One More Year to Go…

Where are you going to be exactly one year from today?

If you can’t answer that question off the top of your head, you’re not doing “Nerd” right.

I’ll give you a hint…

 

Yup, people, we’re at the one-year-and-counting mark for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!  Rumors will continue to fly around faster than the Millennium Falcon for 364 more days.  And then we’ll finally get to settle our butts in movie theaters with an extra-large popcorn and see which of them turned out to be true and which turned out to be total space-poo.

And, of course, we’ll get to find out if JJ Abrams and Disney are the New Hope that the franchise needs, or its Not-So-Phantom-Menace.  May the Force be With Him.

I’ll be celebrating this special waiting period with my first Star Wars cosplay and a trip to Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.  I’ll be posting pictures of all the awesome Star Wars fun right here, in case you can’t make it to California.

What are your special Star Wars plans?  Share your ideas with fellow fans in the comments below!

Agents of SHIELD – What a Difference a Year Makes!

Image courtesy:  www.abc.go.com

Image courtesy: http://www.abc.go.com

Since we’re in a drought of new episodes of genre shows this week, I thought it would be a good time to give some props where they’re due.  (Does anyone still give props, or is my age showing?)  Agents of SHIELD is my winner of Most Improved Series this season.  Take a minute to think about how far this show has come in the past year.

Last September, I went into the pilot episode with such high hopes.  I’m a huge Marvel fan, and I’m not ashamed to say it.  And Marvel has made very few missteps in their quest to conquer entertainment via their shared universe concept.  TV was the next obvious target.  A weekly dose of Marvel goodness in a project connected to Joss Whedon?  Yes, PLEASE!

Sadly, what we ended up with as things progressed was less than super.  In fact, I’d have been happy with ‘less than super’.  It was dull, wooden, and full of missed opportunities.  Acting was bad, plots were boring, and I cared little about the few arcs they managed to string along. The show couldn’t seem to find its feet.  Even the mystery of Coulson’s resurrection wasn’t turning out to be particularly interesting.  And by the time it went dark for the holidays after 10 episodes, there were only a few bright spots (like Deathlok’s arc or pretty much anything with Ming-Na Wen) to give us hope that a good show might still emerge.

But it did.  It found its niche in the strangest of places.  In April, Captain America:  The Winter Soldier blew up the setting and foundation of Agents of SHIELD.  And like a phoenix from the ashes, the series rose from mediocre to become a solidly entertaining piece of TV.  Who’d have guessed that being “Agents of Nothing” would be the best thing that ever happened to this series?

Like SHIELD the organization, SHIELD the series has had to reinvent itself.  And the plucky little fugitive team armed with home-made gadgets and an abiding personal commitment to saving the world became the team we wanted and deserved.  Right from the game-changing episode, “Turn Turn Turn“, the show immediately became a tighter, more exciting, compelling story.  Having the nerve to turn one of its core characters into a confirmed traitor was bold and shocking.  Following through on that has turned it into a brilliant move.

Guest actors like Bill Paxton (who scene-chomped his way through a fantastic story arc),Thor‘s Jaimie Alexander and Lucy Lawless (quickly dispatched in the kind of surprise move that finally got our attention!) elevated the episodes in a way missing in the beginning.  New characters who populate Season 2 have added energy and better acting to the mix as well.  Heck, even my personal annoyances, Skye and Ward, have improved to become interesting and worthwhile characters.

And the arcs.  Thank you, writers, for the arcs.  This series has always needed to have solid, intriguing story arcs and commit to them.  Last year, it fiddled around with arcs, but couldn’t seem to find the guts to commit.  This year, it’s whole-hog. HYDRA, Whitehall, Talbot, Kree, Ward, and finally the Inhumans… it’s a great time to be a fan!

So, my hat is off to the showrunners, writers, and actors of Agents of SHIELD who accomplished a real feat by righting this beast of a show.  And to the hairstylist who gave Skye a makeover by adding bangs.  Never underestimate the changing power of bangs.

Review – Arrow, “The Climb”

image courtesy:  www.cwtv.com

image courtesy: http://www.cwtv.com

 

All together now….

What the–?!?!

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The League of Assassins gets impatient waiting for Sara’s killer to be brought to justice.  So they threaten to start killing Starling City residents if Oliver doesn’t get the job done in 48 hours.  This does, in fact, prove motivating, as suddenly they make all sorts of progress on ID’ing the culprit.

The trail leads to Malcolm Merlyn, who apparently secretly returned to Starling the day before Sara was killed… with Thea.  Thea claims no knowledge of this happening.

Meryin then shows Oliver a video that shows Thea killing Sara under the influence of some hypnotic plant that makes a person susceptible to mind control with no memory of it.  Merlyn wants Oliver to protect Thea by telling Ra’s al Ghul that he (Oliver) killed Sara, so that Oliver can challenge Ra’s in ‘trial by combat’.  If Oliver can kill Ra’s, it will clear Malcolm of his problems with the League.

Meanwhile, in Unnecessary B Plot Land, Laurel tells Thea and then her own mom about Sara being dead.  She vows to her mom to avenge Sara.

Felicity and Ray are suffering from a raging case of the Awkwards after his unexpected kiss on their not-date.  She gets him to open up about having lost the woman he loved to a Mirakuru rage monster.  To help protect people from this sort of terrible thing happening, he’s devising a super-suit called A.T.O.M.  He asks Felicity to help him.

In our last diversion from the main events, the flashback scenes show Ollie and Maseo on the trail of China White.  She manages to get to Maseo’s home, though, and kidnaps Tatsu.  We learn in the modern-day story that this does not end well, and in fact results in Maseo joining the League.

Now, back to where we were…  Oliver (whose picture I put above just because Stephen Amell works really hard to be in this kind of shape and deserves his moment!) meets Ra’s for a duel on a snowy mountaintop.  Oliver is clearly outgunned by the more experienced Ra’s, but he gives it a good go.  Until Ra’s gets the better of him.  Then Ra’s puts a sword through Oliver before kicking his body off the cliff.

What the–?!?!

What Hit the Target

Seriously, what the heck just happened?!?  Arrow has never been a show that shies away from killing major characters, but this was truly the most shocking move of all!  I’m still not over it, but I’m definitely impressed by the nerve this show has.  What do you think will happen next?  (Keep this in mind:  Stephen Amell commented on Facebook after the show:  “Despite the title, our show is bigger than any one character. We’re going to prove that to you.”  How intriguing!!)

Despite having some big shoes to fill, Matt Nable’s Ra’s al Ghul is really pretty good.  He’s got awesome dialogue and is pretty darn scary.  His words during the fight scene were particularly well-written and delivered, and he’s a meaty villain for Team Arrow to have around.  I hope we see him for a long time to come (under the right circumstances, of course!)

He loves her, he really does!  Oh, we all knew that already, but it’s good to have it said aloud.  Now if that guy could just get over his belief that ‘guys like us don’t get the girl’.

I’m really excited to see Ray’s superhero arc get into swing.  He’s been in the planning stages too long, and it’s time to really use the character.  I really want to see this enthusiastic, optimistic, and naturally charming guy get out to fight crime on the mean streets of Starling City!

What Missed the Mark

Oh, c’mon, marketing department. You don’t follow up on such an amazingly shocking moment like that by showing a teaser that makes it appear that there’s hope for Oliver.  The point of ending where the episode did was that people would actually believe the unthinkable might have happened (at least until January) and we lost our title character.  This was a promo FAIL!

While Thea herself has improved as a character this year, her taste in an odd wardrobe has not.  What was she wearing while alone at home trimming the tree?  Sparkly gold balloon pants…doesn’t everyone?  Why, wardrobe department?  Just why?

Speaking of the ladies… Laurel’s part of the story was just kind of ‘meh’.  She didn’t tie in to the important plot in any way, leaving her out in the weeds during this pivotal episode.  Telling Thea about Sara was kind of out-of-the-blue, and no one was clambering to witness her tell her mother about Sara’s death.  Her story fails to advance at all in this episode, unfortunately.

So, Sara was killed as just a part of Malcolm’s plan to get the League off his back?  And it’s revealed midway through the episode via video on a cellphone?  That’s pretty anti-climactic.

The Final Tally

What a great week it’s been to be a comic book TV show fan!  Both Marvel and DC shows had great winter finales, full of character bits, great action, and shocking surprises.  Arrow, of course, wins the week with its shocking ending.  In other news, Sara’s murder gets resolved, Ray’s storyline gets movement toward his superheroic destiny and Olicity fans will be happy.  So, a little something for everyone!  Now, the interminable wait until January.

 

And of course, the Quote of the Week comes from an Oliver who has no idea how strange life is going to get…:

“Mind control.  That’s a thing?”