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It’s been quite a while since the last review of an episode from The Flash and meanwhile…
…Barry defeated future Barry, alias Savitar; Caitlin is able to deal with her icy alter ego Killer Frost and there is a new villain in town – more specifically has been in town ever since Barry first became a speedster – the highly anticipated “Thinker”. While viewers are sixteen episodes into the current fourth season, it still remains a total riddle why the Thinker is after Barry Allen, but the “Run, Iris, Run”-title does increase the interest to stay tuned as, indeed, Iris becomes a speedster.
Even though the idea that finally Iris gets to experience the same feeling of having superspeed as Barry may be reason enough to take a closer look at the episode, it is much more the developments of the other characters which make The Flash as a pretty generic superhero TV-series still sustainable. Now that Ralph Dibney is able to display more than superficial stupidity and after three seasons of Harrison Wells, when viewers start to truly understand his character, The Flash no longer limits itself to pure superheroism but can go farther and explore so many more subjects.
However, this episode drastically fails in its actual goal: with Iris becoming a speedster, there were probably dozens of different ways to make the storyline interesting, humorous and thoughtful. Instead, “Run, Iris, Run” delivered a package full of content and a mix of repressed rage and fear.
Not one minute did Barry enjoy that – let us remind it here explicitly – not a stranger, but his wife Iris got his speed, not one second was he able to display any happiness for Iris. No, instead, Barry literally “gloated”, doing nothing except shouting into Iris’ com and being depressed that he is not at the center of attention anymore. It is unfortunate that he did not team up with his suddenly depressed new buddy Ralph who is too scared to leave Star Labs but not afraid to drop arrogant and hurtful comments on Iris who has saved his life and risked every one elses more than once for him.
So the only characters which turn out to be worth the time watching are in fact Harrison Wells and Cisco: their relationship is quite special and always offers new twists and turns, but also their characters exhibit a lot of depth – especially Wells. The scientist (with seven PhDs? Come on, Flash-writers that is not even realistic any more…) who wants to overcome the natural limits of his knowledge is not only a classic science-fiction theme but a very resourceful one: when looking back at its origins in Shelley’s Frankenstein 200 years ago, it becomes clear that there are a multitude of possible ways this story can play out. To include this potential and thereby give Wells his first season’s “edge” as Thawne back is of course the highlight of the episode. It will be very interesting to see whether Wells will find his nemesis in Devoe and in what way their cognitive combat will turn out for Team Flash.
In total, “Run, Iris, Run” is the perfect example for how to not depict female characters in modern television: scared, submitive and in power only for a short amount of time. Yes, of course, Iris is the “boss” and thereby actually in power all the time, but to portray her so powerful character in such a poor way especially as she slips into the superhero speedster’s shoes is deplorable. But wait – there is still Jesse who is almost never there and the mysterious woman who strongly resembles a mix of Barry and Iris: So does The Flash get a second chance at proudly presenting a female speedster without taking away her powers as soon as she can show them? Let’s find out with the few remaining episodes of the fourth season.
“Not another show about cancer…wait, let’s do it about how it is to live without cancer!” probably summarizes best the idea behind CW’s newest TV-series Life Sentence. But as the pilot episode reveals: when life gives you lemons after surviving cancer, making lemonade out of them is not as easy as you might think.
Life Sentence places mid-twenties millenial Stella as its central point of focus. Stella (played by Pretty Little Liars alumn Lucy Hale) was diagnosed with terminal ill cancer eight years ago and has being living her life ever since according to the “YOLO” principle: trashing her bike into full garbage bins, partying in clubs with neon-colored wigs or jumping out of flying airplanes – and let’s not forget marrying a charming, hot and British holiday fling. As it is revealed in the first ten minutes of the Pilot: Stella gets “sentenced” to life – she is cured.
From this point on, the perfect image of her happy and supporting family unfolds: her brother is a loser, her sister an overstressed working mother, and while Stella’s father pays all her bills her mother comes out as a lesbian/bisexual. Nice stereotypes one might argue, but that seems to be exactly the means through which the show wants to set itself apart: take that classic cancer-movie storyline, use its one-dimensional characters and predictable plot twists in order to expose them in a series about managing life – if you are willing to dive deep into it.
And that is of course much easier with the wonderful job Hale does in portraying Stella: naive but strong, confident but anxious – full of fears but ready to overcome them. Elliott Knight as her TV-hubby appears to be the perfect fit – much more so than the “Ezria”-coupling in ancient PLL-times. From all the side characters, his role as Wes then becomes the most interesting one – perhaps most poignantly demonstrated in the scene in which he gets kicked off the support group for terminally ill people’s spouses: simultaneously euphoric and panicked, he realizes that he has to start to live his life with and not for Stella.
As the nearly oversaturated episode ends, it leaves the viewer in a state of happiness but also curious for how the twists and turns will unravel – the surprising “pregnant”-bomb serving as the main hook. Of course, one hopes that the quick pace of the show will slow down with the episodes to come but it is a style which makes Life Sentence stand out as an authentic dramedy – so let’s see how it develops, shall we?
All in all, Life Sentence‘s pilot presents a nicely wrapped package filled with wit, heart and thought: It is certainly worth the try and just as lemons get juicy when you make lemonade out of them, I have a feeling this TV-show might just as well become a sweet’n’sour treat for this spring season.
After seven seasons of plot twists and turns, reveals and mysteries, “Pretty Little Liars” comes to a heartbreaking, (nearly) brilliant, satisfying end of its series – for now.
Attention: Spoilers ahead!
After the Liars have put up with the latest product of the Evil-A-machinery and (kind of) concluded the game A.D. made for them, the two-hour-finale seems at first rather insignificant. Obviously, the finale is set to unmask the Liars’ torturer A.D., but the episode is not really framed into an overall storyline – it rather serves as the missing puzzle piece which ends dozens of minor or forgotten plotlines. But does it really complete the puzzle and solve all the mysteries?
The episode starts with Mona imagining an absurd scenario of the girls “missing” A. Knowing that up until now, season 7B of “Pretty Little Liars” has already shown a fair amount of dream sequences, this stylistic move was not not a surprise and therefore uneffective. Instead of just diving into the episode, it left a numb feeling at the start.
Then, the first third of the episode does not truly impress. Even when every viewer wants to see his or her favorite character happy and in love, the major question at hand is still: Who is A.D.? Thereby, it becomes difficult to focus on the romance when you actually want to find out the mystery. Slowly, but surely, the plot-decisions become clear: Without diving generally into each couples’ love life, it would have seemed odd to explicitly point out Toby and Spencer’s newly awakened romance; without a life-changing event – like Aria not being able to conceive – creating a conflict disrupting the pre-wedding bliss, Ezra missing out on the wedding would have lead to an immediate reaction. Even though it is interesting to construct the plotlines according to this scheme, it becomes too transparent for the viewer who soon previews the big A.D. reveal.
But: The A.D. reveal in itself was pretty spectacular and classic. A stereotype, but so well-reproduced and acted out that it made all those years of theorizing and plotting and thinking worth it. After having been hit on the head, Spencer wakes up and scrutinizes her reflection – until the Spencer in the glass does not follow her movement anymore. The viewer meets hereby Spencer’s twin, alias A.D., aka Alex Drake.
What follows is a rollercoaster ride which even for its characteristic speed seems way too rushed. Alex’s story gets told in a few flashbacks, with the help of an exaggerated British accent and her loud and dry laughs. Proportional to her role as the main Baddie in the series, the amount of time spent on her story of becoming the Liars’ torturer is way too little. But the story must go on and no Psycho gets less crazy over time: Alex becomes leatherier with every passing second.
The scenes switch from a sad, but slowly worrying Aria with her entourage to a dollhouse scenery 2.0 presenting us with two of its finest exemplary: Spencer and Ezra. As Ezra is the only (unknowing of it) witness of Alex’s existence – when he saw “Spencer” with Wren at the airport – it makes him the N°1 target for Spencer’s doppelgänger. Now, there is no way to stop the madness, even Mary gets pushed (in this case hit) out of the way by Alex who wants to end the twinning once and for all and make the evidence of her existence disappear. But no one ends Spencer that simply, thus the twins end up being intertwined in a fight, when the whole squad finds them and is as confused as the viewer. Who’s who?
Toby gives the viewer the answer for that: the smarter and more versatile one is Spencer. After this intense action, the episode nears its end with Ezra and Arias wedding – including a horrible joke of creator I. Marlene King –, takes a brilliant and stunning twist which seems to end on a high-note, but ruins it all with a marketing gag in order to open up the possibility of continuing or making a revival of “Pretty Little Liars”.
To conclude, the series finale of “Pretty Little Liars” presents the viewer with a plausible, believable and well-played and –constructed answer to “Who is A.D.?”, but stretches the romantic elements too much which somehow numbs the ultimate episode. Many loose ends, for example how the moms got out of the basement, are being brought back and get completed, though the cameos of King and her family appear rather ridiculous, than hilarious.
The viewers will surely miss the Pretty Little Liars who said a bittersweet Goodbye right before the end of the episode, shedding tears that for sure were no lies at all.
It sure as hell has been a dramatic third season for the speedster hero, Barry Allen, but the season finale goes over the top to prove yet again, that the Flash is the most heroic hero of all heroes.
Let’s get a quick overview.
“The Flash”: Storylines and characters in Season 3
Season three has really taken up some interest with its second half, introducing new characters to Team Flash and building up Savitar as the ultimate villain who is set on destroying the Flash by killing the love of his life – Iris. This particular target is in itself already dramatic, making every episode a chapter of the “How to Save Iris Guide”. The few excurses to for instance Gorilla or musical worlds (Read my review of the crossover episode with Supergirl!) added diverse adventures to the rather basic main plot, but what probably stood out the most throughout the third season were the characters.
Aside from Barry’s constant complaining and Iris’s trying to stay positive, the secondary characters gained more and more importance and depth. Take for instance Caitlin: Her fear of becoming Killer Frost was not new, especially as we already got to see her deal with this problem. But embracing her dark side and realizing step by step that she was neither Dear Good Old Caitlin, nor Monster Frostie, mirrors the recent trend of establishing a “grey-zone” for not-villains and not-heroes.
Then, after three seasons, Cisco finally got a “real” romantic storyline with Gypsy which brought some lightness into the rather intensive episodes. Also, seeing his friendship with Caitlin in jeopardy, it was interesting to witness his inner conflict with identifying himself as a hero and understanding what it means – though he appears to still not have decided whether he wants to stay “regular” or enter the heroic realm (perhaps, the writers are waiting for an O.K. to made a spin-off-Cisco-centered-series, who knows?).
A really nice change was brought by H.R. and, during the last couple of episodes, his relationship to Tracy: As a character who does not really fulfill all the criteria for being part of Team Flash, he actually showed that he constitued exactly the puzzle piece the Team had lacked – humanism. And having a few humans around all those multiplying speedsters sure was no bad thing.
“The Flash”: A rather numb Season Finale?
The character developments which were built up throughout the third season then culminated into the season finale. Starting with the end of the previous episode, we get to see the reveal that has been rumored: [Attention: Spoilers ahead!] H.R. took the place of Iris because it was his fault in the first place that Savitar found her, meaning that Iris got to live while H.R. died. For such a likeable, rounded-up character to die – it sure was not very dramatic. Team Flash moved on pretty quick from his sacrifice, nearly taking it for granted. This ignorance is probably what makes Team Flash sometimes paradoxical: On the one hand, they pretend to always make the right choice and be there for one another; on the other hand, it is totally okay and natural for someone to not just talk about it all the time, but really die for someone else. But of course – Team Flash had to deal with Savitar first.
This however was the beginning of the end: The action died from one second to the next like a candle being blown out. Suddenly, it was all about being nice and forgiving, trying to convince SOMEONE WHO WAS READY TO KILL THE LOVE OF HIS WIFE that it’s okay and in truth he’s a good guy. Of course, this way the writers avoided to repeat another big Flash-versus-Villain-fight…or did they? Because finally, it all did lead to the final battle including the little twist of Iris being actually the one killing Savitar (which explains why she had the gun in the penultimate episode).
Now, the only problem which the writers probably encountered was: Mmh, we still have ten minutes to go – what do we have up our sleeves to fill this screen time? That was probably the moment when they came up with the idea that Cisco’s solution had not been a permanent one and that the speed force always requires a speedster to fill the place. And lucky enough: We have a volunteering candidate!
Digging into the realm of absurdity, the last sequence of the episode not only ruins the finale, but even lowers the quality of the series itself. Barry seems glad to sacrifice himself and his future to be the Speed Force’s prisoner – with a big smile on his face, he says his goodbyes to everyone, gives a quick kiss to Iris and tells her to just “live her life” (Yeah, that is what a woman really wants to hear in those kind of moments…) and enters with Mummy Dearest the speed force. His explanation: Now, he can finally redempt his mistake of having created Flash Point.
Well, Congratulations: Barry Allen is The Most Remorseful Hero Ever. After everyone has been telling you along the season that it is okay and that you are forgiven, you still cannot forgive yourself? Does it mean anything to you that viewers sacrificed dozens of minutes of their time to listen to your complaints and excuses? Just grin and take the first chance you get to prove how much of a hero you really are.
Final Review of “The Flash”
While The Flash’s third season featured interesting and challenging character developments for the secondary characters, the rather numb finale did not include enough action and ended in such a excessively dramatic way that it dug into the absurd. With so many superhero-shows on TV, it is obvious that every series tries to set itself apart with distinctive features of its hero. But in this case, “The Flash” deceives loyal viewers by attempting to ascent its hero to another level of heroism – which instead only leads to doubt in what way “The Flash” still classifies as a true superhero-series.
My tip for you ducklings: If you insist on watching the finale, go on, I won’t stop you. But at least the finale does not make it difficult to wait a few months until the fourth season makes its debut – on the contrary, it rather makes you think of spending your time on your own life, love, family and future. Well done, “The Flash”!
First off: What was NOT awesome about this musical episode of The Flash with an appearance of Supergirl?
Summary of The Flash‘s musical episode
In “Duet”, the 17th episode of the 3rd season of The Flash, our favorite red-suited hero gets trapped in his own illusion: a musical world! But: He’s in there for a reason. Because Kara fell into some kind of “coma” after facing off an alien enemy, her “friend who is a boy” Mon-El and the Martin Manhunter bring her to Barry’s Earth. So technically, Barry only joins Kara in the musical illusion.
There, they have to follow the script: In a Gangster version of “Romeo and Juliet”, Barry and Kara become the sidekicks of their real-life loved ones – Iris as Millie and Mon-El as Tommy – and actually have to help them proclaim their love for each other to their fathers. But, as Shakespeare’s classic story goes: It doesn’t really end well.
Well, good that we are living in modern times. Cisco vibes the true Iris and Mon-El into the imaginary realm in order that for once, they can save their – this time respective – partners with a magic kiss.
Back to the real world – or at least to one of an infinite amount of worlds – Barry takes the Music Meister’s lesson to heart. The episode finishes with his moving and super sweet performance of “Runnin’ Home To You” culminating in the proposal that finally feels right – and gets the right answer from Iris: Yes!
Review of the musical crossover episode of The Flash
Heroes meet your human-selves!
Now, to the episode itself: In terms of contextualization, the flashback to Barry and his mother watching Singing in the Rain seemed plausible. Perhaps for some a bit cheesy, it was a nice starting point for the episode’s plot. And it reflected a subtlety which made the musical episode even more appealing: its humanness. The fact also that we get to see the heroes without their powers and confronting their own normal, human-kind of problems was somehow relaxing from the usual running & flying around-stuff and reminded us, that even heroes are sometimes just humans. Then, we saw a heart-broken, grown man lingering on a couch and watching musicals to feel better: Who does not know that kind of feeling? There was literally no better way to make the viewers relate to Barry.
The quick unfolding of the plot was very successful with Barry rapidly joining Kara into the illusion. And, ironically, it was pretty true to his character too: Just run into the danger, Barry, even when you know that the man put Supergirl into a coma only by looking at her…you sure are not going to be the one who’s falling right into the trap…
Of course, Kara’s solo was a hit and Barry’s reaction to it was probably mirroring very adequately our faces when seeing and hearing her perform. Knowing that they produced this episode in the same amount of time than the regular episodes, one really has to take a bow before the performers and creators. Going to the studio and record while shooting? That must have been stressful – and what came out of it was worth the hard work.
With the Music Meister dropping in, the illusion gets a perilous twist: Barry and Kara have to follow the script and if they die in their imagination, they die in real life. With Cisco and Winn joining the ensemble musical number, it is now completely clear to all: this musical episode is for the WIN (and that is not a reference to Winn’s character, but still a nice pun!).
All you need is Love
And then of course, the reveal: Iris – as Millie – and Mon-El – as Tommy – are in love. The superheroes’ worst fears played out – or rather made out – right in front of them. But, because they have to follow the script and probably because their love goes so far that they’d rather see their loved ones happy with other people than with them (wait: isn’t that a little bit self-conscious? Oh, yeah, they’re heroes so they are constantly doubting themselves – how could I forget!), they help them convince their respective fathers (triple that please, because Joe and Stein became THE ultimate couple we never dreamt of but turned out to be the GREATEST OF ALL).
Although they do complete the musical with an additional song, just like in “Romeo and Juliet” – or like a lot of other musicals as Barry and Kara funnily point out – the fathers are not happy with their kids’ decision and go to war.
But: Before Barry and Kara get shot and actually bleed – yeah, crazy right? – they just have to drop the ultimate, greatest superhero-song bomb of all times.
Parallel to that going on, Kid Flash is back, though a little bit staggering still. And who did not like the constellation of Martian Manhunter, Vibe and Kid Flash? I mean, they could just as well make their own team. Or series…
And the fairy-tale does not end until the magic kiss wakes up the princess – and prince. Or in this case, Supergirl and The Flash.
The ultimate reveal however was that the Music Meister was not a Big Baddie, but rather a Big Fan of Love. Through his little illusion, our favorite superheroes found their way back to their favorite loved-ones. Because ain’t no hero without love!
A duckling’s rating on The Flash‘s musical episode ft. Supergirl
So, there’s really not much to say that would undermine this fantastic episode. Yeah, it would have been nice to watch what happens to Kara and whether she sings a little song to Mon-El too, but who knows, we’ll maybe get to see that next week. Or any other time, when we have another musical episode!
Therefore, a Super-A-Grade seems adequate for “Duet” – the must-see musical superhero-crossover-episode!
Between life and death lies an infinite amount of moments. And there has never been a show more able to portray them than NBC’s “This Is Us”.
Last night, the finale of the first season aired and showed once again the magic in ordinariness.
“This Is Us”: A unique show
In “This Is Us”, the viewer gets to explore the lives of the Pearson family. It is not just a drama series, it goes way deeper than that: it is a life series, exploring different kinds of lives at the same time thus making it possible for each viewer to find a way to identify with the characters. Its title even reflects its uniqueness, as it literally applies to everyone – “us”.
Renewed for two seasons, we can gear up for more tears and laughs in the two years to come. But for now, we can reflect and think about the great moments we encountered in the past six months.
Pro of “This Is Us”: Great characters
For one, we met the Pearson family with Rebecca and Jack as single adults, couple, married couple, parents and obviously separated by death/remarried; Randall Pearson as the adopted black son fighting for perfection in his life when realizing he is living the perfect life; the twins Kate and Kevin Randall who are total extremes in appearance, but share much more anxieties than they are ready to reveal – even towards their loved ones. Thereby, the viewers get to see on the one hand, very simple characters, which on the other hand seem to bear much more depth in them than one realizes at the beginning of the series.
Then, we have amazing supporting parts like Randall’s other half Beth, his biological father William and Kate’s boyfriend/fiancé Toby. They fit perfectly in the picture, completing the apparently ordinary with the extraordinary.
Flashbacks in “This Is Us”
But that’s not all. Besides great characters and ensuing plotlines, “This is Us” uses time jumps to keep things interesting. In a lapse of almost 40 years, the viewers can uniquely travel through the timelines of the characters – better than Facebook could ever provide them with.
Whether it is an episode which fully plays out in the 1980s or one whose scenes jump between past and present like a ball in a ping-pong game, the last thing the viewer gets confronted with in this show is boredom.
“This Is Us”… or this is too much drama?
However, the drama is real and intense – sometimes way too much. This is a con, because the show has the ability to create a new genre instead: a series about human life, everyday-life and all the moments which make it special, but sometimes also hard to live. Therefore, some plot twists appear too forced, too much. For example the way too long and artificial extension of Kate revealing what happened to her father – which actually still did not take place. Obviously, the show plays with that and uses the suspense to keep the viewers excited for the following seasons. But the whole reveal took way too long and did not leave enough space for other interesting storylines including for instance Beth, Toby or even Miguel’s life stories which have not been explored yet at all.
Another example for those “too much drama”-twists would be the storyline of Jack becoming jealous of Ben who is playing with Rebecca in the band. The basic concept is interesting and as we have seen: It opens up possibilities for new stories, for instance to see Jack and Rebecca separated (even if we do not want to). But the way it actually turned out and that Ben really tried something with Rebecca was just too much of it all. The effect of Jack’s jealousy having its roots in his dissatisfaction with Rebecca and her life choices would have been much greater, if there had not been any reason to be jealous of someone in the first place (and it would have been much more realistic too, by the way!).
But being in the drama business, the series did not have much of a choice.
A duckling’s review of “This Is Us” Season 1
Thus, for all of you ducklings who have not watched “This Is Us” yet – it is worth your time. But only, if you are really into drama and do not start crying easily, because even though the show gives you tons of moments to laugh, it opens up double as much possibilities to cry.
Spring is coming nearer with each day and that means: new TV-shows to watch! On the watch-list today: Big Little Lies.
Background Info on Big Little Lies
Based on the novel written by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies tells the story of three women who have to deal with different stages of their motherhood, private and public life. Madeline is divorced (and married for the second time with another man) with two daughters, being best described as the “gossiper” as she is the first to know anything about everything. Celeste is a beautiful mother of twins living the (apparently) perfect life married to the (apparently) perfect man. And then, there’s the “newbie” in the new-rich, hip neighborhood: Jane. She is a very young, single mother of a quiet son and very mysterious concerning her background.
Big Little Lies: Review
These basic characteristics are all implemented in the new drama starring an impressive cast: Witherspoon, Kidman and Woodley – what a crowd! As if the characters had been written for them, they amazingly portray the women presented above. But also other great actors and actresses like Laura Dern are part of the HBO show. However, in her particular case it is not quite clear what role she will play in the series, as her character does not receive so much attention in the novel. And is she really fitting for the role of a career-woman? You might remember her in The Fault in Our Stars as –coincidentally – Shailene Woodley’s stay-at-home mom. Otherwise, there is nothing negative to say about the cast: Even the children were perfectly chosen for their respective parts.
Buuut…there comes the downside to it: Apart from the characters, the story and particularly the chronology of events is very true to the book. On the one hand, that honors the author and does not deceive her fans who want to see the novel come to life exactly in the way it was written; on the other hand, the dialogue and the events of the plot do not always seem so logical in the series as in the novel: While in a book, it is easy to make time jumps, to alter different perspectives and narrative voices, the viewer might not be able to follow that line so easily as the reader.
Obviously, it is a HBO show, so it needs to set itself apart from the mass of TV-series and especially drama shows out there. The film technique is therefore a little bit “too much” with very long scenes and particular angles – though the last characteristic sometimes brings the “creepy touch” into it, as the shot angle is often one of a “watcher” (as if the camera was a person observing in secret the characters). The opening sequence may appear very dramatic, but the way it was shot with changing perspectives underlined by the differences in sound and vision (for example breathing, blurriness etc.) was actually very interesting and authentic.
Duckling’s Series Tip on Big Little Lies
So in general, my advice for you little ducklings is: That’s a show worth your time. Even though they could have shorten some scenes and could have brought out more Jane’s character for instance, you should go and watch it – at least because of the utterly amazing cast.
PS: The Pilot appeared to focus more on Madeleine’s point of view – but don’t forget that Moriarty’s novel features different perspectives which could be adapted by a variation of character emphasis in each episode. Let’s see how it turns out!
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Also: Check out my recent review on Nashville Season 5