Harley Quinn: Season 2 Retrospect

Prime Video: Harley Quinn - Season 2

“Harley Quinn” season 2 is not as strong as season 1 as it brings in pacing issues and a bit too much meta and 4th wall breaking humor but the core relationships that drive the story are still strong. I am excited for the eventual season 3. This season grows the show and I like how it continues to change the status quo for characters and organizations in this universe. So without getting into spoilers, this is one I do recommend again.

The story follows Gotham after it has been destroyed as different powers vie for control of it as the Injustice League is formed and Harley (Kaley Cuoco) vows to take them down after being betrayed.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – This story pulls a lot from the “No Man’s Land” story from the comics and it is a lot of fun. Penguin, Riddler, Bane, Mr. Freeze and Two-Face are the survivors with the largest gangs and are a great threat for Harley and her crew to face.

The Comedy – The comedy again is largely successful. Where it doesn’t work is some of the 4th wall and meta-humor jokes that usually happen at the beginning or end of episodes. I can see the intent but they are mostly just distracting from the main narrative.

The Characters – The characters are once again the strongest element of this show. We even get to see more heroes in action (Alfred and Batgirl) so seeing them interact and shape the story is a lot of fun. I enjoyed where the arc went.

Barbara Gordon / Batgirl – Batgirl is introduced in this as a college student trying to takedown Riddler when Riddler creates Riddler University and her working with Harley and Ivy inspires her to become Batgirl. After this she is Batman’s main ally besides Jim Gordon to takeout the gangs who have taken control of the city.

The Injustice League – The Injustice League are the primary villains this season and they are a lot of fun. Seeing their dynamic with each other and how they each get taken down leads to a lot of interesting stories. Each of them has different threats and motivation and their distinct looks work really well. Plus it helps that Penguin, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Bane and the Riddler are some of the best rogues in DC.

Mr. Freeze – Mr. Freeze is the most sympathetic members of the Injustice League who in the end gives his life to save his wife as his blood is changed into her same type for a blood infusion and cure that Ivy comes up with it. Alfred Molina is once again a wonderful character.

Riddler – Jim Rash from “Community” as the Dean is finally given his chance to shine. In this he is the one to take all power in destroyed Gotham and even when he is captured uses when he is trapped to get physically strong. I think he escapes at the end too. He becomes Dr. Psycho’s minion briefly but he is also a step ahead of Riddler on more than one occasion.

Bane – Bane continues to be my favorite part of the series. In this we see him standing up to Two-Face and from he does get what he wants. We also see his idealism too. At the end of the day Bane wants to help people and his prison Pit is entirely built around helping people face their trauma and to heal and grow. I’m glad he like Riddler survives. He continues to be one of the best characters on this show.

Two-Face – Two-Face is one of the main masterminds of the series as he is the last Injustice League member standing and has complete control of Gotham at one point. We see that his two-faced ambition existed before he became Two-Face as well in a flashback and in the end he escapes and is likely to rise in power again as he made a deal with Jim Gordon to help him become Mayor of Gotham.

Harley and the Squad – Harley and the Squad continue to be fun with Dr. Psycho becoming a secondary villain who is eventually back in Gotham. Clayface is shown to be able to become a giant kaiju sized clay monster and he’s gotten better at shapeshifting. Sy Borgman becomes an A.I. when he sacrifices himself to save Harley and I’ll get into the others below.

King Shark – King Shark is a great member of the squad and in this we get his backstory. We see why he left home but also that he is willing to work with his dad so that their can be peace in the Shark clan through marriage. He like Bane in the Injustice League is the kindest member of the crew unless he sees blood.

Kiteman – We learn this season Kiteman was born to parents with powers so they always looked down on him and this season is him realizing that Ivy doesn’t love him in the same he loves her. It is a really good arc as you see him finally find confidence in himself and his own value. I’m curious if he’ll be back next season as a potential antagonist.

Harley and Ivy – Harley and Ivy and their relationship that evolves from best friends to romantic is the heart of season 2 and I appreciated how messy it was as the two of them learn more about what they want and who they are. These two are amazing and I’m glad they are the heart of the show. Ivy brings a cool demeanor but is driven by idealism and Harley is quick to anger but also extremely sensitive. They are complicated and I loved that they ended up together as a couple in the end.

Love and the Work of Growth – We see through this show love both for self but also for the people you care about and putting in the work to grow. Jim Gordon stops being an alcoholic for his daughter Barbara, Harley stops being a villain for Ivy (world conquest type villain), and characters like Harley, Ivy and Kiteman come to see their own value through the work of self-discovery.

The Cons:

Pacing – This season does have a few pacing issues. Everything related to the B-Plot of Kiteman and Poison Ivy’s wedding has some scenes that go on too long and this also applies to the 4th wall breaking humor and jokes that were put at the beginning and end of the episodes.

Some Jokes Drag – There are a few jokes that go on too long this season. This is something I didn’t notice last season so maybe the show could have still pulled out the story with less episodes.

Breaking the 4th Wall and Meta Humor – At one point we start getting people and characters talking about watching the show and giving rundowns of what happened in the show. This was fine at first but even the first time was distracting. I hope season 3 gets away from this.

This season is really good and has quite a few arcs that I’d like to see expanded on further. Darkseid has threatened to return to terraform Earth, Two-Face is free (and likely to team up with Jim Gordon) and the Gotham Police are hunting Harley and Ivy who are now officially a couple. There is a lot that can be explored here and I hope we see Harley and Ivy getting the crew back together at some point. This show isn’t as strong as the first season but it carries on so much that works and grew this amazing world.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Harley Quinn: Season 1 Retrospect

Watch Harley Quinn: Season 1 | Prime Video

“Harley Quinn” is the best animated show to come out of DC since Bruce Timm’s “Batman: The Animated Series” and the “Justice League.” The film is hilarious, has an emotional core, great characters and I can’t wait to see where the story goes. This is one I show I highly recommend. The closest comparison I can make in tone is to a show like “The Venture Bros.” which is a favorite of show of mine as well.

The series is written and produced by Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker and Dean Lorey.

The story follows Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) after Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) breaks her out of Arkham after the Joker (Alan Tudyk) has once again abandoned her. From here she must face her trauma as she seeks to make a name for herself in Gotham.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

This Version of the DC Universe – This version of the DC universe is much more bloody than Bruce Timm’s early outings (The show is TV-MA for a reason) while also having more jokes as well. The jokes aren’t 4th wall breaking and come from the characters and their relationships, which makes things a lot of fun.

The Animation – The animation is some of the best I have seen come out of DC as larger landscapes and cityscapes give the painted city feel while you still the details and action in brutal fights. The animators like the writers clearly had a lot of fun with this show.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is so much fun. Jefferson Friedman chose the songs that fit the tone of each story really well. There is a fun and dangerous feel to it which fits the feel of the story being driven by Harley and her crew.

The Characters – Villains drive the story and the heroes are broken, so we are very much in Gotham City. The “heroes” work in this universe too and I’ll get into why they and the others do as well. The comedy works so well because of these characters.

Jim Gordon – This is the most pitiful Jim Gordon put to screen. He’s an alcoholic in a failing marriage who sees Batman as his only friend. It is only through making friends with Clayface’s hand that he and Batman repair their friendship enough for Jim to be functioning again. In the end he is captured in Joker’s rise but freed after Joker’s defeat by Harley and left in a destroyed Gotham, setting up next season.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Batman is distant in this but you see that at his core he does care. We see this in how he shows empathy for Harley and sees how bad her relationship is with the Joker and he calls out Joker’s psychoses after he is captured as well. The season ends with it being unknown if he is dead or alive after Joker destroys Joker Tower setting off the earthquake that destroys Gotham.

Kiteman – Kiteman is a D List villain and Ivy’s love interest. He’s a loveable doof in how genuine his emotions are and how awkward he is with his jokes and presentation. He’s an ally to Harley and her squad as well and his kite comes in handy on more than one occasion.

The Legion of Doom – The Legion of Doom is a lot of fun. Giancarlo Esposito’s Lex Luthor is reminiscent of the one from Bruce Timm’s universe and is great in how smart, threatening and manipulative he is though the Gotham villains are really the standouts. I wish we could have spent more time here as all the classic DC villains make this place their home from Cheetah to Sinestro. They mostly just show up though.

Scarecrow – This version of Scarecrow is smooth and scary. He and the Queen of Fables are the ones who team together to destroy the Legion of Doom Headquarters and it is Scarecrow who takes Ivy’s blood to make uncontrollable demon trees. He is a good threat and one of the more competent versions of this character. The only reason he doesn’t survive is his pisses of Joker when he takes of Batman’s mask and is killed because of it.

Joker – Alan Tudyk is such an amazing voice actor. He also voices Clayface in this but Clayface isn’t all that complicated of a character and mostly just a fun member of Harley’s squad. Joker on the other hand is a great villain whose ego leads to him escalating any plan he puts into motion. Harley is the first person to tell him no and manages to upend his plans a few times ending with him losing all memory of who he is when what he planned to do Harley happens to him (erasing memories in acid).

Bane – Bane is my favorite character on the show. The guy is a wonderful villain cinnamon roll who is sensitive but quick to anger as he wants to blow up whatever displeases him. He’s a mixture of classic Bane with Tom Hardy’s voice and it is a running joke that Legion of Doom doesn’t respect him. I really like this version of Bane as he is given nuance and is one of the few good bad guys.

Harley Quinn and her Squad – Harley Quinn and her Squad are the ones who drive the show as she recruits those who the Legion ignores, be they sexist like Dr. Psycho, obsessed actors like Clayface, and outsiders like King Shark. She also has Ivy and Ivy’s former CIA agent landlord Sy Borgman helping out and basically members of the Squad.

King Shark – Ron Funches is great as King Shark. King Shark loves technology and is the one to first help Harley’s social media image. He’s also the strongest member of the group and is still clearly a shark as he has no issue eating people. We also see a hint at his history to come when Aquaman mentions his dad. These were all nice touches that made the character entertaining.

Poison Ivy – Lake Bell plays Poison Ivy so well. This version of Ivy is full eco-terrorist mode with an understanding of the glass ceiling that women supervillains face (Legion of Doom is overwhelmingly men) and she is great at seeing through toxic people and organizations. She is the one who helps Harley realize how abusive the Joker is and their friendship is what drives the story as you see why they are best friends and all the drama and healing that comes through that journey.

Exploration of Trust, Identity and Trauma – The main theme of the show is the exploration of trust and trauma and how it relates to a person’s identity. This is core with Harley as we see her abusive parents were what to lead to her abusive relationship with the Joker and it is in facing the Joker and her parents that she is freed from them and realizes who her family (The Squad) really are. Ivy also goes through this as well as we see how Harley was the only person who was ever kind to her and seeing Harley repeating the abuse cycle with the Joker leads to her not trusting Harley. The two of them love each other so much and it is the powerful core of the story as they discover more about who they are.

The Cons:

Robin / Damian Wayne – Robin is really annoying. This version is supposed to be Damian but this version has none of the raised by the League of Shadow intensity and it mostly played as a joke. The thing is as a joke he just isn’t that funny and the show could remove him completely and be better for it.

Legion of Doom Screentime – We see so many members of the Legion of Doom and not many of them have much to do if they aren’t Gotham based or Lex Luthor. Given that the crew and Harley were living at Headquarters for a while, this was a missed opportunity.

This is a great show and I can’t wait to watch “Season 2.” This certainly follows the pattern of DC being better at animation and television than they have been with their films and for shows this I would say is the gold standard. Every episode advances the plot, the animation and soundtrack are fantastic and these versions of the characters have arcs and are compelling. This is probably my favorite thing DC has put out in a long time and it is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Top 5 Characters in “Gotham”

Image result for Gotham Final Season poster

       With “Gotham” now at an end, I was thinking at how I best wanted to explore my thoughts on the series. First, I think it is a solid show well worth your time if you are a Batman fan, though it’s flaws kept it from being great. One thing that kept it good, even with the flaws was how memorable so many of the characters were. I’m a huge fan of Batman and his rogues gallery and this series brought some amazing interpretations of his allies and rogues to the screen. “Gotham” is a show that tells the story of Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. It is here we see one version of how his enemies came to be and what motivates Gordon and defines the city of Gotham. The series was created by Bruno Heller, and the fact that this list exists shows that at the end of the day, I did like this show.

The show wasn’t always the best, there were a few times I took a break during it’s run and to me the final was serviceable but nothing I’d praise. It just established what the show had been leading up to the entire time and didn’t do it in a unique way. I’m avoiding details for those who haven’t watched the finale yet. I want to avoid Final Season spoilers as this show makes it easy to talk about the broad strokes of what worked or didn’t.

For the weak characters, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bruce and Selina for a long time. They eventually became okay. Ra’s al Ghul was wasted and given he is played by one of my favorite actors (Alexander Siddig) I held that against the show. The Al Ghul’s in general were wasted as was the League of Shadows. They were supposed to be this apocalyptic force but they never did much to the heroes of the story in big picture scheme of the show. For the few who did do something they almost always end up dead or useless by the end of their arcs. The gangsters like Carmine and Sofia Falcone stayed compelling during their runs but they also didn’t have the unique feel of the characters I’m going to give an honorary mentions too. Same goes for Theo / Azrael and his sister Tabitha / Tigress. They were interesting but weren’t fascinating enough for an honorary mention.

For my honorary mentions. Those go to Barbara and Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock and Lee Thompkins to start. These were are complicated characters who often times fell on the side of the good. Also honorary mentions to Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter for being fascinating villains whose twisted mentality added to the show. None of these folks made the list but were a joy to watch and what kept the show interesting when my favorite characters weren’t getting exciting moments. Fish Mooney was also great and I enjoyed what they did with her over her run on the show. Zsasz also deserves a mention too. Whether he was working for a crime boss or on his own, he always had fun and was threatening in any situation they put him in.

How without further ado, here are my Top 5 Characters on “Gotham.”:

 

Image result for Gotham Alfred

5th Place – Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred is a character I wish we had gotten more time to know. I’m not the only one apparently since he is getting his own show in Fox called “Pennyworth.” This goes to show just how powerful Sean Pertwee’s performance was. Pertwee gave a hardness and empathy that I have rarely seen in how Alfred is written or potrayed on film. This was a man who was taking care of Bruce and fighting rogues throughout the entire season. Sometimes it would break him physically or emotionally, but he always came back. He had the compassion that Jim sometimes lost and he’d been through so much more with his time in the Special Forces of Great Britain. He also wasn’t a doormat for Bruce, when Bruce was a selfish teenager, he left. He left Bruce sort out himself but was always there to help, when Bruce was ready. The little scenes we get related to that past crystallize this Alfred as a wonderfully compelling badass. This Alfred understood the choice when Bruce was going vigilante, and even though he questioned he still supported him in the end. Some of the best scenes in this entire show came from Pertwee and I’m curious what “Pennyworth” is going to bring to the Lore of this show and the compelling character of Alfred Pennyworth.

 

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4th Place – Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska / The Jokers

“Gotham” took an approach to “The Joker” I haven’t seen before. For the character two brothers played by the same actor inhabited the role. We got Jerome Valeska’s origin in Season 1 with Jim Gordon and he was one of the main antagonists until he made his brother Jerome crazy later. Each them inhabits parts of the Joker lore. Jerome is more “New 52” (who had his face taken off and sewed back on) and is insanity who acted more on instinct and big events while his brother Jeremiah was more of the thinker. His brother Jeremiah thought big and is the one who we end up following until the end. This Joke has a a friendship with Bruce before Jerome drives him crazy and this gives depth to the craziness that comes later. As you can see I could not choose between the two and as they are both played by Cameron Monaghan. I feel that they deserve the tie. Each brings a different part of the lore to this character that is so essential to Batman’s lore. I also thought that the writer’s could have gone deeper, which is why neither of them are further up on the list. Cameron’s acting is great but at times they didn’t know what to do with this character and he rarely had season running arcs.

 

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3rd Place – Edward Nygma / The Riddler

Edward Nygma was a character I hated initially. He was all the aspects of the toxic creep and was presented as potentially redeemable for the longest time. It took him going full “Riddler” that really changed my perspective on him. It was in his role as the manipulator who wanted to make a name from it that made him compelling. “The Riddler” and Nygma contrast and them agreeing on being bad and devoting themselves to it is what made him a great villain. He had to go through Arkham to get there but when he came out it was his relationship with Penguin that added complexity, especially as his old toxic evil habits came back again. Cory Michael Smith brought so much nuance to this role and dual personalities that exist between Nygma and “The Riddler.” Even given this dichotomy though, he is always the villain and never does anything that doesn’t logically serve his own ends, but he will put his neck out for others and take risks for that core goal. We see this with Lee Thompkins and even Penguin a few brief times. His frenemy relationship with Penguin was one of my favorite things and whenever they found a working relationship, things were gold as “The Riddler” was the strategist while Penguin was willing to ruthlessly fight and kill for anything he desired. They were a dangerous duo and it was out of that relationship that “The Riddler” became one of my favorite characters.

 

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2nd Place – Doctor Hugo Strange

B.D. Wong’s version of Doctor Hugo Strange is the best version of this character I have seen thus far. The first time I appreciated Hugo Strange as a character was Gotham City as he was a manipulator pulling on the strings and winning through most of the story. He manages to trap Bruce Wayne in Arkham City in the game, which is a huge feat in and of itself. It was making him a minion in that story, which was the problem. Here is is often times serving people, but he always has a larger agenda at play or at least some level of survival to be himself beyond another’s aims. Throughout the entire series Strange was always one step ahead of foes and I can’t think of a time where he truly lost. Whomever was around would never kill him because he was far to useful and he’d use that to eventually outdo them or escape. This is the character who out of the 5 here has the least connection to Bruce Wayne, which makes me curious about what his relationship will be later to Batman, later in the lore post “Gotham.” “Regardless, “Gotham” is worth watching if only for the Doctor Hugo Strange episodes and B.D. Wong’s masterful performance. He brings in the insane mad scientist who has a familial bond with his creations and resurrections, as well as a ruthlessness of someone who in the end is doing everything to some greater unknown end.

 

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1st Place – Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin

Robin Lord Taylor truly created the best version of “The Penguin” I have seen in any of the DC Lore. This is a Penguin who has been Mayor, been through Arkham, Blackgate and risen and fallen multiple times. Even with the rise and fall of this character, with those rises and falls over seasons came to define the best of “Gotham” for me. In this show we get to learn about Penguin’s father born of money who he ended up re-establishing a relationship with, only for his step-family to kill his father and further drive him to madness. This combined with betrayals throughout his many rises lead to Penguin becoming paranoid. This paranoia became one his defining traits along with his selfish petulant nature. How did this end up being appealing? Because those aspects of the character are always there but oftentimes he would choose courage or take a risk with an enemy and make them an ally. He does this with Ed after Ed tries to kill him and easily found compromises with the Mob and gangs when he wasn’t taking them over. For how obvious Cobblepot’s flaws are he knew how to use them. This is why he is my favorite character. Along with him being smart enough to know his foes, Robin Lord Taylor granted this character limited moments of empathy and sorrow that gave depth to the character that I have not seen in any show or movie for Penguin, nor read in any comic. This is why he is 1st Place on my Top 5 Character of “Gotham.”

For any fan of DC Comics this is a show worth checking out. I’d put it far above “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin.” There are better properties like Burton and Nolan, but this is an example of good adaptation. This series is better than “The New 52” animated Batman films that I reviewed years ago aren’t nearly as good at making their heroes as compelling or deep and their rogues are forgettable. This series is in no way perfect. Characters are brought back to life, plot lines are abandoned and sometimes there are arcs that only exist for the sake of love triangle dramas. Some of these choices worked and some didn’t, but at the end of the day I stuck around for the characters. These are the five characters who made the show worth watching in the end, and the reason I’d recommend this show to any Batman fan.

“The Flash” Season 3 – The Consequences of Time Travel

       “The Flash” is easily the strongest of the CW DC Cinematic Universe shows. It has the best villains (to the point they crossover in other shows), they generally avoid shipping and focus more on internal character conflict and most of all they are not afraid to kill off characters. “The Flash” is a show with consequences and that is one thing that keeps this season great, even if it isn’t as good as Season 2 in some ways.

The story picks up where we left off with before with the Flash going back in time to save his mother. This creates the Flashpoint event where certain people have powers who did not and Barry is left with a choice to restore the original timeline and lose his family again or live in the paradise he’s created and forget about the world he left behind.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – Flashpoint is dealt with pretty fast and after it is Barry dealing with the fall out as even though the timeline is restored he has erased certain characters and events, which force him to deal with the consequences of his selfishness later in the season. This is awesome as finally we see The Flash facing consequences for the choices as the villain arose out of the choices that were made as he lets Reverse-Flash kill his mother again to recreate some semblance of the original timeline.

The New Characters – Julian is the new member of Team Flash after he is Savitar’s (the God of Speed) Dragon and is turning people into metas who were metas during the Flashpoint event. He’s played by Tom Felton and is absolutely wonderful in the role. Mirror Master is also introduced as a threat and Clive Yorken, one of the villains created from Flashpoint. There is also Gypsy a Viber from Earth-19 and HR, the Harrison Wells who is a writer seeking a story.

New Threats – Flashpoint leads to the creation of new metas as Alchemy uses the Philosopher Stone to turn humans into metas. It is really cool and I enjoyed the ones we meet. Yorken and Mirror Master stand out as the best examples.

Gorilla Grodd – Grodd is back and manipulates Team Flash into overthrowing his rival so and vibbing a portal so that he and his army can invade Central City. It is awesome and we see just how scary he and his army are. Besides Reverse-Flash, Grodd is my favorite of the villains on the “Flash.” He is captured at the end of this 2 Parter and I hope he forms his own Legion of Doom to take on Team Flash in whatever form it is in.

The Crossover Events – There are 2 Crossover events and both are great. One involves all the CW DC shows and taking on the Dominator threat, where Flash admits to the creation of Flashpoint and changing the past which leads to no one trusting him and him having to earn their trust again and the event where Supergirl and the Flash are caught in a musical and have to admit their feelings for their partners. Both are wonderful and we even get a mini-crossover as a past Captain Cold from Legends teams up with Flash to steal and alien device and helps him find his good and realizing that the good is the key to defeat Savitar.

Flashpoint and the Consequences of Time Travel – There are a lot of consequences to Flashpoint as this season is all about dealing with the fallout from the event. New metas are created, new people join Team Flash and in the end Barry Allen has to enter the Time Prison that he put Savitar into because of Flashpoint. The entire season is about Barry taking responsibility and the consequences of Time Travel are what make the show strong.

Okay: Savitar as the Big Bad – Savitar is a time remnant created by Barry trying to put Savitar into the Speed Force Prison (he exists as a Paradox) and his arc involves him trying to drive Barry into the Darkness so he can exist. He really could have been a lot more evil and that is why he fails. He badness isn’t even on the same level as Reverse-Flash and Zoom and that is why I can’t put him as a pro.

The Finale – HR tricks Savitar and puts himself into Iris’s place. This is heroic sacrifice and after it is Team Flash trying to turn Savitar good until he obviously betrays them and is eventually destroyed when Barry doesn’t embrace his anger and the paradox catches up to him. I thought them trying to turn him good was kind of weak but I liked that they didn’t get Snow back and now she is a mixture of Snow and Killer Frost…and I like that Barry had to leave to face the consequences for all the times he’s messed with time. Still wouldn’t put this season as a pro though, it was a mixed bag.

Where Does the Show Go? – We have Wally as the new Flash, hopefully Julian sticks around, we have Cisco and possibly Gypsy too? They really could have ended the series here and it would have been great. Now they have to really give Wally a chance if they are going to succeed next season, or find a way to bring Barry back. Given the quality of writing on the show thus far, I think they can pull off either, it’s just going to be more difficult.

I really enjoyed this season of “The Flash.” I like Tom Felton’s Julian, I like that Snow leaves and that HR dies and that Barry has to leave and enter the Speed Force to pay the price for Flashpoint. This was a season with consequences that overrode much of the bad writing that was on display sometimes. I come to this show for the characters and story and if you’ve liked the show up to this point, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I’m curious where the show will go from here. Wally is interesting but I think people have always come for Barry and his villains so the test for the writers is seeing if they can embrace this show changing in a major way and use it to tell some original stories that will keep us coming back.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season 2 – A Jumbled But Decent Season That Explores Letting Go and Grief

    “Legends of Tomorrow” is an interesting show to write about. This is a show that tries to do a lot and is dealing with an ensemble cast (both Legends and Villains this time) so because of that some characters don’t get the exploration they deserve or are as powerful as they could be. I still enjoyed this season and watched it all the way through, but it is debatable whether it’s quality beats Season 1 as Season 1 was so much more focused and had an overarching narrative that didn’t get distracted as much as this season did. If you like the CW DC Cinematic Universe you will probably enjoy this season though.

    The story involves the Legends working to stop the Legion of Doom, lead by Thawne (Reverse-Flash) from getting the Spear of Destiny, which can rewrite time and reality itself. They find allies in the Justice Society of America as people from their past are manipulated by the Legion and Reverse-Flash’s plans unfold.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – I really enjoy the universe of “Legends of Tomorrow.” This is a time travel show that has so much fun with the concept, with this time us visiting the Apollo mission, World War 1 and Cold War as some of the stand out episodes. This season really had a lot of fun with the premise.

The Legends – The Legends receive more development this season, to varying degrees of success, that I’ll get into later. I enjoyed them all though, even with the writing for all not always being good.

Stein – Stein changes the past in this! When he changes how he gets together with his wife they end up having a child together, which he didn’t in the other timeline. She becomes one of the allies of the Legends and we also learn that Stein knows that due to how old he is, he won’t be around as long. I suspect he will be the next to die among the Legends.

Jefferson – Jefferson goes through a lot of great development and comes the closest to being second-in-command as he is the one who outsmarts evil rip and is closest to Gideon after Rip’s departure. I’m looking forward to seeing how his leadership role further develops.

Rip Hunter – Rip is sadly missing through most of this season. When he does show up he’s wiped his memory to keep people from finding the Spear of Destiny but the Legends find his memories and the Legion of Doom gets a hold of them and makes him evil for a while until Gideon and the Legends restore him. They really should have done more with him, more Darvill is better.

Vixen – Vixen ends up joining the Legends when she sneaks onto their ship after a time traveler kills one of the Justice Society of America (who she is a part of). I really liked her character, she has a cool ability where she takes on different animal powers and her being the woman out of time gives her a great perspective in episodes.

Steel – Steel is the Time Detective who works with Rory to find the other members of the Legends when they are scattered through time at the outset of the Season. His arc is resolving things with his family and standing up for himself. He annoyed me a lot at first, but grew on me. I like that he is among the Legends.

Snart / Captain Cold – The Legion of Doom takes Snart out of the past and uses him against the Legends. He kills Vixen (she is brought back when Doomworld is rewritten) and helps Thawne win everything. He is evil through and through but Rory lets him know that he will change and that it is Snart’s action that turn Rory into a good man.

Rory – Rory has the loyalty arc again as he joins Snart when the Legion recruits Snart. This leads to Thawne and the Legion winning as they capture the Spear and create “Doomworld” a world where the Legends serve the Legion. Rory helps the Legends remember who they were and stops the Legion. His arc wasn’t needed and I wish he could have taken more of a Leadership role that Jefferson and Sarah take up…he is an underutilized character at this point, at least in regards to writing. His arc that is done well is when he has to let go of Snart and accept that he is dead.

Sarah Lance – Sarah Lance is made Captain by Rip when he leaves and her arc is accepting that role as well as giving up revenge against Dark and letting go of her sister and moving on. This arc is handled well, and her leadership grew on me. The only downside was Dark kept popping up so it was mercy again and again. It took away from her arc when it was done and showed initially the writers might not have known what to do with her role.

Thawne / Reverse-Flash – I really like Thawne / Reverse-Flash. He is a smart and ambitious character who actually wins for a while! Sadly Black Flash wipes him out of time again, but he will come back I hope. Flashpoint in “Flash” brought him back and I hope we will see it again. He is one of the best villains in the CW DC Cinematic Universe and in this he is humanized a lot, while still remaining a villain. I loved his conversations with Captain Atom and other members of the Legends…

The Crossover Event – The Legends, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl all teamed up fighting the Dominators! This was an amazing event and I wanted more of it. This was the closest we have to a CW DC Justice League and I cared about all the characters, and felt the alien threat was great. Here is to more events like this.

Grief and Letting Go – The major theme this season was letting go and moving through grief. Rory and Sarah’s arcs were only completed after they said good-bye to those they loved and accepted how that person had changed them. This was powerful but felt weaker because Rip did this last Season with his wife and kid…It was still one of the better parts of the season though.

Okay: The Ending – The ending is alright. I enjoyed Rory saying good by to Snart and Sarah saying good by the Laurel but wasn’t a fan of Rip going off an adventure again and though the breaking time is intriguing (maybe Thawne will be back!) and I liked that Vixen and Steel are the new members of the Legends…it still felt unfinished and that it was more concerned with setting up Season 3 than having a final Season 2.

The Cons: Dark – Dark is also from “Arrow” and also a waste. Seriously the “Arrow” villains are just the most boring characters in the CW DC Cinematic Universe. He is smarmy and smug and loses every fight he gets into. It takes the Reverse-Flash rewriting reality to give him his only real win. If the Legion even comes back I hope he and Merlyn aren’t a part of it.

Merlyn – Merlyn is back from “Arrow” and doesn’t really do much. He loses every fight he gets into and his whole wanting his wife and son back is never explored. He really wasn’t needed for the Legion of Doom.

The Justice Society of America – These guys show up in World War 2 and hide parts of the Spear of Destiny throughout time with Rip Hunter. They are extremely underdeveloped though and I never got attached. They really should have been core to the season, as besides Vixen, none of them are needed for the plot at all. They aren’t the answer to the Legion of Doom and they seem to only exist this season because they exist in the DC universe.

   This season was stronger in many ways, but weaker in others. I felt Dark and Merlyn never went anywhere as villains. I also felt the Justice Society could have been explored more. Besides Vixen I didn’t feel like I really got to know any of them. They played a big role in separating the Spear but outside of that they weren’t needed for the story at all. I enjoyed Sarah letting go of her sister and Rory having to let go of Snart, the good-byes were the best part of the finale…and I’m hoping Thawne comes back, given he’s been erased from reality twice now…Thawne is one of the best villains to come out of the CW DC Cinematic Universe and he’s been the best antagonist the Flash has, so I really hope we haven’t seen the last of him. For overall thoughts, this is a good season that kept me interested in seeing where the story goes from here.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10

“Constantine” Season 1 – A Procedural Show That Could Have Been So Much More

Constantine Show

     “Constantine” was a show that could have been so much more, and really should have been brought back by the CW given that they’ve saved “Supergirl” and shown they are really good with DC properties (though I can’t stand “Arrow”). Hell, Constantine was even a guest star on “Arrow” so I hope they bring him back for a mini-series as this series is very incomplete. With only 13 episodes, this is a show that never really found it’s footing, even if the main cast were pretty great.

    The show was created by David Goyer and Daniel Cerone and based off the DC comics of the same name.

    The premise of the show is Constantine (Matt Ryan) is a part time practitioner of the Dark Arts and master of all forms of magic who is commissioned by Manny (Harold Perinneau), an Angel to help in the fight against the rising Darkness, as Constantine’s soul is already condemned to Hell and this is chance for redemption and doing some good in the fight.

The Pros: The World – The World of “Constantine” is an amazing one in which so much more could have been done. We introduced to different types of demons, magic and spirits…and I wanted to know and see more.

The Premise – The premise of the condemned man trying to redeem himself is one that has always intrigued me, especially when they are bitter and fed up with everything they’ve been through like Constantine is. It gives room for them to grow and to critique what they are being asked to do.

The Cinematography – I liked the cinematography. It clearly looks like effort went into creating a world that felt like a comic book, though I think the look of the comics is better and darker, this at least captured some of the spirit for network television. Romeo Tirone did a good job.

The Characters – The main characters kept me interested and coming back for more, even as the procedural nature of the show was grating on me and my attachment to the overall story.

Chas – Chas is from Constantine’s original crew where Constantine first got his soul condemned to Hell when he let a girl be taken to Hell. Chas took in all the souls around and is near immortal in his own way. He is really cool as he is alien because of what was done to him but still holds his humanity and keeps Constantine grounded. He also is a father. Charles Halford is good in the role.

Papa Midnite – Midnite is one of my favorite characters in the comics and was in the Keanu Reeves “Constantine” film as well. In this he is an antagonist up until the end as he is traditionalist practitioner of voodoo and honoring the Spirits and Lao and Constantine respects nothing and dishonors his traditions, leading to him trying to kill Constantine until he is called off at the end. I wanted to see their relationship develop as it is an intriguing one in the comics. Michael James Shaw added so much power to this role.

Zed – Zed sees visions and is our audience stand in at first as her mysterious backstory is slowly revealed, as well as the price she pays for sight, given that she has a tumor in her brain. Angelica Celaya gives this role both strength and compassion as she is also one of the people who grounds Constantine and helps him see beyond himself. Like Chas, she is his humanity he tries to push away.

Manny – Manny is the Angel who is using Constantine to his own ends as we see him call off the hit from the organization Papa Midnite serves as we learn Manny is the one calling the shots and maybe the one bringing the Darkness. He has a complex relationship with Constantine as we see him stay out of things but help in his own ways, at one point even being put into a host’s body and having to experience humanity and mortality. Harold Perrineau gave this role so much and if they bring back the series, he is the character I don’t want recast.

Constantine – Matt Ryan nails Constantine’s cynicism so well, as well as him being the deal maker who walks to line between good and bad and does everything he can to survive…but try to do the right thing. His arc is really that of getting invested in the bigger fight against the Darkness and finding his humanity through past members of his crew who got him into magic in the first place (and usually losing them) or finding his humanity in their acts of valor and in the actions of his friends. He really is a great anti-hero. Matt Ryan captures the man from the comics better than Keanu Reeves which is partially due to look but also in how he speaks and interacts with others.

Okay: Jim Corrigan – Minor character in the show who is a doubter who later joins Team Constantine against the Darkness. More could have been done with him so he felt unfinished. His comic book history is rather large and I didn’t get any of that from the show.

Okay/Con: The Ending – Manny is manipulating everything is the most interesting part but it feels unfinished and you can tell the show got canceled. The Finale felt rushed and we still really knew nothing about the coming threat or how it related to Manny.

The Cons: Inconsistent Tone – The tone was all over the place…some days Constantine would lose a friend, another episode they’d try to do comedy that wasn’t quite dark enough to fit the tone. It felt like a “Monster of the Week” when there are great arcs in Constantine they could have done in full.

Procedural When Could Have Been More – The show in the end felt like procedural that wasn’t going anywhere and I think that is why it got canceled. We learn nothing about the Darkness really and for a huge world full of demons, angels and monsters…we don’t actually learn all that much about it. It is a glimpse into a world that could have been so much more if it had taken advantage of the amazing source material it was pulling from. Sadly it became like any other “Mystery of the Week/Monster of the Week” Procedural and I think that led to it being canceled.

     This is a show where I enjoyed the characters and premise but felt that it never lived up to the potential of the source material. I’d still recommend it at this point as this is sadly the best adaptation I’ve seen of the character “Constantine” and I hope he gets a second chance, as Matt Ryan does a great job capturing this amazing character from DC comics. If you like the comics, it is worth watching just for Ryan’s performance…beyond that there are better supernatural, procedural and shows adapted from DC comics out there. I’d like to see the CW bring back the character for a mini-series and either do something cool with the Darkness from this show or give us a full fledged adaptation of one of his best comic arcs. Constantine deserves that, and this show sadly couldn’t give us that.

Final Score: 6.5 / 10

“The Flash” Season 2 – Character Growth, A Great Villain and an Ending That Could Ruin All of That

The Flash Season 2

   I’m going to take a leap and voice that the writers of this show may actually know what they are doing. This season was one of the best experiences of television I’ve had this year that wasn’t “Better Call Saul” or “Game of Thrones,” though those are in a camp of their own and this is very much something enjoyable but not Classic the way those are. Part of why it was so enjoyable is it took so much of what worked last season and built on it, which I’ll get into further in the review.

    “The Flash” was created by Greg Berltani, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns.

     The story picks up with Flash’s closing of the Portal as it ends up leaving rifts behind to Earth-2 (a world in another Universe) that a new enemy Zoom sends Meta-Humans through to kill the Flash so he can be the fasted man in the Universe. All is not as it appears to be though as new allies and enemies arise.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Neely has created an amazing soundtrack! Everytime it plays I see this Universe the CW has created and it is beautiful. DC did something right.

The World – The World of “The Flash” is fascinating! Whether it Earth-1 and 2 and the meta-humans in both or the tie-ins to “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” This is a world I want to come back to.

Earth-2 – Earth-2 is fascinating! All the characters are in different roles…Iris is a detective, Joe is a lounge singer, Barry isn’t a meta-human, Snow is Killer Frost and Cisco is Reverb…some characters are outright villains like Killer Frost, while others are more complex like Dr. Wells who end up on good, but it is complicated.

The Meta-Humans – The meta-humans are part of what makes this show so interesting. Even the “Monster of the Week” metas manage to be fascinating in their own ways too. This is part of what makes Flash fun, they stick around and advance the plot.

The Weather Wizard Alliance – Weather Wizard teams up with The Trickster (Hamill’s back!) and Captain Cold. Captain Cold has a change of conscience and warns Flash while the others try to destroy the town on Christmas.

King Shark – King Shark is a giant man-shark Meta-human and has a great design! He’s got a Great White Shark’s head and is huge and strong enough to counter most of what Flash and his team throw at him. He’s also a running gag earlier in the show.

Gorilla Grodd – Grodd gets his own episode as we see him continue to grow and that his striving to understand while still have connections (he relates to Snow who was kind to him) and in the end finds an army/peace in a refuge on Earth-2. I hope he comes back. Seeing his plans in his episode were a lot of fun, as well as Wells from Earth-2 pretending to be Thawne-Wells and their interactions as Grodd figures out something isn’t right.

Killer Frost – Panabaker is a good actress! Her performance as the sociopathic meta-human Killer Frost was a lot of fun and I hope we see more versions of this character (or this character again as Zoom kills her at one point). She was an awesome villain and a good wild card.

Reverb – This character had such a short of time with us, which was a shame as he shows us Cisco’s power to warp reality and to jump to different Earths. This character needed more screentime.

Reverse-Flash – Flash goes back in time to learn how to travel faster to defeat Zoom and wants to learn from Reverse-Flash. He ends up being caught and we see how powerful the Reverse-Flash is as they blackmail one another into a deal but Thawne does eventually help the Flash. An earlier version of Thawne also travels to Flash’s future and Flash ends up having to send him back and learns that the Reverse-Flash is obsessed with Flash and wants to be him and destroy him completely because of his obsession. It is really well done.

The Heroes – The heroes are great in this and all of their flaws come to the surface. This is the beauty of the show, our characters aren’t perfect and because they aren’t they make choices that have consequences and change because of it.

Captain Cold – Captain Cold shows us he is more of a free agent than a villain as he warns Flash about the Trickster’s and Weather Wizard’s plan and logically we see where this follows when he is recruited in “Legends of Tomorrow.” This character has grown on me a lot and become a favorite, thanks to Wentworth Miller’s performance and some pretty good writing.

Mr. Allen – Barry’s dad is alright. Thawne confesses to everything in a video which frees him and Mr. Allen leaves. He later comes back only to be killed by Zoom, just as he is reintegrating himself into Barry’s life.

Cisco Ramon / Vibe – Cisco is comedic as usual and in this we see him deal with his darker side was he fears becoming like his Earth-2 counterpart in Reverb. He gets past it though thanks to his friends and Dr. Wells and he helps bring the team back together after their initial separation at the beginning of the season.

Dr. Caitlin Snow – Snow like Romon deals with her darkside as she learns about Killer Frost and the fact that Jay was really Zoom and serial killer. She doesn’t let this defeat her though. She helps save the city from Grodd and even becomes friends with him and is able to manipulate Zoom enough times for the team to get wins against him. Even when she’s trapped she’s never a victim and it is awesome.

Wally West – Wally is Joe’s son he never knew about and is obsessed with speed. His arc like Barry’s is learning his limits and learning that people care about him. He is hit by the energy force and may get the Speed Force or will have it in the future! He’s a great character and compliments everyone really well.

Joe West – Jesse L. Martin is one of the best parts of this show. In this we see him realize he had a son when his drug addict wife left and he deals with her death as well as integrating Barry and Mr. Allen into his growing family, and he does it well as we see him learn limits. He’s also kidnapped by Zoom at one point after his plan successful knocks Zoom into Earth-2 and the portal is closed. Joe is arguable the glue of the show. Without him it wouldn’t be the same.

Iris West – Iris also goes through a lot in this as we see her work through her grief over Eddie’s sacrifice and come to terms with her feelings for Barrie. We also see her rise in the paper and demonstrate that she is a leader and a full member of Team Speed for a reason.

Earth-2 Dr. Wells – Tom Cavanagh is one of my favorite actors on this show and it is great seeing him play a Wells that isn’t really Thawne and isn’t a villain. In this he is working to save his daughter from Zoom and in the end becomes part of the team on Earth-1 and finds the family he never had as we see how cruel and arrogant he was in his world and Zoom taking his daughter forced him to empathy.

Barry Allen – Barry goes through a lot in this. We see him reborn in the Speed Force and gain a new perspective and he realizes the endless possibilities, we see him accept his life without speed and we see him make the selfish choice he denied himself last season, even as he has a relationship with the one he loves (Iris). He goes through a lot and is forever changed. He fears losing everything and in the process does. At the end, Barry is probably a villain. He’s become like the Reverse-Flash using time travel for himself.

Zoom – Zoom is a great villain. The character is a serial killer who watched his father kill his mother and self and it broke him, and now he does the same to others. All he has is his speed and control over others. He is willing to kill past versions of himself he creates to becomes stronger…and in the end his darkness becomes a part of Barry as what he takes from Barry leads Barry to make the same choices. In the end his manipulating time gets the Speed Force’s attention and he is pulled away by the Time Wraiths. Though all that may be canceled out, now that Barry did what Zoom wanted and changed time.

Choices and Consequences – This is a story of consequences…we see everyone’s relationship to Jay change when they realize he’s Zoom (and their trust issues before come up from when the Thawne-Wells was around).

Okay/Con – Jessie Quick – Jessie is okay but she doesn’t really have a relationship outside of her relationship to Dr. Wells…though this could change as her and Wally are hit by another energy force (chat change Barry initially) so I think them being Speedsters is eventually in store.

The Cons: Ending Must Not Undo All the Growth – Flash goes back in time and saves his mother, defeating Reverse-Flash (though Thawne is still alive). What this means changes everything…though I want this to be another timeline or if it does change things for good that Flash is now the villain. He made a choice just for himself and did what Zoom and Reverse-Flash have wanted him to do. If that means nothing (or is resolved quickly), this fear will be a con.

  My biggest issue with this season was the possible reboot the series could take if the writers choose to go that way, which I would hate. Flash should not be the only one making choices and changing over the course of the show and this ending had me worried, even though I greatly enjoyed it because of how the characters grew and changed and the fact that Reverse-Flash and Zoom were proven right in the end…Barry acted like a villain in regards to taking what he wanted regardless of the consequences and that is beautiful and powerful. I hope that Season 3 doesn’t blow this because this show improved from last season and is a great show now. If you like comic book films you’ll probably like this series. Here is to this show building on it’s momentum and continuing to rise beyond the great show it has become.

Final Score: 9 / 10

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