Planet Comic Con 2017

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I’ve attended several conventions already and the year isn’t even half over. Each convention has a different atmosphere, a unique energy and an almost signature feel. This is obviously due to many different factors. Apart from just physical location, there is how well the space is utilized, the type of guests who are brought in, the variety of vendors that are present, etc. Planet Comicon in Kansas City was no exception except in how it stood out from the others I’ve visited so far. There was an almost velvety smoothness to how things went off as if literally everything had been timed out to the minute and all of the visitors & volunteers had been handed a script, were off book and had already performed their roles before.
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There are so many fandoms out there that trying to satisfy everyone is a daunting task when planning a con. Me? I’m a proud Whovian which means when I saw that three of my favorite Companions from ‘Doctor Who‘ would be on-hand, I knew I had to check it out. Billie Piper, John Barrowman and Catherine Tate (in only her 2nd U.S. comic con appearance so far) all played companions to the 10th Doctor and each were a delight to interact with and to listen to at their panels. (It’s worth noting that John Barrowman was in considerable pain with his shoulder but still stayed late on Saturday after the convention was officially closed to make sure all the fans who were still waiting in line to see him got their turn. If you ever get to visit with him at a convention, make sure to put him at the top of your list!) But maybe you’re not a Whovian. No worries! Planet Comicon had something for everyone.  Also on the list were Clare Kramer and Emma Caulfield from ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘, Ron Perlman from ‘Sons Of Anarchy‘ and ‘Hellboy‘, Wil Wheaton from ‘Star Trek‘, Stephen Amell from ‘Arrow‘, Ric Flair & Jerry Lawler from the world of Professional Wrestling, Jason Isaacs from ‘Harry Potter‘, Shannon Elizabeth & Tara Reid from various film roles, etc, etc, etc.

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Another aspect for a successful Comic Con is to make sure that you remember the “comic” part of the show. Some recent cons have been criticized for turning their backs, so to speak, on the comic book aspect of the show. That couldn’t be farther from the truth at Planet Comicon. Chris Jackson, founder and CEO of the convention, spoke about his love of collecting comic books back in his youth. That love can be seen in looking at the line up of top-tier talent on display from industry veterans like Chris Claremont, Jim Steranko and Howard Chaykin to current red hot creators such as Jason Aaron, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and everyone in-between! (On a side note, if you ever get the chance to see Jim Steranko at a convention or a show, be sure to go see him. I could have literally spent the entire con just listening to this man tell stories.)

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As for everything else, the convention floor was spaced out well enough so that the booths didn’t feel crammed together (this is where a lot of conventions go wrong!). Even when people inevitably stop in front of you to look at something, there is plenty of room to move around them because the booths and displays aren’t tightly stacked on top of each other. Vendors sold a wide range of various goods from cosplay items to video games to comics to toys to the always popular Funko POP Vinyls. Also impressive was that I saw at least 3 or 4 food vendors pedaling refrigerated snacks around on bicycles for people who were standing in lines to get autographs and meet celebrities, thus insuring that you could keep your spot in line and still get a refreshing beverage or snack. Brilliant idea and something I’d not seen done at any other con so far.

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I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how fabulous all of the staff and volunteers were throughout the weekend. The “minions”, “sidekicks”, “superheroes” and everyone else were constantly polite, incredibly helpful and extremely eagle-eyed and efficient. Whoever at Planet Comicon is in charge of hiring them is worthy of praise. This was the first time I attempted a live broadcast of my radio show from a remote location and I have to thank Kirk Chritton and Chris Phelan for their help in putting me in touch with the people in charge of handling Bartle Hall’s wifi service to make a live show broadcast possible. If I had to point to any single thing that I saw as a negative, I would make note of the fact that the booths themselves were not always clearly labeled nor did the website list the booth number for the artist or creator when you pulled it up. That addition to the con’s app would have been a slight time saver when it came to tracking down where the individual creators were stationed. Aside from that and given the fact that I heard scant little else in the way of complaints from the other thousands upon thousands of attendees, I would be hard pressed to give Planet Comicon anything other than a 9.5 out of 10. My experience was wholly positive and I would have to say that Planet Comicon was easily my favorite convention which I have attended so far this year. Now…. how WILL they top it for their 20th anniversary?!? I, for one, cannot wait to find out!

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Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 19: ‘Dangerous Liasons’

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This week’s episode of ‘Arrow’ saw some changes in the relationships of several of the cast. Not the least of which strongly affected John & Lyla’s marriage, but I’ll get to that shortly. In an effort to quickly track down Adrian Chase, who escaped the Federal Marshals who were watching him in the last episode, Felicity makes a deal with Helix to help break one of their tech geniuses out of ARGUS custody. This puts her in direct conflict with Oliver and the team as they have been tasked by Lyla with keeping the prisoner and Helix founder, Cayden James, locked up without the benefit of a trial. The notion that Lyla (who as you remember is now in charge of ARGUS after the death of Amanda Waller) would deny this man his due process doesn’t sit well with Diggle and a rift forms between the couple. After successfully outmaneuvering Team Arrow with the help of Felicity, Helix frees Cayden James. They deliver the device to Felicity as promised in exchange for her help, but they scrub their base of operations and send Felicity a message telling her that her relationship with Green Arrow complicates things for them too much to be able to have her work with them any further.

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Meanwhile, Quentin grills Rene about why he hasn’t ever tried to see his daughter and Rene informs Quentin that he is worried he will hurt her again and he feels that he just isn’t any good for her. Not accepting this, and still reeling from the loss of his own daughter Laurel, Quentin arranges for a surprise visit between Rene and his little girl. Rene decides he will fight to get his daughter back in his life after all. Upon his return to base, Oliver and Felicity discuss her actions and Oliver tells her that he understands why she did what she did and the two seem to reach a new level of understanding. At this point, Felicity uses the device that Helix provided to begin tracking Adrian Chase which pinpoints his location as… right there with them! Cue the huge explosion aaaaaannd blackout.

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Starting with the positive notes, I really enjoy how they are fleshing out Rene’s character more in these past few episodes. I am looking forward to him being promoted to a season regular for Season 6. Also enjoyable is the new take we are seeing from Felicity. Her character is expanding this season into something other than Oliver’s love interest and the team’s resident computer whiz (we even got to see her go all “Huntress” in the season finale of ‘Legends Of Tomorrow’ earlier this month). That being said, I am disappointed with the somewhat contrived conflict that has been set up between John & Lyla. John is concerned about a man’s due process being taken away by his wife, yet he hangs out with vigilantes who kill / have killed on the regular. Not to mention the fact that John killed his own brother last season! I don’t recall Andy Diggle getting a trial before you executed him, John. Other than a possible need by the writers to keep John from being happy (because happy = boring when it comes to our favorite TV characters), I don’t understand the need for this particular plot line. I also don’t feel that Curtis is being utilized as much as he could be in the show, BUT… I am happy where he appears to be headed. He’s got the jacket, he’s perfecting his T-Spheres, as soon as his fighting game gets stronger, I’m thinking that Mr. Terrific will be a true force to be reckoned with in the Arrowverse!! So while I dug the episode over all apart from the seemingly random conflict between Mr. & Mrs. Diggle, it still fit solidly within the realm of what has been happening this season and it ended, literally, with a bang. I’d give this week’s episode an overall 6.5. Now when are we getting an Echo Kellum led spinoff series?!?!?!

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“Dark Phoenix” Again? REALLY?!?

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Ever since the news dropped that Simon Kinberg announced he’d love to do ‘Dark Phoenix’ as the story line for the next X-Men offering for Fox, people have been asking themselves the same question:

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The X-Men franchise have existed in comic book form for over 50 years and in cinematic form for 17 years. There are so many stories that can be told from that 50+ year span of rich history that have never been touched on in the movies at all, but Fox, in their Fantastic (Four) wisdom have decided to revisit a concept that was already done just a smidge over 10 years ago. Yes, it wasn’t necessarily well-executed and, yes, the recent ‘Days of Future Past‘ did just wipe out all of the preceding X-Men films thus ensuring a reboot of X3 is do-able, but that doesn’t automatically make it a great idea. Here is my list of the Top 5 X-Men Stories that would be BETTER than a Dark Phoenix retelling:

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#5: X-Men – The REAL First Class.

It always bothered me that the film that kicked off the franchise reboot ‘X-Men: First Class’ wasn’t really the “first class” at all. Instead, it consisted of Cyclops’ younger brother, Alex Summers, along with a cast of mostly modern day X-Men set in the days before the founding of the original team. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the fact that they did a period piece set in the 1960’s and I loved the inclusion of Beast and I didn’t mind that Banshee showed up, given as his 1st comic appearance took place in X-Men #28 during the original 60’s comic series, AND I loved Fassbender & McAvoy as Magneto & Xavier. BUT…. it would have been nice to see the true original team of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel & Beast w/o the Hellfire Club and, instead, getting a full cinematic experience of the 1st issue of the original 60’s comic. And before you say “Well, sure! But comic book nerds would be the only ones who would get it.” No. As I mentioned, the X-Men have been around for over 5 decades in all different mediums. Those who wouldn’t “get it” would catch on very quickly. So… If we are rebooting the franchise, why not start with a true reboot of the series and do ‘First Class’ up properly.
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#4: The Brood

All of the Marvel Comics teams have faced off against alien races. The Avengers have faced The Kree, The Fantastic Four have battled The Skrulls, but few comic book aliens have been as insidious as The Brood. This alien species (created by Chris Claremont & Dave Cockrum back in 1982) have proven to be very troublesome for Marvel’s Merry Mutants over the years. Any number of the stories involving The Brood could be used with nearly any combination of X-Men characters. Even a *GASP* original story and screenplay could be written just using The Brood as an adversary for the current cinematic team granting a great amount of freedom for both writer and director. (Just so long as it’s not Josh Trank. Please.) Aliens vs Mutants? How could it get any better?

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#3: Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut

Over the years, the X-Men have faced many villains and dealt with many threats from both mutant and non-mutant alike. In all that time, I’ve never found one of their opponents to be more fascinating or fearsome than The Juggernaut! Not only is he Xavier’s step-brother, adding a delicious plot layer to the story, but he also has been imbued with mystical powers making him, literally, an unstoppable force of nature. Initially I was excited when I learned that he would be showing up in ‘X-Men 3‘. My curiosity was piqued when they announced that Vinnie Jones would be portraying him. All of that went away when I saw how the character was actually done on-screen. He was just another mutant who had no connection to Xavier and who could be taken out by having his powers easily “leeched.” Ever since then I have yearned for Juggernaut to reappear as a massive Hulk-esque, CGI powerhouse who threw down with the entire team of X-Men all by himself. Of course if Fox decided to throw in Black Tom Cassidy (perhaps played by Duncan Lacroix?) for good measure, I wouldn’t hold it against them.

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#2: The Death of Professor X

In comic books, it’s not how you die, it’s how often you die and come back. Usually just to die again. Professor Charles Xavier is no exception. He’s probably died more times than nearly any other mutant under his purview. Any number of these deaths would make for a great movie adaptation and would also lead to any number of brilliant X-Men sequels (since movies really need to think in terms of trilogies these days). Assuming we still have McAvoy and Fassbender around for another few installments, then seeing Xavier die in one film and having Magneto become the X-Men’s leader (as shown in Uncanny X-men #200) for the sequel would easily be my favorite choice. The possibilities here are endless and would leave a great number of creative alternatives open for the franchise moving forward. Just as long as they don’t forget: Xavier always comes back from the dead.

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#1: Legion Quest

Marvel Studios have done a great job of tying their big screen projects in with their TV series. We consistently get nods, references and even appearances in ‘Agent’s Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ to the going-ons & characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well now that Fox has ‘Legion’ on FX… why not tie that into their X-Men films? Considering that ‘X-men: Apocalypse‘ was set in the 80s and that ‘Legion’ is set in that same era, it would only make sense to have Dan Stevens show up as David Haller in a future X-Men film as the antagonist. There are at least a dozen different ways to tell this story and the roster of the X-Men can be literally any that the writers want to use. And for sequel potential? Anyone ever hear of a little story called “Age Of Apocalypse“?

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So there you have it! While the comic book fan in me could have easily rattled off a few more that I would love to see (Mojo & the X-Babies, X-Men vs Arcade, X-Men vs Freedom Force, Fall of the Mutants, etc, etc) I know that these would be a little outside the realm of what the casual movie goer would want to see / understand and also a little harder to work up to within the constraints of the already established cinematic arena to which X-Men fans have grown accustomed. But, seriously… let’s stop and really consider doing something new, unexpected and fresh before we trot out a second Dark Phoenix story. Especially considering that we no longer have Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine around to do what needs to be done, ya know?
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Fan Expo Dallas 2017

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I’ve been to many a comic con in my day. Most recently as a member of the press for my radio show but always as a fan. Out of all the ones I’ve attended, Fan Expo Dallas 2017 was probably the busiest convention that I can recall. I expected this to an extent. After all – just look at the line-up of celebrities and artists and special guests they had scheduled. For me, the main draw was Mark Hamill as this was his only scheduled U.S. appearance this year. But that didn’t temper my excitement for the likes of Khary Payton (who I was able to have sign my ‘Young Justice’ Aqualad action figure) or getting my picture with Barry Bostwick (who I had just interviewed a few days earlier for my program) or from waiting patiently in line to have my comicbook promo posters signed by such creative royalty as Mike Zeck, Gail Simone, Adam Kubert and Jae Lee, just to name a few.

In fact, there were so many heavy-hitters and big name talent at the con that I almost felt like they could have added an extra day to help me squeeze everything in that I wanted to do / everyone who I wanted to see! The crowd on Saturday was huge partly due to the incredible roster of talent on-hand but also partly because Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Daryl and Negan, respectively, from AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead‘) had to cancel their Sunday appearance. This led to a lot of Sunday ticket holders for autograph and photo-ops coming down on Saturday to try to redeem or exchange their tickets. To the credit of Fan Expo Dallas, their volunteers and crew members were VERY good at organizing the crowd and they were all very well-informed about scheduling and providing information. Any question I had was answered quickly and politely and everything seemed to run very smoothly. The moderators of their panels (which were some of the most incredible programming I’ve seen to date) were energetic and did a splendid job of keeping things moving and fun. If there were any kerfuffles behind the scenes, they were not noticeable to myself or, one would assume, the average attendee.

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Every convention has an energy to it… an intangible, electric feel that you notice in the moment but don’t really think about too much until afterwards. Fan Expo Dallas had a very high energy vibe that moved me forward around the floor like an invisible hand. It was almost to the point of sensory overload, in the best way possible. If I had to say a negative word, it would just be that I wish there had been that extra day (maybe add Thursday to the dates next year?!?!) to fit in some more panels, another couple of photo-ops (I would have LOVED to see/have a Kevin Conroy & Adam WestBatman” photo-op and a John Barrowman & James MarstersTorchwood” photo-op, for example) or meet a few more celebrities who I just didn’t have time to get to see. On a scale of 1 – 10, I would give Fan Expo Dallas 2017 a very strong and solid 9. Make note of their website, follow them on Facebook and Twitter so you can start planning now to save the date for 2018. Even though they’ll have their work cut out for them topping this year’s convention, I have no doubt that their team is already planning and prepping to do undertake that very task.

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Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 18: ‘Disbanded’

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Oliver returns to the team mentally broken by Prometheus. As we saw at the end of Episode 17, he tells the team that he is shutting it down and demands that they all go home and insists that both he and his crusade are over. His next step is to completely break things off with Susan Williams telling her that what happened to her was done by Prometheus but it was done because of who Oliver really is and he doesn’t want to touch her life that way. Next up on Oliver’s list? Killing Prometheus once and for all. To that end, he reaches out to his friend Anatoly and asks that the Bratva kill Adrian Chase.

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Anatoly says he has brought his best men to Star City but he insists on partial payment upfront to show good faith on Oliver’s part after how things went the last time that the Bratva came to town. Oliver agrees. Meanwhile, Diggle along with Curtis, Rene, Dinah & Felicity all gather at Felicity’s apartment to try and figure out what to do next. Felicity decides to go and see if HELIX can help uncover some connection showing Adrian Chase is Prometheus while Diggle and the others decide to continue the fight with some equipment borrowed from A.R.G.U.S. No sooner do they get their new gear than they are alerted to a break-in at a pharmaceutical company. The group heads out only to discover that it is the Bratva stealing drugs used for treating diabetes and Anatoly also informs them that he has “permission” to steal the drugs from Oliver Queen himself.

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This news leads to another confrontation between Oliver and Diggle who insists that he is here for Oliver and knows that whatever Prometheus did to him, that Oliver can find his way back from it. Oliver reminds Diggle that he ordered the team to stand down and warns him not to interfere with the Bratva again. But interfere they do. This time they intercept the Bratva before they can kill Adrian Chase as he is being escorted to a safe house by the Star City PD. They not only succeed in stopping the Bratva from killing Chase, but Mr. Terrific also manages to use his T-Spheres to hack Adrian’s image scrambler so that Felicity can reverse engineer the tech that keeps him cloaked from video surveillance and help prove that he and Prometheus are one and the same. The only problem is that the hardware still needs to be hacked before it can be used to show the police. To that end, Curtis and Felicity break into Kord Industries which made the image scrambler in the first place.

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Diggle finally convinces Oliver that he is not beyond redemption no matter what kind of monster he thinks he is, but that he has to be willing to work for it. Reluctantly, Oliver agrees to rejoin the team and, shunning his Green Arrow costume for a plain ski mask and stealth suit, he helps Diggle, Dinah & Wild Dog stop the Bratva from stealing the other drug they need to combine with the first one they stole to make synthetic opium. As a result, a wedge is now permanently driven between Oliver and Anatoly. This is very sad when contrasted with the flashback scenes showing Oliver as “The Hood” and Anatoly’s Bratva pulling one last heist of medical supplies to help sick children in Russia. Oliver decides that he must go back to Lian Yu so he has a plausible story to tell people about where he has been for the last 5 years. Anatoly worries what he will become without Oliver around.

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Finally, the image of Adrian Chase taking off his mask to reveal that he is Prometheus is unscrambled and given to the SCPD who forward it to the Federal Marshals guarding Chase. But before they can apprehend him, he kills the marshals and escapes. To me this was another fantastic episode due in no small part to the acting of Stephen Amell. His internal torment was played out just perfectly with his downward-turned eyes, his softer tone of voice and through his interactions with those around him. I also truly felt saddened by the nature of the change his relationship with Anatoly took at the end of the episode. The whole season’s worth of flashbacks cemented this image of the two of them as true friends and the impact of their final scene of tonight’s episode was not lost on me. A perfect setup by the writers that played out in the long game with a solid emotional impact here at the end of the season. (I’m actually more saddened by Oliver and Anatoly’s friendship ending than I was when Felicity broke off her engagement to Oliver. LOL!) Overall, I would rate this episode a 7.5. Now all I have to do is see if I can survive the wait until April 25th when new episodes return!!!

Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 17: ‘Kapiushon’

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The 5th Season of ‘Arrow‘ may be the best the show has been since Season 2 as far as overall story telling goes. There has been the occasional stumble along the way, but over all this has been a very enjoyable season especially from a comic book aficionado’s  perspective. The 17th episode entitled ‘Kapiushon’ is certainly no exception. We pick up right where we left off with Oliver as the prisoner of Adrian Chase who has been revealed as Prometheus and who we now know was trained by Talia Al Ghul to exact revenge on Green Arrow for killing her father, Ra’s Al Ghul, at the end of the 3rd season.

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From the beginning, Adrian/Prometheus is torturing Oliver trying to get him to “confess.” Oliver, unfortunately, is at a loss as to what it is he is meant to be confessing. And so the torturing continues with Prometheus putting three arrows into Oliver just as Green Arrow did to Prometheus’ father. Next, Adrian brings in Evelyn Sharp who had been working with Team Arrow until she betrayed them at the request of Prometheus. Adrian brings a clearly broken Evelyn into Oliver’s cell and puts a knife between them saying that if Oliver kills her, then Adrian will let him go unless Evelyn kills Oliver, in which case he will let her go. When she is unable to kill Oliver and Oliver refuses to kill her, Adrian breaks Evelyn’s neck in front of Oliver and reminds him that everything and everyone he comes into contact with ends up dead and that it’s only a matter of time before Felicity & Diggle end up the same way.

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This episode is a departure from other episodes in the series in that the majority of the action is centered in the flashback portion which end up reflecting back to the moments we see in the present day of Oliver’s torture by Prometheus. In the flashbacks, we see that Anatoly is promoted to Pakhan of the Bratva after Oliver’s “new identity” helps Anatoly’s faction wipe out the competition. This leads to a crossroads for Anatoly where he must decide whether or not to honor the Bratva’s deal with Constantine Kovar. A decision made easier when Anatoly overhears a deal Kovar has made with an American named Malcolm Merlyn that will allow Kovar to kill key government officials at his casino. Needless to say that brings us to a final showdown between Oliver’s internal demon (aka: The Hood) and Kovar in which Oliver apparently kills Kovar and finally gets vengeance for Taiana who died on the island last season.
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In present day, the scenes of the flashback come to a head when Adrian finally gets Oliver to “confess” that he kills because he likes to kill and not because of his father’s list or because he has to kill to save lives. This admission on Oliver’s part appears to finally break him and, as Adrian promised, he is released now that he has confessed. He makes his way back to the base where he is greeted by Felicity, Curtis and Diggle and informs them that he is shutting everything down and that they are done.

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Again, this episode was quite unique due to the emphasis on the flashbacks as a means of fleshing out the meat behind Oliver’s final admission that he kills because we likes it. The focus on the past as it comes closer to aligning with the beginning of the series is excellently done and it piques my curiosity about how the end of this season will show the timelines converge. Overall, since this show was so centered on Green Arrow and hardly showed any of the supporting cast members until the very end of the episode when Oliver made it back to HQ, it gave it the feel of a solo adventure that one would see in the “Green Arrow” comic series which I always enjoyed. Between the writing of this episode and the effect it will have on the remainder of the season and just due to the wonderful acting from Stephen Amell and Madison McLaughlin, I would rate this episode an 8 out of 10.

Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 16: ‘Checkmate’

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This episode of ‘Arrow‘ sees Oliver finally learn the identity of Prometheus as none other than Adrian Chase. After traveling to a mountain top temple, Oliver confronts Talia who reveals to him that she is the one who trained Adrian Chase. When Oliver asks why she would do that, she confesses that her last name is Al Ghul which means that Oliver killed her father 2 years ago just before Adrian Chase came to her seeking revenge against The Arrow for killing his father.

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Oliver returns to Star City and confronts Adrian who gloats about being 10 steps ahead the entire time and also tells Oliver that he is holding Susan Williams hostage so if Oliver kills him, then Susan also dies since he is the only one who knows where she it. meanwhile, the team is unable to contact Felicity because she is off getting to know her new friends in HELIX. She asks them for access to information that may help track down Susan’s location but they will only help if she helps them crack an NSA database on divert a U.S. Drone for them. Green Arrow and Spartan invade Adrian’s home to try to talk to his wife but Adrian anticipated that move as well and has the SCU waiting for them. Oliver and Diggle manage to escape but it puts them right back at square one in their standoff with Prometheus.

Felicity & Curtis manage to track down Susan’s location Oliver asks Diggle to make a stop on his way to the warehouse where the rest of the team goes to free Susan. After a small bomb goes off trapping Black Canary and Wild Dog, Green Arrow rescues Susan and finds Prometheus who takes off his mask in front of Oliver just as Spartan arrives with Adrian’s wife who is horrified to learn that her husband is “The Throwing Star Killer” (AKA: Prometheus). But rather than taking the chance that she could ruin his plan for revenge against Oliver, Adrian stabs his wife and kills her. Mr. Terrific manages to free Black Canary & Wild Dog and Spartan is able to get Mrs. Chase’s body outside but, after a fierce battle between Green Arrow and Prometheus, Talia shows up and disables Oliver with a drugged arrow to the leg.

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Adrian returns to work claiming that Green Arrow killed his wife as revenge for City Hall’s tough stance against him and, with Oliver missing, there is nothing the team can do to stop him. Oliver awakens to find himself chained in a cell where Adrian promises to make him suffer as Talia looks on confirming Anatoli’s warning of what “this woman” and her ideals would end up doing to Oliver during the flashbacks to Russia.

Overall, this would a very solid episode with some great scenes and plot development leading up towards the big finale (which is just 5 episodes away!!). Josh Segarra is perfect in his portrayal of the smug, cutthroat, newly revealed Prometheus in a “makes-you-want-to-punch-him-in-the-face” kind of way. (Trust me, that’s a HUGE compliment.) Paul Blackthorne is always outstanding as Quentin and I am intrigued by the new direction they are taking with Felicity’s character. I’m glad to see that they are bringing her into a different setting other than the team’s stalwart tech genius and beginning to explore a new angle of her character while playing upon her hacktivist roots. Overall, I would rate this episode as a solid 7. Here’s hoping that the season finishes strong!

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Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 15: ‘Fighting Fire with Fire’

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This week’s episode of ‘Arrow‘ seemed to have it all: Mayor Oliver Queen fights impeachment, Vigilante returns, Mr. Terrific gets his T-Spheres AND…. we finally learn the identity of Prometheus. But one thing at a time. The episode opens with Oliver, Quentin, Thea and Adrian trying to determine the best course of action to make sure that Ollie stays in his position as Mayor of Star City. If he is impeached, then Prometheus wins. After leaving the initial impeachment hearings, Oliver’s limo is attacked by Vigilante who has decided that Mayor Queen’s cover up of Green Arrow’s murder of Detective Malone warrants more than just removal from public office. Luckily Dinah and Thea manage to keep Vigilante from killing Oliver until the SCPD arrive on the scene.

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Meanwhile, Curtis has been working on his T-Spheres which are high tech devices for both offense and defense. When Dinah finds a piece of Vigilante’s mask containing specialized circuitry, Curtis realizes his T-Spheres (don’t call them his “balls”) can lock in on the origin signal and track Vigilante back to his hideout. While they are working on implementing this plan, Vigilante has a run in with Prometheus who warns Vigilante to stay away from Oliver Queen. After a short-lived but fierce battle, Prometheus unmasks to reveal his true identity. (No spoilers from me. Go watch the episode already!)

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Intermixed between flashback scenes of Oliver’s time in Russia helping to save Anatoly by proving Gregor was siphoning funds from the Bratva for his own purposes, we see Diggle try to convince Felicity to give up her connection to Helix before she gets burned. This theme of “getting too close to the fire” resonates with Thea’s story arc as well and we see her wrestle with the idea of blackmailing a city council member whose swing vote could potentially save Oliver’s political career. After a public speech in which Oliver declares the cover-up was designed to keep the public from knowing that Green Arrow had become a cop killer, the vote comes back against impeaching Oliver (as Diggle, Wild Dog and Mr. Terrific keep Vigilante from assassinating him). Thea decides that she needs to leave and feels she’s traded blackmail and politics for arrows and knives. Oliver accepts her resignation just as Felicity decides to go full-throttle into the game with Helix and Adrian Chase approaches the newly re-instated reporter Susan Williams about a very important story he needs her to tell.

Overall, this was one of the more solid episodes in a very strong season for ‘Arrow’. We had the return of Vigilante (who I always loved in the comics) AND we got to see a classic villain vs villain fight as he squared off against Prometheus. Also, mainly because I am a huge fan of Mr. Terrific in the comics, I was ridiculously excited to see the show introduce his T-Spheres as a means of bringing him even closer to the realized comic character. Between the excellently paced action and the underlying drama, I would give this particular episode a solid 9 out of 10 and I can’t wait to see where the story continues to go from here.

Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 14: ‘The Sin-Eater’

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This episode opens with Oliver paying a visit to the suspected mother of Prometheus in an attempt to find him before he strikes again. After striking out on that front, Oliver then heads back to Star City where his girlfriend, reporter Susan Williams (played by Carly Pope), confronts him and asks if he is the Green Arrow. Unfortunately the revelation that Susan is on to the possibility of his secret identity is the least of Oliver’s problems. China White, Cupid and Liza Warner have broken out of Iron Heights and are looking for Tobias Church’s cash stash . As if all of this wasn’t enough, the ACU is after Green Arrow after Prometheus tips them off that HE is the one who killed SCPD detective Billy Malone.

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In an attempt to try to fix the Susan Williams problem, Thea goes to see Felicity and hatches a plot to hack Susan’s computer to discredit her as a means of preventing her story about Oliver being Green Arrow from coming out. When Susan gets fired, an enraged Oliver confronts Thea over what she did. All of this is ties in to the flashback sequences of Oliver’s time with the Bratva where he is told a story about what a Sin-Eater is. All of this, as usual, ties back into the overarching theme. Along the way we get to see Dinah get sworn in as Star City’s newest police officer and, best of all, Mr. Terrific’s costume gets an upgrade in the form of a comic-accurate “Fair Play” jacket (kevlar lined, of course.)

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All-in-all, this was a solid episode with a lot of great action that sees a HUGE problem for Oliver as the life he has built over the past 5 years slowly begins to crumble out from beneath him. I always love seeing Cupid (Amy Gumenick) on the show and it was also nice to see Thea (Willa Holland) get some more screen time as she hasn’t seemed to be as present since the 100th episode. As far as assigning this episode a score, I’d rate ‘The Sin-Eater’ a solid 8.

Review of ‘Arrow’ Season 5, Episode 13: ‘Spectre Of The Gun’

This is my very first written review of an episode of a TV Show (I usually cover movie reviews) and Episode 13 of the 5th Season of ‘Arrow‘ entitled ‘Spectre Of The Gun’ didn’t make for an easy review. The episode was uncharted territory for a superhero show in that it tackled a difficult issue for most Americans: gun violence / gun control. (Done on TV before, but never really on a superhero related show. More on that later.) In the beginning of the episode, an unknown shooter carries a bag full of guns into City Hall and starts shooting people. We find out later that the killer is a citizen of Star City who lost his wife and daughters to gun violence and blames the previous city administration for not enacting a gun registry. Throughout the episode we see some fantastic performances from Echo Kellum and Rick Gonzalez as the two debate both sides of this contentious topic.

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Paul Blackthorne also turns in a knockout performance as we see him struggle with this issue in his own way from a former policeman’s perspective. (But then again, when doesn’t Paul Blackthorne turn in a knockout performance.) Felicity stays neutral on the topic even saying that the arguing between Wild Dog and Mr. Terrific won’t do anything to change the other’s mind. What I loved most about this episode was that the flashback sequences we’ve come to know as a staple of ‘Arrow’ since the beginning focused not on Oliver Queen, but squarely on Rick Gonzalez’s character of Rene Ramirez (aka: Wild Dog). We get to see a rare glimpse into his past with his wife and daughter that gives us some fantastic insight into to this otherwise glossed-over character while also providing a level of depth for his feelings on this particular weighty issue that seems to consume America.

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Obviously it’s not new for TV Shows to bring attention to this topic of gun violence. ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘ did it brilliantly with their 3rd season episode ‘Earshot’ and ‘Glee’ dealt with the topic in their 4th season episode ‘Shooting Star’. Even ‘My So-Called Life‘ aired an episode (‘Guns and Gossip’) centered around gun violence in their 1st season. The difference is that these other shows I’ve just mentioned don’t normally see guns being used in every other episode if they ever appear at all. For that reason, this episode of ‘Arrow’ seemed very out-of-place and odd. Having Oliver wring his hands over someone using a gun to commit multiple murders can be likened to watching Walter White having anxiety over someone dying from a drug overdose. While the episode was well-nuanced in the sense that we saw both sides of the debate being waged (mostly thanks to the interaction between Rene and Curtis), it did still seem a bit forced when we are watching a show where the entire 2nd season featured a villain named Deathstroke, where we have a group called “The League Of Assassins” and when a character from the current season is a heroic vigilante named Wild Dog who uses automatic weapons on a regular basis as his preferred means of combat ever since his first appearance on the show. The resolution of the story featuring Oliver Queen and NOT Green Arrow as the person who put an end to the killing spree was a nice touch but I still felt like I just saw a one-shot special and not an episode that fit within the continuity of this particular series which has a history of being gritty and violent. No matter which side of the debate on which you fall, the take away from this episode for me was Echo Kellum’s speech as Curtis when he muses about how we, as a country, used to be able to engage in healthy debate and still respect each other when our opinions differed. Now, not so much. Overall, as it fits within the framework of this season, I would have to give this episode a 5.5 out of 10.