Titans S2Ep1, “Trigon”, Review by Case Wright (Dir. Carol Banker)


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Welcome back! This has been a hard year for me in terms of reviewing season two and three shows-

Sabrina 2- garbage

Stranger Things 3- Just so very sad.

And then there was Titans.  I was prepared for a sophomore slump like I had seen all year with my favorite shows and ….. it NEVER happened.  Season 2 Episode 1 was like a new pilot of my most beloved show.  It had family murder, a quasi Lucifer, and an introduction of Death Stroke, Bruce Wayne, a new Titans Headquarters, and a cure for male pattern baldness!

The episode picked up where it left off with Dick turned into an evil minion and the rest of the gang trying to help.  Hawk and Dove go to Jason Todd and they all descend upon the EVIL Farmhouse …. and are invited in or are they?  Trigon (Seamus Dever) is up to his old tricks of temptation, manipulation, and pagination – he’s really into orderly manuscripts; it can’t be all about world destruction.

The Titans fall one by one.  Jason Todd is manipulated to kill his “older brother” Dick, Starfire is tricked into killing Rachel, Hank gets Dawn hooked on smack… yes smack…horse…the dragon…the boy…the beast…H…or dope.  You even see the needle enter her arm and shoot it up.  I’m not sure whether this show or Breaking Bad is darker?  Maybe I need to watch something lighter like Disneyland being hit by a meteor or all the unicorns dying to Adiago For Strings.  But, man oh man it is enthralling!!!  I know that DCU is yet another subscription service, BUT it is worth every single penny to me! *Views expressed do not represent this blog, but are always correct. *

Once everyone is turned and Gar is nearly beaten to death by the now Evil Titans, Raven’s heart breaks allowing Trigon to fulfill his prophecy and start some earth destroying.  He reaches into his daughter’s chest, crushes her beating heart, turns it into a ruby, and puts the stone on her forehead….and I thought my childhood Thanksgivings were awkward…HIYOOO! Then, Trigon goes full-on Lucifer, which almost made this a Horrorthon post.

Gar wakes and breaks Raven free of the curse and she kills/banishes her father. EPIC… JUST EPIC! Anywho, once the dust settles, we get introduced to our new villain Death Stroke (who apparently hates Jason Todd; I don’t know why because he really grows on you) and Bruce Wayne.  This was a really good portrayal of an older aging Bruce- from father to Dick’s peer.  The episode ends with the Titans in San Francisco in their familiar HQ to the fans of the animated series.

This show succeeded in so many ways.  It’s deliciously 99% Cacao Dark.  It has great action, great dialogue, heart wrenching failure and redemption.  The performances, as always, were superb across the board.  I will say that Jason Todd (Curran Walters) should get a spinoff of the Red Hood.  He would be an amazing Anti-Hero and a clever take on a Batman like hero without ANY rules.  Ahem Greg….Ahem!  See you in a week!

Titans, S1 Ep7 & 8, Asylum, Donna Troy Review By Case Wright,


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The asylum episode really didn’t have a lot going on.  Rachel’s mother is in an asylum and they rescue her. Rachel thought her mom was dead. Nope, just held hostage at the Evil Well-funded Psyche unit?  Sidenote: this psyche unit looks better funded than anything we have goin on in Seattle and we have a terrible homelessness problem.

Maybe, The Evil Group could franchise or just run our city for a couple of years?  The Evil Group catches Dick and mind messes with him and he burns his Robin suit.  That’s about it.  Nothing great.   Basically, it was a filler episode.

Donna Troy on the other hand is a fun episode.  Donna Troy was Wonder Woman’s sidekick and we dig deeper into that history.  It’s a lot more fun and goes deep into the inevitable PTSD heroes would have after years of violence.

The show opens back in Toronto…I mean Chicago.  Rachel and her mom have bonded overnight.  Really?! You haven’t seen her in…your whole life AND thought she was dead and you’re besties?! Word?

Dick’s “quit” … well kinda.  He can’t figure out what to do with himself.  So, he and Starfire break up and he heads to…..Vancouver..I guess.  Anywho, Donna Troi AKA Wonder Girl AKA Darkstar AKA My Canadian Girlfriend…I swear! She hasn’t quit, but she is a photographer.  I really didn’t know that was a photographer was a thing anymore.  I figured that it was de-professionalized like journalism by the internet and the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Starfire and the rest of the group are traveling to Rachel’s mom’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  They get on a train and are nearly captured by the feds.

Dick is at Wonder Girl’s photography artshow and everything is normal.  Just kidding, she’s made a Faustian deal to get hard edged photos of warlords for a fee.  As you do.  She goes to meet some evil guys for a photo shoot, but Dick follows her and he sees the evil dudes and beats the crap out of them.  Donna is also quite the linguist and translates the pictures of an ancient language on Dick’s phone that will explain Rachel and her origin.  FUN!!!

She gets through to him that Dick not done with being a hero, but he is done with Robin.  Soon, he’ll be …. Nightwing!!!! Can’t wait!!!  Dick and Troi do some research on the texts and decide to head to the farmhouse.  Somehow they know the address and start heading on down.

Dick and Troi are still enroute and don’t think to give Rachel a ring.  At the farmhouse, Rachel does a mindmeld on Starfire.  BAD IDEA! She uncovers Starfire’s mission and identity to her.  Unfortunately for Rachel, Starfire’s mission is to kill Rachel and stop her from bringing about the gotterdammerung. Starfire wakes and starts choking Rachel!!!  SO EXCITING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titans, S1 Ep6, Jason Todd, Review By Case Wright, Dir (Carol Banker)


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This episode was a true Detective Comics story.  It had a eerie feel to it and I understand why- Carol Banker (Director) and Jason Hatem (Writer) are veterans of  The X-Files and Supernatural.  These shows are often grisly whodunnits and this episode fit that mold.

The direction and character development and dialogue are so confluent that it has an unsettling realism.  You watch Dick go through a metamorphosis of grief and brutality into something new- something he doesn’t even know yet.  The dialogue is quick and sharp slowly revealing the differences between Jason and Dick, building the tension between Dick’s uncertainty and Jason’s brutality.  The last shot of the detective story pulls back with Dick alone, staring at what Jason has wrought.  There are crippled police everywhere.  The cost of Dick saving his friend is the unleashing of this hurricane of cruelty wearing the costume that he once proudly wore.

This episode picks up right after the last one.  It’s uncertain why Jason Todd was there to help Dick.  It turns out that Dick and Jason are both Lo-Jacked with tracking devices because of Batman.  Batman discovered that someone is hunting down all of the members of the circus that Dick grew up with- essentially his family other than Bruce.  This person is the son of the man who killed Dick’s parents.  We learn that five years ago Dick got the revenge upon his parents’ killer. Although Dick didn’t do the fatal blow,  he purposefully stood back so the killer would die at another’s hands.

This whodunnit also serves as a Mid-Point Crisis and realization for Dick’s story arc.  He doesn’t want to be Robin, but he carries the suit across the country.  Jason Todd is the new Robin, but Jason, unlike Dick, is pure Robin.  Batman had a code of non-killing and certainly forbade beating up people because you could.  Jason Todd does not follow that; in fact, he likes to brutalize people for sport.  Jason Todd is rage and violence distilled to its darkest conclusion.  This is in line with the comics where Jason becomes the Red Hood and straight up murders criminals.  

As they work together in the episode to track down the killer, Dick realizes that he’s not Robin anymore, but he’s not on the sidelines either.  The Melting Man essentially kills Dick Grayson’s Robin persona because by forcing Dick to work along side Jason to stop him, it causes Dick to realize that he’s no one’s sidekick and that he isn’t a pure psychopath either.

Dick sees Jason’s thrill in beating up cops and crippling them.  Dick tries to explain to Jason that this embrace of darkness costs your soul, but Dick realizes soon that you can’t lose something that you never had.  Jason Todd is like the Joker – in Christopher Nolan’s words- The Joker is an absolute.  The Joker and Jason Todd are the Id of humanity- both absolutes; there is no reasoning with them.  They want and do and they do -without feeling.

Dick is likely to evolve into Nightwing, but more importantly we see in this show very careful layering and texture added over time for every character.  It really brings out the goose-flesh to see these people struggle with being heroes.  It’s so human and painful and more clear when you see a Jason Todd who  relishes embracing darkness and violence.

The Robins do save the day, but Dick is left changed permanently.  Like the funeral scene the story opened with, Dick Grayson’s Robin is dead.  Dick is unaware as to what he will become, but we know it will be born among the Titans. Without question, this is the BEST show on television.

 

Titans S1 Ep 5, Together, Dir (Meera Menon)


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Hello again! It’s been exactly one month since the last Titans installment.  I was busy reviewing the steaming piece of trash that is Stranger Things 3.  Now, I’m back and I have to start banking reviews for October!!! Horrorthor is just around the corner as is Titans Season 2 due out in September!!!

This episode was all about bringing the team together and learning how to fight as one.  Now, I know this doesn’t sound terribly exciting, BUT this episode was actually one of my favorites.

The biggest reason is that I love this episode is because of the Director Meera Menon. She really knows how to direct a fight scene- a virtuoso! Like horror, a great action story can be filmed terribly, making you wish you’d done an extra load of laundry or it can draw you in and make you feel like part of the action.  Meera is the latter.  I haven’t seen action sequences directed this well since Blade I.  I was bummed to find out that she didn’t direct any additional Titans episodes.  If Greg Berlanti is reading my reviews- AND HE SHOULD- Meera is a real talent and will elevate any and all of your properties! Get her now while she’s affordable!

The episode has the gang on the run.  They hole up in a motel and try to assess their individual abilities.  This leads to a fun quasi-montage.  It also leads to the final consummation of the sexual tension between Dick Grayson and  Starfire.  They really play the tension well.  These two have CHEMISTRY!

The Nuclear Family has got a brand new Dad and they are in hot pursuit of the Titans, which leads to one of the best fight sequences that I have ever seen….REALLY.  Just awesome! Meera- get in touch with Dwayne Johnson!

After the fight, Dick figures out where the evil headquarters are located using his detective skills.  This sends him to Toronto…I mean evil Headquarters.  Dick confronts King Evil Pants and gets beaten A LOT by his henchmen….Until Jason Todd shows up and saves him.  This introduces the most psychopathic anti-hero since The Comedian.  The next episode review will about a WHODUNNIT!

Super cool!

Titans, S1E3, Origins, Dir. Kevin Rodney Sullivan, No review ep 4


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This episode – Origins – digs deeper into Dick and how he evolved into Robin and how Dick, Koriand’r, and Rachel evolved into the Titans.  I don’t mention Beast Boy because he joins in the next episode and he is kinda lame.  Speaking of Beast Boy, I won’t review Episode 4- Doom Patrol.  It’s a backdoor pilot for the eponymous show that was reviewed on this site – check it out here.

The episode opens with my only critique for the season.  Rachel is captured, but doesn’t use her Goth powers to kill everyone.  Why not?  This was not explained.  It seems that somehow her powers were neutered, but I’m not sure how.  She ends up being driven around by the world’s creepiest suburban family.  This quick cuts to Koriand’r searching for Rachel and kicking serious ass kinda unnecessarily.  I mean these were cops and she just breaks one guy’s arm when he begs for mercy.  OUCH!  Koriand’r catches up to the “Nuclear Family” and sets the dad on fire and rescues Rachel.  Koriand’r sets more people on fire than the Romans did! Not too long after, she practically tears apart a wife beater at a diner!  WOW!   Koriand’r takes Rachel to a convent where she discovered Rachel spent the first few years of her life.  All the while, Dick is on the hunt for them both!

The B- Story is Dick Grayson’s youth and how he became Robin.  I wasn’t sure how I thought of this device, but it re-centered the story around Dick to keep the narrative clear: This show is Dick’s Story.  Young Dick Grayson is adopted by Bruce Wayne who doesn’t speak, but lurks around the house staring at Dick.  HMMMM.  Anywho, Dick starts breaking out of Wayne Manor using his acrobat and car stealing techniques.  He’s caught and brought into his social worker who is certain that she knows the way forward: reason with the boy.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t get it.  Dick isn’t running away; he’s hunting his parents’ killer to kill them.  This causes Bruce to take an interest in Dick and recruit him into becoming Robin.

If you look at Dick as someone with deep-seeded PTSD, (which is exactly what’s going on) Bruce and Dick’s actions are very logical. They have repressed rage and, unlike many of us, the means and ability to exact revenge on people who mirror the cause of their trauma.  Most of us just end up in therapy, but I admit that I envy these guys.  Yes, it’s easier on your family to go to the VA and work through your justified rage, but wouldn’t it also be fun to wear some sort of leather and beat the ever loving snot out of a bunch of wife beaters, drug dealers, and child molesters?! It’s be a lot more fun than therapy and far fewer group sessions where you get slightly better than mediocre ham sandwiches.

Dick, being a pretty good detective, catches up to them and Rachel loses it full-on Carrie style.  Dick Koriand’r and Rachel back to the convent and has a heart to heart with Rachel. He said something that stuck with me.  Rachel was going on about how no one can really help and Dick admits, Yes.  He thought Bruce could solve his problems by having him beat the snot out of people, but no one else can be responsible for your pain.  You have to channel it yourself into something constructive, but it never goes away because it did happen to you.

It turns out that the sisters decide to lock up Rachel in the basement for her own good while Dick and Koriad’r step out for a few.  This seems like an odd choice for the sisters.  It’s obvious that Rachel is still there and why would they think that Dick and Koriand’r would be okay with her being locked away in a basement?!  Kinda weird.  Other than a few flaws, the episode lays the framework for an expanding family.  I really do enjoy watching this group evolve into the Titans and they are really good at showing the subtle sparks that Koriand’r and Dick have for one another.  Once again, I’m impressed with how accurately and directly they deal with PTSD and how that would affect all superheroes.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, S2, Ep6, The Missionaries, Review by Case Wright


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This is the first time in a long time where I rooted for the “villains” to kill off every character.  It’s a hard thing to watch a show you love slowly fail.  It’s like a bad relationship that slouches on from inertia and the inconvenience of setting up a separate bank account.  This is how I feel about CAOS.  I was really hoping that this episode would be the last one, but….not so much.

I would normally describe the director’s technique, but it’s Alex Pillai again and…man it has all the subtlety of a Lifetime MOW.  Not to say that I don’t REALLY like a good guilty pleasure lifetime live tweet, BUT that’s a different animal.  Lifetime movies are supposed to be campy and over the top ridiculous, but CAOS is supposed to bridge comics and realism and instead it’s just giggle-inducing borefest.

The episode opens with Nick being tortured by a guy who looks like a Mormon missionary who is about to chop his hands off.  Oh well, Nick kinda got on my nerves; maybe they’ll have to write a soupy episode featuring Nick titled: Who needs the clap?  Ambrose is still locked up without a shirt doing pull-ups.  This show has more gratuitous beefcake than Arrow season 1 and that is saying A LOT!  I do give Chance Perdomo credit on his abs.  I’m developing my abs and it is a process.  Chance, tip of the hat to committing to the shred!

The “Missionaries”of the episode aren’t really missionaries per se, but they ARE gorgeous blonde angels named Jerathmiel and Mehitable (Spencer Treat Clark and Bayley Corman)! I guess it makes sense that angels would be pretty, but WHOA!  It turns out these angels are avenging angels armed with the latest in …..Ancient Weaponry… wait, what?!  Why?!  Really, why are they armed with crossbows?  Most states just require a driver’s license to purchase any gun you want; let alone what you can get on craigslist.  This just seemed unnecessarily antiquated and dumb like really dumb….really!  Crossbows are heavy, awkward, take a long time load, hard to aim, and are ridiculous.  Bleh.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable spent most of the episode blundering through town trying to kill all of the witches of Greendale.  Why bother?  We already learned in previous episodes that the teenagers are unvaccinated and catch the Chicken Pox.  Just send in Jenny MacArthy’s measles carrying minions into town and you’ll have the whole town on its knees in matter of hours!

Jerathmiel and Mehitable catch most of the witches and start purifying the town.  I guess this says a lot about how the show has degraded because I really rooted for the Angels.  I thought to myself…Self, maybe they could just go full-on Hamlet?!!!!

This main plot is interwoven with the more compelling love story between Wardwell and Adam.  He wants to take her to Tibet.  She is about to accept when the Devil finds out about their escape plan, so the Devil turns Adam in Wardwell’s diner.  REALLY.  It’s really sad, but sets up a great revenge arc for Wardwell that looks MUCH more interesting than the primary storyline.

Jerathmiel and Mehitable have all the witches cornered and even put a few arrow bolts into Sabrina, but the Devil resurrects Sabrina and gets the Angels to renounce God and envelopes the angels in flames.  Honestly, I thought this scene was just plain terrible.  The angels spent the whole episode being intrepid crusaders, but they were easily cowed by a floating Sabrina?!  Really?! It came across as contrived.  The angels were so brave for the entire episode and then… nope.  It was just awful in an awful way, not like Lifetime which is bad in an AWESOME way.

I’m not sure what the show should do or where it should go, but it needs artistic honesty because without it, the suspense withers away like a dried out orange.

 

Night Surf, Review By Case Wright


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Where do stories come from? Not important or interesting.  Why are some stories shot out like a cannonball from an artist’s brain in a matter of days like Kerouac’s “On The Road” and even written on a scroll; whereas, some stories take a decade or more of developing until they are born like Stephen King’s The Stand?  Very Important and Very Interesting!  I will not be discussing King’s opus The Stand, but rather how it evolved from Night Surf.

Night Surf was written for the University of Maine literary magazine in 1969 when King was twenty-two.   Night Surf introduces us to the plague that kills off mankind and how people can be pulled to darkness when no one is looking. The disease is even called “A6” just as it was called in The Stand, but The Stand didn’t get published until 1978.  Why did it take so long for The Stand to incubate and his other stories seem to shoot from him like they are on a sluice?

I see this dichotomy in my own writing.  For some stories, I’ll get pieces of dialogue and scenes in my head that kick around for years, but I don’t know how they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle with too many smooth edges.  I can’t speak for Stephen King, but for me the longer developing stories occur when I’m picking at something personal like an emotional wound that’s been puffed out by pus, but not yet ready to drain.  I guess I just want to hold onto the pain; maybe, King does too?

Night Surf takes place on the New England coastline when summer’s ending, but it’s not just the leaves dying on the trees; humanity is blowing out from a massive viral extinction event.  The disease is called A6- a superflu.  In The Stand, he refers to the virus also as Tube Neck and Captain Trips.  The world is not quite dead yet, but it’s getting there.  The story is narrated by Bernie who is spending humanity’s last days at a beach town.  At first, the group believes that they are immune from the disease and demonstrate their superior immunity with the most primitive act of all: Human Sacrifice.  A man who’s dying from the flu comes to their town and, instead of caring for him and helping him die, they burn him to death in a bonfire.

Why burn him?  They describe it almost like a sacrifice to the beach itself.  The act seemed to me to be more like a line in the stand between the dying world and themselves.  The mere mortals are simply cord wood and can be used for fuel.  Their perception as the kings of humanity is vindicated by their health because they are immune and the rest of humanity perished.  It harkens to the idea of the Puritans where the Select were touched by God and were guaranteed success in life and VIP treatment on the ethereal plane.  Of course, the Puritans would balk at using lesser people as a duraflame.

Soon after burning the flu victim alive, Bernie realizes that one of his comrades has A6 symptoms and will soon die, indicating all of them might expire soon.  The story forces us to look at what allows us to be moral.  Are we only good because society will punish us if we are bad?  It could be argued that they looked at the immolation as a last hurrah, but I think that is wrong because at the time in the story, they believed they were immune.  If their friend had developed symptoms before the unlucky traveler arrived, would they see him as their brother or would they have burned them both to adamantly declare their superiority?

The theme of people being seduced to darkness is throughout The Stand, but in this story, they don’t get the devil made me do it excuse; the group murdered because they could and felt like doing it.  After the immolation, we return to Bernie’s backstory, humanizing him even more.  It seems King is saying that this horrendous act was just another act in a number of countless acts that Bernie did from birth to his upcoming demise.  Maybe doing evil is just as common as getting the paper? I hope not, but as the great philosopher Bobby Dylan said, It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

This story is more relevant to me today than when I first read it years ago.  What makes it more difficult for me is that the people in the story are just so normal.  I hope none of my readers will ever have to do this, but I’ve looked right into the face of evil once and the man looked like he could have been a cousin.  When I remember the encounter, it still chills me to the bone.  I met a Bernie once; maybe, you have too, but you didn’t know it.