Review – Doctor Who, “Flatline”

Clara gets to play Doctor this week and we get a lot of fun visual gags and effects.  Everyone’s a winner!  Except poor number 22.

When the TARDIS suffers an unscheduled – and unprecedented – change in its external dimensions, it starts to shrink on the outside.  The Doctor is trapped inside, while Clara is stuck on the outside.

People are disappearing in the area of Bristol where the TARDIS has landed.  Further investigations reveal that they’re being killed and researched-on by beings from a two-dimensional universe.  They attempt to communicate with the alien creatures but fail.

Clara and the humans with her end up in underground train tunnels being chased by the 2D beings who are rapidly developing the skills to become 3D.  They drain the energy from the TARDIS, so Clara must come up with a way to power it up and free the Doctor so he can vanquish the 2D creatures.

She tricks the aliens into using their own energy on a section of wall containing the tiny TARDIS, giving the Doctor the energy he needs to make the TARDIS full-size again and get out.  He sends the 2D aliens back to where they came from.

We get our first glimpse of Missy again in several weeks, where she makes it clear that she’s ‘chosen’ Clara for something.  Something sinister, I’m sure!

 

What Was Fully 3D

Clara serving the function of the Doctor in the story was a fun story convention.  The aliens were a unique idea, but it probably would have been a lot less interesting tale if not for this aspect.  Clara was an exceptional Doctor, with her talents including:  (a) snide comments, (b) taking charge, (c) not keeping everyone alive, and (d) improvising a brilliant solution.

The effects were generally good and a lot of fun.  The slithering, melting 2D effects were particularly well-done, as were the 3D alien people lumbering along in digital static.  And I laughed out loud at the Doctor’s giant hand crawling the TARDIS away from the train.

 

What Was Flat 2D

 I find it hard to believe that Danny isn’t smart enough to pick up on what’s going on, especially after Clara’s bizarre phone call shenanigans.  I actually do like Danny, so I don’t like that he looks a bit easily-fooled in this episode.

It’s hugely unclear exactly how the Doctor finally vanquished the aliens.  And although that’s not exactly uncommon with Doctor Who, it needed to be explained a little better given that Clara had the sonic screwdriver all along.  What was it that the Doctor did that she couldn’t have done?  Was it tied to the TARDIS’ energy somehow? Presumably, it was, but it was left too unclear not to be seen as a plot hole.

 The Final Tally

 The 2D aliens were a nice new Doctor Who monster, mostly due to great use of effects on a TV budget.  Once again, Jenna Coleman does a good job bringing Clara to life and proving to be such a good Companion that she might be able out-Doctor the Doctor.  The guest characters provided a nice backdrop and there was real tension in their flight from the creatures.  This week provides a unique take on that age-old Doctor Who cliche of separating the Companion from the Doctor – and it works really well.

And of course, the Quote of the Week:

“These readings are very … ishy.”

Review – Arrow, “Sara”

image courtesy: www.cwtv.com

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

Last week, the death.  This week, the fallout.

When Laurel returns to the Arrow Cave with Sara’s body, the team sets out to find her killer. They learn that it’s the work of Komodo, another archer who’s in the city carrying out some assassinations.

Laurel learns from one of Komodo’s intended targets that the victims are all connected to a big oil field deal that someone was trying to stop. When Oliver manages to defeat Komodo, Laurel shows up with a gun to exact her own revenge. Oliver stops her.

But Komodo, it turns out, did not kill Sara. They vow to keep searching for the real killer. Oh, and Laurel wimps out on telling her dad. So, that may suck later on.

In Hong Kong, Oliver discover that Waller wants him to kill Tommy, who is in town searching for Oliver. Oliver must find a way to keep Tommy alive while satisfying Waller. So he kidnaps Tommy, convinces him that Oliver is really dead, and gets him to stop looking and go home.

And finally, in Corto Maltese, Thea is learning from her bio-dad how to be a fighter.

What Hit the Target

The opening scene reminds me how Arrow, despite its faults, really gets the beats right. The way each person reacted – especially Oliver’s silent movements – was spot-on perfect. The show again took time in its busy schedule to have a great, long scene between Felicity and Oliver. These are the kind of moments that sets it apart from its too-fast-paced or trying-too-hard comic competition.

Seriously, I love Ray Palmer already! He’s kind of a fun variation of Oliver – impulsive and bold and smart but unafraid and unashamed to be who he is. His turn from arrogant, wooing know-it-all to perceptive friend was brilliantly played by Brandon Routh. Welcome to the fold, Mr. Routh!
Oh, that funeral scene, that was a killer (pardon the pun)! It was so wonderfully appropriate that they buried her there! (Although isn’t someone going to notice in the morning?)

This series is one of the few shows that I truly believe plan things out well in advance.  Seasons 1 and 2 have a really nice, cohesive story arc about Oliver’s journey to darkness and back into light.  And it’s all very circular with both his island storyline as well as Deathstroke’s descent from light into darkness.  The current storyline involving Palmer’s plan to change Starling City into Star City explains one of the first mysteries of the series – why did they change the name of Green Arrow’s city for no apparent reason?  Was it all planned out to have significance later on?  Or am I giving television writers more credit than they deserve?  I’d like to think the former.

What Missed the Mark

I know that Starling City is in pretty bad shape right now, but I find it implausible that (a) Laurel – covered in blood and distraught – managed to transport a dead body with arrows protruding out of it across town, and (b) no one noticed?

I’m sure there are many people who will have liked the motorcycle duel scene between Komodo and Arrow. I, however, found it oddly silly. And it was just dimly-lit enough that I had a little trouble telling who was who.

Question: The man in front of you is shot dead by an arrow through the window. Do you (a) duck and cover or (b) run to stand exactly in front of the window and stare at the shooter? If the show is ever going to convince me that Laurel deserves to be Black Canary, they have to avoid idiotic moments like that.

In another shining example of Laurel’s lack of common sense, she goes to her father’s busy workplace in order to tell him that his daughter was brutally murdered? Instead of… oh, I don’t know, someplace private?

The Final Tally

It was only fitting that this episode be slower and more pensive than the premiere, as everyone deals with Sara’s death. There are great character moments between just about everyone involved, as well as a pair of bookend group scenes that are just heartbreaking. That the entire Komodo plotline was a giant red herring was a little annoying, but I’m glad that something as mundane as a business deal was not the cause of Sara’s death.

And finally, for the Quote of Week, I’ve chosen a beautiful, sad moment of self-reflection to fit the episode’s mood:

“John? I don’t want to die down here.”

 

Review – The Flash, “Fastest Man Alive”

The Flash -- "Fastest Man Alive" -- Image FLA102a_0237b -- Pictured (L-R): Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

With all the baggage of its debut episode out of the way, The Flash can now slow down a little to give us a better taste of what the series is really going to be week after week.  What did we think?

Barry is making use of his new-found skills to do hero work like saving people from a burning building.  This makes Joe West unhappy because it puts Barry in dangerous situations he’s vastly untrained for.

Meanwhile, the police investigate several thefts perpetrated by a group of criminals.  After they attack business tycoon Simon Stagg, Barry discovers that the group is actually one man who can clone himself.

Danton Black is a researcher whose work was stolen by Stagg, and who is on a mission of vengeance now.  The accelerator explosion gave him the ability to duplicate himself.  But with the help of the STAR Labs team and Joes, Barry figures out how to defeat Black.  Black commits suicide when his revenge plan fails.

On a personal front, Joe accepts that Barry is meant to help people with his new abilities.  Barry learns that becoming the Flash has made him quite the chow-hound.  And Dr. Wells kills off Simon Stagg, proclaiming that the man who will become the Flash must be kept safe from Stagg’s clutches.

 

What Raced Ahead

One thing I remember getting a big kick out of with the original Flash series was the recurring gag about Barry’s constant need to eat massive amounts of food.  It’s still a pretty fun running joke.

Poor Joe!  This week, we get to spend some time on the supporting characters of Kaitlin and Joe.  Joe, particularly, got a nice bit of screen-time as he struggled both with young Barry’s loss and anger, and with modern Barry’s dangerous new destiny.  This was a nice exploration.  His and Wells’ interactions were particularly good in a mentor vs. father kind of way.

Comics fans like me, I’m sure, appreciated the appearances of not only Simon Stagg and Danton Black (Metroplex), but also Java and references to Snow’s late fiance, Ronnie.  Ronnie, in particular, was an exciting name-drop because it’s presumably a reference to fascinating dual hero, Firestorm.

The effects had some nice moments this week.  Barry on the treadmill (and flying off it!), his speedy inner monologue to Iris, and the battle of the many clones… these were all well done on a TV budget.  The effects on this series need to work or it’ll blow the whole ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ thing.

Is Wells from the future?  It sure seems so, at this point.  I’m so excited for the timey-wimey potential of this series!

 

What Hit the Wall

Unfortunately, due to the 42 minute time frame, Joe’s journey from Flash-opposer to Flash-supporter was kind of rushed.  It was good, but it was rushed.

I think it’s a missed opportunity that Wells kills Simon Stagg right away.  I think he could have been a good antagonist for a continuing arc about trying to capture the Flash, or at least a good corporate baddie to hang around giving Central City some continuity.

 

The Final Tally

Given time to flesh out some of the characters a bit more, this episode was better paced than its predecessor.  The series is making clear that – like its kissing cousin, Smallville – it’s going to throw in a lot of toys from the DC toybox, even if only in name.  The introduction of Firestorm is possibly the biggest of these this week.  Villain Danton Black was not particularly interesting, but he did make for a fantastic climax battle.

 

And the Quote of the Week comes from the best relationship on the series so far:

“I know.  I know I’m not your father.”

“You’re right, you’re not.  You’re just the man who kept me fed and in clothes.  Who sat beside my bed at night until I fell asleep because I was afraid of the dark.  Helped me with my homework.  You taught me how to drive, and shave, and you dropped me off at college.  Sounds a lot like a dad to me.”

 

 

 

 

WB Unveils DC Lineup!

image courtesy: www.usatoday.com

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

I’ll make this short and sweet for now.  Here’s what Variety is reporting will be the upcoming slate of DC Comics-based movies.  FlashShazam!  Suicide Squad! Aquaman! A Green Lantern retry!

Are you excited?