Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – Strong Villain With a Promise for the Next Phase

   “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was a really good film. It is easily the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film of 2019. Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal have great chemistry together as Spider-Man and Mysterio and there are some really great twists. This film also has two great after-credits scenes and some of the best action in any of the films in the MCU. If you are a fan of the MCU or this version of Spider-Man from “Homecoming,” I strongly recommend you check it out. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

The film was directed by Jon Watts and written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.

The story takes place after “Endgame” and involves Peter and his class taking a trip to Europe. While there Elementals attack and Nick Fury commissions Peter Parker as they work with Mysterio to take on the Elemental threat.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – This film has better action than  “Homecoming” though “Homecoming” has a better emotional core in regards to Parker’s friends. This is a movie that fully embraces the action and that is both a pro and  a con and for me the pro won out. We see giant monsters facing off against Spider-Man and Mysterio using Venice or Prague as the places where the battle is taking place. The action has consequences and you get why Peter chooses the choices he does. You see how Spider-Man is usually fighting losing battles and it is only through his mind and cleverness that he pulls a win out of potential losses.

S.H.I.E.L.D. – S.H.I.E.L.D. is screwed after the “Blip” (the 5 year gap between “Infinity War” and “Endgame”). Fury admits he doesn’t know the state of the world and that most of the heroes are gone, which lets Mysterio step and Spider-Man being forced to step-up. I love the how they are still a threat and undercover but also are secret agents acting with limited information, which ends up paying off later.

The Blip – “The Blip” is the five  year gap between “Infinity War” and “Endgame” and here it is recognized and played for laughs sorrows. It is played for laughs as in a band concert has people pop in on the same day and cause chaos and sorrow in that Aunt May and Spider-Man are raising money for the homeless blipped. The fact that half the population was gone for five years has consequences and Spider-Man knows that better than anyone.

Mysterio – Gyllenhaal carries so much of this film as Quentin Beck / Mysterio. He relates to Peter enough to give up his gift and we see him willing to risk it and all and even win when he loses. Mysterio was the engineer who invented the holograms that Tony Stark used for therapy in “Civil War.” Out of resentment of Tony naming his technology B.A.R.F. he finds others who were wronged by Tony in the past and together they create Mysterio. He is such a fun threat and you can see why he is angry and that he does want to be a hero, even though his way of going about it is villainous. He is easily one of the best Spider-Man live action film villains. His final revenge is brilliant, which is a pro I list later.

Spider-Man / Tom Holland – Tom Holland is amazing as Spider-Man. In this we see the core “With great power comes great responsibility” when Tony Stark gives him the A.I. E.D.I.T.H. The Network controls drones and satellites all over the world and is used through a pair of glasses. At one point Peter nearly gets his classmates killed and after he gives Mysterio E.D.I.T.H. When he finally realizes his mistakes and goes to face Mysterio he is nearly broken and it is only through working with Happy that he is able to finally defeat Mysterio. The lesser plot is his crush on MJ. They do end up together but it is one of the weaker parts of the film.

The End Credits Reveals – There are 2 end-credits scenes and both are great. The first involves a deep fake video from Mysterio’s organization that has Mysterio reveal to the world that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and that he was responsible for the drones and that Mysterio was trying to stop him. This was made even more powerful by J.K. Simmons being back as J. Jonah Jamison who in the MCU is an Alex Jones reporter type. It is such a great scene. Simmons owns this role and the MCU was smart to pull him into their version of the character.

The second film reveals that Nick Fury and Anita Hill were Talos and a Skrull the entire time. He calls Nick Fury and it is revealed that Fury is with the Skrulls in space. Both endings give so much possibilities for the next phase in the MCU. It also explains why S.H.I.E.L.D. had limited information. They were aliens who didn’t know the modern Earth after “The Blip.” The first after-credits scene is stronger but I loved them both.

 

Okay: MJ – Zendaya is a great actress but her character doesn’t do much in this beyond being a love interest. She finds out who Spider-Man is over the course of the school trip and her and Peter end up together. Overall her character is okay in this, which is a shame as she was great in “Homecoming.” They should not have put MJ in the “Love Interest” box. I wish that there had been potential for romance but Peter’s responsibility pulling him back from that, given Mysterio’s plans and what happens after.

Aunt May and Happy – This is an awkward romance that is also mostly played for laughs due to how it makes Peter feel. It wasn’t bad but it was screen-time that could have gone to developing MJ as a character, more about life after “the blip” or more Mysterio time. It wasn’t bad but it could have been cut.

The Cons:

The Teachers – The Teachers are played for jokes and really lame. I wish they weren’t so much at the front of the film. Their humor is awkward and they cause a clash of tones with how serious the main Mysterio plot is. The jokes at times are sitcom level bad and we aren’t given a reason to care about either. The rival had better development for me and he was still a con.

The Rival Brad – Peter has a rival in this film, his name is Brad and he is weak. He takes away from MJ’s development and feels tacked on. We at least get some recognition of “The Blip” where it sounds like he was Freshman before and now he is a Senior but it is only briefly touched upon. If they plan to make him a venom, that might work but only as finding his own self worth. Brad only exists as an outcropping of Peter’s insecurities which doesn’t develop MJ. The character was pretty forgettable and I would have traded his role for more screen-time for Peter’s friends or Mysterio and his organization.

This is a film that could have been great. You have a compelling villain, romance and Peter Parker growing but it having consequences. So why do I not see this film higher? This was easily the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film but that doesn’t give it a pass. This isn’t “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” or “Infinity War.” I really like this version of Peter Parker and what the MCU has done with him. He isn’t in personal stakes like Morales and his Uncle but the personal wishes versus responsibility are still key. Mysterio lets him give up responsibility and he pays the price for it at the end. That is is quintessential Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I really enjoyed this film and I think any Spider-Man fan will enjoy it immensely. This is a film that Holland and Gyllenhaal could have carried on their own.

Final Score: 8.9 / 10

“Game of Thrones” Season 6 – Of Payoffs, Drama and Passing the Books to Create a Nearly Perfect Story

Game of Thrones Season 6

     First off I should give a warning. This review is going to contain spoilers. These are books that I’ve been reading for a long time and this was the Season where so many of our questions about where George R. R. Martin is going where finally answered. For non-spoiler thoughts, this was easily the best season of television this year. I’d rate above “Better Call Saul,” which for me was pretty untouchable this year. The reasons behind this is due to this being a story with consequences. There is death and Houses change as new powers rise and others fall. This season was drama at it’s best.

     David Benioff and D. B. Weiss really created something spectacular and took us places we had never been before in the books.

      The story is all about dealing with the consequences of last season. Jon Snow is dead, the High Sparrow nearly controls King’s Landing, Dany is missing in action as the Slavers plot against Meereen, Arya is training and Sansa escapes with Theon from Bolton held Winterfell.

SPOILERS ahead

Hodor

The Pros: The World – The world is expansive this season and in it we get to see the consequences of all the relationships and build up among the survivors and the choices they’ll make to continue surviving or to build something greater. This season really explores what happens when major players in “The Game of Thrones” make decisions to change that world.

The Soundtrack – Ramin Djawadi is one of my favorite composers at this point. This season he gives us probably the greatest song to come out of this series.:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SpHMq8qbfM. Suffice to say his music is a major part of what makes this world so dark and rich.

The Battles – The action is the best this show has been show far with battles on par or surpassing the “Battle of the Wall” and “Battle of Blackwater.”

Siege of Riverrun – This is smaller battle but huge in that it showed that the Blackfish is as prideful as Ned and it nearly costs his family everything…and he can’t even hold Riverrun anymore after Jaime uses Edmure Tully to take control of the castle and have it surrender similar to how Ramsey used Theon to take Moat Cailin.

Battle of Slaver’s Bay – This is a pretty fast battle but it is amazing! Dany flies Drogon and destroys the fleet of the Masters before Grey Worm kills two of the Masters leaving one to spread the word that Dany is not someone to be messed with. The Son’s of the Harpy are also killed by the Khalasar that Dany now owns.

Jon and Sansa

Battle of the Bastards – Battle of the Bastards is amazing! We have Jon and some of the smaller Northern Lords and Wildings arrayed against the Boltons and the major houses in the North. Rickon is killed to spark of the battle and Jon pulls and Ned and almost gets himself killed since he doesn’t listen to Sansa that Ramsey will try to play him. The battle is nearly lost by Jon until Sansa’s letter to Littlefinger leads to the Vale rescuing them and Jon’s final showdown with Ramsey at Winterfell where he is finally defeated and the Stark banner rises again. Wun-Wun dies in the fight.

The Characters – The characters are what drives Martin’s stories and a lot of them have some great moments this season. The list is extensive but I wanted to give credence to as many of the people who had moments.

Brienne – Brienne is Jaime’s consience and helps him find a way to capture Riverrun with limited bloodshed. She is sworn to Sansa now and is doing a great job as she saves her from Bolton troops when Theon and Sansa first escape and is their envoy in the North when they recruiting Houses against the Boltons.

Tormund – This guy is awesome! He is able to convince the free folk to stand with Jon as he believes Jon will be the one who will be there at the end fighting them against the dead. Their friendship is amazing and he a lot of great moments this season and some funny moments where he is crushing on Brienne but clearly doesn’t know how to talk to her.

Roose Bolton – Roose’s role is short in this but what we see is that the Boltons would probably still own the North of Ramsey hadn’t killed him after he and Lady Frey had a son. His death is the end of House Bolton…Roose could have taken control of the North, he is a Tywin type personality.

Ramsey Bolton – Ramsey is pretty unhinged per usual, but manages to show enough diplomacy to keep the big Houses under him in the leadup to the Battle of the Bastards. He has been untouchable for so many seasons and the Battle of the Bastards is his first loss besides Sansa and Theon’s escape. He pays the consequences finally too as Sansa feeds him to his hounds.

The High Sparrow – Jonathan Banks really did a great job creating a charming villain. The High Sparrow is someone who embraces poverty but also takes advantage of people to rule through fear and the power he sees the Seven granting the Church. He wins through most of this season until Cersei’s final plan leads to his end. Banks truly made this role memorable, in the books he never stood out to me.

Littlefinger – Littlefinger saves the day and we see he is still the same creeper who sold Sansa to Ramsey in the first place. He is going to be hardest thing for the Stark’s to deal with as he is the reason Ned is dead as well as Rob and Cat. He can’t be trusted and I hope Sansa uses her influence to blackmail him for control for as long as need be before he is ended.

The Hound – The Hound is back! In this a Sept nurses him to health and he stays with the peaceful folks until the bandits exploiting the Brotherhood without Banners attack and kill them all. The Hounds gets revenge and later joins the Brotherhood. So great seeing him again.

Grey Worm – Grey Worm is a great soldier but has to deal with dealing his injury and diplomacy as Tyrion’s approach is much different from his. Seeing his relationship with Messandie is really sweet too and I can’t wait to see him Westeros.

Messandei – Messandie like Grey Worm is unfamiliar with the Game of Thrones and uncomfortable with it. Much of their arc is acclimating to Tyrion and negotiating between the free people the compromises Tyrion makes.

Yara – Yara is awesome! In this we see her nearly win the Kingsmoot after Euron kill’s Balon, until Balon arrives forcing her and Theon to run. When they run we see she cares for Theon but also doesn’t trust him because of Moat Cailin and the past. We also see she isn’t bad at diplomacy too as she flirts with Dany but is willing to work with Dany’s terms for capturing the Iron Islands and making her Lord even if means giving up the worst aspects of Reaver culture.

Hodor – Hodor is the hero in this. In a flashback we learn he was once a boy named Wylis who loses it all when Bran wargs into his mind when he has traveled back in time as he orders Wylis to “Hold the door!” against the dead and White Walkers leading Wylis to say the command over and over again until he becomes Hodor. It is a powerful scene and one of the more tragic moments in the series.

Melissandra – Melissandra is at least hundreds of years old so we know she knows some of what is going on in the wider world. In this she faces consequences for burning Shireen as Jon exiles her from the North after she brings him back to life.

Davos – Davos is Jon’s Hand at this point and still can’t quite see the bigger picture. He does help recruit houses to Jon though which helps the Stark’s take back the North.

Margery Tyrell – Margery is smart but sadly stupid people keep her from living. In this we see her negotiate for Loras’s release (even if he has to become a Faith Militant in the process) and manages to get her Grandmother out of King’s Landing which ends up saving her mother’s life. Natalie Dormer is wonderful in this role and I’m sad she’s dead from Cersei’s brilliant and horrible plan.

Lady Mormont – Lady Mormont is amazing! She is a 12 year old who is Lady of her House and sends Jon 62 troops to the “Battle of the Bastards” but also comes herself. She also unites the Houses behind Jon as the new King of the North. She is all around amazing and is phased by nothing.

Olenna Tyrell / The Queen of Thorns – Olenna is one of my favorite characters along with Margery (I’m very much a Tyrell). In this we see her attempt to save her grandchildren but is outmaneuvered by the High Sparrow forcing her to leave on Margery’s prompting back to Highgarden so that the Tyrell name will live on. Now she is last of the House and is plotting revenge against Cersei’s for destroying her family.

Cersei Queen

Cersei Lannister – This season is really Cersei’s rise as everyone underestimated the ends she’d go to when she is backed into a corner and still wants everything. In the end she gets everything. She is the one who gains it all (the Throne) and loses everything in the process. She is isolated, alone and ruler of all. What a great villain and Lena Headey really does a great job humanizing her.

Jaime Lannister – Jaime is kind of screwed at this point. He wins Riverrun and we see that he cares for Brienne but he is also willing to do everything for Cersei, though that may not be the case anymore with her going Mad Queen. Jaime is someone who has a conscience and tries to make the best choices for his own ends but also ways that will make it less bad for his enemies. He has awareness that Cersei does not and I can see that coming into play next season as Cersei did the thing that he killed the Mad King over when the Mad King was threatening to do it.

Arya Stark – Arya is a face changer but also not “no one.” Her arc this season is reclaiming her identity and beginning her rampage on Westeros against all the people on her list. At the end the season she feed’s Walder Frey his son’s and kills him.

Sansa Stark – Sansa has risen as one of the major players in the Game of Thrones as she saves the Starks from Jon’s stupidity and even manages to shut down Littlefinger’s advances. Sophie Turner brings so much to this role and it is great seeing Sansa as the one calling the shots in her own life finally.

Jon Snow – Jon is back and still has Ned’s stupidy. He is still a great character but he played easily by Ramsey during the battle as he rushes to save his brother in what is clearly a trap. He also doesn’t want to fight for a long time too as he is done with fighting after the Night’s Watch killing him. After he get’s over himself though he becomes a decent commander who the North is willing to unite behind, eventually crowning him King of the North.

Vaerys – Vaerys is all about the big picture but has his own rightful hangups too as when Tyrion seeks out a Red Priestess he critiques her religion and the followers even as it is shown there is something going on given she was able to figure out his backstory. He also unites Dorn and Highgarden against King’s Landing and as possible allies of Dany in her conquest of Westeros.

Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion is the wisdom in it all as his biggest challenge is integrating into a society that he is alien too as we see when he tries to make friends with Grey Worm and Messandei and isn’t all that successful at it. He is Dany’s hand by the end and we see that he is there to make her aware of the choices and consequences in the game of thrones and to avoid the pitfalls of her father.

Daenerys – This season is where Daenery’s once again rises as she destroys the Khals, the Sons of the Harpy and the Masters as well. In this she gets her army and her ships from Yara when she backs Yara’s claim to the Iron Islands under the condition that they will no longer pillage and rape. Dany is set to be a great leader as from Tyrion she is learning the cost of ruling and the cost of different choices…as the season ends with her sailing to Westeros to begin the conquest.

Daenery’s Destroys the Khals – This scene is amazing as Dany shows she is fireproof and burns the Khal’s alive during their trial of her, leaving her in charge of their people and giving her a giant army in order to take Meereen and Westeros.

Sansa’s Revenge – Sansa feed’s Ramsey to his dog’s after shutting down his mind games. Her look at him is powerful too during it all as you see how hardened she is and that she has become the ruler.

Arya’s Revenge – Arya feeds Walder Frey his son’s before killing him and avenging Robb and Cat. It is such a great moment and one of the best this season.

The White Walkers – The White Walkers were made to be weapons against the First Men is what we learn from the Children of the Forest, Bran even see’s a flashback of the Night’s Kind getting made. It is pretty amazing. We also see the Night’s King’s Power too as by touching Bran in the vision allowed him to enter the lair of the Children of the Forest and wipe out the Children and the Three-Eyed Crow.

The Tower of Joy – R+L does in fact = J! Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen! We get some great flashback sequences of Ned taking the Tower of Joy and his last moments with Lyanna who we saw in past flashbacks.

Hodor’s Sacrifice – This was one of the most powerful moments in the show. The death of Wylis and birth Hodor which was also the death of Hodor. I think he was a hero as he was protecting Bran throughout the series even before all it and was clearly one of the few good people on the show. R.I.P. Hodor.

Cersei’s Master Plan and the Mad Queen – The plan is beautiful. Qyburn and the little birds (homeless kids) kill Maester Pycell, Wildfire is ignited below the Great Sept leading to the death of the Tyrells, Kevin Lannister and all the Sparrows leaving Cersei victories. The cost though is Tommen who can’t handle being without his Queen and the depths of evil his mother would go to.

Overthrowing Patriarchal Power – Patriarchal power being overthrown is a major theme this season. From the Sand Snakes killing Doran and his heir, to Sansa’s killing of Ramsey, Cersei’s destroying of the Church and Dany’s killing of the Masters and the Khals. All of these stick with theme and show it done beautifully as the powerless become powerful.

Okay: Euron Greyjoy – Euron is just a Pirate King and he doesn’t look as interesting as he does in the books where they played that up. In this he is though and looks the role but is almost too generic. He also didn’t protect his boats so Yara and Theon were able to steal them. Hopefully he’s a better villain next season.

Theon Greyjoy – Theon is okay, he isn’t a dick anymore (in more ways than one) but he is nearly invisible. He has a great moment when he stands up for Yara at the Kingsmoot, but I’ve never really liked the character even if I don’t hate him now.

Dorne – The Sand Snakes took over and Doran Martell is dead now. This felt like a waste, I’m putting it as okay because the Queen of Thorns sets them right as they are in it for revenge against Cersei at the end and ready to ally with Daenerys when Vaerys proposes to them that she is their means of avenging their family.

The Cons: Fast Travel – This show does a lot of fast travel and isn’t very good at showing how much time has passed between traveling. This is something I think they could work on next season just so when characters meet and they are separated by great distance…that it means more.

This was one of the best season’s of storytelling I have ever watched. This is the season of drama and payoff and you can tell that they are ready to this show in 2 more seasons. This season really showed that they can. The characters that aren’t as strong still stand out. There are so many big character moments that I had to give them their own section just to really recognize how big those moments where. If you’ve been with these characters for this long and seen their drama in the books everything is even stronger. The choices have consequences and every choice has so much history behind it. This is the Game of Thrones and many will die before the end, but at least their deaths won’t be meaningless as we see heroism in characters like Hodor or the depths of evil that some characters will reach, like Cersei.

Final Score: 10 / 10 The good far outweighs what few flaws there are.

Daenerys and Tyrion

“Supernatural” Season 10 Retrospect – Terrible Writing, Pointless Deaths, Dropped Arcs and Codependency Continues

Supernatural_Season_10_Poster_HD

    First I have to admit that “Supernatural” has always been a schlocky show, most of what has elevated has been ideas in fan fiction or fan induced subtext to relationships. Beyond that it is really a show that has depended far too much on the charisma of Jensen Ackles (Dean), Misha Collins (Castiel) and Mark Sheppard (Crowley) to carry it, and it shows. So often this show retreads old ground and doesn’t go anywhere new or when it does go somewhere new it doesn’t give any leadup so it feels like an idea that was pulled out on the spot in a list minute writers meeting (Leviathans, Souls as Energy Power, The Mother of Monsters, Demons as ex-humans, etc.).

        Honestly the show should have ended at the end of Season 5, I watched the Apocalypse arc (the filler annoys me most of the time) and that brought what had started in Season 2 or 3 to a close really well. It was complete and there wasn’t anything else that had to be done. At that point the show had gotten so popular though, and this is the CW we are talking about…so they kept it going and now we are where we are now with a Season 11 on the way.

SPOILERS AHEAD

      The series has been through a few showrunners with Eric Kripke in charge up until Season 5 followed by Sera Gamble for Seasons 6 and 7 and ending with Jeremy Carver who has headed the show to current day.

       The story of this season has been that Dean was turned into a Demon since he received the Mark of Cain and was killed and the Mark brought him back to life. This season has been dealing with the consequences of this, as well as how the human blood has affected Crowley in his becoming more human (and the arrival of his mother Rowena) and Sam and Castiel (mostly Sam) going to any means to get rid of Mark of Cain as they watch as it continues to make Dean more unhinged and violent.

The Pros: Dean and Crowley – The Season kicks off with Dean and Crowley having a roadtrip hitting up all the dive bars and drinking and talking while Dean usually gets laid or gets in fights and sometimes Crowley is a part of them. It’s a lot of fun and we see after that there is a friendship and respect there that wasn’t before. Even at the end of the Season, Crowley will always come through to help Dean because of that time they shared together and what they risked prior in getting the Blade to get there.

Castiel and Claire – This relationship is great as Claire and Castiel come to respect and enjoy being with another. Claire even goes into the Hunter business and forgives Castiel for taking over her Father and being his Vessel. These episodes had some really wonderful moments versus the Hannah moments which were okay, but seemed to be trying to hard to force a romance.

Dean and Charlie – Dean and Charlie are bros and it’s wonderful when they nerd out, talk women and life. Charlie has also become a Hunter like Claire and I get why her death would set Dean off. She was the one holding him accountable and holding onto hope, it’s one reason I didn’t believe that she would have backed Sam’s stupid “Book of the Damned” plan. R.I.P. Charlie, like Kevin and Ruby before you…the writers didn’t know how to write you and wasted what you brought to the show.

Dean and Castiel – I am a Destiel shipper and would love a romantic arc with these due to the sexual and romantic tension that often happens between these two. Sadly I don’t see the writers doing that. This season saw more of that with Castiel calling Dean out on his recklessness and how Dean embracing the mark is going to leave Castiel to deal with it for an eternity and Dean wails on him contrasted with Dean helping him out with Claire and being a good guardian to her.

Dean and Death – In the finale Dean and Death talk and they are in agreement that Sam needs to die. Death tells Dean the Mark is holding back the Darkness and that Lucifer gave it to Cain and that’s what corrupted Lucifer and that it is needed to prevent the end. Dean was okay with it until his codependency kicked in and the problems of “Supernatural” came out in full force.

Okay: Metatron’s Potential – Metatron becomes human and is human right now since Castiel took his grace, he brings Castiel back to his grace and is on the run with the Demon Tablet. Metatron has always been fun, I just hope he isn’t wasted and them keeping him around goes somewhere. Right now he is just potential.

Crowley’s Potential – Crowley has put himself out there but still hasn’t fully gone “good” or as much as he can. I’d like to see this happen, even if this ends in death. Mark Sheppard owns this role and he needs better writing as his arc with Rowena was wasted as she is just a terribly written character, doesn’t matter if she’s his mother.

The Cons: Filler – Too many episodes of pointless filler that does nothing for character relationships or growth or even compelling monsters. It is one thing that’s been killing the show for me for years and I’ve rarely been impressed.

Lack of Focus for an Antagonist – Rowena was an antagonist for a while but never felt like a threat, she was only a threat in how she could get Crowley to act stupid. She gets magic at the end but by then her potential was wasted as she had no real motivation. Metatron was an antagonist for a while but forgotten about, Dean was the antagonist for a while too and arguably should have been the antagonist this season, but they un-Demoned him and from there it was just him wrestling with anger. What a waste. Cain also could have fulfilled this role but they turned his potentially Season rampage into an episode where he rampages against his line and gets killed. Again, waste.

Killing Off Characters Pointlessly – This season we saw Cain and Charlie killed off, and with no point in their deaths either. Charlie didn’t die a hero and Cain could have been the main antagonist as his arc with him killing those descendant from him was interesting and compelling. He drove the story far more than any person this season did as an antagonist. Charlie was killed by the Stynes (Descendants of Frankenstein and into dark magic and using body parts to become stronger) they were in it for no point than to push Dean further to the edge by Fridging Charlie, when he already was on the edge. Her death was pointless and Felicia Day deserved a better exit, just like Cain.

   This has been a problem in the show too, with the death of Kevin, Jo, Ruby and countless other characters who are in most cases far more interesting than Sam and Dean.

Sam and Dean’s Codependency Dance – Dean kills Death because once again his brother is more important than the safety of the Universe. They’ve done this so many times that I’m not even going to list them here. If you’ve watched the show you’ve seen every little and big (killing Death) moment of this. It’s tired and old and way overdone. Character means change and these two don’t in regards to one another and dealing with the Apocalypse. Season 5 worked because Dean let Sam go and moved on and had a family. All of that was wasted when he came back and we had soulless Sam. Enough with this, just get rid of Sam and end this dance.

Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner – These two writers are terrible. At one point there was an Angel Civil War going on, they didn’t flesh out any of the players and just did random acts of stuff. They also were the ones who fridged Kevin and Charlie…they are not good writers and taking them out of the show as writers would vastly improve the writing and character arcs.

The Ending – The Darkness is like Leviathans all over again. Leviathans were so dangerous and predated God that he created Purgatory to trap them, the Darkness was around in the beginning and the Mark was created on Lucifer to keep them from destroying the Universe. Purgatory is opened after Castiel devours all the souls of Purgatory and they destroy him to be in the world…the Darkness breaks out when Rowena, Castiel, Crowley and Sam’s plan comes true and destroys the Mark letting The Darkness into the world and it devours everything with horrible CGI…episode ends, and this after Sam and Dean’s codependency dance where Dean spares Sam because baby pictures (really?) and he kills Death.

  Early in the Finale episode Dean talked about how trouble follows them and they cause trouble and maybe them leaving will make things easier. I agree, everything they’ve done has just made problems worse and they don’t have the maturity to admit that because self-righteousness. Dean even goes back for whatever reason and we see the same story that has played out since Season 6 (and earlier ones) played out again. There is no growth, no change…I was only watching for the side characters of Castiel, Crowley and Charlie in the end just like Kevin was a major reason I’d watched when he was still around. The brothers can’t carry this show as their dynamic doesn’t change. I don’t have hope for Season 11, I might watch sometimes for Crowley and Castiel but this season was just terrible and I can’t recommend it. It is more lost potential than can be fully quantified since it has been 10 years.

Final Score: 3 / 10.

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 11 – “Dark Water” – The Missy Reveal

Doctor Who Dark Water

I’m just going to say it now, Michelle Gomez makes a great Missy, what I mean by that will be revealed in the assessment as it is nearly impossible to review this episode without giving spoilers as who Missy is, is the entire point of this episode really. The other relationships are side compared to her manipulations that she’s had set in motion since this series started.

This episode was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay.

SPOILERS

Clara calls Danny to confess all the things she’s lied about to confess her love for him, and he gets hit by a car. This kicks off the episode as Clara shows how far she is willing to go to get Danny back which leads the Doctor to use her and Danny’s psychic link to get them to the Nethersphere/Heaven. It is here they meet Missy and the story unfolds as they learn about 3Ws and their agenda in regards to the dead and some of what Missy has in store for her overall plan.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Clara and Danny – These two are secondary in the episode and really the lesser plot at this point so I will cover them first. These two have trust issues, especially Clara. There is one point in the Nethersphere where she is talking to Danny through a Skype-like contraption and we see how Danny doesn’t know her that well (he isn’t able to answer the question about Clara about something only he knows about her…this is partially because of Clara’s lack of sharing. Their relationship is a bit one sided at times), and her willingness to create a Paradox to bring Danny back to life even if means destroying the TARDIS and Doctor. It’s a very River Song “Wedding of River Song” thing to do. I thought it was great as it revealed their flaws and failure to see the big picture going on around them (A Cybermen is being revealed as they talk and Clara isn’t aware of it until it’s too late).

The Nethersphere – The idea behind the place was cool and when we see it in action (Danny talking to a child he killed during war) and the dead who are revealed when the Dark Water goes away that they are Cybermen…the dead chose to give up their trauma and embraced becoming Cybermen because living was too hard is what the episode implies. All their minds are in a Gallifreyan device called the Matrix Data Slice, which than downloads the memories of the modified dead into the Cybermen giving Missy an amazing army. This is the first time we’ve seen the Cybermen used as tools of a higher power, and I love it since it captures the tragedy which is made all the more tragic as the dead chose their fate.

The Doctor – The Doctor is much like Clara and Danny and when Clara shows she’s willing to betray and destroy the Doctor to bring Danny back he still helps her. He doesn’t trust her anymore but he clearly still loves her. This speaks depths in regards to the question of the Doctor being a good man. He clearly is and Capaldi owns his scenes. This comes to the head in the end when Missy makes out with him making him completely vulnerable as he doesn’t like being touched and becomes worse when Missy reveals her identity and the Doctor realizes he helped create this situation. What it means fully remains to be seen as he is powerless to warn the people as the Cybermen invade. We’ll know more of their relationship in the next episode.

Missy / Mistress / The Master – Michelle Gomez is wonderful and I love the implications of her kissing the Doctor. The Master has always felt affection for the Doctor and this confirms it. The kiss shows that their relationship did have an unspoken other dimension and it adds a lot to both their characters (the Doctor and the Master). We also see the just how brilliant the Master is for creating the Nethersphere and tricking the dead into becoming slaves by forcing them to face the pain they experienced in life. She’s brilliant and deadly and I hope she survives this series. Much of the after scenes make more sense now, like her hope the solar flare would destroy Earth…now all that’s left is why she chose Clara and what Clara’s connection is to the Mistress. The wonderfully deadly Time Lady. Also I love how this episode sets up the potential for a female Doctor further down the line.

The Cons: Nethersphere Human Minions – These guys are just there and don’t really do much but give exposition. When Missy kills one of them it doesn’t really establish anything except her cruelty, which we already knew from the implication of the Cybermen being the dead who chose slavery.

Slow in Parts – The episode does lag in parts, for example the Clara and Danny conversation is the same thing stated again and again. “Prove you’re Danny.” “I love you.” This cycle just goes on and on, a few of the scenes of this could have been cut out. Danny doesn’t know Clara and Clara doesn’t trust…just like the Doctor.

Can’t wait to see where this episode goes as the Master Arc from Series 3 is one of my all time favorite arcs in the New Doctor Who Series and the Missy Arc could end up being just as good if it’s handled right. It all depends on the next episode as I usually don’t count the Christmas Specials in the arc, just like Davies Specials they are more often than not their own thing that focus more on character stories…with sometimes some pretty great baddies. Moffat, please don’t mess up Missy. I thought she might be the Master, now is the time to fully explore what her relationship to the Doctor and Clara is and what she has in plan with her invasion and the Matrix Data Slice. “Death in Heaven” could still save things by being good, but a lot is at stake now as the Cliffhanger has raised my expectations for how Missy is handled as she and the Doctor are far more interesting than the Clara and Danny arc going on currently.

Side Note: I had hoped Missy might be Romana or the Rani but the Mistress being the Master is still very good if predictable reveal in my book and shows so much more potential for future exploration of what it means to be a Time Lord and the relationships between Time Lords. “The Doctor’s Wife” had left this open as an option (Time Lords changing Gender via mention of The Corsair) but it’s great to finally see it happen!

I’ll do a score of the arc together before I talk about the series as a whole at the end of the next episode (as well as giving “Death in Heaven” it’s own score as a single episode). But this episode was a favorite.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great and setting up some great potential for the Mistress.

Dexter: A Retrospect On a Missed Opportunity for Greatness

Dexter

Showtime’s “Dexter,” was one of the first dark shows I ever saw that wasn’t animated, and suffice to say initially and for a while it impressed me. As the seasons progressed though major problems that the writers had began to float to the surface…for one most of the folks of color were comedic relief and unable to do anything of value in relation to the leads (Dexter and his sister Debra), the fact that most character relationships were not fully realized and that Dexter was a Mary Sue/Gary Stu, a perfect character according the writers who never had to face accountability for his actions.

Before I get into the details and examples, I have no plan to re-watch “Dexter,” so this will be a reflection from memory. The premise always struck me as intriguing. The show is about a serial killer killing bad people and following a code while dealing with the themes of can he never not be a monster. Sadly, this was never fully explored or realized.

Unlike “Breaking Bad,” and other quality shows where I have an interest and plan to watch again regardless of requests…”Dexter” is only a show where I would review individual episodes and seasons with fresh eyes if enough requested it. I have no desire to watch a show that ended up only being “Okay,” when it could have been great. Hell, it isn’t even terrible enough to review as “HERE ARE ALL THINGS NOT TO DO.” It was missed potential on a much larger scale than “Godzilla 2014.”

WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD

How people of color were handled: The first time we see people of color on Dexter and their roles in relationship to him are either in comedic or antagonistic roles, and if their arcs don’t go anywhere they are killed off. The comedic roles are seen in the perverted Asian American character Vince Masuka who flirts and hits on everyone and in Angel Batista, who sometimes has more depth but more often than not is a sweet, funny, well intentioned idiot. Dexter nearly reveals his hand a few times to him, but he is by far the easiest character for Dexter to use.

The antagonist people of color are seen in LaGuerta who is presented as blindly ambitious and whose love for the other antagonist Doakes (who is killed by one of Dexter’s lovers) motivates her to try to bring down Dexter…which never goes anywhere, she is eventually placated by Thomas Matthews, a friend of Dexter’s father and Dexter who also happens to be like every other protagonist on the show. There are also a few serial killers as well such as Miguel, Santos and George King. None of them are fully explored except Miguel who has a connection to LaGuerta. In the end they all die or are neutralized by Dexter…he also doesn’t build any real friendships with them since none of them truly knows he is the “Bay Harbor Butcher.” Some like Doakes are literally just anger directed at Dexter but we never get to know what is behind his anger, so he just becomes the “Angry Black Man,” trope. These writers did not know how to write people of color.

Dropped plot and character arcs: So many character arcs were dropped and didn’t go anywhere. LaGuerta trying to bring down Dexter went nowhere…and her love for Doakes was never fully realized, Vogel the Criminal profiler becoming a mother to Dexter and others like him went nowhere and was simply dropped with them killing her off, Zach being his protege was useless and he got killed off and most of the love stories were that way too. The only one that went somewhere was Dexter and Debra’s relationship and Dexter and Debra and Dexter and Hannah…these relationships actually got mostly fleshed out…sadly the writers didn’t account for the world the characters were in or the fact that they created a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.

Mary Sue/Gary Stu – A Mary Sue or Gary Stu is a perfect male or female character who faces no consequences…everything they do is correct, regardless of what it does to other people. You usually find this trope in the emotionless protagonist in most Shonin animes or most American Action movies (think Emmerich or Michael Bay). It is weak storytelling and it shows that the writers don’t know how to write a real and interesting protagonist. The reason Dexter is a Gary Stu is because he faces no consequences. He is never held accountable, I kept waiting for the police force to find out and for there to be a trial or him having to face the fact that he’d gone against the system that provided him work and who he represented…but they never did. Oh yeah, his sister Debra dies, big woop. He just kills another person and fakes his own death. Yep, that is what happens. He leaves his son, partner and Miami Metro behind and it is seen as a good thing because he is, “A monster who only does harm.” He is still implied to be good though. The last shot we have of him is him up in the mountains, no doubt he is killing bad people there too. He never stops being the good guy. They could have had the trial in season 5 and still do the relationship arc they do with Debra with her coming to accept him. He admits he “Killed his wife,” at the end of Season 4 (the best season that had everything good about Dexter, interesting killer (Trinity) and deals with the consequences of Dexter’s life since Trinity kills his wife while Dexter realized what he did was what put her at risk and that the nature of who he was, was dangerous). He was the savior multiple times, mostly for his sister but that was also a consistent trope within his untouchability.

I really enjoyed the first four seasons of Dexter, even though season 2 had some problems and 3 was a weak season…4 was like the relationship between Dexter and his brother in Season 1 and dealt with what morality and dilemmas were in the show. After that the writers opted for safety and having a “Serial Killer of the Season” which was pretty much a “Monster of the Week,” on a larger scale. Easy outs were taken for making characters not see the shadow serving with them in Dexter and whenever they did, plot armor protected Dexter, the beloved Gary Stu. A trial ending in the death of Dexter could have made this show a masterpiece. It could have been a classic show like “Breaking Bad,” with Dexter a lesser Walter White…but that was not how it goes. The show chose to be safe with poor storytelling rather than a risk taking show with arcs and consequences. In a way, I guess that is the tragedy of Dexter Morgan…the tragedy of “Dexter,” the show that could have been great.

Because of these reasons I would give the show a 6 / 10.