for nearly six years, just now finally bringing him out to play. The Power Rangers franchise should pursue a similar route, hyping up Lord Zedd before having him come out to play at the end of the third movie... but then have Zedd warn of Mondo and the Machine Empire, ergo setting the stage for the next three films.

Chelsea: I want to be pleasantly surprised again. This was one of my most fun theater experiences in recent memory.

I’m down for a female Tommy Oliver/Green Ranger. I have a male and female Tom/Tommie on my cooking show this year, so bring on the gender-bending superhero!

Jon
  • Bill Hader and Bryan Cranston NAIL it as Zordon and Alpha 5, respectively. Zordon is much more complex this time around, given that he's a former Ranger himself and is driven to atone for his past mistakes. It pulls back the curtain on a figure we thought to have been all-powerful and all knowing, but instead has his own demons as well. 
  • I really want Krispy Kreme donuts after seeing this movie. 
  • If the kid who bullies Billy gets knocked out for trying to headbutt Billy, does that mean he'll be nicknamed Skull? And will he hire a bodyguard nicknamed Bulk? 
  • Hearing "Go Go Power Rangers" might have made me squeal in joy. 
  • Jason saying "It's morphin' time" DEFINITELY made me squeal with joy. 
  • The last 20 minutes pays so much homage to the original series, but with a sleek new coat. It's a blast to watch. 
  • Where's my Big Bad Beetleborgs solo and/or team up movie?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dancing with the Stars 24x02 Roundtable: Foxtrot Out of a Ticket [Contributors: Chelsea and Megan]



This week on Dancing with the Stars, our resident dancing queens Megan and Chelsea start really sizing up the competition and figuring out their favorite dancers. See what they think about this week’s “sexy” routines, who’s the most fun, and who we think will go home.

Which "sexy" routine worked for you and which fell flat?


Megan: I loved the “Foxtrot out of a ticket” concept with Gleb and Erika. If ever I get pulled over, I would like that to be how things play out, to be honest. I was proud of Simone for fighting through that awkwardness that all teenagers face when having to play at intimacy with someone you barely know and really turned out a great number. And, no shocker here, Heather did an incredible job with her jive.

Chelsea: Heather is still a joy to watch and I like that they’re “making it more difficult” by giving her a different partner midway through as if that would slow her down. The judges are still underscoring her to keep the illusion that the show is hard for her.

I’m enjoying Normani and Simone being the two 20 year olds on the show and having very different journeys. Both of their careers lend themselves to this competition and give them a huge edge over everyone else (except maybe Heather Morris) but their backgrounds help make their dances so much more uniquely refined.

Sorry Nick, I wasn’t feeling your dance. Is it too late to swap his fiancee Vanessa in for him? She was crushing the steps in rehearsals.


Whose potential are you most anticipating?


Megan: You know, Nancy Kerrigan was a bit of a forgettable one in the first week, but I think I’m going to be really excited to see her progress! I was surprised to learn that she was so insecure, but I think having Artem as a partner is going to be good for her. And I just want Mr. T to be great. I think he’s such a sweet man and that has me rooting for him.

Chelsea: I’m with you on Nancy. She was just so much fun to watch and you just know that she’s just waiting for a dance that will let her shine. Erika Jayne came out so strong too and you can tell that her and Gleb are really starting to click.

Which routine was the most fun to watch?


Megan: Oh, man. I don’t know. I loved Keo and Charo’s Paso Doble. It had fire and fun and she was really going for it even if she minced a few steps. I read that she’s considering quitting because she thinks she’s getting unfair scores, but I hope not. She’s a real spitfire.

Chelsea: Again, it all comes back to Erika Jayne. It may not have been perfect but I really enjoy her presence. Heather too is just so nice to watch. Sometimes you just want a well-crafted routine and she knows how to deliver.

Who should go home and who will go home?


Megan: Next week, I think it could be anybody. I sort of knew that Chris and Witney would go home this week, which makes me sad, but that’s the truth. Charo was in the bottom, so she may just quit and there wouldn’t be an elimination. I thought everyone did really great this week, so it’s hard!

Chelsea: That’s tough. I knew Chris and Witney would be the ones to go even though I didn’t want him to leave. He’s having so much fun and sometimes you just need that kind of goofy person on the show. I feel like it’s down to Mr. T and Charo on who will leave. I know Nick has those lower scores but ABC has more incentive to keep him around longer. I could see Charo being the one to go since she kind of is a handful for the show to wrangle.

Once Upon A Time 6x14 Review: “Page 23” (Talking to Myself) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Page 23”
Original Airdate: March 26, 2017

Things have gone sideways in Storybrooke, as multiple characters have spontaneously changed their ways. “Page 23” is another confusing episode that might leave you wondering what just happened and what is coming next. Along with some odd flashbacks and weird appearances by long-forgotten characters, this episode is trippy from start to end.


WHERE DID YOU COME FROM? 


The first oddity of the episode is some random characters coming back from the Once Upon A Time graveyard, as they haven’t appeared on the show for quite some time. In the flashback scenes, both Tinkerbell and Regina’s father show up for really no good reason. The entire flashback story of the episode didn’t quite fit with everything else. There was no reason to take a third of the episode to describe with backstory that Evil Queen Regina, from the Enchanted Forest days, hated herself more than anyone else. It was a waste of time that didn’t add any content to the present day Storybrooke scenes.

Captain Nemo from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea episode also shows up briefly, which also didn’t make sense. From the promo for the next episode and the ending to this episode, it seems that there is another pointless episode involving the Nautilus and its crew. I didn’t even know that Nemo was still in town, as it hasn’t come up since that one episode how many months ago? Whatever is in store for the next episode, it is sure to be useless.


WAIT, WHAT? 


Even more confusing than random characters showing up briefly was the Evil Queen and Regina face-off that was the capstone of the episode. To bring back another forgotten story element, the Evil Queen has decided to dig up the fate scissors to cut the tie between her and Regina to finally defeat Regina once and for all, muahaha. What could possibly go wrong? Regina surprises everyone by putting her differences aside with the Evil Queen and sharing her love and goodness with her other half.

Regina combines their hearts, which immediately turns the Evil Queen into a decent person. For someone who was so evil, it didn’t seem realistic that she would have such a change of heart right away, no pun intended. The Evil Queen and Regina may be two separate people, but they are practically the same now. They have this very weird and unsettling conversation where they are incredibly cordial to each other, which was also shocking.

So, the Evil Queen is no longer evil and wants to find her own happy ending by getting a fresh start. She winds up back in the Wish World she created with the new version of Robin, where they get a chance to rewrite history and be together. This felt like the end of a major arc and the end of both Robin and the Evil Queen’s stories. It is nice to know that some form of Regina and Robin will get a happy ending together, even if we don’t get to experience it firsthand.


OVERREACTIONS 


The other major character changes come from Storybrooke’s newly engaged couple. Hook has gone into full freak-out mode, feeling incredibly guilty for hiding the truth that he murdered David’s father in cold blood from Emma and her family. Unlucky for Hook, his spiraling becomes worse when Emma finds him trying to destroy the memory by burning a dreamcatcher that conveniently plays the memory back just as she enters the room. Emma also goes off the deep end, and gives Hook back the engagement ring because he didn’t lean on her for support while struggling with the realization of who he murdered all those years ago.

In my opinion, Emma seriously overreacts because she isn’t even mad that Hook killed her grandfather. She doesn’t understand why Hook didn’t want to confide his true feelings about it (he wanted to deal with it himself first before burdening everyone else with the truth). Apparently, Emma has become petty overnight, which she will definitely regret in the next episode. Hook has been trying to figure out a way to right his wrong and wants to make everyone happy to be accepted into Emma’s family. He keeps getting kicked down when he tries to redeem himself. His soul searching takes a little too long, and he gets kidnapped, to a degree, on the Nautilus to set up the crazy plot for the upcoming episode.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Series: This Week’s TV MVPs -- Week 57

Image result for applause gif new girl

It's hard to believe that it's almost the beginning of April and soon, the TV MVP Series will cease to make way for our Summer Lovin' series. (SUMMER is approaching. Isn't that crazy?!) But for now, we are still celebrating some incredible performers this week who impressed us with their acting skills. Whether they're making us laugh until we cry, or just straight-up cry, they're all deserving of the title of "MVP." Nora joins me this week as we talk about performers that moved us.

Let's get started!

Scorpion 3x20 Review: “Broken Wind” (A Headless Bride Might Crimp My Nuptials) [Guest Poster: Yasmine]


“Broken Wind”
Original Airdate: March 20, 2017

I love when shows with ensemble casts break up their team into different pairs and have them spend the episode together. It allows for an interesting reshuffling and establishes relationships, tests friendships, and makes for fun and fresh new dynamics every week.

Scorpion is pretty good at that, and with a team of such fun and quirky characters, most of whom suffer when it comes to interpersonal relationships, it is always an interesting recipe for an episode that promises big character moments and pushing relationships forward.

This week’s case had the team finally working with the Department of Energy again (after Walter lost them the last job) and replacing parts in wind turbines. The job goes perfectly fine, until Paige and Happy take the gondola for the ride back down and the cable snaps, leaving the two ladies swinging in midair, literally hanging on for dear life. With Sly and Cabe on the ground and Walter and Toby still in the turbine, it’s a race against time, gravity, and the forces of nature to rescue the two ladies.

The — eventually successful — rescue attempt involved a makeshift hot air balloon, a sniper rifle, and electrocuting the ladies. That last one coming only second to that time they actually killed Cabe in order to rescue him.

The case and the rescue mission were secondary to the selected pairings and how the ordeal affected their relationships. The main team struggles this week are split. One is between the men and one is between the women. The men take the lighter, less dramatic one, as Walter, Cabe, and Sylvester battle for who deserves the title of best man at Toby and Happy’s wedding (even though Toby repeatedly makes it clear that he will not be picking a best man). For the entire episode, the three men try to prove their value, how much Toby means to them, and why they would be deserving of that title. Even as Toby and Walter are in the turbine — fighting to keep the women they love from plunging to their deaths, and Cabe and Sly are on the ground, figuring a way to bring them down — the battle continued.

Happy and Paige, on the other hand, go through a more dramatic struggle. Excited that her friends are getting married, Paige offers to help Happy prepare for the wedding, but Happy rejects her offer repeatedly. And when Paige confronts her about it, telling her that she’d assumed that over the past few years, the two women had grown close, Happy dismisses that, saying that they’re only “friend-ish,” that she wouldn’t go as far as calling them friends. Now we know Happy has trouble communicating her feelings and that she’s never really had friends, but still, that was pretty harsh.

And with the two of them stuck in a gondola, suspended in mid-air, with their lives on the line, there’s really no place for them to go. They are stuck together with that elephant in the gondola. As things get worse, Paige tries to get their mind off things, using the wedding prep as a distraction. But that only makes things worse. Putting her foot in her mouth, yet again, telling Paige that she’s a genius, not a cheerleader — which Paige takes to mean that she, Paige, is just a dumb cheerleader. And that just makes the situation worse between the two.

But at the end of the day, when they’re grabbing on the cable and swinging in mid-air, it’s Paige’s cheerleading experience that rescues the two. And ultimately, there is nothing like a near-death experience to clear the air and bring two people closer. They realize that there are things more important in life than little arguments, especially between friends, and it is the differences between them that make them stronger.

At the beginning of the episode, Sylvester is at the Warlock’s Chest, being honored for his valiant struggle to keep the place open,. He is presented with the Stone of Valor — something he wears proudly for the rest of the day. And it also comes in handy when they try to buy a sniper rifle and the owner of the gun shop turns out to be Erhlic of the Desert Dwellers, at Sly’s service. He ignores the wait period required to purchase the rifle and allows them to have it, after refusing Cabe and his badge.

Grateful for Cabe’s help during his campaign, Sylvester invites him over to The Warlock’s Chest so that he too can be honored with the Cape of Windsor. When Cabe turns down Sly’s invitation, that breaks the young’s man heart. While Cabe was grateful for it, he failed to see that, failed to see how much he had hurt Sylvester in rejecting his offer. Cabe was under the impression that Sly was only doing it to pay him back and it takes Happy, of all people, to explain to him that he was doing it to be his friend and sometimes if someone is your friend, you let them do stuff for you because it's not about you, it's about them, and them feeling good about being a good friend.

A valuable lesson Happy herself had to learn the hard way. So Cabe goes and joins the knights and the roundtable for the honoring and the game.

And as for the great battle of the potential best men, Toby surprises everyone at the end of the day when he announces that the person he is choosing is the one person without whom he would have never managed to even get together with Happy in the first place. Toby picks a Best Ma’am. He picks Paige. And I personally love the relationship between these two, so I am looking forward to this.

One of the closing images of the episode is a little cute Waige moment. After accepting her role as Best Ma’am, and after Happy announces she’s picking the guys as her Dudes of Honor, the two are left alone in the garage and offer to help each other with their respective tasks. The scene closes on the two of them sitting closely at Paige’s desk, preparing and planning their friends’ wedding. Maybe that’s good practice for when it’s their turn? Waige fans can only hope so!