It’s really hard to not include a criticism against organized religion, primarily Catholicism, when making any sort of iteration of the story of Dracula. The story is pretty much the same no matter how it’s done: the count, whether he’s still human or already a vampire, falls in love. In a tragic stroke of fate she is either killed or kills herself, leading Dracula to lose what little faith he had in humanity or God to completely diminish. In response he declares war on either, vowing to always be an enemy.
The first two episodes of Castlevania portrayed this as expected, taking stories that happen later in the timeline of the games to complete the lore early on. Back to my original point though; while these episodes did hint at the future theme of bashing organized religion, it is in these final two chapters that we really get to see just how far they intend to go with.
I am in no means a practicing Catholic, yet nor do I condemn those. For what it was, you could feel the hate coming from Dracula and his creatures. While not the best message to try and portray on such a widely watched series, it was at least incredibly effective at showing just how much power can be gained by being in a position of power that lets you influence what people think on spiritual level.
It is not until Symphony of the Night that we see how Dracula’s influence can corrupt in such a way. Yet, it is through the actions of the Bishop of Grejit that truly show us the dangers of not organized religion itself, but the danger of letting one man corrupt a message of faith so that he may control the masses. I think we can all see who the real enemy of this series was or at least of these few short episodes.
The third episode follows Trevor’s mission to get the Speakers to leave Grejit before the Bishops men massacre them. Since the Bishop is too afraid to admit that Dracula is real and that it was his direct burning of Lisa that incurred his wrath, he turned to fear mongering. When people are scared, they look for a scapegoat—for the Bishop it is the Speakers. Since he is the current head of the body politic, his fear becomes everyone’s fear, and on that end he has their souls weighing in the balance. The mission brings Trevor to the catacombs that the lost Speaker was exploring before her disappearance. As he follows her trail, he begins to notice things that came straight from the stories of Dracula’s Castle passed down to him by his forebearers.
After ending up deep enough into this maze of stone and pipes, he comes across stone statues of people, some dressed as knights and one suspiciously like a Speaker. Moments later the culprit arrives in the form of a stone gazing Cyclopes.
What I loved so much about this fight scene was that they pulled it straight from the video game. Of course, the video game’s boss battle was 2D and 8-bit, and consisted of repeatedly whipping the beast in the same fashion. The show makes it so much more exciting by making the fight cleverly choreographed, allowing Trevor to use both his sword and whip to dispatch the beast, sometimes even a combination of both.
By the end of the fight, the creature’s cursed victims are brought back to the flesh, as long as they weren’t missing and extremities, like one poor knight. Seems the missing Speaker was another character taken from Castlevania 3, Sypha! Though she was a male in the video, it hardly makes a difference in the series, and even better that they’re giving her way more of a role this time around. Fans of the game will know that she is a very powerful mage so her force will be reckoned with in the show, but also it is worth noting that her prestige in magic could be why the Speakers are so condemned by the church in Grejit.
After some passive-aggressive dialogue between the two, Trevor returns her to her Grandfather and makes sure they honor their part of the deal and to leave. They argue about the legend of the sleeping warrior *cough Alucard* as Trevor tries to convince them that that was indeed Dracula’s Castle. Not long after, Trevor is abducted by some of the Bishop’s men in order to have a meeting. Outnumbered, Trevor decides to go along with them. The meeting goes as one would expect given the Bishop’s mania and Trevor’s complete apathy. Apparently the Bishop is trying to save the city but Trevor is less convinced; the Bishop believes the people’s lack of faith is what brought this doom upon them.
The Bishop lets Trevor in on his plan, allowing him to leave the city unharmed while he massacres the Speakers in the name of God, and to show the people that he right. By this time it is obvious that the Bishop is intentionally aware that he controls the majority and will do anything to keep himself in that position of power. Couple this with his savior complex and we have the true makings of a monster. By the end of the conversation the Bishop implores him to take his offer and his family’s excommunication is something that could be reversed.
Trevor goes back to the Speakers with the information, letting them know that a mob will be there for them before the next demon raid. A lengthy moral argument follows the Elder, Sypha and Trevor but by the end he does see their way, the role his family could truly inspire, and Trevor’s own demons and fears. Whether it is out of pity or responsibility Trevor is won to their plight. By sunset the entire city is ready with torches and pitchforks and we get some really fun one man army fight scenes. By the end of this intense battle, the end begins and the next demon raid begins.
The finale opens with the demon raid slaughtering the city as the Bishop is approached by a demon.
The implications of this meeting suggest that there is a third player using Dracula’s vengeance as a vessel for their own goals. This foreshadowing is definitely pointed at Dracula’s life-long ally, Death. I could be wrong of course, but as a fan of the game I think it is definitely a possibility. Either way we finally see the demise of the Bishop as they show just how powerful they are and just how powerless he is.
Trevor is still fighting off the mob until Sypha finally unleashes her own power. Trevor decides to face the Bishop’s men among the mob, condemning their actions against Lisa. It seems the mob finally has a change of heart and they turn on their overlords. Just as well the demons begin their slaughter and Trevor organizes what defense the town has to fight back against the demons employing both magic and holy weapons.
It’s pretty amazing to see the defense they mount and quite the amazing fight. Several of Trevor’s famous side weapons appear from all the Castelvania games. Sypha’s attacks are particularly fun to watch.
As the fight reaches its climax, the ground below Trevor and Sypha breaks and they fall deeper into the catacombs, farther than even Sypha got, before they appear in an ornate room with a lonely coffin. Surprise, surprise, it’s Alucard. Like the boss battle from the game itself, Trevor and the vampire prince go at it. Trevor is not convinced this vampire is the savior Sypha thinks he is, and Alucard only provokes him to fight.
The fight is full of impressive feats of athleticism and supernatural power from Alucard. His famous teleportation is also employed, the bane of every player of the game.
The fight is actually favored to Alucard as he seems to be toying with Trevor who is literally fighting at his top capacity. By the end of the battle though, it becomes a stalemate, and even Sypha second guesses Alucard’s role. Turns out Alucard was merely testing Trevor’s resolve; he speaks of an untold part of Spyha’s sleeping savior story, adding that only a vampire hunter and a magician could help him destroy Dracula once and for all. This slumber was from the wounds that his own father inflicted on him when he rose against Dracula’s maddened grief.
He reveals his identity to them as Adrien Tepes or as others know him, Alucard. The first season of the series ends with the trio of unlikely allies joining forces to put a stop to Dracula’s assault on Wallachia once and for all.
With the season’s close, it is important to remember what every gamer wanted to see from this series. While I mentioned initially that even though there were more than one type of audience watching, the most critical would be the viewers coming through as fans of the game. Me being one of them, I was pleasantly impressed by how great of an adaptation this was. The final two episodes expanded upon the excellent amount of world building done in such little time and doubled of the fighting and the shows religious implications.
The main criticism I have was this being so anti-religious in mentality, though in retrospect was merely the medium for sending the message that ultimate power truly corrupts. You give enough power to someone who can influence the minds of others and at that purposefully move them to his own cause: you have a true monster at hand.
I honestly can’t wait for the second season to expand upon this because I’m sure it won’t end with the Bishop’s deaths. I hope they keep to the promise of making it longer with more world building and definitely more action. This season was far too short and left a lot to be desired in terms of a bigger story. Obviously in the next season Dracula will make more of an appearance and hopefully some of his more famous minions. As for Alucard, we got just enough of him, even though it was very little, to be excited to see his role expanded upon.
They didn’t shy away from using lore from Symphony of the Night and that was great. My only hope is that they won’t use too much of it and that the series will at one point come to an adaptation of that classic.
Until we get season two though I hope you enjoyed the series and these reviews. If you want to something to do until the next season, you should check out my comic reviews and other things you may find interesting!
Random Observations and Scores
- The anti-religious implications might have come off as offensive but were a medium for carrying a greater message about power.
- The double amount of action in the latter two episodes was great and very well needed
- I thought the change of Spyha from male to female was a good touch and should be more expanded on in season 2
- Taking boss battle from the game and putting them into the show made me happy
- The demons could use some more variety
- Please let that be Death
- Again…how is this anything like Game of Thrones???
All images courtesy of Netflix and Konami Entertainment
Away In A Manger: Black Lightning 2×09, “Gift of Magi”
Well, my friends, we’re nearing the end of Black Lightning S2, and I think it’s time to declare a sophomore slump. Anyone here with me? Let’s get into this week’s episode and discuss.
Jen and Kahlil are still on the run, but Kahlil was cut with one of Cutter’s Special aka Poison knives, so he’s quickly succumbing. The pair find a barn, where there’s a lot of soft lantern light and Kahlil can curl up in the hay. At first they swap cute-funny stories about when they first met, but soon Kahlil can’t manage talking let alone breathing well, so Jen goes out to steal some antibiotics from a hospital. (They don’t yet know that it’s poison, they assume his wound is infected). Jen is getting really good not only at controlling her powers, but using them for specific tasks, and I’m here for it although I really wish it wasn’t in the context of this storyline.
She manages to get the antibiotics and injects Kahlil with it, but it doesn’t work. She grows increasingly desperate, and as Kahlil’s death seems imminent, she goes outside for some air and a good cry. That’s when she goes back to her brain-salon, where she sees Perenna (her brain-version of Perenna, not the real one) and a twin version of herself. Mind-Perenna tells Jen that she already has everything she needs inside of her; it’s very Inside Out. Together with her brain creations she figures out that Cutter is actually *right there* watching them through binoculars. She manages to capture her and tie her up, tasering her with her hands as a form of torture in order to get her to tell her what she did to Kahlil. It’s not long before she figures out it was a poison knife, and cuts Cutter with it so that she’ll be forced to show Jen where on her person the antidote is. Turns out, it’s in that very obvious vial on her necklace!
Jen goes to a dark place when she’s torturing Cutter, which is kind of hard to watch. Again, I’d be more interested if this whole thing didn’t revolve around Kahlil. Anyway, Jen gives both Kahlil and Cutter the antidote and they’re on their way again. But only after they declare their undying love for each other.
I’m happy to report that no one left Kahlil’s aunt for dead in her house, as Black Lightning, Thunder, and Gambi have set up camp there to help her recover from what turned out to be one of Kahlil’s pain pills and try to figure out how to find Jen. They know Kahlil is hurt so they check hospitals, and end up being in the same hospital as Jen at the same time!
Jefferson and Anissa figure out Jen was there because she left a trail aka scorch mark in her path, but the fact that she keep eluding them is driving Jefferson to be irrational and reckless. Gambi and Anissa manage to keep him under control, but Lynn is losing it too. When she’s not crying in the wreckage of Jen’s room that she destroyed, she’s trying to get Kahlil’s mom, and then his dad, to give her clues as to where they might be.
Of course neither of them can help, but along the way she grabs a gun from the Inner Sanctum aka Gambi’s basement so that’s concerning, considering her emotional state.
In a parallel storyline, Tobias has set his sights on a kid named Todd, an academic prodigy who has just been rejected for a research grant in favor of the white kid whose rich dad just funded a new wing of the university. It’s unclear what Tobias wants Todd to do, and Todd seems dubious at best until Tobias deposits $100,000 into his bank account. Money is the root of all evil, amirite? I mean, capitalism is. But that’s a discussion for another place.
Lastly, this episode ends with a scene in which a mysterious someone murders everyone in a bar in Texas before getting a phone call from his boss telling him that his next job is in Freeland. I feel like we’re about to meet a bigger bad than Tobias, but time will tell! Just someone end this Kahlil-Jen nonsense and give us our family back kthanks.
What do you think is in store for the final episodes? Are you happy with this season so far? Black Lightning is going on hiatus until the end of January, so I’ll be back then to see where we’re at. Enjoy what’s left of the year, friends!
Images courtesy of The CW
Winter Hiatus Blues
Even in December with the broadcast networks hiatus for scripted series starting, and pilot season underway, there’s so much to discuss!
The continuing behind the scenes drama of Les Moonves’ ouster from CBS, ABC’s entertainment president Channing Dungey stepping down, NBC’s Greenblatt moving on, and FOX setting up for its new leadership once the merger goes through…every big 4 network has a lot to deal with between now and the TCAs in early February. The exec panels will sure be a time… Especially if ratings come up at all.
As of this Tuesday, and as always, I’m talking about scripted ratings: FOX is number 1 with a 1.13 average followed by NBC, ABC, and CBS. CW of course is last with .35. Last month, four of the five networks had six shows at or above their overall average.
Now, ABC has eight shows, the CW has five, and the rest have six.
Across the five networks, only a third of new shows are performing above the average on their network. The Connors (considered a new show), FBI, The Neighborhood, Last Man Standing, New Amsterdam, and Manifest. The highest rated new show on The CW, Legacies hovers right below the network’s average.
Interestingly, across the board, long running shows are still high rating performers (or what’s high now) for the networks. The exception to this is SVU at a tenth below the average.
Their “success” indicates that we probably won’t lose any of the longest running shows anytime soon. Still, the network with the largest average season length (including shows yet to premiere) is FOX at 5.3 followed by CBS at 4.5. Removing the shows already cancelled and predicted as canceled doesn’t make an impact because of The Simpsons‘ whopping thirty seasons! (Unrelated but with the announcement for Crisis on Infinite Earths, DCTV isn’t going anywhere either.)
Of course some of this will shift when the rest of the new slate premieres begin in January. I do not envy the folks in charge of scheduling spring shows, especially as more time slots are lost to winter reality or competition shows.
You can put whatever new show after strong shows and still have a dud in the ratings race.
On The CW, ableist In The Dark has had zero promotion beyond the scheduling announcement that it starts after Supernatural. Their other new show Roswell: New Mexico or Roswell: TVD received the coveted post Flash slot plus actual promo. Except for The 100, their other spring shows already received cancellations, so ratings definitely don’t matter.
FOX only has two newbies to premiere, with The Passage starting after The Resident and Proven Innocent taking the 9PM slot after Cool Kids. I don’t know that people watching an hour of comedy will stick around for a procedural, but anything can happen these days.
ABC on Wednesday revealed that in a vote of confidence (or in hopes to increase viewers or to get Whiskey Cavalier onto the schedule earlier) is moving the last bit of A Million Little Things behind Grey’s leaving current slot holder Station 19 off the schedule until March. Considering AMLT hit a .7 last week… The Fix is the only other newbie to get a spring slot, starting in March in The Good Doctor‘s place. Grand Hotel is now a summer show. ABC what are you doing?!
NBC and CBS have yet to fully unveil their new schedules so more on that in January! However, pilot development is in full swing and reboots (and spin-offs) continue to rule the pack.
Predicting what pilots will make it to series this early is silly, but I do think that a chunk of the reboots in development will definitely make it to air. If they’ll get renewed is another question. Even though this year, only Charmed received a back 9 order (Last Man Standing was ordered with 22 episodes). Last year, all the shows that received fewer than 9 episodes in the fall except for Good Doctor were cancelled. So now in May, that trend continues, or the new trend is that any back order indicates a renewal.
Which is why even though I think it’s silly to bank on so many reboots in development, I know that networks are still going to do it. I won’t list all of the shows in development because there are a lot and many will die by January. The CW has three alone! And NBC already has a series order for Law and Order: Hate Crimes or as my friend calls it, “SVU but grittier” making it the seventh L&O series.
By late January, early February, the big entertainment sites will have lists of all the pilots in contention and then we can really get into the details. Until then, what shows are y’all waiting to see for the first time (or again)?
‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ Cranks the Insanity up to Eleven
It’s that time year of again. The Arrowverse crossover, but the Legends misplaced their invites. While Kara, Barry, and Oliver were getting acquainted with Batwoman and dealing with body switching, the Legends were dealing with their own alternate reality issues. Or should I say the Custodians were dealing with their own issues. Or, should that be the Sirens? Or the Puppets?
Yep, this was one of those kinds of episodes. ‘Legends of To-Meow-Meow’ didn’t just surpass the insanity of every other episode this season. It multiplied it, as Charlie and Constantine broke the timeline more with each attempt to fix it.
At first, Charlie hits the town on her own, going to Las Vegas to stretch her newly returned powers. Going out as Marilyn Monroe, she runs into a prison buddy, a leprechaun. She barely has the chance to warn him about faulting his powers when Mick, Nate, and Ray strut in dressed like they just walked out of an 80’s action show. Which they did, apparently, as they introduce themselves as the Custodians of the Chronology and we get ‘A-Team’ style opening credits. They kill the leprechaun without hesitation, which is a big clue for Charlie that not everything is right.
She returns to the Waverider with cat-Zari to figure out why the team is suddenly so murder-happy. She transforms into Sara, planning on just ordering them to stop. But it doesn’t work because in this timeline, without help from Constantine, Sara was killed by the unicorn at Woodstock. The team attacks her, recognizing her as a shapeshifter. Charlie makes a quick retreat from the ship, taking cat-Zari along to find John.
He’s being kept imprisoned at the Time Bureau. Because he was the epicentre of the timeline shift, he has memories from both timelines and his brain isn’t keeping up very well. When they find him, John turns Zari back into a human. Only to turn her right back when she’s against his and Charlie’s idea to save Sara instead of fixing their alteration. Charlie breaks John out, with some help from Mona and a very emo Ava. Some of the Lege- Custodians die in their fight out, but everything will be fine once they save Sara. At least that’s what Charlie and John tell themselves.
They travel to Woodstock, blasting the unicorn into rainbow gloop before it can gore anyone. But this time, when they return to their time Nate, Ray, and Mick are the ones with the memorial plaques. Plus, without the guys around, Sara, Ava, and an android?Gideon have formed a Charlie’s Angels style team that assassinates fugitives. Charlie attempts to infiltrate the team as Amaya, but her cover is blown almost instantly. She does learn the boys were killed by the Fairy Godmother. The fairy is also the reason Zari’s a cat.
John and Charlie go to Salem for their next patch job. Charlie transforms into the Fairy Godmother to trick Prudence into releasing the fairy before she can kill the boys. It seems to go off without a hitch until she returns to the jumpship. Good news, Zari is no longer a cat. Bad news, she’s now a puppet.
So is the entire team, as John learns when he boards the Waverider. They aren’t just puppets. They’re puppets that sing their own intro and have a historical figure of the day. Since the Fairy Godmother didn’t kill Mick, he became her new charge. She turned the team into puppets before Mick took her along on a crime spree.
Charlie and John keep trying to Band-Aid the timeline, but each fix ends with someone else dead in the new timeline. Yet, even when they get to a point where no one has died, John’s mind has so many timelines clashing in his mind he collapses from the strain.
He finally agrees with Zari that they need to fix the timeline properly and stop Dez from leaving. When Charlie refuses to help they leave her behind, but she’s not giving up without a fight. She transforms into Ava, heading to the Waverider to clue the team in on the magical ongoings in New Orleans. But there’s something still wrong with this timeline. All the Legends are alive. No one is made of cloth. But they still have a ‘shoot first ask questions never’ policy when it comes the fugitives. Gideon picks up on the three Constantines at that point in time. The team assumes the extras are shapeshifters, sending Mick and Ray to blast them.
Charlie finally realizes it wasn’t just John’s absence from the team that caused the changes. It was her absence. Without her, the Legends don’t learn fugitives aren’t all unicorns with a taste for hearts or Fairy Godmothers that sing about murder.
In New Orleans, this-episode’s-John stops Desmond after last-episode’s-Constantine broke up with him. He tells him he’s sorry for all the pain he’s going to cause him and wipes his memory just before still-in-a-relationship John can return. As Mick and Ray fire on this-episode-John, past-John and Desmond share a kiss which becomes the point from which the timeline fixes itself. Reality is right once again, where the only puppet person is the possessed Professor Stein and the Legends aren’t mythical creature murders. Ava and Mick even heal their rift from the last episode, finding some common ground.
John comes clean to Sara about their misadventure. He even tells her about Neron. Sara promises to help him take down his demon. So all’s well that ends well. Except, there’s no word on what happens to Mona after she met the business of the Kaupe’s claws. Nor is Hank happy the Kaupe escaped, which he learns about in the middle of a golf game with someone… something wearing Desmond’s face.
Was this the strongest’s episode of Legends? Probably not. It sacrificed some substance for the sake of 80’s spoofs and sing-alongs. But that’s not to say this episode wasn’t good. Far from it. The alternate timelines were laugh out loud funny and the Puppets of Tomorrow song is going to be stuck in my head. They were so good I’m willing to overlook characters like Ray, Nate, Sara, and Ava feeling so drastically different in their respective spoof realities. I’ll chalk up to the discrepancies in their characterizations to time being so broken.
It could have easily become frustrating watching John and Charlie patch broke timeline after broken timeline while they ignored the obvious answer. But it never got to that point because every step of the way you knew John was doing this to keep Desmond alive. John Constantine, always the tortured soul, willing to let his mind be torn apart by multiple timelines before he gives up on his love again. It’s a tragedy the timeline being fixed has to come at the cost of Dez’s soul. But maybe it isn’t lost forever.
The scene between John and Desmond pulled at the heartstrings. As did the moment when Charlie finally realized she was the missing the link for the Legends. It’s always a good moment when a Legend finds their place on this mismatched, rag-tag team. It’s hard not to compare this episode to ‘Here I Go Again’, when Zari found her place on the team. Which is a glowing compliment when that episode is one of the best of Legends entire run.
The brief callbacks to the earlier episodes was a nice way to tie off the first half of the season as well. The Unicorn was only eight episodes ago. Yet, monsters, magic, and pure insanity feel like they’re always been a part of Legends of Tomorrow. Well, pure insanity has been a fundamental part of Legends since season two.
It just shows how this series isn’t afraid to shake up its own formula. Thus far it’s worked every time, with each season being better than the last. It’s still early to call season’s four place for certain. Season’s three back half had some heavy ringers, but so far this season is on the right tracks to be the most memorable one yet. They’re sure to come back strong when they return in April.
Only Legends Could
- “You missed calls from Barry Allen, Oliver Queen, and Kara Zor-El,”
“Sounds like the annual crossover,”
“Yeah, that’s going to be a hard pass,”
This whole exchange is amazing. Easily wins favorite lines of the episode.
- You can tick off Sara Lance’s annual dalliance with death. Sara dying, almost dying, or faking dying should be a running gag at this point, but for some reason, I can never find it funny.
- Everyone just understands cat-Zari. No explanation needed. Much like when Nate understood pig-Ray.
- The CW tradition of bad wigs continues with emo Ava. (Kate Kane, by some miracle, avoided the curse.)
- In the Siren’s reality, Sara’s wielding Mick’s gun and Gideon has Rip’s.
- I want more of DC’s Puppets of Tomorrow.
- There’s a timeline where Nate and Hank die from a Garden Gnome.
- Why yes, Legends did give us the true love’s kiss fixes everything. And yes, it was a kiss for a mlm couple. Legends never ceases to amaze.
- I got a flirty vibe from Charlie and Zari at the end. Time will tell where that goes.