Episodes Reviewed – Hibbing 911 & the Things we Left Behind

Hibbing 911

Well I liked this episode, mostly because I enjoy the characters of Jody and Donna.  There is some meta considerations there where those two characters are very much like Dean & Sam around S1-S2, some warriors with a bit of happiness to them. Though the flashback moment from Jody was an example of using GOOD flashbacks in an episode (that is: earlier than the previous episode) and some decent acting by Kim Rhodes there.  It was also nice to see and contrast the actions of actual law enforcement with the usual pretend law enforcement we get from the brothers.

They also had actual jokes and banter between S&D that was closer to old times and… Hippie! Vampires!

HIPPIE! VAMPIRES!  Obsessed with “sustainable living” and all!  That idea was so hilarious (plus you got to watch hippies be decapitated) how could you NOT love this episode?

The Things We Left Behind

Well that was… probably the most “meh” mid-season finale we’ve had since… ever? (not counting the first few seasons where those weren’t done)

Ok most of the episode I wasn’t minding.  The reuniting with Claire I liked because it was a reminder that there is a world beyond our heroes, that there are other people impacted by their actions for good and bad out there.  It also gave a sense of CONTINUITY (I know, right?) that the show was so lacking last season.  Yes I agree some of this should have been brought up and addressed earlier, such as during S6 as a way of explaining why Castiel might be mentally breaking or in S7 as he resolves to be better.  The line about the fate of Jimmy’s soul?  Hey it’s a theory I’ve mentioned multiple times on the TV Tropes board for YEARS now so of course I don’t mind it (as it’s another good retcon too).  So yes, it was hard to hate the first bit of this episode where one gets the feeling TPTB are actually working to repair the story-world they busted up so badly last season.

The problem is… pretty much right at the end.  While Dean’s “hulk out” (should that be “mark out”?) doesn’t break a lot of story commandments, it was weakly set up.  See, this is why I always harp on rules of storytelling.  Will anything bad happen like the ghost of Shakespeare smiting you if you break them?  Of course not.  The principle of them is that when you follow them, 9/10 times your story will be IMPROVED.  So things like maintaining continuity and consistency in a story is so that variations and changes that happen are noticed.  How much of Dean’s actions are because of the MoC and how much is bad writing that’s forgotten his character?  NOBODY KNOWS!  A few hints or even revelations about the MoC would work wonders as well.  Think about the Hulk.  Why are some moments in say… the Avengers movie so tense?  Because we know how the Hulk works, we get his rule: gets mad – shit goes down.  Contrast that with the MoC.  It involves killing, but how?  Does he have to use the 1st Blade?  Any blade?  Murder in general?  Can he be killed or not?  We don’t know any of these answers so the emotional moment of Dean “broken” and Sam distressed loses a lot of the punch it would have (compare it to say… that moment in the Avengers where the Hulk first appears and how tense and emotional that scene was).

This is why the rules of story exist, people.  Even if you have NO idea where your story is going, follow as many as you can and often you’ll find that when you reach your destination, the story will be much much stronger than you thought.

the Flash 1.06 – the Flash is Born & 1.07 – Power Outage

the Flash is Born

Recap: Colossus escapes from the Xmen movies to wreck vengeance on DC for having decent TV shows.

Muggle Musings

Oh hey, I had forgotten to write a review of this episode.  That should tell you a lot about it.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just so average it’s forgettable.  Although I do always love the trope of “they think Flash is running away but actually he’s getting a head start” even if the slow motion punch they used was a bit of cringe-worthy CGI.

There were two big things this episode.  First (and in some ways the biggest) was the development of Eddie’s character.  See, given that Eddie is currently with the girl that Barry is “supposed” to be with (judging from show structure and comic history, they might yet do something different) that makes him the antagonist to Barry’s protagonist in love.  Well too often fiction makes any antagonist an evil person simply because they are opposed to the hero.  Thus the romantic rival is often revealed to kick puppies or something in his spare time and hiding it from the lover.  In fact I think a large flaw in a lot of modern stories is that the moral status of a person is defined by feelings.  How often do we see a person that “everybody likes” except the hero(s) only for it later to be revealed the hero(s) was right and the person was deceiving everyone about how evil they were?  Well in real life people can be antagonistic to each other without one of them necessarily being a bad person.  A sign of adulthood is learning that you can not like someone, and there’s nothing wrong with you or them.  Some personalities are just very incompatible.  So yes I appreciate the show allowing Eddie to turn out (well so far) to be a genuinely good guy and decent person even if he’s somewhat opposed to Barry.  It makes for a richer and more engaging story.

The other big thing from this episode is that Det. West gets more screentime with Dr. Wells (and both of them are great acting off each other), showing his suspicion, letting us learn more about Wells, and then having the yellow villain make a bold move at the end.  By now even those unfamiliar with the comics should consider it pretty obvious that Wells is the yellow Flash but the show might be trying to trick us there (though I still bet that Wells is villainous).

Metahuman Musings

Again nothing big here much for comic fans save the usual pick of names & shout outs and, like I said above, confirming for us that Wells is an evil Flash, the main debate among us is which evil Flash he is.  Some say Professor Zoom but my bet is still on [no title] Zoom as his character actions and motivations seem to best fit that.

And of course if you watched the Justice League cartoon, it was hard not to enjoy the moment that Flash ran off to punch a metal man as evocative of a certain crowning moment of awesome.

Power Outage

Recap: Two episodes for the price of one!  The cast of mains split up and both groups get trapped in a building by a villain.

Muggle Musings

It never takes long for any comic (or other) story with a super-powered individual to do a “what if they didn’t have their powers!” tale.  Though I’ll admit that I was expecting them to go with the villain gaining superspeed after draining Barry so some props to them for not doing the obvious bit.

The parallel stories are interesting and it gives us a chance to see how much Joe & Barry have kind of come to depend on each other when both have to make do without the other.  And while it helps to have watched Arrow and seen a bit earlier from the Clock King, I though this episode did a good job of telling the viewers what they needed to know without getting bogged down in continuity.

Though I do wonder about why Wells showed himself as being able to walk to TWO villains, especially when he seemed ready to die to maintain the appearance of paralysis.

Another episode that’s good, but somewhat forgettable.

Metahuman Musings

Ooooo man.  If you were a fan that played a drinking game every time there was a reference to the comics this episode, then you’re not reading this because you’re dead from liver failure.

Well we got another look at the paper from the future, which hints so strongly at doing a Crisis on Infinite Earths I’m wondering how they could possibly do it justice on a TV budget.  Though if they run with my idea of each channel being an earth (so Arrow & Flash are on “Earth-CW” while Constantine and the mystical heroes are on “Earth-NBC” etc) they could have some hilarious crossover potential.

Then there is the list of names Wells reads off.  From TVTropes:

These are the names that Wells mentioned Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man), Al Rostein (Nuklon), Grant Emerson (Damage), Will Everet (Amazing Man), Bea de Costa (Fire), and Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm).

Of course in the Justice League cartoon the Flash (who I think was Wally in that instance) had a thing for Fire so there could be some fun shipping-shout outs down the road.  I am quite impressed with how well this show is maintaining quality and consistent entertainment while pandering to us fans.

Episode Review – Girls, Girls, Girls

Yeah Thanksgiving has put me behind and I’m trying to catch up.  I was all set to blog a review with this episode and tonight’s but…

Ok confession time: When the time came to watch my shows, I was clicking on the Flash more and more with a bit of dread in regards to Supernatural.  And you know what?  That’s a really horrible place to be with what was once one of your favorite shows.  Yet… slowly but surely this season has been turning around, until I actually caught up on SPN first!  And didn’t regret it!

I mean had this episode been in one of the Kripke 5, it would have been very mediocre to below average, but after the ATROCITY of season 9?  It’s practically 5 star!  Part of me is starting to seriously wonder if the show runners are reading this blog because they’re actually showing signs of improvement and fixing previously listed issues!

A few quick things before I turn this into a writing tips rant.

  • New character, Rowena.  She was… a character in multiple meanings!  She was a bit camp, but entertaining.  She demonstrated competence and being a threat without showing herself to be some overpowered Mary Sue villain like this was a cheap knock-off of Dragonball Z (yes that is part of what I think ended Abaddon as a written character).
  • Sam and Dean are behaving like… human beings!  They’re smiling!  They’re socializing!  And you know what?  That moment of Dean saying, “I’m going to die” (however it was phrased) had more punch BECAUSE we had seen greater emotional range from him earlier.
  • While there are still a few holes in the angel deal, things were at least advanced and canon REMEMBERED (nobody was more shocked than me).  Now we have an actual moral discussion, a plot to examine.  I mean imagine if they freed Metatron’s vessel from him, just the implications of that, the story possibilities!

Still, you know what thrilled me most?  What caused me a near heart attack? (besides high blood pressure and unhealthy living)  They did a GOOD retcon!

What is a retcon?

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Retcon

Now, I’ve had some discussion with other fans (names withheld because I literally cannot remember them at the moment) over the issue of retcons in SPN, most often why I was so angry at the ones in S9 but accepted so many others elsewhere in the series. This episode gives a wonderful example but first, we have to establish what it takes for a retcon to work, and to be good.

  1. It cannot outright contradict previously established “facts” about the work. (i.e. If an line or character suddenly claimed that Sam was the older brother and Dean the younger.)
  2. It cannot contradict previously established “facts” about the work by implication. (i.e. If there was a comic or novel that said John Winchester was a part of an elite military hunter group in Vietnam.)
  3. It should harmonize any contradictions between previously established “facts”.
  4. BONUS: It should make new story possibilities, not break them.

Now, one minor issue the show has had was that witches seemed to have some inconsistency.  What’s the retcon in this episode?  That there’s (at least) 3 types of witches: demon based, natural born, and trained.  Perfect!  1) This information does not contradict anything we’ve seen in any other episode involving witches. 2) The implications of this revelation do not create plot holes in any previous witch episode. 3) The issue with some witches seeming different from others is ACTUALLY RESOLVED!  Bonus round: New storylines to examine!  Like what if a natural born witch was to make a demon deal?  Would they become super-witch or less powerful?  Do psychics in the SPN world fit within the natural-born section or are they different?  Do all natural witches have that “spark” which Leviathans can’t replicate?  Can naturals be an angel vessel or is that an unresolvable contradiction?  PERFECT SCORE!

Yes those questions aren’t answered, but the point is that they don’t have to be.  The important, relevant plot and world-building questions were answered and these others can later be used to examine and expand future stories.  Perfect!  Well done!

Another example?  The anti-demon hex bag.  That Sam was able to find it online was possibly a huge plot hole by implication.  Oh but they retconned that perfectly too!  “Single person used it.” “Questionable reliability.”  Yes, that’s how you do that.  See it doesn’t require much, just a line or two, some tweaked word choices and you can make it all fit.  Well done everyone!

Here’s hoping the episode that concluded five minutes ago doesn’t dash all my goodwill and anger me.

1.03, 1.04, & 1.05 Constantine – the Devil’s Vinyl, a Feast of Friends, & Danse Vaudou

the Devil’s Vinyl

Not bad but then it’s hard to mess up a story revolving around the hell-bound musician.  One thing I was very pleased with was after the faulty explanation on faith in the previous episode, this one was accurate to the Christian view on the Devil (and that he doesn’t mess with people or traffic in souls because he needs them or anything, but because it’s a means to hurt God).  By far my largest complaint is that we’re still in the dark on a lot of basics with Constantine where we really shouldn’t.  Especially: how the heck does he pay for anything?  I know the show makers created the map (with the blood drops) to give the show a hook for episodes week after week, but was it needed?  If there’s a “rising darkness” about, why not just have people calling Constantine for help week after week?  That could have even been a bit humor in this episode where he talks with the woman who sold her soul:

“I’ll help you out of this contract.”
“At what price?  Last guy that helped me wanted my soul.”
“Nah, I just want some cold hard cash, love.  You can keep your soul.”

I mean he has and passes out sometimes business cards, so why doesn’t he function like a private detective… magic wise?

Zed grew more into her own character too and I enjoyed her presence much more than in the 2nd episode where the show was almost blatant in its shipping efforts.

Papa Midnight (which I hear is a character from the comics) was also fascinating and hits that blend of smarmy charm that isn’t great on a main character, but is perfect for a on-again-off-again antagonist that can both work against and ally with the protagonist.

Much stronger episode and far better outing.

a Feast of Friends

 

At times I wonder if this show was to air on Saturday nights, if we’d see an uptick in church attendance the following morning.  Let’s face it, from Buffy to Supernatural, demons have taken a bit of a “hit” in popular culture when it comes to being terrifying.  So props to Constantine for making a demon that’s scary and terrifying.

I also heard from a friend that this is more translated from the comic as Constantine is “more of a bastard” and less good-hearted, like selling out a friend.  Still, the show softened the impact of that by letting Constantine inform his friend and get consent.  That moment did much to keep the main character human.  Just like the visit from the angel later contributed greatly to showing us that they’re not 2-dimensional antagonists.  I’m somewhat curious how the show will explain why Constantine isn’t like… Catholic when he pals around with heavenly hosts regularly, but it will probably be some answer like “angels are just a different flavor of assholes”.  Which is a shame, I kind of wish some stories would seriously examine the “they are like a-bombs” angle of angels (i.e. “We had to intervene once to stop a menace.  You want to ask Pompeii how that went?”).

All in all a great episode, though it did highlight 2 problems not in itself, but the show’s greater set up.

  1. While better established, magic is still awfully vague.  Why does Constantine’s friend have to host the demon and not his immortal partner?  I mean I don’t want anything to happen to Chas (he seems cool) but he seems like the obvious choice for a demon possession that would otherwise kill.  That could even be an explanation for how he’s immortal (maybe he’s legion, or some kind of walking containment jar).  The episode didn’t need to slow down and spell out the answer, but I wish earlier episodes had said or hinted at what the rules for things like Chas are so when episodes like this one comes around, we can work out the answer for ourselves.
  2. The “what happened with Astra” should have been kept more vague.  For one, when Zed is trying to find out about what happened, while we the audience already knows, it gets tedious.  Second the impact of watching Constantine and Gary talking about what happened would be much greater if we had only a vague notion of it and was learning more about the ordeal from their discussion.

Strongest episode thus far.  If I understand correctly, fans of the source feel that this Constantine is toned down a lot (he doesn’t even smoke).  While I can understand their frustration, let me gently remind everybody that this is a network show.  While Hellblazer may be immensely popular by comic book standards, you have to have much, MUCH wider appeal in order to fund a TV show.  To do that, you have to adjust the character so that enough people don’t mind watching him for an hour week after week (also keep in mind that in comic form, you only got a dose of him every month).  So it can’t be a perfect translation and that’s ok.

Danse Vaudou

Papa Midnight returns!  And there’s another shout out to a DC comic book character!

Actually that got some of us at the comic shop joking.  For those who don’t know, DC comics has this multiple universe idea that it toys with off and on.  With Arrow/Flash sharing continuity on the CW, this using its own continuity on NBC, it’s like we, the audience get to watch the birth of the DC multiverse in real time!  Earth-CW has the traditional superheroes, Earth-NBC has the magical ones (and then there’s Earth-Cinema which… we’ll see) and it’s kind of awesome to savor it all.

Story and all on this one was decent, a good baseline to judge the quality of other episodes.  We are confirmed that buddy Chas operates under the Highlander rules of immortality (though no word yet on decapitation) instead of any kind of time or copy shenanigans that are used to “keep him alive”.  I quite enjoyed him staving off the one ghost by playing the Who’s Line is it Anyway? question game.  That guy seems set to become the ensemble darkhorse of this show. (maybe that was the way it was in the comics too?)

We’re seeing a lot of potential in these early episodes, but nothing really reaching it yet.  Hopefully the main arc will kick in soon and we’ll get to see what the show can do.

Episodes Reviewed – Fan Fiction & Ask Jeeves

Fan Fiction

Meh, it’s ok.  4 out of 5.  If you’ve got an even bigger soft spot for sentimentality than me.  Subtract 1 or 2 points if you’re not much one for sappy cheese.  I’m probably still going to get the soundtrack once it’s in a store that’s not itunes.

Ok I’ll go into a bit more detail.

Let’s be honest, a lot of my fondness for this episode comes from its surroundings.  Place this episode somewhere in season 5?  Pretty lackluster.  Place it after season 9 with its violence against canon and good writing and this episode a breath of fresh air.  I mean the writers and crew actually ACKNOWLEDGED the show’s history instead acting like they had either forgotten it or resented it as a weight holding them back.

From a writing/structure standpoint, this episode was an amalgamation of 3 Kripke era outings: Hollywood Babylon, Ghostfacers, and The Real Ghostbusters.  Which isn’t bad but… I think the episode would have been stronger had it been about the boys, without actually having them.

SFDebris pointed this out in contrasting 2 TNG episodes, True Q & Lower Decks and explained why one worked and one didn’t.  The first failed because the episode was essentially “take over” by the guest star, the main cast had no effect on the proceedings (and it’s quite true, you could put Amanda Rogers’ story in practically ANY trek series and it would work just as well with minimum changes).  Meanwhile the 2nd episode worked because it was about other characters reacting to the choices of our main cast.  In other words, while the main characters were not on screen as much, the story was nonetheless about them.  Likewise, the “spin off”, Bloodlines, failed to fit into SPN for (among many reasons) shoving the heroes out of the way.  Other episodes (like Ghostfacers) worked because much of the story was still about Sam & Dean even if they weren’t on screen.

This is why, ultimately, I think the episode would have been better had it been almost exclusively about the play and from the perspective of the participants. You can still do meta with the school cast having to fight like a minor ghost or something and have shades of Its a Terrible Life where they think “what would Sam & Dean do” when trying to beat it.  Let the final scene of the episode be the revelation that Dean & Sam were there, watching the play instead of Chuck (even though it’s hard to hate that appearance as Rob just has such a charm about him you can’t ever hate his appearances).  They practically did it with actress “Sam” and “Dean” scene in the car replacing the “real” Sam & Dean scene we would have gotten.

And I’m not thrilled that we had to fight another god for this episode.  After 200 episodes, no more fitting tribute would have been a ghost-haunted stage.  Or maybe something new. (heck, Star Trek: DS9 did a story of a VAMPIRIC MUSE and SPN hasn’t??)  Or maybe nothing at all, just the stress of dealing with putting on a production.  In other words, I loved that this episode had so many tributes to the past, yet feel torn over whether it should have had less show cliches… or more.

Regardless, the boys made it to 200 episodes, and that ain’t nothing.

Though I still wanted opera.

Ask Jeeves

It’s with some irony that shortly after #200, we get another episode that very much feels like a throwback.  Again, after some of the crap from the previous season, it was a welcome relief to see the boys back in action, acting a bit more human, and the guest stars acting more human.  I even appreciated that they toned down the humor a lot more and played it with far more subtlety (I admit at first I thought we’d get more tributes to the clue movie… glad they restrained themselves there).

In prior seasons it would have a solid 3 out of 5.  In this one… 4.

Although this episode does bring up a thought…

I’ll admit, my brain is probably just stuck on it since I’ve finished up viewings of Arrow S2 and Agents of SHIELD S1, but why haven’t we had the Winchesters face a really psychologically challenging foe?  The last one they had was YED but that was all part of a larger plan.  From S4 on every season has been about the end of the world with an * on S8 because it was more about improving the world than saving it from an immediate threat and S9… well nobody knows what S9’s arc was about.

The shapeshifter in this episode and Cole earlier in the season made me realize that we haven’t seen someone go for a real brain battle against Sam & Dean, particularly a monster.  Sure we’ve had hints about anti-hunter efforts by Lilith in S4 and Eve in S6, but nothing spanning an arc over more than two episodes.  The Leviathan at least fought them on a mental level nobody else has but where’s that revenge battle?  Cole doesn’t count because he doesn’t know the truth and came at them straight in a fight.  The leviathans did a lot of it at first, but what if it wasn’t a world threat?  What if some shifter or vampire or someone else (no angel or demon – that might have been creative in S6, by now they’re overplayed) worked just to make Sam & Dean’s lives personally hell?  No world threat, nobody else in danger unless it would hurt them just…

Oh wait, we had Crowley do that at the end of S8.

I guess I have my answer.  The show’s already done it, just not over an extended time with real depth and challenge (again, closest would be S7).  Kind of pity really.

So hey, I kind of liked the shifter this episode.  A lot like the time the boys met Adam and the ghouls out for revenge on John but…

Oh.  Well no wonder this episode felt so much like a throwback.  Well hey, if last season was them trying to do something new, I’m all for them recycling everything this year.  Instead of season ten-season win, maybe we should call it, season ten-season again.