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Supergirl Lives And We Survived the Hiatus

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Supergirl Season 2 Reviews: Episode 9, “Supergirl Lives”

The hiatus is over! Supergirl is back! You have no idea how ready we were for this. Elizabeth and Gretchen were practically vibrating from excitement all day yesterday. Our happy, hopeful space family is back, and we’re so freaking happy we’re not going to do a long introduction. They don’t need one anyway.

Quick Recap

We know, Alex, and it’s glorious.

Silly jewel thieves in a black van think that a rocket launcher will stop Supergirl (they didn’t see the crossover, apparently), and The Guardian and Winn pick up a few stragglers. Winn is injured during the struggle, and is very shaken from the experience. Kara is in a funk because she’s not helping enough people. She invites Alex over to celebrate, but Alex can’t go because SHE HAS A GIRLFRIEND. MAGGIE IS WEARING ALEX’S T-SHIRT BECAUSE SHE SLEPT OVER AT ALEX’S APARTMENT. ALEX IS SUPER HAPPY AND ADORABLE. THEY JOKE ABOUT CALLING IN SICK. (Is this fanfic? Are we dreaming? Someone send help because we might not be breathing anymore). Kara and James bicker over who really saved the day while Snapper looks grumpy (We’re so glad he’s back. We missed CatCo). A woman comes in asking for help finding her missing teenage daughter Izzy. Mon El is a (bad) bartender who dishes out (bad) advice.

Maggie helps Kara with the missing person’s case (omg, we’re so on board with this). Menacing Lab Coat Dude takes an unsuspecting young man through a portal while Roulette oversees it all. Kara teases Alex about how happy she is. Kara and Mon El track down a lead; Mon El is super awkward (he should not be allowed to talk). Lab Coat turns out to be an alien, and Kara decides to go through the portal to track down Izzy and the other missing people. Mon El joins her on the other side of the portal, on a planet with a red sun, and the portal closes before they can leave. Sucks to be Kryptonian/Daxamite right about now.

Winn justifiably blows up at James since the latter seems more concerned with fighting baddies than that Winn got hurt and could have been killed on their last mission. Kara and Mon El are captured. Alex and the DEO discover the portal; Kara and Mon El’s captor turns out to be a friendly alien who tells them they’re on a slaving planet called Maldoria. Kara and Mon El turn themselves in to find the human prisoners only to come face to face with Roulette. Alex freaks out and blames herself for Kara being missing (like a good Martell); the Dominators buy Kara and her fellow slaves. Winn admits he’s scared to go out after being hurt helping the Guardian, and Alex gives him a pep talk. Mon El is annoyed by Kara being hopeful, but Kara gives him a dressing down about being a hero for others’ sake. She then shows him how it’s done by refusing to give ground before the guards.

Oh Winn. We love you.

The slaves revolt and lock Roulette and Lab Coat in the cell. Winn geeks out about being in space, while Alex and the DEO storm slaver’s moon city. Kara lead the way out and the Dominator protects Mon El from being harmed and bows to him. Winn beats up an alien and mans the portal while Kara blows up an alien ship and frees Izzy after Alex tosses a sun bomb. The friendly alien, Jo, comes along with them. Kara stands up to Snapper. Winn teams back up with James. Alex opens up to Maggie about feeling responsible and never being happy. MAGGIE KNOWS ABOUT SUPERGIRL BECAUSE SHE KNOWS ALEX WELL ENOUGH TO KNOW SHE ONLY GETS TORN UP ABOUT KARA. (Seriously, we’re dead.) Mon El decides he wants to be a superhero. Creepy ladies from “Medusa” show up looking for Mon El on slaver’s moon, and they shoot Lab Coat after he tells them Mon El is on Earth.

Best Quote:

Alex: “And then Supergirl went missing and I just, I blew a gasket and…”

Maggie: “Because Supergirl’s your sister.”

Alex: “What are you talking about?”

Maggie: “Come on. Look, I know you. The only person you get that torn up over is Kara. Plus, the glasses don’t help.”

Alex: “I always said that too. It’s kind of ridiculous.”

Thoughts & Feelings

Our wonderful Kryptonian puppy is back to helping people, and it was 95% worth the wait (guess who the 5% is. We dare you.). Who else would have a mild existential crisis because they stopped too many bank robberies instead of helping actual people? We really appreciate that the writers chose to make her next story one about mothers and daughters. Her belief that there is nothing more important than a mother finding her daughter fits into her character arc and is significant given her history. She has a complicated relationship with her biological mother, which Season 1 intimately explored. In the wake of finding out her father’s involvement in bio weapons last episode, it is no small thing to have Kara grasping onto a mother/daughter bond. It’s a mark of how far she’s come since wrestling with Alura In-Ze’s mixed legacy in S1.

Plus, the theme fits more broadly into the importance of mother/daughter relationships on the show. Alura/Kara, Eliza/Alex, Cat/Katherine, Supergirl has never shied away from exploring mother/daughter bonds, both positive and negative. Putting one at the center of a human trafficking investigation fits within the broader focus on female relationships. It also highlights the tendency to undermine female concerns in our society, both in situations like these and in the medical field for example. Kara goes out of her way to emphasize the importance of a mother’s concern for her daughter in the face of Snapper’s grumpy indifference. They’re a dime a dozen to a media mogul, not a story. Only Kara forces him to see that it is a story worth exploring. She follows her heart, and he’s damn proud of her for it, though he’d never let her see.

This is Gretchen’s new favorite gif.

It’s also great seeing Kara be such a supportive sister. (She’s honestly the biggest Sanvers shipper of us all, and it’s freaking adorable.) Alex has spent so much time supporting Kara’s life and choices in S1 and S2, that seeing Kara giggle over Alex having a girlfriend and Alex having post ‘sick morning’ glow makes us as giddy as Alex. It’s a huge step in her arc that you can only appreciate if you’ve seen all of S1. Side note, this is the first time sex has come up in a context where Kara is not only not horrified but actually happy. We have a feeling she’d probably not freak out if she walked in on Sanvers the way she did with Winn/Siobhan and Mon El/Miss Tessmacher, to be honest. Kara is so happy for Alex, you guys. Seriously.

Also, we really, really love it when normal humans stand up for Supergirl. It happened in Season 1 and it happened again tonight. It’s beautiful. If there is a superhero trope that will bring us to instant sobs, it’s this one. Ugh. So good.

Now onto the 5% we told you to guess about: Mon El. For all those out there tempted to talk about Mon El’s ‘learning how to be a hero arc’, we’re not all that into it. Specifically, we’re not super happy with the implication that Kara (a coded minority/refugee character) has to suffer so that Privileged McWhitebread Mon El can learn how to be a decent person. We’re glad Kara might finally get a chance to be the mentor she missed out on being with Kal. That’s awesome. Yay, Kara! But when too much focus is put on Mon El ‘learning how to be a hero’, we honestly can’t avoid the implication that Kara’s suffering was the immediate catalyst, and that makes us uncomfortable, especially when you consider what a banal, kind of awful person Mon El is.

Mon El spends the majority of his time being either useless, sexist, otherwise douchey, awkward, or all four. And he’s not awkward in a fun way either because it usually is connected to him being sexist or douchey. Are we really supposed to find it cute that Mon El doesn’t know how to take a hint and refuses to listen to Kara telling him to buzz off? It’s actually kind of stalker-y. She rightly points out that his refusal to listen to her cut them off from the DEO when she told him to go get help. And he blithely dismisses her frustration with a “Welp, too late now”. Are we supposed to be charmed by the fact that his contribution to Kara’s very interesting story about visiting other planets was a gross comment about how the magic crystal planet was a great place to take a girl and get in her pants? We can’t even with this.

Did we also mention he’s kind of useless? Sure, he knocks down an alien that was going to jump Supergirl. We’ll give him that. Then again, maybe we won’t because the only reason he was there in the first place was because he ignored Kara’s direct order to go get Alex and the DEO. What else did he contribute this episode? Nothing. The lazy ass took his second day off of work (who does that?). He refuses to listen to Kara more than once. He tells her to stay out of trouble (what?) and then shoves that in her face again when they end up in prison. When she tries to inspire the prisoners, he tells her to stop being hopeful because not helping people staying safe is better. He then stands by as she gets tasered and saved by the others. Mon El is one of the most useless characters on the show, and we might forgive him that if he weren’t such an entitled dillweed who doesn’t understand the words “no” and “get help”. That’s not ‘Goofus’, that’s ‘dickwad’.

Fine, we’ll say something nice about him. He’s the designated “I have a bad feeling about this” character this episode, which we liked. We appreciate when at least one characters says “yeah, maybe don’t go there”. It’s a nice trope. Not enough to justify having so much Mon El, but we want to prove we can appreciate a Mon El scene if he’s not being useless or douchey.

We also need to mention that Daxam had slaves, which Mon El acknowledges, so Krypton had at least some legitimate reason to feel snooty about them that’s not prejudice/culture clash. Based on other things Mon El has said about this home planet, the implication seems to be that slavery funded the partying ways of the upper classes on Daxam. Yes, Mon El also said he disagreed with it, but you can totally disagree with something verbally while doing precisely jack all to help fix the problem, or worse participate in it because ‘that’s just our culture’ or ‘that’s just how things are.’ Remember that this is also the guy who found it perfectly reasonable to allow a woman to do all his work for him because she “wanted to please him”. Which is to say, that he’s not a paragon of virtue for not believing people should be treated as chattel. In fact, everything else we know about him seems to imply the exact opposite.

Let’s take a few seconds to remind everyone that Mon El is the prince of Daxam (or, at least, all the clues point that way, and there were a lot of clues this episode). He is an authority figure with an incredible amount of power. Him saying ‘I don’t agree with slavery’ becomes even more of a hollow statement than at face value, because we know he would be one of the few people on his planet and in his culture who could do something about it. Obviously an abolition movement cannot be launched in a weekend, but a paltry denial of support for slavery just isn’t enough from this character for us to think of him as a remotely good person. As we stated above, his treatment of women on earth and his general demeanor doesn’t really support his assertion that he has a problem with servitude if it benefits him. He’s a lazy, dumb, directionless, self-centered, sexist pig. Elizabeth has a few more choice words for him but she’s trying to cut down on the swearing in the new year.

Trying being the operative word.

If it feels like we’re being a little unnecessarily harsh here, good. Elizabeth has previously been willing to give him a chance, especially in the first four episodes of the season where he was reasonably benign. If this mentorship arc had started five episodes ago when they had first seeded it, maybe we’d despise his character less. But he is, in every conceivable way, a terrible and selfish person. He doesn’t deserve to fetch Kara’s coffee, let alone work at her side along with real heroes like Alex, Maggie and J’onn.

Basically what we’re saying is we can’t wait for Mon El’s lead allergy to make a second appearance so they can lock him in the phantom zone far away from our darling Kara Danvers. He is storytelling dead weight hanging off the neck of this show and he needs a hail mary course correction or he needs to go.

On to the joyfest happy gaysplosion that was Sanvers. Happy. Sanvers. Times. Like, we can’t underscore enough just how important it is that we got so many of the things we got: 1) Alex says she has a girlfriend, (as does Kara) and the word ‘girlfriend’ is being used with wild abandon! 2) reference to sex/sleeping over, 3) Maggie in Alex’s shirt, 4) Alex and Maggie get to be happy, 5) they joke about calling in sick (and then call in sick), 6) Alex had an after-sex glow that Kara noticed and was happy for her about. It’s like every single m/f romcom trope come to life. Either that or we were transported into fanfic territory, which isn’t the first time we’ve felt this way about Sanvers. Ali Adler and the rest of the writing team really know how to cater to their wlw audience by giving them what they never thought they’d see on screen. Also, Gretchen needs to say that she and Kori totally called domestic Sanvers. *high five*

Alex “Never Misses a day of Work” Danvers wants to call in sick.

If we had to keep turning around in overwhelming joy before the hiatus, this week’s episode sent us hiding under blankets. We’re not quite sure what it is we’re feeling, but boy is there a lot of it. Joy? Validation? Hope? Comfort? Inspiration? We’re going with ‘all of the above.’ It’s overwhelming to watch because it’s all so natural, and it now exists in genre fiction, not just in media that is specifically made for us. It is also still a dominant arc within the show, commanding more screen time in half a season than most wlw romances get in the full run of a show.

We’ve talked before about how the scripting and acting of the Sanvers scenes is really exposing, and this week’s episode doubled down on that. It’s a good kind of exposing, a validating kind, but it is still really new and overwhelming to watch. Our hope is that this becomes normal enough that it is no longer quite so… ‘much’ to watch emotionally. It is, and always has been, a very true-to-life depiction of an adult wlw romance with a predominantly happy tone. We’re just not used to it, is all. We hope to get used to it going forward this year!

While the domestic bliss is wonderful, it’s short-lived. Alex completely shame spirals out of it once Kara goes missing, but that’s not all that surprising. She’s new to being a wlw, hasn’t been in a relationship in over two years, and has a shit ton of baggage about protecting Kara from her childhood. This isn’t a sign that they’re doomed or going to break up, it’s a normal hurdle for these two women, especially with Alex’s history. It felt very much like a normal (and inevitable) bump in the road for these two. Like several other factors of this relationship, we totally called it, and we’re glad it’s being handled so quickly rather than being obnoxiously dragged out.

We do love that Alex calls out the fear every wlw has that if they’re happy for a second, their world will fall apart. Real talk folks, the scene were Alex talks about how she’s always felt so responsible and that whenever she did something for herself, it blew up in her face? Gretchen feels this deeply in her soul. Up until this past year, that was exactly what life felt like. It’s too real, and such a normal feeling when you’ve had enormous responsibility and maturity thrust on you coupled with a need to focus on someone else’s well being. Yes, life happens and nothing stays happy forever, but when you’re not used to acknowledging yourself or your own happiness, that first Bad Thing™ that happens once you do so can feel like karma. And the easiest thing to do is call it inevitable and run away because you’re Doomed and Can Never Be Happy.

Too. Real.

Elizabeth feels this deeply as well, especially with the feeling that the second you allow yourself to be happy, the rug is going to get yanked out from under you. When you are someone with this state of mind, it is incredibly difficult to just relax and feel safe. It burrows under your skin and quietly works to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading you to make exactly the same impulsive mistake that Alex made. It’s hard to watch in its realness, but wonderfully done. It’s probably also why watching the happy scenes was so difficult for both of us. It feels unreal (in a good way).

And all of this is incredibly difficult to emotionally navigate, even before you start adding in how fragile wlw relationships can feel, especially if you’re new to them. There’s an ephemerality to them, a fear that they’re going to end badly (gee I wonder why). We can’t fault Alex for her fear that Kara disappearing was the world punishing her for focusing on herself for once, especially given her family baggage. We also can’t fault her for the unspoken fear that Maggie might end the relationship because of the Kara situation and Alex’s lack of forthrightness about Kara being Supergirl.

We’d also like to take a minute to praise the DC gods that Maggie figured out Kara/Supergirl. She’s a motherfreaking detective. We would have been annoyed if she didn’t get it. Also? It saves Alex the struggle that James had in Season 1 about trying to forcibly out Kara to simplify his love life with Lucy.

That being said we are hoping for a quick scene where Maggie pulls Kara aside and lets her know, woman to woman, that she figured it out and that she will keep that secret safe. It’s a small thing, but we’d say it’s necessary to avoid ambiguity in the future.

Back to Sanvers. You know who else we can’t fault? Maggie. Since we first met her on the show, she has been broken up with and called all sorts of names. She’s also made it clear that she’s had other difficult relationships in the past. We honestly can’t fault her for being overly cautious about Alex, especially about Alex pushing her away for no specified reason. Maggie literally just got out of a relationship that ended with the other women calling her ‘borderline sociopathic.’ If your last girlfriend says she never wants to see you again, then your current girlfriend says “she can’t do this now”, thinking a breakup is imminent isn’t unreasonable. Especially if said current girlfriend is new to the wlw dating arena. Maggie, true to form, turtles up over it, and is very clearly bracing herself for the inevitable. Her tone of voice went from hot to cold real quick, and it sent Elizabeth into a shipping panic for the last third of the episode until the fight was resolved. Call us paranoid, but we have good reason to be.

All that to say, we’re willing to give Maggie the benefit of the doubt and understand that the situation she’s in is difficult. There’s no right or wrong here, and we’re glad the show didn’t try to paint it that way. These women have their own baggage they’re bringing to the relationship and they’re working through it like adults: talking about it and being honest. We hope we get more Maggie Sawyer backstory after this. It’s desperately needed.

Also, that hug after they make up? So intimate. Even more intimate than kissing, we would argue. The show does a very good job of teasing out the precise type of physical connection required for an emotional moment. Not just with Sanvers, either; Kara and Alex’s interactions are most notably wonderful in this way. But the hug between Alex and Maggie, once again, feels so real, and a part of that is probably helped by the fact that they’ve kissed onscreen a few times. The hug is used in addition to more ‘traditional’ romantic queues, not as a substitute. This is actually sort of new territory for genre fiction wlw couples; we can’t wait to see where it goes next.

The Guardian was a minor arc this episode, and mostly focused on Winn, which was nice for a change. We’re so glad he got a chance to call James out and express his fear of getting hurt. As the guy in the suit (and a large, muscular man), James doesn’t understand that being a superhero can be frightening because it’s dangerous. Winn experiences that danger first hand, calls out James, then gets a chance to face his fears with Alex and the DEO. And geek out on another planet. Like, J’onn’s “Martians can’t go to Maldoria because of air quality reasons” is an obvious plot device, but we don’t mind so long as it benefits nerdy Winn. He’s a precious dork. Also a terrible liar. No way anyone believed he was mugged.

James continues to disappoint with the execution of his arc. We get what the writers are going for, in theory, but in practice, it’s executed almost as poorly as Mon El’s. The elephant in the room is how he finds time to run CatCo and be a superhero when Cat Grant slept 3 hours and her day still left little room for going to parties, much less staying up late fighting crime. The unintended implication is that James is better at her job than she is, which is…both wrong and very frustrating. Anyway, James is using his position as head of CatCo not to help people or spread hope (like Cat did), but to shove The Guardian stories in Snapper Carr’s face. He’s using his position of authority to rep himself. This is gross. He seems to care more about the glory than about helping people, which is even more pronounced when Winn calls him out for coming to praise himself instead of check on Winn’s health.

Again, we get what they’re trying to do with James, but it feels off tonally. He’s too entitled about it, too vain. He’s too focused on himself instead of other people. But maybe that’s the point? He and Mon El acting as foils of each other’s ‘hero’s journey’ as they each learn how they’ve prioritized themselves? We don’t know. Maybe they’ll go that route. It could work. Only if the writers do, it would feel like James was being sacrificed to service Mon El’s arc, which we’re already leery of with Kara and Mon El. It’s unpleasant to feel like a white male character’s arc is being centralized over a woman and a black man, especially when some of the producers keep pushing Mon El as this big, important, meaningful character we should care about. You know who we already cared about? James and Kara.

Randomness

  • This is Alex’s shirt. Maggie is wearing it. We’re dead.

    Alex owns an orange shirt that says Hello Sunshine on it. This is a fantastic piece of information to have.

  • Melissa Benoist has really started nailing the wirework, especially her landings. They look fantastic.
  • Snapper has his own version of the ‘Pick Two’ Conundrum: Coffee, Danish, Five Minutes Peace and Quiet. We desperately need more of him in our lives.
  • Roulette in that red dress. Damn. We haven’t seen the last of her maybe? (We sure as hell hope not).
  • Alex said she has a girlfriend. ACK.
  • Why did Mon El find it necessary to correct himself when he said ‘Gods?’ We feel like there is a piece of worldbuilding missing here.
  • Do humans have powers on red sun planets? Like reverse Kryptonians? That would be cool.
  • Winn is the king of sci-fi references this episode with both Stargate and Star Trek (the red shirts). He’s such a fucking nerd. It’s the best.
  • Winn x Alex is brotp
  • Fist bumps aren’t really romantic chemistry. Just saying.
  • Elizabeth also has a ‘snitching crinkle’ between her eyes.
  • A+ Zoolander reference (“I’ve got the black lung”). Alex is such a nerd.
  • Can we all appreciate that Maggie’s “Always happy to help a Danvers” may have been a sex joke?
  • The portable sun was f*cking amazing.
  • “Now you’re thinking in portals!” See, this is how you do referential nerd humor. Make it plot relevant and have it delivered from a character who believably understands the joke. Don’t just mash together ‘nerd words’ into alphabet soup and put a laugh track over it.
  • The Thanagarian Snare Beast joke is a nod to the infamous Superman Lives script editing fiasco that Kevin Smith was involved in a number of years ago. If you have never heard the story of the Superman movie starring Nic Cage that thankfully died on the vine and never saw the light of day, please treat yo’self to part one and part two.

In Conclusion

We should probably mention that no one brought up the holes in reality from “Medusa”, nor did Kara talk at all about going to another dimension to fight Dominators, only to find them slaving in her own dimension. Kind of weird, but we’re not entirely surprised that such a massive crossover event caused some wonkiness in the plot. Elizabeth did not notice the plot holes, shockingly, as she is usually the obsessive frame-by-framer type, which is once again a testament to Supergirl’s level of audience immersion. Supergirl was The Fandomentals’ 2016 Show of the Year, and it is continuing to live up to that legacy in 2017. We eagerly anticipate where our favorite show takes us next.

Hopefully with more giddy Danvers sisters.

Tune in next week for the return of Livewire!


Images Courtesy of the CW

When not working on her degree or at her actual job, Elizabeth pursues her true passion of complaining at great length about pop culture on the internet. She serves as a Managing Editor for The Fandomentals. You can find her on Tumblr, Twitter and Steam @ohemgeelizabeth

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Television

Fall 2017’s TV Successes and Disappointments

Shahar

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November is a fun time in television. While shows are winding down for their winter hiatuses and networks are picking up scripts or pilots for next year’s shows, they’re also ordering “back 9s” for new shows premiering each fall. That is, the 9 episodes to bring a 13 episode series order to a full season. (Though the first full season of a show can run as short as 16 episodes these days.) Getting a back 9 generally indicates high renewal chances if the ratings stay good enough for the network. Renewals and new show pickups are announced in May during Upfronts.

Upfronts this year was a weird time. The major broadcast networks picked up the least number of new shows in five years. 19 of the shows cancelled were one season and done. Though we’re only three months into the 2017-2018 TV year, I have a feeling next May will have similar results.

After all, of 19 new shows, only 8 received back 9s/full season orders. Only two of those have received second season pick ups thus far.

Successes

ABC’s The Good Doctor received a full season (18 eps) pick up after only two episodes. Its success is unsurprising because last year’s hit was a family feel-good (though very dramatic) show. I can’t speak to the actual content but it’s clear that somewhere, a lot of Nielsen families are loving it; its yet to move below a 1.8 in the 18-49 demo, which is the most important piece of measuring a show’s success.

There’s only been one other success not related to an already existing franchise, and that’s Fox’ The Orville which received a second season renewal halfway through its first season. CBS’ Young Sheldon, a prequel to BBT received a full season pickup after one special premiere airing, and NBC’Will and Grace revival received a renewal before even airing its first new episode.

Disappointments

Everything else. No, really.

ABC

ABC had two “limited season” shows that if successful would have likely seen a second year. Unfortunately, the network pulled Ten Days in the Valley from the schedule, and will air its remaining episodes in December. The much maligned Inhumans just finished its season but with terrible ratings, barely making a 0.5, and on ABC nonetheless.

The network did give a few more episodes to Kevin (Probably) and The Mayor. This likely only indicates the need to fill airtime. Kevin‘s additional episodes give it a full season (16 eps) but The Mayor is finished.

CBS

Me Myself and I holds the honor of first cancellation this year, and 9JKL received three more episodes. That really only means the network doesn’t want to open the timeslot up yet. Consider it done, too.

Among the three dramas, two are very slight renewals. Both Seal Team (22 eps) and S.W.A.T (20 eps) received back 9s, but neither have ratings to call home about. CBS expects a 0.9 demo later in a show’s life, but not within six and three episodes respectively.

Wisdom of the Crowd’s ratings were subpar and with the allegations against lead Jeremy Piven, there’s no way the show was going to get a back 9. It didn’t even garner a mention in the first press article from CBS.

The CW

Sigh. Valor, one of four military/special ops themed shows premiered to a 0.3 (!) rating. Dynasty (also 0.3) on the other hand did receive a back 9, but the show is part of a deal with Netflix. Its renewal chances are dependent on the rest of the shows.

Fox

Ghosted and The Gifted were this network’s only other fall premieres. Though their ratings aren’t as exciting as other shows, both are firmly in the middle of currently airing Fox shows, and The Gifted will finish airing its 13 episode first season in January. Fox has yet to make an announcement on Ghosted so anything could happen. (Likely it’s done.)

NBC

Law and Order: True Crime, the lowest rated of NBC’s new shows, and The Brave just above it failed to receive back 9s. The former is a limited season show so a final decision won’t be public until May. A press release for NBC’s mid-season premieres states the same for the latter. However, Brave was always meant to be a back 9 contender.

Looking Forward

With only 1 show per Big 4 “winning” the fall, and only 8 receiving back 9s, the network’s mid-season shows must succeed. NBC’s Rise, a mix between Glee and Friday Night Lights, should be an easy ratings win for the network especially airing after This is Us finishes its season. From one feel good story to the next. The CW has Black Lightning starting in January, which should also do well considering the amazing cast and The Flash lead in.

Otherwise we’re still waiting for announcements on the rest of the new shows’ premieres.

It’s also clear that the networks’ attempt at reaching certain audiences via its military/special ops shows fell short. ValorThe BraveSeal Team, and S.W.A.T. all failed to bring in high ratings. No surprise if only one of the latter two receives a renewal, similar to when last year’s time travel shows all died except a last minute un-cancellation for Timeless.

Of course any one of the shows I marked as done could still conceivably receive a second season. That’s in the case of an across the board failure for spring premieres/shows past their first season. It’s clear live TV watching (what advertisers care about and thus what I care about) has decreased every year since Nielsen has calculated ratings. The 13% overall decrease in the 18-49 demo this year, however, is slightly more than the usual 5-10% decrease per year. So either shows need to be more interesting, Nielsen needs to expand its ratings measurement, or both.

Either way, mid-season shows must succeed or networks will be operating at major losses financially. Without inventive and entertaining pilots, 2018-2019 is just as likely to fail.


Image Courtesy of ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC

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The Flash Shows How The Thinker Came To Be

Matthew

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After last week’s horribly boring episode, “Therefore I Am” comes to formally introduces everyone to the mystery that The Thinker is. We learn much more about the villain and his helpful partner, the Mechanic, but we don’t figure out his main goal. Still, a better The Flash episode as the show closes in on its fall finale.

Recap

This flashback ridden episode starts with a less than inspired Professor Clifford DeVoe, barely catching anyone’s attention during class. He is joined for lunch by his wife, Marlise, and Clifford whips out a design: a cap that could enhance his own intellect given Mrs. DeVoe can manufacture the device. In the present, we pick up from last week, with Barry and Joe interviewing the DeVoes.

Their first meeting seems to go well, as in nothing quite looked off from the DeVoes, but Barry is suspicious. Iris assigns all of Team Flash their own missions to dig deeper into Clifford just to be thorough. A new peek at four years previously shows Mrs. DeVoe had built Clifford’s thinking cap, but they would need a huge energy source for it. Thankfully — or should I say thinkfully —Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne is right on the verge of launching the particle accelerator.

Barry decides to pay DeVoe’s class a visit to ask him a few other questions and seize the opportunity to grab his mug for a DNA’s test. However, the test comes up empty as his genetic material doesn’t fit what one would expect from meta-DNA.

A new flashback goes straight to a scene from the pilot: the press conference Wells held before the launch. After Barry ran off to retrieve Iris’s bag, Mrs. DeVoe asked Wells questions as she is concerned about the safety of the accelerator. This scene is particularly interesting because Wells’s attitude is a nice throwback to him being a villain from the future. His compliments for DeVoe’s work come across far more as “big fan of yours, hope you wreck the shit out of Barry” than anything else. Nonetheless, despite Marlise’s warning that there will be an explosion, Clifford decides to proceed as planned with the charging of the cap.

As the accelerator goes off, the thinking cap definitely does things to Clifford, but he also happens to be struck by lightning. Marlise arrives and resuscitates him just in time to witness Clifford feeling “enlightened.”

The cringy part of the episode starts as the DeVoes go to Captain Singh to report Barry’s inadequacies as harassment. As this particular form of lowkey gaslighting usually goes, the people around Barry don’t believe his instincts and ask him to stop looking into DeVoe which, spoiler alert, we also know he won’t and it will backfire eventually. Very cringey, very cliché, and not particularly well scripted drama.

So, after Clifford got hit by lightning, he becomes a really fucking smart person. To prove that, the writers ask him to reveal who Jack The Ripper is — call me foolish, but I would have rather they tried to explain who the Zodiac Killer is to see if it is more believable than American Horror Story: Cult’s ill attempt at doing so. Nonetheless, he starts having a seizure on the spot.

At STAR Labs, Barry hears a buzzing from the Samuroid head and finds a camera inside. He goes to perform some late night stalking at the DeVoes and find Marlise leaving the house, which is super convenient. However, she returns literally 45 seconds after with a full load of groceries so Barry has to quit his sleuthing. Flashbacking again, a doctor gives Clifford a grim prognosis, as his mind is feeding off his body.

After Barry reveals he broke into their house, Team Flash fully flips on Barry’s idea that Clifford DeVoe is the actual bad DeVoe. To make matters worse for my enjoyment of television, the part where Barry gets scolded a second time by the police happens as Marlise brings pictures from the invasion to the Captain. Barry gets suspended for two weeks — and somehow is 100% surprised by the Captain’s decision to suspend him after he broke into someone’s house… — and also a restraining order.

Back at it, it’s time for another cliché: Clifford goes all infomercial as he falls from his wheelchair trying to grab a book from the fireplace. Mad at the world, he begs to die, but Marlise won’t let him. In fact, she even developed the machine that DeVoe currently to help him with his fatal disease.

Even with a restraining order, Barry goes to Clifford at his lecture hall and finally something interesting happens: cards on the table, the professor acknowledges everything. He knows Barry is the Flash. He exposes his backstory, how he became a metahuman, and how superior he is in terms of intellect in comparison to Team Flash. In fact, he is only telling him who he is because “he has nothing to fear.”

Now, maybe this is just me, but I feel like this would be the time for Barry to engage and tell DeVoe that he lowkey already knows how to defeat him? I mean, Savitar did tell him the name of the device. But he doesn’t. He mostly brags about defeating speedsters, which are nothing compared to DeVoe’s powers.

Back at STAR Labs, Barry tells everyone that Clifford confessed and NOW everyone believes him even without any additional evidence — silver linings? At least they believe him now. This ‘No One Believes Barry’ nonsense could have carried on for more episodes. Cisco comes up with the Thinker name as Wally arrives to help out with supervillain but, if we’re being honest, he probably won’t because Kid Flash has been utterly useless. I blame it on the writers.

Finally, the DeVoes go back to their secret base and Marlise has her villain attire (slicked back hair and a lab coat instead of natural waves and sundresses) back on. It sort of makes you wonder about the practicality of having a whole villainous wardrobe just for the thrill of it.

As Clifford starts shaking again, it is time for him to return to the device we’ve seen him in before. The coolest part is that I was right about his hair: the Mechanic has to literally rip his scalp off in order to connect him with a machine that feels too tight on his head. As the romantic he is, Clifford is even “allowing” West-Allen to get married because “what is knowledge without love?”.

Not a lot went down again, but better than last week’s by a mile. So now we gotta get ready for the wedding crossover next week and hopefully an interesting fall finale!


Images Courtesy of The CW

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The Heart is a Lonely Manhunter (Rewatching Hannibal Season 1)

Angela D. Mitchell

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Spoiler Warning for Hannibal, Season 1

“At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields. When I look back, from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”
—Will Graham, Hannibal 1×04

Confession: I am one of those people who watches a show and can’t quite accept that it’s gone. The show instead lives on for me internally. So, basically, do not tell me The Wire is gone. Nope. Nor Deadwood, The Sopranos, Parks and Rec, Justified, Veronica Mars, and a handful of others, just… for me, they’re not gone. The show’s still out there. Immortal. Ever-present. So, for me, yes, somewhere Tony still watches the exits. Somewhere, Raylan works out his inner demons. Somewhere, Leslie Knope is President. Somewhere, Dan and Casey are still wittily tossing out sports metaphors under Dana’s eagle eye. Somewhere, Veronica’s fighting for justice next to her Dad. And somewhere, Hannibal and Will are still embattled. Or engrossed. But they’re out there, somewhere, somehow. Living on, in a smarter universe.

Fellow fans of Hannibal will no doubt especially feel my pain on this. And as someone still deeply mourning the end of the show all these years later, I thought the best consolation might be to go back and watch the show from the beginning, and it’s been a joy, offering new nuances and moments galore. It’s been especially fascinating to be able to go back to the beginning, and most especially to see how far back Bryan Fuller and his talented team set up the relationships, conflicts, and inspirations on the show, which are present even in the pilot episode.

The Table is Set

The blood splashes in the credits, Brian Reitzell’s superb score surges ominously, and Hannibal begins. Boom. Grossness. Ooky murder victim close-ups. Dating taboos. Ships, ships, and more ships sail into the distant horizon (how were we ever possibly this young?).

Welcome to the world of Hannibal. So let’s drive right in, to episode one, for instance, and that beautiful first meeting of Will (a wonderfully twitchy Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (a chilly, graceful Mads Mikkelsen). Where, if you watch closely, you’ll find extra enjoyment in all the little subtleties to Mads’s and Hugh’s performances—because they’re setting the foundation for every single moment to follow.

It’s all right there, the entire show. Hannibal’s focus and detachment, mixed with that strange fleeting tenderness. Will’s disgust, empathy, and fear that also mask his inevitable fascination and self-loathing. Cue the mental metronome as it sweeps ominously across the frame in red. We begin, and even within 40 short minutes in episode one, as Garret Jacob Hobbs dies, whispering, “See?” to a horrified Will, the table is set.

The finishing touch on this scene (that will echo back so tragically at the end of the season) is the fact that Hannibal, watching Will, seems to decide to save Abigail because it is something that Will wants. So he gives it to him, the gift of Abigail’s life, placing his hands gently on Abigail’s throat in order to save her. He further does this, I think, because for Hannibal everything comes down to power, because he can, and because it will tie both of those people to him in ways he wants to watch play out further.

But perhaps the nastiest trick he plays on Will here is his facade at the episode’s end, as Will enters Abigail’s hospital room to find Hannibal already there, holding Abigail’s hand as if he is not the monster her father was, but as if he is, in fact, the caring savior he pretended to be. Everything that occurs between the two men from here on out, occurs because Will mistakenly uses this image of Hannibal as a baseline. It’s diabolical and tragic.

Just because Hannibal tortures Will, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love him. For Hannibal, feeding someone an ear is practically like sending flowers and a box of chocolates…

Cat and Mouse

I think my favorite aspect of the rewatch is that I have changed my opinion slightly when it comes to Hannibal’s reactions and motivations. Upon a second viewing, most of the time, I now do think that Hannibal seems to play out his scenes with others as honestly as he can, at least, to a point.

I remember that I thought Hannibal was smirkier the first time I watched it; I felt like he was playing them. But now I actually think he’s weirdly transparent. I do think he likes and respects the team and genuinely (and quite quickly) grows to care for Jack and Will. It doesn’t mean he won’t torture them, mind you—Hannibal’s so warped that I truly believe he has no concept of how normal, non-psychotic people feel or demonstrate tenderness.

Shoot, for all we know Hannibal considers everything he does to poor Will in Season 1 to be nothing but simple foreplay. (“What are you complaining about?” I can imagine him saying to Will. “I fed you an ear!”)

Speaking of love, however, I most definitely missed how closely Beverly (played with subtle wit and tenderness by Hetienne Park) is involved with Will in many scenes the first time I watched the show. Her shooting range scene with Will in Episode 2 is terrific. Sparky and fun, on rewatch, it’s evident to me that Beverly likes Will. I mean, I think she like likes him. Which just adds to the tragedy of her entire arc.

Every bit as much as Jack and Alana, Beverly seeks Will out, to goad him, to study him, to offer support. She visits him several times (including in “Ceuf”) just to talk to him, for instance. And in the Angel episode (“Coquilles”), Beverly approaches Will again, offering help and asking him to confide in her; they interact closely once more in episode 6 (“Entree”). I’d really missed how close these two are in my first viewing of the show, and this makes Beverly’s devastation at Will’s arrest that much more heartbreaking to witness as season 1 moves toward its close.

The Wolf Visits the Sheep

In Episode 4 (“Oeuf”), in one of the best scenes across the entire show, Hannibal explores Will’s house. And I think upon rewatch this is just an incredibly rich and fascinating scene. Hannibal enters as a guest (and we later learn that Will asked him to feed the dogs for him while he was gone), and absently feeds Will’s beloved dogs, who adore Hannibal instantly. Hannibal, of course, feeds them what we assume is yikeshannibalsoylentsausage. Of course, he then simply wanders through Will’s home, and it is just sort of mind-bogglingly, quietly amazing to watch him do so. I think it’s easily one of the most naked moments for Hannibal in the course of the story. We get this rare opportunity to simply watch him study and react without the need to play the role of the guy in the human-suit that Bedelia calls him out on being.

As he enters Will’s home, Hannibal pats and feeds the dogs, then (in a poignant note for me as a classical musician) notes that Will owns a piano but that it is out of tune.

I found this moment lovely and subversively interesting for what it says about both men. Hannibal is a person who writes and plays music at a superb and virtuosic level, and who listens in the same way. Now he enters Will’s home and sees, unexpectedly, another fraction of his heart. Another realization, piercingly, that Will is like him. He is not alone. So yes, my favorite part of this scene is how Hannibal sees the piano and his glance lingers on it.

And right there, to me, I think is when Hannibal becomes a love story.

The Search for Connection

It’s not really about romance, to me, however, but about something more subtle and fragile—about recognition. Kinship. Fellowship. The pleasant, guilty surprise of bondage. Forget romantic love. Love’s less complex in this universe, and I’m not even sure it’s given anywhere equal weight. What the show is seeking and exploring, ultimately, is a dozen times more complex: the connection of equals, a speaking of souls. The mitigation of loneliness.

Hannibal as a character or person may not believe in love, but I’m certain that he (and the show) believes in soulmates. More casual viewers, I think, may miss that about this show. Hey, ship anything you want, any character combo that floats your boat. Seriously, I get you. I ship Hannibal and Will, at varying moments, with pretty much every adult who shares a scene, not least because Mikkelsen and Dancy both have chemistry with everyone around them.

But what Hannibal is ultimately about, to me, what sets it apart and makes it real genius… is loneliness. And connection. Hannibal seeks it, and is surprised and charmed to find it in Will, even in his home. We already know how much Will desires and fears the same thing.

And everyone else we glimpse, don’t they want that same sense that someone knows and understands them? Jack? Alana? Beverly? Every single cop, medical examiner, or killer we meet?

Of course. Cue drama.

For Will, every social encounter seems agonizing, so it’s ironic how palpable his loneliness is: “When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”

Make Yourself at Home

So back to my point. I mean, Hannibal’s visit to Will’s home is fantastic. And pivotal. To me, it’s the core moment in their evolution as compatriots and friends and, perhaps, lovers. It’s so intimate.

Moving on. In his home visit for Will, Hannibal also notices a full outboard motor evidently in repair in Will’s living room (tellingly, later, in the “therapy” session with Hannibal, Will talks about his father’s work in boatyards from Biloxi to Erie).

Hannibal then checks out Will’s bureau and oh, Lord, gloriously, yes, there are the white tee shirts and socks, neatly stored, although I imagine the filmmakers simply cut out Hannibal’s full-body recoil at the sight. Hannibal then goes over to Will’s desk, looks through the magnifying glass there (nice subtext) then plays with one of Will’s fishing lures, carefully adding one of the feathers from the tray on the desk, before deliberately cutting himself with the hook he has just perfected. Then he licks the wound. And, yeah, it’s weirdly erotic.

This is also the episode when Will confesses to Hannibal, in one of the show’s most beautiful moments, that he only feels safe from a distance: “At night I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields,” he says quietly. “When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat on the sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.” It’s yet another in a long line of beautiful boat references that help us to get to know Will that will also come back into play in later seasons.

Hannibal, potential anchor that he is, merely gives the tiniest hint of a smile. Because he is in control. He doesn’t need an anchor… or does he?

Fiendish Friendships

But although it’s fun to watch Hannibal become fascinated with Will, I forgot that Hannibal initially befriends Jack much faster than Will. Jack joins him for many more dinners at this point, actually. Jack and Hannibal become good friends, and Hannibal’s friendship visibly means something to both men.

Meanwhile, complicating those waters, is Will, of course. I mean, “Coquilles” is also the episode where Hannibal sniffs Will! And Will notices! It’s weirdly awesome. (Will: “Did you just… smell me?” Hannibal: “Difficult to avoid. I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave. That smells like something with a ship on the bottle.”)

I also love Will’s conversation with Jack here:

Will: This is bad for me.

Jack: I’m not your father, Will. I’m not going to tell you what you ought to do.

Will: Seems like that’s exactly what you’re gonna do.

Jack: You go back to your classroom, when there’s killing going on that you could have prevented, it will sour your classroom forever.

Will: Maybe. And then maybe I’ll find a job as a diesel mechanic in a boatyard.

Jack: You wanna quit? Quit.

Interesting that Jack smiles to himself as he says that. He knows Will can’t quit. When it comes to duplicity and hidden meanings, Jack is every bit as subtle as Hannibal himself. And he’s willing to do it because he’s willing to risk Will’s sanity in order to save lives—and because he’s also confident enough that he can see Will through it without harm.

“At a time when other men fear their isolation, yours has become understandable to you,” Hannibal tells Will. “You are alone because you are unique.” No surprise that he is actually describing himself.

Getting Help

Onward to therapy!

Episode 7 (“Sorbet”) is pure genius with its series of therapy sessions—Hannibal with Franklyn, Bedelia with Hannibal, Hannibal with Will. In each session there’s this tangible subtext of yearning and loneliness yet again: of Franklyn trying to impress Hannibal, of Hannibal trying to impress Bedelia, and then having a glass of wine with Will. There is something sort of poignant and lonely about Hannibal saying, “I have friends.” And we know who they are and how much he hides from them. (Note: I also think that it’s telling and important that Jack dreams of a mutilated Will in this same episode, as well.)

Episode 8, meanwhile, features one of my favorite exchanges between Hannibal and Will when Will says, “I feel like I dragged you into my world.” And Hannibal quite truthfully replies, “No. I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company.”

Cue Loneliness

What’s interesting as I rounded out Season 1 here is the way Hannibal interweaves that loneliness I mentioned earlier as an almost palpable, touchable aspect of the show’s fabric. I was constantly struck by how solitary everyone seems to be in Hannibal’s world, how disconnected—a fact emphasized in many scenes by the show’s lighting, which is moody and dark, with characters illuminated in stark relief as if trapped onstage. Every major character also seems caught in a dreamworld now and then, as if mute on the most important level—speechless about the things they truly want—yet all are yearning, and all are quietly starved for connection.

Not just Will, but Hannibal himself, and even Jack, Bedelia, Bella, and Beverly. They all seem like characters seeking connection and safety. Alana is the only one who, to me, implies a rich external life elsewhere, and it’s interesting to watch her move in and out of all these other lives with so much ease, especially knowing what lies before her in later seasons.

Final Revelations

One thing that really struck me upon my Season 1 rewatch was just how fantastic the actors are. I’ve talked about Will and Hannibal, but let’s just call out Caroline Dhavernas as Alana, for instance. She in particular is just wonderful, much stronger than I remember her being (and it really sucker-punched me when she goes to the car to scream and cry; at that point I realized then how much she did truly love Will). I also loved the chilly, gorgeous Gillian Anderson as Bedelia, and thought Kacey Rohl was amazing as Abigail Hobbs. It’s a performance where she has to walk so many lines in so many conversations, and Rohl was able to do that with a lot of delicacy and hidden nuance.

And then of course there’s Fishburne’s presence and gravitas, Dancy’s vulnerability and anguish, and wonderful Mads and just how much he’s able to communicate in every single graceful movement and microexpression.

While it’s hard to watch Will spiral downward in the final episodes of season 1, I do love the conversation in “Buffet Froid” (1×10) when Will is ill and floundering, and Jack is surprisingly warm and supportive:

Jack: Let me tell you what I think. I think that the work you do here has created a sense of stability for you. Stability is good for you, Will.

Will: Stability requires strong foundations, Jack. My moorings are built on sand.

Jack: I’m not sand. I am bedrock. When you doubt yourself, you don’t have to doubt me too.

Near the end, when Hannibal brings Bedelia the veal, what’s fascinating is that, in an entirely different awareness of context, I’d argue that she is absolutely aware of exactly who Hannibal is and of what (or who) they may actually be consuming. And before she does so, she unexpectedly and blatantly warns Hannibal:

Bedelia: You have to be careful, Hannibal. They’re starting to see your pattern.

Hannibal: What pattern would that be?

Bedelia: You develop relationships with patients who are prone to violence. That pattern. Under scrutiny, Jack Crawford’s beliefs about you might start to unravel.

Hannibal: Tell me, Dr. Du Maurier, have your beliefs about me begun to unravel?

The way she takes the bite, with her eyes on Hannibal, very slowly, implies to me that she is doing this deliberately, perhaps almost as an odd form of answer. Foreplay? Or communion?

Perhaps no show ever quite captured the spirit of loneliness as Bryan Fuller’s superb, late, and still lamented Hannibal.

The Last Bite

Every meal has a finish. And so we come to Will’s horrified, beautifully gradual realization of Hannibal as the real killer throughout episode 13 (“Savoureaux”), leading to the confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen, the site of their first connection and mutual recognition:

Hannibal: At a time when other men fear their isolation, yours has become understandable to you. You are alone because you are unique.

Will: I’m as alone as you are.

Hannibal: If you followed the urges you kept down for so long, cultivated them as the inspirations they are, you would have become someone other than yourself.

Will: I know who I am. I’m not so sure I know who you are anymore.

There’s such symmetry in that final, raw and terrifying confrontation in Hobbs’s kitchen between Will, Hannibal, and Jack. And it’s awful to watch, to see Jack as adversary, to see Will led off as a criminal, to see him processed by the team (and to see their personal, anguished and angry reactions), and to then see Will locked up and facing Hannibal, who is of course still free and confident and smiling. And still there! Just on some level, you know, he’s still so creepily happy to see Will. To be a part of his life and world.

A caged Will is just more accessible, after all… more fun for Hannibal to play with.

Anyway, wow. I really loved taking another look at this first season of Hannibal, and what’s interesting is it’s my least favorite of the three, so I’m looking forward to the chance to rewatch the next two even more. Most of all, I’m so pleased to have found the show even more rewarding upon rewatch, not less. There’s so much detail to Hannibal‘s world that there’s always some new little treasure to notice.

What did you think? And what did I miss? And what do you think Will really smells like? I’m guessing Old Spice, sea salt, engine grease, and warm dog. Want to live on the edge? What does Hannibal smell like? My own guess on this is that he smells absolutely fantastic, like Italian cologne, fresh sage, and the faintest breath of electric wickedness…


Images courtesy of NBC

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