Ted Lasso, Rom-Coms, and Emotional Vulnerability

Why is it important that a show about men who play soccer did a rom-com homage?

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.

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

Meet the artists who brought the Apple TV+ series to life!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Doctor Who 12x05 Recap: “Fugitive of the Judoon” (Are You the Doctor?) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

“Fugitive of the Judoon”
Original Airdate: January 26, 2020

Ruth is just a happy, super friendly tour guide in Gloucester. It’s her birthday. Everything is lovely. Except not so much. High above Earth, the Judoon are lying in wait. They’re trigger-happy, intergalactic police for hire who don’t care about collateral damage or civilian casualties as long as they fulfill their contract. And they’re looking for someone on Earth.

In the TARDIS, the Fam question the Doctor about her unusually odd behavior as of late. She’s been going to Gallifrey on her own. She’s been feverishly searching for the Master. The Fam have been excluded from all of this because they “ask too many questions,” though Graham reminds her they do it because they care about her. The family meeting is interrupted by the Judoon’s warning signal as they beam down to Earth, where they begin scanning people to root out the fugitive.

Lee, Ruth’s husband, picks up Ruth’s birthday cake and mutters something disparaging about “humans” under his breath, which means he definitely isn’t one. Upon seeing the Judoon, he hurries home. Just as the Judoon are going to fire a dangerous weapon at Lee and Ruth’s flat, the Doctor intervenes and convinces them to let her arbitrate. They give her five minutes.

Ruth immediately lets the Doctor into the flat but both humans register as, well, human, which is puzzling. A search of the flat uncovers an alien box that Lee recognizes and Ruth doesn’t. Lee convinces them to make a run for it while he deals with the Judoon. He surrenders to them but someone new is with the Judoon, a Commander Gat. She’s tracked him using the broken service medal inside the box. Although Lee is not the fugitive, Gat kills him.


Around this time is when the Doctor, Ryan, and Yaz realize Graham isn’t with them anymore (and they really don’t seem worried about that). In fact, he’s been beamed aboard some other ship and a very familiar voice is flirting with him over the intercom. It’s Captain Jack Harkness! “You missed me, right?” he says and I really, really did. He immediately kisses Graham because he thinks he’s the Doctor. “Loving the grey at the temple. Kinda distinguished. And still sexy.” Graham is confused and I am so, so happy.

Of course, Graham quickly corrects Jack, who is thrilled to learn the Doctor is now female. He’s piloting a stolen ship and trying to scoop the Doctor up to give her a message, but he ends up beaming aboard Ryan and Yaz instead. Now he has three companions and still no Doctor. To make things worse, the owners of his ship want it back and they’re using nanogenes to get rid of Jack. Before he disappears, he tells the trio his message for the Doctor: Beware the lone Cyberman and don’t give it what it wants, no matter the cost. Something has been sent back in time that could revive the empire of the Cybermen. Jack promises to see the Doctor again (yay!) and sends the companions back to Earth before he disappears.


Alone with the Doctor, Ruth receives a last text from Lee, which she conceals. The Judoon surround them and in a snap, Ruth takes out the squad with insane fighting skills. She’s the fugitive. She’s also just as stunned as I am about what happened. The Doctor believes another identity is concealed in Ruth and Lee’s text triggered it. They decide to drive to the lighthouse where Ruth grew up. On the wall is a button that says, “Break the glass,” which was in Lee’s text. Ruth does and energy floods into her. The Doctor scans the graves of Ruth’s parents and finds a TARDIS buried there instead. Ruth walks up behind her, now in an awesome blue suit with a massive gun in her hands. She re-introduces herself. “I’m the Doctor.” OMG?!?

They teleport into Ruth’s TARDIS, which is in the retro style of the First Doctor (and also Clara Oswald’s TARDIS, just sayin’). Ruth prepares for Gat’s arrival but the Doctor is still super confused. Neither woman believes the other is them. “And how did I end up like that? All rainbows and trousers that don’t reach?” Ruth cracks. She believes the Doctor is in her future, but the Doctor has no memory of being Ruth. The sonic screwdriver confirms they’re the same person, though. Ruth used the Chameleon Arch to disguise herself as a human with Lee as her protector. Gat is her former boss and she’s pissed.

The Judoon pull the TARDIS aboard their ship and Ruth confronts Gat, who is ready to kill her. Against Ruth’s instructions, the Doctor reveals her own identity, which causes confusion among the Judoon and fear in Gat. The latter is also a Time Lord, which means the orders to hunt down the Doctor are from the past because, once again, Gallifrey is destroyed. The Doctor and Gat even mind meld so she can prove it. But Gat has her orders from a not-yet-identified contractee and shoots Ruth’s gun. It backfires and kills her, which was Ruth’s plan. She and the Doctor escape the Judoon, who still have an outstanding contract to bring in the Doctor so we haven’t seen the last of them.

Ruth drops the Doctor near her own TARDIS and they each acknowledge that one of them must be wrong about being the Doctor. Haunted yet again by unanswered questions, the Doctor reconnects with the Fam. They tell her Jack’s message about the Cybermen. She tells them about Ruth. Something massive is coming for her, the Doctor says, and she tries to keep the Fam out of it: “You don’t know me. Not even a little bit.”

But they protest. “You’re the Doctor,” Ryan says. “Whoever you were in the past or are in the future, we know who you are right now.”

“The best person we know,” Graham adds.

They remind her they’re family and they want to stay with her for whatever is coming.

Final Thoughts:
  • This is the best episode of Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who. Hands down, no contest. There were some very affecting episodes in series 11 and some amazing moments but no episode has been as entertaining and surprising the entire time as this one. No episode has felt so Whovian. Any lingering doubts I’ve been having are gone. If this is the way series 11 keeps up, it’s going to be incredible. This was such a huge step up from the standalone, monster-of-the-week episodes that have mostly made up series 10 and 11. More like this in the future, please!
  • Captain Jack Harkness is back!!! I am SO HAPPY! Within two minutes I was convinced that he needs to be brought on full time to this show. While I’ll never stop being bitter than he and the Twelfth Doctor never met and that he was left out of the 50th Anniversary episode, this was a fabulous comeback. 
  • Here’s the only downside to Jack’s return: it made it even more clear that Chibnall and his writers don’t know what to do with the three current companions. They once again had little to no effect on the plot. Jack had a bigger role in the episode and he didn’t even meet the Doctor. I love Ryan, Yaz, and Graham but honestly, if series 13 was the Doctor and Jack in the TARDIS together, I would be ecstatic.
  • I really, really thought maybe there was a connection to Clara Oswald that was going to come out of this episode. She is out there somewhere with a TARDIS after all, although it’s stuck looking like a 1950s diner on the outside and retro on the inside. 
  • Graham: “This ain’t your ship?” Jack: “You think I’d choose this look? It doesn’t even have a bar!”
  • “Doesn’t time fly when you don’t have all the answers?”
  • Jack, about the companions: “Seriously? Three of you? I had a dream about this once.”
  • Jack: “Oh, she likes them mouthy then, huh?” Ryan: “Yeah, one up from cheesy.”
  • Ruth: “Is there even a word for how dumb you are?” The Doctor: “Doctor.”

Grey’s Anatomy 16x10 Recap: “Help Me Through the Night” (All Hands on Deck) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]

“Help Me Through the Night”
Original Airdate: January 23, 2020

A lot has happened since the midseason finale of Grey’s Anatomy aired in November. First, Justin Chambers announced that he has left the show and his final appearance was in the moving 350th episode that aired in November. However, his name remained on the cast list for the midseason premiere. Losing Alex Karev is going to be a huge deal for both the audience and the characters, and he will be sorely missed by both groups. Second, the midseason finale’s cliffhanger of a car crashing through the side of Joe’s Bar and trapping several doctors and Station 19 firefighters inside picked up with the season three premiere of Station 19, which now airs in the 8/7c time slot on ABC. Having Grey’s Anatomy move to the 9/8c time slot allows the sister shows to have more weekly crossover potential, so hang on tight for what is shaping up to be a wild back-half of the season!


The episode opens as a direct continuation from Station 19. If you didn’t watch that episode, Helm, Parker, and Koracick’s protégé Blake Simms were all injured in the bar. Jackson, Nico, and all the firefighters (including Ben and Pruitt Herrera) made it out unscathed. Schmitt was also not hurt, but he spent the last show in a state of shock and disbelief and was left practically useless. We pick up with the injured doctors arriving at Grey Sloan via ambulance as Bailey (who found out her husband was inside the bar and went to see if he was okay) and Ben walk back from the bar. Bailey gives Ben hospital privileges, as the injured interns are going to need all the help they can get. It’s been an incredibly rough day for Bailey, who had a miscarriage earlier in the day. She tries to take a moment to let her emotions come out in a supply closet and finds Schmitt crying in there. Bailey gives one of her classic speeches about having to put emotions aside for the night and needing to get to work to save lives. Schmitt agrees to help and goes to check on Helm.

The other cliffhanger gets addressed pretty quickly, as the scene changes to Alex and Jo’s apartment. Jo tries to convince a stunned Link that she didn’t kidnap the baby that was surrendered at Station 19 and insists that she only wanted to give the little guy one normal night before putting him in the hands of a social worker. Link is clearly not buying what Jo is saying, and both of them freak out when there is a knock at the door. Good news: it’s only Meredith and not the cops, as Jo thought. Mer wanted to have a night cap with Alex, but he’s still in Iowa visiting his sick mother. Jo invites her in, and Mer starts complaining about Cristina’s “gift”: the new chief of pediatric surgery Dr. Cormac Hayes, a.k.a. McWidow. Mer notices the baby and says the situation looks a lot like when she stole a baby, which allows for a short bit of comic relief. Then all three docs get alerts that there are multiple traumas, so they pack up and head to the hospital to help with the baby in tow.

Back at Grey Sloan, Amelia asks Koracick if he’s seen Maggie around since she’s looking for someone to spill her potential baby drama to. Koracick breaks the news that Maggie quit. They run into DeLuca, who hasn’t heard about the bar accident, and Koracick sends him to monitor a patient in the ICU to spare him from seeing his fellow colleagues in bad shape. Amelia then sees Link in the hallway, who wants to know how the ultrasound went. Of course, Amelia doesn’t tell him that she’s 24 weeks pregnant and that Owen might actually be the father of her baby because Owen and Richard show up to help. Mer called them in as reinforcements, and Bailey begrudgingly grants them full privileges too.

When all of the assorted doctors make their way to the ER, Bailey assigns them their patients. Jackson, Owen, and Koracick will work on Simms, who has multiple facial fractures and was given a tracheotomy in the field. Meredith, Link, and Richard are assigned to Helm, who is in stable condition despite tibia and fibula fractures and pain in her pelvis. Meredith asks Bailey where DeLuca is, and Bailey reassures her that he wasn’t at the bar and is helping a patient somewhere in the hospital. Amelia and Teddy take Parker, who has a brain hematoma and amnesia. Bailey is clearly having some emotional difficulty during the whole process, as she knows she is going to have to once again operate on her own residents. Ben decides that now is a good time to tell Richard about the miscarriage and asks him to keep an eye on Bailey. Neither are fine after the miscarriage news, but we don’t get to see them deal with it together in this episode.


While giving Parker an MRI, Teddy asks Amelia how far along she is in her pregnancy, which Amelia lies about. They find that Parker has bruising on his temporal lobe and realize that he is having a bout of PTSD from his military days. Parker runs out of the MRI mid-scan, which neither Amelia nor Teddy see because they are too caught up in their own conversation. They then run all around the hospital trying to find Parker.

We then get an update on Helm, who has bruising near her liver, a clot near her kidney and loss of blood supply to her foot. She is rushed to surgery. In the imaging room, Jackson, Owen, and Koracick learn that Simms’ scans show that he doesn’t have a head injury, but he needs surgery to fix his facial fractures. Koracick is overly cautious and emotional about his resident, which translates to him being tougher on his doctors than normal. He tells Jackson that he better be on his A-game if he wants to operate on his protégé.

Jo has brought the baby to the nursery for a checkup before he gets passed off to a social worker. It takes Jo a little too long to realize that the new doctor taking a look at the baby is none other than McWidow, and she seems pleased to meet him. Over in the OR, Mer and Schmitt perform a procedure on an awake Helm before her main surgery. Helm, who is drunk from the alcohol that Jackson and Nico gave her to numb the pain at the bar, is very talkative and admits that Mer is the love of her life. Mer laughs it off and takes it as a compliment. Schmitt starts to look a bit pale and then passes out. After the commercial break, we see Mer doing a full workup on Schmitt, who may be having a heart attack. Mer tells him that he will be fine and simply needs to calm down.


At this point in the episode, things start to go from bad to worse. Koracick pops into the OR to check up on Simms. Jackson is super sarcastic to Koracick and doesn’t want to put up with him anymore. After Koracick leaves, Jackson tells Owen that he is surprised that he hasn’t gotten engaged to Teddy yet. There’s a bit of hostility in Owen’s response that he wants to do it right and not rush things, which indicates this isn’t the last we will hear about it in this episode. In the other OR, Helm starts to code while Link and Nico are fixing her broken leg.

Teddy is scanning the security camera footage for signs of Parker when Amelia shows up and declares that she couldn’t find him in the basement or the morgue. Teddy feels especially close to her missing patient because she understands what he is going through as a fellow veteran. This leads her to ask Amelia if she feels that Owen’s PTSD could be triggered and that’s why he feels obligated to be with her. Amelia quickly denies that Owen is having an episode and feels that he truly loves Teddy. However, Teddy isn’t quite convinced because she feels that if he loved her, then he would propose. Amelia says that if Owen felt trapped, then he would have already proposed, so it’s a good sign that he hasn’t. The security footage finally shows Parker hiding out in the hypobaric chamber, so the women make their way over there as Bailey finds her way to Helm’s OR. Helm now has a distended abdomen, which is a sign of internal bleeding. Richard arrives and scrubs in to help out.

DeLuca finds Amelia and Teddy right as they find Parker to tell them good news about his patient. He is none too pleased to find out about the accident at Joe’s Bar this way, but he gets over it quickly when Teddy gets a page from Mer to meet her and Schmitt in the cath lab. Before more starts to go wrong, the scene switches back to Jo and McWidow in the nursery. McWidow deems that the baby is ready to be put into the care of social services, but says they can wait a few more minutes when he sees the look on Jo’s face.

Back in Helm’s OR, Richard and Bailey can’t control her internal bleeding and determine that they need to crack her chest. Bailey decides to let Richard take over as lead surgeon and take charge of the OR, which is the best decision that Bailey could have made. Once Richard cracks Helm’s chest and clamps a heart vessel, he has one minute to find and stop the bleeding before Helm’s heart suffers too much damage. Bailey makes one last emotional plea to Helm to not die, and her prayer is answered when Richard locates the bleeder and repairs, putting Helm on the path to recovery.

Over in Simms’ OR, Owen and Jackson continue their frank discussion about Owen’s personal life. Owen admits that he is afraid of marrying Teddy because he feels that it won’t make up for the fact that he didn’t propose to her years earlier. Koracick chooses this moment to show up for a status report, which is a bit awkward. Jackson feels they are done and ready to close, but Owen notices that cerebrospinal fluid is leaking from Simms’ brain.


In the cath lab, Schmitt apologizes profusely to Mer for passing out in the OR. Teddy gives Schmitt the good news that he didn’t have a heart attack. Rather, he is suffering from broken heart syndrome caused by extreme stress. Back in the nursery, Jo says goodbye to the baby by telling him that he will be fine despite his bumpy start. Link is with her and she admits to falling a little in love with the baby. That gets Link gushing about how in love he is with his unborn child and tells Jo that she can hang with his kid anytime as long as she doesn’t kidnap it.

The good news keeps coming when it is revealed that Simms is going to be fine. Bailey can’t believe that all of the patients have an optimistic outcome and survived the night. It is a bit surprising that no one died, but a happy ending is better than a sad one. Bailey gets emotional while talking to Richard and finally lets the tears roll over the tragedies of the day. More emotions are revealed when Simms’ grandmother tells Jackson and Owen how emotional Koracick always is and to cut him some slack. Both men are surprised to hear that their boss is not who they thought he was. That’s when Koracick comes by and thanks Owen for catching the CSF leak. Owen and Koracick tentatively make up, so maybe Owen will be back at Grey Sloan permanently.

Jo sees Mer talking to McWidow at a nurses’ station and tells Mer after he leaves that she sees why Cristina sent him. If Jo and Cristina both see it, then Mer shouldn’t be too far behind once she puts her pettiness aside. Down the hall, Owen finds Teddy, pulls her into an on-call room, and gets down on one knee to propose with his mom’s ring. After a very sweet proposal, Teddy tells him that she doesn’t want him to propose. She doesn’t want him to feel obligated to propose or fall back into a PTSD pattern. Owen assures her that she is wrong about his reasons, and they passionately kiss. Amelia finally decides to tell Link about what she learned from her ultrasound, but is interrupted by Teddy and Owen telling everyone that they are engaged. Of course, this complicates Amelia’s situation further, so she only tells him that the baby is a boy. Link is very excited and declares that he wants to name the baby Scout in reference to his name, Atticus, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Poor Koracick hears and sees the engagement announcement from slightly further down the hall and is clearly very upset by the news since he is still in love with Teddy. Mer and Richard show up at Bailey’s office to comfort her, and Mer opens up about her own miscarriage to lend Bailey some support.

The episode gives us an unexpected twist at the end when DeLuca shows up at the Grey/Shepherd/Pierce residence. Maggie answers the door and learns some good news about her patient from DeLuca. He then admits that breaking up with Mer was a mistake and that he doesn’t know how to undo it. A woman shows up looking for Maggie and serves her legal papers. Maggie is being sued for the wrongful death of her cousin, Sabrina Webber. This should be an interesting story to follow down the pike.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Doctor Who 12x04 Recap: “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror” (Thomas Edison is a Bad Guy but not THE Bad Guy) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

“Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”
Original Airdate: January 19, 2020

At Niagara Falls, Nikola Tesla shows off his newest inventions to a group of investors who, though awed, are put off by his request for $50,000. It doesn’t help his pitch that Tesla has recently said he received contact from Mars. And then one of his workers turns up dead. So it’s not the best investment pitch. While investigating how the worker died, Tesla discovers there are parts of his machine missing and a strange alien orb floating around his generator. When he hears more strange noises, he pockets the orb, grabs his assistant Dorothy, and hides.

Right about then is when the Doctor bursts in. She’s been tracking a strange energy signal. One of Tesla’s investors is shot dead by an unknown creature in a cloak. The Doctor, Tesla, and Dorothy escape to a night train where the rest of the Fam is waiting. But the creature has followed them. They’re just able to escape and the Doctor glimpses a very human-looking hand under its cloak and steals the attacker’s gun (a Silurian blaster). The alien is actually Tesla’s dead employee, now with glowing red eyes and energy powers. 

Knowing that Tesla found something, the Doctor tries to convince him to hand over the orb but he refuses. So Team TARDIS has to stick around with the inventor for a while. Outside his lab in New York, Tesla deals with protestors, stirred up by rival Thomas Edison, who think his inventions are dangerous. He gives the Doctor the orb after all and she identifies it as an Orb of Thassa, a species all about invention. The orb is supposed to spread information but it’s been repurposed somehow. While puzzling over it, the Doctor and Tesla bond because they’re both unusual inventors believing in something beyond Earth. Unfortunately, Tesla’s ambitions are stymied by a lack of investors and Edison’s constant smear campaign.


The Doctor’s working theory is Edison is somehow behind the attacks on Tesla, so she goes to visit the man himself. He’s intrigued by the blaster but seems innocent of cooperating with aliens to beat Tesla. The same cloaked figure from the train kills everyone in Edison’s lab with a burst of energy. It then possesses one of Tesla’s employees and tries to attack the Doctor, Edison, and the others. As they run out, the Doctor realizes that alien is assuming the form of dead people to conceal its true self from them. Meanwhile, Yaz and Tesla connect wires to the orb and discover it is scanning all around them.

Two of the aliens take Dorothy hostage to force Tesla to cooperate. He and Yaz are teleported to a ship that’s hovering cloaked above New York. There they meet the Queen of the Skithra, a race that takes technology and resources from other races. Now they want Tesla to repair their ship and build them new weapons. Initially, he seems compliant until Yaz convinces him to resist. This act nearly gets Yaz killed but thankfully the Doctor has been busy. Realizing the orb was sent to specifically find Tesla, the Doctor uses it to locate the Skithra ship. Then she builds a transporter to get her there and bring Yaz and Tesla back.

So the Doctor interrupts Yaz’s execution but now must stall for time as the transporter recharges. Luckily, the Doctor is really good at talking and distracting. She manages to get the three of them to Wardenclyffe Tower, Tesla’s true lab. But the Skithra aren’t done yet. Either they get Tesla or they kill everyone on Earth. He’s ready to give himself up but the Doctor thinks they can fight. Tesla explains that Wardenclyffe Tower is essentially WiFi and that sparks a thought in the Doctor. They can use the tower to zap the Skithra ship with enough energy to send them away.


Everyone prepares for this plan but there’s one major issue: in order for the TARDIS to send enough energy through the tower, it has to lower its shields, which are the only thing keeping the Skithra from killing them all. They all agree to fight long enough to kill the Skithra queen on the ship, knowing the others will flee. But when the aliens burst in, they don’t attack and the queen isn’t on the ship. She’s right there in the lab. The Doctor tricks her into taking the transporter from earlier, thereby sending her back to the ship after all. Tesla zaps the ship and all of the Skithra are teleported back before the ship blasts off into space.

After saving the world together, Edison tries to make amends by inviting Tesla to come work for him again. But Tesla, despite knowing his inventions will likely bankrupt him, would rather keep working independently. Yaz is disappointed that Tesla’s heroics won’t change his future, which is to die penniless and largely forgotten.

Final Thoughts:

  • This was a more familiar Doctor Who episode with somewhat silly aliens, a historical place and people, and a lot of technobabble to save the day. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a little bit bored the whole time. There’s an emotional component missing and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It is very telling that once again, the companions don’t really have anything to do, especially once Dorothy, Tesla, and Edison all join the adventure. 
  • There is some commentary in this episode about the treatment of immigrants and the power of innovation over stealing others’ ideas but it’s very unexplored. Mining these issues more deeply might have made for a richer plot.
  • “The internal dimensions transcend the external” is Tesla’s way of saying, “bigger on the inside.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Why Schitt’s Creek is the One Show I Should’ve Been Watching All Along [Contributor: Jenn]

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I love television. In 2020, there’s just... so much of it though. There are new streaming services cropping up all the time (Disney+ just debuted a minute ago, and NBC is set to release their own service this year), and cable still chugs away like a train on a never-ending, never-slowing track. It can be difficult to know what to watch and just as you finish one “must-watch” series, five more seem to crop up.

A coworker recommended last year that I watch Schitt’s Creek, and I was hesitant initially. I didn’t know much about the series apart from the fact that Netflix recommended I watch it too. The hesitance was derived from a poor, inaccurate conclusion that Schitt’s Creek would be a cynical comedy. And though my assumption was incorrect, it would have been on trend given the comedy shows that have permeated awards seasons in the last few years.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe that those shows deserve acclaim. And while there’s something inherently interesting about a cynical, snider, darker comedy, that just isn’t the kind of show I naturally gravitate toward. (While I watched it, Fleabag doesn’t fall into my general wheelhouse.)

When I finally decided to watch Schitt’s Creek, I was incredibly surprised by how well-meaning, endearing, and sweet the show was. At the time of my binge, only four seasons were available to stream and I flew through those seasons at an embarrassingly fast rate.

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I’ve thought about what makes Schitt’s Creek so special a lot, honestly. I think one of the things that continues to draw me to the show (or any show really) is its characters. But there’s something specific that I love about this show: the earnestness of the characters. While Moira, Alexis, David, and Johnny can all act selfishly — and indeed that is a premise the show is built on — they’re not mean characters; their selfishness is often a result of their obtuseness than it is a symptom of anything mean-spirited.

I think there are a lot of comedies that feature terrible people behaving terribly and occasionally acting funny. But the comedies I tend to enjoy are mostly about people who are flawed but not mean or vindictive, and their comedy is rooted in misunderstandings, bad decisions, or actions stemming from inherent character flaws. There’s a difference between watching characters tear other people down and degrade them to be funny and watching characters make fun of one another because they know one another so well.

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A prime example of this, to me, when I began watching the show was the way Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) treated other people, including his own family. He’s genuinely a good person! He’s a bit misguided, overenthusiastic, and can be selfish at times too. But he treated people around him with respect, even as he expressed his bewilderment with their behavior. That only aided the comedy in the show; Schitt’s Creek isn’t a show about bad people learning to become good. It’s a show about rich people becoming poor and learning what it means to be humbled. Some of the characters learn those lessons harder or quicker than others, but they all learn them.

The thing that struck me, always, is how Johnny treats people like Twyla (Sarah Levy) and Stevie (Emily Hampshire). He doesn’t dismiss them as lesser-then; he just treats them as someone who’s used to having privilege. It’s never degrading or mean. He’s just... well, sometimes a little self-centered and clueless to the plights of real people around him.

Johnny’s posture is usually one of curiosity and learning, and in a lot of ways he’s the person who adapts quickest to the family’s financial situation because of that. He approaches things and obstacles from a place of optimism. Or, at least, he tries. The other members of the family don’t often have the ability to see beyond their circumstances in the moment, but they learn.

Moira (Catherine O’Hara) is always so fun to watch because her self-centric behavior is usually the most recognizable. Yes, she’s a diva. Yes, she’s used to being the center of attention. And yes, she usually finds a way to make it all about her. But Moira has to learn that her behavior has earned her roles and acclaim but cost her relationships with her loved ones. I love watching Moira and Alexis’ (Annie Murphy) relationship grow as the series progresses, and I especially loved how Moira mentored Stevie in the last season.

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(And speaking of, Stevie is such a great straight man/foil to these characters. She’s often making sarcastic remarks and comments, but she genuinely is pushed and challenged by the Rose family to achieve greatness.)

Alexis has grown so very much on the show. She’s compassionate and kind, smart and driven, and always wearing the best clothes. Someone made a supercut of all the times Alexis has mentioned some crazy scenario that happened to her (a lot of which she had to talk, flirt, or rescue her way out of). We’re meant initially to underestimate her — to think that Alexis is pretty, but dumb and that’s all she can be. People constantly take advantage of her because of her beauty, and the sad thing is that she knows it. She’s aware of how she’s perceived and has to work harder than the others in her family to have to overcome that. But she does. I love Alexis’ journey and think it’s really beautiful.

David (Dan Levy) has also grown so much in the show! He’s learned to be vulnerable, to express his emotions, and to create something that’s just his. He’s fallen in love and the fact that he’s been able to accomplish all that he has is so admirable. Also I love Patrick (Noah Reid) so very much. What a kind, gentle, pragmatic character who’s a genuine surprise.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how funny this show is. I typify it often as a “quiet comedy” — one that isn’t meant to always go for big punchlines or slapstick scenes. Though it does have them, Schitt’s Creek’s humor derives from really clever jokes, one-liners, and it relies so heavily on the personal comedic styles of each actor. For example, let’s imagine Moira delivering lines without her fun, random accent and vocabulary. It just wouldn’t work! Alexis and David often have the chance to play off one another’s eccentricities and physical comedy. Dan Levy and Annie Murphy have the actual best facial expressions and a lot of times the most hilarious moment in an episode is delivered by one of them, but made perfect by the nuances in their hands, face, or body language.

I mentioned foils above, and Stevie’s dry, understated jokes are the perfect complement to the Rose family’s over-the-top, bright and bold shenanigans. Her humor is also complementary to the rest of the absurdity that happens in the town! And that’s why I love the silliness and earnestness that the other Schitt’s Creek folks bring like Roland (Chris Elliot) and Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson). As much as I love the Rose family, they’d be nothing without their found family in Schitt’s Creek.

The setting — an incredibly small town with seemingly not much to offer — of Schitt’s Creek also aids in the humor. The town itself even becomes, essentially, a character of its own. And that’s what a lot of great ensemble comedies offer, really: unique or interesting settings that offer up comedy simply by being who they are (e.g., Greendale Community College in Community or Pawnee, Indiana in Parks and Recreation).

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Speaking of the townspeople, in spite of the Rose family’s issues and initial snobbery, the townspeople of Schitt’s Creek welcome them. They might stare and gawk or poke fun every once in a while, but they genuinely form a found family around the Roses. And that’s really beautiful. The town learns to embrace them, and slowly but surely, the Roses learn to embrace the town back. It’s been six years, but Schitt’s Creek is coming to an end. As much as the family wanted to escape back to their old, rich life in the beginning of the series, the characters have grown immensely in their love for the town and their love for each other.

One of the most touching things is seeing how losing everything changed the Rose family for the better. “Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose” is one of my favorite examples of this, as Johnny remembers the elaborate Christmas parties his family used to host, but realizes that the thing he longs for might have been more unsuspectingly damaging to his family than being broke and moving into a motel was.

The Rose family grew because they were forced out of their individual comfort zones and collective privilege into something unfamiliar and new. While they initially balked at it, Schitt’s Creek has become their home. While there’s a sense of closure because they’re beginning to move forward with their lives, the Rose family will always have a strong connection to this tiny town.

I’m glad I decided to start watching Schitt’s Creek. It’s been such a hidden little gem in my life that I try to tell as many people about as possible. And while I’m sad that it’s ending, I’m so glad I got to embark on this journey with the Rose family. I’ve watched characters grow, fall in love, and I’ve heard the title track from A Little Bit Alexis. I think this show can end with me being happy about whatever comes next for Johnny, Moira, David, and Alexis Rose.

But just one more time for good measure... “Ew, David.

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Doctor Who 12x03 Recap: “Orphan 55” (Planet of the Dregs) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

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“Orphan 55”
Original Airdate: January 12, 2020

After adventuring around for a while, the Fam needs a vacation. Graham finds a coupon for a spa and before they know it, they’re transported to Tranquility Spa. While each of them tries to enjoy themselves, there is, of course, trouble a-brewing. Ryan contracts a virus from a vending machine, which the Doctor is easily able to cure him of, but then an alert sounds asking guests to move to their muster stations. Still recovering, Ryan stays behind and meets Bella. When they see security sweeping in, they decide to follow.

Suspicious about the security measures, the Doctor flashes the psychic paper to get into a linen cupboard that is actually the security base. She tells Kane, the woman in charge, that more viruses are in the system, including what they need to safely teleport the guests back home. That’s a pretty big problem because something bigger and worse than a virus is attacking the guests. The Doctor tells all guests to come to the linen cupboard but Ryan and Bella are still investigating on their own. They see a guest attacked by what we soon learn are the locals, known as the Dregs.

Security cameras go offline as the Dregs take out guest after guest. The Doctor builds a new line of defense just in time to save Bella and Ryan but one guest is alive and missing: Benni, a sweet old man who was about to propose to his longtime partner, Vilma, when Yaz accidentally interrupted. The spa is actually a massive dome on an uninhabitable planet and someone has hacked the hotel to let the Dregs in. Benni is outside the hotel’s wall where there is no breathable air and is only still alive because of his oxygen tank.


Convinced to go after him, Kane distributes small oxygen tanks and breathing strips to everyone still alive. En route to Benni’s position in a security truck, the Doctor asks more questions about the planet and learns it’s Orphan 55, a radiation planet not at all suited to a vacation. Orphan planets are so-called because when they could no longer sustain life, the rich inhabitants left and everyone else either died or was killed. But the Dregs did survive because they’ve adapted to their environment. And Tranquility Spa isn’t just a destination spot. It’s Kane’s first step in terraforming the planet so she can own it.

When it’s clear that Benni is actually moving around because the Dregs have him, Kane is ready to turn back until Vilma pays her off with a necklace. Things quickly go south when the truck crashes into a Dreg trap and the survivors must go on foot to a maintenance tunnel that’ll lead them back to the spa. But the Dregs attack the truck and they have Benni. He yells to Vilma, asking if she’ll marry him, to which she says yes. Then he asks for someone to shoot him. Whatever the Dregs are doing to him must be horrible. When they tear into the truck, everyone runs and most of them make it to the tunnel.


Kane tells Vilma she killed Benni because he asked her to and because the Dregs were having “fun” with him. Everyone is horrified by Kane’s decision and Bella uses that moment to take her gun and to reveal that she is Kane’s daughter! She’s there to destroy Tranquility Spa to get back at the mom who abandoned her. “This is not a way to solve a family dispute!” the Doctor interjects. “How about good ol’ fashion passive-aggressive discussion?” When the Dregs attack again, Ryan and Bella alone make it to the maintenance teleport, which sends them back to the hotel. She still plans to blow up the hotel, even if Ryan is inside.

The others slowly make their way through the tunnel. Kane swears she planned to give the hotel (or maybe the whole planet?) to Bella. Everyone’s oxygen levels are dropping but the Doctor’s are going the fastest because she talks the most (and probably also because she has two hearts so wouldn’t she need more oxygen?). The Doctor, Yaz, and Graham find an old sign in Russian and realize Orphan 55 is Earth. You know what comes next, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

With the Dregs closing in, Vilma sacrifices herself to give everyone else the chance to run. The Doctor finds a way to extend her oxygen supply by a) not talking and b) breathing in a sleeping Dreg’s exhales. In order to survive, they breathe carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, “like a really angry tree!” The stairs back to the hotel are in sight but Kane must stay behind to fight off the Dregs in order for the others to get to safety. As the Fam tries to barricade the Dregs fighting to come through, they voice the final piece of the puzzle: if Orphan 55 is Earth, the Dregs are mutated humans. Both are the result of global warming, mass migration, and war.


Unable to hold them off any longer, the best option is to repair the transporter. Since Bella is responsible for the viruses that left the hotel vulnerable, the Doctor makes her help them. Together they trap the Alpha Dreg and bargain with him for their lives, reasoning that he needs the CO2 they exhale to keep breathing in the oxygen-rich hotel. He lets them escape for the time being. Sylas, the mechanic’s much-smarter son, repairs the transporter and Ryan and Yaz use Bella’s bomb to take out as many Dregs as possible. Everyone jumps onto the transporter... but there are too many at once.

Bella decides to be selfless and runs off to shoot at the Dregs. It’s a losing battle, but at least Kane shows up to help her daughter for the first time ever. The remaining survivors safely transport back to where they came from. The Fam doesn’t bother celebrating. They’re worried for Bella, Kane, and the future of the Earth. The Doctor tries to remind them that Orphan 55 is just one possible future. “In your time, humanity’s busy arguing about the washing up while the house burns down. Unless people face facts and change, catastrophe is coming. ... People can save planets or wreck them. That’s the choice. Be the best of humanity.”

Final Thoughts:

  • I love that Yaz figured out Orphan 55 without the Doctor even telling her. It feels like we’re slowly pivoting towards Yaz being the companion who is as smart as the Doctor and that’s a very welcome change to her being the companion who has nothing to do.
  • Why couldn’t the TARDIS pop down to Orphan 55 and save Bella and Kane?
  • So what were the Dregs doing with Benni and why?
  • Doctor Who has always had to walk a fine line between explaining everything and explaining just enough that the audience is satisfied. The above questions should have been addressed but in series 11 and it seems again in series 12, Chris Chibnall is comfortable leaving a lot hanging. That’s fine occasionally but when it’s too frequent, it makes every episode feel incomplete. Maybe that’s why I finished this episode feeling like something was off.
  • The message about climate change and the need for global cooperation in this episode is a nice one but it also very surface level. It feels like Chibnall’s Doctor Who is often pulling its punches but it’s not clear why.
  • There was only a minor reference to “Spyfall” in this episode and no obvious connection to the storyline established there so I’m wondering if series 12 will truly have a plot arc or if the finale will simply tie into the premiere like last season. 

An Interview With Your Favorite Arrow Guru and Fan: Jen! [Contributor: Jenn]

(Jen and Jenn!)

It’s amazing how a seemingly insignificant event or experience can bring two people together. For me, that was the television show, Arrow. Once upon a time (back when I still watched the show), I reviewed the hit CW superhero series. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a prominent Tumblr reviewer followed along with my reviews. Eventually, she reached out to me and we started following each other on social media.

Flash forward a few years and Jen (also known as @jbuffyangel to most of you) has become one of my favorite people and, as we like to refer to ourselves, a “soul sister.” Our friendship has evolved beyond just talking about television or shipping, though that is still something we do. We’ve met numerous times. I’ve spent time with her daughter. We’ve adventured through Comic-Con together. And she’s been the person I’ve called to have hours-long conversations with after break-ups, friend drama, and various life experiences. She’s one of the most loyal and thoughtful people. And as the television show that brought us together wraps up soon for good, I thought it would be fun to do a little interview with one of my favorite friends.

Check out what Jen had to say about Arrow, Olicity, and more!

How did you first get into Arrow? And what made you want to start reviewing it?

Jen: I saw the promo the CW aired — the one with all of Stephen’s abs on the salmon ladder. I wish my reasoning for checking it out had more depth, but it was pretty much ABS. My husband gave me a crash course in the Green Arrow comics when I told him I was going to watch the pilot. He said Oliver Queen was like Batman, but he killed people. I am a massive Batman fan, so that also was a key selling factor. See, I found one more thing! (It was still mostly the abs though.)

Then I watched the pilot and it was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Oliver’s traumatic backstory with his father was incredible, I loved the idea of the flashbacks, and the action scenes were insane. I insisted my husband watch it and he was blown away. Slowly, it became our favorite show.

The most frustrating aspect of Arrow in season one is the romance with Laurel and Oliver. I could never get past Oliver cheating on Laurel with her sister. In shows, I try to get on board with the couple the pilot foreshadows as endgame (I call them the Plan A couples). My husband told me it was Green Arrow and Black Canary in the comics. I loved the idea of these two characters coming together romantically as they evolved as superheroes via an origin story, but the execution was just YUCKY. Plus Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy had no chemistry.

Then the wonderful Felicity Smoak was introduced in episode three. Stephen Amell’s iconic smile during that scene made me think, “Oh, there you are Oliver.” Oliver was kind of a robotic jerk the first couple episodes. I knew he was a good person who suffered a lot and was emotionally shut down because of it, but I couldn’t really see “superhero.” Felicity bringing out his smile connected the dots for me emotionally.

As Oliver and Felicity’s relationship progressed, I became more and more obsessed. After 2x23 aired, I couldn’t stop talking about Arrow with my husband. He begged me to start a blog because he thought I had good ideas people would enjoy and also... I was driving him crazy. Five years later, here we are!

The reviews are primarily for my sanity. I have so many thoughts buzzing around in my head after watching an Arrow episode that I have to purge them or I can’t sleep. I started my blog the summer before season three premiered. I wrote metas during the summer so when the show premiered, I decided to give reviews a try. It still boggles my mind that anyone reads them.

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Your reviews are always so thorough and detailed! Walk me through the process of how you write them.

I love how you describe my crazy dissertation length reviews as thorough and detailed. That’s very nice of you. Back in the beginning, I would watch an episode, sit down, and write through the night. I have almost a photographic memory when it comes to television and movies. I wish my brain was like that with math, but sadly it’s not. If I watch something once, I can recall it pretty easily. Now that I’m live-tweeting, I have to watch the episode again because I typically miss something as I tweet.

Something I’m told often when people meet me is that I write how I speak. I always try to inject some humor into the reviews with reaction GIFs. Bad Arrow episodes afford excellent opportunities for humorous reactions. If I don’t like the episode then at least I can enjoy making fun of it.

The Olicity fandom is blessed to have amazing GIF makers and they’ve been incredibly generous allowing me to use GIFs in my reviews. When I analyze a scene, I like to include the GIFs so people can see and recall what I’m talking about.

I was an English minor in college so I’ve read a lot of books and studied literary analysis for years — even as far back as high school. It’s one of my passions and Arrow uses a lot of symbolism in their show. Also, I can pretty much tie anything back to Greek mythology, which is another area Arrow borrows heavily from. I am Catholic, so I also enjoy examining the spiritual side stories. I often include personal details of my life to highlight the message I think an episode is trying to share. All of this goes into how I interpret an episode and the pages and pages of thoughts that come spilling out.

A typical review can take me anywhere from six to 15 hours to write and GIF, maybe longer if it’s a big Olicity episode. They are labors of love. And, of course, they are my special brand of crazy because nobody in their right mind spends that long writing television reviews.

What have been some highlights for you as you’ve been involved in this fandom (either the Arrow fandom or the sub-fandom of Olicity) over the years?

The best part of fandom is the amazing people I’ve met because we all share a passion for this show. Arrow has brought some of the kindest, funniest, most loyal and compassionate people I’ve ever known into my life. I met my friendship soul mates through this show and that’s a gift that will continue long after Arrow is on the air.

I’ve been blessed with some pretty incredible experiences too. I’ve written for Just About Write, Tell-Tale TV, and TV Fanatic. Going to SDCC for Just About Write was such a thrill and I had so much fun with the other women on the trip. I am a lover of all things television, so writing for these websites opened so many doors to other shows I enjoy. And I lived out my fantasy journalism dreams.

(The girls at SDCC!)

I met Marc Guggenheim at my first SDCC and LOST MY MIND. No chill. Completely fangirl freaked out on him. I was jumping up and down waiting in line to talk to him like a NUT. He handled it very well. I interviewed him for Just About Write the following year at SDCC. We’ve struck up a friendship and he’s been incredibly kind to me over the years. But that was only possible because Jenn invited me to represent her amazing website.

I went to the first Flarrow crossover screening and HVFF conventions where I met all my favorite Arrow actors/actresses. I had an amazing experience with each cast member whenever I went to a convention. Too many funny and exhilarating moments with the cast to recount here, but the real joy was hanging out with fandom friends in person.

Arrow folded itself into my family in very unexpected ways from my parents extremely hilarious reactions to the show to my daughter’s obsession with Felicity Smoak, despite never watching an episode. (She was too little.) My forever favorite moment at a convention would be my little girl dressing up as Felicity Smoak and getting Stephen Amell to spill when Olicity was getting married. She also marched up to the microphone all by herself and asked what he loves about Felicity Smoak. I will always remember her absolute shriek of glee when Stephen picked her up for their photo together.

The Olicity fandom is full of artists — fanfic, GIFs, metas, and fanvids have kept me entertained for HOURS. They have collectively helped me avoid doing housework for years. Bless their souls. I’ve been a part of other fandoms, but the Olicity fandom fueled their love for this show and couple into good works. They’ve raised money for so many charities over the years and it makes me really proud to be associated with them.

I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the response to my blog. The Olicity fandom was incredibly supportive to me over the years and gave me the confidence to start writing again — something I lost in the midst of having a baby and getting through the toddler/preschool years. I have definitely received from this group of people more than I’ve given.

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Arrow has put Oliver through the wringer over the years; sometimes he’s been lovable, sometimes downright frustrating. Tell me a little bit about what makes Oliver Queen so important to you as a character.

You mean Oliver Queen, a.k.a. The Biggest Oak Tree To Ever Live! Loving Oliver can be exhausting at times because he makes the same mistakes over and over again. But that’s also what I love about him. He’s imperfect. His flaws are laid bare for all to see, but that never stops him from trying to do and be better. His redemptive arc is truly one of the best ever written on television. Oliver has gone from sinner to superhero, and while the circumstances of his world are fantasy, the message of his story is real. We are all imperfect sinners. We make the same mistakes over and over, but we can become someone or something else. We are deserving of love. We are worth saving.

He’s endured more suffering than is humanly possible and I’ve grieved every loss with him. This is why every moment of triumph in his hero’s journey feels so earned. The writers make Oliver work for it and those types of stories are always more satisfying to me.

Suffering has been a part of my life just like everyone in this world. I always connect to a character when my experience is reflected back at me. Oliver’s story is one of enduring hope. Arrow doesn’t shy away from pain but more importantly, it shows the way through the dark and into the light.

What I love most about Oliver is the way he loves. He loves fiercely and selflessly. Oliver always has the best of intentions, even when he makes a mistake. He always puts others before himself. I think having that example on my television every week is good for my soul.

Is there a storyline in the series that sticks out to you as a favorite? Alternatively, what are some storylines that have frustrated you?

THE GOOD: It took a while for Arrow to find its footing. Season one has great action and a gritty realism. The flashbacks are awesome. The mystery of the Undertaking and how Moira, Robert, and Malcolm fit into it was also riveting. Oliver’s family is core to his story and it was great drama watching him balance his love for them and seek justice for those they hurt.

What I enjoyed the most in season one was watching Oliver and Diggle’s bromance evolve. The relationship between Oliver and Diggle anchors the season emotionally as Oliver flits from love interest to love interest and engages in a toxic love triangle. Felicity is included slowly, but the majority of the season is Diggle trying to reign in Oliver’s darker tendencies. John Diggle will always be the Yoda of Arrow.

Seasons two and three are my favorite seasons. I was on the edge of my seat in the season two finale wondering if Felicity was the woman Oliver loved BECAUSE SHE HAD TO BE OTHERWISE NOTHING ON THIS SHOW MADE SENSE. I audibly screamed when Oliver said, “So he took the wrong woman.” Such a great night as an audience member.

They went all in on OTA in season two too. Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle are the show, but they were brand spanking new in season two, so the writers focused on the team dynamic a lot. It’s also tough to beat Slade Wilson as the villain.

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I think season three is the best in terms of cohesive structure and Oliver’s development. From start to finish there is a very strong connective thread. I had a clear idea of where they were going with Oliver and his character and it all made sense. It has my favorite premiere, Felicity Smoak is fleshed out more as a character, Oliver kind of dies, Thea’s arc is fabulous,  Diggle and Lyla get married and have a baby, Sara actually dies (I ugly cried), and Olicity is finally front and center as the show’s main romance (3x20!). Season three is the perfect amount of angst and happiness. It also foreshadowed Olicity’s marriage. I had so much fun with the fandom and the “Olicity Wedding Theory.”

It’s tough to surprise me on this show mostly because Arrow isn’t subtle in their foreshadowing, but Tommy and Moira’s deaths were shocking and absolutely traumatizing. Shoving a sword in Oliver’s stomach and off a mountain left me gobsmacked. Mia Smoak is Olicity’s daughter also ranks high for a mind-blowing moment. I mean… I knew she had to be their kid, but do the writers really love the Olicity fandom that much? Yes they do.

Season four was fun because the minute they teased someone was going to die in the premiere I knew it was going to be Laurel Lance. I like when Arrow has season-long mysteries and playing Nancy Drew with the clues all season long was a blast. Also, domesticated Olicity was perfection, as was Oliver’s proposal.

Season five was challenging for many reasons, but I believe 5x16 through 5x23 is the strongest run of episodes in the show’s history. Josh Seggara as Adrian Chase was a revelation, and Oliver finally being forced to drill down on his trauma/guilt regarding his father’s death was a major full circle moment. It also has my favorite Arrow episode: 5x20. And my most controversial opinion — I loved the 100th episode.

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Season six had the best crossover (a.k.a. the Olicity movie). Oliver and Felicity get married and then the very next episode we had the perfect reception which checked off everything on my wedding wish list. It was a full season of stability and happiness for Oliver and Felicity, which was a looooong time coming.

Felicity’s relationship with William was wonderful to watch evolve too. The scene in 6x11 where she explains to William how to love his dad while coping with the fear of losing him because he’s the Green Arrow was probably one of the best in the entire series. It’s essentially the mission statement of the show. There are no stakes in a superhero show if love is not central to the story.

Season seven was a surprisingly strong season. Oliver’s prison arc was great and Felicity stepped up as the primary storyline focus. Her fight to save Oliver and beat Riccardo Diaz without losing her soul was truly one of my favorite Felicity Smoak storylines. Smoak Tech finally launched and the flash forwards were introduced. They were terribly bleak, but I’m always down for meeting future children of my favorite characters.

Oliver becomes the superhero version of Jesus in Crisis on Infinite Earths. I was mostly joking about that metaphor, but the writers decided to go literal with this whole Spectre thing. All the other characters finally had to recognize Oliver is the best of them and bend the knee to the king of the Arrowverse. The highlight of season eight was watching Oliver form relationships with his adult children. The hole Emily Bett Rickards left in season seven was massive, but bringing Mia, William, and Connor to present day really re-energized my interest in the season. It doesn’t make up for Felicity being gone, but it was a welcome surprise and pretty brilliant.

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THE BAD (in no particular order): Arrow is an imperfect show. I’m either loving it or it’s driving me crazy. Let us never speak of the Olicity break-up. It still makes no sense why Oliver lied to Felicity about William’s existence when literally every other character found out about him. We eventually got some good character development out of it, but it lasted waaaaay too long. It was just an excuse to delay their marriage and it showed.

Oliver marrying Nyssa Al Ghul, the only lesbian on the show, was a real low point. I am pretty sure I got drunk watching 3x22 (Jenn's note: I FORGOT THAT WAS A PLOT. WOW.) Then there was the never-ending sidelining of John Diggle, and too. many. canaries.

(Also Tommy died because Laurel had to get some files for some reason. It will never be okay. I will never forgive her.)

There was not enough Felicity Smoak in the beginning of season five. Yes, I get it. They were broken up, but it’s always a mistake to back off the heart of the show. Oliver sleeping with Sara again in season two made me physically throw things at the television.

Arrow characters always paying the price for Barry Allen’s shenanigans during the crossovers is irritating. Oh, and let’s not do magic again on the show.

Remember when Laurel and Oliver slept together and Tommy watched from the street while “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons played? That sums up Lauriver for me. I try to forget it ever happened.

Felicity’s paralyzation arc was frustratingly short. And the gun control episode was... just... no. I am still waiting to hear what Oliver’s super secret plan is to fix everything related to guns.

Whatshername in season four was the year I prayed for the flashbacks to end. No, I still haven’t learned the character’s name. (Jenn's note: I never bothered and just wrote her into my reviews as Flashback Chick. I muted most of the flashbacks that season.)

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New Team Arrow gave us three more problematic characters that were never as good as Roy,
Thea, and Sara. But I still miss Rory.

I still don’t know why it took seven years to follow through on Smoak Tech. I didn’t love Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is a bummer since Arrow’s entire final season was built around it. The plot was nonsensical and it was just too much going on all at once.

Oh, and two words: Susan Williams. I also disliked pretty much everything in season six that wasn’t related to Oliver, Felicity, and William. The writers' inability to construct a believable, engaging and consistent story arc for Laurel Lance was so frustrating as a viewer that it drove me to apathy for her character.  I couldn't care more than the writers did, so I just gave up waiting for her storylines to make any sense. Also, Laurel always being the worst made it difficult to find her endearing.

And one final thing I disliked: Emily Bett Rickards left at the end of season seven and the show continued for ten more episodes.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Olicity! I know you’re a huge fan of this ship. What, in your opinion, makes the pairing so compelling and epic?

I think foremost is the circumstances that surround Olicity’s evolution. I cannot recall many shows where the one time guest star became the female lead and one half of the central romance. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards’ chemistry is electric. It’s lightning in a bottle, but the miracle is the EPs/studio executive/writers knew it. They admitted the Laurel and Oliver romance was a mess and painstakingly rebuilt Arrow’s entire love story around Oliver and Felicity. It’s really quite something.

Oliver and Felicity are a bit yin and yang. They have the whole opposites attract thing going on, but that’s just on the surface. When you drill down to the core of each character, they are remarkably similar. They are both very intelligent, loyal, compassionate, selfless, and deeply loving. Those aspects of their personality just manifest in different ways, which makes their dynamic really interesting to watch.

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Oliver Queen has his own light, but Felicity is the person who harnesses that light. She offered Oliver trust, understanding, compassion, and unconditional love when he needed it most. But she still challenged him to be a better person and refused to put up with any of his crap. Oliver only became the hero he was meant to be because he fell in love with Felicity Smoak. There is no Green Arrow without her. She is his equal in every way and a hero in her own right.

Oliver inspired Felicity to be a person she never imagined she could be. He exposed her to a world beyond her cubicle. Felicity discovered new levels of strength, resilience and bravery. Oliver’s devotion to the city and his selflessness gave Felicity an outlet to channel her brilliance and heroism. She found purpose. Oliver offered the same trust, understanding, compassion, and unconditional love too. He was always looking, particularly when Felicity wasn’t watching, and she was truly seen for the first time.

That’s why I love them. Their individual strengths and weaknesses work in an almost perfect cohesion. Oliver and Felicity make each other better, and that’s the way love should be. Your partner should be your best friend who harnesses your light and inspires your best self.

Watchover Podcast

You started an Arrow podcast recently too! How has using a podcast helped you process what you’ve seen in the episodes?

The podcast is great for my initial reactions, but when I write the review I do notice more and dive deeper into the episode. There is a strange connection between writing and my brain. It’s difficult to explain, but ideas pop in my head differently when I’m typing. It’s kind of an unconscious flow. I don’t even fully understand the process sometimes.

The best part is having a podcast with my friend Calli. We’re yin and yang. We make each other laugh and we love talking about Arrow. That’s honestly how the podcast idea started: we just decided to record our phone conversations. So it’s been really wonderful to share our friendship with the fandom. We have a lot of fun together!

What would be a satisfying end of Arrow for you?

I would like the ending to be happy, but I realize that is a wide lane for the writing truck to drive through. A happy ending is very subjective. It means very different things to people, and I understand that. My ideal is of course for Oliver and Felicity to end the show reunited. I would like them to find some peace and retire from the vigilante gig. Spiritually, Oliver Queen was dead when he returned home and we’ve watched him come back to life the past eight years. I would like for his character to enjoy his life and live it to the fullest without constantly having to sacrifice his happiness for the greater good.

The most important aspect of a series finale for me is to know the characters I love and invested in for years will be okay. If the Arrow writers give me that then I will be able to say goodbye to Oliver, Felicity, Diggle, Lyla, Roy, and Thea. I can let them go and appreciate the wonderful story which has been such a large part of my life for the last eight years.

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Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go?

I’d like to thank YOU, Jenn, for being my soul sister. You invited me to join your website as a guest writer and it’s because of Just About Write that I had so many amazing experiences. You have been a constant source of support and understanding. (Seriously, I never get Blindspot reviews done on time and she never gets upset.) You are a selfless editor who champions women and wants to see us succeed. You are one of the many gifts Arrow has brought into my life and I will always be grateful for that. (Jenn: AWWW. I promise I didn't tell her to write such nice stuff about me!)

As for Arrow... it’s been a blast! Here’s hoping the spin-off doesn’t suck!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Doctor Who 12x02 Recap: “Spyfall Part Two” (Who Run the World? Girls!) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

“Spyfall Part Two”
Original Airdate: January 5, 2020

Here’s a quick refresher of where we’re at: The Master has returned, blown up the cockpit of a plane that the Doctor’s companions are on, and they’re hurtling towards death. The Doctor is trapped in another dimension by unknown aliens in league with the Master.


While clinging on for dear life, Ryan finds a series of instructions on how to land the plane. He plugs his phone into controls on the floor and a video recording of the Doctor appears to tell them what to do and gently chastises Graham for, rightfully, panicking. An app on Ryan’s phone allows him to level the plane. “I can fly a plane,” he says. “Can’t ride a bike, but I can fly a plane.”

The Doctor’s situation is trickier. She encounters a 19th century woman named Ada who has visited this dimension often, though she thinks it’s just her mind. One of the creatures appears at her side and the Doctor guesses that going through the creature is like going through a portal. With some reluctance, she takes Ada’s hand and they wake up in 1834 at an invention fair. Without the TARDIS, the Doctor is marooned there.

The Master is flying his Aussie house, which is a TARDIS in disguise, and is giddy that his plan is working. However, his good mood darkens when he learns the Doctor has escaped. He wastes little time in crashing the fair and shrinking people left and right. To stop him from killing more people, he forces the Doctor to kneel and loudly repeat his name. It’s a very uncomfortable image: a female Doctor kneeling in front of a sadistic villain and calling him "master."

But the moment causes the Doctor to come to an important realization: the Master isn’t controlling the aliens, whom he’s identified as the Kasaavins. That gives her some renewed hope. Ada, less helpless than we originally thought, uses a massive steam-powered gun to shoot the Master, allowing the Doctor to escape.


Ada is the future Ada Lovelace, a famous mathematician, and her friend has a strange machine called the Silver Lady that the Doctor immediately knows came from the Master. It sometimes casts the same image as the Kasaavins and so now the Doctor knows they are alien spies throughout time too. Using the sonic on the Silver Lady, she summons the Kasaavins and jumps in to hopefully return to the 21st Century, but at the last second, Ada grabs her hand and disappears too. And so they land in 1943 Paris instead. Thankfully, they meet Noor Inayat Khan, a WWII wireless operator/spy for the British. Noor hides them in her apartment when the Master, disguised as a Nazi officer, comes looking.

It’s time for a new plan. “The Master tracked me down and wants me dead,” the Doctor says, “whereas I am a big fan of being alive.” To level the playing field, she sends out a code to him. It’s the four-beat drumming that John Simm’s Master heard, which made him insane. But it also sounds like the Doctor Who theme song and Thirteen describes it as the sound of two hearts beating, which is a fascinating idea and one I’d never thought about.

The code works. The Master and the Doctor make psychic contact and agree to meet alone in the Eiffel Tower. There, he admits to shooting C, hacking the car GPS, and convincing the Kasaavins to work with him. But they’re simply the ground crew doing his dirty work of wiping out humanity. When it’s over, the Master gleefully assumes Barton and the Kasaavins will also die. All part of his plan. His mood drops again though when he talks about Gallifrey. On a recent trip home, he found it desolate and destroyed. The Doctor doesn’t believe him, though his track record suggests a 50/50 chance he’s telling the truth.

Any further discussion of home is put on hold when German soldiers rush up the stairs. See, the Doctor sent a coded message saying the Master was a double agent for the British so now the Germans are mad. On her way out, she destroys the perception filter the Master had been using so now the Nazis will see him as his true self. They surround him. The Doctor meets Ada and Noor at the Master’s TARDIS, which he’s arrogantly left unconcealed.


The fam are doing kind of so-so. Because technology is ultimately tracking everything we do, Barton easily finds them. Ryan smashes their phones and they run to a construction site to hide. With no Doctor to instruct them, they decide to keep trying to stop Barton. Luckily, they still have some spy gadgets on them, which they desperately need when the Kasaavins show up. Graham “fights” them off with his laser shoes. Then the trio lays a trap for Barton’s people by having Yaz call home, knowing the call will be traced. When agents arrive, Graham “intimidates” them with the laser shoe, allowing the trio to take all of the guns, phones, and the car.

Sadly, it’s all for nothing. Barton happily lets the Kasaavins attack his mother, whom he has zip-tied to a chair. Ryan, Yaz, and Graham later find her there, dead. Meanwhile, Barton gives a creepy keynote speech about the unsettling reach of technology, then demonstrates this by texting every phone on the planet saying, “Humanity is over!” Humans and their DNA are now just hard drives to be used by the Kasaavins.

The Silver Lady in front of the fam lights up, delivering Kasaavins all around the world through people’s phones to start repurposing the humans. The trio can’t destroy the machine, especially when the Master, who has just had to live chronologically through the 20th and 21st Century, arrives. But his triumph is short-lived; the Doctor is there to save the day. Or rather, she already did. Using the Master’s TARDIS, she went back to last year and implanted a failsafe into Barton’s Silver Lady. As soon as it detected the Kasaavin army, it shut down. She’s also rigged it to send the Kasaavins back to their dimension permanently and for the kicker, she plays them the recording of the Master confessing he planned to betray them. They scoop him up and deposit him in their barren realm.


The Doctor has no time for reunions with her friends because she has to go make the instructions and video that allowed them to safely land the plane. Then she reclaims her own TARDIS and drops Noor and Ada off in their correct times, wiping their memories of this adventure for good measure.

But another memory is nagging at the Doctor. She flies to Gallifrey and sees the Master was right. It looks bombed and ruined. A hologram activates in the TARDIS. A recording of the Master says he’s the one who destroyed Gallifrey in order to get back at the Founding Fathers for lying to them about the “timeless child” myth, something that has informed their entire identity. “I’d tell you more but why would I make it easy for you?” he says. “It wasn’t for me.”

Devastated and angry, the Doctor buries everything deep so she can fly off with Graham, Ryan, and Yaz again. Frustrated that they still know so little about her, they ask who she is and she tells them. She’s a Time Lord from Gallifrey who can regenerate her whole body. She stole a TARDIS to travel time and space. The Master is an old friend who became an enemy. Yaz wants to visit Gallifrey but the Doctor quietly brushes her off. “Another time.”

Final Thoughts:

  • I loved the attention to the Master and the Doctor’s relationship and moral tension but it meant the companions really had nothing to do this episode. Yes, they landed a plane but they ultimately had no effect on saving the day at all. That’s an issue I often had last season and I hope to see it much less moving forward.
  • Another pitfall from last season that has come back: the villain faces no consequences. The Master may be trapped in another realm but Barton ran off scot-free. 
  • What did the Doctor do with the Master’s TARDIS? And where did he get it?
  • There are a lot of parallels in this two-parter to past Doctor/Master storylines including "The Sound of Drums," "The Last of the Time Lords," "Dark Water," and "Death in Heaven." But all of those episodes were season finales, not openers. I’m curious to see how something as major as the Master’s return and the destruction of Gallifrey inform a season moving forward, rather than explaining a season at the end.
  • As far as we know from the show, the last time the Doctor was on Gallifrey he exiled the President and became the President himself, shot the General, broke all the laws of time and space, and risked the future of the universe all to save Clara Oswald.
  • I absolutely loved this exchange: Graham, shouting at the Doctor’s video recording: “Where are you?! We’re going to die!” The Doctor: “First of all, you’re not gonna die. Second of all, don’t talk back to the screen ‘cause obviously, I’m a recording and I can’t hear you. Third, don’t panic, especially you, Graham.” Graham: “I’m not panicking!” The Doctor: “Yes, you are. And I did just say don’t talk back to the screens.” 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

77th Golden Globe Awards Predictions: Television Edition [Contributor: Chelsea]

Trying to predict Globes television winners is a fool's journey, but we’re going to try anyways. Arguments can be made for every single nominee to win and I expect plenty of surprises Sunday evening. Check out my film predictions here.

Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy
The Politician
The Kominsky Method
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Frontrunner: The Politician
My vote: Fleabag
Dark horse: Fleabag

The Globes cannot resist a Ryan Murphy production, even if it’s complete trash like The Politician. My only hope is that they follow their hearts to Fleabag.

Best Television Series — Drama
The Crown
The Morning Show
Big Little Lies
Killing Eve

Frontrunner: The Morning Show
My vote: Killing Eve
Dark horse: Succession

The Globes like new shiny TV shows and movie stars, so The Morning Show shouldn’t have any trouble here. Look out for everybody’s new favorite show, Succession, though.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Drama
Brian Cox, Succession
Tobias Menzies, The Crown
Billy Porter, Pose
Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot

Frontrunner: Brian Cox, Succession
My vote: Billy Porter, Pose
Dark horse: Tobias Menzies, The Crown

This is truly a category that could go any direction, but I think they’ll want to award Brian Cox or Billy Porter. The new season of The Crown wasn’t great but never underestimate this organization's love of British royalty.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Reese Witherspoon, The Morning Show

Frontrunner: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
My vote: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Dark horse: Olivia Colman, The Crown

The Morning Show is a perfectly fine show that wants to be great but Jennifer Aniston is the reason to watch. It’s hard to bet against a recent Oscar winner playing royalty, so don’t count out Olivia Colman having residual love from last year... plus the fact that she’s also in Fleabag.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kirsten Dunst, On Becoming a God in Central Florida
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Frontrunner: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
My vote: Kirsten Dunst, On Becoming a God in Central Florida
Dark horse: Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll

The Globes are good at rewarding new niche shows, and while Fleabag didn’t break out until its second season, it feels new and big. I personally just love Kirsten Dunst and wish more people would watch her new show. Lyonne in Russian Doll is the other new, big show and that would be such a fun speech to watch.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Bill Hader, Barry
Ben Platt, The Politician
Paul Rudd, Living With Yourself
Ramy Youssef, Ramy

Frontrunner: Ben Platt, The Politician
My vote: Paul Rudd, Living With Yourself
Dark horse: Ramy Youssef, Ramy

Another category that could go any way but I’m playing it safe and betting on the Ryan Murphy show. Ramy has turned into a big show for Hulu and this could be the perfect way to anoint its star.

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Loudest Voice

Frontrunner: Unbelievable
My vote: Unbelievable
Dark horse: Fosse/Verdon

Unbelievable is the single best show or film I’ve watched in 2019 and would be the most worthy winner. Globes and Emmys don’t always line up but Chernobyl is also a huge hit. Fosse/Verdon feels like a lifetime ago but is starry enough to stick with the HFPA and is about what they care about.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon
Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Christopher Abbott, Catch-22
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Spy

Frontrunner: Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon
My vote: Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Dark horse: Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice

Rockwell has become a Globes favorite since winning for Three Billboards and this is the exact kind of role the voters would love to reward. They could go with another Oscar winner with Crowe but I feel like nobody watched The Loudest Voice when Bombshell was right there. I’m just happy to see Jared Harris here and wish they remembered Jharrel Jerome.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Helen Mirren, Catherine the Great
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon
Merritt Wever, Unbelievable
Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable
Joey King, The Act

Frontrunner: Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon
My vote: Merritt Wever, Unbelievable
Dark horse: Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable

Williams was great as Gwen Verdon and is a previous winner for My Week with Marilyn on the film side. This organization is great at crowning young performers, so keep an eye on Kaitlyn Dever. She’s had a breakout year with this and Booksmart but faces competition from the equally amazing Merritt Wever.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Patricia Arquette, The Act
Emily Watson, Chernobyl

Frontrunner: Toni Collette, Unbelievable
My vote: Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Dark horse: Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

It’s insane to vote against Meryl Streep and royalty but I’m going to do it. Collette was the third lead in her series and the role is the complete opposite of what she’s doing in film nominee Knives Out. Plus new seasons of Big Little Lies and The Crown weren’t very good. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Henry Winkler, Barry
Andrew Scott, Fleabag
Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl

Frontrunner: Kieran Culkin, Succession
My vote: Henry Winkler, Barry
Dark horse: Andrew Scott, Fleabag

These supporting categories are always so stressful to make sense of when they combine comedy, drama, miniseries, and TV movies. Henry Winkler will always have my heart and is a treasure. Succession feels like the safest version of a win here since Culkin was nominated last year and the show has blown up. But Hot Priest is a thing and this would be a fun way to reward Fleabag.