Thursday, October 19, 2017

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 6, Episode 2 - Tribute

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


Plot

As the FBI launches an investigation into the ties between Green Arrow and Star City's mayor, Ollie's former ally - Bratva Captain Anatoly Knyazev - returns to Star City with revenge on his mind. Does Anatoly have something to do with Oliver's identity being outed in the media? Or is another enemy responsible?


Influences

The Green Arrow comics of Judd Winick (Oliver tries to balance being mayor and a vigilante as various forces try to expose his identity and/or bring him down.) and Mike Grell's The Longbow Hunters (Oliver's talk with Rene is reminiscent of the "I won't make orphans" conversation he has with Dinah Lance in this story.)


Goofs

Oliver setting a Russian thug on fire using a stove top doesn't seem to fit with the team's non-lethal force policy.

Oliver says that he's never lied to his kid before. He seems to be forgetting that he lied to William about just being a friend of his mom during the few times they met and played before William was abducted by Damien Darhk.

Oliver asks John Diggle to replace him as Green Arrow because he can't afford to risk William's only parent. This still seems like a dick move on Oliver's part given that John Diggle is also a father with a young son, even if John Jr's mother is still alive.


Performances

Juliana Harkavy and David Ramsey do a great job playing off each other as Dinah confronts John about the secret he is keeping from the team.

If you had told me that the best scene of this episode would involve Oliver Queen and Rene Ramirez talking about fatherhood, I wouldn't have believed it. Yet Stephen Amell and Rick Gonzalez rock that moment.


Artistry

The top-down view of Oliver as he enters City Hall and faces the mob of reporters is a nice arty shot.

Intentionally awkward as it is, the lampshade-hanging dialogue between Felicity and Curtis as to just how the heck they are paying their bills is hilarious and a nice "take that" to the pedantic fans who like to know these details.

Good cinematography and fight choreography on Team Arrow's storming the Russian restaurant hideout.

There's a nice dramatic shot as Green Arrow and Spartan look over the entire shipyard they have one hour to search.


Trivia

The episode opens with the same introduction as in Season Five, with Oliver explaining that he is Mayor of Star City as well as The Green Arrow.

When holding a press conference to address the photos that show him in Green Arrow's costume, Oliver glibly remarks that they could have doctored Bruce Wayne's head onto that body and jokingly asks if Bruce Wayne left Gotham to come to Star City recently. Bruce Wayne, of course, is the secret identity of The Batman - probably the most famous billionaire playboy vigilante in all of comics. This is the first direct reference made to Bruce Wayne existing in The Arrowverse with a character talking about him directly. Previous props have suggested the existence of Bruce Wayne and Batman, such as a future newspaper from The Flash mentioning a Wayne Tech/Queen Inc. merger in 2024.

Quentin refers to Oliver having been caught "in flagrante de-Arrow." This is a paraphrase of the Latin phrase "in flagrante delicto" - literally, "in blazing offense".  Legally, it is used to refer to a criminal who has been caught in the act of committing a crime. An equivalent idiom in English would be "caught red-handed". The phrase is also referred to use to someone being caught in the middle of sexual activity, usually in an embarrassing fashion, such as being found to be cheating on a spouse or being discovered having sex in a public place.

Oliver says he can't leave town because of a meeting with a delegation from Markovia. In the comics, Markovia is located in Western Europe between France, Belgium and Luxembourg. It is home to the hero Geo-Force, who is its hereditary king.

The episode stinger features a new logo, which incorporates logos for all the members of Team Arrow. This includes a bird (Black Canary), an angry cartoon dog's face (Wild Dog), a stylized T (Mr. Terrific), an eye (Overwatch),  a Spartan-style helmet (Spartan) and an arrowhead (Arrow)

Tetrodotoxin is a real-world neurotoxin, mainly found in the liver and gonads of certain fish, amphibians, shellfish and octopi.


Technobabble

Channel 52 uses bar-codes to track internal traffic. The envelope containing the photo of an unmasked Green Arrow came from inside their offices. It was not mailed, delivered or otherwise sent.

Felicity created an image analysis algorithm. Curtis later recodes it to make it more efficient.

The photo of Oliver was taken digitally, printed on a standard ink-jet printer on stock paper.

Curtis is coding in SQL and Java, plus a little Swift, in his new job.

Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin that inhibits the firing of action potentials, preventing the nervous from carrying messages and muscles from flexing in response to nervous stimulation. The antidote begins working immediately, but an infected subject typically takes 72 hours to recover fully.

Felicity knows how to code in Python.

Oliver makes use of a trick arrow with a hypodermic needle on the tip to inject Tarkov with the antidote to the terodotoxin.


Dialogue Triumphs

(Oliver walks in through the front door of City Hall. A small army of reporters is waiting there.)
Oliver: 
Anything interesting on the news last night?
(The reporters begin to shout questions as Oliver makes his way to the top of the stairs.)
Oliver: (raising his voice) 
Please! If you want to know what I have to say, it would probably help if you could hear me.
(The reporters go silent. Oliver smiles.)
Oliver: 
Thank you. I'm going to tell you two things. Both of which you probably already know. First, and this is important...I am not The Green Arrow!
Female Reporter: If you're not The Green Arrow, then who is?!
Oliver: (raising his voice again) Number two! Photos can be doctored! They could have put Bruce Wayne's head on that body! (aside to Rene, who is standing to his left) Has Bruce Wayne left Gotham to hang out in Star City recently?  No! (tone growing more sarcastic) Now, if I was running around the city during the day and managing it as mayor while running around at night frightening criminals as a vigilante, that really would make me a superhero. But I'm not. I'm just the mayor. Thank you very much.
(Oliver turns away from the reporters, followed by Rene and Quentin.)
Quentin: You seem to be taking this in your stride.
Oliver: I've been here before with you.
Quentin: (sighs) Yeah, but I didn't have a photograph of you in flagrante de-Arrow.

(Felicity and Curtis are discussing how they are making ends meet since leaving Palmer Tech and how Curtis had been doing freelance coding in his spare time.)
Felicity: So you just had a secret job this whole time and you didn't tell anyone about it?!
Curtis: I thought we all had secret jobs?
Felicity: No!
Curtis: Except for John. Maybe. What does he do for money? That's something that's been perplexing me.
Felicity: He's - he's married to the Director of ARGUS.
Curtis: Oh yeah. That's right. She does make a lot of money. Heh.
(Felicity gives Curtis a death glare.)

Anatoly: Don't worry. We are not here for you. We have business with our Markovian cousins.
Oliver: These are legitimate businessmen.
Anatoly: I never said my business was not legitimate. Unless you know something maybe a mayor should not know?

William: You wouldn't understand...
Oliver: I do understand. I lost my mom. And I lost my dad. And I was a lot older than you are now, but I remember exactly how it feels. It's sad and it's scary and it's lonely. And I swear to God I will never let that happen to you.
William: It's not up to you.

(Oliver answers his phone. It is Anatoly.)
Anatoly: Hello, Oliver.
Oliver: Anatoly. Why are you doing this?
Anatoly: I need money. And from what I understand, your city recently came into possession of twenty million dollars.
Oliver: There are plenty of cities in Russia.
Anatoly: Hmm - true. Beautiful ones. But you see, I have been exiled. Apparently Bratva thinks I am too weak due to my friendship with you. So now, I show everyone. (harshly) I am not weak. And you and I? No longer friends. (mock friendly) I know sometimes you need persuasion to do right thing, so I help you (turns his camera phone to reveal his hostage) This nice man? Has paralysis of muscles. Soon, will have lung collapse and not be able to breathe. This happens in maybe... three hours?  Now, I have cure for his problems. Do you have cure for mine?

Rene: Lance told me about what happened at school. Kids are mean.
Oliver: He's not worried about bullies. He's worried about me. He thinks I'm going to make him an orphan.
Rene: Damn.
Oliver: I told him... I said, "That will not happen. I will always come back." (pause)  I've never lied to my kid before.
(There's a long pause as Rene seems to struggle of something to think to say.)
Rene: You know... I'm not exactly Father Of The Year, but... white lies are kind of an important parental tool. I remember telling Zoe that she came from a cloud. I really hope her mom set her straight on that one.
Oliver: So help me with this. How do I reconcile... that he's right? Because every time that I'm in the field, there's a chance I don't come back. And that he's alone. And now you're telling me that he's gonna have to lie to an FBI agent so he doesn't lose his father to prison?

(Green Arrow finds Anatoly standing behind a seated, comatose Tarkov.)
Anatoly: I ask for twenty million specifically because I knew you had it. You trade this man's life for new police station?
Green Arrow: Not exactly.
(Green Arrow draws an arrow and shoots Tarkov in the shoulder.)
Anatoly: I do not think you understand how this whole rescue thing works.
Green Arrow: No, I think I do.
(Tarkov suddenly gasps. Anatoly looks down and sees the needle-tip on the arrowhead.)
Anatoly: Some sort of antidote. Very clever.
Green Arrow: Now step away from him Anatoly. He's not part of this.
Anatoly: I made him part of this.
(A bullet suddenly flies through Tarkov's other shoulder. Anatoly reveals the gun he had trained on his back with his hidden hand.)
Anatoly:
And I never got my money.
Green Arrow: What the hell has happened to you? Not even Gregor would have done that!
Anatoly: Yes, he would have. You never saw because you were too naive. You still are.
Green Arrow: We were friends.
Anatoly: Yes. But I see how you treat your friends.
Green Arrow: No, Anatoly. No. This is on you. You used to be an honorable man!
Anatoly: I -am- an honorable man. Did I have bomb planted in your son's school? Did I have him kidnapped? Tortured? No. Because even though we stand apart, I am still good man. I wonder... what would happen to William if he ran afoul of someone who is not good?
(Anatoly turns to leave. Green Arrow reaches up to draw an arrow.)
Green Arrow: Anatoly! Don't you move!
Anatoly: Don't bluff. We have been here before. We both know you will not kill me.
(Green Arrow stares at him... then slowly lowers his drawing hand.)
Green Arrow: Why did you leak that picture of me?
Anatoly: As Kapiushon? (shakes his head) I did not. I told you. I am honorable man.


Continuity

Quentin refers to his own efforts to prove that Oliver Queen was a vigilante in Season One and Season Three, back when he was a police officer.

Star City is being visited by a delegation from Markovia -a country which has been mentioned several times on the show and was visited by John Diggle and The Suicide Squad in 216.

Smandra Watson is the FBI agent in charge of the investigation into Oliver Queen's ties to Green Arrow.

Oliver refers to having been cleared of being a vigilante five years earlier in 105 . Agent Watson replies that he was cleared of being The Hood - not Green Arrow.

Oliver passed a polygraph test regarding his being a vigilante in 105.

Felicity refers to the events of 105 and John Diggle posing as The Hood to ruin the case against Oliver while he was under house arrest.

Curtis refers to Christopher Chance and the events of 505. It is explained that The Human Target is out of the country so he can't help them out at this moment.

568 people work at Channel 52's Star City office.

Felicity is still unemployed and has almost burned through all of her severance pay from Palmer Tech. She refers to her nightmare job from the start of Season 3 (working at Tech Village) and says she'd rather go to Iron Heights than back to working there.

Curtis has been paying the bills by doing freelance coding in his spare time. He did not take a dime from his husband after they got divorced.

John Diggle, we are told, is unemployed but that Lyla makes enough money as the Director of ARGUS to support them both.

Vortex Industries is a Markovian company who wish to build a factory in Star City. Oliver has offered them a subsidized lease which will bring 800 jobs, minimum, to Star City. Their CEO is named Alec Tarkov.

Curtis finds a way to trace cryptocurrency.

Oliver advises that the best way to deal with a gang of bullies is to go for the nose of the leader.

Once again, Spartan freezes up drawing a gun on someone.

Arrangements were made to say that Samantha Clayton died in a car accident. No body or wrecked car was provided. The only "proof" is an autopsy and an accident report - both likely faked by Felicity.

William is seen punching something covered with Flash logos. Oliver says that it was a gift from a very good friend - likely Barry Allen.

Dr. Schwartz - Team Arrow's secret Doctor - provides Dinah and John with a tetrodotoxin antidote.

John was caught by some shrapnel in the explosion we saw in the flashback of 601. He is on a prescription for pain-killers relating to his injuries. He reveals to Dinah that he has degenerative nerve damage which is why he's been hesitating when drawing his gun.

John freezes up a second time while Black Canary is being strangled.

Anatoly denies having sent out the picture of Oliver as Green Arrow.

Curtis' algorithm confirms the picture of Oliver as Green Arrow was doctored. This does not slow Smandra Watson's determination to continue her investigation.

Felicity asks Curtis to go into business with her. He agrees.

John agrees to tell Oliver about his nerve damage. He changes his mind after Oliver asks him to take over being The Green Arrow for him.


The Bottom Line

A surprisingly solid episode with great performances from the entire ensemble and a smart script that firms up the status quo before blowing it out of the water in the final moment.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 2 - Freakshow

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




Plot

Traveling to the year 1870 in search of an anachronism, The Legends discover that the infamous P.T. Barnum has acquired a genuine saber-toothed tiger for his traveling circus.  Their accidentally releasing and enlarging the tiger in their efforts to return it to its own time turns out to be the least of their problems, after Barnum decides that some of The Legends would be fantastic additions to his freak-show.


Influences

John Ostrander's Suicide Squad (idea of Vixen losing control of her emotions when using her powers) and countless other science-fiction stories in which super-powered beings are forced into performing in a carnival.


Goofs

Gideon notes early on that P.T. Barnum's reputation as an unethical huckster is greatly exaggerated in modern times. Yet the entire plot of this episode is dependent on the idea that P.T. Barnum would hold people against their will and force them to perform in his freakshows at gun point.


Artistry

Good fight choreography on the Sara vs. Sharpe fight.


Trivia Of Tomorrow

When considering which anachronism to tackle first, the team ponders traveling to the sinking of The Titanic. Professor Stein is oddly adamant about not setting foot on the infamously doomed ship, saying that "whoever built that ship ought to be shot." This is a riff on the fact that Stein's actor - Victor Garber - played Thomas Andrews Jr, The Chief Architect of The Titanic, in the 1997 film Titanic.

Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1890) was an American entrepreneur and politician, who achieved fame and fortune through his management of various traveling carnivals and museums. Though primarily remembered today for his "freak shows", P.T. Barnum was a reputable manager who represented Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind as well as the midget General Tom Thumb. Indeed, he is fondly remembered in his home town of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he served one term as mayor and two terms as a representative in the state legislature.

Barnum's crowning achievement came in 1871 when he established P.T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Circus. Or, as it was more commonly promoted, The Greatest Show on Earth. He would join forces with fellow circus owners James Bailey and James Hutchinson in 1881, forming the show that would eventually be rebranded Barum and Bailey's Greatest Show On Earth in 1887. This circus, in turn, was bought by The Ringling Brothers in 1907, who combined it with their own circus in 1919, forming a traveling circus that would last until May 21, 2017.

As Gideon notes, Barnum is often erroneously credited with the quote, "There's a sucker born every minute," and he would never have said anything to insult his patrons. This is born out by the historical record, where despite his reputation as a shameless self-promoter, Barnum was by most accounts a kindly man who preached honest business practices and practiced what he preached. One example of this comes from a less well-known Barnum quote - "Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business."

P.T. Barnum is played by actor Billy Zane. Perhaps most famous for playing the role of Cal Hockley in the 1997 film Titanic, Zane is no stranger to comic book adaptations. He famously played The Phantom in the 1996 film adaptation of the classic pulp comic and provide the voices for both Jason Blood and The Demon Etrigan in Batman: The Animated Series.

At one point, a group of acrobats can be seen in the background, practicing in red leotards with green leggings which resemble the costume of Batman's sidekick, Robin. This could be a nod to The Flying Graysons - a family of circus acrobats whose ranks included Dick Grayson - the first Robin.

The strongman in P.T. Barnum's show wears a costume that seems to have been inspired by the DC Comics hero B'wana Beast.

One of the odder creations to come out of DC Comics' Silver Age (and that is saying something!), B'wana Beast first appeared in Showcase #66 (January 1967) and was created by Bob Haney and Mike Sekowsky. Abandoning the life of the idle rich promised by his millionaire father, Michael Payson Maxwell traveled to Africa to become a park ranger on one of the animal preserves there. After his plane crashed, Mike took refuge in a cave where he became stronger by drinking the rainwater he found there. He fought a giant red ape, subdued it and the ape gave Mike a helmet which gave him the power to talk to and control animals. The ape explained that Mike had been chosen to be the champion and protector of all Africa. The helmet also gave Mike the power to merge two animals together, creating chimera - hybrid creatures with the traits of both animals.

Writer Grant Morrison would revamp the concept of B'wana Beast in his Animal Man series, noting the many, many problems with a white outsider being declared the savior of Africa and using a word which means "Master" in Swahili as part of his superhero code name. Mike would later pass his helmet on to a South African activist named Dominic Mndawe, who took up the name Freedom Beast.

Morrison also established Mike Maxwell as being employed by a nature preserve in Zambesi - the home nation of the heroine Vixen.

Mick uses the word "embiggen" to describe what Ray did to the saber-tooth tiger. Embiggen is a made-up word, first used on the Lisa The Iconoclast episode of The Simpsons. It has since then invaded the common parlance of Internet smart-asses, where it is used to describe the process of making something bigger. While not in Webster's Dictionary, many find embiggen to be a perfectly cromulent word.

P.T. Barnum refers to Nate as "The Man of Steel" and then says that phrase is very catchy.  The Man of Steel is, of course, a common nickname for Superman.

Sara identifies herself as a dog person, saying that she likes her pets dumb and loyal. Perhaps not coincidentally, Sara's actress, Caity Lotz, owns a French bulldog named Beezlee, whom frequently appears in her social media.

The idea of the wielder of The Tantu Totem lose control of their emotions while using their powers first appeared in John Ostrander's Suicide Squad. There, the Mari McCabe version of Vixen lost her temper while fighting a drug kingpin called Cujo and killed him.


Technobabble

Ray reverse-engineers the Time Bureau technology that Mick stole from Rip in the previous episode. This gives The Legends the ability to detect and track anachronisms.

The hyper-molecular compressor is a more powerful and portable version of the technology that allows The ATOM suit to shrink. Essentially, it's a shrink ray.

Ray recognizes the odd feces at the carnival as being that of a feline but not a species he ever encountered before. The color and viscosity indicate a carnivorous diet but the meat was tough - perhaps elephant or rhino hide - and took a long time to pass.

The Time Bureau rate anachronisms on a 1-10 scale of severity. The saber-tooth tiger in P.T. Barnum's circus, while contained, is a Level 1. Enlarged by Ray and set loose, the severity is elevated to Level 4. When Jax and Ray are captured and forced into Barnum's freakshow, the severity increases to Level 6. It goes up to Level 8 when Amaya and Nate are captured.

Title 16, Section 3035 of The Global Treaty on Time Travel gives The Time Bureau the authority to arrest rogue time travelers who endanger the timeline. The Treaty was negotiated between The United Nations and Rip Hunter.


Dialogue Triumphs

Jax: You built a shrink ray!
Ray: I'm not particularly fond of that name. (dramatically) I'm calling it the hyper-molecular compressor! It's a more powerful and portable version of the tech from my suit.
Nate: So, a shrink ray?
Ray: Essentially.

Mick: If I see a clown, I'm out of here.
Jax: What? You afraid of clowns?
Mick: (hesitantly) No... I... just don't like their stupid faces... and funny shoes and... razor sharp teeth.

P.T. Barnum: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome, one and all, to The Best Show on Earth!
(The crowd cheers)
P.T. Barnum:
That's a working title!

(Nate tries and fails to use his powers.)
Nate: I must be dehydrated, man. This never happened to me before, I swear!
Amaya: Where have I heard that one before?
Nate: Not from me!

(Amaya explains that she left Nate to save her granddaughter's life.)
Nate: Why didn't you say anything? I hated you for what you did.
Amaya: I needed you to hate me so that you would move on. If you knew how much it hurt me...
Nate: ... I would have found you.
Amaya: I wanted to protect my granddaughter. And I wanted to protect you.
Nate: Well, no offense, Amaya, but considering we're both stuck in a rhino cage, I'd say your plan backfired.

Sara: Get Rory. You two have to save the others.
Stein: Wait - the two of us? Are you mad?!
Sara: You can do this. I have faith in you.
Stein: Why?!

P.T. Barnum: We had it all! We had action! We had romance! We had flaming things in the sky! You wait until next week's show!


Continuity

Nate and Amaya were living together in Central City 2017.

Nate's favorite food as a child was chocolate-covered donuts.

Amaya still cooks from scratch. Of all the modern conveniences she adapted to, cooking from a mix is not among them.

Amaya left Nate on his birthday, after seeing a news broadcast regarding her granddaughter, the current Vixen, who was caught on video fighting crime in Detroit.

Ray perfects the new version of his shrinking technology that he was working on while at Upswipes.

Mick Rory has a violent hatred (not fear, mind you!) of clowns.

As an Eagle Scout, Ray can interpret over 175 kinds of feces.

Ray is allergic to cats.

Sara retrieves Amaya from 1942, since nobody on the current team has experience handling animals.

Nate is shown to have an account on Upswipes.

Sara recognizes the Time Bureau agent spying on The Legends as Gary - a.k.a. the agent she slept with and stole the badge of in Starling City. His agent number is 1066.

Since The Legends involvement, the anachronism around Barnum's carnival in 1870 has grown from a Level 1 to a Level 6.  After Amaya and Nate are captured, it rises to a Level 8.

Nate cannot use his powers to transform into living steel when he is dehydrated.

Amaya didn't return to Zambesi in 1942 right away. She went to Detroit in 2017 first to watch Mari, her granddaughter, in action.

Amaya confirms that her decision to leave Nate had nothing to do with him and everything to do with making sure that her amazing granddaughter, who was saving so many people, came into being.

Rip Hunter confirmed that time had not yet solidified and that Mari would disappear if Amaya stayed in 2017 for too long.

Ava Sharpe refers to Confederate zombies (204), Quentin Turnbull's cronies (206) and speedsters (Eobard Thawne throughout Season Two) as previous menaces The Legends fought.

Ava Sharpe has been with The Time Bureau for five years and extensively studied The Legends' previous adventures.

Sharpe is able to hold her own against Sara in a fight and freely admits that Rip should have recruited her for The Time Bureau.

Sara is a dog person and thinks cats are jerks.

Sharpe lets it slip that Rip is letting The Legends run loose because he thinks they're needed to fight somebody but doesn't say who. (This is a reference to Mallus, first mentioned in 301.)

Stein knows how to make balloon animals and is a surprisingly talented clown and mime.

The director of The Time Bureau is named Bennett. Gideon is able to send reports directly to them.

Sara keeps a framed picture of herself with Laurel and Oliver in her office on The Waverider.

Amaya started having trouble controlling her temper when using her powers one month earlier, and refers to the final scene of 301, where we see her kill a team of Belgian soldiers.

Ray has a problem with returning library books on time.

Sara tells the rest of the team what she figured out about Rip hiding the existence of some great evil that is coming from them.

The final scene shows the resurrection of Kuasa - Mari McCabe's older sister and one of the villains of the Vixen animated series - by a black-robed woman, who identifies herself only as a follower of Mallus.


Locations

Central City - early 2017 (flashback to Amaya and Nate's apartment)
Wisconsin - 1870
Zambesi, M'Changa Province - 1942


Untelevised Adventures

Amaya spied on Mari in Detroit in 2017.


The Fridge Factor

Averted hard, as Sara and Amaya seem to be the only competent members of the team in this episode.


The Crisis Factor

It beggars belief that Nate, Ray and Jax would be stupid enough to use a modern smart phone in an 1870s bar, much less agree to show P.T. Barnum their powers in action. 

Stein's plan to disguise himself as a clown (somehow knocking one out and stealing his clothes in the process) in order to enrage Mick into creating a distraction so he can get close to Jax may be the most insane plan in the show's history.


The Bottom Line

As P.T. Barnum says, this show had everything "action... romance... and flaming things in the sky." What it doesn't have, however, is an ounce of coherence, with Gideon noting that Barnum was not the unethical huckster legend suggests only for the episode to portray him as exactly that. The only thing that holds the episode together is the charisma of the cast and even that is sorely tested when everyone is written to be far stupider than they should be. Here's hoping next week's show is better.

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 4, Episode 2 - Mixed Signals

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



Plot

Barry has his hands full when confronted with a new metahuman who has the power to control technology and relationship trauma, as Iris insists on the two of them entering couples' therapy. Cisco is in similarly dire straits, having to deal with an angry Gypsy after he ditches their date night to tend to his duties at STAR Labs.


Influences

The film Risky Business (Barry's dance scene while fixing breakfast is a tribute to the movie), The Flash comics of Mike Baron (character of Kilg%re), Geoff Johns (character of Warden Wolfe) and Mark Waid (Barry's watching TV at super-speed, exploration of relationship problems caused by moving faster than significant other) and the Green Arrow/Black Canary comics of Andrew Kreisberg (couple with a secret identity who work together have to talk in code during a couples' therapy session)


Goofs

The opening sequence in which Kilgoree kills a man by repeatedly stopping an elevator just looks goofy as all get out, even before we see the scowling Kilgore trying to look menacing in his hoodie.

Given Gypsy's workaholic personality when she was introduced, it doesn't ring true that she'd be angry about Cisco having to put life-saving work ahead of their date. Indeed, it seems she'd be more angry about him blowing off work to be with her, regardless of the holiday.

Great play is made of the fact that Ramsey Deacon wasn't in Central City at the time of The Particle Accelerator Explosion so some outside source must have given him super-powers. This is not the first time Joe and Barry have encountered this, as Deathbolt - the villain Team Arrow confronted in A319 - somehow acquired super-powers despite being in Opal City on the night of The Particle Accelerator Explosion.


Performances

Grant Gustin does a fantastic job of playing the hyper-happy to be alive again Barry Allen with just the right note of Type-A personality to make his sudden change seem natural and not just a forced character note to create drama.


Artistry


The sequence in which The Flash takes an out-of-control car apart at super-speed is well executed.

Even more impressive is the sequence where Barry catches the pieces of a fragmentation grenade in mid-explosion and disposes of them safely.


Flash Facts

Much like Supergirl, this season of The Flash has apparently abandoned the classic introduction setting up the show, with the lines "My name is Barry Allen and I am The Fastest Man Alive..."

Ramsey "Kilgore" Deacon is an original character, unique to the DCTVU. His ability to psychically manipulate electronics, however, is a fairly common power-set in DC Comics. Perhaps the most famous technopath in the comics is Victor "Cyborg" Stone - a member of The New Teen Titans and founding member of The Justice League in the New 52 reality. Other prominent technopaths include Brainiac, Gizmo, the Cyborg Superman Hank Henshaw, Metallo and Kilg%re.

The original Kilg%re first appeared in The Flash #3 (Vol. 2) (August 1987) and was created by Mike Baron and Jackson Guice. The original Kilg%re was an electro-mechano-organic lifeform who required energy to live. Effectively, Kilg%re was a sentient computer virus who could control any machine it passed through and even take over human bodies. Originally only perceivable by beings moving at super-speed, The Flash fought it with the help of Cyborg. It would later reemerge to menace The Justice League

More recently, Kilg%re has appeared in the DC Rebirth Cyborg series, where it has formed an alliance with Gizmo and The Calculator against Victor Stone and built a giant robot body for itself.

The DCTVU version of Kilg%re is an piece of malware developed by Ramsey Deacon which was stolen by three other programmers. Deacon later takes the name Kilgore after developing the power to sense the presence of nearby technology and control it mentally.

The sequence in which The Flash saves one of Deacon's victims by taking a car apart while it is in motion is a classic stunt from The Flash comics.

Barry makes reference to the HBO series Silicon Valley.

At one point, when Kilgore is controlling the new Flash suit, Barry's armor inflates, causing him to appear incredibly round and overweight. This is a visual nod to The Flash #115, where a special gun caused The Flash to absorb moisture and gain weight, swelling up like a balloon.

This episode marks the first appearance of Warden Wolfe - the man in charge of Iron Heights prison. The penultimate scene of the episode show Wolfe menacingly staring at Ramsey Deacon in his cell - a hint at his true sinister nature.

First appearing in The Flash: Iron Heights (August 2001) and created by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, Warden Geoffrey Wolfe is a no-nonsense lawman who hates criminals and vigilantes with a passion, particularly metahumans. Ruling the Iron Heights prison with an iron fist, Wolfe adopts extreme measures to keep his charges in-line. This made him unpopular with idealistic cops and The Flash but they reluctantly were forced to accept Wolfe's rule as he was effective in keeping The Rogues locked up. A metahuman himself, Wolfe has the power to cause the muscles of people close to him to seize up, rendering them unable to move.

Warden Wolfe was reintroduced into The DC Comics Rebirth Universe in The Flash #32 - a comic which came out the week before this episode originally aired.


Technobabble


Barry notes that the impact marks on the ceiling and the repeated lateral stress fissures on the frame of the elevator indicate that Kurt Weaver didn't just drop to his death in the elevator - he was shaken to death.

Cisco says the quantum algorithm of The Cortex at STAR Labs should be able to decrypt the hacker code he discovered in the elevator.

Cisco builds Barry a new suit. In addition to being a brighter shade of red, the suit is equipped with self-repairing armor, nano-liquid circuitry, full-spectrum scanning and a custom HUD (Head-Up Display) filled with maps, building schematics and menus for Barry's favorite restaurants. It also contains energy weapons that shoot from Barry's palms, a built-in defibrillator (like the original costume), a dead-lock feature that prevents the costume from being removed (so a villain can't find out his secret identity), a self-destruct sequence (The Babel Protocol) and an inflatable raft to prevent Barry from drowning if he loses his speed while running on water.

One thing that Cisco did not build into the suit? An oxygen tank.

Caitlin determines that the virus code used by the hacker looks like an organic virus with a digital sub-based.. This leads the team to conclude that their hacker is a metahuman whose powers let him control machines.

Most organic viruses mutate in order to avoid being killed by antibodies.

An injection of glucose can be used to treat insulin shock.

Cisco determines that Deacon's powers are derived from the binary code in his DNA. He and Caitlin develop a compound encoded with a numerical string pattern of ones and zeroes to invert the order of the code.

The Thinker is able to extrapolate the ending of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony after one morning's study of his 600 other works.


Dialogue Triumphs

(Caitlin, Iris and Wally are facing the opening breach. Caitlin and Iris have guns raised. Suddenly Cisco runs into the room and waves his hands, standing between them and the breach.)
Cisco: Hold your fire!
(Gypsy jumps from the breach and smiles at the crowd.)
Gypsy: Hey.
(Iris lowers her gun but looks somewhat annoyed.)
Cisco: (To Gypsy) Hey. You want to give me a little more notice next time? You know people who want to kill us come through here, right?
Gypsy: Oh. My bad, guys.
Wally: Cisco, that was.... very heroic of you to just jump in, protecting Gypsy like that. It's pretty impressive.
Cisco: Dude, I'm protecting you from her! She would have vaporized you guys.
(Wally and Caitlin both scoff.)
Gypsy: He's not lying.
(Gypsy makes a gun-shooting gesture at them.)
Cisco: As you were.

Dr. Finkel: So what would you say your goals are for this session?
Iris: Uh, well... I just want to know that Barry hears my concerns about our issues with miscommunication.
(As Iris is talking, Barry's phone starts to vibrate. He pulls it from his pocket and looks at it.)
Barry: I've go to go!
Iris: You've got to go?!
(Barry shows her his phone. Joe's Panic Alarm app has gone off.)
Iris: He's got to go.
Barry: Yeah. 
(Barry starts to get up.)
Iris: Umm...
Barry: Sorry. Ah...
Dr. Finkel: (stunned) This was...
Barry: Sorry.
(Barry leaves the room. Dr. Finkel begins taking notes again.)
Iris: You're going to write down that he ran out of here, aren't you?
Dr. Finkel: ... yes!

(Shelia is going out of her way to antagonize Ramsey.)
Shelia: No! I'm not going to apologize because after four years you finally found some balls!
Ramsey: I found something else. Something I never had with my family. Or at MIT. Or with any of you. 
Shelia: Really? And what was that?
Ramsey: Power.
(Shelia suddenly has a pained expression as Ramsey looks at the insulin pump strapped to her side.)
Ramsey: (with mock sympathy)
Oh, you're not still diabetic are you?
(Shelia looks to her side in horror as she begins to gasp for breath.)

Cisco: You're mad at me!
Gypsy: I said it was fine.
Cisco: No, no, no! Rule Number One: When a girl says "it's fine", it is not fine!
Caitlin: Amen!
(Cisco and Gypsy just stare at her.)
Caitlin: I'm going to go.


Continuity


Cisco sets up a 1,000x sped-up loop of all his favorite shows so he could catch up on what he missed after six months in The Speed Force. This suggests that Barry was not aware of what was happening in the world outside of The Speed Force.

Barry is a Game of Thrones fan.

Cisco is still a CCPD Tech Consultant a.k.a. "The Weird Tech Guy", according to Joe.

Caitlin says that she and Ronnie went through couples' therapy together after they started working together.

Caitlin has to struggle to keep herself from changing to Killer Frost in moments of stress, such as an alarm going off.

When Barry and Iris are in the waiting room, Barry sees a newspaper whose front-page headline reads "Mayor Queen Is The Green Arrow". He looks to Iris questioningly about this and she hisses they will talk about it later. This is a nod to the events of A601, where Oliver Queen's secret identity is revealed in the press.

Cisco discovers the common link between the victims - they were all the programmers behind a malware package called Kilg%re. Ramsey Deacon was screwed out of a fortune by his three business partners and is now out for revenge.

Wally West likes punk music.

One-One-One Day is an Earth-19 holiday that seems to be equivalent to Valentine's Day on Earth One. It is meant to be spent with a person you feel that your soul unites with to form one soul. Hence the name, because One Soul + One Soul = One Soul. Gypsy wanted to spend One-One-One Day with Cisco.

Earth 19 also has a holiday called St. Shaquille O'Neal's Day. It apparently does not have Christmas or, at least, does not feature Santa Claus as part of the Christmas celebration, as Gypsy mocks the idea of a man breaking into your home and eating your cookies.

Barry is now fast enough to throw a lighting bolt at himself.

Ramsey Deacon is imprisoned in a special cell at Iron Heights behind three layers of signal-dampening walls. He is not allowed any contact with any kind of electronics - not even electrical lighting. He is only allowed to read paper books by candlelight and laments the loss of his Kindle.

Joe and Barry determine that Ramsey Deacon wasn't in Central City at the time of The Particle Accelerator Explosion four years earlier. Deacon admits that he was given his superpowers from another source but says nothing else, save that the police are about to have their hands full.

Schubert's Unfinished Eighth Symphony was a childhood favorite of The Mechanic.

The Thinker and The Mechanic refer to Ramsey Deacon as "Subject One". He is apparently the first of a dozen metahumans they need to locate.


The Bottom Line

Largely entertaining, despite a weak script dependent on far too much forced drama. Kilgore fails to be a menacing villain and most of the sequences - from the opening elevator scene to Barry's fighting his own suit - are directed in a goofy fashion that reminds one of the bad parts of Richard Lester's Superman 2. Still, the cast manages to carry on and it's nice to see Joe and Wally being given something to do for a change and I like the new, more confident Caitlin Snow.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor: Year Three #10 - An Advanced Review/Preview

Leaving his companions Gabby and Cindy in the charge of his old friend Sarah Jane Smith, The Doctor left Earth to follow the trail of an unusual vortex anomaly. Having finally cornered the source of the odd energies, The Doctor makes a horrific discovery - the anomaly is a future version of Gabby, transformed into a time-sensitive entity of pure psychic energy! Can The Doctor avert Gabby's future before her future self kills him? Or worse yet, creates the mother of all paradoxes by killing her past self?







Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor: Year Three #10 brings the Vortex Butterflies storyline to a satisfying conclusion. The story is the culmination of the epic tale Nick Abadzis crafted around Gabby Gonzales and it is as touching as it is thrilling. Brought to life beautifully by Giorgia Sposito and Arianna Florean, the only reason not to read this issue is if you haven't read any of the series to date - a mistake that should be corrected as soon as possible.

The Final Analysis: 10 out of 10. A must-read for all Doctor Who fans!



Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor: Year Three #10 will be released on October 18, 2017. 

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 2 - Triggers

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



Plot

A psychic bank robber menaces National City, using her powers to trap people within their own worst fears. As Kara figures out a way to fight this new villain, James rankles under Lena's sudden ownership of CatCo Worldwide Media and the mysterious super-strong single-mother named Samantha starts a new job.


Influences

The 1982 The Daring Adventures Of Supergirl series (presence of Psi) and the 2000 film Unbreakable (a parent with superpowers denies this while dealing with a child who thinks they are a superhero)


Goofs


Kara's refusal to tell Alex and J'onn that Psi is attacking her fears seems horribly out of character for the usually honest Kara.

On that note, it beggars belief, brilliant as Lena is, that she hasn't put two and two together regarding Kara's secret identity yet.

Why does Kara open up her shirt in the elevator? Shouldn't there be security cameras that could catch her doing this, even if she does change at super-speed?

The slow-motion effects when Psi starts controlling the construction worker manning the wrecking ball seem forced.

As a character, Ruby seems to be written as far younger than a middle-school age student.


Performances

Melissa Benoist does a fantastic job conveying Kara's panic attacks.

Chyler Leigh's wordless reactions to Jeremy Jordan's reassurances that everything is fine when she finds Winn and Kara in the lab together.


Artistry

The opening montage showing Kara, Sam, Maggie and Alex getting ready for work in the morning is well-shot and set to an interesting song.

The music and camera distortion used when Kara starts to freak out after being attacked by Psi are quite disturbing and efficiently used.

The elevator sequence, which ends with a desperate Kara breaking through the roof of the Catco Worldwide Media building in order to get out into the open air, is particularly well-realized.

The script does a fantastic job of establishing Kara's reactions as typical of an anxiety attack and Winn's telling her that it's nothing to be ashamed of is a beautiful moment.



Super Trivia

The episode does not open with the usual opening with Kara explaining how she came to Earth as a teenager.

As Samantha says, there have been reports of people displaying temporary super-strength in order to lift heavy objects to save lives. Sadly, there's little verifiable evidence for these stories and even less success at replicating these effects in a controlled environment. While it is possible for a "flight-or-fight" response to temporarily increase a person's physical attributes thanks to deadened pain responses and an adrenaline rush, the factor of the increase is relatively minute. So as much as we'd like to believe the urban legend of the 120 lbs. mother dead-lifting a flipped SUV off of her baby, there's no basis in reality for it.

The character of Psi was created by Paul Kupperberg and Carmine Infantino and first appeared in The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #1 (November 1982). Originally a girl named Gayle Marsh, Psi developed psychic powers at the age of 12. Following the death of her parents, she was raised by a scientist who warned her of the approach of an enemy called The Decay. She fought Supergirl several times, thinking Kara Zor-El was The Decay in disguise. Eventually, Psi realized that the man who raised her was an illusion created by her powers - an extension of her own fears. She later joined The Suicide Squad in an effort to gain control of her powers but died on a mission.

In The New 52 reality, Psi made a brief appearance in the Forever Evil storyline. Her background was not specified beyond her being a prisoner in a secret ARGUS facility in Detroit known as The Circus.

A character called Psi appeared in the seventh issue of the New Adventures of Supergirl comic based on the CW show. This Psi was a prison guard at Fort Rozz, tasked with using her psychic powers to keep the most violent inmates subdued. Left as a being of pure spirit following the destruction of Fort Rozz, she turned upon Supergirl, whom she mistakenly blamed for hurting her friend Rampage - an innocent unjustly imprisoned in Fort Rozz, whom Psi had come to view as a friend.

The DCTVU version of Psi has the name Gayle March, like her original comic book incarnation. Rather than being an aspiring superhero, however, she's a thief. Like her comics incarnation, she is a powerful telepath and a telekinetic.

The bank where Supergirl first confronts Psi is located on 25th and Cedar Street.  The number 25 is a reversed 52 - a number frequently included in various DC Comics properties.  Cedar Street could be a nod to Michael Cedar, who was a producer on the first season of Supergirl.


Technobabble


J'onn can't read Kryptonian minds but he can detect signs of residual psychic activity.

Martian telepathy differs from human psionic powers in some technical way that J'onn does not describe beyond psychic metahumans producing a certain kind of psionic interference.

Winn creates a device (a.k.a. Psionic Inhibitor Red) he thinks will be capable of blocking Psi's powers so Supergirl can get close to her. It isn't.

Rubies are the strongest gemstones after diamonds. On Mohs 1-10 Scale Of Hardness, diamonds are ranked 10 and rubies are ranked 9.


Dialogue Triumphs



(Supergirl enters the bank vault, finding Psi standing there, slowly filling a bag with money)
Supergirl: I got you cornered.
Psi: (not looking up or turning around) Do you?
Supergirl: What did you do them up there?
Psi: (slowly turning around) I only wanted to play. But they didn't want to play with me.
Supergirl: Well, you're not getting away with it.
Psi: Oh! (smiles softly) You think you're the cat and I'm the bird. (she turns and zips her bag shut, shouldering it as she looks to Supergirl) You got it backwards. You could join me. Maybe then you'd be happy. You see, money equals happiness. More money? More happiness.
Supergirl: Your priorities are seriously out of whack.
Psi: I know, right? (starts laughing) 
Supergirl: Put the bag down.
(Psi sighs and just fixes Supergirl with a stare. She slowly approaches Supergirl, who suddenly stumbles and nearly falls over. Supergirl backs toward the wall and holds it to steady herself as we get a quick POV shot suggesting that Supergirl is suffering from vertigo. Psi walk past her as the perspective shifts again and we see a POV target of the room going black except for the distant glow of a red sun. We see Supergirl, her breath quickening, as she sinks to the floor, clearly terrified.)

(Kara tells Alex about Psi attacking her with the fear she felt watching Krypton die.)
Kara: How am I supposed to deal with that?
Alex: Well... by remembering that your fears don't define you. You know, who you are as Supergirl? Who you are as Kara? That's what defines you and she'd got nothing on that.
Kara: No... who I am as Kara feels broken. (sighs) I lost Mon-El. Lena keeps asking me where I'm going, which is new and horrible. Alex, I'm trying to be myself again but everything that used to make me feel good like... like a relief? It's - it's disappeared!
Alex: It's not always going to feel like that. I promise.
Kara: My life as Supergirl is the one thing I can count on. I can go out there and help people. I can make a difference in the world. I can... feel strong even though a huge part of me feels so weak and she's taking that away from me. (pauses) And if I don't have Supergirl, what do I have?
Alex: You have me.

Lena: This is new for me too.
Kara: Working with friends?
Lena: No. Having friends. We Luthors don't have friends. We have minions.


Dialogue Disasters


Ruby: Do you know how many people in this world want to have superpowers? Do you know how special it is?
Sam: I'm not special!
Ruby: Yes, you are!
Sam: No, I'm not! I'm just an average mother trying to take care of her kid!


Continuity


Eve Teschmacher is a Lena Luthor fangirl.

Lena takes her coffee black and hates salmon.

Despite Cat Grant having been absent from the CatCo building for the better part of a year, Eve still does not use her private "boss only" elevator.

It was a Danvers' family tradition to get a new planner on the first day of school.

Lena says it was a Luthor family tradition to start the school year by hiring a private investigator to check that their teacher's credentials were up to date. There's a chance she might be joking about this.

Winn and Maggie favor live bands for wedding entertainment. J'onn and Alex favor DJs.

Kara is on the general alert "distro" list at the DEO. Normally only analysts get general alerts, but Kara wanted to know about everything that was going on as it came in.

Kara had episodes stemming from claustrophobia after first arriving on Earth. This stemmed from her feeling trapped in her rocket while witnessing Krypton's destruction. It is these fears that Psi tapped into in order to paralyze Kara, as well as her worry that she sent Mon-El to his death by shooting him into space.

J'onn attempts to create a psychic shield to protect Kara from Psi's influence. Psi proves to be too powerful for him. He later says that Psi is the most powerful psychic he's ever encountered.

Ruby gets into a fight with another girl at her school after claiming her mother has superpowers.

Kara makes use of a Kryptonian meditation technique to calm her mind. She has not done this since coming to Earth since she never felt the need to before now.

It is revealed that Psi does not read her subject's minds - she merely triggers the fear response. We discover this when she asks what it was that made Supergirl so afraid.

Alex recognizes Ruby from 301.

Alex and Maggie never discussed having children. Alex wants to have kids someday. Maggie says she never saw herself being a mom.

At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Sam's new job is as the new manager of L-Corp who is running things while Lena is learning how things work at CatCo.

Sam attempts to bend a crowbar once she is home. She fails to do it.

J'onn receives a psychic message from M'Gann, telling him he has to return to Mars.


The Kryptonite Factor

One of the most powerful psychics in the DC Comics Universe, J'onn has his powers severely curtailed here in order to make Psi more of a threat. Protecting another person with a psychic shield would hardly tax the Martian Manhunter of the comics. Here, J'onn is knocked out by Psi in less than a minute as he tries to shield Kara.


The Bottom Line


Oddly uneven, but largely enjoyable. The performances are great, the effects-work wonderful and Psi is well-realized as a menace but it seems shameful for a character like Psi who has a lengthy history with Supergirl in the comics being reduced to a villain-of-the-week as she is here.

The larger problem, however, is the Ruby and Sam subplot. Ruby seems to be written far younger than her actress would indicate and there's very little that is engaging about Sam as a character at the moment. You know it's a bad sign when you wish more of the episode had focused on James dealing with Lena taking over his role as Grand Poobah at CatCo than on watching Ruby put herself in danger in an effort to prove her mom has powers.

The Flash #32 - A Review

Thanks to Wally West's positive influence, Barry Allen is starting to adjust to his new negatively-charged Speed Force powers. Unfortunately, there's little Wally can do to help Barry with settling in at his new job as Staff CSI at the maximum security prison Iron Heights under the ruthless Warden Wolfe...


Police brutality is a hot-button issue and tensions are heightened on both sides of the discussion. While it's uncertain just how deeply Joshua Williamson wished to tap into that zeitgeist, his reintroducing Warden Wolfe - who famously tortured his super-villain charges during Geoff Johns' run on The Flash - into the reality of DC Rebirth hints that a topical discussion will be forthcoming. Politics aside, Wolfe is also a great foil for a straight-arrow cop like Barry Allen and it will be interesting to see how the two interact in the future.


The artwork for this issue is fantastic, with Christian Duce adding a level of complexity that hasn't been seen in this series in sometime. Duce's more realistic style suits the darker tone of this issue well and Ivan Plascencia matches that aesthetic with deeper colors that further heighten Duce's inks.

The Final Analysis: 9 out of 10. If you haven't been reading The Flash, now is the time to start!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 6, Episode 1 - Fallout

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



Plot

In the wake of Green Arrow's final battle with Prometheus and the destruction of Lian Yu, Oliver Queen finds himself in a new role - father. Balancing his duties as Mayor of Star City and Green Arrow was hard enough. How can he manage that and being there for his son, William?  Particularly when Black Siren - who also survived the destruction of Lian Yu - is threatening Star City with a new gang? Who remains to help Green Arrow save his city? And what new enemies will rise up to endanger it again?


Influences

The Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow (Oliver Queen caring for a child who wants nothing to do with him.)


Performances

Paul Blackthorne and Juliana Harkavy having amazing chemistry together - far better than Blackthorne ever had with Katie Cassidy, ironically enough. The scene of Quentin turning to Dinah for help with his alcoholism is a powerful one.

Honestly, Paul Blackthorne is the episode MVP and the scene of him talking about being a father with Oliver is a moment we never would have expected between those two characters five years ago. If nothing else shows how much Arrow has evolved, that scene does.


Artistry

The script for this episode does a fantastic job of slowly revealing who is alive as it jumps between the flashbacks and the present.

The fight scene with Green Arrow and Spartan in The Bunker with the lights off looks amazing in terms of atmosphere and choreography.


Trivia

This episode marks the first as Arrow moves to it's new time-slot at 9 PM EST on Thursdays. Before this, the shown at 8 PM EST on Wednesdays.

The teaser trailer for Season 6 only showed Oliver Queen, William Clayton, Slade Wilson, Black Siren and Dinah Drake as having survived the destruction of Lian Yu. The IMDB.com page for this episode only listed those characters as being in the episode, as well as Emily Bett Ricakards as Felicity.

The episode opens with a "Last Season on Arrow" notice, though all of the clips come from episode 523.  It  shows Oliver offering to help Slade Wilson find his son, Prometheus taking the rest of Team Arrow to Lian Yu, Samantha Clayton declaring she is not getting on the plane without her son, Felicity explaining to Oliver about Prometheus' dead-man's switch and the island of Lian Yu exploding after he kills himself.

The criminal Team Arrow goes after in the opening scene is a man named Faust. There are two famous Fausts in DC Comics, but neither of them is a weapon's dealer. The first is Felix Faust - a wizard who made an appearance on Constantine in C110. The second Faust, son of the first, is a powerful sorcerer in his own right, who was born without a soul thanks to his father's attempt to bargain it away for more magical power. The deal worked but, much to Felix Faust's annoyance, his son got the power and became a good guy. This Faust, whose first name is revealed to be Alex, has no magical powers but does seem to be obsessed with explosives.

Black Siren mocks Black Canary's new costume, saying she would have gone with fishnets. In the original comics, Black Canary's costume featured fishnet stockings.


Technobabble

The MGM-140 Faust fires at Star City is a "fire and forget" weapon. It's full name is the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATacMS).

Mister Terrific disarms the missile by having his T-Sphere spoof the missile's guidance system and drawing it back over the waterfront where it can detonate harmlessly.

Faust makes use of a false-tooth C-4 implant. It becomes a powerful explosive when submerged in carbonated water.

Sniffers are electronic bomb-detectors that can spot an ounce of explosive materials within a 1000 ft. radius.


Dialogue Triumphs

(Faust has just launched a missile at Star City.)
Faust: You can't stop it! You can't disarm it!
Green Arrow: No. But I have a very smart friend who can.
(Cut to Mister Terriffic, on a rooftop, throwing a T-Sphere after the missile.)

(We see Quentin, sitting at a bar, staring at three filled shot-glasses. Dinah enters and sits next to him. The two exchange quick greetings.)
Dinah:
You did the right thing texting me.
Quentin:  Heh. It's not like I can call my sponsor now, is it?
Dinah: Why not?
Quentin: If I tell him... why I want to drink, what I did, why... why I did it...
Dinah: Yeah. He'd think you're on something a lot stronger than booze.
Quentin: It's like all I got is this guilt. And all I can do is just run... run... run away from it.
Dinah: And run where?
Quentin: To the bottom of these glasses.
Dinah: Well, you're not going to do that. Because you know and I know that's not what Laurel would want.
Quentin: Which Laurel?

(Oliver is standing at Thea's hospital bed. He turns as he hears a figure enter the room. It's Slade Wilson.)
Slade: Hey kid.
Oliver: Hello, Slade.
Slade: How's she doing?
Oliver: She's the same. What are you doing her?
Slade: I popped by to say that the intel you gave me on my son, Joe... it panned out. So I'm heading to Calgary.
Oliver: Well, that's great. I'm very... uh.  I'm happy for you and I hope that... I hope you find what you're looking for
Slade: You don't think I will?
Oliver: I think that finding your son doesn't always go as planned.
Slade: Have things been that hard with you and your son?
Oliver: ... yeah.
Slade: Be patient. But be prepared.
Oliver: For what?
Slade: Choosing between being the man that people need you to be... or the father that your son needs you to be.
Oliver: What do you mean by that?
Slade: You and I walk between two worlds. But we can only do that for so long.
(Slade offers Oliver his hand.)
Slade: Good luck... Mr. Queen.
Oliver: Good luck, Slade.


Dialogue Disasters

Every moment of William's crying about "The Bad Man". The child actor involved looks way too old to be saying the dialogue that was written for him.

Minion: Do you want me to kill him?
Black Siren: I'm not paying you to keep him alive.


Continuity

The first scene of the episode opens Five Months Later. (i.e. Five months after the events of 523.) and shows Green Arrow attacking a ship belonging to an arms dealer called Faust.

The first character confirmed alive is John "Spartan" Diggle, who is seen talking to Oliver on the comms as they are searching for a Faust.

The second confirmed to be alive is Rene "Wild Dog" Ramirez, who appears in a new costume, saving Spartan from being shot in the back.

The third to be confirmed alive is Curtis "Mister Terrific" Holt, who disarm's Faust's missile with his T-spheres.

The flashback to the explosion on Lian Yu shows Slade abandoning the rest of the group to make for the boat on his own. Most of Team Arrow elects to use the sabotaged plane as a shield from the explosions. Samantha Clayton runs back into the jungle to look for William, not knowing he's on a boat with Prometheus. Thea Queen runs after her. Felicity Smoak starts to run with her, is told to go to the plane, falls as she turns around and is helped up by John Diggle as the two are caught in a blast as the island begins to explode.

Rene has received a promotion to Chief of Staff for The Mayor's Office - the job previously held by Thea Queen. This new position includes speech-writing duties for Mayor Queen. Surprisingly, he is good at this part of his job.

A reference is made to Dinah Drake being alive, though she wasn't in the field that night with the rest of the team.

Felicity Smoak is revealed to have survived as she returns to base with the rest of the team's take-out from Big Belly Burger.

Curtis tells Felicity she missed him disarming a missile. She says she's already seen him do that. (It happened in 423).

It is revealed that Oliver and Felicity are still romantically interested in one another, but have held off on restarting their relationship so that Oliver can focus on building a relationship with William without the added baggage of introducing "Dad's Girlfriend".

Raisa, a member of The Queen Family house-staff, makes her first appearance since The Pilot. She is now apparently in Oliver's employee as a house-keeper/nanny for William. It was implied in her first appearance that she was more of a traditional mother to Oliver as a child than Moira Queen was.

William addresses Oliver by his name - not as "Dad" or any other term of fondness. It is later revealed that "the bad man" in William's reoccurring nightmare who killed his mother is Oliver.

Dinah Drake is now a Detective Lieutenant in the SCPD.

Like Wild Dog, Dinah Drake is revealed to have a new suit as Black Canary.

Quentin Lance is still alive and still Deputy Mayor - both facts we learn when Dinah is informed that Quentin missed an appointment to discuss the Police Academy graduation ceremony. 

Quentin is still fighting his alcoholism but has turned to Dinah for support in the absence of his daughters because he can't tell his sponsor the reasons why he's more tempted than ever to return to drinking.

Black Siren blows up SCPD HQ, killing 9 officers, injuring 4 and putting 6 in critical condition.

Both Quentin and Dinah claim to have seen Black Siren's body on Lian Yu after the island exploded. We find out later that they were lying, with Black Siren having ambushed Dinah and Quentin saving her life by shooting Black Siren. They left her for dead and decided to claim that they found her dead so as to spare Quentin the pain of having to explain that he killed his daughter's doppleganger.

In the flashback, Slade went back to look for survivors after the explosion. He saw two of Oliver's friends (Dinah and Quentin) return to the temple to look for survivors. He says that Nyssa Al Ghul returned to the cages to get Artemis. He then takes Oliver to Thea. Specifically, where her body landed.

Diggle seems to be suffering from some form of PTSD, freezing up while trying to shoot a mercenary to save Wild Dog's life. He later volunteers to avoid working in the field, running Comms from Team Arrow's base. Dinah later reveals that she discovered he hadn't fired his gun while he was in The Bunker fighting Black Siren's men.

Reference is made to Dr. Schwartz - the doctor at Starling General Hospital who secretly treats the vigilantes of Star City and is aware of Oliver Queen's secret identity.

In the flashback Samantha was fatally wounded but survived the explosions long enough to make Oliver promise to take care of William himself and be a father to him.

Black Siren's plans to blow up City Hall were a feint, leaving The Bunker relatively unprotected so she and her team could blow it up.

Oliver and the new DA of Star City pull some strings to get Rene another custody hearing for his daughter, Zoe. Rene missed his last hearing due to being abducted by Prometheus.

Thea is later revealed to be alive, but in a very deep coma.

Slade Wilson visits Oliver while he's in the hospital visiting Thea. He says the intel Oliver gave him panned out and he's about to go to Calgary in search of his son.

Black Siren stole a prototype T-Sphere from The Bunker.

It is revealed that Black Siren was saved from Lian Yu by a mystery man in a suit who has a helicopter.

The episode ends with a Channel 52 News broadcast showing a photo of Oliver, in his Green Arrow costume, with the hood down and the mask off.


The Fridge Factor

Samantha is killed to give Oliver one more thing to be angsty about.

Thea is nearly killed to give Oliver one more thing to be angsty about.

Black Canary is severely nerfed in terms of competence in order to build up Black Siren as a villain. (Presumably to appease the Katie Cassidy fans and the Laureliver shipping faction.)


The Bottom Line

Ignoring Black Siren's sudden competence and how annoying a presence William is, this would be a solid episode. Unfortunately, since the main focus of the story is how dangerous Black Siren has suddenly become and how William has come to hate Oliver for no readily logical reason (apart from whatever trash-talking Samantha may have done about his dad when Ollie wasn't around) this means that most of the episode is focused on plot beats we don't care about while things involving major characters are afterthoughts.

The damnable thing is that the cast does a great job selling this despite the logic gaps (Quentin suddenly having an issue with fighting Black Siren, despite taking her down last season), the repetitiveness (Rene is fighting to get his daughter back... AGAIN!) and the just plain unexplained (Whatever is up with Diggle.) It's a shaky start but the last ten minutes is magic.

Batgirl And The Birds of Prey #15 - A Review

The mother of all flu bugs seems to have hit Gotham City and it only seems to be infecting men. With Commissioner Gordon in his death-bed, half of Helena Bertinelli's class out-sick and Oliver Queen having just come into town, all the men closest to the Birds of Prey are endangered. Can they get to the bottom of things or will ace reporter Lois Lane beat them to the punch? And what other unlikely allies might join them in their fight?


Batgirl And The Birds of Prey #15 is a prime example of how terrible artwork can sink a great story. Not only does Roge Antonio seem to have rushed his pencil work and barely inked the artwork but there are numerous examples of figures being retraced throughout the book. Throw in some weird facial expressions and a coloring job by Marcelo Maiolo that leaves Lois Lane and Barbara Gordon as pale as Harley Quinn and there's not a single page of this book that looks good!


This is doubly unfortunate because The Benson Sisters have outdone themselves on the script for this issue. Bringing Lois Lane into the action adds a whole new level to things and the guest stars are perfectly handled. The final page offers up an honest surprise that I dare not spoil but it is well worth fighting through the rest of the issue to get to it.

The Final Analysis: 5 out of 10. Great story. Terrible artwork. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Detective Comics #966 - A Review

Trapped in the other-dimensional prison of Mr. Oz, Tim Drake has found a most unlikely ally in his escape attempt - himself. A future version of Tim Drake who became Batman, to be precise. This worries Tim for multiple reasons, the primary one being his own determination to do something with his life beyond being a vigilante. So how did Tim Drake turn from a college-bound prodigy into the last, best hope of Gotham City? The tale shall be told...



The second chapter of A Lonely Place Of Living is even more intense than the first. Freed from the burden of tying into the events of the Superman series, this issue is free to focus on Tim Drake and who he truly is as he is confronted with what he might become. James Tynion IV's script is equaled in excellence by the art of Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas. If you only read one Batman book, this is the one to be reading!

The Final Analysis: 10 out of 10.

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3, Episode 1 - Aruba-Con

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


Plot

The Legends defeated The Legion of Doom, but their actions have caused a fracturing of the time-stream that has unleashed thousands of anachronisms and paradoxes. Before they can get to work on fixing the problem, Rip Hunter (who had just left them moments earlier from their perspective) returns with agents from a newly formed Time Bureau, who relieve them of The Waverider.

This suits Mick Rory just fine, as he finally gets to take his long-delayed trip to Aruba and forget about the whole "saving the timeline" thing... right up until the point that Julius Caesar shows up intent on conquering the beach!


Influences

Army of Darkness (the scene of Sara working retail is like Ash and his job at S-Mart), the Men In Black movies (the mind-erasing device and the general look of The Time Agents), the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Caesar quotes a line from it during his speech to the toga party, Nate quotes it when questioning Sara) and the movie Back To The Future II (the heroes have to stop a villain who used a book from the future to change history after allowing said book to wind up in the hands of said villain in the first place.)


Goofs

It's hard to believe The Legends would just walk around a dinosaur-filled Los Angeles in their civies as nonchalantly as they do in the opening scene.

Funny as it is to see Sara working retail and granting that it's done entirely for comedic effect, it seems hard to believe she couldn't have gotten a better job, especially in Star City. Even if Oliver Queen or her dad couldn't get her a job on their security detail because of nepotism laws, surely they could pull some strings to get her work in a similar field!

If nothing else, you'd think Sara would be able to come up with a new identity for herself with her assassin training, particularly given how easily she's able to acquire the means of breaking into The Time Bureau.

It's also hard to believe that Ray Palmer, who built himself up from nothing with his tech company, has been reduced to doing grunt work with some dating app company.

Kid Flash unmasks in front of a bunch of criminals to talk with Nate?

Julius Caesar refers to Ate vexing him. Ate was the Greek goddess of ruin and folly - not Roman.

Why did The Time Bureau allow Amaya to stay in 2017 until she decided to return to 1942 on her own? Isn't she an anachronism?

It's highly coincidental that Sara just happened to steal a Time Bureau agent's badge for no real reason after a one night stand.

Given that The Time Bureau now have the technology to open direct portals between two points in time without the need for a ship, why did they need to take King Arthur back to Camelot from The Spanish Civil War through Star City in 2017?

You'd think Ray of all people would know better than to ask if Sara needs help in a fight. She kicked his ass handily in the last episode.


Performances

Once again, Caity Lotz steals the show and shows why this series has become her vehicle.

The interaction between Franz Drameh and Victor Garber is fantastic, with the two playing off the conflict between Stein and Jax perfectly.


Artistry

The fight scenes of Sharpe and Sara working to fight the Roman Centurions is nicely shot.


Trivia Of Tomorrow

The episode opens with a quick recap of the last season. We are specifically reminded that Rip Hunter left the team, officially naming Sara Lance as Captain of The Waverider, that Amaya elected to stay on the team despite what recorded history says due to her love of Nate Heywood and that the team crash-landed in 2017 Los Angeles after a time-quake, at which point they discovered several buildings out of their proper place... and live dinosaurs roaming the streets. .

The episode title is a pun on The Rubicon - a shallow river in Northern Italy, which Julius Caesar famously crossed in 49 BC. Since then, the phrase "Crossing The Rubicon" has come to refer to "the point of no return" or any action that might be seen as risky or revolutionary with no alternatives but total defeat or complete victory possible as an outcome.

Roman law at the time prohibited any general from crossing into Roman territory at the head of an army. Julius Caesar defied this law by crossing The Rubicon, moving southward from Gaul and marching upon Rome. This started what is known as Caesar's Civil War and eventually led to the foundation of The Roman Empire with Julius Caesar as Dictator.

The Time Bureau is a unique organization, new to the DCTVU. In terms of focus, they seem similar to The Linear Men - a group which monitored the time-stream for paradoxes in the Post-Crisis DC Comics Universe, who recruited Rip Hunter in the wake of the destruction of The Time Masters.

When Sara is powering up The Waverider, she says "engines to power, batteries to speed." This is a nod to the phrase frequently said by Batman and Robin in the 1966 Batman TV show when starting The Batmobile, though there it was "atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed."

Professor Stein says "Great Caesar's Ghost!" upon seeing Julius Caesar in the flesh. This is a nod to the catch-phrase of Perry White, the editor of The Daily Planet in the Superman comics, who used "Great Caesar's Ghost!" as a polite exclamation whenever upset.

Julius Caesar's speech to rally a toga party to his cause features the line, "The cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste death but once!" This is a paraphrase of a line from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - "A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once."

The photo that Gideon supplies for the mock dating profile Ray creates as a distraction is an actual photo of actress Amy Pemberton, who provides the voice of Gideon.

Ray and Nate pay homage to the original Ghosbusters, quoting Bill Murray's misquote of Julius Caesar - "We came. We saw. We kicked its ass!"

Nate quotes Shakespeare - Et tu, Sara?" - when Sara elects to return to The Time Bureau rather than put Caesar back where he belongs themselves. "Et tu" is Latin for "And you also?" The line "Et tu, Brute" is said when The Senators are killing Caesar on the floor of The Senate and the last to draw a sword is Brutus, whom Caesar considered one of his closest friends.

In the timeline formed when Caesar is not assassinated, The Roman Empire lasts another 2000 years and conquers The New World. What was the United States is labeled "Magna Hesperia" on the new map. In Latin, this means "Great Western Land". The map also identifies several areas with Latin names including Civitas Angeli (City of Angels) near Los Angeles, Flos (Flower) in Florida, Sola Stella (The Only Star) in Texas and Procidens Aqua (Falling Water) near Niagara Falls.

Nate says "dormi strictum amicus" before knocking out a guard. This means "Sleep clenched his friend." in Latin. Or, as Nate loosely translates it, "Sleep tight, buddy."

In the final scene of the episode, Amaya is seen using The Anansi Totem to summon several animal spirits at once, using them to attack a group of British soldiers. This is a new power for Vixen, who has previously only been depicted summoning one spirit at a time to draw upon their power.


Technobabble

An anachronism is a person, place or thing outside of it's natural place in time.

Ray Palmer has developed a new way of shrinking organic matter and streamlined the technology so that it can be worn more effectively.

Ray discovers that Gideon has been in sleep mode for five years when they steal The Waverider. He is able to revive her by diverting her power back to the core.

Temporal Linguistic Dysplasia is a condition where a time-traveler arrives in a time able to speak the native language. It's a frequent side-effect of historical displacement. This is why Julius Caesar is able to speak English.


Dialogue Triumphs

Sarah's daydream sequence where she fantasizes killing her boss.

Ray: My miniaturization technology has the potential to actually make the world a better place!
Alan: If that were true, it would be an app. If it doesn't live on a phone, it's not the future, Ray.
(Alan walks away from his desk. Ray just stands there, still in shock.)
Ray: (quietly) Well, I've actually been to the future.  Like, three times.

(Mick looks up to see who is blocking his light while tanning. He sees a Roman officer on horseback.)
Mick: And who the hell are you supposed to be?
Ceaser: I am Gaius Julius Caesar of Rome!
Mick: Ah. Thought I recognized you. Knocked-off one of your casinos in Vegas.

Nate: You sure this is where they're at?
Sara: I bumped into one of Rip's Time Agents a while back. He may have left his badge at my place.
Ray: He left it at your place?
Sara: All right. Maybe I lifted it off of him in the morning.

Nate: (to Time Bureau agents) I didn't know Men's Warehouse gave group discounts.
Ava Sharpe: What's wrong with you people?! Do you want to get shot?!
Nate: Totally rather get shot than look like a Sears model.

Sara's non-verbal reaction and hiding of her face when she sees King Arthur. (Remember how she was the inspiration for Sir Lancelot?)

Rip Hunter: All humility aside, we are the most important security organization that no one's ever heard of.

(Mick struggles with two suit-clad Time Agents)
Mick: Get off me you damn missionaries!

Gideon: Hello, Legends.. What did I miss?
Ray: Well, we're about to steal a ship, go grab Julius Caesar in Aruba - all before history completely collapses.
Gideon: So, it's business as usual, then?

Jax: Come on, Grey. A chance to meet Julius Caesar and fix history!
(Stein sighs cynically.)
Jax: Look, we have a time ship! We can get you home in time for dessert!
Stein: That's what I told Clarissa the last time I left...
Ray: (cheerfully) And when you came home you had a surprise daughter!
(Jax nods as if this proves his point.)
Stein: Your point?
Nate: The point is... sometimes we screw things up for the better.
Sara: (deadpan) That's a good motto. We should use that.

(As Sara is knocking-out Julius Caesar.)
Jax: Yep. I'd say our work here is done.
Stein: And to quote the great conqueror himself, "We came. We saw-"
Ray and Nate: "We kicked Caesar's ass!"
(Ray and Nate high-five.)

Jax: (quietly and jokingly, to Sara): Nice work. I'd have done it faster.

Rip: I trust you'll use your best judgement.
(Rip's hologram disappears.)
Jax: Ha! Does he not know this team?!

(Caesar steps forward, putting his hands on Sara's shoulders.)
Caesar: It cost me eight years and countless centurions to conquer Gaul. But with an Amazonian queen like you by my side, I could make short work of the rest of the world.
Sara: Conquering the world does sound nice...
(Sara places a hand on Caesar's chest and pushes him back.)
Sara:
... but I don't need you to do it.

(Stein announces his intention to remain among The Legends to Jax.)
Stein: I shanghaied you into our first voyage. I forced this life upon you. I can hardly ask you to give it up now.
Jax: But... your life?  Your family?
Stein: I'll make it home for the birth of my first grandchild. As for my family... they're on this ship as well.


Continuity

It has been five years since Rip Hunter last interacted with The Legends from his perspective. From their perspective, Rip left The Waverider 15 minutes ago.

During those five years, Rip Hunter has worked to establish The Time Bureau and their more advanced time-travel technology. He elected to disband The Legends personally since he was responsible for forming them.

Sara Lance has been declared legally dead twice.

According to Ray Palmer's new boss, Felicity Smoak ran Palmer Technologies into the ground.

Nate spent the last six months fighting crime as Steel in Central City, independent of Kid Flash and Vibe. He claims to be the second most popular superhero in Central City, behind The Flash.

Nate also broke up with Amaya, who was allowed to stay in 2017. Apparently she dumped him and decided to return to 1942 on her own following a conversation with Rip Hunter. According to Rip, going back to her proper time was her idea, not his.

The Time Bureau has an office in Star City in 2017.

King Arthur, last seen in 212, makes an appearance, being dragged through the Star City Time Bureau office in 2017 after having somehow made an appearance during The Spanish Civil War.

The Waverider has been re-purposed as a training simulator for newbie Time Agents. The simulation they are seen running is based on the events of 214, where The Legends had to save the Apollo 13 astronauts. They are told tomorrow's class will have them stopping a nuclear missile from attacking New York City - a disaster The Legends averted in 201.

Mick has apparently acquired several STDs recently. For some reason, The Time Bureau has sensors that can detect this.

The other Legends are convinced Mick is telling the truth about seeing the real Julius Caesar after Mick tries to use a golden Roman aureus from the first century B.C. in a vending machine.

Jax and Professor Stein still both live in Central City, though they haven't been socializing outside of a weekly bonding session required by their powers as Firestorm.

Jax has dropped out of college, despite being on his way to getting a Masters in Engineering in two years.

Lily Stein is pregnant. Apparently she had a boyfriend (now future husband) with whom she was on an academic sabbatical in Rome. She had just returned home to tell her parents in person.

Sara is capable enough a fighter to defeat Julius Caesar in single combat.

Julius Caesar was taken out of time the night before he crossed The Rubicon in 49 BC.

After reading Nate's history book on Rome, Caesar still moves to conquer Rome but declares the first thing he will do upon getting there is kill Brutus and Cassius - the two Senators who plotted his assassination years later. This eventually leads to Ceasar founding a Roman Empire that lasts over 2000 years and conquers The New World.

Mick steals a Time Courier (i.e. time portal generator), a communications device and a memory-eraser from Rip Hunter.

Rip explains to Agent Sharpe that he is allowing The Legends to retain The Waverider and to work for The Time Bureau because they may be the best weapon they have against Mallus - an unspecified threat that is coming at some point in the future, who apparently became a threat because of The Legends.

In the final scene, we see Amaya in Zambesi, using her necklace to summon several animal spirits, who maul Belgian Imperial soldiers intent on attacking her village.


Location

Los Angeles, California - 2017.
Star City - 2017.
Silicon Valley - 2017.
Central City - 2017.
Aruba - 2017.
Cisalpine Gaul - 49 BC.
Zambesi - 1942.


Untelevised Adventures

Apparently Ray, Sara and Nate have been continuing to work as vigilante heroes over the past six months.


The Crisis Factor

There are several moments of The Legends being played up as incompetent in order to make The Time Bureau look more efficient. Nothing quite tops Nate failing to notice Julius Caesar stealing his book, however.


The Bottom Line

Illogical and nonsensical as it is at times, this show is still just plain fun. The episode establishes the new status quo with only a few hiccups along the way, such as how quickly The Time Bureau is able to solve the massive cliff-hanger from the end of the last season. The cast still sells it all through sheer charisma and the show sets up enough solid mysteries to provide some forward momentum beyond the usual "crisis of the week" storylines.