Critical Hits & Misses #81

  • One of the best queer YA novels on the market, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, is coming to the big screen, and Autostraddle has the deets on whose been cast! (Tova)

  • Queen of Rebel Awesome Carrie Fisher is releasing a new memoir, and she takes the time to talk to Rolling Stone about LSD, death, and oh yeah, that affair with Harrison Ford. (Ivonne)

  • Today in weird Canadian news: the police on Prince Edward Island threaten potential drunk drivers with unusual (YMMV on whether it's cruel) punishment: being forced to listen to local band Nickelback. (Critical Writ staff)

For today's musical hit, if you haven't seen Disney's Moana, what the heck are you waiting for? It is amazing and perfect! Until then, though, listen to the fabulous Auli'i Cravalho sing "How Far I'll Go." (Ivonne)

Today's critical roll:

Your favourite musical number?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: Do not be a backward reprobate.

"Invasion!" Rocks the Arrowverse - The Flash S03E08

#DCWeek continues, with The Flash kicking off the real start of the alien invasion of Earth-1 (aka the Arrowverse). Don't come expecting Shakespearean story-telling, because the story is quite simple, but do come expecting lots of fun and a surprisingly good continuation of several existing storylines on The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. You may also expect plenty of butthurt, because someone always has to be angry at someone else in the Berlantiverse. Always. It is a universal constant.

In fact, last night's The Flash rocked its highest viewer ratings since December 9 2014. These crossover things, you might want to keep doing them, CW.

(spoilers beyond the fold)

Okay let's get the simple story out of the way, because it's quick and easy. An alien pod lands in the middle of Central City, and when Barry goes to investigate, a bunch of aliens pop out of it and run off. Lila of ARGUS reveals to him that this isn't the first time these aliens, called the Dominators, have been here, and that back in the 50s a bunch of soldiers got killed for messing with them. Lila and the official channels want Barry to step off and let them handle it, but we all know how that's gonna go. And yeah, the aliens end up coming for the President and abducting him.

So there's your setup. Let's get to the meat that matters (...mmm bacon).

The real Civil War!
The episode actually started off with a brief scene of the future, wherein Barry and Oliver are facing off against all the other heroes, because the Avengers are noobs and every DC fan knows it. Real heroes fight each other with completely lopsided odds: two against like 25, because we all know Supergirl counts as at least twenty of the Arrowverse heroes.

Ok but let's back up to see how we got here!

Some really fun Flashy moments in this episode!
The Flash figures he's in over his head with these aliens, so he gathers the troops, starting with Team Arrow, who includes Speedy for this one because Thea is super excited at the prospect of kicking alien ass. Felicity then calls for the Legends of Tomorrow to join in on the fun. So let's tally this up, shall we? We now have Green Arrow, Felicity, Spartan, Speedy, The Flash, Iris, HR Wells, Cisco, Caitlin, White Canary, Heatwave, The Atom, and Firestorm. Yes, that means the Legend newbies Steel and Vixen got left behind, as well as Green Arrow's proteges, and Joe and Iris are so busy lying to Wally about what a gifted meta he is, that he doesn't join in on the fun either.

But even with this teamup, Barry doesn't think it's enough, so he and Vibe open up a portal to Earth-38 and bring in Supergirl (we get the exact same scene in her apartment that we did in yesterday's Supergirl).

I think the moment I was most looking forward to with this crossover was the Arrowverse meeting Supergirl for the first time (especially Diggle), and boy I wasn't disappointed.

Team Arrow in particular isn't super impressed by the sight of a mildly petite pretty blonde girl in a skirt, as grumpy Oliver is all like, "I thought you said you were bringing an alien."

So Kara is all like:

Diggle's calmly-but-not-really "I'm convinced" is probably one of the great moments in this episode.

Okay, so we now have an alien on the team. Oliver still doesn't seem impressed, and Kara wonders if he doesn't like her, but Barry assures her he's that way with everyone. Despite the fact that Oliver tries to make Barry the team leader, it's pretty clear that Barry doesn't know what he's doing, and when Oliver quietly makes suggestions that Barry immediately echoes, there was another great moment when the Legends are like, "So are we supposed to just ignore the fact that he said that?"

I'm gushing about these scenes a little, but honestly the chemistry between all the actors is there, and these scenes were just super fun. Kudos on the care taken by the writers here, because I'm sure I wasn't the only one looking forward to these moments.

Oliver McGrumpyPants suggests that everyone else train against Supergirl, and he does ask Kara not to go easy on them. If you ask me, though, she went pretty easy on them:

I just adore Kara's expression here, because you know she's all like, "Hee hee that tickles!"
Surprisingly, even though this was The Flash's episode, the story ends up revealing the end of a plot thread that had been left open for weeks now over at Legends of Tomorrow. Stein and Jax reveal to Barry and Oliver that they discovered a message from future Barry in the Waverider's secret room, and we finally get to hear what that message was: future-Barry is telling Captain Hunter not to trust past Barry because of the major Flashpoint screw-up. This is the first time Oliver is hearing about Flashpoint, because apparently Felicity kept the secret pretty well. Oliver takes the news with a heavy sigh (Metas, emirite?) and then delivers another great line: "One sci-fi problem at a time." In typical Green Arrow fashion, he suggests they need to keep this a secret from everyone else until after the aliens are dealt with.

You would think by now these people would have figured out that keeping secrets from one another never ends well.

Because of course, Cisco ends up finding the recording from future Barry lying around (dammit, Stein, really?), and confronts Barry about it. That's the point at which everyone finds out about Flashpoint. And remember that butthurt I talked about in the beginning of this review? Yeah, suddenly everyone is super pissed at Barry, especially Diggle at finding out that Barry "erased a daughter out of his life."

This was also the point at which my partner and I booed, hissed, and jeered loudly at the television. Because wow, the stones on Sara and her team, as they express their disappointment with Barry being so selfish and changing time because of someone he loves. Sara Lance literally just spent the entire first half of her show's season screwing up her team's plans to deal with time anomalies because everytime she saw Damien Darhk she would go absolutely batshit and try to kill him to save her sister's life. And Stein... Stein... who gives Barry his best "I'm so disappointed in you, son" look! Stein, the man who walked his younger self happily around the Waverider! And I'm not so sure that the reveal of Stein's daughter in this episode is due to Flashpoint at all, but rather at Stein's own meddling in his younger self's romance with Clarissa! Jax wanted to kill white Southerners in Civil War Mississippi! And this team kills historical randos in every single episode!

I literally cannot even right now with the Legends.

Anyway, the team doesn't want anything to do with Barry, and Oliver shows solidarity with his speedster bro, so Supergirl leads the rest to go rescue the president. There's a pretty brilliant interaction between Heatwave and Supergirl that I never knew I needed in my life, before they storm the castle to save the president.

Meanwhile, Oliver and Barry bond in a really cute and sweet scene where Oliver says that if he had Barry's power, he would have saved his own parents too. Their moment is interrupted when STAR Labs comes under attack... by Supergirl and her team. Turns out that they not only didn't save the President, but they were brainwashed by an alien thing.

"Well, this sucks..." - Barry Allen, probably
There is a fight wherein Oliver and Barry are clearly going to lose, and Wally briefly zooms in to help, gets hurt, and Oliver has to carry him to safety. Meanwhile, Barry pisses off Supergirl and gets her to chase him all the way back to the alien thingie, and uses her to destroy it. 

Crisis averted! Or not! Because before we can really celebrate, heroes start disappearing!

"Run, Barry, R--" - Oliver Queen, probably
In a minor The Flash continuing plot point, after Wally nearly gets killed here, HR Wells agrees to train him. I mean, in season one, Barry had Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne to train him. And in season two, Cisco had Harrison Wells of Earth-2 to bond with. So it makes total sense that in season three, young padawan Wally West shall have a Wells to train him as well. Even if said Wells is... a novelist.

Sounds legit.

Anyway, some of our heroes have been beamed aboard by Scotty, apparently, and the story will continue in tonight's Arrow.

I think what I really liked about this crossover overall--despite the butthurt and the complete lack of a sense of irony on behalf of the Legends--is that this really felt like the Berlantiverse was fully interconnected, for once. I mean yeah heroes appear randomly in each other's shows, but often those moments seem incredibly pointless, like the writers are just saying, "Oh hey, don't forget, these universes are interconnected... now back to our regular storylines that have nothing to do with anyone else!" But other than Supergirl's episode, this crossover feels like okay, yeah, these guys all inhabit the same world. Their lives are interconnected as they go about their superheroing business. They effect each other: Barry and his time travel affected everyone, of course, but we also revealed two major Legends of Tomorrow plots here (future-Barry's message, and Stein's daughter), and Oliver Wayne *cough* I mean Queen, is the gruff and smart leader that everyone else naturally trusts, much like a certain dude in a bat costume in most of your Justice League teamups.

Let's see what Arrow does with this crossover. Hope you are enjoying #DCWeek!

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

Critical Hits & Misses #80

Feminist composer Pauline Oliveros died on Thursday. Prof. Oliveros's haunting soundscapes pushed boundaries at a time when electronic music was still getting its footing. Her Mnemonics III is today's musical hit.

Today's critical rolls:
1. If you could take over someone's Twitter account for a day, who would you troll and why? And how?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: when Nazi apologetics become trendy, remain doggedly unfashionable.

"Medusa" - Supergirl S02E08

I have not been doing recaps and reviews of Supergirl of late, due to time issues, but we do need to have a pretty serious chat about what the show has been doing with Alex. And of course, "Medusa" was the introductory episode for this week's massive Berlantiverse crossover.

(spoilers beyond the fold)

"Medusa" opened with the Danvers family Thanksgiving, which this year includes Winn, James, and Mon-El (who is freaking adorable in his cluelessness, as he brings "stuffing" for dinner, which means he tore up his bed and brought a bag of fluff), in addition to Eliza, Kara, and Alex.

Easily one of the best scenes any of the Berlanti shows have written this season, this fabulously scripted dinner scene juggled the many agendas of the characters with ease. Mon-El clearly has a crush on Kara and sucks up to her mom, and James and Winn have decided to tell Kara the truth about their vigilante activities. Meanwhile, Alex shuts them down because she wants to use Thanksgiving to come out to her mom, but her difficult announcement is interrupted by a freaking Vibe portal. But nothing comes through, it's just a rip in the space-time continuum. Still, rude!

Beyond that, this fabulous episode grapples with a host of different problems for the various characters. Mon-El continues to struggle with how to tell Kara he likes her, and ultimately he "tells" her by kissing her in a classic scene where he's pretty much feverish and sick from Cadmus' alien virus before passing out again. Later, he pretends he totes doesn't remember what happened, and clueless Kara also pretends nothing happened, so in typical--but adorable--CW fashion, we have ship drama.

Last week we found out that back when M'gann gave J'onn a blood transfusion, it kicked in a virus of sorts of its own, wherein her white Martian blood is causing him to turn into a... thing. J'onn hasn't really told anyone he's having problems, but Supergirl notices his pain later. And during a big fight scene with the ridiculously-named Cyborg Superman (who is actually a cyborg Hank Henshaw), J'onn embraces his new monster form and morphs into a green white Martian hybrid. He still kind of gets his ass kicked by Cyborg Superman, though. Despite his fear of becoming a white Martian, Eliza ends up waving a hand and creating a cure at the end of the episode. And Cyborg Superman Hank gets away.

Not impressed by the show's version of Cyborg Superman
Meanwhile, Lena Luthor is struggling with mommy issues, because as her mother plainly tells her, yes I did love Lex more, but "that doesn't mean I don't love you at all."

Parents: please don't ever tell your children this, even if its true. It's really, really painful. Just some random parenting advice from the internet.

Later, despite her pain, Lena is pretty upset when Supergirl tells her that her mom is in charge of Cadmus and created a virus to wipe out all alien life. Still, Lena listens and ends up "helping" her mom by "giving" her the isotype thingie needed to complete the Medusa virus to wipe out all alien life on Earth. But Lena proves she ultimately trusts Supergirl (and that she herself is not a villain), because she gave mom a fake isotype that ended up making the virus inert, thus saving all the aliens on the planet from death.

I'm not one for cackling villains who seem to be evil for the sake of evil, so I'm not a big fan of either Cyborg Superman, Cadmus, or Dr. Luthor. But I can really appreciate Supergirl taking on a broken mother-daughter relationship, especially when held up in comparison to the parenting-done-right scene later where Alex and Eliza have their talk.

To be honest, Supergirl is only superficially in this episode. I mean she is important to every storyline present, but this episode was more about all the other supporting characters (except Winn and James, who got sidelined completely). Supergirl has a thing in this episode where she struggles emotionally after learning that her own father created the vicious Medusa virus to wipe out alien lifeforms in case Krypton ever got attacked. Last season she learned that her mother was a pretty hard-assed judge and executioner, and this season she learns that her father was perfectly willing to commit alien genocide if it meant the safety of Krypton. Definitely a message here about parents being human, making mistakes, and not able to live up to the perfect ideals that young children often have of them. Parents can do wrong, and sometimes they even do wrong when they think they are doing right.

We need to talk about the Alex development over the last few weeks though. Part of the reason I haven't done Supergirl reviews has been because I wasn't sure about this Alex storyline and how to handle it, and I'm kind of glad I waited to see how it played out. Alex, in case you missed out, fell head over heels for Maggie, her cop friend, and has been struggling for weeks with the idea that she is gay. Maggie encouraged her to tell her family, and Alex started by telling Kara, several weeks back. I'm honestly not sure why that coming out was written the way it was, because it somewhat seemed to suggest that Kara had some kind of stake in the story, and there was a bit of a cringey moment where Kara compares being in the closet to "being in the closet" as an alien.

I'm not sure you should be comparing the two, Kara. I mean, I guess hiding that you're an alien to avoid the potential social repercussions from asshole humans is sorta like hiding that you're gay to avoid the potential social repercussions from asshole humans, but still... I wish Kara had made that whole thing less about herself.

Still, there is something to be said, definitely, about a major television show even doing this story at all. Coming out is kind of a big deal to gay and trans people, because they are often scared of rejection by the people they love. Alex was scared to tell Kara, and she drank herself almost silly in "Medusa" to prepare herself to tell her mother. This is reality for a lot of folks out there. And certainly Eliza handled the news like a parent should: she was 100% accepting. Although there is a part of me that cringed a little about Eliza telling Alex that it was okay for her to be "special." I am not gay, but I kind of felt like the script was mildly suggesting that being gay was not normal. Maybe I'm being one of those over-sensitive allies who gets upset for someone else's sake. Please feel free to tell me so in the comments, and tell me what you think about Alex's story overall.

Sidenote: after this episode, my straight husband said, "I realize this is probably an important story to tell for some people out there, but to me, there is nothing weird or different about gay people, so this was just a story about a person loving another person and angsting about it, so this story just seemed trite to me."

And I replied, yeah that's the point of telling these kinds of stories. Normalizing them. Because ultimately, the goal is to normalize LGBTQ+ people, not treat them like outsiders or freaks or people who need to be "cured" (I'm looking at you, Mike Pence). I am glad that there are people out there who already see gay people as just people, but there's still work to be done, so yes, these stories still need to be openly told.

Ultimately, the show ties up things nice and easy by having Maggie decide that she does want to date Alex, so yay, happy ending!

Speaking of happy endings, we got like, two minutes of this. 

There wasn't nearly enough Barry and Cisco in this episode. After several Vibe portals distracted fights throughout the episode, a successful one finally drops our dudes into Kara's apartment. This is a super short scene where Barry pretty much says, we need your help. But I would like to point out that Cisco got a pretty dark jab in, because when Barry introduces Cisco as his friend, Cisco says, "naw more like business associates."

Ouch. I guess he's totally not over blaming Barry for his brother's death via Flashpoint.

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

Luke Cage Roundtable Review – S01E07 – 'Manifest'

The seventh and arguably most powerful episode of Luke Cage begins with the soft, potent voice of Nina Simone, singing "Plain Gold Ring." It’s a mournful song about immutable circumstance, lamenting how the pain of the past can remain ever-present with a simple reminder: a gold ring, a gun, a bullet… and sometimes a reminder isn’t necessary. Sometimes, there are events one can never forget. It’s an amazingly apropos choice of music for this episode, but the reason why is not completely clear until near the end as the revelations of the past converge with the action of the present for calamitous effect.

Luke Cage – S01E07 – Manifest
Mariah's political career comes under fire, and Cottonmouth picks up information that could put Luke on the run. (Netflix)

Adrian: Cornell is being released. Aside from the journal of the now-deceased Scarfe, there is insufficient evidence to hold Cornell. Misty watches Cornell tapping his fingers, playing the keyboard in his mind, probably reading this affectation as bemused detachment; she storms in, is stopped by Captain Audrey (Sonja Sohn). After some crude remarks from Cornell, Misty promises Cornell will get his just due. It seems that despite being an intuitive and talented detective, she was hoodwinked by Scarfe and can’t ever seem to get any dirt on Cornell or anyone else she’s interested in busting. It’s as if her failures as a detective are a necessary plot device to keep the stories moving along. Does anyone else find this frustrating? What do you think of Misty’s predicament?

Aranwe: I disagree over here. It’s all too often that fictional detectives are completely perfect at their jobs, and always solve their cases 100% neatly. There’s no doubting that Misty is a great detective, but her weaknesses, especially those relating to proper procedure, are often her downfall, and that makes her a much more relatable character. The frustrating part is knowing what Cornell has done, and yet watching him walk anyway, but that’s a frustration you’re supposed to feel.

Dominik: I’m with Aranwe on this one. it felt pretty natural that the case wasn’t solved immediately. If anything, it makes her more human, unlike most other fictional detectives.

Ivonne: I find it frustrating that Cornell is getting away with stuff, but I actually am perfectly okay with Misty’s flaws. She must be a flawed character, and she must start to believe the system fails justice, because she must start to believe in vigilantes, not only Luke but eventually herself (for all the comic book fans out there, you know what she becomes).

On a fundamental level, like Aranwe said: TV detectives are often perfect. One of the reasons I was loyal to Criminal Minds for like nine years was because the FBI agents were very human, they had their flaws, and they didn’t always get their perps.

One more thing: it is OK for female characters to fail. They are human just like anyone else, and I find it compelling to find a woman detective that isn’t perfect.

Adrian: With Cornell free and clear, he calls Luke for a parley (as Diamondback denies Cornell’s request for a Judas bullet to kill Luke). As Cornell plays the keyboard (there’s that keyboard again) he reveals to Luke that he knows Luke’s secret identity: Carl Lucas. Cornell suggests he will blackmail Luke, forcing Luke to work for him under threat of revealing his secret to the authorities. Luke decides he should flee when Claire smartly adjusts Luke’s priorities. He asks “If I go to prison, who’s gonna wanna follow me?” and she points out “Half the people uptown have fathers, cousins, uncles, brothers in prison. You’re no different than anybody else. You get your wish. You’re not special.” and that, in fact, Luke making a stand and taking down Cornell will give Luke the path to freedom he seeks. His personal needs align with his duty. Do you think Luke finally gets it? Also, were any of you shipping Claire and Luke as hard as I was at this point? Clearly, she is precisely the balancing force Luke needs!

Aranwe: Claire is awesome. Her role on Luke Cage may be her best yet in all the Netflix shows… but you can’t pry me away from Luke/Jessica. Sorry.

Dominik: It’s good to see Claire finally able to talk some sense into at least one Netflix Marvel protagonist. No shipping, though. Power People shipper for life.

Ivonne: Claire is awesome and she is just what the nurse ordered. The chemistry works between these two, and I ship it. But in my heart of hearts, I ultimately hope to see Luke and Jessica reunited. Come on, man, the original Marvel power couple!

Adrian: Back in his office, Cornell looks at a pearl-handled pistol he keeps in a gold box. What’s its significance? We’ve rightly spent a lot of time learning about Luke’s past, but now it’s time for an intense flashback into life of the Stokes cousins, Mariah and Cornell. Playing the near-mythic figure Mama Mabel is LaTanya Richardson Jackson, wife of Samuel L. Jackson. We all love Samuel as Nick Fury and his many other memorable roles, but my god, LaTanya is not being given the attention she deserves. We need her in more films, but I digress. On to the flashback:

Cornell is practicing on his keyboard while Mariah is studying. Their Uncle Pete dotes on Cornell, suggesting he attend Julliard, who loves the support while conversely, Mariah does not seem to appreciate the attention she receives from Pete. Pop enters the room to show deference and offer tribute to Mama Mabel (although, the first thing he says is “Hi Mariah” which for a fleeting moment, seemed like a cute interaction. Maybe he had a crush on her, what could have been, etc.).

With Pop is the ill-fated Donnie, who has been caught dealing drugs in Harlem against Mama’s wishes and she asks him to explain himself. Donnie briefly looks to Pete for help, but Pete averts his eyes. Donnie does do well on his own and doesn’t realize the gravity of the situation, while everyone else in the room does. Mama’s calm demeanor does not indicate safety, but threat. It is now that she is the most dangerous, and Donnie does not realize this, speaking with attitude and waving his hand around. His words and his hand offend her, and she twists his arm down and uses her pruning shears to cut his finger!

Mama Mabel sends Uncle Pete and Cornell to dispose of Donnie. Uncle Pete suggests that Cornell isn’t ready for that kind of work yet, but Mabel has decided, he needs to learn “how to piss standing up.” As we hear Uncle Pete and Cornell presumably stab Donnie to death off-camera, Mama Mabel calmly looks the severed finger and shears… and picks up the loot Pop gave her earlier, counting it. Mama Mabel might be extremely violent, but she is not bloodthirsty. The violence is simply her sense of ‘gangster pragmatism’ manifesting itself. Amazing. Terrifying.

As Cornell sits back down at his keyboard, bloody-handed, Mama Mabel comes behind him, and carefully, lovingly grasps his bloodied hands, comforting him. As this last moment plays out, we hear adult Cornell playing the keyboard in the present. If it wasn’t already clear, it’s made bare now: when Cornell plays the keyboard in his office or when Misty observed it in the precinct, we’re seeing him retreat into his safe space. I was enthralled by this flashback. The story, the performances from all involved, this was amazing to watch. Any thoughts?

Aranwe: Holy heck, was this scene amazing.

Dominik: This was an amazing scene, very humanizing for Cornell. It did wonders for him that the similar scene in Daredevil Season 1 didn’t for Fisk, making us wonder what could’ve been if he grew up in environment that really cherished his talents. Instead, he’s a broken man forced into a life he never wanted.

Ivonne: Brilliant flashback, and it really put a ton of stuff into perspective about Cornell and Mariah. I cannot gush enough about the narrative genius in this scene.

Adrian: Meanwhile, as Luke hits Colon’s base of operations and reclaims the stolen Hammer arsenal, Shades has let himself into Mariah’s home. He tells her about how much of an influence Mama Mabel and the Stokes family name meant to him as a kid growing up in Harlem, and how Cornell and Mariah have done nothing worthy with it. He says “I think that when you get the nerve, you’re gonna be surprised at just what you’re capable of.” After seeing Mariah not flinch when Donnie was dismembered, I have to think Shades is right. Although, it seems odd that he would be so forward by invading her home and getting in her face. This seemed very personal. What do you make of Shades’ motivations?

Dominik: Too early to tell, but Shades seems to have a plan of his own for Harlem. Something that seems separate from what Diamondback might want.

Ivonne: Shades is shady, no doubt, but I actually get the feeling he has a legit interest in Mariah coming to power. Shades doesn't seem the type to grab the reins directly, himself. He's a good background manipulator and super smart, but I think he prefers to have a boss, and for whatever reason, he seems to trust that Mariah is a better choice over Diamondback.

Adrian: In the second flashback, one of Mama Mabel’s girls, Sister Boy, has been roughed up by a customer, which she blames partially on Cornell for being absent. Ultimately, Cornell confesses that his absence was due to Uncle Pete meeting with the Colons in Spanish Harlem. I thought it was a nice touch to show that at least one of Mama Mabel’s girls was transgender. Mama was prepared to fight for her, even slap Cornell around in her defense (when he misgendered her!). It was a brief, but worthwhile moment of humanization for Mama Mabel, while also acknowledging the presence of transgender people in history. I’m yearning now for a Stokes family prequel. What did you think of this detail?

Dominik: Really nice. I wish there was more of an LGBTGIAP* presence in the MCU, preferably in the main cast department, but a nice detail like that is good acknowledgement. At least until that Runaways series.

Ivonne: Marvel doesn't engage in anywhere close to enough representation of LGBTQ+ people, so this was a really nice touch. As Dominik said, what we desperately lack is solid representation in the form of main characters, but this is a decent tip of the hat.

Adrian: In the final flashback, we see Mama Mabel confront Uncle Pete. At first he’s defensive, saying he’s always put the family first (despite harboring envy toward Mabel’s deceased husband, who won Mabel over Pete, back in the day). Then he shifts toward resentment: he thinks the family business should have been his. It all culminates as Mama Mabel tasks Cornell to execute Uncle Pete for his betrayal. Mariah sheds no tears, hinting that Uncle Pete sexually abused her. Pete attempts to bargain for his life, suggesting that only he cares for Cornell, that he believes Cornell could be someone other than a criminal. It’s not enough, and with the pearl-handled pistol he still keeps, Cornell shoots Pete. As adult Cornell later confesses, he believes Pete’s suggestion to be true, and regrets killing the one person he felt had his back.

This all comes to the surface in the present when Mariah comes to Cornell, desperate as she is being asked to resign her council seat. Everything she’s worked for is falling apart. The barbs come out and Cornell resents Mariah for being coddled in boarding school while he was forced to work the streets. She corrects him: she was not being coddled, but protected from Uncle Pete… and this is when Cornell makes the biggest and last mistake of his sad life.

He accuses Mariah of purposely tempting Uncle Pete and suggests crudely that the sexual abuse she suffered at his hands was consensual. His accusation decimates Mariah, stripping away all that remained of her calm and collected demeanor and she transforms into fury incarnate. A bottle to a head, a shove through a window, and a brutal beating with a mic stand later, and Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes is dead. Wow. I think Alfre Woodard deserves awards for this performance and I’m so glad Marvel was willing to double-dip, and retain her for this role after she played grieving mother Miriam all too-briefly in Captain America: Civil War. I was left all but speechless. What do you have to say about all this?

Dominik: Cornell had it coming for that awful jab, but damn. This was an amazing scene, really letting Alfre Woodard unleash her acting chops. And talk about a twist! I don’t think anyone expected the way this episode would end, completely destroying everyone’s preconceptions about the show’s second half. I loved the acting, and the cinematography (that red lighting!), and the boldness in scripting.

Ivonne: I honestly can say nothing beyond this: Alfre Woodard is queen.

Adrian: Finally, we end the amazing episode on Luke. Luke turns over the Hammer guns to Misty, but she makes it clear, this does not undo “all the trouble you’ve caused.” He says he’s going to come for Cornell and she should be ready for that. He leaves and strolls with Claire in the park, talking about his future as superhero Luke Cage. He’s decided that she’s right and he can’t keep running, when suddenly, Luke is sniped with a Judas bullet from a mysterious van by a mysterious figure who knows Luke’s real name! What??

Dominik: Well. Guess Diamondback’s finally come to town.

Critical Hits & Misses #79

For today's musical hit, Passenger covers Bob Dylan's "Girl From North Country." (Ivonne)

Today's critical rolls:
1. If you rule the world, what kind of ruler would you be? Would you be a tyrant, a benevolent dictator, or a democratically-elected and much-loved president perhaps? What would you do as world ruler?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't murder, maim, or otherwise injure anyone in pursuit of good deals and/or savings this holiday season.

Critical Hits and Misses #78

For today's musical hit, watch Lady Gaga's "Million Reasons" live from the 2016 American Music Awards. (Ivonne)

Today's critical rolls:
1. What's the real reason we don't have lady directors of a massive franchise like Star Wars yet?

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

Critical Hits and Misses #77

For today's musical hit, here's Ariana Grande live from the 2016 American Music Awards, with "Side to Side." (Ivonne)

Today's critical rolls:
1. Are you excited about the Berlantiverse crossover? What are you looking forward to the most?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be a Dominator who needs to get your ass kicked by superheroes.

Critical Hits and Misses #76

  • is offering a humongous bundle simply called A Good Bundle for minimum asking price $20. The bundle includes games like Gone Home, Proteus, Killing Time at Lightspeed, NORTH, Depression Quest and more. All of the proceeds will be split 50-50 between Planned Parenthood and ACLU. The offer ends on November 29. (Dominik)

  • President Obama honors Ellen for her bravery in publicly coming out back when it wasn't socially acceptable to do so, and thus paving the way for LGBTQ rights. Spoiler alert, Ellen and Obama be like, "I'm not crying, YOU'RE crying..." (Ivonne)

  • It's almost Black Friday in the US, the busiest shopping day of the year, and you know what that means, right? That's right, for us progressives, it means making informed choices on where we spend our money. Think Progress has a list of suggested stores that treat their workers like human beings. (Critical Writ staff)

For today's musical hit, we have Kate Bush's "And Dream Of Sheep." (Ivonne)

Today's critical roll:

1. Because we're in need of it, let's talk positive. What's been a positive thing that you've seen happen? Whether in your personal life, or in the public arena, in politics or in pop culture... give us something to cling to in this dark time.

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: don't be the shiniest turd in the basket of deplorables.

"Killer Frost" - The Flash S03E07 Directed by Kevin Smith

The Flash has been seriously struggling this season, trying to find a balance between the light-hearted fun of season one with the seriousness of season two. Sadly, I'm of the opinion that the writers have missed the mark, for the most part.

I have been really looking forward to Kevin Smith's episode, because last season he did amazing things with the cast. And no doubt, "Killer Frost" is the best of the season so far. Like last time, Smith really brought out the best in all of the actors. But the scatterbrained nature of the show's overall story arc, while definitely improved with this one, kept even Smith's episode from being truly perfect.

Still, this has been the most enjoyable episode of the season. Kevin Smith should direct all the episodes, IMO.

(spoilers beyond the fold)

"Killer Frost" picks up right where it left off last time, as Wally has been encased in an Alchemy cocoon, and Barry is getting his butt kicked by an invisible speedster god called Savitar. Joe ends up duking it out with one of Alchemy's robed acolytes and knocks him out for questioning later. Meanwhile, Savitar decides to go for a sightseeing tour of Central City, and drags Barry around in some of the coolest computer-generated special effects so far in the show's history.

No foolin', the CW spent some serious money on this fight sequence. Totes worth it. 
I'm not impressed by yet another speedster baddy, but it is interesting that this so-called "god of speed" can only be seen by Barry. And presumably, later, by Wally, because Savitar seems to be so fast, that only speedsters can see him. Well, except later on in the episode, when He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Alchemy is confronted by a very visible Savitar.

Anyway, as Barry proceeds to get his ass kicked, Cisco ports Caitlin to the scene of the fight, and she uses her powers to save Barry's life.

This Killer Frost chick, I like her. Let's keep her. 
Back at base, Joe is losing his crap over Wally being inside this ugly cocoon thing, but Caitlin says that in her best medical opinion, they shouldn't crack the thing open, because if Wally's metamorphosis is at all comparable to a caterpillar-to-butterfly situation, that would be bad.

Happy to report that after three seasons, Caitlin Snow now, finally, has a worthy story and a worthy role on Team Flash. With the new Wells not being a scientist, and Cisco being more of a techie, Caitlin is now the quintessential biomed specialist. They need her. I mean, they needed her before, but she was always overshadowed by the scientist-Wells, so this was a super nice change of pace. It was also lovely watching her fight against the Killer Frost persona. I don't know if it was just that she finally had a script worth a damn, or if it was Kevin Smith magic, but Danielle Panabaker was boss in this episode.

She made a genuinely intimidating villain when she did give into her Killer Frost persona. Desperate to have Alchemy get rid of her powers, she ends up questioning the acolyte Joe caught at the beginning of the episode, and not in a very nice way. This is followed up by her abducting Julian and forcing him to help her find other alchemy acolytes. During this sequence, confronted by Barry desperately trying to get her to stand down, Killer Frost ends up revealing to everyone just how much Barry screwed up with his selfish Flashpoint shenanigans. Specifically, Cisco finds out that his brother Dante was still alive before Barry messed with time.

Again, Kevin Smith magic or was this talent always latent in Carlos Valdes? Probably both, but either way, Cisco's rage and pain going forward was very real. Team Flash is falling apart at the seams as the results of Barry's selfishness is fully revealed.

You. Are. An. Asshole, Allen!
But there's only so much time to dedicate to the emotional drama, because Killer Frost is willing to kill to get the information she needs to find Alchemy. Cisco and Killer Frost end up having a showdown at the house of one of the acolytes, in the scene that we got a preview of last week when Cisco vibed to see the future. Barry shows up to help, and gets hit with the kiss of ice. No, really. This was awesome.

This kiss was the COOLEST. 

God, I love Caitlin so hard right now.

Okay, so they end up capturing her, and she's in full-blown Killer Frost persona now, with no sign of our beloved Caitlin Snow despite the pep talk. Meanwhile, Joe has had enough of being helpless and enlists HR's reluctant aid in ripping open the cocoon, because to hell with science!

Hipster Wells is all like: I'm just sayin', this is a bad idea. For once, HR is right...
The Wally that emerges is a speedster, but he seems zombie like, and he ends up racing off before anyone can do anything. Desperate, Barry returns to Killer Frost and offers her freedom. The catch? She has to kill him to walk away.

She tries. Oh, she tries. But much like Magenta/Frankie way back earlier in the season that was a clear foreshadowing of the Killer Frost/Caitlin struggle here, there is enough Caitlin left that she can't actually kill him. This gives her enough strength to retake control of her body from Killer Frost.

Dude. Acting. Such a great scene!

Okay, Cait is back and using her awesome medical superpowers, she develops a thing that they need to inject Wally with so that his brain and his speedster powers can sync up. Hurray Caitlin, for saving the day!

Wally is super psyched to be a speedster, and it really is fantastic to have Kid Flash in the fold.

His joy here reminds me so much of Kara Danvers the day Flash "flashed" some ice cream into her hand...

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that only the combined awesome of Flash and Kid Flash is going to defeat Savitar later, with hopefully a dash of Jesse Quick as well.

Julian saw Caitlin when she abducted him, of course, so Barry goes to the hospital to plead with him to keep her identity a secret. The price tag for Julian doing this, however, is pretty hefty: he demands that Barry resign from the CCPD. Without much hesitation, Barry selflessly does so to protect Caitlin, in an act designed to try to make up for the mess he made with his earlier selfishness.

In other news, we find out that Dr. Alchemy is just another acolyte, and that he is really just a servant of Savitar's. Apparently... a reluctant servant? As it turns out, the writers decided that they weren't going to be coy with the reveal of Alchemy's identity. I mean, all the signs have been pointing to Alchemy being Julian, like for weeks, but it seemed so incredibly obvious that I dismissed the idea that the writers would actually do this.

But I guess Malfoy gonna Malfoy and serve a greater darker power, and just as reluctantly as He Who Shall Not Be Named, because it seems like Julian isn't super happy to be Savitar's pet.

Better than being a Deatheater, I suppose...
You might have noticed I didn't mention Iris in this recap. That's because she is now, officially, the last useless member of Team Flash. Everyone else has powers or is a cop. And the "We don't know what to do with Iris lulz!" train continues onward. Once again, her only useful role appears to be as an emotional rock to the rest of the team. Even HR was more useful in this episode, as he genuinely helped the team draw conclusions and get from point A to point B in problem-solving. But with Kid Flash now a thing, and even Caitlin being meta as well as essential team scientist, we have now reached peak uselessness for Iris.

Don't get me wrong, her pep talk with Barry telling him to man up and become the leader the team needs him to be, was a well done scene. Chalk that up to Smith magic, and the fact that Candice Patton is a criminally under-used actress here. But I feel really bad for her, because her only role is as the team's counselor, but hell, even Deanna Troi got to wear an actual uniform (eventually) and take the test to be a commanding officer. Sorry to say, I do not have much hope for Iris' lot improving anytime soon.

Overall, an excellent episode, as the full consequences of Barry's actions drop on him finally. There was, curiously, zero lead into next week's huge Berlantiverse crossover, so while I'm excited about it, I'm also giving the CW the side-eye, because unless Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow leads into the alien invasion this week, I find it curious that aliens suddenly appear out of literally nowhere to harry Earth-1.

But whatever, because Supergirl, Flash, Green Arrow, and White Canary. Together at last!

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

Star Wars Rebels Recap - S03E07-08 - "Imperial Supercommandos" + "Iron Squadron"

It’s been eight episodes since the start of the season (seven, if you consider the premiere a single episode), and it’s pretty clear what the producers have building for this half of the season. They’ve been crafting a bigger Rebellion, increasing its numbers by gathering more and more allies. Now, after "Imperial Supercomandos" and "Iron Squadron", the unified resistance against Empire got even bigger.

(Spoilers beyond this point.)

Our primary focus for the two episodes are Ezra, Sabine and Ghost’s astromech droid Chopper, though the second episode features the rest of the crew more heavily. In "Imperial Supercommandos" the trio assist Fenn Rau, the leader of the Protectors of the Concord Dawn turned prisoner of the Rebels, in investigating a sudden loss of contact with his people. First introduced in the second season, Protectors were a Mandalorian (Star Wars’s "proud warrior race people") faction controlling a crucial hyperjump spot the Rebellion needed to find their new base planet. Their position and skill were so good, the Empire bribed them to keep anyone from passing near Concord Dawn. But the Imperials, being who they are, always want to take full control over everything. That’s what Fenn and the Rebels find out upon reaching his base — which they find completely destroyed. The Protectors were wiped out by other Mandalorians, ones openly and completely allied with the Empire, led by Gar Saxon. More importantly, they are of House Vizsla, Sabine’s people — in fact, her defection to the Empire is the primary reason for that alliance.

The episode definitely is setting up Sabine’s future subplot, especially with the mention of her mother, and her burgeoning rivalry with Gar over House Vizsla. It’ll be exciting to see more of it — as exciting as the episode’s action sequences. Generally speaking, the ground level fights in Rebels are not the show’s most spectacularly choreographed ones, unless they involve Force users. This time, we have Mandalorian aerial combat with jetpacks, and it’s a sight to benhold; dynamic, creative, and thrilling. It’s a damn shame we won’t see it for a while, after Sabine’s jetpack gets destroyed by the end. Sigh.

The next episode, "Iron Squadron", introduces a new group, the titular squadron. Under the impressive name hides a trio of teenagers and an astromech, fighting the Empire in a cargo ship in such a bad shape, it makes the Millennium Falcon look like a Star Destroyer. The group’s leader is Mart, revealed to be the thought dead nephew of the Rebel fleet leader, Commander Sato.

Mart and his friends start out — there’s no other way to put this — annoying as hell. They’re basically a trio of Ezras from the first season, thinking themselves a big thorn in the Empire’s side when they barely made an impact. In fact, after Thrawne sends a light cruiser to mop up any resistance in their system, they’d be dead. Thankfully, the Ghost arrives and with the help of first Sabine, Ezra and Chopper — and later the entire crew and Sato’s cruiser — everyone manages to get out safely.

The episode helps develop the thus far very static character of Commander Sato. Sato spent the entirety of last season and the previous episodes this season as the authority figure to the Ghost crew, as someone to send them on missions and react to some of their more insane plans. "Iron Squadron" gives him some depth; a brother lost to the Empire, a nephew thought lost, and what sounds like a history with Grand Admiral Thrawn. The last one especially looks like it’ll be important in future episodes.

Finally, the episode shows how far Ezra’s come since the start of the show. By contrasting him with the teen members of the Iron Squadron, we can appreciate his development. Especially after his short speech, during which he attempts to convince them to leave with the Ghost. The words "How we choose to fight is just as important as what we fight for" sound like something Hera and Kanan would say to him in the earlier episodes. The kid, and the show, have come a long and satisfying way.

And now, an announcement: as of next week, I will be leaving the coverage of the show in more competent hands. As much as I love the show and the Star Wars universe, I’m not an expert in it, which I think could be felt in the previous posts. Thus, I leave in the Stephanie Maynard’s hands, and can’t wait to read her reviews. I’ll see you in other recaps.

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

SNL Scraps: Deleted Sketches With Dave Chappelle And Kristen Wiig

The two most recent episodes of the show presented us with three cut sketches. Will I be pleasantly amused or grateful that they didn't get past the dress rehearsal? Let's find out.

The first one is a surreal prerecorded short about the inner workings of a painting. Dave Chappelle's swan character isn't doing enough work, according to the two ducks. They try to get him to contribute, but he just wants to look majestic in the rays of the sun. It's funny, once you get past the odd setup for the short film. I think it was cut because the tone and style didn't really fit in with the rest of the episode. You can watch it here.

Next, we have a Thanksgiving sketch with Kristen Wiig. Excuse me, I mean 'Wisten Kriig." It mostly revolves around food-based puns with the lead character showing off the foods at her Thanksgiving dinner. It starts off a little slow, but quickly grows hilariously misanthropic with the addition of Kenan Thompson as her childlike adopted father, Bobby Moynihan as a ham (in the acting sense), and a stellar insult to Donald Trump about birth control. It's a slow burn, but trust me, it's a good sketch.

Finally, a dreamlike little prerecorded short starring Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Vanessa Bayer as the goddesses of creation. The ending is abrupt and the sound effects are off-putting, but it's pretty creative. We finally have an explanation for the existence of clams!

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

Critical Hits and Misses #75

  • Just when you think Black Panther's cast can't get any better, Angela Bassett gets announced as T'Challa's mother. E! News has the scoop! (Ivonne)

  • The results for this year’s edition of the IFComp, the annual interactive fiction awards, are in. You can check out this year’s winners and the placement of other entries (58 total) at the awards’ main site, and a short summary of the top three picks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. (Dominik)

  • Stop me if you've heard this one before, especially if you're a comic book fan: one of the chief complaints leveled at the cast of Hamilton for their direct appeal to Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence is that they made the theater political. Which is hilarious when you consider what Hamilton is about. Or, if not hilarious, absolutely ridiculous. Katherine Brooks over at the Huffington Post talks about why this is notion is, historically, bullshit. (Critical Writ staff)

For today's musical hit, it's Panic! At the Disco cover by The Weekend/Daft Punk, on BBC's Live Lounge! (Ivonne)

Today's critical rolls:

What is your favourite political musical?

— Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: Don't be a poisonous bunch-back’d toad!

A Low Key Finish: Vote Loki #4 Review

You may (or may not) have noticed I haven’t been publishing any new reviews lately. The truth is, since November 9th, I’ve been feeling a bit down. I’m sure a lot of you can figure out why.

This comic in particular is one I thought I would never touch again. Political satire from a time when we were all so certain about who would win the US election seems almost unbearable at this point. For weeks, I had nothing but a pun based title for the review, and nothing else.

And yet, here we are. The truth is, something happened that I took as a sign that it was time to get back into the game. A friend sent me the cover of the new Vote Loki trade paperback, and, well:

Quote Loki
That’s right, it’s a (generically positive) line from my review of the second issue. Somebody actually took a look at the title of the article in question, Happy Go Loki, and still somehow decided that this was a good place to get quotes for the cover of a book thousands of people would buy. And I’m weirdly proud of that. There are no shortage of positive reviews for the comic out there, so the idea that they came to our little old site for one warms my heart (to be fair, most of this is probably down to the fact that the author, Christopher Hastings, was brilliantly interviewed for the site by fellow contributor Zachary Krishef).

Anyway, that’s enough about me. All of you came here for the review of a comic from a happier time, and that’s what you’re going to get.

Spoilers beyond this point.

My biggest criticism of Vote Loki over the past three issues is that we seem to have lost sight of the titular character amidst all the political skewering. The conclusion however puts the focus right back on the modern iteration of the Norse God, and everything we love about him.

Loki was never going to win. It’s pretty well known that the President of the 616 Marvel Universe has to reflect the one elected in our world, which means we can expect more Donald Trump in our comics beyond him being yelled at by Luke Cage.

Sweet Christmas, this is cathartic.
Regardless, there’s still the question of what Loki’s whole point was here. After gaining the support of most of the country the country, and inadvertently turning it against the rest, causing riots and protests, he begins feeling a twinge of regret.

Feeling an urge to reread Agent of Asgard all of a sudden.
In the interest of restoring the peace, or so he claims, he agrees to a live interview in front of a crowd with Nisa Contreras, fresh off her latest failure to discredit him.

Realising that everything she’s said has just been twisted to favor him at this point, she decides to shake things up, and get Loki’s supporters to ask him questions instead.

And so questions on his policies come in… and Loki is stumped. Despite his promises to clear the system of corrupt politicians, and give the people a strong leader, he actually has no clue how to run or what to do.

And now, because we’re in a comic book, the most unrealistic thing ever happens as his supporters realize they’re supporting a lunatic, and abandon him in droves. If only real life were that easy.

And with Loki falling from grace, the one person who stood up to him, Nisa Contreras, is suddenly a hero. Her career is on the rise, everyone loves her… then Loki shows up at her door for a “Thank you.”

Your awkwardly drawn face says otherwise, Nisa.
It turns out that was a lie too– the God of Stories’ goals were far less noble. He deliberately threw his campaign off the rails, but not for Nisa. As a telling phone call reveals, he struck a bargain with one of the candidates to split the vote then lose it, getting them more support than they had before.

It’s a clever twist to end on, and sets up Loki for wherever his next appearance may be, since we still don’t know what he got in exchange for his ploy.

Overall, it’s been a fun ride. While it got a bit repetitive in the middle of the series, it had a pretty strong finish. Nisa is a cool character, and while it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing her again, she was a pretty strong lead (I still miss Verity Willis though). This issue in particular did a good job of balancing the political satire with actual plot progression and character, more so than the first three.

While it’s unlikely I’ll ever reread Vote Loki in the future, it was still enjoyable, and leaves me wondering what we’ll get in the trickster’s next solo outing.

At least one of us gets a happy ending.

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