Arrow Season 8 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 8
  • Episodes: 9 (Plus Crisis on Infinite Earths)
  • Discs: 3 (Including Crisis on Infinite Earths)
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, Audrey Marie Anderson
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

The first seven episodes of the final season of Arrow are set-up for Crisis on Infinite Earths, followed by the 5-episode Crisis (which is included in its entirety as a special disc in the set), followed by two episodes that tie-up loose ends and potentially set-up new series for the future of the Arrowverse. It’s also Old Home Week – as the Monitor sets Oliver to tasks where he runs into old friends and foes from the past for three episodes. By the third McGuffin Hunt, Oliver begins to doubt the Monitor, but his search for a weapon to use against him really is just yet another Monitor quest. And yes, more cameos by previous players from previous seasons of Arrow. Oliver then meets his grown children, Mia and William, along with Connor, who have time-traveled to the past.

I really liked both Mia and William here. William, I liked in Season 7 too, but it took me a while to warm-up to Mia. Season 8 also wraps-up some of the loose ends for Mia, Connor, and William from Season 7. Once his children return, with some help from Lyla, Laurel (of Earth II, whom Oliver rescued in the first episode of the season) and Oliver learn a few lessons, assemble all the pieces of the McGuffin, and discover they cannot avert the Crisis.

Then Crisis on Infinite Earths happens. One very nice thing about the Blu-Ray set, and the reason I went with Blu-Ray instead of DVD – is the entire Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series is included, on a separate disc in this set. It’s very nice and even has the Crisis logo on the disc and on the disc menu. This does, however, make the watching order of the set slightly weird. Watch all of Disc 1 (episodes 1-5), then episodes 6 and 7 on Disc 2, followed by Crisis (all of Disc 3), then watch Episodes 9 and 10 on Disc 2. (Crisis Hour 4 is also included on Disc 2 – presumably so you know when to watch Crisis).

After Crisis, in “Green Arrow and the Canaries” we leap to 2040 – and for once it’s not a dystopia. Rene is the mayor of a city with almost zero crime, Star City is bright and beautiful, and Mia, Zoe, and JJ are spoiled rich kids. Laurel arrives and tries to prevent the kidnapping of Mia’s friend Bianca and fails. She finds Dinah Lance and Mia and together they find and rescue Bianca from her kidnappers – hopefully preventing the disastrous dystopia of 2041. Dinah also is a woman without a past who owns a nice bar, where she sings, and lives above it – in what could easily become the Birds of Prey clock tower base of operations. I liked the episode and it set up the possibility of a new Birds of Prey or Canaries series.

The final episode of Arrow Season 8 is basically the Funeral of Oliver Queen. The statue of Green Arrow is revealed to a mournful crowd. At the Queen Estate, family and friends gather at Oliver’s grave – including Moira who is no longer dead, Tommy (also no longer dead), Talia and Nyssa al Ghul, Sara Lance, and others. Moira and Tommy still living have to do with changes to the timeline post-Crisis. We also find out a number of our key characters are moving to Metropolis (meaning they will probably at least make some appearances on the new Superman and Lois Lane-Kent series coming in 2021) and we get a hint about a big change for John Diggle.

I enjoyed Season 8 of Arrow very much. We got to see a lot of characters we hadn’t seen for a while. Loose ends were wrapped up. For once 2040 isn’t a horrible dystopia (though I feel like I need a chart of all the various versions and changes to the Arrowverse timeline because there have been changes due to events in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow too.) The season was just fun to watch, and the first time through you never know who will pop up from Oliver’s past. Also, it felt like Oliver was being shown his past and his connections It’s-a-Wonderful-Life-like to help prepare him for Crisis and the events that happen there. The series really paid off all the hints it’s been laying especially for the last few years. I highly, highly recommend Arrow Season 8 and Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Read My Review of Arrow Season 3.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 4.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 5.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 6.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 7.

Titans Season 2 Review (DC Universe)

  • Series Title: Titans
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Teagan Croft, Anna Diop, Ryan Potter, Conor Leslie, Curran Walters, Joshua Orpin, Iain Glen
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

This review includes spoilers for the second season of Titans.

The second season of Titans begins by resolving the cliffhanger from the end of last season. Rachel is able to defeat Trigon the demon with the help of Gar Logan, but not before Trigon temporarily turns the other Titans against Rachel one by one. This breaks her heart and allows him to place a jewel in her forehead. But Rachel and Gar manage to defeat Trigon and send him away.  Rachel gets new powers. Powers she doesn’t understand and doesn’t have much time to learn to harness.

After defeating Trigon, Dick brings everyone to Titans Tower to restart the group. Donna (Wonder Girl), Dawn (Dove), and Hank (Hawk), join Gar (Beast Boy), Rachel (Raven), and Robin (Jason Todd), under Dick’s leadership. Dick is no longer Robin but hasn’t yet become Nightwing. Much of the season will be about his journey to taking both responsibility for his actions and mistakes but also choosing his adult title and path.

While in the Tower they see a woman with extraordinary powers being chased by Deathstroke. They help her and invite her into Titans Tower. She is not only Deathstroke’s daughter, but she isn’t there by accident. Deathstroke and his son, Jericho have a plan to get revenge on the Titans, especially Dick Grayson – and Rose is instrumental to that plan. Dick, in an attempt to keep the youngest Titans safe, leaves Jason, Rose, Gar, and Rachel in the Tower while Hawk, Dove, and Donna assist him in trying to find out more about why Dr. Light and Deathstroke have returned. But on one of their surveillance gigs, Gar and Jason figure out Dr. Light might be hiding in the subway tunnels. Jason, who feels that the only reason Dick left him behind is that he doesn’t trust him, convinces Gar to go with him on a recon mission to the subway. Jason says they will observe and report back. Yeah, that never works out. Once in the tunnel Jason and Gar separate. Then Gar hears screaming. By the time he finds Jason he’s been kidnapped.

Gar tells Dick what happened, then Dick gets a ransom call. Deathstroke will trade Jason for Rose. The Titans talk about it, but it’s a suddenly returning Kory who tells them no. They try to capture Deathstroke at a stadium but it was a false location. Meanwhile, Dick finds Jason by tracking his tracker but it’s too late – Deathstroke removes the tracker. Dick follows to an office building. He arrives but is unable to stop Jason from falling out a window.

The next episode explains what happened five years ago. Garth (Aqualad) was one of the Titans, who happened to look like Brad Pitt – he had a crush on Donna but she ignored him, mostly because she knew she had to return to Themyscira. But in the end, when Garth chases her to the airport, she agrees to be with him – only for Garth to be shot in front of her by Deathstroke. In desperation to get to Deathstroke, Dick decides to befriend his mute son, Jericho. He brings Jericho into the Titans, but not as a hero right away. When he learns of Jericho’s ability to jump into and control other people’s bodies, Dick invites Jericho to join the Titans as a member. Jericho is game but Deathstroke is playing games with all of them. In the end, Deathstroke tries to kill Dick, Jericho gets in the way, Deathstroke kills his son, but not before Jericho jumps into Deathstroke and becomes trapped. So, five years later, it’s Jerico who is after Dick and the Titans.

But Jason is still falling from a high rise window. And in the next episode, we meet Connor, a CADMUS clone and son of Superman and Lex Luthor. We also meet Krypto – a very good Super dog. Connor rescues Jason and saves his life. Then CADMUS shows up and shoots him with Kryptonite bullets. The Titans take him to Titans Tower to recover. His friend, Eve arrives and says out of frustration that, “unless we can take him to the sun” he will die. Kory uses her star power to save Connor and Raven acts as a shield. Connor is still sleepy but he will recover. Krypto guards Connor.

But everyone is shaken up. Jason keeps re-living his fall. Dick is forced to admit just what happened between himself, Deathstroke, and Jericho. Connor’s still asleep. Gar feels guilty about letting Jason go to the tunnels in the first place. Rose is cagey. Rachel doesn’t understand her powers and loses control during training more than once. Everything is falling apart, and when Dick tells the Titans that he lied – Jericho wasn’t already dead when he met Deathstroke at the church but Deathstroke killed him – Donna, Dawn, and Hank have had it. Meanwhile, Kory’s run into people from her planet and she really should go back, since her evil sister Blackfire has stolen her crown and her people are suffering. Everyone splits up. Dick trusts Gar to watch over Connor. Jason and Rose run off together. Connor wakes up and instead of calling Bruce Wayne like Dick requested – Connor explains to him about being a Titan. But on a walk outside, Connor sees a police officer arresting someone, gets confused, and attacks the police – causing a lot of damage. Gar calls Dick for help and advice, but Dick doesn’t get the message. Kory and Donna are also having issues – Kory with trying to get back to her real home and Donna discovering Rachel can’t completely control her powers. Dick, however, has abandoned his phone, id, traveling bag, and everything else, before assaulting an airport cop and being sent to prison. He prison, he meets a group of Hispanics who had left a gang and are now being deported. They plan to escape since they know returning to Santa Prisca is a death sentence. A religious member of the group explains to Dick the legend of Azul – the big bird that watches over his village and it’s people, protecting them from harm. Dick poo-poos this, as well as their plans. But eventually, he’s drawn into helping them escape. While dealing with all his guilt and problems – Dick also continuously hallucinates Bruce Wayne giving him some really bad advice.

Eventually, Rachel, Dawn and Hank (who have split from each other as well as the Titans), Kory, and Donna meet at a Diner in Elko Nevada. Bruce arrives and tells them they need to find Dick, get everyone back together, and permanently stop Deathstroke. And they need to be a team, a family of choice. Essentially, they do just that. The Titans come together as a team. Deathstroke has killed Dr. Light after he was no longer useful to draw out the Titans, but the team goes to find Dick but he’s already escaped his prison. Then go to Titans Tower and find it in shambles. Reports of tiger attacks and a strong man destroying a nearby carnival indicate that CADMUS-controlled Gar and Connor are in trouble. The Titans find the carnival. Rachel talks down Gar who turns into himself. The rest of the Titans stop Connor with Rachel putting Dick into Connor’s mind so he can talk Connor into breaking Cadmus’ programming and become himself. They even manage to arrest all of the CADMUS soldiers. But just as everything is looking OK, despite the damage, Dove goes to comfort a child by returning her doll. Then a huge electrical tower starts to fall, Donna runs to it and it hits her, killing her.

The Titans are devastated by the loss of Donna, but unlike Garth’s death, they are now united. They deliver the body to the Amazons at the airport. Rachel tells Dick she wants to go to Themyscira, and he lets her go. But no doubt she will be back.

I liked Season 2 of Titans, but I didn’t care for all the back and forth and time jumps, which made the story somewhat hard to follow and didn’t add to the story or tension. The characters are more developed than in Season 1 and it was great to see Dick finally become Nightwing in the last episode. Connor is awesome and Krypto steals the show. Actually, I was concerned about Krypto, because he’s also captured by CADMUS with Connor and Gar – but we see him with everyone else at the end. There are still elements to be resolved too. Kory really needs to hitch a lift to Tamaran to sort out her sister. Hank is back on drugs, having survived his split from Dawn by picking up cage fighting. Jason fell in love with Rose and although she “quit” Deathstroke, her journey isn’t over. So there’s plenty for a third season to develop. But this felt more like Titans to me than the first season, and our characters were more themselves, mind games aside. Some of Dick’s hallucinations of Bruce were hilarious and others were heartbreaking. Overall, I recommend this series, it’s definitely worth watching.

Read my Review of Season 1 of Titans.

Swamp Thing The Complete Series Review

  • Series Title: Swamp Thing
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 10
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Crystal Reed, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Ian Ziering, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton, Jeryl Prescott, Maria Sten, Jennifer Beals, Henderson Wade, Macon Blair
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

This review contains spoilers for DC Universe’s Swamp Thing.

Swamp Thing is a horror series, about a small town in Louisiana named Marais where everybody has a dark secret. But it’s also partly a Beauty and the Beast tale, which, along with the interesting choices for cameos by DC Comics characters is partially why I really, really liked this series – horror aspects notwithstanding. The series opens with Dr. Abby Arcane and her partner in Africa (presumably) and dressed in full Hazmat suits. They enter the dwelling of two young children, where the older boy tries to protect his younger sister from these terrifying aliens. Abby finally removes her helmet and addresses the boy in French, convincing him they are there to help his sister, and of course, he can accompany her. Later, Abby defends her actions to her partner, but he tells her she “was amazing”. The two are infectious disease specialists, working for the CDC. But this is mere prologue, as Abby and her partner, Harlan are sent to Marais because of a strange, unknown disease.

Abby arrives in Marais, a town she has a connection to, as well as having a dark secret. Maria Sunderland, wife of the richest guy in town, is none too happy to see Abby and we get an inkling of why she left Marais – but no details. The disease is strange and seems connected to the nearby swamp. Abby goes into the swamp and meets Dr. Alec Holland. They get together and begin to work together, though he seems more interested in the swamp than the illness that is striking randomly in Marais, whereas Abby is a doctor first. However, as Alec and Abby learn to trust each other and share data and resources, Abby also tells Alec she googled him. She knows he was discredited as a biologist because he faked data in one of his studies. Alec explains that’s why he’s in Marais – to rebuild his reputation. Although not stated outright, it’s also why he took money from Avery Sunderland to fund his research. But Avery has had enough of Alec, he orders his cronies to attack Alec’s boat while he does research in the swamp.

Alec emerges as Swamp Thing (though the name is never used in the series at all) half-Alec half-intelligent walking, speaking plant, and Guardian of the Green. Alec (now Swamp Thing) and Abby will continue to work together. Abby will attempt to find a cure for the “Green Flu” virus and for Alec. They also will unravel many of the secrets of the town. Also in the town is Abby’s old friend, Liz, the daughter of a widower who runs the local bar. Then there’s Daniel Cassidy a stuntman and actor who made a deal and is now trapped in Marais, as well as becoming Blue Devil, the character he played once. Then there’s the Sunderlands – Avery, who runs the town and is involved in dirty dealings in the swamp, including illegal dumping (which is causing the “Green Flu”) and his wife, Maria. Avery’s mistress is the local sheriff, Lucilia Cable, whom he has under his thumb in more ways than one. She’s turned a blind eye to Avery’s corruption for decades – but when he starts involving her son Matt (a deputy) in his schemes and corruption, it will be the last straw.

As Abby and her team work to cure people of the illness that comes from the Swamp, we see how others treat, or in many cases, mistreat the swamp. A group of guys is in the swamp, destroying it when they find a dead, mummified body. The rising of the Rot (the Darkness in the swamp) fights back. Two are killed, and the third returns to town, but he’s been bitten by a tendril of the Rot. He returns to the local bar to wash dishes and starts hallucinating, seeing a snake on his arm. Even though Liz and Delroy (her father) try to control him they are unable to and he stabs his arm several times then sticks it in a running garbage disposal, before dying. It also scratches Delroy. As the police and ambulance respond, Delroy shoots up his own bar with a shotgun. The Sheriff is able to finally subdue him but gets scratched. Delroy is sent to the hospital. Abby arrives at the bar just as Delroy starts shooting (and she helps calm him down). When she talks to Swamp Thing he tells her about The Darkness invading the Swamp. She returns and goes to the hospital but Delroy is now fine. Then she realizes that the Sheriff was scratched and that this darkness causes hallucinations of deep fears and nightmares. Trying to find Lucilia, she finds her at Avery’s Crawfish Boil party. Again, Abby has to calm her down – and she gets scratched. Abby returns to the swamp with the darkness, and Alec, Swamp Thing, heals her.

But now that all the people have been healed, Abby should return to the CDC. But she wants to heal Alec. She’s seen an inkling of what The Green is, but she doesn’t quite understand it. She also has seen the horrors of the Rot and the Darkness that inhabits the Swamp. Abby returns to Atlanta and the CDC. But when she arrives the new head of the CDC is very angry with her. Her samples are taken and she isn’t allowed to oversee the tests. She sees Nathan Ellery at the CDC but doesn’t know he’s the mysterious businessman from the Conclave who is now bankrolling Avery and his new partner, Dr. Woodrue. Abby has one conversation with her old partner, Harlan, who remarks on how much she’s changed.

Later he arrives at her apartment, and the two share pizza, wine, and conversation. By the end of it, Harlan’s agreed to back Abby against their new boss. But he won’t get the chance – he’s kidnapped outside her door and we never see him again. The next morning, Abby’s credentials do not work. She’s taken to a meeting room and Ellery gives her an ultimatum – turn over Dr. Holland or else. Abby tells him no and that he better leave Alec alone and storms out. Abby will return to Marais.

In Marais, Daniel Cassidy is in the hospital. He got hit on the head after he defends Liz from “muggers” sent by Avery, and he’s in a severe coma. Dr. Woodrue injects him with Abby’s sample of Swamp Thing’s tissue. Cassidy wakes up – but is “burning”, covered with blue fire, and we see the Blue Devil. This lands him back in the hospital. The same “studio guy” who made him his cursed offer appears and shows him a horrific future where Abby and Liz are murdered by Conclave troopers. Cassidy breaks out of the hospital so he can stop it. Meanwhile, Abby and Liz are trying desperately to find Alec who is not in the swamp. They know Avery, Ellery, and company have kidnapped him. Liz looks for properties owned by Avery and finds his wife is transferring everything into her name. But they also find an old factory that matches a picture Abby stole. They head there to find Alec.

At the factory, things start to resemble the vision that Daniel had. But Blue Devil attacks and kills the troopers. Abby and Liz are able to escape, find Alec, and help him escape. Meanwhile, Avery has his wife, Maria, locked up in a mental institution. Matt gets drunk at Delroy’s bar after he has a fight with his mother. That night, driving very drunk, he gets in a one-car accident. Lucilia attends him at the hospital. Avery shows up promising to marry Lucilia after he divorces Maria. Lucilia turns him down. When she leaves the hospital, Avery is waiting for her inside her car. He stabs her, then drives her to the swamp. Locking her in the trunk, he watches (tinted in red) as her sheriff’s car sinks into the swamp.

Swamp Thing and Abby arrive at the Swamp. Swamp Thing keeps saying he has to know if it’s true. He walks into the Swamp and returns with a body in his arms. But Abby tells Swamp Thing that not only did she care for Alec, but she cares for what he’s become. She sees his humanity and through him she sees the Green. The two are united.

Woodrue finds his wife, Caroline, who is suffering from advanced early-onset Alzheimer’s, at their home after she overdoses on medication. He takes his samples to make her a cure. When she seems afraid to eat the cooked heart of Swamp Thing (Can you blame her?) Woodrue eats some of it himself. Abby arrives and tries to call 911. Woodrue attacks Abby. The police arrive and stop him, and Caroline is taken to the hospital by ambulance without taking Woodrue’s “cure”.

Swamp Thing is a spooky, intense series. It unravels like a mystery as Abby’s arrival in Marais causes secrets to be revealed (at least to the audience). Lucilia and Maria plot to kill Avery, but Swamp Thing finds him and heals him – an act of compassion that’s probably his one and only mistake. (It leads to Swamp Thing being captured by goons in the swamp and Dr. Woodrue experimenting on him.) Avery’s revenge includes putting Maria in a mental institution and killing Lucilia. Woodrue has eaten part of Swamp Thing, but we don’t get to see him become the Floronic Man as a result. Cassidy is finally free of the Blue Devil’s curse as it left him at the factory and entered one of the soldiers. He leaves Marais. Swamp Thing defends his swamp from Ellery’s men the second time they arrive, kills most of them, and tells Ellery to leave and never return. And yes, Swamp Thing and Abby are together.

Again, this is a spooky, intense horror series. It’s extremely well-shot. For a series that largely takes place, at night, on the water, in a swamp -you can actually tell what’s going on all the time, without it looking over-lit or like it’s filmed in a studio. That may sound like an “ok so” statement, but you’d be surprised how often scenes at night are too dark and the viewer can’t follow the action. Or, conversely, scenes outdoors look like a backlot or studio. Abby is a great character and if you’ve read Constantine from DC Comics, you know she will become Avatar of the Red, part of the balance that Swamp Thing seeks. Abby’s continuing journey could have made for a great second season, as could have following up on Blue Devil and the Floronic Man. We also see Madame Xanadu but other than warning Maria about the Darkness she’s released, she doesn’t get to do much. And Jim Corrigan, the Phantom Stranger, appears to Swamp Thing about halfway through the season to give him a pep talk about destiny. All of these characters are great and could come back or have more to do in a second season. It’s really too bad that DC Universe canceled this show. What we got is great, and I recommend watching it, but I for one would love to see DC Universe bring the show back.

Striking Out Series 2 Review

  • Series Title: Striking Out
  • Season: Series 2
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: RTE (Ireland)
  • Cast: Amy Huberman, Emmet Byrne, Neil Morrissey, Rory Keenan, Maria Doyle Kennedy
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R1, NTSC)

Striking Out Series 2 picks up where Series 1 left off, with Ray in jail and Tara suddenly evicted from her new office – as well as Pete losing his coffee shop. Tara joins forces with an experienced solicitor, George Cusack (also a woman), and barrister, Vincent Pike, and together they get Ray out of jail and out on bond. Meg regrets setting up Ray so she gives evidence to George that the Guarda who arrested Ray were acting outside their remit (police district) and calling into question additional bogus charges (resisting arrest, intent to distribute drugs, hard drug possession (Ecstasy and others). However, the series never seems to change Ray’s status from “out on bond” to anything else.

Tara and George end up sharing an office. It’s cozy, small, messy, smoky, and there isn’t much privacy, especially for two solicitors working on separate cases. This causes the occasional problem throughout the season. George is tough, but barely making it as a solicitor – so she has to take the cases and clients she can get, similar to Tara. Tara meanwhile is trying to specialize in family law, but she has to take whatever clients she can.

Vincent is heading an official inquiry into a cost-overrun scam on a new hospital building. The company that won the bid to build the hospital did so with the lowest bid. But as the hospital was being built it ran into significant cost overruns. These costs actually pushed the hospital construction budget to higher than the highest bid. Also, several government ministers seem to have personally profited from the deal, and Dunbar’s – Tara’s old firm seems to be involved in the whole scheme. As the season develops, Vincent and his inquiry have successes and failures. Watching Vincent at his best (and worse) is fascinating.

Tara is still struggling, but once Ray is out of jail and she’s found a new office, she’s doing OK. She starts taking information from Meg again – even though she should know she can’t trust Meg after she got Ray arrested and herself evicted. Tara also dumps Pete (the coffee shop guy) and starts dating. She becomes very close to Sam, Eric’s younger brother. Tara is also now friends, but not romantic with Eric. It’s fascinating to watch Tara’s legal cases, but I found her romantic encounters less interesting. Yes, she needs to move on from Eric – but taking up with his brother? Bad move. Especially when Sam is a lot more involved in Dunbar’s shenanigans than he lets on.

Still, I love this series! Tara is someone you can root for, and she’s grown since last season, even though she still can be a bit too naive and trusting (especially for a lawyer). I miss Pete from last season – he seemed like a good guy, but I liked George, she’s lots of fun. Dublin and the surrounding areas look beautiful and like other series (Shetland especially) Striking Out balances the beauty and even glitz of city and country life with people just being horrible to each other. Tara is a solicitor not a barrister, so it’s seldom criminal cases (and if one of her clients ends up in court she needs to get a barrister to help her) but some of the family law cases are brutal. The series has also opened up more visually – last season there were a lot of frames within frames within frames, which visually underscored the trap Tara was in – this season as she’s grown, so has her world, and it’s beautiful.

I highly recommend Striking Out, and I sincerely hope there is a third series.

Read My Review of Striking Out Series 1.

Striking Out Series 1 Review

  • Series Title: Striking Out
  • Season: Series 1
  • Episodes: 4
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: RTE (Ireland)
  • Cast: Amy Huberman, Emmet Byrne, Neil Morrissey
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R1, NTSC)

Tara Rafferty seems to have it all – a lucrative career as a solicitor at a prestigious Dublin law firm, wealth and privilege, and she’s about to marry Eric, the son of the head of her law firm, a man she loves. Then it all blows up around her. The series begins with Tara at her Hen Party (bachelorette party), she makes a snap decision to drop in on her fiancé but finds him in bed with another woman. Right there and then Tara calls off the wedding. The next day she moves her personal items and files out of her office.

Tara is now on her own, getting by any way she can, picking up clients as she goes. Her office is in the back of a coffee shop, and when one of her clients needs a job to stay out of jail, she hires him as her office boy. He recommends a friend to help her with some “IT stuff” and soon Tara has hired Meg as well as her investigator (and sometimes hacker). Tara has a good heart, and she cares about people – but she’s young and too trusting.

Meanwhile, Eric, her ex-fiancé, is essentially stalking her – he shows up at her flat, in court when she’s presenting a case (because the barrister didn’t arrive), and at her new office. Eric insists he “still loves her” and his fling “doesn’t matter”. Tara sees through this and tells him it’s over and to leave her alone – repeatedly. But Tara’s mother, her father, Eric’s mother, and even her friends tell Tara she should forgive Eric and go back to him. In addition, Tara keeps getting cases that in some way or another come back to infidelity. Even her clients tell Tara she’s better off with Eric and the privileged life he can offer her.

But Tara defies all the social pressure and discovers she likes being on her own. She likes helping fellow underdogs. And for the first time, she really enjoys being in charge of her own life and making new friends and keeping the one trusted old one that stood by her decision to cancel the wedding. You can’t help but like Tara and her motley crew: Ray the office boy, Pete the coffee shop owner, and Vincent the down on his luck alcoholic barrister who helps her present cases in court.

This is a brilliant series about a woman’s journey to find herself and to say no to social convention and pressure. I enjoyed it very much! Even though at times Tara seems like a bad or at least inexperienced solicitor (her clients keep lying to her and she keeps believing them), she’s also someone you can pull for and hope things work out for her. Her new friends are also great – even as they work through their own issues. Striking Out, like Tara Rafferty herself, walks it’s own path, becoming a unique series in its own right, and I whole-heartedly recommend it.

Thunderbirds Are Go Series 3 Vol 2 Review

  • Series Title: Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Season: Series 3 Vol. 2
  • Episodes: 13, plus bonus episode
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: ITV
  • Cast: Rasmus Hardiker, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Menkin, Kayvan Novak, Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Sandra Dickinson, Angel Coulby
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R2, PAL)

This review contains spoilers for Thunderbirds Are Go Series 3, Volume 2 (episodes 14-26).

One of the main differences between Thunderbirds Are Go and the original Thunderbirds series is that Jeff Tracy, the boys’ father, has been missing, presumed dead, for the entire series. Although they occasionally have found signs of their father, such as when Gordon discovered a crashed plane that their father flew on the ocean floor, for the majority of the series, the Tracy boys have been running International Rescue, their father’s dream on their own. The cliffhanger ending of Series 3 part 1 had the Tracy boys receiving a signal from their father. It indicated he was alive but stranded several light-years away.

Series 3 Volume 2 opens with a two-parter that picks-up where the cliffhanger ended. We see Jeff Tracy’s final mission – attempting to stop the Hood from stealing the Zero-X Faster-than-light craft, a mission that ends with the Hood’s escape and the space ship exploding in a fireball that takes Jeff with it, or so the Tracy boys and Jeff’s mother always thought. Following new leads, the boys discover new evidence – the Zero X didn’t explode but rather launched into space. Jeff may very well be alive! However, Brains analyzes the signals they found earlier and the trajectory they have – and realizes Jeff is eight light-years away in the Oort Cloud. The only way to rescue him is to build a new spaceship. Brains starts to build the Zero-XL.

You’d think there would be hints of Brains progress or one step forward two steps back as he develops the ship, but Series 3 Volume 2 actually has several episodes of regular rescues with little or no mention of Brains’ progress. It actually works, because we know Brains has a very important project, but the boys must still fulfill their father’s mission, the mission they now take as their own: International Rescue – rescuing people who would otherwise have no chance at all. And these rescue stories are very good, big, colorful, exciting, and even fun.

The end of the season is several interconnected episodes leading to the rescue attempt of Jeff Tracy. Brains admits he needs help completing the Zero-XL. The Tracys’ turn to the engineer that built the engine: The Mechanic. Now held in isolation at a secret GDF space prison, they go to ask for his help. But the Chaos Crew, Havoc and Fuse are already there. The Choas crew had caused trouble throughout the season, though the Tracys had seemed to be getting through to Fuse occasionally. As the Chaos Crew destroy the Hex space prison, Alan, Kayo, and two space pirates fight for their lives. The Mechanic rescues Kayo but then the two are locked in with a bomb. The Mechanic again rescues Kayo but appears to stay behind to get blown up. He later arrives on Tracy Island – he will help rebuild the Zero XL T-Drive engine if Brains permanently removes the Hood’s control over him. Brains fights off the Hood in a digital realm and succeeds – and the Mechanic helps Brains build a successful T-drive engine. The new Zero XL includes all five Thunderbirds.

The final two-parter of the set, “The Long Reach”, has all five Tracy boys boarding the Zero XL with Brains on a mission of their lifetime – the mission to rescue their father. Kayo is originally in the Zero XL as well, but when the Choas Crew arrive she leaves and uses Thunderbird Shadow to protect the launch. The FTL spaceship launches, they pick up John and Thunderbird 5 and then launch towards the Oort Cloud. Scott’s countdown is awesome!

Arriving at the Oort Cloud the Zero XL has overshot and is inside the cloud of ice and rock, the Tracys take Thunderbirds 1, 2, and 3 to investigate their father’s signal. At first, he still appears to be missing, but when Scott gets in trouble it’s Jeff that rescues him. Jeff and the boys return to the Zero XL only to discover the Hood was a stowaway who attacked Brains. They quickly overwhelm the Hood and lock him in a storage closet. Jeff gives the countdown to return home.

Meanwhile, on Tracy Island the Chaos Crew attack but the Mechanic, Grandma, Kayo, Lady Penelope, Parker, and Sherbet defeat them. The GDF arrives to arrest the Chaos Crew. Then Zero XL returns with two extra passengers and the GDF will arrest the Hood as well.

I loved series 3 volume 2 of Thunderbirds Are Go. The rescues are actually also awesome and don’t involve the Chaos Crew interfering most of the time. But what holds the series together is the search for the Tracys’ father, Jeff Tracy. This gives the story an emotional core and resonance. I ended-up rewatching the main stories about the Search for Jeff Tracy twice and they were just as good and just as emotional the second time around as the first. I highly recommend this series and this volume in particular.

Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Volume 1.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Volume 2.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Volume 1.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Volume 2.
Read my Review of Thunderbirds Are Go Series 3 Volume 1.

Shetland Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios, presented by Britbox)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

The severed hand and arm of a young man washes up on a beach in the Shetland Islands, and it is soon followed by the discovery of the man’s head in a duffel bag. The man was Daniel Ugara and he was in Shetland to find his kidnapped sister, Zizi. This leads DI Perez into a case of human trafficking and murder. The young woman’s estranged mother also arrives in Shetland looking for her, but it becomes apparent that not only is she a victim, but she’s desperate and possibly violent. Could she be driven to kill those she thinks responsible for the death of her son and the kidnapping of her daughter?

Season 5, as with previous season, sets the wild beauty of the Shetland Islands in sharp contrast to horrific, violent crimes – in this case, people trafficking and multiple murders. And taking place in a small community, even those close to DI Perez might be involved – even if unwittingly. Shetland Season 5 is a brilliant long-form mystery. We hope Perez finds the missing girl alive, and the clues and red herrings alike keep the story moving along. It’s a cracking good mystery and one who’s resolution I’m not going to spoil. I highly recommend Shetland, especially season 5.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.
Read my Review of Shetland Season 3.
Read my Review of Shetland Season 4.

No Offence Series 2 Review

  • Series Title: No Offence
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 7
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: ITV
  • Cast: Sarah Solemani, Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach, Will Mellor, Saira Choudhry
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

Season 2 of No Offence starts off with a bang as a bomb goes off at the funeral of the son of a mobster. This sets off a mob war, which is precisely what the bomber wanted. The series sees DI Viv Deering and her team setting their eye on Nora Attah and her son, Manni – leaders of a mob in Manchester. However, most of their tactics don’t seem to work and make things worse, especially when they involve Cathy’s sister, Donna, who had worked for the Attahs in the past.

No Offence is a fascinating, brilliant, well-written, and shocking series. DI Viv Deering has no sense of personal modesty and doesn’t let anyone push her around. She’s not too sure of her new boss, DCI Christine Lickberg, and spends most of her time running her team without checking with her boss. Joy has settled into her role as detective sergeant. Dinah is still caring for Cathy and her newborn child, though Cathy is now living with her sister, Donna.

The season follows the gains and losses of Deering and her team as they try to catch Nora and her son, especially after the horrific deaths of five young teens during a fire in a locked sweatshop apartment. It’s a fascinating ride. I highly recommend this series.

Read my review of No Offense Series 1.

Riverdale Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Riverdale
  • Season: Season 3
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the third season of Riverdale.

Riverdale Season 3 opens with Archie being accused of the crime of murder – which he didn’t commit. Though the trial ends in a deadlocked jury and a mistrial, Archie takes a plea deal anyway and is sent to a juvenile detention facility where the warden runs an illegal underground fight club for Hiram Lodge. Archie is forced to get involved in the club. But when he’s threatened with a transfer to Lodge’s for-profit prison, Veronica helps him escape and he and Jughead head to Canada.

Meanwhile, Jughead and Betty spot two boys playing a game, Griffins and Gargoyles at Pop’s Diner, later that night they are found in Fox Forest, victims of a ritual – one is dead and the other is taken to the hospital in critical condition. The second boy later commits suicide, telling Betty he will “ascend” with the Gargoyle King. The Gargoyle King will be the villain of the season, and Betty and Jughead spend the season trying to find out who he is and to stop him. The game, Griffins and Gargoyles, with its characters and quests, mimics life in Riverdale

Meanwhile, Betty’s sister Polly has already joined a cult called “The Farm” and she gets her mother deeply involved. Soon Alice Cooper is turning over her life savings, and Betty’s college fund to Edgar at The Farm, she even sells her house and gives the money to the Farm. Betty keeps trying to talk her mother out of all this, but it doesn’t work.

It turns out Griffins and Gargoyles isn’t new, but old – our characters played the game in high school. They formed “The Midnight Club”, sneaking into Riverdale High School at night to play. But then they have a wild “Ascension Night” and Alice sees the Gargoyle King and Principal Featherhead (Anthony Micheal Hall) is murdered. The Midnight Club realize the poisoned chalices were meant for members of their club, so they stop playing G&G, disband The Midnight Club, and vow never to speak of it again. No one seems to know which Midnight Club member was a murderer.

The musical episode for the season is Heathers the musical and it’s particularly well done, with the songs and characters tying in with the actual Riverdale characters at the moment it takes place in the story.

So the two villains are the Gargoyle King and The Farm, run by Edgar EverNever, who also seems to have some connection to Griffins and Gargoyles. The season’s episodes have Betty and Jughead, with occasional help from other characters, involved in solving these mysteries.

In the end, Edgar’s “daughter” Evelyn, who is attending Riverdale High and recruiting new members, is found to be his wife, who has been repeating her junior year at every high school to help Edgar with his con game. The Gargoyle King is Chic, who, among other things, impersonates Jason Blossom (which gets Cheryl under Edgar’s control). Chic, in turn, is controlled by Penelope Blossom and though he’s in jail, Hal Cooper, Betty’s serial killer father. Hal escapes prison towards the end of the season and again becomes the Black Hood to harass Betty and her mother.

I didn’t really care that much for Season 3 of Riverdale. Griffins and Gargoyles (G&G) is obviously referencing Dungeons and Dragons, a game some parents thought was “Satanic” in the 1980s – even though D&D is actually a cooperative game that fires the imagination. Plus – all you need to play are paper, pencils, the player manuals, and the gamemaster manual – no expensive consoles or equipment or subscriptions. I found it annoying that Riverdale made G&G so evil (and unbelievable that Penelope came up with the game as she seems to have no sense of imagination at all). Archie gets involved in boxing, thinking he can make it a career, even though he keeps losing – which makes no sense. Veronica spends several episodes trying to get Archie free but then breaks up with him, briefly taking up with Reggie (they are cute together, and I feel bad for Reggie because you know Veronica won’t stay with him). The Farm is this horrible cult, and in the very last episode, after Edgar and his followers escape and leave Riverdale, we find out the FBI was investigating and had an agent on the inside. This agent had plenty of opportunities to reveal herself to Betty or others – yet she doesn’t. Plus, Edgar steals organs from several Riverdale teens, including Kevin and Fangs, so you have to wonder how an FBI agent let that happen. It doesn’t make sense. Plus Season 3 was just really dark and loses much of the sense of fun of previous seasons. Still, I’m sticking with this show and will buy Season 4.

Read my Review of Riverdale Season 1.
Read my Review of Riverdale Season 2.

Get Smart Season 1 Review

  • Series: Get Smart
  • Season: 1 (1965 – 1966)
  • Episodes: 30
  • Discs: 4, plus Special Features Disc (5 total)
  • Cast: Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Edward Platt
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: Color (Technicolor), Standard

In the 1960s the Spy Genre suddenly became very popular. US television had The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission: Impossible, and The Wild Wild West to name a few. British television had Secret Agent Man (aka Danger Man), The Avengers, and The Prisoner. Movies had James Bond and plenty of James Bond imitators. Get Smart was a comedy created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry that both joined and parodied the Spy Genre. But like all of the best comedies, for Max, 99, and the Chief – they don’t know they are in a comedy, and the humor comes from the characters and the situations. Get Smart has physical comedy (in the first season poor Max gets knocked into swimming pools, fully clothed in a suit more than once), and witty, clever dialogue. There are also a lot of catchphrases, which for a while became part of the national lexicon.

Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), is Secret Agent 86 of Control, a super-secret organization that fights the international organization of evil – Kaos. 99 is his female partner. And the Chief sends them on their missions. For the first half of season 1, Max is often joined by Fang, agent K-13, a fluffy brown dog. Max is actually quite intelligent and extremely earnest as an agent. He also loves his job. When the Chief tells him that he will be on a dangerous mission, Max’s response is: “And Loving It”, which beyond becoming a catchphrase, is his attitude – he loves his job. But Max, also, doesn’t always think things through, which provides a lot of the humor for the show. Max, with help from 99, always manages to complete his missions – successfully.

99 (Barbara Feldon) is the more competent one in the partnership between her and Max. She is a full-blown agent, not an “assistant” or junior agent, which makes her a role model. Like Max, she often goes undercover, or simply works with Max on his missions. They meet for the first time in the pilot (the only episode shot in black and white), and 99 immediately develops a crush on Max. Their relationship will develop throughout the run of the show. But in season 1, Max is completely oblivious to how 99 cares about him romantically. Although there is this romantic thread between 99 and Maxwell Smart, it never overshadows 99’s abilities as a competent secret service agent – well, competent for Control that is.

The Chief is the head of Control, and he usually sends Max and 99 on their missions. Occasionally, Max or even 99 will discover something on his or her own that starts the case – such as an informer offering information or asking for help. Missions vary from well-constructed short mysteries to spy/adventure stories in season 1. Later on, direct parodies of other spy shows or general movies join the mix. Still, Season 1 starts out with everything in place – we are introduced to Max, 99 and the Chief in the pilot and from then on, it’s Get Smart. This is not a “slow burn” series that takes time to develop – everything is there from the start.

Other semi-regular characters that appear in season 1 are Agent 44, who is usually stuck in a letterbox, porthole, base violin case, etc.; Larabee, a regular Control agent, who in Season 1 doesn’t even get any lines; Hymie – the Control robot is introduced in one episode; Fang Agent K-13 as I mentioned above, also early in the season the Chief has a male secretary/assistant, and we see various scientists who develop and demonstrate special equipment in the Control labs.

Get Smart is a gadget-filled show, and every episode has special equipment, including a wide variety of special hidden phones and radios. Max’s shoe phone is well-known, but there are several others. Oddly enough, in this era of smartphones, that Max and 99 always have some sort of communication device at the ready doesn’t even seem odd. Both also have a number of special guns – including a gun that’s also a phone used in the two-part episode, “Ship of Spies”.

The other notable thing about Get Smart, at least to me when I watched it, was the clothes. Oh, my, god, the clothes are gorgeous – both for Max and 99. Although early episodes have Max in black or charcoal grey suits, later ones have him in burgundy, blue, light grey, worsted wool (which must have been fun in California in a studio) – his clothes are gorgeous. Also, at least in season 1, Max wears very thin ties (probably a little more than an inch wide), which I always think are more attractive. The ties aren’t wild, but they have color and pattern and always perfectly compliment whatever suit Max is wearing. 99 gets beautiful clothes too – dresses, pantsuits, a black jumpsuit that’s identical to Max’s jumpsuit except for her number for undercover breaking into places. The hemlines on 99’s dresses aren’t too short, and she usually has sleeves – these aren’t the sleeveless sheath dresses that pop-up in other television and movies from, or especially, set in the 1960s. I haven’t had this much clothing envy watching television since Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Notable episodes in season 1 include: “Double Agent” – one of my favorite episodes, ever, of the series – Max goes “bad” to infiltrate a ring of Kaos spies – the finale is one of the best things ever and I won’t spoil it; Our Man in Toyland – Kaos is running a ring of spies in a department store, the final battle between Max and 99 and the Kaos agents has them successfully using various toys against Kaos agents armed with guns (also the head Kaos agent is Herr Bunny); Aboard the Orient Express, The Dead Spy Scrawls, The Amazing Harry Hoo, the two-part Ship of Spies, and Shipment to Beirut (which actually takes the same plot used in a favorite The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode – smuggling information in high fashion clothing – and treats it more seriously than UNCLE did).

The only negative about Get Smart is that it is a series from the 1960s, so there is some institutional racism in the program. It’s never overt, but at times it is there. This isn’t an every episode thing (other than the incredible lack of people of color), and although there’s one or two cringe-worthy moments – they are moments, it is not a regular thing. I’ve seen worse in other shows from the era. And the show is to be commended for making 99 the competent one and 86 the if not quite incompetent one – the one who gets the laughs because his earnest nature just causes all sorts of problems.

I have the complete series in a Collector’s set which is quite nice – see picture below.

I quite enjoyed re-watching Get Smart. I recommend this show! And if you’ve never seen it, you might want to give it a try. Get Smart is fun, witty, intelligent and enjoyable.