Thursday, February 26, 2015

Idiot Box Pull List - Week of February 22nd

Like most humans of the developed world, I enjoy television moving pictures on a screen. As most of the shows I watch are derived from the comic books I study, it occurs to me I should probably start thinking about them somewhat more critically. This is a first attempt.

. . .

The Walking Dead S5 E11 – The Distance
After Rick’s monologue last week, I was afraid not even an act of God could derail the grim train of thought the survivors have been on since Atlanta. It looks as though I was wrong and things are on the upswing.

Summary: Rick is not convinced that Aaron’s invitation to join a walled community is legitimate – after Woodbury and Terminus, can we blame him? Michonne provides an optimistic counterpoint to Rick’s paranoia. In order to verify the newcomer’s claims, Rick decides the best course of action is to take a car and an RV – which Aaron and his unseen accomplice have so generously provided – for a midnight drive. The writers stuff Aaron’s dialogue chock full of ambiguities and equivocations to stoke the fire of our suspicion. After splitting off upon encountering setbacks (and by “setbacks,” I mean: “shambling hordes of the undead”), team reconnaissance-car eventually reconvenes with the rest of the survivors in a decrepit warehouse. Aaron is reunited with his partner Eric whom the survivors apparently saved off-camera after he signaled his distress with a flare gun. The next morning they make their way to the gates of fabled Alexandria and everything is coming up Milhouse. (Or is it?)  

Notable line: “Even though you were wrong, you were still right.” Carol’s only line packs enough character to fill an entire episode.

Memorable moment: I wish I could say the most impactful scene was Aaron and Eric’s reunion, but I would be dishonest if I did not confess how I was overcome with perverse glee at the sight of a flare lodged into a walker’s face.

♀♀♀: Michonne is clearly a key player in this week’s episode.
RRRR: As a comic-reader, I had been looking forward to Aaron and Eric’s introduction; I continue to be grateful to the writers for keeping walking clichés out of my Walking Dead. Ross Marquand’s performance is no bit part; Aaron’s role as the instigator of this week’s plot was clearly established a week ago, before any details about his character became known to the TV audience. All things considered, this character introduction was remarkably on-key.
πππ: Both incarnations of The Walking Dead feature people of colour in positions of considerable agency. This episode is no exception.
. . .

Gotham S1 E17 – Red Hood
An object lesson on the fickleness of loyalty.

Summary: Five simultaneously-occurring, non-intersecting plots unravel over the course of this episode. Gordon and Bullock’s weekly investigation focuses on a series of high-profile bank robberies by the Red Hood Gang; the case pretty much cracks itself as in-fighting over the trademark hood tears the gang apart. A depressed Barbara Kean plays host to Ivy and Selina; Fish Mooney uses some unorthodox negotiation tactics at Dr.Dollmacher’s organ farm. Penguin receives unexpected help from Butch to get liquor for his failing club. Alfred Pennyworth is paid a visit by a guilt-ridden fellow veteran with questionable motives.

Notable line: “Perhaps it’s not our friends but our enemies that define us.” The Penguin, quoting U2’s Cedars of Lebanon by way of Arkham Origins.

Memorable moment: The final seconds of Fish’s negotiation session.

♀♀♀♀: Jada Pinket-Smith continues to shine as Fish Mooney. Selina’s cuttingly cynical response to Barbara’s lecture on the power of allure is almost subversive. Dr. Leslie Thompkins is sadly absent from this episode.
RRR: Showing LGBTQA characters (Barbara) in “ordinary” situations is an important aspect of representation.
πππ: While Fish Mooney steals the show, only one other person of colour gets a line. Chief of Police Sarah Essen, detectives Crispus Allen and Renée Montoya are all absent from this episode.

. . .

Agent Carter S1 E8 – Valediction
A season finale, hopefully not a series finale. 

Summary: Howard Stark and Edwin Jarvis surrender to the authorities in the aftermath of Dottie’s gas attack on a theater. The SSR sets up a trap for Dottie and Dr. Fennhoff using Howard Stark as bait. Dottie and Fennhoff outsmart the SSR, sending  a hypnotized policeman to capture Stark. The SSR rush to Stark’s secret hangar, arriving too late to prevent a hypnotized Howard from taking flight with a payload of deadly, psychosis-inducing gas. Carter and Dottie exchange words (and blows) in the control room where Fennhoff keeps feeding Stark hypnotic suggestion. Carter prevails; Fennhoff slips away; Carter talks Stark out of gassing Time Square and the day is saved. Meanwhile, Fennhoff’s words fall on Sousa’s deaf (err, plugged) ears and the latter serves the former an all-American knuckle sandwich. Later, at the secret SSR headquarters, Peggy Carter receives unanimous applause but Agent Thompson gets all the credit when the top brass drops in. Jarvis sets up Peggy and Angie in one of Stark’s houses and they all lived happily ever after.  

Notable line: “I know my value; anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Margaret Carter’s post-conventional wisdom: applicable regardless of gender or creed. 

Memorable moment: Hayley Atwell’s sense of timing for repartee has been nothing short of stunning throughout the series.

Diversity score:♀♀♀♀: More than just a clash of female agencies, Agent Carter’s skirmish with Bridget Regan’s Dottie Underwood is a carefully choreographed articulation of conflicting philosophies.  
0: This episode is not explicitly LGBTQA-inclusive.
ππ: The only person of colour in this episode is the black policeman whom Fennhoff hypnotizes.

. . . 

Arrow S3 E15 – Nanda Parbat
The plot thickens as the series’s women approach center stage.

Summary: Against Oliver’s wishes, Thea confesses to Laurel how Sarah really died. In the aftermath of this conversation, Thea tips the League of Assassins as to Merlyn’s whereabouts. Laurel tracks down and engages Merlyn as Black Canary; he proves the superior fighter until Nyssa and her acolytes descend upon him. Oliver fails to prevent Merlyn from being taken away to Nanda Parbat to face the League of Assassin's draconian brand of justice, though he does manage to capture Nyssa. Nyssa gladly discloses Nanda Parbat’s location, fully expecting Team Arrow to fail in their rescue attempt. Oliver and Diggle borrow an ARGUS jet from Lyla, lead a two-men assault on the League’s headquarters, and are captured. Instead of executing them, Ra’s al Ghul makes Oliver an offer he can’t refuse. Meanwhile, back at Team Arrow’s headquarters, Thea frees Nyssa and tells her – a professional killer – how she murdered the her lover, because airing grievances is part of the healing process and there is absolutely no way that could go catastrophically wrong. Oh, and Felicity stops Ray Palmer from blowing himself up while building the A.T.O.M. suit and they have CW sexy-times.

Notable line: “This whole situation has gone from endearingly eccentric to creepily not okay.” Felicity, putting her foot down.

Memorable moment: Ray Palmer’s post-coital epiphany which leads to Iron Man’s the A.T.O.M. suit’s first flight.

♀♀♀♀: This week’s plot is more or less entirely precipitated by Thea and Laurel’s conversation near the start of the episode. Both Thea and Laurel show remarkable strength of character standing up to Oliver, just as Felicity demonstrates the use of cool reason and moderation is more productive than Ray Palmer’s obsessiveness. Male characters still pull most of the strings, however.
RRR: Nyssa al Ghul’s conversation with Laurel about the moment she fell in love with Sarah gives us crucial insight into her character’s emotional depth. 
πππ: It is simultaneously refreshing and touching to see Diggle – the action hero – interact with his infant daughter.

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