Thursday, October 20, 2016

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 4: Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. we get another classic song title, Ghost Rider finally pops up again, an old villain returns and at long last Daisy's reunited with the gang.

Wow, what a difference a couple of seasons can make. When Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered, it was sort of like CSI: Marvel a dry, matter of fact series about a group of normal secret agents who just happened to live in a world filled with superheroes. 

This didn't sit well with many viewers, whoright or wrong, were expecting to see the Avengers every week on TV. Ratings started slipping, and the producers began tweaking the show, bringing it more in line with viewer expectations. 

And thank the gods old and new they did! To be honest, it was quite a slog sitting through a lot of those early episodes. Fortunately the show's evolved to the point where I'm actually enjoying it and can't wait to see what happens next.


The Plot:
Simmons searches for an apartment for her and Fitz. She finds one she thinks is perfect, only to discover a grisly-looking Daisy inside waiting for her. It seems Daisy used her hacking skills to send the apartment listing to Simmons, in order to arrange a secret meeting. She couldn't have just sent her a text?

Simmons treats her wounds, as Daisy tells her that the Watchdogs are targeting Inhumans who are registered with S.H.I.E.L.D. She believes S.H.I.E.L.D.'s been hacked, and wants Simmons to help her find out who's doing the hacking. Simmons wants to help, but says she can't do so voluntarily, since the new Director Jeffrey Mace requires her to take weekly lie detector tests. Daisy picks up a gun and "fake threatens" Simmons, which will let her off the hook with Mace.

Coulson visits Robbie Reyes' uncle, Elias Morrow, in prison. Morrow worked at Momentum Energy Labs, and Coulson wants answers about the place. He says that Morrow's his only hope, because all the other Momentum employees have been turned into ghosts, except for one who's in a coma. Coulson implies that he may be able to get Morrow out of prison if he cooperates, but he refuses to squeal.

Outside the prison, Coulson tells Mack that he struck out. Just then they see Robbie Reyes drive by in his souped up Charger. Robbie peels out, and the two agents hop into Coulson's car Lola and go after him. There's a pretty cool chase scene (for a TV budget), as the two cars end up tearing through the LA River culvert. The chase ends when Robbie's car crashes into an invisible Quinjet parked in the culvert.

Meanwhile, Agent May wants to get the hell out of Dr. Radcliffe's house, but he says they need to run some more tests on her, to come up with a cure for the ghost virus. May's surprised to learn that Radcliffe killed her (just a little) in order to cure her. AIDA, Radcliffe's artificially intelligent Life Model Decoy android, takes care of May. 

Fitz arrives and has a fit (heh) when he sees Radcliffe has revealed AIDA to May. He says May, with her super spy smarts and instincts, will surely see that AIDA's an android. Radcliffe says this'll be the ultimate Turing Test, and that if AIDA can fool May, she can fool anyone. Amazingly, May doesn't detect that AIDA's an android. I guess she's probably not at her best after dying.

Robbie wakes up inside a cell on the Zephyr One. Coulson questions him, asking where his powers come from. Once again, Robbie says he made a deal with the devil. Why won't anyone ever believe him? Coulson opens the cell to prove they're on the same side. He wants Robbie to talk to his uncle Elias Morrow, and find out anything he can.

Robbie agrees, and visits Morrow in prison. Morrow's smart enough to see that S.H.I.E.L.D. is behind the visit, but he tells Robbie what he wants to know anyway. He says Momentum was working on a quantum particle generator which could "create matter out of nothing." Lucy Bauer used a book called the Darkhold to build the machine. Morrow protested, saying the book and machine were dangerous, but Lucy wouldn't listen. When Morrow tried to stop her, Lucy's husband Joseph began scuffling with him. Morrow put Joseph into a coma (which I guess is why he's in prison?). The machine then blew up, turning Lucy and the others into ghosts.

Meanwhile, Lucy walks through the wall of Joseph's hospital room, where he's still in a coma. She shoves her ghostly hands into his head, to try and get him to wake up, and tell her where the Darkhold is.

Simmons tells Daisy that S.H.I.E.L.D. gave special wristwatches to all known Inhumans, so they could track and monitor them for their own safety. Daisy says that was a horrible plan, because the Watchdog's have that info and are systematically wiping out all Inhumans in the S.H.I.E.L.D. database. She says the next one on the list is James, aka Hellfire, who was one of Hive's evil minions last season.

They track James to his job at a fireworks store (which seems like a really dangerous profession for a guy who can make objects burst into flame). Daisy says the Watchdogs are coming for him, and uses her powers to remove his S.H.I.E.L.D. tracker watch. She says he's still not safe, and Simmons offers to protect him. He says to meet him at a storage locker in an hour.

AIDA asks Radcliffe why he and Fitz are lying to May about her being an android. She says Radcliffe programmed her to never lie, and wonders why he's doing so. He says that not all lies are bad, and he and Fitz did so to protect her and save her life. AIDA looks troubled at this. Congratulations, Radcliffe! You just created SKYNET!

Simmons and Daisy meet James after hours, and of course he immediately betrays them, opening his storage locker to reveal it's full of Watchdogs (whose masks still look more like cat faces to me). James says he hates being an Inhuman, and agrees they should all be exterminated (um... including himself?). The Watchdogs surround Simmons and Daisy (um... why Simmons? Do they think she's an Inhuman as well?). Just as they're about to fire, Daisy uses her quake powers to knock them all on their collective asses. 

Daisy and Simmons hid in an empty locker. James uses his power (that he hates, remember) to ignite a bocce ball and toss it at the locker door, causing it to explode. The explosion disorients Simmons and Daisy, so they can't fight back. James grabs a chain and ignites it and starts to swing it at Daisy. Suddenly Robbie appears and grabs James' arm. He looks at the flaming chain and apparently likes what he sees. He snatches it away and transforms into Ghost Rider.

Outside, Mack and Coulson deal with the fleeing Watchdogs. Daisy and Simmons run outside and join Coulson. Inside, Ghost Rider and James battle. They smash through the wall of the storage unit, into the fireworks store. Naturally, the presence of two flame-based super beings ignites the store, which explodes in an impressive display of pyrotechnics. Sadly, Coulson doesn't say "Oooh" and "Ahh" as he watches.

Ghost Rider drags an unconscious James (wrapped in a chain) out of the blaze. Everyone piles into a Quinjet, which docks with Zephyr One. Inside, Daisy tries to make nice with Coulson, who responds coldly, saying only that he's glad she's safe. He tells both her and Robbie that they need to work together to find the Darkhold before Lucy does.

Coulson and Simmons swing by Dr. Radcliffe's place to pick up May. Coulson introduces himself to AIDA, and engages in small talk. Simmons can immediately tell she's an android, but rather than be furious at Fitz for keeping AIDA's existence from her, is impressed. Fitz says he didn't tell her about AIDA because of her mandatory lie detector tests. Simmons gulps, realizing she's scheduled to take one the next day.


• Great confusion seems to surround the matter of Daisy and her Quake gauntlets. Her quake powers don't just vibrate other objects, they affect the bones in her arms as well. To counter this, last season Fitz and/or Simmons whipped up a pair of gauntlets that would protect her bones when she used her powers.

At the beginning of this season, when Daisy is out in the wild playing Robin Hood, she's not wearing the gauntlets. So every time she uses her powers, she injures herself a bit more. I just assumed that S.H.I.E.L.D. probably confiscated the gauntlets when they were treating her for her Hive addiction, and when she ran off to become Lisbeth Salander, she didn't take them with her.

Suddenly in this episode we find out that she's really had the gauntlets all along. She could have been using them all this time, but didn't because according to her, "they're not exactly incognito." Wha...?

First of all, I think she means "inconspicuous" here, as incognito means "in disguise." Second, she didn't want to wear her protective arm gauntlets because they'd stand out too much. So basically she'd rather risk permanent bone damage because her gauntlets don't go with her outfit. 

She's already sporting what the well-dressed cyber hacker is wearing this fall black pants, black boots, over-applied black eyeliner, finished off with the standard black hoodie so it's not like she doesn't already stand out. I honestly don't see what difference a couple of gauntlets would have made.

I guess it never occurred to her to maybe pull her sleeves down over them.

Obviously this is some cheap plot trickery here, to injure Daisy and force her to seek help and reunite her with her S.H.I.E.L.D. pals.

• Nice to see FitzSimmons apparently getting along so well that they're apartment hunting. After three seasons of near-deaths, exile on other planets and the usual "Will They Or Won't They?" shenanigans, it's nice to see them acting like a normal, everyday couple in a healthy relationship.

 It was nice to see Coulson back in the suit (complete with S.H.I.E.L.D. I.D and badge) when he paid a visit to Morrow in prison.

 So just who is this Elias Morrow, anyway? In the comics he's not related to Robbie at all. He was a serial killer (!) who befriended Robbie after he became Ghost Rider, and did his best to corrupt him. Here he's Robbie's uncle, who worked at Momentum Labs. So far he seems like a decent guy, but I'm betting he's got a few dark, hidden secrets (much like his comic counterpart). 

 Coulson chases after Robbie in his beloved Corvette convertible, Lola. It's an exciting sequence (especially for TV), but oddly enough it takes place entirely on the street. Lola has the ability to fly. Why didn't Coulson take to the air to catch Robbie? Did something happen to her flying ability that I've forgotten about?

I'm guessing the real world reason why we didn't see Lola fly in this episode is, once again, the budget. Those flying effects ain't cheap, and they probably spent this episode's cash on Ghost Rider and Hellfire flame effects.

• The car chase ends when Robbie crashes into a cloaked Quinjet that's parked in the LA River basin. 

Robbie's car isn't even dented in the crash, but that makes a certain kind of sense since it has supernatural abilities. But what about the poor Quinjet? Apparently they're pretty darned tough, because this one withstands a 70 or 80 mph car crash to the nose and is still able to fly! 

• After Robbie crashes his car, Coulson captures him. Coulson turns to Mack and says, "I get his car now, right? Isn't that how this works?" Haw! Coulson's a Fast & Furious fan!

• When Radcliffe tells May she can't leave his house yet, she curses in Mandarin, saying, "Guo pi." Radcliffe doesn't understand and says, "Excuse me?" AIDA then pipes up and says, "Agent May says you can shove all your tests up your ass."

Well, I guess that's sort of what she said. "Guo pi" literally translates into "dog fart." Chinese people use the phrase much the same way English speakers say, "bullsh*t." I guess AIDA looked at the context of May's reply and embellished it a bit for Dr. Radcliffe.

• This week we finally get to see Ghost Rider wield his flaming chains. It was a fun moment when Hellfire swung his chain at Robbie, he caught it in his hand, stared at it and said, "Huh."

Oddly enough, the flaming chain wasn't always Ghost Rider's weapon of choice. The 1970s Johnny Blaze version didn't use a chain at all. It didn't come into play until the 1990s Daniel Ketch Ghost Rider, and has been a tradition ever since.

• Speaking of chains, earlier this year, Marvel Studios had this customized train on display at the San Diego ComicCon. Note the flaming chains running the length of the strain. Many fans predicted this meant that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would encounter Ghost Rider in the upcoming season.

Other fans myself included thought the train meant that Hellfire would become the season's new big bad. After all, it had already been established that Hellfire's main weapon was a flaming chain. The idea that Ghost Rider of all characters would be joining the S.H.I.E.L.D. cast seemed absurd at best. A flaming vengeance demon is about as far away from the tone of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. as you can get.

But odd as it is, Ghost Rider did indeed join the cast. And I have to admit, so far it's worked out pretty well.

• This week's fun lines:

Morrow (as Coulson shows him his badge): "S.H.I.E.L.D.? Still a thing?"
Coulson: "We're making a comeback."

Radcliffe (explaining to May how he cured her of the ghost virus): "We had to very gently... kill you, ever so slightly."

James (just before attacking Robbie Reyes): "I don't know who the hell you think you are, but you just made a big mistake."
Robbie: "Funny, I was going to say the same thing... without the accent."

Coulson (to May): "It's good to see you back in fighting form."
May: "Dying takes a lot out of you."
Coulson: I've heard. We should start a club, get some T-shirts made up."

The whole scene in which Simmons figures out AIDA's an android was fun too. Nobody does the nervous shtick as well as Iain De Caestecker as Fitz:
Simmons: "Now I see why you've been spending so much time here."
Fitz: "What?"
Simmons: "Aida! She's beautiful."
Fitz: "Is she? Ah, yeah, she is all right, I guess. I prefer a classical beauty myself."
Simmons: "She's so real. Her... Her conversational responses, her range of motion."
Fitz: "Those are weird things to say about a person."
Simmons: "Fitz, she's an android."

Clowning Around Update Update

A few weeks ago I wrote the nationwide rash of reports of sinister clowns trying to lure unsuspecting children into nearby woods.

As tension and fear spread, the professional clowning community took to social media to try and reclaim their "wholesome," positive image. They even went so far as to try and organize a "Clown Lives Matter" march (!).

Which brings us to today. Retail giant Target announced that effective immediately, they're pulling all scary clown masks and costumes from their stores and website.

Said Target spokesman Joshua Thomas, "Given the current environment, we have made the decision to remove a variety of clown masks from our assortment, both in stores and online."

Fast food behemoth McDonald's also got into the act. A spokesmen for the company said that due to the recent clown-related events, they're temporarily "retiring" their mascot Ronald McDonald, pulling him from all advertising and canceling personal appearances.

Personally I couldn't care less about the damage this is doing to clowns and their image, because they suck, they're not funny and I hate them. But it does kind of bother me that the nation's knee-jerk reaction is to pull the masks from stores.

Today it's clown costumes. What's it gonna be tomorrow? Witches? They promote wiccan beliefs, so they need to go. Hobos? They're disrespectful to the homeless, so pull 'em. Zombies? They could give children an unhealthy interest in necrophilia, so god yes, get them outta sight!

Mark my words it's only a matter of time before THIS is the only acceptable and approved costume available here in the Offended States Of America. Available in unisex, inoffensive gray, of course.

Thanks to my pal Ted Parsnips for the heads up on the Target and McDonald's incidents.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: Deepwater Horizon

Welcome to Cinema Fallpocalypse 2016! What's that, you ask? Well, it's that magical time of year when the studios flood the cineplexes with all the leftovers they were afraid to release during the all important Summer and Xmas movie seasons. There is nothing out there right now. Nothing, I say! At least nothing I'm interested in seeing. 

Every cineplex in the country is packed with non-Pixar CGI cartoons, lame PG-13 horror films and overwrought, melodramatic Oscar-bait. It's a wonderful time to be a movie fan.

I had zero interest in this film, but it was either see it or sit on the edge of my bed and stare at the floor for two hours. I took one for the team here, guys, so I hope you enjoy the review.

Deepwater Horizon was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, and was directed by Peter Berg.

Carnahan wrote The Kingdom and Lions For Lambs, and co-wrote both State Of Play and World War Z. Sand's only previous credit is co-writer of Ninja Assassin (!!!).

Berg previously directed Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, Hancock, Battleship and Lone Survivor

Berg seems to be doing his level best to morph into Michael Bay, as his films are becoming increasingly jingoistic and maudlin, filled with protracted shots of the American flag waving proudly over the action.

The screenplay is based on the book Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours by David Barstow, David Rohde and Stephanie Saul. It depicts the real-life events of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, which cost the lives of eleven men and dumped millions upon millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf Of Mexico over eighty seven days.

Amazingly this is Mark Wahlberg's sixth film that's based on a true story. He previously starred in The Perfect Storm, Invincible, Pain & Gain, The Fighter and the aforementioned Lone Survivor.


The Plot:
Mike Williams (played by Mark Wahlberg) enjoys a leisurely breakfast with his wife Felicia (played by Kate Husdon) and his daughter Sydney. Mike works on an oil rig, and Sydney's giving a school report on his occupation. She runs through her report for him (complete with props), acting as a cheap expository device to explain to the audience how oil platforms work.

Meanwhile, Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez of Jane The Virgin) leaves for work, but her car won't start. Her boyfriend gives her a ride on his motorcycle.

Mike and Andrea arrive at the BP (British Petroleum) base and are flown out forty miles or so to the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. Along for the ride is their boss, Jimmy Harrell, aka "Mr. Jimmy (played by Kurt Russell). 

As they arrive at the oil rig, Mr. Jimmy is puzzled as to why the previous crew is leaving without performing a "cement log," whatever that is.

Mr. Jimmy meets with the BP bosses, including Donald Vidrine (played by John Malcovich, doing an outrageous Cajun accent). Mr. Jimmy wants to do a "negative pressure test" (technobabble!), but Vidrine and the others don't think it's necessary, due to the time and cost involved. He finally convinces them.

The crew performs the pressure test, with inconclusive results (that's bad, right?). A second test generates more promising results (er... good, I guess?). Vidrine says there's nothing to worry about, and pronounces the well as safe. Suddenly the pressure rises and a huge burst of methane gas fills the drill pipe. The pipe ruptures, the methane is ignited, causing a massive explosion that engulfs the entire oil rig (definitely bad). 

Mike is Skyping with Felicia when the explosion hits. He's knocked backward and buried under rubble. Mr. Jimmy is injured as well. Mike digs himself out and rescues Mr. Jimmy. A nearby supply ship begins sending lifeboats to the rig. Mike helps get as many workers as possible onto the boats, including Vidrine, who realizes the disaster is all his fault.

Andrea calls the Coast Guard, who send help that may not arrive in time.

Mike and Andrea are the last two on board the oil rig. They're forced to jump some ten stories into the water below to escape the inferno. Fortunately they're picked up by the Coast Guard, which arrived in time after all. 

Back on shore, Mike is temporarily housed in a hotel. He's hounded by reporters and retreats to his room, where the reality of the disaster finally gets to him and he breaks down. Later he's reunited with his family, as well as Mr. Jimmy, who's on crutches.

We're then treated to a "Where Are They Now?" montage. Mike Williams currently lives in Texas and has left the oil industry. Mr. Jimmy works for Transocean, whatever that is. Andrea left the oil industry as well. Vidrine was indicted on manslaughter charges, that not surprisingly were settled out of court. There's then a very maudlin, flag-waving tribute to the eleven men who lost their lives in the disaster.


• The film opens with actual audio of Mike William's testimony before a board of inquiry, after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. So from the very first second, we all know our main character is going to survive. So much for suspense! Well done, Peter Berg! Why not just show the end of the movie first while you're at it?

Suspense is a tricky thing to pull off in a film; even more so when you're making a film based on a real life event. We know the goddamned oil rig is going to blow up, but why tell us who's going to survive before it does?

This is why I'm not a fan of biopics or movies based on true events. There can't be any suspense or surprises in such films, since viewers even somewhat familiar with the subject matter already know how the story ends. 

The only way to make an historical film engaging is to tell it in a new and exciting way. Berg fails miserably in this respect. This is most definitely a "connect the dots" movie. It plods along like Frankenstein's monster, as it lurches from one event to the next in the most... predictable manner possible.

It's probably ridiculous to complain that an historical movie is too predictable. But a competent director could have minimized that predictability, giving the impression that the characters might be able to prevent the disaster if only they did this, or if they'd just do that. Berg is apparently not that director.

• I'm VERY surprised that BP is mentioned by name in the film. It doesn't exactly paint them in a positive light, as the disaster proved to be the company's fault.

However, the oil company was also co-owned by Transocean and Halliburton (yes, that Halliburton) and they somehow managed to keep their names out of it. Maybe Halliburton threatened to send some of their cyborg soldiers after the producers if they mentioned them in the film?

• The Deepwater Horizon oil rig seen in the movie is an 85% scale recreation of the real thing, and was one of the largest sets ever constructed for a film. That's actually pretty impressive! And then it was all blowed up real good at the end of the film. Movies sure are an odd business.

• Supposedly Mark Wahlberg insisted on staying in character during the entire shoot. Wha...? He was playing an actual character here? Seemed to me like he was playing the same standard, bland lug he does in every film he's ever been in.

And speaking of acting— as we hear in the deposition recordings, the real Mike Williams has a very thick Texas drawl. Apparently Wahlberg couldn't convincingly replicate it or more likely didn't feel like trying, because he speaks in his normal voice throughout the entire film.

• The movie features a very simplistic "Us Against Them" theme. The blue collar workers are all selfless, noble heroes, risking their lives so we can drive our cars to work every day. The company bosses however, are all greedy, evil villains, interested only in profit and schedules.

Yes, the disaster ultimately was BP's fault, but EVERYONE who works there can't be an asshole. Just like every man on the Deepwater Horizon wasn't a saint. 

For example: The real life Donald Vidrine wasn't quite the villain the movie makes him out to be. He wasn't the one who tried to blow off safety concerns by coming up with the "bladder effect" theory, and it was actually Vidrine's superiors who ordered the crew to hurry and complete the well, which was forty three days behind schedule. The movie needed a bad guy though, so Vidrine drew the short straw.

Separating the characters into these black and white columns turns the film into a cartoon rather than a serious drama.

• Irony Alert! Just before the explosion, the BP executives presented Mr. Jimmy with a safety award, to celebrate seven years without a lost-time accident; Believe it or not, this wasn't poor writing, but actually happened!

• Do you like watching movies filled with impenetrable technobabble? Then brother, you'll love Deepwater HorizonTerms and technical jargon are tossed around incessantly, with little or no explanation. Characters spend a good part of the runtime wringing their hands as they stare at incomprehensible dials and readouts. We get the sense that something bad's happening, but just what it might be is never adequately explained. It's honestly like trying to watch a Japanese movie without subtitles.

• The film has a very poor sense of space. Whenever we see a long shot of the oil rig, the entire structure is engulfed in flames. Yet for many minutes after the explosion, Mike Williams searches for survivors and helps them to safety in oddly flame-free rooms. 

Where exactly these untouched rooms were located, I have no idea.

• Like most films these days, Deepwater Horizon features "character posters," singly spotlighting the various actors in the film.

I've never seen any of these character posters out in the wild. Few cineplexes have the space to display four or sometimes ten posters for a single film. And does anyone collect them? I guess so, since studios keep pumping them out. You'd have to be a very, very rabid fan of Deepwater Horizon though to want all four of these things on your living room wall.

• I have a feeling that the Coast Guard officers we saw were all real, and not actors. Their "performances" all had that flat, awkward tone of someone trying to "act like themselves."

• The lost of eleven lives in the Deepwater Horizon disaster was tragic, but it pales in comparison with the Piper Alpha accident.

Piper Alpha was a North Sea oil platform, operated by Occidental Petroleum. It exploded in 1988, killing a whopping 167 people. Only 61 survived. It remains the worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost.

So why does Deepwater Horizon warrant a movie, but not Piper Alpha? Simple! Deepwater Horizon was about the loss of wholesome, healthy Mom and apple pie American lives. The majority of men who lost their lives on Piper Alpha were Scottish. 'Muricans don't wanna see no movie about a buncha kilt-wearin' drunks dyin'!

• Oddly enough, there's little or no mention of the massive oil spill that resulted after the Deepwater Horizon accident. Oil pumped into the Gulf Of Mexico for 87 days, at the rate of 798,000 gallons per day. It's estimated that 210 MILLION gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf. There's one very small acknowledgement of this ecological disaster in the film, and then it's never mentioned again. 

I suppose it's not a surprise, as the movie's obviously about the human cost of the accident. But a bit more about the oil spill would have been nice.

Deepwater Horizon is the latest in director Peter Berg's increasingly jingoistic, rah-rah "America's The Greatest" opuses. It's overly simplistic in its "good vs bad" depiction of the actual people involved with the disaster, yet impenetrable in its overuse of industry jargon and technobabble. Because it's based on a true story, it unfolds in a plodding and overly predictable manner, generating little in the way of suspense. I give it a C+.

The Flash Season 3, Episode 3: Magenta

This week's episode of The Flash feels like a throwback to Season 1, complete with an old school "one & done" villain. That's not a bad thing, mind you. I could use a break from all the multiple Earths and ever-changing timelines.

It also features the welcome return of the Earth-2 Harrison Wells and his daughter Jesse, who's now a speedster just like Barry. I'm a bit worried that the show's going to overload on speedsters, if it hasn't already. At this rate the entire cast will all eventually develope super speed. That's why Magenta, this episode's villain of the week, seemed like a breath of fresh air.

For some reason The Flash writers are obsessed with explaining why there are so many metahumans in Central City. In Season 1, the particle accelerator explosion caused a ton of them to emerge. In Season 2, Zoom was importing metas from Earth-2. Now in Season 3 Alchemy is creating them to throw at the Flash. 

Why do we need an explanation for them in the first place? It's a comic book world! It's a given that it would be filled with superheroes and supervillains, plain and simple. There's no need for further justification.

This week's episode isn't Wally West's finest hour, as he spends most of it sulking like a five year old. I guess it makes sense for Wally, who's been obsessed with speed his entire life, to be jealous of Jesse's newfound powers, but his petulant attitude was a bit much. He did everything but stomp his feet and run crying to his room and flop face-first on his bed.

I'm betting Wally's jealously is a setup for a subplot in which Alchemy tempts him with superpowers of his own, giving us a "Fall From Grace/Redemption" 

Lastly, this episode practically pulled a hamstring dropping not-so-subtle hints that Julian Albert is secretly Alchemy. I'm hoping that won't be the case, because it's a bit too obvious.


The Plot:
Barry and Iris go on a date, that's quickly interrupted by Cisco. Superheroes! Dating them's worse than dating a doctor!

Barry (and Iris) zooms to STAR Labs, where Cisco informs him that a multiverse breach has opened in the basement. Weren't all the breaches permanently closed last season? Maybe that's another thing that's different in this timeline. Suddenly the Earth-2 Harrison Wells and his daughter Jesse pop out of the breach.

Harry says he came to Earth-1 because after being bathed by dark matter rays last season, Jesse's now developed superspeed. Again with the speedsters on this show! Harry wants to run tests on Jesse in the Speed Lab, which is apparently in this timeline. When Barry expresses surprise that they have a facility, Harry correctly guesses that he's gone into the past and altered the timeline again.

As they test Jesse's speed, a hurt and petulant Wally looks on, obviously jealous that he doesn't have superspeed as well, since he was hit by the same dark matter energy as Jesse. He leaves the lab in a huff.

Meanwhile, abusive jerk John Kane comes home from work and yells at his wife and foster daughter, Frankie. Terrified, Frankie's eyes begin glowing a bright pink. She turns to her foster father and says, "Sorry, John, Frankie's gone." Suddenly a street lamp crashes through the window and hits John, seriously injuring him.

Later at the Central City PD, Joe questions a confused Frankie Kane, who claims she doesn't remember what happened. Barry tells Joe that only someone with super strength could have bent the lamp post. 

Julian Albert takes Frankie's glass of water and examines it. He says it contains DNA residue similar to the mysterious "skin husks" they found last week. Julian confronts Frankie and begins screaming at her, proving he's not just a jerk to Barry, but an all-around asshole. He accuses Frankie of using her metahuman powers to try and kill her foster father. 

Frankie's eyes start glowing again, and she turns into her Magneto Magenta persona. She uses her magnetic powers to pull a large metal plaque off the wall and try to crush Julian with it. Barry suits up and saves him. Outside he tries to capture Magenta, but she tosses a police car at him and escapes.

Back at STAR Labs, Barry says he's sure that Alchemy gave Frankie her powers. Harry blames Barry's time meddling for this. Jesse finishes her speed tests, and is eager to become a superhero, much to Harry's chagrin. He asks Caitlin Snow to talk some sense into her. Caitlin tries, but Jesse figures out that Harry put her up to it. She confronts Harry, who says he doesn't want her to get hurt. She speeds off, and Wally follows. 

Jesse tells Wally she was hoping he'd get powers too, since they were both exposed to the dark matter. When he asks how her powers manifested, she says she was almost hit by a car and was able to zip out of the way in time. This gives Wally the incredibly bright idea to step into traffic, to try and jump start his powers. Frankie zips him out of the way just in time.

Magenta meets with Doctor Alchemy, telling him she wants to destroy the Frankie part of her personality. Alchemy says if Magenta shows Frankie how powerful she is, she'll never return.

Iris visits John Kane in the hospital, so the writers can place her in danger. She looks out the window and sees an enormous tanker ship flying toward Kane's room. Outside we see Magenta using her powers to lift the boat over the hospital, so she can crush it and kill her abusive foster father. 

The Flash arrives at the hospital and creates a wind funnel on the roof, to keep the ship from crashing down. Unfortunately he can't do that and capture Magenta on the ground at the same time. Harry realizes Barry needs help, and reluctantly tells his daughter to go help, uttering his catchphrase, "Run, Jesse, Run!"

Jesse then takes over for Barry and holds up the ship with her own updraft. Barry speeds down to the street and confronts Magenta. He uses a patented CW Believe In Yourself Pep Talk to convince Frankie she's a good person and strong enough to defeat Magenta. 

Apparently it works, because Frankie gains control, puts down the boat and says, "I'm so sorry!" as she hugs Barry.

So John Kane gets locked up for merely threatening his family (we never actually saw him it anyone), while Joe lets Frankie off scot-free because she wasn't in control of her body when she did all the bad things she did. That... doesn't seem fair. Barry says they've found her another foster home, and if Magenta ever pops up again, he'll be there to help.

Harry tells Jesse he's proud of her, and gives her a superhero costume, calling her "Jesse Quick."

Barry and Iris try to go on another date. Barry whisks Iris off to a pier and they admire the scenery. Just then he gets a call from Joe. Iris tells him it's OK to go, and he zooms off, leaving her stranded miles from home.

Joe shows Barry and Julian security footage of Edward Clariss, aka The Rival, being killed in his Iron Heights prison cell. He screams "Alchemy" as he dies.

 Suddenly there's a "Speed Lab" inside STAR Labs— a room devoted solely to testing and measuring the power levels of speedsters. And it's supposedly something that's always been there, despite the fact we've never seen it before. Chalk it up as another change resulting from Barry's timeline-meddling.

There's been a rash of new sets on all the Arrowverse shows this season. Over on Supergirl (yes, I know, technically she's not part of the Arrowverse), the Department Of Extra-Normal Operations has a brand new, spacious hi-rise headquarters. On Legends Of Tomorrow, Rip Hunter's Waverider timeship has a new library we've never seen. And now the Speed Lab on The Flash.

Are these new spaces all part of this new timeline? Or did The CW just find some extra money in the budget to build some new sets?

 In the preview for this episode, there's a scene of Harry wearing a hipsterish fedora. He uncharacteristically jokes around with the STAR Labs Gang by saying, "Greeting, Earthlings." 

Note that this scene doesn't appear in the actual episode. I'm assuming this is yet another version of Harry that's going to appear at some point in the future. Jesus, how many versions of him have there been now? Four? We briefly saw the actual Harrison Wells in a couple of flashbacks, we spent all of Season 1 with a Wells who was secretly Eobard Thawne, and then in Season 2 we got the Earth-2 version of him. Apparently we're getting a fourth version soon, from who knows where.

• Magenta appeared in The Flash comic, but was a very, very different character there.

The comic book Frances Kane grew up with Wally West (who became the Flash after Barry Allen died). She developed magnetic powers as a teen, and Wally helped her learn to control them. They ended up falling in love, and Frances joined the Teen Titans as Magenta.

The two eventually broke up, and the incident was so traumatic it caused Frances to develop a dark, twisted alternate personality.

Her story goes on and on, but basically she was possessed by the Cicada Cult, whatever the hell that is, and eventually joined the New Rogues, a team of supervillains bent on destroying the Flash.

• Wally leaps in front of a speeding truck, hoping a life-threatening situation will jumpstart his speed powers.

This reminds me a lot of Silver Age Superman comics, in which Lois Lane would jump off the Daily Planet building, in an effort to force Clark Kent into saving her and outing him as the Man Of Steel.

 Tom Felton's horrible "I Just Rolled Out Of Bed" non-hairstyle isn't doing him any favors. Expecto Part-Comb-It!

• Iris visit's Frankie's foster father in the hospital, and calls him "an abusive dick." Wow!

This isn't the first time someone's used the word on The Flash. Cisco said it way back in Season 1 in The Sound And The Fury, when discussing Dr. Wells' protege Hartley Rathaway, saying, "He was mostly a jerk, but every once in a while... he could be a dick."

I don't know why, but it surprises me every time someone says it on network TV. We're very near the end of civilization.

• In the episode's climax, Magenta uses her metal manipulating powers to lift a huge tanker ship, intending to drop it on top of a hospital (and her foster father's head). The Flash manages to talk her out of it, and she tosses the ship back into the harbor (I guess— the way the scene's shot it's not really clear just where the ship lands). 

Barry's lucky that he was able to get the evil and destructive Magenta aspect of Frankie's personality to listen to reason. Magenta's the one who actually has superpowers, not Frankie. If Magenta had weakened and Frankie had resumed control of her own body, then... bye-bye hospital!

• Harry (with Cisco's help) makes a speedster costume for Jesse. I guess we'll have to wait until next week to see her in it though. Nice tease, The CW.

• At the end of the episode, Barry and Iris try to go on another date. He zooms Iris to a pier... somewhere, and they admire the view. Barry gets a page from Joe, and zips away, leaving Iris stranded. What, he couldn't have zoomed her back? Are they even still in Central City? How the hell's she supposed to get back? Is she supposed to just stand there until he's finished and remembers to come back for her?

I'd have paid real money if the episode ended with an indignant Iris screaming, "Wait a minute... Where the hell am I? Is this even whatever state Central City's in? BARRRRRRRRY!!!!!!"

And A Pringle In A Pan-treeee!

I was in the grocery store a couple of days ago and saw this:

Yep, that's right a can of delicious, Original Flavored Pringles Potato Crisps with a gift tag pre-printed right there on the can. Apparently Kellogg's, who now owns Pringles, believes that cans of potato chips are now an acceptable Xmas gift.

Welp, looks like my gift-giving problems are over! I know what everyone on my list is getting for Xmas this year! Thanks, Kellogg's!

As odd as it sounds, this isn't the first time this has happened. Last year Oscar Meyer printed gift tags on their packages of pre-cooked bacon.

And cigarette companies have printed printed gift tags on their festively decorated cartons for decades. That's former president Ronald Reagan there above, sending out coffin nails (and lung disease) to all the smokers on hislist. It's the gift that keeps on giving, right up until the end!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 1: Out Of Time

Legends Of Tomorrow is back for a second season!

Overall I like the show quite a bit, despite the fact it had a very, very uneven first season. The biggest problem last year was without a doubt the whole Vandal Savage story arc. The Legends vowed to kill him, but obviously that couldn't happen too early, so the show was forced to spin its wheels until the season finale.

Now that the unfortunate Savage story arc is gone, the series suddenly has much more storytelling freedom.

Hawkman and Hawkgirl were problematic as well, as the series insisted on focusing on them, despite the fact they were the dullest members of the entire ensemble.

Thankfully the writers seem to understand all that, and have taken steps to improve the series. They've tossed out what didn't work and streamlined the show into a leaner, more well-oiled machine. Well, for the most part.

As always, I like that Legends Of Tomorrow celebrates its Silver Age comic book roots, complete with all the insanity and goofiness that implies. It's refreshing to see comic book characters actually having fun, instead of moping around and trying to kill one another.

There was a lot of plot packed into this premiere episode— maybe too much. When Hunter used the "Time Scatter" to send the Legends to random time periods in order to save their lives. The show could have easily spent an entire episode rescuing each Legend in their respective time period. In fact that's exactly what I expected the writers to do. Instead they're all rounded up in literally two or three minutes, making the whole subplot moot. Why the big hurry?

Sadly, Captain Cold's absence is keenly felt here, although Heat Wave steps up and tries to fill the void left by him. Supposedly Wentworth Miller's supposed to pop up as an occasional guest star on all the Arrowverse shows, so hopefully we'll see him again soon.


The Plot:
Dr. Nate Heywood barges into Star City's, er, City Hall to see Mayor Oliver Queen. Why's he want to see Ollie? So we could have an Arrow crossover, I guess. Heywood tells Ollie he specializes in "deductive historical recreations," which I guess is a thing, and that he's basically a "time detective." 

He tells Ollie he's been noticing small changes in history (which makes no damned sense), and believes the Legends are altering the past. How he knows about the Legends in the first place is left to our imaginations. He says they may have been killed by an atomic bomb in 1942, three years before such a thing was invented.

Heywood convinces Ollie he's telling the truth, and for some reason the two of them take a trip in a submarine (!) and find the Waverider at the bottom of the Atlantic, near New York. They dock with the time ship (somehow) and inside they find Heat Wave in stasis. Ollie wakes him up and asks what happened.

Heat Wave tells them the Legends went to France in 1638 to keep King Louis XIII from being killed, so he could father his son, Louis the XIV. It's a simple assignment that's complicated by the appearance of time-travelling assassins with futuristic weapons. The Legends defeat the assassins, but are forced to use their powers in public to do so. It's a fun sequence, but I'm darned if I can figure out what it had to do with anything.

Continuing his flashback tale, Heat Wave says the Legends were then confronted by Hourman, who told them to stay away from New York in 1942, or they'd all die. I guess this is the incident we saw in the Season 1 finale?

Heat Wave then says the ship experienced a "time quake." Gideon says it was caused by a nuclear explosion in New York City in 1942. Ignoring Hourman's advice, the Legends head for the Big Apple of the past. White Canary uses Gideon to find Damien Darhhhhhhk's Darhk's whereabouts in 1942, hoping to kill him in the past so he doesn't kill her sister Laurel in the present. Confused yet?

Professor Stein and Atom determine that Albert Einstein disappeared just before the New York attack in 1942, causing WWII to last two more years and claim twelve million more lives. They figure the Nazis kidnapped Einstein and forced him to build an atomic bomb for them. Stein says they have to grab Einstein before the Nazis do.

The Legends arrive in 1942. White Canary sneaks off to find Darhhhk and kill him. Atom secretly follows her. Rip Hunter, Heat Wave and Professor Stein find Einstein at a cocktail party. Stein's giddy about the prospect of meeting "the greatest mind the world has ever known," but is disappointed when he sees Einstein acting like a dirty old man, hitting on women half his age.

White Canary finds Darhhhhk, and Atom shows up to prevent her from doing something stupid. They see Darhhhhhhhk is selling uranium to the Nazis, and realize they can't kill him until they figure out his plan.

Professor Stein tries to get Einstein to come with them, but he refuses. Stein ends up punching him unconscious so they can kidnap him. He wakes up in the Waverider's brig, and realizes he's been abducted by time travelers (well, he is the smartest man in the world, after all).

Unfortunately, even though the Legends have saved Einstein from the Nazis, Gideon says the temporal aberration hasn't disappeared. Einstein says the Nazis have probably kidnapped his ex-wife Mileva Maric, who knows just as much about atom bombs as he does.

Atom uses the sensors in his suit to track Darhhhhk's uranium to a shipyard. The Legends hurry there, and find Darhk and the Nazis, who are just about to stuff Maric into a U-Boat. White Canary attacks Darhhhk, intent on killing him. The rest of the Legends attack the Nazis. Things don't go quite as planned though. They rescue Maric, but Heat Wave is injured, and they end up leaving Darhhk and the Nazi atom bomb behind. 

The Legends drop Einstein and Maric off in a safe location, and go after the bomb in the Waverider. Hunter takes the ship underwater (which I guess it can handle?) and chases the U-Boat containing the bomb. The Nazis fire several torpedoes at the Waverider, and then launch the atom bomb.

Hunter uses something called a "Time Scatter" to send White Canary, Atom, Professor Stein and Jefferson back to random time periods in order to save them. He can't send Heat Wave back in time due to his injuries, so he places him in stasis. Hunter then crashes the Waverider into the atom bomb, causing it to explode underwater and save New York.

And that's the tale of how Heat Wave and the Waverider ended up at the bottom of the ocean. Ollie says that's a hell of a story, but he has to get back to his own show and leaves. Before he goes, he suggests that Nate Heywood, Time Detective, join the cast and help Heat Wave track down the Legends who were displaced by the Time Scatter.

And they do just that. In the space of about two minutes, Heat Wave and Heywood rescue the Legends. They find Atom 70 million years ago, and save him from a CGI dinosaur. They locate Stein and Jefferson in 821 England and rescue them from a Prince Joffrey lookalike who's about to execute them. And they track White Canary to Salem, and save her from being burned as a witch. Well that was easy!

Back on the Waverider they try to find Hunter, but can't locate him anywhere in time. Gideon plays his final message for them, in which he says he hopes they'll carry on his work and that he'll see them all again some day. Apparently it never occurs to anyone that they're in a goddamned time ship, and could probably go back and save him.

The Legends decide to stay together and keep policing the time stream. They change history a bit by having Einstein give a press conference in which he publicly acknowledges Maric's contributions to his work, which puts her under his umbrella of security and saves her from further Nazi attacks.

Back on the U-Boat, the commander is angry with Darhhhhk for screwing up the "Operation: Blow Up New York" mission. Darhhhk isn't bothered, as he says his partner wants to move on to bigger and better things. Suddenly a flash of red lightning appears in the sub, killing all the Nazis. We see it's the work of the Reverse Flash, who greets his new pal Darhhhhhhhk.

• Professor Stein gives the opening narration, recounting what happened last season and bringing everyone up to speed. He introduces the various Legends, including "Dr. Raymond Palmer, the Atom" and "Firestorm, the merged super form of Jefferson Jackson and myself, Martin Stein." For some reason he goes on to say, "The Arsonist, Mick Rory."

Um... I thought Rory's codename was Heat Wave? When did that change? 

• I'm struggling to figure out just where this episode fits in the timeline. Bear with me here, it's complicated. 

In last season's finale, the Legends finally manage to kill Vandal Savage. Even though their mission is over, they all decide to stay with Rip Hunter and travel through time with him. Suddenly a second Waverider comes screaming out of the sky and crash-lands next to them. 

Hourman steps out of the ship and says, "You're exactly where you said you'd be. Do not get on that ship. If you do, you're all dead." Heat Wave says, "Says who?" Hourman says, "Says you, Mr. Rory. You sent me... My name is Rex Tyler. I'm a member of the Justice Society Of America."

Fair enough. But then in this episode, Oliver Queen and Nate Heywood, Time Detective, find the Waverider at the bottom of the ocean, with only Heat Wave aboard. He then tells Ollie and Heywood the events of the past few weeks, in which they visited 1600's France and saved New York City from an atomic bomb in 1942.

Then Heat Wave and Heywood fire up the Waverider and rescue the Legends, who've been randomly scattered throughout time. At the end of the episode, the Justice Society (minus Hourman) appears.

So... where does Hourman and his season finale warning fit in? He's not included in the Justice Society's little intro at the end of the episode, so obviously Heat Wave hasn't yet met him. I guess maybe they'll meet in the next episode? And then I suppose Heat Wave will send him back in time to the Season Finale to warn the others not to go to New York? But why? At this point in time (heh), the Legends have already visited New York and saved it, and they didn't die. So why the warning? What purpose did it serve, especially after the mission was successful?

I'm very confused here. it's like there's an episode missing, or they're out of order or something. Or the writers forgot what happened last season.

 Heywood tells Ollie that he's been noticing small changes in history, and believes the Legends are subtly altering the past. If that's true, how the hell does he know about it? If the Legends change D-Day from June 6, 1944 to June 7, wouldn't everyone— including Heywood  just remember it as always happening that way? Why's he immune from the timeline changes?

Legends Of Tomorrow has had a problem with this since the very first episode. The show's time travel rules change drastically to fit the needs of the script, and very little of it ever makes any logical sense.

• For some reason Ollie and Heywood hop into a submarine and search the ocean floor for the Waverider. Where the hell did Ollie get access to a submarine? Does Queen Industries have its own sub? I wonder how often that gets used.

• This isn't a problem, just an observation/coincidence. A few years ago on Doctor Who, Arthur Darvill, aka Rip Hunter, played Rory Williams, husband of Amy Pond and friend of the Doctor. In the Pond's final episode, they time travel to the 1930s to save New York City from the menace of the Weeping Angels. Here Rip Hunter time travels to the 1940s to save New York City from the menace of a Nazi atom bomb.

• Speaking of Doctor Who: Starting with this episode, the Waverider has a spacious library filled with artifacts from various time periods. It's definitely a different room than Rip's office, which we saw last season. So where the hell did it come from? Rip has a line about Jackson building it, but when did he find the time (not to mention skills) to do that? This episode seems to take place right after the season finale. 

And how is there room inside the ship for this spacious room? I'm starting to think the Waverider is like the Doctor's TARDIS, and is bigger on the inside than the outside.

 In 1942 New York, White Canary hails a cab and says, "Take me to Conway and Fifth." The Arrowverse writers just love to name the streets in their scripts after comic writers and artists, and Gerry Conway (along with Al Milgrom) created Firestorm.

 In 1942, Professor Stein, Hunter and Heat Wave rescue Einstein from the Nazis. Stein is positively starstruck at meeting Einstein, whom he's long admired. Unfortunately he's horrified to see his idol acting like a horny fratboy.

I thought the idea of portraying Einstein as a horndog was lazy writing, and even a bit disrespectful. Turns out it's not that much of an exaggeration. Ol' Al really did have an eye for the ladies, often cheating on the women in his life.

It's a long and twisted story, so I'll try and be brief— Einstein met Milina Meric in college in 1896. They had a daughter outside of wedlock (gasp!) in 1902. The child was either adopted or died in 1903— no one knows for sure (!). 

Einstein and Maric married in 1903, and had two sons (can you imagine the pressure you'd face being the son of freakin' Einstein?). They lived in Berlin for a while, but a few months Maric moved to Zurich with her sons, after finding out that Einstein was screwing around with a woman named Elsa, who was somehow both his first AND second cousin (yeah, I don't get it either). Einstein and Meric divorced in 1919. Einstein later married Elsa (!). 

• Hunter uses the Time Scatter to save the Legends' lives by sending them to random eras in the past. Later Heat Wave uses the Waverider to round up the Legends from their various time periods. In every case, he manages to rescue them from certain death in the nick of time. But most of them were in absolutely no danger.

OK, so maybe Atom was in trouble, since he apparently didn't have his suit and was being chased by a dinosaur. But Stein and Jackson were being menaced by King Joffrey a boy king, who ordered their execution. Big deal! All they had to do was form Firestorm, and they could have made quick work of anything the Medieval world could throw at them.

Same with White Canary in Salem. She could have kicked the asses of all the Puritans surrounding her without breaking a sweat. So why is the show trying to get us worried about the Legends' lives here?

• By the way, in the Medieval castle, Jackson tries to entertain the boy king by showing him his smartphone. Um... how's he charging that in a culture without electricity? My phone battery dies in less then a full day. Surely they've been stuck there longer than that.

And isn't it fortunate the Time Scatter just happened to send Stein and Jackson to the exact same era and place?

• At the end of the episode, Damien Darhhhhk reveals his new partner  the Reverse Flash. Once again, I'm not even going to try and attempt to figure out how the Reverse Flash still exists, after he's been killed and/or wiped out fo existence several times now.

And what the hell is the Reverse Flash doing in 1942? He meets Darhhhhhhhk on a German U-Boat, for corn's sake! I guess Barry Allen travels back and forth in time as easily as you or I walk to the supermarket, so I suppose he can do the same.
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