Thursday, March 26, 2015

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 17 - Suicidal Tendencies

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.



Plot

It's John and Lyla's wedding day, but their honeymoon is doomed to be a short one. A US Senator has been taken hostage in a Kasnian hospital and Amanda Waller wants to send in The Suicide Squad. Naturally spending more time in the company of Floyd Lawton is the last thing John wants during what was meant to be a romantic weekend but at least he can enjoy watching Lawton squirm as Cupid decides that Deadshot is her new boyfriend.

Back in Starling City, Ray Palmer has turned his considerable fortunes and talents toward tracking down The Arrow following the allegations that Starling City's vigilante is killing once again. Can Oliver evade The Atom or persuade him he truly is being framed?  And where will Felicity's loyalties fall if push comes to shove?


Influences

The film American Sniper (Floyd Lawton's background before becoming an assassin), The John Ostrander run on Suicide Squad (a plot involving a corrupt senator named Joseph Cray), the New 52 Suicide Squad (Deadshot unwittingly attracting a mentally unstable female teammate and his uncharacteristic heroic sacrifice) and the Mike Grell run on Green Arrow (law enforcement turning on Oliver Queen after he is framed for a crime he didn't commit).


Goofs
So did Ollie just forget about the tasered-into-unconsciousness Arsenal following his fight with The Atom as he spun around and walked off dramatically?


Performances

Michael Rowe is given a wonderful episode to go out on as Deadshot. The background for this variant of Floyd Lawton is unique to the Arrow universe and it is to Rowe's credit that - despite everything we've seen Lawton do before this episode - he successfully turns Lawton into a likeable anti-hero, if not a tragic hero.

David Ramsey always excels when he is given a chance to take the spotlight for an episode. This episode is no exception.

Brandon Routh does something nearly impossible in this episode - play a heroic character who we have to see as a villain. Ray Palmer's heart is in the right place and he and Oliver Queen have a lot more in common than he thinks.  Ironically, it is the traits he shares with Ollie - a desire for justice and a stubborn certainty in his own righteousness - that set them at odds with one another.


Artistry

The script for this episode balances two complex plots with equal ease, both of them centering around the season's continuing theme of identity and the conflict between differing aspects of the self - chiefly the desire to do risk one's life doing good versus the desire to settle down with loved ones.

The fight scene between Oliver and multiple dopplegangers is well shot.

The effects work for the scenes with The ATOM suit are brilliant.


Trivia

A friend of Lyla's named Rick was meant to officiate the wedding, but we are told he was sent overseas to the South Sudan. This could be a reference to Col. Rick Flagg Jr. - the leader of Task Force X - who led two different versions of The Suicide Squad in the comics.

Thea Queen is seen at the wedding, but doesn't have any spoken dialogue in this episode.

Senator Joseph Cray was a villain the the John Ostrander run on Suicide Squad. A corrupt senator who used the squad for his own ends, he threatened to reveal the team's existence to the world. He was killed by Deadshot who, having been given orders to stop Col. Rick Flagg from killing the Senator, satisfied the orders by killing Senator Cray himself.

Interestingly enough, given that the other major plot of this issue involves The Atom, Senator Joseph Cray's son Adam Cray briefly took on the identity of The Atom in the comics.  This new Atom was recruited by Ray Palmer as a replacement and joined The Suicide Squad while Ray Palmer secretly took on another identity in order to infiltrate a gang of size-changing criminals called The Micro Squad.

The country where Senator Cray is taken hostage is called Kaznnia with a z in the hearing-impaired subtitles for the episode but the caption on the establishing shot spells it Kasnia with an s.

Both spellings have been used in materials on-line relating to the fictional nation, which was originally created for the DC Comics Television Animated Universe and the nation featured in several episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond. It is a Balkan nation, which was nearly conquered by Vandal Savage in the modern day.

In an interview, Deadshot actor Michael Rowe confirmed that the Deadshot/Cupid flirtation was a nod to the similar relationship between Harley Quinn and Deadshot in the New 52 Suicide Squad.

The background given for Floyd Lawton in this episode is unique to The Arrow universe. No version of Floyd Lawton in the comics is an ex-soldier. Here, Floyd is an sniper who came home with a severe case of PTSD, turned to drinking heavily and became violent. This led to him being arrested, his wife getting a restraining order against him and Lawton being recruited as an assassin for a group called HIVE.

Floyd Lawton's ex-wife in the comics is named Susan Lawton. His wife on the show is credited on IMDB as Susie Lawton.

In the comics, Susie Lawton was not the mother of Floyd's daughter Zoe.  Zoe was Floyd's daughter by a woman named Michelle, who was introduced in the 2005 Deadshot miniseries.

There are a few references to Brandon Routh's portrayal of Superman in Superman Returns. When he offers his evidence that Oliver Queen is The Arrow to Laurel Lance, she scoffs at his "x-ray vision". And when Oliver and Ray meet in Ray's office, Oliver addresses him as "Super Suit."

The Atom confronts Arrow and Arsenal at the Meltzer Power Plant. This is named in honor of writer Brad Meltzer, who wrote the Green Arrow storyline The Archer's Quest.

The episode ends with a message directing viewers to The Wounded Warrior Project.


Technobabble

Ray Palmer is able to confirm Oliver Queen is The Arrow from a distance using Felicity's face identification software and a high spectrum portable radiograph (a.k.a. x-ray machine).


Dialogue Triumphs

Lyla:
You really want to do this?
John: Hell yes!  Do you?
Lyla: Even more than the first time.
John: Good. Because I'm not letting you get away from me this time.
Lyla: I'm holding you to that.
John: Good.  I love you, Lyla.
Lyla: I love you too.

There's no dialogue as such, but there is an amusing moment when Felicity, John and Roy all have their phones go off when a news article about The Arrow starting to kill again goes on-line in the middle of the reception.

Lawton: Love is a bullet in the brain and if you believe any different you're as crazy as she (Cupid) is.

Ray: Oliver Queen is the Arrow.
Felicity: (trying to sound confused and failing) Whaaaat?
Ray: I have a 140 IQ and three PhD's. It's pretty hard to insult my intelligence but I think you just did.

Felicity: Oliver's not a killer.
Ray: This isn't the first time he's been judge, jury and executioner.
Felicity: He hasn't killed anyone in two years.
Ray: That really is not your best argument.

Felicity: (tearful) He knows. God, he knows. Last year, Ray's fiancee was killed by Mirakuru men. And now he wants to protect the city. So he built a suit out of military grade technology. And he wants to put you in jail. So he used my software to track you down and he scanned you with his X-Rays. And now he knows that you're The Arrow. And he's going to tell the cops.
Ollie: Palmer knows I'm The Arrow?
(Felicity nods)
Ollie: And he has his own mission to protect the city?
(Felicity nods) 
Ollie: When were you going to tell me this?!
Felicity: I have been getting a lot of that today. Look, it's not important. Here's what is - he's going to tell the police who you are!
Roy: Ray built a super-suit? That's kind of awesome.
(Ollie glares at him)
Roy: And reckless!

Cupid: Baby, does it hurt bad?  You were SO brave!
Lawton: Okay. I take it back. I think I DO want to die.

Ray: Huh. Arrow.
Ollie: Super Suit.
Ray: I prefer The Atom.

HIVE Drone: People like you don't get to have a love, children, families. These are just distractions to people like you. For people like you, love is a bullet in the brain.

Felicity: How did it go with Ray?
Ollie: Not well. Your new boyfriend is stubborn. Once he's made his mind up, that's the end of it.
Felicity: Sound like anybody we know?
Ollie: Not only is he untrained, he's unstable.
Felicity: Unstable?!
Ollie: Yeah! Yes! Yes, he's unstable, Felicity. Because he's flying around, in a weapon, looking for a man that has already killed eight people. He's going to be next.
Felicity: (muttered) You'd like that, wouldn't you?
Ollie:
Excuse me?
Felicity: You never wanted me to be with him.
Ollie: That's not true.
Felicity: Yes it is.  All that talk about wanting me to be happy was just talk.
Ollie: No, I meant what I said. Right up to the point where I found out he is just like me.  You deserve better.
Felicity: What I deserve is to be with someone who isn't afraid of being happy. Ray told me wanted a true partner. In his work. And his mission. And in his life. Ray wants to be a hero AND a human being!
Ollie: Yes, because he hasn't realized yet that he can't be. I told you that I couldn't be with you and save this city.  Neither can Ray.  He's just too new at this to know that.

The Arrow: The man you think I am... he'd kill you here and now. I told you to back off! And you didn't listen!
The Atom:  So kill me. Go ahead. Show Felicity the kind of man you really are.
(The Arrow lowers his bow)
The Arrow: I have nothing to prove to her.  But you do.
(He offers The Atom a hand up. He takes it.)
The Arrow:
She chose you. So trust her.

Senator Cray: The Suicide Squad? Well, you are true to your name if you think that the three of you think you can just shoot your way in here.... wait... there were four of you!
(The mercenary behind Cray screams and falls down dead as Deadshot begins sniping from a distance)

Cupid: Floyd, what about you, baby? How are you getting out?
Lawton: I'm not.
John: Lawton, what are you talking about? That wasn't part of the plan! You said you could find your way down!
Lawton: Yeah, I lied. Someone needs to cover your escape. Me up here is what gets you out down there alive.
John:
Why?!
Lawton: You and your new wife. You just get back to your baby girl, alright John?


Continuity

Ollie comments that it had been five months since he saw Ray Palmer and now they've seen each other twice in as many weeks.  This is a reference to their first meeting in 301 and their meeting last week in 316.

Ray Palmer is a registered minister.  He says it is a long story why.

Laurel's arm is in a cast, per her training with Nyssa Al Ghul.

Felicity caught the bouquet at the wedding.

Ray Palmer has a 140 I.Q. and three doctorates.

The arrows The League of Assassins uses are perfect replicas of the ones Oliver uses.

Laurel refers to the events of 105 and how Oliver was accused of being The Arrow but cleared of all charges.

Ray deduces that Laurel is The Black Canary based on her relationships with Oliver and Ted Grant.

It is confirmed that Floyd Lawton's first target working for HIVE was Andrew Diggle.

In the aftermath of the mission, Senator Cray buys the silence of the hostages and Floyd Lawton is identified as the leader of the terrorists who took Cray hostage.

Lyla resigns her position with ARGUS. John is ready to quit Team Arrow but Lyla seems to talk him out of it.

Ollie and John toast Floyd Lawton with Ollie's vodka.  The last time they made this toast was in 311.

In the end of the episode, the mayor is shot dead. The episode ends as we hear another arrow being fired as we see Maseo - in an Arrow suit - lining up a shot on Felicity.


Location

The Republic of Kasnia.


The Bottom Line

A solid send-off for The Suicide Squad and a wonderful confrontation between The Arrow and The Atom. And on a show that has become famous for its epic cliffhangers, this one may be one of the best.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 16 - Rogue Time

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.

Plot

Having run fast enough to travel back in time one day and having replaced his past self, Barry is able to stop Weather Wizard's plans for revenge on Joe West before they can even begin.  Dr. Wells warns Barry that trying to change the past could only create a worse future, but Barry doesn't care. Not when he now knows for certain that Iris shares his feelings and he has a chance of winning her heart.

Unfortunately, while Barry may have broken multiple laws of physics, Murphy's Law still works. And without an excuse to ditch his brother's birthday party, Cisco may be heading down a road that will see him dead at the hands of Captain Cold and Heatwave.


Influences

Countless Flash comics about the perils of time travel and altering the timeline, The Butterfly Effect and the Back To The Future movies.


Goofs

Wells finds security camera footage of Cisco getting into a car with Lisa Snart, but notes that the licence plate is iced over.  How is that possible when Captain Cold didn't have his ice gun back at that point and Central City appears to be in the middle of spring?


Performances

Once again Wentworth Miller steals the show as Captain Cold.

We don't see much of Peyton List as Lisa Snart but what screen time she has provides a fun, flirty counterpoint to her cool and controlled brother.

Carlos Valdes has been getting a lot more serious material over the past few episodes.  He's proven that Cisco is more than mere comic relief.

Again, Tom Cavangh kills with a speech about fatherhood that is such a wicked and yet oddly touching bookend to last week's speech, made all the more screwed up by the fact that now we're fairly certain he DOES mean it... in spite of everything he's done.


Artistry

The scene in which Barry and Captain Cold negotiate is very well shot, with both figures' faces hidden in shadow as everything is revealed between them.  


Flash Facts

Dante Ramon is the name of Cisco Ramon's older brother in the comics.

In the comics, Lisa Snart (aka The Golden Glider) was Leonard Snart's younger sister. Lisa shared her brother's love of the cold and became a world-class ice skater. She also dated her brother's fellow Rogue, The Top, who coached her spinning making her an even better skater. After The Top went mad and died as a result of his plan to blow up Central City, Lisa swore revenge on The Flash and decided to go into the villain business herself.

As The Golden Glider, Lisa used a number of gadgets to try and kill The Flash. Chief among them were a pair of special skates, based on her brother's technology, that generated their own ice, allowing her to skate on any surface and even create ice paths in midair by freezing the ambient moisture.

In The New 52 universe, Lisa Snart somehow gained the power to astral project her spirit whilst her body lay in a coma. This astral form could move at fantastic speeds, phase through solid matter, fly and also controlled a number of deadly tendrils. Calling herself Glider, she reformed The Rogues and set them after The Flash.

The gun Cisco makes Lisa seems similar to the signature weapon of the Flash/Green Lantern villain Goldface a.k.a. scientist Keith Kenyon. Kenyon developed a formula that gave him golden skin and increased his strength. He also wore gold-platted armor and utilized a gun that covered objects with liquid gold. He eventually reformed and became an honest union leader in Central City.

Captain Cold says that he learned how to put his gun together and take it apart. This is a reference to the original comics where Leonard Snart, despite lacking the technical know-how to build his cold gun in the first place, did have the knowledge needed to assemble, disassemble and repair it with the proper parts.

The agreement Captain Cold and Barry make regarding how they will proceed mirrors the code of conduct Captain Cold created for The Rogues Gallery in the comics.  Chief among these rules are an avoidance of lethal force except in cases of self-defense, not robbing anyone who can't afford the loss and a promise not to go after the friends and family of superheroes and law-enforcement officials.


Technobabble

Wells describes what Barry has done by rupturing the time continuum as "temporal reversion".  He describes time as a fragile construct and says that an deviation could result in a cataclysm.

Wells theorizes that Barry's emotions, circumstances and cortisol levels could influence whether or not he can time-travel when he runs at the appropriate speed. Barry further suggests that his adrenaline levels might be a factor.

Captain Cold is able to alter the intensity of his cold gun. He zaps Dante Ramon with a blast that causes first-degree frostbite.  At that point, the fingers can still be saved with proper treatment. Without it, they require amputation.

Caitlin explains away Barry's behavior to Iris and Eddie as Lightning Pscychosis. The symptoms include mood swings, sudden outbursts of affection and other lapses in judgement. She says it's a very uncommon neurological condition and kerauno-medicine is just now starting to study it. This is, of course, total BS.


Dialogue Triumphs

Wells: Whatever tragedy you think you've just averted, time will find a way to replace it. And trust me, Barry, the next one could be much worse!

Cisco: These are nice things.
Lisa: Oh, we're just squatting.
Cisco: We?
Lisa: Yeah. Me and my brother.
Cold: Hello, Cisco. What exactly are your intentions with my sister?
Cisco: Oh come on! (sighs) I should have known better! I am not that lucky!  (beat) Please don't kill me for kissing your sister.
Cold: You kissed him?
Lisa: You're not dad, Lenny.
Cold: I know. Dad's in jail. Sterling role model.
Cisco: What do you want, Snart?
Cold: Guns. Hot and cold, to be precise.
Cisco: There is no way I'm making weapons for you!  Never again!
Cold: Mick?
(Heatwave brings in a bound and gagged Dante Ramon)
Cold: I know I would do everything in my power to protect my family. The question is... will you?

Cold:
My sister needs a weapon. Something that suits her personality.
Lisa: Make me something pretty and toxic. Like me. How about something with gold?

Barry: I screwed with Time and now Time is screwing with me!

Wells: You only traveled back in time one day. What if you traveled back decades?  Centuries? Imagine the havoc you could wreak.
Barry: But.. I will have the opportunity to travel back in time in the near future and save my mom. Are you saying I shouldn't?
Wells: I'm saying how many more people could die if your mother lives?

Wells: Making a choice between two people you love - that is the hardest dilemma you will ever face.
Cisco: Well, you won't have to worry about me making the wrong decision again.
Wells: All you proved today, Mr. Ramon, is that you are human. All you proved today is that you love your brother. And the reason that we all want you to stay is that we love you too. Now, I am not a parent. But, in many ways, you have shown me what it is like to have a son.

Barry: I know Cisco told you who I am.
Cold: Can't really blame the kid for giving you up. You or his brother?  C'mon!  I put him in a tight spot.  Same kind I got you in right now. Can't really stop me now that I know who you are.
Barry: I could speed you to my own private prison where you'll never see the light of day.
Cold: You could. But then I won't be around to stop my own private uplink that will broadcast your identity to the world. So, the million dollar question - what to do with me now, Barry Allen?
Barry: I won't let you keep stealing whatever you want, whenever you feel like it. It needs to end!
Cold: Can't do that. It's what I do.
Barry: Then find a new line of work!
Cold: Don't want to.
Barry: Why's that?
Cold: The same reason you keep running after guys like me. The adrenaline. The thrill of the chase. I love this game. And I'm very good at it.
Barry: Then go play it somewhere else! Leave Central City!
Cold: Can't do that either. I love it here. (inhales deeply as if savoring the air) This city is my home.
Barry: You've seen what I can do. You know that I can stop you. You want to keep pushing your luck?  Go for it! But from here on out, no one else dies. If you're as good as you say you are, you don't have to kill anyone to get what you want.
Cold: ...that's true.
Barry: And if you...or anyone in your... rogues gallery... goes near any of my friends or family again... I don't care who you tell my identity to. I'm putting you away.
Cold: I guess your secret's safe... Flash.  For now.
(Barry starts to put his cowl back on)
Cold: Oh, I don't suppose you'd give me a ride back to town, would you?
(Barry runs off, leaving Cold in the middle of the woods)
Cold: (scoffs) The Rogues. Cute.

Reverse Flash: (To Mason Bridge) You really were onto the story of the century. Well, this century anyway.


Continuity

According to Gideon, Barry's actions do not change the future that Wells is watching.

As a result of Barry's actions, numerous events from the previous episode change.

Barry already knows all about the evidence at the scene of the coroner's murder.

Barry captures Mark Mardon and locks him up in The Pipeline before he can start stalking Joe West.

Captain Singh is no longer hospitalized.

Without the excuse of staying at work to track Mardon, Cisco goes to his brother's birthday party with Caitlin.

Barry breaks up with Linda Park.

Barry interrupts Mason Bridge before he can ask Iris to investigate Harrison Wells and the people who work at STAR Labs.  As such, he doesn't learn who Barry is, his connection to Wells and they never have the conversation that originally makes Barry suspicious of Wells.

Barry makes a coffee date with Iris.

Extremely depressed following the party, Cisco goes out for a drink with Barry.

Cisco meets Lisa Snart, who takes him back to her brother's hideout.

Cisco remakes the cold and heat guns for Captain Cold and Heatwave. He also makes a gun for Lisa Snart, that seems to coat objects with gold.

Barry manages to drive a wedge between himself and Iris at their "date", professing his love again and creeping her out once again.

Captaiin Cold robs the Santini crime family's casino.

Eddie Thawne punches Barry at the scene of Snart's latest robbery, because of what he said to Iris.

Dante confesses to Cisco that his high school girlfriend - Melinda Tores - had a crush on Cisco and that he told her that Cisco wanted to be a priest so that he could peruse her himself, because he was jealous of Cisco and his intelligence.

Cisco reveals The Flash's secret identity to Captain Cold.

Joe West has a conversation with Iris, telling her about the fight between Barry and Eddie and telling her she has to settle things between them, no matter what her feelings are.

Because he was held hostage by Cold, Cisco never stumbles across the secret hologram projector and his conversation alone with Dr. Wells - while similar - is much more touching and does not end with Cisco's death.

Caitlin smooths things over with Iris and Eddie, explaining Barry's odd behavior as a rare condition caused by being struck by lightning.

Mason Bridge is killed by Harrison Wells and declared "missing" by the local police.

Barry is now suspicious of Wells, following Bridge's disappearance.  He tells Joe West that he now believes he was right about everything regarding Wells.


The Bottom Line

An amazing episode that has left me hungry for a The Wire-style spin-off focusing on The Rogues. Time travel stories are a tricky thing at the best of times but the script handles the science well enough even as everything we thought we knew last week changes.  The guest stars are all wonderful and the final scene between Barry and Snart may be my personal favorite moment of the show so far.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3 - A Review

Galactus approaches Earth and only Squirrel Girl can stop him!  Of course there's also a hostage situation at the Empire State University Campus Bank and only Squirrel Girl can stop that! And then you've got Whiplash running around, determined to beat the stuffing out of Squirrel Girl as part of a convoluted plan to get revenge on Iron Man. And yes, only Squirrel Girl can stop him too.

Man, are all the other heroes slacking off this month, or what?!


I've joked before about not having the words to describe my love for this book. It's not much of a joke. I really don't know how to describe this book to those who aren't immediately enraptured by the idea of a comic about a superhero turned college freshman who can make an armored suit out of squirrels. Because if that idea doesn't make you say "Oh my gods that is the most amazing thing ever and how did I live without such joy in my life?", there's little I can say to convince you of the glory that is Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.



This is a fun book. The kind of fun we rarely see in comics these days. I don't need your Secret Wars. Just give me more of Doreen Green and I will be a happy fanboy.

Batgirl: Endgame - A Review

As The Joker's latest attack on Gotham City continues, Batgirl finds herself tasked with a special mission - find and rescue Lucius Fox's youngest daughter. Finding a single girl in a city the size of Gotham would be tricky even without mass rioting by a populace that is slowly being driven mad by a Joker-designed virus. But since when has Barbara Gordon ever wanted things to be easy?


You never realize the importance of dialogue and thought balloons in a comic until they are gone. It's particularly jarring in this case given that Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart write such fine dialogue. But the action of this issue proves that they can spin a story just as well without words.


Bengal proves more than capable of conveying that story through the artwork. The flow from panel to panel is brilliant and one of the finest examples of silent storytelling in a comic since Andy Ruton's Owly. Bengal's coloring is also noteworthy, with the entire issue being rendered in warm colors, with nary a blue or green to be seen.

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #6 - A Review

I hesitate to summarize the story of Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #6. Not for the sake of avoiding Spoilers, but because I'm not really sure there's a way to summarize the story so far.

Quite a lot happens in this issue involving UNIT, holes in the fabric of space and time, dead men not being dead anymore, Clara being an awesome teacher and a fair bit of daring-do and do-daring. There's even a brand new monster! But none of it is easily explained or codified into a single paragraph.


What I can say is that Robbie Morrison has perfectly captured the spirit of Series 8 of Doctor Who. The snark of the Capaldi Doctor is on full display throughout the issue and I found myself laughing at him and Clara Oswald more than once.  This whole issue feels like the storyboard for a lost episode of the television series.


This feeling is further aided by the artwork of Brian Williamson.  Williamson possesses a photo-realistic style that does a grand job of capturing the likeness of all the show's regular characters. His only failing is a tendency to apply his inks a little heavily on occasion but the vast majority of the book looks perfect.