1.01 Constantine – Non Est Asylum

Summation: A not bad start to a new series though there are a few missteps.  Overall: Positive.

Alright I’m going to get this out of the way up front: I am not that familiar with Constantine in the comics except for what I’ve learned on a few websites and the times he’s crossed over into one of the other comics I’m reading.  So I won’t be doing much analysis on this series and how faithful it is to the source (though if anyone wants to correct my ignorance, they are very welcome).  If you read my Flash reviews, you’ll know I like to divide them up between “generic” and “geeky”.  For this, I’ll be all generic, though I will put a summation at the top of each review to save time for those who just want to know if the episode was any good or not.

Also, I promise to avoid any mentions of Supernatural the show while talking about this one.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first as there are two big issues with the premiere.

1) The editing is kind of hectic.  This could be a fault in the premiere being just 1 hour instead of 2 but at times scenes change and end for what seems to be little reason other than “we’re done now”.  I hope the bunker/cabin they went to shows up again later not just because it was a beautiful set (and the helmet of Dr. Fate!), but because the visitation there was ultimately pointless (like the scene with the ghost train too – it practically screamed “trailer shot”).  A few other moments (like when Constantine flashes back after being hit by the truck) break the emotional flow and/or were kind of laughable in their execution.

2) Repeat after me: When you have magic in fiction, you need to establish rules for it very clearly in order to create tension.  It’s kind of all over in this premiere and the chief fault with it but there were two large examples.  First, Constantine’s friend.  It’s not a big deal yet (they can reveal this in upcoming episodes) but “has a knack for survival” cannot be the only explanation for him, otherwise any tension in scenes where he might be threatened is evaporated.  Heck one has to wonder why Constantine and Liv didn’t invite the buddy to the rooftop to help fight the demon since one would think an immortal would be very useful in that regard.  Speaking of, the final exorcism scene kind of fails in this regard as well.  Namely, if the demon is so powerful around electricity and stuff… why do the ritual on top of a building in the middle of a city?  Why not do it out in the middle of the woods?  Yes, visually it all looked good but one can’t help but wonder about all the hospitals and other folk affected by shutting down a city’s power grid.

Ok, enough of that.  Both faults can be fixed in future episodes and hopefully this will all just be growing pains.  Onto the good stuff!

The effects in this episode were just gorgeous with a mix of practical and CGI that held up very well.  I mean this episode had TWO crashes in it which both must have been done realistically judging from some scenes.  The sets were awesome as well and, while I might have issues with the cabin they went to from a story standpoint, it was BEAUTIFUL from a visual one and I can’t praise enough the set designers.  A lot of the episode looks like it could have been an HBO show.

At least the first half was very well done from a directing standpoint with several legitimate creepy moments without TOO much of a reliance on jump scares (see: the eye on screen, aka “I knew apple was evil”).  I mean there were a few, but it wasn’t like some modern horror movies.  The slow building tension worked great in the earlier half of the episode.  If anything the last half feels a bit weaker once the threat goes to more overt tactics (see: van driving through store).

The cast was mostly good.  Matt Ryan isn’t bad but the show feels like it’s trying too hard to make him “rough but lovable” and since he hasn’t a good handle on the character yet (which few actors would, the show’s just starting) some of his dramatic scenes come off as a bit hammy.  The talk with Liv about how he got into magic and the story of his childhood was VERY well done, however.

The other big name, Harold Perrineau, did good for what we saw of him and it looks like he’s going to enjoy playing against the type he might have been stuck with as Micheal from Lost.  IMDB shows him as appearing in several more episodes and I’m looking forward to it.

Lucy Griffiths was… very cute and I didn’t object to seeing her run around in sleepwear.  Unfortunately that’s about it as, being only an hour premiere, more time had to be devoted to Constantine’s character so her’s is left with little more than “generic, innocent outsider with a good heart.”

So all in all we had a premiere devoted to exploring the character of Constantine than world-building, which I think mostly worked except for a few missteps.  It definitely has a different look and feel to a lot of other urban-fantasy shows (that I’ve seen so far, a few more I still need to look at).  Continue to check back in with us as we keep watching and see if the show continues to carve out its own unique niche, or if it falls into a cliche trap.

(crossposted @ http://www.tvfortherestofus.com/index.php/reviews-54/852-pilot-review-constantine-non-est-asylum)

10.03 – “Soul Survivor” Remix

This was an episode almost TOO rich in targets. So I picked one set of threads to run with.

1003sam1
1003dean2
1003sam1
1003dean2
1003sam1
1003dean2
1003sam1 *blink* Dammit!
1003dean1 Bwahahaha. Why kind of fool narcoleptic would choose to play “who blinks first” against anybody?
1003sam2 Good point. How about we play… *pulls out box*
1003dean3 No. Not that. Anything but that!
–MEANWHILE–
1003castiel1 At last! Screentime shall be mine!
1003castiel2
1003castiel1
1003castiel3 Which way to the plot?
1003hannah2 *looking at map* I think we need to go that way.
1003castiel3 East? I thought we were heading West.
1003hannah2 That is West. Isn’t it? If North on the map is this way…
1003castiel3 Ok, the cartoon rabbit says he’s always turning left at Albuquerque. Do you see an Albuquerque anywhere?
–MEANWHILE–
1003dean1 8, 9… 10. Kentucky Avenue? With 3 houses? Nooooooo!
1003sam3 Hah! I win that one. Now are you human yet or still demon?
1003dean2 Rar! DEANMON SMASH!
1003sam2 Well if you’re going to be like that, I guess I’ll get out My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic monopoly.
1003dean3 You bastard! How can you be so cruel? Which one of us is the real monster, huh?
1003sam3 Monster… human… I’m still the one kicking your ass.
–MEANWHILE–
1003crowley1 You sure this throne isn’t a bit… ostentatious?
1003demon1 Well we do have that captain’s chair you accepted from Shatner in lieu of his soul.
1003crowley1 Hah and he got hair worthy of a chair as well! Silly Canadians, thinking they have souls… Still it doesn’t seem right to sit in that chair without Dean as my Spock and Moose for my McCoy.
1003demon1 Really? I see Sam as more Spock and Dean as Bones.
1003crowley1 Well if we could get his soul out of him again, sure, but considering–
1003demon2 *interrupting* Dude! Will you just nut up already and LEAD HELL?
1003crowley1 Or else what?
1003demon2 Or… I’ll… set myself on fire!
1003demon3 *fwoosh*
1003crowley1
1003demon1 !
1003crowley1 Feel better?
1003demon3 No. :(
1003crowley1 Good! Because this is HELL, where disappointment and fire are rather standard procedures. Now get your pitchfork and go poke some damned souls.
1003demon3 Man I wouldn’t have sold my soul if I knew hell was going to be so… lame.
1003crowley1 What does nobody get about– Forget it. Santa, you got your naughty list handy?
1003santa Right here.
1003crowley1 Man I love focused marketing… hey! Castiel’s on here!
1003santa And the nice list too. I… nobody knows what to do with him any more.
1003crowley1 Hmmm… I have an idea…
–MEANWHILE–
1003sam3 You have to go back to Tangled!
1003dean1 :( But Jasmine is my favorite. She’s totally hot.
1003dean3 AND WHY ARE WE PLAYING DISNEY PRINCESS CANDYLAND?
1003sam2 I told you Dean, this is for your own good. We’re going to make you human again.
1003dean3 No human enjoys CANDYLAND!
1003sam1 Maybe. But of all the games you and Crowley played, Candyland was NOT one of them. So we’re going to play this and every other boardgame demons don’t touch until you get your soul back.
1003dean2 Next time you lose your soul, Sammy, I will have my revenge. I will monopoly your ass so hard Hasbro will make you a spokesman.
–MEANWHILE–
1003castiel1 Let’s stop in here and ask for directions.
1003hannah1 Uh oh. Dead innocent bystander, and he didn’t even get a line.
1003angel Now I’m going to kill you both to death!
1003castiel1 No! No! Bad angle! Papa spank.
1003angel Why? All I wanted to be is left alone.
1003castiel2 And we… wait, why can’t we leave them alone?
1003hannah1 Uhh…
1003crowley2 Oh for… *STAB*
1003angel blarg! *is dead*
1003castiel2 What’d you do that for?
1003crowley2 She was holding up the plot. Here! Take this grace, then you two need to drive seven miles that way.
1003castiel1 I don’t get it… why are you helping me?
1003crowley2 Because someone needs to wrest screentime from those boys, and I can’t do it alone.
–MEANWHILE–
1003dean2 Do you have… any sixes?
1003sam1 *glare* Go… fish!
1003dean3 Argh! Stop this, please! I’ll do anything!
1003sam1 Ok. Be human.
1003dean1 Ugh. Fine! I’m totally human, now.
1003castiel1 Hey guys! I’m here!
1003sam3 Sorry, Cas. We’re all good now. Won’t be needing you. Maybe you’ll get some screentime next week.
1003castiel3 Nooooooooooo! I shall have my revenge!
1003crowley2 Yes… good… let the hate flow through you…
TO BE CONTINUED

(crossposted @ http://supernaturalsnark.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/supernatural-10-03-soul-survivor-remix/)

Flash 1.03 – Things You Can’t Outrun

Reminder: Muggle section for a straight episode analysis, Metahuman section for excessively geeky, comic-book analysis.

Recap: The writers (and audience) struggle to avoid easy fart jokes as a man turns into green gas and causes mayhem.

Muggle Musing

After two very good set up episodes, in this one we start to get a feel how the “average” Flash episode is probably going to be.  At least I hope it is since it was a pretty decent outing over all with some good acting on everybody’s part (especially between Jesse L Martin and John Wesley Shipp – those two will squeeze manly tears out of you if they have to sit on your chest and beat them out).

Also I must say how proud I am with the show makers.  Historically (yes I promise, not too geeky) on a lot of older shows with the Flash, especially the Superfriends, Flash would end up solving his problems by running in a circle (yes, even the premiere of the 90s series).  Now while it was understandable why he had to run in a circle in the first episode (that is a wise idea when dealing with a tornado), it must have been tempting for the writers to do it this one as “run around and contain the gaseous bad guy” would have been a viable strategy.  So kudos to them for staying outside the box.  Of course back then it was also a common story structure in Flash/Supes shows to have the hero beaten by an unexpected/lucky punch by the villain at the halfway (30 min) mark, research the villain a bit, then have the hero soundly win in the final 10 min.  A hint of it this episode to be sure, but they avoided it mostly by stretching out the final fight and by filling the rest of the time with good backstory and character examination.

Speaking of backstory… there is a style of storytelling I’m going to call “parallel plots” (if there’s a more proper name or trope, feel free to correct me) where you have one story being told in the “present” interrupted periodically with another story that’s told in the past (usually leading up to story A).  While I’m sure there must have been other shows which used this method, it didn’t really become popular or proven to be acceptable to audiences until the show Lost hit it big.  Since then we’ve seen more and more shows use parallel plots in their seasons, two of my favorites being Once Upon a Time and Arrow (which both use quite well I think).  I was curious if Flash would use this method as well (since they have some common production folk with Arrow) though they hadn’t in the first two episodes.  This episode is the first we see of it with a story of “what happened that fateful night” running alongside the main plot.  It worked well and I’m interested if they’ll try this “parallel plot” method only intermittently instead of the constant season long arc style they did with Arrow.

Things are still looking good for this show.  Though I do hope they stop calling him “the streak” soon.  Every time they do I have this song pop in my head…

Metahuman Musing

First I should add something I had missed (and thanks to the TVTropes boards for bringing it to my attention) but Cisco is apparently the real name of the superhero Vibe.  So even if WB is not going to set up a Justice League TV movie, we COULD be getting a Justice League DETROIT TV movie.  And that would be AWESOME.

So… our first look at Ronnie…

Interesting.  He has the body of a football player so he’s got the physical aspect of Firestorm down.  But they gave him some brains too.  I don’t mind this right off hand because in the real world there is a thing called specialization of knowledge, which movies/TV often forgets (i.e. if you’re a doctor, you’ll know EVERYTHING about the body, instead of focused on one aspect of it).  Historically, one clever way of balancing Firestorm was that professor Stein was needed for his knowledge.  Oh let me explain: Firestorm has the power of alchemy rays – he can change almost any substance into any other.  The exceptions are 1) it can’t be living and 2) he has to actually know the substance.  So he could never actually turn plastic into like… Adamantium since that substance doesn’t exist in the DCU, he would have no idea what the molecular structure is.  Thus when Stein, who knows his chemistry, is on board, FS can change things easily.  When Stein’s been unavailable, Ronnie’s had to actually learn what the chemical structure of things are or keep his changes very simple.  Now in the show, being an engineer, Ronnie should still need Stein’s atomic know-how to be a really great Firestorm, if they keep things realistic.  Part of me dreads that they’ll make Ronnie a general know-it-all and Stein will come off as a bit useless.

I did like his character, though and thought Robbie did a good job.  In the comics Ronnie’s gone through a bit of a rough characterization patch.  While he wasn’t always the noble boy scout that Superman was, he was usually the good-hearted jock type who wanted to do what was right.

The other big parts of the show are of course the love triangles.  Now if you’re familiar with the comics, you know that Iris is the one that eventually married Barry.  These shows seem to enjoy dragging out what the fans assume is inevitable.  In the first Flash series, Iris was engaged to Barry until she ended up leaving him in the first episode, clearing the way for Barry/Tina.  This time around we have Iris going out with a detective while Barry might be having sparks with a possible Killer Frost?  Could be interesting.  Well, I don’t find it interesting (love, blegh) but I am glad that while they have had Eddie Thawne not be a cartoon jerk like they so often do with competitors against the hero’s love life.  Even if he might also become a (if not “the”) Bad Flash.

And I noticed this on the IMDB:

Amanda PaysDr. Tina McGee (9 episodes, 2014)

Well played, show.

Episode Review – Soul Survivor

Eh, it was ok.

Oh alright.  This was written by the BB/ERL writing team, the duo I actually dreaded more than when Dabb took up the pen.  Considering some of the HORRENDOUS stuff they’ve turned out, getting an episode written that at least APPROACHES the level of mediocre is a marked improvement.  And like I’ve said, while they can still improve, I’ll credit improvement when it’s due.

So yeah, this episode was middle of the road, establishing a baseline we can use to judge the rest of the season.  Heck I was even surprised in two instances: 1) Sam stayed conscious throughout the entire episode, 2) Sam wasn’t using his own blood to cure Dean.  The symbolism and imagery on that is SO obvious I was pleasantly surprised that the writers didn’t go for it.

Still, there is some fail going on in this episode…

If you’re going to do a scene in Hell and go through the trouble of decorating a room, either cover up the window so you don’t see sunlight or at least green screen in some hellish flames or something.

Uh… demon setting himself on fire in Hell is like watching a spa employee go, “You suck, boss!  I’m going to go take a bath!”  Heck the fire should have just destroyed the meatsuit, which we saw with Abaddon in 8.23 WOULDN’T KILL THE DEMON!  Maybe they’re trying to bring back some of the insanity Supernatural used to be known for, but even then the craziness would make SOME amount of sense.

Closing scene?  Worthless with no context.  Know what would have been better?  Taking the minute or so that scene used up of run time and devoting it to smoothing out some of the OTHER faults in this episode.

Dean breaking the door down with a hammer… I was waiting for him to scream “Here’s Deany!” (or Johnny) so, again, kudos for resisting temptation.

…*sigh* Ok, time to address the 800 lb angel in the room.

Once again, Castiel’s story SUCKS because it is poorly written.  How can they not see this?

Oh look!  Crowley took out another angel’s grace and fed it to Castiel.  And the angel was set to live until Crowley stabbed her.  Of course, that doesn’t mean anything since a mortal Cas was stabbed and brought back thanks to an angel WAAAAAY back in episode… 9.03.  An episode THESE TWO WROTE!  Ok, ok this isn’t too bad as we might yet see that Cas went back into the diner and cast rez on his attacker (or Hannah did) so we don’t know for sure that wasn’t done.

BUT WHY HASN’T GRACE STEALING BEEN A STANDARD MO BY THE GUY ALREADY?  You have Metatron, threatening the world!  Take his grace!  Leave him mortal!  Heck in Heaven he shouldn’t die of old age so you wouldn’t even be killing him indirectly.  “Rogue” angels want to stay on earth?  FINE.  Take their grace and leave them stuck there as mortals just to be sure they don’t get up to trouble.  You would be giving them WHAT THEY WANT.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS?  I don’t care that Cas may not want to, I just want to know why.  WHY?

It’s like… watching a show where you see some people stranded on a deserted island, standing on the beach, and complaining about how thirsty they are.  All while the camera shows mile after mile of sparkling water RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM!  Now you’re probably saying, “Silly, Nate, the ocean is salt water.  Drinking that would kill them.”  Which is my point.  We, the audience, know that the ocean is salt water and that salt water does bad things to our bodies.  If, however, we were to (somehow) lack knowledge of either of those two facts, then the scene would be utterly nonsensical.  Right now in SPN, we’re pretty darn clueless as to some basic facts about the angels.  If there’s one fact or two which would explain to us why Cas doesn’t take the obvious solution (just as “ocean is salty” is a fact explaining why people don’t drink it), things would actually WORK IN THE DAMN STORY.

You want a good example of how to leave things unexplained?  Crowley saving Cas.  We have no real idea why he’s done it, but we have enough knowledge to make a few logical guesses that don’t break rules of story or our own minds.  1) Crowley’s been getting a bit more human lately, which means he’s feeling more sentimental.  2) Crowley’s worked with and used Cas in the past, so it’s not out of the question that he might need him again.  See?  We don’t know for sure, but we can guess at some ideas.  Why doesn’t Cas try some of the obvious, logical solutions?  NO IDEA.  The only thing that even makes close to sense is that he’s suicidal and wants off the damn show.  It’s certainly hard to see any reasoning how killing an angel (sending them to oblivion), is somehow worse than just taking away their power.  It’s like the show arguing that it’s worse to cut off someone’s hand than to kill them.  Except in the SPN universe, we know there’s an afterlife people get to go to.  Angels don’t even get that much, their completely erased from existence.  I mean… THAT’S better than being crippled?  See, either the show’s making no sense, or it’s teaching a horrible, HORRIBLE lesson.

So all in all I give this episode 3 out of 5, or a C.  Which is a new high score for BBERL who tanked S9 in its 3rd episode so hard I’m surprised they weren’t fired.  Or at least made to write “I will not use rogue reapers again” 800 times on a chalk board.  Now if they could just take a minute and fix their shit while writing, I could stop using their acronym for a swearword, BBERLit.

Episode Review – Reichenbach

Alright, this time I have plenty of positive stuff to say, so I’m going to get all the negative about the episode out of the way up front.

  • You know I actually don’t mind Castiel and the angels, and might even defend them against the fandom that is claiming they’re a bunch of plot tumors trying to take over the show.  …Well two episodes in a row now are making it REALLY hard for me to keep playing defender.  A big part of the problem is that they’re not even making a token effort to bother EXPLAINING any of the angel plot.  Why can’t Castiel just take out the bad grace?  Why doesn’t he take Metatron’s grace?  Even if he doesn’t want to ingest it, he could at least remove it to keep the guy prisoner!  Why ain’t he at the bunker helping Sam?  What possible fallout could Cas & Sam have over the last few weeks that is worse than what Sam & Dean had last season?  THEY still managed to hang out in the bunker together.  Heck you could have even had some of that dark comedy SPN used to have with a line down the middle of bunker and “my side/your side” shenanigans between Sam & Cas.
    It’s just… the writing on the angel plot sucks.  Either you cannot make any sense of it without your brain breaking from an infinite logic loop, or everything has to be “just because”, which is one of the first signs of shitty writing.  Here’s an idea, cut out some of the dialog between Dean & the guy he stabs this episode (or the scene all together, we don’t learn much from it that couldn’t have been learned or told elsewhere) and use that time to throw in SOME dialog to lay out the plot AND MAKE IT WORK. (seriously, why don’t they take away Metatron’s grace?  WHY?)
  • I am very much an “art-1st” kind of guy, I don’t buy much into the trends of complaining about sexism or racism or speciesism or whateverism is up for popular tweeting this week (which can end up with hilarious unintended consequences)… so when even I am starting to complain, you know it’s kind of bad.  Ok, actually the biggest reason I like diversity is that it’s easier for me to tell the characters apart.  Like in the previous episode, I thought at first “Cole” was the ex-lover that Dean had beat up in a prior scene, it took me a bit to realize they were two different actors.  I can sort of see why (outside of show considerations) they went with generic dude, but I kind of wish they had put in someone different, heck I still wish they had used the guy from “Bloodlines” even if it meant rewriting a bit in this episode.  Also: Castiel, Crowley, Cole?  Seems like we’re getting some ‘C’-supremacists here!
  • I do wish they had put SOME line from Cole about all the stuff Dean’s done over the few years.  Not much, just maybe something like, “Every time he was on TV, every time the FBI hunted him, I was deployed – overseas – and unable to help.”  Again, not much just something to make all the retconing fold into the existing lore easier.
  • Sam, WHY DON’T YOU STAB CROWLEY??? Yeah sure, it might not do anything, but why not do it ANYWAY?  Again, it would have been a nice touch of dark comedy and character to have something like: Crowley- “Give me the blade.” Sam- *stab it in Crowley’s gut*  Crowley- *looks down* “Doesn’t work if you don’t have the mark.”  Sam- “I know, but it felt good.”
    • I’m rather disappointed Sam didn’t try to convince Cole to join him against Dean.  Once upon a time he would have and then we’d have an arc where Sam & Cole have Dean locked up in the Bunker with Sam (obviously) motivated to save Dean, yet using Cole as a counter-balance to keep himself from going off the deep end.  If the current stable of writers hadn’t burned up so much of my good faith, I’d believe this to be a subtle sign of how far Sam has fallen.  As it is, I currently believe they see Sam much as they do angels: Props.  However they could turn this around so that’s why I’m marking this as a more minor point.

Alright, onto all the things I LIKED about the episode.

I liked that Crowley and Dean finally had a falling out.  After treating Dean like crap through the last half of S9, it was satisfying to watch Crowley realize what Dean had awhile ago: Dean’s invincible (sure, Crowley knew about it earlier, but judging from his reaction it wasn’t a real, concrete fact for him until this episode).  Crowley can’t MAKE him do anything.  After several seasons of Dean threatening Crowley, it was nice to finally see the guy stand up and be all “Oh yeah, I don’t like you.”  Now I’m somewhat disappointed Dean hasn’t gathered under him a following of demons (say… a fandom? ;)) that stalked him in spite of his wishes not unlike Forest Gump while running.  We did not get the promised hell campaign last season so it would be useful for them to try and get it right this season, only this time making it unique in that Crowley has to “compete” against a guy that doesn’t even want the job.  However I didn’t count this against the episode because there’s still time in the season for us to see Dean leading around a group of literal Hell’s Angels.

Nice to see Jared get more of a chance to act and even Jensen to do more than his usual growl.  Both of them were good though Jared at times almost looked like he hadn’t acted in so long, he wasn’t sure how to do it again. “Oh right, carry the scene… uh… hang on I remember how to do this… Director, are you sure I’m not supposed to get knocked out here?”

Let me mention this now which will make the following clearer: I liked the final fight.  Obscurus Lupa & Phalen have started doing a podcast of each episode this season which I’ve been listening to (though at times I want to yell out canon corrections lol).  In this episode they mention it was a bit like “Rock-Paper-Scissors” with Cole beating Sam, Dean beating Cole… etc.  Well I’m going to say that not only are they not wrong, but I say that it was GOOD!  I can’t recall off the top of my head the last time we were SHOWN such a great example of what’s important to hunters.  That while brawn and fighting skill are good, and might keep you alive for an extra second (assuming you’re not just TK-tossed into a wall), ultimately it’s almost all useless against what you fight.  The knowledge, intelligence, about what you’re fighting is what’s most important.  Cole was prepared.  Cole was trained and strong.  He could probably have taken nearly any person on the planet in a fight.  But Dean wasn’t a person.  So Cole lost over the course of a minute.  Meanwhile Sam, an ordinary dude (who Cole was thus able to beat), was able to bring Dean under control in thirty seconds.  He had the knowledge to obtain the victory Cole could not.  It was a subtle, well-done “I told you so” by Sam to Cole, and I liked it.

Side-note: I liked the fight scene as well mostly because it was a SCENE.  Been awhile since we’ve seen the boys mix it up with someone instead of being pinned by wind-tunnel.

Now, I should clarify something about myself: I LIKE the WORLD of Supernatural.  The canon and setting is to me what the boys are to most other fans*.  Although I played a few RPGs growing up with my buddies, I never actually owned a book until the Supernatural RPG book released (and that I bought ASAP).  There’s just something about which appeals to me on a level which a lot of other Urban Fantasy genres do not (and I liked Buffy and Angel too, but not near like I liked this).  Let’s see if I can explain one reason why (settle in, this will take a bit)…
When a bunch of people gather together, they form a group called a society.  They all then create a list of rules on things not to do to the members (though you might be allowed to do those things to people outside of your society) with a list of punishments to be inflicted should anybody break those rules.  Now everybody is supposed to enforce the rules equally, but once there are enough people around, not everybody can because a lot of folk have got shit to do.  So they chip in a portion of their resources and hire a few members to enforce the rules full time.  Of late, when a rule is broken, these hired folk will investigate what happened and determine who they suspect did it.  These rule workers then show the process of their efforts and the suspect to a random assortment of society members to have them check over everything, agree with the conclusion, and make sure no procedures were broken.  If it all clears, then punishment is delivered to the suspect.  Thus we get police, courts and law enforcement.
However in the world of SPN, we have a bit of a problem: some are breaking society’s rules, and the law enforcement apparatus our society has set up has no way of dealing with them.  (Although it could be interesting if there was one… on the flip side, however, could you imagine how wrecked “beyond all reasonable doubt” would be if possession and shapeshifters entered recognized law?)  Thus hunters.  Ordinary folk who have to take up the job others SHOULD have, but don’t because of various reasons.  SPN is, in many ways, an examination on how things might be if there was no law enforcement.
So yes, I liked that in this episode we flash back to 2003.  Cole’s Dad did something.  Given that, of what we’ve seen so far, Cole is human, then his dad must also have been until something changed him.  Maybe he became a vampire.  Maybe a werewolf.  Maybe something else.  The point is that in a properly functioning system, had Cole’s dad killed someone, the police would have determined it, taken him away, and seen to it that Cole found some help, therapy, whatever to come to terms with what had happened and what was up with his dad.  But we don’t have that.  Instead we have Dean, during a time when he was either hunting with his own dad, or alone.  Dean has to do an imperfect job, and part of that is being unable to comfort a grieving child.

In this we also see another demonstration (this time one I do believe might be deliberate by the writers) of how Sam humanized Dean.  Had Sam been with Dean at the time, Sam (at least back in that time) would have tried to comfort the boy, to help him understand some what had happened.  In this moment in the past, we see a sign of how back then, Sam did keep Dean human.

Though I will admit to be really fuzzy on how Cole’s time/age.  I think it might work but am not sure.  11 years since then… if Cole was 12 that would put him at 23 now which isn’t TOO implausible to being a dad and marine but– sorry, getting off track.

Thus I did also enjoy the brief discussion (and think they kept it at the right length) between Sam & Cole over monsters: whether “Man is the real one” or if there are other, real ones out there.  Had they swapped the actor playing Cole, I would take this episode as a pilot for Bloodlines far better than the one we got.  Similar themes between the two episodes, but this one had them painted better to make it fit seamlessly with the SPN world.  Ironic that this episode seems to have zigged wherever Bloodlines had zagged.  If Andrew Dabb had taken the criticisms of Bloodlines to heart and applied them to his writing… then color me very impressed and I’ll owe the man 1 slow clap and 1 thumbs up.

In many ways, this episode was better to start the season on than the previous one.  In fact I’m not sure you even need to watch “Black”, just skip straight to episode 10.02 and don’t look back.  Was it perfect?  Not quite, and a lot of the fault there is that the writers have done a poor job laying the groundwork and foundation for the plot.  Had these questions been addressed and answered in previous episodes, then this would would be perfect.  However they weren’t.  Which means the problems continue to rot at the story’s supports and so each subsequent episode is penalized UNTIL THEY GET THIS PROBLEM FIXED.  Some may not see this as fair, but that’s why you set the stage beforehand.  This is why you do the work to build the story early.  It’s why you put a foundation down before building a house.  If you don’t, all you’ll get is a beautifully built, domicile sinking into the mud.  Lay the foundation, and you get a soaring testimony to your skill.

.

*Thus if you have trouble understanding why S9 upset me so much… take all the feelings you had when the brothers were apart and torturing each other and stuff that season, then multiply it to get an idea how me and other world-lovers were feeling by the damage done.  And we still haven’t gotten our reconciliation.

10.02 – “Reichenbach” remix

Ok, I’ll confess that this episode was, on the whole, pretty darn good. But just because it was good, doesn’t mean we can’t poke a bit of fun at it. After all, I tease the ones I love and it is the duty of an abridger to not even spare the good, quality moments of the show, but try and figure out laughs to be had from it.

I may not have succeeded, but here’s hoping this season will give me plenty of practice (translation: I want it ALL to be at least as good as this episode.)

1002dean1 “Reaching back?” “Right in back?” I don’t get this title at all.
1stblade
1stblade
1stblade
1002dean2 Oh now I get it. Thanks Bladey. But where is the “Falls”?
1002cole1 Fool! I’ve stolen part of this title too! Bwahahaha
1002dean1 Oh that’s it. Let’s fight!
1002cole1 Soon. Soon. We need a climax for the episode.
1002dean1 Argh, why I always gotta be the one to finish off the show?
1002crowley2 Hey, Dean! There’s a sale on cowboy hats at Cabella’s!
1002dean2 Score! Can we get pie on the way?
1002crowley2 Of course we can, Dean.
–MEANWHILE–
1002castiel1 Is it my screentime now?
writers-group1 Uhh…. give us a minute.
1002castiel2 Ok, I’ll go nap until my scene.
writers-group1 *to each other* What were we doing with him?
–MEANWHILE–
1002crowley1 Hey, while we’re out here, I got a job for you.
1002dean1 What?
1002crowley2 Guy made a deal, need to kill his woman.
1002dean1 Can I do it offscreen?
1002crowley1 Oh Satan-yes. We wouldn’t want to waste time or anything.
–LATER–
1002crowley2 Did you do it?
1002dean2 Nope.
1002crowley1 You bastard!
1002dean2 Whatcha gonna do about it? I’m invincible!
1002sam1 Enter stage right!
1002dean1 Sammy?
1002sam1 Let’s go man, you know if we’re apart for more than 2 episodes the universe implodes.
1002dean2 I could do that… or I could throw this dust bunny at you!
1002sam2 noooooo *is unconscious*
1002cole1 Ok, this is getting too silly now. Time for our fight scene!
1002dean1 Bring it!
1002cole2 *BAM*
1002dean3 *KA-POW*
1002cole2 *CLANK*
1002dean3 *ZOT*
1002cole2 “Sonic Boom!”
1002dean3 “Hadouken!”
1002cole2 “Show me what you’ve got!”
1002dean3 “C-c-c-c-combo breaker!”
1002cole1 Ugh. “Finish me.”
1002dean3 “DEANMON WINS…”
1002dean2 “FRIENDSHIP.”
1002cole1 Friendship?
1002dean2 Totally leaving you alive.
1002cole1 Nooooooooooo….
1002sam1 Hey Dean – HOLY WATER!
1002dean1 Gah! What the hell? You should’ve been out for hours!
1002sam1 Oh I haven’t actually been unconscious all those times. I’ve just been grabbing some power naps and letting you do all the work.
1002dean3 Oh you lazy bastard! Which one of us is the REAL evil, huh, Sammy?
1002sam1 We’ll see next episode, bro. Next episode.
THE END
writers-group1 Wait… did we forget something?
1002castiel2 zzzzzzzzzzzzz

(crossposted @ http://supernaturalsnark.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/supernatural-10-02-reichenbach-remix/ & http://www.thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com/article-archives/episode-related/18808-nate-winchester-s-remix-of-supernatural-10-02-reichenbach)

Flash 1.02 – Fastest Man Alive

ZOMG this show is like chocolate flavored orgasms!

*cough* I mean uh… welcome to the completely unbiased and straight-talk Flash reviews.  It was told to me that there was some confusion in the last review so let me clarify: the “Muggle” section is a straightforward review with no comic-book references to be found.  The “Metahuman” section is the part of the review devoted to full on comic-book geekery.  So if you’re looking for comic-book talk, or want to avoid it, then you know what to skip to/avoid.

Recap: Barry Allen runs so fast he lands himself in the Matrix Reloaded.  Meanwhile the older actors engage in a full on competition to see who can get the most tears out of the audience.

Muggle Musings

I am old enough to remember the days of not only the first Flash series, but also the Lois & Clark Superman series.  Even back then, I noticed the shows had one glaring problem: They really needed to be only a half hour long.  But these shows were set to last 1 hour.  The heroes could solve the plot in 1 minute (and often did).  What do you with the other 59?  Often it was filled with pure time-waster or silly “obstacles” to slow down the hero, emphasis on silly.

So with the new Flash, part of me has been wondering: how are they going to fill the hour?  Will it be worth it or will it be largely frustrating?  Two episodes in, it looks like the powers in charge of television have learned something important: CHARACTERS!  Make interesting characters, and you can use up a lot of the episode’s time examining them.  So in this one we get Barry trying to get into the habit of living a double life while those involved with said life try to deal with him living it.  And what can I say, especially at this age (where so many of my peers are fathers now), the struggle of 3 different father figures against each other on Barry’s behalf was touching.  (Sure my younger self would have been bored, but my older self really appreciated it.  Dad’s need more love nowadays.) John Wesley Shipp, Jesse L. Martin, and Tom Cavanagh all turned in very excellent, compelling performances, often putting in emotionally powerful performances in a tiny amount of screentime without resorting to scenery chewing.  One of the things that bugs me in modern society (that I may have to write a longer essay on) is that an artwork being “manly” or “masculine” means not having any emotion.  In truth men have emotions too, it’s just often a different flavor and style compared to more “girly” or “feminine” works.  My go-to example is always Secondhand Lions, but episode 2 of this series now joins it.  …Give me a minute, this room seems extremely dusty all of a sudden.

The other big lesson of the past decades of TV is the balancing between arc/episodic in shows.  For those who may be confused: Arc = shows which have storylines running from one episode to the next.  Basically, you must watch them in order or you’ll be very confused.  Episodic = shows where each episode is largely stand-alone.  You can watch almost any episode from any season at any time and be able to enjoy it with minimum confusion.  In light of how reruns are done, it’s not surprising that originally most long running TV shows used an episodic nature, it’s only been with the rise of DVD & Netflix that arc shows have even become reliable and possible.  Then, viewers would have had to catch the show and watch everything religiously to be able to follow any plotlines, making it highly unlikely you’d ever attract new viewers if you were arc focused.  But now if new viewers get intrigued by what you’re doing, they can catch up to where the show is in a weekend, thus the new golden age of arc shows.  Of course some shows do a mix.  Supernatural, X-files, and others will have about half a season devoted to an arc, with the other half of it being very episodic (or “Monster of the Week (MotW)” style).  Arrow (also comic-book sourced, also on CW) has been set up and running as very much an arc show while from the first episode, it looks like the Flash is going to be episodic.  Now two episodes in, it looks more like the Flash will adopt my favorite mix (perfected by, in my opinion, the show Burn Notice).  Each episode looks to have an “A plot” devoted to MotW (I guess in this case it’s “Metahuman of the Week”) with “B plots” devoted to the show’s arc(s).  Though in this case the closing/opening episodes of each season are full on devoted to the arc.  Again, I’m glad to see this method get some more adoption and perfection as it will make it easier for the show to pick up additional viewers, yet give us faithful a reason to turn in week after week.

The special effects are still holding up.  I mentioned before how I was a little disappointed the effects were all “big and flashy” without much subtlety to them, but this episode we had more subtle ones, like rescued civilians just “appearing” in shot with a bit of red blurring painting in just behind them.  I liked that.  The Multiplex fight was well done and surprising how much better it was than the Matrix Reloaded fight of a similar nature a decade ago.

I liked that they kept Barry’s high food requirement (a source of some amusement in the first Flash show) as a way of balancing out the character and made the fight against Multiplex fairly logical for why the Flash can’t just insta-win (when there’s enough of them, they can still get a hand on you).  Of course we can also debate on whether Multiplex is dead or not, but that’s the fun of a copying character: it’s not that much of a stretch to believe he faked his own death.

All in all, a fun run.

Metahuman Musings

NOT ONLY IS MULTIPLEX IN HERE BUT RONNIE IS MENTIONED! SQUEEEEEEE

Ok ok, I’ll talk about the actual title character first before going off on the REAL star of the show.

I was willing to consider that maybe the show was going to misdirect us fans and have Harrison Wells NOT be Bad Flash (yes, I know his “proper” name is “Reverse Flash” but since he doesn’t run backwards, that doesn’t make sense and I refuse to use it),  well this episode made it a lot less likely.  The bad Flash (as I had last read about) was written as a villain who had essentially taken “ends justifies means” along with “fandom” to excessive measure.  He wanted the Flash (I think specifically Barry Allen, at least it seems so in this show) to be the best hero he can be, so Bad Flash does some horrible things all in the aim to making Barry better.  As we see at the end of this episode, that involves killing an innocent (if very douchey) man in order to keep Barry from being manipulated or anything by said man.  If anything this episode hints that the show (or at least the first season) will be a war for Barry Allen’s soul, and when it comes to Harrison Wells, he’s willing to do WHATEVER it takes to “win” that war.  So far Joe West (and maybe Henry Allen) are on the same side as Harrison in this war, but what will happen if they end up opposed?

Now for fun.  If you don’t know (few people do) the hero Firestorm (originally) was created when an experimental nuclear reactor exploded.  Two people: Ronnie Raymond & Martin Stein were nearby and gained the power of nuclear fusion, merging to create 1 new being (part of why I like Firestorm, he always has built in drama ready and his powers are weirdly weak, yet overpowered at the same time for an odd balance).  It was then revealed that, Danton Black (former employee of Martin Stein) had sabotaged the reactor, but messed up and got hit by the same explosion, giving him the opposite ability of Firestorm: nuclear fission (aka, making copies).  So… yeah this appearance by him in the show is pretty accurate, though they traded his bitterness at Stein for bitterness at Simon Stagg in an almost literal repeat of the story they invented for Mr. Freeze’s first appearance in the Batman: Animated Series episode, “Heart of Ice”.  Not that that’s a bad thing, that episode was very good and elevated a 1-note villain into a tragic, engaging figure, it’s just kind of funny to now having seen the change to such a villain happen twice in my lifetime, to two different foes.

Of course as a lot of fans (both of us) were predicting, Caitlin Snow’s lost fiance was named Ronnie, meaning that the upcoming Firestorm was previously engaged with the soon-to-be (probably) Killer Frost.  Who’s had about 3 or 4 people be her now (yep, she’s a legacy villain), which is doubly funny because the first KF, Crystal Frost (yeah, Caitlin Snow is an improved name) was originally crushing on Martin Stein (the other half of Firestorm).  See, THIS is how you adapt works and characters, people: You take them and add a few tweaks to bring it into a new medium and set up while allowing tributes to the original source to shine through in small ways JUST to show the fans that you did your homework and that you care.  And as a comic geek, man I couldn’t be happier.