Friday, November 6, 2015

In DC's Newest Live Action Series, A New Hero Rises

Last week, the latest live action television adaptation of a DC Comics character aired on CBS. This new series, developed in part by producers of Arrow and The Flash, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, adds a lead female protagonist to DC's current line-up, with Melissa Benoist cast as the title character. This new series is Supergirl.

Poster advertising the new Supergirl Television series
A few months back, when I saw the trailer advertising this series, I was intrigued by it, in particular because it was introducing Supergirl into a universe where Superman not only already existed, and was already well established, but was doing so without actually introducing Superman.

The trailer created a lot of excitement and hype for this new series. Unfortunately, at least for me, the series pilot, while having some great moments, did not live up to that hype as a whole. Much like the Green Lantern movie that was released about four years ago, I see the pilot for Supergirl as decent, though not particularly impressive, but due to the expectations the advertising beforehand set up for it, made it come off as a let down.

Though the actress cast as Supergirl definitely has the look for the part, she doesn't have the characterization of Supergirl that I've seen portrayed in the comic books over the last ten years. Whether this is due to how Benoist interprets the character, is do to the fact that the character in the TV series is in her mid-twenties rather than in her teens as the comic book character is, or that the writers were going another direction with her, this is not the Supergirl that has been seen at least since the character was killed off in the comic books in the mid-eighties.

As mentioned earlier, Superman is well established on Earth when Kara arrives. The problem I see is that in the beginning of the episode, Kara is thirteen years old. The episode then jumps to 11 years later. This would put a Superman that was already well established when Kara was a teenager likely into middle age by the time Kara decides to take on the role of a hero.

Is the Superman of this show beginning to show his age?
And is that the real reason that his face is never shown?
Granted, a middle-aged Superman could still work (it's something we've seen with some versions of the Earth-2 Superman, as well as with the Kingdom Come Superman). The problem I see is that the writers of this episode would like to do crossovers with Arrow and The Flash, which would place Supergirl in the Arrowverse. The way civilians react to vigilantes, superheroes and meta-humans in Arrow and The Flash, I have a difficult time believing that this could be the same world where Superman has been around for over ten years. It just doesn't fit.

Without giving away any major spoilers, I will also say that the role that Kara's adopted sister is revealed to play in this episode (and will apparently continue to play through the season, and possibly the series) feels too convenient. It comes off as rather contrived, and nothing more than a plot device to get Kara involved with other characters.

Chyler Lee plays Kara's adopted sister, Alex
One thing that doesn't make sense (and this is true of many Superman origin stories as well) is why she wears glasses. After she takes on the superhero identity of Supergirl, they make sense. But when she had no intention of ever taking on a superhero identity, why would a Kryptonian, with superhuman vision, be wearing glasses? It's definitely not about fashion, as Kara is clearly depicted to be fashionably inept. So what's the point in wearing them?

Melissa Benoist plays Kara Danvers, who wears glasses, even while having supervision,
and even before she ever decides to take on a hero identity
Lest this turn into nothing more than a rant of everything that was wrong with the pilot episode of Supergirl, there were some things I definitely liked about it.

Kara's adopted human parents are played by Dean Cain (who played Superman in Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman) and Helen Slater (who played the title character in the 1980s Supergirl movie). I appreciated this nod to the previous material. I liked how it carries on the tradition started in The Flash with casting John Wesley Shipp (who played the Flash in the 90s Flash TV series) as Henry Allen, as well as bringing back Amanda Pays and Mark Hamill to reprise their roles as Dr. Tina McGee and the Trickster that they played in the previous series.

Helen Slater (who played Supergirl in the 1980s film) and Dean Cain (who played Superman in Lois & Clark)
play Kara's adoptive parents
I also like the continuing tradition of bringing in characters from the ensemble cast from the comic books. Some, like Cat Grant, are portrayed in a very similar way as they have been in the comic books. Others, like James (Jimmy) Olsen, are portrayed very differently. While still others, such as Hank Henshaw, still remain to be seen.

Choosing to use Kara as her name in her civilian identity is also an interesting choice. Originally I was opposed to it, as it the character in the comic books has almost always gone by Linda in her civilian identity. But when I think about it, if she had grown up never intending to be a hero or take on another identity, why would she not use the name she had gone by throughout her life? Going by Kara in her everyday life makes sense.

Again, without giving major spoilers, I found the apparent source of the villains that Supergirl is apparently being set up to fight this season intriguing. It's definitely more refreshing than the Smallville villain of the week that received his or her powers from exposure to Kryptonite, or even the improvement of the villain of the week meta-human created by the particle accelerator explosion typically used in the first season of The Flash. That being said, I hope that they go beyond just the villain of the week formula, though I am interested in seeing where they go with this.

I also like that Superman can be casually mentioned in the series without ever really being fully shown. It's a reminder of Kara's history and culture, while reminding us that she is not her cousin. I will say, however, there is a line of talking about him too much. As this was the pilot, and an origin story, I'll give the numerous mentions of Kara being Superman's cousin a pass, though in the future, I hope that this will be more balanced, as talking about him too much (even without him being seen) takes the focus away from the characters in this series.

This is as much as is ever shown of Supergirl's well known cousin, Superman
And finally, I do like Supergirl's costume. It is more styled after the classic costume. And as Kara is trying different styles, they even poke fun at the bare midriff style of costume that has been seen in more recent years in the Supergirl comics. The costume that Supergirl ultimately goes with is a good fit for Kara's personality.

Bare midriff may be the modern costume style for Supergirl,
 but it's definitely not Kara's style
I do intend to continue watching Supergirl, and seeing where the show-runners take this series. However, I cannot say that I am excitedly waiting for the next episode in the same way that I was watching the first seasons of both Arrow and The Flash. This series still has a lot of potential, and I hope to see it reach the same level as I've come to expect for a live action TV series that depicts DC Comics characters.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Future is What You Make of It

Thirty years ago, a science fiction movie was released that was based around a DeLorean that was turned into a time machine that could traverse the space time continuum when it reached 88 miles per hour. This movie, whose script was originally rejected by a number of major film studios for not being risque enough, and was also rejected by Disney due to a plot element of a mother falling in love with her time traveling teenage son from the future, and was eventually picked up and produced by Steven Spielberg.

As I'm sure you're aware (especially if you read Joe's post from earlierthis week), this movie was “Back to the Future.” This movie became the top grossing movie of 1985, quickly became a cult classic, and  later spawned two sequels. In the first of these sequels, the main characters, Marty and Doc Brown travel thirty years into the future.

Title Card for Back to the Future
For the past couple of years, there has been a countdown clock that has been featured on the side of the Mormon Geeks website. This clock has been counting down the time until the future date depicted in Back to the Future Part II, which occurred two days ago on October 21, 2015. I'd like to discuss the day after that, October 22, 2015, which was yesterday.

The clock in the DeLorean, featuring the dates traveled to
 in Back to the Future Part II
In Back to the Future Part II, after bringing him to 2015, Doc shows Marty a newspaper headline from the following day (which he obtained before picking up Marty from 1985 and then returning a day earlier), which shows that Marty's son was arrested for taking part in a theft. Then, of course, they execute a plan in which Marty briefly replaces his son, who looks identical to him (both are played by Michael J. Fox, after all), and prevents him from getting bullied into participating in the theft that resulted in his arrest.

In the original timeline, Marty's son was 
arrested after being coerced into taking 
part in a theft by bully Griff Tannen
After Marty prevents the theft, the headline changes to show the gang of bullies that attempted to coerce him into being involved with the theft have been arrested instead for vandalism and destruction of public property. This part of the movie also shows that one small choice can make a big difference in future consequences.

After Marty briefly replaces his son, it is 
instead Griff and his gang that are arrested
Yesterday, USA Today published a replica of the newspaper headline that appeared in the movie, in commemoration of Back to the Future Part II.

Yesterday also marked an exciting event that occurred in my family. As this is the same date as shown on the newspaper in the movie, I was doubly excited. On October 22, 2015, at 7:23 PM, my niece, Alexis, was born. Alhough I was probably much more excited about the link to the date on the newspaper shown in the movie than her parents (who were much more focused on the new addition to their family), my brother (her father), who also grew up watching the Back to the Future movies with me, definitely got a kick out of the connection.

Me holding my newborn niece last night, 
only a couple of hours after her birth
I've already been encouraging my nieces and nephews in developing their geeky interests. I have a history of buying them birthday and Christmas gifts with geed-related themes (granted, at times I'm just sharing my own interests with them, in hopes that they will develop an interest as well, but as we are not short of geeks in my family, they get just as much encouragement from their parents and other aunts and uncles).

Connection to Back to the Future aside, I  want to welcome my newborn niece into this world. The time of the future depicted in Back to the Future Part II is our present. Altough for Alexis, her entire future is still ahead of her, which is something I am excited for. As I think of the possibilities in store for her, Doc Brown's closing words in Back to the Future Part III come to mind, “Your future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.”

We have all been given the gift of agency by a loving God, and that includes choosing how to live our lives. The choices we make today will determine the kind of person we will become in the future. Just as George McFly went from cowering before Biff, being intimidated and living small as shown in the original timeline shown in Back to the Future, to becoming confident, believing in himself and becoming a successful author due to Marty's influence on a couple of choices he made in the past, the same is also true for us.

George McFly in the original timeline
George McFly in the new timeline, showing the big difference making different choices made on his life
As Back to the Future taught us, seemingly small choices can have large impacts on our future. So in closing, I hope that we all will remember that the future truly is what we make of it, and encourage each of us to use the gift of agency to make it a good one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to the Future is Now!

Happy Back to the Future day!

Yes, we are officially in the future according to Back to the Future part 2. Today is the day when Doc took Marty McFly to the future to help him repair the tragedy which was about to befall his family.

So why does this matter?

Well if you recall from the movie Marty spends some time wandering around 2015 exploring the changes of mankind, which like any media that attempts to predict the future is actually pretty funny when compared to the actual date.

This isn't the first time this has happened. The 60's TV series had mankind jetting off for the stars in 1997, which is funny to think about since it's now 2015 and few people have still gone into space.

What is it though that makes us so excited to celebrate Back to the Future? Besides the fact that it's cleverly written and one of the most competently put together narratives involving time travel to ever come out (Yes, I'm dissing Dr. Who. Doc may've explained alternate realities with a line on a chalkboard but at least he didn't try and go with "Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey"). Of all the franchises to get a special day enough that movie theaters pay homage and nerds everywhere put their pants on backwards over their Calvin Kleins, why this one?

For one, as out there as the tech was, it never seemed out of reach. We could believe that the future would still have irritating ads everywhere and that you'd be able to watch a dozen TV shows at once. We even believed that cars could be modified to fly, or that hoverboards could replace regular skate boards as long as they didn't go on water. That's the brilliance of the future part of Back to the Future, it wasn't so sci-fi that it was completely out there. It actually felt not only like a real place but a place we could get to one day.

Second, people were still people in the future. For the most part, nobody was part of some weird out-there Fireflies cult or some alien species. With all the future stuff going on, people's lives weren't perfect. When we first see Marty's dad as an old man, he's hovering upside down on some sort of gravity back brace device. In their future, old people still got sick, and they still needed help to get around. We also see Marty in the future gets fired from whatever corporate job he had, and how worried he is that he not only can't provide for his family but that he's lost his way in life. It's sad but charming to see him thumbing his old guitar that he can no longer play due to an injury he suffered long ago, when just the previous film he was rocking out at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Compare this to Demolition Man, where humans are barely recognized as having regular human emotion, desires or even motivations. It's like an alien world instead of us in another time.

Lastly, the future bit fits so well into the narrative of the rest of the films. We're actually only in 2015 for the first third or so of the movie and we never visit it again, but it has such an impact on what happens next with regards to the moral questions of time travel and controlling one's own future. As a reminder: Marty while trying to fix his families problems ends up buying a sports almanac that covers the next 20 years of his life, figuring he could make a fortune from betting on sports. The book is stolen by Biff, the series main antagonist, who uses it and the time machine to create an alternate twisted reality where Hill Valley is a gambling town and his father is killed by Biff. It makes for an exciting and twisted third act, as well as an interesting comparison between Biff in three alternate realities, the untouched one where he's just a major jerk and bully, the one Marty alters where he becomes a wuss, and the super dark one where he's a complete homicidal monster. It brings to question how one or two events can alter the course of a person's destiny.

Back to the Future is without a doubt a fine film series worthy of praise, but today it's especially nice as you read this blog on your laptop or smart phone, which you were probably notified of via Facebook or Twitter, how much has changed in the last 30 or 40 years, how much you've changed, and what small events made you who you are today. Also ask yourself, how could things have turned out differently if for a small change down the road.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's Okay to be Sad

Since I shared my review of the first season of The Flash last week, I've had the chance to watch the season premiere for the second season, “The Man Who Saved Central City.” While I wouldn't normally do posts on the same topic two weeks in a row, there were a couple of scenes in this episode that I felt moved by.

Logo for The Flash TV Series
My educational background is in psychology and social work. Psychology is defined as the study of the mind and behavior, which includes emotions. In both my education, and in life in general, I have learned the value of being emotionally healthy, which includes the healthy expression of feelings.

Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, which includes emotions
Often in our society, expressing certain emotions is taboo. It's not okay to express anger. It's not okay to admit to fear. It's not okay to express sadness or to cry (which is especially true for boys and men). In fact, it's often not okay to express anything but joy. The movie, Inside Out did a good job of showing how feeling some things (particularly sadness) is bad, and is an indication that something is wrong with the individual.

We live in a culture where many feelings,
 including sadness are taboo to express
When I think about it, how often in any given day do I ask, or am I asked, “How are you?” And how often is the response anything other than “good” or “fine” or some variation of those? How often does the person asking really want to know? And if the individual answering gives anything but one of the standard answers, how often does it lead to a moment of awkwardness?

In reality, suppressing feelings, pretending we're not angry, hiding our fear, burying our sadness, is not healthy, and certainly is not authentic. When feelings are suppressed, they will find other ways to be expressed, and usually not of our choosing.

This episode explored the expression of feelings, and what can happen when individuals don't allow themselves to feel or express emotions, as well as contrasting it with when individuals do allow themselves to feel and express their emotions. If nothing else, the message I got from this episode was, “it's okay to feel.”

Logan Williams playing Barry in a flashback
During a flashback to Barry's childhood, about six months after his mother's death, he's still not allowing himself to feel certain things. In his case, he does express anger, but he uses it to hide other emotions that he doesn't want to feel, and that he doesn't want others to see.

At one point, Joe, Barry's foster father, says to him, “It's like a move, being angry all the time. I get it. You miss your mom and dad and you want to show them that you're strong. Being mad makes it easier. Tougher thing to do would be to let yourself feel. It's okay to be sad. You can be sad Barry. Your parents will understand if you're not strong all the time. That is why I'm here.”

Barry has been pushing away his sadness, because he believes that feeling it, that letting others see it, will mean that he's not strong, and that he's being weak. But all that he needs to express his sadness is permission to do so.

As soon as Joe finishes speaking to him, Barry immediately hugs him, and breaks down crying, Cradling him, Joe says, “It's okay son, I got you.”

When the episode goes back to the present time, Joe is with Barry as he is waking up after nearly being killed by the episode's villain, as he was refusing his friends help, as that was easier than expressing and letting them see how some painful experiences effected him. Joe gives Barry a reminder of the lessons of the past, and let's him know that he's not alone, and once reminds him that it's okay to feel. And as  Barry sheds a tear, we see the emotional healing process begining for him.

Joe (Jesse L. Martin)  lets Barry (Grant Gustin) know that he's not alone
It's not often that episodic TV, especially one that tends to be as light-hearted at The Flash, gets into something so emotionally deep. And it's even less often that a learning experience on healthy emotional expression is shown. I was already a fan of The Flash, though after seeing this important message about emotional well-being, I'm even more impressed with this show.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Little Things That Matter

It's been a while since I've done a spiritual post. Today's message was triggered by a Facebook post made by my friend and author, Julie Coulter Bellon a little while ago. Here is her post:

"Sometimes I feel sad at the lack of common courtesy in our society these days. There is so much value in teaching our children to say please, thank you, excuse me, and I'm sorry. To teach them common courtesies like if you're going to be late to meet someone, call or text the person and let them know. Or, if you say you're going to do something, do it, or tell the person, I'm sorry, something has come up and I won't be able to help you now---just don't leave them hanging. Common courtesy used to be so, well, common. I miss that!"

To which I remarked how common courtesy had been replaced by immediate entitlement. I strongly believe that. Not only that, I have no problem admitting that I face this struggle in my own life. There are plenty of times that greed, envy, slothfulness and pride all lead my actions. (I'm a big fan of the concept behind the seven deadly sins or the seven vices and have written and will write on them probably more.) Regardless, this idea of "I am entitled to my want" is one that I see plaguing this world. It is this attitude that is justified in pride that leads people to being discourteous to one another.

This led to me remembering a scene in a movie that is probably overlooked as it is nothing more than a small moment that seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the film. I will get to that specific scene later, but the film I am referring to here is the 1990s romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping.

Peter Callahan (portrayed by Peter Gallagher) is painted as a fairly petty character. More on that later. Out of everyone in the film, he's the character that has the subtlest story arc, but it's there. And Peter is better than the man everyone thinks he is.

If I were a judging people watcher (okay, maybe I shouldn't say "if") and I rode the L-train every day and saw Peter Callahan, I would have some fairly negative judgments of him. In general, I would see an arrogant lawyer who probably doesn't have any real friends, only mild acquaintances. I would see an entitled jerk who couldn't care less about the lives of other people so long as they don't interfere with him. But I would feel guilty in noticing something that Lucy (Sandra Bullock) later refers to in the film.

After Peter awakes from his coma and he's interacting with Lucy in the hospital, he speaks about himself so negatively. She didn't just save his life, but she changed how he saw the world. He looks at himself as a selfish man who never does anything good. Lucy points out that he gives up his seat everyday on the train. He explains that it's not heroic. Even now I'm getting chills at her response: "It is to the person who sits in it."

Lucy saw something redeemable in someone who only saw reasons to spite himself. It speaks well to Lucy's character, but also it reminds Peter that he is a better person than even he knows. Not only that, he didn't realize how big of an impact his seemingly small gesture is.

FYI: This isn't the moment of the film I really wanted to point out. I'm getting there. Earlier, I alluded to a small moment in the film that seems like it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. But in it is the most redeeming moment for Peter. In the beginning of the film, before his accident, Peter walks up to the booth on Christmas Day and puts a token down for Lucy to let him through. Peter looks at her and says, "Merry Christmas."

The relevancy here is what I believe Peter sees in that moment. He knows that he has a fancy-shmancy car, but has decided to take the train instead of putting mileage on his car. Because there is a demand for the train, Lucy has to work. Peter understands that it must suck for someone to be alone in a booth on a commonly celebrated holiday. She even has a sad "I don't want to be here" look on her face before he drops his token. Peter doesn't know Lucy, but he feels bad that she has to work because of him and tries to cheer her up.

His simple comment is what tells the audience that Peter's family did raise him well. Lucy's actions to save him along with her definition of "hero" taught Peter to stop taking his "great" life for granted and see the smaller things.

I had a similar lesson once taught really well from my mother as well as a kind stranger. She and I were in Vons (a grocery-chain popular in Southern California) doing our normal grocery shopping. And I wanted to see if the latest WWF Magazine was out. (Now WWE.) Well, I was old enough that she didn't mind letting me go over to check. Of course, the magazines were in alphabetical order front-to-back, bottom-to-top. WWF was in the very top corner. But I could reach it standing on the lower rack (light enough that I wouldn't break it.) Anyway, there was a lady looking at a magazine who was in my way.

So I said to the lady, "Excuse me." She backed away and I got my magazine. Once I stepped down, I said "Thank you" not even looking at the lady and went back to my mom. Well, within a moment of returning, this woman came up to my mom and "Excuse me, are you his mother?" Concerned at what I had done, my mom cautiously said, "Yes..." The lady then explained what had happened and said "You've done such a wonderful job at raising your son to be so polite. It is rare to see today." Something like that at least. My mom was pretty proud of me, until I became boastful about it and then she reminded me to be humble.

I still appreciate the compliment and lesson on humility, which is what I must've had somehow in order to actually say what I did to get my magazine. I don't share this story now out of the pride that I was paid a compliment, but as a reminder on just how much people really do appreciate courtesy.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review of The Flash: Season One

When I posted my review of the third season of Arrow, I ended with asking you readers to watch for my review of the first season of The Flash in the coming weeks. I apparently enjoy building suspense, as eighteen weeks (or about four months) have passed since then. In fact, the opening episode of The Flash's second season just aired earlier this week. I only hope my review has been worth the wait.

As with my reviews of Arrow, I may give some minor spoilers to several individual episodes, though I will avoid giving any major spoilers as to the overall story arcs of the season. And as The Flash is a spin-off of Arrow, I will reference several episodes of Arrow that set up or relate to what happens in The Flash. Though there may be spoilers for the individual episodes that I reference, if you have not yet seen the second or third seasons of Arrow, I will not give spoilers for the overall story arcs of each season. (though if you haven't watched Season Two or Three of Arrow, what are you waiting for? You should stop everything you're doing and get caught up!)

The logo for The Flash TV Series
The protagonist and title character of The Flash is Barry Allen. As with Arrow, there is an opening monologue for nearly every episode. Throughout most of the first season, each episode begins with a voice over from Barry:

My name is Barry Allen. And I am the fastest man alive. When I was a child I saw my mother killed by something impossible. My father went to prison for her murder. Then an accident made me the impossible. To the outside world I am an ordinary forensic scientist, but secretly I use my speed to fight crime and find others like me. And one day, I'll find who killed my mother and get justice for my father. I am the Flash.”

Barry Allen's first appearance in Arrow
Barry first appears in the Season Two episode of Arrow, “The Scientist,” when he travels to Starling City to investigate accounts of super-powered humans, hoping that it might bring him closer to finding his mother's killer. Over the course of this episode and the next, Barry learns the Arrow's identity and saves his life when he is poisoned. As he leaves Starling City, he gives the Arrow a dynamo mask to better conceal his identity. As he returns to Central City, we see him get struck by lightning in his lab. Over the course of the second half of the second season of Arrow, we learn that he spends months in a coma.

The Arrow wears the mask that Barry designed and made for him.
Though the producers of Arrow originally planned on using an episode of Arrow a backdoor pilot for The Flash, Barry's first appearance in Arrow turned out to be so popular that they decided to do a full fledged pilot for new the series instead.

The bolt of lightning that gave Barry his super speed
The Pilot episode of The Flash again portrays the accident that leads to Barry being struck by lightning, but elaborates on it. We learn that it happened as a result of the experimental particle accelerator being launched at STAR Labs exploding, that Barry spent nine months in a coma following the accident, and that when he wakes, he soon finds that he now has the ability to move at super human speeds.

The Flash, played by Grant Gustin
Barry Allen is played by Grant Gustin. Over the course of the season, Barry learns more about how to use his new powers, becomes faster and faster, and gets closer and closer to solving the mystery of his mother's murder.

Dr. Caitlin Snow, played by Danielle Panabaker, Dr. Harrison Wells, played by
Tom Cavanagh, and Cisco Ramon, played by Carlos Valdez
Barry is supported by the team at STAR Labs in Central City, which includes Dr. Harrison Wells (played by Tom Cavanagh), the Lab's director, who has been confined to a wheelchair since the explosion of the particle accelerator, and who hides a mysterious past; Dr. Caitlin Snow (played by Danielle Panabaker), who provided medical care for Barry while he was comatose, and whose fiance, Ronny Raymond, apparently died as a result of the particle accelerator explosion; and Cisco Ramon (played by Carlos Valdes), the team's engineer, who has a quick wit, gives many of the Flash's villains their nicknames, and creates incredible gadgets and weapons to assist the Flash.

Cisco designed the Flash's costume, among many other things
Also featuring in the series is Iris West (played by Candice Patton), with whom Barry was raised as a foster brother after his mother's death, and for whom Barry has romantic feelings; Joe West (played by Jesse L. Martin), who is Iris's father, Barry's foster father, and who is also a detective with the Central City Police Department, (where he also functions as Barry's supervisor); and Eddie Thawne (played by Rick Cosnett), who is also a detective with the Central City Police Department, Joe's partner, and Iris's boyfriend.

Eddie Thawne, played by Rick Cosnett, Iris West, played by
Candice Patton, and Joe West, played by Jesse L. Martin
In the pilot episode, Barry learns that he was not the only one who received powers from the particle accelerator explosion, and through the season finds that most of his fellow “meta-humans” (as Wells calls them) are not as benevolent as he is, and so he takes responsibility to use his new ability to stop those that use their powers to commit crimes and hurt others.

The first season of The Flash often used a “villain of the week” format, which worked well to show Barry learning knew ways of using his powers as he stopped the “bad guy,” while also progressing the season's story arc, which, as mentioned earlier, focuses on Barry working to solve the mystery of his mother's murder. We see great character development, not only in Barry, but in all of the other supporting characters as well.

Captain Cold, played by Wentworth Miller, and Heat Wave, played by
Dominic Purcell, are founding members of the Rogues
Early on, we start to see member's of “The Rogues,” a group of villains that are often pitted against the Flash, appear on the show. Captain Cold is the first to appear, and is a recurring character throughout the season. We also soon see Heat Wave, followed by the Golden Glider, the Weather Wizard and the Trickster. I've found them to be interesting foils to the Flash, and many of them, particularly Captain Cold, are very well characterized.

Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin, Felicity Smoak, played by
Emily Bett Rickards, and Ray Palmer, played by Brandon Routh
Characters from Arrow also appear in The Flash over the course of the season. Felicity Smoak, who was earlier introduced as a potential love interest for Barry, but now just a good friend, serves as a confidant of sorts for Barry when she's there, as she and Barry are a lot alike and they understand each other. Ray Palmer (a.k.a. “The Atom”) also appears, and they work together in a team-up episode. But the most interesting character we see is Oliver Queen, the Arrow himself, as he offers a contrast to Barry. Barry looks up to Oliver, and sees him as a mentor of sorts, but they also occasionally clash, as Oliver's methods tend to be much darker than Barry's, as he often blurs the line between right and wrong. But they also learn to work well together, and Barry is able to discover that the best way for him to be a hero is to be true to himself, rather than attempting to emulate Oliver in everything. In contrast, Oliver also looks up to Barry, and he admires the way that Barry is able to inspire others in a way that he cannot.

The Flash, played by Grant Gustin, the Arrow, played by
Stephen Amell, and Firestorm, played by Robby Amell
I do have several minor critiques for the first season of The Flash.

 I did not originally like the way that Iris was portrayed. She is introduced as a smart, independent woman, who is also Barry's best friend. Yet as long as she's known him, and as well as she knows him, she is completely oblivious to how Barry feels toward her, while it is very obvious to nearly everyone else. As time goes on, and Iris's character develops, I see that there is a possibility that she has been aware of Barry's feelings for her, even if not on a conscious level, but may be in denial about it (as well as about any feelings that she may have for him). Though this was likely intended to be played out subtly, I think it came across as too subtle, to the point that she appears to be extremely naive, particularly regarding Barry.

There are also several times in which the Flash is battling a villain or villains in which the obvious solution is ignored. At one point, the team at STAR Labs comes up with a dangerous and elaborate way for two of the rogues to use their weapons against one another, at great risk to Barry, when there is nothing to stop Barry from from using his super speed to remove the weapons from their hands instead. Though it made for a great action scene, it was really unnecessary.

A dangerous, complex solution to a very simple problem
Historically, time travel has also been common theme of the Flash (no pun intended; well, maybe intended after all), and this is explored in the TV series. Without giving specific examples and spoilers, I will say that I found the way it was used to often be confusing and inconsistent, and that it created more questions than it answered. It's possible that more of this will be explained and cleared up in the second season, though I'm doubtful that will happen, and it just seems be something that the writers hope that the viewers won't think too much about.

The Flash traveling through time
That aside, I very much enjoyed the first season of The Flash. I found so many of the characters (including several of the villains) to be very likable, and when harm came to one of them, it was a very emotional moment for me. The plot and the mystery kept me watching, and looking forward to each episode from one week to the next.

Fan art of the cast of the first season of The Flash
I have held off from watching the opening episode of the second season of The Flash, as I didn't want seeing it to influence my opinion for this review of the first season. But now that this review is done, I am very much looking forward to beginning the second season, and am eager to see what is yet to come for Barry and the rest of Season Two's lineup.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Be Grateful for the 60s

Why am I writing about the 1960s? No clue, honestly. One thought led to another and boom, here I am. Analyzing pieces of a decade of television that, in my opinion, has really changed the way television, movies, and media are perceived. Today I'm going to address some TV shows from the 60s that I love and know. Maybe not necessarily the best, but I know well enough to address here.

Before I get to the shows and whatnot, let's talk about the changes in that decade. Specifically, there's a movie that explains the story well. Bonanza and Gunsmoke were hot. They were shows well-received by audiences. But then man went to the moon and the wild west was forgotten for a new frontier. So shows like Star Trek and Lost in Space took place of the westerns for their look into the future instead of in the past. This storyline plays out well in Disney Pixar's Toy Story as we see Woody fear fading out in comparison to Buzz Lightyear. Toy Story 2 exlpains this concept even further.

Let's take a moment to honor some TV shows that I don't know as well, but definitely are worth naming in the Sci-fi category: Mission: Impossible, Lost in Space, Get Smart, and The Avengers (UK). Oddly enough, each of those TV shows has had at least one movie in the last 20 years. Let's be honest, not all of them fared well.

Sesame Street: Wait, I'm starting with a show about animated puppets teaching you lessons? Yep. Why? First, Sesame Street shirts at Comic Con. I could use that fact alone to put it on this list. But besides that, look at what Sesame Street did for us. First, it boosted Jim Henson's career. Being a puppeteer was not a big deal. But thanks to the Street, we were brought the Muppets (my personal favorite group of characters, despite current thoughts on the latest show.)

The Twilight Zone: (Yes, technically it started in 1959, but it was mostly in the 60s.) I think only Robert Stack's voice on Unsolved Mystery is creepier than the Twilight Zone's intro. But this is a classic that brought horror and twists on such an unparalleled level. Sometimes, it's campy. But in the end, I feel like the Twilight Zone played mind games more than anything. I recall a CBS special a few years ago talking about the 30 biggest plot twists in TV history, or something akin to that. The Twilight Zone made the list with The Eye of the Beholder. If you've not seen it, I highly recommend it.

Bewitched: Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha Stephens is one of TV's most iconic characters. She was the housewife that did more magic and mayhem than anything else. Oh she's a witch. And Darren (either one, whatever) had a lot to deal with concerning Sam, her mom, and later their daughter. Not to mention all the other random relatives that popped up. Bewitched did have difficulty maintaining some of its originality over its run, but still, in a decade of TV shows that lasted 5 or less years, Sam wiggled her nose for an impressive 8 years.

I Dream of Jeannie: Jeannie was NBC's "answer" to Bewitched. A completely different concept as it took a Major and gave him a Jeannie. This is a show that redeems Larry Hagman in a viewers eye, if you somehow watched him as J.R. Ewing on Dallas first, despite it starting almost a decade later than Jeannie. Either way, this show is fun watching a genie misinterpreting the wants of another human being.

Star Trek: Nothing beats the original. Except...well....I can't say I have much affinity toward the original. I much prefer Picard and crew. Sisko and Janeway gave entertaining voyages for varying reasons. And any "real" Trekkie...Trekker....whatever...appreciates The Wrath of Khan (even though I like The Voyage Home better). But if it weren't for Kirk and company and their original journeys in the "high tech" 60s show, we would have nothing. Kirk, Spock, Bones, et al started one of the biggest cults in the U.S.

The Munsters: The first half of another pairing of similar TV shows. I've heard a lot of people refer to The Munsters as an Addams Family copycat. Funny enough, The Munsters first aired 6 days after The Addams Family's 1964 premier. Both aired for 2 seasons and ended in the spring of 1966. And oddly enough The Munsters had the higher original ratings. The characters in The Munsters, however, were less interesting, at least to me. It was basically mocking the Leave it to Beaver lifestyle with the common monster movies of the time. The Munsters deserve some respect for creating some memorable characters though. Just not as memorable as....

The Addams Family: If you are friends with me on Facebook, you'd know for most of the last year and a half, I've posted a "Happy Wednesday" post using a picture of a Wednesday Addams. The Addams Family is one of my favorite TV families. The 1990s movies are on my all time favorite movies. Not necessarily top 10, but definitely top day I'll actually make that list. The character of Wednesday Addams was originally a happy-go-lucky little girl who loved life, just not the life we usually know, but she is still loved, even in that incarnation. Morticia and Gomez have a romance that is matched by none and, in my opinion, should be emulated...minus the destruction of trains and decimation of roses. And the rest of the clan make up one of the most functional, dysfunctional families to ever exist.

Batman: This short-lived show about the Dynamic Duo of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder did not have the world's greatest acting. Burt Ward's Dick Grayson was supposed to be too young to drive in the first season. Yeah, he didn't pass for 15...21? Yeah. Of course, he was 21. However, Adam West's time as the not-so-Dark Knight is fondly remembered. Yeah, it was campy and corny, but it was fun. And to this day, I still love it. This show was awesome for bringing Batman and its villains into our homes week-in and week-out on the same Bat channel and that same Bat time. I was first introduced to Batman through this show. As well as some of the comic's famous villains. Julie Newmar's Catwoman, Meredith Burgess' Penguin, Frank Gorshin's Riddler, and of course, Caesar Romero's Joker are still fondly remembered in my memory. Plus, Lee Meriwether (for the TV movie) and Eartha Kitt did time in the Cat suit and they performed their role justly. John Astin (well-known as the aforementioned Gomez Addams) had a decent showing as the Riddler. But let's not forget Mr. Freeze, King Tut, Egghead, Lord Ffogg, and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds among other great characters.

Dr. Who (the first 2 doctors): Hey, I'm a Whovian! If you're surprised, this must be the first time you've been to this blog. So Doctor Who started in 1963. That's a few years before Star Trek. And definitely well over a decade before Star Wars. The Doctor Who fandom started small. But BBC kept this franchise going with its ever changing characters for 25 years, an attempted reboot, and then a reboot that stuck. But if Patrick Troughton had failed at replacing the semi-irreplaceable William Hartnell, this show would have died in 1966. Instead, people caught on to how this show would continue. And we were met with Daleks and Cybermen time and time again, two of the most famous villain races of all time. We saw history and scientific futures brought to TV.

So....thanks to the 60s, we've had some great TV shows that have spun off some great, and sometimes even greater, TV shows, movies, plays, and especially cults. Of course, I was born well over a decade after the 60s, but I am very grateful for reruns of such great shows.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.