Arrow: The Magician (EPISODE REVIEW)

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When the episode title ‘The Magician’ was announced a few weeks back, I remember the first thing that popped into my head, and perhaps many other comic book fans heads: Zatanna would be making her entrance at last. Nope! That was shot down in the dirt almost instantly. By Magician they were referring to Malcolm Merlyn’s comic book title: Merlin the Magician. And as mildly disappointing as this news was at the time, one really must try hard to dislike John Barrowman’s enigmatic yet magnetic portrayal of the character. And again, Barrowman nails it.

In light of Sara’s absence we sink ever deeper into the pit of whodunnit territory. Nyssa al Ghul joins the fray this week, immediately pointing the finger at the most likely suspect, the Magician himself. But really the only time he acts magical is when he drops smoke on the ground to run off. It works funnily enough. With Nyssa the daughter of the leader of the League of Assassins guild, and Oliver still abiding by his oath not to take lives anymore, they’ve got decidedly different philosophies on how the situation need be handled. Where Oliver needs answers, she just needs to shoot him. Laurel is on her side… Kinda. Well she is at first, and then she just slides back into a more subdued “I’ll let you guys handle it” mode.

Will we eventually get to see Laurel train with the League of Assassins, under Ra’s al Ghul himself? I kinda hope so. She really needs to get out of Starling City for a bit. And that punching bag isn’t going to teach her how to fight – rather it’ll help her land punches. But people punch back and stuff… so. Wait, Nyssa come back! Take her with you!

This is the first Oliver learns that Merlyn is still around oddly enough. And although he suspects something off with Thea, the thought never crosses his mind that he’s already gotten to her. Which he has, and she is guarding that with everything in her, protecting Merlyn – but to what end? I mentioned last week that I’m really starting to like her sub-story and I expect that to become indelibly linked with this season’s main plot, so I’m eager to see where that heads. What I’m really curious about is why nobody thinks it’s weird she’s wearing crop tops all the time. Seriously. It’s midriff city in Verdant. Roy doesn’t seem to mind. He’s willing to do unnecessary flips in front of her to protect her.

It’s gotta be really frustrating for Oliver at this point. Now that his ally/enemy base has grown to become a bonafide club, keeping everyone on track must be like herding cats. And although he was right to allow Merlyn off the hook (as he clearly had no reason to kill Sara), this has caused a division between himself and Nyssa – in turn essentially declaring war against the League of Assassins. That is of course how Ra’s al Ghul takes it. And we finally get our first glimpse of him. Was a little anticlimactic on my end – I was kind of hoping he wasn’t going to be some white guy – but hey. You can’t win em all. I’m sure he’ll be great. The aerial shot of the Assassin base was unbelievably gorgeous. Send Team Arrow out there please.

It was a crowded episode, which actually ended up helping its continuity. What I mean is that Felicity left Starling city during last week’s episode, so as to appear on this week’s Flash. She makes room for Nyssa’s return essentially, and when Nyssa departs she conveniently came back at the end of the episode. That’s one way to get rid of overcrowding – send your characters over to The Flash. I realize I sound like I’m being sarcastic in this paragraph, but I really don’t mean it that way. I truly think that’s excellent writing. On that note, it’s good the left Ray Palmer out this week.

The only thing that really dragged incessantly for me was the flashback scenes. They served no discernible purpose this week, and actually diluted the excellent tension building throughout the rest of the reasonably paced episode. No episode is perfect, but Arrow’s doing a great job.

Current ranked average for Arrow Season Three: 8.57

Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night (EPISODE REVIEW)

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How strange. It feels as if series 8 has just begun, and yet in a few days we’ll see the penultimate episode air, and hopefully it’ll shatter our puny unworthy minds. But for now we’re left with a quiet episode, the calm before the storm if you will. And while it is a magical, fun, and beautiful experience, it doesn’t give itself enough credit, and commits the cardinal sin of revolving it’s story entirely around a child’s whimsy.

Let’s start things by mentioning that I rather enjoyed this episode. For the most part I felt I could leave my brain by the door and enjoy the pretty colors and animals that flitted across the screen. As a fan of Doctor Who and also a reviewer I prefer to watch the episode once, just to enjoy, and then watch it again to write down notes so as to review later. On second watch I found that most of the magical properties inherent in my first viewing were almost nonexistent, as the rewatch value was particularly low… But I did notice a different type of magic that struck me dumb. The direction.

Sheree Folkson is Doctor Who’s eighth ever female director. 810 episodes, and only eight female directors? The seventh female director actually filmed the series 8 two parter that starts next week, but she filmed her episodes before Sheree, so technically that puts her at eight. Regardless, the direction was spectacular. This is one of the few times I can remember in Doctor Who where the majority of the episode was filmed with handheld cameras. The shot in the TARDIS where Peter walks almost the full length of the railing was excellent. What a fantastic set!

In regards to the episode as a whole, I’ve unfortunately not much to say. There’s not much to it. Neither the Doctor nor the companion did anything to effect the outcome of the story. Just kinda lived it. The flaws are apparent. It ends up coming back around to centering the story around the young child Maebh. How did the absence of her sister cause her to begin hearing/sensing these previously unknown alien entities? Why would the world believe a child that said it was going to be alright? Speaking of the world, the average animal to human ratio was startling – why were there only about 20 people in London? But then that atrocious ending scene where Maebh’s sister comes sparkling out of a bush… Why must we be subjected to that? And I always assumed Coal Hill was a secondary school, not a primary? Those kids were like 10.

What this episode did drive home for me is that Danny is still one of my favorite characters. He’s a gentleman, he’s good with kids, and he puts up with Clara’s lying… AND he can outsmart a tiger. I wonder when, or even if, he’ll ever join the TARDIS crew. And why is he so very lax about Clara traveling around and doing these extremely dangerous activities? Is he connected to Missy? Is Maebh connected to Missy? She does say “Miss” told her about the solar flare. So many questions. And I’m sure in the next episode we’ll get some answers.

What are your thoughts on In the Forest of the Night? Did you kinda wish Maebh would slap herself when she was running nonsensically through the forest? Should science fiction writers be required to pass basic earth science classes in school prior to writing Doctor Who scripts? Could you do a better job? Let me know.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: A Fractured House (EPISODE REVIEW)

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Perhaps one of the most appropriately titled episodes of the series (but not a very enticing one), A Fractured House delivers exactly what it’s marketing: a fractured house. And not just on one level, but many levels. We have the obvious petty feuds between Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter, divorcees who must fight together to complete their mission. Then we have the insane levels of tension between Fitz and Simmons, newly resurfaced upon her returning. We have the very literal and dangerous brother-brother grudge between Grant and Christian Ward. And then, perhaps the most poignant for me was the clear hatred the rest of Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. team feels toward Grant Ward, who betrayed them last season.

I really like Bobbi. And it’s more than just her physical attraction, for I feel she brings a lot to the table. This season we appear to be getting a rotating board of new Agents to pick and choose from, and that’s really okay with me so long as they continue building up the original crew. Adrianne Palicki is perfect for the Mockingbird role, and plays off the character of Lance Hunter like none other can. I feel obliged as a male to state my opinion on her physical appearance, but my rational mind is telling me to stay far away from that… I really think the past-relationship status between Lance and Bobbi is an excellent jumping on point for both characters. 6 episodes in and I find I’m really beginning to like Lance.

Oh Fitz. Oh Simmons. Things are so awkward right now. This isn’t exactly the bonding episode I so wanted, but that punch in the feels right at the end told me that episode will take some time to show. Elizabeth Henstridge killed it in this episode. She teared up in every scene! I’ve been feeling bad for Fitz this whole season, but all of a sudden I feel even worse for Simmons. Every time Jemma attempts to get close to him he gets worse and worse. I realized while watching this episode that actor Iain De Caestecker (Leo Fitz) actually has it really easy this season. This stutter issue Fitz has developed totally gives him the best excuse not to remember his lines. Again, I love the bromance brewing between Mac and Fitz. He really is trying to look out for him.

I’m a little at a loss as to what we can expect from Grant Ward’s brother, Senator Christian Ward, but whatever that may be Grant wants no part of it. He actually seems terrified every time his brother is brought up. And who is truly lying about their past? Grant, or Christian? Totally Christian. Especially after we see him getting those symbols tattooed onto his body soon after the fact. There is some great direction done at the close of the episode, with the montage of Grant Ward getting handcuffed, the Senator giving his statement, the other S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents reactions to him being shepherded out, and then Ward breaking free. Loved that scene to death.

But it also stung. I still really like Grant Ward, despite his HYDRA tendencies. And now he’s 100% alone. Everyone from Skye to Coulson is sick of his presence. When he’s being escorted out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility and he tries to get a word in with Skye, Simmons steps in, bravely telling him that she’ll kill him if she ever sees him again. I believe there is good in him. And I believe we’ll see more of that in episodes to come. A fractured house indeed.

Interestingly Talbot seems to be turning a new leaf, or rather turning his coat. He no longer seems to feel it’s necessary to take S.H.I.E.L.D. down every which way. Sure, we get that opening scene where he shames the organization after the events of Avengers, but he later defends the organization to Senator Ward. Later he even empathizes with Agent May about the losses they tolled.

And can we just take a minute to admire Agent May here. Ming-Na Wen, the actress playing May has done it again. These are the best fight scenes on television, people. That knife and chain fight blew my puny little mind. The episode was worth it just for that.

Current ranked average for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two: 8.51