Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quick (HAHAHAHA GET IT? DO YOU? DO YOU GET IT???) Thoughts on The Flash

Last week, Cisco died after discovering Harrison Wells was the Reverse Flash, Barry revealed his secret identify to Iris (Earning another stamp on his “Reveal your identity to 20 people, get a free sub” card), and the new Weather Wizard got up to Weather Wizardry and was about to destroy a good portion of Central City (and Jesse L. Martin) with a tidal wave.  And then *pop* Barry jumps the time stream to the day before…

…and, cue this week’s episode.  Everything resets, and let’s see how Barry can screw things up in new and exciting ways.  See, as Doctor Exposition tells us, when you try to change the past, time does its darnedest to make things go the way they were supposed to.  Which could be true, or could just be Wells planting time seeds in Barry’s mind for when he inevitably goes back to the night of his mother’s murder.  Especially since while Flashes can go back in time, it’s yet to be seen how they can go forward in time (since Wel…Eobard is still here…but then Barry has to get back to the future eventually right?  Except maybe it happens during Crisis and AHHHHH TIMETRAVEL NOSEBLEED).  And too many parentheticals.  Ouch, I need a new paragraph.

Barry blows off Linda because he’s all “oh, I just tell Iris my secret and she’ll fall right into my pants”, only telling Iris GOES HILARIOUSLY BAD.  And Eddie cold cocks him.  Which I promise was not a pun on purpose.  Because even though Barry decides to lock the barn door BEFORE the horse is stolen by rounding up the Weather Wizard and sticking him in the Crime Tube, now Captain Cold (and Heat Wave and his sister Lisa Snart) swing by to rough up some organized crime and kidnap Cisco (and his brother) to make them replacement awesomeguns for gun-related crime.  Lisa, who in the comics becomes Golden Glider, evil ice skating criminal, instead gets a …gold gun?  I mean, Goldface was a loser Green Lantern villain, so ripping off his gimmick isn’t going to offend anyone, but if you can shoot gold out of your gun, then you’ve won crime.  Just shoot off a few million and buy an island.  But hey, it’s your show, CW, I’m not going to complain.  Much.  Hush.

An aside about Captain Cold: I LOVE his cadence now.  The way he delivers his supervillain speeches is just great.  Wentworth Miller has bought in fully to this role, and it pays off even more at the end of the episode.  Also, they really ramp up how smart/clever he is, with him having been able to understand (well, memorize) the inner workings of the cold gun, spotting it when Cisco tries to sabotage the new one he built.

So back to Barry and Cold: Snart gets Cisco to spill the beans about Flash’s secret identity and Flash and Cold have a nice secluded tete-a-tete in the spooky forest.  Barry won’t kill him, and even if he does, Cold has a dead-man uplink ready to broadcast Barry’s secret to the world.  Barry negotiates him down to “Well, don’t kill anybody anymore”, which I’m hoping leads to many many appearances by Captain Cold and the rest of the Rogues Gallery.  Okay, another side, I loved the line reading of Barry coining “Rogues Gallery”, and Captain Cold’s on “Rogues”.  Good sign for something in between the cartoony (but still entertaining) Rogues visits of the early comics, and the slightly harder-edged Rogues we got in the later run before Flashpoint happened and everything went all hooby-gooby. 

I’m really hoping that the current status quo stays around (and thanks to time travel, who knows).  Barry’s identity being in the hands of Snart seems pretty dicey, but it’s a good amount of future tension.  Also, TRICKSTER NEXT WEEK.  My body is ready for you, Mark Hamill!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mansplaining The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!!!

Originally, I was going to write a big ol’ piece on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a week and a half ago, after watching the middle episode of the season (Kimmy Goes to a Party!).  It was not going to be pretty.  There…was going to be mansplaining.  It’s not that there isn’t plenty to like, even love, about this show.  But I…am a premise Nazi.  If you sell me on a show about a girl who is kidnapped in the eighth grade and spends 15 years in a bunker as part of an apocalypse cult, I’m going to want that premise to saturate every minute of the show.  Because that’s a hell of a logline, and definitely something that both shoos you ahead of the sitcom pack, and puts a huge burden of proof (that can’t be right, but bear with me) on the show to deliver on that setup.  If you don’t deliver, then every show could have a premise like that.  Woody Boyd from Cheers could have been a human clone, bred by Martians to infiltrate Boston and steal their brewing secrets.  And in the first half (slightly more) of the season, outside of the pilot, Kimmy Schmidt (or Smith) could be literally anyone for 90% of her screen time.   

Okay, taking a break here to go over the positives.  Because there are many, and I don’t want anyone thinking I don’t like this show.  Ellie Kemper is great, Carol Kane is great.  Jane Krakowski…is Jane Krakowski.  Solid, but I’ve seen it all on 30 Rock.  Although I did read that she came in late as Jacqueline, so I’ll give them a pass.  She handles her lines well, but it’s nothing new.  Honestly…hold on, more positives first.  Umm, theme song has been stuck in my head since the first time I listened to it.  The jokes fly fast and free, and I love the absurdist touches both in the throwaway one-liners, and in many of the actual plot/story elements.  Comparing Kimmy to 30 Rock isn’t an insult by any means.  30 Rock was a fun show and I watched every second of it.  Also, once the series wraps up Season 1 in the last 3-4 episodes, it is a fun fun fun ride, and more than worth getting through episodes 2-8.  And hey, if your expectations are lower, then you’ll love it start to finish.  Premise Nazi.  My issue, not yours/theirs.  Xanthippe is also a good idea for a character, and she really gets shortsheeted over the course of these 13 episodes.   The show is beautifully shot, and the color palette, especially for Kimmy,  really pops, even on my phone screen. 

Okay, back to griping!  So much of early Kimmy seems like Tina Fey found a big folder of unused Kenneth storylines/jokes and wrote “s” in front of all the “he”s in the scripts.  If you skipped the pilot, then most of the jokes turn into “naïve girl from Indiana moves to New York, is confused”.  Which, they also recycle that joke series when Kimmy’s father, sister, and fellow bunker pal come to town.  And I’d already watched both seasons of “Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23”, so I was already worn out on “Midwest bumpkin comes to New York” jokes.  WE GET IT.  New York is weird and awesome and changes people and etc.   

I haaaaaaaaate Titus.  And maybe I’m supposed to, so Mission Accomplished.  Or maybe whatever the character is supposed to accomplish is not aimed at me, and I’m okay with that.  And the actor really dove headfirst into the part, so there’s that.  But, haaaaaaaaaaate.    Jacqueline just feels like a retread, and her stories don’t jibe with what is going on (or allegedly going on) with the main theme of the show.  There is plenty of meat on the Kimmy bone to where whole swaths of screentime don’t need to go to Jacqueline and her story.  By the finale, it starts to feel like someone had this very thin idea for a series about Jacqueline, a Native American who shuns her culture and goes full white, blonde, and shallow, and then no one bought it so it was awkwardly stapled onto the Kimmy script. 

Honestly, that leads me into one of the other nagging issues; this series doesn’t feel like “one series”.  It’s uneven and the story emphasis keeps flipping around between Kimmy, Titus, and Jacqueline.  Then Buckley just disappears (literally), and then a promising subplot of Xanthippe trying to discover Kimmy’s secret just peters out, even as Xan starts to turn from “stereotypical rich party girl” to “secretly decent human being masquerading as a party girl”.  Another good idea, and just slapped around and then dropped like a sack of flour.  Imagining this series going on NBC and being played out a week at a time, rather than 13 episodes dumped on Netflix at once, makes me think that this might not have made it to the brilliantly weird endgame with Tina Fey, Jerry Minor, and Jon Hamm showing up to salvage LITERALLY EVERYTHING. 

There is plenty to love, and there are plenty of perfectly good building blocks ready to go for Season 2.  Ellie Kemper can anchor this show for as long as she wants, it just needs a little more focus and a lighter touch.  I like the idea of “Kimmy wants to have a normal, non-Mole Woman life”, but other than the occasional “Oh, it’s funny because I don’t know what pop culture or technology are” joke, which lost their specialness when Kimmy’s dad came to town.  Instead, Mole Woman status was almost ignored until the back half of the season.  Premise Nazi.  Can’t apologize.  Anyway, good show that should have been great, but I’m relieved it didn’t dip into awful.  Let’s hope for a solid Season 2, right the ship, and give us eight more years of Kimmy. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Slow Read Regarding The Flash

Some brief notes, since I haven’t used this in over four years:

-I assume you’ve watched the episode/series/thing I’m talking about.
-Spoilers everywhere.  Always spoilers.  I may spoil random things just to keep you on your toes.
-This is stream of consciousness, as I’m not good enough (or too good) to rewrite.
-I meander. 

The Flash is my favorite comic.   It was also my first series that I collected/read/went to Dallas Fantasy Fairs to pick up back issues of.  I have one signed comic in my possession, and it is Flash 79, and it is signed by Mark Waid, because it is an issue that means a lot to me and is the conclusion to an amazing storyline.  Also, Wally West is my homeboy.  Barry Allen was the first, and saved everything during Crisis, and is now the Flash in the current comics (I assume, I haven’t read any of New 52 for various reasons).  And Barry Allen is the Flash in the CW show that is currently running…AWAY WITH MY HEART!!!

And this is what I’m here to talk about, The Flash (and eventually, all of the other things I watch whenever time allows).  Thank you CW, for putting together a great superhero lineup.  I was a Smallville watcher for several years, until it just got too awful for me to take.  I shunned Arrow because I’d been burned by Smallville (and DC films, by and large), and because I had plenty of DC animated shows to get my fix from.  But thanks to Netflix, I blew through the first two seasons of Arrow in time to start Season 3 when it aired in the fall, and with Arrow came…The Flash.

Another aside (an aside to an aside, welcome to my writing style), around the same time in my youth that I was getting into reading (and to a lesser extent, collecting…in that I bagged and backed all of my stuff a few months after I got hooked) comics, CBS also brought forth the too-beautiful-to-live live action series of The Flash, starring John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen.  Who plays Barry Allen’s dad on the CW version of The Flash.  Because everything is everything.  So my love of the Flash.  Great character, great writing, especially the Waid run, and I had Barry as my TV Flash and Wally as my comics Flash, who was living with the legacy of taking over as the Flash after Barry died saving all of existence during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. 

So now back to this year, and this week’s episode.  They took a month off for…CW reasons, I can only assume, and came back to DROP SOME BOMBS.  Barry Allen is hit by a wave of electrified chemicals at the same time as the particle accelerator at STAR Labs explodes, causing a dark matter wave, and suddenly we have metahumans EVERYWHERE, and Barry has his helpful friends Cisco (who I wanted to hate, but now love) and Kaitlyn (who you remember from Sky High, which is a highly underrated movie with a sneakygreat cast), and Dr Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanaugh, who you should know from Ed, which was another too-beautiful-to-live show that needs to be on Netflix and be discovered as the lost gem it truly is).  And then Not-Chris-Noth from Law and Order, Jesse L. Martin is in it, and terrible Iris (okay, she’s probably a fine person/actress, but she is Kreuking all over the place lately) and Eddie Thawne is a person (comics wiener perked up when I heard that name, and THAT paid off last night too) and then lately we’ve had a Linda Park (Wally’s eventual girlfriend/wife in the late run of the Flash before Flashpoint/new 52/whatever the hell DC did to piss me off) in the picture, which is WEIRDING ME OUT BUT WHATEVER…mostly because I want some Kid Flash at some point and don’t mind me I’m a nerd. 

Ahem, so Barry Allen is nerdy police forensics guy, and rather than this being CSI: Central City, instead he gains super speed.  And his mom was killed by a “yellow and red blur” when he was a kid (yes, those colors are obvious to comics fans, everyone else gets to wait until January for clues), and his dad (JOHN WESLEY MOTHEREFFING/NOTKILLING SHIPP) is in jail for the crime.  So here we are, we’ve got our weekly stories of “oh hey, metahumans come to Central  City to wreck shit”, our overall arc of “I wonder who killed Barry’s mom?”, and then lesser storylines of “Barry loves Iris, but she’s dating Eddie”.  And then awesome Dr Wells storylines like “Oh shit he can walk” and “Oh shit he killed that guy” and “Oh shit he has a secret room where he has future newspapers where the front page story looks like that part in Crisis where Barry died to save the world”, and then later season storylines like “Oh shit, he’s Reverse Flash (please please please let him be called Professor Zoom at some point, I don’t care how)” and “Oh shit, he killed Barry’s mom in the past”, and this week’s “Oh shit, his name is Eobard Thawne and he just killed Cisco!!!”.  Which was some major major shit going down, and two majors is a lot considering Barry had to reveal his identify as the Flash to Iris, and oh yeah, also ripped a HOLE THROUGH GODDAMN TIME. 

Flashes love time travel, and I have the sneaking (okay, not that sneaking, I watched the preview for next week’s episode after the credits) suspicion that a lot of these revelations are going to be undone thanks to Barry’s trip into the recent past.  Which is fine, and will be awesome.  Flash has bought a LOT of credit from me by now, so I’m just going to relax and enjoy the ride to next week’s episode and the rest of the season.  It’s pretty obvious that Barry has to go back in time to the night his mother was killed anyway, and it also seems obvious that he’s not going to be able to do a damn thing to stop it (although if they want to make season 2 some kind of Flashpoint alternate universe stuff, I will be okay with that).  Best he can hope for is to get his dad out of prison, assuming they want Shipp to be a series regular at this point. 

So, relationship stuff, eww, ick, barf, but it’s the CW and that’s what keeps the lights on.  The better relationship stuff was the casual way the comatose police Captain’s (male) fiancé was allowed to visit.  I mean, it’s a tiny bit shoehorned in, but I’m not going to complain about it.  Tiny bit.  All for same sex marriage.  But also for smoother storytelling.  Not as bad as “Don’t text, it can wait” from the Season 1 Arrow finale.  As for Iris/Linda/Eddie/Barry…meh.  It is what it is.  Would be much more interesting with Iris knowing that Barry is the Flash, buuuuuut that probably gets reset like an NES by this time next episode.  Although I really do want to see that conversation happen for real at some point. 

Some brief notes, since next week’s episode pretty much takes care of itself – no speculation needed.  Loving Wentworth Miller as Len Snart/Captain Cold.  I love the Rogues, I love the classic Rogues, I love the other Rogues, I love the terrible Rogues that other Rogues make fun of.  We’re only missing Mirror Master of the Classic Rogues, and I really REALLY want Abra-Cadabra on this show, probably Season 2.  Also very happy about the casting of Mark Hamill as Classic Trickster (plus whoever the new Trickster will be).  James Jesse was a fun character in the comics run, and along with Pied Piper, it’ll be good to have some potential villains turned allies for Team Flash (comics spoiler based speculation, obviously).  Firestorm had a difficult birthing process, but left on a good note.  With Flash and Arrow on TV, I really lament the presence of a good Green Lantern (either a watchable movie or a TV version) to complete the trio…plus Flash/Green Lantern is such a good duo, and robs me of the potential Grodd/Hector Hammond crossover fun.  But hey, Season 5, right?  I need it all though, Speed Force, Kid Flash, Impulse, Johnny Quick, the Kilg%re, everything.  Years to go though, and with the ratings that Arrow and Flash are getting, I’ll hopefully get every bit of it.  Don’t be afraid to throw some script work at Mark Waid of Bill Messner-Loebs either.  This is some good street-level superheroics going on, and I’m thrilled with how well they’ve nailed both characters tonally at this point in the respective series. 

As for next time, maybe I’ll do some quick hits on what I’m currently watching, plus I’ve crossed a few series off my Netflix queue (finished, not given up on), and I’m working my way through Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I have thoughts on new Community as well.