Supergirl Pilot Review

Oh Supergirl, what happened? I’m really hoping the show improves because Monday night was such a disappointment. Now, I know it was just a pilot – and sometimes a bad pilot results in a good show. And it wasn’t “bad” just not as good as I had hoped. And pilots do have a difficult job – you have to introduce everyone and the situation, and the world and it’s rules (especially for fantasy) but both Gotham and The Flash (and even Arrow) had better opening episodes than Supergirl.

First, Supergirl seemed incredibly derivative. Kara Danvers seemed way too much like Felicity from Arrow. I’d noticed this in the on-line trailers I’d seen but I hoped it would work to the show’s favor. Kara should be a strong character, an inspiration to young girls, both in her “real” life and as a superhero. One reason I really love Felicity is she’s a normal person – and she uses her own talents – rather than trying to be whom others tell her to be. Kara seems to constantly strive to “fit in” as she says, to do what everyone else tells her to do, to let others, especially male characters defend her, and to not stand up for what she believes. This isn’t a “feminist” hero.

The rest of the cast is derivative too. Oh, look, Kara has her own “Jimmy Olsen” type – Winn. And the “real” Jimmy, now using the more adult name, James, has just started working at Cat Grant’s Worldwide Media. But, of course, the one character from Superman we might expect to see, the Big Blue Boy Scout himself – Superman, isn’t in the pilot. If others were going to make Kara to accept her identity anyway – why not have Superman show up and actually talk to his cousin? A serious discussion between the two might have made Kara’s flip-flops on becoming Supergirl a lot easier to take.

Then there’s Cat Grant. Cat’s a minor DC character, usually a reporter, whom I’ve seen in a number of DC shows, including Young Justice and Batman: The Animated Series. She’s their generic “girl reporter”. So, they bring her in as the head of a multi-media empire – great, and then go all Devil-wears-Prada when writing her. Pleeeeeeeeaaaaase! Why, why, oh why, does a powerful woman have to be a bitch (and not in the good sense)? Why does a powerful woman have to abuse her “underlings” even worse than a male boss? Why couldn’t Cat be shown as an intelligent, inclusive person who values the input of her fellow employees? And Cat’s retrofit explanation for “Supergirl”, rather than Kara’s suggestion of “Superwoman” made me squirm. Cat’s a “girl”? No, she’s a powerful woman. Not to mention Kara gets belittled again when she’s not even allowed to choose her own name. (Yes, as a long-time DC fan, I know that the “Superwoman” name is, actually, already being used – and for an alternate universe “evil” Superman/Wonder Woman hybrid character.) I also realise the show has to be Supergirl – but at least it should have been Kara taking on that name. Actually the scene would have played better in reverse – Cat suggesting “SuperWoman” and Kara suggesting “Supergirl”.

Moving on to the episode itself. The rescuing the plane scene was very cool – but totally spoiled by the on-line trailers. And I’m not a big fan of spoilers, so I didn’t even look for every trailer – but that was in the main one. Alex, Kara’s adoptive sister changed sides more times than a tennis ball in a championship match, so when she finally decided that she was loyal to Kara and that Kara should be Supergirl – it almost came off as artificial. And Alex’s boss is an evil twit, but, yet again, he’s a somewhat standard and derivative character (for both Marvel and DC actually).

One of the best moments in the entire episode was actually Kara getting the hologram from her mother. I hope (but I don’t expect) that the series deals with Kara remembering her former life on Krypton. After all, if she left home at 13 she’d remember something (unlike Clark Kent / Superman who, since he left Krypton as a baby would remember nothing of his previous life or planet.)

I also like that both James Olsen and Kara’s friend, Winn, know who she is (as well as, obviously, her sister, Alex). It might be interesting to bring Cat into that circle.

I do plan to continue to tune in. It’s a shame Supergirl and Gotham are on at the same time. But I really hope for some improvement.

Agile Update – Week 42

Last week was a successful week. Four posts here on WordPress and a book review on GoodReads. My writing last week included my regular Agile update post, a TV-on-DVD season set review, a link with introduction and a movie review on WordPress. The movie review I also posted to my Blogger movie review page. That’s five days of writing. Woo-hoo! After what seems like a long. dry spell of only a few posts a week, I am so glad to be writing again. I also reached a new milestone on Twitter – I now have 351 followers. That still might not sound like much, but I’m still impressed. Goes to show what having good Twitter manners does for you. I got back to thanking new followers this past week or two.

Exercise this week consisted of going to my weekly one-hour yoga class. I really enjoyed it though, as always. And I noticed that before class, I was upset and angry about some things that had happened in my A+ professional training class, but after my yoga class, I was just relaxed and calm. It helps so much!

Lots of professional development activity last week as well. As I’ve been talking about, I’m in the midst of an A+ class. Last week I read and took notes on chapter 11 (finished chapter 10 the week before), and did the chapter 10 and 11 chapter review sheets. I almost missed doing them, since the person in charge of the class handed them out so late. But they aren’t due until tomorrow so it’s OK. I also turned in three labs. And I I started reading chapter 12, again for the A+ class. And of course I attended the actual A+ class twice. I also downloaded three A+ study guide apps from the Android Play store. We’ll see how they work. I’m still not quite ready to start using the review tools because I figure I should actually read the material first – something the instructor does not get. I have a very specific way of learning information, and it’s served me well all the way through school – which is why I have a BA and two master’s – and this instructor thinks he knows better than I do how I learn? I really don’t think so. And of course, every time he says something like “Don’t read the book, it’s useless. Watch these videos instead.” I just want to scream because I certainly can’t correct him or complain. I’ve been down that route before, it’s a no-win scenario. And since this training is supposed to lead to a job with the company paying for the training (along with two other organizations) I have to suck up to the “teacher”. So, of course, I have to not complain. I also don’t like his “competitive” view of class (I’ve passed every single quiz with grades in the 90s but I never get on his “pet” list, and lately he’s been giving me poor grades on the homework.) Learning needs to be co-operative, or a solo activity, treating it like a football game with a winner and a loser is completely counter-productive.

That’s also something about Agile that I like. In a working environment, when implemented correctly, it’s an cooperative system. Everyone in a Scrum team is working together, no matter their background – from engineers, to documentation writers, to marketing. And it isn’t the false “there’s no I in team” business-speak used to take credit away from people who actually do the work – whether that’s a woman with a ground-breaking idea or a engineer who develops something new and is forced to give up his or her patent to the company they work for. A proper Agile team is cross-disciplinary and co-operative, and everyone is given all information for the “big picture” and all inputs are valued to constantly improve the product.

Using Agile for self-improvement means setting and meeting goals, congratulating yourself on meeting goals, and at times setting new, more complex goals. It’s about not beating yourself up if you slip back and not meet goals you’ve set for yourself, but equally not giving up entirely. Agile is about continual improvement, which is, in the end, realistic.

UHF

  • Title:  UHF
  • Director:  Jay Levey
  • Date:  1989
  • Studio:  Orion Pictures (DVD released by MGM)
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  “Weird Al” Yankovic (created as Al Yankovic), Victoria Jackson, Kevin Mccarthy, Michael Richards, David Bowe, Anthony Geary, Trinidad Silva, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty, Fran Drescher
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This is even better than I imagined!” – George

“Sweetheart, take my advice, broads don’t belong in broadcasting.” – Fletcher’s thug to Pamela

“I never should have taken this job. I should have known it would turn out like all the others. You know, for a short time there, I really thought this was going to be different. I just don’t know anymore.” – George

UHF  is a underdog story about a UHF television station and the misfits who end-up working there. However, today many people might not even know what a UHF station is. Back in the days before cable when all television was local and not national, picture tube television sets had two dials – VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency). The VHF dial consisted of numbers 2 – 13 and was where the locally-owned network affiliates were found. A locally-owned network affiliate was owned by a local business person or group and they bought network programming during prime time, but ran whatever they wanted otherwise (usually re-runs). The UHF dial (channels 14 – whatever) was home to all sorts of unusual channels that were also locally owned (and may even have a network affiliation) in my area we had a channel 35 which was an PBS affiliate and a channel 41 which was an ABC affiliate. But often the UHF band also supported various local channels that catered to a specific audience: news, sports, minority broadcasting, etc. In major cities the local VHF or UHF stations often were the first to jump to cable and become national “Superstations” (for example WWGN (Ch 9) in Chicago – famous for running Cubs baseball, WTBS in Atlanta, WWOR in New York, etc.).

UHF, the film, is about one of these small, independent stations – but more than that it’s about the people who end up there and how they actually care about what they are doing. George Newman (Weird Al) is an idealistic dreamer. He goes from job to job, constantly getting fired for daydreaming rather than concentrating on his boring work. Bob is his friend. After they are fired from their job at Burger World, George is suddenly given what he thinks will be his golden opportunity: his Uncle Harvey wins a television station in a high stakes poker game. George’s aunt convinces Harvey to let George run the station, Channel 62.

Channel 62 is a mess. Fran Drescher is Pamela Finkelstein, the secretary who was hired with the promise of a job in news. When George and Bob arrive no one else works at the station except the engineer, Philo, who seems very strange, even to George. But George, who is at heart, just a very nice guy, assembles a group of great people and gives them the opportunity to shine. This includes Billy Barty as Noodles the Cameraperson who works with Pamela, now the station’s news reporter, Stanley the Janitor – who was fired by the cross town network affiliate “Channel 8” president, JR Fletcher.

George sees that they are only running re-runs, and decides to launch new live shows. At first, this only goes so well. But then, after a particularly bad day, George puts Stanley in charge of the kiddie playhouse show. Stanley is a hit, and soon, “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse” becomes a ratings blockbuster. George adds in other new shows, including “Wheel of Fish” hosted by his friend, Kani, who also runs a karate studio; and Raul’s Wild Kingdom, as well as various movies such as: “Conan the Librarian” and “Gandhi II”.

UHF moves quickly between George’s daydreams – such as the opening parody of Indiana Jones, or later George’s “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies” music video; unbelievable commercials, promos for various shows, and brief excerpts of the programs on U62, and it’s main story, which is an underdog story for George and his friends – where nice guys do finish first.

As George and Bob create more original programming, they get more and more attention, and when the ratings come out U62 is at the top in the local market, with five shows in the top five. George and Bob are stunned. But just as everything seems to be going perfectly, Uncle Harvey loses at the racetrack and needs $75,000 to pay his bookie.

Meanwhile, RJ Fletcher, the owner and manager of network affiliate channel 8, who has proved himself to be a nasty piece of work, with no redeeming features whatsoever (and who keeps, through his own arrogance and disregard for others – handing opportunities to George, who’s very niceness turns to his own advantage) is angry about channel 62 beating him in the ratings, which he takes as a personal affront. He offers to buy the station from Harvey so he can pay his bookie.

George convinces Harvey to at least let him match Fletcher’s offer. He and his friends then hold a telethon, raising money by selling stock in the station at $10.00/share. Despite difficulties, at the last minute they are up to $73,000 and change. Then a bum, who’s been seen collecting change throughout the movie, gives them the last $2000 they need. It seems the penny RJ had given him as an insult was an ultra-rare coin worth a fortune. RJ could have still gotten his station (which he then was going to destroy) but he first goes to gloat at and insult the assembled crowd. George sneaks over to the bookie’s car, gives him the money, gets the contract and Harvey signs it over.

Meanwhile, Philo had also installed cameras at RJ’s office and recorded him saying very insulting things about the local community. This footage is not only played on Channel 8’s own signal, over-writing his broadcast signal, but it’s the primary evidence when the FCC agent shows up and revokes Fletcher’s licence (we can assume, since the man shows up and rather than fining Fletcher for not re-applying for his broadcasting licence – he revokes it.) Philo walks off after saying goodbye to George and Teri (George’s girlfriend) and disappears in a beam of light. Pamela reports on the story of the end of Fletcher’s media career.

UHF  is really a simply underdog story. And it’s the story of a man finding his way in the universe. But it’s also a story about good people, and how just simply being nice, and kind, and considerate will bring good things. There’s also a lot of sight gags, some physical comedy, and even some wordplay. It’s an enjoyable family film.

This is a B film, however. Although there are some well-known names in the film (Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Anthony Geary) it’s mostly “Weird Al”‘s movie – almost as if he and his friends got together to make a film. But even so, it’s enjoyable and fun.

Recommendation: If comedy’s your thing, See it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Van Helsing

Doctor Who Books Checklist (all) – LINK

I’ve written a number of posts on this blog about the various series of Doctor Who books, and I’ve reviewed several individual titles on my GoodReads page. Suffice it to say, there are several different series, six at least – for the main, official, ranges. It is a lot to keep up with. And I’ve gathered information from several sources in order to publish blog posts listing the various series of books in both chronological release order, and in the order the books would take place within the Doctor Who universe (e.g. Doctor then Companion order). While looking for some other information about Doctor Who I found the following site which lists all the Doctor Who books, including the Target novelisations, and even books published by Big Finish (better known for their audio plays) and Telos Publishing.

Complete Doctor Who Books Checklist.

Check it out!

The Batman – Season 1 Review

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  1
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Ming-Na Wen (credited as Ming Na), Steve Harris
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

Premiering in 2004, several years after the classic Batman: The Animated Series (1992 – 1995), The Batman is almost the forgotten animated Batman series. It’s set in modern times, and Bruce Wayne even has a device called The Batwave which informs him of crimes in progress, escapes from Arkham Asylum, and can remotely control his devices. The series starts simply introducing, one per episode, the major villains of the Batman universe: Joker, Bane, Penguin, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze. Even lesser known villains such as Firefly and Cluemaster make brief appearances. This “intro a new villain, quickly move on” approach falls somewhat flat. However, Joker’s second and third appearance, the second appearance of Penguin, and the introduction of Clayface make the back-half of the short 13-episode season work.

Alfred is sardonic here, but he is also understanding of Bruce’s need to fulfill his self-appointed mission. “Traction”, the second episode of Season One, where Batman comes up against Bane and loses is one of the best – especially the flashback to Alfred making a promise to care for Bruce, and Alfred agreeing to help Bruce come up with a solution to defeat Bane, despite his misgivings about Bruce getting even more hurt or killed.

The series also has a “it’s for kids” quality – not that it’s “bad” or “immature” but the violence is much less than other versions of Batman, and often off-screen. There are also a lot less scares in this version.

This series also features two police officers – Ethan Bennett, an old high school friend of Bruce Wayne, and Ellen Yin – Ethan’s partner.

Season 1 feels very much like an introduction. I now have the rest of the series on DVD, most of which I haven’t really seen – so it should be interesting to see how it goes. Oh, one more note – several of the episodes were directed by directors who worked on the various Warner Brothers Animated Batman, Superman, or Justice League movies.

Agile Update – Week 41

Last week I was very sick with a bad sinus cold; however, I still managed to accomplish quite a lot of what I had to do. And I pushed myself in some areas too, which I’m proud of.

My goal has been to write three to five blog posts a week and failing that to at least write something nearly every day for a total of five days a week. Well, last week I wrote two blog posts here on WordPress, which was pretty good, though not my minimum goal of three per week. But I also wrote two book reviews on GoodReads (see my GoodReads page – Widget at lower right of this blog page). So that’s a total of four which isn’t bad. But not only did I write my Agile update post on this WordPress blog, I also reviewed a comics mini-series Doctor Who The Four Doctors Event written by Paul Cornell and published by Titan Comics. And not only did Paul personally thank me on Twitter (which was very awesome and  I almost missed due to being off-line for much of last week because I was sick) but he reblogged my review on his tumblr. My WordPress blog posts automatically post to my tumblr. I was so geeked and just found it so awesome that Paul Cornell did that.It just meant a lot, and since I’ve been having a rough time lately that was just very very cool. The Internet gets an awful rap on the news and from so-called “security experts” (who really just want to shut-up, I mean, take the right of free expression from us writers, especially women) but no one, ever, talks about the small, beautiful events and acts of kindness that happen on-line. Besides the author of the Doctor Who Four Doctors Event reblogged my review! How awesome is that?

Paul_Cornell_Tweet-to-JM

Because I was sick I wasn’t able to go to Yoga last week. And I was really sick, I was so out of it on Wednesday that even watching TV or reading was beyond me – and I just kept falling asleep on the sofa. In short, I was a mess and there was no way I could go to Yoga. But I was determined to at least exercise at home, so on Saturday I was finally feeling a bit better and I did 30 minutes of Yoga at home. I’ve mentioned I really like the 10-Minute Solution series of exercise DVDs, and I used that doing the Balance & Flexibility, Energizing Yoga Flow, and Stress Relief sets. Each set is 10 minutes, so combining three of them gives you a 30-minute workout. Anyway, I was proud of myself that I was able to do that. And I do need to get back in to exercising on two days other than my Yoga class day.

I did do a lot of professional development work this past week. I read the book for chapters 8 and 9, and started chapter 10. I did the homework sheets for chapters 6 and 7. My instructor won’t hand out the homework sheets until the class before they are due – even though we have to read the chapters the week before. So say for example it’s Week 5 of class – the HW sheets for chapters 6 and 7 will be due, which we read in week 4, and even though chapters 8 and 9 are due as reading for that week, he won’t hand out the homework sheets for them until Week 6. Most instructors will give you homework sheets very much in advance (like an entire semester’s worth at once), or at the very least before the reading assignment the homework goes with. Not this guy. It’s starting to really irritate me. But anyway, I attended class on both Tuesday and Thursday – even though, Tuesday I was really sick and had a very runny nose. I got a 90% on the quiz, passing, but I still feel that I should be getting 100%, especially as this are open-book quizzes – and it irritates me that I’m not doing better. I also did my chapter 8 review sheet. The instructor recommends an on-line youTube source for info, called Professor Messer and I watched three videos in his A+ series.  I also discovered (somewhat belatedly but still, now I know) that the text for every video is transcribed below it. And I can right-click it, and save the text as a .pdf. Now, for some reason you also get all the ads and such on the webpage, but that is easily ignored. Then I could even use Calibre to convert those .pdfs to EPUB and load them onto my tablet to read in my e-reader program. This is an awesome discovery and something I really need to do. I even started reading chapter 10 of my A+ book.

So, even though I was sick, I still did a lot last week. I met my obligations for class, passed the quiz, and did homework. And I wrote two posts on WordPress and wrote two additional book reviews on GoodReads. I watched videos for class. I even managed to exercise on my own, when I couldn’t get to my Yoga class because I was sick. So even though I was sick and that be definition could have made it a terrible week – it was a successful week instead.

Doctor Who Four Doctors Event (Titan Comics) Review

The Four Doctors Event is a five-issue comic mini series written by Paul Cornell and published by Titan Comics. I know I first heard about this series from social media, I think on Twitter. Anyway, I was very excited about it because I really like Paul Cornell’s writing (Cornell writes the Shadow Police urban fantasy series, see reviews on my GoodReads page) – and I thought it was great to see him back to writing Doctor Who. Titan Comics is a new publisher for Doctor Who Comics and they definitely get Doctor Who. I’ve now read several of their graphic novels (collections of the soft cover series) and the art is always excellent, and the stories very much in the tone of New Who. Again, see my GoodReads page for specific reviews of the various titles I’ve read so far.

The art in the Four Doctors Event is excellent. The panels have a painted almost watercolor look, and the edges of figures are sharp and crisp. I like my comics art to be realistic and the panel order to be clear – and that’s precisely what the Titan Comics give me, including this series. But it’s also gorgeous and I really like the painted look.

Doctor Who has had multiple-Doctor stories before in both the Classic and New aired series, namely “The Three Doctors”, “The Five Doctors”, “The Two Doctors”, and the 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”. These stories have been hit or miss – I loved “The Day of the Doctor”, and I enjoyed “The Three Doctors” but I felt the plot of “The Five Doctors” was more a series of cameo appearances than a good story and “The Two Doctors” was just too long and slow-moving. But the Four Doctors Event has a great story that takes advantage of several versions of the Doctor (the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth and briefly the War Doctor). There were several surprises in the story that I don’t want to spoil, so I won’t – but it is a good story and well-written.

The only disappointment I had was that The War Doctor (John Hurt’s character in “The Day of the Doctor”) only appears at the very beginning. I kept expecting him to return, but he didn’t. The Ninth Doctor also isn’t in the story, except a very brief cameo at the end – but the explanation for his absence is brilliant! Overall, this story was excellent and had the same feel as “The Day of the Doctor” without being quite so bonkers at times (No “little girl” Elizabeth the First this time around) but it also wasn’t as grim as some stories I’ve read by Cornell. Not that there’s anything wrong with grim, I like grim – at times; but this mini-series had just the right New Who attitude, so I enjoyed it very much.

I normally never buy things twice, but I plan to purchase the Graphic Novel version of this story when it becomes available in January 2016. This comics mini-series (and no doubt the graphic novel) is highly recommended.

Agile Update – Week 40

I was thinking yesterday that I didn’t do much at all last week, and that may have even added to my procrastination for writing this post. After all, for the second week in a row – I only wrote two posts. But looking over what I did do – I actually did a lot in terms of professional development, namely for my class – so I did more than I thought. Which is a good thing about this system – as long as you record what you’re doing, you will be surprised at just how much you get done, even when sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

So last week I wrote two posts on this blog – my regular Agile update post, and a TV-on-DVD review. I like writing reviews, it gives me writing topics for this blog, and lets me express myself and my opinions. And it’s good practice for writing. But watching several US TV-series in only a week is very time-consuming. They do run 20-24 episodes each. I really wish the US DVD/Television industry would do what they do in the UK and release their DVDs immediately. After all, if you want to then wait until “just before” the new season starts, you can, but if you’d rather watch something right away – or even take your time about watching something, you can do that too. After all, people work and have other commitments – and if you buy a lot of TV-on-DVD like I do, you don’t buy just “one show”. Last season I watched and later bought on DVD:  Arrow, Castle, The Flash, Gotham, and Once Upon a Time. I also bought Doctor Who (Series 8 and the Christmas Special), Grantchester, and Ripper Street – all of which were quickly released after they aired. And I bought Outlander, which I hadn’t seen because I don’t get the network that airs it (Starz). So with the US series – that was a lot to watch in the 2-3 weeks between the DVD release and the Season premieres. (I still haven’t watched Castle Season 7 – I actually lent it to my parents, unwatched, because I knew I wouldn’t have time.) It’s just bad planning in terms of the DVD releases. And, no one actually watches “Summer repeats” (in many cases, especially for cable series, they don’t actually even air repeats – they air a different series instead. I’m not currently watching anything on USA Network but when I did – they had a schedule that was year-around, with only a week or two off here and there mostly for major holidays (when the “marathons’ would come out. Or movies. Or sports.) And, I would definitely argue that the Networks could get higher live viewership (something they are struggling with) by releasing DVDs earlier – giving fans of a show the chance to get their friends and even relatives interested by watching previous season sets together.

Anyway, back to last week. So I wrote two posts. I also attended my Gentle Yoga class. I really enjoyed it – it’s a great, relaxing, focusing exercise – and I really enjoy it.

Most of my focus last week was professional development, and getting caught-up or at least staying current on my A+ class. So I finished my Windows 7 lab at home. I read and took notes on chapters 6 and 7 of the textbook. I attended the class twice (it always meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays). I turned in the completed hardware lab. I did two on-line chapter review quizzes and watched one on-line video. And I got 92% on the quiz (passing). I would really like to do a bit better on the quizzes – they are open book. I think my biggest problem there is a tendency to skim-read the questions and/or answers. I need to slow down, concentrate, and look at what the question is really asking (or throughly understand the possible answers). Maybe I try a few deep breathing/focusing exercises before my next quiz.

So, that was my week. My goals this week are to write at least something three to five days a week, attend my A+ class and Yoga Class, exercise at least one day in addition to my actual Yoga class, and to keep up to date with my homework, quizzes, labs, and professional development activities.

Arrow Season 3 (Review)

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Colton Haynes, John Barrowman, Paul Blackthorne
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Season 3 of the CW’s Arrow was criticized by fans for being “too dark”. Rather than being dark, though, I saw Season 3 as being very intense. And it was a season that I found, in a sense, easier to watch on DVD than watching it as it aired last year. When I watched the season last year, the flashbacks to Oliver in Hong Kong seemed very out of place, and even disruptive to the main story line in present-day Starling City. However, watching the series all at once, on DVD, over the course of a week – and having seen the show last year, it becomes clear that the flashback story and the present-day story are parallel. And the flashback story has a important point – rather than simply pointing out that Amanda Waller and ARGUS are always willing to let the ends justify the means, even crashing an airliner full of innocent civilians to kill one “criminal”, as it appears when watching the show live from week to week, with several long breaks – there is a bigger point. The flashbacks give us, the audience, the necessary background to the Alpha-Omega Bioweapon, so that when it shows up in the present, we know how dangerous and deadly it is – and the story-tellers don’t have to slow down the story and explain it. The flashbacks also introduce the Yamashiros – so we know who they are when they return in the present.

Season 3 also brings into the CW Arrow universe four more characters from DC Comics: Wildcat, Black Canary, the Atom, and Katana. In the first episode of Season 3 of Arrow, Sara Lance, the Canary up to now, is killed. Oliver and company cover up the death, burying Sara in her grave from seven years ago. To his credit, though, Oliver does tell Laurel to tell her father, Captain Quentin Lance that his other daughter has died. Laurel, however, is unwilling to do this, fearing for her father’s health since he recently suffered a heart attack. Laurel’s decision will have grave consequences throughout the season. But Laurel decides also she will take up her sister’s mantle and become the Black Canary. However, Laurel doesn’t know how to fight – so she heads to Ted Grant’s gym. The Wildcat teaches her how to fight. Often the Cat and the Canary have had a special relationship – so it is great to see Ted Grant in Arrow, and I hope we see him again.

Meanwhile, Oliver, not the most attentive of CEOs because of all his distractions is about to lose Queen Consolidated. Although he makes an impassioned speech, there is another bidder for the company. Dr. Ray Palmer wins his bid for QC – renaming the company Palmer Technologies. Soon Felicity is his VP and deputy CEO, though she also continues to help Team Arrow. Ray meanwhile is developing his Atom suit so he can help people and perhaps fight crime.

Finally, Tatsu Yamashiro is Katana, a well-armed swordswoman, who became a superhero after personal tragedy struck in Hong Kong. Her husband, Maseo Yamashiro, having experienced the same loss, joins the League of Assassins and becomes The Phantom.

The over-arcing theme of the season is that R’as al Ghul wants Oliver Queen to be his heir, this is especially true after R’as defeats Oliver in single combat, but Oliver recovers from his apparently “fatal” wound. R’as plans drive the season – but Oliver has plans of his own, plans that he doesn’t share with the rest of his team in order to protect them. Only in the last three episodes do Oliver’s plans start to become clear, and only in the final episode of the season in the real mastermind of everything revealed. This means the story plays out like an elaborate chess game of moves and counter moves that make it not only watchable – but re-watchable. In fact, I’d say I enjoyed Season 3 of Arrow even more upon re-watching it on DVD because it was, in a sense, easier to put all the pieces together and follow what was happening.

Season 3 of Arrow sees Thea, Laurel, and Felicity all grow, change, and become who they will be or even more of who they will become. Thea accepts Malcolm Merlyn as her biological father and he takes her to Corto Maltese where in trains her to fight and to defend herself. But in an unseen scene he also drugs her, takes her to Starling City, and has her kill Sara. Thea is completely unaware of what she has done until the towards end of the season. And it even takes Oliver and company awhile to figure out that it was Thea who killed Sara. For awhile, Roy is convinced he did it – but his dreams are actually a mash-up of his murder of a police officer while under the influence of the Marikuru drug from last year and Sara’s death. Thea goes through a lot of changes and challenges in her relationship to Malcolm and to everyone else. However, after R’as al Ghul kills her and she’s brought back via the Lazarus Pit, Thea is also ready to take on her destiny and her new identity. She becomes Red Arrow (Speedy), the Arrow’s assistant. Meanwhile, Arsenal (Roy Harper) has left town, having faked his death after claiming he was the Arrow to protect Oliver. No doubt, Roy will return.

Laurel, as I mentioned, takes up her sister’s jacket and bow staff – and even has Cisco Ramon from The Flash work her up a miniaturized sonic Canary Cry device. Wildcat trains her. Eventually, Oliver sees the light and trains her as well. Laurel takes her place in Team Arrow. She also is an alcoholic but on the path to sobriety. I really liked how Arrow portrayed Laurel’s journey. Not only did we see her having problems with alcohol and drugs in the last season or two – but this season we see her deciding not to drink. We see her attending AA meetings. We see her even walk out of an AA meeting. And we see her clashes with her father – who still has issues with drinking. I liked that Laurel’s alcoholism was realistic and shown as a continual struggle rather than “A Very Special Episode of Arrow” ™ with everything being resolved at the end of 42 minutes and never mentioned again. It was so nice to see a realistic portrayal and that a character we like would both make strides and slide back and then make strides again towards not drinking and getting her life back together.

Felicity, as I mentioned before, ends-up working at Palmer Technologies for Dr. Ray Palmer. She’s the audience’s introduction to Ray and his ATOM suit. But from the beginning, Ray actually treated Felicity with more respect than Oliver did at Queen Consolidated. Oliver “promoted” her to his personal secretary, which she objected to and with good reason (see more on this in my post on Felicity as a Role Model), but when she bursts in to talk to Ray because she has no choice but to take his job offer, Felicity gives a speech about “not bringing him coffee”. Not only does Ray introduce Felicity to her executive assistant and offer to have him get her coffee, but he then leaves her in her huge executive office. Felicity is given the respect her considerable talent deserves. Ray pretty quickly introduces her to his ATOM suit, but also tells her why he wants to make Starling City a better place – his financeé, Anna was killed during the attack by Slade’s Marikuru Solders in the previous season. So he’s decided to put his considerable resources behind re-branding Starling City as Star City, but more than just a new name, he wants to clean up and improve the city. The ATOM suit is his more personal take on helping people.

We also see “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak”, which I was a bit disappointed with when I originally saw it last year. Second time around, I knew what to expect, so it wasn’t quite so disappointing – and I guess it makes sense that Felicity would be a “super-hacker”, but it seems so stereotypical – and I was so proud and happy that Felicity was a college graduate, from MIT no less, and not simply “a hacker who fools around with computers for fun” as is the norm for both male and female computer geeks on TV and in film. However, when we see “Mama Smoak”, especially when she returns when Ray in is the hospital – it’s brilliant. Meeting Felicity’s mother did more for explaining who Felicity is than her origin story – and now I want to know who her father is.

Finally, Felicity gets a lot of action this season. Dr. Ray Palmer falls in love with her, we can guess at first sight, and they eventually sleep together. Felicity sort of has a thing going with Barry Allen, though they both decide not to pursue it because Felicity really loves Oliver – and Barry really loves Iris West. In the flashback, we meet Felicity’s college boyfriend. And finally, at the end of the season, Felicity sleeps with Oliver. She literally gets more action than Oliver – for at least this season.

An impressive theme of the season, however, besides the growth of several of the characters, is the importance of both honesty and cooperation. Oliver continuously gets in trouble because he thinks he can keep secrets to protect everyone he cares about. Yet those secrets inevitably come out – causing more pain, hurt, anger, and mistrust than if Oliver had been upfront in the first place. (Or take Laurel – Laurel’s plan to keep Sara’s death from their father was a bad idea – and when Captain Lance finds out it causes a major rift.) Oliver learns that he cannot be alone, he can’t be a lone wolf, he needs others. And he learns there are plenty of people who want to help him – both personally and with his crusade to save Starling City. After everything he goes through, Oliver realizes this.

When I started this I wanted to keep you as far away from it as possible, because that has always been my instinct, to go it alone. But the truth is that, we won tonight because I wasn’t alone! I thought this crusade would only end with my death. But even if I had died tonight, it would live on, because of you, and you, and you.” – Oliver Queen

“It’s true – this city isn’t lacking masks.” – Laurel Lance

“Heroes.” – Oliver

And this is something that sets the DC Comics Universe apart from other comics universes. The characters are not lone wolves fighting a solo battle. All the characters in DC Universe have friends and colleagues that help them in their personal and Superhero lives. And Heroes have other heroes to rely on as well. Not only does DC have a rich history of team-ups, especially in the Silver Age, but there’s the Justice League (aka Justice League International, Justice League of America, Justice League America). All DC heroes belong to the Justice League – it’s like a professional association. And as part of the League, everyone knows who everyone really is – there secret identities and known family, friends, and associates. But it goes beyond simply a professional association, or back-up if one needs it – there’s a camaraderie between heroes. And this offsets the often tragic nature of the heroes backstory. In DC, the hero often becomes a hero after a personal tragedy – the death of parents or a parent, a brother, a sister, a child – these personal tragedies forge heroes. But DC Villains also often have tragedy in their background. It isn’t the event that causes the person to become a hero or villain it’s how the individual reacts to the event that makes him a hero or a villain. Malcolm Merlyn lost his wife, Rebecca, to “random” street crime. Dr. Ray Palmer also lost his financeé to violent crime. But while Merlyn is sent down a dark path leading him to become The Magician and the Dark Archer and even to become R’as al Ghul himself; Dr. Ray Palmer takes the death of Anna and it becomes a driving force in him. He acquires Queen Consolidated and makes it into Palmer Technologies – he wants Starling City to become a better place, Star City. He uses nanotechnology to save his own life but will no doubt bring that tech to the public to save other lives. And he creates the ATOM suit to help people. And DC Heroes are surrounded by those who share their mission. Oliver belatedly realizes he needs those who surround him – not to “use” them, but for friendship, support and help. Barry Allen on The Flash also has a group of friends and family. Even Batman, whom many only know the from the Adam West cartoon TV Show or Tim Burton film (and think of as a solo character), has close to a dozen friends and allies in the comics (Batman himself, Alfred Pennyworth, Dick “Nightwing” Grayson, Jason “the Red Hood” Todd, Tim “Red Robin” Drake, Damien “Robin” Wayne, Barbara “Oracle/Batgirl” Gordon, Cassandra Cain, Lucius Fox, etc.). For this reason, DC always seems more optimistic and yet real than other major comics.

Agile Update – Week 39

Last week was another extremely busy week, as I balanced a new, demanding, part-time job, my training course in A+ (computer certification), writing, and exercise. With some success. I only wrote two posts last week – my regular Agile update and a review of The Flash. However, I decided at the beginning of Summer to start digging into my “to be watched’ shelf, and although I’ve watched some new things, I’ve also watched and reviewed some older purchases that I just never got around to watching. So I found that was good, to watch some DVDs that had been sitting around and to even read some older books of mine, rather than continuing to buy new stuff then let it sit unwatched/unread. Saved some money too. And I was able to get my shows from last year, and mostly manage to watch them before the new season starts. I’m currently watching Arrow, and next up is Castle Season 7, then it’s back to the “to be watched” shelf (probably with all five seasons of The Batman, or Psych, or Heroes). I also have it in my head to get around (eventually) to re-watching Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman Beyond, and actually doing full reviews of each season – over time. But anyway, I enjoy TV-on-DVD and it gives me topics for this blog. Course, with being a bit busier, and the new season to enjoy – it might take a bit longer to watch and review things – but I’m OK with that. I also need to finish up my Movie Project reviews – I’m aiming to get back to one to two films per week. I just need the time to watch and review them.

I did get to Gentle Yoga this week. We worked on Core Strength. I’ll be honest here – it was hard. Really hard. But it felt good to be able to do what I could – some of which was more than I thought I’d be able to do. And my instructor is great – she never pushes anyone in class to do more than they can (including me) and she helps with giving modifications that make sense if you have physical limitations. I can’t remember if it was last week or the week before, but I was having trouble with getting my arms in position for one pose because my shoulders were tight (and I have arthritis there), so she gave me a modification to keep my shoulders lower – which helped, and I was still able to stretch.

It was also my second week in my A+ class. I attended class on two days, caught up on my reading, did the homework sheet, received a 90% on the quiz (passing), and started the Windows 7 lab at home. But Thursday night I was still really upset that I only got a 90 percent and I had four wrong – on an open-book quiz. I need to work on focusing better and taking better notes, because three of the four questions were on things covered in lecture but not in the book. And the last was one of those really frustrating items where I had the right answer and I changed it to the wrong one (ugg) at the last minute.

Work, ah yes, well I still was training at one store – with management that was OK. I mean, the one manager tended to bark when she was upset – but I could read that easily and not take it personally because, frankly, I tend to do the same thing (It’s an area of my life I’ve been working on for ages.) The other manager or lead was somewhat scatterbrained, which could be frustrating, frankly, but I could deal with it – by consciously reminding her of things that were going on. So it was a situation I could adapt to. Then Saturday, well, Saturday was a disaster. I was transferred back to what was to be my “base store” – and it was a complete and total unmitigated disaster. We are talking total disaster of biblical proportions. I was hired for one job – and spent the entire rest of the day doing something else; I was supposed to “clock in” which I hadn’t during my training – no one was willing to show me how (like I knew what their particular codes and system was); I was supposed to have a secure locker – I didn’t; my hours were changed last minute (only half-an-hour but still); when I asked for my next week’s schedule (this week) I was scheduled for the days I had class which were the days I said I couldn’t work; my hours were nearly double what I wanted etc. And I was physically so sore after eight hours of walking – that I was in too much pain to sleep. And that doesn’t even include my managing to do “something” to my knee (Yoga poses in bed fixed it, or I would have ended-up in the Urgent Care early this morning) and a nasty scrape on my arm. Yeah. So Sunday I called the mgr and quit. I’ve never quit a job like that. Never. But it was a combination of being completely disrespected, knowing that I needed to concentrate on my training class – which I wouldn’t be able to do if I was at work all the time, and the pure physicality of the position. I’m not 20 anymore and I just can’t stand for eight hours a day, especially for eight dollars an hour. I mean, I guess I could have tried to work something out – stood firm on 15 hours per week, no more; or maybe weekends-only; but with a manager who schedules you for the days you specifically can’t work (plus back-to-back close then open). Uh, no. I have more self respect than that – and I’ll find something else. Or just hope I can make it until my class finishes and I get hired in at the place that provides the training (it’s complicated and I can’t talk about it. Suffice it to say, I don’t get paid for the training class.)