Critical Hits & Misses #209

For today's musical hit, we have Amanda Palmer and "The Killing Type" (warning for mature content)

Today's critical rolls: What other indie, feminist/intersectional feminist films do you know of that would be worth checking out? 

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Critical Hits & Misses #208

For today's musical hit, we have Ani Difranco and "Both Hands"

Today's critical rolls: What are some of your favorite female heroes, in any genre or media?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Critical Hits & Misses #207

It's Memorial Day in the US, which is a holiday where Americans grill, play in the pool, and sometimes even remember to thank all the Americans in uniform that have died for our freedoms. If you're off of work today, remember the fallen, be kind to people who do have to work today to serve you (grocery stores, restaurants, stores, etc). 

For today's musical hit, we have Grimes and "Butterfly"

Today's critical rolls: Who are you remembering today, and what are you grateful for today? It doesn't matter if you're American or not!

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

A Final Trip to 'Lian Yu' - Arrow S5 Finale

Yikes! "Lian Yu" was intense!

And no fooling, this was one of the best episodes Arrow has ever done, let alone one of the top for season five.

In fact, season five is one of this show's top seasons, harkening back to its strong foundations in season one. And speaking of season one, "Lian Yu" features the cameo returns of Malcolm Merlyn, Slade Wilson, and Moira Queen to Arrow.

Spoilers beyond the fold.

I actually missed a couple of reviews over the past few weeks, due to being involved in a car accident, so I apologize (I actually had people ask me on Facebook about the missing reviews). At this point, I'm not going to backtrack. Suffice to say that Adrian Chase has continued being the super genius bastard that he's always been, and that Team Arrow has never been able to keep up with him. In the previous episode before this one, Chase has, one by one, abducted the members of Team Arrow, as well as William, Oliver's son (and his mother, as we discover in this episode).

Thus, Oliver is in a bit of a pickle. Malcolm Merlyn also showed up in the Arrowcave last episode to offer help in getting Thea back. And Oliver ended up calling in another ally: Nyssa, his "wife." The sparks flew immediately between Nyssa and Malcolm as they growled at each other, and their verbal sparring continues in "Lian Yu" and it is great. Once on the island, Oliver picks up a couple more unlikely allies.


Happy to report that Slade Wilson was absolutely amazing (and that despite weeks of trolling fans about how he wasn't involved in this episode at all, Manu Bennett was indeed back and in awesome form). With the mirakuru cleared out of his system, Slade is sane again, and remembers everything he did under the influence. He wonders why Oliver didn't kill him for the execution of Moira Queen, and he's especially surprised when Oliver not only lets him out of ARGUS prison AND provides him with his gear, but also hands over a flash drive with information containing the whereabouts of Slade's missing son. You can almost see Slade softening, especially with the last.

Not gonna lie, Slade and Oliver fighting together again was a thrill I hadn't realized I was missing so very much.

This is a scene I didn't know I needed...

The other baddie Oliver picks up is Captain Boomerang, which he needn't have bothered, since the jackass turns on them almost instantly. Apparently Chase and his goons got to Boomerang first, but we don't learn that until Oliver rushes into an ambush and Boomerang pulls a gun on him. Slade appears to betray Oliver in that moment as well, but actually, he just proceeds to kick Boomerang's ass. Thankfully, Evelyn also gets her ass kicked in this scene, and put into a cage. And because Oliver is a much better person than I am, he promises to come back for Evelyn when Chase has been dealt with. Personally, I'd just leave the wench to rot on Lian Yu.

In other news, Ollicity is back on again!

Oliver sends Felicity, Curtis, Thea, and Samantha back towards the plane along with Malcolm as the pilot. The idea is that he wants to get the weaker members--Felicity and Samantha--safely off the island, and of course he wants his sister out of the line of fire. Despite Malcolm being Malcolm, he's certainly proven time and again that he will do whatever it takes to keep Thea safe, so I suppose he's trustworthy enough for this mission. Of course, the reunion between father and daughter is less than warm. Once again, John Barrowman and Willa Holland have fabulous chemistry together. They argue back and forth up until the moment there's a click and Thea freezes in place.

Yeah, how did everyone forget that Lian Yu is riddled with those stupid mines?

In a strangely heartbreaking scene, Malcolm shoves Thea off the mine and takes her place, and then tells them all to run away because Boomerang and some thugs are approaching.

Yeah, Malcolm freaking Merlyn sacrificed his life for Team Arrow (well, really for his daughter, of course). We see the explosion in the distance from Thea's point of view.

It's worth noting that while this is the comics genre and no one ever really stays dead, John Barrowman has thanked his fans for a wonderful five years. It sounds pretty final to me.

Oliver takes Slade and Nyssa to an old Chinese temple thing that's never been shown before in previous flashbacks of the island. Apparently that's where the rest of Team Arrow is being held. The three of them split up, with Nyssa going off on her own, and instantly Slade betrays Oliver and gives him up to Black Siren. But don't despair! It was all planned! Oliver wanted to get captured, because it gave him access to Dinah, and he gives her the collar that Curtis made for her that lets her focus her canary cry. It also allows her to break their chains.

Love me some lady assassins, NGL

What follows is a pretty awesome fight. We get treated to some beautiful fight choreography, starting first with an all-too-short fight sequence between Nyssa and her sister Thalia. Truly, if I have any complaint at all about this episode, or even this season, it's that we didn't get more of an explanation on why Thalia turns on her old student Oliver (yeah yeah, he killed my estranged father yadda yadda), and why Nyssa and Thalia seem to hate each other. I truly wish we'd had more development of the relationship between the sisters. There's some decent dialogue to that effect here, but still... I was left wanting so much more. These are two genuinely badass assassin ladies, and I am ALL about the assassin ladies of the world getting more screen time.

There's also a much larger fighter scene where everyone is fighting everyone: Dinah and Laurel have a canary face-off, Diggle gets to punch stuff, Slade and Nyssa fight more thugs, and ultimately, Oliver and Adrian face-off in their own apparent final battle. Once again, the fight choreography was phenomenal. Bonus points for Quentin getting the opportunity to knock Black Siren in the back of the head. And triple bonus points for Quentin insisting that Dinah be called the Black Canary.

It's worth noting that this giant fight scene in particular beautifully juxtaposes scenes with a flashback of the fight on Lian Yu between Oliver and Dolph Lundgren's Russian thug, just before Oliver's boat back to Star City is supposed to arrive. We keep switching back and forth between the flashback fight and the current fight, and instead of being jarring, this actually really works for the episode.

This is bad, right?

Ultimately, where in the flashback Oliver ends up breaking Kovar's neck and rushing off to catch his boat, Oliver has the chance to end Adrian's life once and for all, and he chooses not to. Which is a good thing because that's about when Felicity calls him and lets him know that the island is covered in c4 that is set to explode on a dead man's switch. If Adrian dies, the island gets blown up.

Nothing is ever easy for Oliver Queen. Nothing. Adrian won't tell him where William is, and he even suggests that he killed the boy, just to try to get Oliver to kill him (and thus everyone) too.

Ultimately, Adrian ends up escaping (because of course he does), and Oliver sends everyone to rejoin the rest of the team while he runs after Adrian. The team finds out pretty quickly that they are hosed, though, because Adrian sabotaged the plane, so it isn't going anywhere.

That freaking smirk! Josh Segarra, you are so good at making us hate you!

William is on the boat of course, and Adrian has one final card to play. Kill Chase, OR Chase will kill Oliver's son. Of course this was Adrian's plan all along: make Oliver make the impossible choice between his entire team or Oliver's son.


Okay, time for this jerk to die. Srsly. 

Oliver almost had his cake and eat it too. He manages a trick shot of an arrow that hits Adrian's foot and makes him let go of William, so Oliver grabs the boy. But our hero is not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, not to mention the fact he was in the process of freaking out about his son. So he fails to shove William behind him and then smack Adrian upside the head and knock him out, which would have been the obvious solution. Instead, he stands there shouting at Chase, while Chase plays his final final ace.

It's like the 4th of July up in here...

OMG the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers! Who will live? Who will die? Is Oliver a single dad now?

Unfortunately, some of the suspense was killed by the recent announcement that Dinah and Rene are still series regulars in season six. Thanks, CW! Also, the showrunners have explicitly stated that Thea Queen will not be killed off, ever. So there's three right there that you know survived!

Still, in my opinion, the combination of excellent writing, amazing acting (Stephen Amell has come so far since season one, he was brilliant here), and gorgeous fight choreography, really made this the CW's best superhero finale this year, hands down. And really, looking back on the whole season, despite a few duds here and there, Arrow had the overall best season period this year.

We won't know until October how anyone on Team Arrow survives (if you want my opinion, Slade saves all or most of them by taking them underground to the ARGUS bunker). I have my doubts that Samantha, William's mother, survives. But even if she does, William now knows that his dad is the freaking Green Arrow, so there's that to look forward to next season.

I'm also loving the return of gruff, cool Slade Wilson as an ally of Oliver's. I kind of really hated him in season two when he was basically the villain out of Days of Our Lives (like literally, in a suit with an eyepatch), and Manu Bennett is on record as saying he didn't care for the way Slade was written in season two either. I expect that Slade will disappear to find his own son, but that we can expect him back for cameos. I like the idea of a somewhat enigmatic antihero Slade Wilson at large.

Besides Nyssa and Thalia not having enough screentime together, my only complaint is that Moira Queen didn't have as much screentime either as I would have liked. But Susanna Thompson was still heartbreaking and fabulous as Oliver's mother when she receives that phone call from him as he is leaving the island. I love her so much.

I almost quit watching Arrow after the trainwreck that was season four, but I'm glad I stuck with it. The showrunners and writers really stepped it up a notch, and it was worth it.

What did you think of the finale? Let us know in the comments!

See you in the fall, everyone!

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 #206

For today's musical hit, we have Lana Del Rey and "Lust For Life"

Today's critical rolls: What other women directors do you know of that deserve more chances at directing films?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Critical Hits & Misses #205

For today's musical hit, we have Tacocat and "Men Explain Things To Me."

Today's critical rolls: Would you rather play video games in a social setting like a coffeehouse or LAN party or internet cafe? Or do you prefer to pwn noobs in the privacy of your own home?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Staggering across the "Finish Line," - The Flash Season Three Finale

Whew! I don't know about you guys, but after this season of The Flash, I am exhausted! I feel like I ran a marathon and I'm just now staggering across the "Finish Line," which not incidentally, is the name of the season three finale.

So let's wrap up The Flash, and now that you've seen the finale (or read about it here), also be sure to head on over to check me out as I step up on my soapbox about superheroes never getting a happy ending, and how that trope kills the marginalized.

But first... the finale.

Spoilers beyond the fold.

"Finish Line" doesn't leave us guessing on the fate of Iris West for long. I'll be honest: while I didn't really think they would kill her off, there was a part of me that had my doubts. Call it the cynic in me, because as I noted in my soapbox piece, the trope about superheroes never getting a happy ending usually results in women and people of color being killed off. Iris is both of these, so she was in danger of falling into the trap of this trope.

Thankfully, the Berlantiverse may have learned from the fan rage after Arrow killed off Katie Cassidy's Canary last season. As we learn immediately, HR used his Earth-19 face magic thingie to turn himself into Iris. We actually see a flashback of him using the piece of Savitar's armor to find the secret lair, turn himself into Iris and Iris into himself, and then Savitar recapturing "Iris." So when Savitar gets stabby, he's actually stabbing HR.

No, HR. You are not a coward.

HR has not, by any means, been my favorite Wells. But I admit to feeling sadness at his fate, if only because he proved that he loved this team and that he had a hero's heart all along, even though he scanned as a coward for a good part of the season. However, I am perfectly ready for Tom Cavanagh to come back next season as an all new Wells. Or maybe just return to Harry from Earth-2, since it appears Harry will be sticking around for a bit after this episode. Also, I'd like to point out that this sort of falls into that whole annoying "no happy endings allowed!" trope I'm going on about today. HR and Tracy had just fallen in love, so it seems kind of crappy to rip them apart.

But anyway, Savitar prevents Killer Frost from killing Cisco, because he needs Cisco to go all sciencey and modify the speedforce cannon. Back at base, Barry remembers that Leonard Snart told him that the key to defeating Savitar once and for all is for Barry to not stoop to Savitar's level and to always remain the hero. Thus, Barry calls for Savitar to meet up with him, and offers him the chance to be saved from the impending time anomaly that will result in Savitar's being erased from existence, since HR effectively managed to change the course of time by saving Iris.

Yeah baby, caress my burns...

Despite apparently being touched by Iris' kindness, Savitar/Evil!Barry doesn't really buy into it. This scene is notable only for the fact that Devoe, aka The Thinker, is name dropped for the second time this season. So, definitely the big bad for season 4. Thank Dog it's not another speedster!

Also of note here, Julian appears after being absent for a while, and reveals that he and Caitlin's mom developed a gene therapy cure to bring Caitlin back for good as the non-meta she's always wanted to be. This was actually the moment that I knew we wouldn't be getting human Caitlin back and that we were most likely looking at Frost (aka, the metahuman that isn't evil like Killer Frost). I'm actually quite happy about this, because I never accepted the narrative that Caitlin was incapable of both being a hero and a metahuman. The idea that cold powers make you cold inside is silly.

Guys! I made a thing!

Anyway, Savitar knows that time is catching up with him, so he makes Cisco modify the speedforce canon to do some major pseudo-science technobabble-laced nonsense. Something about splitting Savitar into an infinite number of himself, so that he can exist in every moment in time and truly be a god, and truly be above time anomalies and other such banal concerns. Whatever. I can't believe Evil!Barry fell for the idea that Cisco might actually help him do something like that.  When Savitar uses the speedforce canon, it instead somehow pops Jay Garrick out of the speedforce prison, along with more technobabble nonsense about how that happened. Reversing polarities on something or other is a Star Trek thing, guys! Get your own technobabble!

Also of note: Gypsy showed up to save Cisco's life, because he somehow vibed his distressed across the multiverse. They make a cute couple, not gonna lie.

After Garrick pops out of the prison, what follows is a pretty awesome CGI sequence that suggests the CW has been investing money in this show. Savitar getting chased by Barry, Wally, and Jay is a really cool sequence, and one of the most enjoyable parts of the episode. It was over way too quickly.

No foolin', one of the coolest fight scenes I've seen on this show, ever

When this chase is over, Barry and Savitar face off, and Barry has had it! He, much like the audience, is sick of it all. He does a really cool move where he races and phases into the Savitar armor, shoving Evil!Barry right out of it. The armor actually changes color, and if you want my opinion, it looks a lot more menacing when Good!Barry is in it. Also, cooler.

I'm not actually sure how the hell this happened, but it was super cool. 

Barry ultimately shatters the armor and lets his evil remnant live, because the time anomaly is about to finally catch up and erase him anyway. Evil!Barry knows his time is up, so he makes one last push to get his vengeance: his bumrushes Barry, who like an idiot had his back turned.

Then the show's real hero shows up.

That's right, bitches. The real badass has been hidden in plain sight the whoooole time

Iris, honey, if you could do this all along, why the hell haven't you been your own hero?

Not gonna lie, it was really satisfying for Iris to be the one to save Barry, for once. Interestingly, they don't bother with any emotional fallout for Iris, considering she just shot a version of him in the back. Back at the apartment after he's just delivered their save-the-date notices, Barry asks her if she's okay with what she just did. Iris says she's sure it will hit her later. But for the moment, she's totally fine. She has zero angst about killing, despite the fact that Barry has wrestled with this moral question time and again for all three seasons.

For just a glimmering moment in time, we had a version of Iris that wasn't a helpless victim. It was nice, and I really want to see more of it. I have always lamented that the really badass version of her is the cop Iris on Earth-2, and she seemed to embody that doppelganger here. Can we keep her? Please?

Happily, not only did a black woman not get fridged for a white man's journey through mainpain (a rare occurrence, to be sure), but she was also given the opportunity to be a hero.

Caitlin has become someone else... something else (#sorrynotsorry)

Caitlin has decided not to use Julian's gene therapy to become non-meta. She gives it back to him, and says that she needs time to figure out who she is now. For the moment, she has exited off of Team Flash, but I doubt she will be gone for long. Like I said earlier, I'm pretty giddy about having Frost now, so I'm looking forward to her return.

So, all's well that ends well, right?

Oh, sweet summer child.

Of course not! This here is a superhero story, and remember... superheroes can never be happy! There are no happy endings! Thus, when Iris and Barry are trying to settle down and think about wedding stuff, the speedforce erupts into Central City, because the forced expelling of Jay Garrick out of the speedforce prison means there's an imbalance in the Force, or something. No one took Jay's place, so the gaping hole means the speedforce is going to wreck Central City in return.

Barry accepts his fate: he created this problem when he created Flashpoint, so now he must pay the price. Of course, that means Iris pays the price as well.

I'm not cryin', you're... oh hell, fine, I'm cryin'

The romantic in me cried, but the rest of me was pretty angry. Once again, trumped-up drama is used to deny a happy ending. Never mind Barry, none of this is fair to Iris, who apparently must also pay the price for Barry's boneheaded decisions.

I mean, I know, and you know, and everyone knows, that Grant Gustin is way too popular to be exited off this show. So look for Barry to come back in episode one of season four, or episode two TOPS. I would be really surprised if they dragged this on any further than that.

But until then, Kid Flash, Harry Wells, Cisco, Joe, Iris, and possibly Tracy will have to be the Team Flash that keeps Central City in one piece.

A Mark Twain quote seems particularly appropriate for HR

Thanks for sticking with Critical Writ for your Arrowverse reviews, and tune in tomorrow for Arrow season five's finale. Iris West wasn't fridged, so here's hoping Felicity Smoak won't be either.

See you in the fall for The Flash's return.

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

No Happy Endings: The Trope That Kills The Marginalized

We need to have a serious discussion about an annoying superhero trope that never seems to go away (but needs to). So excuse me for a moment while I step up on my soapbox, and let's discuss how superheroes are never allowed to live happily ever after.

(Spoilers for Supergirl season two and finale, The Flash season three (including the 5/23 finale), Arrow season five)

Mon-El, I'm sorry, I'm the star of the show, I have to stay single, so you're going to have to go away or die. 

Recently, on a Facebook post regarding Arrow, a friend posted that he thought Felicity was going to die in the season five finale of the show (which airs on 5/24/17). When I asked him why he felt that way, he said the show has taken to ramping up Ollicity (the Oliver Queen + Felicity Smoak romance) again, despite the fact that their engagement was broken up back in season four, for suspect reasons. I replied: "well maybe they [the writers] are actually just getting Ollicity back together." He sounded surprised in his response when he said "yeah sure, that would be cool. They are cute together."

That conversation took place last week, but my brain has been mulling it over and over since then, made worse by the fact that the day before it took place, The Flash had apparently just killed Iris West for realsies (but not really, as we discovered during the finale on 5/23. But we have been treated to the sight of a black woman getting stabbed throughout this season). But what caused me to write about this was Supergirl's season finale, where Kara has to choose to either save Earth or keep Mon-El, her apparent true love. When I stopped crying, I started getting mad.

Make love to me now, Tony, because I won't be in the next film. 

The idea that superheroes (or heroes in general, regardless of the genreneed to stay singleor otherwise sacrifice their love to the greater goodis an old one. In fact, Superheroes Stay Single is the name of the trope, because it happens so often. Batman always has a new love interest; Deadpool seemed super in love with Vanessa, and yet for Deadpool 2 it appears Domino is the new lover; Iron Man 3 suggests Tony and Pepper have turned a corner, but the latter has left the former for some reason by the time Captain America: Civil War rolls aroundand I've already mentioned all three of the CW's powerhouse superhero shows and what they appear to be doing. Nor is it only a trope for the superhero genre: Bond always has a new Bond girl (and both of the times he's ready to settle down with her, she ends up dying, of course. If you're curious about the Bond films in particular, those are On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Casino Royale).

Pick your favorite series, whether on TV or in film, and tell me if this hasn't been done a thousand times before.

Mother always told me to never become a Bond girl. I should have listened. 

There are definitely a lot of fans out there that will be glad that Mon-El is exiting Supergirl, and there is a huge subset of the Arrowverse fandom that would be very pleased if Iris had actually died or if Felicity gets a surprise funeral in the finale. And I'm not suggesting that heroes must be married or have happy endings. Realistically, people die; evil people can and will use loved ones against the good guys; and not everyone gets a happy ending, even in real life.

Plus, it's not like Mon-El was the perfect boyfriend: he started out as the quintessential dudebro with little respect for women. But by the end of season two, he'd quieted down quite a bit, decided that he wanted to be a better man for Kara, and had learned to respect the fact that she was the strength of their relationship. Still, I was not heavily invested in their long-term romance. Before the finale, I didn't really care one way or the other.

So why was I so upset when the finale ended with Kara poisoning Earth against Daxamites? I mean, shouldn't I be focused on the fact that Alex asked Maggie to marry her, or that J'onn and M'gann were together again? Well, I am happy about those, with a caveat (which I will discuss below), but I also felt it deeply unfair to Kara to have literally everyone around her happy and in love, while she was the only one that had to make a sacrifice. The romantic in me wept. But there's more to this.

Avaunt! Into the refrigerator with thee, Iris! 

This is Critical Writ so it shouldn't surprise that my dislike of the "Superheroes Stay Single" trope has something to do with feminism, and to a wider degree, progressive ideals. See, here's the thing about this trope: it disproportionately affects women, people of color, and gay love interests.

Every goddamn time a hero has to emanate manpain and thus "grow" as a person, 97% of the time it means that a woman has to be fridged. And it's pretty much 100% of the time if it's an LGBT relationship (Maggie, you might consider rejecting Alex's proposal and running for the hills instead, just sayin'). The dead gay lover trope is so common, it has it's own entry on tvtropes: Bury Your Gays.

It's worth noting that the Bury Your Gays trope was born out of a need for censorship on American tv. In order to get past decency standards, queer characters had to be either straight and married, or dead, by the end of the story. The fact that Bury Your Gays is still so pervasive today makes that all kinds of gross. And it's understandable why the LGBT community freaks out when their characters get killed off.

Marry you? LOL nope, I choose life lol...

Even when a love interest isn't killed off completely, they end up getting shoved off screen: Pepper Potts has been disappeared out of the MCU, Paul divorces Curtis on Arrow because of the Mr. Terrific gig, Patty had a very strange and awkward exit off of The Flash in season two. But I don't possibly have the space here to list even a fraction of all the women and gay love interests who have been killed off, time and again, throughout the superhero, sci-fiction, and fantasy genres.

The romantic in me wept for Kara's pain during the finale, but later I was angry because they didn't kill Mon-El. At the end, he gets sucked into a wormhole, and ladies and gentlemen, this here is comics... the door is wide open for him to return later, miraculously able to deal with the lead in Earth's atmosphere. But of course he didn't die: he was a handsome white male. If racebent Jimmy Olsen had been Kara's true love this season, would he have died? Probably, because people of color of all genders also get fridged in the romantic narrative, especially if they are dating a white person. Also, black characters in Hollywood die a lot, whether they are romantic interests or not.

Ultimately, women, people of color, and LGBT partners are all disposable. What's worse is that we in the West are so conditioned by the constant fridging of these characters, that we can predict when it's going to happen, and even expect it (like my friend and Arrow). We joke about the "black guy dying first" in every movie. And the LGBTQ+ community is understandably wary and tired of seeing their already meager on-screen representation thinned out even more in the name of drama.

This is my 'I'm sooo happy I didn't date Kara in season 2' face....

As a fantasy fiction writer, I've caught myself almost falling into the same pattern. It's so easy to create instant drama by killing off a loved one. Here I am, a feminist writer, and yet I was about to commit that most egregious of sins: I was prepared to kill off a loving wife and woman of color just to create manpain in my hero. Instead, I've opted to develop my hero and his family in another way. Because you know, it's fiction, and I can do that. I literally make this stuff up.

Here's the thing though: killing off a loved one isn't the only way to create drama and conflict. Evil people may threaten the life of a hero's loved one and I don't have a problem with that concept. But why must a character suffer the death of a loved one in order to grow? And why does a woman and/or a gay partner usually have to suffer a death in order for someone else to grow as a person? We already don't have enough women, people of color, and LGBT represented in TV and film. And yet when we get them, they are often the first to be offered as sacrificial lambs on the altar of drama.

They don't have to be. It wasn't necessary to shoot Lexa in front of her lover in The 100, even though the actress was exiting off the show for career reasons. It wasn't necessary to kill Abby on Sleepy Hollow, which was really a dick move on the part of the showrunners anyway. It's not necessary to kill Iris (seriously, how many people does Barry have to lose to prove he has the heart of a hero? He had both parents killed right in front of him, and he is still good and pure).

Mon-El will likely be back at some point, if only for a cameo, and if only because he's a charming white guy. But if Iris West had been killed, I would probably have abandoned The Flash, because she's one of the only women of color in current superhero visual media. And if my friend is right and Arrow unexpectedly kills off Felicity, then yeah, I'm done with you. Sorry, but fridging Felicity would be one brooding bridge too far, Arrow. I'm still not over the way you treated Katie Cassidy and her Black Canary.

Hello? Yes, I'd like to report a possible fridging in progress. Please send help right away!

There are so many ways for writers to create drama and develop characters, and yet so many writers fall into the trap of taking the easy way out. I am calling out to the writers of shows across all genres on TV and in the movies: think of another way. Don't kill women and gay characters just to create pain. Creating pain is easy. Providing traditionally marginalized people with on-screen representations they can admire and look up to and not watch die? Apparently not easy, even in 2017.

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 #204

For today's musical hit, we have Hellsongs and a cover of Iron Maiden's "The Evil That Men Do"

Today's critical rolls: Did you watch the season finale of Supergirl last night? What did you think?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Critical Hits & Misses #203

For today's musical hit, we have Katy Perry's "Swish Swish" performance on Saturday Night Live just this past weekend.

Today's critical rolls: If you were a stay-at-home gamer parent, what kind of games would you be playing while baby naps?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Saturday Night Live S42, E21- Dwayne Johnson, Katy Perry: A Salute To Bobby Moynihan And Vanessa Bayer

The time has finally come for this season to end. With it, we have seen many changes and milestones in the show. Firstly, Saturday Night Live began airing live across the coasts, finally letting everyone see the show as it's happening, instead of watching it the next day or on a tape delay. Next, Scarlett Johansson, Melissa McCarthy, and Dwayne Johnson have been inducted into the Five-Timers' Club, adding more credence to their hosting skills and comedic talent. Alec Baldwin also hosted the show for a record-demolishing seventeenth time, as well as being hired for a series of guest appearances as Donald Trump. Note that he was not hired for the task last season, but made a series of cameos. Larry David, on the other hand, was hired to play Bernie Sanders. 

Due in part to Baldwin's casting and the show's ever-evolving satire to adapt to the uncertain new political times, the show has been earning its highest ratings in years, especially in the Baldwin and McCarthy-hosted episodes. Finally, the cast of comedians will change again, but not as dramatically as in past seasons. Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer will leave the show. Fun fact, Vanessa is/was the longest-serving female cast member on the show. A reason was not officially given for her departure. Bobby, on the other hand, is leaving to star in the recently-order CBS sitcom, Me, Myself, And I as a series regular. On a personal note, this does sadden me, because almost every cast member from the period where I officially started watching the show is no longer a part of it, with only Kenan Thompson remaining. 

On the other hand, I should think positively. Many cast members have returned to host in the past, including recently-departed ones, such as Andy Samberg and Bill Hader. I wish Vanessa and Bobby all the best and hope that they have successful post-SNL careers. And, hey, don't forget to stop by Studio 8H for a visit. As shown in this week's promos, Dwayne Johnson gives piggyback rides. Here's a little BTS video, in case you want to know precisely how they filmed that.

Cold Opening: Back in the first post-election episode, SNL commemorated the shocking events of the election by having Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton sadly play the piano and sing Leonard Cohen's "Hallejulah", both as a tribute to him and as a message to the American people. In a brilliant act of poetic justice and self-parody, the final cold opening of the season has almost the entire Trump campaign, including Scarlett Johansson making a cameo as Ivanka Trump, mangling a parody of the song. It works as a hopeful declaration that this week's latest scandals will get Trump impeached, as well as a farewell to Trump's impression.

Monologue: Hanks/Johnson 2020! I'm kidding, but in this crazy world of completely unqualified people somehow becoming president, it seems like anything is possible. Why not have that guy from Moana and David S. Pumpkins run for office? From the Five-Timers' Club (with a jacket presented by Alec Baldwin) to the White House, and beyond!

Cartier Ad: Ah, fidget spinners. Is there anything you can't be misused for? In this case, a commercial parody shows the devices being appropriated and covered with diamonds for the purpose of distracting the main character's bad date. This has Vanessa at her very best, and I'm really going to miss her.

WWE Promo Shoot 2: I remember this from the last time Dwayne hosted. It's a simple excuse to fling a lot of jokes at the viewer. Dwayne's character will be incredibly mean during the promotions, and Bobby's character is pitied by all. I know next to nothing about Wrestlemania, but I really don't need to know a lot to enjoy the sketch. The contrast between their personas is good enough, especially when Dwayne's insults begin going into an incredibly elaborate backstory.

Rap Song: I love it when pretty much the full cast appears in a group during the sketch. Once again, this was pretty much just an excuse for a couple of jokes, but it worked. The weird names, my favorite being Li'l Nitwit, and increasingly crowded area worked to enhance the joke.

Scorpio: Dwayne's played Superman in the past, now it's time for him to play an original superhero on the show. Keeping up with the long tradition of applying realistic consequences to decidedly unrealistic scenarios, this sketch takes on the implausibility of superheroes managing to create remarkably efficient costumes overnight. Of course, Scorpio already happened to be a pro at sewing, getting superpowers was just a handy bonus.

Gemma w/ Dwayne Johnson 2:  And so Gemma makes her second appearance of the season. She's not my favorite of Cecily's characters, but the sketch still managed to be serviceable. I appreciated the set design, especially the creepy dinosaur head. Additionally, Dwayne's snide comments did bring a few chuckles from me, despite their cruelty.

Zentrax: "Zentrax" is a medicine used by Dwayne Johnson's character for erectile dysfunction. Unfortunately, a doctor confirms that the product mostly contains the ingredients for meth, and isn't actually a licensed medical drug. I love weird humor, and the list of symptoms for the illegal substance definitely gets progressively weirder, definitely making the alleged success not worth it and outright negating it at times. My favorite moment was when Dwayne randomly blurted out, "Hail Satan." Careful, that'll hurt your 2020 campaign.

Katy Perry Musical Performance #1- "Swish Swish": I guess I liked it, but the background noises got really distracting. It sounded like someone kept shouting over and over.

Weekend Update: For the second time in a row, we get Dawn Lazarus, the official Weekend Update meteorologist. This pretty much shows that it's time for the SNL "Best Of" DVDs to return. I can think of plenty of sketches that would work for Vanessa and Bobby. Speaking of Bobby, he also had a special last appearance of one of his famous Update characters- Drunk Uncle! Personally, I would have preferred Anthony Crispino, but the nature of Drunk Uncle does provide more opportunities for satirizing Trump and his supporters. Although, I could contend that Anthony's secondhand reporting makes a great case for the existence of fake news.

RKO Movie Set: What's the best way to get the cast members of SNL to break character? The sound of flatulence, at least in this case. It's silly, but ever so fun to see Vanessa resist the urge to start laughing as the people in charge of the sound effects play the most ridiculous effects possible. Unleash your inner child and laugh!

World's Most Evil Invention: Wow...At first, I thought this was simply a sketch about select cast members getting to ham it up as mad scientists. I was completely wrong. It actually takes a disturbing twist when Roy (Dwayne Johnson) reveals that he built a child-molesting robot. I didn't expect the writers to go there. I thought they would just say something along the lines of building a robot to help Trump get into the White House. I honestly don't know how I feel about the sketch, so I'm just going to provide a link and let you talk about it in the comments.

Katy Perry Musical Performance #2- "Bon Appétit": Okay, apparently, this song was about equating food with sexual relations. I just find that kind of thing creepy.

Wingman: I didn't like this sketch as much as the other ones, but the creepy expression on Bobby's face amused me.

Senior Video: The short graduation skit perfectly captured awkward school performances, especially with the dated pop culture references. Although I believe it was too short, it was still packed with a lot of good jokes, such as Dwayne's character's awkward attempts at bantering with the graduates and Leslie Jones's reaction to having her meatloaf insulted. It's not the best use of having graduation sketches as a metaphor for cast members leaving the show, but it was sweet.

Final Thoughts: While not as laugh-out-loud as the last season finale, I was left feeling satisfied at the end of the episode. In sketch terms, it was mixed, taking on topics like superhero costume design and disturbingly conversations about the true nature of evil. (Okay, sorry, last time I'll mention the robot sketch,) In terms of the cast changes, I've said my piece on the subject and I can't think of anything else. Politically, the season has done very well and I'm excited to see what will arrive next fall. See you, then.

Update: According to various reports, it was also Sasheer Zamata's final episode of the show. I did not know this, and I wish her the best in her post-SNL comedy career.

Saturday Night Live airs on NBC at 11:30 pm. It's now live in every time zone.

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

Critical Hits & Misses #202

There are many great video games out there, especially this year, but often they require an investment of time - something that’s becoming a precious commodity. Alec Meer of Rock Paper Shotgun provides a list of 23 games that either due to their actual length or their design provide neat, bite-sized experiences.

An Anonymouse artist has been creating miniature restaurants for mice in Sweden.  It's so mice to see this kind of street art!

For today's musical hit, "Friday I'm In Love" by The Cure!

Today's critical rolls: What's your favourite fantasy world?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Critical Hits & Misses #201

Remember that ill-conceived Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad? Bitch Media takes a look at what it's actually trying to sell: Black Cool.

Pip Warr of Rock Paper Shotgun chats with Johnnemann Nordhagen of Dim Bulb Games about his upcoming video game, Where Water Tastes Like Wine, and its many inspirations: stories that form the idea of America. (Dominik)

For today's musical hit, Gorillaz's "Let Me Out"!

Today's critical rolls:What was your first comic book?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Kona: Les Pics Jumeaux

If you’re a homesick Canadian like me, Kona is a game for you. Sure, it’s set in 1970 northern Quebec, and full disclosure, I’m from Newfoundland. But it still felt familiar enough, and the winter landscape harsh enough, that I found myself wistfully wishing I lived in a frozen wasteland and my house had a wooden stove.

Then again, I get that same feeling from playing Skyrim.

In Kona, you play a private investigator named Carl who, on October 5, 1970,  is called up to a small logging community, where controversial white anglophone Hamilton is experiencing vandalism and hostility from the Cree and the townsfolk. Upon arrival, Carl is involved in a car accident and wakes up to find the town swallowed in a snowstorm, and Hamilton is dead.

Kona is advertised partly as a survival game, but it isn’t one of those early access survival games on Steam where you need to babysit your meters constantly. No, there’s only three to manage: your health, your body heat and your mood. Admittedly, Kona makes this a bit too easy for the player. I only managed to die once towards the end of the game, when I sort of got lost and ran into a river. In my defense, a wolf popped out on the road and scared me. Most of the gameplay is fairly easy. Only now and then when looking for a specific object does it feel like a pixel hunt. The constant loading however makes the game feel like it’s chugging along like Carl’s old truck, and once or twice the game crashed completely on me. My biggest gripe is that the game is extremely light on combat for most of the game, but then literally throws you to the wolves at the end.

As events unfold it’s clear that this is more than just a simple whodunit. Several people have motive, but almost all of the townsfolk are missing. There’s an element of Gone Home here and other walking simulators as Carl rummages through the houses and objects left behind. In doing so, we piece together what happened and build our cast of suspects. It is clear early on that there is also something supernatural in the air; perhaps our assailant was not even human, and the storm’s timing is not a coincidence.

And timing in this game is everything. If you aren’t familiar with Canadian history, October 5, 1970 was the first day of the October Crisis, which triggered for the first time the use of the War Measures Act during peacetime. Carl has no way of knowing all this is going on, but remembering the FLQ and the subsequent crackdown is important to understanding some of the characters’ motivations. I didn’t connect the date until after I had finished, and it made the significance of the ending far more rewarding.

That said, I still have issues with the ending. Much of the game is spent preparing for a journey on a skidoo, and gathering the supplies for this journey. The goal is to get to Hamilton’s house, far north of the town. Yet that journey is abruptly ended and you are rushed into the conclusion. You are told whodunit and what their motivation was. It doesn’t even seem relevant to the clues you’ve picked up; I realized after finishing that I forgot to check out a clue that I had trouble accessing, only to realize that it did indeed reveal a little tidbit that I missed.  But the ending revealed it anyway, so it felt like it didn't matter. It was frustrating to feel that  I had really nothing to do with the resolution of the mystery. I hadn’t solved it, the narrator did.

The motivation of the killer also felt partially weak. I need to discuss a spoiler, so turn back now if you’d like to be completely surprised with the plot.  I'm not saying whodunit, just talking about the supernatural element.

Below there be spoilers!

The murderer had invoked a Wendigo, a creature not seen in centuries given that invoking the creature is incredibly taboo among the Cree. While something terrible triggered the murder, after all the hardships the Cree and other First Nations had endured since, it made little sense to me why the murderer would go that far, especially after Hamilton was dead. It felt that the writers had an intriguing whodunit set up, but really wanted to incorporate the Wendigo myth somehow so it got tacked on haphazardly.

Despite the ending, and the quirks of the gameplay, I did enjoy my time with Kona. If you’re a fan of mystery games, this one is worth checking out. Now excuse me while I put a pot of coffee on the stove and listen to Canadian folk music for a while.

Megan “Spooky” Crittenden is a secluded writer who occasionally ventures from her home to give aid to traveling adventurers.