LEVEL ELEVENTY-SEVEN #111: Kicking It With IRON FIST
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next week, which gives us this one shot to discuss the latest Netflix offering from Marvel Television: Iron Fist. And judging by the mixed reception its had, this could very well be Marvel’s first not-quite-miss since the first season of S.H.I.E.L.D.
From off-balance pacing to a bland lead character to cultural appropriation to missed social cues, the show really doesn’t seem to know just what kind of show it wants to be. Is it an origin story for a rich kid learning to be a superhero? Is it about a wealthy socialite learning how to be social? Is it a prelude to The Defenders and just a setup piece? Is it all of these, or none of these?
Short answer: yes and no.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
The panel: Mindy Inlow, Sam Sentman, Chris Jensen, Timothy Harvey, Jason Hunt
Snikt: Enter LEVEL ELEVENTY-SEVEN #110 As We Discuss LOGAN
Logan Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Story by James Mangold Directed by James Mangold Produced by 20th Century Fox Copyright 2017
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is out until April, which times out perfectly for us to gather ’round the table and discuss the latest entry in the Marvel movies — except it’s not a Marvel Studios production (that’s later this year), but the Fox production of the final Wolverine story, Logan.
Starring Hugh Jackman in what’s very likely his last performance as the Wolverine, this film packs in a lot of emotion along with a lot of action, and is already being hailed as a “not typical” superhero popcorn flick. Here, we regale you with our thoughts and reactions, plus a look at some of our favorite moments.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
The panel: Sam Sentman, Chris Jensen, David Baker, Jared Hawkins, Jeff Hackworth
This month, we’re talking about micro-transactions.
Are they good for the industry? Are they bad for the industry? Did they start off with the best of intentions and then slowly drift off to the Dark Side? Our crew discusses the impact micro-transactions have on game play, extensions, DLCs, collections, upgrades, and what it all means for the wallet. Is it better to play through achievements to get the new weapon or skill? Or do you bypass that effort (and fun) and just buy that war hammer for $6?
Games we’re playing:
Master of Orion 2: Battle of Antares
Star Trek Online
LEGO Star Wars, X-Wing, Star Wars: The Old Republic
Grand Theft Auto
The panel: Jennifer Wise, Lauren Garrison, Jared Hawkins, Thomas Townley, Chris Jensen
Dreams come true, a lover bids farewell, and an offer is made that may be hard to refuse.
After a stunningly creative dream sequence featuring Barbara Kean, we are shocked by multiple scenes complete with dialog, again featuring Barbara. Eight episodes into a potentially 30-episode season, and we finally see this marginalized actor strut her stuff. She is a clear talent; given the opportunity Erin Richards can be mesmerizing on screen.
Gordon struggles to convince Barnes of Galavan’s duplicity without proof. Then, Kean surprises the GCPD by walking into the bullpen and surrendering. Lee, already not happy with Gordon’s interest in pursuing Galavan, is troubled by Gordon’s willingness to trust Barbara. In a bold move Barnes agrees to allow Babs to escort them to a mysterious site.
Galavan’s master plan appears to be coming to fruition as he summons Bruce to a meeting that could change the future of the city. He details the horrific truths about Bruce’s company and promises to preserve his father’s legacy if Bruce will sell him controlling interest in the company. Bruce is notably disturbed, but unconvinced until Galavan offers up the name and proof of his parents’ killer.
Nygma celebrates the unification of his mind in a bizarre ritual as he buries Kringle’s body deep in the woods. Unexpectedly, he is happened upon by a hunter and is forced to add to his body count … a few times. Smith’s scenes have been amazing this season, but this murderous direction for our soon-to-be-Riddler is an odd choice.
Barbara delights in teasing Jim as they ride in the squad car with Harvey. Jim knows it’s a trap and works to find out her true objective. He does not have to wait long for the trap to be triggered. The squad car is t-boned by a semi-truck carrying a crew of masked attackers lead by Tabitha. Barnes’ renewed strike force is effective as always, which is to say they are not. Gordon is drugged and captured, with Harvey’s fate unclear.
We are treated to yet another rare gem of a scene between Alfred and Bruce. The advisor role that our beloved butler will play for years to come is front and center as Bruce struggles to make a decision regarding Galavan’s offer. Much like the scene between Alfred and Lucius in episode 203, Sean Pertwee evokes sincerity and grace.
As foretold in part by the twisted dream Barbara had at the start of the episode, Jim awakens to find he is playing the part of groom in her twisted fantasy wedding. Promising wedlock or death, Barbara ups the stakes and reveals that she has kidnapped Lee. Harvey shows his detective grit and earns Barnes’ respect by uncovering the location of the wedding.
Harvey and the strike force arrive in time to assist Jim in saving Lee. Barbara leads Jim into a final confrontation that brings a smashing end to this bloody bride’s tale. I was expecting a tragic end, but surprisingly they dusted off this amazing actress and delivered not only a passable episode, but promise of future stories. This one deserves a golf clap.
Bruce nearly sells Wayne Enterprises, but holds his ground as Gordon and the GCPD arrive to arrest Galavan for the kidnapping and torture of Mayor James. Nygma tracks down his last witness to Kristen’s burial to find the delirious and wounded Penguin. I sense a partnership opportunity.
Love is blossoming among Team Flash with dates all around, conflict at the collider, and a new meta is revealed and it’s not Dr. Light!
Earth 2 is the setting of the episode’s opening. Harrison Wells is a celebrated scientist and is debuting his new meta-human detection gear when Jay Garrick aka the Flash appears. He shocks the crowd by casting accusations about Wells’ connection to the creation of the meta-humans and Zoom. Back on Earth 1 Harrison is being grilled by Team Flash and again is the subject of accusations as the connection to his doppelganger is debated. Joe shows up unannounced and with John Woo flair empties his clip into Harrison. Barry’s speed is the only thing that keeps Joe from killing Wells. For now the group is willing to tolerate the non-Reverse Flash.
I am thrilled that Tom Cavanagh has returned this season. He is a great compliment to this cast of talented actors. With such a great start to the season I expect only great things to come.
Shantel VanSantan is delightful as the Patty Spivot, a true joy to watch as a new partner to Joe West and nerdy tech enthusiast smitten with Barry. I am eager each week to see how their relationship develops and this week did not disappoint. Patty catches up with Barry and Cisco at Jitter’s. The nervous romantic energy between her and Barry is infectious.
We get our third glimpse of Hawkgirl’s civilian alter ego, Kendra Saunders, at Jitter’s. Cisco has better luck this time securing a date with her. Now we just have to find out what Hawkman thinks about it. Cisco gets another vision or vibe, this time of Dr. Light robbing the Central City bank. He dispatches Barry to stop her.
Flash confronts Light and attempts to talk her out of working for Zoom. She is set on her mission to kill him, but chooses mysteriously to end this encounter quickly with a blast of light that send the Flash into rescue mode, saving the bank patrons.
Back at the collider Jay shows up and adds complications to the working relationship with Harrison. Cisco delivers one of the best lines in the shows history as a result. Barry has to run interference to keep the team on track to catch Dr. Light. Harrison and Cisco have a heart to heart (better than a hand to the heart) in an attempt to improve their collaboration.
Barry finally takes action, thanks to urging by Cisco, and asks Patty out. With their first date set let’s hope Team Flash keeps Barry out of trouble long enough to make a love connection.
Negotiations progress slightly, until Barry discovers that Light is the Earth 2 version of Linda Park, an old flame. Catching him off guard, Light temporarily blinds him and escapes. Thanks to his accelerated healing he does not have to wait long for his sight to return. The only problem is his date with Patty. This is where the show shines with some light comedy. Cisco aids Barry with a set of video glasses and guides him through the date. Patty looks gorgeous, a fact Barry determines at the end of the date. But it’s a success sealed with a kiss. Nerds unite and get your tuxedos ready for season 3!
Since we are the topic of relationships, Jay and Katelyn draw closer together during a stake out to keep and eye on Earth 1’s Linda Park. Light is wise to their plans and ambushes the pair. Injured in the flipped van, they lie unconscious while Light moves in to kill her doppelganger. Iris rises to the occasion defending Linda, but not before the cities newspaper editor Hal Larkin is dead.
Conflict arises again in light of this tragedy at HQ as the stress to catch Light increases. Barry and Wells have a talk about trust where Barry reveals that he has a piece of Light’s costume. Wells shocks the team revealing that Cisco has powers. The team understands under the circumstances and urges him to use his powers to locate Dr. Light. His revealed abilities lead the Flash to an encounter at the local train depot.
Wells steps up to give Barry the courage to try a new aspect of his power and create a speed mirage to confuse Dr. Light. The tactic works, allowing him to get close enough to capture her. This sequence is a great example of how the show’s producers have accepted the need for complex VFX to tell this story properly.
Against Jay’s protests the team develops a plan to lure Zoom into an encounter using Light as bait. Jay attempts to convince the team not to trust Wells and without further bravado leaves. His complaints and weariness about committing to dangerous action is setting up as the coward Wells says he is. Team Flash still believes he will come through when it counts. I am not sure he will.
Cisco is on the receiving end as he gets his name – Vibe, from the team. We get a clear look at Zoom finally on Earth 2 and learn that he has Wells daughter held captive. What implications this will have on Well’s cooperation is unknown. I just hope they do not have plans of betrayal in store for this gruff genius.
Butch gives Gordon a hand with his case against Theo, Nygma searches for the meaning of life after death, and we see the most creative use for an army of penguins ever seen on TV.
Penguin follows Butch’s lead, heading to the seedy docks of Gotham in search of his mother. He is woefully unprepared, blinded by his pursuit to free her. While he finds her locked in a cell, Theo and Tabitha are waiting. Butch runs afoul of his diminutive master, revealing that his programming has been lifted. Penguin whimpers and convinces Theo to release his mother. In an expected move the duo kill Gertrude Cobblepot with a knife in the back. As she dies in his arms, Penguin goads Theo into executing him personally. Affording him the opportunity to wound the soon-to-be mayor and make a dramatic escape into the harbor.
Nygma awakes hoping the previous night and his violent confrontation with Kristen is just a dream. His mental counterpart, that I prefer to call pre-Riddler, has turned it into a nightmare by hiding her body and leaving Nygma clues. Quite a twisted situation when he tricks himself, the man who will become Gotham’s greatest puzzler.
Silver St. Cloud continues to weave her spell on Bruce. She takes it in stride when Selina arrives unannounced and privately delivers a menacing message about her intent to be the only one in Bruce’s life. Clearly she underestimates Selina’s commitment to her friends. She attempts to appear cold and distant, but she is anything but. Silver is in for a serious fight.
Gordon and Bullock pursue leads after Theo reports that the Penguin made an attempt on his life. They track down Butch just in time for Zazz to arrive intent on retribution for his betrayal. Neither Gordon nor Bullock are going down without a fight, co-opting the fleeing gang’s weapons for defense. Butch escapes capture, but not before he plants the seeds of doubt in Gordon’s mind about Theo.
Despite the department’s cautions Theo goes ahead with his inauguration party after his successful election as Gotham’s mayor. Gordon and the strike force keep a watchful eye as the social elite celebrate. Nygma closes in on Kristen’s body and has a tense encounter with Lee in the morgue. Penguin executes a clever plan and dresses his supporters in matching attire and attacks the party.
The meat grinder continues to collect names as another member of Barnes’ strike force falls. This time Martinez heels to the murderous Tabitha Galavan. Another tense standoff occurs as Penguin swoops in with Theo in his sights. Gordon and Harvey try to plea with him to surrender. Burdened with sorrow, he will not relent. Bullock shoots him in the shoulder, but he escapes with Theo’s limo.
As the episode closes, Theo is at the center of yet another massacre and Gordon makes his declaration to bring him down. A new war is about to begin. Back at the GCPD Nygma transforms, his minds merging a he gruesomely disposed of Kringle’s body.
Wasted actors, over the top comic characterizations and fast forwarded plots are making the season break for this show look very appealing.
A fascination with fire turns fatal, Nygma reveals a secret with less than positive results, and Penguin opens up a “Butch”er shop. One thing this show does not lack is crazy.
Butch is sent to Theo with a wild story of Cobblepot’s fury. His bloody stump bolsters his request for asylum and while Theo is skeptical, Tabitha’s eagerness to affix zany objects to him earns his approval. His infiltration is – ahem – cut short when Theo catches him searching for clues to the location of Cobblepot’s mother. I am actually saddened by this plotline; Butch had a lot of potential this season with his brainwashing likely coming undone. The comically bad prosthetic hammer is the first example that counters the show’s amazing aesthetic and design thus far.
Gordon is on the rampage and loses his cool, alarming members of the incorruptible Strike Force Alpha. Gordon is upset that Barnes is not fully supportive of his brash actions following the death of another officer. It’s a strange conflict between the two that makes it hard to tell who is the moral center of the show. Gordon is often in the gray areas, but Barnes’ lethal hit squad does not nominate him for captain of the year. We’ll have to see how these two characters influence each other over time.
On the run from her adoptive brothers, Bridgit shacks up with Selina and the two hatch a plan to earn some quick cash. This team up delves into the grey area of Gotham’s criminal underground where unscrupulous individuals rob and murder each other while climbing the ladder of survival. Bridgit is thrilled with her newfound power. Sadly, her brothers kidnap her, ending her attempted escape from the city. Tempted by the intoxicating power of she refuses to be stopped and shows the Pikes that fire is indiscriminate in whom it burns.
Selina later tries to convince Bridgit that she has options and that murder is not one of them. This scene caught me off guard, tugging at my heartstrings. It’s the unexpected emotional moments that can make characters relatable and is unfortunately limited and random in this series. If they could solidify moments like this the show might have a future.
Gordon identifies Selina in surveillance footage of the robbery and confronts her in an attempt to find Bridgit. The stand off is actually kind of intense and again delivers a spark that could light the fire under this series. Selina is hesitant to trust Gordon, revealing just enough for him to track her to her next target. Bridgit, now dubbed Firefly, manages to survive for two entire episodes before seemingly dying awash with flame. With a decent background developed one would hope we see more of her.
Nygma steps up his game, impressing Kristen. As the two get more comfortable exploring intimate avenues Nygma makes two fatal decisions. One: he reveals his involvement in Officer Doughetry’s disappearance. When she reacts with fear instead of gratitude he loses control and brings Kringle’s run on the show to an early and fatal stop. Chelsea Spack is wasted, as so many others have been in less than two seasons of this series. I would have delighted in seeing this relationship develop further.
Theo’s Machiavellian plot slowly churns forward as he manipulates Bruce’s emotions for his ultimate end game. Butch returns to Penguin with information about his mother’s location. He is wild eyed and frantic, urging Oswald to take action quickly before Theo learns of his deception. Not that anyone was fooled, but it’s clear that this last minute infiltration plot has turned against Cobblepot, but he is too focused on his mother’s rescue to notice.
The final scenes of this episode briefly explore a secretive operation called Indian Hill hinted at in season one. It is revealed to be a division of Wayne Enterprises and a testing ground for emerging metahumans. We catch a glimpse of several individuals that might be from Gotham’s rich history, including a fiery red head clad in black. Her identity and the remaining rogues are yet to come. Will the show grind through Batman’s villainous gallery each week until nothing is left? Only time will tell.
Batmobile Designer George Barris Passes Away at Age 89
A king among car customizers, George Barris, passed away at home early Thursday morning. He was 89.
Known for his many custom creations for film and television he is best know for the iconic Batmobile featured in the 1966 Batman TV series. Barris purchased the 1955 Lincoln Furtura concept car from Ford for a mere $1. In 15 days and with a budget of $15,000, he created the memorable 19-foot long Batmobile. After the series ended, he purchased the car and put it on display at his North Hollywood custom workshop. The legendary prop sold at auction in 2013 for an amazing $4.62 million.
Barris started customizing cars at an early age and opened a shop after World War II with his brother Sam. Designing “Kustom” cars for private buyers and his adventures in racing soon drew the attention of Hollywood studios and the stars themselves. In addition to Batman, they supplied cars for Knight Rider, The Time Machine, The Munsters and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Family surrounded Barris at the time of his passing. His son Brett wrote on Facebook, “He lived his life the way he wanted til the end. He would want everyone celebrate the passion he had for life and for what he created for all to enjoy.”
With the aid of Jay Garrick, Team Flash builds a dimensional cannon in the basement. Barry and Patty price tickets for the love boat as their quirky and fun relationship develops. Stein meets Jefferson Jackson, and a new Firestorm is born with only a few complications. Patty investigates an urban myth about a man-shark…no really.
We jump back in time to the night of the particle accelerator explosion and met Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh). Jackson is a high school football player with promising college prospects. Sadly, his dreams are crushed after the explosion leaves him with injuries that end his playing days.
In the present we pickup right after Stein’s collapse last week. Cisco quickly cobbles together a device to stabilize his condition. The team is on edge, knowing it’s only temporary. The race is on to find a compatible meta human to merge with the professor and share the custody of the Firestorm matrix before he dies.
Two candidates emerge from the search, and it’s up to the Flash to quietly get DNA samples to determine the best match. Later at the precinct Barry runs into Patty, who is embracing her role on the metahuman task force with vigor. She asks if Barry can run analysis on some shark teeth she found in connection with a possible man shark roaming Central City’s back alleys. The energy between these two is delightful. As a viewer I want to see their relationship develop faster; as a writer I hope they drag it out a bit to keep the show rich and fulfilling for as long as possible.
While the team discusses the two most promising candidates – “Jax” Jackson and Dr. Henry Hewitt, Earth-2’s Harrison Wells lurks nearby studying Team Flash. I am excited for his reveal and interaction with the group, but hope his role in the future does not mirror that of season one’s villain. For now Cisco has used up the last of the Reverse Flash’s tech to create a techno-cane to keep Stein and the matrix stable.
Cisco and Barry return to base having unsuccessfully motivated Jackson to return with them. Barry is uneasy as he sees that Caitlin has already brought Hewitt into the lab and is already giving him the seal of approval. Barry urges caution and another attempt to meet with Jackson.
Joe and Iris sit nervously awaiting the meeting with her mother. Joe reminds Iris that she has no obligation to meet her. Francine (Vanessa A. Williams) arrives and is not greeted by her now adult daughter in the way she would have hoped. Iris questions her motives, but does not give her a chance to explain. She ends the tense meeting making it clear she wants nothing to do with her errant mother.
The team prepares to join Hewitt and Stein, with Cisco explaining the process and attaching the matrix to Hewitt’s chest. Surprisingly the attempt is unsuccessful and Hewitt is not pleased, storming out of the lab. At Mercury Labs, Harrison Wells stages a bold and bizarre theft of a prototype gun. CEO Dr. McGee is baffled by the sighting and calls upon Joe to investigate. Patty is confused, believing that Harrison is dead; she thinks that Barry should be brought in to look for trace evidence. Joe urges her not to tell Barry, informing her of his traumatic past with Wells.
Back at the precinct, Francine shows up — much to Joe’s distress — and drops the bomb that she is dying. Poor Joe, he just can’t get a break just when an issue seems resolved a new wrinkle puts him in a dilemma. At the lab Cisco and Caitlin try to explain to Jackson about his potential to be part of the firestorm matrix. Like other meetings this episode it does not go well and Jackson also storms out of the lab. Caitlin decides to pursue and convince him of the consequences if he refuses.
Joe and Barry discuss Francine and Iris, providing Joe the opportunity to exert his fatherly presence. He has noticed the chemistry between Barry and Patty and urges him to not be afraid to try new things. Elsewhere Hewitt is still upset about his failure to pair with the matrix. However, the attempt seems to have unlocked some latent abilities and he flies into a rage determined to get what he believes is his.
The pressure is on Team Flash: if they cannot convince Jackson to join with Stein he will die. As if that was not enough, they have accidentally unleashed a meta human in Hewitt that has the potential to go nuclear. Barry shares his advice from Joe with Caitlin and she decides to give one last shot to convincing Jackson.
Joe delivers the news to Iris about her mother’s terminal illness. Iris is still skeptical about her motives and battles with a decision to meet with her again. Joe is supportive, but again tells her she can refuse even though he believes that Francine is indeed dying.
Jackson returns with Caitlin to the lab and with Stein’s life on the line gets the crash course on merging. The pairing works and Jackson becomes the new Firestorm. He seems to enjoy his new form and having Stein as a copilot. Eager to try out his abilities he is given the chance when Cisco learns that Hewitt is charging up at Central City’s football stadium.
Jackson takes well to his new abilities and teams up with the Flash to quickly defeat Hewitt, who gets the code name “Tokamak”. With all the build up to finding a match for the matrix this battle seems a little anti-climatic. But the show saves its best for last — as always. Iris makes the difficult decision to meet again with Francine. Using her investigative talents she confirms her diagnosis, but finds another startling secret in her mother’s past: she had a baby boy eight months after leaving Joe.
Jackson and Stein depart to train and improve their abilities and prepare for their debut on Legends of Tomorrow. Barry contemplates how to proceed with Patty and gets a two jaw dropping shocks to cap the episode. Patty’s suspicions become startling true as a 9 foot talk shark man grabs the Flash around the neck. This is an amazing achievement for the VFX team and awesome moment for the fans. Patty tries to help the Flash, but her bullets have no effect but to anger him. Tossing the Flash aside he sets his sights on her, but his cut down surprisingly by a hooded man.
He is quick to escape, desiring no accolades, but not quicker than Barry. Catching up with the stranger, he pulls back his hood for the shock of his life, coming face to face with Harrison Wells. Baiting the hook, they end the episode leaving us waiting for episode 5 and the ramifications of this meeting.
This week we journey into the dysfunctional family of Leonard Snart. Golden Glider returns to fan the flames of Cisco’s crush with plee for help. Rough and tumble Michael Ironside falls short of father of the year and Joe struggles with a decision that may drive Iris out of his life. It’s family fun all around, until an old friend arrives in town.
Show opens with a bit of excitement as Iris calls upon Barry, who is working in the forensics lab for help getting out of a sticky situation. Knowing the Flash certain has its perks; however Barry might need to have a talk with his foster sister about taking unnecessary risks.
Team Flash and newcomer Jay Garrick survey the large breach in the basement of STAR Labs. Jay, Cisco and Professor Stein discuss how to stabilized the portal and gain access to Earth 2. Surprisingly, no one discusses the fact that Zoom could use the portal at anytime. I guess they’re hoping he does not notice the huge dimensional door.
Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) brings an awkward, but fun energy to the show. Especially in scenes with Barry, like their encounter at Jitters. It’s entertaining to have another cast member unaware of Barry’s alter ego. I look forward to that reveal and hope they develop a relationship between these two awkward champions of justice.
Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider (Peyton List), returns to the show, bumping into Team Flash at Jitters seeking their help. She claims that her brother Leonard Snart (Captain Cold) has apparently been kidnapped. Cisco flexes his tech muscles to track Snart’s Cold Gun. Flash arrives to find Snart working with his equally villainous father Lewis (Michael Ironside).
Knowing their father’s abusive past, Lisa refuses to believe that her brother would work with Lewis. The team works to find an answer and Cisco deepens his bond with Lisa, learning about her troubled past. With a lead from a homicide Joe is working on, the team determines that Snart is cooperating with his father because Lisa has been secretly implanted with a deadly explosive.
After an abortive attempt to tell Iris that her mother is not dead, Joe battles with the decision to do it. After a talk with Barry he decides to proceed and the show hits an emotional high in a dramatic and touching scene as Joe confesses the truth. Iris shows her maturity and forgives her father for the deception, but is weary of meeting her mother after two decades.
While Cisco works on a plan to extract the explosive from Golden Glider, Barry decides to infiltrate the Snart crime family, posing as a security expert. After a tense interrogation by Papa Snart, Barry joins them on their latest caper to steal a cache of valuable gems. Barry uses his wit and some speed to ensure their success. Lewis betrays him at the last minute and shoots Barry. Unknown to Lewis, Barry uses his speed to catch the bullet, but fakes his death.
After successfully breaching the security system, Leonard and his father argue over life choices. Cisco informs Barry that he has removed the bomb from Lisa and the Flash arrives to stop Lewis from escaping. When Leonard learns his sister is safe he puts and end to his father’s abuse once and for all with an ice blast to the chest.
We are treated to another fun encounter between Barry and Patty, clearly foreshadowing a relationship between the quirky duo. Lisa playfully kisses Cisco, thanking him for his help and rides off, leaving him excited and confused.
Back at the collider, Jay has stabilized the wormhole, dubbed the Speed Cannon, and plans to leave Earth 1. Caitlin urges him to stay, showing the rest of the team that she is attracted to the de-powered alternate Flash. Stein has a frightening relapse, bursting into blue flame and then collapsing. As the team works to stabilize him a visitor arrives through the newly stabilized dimensional door…
Every episode Gotham’s sophomore season I watch, I am hoping for magic. The sets, wardrobe and cinematography are amazing. The writing, I feel, is stiffing the acting gems we have gotten sporadically. This episode is no different; both beautiful and horrific to watch.
Penguin tries his best to convince Theo to release his mother, citing that he could be a better asset if he was not worried about her. Theo is unconvinced and dismisses the frustrated Cobblepot.
Captain Barnes leads a raid on the Penguin’s money counting operation intent on crippling the self appointed crime lord. The strike force is surprised by their target’s resourcefulness, deploying a rocket launcher in a counter attack. The team avoids injury and takes out the operation. Aside from the brief rocket attack, scenes like this attempt to capture the procedural element of the show. They succeed only marginally, still failing to present any real danger or consequences.
Penguin is furious about being dismissed by Theo and struggles to develop a plan that will give him some leverage. His rant is interrupted by the news of the counting house’s raid. Flying into a rage, he brutally beats the messenger. And suddenly, in the midst of the beating, Penguin has a moment of inspiration.
Gordon gets rooked into a double date with Edward and Kristin, much to his dismay. Lee does her best to assure him that it will not be awkward. Theo visits Gordon at the precinct seeking his endorsement for mayor. Gordon respectfully refuses, citing his apprehension to mix politics and work.
Tabitha Galavan visits the Penguin to give him his next assignment – arson. Butch recruits Selena to make introductions to a group of local firebugs. Selena is past schoolmates with Bridget, the arsonist’s adopted sister. The writing falls flat trying to build a significant connect between the two in a matter of minutes. Sadly they use tired tropes to tug at our heartstrings and fail. A real connection takes time, at least an episode or two.
GCPD raids a known illegal weapons wholesaler. Gordon and Barnes corner one of the firebugs and open fire when he draws a gun. Secretly smuggling out a brick of inert explosive, he magically disintegrates in a fireball (which is scientifically impossibly). Which leads to more canned, predictable dialog that this show is becoming known for.
Normally Edward Nygma is a bright spot in the episode; however, he fails to deliver during the forgettable double date. The firebugs recruit Bridget as their point man and proceed to wire the first target up with enough C4 to level the entire block. For some reason arsonists in Gotham use explosives to start fires. The writers try to explain it away as thermite in a later scene, but one of the firebugs clearly identifies it as plastic explosive. Sigh.
The next day Barnes blandly discusses the destruction of five buildings in one night as if it’s a petty crime. They struggle to figure out the motive cementing their place as the worst crime procedural on TV. Selena visits Bridgett and tries to convince her to get away from her stepbrothers as soon as possible. This scene looses any impact due to the previously failed setup. Selena’s reasons for trying to help Bridget are one-dimensional, hollowing out their delivery.
An relic-like knife is delivered to Penguin by the firebugs with the intention for it to be passed on to Theo. While in his possession, Cobblepot tries to find out what he can about the blade. Enlisting a wise collector named Edwige, we are treated (or tortured) by a flashback to early Gotham’s high society. A tangled tale of scorned lovers and banished families gives purpose to Theo’s machinations. In a few short vignettes, they manage to dispel any opportunity to create mystery or suspense about Galavan’s motives or true intentions.
Penguin relies on Butch’s brainwashing to craft a brutal plan to infiltrate him into Galavan’s organization, hoping to learn the location of his mother. Harvey and Gordon’s hunch pay off as they catch up to the arsonists. Bridget has fashioned some fireproof gear with an uncanny insect motif. This will naturally lead to her eventual moniker as Firefly.
Abandoned by her stepbrothers, Bridget is grappled by a member of the strike force. During the struggle he is badly burned. Selena helps Bridget escape capture. Galavan is visited by an old friend or mentor from the religious sect that his exiled family sought shelter with. Theo updates him on the progress of their master plan for revenge on the Wayne family.
What’s not working?
The relationships of Gotham‘s core cast are struggling to develop. Most seem like plot necessities rather than rich character growth. It’s been clear to me that Butch’s brainwashing has been overlooked this season. It plays an important part in this episode and indeed this may be the event that explores his programmed loyalty. But it’s long overdue. Essentially I don’t care about the pursuits or even lives of most of the characters. Sure some, like Harvey, would be missed if they perished, but only fleetingly. The writing staff needs to take a hard look at these characters choose to make them more than afterthoughts.
The same successful formula from season one is apparent in these first episodes of season two. The Flash is a show with a lot of moving parts and the writing team is doing a great job developing new and old characters.
The lab’s surprise visitor, Jay Garrick, tries to explain who he is and the present threat of Zoom. The team is skeptical of Jay’s story; Barry in particular is not willing to take his word for it. Having lost his speed battling Zoom, Jay has no way to prove his claims. Caitlin begins testing him to see if he is in fact a speedster from an alternate Earth (Earth 2). The team discusses the theory of a multiverse; Stein and Cisco take the lead breaking it down. Joe is confused and takes his leave to use his skills and pay the bills.
Zoom makes his first full appearance as he transports a metahuman — Sand Demon — onto Earth-1 via a dimensional breach. Zoom is a flickering, shadow=black horror, sporting blue lightning. He promises to return his pawn to Earth-2 if he kills the Flash. Newcomer to the series, Officer Patty Spivot, petitions Joe to allow her to join his meta-human taskforce. Joe is dismissive, refusing to hear her out and denying her request. Sounds like there are a few trust issues this episode.
Barry locks Jay in a holding cell, despite his warnings about the threat Zoom poses. Before Jay can convince Barry to let him help, the scarlet speedster is called to investigate a mysterious fire. When Barry arrives, he is easily able to put out the fire, but is sucker-punched by the Sand Demon. With his ability to turn his body into sand and manipulate his form, he is easily able to escape the Flash.
Undeterred, Spivot shows up at the fire scene and uses her forensic skills to impress Barry. Joe once again refuses to allow her to join the task force. Back at STAR Labs, Barry gives Cisco some material left by Sand Demon to examine. Jay finishes his tests and tries once again, without success, to convince Barry to trust him. Barry is still unsettled from Wells’ betrayal.
While examining the material left by Sand Demon, Cisco feels another vibe and catches a glimpse of Sand Demon’s activities here on Earth-1. Notably disturbed, he struggles to understand the changes happening to him. Team Flash determines Sand Demon’s real name, Eddie Slick, and Joe tries to track him down. Spivot beats Joe to the task, catching him as he tries to flee.
Back at the precinct Joe interrogates Eddie Slick. While observing Joe interrogate Slick, Barry and Patty become fast friends. Eddie’s alibi is confirmed, lending credence to the alternate Earth concept. Cisco and Stein work on a method to detect the breach allowing Zoom to transport his assassins across the multiverse.
Barry’s brooding forces Iris to pull him aside and discuss his trust issues. She urges him to come to terms with it before his team loses faith in him. Later, Joe releases Eddie and to his surprise moments later is attacked by his alter ego Sand Demon. Rendering Joe unconscious, Sand Demon takes Spivot hostage to lure Barry into a fight. Learning of the abduction, Barry relents and asks Jay for help. Jay, the Crimson Comet, teaches Barry to throw Speed Force lightning, indicating that it is the best shot for defeating his foe.
With the team unable to find where Sand Demon is hiding Spivot, Cisco rushes off to tap his new powers for a solution. Stein is getting suspicious of his behavior and follows him, arriving moments after Cisco has experienced another dimensional vibration. Unwilling to explain to the professor what is going on he rushes off to tell Barry.
Jay joins Barry in the field to fight Sand Demon. While Jay distracts his Earth-2 enemy, Barry scoops up Spivot, moving her a safe distance from the bomb. Tables turn on Jay and put him in mortal danger, since he’s been bluffing Sand Demon into thinking he’s still got his powers. Barry races in, throwing a powerful bolt of lightning that fuses Sand Demon’s body and shatters it. Arguably one of the Flash’s coolest takedowns to date.
Back at HQ, Jay bonds with several of the members of the team. He and Barry discuss the threat of Zoom and what their next actions should be. At the precinct. Joe presses Spivot for the real reason she wants to join the task force. In an emotional scene, she reveals a mutual connection to the Weather Wizard, Mark Martin. Martin brutally killed Spivot’s father and she wants to do anything in her power to ensure others do not have to suffer as she has. Joe confirms Spivot’s appointment to the metahuman taskforce. As he is leaving Joe is caught off guard by a surprise visit from his ex-wife.
Cisco and Stein find a way to map the breach, unfortunately they have discovered there are in fact 52 inter-dimensional breaches. This is a nice Easter egg for comic fans, referring to 52 different Earths present in the current DC Comics universe. Looks like Team Flash is going to be very busy this season. Mysteriously Stein collapses while discussing the breaches; his fate awaits us in the third episode of this season.
As the show closes we get a brief glimpse of Earth-2 and Harrison Wells, who is apparently a revered hero in this alternate world. There should be some fireworks when Barry undoubtedly encounters him later his season.
As I mentioned at the beginning, you can see similar plot threads with the “villain of the week” structure. However I feel it works well for this series. The writers have established an almost unquantifiable threat and the Flash’s rogues gallery is vast. I am enjoying the diversity of the stories. With nearly ten main characters, the show is doing a great job keeping roles fluid and highlighting different characters week to week.
There are hints of the emotional tone present from season one, but it’s early and Zoom has not had a chance to become a real threat yet. Buckle in and stay tuned; this season promises to be quite a ride.
Four episodes into season two of Gotham and the show is still tonally uneven. The police procedural is ethereal, there only in spirit. The villains are so comical they are often satirical. And then there is the plot…
Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) arrives like a hurricane with expected results. His dramatic Gordon-esque introductory speech ends with several officers in the unemployment line and a stern warning that corruption will be met with swift action. Harvey is not happy, but Gordon is, finally having an ally who thinks like he does. Only time will tell if Barnes can shock him, my guess is yes.
Boldly, Theo Galavan summons Penguin, revealing his master craft organizing the Arkham breakout and Jerome’s rampage. Theo brazenly tasks Penguin with the assassination of his rival candidates for mayor. Penguin refuses with one the show’s best line to date – “You’re looking for an assassin. It’s Gotham, they’re in the phone book, under A.” Unfortunately Theo is a step ahead of Penguin, revealing that he is holding Cobblepot’s mother hostage.
Barnes takes the first step toward starting his war on crime in Gotham by assembling Unit Alpha — a strike force consisting of four, hand picked, corruption free rookies. The captain places the unit under Gordon’s command. Galavan accepts an award for his heroism in front of city hall. A spray of bullets interrupts his acceptance speech, but spurs him on to announce his bid for mayor.
Uncharacteristically Penguin immediately murders mayoral candidate Janet Caulfield as ordered, perplexing his loyal companion Butch and most viewers. Alfred intercepts Selena as she waits for Bruce to get out of school and makes it clear that he does not want her in the young master’s life. Edward invites Kristin (Ms. Kringle) to his apartment for an awkward dinner that is nearly disastrous, but ends on a promising note for Nygma.
Bruce treats Theo to dinner for his bravery during the fundraiser. Theo takes the opportunity to plant seeds of discontent in Bruce’s mind about the GCPD and their lack of progress regarding his parents’ murder. Possibly a sign of deeper manipulations, Theo introduces Bruce to his niece, Silver St. Cloud.
Opting out on the second murder, Penguin unleashes Victor Zazz to finish off Theo’s competition. Zazz pursues his target into the streets where he encounters Unit Alpha. His target slipping away and outgunned by Gordon and the strike force, Zazz uses the environment to make his escape. This attack firmly sets Barnes’ sights on the Penguin, whom he dubs “enemy number one”.
What’s not working?
The show’s drama rarely feels real. Like a bad soap opera, I expect the music to cue as the actors stop speaking to sell the importance of a scene. Perhaps too much is going on, too many parallel stories, everything seems slimmed down, never given time to simmer. The police procedural element is virtually non-existent. Supporting departments like forensics and autopsy no longer get any screen time unless the thin plot demands a scene break.
And finally Barbara Kean continues to be marginalized. Cut her loose already; let the poor actress get into a role she can shine in. She is a pet of the main villain; her dialog even indicates that she is bored in the role.
The aesthetic is for the show is reminiscent of Burton’s Batman universe. The Gothic set design, wardrobe, skillful lighting, and shot composition is great. Having been nominated or won in almost every category for production, visually the show is beautiful. This episode’s ending shot with Penguin silhouetted is fantastic, capturing the character’s anguish beautifully.
LIMITLESS Chases a Legend and Finds the Friend Zone
Episode 3 – “The Legend of Marcos Ramos”
Still stressed about harboring his secret connection to Eddie Morra, Brian confronts the nurse sent to care for his father. She convinces him that she has nothing but the best intentions and if Morra needs something he will be in touch. Brian is only partially satisfied with this answer, but has to focus on what he can control.
With his recent string of success consulting with the FBI they have loosened his lease, allowing him to use NZT while he commutes to work. Their thought is that he may be able to use the information/experiences he has along the way during investigations. This freedom affords Brain a chance encounter with his ex-girlfriend, the one that got away. The animated neurotropic enhanced Brian quickly impresses his old flame, securing him a date later that night.
The task force is charged with solving the sudden murder of a colleague and former mentor Ray Dickson. Dickson was working with a local corporation to vet candidates to take over as CEO. The Bureau believes one of these candidates may be involved in Dickson’s death. Brian is asked to reassemble some of Dickson’s shredded documents in search of a motive for the assassination. He enlists the help of his two guardians, whom he playfully calls Mike an Ike. Together they uncover that one of the candidates had some suspicious banking and email activity. It does not take Brian long to uncover a child-producing affair and eliminate this suspect.
Brian meets with his ex for dinner. Post NZT, he struggles to be as charming but discovers the reason for their breakup and an opportunity to rekindle the relationship. The next day Rebecca takes Brian to a storage facility she tracked back to Dickson. Inside they find that he was running a private investigation into a powerful cartel boss named Marcos Ramos.
With this new lead, the team refocuses and contacts an NYPD task force tracking Ramos. Brian has a hunch about the identity of La Sabre, the suspected gunman. After constructing recreations of the two previous assassinations and looking at crime scene photos, Brian recognizes a face in the crowd: a 6’ 6” Finish Biathlete from the 1998 Winter Games. With the aid of the NYPD task force they bring in the gunman and secure a confession to the two previous murders, but not Dickson’s.
Back to the drawing board, they pour over the clues to see if they missed something. While Boyle and Harris search through some old files following a lead, Brian uses the afternoon to help his ex-girlfriend, Shawna. Using his heightened intellect, he discovers a connection to a disgraced artist that could establish Shawna’s building as a historical landmark, preventing it from being torn down. It’s a touching moment when Brian realizes he is truly happy, but cannot build a life with her due to his complicated life.
Rebecca summons Brian to the Bronx the next day to help her look for any missed clues at the crime scene. The two discover some graffiti that matches a note found with Dickson’s body. Investigating the building, they find Ramos’s body in a freezer and deduce that the NYPD task force is corrupt. Brian uses his chemically imparted gift to track down the fleeing members of the task force and help bring Dickson’s killers to justice.
They did not wait long to ratchet up the drama. We are introduced to Mr. Sands, an associate of Morra, the show’s first true villain. His arrival and encounter with Brain set the stage for the intense, emotional drama the early episodes promised.
Brian has a touching scene with Rebecca as the episode closes. He describes his sudden and painful break up with Shawna. Their relationship continues to deepen and the scene provides my new favorite slogan – Beer o’clock.
It would be easy for the writers to fall into the trap of letting Finch solve everything. They are, however, doing a great job of spreading the workload, careful not to marginalize any character.
They are very creative in the way they show Brian’s problem solving skills in action on NZT. They further add a splash of humor when Brian daydreams about various situations. This is a nice addition to the overall tone of the show and helps to highlight Brian’s character. They use various film genres like exploitation films of the 70’s and old TV shows.
There are a few subtle elements the show uses to indicate the differences in scenes when Finch is using NZT and not. Primarily the color palette changes from a slightly washed out look when he is not on the drug and then warms up when he’s using it.
Set your DVR’s for Episode 4 – “Page 44” Airs on Tuesday, October 13th at 10pm on CBS.
Six months have passed since the defeat of the Reverse Flash and black hole opened in the skies above the city. Barry (Grant Gustin) stands alone in the control room of the S.T.A.R. Labs particle collider, genesis point of his now miraculous life and dreams of a future full of possibility and triumph. The reality is much more bleak, as we will soon find out.
Scarred by the events of last year Barry has distanced himself from the rest of Team Flash, preferring for their safety, to work alone. Processing the scene of a murder at a power plant, he keeps to small talk with Detective Joe West (Jesse Martin) and quickly rushes off to process the evidence before the conversation can deepen.
As the city plans a celebration in honor of the Flash to honor him for his heroic actions Joe, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Iris (Candice Patton) try to figure out how to convince Barry to attend as his alter ego to accept the key to the city. Cisco is now working more closely with Joe and is developing an anti-metahuman restraint called the Boot. Joe urges Iris to try and reach out to him. Later that night Iris finds Barry using his speed to rebuild Jitters, a coffee house damaged by the black hole. She tries to convince him to attend the rally and let the citizens support their hero. Barry refuses, rejecting the notion that he saved the city.
We finally get details about the cliffhanger as Barry remembers the events of that tragic day. With the black hole threatening to tear apart the city and eventually the world, the Flash races to certain death straight into the vortex. Miraculously, his super speed slows the singularity’s expansion, giving Professor Martin Stein (Victor Garber) a chance to hatch a plan to seal the vortex. Stein and Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell), the two halves of Firestorm, must separate inside the black hole using the massive energy release to collapse the vortex. Without much debate they launch into action. Their plan works, but after their separation Stein is the only survivor.
As Flash Day commences, Joe and Cisco watch and wait, hoping Barry will have a change of heart. One of the errant members of Team Flash, Catlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), makes an appearance, but keeps her distance. Surprisingly, the Flash shows up and receives thunderous applause and cheers. This marks the first time most have seen the speedster standing still. As he accepts the key to the city, a new attack reminds everyone that Central City is no longer a normal city. Whisking the mayor out of harm’s way, the Flash confronts the latest metahuman – Atom Smasher.
WWE’s Adam “Edge” Copeland portrays the villain and bats the Flash around like a ragdoll. Cisco’s high tech restraint is not effective against the size and density-changing villain. As revealed in season one, Cisco is a metahuman as well, with the ability to see alternate dimensions. His powers kick in during the fight and we see Atom Smasher talking to this season’s big bad – Zoom. Quick thinking by Flash and Joe drive off Atom Smasher before he can cause any real damage. In the process his identity is revealed. Shockingly, he looks like the murder victim from the power plant.
Cisco pays a visit to Mercury Labs, where Catlin now works, and convinces her to help him further identify Atom Smasher. Iris and Joe decide that Barry has had enough time to process the events of six months ago and start work to reassemble Team Flash. Barry contemplates his recent encounter and is visited by a lawyer representing Harrison Wells (the Reverse Flash). He is given an option: watch a final message from Wells, or let S.T.A.R. Labs get auctioned off.
Back at the collider control room Barry encounters the reassembled Team Flash. Reluctant to allow them to get involved, Barry quickly realizes that they will not budge. Rhythms of the old team emerge and they track the new threat to a nuclear waste facility. Barry’s second encounter is almost disastrous; with Prof. Stein’s help they distract the Atom Smasher long enough for Barry to escape.
After his recovery and some sage advice from Joe, Barry visits Catlin at Mercury Labs. Barry is remorseful, still carrying the burden of Ronnie’s death. Catlin convinces him it was not his fault and supports him as he views the message from Wells. Amazingly, Wells has drafted a message confessing to the murder of Barry’s mother. Rushing the information to the Joe, Barry waits for hopeful news from the DA. The confession is enough, and to exonerate his father and secure his release from prison.
In the mean time Team Flash regroups to put a stop to Atom Smasher’s activities once and for all. Together they gain insight into his powers and plan to lure him to a power plant where they will overload his energy absorbing powers. The Flash lures him into a fight with a comical Easter egg related to another well know DC hero. The plan is a success and Atom Smasher is defeated. Overloaded with radiation and dying, he reveals that Zoom promised to take him home (Earth 2?) if he killed the Flash.
As the episode closes a 14-year nightmare ends for Barry and his father is acquitted for the murder of his mother and released from prison. Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) joins the team at Joe’s house to celebrate his release. The party is full of happy reunions and memories, but not for long. In the season opener’s most confusing development, Henry Allen decides, for unclear reasons, to leave Central City. Barry takes it surprisingly well, but is understandably confused.
For me the first episode of The Flash’s sophomore season fell a bit flat. We received some answers to questions from last season, most notably the fate of the city. Unfortunately the Atom Smasher was under utilized as a villain and defeated with absurd simplicity. He could have easily been a multi-episode threat. Consider the amount of time and effort that went into the VFX to realize his powers and it’s clearly a shame.
Then the writers take the season long driving force of Barry Allen, his father’s wrongful imprisonment, and resolve it in less than 10 minutes. Worse, they ship his father off to distant cameo land moments after his release. Complex and emotional characters were the hallmark of last season. Grant and John’s scenes together where some of the most emotional of the show, and to marginalize his release and continued involvement in the show is disappointing.
Still, I look forward to the development and reveal of this season’s villain – Zoom.