Supergirl Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Supergirl
  • Season: Season 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, Floriana Lima, Chris Wood, David Harewood
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the second season of Supergirl.

With it’s second season, Supergirl switches over to the CW, which frankly, is where the show belongs instead of on CBS. Also, Supergirl is now officially part of the CW DC-verse (aka the “Arrowverse”) and this season of the show includes two crossovers. Click here to read my Season 1 review of Supergirl.

There are some character changes for Season 2, Cat Grant is in the first two episodes, but then she leaves to find herself, putting new reporter, Kara Danvers, in the care of Snapper Carr. The opening episodes with Cat show her both as her acerbic self and as a mentor to Kara, and when Kara announces she wants to be a reporter, Cat hands her a sealed envelope – inside is Kara’s resume, with the word, “reporter”, written across it. But rather than shepherding Kara through her new role, Cat leaves. Snapper, Kara’s new boss, is rude, entitled, and a bit racist and sexist. As annoying as that is, by the end of the season – Kara’s experiences with Snapper do show a different type of mentorship – and for a show with a younger audience, an audience that it probably dealing with “old guard’ bosses at work that behave like Snapper or worse, and it shows how to deal with it and with people like Snapper. Kara even follows her heart and publishes a story on her own, a story that Snapper refused to publish due to his own prejudices. Breaking her contract with Catco gets Kara fired. To get her job back, not only does Kara need to find another exclusive story, and bring that story to Snapper with it’s resources and documentation done precisely as Snapper wants, but she has to share the byline with Snapper who did nothing on the story. Then Kara has to apologize to him and declare he “was right” and that she’s learned a lot from Snapper. Watching that scene is hard and it made me bristle – clearly it was Snapper who’s anti-alien prejudice prevented him from wanting to publish either story in the first place. In both cases, Kara was right in her stories – and she wasn’t writing mere opinion, but facts.

Snapper also co-opted Kara’s work and took credit for it. But, as unfair as that seems – it’s also the way of the world. That type of stuff happens all the time in the real world, and in all sorts of industries. Supergirl shows, especially to it’s young audience of teens and twenty-somethings, how to deal with those situations in the real world. Essentially by swallowing her own pride and sucking up – Kara gets her job back, and is given more freedom to do want she needs to do – be a reporter. Would Snapper have treated a male reporter the way he treats Kara? Probably not. If Kara’s stories had been full of anti-alien trash and prejudice with no research and just prejudicial language and hate speech – what would Snapper have done? Probably publish them without a single red-pen edit. In a sense, his Archie Bunker attitude is the one being criticized, while at the same time showing just how to circumvent such people. Snapper also attacks James, whom Cat has named as her successor during her sabbatical. But within an episode or two, James tells Snapper off – pulling the “I’m the boss whether you like it or not” card.

Season Two also introduces Maggie Sawyer, a National City cop, and a lesbian. Alex meets her, they become friends, Maggie gets Alex to realize she is also a lesbian, then Maggie rejects Alex. They do get back together, and Maggie is present in some form or another for the rest of the season. The Maggie/Alex relationship is brilliantly played, with ups and downs, rather than as a fairy tale. It becomes clear that both Maggie and Alex have some self-esteem issues. Both have had trouble in the past being true to themselves and opening up to others. These flaws make the characters more interesting, and give the audience different types of characters to identify with.

Winn also meets a girl (are we sensing a pattern?) an alien named Lyra. Their relationship seems fine, and very hot, until she sets him up to make it look like he broke into a museum and stole Starry Night by Van Gogh. Winn, though, doesn’t buy the police line that he was simply used. Even when Lyra tells him the same, he pushes, until he finds out that Lyra was blackmailed into the theft and a series of others to pay off her brother’s gambling debts and free him from the alien mobsters who are holding him. Even though Supergirl, Winn, Alex, and the DEO are able to free Lyra’s brother and arrest the mobsters, after the incident we seldom see Lyra.

The season introduces Megan McGann, (aka M’Gann, Miss Martian) whom at first seems to be a Green Martian refugee like J’onn J’onezz. She turns out to be a White Martian instead, one whom became disgusted at the genocide of the Green Martians on Mars – and whom helped some escape. The relationship between the two also has its ups and downs and ends with M’Gann deciding to return to Mars to find similar thinking White Martians.

Finally, Kara, herself finds love – but it’s a bumpy, season-long process. At the very beginning of the season, a Kryptonian pod crashes on Earth. It’s occupant is Mon-El of Daxam. Since Daxam, sister planet to Krypton, has also been the enemy of Krypton for centuries, we get the rare experience of seeing Kara’s prejudice against someone – namely Mon-El. She even jumps to conclusions and blames him for a crime that he is innocent of and has no knowledge of. When it quickly becomes apparent that she was wrong, Kara, to her credit, admits her mistake. She then starts to work with Mon-El, trying to basically make him exactly like herself – from wardrobe, to internship at Catco, to becoming a superhero, to wearing silly glasses to hide his identity. It doesn’t work. However, over time, the real Mon-El emerges, and as Mon-El becomes his own person – it is that person that Kara falls in love with. And Mon-El also improves himself because of knowing Kara. Once he gives up on being an intern at Catco, Mon-El gets a job as a “mixologist” at the alien bar that’s a reoccurring location for the season. But he gradually becomes more involved in helping the DEO and Kara.

This season also introduces Lynda Carter as President of the US, who passes the Alien Amnesty Act, allowing alien refugees to become US citizens. In contrast to her compassion and understanding, Cadmus – run by Lillian Luthor (Lex’s mother) is an anti-alien organization that wants the destruction of all aliens – especially Supergirl and Superman. Like most people who act out on unreasonable prejudices – Lillian sees all aliens as the same – something evil, to be hated, to be feared, and Lillian also uses her resources to stir-up hatred in the general population. Lillian is unable and unwilling to see people as individuals but sees all others as evil ones to be hated and feared. Cadmus makes threats over the airwaves, taking over the media in National City. They use alien weapons to commit crimes and attack people then blame aliens for the crimes. Cadmus even co-opts Jeremiah Danvers, Alex’s father and Kara’s adoptive father, convincing him that deporting all aliens is the Final Solution to the Alien Problem. Yeah. For the most part, however, even with the destruction, death, and set-backs (at one point the alien bar is attacked and every alien is killed), the DEO, Alex, Maggie, and Supergirl are able to stop Cadmus and Lillian.

In contrast to Lillian, Lina Luthor is actually a good person. She becomes a fast friend of Kara (who, again, was willing to hate her for being a Luthor, but saw Lina as a person and became her friend instead), and goes up against her own mother to protect the people of National City, including aliens. Lina is fascinating, she’s also a businesswoman, re-branding “LuthorCorp” as “L Corp” to distance the corporation from her notorious brother and evil mother. She develops an alien detector, which becomes a plot point, though not an over-used one.

The beginning of the season tends to have a lot of stand-alone episodes, though threads are being laid for season-long plots, especially in terms of the characters and their relationships. One problem with the stand-alone episodes is it generally goes like this: alien menace arrives, alien menace (or cyborg or constructed alien like Metallo, etc.) defeats Supergirl in a fist fight or by using special powers (Kryptonite, absorbing her powers, etc.) Kara goes to the DEO and John, Alex, Winn, and maybe James or Maggie come up with a way for Supergirl to defeat said alien menace. Supergirl challenges the menace and wins. This is a boring and repetitive plot. Fortunately, it’s only a few isolated episodes in the first half of the season, and all of those, as I’ve said, have other character stuff going on, but it’s something future seasons really need to avoid. Besides, seeing Supergirl get defeated over and over again weakens the character, and makes her subsequent wins unbelievable.

There are two crossover events for this season of Supergirl: Invasion and the Musical. Invasion is the 4-part crossover that features the entire CW DC universe (aka the Arrowverse). Invasion is actually a pretty much stand alone episode. For the Supergirl episode that introduces it – it’s pretty much just the last five minutes of the episode, when The Flash and Cisco arrive via a universe-hopping portal and ask Kara for help. She then leaves with them and spends three episodes as a lead character in Invasion. Unfortunately, those other episodes are not included on the DVD set. Because the DVD releases of all four shows were spread out over a month, it’s also not possible to stop watching Supergirl and skip over to Invasion (until after The Flash and Arrow were finally released that is). I highly recommend that, since I do enjoy the crossovers, the crossover story be released as a separate special DVD with all four episodes in order. Which isn’t to say those episodes shouldn’t be included on the season sets of their respective shows. But like the Doctor Who Christmas specials – Why not release the Crossover Event as a DVD a few weeks after it airs? I’d buy it – and I’d still buy the season sets at the end of the season. From watching Invasion during the highly-rated Crossover Week – it’s pretty stand alone anyway, and it’s a good introduce to the Arrowverse for new fans. An inexpensive DVD/Blu-Ray release would be an awesome idea.

The Musical is a story that is integrated well in the season arcs of both Supergirl and The Flash. In Supergirl, Kara has just found out that far from being the “palace guard” that she thought Mon-El was – he’s the prince. Although every one tells her to work through her anger at being lied to, in the end, Kara breaks up with Mon-El. Meanwhile, on The Flash, Barry and Iris are in a similar situation – Barry had proposed marriage to Iris, she accepted, then for plot purposes they broke it off (there will be more when I watch and review The Flash). Again, at the end of a Supergirl episode, suddenly an “alien” is being led into the operations center of the DEO, he breaks free of his bonds, and whammys Kara, who collapses. Now by this time, my copy of The Flash had arrived from Amazon, so I was able to go straight to “Duet” and watch it. In “Duet”, we find that the “alien” is the Music Meister, an imp with Mxyzptlk-like powers and an interest in “true love”. He traps Barry and Kara in a musical, which features some actors from Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow as well as The Flash – though everyone is playing different characters. They sing. I was disappointed with “Duet” though. The music was, overall, only so-so both the old songs (“Moon River”) and the originals (“Superfriends”). The storyline in the musical is OK, but pokes fun at musicals (“It really is easy to convince people in a musical!”) The story does end with a beautiful scene of Barry proposing again to Iris (for real) and in song. Kara also sees the error of her ways and declares her feelings for Mon-El.

The final arc of Supergirl is brilliant – well acted, relevant, smart, and a better season finale than even Myriad. Cat Grant returns and we realize just how much we’ve missed her. The President (Lynda Carter) becomes a important part of the story. We meet Mon-El’s parents, played by Kevin Sorbo and Teri Hatcher – and discover that Queen Rhea is the most controlling parent in the the universe (not to mention a little nuts). Rhea returns and tries to get Mon-El to return to lead the survivors of Daxam as prince and future king. But Rhea hates Kara because she’s from Krypton, and after all when Krypton was destroyed it bombarded Daxam and made the planet a wasteland. Mon-El eventually is forced to sacrifice himself and his love for Kara, but she rescues him. This puts Rhea on the warpath. She passes herself off as human, approaches Lina, and gets Lina to work with her on a portal to move goods and people from point A to point B instantaneously. There are two issues with this: one – major side effect, the radiation from the generator that runs the portal turns telepathic aliens into dynamos that attack with the uncontrolled power of a tornado, and two – Rhea has no intention of the portal being used for the humanitarian uses Lina envisions, instead she brings in a fleet of Daxamite ships, which attack National City and hold it hostage.

In the end, even though Supergirl challenges Rhea to single combat for the planet, Rhea cheats – not only by using Kryptonite, but by calling in her guards and airstrikes despite Supergirl winning. This causes Supergirl to release a weapon of mass destruction developed by Lillian and Lina Luthor – they seed the entire planet with lead, which is toxic to Daxamites. This kills Rhea outright, and means Mon-El has to leave the planet. He escapes in the Kryptonian Pod, only to be swallowed up by a wormhole.

I had to wonder about the whole “lead” thing. First, lead is highly poisonous to humans, birds, and animals – it causes brain damage to children and babies; yet Lillian, Lina, and Kara don’t seem to even notice this fact or care. Second, it’s stated several times that Supergirl and Superman (who makes several guest appearances this season) cannot see through lead. If microscopic pieces of lead are in the very atmosphere, it would rend both characters blind until the lead settled out of the air, at the very least. It would be like walking outside on a day with heavy mist – you get wet. Not as wet as in a downpour, but your face and hair is going to be covered in a fine spray of water. So the “fix” to get rid of the Daxamites doesn’t make a lot of logical sense.

Still, Season 2 of Supergirl is an enjoyable series. The characters are likable – and it’s nice to see the interpersonal struggles without either falling into the extremes of soap opera plots or perfect characters who never have problems. I liked the relevance of the series, from Superman’s “I’m with her” statement while standing next to Supergirl, to the female president who has compassion and sense, yet is still strong and capable, to the last episodes being entitled, “Resist” and “Nevertheless She Persisted” – this is a show with something to say, and that is good. Also, looking at the credits in the episode guide flyer included with the set – nearly every episode is written, co-written, and/or directed by women. And that is awesome! This season also has less of a “aimed at teenaged girls” feel and more of a “general audiences” feel which is good, many of the people who “need” the messages of this show won’t watch a program they think is for teen girls. Kudos on that.

Recommended.

 

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Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Legends of Tomorrow
  • Season: Season 2
  • Episodes: 17
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Franz Drameh, Victor Garber, Maise Richardson-Sellers, Dominic Purcell, Nick Zano, Matt Letscher, John Barrowman, Neal McDonough
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the second season of Legends of Tomorrow.

Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow starts off very much as an anthology series – Rip Hunter is missing, and the remaining Legends are travelling through history to fix “aberrations” or changes in the established timeline of history. The first nine episodes have the Legends in a variety of places: World War II, where they meet the JSA (Justice Society of America), including Amaya Jiwe (Vixen) who joins the Legends. Also introduced in the season premiere is Dr. Nate Heywood (Citizen Steel). The Legends also end up fighting zombies in the civil war; they travel to 17th century Japan meeting Katana’s great-great-great etc grandfather, and they go to the Old West where they meet Jonah Hex again. These episodic stories are fun, and also allow the characters, especially the new ones to grow and the team to gel. Sara Lance (White Canary) is appointed leader and captain in the wake of Rip’s disappearance.

Eobard Thawne, from the first season of The Flash is one of three main villains, however, the Legends don’t know that is who they are facing. Firestorm finds a secret message from a future Barry Allen warning of an evil speedster – which they don’t immediately share with the team. Damien Darhk, from Season 4 of Arrow is another villain. Sara meets Darhk in the season premiere and intends to kill him, but her team prevents her, since killing Darhk in the 1940s would change everyone’s history. The third partner in the trinity of sin is Malcolm Merlyn (from Arrow from the beginning). Thawne, Merlyn, and Darhk make for great villains. Audiences who have watched the CW-verse (or Arrowverse) from the beginning are familiar with their stories and their endings. Many of our characters, especially Sara, have personal conflicts with the villains. And by introducing them more gradually, as well as their goals, the series flows better than last season where the main villain (Vandal Savage) just did not work. Also, each episode begins with a spoken intro that explains the premise of the show, however, Legends of Tomorrow keeps this from being boring by having each character repeat the info in their own style, and in episode 10, “The Legion of Doom”, it’s one of the “villains” from the Legion who put their own spin on the by then familiar introduction. Note that officially, the villains are “The Legion of Doom”, despite Sara saying, “Yeah, we’re not calling them that”. Nate had come up with the moniker, after a “Hanna-Barbara cartoon I watched as a kid”.

After “Invasion” the 4-part crossover featuring all four CW DC shows, the conflict between the Legion and the Legends heats up. In “Raiders of the Lost Art”, the Legends meet George Lucas while he is a film student, and have to convince him not to quit film school. The episode is filled with Star Wars references and a great deal of fun. They find Rip as well, who has completely forgotten who he is, his mind being scrambled by contact with the Waverider time drive. Rip thinks he is a film student, working on a student film of his script, “Legends”. Not only does “Legends” feature versions of all the Legends, but Rip is frustrated by a really bad actor playing the Vandal Savage character, and the script introduces the plot for the rest of the season, the search for the legendary “Spear of Destiny”, which has been broken in to multiple pieces. Rip calls this the McGuffin of his script. This is the type of self-referential humor that Legends manages to do really well. It also helps that the villains and the season-long plot are introduced slowly.

The second half of the season has the Legion of Doom (Merlyn, Darhk, and Thawne) and the Legends all looking for the Spear of Destiny. The Legion also messes with time to try to trap the Legends – and the Legends have to put it back. Rip, meanwhile, is captured by the Legion at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Art”, and tortured for information. However, the Legion discovers that Rip can’t tell them anything because his personality has been overwritten. However, one of the Legion pulls an artificial tooth from Rip’s mouth that hides a bank acct number, the Legion goes to the bank, first intending to rob it, then having Rip simply ask for his vault to be opened, only to discover Rip doesn’t know his passphrase. The dynamics between the Legion are great. Once they get the future tech that would restore Rip’s mind and personality, Malcolm alters it to make Rip a mindless tool of the Legion. Although the audience won’t know it until later – this is also when Captain Cold is pulled out of time from before he dies and recruited by the Legion.

With Rip on the Legion’s side, the Legends are in trouble. The Legends also discover that the Spear was broken into pieces, and each piece was given to a member of the JSA to guard. The JSA was then scattered throughout history. So, we now have a quest to get back the spear. The Legion strikes first, killing Dr. Mid-Nite in the future and taking his piece. The Legend gets Rip’s piece of the Spear from 60s Los Angeles, saves George Lucas, but as mentioned previously, fails to save Rip Hunter. Another piece of the Spear is found in Camelot, guarded by Stargirl, whom the locals know as Merlin, and whom has created the Round Table. Commander Steel, Dr. Heywood’s grandfather, and member of the JSA, worked for NASA, and hid his piece on the moon. But with all their successes, and even assembling the Spear themselves, the Legends decide they must destroy it – the Spear is too powerful an object for anyone to wield. They head to the Battle of the Somme in World War I, to meet JRR Tolkien, who had written an unpublished paper about the final resting place of Sir Gaiwan, said to be the hiding place of a vial of the Precious Blood of Christ – the only substance that can destroy the Spear. The adventure with Tolkien is also great, with multiple Lord of the Rings references, and includes a quote of the “Men of the West” Speech from the film Return of the King. But for all their efforts, the Legends fail and the Legion of Doom gets the Spear.

The penultimate episode, “Doomworld”, has a world re-created by Merlyn, Thawne, and Darhk. However, they have also messed with the Legends – making them into their worst and most unlucky selves. Dr. Heywood, however, figures out something is wrong. He meets Ray who has created a device to restore the Legends memories. This works OK, until Jax tries to restore Professor Stein – who resists and breaks the device. There’s a massive fight, but in the end, Thawne gets the Spear and drops it into an very hot reactor to destroy it (not unlike the destruction of the One Ring by volcano in Lord of the Rings). The Legends decide they must go back in time and prevent the Legion from getting the Spear in the first place. In the end, it’s Sara, who all along had been the strongest voice to say they mustn’t use the Spear, who uses it to defeat the Legion. Yet, when the team arrives in Los Angeles – time doesn’t seem quite right.

Legends of Tomorrow is quite fun and the second season was an improvement on the first. Sara shines as captain, able to make tough decisions, wrangle her crew, but also able to learn from her own mistakes, and even to develop compassion. These characters are still screw-ups, which is a great way to do superheroes – as perfect characters are boring. The crew this time around: Sara, Professor Stein, Jax, Dr. Ray Palmer, Mick Rory, Dr. Heywood (Steel), and Amaya (Vixen) work better than last year’s line up.  I missed Rip in the early part of the season, and for much of the second part of the season he’s working with the villains, but overall he’s there enough – and Sara actually made for a better captain with a better leadership style. Dr. Heywood fits in to the Legends immediately, and Amaya also is not as awkward a character as Hawkgirl from last season. And Vixen’s power, the ability to channel the power of any animal, is very cool and realized beautifully. Overall, Legends of Tomorrow was my personal favorite of the CW shows last season.

You can also read my Season 1 Review of Legends of Tomorrow.

Riverdale Season 1 Review (Spoiler-free)

  • Series Title: Riverdale
  • Season: Season 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 3
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Marisol Nichols, Luke Perry
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

The CW’s Riverdale is much, much better than I expected, and, in a sense even better than it has any right to be. The show is like Twin Peaks meets the Archie comic books characters meets a typical CW teen/twenty-something soap opera, with a little bit of the original Scooby Doo Mysteries from Saturday mornings, and just a dash of film noir. The series spends it’s first few episodes introducing the characters and their world, but quickly becomes focused on one question and plot point: Who killed Jason Blossom?

When watching a long-form mystery – there are two tests: how does it work on first viewing? And does it still work upon re-watching? Riverdale passes both tests. When watching this show last year week to week, each episode brought new secrets, new revelations, new information, as slowly week-by-week the kids from Riverdale: Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead not only formed their own relationships – but uncovered the mystery and found out the murderer in episode 11 and 12. Upon re-watching the series, knowing who the murderer was – the series was still very watchable, even more so. Knowing “whodunit” did not, as it often does, especially in long-form mysteries, make this show boring, or make the viewer (well this viewer) want to bang their head against a table or yell at the characters in frustration. So it’s a good mystery. There a few scenes, here and there, in the entire first ten episodes, that have a stronger meaning once you know the murderer’s identity, but the entire series also holds up incredibly well. Riverdale has the same staying power for it’s first season as a neo-noir like L.A. Confidential, or a classic one like Double Indemnity.

Each episode of the series has opening and closing narration by Jughead, who is writing a manuscript about Jason’s death (in episode 1, everyone in town thinks he accidentally drowned – this changes when two gay teenagers go to the river for a tryst and instead find Jason’s body). This adds to the film-noir feel, and acts as a reflection on the events of the series, much like the narration in many classic films noir, especially those directed by Billy Wilder.

The series also has, as a CW show, that excellently done, teenagers learning how to grow up and dealing with conflicts with parents. However, in Riverdale, pretty much every parent is nuts – and hiding a lot of secrets. And what I picked-up on a second watch was that these parents are still holding on to feelings from high school: old crushes, resentments, rivalry, anger, jealousy. In a sense, these bonkers parents never grew-up, and Archie and his friends are considerably more mature than their parents. Which isn’t to say these kids are perfect. The series opens with Archie having a Summer fling with his music teacher – something he tries to continue into the school year, but it of course falls apart – and unprofessional teacher leaves after episode 4. Later in the series, Betty convinces Archie to have a birthday party for Jughead because he doesn’t care about his birthday and never even had a party. Cheryl, back to feuding with the others, crashes the party and turns it into a kegger. When you compare the behavior of the “kids” with the parents – a central question emerges: Will these young characters repeat the mistakes of their parents? Will they be ruled by the same prejudices, the same hatreds, the same jealousies, and the same assumptions? Or will our characters be better? And in season one, for the most part they seem to be better.

The cinematography in this series is incredible. The series starts in Summer, the Fourth of July, with everything lit in a warm, golden glow. It proceeds through Fall – with mist and haze, then in to Winter. Perhaps accidentally, perhaps not, but the changing of seasons perfectly reflects the series’ slide into darkness as more and more secrets come to light. The use of red to indicate the influence of the rich Blossom family is striking throughout the series. The snow adds to the feeling of scenes, as does the mist and rain. This is one of the few television series I’ve ever seen in my life that looks like it actually takes place in the Upper Midwest (even in a fictional town), rather than on Hollywood backlots. And the cinematography is movie-worthy. This show CW can hold up to show just what they are capable of, because it shines.

Finally, the DVD box set includes deleted scenes for most episodes. Some of these deleted scenes are simply extra bits, probably cut for time. But there are a series of scenes between Veronica and her mother, Hermione, that changes their relationship – and not for the better. And there’s a scene between Jughead and his father, JP, that is just fantastic. That scene also sheds light on a seemingly bad decision Jughead makes in the final episode (he’s between a rock and a hard place – so his decision also makes sense for the character, if not being the best thing he could do). Between the scenes with Hermoine and the scene with Jughead – it seems to be setting-up season 2, something I am eager to see.

The question of who killed Jason is revealed in episode 12. But where in most series, the following episode (and last of the season) would merely be a chance for the characters to catch their breath, the screenwriters to wrap-up loose ends, and the series to be reset for the next season – Riverdale takes a darker path. Episode 13 sees fallout of the revelation of the murderer that feels real, but scary. It also sees major changes for the characters, especially for Jughead. There are events in the last episode of the season that will no doubt lead directly to Season 2, and I’m not just talking about the shocking twist at the end of the episode.

I highly, highly recommend watching Riverdale. It wasn’t just hype that made this show one of the most talked about series introduced last year. If some of the teen-aged hijinks at the start of the season bother you, stick with it. I initially wondered why Archie was introduced in such an essentially negative way – but having re-watched the entire thing, I realized it was actually a method to introduce a character that on paper could be considered perfect: captain of the football team, musician, popular, ladies man, but also friends with the “unpopular” kids at school – gods, Archie Andrews could have been the most boring “Marty Sue” character on TV. So, starting with showing him having a fault? That makes the character more interesting. It also serves plot purposes, and shows his honesty beyond his issues with women (Archie manages to have a relationship with every girl at his school anyway). Oh and Betchel Test? This show smashes it wide open. Does it count as “talking about a man” if the guy in question is dead and the women are trying to solve his murder? Riverdale is a must-watch, and I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Again, highly, highly recommended.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 1 Review

  • Series Title: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
  • Season: Series 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: ABC (Australia)
  • Cast: Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Ashleigh Cummings, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Richard Bligh, Travis McMahon, Anthony J. Sharpe
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher is a vibrant, intelligent, modern woman, who enjoys fine clothes, fast cars, a comfortable lifestyle, and solving crimes. This series is set in the late 1920s in Melbourne, Australia. Phryne also has a habit of collecting and rescuing strays. The first few episodes of this series feel very much like your typical British cozy (despite being set in Melbourne, Australia) from the 1920s with mysteries set in a manor house, on a train, and in an underground jazz club. But as the series develops it gains depth – and darkness.

Phryne has experienced a lot in her life. She’s been a nurse in the first World War. But the defining moment of her life was when her younger sister was kidnapped and never found. Young Janey’s kidnapping goes from a few mentions as background, to subtly becoming the theme of the season. The penultimate episode features a mysterious death at Phryne’s Aunt Prudence’s house, during which the past is stirred up – and it leads directly in to the final episode in this set.

The final episode has Phryne and Jack investigating the most important case in Phryne’s career: discovering what happened to her sister. It’s a edge-of-your-seat episode, that I’m not going to spoil. But it takes something initially introduced almost as a simple “tragic background” and makes it pay off. This gives the season the satisfactory conclusion of a good novel. There are two more seasons of this series and I very much must see them.

The other theme of this particular season is that of rescuing strays. She meets Dot (Dorothy) Williams who is working as a maid in less than ideal circumstances and brings her in to her own household, as a lady’s maid, her companion, and tutors her in solving crimes. Watching Dot grow and become more independent and confident is one of the joys of the series. Phryne also meets two taxi drivers who share driving duties on their cab – both are unionists and one who is nearly a communist. She employs them to help with the heavy lifting so to speak. When she opens her new house, she hires a butler – named, appropriately enough, Mr. Butler. He reminds me very much of Alfred Pennyworth in Batman – as he cares for Phryne and her self-made family as well as running the household. Finally, Phryne adopts a young ward, Jane, who had been under the control of a Fagin.

Phryne and DI Jack Robinson have a flirting attraction, but it’s not pushed as they have only just met in this season.

Finally the clothes, hats, cars, jewelry, and settings are just fabulous! The filming is also terrific – at times moody, always colorful, and fitting of the 1920s setting. Overall, the series is excellent and I recommend it. I will no doubt purchase the next two seasons soon.

Teen Titans Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Teen Titans
  • Season: 1
  • Date:  2003
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast: Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Ron Perlman
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers Animation

Teen Titans is based on the DC Comics book of the same name. This animated version features the characters of Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, and Beast Boy, with the season-long villain of Slade (aka Deathstroke, although that name is not used in the season). The five teen-aged superheroes are based in Titans Tower, where they do what superheroes do – they solve crimes and stop super villains. The first few episodes of season 1 are focused on team-building, as well as introducing Slade as the villain for the season. Then there are a series of episodes that focus on individual characters. Starfire’s episode introduces her older, cooler sister, Blackfire – though Blackfire also turns out to be a thief. Cyborg’s episode focuses on his custom-built car which is immediately stolen and destroyed. Raven’s episode, “Nevermore”, is perhaps the most interesting, as Starfire ends-up in Raven’s subconscious during her meditation. In Raven’s subconscious we meet Raven’s emotional spectrum selves and her demonic father, Trigon. The season concludes with the two-parter, “Apprentice”, in which the team goes after Slade, only for the entire thing to be an elaborate trick by Slade to get his hands on Robin. Slade then exposes the other Titans to destructive nano-bots – and threatens to kill them if Robin doesn’t do everything he says, including being his apprentice and stealing for Slade. Slade also forbids Robin from even talking to the Titans. However, at the conclusion of their fight on the top of the Wayne Enterprises building, the other Titans realize that Robin is being controlled. They go after Slade to rescue Robin. Robin exposes himself to the same dangerous substance as the other Titans, knowing it will stop Slade from hurting or killing his friends. The Titans win out, but no doubt Slade is still obsessed with Robin.

Teen Titans has a Japanese Anime styled theme tune (which is performed in either English or Japanese depending on the episode). The animation style is also closer to anime than other DC Animated Universe series (which have a traditional American animation look). The series also, at times, uses animation to express the characters emotions – when one character gets extremely angry at the rest of the Titans and yells at them – the rest of the Titans are drawn to be very small and frightened-looking. If a character is surprised or shocked his or her eyes pop-out of their heads. However, this isn’t distracting but rather emphasizes the characters’ emotions.

Watching Teen Titans, I couldn’t help but compare it to Young Justice, a show that I dearly love from the same team. The characters in Young Justice seem slightly older than the ones in Teen Titans – although both shows revolve around teen-aged superheroes. Young Justice is much more serious, and that show is a master at the “last few minutes reveal”. Titans, by contrast, tends to be lighter, though episodes like, “Nevermore” and “Apprentice” are a bit more serious. Also, in Teen Titans the characters always appear in their costumes, and thus are always called by their superhero monikers, rather than their real names. I missed having any sort of connection to these characters other identities. Certainly, as they are living in Titans Tower, the characters would kick back and relax occasionally. We see them playing video games, watching movies, and eating pizza, but always as Robin, Raven, Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy – never as their alter egos. I wasn’t even sure which Robin this is. I’m going to assume it’s Dick Grayson until proven otherwise, though the behind-the-scenes interviews also mentioned Tim Drake but didn’t specifically state this was Tim Drake’s Robin (Tim would eventually take the name, “Red Robin”, and was more of a computer/electronics expert and hacker than a fighter, though like all the Robins he could certainly take care of himself.) I thought it was a missed opportunity to not include more about the characters’ civilian backgrounds.

Still Season 1 of Teen Titans is Recommended and I have ordered Season 2.

 

Psych Season 8 Review

  • Series Title: Psych
  • Season: Season 8
  • Episodes: 10 Episodes, Plus Psych: The Musical
  • Discs: 3
  • Network: USA (Universal)
  • Cast: James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

Season 8 of Psych is a bit of a hodge-podge, a smorgasbord, bits and pieces that almost seem like left over ideas from previous seasons – though the series ends on an unexpectedly happy note. But the mish-mash of episodes make it difficult to discuss the season as a whole.

The opening episode, only features Gus and Shawn. We see Lassiter briefly, in what seems to be little more than a cameo, on the more expensive trans-Atlantic cell phone call ever.  Shawn is invited by Interpol to the UK, because he resembles the getaway driver of a group of thieves. Once there, Shawn and Gus run into Pierre Deveraux (Cary Elwes) who claims to be a deep-cover Interpol agent, not an infamous thief. Pierre Deveraux isn’t even his real name. He asks Shawn to substitute for a getaway driver so Interpol can catch an infamous thief who uses a new crew for every job. It’s basically Psych does Oceans 11, or any other caper film. The episode suffers from not having the regular cast, but Elwes, who has been in several episodes of Psych over the years, is a delight.

The next episode brings the entire cast back, as well as the show’s normal setting of Santa Barbara. With the police station still under the thumb of Interim Chief Trout (Anthony Michael Hall), things are almost on track. Trout is horrible at policing – he’s arrogant, rude, sexist, racist and dumb. Lassiter saves his life when someone takes a shot at him, and Trout’s so arrogant, he blames Lassie for messing up his suit. Shawn and the gang have to solve the case – which expands to three dead guys; the only link being, as Shawn puts it, “someone’s killing a-holes” (including the pot shots at Trout).

The next episode is set in 2006, the first year of the show, and it feels like a script that didn’t make the cut for filming. But because of the setting, Shawn is pining for Juliet who won’t really give him the time of day. It also gives the audience a last chance to see Shawn as his wackiest in terms of the physical comedy that was gradually reduced over the years of how Shawn indicates he’s having a “vision”. The episode involved a woman accused of murder that Shawn and Gus believe is innocent.

In the next episode, an ex-con takes Woody hostage, when the coroner interrupts the ex-criminal as he tries to steal a corpse. As it turns out, the guy claims to be innocent of the murder – but thinks no one will believe him since he’s an ex-con and he had argued with the victim previously. Not only do Shawn and Gus have to solve the murder, and prove the guy innocent, but Lassiter and Juliet have to rescue Woody before Trout puts his “kill everyone including the hostage in a hail of bullets” plan in action. At the end of the episode, Trout fires Juliet and Lassiter – but it’s proved moot as Trout is fired for being an ass.

In the next episode, someone with an eerie resemblance to Gus, with the same type of life, is murdered. This forces Gus to re-think his life, and he quits his job as a pharmaceutical rep.

The next story has Lassiter trying to solve a cold case from 1967, so he will be appointed Chief of Police by the new mayor. The costumes and music are awesome – the plot, well, it’s been done. Karen Vick returns briefly – but only to say that during her 6-month suspension she found a new job, as Chief of Police in San Francisco. At the end of the episode, Lassiter gets the job of Chief. Although he had planned to have Juliet as his Head Detective – the mayor had made it a condition of employment to hire his choice for that position. Juliet accepts Vick’s offer to be her head detective in San Francisco, leaving her relationship with Shawn in limbo. However, they plan to stay in a long-distance relationship.

There’s a couple of filler episodes. In one, Lassiter’s wife, Marlowe, gives birth to their daughter, Lily. And Henry sells his house, Shawn’s childhood home. Then there’s the last of Psych’s annual Halloween episodes, filled with zombies and other horror references, and guest-starring Bruce Campbell as a dream therapist who’s treating Gus. The episode is a series of the horror vignettes (which get weird because they always end-up being Gus’s dreams), with a focus on Gus’s relationship with Shawn, rather than Shawn’s relationship with Gus.

I then watched “Psych: The Musical” which is on the special features section of the third disc. the episode breaks back Ally Sheedy as the Yang killer, but as a consultant. The case focuses on the Ripper Theater murder, which I think was from an earlier season. I enjoyed “Psych: The Musical” a lot. Tim Omundson has a wonderful deep bass voice. We know James Roday and Dulé Hill can sing, since they do it all the time. Even Kristen Nelson gets a song. Maggie Lawson tries, and although not the strongest voice – she makes up for it in enthusiasm. Besides, it is extremely fun to watch Omundson, Nelson, and Lawson doing traditional dance steps we’ve seen so many times before — in the business suits those characters wear normally. The story itself actually wasn’t bad (a typical red herring, red herring, red herring, catch the real killer 10 minutes before the end of the story plot) but it’s just put together well with the music and the dancing, and even more theatrical costumes at times since much of the plot involves a re-make of a play at a theatre.

The final episode is called, “The Break Up”, and I was expecting something negative and awful and everyone going their own ways. But it wasn’t – and the start of the story, Shawn calls Juliet and tells her he wants to move up to San Francisco permanently to be with her. The rest of the story, between the typical murder plot that’s common on this show, is Shawn trying to figure out how to tell Gus he’s leaving. In the end, Shawn sends DVDs to all the regulars – telling him both what they have meant to him and his decision. It’s a bit eerie. But the last scene has Shawn showing up in San Francisco to see Jules, we see Karen again in her new role, surprised to see Shawn, Gus comes up to see Shawn and to tell him he quit his new job because it was too much like his old job, and most importantly – Shawn proposes to Jules – who accepts him, though someone comes out of nowhere to steal the engagement ring before he can slip it on Jules’ finger. Shawn and Gus give chase in the most ridiculous car ever.

So the last season does wrap up all the threads from the previous season. We see very little of Chief Vick – the actress was probably unavailable (the series was supposed to wrap with Season 7, but USA’s replacement for it bombed big time, prompting one more season of the established show). Who’s in an episode of the regular cast also goes up and down – we always have Shawn and Gus, but Juliet leaves halfway through. We see little of Henry. Lassie’s there and more competent than ever, and with that – Shawn’s “gifts” have less use to the plots. Shawn and Gus’s friendship is a theme, especially in the horror episode. Yet the series wraps in a satisfactory way – most of our characters are in a new location, but together. Lassiter has the job he’s always wanted and a new head detective who’s just like him in many ways – plus he’s now married, has a daughter, and even bought Henry’s house. Henry, it’s implied, will enjoy his retirement. Shawn and Jules are together. Everything falls into place. And that is a happy conclusion to this happy, fun, and highly 1980s-like series.

There will be a Psych reunion special this year (2017) and that should be enjoyable.

Psych Season 7 Review

  • Series Title: Psych
  • Season: Season 7
  • Episodes: 14 Episodes
  • Discs: 3
  • Network: USA (Universal)
  • Cast: James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

Season 6 of Psych was the season of big name guest stars. Season 7 sees a return to an emphasis on the Psych characters and their relationships. If anything, the theme of this season is relationships – romantic ones. Lassiter’s incarcerated girlfriend, Marlowe, is released on parole, and due to plot reasons, Lassiter proposes to her immediately. The two successfully marry, but we never see Marlowe again, which is a shame, as she’s particularly fun. Carlton, meanwhile, seems happier, now that he is married again.

Gus meets a woman on a case and the two start dating. Even meeting Rachel’s 8-10 year-old son from her previous marriage doesn’t throw much of a wrench in the works. However, Rachel’s visa status does, and at the end of the season, she returns to the UK for six months. I liked Rachel, and it was good to see Gus with a steady girlfriend.

But it’s the Shawn and Juliet relationship that takes a forefront of this season. The two are boyfriend and girlfriend at the beginning of the season, and even move in together. But at Carlton’s wedding, Juliet figures out that Shawn isn’t really psychic – and with her con man father and trust issues, she can’t handle it and breaks up with him. Shawn, though, is undaunted. He continuously tries to win her back, but in a much more serious way than the character would have earlier in the series. Shawn tells Juliet he never once lied about his feelings towards her, that falling in love wasn’t part of the plan, he even tells her that he had to come up with something or he would have been in big trouble – and if you think about the pilot, Shawn’s whole “psychic detective” thing started because he solved a case from what he saw on the news – and he would have been arrested as the murderer for knowing too much. Juliet stands her ground, and tells Shawn he must come clean to Chief Vick. And Shawn does. He marches into the chief’s office in the same episode to tell her everything. Juliet realizes this and rushes in to stop him, even falling on the sword for him, saying that she entered a suspect’s house without a warrant and searched the suspect’s computer (in reality it was Shawn who had done that). Vick gives her a stern talking to. Shawn, impressed, talks to Juliet and again professes his feelings, even talking about engagement in a detached fashion. Juliet says she’s not ready for that step, but the two get back together and start dating again.

In the final episode, city hall sends an efficiency expert to the precinct to investigate our main characters. The efficiency expert, played brilliantly by Anthony Michael Hall, is a right ***terd. He’s sexist, racist, borish, arrogant, rude, and stupid. However, he also doesn’t buy Shawn’s “psychic” abilities. In the end, though Lassiter and Juliet are briefly suspended and Buzz is fired – it’s Chief Vick who takes this sword, being suspended for six months, with Hall’s character taking her position.

I suspect Hall’s character won’t be on the show for more than an episode or two next season. But it’s interesting watching him for a couple of reasons. First, Anthony Michael Hall was in one of USA Network’s first original series: The Dead Zone, where he plays a psychic. Second, his character is absolutely horrible – he’s a terrible person. For an actor known for his “Brat Pack” teen movies, and sympathetic characters – seeing him as a polar opposite shows just how good an actor Hall actually is.

Overall, the season is good. It’s Psych: light, fun, adventurous, enjoyable. Even when Juliet and Shawn broke up, the audience suspects they will get back to together – because shows like this tend to end up happily. Season 7 was originally going to be the last season of Psych, but when USA Network’s replacement for it flopped (Common Law – a parody of 70s cop shows) the series was granted one more season. Also, this year (2017) the show is doing a reunion movie to air in December.