Posted in Reviews

The Flash, Season 2 Review

As per usual – spoilers ahead.  If you haven’t seen season 2 or 1, stop reading now if you don’t want spoilers.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!  😉

Season 2 starts out 6 months after the finale of season 1.  Barry Allen (the amazing Grant Gustin), The Flash, has forced everyone off of Team Flash due to his survivor’s guilt, so the first episode deals with getting the band back together.  Thanks to Iris (the always wonderful Candice Patton) the team does get back together, because she simply stops giving Barry the option of pushing everyone away.  In many ways, giving them a family history – having Iris know Barry better than anyone – really helps push some of these storylines.  Family often will step in whether you want them to or not, because they want to help.

Season 2 is a good season with an excellent bad guy, although two big bad speedsters in a row is a bit tiresome (more on that in the season 3 review) but Zoom is appropriately terrifying.  There are quite a few good stand alone episodes in season 2, something The Flash should do more often.  Sometimes having a bad guy of the week is more fun than the tedious, overarching bad guy that looms over the entire season.

To that end, “Family of Rogues” sees the return of Snart and his sister.  This is a great episode that I would give an A++ to except that during the episode, Snart uses the cold gun to freeze lasers during a heist.  He then walks through the lasers as they break.

He freezes LASERS.

We had to pause the television set as my husband lost his mind to a rant about how you cannot freeze lasers and are they kidding with this?

I’m a big fan of Rachel Bloom’s series, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and there is a song in the first season where they sing, “Don’t think about it too hard, too too hard” and season 2 is when the physics, such as freezing lasers, caused me to sing this quite a lot.  This song refrain got quite a lot more use in season 3, too.

Here’s the song if you care to hear it

However, other than the simple insanity of FREEZING LASERS the episode is one of the better ones, especially for fans of Captain Cold, aka Snart played by the wonderful Wentworth Miller.

Season two is a lot of fun, and has a lot of really great episodes.  We get a new Harrison Wells from Earth 2 and the Arrowverse is expanded into a multiverse, which is pretty cool because it explains away any continuity problems found in other iterations of DC including Kara Danvers and Superman existing on a different world altogether.  It also gives unlimited story telling options, as the multiverse itself is infinite.

The beginning of the season gives us a new love interest for Barry, one we all know is doomed due to his feelings for Iris, but fun to watch nonetheless.  Patty Spivot, a new police officer who falls for Barry, is played by Shantel VanSanten.  Patty is charming and fun and it’s nice to see Barry interested in someone who is free and clear to be with him.  Of course, because this is a CW show and you have to have the stupid romantic angst, (why not have people get together and stay together? why is it hard to write a decent relationship on tv?) things don’t work out well between them and she leaves.  However, she was a fun character addition while she lasted.

Season 2 has a lot of good things – the new Wells being kind of a dick, Cisco learning about his metahuman powers – although him whining about them and wanting to keep them secret felt out of character by a lot – and the addition of the multiverse creates a really fun season.  Also, by the end of the season, Iris’ confesses her feelings to Barry, which is good as she spends most of the year grieving for her lost fiancé.

Having Iris actively working with Team Flash makes the show better all around and helps grow her character.  In season 1 she was the love interest and often bait and not much else, although Patton did a good job with the material she was given, but in this season she stands on her own more.  She even shoots a bad guy at one point.  One of the better scenes is when the cops arrive, Iris’ friend says that Iris is a great shot and Barry basically says, yeah she really is.  The lack of surprise for Iris’ talents coupled with his casual pride in her was fun.  Gustin and Patton do such a great job with Barry and Iris, and the writers give them a lot of great material to work with.

While I warned about spoilers, there are really so many huge spoilers that I’m omitting because finding out about them as you go is way more fun.  The whole season is fun, but much of the physics of the universe is insane, so this season gets a B-.  I don’t mind cartoon physics, but you have to make the laws of your world a) consistent b) sane c) you can’t freeze lasers.  Also, I knocked off some points simply because two speedsters in a row in two seasons focused on one Big Bad is tiresome at best.

 

Posted in Anxiety, Reviews

The Flash – Season 1

Spoilers for season 1 – although light, are present in this review.

Back in the 1990’s, anti-heroes were a somewhat new craze and could be interesting.  In 2019, I’m heartily sick of anti-heroes, which is part of the reason I love the Flash so much.

Barry Allen is a hero, an altruistic one, and it is so much fun to watch.  As The Flash/Barry Allen, Grant Gustin is amazingly likable.  Barry Allen’s mother was murdered when he was a kid and his father wrongfully went to jail for the crime.  Barry works as a CSI for the police department with his foster father Joe West, and he does it out of a desire to help the world.  Much of season 1 explores him trying to clear his father’s name and figure out who murdered his mother.

One of the things The Flash does well is it establishes an ensemble cast right off the bat.  Barry gets superpowers and he goes to the scientists at Star Labs for help.  These people become Team Flash and having an established ensemble cast makes the show fun immediately.  Unlike the slow build of season one of The Arrow, the support staff for The Flash is present almost from day one.

Cisco, an amazing Carlos Valdes, is one of the most likable characters in season one because of his sheer enthusiasm.  Cisco and Barry are both really excited and happy about Barry’s abilities, and they tend to nerd out together in adorable ways.  Cisco is also a techno-mage, although the show says he’s a genius.  However, the things he creates are pretty impossible (a gold gun that turns everything into gold??  Really?) and so I justify this bit of outlandishness by just assuming he has superpowers, too, and those superpowers allow him to make things like a gun that can turn anything to absolute zero.  So, he is a genius, but they really mean techno-mage.

After so many shows where the main character wants to be normal (I’m looking at you, Buffy.  What’s wrong with you?) I’ve found myself enjoying the heroes who embrace it and really enjoy it.  The Flash loves being the Flash.  He loves his speed.  At one point a mugger attempts to mug him and he just starts laughing, “Oh, you’re going to kick yourself,” he tells the mugger before stealing the mugger’s weapons and clothes and then stealing a cop to put right in front of the man.

It’s hilarious and awesome.

The one problem with season one is Iris West, played by the delightful and charismatic Candice Patton.  They don’t seem to know what to do with Iris in season one, so for the first several episodes, she is the damsel in distress, although she does show her badassery by punching bad guys a few times, and even shooting another that tried to take her hostage.  Mostly, though, season one is just every single character in the show lying to Iris and gaslighting the fuck out of her to keep Barry’s identity as the Flash a secret.  Her father, Joe West, played by the always watchable Jesse Martin (loved you since Ally McBeal!) tells Barry and the rest of Team Flash to keep Iris in the dark “for her safety.”

When Iris finds out she tells him, “Did you ever think that telling me what was going on would keep me safe?”  Excellent point, Iris.  Knowing IS half the battle.

I know television shows can’t just have a couple that is together and happy.  I don’t know why – other than maybe television show writers have miserable relationships so they don’t know how to write that kind of thing – but much of season 1 is simply Barry pining for Iris unbeknownst to her.  Or hiding his fun superhero life from her.

When you make a character the killer of fun, fans are going to hate that character, and I’ve seen a ton of Iris-hate online.  As I am a watcher of fan videos and fan theories on YouTube, I’ve seen more than a few that call Iris a “cunt” for what I think is basically no reason.

In season one, she finds out her best friend is in love with her about the same time her boyfriend asks her to move in with him.  She is lied to by every main character multiple times.  She knows something is up – this is her best friend and foster brother who she knows better than anyone, but when even though she knows something is going on, they all just gaslight, gaslight, gaslight.  How Iris didn’t murder them all at the end of the season when she found out is mystifying to me.

I actually feels bad for Iris sometimes.  Iris wanted to be a cop, too, but her father stopped speaking to her until she withdrew her application.  This is a woman who longs to be a hero herself, but she is put in a safety box by the men in her life, even though she proves consistently that she can take care of herself.

Anyway, her character is certainly problematic, but Candice Patton is so likable, so charming, and in a cast of gorgeous people she is the stand out beauty in the bunch – all of these things help to offset the fact that the writers make her the assassin of fun in most of the first season.  Luckily, once Iris knows about Barry, she’s incredibly likable, fun, and good addition to Team Flash – within 24 hours of finding out she saves Caitlin Snow’s life by hitting a bad guy over the head with a fire extinguisher.  If kept in the loop, Iris is a badass and a hell of a team player, which she illustrates in later seasons.

Dr. Harry Wells is played by a long time favorite actor of mine, Tom Cavanaugh.  Dr. Wells is an enigmatic figure in season one and Cavanaugh portrays him – his good side and his bad side – with humor and aplomb.  As a mentor and hero to Barry Allen, he helps Barry with his speed and becoming a superhero.  I don’t want to say too much about his character, but he is a fun addition to the show.  I think if you made a drinking game of when he tells Barry to run, you’d die of alcohol poisoning, but it’s always very fun.

Season 1 solves the mystery of who killed Barry’s mom, establishes him as a superhero, and introduces a lot of other characters that will be important in the Arrowverse.  It’s a really enjoyable season, with the gaslighting of Iris West being the only exception.  It seems like a small thing, but it’s bad enough there are times you almost hate the main characters for doing it to her.  Even her boyfriend Eddie says, “So literally everyone but Iris knows,” when he finds out Felicity knew about Barry being the Flash.

Grant Gustin does a great job of making the Flash come to life – much like Joel Grey, Gustin has a dancing background so his physicality as the Flash is fluid and believable.  Other people have played speedsters on the show, but Gustin has a comfort and physicality that comes off more natural than a lot of the others.

The special effects are also just amazing.  With the Flash moving too fast for people to see, most of the time when he’s running it is a red streak of electricity and it’s fantastic.  In almost every episode there are special effects that look like panels from a comic book.  With a character that moves as fast as the Flash fighting giant telepathic gorillas (Grodd), special effects are important, and this show would be enjoyable simply on a “ooh, shiny” level alone.  When the plot isn’t my cup of tea, I can be content watching how amazingly cool the visuals are.

Overall, I’d give The Flash season 1 an A.  It’s not only watchable, but rewatchable.  Likable characters, altruistic heroes, and old school comic book mentality about being a superhero.  Some of the best fun is when Oliver Queen shows up and you get to see happy Barry dealing with anti-hero and grump, the Arrow.  The banter in the beginning of the below clip never fails to crack me up – Barry is quick witted and while he has some hero worship for Oliver, he also has no problem gently making fun of Oliver, either.  Huntress and Deathstroke are characters on The Arrow, btw.

The above scene is one of my favorites and anytime Oliver Queen and Barry Allen are on screen together is gold.  That’s part of why I love the yearly crossover episodes.

Overall, this is a good show, one that I highly recommend.

 

**For those, like me, who can find their anxiety going through the roof during certain shows, this one is anxiety producing, but mainly because the pace is somewhat breathless.  First time viewing for me I had to pause after -3 episodes and do something calming.  Now that I’ve already seen it once, the anxiety is less, but even the music for the show is fast and almost frantic.  Watch with some chamomile tea or something else that soothes you if shows cause you anxiety.

Posted in Reviews

Unleashed Review

This review of “Unleashed” contains mild spoilers, but nothing you wouldn’t find out by reading the movie synopsis on IMDB.

I was sick over the weekend, and we spent the day watching the new season of “Arrested Development” and when that was over, I was grumpy and frazzled.  When my depression (grumpy) and anxiety (frazzled) kick into high gear, I prefer to rewatch something familiar.  Familiar is soothing.  However, my husband was home and likes to watch new things.  I decide what we watch most of the time because I’m very much a “mood” viewer and have to be in a certain mood to watch some things.

Rather than tell Will I was frazzled and needed something soothing, I just let him pick something because he doesn’t get a lot TV time and when I’m awake he gets to watch what he wants 80% of the time.  I figure I’ll handle my mood and just suffer through whatever horror movie he picks (he likes horror movies and his queue is just full of them.)

To my surprise he picks “Unleashed” a movie he’s been waiting to watch with me.  This movie was soothing and delightful and funny and sweet.  It was a balm to my frazzled soul – Will couldn’t have picked a better movie for my mood.  I told him after we finished watching it that I don’t expect him to read my mind, so it’s always a pleasant surprise when he does.

Enough about me, let’s talk about the movie!  First of all, the premise of the movie is a woman’s dog and cat turn human.  Kate Mucucci portrays Emma, an orphan with trust issues.  One night her door is left open and the dog and cat run away.  While they are gone they turn human.  Hilarity ensues.

The worst thing to happen in this movie happens in the very beginning.  Emma tells her rat fink, live-in boyfriend about this night sky app she’s made.  He steals the app and deletes her iCloud (I hissed, “Oh, you bastard!” when this happened, because he didn’t just steal her app, but erased her life, too) before leaving with a suitcase.  Emma copes by getting a cat and a dog and moving to California.

Sean Astin plays the cuddly and friendly love interest.  He helps her put up fliers.  Meanwhile, her dog and cat have decided to compete for Emma’s affection, because they both want to be back inside her home, especially one piece of furniture that is very soft  that they like to nap on.  The cat tells the dog that they can’t both be with Emma because humans don’t do that for some reason, so they must compete for her.

Justin Chatwin portrays the cat, and he was the highlight of the movie.  He gets picked up by a modeling agency, because who better to strut down a cat walk than a cat?  He becomes a big deal in a short time in part because he has the haughty and arrogant mannerisms of a cat.  Whenever the dog wants to get the cat’s attention away from Emma, he uses a cat toy to distract him.

The dog, portrayed by Steve Howey, is fun and likable and also provides a lot of funny moments.  The scenes where he and Chatwin interact alone are some of the best in the movie for many reasons.  Both actors really commit to being their animal selves and this works really well for the movie.  At one point they gang up on a bully and it’s a lot of fun watching them work together with their very different dog and cat styles.

The entire cast is likable and fun.  I won’t go on a rave about how great Sean Astin is in everything all the time, but needless to say I loved him in this.  My love for Sean Astin started in childhood and adulthood hasn’t diminished that love one iota.  Kate Mucucci is great as Emma because she has an appealing awkwardness that makes you instantly root for her.  She’s a great character to watch deal with this craziness and you really want her to succeed.  And she does succeed because it is a kind-hearted and lovely movie.

This is a movie I will watch again.  It will join my list of rewatchables because I know if I’m depressed, it will cheer me up.  I’ve read other reviews that complain that there isn’t enough tension in the movie, but that is exactly what I like about it.  This isn’t a tense movie and this isn’t a movie that will exacerbate anxiety.  This is a fun, funny little romantic comedy that focuses more on Emma’s life and pets than on the romance.

I give this movie an A and I deeply wish there were more lighthearted, funny movies like this out there.

Posted in Reviews

For the Love of Paula

I’ve been re-watching NCIS lately.  The number of shows I can watch without Will is fairly small and he hates procedurals.  Meanwhile, I find procedurals entertaining and NCIS doubly so.  Below are spoilers for season 4 – since they just finished season 15, I imagine spoilers are ok, but for those who have somehow missed it, SPOILER WARNING!

There is a character on NCIS in the early seasons named Paula Cassidy portrayed by Jessica Steen.  For my Supernatural readers, she was in the season 2 episode “The Benders” as Officer Kathleen.  I’ve adored Jessica Steen for ages as she manages to be awesome and interesting and heroic in most of the things I’ve seen her in.  I still think she made a better Weir on Stargate, but that’s a whole different point.

The point here is that in NCIS Paula Cassidy is quietly badass.  Her second or third appearance, while they are hunting for a serial killer, the serial killer kidnaps her.  Everyone is panicked and looking for her and at the end of the episode, they reveal that Paula Cassidy escaped and killed the serial killer with her hands tied behind her back.

How kickass is that?

The next time she shows up, her team is killed by a bomb.  At the end of the episode she saves the rest of the cast and innocent by-standers by tackling a suicide bomber.  She dies.

Now here comes the problem – her death can really be said to have been more about Tony’s emotional journey, something that I dislike because it’s just a little bit TOO Women in Refrigerators.  However, the way it is written feels more about Paula than many of the WIR moments often do.  She expresses feeling survivor guilt as her team died and she felt she should have died with them.  Right before the bomb goes off, she looks up to see her dead teammates smiling at her – this is a touching moment that brings me to tears, but it also is much more about Paula being with her team and being a major fucking hero than it is about Tony.

However, the episode does end with Tony in tears going to his girlfriend.

I love that Paula Cassidy is unabashedly a hero.  She is a great character and while she had a great death, I really wish we’d gotten to see more of her.  She was confident and capable and moreover, the men around her knew it.  Throughout the episodes she’s in she’s funny, fun, tough, and badass.  If only more female characters were written as well as Paula Cassidy.

Posted in Reviews

Altered Carbon Review

As with all of my reviews, there are spoilers, but with this series in particular, I’m going to try to keep most of the spoilers very light.  This television series is can be considered both cyber punk and detective noir, so while spoiling some of the cyberpunk aspects is inevitable, there’s no need to spoil the murder mystery aspect of the series.

First of all, I have recommended this series to a great many people on my Facebook account, but I did mention to my mother that she would probably hate it.  Cyberpunk isn’t for everyone.  In talking about this series, knowing a little bit about cyberpunk is helpful.  Cyberpunk is science fiction set in a dystopian future in an ultra-urban setting, usually with a great divide between the wealthy and the poor causing an inevitable underground oppositional movement, cyberpunk is almost always violent, and has technology that enhances humans in one degree or another.  Bladerunner is one of the best known examples of cyberpunk in film, although there are tons of others.

Altered Carbon hits all of these cyberpunk qualifications, and hits them hard.  I’m not always a fan of cyberpunk because of the dark dystopic future and the ultra violence.  When humans are enhanced with technology, the options for violence can become extreme which is not always appealing to me, but Altered Carbon, while definitely being violent, has so much more going on that the violence didn’t overwhelm me.

In the Altered Carbon future, humans are backed up on discs called “stacks’ that can be removed from one body and placed into another.  They call bodies “sleeves” and the series opens on Takeshi Kovacs being “resleeved” after being killed decades prior.  Since human consciousness can be stored on disc, humans can “needle cast” to other worlds, where their consciousness is sent to another planet and then sleeved in a body.  This allows for quick travel between worlds, especially for the authorities.

Takeshi Kovacs (pronounced Ko-vach) was serving a very long sentence for his crimes, but this sentence was interrupted when an obscenely wealthy man named Laurens Bancroft (portrayed by James Purefoy) basically purchases him to solve the crime of his own murder.  The police think it was suicide, but Bancroft refuses to accept this.  In return for working for Bancroft, Kovacs will get a full pardon and a large sum of money.  This murder mystery takes us through the entire 10 episode series.

First of all, Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs is wonderful.  The camera loves him and he brings heart and humor to the role.  Kovacs isn’t always likable and has many hard edges, especially in the first few episodes, but as his history is told and the story moves forward, much of his dislikable behavior makes a lot of sense.  He’s the type of character that isn’t really hard hearted, he’s broken hearted and so he has developed an attitude to keep people at bay.  Kinnaman is likable even in the moments when Kovacs isn’t and this helped me stay interested.

One of the fun things about the show is that one actor can play many different characters.  Actor Matt Biedel gets to play Abuela, a Hispanic grandmother as well as a Russian killer called Dimi the Twin, and a drugged out violent criminal brought into the police station.  His portrayal of Abuela is fantastic, and watching him in this role you really believe that he is Kristin Ortega’s grandmother simply in the sleeve of a very scary man.  The moments between Ortega and Abuela towards the end of the episode are funny but also poignant – Abuela brought me to tears.  Then, in the next episode, he portrays a loathsome underworld figure so well that you forget entirely that he was ever Abuela.  (Yes, I know abuela means grandmother, but she wasn’t given any other name in the series or on IMDB.)

Matt Biedel wasn’t even one of the main actors in the cast, but he still brought depth and life to several characters.  Many of the actors in Altered Carbon get the opportunity to portray different characters, and Martha Higareda, who mainly portrays Kristin Ortega, has one of the best moments in the series when she gets to portray someone else for a little while.  Her performance is amazing and it is the acting that really brings the concept of different people inhabiting a “sleeve” to life.  These actors make the sci-fi concepts real and believable.

One of the other aspects of the series that impresses is the setting.  The series is simply gorgeous.  Bay City is very much a dark and dystopic futuristic city, with the Golden Gate Bridge covered with container dwellings – who needs a bridge when you have flying cars?  In this world, the rich live in tall structures high about the city, and these buildings that soar above the clouds are breathtakingly beautiful.  Since it took me an episode or two to warm up to Kovacs, the gorgeous setting kept me not only interested but riveted.  I normally watch television while scrolling through my phone or laptop, but with Altered Carbon, I simply watched, even upon second viewing.

While I’m sure much of the acting was with a green screen as backdrop, the setting comes alive in a believable way that doesn’t look like CGI.  The city below is dark with buildings crowding out the sun which contrasts the rich who live above in beautiful, idyllic surroundings.

One of my favorite characters in the show is Poe, an AI who runs the hotel where Kovacs stays during his investigation.  The hotel has an Edgar Alan Poe theme and he brings much humor to the often dry and grumpy Kovacs.  Chris Conner is wonderful as Poe and I really hope that season two will have him returning.  Honestly, I could watch a show that was just about the adventures of Poe – Conner’s character was that fun.

As stacks can be put into different sleeves, there are several characters who portray Kovacs in addition to Kinnaman.  Credited as “Stronghold Kovacs,” Will Yun Lee is Kovacs in many of the flashbacks and is Kovacs’ original sleeve.  The scenes with Lee and Dichen Lachman, as his sister Reileen Kawahara, are some of the best in the series.  Lee shows us Kovacs’ heart by showing us his past, and he brings so much depth and emotion to the role that you cannot help but care for him.  At one point, Quellcrist Falconer (Renee Elise Goldberry) tells him that he is only pretending to be one of the monsters, and the flashbacks show this to be true.  My hope for season two is a lot more Lee – he was truly fantastic.

The way the series ends, it is entirely possible to have season two with an entirely new cast of characters, something I hope they do.  Although, Kinnaman was so great in the role, it’d be wonderful if they figured out a way to bring him back in the same sleeve, although if they handed the Kovacs role over to Lee, that would be wonderful, too.  I would love to see more of Lee’s Kovacs in the future – he knocked me out he was so good. There are many worlds in this universe to inhabit and many different things to explore.

After finding out that the series was also a book, I read Altered Carbon the book, and the series was better.  I almost never like a series better than the book, but the series made a lot of improvement upon the book.  They took the concepts and characters and built upon it in a way that I really enjoyed.  I tried reading the second novel in the Kovacs trilogy, but quit halfway through, as it wasn’t even close to as good as the first book.  My hope is that season two takes a departure from the books and has another noir-type mystery to tell, instead of the war story/artifact hunt that was the second book.

I will say that this series has lots of violence, including violence against women and violence against sex workers.  There was one episode centered on Kovacs going into a simulated torture scenario, but luckily the amount of torture scenes was low as the episode included flashbacks to Kovacs’ past much more than they showed the torture aspect of things.  So be forwarned about the violence in advance.  That said, between the exceptional story, acting, and special effects, this series definitely is an A.

 

 

Posted in Reviews

Hulu Sucks

If there is a perfect metaphor for 2017, it’s the new Hulu interface – it’s new, improved, and crappier than it has ever been.  Laughably crappy.  Crappy enough, people are scratching their heads and wondering, “How did this even happen?”  It looks like a much less user friendly version of Amazon’s service, if you removed everything good from Amazon’s User Interface.

Needless to say, I truly hate it.  After several MONTHS of trying to get used to it, today, I just canceled my $11.99 subscription to Hulu.  I tried once before but they lured me back with a free month, but honestly, even free I wouldn’t bother using Hulu at this point.

First of all, everything takes longer for no real explicable reason.  You have to sign in to your name once Hulu boots up, then you are given a pretty menu that is mostly a pain in the ass to navigate.  The old interface would show the movies or shows that Hulu was highlighting that month, and I often found new shows to watch that way.  This new model gives you an uninteresting list of titles.

If you watch a television series, navigating to the show’s page to pick a season and then pick an episode is about a 5 minute affair.  It takes for ever, and half the time we just would quit and watch Netflix or Amazon instead.  See, if you click on the series title, it will just take you straight to an episode, not the actual show’s page.  Finding the actual show’s page is unintuitive as hell, and after trying to figure it out pretty much every time we use the service, and the ensuing frustrations of fast forwarding or rewinding or pausing or a myriad of other things, we might 50% of the time make it to the show’s page.

At which point I hate everyone who helped make this User Interface so much that I can’t see straight.

But wait, it gets better.  No matter how many times you take a show out of your watch list, Hulu will still put it in your Autoplay.  Dream LLC is a fucking horrible show, disgusting to watch, and ugly to look at.  I watched one single episode, hated it and tried to move on with my life.  But will Hulu let me?  No.  Instead it tries to force that show down my throat every single chance it gets.

And don’t bother to tell me I can turn Autoplay off.  I already know that.  However, then getting to the next episode of Adventure Time takes 20 years to navigate to and choose an episode from, and when the episodes are only around 12 minutes long it rapidly becomes not worth it to have Autoplay off.  Much of the new User Interface results in choices between two shitty options.  You know what system was better by about a 1000 times?  Their old one.

Forget about fast forwarding or rewinding with any accuracy whatsoever.  The old Hulu’s FF and Rewind were clunky in comparison to Netflix, but at least you could get to kind of the right spot.  With Hulu’s new UI, unless you know the minute and second you are navigating to, you have to blindly guess how many minutes to go in either direction.  It’s also SO SLOW.

It’s as if they designed the new User Interface to cause as many viewers as possible to rage quit as often as possible.

I honestly cannot believe they managed to approve this “upgrade” and think it was in any way a good idea.  Hulu went from beating Netflix in watchability and viewing choices to being a complete waste of time.

Posted in Reviews

Supernatural Season 11 Review

Spoilers abound for all of the season, so reader beware.

Season 11 was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  The episodes I like, I really intensely love but there are a few episodes that simply left me bored or meh.  That said, this season has two episodes that are easily within my top 10 favorite episodes, if not the top 5.  One of these episodes is called “Baby” and the entire thing is just pitch perfect.

Baby is Dean’s name for the Impala, who is the third character in the show who rarely gets an episode from her point of view.  While Sam’s tenacity saved the world and caged the devil, it was memories of the Impala that helped him do it – the Impala is as iconic to this show and the Mystery Machine is to Scooby Doo, so hell yeah, bring on an episode from her point of view.

This episode has a lot of mundane things I just love.  First of all, this episode shows the brothers bonding, laughing, and interacting in a way we don’t normally see.  If you think about the sheer number of places they drive, they spend a huge amount of time in the Impala and because driving cross country is mostly boring, we rarely see this aspect of their lives for long.  This episode gave us a little glimpse of that togetherness and the fun they have together.  It was a joy and relief to see an episode where the brothers get along well, laugh together, and even sing along to the radio.

I could honestly go scene by scene with the episode to tell you why it’s brilliant, but I’ll hit the highlights for me, personally.  Sam having a one-night stand in the Impala and Dean’s pride – and musical humor – is just delightfully funny.  Sam tells Dean he tried to give the woman his number.

Sam: I tried to give her my number. You know what she said?

Dean: ‘We got tonight; who needs tomorrow?’

Sam: Is everything a Bob Seger song to you?

Dean: Yes.

This is exchange followed by the conversation the brothers have in the car really make this episode shine.  For an action horror series like Supernatural, there aren’t a lot of slow moments of conversation, so when they happen, I really enjoy them.  Not finding a hotel (maybe not having money?) the brothers are sleeping in their car with Sam in the backseat and Dean in the front seat.  Sam wakes up, talks about his dream of their father, and the ensuing scene is just wonderful.  It’s just them, sitting in Baby, having a heart to heart and I can’t say enough good things about it.

This episode also has one of the funnier sequences of the series when Dean has to deal with killing “Deputy Dumbass” the were-pyre they are hunting.  Dean is having a phone conversation with Castiel, trying to determine what type of monster they are hunting, when the Deputy attacks Dean.  The fight scene is filmed from the inside of the car – Baby’s perspective – which allows for hilarity.  Castiel’s voice misheard through Dean’s phone as Dean shoots, beheads, and otherwise damages the were-pyre – Dean finds out beheading doesn’t work when the severed head on the windshield continues to growl at him.  This whole sequence is incredibly funny and wonderful.

This episode also sees all three of our main characters – Baby, Dean, and Sam – return home injured and limping, as even Baby got involved in the were-pyre fight.  I honestly think this might be my all time favorite episode of Supernatural, but then “Fan Fiction” and “Don’t Call Me Shurley” are also contenders for that title.

One of the best aspects of this season is that the brothers are on the same side, and Castiel is around during the beginning of the season and on the same side as the brothers.  I love it when our heroes are actually working together.  Their ability to work together so smoothly was what drew me into the show in the first place, so it’s nice to see a return to them functioning as a unit.  I didn’t mind season 10 having Sam working to cure Dean behind his back, because that was still working on the same side, even if Dean didn’t know about it.  Seasons 6-8 where it was brother fighting brother and angsty-drama all the time was wearying, to say the least.

To hit one of the down notes of the season, ugh, Lucifer.  Fucking again.  They killed off Raphael and Gabriel, both archangels, can’t we manage to stab this fucker with an angel blade already?  But no, instead Castiel says “yes” like a total moron and we’re stuck with Lucifer as Castiel, which is a bit more entertaining simply because Misha Collins makes such a more interesting Lucifer, but can we be real?  Lucifer is written as a sociopathic 5 year old complete with tantrums.  LUCIFER IS BORING.  I don’t care that Daddy hurt his feelings, after millennia, get the fuck over it and stop whining and exploding people.  Dick.

While Misha does an excellent job with Lucifer, I still hate the storylines with Lucifer for the most part, although because they are working towards the same purpose, Lucifer is a bit more fun this season, but barely.  Also, making Crowley Lucifer’s “dog” is just gross.  I know he’s the devil and all, but come one, really?  Why on earth do demons have this devotion to Lucifer?  He’s shown no leadership, absolutely detests demons, and generally is a sociopathic 5 year having a permanent temper tantrum, so what gives demonkind?  Just that stupid?  If he’s this charismatic leader that people fall in love with, I’d really like that aspect of him shown, because otherwise, he’s just BORING.  A walking bag of hate isn’t really that interesting to me and Lucifer’s daddy-issues have long stopped being interesting.

It helps that Misha Collins is clearly having fun as Lucifer, so that does get me to enjoy him a bit more as a character, but still, let’s kill Lucifer and never speak of him again, ok, Supernatural writers?

One of the episodes where Misha Collins is playing Lucifer who is pretending to be Castiel is called “The Vessel” and it is another really great episode.  Dean is sent back in time to retrieve a Hand of God, which they hope can defeat Amarra/The Darkness.  He’s sent back in time to the Bluefin, a submarine in World War II.  Lucifer, being an archangel, has the power to send Dean back in time, but due to the warding on the ship he can’t actually get on the ship himself.

This is one of the few episodes I really enjoyed Lucifer, because he’s pretty funny.  Lucifer walking down the steps of the bunker soaking wet always makes me laugh, in part because Lucifer looks so annoyed and pissed off about it.  Lucifer is interesting in the episode because he’s acting like a warrior of god and like an ally to the Winchesters, instead of being his usual petulant, whiny-baby self.  It’s a refreshing change for a boring and tired character.

This episode isn’t really about Lucifer, though.

Dean: Captain James Dearborn, my name is Dean Winchester and I am on a mission from the future, the details of which I am not a liberty to discuss. But know this: within the hour, a German destroyer will find and attack this submarine and you will go down.  [This line doesn’t seem like much, but in the context of episode itself, it’s powerful as a punch to the gut.]

It’s barely about the Winchesters and is instead about Delphine, the Woman of Letters who is transporting the Hand of God via submarine after stealing it from the Thule, the evil Nazi Necromancers.

Delphine: You save this ship, get us to the surface, and then what? The power of God will consume you, and you’ll have merely brought the weapon closer to the Nazis’ grasp. We are supposed to die, let us do it with a purpose.

Delphine warns Dean of the dangers and then takes the task on herself, sacrificing herself and the submarine to take out the Nazi Thule ship.  How badass is Delphine?

At the end of this episode – which never fails to bring a tear to my eye, because of the bravery and commitment of the soldiers and Delphine in the past – Dean tells Sam that he wasn’t really a part of things, he was just a witness.

This is the type of episode that I really love, simply because even the throwaway characters aren’t two-dimensional.  I’d watch a show just about Delphine, or many of the characters on the submarine.  This was just such a great and well written episode all around and it’s one that I love to watch, even though it seems to be more about the WWII action than the Winchesters, which is just fine by me, considering how well it was done.  This episode and “Baby” are excellent examples of why so many people are devoted to this show – they are just brilliantly written and unbelievably entertaining.

“Don’t Call Me Shurley” sees the return of Chuck/God as well as Metatron.  First of all, Rob Benedict who portrays Chuck/God, I could watch just type.  He’s magic on screen and this episode was a revelation of Rob Benedict’s true talent.  HOW IS HE NOT IN EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME?  He seamlessly moves from Chuck to God and back again, and then he tops it all off by singing a song that blows all the doors off the episode.  I know writing God must be a difficult task, but more Rob Benedict, please.  Dude is ridiculously talented, so if you don’t want to write an all powerful being, simply have him hanging out and playing guitar, because holy fucking cow is he wonderful at it.

Metatron is portrayed by Curtis Armstrong, an actor who has been in practically everything, but is best known as Booger front he “Revenge of the Nerds” although I always think of him as his “Moonlighting” character Herbert Viola.  As a bad guy, Metatron was obnoxious and devious and killed Dean once, so you know, hated Metatron.  However in this episode, Curtis Armstrong shows what a brilliant fucking actor he is by making us feel sympathy and even a little love for Metatron.  Armstrong and Benedict are what make this episode probably my all-time favorite episode.

First of all, this episode confirmed what most of us thought after the season 5 finale – Chuck is actually God.  This episode reveals Chuck being God, but it’s the interplay and history between God and Metatron that really infused this episode with such life and character.  I could watch God and Metatron sit in this bar and talk writing all day.

Metatron: You know, I was a crappy, terrible god. My work was pretty much a lame, half-assed rewrite of your greatest hits. But at least I was never a coward. [God throws him through the front doors of the bar with a flick of his finger.  Metatron walks back in, smiling.] There he is. That’s the guy I know, the guy I love. I remember the first time I saw you. All the angels were terrified, but I wasn’t. The feeling of your light was… was just beyond measure. And then the unthinkable. You picked me to help you with your tablets.

Chuck: You were just the closest angel to the door when I walked into the room. There’s nothing special about you, Metatron. Not then… not now. Now… I’ve been called many things — absentee father, wrathful monster. But, coward… I am not hiding. I am just done watching my experiments’ failures.

Metatron: You mean your failures, Chuck.

The way he spits out the name “Chuck” like an epithet is wonderful.  Chuck’s words deeply wound Metatron.  Armstrong plays the craziness and cunning of Metatron expertly, and he even shows the broken heartedness all of the angels felt when god left.  Armstrong does restrained tears so very well in this episode that it breaks your heart.  Later on in the episode, when Metatron says that he doesn’t care if he was “the angel closest to the door” he can barely say the words without crying – Metatron the clever and awful enemy who killed Dean once, has me broken-hearted and in tears this episode.

Metatron even tells god that all of his previous bad behavior was a sad attempt to get attention from Chuck.

This episode is just brilliant.

Metatron:  No, look. I know I’m a disappointment, but you’re wrong about humanity. They are your greatest creation because they’re better than you are. Yeah, sure, they’re weak and they cheat and steal and… destroy and disappoint. But they also give and create and they sing and dance and love. And above all, they never give up. But you do.

At the end of the episode, Chuck sings “Dink’s Song” aka “Fare Thee Well” and the first several times I watched this episode, I just sobbed through the whole song.

One o’ dese days, an’ it won’t be long,
Call my name an’ I’ll be gone.
Fare thee well, O Honey, fare thee well.

I’m not a Christian, but the idea of the Christian God of Supernatural being gone is a terrifying prospect just the same.

From this episode on, everyone seems to be on the same side – Lucifer and God hash out some things, although Lucy’s still a dick; Rowena and Crowley join the fight; even Billie helps out.  However, what defeats the Darkness/Amarra in the end isn’t a weapon, but rather it’s love, forgiveness, and family.

I’ve spent a lot of time gushing about the great episodes this season, but I haven’t even gotten to how awesome Jody Mills is this season.  You know I can’t write a review without a huge heaping spoonful of love for Kim Rhodes and her expert portrayal of Jody Mills.  We pop back into her life and see how things are going with her, Claire, and Alex in an episode that I really enjoyed, although for the love of God Claire is such a bitch it’s painful to watch her sometimes.  Can we please either write her as less of a dumbass OR less of bitch?  The combo of bitchy dumbass is really grating, although her cuddling the Grumpy Cat stuffed cat the Castiel bought for her at “The Hot Topical” is a cute moment.

Anyway, Jody is amazing as always and watching her care for her two wards is really awesome, including a discussion of STD’s at dinner, which was funny.  Jody is a great mom, but that isn’t what defines her as a person.

Jody: ‘Kay, well, um. I may have definitely seen birth control pills in your backpack.

Sam: Oh, we’re going there.

Dean: Okay.

Alex: Oh my god.

Jody: Hey, if we can’t talk about it, we shouldn’t be doing it, right? Right?  [Right on, sister!!!  I absolutely agree!]

Dean: What?

The bonding between the women is awesome and in the end Alex offering to sacrifice herself for Claire (prompting Claire to tell the vamps that their intel is wrong, Alex hates her) and Jody is just wonderful.  Katherine Ramdeen as Alex is a great character full of complexities, but really she just wants to live her life without monsters.  Good luck with that, Alex.

“Just My Imagination” is another fun episode that has me laughing hysterically, especially in the beginning of the episode.  Sam’s imaginary friend from childhood shows up and needs help.  The whole opening sequence with Sam waking up and finding an offering of all of his favorite foods from childhood (marshmallow nachos, for one) and then discovering his long ago friend is priceless.  Adding Dean to the mix, “Are you having a stroke?  Do you smell toast?” adds to the overall hilarity.

Season 11 clearly has a lot of really good episodes and excellent writing.  That said, lots of boring Lucifer crap happens throughout the season, but that is why we have fast forward.

Overall I give the season a B – lots of Lucifer boringness brings the season down, and while this season has several just completely wonderful episodes, it also has a couple of meh ones, too.

This season is one where my respect for Sam grows by leaps and bounds.  He addresses the craziness of them rescuing each other at the expense of the world.  He tries really hard all of the time to do the right thing, but the road to perdition is paved with good intentions.  Sam and Dean working well together makes this season a good one, but Sam does a lot of impressive things on his own this season and it’s fun to watch him grow and change over the course of the show.

The superstars of this season are Rob Benedict and Curtis Armstrong, though.  They give the mythology a weight, history, and emotional resonance that really makes the larger conflict more believable.  I know Curtis Armstrong has no problem being called “Booger” by most people, but he is so amazingly talented as Metatron that I simply can’t write him off as just “Booger” or just a character actor.  He’s a fucking powerhouse of awesome.

I’ve complaints about the God/Amarra storyline, but it didn’t bother and I didn’t feel like it went “too big” or jumped the shark.  Amarra was an interesting bad guy, in part because while she was pissed and powerful, she also was innocent and naive in many ways, too.  I enjoyed her storyline and the overall arc of the season.  I’m also glad that – unlike the Lucifer storylines – this one was finished up in the season.