Friday, August 4, 2017

Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night Review

Hey everyone. Captain Sean here with a very special movie review for you all. It's a special review for a sequel to Disney's Pinocchio. But it's a sequel that wasn't actually made by Disney. It was actually made by the company: Filmation. Now you might be wondering, who is Filmation? Well you see from the 1960’s through the 1980’s, cartoons were not made with the highest quality. And no better example of this was Filmation with their emphasis placed on quantity over quality, which resulted in cartoons that have not aged well with time. However near the end of the company’s run, the made an attempt to create a higher in quality animated production: Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night. While not officially being a Disney sequel, the movie outside of character designs definitely feels like it. The way this particular version of Pinocchio acts and where the story begins, feels like it’s a very thinly veiled continuation of the Disney movie. Now despite the story of Pinocchio being in public domain by this time, Disney actually sued Filmation for copyright infringement but lost.

Now let’s just be up front and honest. A lot of what’s in this movie isn’t as good as the Disney version. The animation movements and use of colors aren’t as good, and the music is nothing close to being memorable. But that being said: they did get some good choices for voice actors in this movie such as Frank Welker, Ed Asner, Don Knots, and even James Earl Jones. Plus, despite the animation being very different than the Disney movie, it does take some interesting artistic directions at times. And it does actually tackle some deep philosophical themes that are even deeper than the Disney tale. The movie picks up a year after the original story did, with Pinocchio now being exactly one year old. He’s visited by the Blue Fairy. While there, aside from doing one of the most boring Disney sounding rip off songs ever, she explains to Pinocchio about how he’s not just special because he’s a puppet that got turned into a real boy, but is rather a being that had no free will but now has it, and how he shouldn’t take that for granted. Because if he does, he might become a puppet again.

And honestly, this is a pretty smart early plot point. In the original story, the puppet Pinocchio is brought to life and that… just happens. But in this story, we’re already exploring the themes of giving life and free will to a being that originally had none, and how certain types of bad choices can cause you to lose it. It’s kind of a deep allegory all in all. So this movie is already off to a good start. Now Pinocchio on behalf of his father is sent to deliver a jewel box he made to the mayor. While there, Pinocchio gets a new talking bug friend named Gee Wilikers, who is the most thinly veiled stand in for Jiminy Cricket. How do I know he’s a thinly veiled stand in for Pinocchio’s conscience from the Disney movie? Because Gee Wilikers was never told at any point to be Pinocchio’s conscience, but that’s immediately what he starts to act like when he shows up.

While delivering the jewel box, Pinocchio runs into two con man: a raccoon and a monkey (who are obviously stand ins for the fox and cat con men from the Disney movie). But to be fair, the lead of the con man (voiced by Ed Asner) does have a certain level of unique charm and likability to him. The con men persuade Pinocchio to sell his jewel box to them for a fake ruby. Pinocchio obviously gets in trouble with his father. Feeling bad and thinking he’s not good enough to live where he is, Pinocchio runs away to the carnival. When he gets there, he sees a female puppet performing and gets the hots for her… which is kind of weird. Although Pinocchio was once a puppet so maybe that makes this legal and… okay, this is getting too weird.

When the puppet show is over, Pinocchio meets the carnival puppeteer and owner: Puppetino. Upon meeting Pinocchio, Puppetino invites Pinocchio to… come with alone back stage. Pinocchio says no at first, but upon seeing that following Puppetino back stage will get him more time with the lovely girl puppet: Twinkle, Pinocchio decides to go against what his better free will tells him. But then it’s revealed Puppetino actually has some sort of dark evil powers, because as soon as Pinocchio goes against what his better free will tells him, his hands start to turn back into wood and then in one of the scariest moments in kids' history: Puppetino slowly transforms Pinocchio back into a puppet in a scene full of creepy imagery, pacing, and music. It truly is one of the scariest things ever done in a kids’ animated movie. At least one of the most unique.

When Pinocchio sees his friend turn in a donkey in the Disney movie, that’s more an allegory for experiencing consequences to bad choices. But this… this is like an allegory for getting possessed by a demon. The way Pinocchio screams for everything to stop but it keeps getting worse adds to the terror. But it’s the vague things that are even creepier. When you see Puppetino turn Pinocchio into a puppet with ease, you start to question: has he done this before? Are some of his other puppets, people that were turned into what they are now? Did all of his puppets start out as children and go through an identical experience? When you realize this, you suddenly see this a room full of individuals that had their souls robbed from them. And to have Pinocchio’s final thing he’s trying to say stop mid-sentence and just be finished off with the sound of wood lips moving is beyond creepy. And because Pinocchio doesn’t follow what his better free will told him to do, he literally loses his free will completely. Also, the music here sounds like very synthesized 80’s music. But it actually works here. The very unnatural music really does make this scene feel very otherworldly. It’s truly one of the scariest things ever done in a children’s animated project and definitely the stuff of nightmares. It’s the one scene in this movie you have to admire… or be completely freaked out by.

But the amount of uniquely creative work in this scene, makes a lot of what comes after seem boring in comparison. In the next scene, we see Gee Wilikers befriending some talking bee that acts like he’s in the royal air force. Then we see the Blue Fairy show up and give Pinocchio his free will back. It’s nothing different or unique for a cartoon. But then we see Pinocchio actually try to be responsible and try to get the jewel box back from the con man all on his own. Not the best plan, but it is nice to see Pinocchio show some level of responsibility in this tale. However the con men have learned that Puppetino is mad he lost Pinocchio and is willing to pay a fortune for anyone who brings him back. And all of this happens… off screen. Seriously. It’s only told via exposition from the con men when they’re talking to each other. That’s not the best way to tell a story. But anyway, the con men act like Puppetino conned them and get Pinocchio to go on a journey with them to find him and get the jewel box back. Meanwhile the movie literally stops for eight minutes to feature the bugs having their own separate adventure. It’s just standard stuff… that being said, standard stuff for a preschool show.

But then it moves back to Pinocchio when he saves the con men from being hurt during a boat accident, and this actually causes them to have a change of heart. But it’s too late because their boat is literally swallowed by a bigger boat that is actually kind of a dark magic vehicle controlled by the evil Emperor of the Night. While inside the boat, Pinocchio again goes against what his better instincts say, and leaves his mission to check out a weird party place he sees. A kind of Pleasure Island type building with other kids who live without any consequence or responsibility. Only here there are drinks that give you really weird hallucinations, such as a pretty trippy dance number Pinocchio gets into. But then the hallucination ends with Puppetino showing up, along with his master: The Emperor of the Night... who except for the name really comes across as the devil. Seriously, we've got the devil showing up in a kids' movie. The analogy is even more apparent when the Emperor of the Night reveals that everyone in his land is a puppet. So basically this is the land of people who have no free will and have had their souls removed… This is pretty much hell… in a kids’ move.

And interestingly enough, the Emperor is voiced by James Earl Jones. And while you could argue his performance isn’t as menacing as his Darth Vader performance, it really is interesting to hear him play a villain that’s not subdued at all and just pure evil in its rawest form. Now it’s revealed the Emperor is so interested in Pinocchio because Pinocchio is the only former puppet in the world that obtained free will. And with a bit of a stretch, you could even speculate maybe this means from the beginning Pinocchio is the reincarnation of someone whose soul originally belonged to this underworld, but was freed when his soul was put into the animated puppet long ago. It’s kind of like an allegory for someone who has been atoned for their sins, but Satin is trying to pull them back down. It’s pretty deep and dark stuff. The allegory gets deeper when it’s revealed that if the Emperor got Pinocchio to become a puppet again, he would grow stronger, since evil grows in power when people willingly choose to do nothing. Again, this is really deep stuff. But even when Pinocchio gives himself to save his friends, the power of goodness and light inside Pinocchio’s heart allows him to destroy the Emperor. And yeah, in any other kids’ movie this would sound really cliché and stupid. But here, it works. The idea here is the Emperor grows in power from people who give up their free will. So when an individual so strong in will chooses to oppose him and only be good, it weakens him. So in the end: Puppetino winds up getting turned into a puppet, the Emperor is defeated, Pinocchio is a completely normal human again (as is that girl puppet he liked), the con men have learned the error of the ways, and the bugs are happy too.

And so that's my review for Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night. And despite some scenes being really creepy, it is a movie that really anyone should check out. Now the movie is not perfect. The songs are forgettable, and some scenes (mostly the stuff with just the bugs) is really boring and predictable. Plus, the animation is kind of weird in this movie. In some parts, the animation really flows like a really well drawn Disney movie. But then in other parts, the characters get really stiff. It’s like they only had the budget to animate 2/3 of a good movie, and barely tried the rest of the time. But the good stuff is really good. The way the animators did the animation for creepy scenes is some of the creepiest stuff ever done in a children’s movie ever. And when the movie gets deep, it gets really deep. It’s by far one of the best animated projects the Filmation Company ever did. Sadly though, the movie did really poorly when it came out in 1987. It didn’t even make half of its budget, and this wound up being the last stand alone project Filmation ever did because the company shut down shortly after. But if this had to be the company’s grand finale, they at least went out with a huge bang. Unfortunately though because most of Filmation’s stand-alone works got bought up and spread across different companies, this movie has never been put on DVD, or even gotten a television airing or other media release since 1991 in America. So don’t feel bad about watching this via fan uploads on Youtube. It may be a spiritual sequel to a Disney movie, but it doesn’t really feel that much like a Disney movie. It really is a unique piece of animation history that anyone should check out.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Top 10 Arrowverse Episodes

Some fight criminals on the streets. Some fight the most powerful of evil forces. Some battle villains across time and space. And some take on armies from alien planets. But despite their differences, they are all heroes. But now it's time to look at their greatest adventures. These are the top ten stories featuring the heroes of the Arrowverse.

Back in 2012, the comic book based show: Arrow premiered to critical acclaim. And because of it's popularity, it was able to open the doors for multiple spin off shows and additional comic book based programs including the Flash, Constantine, Supergirl, Vixen, and Legends of Tomorrow, with more to come in the near future. So with currently over 250 episodes between all of these programs, now seems as good a time as any to look back at the 10 best episodes. Now, this list has been created for two groups of people. On one hand: for those that have watched all of these shows and want to hear my opinion on what the best are. And on the other hand: for that haven't seen these shows (or very little of them) but want to know what are the crown jewels to check out. And for those that are new to these shows that think jumping into a random episode would be confusing, just check out all of my recent Intro to Super Heroes for Newbies posts I posted recently to get all caught up. And just so you all know: these episodes have been picked based on which episodes had the best stories, were the most memorable, and contained tales of super heroes being true super heroes. And so, here we go...

10. World's Finest (Supergirl). This very fun crossover adventure features the Flash literally running into Supergirl's world and meeting up with her. On one hand, if you had avoided all of the promos and marketing before this episode premiered (or were just watching Supergirl Season 1 on Netflix without reading the episode summaries), the Flash just showing up out of nowhere would've been a huge surprise. Now the story here is pretty simple. It really just feels like the Flash ran into an episode of Supergirl already in progress. There's nothing too complex here. But what puts this episode on this list are the interactions between the characters, most notably Supergirl and the Flash. They are just completely entertaining together. From when Barry shares some fellow super hero advice with Kara, to them just becoming instant besties over their favorite foods. To be completely honest, Supergirl and the Flash just fit perfectly into each other's worlds. Unlike the many other heroes of the Arrowverse, they are the more optimistic, fun, and just more outgoing role model heroes out there. There's just so much fun positive energy between the two, you can't help but love seeing them in any scene together. It's simply a fun story to check out.

9. Duet (The Flash). It's the second fun crossover adventure starring the Flash and Supergirl. Now on one hand: this was a better planned out crossover because it brought more of the casts between the two shows together, and actually continued the season long plots going on in both shows, and the crossover had consequences on both shows after the adventure was over. But on the other hand: this was a fun crossover because... it was a musical crossover. This was the adventure fans had been wanting for awhile, since many of the actors actually had backgrounds in musicals. Now to explain the musical part simply, the Flash and Supergirl are sent into a dream world where everyone can just start singing and dancing at any time and that's just normal. In the dream world they also see alternate versions of their friends, and even characters from Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow (making this kind of a four show crossover). Now part of the fun here is seeing both the characters and actors do very crazy things they usually don't do. But what also makes the story work again: are the interactions between the Flash and Supergirl. They simply are just so much fun to see together. But at this point in their series, they had both experienced some heartbreak and hardships recently, so they are feeling a little down when this story starts. But between helpful worlds they give each other and the musical environment they're in, the two become their more happier optimistic selves by the end. It's a positive super hero musical adventure anyone should check out.

8. Flash vs Arrow (The Flash). Early in the Flash series, the show didn't waste any time at getting a crossover with another super hero in. And of course it would be with a super hero Barry Allen had already met, that being Oliver Queen (AKA: the Arrow). Now one of the reasons this crossover works like the others is the interactions between the two main heroes. However unlike when Barry was kicking it with Supergirl, Oliver is a complete contrast to Barry in personality. At this point in their series: Oliver was a much more well prepared dark warrior, while Barry was just a novice crime fighter. Resulting in Oliver actually able to get the upper hand on Barry while training. And of course because an evil villain messes with his brain, Barry is turned temporarily evil and we get what we really wanted: the Flash versus Arrow. And the fight is tons of fun. Seeing Oliver use more realistic weapons, gadgets, and techniques against the super powered speedster is one of the most entertaining fights in television. But the other major strength of this episode really is the interactions between the characters. It's a hero from a world of grounded reality walking into a world of the fantastical. You don't even need to have seen a full episode of Arrow, to realize how big a deal this merging of shows is. It's a super hero versus super super hero story done in all the right ways.

7. Unthinkable (Arrow). Easily, the best season finale story in the entire Arrowverse. The story focuses on the evil Deathstroke now having an evil army that is taking over the city. So Oliver Queen (AKA: the Arrow) brings in every ally he can muster (including allies of allies) and with their own small army, take on the large evil army. This was easily the biggest spectacle Arrow ever did. It felt like a comic book based adventure, while still feeling very grounded in reality. And the story works because the entire second season of the show was building towards this finale. Plus: this was the episode that tied into the flashbacks better than any other. The flashbacks show when Oliver and Deathstroke had their first major battle years ago, which cuts back and forth to Oliver and Deathstroke having their seemingly final battle here. And this episode ties in every ongoing plot thread from throughout the season. And I mean: every ongoing plot thread; including the smallest one. You see throughout the season we had gotten subtle hints that Oliver's tech genius friend: Felicity had romantic feelings for him but it was kinda played for laughs; like: yeah it's funny she kinda likes him but it really won't go anywhere. But then when Deathstroke kidnaps Oliver's ex-girlfriend: Laurel, Oliver then tries to hide Felicity from harm's way. And when Oliver explains to Felicity why he wants to hide her from Deathstroke, we get one of the series' absolutely biggest shocking moments. That was the most surprising moment I had ever experienced watching Arrow. Yeah, there's another surprise after that scene but I won't spoil that. Overall: this episode was a very entertaining action adventure.

6. Abominations (Legends of Tomorrow). A very easy to jump into stand alone episode of this series. Now Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 had a great number of fun and simple stand alone stories where the time traveling super heroes would consistently go to a different era of human history and have a crazy adventure. On one hand: this episode is no exception. This story features the time traveling heroes dealing with an alien virus that has turned American civil war soldiers into zombies. So there is a lot of fun in this episode. It's like: we've got time traveling super heroes teaming up with Ulysses S. Grant fighting confederate zombies. Yeeha! But on the other hand, there's a very smart story here too. Jefferson Jackson does an undercover mission to find some important thing they need in a rich southern mansion. He's told to be careful because he is of a certain skin color in a certain era of American history, but says he'll be fine since he's already dealt with racism in modern day America. But upon seeing slavery in the 1800's up close, he realizes: yeah, racism in modern day America is bad, but it's nowhere near as bad as it once was. The show very realistically portrays just how bad slavery was long ago, and they don't hold back the emotions in this tale. And the episode appropriately closes out leaving viewers with a smart question: what was the greater abomination? Was it the alien zombies, or the very concept of slavery in American history.

5. Human for a Day (Supergirl). In this early episode from the Supergirl series, we get a story where Kara has lost her powers and has to go a day being just a regular human. Now this set up is nothing new for a super hero series. And history has shown this can sometimes lead to a very cliche tale. However while there are some cliches here, the show pulls them off perfectly. Kara who had started to define herself through just her powers, has to figure out who she is beyond just her abilities. And we see her get very frustrated. There's a scene where she sees someone in distress that she could've helped quickly if she had her powers but can't. But then when sees a robbery happen, she goes to deal with it as Supergirl, but without her powers. And through just the power of her words, Kara is able to talk the robber out of what they are doing. And again: she does this as Supergirl without her powers. Now the other characters present didn't know she lost her powers. The only unique thing Kara brings to the situation here is her image of being Supergirl. She puts everything on the line, just to help out a small number of people. It's a true example of what a true super hero story, and what a true super hero, should really look like.

4. Spectre of the Gun (Arrow). Now while the other super hero shows in the Arrowverse were pulling off fun larger than life stories, one of Arrow's weaknesses was that it could never pull off as grand an adventure as those shows were doing since the series usually kept itself confined to a more grounded reality. However this episode takes the concept of Arrow's more grounded reality and tells a story that really works best in this show. Out of nowhere one day, a gunman breaks into city hall and starts shooting everyone. This all too realistic incident results in everyone asking Mayor Oliver Queen what he's going to do. Which results in Oliver and others around him having a series of very relatable and very thought provoking talks about gun violence and how the right to bear arms could be and should be regulated in our country. It's great solid material that connects incredibly well to the real world. But then there's the scene where Oliver confronts the gunman whose about to shoot up some more people. But he doesn't confront him as the Green Arrow. He does it as himself. No super hero costume this time. This is a completely grounded in realism performance about how a regular human being can persuade someone to be a better person. It's a story that takes the setting of Arrow and plays inside of it better than any other episode.

3. Legends of Yesterday/ Legends of Today (The Flash/ Arrow). In this two-part multi-series adventure, we have a mad man named Vandal Savage who is trying to destroy two new super heroes: Hawkgirl and Hawkman, and will also kill anyone that gets in their way. Since he's such a major threat: it's going to take the combined might of the Flash and Arrow and all of their allies to deal with this mad man. Now what's fun about this crossover is despite it also being a set up for yet another series: Legends of Tomorrow, the story feels very stand alone. Except for a sub plot in the Flash, you really don't need to be a fan of both shows to quickly pick up on what's going on. And since the story isn't too complicated, the double length adventure allows for something important: plenty of interactions between the characters of both series. Now yeah, you get the fun meeting of supporting characters who haven't interacted before. But you also get to see the characters just breath and be themselves. Only instead of their usually supporting characters to talk about their inner thoughts with, they have different characters to do that with. Such as when Oliver in this story learns he has a son he never knew about. But rather than tell his friends about this first, we get to see him share this news with a fellow super hero first and get advice from him on how to deal with it. All in all: it's good character drama, with double the amount of characters and time to have a god adventure with.

2. Invasion! (The Flash/ Arrow/ Legends of Tomorrow). It's the giant mega crossover featuring characters from four live action super hero shows all together. Evil aliens have come to Earth to destroy all super heroes and possibly: the Earth. So now the heroes have to fight back against the aliens to protect their fellow heroes, along with the entire world. Never before had anything this big ever been done in a super hero program. Now true, you could argue: the Avengers did this first in their movie which featured pre-established characters from four movies coming together. But the advantage of this crossover was, all of these characters had more than a few hours to define themselves. They all had seasons worth of time spent having their characters traits, personalities, and backstories defined. And that's what makes this crossover (along with so many others on this list) work well. It doesn't matter if you've seen all of these shows or not. You feel the strong presence all of these characters have. These aren't a bunch of supporting characters playing off of each other. These are main characters who all deserved to have the central spotlight in their respective shows, now having to share it. Now the story is simple enough, with the exception to the middle chapter of the crossover in Arrow actually being a pretty thought provoking tale. And also: the fight scenes are a lot of fun. But it's the characters that make this crossover work so well. You just want to see these heroes spend even more time together, even after it's all said and done. It's definitely a fun filled crossover adventure.

1. The Adventures of Supergirl/ The Last Children of Krypton (Supergirl). What could be better than having Supergirl team up with a ton of super heroes? How about having her team up with the greatest of super heroes: Superman. Now this story feels like the grandest of Arrowverse crossovers. Not grandest in terms super hero numbers, but grandest thematically. I mean: this is Superman showing up here. The first super hero, the strongest, and in many people's opinion: the best. Now on one hand: this crossover works because of Superman. And what's nice is: this isn't the moody guy who doubted himself in Man of Steel. No, this is the traditional Superman we haven't seen Christopher Reeve did it perfectly back in the 70's and 80's. This is a Superman who is kind, caring, humble, a good role model, and truly: a super man. Really, this is the best portrayal of Superman ever done on television (and it's not even a Superman show here). Now some of the fun here is watching the supporting characters interact with Superman exactly the way people in the real world would react if Superman actually showed up one day.

But that being said: this is still Supergirl's show, and she is portrayed better than ever in this story. With Superman by her side for two episodes, Supergirl is reminded how still imperfect she is. She sees Superman who has his personal and professional lives completely balanced, while for her: it's all still a mess. But this story proves than an imperfect person can still bring great strengths to the table. For example, a building is about to fall down. Superman is strong enough to keep it up for a bit, but it's Supergirl that actually devises a way to repair it. She is a very talented hero in her own right. So talented that even Superman can't help but admit how proud he is to work beside her. Probably what makes this crossover work better than others is that: it feels like a story of a mentor and protege working together. But in the end: the protege proves themselves to be just as relevant to the world as the mentor. And that's good story telling right there. Plus: both Superman and Supergirl are at their best as good role models in this story. The way they save people in this tale, and just the way they show kindness in the simplest ways is pretty inspiring at times. For those that want a fun optimistic super hero story to check out, this adventure really hits all of the checkpoints you'll need for an amazing super hero tale.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Intro to Legends of Tomorrow for Newbies | Seasons 1-2 Recap/Review

Time travel is real. But there are forces at work that wish to destroy history and the innocent people that inhabit it. So in order to save reality: a group of outcasts and misfits are brought together to protect it and become more than just heroes. They are legends.

Now if the Flash cracked open the gate of where crazy fictional stories starring super heroes could go on television, Legends of Tomorrow let the entire door of fantasy swing wide open. The time traveling super hero series starts off with a man from the future named Rip Hunter whose family has been killed by the evil immortal: Vandal Savage. Seeking to find a way to save his family, Rip Hunter steals a time traveling spaceship from the organization he works for and goes back in time to 2016, to recruit a team of super heroes to help stop Vandal Savage and save his family, along with eventually fighting against all sorts of evil time travel related threats popping up through history. These so called heroes are actually many of the DC super heroes who all started out as supporting characters in Arrow and the Flash. These heroes include: Ray Palmer AKA: The Atom (a former billionaire with a super suit), Sara Lance AKA: the White Canary (a trained martial arts master assassin), Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson who together become the flying fire powered hero: Firestorm, Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall who together are the immortal heroes: Hawkgirl and Hawkman, and former villains: Leonard Snart and Mick Rory who are also known as the no nonsense weapon wielders: Captain Cold and Heat Wave.

Now this series at first appears to be designed as nothing more than a spin off show trying to grab the attention of fans of two parent series. But with all that being said, the series does stand on it's own two feet very well. Aside from having the one new character: Rip Hunter act as the emotional center of the show's first season, you don't have to have watched the Flash or Arrow to understand this series. Now yes, you'll have to accept that these characters have back stories you missed out on (and by the way, don't watch this series before the Flash Season 2: episode 9 and Arrow Season 4: episode 9 if you're already watching those two series). But here's the thing: not knowing the heroes' full back stories is what most people experience when they pick up any super hero comic. When you pick up a super hero comic book: you know there's plenty of past adventures you haven't seen with the heroes you're reading about, but you don't mind as long as the story isn't too confusing and it's entertaining. And that's what this show is. It's really entertaining.

Perhaps, one of the reasons why Legends of Tomorrow works so well is it's very similar to Marvel's Guardians of Galaxy. As many people know, Guardians of the Galaxy worked because it was about a group of misfits who weren't exactly the best super heroes, but through teamwork and perseverance: helped save the universe. Legends of Tomorrow has the same concept. The main heroes of this series aren't the world's best heroes. In fact, in an early episode: it's revealed that they were picked to be time traveling super heroes not because they're the best heroes ever; but rather because despite having some useful skills, each of them alone will have so little an impact on the world, nothing will be lost from history if they die earlier than they're supposed to. But as a team, these misfits learn to work together and solve problem after problem as they time travel.  

And that's another fun aspect of what makes this series work as well: the time travel aspect. Throughout the series' run, we get all manner of fun stories that feature the same characters in many eras of human history. Now in the first season: we get a lot of stories that take place in the same eras for multiple episodes. But things changed in season 2 when we pretty much got a different era of history in every episode, providing all sorts of fun different stories every week including everything you'd want to see in a time travel series. From fighting Nazi's in World War 2, to duels with samurai in Feudal Japan, to fighting confederate soldiers in the American Civil War, to tangling with bad cowboys in the Wild West, and of course: tons of futuristic threats including aliens, zombies, and of course: evil time travelers.

Now from this review alone so far, you might be trying to figure out whether the tone of this series is dark or light. And actually... it's both. Many of the stories and settings that occur throughout the series do have a dramatic and dark feel at times. But the way the characters talk, interact, and act flawed at times is where the much more lighter bits come in. In fact, some of the ways these completely different characters play off of each other; despite it creating drama at some times, creates lot of comedy at others. Plus: since most of the heroes in this show have had very little history at being adapted into live action television before, it gives the actors and writers more time to showcase the characters however they feel like. This actually plays to the show's strength. When you watch most other super hero shows on TV that are based off of a comic book, you know what you're getting. But with Legends of Tomorrow, you're not quite sure what you're gonna get. And that's part of the fun.

And for those wondering: you don't really have to watch The Flash or Arrow to keep up with what's going on in Legends of Tomorrow once it starts moving. However it still doesn't hurt to watch the first few episodes of The Flash Season 3 while watching Legends of Tomorrow Season 2. Because the end of Legends of Tomorrow Season 2: episode 6 leads into the famous Invasion crossover which leads into The Flash Season 3: episode 8, which continues in Arrow Season 5: episode 8, and finishes off in Legends of Tomorrow Season 2: episode 7. You got that? Good. So that's my quick recap and review on Legends of Tomorrow Seasons 1 and 2. And now with the team's original main leader: Rip Hunter gone, there's no telling where things will go in the shows' third season. But that's the fun of the show. When all of history is at your disposal, there's no telling what kind of fun adventure awaits tomorrow when you have... the Legends of Tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Intro to Vixen for Newbies

Born in an African village that was soon after destroyed by evil, all Mari McCabe had of her heritage was a necklace. A totem necklace that upon adulthood, gave her great magical powers. Now Mari uses her powers to protect people, as the super hero... Vixen.

In the first animated production set in the same universe as Arrow and The Flash, Vixen is a series of short cartoons that first premiered online about a female super hero with mystical powers. After her parents were killed in Africa by local corruption, Mari McCabe inherits her family's Tantu Totem, gaining the powers of the animal kingdom, using them to fight as Vixen to stop threats like those that claimed her family. There isn't too much to say about this series, as the show was really just two seasons of cartoon shorts that combined equal up to just over an hour. The series is fun though in the sense that it is one of the few female led super hero shows out there.

And while it may not be a show for young children, it still is solid fun for preteens and teenagers. Now the shorts do have have good animation, and have good thought put into it's characters and story. It's just.. these are just shorts. You don't get much time spent in the story or it's characters, especially since there is time spent having crossovers with other super heroes. And there are animated appearances by many characters from Arrow and The Flash. And despite the actors doing a somewhat wooden performance voicing their live action counterparts, it still is fun to see them all together on screen.

Now the only other complaint you could make about this show is: it isn't stand alone. You're only going to understand and appreciate this series if you've been watching Arrow and especially The Flash. It truly is nothing more than a spin off. But it is a well integrated spin off. You see you really have to watch the two seasons of Vixen by the middle of Arrow Season 4, because Vixen actually shows up in Arrow Season 4: Episode 15. In the story: Oliver Queen enlists Vixen's help in order to find his son who has been captured. It's actually one of the much better episodes of Arrow, with it's connection to Vixen being a fun bonus.

But the benefits of watching Vixen come to the forefront in Legends of Tomorrow Season 2. In the second season of the time traveling super hero series, the team gains a new member: the Vixen of the 1940's (who is Mari's grandmother). Now because the heroes from the present (most notable Ray Palmer: The Atom) know what is to happen to their current ally when she returns to her time period, it creates some very interesting drama. So again: you have to see Vixen before jumping into Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 in order to understand everything that's going on. And so there you go. This was a short review for a short series, but it's still a series any fan of the other aforementioned super hero shows should check out sometime.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Intro to Supergirl For Newbies | Seasons 1-2 Recap/Review

She is a survivor of another world. Cousin to the world's greatest hero: Superman. To most of the world: she is Kara Danvers, mild mannered reporter of CatCo Magazine. But secretly, she works with a secret government organization to fight evil aliens that threaten the Earth. She is... Supergirl.

Based on the classic DC Comics character, Supergirl premiered on television back in 2015. While The Flash brought in many of the more high concept stories from the silver age of comics that hadn't been explored on television before, Supergirl was a return to the more traditional super hero TV series which hadn't be seen since Lois and Clark and perhaps even the 1950's series: The Adventures of Superman. This was also the first super hero series in a long time to just throw in the more ridiculous super hero concepts from classic comics such as Supergirl being allowed to wear a skirt and high heel shoes as her work uniform; and despite flying at super speeds: having her hair still look great. But that being said: despite this show sometimes feeling like a very old school super hero show, or even a gender swapped version of the classic Superman stories, there was definitely far more to this series than can be observed at face value.

The series focuses on Kara Danvers (played by the very well talented Melissa Benoist) who is an alien from another planet with powers who is the cousin of the world's most famous super hero: Superman. In the show: Kara, after trying to live a normal life for many years, breaks out of her cousin's shadow and begins fighting criminals both human and alien that begin emerging in her home city. But instead of fighting alone, Kara (now also known as Supergirl) begins working with her friends, her adopted sister, and a secret government organization at stopping these criminals. All the while, Kara still tries to live a normal life as a mild mannered assistant to the CEO of a major magazine.

Now if the Flash feels just like a prime time show version of a fun silver age comic book, Supergirl feels like a prime time version of a Saturday morning cartoon show, but done in all the right ways. The pacing is often fast at times, the heroes and villains' motivations are easy to follow, and the pilot does set up the premise of this series very quickly. But despite this series feeling like a kids' show at times (and by the way this isn't a show for young kids but is more all age friendly than many other super hero shows), the show takes this framework and plays inside of it beautifully. Kara/Supergirl is a very wide eyed happy optimistic hero with a strong moral code and a heart of gold.

Despite having lost friends and family over the course of her lifetime, Kara never stops loving her life and being appreciative of everything she has. In fact, all of the main characters are like that too. They all have their series of issues, but it doesn't stop them from being good friends and allies to Supergirl. Amongst Supergirl's allies are: Winn (a super smart tech genius who pretty much speaks the way all major fan boys and nerds would if they were in this world), Alex (Kara's adopted sister who is a tough action hero in her own right), Hank Henshaw (Supergirl's boss who while very tough, does have a heart of gold), and Jimmy Olsen (the former kid sidekick of Superman who while simply being Kara's love interest in Season 1, becomes an actual super hero in Season 2). And of course there's Cat Grant, Kara's boss at her civilian job who while is very rude at times, does have a warm motherly personality hiding under it.

Now despite how silly things get in this show, this series never stops being the story about a hero. And despite seeming like a gender flipped version of Superman at face value, Supergirl is her own unique hero. She's wide eyed and happy and loves to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. But she's uncertain at other times, nervous, and can be confused occasionally. But never does Supergirl ever try to stop being a hero. This is most evident in the seventh episode of the series: Human For a Day where Supergirl temporarily loses her powers. But despite that, Supergirl still tries to stop a bank robbery by simply using the power of words to talk the bank robber out of what he is doing. It is a perfect example of what makes Supergirl the true example of what a super hero is supposed to look like.

Now with all that being said, season 1 of the series is not perfect. Some of the drama gets pretty complicated like when Supergirl's evil aunt comes to Earth to invade it with an evil army. And then it turns out Hank Henshaw is really the alien: Martian Manhunter. And there's all kinds of romantic triangles that don't even result in anyone present in the season even getting together. It's all a little crazy. Season 2 on the other hand was a big step forward. With more straight forward and easy to understand story telling, and a greater emphasis placed on heroism. This is most notably seen in the first two episodes of Season 2 when Superman guest stars, and we see one of the greatest all star super hero team ups ever seen in television. And on a side note, the way the Supergirl series presents their version of Superman is by far one of the best portrayals of him ever. This is a Superman who is kind, caring, humble, a good role model, and truly: a super man.

Another major highlight of season 2 would definitely be the episode: Supergirl Lives when Supergirl is on an alien planet where she loses her powers again, but never shows any reluctance to keep trying to save anyone she can. Also in Season 2: we're introduced to Lena Luthor, the younger sister of Superman's greatest enemy: Lex Luthor. But in a welcome turn of events, it's revealed Lena Luthor is actually on the side of good, but is kind of a tragic character since she is a good person that has to live in the shadow of an evil family. Plus there's a neat ongoing plot in season 2 about space alien refugees coming to Earth illegally for a better life, which is the most in your face allegory tale in a super hero show ever, but it's still pretty good. The second season also saw Supergirl start a relationship with another alien named Mon-El, and while the relationship felt a bit forced, did result in a well done season 2 finale where Supergirl had to sacrifice being with the man of her dreams in order to save the world. It's good solid super hero story telling all in all.

Now despite this series seeming very separate from everything in the Arrowverse, in early 2016 we finally got our first Arrowverse crossover. In episode 18 of Supergirl, the Flash literally runs into Supergirl's series and gets stuck there. The crossover is pretty simple, but still has some great performances from it's lead super hero actors, and is pretty easy to understand what's going on if you've never seen The Flash. However the end of Supergirl Season 2: episode 7 leads into the giant Invasion crossover which takes place in The Flash Season 2: Episode 8, Arrow Season 5: Episode 8, and Legends of Tomorrow Season 2: episode 7. It's pretty confusing to watch if you haven't seen those shows before. It's skippable but there is another crossover with The Flash that gets set up at the end of Supergirl Season 2: Episode 16, which leads into The Flash Season 3: Episode 17; which is a must see crossover that does have an impact on the Supergirl series.

But that crossover is confusing to watch if you aren't caught up with The Flash by that point in it's series. But The Flash is a great show, and you should watch every episode of that show before this crossover anyway. So there. Oh yeah, and The Flash Season 3: Episode 17 isn't just a crossover with Supergirl... it's a musical crossover with Supergirl... and that's awesome. Yeah, as someone who likes musicals and super heroes, this was a match made in heaven for me. So there you go, that's Supergirl. It may not be too complex, or dark, or realistic most of the time. But it's a super hero series about a true super hero. It doesn't just feature a main protagonist that's a much needed role model for young girls watching, but is simply a good role model for all people watching. Supergirl truly stands for truth, justice, and the ideal American way. It's a fun show to fly into and check out.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Intro to Constantine for Newbies

His name is John Constantine. He is the one who who lives in the shadows; driving away demons and evil spirits. He may not be a person you wish to walk beside; but ironically, in the battle against the evils of the underworld: he is humanity's greatest hope.

Based one of the more lesser known DC comic series - Hellblazer: the TV series Constantine focuses on a man named John Constantine, a demon hunter who protects the innocent from demon related threats that constantly come to Earth. Now while Arrow is a series that is mostly grounded in reality, and the Flash is a series grounded in a world of fun fantasy and sci-fi, Constantine is more of a supernatural series grounded in a world of horror. And the end of the last sentence should stick out to you. This is a horror series; meaning it is 100% not for children to watch, and if you're someone who hates horror movies, you're really not gonna wanna see this series either. But one thing that makes this series better than most horror movies is that this is also a story about a hero. Now to be clear, the show's main protagonist: Constantine is a flawed character, and he's made plenty of mistakes in his past. But he's always trying to right any wrongs he's made, he does feel bad about any mistakes he can't fix, and is always trying to help people around him as often as he can.

But this is also a very dark series, and Constantine many times does find himself in tough situations where there's no easy answer. There are times where in order to save hundreds of people, he has to let one person die, and sometimes it's even someone close to him. Plus what makes Constantine an even more tragic character is: this is a guy who has to fight demons and thus, he's seen the worst things creation has to offer. Thus: he also has a pretty bitter outlook on life due to witnessing all of the consequences inflicted by evil forces around him. Now again, you're only gonna enjoy this series if you enjoy this genre. If you like horror movies, dark supernatural tales, or are a fan of occult detective fiction (yeah, that's an actual genre), then you'll probably enjoy this show a great deal. If you're not into those brands of fantasies, just go ahead and skip this series. And again: this is definitely not a show for children (since many stories do get into R-rated territory).

But that being said, the series does have some level of importance in the greater super hero universe that was first started by Arrow. Because even though the one season long Constantine series at first looked like it may have taken place in it's own universe, a crossover with Arrow in the fourth season of that show provided a well received contradiction. You see in Arrow Season 3: Sarah Lance (the first Black Canary) was killed. But then through the use of the mystical Lazarus Pits, Sarah is brought back to life by her sister Laurel (the second Black Canary) at the start of Arrow Season 4. However when she's brought back: she has no soul. So in Arrow Season 4: Episode 5, Oliver Queen (aka the Green Arrow) calls up his old buddy: John Constantine to help put Sarah's soul back in her body. The episode through flashbacks introduces Arrow viewers to John Constantine in an effective way that does not involve any need to have watched any episode of Constantine in order understand this particular story. Now this episode has importance because it does bring Sarah Lance back to life, which sets up why she's alive when she shows up in the first episode of the other super hero show: Legends of Tomorrow (which starts in the middle of Arrow's fourth season).

But the other reason to check it out is because of the very entertaining performance by John Constantine's actor: Matt Ryan in the episode. Wether you love or hate his Arrow crossover or his series, Matt Ryan's performance is the one truly good aspect of what makes his character so entertaining. Matt Ryan is so perfect in his role as John Constantine that he even reprises his role in the animated movie: Justice League Dark. The movie isn't in the same universe as the live action shows, but John Constantine does feel exactly the same in this story. However we get the fun treat of seeing John Constantine in a more traditional comic book style adventure with more high concept magic, big evil monsters, and of course: Batman. It still isn't a movie for kids, but it does serve as a more solid means to introduce the character of John Constantine to a more mainstream audience. And on one final note: there's supposedly to be an animated series set in the same universe of Constantine's live action series coming soon. So hopefully that show winds up being a much more interesting adventure for this unique character. However only time will tell.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Intro to The Flash for Newbies | Seasons 1-3 Recap/Review

His name is Barry Allen. He is the fastest man alive. To the outside world he is a forensic scientist. But secretly with the help of his family and friends, he fights the most powerful of evil forces that exist. He is... the Flash.

Now the Flash has been one of those comic book super heroes that's been around almost as long as several other notable famous super heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But one of the reasons why the Flash never got his fair chance at having a TV show based off of him was because... his stories were a little too silly, outrageous and too high concept for regular TV audiences to understand. His stories dealt with all types of time travel, alternate universes, giant talking animals, crazy villains, and really complicated and fantastical plots. Mainstream television simply wasn't ready for that level of crazy science fiction within the super hero genre. There was one attempt to make a Flash TV shows in the early 90's, but the limited special effects of the era didn't help. However upon having the man who was to one day be the Flash (Barry Allen) guest star in two episodes of Arrow's second season to widespread acclaim, DC Comics finally felt it was time to create a spin off to Arrow; a spin off that in contrast to Arrow, would not be a show that was grounded in reality. Rather it would be a show that would unapologetically take all of the outrageous and high concept aspects of the classic DC Comics, but add heart, humor, passion, and some amazing acting and writing to create a true masterpiece. And thus was born the hit TV series that started in 2014: The Flash.

In the very first episode: young forensic scientist - Barry Allen gets struck by a bolt of lightning that was created from an unstable particle accelerator, which results in him gaining super powers that most notably - allow him to run at incredible speeds. However the same unstable particle accelerator that gave Barry his powers, has also given a countless number of evil criminals in the city all types of super powers as well. Now Barry and his allies at the super smart scientific organization known as STAR Labs, must work together to take down these criminals. But of course Barry doesn't choose to fight crime as himself, but instead as a masked super hero simply known as: The Flash. At his sides are Kaitlyn Snow: an intelligent female doctor, Cisco Ramon: Barry's best friend along with the show's go to gadget show and spewer of pop culture references, Joe West: the local police detective and Barry's loving foster father, Iris West: Barry's love interest and heart of the show, and Harrison Wells: the leader of STAR Labs with a mysterious and complicated past. As a team: these individuals work together to solve complicated issues that plague the city, along with saving it.

Now the concepts, characters, and crazy settings you get throughout this series are always highly entertaining. This show takes everything that has made super hero comic books fun and crazy for the last seventy years and jams it ALL un-apologetically into this show. Now the show is corny at times, the stories are super predictable occasionally, there's cliche super hero love triangles, ridiculous code names for heroes and villains, completely unbelievable powers, and insane off the wall high concept stories that only super geeks, nerds, and fanboys will truly appreciate and understand. But somehow... it works. This show pushes the very foundation of where a fantasy show can go and the level of passion you feel behind it, you can't help but respect while watching. But what truly makes this show work incredibly well are the characters and how real they feel. For one: they do react the way real people probably would in these crazy situations. Such as commenting on how truly ridiculous the situation is. But then it's balanced with realistic and relatable emotions. These characters are fleshed out people. They love, they hurt; they experience joys, fears, heartbreaks, insecurities, and most importantly: a sense of duty to help others.

And of course at the center of the show we have the Flash himself (played by Grant Gustin). Like Oliver Queen in Arrow, Barry Allen does have a tragic backstory in this series. He too witnessed a parent being murdered, and he's vowed to help protect his city. But what makes the Flash so different than Arrow is: Barry is optimistic, he loves the world, he loves his friends and family, and he wants to help people as much as possible. He's not hung up on vendettas and the darkness in his heart like the Arrow. Barry is a 100% pure super hero. Sure, he's flawed and makes mistakes. But he's consistently trying to be better and simply help others. Both him and the stories that surround him make this series much more all age friendly and fun for all members of the family; and despite the show not necessarily being for young kids, there still is some great moral messages all ages can get from Barry's journey from time to time. And in a world full of corrupt and flawed leaders, the Flash is exactly the kind of role model young viewers need in their lives right now.

Now when it comes to individual episodes and the series' long plots, the show expertly balances having a steady amount of stand alone episode stories featuring villains of the week, with season long arcs that never stop building. In the first season: Barry is trying to learn who murdered his mother when he was young. In the second season: we see the Flash's world literally open up to parallel worlds, and he fights an evil speedster from another Earth: Zoom. This is also when we're introduced to Jay Garrick: the Flash of another world (based on the actual first Flash from DC Comics). Season three then brings the effects of time travel to the forefront as Barry has to deal with permanent damage he's made to the timeline from trying to alter it, and trying to save the life of one of his loved ones after he accidentally learns of future events. Now the season long story arcs are pretty simple to follow, but never feel anywhere near too simplistic for older audiences. Versus all of the other super hero shows that exist in the same universe as him, The Flash truly has mastered the art of creating fun and engaging stories.

And speaking of the other super hero shows that exist, the big question new fans might be wondering now is: do I have to watch both The Flash and Arrow to understand what's going on? To put it simply: if you want to understand everything that's going on in both shows - yes. However as long as you know just a few things about Arrow (which you can get by watching The Intro to Arrow for Newbies video), you'll know everything you really need to know. Even though Arrow Season 3 and The Flash Season 1 happen at the same time, most crossovers tell you everything you need to know. With the exception to when the Flash shows up in Arrow Season 3: episode 8. If you weren't watching the first eight episodes of The Flash, that crossover is pretty confusing. For that that don't feel like watching Arrow though, the only time you have to watch that show is when The Flash Season 2: episode 8 leads directly into Arrow Season 4: episode 8.

But Arrow isn't the only show that crosses over with The Flash. During the later half of his second season, the Flash also crossed over with Supergirl in the eighteenth episode of that series. Plus: a whole bunch of supporting characters from The Flash wound up becoming the stars of the time traveling super hero team: Legends of Tomorrow (which started after the middle of The Flash Season 2). And it is important to watch the aforementioned Supergirl crossover and at least be familiar with Legends of Tomorrow before you get to the super mega crossover: Invasion! A giant crossover event involving a giant battle against evil aliens that starts in The Flash Season 3: episode 8, has a simple but effective middle chapter in Arrow Season 5: episode 8, and then finishes off in it's amazing finale in Legends of Tomorrow Season 2: episode 7. Now okay: all of this crossover stuff might sound confusing, but aside from when to watch the crossovers: The Flash is a pretty straight forward show to watch.

And if you haven't noticed, there haven't been too many plot specific spoilers here. Why? Well that's because this truly is the show where you don't want to give too much away. But for those that are gonna really start watching this show when season four premiers, all you have to know is that Barry Allen upon coming close to marrying the woman of his dreams, is pulled into the Speed Force; another dimension of sorts that he had to go in order to help save the world. But with all that being said: The Flash is simply a show that needs to be enjoyed as it is. It may not be dark, gritty, and grounded. But it has imagination mixed with good heart, that can make anyone who just lifts their sense of disbelief up long enough, to have a very entertaining television experience about a 100% true super hero.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Intro to Arrow for Newbies | Seasons 1-5 Recap/Review

His name is Oliver Queen. For five years he was separated from his friends, family, and the outside world. But then he returned to his home city, to rid it of the crime and evil that had taken it. But to do it, he realized couldn't do it as himself. He had to be somebody else. He had to be something else.

Now the Green Arrow has been around in comics for over 75 years. However unlike other golden age super heroes such as Superman and Batman, Green Arrow hasn't always been the most popular. He's actually had many long periods in his history where he either never showed up in the comics, or he didn't have his own comic (and would just show up as a Justice League member or guest star in another comic). Even on television: he was just an occasional guest star, and that was only in a small number of cartoons. But then everything changed in the middle of the run of the live action series: Smallville. Now in this series that was about a young Clark Kent before he became Superman, a few other young super heroes did show up in a couple of episodes. They didn't have their suits or super hero names yet, but it was still kinda cool to see.

But then in Smallville Season 6, the series got it's first real super hero, that being the Green Arrow who was secretly wealthy billionaire: Oliver Queen (played by Justin Hartley). This character was like a breath of fresh air when he appeared in the series. Unlike Clark Kent who was taking forever to be Superman, Green Arrow was a guy who was wasting no time. He got his gadgets and his suit, and was just flat out fighting crime. It was actually fun that half way through the Smallville series run, we were finally getting a real traditional super hero. The character and Justin Hartley's performance easily made Green Arrow become incredibly more popular with non-comic book fans. In fact, the only consistent complaint people made about Green Arrow in Smallville was: he sometimes stole the show. He even became a main cast member in the final three seasons of the show. Yeah, they had another super hero star in a show that was supposed to be about another super hero. That's how amazing he became.

So after Smallville ended in 2011, there were sadly no live action super hero shows on network TV. And there was a reason why. While super heroes were starting to work in movies, TV networks were still afraid that modern audiences just couldn't take a character in a silly suit with powers seriously. But since Green Arrow (a hero who appeared for five seasons in Smallville fully costumed) was well loved by fans (and because DC comics didn't feel like making a Batman show since they wanted him to stay exclusive to movies), Warner Brothers decided to make Arrow. A show that while being based on a comic book, would feature a hero that was more grounded in reality and keep things extremely realistic. Now, this is where the concept of Arrow can divide some people in how they enjoy it.

For example, I personally didn't watch Arrow when it first premiered. It wasn't connected to Smallville (it had a different actor and took place in a different universe), and more importantly: it didn't feel like a super hero show. It was a dark crime show, with barely any of the concepts people usually associate with super heroes. But that being said, this show was a big hit with many non-comic book fans. People that just liked dark dramatic crime shows loved this when it first premiered because it was so grounded in reality, and yet still had a strong story: that being one man's fight against a huge slew of criminals. So you do have to respect Arrow for bringing so many people who wouldn't read a comic book to this program. But enough of the back story. Lets look at the entire series. And yes, there will be spoilers. This special blog post has been designed for two groups of people. Those that haven't watched Arrow (but want to get caught up quickly) and those that have already seen the show but want to hear my thoughts.

Season 1
The show starts off with wealthy billionaire Oliver Queen who has been missing for five years, but gets found and rescued from an island he claims to have been on all that time. He returns to his home in Starling City, with a mission to fight crime. Now through flashbacks we learn how five years ago he was on a boat that sank, but he and his father barely survived. But during his final moments of life before he shoots himself in disgrace of his wrong doings, Oliver's father tells Oliver about how he made dealings with a bunch of criminals, and he has a list of all of the big name criminals in Starling City. In the present: Oliver still has the list, and is now on a mission to kill every one of those criminals. And this is where the show really deviates from feeling like a super hero show. Oliver isn't on a mission to defend people (although he still does do that from time to time). Oliver is on a mission to just flat our murder people he doesn't like. That is not a super hero.

Now again, if you're into really dark crime drama: this might suit you fine. But it's definitely not for young children due to it's subject matter, along with it's language, and how graphically violent it got at times. Now as the first season progressed, we learn of a large plot involving the villainous Malcolm Merlyn who has a plan to create a manufactured earthquake that'll destroy the city (which is the only kind of unrealistic thing that goes on in the first season). Meanwhile we get tons of flashbacks sprinkled throughout the season featuring Oliver's first year stranded on the island. And yeah, he obviously wasn't alone there because that wouldn't be dramatic enough, but the flashbacks are actually more solid and more original in their story telling versus all of the present day scenes.

Now one complaint you could make about Arrow is that while Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell) is a compelling character, most of the other characters around him are just generic. His best friend Tommy, ex-girlfriend Laurel, sister Thea, and his mother Moira, are just common generic dramatic characters. They're not bad. They're just nothing new. Now that being said, there are two very good supporting characters introduced in this first season. First there's Oliver's body guard: John Diggle. He early in the show learns Oliver is the supposed hooded vigilante in Starling City. So he quickly becomes Oliver's much needed confidante, back up, and emotional support. And then came Felicity Smoake. Originally, she was just a tech genius that worked at Oliver's company that Oliver asked for some tech help with in one episode. But the performance by her actress: Emily Bett Rickards was so good, the writers of the show just kept bringing her back.

And after helping Oliver with so tech help on so many occasions, she's eventually brought into the fold and becomes Oliver's permanent tech genius that helps him out with so many types of problems. And honestly: Felicity is the only bright light of Arrow Season 1. She's the only character that's allowed to be light hearted at times, and actress Emily Bett Rickards does a phenomenal job at just delivering witty line after witty line in every episode. Plus, it is very entertaining every time she accidentally lets it slip up her real feelings towards Oliver. Over all: Arrow Season 1 is only a ton of fun if you're into dark crime shows. And it does get dark at the end of Season 1 when Oliver Queen's best friend Tommy (who learned recently Oliver was the masked vigilante), tells Oliver he's nothing but a murderer right before he dies.

Season 2
As soon as the second season of Arrow gets started, things do start to change for the better. After realizing that he may really have been just a murderer, Oliver becomes the Arrow again, but this time vows to stop killing criminals anymore. And this turning point does mark Oliver's turn to acting like a real super hero. Plus he does start to work with more allies. He accepts aspiring vigilante Roy Harper as his protégé, and begins to receive assistance from Laurel's father, Detective Quentin Lance (who in season 1 was really just an angry often drunk cop character, but in season 2 turns into a more loving father who is trying to get himself and his daughter Laurel away from alcohol, so that's a good story there). Oliver also gains another ally; a mysterious woman in black, who is eventually revealed to be Laurel's sister: Sara Lance (the vigilante known as the Black Canary), who like Oliver wound up stranded on the same island he was on years ago.

Meanwhile, the evil Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke) begins making Oliver's life miserable by attacking his loved ones (including killing his mother). Why? Because he was also trapped on the same island Oliver was on, but while there: took some weird drug that made him stronger but more insane. And now Slade wants to give other people his weird super strength drug and have an army of evil insane super soldiers. Now from this description alone, you can obviously tell this season had more comic book elements thrown into it. You have the evil bad guy whose drive to kill Oliver is pretty simple, and the near the end: you've got the classic concept of an army of evil fighting against good. However the show still feels like a realistic dark drama most of the time still. The more comic book like elements still feel grounded in reality.

Now this was also the season that opened up the world of Arrow. In the eighth and ninth episodes of Arrow Season 2, we are introduced to Barry Allen. A forensic scientist from Central City who comes to investigate the strange case involving the super strong individuals that are working for Deathstroke. While there, he learns Oliver Queen is the Arrow and becomes a short time member of his team. And his scenes in the episodes he is in do work very well. Grant Gustin who plays Barry comes in like a breath of fresh air and gives a more positive and energy filled performance. Plus, his back story he explains to Team Arrow is interesting. You see, Barry Allen is passionate about investigating the abnormal because he himself has seen the abnormal before. When he was a child, Barry claims to have seen a super fast man in yellow murder his mother. And it's this scene that first confirms that there's more supernatural things that going on in the world of Arrow. Which is quickly seen when things spin off into the spin off show starring Barry, but we'll get to that later.

Now the only other really super entertaining part of Arrow Season 2 was the season finale. When the giant army of evil soldiers start attacking the city, there is a lot of peril and high stakes adventure. And then it gets really intense when Slade Wilson kidnaps Oliver's ex-girlfriend: Laurel. But in a scene where Oliver is trying to hide Felicity from harm's way, we get the series' absolutely biggest shock when Oliver reveals why he wants to hide Felicity from Slade. It really was the one scene that shocked me more than anything else ever done in in the show. Overall: Arrow Season 2 feels like a dark and gritty drama that's also a super hero tale. It's a pretty solid way to appease multiple audiences. It's still not a show for young children, but it's still very solid entertainment for adults.

Season 3
Now the third season of Arrow is when things start to get really complicated and crazy. Now by the end of season two it was revealed that Oliver's sister Thea isn't Oliver full blooded sister, but rather his half sister; because her father all this time was the evil Malcolm Merlyn. However Malcolm does love Thea, and would never want to to hurt her. However he does brain wash her into killing Sara Lance/the Black Canary. And he did this because Sara Lance was actually part of the super secret ninja group: The League of Assassins, who want to kill him. So when they obtain evidence that it was Thea that killed Sara (but don't believe Thea was actually brain washed), they decide to kill Thea, but he of course knows Oliver will defend Thea from the League. But their rules say someone can fight the head of the League in her place, which Oliver does. And he gets training from Malcolm because even though he started all of this, he knows the most about the League.

But when Oliver fights the head of the League: Ra's al Ghul, he almost dies but survives. And then Ra's decides Oliver should be the head of the League. But he refuses, but Ra's who so does not want that an answer, keeps framing Oliver as the Arrow as a murderer so Oliver sees he has nothing left in life but to join the League. But to help cover for Oliver, his protégé Roy pretends he was the murdering Arrow and then fakes his death so people think the Arrow is dead. But Oliver joins the League anyway pretending he's evil. But only did it so that he could get close enough to sabotage their operation. And... if you can't tell, this was the season that got extremely complicated. This is probably when some people started to check out from the series. Even people that were watching the show really carefully were getting confused.

Now this season was on at the same time the spin off series: The Flash premiered. Now the interesting thing about the two shows is: you didn't really have to watch Arrow to basically understand what was going on with The Flash. However if you wanted to know several things going on in Arrow, you had to watch The Flash. For example: if you didn't watch the first few episodes of The Flash, you'll be completely confused why Barry Allen shows up in a few episodes of Arrow Season 3 with super powers. So you'll obviously want to watch his show. Which was much more brighter, simpler, and full of lots of comedy and fun. In an attempt to perhaps differentiate themselves from their spin off, Arrow this season attempted to be darker, more complicated, and full of lots incredibly serious drama. And the thing is: it was getting a little too dark, too complicated, and way too serious.

Now there still were some bright spots this season. John Diggle and Felicity were always very entertaining to watch. There was a kinda forced romantic triangle that formed this season though between Oliver, Felicity, and a new character: Ray Palmer. Now Ray was also a wealthy billionaire that was a bit over confidant. However he was a caring individual that wanted to help people. However he wanted to do it as a super hero. So he creates a robot suit with all kinds of gadgets and flight abilities, and becomes a new super hero: The Atom. Now despite The Atom being a larger than life super hero (and there being some crossovers with The Flash), Arrow Season 3 was still able to hold onto being a still somewhat grounded dark drama show. However when season four began, that idea finally got thrown out the door.

Season 4
In season four of Arrow, things take a turn into larger than life stories. A new evil new villain comes to town named Damien Darhk, who wishes to use his evil mystical powers and army of evil to destroy the world. And... that's pretty much it. On one hand, this was a much better season because the story and characters' motivations were much more easier to understand. On the other hand, this is the point where Arrow completely gave up at being a somewhat grounded show. This is the season that introduced a lot of high concept stories. Such as Ray Palmer (the Atom) now having the ability to shrink himself down to small sizes, and Sarah Lance is brought back from the dead. Now the question that may be here is: why did the show take a turn into being more of a sci-fi and fantasy show.

Well, the irony of all ironies is: Arrow's spin off show The Flash wound up becoming more popular, via better ratings and better critical response. So it would seem Arrow was trying to be a bit more like their spin off show by delving into the realm of fantasy. However the show was never close to tackling the more fun and highly imaginative concepts that The Flash did almost effortlessly. So Arrow Season 4 wound up feeling Flash-lite. It just wasn't as entertaining. That being said, if you can simply accept that Arrow Season 4 isn't as good as The Flash it's still a pretty entertaining season to watch. For one, Oliver and Felicity finally have a romance story in this season that does have some interesting twists and turns. Oliver's half sister Thea actually becomes Oliver's sidekick (known as Speedy). And there is a sad (but well played out) story where Oliver's ex-girlfriend: Laurel Lance who had been trying to be a super hero as the second Black Canary dies at the hands of Damien Darhk.

John Diggle meanwhile has some interesting stories where he has to balance his roles of being a good husband to his wife, good father to his newly born child, and good person to his newly discovered long lost brother. Plus there's a great two-part crossover that starts in The Flash Season 2: episode 8 and continues in Arrow Season 4: Episode 8, in which (amongst many other things going on) Oliver learns he has a son he never knew about. And the story where he saves his son from Damien Darhk (which is also a crossover with another show Vixen) is actually one of the much better episodes in the series. Plus, this was the season to throw in more comic book elements. Such as Oliver now calling himself what he is in the comics: The Green Arrow (rather than just the Arrow). Overall: Arrow Season 4 may not have been the best super hero show ever and may turn away people that long for a more grounded show, but it's not that bad.

Season 5
Season five of Arrow, is the season that works hard to finally establish balance. For one: it's much more dark and gritty like season one. However the show works hard to establish this is definitely the journey of hero. The stories are somewhat complicated, but still not too hard to follow. And while incorporating some fantastical elements (since this show does indeed take place in the same world as The Flash), most of it's stories do take place in a much more grounded reality. In this season: Oliver Queen has become the mayor of Star City, but there is a new villain known as Prometheus who wants to make Oliver's life a complete disaster. At the same time: Oliver tries training a new group of young heroes to work him. A few of them do have super powers; which again: might make this show feel less grounded in reality, but the powers of these few characters never takes over the story lines. The most interesting of them winds up being Wild Dog: an actually very relatable character who has a checkered past but is trying to turn into a good man for the sake of his daughter who is currently in foster care.

Now season five is definitely where Arrow finally felt like it established what it was in the greater super hero universe. While it's great in number spin off shows were now exploring the many large scale issues of it's universe, Arrow now firmly established itself as the show that would explore what the regular people of it's universe were experiencing. Instead of stories involving mad men wanting to destroy the world, we instead got great episodes like Spectre of the Gun which featured the all too realistic story of a gun man opening fire in a government building, followed by Mayor Oliver Queen having a series of very relatable and very thought provoking talks about gun violence and how the right to bear arms could be and should be regulated in our country. It's good smart stuff that really works best in a show like Arrow. But they still knew how to have just a few fun high concept stories this season too. Like in the giant crossover event that started in The Flash Season 3: episode 8, then continued into Arrow's very well received 100th episode, and finished off in Legends of Tomorrow Season 2: episode 7.

Plus, the story Oliver has against the villain of the season works. You see the villain: Prometheus wants to kill Oliver because during Arrow Season 1: Oliver killed his father (because he has done bad things). So now, Prometheus is on a journey to make Oliver's life worse and tries to set him up as being nothing but a murderer, and even tries to brain wash Oliver (via all too disturbingly realistic torture) that he is a murderer. But in the season finale upon telling Oliver that's he murdered his son, Oliver refuses to kill Prometheus. And this is when Oliver finally comes to the realization that... he may have started this journey as a murderer, but he's not anymore. Now... he truly is... a super hero. The season finale also comes full circle. Not only does the episode shows flashbacks to what happened right before Oliver got rescued from the island he was on, but it also completely takes place on the island. And pretty much every single one of Oliver's allies from throughout the entire series (that are still alive) are there with him on the island. However upon Oliver saving his son (who really wasn't dead) while on a boat, Prometheus blows up the entire island. The island that the whole journey started on, and the island where all of Oliver's friends currently reside on.

What happens next? That'll only be answered in Arrow Season 6. Overall... Arrow is a mixed bag at times. If you want dark gritty grounded crime drama, season 1 will do you fine. If you want a dark hero's journey, season 2 will do you fine. If you want a super complicated drama story, season 3 will do you fine. If you want a very comic book-lite style series, season 4 will do you fine. And if you want a balance of all those things, season 5 will do you fine. But that's one of the issues with Arrow. It's style was all over the place. Now the show does work if you simply like all of those different styles of story telling. But for those that are extremely hooked on just one of those aforementioned styles, it can feel really weird watching this series in order. Hopefully, season six continues what worked for season five (that being: showing what the more regular people of the Arrow universe experience). Anyway everyone, thanks for checking out this review. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you'll check out my next super hero related intro for newbies special coming soon.