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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
This week, Nick and guest host Cousin Charles discuss the latest season of the fastest man alive, The Flash! What do they have to say about this Flashpoint-inspired season and about its big mystery villain, Savitar? Come check it out!
To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!
The first and second seasons of the CW superhero show Arrow were wildly entertaining with the second improving on the first. Going into a third season, anticipation was high, but hopes were dashed as this last year was a real let down and a bit of a narrative mess.
There were a lot of good, little things sprinkled throughout Arrow’s third year, Brandon Routh being a prime example. His addition to the cast really livened up what could really have been a dreary show (seriously, why does this guy not get more work – he’s great in almost everything he is in!). There were some nice character moments for most of the main cast with Laurel, Roy, and Thea coming into their own. And the show continued its push of not holding anything back or trying to stick to the status quo. I liked it for that.
However, the real problem with the season was the overall story arc. I can’t tell if it was too ambitious or if the showrunners just didn’t know what to do with the season and winged it as they went along. Let’s recap: Malcom uses an unknowing Thea to kill Sara (a death that I didn’t mind in the least as, I think, I am the only one who disliked Sara in season 2). Since Sara was a member of the League of Assassins, their mysterious leader, Ra’s al Ghul, descends upon Starling City to avenge her death, but Oliver challenges this so Thea won’t be killed in retaliation. After a duel, Ra’s is impressed with Oliver and wants him to become the next Ra’s (it’s a title, you see). Oliver rejects this, so Ra’s destroys Oliver’s reputation as Arrow and exposes him, prompting a switch-a-roo to clear Oliver. But Oliver decides to pretend join the League only to discover that Ra’s plans to launch a biological weapon against Starling City. Oliver and his crew stop him.
Just typing that made my head hurt. Of course there were a lot of subplots weaving in and out, but the main arc was all over the place. By the time we get to the “real plot” of the season, we were about 2/3 through it. And when we got to the bioweapon element in the last handful of episodes, it really felt like the showrunners didn’t know how to end the season, so they dipped into the “destroy Starling City” well again.
Now, I don’t think I would have had a problem with the year’s story arc if it didn’t involve characters acting completely out of character or turn into complete idiots in order to facilitate it. Even more irritatingly, there were times when the characters would become total hypocrites. Namely, Diggle, Roy, and Felicity fake Roy’s death, but keep it from Oliver so they can “sell it” to the public at large. The following few episodes, Oliver joins the League of Assassins as a ruse, but keeps it from Diggle and the rest so he can “sell it” to Ra’s. When learning the truth, his team (especially Diggle) is unforgivingly upset with him. I wanted to yell at the screen, “You did the same thing!”
And then there is the romance between Felicity and Oliver. The online fandom loves this while I think it’s obnoxious. I have no problems with characters finding romance, but outside of working together and both being attractive, there is no reason why these two should have developed feelings for one another. I can maybe buy Felicity falling for Oliver given his selfless actions over the course of the series, but Oliver has never shown any interest in her whatsoever other than he values her as a member of Team Arrow. It also doesn’t help that the actors don’t really have romantic chemistry. I know the show is going forward with it, so I’ll just have to deal. To me, though, it didn’t work.
I still liked Arrow’s third season. I just wasn’t as into it as I was the previous years. The story was a bit of a mess and frustrating at times. There was some good stuff there just around the corner, but they just couldn’t tap into it. The new season, which started yesterday, promises a new beginning. Here is hoping the showrunners have learned lessons from season three and return the show to greatness.
Tonight was the premiere of The Flash’s second season, and the CW was really promoting it like no other. And I cannot blame them. The Flash was a runaway hit for the CW with critics and audiences last year. No wonder they are giving it all the pomp and circumstance they can muster.
But why was this show so popular? Obviously, I watched it (I’m a fan of the Flash), and the leading reason why The Flash has caught on is that it is a lot of fun. It is a show with relatable characters that you actually like. It has the hook of a superhero (which, like it or not, are really popular nowadays), but it adds in healthy doses of humor, romance, adventure, and heart. The show is light and breezy making it good for families, but with just enough edge. It makes for a pleasurable viewing experience.
And, on a personal note, last season had an underlying them of father/son relationships. Seriously! Barry had three father figures on the show, and each brought something different to the table. While I have always appreciated of a father/son dynamic in storytelling, having lost my father just before the show premiered last October, this element of The Flash spoke to me.
Because all of the above worked within the show, The Flash was really able to embrace its comic book origins. The Flash and the extended elements of that character’s world are incredibly goofy, but the show managed to incorporate it onto the show. The writers and producers didn’t shy away from it at all. They were even able to pull off a giant, telepathic gorilla. While I find that other comic book based shows and movies tend to downplay the more fantastic elements so it can better connect to viewers easily, The Flash says “Pfft….more gorilla” to that.
The writers are smart. They knew they had to have characters that worked and storylines that resonated with viewers. They did. That’s how they can get away with the fantastical.
I know it sounds like I am fawning over it (and I suppose I am), but don’t mistake my tone. The show is good and a lot of fun, but it is far from perfect. Some of the plot points are suspect (illegally imprisoning the villains without any due process and none of our heroes care) and a couple of characters here and there can be trying at times or perplexing added at times (tell me, what was the point of character-actor Chase Masterson’s guest spot), but everything else really worked with the show, so that stuff really didn’t bother me.
The Flash isn’t going to win any non-technical awards. This isn’t Game of Thrones or Mad Men. But, it isn’t trying to be. And, unlike those shows which can be dour and depressing, The Flash is a ton of fun and a breath of fresh air. I am looking forward to the second season. Here’s hoping it maintains its momentum!
I never did a write up at the end of Arrow’s second season. I wanted to, but I never got around to it. So, since the third season is starting up today, I figured now would be as good of a time as any to look back at the show’s sophomore year.
I really enjoyed the first year of Arrow which was something I really didn’t expect. I wasn’t much of a Green Arrow comic book fan (I had zero investment in the character), but the show just grabbed me and I became a regular viewer. I thoroughly enjoyed how the episodes didn’t hold back on the narrative the way its spiritual predecessor Smallville did. The show kept moving forward with exciting twists and turns along the way.
Sometimes shows in their second year lose some steam. I was so happy that this wasn’t the case with Arrow. If anything, the writers/producers took the momentum of the first year and pushed it to new heights. More and more things were happening in Arrow which gave the show a much more epic feeling to it.
The main narrative of the second year had Starling City recovering from the undertaking in which a good portion of the city was destroyed. During this, a new villain arises for Ollie to tangle with in Sabastian Blood, a mayoral candidate who is secretly delivering a strength-enhancing serum to a growing cult of criminals. What I liked about this season’s storyline was that you think the main conflict is largely a good versus bad tale without much character depth, but then mid-way through, the show pulls the rug out under you and completely redefines the arc by tying it back in to Ollie’s time on the island and the discovery that Slade is behind it all.
Though I am not a fan of the “you-killed-my-love-interest motivation” cliché that Arrow used, I did like Slade as a villain. He’s cunning and ruthless while also being evil for the sake of being evil. In short, it worked. The revelation also worked as it was completely unexpected, but it makes total sense.
I also liked Ollie’s journey this season from going to a somewhat reckless outlaw to a true hero. In that journey, he makes some surprising sacrifices that have completely redefined the show. I am looking forward to the ramifications in Arrow’s third year.
Not everything was great, however. I really don’t like the whole Felicity/Ollie thing the show is forcing. It doesn’t work for me. Though, I do have to admit, I love how they used that to play against the audience in the season finale (then again, I am a fan of when show gives viewers the finger).
Also, I wasn’t a fan of Isabel. She added very, very little to the show. I personally don’t think the writers knew what to do with her as her eventual connection to Slade makes absolutely no sense compared to when we first meet her. I almost wonder if they changed directions on what they were going to do with her mid-year (especially after she disappeared for the middle half of the season).
Finally, we have Caity Lotz as Sara. Sigh. I know the online community likes her, and I like the idea of her character, but Lotz just doesn’t work for me. I really feel she is a weak link among the cast. Nothing about her is convincing and she has too much of a “cutesy” voice for me to buy into her being an assassin.
The rest of the cast continues to shine in their respective roles. I do hope Arrow does more with Diggle next season. Right now, I feel that they are underutilizing him, especially given his background. I also hope they develop Thea much more. I like how they made her a more confident a character, but I am concerned on the direction they decided to take her in the season ender, especially considering her very weak motivation.
In some ways, the concluding episodes of season two really felt like a series finale. It brought so many plotlines to a close that if the show did end, I would have been satisfied. But, we are getting a third season (and likely more after that). I am excited to see what Arrow goes from here. I think season two really opened up the Arrow universe and now it can really grow and expand.