And the title of my blog comes from this scene in the CW’s Arrow. No copyright infringement intended.
- Series: Constantine
- Season: 1
- Episodes: 13
- Discs: 3
- Cast: Matt Ryan, Angelica Celaya, Charles Halford, Harold Perrieneau
- Network: NBC (Warner Brothers Productions)
- Blu-Ray Format: Color, Widescreen
- Based on characters from DC and Vertigo Comics
I first saw the character of John Constantine in a guest shot on the CW’s Arrow. I enjoyed the character and Matt Ryan’s portrayal of the character. I knew the actor and character had been on his own short-lived series, a series a few friends had raved about. And I knew the character came originally from the Hellblazer comic book. But I had missed the original series – horror isn’t my thing – and my brain had somehow mixed-up “Hellblazer” with some horror movies from the 1980s.
Constantine, the Series, does have some horror elements. It also has elements of supernatural stories – at times bringing to mind series like Shadow Chasers, The X-files, and Supernatural. However, what makes this show work is the characters – especially John Constantine – exorcise, spellcaster, magic user, and con man. John Constantine is an anti-hero, but you can’t help wanting him to win. And not simply to win by defeating a demon, malevolent spirit, or ghost – but for once to not lose everyone around him. In the pilot, he meets the daughter of an old and deceased friend. When, at the end of the episode she tries to join him in his fight – John waves her off with – “everyone around me dies.” Over the course of thirteen episodes – we see how true that is. Because no matter how talented John is as a spellcaster and magic user – he’s also a bit cursed. John’s magic comes at a high price.
But again, Matt Ryan makes this show work. He is utterly convincing when uttering spells in arcane languages which may or may not be real. He’s, surprisingly, not an angry character – if anything he’s perpetually sad – struggling on in an endless fight against evil – and often losing friends in the process. John’s a pragmatist – if the only way to stop a hunger demon is to convince a friend – the one who caused it’s accidental release – to become it’s host, then that’s what John will do, even when he knows it will cause his friend his life. Constantine isn’t afraid to make sacrifices. And those sacrifices haunt him.
Other characters in the show include Zed – a psychic haunted by images of Constantine, that she can’t help but draw, who joins him in his fight. Chas, an old friend, who seemingly cannot die, In “Quid Pro Quo” we find out why and that his inability to die isn’t quite infinite. (Let’s just say that “protection spells” can have unintended consequences.) And Manny – an Angel who seems attached to John. The final episode even calls into doubt just who Manny is really working for. John also has a network of friends and associates whom we see occasionally.
Because this show comes from DC Comics – we have the inevitable “Easter Eggs”. Constantine has inherited “the Mill House” from Jasper. The house is filled with antiquities and magical artifacts. It’s bigger inside than out. The rooms move and change. It’s basically “the House of Mystery” from Justice League Dark without the ability to travel in space. And the House of Mystery is rather similar to the TARDIS but without the ability to travel in time under normal circumstances. In one episode, the helmet of Dr. Fate (Lord of Order) can be spotted among the artifacts. The Spectre (Det. John Corrigan) is present in two episodes: “Danse Vaudou” and “Waiting for the Man”. Papa Midnite is present in three episodes: “The Devil’s Vinyl”, “Danse Vaudou”, and the final story, “Waiting for the Man”. There may be more. I suspect Richie and Gary Lester weren’t invented for the television series.
Constantine ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger. And it’s an emotional one – because we suddenly learn something about Manny – a revelation that makes one question everything he’s done, his motivations, the whispering he’s done in John and Zed’s ears, respectively, etc. In other words, I almost wanted to re-watch the series from the beginning and try to determine just what Manny was doing. And I must admit, I love a series that can do that. You are told at the beginning, “Manny is an Angel”, which leads to assumptions about his character. We learned things in “Blessed are the Damned” that reinforce this point. In any case, I’d love to see the CW bring back this show. It would easily fit in with their line-up of DC superhero shows, slotting in as the “supernatural/horror” show. Or to build a show around Justice League Dark. John Constantine was the leader of Justice League Dark. Bringing the show back as Constantine would allow the answering of unanswered questions: What is The Rising Dark? Just who is Manny working for? Why is John so cursed, and being cursed, what led him to fight evil? Whereas Justice League Dark is a team book – it would allow the CW to bring in as many characters as DC would allow – and to rotate them in and out as they do in the book. Currently, there are plans for DC Animated to do a Justice League Dark movie – and Matt Ryan has already been announced as voicing John Constantine. Not only am I anxious to see that, but perhaps it will lay the foundation for a return of the character in some way.
As it stands, Constantine is an excellent though short series. Some of the grosser scenes are in the early episodes, then it lightens up for the most part. This is a character-driven supernatural drama, built on the DC Comics tradition of magic users and spellcasters. It’s a show I can recommend. I have the Blu-Ray version but it’s also available on DVD – directly from Warner Archive and also from retailers like Amazon. Do check it out!
- Title: Ripper Street
- Season: 4
- Episodes: 7
- Discs: 2
- Cast: Matthew MacFadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Charlene McKenna
- Network: BBC (Co-Produced by BBC, BBC Worldwide, Amazon Prime, BBC America)
- DVD Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC
Season 4 of Ripper Street opens with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It’s been three years since the end of the previous season. See Season Three of Ripper Street review. Edmund Reid had left Whitechapel at the end of the previous season to raise his newly re-discovered daughter, Mathilda in a seaside town. Mathilda is now a young woman, brilliant and curious about the world, especially Whitechapel. Reid’s determined to protect her and keep her away from the old neighborhood – but he’s drawn back in. Deborah Goren visits Reid and asks him to return to Whitechapel to help her clear the name of Isaac Bloom, found guilty of a terrible murder and due to hang. Susan Hart (aka Caitlin Swift, Jackson’s wife) is also due to hang. She was allowed to give birth to her son in prison, and to nurse him, but as he’s now weaned, she can no longer escape her sentence.
Reid returns to Whitechapel, and although he finds some irregularities in the case against Bloom, he is unable to prevent the man’s death. It appears Susan is also hanged, but Jackson has rigged equipment for her which saves her life. He hides her with an old shipping captain at the Whitechapel docks. Jackson agrees that their son will be cared for and raised by Rose and Bennet Drake.
Each episode of Ripper Street is self-contained, however, they also weave together, brilliantly, to lead to the conclusion of the season. A conclusion that leaves all the main characters in awful straights, and ends with a “To Be Continued” title card. It has already been announced that Season 5 will be the last season, however, I still cannot wait to see it. This has been a brilliant show – with excellent writing and acting, and stories that do not shy away from the horrors of Victorian life. Season 4 for example, includes a story about a Workhouse. And the season opens with Susan raising her child in prison. But it’s the characters and the conflicts between them that draw you in – although I must admit, I like seeing Drake, Reid, and Jackson working together rather than at odds. I highly, highly recommend Ripper Street – it really is a brilliant show.
- Series: The Flash
- Season: 2
- Episodes: 24
- Discs: 6
- Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale
- Network: CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
- DVD Format: Color, Widescreen
The Flash continues to be a highly enjoyable series. Season 2 brings in Earth-2 from the very beginning. Jay Garrick’s, who’s Golden-Age helmet had come through the time portal at the end of last season arrives in person, to warn Barry Allen and the others about Zoom – an evil speedster from Earth-2, who having conquered that world, and has plans to do the same to Barry’s Earth. Not to mention Zoom wants to steal Barry’s speed so he can go even faster.
Barry, Cisco, and Dr. Wells (from Earth-2) do eventually travel to Earth-2 – to save Dr. Wells’ daughter, Jesse, who has been kidnapped. The two-part Earth-2 episode is marvelous. Everything has a golden look, and the architecture and even set design has a marvelous Art Deco quality. While on Earth-2, Barry meets his doppleganger, also a forensic scientist for the police, but one with no powers who is married to Iris West – a police detective. That version of Barry does not get on at all with Iris’s father, Joe, a jazz singer. And that Barry’s mother, Nora, is still alive. Our Barry is brought to tears when he hears an answering machine message from his mother. But Cisco’s doppleganger is the evil meta – Reverb. And Caitlin also has an evil meta doppleganger – Killer Frost. the entire two-part episode is extremely well done and well constructed. It looks beautiful, and the characterization is wonderful.
That isn’t the only two-parter. This box set, unlike last year, includes both parts of the “Legends of Today”/”Legends of Tomorrow” crossover which has Team Flash working with Team Arrow, and introduces Hawkgirl (Kendra) and Hawkman, as well as the villain – Vandal Savage. It’s a backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow but it works. I’ve already reviewed Legends of Tomorrow, so I won’t repeat myself here, but suffice it to say the two-part story was fantastic – and had some impressive special effects. It also shows just how dangerous Barry’s time travelling can be – something which the series will come back to later.
Season two of The Flash, alters between Barry and Team Flash tracking down and defeating meta-humans, often sent from Earth-2 by Zoom, and increasingly complicated personal relationships. And it’s the nitty-gritty of how these characters care about each other that makes the show really work. Barry and Iris also grow much closer together. Caitlin also grows close to Jay Garrick, even creating Volocity 9 a speed drug to help cure him of his illness and get his speed back. But this Jay has a dark secret, and it’s revelation is devastating to Caitlin. Meanwhile, Cisco discovers he is also a metahuman, with the ability to see visions of the present, past, and even sometimes – the future, if events involve a metahuman – he takes the name, Vibe. Cisco’s fear of his own power and eventual acceptance of it becomes another them of the season.
Once it’s revealed who Zoom really is, the season focuses on him, and his need to take Barry’s speed. When he kidnaps Wally West, Joe’s long-lost son, Barry chooses to give up his speed to Zoom to save Wally. This gives Barry a few episodes as a normal guy. Wells then says he can re-create the experiment that made Barry a speedster – but when he does, Barry disappears utterly. Wally and Jesse are both knocked out by the backlash of the experiment as well. But Barry isn’t dead – he’s in a Speed Force limbo – where he talks to everyone important to him – then returns, with his speed.
The final confrontation between Barry and Zoom is – wow – very much a lot to take in. I covered it in a review of The Flash season finale. Overall, Season 2 of The Flash was excellent, even better than Season 1 of the Flash, which I enjoyed very much. I highly recommend this show, which is still appropriate for all ages. It’s very much a must see show.
- Series: Gotham
- Season: 2
- Episodes: 22
- Discs: 4 (on Blu-Ray)
- Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Erin Richards, James Frain, Chris Chalk, B. D. Wong
- Network: FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
- DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen
Gotham has incredible cinematography. The use of dark, light, shadows, raking light from the side, tints of gold or blue is simply spellbinding. This show really deserves an award for the cinematography and lighting because it is just that good. The sets and locations also take your breath away and without being “showy” – they are just there. Film students need to look at this show just to see what you can do – even with the constraints of time and budget found in television.
The plot of season 2 of Gotham, however was really, really dark – so much so that at times it was really hard to even watch it. I normally watch at least one episode of a show on DVD/Blu-ray per day, more on my days off. With Gotham, I sometimes went days between watching it. Some of that was personal reasons, but some of it was wanting to avoid immersing myself in such a dark world. The subtitle of Season 2 was “Rise of the Villains” – and it is that, but moreover it’s a season in which the villains keep winning – which of course means the heroes keep losing. We also see two characters that, as audience members, from last season we liked – stepping even further down the path to becoming becoming the villains we know they will become.
One of the most difficult scenes to watch in a difficult season is when Ed Nygma kills Kristin Kringle. Kristin is too innocent to be living in Gotham – and her somewhat accidental death, literally at the hands of Nygma early in the season sets him on a very, very dark path. The psychosis that began with the death of Kristin’s abusive boyfriend last season, completely takes Ed over when he kills his girlfriend. And the scene is just hard to watch. It’s terrible – not badly produced, but it’s showing violence towards women in an way that’s about the man’s point of view – not the woman’s. It’s hard.
Whereas season 1 of Gotham had many strong women – some villains, some not, many strong in their own ways, in season 2 those women are gone. Both Barbara and Tabitha (the villain Galavan’s sister) are utterly insane. And as crazy as Fish was last season, she was also strong. Tabitha is cruel and psychotic – and in a sense this makes her not a strong woman. Likewise, Barbara, who never seemed to know what she wanted anyway – is nuts as well, and as manipulative as possible. When she returns at the end of the season as “cured” the audience can’t trust her. It will be interesting to see where her character goes in Season 3.
The second half of the season, introducing Hugo Strange (played by B.D. Wong – the psychiatrist from Law and Order: SVU which is just perfect casting), explains how monsters end-up in Gotham, as well as satisfactorily concluding the hints about Indian Hill that have been dropped since last season. I actually enjoyed the second season better than the first – though seeing Jim’s descent was, well, hard.
The first season saw Jim Gordon as an honest cop in a dishonest town. In season 2, out of necessity, Jim also doesn’t become corrupt, but he becomes more morally ambiguous. Jim goes from being the one good guy bringing light to the darkness, to the protagonist in a film noir series. He becomes Sam Spade, or Fred McMurray in Double Indemnity. It’s hard to watch Jim becoming the type of cop he despised when the show started. And at the end of the season he isn’t even a cop – though I expect him to return for season 3, with or without Lee Thompkins.
The Bruce and Alfred relationship in Season 2 is complex. Early in the season, Bruce tries to send Alfred away, then changes his mind. Alfred, in turn, decides he must train Bruce – train him to fight, to think, and to become the man he’s destined to become. Bruce is now more free to investigate his parents’ murder, and to learn on his own. At times this is problematical – would you let a 13-year-old boy live on the streets on his own? But, at the same time, Alfred can’t really stop Bruce. He’s a stubborn, determined boy – and to keep their relationship strong, Alfred needs to know when to stop him and when to let him go. This has always been key to their relationship.
Overall, I liked Gotham season 2. The cinematography and lighting alone make it a series worth watching. The season was dark, very dark, and times even difficult to watch, but at the same time – I think Season 3 might actually be, well, it’s hard to imagine “lighter” but to also have some of the great character moments of season one. The moments that made you say, “awww”, and really understand and feel for the characters. My Review of Season 1 of Gotham is also on Bitch with Wi-Fi.
- Series Title: Legends of Tomorrow
- Season: 1
- Episodes: 16
- Discs: 4
- Network: CW
- Cast: Arthur Darvill, Brandon Routh, Victor Garber, Franz Drameh, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Ciara Renée
Legends of Tomorrow is a team-up show that was spun-off mid-season from The Flash and Arrow. It features Brandon Routh as Dr. Ray Palmer (The Atom) and Sara Lance (White Canary) from Arrow, Dr. Martin Stein and Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Firestorm) from The Flash, and also from The Flash Leonard Snart (Captain Cold) and Mick Rory (Heatwave). New to this series are time traveller, Rip Hunter, and Kendra Saunders (Hawkgirl). Hunter brings his time-ship, the Waverider and it’s A.I. computer, Gideon.
What makes Legends of Tomorrow different and interesting isn’t simply the characters – it’s that these characters are the “screw-ups”. They not only make mistakes – they frequently make things worse. Rip Hunter’s mission is to track down and kill Vandal Savage an immortal dictator from the future that killed his wife and child (and billions more people). Yet Rip is also on the run – because his mission isn’t sanctioned by the Time Masters he once served – they are actually after him for breaking the rules. Halfway through the season we discover the soldier, Chronos, who was chasing our characters through time is actually Mick Rory – who was captured by the Time Masters and brainwashed into being their killing machine. This means that when, during the first time you watch this series and you assume Chronos is tracking the Waverider using future technology – he’s actually able to track Rip and company because he remembers where they will be. This means the second time you watch this show, there’s an extra layer of meaning to what’s going on.
The first six or so episodes of this series are very episodic – Rip and his crew travel to different eras of time, trying to track down and eliminate Savage. Yet again – their plans seem doomed. Savage also has an intimate connection to Kendra (Hawkgirl) and Carter Hall (Hawkman). However, gradually the story becomes more connected and each episode ends with a “cliffhanger” that leads into the next episode – and this is where the show really picked up steam. The last four episodes are essentially one grand story – with revelations about the Time Masters – who, after all, are still using Rip Hunter.
The weakest part of season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow is Vandal Savage, and not simply because a immortal villain is a boring villain (after all how do you kill an immortal villain?) but because I just didn’t like how he was played. However, I liked the finale very much.
The best part of Legends of Tomorrow is the characters and the cast. Watching Arthur Darvill playing a time traveler again is a pure joy. The rest of the cast does an excellent job – and the writing takes the time to explore each of the characters – their backgrounds, their fears, and how they can become heroes despite their faults and doubts. So this is a show about very human “superheroes”. Watching Leonard Snart develop is especially a joy. The show is also well-written, and isn’t afraid to get into the occasional moral quandary about what they are doing. I recommend it highly.
- Series Title: Supergirl
- Season: 1
- Episodes: 20
- Discs: 5
- Network: CBS
- Cast: Melissa Benoist, Chyler Leigh, Mehcad Brooks, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood, Calista Flockhart
Do see my Supergirl Pilot Review for my initial impressions of this series. However, it got better – much better. Although the early episodes seemed very much to be “Supergirl verses monster/villain of the week”, the season developed and once it moved into a continued storyline it improved immensely. The entire cast did a good job – after the pilot, Supergirl, her sister, Alex, and Hank from the DEO all improved, and from the very beginning I liked Winn and James Olsen. Although the structure of the show is similar to the other DC shows (on the CW), especially The Flash – Supergirl did find it’s footing rather quickly in it’s first season.
Cat Grant, played beautifully by Calista Flockhart, was the most inconsistently-written character on the show. Some of the series’ writers seemed to believe a powerful woman must be a complete bitch and not in a good way (“The Devil wears Prada” stereotype). Yet, Cat could also be very strong, remarkably sensible, and the arc of her relationship with Kara shows her to be a mentor and a tough teacher. The last scene between the two of them in the season was a complete surprise. It should have been predictable and it wasn’t – making that arc work. We also see the reasons for some of Cat’s actions – and even her inconsistency. And meeting her mother really explains a lot about Cat (in short not only does her mother have Cat’s occasional meanness – but she’s snobbish and pushy as well).
The remaining characters surrounding Supergirl/Kara have their ups and downs as well – and the season has that rollercoaster feel we know so well from the CW shows. But Supergirl has it’s own tone as well. The tone of the show is hope, and unity, and strength that comes from working together rather in constant competition. Cat holds up Supergirl as a symbol of hope to National City. Kara explains to Winn that the S on her chest isn’t an S – it’s the crest of the House of El, whose motto is “Stronger Together”. The finale of the series rests on hope to defeat Myriad and the Kryptonian criminals from Ft. Rozz – the Kryptonian prison that landed on Earth. The series sees positivity as important, and human, and a real American value. It therefore stands against snark, meanness, rudeness, and especially racism and hatred of the other. From a senator’s anti-alien rallies and anti-Supergirl rhetoric to an army general’s statement that James Olsen “isn’t good enough for his daughter” – this series subtly but consistently fights against racism, hatred, and the darkness. In these times that is a strong and brave message – especially in a series that is aimed at pre-teen and teen-aged girls. That isn’t to say that adults can’t enjoy the show – it’s very much all-ages, but at least the first half of the season seemed very much to pitching itself towards that demographic audience.
As a quick glance through my blog will show, I’m a long-time DC fan, so I also appreciated the references and characters that were brought into the first season of Supergirl. Red Tornado and his creator, Dr. T.O. Morrow, were perfect. And I really enjoyed seeing Martian Manhunter – one of my favorite lesser-known characters as a regular. Maxwell Lord is also a regular – and is correctly portrayed as a very gray character. Grant Gustin’s the Flash also makes an appearance in an excellent episode called, “World’s Finest”. I hope the second season brings in more DC characters.
Season 2 of Supergirl will air on the CW, which is where this show should have been from the beginning. Overall, I recommend this show. And if you have a pre-teen or teenaged daughter, or niece or friend’s daughter – by all means introduce them to the show.
- Series Title: Remington Steele
- Season: 4 (Packaged with Season 5)
- Episodes: 21
- Discs: 4 (Double-Sided)
- Cast: Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts
- Original Network: NBC
- Original Production Company: MTM
Before I start with my review of this season set – I really need to mention some technical issues. First, these are double-sided discs. I really hate double-sided discs – they are even more likely to be damaged than normal DVDs, even with careful handling. Second, my set is missing the final two episodes of Season 4. Disc four lists four episodes: “Steele in the Running”; “Beg, Borrow or Steele”; and “Steele Alive and Kicking”; and “Bonds of Steele”. “Steele Alive and Kicking” and “Bonds of Steele” are no where to be found. You put in the disc and a menu comes up for the first two episodes and that is it. When I pay for a full season, I expect a full season and this sort of shoddy workmanship is annoying and unfair. The next disc of the set starts the tele-movies that makes up Season 5.
That said, though, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Season 4 of Remington Steele. Not that I wasn’t sure I’d like this series – I loved it when I originally saw it in the 1980s, and when I re-watched it in the 1990s on some cheap cable station, I was surprised by how well it stood up. However, I remembered not really liking Season 4 – and really disliking Season 5. Yet, when re-watching Season 4 I liked it. I genuinely enjoyed each episode as I watched it. The first episode of Season 4 is a two-parter, set in London, England, which features Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stephanie’s real father, and a relatively frequent guest star throughout the series), Catherine Harris (Pierce Brosnan’s real wife, who passed away shortly thereafter from cancer), and Julian Glover (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Magnum PI (guest), Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) as a guest star. Steele attempts to find clues to his past and his real father, Laura is pushed to decide how much she trusts Steele, Mildred finally discovers the truth – that Laura runs the agency not Steele, and Laura and Steele’s relationship is taken to a new level. Plus the story is an excellent mystery with red herrings, side steps, and a very sweet ending. It’s a good start. The rest of the season features OK to good to excellent mysteries, but the characterization is excellent. Now that she knows the truth, Mildred is less the bumbling grandmotherly secretary and more of a real character. The episode where she quits because she feels both Steele and Laura are taking her for granted is really good. Mildred also gets promised the chance to earn her investigator’s license. Also, each episode of the Season 4 ends with Steele and Laura in a clench or even kissing. The romance the show had teased the audience with for four years is finally on the screen in a warm and wonderful way.
Remington Steele was an influential series for me as a young woman. Not only did I become a huge fan of Pierce Brosnan for life, but the show was one of the few that featured a woman as lead and as an equal partner with a man. Other programs at the time either had entirely male casts (Magnum PI, Riptide, The A-Team, etc.) or even if they had a woman in the cast she was often secondary or the show was entirely about the romance (Moonlighting, Scarecrow and Mrs. King). Remington Steele had romance as well, but the mysteries were at the core of the stories.
The second thing about Remington Steele that was very important to me is that it’s the reason I became a fan of classic film. The character of Remington Steele was a fan of the cinema – and had an encyclopedic knowledge of film. While working on a case, he’d mention a classic movie – “North by Northwest, Cary Grant, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, MGM 1959,” which the case somehow reminded him of. But not only did Steele mention these films – he was enthusiastic about them. He gushed about them. In short, Steele talked like a fan about whatever it was he or she was a fan of – a television show, a movie, a book, a comic. Steele showed us, in a time when being a fan, being enthusiastic about media was decidedly not cool, that it was OK to be a fan. And his very enthusiasm about the films made me want to actually see them. Remington Steele made me the Classic Film fan and movie fan that I am. Season 4 has considerably less of the references to films and movies, which is too bad – but the characters of Steele, Laura, and Mildred have grown so that makes up for it in a way.
So, overall, recommended, though I’d really like to see MTM or NBC re-release the entire series in a box set that wasn’t on cheap double-sided discs. Season 5 to be reviewed later.