iZombie Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: iZombie
  • Season: 3
  • 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

Below are many spoilers for the third season of iZombie.

The third season of iZombie is very short, thus there is no time for simple placeholder murder mysteries that remind the viewer of the general plot. However, unlike the previous two seasons, there also is no A leads to B, B leads to C plot of uncovering a larger mystery either – so even though the season is short, it also feels a bit unfocused.

Picking up from where Season 2 left off, Fillmore-Graves is shown to be a zombie company – everyone who works there, from upper management to soldiers, even children at the company school are zombies. The female CEO explains to Liv and Major that not only does Fillmore-Graves employ only zombies, they own an island, and they are working on the infrastructure – she hopes to move all zombies to this island before D-Day or “Discovery Day”. Major is soon employed as a Fillmore-Graves soldier.

Meanwhile Don E has started a zombie-only underground club called, “The Scratching Post”. He and Blaine’s father steal all of Blaine’s customers that were getting brains from Blaine at the funeral home. We also discover that Blaine’s father is an abusive son-of-a-bitch – and he was responsible for Blaine’s mother’s death and his grandfather being put away in a nursing home. Blaine’s father truly cares for no one – especially his son, and takes every opportunity he can to hurt others, especially Blaine.

Blaine, meanwhile, turns out to be faking his amnesia – the cure works, and the memory loss is only for a few days. Major takes the cure before they find this out though. He heads home to Walla Walla, Washington, then returns to Seattle. When his colleagues at Fillmore-Graves find out he’s human, he’s fired. Major begins a relationship with a woman who claims to believe he’s not the Chaos Killer, but unbeknownst to him – she’s a reporter for a tabloid. He also gives a dose of the cure to Natalie, the zombie call girl from season 2 that he rescued from suicide.

Don E gets sick of being abused and pushed around by Blaine’s father. Blaine is nearly killed (more than once) but turned back in to a zombie. Blaine and Don E team up again. Blaine dumps his father in a well, and feeds him brains to survive.

Meanwhile – the first case of the season is the death of a young boy and his entire family. It turns out Clive had known the boy and his mother (they lived nearby in his apartment building) but hadn’t seen them in awhile. Clive is devastated at the loss, especially after being reunited with the boy, Willie, at Fillmore-Graves. Because he’s close to the case, he isn’t allowed to investigate and it’s assigned to another homicide detective. Clive and Liv investigate anyway, throughout the season.

Liv and Clive discover Willie and his family were killed because they were zombies. The find a neighbor who’s part of a hate group, posts to message board filled with theories about how zombies are real – and even outs the family as zombies (or “brain eaters” as they put it) and publishes their address. This doxing led to the family’s death. The hate group is supported by a local radio personality – who uses the idea of “zombies being real” to stoke hate, to encourage physical violence, and, of course, to stir-up anti-government feeling – blaming “Big Government” for zombies, when it was the Corporation Max Rager who created and released the zombie virus in the first place. In the last episode, however, Liv learns that it wasn’t the zombie-hater who lived next to Willie and his family who killed them. They planned to, but were outside the residence when they were killed. Although Liv and Clive don’t know who did it – it’s implied to be someone from the Fillmore-Graves Corporation.

Three episodes in to the season, the female CEO at Fillmore-Graves is killed. She’s replaced by a more militant leader. He’s also the one who fires Major for being human – and rehires him when Major tells him he wants to be a zombie again.

In the last two episodes of season 3 of iZombie, as has become traditional for this show – everything changes. With the moderate head of Fillmore-Graves dead, the militant side of Fillmore-Graves takes over. They do not believe they can simply separate themselves from humans and live quietly. So they hatch a plot – the Aluesian Flu is released on a flight from Paris to Seattle. As more and more people get sick and even die from the deadly flu – a vaccination program is ordered. The Fillmore Graves zombies then infiltrate the storage sites for the vaccine and inject zombie blood into the vials of vaccine. Soon, the vaccinated Seattle natives turn in to Zombies. Liv is manipulated to breaking in to news anchor Johnny Frost’s broadcast to give the truth about zombies. And the head of the Fillmore-Graves military, Chase Graves, plays a video. He explains that a large portion of Seattle’s inhabitants are now zombies – but that they are normal other than their unusual dietary requirements. He says that Fillmore-Graves will provide brain mush tubes to Seattle’s zombies (they had already developed the technology for a side-effect free brain mush compound – and it was fed to all personnel and soldiers at the corporation). Stating that “a fed zombie is a happy zombie” he vows that no zombie will feed on the living, that all the zombies in Seattle can be properly fed if just 1 in 10 brains from natural deaths in other areas of the country are sent to Seattle. Chase Graves also remarks that Fillmore-Graves Corporation will establish zombie police and courts to deal with zombie-on-zombie crime. Some humans flee, but no doubt others will stay. The ending montage shows Fillmore-Graves soldiers, including Major, handing out brain tubes, and turning humans who are mortally sick with the flu into zombies.

Ravi also claims to discover a vaccine to prevent zombie-ism, which he puts on a sugar cube (like the polio vaccine) and eats. He then has Liv scratch him to test it.

So the season is a bit weird. In the first episode, there are two victims, a father and his teenaged daughter – so Liv has the brains of the father and Major the brains of the daughter. Watching Major on “teenaged girl brains” is hilarious! It made me appreciate the actor a lot more and added to his character – it was a shame this only happens once, as the rest of the time, Major eats the Fillmore-Graves Corporation-provided brain tubes and has no personality changes or visions. And as horrible as the military-arm of Fillmore-Graves’ plot is – the first CEO’s plan of “Zombie Island” probably wouldn’t have worked – no doubt radical, prejudiced people would have destroyed the entire island. But, on the other hand, turning most of the population of Seattle into zombies, many without their knowledge or consent, has just created a “larger island” – and it will be interesting to see if that plot point is picked up in season four or not. And Fillmore-Grave is implied to have been behind the deaths of the CEO and her secretary and helicopter pilot, Willie and his family, and several Fillmore-Graves soldiers both throughout the season and at Major’s “going away” party. So, they aren’t exactly to be trusted when they are willing to kill their own people to get what they want.

Meanwhile, Blaine has become one of the most complicated and interesting characters on the show. Lounge singer “cuddly Blaine” who has an affair with Payton, I actually quite liked. I felt bad for him when Payton rejected him, especially as by then we know about his past and the physical, mental, verbal, and other abuse inflicted on him by his father and the world’s worst nanny.

Don E also has grown up a bit – running The Scratching Post is clearly all he wants. He has no desire to franchise out, or expand (like both Blaine’s father and Blaine himself would like to do). Don E is happy being a big fish in a small pond, which is an admirable trait. He also shows a strange sense of loyalty – to Blaine, to Liv and Major (covering for Major when he enters the zombie-only club as a human).

Overall, I found iZombie Season 3 to be a quick watch (I finished it last Saturday, 12/9/2017, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to type up a review). Although there were parts of season 3 that were very uncomfortible (the racist anti-zombie humans, the portrayal of Fillmore-Graves as “zombie saviors” even though they had killed several zombies to get in to power, including Willie and his family, etc.), overall the show is still very, very good, and I will certainly purchase season 4 next year.

Read my Review of Season 1 of iZombie.

Read my Review of Season 2 of iZombie.

Advertisements

iZombie Season 2 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: iZombie
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 19
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-Ray)
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Steven Weber, Leanne Lapp, Greg Finley
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Blu-Ray, NTSC

Many spoilers below for the second season of iZombie.

iZombie Season 2 opens with a couple episodes designed to remind the audience of the plot. Additionally, the first two brains that Liv consumes are of “asshole victims” – so the audience has no sympathy for them. Liv Moore is a Zombie, having been scratched by a Zombie at the world’s worst boat party. She now works in the morgue, for access to brains, with Ravi – the only person at the start of the season who knows she’s a zombie. Liv also works with Clive Babineaux, a Seattle PD detective who thinks her insights to his cases come from psychic visions. Since eating brains allows Liv to absorb the personality of the brain she’s just consumed and to experience visions of what the person experienced, Clive is somewhat correct about the visions part. The first few episodes of the season fall in to a regular pattern – Clive is called to a homicide, Liv and Ravi respond as well, the body’s taken to the morgue, there’s a curiously yummy montage of Liv preparing the brain to eat (these are surprisingly yummy – substitute beef, chicken, or tofu for the brains and Liv’s recipes would probably be *good*) and Liv uses her visions and personality changes to help Clive solve the murder. But about episode 9 or 10 the series focuses more and more on the continuing storyline and how each character fits in and changes.

About episode 9 or 10 – Payton returns. Payton is Liv’s old roommate who found out at the end of the first season that Liv was a Zombie – she freaked out and left Seattle. Back in town, Payton is now a District Attorney, who is trying to make a case against Mr. Boss – the kingpin of Seattle’s mafia. Very quickly Blaine becomes her star witness and the two also become involved. Payton lives with Ravi and Major for awhile, briefly gets her own apartment, then moves back in with Liv.

Blaine, last year’s “Big Bad” is now running Shady Plots funeral home – mostly as a front to get brains to sell to Seattle’s zombies, and as a front for selling Utopium. That is, until Mr. Boss gets wind of his trying to muscle in on the lucrative Utopium trade. Blaine has two lackies, a mute, giant zombie, called “Chief”, – and Don E – a ambitious low-level drug dealer who eventually is turned into a zombie (by his own choice). Blaine also has a very difficult relationship with his abusive father. Blaine walks in to Payton’s office one day and offers to give her all the inside information she could ever want to make a case against Mr. Boss. Blaine’s mostly doing this to get rid of the competition. Blaine’s life (he’s also now cured of his zombie-ism) is going fine – his cover as a “businessman” running Shady Plots is working. Payton’s office will give him immunity for any old crimes, mostly related to drugs, in return for his information and testimony, and Blaine is making money from selling Utopium and brains. However, Ravi discovers the zombie cure is temporary – eventually it will wear off, and be followed by death. Ravi makes a second cure, but, again, is unable to fully test it before giving a syringe of it to Blaine. Later, after first reverting to zombie-form, Blaine becomes convinced he’s dying. He takes the cure and becomes a total amnesiac.

Major Lilywhite also is human again, thanks to Liv giving him the cure. He’s in the same position as Blaine, though, he will eventually become a zombie again. He gets some work as a personal trainer, but is also hired by Max Rager – there, he is blackmailed into tracking down zombies and killing them. Vaughn, the head of the Max Rager company has a list of 322 suspected zombies. He blackmails Major into killing the zombies, or Liv will die. At first, Major kills the people he finds out were actual zombies (he can now literally sense a nearby zombie). However, Major’s conscious kicks in, so he starts telling Vaughn that the suspects aren’t zombies. When that doesn’t work – Major knocks out the zombies with drugs, then drops them in a freezer. Later, Major also reverts to being a zombie.

Clive, besides working on the weekly murders, gets a new partner, a female FBI agent who is looking in to the “Chaos Killer” serial murders. Major’s crimes have not gone unnoticed, and as the case is thought to involve kidnappings – the FBI starts to investigate. Clive also very gradually starts to fall for the FBI agent.

At the beginning of the season Liv and Major get back together romantically, but as they cannot have sex without Major becoming a zombie – Liv eventually sets him free. Liv also has a roommate briefly, before Payton returns – but Rita is actually a Max Rager executive who is keeping tabs on her. Rita also has a brief affair with Major who later dumps her. And Rita turns out to be Vaughn’s daughter.

Much of the season has Ravi trying to find a cure – first he needs a sample of the tainted Utopium that caused zombism in the first place. He briefly gets a sample from Blaine – but it’s destroyed. Once he gets a new sample – it causes severe issues. Given to a zombie it kills them, turning the zombie to dust. Batch two causes the newly-human former zombie to be a complete amnesiac. Also, Ravi and Liz seem to think it was only the tainted Utopium that caused people to become zombies, forgetting about the Max Rager energy drink being part of the equation (or it’s never really mentioned).

After giving up Major, Liv starts dating Drake, one of Blaine’s lackies – but he’s also working for Mr. Boss – but he’s also an undercover vice cop. Unfortunately, Liv had dumped him when she found out he worked for Mr. Boss, before discovering he was a cop from the Drake’s mother. Major, meanwhile, sees his name on the list, and knocks him out and freezes him.

The conclusion of the season is, wow – but very violent. In a season where more and more and more people find out that Liv is a zombie, and more people in general find out that zombies exist in Seattle, it seems for awhile that Det. Clive Babineaux is the only one who doesn’t know what is going on. He finds out in the penultimate episode. Major is arrested for the the “chaos killer” murders – creating a extremely dangerous situation because he’s trapped in jail without proper food so to speak. Clive, after discovering Liv is a zombie, scuttles the case against Major, getting him released (and destroying his relationship with the FBI agent). Liv, Major, and Clive resolve to break in to the secret lab at Max Rager to release Liv’s zombie boyfriend, Drake, and all the others that have been taken from Major’s storage facility. It does not go well.

The final episode is utter, bloody chaos. Zombies escape the lab, attacking the Max Rager employees locked in to a prison-themed “Super Max” party. Meanwhile, Vaughn has sold his company, including the secret lab and all the zombie research within to a private military contractor. Vaughn’s daughter, Rita, is also turned into a zombie – and Vaughn imprisons her in the basement, which makes her very angry indeed. Although Drake dies – many of the intelligent zombies are released, while the more violent “romeros” are killed off (it’s a bloody episode). Major ends up trapped in a room of recovering intelligent zombies who remember him as the guy who knocked them out and froze them. Liv discovers the woman running the military contracting company is a zombie who plans to make Seattle the capital of Zombie Nation.

The second season of iZombie is as good if not better than the first. The first few episodes remind viewers very effectively of the plot and actually even create a good starting point if the viewer hadn’t seen season 1. Although the first few episodes seem to be heading in a formulaic direction, about episode 9 or 10 the series focuses more on the continuing storyline and less on weekly murder-of-the-week procedural stories. This draws in the viewer. Each of the characters experiences a great deal of change. And Clive finally is told the truth. I like this series a lot and I highly recommend it.

Plead read my iZombie Season 1 Review as well.

Arrow Season 5 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, John Barrowman, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Segarra
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

When I watched Season 5 of Arrow last year, for much of the season I really didn’t like what I saw. The flashbacks, guest-starring David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis) were much more interesting than anything going on in the present-day for Oliver and company. In the present-day, the series opens with Oliver now mayor of Star City, Thea as his chief-of-staff, Felicity still working as “Overwatch” to help Oliver as the Green Arrow, and after a bit of wrangling, Quentin Lance as deputy mayor. Felicity pressures Oliver to form a new team of recruits, especially after a number of new vigilantes start showing up in Star City. Curtis, now “Mr. Terrific”, helps Felicity as tech support for the Green Arrow and has a comics-accurate, but looks somewhat silly on camera, costume that he wears in the field. Oliver initially resists Felicity’s plan to form  a new team, but eventually he agrees. Wild Dog, Evelyn (using the name, “Artemis”), and Ragman join the team.

This new team is part of the problem for Season 5 of Arrow. It does not work – at all. Wild Dog (Rene Rameriez) is a character I didn’t like from the beginning. He’s rude, arrogant, refuses to follow orders, isn’t a cool team-mate, and he’s too violent. Towards the end of the season they try to make him more sympathetic by adding a sub-plot involving his daughter, but it plays like a sympathy-ploy rather than anything organic. And in the comics, at least in Rebirth, Wild Dog is a villain – a mercenary who’s against the Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Evelyn Sharp, very quickly becomes a double agent working for the season’s Big Bad, Prometheus. However, her betrayal of the team is very unrealistic, because her reasons make no sense. Evelyn, and the rest of the team, discover that during his first year as the Hood – Oliver was killing the people named as enemies of Star City in his father’s book. Disgusted that Oliver would kill people, Evelyn throws in with Prometheus – who’s killing people. And not only is Prometheus a serial killer (initially known as the “throwing star killer”) but he kills innocent people simply because their names can spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Does this make sense? No. Although in the last few episodes of the season, Evelyn proves to be just as much of a psychopath as Prometheus.

Ragman is the only new character that, as a superhero and new member of Oliver’s team, I actually liked – and he disappears in episode 12, “Bratva”, and we never see him again. Ragman’s purpose, when all is said and done, seems to be simply to help Felicity work through her guilt for dropping a nuke on Havenrock (to spare Monument Point). But Rory was a far more interesting character than Rene, whom they kept.

The season also opens with Felicity in an intimate relationship with Billy Malone, a SCPD detective and member of the Anti-Crime Unit elite force. He’s fridged. Many commentators on comics have complained that the girlfriends/wives of superheroes only exist to be kidnapped, tortured, and even killed – and condemn the idea as making women victims. Yet, this is precisely what happens to Billy – he’s staged to look like Prometheus, by Prometheus, including a speaker that the actual Prometheus uses to taunt Oliver. So Oliver, who had vowed four years ago (at the end of season 1) to never kill, kills him – when a arrow the the leg would have been more effective. Felicity accepts this almost immediately.

At the end of the previous season, John Diggle had left the team to re-join the army. This doesn’t go well. He’s in Afghanistan (or wherever) and his general steals a WMD, kills Diggle’s squad, and blames Diggle. Diggle, still overcome with guilt at killing his brother, Andy, last season, decides to just roll with it. He’ll accept the punishment for a crime he didn’t do as retribution for a crime he did. Lyla gets Oliver and his team to break him out. It works, but John is mad. Later in the season, John is baited and captured again. This time, Oliver gets Star City’s DA, Adrian Chase, to clear John. This works, and with information that Felicity gets from the Hacker group, Helix, they have evidence to put the general away. John re-joins team Arrow.

Meanwhile, as mayor, Oliver keeps having to weather political crisises – often made worse by Susan Williams, a reporter. Oliver starts dating the reporter, convincing her to give him a chance. Thea proves to be more effective at running the mayor’s office than Oliver, though she’s willing to play dirty pool to get what her brother needs and to protect him. Oliver complains about her ruthless tactics, especially when she makes it look like Susan plagiarized her stories, which discredits the reporter, gets her fired, and means she can’t get a new job as a reporter. This, however, is rather quickly reversed.

Meanwhile, the flashbacks tell, in chronological order, the story of Oliver’s time in Russia – and how he became a captain in the Bratva (the Russian mafia). He and Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl) become good friends. I liked the flashback story more than the present-day one for much of the season. Oliver, as a result of his promise to Katiana from last season, is determined to kill Konstantin Kovar. Since Kovar is corrupt, and would leave a power vacuum, Anatoly agrees with this – but he’s also a lot more realistic about how things work in Russia and in the Bratva. When Oliver undercovers Kovar’s plot to stage a new Russian coup, killing government officials, generals, and Bratva captains alike, Anatoly, Oliver, and Anatoly’s faction in the Bratva have to stop him. They succeed, barely, and not without losses. And Kovar proves to be, like Prometheus, a villain who is very hard to kill.

Prometheus proves to be Adrian Chase, Star City’s DA, who manages to capture Oliver and torture him. Adrian, also, by now, is a proven to be quite the psychopath. And he’s creepy, manipulative, and smart. He’s also a chess master who is not only always ten steps ahead of Oliver, but manipulates him to do exactly what he wants. Oliver and company even realize that Chase is manipulating Oliver – but that doesn’t help him to not get manipulated. Chase finally kidnaps Oliver, and tortures him, getting Oliver to admit “he likes killing people”. There’s a major, major, flaw in this. First, Oliver doesn’t like killing, even in the first season, where he does a lot of it. Second, in Season 2, Oliver vows, on Tommy’s grave to never kill again. When he does – it’s a big deal. Third, Adrian’s insistence that Oliver likes to kill seems to be a pure case of projection and no one picks up on it. Adrian, after all had killed a single mother because her name would help him spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Once he’s in protective custody of the Federal marshals, and they get the message that he’s the serial killer not an innocent victim and witness – he kills both men, violently, and grins. Adrian clearly likes killing. Yet, Adrian convinces Oliver, by use of torture, that it’s Oliver who enjoys killing. After this admission, Oliver is broken. Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?

Oliver attempts to disband his team and calls in Anatoly and the Bratva to do his dirty work and get rid of Chase. Oliver will pay Anatoly in diabetes drugs. However, Rene (Wild Dog) and Dinah (the new Black Canary) overhear a conversation between Anatoly and other Bratva members that leads them to believe that Anatoly is taking the drugs to make and sell an extremely addictive street drug. Again, this doesn’t seem to make sense, given what we’ve seen about Anatoly in the season’s worth of flashbacks. Oliver continues to tell his team to stand down and let the Bratva do their thing. Oliver’s team doesn’t listen. In the end, this breaks the deal between Oliver and Anatoly and Chase escapes.

This was disappointing to say the least, and a horrible way to end the arc of nothing but friendship between Oliver and Anatoly. For once, I wanted to see Oliver actually thinking and telling off his team, not simply for disobeying orders, which they did, but for messing up. It would have been cool if Ollie had pointed out they have diabetics in Russia too. Or, at least, that Anatoly was playing a game with other Bratva captains, and he was going to use the drugs to help his people, but he couldn’t let the captains who merely wanted money know that. Or that simply, as usual, Rene totally misunderstood what he overheard in the first place. But no, Rene even claims the drug manufacturer is “barely holding on” and “can’t afford to lose stock”. Yeah, sure. In what universe?

So with the deal with the Bratva now completely broken, Chase is in the wind. Oliver does manage to send him to prison. Thea and Felicity throw Oliver a surprise birthday party, but Rene and Dinah are missing. Oliver quickly learns that Chase has had them kidnapped. Oliver swears he won’t free Chase – then Chase shows him a picture of his son, William, also kidnapped. At that point, Oliver, as Green Arrow, helps Chase escape during the prisoner transfer. This gets Oliver absolutely nothing.

In the two-part finale, pretty much everyone is kidnapped by Chase.  Oliver realizes Chase has taken his team to Lian Yu. Malcolm Merlyn arrives because he cares deeply for his daughter, Thea, and convinces Oliver he’s there to help.  Oliver also calls in Nyssa al’Ghul because he suspects Talia is helping Chase. They arrive in Lian Yu and Oliver breaks into the Argus prison. He frees Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) and Digger Harkness (Captain Boomerang). Deathstroke proves to be an actual ally, though at one point he pretends to betray Oliver. Digger Harkness, not so much, first chance he gets he falls in with Chase.

Oliver quickly finds and frees Felicity, Curtis, Thea, Captain Lance, John, and Samantha, but is still looking for William. He has Malcolm stay with the first group to get them to a plane to escape the island. Deathstroke’s fake betrayal gets Oliver to Dinah and Rene where he gives her the sonic scream focus device (that also cancels the sonic dampeners in her cell) and she gets them free. Oliver asks her to find the others and escape.

It turns into Oliver and his team verses Chase and his girl groupies (Talia, Evelyn, Black Siren (aka Evil Laurel)) as Oliver tries to find Samantha and William. Meanwhile, Malcolm is in charge of getting everyone off the island. The plane they get to is sabotaged – so they must find another way off the island. Since the plane is gone, Malcolm leads the group to the other side of the island to escape. As they are tramping through the forest, Thea steps on a landmine. Malcolm sacrifices himself to save her. Though his death is off stage and very suspiciously so – he may have survived. Felicity and Curtis also discover another problem – the entire island has been wired with bombs – it will blow. They actually tell Oliver this – so they know the danger before he does.

Oliver follows Chase to a boat and uses a very convenient dock, that Chase pilots the boat conveniently close to, to run and jump on the boat. Also, extremely conveniently, William – the only one that Oliver hasn’t found so far, is being held on the boat. Chase holds a gun to William’s head, threatening Oliver that “it’s your son or everyone else you care about”. Oliver, finally, shows some sense – and shoots Chase in the leg with an arrow, freeing William without killing Chase. Unfortunately, Chase cares more about winning than living. He kills himself setting off the deadman switch and blowing up Lian Yu. Oliver is safe with William, on a boat, but doesn’t know if all his friends and relations have survived or died on the island.

The finale also is intercut with flashbacks to Anatoly taking Oliver to the island. He provides Ollie with a costume, including a wig of long, ash blond hair. Unfortunately, Kovar, an unkillable villain, shows up and fights Oliver before he can get into the costume and light the signal fire. Kovar shoots up Oliver with a torture drug, then locks him in a cell with a gun with one bullet. Oliver, of course, uses the gun to shoot out the lock and escape. He gets in his costume, lights the fire, is rescued by a Chinese fishing boat, and calls his mother. The intercutting between the present and the flashbacks, as the flashbacks themselves intercut between Oliver facing off against Kovar one last time and winning, and what we saw in the pilot way back in season 1 as Oliver gets rescued are brilliant! And destroying Lian Yu, now that it has been Five Years, symbolically “kills off” the flashbacks. It marks an end and a beginning. We now know, exactly, what Oliver did for his “five years in hell”.

Overall, all the way through Season 5, I just wasn’t impressed. I didn’t like the new team, other than Curtis, who was introduced last season. And characters who could have been cool – Evelyn and Rory (Ragman) left. Evelyn joined Adrian Chase – and Rory simply left. Evelyn’s betrayal makes no sense at all. She, along with the rest of the new team, discovers Oliver killed during his first year as a vigilante – so she betrays him to a serial killer? Uh huh – and how does this make sense? I mean, they could have at least given lip service to a reason – like someone she cared for was collateral damage in Oliver’s Green Arrow campaign – something. But no. Evelyn betrays Oliver to a serial killer because Oliver’s a killer. OK, then.

Second, this season includes, “Spectre of the Gun”, an episode that has the same title as one of the worst original classic Star Trek episodes (not in the top three but definitely top five worst). It’s not a good omen. The episode is about gun control/”gun rights” with Rene very vocally pro-gun. Curtis is more logically and intelligently pro gun control – not that he EVER gets to say anything. The minute Curtis ever tries to point out the facts, or quote statistics, he’s interrupted by Rene or even Felicity. And Felicity, a woman who lost the use of her legs when she was hit by a stray bullet, keeps insisting she has no opinion and doesn’t want to hear the arguments. Meanwhile, Rene comes up with right-wing sayings like “guns make you safe” – and no one challenges him. Oliver attempts to pass a sensible gun registry law in Star City, part of his campaign as mayor, and a female city official also goes on with right-wing propaganda which is presented as fact rather than incorrect and not backed by facts – such as a registry “limits gun owners rights” – no it doesn’t, or that the registry is “government interference” – no, it isn’t. In the end – instead of the gun registry, Oliver pushes through the “gun owners freedom act” (yep, that’s what they call it), which Oliver and Thea both insist is about “sensible gun control”. No doubt, yet another law that allows anyone, even criminals, even the insane, even people who have restraining orders against them or who have made credible threats the right to buy as many guns, assault rifles, and military weapons as they want. Oh, and Rene’s “reasons’ for being so pro-gun? He walked in on a confrontation between his wife and her drug dealer. Rene insists if he had his gun he could have saved his wife. If you watch what happens – that’s just not something he could have done. From the second he gets in the apartment – he tries to get to his gun in a safe, rather than try anything else (like, say, calling the cops). He even sends his daughter, Zoe, to her room, which he hasn’t even bothered to check when it’s obvious someone broke into the apartment, rather than to a neighbor’s or anywhere safe. Rene gets the gun – shoots the dealer, but when he falls he fires his gun – which kills Rene’s wife. If Rene wasn’t so dumb he’d realize his wife’s death was his own fault and that if he hadn’t shot the dealer in the first place she’d still be alive. But Rene can’t face that.  The episode is also a place holder episode – it has no flashbacks, and other than introducing Zoe who is in foster care, doesn’t add anything to the season.

Chase/Prometheus is a psychopath – he enjoys killing, he’s obsessed with destroying Oliver, who he blames for his father’s death, and even tries to destroy the reputation of Oliver and Thea’s father, Robert Queen. But for most of the season, the flashbacks are much more interesting and  much better story than the present-day story. Oliver takes on the actions of his team as being his own fault, especially when they make mistakes or disobey orders. He’s still, though trying to lead, and at times, taking responsibility as a leader, like he should, but also refusing to back people. Felicity ends up joining Helix, a hacker group, and when re-watching the season, it’s clear they will betray her. Yet, when Felicity does take a risk, Oliver doesn’t back her – and even uses the team to help Argus against Helix (it doesn’t go well). Oliver trusts Anatoly in Russia, invites him to Star City, only to not stop his team and have Anatoly believe he betrayed him. Chase manipulates Oliver throughout the entire season, and Oliver lets him. It’s a mess. Oliver also is back to not really trusting his team or working with them to meet his goals.

But, having said that – the two-part finale was really good. I’d missed it when it originally aired, due to poor weather conditions blocking Dish Network, but when I saw it – I liked it. Malcolm actually did a better job of leading Oliver’s team than Oliver does at times – though all they had to do was get off the island. Malcolm sacrificing himself to save Thea showed how much he really loves her. Even Thea was strongly affected by this. Talia and Nyssa get to fight each other – and it’s not the stereotypical cat fight. Chase, in the end, proves to be the killer that doesn’t want to be simply caught, but to die – though Oliver basically “wins” because Chase kills himself. Also, Oliver does rescue William. And I loved the symbolism of blowing-up Lian Yu.

For more on Arrow, please read:

My Arrow Season 4 Review

My Arrow Season 3 Review

Book Review – Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 2: Who Is Artemis

  • Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 2: Who Is Artemis?
  • Author: Scott Lobdell
  • Artist: Dexter Soy, Mirko Colak, Tom Derenick, Kenneth Rocafort, Veronica Gandini, Dan Brown, Taylor Esposito
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Red Hood (Jason Todd), Artemis (of the Amazons), Bizarro (Superman’s clone)
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I enjoyed volume 2 of Red Hood and the Outlaws just as much as I enjoyed volume 1, and I also read volume 2 twice. Jason Todd, Bizarro, and Artemis are turning out to be a great team, if not exactly conventional – although that is part of the charm. Volume 2 starts off with Red Hood (Jason Todd) challenging a group of mobsters and drug lords. He basically tells them to leave Gotham now or else. The mobsters of course do not listen. Bizarro joins the fight and when Killer Croc arrives to help the villains, he destroys Killer Croc. However, this croc is a fake, a robot. The gangsters are angry that they didn’t get the “merchandise” they paid for – but Jason is concerned about Bizarro’s actions and violence. However, when Jason asks specifically if Bizarro knew Croc was not alive – Bizarro states he knew.

Returning home to their hideout, Jason talks to Artemis who has discovered more information about Bizarro. The Superman clones from Cadmus have all been extremely violent, and Lex Luthor had ordered their destruction. Bizarro escapes. Next, Jason and Bizarro are on a hill in the country overlooking Gotham. Bizarro talks of his memories and then states that he knows they aren’t real. However, he also wants to make new memories with “Red Him” (Red Hood) and “Red Her” (Artemis). Jason considers shooting Bizarro, but changes his mind.

Artemis and Jason look for information to help her find the Bow of Ra. This leads them to Qurac. Both Jason and Artemis must confront their pasts as well as learning to trust and rely on each other and Bizarro. Jason is quickly captured by soldiers. He’s taken to the exact place where he died as a teenager (see A Death in the Family). Jason not only must confront his memories of what happened and his feelings and anger at the Joker for causing his death, but he hallucinates his own wounded body and has to confront the spirit. Jason is able to conquer his fears, his memories, and his triggers.

Jason then realizes from conversations with the local dictator that it isn’t the dictator who has the Bow of Ra. The dictator of Qurac had it at one point, and in trying to use it, Artemis’s once friend, Akila (the Shim’tar) was brought back from the dead (something Jason has unique experience with) and the experience left her, well, less than sane (something else that Jason has experience with). But Jason also learns the dictator no longer has the deadly weapon. And if he no longer has it, there is only one other person who could – and who was incidentally responsible for the slaughter in the country of Qurac.

Meanwhile, Artemis seeks out her friend. She is welcomed back with open arms to the company of Amazons. Slowly she begins to suspects something is wrong, but she accepts Akila’s tale that the dictator is responsible for everything.

Meanwhile, Bizarro locates a band of refugees and attempts to aid them. Bizarro gives the impression of a simple but gentle giant – like the “monster” in some versions of Frankenstein (essentially the “monster” isn’t monstrous – it’s the people around him and by their reactions that become monsters). The people treat Bizarro well when he tries to help, but when their trek ends at the base of a mountain, one man explodes in anger.

The final conflict is between the soldiers of Qurac, the Amazons-in-exile, Artemis, Jason, and Akila. Jason quickly convinces Artemis that the dictator doesn’t have the Bow of Ra. Artemis realizes only Akila could have it. She confronts Akila who admits attacking the citizenry of Qurac with it, because she wishes her people to be free. There is a battle. Bizarro knocks his way through the mountain and joins in. Artemis realizes she is also Shim’tar – a position both women had battled and trained for. She picks up the Bow and fires an arrow at Akila. The power of the bow does not harm Artemis but flows through her. It hits Akila full force, who is overwhelmed and about to explode with considerable power (not to mention damage). Bizarro flies her straight up, where she explodes out of harms way of any innocents. Bizarro falls to Earth and appears dead.

Again, Red Hood and the Outlaws is an impressive book. The characters are deep and complex. Although all three may be termed “anti-heroes”, none would violate their own personal code for personal gain or to harm others. Even when confronting gangsters, Jason, surprisingly finds a less terminal way to get them out of Gotham. Jason would be appalled if Bizarro were to use extreme force. Artemis is in many ways the same – she can be extremely violent, especially if the Bow of Ra becomes a permanent part of her kit. Yet, she also has a code. And it may be her code that led to her friend to be chosen by the gods to hold the Bow. Yet it now appears Artemis was chosen instead – or she is certainly chosen now. Bizarro is, well, he’s the gentle giant – he wants to help and is slowly learning his own strength and how to limit that. Jason now knows he can trust Bizarro within limits. However, at the end of the current volume, Bizarro is dead. That most certainly won’t last, because: comics. Red Hood and the Outlaws is a surprisingly well-written, intense book with complex, driven characters. I do feel it needs to expand a bit and additional team members brought on board, but overall I am very impressed and will continue to buy the series in graphic novel format.

Nightwing New Movie – Who should Direct?

Warner Brothers adding a new Nightwing movie to the DCEU has gone from rumor to something that will definitely happen, even if we don’t know precisely when it will happen. That’s okay, I’m patient, and it’s about time that the general populace got a chance to meet grown-up Dick Grayson – the man comics fans know, who is no longer running around in short green pants. So, naturally I’ve been following the news on-line about the film.

Director Promises a Nightwing Film of Action and Heart

But reading about the film, while it sounds promising, I found the following quote, well, disturbing,

“It’s gonna be a fucking badass action movie with a lot of heart and emotion,” McKay told Collider.

and not just because of the language. While Nightwing is a strong character, there is more to him than that, and he’s also the antithesis of the “beat-up now ask questions later” superhero. Dick Grayson’s greatest strength is his compassion, not his physical abilities. It’s what sets him apart from Batman. It’s what in a very real sense caused Dick to quit being Robin, attend college, date Barbara Gordan, then move to Blüdhaven to be his own man and develop his own hero, Nightwing.

I’d prefer a female director for Nightwing. The character is over-whelmingly popular with female comics readers and female fans, and not simply because of Dick Grayson’s looks or assets filling out his costume. Furthermore, Nightwing’s popularity with women is something that happened organically – suddenly Nightwing was a book that in all it’s guises was being read by women (versions such as the original Chuck Dixon Nightwing series from the 90s, New 52’s Nightwing and later, Grayson, and the current Rebirth Nightwing).

It isn’t simply Dick’s handsome looks, or his butt, or his incredible physical skill and agility that make women “swoon” for the character – Dick Grayson is a character who cares for others, and uses his skills to help them – in long-lasting, impactful ways, whether that’s with his money, or saving someone, or putting a dangerous criminal in jail, or simply being a good listener – to other members of the Bat Family, to his friends, even to strangers. Batman may save a city, Superman may save the planet, Oracle may supply the information the Justice League needs to understand what a villain is trying to do – but Dick Grayson will take the time to stop his landlady from losing her apartment building and home after an earthquake, or help a friend get into medical school on a scholarship, or listen to Tim Drake as he tries to figure out his life, or even stop to give a hurt child a teddybear.

Dick Grayson is a natural carer – and that’s probably a reason that a lot of women like him. So why not let a woman direct the Nightwing film? I will see it either way, and I’m sure Chris McKay will be great (I loved The Lego Batman Movie – I really did) but Patty Jenkins knocked it out of the park with Wonder Woman, and the film saved Warners this Summer. So why not do something different. Why not hire a woman?

 

 

 

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.

Book Review – Teen Titans vol. 1: Damian Knows Best

  • Title: Teen Titans vol. 1: Damian Knows Best
  • Author: Benjamin Percy
  • Artists: Khoi Pham, Jonboy Meyers, Diógenes Neves, Wade Von Grawbadger, Ruy José, Sean Parsons, Jim Charalampidis, John Kalisz, Corey Breen
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Damian Wayne (Robin), Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, Kid Flash (Wally West mark II), R’as al Ghul, Batman, Talia al Ghul
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/01/2017

This graphic novel re-introduces Teen Titans as part of DC Comics’ Rebirth. Rebirth also has a Titans book, with older heroes from the former Teen Titans. The Titans in this book are: Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, and Kid Flash, and it brings in Damian Wayne as Robin. But this isn’t really a team book – it’s Damian’s story that the other Teen Titans almost guest star in. The book opens with each of the Titans being knocked out by a mysterious figure. They wake up, in restraints, and meet their attacker and the person holding them captive – Robin. But the team is still reeling from the death of their Robin, Tim Drake (in Rebirth’s Detective Comics).

The Titans pull together as a team, and break out of their restraints. Robin uses this to prove his point – they are stronger together, as a team. He tells them a team of assassins has been sent after them, then Damian tries to appoint himself leader of the New Teen Titans. This doesn’t go over well, and when the assassins show up almost immediately – the Titans are quickly defeated. Robin disappears but returns with a stolen Bat-plane and rescues them.

However, the team doesn’t really pull together or gel – and soon Damian leaves again, making his way to R’as al Ghul’s island fortress to offer himself in return for the other Titans’ lives being spared. R’as pits Damian in a fight against his cousin, a girl he’s always managed to defeat before. But she’s learned a few things. In their first fight, she defeats Damian but doesn’t kill him.

The Titans follow Damian and try to rescue him. In the end, they defeat the team of assassins not in a fight, but with the truth – exposing R’as al Ghul’s lies about their families willingly abandoning them. Damian is able to escape and the threat against the team is neutralized. The Teen Titans agree to accept Damian into their ranks. Damian, however, has to face his father – Batman.

This really is a Damian story, more than a team book – though the team is definitely there. I also personally preferred the older team of Titans. But, considering the book is about Damian and his history, as well as how he spends his thirteenth birthday, it’s about Damian becoming part of the team – though not in the typical way. The story at times is very cold, because Damian is a cold character (and oddly suited to the warmer team – even this slightly older version of Raven).

Still, it’s a good book, and a good story. It’s interesting to see Damian choosing Bruce and Batman over Talia and his grandfather. Recommended.