What Else Is On?

The return of “Inspector Lewis” on the Masterpiece Mystery! franchise over at PBS was pretty entertaining, with an episode 1 that really is about new beginnings. Granted, Lewis totally undermined the whole point of retiring (did he really believe Superintendent Innocent, when she asked him to help, that this was only to help? Or was she really just trying to keep brand-spanking new Inspector Hathaway from burning out, because the man seems so ready to lose it, even though his detecting skills are really awesome now). I couldn’t blame the ire of Dr. Hobson (the medical examiner who didn’t retire and is Lewis’ significant other) – Lewis could have given her the heads up that he missed investigating murders and weird family dramas (that are sort-of red herrings).

Oh, and there was a murder, with lots of red herrings. As usual. And, three bodies. It’s like no one in Oxford/Thames Valley realizes that Lewis and Hathaway must be the cause of the rise in crime, rather than just the ones catching the killers. (like how Batman inspired supervillains in Gotham).

“Gotham” – Episode 3 – “The Balloonman” – If I have to give a grade (and I like to not do that, because with a lot of shows, I start with a “B” and either add or subtract points before it’s still a “B,” because why else would I watch the show?): this episode is a B- (not lame enough to be a C, but awful close). A vigilante appears in Gotham, feeding on the faithlessness of Gothamites on anything resembling law in town. Only, it’s not Batman. And, really, the levels of lawlessness is pretty despicable: there’s the scene of a police lieutenant’s looking for his trophy at the precinct to beat the bleep out of a suspect in an interrogation.

Detective Gordon has the look of “what am I doing here again?” as far as letting it soak in that everybody accepts police brutality as a given (except for the righteous Gordon). And, the appearance of the Balloonman isn’t making things better: he uses a weather balloon to… kill the bad guys – the corrupt cops, the investors who steal others’ pensions, etc.; he’s the vigilante with understandable reasons, but unpleasant tactics. Yeah, not a Batman thing at all. But, the bitterness over the breakdown of legitimate government seems pretty authentic and well-drawn enough. Gordon and Bullock are still fun, as Bullock actually has some decent detecting skills, and Gordon is still trying to figure out who really killed the Waynes. Even Selina Kyle isn’t annoying me in this episode, because she’s only trying to survive to avoid going to juvie upstate (because who wants to go upstate?). She comes across as someone with some kind of purpose, even if it is that bare minimum one to stay alive.

Oswald Cobblepot is still annoying and creepy to me. He’s slowly getting back into the underworld of Gotham, as if he could not pull away from the mess and miss out on the craziness (putting aside that he totally did not listen to Gordon’s warning to not come back to town).  On the other hand, Oswald’s return at least confirms that Gordon didn’t actually kill him (which we viewers and Gordon already knew, but the ridiculous cops of the Major Crimes Unit don’t seem to understand, forget Bullock). But, as Oswald’s alive and ridiculous as ever, Gordon’s semi-promise to Falcone and Mooney is undermined and Gordon will be in a world of trouble. (of course).

Major Crimes Unit do not play it smart, asking questions, but… no proof? As Gordon observes, Detectives Allen and Montoya are acting more like Internal Affairs than Major Crimes people (no wonder they endear themselves to no one; what the hell is their arrest rate?). And, if the two think they’re somehow the “good guys” (as in the pair who are somehow holier because they’re somehow not corrupt or in cahoots with the mob like the rest of the police department) – well, the storytelling isn’t showing how they’re the good guys. Detective Montoya is irritating me.  I don’t think it’s the acting – it’s the writing. As Renee in the comics and cartoons, she holds onto her integrity – and becomes one of Gordon’s good guys. I’m not seeing how she has “integrity” here in her tv version: a lot of talk; no action.

Clearly, this is not a DC Universe where Gordon, Bullock, and Montoya are a trinity anytime soon. No, Montoya’s too busy telling Barbara that Gordon’s not trustworthy, but more as an attempt to get Barbara back in her life (and Gordon isn’t noticing something about his fiancee and the other detective? Hmm!). Not liking this at all; Renee doesn’t have to come off as a sainted figure, but neither she nor Barbara are looking brilliant (or at least Barbara has some sense: she’s going to stick with the fiance who’s trying really hard to be a good guy than the ex-girlfriend who evidently is not that good in her personal life – hmm! It doesn’t help that the actresses playing Barbara and Renee don’t have much chemistry).

The appearance of Sal Maroni – yep, that impending mob war is still just impending (so, maybe Gordon should just step out of the way and let them kill each other?). The Maronis of Gotham are interesting if only because their name is a reminder of one of the creepier (to me, anyway) Batman stories: “The Long Halloween” – how Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Dent join forces to fight the mob, and how the killer Holliday is making the mob war really crazy, Dent becomes Two-Face, and there’s a lot of killing (the Wikipedia entry there really reminded me that there was a lot of death). And, Poison Ivy tries to seduce Bruce therein (a very weird and stylized scene; maybe she did seduce him, but I think some hallucination was involved so…). I don’t think we’re going to get any of “The Long Halloween” on live-action broadcast network tv (prove me wrong, tv, prove me wrong!).

The Bruce and Alfred scenes are brief but great – Bruce is deep in boy detective mode, but not in any useful way (more like brooding as usual; will Bruce ever stop brooding?). Alfred is trying to get him to eat and exercise (their fencing scene was kind of cute), but it’s not clear if Alfred’s attempts are effective to get Bruce to be mentally healthier (like that’s going to happen). But, Bruce is already thinking far more sensibly than the Balloonman; Bruce isn’t keen on killing. A storyline that’s actually going somewhere, as far as development of a character goes! (something other than Gordon trying to hold onto the righteousness).

I really enjoyed the pilot episode of “The Flash” this week. There is a real sense of awe and fun, balancing the pathos. Definitely way better special effects/filming quality than the old “The Flash” series (technology has way improved since 1990!). Barry Allen believes his father was wronged for being found guilty of the death of his mother (which appeared to be due to a supernatural/unknown anomaly, but no one believed Barry on that); he struggles to find a right way to justice, since as a CSI guy, he has the smarts but not seen as the cop guy. And then comes the famous origins scene. And, it turns out that this is a DC tv universe where we have (Green) Arrow, as the non-superpower superhero guy, and a superpowered The Flash as the current pillars in a world in need of some superheroes, as opposed to the traditional trinity foundation of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Curious…

But, I like how “The Flash” hints at the campy (because The Flash is the campy one, compared to everybody else in the DC Universe). There’s even a – spoiler alert! – Linda Park (a character from the Flash family – i.e., the love interest of the 2nd Flash a.k.a. Wally West); Iris West is here, but will Barry get the girl?… and which girl? (maybe this really is a universe where Wally doesn’t get to exist – again – so who knows what will happen to those who were supposed to be in Wally’s life?).

I like that “The Flash” has some fun and familiar actors: Jesse L. Martin, now practically typecasted as a cop after years of “Law & Order”; Tom Cavanagh, as the mysterious Harrison Wells of STAR Labs – who appears to be mentoring The Flash for now, but … that mystery scene at the end.. because when there’s speed like that, there will be problems with the space-time continuum (the Flash has caused a lot of problems/been the solution to problems in the DC Universe). Of course, I still see Tom Cavanagh as Ed, the bowling alley-based lawyer. I just hope his character on “The Flash” isn’t one of those problematic (evil?) mentors (of which there are probably a lot out there).

Barry Allen has a nice brief scene with Green Arrow, who has a Batman-mode moment (I’m not much of a “Arrow” watcher, so really: I know he has always been the stand-in for Batman in comics and cartoons (other than his blatant liberal politics and his “my sidekick is a junkie!” factors), but since when did Green Arrow use the grapple hook as the BatFamily have used it?). Barry and his dad’s moment – worth watching! (especially because it’s actor John Wesley Shipp, the ex-Flash!). I don’t assume that a strong pilot episode means that a series will do well, but I’m really interested now.

I also caught a chunk of the season premiere of “Arrow.” Oliver Queen thinks life is going to be better, or he’s hoping it will. Then comes this interesting Ray Palmer guy (who may or may not be The Atom, but is currently played by Brandon Routh, who played an ok Superman/Clark Kent in the not-great “Superman Returns” movie). I don’t know. Ray Palmer/The Atom was great in the “Justice League” cartoon, played by the awesome John C. McGinley. (clip!). And, then came the distressing closing scene of the season premiere. Crap. I wouldn’t recommend that Oliver and Bruce ever get together to debate who has the crappier, tragic filled life, but their love lives are such jokes considering what happens to the women in their universes, forget their parents, siblings (semi-siblings), wards, and friends.

I’m not sure what it says about the “Justice League” cartoon and its DC Animated Universe (DCAU) awesomeness that I keep comparing everything on DC regular tv to that cartoon series (like this one scene, where Green Arrow and Red Arrow – a.k.a. Speedy, a.k.a. Arsenal – bantered while unsuccessfully fighting superbad guy without the rest of the Justice League’s help). But, DC does tv well, somehow, even though (as far as the live action, broadcast network stuff goes) it really shouldn’t work that well (I’ll see how it goes with “Gotham”; it needs way more).

Back to more tv viewing…

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