Batwoman 1.10 – How Queer Everything is Today!

The above photo is not the finest this blog’s ever provided, but the scene is excellent and otherwise lacking in a good two-shot. I thought the whole adventure, up to a point, was very good, but they knocked it out of the park with this scene.

In “How Queer Everything is Today!,” a prep school hacker, who has been revenge-outed by her ex to her strict and terrible parents, arranges a fake runaway subway train as a prelude to demanding five million dollars, a “prank” which she hopes will collect her enough blackmail money to start her life over. This ends up colliding with Kate’s dual identity when, stopping the train, she ends up being saved from her own failed grappling hook by a super-dreamy cop called Slam Bradley. Photographed by a million people, the city thinks this is a wild meet-cute. Luke’s in favor of this. The more people who see Batwoman as straight, the less likely anybody will think she’s really Kate.

But in the end, and after this gut-punch of a scene where Batwoman confronts the hacker, Kate realizes that Batwoman needs to be honest. There isn’t a superhero show with a gay lead on the CW-equivalent of the Arrowverse; all that the hacker can hope for is to be “represented by an ancillary character on her favorite TV show.” And honestly, if, with an extra twist or two in the middle, this scene was the climax of the episode, it would be a triumph. Unfortunately, Alice has to get involved. There aren’t any words left to describe how utterly bored we are with this villain. This was the most disappointing derailing yet.

But our son had words. He wasn’t as put out as the grownups with the villain, and wanted me to tell all you readers “I liked it all the way through and then, at the end, one big giant question mark.” Because at the end, there’s a delightfully strange cliffhanger in which Kate’s sister Beth – not Alice, who is (for now) in custody – arrives as if she only went away a semester ago. Is this some “Crisis” fallout and the Beth Kane from one of the other two worlds merged into Earth-Prime has been inserted into this one? Is it Clayface? Stay tuned…

Oh, some other observations:

* Whoever’s running that prison needs to lose their job for putting Jacob Kane in general population, I say.

* Even though the long-running Batman-Joker rivalry explained in earlier episodes means that this can’t be the same Gotham timeline as the three Bat-films with Christian Bale, there was once apparently an incident with the Scarecrow and subway trains similar to what happened in 2005’s Batman Begins.

* That is cool as heck that Kate called on Kara, since they’re on the same planet now, and asked for a Catco Magazine cover scoop for Batwoman to come out. However, I’m sorry, but I have to question the “stop the presses” requirements to get that arranged, because the episode suggests that was the cover feature maybe two mornings after this episode’s climax. And according to the “Winter 2020” date on the cover, it’s a quarterly magazine!

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Legend 1.11 – Clueless in San Francisco

Well, this was very fun! In what feels like a detour into what a second season of Legend might have been like, our heroes decamp to San Francisco for an adventure with Pratt’s mother Delilah. She’s played by Janis Paige and runs a “salon” of bohemians, artists, and oddballs. No wonder Ernest turned out to be a writer. They’re helping a young woman played by Molly Hagan find her family, lost about twenty years previously. Other very familiar faces include Patty Maloney, who plays the Pratt family maid, and James Hong, who plays a man who has purchased a very familiar space…

Well, here’s one for the Wold Newton / Tommy Westphall fans out there. James Hong’s character is the current owner of Cash Conover’s Golden Gate, from Barbary Coast! I was initially amazed that the facade had remained up on its backlot for the twenty years between Coast and Legend, but the reality is that it’s only seen in a pair of establishing shots without any of this episode’s characters in it, and Legend was filmed in Arizona anyway. It’s more likely that this was just repurposed footage from episodes of Coast without Richard Kiel standing in front of the place. Coast was set in 1870-71 and Legend in 1876. Hong’s character has Ernest Pratt’s old gambling markers. I’d like to think that sometime a few years before he ended up in Sheridan, Pratt, losing his shirt at poker, got roped in to one of Cable and Cash’s byzantine plots. He probably had a last smiling freeze frame shot before the credits with his arm around whoever was playing the redhead dealer that week.

Anyway, the plot of this episode was nothing too out of the ordinary – the person who wants Molly Hagan out of town wants her out of the way of a possible inheritance, can you imagine? – but I enjoyed the setting and the characters and the cast almost as much as my silly speculation. A second year of Legend in San Francisco with all these oddballs and a great character like Delilah Pratt would certainly have been worth watching.

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Doctor Who 2.13 – Doomsday

Since I’ve praised Shaun Dingwall so much in his previous appearances, I really needed to give him one last shot at the blog photo, front and center where he deserves. Dingwall does not steal the story this time like he did in “Father’s Day” and the “Age of Steel” story; between the Dalek-Cybermen trash-talk scene and Billie Piper’s amazingly sad goodbye, not even this great actor could walk away with the episode. But the first meeting between “our” Jackie and “the other” Pete is nevertheless a real highlight of the story. I love how Noel Clarke, David Tennant, and Billie Piper are positioned well behind Dingwall and Camille Coduri, looking for all the world like they’re just getting out of their way.

“Doomsday” is magnificent. All three of the two-parters in the second series do an amazing job with fulfilling all the promise of the setup in their conclusions. I absolutely love this adventure. I think that in retrospect it set a bad precedent for what I call “apocalyptic” companion departures, with too many characters yet to come that the Doctor can never, ever, ever meet again, but Rose got a great sendoff that’s rarely been equaled. And that little bitchfest between our two alien menaces is one of my all-time favorite Who moments. We paused the episode for a minute there for everybody to have a chance to quit laughing.

The kid absolutely loved it, of course. The revelation that there are millions more Daleks locked in that bigger-on-the-inside Time Lord prison ship had him on his feet with his jaw on the floor. I’ve been questioning him all day whether he’s absolutely sure the Daleks and the Cybermen wouldn’t get along. I noticed that his eyebrows raised when the Cybermen proposed an alliance. Of course the Daleks shoot that idea down. They don’t make friends and they’re not afraid to ask anybody to step outside.

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Doctor Who 2.12 – Army of Ghosts

In 2006, Doctor Who would air in the UK on Saturdays and a friend of mine, a dear fellow who’s since passed away, would download a copy from a file-sharing site a day or two later. We’d then get a gang together to watch the episode at our old house on Thursday nights because that was when it was most convenient. A day or two after “Fear Her” aired, I got a message from a pal in the UK on the 2000 AD forum. Knowing that I hate spoilers, he did me the favor of dropping me a line to tell me to not watch the “Next Time” trailer at the end of “Fear Her.” I did as requested. When we watched “Fear Her” that Thursday, I paused the DVD and passed the remote to somebody else while I went upstairs.

Because the BBC spoils lots of surprises – they sort of have to when they film on location and bring identifiable monster costumes or cast recognizable actors for outdoor shots – everybody knew that the Cybermen would be back. After all, director Graeme Harper had filmed all sorts of material with the Cybermen in broad daylight, as the publicity and paparazzi photos had shown, and the previous adventure with them all took place in one evening. So everybody knew that this would be a Cybermen story, but what nobody knew until that “Next Time” trailer is that the Daleks would be back as well. And the trailer doesn’t reveal it, it just half-assedly gives it away by casually including the unmistakable look and sound of a Dalek death ray in one shot as if by accident.

I am so glad that I skipped it that Thursday in 2006, because apart from one bit where David Tennant, forgetting how he’d reprimanded himself for “correctamundo,” acts like a goofball saying that he ain’t afraid of no ghosts, this episode is completely wonderful and ends with one of the all-time great cliffhangers, which I totally did not see coming. The kid loved it as well and said that it was even better than “the one with Queen Victoria and the werewolf!” He didn’t even pretend that the Cybermen annoyed him this time around. Then when the Daleks showed up in the final seconds, he was on his feet, roaring, and saying pretty much everything you can imagine an eight year-old would say about having the two big baddies finally showing up in the same story. I asked whether he thinks that they’ll get along. “No! Absolutely not! They’re going to HATE each other!”

Well, Cybermen don’t understand how to hate, but I take his point. I’m resisting the temptation to jump ahead and watch that brilliant bit of trash-talking in the second episode. I can wait ’til tonight. I think.

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Night Gallery 1.6 – They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar / The Last Laurel

For years and years, I’ve heard people say that “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” is one of Rod Serling’s greatest moments. I’ve looked forward to it for ages. On the visual level, it doesn’t disappoint at all. There’s a lot going on here, from Bert Convy’s brighter-than-the-old-guy clothes, to the older beat cop going flatfoot while younger officers get a car, to a downright amazing shot right at the end when William Windom, playing a 48 year-old has-been, stumbles through the gray dust of the construction site and the first two people we see in long shot are two women in mini-skirts, followed by a guy in a fire-engine red 1969 Mustang.

Otherwise, this episode annoyed me so much I wanted to tear down Tim Riley’s bar with this sad sack still in it. Windom is yet another soppy-mouthed Serling soliloquizer moaning on about the good old days. If his lachrymose wishes – Serling’s word, of course – to stop one more time at Willoughby weren’t bad enough, poor Diane Baker, who is far better than this script, gets the thankless role of the besotted woman from “Young Man’s Fancy” who has somehow fallen in love with her boss and spent years pining for him, when her boss is a pathetic alcoholic who lives in the past.

There’s nothing, nothing in this story that didn’t leave me furious with this character. Me, I’m 48, the same age as him, and I know a thing or two about nostalgia. My favorite place to be on a Saturday afternoon is a 102 year-old restaurant that’s still in family hands. I know so much about a chain of seafood restaurants that failed forty-five years ago that when I go to libraries to learn more, the staff brings me articles I already published. Heartaches and losses? Ask me about my older son sometime. I’ve hit what I thought was rock bottom five or six times and I got up. I was downsized from the best job in the entire world, spent years singularly failing to find a full-time non-profit position in this one-horse town before deciding to go make some damn money again instead, and exactly three of our friends in Atlanta or Nashville have bothered to come visit us since we landed here. You don’t see me taking three-hour three-martini lunches while moaning about nickel beers and Glenn Miller.

Yeah, life sucks sometimes and it hurts like daggers when it doesn’t, but if you can’t find one single tick in your win column in the eighteen years since your wife died, then you’re not going to convince me that your beautiful secretary has fallen in love with you, which is why I can’t believe this stupid story. Windom’s character is breathtakingly unsympathetic, the wish fulfillment in this story is obnoxious, and the ending is so phony that it screams of network intervention. Amazingly, it apparently wasn’t some dumb NBC directive, but it’s so absurd that even the incredibly talented director couldn’t make it feel like it flowed naturally from the story.

Dispirited and depressed, I perked up because the next story started and it said that it starred Jack Cassidy. I said that thank God Jack Cassidy is here because he’ll put a stop to all this. He’s always drunk and violent. And if you caught that reference, you’ll know the look on my face when I ejected this DVD. Okay, so nobody was singing “Paint Your Wagon,” but I wasn’t expecting astral projection either. Tomorrow will be better.

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Legend 1.10 – Fall of a Legend

As we watched tonight’s episode, “Fall of a Legend,” I noticed a couple of amusing similarities to an episode of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.. In “Brisco for the Defense,” our Harvard-educated pal introduced the people of that story’s community to the concept of fingerprints, which Bartok does here. Both shows also hold their trials in the town saloon, to save the expense of building a new set. Taking the budget issues even further on Legend, Robert Donner, in his final appearance as Chamberlain Brown, acts as both judge and prosecuting attorney, and explains that his medical testimony as town taxidermist will have to do because the real doc is miles away battling a flu outbreak. Three speaking parts for the price of one!

After the episode, we chatted a little about Legend, Bartok, and Ramos disguising themselves as traveling fortune tellers. They use the word “gypsy” at least twice in the dialogue and it’s also painted on the side of their wagon. That’s certainly a word that would have been used in the 1870s, and I’m not surprised that a program made in 1995 – you guys, that was a quarter of a century ago! – would use the word casually, even as they came up with a tamer-for-1995 word, “Mex,” for a bigot to use in place of several other, harsher words that a nasty creep in the 1870s might have actually said about a Spanish-speaking field worker.

I personally had no idea that many Romani people considered “gypsy” a crude pejorative term, if not an outright hostile insult, for several years after 1995, because I honestly knew so little about the Romani people. So we talked as a family about how we don’t need to use the term anymore; it comes with too much of a history of hate.

It takes a while for language to evolve and for people to quit using words. Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith all deployed “the N word” in well-known songs in the seventies, all in different contexts, but while two of the three still perform those songs in concerts, I doubt they’d use that word in a new song today. I’ve been known to sing along to “Oliver’s Army” or “Hurricane” but replace the word with “figure,” even when alone. “Gypsy” isn’t there yet. It’s not “the G word” yet. Changing the behavior of decades isn’t easy. Maybe catching these things at age eight will help.

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Crisis on Infinite Earths (parts four and five)

I had originally planned to watch the final two parts of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” – presented as Arrow 8.8 and Legends of Tomorrow 5.0 – over two nights, but part four was so lousy and uninspired that I decided to stampede to the end, and I’m really glad that I did, because part five was downright fun.

So the big changes to the Arrowverse are that the Superpeoples’ Earth was merged with the Arrow/Flash/Batwoman/Legends Earth and Black Lightning’s Earth, and now Supergirl’s National City is on the other side of the river from Flash’s Central City. Atop that, Diggle’s daughter is alive again, Superman and Lois have two kids, Lex Luthor has been a good guy who’s just won the Nobel Prize, and Lynda Carter’s no longer the president. A bunch of other DC shows now have their own Earths, and at the end of the story, seven of the heroes (Barry, Kara, Sara, Kate, Clark, J’onn, and Jefferson) get together to hang out in the Hall of Justice (the building was introduced in the 2016 crossover), where there’s a monkey named Gleek running around and the old Super Friends theme plays. Best ending possible, I’d say.

Otherwise, part four was a last roundup for Stephen Amell to have yet another death scene and to marvel at how months apparently passed at the Vanishing Point but Kate kept her hair perfect. Part five was what I understand is the usual Legends of Tomorrow mayhem, with enough violence and superhero action to keep our son completely riveted and enough romance novels and fifty-foot teddy bears to keep the grownups baffled. Lots of the usual Arrowverse talk about how tough it is being a hero as well, but balanced with the show’s playful and silly spirit.

So I reckon they’ve left the big impacts on the Batwoman storyline for us to learn about in a few days, so stay tuned for that. Hopefully the next time we see the Hall of Justice, Barry will have cleaned the place up. And if any of you readers happen to see any fan art with our new seven Super Friends drawn in the classic style of the Alex Toth originals, won’t you please drop me a line? I’d love to see this cover below done with the TV gang. (Bonus points if they have somebody redraw Tyler Hoechlin’s face in a Curt Swan style.)

But fun aside, did it work? Well, I honestly don’t know that they did everything that they could or should have done. The spit-n-cough cameos from Ashley Scott, Burt Ward, and Robert Wuhl were cute, but the actors could have been given more substantial roles to play somewhere in the narrative, couldn’t they? There’s a brief bit in part four where “our” Flash meets the Flash played by Ezra Miller in the current movies, which was nice. I suppose Zachary Levi or Gal Gadot or Margot Robbie are outside the TV shows’ budget, so it was nice to see somebody from the big screen show up on TV, where I think DC’s superhero stories are told better.

But speaking of Levi and Gadot, this really was a fine opportunity to introduce DC’s other big hero names into the Arrowverse, and I think I’m disappointed that they didn’t give us the chance to meet Shazam, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. Some footage which may have been from the Ryan Reynolds GL film is in the “new worlds” montage at least, but there should be a Green Lantern on the new combined Earth, not on his own world, because that’s precisely the problem that this story solved. And TV is long overdue a Wonder Woman. I hope some of the big names start appearing as guests on the Arrowverse shows in the future.

Anyway, wonder what they’re going to do for the November 2020 crossover? Hopefully something a shade smaller…?

Super Friends cover credit: Pencil Ink Blog

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Doctor Who 2.11 – Fear Her

A couple of nights ago, we watched the latest Doctor Who episode, which is called “Orphan 55.” I thought it was pretty terrible – the first Who I haven’t enjoyed in a few years – but the real disappointment was knowing we were just 48 hours from sitting through this turkey again. I’ve never liked “Fear Her” at all. I think it’s the worst episode from the Russell T. Davies years by a mile. Although, watching it again tonight, I am struck by just how much better structured than “Orphan 55” it is.

“55” is full of flaws, and while it never sinks into the treacly “power of love” ditch that this does, its most annoying thing is that it isn’t given any room to breathe. The opening scene in the TARDIS is frantic; the spa seems under attack the instant our heroes arrive. “Fear Her” does a comparatively brilliant job of establishing a mood of fear and dread, and there’s an ugly scene in the road that caught my eye more effectively this time, tinged as it is with racial fears and “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” Honestly, this one starts out well. The only grumble I can muster for most of the episode’s running time – and this is petty – is that when Abisola Agbaje, the young actress who plays the possessed little girl, is speaking in her “alien” voice, she’s really hard for me to understand. Otherwise, the kid carries off a tough role extremely well.

I’ll give Davies and the episode’s writer, Matthew Graham, credit for trying something new. The alien isn’t malicious; it’s a frightened little child. Its species travels the galaxy surrounded by its gigantic, billions-strong family in tiny little pods. It got lost, it’s dying without the close contact of all of its family, and it’s using a possessed kid to suck people into limbo to keep it company. But the more we learn, the less sense the story makes, including a strange threat of a drawing that might come to life, and it’s driven by coincidence like the alien running out of patience and needing a massive influx of love and company several days after it landed, right when the London 2012 Games are set to begin. Everything falls completely apart after that, leaving us to wonder just what the explanation was for the missing 80,000 spectators, and how in the world the Doctor, honorary Brit he may be, got out of that stadium without more questions from Olympic security than he’s ever answered on any planet, anywhere.

I wonder what the “Mystery man who lit the torch” page in the Who-universe Wikipedia looks like. Meanwhile in London, Elton Pope, perhaps the sole survivor of “that LINDA lot” after that incident six years previously, watched the Olympics and said “Oh, him. He still hasn’t aged.”

Our kid liked it, as I believe kids do, but that stultifying ending kicked this story down into my personal bottom five when I first saw it, and even two Steven Moffat-era turkeys that landed down there with thuds have failed to dislodge it. Still, it’s all smooth sailing from here for quite a while. But I’m afraid we’ll be delayed getting to the big series two finale because we’ve got to return to the present day for a bit first…

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