The Mandalorian s01e01 – Chapter One

“The Mandalorian” is either like reading seventeen year-old Jon Favreau fall 1983 post-Return of the Jedi fan fic or it’s like playing his intricate, verbose Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game campaign–oh, wait, SWTRPG didn’t come out until 1987. So, no, it’s more like watching Jon Favreau play with his Jedi toys. A lot. But the toys play into how the story unfolds—Favreau, who wrote the episode in addition to creating the show, reaches into the toy bin, pulls out a figure, somehow makes it fit into the story. There’s a way too articulate ugnaught, a figure from Empire, pointlessly voiced by Nick Nolte. Most of the figures and vehicles are from Jedi. I think one of the guns is from Empire. You could sit with an old Hasbro catalog and check off items in the episode.

Visually, it looks like a bunch of Ralph McQuarrie paintings. Dave Filoni does an okay job with the direction. He tries hard to make it look like Star Wars: The Original Trilogy as far as his composition—outside when you’re pretty sure it’s a direct lift off a McQuarrie concept painting—but there are shot homages to Jedi the most, maybe Star Wars. Watching “The Mandalorian,” Disney has fully put on its big boy pants and figured out how to market to males age four through forty-four. I’m not sure Werner Herzog is going to attract the fifty-four year-olds. But if you grew up with Star Wars, “The Mandalorian” is for you. It’s how you could keep playing with your Boba Fett toys even after he died in Empire.

Oh, all the mythology on the Mandalorian culture? Metallurgy, female Mandalorians—“Mandalorian” is aimed at the OG Empire Boba Fett fanboys. I wonder if they’re going to release special toys.

Is it a good show? It’s not a bad show. It’s technically flawless except the Ludwig Göransson music, which isn’t bad just a bad idea for the show. Quirky Western. Eh. But it looks great. The acting’s… eh. Herzog’s in a scene, he’s quirky. Carl Weathers is in a scene. He’s not quirky. Lead Pedro Pascal is fine but the more he talks the more you realize you’re watching a cartoon turned live action through CGI.

Will I watch more of it? Sure. It’s never going to be challenging, but will always be mildly engaging and look great; besides, I like pointing out the toys I had as a kid too.

Batwoman s01e06 – I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury

“Batwoman” has a Dougray Scott problem. The show keeps giving him material he can’t do or does poorly (versus Ruby Rose, who sometimes doesn’t even try when the material isn’t working with her). It’s getting particularly annoying as Rose is getting better and Scott’s going to screw up her character development.

Some of Rose’s improvement has to do with more Batwoman screen time. Rose’s better at Batwoman than Kate Kane because Kate Kane is still badly written. She just looks at evidence at her dad’s, goes off to cowl-up, bickers a little with Camrus Johnson who ends up with the incredibly odd optics of being the Black man defending white police and prosecutors who get busted falsifying evidence to falsely convict other Black men. She’s got no relationship with anyone besides Scott this episode, which doesn’t go well because Scott’s profoundly not good. He tries really hard and it’s such a fail. Rose doesn’t show any personality until she’s in the cowl, which is great because she’s got to show personality while costumed up, it’s more important to the show’s success given it’s a flipping superhero show. But making it about a mercenary finding his heart and then casting Scott in that role… big fail.

Other big fail this episode? Saddling Nicole Kang once again with Meagan Tandy; Tandy’s so bad she drags Kang down this episode. It’s a real bummer. Kang’s the highlight of “Batwoman,” Tandy’s one of its thorns. Though the script doesn’t help Tandy any. She’s just playing the thin catty villain part as written.

As for series villain Rachel Skarsten… she’s great. Unfortunately her newly revealed sidekick, Sam Littlefield, is not great. In fact, he’s fairly bad. It’s not an easy part, I get it; son of child-murdering and child-kidnapping evil plastic surgeon who revolts to save “sister” Skarsten—not easy stuff. But Skarsten manages to do it well and Littlefield doesn’t. “Batwoman”’s got a lot of casting issues. Yes, filming in Chicago means it looks like Dark Knight and not like Vancouver, but in Vancouver maybe you could’ve afforded better actors.

Or at least actors who patently cannot do the roles they’re in.

Supergirl s05e06 – Confidence Women

Okay, so Steven Bauer is Julie Gonzalo’s dad, who’s been mentioned since the first episode of the season but never seen. It doesn’t appear to be a great part for Bauer but whatever, he’s fine. Though he does act to launder a bit of Gonzalo’s performance. He’s able to make it at least seem legit for a scene. Almost. Because it’s not a good performance—Gonzalo’s—in fact, it’s really, really bad. Because she’s not just the evil new boss at CatCo, she’s also a literal super-assassin who works for a mega-secret evil society, Leviathan (which I thought was from a Grant Morrison Batman but I don’t care enough to look). And she was a bad best friend to Lena (Katie McGrath), even though she and Lena had totally awesome early 2000s adventures together when they went drinking underage and bonded over Titanic. Really. Lots of Titanic remarks. Including one about how Lex Luthor responded to it.

Though, technically, most of Gonzalo and McGrath’s conversations do pass Bechdel, which is more a curiosity than anything else. Because what they’re talking about is dumb. They have this Hardy Girls adventure where they go to South America—because they’re rich—in search of magical treasure. They find it but Gonzalo takes it instead of giving it to McGrath, who wants to use it to save the world from her evil brother. The show’s done in flashbacks set in different eras, which is a terrible idea because Gonzalo is godawful in all the eras and McGrath can’t do anything with her abbreviated flashbacks.

There’s a little in the present day at the end, but really it’s just Lena turning into a porto-supervillain. She’s just going to need a push.

It’s another Arrowverse show where the main cast has very little to do… possibly because they’re shooting something else (Jon Cryer cameos as Lex for a flashback and not for another one of them and he’s in the Crisis). But maybe McGrath isn’t, which seems like a major slight as she’s the one getting all the lousy material. Except the flashback to when she chats with Melissa Benoist and all of a sudden you remember enjoying the characters interact. Seasons ago.

Gonzalo’s indicative of a larger problem with the show and the main female supporting players it introduces. Or the show’s casting. Or both. She drains positive energy from the show, which is runny super-low already.

The Flash s06e05 – Kiss Kiss Breach Breach

How is this show so boring… so much happens yet so much of it

It’s a very strange Cisco episode. Barry and Iris go on vacation before the Crisis crossover (possibly to film the Crisis crossover) while Cisco holds down the front. Now, I can’t remember the last time Carlos Valdes was charming but I think it was two seasons ago. It’ll happen every once in a while now and you can tell it’s not intentional. Somehow Valdes’s original energy gets through, despite finally being a superhero and having a girlfriend. Only now he’s not a superhero and he’s got a different girlfriend (Victoria Park) and he’s unsure of himself. There’s an absurdly bad subplot where Valdes and Park are supposed to be adorable together and they really aren’t. They’re annoying together.

Because even though they get the big story, involving guest star Danny Trejo and a couple big surprises, the most interesting stuff in the episode is the very small subplots with the other cast members. Because they’re also filming Crisis? Who knows. But Danielle Panabaker having another super-quick showdown with season big bad and Venom wannabe Sendhil Ramamurthy is not great drama. Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin being trapped in a collapsed subway tunnel and running out of air could be great drama—a good show would’ve turned it into a full episode—but the show manages to kill it by giving Martin this monologue about faith. Only his faith turns out to be in the upcoming Crisis meaning he can’t die now. He’s got to be around for the crossover. Only really schmaltzy and not meta at all. It’s a bummer.

Valdes eventually gets better and it’s not the worst episode by the finish—the show leverages Hartley Sawyer being a success after what seemed like a questionable start—but if all Valdes’s storylines going forward are going to involve him getting into situations where his stupid powers would save his life or mean he could save others… maybe he shouldn’t have gotten rid of them.

I wish I could remember when this show worked on a regular basis. I wish I could remember back to season two, to when it actually disappointed when it didn’t deliver on its potential. Now it just doesn’t even try to generate potential. It’s distressing how poorly the show utilizes its cast these days.

Also there are no big action set pieces here. Cheap ones only. Maybe the money’s going toward Crisis. Hopefully. This whole season hinges on the big crossover to breath life back into it. Not a great place to be. If a Jesse L. Martin monologue can fail, nothing’s safe anymore.

And Martin’s monologue failed hard.

Evil s01e06 – Let x = 9

So in addition to Christine Lahti becoming bride to the unclean one through some really good third grade poetry imagery because “Evil” is really condescending to its target audience, the Christians who vote blue, the episode also confronts the whole “child rape” thing with the Catholic Church. Confronts as in lapsed Muslim skeptical charming aloof guy Aasif Mandvi makes a crack about it; a serious crack about it sure but a crack. “Evil” really wants to pretend people haven’t figured out the Catholic Church basically functions the way it does to protect child rapists. Like, when did it start. Was it before the Borgias? After? Because it started hundreds of years ago.

And “Evil” wants you to forget about it because Mandvi is the most successful character on the show and because it’s like “American Horror Story” for your grandma or something. It’s a CBS-ed horror story. With conspiracies and symbolism and blah blah blah.

But it’s also one of the most successful episodes in a while because Katja Herbers gets a bunch to do and she’s awesome at it. The scenes themselves vary, but she’s always good. Until the second half twist—surprise, sexy grandma Lahti’s new stud is none other than decently not sexy grandpa Michael Emerson, who also has kind of been stalking Herbers since the beginning of the show in order to further his life goal of promoting evil in the world. Can Lahti give him up for Herbers and the four adorable granddaughters, who Emerson has drawing secret symbols and singing creepy religious songs? Oops, I spoiled it in the first sentence. But whatever, doesn’t matter. “Evil”’s very deliberately plotted. To the point it supersedes everything else going on in the show; in some ways it feels like a very standard eighties nighttime mystery drama—Herbers and Mike Colter’s workplace romance—and very edgy for the USA Network in 2005. Like if they’d done a “Da Vinci Code: The Series” and it was surprisingly mean-spirited. But with some patronizing exploitation.

Still, the acting can be great. Herbers is great here. Colter is not. But he’s okay, it’s the script. And Mandvi’s awesome. Of course he’s awesome, he gets tapped selling the “eh, it can’t be all priests, right?”

I mean, icky. But also… CBS tame for 2019. Both sides but we’re pretending politics don’t exist.

Also… Emerson basically just seems like he’s doing a Kevin Spacey impression.

Watchmen s01e02 – Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship

As good as “Watchmen” gets at dissecting the comic book, learning from its anatomy, figuring out how to adapt it to live action—though this episode is nowhere near as uncanny as the previous one with composition—the show, pardon my French, fucks with the viewer. Alan Moore comics don’t fuck with the reader, they explore and they reveal (without ever being about the reveals). “Watchmen: The TV Show” is all about narratively cheap but big budget cliffhangers. It’s not exactly frustrating or disappointing—because it’s HBO after all—but means whatever the show creatives learned from the comic… they didn’t learn enough. And “Watchmen: The TV Show” is going to suffer from it. This episode, written by Nick Cuse and show creator Damon Lindelof, is all about surprises, even when they should be obvious to the characters if not the audience.

“Watchmen: The TV Show,” like a TV show, is going all in on the money shot reveals, where it’s stage play Dr. Manhattan’s junk or the clone reveal or… the flashbacks to the cops getting attacked by the white supremacists. Turns out Regina King and husband Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (he’s really the guy from Aquaman, I can’t believe it, he’s good in this show) didn’t adopt some white kids because it’s a better reality but because the kids are her dead partner’s kids. It’s One Good Cop. But without Michael Keaton and Rene Russo.

Makes you wonder how their Batman Forever would’ve been.

Anyway.

The show also reveals—again, the show’s exposition is all about the reveals too, whether it’s DNA tests or tough talking cops—the reparations are for victims of hate crimes or descendants of hate crimes. The show opens with a newsreel about the destruction of Black Wall Street. It’s not clear how Black Wall Street is going to figure in to the Watchmen aspect of the show, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a good plot device and, actually, completely reasonable for big budget Watchmen fanfic. I don’t think Moore would’ve ever done it because Lindelof’s exploiting the idea whereas Moore never exploits things. So Tulsa because White people in Oklahoma are racist who aren’t ever going to take responsibility for their great-grandparents’ murderous racism so they Klan up to take on the federal government only with Rorschach masks. Kind of a big deal, but also something the show is happy to keep as ground situation, which is concerning. How seriously is “Watchmen” going to take this aspect of the story, which is the whole point of Regina King so don’t end up giving her a shit part.

Like Tim Blake Nelson. He’s maybe going to have a shit part. Or not even enough of a part to have a shit part. Don Johnson’s got some “say it isn’t so” reveals in this episode but you know he’s going to come out of it fine because Don Johnson can do amusing shit-stain.

All of a sudden I really want to watch Tin Cup, which isn’t out on Blu-ray, which is dumb.

Yeah, Nelson… Nelson’s either going to really pay off or he’s going to be a waste. He can be a waste in a few ways, but so far it’s unclear how he could pay off. “Watchmen: The Limited TV Series” is nine episodes; we’re almost a quarter done. There’s only so much time; the longer the show goes on more concerned with turning Easter eggs into plot points… the less it seems likely the show’s going to add up to anything. And there’s a very low bar here. “Watchmen” just has to not screw up its actors’ performances, it just can’t screw up the production design as far as the adaptation, it never actually has to be good. It just can’t be embarrassing. DC and Warner Bros. have been humiliating themselves on Watchmen adaptations for what seems like decades but really has only been eleven years.

King is shouldering the globe, but it’s far from steady.

It also doesn’t hurt, despite not great material, Lou Gossett Jr. is awesome.

All Rise s01e07 – Uncommon Women and Mothers

Tony Denison is finally back. Not for very long in sort of a “let’s defer Tony Denison some more” way, but it’s nice he’s back. It gives second-billed but at least fourth in the show’s heart Wilson Bethel something else to do this episode besides prosecute extremely sympathetic non-binary young adult experiencing homelessness J.J. Hawkins for arson. “All Rise” quadruples down on the pronouns this episode and never makes a joke. It’s got slimy businesspeople respecting pronouns. Though this episode also has Black woman judge Simone Missick telling her mother, Black woman social worker L. Scott Caldwell to trust the system to do the right thing.

Because the system’s fine, it’s the people.

So… ew. Lots of optics here.

Missick also has to be contrite to boss Marg Helgenberger at one point… while reaffirming how much, as a judge, she loves the cops. So… double ew.

Thank goodness the show realizes Ruthie Ann Miles and Lindsay Mendez can be buddies and have hijinks, this time involving them both wanting to be fire warden. I hold the opinion all television programs ever could have their opening titles cut to the “Night Court” theme song, but rarely do I ever hear it so often as when “All Rise” is having its hijinks.

Oh, and assistant assistant D.A. Bethel does get to tell off boss Reggie Lee when Lee’s ranting about the dangerous homeless because before Denison became a bookie to the Russian Mob (based on this episode’s visual indicators), he and Bethel at one point lived out of their car. Though pretty soon Bethel met Missick and found a second, better parent in Caldwell. What’s funny about the show’s schmaltz is how it’s also visually soft and upbeat. If it had any grit or grain, it’d be an interesting contract. Instead, it’s like the show is…

Oh.

Yeah.

It’s wearing its safety pin.

But the cast. But for the cast. Seeing Missick and Bethel doing straight network drama is damned interesting, considering it’s not where their futures lie. At least not in an “All Rise”-type form.

All Rise s01e06 – Fool for Liv

Something about this episode feels like it ran into the show’s budget. Though there’s some location shooting. Kind of a lot of it, but there’s no action at the locations. There’s standing or sitting. And it’s never on the A plot, always B or even C. On the A plot, outside Jere Burns as a terribly written slick defense attorney, everything feels like it’s under serious constraint. Burns is defending a social media star’s assistant, accused of murdering the social media star. All of the assistant’s fans are in the courtroom disrupting the proceedings, making judge Simone Missick look unable to control her courtroom so her job is ostensibly in jeopardy and Burns is being slick instead of actually lawyering and on and on.

But it’s all done cheap. It’s supposed to be lighting up social media only the show never shows how that lighting up affects anything. It’s like the show knows having social media fans dox jurors is bad, but it doesn’t know why it’s bad. Does “All Rise” even employ any legal consultants? It doesn’t seem like it does.

There’s some good stuff with Missick and court clerk Ruthie Ann Miles hanging out, but in a very humorous way not in actual character development way. I’m also not sure but it seems like Missick is having trouble not laughing at some of Miles’s best deliveries. And the stuff with Missick and Burns gets to an all right point, so it’s a shame to episode doesn’t end with it but instead subjects us to more of Jessica Camacho and J. Alex Brinson’s courtship.

So Camacho’s got a case where she’s defending a guy against Wilson Bethel, who’s got nothing to do this episode because he’s not allowed to try cases in front of Missick and instead his boss, Reggie Lee (who’s a regular?), tries it. Bethel and Camacho are trying to work out a plea deal for her client, whatever. The episode makes Bethel seem potentially shady, which he isn’t. “All Rise” is aspirational. Bethel’s a white knight. But Camacho doesn’t seem to trust him, but then she does once Bethel reminds her he’s a white knight. Their plot feels like writer Conway Preston was just trying to pad out the episode. It’s not good. It’s lazy.

Camacho and Brinson’s cutesy courtship is worse though. It’s annoying. They’re now officially obnoxious together, which is too bad because they’re both likable apart. And their relationship used to be cute versus cutesy.

I think this episode’s the equivalent of a bunt, if I’m getting my baseball metaphors right.

Supergirl s05e05 – Dangerous Liaisons

This episode could be a lot worse. It does have some significant lows—like when Azie Tesfai has to pretend to cry, which she’s absurdly bad at doing. Like, it’s uncomfortable. Especially when you realize they went with the best take. Got to be able to cry on “Supergirl,” it’s one of the show’s many go to things.

And Phil LaMarr is terrible as the evil Martian. Him being onscreen does nothing to improve his performance. Lena (Katie McGrath) has him prisoner and is doing experiments on him so she can rid the world of evil thoughts. She’s like a good guy Lex Luthor, driven mad not by Supergirl burning all her hair off but by not telling McGrath her secret identity, partially because McGrath’s from a supervillain family and does crazy stuff.

Like shooting a laser into the Antarctic to cause a global flood—when Martian David Harewood compares it to Noah’s flood is when, basically, I gave on Harewood. He’d been really weird all episode and it certainly seems like having a completely crappy story line has finally felled him. Bummer. Anyway, global flood, good thing there are superheroes like Supergirl, Harewood, and Dreamer. And Chyler Leigh. Can’t forget Chyler Leigh in her super-suit, which she actually gets to use as she saves people on the waterfront, which Tesfai sees, which triggers PTSD and a truly bad crying scene.

But when you get past all the bad stuff, it’s a fairly tightly told thriller. Mostly out of the cape Melissa Benoist and season love interest-to-be Staz Nair are trying to figure out what terrible thing female Mark Zuckerberg Julie Gonzalo is trying to do and it seems like it’s going to be apocalyptic. Once it’s clear it’s not a two-parter and there’s actual stakes… “Supergirl” delivers.

Yes, the villain looks like a bad Robocop cosplayer with some stolen Doc Ock arms but the tension’s still there.

Maybe it’s director Alysse Leite-Rogers, maybe it’s the script. But it’s an engaging hour-long show, which tolerable weak points.

Oh.

And I really, really, really miss Mon-El. Nair’s earnest but quite wanting.

Batwoman s01e05 – Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale

This episode has no awesome Batwoman action. The only Batwoman action scene is not very good, in fact. It’s all that stealthy Batman Begins type action as Batwoman breaks into estranged sister and supervillain Alice’s base and takes her prisoner, presumably leaving all the thugs unconscious… even though they then wake up and start attacking the dad.

While Ruby Rose doesn’t emote a lot, not even when she finds out she’s been duped or made a terrible decision or really not thought out her plans, which should be a bad thing but somehow isn’t. Like the aloof quality makes all Rose is processing—finding out long dead sister is alive and supervillain, becoming Batwoman, dating life, whatever—seem a lot more reasonable. Because the way the show is handling Rose and Rachel Skarsten (as the supervillain sister) is actually fairly impressive. It helps Skarsten’s good, but the plotting of the reveals and the character development is solid stuff. The show doesn’t shy away from the big twist, instead going further than just embracing it and making it the whole show. “Batwoman” is about Rose and Skarsten. The Bat-branding is adornment.

Also good this episode is step-sister Nicole Kang freaking out after she finds out her mom, shady defense contractor Elizabeth Anweis, did something really shady and hurtful. Kang ends up hanging out with Camrus Johnson (while looking for Rose) for much of the episode, annoying him in the most amusing ways. Kang’s the show’s best actor and Johnson’s good at the humor so it’s really fun to see them together. Especially since the other B plot is Meagan Tandy and Dougray Scott trying to find Rose and Skarsten.

Saying Tandy and Scott are utterly charmless is about the most complimentary observation one could make based on this episode. Mostly because they’re so terribly miscast.

But it’s a surprisingly solid episode. Like, impressively so. It proves it doesn’t need good Batwoman action scenes to succeed, not when it knows how to leverage Skarsten and Kang.

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