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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Flash S2E8: Invasion! (Invasion! Part 2)


The Flash
Series 2, Episode 8
Invasion!
(Invasion! Part 2)



So, we're onto the first proper part of the crossover now, since despite it being billed as a four episode crossover event, it really is only three episodes (and a tiny scene at the end of another one). In my opinion, it would have been better to just go the whole hog and stretch it over all four episodes, but then, in my opinion it would have been better to use Flashpoint to merge the worlds of Supergirl and the other shows. What do I know.

Still, crossovers! Those are always fun. Well, apart from last year's big crossover, that was actually pretty terrible.

Anyway, in this week's episode of The Flash, with Iris urging the group to discourage Wally from using his powers, and Cisco still furious with Barry for Flashpoint, the STAR Labs team faces a crisis when an alien race called the Dominators land on Earth. Seeking to stop them, Barry gathers Ollie, Thea, Diggle, Felicity, Jax, Stein, Mick, Sara, Ray, and Kara to join him, Cisco, and Caitlin in taking them down. When the Dominators kidnap the president of the US, however, and the team fractures as a result of learning about Flashpoint, Barry and Ollie end up facing off against seven mind-controlled heroes.

Wait, so if Ollie is Batman and Kara is Superman, does that mean Barry is Wonder Woman?

Okay, so firstly, we're set up for the Dominators kidnapping the president of the US by their leader remarking that they must go after 'the leader of the humans,' but that makes negative amounts of sense. The president of the US isn't, no matter how you look at it, the leader of the humans, or anything else. He's not the political figure with the most influence over economics and politics, that's the president of Russia and the chancellor of Germany. He's not the head of government with the most people, that's the premier of China, or the head of government with the most countries and territories, that's the Prime Minister of the UK. He's not the head of state with the most people or the most countries, that's the Queen. He's not the political figure who commands the largest military, that's again the premier of China.

The president of the US is not a tremendously important person, so it's a bizarre little nugget of jingoism and American exceptionalism for him to be singled out as the leader of humanity, and for the episode to throw this in as if it doesn't even warrant being questioned.

Anyway.

One nice thing about this episode is that it actually does  somewhat continue the storylines from last week. We get a nice moment with Caitlin discussing her new ice powers with Stein, and him giving her some advice; Cisco continues to be furious at Barry; everyone else finds out about Flashpoint; and HR offers to train Wally as a speedster, paralleling how Thawne!Wells trained Barry.

The big three.

Everyone finding out about Flashpoint is especially interesting since, while it might not have an effect on Arrow, it will certainly have an effect on Legends of Tomorrow, since that show has been directly affected by Flashpoint, since it freed up Thawne to go speeding around the timeline. 

All of which raises the question of whether this pattern will continue in other episodes of the crossover: Will we get a continuation of Arrow's plotlines in the Arrow part? A continuation of the Legends of Tomorrow plotlines in the Legends part? Where exactly are Amaya and Nate, anyway, and will they be eventually joining this crossover?

As far as the actual episode goes, the element that makes it stand out is definitely Kara's inclusion. Since Kara is such a charismatic, bubbly character, and since Melissa Benoist is so good at playing off other people, every interaction that Kara has with someone else is a highlight, and she easily steals the spotlight away from the rest of the admittedly massive cast. The show even seems to acknowledge this by giving Kara a front and centre role in the story, having her be the member of the team with the most knowledge about the Dominators, and having her be the most immediate and dangerous threat when the team is mind-controlled.

Barry's no good terrible day.

In fact, it's actually difficult to think of much else that truly stands out about this episode. Felicity and Cisco are certainly fun, and we get some nice interactions between other characters (Barry and Ollie have some great interactions, and Caitlin and Stein's conversation was lovely), but none of that is really new or special to the crossover. The Dominators themselves barely factor into the episode, either, appearing in maybe three scenes in the whole thing.

So, that was the first/second/whatevs part of the crossover. Fun, but not exactly amazing -- but then, the whole thing does have another eighty-four minutes or so to redeem itself, and way more characters it needs to work in (since we already know Ollie's apprentices and Slade are going to show up), so we'll see how that pans out.

Actually, quick question, why did Barry not go and get the Hawks to help out as well? I realise that Mari McCabe's actress is busy currently, but surely getting the Hawks seems like a no-brainer. Also, going and nabbing Jesse and Harry from Earth-2. Why didn't Kara suggest grabbing Clark, Hank, Alex, Mon-El, and Winn? Like, if this is an all hands on deck situation, why are not all hands on deck? 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Supergirl S2E8: Medusa (Invasion! Part 1)


Supergirl
Series 2, Episode 8
Medusa.
(Invasion! Part 1)



You have no idea how glad I was when that breach appeared in the opening scene of this episode. I was actually deeply concerned that I'd gotten the schedule mixed up again, and that the big DCTV crossover wasn't this week, either, so the moment that breach showed up, I breathed a sigh of relief.

In truth, though, despite it being billed as the first part of the crossover, this episode barely ties into the crossover -- apart from the final scene, where Barry and Cisco arrive to pick up Kara, and a few quick moments where breaches appear only to immediately shut again, it basically doesn't factor into this episode at all, which is really there to cap off the Cadmus storyline.

(Well, to seemingly cap it off. There's always the possibility that Lillian Luthor will escape imprisonment, somehow, and Hank Henshaw is still at large by the end of the episode.)

Anyway, in this week's episode, after Cadmus infects a bar full of aliens with a virus that kills only aliens, the DEO goes into overdrive to try and fix the problem -- especially when it turns out that Mon-El is infected. As J'onn struggles with his slow transformation into a White Martian, Kara attempts to enlist Lena Luthor's help, believing her to truly know nothing about her mother's activities. Things go from bad to worse, however, when it's revealed that the Medusa virus is of Kryptonian design, created by Kara's father as a weapon of war.

Also, Barry appears.

So, we'll start with the elephant in the room: Kara's burgeoning romance with Mon-El. I'm not going to say they don't have any chemistry, because if this episode sold me on anything it's that they do have at least a little bit of a spark, but there's also at least three characters who have more chemistry with Kara, and who would be more believable in a relationship with her: Namely Jimmy, Lena, and Barry.

The result of the romance subplot is that it rather feels like Mon-El is in the show solely to be a love interest, which isn't exactly an interesting elevator pitch for a character, especially when he doesn't really have much else going for him, apart from occasional comic relief moments of him not understanding human culture.

The main plot of this episode, however, is actually pretty interesting. Admittedly, we've been on the 'Kara's parents aren't who she thought they were' train before, but 'Kara's father created a biological weapon' is a pretty new low for them, and it'll be interesting to see if learning that actually impacts Kara at all in coming episodes.

(Some of) The Danvers-Jonzz-El family.

Meanwhile, the episode manages to raise and keep tension by keeping the viewer in suspense as to whether Lena will remain on the good guys' side, or join her mother. We are, after all, invested in her and Kara's friendship now, so the idea of her going full villain makes for a pretty good stakes raiser, when used in moderation.

In this instance, it works in part because Lena's development up to this point has left things deliberately ambiguous. We know that she takes a stand against what she sees as injustices, but we also know that she's suspicious of aliens; we know that she's often critical of her family, but we also know she has fond memories of them and at least somewhat wants her mother's approval. The episode builds on that by having Lena be unhelpful towards Kara, but confrontational with her mother, and later by having Lena get upset over finding out that her mother runs Cadmus -- but also equally upset by the idea that Supergirl might one day turn on her, like Superman turned on Lex.

The result is that we're not well positioned to figure out exactly what Lena's driving motivations are, or exactly which side of the conflict she'll fall on, so we're kept guessing right up until the point where Lena reveals that her plan all along was to render the virus inert and have her mother arrested.

Kara and Mon.

Along the way, we get some pretty good action scenes as well, with Mon-El, Kara, and J'onn all facing off against Hank (as Cyborg Superman) at various points, and a surprisingly engaging battle between Kara and Kal-X, the Fortress of Solitude's guard robot. This certainly wasn't an episode lacking for action sequences.

We also got a few nice moments involving Alex coming out to her mother, and even an Alex/Maggie kiss -- which I don't think surprised anyone, given that we've been building to it for several episodes now. If anything, the biggest surprise is that it happened this early.

So, that's Medusa, leading in to a big blowout multi-episode crossover that we'll be spending this entire week covering. It doesn't look like we have a promo for the next episode, titled Supergirl Lives, yet, but it'll probably involve those mysterious alien women who are searching for Mon-El.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E9


Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 9
Vidar Rising.



Gosh, we're very nearly at the halfway point of this series. That's almost a surprise, especially given how few of the series' major plot turns we've had so far -- the Gundam Flauros still hasn't made a proper appearance in battle yet, and the Gundam Vidar only just makes its entrance in this episode, not to mention that we're only just getting into the Tekkadan trying to defeat Rustal Elion plotline. I don't want to say it's slow going, because actually the arcs we've had so far have been pretty fast-paced, but it's certainly only just starting to kick into high gear.

Well, I say 'only just starting to kick into high gear,' but this is actually not a very high gear episode at all.

In this week's episode, Teiwaz meets to discuss Orga's deal to take over Gjallarhorn's Mars outposts, and to make Tekkadan the sovereign of Mars. With Naze putting his career and his life on the line, and McGillis arranging meetings between Orga and numerous economic bloc representatives, pressure mounts on Tekkadan to succeed. Meanwhile, down on the surface of Mars, repair work gets underway on the Landman Rodis from the Earth branch, on Teiwaz's Shidens, and on the company's new Gundam, Flauros. Elsewhere, at the Dort colonies, Iok and Julietta head out to suppress an uprising, and are joined by Vidar, in the first test of the Gundam Vidar and its mysterious control system.

This is an incredibly talky episode, by and large. We have serious business talk with Teiwaz, setting us up not only for a potential conflict with McMurdo, but also for a much more immediate conflict with shady Teiwaz lieutenant Jasley Donomikols. Calling it now: Eventually Jasley is going to get into a slightly customised mass produced suit and then die approximately fifteen minutes later. It's the way of things.

Naze's no good bad day.

Either way, I don't think Naze is getting out of this series alive -- the show has not only set him up to die (and for it to be Orga's fault), it's also set up a conflict that can basically only be solved by Naze dying, namely the burgeoning romance between Akihiro and Lafter.

It would also tie in very much to something people were saying during the last series, that the Turbines are mentor characters and a support system for Tekkadan, and that the tone of the series and the themes of independence, self-sufficiency, and carving out a place for yourself in the world all but demand the Turbines die or are disbanded.

We also get a fair amount of stuff on Mars, but to be honest, most of it doesn't amount to much. We get some shots of the Flauros, sans paintjob, being prepared for Shino -- who at this point is pretty much a dead certainty as far as its pilot goes -- but apart from that, much of the surface plotline revolves around Chad finding out that Merribit and Nady are dating, and being appropriately surprised.

In truth, I'm kind of surprised as well, since the first series set up a Merribit/Orga romance -- it's not a bad surprise, since in all honesty I'm quite happy that the show is veering away from a romance between an adult woman and a teenage boy, but it's a surprise nonetheless, especially since I'm not sure that Merribit and Nady had even interacted prior to this episode. 

Go back to Berserk where you belong, Akihiro.

The big draw of the episode, meanwhile, is Vidar finally entering battle with the Gundam Vidar. Given the repeated references to Ein in this episode, and Vidar frequently talking to his Gundam and remarking on how happy he is to fight with it, it's looking increasingly likely that the Gundam Vidar's 'unique control system' is that it has Ein's armless, legless body as a control unit.

Which does make some sense, I guess? That was essentially Ein's deal at the end of the first series, and while Mika seemed to kill him, it's not like Ein hasn't survived fatal wounds before. It'd also make it entirely clear just how far Gali has fallen in becoming Vidar -- he's perpetuating a crime that once horrified him, rather than just letting Ein die.

This episode also made it very clear that the Gundam Vidar is a drastically overhauled version of the Kimaris -- we can see it has Kimaris' boosters and foot blades, and it seems to have the equipment for Kimaris' trooper form, as well, although that's not hugely relevant in space battles.

Ein? Is that you?

The battle also gives us an interesting moment where Iok is being comically inept in battle and insisting that he's brilliant and must just be fighting against very skilled opponents, which confused me, given that earlier episodes had people noting that he'd made impossible shots with his sniper rifle. Was that just supposed to be blind luck, then?

Next episode, it looks like we're getting another battle, as Iok leads his forces against the Tekkadan half-metal mine where they discovered that giant pterodactyl robot, apparently in the middle of a tour for McGillis and a few other dignitaries. Whether we'll see anyone more competent than Iok on Gjallarhorn's side is unclear, but it does look like this'll involve Shino debuting in the Flauros.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

What We're Watching/Playing 26/11/16


What We're Watching/Playing
26/11/16


With the end of another week, let's do another What We're Watching -- and this week, we've expanded it out to things we're playing, as well, since November is a very video game heavy month.


Digimon Adventure Tri Abridged.

I've plugged BlazingAzureCrow's abridged stuff before, but I think I'm justified in doing so -- they consistently have good writing, good voice-acting, and high production values, and their videos are a lot of fun to watch.

Well, maybe not the latest one, since it's the abridged form of Digimon Adventure Tri's third chapter, and the tragedy of it all is preserved, more or less. Still, it definitely has plenty of comedic moments.


Pokemon Sun and Moon.

Pokemon Sun and Moon came out a few days ago, and since then I've been slowly playing through when I have time and inclination.

I'm not especially far through right now, but I'm enjoying it so far. The trials and Totem Pokemon are interesting (although I think I prefer Gym Leaders), and I like that the badges you get serve an actual purpose in battle.

Also, Hau is adorable. As is Gladion. And Lillie.


Dishonored 2.

Dishonored 2 also came out recently, and I've been slowly making my way through that -- slowly, in this case, largely because I've been Let's Playing it, which limits the time I can actually play it in.

I'm enjoying it a lot, and much like the first game it has pretty high replay value, and is actually weirdly relaxing to play. The aesthetic has changed a lot too, progressing from steampunk-oid Victoriana to a more art deco 1920s feel that reminds me a lot of Bioshock.

At the moment, I've just rescued Sokolov from Kirin Jindosh, so I'm edging up on halfway through it. The Let's Play is over here, incidentally.

Digimon Universe App Monsters.

This week sees the proper introduction of Hackmon (not to be confused with Huckmon, who currently has a significant role in Tri), doing the standard 'showing up and wrecking all the protagonists' thing.

Apart from that, the Leviathan plotline is ticking along nicely, but is very clearly not going to last the entire series, unless something major happens to prolong it or breathe new life into it: It's only episode nine, and almost half of the 7Code Appmon have already been discovered, and once Rei is properly introduced, we're likely to see a sharp uptick in pacing, as the team clash against Leviathan's three remaining minions and collect more of the 7Codes.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Batman: The Telltale Series E4: Guardian of Gotham


Batman: The Telltale Series
Episode 4
Guardian of Gotham.



This episode actually seems to have a genuine, bona fide, impact-ful choice at the end of it, and that makes me suspicious -- not least because the last time I thought a Telltale Games game was giving me a big, important choice in its penultimate episode, they not only proceeded to demonstrate how wrong I was, but they also left that particular series with every plot thread either proved to be pointless or left on a cliffhanger.

I admit, I can't actually see how Telltale could pull a 'psych, this choice didn't matter after all' gambit with this episode's final choice, which will result in either Dent arrested, but Penguin still at large, and with Batman's tech inoperable; or with Penguin defeated, but Dent still at large, and Wayne Manor burnt to the ground. But I'm sure they'll find a way. They have form.

In the fourth episode of Telltale Games' ongoing Batman series, Bruce wakes up in Arkham Asylum after attacking Penguin, where he encounters John Doe, a mysterious green-haired inmate who nobody can remember ever being committed to the asylum, and who quickly reveals himself to know a great deal about Lady Arkham. After being freed by Alfred, Bruce finds himself with several new issues on his hand: Lady Arkham's violent murder of the Vale family, an attempt by Penguin to hack his tech, and a rampaging Mayor Dent whose obsession with destroying Bruce sees him targeting Wayne Manor.

Dramatique.

Weirdly, this episode seems to have less choices, with the usual five cut down to maybe three choices, at best, two of which are quickly revealed to not matter at all anyway. It's disappointing, and it certainly does nothing to help what is, in fact, a fairly underwhelming episode.

It also is quick to clarify that some of the choices you made in previous episodes aren't really relevant: If you told him to work at the Batcave, Lucius will make vague noises to the effect that maybe he could have stopped Penguin from hacking your equipment, if he was only at Wayne Enterprises, but if you leave him at Wayne Enterprises, he's no more successful at stopping Penguin, so the episode marches on to exactly the same conclusion either way.

The section in Arkham at the beginning is certainly fun, with John -- soon to be the Joker, one presumes -- livening things up considerably, with an interesting take on him that sees him as a genial, affable buddy to Bruce, who seems to get along with everyone and mostly appears harmless, apart from occasional flashes of violence and menace.

'John Doe.'

We don't spend all that long at Arkham, though, and before long, Bruce is freed, and we get the usual line-up of gameplay features: Quicktime events, some mostly meaningless choices, and precisely one (1) section where Bruce wanders around a room making connections between pieces of evidence, which was an interesting if not exactly groundbreaking gameplay feature when it first showed up and has now very much lost any shine it once had.

We do get a few interesting plot turns. Discovering that Vicki is actually Victoria Arkham, thus literally making her Lady Arkham, as well as learning about her vendetta against the Vales, was actually pretty interesting -- and Lady Arkham and the Children of Arkham remain far and away the most interesting part of this series, to the point where Dent and Penguin feel almost surplus to requirements.

Other plot threads find themselves very quickly dropped. Bruce starts off the episode suffering from aftereffects of the Arkham drug, but as soon as he gets back to Wayne Manor, we get him quickly formulating an antidote and then injecting himself with it -- while also conveniently noting that the antidote won't work on anybody else, since I suppose that would rather sap the dramatic tension out of it all. But it seems like it would have been more interesting to have Bruce continue to suffer from aftereffects until the start of the next episode, and then have 'we need to distribute the antidote' be a major plot point in the finale.

A knife.

I should do a quick rundown of the technical stuff, so: Graphics are fine, but still render the game unplayable of a sizable proportion of PCs, and Telltale Games not only has yet to patch that but seems to have no particular desire to patch that. There's a suspiciously high amount of lag in this episode that wasn't there in previous episodes, which is odd. Voice-acting remains fine, music is passable but not great, just as in previous episodes. If you've read any of my other three reviews of this series, then you basically know the drill so far.

So that's Guardian of Gotham. Not really a worthy penultimate episode, and a bit of a letdown after the fairly interesting end to episode three, but it's probably enjoyable enough. I mean, if you can actually play it.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Teen Wolf S6E2: Superposition


Teen Wolf
Series 6, Episode 2
Superposition.



After an episode focused heavily on Stiles, and introducing us to the men in silly hats who will be our villains this year, we pick up again for our first Stiles-free episode. I had kind of hoped we'd get some kind of scene with Stiles -- Dylan O'Brien's name is in the opening credits, after all -- but we didn't, and the episode felt rather lacking because of it.

In the days after Stiles' disappearance, nobody remembers him, but Scott, Malia, and Lydia all find themselves acutely aware of his absence. As they become more and more aware of the gap in their memories, Lydia starts suffering from banshee visions. Meanwhile, Mason and Cody end up seeing the Hunt, who are visible to Cody when he's invisible, and end up on the hunt for another missing student, and in so doing discover that those taken by the Hunt end up occupying a quantum superposition, where they both exist and do not exist until they are observed. Meanwhile, Parrish attempts to hunt down a killer who stuffed a body into the high school vents.

Let's start with the Parrish plot first, because it barely comes up in this episode but it's incredibly weird when it does, and not in a good, wholesome way. So, Mason and Cody go to see Parrish, who is weirdly flippant with them for no particular reason, and who says that he has a nice, normal case to be working on, to which Mason says that the killer bludgeoned a man to death and stuffed his body in the school vents.

The woods are a charming place.

This is very much presented as information the audience should already know -- there's no dramatic weight behind anything Mason says, despite the hefty subject matter, so it's like he's reaffirming a plot point from the first episode, except I have zero memory of this subplot even being mentioned in the first episode. It's as if it was a major part of the first episode and then got cut out, but nobody bothered to do any rewrites on the second episode to warrant it.

It's also bizarre that Parrish would be so flippant about a supernatural threat. Even before he knew he was a Hellhound -- who we've established are part of the Wild Hunt -- he wasn't this flippant, so the fact that he is now, especially when it comes to dealing with things closely related him, seems bafflingly out of character.

The rest of the Mason and Cody plotline is actually a highlight of the episode. The two make a very cute couple, and their storyline shows us more about the Wild Hunt than the arguable A-plot with Scott and company, and gives us a nice in-depth look at what goes into sleuthing after the identity of somebody they and everybody else have forgotten. We even get a moment of pitched dramatic tension when they're both invisible and watching the Wild Hunt, and we have no way of knowing if the Hunt can see them or not.

Not seen, a photo with a very obvious space for a missing person in it.

We get some nice moments with Liam, too, as he disapproves of Cody, feeling that Cody abandoned them when Mason needed help, and that as a former member of Theo's chimera pack, he's not necessarily trustworthy. The bonding moments between them are pretty brief, but work surprisingly well despite that, actually.

That plotline also gives us a nice moment with Coach Finstock and his weird yet startlingly open-minded insistence that Mason and Cody should spend their time picking up girls, boys, or whomever else, and not studying.

That leaves us with the Scott, Lydia, and Malia plotline to talk about, and there's actually not a lot to say about it, because it's heavy on style and low on actual plot. Most of the episode is taken up with Scott and Malia having an indefinable feeling that somebody's missing, with Scott getting things he knew about Stiles mixed up with things he know about other people, and Malia doing things like spooning with young men like she spooned with Stiles, and so on.

Green.

Only Lydia gets any meat to her plot, as she becomes haunted by an empty chair, and eventually by visions of a doctor (lower case 'd') sitting in the chair and emitting weird, screaming noises -- all culminating in a scene where she hallucinates her last moments with Stiles, but can't see him. 

When Malia and Scott start putting concrete evidence, such as Malia's old full-moon-hiding-place with chains that require another person to lock it, and Scott's fractured memories of the night he and Stiles went out to find a body, we get Lydia doing -- some automatic writing? Because that's the kind of nonsense that happens in Teen Wolf. It's not the most exciting turn, but it's fine.

Shippers also get cause to rejoice, I guess, as Lydia confirms that she loved Stiles.

Anyway, that's the second episode. The next episode will apparently have Scott telling the Sheriff about Stiles, or at least what he knows about him, and the Wild Hunt (I refuse to call them Ghost Riders) causing hijinks.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Flash S3E7: Killer Frost.


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 7
Killer Frost.



After several weeks of fairly mediocre episodes, this is probably easily the best episode we've had in the third series so far, balancing two major plotlines with surprising deftness, and managing to break out of the slightly tired meta-of-the-week structure. That's not necessarily surprising -- while episode seven is usually reserved for filler-ish episodes, the first series had its ninth episode as a massive watershed moment for the plot, revealing that Harrison Wells is the Reverse-Flash and giving us our first real Reverse-Flash vs Flash battles. Meanwhile, the sixth episode of the second series had Zoom's first real appearance, while ninth introduces Wally and reveals the new Wells' treachery. So this is about the time where we'd expect large scale plot beats for the series.

In this week's episode, after Caitlin uses her frost powers to save Barry from Savitar, a monstrous speedster who moves almost impossibly fast and whom Doctor Alchemy serves, she begins to experience more and more out of control power surges, and changes to her personality. After kidnapping Julian to try to find Doctor Alchemy, and wrecking Barry's relationship with Cisco, she ends up in the pipeline -- just in time for Joe to try to break Wally out of his cocoon early, leading to a problem that only Caitlin herself can solve.

Usually, every episode has about three plots running at a time, but this one actually sticks to just two -- and it manages them both pretty well, giving both a decent amount of attention and tying them together at the end in a way that feels like a satisfying resolution for both, while still setting us up to see both plotlines continue to develop in interesting ways over the course of the series.

OTP.

For much of the episode, the emphasis is on the team trying to track down and stop Caitlin, who is seeking out Doctor Alchemy to try to get rid of her powers, and for some reason decides to do this by kidnapping Julian to make him write a search algorithm for her. As plans go, finding Doctor Alchemy, a man with proven power-giving abilities, isn't a terrible one, especially as an acolyte later confirms that he can indeed take away powers.

It's also interesting to see Caitlin slowly turning evil. Danielle Panabaker has pretty good villain acting chops, so she's a joy to watch as Killer Frost, and my only real problem with that is that when she goes back to being normal Caitlin, it feels far too abrupt, leaving me (and probably a few people) wondering if she was ever evil in the first place, or if she was just putting it on to distance herself from the group.

It's nice to see Barry's flashpoint shenanigans coming back to haunt him as well, with him finally having to face the music for Dante dying and for Caitlin ending up with powers. As Iris points out, both those things might have happened even if he hadn't changed the timeline, but it's still nice to see that, actually, Caitlin and Cisco don't necessarily forgive him.

Stab him, Caitlin, do it.

The Wally plotline, meanwhile, has Wally in an ominous cocoon, only to eventually be cut out and end up in a speedster-y fugue state where his mind can't keep up with his body. It's largely a catalyst to get Caitlin back in the team, but it's still nice to get progress on Wally's plotline, and gives us a view into how Alchemy's powers work -- well, how his evil crystal works, at least.

The end of the episode has Wally as a fully-fledged speedster, who's apparently even faster than Barry was when he first got his powers, and eager to go out superheroing, despite nobody else wanting him to.

I like the white eyes, those are nice.

The end of the episode also reveals that Julian is actually Doctor Alchemy, albeit not willingly, and that made me groan more than a little. People had been predicting that he'd be Doctor Alchemy since the literal second he showed up, so that is an enormously predictable plot turn. One has to wonder if The Flash is even able to do 'this character was a villain' twists that aren't incredibly obvious. It also kind of diminishes an interesting character, because now all of Julian's moral complexity is boiled down to 'and also he puts on a Jim Sterling mask and is evil.'

Still, this was a really good episode by and large, and next week (not this week, as I initially thought) we're getting the Heroes vs Aliens crossover. I think. Probably. We'll see, I might be wrong about that again.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Supergirl S2E7: The Darkest Place


Supergirl
Series 2, Episode 7
The Darkest Place.



So, I think last week I said a few times that this week was going to be the Heroes vs Aliens crossover. Well, surprise! I was wrong, it's next week. I actually spent this entire episode waiting for the scene that would set up the crossover, only to be very confused when it never came. But no, that's because it's next week, starting with Medusa. Given that the episode after is called Supergirl Lives, we can probably assume that people are going to take Supergirl's crossover-induced absence as meaning she's dead.

Instead, this was a plot heavy episode with about equal focus on Kara and Cadmus, and J'onn and the effects of his White Martian blood infusion. We also get a plot about Jimmy, but honestly, was anybody paying attention to that?

In this week's episode, a masked vigilante with a penchant for gunning people down ruins the Guardian's good name when he implicates him in several murders. As Winn panics, and Maggie sets out to find and bring the Guardian in, Jimmy sets out to take down the vigilante and clear his name. Meanwhile, after Mon-El is locked up in a Cadmus base, Lillian Luthor uses him to convince Kara to deplete her powers, allowing Cadmus to take her blood. In the process, Kara encounters the real Hank Henshaw, now calling himself Cyborg Superman, and once again encounters Jeremiah Danvers, her adoptive father. Meanwhile, J'onn begins suffering from hallucinations, and eventually figures out that M'Gann  is a White Martian -- only to then discover that he's transforming into a White Martian himself.

I presume there's some kind of kryptonite lighting at play here.

The Jimmy plotline is easily the least interesting of the three, and in all honesty, I'm actually not sure what purpose this whole Guardian storyline even serves. It's not especially interesting, and the only worthwhile thing it really gave us this episode was Kara talking about how her cousin worked with 'a vigilante with lots of gadgets and demons' once.

Part of the problem is that not only is it a boring plotline, it's a boring plotline that we also saw last week on Arrow -- in fact, the two vigilantes even have visibly similar costumes, it's that bad. There isn't really any difference between Arrow's gun-toting vigilante plot and Supergirl's gun-toting vigilante plot, so one of them could have easily been cut out. Hell, both of them could have been cut out, neither of them are that compelling.

Instead, the episode's real main plot is Kara being imprisoned at Cadmus, including her first confrontation with Lillian Luthor. I didn't expect the two to meet face to face so quickly, but the meeting certainly gave us some hints as to Lillian's motivation, as she talks about how Superman initially extended a hand of friendship to Lex, before their relationship soured, and how she fears the same will happen with Lena and Kara.

Lillian's really tall.

One nice touch is that we got to hear a little bit about Mon-El's self-loathing issues, and his belief that he should have died on Daxom. Never let it be said that tossing two characters into a cell isn't good for character development moments.

We also got Jeremiah, played by Dean Cain, showing up to help Kara and Mon-El out of the facility. Given that he doesn't seem to be imprisoned, and is noticeably cagey about the idea of leaving, it seems increasingly likely that Lillian was being completely truthful about Jeremiah working for them, rather than necessarily being their prisoner.

Meanwhile, it looks like Hank Henshaw will be a major villain for this series, thus giving David Harewood more chances to flex his villainn acting muscles. 

The Cadmus plotline leads into Mon-El expressing romantic interest in Kara, and I would like to be the first to both loudly express disappointment and to wonder where on Earth that even came from. Neither Kara nor Mon-El have shown anything even resembling romantic interest in each other, so for Mon to suddenly go 'Oh, is Kara mated with someone?' and to act like he's either interested or out and out in love with her is bizarre.

It would literally make more sense for Winn to reveal he's in love with Jimmy.

The episode's third big subplot is J'onn learning that M'Gann is a White Martian, and also that he's turning into one. The problem with this subplot is that, since we've only seen White Martians once, we can't really relate to J'onn's deep held hatred and fear of them. We can understand it, because we know what they did to him and his family, but that's not the same as relating to it. It might almost have been better if we'd had White Martians as the main villains for a series before this plot reared its head.

All in all, I'd say this is easily the best episode we've had since the first two, and that's always nice to say. The next episode will presumably tell us more about what this mysterious 'Medusa Project' is, and also set up the Heroes vs Aliens crossover. For real, this time around. Hopefully. Maybe.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E8.


Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 8
Sovereign of Mars.




I kind of thought this episode would be the start of a new arc, but if anything, it seems to act more like a bridging episode, simultaneously wrapping up any loose ends from the Arbrau-SAU War plot, while also setting up the plot for the rest of  this series. That doesn't mean we don't get any good scenes, though, because we do get a fair few.

In the aftermath of the war on Earth, Orga arrives on the planet to oversee Tekkadan's withdrawal from Earth. After a meeting with the rest of the Seven Stars, and a conversation with Rustal Elion, McGillis approaches Orga with an offer he can't refuse. As Orga discusses the offer with the rest of Tekkadan, though, it leads to Takaki announcing that he'll be leaving Tekkadan, and staying on Earth. Meanwhile, Makanai offers to mentor Kudelia, if she agrees to stay on Earth.

We get a really nice humanising moment for Rustal in this episode, as a flashback shows him encountering McGillis, recently adopted by the Fareed family, and upon seeing bruises on his neck, being actually pretty gentle and kind with him -- at least up until the point that McGillis mentions the name 'Bael,' which we've not heard before in-series but is apparently sufficient to really spook Rustal.

Extreme nose.

Given that bruises on a child in fiction usually only mean one thing, and especially since Rustal remarks to adult McGillis that he'd initially thought that the reason he deposed and exiles Iznario Fareed was to get payback, it seems pretty obvious that McGillis was abused as a child. Interestingly, though, the flashbacks also clarify that McGillis isn't Iznario's illegitimate son, just an adopted son, and Rustal raises the question of why Iznario would adopt a kid, especially a kid he clearly doesn't want, and especially one that seems to be poor.

I mean, possibly he or his wife are just infertile, but Rustal's reaction certainly makes it seem like there's more to it.

It also squarely places McGillis as one of the 'iron-blooded orphans' that the title is referring to, and possibly even hints at him having been Human Debris before Iznario adopted him. I expect we'll find out more about that in the next few episodes.

The other big mystery the episode poses is that of Vidar. He makes reference to Ein in this episode, but he also rather cryptically remarks that Ein is now very close to him -- all of which makes me wonder if Ein's personality isn't incorporated into him, or if Ein's body parts were used to patch him up, or even if the Gundam Vidar has Ein's mind as a kind of artificial intelligence.

It's possible. I guess.

The only problem is, I think, that Iron-Blooded Orphans isn't really that strain of science fiction, and if any of those options weren't handled exactly right, they'd feel like weird, jarring, shark-jumping moments. So it's probably more likely that Vidar is just being figurative.

We do get to find out what Julietta's connection to Galan Mossa is, though: He recommended her to Rustal, thus allowing her to ascend to the station she's currently at, and ensuring her life had purpose. Again, we don't know exactly what Julietta was doing prior to this, but given the comparisons with Mars, it's likely that she was part of a disenfranchised group.

Meanwhile, with Tekkadan, we get McGillis telling Orga that by seizing Gjallarhorn colonies on Mars, Tekkadan could functionally become the rulers of Mars. For Orga, it's literally an offer he can't refuse, since his creed is that he'll take the shortest route to Tekkadan having status and safety, but others in the group are understandably vexed by the idea. Merribit raises the very good point that doing that would doubtless draw Teiwaz's ire, as it would make Tekkadan potentially as or more influential than them.

Orga, you look ridiculous.

It's interesting, because we don't really know what McGillis is planning here. Does he truly want Tekkadan to succeed? Is he setting Tekkadan up to fail so that he can swoop in and take over a weakened Gjallarhorn? Is he just pitting them against Rustal on the basis that he can take on whoever's left afterwards? It could be any of the three.

(Obviously, McGillis does seem to like Tekkadan, as he compares them frequently to Agnika Kaieru, the founder of Gjallarhorn, and seemingly something of a personal hero to him.)

We also get Takaki leaving. There's not much to say about it, except it nicely caps off his storyline, hammering in that he's still gentle and sweet and not really suited for being a mercenary.

So that's episode seven. Certainly not our most dramatic episode, but it sets us up pretty well for the plot going forward. Next episode looks like it has a lot of people dramatically talking, and also our first look at the Gundam Vidar in battle. It looks like it has a rapier/epee type dealio and a gun. Odd weapon combination, I won't lie.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

What We're Watching 19/11/16


What We're Watching
19/11/16


Another week, another grab-bag of four shows we've been watching.

Class.

So, it's taken me five weeks to get around to watching this show, and it's -- kind of okay? It's not brilliant, and it doesn't feel especially Doctor Who ish (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but it's entertaining enough. Its biggest problem is that despite being nominally aimed at young adults, it feels intrinsically pitched to appeal to baby boomers.

Often it's little things, like a character who consistently goes on rants about technology and smartphones and Instagram, and is always portrayed as right for doing so. Sometimes it's bigger things, like an entire plotline about how parents who commit monstrous acts against their children still deserve respect.

Anyway, the show is ticking along with a plotline about an alien prince, a superweapon, the mysterious School Governors, and the Shadowkin, who surprisingly aren't otherkin who believe they're shadows. The whole thing has a markedly more fantasy feel than Doctor Who, with enemies so far including shadow people, vines that grow dead people feelers, and a dragon.


Legends of Tomorrow.

Legends of Tomorrow had another Wild West episode this week, because I guess they have that Old West version of the theme song already geared up and ready to use, so they may as well. It wasn't all that interesting, apart from giving us some cool moments with Sara being all captain-y. I  know Rip is going to eventually return, but I hope he and Sara just become co-captains when he does.

We also got another brief hint of what's going on with the whole Barry Allen thing, as apparently it involves an evil speedster.

Next week, it looks like the plot's taking a bit of a hiatus as we have the Heroes vs Aliens four night crossover, which I'll be covering in its entirety.


Teen Wolf.

Teen Wolf has started again, with its sixth and final series. I'm doing it as an ongoing, since I did series four and series five as well, and to be honest, the series isn't exactly off to a stellar start.

There's still a lot of room for it to turn out well, with a storyline about memory loss and the Wild Hunt having some genuine potential, but the first episode was rather uninspiring.


Arrow.

After the weird reveal last week that being drunk apparently makes Quentin into a ninja, a revelation that threatened to shove the show back into jumping the shark territory, the show rallies this week by having every character go 'Well, obviously Quentin doesn't become an expert martial artist and a master of weapons when drunk, someone is trying to psych him out and set him up.'

The main plot of the episode, however, focuses on the introduction of the imaginatively named Vigilante, a masked killer whose nature closely resembles Ollie's from the first series, thus tying in with Prometheus' schtick of being obsessed with Ollie. This series' theme seems to be Ollie's early show antics coming back to haunt him, which is a pretty interesting tack to take.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Mamoru Hosoda Series Masterpost.


Mamoru Hosoda Series
Masterpost.


So, a while ago, I did seven reviews covering Mamoru Hosoda's body of work -- or a sample of it, at least -- and now, several months later, here they are all gathered together to be enjoyed at once.























Thursday, 17 November 2016

Teen Wolf S6E1: Memory Lost


Teen Wolf
Series 6, Episode 1
Memory Lost.



Once again, I've been caught by surprise and left with four weekly ongoings -- this has happened before, and I think the last time it happened, it also involved Teen Wolf, actually. Either way, with this being the last ever series of Teen Wolf, I didn't want to forego it, especially as I've been doing it as an ongoing since series four. So here we are! Ready to tackle another twenty episodes of that one show about the wolf people.

I've been watching Teen Wolf since a few weeks after it first started airing, and it's definitely had some high points (the Nogitsune arc, and even, in a lot of respects, the Darach arc) and some very low points (the bounty hunters arc). It's lost several of the characters that really make the show what it is, like Derek and Allison, and for the most part, while it's also had some great cast additions, like Kira and Malia, it's always felt a little less every time it's lost a cast member. It's seen its main characters progress from looking like teenagers to looking like grizzled forty-somethings but still inexplicably being in high school.

Still, I have show loyalty, so here we are.

In the series opener for series six, as the gang prepares for Scott, Stiles, Lydia, and Malia soon moving away to go to university, they end up taking on the case of a boy whose family have all gone missing. As they search, however, they realise that it's not just that they've gone missing -- all traces of their existence have vanished. As they realise that the Wild Hunt are to blame, Stiles encounters a member of the Hunt, and soon finds that everyone he knows is forgetting about him.

Which is hopefully not Jeff Davis predicting O'Brien's career path after this series.

Honestly, blame it on the fact that I had zero hype, as I wasn't expecting this series to start until -- well, next year, really -- but this episode didn't make much of an impression on me. I mean, it was fun enough, and it had some great moments, and some really emotional moments, but I left it neither hugely excited for the remaining nineteen episodes or dreading them.

But here's one big thing: Has Kira been out and out written out of the show now? I was given to understand when she went with the Skinwalkers that it was meant to be a temporary thing, and that she'd return sooner rather than later, but nobody even mentions her in this episode, and worse, she's not in the opening credits sequence, which also seems to have basically no room for her to show up in. Kira is one of the few successful additions to the main cast the show has had, and a really interesting character whose absence will, I think, be felt pretty keenly if she doesn't appear at all, so you can understand that I may be more than a little vexed here.

Of course, in an ideal world, I'd like to see not just Kira return, but Derek and Jackson, too, but I understand that those last two are maybe more pipe dreams, especially since Tyler Hoechlin has a sweet Superman gig now and Colton Haynes is, er -- not actually doing anything, apparently, according to IMDB. Okay, good.

School is fun! Apparently.

This is only compounded by the fact that this episode also sees Stiles abducted, with everyone forgetting him, and he's probably going to be absent for a significant chunk of the series. In his case, though, there's a degree of necessity: At the time of shooting, Dylan O'Brien was still recovering from his injuries, and moreover, the boy has a pretty active film career now that does necessarily preclude him spending too much time on Teen Wolf, and may well have been a contributing factor to the decision to end the show.

If it seems like I'm talking more about cast changes than the episode itself, that's because there's not a lot to say about the episode. It chugs along quite happily, being entertaining but not compelling, doing its best to hype people up for a villain who lacks anything to make them interesting, having neither the personal stakes of the Nogitsune, the mystery of the Alpha or the Darach, or the aesthetics of the Dread Doctors.

Oh no, men with hats, my worst nightmare.

The episode does hit something like greatness during its final section, when we follow Stiles as he slowly comes to realise that people have forgotten about him, and moreover, begins to realise that all the strange incidents he's been having all day have been because people have been forgetting about him one by one. It's a beautifully shot and written scene, and O'Brien's acting really sells it, making it easily the high point of the episode.

But still, that's Memory Lost: Fun but unremarkable, save in how it's lacking one of the most interesting characters on the show. Maybe she'll turn up eventually. Maybe not.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Flash S3E6: Shade.


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 6
Shade.



Oh, hey. HR is still here. Probably going to stick around, too. That's -- great. That's so great. I'm so happy. So very, very happy. He's exactly as annoying and badly comedic this week as he was last week, too, and it is grating. It's grating, and to be honest, it's a little insulting, since he's theoretically meant to be the third in a series of characters, the first two of whom were both very interesting and layered.

Kudos to Cisco for throwing out the 'what is he going to do, make sarcastic comments at us' remark about Shade, though.

In this week's episode, Barry and the team encounter a metahuman -- and another of Doctor Alchemy's patients -- who can vibrate at a high enough frequency to become a giant, living shadow. As the team attempt to track him, they are faced with an even bigger problem: Wally has been having dreams, sent to him by Doctor Alchemy, of his Flashpoint life as Kid Flash. As Alchemy's grip on Wally increases, Wally is wracked with pain and an intense desire to seek the doctor out. Meanwhile, Caitlin reveals her burgeoning powers to Cisco, and asks him to Vibe her future and see if she'll become Killer Frost.

I had no idea Jim Sterling was a Flash villain.

Okay, so the Shade plot isn't brilliant. It's not terrible, either, but it's not brilliant -- in fact, it largely seems to be there to give HR something to do, as he pushes the plot forward by being familiar with the metahuman powers in question and positing ideas for how to beat them. The idea of a big shadow monster is -- well, hardly new for The Flash, or for any show, but it's an idea that still has a decent amount of life in it. I was sure that the Shade was going to turn out to be Savitar, not least because I'd already heard he was going to show up in this episode, but no, it's just a random shadow dude.

This is largely where the problem with the latest monster of the week plots is coming from -- they don't have a tremendous amount of personality, and they all play out in a fairly similar way, making them all feel a bit phoned in.

The Shade plot is, however, not really the main plot of this episode, nor is it the B-plot. It's a clear C-plot, with the B-plot role being filled by Caitlin's frost-related woes. It's actually pretty nice to see Cisco and Caitlin being (relatively) honest with her -- the show makes a few vague overtures at them lying to each other, with Caitlin stealing the cuffs, and later on Cisco not telling her what he saw when he vibed her, but in both cases they come clean pretty quickly, and the episode is better for it, allowing the conflict of the storyline to be 'how are they going to deal with Caitlin's problem,' instead of 'everyone's lying to each other.'

Wally, your shoulders look so narrow here. This is unusual.

The main plot, meanwhile, revolves around Wally and Doctor Alchemy. We've known this was coming for a while, and it's been hinted before with Wally making remarks about vivid dreams he's been having, but things come to a head in this episode, as Alchemy starts drawing him in, inflicting visions and seizures on him as a motivation to come and seek his power.

This is actually a really well handled plot. It makes great use of how Alchemy is in many ways an unknown quantity with unknown goals, and Wally wanting to go to him connects in well to both the idea that Alchemy messes with people's heads, and the idea that Wally really does want to become a superhero, which is an arc that's been set up for him since not long after his introduction.

We also got a nice moment where Iris reminds Barry that he can't know how hard it is for Wally, because he, a superhero with powers, is most definitely not in the same situation. Iris doesn't get a big role in this episode, but I'm literally always here for her setting Barry straight.

How is that woman not breaking HR's jaw.

We also get to meet Savitar, albeit briefly. A speedster like Barry, who seems to be made of living metal, he is a living testament to the fact that the writing team is running out of evil speedsters to throw at Barry, because really, Savitar? I think he's actually more obscure than the Rival, and the Rival is pretty obscure.

Next week looks to be a very Caitlin-focused episode, as her powers lead her into becoming evil, albeit probably temporarily. It also seems like we'll get a decent amount of Julian stuff in that episode, and just -- please, have Julian replace HR. We don't need HR, he's just very, very annoying. I beg of you. Presumably we'll also find out more about the cocoon Wally is in, as well. The weird, glowy, speed cocoon.