iZombie Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: iZombie
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-Ray)
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Blu-Ray, NTSC

Olivia Moore, Liv to her friends, was a driven, A-personality doctor, engaged to Major Lilywhite, and happy with her life. Then she goes to a boat party where things get way out of hand, between the drugs, an energy drink called Max Rager, a fire, fights, and all hell breaking loose, Liv barely notices when she’s scratched by one of the guys at the party. She falls or dives off the boat, and wakes up on the shore, in a body bag, craving brains. Liv is a zombie. She quits her job at the hospital, and dumps her fiancé, then gets a job at the morgue so she has access to brains to eat. Ravi, her boss at the morgue, is the only one know knows Liv is a zombie – she doesn’t tell her family, her roommate, Payton, or Major. But all is not hopeless for Liv, she discovers that when she eats someone’s brain she takes on their personality traits, and has visions of how they died. Liv soon partners with Det. Clive Babineaux, a new Seattle police detective to solve murders. Liv’s excuse for how she knows so much about the victims? She’s psychic.

So if this sounds like a mash-up of Psych, Quantum Leap, and The Walking Dead, it somewhat is – yet… there is more. As the season progresses, it moves from establishing it’s universe, to a medical thriller. Liv gradually learns just what made her a zombie, as well as who. Liv even makes another zombie herself, accidentally, which leads deeper in to a conspiracy involving the Max Rager energy drink and a designer drug called Utopium. Liv’s personal life gets more and more complicated as well. Major works at a homeless shelter for street kids – but the kids are disappearing. He takes advantage of Liv’s friendship with Det. Babineaux, to have someone look in to it. But he’s never satisfied to let the professionals do the work – and slowly uncovers the zombie conspiracy of Seattle. Blaine, the zombie who made Liv a zombie, is a drug-dealer type, supplying brains to Seattle’s zombies. He works out of a butcher shop called Meat Cute. But Blaine isn’t above making someone a zombie so that he has a steady supply of new customers.

iZombie is a complicated mix of police procedural, paranormal mystery, and SF. It has that 20-something vibe of most CW shows, but it’s a bit more grown-up and sophisticated than Supernatural. I was expecting more humor, but the complicated nature of the continuing storyline drew me in. Season 1 still had a bit of a set-up feel, despite the breadth of material covered in the season. iZombie is based on a comic published by Vertigo Comics, the adult/mature readers imprint of DC Comics.

Flashpoint – Is there more to be revealed on the CW DC Shows?

I have now caught-up on the current seasons of all four DC CW shows. And I’ve noticed something. The Flash mentioned Flashpoint at the opening of the season, and Barry attempted to reverse Flashpoint. But his attempt failed. The Flash is now in an alternate reality – Cisco, as Vibe, is much more powerful than he was last year when he was first discovering his powers. In some ways it’s like that character has skipped ahead in time. And that’s not all – somehow, as a result of Barry messing with time – Cisco’s brother Dante is dead, killed by a drunk driver. Meanwhile, Caitlin is exhibiting cold powers – and she fears she is turning in to Killer Frost. And at the Central City Police Department a new guy is in charge of forensics and he’s a total, well, you know, to Barry. By the mid-season finale, we know a lot more about this guy who’s suddenly appeared from nowhere.

But it isn’t just The Flash that’s in a new reality. Arrow is also subtly changed. One thing I’ve noticed – last year on Legends of Tomorrow they visited future Star City – where they met future Green Arrow Connor Hawk (aka John Diggle Jr) and there was a skyscraper called Smoak Technologies. Due to Flashpoint, Diggle now has a son – John Jr, not a daughter, Sara. Felicity has also lost Palmer Tech – and in last night’s episode, Curtis mentioned he and Felicity were working on a start-up company (he mentions this as a cover for his Mr. Terrific duties to his husband) which Felicity seems to know nothing about. But easily, that could be the spark of an idea for her – especially if she pulls back from Team Arrow for other plot reasons. Flashpoint seems to be bringing the Arrow universe closer to the disaster we saw in last season’s Legends of Tomorrow. And let’s not forget – this season’s bad guys on Legends are the Triumvirate of Evil: Reverse Flash (from Season 1 of The Flash); Damien Darhk (from Season 4 of Arrow); and Malcolm Merlyn (aka “The Magician” in the comics, but he’s been hanging around Arrow since the beginning). I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think it’s all related to Flashpoint (which was a world-ending event in the comics and the animated movie).

I suspect since we also saw Damien Darhk in the Legends of Tomorrow last season; and he’s clearly working with the Reverse Flash this season, and later with Malcolm Merlyn. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think something is going on. I suspect time travel is most definitely involved. And I think the disappearance of Rip Hunter is also involved. I would love to see Rip return, maybe with his father, Booster Gold. I think the time paradoxes are only getting started and they will get more and more complex.  The four shows, but especially The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, will have a bang-up complexly-related “super-crossover” feel by the end of this season. Maybe they will even change the “Supergirl is it’s own universe with no other Heroes” left over from last year when Supergirl was on CBS. Have I mentioned how that never made sense?

But I have to say, I love, just love, how all the DC shows are inter-related, just the way the comics are. Yes, you could just watch one or two of the shows – and you wouldn’t be lost. But when you watch all four, everything is connected. Also, just as is traditional for DC – all the Heroes know each other: they know each other’s real names; they know each others allies, friends and family; they know each other’s superpowers; and they work together when needed to overcome major threats (as in this year’s 4-part crossover event). That’s something that’s always been important in the DC Comics Universe. The heroes cooperate with each other. They don’t see each other as threats or rivals. When I first read Justice League International (later Justice League America / Justice League Europe) in the late 1980s and early 1990s – every hero, from the most powerful like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to the ones who really had no powers at all, like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were members of the Justice League. In between the two extremes were a lot of single power individuals such as Fire, Ice, Black Canary, Vixen – all of whom were female. There were many minorities in the League as well, including John Stewart – the Green Lantern at the time and an African American. And there were the magic users: Zatanna, Dr. Fate, etc. There was something for everyone, and a well-balanced League. Young Justice, the animated series, although it had a modern aesthetic and look, also reflected the width and breadth of the Justice League with many female and minority characters or both (Rocket and Bumblebee are both African American young women). The CW Shows have women and minorities on every show. And the women are not simply there as set dressing or to be rescued by the “male hero” – they are smart, educated, career-oriented women (reporter, scientist, computer expert), minorities have viable roles (engineer, army veteran), and Legends of Tomorrow has a balanced team of women and men with minorities on the team. Plus, you have to love a team of self-styled “screw-ups” who manage to be heroes, um, excuse me, Legends, anyway. The CW Network is doing a better job at this point of doing live action DC stories that Warner Brothers is doing with the films – though Suicide Squad was fun (though Arrow did a suicide squad storyline in it’s first or second season) and I have high hopes for Wonder Woman.

Arrow Season 4 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, John Barrowman, Paul Blackthorne, Neal McDonough
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Season 4 of Arrow is very dark, and that isn’t just a pun based on the main villain of the season being Damien Darhk. But the season is also very…strange. The first eight episodes of the season play like an extended backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow, cumulating in the two-part crossover with The Flash that introduces and spins off Legends. Laurel decides to bring back her dead sister, Sara, so she and Thea dig her up and bring her to Nanda Parbat to drop her in a Lazarus Pit – this despite the plot thread of Thea continuously fighting the blood lust she now suffers thanks to being brought back to life by the same Lazarus Pit. Once in Nanda Parbat, both Malcolm Merlyn and Nyssa al’Ghul warn against using the Lazarus Pit – but Laurel persists. When Sara is brought back she’s a feral beast. Even Quentin Lance, her father, considering killing her. Oliver calls in John Constantine to bring her back to herself. Constantine’s magic works. Shortly after, Felicity discovers that Ray Palmer wasn’t killed in the explosion at Palmer Tech, rather his Atom Suit works and he’s become extremely small. Unfortunately, Ray and his suit are captured by Damien Darhk. Felicity and Curtis Holt (Mr. Terrific to be) rescue him. With Ray now alive, and in possession of a working A.T.O.M. suit – he’s ready to become part of the Legends. The lead in brings us to the crossover with The Flash that also introduces Legends of Tomorrow, and Ray, Sara, Heat Wave,  Captain Cold, and the Hawks (Hawkgirl and Hawkman) spin off to face Vandal Savage. However, that crossover also features Barry Allen’s Flash running through time to prevent a disaster, Oliver discovering he has a son (an element from season 1), Barry accidentally messing-up Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, and Malcolm Merlyn taking the dust of Savage as a trophy or something. But both parts of the crossover are included in the DVD set – Warner Brothers must have heard the cries of protest about last year’s DVD sets not including both halves of the crossover on both sets.

Having successfully spun off Legends, Arrow settles down to be it’s own thing. There’s a continuing thread of “let’s bring people back/in for an episode”. We see Constantine – and yes, I loved his episode so much I bought Constantine on Blu-Ray, as well as all six issues of the Justice League Dark and all four issues of the Constantine DC graphic novels – so I’m glad Arrow introduced me to the character. And – it fits with the CW pulling together references to the wider DC universe. But the episode also sticks out a bit – for a series that stated at the beginning that it would be realistic with no “superpowers” it’s slightly odd to have an entire season of magic. John Constantine isn’t the only DC hero to show up – much later in the season, Oliver brings in Vixen, remarking, “We shared an animated adventure in Hub City,” a reference to the CW Seed animated Vixen series. Vixen has also become a regular in Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow. Arsenal, Roy Harper, also returns for an episode. But villains return for single episodes (or two) as well, we see: Brie Larvan (the Bug-Eyed Bandit); Cupid; Anarchy; Felicity’s hacker boyfriend, Cooper; and the Calculator, another hacker who turns out to be Felicity’s father. These one-offs work – but at the same time, they distract from the main villain – Damien Darhk – though Cooper works with Darhk, Anarchy wants to kill him, and the Calculator ends up helping Oliver and company against Darhk. But the effect of the one-offs, especially the Cupid episode (which seems designed to be used in trailers to suggest something happens that doesn’t) and the Bug-Eyed Bandit episode seem like breaks in the storyline. Almost as if when putting together the Damien Darhk story the writing and production crew didn’t have enough story planned for the entire season.

The flashback storyline for this season has Oliver returned to Lian Yu to break-up a drug ring, attempt to save a kidnapped Russian girl, and rescue the rest of Ryder’s slave labor force. However, the last few episodes of the season clearly relate the flashbacks to the current storyline – as the idol used by Ryder and briefly, Tatiana, is the same as the idol used by Damien Darhk (or very close). Oliver also meets John Constantine on the island in one episode, which, at least, explains how he knows him. I liked the smoothness of the flashbacks, and the cuts between the past and the present. It worked so much better than last season.

The season is also marked by Star City’s mayoral campaign. First Jeri Ryan (Star Trek‘s 7 of 9) shows up to run for mayor, but she drops out when Damien Darhk kidnaps her child. Oliver then steps in to run, challenging Darhk, but he, too, eventually pulls out of the race because of Darhk’s threats against his son William, and others he cares about, including Felicity. Darhk’s wife, Revé wins the election.

The season is also framed with a flash forward to Oliver at a grave site. When watching the season for the first time, the obvious question is – Who died? When re-watching it, we know who died, in the episode “11:59” – Laurel Lance is killed, and her legacy as the Black Canary eventually revealed to Star City. Still, these flash forwards still work, not driving the story with an obvious question and worry about who died, but letting the audience know just how serious things are with Darhk.

Darhk’s plan is terrifying and for a “comic book series”, very real and frightening as a threat – Damien Darhk’s “Genesis” plan is to destroy the world in Nuclear Fire – with only his chosen few surviving in an underground colony. The people in this colony, whom we see – because Malcolm has Thea brought there and drugged into compliance – are white families – mother, father, child. ALL of them – there are no minorities, heck there seem to be no families with more than a single child. It’s a “perfect world” of rich, white, no doubt – single religion believing, fascists who have no hope. None. They buy Damien Darhk’s claim that the world is “so evil” it must be destoryed. And despite Darhk’s “Arc” there’s no real plan to rebuild anything. It’s a terrifying vision.

It is a very, very dark season. “And smile, and smile, and be a villain”, which is a Shakespearean quote – seems to apply to Damien Darhk. Neal McDonough, whom I had seen in the short-lived series Medical Investigation, plays the part with a smile – a smile in the midst of his true evil – which makes him that much more chilling. Darhk uses his magic to stop Oliver time and again. He controls the “ghosts” an army for an organization called Hive. These ghosts will literally die for Hive – when one faces capture they take suicide pills to prevent revealing any information. Darhk also gets Quentin Lance, whom he’s bribed to work for him, to upload a virus/worm to a Federal server farm that erases the entire existence of the ghosts – or their records at least. One of the ghosts is John Diggle’s supposedly dead brother – who isn’t so dead, but is a dedicated member of Hive. Quentin Lance sees Darhk’s evil and eventually helps Oliver and Company (he hadn’t wanted to work for Darhk – but at first he didn’t see the harm of supplying information, and later Darhk threatened Laurel). John tries to bring Andy to his side, but it fails – and fails spectacularly.

Felicity and Oliver do get engaged, but she decides against marrying him due to his “Lone Ranger” attitude and occasional lies. Though I felt the subplot concerning Oliver’s son was a bit forced. Samantha, the boy’s mother, comes off as extremely self-centered. Her concern to keep William secret and safe makes some sense (especially as after Malcolm tells Damien about William – Damien kidnaps him); but her insistence that Oliver can’t tell Felicity about William makes no sense at all except to create a secret that would break up the couple. It wasn’t her place to say he can’t tell his fiancée. There’s a big difference between Oliver announcing to the world he has a kid and taking William in – and Oliver letting his closest family and friends know. Also, the bit with the uncashed check makes no sense. True, I could see the pride thing of Samantha not wanting to take Moira’s money – but from a practical sense – she moved to a new city, bought a house, and she was pregnant – so she couldn’t work immediately even if she found a job. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars right there. Raising a kid isn’t cheap. Sam really should have used the money.

Getting back to Darhk – every time he tries to stop him, Oliver fails. At one point, he and his team capture Darhk – but Darhk claims he’s someone else and tries to get the charges dropped. The only thing that stops him is Lance, who incriminates himself to testify against Darhk. Darhk then immediately escapes prison – and in the resulting “riot” he kills Laurel. Darhk also attacks Lilia and baby Sara – and takes Rubicon, a computer program meant to prevent nuclear disaster. Darhk will, of course, use this fail safe program to launch the world’s weapons and create Armageddon. Felicity, Curtis, and Noah “The Calculator” Kuttler (Felicity’s father) work together to bring down Rubicon. However, unusually for this genre – one of the missiles escapes – the only thing Felicity can do is divert it – and the missile hits and destroys Haven Rock rather than Monument Point. Felcity’s feelings about this disaster and the tens of thousands of deaths are played way down in the few remaining episodes of the season. Not only that, but the work of Curtis, Noah, and Felicity only buys the world another twenty-four hours. The computers in the Bunker (or Arrow Cave) are destroyed by a Hive attack and the laptop with the anti-Rubicon program is stolen. But Felicity and her crew are able to get to Darhk’s hideout to stop his hacker, Cooper – who gives his life in the process of saving the world. Felicity and Curtis also save Star City from imminent attack. Meanwhile, Thea and Anarchy destroy Darhk’s arc community – driving Malcom back to Oliver and Company, because he’s sane enough to realise he lives in the world that Darhk still, arrogantly, wants to destroy. Revé is killed, and Thea kidnaps Darhk’s daughter. Oliver and Darhk fight, again, but having learned some magic of his own from a friend of Constantine, Oliver is on more even footing. In the end, Oliver kills Darhk. Oliver is also sworn in as Star City’s interim mayor.

Season 4 of Arrow was overwhelmingly dark – not simply the bad guy of the season – who’s ultimate plan is to destroy the world – but in terms of personal relationships. The season opens with Felicity and Oliver living in Ivy Town, and Oliver states many times he is happy there – though Felicity is bored. Yet, the two’s engagement falls apart. One of John Diggle’s motivating factors was the “death” of his brother – yet when Andy comes back, it isn’t a happy reunion and in the end, John kills him. Thea gets Yet Another boyfriend who is just bad for her. It’s a season of reunions and one-time returns, but all those characters appear in one-off episodes. Well, for the most part. The season spends it’s first eight episodes in an extended back door pilot, and as much as I like Legends of Tomorrow, and it was necessary to bring back from the dead the two characters who would spin off, it felt odd to put so much effort into that “mini-story” and then never mention any of those characters again. The next story has Oliver unsuccessfully running for mayor – because he’s forced to drop out of the race by Darhk. Though, in the last episode of the season, he becomes mayor anyway. Felicity is shot in the back and becomes paralyzed – but regains the use of her legs due to a techno-miracle developed by Curtis. This will, no doubt, make comparisons to Oracle even more obvious – though I feel such comparisons between two brilliant characters to be a disservice to both. Felicity loses control of Palmer Tech at the end of the season. The flashback story is much better integrated into the main story, and provides a lot of background – so that’s helpful, but it’s a dark story as well. And then the main story is about, to be frank, a powerful white rich guy who has every, single, advantage, and still feels the world is “too evil” to exist – so he becomes determined to destroy it. Even when his “ark” is destroyed – he still wants to destroy the world. The arrogance, egotism, and hubris boggles the mind – and Darhk is a pure psychopath as well. Neal McDonough is a brilliant choice for Darhk though, and plays the part with a fascinating twinkle – which of course makes him even more scary. It’s an odd season. It’s a dark season. It a very real sense, it made Arrow my least favorite of the CW DC shows. One thing Arrow has gotten right though, and it’s something I like about the entire CW DC line-up, is the bringing in of other characters from the DC Universe – heroes, villains, allies – CW is almost close enough to having a weekly Justice League on the screen they’ve brought in so many characters. That is fun, seriously. It rewards the long-time DC fan, and for new fans, it send them scrambling for the DC Wiki. This is how DC is done!

Constantine – the Complete Series Review

  • Series: Constantine
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 3
  • Cast: Matt Ryan, Angelica Celaya, Charles Halford, Harold Perrieneau
  • Network:  NBC (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • Blu-Ray Format: Color, Widescreen
  • Based on characters from DC and Vertigo Comics

I first saw the character of John Constantine in a guest shot on the CW’s Arrow. I enjoyed the character and Matt Ryan’s portrayal of the character. I knew the actor and character had been on his own short-lived series, a series a few friends had raved about. And I knew the character came originally from the Hellblazer comic book. But I had missed the original series – horror isn’t my thing – and my brain had somehow mixed-up “Hellblazer” with some horror movies from the 1980s.

Constantine, the Series, does have some horror elements. It also has elements of supernatural stories – at times bringing to mind series like Shadow Chasers, The X-files, and Supernatural. However, what makes this show work is the characters – especially John Constantine – exorcist, spellcaster, magic user, and con man. John Constantine is an anti-hero, but you can’t help wanting him to win. And not simply to win by defeating a demon, malevolent spirit, or ghost – but for once to not lose everyone around him. In the pilot, he meets the daughter of an old and deceased friend. When, at the end of the episode she tries to join him in his fight – John waves her off with – “everyone around me dies.” Over the course of thirteen episodes – we see how true that is. Because no matter how talented John is as a spellcaster and magic user – he’s also a bit cursed. John’s magic comes at a high price.

But again, Matt Ryan makes this show work. He is utterly convincing when uttering spells in arcane languages which may or may not be real. He’s, surprisingly, not an angry character – if anything he’s perpetually sad – struggling on in an endless fight against evil – and often losing friends in the process. John’s a pragmatist – if the only way to stop a hunger demon is to convince a friend – the one who caused it’s accidental release – to become it’s host, then that’s what John will do, even when he knows it will cause his friend his life. Constantine isn’t afraid to make sacrifices. And those sacrifices haunt him.

Other characters in the show include Zed – a psychic haunted by images of Constantine, that she can’t help but draw, who joins him in his fight. Chas, an old friend, who seemingly cannot die, In “Quid Pro Quo” we find out why and that his inability to die isn’t quite infinite. (Let’s just say that “protection spells” can have unintended consequences.) And Manny – an Angel who seems attached to John. The final episode even calls into doubt just who Manny is really working for. John also has a network of friends and associates whom we see occasionally.

Because this show comes from DC Comics – we have the inevitable “Easter Eggs”. Constantine has inherited “the Mill House” from Jasper. The house is filled with antiquities and magical artifacts. It’s bigger inside than out. The rooms move and change. It’s basically “the House of Mystery” from Justice League Dark without the ability to travel in space. And the House of Mystery is rather similar to the TARDIS but without the ability to travel in time under normal circumstances. In one episode, the helmet of Dr. Fate (Lord of Order) can be spotted among the artifacts. The Spectre (Det. John Corrigan) is present in two episodes: “Danse Vaudou” and “Waiting for the Man”. Papa Midnite is present in three episodes: “The Devil’s Vinyl”, “Danse Vaudou”, and the final story, “Waiting for the Man”. There may be more. I suspect Richie and Gary Lester weren’t invented for the television series.

Constantine ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger. And it’s an emotional one – because we suddenly learn something about Manny – a revelation that makes one question everything he’s done, his motivations, the whispering he’s done in John and Zed’s ears, respectively, etc. In other words, I almost wanted to re-watch the series from the beginning and try to determine just what Manny was doing. And I must admit, I love a series that can do that. You are told at the beginning, “Manny is an Angel”, which leads to assumptions about his character. We learned things in “Blessed are the Damned” that reinforce this point. In any case, I’d love to see the CW bring back this show. It would easily fit in with their line-up of DC superhero shows, slotting in as the “supernatural/horror” show. Or to build a show around Justice League Dark. John Constantine was the leader of Justice League Dark. Bringing the show back as Constantine would allow the answering of unanswered questions: What is The Rising Dark? Just who is Manny working for? Why is John so cursed, and being cursed, what led him to fight evil? Whereas Justice League Dark is a team book – it would allow the CW to bring in as many characters as DC would allow – and to rotate them in and out as they do in the book. Currently, there are plans for DC Animated to do a Justice League Dark movie – and Matt Ryan has already been announced as voicing John Constantine. Not only am I anxious to see that, but perhaps it will lay the foundation for a return of the character in some way.

As it stands, Constantine is an excellent though short series. Some of the grosser scenes are in the early episodes, then it lightens up for the most part. This is a character-driven supernatural drama, built on the DC Comics tradition of magic users and spellcasters. It’s a show I can recommend. I have the Blu-Ray version but it’s also available on DVD – directly from Warner Archive and also from retailers like Amazon. Do check it out!

The Flash Season 2 Review

  • Series: The Flash
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 6
  • Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen 

The Flash continues to be a highly enjoyable series. Season 2 brings in Earth-2 from the very beginning. Jay Garrick’s, who’s Golden-Age helmet had come through the time portal at the end of last season arrives in person, to warn Barry Allen and the others about Zoom – an evil speedster from Earth-2, who having conquered that world, and has plans to do the same to Barry’s Earth. Not to mention Zoom wants to steal Barry’s speed so he can go even faster.

Barry, Cisco, and Dr. Wells (from Earth-2) do eventually travel to Earth-2 – to save Dr. Wells’ daughter, Jesse, who has been kidnapped. The two-part Earth-2 episode is marvelous. Everything has a golden look, and the architecture and even set design has a marvelous Art Deco quality. While on Earth-2, Barry meets his doppleganger, also a forensic scientist for the police, but one with no powers who is married to Iris West – a police detective. That version of Barry does not get on at all with Iris’s father, Joe, a jazz singer. And that Barry’s mother, Nora, is still alive. Our Barry is brought to tears when he hears an answering machine message from his mother. But Cisco’s doppleganger is the evil meta – Reverb. And Caitlin also has an evil meta doppleganger – Killer Frost. the entire two-part episode is extremely well done and well constructed. It looks beautiful, and the characterization is wonderful.

That isn’t the only two-parter. This box set, unlike last year, includes both parts of the “Legends of Today”/”Legends of Tomorrow” crossover which has Team Flash working with Team Arrow, and introduces Hawkgirl (Kendra) and Hawkman, as well as the villain – Vandal Savage. It’s a backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow but it works. I’ve already reviewed Legends of Tomorrow, so I won’t repeat myself here, but suffice it to say the two-part story was fantastic – and had some impressive special effects. It also shows just how dangerous Barry’s time travelling can be – something which the series will come back to later.

Season two of The Flash, alters between Barry and Team Flash tracking down and defeating meta-humans, often sent from Earth-2 by Zoom, and increasingly complicated personal relationships. And it’s the nitty-gritty of how these characters care about each other that makes the show really work. Barry and Iris also grow much closer together. Caitlin also grows close to Jay Garrick, even creating Volocity 9 a speed drug to help cure him of his illness and get his speed back. But this Jay has a dark secret, and it’s revelation is devastating to Caitlin. Meanwhile, Cisco discovers he is also a metahuman, with the ability to see visions of the present, past, and even sometimes – the future, if events involve a metahuman – he takes the name, Vibe. Cisco’s fear of his own power and eventual acceptance of it becomes another them of the season.

Once it’s revealed who Zoom really is, the season focuses on him, and his need to take Barry’s speed. When he kidnaps Wally West, Joe’s long-lost son, Barry chooses to give up his speed to Zoom to save Wally. This gives Barry a few episodes as a normal guy. Wells then says he can re-create the experiment that made Barry a speedster – but when he does, Barry disappears utterly. Wally and Jesse are both knocked out by the backlash of the experiment as well. But Barry isn’t dead – he’s in a Speed Force limbo – where he talks to everyone important to him – then returns, with his speed.

The final confrontation between Barry and Zoom is – wow – very much a lot to take in. I covered it in a review of The Flash season finale. Overall, Season 2 of The Flash was excellent, even better than Season 1 of the Flash, which I enjoyed very much. I highly recommend this show, which is still appropriate for all ages. It’s very much a must see show.

Gotham Season 2 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4 (on Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Erin Richards, James Frain, Chris Chalk, B. D. Wong
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen 

Gotham has incredible cinematography. The use of dark, light, shadows, raking light from the side, tints of gold or blue is simply spellbinding. This show really deserves an award for the cinematography and lighting because it is just that good. The sets and locations also take your breath away and without being “showy” – they are just there. Film students need to look at this show just to see what you can do – even with the constraints of time and budget found in television.

The plot of season 2 of Gotham, however was really, really dark – so much so that at times it was really hard to even watch it. I normally watch at least one episode of a show on DVD/Blu-ray per day, more on my days off. With Gotham, I sometimes went days between watching it. Some of that was personal reasons, but some of it was wanting to avoid immersing myself in such a dark world. The subtitle of Season 2 was “Rise of the Villains” – and it is that, but moreover it’s a season in which the villains keep winning – which of course means the heroes keep losing. We also see two characters that, as audience members, from last season we liked – stepping even further down the path to becoming becoming the villains we know they will become.

One of the most difficult scenes to watch in a difficult season is when Ed Nygma kills Kristin Kringle. Kristin is too innocent to be living in Gotham – and her somewhat accidental death, literally at the hands of Nygma early in the season sets him on a very, very dark path. The psychosis that began with the death of Kristin’s abusive boyfriend last season, completely takes Ed over when he kills his girlfriend. And the scene is just hard to watch. It’s terrible – not badly produced, but it’s showing violence towards women in an way that’s about the man’s point of view – not the woman’s. It’s hard.

Whereas season 1 of Gotham had many strong women – some villains, some not, many strong in their own ways, in season 2 those women are gone. Both Barbara and Tabitha (the villain Galavan’s sister) are utterly insane. And as crazy as Fish was last season, she was also strong. Tabitha is cruel and psychotic – and in a sense this makes her not a strong woman. Likewise, Barbara, who never seemed to know what she wanted anyway – is nuts as well, and as manipulative as possible. When she returns at the end of the season as “cured” the audience can’t trust her. It will be interesting to see where her character goes in Season 3.

The second half of the season, introducing Hugo Strange (played by B.D. Wong – the psychiatrist from Law and Order: SVU which is just perfect casting), explains how monsters end-up in Gotham, as well as satisfactorily concluding the hints about Indian Hill that have been dropped since last season. I actually enjoyed the second season better than the first – though seeing Jim’s descent was, well, hard.

The first season saw Jim Gordon as an honest cop in a dishonest town. In season 2, out of necessity, Jim also doesn’t become corrupt, but he becomes more morally ambiguous. Jim goes from being the one good guy bringing light to the darkness, to the protagonist in a film noir series. He becomes Sam Spade, or Fred McMurray in Double Indemnity. It’s hard to watch Jim becoming the type of cop he despised when the show started. And at the end of the season he isn’t even a cop – though I expect him to return for season 3, with or without Lee Thompkins.

The Bruce and Alfred relationship in Season 2 is complex. Early in the season, Bruce tries to send Alfred away, then changes his mind. Alfred, in turn, decides he must train Bruce – train him to fight, to think, and to become the man he’s destined to become. Bruce is now more free to investigate his parents’ murder, and to learn on his own. At times this is problematical – would you let a 13-year-old boy live on the streets on his own? But, at the same time, Alfred can’t really stop Bruce. He’s a stubborn, determined boy – and to keep their relationship strong, Alfred needs to know when to stop him and when to let him go. This has always been key to their relationship.

Overall, I liked Gotham season 2. The cinematography and lighting alone make it a series worth watching. The season was dark, very dark, and times even difficult to watch, but at the same time – I think Season 3 might actually be, well, it’s hard to imagine “lighter” but to also have some of the great character moments of season one. The moments that made you say, “awww”, and really understand and feel for the characters. My Review of Season 1 of Gotham is also on Bitch with Wi-Fi.

Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 Review (spoilers)

  • Series Title:  Legends of Tomorrow
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 16
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Arthur Darvill, Brandon Routh, Victor Garber, Franz Drameh, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Ciara Renée

Legends of Tomorrow is a team-up show that was spun-off mid-season from The Flash and Arrow. It features Brandon Routh as Dr. Ray Palmer (The Atom) and Sara Lance (White Canary) from Arrow, Dr. Martin Stein and Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Firestorm) from The Flash, and also from The Flash Leonard Snart (Captain Cold) and Mick Rory (Heatwave). New to this series are time traveller, Rip Hunter, and Kendra Saunders (Hawkgirl). Hunter brings his time-ship, the Waverider and it’s A.I. computer, Gideon.

What makes Legends of Tomorrow different and interesting isn’t simply the characters – it’s that these characters are the “screw-ups”. They not only make mistakes – they frequently make things worse. Rip Hunter’s mission is to track down and kill Vandal Savage an immortal dictator from the future that killed his wife and child (and billions more people). Yet Rip is also on the run – because his mission isn’t sanctioned by the Time Masters he once served – they are actually after him for breaking the rules. Halfway through the season we discover the soldier, Chronos, who was chasing our characters through time is actually Mick Rory – who was captured by the Time Masters and brainwashed into being their killing machine. This means that when, during the first time you watch this series and you assume Chronos is tracking the Waverider using future technology – he’s actually able to track Rip and company because he remembers where they will be. This means the second time you watch this show, there’s an extra layer of meaning to what’s going on.

The first six or so episodes of this series are very episodic – Rip and his crew travel to different eras of time, trying to track down and eliminate Savage. Yet again – their plans seem doomed. Savage also has an intimate connection to Kendra (Hawkgirl) and Carter Hall (Hawkman). However, gradually the story becomes more connected and each episode ends with a “cliffhanger” that leads into the next episode – and this is where the show really picked up steam. The last four episodes are essentially one grand story – with revelations about the Time Masters – who, after all, are still using Rip Hunter.

The weakest part of season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow is Vandal Savage, and not simply because a immortal villain is a boring villain (after all how do you kill an immortal villain?) but because I just didn’t like how he was played. However, I liked the finale very much.

The best part of Legends of Tomorrow is the characters and the cast. Watching Arthur Darvill playing a time traveler again is a pure joy. The rest of the cast does an excellent job – and the writing takes the time to explore each of the characters – their backgrounds, their fears, and how they can become heroes despite their faults and doubts. So this is a show about very human “superheroes”. Watching Leonard Snart develop is especially a joy. The show is also well-written, and isn’t afraid to get into the occasional moral quandary about what they are doing. I recommend it highly.