10 Shows and Movies That Have Brightened Up Quarantine Life

As we navigate a global pandemic, here are 10 shows and movies that might bring some much-needed joy into the mundane.

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!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

One Day At A Time Review: How to Have a Latino Conversation About Politics [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]


Words cannot express how much I love One Day at a Time. If I had the money to take out full-page magazine ads with t-shirt sales and billboards and endless GIFs of Rita Moreno being fabulous, I would. Alas I am monetarily strapped, so I sit here and review. When Hollywood shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, One Day At A Time was in the middle of their comeback fourth season on Pop TV. The Alvarez family was back and better than ever! A global lockdown could have been the end of the season, but executive producers Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon-Kellett weren’t having it. If the season was going to end early, it was going out in style!
 
This is how we find One Day At A Time in its latest, groundbreaking animated episode entitled “The Politics Episode.” Not only is every Alvarez family member now in cartoon form, but the familiar voices of Gloria Estefan (reprising her role as Lydia’s sister Mirtha), Melissa Fumero (returning as Mirtha’s daughter Estrellita), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (debuting as Estrellita’s husband Juanito) have joined in on the fun! I should clarify: this episode was fun for us as viewers, but not so much for Penelope Alvarez. Because while we dance for joy at hearing the voices of their portrayers, Penelope groans at the thought of welcoming her conservative, Trump-voting cousins into her home. Lest you think all Latinos are on the same wavelength regarding today’s politics, this episode shatters that illusion pretty firmly.
 
It’s important to note that this episode was written prior to the current Black Lives Matter protests which broke out weeks ago. The core conflict of this episode actually goes back almost two years, when at the end of the third season opener — spoiler alert — Penelope learned that her favorite cousin Estrellita had voted for Trump. This deep political divide in the family has not been brought up again until now, and no one could have predicted how important the timing would be.
 
Because Latinos don’t send families to hotels (seriously, not even at 200+ attendee weddings), the Reyes cousins will be staying with the Alvarez family while they’re in L.A. attending a baptism. In the half hour that it takes for the Uber to arrive, the Alvarez family frantically works through different scenarios of how to get through the visit. Schneider’s suggestion that they keep their feelings inside like white people (his words) does not work. Latinos only do that until they explode, or the tequila and/or rum kicks in. More often than not, this actually happens at the same time, hence why Lydia spends most of the episode downing a bottle of rum.
 
I’m not going to lie, the idea of Mirtha and Lydia settling things with a talent contest probably had the most merit. The animated preview was so great that I’m advocating for the real thing in season five! Elena’s idea of using old dirt against the incoming family members doesn’t work either, because whatever dirt you have on your prima, your prima has on you. Just trust me on this one.
 
In the end, Elena offers up a solid argument for why the Reyes family probably feels the way they do: that Cubans once trusted a man who made all kinds of promises and it worked out horribly. So why not support a candidate who can get you the most important thing you want, like pro-life rights? Again, this is still a hugely taboo subject in highly Catholic Latino families. In the end, both families decide to listen to each other with open hearts because at the end of the day, they are family.
 
Though this story was originally meant to be performed in front of a live studio audience episode, its shift into animation helped the episode shine in many more ways. Had this actually been filmed in the studio, it actually would have been really difficult to schedule Lin-Manuel Miranda into the episode, given his jam-packed schedule. And this makes me more eager for him to film a full, in-studio episode. There is also no way we would have gotten those hilarious brawls between Penelope and Estrellita and Lydia and Mirtha in a live episode. Rita Moreno is 88. She should not be fighting; she should be dancing. Perhaps a dance contest is in order the next time Gloria Estefan is in town?
 
How do you think One Day At A Time handled politics in this supercharged time? Would you like to see the Reyes family return for season five? 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Megan's Pick: 20 LGBTQIA+ Books to Read for Pride and Beyond [Contributor: Megan Mann]

Streets flooded with rainbow colours on Tel Aviv pride parade

Welcome to 2020 where everything you thought would happen didn't, where the things you thought wouldn't happen are plaguing us, and where we've realized that maybe staying away from people isn't the worst thing in the world. We've also entered into a very important time in America's history. Late May and the month of June, so far, have been dedicated to eradicating systemic racism and defunding the police.

While this is vital (please make sure you sign petitions, donate, learn everything you can to be anti-racist and help in the fight), June is also Pride Month. This is a month where the LGBTQIA+ community can stand together, proud of who they are and where they've come from. After all, much like we're seeing today, Pride was started 51 years ago by Black and Brown trans women who were tired of the system betraying them.

To celebrate this rainbow month, I've put together a list of books that are all about the LGBTQIA+ community. While this is only a small sampling of all of the amazing books out there, here's something to get you started! 

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King


I am stupidly biased about this one because it is tied for my favorite book of all time, so I feel like everyone should read it. It follows Astrid as she navigates figuring out how she fits into the conservative small town that her mother is so desperate to maintain appearances in. Which makes her struggling with her sexuality even harder to try to figure out. Her mom is worried about the wrong things, her dad unwilling to listen, and Astrid doesn't want to to confide in her sister. So she asks the passengers in the planes flying overhead for advice. Using magical realism, Ask the Passengers is an absolute must-read. (Again, not only because it's my favorite book, but also because it's just that good.)

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri


If you want a deliciously sexy read, I cannot recommend When Katie Met Cassidy enough. Katie has just discovered that her fiance is cheating on her with her friend. So it's no surprise that when she heads to a brief one morning, she doesn't realize that the man she assumed she bumped into in the lobby is actually a female lawyer, and she's sitting across from her. Katie decides to go out later that night and who does she run into but the same woman. Cassidy, ever the suave player, sees Katie as nothing more than a conquest; Katie sees her as nothing. However, the two wind up spending more time together and bring out sides of each other that both are surprised to discover.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour


I was mad at myself for waiting so long to finally read this. It's that good. Marin is a college student who is quiet and keeps to herself. She doesn't have a ton of possessions in her shared dorm room and aside from her roommate, she doesn't really have any friends. But it wasn't always that way. When Marin lived in California with her grandpa, she had plenty of friends including her best friend Mabel. They were inseparable and held feelings for each other that they never told anyone about. When Mabel comes to visit Marin, everything they've kept from each other comes out.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe


This is a really fantastic graphic novel if you want to understand pronouns, and I think is an absolute must-read for everyone. Identity is sometimes difficult for those who are conflicted about it and/or their sexuality, so if you don't understand the hurt and pain it can cause if you misgender someone, this is crucial reading. Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, takes readers through eir journey through navigating self-identity, sexuality, and having the difficult discussions with family about pronouns. E takes you through the trauma of pap smears, the confusion around sex, and being proud of the skin you're in.

Lot by Bryan Washington


This was something so unique and interesting to read. Instead of taking readers on a linear journey, Washington has taken his novel about a gay kid living with his family in Houston and woven in short stories about the people in the surrounding area to give the city and story itself more depth. It was absolutely incredible. The story follows a boy who is half-Black and half-Latino as he navigates his family, their constantly-on-the-brink-of-going-broke restaurant, and tries to figure out where he fits in in this world. We also learn of a woman whose lover is killed by her husband, a local drug dealer, a group of hustlers just trying to make a living and others who surround him. Oh, and there's a story about a chupacabra, so it's got that if nothing else interests you. A powerful new voice. 

My Brother's Husband by Gengoroh Tagame


Yaichi is home cooking for his daughter when a burly Canadian shows up at his door introducing himself as his dead twin brother's husband, Mike. Yaichi is uncomfortable and it's only at the behest of his daughter, who has come home to discover Mike there, that he allow him to stay with them. Over time, Yaichi realizes that making assumptions based on someone's sexuality isn't fair and that Mike is as much a member of his family as Ryoji. In a country that does not allow the LGBTQIA+ community to openly be themselves, Mike and Yaichi both learn from each other. Just a note: this is a manga. If you are not sure how to read them, you can watch a video. It can be hard at first!

Mama's Boy by Dustin Lance Black


Dustin Lance Black is a well-known screenwriter (he won the Oscar for Milk) and LGTBQIA+ activist, but unless you read his book, Mama's Boy, you'd never know that he grew up in a conversative Texas town with an even more conservative mother. As you might expect, this combination does not mix well with a young, gay teen. The two people go at each other over their ideals, but it's his mother who shows Dustin what strength and resilience looks like and how family can sometimes change their long-held beliefs. It's a story about familial love, identity, politics, and facing the odds together.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker


Nova is a young witch who works at her grandmothers' bookshop. They sell books, but if you know what you're looking for, they'll loan you the right spellbook. She loves a good investigation and one night, she discovers her childhood crush battling a horse demon. Tam has been wandering around for years without any place to call home, but with dark forces trying to steal her white wolf powers, Nova offers to help Tam defeat the enemy. Working so closely together brings up old feelings for both of them. It's got witchcraft and evil spirits and love and magic! Who could ask for anything else from a graphic novel?

George by Alex Gino


George is a girl stuck in a boy's body and she's tired of it. When she decides to audition for to play Charlotte in the school's production of Charlotte's Web, she sets in motion a string of events that give her the strength to embrace who she really is and start living the life meant for her. This is a really great middle-grade novel for those who want to understand the trans experience in simpler terms or for those who want to share a trans story with the children in their lives. It's a great lesson in acceptance both of yourself and others. Bonus: Alex Gino wrote another book along these lines called Rick which is also super important!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz


Aristotle is a bit of a loner. While at the pool one day, he meets Dante, a boy with a lot of personality but whom he's not exactly sure about. There's something different about Dante though. He makes Ari laugh and the two quickly become friends who spend most of every day together. But Ari's parents know something is different about Dante, and it's something they don't want Ari being around. When Dante says he'll be moving to Chicago for eight months and then something terrible happens, Ari doesn't know how to feel. Life and the universe have many mysteries, and Ari believes that Dante has figured out most of them. But can Ari figure out the secret that's most important? Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a stunning novel that you will be drawn into from start to finish.

Too Much is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells


You may know him from Broadway productions, as Elijah from Girls, from the sadly cancelled-too-soon The New Normal, or the one guy who hit Blake Lively's character with a car in A Simple Favor. But before all of that, Andrew Rannells was just a struggling actor trying to make it in New York. It's about a Midwestern kid coming of age through horrible auditions, bad relationships, not-so-great hookups, and all of the ups and downs of chasing your dreams. It's hilarious, it's relatable (even if Broadway isn't your prize), and a really great memoir of what it's like before you finally find real success. It stops just before he gets a major role and I love that it doesn't keep going and get too muddied by that. It's about chasing the dream, not what it's like once you're there.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin


When I tell you I adored this graphic novel, I really mean I loved every single page. It's about a same-sex couple over the span of 60 years. SIXTY. Hazel and Mari meet in 1963 at a church bingo game as teenagers. As the two girls grow up and get closer, they realize that they love each other more than just platonically. But their families put a stop to the relationship before it can go any further. Both women wind up marrying men and having children, though they're not as fulfilled as they hope to be. Decades later, they find each other again at a bingo hall. Once they see each other, they know that their hearts still belong to each other. I cried. A lot.

These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling


Imagine that all of the witches in Salem weren't burned during the witch trials. Imagine that those who didn't get found out stayed hiding in plain sight and that their descendants, and therefore their coven, still live there today. Hannah's an elemental witch who's just coming into her power and learning how to wield it. Her grandmother is the head of their coven and maintains the rules pretty strictly. When things start happening in her town, she thinks it's because of something stupid her ex, Veronica, did with some blood witches (the worst sort of witches). Between dealing with the blood witch threat without the full use of her magic and trying to date the new girl, she's got a lot on her hands. I read this book so fast and Isabel just released the sequel, This Coven Won't Break!

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang


Prince Sebastian is supposed to be looking for a bride, but he's just not into it. He's dreaming of the pretty dresses all of the ladies get to wear. At night, Sebastian likes to dress up as a woman and galavant around Paris going by the name Lady Crystallia. But his secret is found out by Frances, a woman who works in the castle and is waiting for greatness to happen in her life. Together, the two become the talk of the town: he as the most fashionable woman and she as his dressmaker. But his secret weighs heavily on her. How long can she keep it? How long can she hold herself back from her own dreams to see his dreams come true? This is a BEAUTIFUL story of love and identity and acceptance.

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson


A brand-new release, this stunning collection of essays by George M. Johnson, a journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist, explores everything from childhood to college, from adolescence to the bullying that took place throughout his entire life. He talks about his relationships and what family means to him. It's about the difficulties about not only being queer, but also being Black and queer. It's about identity and masculinity (toxic and otherwise), love and consent, and being proud of who you are. This has been optioned by Gabrielle Union, so get on it!

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson


This is another book that I suggest to everyone. I'll Give You the Sun follows Jude and her twin brother Noah as they grow up and grow apart. Noah is a gifted artist who begins to realize that he's in love with the boy next door. Jude has always been jealous of the ease with which Noah creates art. He's quiet while she's the party girl. Over the next few years, they stop speaking altogether and lose their innate, twin telepathy. The first half of the novel is told by Noah and the second half is by Jude; the story weaves love, friendship, identity, jealousy, art, family deceit, and so much more together. This is an absolutely breathtaking novel.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston


Alex Claremont-Diaz is the First Son of the United States and he basically runs that place with his sister and the Vice Presidents's granddaughter. Together they do the perfect marketing for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. When photos of Alex and his British rival, Prince Henry, leak to the press, the dream team has to think of a way to save the situation before it spirals out with some serious consequences. So they dream up a fake friendship between the two. Alex soon realizes that maybe Henry isn't too bad after all. And then maybe he decides that he's super into him and they have a secret relationship that could also derail a ton of things... like his mother's reelection. This story is so delicious that you won't be able to put it down.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan


Lou is determined to have the absolute best summer ever. Except... she's the girl in the hotdog costume at Magic Castle Playland. She can't stop swooning over Diving Pirate Nick, who totally has a girlfriend, but Lou has never felt this way about anyone before and wants to be the princess of the story for once. Her best friend, Seeley, works over at the carousel and sees her friend struggling with the whole "best summer ever" thing. And yeah, maybe Seeley wants her happily ever after too. With Lou, Diving Pirate Nick, Seeley, and Nick's princess girlfriend all realizing this is the last year they'll be at Magic Castle Playland, they fight to keep the park from closing and their hearts open to love and all its possibilities.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender


This book is also a brand-new release and follows Felix, a transgender teen, as he navigates growing up queer, his identity, and falling in love for the first time. He thinks that love is easier for everyone except him. Why doesn't he deserve love? But he worries that all aspects of his identity — queer, Black, and transgender — are just too much for any one person to take on. The novel follows as a student anonymously posts photos of Felix, along with his deadname, from pre-transition and transphobic messages and how Felix decides to tackle that situation. It's an absolute must-read that will have you addicted. It's a great story about how everyone deserves love.

Drag Teen by Jeffrey Self


Drag Teen is a really fun novel. It's about a high-school student whose parents don't understand why he wants to go to college. They certainly don't have the money to send him so if he wants to go, he is told that he needs to figure it out for himself. Thankfully, his friends have his back and tell him about a drag competition for teens with a college scholarship on the line. Totally insecure and questioning whether he should do it, Drag Teen is a story about friendship, finding your confidence and voice, knowing what's right for you — and above all — love and acceptance.

Memoirs! Graphic novels! YA! Fiction! Mangas! It's all here for you. What are some of your favorite Pride books? Tweet me at @MissMeganMann and let me know. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Bold Type 4x11 Review: "Leveling Up" (Growing Pains) [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]


"Leveling Up"
Original Airdate: June 11, 2020

If you’re a Gen-X or Millennial living through this pandemic, I’m going to assume you’ve had moments where you gave the death stare to anyone who said that you could still “seize the world” during this time. This is why we need our mood boosters, our morale posse, our tight-knit crew who cheer us on when we succeed and hold our hair back when we get sick. And if you haven’t been able to achieve that while social distancing, this season of The Bold Type is just the thing you may need.
 
When we last saw our amazing trio, Sutton had accepted the stylist position at Scarlet and married Richard, Jane broke up with Ryan before proceeding with a double mastectomy, and Kat was fired for leaking her boss’s tax returns which showed his investment in politicians who were less than supportive of Scarlet’s progressive stances.
 
We don’t get to see the whole three months that have passed since those events but I want to give a personal thank-you to the writers for what we do see. The Bold Type’s time progression is marked by Jane’s post-mastectomy recovery, and I couldn’t stop crying while watching it. As the recent caretaker of a mastectomy patient, I applaud Freeform for showing the detailed struggles of this particular surgery: the exhaustion, the bandages, the limited mobility, the exercises — it’s all encompassing. Most importantly, there is a feeling of not being connected to your own body, from the alternating pain and numbness of a piece of your body now being gone to the struggle to accept what comes in its place. (Though Kat greeting the new “girls” with a friendly hello was a great way to break the ice!
 
Not even a swanky new office to go with her fancy new vertical can make Jane feel normal. She’s a boss now, but she does not feel like one. An awkward cupcake mishap blows up her first potential hire and when under the pressure of trying to sell herself as a boss to a second hire, Jane lies about being a member of an elite, private club. There’s just a whole lot of overcompensating going on and who can blame Jane? People often talk about not feeling comfortable in your own skin, but in this case for her, that is very literal.
 
Kat being Kat hypes Jane up enough to get an interview to join the aforementioned swanky club that day. And since Jane is Jane, she spills all of her fears and stresses to the interviewer, which actually works in her favor. People love Jane because she is 100% herself and that’s exactly what a club like this wants in its members.
 
Meanwhile, Sutton is riding high in her new position; but like Jane, she also has some growing pains that come with being in charge. What attracted Sutton to styling was the confidence she is able to give not only the models, but to any girl who is looking at Scarlet as an example of who they want to be. In an effort not to upset her relationship with a fashion house, she doesn’t listen to a client who wants to break free of her child actress persona. Thankfully, Sutton eventually takes the time to hear why the actress was acting out before, and Sutton rallies to give the young woman a second chance. She works so hard that she doesn’t pay attention to her body trying to tell her that something has changed, until she throws up in a planter at Jane’s new social club (don’t worry, Jane’s pass isn’t revoked). Let’s see how Sutton handles her next new role: expectant mom?
 
You would think that being a biracial, bisexual woman, Kat would know all about struggle. However, there is one area in her life that Kat has taken her privilege for granted: money. Kat has always worked but has never had to worry about funds since her landlords are her parents. Upon seeing that Kat has been more focused on public protests than making an income for the last three months, her parents decide to cut her off.  Kat is on the verge of accepting a very cushy job when she notices a little clause in her contract about employees not being allowed to make political statements of any kind, even on personal accounts. It’s such a constricting clause, but it is legal. While there are some who would take it, Kat could never. She isn’t someone capable of keeping quiet when injustice is happening, no matter the personal cost.
 
So Jane invites Kat to move in with her while she finds the right job since Alex is moving out. But why did it take so long for Alex’s place to be fixed, you ask? Turns out, the damage to his apartment was fixed months ago. He chose to stay to help take care of Jane while she recovered. Best guy friend ever!
 
What are your predictions for the rest of The Bold Type’s fourth season? What effect do you think pandemic will have on the shortened season, given that two episodes had yet to be filmed at the time lockdown began? Sound off in the comments below!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

5 Reasons You Should Watch Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet [Contributor: Jenn]

mythic quest ravens banquet | Tumblr

People have talked for years about “peak TV.” Ever since streaming services entered the television game with their own content — and more and more services seem to be popping up every few months — the amount of television we have to consume grows steadily. It’s incredibly commonplace for someone I know to say, “Have you seen this show?” and for me to have no idea that it, or the streaming service it debuted on, even existed. One of my neglected streaming services recently has been Apple TV+. Admittedly, once I finished watching Dickinson, I decided to quit the service to save some money. I returned to Apple TV+ recently to watch Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet and Defending Jacob (the latter of which is incredibly intense and great).

And obviously, I adored Mythic Quest. This quiet ensemble comedy about a video game of the same name is co-created by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz (all of whom have worked together on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). It stars McElenney as Ian, the creator of the popular video game Mythic Quest. He’s selfish, narcissistic, and charming with a secret softness to him — essentially he’s the perfect leading man! But because this is truly an ensemble comedy, the show wouldn’t work without its plethora of characters: from the intelligent, driven lead engineer Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) to the David Brittlesbee (David Hornsby), the “straight man” in a lot of the Mythic Quest madness, to selfish bottom line-obsessed Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi).

Let’s break down what makes Mythic Quest such a special show and why you should take a day this coming week (the season is only nine episodes, with the 10th being the quarantine special) to binge-watch it.



5. They addressed COVID-19 in a brilliant, powerful episode.


I’ll do my best to not give too many things away, but if you choose to watch Mythic Quest this week, check out a few of the articles about how the show pulled off an impressive quarantine episode with 40 new iPhones, AirPods, and virtual instructions from the crew to the actors (like how to make sure the lighting and sound was correct). Mythic Quest’s content lends itself to this kind of episode: it’s easy to imagine these characters feeling different things during quarantine, with C.W (F. Murray Abraham) trying to figure out all the technology involved and Jo (Jessie Ennis) growing increasingly frustrated and Carol (Naomi Ekperigen) trying to balance her children and her coworkers who... well, act like children. Since Mythic Quest is all about video games and the industry, this episode managed to incorporate coding, technology, and video gaming seamlessly.

But while the episode was funny, the most important thing to me was the deep, emotional heart behind it. Quarantine affects us all differently — some characters like Dana (Imani Hakim) and Rachel (Ashly Burch) are dealing with it fairly well, continuing their jobs of testing video games and occasionally doing some fun virtual activities. Eventually they and Lou (Craig Mazin) are the ones who spearhead the department-wide virtual Rube Goldberg machine. But one person is struggling in quarantine: Poppy. She has no friends outside of work, and all her family is presumably thousands of miles away in Australia. The most powerful part of the episode is when Ian realizes that Poppy isn’t doing well at all. And he does something about it. The Ian/Poppy heart of Mythic Quest is something I really love; they’re fundamentally different characters and he can pretty much be an egotistical jerk most of the time. But he cares about her. And he goes out of his comfort zone in this episode to make sure she’s okay.

Seriously, once you binge the episodes of Mythic Quest, be sure to stay tuned for this one.

Mythic Quest – GeekedT

4. It’s an ensemble comedy with an array of talent.


I already mentioned that this ensemble is stacked with talent, but it bears repeating. There’s not a weak link among them, and each brings their own brand of comedy to the performances. Obviously Rob McElhenny is a comedic powerhouse, but Charlotte Nicdao provides a perfect compliment to his particular brand of comedy. All of the actors on the show have impeccable comedic timing, but they also are super great at physical comedy. David Hornsby is hilarious as the often anguished and exasperated leader of the team, trying to corral the chaos that happens at Mythic Quest. It’s right up his alley as a comedic actor, and I love it. But even the characters who aren’t often at the forefront like the video game testers get the opportunity to shine. The show mixes up the character pairings in order to provide some fun interactions (I want more of C.W. hanging out with Rachel next season, or scenes with Poppy and Brad because they’re always fun). Speaking of Brad, please enjoy how talented Danny Pudi is and how great it is to see him in the role of a smug jerk. Brad is so vastly different from Community's Abed but that just means Pudi is talented. (Like any of us doubted that, right?)

In addition to the stellar main cast, there’s a special flashback episode called “A Dark Quiet Death,” in which no main Mythic Quest character appears until the very end. The episode stars the incredible Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti. And they truly do immense work as the flashback episode traverses through many years in the relationship between their characters, Doc and Bean. Normally in a show with only nine normal episodes, I’d critique the choice to spend one of those episodes focused on people who aren’t the main cast members. But truly, this episode isn’t a throwaway; not only is it an incredibly well-told, emotional story but something important in it comes back in the season finale, “Blood Ocean.”

This cast is so very great and I absolutely adore what each of them bring to the table.

mythic quest | Tumblr

3. There are developed, nuanced female characters.


Speaking of the incredible ensemble, this show features an array of female characters. And each of them gets the chance to be developed over the course of the season! In addition to the main cast of Poppy (who gets the chance to grow as a person and a leader), Jo (who adds some hilariousness and eccentricity; she always goes too far with things!), Rachel (she gets to be developed so much!), and Dana (who goes from being a tester to a streamer in her own arc), there are also characters like Michelle, Carol, and Sue who round out the world of Mythic Quest.

Mythic Quest is a show about video games and the gaming industry which, of course, means that it addresses the topic of women in gaming with frequency and poise. There are actually a few episodes that highlight the issue, with “The Convention” being a prominent one because it tackles the topic of women in gaming head-on (and features a really great little speech by Dana). 

Mythic Quest knows its audience — it’s self-aware enough to realize that men still dominate the video game industry (the in-joke of David makes of how many men there are working at the office was apt) and that there are lots of men in their own cast. But with one female showrunner and quite a few female writers (most of the episodes are either written or co-written by women, including Megan Ganz), Mythic Quest demonstrates that it doesn’t just give lip service to female characters but truly values women in front of the camera and behind the scenes. The women are allowed to be diverse, not just in ethnicity or sexual orientation but in personality. There are female characters who are creative, some who are quirky, some very meek, and some outspoken. I've always loved Megan Ganz as a writer, but I can feel her presence as a showrunner strongly throughout the first season, especially in this area.

I appreciate when television shows are able to depict women in realistic ways, and feel that a lot of shows could learn from Mythic Quest’s example.



2. It incorporates fun, video game and technology elements.


“Mythic Quest: Quarantine” was a perfect example of how shows could use technology to their advantage. The episode features little technological references to face filters, phone calls, Zoom-like teleconferences, and more. But Mythic Quest in general features so many video game references and scenes. There’s an entire episode that features a video game battle royale between Ian and a masked character, and since the show’s storylines revolve around playing the titular video game, fixing its bugs, or developing new features, we get to actually see the video game. It’s something really cool and it makes the show feel unique in the way it strikes the balance between real people and animation.

I’m not even a video game person and I absolutely loved the incorporation of the video game and technological elements, so that should tell you something! (Hopefully.)


1. Its humor is rooted in the characters, and its heart is sincere.


I should mention, of course, that this show is so dang funny. It made me laugh multiple times throughout the season, and even the pilot is strong (not something that often happens because of the nature of pilots). But the humor is rooted in the characters and the heart of the show. Often comedies will go for punchlines just for the sake of punchlines. But not Mythic Quest; this is a show that knows the humor comes from the characters, their fundamental differences, and what those differences can lead to.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how grounded this show is in emotion though too. I’ve watched too many shows throughout my lifetime that are cynical; they believe people are the worst, and their comedy is rooted in some sort of darkness. But Mythic Quest is an optimistic comedy; yes, some characters are jerks and might always be jerks (like Brad), but some characters are jerks who take a while to do the right thing, but eventually do (like Ian). One of the most beautiful things is that the characters have real, honest conversations with each other. It acknowledges that relationships are difficult, whether romantic, platonic, or familial, but that they’re ultimately worth pursuing. I love that “A Dark Quiet Death” made me tear up, and that “Brendan” and “Mythic Quest: Quarantine” made me cry. Like... sob. The show is not just funny; it’s also incredibly heartfelt and earnest, tapping into the audience's feelings deftly. The characters grow and change, and they all genuinely care about one another. More than just that, however, those emotional conversations and moments feel earned. They’re not hollow, cynical, or rushed; they’re truly powerful in how sincere they are. And that makes Mythic Quest so special — it's a perfect blend of comedy and heart.

Have you watched Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet yet? Check it out on Apple TV+, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Flash 6x19 Review: "Success Is Assured" (The Finale That Wasn’t) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Success Is Assured”
Original Airdate: May 12, 2020

It’s really hard to judge this season’s finale as a finale, since it wasn’t actually meant to be a finale. The whole pandemic situation kind of left The Flash scrambling for some way to end its sixth season as productions everywhere shut down. As a result, “Success Is Assured” doesn’t come anywhere close to tying up loose ends, but I guess I can’t fault them too much.

I ONLY HAVE MORE QUESTIONS


Eva’s gotten a shiny new supervillain suit and is explaining her evil plans to Mirror Singh. The suit, by the way, is not just for fashion; she needs it to contain her mirror-ness. Is that an Eva-only situation or is Iris also going to need an ugly suit when she leaves the Mirrorverse? Anyway, Mirror Singh gives us a title drop within the first minute of the episode. Remarkable.

Later, the team has gathered to discuss the Eva situation at Barry’s CCPD office. Why there? Because Barry’s apparently been working on actual CSI stuff off-screen. I love it when the show remembers Barry has a day job. Everyone thinks Eva will target Black Hole but they have no leads on the organization, until Ralph yanks the great honkin’ diamond Sue gave him out of his pocket. He’s just been walking around with that thing, waiting for the best opportunity to bring it out in a conversation? Ralph, you don’t have to hold on to important stuff just because the dialogue doesn’t give you a good enough segue.

Allegra shines her light powers through the diamond and it projects a swirly spiral image spotted with arrows. Nash, thanks to his long history of being an Indiana Jones ripoff, identifies it as a “triangulation cartograph.” Barry gets Allegra to shine it on a map of Central City. Without lining anything up, Barry declares that it’s all pointing to “42nd and Darby.” Nice job, Barry, but if Allegra had shined that thing a little to the left it’d be pointing to the middle of a freaking river. Triangulation doesn’t work that way!

Good thing 42nd and Darby is the place Barry and Ralph actually need to be. I think this is the most annoyed I’ve been at the show in a long time. I just like puzzle games too much for “shine the light at a random location on the map!” to be an acceptable way to progress the plot. Ugh. Whatever. Barry and Ralph show up at a warehouse at the convenient location and all of Black Hole’s property and files are right there, ready to be burned by Mirror Singh. Yeah, Mirror Singh is there, explains why Eva hates Carver (we already know this: Carver let Eva stay in the Mirror then immediately turned her tech into weapons), then sets the whole place on fire. After Barry and Ralph escape the blaze, their new mission is to protect Carver from Eva. Barry looks really annoyed about it.

Barry meets with Carver to tell him that Eva’s escaped and is out to kill him but Carver, in the vein of overly confident villainous jerks the world over, doesn’t believe him. He goes on to brag about knowing Iris got abducted immediately after it happened and tells Barry that Iris is probably mirror-scrambled by now so there’s no point in trying to rescue her. Carver actually sounds sincere about having tried everything to get Eva out of the Mirrorverse, but I don’t know — basically everything else in the conversation is a lie or a snotty remark meant to push Barry off his trail, so we can probably assume that is, too. Either way, he rejects Barry’s offer of protection and walks away, looking slightly concerned.

In the aftermath of Black Hole’s blackmail warehouse getting blown up, Ralph meets with Sue Dearbon’s parents in his office to tell them the good news — only to have Sue herself arrive with the two of them, claiming she’s never met Ralph before and she’d spent her time missing at a mindfulness retreat in India. Ralph and Sue discuss everything that’s happened, but Sue drops the bombshell that Carver “had a change of heart” a week ago and freed her parents. Sue tells Ralph to let them live in peace, but appears pained by it. Man, they’re really letting microexpressions do the heavy lifting this episode, huh?

Some of the Black Hole assassins we’ve seen this season are prepping for a mission in a large modern house full of reflective surfaces, so guess who’s gonna kidnap them all one by one? Eva swipes Sunshine, Ultraviolet, and Dr. Light — the latter through a window, interestingly enough. That’ll teach you to clean your windows. Filthy, non-reflective windows save lives, people.

Allegra is of the opinion that Carver doesn’t deserve superhero protection he doesn’t want. Frankly, I agree with her. Barry’s all “he doesn’t deserve to die, blah blah blah” though, so I guess they’re gonna protect him anyway. Barry brings up the psychological effects of the Mirrorverse and Nash correctly names it as “neural dissonance,” something he’s recognized from dimension-hopping. For the third time in this episode, a character — in this case, Carver — arrives to interrupt a conversation by interjecting something pithy and relevant. Does this show do that all the time? How have I not noticed how often it happens? Anywho, Carver wants Barry’s protection after all, since his assassins got swiped. Barry is smug about it.

At CCPD, Carver whines, then Mirror Singh shows up to “personally escort” Carver into custody. Mirror Singh pulls Barry aside and makes him an offer: let him take Carver to Eva, and Eva will get Iris out of the Mirrorverse. Barry seems tempted, but before he can say anything, Nash jumps out and smoke-bombs the whole group to S.T.A.R. Labs. Teleportation by smoke is a thing now? How long has that been a thing? Oh, and also Nash is still seeing Wellses — the one that pops up after he teleports everyone tells him Barry would never have considered Carver’s deal, which throws the soundtrack into some seriously, as my closed captioning would say, [dramatic music].

Despite knowing he’s in serious trouble and Barry and company are the only barrier between him and Eva’s revenge, Carver continues to be insufferable. I can’t wait until he inevitably dies during the climax of this episode. The team tries to figure out a way to protect Carver from a villain who can travel through mirrors. Carver says he can hide in a panic room at his building and he has a special force field that atomizes anyone who tries to get in. He could literally just hide in an empty room with matte walls, guys.

Carver’s panic room that “Eva doesn’t know about” is, in the Mirrorverse, the hidden room Iris found a couple episodes ago — so Eva definitely knows about it. It’s also got very shiny screens, so yeah. Great way to hide from a villain who’s so adept at traveling through reflective surfaces she can get through windows if the cleaning crew’s been a little too aggressive with the Windex.

While trying to clear out Carver’s building before his overkill security field turns on, Ralph runs into Sue. She took her parents’ place in Black Hole (so they were… members of the secret organization blackmailing them? The show really skipped some steps explaining how this blackmail ring works) to get close to Carver, hoping to kill him. Ralph tries to explain to Sue that killing is bad and she shouldn’t do it, but never once mentions that a killer forcefield is about to go up, or that Carver’s already being targeted by his villainous ex-wife, so another person trying to kill him is just redundant. Sue sprays him with a knockout substance and continues on her merry way.

When the three swiped assassins show up to help their new leader kill her ex husband, a big fight breaks out and Carver’s forcefield goes down. Barry tries to get the field back up via an alternate power source in the sub-basement, but runs into Mirror Singh who shatters and turns into Eva. Did she... travel through him? She knocks Barry out, then we get a weird page-turn animated transition that cuts to a three-way split screen showing the Black Hole assassins fighting before it all goes back to normal. What the heck was that?

Ah! It’s still happening! More split screens appear when Sue shows up to help Ralph during the fight. I don’t recall the show ever getting so comic-booky creative with their graphics before, but I guess they wanted their impromptu finale to be unique in some way.

Surprising exactly no one, Eva gets to Carver through his shiny computer screen. Once she’s done talking villainously at him for a bit, she throws some mirror shards in his direction. Barry stops the shards, getting some huge hunks stuck in his torso area, and — in probably the most gruesome sequence this show’s done so far — Eva pushes a large piece through Barry’s shoulder and kills Carver with it.

After, Eva yanks the glass shards out of Barry and insists the two of them are actually on the same side. She calls off her meta allies and says Team Flash is free to go. Y’know, the “reluctant nemesis” is a pretty interesting path for this show to go down. I can only hope they do something good with it when we get back on track next season.

Eva delivers a lying liar speech where she tells everyone she’s going to find her husband’s killer and we learn that she’s actually framed Sue for the job. Um… why? And how?

Joe is able to leave witness protection to help the team get Iris and the others back, but over in the Mirrorverse Iris’s mind-melding has resulted in her going all reflective and disappearing right after locating the real Singh. We’re hit with a “To Be Continued” to end the season.

Other Things:

  • The Caitlin/Frost storyline still seems like leftover scraps, even though it did get significantly more screen time and emotional weight this episode.
  • Allegra and Nash’s feud is cooling, which is great because the fight between them is well past the point where Allegra’s anger makes sense. They were buddies for a few months. Nash withheld the truth about one aspect of why they were buddies. That isn’t “hold a grudge for all eternity” levels of deception and betrayal.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Flash 6x18 Review: "Pay the Piper" (Dull Dramatics) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Pay the Piper”
Original Airdate: May 5, 2020

I don’t think I praised last week’s episode enough and, in the aftermath of this week's, I feel like I should right a wrong. The previous episode was pretty much wall-to-wall plot and emotion, everything seemed critical and cohesive (except for the Caitlin/Killer Frost two-scene arc, but that was so tiny we can essentially ignore it). Great acting, great pacing — I even loved actually writing the review, because it wasn’t a chore to re-watch the episode!

But, man. This week. Not the worst episode the show has ever delivered, but the contrast is staggering. “Pay the Piper” is a scrambled mix of references to the season arc that only seem to be there out of obligation, everyone being overly grumpy and angsty for the sake of drama, and the re-introduction of a speedster villain who might legitimately be the most boring speedster villain this show has ever produced. And, considering that the primary motivation for speedster villains is “run faster” — that’s saying something.

Oh, and Pied Piper returns. He’s the best thing about this episode.

GOD, SPEED IT UP ALREADY


Jeez, I was so mind-numbed by the end of this one I actually forgot Joe West made an appearance at the beginning. Wait, how does Barry know where Joe’s witness protection house is? I distinctly remember Singh telling Joe the only people who knew where Joe was going as he was being taken away were literally the people driving him to his destination. I’m not one to complain about any scene with Jesse L. Martin, but come on, The Flash.

Barry’s reason for visiting Joe: “It’s about Iris,” he says, miserably, and then takes a ridiculously long pause before elaborating. What a great way to give your father-in-law a heart attack! Don’t bury the lede for drama when delivering news about a man’s daughter. But yes, eventually he informs Joe that, while her doppelganger is totes dead, Iris isn’t — just trapped in a mirror dimension Barry isn’t so sure he can rescue her from. Nice to know last week’s heartfelt speech about how you’ll never give up hope and promise to bring Iris home just ended in you giving up hope for ever getting Iris home, Barry. Remember what I said in the intro for this review, about this episode being full of angst for the sake of drama? Count this as the first tally on that list.

Second tally on that list: Barry lets Team Flash know about the whole Mirrorverse situation and Cisco, whose girlfriend is a confirmed doppelganger, doesn’t take the news well. He seems to blame Barry for not having a plan and goes full-tilt fatalistic, insisting that Kamilla could already be dead, dead I say! Hey, Cisco? I love you, buddy, but maybe try to remember that the person you’re blaming and shouting at also has a loved one you’re declaring potentially dead. Barry responds with even more ramped-up emotions, sending his emotion-powered speed monitor (still don’t get how that’s a thing) into the red zone before Cecile, once again, plays emotional mediator and calms everyone down.

Later, while Barry is chatting with Allegra about the whole doppelganger situation, there’s a surprise visit from Godspeed. If you don’t recall Godspeed, I haven’t got much to say to jog your memory because, as previously stated, he is phenomenally boring. He wears a white speed suit. Um… There were robotic duplicates of him that were never explained. He says stuff like “Give me your velocity!” like a complete tool. That’s it.

He also gives Barry an excuse to focus on completing the personal Speed Force rather than dwelling on the potential loss of his wife to an alternate mirror dimension. Barry later gets a talking-to from Nash about his priorities, but honestly I think Barry’s in the right. He’s got multiple situations going on at the moment (Godspeed, a Mirror universe, and Eva walking around town) and at least two of them could be helped if he had full speed power. I get that the show is implying that Barry is running away (ha!) from his fears about Iris, but getting the Speed Force up and running is the most proactive thing for him to do.

But that’s all for later. For now, we have to deal with the dullness that is Godspeed. The good news is the show went about this by reintroducing Hartley Rathaway, a.k.a. Pied Piper, and he’s great. The bad news is, this snarky meta doesn’t do nearly as much to make up for how insurmountably boring everything surrounding Godspeed is.

Hartley is brought on board because Godspeed let out a sonic boom when he attacked and, as a sound-based meta, Hartley is something of an expert in sonic... anything. Unfortunately, the post-Crisis timeline means there’s a lot of bad blood between Hartley and Team Flash. Turns out, Barry fought against Pied Piper and his crew and ended up causing one of them, Roderick Smith, to fall into molecular instability. As far as anyone is aware, there is nothing that can be done for Roderick — but that doesn’t mean Barry won’t promise to save him in exchange for Hartley’s help.

The initial attempt to help Roderick doesn’t end well, which sends Hartley into one of those “I never should have trusted you!” pseudo-villain spirals. Oh, and Hartley knows all the alter-egos of everyone on Team Flash so it says something that, despite being angry at the people who promised and failed to help him, Hartley doesn’t hold that against them. It’s either uncommonly decent behavior for a meta villain, or further evidence for my theory that literally everyone of any importance in Central City has just been humoring Barry about the whole “secret identity” thing, so blackmailing him is pointless.

After some back and forth, Barry clues into the fact that Roderick wasn’t just a henchman, but Hartley’s boyfriend. Yeah, no duh, Barry. Most villains don’t go into a frenzy when their goons get injured and even fewer team up with their enemies to ensure said goon’s safety. Barry and Hartley bond over their most-loved loved ones being in danger and trying anything to get them back, which leads to Barry chasing after Godspeed and Hartley showing up in the nick of time when Barry’s speed fritzes out halfway up a building and he almost plummets to his death.

Barry and Hartley repeat the combination of speed force lightning and sound waves that resulted in Roderick’s injury on Godspeed. It works, successfully dropping the boring speedster villain onto a car. Godspeed bleeds blue electro-blood, which I guess Team Flash will just harvest to solve their problems. That’s ethically sound, right? They use it to save Roderick and smiles all around! Except that the Godspeed they killed wasn’t the real Godspeed, even though it bled and certainly wasn’t a robot. I’m very disappointed because it means this snoozefest of a character will be back someday.

In the end, Barry makes a big, rousing speech to Team Flash about how they’re going to save their friends from the Mirrorverse. Huzzah!

Other Things:

  • This episode had so many freaking pep talks.
  • “Let’s not bicker over who killed who.” Nice Monty Python drop, The Flash.
  • Mirrorverse plot: Iris found Kamilla. Iris is losing her marbles because mirror-world.
  • Caitlin/Frost plot: Ralph is still Frost’s life coach and he’s doing a good job. Frost is afraid of meeting Caitlin’s mom.
  • Nash Wells shows up and tries to explain the multiverse/Crisis, before Barry stops him and just says he’s Harrison Wells’s twin.
  • I really liked the blurry-reflection camera effect on Iris and Kamilla when they were having their chat in the Mirrorverse.

Blindspot 5x01 Review: "I Came to Sleigh" (Farewell, Edgar) [Contributor: Jen]


"I Came to Sleigh"
Original Airdate: May 7, 2020

Blindspot kicks off their final season with a literal bang and kills one of the core characters. Writing off one of the series regulars like this when there are only thirteen episodes left is a bit controversial, but it's a move I think will pay off.

TEAM BLINDSPOT


They've promoted "ONE WILL NOT SURVIVE" for weeks, so I am glad they answered who within the first ten minutes of the episode. We all know Jane made it out okay. I appreciate the writers not treating us like total idiots by trying to pretend they killed their lead. Jane meets up with the team in their hideout and the surviving characters are revealed. First: Kurt Weller. Come on. You know they weren't going to kill off Kurt.


Second: Patterson because Martin Gero would like the audience to watch the last thirteen episodes.


It's down to Tasha or Reade.



I predicted Reade in my "The Gang Gets Done" review and I'm proven correct as Tasha steps into the light. I like it when this happens.


However, we are left to wonder how Reade died for the majority of the episode.


So let's discuss the majority of the episode now. One thing I like about final seasons, particularly when the writers know it will be the final season, is the high octane, no-holds-barred storylines. The end is nigh. If the premiere is an indicator of what we can expect for the remaining twelve episodes of Blindspot, I think it should be a successful final run. The show seems to be drilling down on the core characters, focusing more on the emotional elements of the story, and toning the procedural element of the show way down. Color me thrilled since the "Case of the Week" format is my least favorite aspect of Blindspot.

That doesn't mean everything is perfect with this show ⁠— far from it. Let's get the obvious out of the way: If any of you have read my season four reviews then you know how I feel about Madeline Burke as the Big Bad. Of all the ludicrous plots on Blindspot, this one takes the cake.

It is absolute INSANITY that FBI would appoint a civilian who was arrested and investigated by the FBI on charges of corruption, terrorism, and murder TO RUN THE FBI. And how did Madeline get this job? She basically pointed the finger at Team Blindspot and said: "They did it. Not me." And everyone just believed her because... well the "because" in a storyline isn't exactly Blindspot's strong point so there's no reason to expect they'd excel at it now.

Sure, she has some inside players like Nash (Director of National Intelligence), which helped grease the wheels but this plot pretty much ignores any and all oversight from Congress and the Attorney General. Also, they just made up another title for Madeline and somehow it's totally cool she hired mercenaries to hunt down the team because... well there's that pesky word again. I don't know. Because there aren't any agents working for the FBI now that Team Blindspot is on the lamb? Lord, I need my migraine medication to watch this show.

So let's turn to the positive instead: Rich Dotcom is being held at an FBI black site and is being tortured by a guy with chemical burns all over his body. I honestly didn't feel like the chemical burns were necessary to make his character scarier. Trading Rich to the North Koreans was terrifying enough, but the writers rarely consult me.

Yes, I realize none of this sounds very positive but trust me, we're moving in the right direction. Team Blindspot finds out where Rich is being held and Jane is determined to break him out. Remember when Jane was held and tortured at an FBI black site after Kurt handed her over to Keaton once he discovered she wasn't Taylor Shaw? So does Jane. Honestly, it is a miracle Kurt and Jane got married.

This leads to an awkward confession by Tasha. She knew where Rich was for the past month (because she's ex-CIA or whatever). Kurt, Jane, and Patterson are pretty ticked she didn't say anything but Tasha swears she was just trying to figure out a way to rescue Rich without getting them all killed. I believe about 50% of that. The other 50% is Tasha being mad at the world and not giving a crap about anything at this point in time. More on that later.

This breakout scheme forces the team to work with Sho Ahktar. He has details on the location they need to make the mission a success. However, Sho wants the team to kill the chemical burn torturer  — Rafael Pierce — for him.  He's holding Jane hostage until Kurt comes back with proof of death.

Team Blindspot is operating in the grey, but they haven't gone full evil. Remember they are wrongly accused, so it really wouldn't help their case if they started murdering CIA agents. Also, even if Jane and Tasha were down to do it, Kurt Weller is still Kurt Weller. That's not to say Kurt doesn't have a plan for getting his wife back from a terrorist. Enter the machete and Kurt saying, "I have good news and I have bad news."

We're all good with Kurt chopping Pierce's hand off right? I'm really good with it. When you torture Rich Dotcom, you must pay.

Once Rich and team are back in their hideout (which looks a lot like the season one Arrow bunker which was also a Greg Berlanti show), Rich asks where Reade is and we are finally told what happened to him. Weitz was able to warn Team Blindspot about the incoming drone attack seconds before they happened. Patterson ordered everyone to go underground. Yes, there is an underground bunker in the safe house. Just go with it.

Jane came racing back and the entire structure had collapsed on Kurt, Patterson, Tasha, and Reade. There was an opening among the rubble that Jane could look through. The first person she saw was Kurt. He was the least buried and was able to free Patterson fairly quickly. Jane started moving debris and the next voice we hear is Reade's.

He is buried under a massive cinder block. This safe house was a shack. Where'd all the stones come from? As Jane moved the debris, more fell down around Reade and he tells her to stop. He needs all the room he can get because Tasha is pinned underneath him. She is suffocating; he is watching her die.

In a feat of what can only be described as superhuman strength, Reade lifts the debris up with his back and Kurt is able to slide Tasha out from underneath him. But the movement causes the rest of the shack to fall on Reade and he is pinned permanently. Kurt drags Tasha out of the collapsing rubble, but not until Reade says goodbye.
Reade: To the end right? 
Tasha: No. No... 
Reade: This is it, babe. 
Tasha: I'm not leaving you. 
Reade: You're not. You've got me. Always. And I've got you. I got... I got you.
I am okay with them killing off Edgar Reade, for reasons I'll explain in a minute, but I am not okay with them killing Edgar Reade IN THE MOST HEARTBREAKING WAY POSSIBLE. Good grief, Gero. I'm a nice person. I've been loyal! I don't deserve this crap.

This scene messed me up bad. Is everyone done hysterically crying yet? Ugh. "This is it, babe" ended me. Talk about a gut punch. Of course, I wanted Reade and Tasha to get married, have all the babies, and walk off into the sunset together. The one thing that really bothered me about Reade's death was the horribly rushed reconciliation and love scene he and Tasha had in the beginning of the episode.

One minute they're throwing terrible insults, accusations and condemnations at each other in the season four finale. Then the next minute Reade and Tasha are hiding out in a bathroom, agreeing to "go all in," and getting busy while Patterson and Kurt napped ten feet away. It gave me emotional whiplash.

Blindspot has a terrible pacing problem. There is absolutely no reason the writers had to dink around with Reade and Tasha's reconciliation for the whole of season four only to toss them together for thirty seconds in the premiere (in a FLASHBACK), so the romance they've been building for years was technically considered to have paid off. It was sloppy. It felt like they were only putting Reade and Tasha together because one of them was going to die and, quite frankly, their relationship deserved more than that.

I've been reading a lot of interviews post-premiere and Martin Gero has confirmed a lot of my suspicions. I did not think Blindspot would get renewed for season five, which is something I referenced quite frequently in my reviews, and it seems the renewal required a few necessary "business decisions." They needed to lose a series regular to decrease the budget. 

This was not an entirely creative decision, which is the nature of television, but I still think Gero chose the correct character to kill. I haven't been shy of my dislike for Edgar Reade over the years. He was never a big Jane fan; Reade didn't trust her. He didn't like how Kurt's blindspot for Jane compromised his integrity or the cases. Was he right? Yeah, in a lot of ways, Reade was — particularly in seasons one and two.

However, Jane clearly proved herself as part of Team Good Guy and Reade was the slowest to trust and forgive. He often held others to a moral standard that he didn't always hold himself to, and then we're in hypocrite territory which is never a good look for any character. If you're going to be the moral code bearer then you better be squeaky clean. And Edgar Reade was far from squeaky clean. I honestly think the writers made him act like a hypocritical jerk in the season four finale just so we wouldn't totally despise them for killing him off.

That said, Reade did toe the moral line more than most of the characters, but morality on Blindspot is kind of a relative thing. We're grading on a definite curve here. Sure, he had a drug problem. And yeah, Reade watched his pedophile/rapist coach die after his friend Freddy stabbed him. But no one is losing sleep over that monster.

But when it came to Tasha (the darker and twistier of the two), Reade was often the light pointing her way to truth and justice. Tasha always struggled with believing she was a good person. She was a police officer who lost her partner, which triggered a gambling and alcohol addiction. Then there was her whole storyline with the CIA and Madeline Burke which was far from the straight and narrow. Reade was always her moral compass. I think that's why he was always so angry with her when she to a walk on the dark side because Reade knew Tasha was better than that. He believed in her in a way she didn't believe in herself.

So for her, Reade's death is monumental. The writers have been toying with this idea of Tasha choosing a side and Reade's death makes any other choice than Team Blindspot impossible. She vows with the rest of the team to never stop fighting, which is all Reade ever wanted from her.

Could he have inspired Tasha the same way ALIVE and as her soulmate like Kurt and Jane? Yeah, but this is where we get into this wasn't an entirely creative decision. For me personally, I always found Tasha to be the more interesting character in the pairing. It didn't feel like the writers had much more story to tell with Reade. He was the boss everyone was keeping secrets from, which made him a very passive player.

If you're going to kill a character then let it be for a good reason. Reade's death lights a fire under Team Blindspot. Now they have someone to avenge. It also makes the stakes real. Nobody dying from a drone strike would be a difficult pill to swallow and pretty much erase any suspense for the rest of the season. It also brings Tasha's arc full circle. She's lost her partner again — someone she was in love with, but this time she won't succumb to alcoholism and gambling. Tasha will rise and be the hero Reade always knew she was.

As for his death scene, it couldn't have been any more heartbreaking or perfect. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much and the writers, Rob Brown and Audrey Esparza, BROUGHT IT. Reade made a conscious decision to save Tasha and sacrifice himself.

Tasha literally dragged a corpse across a living room for Reade; she's his person. Of course he would die for her and vice versa. It was perfect that Edgar's goodbye to Tasha didn't include saying: "I love you." Tasha and Reade's relationship was about partnership and having each other's back. The love between them changed over the years, but it never lessened. "I've got you" is their "I love you." It always has been.

There's a momentary dissent in the ranks where Tasha tries to blame Kurt for Reade's death. She wanted to cut and run. If they did as Tasha said, then Reade would still be alive. Jane is the one to remind her that fighting is what Reade wanted. It's not until she's with Rich that Tasha is finally able to express her pain beyond just the anger she's feeling.

Why is she able to talk to Rich? Well, he didn't have anything to do with Reade's death. He wasn't there when the drone hit. But more importantly, Rich has this wonderful way of putting people at ease. Primarily with his humor, but even more effectively when he's serious because he's almost never serious. There's a good warm heart under all that talk. It's because of Rich that Tasha is finally able to say everything she needs Reade to know.
Tasha: This is for Reade — for being in our lives and for saving mine. I won't run. I won't quit. I'll keep fighting. This won't be the last time we think about you or talk about you or say your name. I love you. I've got you. Always.
Reade knows. He's always known. The goodbye isn't really for him. It's for the team. And for us.

KURT AND JANE


If the writers don't give me a happy Jeller ending after napalming my other favorite ship, then I say we riot.

The team is operating outside the law now. No badges. There's no fancy FBI office. Patterson doesn't have all her computers. They've gone rogue and are fighting the very institution they've sworn to uphold. Team Blindspot has to take down the FBI. And who better to lead them than the person who zipped her memories to do that very same thing?

Kurt tells Jane that she is by far the darker and twistier half of Team Jeller. Ain't that the truth. Kurt isn't good at breaking the law and operating outside of the rules for the greater good. The machete was his big move; he's all tapped out. The team needs Jane to lead. They need their own version of Sandstorm. Not so anti-Remi now are you, big fella?

Jane is going to need all her memories — all her personalities — to take down Madeline Burke down. I love that it is going to take both Jane and Remi to save the team. This story was always about Jane finding out who she is and using her memories to become who she wants to be. Seeing that arc fulfilled in the finale season will hopefully be very fulfilling as a viewer.

Stray Thoughts:

  • That bird in Times Square looks exactly like the mockingjay from The Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favor, Jane.
  • Someone is sending the team tattoo messages and I cannot begin to describe how over the tattoos I am.
  • Jane reading Chinese was a nice callback to the pilot.
  • I guess Weitz is a good guy now. I am still very unenthusiastic about him.
  • Fifteen minutes. GET CRACKING, KURT.
  • Patterson really needs to stop interrupting Jeller sex.
  • Kurt tasing Rich will never stop being funny.
  • Tasha was kicking butt and working out some real rage. I like it.
  • "Oh, is this how it's gonna be now? The two of you just sneaking off to do it all the time?" Salt in an open wound, Patterson.

For Life 1x06 Review: "Burner" (A New Face) [Contributor: Thomas]

50 Cent Talks His 'For Life' Debut As Cassius Dawkins

"Burner"
Original Airdate: March 24, 2020

This is the halfway point of the first season of For Life. We’re following Aaron Wallace who has been incarcerated for the past nine years. He recently has received a breakthrough though and is now in possession of his confidential police file.

Aaron begins searching through his police file and finds a gem: the cops had a confidential informant outside of his assumed friends. Whoever this person was, their identity wasn’t shared with Aaron or his lawyer which gives hope of proving corruption of the police department. Aaron shares the breakthrough with Marie, but can’t really talk because guards are near.

From this episode’s title, I assumed that the plot would be centered around Aaron’s cell phone — his lifeline he’s used to speak to Marie has always been a risk because as prison rep, he’s supposed to be approve reproach. If caught, this could seriously hinder his chance to make a case for his release since the phone is contraband that was smuggled in and is illegally held.

We, the audience, learn more about Captain Foster and see more of his motivation and operation in the drug smuggling of Bellmore. In a meeting with the supplier, he fronts like he really doesn’t need this hustle. His house is paid off and he even has a boat, but he’s risking his livelihood which he believes means he should get more of the money. The supplier has done his homework though and knows Foster can’t back out because Foster’s father has a bad heart and the medical bills can easily pile up.

He’s able to transport the drugs through containers he brings sirloins into the prison for during “Steak Day.” This is evidence of Bellmore’s way of doing things being different from other prisons.
Foster is grateful that this “time-honored tradition” is one thing she hasn’t messed up with her reforms. There’s conflict which unexpectedly leads to tension between Masry and her wife, Anya Harrison. Harrison is running against Maskins for Attorney General of New York and Masry’s progressive views are causing potential endorsers like the CO’s union to withdraw their support. Masry is looking to reduce prisons as they reduce the crime in the prison population.

Masry’s reforms are written in a comprehensive proposal which is given to the prison board. Maskins gets his hands on it through a board member who details a scheme to put her plans to the state by transferring level four inmates to Bellmore — including a particularly difficult inmate played by 50 Cent.

I love that 50 Cent has made a career of positioning himself with respected stars of the film industry.
Because of his production companies, G-Unit Film & Television and Cheetah Films, he’s been able to act alongside Academy Award winners like Robert DeNiro and box office star Bruce Willis. This opportunity to play Cassius Dawkins is no different. He brings a realism to the role that is needed in this series. His character is known as a nuisance and his previous wardens were glad to not have to deal with him anymore.

Immediately Cassius has not only a presence and a swagger, but he also is heavily connected. Through Bobby, played by Hassan Johnson, we see that he’s all about business. Cassius is already setting up a nefarious plan, priming Bobby for players in this game while Aaron and Jamal look discouraged. The freedoms Bellmore gives may be ruined by Cassius’ upheaval.

I can’t believe Aaron is already in front of a judge pleading his case against the D.A. O’Reilly is his opposition and plans to invalidate the new evidence by asking how Aaron got a hold of a confidential police file. Aaron restates that it was from an anonymous whistleblower who was afraid of reprisal so Aaron destroyed the envelope it came in. He tells the judge that a career confidential informant was used to gain a warrant for the club he owned, but this wasn’t revealed during the trial. He wants to know his name, why he wasn’t able to cross examine him, and if they held a Darden hearing. The judge backs him up asking if they did in fact have a Darden hearing.

The next scene we see, Maskins is not happy, threatening that the NYPD needs to find the leak who gave Aaron the confidential police file. They try to make it about how he got the file and not about what’s in it. This leads to drama between Hassan and Aaron after O’Reilly calls Hassan’s brother Officer Newcombe to the stand. Under threat of perjury, Newcombe lies for Aaron, which is exactly the type of drama Newcombe and Hassan sought to avoid when getting involved with him.

Outside of prison Earl, Marie’s dad, surprises the family by coming over. After the pleasantries, slowly Earl makes his intentions known: he has never liked Aaron and felt that he was holding Marie back. Earl encourages Darius to propose to Marie, going as far as to gift him the ring Marie’s mother had. Through this exchange, the audience learns Aaron never actually signed the divorce papers Marie presented him with so they’re still technically married. And that leaves Darius on the outside dating a woman who loves him but is still with her husband.

Back on the yard, Aaron is in a bind because he trusted the wrong people. Cassius learns from Bobby that Aaron has a burner phone and intimidates him into letting him make a phone call. This immediately backfires because Aaron witnesses Cassius Dawkins send people to threaten Captain Foster. Aaron is advised to use Cassius as a buffer for protection, and Cassius explicitly states that Aaron’s burner now belongs to him and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Meanwhile, I like learning more about Brooklyn’s D.A. Anya Harrison. She cares, inquiring about why four max inmates are coming into Bellmore. Masry and Anya worry about the prison board possibly putting her “soft” approach to the test. Anya and Safiya have a confrontation on Masry’s position and reforms. The COs are worried that they’ll have fewer jobs because of Masry’s assertion that there needs to be less prisons, not more. In my opinion this demonstrates the complicated relationship between those who are trying to reform prisons and those who want to abolish prisons. Anya promises that when she’s elected she can go beyond the reforms Masry has implemented but encourages Safiya to soften her way so that she can become Attorney General.

In the judge’s chamber, O’Reilly and Aaron are each making their case on whether or not the department effectively did their job. It’s revealed that the department cut corners and the judge admits they “played fast and loose”... but they had ample evidence to have a warrant issued without the knowledge from the confidential informant. Angelo Torres was a confidential informant paid by the NYPD. He was the manager of the club, a key witness in Wallace’s trail, and “he was on their payroll the whole time.” Aaron wants the opportunity to cross-examine him and wants access to extensive records on his time as a C.I. Apparently there’s the prospect that though Aaron didn’t get the search warrant thrown out, the department may be the hook for possibly a Brady violation.

Later in the episode, after Earl has a tense conversation with his daughter about her future, he goes to the prison where he’s face-to-face with Aaron. What starts as an earnest plea for Aaron to let Marie go turns into a confrontation where Earl rails on Aaron as being selfish and he storms out. I could see James McDaniel being nominated for an Emmy for an Outstanding Guest Actor. His performance was breathtaking and his emotion was fully conveyed through the screen.

The last scene in the episode is two armed men dressed in black next to Officer Foster’s family.
As the captain tries to plead, they silence him by raising their guns and telling him that Cassius Dawkins has a proposition.

Quotes/Favorite Moments:

  • “If you test us and mistake our humanity for weakness, you will be dealt with.”
  • “One thing I know, one thing I always knew, was that he was devoted to me and Jazz. So I’m not gonna turn my back on him. Even if it makes my life harder, even if it brings me pain, I will never turn my back on him. So I’m sorry, but that’s how you raised me.”
  • ”I believe in everything you’re doing. I do. And if I’m elected ... I’m gonna push for all of these kinds of reforms in a more comprehensive way than what you can do right now from there. But to do that, I got to get elected first.”

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Flash 6x17 Review: "Liberation" (I Want to Break Free) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


“Liberation”
Original Airdate: April 28, 2020

This week on The Flash: Barry finally manages to arrive at the conclusion that his wife is not his wife. Cecile kind of saves the day via feelings. Barry and Iris’s epic love story thrives despite the barrier of parallel dimensions. So many mirrors are broken, I can’t even calculate how many years of bad luck these people are getting. Onward!

SELF-REFLECTION


We begin with a test run of Team Flash’s personal Speed Force, directed by Cisco, Barry, and — for some reason — Ralph. They turn it on and after some dramatic build up, a brief flash of anti-gravity around a cup of coffee, and a lot of beeping, the machine... does nothing. Nada. Worried looks all around, but it’s clear this little scene was really just there to remind the audience that the personal Speed Force powered by love is a thing that will happen eventually.

Speaking of love: Cecile is trying to get Barry and Iris to reconnect, but Barry seems all sad and dejected and refuses to see his wife. Later on, we learn that this is because Barry has taken over Joe and Cecile’s living room in order to set up a “My Wife is Not My Wife” crazy person workspace, complete with boxes of files and crazy person whiteboard diagrams (well, since it’s a TV show they’re actually those transparent boards so you can film the actors drawing on them from the other side, but the crazy person whiteboard genre is inclusive of the transparent board as well).

When Cecile comes home to find this setup, Barry launches into a rant about how Iris can’t be the real Iris. He brings up her sudden fluency in Italian, her new tendency to break bottles over men’s heads (honestly, I wouldn’t put that one past the real Iris), and — most importantly — the delicious pancakes she made. Barry’s top theories include shapeshifters, plastoids, and Martians (of the J’onn J’onzz variety) and Grant Gustin delivers this whole speed-talking speech in a way that is both unhinged and hilarious. He even does that broad gesturing thing that people do when they’re making crazy rambling rants in front of crazy person whiteboard diagrams.

Cecile isn’t buying it. She’s also probably wondering if getting in the middle of this fractured relationship is really the best idea, considering she’s just come from a confusing conversation with Mirror Iris and now Barry’s going full crazytownbananapants on her. Oh, Cecile. Being the emotional linchpin of this group is going to drive you as bonkers as Barry, there.

In the mirror world, the real Iris is desperate to escape and get back to her normal life. She’s moved past bright ideas and just wants to channel The Who’s Tommy and smash the mirror. Eva freaks out and storms away, then as Iris is taking a swing at the mirror she notices a button. She presses it (because of course she does) and it opens the mirror, revealing a room with a series of mirror shards on the walls.

The mirror shards display the events of the Mirrorverse plot arc, from Iris getting sucked through by Eva to everything Mirror Iris has done and how Eva has been at the center of it all. It also comes with a high-pitched, pain-inducing screeching noise that sends Iris into the fetal position on the floor, where she is found by Eva and carted off, the fa├žade of friendliness over.

Meanwhile, Mirror Iris, Mirror Kamilla, and Mirror Singh are all doing Eva’s bidding, but Mirror Iris seems unsure. She clearly does have some humanity in her, while the other two doppelgangers are much more robotic and subservient to Eva’s wishes. And what do Eva’s wishes ultimately lead to? Releasing Ramsey Rosso from his big glass case of evil! Oh, wow, I can’t believe the Bloodwork storyline happened this season. It feels like half a lifetime and one pandemic ago.

Before the Mirror Trio can get their plot on track, Mirror Iris has to deal with her not-husband. Barry and Cecile broke into Iris’s computer at the Citizen office and found the photo Kamilla took of Mirror Iris going all reflecty (why would Mirror Iris save that to her harddrive?) and has roped Team Flash into a confrontation with her. Barry uses a scanner to reveal Mirror Iris as a mirror-person, but it doesn’t work. Instead, Mirror Iris turns the scanner on Barry and reveals him to be a mirror-person! Gasp!

By the way, the show hilariously does nothing to explain how Mirror Iris flipped the scanner’s reading. We get a brief flashback where Eva warns the Iris duplicate that Barry is onto her and she has a plan, but that’s it. Not even an attempt at technobabble for plausibility.

Barry got cuffed and thrown into a holding cell, but he isn’t there for long. Cecile, still acting as the emotional go-between for these two crazy kids, has sensed enough of both Barry and Mirror Iris’s emotions to see that Barry is telling the truth and Mirror Iris is hiding something. She was also the one who connected the dots between all the mirror stuff, Joseph Carver, and Black Hole. Wow, Cecile is really doing all the work these days, huh?

While Barry was in his cell, the doppelgangers set Rosso/Bloodwork free. Mirror Kamilla sacrificed herself to do so, feeling nothing for life but an urge to do as Eva wishes. In contrast, Mirror Iris flat-out tells Bloodwork she wants to live. Bloodwork causes some chaos, gives the Mirrors the blood they needed, then returns to his cell again. He says that he knows he wouldn’t make it far, and he’s playing a “long game” for a better chance at freedom.

Barry speeds to his apartment, which seems unnecessary given that he doesn’t know there’s a ticking clock on events and everyone keeps banging on about his dwindling speed powers. He asks Mirror Iris where his real wife is and she gives a weird little smile, then throws the Bloodwork blood at the mirror she’d been using to talk to Eva. She goes full T-1000 and turns her arms into metallic swords, attacking Barry.

Not being at full power, Barry takes a serious beating from Mirror Iris. Back in the mirror, Eva has turned Iris — who is tied to a chair — so she can watch her doppelganger attack her husband. Mirror Iris attacks Barry through mirrors, which are now all over their living room. There’s a mirror above them, which she breaks and, through the falling shards, stabs Barry in the torso. Ow.

As Barry lies writhing in pain, Mirror Iris taunts him and man, Candice Patton should play a villain in something because she is incredibly good at that evil taunting thing. Just as she’s about to deal a final blow, Real Iris gets Eva to start freaking out about her feelings about Carver and the freakout echoes in Mirror Iris. Barry figures out that there’s a connection going on, and tells Mirror Iris there’s still a part of Iris in her and she can break free from Eva if she tries. He says she has to fight for her survival, and has to choose it — which she does, telling Barry to go fight for Iris. Before she can get any real actualization out of her break from Eva, though, she begins to glow and shatter. Mirror Iris looks at Barry, her face splintering, and tells him, “I feel alive,” before breaking into little mirror pieces.

After destroying what was probably her greatest creation, Eva finally exits the mirror. She hits Barry with another mirror shard and promptly apologizes, then tells him she has no desire to kill him — he’s wounded, speedless, can’t heal, and as long as he stays out of her way, she’s not bothered. Gotta say, I really like whenever this show pulls in the more ambiguous villains. Significantly better than the “gotta go fast” ones we get as an alternative.

Still separated in different realities, Barry and Iris make heartfelt speeches that the other can’t hear. They’re so in sync their words line up into one cohesive declaration of love and devotion as Barry promises to get Iris back and Iris promises to find her way back to him. It’s pretty sweet.

Other Things:

  • Take a drink every time you read the word “mirror” in this review. Wait. No, don’t. I can’t be held responsible for that level of inebriation.
  • The Cisco, Ralph, and Caitlin story did not belong in this episode. It was like, two scenes long.
  • “Run, Iris. Run!” says Rosso. Hey, now. I don’t think you’ve earned that callback.