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TV Round-Up: The Magicians Season One

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For some reason, I missed season one of The Magicians when it aired on SyFy.

OK, I didn’t really miss it so much as tune into the first two episodes, set a season-pass and then had it stack up on the DVR.  And then I promptly deleted all the episodes halfway through the season because there are only so many hours in the day.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when the show showed up on Netflix and I decided to give it another try.

Boy, I’m glad I did.

Based on a trilogy of novels by Lev Grossman, The Magicians follows a group of friends who are studying to become magicians at Brakebill’s School for Magic.   The series is described as “Harry Potter for adults,” but I think that’s doing a great disservice to both series.  The Magicians owes more a debt to the C.S. Lewis Narnia series than it does to Harry Potter, if only because our main character, Quinten Coldwater grew up reading a series of Narnia-like books and has always dreamed of visiting the magical land described there.

Like a lot of shows today, the show has an arc and a seasonal big-bad.  In this case, it’s a threat called the Beast.  A six-fingered magician, the Beast shows up in episode one and is a looming threat over the entire season, bringing our team together to try and stop them in order to prevent their own deaths.

The series unfolds at Brakebill’s with Quinten and his friends studying magic and trying to up their game to take on the Beast.  Meanwhile, Quinten’s life-long friend Julia fails the entrance exam to Brakebill’s and is sent back to the real world.  Unfortunately, the memory wipe used on her doesn’t work and she spends much of season one trying to reconnect with magic and get back into the world that Quinten is exploring.

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The Flash: Revenge of the Rogues

Heat_Wave_and_Captain_Cold_fight_The_FlashAfter “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” my expectations meter for The Flash was extremely high.  So much so that I fully expected whatever episode led things off after a six week hiatus to disappoint me simply because I’d had so long to look forward to it.

So, imagine my surprise when mid-way through “Revenge of the Rogues” I found myself feeling like the show hadn’t missed a beat.    Yes, this isn’t the same type of level of mythology episode that we got with “Yellow Suit,” but it’s an episode that is just as important to the mythology of the series and the DC television universe.    In order for The Flash to work, there are going to have to be some recurring bad guys and “Revenge of the Rogues” was a nice step in establishing two recurring villains for Barry and company to face off against as the show runs its course.

Now, I wasn’t a huge Prison Break fan (I think I stopped after season one) so seeing Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell sharing screen time again wasn’t as much a hook for me as it may have been for some.  What was the hook was watching how these two played off each other, with Miller chewing every bit of scenery that he could at Captain Cold and Purcell’s work as Heat Wave.   One of many great scenes was the torching of the priceless painting so that our two villains could go after the Flash and take him out once and for all.   It’s at that point that these two went from thorns in the Flash’s side to out and out super villains (for lack of a better term).   Continue reading

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The Flash: Going Rogue

goingrogueThere were moments of “Going Rogue” that reminded me of the first season of Lois and Clark.   This puts The Flash in good company since I’ve got a lot of affection for the first season of Lois and Clark.

Opening with Barry testing his abilities by dashing between three games felt like a montage from those early episodes of Lois and Clark, when Clark would do accomplish ordinary tasks in extraordinary times and ways using his powers.   The scene of the three games and pushing Barry’s limits both physically and mentally worked very well in the episode and it also underscored the theme of the episode — that being the Flash is more than just about zipping around from place to place quickly.  It’s about being part of a team.

Barry will need to remember that later in the episode when it turns out the latest super villain he’s facing isn’t one of the storm’s creation but instead one created by a member of his own team.  In the early days before Cisco knew if Barry would be a force for good or evil, Cisco created a freeze ray to thwart Barry.   Now said weapon has been stolen from Star Labs and put into the hands of a criminal who, at first, wants nothing more than to steal a very large diamond.   It was interesting to see Leonard Snart start as an average, run of the mill criminal who soon gets greater aspirations when he realizes the true power he wields.

Of course, it was hard to separate out previous “freeze ray” comic book tv show plots from what was unfolding here.  I kept expecting the diamond to somehow be a component of the freeze gun or a larger freeze gun that Captain Cold decides to experiment with.   Not that it couldn’t still happen, of course.  It’s also hard not to be reminded of the superlative Batman: The Animated Series episode, “Heart of Ice” featuring Mr. Freeze — especially since it feels like the cold ray looks and feels like something from that animated project brought into the live action world of The Flash. Continue reading

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The Flash: Things You Can’t Outrun

thingyoucantoutrunThe first two installments of The Flash were focused on establishing Barry and his newly found super powers.   With the third episode, the series expands the focus a bit and begins to give us some development of the other characters who are part of the Flash’s crusade against meta-humans.

In this case, we get a bit of expansion of Caitlin’s character, including a well done use of flashbacks to the night that everything went wrong at Star Labs.   As displeased as I was last week with the flashbacks, feeling them to be the weakest part of another wise solid outing of the show, this week I felt like the flashbacks were better connected to the character and storyline.  I also like the concept that the flashbacks don’t necessarily have to center on Barry’s past each week, but can instead be used like the ones on Lost were — to give us some details and insights into the character.

In this case, it’s Caitlin and her fiance Ronnie, who wasn’t supposed to be at the start-up of the particle accelerator the night it went up.  An engineer she met working on the project, Ronnie throws himself into the fray when things start to go sideways and ends up apparently getting killed in the process.  I say apparently here because given what we’ve seen about Wells and his ulterior agenda (more on that later) and that we never see a body for Ronnie,  I fully expect him to be back at some point, quite possibly as the biggest meta-human the Flash has faced up to that point.  In fact, I can fully see him returning for the mid-season or possibly season-ending cliffhanger to the show.  Continue reading

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TV Thoughts: The Flash, “Pilot”

theflashMarvel may be crushing it at the movie theaters these days, but when it comes to super heroes on TV, DC is more than holding its own.*

* If you count cartoon franchises, DC wins by a mile. The best Marvel animated series of the past decade was cancelled after two seasons (that series being The Spectacular Spider-Man).

As much as I liked the post-Captain America 2 run of Agents of SHIELD last year, I have to admit it had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get there. If you’re a fan who tuned out, I suggest you check out the last two DVDs from the set, catch-up and come back in. And while SHIELD came into its own late last year, it was Arrow that consistently delivered the best live-action comic book stories last season.

One of the many threads from Arrow last year was the set-up for a potential spin-off centering on The Flash. Now, I was a fan of the late 80’s CBS version, mainly because we got a preview of Mark Hammill’s genius work to come as the definitive Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. But I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I watched the show, so my memory could be cheating a bit.

Of the new fall shows, I’d have to say it was The Flash I was most looking forward to. So much so that I passed on the chance to obtain a copy of the pilot when it leaked on-line earlier this summer and instead made myself wait to see it actually unfold on its premiere date. One reason is that I didn’t want to have to wait two months for the next installment if the show was good and the other was I wanted to enjoy the show in all its HD glory.

So, I’m a bit behind some of my fellow geeks out there when it comes to enjoying this pilot. But I’m glad that I waited to see it because it gave me something to look forward to during the fall premiere season.

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TV Thoughts: The Animated Crossover

2013-07-19-family_guy_simpsons-e1374238709146The long-anticipated animated crossover of Family Guy and The Simpsons finally happened last night and coming away from the hour-long extravaganza, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by the whole thing.

Part of that could that it wasn’t necessarily a true hybrid of both animated series so much as it was an episode of Family Guy that featured characters from The Simpsons as guest stars.   Apparently the writers for The Simpsons gave their blessing to the Family Guy creative team to write the episode, but didn’t necessarily have much more input into the final product.

I have a feeling whether or not you enjoyed the episode depends a lot on how you feel about Family Guy and the Seth MacFarlane animated empire.  I’ll admit I lost interest in Family Guy right after it was resurrected from cancellation and haven’t dropped back in much since (the Star Wars parody episodes being the exception and even those didn’t really click for me).   I felt like the ratio of hits to misses in the joke department was growing too far into the misses side and that even jokes that hit their target tended to overstay their welcome.

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Doctor Who: The Caretaker

caretakerWhen I saw the preview for “The Caretaker,” my first thought was, “That looks an awful lot like ‘School Reunion.  Watching the episode, that feeling didn’t necessarily go away.  And that may be part of the point.

Each episode this season has seemed echoed a previous installment from the first seven or so seasons of modern Doctor Who.  It’s almost as if Steven Moffat want to show us what the new Doctor is like (and attempt to answer the question of whether or not he’s a good man) by putting the character into situations similar to those we’ve previously seen.  Yes, this time around he’s masquerading as the caretaker of a school instead of a teacher, but the premise of battling an alien menace in the familiar surroundings of a school is similar enough.

But where “School Reunion” was about the conflict between the current companion and the previous companion, this story centered on the tug of war taking place in Clara’s life as she tries to keep the two men in her life unaware of each’s other presence.   The interesting thing is that no matter how hard Clara tries to lead this double life (eating two dinners,  arriving in the cab soaking wet with seaweed in her hair), she isn’t necessarily hiding anything from either party involved.   In both cases, she’s making Danny and the Doctor more suspicious about what’s going on and that much more eager to solve the mystery.  Continue reading

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