Agents of SHIELD In The High Castle

Agents of SHIELD has been on fire this fourth season, which I shall SPOIL for you. One of its strengths has been splitting its narrative into discrete yet interlocking thirds to keep the momentum wound tight. I’ve complained that the show feels like the MCU’s redheaded stepchild, but ironically this season may be its strongest for having the least direct interconnectivity with Marvel’s movies. The series has built itself up enough that it can now stand on its own.

Remember when Captain America: The Winter Soldier excitingly set-up HYDRA as a major force of modern day villainy? Then how disappointing, albeit believable, it was that the Avengers flattened them out like tortillas under a steamroller in the prologue to Avengers: Age of Ultron? Then recall how HYDRA’s leftovers were somehow even more pathetic in the third season of Agents of SHIELD? Well the Framework’s VR simulation has HYDRA back to being a formidable foe. Not only is this a clever way to reintroduce HYDRA without rolling back the MCU’s stance that it’s been utterly destroyed for real this time, having them in charge feels eerily topical.  The HYDRA propaganda posters are a nice touch.  I love how the start this arc was named “What If…?” just like the comic series. This is the closest the MCU has come to doing an alternate reality since they’re not ready to dip their toes into an official multiverse like The Flash. It had plenty of callbacks to past seasons including a Bill Paxton tribute. Quit teasing us about Griffin!

Remember when I asked them not to make AIDA evil or seduce Fitz? Well the writers did both! Thankfully it’s executed much more deftly than I’d feared. Then this LMD 3-D prints herself a real human body to acquire free will & unsimulated sensations. She wisely gave herself all the inhuman powers because not only is she Madame HYDRA (unlike AIDA, it’s not actually an acronym), she’s also Super-Adaptoid! After being repressed all season, Mallory Jansen let out all the emotions like a fire hydrant! She honestly deserves an Emmy for doing the most acting!

AIDA as Ophelia as Madame Hydra may be the show’s first costumed supervillain. (That’s kind of sad, albeit less so than giving that honor to Deathlok.) Just like Dr. Strange’s training outfit, her shirt has weird elbow gaps before the cuffs. She even wears a cape in one scene like Veronica Lodge! While far superior to Polaris’s hair in the generic The Gifted, it’s too bad they didn’t dye her hair completely green like Fire Green Fury on Powerless. (Please get Natalie Morales to reprise that role on a CW show!) Sadly the color grading makes her outfit look practically gray most of the time. Of course she’s also not really Viper as Madame Hydra, but she’s closer than The Wolverine’s version. Whatever her name is, she’s one of the most compelling foes in the MCU.

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Remember, droid isn’t really gender neutral because it’s short for android. Male shouldn’t always be the linguistic default.

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There’s Too Much TV!

Remember when I complained about there being too much TV on Tuesdays? Now Wednesday is vying to top it with (Green) Arrow, The 100, The Magicians, The Expanse, & Legion. Why is it always feast or famine with quality genre shows? And why can’t they spread themselves out on different days better? I haven’t even gotten around to binging Luke Cage, Stranger Things, The OA (strangely not about the Green Lantern Corps homeworld), or A Series of Unfortunate Events yet! Have an early blog this week so I can focus on watching more TV instead of writing my next novel!

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“Two winter finales in one season? This is madness!”   “Madness? THIS IS GOTHAM!!!”

Gotham’s second winter finale of the season, “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,” was so awesome it literally punched a dude’s face off!   (Jerome should get the Dollmaker to fix that afore he gets kicked into a vat of chemicals.) Why was the carnival the only place with electricity during the blackout? I don’t care because I finally saw someone be devoured by piranhas in a dunk tank! Bruce goading Jerome to shoot staples into his arm to use as (highly improbable) lock-picks then pretending to be pained so he wouldn’t catch on was the most Batman thing he’s done since he tricked Silver St. Cloud into confessing. (He loses points for neither hiding the Court of Owls’ statue in the BatCave two episodes ago nor splurging for decent security despite stately Wayne Manor being attacked like six times already.)

Edward “I don’t believe in no ghosts!”Nygma’s getting a legitimutant Riddler costume! Will Query & Echo debut? Might as well have master Bruce suit up as Batboy too. How many episodes until Hugo Strange un-kills Oswald? If only the Court of Owls could replace Gordon with a clone that’s not an insufferable prat…

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It’s Mid-Season Already?

Last week I reviewed the entire four-part three-part “Invasion!” crossover on the CW. You should go check that out since I went to the trouble of making five non-memetic pictures for it. Its sneakiest Easter Egg is the Hall of Justice hangar existing to construct the Justice League’s Watchtower satellite headquarters! Stagg Industries is a partner on the project, but nobody wants to avenge its CEO’s timeline-corrupting murder.

This week, I start talking about the genre shows going into hibernation. Didn’t the fall season just start two months ago? It doesn’t feel like any have aired a half season’s worth of episodes to warrant going on mid-season hiatuses yet. One-third season finales sounds more accurate. That means I’ll have to start blogging about books again soon.


So The Flash‘s Bayformers Megatron Savitar is the first metahuman with a grudge against Barry for trapping him into the Speed Force in the future (distinct from Barry throwing the Philosopher’s Stone into the Speed Force in the present)? Or he may be a resurrected Zoom since he’s familiar with the STAR Labs gang. Maybe they’ll tack Max Mercury’s name onto Savitar’s true identity to double down on divinity? It still doesn’t explain where he got all those human cultists from or how they enhance the narrative. I don’t buy that Savitar the stabby speedster is going to kill Iris, especially after all the heat (Green) Arrow took for killing both its Black Canaries.

Everybody was on the money predicting Dr. Julian Albert, who apparently got the same mail order archaeology degree as Dr. June Moon, was Dr. Alchemy before the season even began. Never trust anyone with two first names! Julian made some salient points about how Barry Allen sucks, so I’m glad they didn’t undercut them by making Julian intentionally evil. He’s more like Savitar’s ventriloquist dummy, which makes all those times Dr. Alchemy talked about how awesome Savitar is narcissistic. I dig Dr. Alchemy’s steampunk plague doctor mask. Unlike his comic book counterpart, Dr. Alchemy hasn’t actually done any alchemy unless you consider giving away metahuman powers an update on alchemy as a metaphor for self-actualization. I now ship Caitlin (who really needs psychiatric help for that dissociative Killer Frost identity she’s been manifesting) with Julian so she can get the hat trick for doomed boyfriends.

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Day Of The Jackal Lantern!

Guess what I made this year for pumpkin carving?

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It’s a jackal lantern! (Curse your spoiler, you dumb headline!) Get it? Sometimes puns are sight gags too! I was considering giving it a Wedjat Eye to decrease the resemblance to an aardvark until I noticed Anubis isn’t usually depicted with one. Learning that real jackals don’t look as classy as ancient Egyptians led me to believe may be the biggest disappointment of my life since I discovered pumpkin pie doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as I imagined pumpkins ought to taste. (Reality never meets my great expectations!) My cat is too scaredy to eat in the same room as the Jack-o-lantern. She was fine with my Ewok-o-lantern, but she draws a line in the litter at canines.

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Is Gotham Influenced By Ensnugglement?

Scroll past the Gotham & Agents of SHIELD spoiler reviews to get to what you really came to this blog for: cat anecdotes!

It’s only episode two of Gotham’s third season, so nobody important died. The Court of Owls didn’t kill Bruce because he needs to grow to be Batman & made him promise to quit hassling them until then. Well that plot thread sure wrapped itself up in a timely & economical manner! Penguin doesn’t kill Fish Mooney because she remembers she can make people do idiotic things even without superpowers. She doesn’t kill him because she’s proud she turned him into viewers’ favorite character. Hugo Strange survives because he’s awesome. Harvey Bullock is spared because he’s the least terrible of the GCPD. Sadly this also means Gordon survives to incite poor impulse control in Vicky Vale’s aunt.

Apparently the mysterious Monster (Wo)Man dressed like a gas mask dominatrix is named Nancy & is played by Bianca Rutigliano. Nobody cared who Nancy was until she put on the mask! (The tie is classy too.) Surely she had to be important since they went to the trouble of not dressing her like a hobo? I don’t know what her superpowers were aside from fashion, because she & speedster Sid (DO YOU GET IT?) get killed pretty effortlessly by Penguin’s unruly xenophobic mob (not to be confused with Penguin’s organized crime mob) & then immolated. So much for developing intriguing new side characters! That’ll teach them to be cannon fodder instead of canon characters! Er, canon characters that aren’t Sal Maroni or Sarah Essen.

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Nancy didn’t receive any superpowers. She just wanted to return Hugo Strange’s Hannibal Lecter muzzle before late fees accrued.

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Ghost Rider & Gotham Get TV Revved Up

As threatened last installment, let’s kick off the 2016 Fall TV season with spoilery reviews of Agents of SHIELD & Gotham nobody demanded!

Agents of SHIELD’s fourth season opened much stronger than the last, in no small part due to the absence of Ward & Lincoln. Nothing in its content so far indicates that it was necessary to move an hour later, as parts of last season were grislier & more risque. Not that it needs to be edgier, so long as it doesn’t backslide into season one’s syndicated 90’s vibe.

As it turns out, ABC was right that Ghost Rider was the only selling point this season needed. The Ghost Rider transformation effect was amazing! Where have they been hiding this CGI? It was The F-Lash worthy! SHIELD’s effects generally look embarrassing in comparison to its cinematic siblings’, so this was a very welcome surprise. Featuring Marvel characters that don’t have movies lined up is exactly what this show needs to do more often! He’s already a better vigilante than the Punisher as he has a nifty jacket & his menacing key-spinning is on point. He doesn’t preclude Danny “best Ghost Rider” Ketch from being in the MCU either!

Will Ghost Driver Rider drag race Lola? I’m guessing not, as flying cars have been seriously underused in the MCU despite being a prominent part of SHIELD lore. They only gave us  three very brief & cheesey scenes of Lola being flown in season one. I’m still mad that Nick Fury didn’t get to fly his unchic SUV in The Winter Soldier. If you won’t do anything cool with flying cars, maybe you shouldn’t have entrenched them in movie canon, Marvel?

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I’m overdue on saying Chloe Bennet as Quake is the most improved cast member. She’s come a long way from being the insufferably perfect hacker snowflake a whole spy squad instantly accepted back in season one. She & the writers make it seem like her going rogue is genuine character development instead of an obvious delaying tactic for getting the band back together. I dig Quake’s raccoon eyes, but her hair is still too long.

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Holy Metafiction On A Half-Shell!

Wingnut was one of my favorite action figures & a favorite character of the Archie comics. When the current TMNT toon started, I was dismayed to see that its Wingnut was apparently just a mutated Kirby O’Neil with a stumpy arm & huge cranium. The fact that his merchandise was officially labelled Kirby-Bat gave me some hope the real deal would show up. When they went into space for the first half of season four, I expected them to meet the real Wingnut & Screwloose. They didn’t, even though they could’ve tied the destruction of their homeworlds in with the Kraang, Triceratons, or Lord Dregg. I finally got my wish during “Bat In The Belfry”… sort of.

Both are conjured out of Michelangelo’s comic book via April’s Aeon Crystal as a clever way to explain why they’re dressed like Batman & Robin. (The Fantastic Four Food Groups is the best comic book nod in the episode.) This is a unique spin that still keeps them recognizable, unlike the Neutrinos or Antrax. They’re still extraterrestrials, albeit emphatically fictional ones. This allows for fun homages to Batman ’66 & Batman: The Brave & The Bold!  (I will always be delighted that the show has turned Turflytle from a one-shot gag into a running joke.) The Wingnut-a-rangs being live bats just like on the toy was cute. Bonus points for Monoculus & Skullface McGillin!

Although they were presented much better than the generic brainwashing aliens of their classic cartoon appearance, my main problem is that we don’t get to spend enough time with them. Secondly, Wingnut’s brown & black costume is too drab. If they weren’t going to do blue & grey like the toy, blue & purple like the comics (with Screwloose in green) would’ve looked better. His alternate suits in their lair would’ve also popped more. Thirdly, they don’t call anyone “plankton chip.”

Their crystal-crazed faces were wonderfully deranged. Was that heel turn a commentary on how trying to make fantasy too lifelike spoils it, much like Amazon’s The Tick Or was it referencing how TMNT developed a life of its own distinct from its parody roots? It was probably just further foreshadowing April going Dark Phoenix since she’s also ginger, but sometime I like overthinking stuff.

Sadly Wingnut & Screwloose are returned to the printed page before we get a chance to really know them beyond their archetypes. I wish they would’ve stuck around to join the Mighty Mutanimals. We’d just need Dreadmon, Man-Ray/Ray Fillet, & Jagwar to round out the classic team.

So I guess this version of Wingnut & Screwloose substitute for the Donatello Micro-Series story where April’s superintendent is Jack Kirby who makes Fourth World drawings come to life via the crystal on his pencil? That was adapted very well in the 2003 series. Did you know that Peter Laird retconned April to have been a drawing brought to life by that crystal in the last series he worked on? I missed the final two issues of that. TMNT comics are weird.

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