TV Review: Black Lightning (2018- )

Original Run: January 16th, 2018 – present
Developed by: Salim Akil
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Kurt Farquhar
Cast: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar

Akil Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 13 Episodes (so far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what I thought about Black Lightning over the first couple of episodes but as the first season rolled on, I grew to like it.

It’s a CW show, so it is guaranteed to come with a certain level of cheesiness. However, this isn’t bogged down by the cheesy nonsense like The FlashSupergirlLegends of Tomorrow and sometimes Arrow is.

While the show does have some romance and it focuses on a family dynamic, it doesn’t beat you over the head with love dovey sentiment, it feels genuine and the love shared between characters is more organic than what we’ve seen from the other CW superhero shows. That doesn’t mean that it won’t get cheesy, as it continues into the future.

I really like Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce a.k.a. Black Lightning. It’s like he was born for the role and he plays both the man and the hero, exceptionally well. I’m also a massive fan of Krondon’s Tobias Whale, as the character is fleshed out better than his comic book counterpart, who I always just saw as a poor man’s Kingpin.

The one person I absolutely love on this though is James Remar. He plays Black Lightning’s mentor and partner, even if there is a lot of tension that develops between the two. Ultimately, he is a part of the family and he is there to fight the good fight when the chips are down. I loved Remar when I was a kid because I liked him in The Warriors and then I went on to have a different appreciation for him when he played Dexter’s ghost dad on Dexter. Remar is one of those guys that is a clutch hitter but doesn’t always find himself on a good team. I think he’s found a nice roster spot on the Black Lightning team.

One thing that makes this story work so well, is that it feels smaller in scale. While Freeland is a city that’s come under siege due to powerful gangs, the world this is set in doesn’t feel as grandiose as the other CW superhero shows. It feels more like it all takes place in a smaller area, sort of closed off from anything beyond its borders, as the problems in Freeland are just too serious and real. This could totally fit in with the Arrowverse without needing to acknowledge it, which probably will happen in the future, as both Cress Williams and Arrow‘s Stephen Amell want to crossover. My two cents: I’d sneak Deathstroke onto the show to introduce the larger world. We don’t need aliens and shit.

It’s hard to tell where Black Lightning plans to go beyond season one but I hope that the producers build off of what was established in just the first 13 episodes and don’t sort of fall into the same traps when the other CW shows ran on beyond their rookie years.

Also, this did a good job of not being too political. It dealt with social issues well and didn’t beat you over the head with it like the comic book medium tends to do. Well, the big bad white villain in the show had to say, “Make America great again!” twice in the season finale but hopefully that’s it for the sociopolitical cringe.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: All the current DC Comics shows on the CW.

TV Review: Legends of Tomorrow (2016- )

Original Run: January 21st, 2016 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Phil Klemmer
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Caity Lotz, Franz Drameh, Ciara Renée, Falk Hentschel, Amy Pemberton, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Matt Letscher, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Nick Zano

Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 33 Episodes (so far), 42-45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

With the success of Arrow and The Flash, the CW had to put out another superhero show in that universe. Plus, those worlds were getting too big and they needed a place to ship off some of those characters. So why not make them into a team.

Add in time travel and we’ve essentially got a superhero version of Doctor Who. It also doesn’t hurt that they added a fan favorite actor from Doctor Who lore to lead this team through time and space.

The premise of the show is interesting but ultimately, we are left with the weakest of CW’s DC Comics television series. The show is enjoyable and it has some good moments but it all just feels like filler and the threat, as great as it is, just doesn’t seem that threatening overall.

Vandal Savage, who was introduced in a crossover event on The Flash and Arrow, is the main villain of the series. The problem with the show is that they either kill him or nearly kill him almost every episode but for some reason he keeps coming back or isn’t killed because the writers have to stretch him out over the whole twenty episode campaign. He just feels like a total pushover instead of the immortal evil bad ass he should be. And the characters’ motivation when they don’t finally just pull the trigger is laughable and some of the worst writing ever.

None of these people seem stable or even rational enough to pull off this very important mission. I also find it hard to believe that in all of space and time, this motley crew is the best that Rip Hunter could assemble for a mission that is sold as the most important mission in the entirety of this universe.

I enjoy Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter and I have always been a fan of Brandon Routh’s Atom and Caity Lotz’s version of the Canary. Even the Prison Break reunion of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Captain Cold and Heatwave is pretty enjoyable. Firestorm is okay and Hawkgirl is somewhat interesting but all in all, this crew just doesn’t hold it together as an ensemble.

It feels like a forced union, which it is in reality and in fiction, but there should still be more chemistry. It’s chemistry that has worked so well for The Flash and Arrow. That magic just isn’t recreated here. And maybe the writers, between three shows, are stretched too thin.

This isn’t a show that I plan to give up on. Depending upon what they do for the second season, this show could turn it around. I’d like to see more characters rotated in and out of this group as the show goes on. I think that would work at keeping it fresh. It may also solve the chemistry problem.

Some of these characters are great but after seeing them full-time, they may play better on a part-time basis.

TV Review: Supergirl (2015- )

Original Run: October 26th, 2015 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood, Calista Flockhart, Chris Wood, Floriana Lima

Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 42 Episodes (so far), 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

After the success of other DC shows like Arrow, The Flash and Gotham, CBS wanted to get into the mix. So, they gave us Supergirl.

I really wanted to like this show, in the same way I love The Flash and also really like Arrow. It seemed to have that lighthearted essence of The Flash but after seeing it, it is missing the soul.

Melissa Benoist is cute and entertaining and even though I care about her version of the character to a degree, I just don’t care about everything else that is happening around her. Also, she can go from pretty stellar acting in one scene to completely being off the mark in the next. Also, her narration is pretty awful and that is mainly due to her monotone delivery and strange annunciation.

The other characters on the show are pretty generic and don’t have much to do other than giving Supergirl someone to talk to while she figures out her own drama. Her sister, played by Chyler Leigh is an okay character but for as bad ass as she is supposed to be, she really does nothing. Jimmy Olsen is played by Eggs from True Blood and anyone who was a fan of that show rejoiced when he died – he was terrible. Granted, he’s much better here. Calista Flockhart also accents the show as Supergirl’s boss and like Benoist, is sometimes on point and other times, pretty far off point.

Also, the show relies a lot on Kara/Supergirl’s relationship with her cousin, Superman. The problem is that their relationship is told over text messages and then when Superman shows up, he is just an obscured blur and not clearly seen on camera. It is laughably bad.

One cool thing is that Dean Cain (Superman from Lois & Clark) and Helen Slater (1984’s film version of Supergirl) play her adopted parents.

The show tries to have heart but it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t trying to convince the audience of that. Ultimately, Supergirl is too cutesy for its own good.

I will finish out the first season, as I am already more than halfway but something miraculous would have to happen for me to care about season two. This is the worst DC Comics television show out of the current batch.

Update:

Since writing this review, the show has found its groove and it has improved significantly. I may rewrite this review after the season concludes. But if you want to start watching it, be prepared for about ten really mediocre episodes before it starts to improve.

Update 2:

I write this update after completing two seasons. The show does find its footing, it figures out where it fits in the scheme of things and improves drastically, especially after leaving CBS and moving over to the CW where it shares continuity with The FlashArrow and Legends of Tomorrow. Benoist and the rest of the cast get really good and develop a solid chemistry. Looking back, I was probably too hard on the show, initially.

TV Review: The Flash (2014- )

Original Run: October 7th, 2014 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Victor Garber, Franz Drameh, Robbie Amell, Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Peyton List, John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays

Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 69 Episodes (so far), 40 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2015.

In sixth grade, my favorite television show was The Flash. It was cancelled after one year but it was still the best comic book series put to television at the time. Well, 24 years later, the Flash returned to television again in another self-titled series.

The modern version of The Flash is a spin-off of CW’s Arrow. It goes on to further expand the DC Comics television universe and mythos and has thus, spun-off its own show debuting in the fall called Legends of Tomorrow.

Having now completed the first season of The Flash, I figured it was time to review it.

In short, this is the greatest comic book television show of all-time. Yes, Daredevil, which just debuted a month ago on Netflix is amazing. This however, this is lightning in a bottle – pun intended.

Something about The Flash is just magical. I can admit, maybe I am affected by nostalgia for my love of the original Flash series from years ago. And maybe that is magnified by the fact that the new Flash show features the stars of the original show. The thing is, everyone else I have talked to that has watched this show, regardless of their knowledge of the series from 1990, is pretty much in agreement that this is simply great.

Sure, the acting isn’t always fantastic, there is that typical CW romance thing going on and often times, the villains can be cheesy. But this is a television show based on comic books and if it took itself too seriously, it would be a train wreck like Gotham. (updated 2017 note: Luckily Gotham fixed that.)

The thing this show has going for it is heart. You can’t not care about these characters, their motivations and their world. When I watch Gotham, I really don’t care about anyone on that show. The Flash is the most human and heartfelt superhero show currently on television, if not of all-time.

The story arc of the first season was well orchestrated and ended perfectly. Everything throughout the year was well paced and while it fell victim to the “monster of the week” formula at times, it built a much larger universe and everything had a point to it. There wasn’t a lot of filler unlike a lot of episodes of Arrow this past season.

Where The Flash goes from here is anyone’s guess. I hope the momentum maintains going forward and that the show doesn’t go off the rails, as its predecessor Arrow has recently. I also hope that the quality isn’t effected by the new spin-off series. We shall see but the future looks bright.

Update:

Having now gotten through three seasons, the show unfortunately becomes redundant and derivative of its previous seasons. It sucks that it sort of nosedives, even if you still care about the people on the show. Season four I hope gets back to form. And we really don’t need another speedster as the season’s major villain.

TV Review: Arrow (2012- )

Original Run: October 10th, 2012 – present
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Blake Neely
Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Colin Donnell, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Susanna Thompson, Paul Blackthorne, Emily Bett Rickards, Colton Haynes, Manu Bennett, John Barrowman, Echo Kellum, Josh Segarra, Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Kelly Hu, Alex Kingston, Chad L. Coleman

Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 115 Episodes (so far), 40 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2014.

Comic books have not historically been well-represented in television form. Some people will argue that Smallville was great and that The Incredible Hulk was awesome. Both had some good moments. Ultimately though, neither were amazing, The 1970s versions of Spider-Man and Captain America were pretty awful. The 1960s gave us Batman, which is one of my favorite shows of all-time but as a faithful adaptation, it falls in more ways than it succeeds. In 1990, we got The Flash, which I particularly liked even with the villains being pretty bad (excluding Mark Hamill’s role as the Trickster). However, that show didn’t make it more than a season, despite a great Danny Elfman score and popping up on the heels of the super successful 1989 Batman movie (the first one with Michael Keaton). We got other shows based on superheroes like Heroes and M.A.N.T.I.S. but neither were adapted from a comic book and both had promise but fizzled. There were other superhero shows but nothing that really captured the essence of a comic book.

Then there came Arrow.

This CW show followed up Smallville and its ten year run. While there was a Green Arrow on that show, with this show, they decided to start from scratch and I am glad they did. Green Arrow was one of the cool things about the later seasons of Smallville but for the character to have his own show, it needed to be darker and more real. The climate changed between the start of Smallville and the end of it, as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films completely changed the game. Arrow is a reflection of that and a pretty solid contrast from Smallville.

The acting on this series is pretty damn good. Stephen Amell is great as Oliver Queen a.k.a. the Arrow. In fact, he may be close to perfect. His sidekicks played by David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards are quite awesome. The other main cast members also hold their own. Doctor Who and Torchwood alum John Barrowman owns it as the sinister Merlyn. I would say that my favorite character on the show thus far though, is Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, who is played by Manu Bennett.

While the tone of the show is gritty, it often times doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously, as there are good lighthearted moments and some humor worked in. It also makes use of flashbacks very extensively, as each episode follows two stories – the story of the present and a story from five years earlier, when Oliver was trapped on an island.

Arrow is a unique show in that it feels like Batman Begins meets Lost. Two seasons in, it is off to a good start and I hope that the show keeps moving forward and improving as it goes. Its success has already led to a spin-off show for the Flash, which starts pretty soon. I hope Arrow and The Flash can maintain the quality I’ve now come to expect from this new era in DC Comics television shows.

Update:

Arrow lost some steam in the third and fourth seasons but in season five, it picks up steam again and gets closer to its roots. It becomes more of a flawed show as it progresses but cast changes and new threats keep it interesting enough to stick with it. At the end of season five, the game has seemingly completely changed going forward and I am still ready and willing to check out season six in the fall.