Author Archives: Wayland Smith

Gotham: Destiny Calling/heavydirtysoul

Bruce

The Gordian Knot approach isn’t always best, Bruce…

Gotham’s third season wraps with a double header, “Destiny Calling,” and “Heavydirtysoul.” The two episodes bring a lot of forces into play and leave us remarkably few cliffhangers, but bring a lot of things together. And there’s a surprise reveal at the end about one of the characters. So, yeah, beware, there will be some spoilers here. Read on at your peril.

The shows open with a series of scenes showing the Tetch virus loose in Gotham and how bad it’s getting. Even for Gotham, this is ugly. Although the burning train in the background of one shot might look familiar to those who use Washington DC’s Metro system.

The GCPD is being run ragged, with hopped-up virus sufferers pulling off feats of superhuman strength the beat cops can’t keep up with. Gordon, in a really impressive display of willpower, gains control over the virus, at least for now. Harvey, wisely, takes Jim’s gun and shares there’s been no word of Lee since the bomb went off.

Bruce is in holding after the events of last time, with Alfred looking in on him through the one way windows. Gordon and Bullock point out the various reasons Bruce might not be happy to see Alfred about now. Fox turns up with some good news for once: Professor Strange is making progress on an antidote according to notes Fox found. This is when Bullock breaks the bad news about Alfred’s unorthodox deal with Strange, who is once again on the loose. Fox also warns Harvey this is an accelerated version of the virus, and Gordon won’t be able to fight it long. As all this goes on, Strange makes his way through the swarm at the train station to get a ticket and get out of the chaos. That’s when he gets grabbed by Fish Mooney and her crew.

The usually well-educated Riddler is mixing his history badly as he talks about Nero and Troy, which isn’t quite right, as he looks out on the destruction of Gotham. The ever-insane Barbara Keen is convinced this is her chance to take over Gotham’s underworld, and isn’t happy when Ridder says he has no interest in that, just killing Penguin. Finally, they strike a deal that bodes ill for just about everyone.

The train station is a mass of confusion in a sea of people trying to escape. Fish is grilling Strange about the virus, and his safeguards for it. Gordon and Bullock arrive, just in time for Gordon to get a distracting, taunting call from Lee, who is still trying to drag him over to the dark side. Eventually, Gordon and Bullock catch up to Fish and company, but Fish has a surprise up her sleeve. Mr. Freeze goes on the attack, first disarming the detectives, then putting an ice wall between them and Fish’s crew. Gordon goes into another virus frenzy, and Fish comments that it’s nice to meet the real Jim Gordon at last. First Lee then Fish, does everyone think Gordon’s a psychopath with a badge?

There’s a short scene of a sullen Bruce, still in interrogation, where Alfred tries, and fails to reach him. Bruce warns that someone else is coming. Strange, meanwhile, becomes the object of an ugly game between Freeze and Firefly. He gets “saved” by Penguin, who has his own ideas on what to do with the professor. Penguin has neither forgotten nor forgiven his time in Arkham.

Gordon punches through Freeze’s ice wall, eventually, which impresses Bullock. Bullock is a lot less happy about Gordon ripping the door off his car. Back at GCPD, the virus is getting to some people we know now, and that’s not going to go well. Alfred tries again to reach Bruce, then gets distracted by chaos in the squad room from more infected. By the time Alfred gets back, Bruce has picked the cuffs and escaped, once again showing signs of the man he will become.

At Sirens, Butch tries to get Tabitha to see that Barbara isn’t good for her, but Tabitha isn’t ready to give up yet. Tabitha interrupts herself when she sees Lee there. Lee isn’t in the mood for small talk, and is cuttingly insulting to Butch and Tabitha both, then knocks Butch around a little before delivering her threat to Barbara Keen.

While Bruce wanders the streets amid the madness, and Alfred and Bullock shadow him, Fish and company are working with Strange to get his cure for the virus. They find Strange’s stash, but then a group of ninjas find them. When Fish looks at him, Strange says he has no idea who they are, and the ninja leader demands the antidote, which Strange has said is enough to cure all of Gotham when properly diluted. A fight breaks out between the ninjas on one side, and Fish, Mr. Freeze, and Firefly on the other. Gordon, riding the virus frenzy again, arrives in the middle of the fight and stabs Fish, breaking the antidote vials and really upsetting Penguin. Well, the antidote is gone now, but Strange claims he can make more, so there’s still some hope.

Somebody, somewhere, thought it was a good idea to move Jervis Tetch out of Arkham during all this chaos. Butch and Tabitha take advantage of this utter stupidity, and grab Tetch for their own plans. He was probably better off in the asylum. Riddler and Barbara look on and plot more badness for Gotham in general.

Bruce finds an odd, temple-looking building and goes inside. After finding a secret passage and going down an eerie corridor with lurking, creeping figures, Bruce finds the mysterious figure behind all his recent adventures. I guess they really liked Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, because somehow or other, Ra’s al-Ghul has decided Bruce is worth watching. Why a nearly immortal villain is so interested in a kid that can’t even vote yet is unclear. And Ra’s and Batman didn’t meet in the comics until quite a while into his career, after Dick Grayson had been Robin for a while.

This leads to a lot of questions from Bruce, and a confrontation between Ra’s and Alfred, who manages to get captured. Bruce gets pushed into doing something fairly dramatic, that gets fixed by the convenient presence of one of Ra’s’ storied props. It does seem to break Bruce free of Ra’s’ hold on him at least.

Gordon looks over a trashed squad room at the GCPD while the news drones on about the chaos in Gotham. Lee calls to taunt him and try further to seduce/corrupt him. Now she wants to leave the city, and wants him to come with her. She’s shifted her look a lot, and is reminding me of Elvira with tamer hair. This is about when Bullock strides in and talks about Barbara making demands to the city council. Bullock and Gordon hatch a plan to draw the Riddler out of hiding.

Gordon calls Nygma and company, and sparks more squabbling among them. Butch is still trying to get Tabitha away from Barbara, and I feel bad for him trying so hard. Nygma takes advantage of the distraction and slips away with Tetch, provoking another temper tantrum and insult storm from Barbara. That woman really needs to learn when to shut up.

Penguin is not at all happy about being used as Riddler-bait, and rails at Gordon about it. Bullock is just generally worried, which makes perfect sense with everything going on at present. Riddler has taken an extra precaution in the form of a strategically placed hand grenade. Tetch himself is thrilled at learning Gordon is infected. This unstable situation gets made much worse when Tabitha, Butch, and Barbara show up, guns blazing. Barbara mocks Gordon, and Gordon then does something a bit drastic to get work on a cure going.

In all that chaos, Penguin managed to capture Riddler again, and they trade snarky comments while Penguin drives off in Bullock’s police car, Riddler cuffed in back. While Riddler tries to get free, Barbara says she, Butch, and Tabitha should split up and go to one of their safehouses. Tabitha and Barbara share a long kiss, which is likely not helping Tabitha think any clearer.

I’m still not quite clear on how Tetch’s blood is contributing to the cure, since it was his sister that had the virus, not him. He’s just screwy on his own. But, somehow or other, the GCPD lab techs are using it to make a cure, although just now they have limited doses, which Gordon promptly steals and runs off with. Does anyone NOT have their own agenda this episode, aside from Bullock?

Bruce is crying at the hospital, worrying about Alfred, who is in surgery. Selena drops by for unclear reasons, and the two of them have a loud, vicious, and pointless argument. The only reason for the visit seems to be to set up that the two of them are really mad at each other because… the writers said so?

Gordon tries to cure Lee, and she’s not interested. She wants him to stop fighting the virus and the darkness inside him. They end up making out, cure forgotten. As this is going on, Penguin and Riddler have a wide-ranging argument/discussion about their respective lives, during which Riddler gets free and turns the tables on his captor. Again. These two just need to give up; they never seem to get anywhere.

Gordon and Lee manage to slip the police guards at the train station (Why is everyone on trains now? Even if they closed the airports, there are still roads and the docks.) and then get confronted by Bullock. Bullock and Gordon end up fighting, and Bullock pulls off a clever trick. This lets Gordon cure both Lee and himself on the train. They’re going to miss the trip.

There’s a reckoning of sorts among the Barbara/Butch/Tabitha crew. It gets ugly and the cast has been thinned out by the end of it. There’s also a surprise reveal about one of their real names, which is a big hint of what may be coming next season to comic fans. I didn’t see it coming at all, I’ll say that much.

Bruce has a teary scene by Alfred’s bedside which doesn’t really go anywhere. Riddler and Penguin have their final showdown (for the season) and we see the ugly spot one of them will probably be spending a good bit of next season in.

Later, Alfred wakes for a reunion with Bruce. Selena apparently gains a new mentor. Penguin plans his new club– the Iceberg Lounge, which is a familiar name from the comics. Gordon gets more bad news from Lee, although I’m not sure when the last time she gave him good news was. Bullock and Gordon tease each other a bit, showing their friendship survived the ups and downs of the two episodes. And we see a very familiar looking crime foiled by a new crimefighter. That should be interesting next season.

What I liked: I’m really hoping this is the end of the Tetch virus. It keeps coming back and I’m about sick of it. I won’t miss the Barbara/Butch/Tabitha alliance. Bruce seems to be making strides towards his destiny. If anyone we’ve seen so far on the show could fight the virus, it makes sense to me that it’s Gordon. Bullock in general is always enjoyable. At the risk of sounding shallow, I enjoyed Lee’s “evil” look.

What I didn’t: I don’t get why Ra’s needs to be part of Bruce’s origin. I didn’t like it in the movies, and I don’t like it here. How is Tetch’s non-infected blood part of the cure process? What was the point of Selena coming by the hospital to yell at Bruce? I’m not a huge fan of the ongoing Riddler/Penguin feud.

It was an odd conclusion. I’ll give this long finale a 3 out of 5. It’ll be interesting to see how some of this pans out next season.

iZombie: Twenty Sided, Die

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Liv confuses being a Dungeon Master with Jazz Hands….

This week’s iZombie gets into the world of role playing games. I suspect most of the interests Liv has touched on were done in exaggerated fashion, and I’m sure that annoyed the various people who are parts of those worlds. Speaking as a gamer, I’ll say the show used a lot of stereotypes and did a few things that made gamers look bad, but they didn’t do a horrible job of it. If nothing else, it was fun seeing a set of gamer dice on network television.

The episode opens with the meeting Harley Johns and his brothers are running about zombies. Johns and his clan are definitely rednecks, but they’re not stupid. They have a good screening system, and they have some decently thought out plans. I can’t imagine this is going to go well in the long-term. I wonder how long until the Johns faction crosses paths with either Fillmore-Graves or Blaine’s organization. That should be interesting when/if it happens.

The Johns team are assigning their followers to surveillance on suspected zombies. Ravi ends up speaking up and telling most of the truth about himself, and advising caution because he’s close to a zombie-vaccine. I’m presuming he’s lying to try and calm them, since curing a zombie and vaccinating a human against the condition aren’t the same things. Or maybe I’m being overly picky. They also have Billy Cook, the security guard from the infamous Max Rager party who tells them what he saw.

Blaine introduces his version of Ravi’s memory solution, planning on selling it to the customers at the Scratching Post. Not being stupid, Blaine wants to test it first, and Tanner, the scuzzy bartender and Clive’s former informant, volunteers. He gets a bit of brain from a World War II waist-gunner and ladies man, which sounds like an interesting combination. While that gets underway, the Johns’ meeting breaks up and Ravi meets Rachel, a rather attractive young woman who wants to get pictures of zombies for her photographic career. She also gives Ravi a ride home, and they cut that scene neatly with…

A group of gamers playing Dungeons and Dragons starts off the murder of the week. It’s a collection of geeks like you’d expect, with one woman to about four guys, which is roughly right in my experience. The group goes to a tavern in the game (a tried and true trope in D&D) and, as the DM narrates the scene, he drinks his own wine and dies from poison. Amusingly, the group thinks it’s part of the game at first.

Ravi briefs Clive and Liv on the way to the crime scene, where they discover one of the witnesses is Vampire Steve, the odd computer tech we met earlier this season. Clive, like so many who have never actually played any RPG’s, mocks the game and shakes his head in utter bafflement. Liv, of course, eats the DM’s brain.

Here’s one of the places they diverge from actual games, at least as I know them. Liv rolls dice randomly to see what she’s going to do next, who she’s going to talk to, etc. in real life. I’ve been gaming for a few decades now and I’ve never seen that happen. They do get a few leads from Vampire Steve, and a vision that backs them up.

Tanner reports how intense the visions were, and they last for up to two hours. Don E continues to show his utter lack of judgement and helps himself to far too much Blue Brain at once. Ravi gets home to find out that Major has discovered the vast piles of hate mail Ravi’s been hiding. If he didn’t want Major to see it, I don’t know why he kept it. They do find one piece that seems a lot more friendly. Peyton continues her own investigation in to the after-effects of the dominatrix case and Wexler suicide, and gets some confusing answers.

Liv and Clive’s next stop is the comic shop where the group’s one female, Zoe, works. Clive shows a crack in his too-cool armor when he admits he likes the Flash (maybe a pitch for another CW show?), and Liv gets another helpful, if really odd, vision. This spins them on a few new directions for the case.

Needing new leads and hoping to trigger more visions, Liv ends up running a D&D game for Major, Peyton, Ravi, and Clive. It’s entertaining to watch, especially as Clive goes from “Can we go now?” to “Wait, we’re not done!” Between this, the Flash, and his fandom for Game of Thrones, I think Clive is more of a geek than he thinks he is. Ravi was also hugely into it, to no surprise, and was endearingly, if oddly, protective of Peyton. He really needs to get over that.

Liv and Clive go to the DM’s place, with Clive still talking about the game, and, to the delight of gamers everywhere, find an actual hidden room. What they find there throws a whole new wrinkle in the case, and brings back Dale Bazzio, FBI agent and Clive’s former love interest. It’s not a happy reunion, which is really too bad. I liked them together.

Major is still benched from active duty at Fillmore-Graves due to his return to human status, so he’s staying home alone. Liv and Justin are going to a big fundraiser for the zombie mayoral candidate, Floyd Baracus. Liv eats some Fillmore brain paste to normalize herself and forces the dice she’s been overusing on Major. At the party, she talks to Peyton and they start to put some pieces together about the Wexler/Dominatrix case.

Things go really weird for everyone as the episode wraps up. Ravi gets a surprise visit at the morgue, although the fact that he’s there alone at night isn’t good for him. Get a life, man! Major gets his own visitor which I think is a horrible idea. And there are big events at the fundraiser that I am deeply suspicious of. Then, they end with an old enemy of almost all the characters coming back from exile.

What I liked: There’s always good banter on this show, and I really enjoy the character interactions. I’m glad Dale came back, even if I’m not happy about how it happened (see below). I’m hoping the bit at the morgue near the end might get rid of one of few characters on the show I really can’t stand. I’m glad Peyton is pushing on her investigation, although I’m fairly sure it’s going to get her in some kind of trouble or other. The Liv/Justin relationship seems good, which probably means Justin’s going to die a horrible death sooner or later. While it’s frustrating to the viewer, it’s very realistic that this is another case we don’t get a clean wrap up on, like with the Wexler one. Clive getting in to D&D despite himself was funny and seems to fit him.

What I didn’t: I don’t like what they did with Dale and Clive. Again, it’s my area of interest but the D&D stuff got to be a bit much at times in how they showed it.

This was another highly enjoyable episode in a series I’m really liking. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.

Gotham: Pretty Hate Machine

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Lee gets a new look…

Things ramp up for the poor citizens of Gotham in “Heroes Rise: Pretty Hate Machine.” The show opens with yet another gathering of the Court of Owls. Bruce’s nameless friend takes the council to task for killing the Waynes. Their response is that Thomas Wayne stood against the Court, although he doesn’t have an answer to Bruce’s question about his mother. He also complains that the leader (presumably Nameless here) is gone for years at a time, so they did what they thought was best. Nameless responds in a fairly definitive manner, and urges Bruce to “Give the order.” Bruce doesn’t, looking freaked out, and Nameless claps, cuing the Talons to kill the entire Council. Well, I guess there are some management openings now. Bruce says he won’t hesitate next time. Really? How often does someone order the slaughter of the ruling council of a secret organization?

The GCPD rushes to answer a call, and arrives at the last meeting of the Council. Even Gordon and Bullock are a bit taken aback by the carnage. One of them survives long enough to accuse Gordon of being a traitor and tell them the leader and Bruce Wayne killed them. Everyone exchanges surprised looks. Alfred, of course, says the man must be lying when they get back to the GCPD squad room. Bullock is more curious why the leader would kill off his men, and wonders if that means the bomb is no longer a threat. Gordon dismisses such wishful thinking. After some more disagreements with Alfred about Bruce’s role in the events earlier, Gordon gets told Lee has returned home and rushes off to see what she’s doing with the stolen virus. Hint: Nothing good.

Nygma reports to the evil trio of Barbara Keen, Butch, and Tabitha, telling them Penguin is still alive, which none of them are happy to hear. As their gathering goes on, there are clearly some worsening cracks in the Barbara/Tabitha relationship. Butch is trying to play referee, which is a bit ironic since he really wants to get Tabitha away from Barbara. Nygma tells them the Court has no interest in the criminal underworld (which seems really unlikely to me) and they should worry about Penguin. When Butch wonders why this is their problem, Nygma points out that they all conspired to kill Penguin, and he’s not stupid. Barbara agrees. Nygma gives them an over the shoulder warning about the “army of freaks” on his way out.

Gordon gets to Lee’s place and she greets him in this disturbing, sing-song voice. She’s giving off this vibe that is part barely restrained violence and part Morticia Addams. I like it overall, although I think she went a bit heavy on the eye makeup. She’s playing deranged hostess while not really answering his questions. She talks about what the virus has shown her, and then, after some flirting, tosses him across the room. That virus packs a punch.

Alfred, meanwhile, has figured something out. The house he, Bruce, and Selena stole their owl from isn’t on the map they’ve been using. Bullock wonders if the owl hasn’t been updated, which just struck me as really amusing, but Alfred suggests there are Court locations that aren’t on the map they’re working off. He suggests going back to the Whisper Gang, who they were involved with during the owl heist.

Penguin rants and raves in an apartment hideout, unhappy about the most recent developments. Ivy and Selena largely ignore him as they catch up. Selena is pleased to hear that Bridget is around again, although Penguin and Ivy have lost track of their fledgling army. Selena is acting just as sulky and selfish with them as she was with Alfred last time. Is she trying to make sure she has no friends left? As Nygma and Butch arrive and batter their way in, Selena runs off, but Ivy won’t leave Penguin. That’s a bit touching, but where this loyalty to him came from, I have no idea. Penguin and Ivy bolt through a hidden exit, but Selena runs into Tabitha. Hard.

Bruce and Nameless talk about his feeling lost now that he’s achieved justice for his parents, if that’s what you want to call it. He’s also still upset about not giving the order himself, but Nameless promises him a chance to make up for it. Professor Strange turns up, and is very impressed with the amount of control Nameless has over Bruce now. Strange and some Talons have the bomb, and Nameless says Bruce will trigger it, infecting thousands. Bruce agrees that Gotham must fall by his hand. That’s so deeply disappointing, Bruce.

I’ve been enjoying the Gordon and Bullock scenes a lot on this series, but Bullock and Alfred are developing a vaguely similar rhythm. Bullock comments that he’s going to have give Alfred a badge at this rate. While Leslie dumps Gordon in the trunk of her car, Bullock and Alfred follow up on another lead and end up bursting in on a few Talons with Professor Strange. Improbably, Bullock downs a Talon or two, and Strange surrenders almost before the fight’s over. Other Talons rush off with the bomb, Bruce, and Nameless, who has now been called Sensei. While that’s a general term of respect it’s also a specific character in the Batman comics with ties to Ra’s al-Ghul. Of course, in the comics, he’s Asian. Where’s all the outrage people were directing at Danny Rand being white in Iron Fist (which he’s historically always been)? Alfred catches up with them, and is stunned when Bruce sides with the Sensei. They leave with the bomb and Alfred gets knocked cold by yet another Talon.

Bullock and Alfred return to headquarters and put Strange in a holding cell. Alfred is understandably shaken by his exchange with Bruce. Alfred worries the Sensei (not that they know the name) wants Bruce to detonate the bomb. In another great line, Bullock says he’ll go ask “Baldie-locks,” meaning Strange. Bullock’s instructions about trying to find Gordon or Lee get interrupted when Lee herself walks in, provoking general panic and weapons pointing.

As Lee alludes to Jim waking up about now, he does so. He likely wishes he hadn’t, as he comes to in a coffin. At least she left him a flashlight. Bullock still can’t believe she injected herself, and she responds, creepily, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” She goes on about her new plan to show everyone who Jim Gordon really is. She has a radio tuned in to one she left Gordon, and says the police will never find him before he runs out of air, but she left him a way out. The catch? She wants him to inject himself with the virus and batter his way out. Lee gloats that she wants to see the look on all the cops’ faces when Gordon gives in and takes the virus. She asks for coffee, and Bullock orders them to get her some and put her in a cell. She ends up in the one next to Strange (which would NEVER happen), they exchange a look and she rolls her eyes. I suspect Dr. Thompkins there isn’t impressed with the Professor. Bullock and Gordon talk on the radio, and Bullock offers what reassurance he can.

Selena is now a “guest” of the Riddler/Barbara/Butch/Tabitha alliance. They ask her why she’s with Penguin and she’s her usual snarky self. That doesn’t endear her to Butch at the very least. There are more signs of the imminent falling out coming between Tabitha and Barbara, as Barbara dismisses Tabitha and Butch so she can plot with Nygma. I think that’s going to be an explosive mess when it happens.

Bullock is worried about Gordon, while Alfred is worried the search isn’t the best use of time. Cold, but maybe true. Bullock comes up with the questionable idea of turning Alfred loose on Professor Strange. Man, there’s going to be Internal Affairs Investigations all over when this is done. Or there would be anyplace less corrupt than Gotham anyway. Bullock takes K9s to Jackson Park, where they’ve figured out Gordon probably is. Lee goes on that Gordon can’t be saved, he’ll take the virus, and it will all be beautiful. Wow, Lee has really checked out.

Alfred has some very simple, direct methods for getting information from the Professor that are definitely not police-sanctioned, even here. Strange, no hero, caves in once he stops screaming. Strange gives up what he has, and Alfred tells him he can go. The highlights are that Strange thinks Bruce is too far gone to be saved, they’re at Wayne Enterprises, and the bomb will go off at five.

Bruce and the Sensei talk about what’s coming, and the Sensei goes on about the man who sees such a great destiny ahead for Bruce. Gordon and Bullock talk on the radio and Gordon notes the battery is dying. Man, she didn’t even leave him a fully charged radio. Bullock urges him to take the virus and they can figure something out later. Gordon considers it, but refuses. Between them, Gordon, Bullock, and Alfred via radio and phone, figure out where the bomb is. Unfortunately, Gordon puts it together just as his battery dies. He won’t save himself, but Gordon won’t let others die for his principles. He jabs himself and tunnels out, just like Lee wanted

Ivy and Penguin are back at what I believe is the same abandoned mansion they started at when they met up. Penguin rants, and Ivy shows how amazingly stupid she is, nothing at all like the brilliant researcher she’s supposed to be. She told Selena everything on a phone call, and sure enough, the Riddler contingent shows up. Their various threats are interrupted when another character we’ve not seen for a while turns up and takes Penguin away. As Butch comments, she knows how to make an entrance.

Bullock finds the spot where Gordon unearthed himself, and is worried. He gives the radio call to clear Union Station and that Gordon is on the way there, infected with the virus. Lee is thrilled, and escapes due to a careless cop.

Everything comes to a head at Union Station. Bruce and the Sensei are there, and they see the crazed Gordon come in. Sensei tells Bruce it’s time to press the button, and Alfred bursts in where they are and yells at him not to become a murderer. The virus-enhanced Gordon trashes a Talon easily to get to the bomb, but then gets distracted by Lee’s arrival. Bruce, Alfred, and the Sensei have their showdown. Things go badly for everyone, and the show ends with an epic disaster in the making, as well as a big hint who. Weirdly, despite cops yelling orders and then Gordon throwing people around with superhuman strength, no one seems to have evacuated the station. I guess they really want to make their trains.

What I liked: Bullock and Gordon are always great together, and Alfred is fitting in well. The revelation about who Nameless seems to be is interesting (and another major divergence from the comics). Evil Lee is an interesting new presence. The Alfred/Strange scene was great.

What I didn’t: I don’t like Bruce being a thrall of the Sensei. I’m not a fan of sulky Selena. I’m getting a bit tired of the Tabitha/Barbara drama, and I think Butch should just cut and run at this point. I don’t buy the Court’s plan has always been a virus created relatively recently by accident.
I don’t like the direction they seem to be heading in for who is behind Bruce’s big destiny.

Taking the week off: Really, the only regular who wasn’t here was Lucius Fox. Maybe he got out of town? I would at this point.

I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5. Next week is supposed to be a two hour finale.

Wonder Woman

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The DC “Expanded Universe” movies have not been doing overly well on a lot of fronts. Man of Steel had people either loving or hating it, but both sides seem to agree that it’s the most divisive comic book movie ever made. Batman Vs Superman didn’t make the box office DC hoped for, and had a lot of bad reviews from critics and fans both (I was one of them). Next up was Suicide Squad, which I liked but could see problems in, and also did disappointingly with critics and fans both. So, I was a bit worried about going to see Wonder Woman.

Turns out, I really didn’t need to be. Wonder Woman is an amazing movie. It’s the best DC has done since maybe the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, and easily good enough to be a Marvel movie. Those are both high praise in my book. I loved almost everything about it, and my complaints are minimal. They knocked it out of the park on every level. I will do my best to avoid spoilers throughout the review.

Wonder Woman is bookended by scenes of Diana in the modern day. She gets a present from Bruce Wayne that triggers some old memories, and tells us the story. They played with her origin a bit, and some of the theology of the DC Universe, but it works well. Like the Marvel movies, the changes they made worked, and worked well.

We see the story of Diana, growing up as the sole child on Themyscira, an island of Amazons. We hear the history of the island, the Amazons, Diana, and a war of the gods that thankfully was much better than the horrid comic book event of the same name. Diana grows up, dealing with an overprotective mother, Queen Hippolyta, and training in secret with her warrior aunt, General Antiope. The Amazons are in a state of stasis, with nothing really changing, until…

As per the classic origin, Steve Trevor, heroic pilot, crashes on the island while on an urgent mission. In this reshuffling of the story, he’s fleeing the German Army during World War I. The story works in this setting, and, as a friend of mine observed, “Captain America pretty much owns World War II at this point.” There will be another Cap reference later. Steve’s arrival shakes things up, especially when he’s pursued by the Germans. After a nasty fight on the beach with some tragic losses, Diana learns about the outside world and the war that rages. It fits in with a prophecy among the Amazons, and Diana makes the fateful decision to go back with him.

After some hilarious exchanges on the boat that takes them back to London (still not sure how a tiny sailboat gets from somewhere near Greece to London in an amazingly short period of time), Diana gets introduced to modern fashion, complicated politics, and Steve’s secretary Etta Candy, who is brilliant in every scene she’s in. This apparently is in the closing days of the Great War, as the Armistice is being negotiated, and Diana’s mission can’t get any official support that might interrupt the negotiations.

Naturally, this means there’s a secret mission with a ragtag band of misfits along to help out. We get an Arabic conman, a Scots sniper with serious PTSD, and an enigmatic Indian who might just be a lot more than he seems. The group moves across war torn Europe, and sees the horrors of modern war. Diana, still more idealistic than anyone else, makes an amazing charge across No Man’s Land that is brilliantly done.

The bad guys, aside from the German war machine in general, are General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru, a version of a classic Wonder Woman foe, Dr. Poison. They really are out and out villains who revel in destruction and kill those around them who displease them. That must be an HR nightmare. The mission doesn’t quite go as expected, and Diana sees things aren’t always as simple as they’d like them to be.

The final fight involves some great special effects and a sad but necessary sacrifice that looked like it was lifted out of a classic Captain America story (told you Cap would be back). It was heartbreaking but it worked really well, and explained why Diana has been so low profile for the last century or so.

What I liked: Damn near everything. Gal Godot and Chris Pine did amazing jobs as Diana and Steve. The writing, directing, acting, and special effects were fantastic. There was an actual story to go with the action. I’m really hoping we see more of Chief down the road. Etta was great for the few scenes she was in. I saw what they were doing with the big bad guy misdirect early, but it was well done anyway. They balanced Diana’s growing power with Steve being a mortal very well. Steve’s first exposure to the Lasso of Truth was great.

What I didn’t: It’s a short list. I’m not sure how the trip to London went so fast. If Steve and the Germans got through so easily, I don’t see how Themyscira stayed isolated so long. I don’t quite get how an armadillo was on a Greek area island. And really, no end credit scene? Audiences love that, and they did it for Suicide Squad.

This was a fantastic movie. I strongly recommend it. I’m giving this my rare 5 out of 5. Based on the strength of Wonder Woman as a whole, I’m reconsidering my decision to not see Justice League in the theater.

 

Arrow: Lian Yu

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Can we be done with Flasback Island now? Please?

Season 5 of Arrow comes to an end with “Lian Yu.” That is, of course, the place Oliver allegedly spent his “five years in hell…” when he wasn’t in Hong Kong or Russia. It also later became Oliver’s personal super-prison, holding Deathstroke Slade Wilson and Captain Boomerang Digger Harkness. In the comics, Lian is the name of Roy Harper’s daughter, sort of Oliver’s granddaughter, who died an utterly pointless tragic death that angered many fans.

As a note, there will be both speculation and spoilers here. You probably don’t want to go past this point if you haven’t seen the finale, and I’ll try and keep the speculation to the end of the review with another warning flag. So, bearing that in mind, off we go.

The voiceover is about Lian Yu being Mandarin for Purgatory. I have no idea if that’s true. They do a sweeping panning shot of the island, focusing on such notable landmarks as the wreck of the Amazo, where so much badness happened. Then again, not a lot of good happened on this island. We know magic is real, I wonder if this place is cursed.

Oliver, truly desperate for help, continues assembling his unlikely team. For some reason or other, he decides it’s a better plan to go with villains like Deathstroke, Captain Boomerang, Malcolm Merlyn, and Nyssa Al-Ghul, rather than contacting their various allies like Flash, Vibe, Wildcat (if he’s still alive), or the Legends. Why? Because this is the low-power end of the CW-Verse, I guess. Slade agrees to help, claiming his head is clear now that he’s off the Mirakuru.

Team Anti-Hero (at best) reunite on the beach where Malcolm and Nyssa keep arguing with each other. For some weird reason, they unpacked everything except the weapons (what else did they bring? It’s not a damn vacation) from the plane, which is established just in time for the plane to get blown up. Two warriors like Malcolm and Nyssa left the weapons for last?

They split up, and Oliver takes Slade and Boomerang with him. They find most of the rest of the prisoners (no Dinah or Rene) in cages in a clearing. Naturally this is a trap. Boomerang turns traitor, pulling a gun on the heroes. Where he got the gun, I’m not sure. When Oliver recruited Slade, he was in his cell in prison whites. We never saw Boomerang in his cell, but I can’t imagine he was hanging out down there in costume. At any rate, Artemis/Evelyn and Talia are both there as well, along with the usual horde of ninja soldiers. The fight breaks out, inevitably, with Nyssa and Malcolm showing up to help tip the odds. Talia gets away, like the ninja she is, and Evelyn gets captured, like the essentially useless character she’s been since she turned up. Oliver gets most of the prisoners moving toward the boat after the big, “I’m not leaving you” speech from Felicity. Apparently, when Chase or his minions (how many people are working for this psycho?) grabbed Oliver’s son William, they grabbed Samantha, the boy’s mother as well. Personally, I’d be ok with her not making it off the island.

Apparently, there’s a monastery we’ve never seen before (how big IS this island?), which is where Quentin, Rene, Dinah, and Diggle are. Dinah has a sonic damper focused on her, which is becoming a more and more common gadget it seems. At any rate, it’s preventing her from using her powers to escape. While the prisoners exchange news, Nyssa is trying to track down Talia. The daughters of Ra’s are heading for a showdown. Slade offers the insight that Oliver is suffering from survivor’s guilt.

The freed group of prisoners and protectors are trying to get to a plane (obviously not the one that blew up earlier). Samantha says she won’t leave without William. Felicity still isn’t sure she did the right thing by leaving Oliver behind. Malcolm tries to get Thea to at least talk to him, but their conversation gets cut short when Thea finds a landmine in the worst possible way. Weirdly, this seems to be the only mine, or at least no one seems to remember that mines usually come in fields. After some argument about what to do next, Malcolm takes matters into his own hands in a dramatic and effective way. The others finally regretfully agree to leave him. Boomerang catches up with him and mocks him for being in the open. When Boomer asks what kind of strategy that is, Malcolm says let me show you and steps off the mine. The others flinch as they hear the explosion in the distance.

Apparently out of hearing range of the explosion, Oliver, Nyssa, and Slade find the downed plane that Oliver and Slade lived in for a while during some of the FlashBack Theater segments. They see the monastery off in the jungle, and Oliver says he’s never been there. Nyssa goes to scout on her own, and then Slade echoes Boomerang’s earlier treachery by knocking Oliver cold and bringing him to Chase’s minions. I told you there were spoilers…

Oliver gets dragged in to where the rest of the hostages are, and Black Siren is more than happy to tell the group that Slade betrayed Oliver. The others hadn’t known William was on the island, and Oliver swears he won’t leave without him. Of course, they’re all chained up at the moment, so leaving is maybe more a goal than a real likely event.

The others keep making their way to the plane. Thea is sort of in shock and a bit numb about Malcolm’s apparent death. She and Felicity have a heart to heart about evil dads. It does seem like both their villainous fathers risked their lives to save their daughters, so I guess they can form a support group or something. Curtis comes back with an old Fantasy Island reference, and the joke seems a little insensitive for him given the timing. The Curtis and Felicity brain trust shortly discover that the entire island is rigged with hundreds, if not thousands, of bombs. Again, how many psychos does Chase have working for him? Doing that must have taken forever, especially as big as the island seems to be now.

They set this next bit up way back at Oliver’s birthday party, which was just last episode but feels a lot longer ago than that. Oliver has the gizmo Curtis made to help Dinah resist sonic dampers. I guess it’s a damper-damper? At any rate, once she gets it, she blasts their chains and frees everyone. This is about when Nyssa and Talia find each other and get into their big fight. Slade creeps in and kills Talia’s backup, and we learn that his “betrayal” was how Oliver got the device to Dinah. I’m not sure how he knew that was there, but I guess it was a good bet if they’re holding her prisoner. That or they were keeping her unconscious. Chase/Prometheus finally shows up and the two groups square off. Funny how the pretty much non-combat group ended up out at the plane. Chase goes to his two favorite refrains, that Oliver is ten steps behind him and that Oliver needs to kill Chase. This has to be the most elaborate “suicide by cop” scenario I’ve ever seen.

Somehow or other, Diggle and Rene’s general brawling skill lets them fight the ninja hordes, which I’m sorry, I just don’t buy. Dinah and Black Siren square off, and their powers clash violently, knocking each other backwards. Quentin gets some of his own back by punching out his daughter’s evil lookalike before she completely recovers. He also emphasizes that he’s ok with Dinah carrying on the Black Canary name. I still find it odd that no one has commented on the fact that Dinah (which lets face it is NOT a common name these days) has the same name as Quentin’s ex wife.

Team Felicity is not having a good time of things. They can’t figure out what triggers the bombs, and don’t have a nice little instant miracle to take them all out. Gee, if only they knew someone with super-speed… At any rate, the fight rages on between the other two groups. Chase is still taunting Oliver, who claims that he has made his decision and will not kill Chase no matter what. Chase ups the ante and says he already killed William. Felicity makes a timely warning via radio that she’s figured out that Chase has a deadman switch, so if Oliver does kill him the whole island blows. Chase manages to escape again as the good guys finish defeating the others. Oliver tells them to join Felicity at the plane, but he is going after Chase and won’t leave without his son, insisting that William is still alive.

Oliver somewhat improbably catches up with Chase and they end up on a small powerboat. They fight, and Chase drags William up out of the cabin, scared but very much alive. Nyssa finds that the plane has been sabotaged, so the rest of them aren’t going anywhere after all. Oliver ends the standoff with Chase by shooting him, but in the leg. Ok that was reasonably clever. William rushes to Oliver, huddling by his side. Chase, never one to lose gracefully, shoots himself. Now, if this was a villain gong all “You’ll never take me alive,” I’d be ok with it, but remember that deadman switch? The entire island explodes, with (deep breath): Diggle, Dinah, Felicity, Curtis, Rene, Quentin, Slade, Samantha, Thea, Nyssa, Talia, Artemis, Black Siren, Malcolm, and Boomerang still on it. Pretty much everyone but Oliver and William, who look on in horror. Now that is a major cliffhanger.

Flashback Theater, also on Lian Yu, features Oliver’s showdown with Kovar, Russian mobster from hell. Oliver defeats Kovar’s thugs, a helicopter, Kovar himself, and manages to set of the flare to attract his staged rescue. So hopefully that concludes THAT plotline. Also, since the damn island is now gone, maybe we’ve at least seen the end of the scenes here? Also, he faked at least some of his ragged appearance, including a big shaggy wig. No one noticed that?

What I liked: Oliver did a few clever things here. Bringing the damper-damper, coming up with the plan with Slade, those were great. Shooting Chase in the leg was a good idea, and I’m glad Oliver didn’t kill him, even with the aftermath. And that was a hell of a cliffhanger. I’m glad Nyssa beat Talia, and Malcolm sure showed the sincerity of his feelings about Thea.

What I didn’t: Where did Boomerang get the gun? For that matter, in the Flash team up, they made Boomerang such a badass he had to be put in Lian Yu, where only Slade was being kept. He sure wasn’t that good here. How’d Oliver know about the damper? It makes no sense that Malcolm and Nyssa left the weapons on the plane, and I don’t know what else they were unloading since they never used it. How big is Lian Yu supposed to be? It seems a lot bigger now than I had the impression when they started. William is going to be in therapy for years.

I’ll give the finale a 4 out of 5. There was a lot of good stuff here. And it’s going to be a long few months to see what happened. Speaking of:

Theories about the blast:

It’s possible everyone lived, but I kind of doubt they did something that cheap. It’s also possible everyone died, but that seems really remote at best. John Barrowman, who plays Malcolm, has publically stated he’s not coming back to Arrow, so I think Malcolm is really dead. Boomerang was right next to him, and they didn’t really do anything with him, plus he’s in the Suicide Squad movie franchise, so I’m betting he’s gone, too. They’ve just started developing Dinah and Rene, so I’m betting they lived. Killing Curtis would be a double minority issue, so he’s likely fine. And, of course, people would riot if they killed Felicity, and Diggle to a lesser extent. I’m hoping Artemis died, and it makes a lot of sense to me if Samantha does. I’m really not sure what to make of everyone else. So there are some theories to debate/discuss until season six.

Flash: Finish Line

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Things aren’t looking good for young love…

Flash hits the end of his season with “Finish Line,” the season three finale. The heroes need to find a way to defeat the menace of Savitar, which gets harder with Savitar being a future version of Barry Allen. So whatever plan they come up with, Savitar knows about from Barry’s memories. That’s a new wrinkle on time travel I don’t think I’ve run across before. There are some pretty big spoilers here, so be warned. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen it.

At the end of last episode, Savitar killed Iris. Everyone is horror-struck and grief-stricken. Things take a turn when Iris… drops drum sticks? Well, that’s something associated with someone else, and we learn that there was a switch. The dying “Iris” is HR, using his image projector, while the HR up on the roof is revealed to be Iris. Now it’s time for a quick flashback to see how this happened.

Last time, HR accidentally revealed where Iris was hidden, letting Savitar capture her. Overwhelmed with guilt, HR took the piece of Savitar’s armor Barry captured a while back, and used its property of being attracted to the rest of the armor to find their hideout. HR tried to rescue her on his own, and, when they were found out, used his image device to swap places. Fortunately for him, Killer Frost just blasted “HR,” now the disguised Iris, instead of killing her while recapturing Iris/HR.

Back in the very sad now, Tracy Brand rushes up, shocked, tears starting, saying they had just found each other. HR gasps out that he couldn’t be a coward, and that Tracy would be brilliant. He urges them to go stop Savitar and quietly dies. I did not remotely see this coming, but neither did Savitar. They also notice that Savitar took off with the Speed Force bazooka.

Killer Frost and Vibe’s showdown gets interrupted when Savitar shows up. While he was urging her to live up to her name before, now he tells her not to kill Vibe after all. Savitar requires Cisco’s unique genius to build something.

Barry, Iris, and Joe go back to the time vault. The newspaper from the future has changed, the by-line on the column now once again reading Iris West-Allen. The heroes are cautiously optimistic that they have saved Iris’ life. Meanwhile, Savitar gets a flood of confusing new memories as he “remembers” that Iris survived due to HR’s sacrifice.

Back at STAR, Julian is stunned to hear about HR’s death. Tracy wanders off to be alone with her grief. Barry says they need to try and figure out their next move. Savitar is still out there, so is Killer Frost, and Cisco is missing. The time paradox created by Iris’ survival and HR’s death should eventually wipe out Savitar, but they don’t know when. Julian also has news- he and Caitlin’s mother worked together and may have a cure for her Killer Frost issues.

Vibe is not exactly being a model prisoner, mocking Savitar and telling him he better have a plan B. Well, it turns out he does, and it includes Cisco modifying Tracy’s Speed Force bazooka. Savitar, again drawing on Barry’s knowledge and memories, comes up with a great threat to keep Cisco in line.

Barry talks with Iris and muses that there must be something better they can do about Savitar. To that end, he rushes off on his own to meet Savitar Barry makes a surprising offer, although I don’t understand how Savitar is surprised by it if he has all Barry’s memories. Maybe there’s a backwash from changing Iris’ death. Barry really does his best to live up to the heroic ideal in this scene. I’ve said this before, and will again: in the CW-verse, Green Arrow has taken Batman’s place as the Dark Avenger, and Flash occupies Superman’s spot as the Point of Hope.

Barry and Savitar go back to STAR Labs, and the team isn’t exactly happy to see them. There’s a lot of mutual mistrust and war of words. With both Cisco and Caitlin not available, Tracy is their best bet for scientific help, but following HR’s death, she’s not feeling charitable. What comes next is arguably cruel– the team gets Harrison Wells from Earth 2 to talk to her. I mean c’mom, she just lost the man she was falling in love with and his doppleganger comes to chat? Kinda messes with that acceptance stage of grief, I’d argue.

Savitar comments that it’s strange being back at STAR. Once again, things don’t quite make sense to me when he comments on something they haven’t done yet. Is he losing track of his memories, or just screwing with them at this point? Savitar starts asking a lot of biting, sarcastic questions about the deal Barry is trying to offer him, and Barry does the best he can. Savitar finally agrees to return Caitlin and Cisco, and speeds off to do that. In the wake of his departure, something happens that looks bad for STAR.

At Savitar’s hideout, Cisco once again tries to get through to Caitlin, and once again fails. Savitar returns, removing any doubt about what happened at STAR being an accident, and tells Killer Frost to get rid of Cisco. Fortunately, there’s a last minute intervention by Gypsy. While it’s cool she came back to help, I don’t quite get why she needed to save him if they have the same powers. Eventually, they end up at the West home. Amusingly, Cisco calls Savitar Two Face for his scars. I don’t know if that means there’s a Batman on this world after all, or if there are just Batman comics. Savitar, meanwhile, tells Caitlin not to worry about them, and that it’s time now.

Savitar and Killer Frost go on a lovely walk in the park. Just kidding, they are there to enact Savitar’s mad plan. First, they have a complication to deal with, as the Black Flash appears to stop Savitar. Turns out, Black Flash is very vulnerable to cold, which must be why Savitar recruited Killer Frost in the first place. Just as the portal is ready, there are more surprises for Savitar, who really doesn’t seem to know as much about his own past as he should. While Gypsy and Vibe take on Killer Frost, we get a scene that could’ve come right out of the comics as Flash and Kid Flash are joined by Jay Garrick to battle Savitar. We also see someone in the fight change sides, which is a help. There are some cool tricks in the fight, and Barry finally shows himself to be the hero he should be by refusing to go down the dark road. Savitar gets defeated by a really unexpected turn of events.

Later, the team gathers for HR’s funeral. I wonder if he had anyone back on his Earth they should tell? The gravestone has a great quote from Twain, and Barry shares Wells’ final worlds with Cisco, that Cisco gave him the strength to be a hero. At the end of the funeral, Caitlin makes a surprising decision to start setting up the cliffhangers for the big off-season break.

Barry and Iris finally go home and start making progress on their wedding. So all’s well that ends well, right? Of course not, how often do we get happy season finales? A huge storm starts outside, and it’s not normal. The multi-colored lightning is a big clue there. The storm gets accompanied by a small earthquake, further damaging poor STAR Labs. The team figures out that the energy disturbance is from the now-vacant speed force prison that Jay left to help out. Someone needs to go back. So someone does, in a huge surprise that suggests to me next season is going to at least start off by trying to save that person.

What I liked: I think we’re finally done with Savitar. I won’t miss him at all. It was great to see Gypsy and Jay both come back. The way that HR saved Iris was pretty clever. The big fight near the end was really well done. I’m so glad Barry is heeding Snart’s (of all people) advice to stay a hero.

What I didn’t: Savitar had some weird memory glitches which didn’t all make sense to me. I’m not sure why Gypsy needed to port Vibe away if he can do that, too. I’m saddened by HR’s death, and I don’t really like the big cliffhanger at the end. I’m really not sure how I feel about Caitlin’s decision.

It was a good episode. I’ll go a low 4 out of 5 for it. I really hope next season we get something that doesn’t involve an evil speedster. Flash has a lot of other foes.

iZombie: Eat A Knievel

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whacked out brains and lawn darts–what could go wrong?

There’s a lot going on in “Eat A Knievel,” the most recent iZombie episode. Blaine, badly wounded last time, shows up somewhere unexpected with some demands. Justin and Major are in trouble at work over the mess with Harley Johns last time. Vivian leans heavily on Liv and Clive, also at the meeting, and encourages them to go catch the bad guys in the recent zombie family slaying. Vivian has Major stay after the meeting and asks him, point blank, how he managed to turn human again. Not a lot gets by Vivian. She and a few of the others who run Fillmore-Graves depart to check on their “Zombie Island” stronghold, but their chopper flight develops some complications. Liv and Ravi end up deciding they should go to a big meeting at Harley’s place this coming Saturday, to do some undercover and very unofficial investigating.

The murder of the week clearly draws its inspiration from the “Jackass” style of shows and movies. The head idiot, Finn Vincible, tries to do some big complicated stunt to win a woman he once dated but is now married to someone else. He ends up burning to death when his flame-proof suit proves not to be. When the team got there, I wasn’t at all surprised to learn Clive didn’t know who they were. I was a bit startled that Ravi is a fan. That man has really incomprehensible tastes. The film crew turns up evidence that this was murder, not an accident, and so Liv is going to end up eating Finn’s brain. Oh, this is going to be bad.

Blaine gets a brief check in scene as he spies on the Scratching Post, and we also see Angus continuing to be unpleasantly abusive to Don E. While Don tells Angus about Fillmore-Graves, Finn’s film crew shows up at the station, being jackasses and frustrating Clive. It doesn’t get any better when she starts acting like them from the Finn brain. The only lead they get is a cameraman named Kong. Whatever the problem with him was, they can’t discuss it because of an NDA they all had to sign.

In a weird case of small world, Kong the cameraman is filming a commercial for Baracus, the mayoral candidate that the zombies are backing. They try and bluff but Kong, too, doesn’t budge about the NDA. There are a few more short scenes that emphasize Angus being a dick and Blaine being on edge.

Liv and Ravi watch videos of Finn’s show, and Clive shakes his head, surprised it took this jerk as long as it did to get murdered. Liv gets a vision that points them at crew assistant Rudy. One of the film crew slips them a hint about what happened, and, I gotta admit, I’d be tempted to kill Finn myself. Rudy dismisses the incident as a prank, and tells them a bit about the NDA.

Liv goes on a date with DJ Justin, which is a weird zombie mix of sweet and insane. Both of them on Finn brain is a disaster waiting to happen, but fortunately, they both have the zombie mostly indestructible bit going for them. The date also kicks off another vision for the case, which has to be disconcerting.

Don E’s game of celebrity zombie with his idiot sidekick gets interrupted when Blaine calls. Blaine tells them he’s coming for them, and to finish anything on his bucket list. It’s a decent threat, and Blaine delivers it well. Angus and his thugs are surprised to learn Blaine’s still alive, and Angus sends everyone out searching for him.

Clive and Liv go to Rudy’s workshop, where his mother-in-law lets them search. After Liv does a few annoyingly stupid pranks with the props in there, they make a discovery that might give Rudy a lot more motive to kill Finn. I expect that might be a long line. They have a scene that wraps up the murder and gives Clive another good collar, so that bit is good.

Blaine pulls a surprise at the Scratching Post and manages to set up a really nice ambush. This also lets him get some nice payback on his dad, including a great snarky parting line. I’m a bit worried that Blaine wasn’t as thorough as he needed to be, though. Blaine goes back to the bar to establish the new rules, and meets absolutely no resistance from Don E. Angus’ management style doesn’t create a lot of loyalty.

The last two scenes are ominous in different ways. Fillmore-Graves has a big wake as part of dealing with some of their recent losses. It’s a wild party that ends by establishing that, as the cliche goes, there’s a new sheriff in town. Ravi and Liv go for their undercover work at Harley’s anti-zombie gathering, with Liv in disguise. It doesn’t go well, in part because either they underestimated Harley, or Vivian from Fillmore didn’t share her intel. That ends with some potentially serious peril for at least one of the characters.

What I liked: As always, the banter on this show is entertaining. I’m not sure I blame the murderer this week. This show is good at subverting your sympathies in unexpected ways– after all, I mentioned “anti-zombie” people earlier and they’re the bad guys. There were some big surprises throughout the episode, and it seems Fillmore-Graves has at least one big enemy we didn’t know about. I liked Blaine’s attack on his father’s empire, and the lengths he went to in order to succeed were impressive. Liv and Justin’s date was entertaining. I really feel bad for Clive dealing with Liv and the idiots this week.

What I didn’t: Finn and his minions were just plain annoying. I don’t think I’ve ever been more eager for a brain to wear off than this week. I don’t like how the Fillmore party ended. I’m worried about the last scene. I’m trying, but I still can’t square the rest of what we know about Ravi with liking this show. What happened to the big mystery about the missing camera data card? I guess maybe Peyton’s working on that off screen this week?

As always, this was a really entertaining episode. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5. I really wonder how some of this is going to spin out.

Iron Fist: Dragon Plays With Fire

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Oh, THIS Iron Fist…

Iron Fist reaches the conclusion of season one (with sadly no confirmed word on season two as yet) with “Dragon Plays With Fire.” There are a lot of dangling threads they manage to (mostly) resolve, and they leave enough hanging if the show does return. And I’m relieved that a troubling rumor I heard about the show is proven false.

In the Penthouse, a very self-satisfied Harold stops to check his reflection in the mirror. He sees the news carrying the story of Danny Rand being hunted by the DEA and smiles. One car ride later, he’s at the lobby for Rand, abusing a guard for doing his job. I don’t know if they did this on purpose, but it’s an interesting parallel with Danny’s first time coming here.

In his office, Ward is talking with Jerri Hogarth, Danny’s lawyer. He assures her the charges are false, and she wryly observes he’s changed his tune where Danny is concerned. Their talk about Danny’s legal troubles with the DEA gets interrupted by Harold arriving. Jerri is, to put it mildly, stunned. After some more unpleasant comments from Harold, he dismisses Jerri, then shows Ward he doesn’t even know everything about his own office. Harold spins an unlikely story to cover his miraculous return from the dead, and then surprises Ward with another revelation about what’s been happening in the background with Danny.

Continuing to mirror the first episode, the next scene is Danny in the park. This time, he’s skulking around with his hood pulled up, avoiding the various police officers, since Danny is on the Most Wanted List. Colleen brings Danny a copy of the New York Bulletin, showing his picture as a dangerous criminal. They compare notes on how each other are, and then Colleen says they need a go-between to get to Jerri, since the Feds are probably watching her.

Naturally, this leads to Claire bringing a note to Jerri, and then Jerri to Danny and Colleen. Personally, I don’t think that’s the best way to go about not leading police to Danny, but it seems to work. Jerri isn’t thrilled to meet Colleen, who also has charges against her. They debate tactics and decide they need to try and find the unaltered documents that Harold tweaked to implicate Danny. Jerri doesn’t want to hear about Harold returning from the dead, gives some more advice, and leaves the three heroes.

Danny and Colleen return to The Hand compound, now eerily deserted. Working their way through the buildings, they find Madame Gao, still in her cell. She seems happy to see Danny, although she rains more bad news down on him. She also offers insights about Danny and Colleen that unnerve both of them. Danny leaves having learned more about the deaths of his parents and unsure about what to do next.

Danny, Colleen, and Claire talk about their next move. Danny is heading down a dark path, and Claire is trying hard to steer him in another direction. Colleen then complicates Claire’s life by finding a new unpleasant way to go. Claire compares Danny to the other “special” people she’s met, contrasting them all being dark and haunted with Danny’s innocence when she met him. She’s worried he’s losing that, and I’d say she has a point. She suggests they focus on the tablet that may prove Danny’s innocence.

Ward goes to see Joy in the hospital, and it’s not exactly a warm reunion. Given what she saw from Ward last night, she has no interest in talking to him, which might be one of her smartest decisions. They argue as he tries to justify himself, and tell her what a monster Harold really is. Joy isn’t buying any of it until Ward raises the stakes. He tosses down a copy of the Bulletin with the cover story about Danny the fugitive, and she is shocked.

In a surprising alliance, Danny and Ward meet up. Ward really does seem to want to help Danny. Whether Ward feels badly about how he treated Danny before or just wants revenge on Harold, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure Ward is sure, either. Ward warns Danny about the increased security, and Danny shares the news from Gao about the Rands’ deaths. Danny is still suffering his blurry flashbacks, and finally runs off, with Ward staring after him.

Motivated by Ward’s visit and news, Joy rises from her hospital bed and goes to Rand to confront Harold. He tries more of his lies, and she’s not buying them. She lays out how she knows Harold framed Danny, and Harold isn’t pleased. During the course of the conversation, Joy realizes Harold has been spying on her. They argue more, and Harold’s paranoia comes to the fore. He yells at her that whatever Danny told her is lies, ignoring Joy repeatedly telling him she hasn’t seen Danny. She finally leaves, with Harold furious behind her. Down on the street, Joy sees Ward, but ignores him and is driven off in her own car. I think of everyone involved in this story, I feel worst for Joy. She had the rug pulled out from under her life, and she didn’t do anything to deserve any of this. Ward goes inside after watching her take off.

Hiding in a car nearby, the Colleen, Claire, Danny trio wait. Danny has a big bag of money he’s giving to Claire for a distraction, while he and Colleen prepare to go inside. Ward calls them and says they need to call it off, because Harold has added so many armed guards. Ward’s warning gets cut off rather brutally by Harold.  Claire agrees they should try another night, so of course Danny refuses. Colleen follows after Danny rushes off, leaving a frustrated Claire to pick up the pieces of their plan. She’s not happy. Colleen and Danny manage to get separated almost immediately but keep working their way inside.

Harold gets a warning from the staff downstairs and readies his men for the ambush. Ward protests, but isn’t in any condition to really stop anything at this point. Colleen gets up there and starts her own counter-ambush, which is when Danny makes a very dramatic and unexpected entrance. There’s a lot of fighting here, and another new use for the power of the Iron Fist which I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure it quite works for the concept from the books, but it sure looked cool.

Eventually, Harold retreats to the roof, luring Danny after him. Harold positions himself really badly for his attack on Danny, which might be part of why he misses. Danny actually gets hit a bit later, and it’s an ugly-looking wound. As they stalk each other across the roof, Harold goes into another long monologue which makes him sound even less sympathetic as it goes on. The end of the confrontation goes very unexpectedly, or at least I didn’t see it coming. It made sense to me overall, although Danny steals one of Wonder Woman’s moves.

Sometime later, it’s day, and the hawk we’ve seen before flies through the city. It finally lands on a building, and then we see Ward and Danny inside. Jerri stops by to give them some good news, and they attend to something that really needs to be done. I’m hoping that’s the end of that little problem.

Once more back at the dojo, Colleen is still training Claire. Danny comes with pizza, and they talk about future plans. Claire, wisely, suggests therapy for both of them. She takes the claws she captured in China and walks out. Danny and Colleen make plans to go to K’un-Lun. I don’t think they’d be please that Danny brought them both someone they didn’t know and a former member of The Hand at that. Danny talks about his hopes for the future.

We end on a few closing scenes. Ward has made some changes at the office, and I’m glad he did. There’s a meeting between two very unlikely people, who don’t seem to have Danny’s best interests at heart. They’re overheard by another familiar face. Danny and Colleen go on their trip, and get a big surprise at the end of it, which is where we leave them for now.

What I liked: The action was good. Claire, as always, was a stable, wise presence who brought much needed common sense. I’m hoping Ward’s change of perspective is lasting and sincere. It was a nice touch that Colleen’s blade is still damaged. There are a lot of loose ends for possible continuation.

What I didn’t: For all the trouble he was having with it earlier, Danny’s power seems to be fine now. If he rebalanced his Chi on his own, we never saw it. I really don’t know why Danny thought the people of K’un-Lun would welcome Colleen. The final meeting over tea didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why did Danny blur every time he got a flashback? Was this some psychedelic version of PTSD?

I’ll give this episode, and the show in general, a 3 out of 5. I’d rate it as the lowest of the four Netflix/Defenders shows, but even with that, I thought it was decent and I’d watch another season.

All four heroes will return in the Defenders in August.

Gotham: All Will Be Judged

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Celebrating their escape… if that’s what you call this

In Gotham, the segment of the season continues with “Heroes Rise: All Will Be Judged.” The show starts with the very odd couple of Penguin and Nygma, locked in adjoining cages that look like huge bird cages, prisoners of the Court of Owls. I really have to wonder, where would you even get cages like that? I mean, seriously, who makes those? The two of them argue and bicker, and it’s entertaining to watch.

Out at Wayne Manor, the house is filled with the sounds of alarms. The Clone wanders in to the study (where something like 90% of the action at the manor happens), where he sees the telltale open window that is Selena’s favorite entrance. Selena and the Clone exchange a few barbed comments and then start fighting.  They’re both very good, and the Clone only gets the upper hand when Alfred comes in and distracts the young cat burglar. This is when Alfred figures out what’s going on, and does decently in his own fight until he pauses, too. These two need to go back to combat training. While this goes on, Bruce and his Nameless Mentor arrive at a deserted mansion on the outskirts of Gotham.

Lee has a very disturbing dream about Mario that results in her taking it out on an innocent glass of wine. While she tries to shake that off, Gordon and Bullock try to figure out where the Court might have a “secure location” if they’ve been around for hundreds of years. With off-screen help from Lucius Fox, they work out that Catherine owns some property near the docks that seems to have some kind of hidden room. Bullock also admits that he’s jealous of Fox’s intelligence, but that may have just been a comedic throwaway line. The place proves to be the usual dingy, rundown, abandoned warehouse kind of scene, and Bullock laments that they never have to go search a place he’d like to go, like a brewery or strip club. They find a really badly hidden door and discover a largely empty room. In the center is a crystal owl like the one Bruce and company stole a while back. Their search is interrupted by the sudden appearance of the crazed ex-Captain Barnes, now decked out in black leather, weird face paint, and toting an ax as a replacement for his missing hand.

Not knowing that he’s busy fighting crazy people, Alfred is trying to call Gordon while Selena nurses her injured head. Selena refuses to help find the missing Bruce, and Alfred goes off on her. I’d agree she had that coming. Alfred finishes his diatribe by telling Selena to never come back to Wayne Manor as he stalks out of the room. Leave the thief you just ticked off alone in the big mansion, that’s a great idea.

While Bullock winces as medics treat him and tries to get a lead on the missing Gordon, Penguin and Nygma bicker more, initially about the width of the blade Penguin is sharpening to kill Nygma with. They argue a lot more, and then Penguin, despite being drugged by Nygma, foils Nygma’s escape attempt, smiling while Nygma gets beaten by the guards.

Bruce and the Nameless Mentor go through another round of trying to lock away Bruce’s pain about his parents’ deaths, which Bruce can’t manage to do. Gordon, meanwhile, finds he is strapped to a chair so that Barnes can try him for… not supporting Barnes’ killing spree, I guess. Catherine is also there, shaking her head over her disappointment about Gordon betraying her. That’s Jim, letting everyone down by trying to prevent the citizens of Gotham from being murdered. Who does he think he is, anyway? Catherine leaves after more vague threats about Gotham’s future.

Lee goes back to Arkham to visit the Mad Hatter, who has taken to speaking in rhyme. They spar with each other, and he lays out his motivations for infecting Mario. It’s a decent plan, in its own twisted way, and Lee has definitely fallen for it. She comes to a disturbing realization about what’s been going on.

Penguin and Nygma both manage to put aside mutual hatred long enough to realize they’re not going to get anywhere if they keep getting in each other’s way. They agree both to work together and to a six hour truce after they escape. They’re both very intelligent men, so I’d say they have a good chance at making it out.

Bruce gets taken down Memory Lane via magic needle again, but this time we see Nameless’ memory, not Bruce’s. Apparently, the killing of the Waynes wasn’t sanctioned by the Court, and Nameless actually killed the man who ordered it. Nameless then tells Bruce the Court must pay for its crimes (despite the fact that he’s clearly a high-ranking member) and asks if Bruce will help him.

Barnes puts his ax-hand on dramatically, although he was wearing it earlier. Did he take it off to put it back on? He tells Gordon that things could have gone so differently, if only Gordon hadn’t decided to stand against Gotham and Justice. Gordon manages to appeal to their bond as fellow soldiers and law enforcement to die with his badge on, and uses Barnes coming close to pull off a pretty slick trick. Barnes babbled earlier about Lee coming to see him, and now is enraged at Jim’s trick and the sudden arrival of the GCPD. Barnes, still hopped up on the Tetch Virus (the gift that keeps on giving) plunges several stories, then gets up and runs off.

Gordon is freed but Barnes is still on the loose. A frustrated Bullock gets off my favorite line of the episode: “There’s a nut job running around Gotham in a leather jumpsuit with an axe for an arm. I know this is Gotham but c’mon people do something!” he exhorts the squad room. Gordon wants to go bust Catherine, but apparently Barnes’ Strike Force has been around just off- screen all this time, and they’ve already picked her up. This is when Alfred arrives with news of Bruce’s disappearance, and Alfred, Gordon, and Bullock compare notes about the Court. This “secret” organization is becoming pretty damn well known. They collectively figure out the crystal owl Alfred helped steal is important, and he goes to get the pieces.

Penguin and Riddler enact their escape plan, which goes off without a hitch. Score one for the bad guys. Catherine proves utterly uncooperative when Gordon tries to question her, but oddly doesn’t request a lawyer. She also laughs at his belief that she’s the leader of the Court. If she’s not playing mind games with Gordon, I guess that makes Nameless the leader. Catherine’s tune changes when an enraged Alfred learns she’s there, and plays a bit worse than bad cop. Just because things weren’t chaotic enough, this is about when Barnes shows up and attacks the GCPD.

Barnes wades through the cops, using a combination of knockout gas and his virus-enhanced strength. While Bullock was warning the others about Barnes being there, the nutjob apparently went climbing, as he suddenly drops from the rafters of the squad room. He wipes the floor with Bullock, Gordon, and Alfred. Catherine overplays her hand, and he ends up backhanding her, which I have to admit was a little satisfying. Gordon finally manages to down Barnes with a particularly desperate move. The GCPD does love their shotguns.

Penguin and Riddler actually honor their truce, after terrifying a few local homeless guys. Gordon and company try to put the squad room back together. Lee comes in for another very odd scene with Gordon. She still blames him for everything, despite what Hatter told her, and then makes a few cryptic comments. This is also when we find out Barnes killed Catherine, which was really not clear at all from the scene.

Bruce and Nameless go through the “lock away the pain” ritual again, and this time Bruce manages it. From what we see after that, it doesn’t look like this is going to go well for Bruce. Barnes, naturally, escapes again, to Bullock’s (and my) annoyance. Lee steals something and then does something amazingly stupid to end the episode.

What I liked: Riddler and Penguin actually make a great team when they aren’t trying to kill each other. Bullock keeps getting the best lines and reactions. Alfred’s tirade at Selena was well-earned. I won’t miss Catherine the Smug. Hatter’s rant to Lee was actually on the diabolically brilliant side.

What I didn’t: Selena isn’t being cool or aloof, she’s being a brat. Lee’s been acting weird for a while now, and this episode she went past that to loony. The “hidden” room of the Court’s was really obvious. Why is Bruce trusting someone who helped kidnap him and hold him prisoner? Can we keep Barnes in custody for more than five minutes?

Taking the Week Off: The Tabitha/Butch/Barbara trio are nowhere to be seen. Neither is Ivy, the other “army of freaks” members, or Lucius Fox, despite being mentioned a lot.

Iron Fist: Bar the Big Boss

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It’s a REALLY awkward elevator ride

Iron Fist is close to wrapping things up with “Bar The Big Boss,” episode 12 out of 13. Matters are coming to a head, and the various plotlines are starting to close in on themselves. Lines are being drawn, and Danny Rand has to deal with forces pulling him in several directions at once.

They open with us checking in on Ward, still confined to the same hospital he once sent Danny to. Ward isn’t doing well, having hallucinations, withdrawal, and a generally wretched time of it. When a nurse comes in to check on him, he first tries to charm her, then bribe her, and both work equally well. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Later, he gets another visitor. Bakuto gets around, that’s for sure. The Hand Sensei offers Ward a deal, which makes me think of devils and pitchforks, the way that man operates.

Danny and Colleen wander down the street. Colleen is still stunned about the way her world is collapsing around her, especially Bakuto ordering her to be killed. Davos cautions Danny not to believe her, since she’s Hand. That pretty much sets the tone for all the interactions between Davos and Colleen for the rest of the episode. Danny isn’t going to enjoy playing referee. They argue about what to do about the compound, Colleen’s former students, and pretty much everything else.

At the Penthouse, Harold rhapsodizes about working with Joy. She buys all his talk, and is planning on a big family vacation after they finish with their current crisis: her, Ward, Harold, and Danny. It’s almost painful seeing her get hopeful, considering what we know of the way Harold operates. He adeptly dodges her questions about Ward. That ends up not mattering when Ward himself walks in a few moments later. Kind of nice to see Harold surprised.

Tensions rise immediately as Ward wants to talk to Joy away from Harold. He’s really pushing for them to leave, which becomes increasingly desperate. Joy wants to stay and work, and Harold is clearly suspicious, but then, he always is. Ward warns her that Harold isn’t who he thinks, and will use her and just toss her aside. Ward gets a lot more emphatic about how bad Harold is and that they need to leave.

Ward’s insistence on going makes a lot more sense when the elevator opens and Bakuto and his entourage walk out. Harold’s guards make the big mistake of resisting, and the body count in Harold’s penthouse goes up again. Bakuto keeps exuding his fake charm and calm while he drops a few bombshells among the Meechums. Bakuto veers from recommending a family therapist to telling Ward how to kill the annoyingly immortal Harold. Ward isn’t so much worried about something happening to Harold as he is Joy having to see it. Things get calm, sort of, for a moment when Bakuto demands Ward’s phone.

Danny and Colleen return to the Chikara Dojo, because that seems to be the only place they hang out. I wonder what happened to Danny’s apartment/suite/whatever it was. They talk about her situation and the general duality of life. This gets interrupted by Bakuto calling and sending video of him holding the Meechums prisoner. To emphasize his point, Bakuto takes violent action. Danny agrees to go there, and Davos argues that the Iron Fist doesn’t surrender to anyone. Naturally, Danny goes anyway.

The Meechums debate if Danny will come or not and what kind of man he is. Joy seems to be the only one who has a clear picture of both him and them. Bakuto goes on about the history of his sword as he prepares to execute Harold, which I’d actually be ok with. Harold, for last words, flings a stream of abuse at Ward. This about when Danny gets there and gives himself up to save the Meechums. Well, at least one of them is worth the effort. Bakuto cuffs Danny and takes him away.

On the elevator ride down, Bakuto shakes his head, calling the Meechums a pit of vipers and telling Danny he should be glad to be away from those people. I can’t really fault him there. When the elevator gets to the lobby, things get interesting, if inconsistent. Davos and Colleen are there, and a general fight ensues. Danny fires up the Fist for a moment and frees himself from the cuffs before it flickers out again. In the elevator on the way down, I counted carefully, and it was Bakuto plus five men. Now, somehow, it’s three vs. three as Bakuto fights Danny and Colleen and Davos take on a guard each. It’s a very back and forth fight. Everyone involved is quite skilled.

Eventually, it’s down to Bakuto alone, and he flees. The fight moves to a stair and archway location I’ve seen in a lot of New York filmed movies. I think it’s in Central Park. Bakuto taunts Colleen, and she takes him on. Davos tells Danny to stay out of it, that it’s her fight because Bakuto is her sensei. That almost sounds like respect from him, which is a lot different from how he was treating her earlier. It’s an impressive fight that Colleen eventually wins. Then tensions rise to the boiling point and Danny takes on Davos. It’s fight marked by apologies, and, since we know whose show it is, the outcome isn’t that hard to guess. Colleen stupidly watches the fight, and we get the old “I know he was dead, but where’d he go” trick.

Finally, morning arrives, bright and sunny. The Meechums are at the hosptial, and Harold is once again switching sides without batting an eye. Seriously, why does anyone trust this man at this point? He vaguely talks of his future plans, none of which involve anything good for Danny. When Danny calls, Harold stops him from coming to visit, but also finds out where he is. Danny is remarkably naive.

Danny and Colleen go back to the Dojo once more, and have a few cute moments together, talking about the future. Later, which might be the next morning, Danny is doing hip hop kung fu, and then starts teaching Colleen. They get a warning from a very unexpected source, and the dojo gets attacked again. I swear, that door has almost as much bad lack as the one to Jessica Jones’ office. Men in tac armor attack again, and we do get to see who they are. Danny and Colleen get away and the episode ends with them running down the street.

What I liked: As you’d expect from both a martial arts show and a Marvel project, the fight choreography is good. Danny has his share of flaws, and maybe part of someone else’s share, but he is a hero and willing to sacrifice himself for others. I can’t stand Bakuto or Harold, which means they are well written and well acted villains, so points there.

What I didn’t: I’m really over the Meechums as a whole. It’s an ongoing soap opera I don’t really want to watch. All we need is an evil twin or an unexpected pregnancy and we’d be ready for daytime tv. The characters were stupid in their fight in Central Park. If Iron Fist gets a second season, which as far as I know is not confirmed, I wouldn’t mind it being Meechum-free. Maybe Joy if we have to.

This wasn’t a great episode. I’ll give it a low 3 out of 5. I hope the conclusion really ups the game here.

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