Critical Hits & Misses #59

Courtesy of My Life With Buns
Left to Right: Mochi (♀), Charcoal (♂), and Pepper (♀).

In lieu of Bunday, we present you with your favorite horror films... re-enacted by kittens! (John)

For today's musical hit, we're paying tribute to a great 80's classic, and also to the man who's name is synonymous with Dracula.  We give you: Bela Lugosi's Dead by The Bauhaus.  Happy Halloween! (Megan)

Today's critical rolls:

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't ruin Halloween for the children. Seriously, this not a joke. Let children enjoy things.

Jughead #10 Review: Pick It Up For A Halloween Treat

In the last issue of Jughead, our protagonist met Sabrina the Teenage Witch as she struggled to enjoy her new job as the resident “Burger Lady” at Pop’s Choklit Shoppe. They soon struck up a wonderful friendship, at least on Jughead’s side. Unbeknownst to him, Sabrina develops a little bit of a crush and asks him out on a date. This issue starts off at the date, with Jughead having mixed emotions.

Third wheel? More like third chair! Hahaha, please don't fire me...

On one hand, he genuinely enjoys talking about burgers with Sabrina and he feels extremely guilty for unintentionally leading her on, so to speak. On the other hand, he is most certainly not comfortable with being on a date and wants to get out of it. His solution? Enlist his friends to help him get out of it. There is absolutely no way this can go wrong.
I don't know how Archie got that costume, but he's probably going to jail. Remember, kids, acting like you're in a sitcom may be fun, but it can also lead to a criminal record.
Even before I get into the results, I have to talk about the characters. Is there a way that Ryan North can make an official Sabrina The Teenage Witch spinoff for Archie Comics? His take on Sabrina gets even better with each page. He portrays her as a fairly normal teenager, but with a darker side, which fits because of her powers. On the more subtle side, I like the fact that on her date with Jughead, Sabrina uses the names of famous occultists as exclamations. “Great Marie Laveau”, indeed. His version of Salem is also great. He doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in the comic, but I burst out laughing whenever he spoke.
I read that in the voice of the tv show's version of Salem.
And when she does end up using her magic, Jughead is barely fazed, only giving a major reaction to some nachos. No matter what weirdness erupts, he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t really care, and it just amps up the humor. Seagulls with rose petals? Goes on his phone. Spell to make him raise his hand in class? It just reinforces his friendship with Archie. Snakes and frogs in his backpack? Party in Biology! Even when she makes him hang out with Reggie for an entire day, they just become friends. I’m not sure if the character development will be expanded on or not in the upcoming Reggie And Me series from Tom DeFalco, but even if it’s not, the ensuing scenes are comedy gold.
I promise you, I didn't make that. It actually appears in the comic.
Jughead #10 is a fantastic issue and it only proves that Ryan North is a brilliant writer. Derek Charm’s art is equally great, making the magic (both literal and figurative) explode off each page. Sabrina’s new design is cool, the coloring is spectacular, and everything just works. It’s been one year since since the new series launched and I’m happy to say that every issue has succeeded in being entertaining. Pick it up or get a subscription, more wacky antics are coming!

Jughead #10 is written by Ryan North and drawn by Derek Charm. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

Your 2016 Sexy Costume Options

You can do better, fellow intellectuals. Read on.

It’s Halloween. If you’re the personable type, odds are you have been invited to a costumed event. You may already have plans, but does your costume show off your smarts while living up to the time-honored tradition of unnecessary sexualization? We didn’t think so.

Here are three suggestions to replace your subpar costume with something that's both culturally-edifying and sexually-objectifying. You’re welcome.

Sexy Ursula K. LeGuin
Ursula K. LeGuin is an American science-fiction and fantasy writer who greatly influenced both genres with books like The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven, and an entire series of Earthsea novels and short stories. Her writing brilliantly depicts alternate worlds, each with their own masterfully-constructed gender and sexual politics, economies, environments, religions, and ethnographies.

To dress up as Sexy Ursula K. LeGuin you need to:

  • dye your hair gray;
  • wear casual clothes;
  • write influential fiction and literary essays;
  • have terrible luck at Earthsea adaptations. (Dominik)

Sexy Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist, and overall badass intellectual who wrote extensively on power, knowledge, and knowledge-power.

To dress up as Sexy Michel Foucault (who is the same as regular Foucault), follow these simple steps:

  • shave your head; 
  • put on a pair of thin-framed glasses, a white turtleneck shirt, and a suit;
  • memorize at least five of Foucault’s most abstract, intellectual, and perspective-shifting quotes; 
  • practice his gestures. Especially the balls-grabbing one

The last two steps are most essential. Think of this less as a costume, and more as a character study in how to turn yourself into a sexy subject. (Tova)

Hunky Marshall McLuhan
Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian public intellectual who defied disciplinary parochialism to expound a complex hermeneutic of media influence.

To go out as Hunky Marshall McLuhan, simply do the following:
  • grow a mustache;
  • comb your hair back with pomade, but not all of your hair. Leave room for some chaos;
  • don a woolen suit, white shirt and striped tie. For sexier results, cut off your sleeves to show off those thuggish guns of yours;
  • speak in dense aphorisms. For instance, you might say that "we shape our tools, and then our tools shape us"—or you might not. The important thing is to be misinterpreted for decades. If someone calls you a “technological determinist,” you’re in the right ballpark;
  • team up with your friends and go out as the Toronto School: have them dress up as Handsome Harold Innis, or Foppish Northrop Frye. (Etienne)

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.

Tova Crossler Ernström is a bisexual Swede, feminist, socialist, INFJ, Hufflepuff, HSP and Taurus. She is fond of personality tests, labels and lists.

Etienne Domingue is not currently on fire. Ask again later.

Critical Hits & Misses #58

For today's musical hit, An oldie but goodie as we get ready for the Halloween weekend! (Megan)

Today's critical rolls:
1. Anecdotal critical roll! What's the best thing to have happen to you in a game, after rolling ridiculously well?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be a blarghnflarghian colon implosion.

Star Wars Rebels Recap - S03E06 - "The Last Battle"

Like I mentioned last week, I may not have watched the entirety of Clone Wars, but I dabbled. Thanks to that, I knew the importance of Rebels reintroducing Captain Rex, a major clone character from its predecessor. Sadly after around the midpoint of last season, he started falling to the sidelines, reappearing only once in a while. Thankfully, "The Last Battle" returns him to the fold, with a whole episode devoted to him.

(Spoilers beyond this point.)

The Ghost is on a salvage run, seeking resources for the Rebellion. To cover more ground, they split up: Hera and Sabine take the ship to a fuel station, while the rest remains on an old Separatist outpost to search for weapons and ships. They find some, and a still active Separatist battle droid battalion, unaware of the end of the Clone Wars. Once their leader, the hyper-intelligent tactical droid General Kamali, realizes the war is over, he decides to use his captives to prove once and for all who would win the conflict.

It’s actually nice to see the droids again; the prequels are, for the most part, justly maligned, but they’re still a part of the Star Wars canon. Yet, a few connections aside, it often feels like they and the original trilogy are two separate parts of the canon. So it’s nice to see the return of the droids and, once the Empire enters the arena (forcing everyone to work together), to watch them interact with Stormtroopers. For a while, it feels like it’s all part of the same Galaxy. And the episode doubles down on it, providing us with one last Clone Wars — the previous series in miniature.

It also finally uses Rex to his full extent, with his droid counterpart, Kalani. Both are veterans of the same conflict and both want to prove once for all who would’ve won. But Kalani never stopped fighting, unaware until now that the war ended, and focused on analyzing from the data he had how the conflict would end. Rex, on the other hand, has it worse. While able to avoid following Order 66, Rex was still discarded by the Empire that took the Republic’s place; a being built and programmed for war, trying to find his own identity. His muscle memory is intact, but psychologically, he’s all over the place, practically living through a PTSD flashback. It’s a bit of a shame we never get to delve deeper, but it is a 20-minute episode of a show aimed at kids, so it’s somewhat understandable.

The episode ends with both sides working together to survive an Imperial attack force, and with Kalani’s droids leaving the Ghost crew on somewhat friendly terms. It’s a pleasant ending, I only wish the execution was better, as it hinges on Ezra being able to deduce from very limited information he had that the Emperor manipulated both the Republic and the Separatist in his goal to create the Empire. It’s very flimsy, and it all seems to be in the service of crediting him with "ending the Clone Wars." Still, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise terrific episode.

The show is taking a break this week, so there won’t be a new recap next week. The next episode after the break is "Imperial Supercommandos." I’ll see you then.

Dominik Zine is a nerdy demisexual lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.

Critical Hits & Misses #57

For today's musical hit, Lindsey Sterling's new video, "Prism" for her newly released album. (Ivonne)

Today's critical rolls:
1. The Holidays are almost upon us. Are you dreading or excited for them?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be a tumorous anal wart.

Serving "Penance" - Arrow S05E04 Review

I was so looking forward to watching Diggle get broken out of prison this week, because surely it was going to be an epic operation! I mean, this was a military prison, not Iron Heights that everyone seems to be able to get in and out of with no problems at all, right?

This episode needed more Wentworth Miller, because prison break, emirite?! 

Well spoilers, he wasn't in it. /sadface

(spoilers beyond the fold)

So last week, John told Lilah that he didn't want her to fight for him, because he had to do his penance for killing his brother. Lilah being the strong woman that she is and not taking anyone's shit, was having none of it. She enlists Oliver's help in busting her man out of prison, whether said man bloody wants to or not. 

Felicity thinks the fact that it's "or not" makes this prison break all kinds of terrible of an idea. She's not into it, so Oliver and Lilah are going to have to go at it alone. To that end, Oliver tells his mayoral office that he is taking a few days off for "medical reasons" and to not let Star City burn down in his absence. Boy, that wasn't foreshadowing or anything. Anyway, it's up to Quentin Lance, the new Deputy Mayor, to work with the new mildly handsome D.A. to keep it together. The thing to note about this guy is that he is not a fan of dudes with masks doing his job. I mean makes sense, right? Would you cover this face with a mask?

I mean, I'm not into it, but he IS, objectively, classically handsome
Anyway, Quentin and the DA try to escort some new evidence against Tobias Church personally so that it doesn't get "lost" due to dirty cops, and that turns out to be a trap that Church set. And then, Quentin and the DA try to interrogate a captured dude from Church's organization, and that ends up being a trap of sorts too, as Church shows up to rock the place.

Sidenote: my husband noted that it was a pretty interesting coincidence that at the same time Luke Cage was scheduled to come out, Arrow decided to go all blacksploitation with one of their new villains. Coincidence or not, as far as villainous thugs go, Tobias Church doesn't impress me. He could stand to take a few lessons on cool thug villainy from Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, just sayin'.

Not a fan...
Anyway, Oliver has also decided that his fledgling team, which he grudgingly admits is getting better, is not, absolutely not, going to help with the prison break, and that they should take a chill while he's gone. Mama Felicity, in her infinite wisdom, tries to get the team to stop Oliver from going on his trip, which turns out to not be the best idea.

That moment when you realize that all the beatdown you've been taking from your teacher was actually him "going easy" on your ass...
So, Ollie is off to his prison break, leaving the kids and Felicity to deal with the crisis when the DA, Quentin, and a bunch of other peeps are trapped in a building with Tobias Church. Despite Ragman initially saying he couldn't work with Felicity anymore, he changes his mind after a heart-to-heart with her, and comes back to the team to help out while Ollie is away.

I'll admit, most of this sequence in an otherwise loooong and booooring episode, was actually pretty okay. It was nice to see the team get to do stuff without Oliver around as a safety net. I am really, really disappointed so far, though, in the show not giving Artemis more to do. Wild Dog even steals her thunder at the beginning of the episode, which earns him a shout from Oliver that "she had it." Come on, man! I really want Artemis/Evelyn to kick some ass, and nobody, from the writers to the fictional characters, will let her shine.

Curtis looked less stupid in his silly mask today, probably because he pulled his hair back. Rags was super cool in this episode and I'm glad he decided to come back to the team. He took some sneering from the DA about being a freak, but still saved the day by doing this:

Yeah but I bet you can't do this, pretty boy!
So because of this, and because Wild Dog sacrifices himself so that everyone else can get out, the DA is kind of changing his mind now about vigilantes. Just a little.

I'm not a fan of Wild Dog, tbh. I mean, having a Latinx street kid on the team is cool and I appreciate the inclusion, and his street upbringing is a nice foil to Oliver's "I grew up as a rich kid but got toughened up by this weird past" story. But I feel like the writers have just generally made Rene annoying, and, lately, just the team fuck-up. I think maybe they are trying to make him the one who has the longest way to go to learn to be an effective hero? But the craptastic characterization thus far made me shrug when the episode ended with Tobias Church torturing the crap out of him.

So we've covered a ton of ground and you might have noticed I haven't even gotten to the prison break yet. Yeah, because the writers decided to do all this other stuff, which I guess was necessary to give the team some growth time away from Oliver. But honestly, the prison break was what we were all tuning in for, right?!

Well Lilah and Oliver perfectly execute a pretty straight-forward break-in. In fact, it seemed super easy, for a freaking military prison. There was a slight snub, where John wasn't in his cell because the prisoners were out and about for a break, but Oliver was on a pretty tight timer. It was rather clever how he got the prison to bring the prisoners all back to their cells, so that he could drop in for a visit.

Y hallo thar, John! 
John tells him he doesn't want to be rescued, because not only did he kill his brother, but he didn't trust Oliver about his brother, so clearly his bad judgement makes it safer for everyone that he stay in prison.

Oliver is all like, whatevs, and melts the floor so they can escape. John doesn't put up too much of a fight, ultimately, mostly because Ollie guilts him into it.

I was pretty disappointed with what a clean and short sequence the whole prison break turned out to be in this episode, but the extraction slightly made up for it, if only because of its absurdity and how poorly filmed it was. I laughed. A lot.

John's body when he gets yanked off the ground shouldn't look that stiff...
So, John is now a fugitive in hiding, but Lilah has her husband back at least, and Oliver comes back to find that now he's got to break Wild Dog out of thug prison next week. Presumably this time he'll actually let the team help, and maybe even get some Spartan action too?

The Bratva flashbacks were straight-up filler and had little to do with the episode, and we didn't even get to meet John Diggle Jr, so I don't even have any Flashpoint shenanigans to report on. We haven't seen Prometheus, the black archer, in two or three episodes, but I get the feeling he'll be back soon enough.

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.

Westworld Recap - S01E04 - "Dissonance Theory"

Cognitive dissonance is a state of mental stress born out of two conflicting worldviews held at the same time in an individual’s mind. It was described in Leon Festinger’s theory, which is focused on the human drive for internal consistency. And it’s a state familiar to Westworld’s two awakening Hosts.

(Spoilers beyond this point.)

Towards the middle of the episode William, one of our two recurring guest characters, accuses his companion Logan of becoming evil the second he leaves society, trying to kill or screw everything he meets. Logan – who, as it turns out, might be part of William’s family, which explains why the two can stand to be with each for more than five minutes – retorts that the Hosts aren’t real and that it’s all a game. He is a little right; he doesn’t have any reason to think any of the androids are anything more than things, no more living than NPC in a video game. Of course, it doesn’t make him any less evil. A person who is able to hurt something this indistinguishable from a human without a hint of doubt simply cannot be considered a good person. But, because he has a clear idea of how the world works and hasn’t experienced anything that would shake it, he’s okay with everything he’s doing; or at least, he has an excuse for his deeds.

Conversely, the two awakened Hosts – Dolores and Maeve – are in internal conflict, and they both handle it very differently. Dolores is calm about it, still confused and shaken after every instance her original programming comes into conflict with the new, more self-aware code, but she’s overall doing okay. It likely helps that she isn’t alone: in the park limits, she has William, still unaware of the growing pains she’s experiencing, but still able to ground her, allowing her to deal with her new experiences.

And on the outside, there’s Bernard Lowe, head of behavior department. As we’ve been slowly discovering for the past two episodes, Bernard’s been aware about Dolores’s awakening for a while. But instead of reporting it to appropriate personnel, he’s been interacting with her, conversing, exploring how she’s dealing with her new awareness. His empathy and interest are likely related to the loss of his son, Charlie, a few years ago. As he explained his divorced wife last episode, he’s been stuck in a routine ever since that event, like a Host following its programming. That grief probably made him more responsive to helping a being undergoing confusing changes on the road to a new personhood; it's a second chance at parenthood he lost. And with two people helping her, Dolores is likely to grow up healthier, much like a child growing up in a caring environment is more likely to grow up as a good person. It’s an old sci-fi story trope that A.I.s are humanity’s children.

Maeve, on the other hand, is the child left in a harsh, destructive environment, having to do all the growing on her own. Plagued by confusing memories of multiple demises and weird looking people (the hazmat suit-clad park staff), she undergoes her own search of knowledge. She finally learns the nature of her reality, or at least, an approximation her original programming can handle. And along with it, she develops a nihilistic attitude, of a world that doesn’t matter. It would seem she will be the force of rebellion against humanity, and there’s certainly poetry in a black sex worker bringing down the system that forced her into a role and shaped her entire reality.

And yet, all that development would’ve been cut short very soon. The park security is very trigger happy and distrustful of Hosts, and bright minds like Josie are already connecting the dots, and Dolores leaving her routine already raised a few red flags. But with the new storyline Dr. Ford is developing disrupting everything, the brewing conflict at the upper echelons, and the mayhem caused by the Man in Black’s search for new challenges, a game with higher, life and death stakes... it’s easy to see how two androids are becoming a little more human.

And with that, the first act is over; how it will develop, we’ll see next week in "Contrapasso." Or at least, you’ll see; due to personal reasons, I won’t be able to cover it. But not to worry! Adrian has agreed to cover for me, and I’ll be back in two weeks, with "The Adversary." I’ll see you then.

Dominik Zine is a nerdy demisexual lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.

Not With a Bang, but With a Throwback: ANAD Avengers Finale Review

ANAD Avengers finishes off with an issue that has very little to do with the titular team, but is a bit of fun anyway.

Spoilers beyond this point.

The Civil War II tie-ins for the series have been pretty odd so far, focusing very little on either the Avengers as a team or the conundrum of whether to utilize visions of the future or not. Fortunately, this issue puts the spotlight right back on those two elements. Just… not the ones you were expecting.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that the last few issues have been showing how the members of the team who don’t have tie-ins in their solo series respond to the ongoing Civil War. I personally feel this is a bit of a let down; it would be much more interesting to see how the divided loyalties affect the team as whole. Using the last few issues of the comic as a vehicle to fill in some gaps, rather than a big finish that launches Champions and Avengers is a pretty big disappointment, and shows that Marvel doesn’t particularly care for this team any more.

That’s especially evident in this issue, which appears to be about Thor based on the cover and synopsis, but the majority of it is taken up by an extended flashback to an adventure with the classic Avengers lineup: the original iterations of Captain America, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp and Thor.

 Now, I’m going to stop complaining about not expecting what we got, and review it instead. Because, despite everything, it’s a pretty fun throwback.

I love the way Hank Pym feels the need to be giant even in casual situations.
The premise for it is pretty simple: Present day Thor decides to ask her good friend Heimdall for advice on what to do about all the predictive justice business, because Asgardians are known for their intricate understanding of human policies. In response, Heimdall decides to tell her the story of the time the Avengers came to him for advice on whether to intervene in the Latverian invasion of a neighbouring country.  He’s reluctant at first, but when pressed he uses his future vision to tell them that they may win the battle, but Doom will still triumph. Naturally, they go off to fight him anyway.

With all this Infamous Iron Man business going on, I've really missed classic Doctor Doom
They win, as predicted, but Doom activates one of his many contingencies, which destroys the invaded country’s natural resources, forcing them to join Latveria to survive (not sure what Doom will do with them since he destroyed their economy, but sure).

So the moral of Heimdall’s story is… I’m not entirely sure? I would say it’s to not trust visions of the future, but the Avengers didn’t trust his vision fully, otherwise they would’ve known Doom would win.

Fine, the moral is "Never underestimate Doom". Happy?
Other than that, the writing is pretty strong in this issue. The adventure feels like it could’ve been lifted right out of one of the classic Avengers comics, and the art and coloring reflect the same.

So while it’s a bit disappointing that we didn’t get one last round with the team that could’ve been amazing, but wasn’t, going back to the classics was at least a fun way to end of the series.

We may not have got much of Jane in the issue, but what we did get was priceless

Now, will I miss the All New All Different Avengers? That seems like an easy question at first, look at any of my reviews and it’s pretty clear that I felt the whole thing reeked of wasted potential, from the mischaracterization to the ineffectual villains to the mediocre art to the weak dialogue. But all the same, it’s a team of characters whom I absolutely love, and it makes me a bit sad that we’ll not get to see the greatness they might’ve achieved together.

And that’s not to say it didn’t have its moments. It brought together Kamala Khan, Miles Morales and Sam Alexander, the three of whom are shaping to be one of my favorite trios of all time, and who are now starring in the far better Champions.

Well, it had to start somewhere.
We also got a romance between Jane Foster and Sam Wilson, and with it our delight at how outraged certain people got over a black Captain America kissing a female Thor.

And the cover art for the whole series, done by Alex Ross, has been glorious
And we got this panel here, which I will always treasure.

Live the dream, Kamala.
So, while I’m glad it’s over, and splitting into two hopefully better series, I’d be lying if I said I won’t miss it just a little bit. Farewell, ANAD Avengers. You may have mildly entertained me for almost a year, but we all have a time to go.

Avengers, disassemble.
Aranwe Quirke is a totally real, definitely not made up name. No, you may not see the birth certificate.

Critical Hits & Misses #56

CBR presents an interview with Greg Rucka, where he discusses his Wonder Woman title, reactions garnered by his comments on the character, and the simple truths of The Goddess of Truth, herself. Note: Rucka takes no shit this day. (John)
Quartz discusses the epic battle happening right now between feminism and misogyny in South Korea. (Ivonne)
The Hindustan Times has the scoop on everything you need to know about India’s first feminist superhero comic, Priya’s Shakti. Warning: this article does mention India’s gang-rape problem as part of Priya’s origin story. (Ivonne)

For today's musical hit, check out this really cool and kinda creepy video for Sia's "The Greatest."(Ivonne)

Today's critical rolls:
1. What is the most convoluted superhero origin?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be a purposefully obtuse cluster-Fuck of obnoxious self-involvement.

"The New Rogues" - The Flash S03E04

This week on The Flash, we get the welcome return of everyone's favorite Flash rogue, Jesse Quick gets some action, a game of Choose-Your-Own Wells, and Caitlin on ice.

Oh, and a really awful Iris West subplot. Someone kill me now.

(Spoilers beyond the fold)

Let's get the horrible Iris West discussion out of the way first, because I kind of want to puke, so I'd rather talk about fun stuff after this.

In yet another week of the writers not knowing what the hell to do with Iris, they once again waste Candace Patton with a weaksauce subplot about Barry and Joe being super awkward whenever Barry and Iris are kissing while dad is there. Turns out that it's more Barry's discomfort than it is Joe's, although Joe admits what a lot of fans think: he doesn't really find the prospect of watching his adopted son and his actual daughter making out a delightful one.

Why you gotta make this so awkward, Barry, damn...
Still, Joe accepts that Barry and Iris are adults and "need to do their thing." Iris spends the episode annoyed with Barry for making everything awkward. The only slight up-side to this is when Barry is stuck inside a mirror, he tries to have a heart-to-heart with Iris, only to have her cracking up. This subplot ends (thank the gods) with Barry deciding that he really needs to move out of his dad's house and get his own place. My question here is, doesn't Iris have her own place? Why can't Barry and Iris go there for snu snu?

Anyway, regarding Iris herself, I have a burning question. Why can Kara Danvers be more useful as a freaking secretary (and now a reporter) then Iris West? And I don't mean Kara as Supergirl. I mean Kara has already had interesting subplots within the context of her normal-person job. Can we seriously not find something meaningful for Iris to do as a reporter with more experience than Kara? Goddamn.

Okay but that Jesse Quick, though! Thank goodness the joy that is Jesse Quick gets more screen time this week! She gets a training scene with Barry, and during one of the fight scenes, she gets to flex her muscles a bit. And she and Wally are so terribly adorable! I ship it!

Okay the fight scenes in this episode were pretty rad
Despite the fact that Jesse technically screwed up and as a result Flash ended up getting trapped in a mirror, she was great to see in action. She's a young superhero, of course she's going to screw up, but she's a quick study. She does, at least, get the chance to take out Top, one of the two freaks-of-the-week. I was happy to see her and Wally finally kiss, but super sad that she had to go back home to Earth-2 at the end of this episode. I'm sure we'll see her and Harry again later, but still. I want my Jesse fix every week!

This week's villains of the episode title were titular Flash rogues, a pair of metas who were created by the same initial dark matter shockwave that created Flash. A lot of fans were excited to see Mirror Master in the show. Honestly, though, he and Top were just an excuse to bring back Wentworth Miller's Captain Cold, in both a flashback scene that gives us the quick origins, and as a hologram used to trick Mirror Man into Barry's trap. I miss Captain Cold so much...

There were some majorly cool fight scenes with Mirror Man and Flash, but overall I felt like it was kind of a waste of a really cool villain. I mean, at least he's not dead, so there's always the possibility of his return, but I wish we'd had more of him.

Seriously neat fight scenes with mirrors...
The standout moments of this episode really had nothing to do with the ongoing romance plot, or the freak-of-the-week plot, and we got nothing about Alchemy this week (not even a Julian sighting!). Really what made this episode exciting with regards to the rest of the season was the further advancement of Caitlin's slow-blooming meta powers, and Wells.

Let's start with Caitlin. When the team needs extreme cold to get Barry out of a mirror he's trapped in, Snow secretly uses her budding Killer Frost powers to do it. Barry didn't actually see her do it, but just as Harry is exiting Earth-1, he warns Cisco that the device they built to get Barry out was not the thing that actually achieved it. It stands to reason that because of that little tidbit of information, that Cisco is going to find out really soon what is going on.

And of course, Caitlin is going to have a really hard time keep it a secret for much longer, because she's starting to take on Killer Frost's physical characteristics.

Ruh-roh, girl. Time to visit the salon... and start wearing lipstick
I'm genuinely excited to see where this is going to take Caitlin. She has spent three seasons being the quiet background scientist of the team, sometimes providing solutions, but most often just sitting in Harrison Wells' shadow, and with her plots always revolving around a love interest. I don't want her to turn evil, but I don't necessarily think she has to. She hasn't exhibited any of Earth-2's Killer Frost murder tendency and general sense of boredom with life. She seems to be our beloved Caitlin Snow... just cooler.

Speaking of Harrison Wells' shadow, when Cisco and Caitlin beg Harry not to go back to Earth-2 because we need him (seriously we do), he contrives a crazy plot to throw a "lure" out into the multiverse to find a replacement Wells who has all the knowledge he does. He does this by 'beaming" a complicated equation to solve out into the multiverse, and when the team finally get some hits, hilarity ensues.

The multiverse, as it turns out, is full of Wells. They get a Wild West Wells, and a weird French mime Wells ("Never trust a mime," - Harry Wells of Earth-2, words to live by). But then there was also this one:

Okay, sorry, but Steampunk Harry would have been my first and only pick!

What a pleasure to watch Tom Cavanagh flex his acting muscles and get to play some really wacky versions of Harrison Wells, adding to his repertoire of three serious Wells he's already played (Reverse Flash Wells, normal Earth-1 Wells, and Earth-2 Wells). It was clear that Tom had an absolute blast.

The team ends up picking Hipster Harry, though, who hails from Earth-19. He's not only super intelligent and willing to join the team, but he's also incredibly funny. Despite Harry growling a lot about it, they end up pulling H.R. Wells (as he prefers to be known) into Earth-1 (or Earth Prime, as Steampunk Wells called it!).

I would watch an entire episode of hilarious H.R. and gruff asocial Harry together in a room. Like forget Barry and the rest. Just Tom Cavanagh playing off of Tom Cavanagh for an hour. Seriously, it was such a joyful moment. I really hope H.R. doesn't turn out to be psychotic or evil or something, because he's just so much ridiculous amounts of fun.

Hipster Harry is second-best Harry (second only to Steampunk Harry, ok?)
As Jesse and Harry are about to speed off back to Earth-2, Harry tries to warn the team of something, but didn't actually get to hear all of it. Well, that doesn't bode well.

Anyway, "The New Rogues" was a mixture of meh with absolute awesome, so I can give this one a single thumb up.

We didn't get much of anything having to do with Flashpoint, unless you accept the fan theory that Caitlin's Killer Frost powers are only coming out because of Flashpoint. But on the changing timeline front, nothing new to add today.

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.

Saturday Night Live S42, E4: Tom Hank Shows Off His Versatility By Being America's Dad, David S. Pumpkins, And A Trump Supporter

Happy Halloween! Are you ready to see Tom Hanks and Lady Gaga bring on the spooky fun? Sadly, I doubt we’ll be getting another Merryville Brothers sketch, but I’m sure that they can make up for it. After all, the election is almost here, and isn’t that scarier than murderous humanoid animatronics?

So, the week before Election Day will be hosted by Benedict Cumberbatch! I’m fairly confident in saying that I wouldn’t mind if the entire episode was hosted in-character as Doctor Strange, especially if that can somehow result in a Ghostbusters crossover sketch. As for Solange’s debut as musical guest, I wish her the best of luck!

Cold Opening: You know that we’re off to a good start if Tom is even appearing in the cold opening. Really, there’s nothing new to say about the sketch, it was almost as good as the first debate parody and better than the second one. If I had to nitpick, then I would have liked it if Alec’s slack-jawed Trump outright started doing drugs. The Bingo joke was funny, but I’ve seen a few too many different versions of it for the reference to feel completely fresh. I did like the reference to Stephen Baldwin and his disapproval of Alec’s impersonation.

Monologue: It’s official, SNL’s turned into a sitcom. At least it didn’t turn into Full House, though some parts of Tom’s speech nearly hit that level of awkwardness. The teen slang usage was painful and prompted the comparison. If anything, I now know why people are calling him “America’s Dad”, but I don’t know who America’s mom is.

Black Jeopardy: It’s no Celebrity Jeopardy, but I’ll take it. Just the image of Tom dressed up like a stereotypical Trump supporter is almost as funny as seeing Will Ferrell make fun of Trebek. Based on the previous iterations of the sketches, it’s weird to see the third contestant doing surprisingly well. Usually, the host’s character doesn’t do a good job. As soon as the last category appeared, I knew what was going to happen, but it still made me laugh. I think this is my favorite version of the sketch.

Block Party Show: Yes, more screen time for Melissa! I disagree with some of the characters, that was a really impressive show. The "Small Town Girl" parody is going to be stuck in my head for days. It just needed a "Monster Mash" reference, then it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, I can't find it on the official SNL YouTube channel or the NBC website, potentially due to copyright reasons.

Funny New Comedy: Hey, remember when The Martian was listed as a comedy? I guess similar comparisons are still being made, leading to a charming commercial parody. It’s not only topical because of the category, but it raises some interesting questions about how comedy and drama are intersecting more and more. Even in the sketch, the lines are blurred with a bouncy motif for the ad and moody lighting for the fictional show. You can watch it here.

Haunted Elevator: I had secretly hoped that the Merryville Brothers would appear again, but David Pumpkins is even better. Even as the sketch was going on, I found myself mentally drafting a movie script where he’s a serial killer. Everything about the setup for this sketch makes me laugh, from his weird voice to the snappy sound effects. Tom, please make “David S. Pumpkins” your next movie.

Lady Gaga Performance (ft. Mark Ronson) #1- “A-Yo”: I enjoyed the visuals. At certain points, while it did make me slightly dizzy, it did make Lady Gaga seem like she was doing Spider-Man-like stunts. Lady Gaga for Spider-Gwen! I know the character is more of a punk rocker than a country singer, but it could still work. You can watch it here.

Weekend Update: Finally, the Update piece I’ve been waiting for. Ever since this summer, I’ve been hoping that Leslie Jones would give an awesome editorial on the awful events of last summer. Anyone who doesn’t think that Leslie is magnificent should watch this. Cecily’s reappearance as The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with at a Party only makes this edition better. If you want babbling nonsense, watch Cecily’s piece. If you want smart commentary, watch Leslie’s. For great satire, watch both. You can watch it hereherehere, and below.

Sully In The Cockpit: How long before NBC makes a workplace sitcom about a jealous airline pilot? The sketch almost felt like a pilot for one, especially if you imagine the transitions as actual scene breaks in an episode. A few of the jokes would have been better if they were expanded on in some fashion, but I have no major complaints.

A Girl’s Halloween: If you’ve ever had a disastrous girl’s night out on Halloween, this pre-taped sketch might be familiar to you. Once again, the women of Saturday Night Live shine in a funny video about the perils of getting drunk on Halloween. Seriously, it’s like a before-and-after advertisement. Once again, I have to commend the set design and production, particularly the lighting. The pre-party scenes have a pink glow, while the drunken fiasco afterwards looks grim. It really helps to add to the mood.

Lady Gaga Performance #2- “Million Reasons”: Again, I’m reminded of a superhero music video, this time because of Lady Gaga’s cape. Now she’s Superwoman! You can watch it here.

America’s Funniest Pets: You can insert your own Arrested Development joke here. Message to the hamster sketch from last week: This is how you do a morbid ‘ten-to-one’ sketch about animals and make it funny. You can watch it here.

Overall Thoughts: I’m pleased to report that the writers didn’t run out of steam for the fourth show of the month. Tom Hanks’s charisma revitalized the show for some spooky fun. I have a feeling that David S. Pumpkins might make a return appearance if Tom hosts again, judging from the social media buzz. They also released a dress rehearsal segment that was cut for time. You can see it here.

Sure, the episode wasn’t very scary, but that’s not really what I’m looking for in a Halloween episode. It still managed to be topical while having some creepy laughs. I’ll probably be watching some of it again on Halloween night, provided I get my homework done. How did you like it? Did it tickle your funny bone like an impish ghoul, or did the jokes leave you colder than an empty grave at midnight? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

Critical Hits & Misses #55

Today's musical hit is a pleasant R&B number that makes judicious use of sampled harmonies. (Etienne)

Today's critical rolls:

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be an actual cannibal.

Welcome to Earth! - Supergirl S02E03 Review

It's rare for genre tv, these days, to successfully delve into the realm of modern political issues. And by successfully I mean actually making meaningful and deep statements on the issue it is addressing. Now, Supergirl has never shied away from things like women's issues, of course, but in its overpoweringly cute and blunt way of handling big issues, sometimes I think some of the finer points get lost in the noise, because aliens and metahumans and superpowers.

It remains to be seen how Supergirl will continue to handle human prejudice against aliens, which is of course a pretty blatant metaphor for how America is currently handling the issue of immigrants, especially with the presidential campaign that is, thank the gods, two weeks from ending finally. But more than that, Supergirl surprised me with this episode when it touched on the issue of intersectionality and oppression. 

(spoilers beyond the jump)

I'm not sure if the show wants to protray Kara's new boss at CatCo as anti-woman (judging from his treatment of her last week, when he didn't want her on his team at all), or anti-black (judging from how he took over the room when James tried to run a meeting), or just a raging wingnut (judging from his assignment to one reporter to talk to people about fearing aliens taking their jobs).

Or quite possibly, Snapper is just a curmudgeon who thinks he knows best about the industry, and that neither James nor Kara are qualified to be there (I still don't know what's up with that right wing narrative about aliens taking jobs, though). Either way, at Kara's advice, James does put his foot down at the end of the episode and tells Snapper to step off. Snapper is also, in his own way, helping to shape Kara's skill as a journalist, because when she ends up writing a scathing op-ed instead of just objectively reporting the facts on Lena Luthor's new alien-detection toy, Snapper sets her straight on what her job as a journalist is. Overall though, I'm not really sure where the show is going with Snapper's character.

Not sure if racist sexist right wing jerk or....
Okay but really, what we care about is Lynda freaking Carter, right? The actress well known for playing Wonder Woman gets to play the president of Supergirl's United States, and let me tell you, she looks fabulous. I was also super-psyched to see her portrayal because she has said in interviews that she modeled this character after Hillary Clinton herself, who is, of course, two weeks away from a potential win as the first woman president of the US. 

There were several references to Wonder Woman, including a squee-able line from Carter about "her other jet" and Kara twirling to put out her costume's fire. And Kara herself was so adorable as she fangurled hard every time she was around the president. 

Madame President... damn, that feels good. I cannot wait to be able to actually say that in January...

The President was in town to officially sign the Alien Amnesty Act, which would grant aliens from other planets American citizenship, and presumably, protection under the law. It was interesting to see the various political viewpoints of the different characters: Kara was 100% for the act, Hank was not so enthusiastic, and Alex seemed pretty steadfastly against it. In all of those cases, their reasoning had much to do with their own often unrealized internal prejudices.

In Hank's case, we get that intersectionality I mentioned earlier. He talks about the experience of being both an alien that has to hide from humans, and also seeing the world through the eyes of a black man. He knows what kind of hatred humans are capable of for their own kind that are "different," let alone what humans might end up doing to an alien species. 

Alex, of course, doesn't trust any alien she doesn't personally know, like Hank and Kara, so of course she's against granting unknown and unvetted aliens protection under the law. 

Our sweet girl Kara, it turns out, isn't free of her own prejudices. When it's discovered that the dude recovered from the pod at the beginning of the season isn't Kryptonian, but from Krypton's sister planet, Daxam, Kara becomes something we don't recognize. Daxam was full of thugs and run by a monarchy, compared to Krypton, which was a utopia of scientists and free thinkers, apparently. When the president gets attacked, Kara is convinced that the Daxamite is responsible, and so she hauls Mon-El into jail, and proceeds to dish out some pretty crazy racist ranting. The episode, of course, is asking all of us to recognize that we all have inherent biases that we are sometimes completely blind to.

Such a cute little thug...
Alex, of course, is the giant skeptic in all of this. In attempting to track down Mon-El, Alex ends up hooking up with Maggie Sawyer, a tough street cop who specializes in aliens and metas. Seeking information on Mon-El's whereabouts, Maggie takes Alex to an alien dive bar in a scene that could possibly have been yanked out of any number of existing Star Wars cantinas. Alex is freaked out, because how could you not be:

But as Maggie explains, she's sympathetic to the plight of aliens having to hide what they are. She herself was a gay woman of color growing up lily-white Nebraska (there's that intersectionality again, this time in real-world terms!). She knows exactly what it's like to feel ostracized and alone. So not surprisingly, she fully supports the Alien Amnesty Act.

Alex and Maggie have great chemistry together and there was certainly an element of flirtatiousness. Despite the fact that it's kind of the obvious way to go, I ship it. That said, whether there's romance in the air for the future or not, Alex and Maggie really compliment each other, in terms of toughness, resources, and ultimate good. Despite their differences of opinion on aliens, it's clear that by the end, Alex respects Maggie. Which is good because Maggie will be back, so we have a lot more Malex ass-kicking to look forward to.

Watch out ladies. Hot stuff here!
The freak-of-the-week element turns out to be the real culprit behind the attempted killing of the president, in the form of a fiery alien who sees the Alien Amnesty Act as just a way to register aliens and force them out into the open so humans can lock them up or kill them. Other than giving the anti-amnesty point of view from an alien's perspective, this chick served no purpose beyond proving Mon-El's innocence and making Kara realize what a putz she was being.

Kara being faced with her internal bias means she goes back to Mon-El and finally just talks to him, as a person, and admits she was wrong about him. She also drops the bomb on him that his planet is a wasteland thanks to the blowing up of her planet.

And J'onn, apparently after learning about the place from Alex, decides he needs to get his dive bar on, and seems fairly relieved to shed his human skin for a brief time. A very brief time, because the site of a green Martian apparently weirds out one of the bartenders, and when he followers her outside, she ends up revealing her own alien identity.

Not gonna lie, I squeed at finally getting a look at live-action M'gann M'orzz, aka Miss Martian. Young Justice is seriously one of my favorite superhero cartoons ever, despite its criminally short run. Hopefully Supergirl's M'gann won't be anywhere near as obnoxious as the animated version in the first season, though. If I hear one gosh-darned Helllllooooo, Megan! in this show, I will scream. 

Anyway, there were a lot of problems with this episode, not the least of which is that I'm not sure I ever really bought into Kara's "hatred" of Mon-El. When you have a character that's been presented as lovable and endlessly sweet, it does strike one as odd that she would certainly have hatred for this person she doesn't even remotely know, just because he's from "that" planet. I mean, yes, I get the point that all of us, even the kindest and most-loving of us, have some kind of internal bias that we may not even be aware of. I think my point is, I'm not sure the eternally cheerful Melissa Benoit actually sold me on her genuine hatred of Daxamites. All that kept playing in my head while she was laying into him was the gif of her obvious delight when Barry Allen brings her an ice cream cone last season.

So not the face of a hater...
And while I really appreciate Supergirl delving into genuinely deeper topics like intersectional prejudice, xenophobia, and racism, this show, like most genre shows, just doesn't seem to have the time to really get into the real meat of the matter. It seems like aliens-on-Earth is going to be an ongoing topic this season (and in fact alien invaders are the reason for the massive Berlantiverse crossover), so I'm certain we will revisit these contentious topics again.

I will say that while I adored Lynda Carter's president, I personally wasn't pleased with the "twist" at the end of the episode, wherein we find out the President Marsdin is an alien herself. Viewed in the light of this new information, that Alien Amnesty Act is pretty problematic. I mean, either she's always been in alien who, like Kara, passes for human and has lived her life amongst humans, so there's nothing really shady about all this. OR she's actually malevolent and the Alien Amnesty Act is part of some greater nefarious purpose.

And quite possibly because I was viewing Lynda Carter's performance through the lense of this being like a Hillary Clinton presidency, I was really uncomfortable with the idea that Marsdin might be hiding something and lying about her identity. We here in the States have been bombarded with the idea that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a criminal, a sexist narrative touted by the right wing. Women have been called lying shrews and cunning witches for a long time now, and often when a woman, for example, claims she's been raped, her story is cast in doubt from the get-go, because woman (she could be lying just to destroy that poor boy's life!). The idea that women lie to get their way is not a new one. It's also pretty gross.

So while Supergirl has always been a show with some serious feminist street cred, there is a part of me that is worried about this revelation about President Marsdin. What the hell are you doing, Supergirl? Please don't fail me now. 

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.