Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Looking Up: The Election, Screenwriting, Anxiety, and Moving Forward


It's been quite a year, hasn't it?

Seriously, 2016 can just...end. Any time now. It's probably one of the worst years in recorded history, right behind the year of the Black Plague and when the meteorite killed the dinosaurs - although depending on your perspective, it could be considered worse, as that enabled us to survive. So, worse than a meteorite destroying most life on Earth. Yes. That sounds right. 

I feel like we'll all be able to breathe a little easier once this election's over - I'm hoping, anyway. I won't get into political affiliations or which candidate is better/worse, as that seems to simultaneously increase the blood pressure of anyone within a five-mile radius, whether they're actually reading the article or not. It's like everyone's all ready and raring to lose their minds on anything that sounds remotely like it could somehow disagree with them. No matter what your views, I think we can all agree that this election has brought out the ugliest side of America - a hateful, divisive side that I'd hoped was something that no longer existed in modern society. I was wrong - and that makes me sad and frustrated and discouraged more than anything else.

Anyway. What am I here to talk about? Well, my life, I suppose. It's a strange thing - life - especially with the surging political environment surrounding it right now.

I read somewhere that dogs who pull sleds, up in Alaska or Canada, for the Iditarod and such, love their work so much, they will literally run themselves to death unless they're told to stop. That's been me the past year and a half.

I love screenwriting. I found it my junior year of college, and I only wish I'd found it sooner, because it is the best. I love typing out a scene, seeing it form in my head, and (if I'm lucky) watching it unfold on screen - a dream somehow brought forth, crossing dimensions, into reality. That is the closest thing we have to magic, my friends. Through editing and VFX and great directing and choreography and acting, we can make the impossible possible. And that is what I love about film and television.

But, passion is a double-edged sword. I can write for hours - four hours at a stretch, sometimes longer if I get really into it and don't want to lose the "flow" (which is a real things, by the way, however corny it sounds). But there's never been a time I've gone past four hours where I haven't regretted it. That passion lights me up for the day, makes me feel invincible and ready to take on anything - and then the next day I'm an empty shell, the light extinguished, any trace of energy gone, aching through to my very bones.

In other words: urrrgh.

I don't know if it's a high I'm looking for, an escape or what; I have learned to balance it a little better, although it's been a struggle sometimes to rein myself in when I just know I could keep going, on and on into the night, and who knows what story idea or character arc will fade forever if I don't keep going...! I am like those sled dogs - I love it so much that I work myself into the ground.

I think now I may be using it as revenge against my adult life. Because I am an adult now - and it's a lot harder than I thought.

I refuse to let college be the best years of my life - but sometimes I understand why people say that. Adulthood is hard, man. You can't pass the buck. You have to take care of things - sometimes unpleasant things. A lot of boring things. Things that just need to be done, and no one else is going to do them, no matter how inconvenient or irritating they are. So you do them. And you finally appreciate your parents doing them for you for most of your life up to this point - and cringe over the fact that's it now your turn.

On days when I'm working, just drowning in everything I need to do - job applications, scripts, networking, research - I try to look up at the sky, and find a name for the color it is. It doesn't have to take long - I've settled on "cerulean" before, or "the color of the marble I had in fifth grade when we played marbles that day in our living room" - just long enough to remind myself to take a breath, stop, and look around at the whole world around me, instead of feeling trapped inside my head with all my own little problems. I started doing this when I realized one day that I hadn't looked at the sky in awhile - I had no clue what it looked like or how the clouds even looked. I think it's a sign we've reached adulthood when we stop finding shapes in the clouds - it's kind of sad.

I read a book called The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster when I was in elementary school. In it, a boy called Alec, who can see everything except what's right in front of his face, shows Milo, the main character, the city of Reality. In it, the people living there go about their daily lives, going in and out of buildings, heading to work in the morning and heading back home at night, moving in and around the city like normal - except they haven't looked up in so long, they haven't realized that the city no longer exists. They open and close doors that aren't there, they go in and out of buildings with no walls. That image has haunted me; I know I don't want to live a life like that. Forgetting about finding hope or real joy in life, even in something as small as changing up your daily routine, from taking a different route to work or stopping to look up at the sky. Reality doesn't have to be like that - it shouldn't be.

New York City
I spend a lot of my time in pain. Most of it is mental - anxiety kicks me up out of bed in the morning, saying, "You need to get something done today, or else you're worthless!"; depression drags me back down, groaning, "What's the point, I might as well just lie here anyway, for all it's going to matter." In case you're wondering, yes, I know this is not healthy - I'm working on finding a therapist, and I've found different ways to cope. It still doesn't change the struggle of every day - those first few moments where the realization floods in: Oh, right. I am an adult. I need to get up and go make money. I need to get an apartment. I need to have friends, I need to check in with my family. I need to contribute to society. It's no wonder I feel like sometimes we're all going a little insane.

You know what, though? I'd rather have the pain than apathy. We are put on this earth to feel something - not just stare numbly into a gray and lifeless future. Sometimes circumstances aren't optimal. Sometimes, life sucks. But complacency is not something I choose to accept. If I'm here, I'm here for a purpose, damn it - and even if I don't know what that is right now, I'm going to find it.

Just look at this planet we're on - we are at the exact point in the universe, in the exact right atmosphere, where we are neither scorched by the sun nor frozen to death in deep space. We are alive in a world of seven billion people - and no one is exactly alike, nor has there been or ever will be another human being exactly like them. Incredible! Look at all these beliefs and religions and cultures and histories - what nuances, what momentous decisions hung in the balance to impact exactly how our world would look today, down to each culture's core values and what each country teaches its children in school. No matter how hopeless the world feels right now, it's still amazing to see what we've achieved, how far we've come - and how much we can still accomplish.

I haven't given up - in myself, or in the world at large. Wherever the coming year takes me, whether that's Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, or LA, wherever it takes our country after this election, or consequently where it takes the world, I have faith we can move forward - on to something better, with the help of Someone bigger.

I don't know what you believe; for me personally, I do believe in God and a heaven. And heaven isn't a place of white fluffy clouds and gently twanging harp music - I don't know who we can blame for that portrayal, whether it's Dante or Renaissance painters, but it's wrong. Heaven isn't boring. Heaven is that ache you feel in your chest when you've seen something so beautiful it grabs your heart and won't let go. Heaven isn't harp music - it's the 1812 Overture, with booming cannons and everything, blasting out til it fills your whole being. Heaven is beauty that makes your heart swell - not necessarily over something visually pleasing, but over power, strength, tenderness, anything that makes your blood sing through your veins and reminds you that you're alive. I think we see bits of heaven every day, if we can remember to look up - and I think that's what can save us from all the anger and bitterness left from this year. We can still look up.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 - An Overview (Part 2)

Left Behind
Lost in time. Brainwashing ensues (for at least two people).
The good: 

-This episode introduces the concept of "time drift," when an individual lost in time tries to reaffirm their identity by returning to what's familiar - hence, Sara returning to the League of Assassins. It's an interesting psychological concept; I wish we'd gotten to explore it a little more.

-SARA'S AWESOME FIGHT - Holy crap, I could watch Caity Lotz fight all day. I mean, the choreography is amazing, and Caity makes it look so awesome, so smooth and beautiful and yet powerful at the same time. Sara's had some great fights, but I think this one is the best yet.

-THE REVEAL - Chronos is Mick! I confess, if I hadn't read it somewhere online, I probably wouldn't have seen this coming (I really need to stop reading comment sections). I love this twist. Mick is great for one-liners, and Dom does a fantastic job with what he's given, but because of the writing, Mick's been very one-note. Ironically, with the brainwashing from the Time Masters, Mick becomes more three-dimensional as a character, and we get to see a different side to him. This is the episode I realized Dominic Purcell could actually act; in his scene with Snart, Mick comes across as truly menacing, a genuine threat, and we know it's serious when he threatens Lisa. He, above all, knows how much she means to Snart.

-SNART IS A BADASS - Why does no one acknowledge this?! It's like they just assume Snart is awesome, so no one even reacts anymore - which, you know, of course he's awesome, but can he get some recognition at least? He broke off his hand to stop them from killing Mick. Broke off. His. Hand. I get there was a lot going on, but come on! I guess at this point no one expects any less - he's just Leonard F'ing Snart!

The bad:

-I wish we'd gotten to see some of the two years Kendra and Ray spent together in the 50's. This relationship obviously isn't going to last - it's clumsy at its worst and benign at its best - but it would have more emotional weight if we could actually see them getting to know each other and settling into their status as a couple. Why the writers invented this romance, I don't know, because it's obvious it's only around to cause conflict when Carter inevitably shows back up, who Kendra will ultimately end up with because of the writers' obsession with DESTINY (god, if I never hear that word again...), but if we're stuck with it, the least they could do is try to give us something to be invested in. Even if it was only five or ten minutes out of the episode, it would have been a lot more satisfying than just hearing out-of-context snippets about lucky water vases, however "cute" that may be.

Best Quotes:

[Sara and Kendra playing Life]
Sara: "Congratulations. You're a doctor."
Kendra: "You know, I thought about going to medical school once."
Sara: "Here you go. Ten-thousand dollar salary."
Kendra: "That's it? I made more as a barista."
Sara: "Well, it's 1958. You're lucky to make that as a woman."
Kendra: "Touche."

Snart: (to Mick) "Would you mind loosening these [handcuffs] up a little before you leave?"

Let's Kill (Baby) Hitler
The good:

-Props to the actor who plays Per Degaton, Cory Gruter-Andrew. The majority of Per's scenes are with Vandal Savage, and Gruter-Andrew just acts Casper Crump off the screen. Finally, we have a villain who's actually intimidating, and he's, what, twelve?

-The fact that the team's plan to save the world breaks down into Team Robot Army and Team Kidnapping is a better summary of the show than anything I could ever think of

-Snart turns into an Internet meme for a few seconds and actually says "Yaaaas" XD

Because honestly, what else would you say?

-Jax's face when Ray introduces himself as Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a thing of beauty:

The bad:

-There is way too much going on in this episode. Kidnapping Per Degaton, attempting to kill Per Degaton, the virus, the robot army, Ray's potential fatherhood, Snart and Mick's conflict - I would say this should have been split into two episodes, if the environment was interesting enough to stay in for that long. Sadly, it is not; it's like every generic dystopian future ever. I wish they'd been more creative with it.

-LACK OF TENSION - We know Rip's not going to kill Per; he's a douchebag sometimes, but he's not a murderer. Likewise, we don't care about Ray maybe having a kid he didn't know about; it's nice that Ray cares enough to be distressed about it, but when there's a giant robot army attacking, I don't really care whose pants you've been in!

-SNART - I feel like the writers lost track of where Snart's character development was, because he just feels off this entire episode. The Snart from the pilot may have been okay with killing a kid, but not the Snart from Marooned, or even as far back as Blood Ties. Also, what was Snart's plan when he proposed the fight between him and Mick? Mick's built like a wall; there's no way Snart's going to win. So Snart wants to die? But he's not really acting like it. The only conclusion that leaves is that Snart assumed that Mick wouldn't kill him - but he had no way of knowing that, and he's never showed great faith in Mick's (small) potential for mercy, anyway. The "man with a plan" felt like he was flying blind here - again, off. 

-Criminal under-use of Jewel Staite, who only got five minutes of screen time, tops. Any Browncoats watching, including this one, were extremely disappointed.



Best Quotes:

Jax: "If we're going to be checking out the future-"
Sara: "We should probably invite the Nerd Twins."
The Nerd Twins is now my favorite description of Ray and Stein.

Sara: [to Snart] "So stop being an ass, and go deal with it."
Sara Lance, life coach.

The Magnificent Eight
Not-So-Quiet on the Western Front
The good:

-This episode is definitely one of the show's best. Finally, after nearly a whole season of flailing around trying to find its way, it finds its niche: a genre piece, in the style of old westerns, with some sci fi thrown in - I'm getting Firefly vibes and I like it!

It's got a ton of atmosphere, it's a lot of fun, and, except for a few moments with Stein trying to save the kid, it never slows down - you always feel like you're always on your way to the next adventure. 

We get a bar brawl with the whole team after Snart shoots somebody (of course), Sara drinks Mick under the table, Ray gets to be John Wayne and stand up to the resident oppressive gang, Snart gets to be a sharpshooter (again, no one seems surprised by this! He's a thief, how would he know how to be a sharpshooter?? Because he's Leonard F'ing Snart. At least Jax gives him some credit this time!), Rip gets to do a quick draw duel, and the Legends get to scare the crap out of the townspeople when they reveal their powers in the final showdown. True to the show at its best, it's absolutely crazy, and absolutely fantastic.

-Jonathan Schaech is excellent as Jonah Hex, and his bromance with Rip is quite entertaining. I hope they bring him back next season!

-I loved how Snart refused to leave Jax behind. Within the Legends, Jax is everybody's kid brother, even Snart's.

-Also, in a show with mostly male leads, Sara and Kendra getting to do some bonding is always appreciated.

The bad:

-The Hunters were a bit too easily defeated. Otherwise, a solid episode!

The ugly:

-I suppose Jonah Hex's face? (which Ray is foolish enough to try to volunteer to fix)

Best Quotes:

[Snart shoots attacking gang member]
Stein: "You killed him!"
Snart: "You're welcome."

Mick: "You haven't drunk with me."
Sara: "Is that a challenge, Mick?"
Mick: "Line 'em up."

Last Refuge
The good:

-Fantastic work by one of my favorite directors, Rachel Talalay, who has also directed episodes of Doctor Who, Supernatural, The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Sherlock. The final fight of this episode especially is stunning.

-I really liked the villain for this episode, the Pilgrim. Her powers of manipulating time are such an intriguing threat for the team to face off against. While Faye Kingslee's acting may have been a bit wooden at times, her delivery of the line "You don't need to understand" had me cracking up. I know the Pilgrim was eventually reduced to a pile of ash, but can we find a way to bring her back? With a show based in immortality, reincarnation, and a magical resurrection hot tub, there has to be a way!

-The one scene that really got to me was between Jax and his father. Franz Drameh doesn't always get his time to shine in this show, and it was a pretty short scene, but he managed to bring so much emotion to it. In a show that oftentimes opts for a lot of running around and yelling rather than just slowing down and letting its characters and their emotions breathe, Drameh brought the emotional resonance the episode needed...making the perfect case for why next season they should give him more screen time! 

"This isn't my element." God help me, even dumb jokes
 like this make me laugh. Bless you, Leonard Snart!
The bad:

- PACING - This would be a pretty amazing episode - if it kept up its momentum. But, as with a lot of the other episodes, the pacing just goes up and down, break-neck, then slouching, then back to break-neck as we race against the Pilgrim, but then stop along the way to meet Rip's mother and to have the Legends interact with their younger selves. I get it - these are essential elements to the plot, and I love them as individual scenes; Mick's scene especially with younger Mick is great. But together they just feel jumbled, letting the necessary tension die and leaving the audience unsure as to what level of concern they should be feeling for the imminent threat. I hope the writers work out this issue in Season 2, because it's letting a lot of potential go to waste.

-Ray, do not make out with your fiancee when your formerly dead fiancee is just on the other side of the door. That is wrong. On so many levels.


Younger Sara: (looking at Sara) "But she's-"
Mick: "Quite the badass."
I love how Mick is basically the president of the Sara Lance fan club. 

Best Quotes:

Kendra: "Ray and I are happy together. We should be able to enjoy that before I have to drop the whole "doomed love affair" thing on his head."
Sara: (sarcastic) "Yeah, I mean, who wants a relationship based on honesty and communication?"

Quentin: "I always knew that you'd end up caring for people. Protecting people."
Sara: "Well, I learned it from my dad."

Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em Robots!
The good:

-The best part of this episode is definitely the giant robot fight. I don't usually go in for stuff like Transformers, and I haven't seen Pacific Rim, but dang it if I didn't feel my inner child cheer when the giant Atom busted up the Leviathan. Woo! No doubt about it, it's awesome.

-CASSANDRA - Okay, so Jessica Sipos' acting was a little wooden, but I think the actress was running into the same problems as Kingslee did with the Pilgrim: trying to be stoic and commanding, which unfortunately comes across as bland and wooden when it lacks intensity. (For an example of what we need, see Caity Lotz's performance in Left Behind; she was cold and commanding, but she had an intensity that made her intimidating, and pretty mesmerizing to watch). But, I think this character has potential, and I'd like to see her come back. I think the writers were also trying to show a little spark between her and Snart, which was fine, but if they're going with the whole Sara/Snart pairing, Sara would totally kick Cassandra's butt - and then they'd probably make up and go for coffee or something.

The bad:

-CASSANDRA - Cassandra is way too easy to convince to turn against her father. Yes, it's interesting to see Snart of all people be the one to guide someone into the light, but if you're Vandal Savage's daughter, I don't think it would just take a half an hour of talking and walking around a refugee camp to convince you to turn your back on your father's entire evil empire, ergo your whole life and everything you've ever known. We needed something a bit more; as it is, it's just too easily resolved.

-MICK - What happened to Mick? It's like his entire personality reverted to what he was like before they even stepped on the Waverider. Maybe it's the writers' way of showing he's breaking away from his identity as Chronos. I mean, he's hilarious, but it felt out of place, and way too sudden!

-TIME TRAVEL RULES - Here is where it's most visible why the time travel aspect of this show isn't working. Rip says he can't go back to save his family because "time wants to happen." Yet, he's constantly worried about the team botching the timeline, saying "time is in flux." So which is it? If time wants to happen, why can't they do whatever the hell they want? If time is in flux, why is "destiny" brought up in every single episode? If time is in flux, destiny doesn't exist. You can't have it both ways. It's a real shame, because other shows, like The Flash, do time travel so well; it figures that the DC show whose premise is actually based in time travel can't seem to write it well!

-KENDRA - *scream of anguish*
Oh, Kendra. Why? Why do you have to be written so horribly? You could have been great. You could have been like Sara - three-dimensional, complex, likable, and badass - and yet, you're as awful as she is awesome.
This show is supposed to pivot on Kendra. She's the only one who can kill Savage; it's supposed to be her story that's driving this entire show.
She is one of the weakest, worst written characters I've ever seen. She isn't given even a vague rendering of a personality, she can't seem to physically exist within a story line without a love interest giving her a reason to be there (Cisco, then Carter, then Ray), and any kind of moment where she could potentially be amazing - taking down soldiers, rescuing members of the team - is immediately followed by her getting knocked out, kidnapped, or otherwise just negating her presence within the show. There is literally an entire episode, Progeny, where she does nothing but daydream, mooning around the ship while having flashbacks about Carter. And then here, when she finally has a chance to fulfill the only reason she's been around - to kill Savage - SHE CAN'T. 
Oh, my god, Carter reincarnates! You'll see him again! Even then, you literally know a person who came back from the dead - maybe there's another option there? You know there's reincarnation, immortality, resurrection, and just plain magic - why are you even worried about death at this point?? The entire fate of humanity is hanging in the balance! Smash Savage's head in!!
I feel so sorry for this actress. She's a successful singer, dancer, and actress on Broadway - she took over for Patina Miller as the Leading Player in Pippin, which is no small feat - and I feel like, with a little more experience, she could be a pretty good film/television actress. But, with the material they're giving her, there's nothing to work with. Don't hate Ciara Renee for this - she deserved better. Be disappointed in the writers for not being able to write more than one female character at a time who has actual depth and personality. 

Best Quotes:

Rip: "Now, in order to capture [Savage], I require the services of-"
Mick: "Killer, Klepto, and Pyro!"
Rip: "Bingo."
That's it. That's the show I want to watch. Killer, Klepto, and Pyro - where Sara, Snart, and Mick steal the jump ship and go through time causing shenanigans. I would watch the hell out of that.

Snart: (to Mick) "How about we play this like Chicago?"

River of Time
The One Where Everyone Takes Stupid Pills

This episode makes my brain angry. It's arguably the worst episode of the entire show, which is a shame, because it also has one of the best lines of the season (more on that later). What frustrates me is, I get what they're going for - Savage going all Hannibal Lecter and turning the team against each other. That idea could be a really interesting episode; the problem is, the writing isn't strong enough to make the situation plausible. 

Savage isn't intimidating enough, or apparently smart enough, to manipulate the team in ways that we can believe; instead, the only way to get the team to where the writers want them to be - in conflict and without hope - is by them being really, really stupid. 

Okay, first, the good:

-SARA - Captain Sara Lance. I love this so much. And the great thing is, I can believe it! If anyone's going to pilot the ship, out of all the Legends, it would be Sara.

-THE END OF "KENDRAY" - Holy god, I'm so glad this pairing is over. The actors did the best they could, but we could see from the beginning that it was pointless. And now it's gone - hopefully never to return.

-CARTER - I guess the trick to making a character more interesting in this show is brainwashing them. Carter returns as Scythian Torvil, and wow - Falk Hentschel can actually act! Evil Carter is so much more interesting than regular Carter ever was.

-FIRESTORM - The one truly emotional moment is between Jax and Stein when Stein sends Jax back to 2016. It's touching to see how far their partnership has come since the pilot - now it's not just a partnership, it's a friendship.

-"Alexa" - I love when Snart or Mick make references to their criminal past together. It adds a lot to their partnership - plus the way Alexa was brought up again at the end was a nice touch on the writers' part.

The bad:

-RIP - Rip is the worst leader ever. Yes, send Jax to die - your guilty conscience definitely makes up for that!

-RAY - Ray is not this stupid. He wouldn't let Savage out of his cell just because of some wounded pride. For Ray, ego is not the problem, so it doesn't make sense for him to be the one to let Savage out. That's stupid writing.

-"TWISTS" - Savage has been traveling through time? And he's working with the Time Masters? Whoa - actually, no, Rip should have suspected this from the start. Especially as a former Time Master. These twists aren't clever; they're so frikkin' obvious! 

-CARTER DYING - I laughed so hard when Savage stabbed Carter. Seriously, writers, you brought this character back just to kill him again? Ultimately he didn't die, but come on; I shouldn't be laughing when a character is quite possibly dead! 

List of things Carter Hall is good at: 
-getting stabbed by Vandal Savage.

Best Quotes:

Savage: "Who are you to stand against me, Vandal Savage, destroyer of empires?"
Snart: "Leonard Snart, robber of ATMs!"
This is, undeniably, the best quote of the season. Not only is it a great line, but the way Wentworth Miller delivers it, with pure, unabashed pride, makes it gold. I wish this was in a better episode, because it cracks me up every time!

Rip: "You, Miss Lance, you're going to be our navigator."
Sara: "I was League of Assassins, not NASA!"


Finally, we get to the show at its finest. Destiny course-corrects and fixes the flaws that have marred the majority of Legends of Tomorrow's episodes - this time it actually has steady pacing, it builds tension, it shows character development, and it ties the season together under a genuinely intriguing plot element. 

Also it stabs you in the heart. 

Any show that can bring me to feel that strong of an emotion towards a fictional character has my respect. Good job, writers. I hate you.

The good:

-SNART - I suppose this was planned from the beginning. Looking back, I guess I should have seen it coming. Snart is so clearly set up as the snarky, cynical villain of the crew, and his subsequent journey towards hero is meant to make us love him even more. 

Snart is undoubtedly the best part of every episode; he always has something enjoyably sarcastic to say about the situation at hand, he's consistently a stone-cold badass, and watching him interact with the other characters - Mick, Sara, Jax, even Ray - is always solidly entertaining. That's why I was sure the writers wouldn't kill him off; he's the best part of the show. With how much Legends of Tomorrow can struggle otherwise, no way would the writers kill off its strongest element!

I was wrong. 

I'd like to give credit not only to the writers, but to Wentworth Miller, whose subtleties within his performance as Snart truly sold his character arc from villain to hero - in fact, really made the character that the whole fandom unanimously loves. The hamminess of his Captain Cold persona is what makes him such a fun character, but it's just that - a persona. What made Snart great was when we got to see past the Captain Cold mask - when he opened up to Sara, when he refused to leave Jax behind, the look on his face when Mick revealed himself as Chronos. With a lesser actor, I think this character might very well have ended up being inconsistent and a bit irritating; with Miller, though, he's complex, three-dimensional, and always a welcome presence on the screen.

It'll be interesting to see where they take this character in Season 2. I was a bit frustrated when I heard he would only be recurring, and apparently he's evil. Again (please don't let this negate his entire character development in Season 1; that would also be frustrating). I have my own theories about Legion of Doom Snart, and I think the show is definitely worse off for him not being on the team, but, hey - he'll be recurring on the other DC shows, too, which will be fun, and we have Vixen and Citizen Steel joining the crew. I'll wait to see what the writers do with it. Regardless, I'll definitely miss Season 1's Leonard Snart.

-SARA/SNART - There's a term in the domain of Tumblr known as "trash." Before this show, it never applied to me.

Now it does.

Maybe it's because it was the unlikeliest of pairings, and yet somehow it works beautifully; it's definitely because Miller and Lotz's chemistry is off the charts in any scene they're in together; it's also because the writers had nothing to do with it. That's why it works so well - it's not forced. The actors just decided to go with it, and because of that, it's one of the strongest elements of the show. 

I could go on and on about why I love them so much, but I'll spare you the details and just say this: it feels honest. It feels genuine. There's no bullcrap between them, no secrets or drama or typical melodramatic nonsense - it's just two equally awesome people who become great friends, and then fall in love. More of this, CW. Please. 

The bad:

Not much to say here. Everything actually works really well; it feels like the writers kept all this stuff up their sleeve and then finally revealed it in this episode - which makes for a great episode, but I wish they'd had more ideas at their disposal so the rest of the season could have been as good. If you're saving everything good for last, there's no guarantee people will stick around 'til the end to see it. 

The twist with the Oculus, Sara and Snart saving the day, Jax doing his own bit of saving the day, Mick and Ray bonding, a very small amount of screen time dedicated to Savage and Kendra - like River of Time is the showcase for the show's biggest flaws, Destiny is a display of the show at its best. I hope the writers take note and give us more of this next season.

Best Quotes:

[Snart waves deck of cards]
Sara: "Not in the mood."
Snart: "I was going to apologize for pulling a gun on you, but apparently I was just following a script."
Sara: "Doesn't make you any less of a jerk."
Snart: "...Guilty."

Snart: (to Time Masters) "There are no strings on me."
Again, from a lesser actor, this line would have come across as cheesy; from Miller, though, it's decidedly badass.

Third Time's the Harm

Remember those meteors? The one from Night of the Hawk? Vaguely? Also there was one in Pilot, Part 2? No? Well, too bad, because apparently they're the point of everything - at least according to the season finale.

The good:

-SARA - Sara finally finds out about Laurel's death...and it's heartbreaking. Caity Lotz's performance is amazing here; we see Sara go from disbelief and grief, to calm rage, to outright fury, and back to grief, pleading for Rip to take her back to save her sister. And, knowing Laurel's death comes on the heels of Snart's - I'm amazed Sara is even still standing. But she gets back up, and she kicks ass, like she always does - and that's why I love her. I think that's why it's so satisfying when she finally gets to SNAP Savage's neck. YES.
Which brings me to:

-KILL, KILL, KILL - I have never been so happy to see a villain die. The team gets to kill Savage three different times, in three different time periods, and I was practically cheering the whole way. Kendra finally gets to stab him  - YES! Mick burns him - WOO! Sara snaps his neck - AWW YESSS! That's for being the worst, least intimidating, two-dimensional villain I've ever seen on screen! DIE! DIE, YOU BADLY WRITTEN, PAPER-THIN EXCUSE FOR A CHARACTER! DIE!

-TRANSMUTATION - Firestorm has a new superpower! With Stein and Jax getting pushed to the side a lot this season narrative-wise, it was great to see them finally have something just for them to marvel at and experiment with. Can't wait to see how they use this next season!

-GOODBYE, HAWKS - The Hawks decide not to keep traveling with Rip - thank god. Apparently when show runner Phil Klemmer sat down with the writers and they tried to think of stories for Hawkman and Hawkgirl next season, they couldn't think of any, so they decided to bench them for now. Klemmer says it's because they'd already focused a lot on their story, so there wasn't much left to work with. I personally think it's because THEY'RE THE MOST BORING CHARACTERS EVER. Goodbye - only have Kendra come back when she has a personality and no love interest!

-JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA - Pretty great cliffhanger for next season. I know the Justice Society is the precursor to the Justice League, so it'll be interesting to see who they bring in for it. Our first official member is Rex Tyler, a.k.a. Hourman, who has superpowers for one hour by taking a special pill. I guess we'll see how this show interprets his powers/back story.

-SNART AND MICK - Oh, god, that last scene between Mick and past Snart. What are feelings and why do they hurt *SNIFF*

The bad:

-RIP - Oh, my god, no one cares. I stopped caring about Rip and his family ten episodes ago. Your grief does not give you the excuse to treat everyone around you like crap and put everyone else's lives in danger. Even when he risks his own life, it's totally pointless - holy god, you don't have to die. You have a jump ship! Use it! God, this is so stupid. I hope next season the writing for Rip is better, because as of this moment he is down there with the Hawks as one of my least favorite characters. Don't make me do that to Rory Williams!

-METEORS - If the meteors are such an important part of the show that they comprise the whole of the season finale, maybe they should have been brought up before. More than once. Maybe.

-LACK OF SNART - I kept waiting this entire episode for a snarky remark about the ridiculousness of everything going on. And then I'd remember - oh, right. In an episode as insane as this, we really need someone there who's willing to mock it, just to keep something grounded in reality. As it is, there was definitely a void there that I hope isn't felt so terribly in Season 2.

Whatever this episode's flaws, I have to concede that it definitely has a full barrage of great lines. So, without further ado:

Best Quotes:

Sara: "Glad we're past the point of worrying about the timeline!"
Me, too, Sara. Me, too.

Ray: "We don't need weapons."
Stein: "He's right. We have superpowers!"

Stein: "I never thought I'd utter these words, but I think we need a Nazi."

Sara: (to Savage) "A Time Master is never late."

[Bird monsters attack]
Ray: "Seriously? These guys again?"

[Firestorm turns meteor to water, washes over Sara's shoes]
Sara: (facetious) "Aw, man, you got my boots wet!"

[Hawks fly away after their final farewell]
Mick: "Every time they do that, I get hungry for chicken." (chomps chicken leg)

So, a weak finale for a bumpy Season 1. 

When Legends of Tomorrow is bad, it's really bad, but when it's great, it's so much fun. I can see the flaws, I know it's not a great show - but god help me, I love it. The cast is perfect, the premise is ridiculous and fun and awesome, and I can't wait to see what happens in Season 2. We've got Citizen Steel and past Vixen joining the team, no more Vandal Savage or Time Masters, Justice Society versus Legion of Doom (including a certain Captain Cold who somehow isn't dead) - just, give me all of it. I love its ridiculous, over-the-top insanity, and I can't wait for next season!

See you on Thursday, October 13th for "Out of Time"! Until then, Legends!

Best Season 1 Episodes:

Pilot (bar scene)


Star City 2046


The Magnificent Eight

Destiny (best episode)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 - An Overview (Part 1)

Welcome to DC TV's craziest show yet - a time travel show featuring two reincarnating hawk gods, a reformed assassin, two master criminals, a miniature-sized superhero, and a flaming nuclear man (who's actually two men). Did we mention the main villain is also immortal? Legends of Tomorrow! Enjoy your stay! 

Time travel can be a bit rough, though; there may be some, um, bleeding from the eyeballs. 

Gideon! Plot a course for Legends of Tomorrow, Season 1 - An Overview!


Pilot, Part 1

So, if you've watched the other CW superhero shows, you know Arrow and especially The Flash had pretty strong pilots (I liked Supergirl's pilot, too, although I seem to be in the minority on that one). You set up your world, you introduce your main character, and you (hopefully) give the audience a reason to keep watching.

The problem with this show is that there are NINE main characters, all with stories to tell. True, they had all been introduced on either Arrow or The Flash before this show started, but, for novices like myself at the time, their stories still needed to be told. 

Unfortunately, that takes up a huge chunk of the episode, as well as just seeing Rip round them all up and introduce himself and his story. Then we have the season-long arc with Vandal Savage and the Hawks to explain, and my god, could the writers have chosen a more complicated story line for that arc. 

(The answer is no, no, they could not.)

So, too much exposition and talking makes for a not-so-great pilot - except for one scene:

The bar fight scene with Sara, Snart, and Mick. If you watch nothing else of this show, watch that scene. It finally shows how great this show can be, with Sara kicking butt and Captain and Tenille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" playing in the background. My kudos to you, writers; that scene is pure gold - and pinpointed, in my opinion, the three best characters on the show.

I also really like the fact that the Legends aren't actually legends, as revealed by Rip. A team of supposed losers fighting to save the world in defiance of their fate is much more compelling than people who already know they're destined for greatness.

Best Quotes:

Snart: "Why did we become criminals?"
Mick: "Because we hate work and love money."

Sara: "If we have the power to change the world, don't you think we have the power to change our own fate?"

Pilot, Part 2

Fortunately, Part 2 is a bit more evenly paced than Part 1. The Legends land in 1975,  sneaking into a weapons auction. But not just any weapons auction - this one is for nuclear warheads, and bids are placed by firing your gun into the air. First of all, that is awesome - and a prime example of the ridiculous, amazing spectacle that makes this show so much fun to watch.

Other highlights: Sara kicking butt again (while stoned, I might add), Ray and Snart having to work together to break into Savage's house (Ray is just such an adorkable puppy it drives Snart up the wall, and I think that's what makes their scenes together so entertaining), and then - and then Carter dies.

We are two episodes in, folks. One of the Legends is already dead. What.

I have to hand it to the writers, that takes some serious guts (specifically, Carter's - I'm sorry). Of course there's the whole reincarnation aspect, so we know he'll be back, but wow - that's one way to fix your overcrowding of characters, I guess!

Also, Stein's younger self - spot on imitation of Victor Garber's Stein. Nice job, Graeme McComb!

Best Quotes:

Sara: "I could be unconscious and still be able to kick the ass of a few rent-a-thugs from 1975."

Stein: "This is right when I meet my future wife, Clarissa. So obviously, we wouldn't want my former self tempted by a sexy assassin from the future."
Sara: "Aw, you think I'm sex-"
Stein: "Do not finish that sentence."

Blood Ties

This episode is a prime example of what stopped this show from reaching its full potential before Destiny (its best episode and the second-to-last episode of the season): it's too dang FRAGMENTED.


Main plot: Sara and Rip break into a bank to steal Savage's funds. Another awesome fight scene for Sara, where her struggle with bloodlust from the Lazarus Pit is placed front and center, but before it can overcome her completely, she and Rip take a captive to obtain more information on Savage.


Kendra is lying unconscious in the med bay, pieces of Savage's dagger trapped in her bloodstream and heading for her heart (did anyone else miss the part in the last episode where the dagger actually broke?). Ray has to shrink down to get into her bloodstream to pew-pew the pieces into smithereens (which could still probably cause some damage) with Stein there for emotional support. But, Ray has a crisis of confidence.

Side note: Was anyone else terrified when Ray panicked when he was inside Kendra's veins? I know they wouldn't do that on this show, but in the back of my mind I was terrified Ray was going to shoot up to full size and Kendra would just go SPLAT! Ughh. Give me a frikkin' anxiety attack.


Snart steals an emerald and goes to his childhood home, ending up having an unexpected heart-to-heart when he runs into his younger self. He gives the emerald to his father, who physically abused him and his sister when they were kids, so his father won't be sent to jail for stealing it, since it was after he got out of prison that the abuse started.

The conversation between Snart and his childhood self is a really touching scene. Hats off to Wentworth Miller, who injects some much-needed pathos into Snart and makes this a really lovely, sad, heartbreaking moment. We've never seen Snart without a smirk on his face; this is the first time we've seen him be absolutely sincere and genuine, and that really makes the episode. I mean, look at him:

The fact that he can switch from that face to one of pure hatred when his father enters the room gives such an emotional charge to the whole scene, and also makes us aware of just how hard and cynical Snart has had to become in order to leave his past behind. Even though this scene is so out of place from everything else happening in this episode, it's probably the first moment of real emotional connection to one of the characters, and for that I will give the writers their due.

Best Quotes:

Mick: "We know how to case banks. We're practically bankers."
Snart: "Except we take the money out."

Jax: "Is there anything you think about other than yourself?"
Snart: "Yes. Money."

White Knights

No question, this is Captain Cold's episode, and Wentworth Miller makes the most of every minute of it, with Snart's snarky drawl and trademark smirk.

True, this episode probably focuses too much on Snart (considering there are seven other characters who need something to do), but I can't help it - I just love everything he does in this. From that swoon-worthy catch of the military officer at the Pentagon, to stealing Valentina Vostok away from Ray's failed attempts at romance, Snart is cool, confident, and a surprise ladies' man- who knew? Smooth as ice, indeed!

Captain "Steal Yo Gurl"
Of course, there are other, probably more important things going on, too: we get our first genuinely intriguing villain, Dr. Valentina Vostok, who wants to create a Soviet Firestorm; Time Master Druce tries to kill Rip, our first clue that the Time Masters aren't a particularly nice bunch; and Sara and Kendra spar on the Waverider - which, while interesting, lacks weight since it remains outside of the main conflict. Blend your story lines, blend, come on!

I do love the ending when Snart pulls his gun on Rip. Their perpetual tug-of-war of leadership in the team is already apparent, and that tension gets jacked to the max when Snart threatens Rip. Leading the Legends isn't an easy job, but, I have to say, at this point I think Snart would make a better leader than Rip. The only thing stopping him is he has to learn to care about the team as much as he does Mick or his sister Lisa. Rip is trying to save the world, but his motivation is ultimately selfish - a fact that will definitely come back to bite him.

Best Quotes:

Ray: "Better go bone up on Vostok's CV."
Snart: "I guess I'll bone up on the ballet. Gideon: bone me."
[Best line, and line delivery, of the episode, I swear. I bust out laughing every time]

Vostok: "You used me. You work for the American government."
Snart: "I'm wanted by the American government, does that count?"


This is finally an episode that feels like it can stand on its own, that it knows the kind of show it is, the story it wants to tell and how to tell it. Everyone has something to do; no one is off on little side missions that have nothing to do with the main plot. We have focus, we have clarity, we have even tone and pacing. Finally. Let's show what this show can do!

Mick, Ray, and Stein are captured - time for a rescue mission (and plenty of Prison Break references)! Sara, Snart, and Rip engage the Bratva to break into the gulag.

A stray observation: I don't know if this is a coincidence that this episode is written by two (presumably) straight women, but there are a ton of shirtless scenes here - for Rip in the sauna, and for Mick and Ray when they're being tortured. Is this shameless gratification, or just per the CW contract?

And then there's Snart, J chillin' (metaphorically) in his robe:

Rockin' the white cotton
Meanwhile, Vostok is trying to get the Firestorm formula out of Stein. Ray and Mick are in prison, and they're tortured in front of Stein to make him confess. Rip tasks Sara with killing Stein if the mission fails, and, at long last, Vostok succeeds in merging with Stein to create the Soviet Firestorm. Fail-Safe's plot is solid, which finally gives this show the vehicle to showcase what makes it worth watching: the relationships between the characters.

Ray and Mick are a fascinating combination I never thought would work, but, strangely, it does. Mick works best with his opposites; that's why he and Snart work so well together. Ray is the exact opposite of Snart, yet somehow he and Mick work, too. How?

Well, Snart and Ray place emphasis on different things: Snart is all about the mind, tactics and strategy and planning ahead, while Ray is all about the heart, caring about other people. Mick and Snart's partnership is divisive, with Snart as the brains and Mick as the muscle; Ray and Mick's temporary partnership, however, is more inclusive, with Ray as the heart, and, because of this natural vulnerability and compassion, inviting Mick to also be more compassionate. Mick likewise tries to teach Ray to be more of the muscle and look out for himself. It's an interesting dichotomy, but one that works surprisingly well. It also rounds out Mick as a character a bit more; after Ray takes a beating for him, you can tell he's surprised and touched, and thus more open to caring about somebody else on the team besides Snart, even if he won't admit it.

Stein and Jax as Firestorm is also a great relationship that gets explored here, one that shows how much their trust has grown, and Jax's belief in Stein ultimately saves them from Vostok's Firestorm. But my favorite relationship is the episode's biggest surprise: Sara and Snart.

Snart stops Sara from killing Stein? Is this still Captain Cold we're talking about? Apparently, yes - and that's what makes this episode for me.

From the pilot, Snart's interest in Sara has been clear, but more so as someone to flirt with than to actually care about. Here, though, his actions speak volumes: he recognizes her struggle with self-doubt - trying to ignore her own personal objections for the greater good, her desperation that her dark past might finally result in something worthwhile. He sees that, and seems to understand; for some reason, he wants her to be better. He knows she is better. And so it's him who ultimately convinces her to spare Stein.

This seems to come right out of the blue, and yet, somehow, it fits. The assassin who wants to reform, the hardened crook who believes in her - that's a story I'll keep coming back for.

Best Quotes:

Jax: [after sprinting across prison yard] "Barry Allen who?!"

Snart: "Sara, don't do it."
Sara: "I don't have a choice. It's the only way to save Star City - the future."
Snart: "That's how a killer thinks. And that's not you anymore."

Star City 2046

I hadn't seen Arrow before watching this episode, so I wasn't that invested in what was going on. I'm on Season 2 now, and while I am enjoying it, I'm just not as into it as I am this show or The Flash. If you're an Arrow fan, you'll probably enjoy this episode; I know a lot of people did. As for me, I'll say I wish Grant Wilson had been a bit more intimidating. 

I did, however, love how Snart was completely bored out of his mind in the criminals' den! That was unexpected, and thus frikkin' hilarious.

Best Quotes:

Mick: "We're not going to sit here, are we?"
Snart: "Why don't we stretch our legs at that bank we passed three blocks back?"

Sara: "That's not Oliver Queen."
Ray: "Sure dresses like him."
Snart: [dodging arrow] "Shoots arrows like him!"


Well, here we are: the episode that made me fall hard for Legends of Tomorrow. 

I've gushed on and on about this particular episode already, so I'll keep it short(ish) here. But I can't help it: I really love Marooned.

Structure-wise, this episode was a huge relief in that it finally laid the groundwork to give Legends the solid foundation it needs to work as a show: the back story of Rip and his wife Miranda, the reason for why the Legends exist as a team in the first place.

We also got a little world building, as the team encounters a new threat: time pirates, criminals who illegally use time travel to commit crimes throughout the time-space continuum. Now that's an interesting idea, considering with law and order (the Time Masters) you always have someone bent on defying it, and I hope we get to explore that idea even more in Season 2.

But what's really great about this episode is the relationships explored within it. The main conflict is the most tragic one: Snart and Mick, who have been at odds since Snart knocked Mick unconscious and forced him back on the Waverider in Star City 2046. Seeing that partnership break down is frikkin' heartbreaking, especially since it's been established from the start how loyal they are to each other. But Snart's loyalties have changed, shown particularly well in the scene between him and Sara when they're freezing to death in the engine room. Once again, Wentworth Miller and Caity Lotz's chemistry is amazing, and in their conversation it comes through loud and clear: Leonard Snart has finally found his heart.

Which makes it even more crushing when, at the end of the episode, after Mick has placed all of the Legends' lives at risk by letting the pirates take over the ship, Snart is forced to take Mick off and "deal with him." 

If your eyes don't water even just a little when Snart and Mick are having that conversation at the end - well, you're made of sterner stuff than I. And then when Snart actually fires his gun at Mick, presumably killing him - "What! What?! What!!" (Me, when I first saw it.) It's so sad...

And yet...

...amazing! That's how you end an episode! What a cliffhanger! What an unforgettable ending! Woo! YES!

Best Quotes:

Ray: "Captain's log, stardate 837.9. We're awaiting word from the away team aboard the Acheron."

Sara: "I don't think Mick's problem is with the ship."
Snart: "You think it's with me."
Sara: "You did knock him out and force him to leave 2046 Star City - which is like Disneyland for felons."

Night of the Hawk

The mid-season finale is set in the 1950's, where a meteorite is turning rowdy teenagers into bird monsters, all kept hidden in an insane asylum under the care of Dr. Curtis Knox, a.k.a. Vandal Savage.

This is the show's first attempt at genre work - in this case, 50's horror movies. Some parts work, some parts don't; the surprising thing is, the one thing that hasn't been working all season finally does: Vandal Savage.

Up to this point, Savage has just been a drain on the show, sapping the energy from every scene he's in. I don't know who's responsible for this casting, and who knows, maybe Casper Crump has done good work elsewhere, but my god - is it possible for someone to have a negative amount of screen presence? Because with Crump as Savage, I might as well be watching static. 

Damien Darkh, for his whole two minutes of screen time in Pilot, Part 2 had more presence than Savage has had through a whole half season's worth of episodes. Granted, the writing is a bit thin, with the character basically going for taking over the world as his main life goal, but for Pete's sake - do you have to be so dull while doing it?

In this episode, Savage works a little bit better as the villain, mostly because the focus isn't so much on him as Earth's eventual dictator as it is on him as the (in his mind) jilted lover. Savage's influence across the whole of time is too broad for us as the audience to know what amount of concern we should be feeling; however, when he shows up on Kendra's doorstep, follows her around at the dinner party, stands way too close during an otherwise normal conversation, and brushes his finger across her face as he leaves - well, we get that creepy, stalker-ish vibe loud and clear. Now imagine your stalker has access to all of time - now we have more of an understanding of the threat Savage poses, to her and Carter, at least, and thus the team.

Other notables: There's a bit of commentary in this episode about racism and homophobia in the 50's, and I like that the show addresses that, especially the comment about the idyllic 50's being an illusion burnished by nostalgia. In related news, Sara finds romance with a nurse at the asylum, and that is very cute; I especially liked seeing Sara sailing in to rescue her love from the monsters. That's a heroic moment usually reserved for a knight on a white horse - I see some justice in it being the White Canary's!

There's also Snart in disguise as a G-man. And, yes. Just yes. Ten points to the wardrobe department!

Best Quotes:

Stein: "Come on, Ms. Lance. Even someone as jaded as yourself can't deny how idyllic this time was."
Jax: "Yeah, if you're white."
Sara: "And a man. And straight."
Stein: "Okay, okay, I get the point."

Stein: "We mustn't dawdle. I believe our lunch hour is nearly at an end. Come along, nurse."
Sara: "Just so you know, Ra's al Ghul taught me to kill someone slowly. Over the course of days..."

And thus, we've hit the mid-season hiatus. 

Despite its flaws, and unevenness in the tone and pacing, I love this show - this ridiculous, bizarre, wonderful show. It's a bit of Star Trek, a bit of Firefly, a little bit if you took The Flash and smashed it together with Doctor Who - my point is, it has such potential, and that's what I love about it. We'll see if it reaches that potential in the second half of the season, which I'll recount in Part 2. 

Until then, my fellow Legends!