Dickinson Behind-the-Scenes: An Interview With the Artisans

Meet the artists who bring this Apple TV+ series to life!

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.

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Jeff/Annie Moments

In 2013, Jenn put together a list of the 15 best Jeff/Annie moments. Revisit and discover those memories!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Ted Lasso, Rom-Coms, and Emotional Vulnerability on TV [Contributor: Jenn]

One of the first things you’ll learn about me is that I love romantic comedies or, as they’re more commonly known, “rom-coms.” For a while, I rarely watched any other genre of movie. Whether it was How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Wedding Planner, The Proposal, or recents like Set It Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I find comfort, familiarity, and joy from watching them.

But if you’re familiar at all with the rom-com or romance genre, you might also be familiar with the discourse that surrounds these films. They’re stigmatized as “feminine” and are often demeaned and given the title of “guilty pleasure” instead of being seen as something of value. People who consider themselves to be high-brow critics (more often than not these are critics who identify as men) enjoy diminishing romance. And this extends beyond the realm of film as well. I’ve seen way too many Twitter threads from bitter male TV showrunners bemoaning the fact that people “ship” characters on their television shows. They insist that “shipping” isn’t the point of watching television — as if romance and love weren’t fundamental aspects of human society and somehow occupied a secondary space or necessity on television.

People aren’t always this blatant in their criticism of rom-coms and romance, however, and I think that’s actually where more of the trouble exists. Even in shows that I wholeheartedly adore and are often well-meaning like New Girl, when men are presented with traditionally “feminine” things like romantic comedies, they balk at the idea of enjoying them. These characters feel the need to qualify their masculinity and to supplement the enjoyment of “feminine” or “girly” activities with the enjoyment of something traditionally “masculine” (which is usually synonymous with toxic masculinity but that is a whole other thing). 

Let me give you a quick example: In New Girl, there’s an episode where the three main male characters — Nick, Winston, and Schmidt — are home alone for the evening without their female roommate, Jess. Their “guys night” is going to initially consist of things they can’t do when Jess is around. Schmidt decides to make sangria, which the other two men scoff at, seemingly because it’s viewed as a “feminine” drink (I guess? What makes it a feminine drink? Because it has fruit? I am still so confused by this), but eventually the night becomes a time where the men drink sangria and share their emotions about love and relationships while blasting “I Want to Know What Love Is.” So New Girl turns the trope on its head.


Almost.

When Jess returns, she asks the men what they did and they cover their emotional vulnerability with lies, scattering beer bottles throughout the apartment and even making their voices gruffer. So even though New Girl allowed their male characters to be emotionally vulnerable and said they reject the notion that being emotional is an exclusively female trait, the moment still didn’t land the execution. Emotional vulnerability for men was still the punchline.

And I’m sure you all can think of numerous scenes in television shows and movies where male characters are watching rom-coms, enjoying themselves and/or having an emotional response to the film, and then hastily begin to act hyper-masculine in an attempt to deflect from their enjoyment of the rom-com. It’s weird, isn’t it? That you likely thought of at least one moment where you’ve seen that kind of behavior exemplified. But as my friend and podcast editor Chels and I have often discussed, media tends to punch down on things that they shouldn’t. They make unlikable characters say horrible things or make jokes at the expense of marginalized people, then shrug and tell us we’re not supposed to like the character who’s making the joke anyway. So it’s okay! It’s a way for a show or film to partake in controversial discourse by still trying to cover it up. This happens, of course, with romance and rom-coms too. They often become the punchlines of television jokes.

As a brief aside, that in and of itself is odd to me, since part of the “criticism” I see of rom-coms from people is that they’re filled with tropes. Which, the last time I checked, every film was. Some films just have more CGI and budget to conceal those tropes and play around with them than others. (Rom-coms not having big budgets the way that other films do is a conversation I will direct to some of my more film-minded friends.) But the the truth is that the story beats across these films are all pretty similar. Rom-coms have their own set of tropes and story beats, but every other film does too!

Have you ever watched Star Wars, Harry Potter (forget about its god-awful author for a second), or Lord of the Rings? They’re all based on a blueprint called the Hero’s Journey, and the only difference between them is that they execute different portions of that journey differently. One is set in space, the other two in fictional, magical worlds. But the concept is the same. And yet, you don’t see people criticize the enjoyment of those films nearly as much as they do rom-coms.

There’s also the obvious misogyny involved with the bashing of rom-coms and romance movies, series, or books. Anything that has an audience geared toward women or features female main characters tends to get more vocal criticism. Don’t believe me? I’ll point you in the direction of the internet where Twitter “critics” like to take aim at Captain Marvel, Rose from Star Wars, and pretty much anything female-fronted that ever comes out. (Men make lots of excuses for why they do not enjoy these things, but really you can boil it down to sexism most of the time). For some reason, romance is seen as a genre that is less important, necessary, or “good” (which is subjective anyway!) than something that would win an Academy Award simply because a majority, though not all, of its demographic is women. 

And even well-meaning shows like New Girl and others that succeed in breaking down and subverting tropes often fall into the trap of having to qualify the enjoyment of these things. Liking rom-coms or romance doesn’t suddenly erase a traditional and frankly problematic view of masculinity and it’s really weird that we, as a society, think so. (But it also explains a lot about our society and we just don’t have the time to go into all of that at the moment.)

While I have successfully bummed myself out in the first half of this article, I want to pivot and talk about the inspiration for writing it in the first place: Ted Lasso. From its inception, this Apple TV+ series flipped tropes over on their heads and tossed some out altogether. Our titular Ted is an emotional, loving person and the show doesn’t try to undercut that by telling him that his kindness and care is weakness. Other characters try to diminish him, sure, but that is story and conflict. There are moments when Ted’s enthusiasm overruns what he knows needs to be done (see season one’s “All Apologies” when Coach Beard snaps at Ted in the pub) and is actually a blatant weakness. But that’s not the show telling the audience that emotion is weakness — it’s saying that being a good and kind person with an easygoing demeanor isn’t an excuse for not making the hard decision. Ted knew what needed to be done but he didn’t want to do it. That was his problem, not his love for others or compassion for Roy Kent.

Throughout the first season of Ted Lasso, we get the chance to see men become emotionally vulnerable with each other, and it’s never really the punchline. They don’t immediately pretend to be gruff and macho after admitting to weaknesses or crying. And if they do, they learn how to change and grow! We see men bonding, and though initially they’re confused by Ted’s methods, they begin to embrace them and the man behind them. In the world of Ted Lasso, emotions simply exist and some men like Ted are more comfortable with emotions while men like Roy aren’t. And some women are more comfortable with emotions, like Keeley, while some women like Rebecca aren’t! And the show tells us that this is okay; what is not okay is to stay stuck where you are and refuse to grow. Men who are not emotionally vulnerable learn how to be in the show, and men who are emotionally vulnerable learn how to grow in applying that emotion in healthy ways.

This week, Ted Lasso continued to impress me when they dropped an episode called “Rainbow.” Written by Bill Wrubel and directed by Erica Dunton, this was the most thorough and fun rom-com homage I’ve watched since Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (a show everyone should watch and study honestly) did “I’m Almost Over You.” While that episode of the CW’s musical comedy was a love letter to rom-coms from a satirical lens (it lovingly poked fun of the holes in the tropes that rom-coms employ), Ted Lasso’s homage intrigued me more because the show centers mostly around men. 

When Ted brings up “Rom-Communism,” a philosophy of his, he begins to rattle off rom-com stars like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Rather than have the team of young men stare blankly at Ted, the show enthusiastically has the men name other famous rom-com stars. And the only joke in the scene isn’t at the expense of the genre — it’s because Dani participates in the conversation with “Jennifer Lopez” a minute or two too late. I was surprised and refreshed to see a scene where a bunch of men know the rom-com genre and the writers don’t immediately punch down and have them pretend they don’t! They are all in agreement throughout the conversation about the best rom-com leading women and men.

The rest of “Rainbow” is an absolute delight, making direct references to so many rom-coms. Ted quotes When Harry Met Sally, Jerry Maguire, Notting Hill, and The Princess Bride. The way the episode is shot is an incredible nod to rom-coms, complete with Roy running to the match at the end of the episode. There are some nods to You’ve Got Mail and Love, Actually too (a running-to-get-somewhere-in-time trope is present in so many rom-coms but I really did get some big Love, Actually energy from Roy trying to get to the match. 

But perhaps the most significant moment is when Roy Kent, the guy we’re conditioned to believe is the gruffest, grumpiest man says to Ted: “Shut up. You had me at ‘Coach,’” making a direct reference to Jerry Maguire. (Coach Beard’s little gasp in that moment is hilarious and also indicative of all of us.) He had been so insistent that Ted not quote rom-coms to him, but it had nothing to do with disliking or being unfamiliar with the genre. It was about not wanting to be a coach like Ted wanted him to be. At the end of the episode, Roy was chasing down the thing he loved to tell it how much he loved it. Classic rom-com staple right there.

I love that the show had Roy Kent quote a famous romantic movie line to Ted, but I’m not surprised either. The show constantly reminds us that while Roy is gruff and grumpy and Keeley is sunshine, he’s not going to apologize for or diminish the significance of feeling emotions. When he learns that him being emotional is actually a turn-on for Keeley, he immediately balks at the revelation but then learns the significance of emotional vulnerability and prioritizes it. The show doesn’t say that Roy is “less of a man” because he cries or feels things. It doesn’t say he’s less of a man because he can quote a romantic movie. It doesn’t say that any of these men are less capable soccer players, coaches, or men because they love rom-coms. 

The men on the team have their own personalities and journeys with emotional vulnerability — almost all of them enthusiastically met with Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, a sports psychologist, this season — and Ted Lasso’s writers never diminish them for pursuing emotional or mental wellbeing. The journey for these men is just that: a journey. They aren’t often taught to open up to one another, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of it. What is especially important is that no one in this episode is portrayed as being “wrong” for loving rom-coms or romance, and no one tries to excuse or explain away their knowledge of the genre. No one is depicted as “wrong” either for crying, feeling emotions, opening up to others, or pursuing therapy. I love that, deeply.

Honestly, Ted Lasso continues to impress. And I cannot tell you how many times I watch this show just wishing more shows would portray male characters the way they do, prioritize emotional vulnerability and empathy the way they do, and craft meaningful characterization the way they do. I am here for all of it. And if it comes with more rom-com homages, even better!

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Flash 7x18 Review: "Heart of the Matter, Part 2" (So Long Season Seven) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Heart of the Matter, Part 2”
Original Airdate: July 20, 2021

Who’s ready for a season finale? The Flash is ready for a season finale! We’ve got everything you need to close out a season of a superhero show: villain monologues! A city in danger! A surprise appearance from a character no one expected! And, to round it all out, a wedding! Well, a vow renewal, but close enough. Actually, this finale was so neatly wrapped up (there wasn’t even a dramatic cliffhanger!) and cheerful by the end of it I felt like it would’ve made a pretty good series finale to send everyone off with. Alas, we will return next season.

NO BUT SERIOUSLY WHY DOES SPEED MAKE PEOPLE EVIL?

Nora starts the episode freaking out about Bart, Central City, the future, and her father. Her father, meanwhile, is inside August Heart’s head and listening to the man villain-monologue about being a “living god of speed” or whatever. In seven years of this show being on the air, they have never managed to adequately explain why so many people go evil over being able to run fast. Or why people get so obsessed with running fast. Godspeed is already at the point of being able to run so fast he can travel back in time, so what more does he want?

Well, it turns out he wants “organic speed” instead of the synthetic stuff he invented and gave to himself. Throughout this episode, all chatter about “organic speed” and “synthetic speed” really makes it sound like everyone’s talking about amphetamines, which is kinda funny. But yeah, Godspeed thinks Barry can make the organic speed thing happen and, if he does, Godspeed will absorb his clones and stop the war. Barry refuses to give Godspeed what he wants and Godspeed threatens to destroy the city, blah blah blah. The usual.

Godspeed shouts Barry out of his head. With the connection broken, August Heart asks if Barry made any progress and questions what the “real” August Heart said. Everyone awkwardly looks at each other for way too long because neither Barry nor Cecile know how to tactfully explain to poor August Heart that his real self is a jerk and he’s genuinely more interesting as an amnesiac.

Later, Barry asks the team what they should do about Godspeed’s ultimatum. Nora says they need to give him the organic speed that he wants because everything as it is is completely hopeless. Nora, you’re being a real buzzkill right now. While Barry and the others contemplate potentially empowering a villain, Cecile is trying to comfort the sad, empty shell of said villain. August Heart is terrified of becoming a monster “obsessed with taking speed and ruling the world” — see? Amphetamines. Cecile insists that August is good deep down. Oh poor, poor naive Cecile.

Speed Force Nora shows up to boost everyone’s morale and also their speed, including Iris (I guess she’s like a latent speedster because of that one time she got speed powers?) and Bart, whose power surge gets him to wake up from his coma. Bart has a brief moment with “Uncle Jay” and, with the whole crew all together, Barry declares that they’re going to “end this civil war, once and for all.”

Bart shows up to get the Godspeeds’ attention, then the rest of the Flash family lines up alongside him. The Godspeeds have finally moved from “kill the adversary” to “kill the adversary and his allies,” so the divide-and-conquer strategy that failed last week finally has a chance. Each of the hero speedsters takes on a group of villain speedsters (except for Barry and Iris, who take on their group of Godspeeds together because #CoupleGoals). It seems pretty easy-going, until everyone gathers back together and they all watch as the Godspeeds they knocked out stand back up again. Speed Force Nora realizes they’re feeding off her the same way they fed off her in the Speed Force (realm), so Barry tells her she has to go.

With the Speed Force gone, the Flash Family is left to deal with repowered Godspeeds on their own even though nothing they do ever seems to work against them. Thankfully, Chester has pep-talked Allegra into throwing UV light again and she shows up with a charged SEE device that knocks the Godspeeds out. Everyone returns to S.T.A.R. Labs only to discover more Godspeeds on the move, except now Team Flash has no Speed Force Nora and no SEE device to help them.

Since they’re all out of options, Barry has changed his mind about the giving-the-villain-more-power deal and hooks August Heart up to a device that will likely give him organic speed. Before the device is powered up, August says he hopes whatever Barry does works out for the both of them. Unfortunately, speed makes August Heart evil. Why does speed make people evil? Investigate that mystery, Team Flash.

To Godspeed’s credit, he does keep his promise of absorbing all his clones so at least Central City doesn’t have to deal with the constant barrage of costumed speedsters wrecking all their stuff anymore. I feel like it would’ve been advantageous to his villainous plan if he hadn’t done that, but it makes him more powerful or something so I guess that’s the explanation. Either way, the focus has entirely moved to killing Barry and taking his speed. Thankfully, Barry says he has a plan.

And what was Barry’s plan? Calling in a bigger, badder evil speedster! In the middle of the fight between Barry and Godspeed, Eobard Thawne appears — still looking like Harrison Wells, which… has the show completely forgotten he used to have a different face? — and knocks Godspeed away. It’s unclear why Thawne would be any more effective than any other speedster has been so far against Godspeed, but all three of them summon Definitely Not Lightsabers and start a three-way sword battle that ends with Godspeed getting stabbed in the gut by Thawne. He doesn’t die from it, though. Somehow.

With Godspeed out of commission, Thawne turns on Barry. I’d forgotten that Tom Cavanagh delivers all his lines as Thawne in a whisper. It’s really annoying. Thawne takes a swing at Barry, but Barry zips away from him and tells him he “got faster” when Thawne asks how. Then Thawne runs off. Why can’t Speed Force Nora just take evil speedsters’ powers away, anyhow? She can grant more power to the people she likes, why can’t she also take away power from the people she doesn’t?

Now that the war is over, Barry offers to buy everyone dinner to celebrate (restaurants were open while Godspeeds were running amok?) and then gets down on one knee in front of Iris and proposes they renew their vows. 

We next see everyone a week later at the vow renewal ceremony, during which Bart sings a song for his not-yet parents, Cisco officiates, and Barry and Iris say wonderfully romantic things to each other. Like I said up top, it’s kind of so perfect an ending that it feels like it would’ve made a great series finale. As it is, it does make for a lovely way to head out of the occasionally rocky season 7 on an upbeat note.

Other Things:

  • Once again relegated to the Other Things bullets: it turns out Kramer’s a meta (duh-doy) and her power is the power of convenience. Seriously, she develops superpowers based on whatever she needs at any given moment.
  • Jay: “You look a whole lot like someone very close to me.” Speed Force Nora, whose actress plays three people on this show: “I get that a lot.”
  • Frost and Caitlin show up for the vow renewal together and I’m slightly amused that Caitlin’s wearing blue and Frost is wearing red.
  • “That was crash.” “No, no, no no.” “That’s how you say it.” “That’s how I say it, but you say it weird.” Barry being an uncool dad is hilarious.
  • “Do you, Iris... Bartholomew...” I love every time we’re reminded that Barry’s first name is actually Bartholomew.
  • Whew! Another season done. What will next season bring?

A Summer of Mythic Quest on The Community Rewatch Podcast!

This summer, we had the pleasure of talking about Mythic Quest, Apple TV+'s gem of a television show on our podcast, The Community Rewatch Podcast. Check out our Summer School Series if you haven't yet, and be sure to watch the show. A few memorable episodes this summer were:

  • Episode 58, which is our interview with Charlotte Nicdao (Poppy) and Ashly Burch (Rachel). We had an absolute blast with them. We talk about how they got their roles, what makes Mythic Quest so special, and why female representation matters.
  • Episode 66 is where we talk to Jessie Ennis (Jo). She shares how she got hired on Mythic Quest, what she loves about playing Jo, and what she's learned on her Learning Lots podcast with BFF, Brie Larson.
  • Our discussion of the pilot with Mythic Quest showrunner and writer, Megan Ganz, in episode 67. She's always a treasure but we especially love hearing about how shows and episodes come to be!
  • Episode 60 where Jenn and Chels talk about "Everlight."
We had so much fun talking about the series that we're planning to return to talk all about season 2 in the winter of 2021! If you're a Community fan but haven't yet checked out the series, we encourage you to do just that! Not only is Mythic Quest full of humor from pratfalls to laugh-out-loud dialogue and line deliveries, but it also contains immense heart. The characters are fully-realized people with their own quirks and flaws, and they get the chance to grow over the course of two seasons. Mythic Quest also remains one of the only shows with a flawless episode about the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was shot entirely on iPhones in quarantine.

The Community Rewatch Podcast is returning in the fall to break down all the highs and lows of season 4 of the show, so catch up on our backlog of episodes until then!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Flash 7x17 Review: "Heart of the Matter, Part 1" (Hey Kids) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Heart of the Matter, Part 1”
Original Airdate: July 13, 2021

Previously on The Flash: Nora and her heretofore unknown brother arrived from the future, just in time to stop Barry on his downward “Iris is in a temporal crisis, Godspeed might have messed up the future, there’s a chance I’ll never be a father” spiral. So now Team Flash has two bonus speedsters to help out with the Godspeed war going on in Central City, Barry probably feels a little bit better about the future of his children, and we get to know newcomer Bart. 

All in all, it promises an interesting start to the two-part season finale that I had no idea was the first part of a two-part season finale, since I’m used to the 20+ episode slog this show usually foists upon me. Also, “Heart of the Matter, Part 1” is the 150th episode of the show, so it’s extra special!

NOT THE TORNADO TWINS BUT CLOSE ENOUGH

The episode starts in 2049, with Nora as XS lightning-lassoing Original Flavor Godspeed. He’s not terribly fazed by it, but then Bart — superhero name Impulse — phases through him (ha!) and it knocks him out. Even though her enemy is primed for arrest, Nora gets distracted by yelling at her brother for the risky phasing-through-a-speedster move and Godspeed escapes. He heads to the Flash museum, then through time to 2021.

Which brings us to the present, where Nora and Bart are getting to know the past versions of the people they grew up knowing. I get that weird stuff is a given in their lives, but they’re remarkably blasĂ© about this whole time travel thing. Considering that they have a family rule about protecting the timeline at all costs, I guess they travel through time a lot? Also, I was briefly proud of Barry apparently growing enough as a person to set such a strict non-interference rule for his time traveling brood, but that pride evaporated when he immediately decided Bart and Nora could ignore the rule and help out with the Godspeeds. It’s always special circumstances with you, huh, Barry?

Chester has developed a “solar encryption engine” from his father’s blueprints in order to help drain the Godspeed clones of their energy and get them out of the way. I’d explain how it’s supposed to work, but every time I listen to the technobabble on this show it sounds like when adults talk in Charlie Brown cartoons. Just know that “machine does thing to stop Godspeeds, but machine needs battery charge to work” and we can move forward. Some UV light from Allegra would really help Chester out with the SEE device, but Allegra has been MIA to Team Flash. So I guess they don’t know her cousin’s dead.

Barry and the kids go out to stop a Godspeed attack and then split off, hoping to break the Godspeed packs down to more manageable chunks for each of them to fight. But all the Godspeeds follow Bart instead, repeating the phrase “kill the adversary” while they go. Hmm, that’s probably important.

After they escape and are back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry asks his son what’s up with the whole “kill the adversary” situation and Bart loses his temper over the interrogation. He finally just yells that, in the future, Godspeed is “[his] Thawne.” Bart doesn’t go into details, but suffice to say that Godspeed kills someone Bart loves in the future and they’ve been nemeses ever since. Wait, so then why was Bart so casual when he and Nora were fighting Godspeed in 2049? Shouldn’t he have been single-mindedly focused on throwing Godspeed in jail instead of cheerfully bickering with his sister?

As Barry is consulting with Gideon about other speedsters to call for help with the Godspeeds (he’s trying to get into contact with Wally, who’s apparently too busy meditating) Iris appears, good as new despite her dire temporal situation last episode. She also knows everything that’s been happening with Barry while she was gone, and she’s taking the sudden arrival of her adult children in stride. I guess if it happens once, it’s hard to be surprised the second time around.

Next we see that Jay Garrick still exists, which I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t if there’s no multiverse. Not only that, but he’s on Barry’s Earth and he’s such a part of the West-Allen family in the future that it turns out his death is what turns Godspeed into Bart’s arch-enemy. This is why the Godspeeds end up kidnapping Jay, so they can lure Bart out and finally deal with “the adversary.”

Chester has finally tracked down a sullen Allegra and pulled her in to help charge the SEE device, but Allegra’s failing to get the battery past ten percent. Barry is in a hurry to get rid of a bunch of Godspeeds, so when he comes in to check on the SEE progress and Chester tells him it’s not ready, Barry blasts it with lightning to charge it up. This turns out to be a bad idea because the energy from speed lighting just powers the Godspeeds when Team Flash later uses the SEE on them, giving them a chance to blast our heroes with cartoonish white spirals. Nora gets knocked out in the fight, which leads Barry to banning her from fighting anymore Godspeeds.

The kidnapping of Jay Garrick comes back into play when the Godspeeds announce who they’ve captured to Team Flash. Of course, Bart goes after his uncle and is immediately captured by Godspeeds, who hold him up in the air with their cartoonish white spirals while he screams the whole time. Barry and Nora show up and, despite hearing the screams of their beloved family member, just stare dumbly at the Godspeeds and Bart for like... way too long. You guys know you have super speed, right? Your reaction time should be significantly faster than this. 

Eventually they do react, with Nora going for Bart and Barry going for the main Godspeed. Barry phases through him the same way Bart does in the future, which knocks Godspeed out and releases Bart. The Godspeeds all spring back up, surrounding the West-Allen family and Jay, who declares that they should “give [the Godspeeds] heck” because he’s a product of 1940 and he doesn’t gosh-darn swear. 

It looks like it’s going to be a losing battle for the non-evil speedsters until a surprise guest appears: Cisco! He provides just enough of a distraction to get everyone out of danger and they manage to cart Bart’s still-unconscious body back to S.T.A.R. Labs for further examination. It turns out that Bart is in a coma and severely low on speed; the only reason why he’s not dead is because what little speed he has left is keeping him alive.

The team sets up what they’ll be doing when the season finale airs next week: Chester will keep working on the SEE, Cisco will try to make a synthetic replacement for the temporal trap that was broken last week, and Barry wants to climb into August Heart’s mind to figure out a way to stop him from becoming an evil speedster in the first place. You know. Normal stuff!

At the end of the episode, Barry is hooking himself up to a still-docile August Heart while Cecile plays brain wave conductor and sends his consciousness over. When Barry finds himself in Heart’s mind, it consists of a cathedral and an obelisk throne and August Heart making broadly villainous statements about how cool he is. Man, I really was right about Godspeed being a tool.

Other Things:

  • Kramer’s lack of death in that failed mission is indeed important, since Joe mentions it to her during their little micro-plot this episode.
  • Did I miss something about Jay Garrick being around? He’s definitely supposed to be on another Earth, right? And the multiverse isn’t supposed to exist anymore? Although, I caught a little bit of Superman and Lois after this episode and there’s someone from a different Earth on there, too, so two questions: 1) is anyone going to explain this? And 2) how much of it is Barry’s fault? 

Monday, July 12, 2021

And Now… Your 6th Annual Golden Trio Award Winners!

Each year, we love honoring our favorite actors, actresses, and shows in our Golden Trio Awards. What started as a fun social media game (#Top3) by our assistant editor, Chelsea, turned into a yearly ceremony where you choose the three winners in each category. Even if your favorite show or performer doesn't get nominated for an Emmy this year, they’re still worth celebrating. Never stop loving what you love!

So without further ado, let's get to your 2021 winners!

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

Your votes for the top two were neck-and-neck until the very end, proving you all really love Apple TV+ ensemble comedies.

GOLD: 

Mythic Quest

SILVER: 

Ted Lasso

BRONZE: 

A Black Lady Sketch Show

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

Between intense character studies in chess and solving mysteries, these shows brought all the drama in 2021 – and you loved them too!

GOLD: 

The Queen’s Gambit

SILVER: 

I May Destroy You

BRONZE:

Mare of Easttown

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

What does an optimistic coach, a video game creative director, and a morning show host have in common? They’re your favorite funny men this year!

GOLD: 

Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso)

SILVER:

Rob McElhenney (Mythic Quest)

BRONZE: 

Kenan Thompson (Kenan)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

They broke your hearts and they brought all the drama this year… these are your top three winners for leads in a drama!

GOLD: 

Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian)

SILVER: 

Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton)

BRONZE: 

Chris Evans (Defending Jacob)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

You all showed up for these funny leading ladies, and we couldn’t have been prouder of all the nominees. In an ideal world, everyone would walk away with a medal but this year you chose three incredible women as your favorites!

GOLD: 

Charlotte Nicdao (Mythic Quest)

SILVER: 

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Never Have I Ever)

BRONZE: 

Robin Thede (A Black Lady Sketch Show)

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

So many women gave nuanced, powerful performances in dramas and limited series this past year. But only three of them could win, so let’s celebrate them!

GOLD: 

Kate Winslet (Mare of Easttown)

SILVER: 

Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit)

BRONZE: 

Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

When we narrowed down this category, we knew it would be difficult to choose our favorite! But you all showed up in the polls for your favorite comedic performers in streaming and network shows (and Danny Pudi stans really showed up)!

GOLD: 

Danny Pudi (Mythic Quest)

SILVER: 

Alex Newell (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist)

BRONZE: 

William Jackson Harper (The Good Place)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

They were battling the supernatural, teaching chess, and fighting literal and physical bad guys this year. Here are your picks for outstanding supporting drama actors!

GOLD: 

Bill Camp (The Queen’s Gambit)

SILVER: 

Michael K. Williams (Lovecraft Country)

BRONZE: 

Chase W. Dillon (The Underground Railroad)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Each and every woman listed here is so talented and made us laugh this year. Whether it was a sketch show, an ensemble comedy, or a show about love and friendship, we adore these supporting comedic actresses – and you do too! (Also, who still has “Agatha All Along” stuck in their heads? Anybody?)

GOLD: 

Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso)

SILVER: 

Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision)

BRONZE: 

D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Each woman in this category made us feel deeply this year, delivered standout performances, and we are honored to crown them with internet awards!

GOLD: 

Julianne Nicholson (Mare of Easttown)

SILVER:

Reign Edwards (The Wilds)

BRONZE: 

Mae Whitman (Good Girls)

OTP OF THE YEAR

When it comes to winning polls, Julie and the Phantoms fans are already seasoned veterans, and this category was no exception! Everyone else battled it out for the second and third spots and we’re happy to see just how much you all love... well, love!

GOLD: 

Luke/Julie (Julie and the Phantoms)

SILVER: 

Roy/Keely (Ted Lasso)

BRONZE: 

David/Patrick (Schitt’s Creek)

BEST NEW SERIES 

We’d say this one was close, but the Julie and the Phantoms fans really dominated this category! But the truth is that each of these new shows have captivated and entertained us all.

GOLD: 

Julie and the Phantoms

SILVER: 

WandaVision

BRONZE: 

We Are Lady Parts

GUILT-LESS TV PLEASURE

Around here, we don't believe that you should feel guilty for loving the things you love. Not everything you watch has to be Emmy-nominated television... and that should be celebrated! And you honored these guilt-less TV pleasures well.

GOLD: 

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

SILVER: 

Teenage Bounty Hunters

BRONZE: 

Nailed It!

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE

TV shows wouldn't work without the strength of their ensembles. And these shows demonstrated that (hello, Bridgerton and your array of complex characters!) and shone in 2021.

GOLD: 

Bridgerton

SILVER: 

Outer Banks

BRONZE: 

Ted Lasso

Well, there you have it everyone! Thanks so much for contributing to this year's Golden Trio Awards this year and we can’t wait to return again in the summer of 2022 for another celebration! :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Flash 7x16 Review: "P.O.W." (Something About Jammed Signals) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“P.O.W.”
Original Airdate: July 6, 2021

This week on The Flash: more Godspeeds! So many Godspeeds! I’ve never seen a show go for quantity over quality quite so spectacularly as The Flash is with their multiple Godspeeds. Seriously, I know I harp on this but... this character is nothing. It’s a nothing character full of nothing. Godspeed has no menace, no compelling history... he’s got mystery, I’ll give him that. But it’s the “what’s the point of all this?” kind of mystery and not the “What will happen next?” kind of mystery. In its own way, the show’s stubborn refusal to add anything of weight to Godspeed and his many, many alternative selves — whether they be robot duplicates or clones — is bizarrely fascinating.

LONG TIME NO DIGGLE

The episode starts with Barry dreaming of Nora again, but unlike his last dream she’s bearing bad news and dire warnings instead of comforting words about how everything’s going to be okay. When Barry wakes up, the city is trapped in the middle of the Godspeed war, which has the added wrinkle of making Central City into a kind of Faraday cage. No communications can go in or out of the city. We learn this when Cecile asks the team if anyone’s heard from Joe, who was last seen in an exploding car with Kristen Kramer.

(Joe and Kramer are having their own little adventure, also with jammed cell phone signals and limited communication. They’re being hunted, “The Most Dangerous Game”-style, by Kramer’s old friend-turned-sociopathic mercenary, Adam. Once again, their plotline is small and virtually insignificant and they manage to get the upper hand on Adam by the end of the episode, but I felt really sorry for repeatedly cutting them out of the main review so I’m giving them a little aside paragraph. Also, Adam seems to believe the explosion that killed Kramer’s whole team should have killed Kramer as well, implying that her survival was miraculous bordering on impossible. That’s at least a little intriguing.)

So no one can call for help, Barry’s so outgunned he’s essentially limited to just evacuating civilians and hoping for the best, and Team Flash has no ideas. What could possibly help them? Why, John Diggle bearing a technical doohickey from none other than Cisco Ramon, of course! That’s right, this episode is a very special guest star kind of episode.

The technical doohickey from Cisco is an entropy trap, which Dig personally volunteered to deliver so that he could do his part helping Central City through their most recent metahuman crisis. Chester is overjoyed because he’s apparently a Team Arrow fanboy, but also because the entropy trap is cutting-edge technology that literally freezes time. The team wants to capture one of the Godspeeds and Barry wants to find a way for them to communicate so he can ask what they want. After Barry makes his plan, Dig briefly makes an expression like a Victorian governess about to die of consumption.

The entropy trap is immediately successful, which tells us that the main plot of the episode will not be about finding and trapping a Godspeed. With a silent Godspeed locked in one of the S.T.A.R. Labs cells, they try to figure out how to talk to him while Allegra somehow uses her UV light powers to jam his communication to the Godspeed hive mind. That’s three references to jammed communications in this episode now — am I missing a metaphor?

If I am, I suspect it’s something about limited communications being overcome by good planning, because the Godspeed that Team Flash has captured is clearly not bothered by his inability to talk to his brethren. In fact, Team Flash gets some information out of him — the Godspeeds are looking for the original Godspeed, August Heart, who is from the future but in the past — but he escapes when Barry’s unwillingness to kill August Heart in order to stop the Godspeed war makes him an enemy of the captured Godspeed. Which, since the other half of the warring Godspeeds wants to steal Barry’s speed and the “good” half just wanted to keep them from doing it, means Barry’s now on the wrong side of both Godspeed factions. This is somehow very confusing and very uninteresting all at the same time.

Also, Barry really needs to learn some subterfuge. He could have very easily agreed to help the Godspeeds without agreeing to kill August Heart, then worked on pushing them away from the killing plan over the course of their truce. So on the list of things Barry Allen sucks at, let’s add “strategy” in there right after “teaching” and “not destroying the universe via time travel.”

So Team Flash wants to find August Heart, who has been displaced in time, before the Godspeeds can kill him. Barry’s angry because he’s worried about his future-daughter Nora, who’s from the same year as August Heart. Yeah, it’s not so fun when people play around with time travel and your kid’s existence is on the line, huh, Barry? Speaking of which: does Dig know you briefly erased his daughter? I guess no harm, no foul, but that was kinda messed up.

Barry wants to go forward in time (what metaphorical Faraday cage blocks the signal between Barry Allen’s brain and the concept of “do not time travel”?) to check on Nora, but when he attempts the run through the Speed Force his way is blocked by a Red Rover line of Godspeeds. Boy, I sure wish there were a row of Godspeeds waiting to clothesline Barry every other time he’s attempted time travel. 

He gets knocked into nowhere, where Deon finds him and shares some bad news: the Godspeeds are running amok, “feeding on pure speed force energy,” and the Speed Force is having a real time keeping them at bay. Deon’s worn thin as well, but not because of the Godspeeds. It turns out, Iris is suffering from some sort of destabilization that keeps her jumping through timelines. Deon’s putting everything he has into keeping her stable, but he has no concrete way of stopping it. Before Barry can say much to Iris, Deon has to snap her to some other timeline.

Frost, Dig, and Cecile have found a location associated with August Heart. Cecile senses a scared person nearby and they find a guy huddled by a dumpster. They ask for his name and he says he doesn’t know, then he says that the location he’s at is important. Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Caitlin manages to get the guy to confirm his name is August but his memory is too fried for anything else. Also, Dig has spent this whole episode experiencing the sci-fi version of the Victorian consumption cough (i.e., screaming headaches of portentous Green Lantern-ing to come) and decides to deal with that once he leaves Central City.

At the end of the episode, just when Barry’s feeling real down about everything going on and needs a pep talk from Cecile, Nora suddenly appears to show Barry she’s fine and dandy. Also, she now has a brother.

Other Things:

  • The plot relegated to the bullet points of afterthought this week: Ultraviolet’s new lease on life is short-lived, as she immediately goes out to hunt Black Hole and dies. Allegra holds her as she dies (and inexplicably burns to ashes) and regrets sticking to her Team Flash family instead of Esperanza, her “real” family. This show’s inability to square away the found family vs. blood family argument continues.
  • Why is Nora able to get through the Godspeeds lurking in the Speed Force?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Flash 7x15 Review: "Enemy at the Gates" (Gotta Get Godspeed) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Enemy at the Gates”
Original Airdate: June 29, 2021

We welcome back Godspeed on this week’s episode, and by “welcome back,” I mean whatever the opposite of that would be. Last time he was on the show, I think I called him something along the lines of — paraphrasing, here — “a forgettable tool with terrible taste in catchphrases.” He’s only scoring two out of three on that front this week because he doesn’t actually say anything all episode, just screams like he’s possessed by dial-up internet. It’s not an improvement.

SPEEDING THROUGH THIS STORY

At the start of the episode, Barry is having a dream: Nora (the daughter from the future, not the mother or the Speed Force mother lookalike — boy, they sure get a lot of mileage out of that name, huh?) visits him and tells him everything is going to be okay. They hug, and Barry wakes up with the revelation that Iris must be pregnant, because why else would he have a dream like that? Certainly couldn’t be because the future-daughter he wants has been on his mind a lot. Barry, I know your life is full of a lot of weird, but I’m pretty sure prophetic pregnancy dreams aren’t on the list.

But Barry is full-tilt into “we’re gonna have a baby” mode and tells Iris (who — speaking of weird — is not on screen this entire episode, even when people talk to her) he’s going to do the tests to prove it himself. Barry’s bizarre behavior catches the attention of everyone who sees him, which means the secret of Iris possibly being pregnant is out in no time at all. Thanks to her empathy powers, Cecile is the first to figure it out but her excitement is interrupted by an explosion in the lab where Barry is working.

The explosion turns out to be caused by the arrival of Godspeed. Funnily enough, even the characters have a general vibe of “we don’t know who this villain is or where they came from or what we’re supposed to do about him even though he’s shown up multiple times now — and also, remember those robot clones of him? That was odd.” It doesn’t give me a lot of hope for this storyline evolving into something compelling or interesting.

After a bit of a chase with multiple Godspeed, Barry ends up back at S.T.A.R. Labs with a forcefield up to keep the Godspeeds out. The Godspeeds are trying to punch their way into the lab, which sends shockwaves through the whole building. This is bad because Caitlin happens to have scheduled Ultraviolet’s throat surgery during the Godspeed invasion just so there’s a bit more tension in the episode than generic speedster villains punching things.

Despite the attempt at adding tension with Ultraviolet’s surgery during an evil speedster attack, there’s only one moment of potential danger and it’s because Ultraviolet’s anesthesia starts wearing off, not because the building is about to fall down around them. This tension doesn’t even last a whole scene, as Cecile steps in to calm Ultraviolet with her empathy powers. There’s a lot in this episode that feels like it was written on the fly.

Chester has the idea to play the Godspeed modem sound over the speaker system in order to confuse them, then Barry could take them all out one by one. Before they can really enact this plan, though, the forcefield goes down and the Godspeeds enter the building. Everyone has fight duty (including Frost and that bartender love interest of hers, whose name I just remembered is Mark) except Chester, who runs to the Time Vault-turned-panic room for cover.

In the Time Vault, Chester asks Gideon for ideas on what to do next, and Gideon offers to go through with his initial plan by playing the Godspeed noise through the intercom system of S.T.A.R. Labs. Thankfully, the show plays “Diesel Power” by The Prodigy instead of the screeching modem noise for the duration of the fight sequence that follows. Unfortunately, one Godspeed finds the source of the sound and breaks into the Time Vault, which I assumed was impossible but okay, fine. The Godspeed destroys the console playing the sound and postures in a way that says Chester is about to die. Just as a side note: the coolness of Godspeed’s costume is seriously wasted on this nothingburger of a character.

Barry launches himself at a few of the Godspeeds and runs out so they’ll follow him and leave everyone else in S.T.A.R. Labs alone. He speeds through the city but gets stopped and is about to be set upon by some Godspeeds when they suddenly start fighting each other. Barry is confused, as am I. Remember what I wrote about how a lot of this episode feels like it was written on the fly? This sort of thing is what I meant.

Later, Barry theorizes that the Godspeeds weren’t compelled to fight each other by any outside force but were just fighting each other to fight each other. Everyone looks around in shock and dismay at the prospect of “speedsters against speedsters” as if this hasn’t been the modus operandi for every speedster Barry has ever encountered who wasn’t related to him in some way. It’s remarkable we’ve had yet another Godspeed episode on this show in which we learn nothing about him, his motivations beyond stealing speed (which, again, is pretty much what every evil speedster wants), or why he had robot duplicates that one time.

By the end of the episode we learn that Ultraviolet has survived her surgery (maybe I should start calling her Esperanza?) and Barry learns that the pregnancy test he’s been waiting all episode to perform turns out negative. He proves he’s not just a literal speedster but also an emotional one, as this single negative result in light of his seemingly prophetic dream sends him into a “Iris and I will never, ever be parents” funk faster than the speed of light. Barry, stop being so dramatic.

Other Things:

  • Will Joe and Kramer’s subplot ever be significant enough to get a spot in the main review? Well, since their car got exploded at the end of this episode, I suppose there’s a chance.
  • Frost and her bartender non-boyfriend are still boring. I wonder if I’d like this storyline better if Mark weren’t such a bad boy cliche. I liked him more when he first showed up and was pretending to be nice.
  • I know it’s silly of me to try and keep track of what the scientists in this show can do, but I swear Caitlin was a bio-engineer and not a surgeon, so why is she doing surgery on Ultraviolet? Also, why is she doing surgery without any assistance whatsoever?
  • Next week: More Godspeeds. Did someone spill a box of “Oops! All Godspeeds” on the back half of this season?

Monday, July 5, 2021

6th Annual Golden Trio Awards — COMEDY NOMINEES!

Welcome to the Comedy category of our Golden Trio Awards! In case you missed it, you can learn what these awards are all about HERE.

But for now, be sure to vote for your favorite shows and performers in each of these categories. You'll notice some shows missing (we only chose shows that aired at least one episode between 2020-2021 and Schitt's Creek dominated the legit awards circuits so we felt like we'd be kind and keep their noms to a minimum here), but hopefully you see a lot that you love!

And don't forget to vote in our DRAMA and SPECIAL CATEGORY posts too!

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES



OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR




OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS


OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR



OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS



Welcome to Your 6th Annual #GoldenTrioAwards!

WELCOME to the 6th Annual Just About Write Golden Trio Awards! 

Sorry we took last year off, but did 2020 even count as a year? (We don't think so.)

You're probably wondering exactly what these award are, and why this is so important to us. Our Golden Trio Awards are named after that famous BFF trio, so that means we actually give away three awards in each category! It's your job to narrow those winners down from the six nominees we've created. (Gold is awarded to the most votes, silver to the next, and bronze to the third highest.)

To give you a bit of a background, my friend and editor Chels is going to explain the Twitter game (see: obsession) that she created a few years ago that has inspired these awards. We run through this every year, but if you're new around here or to the awards, here's a bit of a refresher course!:

So in July 2013 I started this little thing called #Top3 on my Twitter and personal blog as a small scheme to figure out somebody's favorite movie. It quickly escalated into a five-day-a-week competition game with winners and wonderful bragging rights. I'd give people a random Film or TV category and they would respond with their #Top3 choices for the category. No more, no less, and you had to have #RUTHLESSNESS when making your picks. There were three winners because some things just do not compare.   

My Top 3 films (To Kill a Mockingbird, Beauty and the Beast, Lost in Translation), for instance, have nothing in common writing, editing, or directing wise other than the fact that they are films. Honoring multiple pieces shows just how rich we are in quality content. I did this game for about six months before I grew tired of it, but at least once a week since the game ended I've had at least one person ask if I would ever bring it back. It was a fun way to talk about pop culture and get people interested in things they may not have seen.   

I brought the idea of bringing back the game to Jenn a few weeks ago after the Emmy nominations and we brainstormed a way to bring it back in a more self-contained format. We asked all the lovely ladies of this site to fill out their top choices for each category, then Jenn and I compiled all the ballots before narrowing down each category to seven. The overlap in the ballots helped us narrow down and we ruthlessly managed to cut down the rest until we represented as many shows as we could. #Top3 for me was always about showcasing as much great content as possible with all the winners.   

I owe Jenn and the entire Just About Write team a big thank-you for helping me with this elaborate scheme and making me love the idea of #Top3 again. You ladies are amazing and I am proud to be working with you.   

Back to you, Jenn!

When Chels approached me with the idea to combine #Top3 and an awards ceremony a few years ago, I was automatically on board. This year, we compiled nominations together as we always do, and — after barely any difficult compromising except for one section where we invoked math so we wouldn't have to choose ourselves — Chels and I managed to narrow down the nominations in each category!

We're so excited to be doing this again and that you all have responded so positively to it over the past few years. In the posts below, you'll be met with a few different ballots:

COMEDY

DRAMA

SPECIAL CATEGORY

Comedy and Drama are pretty self-explanatory, but our Special Category ballots contain an awesome array of fandom-focused categories from OTP of the Year to Favorite Ensemble and more!

The nominations open today and polls will be closed by 9 a.m. ET on Monday, July 12. By mid-week that week, I'll round up the top 3 people/shows with the most votes in each category and those will be your third annual Golden Trio Award winners!

Did I mention that we're excited? Because we are! Take time and fill out your ballots. You can vote as many times as you would like. Share on social media! But most importantly, have half as much fun voting in these as we did creating them! :)

6th Annual Golden Trio Awards — DRAMA NOMINEES!

Welcome to the category that always brings the drama. That's right, it's time for you to vote for your favorite series and performers who made a dramatic impact on you this year! (For a background on the Golden Trio Awards, check out our introduction post HERE.) Whether it's surprisingly stressful chess, an unflinching look at assault and trauma, or a supernatural 

And be sure to vote in our COMEDY and SPECIAL CATEGORY posts too!

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES


OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR


OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS


OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR


OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS


6th Annual Golden Trio Awards — SPECIAL CATEGORY NOMINEES!

Who's ready for some very special awards? We've got a few for you to choose from this year, so whether you're swooning over your OTP or celebrating a new favorite television show, be sure to cast your votes in our Special Category below! Learn more about the Golden Trio Awards here if you should choose.

And vote for your favorite COMEDY and DRAMA categories too! 

OTP OF THE YEAR


BEST NEW SERIES


OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE


GUILT-LESS TV PLEASURE




Monday, June 28, 2021

Mythic Quest 2x09 Review: “TBD” (The End of the Hall and the End of the Line) [Contributor: Jenn]


“TBD”
Original Airdate: June 25, 2021

Sometimes change begets change. One person decides to leave a company, and then slowly but surely a trickle becomes a flood and multiple people announce their resignations. Or at least that’s what happens at Mythic Quest’s headquarters in “TBD,” the aptly-titled season — and not series, I’m manifesting it! — finale. A lot happens, so let’s dive right into the feels!

HERA RISES — BUT NOT AT MYTHIC QUEST

Last week’s emotional ending saw Ian and Poppy resolving their issues with a lullaby and quality time in the hospital, and this week we’re picking back up by focusing on their partnership and teamwork. Despite their massive egos, what’s great about these two is that they often hate other people together. Whether they’re irritated by testers or coders, their defense of one another and dislike for others is so hilarious and perfect. 

“TBD” sees Ian and Poppy struggling to find a way to implement Hera at Mythic Quest. The way that these two communicate post-reconciliation is actually really lovely. They’re still snarky to others but they’re finally able to be honest with each other without their egos. Ian tells Poppy that implementing Hera within the Mythic Quest universe is impossible; she’s the best of the best and if she couldn’t find a way to make it work, it means it won’t work. Ian asserts Poppy’s intelligence while providing her with honest feedback. There’s no ego from him there or jealousy — he’s just stating facts.

And Poppy finally decides not just to listen to Ian but to actually hear him. (She has been unable to do this because of her ego too.) When she does hear him, she realizes that he’s right: she cannot make her expansion work. But instead of just going with Ian’s plan, the two decide they need to come up with something together. The problem is that they spend the whole episode attempting to figure out the next chapter in their Mythic Quest story. It’s actually a profound moment from C.W., however, that forces them to look at the thing they’ve been trying to avoid the whole time.

It’s the end of the line for Mythic Quest. Their last expansion, “Raven’s Banquet,” was the final chapter in the story. They’ve been spinning their wheels trying to make anything they come up with work within the world they’ve built. But C.W. points out that Mythic Quest, much like a child, is older now. It’s grown. It’s time, finally, to move on instead of trying to force more story out of something that is done.

That’s not an easy truth to accept though: when you spend years working on something and it’s finally done... what’s left to do? Well, Ian and Poppy realize that there’s more story for them to tell — just not at MQ headquarters. They’ve done their jobs, they’ve created and raised their video game baby, and now they’re not needed anymore. It’s time to raise a new baby together.

The end of the episode is the most profound, of course. Ian and Poppy quit their jobs and sit at a restaurant, dreaming of what could be. That’s when Ian tells Poppy that they don’t have to dream too much — he knows what their next project will be. It’ll be Hera. Mythic Quest wasn’t equipped to handle the expansion but that doesn’t mean they can’t build it. He hands her a pen and a bar napkin — her brush and her canvas, a perfect callback to the pilot — and Poppy excitedly begins dreaming.

I feel like this is a natural conclusion for Ian and Poppy’s story this season though. With their relationship repaired, it seemed only logical that they’d forge ahead in their creation of a game together. And I kind of love that they realized they’re better together, that Ian sacrificed his ego to support Poppy, that Poppy finally allowed herself to see the truth of what she’d created, and that they acknowledged that the death of one creative dream doesn’t mean its death forever.

GOODBYE, TESTERS

Elsewhere in the episode, Rachel and Dana quit their jobs at MQ headquarters — except that Dana then realizes she didn’t get into Berkley. The two momentarily freak out until a random meeting with Ian and Poppy actually sets Dana on a new, similar path. She shows them her Grouchy Goat she’s been working on, and the co-creative directors assert that it’s basically garbage. But the scene next is super important for anyone who’s a creative: Ian asks if Dana will stop working on it if they tell her it’s bad. At first, she says that she will, then admits she won’t. And when the two press her as to why she’s still working so hard on a thing that’s not great.

She tells them that when she looks at the goat she can see her vision, and she’s working to watch it come alive. She can see the potential and dream even when others can’t. It’s this commitment and ethic in spite of challenges that intrigues Ian and Poppy. They make Dana a deal: MQ headquarters will pay for her to go to a local, reasonable programming school so that she can continue to learn how to develop her skills and they’ll also bring her on for contract work. Dana is thrilled (Ian and Poppy are mostly annoyed but that’s par for the course) and tells Rachel… who admits that she’s going to Berkley. I’m proud of Rachel! She spent so much of the second season caught up in Dana without a direction for her life. Now, even though she has to do long-distance, she’s more concerned with pursuing this new passion than with staying comfortable. That’s growth, and I love to see it!

BRAD AND JO’S FINAL DAY

I only have one qualm/question about the Brad/Jo story (which could very well be resolved quickly in season three) which is that Brad noted Zack cared about an employee of Mythic Quest getting arrested for insider trading so he could gut the company — something Brad didn’t want happening. Originally that person was going to be Jo, but when Brad takes the fall for her... that really doesn’t solve the Zack problem, does it? Or maybe Brad doesn’t care now because it’s not his problem?

Anyway, the reason Brad decides to take the fall for Jo is supposedly because he’ll be seen as a shark in his industry (and he’s going away to a cushy prison), but let’s be real: he does care about Jo and it’s evident in their final little interaction. Even though Brad does things so he can be seen as the shark or bad guy, he has a heart and his heart told him he could do something nice while also getting something out if it. If that isn’t a quintessential Brad Bakshi move, I don’t know what is! I’ll miss the Brad/Jo team-up a lot, but I do love that Brad pointed out Jo’s very evident addiction to power.

He’s not wrong in the fact that she needs to detox from powerful men. The last high she chased almost landed her in prison, and she could easily make that mistake again — or worse. But “TBD” actually sees a re-pairing: David and Jo get back together! Poor David. For a person who’s so afraid of change and losing his coworker family, he had to endure quite the abandonment in this episode: no more Brad, Ian, Poppy, Rachel, or Dana!

David and Jo’s decision to pair back up again is pretty fun, considering their arcs the last season: David’s had to grow more of a backbone and will now be forced to step up and be the leader he was always supposed to be. And Jo discarded David because he was powerless, and now realizes it’s kind of exactly what she needs. I’m so excited to see their new dynamic in season three!

“TBD” reminds us that change is inevitable, but so is growth — if you’re willing to pursue it. Season two of Mythic Quest was really about forcing the characters to get uncomfortable, fight when they need to even when they don’t want to, and discover what it is each of them truly wants. I love that by the end of the season, I know the characters are going to be okay whether they work at the headquarters or not. I’m just really excited to see where this show can go in season three now that everyone is scattered! (I sense a time jump is imminent.) 

Thank you, Mythic Quest, for the feels and the laughs all year. I’ll see you (hopefully) next year!

Notes and quotes:

  • At ATX Festival, Megan Ganz noted that this feels like a series finale not necessarily because the creators believe they’ll get cancelled but because they wanted to challenge themselves when they returned. It makes sense and I love that they’ve given themselves the challenge to reunite the group when the show returns.
  • “Women in my life will come and go...” “... mostly go.”
  • This episode is a perfect season/series finale combo which makes me emotional.
  • “That’s the gig. Dream big. Unfortunately, sometimes you fail big.” I really loved this little moment from Ian. He’s not discouraging Poppy’s dreams but rather tells her that it comes with the territory of being a creative! Sometimes your big dream leads to a big win, and sometimes a big dream leads to a big failure. But at least you dreamed big instead of small.
  • “I hate that stupid goat.”
  • “You two are probably fine but I could get cancelled.”
  • That one moment of Carol’s sixth sense was SO perfect.
  • “I like you.” “I know.” I’M GONNA MISS BRAD AND JO TOGETHER A LOT. I also loved that she made a huge deal about Brad getting escorted out and faked him getting handcuffed because she knew it would add to his credibility as a shark.
  • “Your canvas. And your brush.” Brb, crying FOREVER.

What did you all think of “TBD”? Sound off in the comments below!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Flash 7x14 Review: "Rayo de Luz" (Let There Be More Light) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Rayo de Luz”
Original Airdate: June 22, 2021

Look, I don’t want to imply that the Flash is holding back The Flash, but this is the third episode in a row that’s been light on Barry and leagues better than the Barry-centric episodes that came before it. Maybe it’s because the show was struggling with an arcing plot and these post-Forces storyline episodes are more self-contained, maybe I just really like the side characters of this show and I’ve been subconsciously wishing they had more to do. I don’t know. But Allegra-focused “Rayo de Luz” was a decent little episode either way.

A LIGHT SHOW

Remember Allegra’s assassin cousin, Esperanza “Ultraviolet” Garcia? I sure didn’t! But this episode delivered a reminder\ by way of an in media res opening open set twelve hours before the events of the episode. I assume this was really just to remind us of who Ultraviolet is, since it doesn’t offer much else.

The actual episode begins with Barry announcing that he’s going to be “zooping” Iris to a remote island, inspired by the embarrassment of Chester catching the couple boinkin’ in the Starchives last week. This means that the parents are away, so the children (read: Allegra) are free to plot questionable rescue missions of assassins. Allegra is hoping she can get through to her cousin and they could be a family again, and has apparently been tracking her and waiting for the opportunity to strike with a tried and true Team Flash-patented heartfelt speech.

Unfortunately for Allegra (and Chester’s wrist, since he gets caught in the crossfire and Ultraviolet breaks it), Ultraviolet is not in the mood for a family reunion. While Allegra and Chester are at Jitters, Ultraviolet attacks. I can’t help thinking that the insurance costs for the Jitters coffee shop must be astronomical, with how often this place gets trashed by metahuman fights. Allegra holds her own in the fight for a bit, but inevitably has to be rescued by the sudden appearance of Sue Dearbon. Sue apparently did not skip town after the disastrous heist last week.

Just like with the heist, Sue tries to be the voice of reason in the group and convince Allegra to write Ultraviolet off as a lost cause, mostly because Sue once saw the assassin melt a person’s face off while laughing. Sounds like a good reason to me, but Allegra is apparently not in the business of giving up on family. Sue, with the begrudging air of an older sibling left to babysit and well aware she’s the only thing standing between these people and certain death, agrees to help out while Barry and Iris are away.

The next time we see Ultraviolet, she’s attacking some guy. Allegra et al. stop her and the guy gets away, but then Ultraviolet reveals that the man they just rescued was the mad scientist who made her into the mask-wearing assassin she is. And I know that’s portrayed as a real “dramatic chord” type moment that’s meant to imply our heroes did something wrong, but even if they’d known the guy was bad news they wouldn’t have let Ultraviolet kill him. So it’s a bit of tension that isn’t really tension.

Sue and Allegra try to interrogate Ultraviolet. She explains that the red mask she wears is to help her speak, since Black Hole’s scientist — Dr. Olsen, the man who escaped — cut out... her vocal chords? It’s unclear how the mask helps when the scar tissue is on her throat and the mask doesn’t go past her chin, but I don’t know. I’m not a science fiction doctor. Either way, Ultraviolet wants revenge and Allegra decides she wants to help her get it. Just not, presumably, by murdering Dr. Olsen.

Before she accepts the assistance of the ragtag Team Flash, Ultraviolet tries training Allegra on how to better use the light-based powers they both share. When Allegra fails to do what she needs to do, Ultraviolet declares her a useless idiot and storms off, but not before nearly killing poor Chester with a light beam. Okay, so she’s only a marginally worse teacher than Barry Allen.

So now Chester’s got one arm in a sling and the other’s got a braced wrist, but he’s still trying to make everyone else feel better about the Ultraviolet situation. Oh, Chester. Sue wants Chester to talk some sense into Allegra, who’s still feeling unsure about what to do with Ultraviolet, but Chester doesn’t think he can convince her of anything. Then something Sue says (“Sharing a back-alley yin-yang tattoo doesn’t mean you’re bonded forever.”) inspires Chester to run off like the genius he is, leaving Sue to do her best to convince Allegra not to try again with Ultraviolet.

But Allegra stubbornly refuses to give up on her cousin, who never gave up on her when they were growing up. When Allegra brings up Sue rescuing her parents from Black Hole, Sue confesses that she never did — that her parents loved the lifestyle they had with Black Hole and she couldn’t convince them to leave. Sue’s parents were already filthy rich, so I’m a little confused about what sort of lifestyle a shady underground organization could offer them to compete with mansions and never having to hold a job.

The conversation with Sue has only made Allegra more resolute in her mission to save her cousin, which is good because Chester’s eureka moment produced a way to track Ultraviolet. He was inspired by the yin-yang tattoo, thinking of Allegra and Ultraviolet as two halves of the same whole and using Allegra’s light signature to find Ultraviolet’s matching one.

The team finds Ultraviolet facing off with Dr. Olsen again. Dr. Olsen, by the way, is incredibly creepy. I almost wish this team didn’t have a no-killing policy, because this guy is gross. Chester takes out some guards with an EMP blast while Sue fights the ones who are left, wonderfully backlit the entire time. I don’t give shoutouts to production stuff very often, but the lighting in this episode is really pretty in several scenes and I wonder if it’s meant to be on theme with the two light-based metahumans at the center of the story. Whatever the reason, it’s nice.

When Allegra finds her cousin, Ultraviolet immediately attacks her. Dr. Olsen has promised that, as the only person in the world who knows exactly what was done to Esperanza and therefore the only person capable of fixing it, he sets the rules for whether Ultraviolet gets any help. He wants Ultraviolet to kill everyone who knows of his operations, starting with Allegra. While the two women have a light fight (with things heavily in Ultraviolet’s favor), Dr. Olsen supplies some creepy color commentary about how hate fuels their powers.

But Allegra ain’t having that. She says that her powers are fueled by something else and her chest starts glowing, and the losing light beam she’d been shooting at Ultraviolet starts gaining power. Eventually, Ultraviolet is struck back and Allegra has a full-body glowing aura that looks really neat. It eventually fades, but the day is saved nonetheless.

In the aftermath, Dr. Olsen has been jailed and Ultraviolet is recovering from getting blasted by Alelgra’s light beam. Caitlin reassures Allegra that Barry would’ve approved of her following her heart despite leading a rogue mission and nearly getting multiple people killed. Yeah, that tracks. Talking with Ultraviolet afterwards, Allegra shares the news that Caitlin has confiscated Olsen’s files and thinks she can cure her. Are we just going to ignore that story about Ultraviolet melting a person’s face off while laughing?

Other Things:

  • The only really irritating thing about this episode was the stuff involving Joe and Kramer, mostly because Kramer’s behavior makes no sense half the time. She seems okay by the end of the episode, though. She and Joe are going to find the person who actually betrayed the mission she was on.
  • Allegra calls Chester “Chuck”? Is she the only one who uses that nickname?
  • Frost has hunted down that bartender whose name I don’t remember except that it was awful. Is this really going to be a thing? I’m bored every time he’s on the screen.
  • Next week: Godspeed is back? Really, Godspeed? Ugh.