What to Binge: Miranda

One beautiful thing about this summer is people discovering Miranda Hart. I was excited to see her cast in Spy because I knew it would lead to people falling in love with her. Before this movie, the chances of someone from the U.S.A. knowing her would have been through Call the Midwife. They would have not known she is this amazing comedian, or she had her own show, Miranda. This week’s binge watch choice is Miranda, which can be found on Hulu . This is me telling you, “WATCH IT!!!” If me telling you to watch it is not enough reason, then here five more reasons to watch this glorious show.

 

1. Relating to Miranda

In less than three episodes you will find yourself agreeing to something Miranda does or says. Her belief in never giving up childish fun is what relates to me the most. I hope I never grow up and become a serious adult, if it means giving up on the things I find fun.

 

2. Tom Ellis

The man is fine. The chemistry him and Miranda have is great. You will want Miranda and Gary to end up together. There will be a need for them to be happy, and kiss (then kiss again and again). It doesn’t hurt that Tom Ellis is tall like Miranda. When they are in a scene together, you forget how incredibly tall they are.

*If you are planning on watching Lucifer of Fox this winter, now is a chance to get your first taste of Tom Ellis (if you haven’t already).

 

3. Her Mother

Another way you may find yourself relating to Miranda is with her mother, Penny. She is constantly wanting Miranda to marry and have a grown up job. However, the relationship is still a delight to watch. The bottle episode where Miranda and Penny are in a psychiatrist’s office is one of the strongest episodes of the series.

 

4. Miranda’s and Stevie’s Friendship

While the series had the will they or won’t they relationship with Miranda and Gary, it also focused on  her friendship with Stevie. At first glance, it seems like they have nothing in common both physically and personality wise. However, these two had some of the best moments on the show, and I would be lost without them.

 

5. Learning to Accept Yourself

One of the themes about Miranda is her finding self-actualization. It also taught the audience members how to accept themselves on who they are. It is important to love and accept yourself for who you are, and this show is a perfect example of this life lesson.

 

Bonus: The hotel episodes are two of the best episodes.

What to Binge: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It surprised me when they announced season two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to be out on Netflix earlier this month. Usually I have to wait until the fall before I can start to binge watch a show that just aired. However, I feel it was a smart move because now it gives people a chance to start watching the show before season three airs. There is no longer an excuse of not having time to watch it all.

Summer is the time for binge watching. Where fanatics of shows yell at friends to watch something they love because they care. This is me yelling at you to watch this show. It may start off slow, but IT GETS BETTER! WATCH IT!

The show had a slow start. In some ways it reminds me of Arrow’s first season. Both shows got better as their first season went on. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was finally able to go full speed after Captain America: Winter Soldier. The show was leading up to the film, and the ramifications from the film impacted the show greatly. For me this show is like a roller coaster it took a while for the build up, but the pace finally increased.

This show has been enjoyable for many reasons, and it is why I’m giving you 10 reasons why it needs to be binge watched this summer.

 

1. Phil Coulson

Clark Gregg gives Phil Coulson life. The man passionately believes in S.H.I.E.L.D. and his team. One of Gregg’s greatest moments was the scene up above. There was despair in what the group had lost. Hydra had been with them this whole time. However, Coulson carried on. He kept his beliefs, and it made you want to stand with him (In Coulson We Trust). Gregg’s performance made you want to hug the man, and tell him you would follow him anywhere.           

But then there is also more playful side of Coulson. The one you want to keep in your pocket because he is adorable.

 

2. Captain America: Winter Soldier

Season one was tightly connected to this movie. The season was leading up to the revelation Hydra had been implanted in S.H.I.E.L.D. It was the catalyst for how the organization dealt with the after effects of Hydra being revealed. Steve Rogers may have said no more S.H.I.E.L.D., but the organization was huge. Someone had to make sure the agents were taken care of. Someone has to find and fight Hydra. Yes, S.H.I.E.L.D. fell down, but the belief for what it stood for never died. They were able to keep it alive.

 

3. Guest Appearances

The show never lacks in good guests. For instance, the show finally introduced Phil’s cellist played by Amy Acker. Other actors from both the Whedon Universe and Marvel Cinematic Universe have popped up from time to time. The second time Samuel L. Jackson appeared as Nick Fury was everything I wanted and more. Then there are other actors who don’t belong to the universes like Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, and Edward James Olmos.

 

4. Villains

Agent Dale Cooper played a excellent, unhinged villain in season two. He knew how to balance the craziness and violence. Then there are the Team Hydra players. They know how to comply on being the bad guys. One of my favorites is Raina. She joins any team that will give her what she wants at the time. She will forever be in the morally grey area, and enticing to watch.

 

5. Fight Sequences

The combat is fun to watch especially with season two. Melinda May has been kicking butt since season one, but season two showed more of the team in action. A beautiful thing to see is Bobbie Morse and Lance Hunter fighting each other, but then being in sync while fighting the bad guys.

 

6. The Characters Added On The show started off with only six members of the team, but the team has evolved over the past two seasons. It has added new characters. Antoine Triplett was the who brought the funk to the group, and he will forever have a piece of my heart. Then there were more additions is season two. My favorite being Bobbi Morse a.k.a. Mockingbird. As soon as she and Jemma Simmons bonded, I knew I was hooked.

 

7. The Number of Women One thing that sets this show apart from other shows is the number of women. Generally I find a show to be lacking with women. The men always outnumber them. This group usually has the same amount of men and women. We also get women who have questionable morals. The women on this show are not there to help a man’s story line along. They have their own stories. They will also protect the others, if you even try to mess with one of them.

 

8. The Characters Before the first season is over there will be at least one character to fall completely in love with. You will find yourself worrying about the character, and wanting to protect them at all costs (my favorite is Jemma). It is more than probable to fall in love with more than one of these characters. They all have differences, but they work brilliantly as a team. They also grow over the series. The character growth and evolving of this series is a beautiful thing. The best example would probably be Leo Fitz who was the child of the group in season one. Fitz has grown up, but is still this caring man you want to hold and protect.

 

9. The Friendships Friendships are a key factor for me watching a television show. I love seeing camaraderie between two people who will be there for the other person. This show has multiple friendships. All the members of the team are friends, but the bonds between certain people on the team are different. They each bring their own value and interest. I cheered when Mack and Leo became friends. I encourage a friendship between Bobbie and Jemma while I still love the Jemma and Skye dynamic.

 

10. The Family The core group became a family during the first season. They will protect each other at all costs, and consider wherever the team is home. It isn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. that is home for them, it is the people they love.

 

Bonus: It is all connected. I had a better understanding of the films with how they connected parts the show and films like Avengers: Age of Ultron together. It has also already started what will probably be the basis for Captain America: Civil War.

Mad Pitch: A Review of Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road

***Warning: This post contains spoilers for Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road***

Last weekend, my drive-in put together Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road on the same screen. At first glance, it may seem odd these two were put together. One film is a comedy and the other is action packed, but the main commonality of these two films are ladies dominating the screen time. They show a variety of ladies in these films because not every single woman is going to be the exact same copy of each other. There will always be differences in personality alone. If we only have ladies who take charge and look hot while doing it, then a film becomes a copy of films before it.

Pitch Perfect 2 is all about the ladies. They are facing the the problem of the Barden Bellas becoming a thing a of the past, and the only way for them to survive is winning the World Championship. All through out the movie I kept thinking about Community‘s Christmas episode, “Regional Holiday Music,” where the study group had to become the glee club. I knew the stakes were supposed to be high, but I wasn’t able to be fully invested in it. It was the same plot with the original movie. The Bellas had to win again. They kept talking about the World Championship and met their enemy, but it was a background plot. I didn’t care about who won this time around. I cared about the interactions of the characters.

The film did a good job of making the first part disjointed. It didn’t flow, and it showed the group was no longer together. They had lost who they were as a group. Instead we were getting individual stories of Beca, Amy and the new girl, Emily.

For me, the best part of the film was when they went on the retreat. It is where the synchronization started because they were becoming a group again. Before this happened, the tone of the Bellas had changed (not for the better). Yes, they were a group who was trying to get back to the top, but the heart was gone. It came back when they started to open up and supporting each other.

This movie felt like a sequel. Someone would not be able be able to come into the movie without seeing the first and understand everything that was happening. It is a continuance of the story, but the problem with sequels is the first movies are well loved it is hard for the second film to live up to the first.

A sequel doesn’t always have to be bigger to be better, and Pitch Perfect 2 movie had this example with the Bellas trying to be bigger in order to be better. However, I don’t think the movie necessarily lived up to their own example. They added more characters, but the some of the characters felt typecast. They went for the easy jokes.

Then there is the music. While I don’t hate the majority of songs on the film, it did not make me want to buy the album immediately after I left the theater. The first film had me jumping up and down singing right along with the songs. I got into the film. This time I left the theater questioning the credibility. Why would the majority of groups from all around the world be singing an American song? If it was a national championship, it would be comprehendable for multiple groups singing the same song, but this was a World Championship. I know timing is a factor, but the movie failed for me with this part.

Overall it was interesting to see a film take a reverse stance from several other films. The ladies were the main focus, and the only times the guys were on screen they were playing the love interest for the girls. They were the supportive cheerleaders.

Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t get the guy cheerleaders. What they got was Imperator Furiosa saving the ladies from Immortan Joe. While this movie was the fourth Mad Max film, no one had to see the first three films in order to know what was happening with this film. This film is a simple action flick that will give the audience an adrenaline rush.

There were no long explicative scenes of what was happening. The film didn’t need them. It let the audience know what they needed to know piece by piece. It was fluid this way, and comprehensive. There didn’t need to be any scenes of Joe treating the women as sex slaves. The “We are not things” written on the wall was enough to understand what was happening. There were no scenes of rape happening on the screen because a person does not need to be shown the act actually happening in order to process a person is being raped. They are able to grasp it from what the ladies wrote and then later seeing them cutting off their chastity belts with bolt cutters. We know the ladies were treated as objects, and they were proving to themselves and us they were human beings who were not inferior.

The women held so much power in this film. Max and Nux had to become accepted by them, or they would not have been able to join forces with them. They wouldn’t have earned one of the few motorcycles because they would not have deserved them.

It was a “lovely day” when I watched this film. Joe and his brothers had made everyone inferior to them, but this film showed the ones considered inferior were in fact superior. The most beautiful part was Max and Furiosa not falling into the concept of the guy and girl hating each other at first, and then falling in love by the end of the film. They were comrades in arms, both of them seeking redemption.

The film didn’t give deep depth or draw out the characters, but it didn’t need to. It gave a good adrenaline rush. It succeeded my expectations, and was very tactful. The film is rated R and George Miller could have gone all Game of Thrones with graphics, but he kept it tasteful. After all, the film is mainly for the car chases with drummers and a guitarist with a flame thrower guitar thrown in.

The most beautiful thing about these two films is they would not have been better if the genders have been reversed. They proved women can be a major factor of a film without always being sexualized. They can be equals. They can be the ones in the driver’s seat with the guy in the passenger’s seat supporting them.

My Name is Oliver Queen

I have a question for everyone reading this post. I assume you’re all Arrow fans with at least a casual interest in the show. Whether you’re a regular reader or you’re brand new here, I really want your opinion.

Did the finale fix anything for you?

It’s a serious question, because I have seen the reactions to “My Name is Oliver Queen” run the entire spectrum. Some people are overjoyed. Some people have quit the show. Some people are angry about Oliver/Felicity but willing to continue. Others don’t really care about Oliver/Felicity but they’re angry about Laurel.

If we ignore spin doctor Guggenheim and actually examine reactions to the episode and the season as a whole, the only thing we can conclude with certainty is that fandom has experienced a dramatic shift this year. The people who have been with the show since day one are quieter. The shippers are manic and tunnel-visioned. And you know which shippers I’m talking about — not a specific ship, either, but certain factions of fandom that just want their endgame and they don’t care how they get it — so don’t get offended, because I don’t include everyone who ships. I still consider myself an Oliver/Felicity shipper, I guess by default, even though the characters that drove off into the sunset in the finale were unrecognizable from the dynamic duo I used to ship. Shippers who value good writing and storytelling over endgame, those are the shippers I want to talk to.

And people are angry. Even the people who are happy and got exactly what they wanted, they’re engaged in angry, defensive debate with people who dare to argue. There’s been a pervasive sense of appropriation of fandom and characters this season that’s made any sort of meta discourse nearly impossible. If you get critical about certain characters, people converge and condemn you for being “too negative,” as if positivity is the only way to approach the media you consume. If you’re not positive, you’re just wrong, and your motivations are up for debate.

This is not to say that constant negativity is any better, and while my reviews have definitely fallen to the negative side this season, I still try not to approach this show looking for bad things. I’ve had varying levels of success (I would not say I’m very rational about the Ray Palmer aspect. At all.) but on the whole I’ve tried to strike a balance. But today I feel lost. I feel that no two people are having the exact same reaction to this episode.

This is why I genuinely want you to comment and leave your honest opinion of Arrow’s season finale. I’d love to know what you expected, whether you enjoyed it, whether it was predictable or surprising, and if it “fixed” the problems of the season for you — if this season was even problematic for you in the first place.

As for my opinion…

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.23 of Arrow, “My Name is Oliver Queen.”**

If you want a gauge of just how negative my review will be, I’ll start off with the blunt truth: I have no plans to continue reviewing this show next season. I will watch the first couple of episodes out of sheer curiosity, mostly related to Speedy and to see how the writers awkwardly attempt to bring Oliver and Felicity back into the fold, but overall, I have no interest in watching this show critically anymore. To me, this has fallen in my eyes to the TV-viewing equivalent of Once Upon a Time — a perfectly entertaining show, but riddled with enough plot holes and out-of-character moments that I can’t take it seriously enough to be critical. That’s why these reviews have been a bit of a slog; I’ve gotten so far removed from thinking of the plot from a meta perspective that I can’t completely engage anymore.

To me, this episode failed almost every single character. Let’s break it down:

Oliver learned almost nothing. He confessed that maybe he should’ve trusted his team and not tried so hard to protect Thea, but he did it in such a way that he never really apologized or admitted he was wrong. In fact, he did that kind of tired superhero-y trope of treating his ‘ragtag team’ like a bunch of scamps who escaped with their lives by pure luck, and not because of any talent, skill, or heart. And then he quit, because I guess after 3 terrorist attacks in 3 successive Mays, he thinks his crusade is over.

But yeah, let’s talk about how Oliver thought an apology would be enough for any of them. Thank GOD, in the end, that Felicity was the only one to actually accept it (and I’ll get to that in a moment) because no one else really forgave Oliver for his crappy treatment of them this season. Remember when he trusted his team? Remember when he put his entire life and trust in Felicity when he handed her a small syringe and whispered “Do you understand?” Remember, oh, all the countless times he’s confided in Diggle and Diggle ALONE over the course of the first two seasons?

But here we are, only a year later, and his team has given him no reason not to trust them, but Oliver still chooses to leave them out of the loop on his Grand Failure Experiment to Half-Assedly Infiltrate the League of Assassins with Malcolm Merlyn’s help. And when faced with the fact that he survived and that his team is angry, all he can do is mutter vague references to “protection!” and issue borderline non-apologies. He is virtually unrecognizable from the Oliver in the s2 finale, or oh gosh, the Oliver in the s1 finale, who was propping up an injured but determined Diggle as they both surveyed the destruction of the Glades with horror. Remember that? Remember who caused that? THAT is who Oliver trusted over his own team.

Him holding Malcolm Merlyn accountable, in the end, is a farce, because he also gives him the League of Assassins. This is pretty much 80% of the reason I barely want to watch next season, Damien Darkh notwithstanding.

Felicity actually regressed as a character. (Yes, this is controversial. I expect your torches and pitchforks.) Her scenes with Oliver were almost as cringeworthy as her scenes with Ray earlier in the season, because they were full of misplaced swooning and affection in the midst of terrorist attacks, team splintering, and oh yeah, Oliver’s totally awful betrayal. She was mad for about 17 seconds and then she was screeching at Ray to drop his nanotech work to go save Oliver. She actually asked Ray to stop trying to fast-track life-saving technology for the entire city so that he could go save her not-quite-a-boyfriend. For the first time all season, I was on Ray’s side, and that’s something for which I may never forgive this episode. So she donned the suit, rescued Oliver, and I guess the brush with death (which he’s neeeeever had before, and certainly not in the last six months) made her want to kiss him and run away with him to places unknown, but you know, places which hopefully do annulments for Nanda Parbat marriages. (All I can think about is Laurel incredulously asking, “How can you be so sanguine?!” as Felicity stares doe-eyed at Oliver. That would’ve been fun to see.)

Argue with me all you want, but you can’t tell me dialogue such as this is organic and in-character. This is the same Felicity who gave TWO impassioned speeches about believing in Oliver and out-foxing Slade Wilson in the big finale episodes last season. This scene is just lip service — this is literally some writers sitting there saying “Well Oliver is a man and he needs a woman to be his motivator so send in Smoak!” and this is the tired, stilted dialogue she was forced to deliver. This was an attempt to say “See! This whole season really WAS about identity, like we said! We stuck to the plan!”

– The only person in the trio of the original Team Arrow that didn’t regress or act out-of-character was Diggle, who held Oliver accountable, maintained his broken friendship and trust, and expressed his deep disappointment when Oliver quit the team. I’m proud of Diggle, who has become the only Every Man on this show, the only person we were able to consistently relate to throughout this fiasco of a season.

– Then there’s Laurel. Believe me, before season 3 started, I never thought I’d be sitting here saying that the Black Canary deserved a better arc, but here I am. She didn’t regress, she did nothing wrong, but she was still treated very poorly by these writers. She was excluded from the Rescue Thea Mission a few weeks ago, she was included as afterthoughts by most of the team (except Roy, really) and SHE had to go to the TEAM when Nyssa had information on Oliver’s fate with the League. As in, the team never had any reason to check up on her. She was flying solo. And that sucks, because her own sister was fridged* just to give her this arc which was supposed to be meaningful, but instead it was directionless at first, then had purpose for the three episodes Oliver was dead, and then she was just shunted to the side for the rest of the season because Oliver’s manpain took precedence.

This middle-of-the-road stuff doesn’t work with Laurel anymore (not that it ever did, but it’s glaring now). Either she’s essential to the show and the team, or she’s not, we can’t have it both ways. This is leaving aside all personal feelings about the actress and her abilities, I’m talking strictly from a storyline and writing standpoint — she ended this season just as middling as the last. And she deserved better — Sara deserved better.

Ray signed over the company to Felicity without her knowledge, then didn’t mention it during the entire finale. He let her ride off into the sunset even though she runs a company now and then he pressed a button and blew up the top floor of Queen Consolidated (I refused to call it by his dumb company name). But before you get too excited, no, he didn’t die, he just successfully turned himself from Iron Man to Ant-Man, so have fun with that on his spinoff show which I probably won’t be watching. Wonder who he’ll stalk on there.

Nyssa got the worst deal of all. After battling her father all season, then battling Oliver, then being banished, then being forced to marry Oliver, you’d think Nyssa would be gifted her birthright of becoming the next R’as al Ghul by her reluctantly betrothed. Well, Oliver Queen had a different idea, as he handed the League to Malcolm, who then forced Nyssa to kneel before him. Think for a moment about this: Nyssa becomes the next R’as. She uses the League to hunt down and kill Malcolm, once and for all. Thea’s not really that sad. Everyone else is relieved. I feel like maybe this whole season wasn’t a total farce after all. And Nyssa is a badass leader who just so happens to still be married to Oliver. That’s ripe for all kinds of fun shenanigans next season, including a couple of unholy alliances.

Alas. This show failed this city once again. Now an unhinged, untrustworthy mass murderer who Officially Isn’t BFFs with Oliver Queen Anymore is in charge of the deadliest league in the world. So next season will be the same old same old and Malcolm isn’t held accountable for anything. Again.

Captain Lance fell off the wagon, which was disappointing for a lot of people to see, but I actually sort of buy it. Sobriety isn’t a state of being, it’s an action, it’s a constant struggle, and Lance has been through some pretty bad stuff in the last few months. Most people have such a low opinion of the writers that they think this was used as a poor plot device to up the drama ante, and I don’t disagree with that as a distinct possibility, but maybe it’s the Elementary fan in me that is willing to give them a little bit off leeway on this one. To me, this didn’t come out of nowhere. (The guy needs a break though. His life has been terrible of late.)

– At least there’s Thea, the only wonderful, no-holds-barred development of this crap-tastic season. She donned Roy’s Arsenal getup and made her appearance as Speedy (or as she would call it, Red Arrow) and she’s hopefully going to be an integral part of the team next season. She is still mad at Malcolm, but she grudgingly admitted that he did make her stronger. She’s not happier now, though, and that’s sad, because we know those Queens are prone to brooding.

*Turns out Sara Lance is the latest in a growing list of deaths on this series that needs an asterisk, since she’s magically coming back to life via the Lazarus Pit in order to star in Legends of Tomorrow. Even though they buried the body. So we have some retconning, plot holes, and more unnecessary twists to look forward to. Nothing against Sara or Caity, obviously (I wish she’d just stayed alive on this show and then spun off onto LoT) but the more they do this, the more they weaken the fabric of the credibility of the entire universe. At this point I think the only person who will truly stay dead is Tommy Merlyn, because the writers just hate us that much.

To me, this episode fixed nothing. None of the things set in motion by Sara’s death were resolved. Malcolm is still out there, the League still exists, Oliver is still self-righteous and stubborn, and there has been too much loss this season (Roy, Sin, Ted Grant, not to mention the shattered interpersonal relationships that don’t directly affect Oliver…). This was not the amazing, tying-up-loose-ends sort of finale that we’ve come to expect. It made this poor season end with a whimper and not even a small toot, much less a bang.

The episode itself was poorly paced, with a lame attempt by Oliver to kill R’as on the plane, then R’as telling Oliver his entire plan, then R’as summoning Oliver to a duel to the death… Which Oliver won rather easily, because again, poor pacing. (It’s worth noting that ol’ Guggenheim has already hinted at bringing R’as back next season, so that’s gonna happen.)

Half of the dialogue was cringe-levels of cheesy, especially the sunset scene at the end, and the rest of it was almost unbearably expository considering we didn’t really need that much recapping.

Oh, and Barry was there, he freed the team from the dungeon (“an actual dungeon!”) and half-heartedly defended Oliver, while no one could explain how Oliver managed to make it to Central City while he was supposed to be on a virus-bearing plane with R’as. Barry was his usual delightful self but he was also a victim of anvil-y dialogue. No one was able to escape it in this episode.

So our ‘heroes’ (the quotes denote sarcasm) have spun into different directions: Oliver and Felicity for the coast, Diggle to his family, Laurel and Thea to keep fighting, and Ray to his own show. We’re supposed to believe this is truly the end of Oliver’s story, but we at least know we have two more seasons of flashbacks to endure, even if it’s just Oliver hunting and eating berries on the island. Who knows.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and commenting along the way. It’s been a challenge of late, but once upon a time, I truly enjoyed writing these reviews. Optimistically, I want to believe that Arrow can recapture the magic next season, but I’m gonna manage my expectations during the hiatus.

This is Your Sword

**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.22 of Arrow, “This is Your Sword”**

I never thought I’d see the day when Thea Queen was the only one making any sense on this show, but this is that day. And I’m mostly glad that the one person everyone tries to protect and coddle is the only person not pulling her punches, so to speak. She never asked Oliver to sacrifice himself, and I’m glad she finally said it out loud. You go, Thea!

This episode of Arrow started with a particularly inelegant reveal that Oliver is not truly brainwashed — I am so surprised that six weeks of… starvation? waterboarding? didn’t make him completely forget his friends and family — by having him visibly react to the news that Maseo is the one who supplied R’as al Ghul with the same deadly virus that killed his son, Akio. I want to reiterate one more time that it does not matter that Oliver isn’t brainwashed. He’s still killing innocent people and he still endangered Lyla’s life, for the greater good doesn’t cut it anymore.

I think this show made a mistake when they tried to trend away from the gritty on-the-streets vigilantism that put them on the map. They’ve been trying to go Bigger Picture by introducing the League and getting R’as al Ghul interested in Oliver on a personal level (which still makes no sense) so that now Oliver is making decisions for everyone. He’s not Superman, and he was never supposed to be. He’s supposed to be a localized vigilante, the protector of his own city, who only gambles his own life for the greater good. We can’t even count on one hand the other lives he’s gambled this season, and for what? The characters barely mention Sara anymore, I can’t even remember the last time Oliver talked about her. Isn’t that where this all started? With Sara’s death? By Malcolm’s hand? But no one’s thinking about Sara anymore (Laurel is, of course, I know she is, so don’t attack me, Laurel fans!) and no one except Thea is holding Malcolm accountable for bringing this mess to their doorsteps.

Speaking of Malcolm, he’s the one who is sneaking to Nanda Parbat, which I guess is next door to Starling City based on how quickly everyone always gets there, to help Oliver with his infiltration of the League. Of COURSE the faux-brainwashing was Malcolm’s idea. Oliver gets the bright idea to send Tatsu, a woman none of his friends have ever met, to convince his team to come to Nanda Parbat and destroy the virus. Tatsu, who is amazing, talented, passionate, and smart… takes time out of her busy day to tell Felicity that she was Oliver’s last thought on the mountain. More and more, this is feeling like fanservice and not like authentic character moments.

I have to say that part of the reason this show is such a slog now is that Felicity is constantly. crying. She used to be the light of the show, but now the show has taken that concept in a more literal direction and they’re using her as the Optimistic Beacon of Hope that Oliver is still out there. Laurel accuses Felicity of being sanguine when really, Felicity is just telling herself that the Oliver she loves is dead now. This show was better when there was balance, when there were light moments of humor and banter in between the darkness of death and revenge, and Felicity was often the source of that sort of light. Now it’s all just constant doom and gloom all the time, much like my reviews.

Nyssa continues to treat her impending nuptials as if it’s her execution, and things only get worse when R’as decrees that she will bear Oliver’s child. *shudders* The League is so gross, and R’as is the grossest of the gross. He continues to threaten Nyssa with torture and pain if she doesn’t go through with the wedding, so really, he and Malcolm are probably in the running for the Father of the Year award on this show.

There’s a pretty good fight sequence in the field where the team successfully takes down the plane that supposedly bears the virus, but it turns out R’as still has the virus and they’re all taken into custody, where Malcolm promptly tries to turn on everyone. In a way, it’s pretty amazing. But mostly awful.

The most hilariously tone-deaf aspect of this episode — of the entire season — is how the drama hinges on Felicity finding out about Oliver’s upcoming wedding. She is crushed. Just devastated. The music swells, she looks thunderstruck and heartbroken, and you’re made to believe that this is it, this is truly the worst thing that’s ever happened to Felicity Smoak.

A wedding. A sham wedding. She’s devastated by a sham wedding, when Oliver’s been threatening and kidnapping and killing for the last few weeks. Those things are just sad, but a wedding, whoa boy, THAT is the true tragedy. (She’s gonna be hysterical when she finds out about Oliver’s secret Central City kid.)

Things get even more tone-deaf when Oliver pulls Diggle aside to try to talk to him and Diggle rips him a new one about trust and respect, and how Oliver has lost both of those things as well as his friendship. I really, truly hope Oliver’s actions from last week are long-reaching, as David Ramsey has hinted, because I’ve just about had it with everyone forgiving Oliver for these “morally grey” decisions.

And then the whole Al Sah-Him contrivance unravels even more when R’as, after Malcolm’s betrayal, finally considers the possibility that Oliver might not be totally loyal to him and the League. You know. After he spent a year bullying and torturing Oliver into joining the League. R’as makes Oliver unleash the virus on his friends, and they all cry and scream at him as he seals the room.

They all fall asleep very slowly and dramatically as Oliver weds Nyssa. We are genuinely supposed to believe they are dead, and then it’s totally ruined by the promos for the next episode, where everyone is very much alive — and angry.

There was nothing really wrong with this episode (aside from the tone-deaf scenes, which at this point are just part and parcel of the storyline) except that it’s a pretty lame climax to a very lame season-long story arc. We’re supposed to care about Malcolm’s motivations, but we don’t. We’re supposed to be cheering for Oliver, but we’re not. Felicity, the “normal” point of view for the viewer, is too wrapped up in dramatics and hysterics to really follow, and Laurel was pretty much sidelined emotionally, again, even if she did have more screentime in this episode. Digg is the only one we can really relate to, but we’re probably not, as the viewers, supposed to be so angry with Oliver.

Other notes:

– RIP Maseo Yamashiro, who was killed by Tatsu. He thanked her for freeing him from his prison. I feel terribly for Tatsu, but I could watch an entire episode of Katana fighting bad guys.

– Ray secretly transferred ownership of his company to Felicity. I’m not willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to buy that Felicity would sign documents without reading them, and I still distrust Ray enough that I feel like these are for nefarious reasons, even though the writers insist he’s a Nice Guy.

– Nyssa tries to stab Oliver during the vows, which makes her my new hero.

– Despite Laurel being kind of relegated to a backseat role, Katie Cassidy really held her own in this episode.

– There was a cute Felicity scene during the big battle where she tossed her broken tablet at a bad guy and momentarily grinned when she thought it worked to stop him — until he turned to reveal an arrow in the back from Malcolm Merlyn. Felicity: “Oh. That makes more sense.”

– Yes, Oliver and Nyssa are officially married, and yes, Oliver took time out of his honeymoon to go to Central City last night and help Barry with his Reverse Flash problem. I can only imagine the Flash writers sitting down to write this episode with a couple of Arrow writers and being like “Wait… WHAT did you to do your own show? How are we supposed to work with this?”

– Celebrate! The one great thing that came out of this episode is that Thea is now Arsenal! I’m gonna cling to this morsel with the hope that next season will be better than this one.

Al Sah-Him

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.21 of Arrow, “Al Sah-Him”**

I have great news! I didn’t hate every single aspect of this episode! It’s refreshing, really, because I know these reviews have gotten very doom-and-gloom of late, and the silver lining is that we are almost at the end of the line. Our long national nightmare known as the R’as al Ghul storyline will hopefully be a distant memory. (That’s me being optimistic.)

How great were Nyssa and Laurel? And I’m not even saying it in a “Nyssa was great, and Laurel was there!” kind of way, I mean I genuinely liked both of them in this episode. I think for a long time what Laurel really lacked was a good dynamic to bring a new dimension to her. All we see is her dealing with grief and fallout from other people’s actions (Oliver, Tommy, Quentin, the list goes on and on and it’s filled with men) and reacting accordingly. I didn’t always agree with her reactions, and eventually it got redundant because she never got new material. It felt like every time Katie Cassidy got a new script, it basically said “grief and anger” and that’s about it. She got a reprieve for a while when she got to actually be a sister when Sara was around, but then Sara was tragically taken from us and Laurel amplified her grief and anger. Even her short-lived arc with Ted Grant (why did he leave?) was fueled by vengeance.

But as we saw on The Flash a couple weeks ago, it IS possible for Laurel to smile, to banter, to talk about something other than all of the injustices of the world, even if it’s just for a minute. Cisco Ramon has that effect on people. And thankfully, someone got the message because we got to see Laurel palling around with Nyssa, eating fast food and sipping milkshakes and just chatting like normal friends. It really demonstrated that when Laurel isn’t written just to frame Oliver’s story, she’s capable of being dynamic and interesting.

It doesn’t hurt that it was fun to see Nyssa out of her comfort zone, dipping a fry in a milkshake and making an amazing face of intrigue and slight disgust before she tasted it.

Even when it all went downhill, and Laurel finally broke the news of Oliver’s ascension to the League Throne, we got to see the best aspects of both characters as the events played out. Laurel stayed fiercely loyal and protective, searching for alternatives and refusing to back down, while Nyssa bravely accepted her fate and went off to battle like the warrior we know and love. Laurel’s refusal to trade Nyssa was endlessly endearing, and I’m pleased to say that the only good side effect of this whole R’as al Ghul fiasco is that I’ve softened my opinion on the Black Canary.

So that was the great news. Unfortunately… that’s the extent of it.

When an episode starts with Oliver stabbing a hallucination-version of Diggle through the heart, that doesn’t make me think “Oh, thank God, it was just a hallucination!” It makes me certain that Oliver is capable of killing his best friend and brother. They did this to raise the stakes for the showdown later in the episode, but after a weak 30-second montage of Oliver getting tortured and laying sideways in a cell, it’s just awful. I find it hard to believe that someone who survived on an island for two years (at least) was so easily breakable — that it was so easy to make him stare blankly at his friends and family.

He’s instructed to remove his rival heir to the throne without mercy, and Nyssa warns Diggle and Felicity before going to face the fight. They’re all horrified when Oliver shows up on a rooftop and doesn’t seem to recognize Diggle and Laurel.

The hard part about watching Felicity and Diggle’s steadfast faith in Oliver’s ability to withstand brainwashing is how wrong they end up being. Either Oliver really isn’t as strong as they think he is, or he is only pretending to be brainwashed; if it’s the latter, then he still abducted the mother of his godchild and almost fatally stabbed Diggle in the ensuing gun-and-swordfight. Either scenario is likely, because let’s face it, this wouldn’t be the first time Oliver endangered loved ones For The Greater Good.

But the long-reaching consequences of his brainwashing are damaging to the structure of the show, because Oliver is a powerful weapon in his own right. If he’s capable of being manipulated and brainwashed into a killing machine (sort of like Roy when he was on Mirakuru) then that means he’s innately vulnerable for the rest of the series. The conceit of the show up to this point was that Oliver’s heart was his biggest asset as a hero. If that can be taken away by a few weeks of vague “reprogramming techniques” then what do we even have to hold onto as viewers? So really, either scenario is terrible in my mind.

How many times are we going to have to hear “Oliver, this isn’t you!” before they accept that this is who he is now. And I don’t mean this expressionless, wooden R’as al Oliver from this episode, I mean the Oliver we’ve been dealing with ever since Sara died. He’s lied and manipulated and treated his friends and loved ones like crap, because he’s been convinced all along that he knows what’s best for everyone. When Felicity extends this plea to Oliver in that warehouse, she’s wrong. He’s standing there facing off with his friends in a R’as al Ghul costume because that is who he is. There was no cosmic force of events that led him to being in that place at that time — it was all choices he made on his own, aided and abetted by Malcolm Merlyn.

Increasingly, Felicity’s insistence of Oliver’s steadfastness and strength of character began to ring false as the episode wore on, and not because she didn’t believe it, but because we were tired of hearing it. We are tired of hearing the excuses, even from Diggle, for Oliver’s actions over this season. At this point, I can’t think of an endgame or resolution that will make me okay with anything that’s happened.

If things weren’t whisky-tango-foxtrot enough as it was, the episode ends with R’as sparing Nyssa her life at the last minute (for the head of an assassin organization, he sure is sparing a lot of lives lately) and then demanding that Oliver marry Nyssa to “unite our families.” Nyssa, of course, would rather die, and I don’t totally blame her. She definitely got the crappy end of that deal.

Lastly, the family scene with Thea, Felicity, and the Diggle family was admittedly cute. It’s really important that the show is finally having Thea and Felicity communicate closely. It’s also important to note that Thea is in infinitely more pain than any of the rest of them. Oliver was the last vestige of her family, he was her champion and ultimately her hero, and the only reason she doesn’t feel alone in the world right now is because of John and Lyla thoughtfully taking her in. This is something that I absolutely want to continue seeing, no matter what happens with Oliver in the future, because I am sick and tired of seeing Thea be treated as an afterthought or a pawn by these writers.

Other notes:

– The Canary Cry was a letdown. Sorry.

– Did anyone else notice the weird blocking in this episode? A lot of staring off in weird directions, walking across rooms pointlessly, turning away from other characters at odd beats… it was all very awkward.

– R’as mentioned Damien Darhk, which has caused the internet to predict that we finally know the identity of Felicity’s long-lost father. More importantly, he’s presumably the leader of H.I.V.E., thus he’s likely the Big Bad for season 4. Here’s hoping they cast this villain correctly.

“What is a black and white milkshake?”

“I will not cower in the shadows, waiting for death.”

– In the flashbacks, they manage to take down an attempt to release a virus, but unfortunately it’s already taken hold in Hong Kong. The episode ends with Akio falling ill.

– Lyla was a total badass during the fight scene.

– I love that Thea was the one to stop Oliver in the end.

– Oliver is killing now, by the way. Ultimately, Tommy’s death meant nothing after all.

– Felicity finally breaks the news to Thea that Roy is alive, and she gives Thea his contact info and the choice to move away and start fresh, or to stay in Starling City and continue grieving.

– And, surprise! R’as wants Oliver to unleash the exact same virus from the flashbacks on Starling City! Because apparently Starling City is a modern-day Alexandria! Time truly is a flat circle.

Tomorrow night: going to the chapel and we’re gonna get maaaaaarried! It’s funny to me because I actually imagine it going a lot like any of those KGB spy marriages. Or, like, Oliver and Nyssa sitting in marriage counseling. C’mon. If you don’t laugh, it’s just tragic.

“You didn’t see that coming?”

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**This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” under the cut. Proceed at your own risk.**

Believe it or not, I don’t ask a lot of my superhero shows and movies. Pretty much all I want is character consistency. Since I come from a place of mostly ignorance regarding the original comics, I have no expectations for big character moments or backstories outside of what I’ve already seen in previous episodes or movies. At the end of the day, I am the easiest fan to win over. The banter and action sequences and sweeping shots are just bonuses to me — just keep the characters true to themselves, and give them room to evolve as people. It’s really an easy task, right?

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