The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 12 – “The Doctor Falls” – When Change Leads to Pain

Moffat and Finale’s are a mixed bag. Moffat is a writer who is afraid to kill off characters and take risks with story. So much of what he’s done with the “Doctor Who” lore is to reset the status quo. I’m not sure how far into the series you are so I won’t go into detail, but a lot of powerful decisions that Davies made in storytelling Moffat cancels out, as well as his inability to let go of characters and an insistence they must keep coming back (he’s been better about this with Capaldi’s stories in regards to this lately though). “The Doctor Falls” thankfully does not have this problem. Before I get into spoilers in the review, this is a story with consequences and since Moffat knows he’s leaving he manages to give some wonderful sendoffs to quite a few amazing characters.

“The Doctor Falls” was directed by Rachel Talaley and written by Steven Moffat.

The story picks up where we left off, with Bill turned into a Cybermen and the Masters torturing the Doctor. The tables are turned though when the Cybermen attack as the Doctor revealed he expanded the definition of humanity to mean Time Lords as well forcing all of them to team up as they make their final stand on a village higher up in the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Base Under Siege – The base under siege is a major “Doctor Who” story trope that is handed really well here, as we have a small group of people who the Masters, Nardole, CyberBill and the Doctor must work with as they work out a plan to save themselves or save the villagers. It’s powerful as most of the villagers are children and the Cybermen have been attacking them for years. It is a losing battle without sacrifice leading characters to make choices that will define them. In the end Nardole leads the survivors further up the ship and is left as their guardian as he, once a con man has now become a good man from the Doctor.

The Masters – Simm’s Master has no empathy and is still the same insane man from the Tennant era while Missy feels guilt and cares for the Doctor. This leads to her killing her past self to regenerate into her current self but not before she is shot by Simm’s Master as the Master’s self-destructive nature leads to the Time Lord’s destruction. It is a tragic and powerful scene and in it the Master is redeemed as Missy’s final act was to do away with her bad past and embrace the goals of the Doctor, and in doing so it ends her life. It is a great ending for the Master as a character and Michelle Gomez, who has owned this role gives so much life and emotion to those final scenes with Simm’s Master and the Doctor.

Bill’s Good-bye – Bill is in the final fight and helps the Doctor get back to the TARDIS with the help of the Pilot who returns. It is at that point she becomes the water entity too and dies…as the Doctor established the Pilot is it’s unknown entity and now Bill is a part of it. It is sad and tragic and beautiful as some part of Bill will carry on traveling even though she is dead in both body (turned into a cyberman) and now self since she joined the entity.

The Doctor and Change – Through this episode we see the Doctor ready to die and in a way wanting to I think. He lost his best friend the Master (both when he thinks she’s leaving with her past self and for real when see their death), he can guess that Bill is dead given she isn’t on the TARDIS and stayed to fight with him and all his past pain, from losing River and losing himself as he changes each time. This leads to his last acts before the TARDIS takes him to his first incarnation…him resisting regeneration. He just wants to die and for the pain to end. He’s tired of loss and if he’s going to go he wants to go as himself. I can see why and it is done so much better than when Tennant’s Doctor implied the same with the long good-bye. Can’t wait to see the Christmas Special explore this more.

The Cons: Genesis of the Cybermen? – So where the Cybermen created here? Simm’s Master calls the Cybermen he made the Genesis of the Cybermen but we never see them leave the ship and the Mondas look and connection is never made fully clear. I liked them as a threat but why all this setup if it doesn’t lead anywhere?

This was an episode I highly recommend. It is a favorite and easily some of the best of Moffat’s writing in this series. I’m going to miss Capaldi so much but I’m glad Nardole, Bill and the Master got some amazing good-byes and I hope Capaldi’s Doctor get’s the same. This was a season where Moffat finally learned that it is okay to let go. Clara doesn’t have to keep on dying and being brought back and becoming an immortal fixture who ceases to be a character…it is okay so good-bye and storywise it lends power to sacrifice and loss. This was a two-parter that did that so well and showed just how great of a writer Moffat can be.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

For the Two Parts: 9.5 / 10

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“Supergirl” Season 2 – Good but Brought Down by Shipping and Lack of Focus

     I really like “Supergirl,” after this season I still don’t feel comfortable calling it a great show, though if you are on the CW you probably aren’t a great show (experts of average or decent in their programming) but I am looking forward to next season and plan on coming back. In a nutshell, this was a season that needed a lot more focus and a lot less shipping as both these things held it back from being the great season it could have been.

    The premise of this season involves Kara/Supergirl dealing with the threat of Cadmus (who wishes to destroy aliens on Earth) the Daxams and her new relationships with Lena Luthor (Lex’s sister) and Mon-El of Daxam.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Martian Arc – Martian Manhunter has an amazing arc where he hooks up with Miss Martian who is a White Martian who fights against her species who exterminated Martian Manhunter’s people. She takes their look and her arc is going back to find others to fight the fascist members of her people. She after returns with those allies in the finale to fight. The main arc for Manhunter is overcoming prejudice, and they handle that really well.

Superman – Superman is in the show this season and he is fantastic! He clashes with Martian Manhunter, he remembers to smile and is both charming and awkward and is used as an ally and threat to equal degree. I really liked Tyler Hoechlin’s portrayal of him and hope he is used again in this and other series.

James and the Guardian – After Kara breaks up with James at the beginning of the Season and Cat hands him Catco he realizes that being a superhero is what he missed in his life and he becomes the Guardian, a Batmanesque protector of the city. The arc isn’t done yet as Kara wants him to stop being this character, but he saves so many people and shows that a person can live in both worlds, even if they aren’t Kryptonian.

The Crossover Episodes – Supergirl is in 2 Crossover events, the first involves all the DC CW shows and the Dominator invasion, which is fantastic as Supergirl is a weapon at first and after has to pull back so she isn’t used against the team but still helps defeat the aliens and later in the episode where the Music Meister (a Q, God like being) helps The Flash and Supergirl face their relationship and heal the bonds with their partners. Both are a lot of fun and the second is a musical episode (in which all can sing well!) and were some of the best parts of this season.

The Daxamite Invasion – The finale is the Daxamite invasion as Mon-El rejects his parents and his mother in turn kills his father so that she can conquer Earth and get her son back. We see the Daxamites are warriors and Mon-El their prince rejected his culture. In the end he has to leave Earth as Supergirl, with Cadmus releases a small dose of lead into the atmosphere which can kill Daxamites, leading to their retreat and Supergirl’s good-bye to the man she came to love. The Fleet is still around as a potential threat though, even if they can’t attack Earth.

Okay: Cadmus – Cadmus has Kara and Alex’s father and he is used against them, Lena’s mother also run’s the organization. Early on Superman and the others are facing off against Metallo’s that were created by Cadmus to kill Kryptonians. Team Work defeats them and the organization is overall feckless. They attempt alien genocide a few times and fail. I like the idea of the organization but hate the execution.

The Cons: Lack of Focus – Cadmus, the Martian Arc, Winn’s alien relationship, James and the Guardian, the Crossover event, the Danvers and their father and the Daxamite you are given a cluttered season where none of these except the Bottle arcs really play out to their greatest potential.

Everybody Gets a Relationship aka Too Much Shipping – Alex hooks up, Kara hooks up, Winn hooks up and even Martian Manhunter hooks up…and so many arcs revolve around these dramas. This really took away from the story as these should have been happening in the background, not front in center…since making it front and center just made the show feel all about shipping characters.

   The things that worked this season really worked. The Flash and Supergirl worked really well together and I loved seeing the CW Justice League, Martian Manhunter getting explored was wonderful (he is a favorite in most things I’ve seen this character in) and the finale was fantastic. If the show had only been these things it would be a great show, but too much shipping (everyone does not need to be hitched), Cadmus not really paying off and the lack of focus brought the show down to good. I would still recommend it for those who enjoyed Season 1 and I can’t wait for Season 3!

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): A Reflective Action Film on Destiny, The Soul and Choice

Terminator 2 poster

    “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a favorite film. All the issues I had with the “The Terminator” in it feeling a bit rushed, raw and lacking character development of character outside Reese and Sarah is corrected in this one. There are still some one-dimensional antagonists, but we get more heroes and our heroes are more complicated. No one is perfect in this film and for that reason it is able to explore powerful themes related to choice, the soul and destiny really well.

    The film was directed by James Cameron who also produced and wrote the film. It was also co-written by William Wisher.

    The story is about Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) who is an institute after she is captured between the last films as she tries to escape to train her son John Connor (Edward Furlong) to lead the resistance against Skynet. A T-1000 Robert Patrick) is sent back to kill her son but Future John Connor sends back a Model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to protect him and to stop the T-1000. From here things get complicated as John and Model 101 help Sarah break out of the institute and she looks towards destroying Skynet’s creator Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) to prevent the future ruled by the Terminators from occurring.

The Pros: The Story – The story is really good. From us seeing the dark future that Model 101 and the T-1000 came from, to Sarah Connor being trapped and John Connor being alone and how all their forms of resisting their programming or authority bring them together to try and bring about a future where humanity is saved. This attempt to fight destiny and find hope is really powerful.

The Narration – Sarah Connor narrates the story and mentions the events from the first film as well as talking about the events of this film. She ends on a hopeful note too as we see the events of the film remind her what she is fighting for beyond training John for a desolate future.

The Cinematography – The Cinematography is beautiful in this, from the action scenes where the T-1000 is usually in a large vehicle or stronger vehicle facing off against Model 101, Sarah and John to Sarah’s vision of the apocalyptic future where her and a playground and the city burn. It captures the desolation and the full strength of what they are up against in the inevitable march to the future. Adam Greenberg did a fantastic job.

The Characters – Most of the characters are wonderful in this. The Connors are complex, Model 101 is complex as it becomes more human and the T-1000 is just a fantastic enemy.

John Connor – Edward Furlong is a great child actor. In this we see him as both a rebel and punk but also someone who cares about human life as he orders Model 101 not to kill people. His arc is him truly seeing the value in others and stopping the Terminator 101 and his Mom from crossing the line and losing their souls in the process as they are bent to achieve their means by any ends initially. He is the soul of the group that way and his imperfection (he is a thief, doesn’t respect his foster parents or his mom for a lot of the film) that at the core he is good.

Miles Dyson – Joe Morton is great as the scientist who invented Skynet. He is a father and and one of the few African American scientists from this era in cinema. His arc is redemption equels death as after Model 101 reveals is is a Cyborg he works with the Model, Sarah and John to destroy the future tech from the first film he was using to jump start the future and the computer where all his work is to prevent the future he would have created. He is a great guy and we see he loves both his work and his family but family takes priority once he understands what his work will create. In the end he is killed by a SWAT team but not before he gives Sarah, the Model 101 and John more time. I really liked his character and how complex he was.

Model 101/The T-800 – Arnold’s range is shown in this film as we see his Terminator learn how to care about others. This process starts when he lets John take out the chip that Skynet placed that blocks him from remembering and keeps him stupid and a weapon.  He follows this freedom by not killing and fights to the end against the T-1000 helping Sarah finally defeat it. This model learns how to joke and reminded me a lot of Data as it is one of the more human cyborgs in Cinema. In the end it sacrifices itself so that it’s parts will not be used to create Skynet. It is then it tells John it understands why humans cry. It is a touching scene and Arnold does a wonderful job in this role as the Cyborg who discovers it has a “Soul.”

The T-1000 – Robert Patrick is a wonderful threat in this as the liquid metal shape-shifting Terminator who destroys John’s Foster Parents and most of the threats it comes up against. It nearly kills John and is about to kill Sarah before it is stopped. It is a Terminator driven by some sort of emotion as we see rage or pain when it dropped into the vat of metal and that no matter how many times it is hit, it continued to fight. It took the form of a cop, which allowed for great symbolism too as it represented the authority of Skynet over humanity in the future that it came from and hoped to create.

Sarah Connor – Linda Hamilton has really grown as an actress since the last film. She was good in the last film but in this we see her dealing with the trauma she went through and how the future haunts her given her loss of Reese (who she has visions of) and of how what she knows leads to her isolation and imprisonment. This doesn’t stop her from escaping on her own and trying to prevent the future, even if it means killing another. She is really to kill Dyson until they convince him of what the future holds and he stands by them ready to stop it. We see her come to care about the Model 101 through her love for her son and at the end that in her despair she finally has hope as she was part of the reason the Model 101 learned to value human life and feel.

The Final Fight – The Final fight is really great. From the T-1000 chasing them in a helicopter and giant truck, to Model 101 and Dyson against the cops and finally the fight in the factory with the hot metal where the T-1000 has injured all of them and it takes Sarah and the Model 101 to take him out together.

Choice and Resistance – One of the main themes of this movie is the power of choice and resistance. From Model 101 choosing to protect beyond John and from it realizing the value of life and from Sarah sparing Dyson’s life and seeing that she has lost sight of the big picture too. Throughout these choices you have Skynet and through Skynet the T-1000 and even the cops upholding corrupt authority and ending life on multiple occasions. The cops always shoot to kill and Dyson dies because of it. Where none of the heroes kill and are usually always in a smaller vehicle or out numbered by their foes. From this is born the resistance and the choice to fight it.

Themes of Corrupt Authority Needing to be Fought – Corrupt authority and the need to fight it is also a theme. From the cops working for the organization that created Skynet, from Skynet sending the T-1000 back and it taking the form of a cop that kills on multiple occasions you have unchecked authority just like Skynet is in the future where human choice is taken away and all that exists is the authority.

Destiny, Can the Future be Changed? – The question remains open on weather the future was changed or not, as we never see what happened to the arm of Model 101 even though the T-800 chip and arm from the last film were destroyed as was most of the body of the Model 101. Did anything our heroes do change a thing? Did Dyson dying and destroying his work prevent someone else from eventually creating it? These are the questions that remain open and whether the future is set in stone and things are destined to happen or whether our actions truly change the future.

The Ending  – The ending is hopeful as John and Sarah are on the road again both changed by events and Sarah who had only the fight and her love of John to keep her going now has has hope since even if a Terminator can learn to value human life, that why can’t humanity? It is a great question and point and ending on the open road was a great symbol of the future and how it is unknown.

The Cons: The Psychiatrist – I never got that he truly cared about Sarah as even when she was on good behavior he still would not let her see her son. To this end he was the one-dimensional antagonist that seems to appear in every James Cameron film. Wasn’t impressed especially since Sarah Connor’s vision of the future could rightfully be seen as delusional but his lack of compassion did not help his perspective.

This film is a classic for a reason and worth multiple watches. It is an action movie that thinks and poses important questions that it tries to wrestle with while giving us complex characters who have arcs and presenting these arcs along with the powerful themes of choice, resistance and tackling the question of destiny. It is also beautifully filmed and truly one of the best films that James Cameron has created.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Carnivale – Season 1, Episode 3 – “Tipton” – The Legacy of the Father

Carnivale Tipton

We continue with “Carnivale” with some answers about the past and who Ben’s father is, as well as Samson’s relationship with the town of Tipton and the foreboding of things to come.

“Tipton” was directed by Rodrigo Garcia and written by Henry Bromwell.

The premise is that they arrive in Tipton but the Sheriff doesn’t want them there because he’s worried about them losing what little money they have. After Ben is recognized for healing the girl Samson makes a deal with a preacher for a revival to raise money which leads to Ben becoming famous until he’s called by a dream to the Sheriff’s mother Rebecca and how she is related to Ben’s father.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Tone – This episode really catches the desperation of the Depression, from the Sheriff’s distrust even though he’s worked with them before…to people needing hope through miracles and believing the tricks the Carnivale does in the revival since Ben is just a prop and doesn’t actually perform any on the actors that are chosen for healing. It catches the two faced of it which we see when some folks come to tear down Pastor Crowe’s new church because even if he owns it, they own land and their two faced “kindness” is screamed.

Pastor Crowe – Crowe is once again a very compelling character, as we see him preaching the end but giving the poor something to hope for. He’s a complex character and seeing him in action again is great, though the future of his church remains unresolved as the man who came to take it away find himself choking before he departs the church. If this will make things worse or better remains to be seen. Clancy Brown really does add depth to this role.

Samson – Samson is great as the practical leader once again, quickly changing the carnival to a revival and using the members of the carnival to excite the crowd and bring in more money. We also see how angry he was at giving Ben more freedom when Ben leaves them hanging without him and almost does an actual miracle that would have revealed them all the world. Michael J. Anderson continues exploring my favorite character on the show. Samson has them heading for trouble since he feels they have to go to Babylon after Rebecca reveals that is where Scudder is.

Rebecca – Rebecca was the lover of Ben’s father Scudder and we find out Scudder used to be a crook and in his revival suit he looks just like Ben. She feels guilty for not doing anything to stop him. Her role is small and powerful and she tells Ben that Scudder was last seen going to Babylon, which is where Samson has them go next.

Ben – Doesn’t want power and when he is given it is very humble. The most he does is use to follow his dream to Rebecca who points him to Babylon to find his father Scudder. She also reveals Scudder’s dark past a little bit and we we see him ready to save her until she denies it. For now none of the carnival knows his powers are for real. He is now invisible again, which I think is what he wanted anyway.

This is a good episode that furthers the development of Samson, Ben and Justin Crowe…which makes me excited for what’s to come. There is foreboding both in the name and mythology of Babylon, and that is where they are going next and what we hear about their bad experiences there before.

9.4 / 10. Really great, just would have liked more moments to see what will come of the attack on Crowe’s church.