‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Spoiler Review

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes us back to the era of the classic trilogy just days before Luke Skywalker destroys the first Death Star in A New Hope. As a long time fan of Star Wars who grew up with the original trilogy, this film felt not only like returning to the time of my childhood but returning to my old basement with my old toys as I acted out an untold story within the universe. But Luke, Han, and Leia weren’t in the lead for this journey. It felt closer to Dash Rendar being in the spotlight as for the first time ever, the story was led with protagonists who weren’t Jedi nor heroes. Instead, Rogue One takes us on an adventure with a set of characters who feel more like real people who are either doing what they can to survive during the galactic civil war or standing up for what they believe in no matter what the cost.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the film’s lack of an opening crawl and I do think it hurt the film. The cold open was jarring mainly because of the music but you are quickly drawn in by the amazing opening shot the shuttle approaching Lah’mu and the film literally hits the ground running as we cut to young Jyn Erso running home to her parents who are scrambling to pack now that they have been discovered in hiding by the Empire. While the opening scene is captivating with fantastic performances from Ben Mendelsohn and Mads Mikkelsen, complemented by gorgeous cinematography, I do think it lacked in exposition. You get a sense Director Orson Krennic and Galen Erso had a history and Krennic’s motivations are clear as we are told exactly what his goal is and we are shown what lengths he willing to go to but I wanted to see more of just how desperate Krennic is to rise within the Empire. Granted it does come soon after in his first scene with Grand Moff Tarkin butI didn’t feel hooked into Krennic’s character. Fortunately, I read Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel which gave me all the backstory I needed to for the opening scene to still have the biggest impact it could have so my experience wasn’t hindered but had I not read the book I would have been craving more from the characters.

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After a title card I didn’t love, the film begins to jump around giving us some great introductions and some not so great introductions. Cassian Andor’s introduction works. It’s a great scene that gives us a sense of the gray area this film is going to operate in. As soon as Cassian killed his informant I knew he was going to be my favorite rebel ever. But unfortunately, Bodhi Rook’s introduction is completely botched. After we jump to Jedha to see a frantic Bodhi being delivered to Saw Gerrera’s group, we jump away back to Jyn in less than a minute. We learn what we need to know about Bodhi but the scene doesn’t work because it’s all the exposition we get from Bodhi in the entire film. This scene sort of highlights the film’s major problem which is too much telling and not enough showing. Seeing Bodhi defect from the Empire would have been a much more compelling introduction that would have hooked me into his character. Unfortunately, the way it was done I didn’t care about his character like I wanted to. Once we jump back to Jyn we see her in an Imperial Labor Camp on Wobani. Well, sort of. It’s more like seeing someone from within a car and being told we’re inside an Imperial Labor Camp. The scene itself is a missed opportunity to flesh out how oppressive the Empire is within the galaxy but I think the film makes up for it later on Jedha.

Once Jyn is rescued from Wobani and we jump to Yavin 4 things start to pick up. The recreation of the Massassi base is impeccable. As an audience, Jyn’s briefing serves as a briefing to us as well. There’s still a bit too much telling rather than showing but the performances from all of the actors is incredible. Personally, I would be down for a General Draven spin-off as I found his character extremely interesting. This movie did a great job at fleshing out the Rebellion and making us want to see even more of the Rebellion. I also think Genevieve O’Reilly’s performance as Mon Mothma rivals Caroline Blakiston’s performance in Return of the Jedi.

When Jyn and Cassian arrive on Jedha the film starts to get really good. I started to geek out when Jyn and Cassian looked up to Jedha City with the Star Destroyer hanging over as I realized this film felt exactly like how I would have expected an expanded universe movie would have. That’s when it began to hit me just how incredibly this film was expanding the universe and simultaneously tying into what we have all known and loved for years.

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Once in Jedha City we start to get some pretty incredible easter eggs. Obviously seeing Dr. Evazan and Ponde Baba was fantastic but as we are introduced to Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, two guardians of the Whills (which is a deep cut itself), we hear Chirrut say “May the force of others be with you”, the original mantra written for the Jedi from the early drafts of Star Wars which was then titled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills”. While it was essentially fan service, Rogue One shows just how effective fan service can be when it is done well. Never in a million years would I have expected the Journal of the Whills to be referenced in a Star Wars film and it was incredibly gratifying. While I appreciated it incredibly, I did begin to worry if the film was alienating general audiences who weren’t clued into things on the level of a long-time Star Wars fan. But fortunately, I was proven wrong. The second time I went to see the film I took my sister along with me. My sister had never been a Star Wars fan growing up. I always tried to get her into it but I think the lack of female heroines in the main Saga left her without an entry point or a way to relate. But that all changed with Rogue One. Not only did she enjoy the film, she emerged with a newfound interest in the Skywalker saga.

Cassian’s plan to make contact with an associate of Saw Gerrera’s and use Jyn’s past with Saw as a way in to see Saw is derailed as Cassian and Jyn find themselves in the middle of an attack on the Empire by Saw’s extremists. It’s an incredible and exciting action sequence that delivers something I have wanted to see in the Star Wars universe for a long time which is some serious melee combat. First we get Jyn kicked some stormtrooper ass and then Chirrut comes in to deliver some incredible martial arts. While we know Chirrut isn’t a Jedi, I do believe he is a force sensitive as it seems clear that the force is moving through him, using him as an instrument to inevitably make sure the Death Star plans find their way to Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

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Unfortunately, the film hits a bump in the road once we get to Saw’s hideout. Something is just off about Forest Whitaker’s performance. But Rogue One quickly recovers with one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the film that serves as a bit of retcon to the Skywalker saga when Jyn watches the hologram message from her father telling her he has purposefully built the flaw in the Death Star that will lead to its destruction. Felicity Jones has described Jyn like a bit of a caged animal. Jyn has built this wall around her to protect herself and as she collapses we see that wall crumble and become vulnerable for the first time. It is hands down Jones’ best acting in the film and one of my favorites moments as well. It’s all happening as Krennic has begun the first test of the Death Star, using it to destroy Jedha City and wipe out Saw Gerrera and his extremists. It’s an incredible piece of filmmaking where horror is juxtaposed with a beautiful sadness. The focus being on the sadness of a young woman who misses her father desperately more than anything. The daring escape made by the team that follows is complemented by some incredible cinematography as K-2SO rescues the heroes with the U-Wing from Saw’s hideout.

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Once the Death Star’s superlaser has proven it’s value, Grand Moff Tarkin takes command from Krennic and we finally get to see Krennic unhinged, revealing his desperate desire to rise within the ranks of the Empire. I’ll take this moment to address what I thought of the CGI used to resurrect Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. Tarkin’s inclusion in the film presented a major risk for Lucasfilm. Not only would the Grand Moff appear, he was featured as a key character in Rogue One and the risk has paid off in some major ways. Not only is it a groundbreaking accomplishment in computer graphics animation but it also serves to inform his character in the original Star Wars in some quite remarkable ways. John Knoll and the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic didn’t just recreate the likeness of Peter Cushing, they truly brought him back to life in the film so well that he was actually able to give a performance. While I could still tell he was CGI because my brain was telling me so, I was in shock because I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe he was real because he looked it. Some of the people I saw the film with who weren’t Star Wars fans wouldn’t even have known he was CGI had I not told them.

But the risk didn’t just pay off in the form of a technical accomplishment, it also provided new context to a film Star Wars fans have known and loved for years. I would strongly recommend watching Rogue One and A New Hope as a double feature. The direct prequel serves to inform the classic Star Wars on so many levels from raising the stakes even higher in the opening scene to plot holes to smaller moments like when the high-level Imperial officers are sassing back at Grand Moff Tarkin after he informed them the Imperial Senate had been dissolved. Originally it had been a bit odd that the Imperial officers were being rather insubordinate to Tarkin but now it makes a lot more sense. Considering Tarkin had taken Krennic’s command away from him, those officers had to have been harboring some serious resentment over a position they most certainly had ambitions of attaining themselves.

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The middle of Rogue One takes us to the rain-stricken planet of Eadu where the Empire has set up a refinery for Kyber Crystals. Cassian is compelled to carry out his orders to murder Galen Erso upon sight but his conscious begins to get to him and he surprises himself when he realizes how much he cares about Jyn when her life is in danger as the rebel squadron approaches to bomb the refinery. Felicity Jones continues to deliver a top notch performance as she is reunited with her father in the moments of his death. Unfortunately, the dialog for Galen leaves much to be desired and his death falls a bit flat. That’s sort of the biggest problem for the second half of act two. Lots of moments fall flat. After an exciting action sequence on Eadu, the team escapes and jumps into hyperspace to head back to Yavin 4. Jyn and Chirrut share a special moment as they have this unspoken bond between each other through their belief in the force. Jyn and Cassian come into conflict because Chirrut has helped her realize Cassian was going to kill her father but the beats fall flat and the film hits a lull.

Krennic heads to Mustafar and we get to see Darth Vader’s castle straight out of the concept art from Ralph McQuarrie. It’s totally mindblowing and adds a new layer of interest and complexity to Vader as it seems either he himself or Palpatine is keeping him on Mustafar to harness the anger and pain from the memories he has on the lava planet, strengthening his power of the dark side. When the doors open and Vader’s shadow rises on the wall before he enters the chamber feels like a moment directed by Dave Filoni of The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, the true heir to George Lucas.

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We cut back to Yavin where the politicians of the Star Wars universe are doing what they do best which is resorting to inaction. Rather than taking the chance to use the intel provided by Galen Erso to steal the plans for the Death Star, the politicians cower in fear. It fosters what should have been a great scene where Cassian and a battalion decide to rebel against the rebellion. They see the opportunity to make up for all the morally questionable actions they have taken in the name of the rebellion to do something truly heroic and prevent the Empire from cementing their grip on the galaxy. The scene itself feels flat and much less exciting than it should taking us into the third act but it does give us a heartfelt moment between Jyn and Cassian as for the first time they see that through their actions together they can find pride within themselves.

Finally, things kick into high gear. Up until this point in the film, I didn’t think the score composed by Michael Giacchino anything remarkable. It wasn’t bad by any means, it just wasn’t as inspiring as I hoped it would be. That changes in the third act, much like the rest of the film’s problems. Suddenly everything begins to work and the film becomes so good it makes the first and second act work as well.

The third act is a borderline masterpiece which delivers some of the most iconic moments in Star Wars history. It feels almost Saving Private Ryan meets Mission: Impossible as the rebels launch an attack and infiltrate the base on Scarif. It’s incredibly exciting but once the Rebel fleet shows up to help out what is now the original Rogue Squadron it becomes an absolutely exhilarating experience. The space battle itself is hands down the best space battle since Return of the Jedi. I need to watch it about a hundred more times before I can say the Battle of Scarif is as good as the Battle of Endor but it’s pretty close.

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One of the standout moments from Rogue One that had long-time fans of Star Wars jumping in their seats and cheering was when Red Leader Garven Dreis (Drewe Henley) and Gold Leader Jon Vander (Angus MacInnes) showed up during the climactic space battle over. The footage used was from the original Star Wars and it was seamlessly integrated into the new picture. I basically jumped back in my seat and yelped. I had bought a Rogue One t-shirt at the concession stand before going into the auditorium and almost began spinning it around my head like a helicopter. Seeing Red and Gold leader again was something I could never have imagined and is the easter egg I appreciate the most in the film as it completely took me back to being a 7-year old again. Again, easter eggs used in this kind of way shows how effective fan service can be when it is done well and Rogue One did it perfectly.

The film closes beautifully and heartbreakingly before it transitions into absolute terror that now raises the stakes even higher at the beginning of A New Hope. I teared up when Admrial Raddus said “Rogue One, may the force be with you”, but I was happy that Jyn and Cassian found pride within each other before they died together. There was obviously a budding romance through that pride but I was glad they didn’t kiss. It felt more powerful that way. It was a beautiful moment for Jyn and Cassian just as the Death Star rises over Scarif before Tarkin orders a test fire to destroy the base on Scarif, killing Krennic along with it in poetic fashion.

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It’s evident from the images released and footage seen in the trailers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that the film originally had a different ending which featured the heroes of the filmmaking a daring escape from Scarif as they charged towards AT-ACT’s on the beach and arrived safely back in the Imperial Cargo shuttle (you can tell from Cassian’s costume change). But the choice to kill the characters as we can now call the original members of Rogue Squadron was absolutely the right choice. Not only does the squad get to die as heroes in an act of self-sacrifice for the Rebellion, their sacrifice lends deeper meaning to the destruction of the Death Star in the original Star Wars. I’ve heard some people say they didn’t feel the characters were very memorable in Rogue One to which I completely disagree. They may not be as iconic as Luke, Han, and Leia or Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8 but you’ll never be able to watch A New Hope ever again without having the heroes of Rogue One and the Battle of Scarif running through your mind the entire time. It’s an even bigger sigh of relief when Luke blows up the Death Star knowing their sacrifice, as well as Galen’s, was worth it.

We cut to an incredible shot from space looking down at the explosion as Darth Vader flys by in his Tyderium shuttle with a tie fighter escort to board Admiral Raddus’ Mon Calamari. The Rebels on board attempt to escape the with the plans but it’s too late. From the darkness, Darth Vader ignites his lightsaber and emerges. This, more than any other moment, completely transported me back to my childhood as my friends and I would hide in the dark in my basement before igniting our lightsabers and dueling against each other. The scene itself informs not just the beginning of A New Hope but also The Empire Strikes Back as we now have a frame of reference for the absolute fear felt by the Rebels as Vader invaded both the Tantive IV and Echo Base. Luckily a brave rebel hands off the plans to another allowing them to escape on the Tantive IV. Chills ran through my body as the cockpit door opened revealing Princess Leia. Her face wasn’t done as well as Tarkin’s but we absolutely needed to see her. The final moment of the film would not have been as effective otherwise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t perfect. It suffers from a lack of characterization and some pacing issues but it still manages to come together in the end and serve as an incredible lead into A New Hope. Never again will we look at the original Star Wars nor the Rebellion in the same way. The film itself opens the door to the limitless potential Lucasfilm has with standalone Star Wars features separate from the Skywalker saga and has me incredibly excited for the young Han Solo film and whatever else comes next. Star Wars has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and now is better more so than ever to be a Star Wars fan. Thank you to the cast, the hard working crew, Gareth Edwards, Kathleen Kennedy, and the entire Lucasfilm story group for your efforts. You’ve given us something truly special with Rogue One.

8.4 – GREAT

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‘Arrow’: “Vigilante” Spoiler Review

Another serial killer is on the loose in Star City this week but this time it’s a more righteous one as the series gives way to the rising of Adrian Chase in his new superhero persona, “Vigilante”. The introduction of the episode which features Vigilante taking out several low-level criminals who are part of a human trafficking ring was serviceable, to say the least. More and more the series is starting to feel a lot like Supernatural as we witness opening scenes that feature the death of no name characters to serve as a plot device.

Team Arrow 2.0 is starting to improve, most notably Wild Dog and Ragman although I still can’t understand a word Ragman says when his mask is on. Wild Dog still has to work on his attitude but he’s come a long way since his beginning as a reckless punk. Curtis needs to start taking things seriously. While I still find him to be somewhat funny, his comedy is slowly beginning to teeter into Felicity territory. Considering the end of the episode, I’ll save Artemis for later.

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David Ramsey as John Diggle, Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, Joe Dinicol as Rory Regan, and Rick Gonzalez as Rene Ramirez in Arrow. (The CW)

Dolph Lundgren makes his second appearance in the flashbacks as the big bad, Konstanin Kovar. The flashbacks were a bit better thanks to his inclusion along with the reveal that Taiana’s mother is actually working for Kovar. The twist that Kovar has made a truce with the Bratva seemed to fatten things up a bit as well. We don’t usually get this much to chew on in the consistently half-baked flashbacks but this episode went against that grain. The end duel was a treat to see Oliver Queen basically taking on Ivan Drago but Oliver is still an extremely sloppy fighter. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering it’s now less than a year before he makes his grand return to Star(ling) City and rises up as The Hood against the criminal element plaguing his hometown. He’s going to have to undergo some serious training if the writers are planning not to completely botch the flashbacks altogether.

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Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen and Dolph Lundgren as Konstatin Kovar in Arrow (The CW.)

Thea and Lance shared a few touching scenes this episode that showed how close the two have grown since working together at City Hall. Thea was able to give Lance the support and the push he needs to stop drinking and get clean. Last week the series tried to trick us into believing that Prometheus is actually Lance but this episode seemed to point away from that. I don’t buy for a second that Lance is getting black out drunk and taking down squads of police and crime lords in a theatrical fashion.

Oliver is beginning to move forward in his personal life. While this plot is the least interesting of the episode it wasn’t bad at all. It’s good to see Oliver putting Felicity behind him even though I don’t think the relationship is going anywhere nor are he and Felicity finished with each other. The show is making it a point to capitalize on the awkward tension between Oliver and Felicity since they began seeing other people and it’s most definitely intentional. Even though Felicity distracts herself with Billy, she can’t hide the way she still looks at him in the Arrow cave.

After a group of serial bank robbers hit several banks, almost being wiped out by Vigilante, the team comes up with a clever plan to stage another robbery in order to draw Vigilante out. What threw me off was that the moment Diggle takes down the security guard both he and Felicity pulled their masks off. I’m assuming Felicity shut down the surveillance system off screen but it was still distracting. Regardless, Mr. Terrific’s blood is most certainly on the bank’s floor after Vigilante beat him bloody and took him hostage before Vigilante took on the Green Arrow in a duel. The fight itself was pretty good but a bit overshadowed by Green Arrow when he bested him before by pulling a cable arrow to zip line kick combo in the alley. Josh Segarra’s performance as Vigilante wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. The problem is the voice he put on to disguise his normal voice. It was like an awful impersonation of Christian Bale’s guttural voice as Batman.

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Stephen Amell as Green Arrow, Josh Segarra as Vigilante, and Echo Kellum as Mr. Terrific in Arrow. (The CW)

Overall the episode was a step up compared to some of the episodes this season but that isn’t saying much. The show is going a bit back and forth between Prometheus’ true identity as Lance. After the seemingly major reveal last week, this episode attempted to shut that down only for Lance to go off to rehab, leaving his location in question shortly before Prometheus appeared at the closing of the episode which then delivered a big twist as Evelyn Sharp was revealed to be ally of Prometheus, working Team Arrow from the inside. The twist itself comes completely out of nowhere. Based on Evelyn’s past, it seems for likely that her motivations would pit her against a Prometheus type. Regardless, I’m just glad the twist wasn’t revealed through the show’s marketing campaign which loves to use spoilers as a desperate ploy to generate more interest in the show in order to boost ratings.

7.5 – OKAY

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‘The Flash’: “Shade” Spoiler Review

“Shade” opens with Wally having dreams of his life in Flashpoint as Kid Flash thanks to Dr. Alchemy. Since The Rival made his debut on Earth One, we knew it would only be a matter of time before Wally’s alternate life caught up with him and the rest of Team Flash. It’s a good introduction to the episode but the narrative quickly starts to bounce all over the place.

The problem with this episode was that the writers tried to pack too much into it. While it was great to when Caitlin revealed her powers to Cisco—giving us the treat of Cisco vibing Caitlin in the future to see the two of them having a full on Vibe vs. Killer Frost battle—only for Cisco to out Caitlin’s powers to the rest of the team, too many other, weaker storylines took away from the importance and the impact of this major turning point for Caitlin Snow.

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Danielle Panabaker as Dr. Catilin Snow in The Flash (The CW)

From HR and his silly light refracting device to Joe and Cecil’s cute but ultimately flat romance smashed underneath the main plot of Dr. Alchemy putting the visions of Flashpoint into Wally’s head, along with the arrival Savitar in the closing moments. Shade made for an uneven and overstuffed episode that didn’t manage to serve up the weight of the events that were transpiring.

The monster of the week, Shade, was overall a pointless distraction. Wally and Caitlin’s conflicts were enough to keep this episode chugging along just fine but unfortunately we were forced to endure a metahuman whose powers were realized with very poor visual effects. From his serviceable, Supernatural-esque introduction, to his underwhelming defeat, his inclusion to the storyline was nothing more than a pointless distraction from the real issues at hand. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if the visual effects for a character are going to be so poor, don’t even bother doing it at all.

Unfortunately, Caitlin nor Wally can fight what is coming. They are both destined for powers whether that results in them doing good or evil. It’s heartbreaking to watch Caitlin who is such a caring and tender person begin her demise into the villainous Killer Frost. Wally is a little more frustrating to watch. His lack of respect for the power of speed along with his immaturity and over eagerness to become a superhero makes him seem undeserving of the ability. Sometimes adult characters on The CW behave like teenagers and that’s exactly what is happening when they say Wally is jealous because he doesn’t have powers but he wants nothing more than to help people. If Wally truly wanted to help the people of Central City, he would find a way to do so. Or at least make his contribution to Team Flash more valuable.

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Keiynan Lonsdale as Wally West and Dr. Alchemy in The Flash. (The CW)

HR is growing more and more ridiculous every week. I’m wondering if Tom Cavanaugh signed a deal to return to the series as long as he could act and dress like himself in real life. But his sense of humor is becoming a bit over saturated. Much like most of what was happening in this episode, HR’s eccentric personality feels like a distraction to keep our minds off of the possibility that he is up to something nefarious. I still don’t buy that he is studying the team to write his novel and now that we were introduced to his light refracting device and his ability to make retinal adjustments to those around him, it has me wondering just what else he could make Team Flash see, or not see? The audio sync on the alternate face he was using was also a bit weird.

The end of the episode finally shifted Dr. Alchemy into the spotlight just after it was mentioned rather quickly that Julian Albert’s character was nowhere to be found. If they are going for a Julian Albert is the Albert Desmond version of Dr. Alchemy, I’ll be disappointed because it will be a lazy, on the nose writing move. Once in Dr. Alchemy’s lair, we saw him surrounded by several of his followers. Just who are those followers exactly and why do they follow him? Dr. Alchemy isn’t as bad as Prometheus on Arrow, but it still feels like the writers want us to care about or be interested in things without actually giving us a reason to invest. The final battle was fine, and it was awesome when Wally was crystalized, seemingly beginning his metamorphosis into Kid Flash, but the impact was quickly botched by the arrival of Savitar, a major villain from the comics who deserved an introduction that should have been longer and more focused.

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Dr. Alchemy in The Flash. (The CW)

Overall this episode was okay but if the writers had focused on Caitlin and Wally’s struggle with the inevitable evolution into their alter-egos it could have been great. Ultimately there were just too many flavors in this dish that caused the story of the episode to get lost in itself, becoming the weakest entry of the season yet.

6.9 – OKAY

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‘Arrow’: “So it Begins” Spoiler Review

Normally, the formulaic CW series Arrow withholds the season’s big bad of the year until the ninth episode but in an attempt to shake things up, season five of Arrow introduced this year’s big bad, Prometheus, in the closing of the premiere, however. The writers chose to sideline his character, using Tobias Church to stall things for a few episodes before the main arc began. “So it Begins” serves to begin that arc but ultimately fails to introduce a narrative that compels interest. It’s as if the writers expect the audience to care without actually giving a reason to do so.

The episode opens with Green Arrow and Diggle investigating a location recycled from a previous season. Remember the episode last year that began with Team Arrow beating down some of Damien Darhk’s goons? You know, when Green Arrow fired the cable Arrow and Black Canary used her Nightstick to zip line down to the ground? Yeah, same place. Anyways Green Arrow and Diggle find a ringing phone inside the building and triggering an explosion which ignites the words “So it Begins” on the ground.

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Prometheus proceeds to commit a series of murders in Star City. We only get to see one of them and I’m glad because the murder itself felt as if it was ripped straight out of an episode of Supernatural and placed into Arrow. It was dull and generic, but ultimately lead to one of this episodes only good moments when Felicity and Curtis used a “victimology algorithm” to discover the message buried in the names of the Prometheus’ recent victims. The names manage to spell out the names of victims from the list Oliver used in season one as he began his crusade against the criminal element in Star(ling) City. Rory has a great moment when he points out the true serial killer is actually Oliver himself.

Oliver abandoned the list long ago after he put his murderous ways behind him in an attempt to be something better at the beginning of season two. Oliver and Diggle have a great heart to heart that captures the brotherhood that made the show so excellent, to begin with. Diggle points out to Oliver just how far he’s come since he used the list but it seems Oliver is going to have to face the consequences of his actions before he can move forward.

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Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow in Arrow. (The CW)

While Olicity is over, it seems to be resurrecting itself in the form of Oliver and Felicity going back and forth at each other over each of their new romantic interests. Clearly, the two aren’t done with each other and it is likely a matter of time before they end up back together. But whether they do or not, it’s obvious they both still have feelings for each other. While Oliver is using Susan Williams as a tool to move forward, Billy is just a distraction for Felicity, keeping her from facing the truth.

The flashbacks were better this episode and finally amounted to something as we were introduced to Dolph Lundgren as Konstantin Kovar, the big bad of this year’s flashback storyline. The show has lacked with its villains in both past and present-day storylines for the last two years so it’s great to see such a big actor in the mix. Stephen Amell has proven he can deliver an exceptional performance but only when an equally as talented actor is there to play opposite him so hopefully Lundgren, together with the element will help to elevate the flashback storyline to something worthwhile.

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Dolph Lundgren as Konstantin Kovar in Arrow. (The CW)

Last week we got to see some fantastic scenes between Diggle and Wild Dog. It seemed as if Diggle finally got through to Wild Dog but it doesn’t seem to have stuck. Wild Dog was just as immature and whiny as the rest of the new recruits this week. It’s tough to buy the group as formidable superheroes when they act like bratty children. Sure, it sucks to not be clued in on everything going on. But they need to know their role and understand they aren’t ready for everything Star City is going to throw at them.

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Rick Gonzalez as Wild Dog, Echo Kellum as Mr.Terrific, Stephen Amell as Green Arrow, David Ramsey as Spartan, Madison McLaughlin as Artemis, and Joe Dinicol as Ragman in Arrow. (The CW)

The end of the episode seemed to give us a big reveal after Felicity managed to trace the allow in one of Prometheus’ ninja stars back to the used arrows Oliver has left at crime scenes for the past four years. The town drunk, Quentin Lance wakes up from his wasted slumber to discover a cut in his arm in the shape of Prometheus’ ninja stars, yet the star doesn’t have a single drop of blood on it. Are we supposed to now think Quentin is Prometheus? If so, just what exactly is in that whiskey? It just doesn’t seem plausible and feels like a major misdirect to me but let’s run through the list of possible evidence. Considering the ninja stars are made from Oliver’s arrows left at crime scenes, the killer would need access to the evidence lockup at SCPD, check. Does Quentin have the proper motivation to want Oliver dead? Absolutely. Along with the plenty of hints dropped in this episode pointing to Quentin’s absence from work that sync up with Prometheus’ crimes, plus showing up to work late after looking like he had a long night – after the same night we know Prometheus was on the streets it would suggest that he is indeed Prometheus. But it all seems too obvious which has me thinking this is one giant red herring. Also, for Quentin to be Prometheus, he would have had to underwent some serious training with the League of Assassins. Even with Laurels two years she spent training and fighting crime, she was never as skilled as Prometheus. Green Arrow also shot Prometheus in the back on the train and Quentin seemed to be fine after he woke up from laying on his back.

Overall, I thought this was a horrible episode that failed to spark interest while trying to set up the main arc of the season. Finally, Prometheus, as well as Konstantin Kovar have come into the picture but it all feels half-baked in order to keep dragging things out until we get to episode nine when the series is comfortable delving full into the main arc. This episode also featured an action scene that was total nonsense when panic erupted at a market in Star City. If I wasn’t committed to writing reviews for this season I would probably be done with the show at this point.

5.0 – FAIL

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‘Star Wars Rebels’: “Imperial Super Commandos” Spoiler Review

Star Wars Rebels finally made good on their promise to explore the backstory of Sabine Wren this week in the episode titled “Imperial Super Commandos” and it didn’t disappoint. For the most part at least. I was a bit underwhelmed for the majority of the episode that is until the action kicked in and we got an awesome chase scene where Sabine and Ezra were chased by Mandorlians using jetpacks.

Star Wars Rebels finally made good on their promise to explore the backstory of Sabine Wren this week in the episode titled “Imperial Super Commandos” and it didn’t disappoint. For the most part at least. I was a bit underwhelmed for the majority of the episode that is until the action kicked in and we got an awesome chase scene where Sabine and Ezra were chased by  Mandorlians using jetpacks.

Ezra’s inclusion in the episode was pretty pointless until he started deflecting laser bolts with his Lightsaber during the chase scene. This episode just didn’t dig deep beyond the crisis of Ezra being captured by Gar Saxon (Ray Stevenson) until the end when it was revealed that Sabine’s mother has joined the Empire along with many other Mandolorians.

While this episode didn’t do anything to advance the main plot of the season, it didn’t feel like a complete waste either as Gar Saxon was still alive at the end seemingly setting things up for a follow-up later on. The Imperial Super Commandos will definitely be back this season and I’m hoping they will play into the larger plot.

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The events of the episode also provided for an organic turning point for Fenn Rau (Kevin McKidd) as he opted to join the Rebellion after witnessing Sabine’s honor and integrity when she risked her life to save Ezra who is not a Mandolorian. It felt like a logical move for Rau considering his men were killed by Saxon and his super commandos. With his people gone and other Mandolorians joining the Empire, Rau’s best option was most definitely joining the Rebellion. And as Ezra said, it’s better to have him on their side than to fight what is most certainly a formidable foe for the Rebels.

Overall I thought it was a solid episode that could have been a lot better if it solely focused on Sabine and given us just a little more insight into her past. Ezra’s presence was distracting and took away from the focus on Sabine. Had Ezra been replaced with some sort of McGuffin device, it would have been a lot better. He just didn’t need to be there.

I have to say I was very impressed with the directing this episode. When it was announced Dave Filoni would not be serving as the supervising director it had me concerned. But this episode felt like Filoni was actually calling the shots and it’s clear the former leader has done a fantastic job passing on his vision to new directors who are managing to shine in their own right while maintaining the style and tone created by Filoni.

3.5/5 – SOLID

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‘Arrow’: “Human Target” Spoiler Review

The fifth episode of season five titled “Human Target” gets off to a clunky start but quickly finds its footing, resulting in the strongest episode of the season thus far. I found myself giggling at the goofball criminals hunted by Team Arrow 2.0 in the opening scene. It’s just hard to take these extras seriously with their corny costume design and oversized ball caps.

Once past the intro things quickly got moving in the right direction as Diggle met the new recruits for the first time. The producers teased Diggle not taking a liking to the new team but as we saw he was quite welcoming although reasonably weary for their safety. Oliver’s newfound optimistic attitude was refreshing and seemed to be for the benefit of the new team as much as it was for himself. The end of his relationship with Felicity cut him deeply but it’s good to see he is finally moving forward. More on that later.

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Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt, Joe Dinicol as Rory Regan, and Madison Mclaughlin as Evelyn Sharp in Arrow. (The CW)

Tobias Church finally revealed his big plan and considering that, his demise at the end of the episode should have come as no surprise. His plan to consolidate all of the drug trafficking through the port was a smart one being that it would cement his hold on the drug trade in Star City but he was foolish to think he was going to get away with it with the Green Arrow in town. Church was over confident as all he brought to the fight against the emerald archer was his brawling skills and a pair of brass knuckles. I’m actually surprised he lasted this long. At this point his character’s inclusion feels more like a buffer to hold back from Prometheus becoming a major player in the series. Now with him out of the picture, Prometheus will finally make his presence known. Killing Tobias Church and the entire police convoy helped us to see just how much of a formidable villain he will be but the writers have still yet given us a reason to be interested in his character. The mystery of who he is just isn’t enough to get invested in the storyline.

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Chadwick Boseman as Tobias Church in Arrow. (The CW)

Wild Dog and Diggle absolutely stole the show tonight. David Ramsey turned in his best performance in the series to date as John Diggle and the chemistry he had with Rick Gonzalez as Wild Dog was fantastic. Oliver has struggled to break through to Rene and tonight showed us he just isn’t the guy to train him. Rene is a (dishonorably discharged) soldier and it’s going to take another soldier to show him the way of vigilantism.

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Rick Gonzalez as Wild Dog in Arrow. (The CW)

Wil Traval as Christopher Chance A.K.A. Human Target was great. The twist when Oliver was pronounced dead at the press conference after being shot on the stairs of City Hall left my jaw on the floor. While I’m familiar with Human Target becoming his clients to protect them, I definitely didn’t expect a Mission: Impossible type mask to come into the picture. It was a great reveal after a fantastic twist although once Chance removed the mask it looked nothing Oliver’s face. It left me cracking up because it didn’t even have any stubble on it. While I enjoyed Chance’s character, his inclusion in the flashback storyline in Russia felt a bit shoehorned in at the end. It was unnecessary, however. It will provide a great payoff when Susan Williams reveals the truth about Oliver’s time spent on Lian Yu, or rather lack thereof. But none of it will make sense it the writers don’t fully explain just how someone traced Chance back to Russia resulting in the discovery of the photo that was taken of Oliver at the bar.

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Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen and Wil Traval as Christopher Chance in Arrow. (The CW)

Now it’s time for Olicity so let’s just dig right into it. I was a big supporter of the relationship between Oliver and Felicity. Their relationship felt organic as it was born out of the natural chemistry between Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards. Their love for each other was involuntary and glaringly obvious. Maybe that’s why I was so baffled when Felicity took a left turn and turned into the attitude monster she is today. How Oliver could still have feelings for her is beyond me but I think tonight showed us that Felicity also still has feelings for Oliver. Billy is just a distraction to keep her from facing the truth. When she went to see Oliver at the end at City Hall, it was pretty obvious she was going to tell him she still had feelings for him. But Oliver hit her with the whole deserving to be happy and moving forward talk so she naturally she put her guard back up and agreed. This scene feels like a seed planted to bring the two back together by the end of the season. I say if you are going to do it, then just do it. But having the two at conflict for the sake of conflict can’t happen again. Relationship drama isn’t interesting. Take a note from The Flash and have them face these crime fighting experiences together and growing as a couple because of it just like Barry and Iris are now.

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Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak in Arrow. (The CW)

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. The showdown between Tobias Church and the criminal organizations of Star City against Team Arrow 2.0 made for an awesome climax. I really appreciated the way the final fight between Green Arrow and Tobias Church was shot wide so we could take in every kick and punch thrown in the fight. James Bamford crushed it with the stunt coordination. My only issue with the scene – which is a real nitpick – is that the stuntman for Chadwick Boseman was totally obvious but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the battle.

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Stephen Amell as Green Arrow in Arrow. (The CW)

“Human Target” helped to close the chapter of Tobias Church and gave us Wild Dog’s first turning point as he put his guilt behind him and stepped up to the plate thanks to Diggle’s fantastic mentorship. Team Arrow 2.0 is starting to shape up and I’m excited to see their development moving forward. Prometheus is starting to make a name for himself but we need to know who he is to get invested in him. I hope this isn’t a rehash of the “Who is Zoom?” mystery from the second season of The Flash because not knowing someone’s true identity doesn’t allow for a compelling or transformative experience. Imagine if we didn’t know Deathstroke was Slade Wilson until the finale of Season two?

7.9 – GOOD

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‘The Flash’: “Monster” Spoiler Recap/Review

A monster is on the loose in Central City this week as season three continues with another solid episode full of humor and heroics. Last week we were introduced to a hilarious new version of Harrison Wells from Earth 19 dubbed “HR”. As great as he is, something seemed off about him and this episode wasted no time digging right into it.

A monster is on the loose in Central City this week as season three continues with another solid episode full of humor and heroics. Last week we were introduced to a hilarious new version of Harrison Wells from Earth 19 dubbed “HR”. As great as he is, something seemed off about him and this episode wasted no time digging right into it.

HR comes off as a bit desperate at first as he tries too hard to fit in with Team Flash. The man has done his research on each member of the team, making it seem as if he is trying to get to know them but I don’t think any of us as the audience are meant to buy it. Cisco immediately picks up on HR’s peculiar behavior as HR tries to pass off scientific and technical ignorance as a lack of understanding for being from another Earth.

Once Barry and Cisco catch on to HR not contributing to the investigation of the mysterious monster, Cisco looks through HR’s belongings in order to use his powers to uncover the truth about HR. Unfortunately, Cisco plays back the wrong recording on the device found in HR’s bag. It was obvious that was only half of the message HR had recorded. He is definitely up to something nefarious but it remains unclear just exactly what his motivations are. One thing is for sure, Tom Cavanaugh can play a hell of a villain so it would be wise not to waste those talents again this season. Although I do miss good guy Harry.

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Tom Cavanaugh as HR Wells in The Flash. (The CW)

Julian Albert is out to get Barry and his hatred for his co-worker finally culminates in this episode as we get to learn just exactly what his issues with meta-humans are and he finally realizes not every single of them is bad, including The Flash. Barry starts to slowly break down the wall Julian has built around him first with some compliments on Julian’s talents but then Barry strikes a deal with Julian that will give him what he really wants: if Julian offers to teach some of his wisdom to Barry, he’ll make a new lab for himself out of a storage room leaving the current lab all to Julian.

Julian and Barry find that they can actually work quite well together as they investigate the mysterious monster terrorizing Central City. Julian opens up expresses to Barry his frustration over the fact that he himself does not have powers. He is maddened by the amount of criminal meta-humans who have appeared in the past three years, using their powers for personal gain instead of helping others – which is exactly what Julian says he would do if he would have been lucky enough to be effected by the particle accelerator explosion. But as we would find out later, there was a much deeper reason for his anger towards meta-humans.

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Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and Tom Felton as Julian Albert in The Flash. (The CW)

Caitlin Snow’s newfound powers have begun to manifest in unexpected and uncontrollable ways leading Caitlin to reach out to her estranged mother, Dr. Tannhauser, for help to better understand just what exactly is happening to her. We discover not only does Caitlin have some demons she’s been hiding for all these years, but she also has a darker, colder side to her personality under that warm and caring persona that she clearly gets from her frigid and emotionless Mother.

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Danielle Panaber as Dr. Caitlin Snow and Susan Walters as Dr. Carla Tannhauser in The Flash. (The CW)

Nigel going dark side on Caitlin as he attempted to lock her down in her Mothers lab was a bit out of left field. You can understand how a woman like Dr. Tannhauser could drive a subordinate mad and the writers made it clear Caitlin’s abilities could help advance her Mother’s work. Nigel saw an opportunity for himself to get out from under Dr. Tannhauser but there was too little character development for it to fit into the episode organically, however. The scene served its purpose bringing out a colder Caitlin as she quickly let him know he was literally powerless against her. What was most interesting was how her Mother’s love was enough to cool her down –  or in this case – warm her up. Maybe her love for her friends will be enough to keep her from doing anything unforgivable in the future.

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Danielle Panabaker as Dr. Catilin Snow and Thomas Cadrot as Nigel in The Flash. (The CW)

Unfortunately, the villain of the week was a major let down as the monster turned out not to be a monster at all but rather a hologram operated by a teenage computer hacker. To put it simply, it was just kind of lame. The hacker was so pitiful as he explained his motivations like a sad little cry baby. Bullying sucks but it’s no excuse to become a terrorist. The only good that came out of it was that it provided the opportunity for Julian Albert to see the positive difference that The Flash makes in Central City which led Julian to his first major turning point.

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Grant Gustin as The Flash in The Flash. (The CW)

Julian saw a bit of himself in the frightened teenager who wanted to terrify those around him in order to make himself feel stronger than he really was. Julian wanted nothing more than to be a great forensic scientist and as soon as he became one, the entire world changed with the evolution of meta-humans – pulling Julian’s sense of security out from underneath him. Tom Felton’s performance was impressive as he revealed the truth behind Julian’s frustration and anger.

Overall it was a solid episode that providing a great emotional turning point for Julian Albert. The only real problem this week was that this episode was sold as a monster of the week, rather than a villain of the week so our expectations were improperly set which set us up for a let down when the reveal came that the monster was no monster at all but instead a teenager hacker seeking revenge for being bullied in high school. Fortunately, the writers were still able to pull a deep emotional turning point out of the episode for Julian Albert. Continuing the hostile relationship between Julian and Barry could have become exhausting had it gone on for much longer and it was good to see the two put their differences behind each other and move forward.

7.9 – GOOD

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