Sunday, January 16, 2022

Lock Us Up! Lock Us Up!

Lately I've been attempting to avoid politics as much as possible, for my own mental health. Every now and then though, a story breaks through that I just have to comment on.

In a recent interview, nutsy cuckoo conspiracy theorist and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell said he still believes the 2020 election was rigged, and that his lord & savior donald j. trump actually won.

In fact Lindell confidently claimed he's collected enough evidence to put a whopping 300 MILLION Americans in prison for election fraud.

That's a pretty bold allegation! Especially when you stop to consider there are only around 330 million people in the country. So according to him, 91% of the country will soon be going to prison for life!

Even more interesting is the fact that there were only about 159 million citizens who voted in 2020. So apparently Mike's coming after people who didn't even go to the polls!

Might I also point out that there are about 80 million children under the age of eighteen in the country. Meaning about 50 million of them are gonna be locked up as well— despite not being old enough to vote.

Oddly enough, the US criminal justice system currently has the capacity for about 2.3 million inmates. Looks like prison overcrowding is about to become an even BIGGER problem!
 
You'll have to excuse me now, as I gotta go. I hear Mike and his Election Fraud Task Force pounding on my door, ready to haul me off to the hoosegow. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Book Of Boba Fett, Season 1, Episode 1: Stranger In A Strange Land

Hey, it's the series premiere of The Book Of Boba Fett!

Wow, who'd have ever guessed we'd get a second live-action Star Wars series on TV? And one starring Boba Fett, my all-time favorite character from the franchise yet! I should be ecstatic about the show! So why do I feel so indifferent about it?

I've loved the character of Boba Fett ever since he first appeared wayyyyy back in 1980. I'm not sure why, as he never really did much of anything in the movies. In fact he only appeared for an astonishingly short two minutes and eight seconds in the Original Trilogy, and uttered a total of four lines!

I think the main reason I liked him is because he looked so damned awesome. His armor was so unique and well designed that he looked cool even when he was standing still.

There was also the fact that we knew little or nothing about him. He was a completely blank slate, which allowed the audience to project their own backstory onto him.

Alas, George Lucas took care of that in the mediocre Prequel Trilogy though, grafting an underwhelming origin onto the character by making him the clone of Jango Fett— the template for the Prequel Stormtroopers. Yawn.

My love for the character— and the Star Wars franchise as a whole— cooled quite a bit after the subpar Prequels, and it died altogether after the abysmal Sequel Trilogy.

And then The Mandalorian happened. In just a handful of episodes, series creator Jon Favreau and producer Dave Filoni managed to churn out a Star Wars show that restored the franchise to its former glory and rekindled my interest in the property.

Even better, they managed to use the series to completely redeem the character of Boba Fett, turning him into the badass he never really got the chance to be in the films.

So all that said, why aren't I more excited about The Book Of Boba Fett?

I think the problem is I don't quite know what to make of the show. Do we even need a Boba Fett series at this point? Especially when we already have The Mandalorian? On the surface the two shows are so similar, a casual fan might be hard-pressed to tell them apart. How weird is it that out of all the hundreds of potential characters in the Star Wars Universe, there are now 2, count 'em TWO current TV shows about helmeted Mandalorians? It's honestly a bit weird.

I'm not too enthused about the show's premise, either. When Fett guest starred on The Mandalorian, it was evident he'd somehow escaped from the Sarlacc, been robbed of his armor and picked up some new fighting skills from a tribe of Tusken Raiders.

I completely understood those things, and could easily imagine how each of them occurred. I don't need an entire TV series dedicated to depicting these events in excruciating detail. 

But that's where we are in pop culture today. The slightest throwaway line is now fodder for an entire series of films. We can't just assume Boba Fett got out of the Sarlacc, dammit, we need to SEE it happen!

It doesn't help matters that the badass Boba Fett we saw in The Mandalorian seems to be absent here in his own series. For whatever reason, he seems to have been significantly neutered in this first episode, which was disappointing to say the least. More on that below.

Hopefully things will pick up once the series finds its footing.

Lastly, as with The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett was created by Jon Favreau and produced by Dave Filoni. Favreau is the amazing talent who helped kick off the MCU, as he directed the first Iron Man movie. Filoni developed and directed The Clone Wars animated series. 

As I said above, the two of them managed to breath new life into Star Wars and get the franchise back on track with The Mandalorian. Despite this somewhat rocky start, I'm hopeful they'll do the same with The Book Of Boba Fett

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We open on Jabba The Hutt's palace on Tatooine (where else?). The place is empty, save for Boba Fett, who lies sleeping in a horizontal bacta tank.

Boba begins dreaming in the tank, so the writers can pack the episode with unnecessary flashbacks. We see shots of the watery planet of Kamino, where Boba was "born." Next we see Young Boba holding the helmet of his recently decapitated father on Geonosis.

He then dreams of being inside the Sarlacc on Tatooine, shortly ( guess?) after the events of Return Of The Jedi. He turns on his helmet light and sees a dead Stormtrooper being absorbed by the creature's stomach. He makes his way over to the trooper and disconnects his oxygen hose and attaches it to his own helmet (?). He then ignites his wrist flamethrower.

Up on the surface, Boba's hand punches through the ground, and he climbs out onto the sand. The landscape's littered with the wreckage of Jabba's sail barge. He collapses and passes out. That night a Sandcrawler pulls up next to him, and a group of Jawas strips him of his armor. He's too weak to stop them.

The next day a tribe of Tusken Raiders discover Boba, revive him and bind his hands with a rope. They then ride banthas (single file!) back to their camp with him in tow.

Sometime later Boba wakes, tied to a wooden post in the Tusken camp. Several young Tuskens approach and begin beating him with sticks, knocking him unconscious again (does this guy ever stay awake for long?). He wakes up that night and sees a Rodian (Greedo's species) tied next to him. He tries to cut his ropes on a sharp outcropping, but one of the Tusken's massiffs (lizard-like dog things) sees him and attacks. Boba knocks it out and uses its teeth to cut his ropes.

He asks the Rodian if he wants to escape as well, but for some reason alien alerts the Tuskens. One of the Young Tuskens (who may be the Chief's son) attacks Boba but he easily overpowers him and takes his gaderffi stick. Fett raises it over his head, intending to kill his attacker. When he sees it's just a kid, he relents and flees into the desert.

The massiff runs after him, and after a brief chase catches up to him. He fights it until a group of adult Tuskens arrive and call off the beast. One of the Tuskens approaches Fett, and the two battle for a bit, till Boba's hit and knocked out— AGAIN! Jaysis.

Suddenly Boba wakes and sees his partner Fennec Shand hovering over him in the "present day." He suspends his healing season as he drains the bacta tank. He tells Fennec his dreams are coming back. She tells him to get ready, as he's due to receive their guests. Several droids help Fett suit up in his armor.

Cut to the throne room, where Fett sits listening to the various delegates from Mos Espa, who've arrived to pay tribute to him. Among them are a Transdoshan named Dokk Strassi, who Fett says he used to work for.

The Mayor of Mos Espa, Mok Shaiz, sends his sniveling Majordomo in his place, rather than showing up himself. The Majordomo offers the Mayor's "heartfelt welcome" as his tribute. He then implies the Mayor expects Fett to pay tribute to him. Fennec says Fett's the new crime lord in town, and says his tribute is allowing the Majordomo to leave "unmolested." Fett tells Fennec they'll need to keep an eye on the Mayor and his Majordomo.

Fett's 8D8 droid then brings in two Gamorrean prisoners, who worked for both Jabba and Bib Fortuna. The droid suggests torturing them to death, but Fett refuses. He offers to let them live if they pledge their loyalty to him. They bow down in supplication, and he spares their lives. Fennec tells him this is a bad idea. At least she didn't say she has a "bad feeling about this."

Sometime later, Fett and Fennec stroll through Mos Espa, with the two Gamorrean bodyguards trailing behind. Fennec says Fett should be parading around town on a litter, but he says being carried like a useless noble isn't his way.

They make their way to the local Cantina, run by a female Twi'lek named Garsa Fwip. Fett introduces himself, and says he's replaced Bib Fortuna as the new crime lord. He assures her that her business will continue as usual— under his watchful eye. She thanks him, saying the Cantina is now his. She has his helmet filled with coins and returns it to him.

They leave the Cantina, and Fett says Jabba ruled by fear, while he intends to rule by respect. Just then they're attacked by six masked figures, armed with stun batons and energy shields. The assassins surround the pair and begin stabbing at them with their batons.

After an intense battle, Fett and Fennec manage to defeat four of the assassins. The last two parkour up the side of a nearby building. Fennec chases after them, and Fett tells her to leave one alive for questioning. He then collapses and orders the Gamorreans to get him back to his bacta tank.

Fennec chases the two over the rooftops of Mos Espa, and finally heads them off. She grabs an energy baton and knocks one of the assassins off the rooftop. The remaining one surrenders to her.

Meanwhile, Fett's placed in his tank, which starts up another flashback, er, I mean "dream." He's still tied up in the Tusken camp. The Young Tusken he encountered earlier approaches and begins jabbering away at him. For some reason, the Youngling untiles Fett and the Rodian, and he and his massiff march them into the deep desert.

After trudging along for miles, they see smoke in the distance. They hide behind a ridge and see a group of desert marauders ransacking a homestead. The marauders beat the owner, destroy his water supply and paint a symbol on the side of his house before speeding off. I'm sure this will all be important later in the season.

The group continues through the desert, till the Youngling stops and orders Fett and the Rodian to start digging. The Rodian digs up a small black gourd, and the Youngling grabs it out of his hand. He breaks it open, revealing it's full of liquid. Fett finally understands and begins digging. He finds one and begins drinking from it, and the Youngling tries taking it from him. Fett stops him, saying he needs water if he's to dig all day.

The Rodian is much better at finding gourds than Fett, digging up several to his one. At one point the alien uncovers something scaly, and peers at it with interest. Suddenly several arms pop up and grab the Rodian. A giant six-limbed creature rises up out of the sand and attacks them.

The creature kills the Rodian, and the Youngling stabs it in the foot. It's just about to kill the Youngling, when Fett runs up its back and wraps his leg chains around its neck. He strangles the creature with his chains, and it falls dead to the ground.

Sometime later, the Youngling, Fett and the massiff return to the Tusken camp. The Youngling parades around with the creature's severed head, showing it off to the rest of the villagers. 
As the others congratulate the Youngling for his skill and bravery, the Tusken Leader knowingly approaches Fett. Without saying a word, he offers him a black gourd. Fett smiles faintly and drinks.

Thoughts:
• At some point it's a given that my clumsy fingers are gonna type "Feet" instead of "Fett." Please bear with me and overlook any such fox paws.

• The title of this episode is from the Bible, specifically Exodus 2: 22. It's also the title of a 1961 sci-fi novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

• Just like The Mandalorian did, The Book Of Boba Fett starts out with images of iconic helmets and droids from the Star Wars Universe, outline in blue and red lights. If you watch closely, the last two helmets belong to Fennec and Fett themselves! Cool.

• Ah, it's a Flashback Episode! The crutch of modern TV writers (I'm lookin' at you, The Walking Dead), who use the format to rearrange story elements and make their plotlines seem more complex than they really are.

• I think the main beef I have with this episode and the series premise in general: What the hell happened to the Boba Fett we saw in The Mandalorian?

If you'll recall, Fett first appeared for the first time in decades in The Tragedy. In that episode, Fett was a straight-up badass who took out an entire squad of Stormtroopers by himself, armed with nothing but a Tusken gaderffii stick!

Then in a post credit scene in The Rescue, Fett and his partner Fennec Shand burst into Jabba The Hutt's old palace on Tatooine, which had been taken over by Bib Fortuna. Fett wiped out the various palace guards, then brutally murdered Fortuna in cold blood. He then shoved his steaming corpse out of the way and plopped down on his throne, decreeing himself the new head of Jabba's old crime syndicate.

It was an awesome scene, and demonstrated that Fett was a force (heh) to be reckoned with.

Annnnnnd then this episode happened. Suddenly Fett's seemingly been neutered, as he shows mercy to prisoners and tells Fennec he wants to rule with respect, not through fear. And then there are the flashbacks, in which he's knocked out cold at least four times— once by a group of kids!

What the hell?

If I had to guess, I'd say Favreau and Filoni realized they'd written themselves into a creative corner. It's perfectly fine to have Lethal Badass Boba Fett show up for a guest appearance or two in The Mandalorian. But you can't very well have a series which features a ruthless killer as the ostensible hero. Hence, they had to "declaw" Fett in order to give him his own show. Feh.

Hopefully they'll find some middle ground here as the show goes forward.

• As anyone who's read my reviews of The Mandalorian knows by now, I have this irrational prejudice toward the planet Tatooine.

Actually it's not really a prejudice... it's more like I'm just tired of the place! No, wait... I'm not tired of it. SICK of it would be more apt!

Tatooine's been featured in SIX of the nine theatrical movies, and dozens of times in the various animated series. It popped up at least four times over on The Mandalorian as well. And now we have an entire series that's presumably set on the planet.

Which is why I honestly wasn't looking forward to this series, despite it starring my favorite Star Wars character.

I don't understand the creator's fascination with the place. It's an unremarkable backwater world locaed in the outskirts of the galaxy. Luke Skywalker himself summed up the place perfectly when he said, “If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from.”

It's just galling to me that there's an entire galaxy of planets in the Star Wars Universe, that are ripe for exploration. And yet over and over the stories keep returning to this same ferkakte world, that we've already seen too many times.

So why's Tatooine's so attractive to the creators? The answer's simple— money! Setting a story on the massive city-planet of Coruscant would cost millions in complicated model work and labor-intensive CGI.

But Tattoine's a featureless desert planet. All the crew needs to do is take a short drive into the California desert, and boom! They're on Tatooine! Heck, with their new Stagecraft background simulation system, they likely don't even have to film on location— just take a few hi-res shots of the desert and project it behind the actors!

I'm hoping that once the show gets past Fett's origin story, he might deign to venture off-world once or twice, to give us a much-needed look at another planet besides Tatooine. I mean, they can't set the WHOLE series on this world, right? Please say that they can't!

• Since much of the action takes place inside Jabba's palace, I'm assuming the producers must have painstakingly recreated the sets from Return Of The Jedi.

• When we first see Fett, he's recovering in a horizontal bacta tank. Several things here:

First of all, his tank is similar to the one used to heal Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.

Secondly, for some reason the bacta tank emits a sound effect that's identical to that of an Earthly sonogram. You know, that low-pitched, mechanical "wow-wow-wow" sound. Weird.

Lastly, the tank's air regulator only fits over Fett's mouth. How's he keep from breathing the fluid in through his nose? Especially while he's unconscious?

• Fett experiences various flashbacks, er, I mean "dreams" inside the tank, which handily recap the events of his life for audience members who may not be familiar with him.

First up we see Kamino (from Attack Of The Clones), the water planet where he was cloned by his "father" Jango Fett.

We then see a young Fett mournfully holding the helmet of his father, who was decapitated by Mace Windu, also from Attack Of The Clones

We then snap forward twenty years or so, as Fett's trapped in the guts of the Sarlacc, shortly (?) after falling into the beast's mouth in the first act of Return Of The Jedi. There's a LOT to unpack in this brief little scene.

Fett looks around the innards of the Sarlacc, and sees a dead Stormtrooper who's being absorbed into the creature's stomach lining. He makes his way over to the Trooper and disconnects the air supply from his helmet.

Wait, what? Stormtrooper helmets are airtight? Since when? 
Ah, but it doesn't stop there! Fett then takes the air tube from the Stormtrooper's armor and connects it to his own Mandalorian helmet. We then hear a familiar pneumatic whine (the same one used when Darth Vader seals his helmet in The Empire Strikes Back) as his helmet seals itself. So apparently Fett's helmet is hermetically sealed as well!

What. The. Hell.

can't think of a single instance in the forty five year history of the entire Star Wars franchise in which there was ever any indication that Stormtrooper or Mandalorian helmets are airtight and have an external oxygen supply. From the very beginning they've been portrayed as simple protective head coverings. Buckets, if you will. I don't know where this came from or why it's suddenly a thing, but it's most definitely a retcon.

Also, where'd that Stormtrooper come from? Was he part of one of the patrols sent out to find C-3PO and R2-D2 in A New Hope, and accidentally fell into the Sarlacc's maw? Or was he from a later squad who was patrolling the area for some reason? Whatever the explanation, it was mighty convenient that he was there to provide Fett with some much needed oxygen.

• Once Fett replenishes his air supply, he uses his wrist-mounted flamethrower to burn his way out of the Sarlacc. We then see his hand burst dramatically through the sand, as he claws his way back to the surface.

Everyone and their dog has already pointed this out, but his method of escape seen here is virtually identical to the one described by Patton Oswalt several years ago in Parks And Recreation!

In the Season 5 episode Article TwoOswalt plays Garth Blundin, a concerned citizen of Pawnee who's upset at Leslie Knope's attempt to eliminate an outdated town law. To prevent the law from being overturned, he performs a filibuster at a City Council meeting.

Oswalt's epic improvised rant went on for over eight minutes (although it was cut down for broadcast), and is truly something to behold as he VERY accurately outlined Boba Fett's escape from the Sarlacc in this episode, right down to the stage directions! Here's a transcript of the relevant part of his filibuster:

"Begin with standard title sequence and John Williams fanfare followed by a scroll to be written. I would like to mention that Brian De Palma wrote the original opening scroll for Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. I think it would be a nice nod, uh, to the franchise if he were to write this opening scroll. Then pan down from the twin suns of Tattoine, uh, we are now close on the mouth of the Sarlacc pit. After a beat, the gloved, Mandalorian armor gauntlet of Boba Fett grabs onto the sand outside the Sarlacc pit, and the feared bounty hunter pulls himself from the maw of the sand beast. And we, and we realize that he survived his fall during the battle at Jabba’s, uh, palace ship."

WOW! That's pretty darned accurate! Eerily so, in fact!

Although to be completely fair, it's not like Oswalt is some supernatural seer who peered into the future. How the hell else would Boba Fett escape, other than by blasting his way out of the Sarlacc's stomach? And how else would get to the surface besides clawing his way through the sand? It's still fairly impressive though, since as I said, he even predicted the exact camera shots!

Note that in his filibuster, he also predicted the MCU's Avengers: Infinity War several years before it became a reality 

• So how long was Fett inside the Sarlacc? probably not very long, since the wreckage of Jabba's sail barge is still strewn about the sand when he escapes. The Jawas would likely have hauled off the debris shortly after the explosion, so I'm guessing he was in there for far less than a day— probably just a few hours!

What about the Stormtrooper who's in there with him? How long's he been down there? Again, it can't have been too awfully long, since his armor still contains a viable oxygen supply!

• Once Fett escapes from the Sarlacc's belly, a group of Jawas strips him of his Mandalorian armor. We then see he's wearing an all-white jumpsuit (?). 

Although this might seem like a major continuity error, I don't think it is. I'm betting the Sarlacc's digestive fluids must have bleached his clothing, since since before he fell into the pit he was wearing his standard blue-gray uniform. Nice touch!

• After the Jawas steal Fett's armor, a tribe of Tusken Raiders appears and takes him captive. One of them squirts the juice from some kind of work into his mouth to revive him. Yuck!

Also, note the scars on Fett's head. When we showed up back in Season 2 of The Mandalorian and removed his helmet, we saw his head was covered in scars. At the time I assumed he'd gotten them from being inside the Sarlacc.

But then in this episode, we saw his helmet was apparently airtight— meaning the creature's stomach acid couldn't have gotten to his head. That means he must have somehow acquired the scars long before Return Of The Jedi.

This seems like as good a time as any to bring this up: How old is Boba Fett supposed to be here? His first chronological appearance was in Attack Of The Clones, when he was a child. Actor Daniel Logan was fifteen when he played Young Fett, so I'm gonna assume that was the character's age as well. 

According to the official timeline, Attack Of The Clones was set twenty two years before A New Hope. The Book Of Boba Fett supposedly takes place eight years after that. If my math's correct, that would make Fett forty six in this episode.

Actor Temuera Morrison is currently sixty one years old, and if I'm being honest he looks every day of it in this episode. I guess we could say Fett's had a hard life and looks a lot older than he really is.

Maybe humans just age faster in the Star Wars Universe. After all, Obi-Wan Kenobi went from looking like Ewen McGregor to Alec Guinness in just nineteen short years!

• The Tuskens take Fett prisoner and force him to follow behind their convoy. Note that true to Obi-Wan's word, the Sandpeople ride single file to hide their numbers.

• As Fett enters the Tusken camp, the Chief watches him while sipping liquid from a black goud.

I won't ask how he's drinking with his mask on...

• That night we see Fett and a Rodian have been tied to what appear to be ancient, gnarled dead tree stumps. A couple things here:

First of all, tree stumps? So I guess at one point there were trees on Tatooine? If so, then I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've seen any indication there was ever any kind of plant life on the desert planet (the Chief's gourd notwithstanding).

Secondly, it was nice of the Tuskens to build a cozy campfire to help keep their captives warm! I guess they're not all bad!

• Are massiffs intelligent? When Fett tries to cut his ropes and free himself, the dog-lizard sees what he's doing, growls and starts creeping toward him to attack. So it has to be fairly smart and self-aware, right? Otherwise why would it care if Fett cut his bonds? Or even understand what he was doing?

• Interestingly, Fett speaks the first line in this episode at the 9:16 mark, when he asks the Rodian prisoner if he wants his bonds cut. Up to that point there's zero dialogue— apart from a few unintelligible Tusken grunts and squeals.

• In the "present," Fett gets dressed in his armor before receiving tribute from his subjects. Once again we see his helmet's apparently airtight. When he puts it on, there's an audible pneumatic "whine" as the airtight seal activates (the same sound effect we hear when Vader's helmet attaches in The Empire Strikes Back). 

I don't get why Mandalorian helmets are suddenly airtight. We never heard this happen when Manny put his on over on The Mandalorian?

• In the "present," Fett's accompanied by his partner Fennec Shand— bounty hunter, mercenary and master assassin.

Fennec's played by actress Ming-Na Wen, of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fame (among many other credits). I've said it many, many times, but it's still worth a repeat— I cannot believe Wen is currently 58 years old. She looks a good twenty years younger, if not more. Just goes to show what having good genes— as well as a net worth of $5 million dollars can do for you!

I've been a fan of Ming-Na Wen since her As The World Turns days, so it's awesome to see her in the Star Wars Universe.

• Fett holds court inside his newly-acquired palace, and local dignitaries stop by to pay tribute. Among them is an Aqualish (the same species as Ponda Baba, aka "Walrus Man" in A New Hope) who grunts and shrieks his respects. Fett quips to Fennec that they really need an interpreter droid so they can understand what the hell these aliens are saying. Haw!

In virtually every Star Wars property, everyone can inexplicably understand everyone else, no matter if they growl, hoot or even beep. So it was refreshing to finally see someone who couldn't understand an alien's speech.

• Does the droid who announces the visiting dignitaries look familiar?

He's 8D8, the torture droid seen in Return Of The Jedi. Apparently Fett reprogrammed and repurposed him as a steward— a much less sinister function.

You'd never know it from listening to him, but 8D8 here is voiced by actor Matt Berry, of The IT Crowd fame. He's actually the second alumnus of that series to voice a droid in a Star Wars TV show, as his co-star Richard Ayoade played Zero in The Prisoner over on The Mandalorian.

• At one point a Trandoshan dignitary stops by with a tribute. He's of the same species as the bounty hunter Boskk in The Empire Strikes Back. If you look closely, the item he's offering is a Wookiee pelt— which is more than a little disturbing!

Fett has the following conversation with the Trandoshan:

Fett: "It's an honor to be welcomed to Mos Espa by you, Dokk Strassi."
Strassi: "May you never leave Mos Espa."
Fett: (to Fennec) "Even when a Trandoshan pays you a compliment, it sounds like a threat."

• Fett's presented with a couple of Gamorrean guards who were loyal to Jabba and later on to Bib Fortuna. He tells them he'll spare their lives if they swear to serve him.

Apparently prosthetics have improved quite a bit since Return Of The Jedi in 1983. Back then the Gamorreans looked remarkably fake, as they couldn't create convincing foam latex bodies for them and had to cover the characters with armor and furs.

We're now at the point where the producers can create realistic full-body makeups for the Gammorreans, which allows them to be appear shirtless.

• At one point Fett and Fennec take a stroll through downtown Mos Espa. For some reason they pass a woman herding a flock of Boston Dynamics dog robots through the streets!

What the hell? I can't speak for anyone else, but this shot took me right out of the show. By now everyone's seen videos of those real-world robots and knows they're a 21st Century Earth invention— and not something that existed A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Why would they stick those things in the episode? It's like seeing a line of Volkswagen Beetles parked along the street.

• Fett and Fennec pay a visit to the local Cantina.

Wait a minute... Are... are those droids? In a cantina? Serving drinks? What the heck are THEY doing there?

What happened to "We don't serve their kind here?"

If you'll recall, back in A New Hope R2-D2 and C-3PO were denied service at the Cantina over in Mos Eisley. Maybe it's a backward settlement, and Mos Espa here's more enlightened and inclusive of their clientele.

• Inside the Cantina we see a small band playing. A LOT to unpack here. 

First of all, if you listen closely they're playing a jazzy, almost Spanish guitar version of the song heard in the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope. I see what you did there, Favreau!

Secondly, I assumed the blue-skinned alien seen here was simply a member of the same species as Max Rebo, leader of the band who played exclusively in Jabba's palace in Return Of The Jedi. According to the interwebs though, this really IS Max Rebo seen here!

That seems... unlikely. Max and his bandmates were onboard Jabba's sail barge when it blew up real good, so I don't see how it could possibly be him.

On the other hand, Bib Fortuna apparently survived the destruction of the sail barge as well, and went on to take over Jabba's crime syndicate, until he was killed by Fett in the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian.

For the record, this is what the sail barge explosion looked like. I'll let the reader decide if anyone would have possibly survived this conflagration.

Lastly, take a close look at Max here. He's sitting on a brown cushion, and it appears his body ends just below his arms! What the hell? Did he get blown in half in the sail barge explosion or something?

Believe it or not, Max Rebo's physique is a source of controversy in Star Wars fandom. Back in the 1980s, Kenner made a be-diapered action figure of Max that depicted him with a lower torso and stumpy legs. Although unofficial, many fans consider the figure's body structure to be canon.

Supposedly that was never the intent. Creature designer Phil Tippett created numerous maquettes of various aliens for Return Of The Jedi, including this one of Max Rebo. You can see here that Max doesn't have any arms, and is actually playing the keyboard with his legs and feet!  

So the "half-body" version of Max seen in this episode would seem to be correct, as it matches the artist's original intent!
 
• In the Cantina, Fett and Fennec are approached by two Twi'leks, who offer to clean and service their helmets. Amazingly, Fett agrees! 

What the hell? Like its sister city Mos Eisley, Mos Espa is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Why in the name of sanity would Fett allow his precious helmet out of his sight? For all he knows the Twi'leks might plant some kind of b bug or other monitoring device inside their helmets!

• Fett meets with the owner of the Cantina, an attractive Twi'lek named Garsa Fwip (which is as Star Wars-y a name as I've ever heard!).

Fwip's played by Jennifer Beals, of Flashdance fame! Holy cow! I didn't recognize her at all! I figured she'd be an old lady by now, so I was surprised to see she still looks so young, and dare I say it— hot!

• On their way back to the palace, Fett and Fennec are ambushed by a group of space ninjas with electro-prods and shields.

I love this move by Fennec, in which she stabs a ninja with a prod, then flips him over her head so he lands on his buddy's shield and gets fried. Cool!

• Fett has another flashback, er, I mean dream, in which the Tusken Youngling marches him and the Rodian out into the desert.

I can't figure out what this kid was trying to do here. He takes two prisoners out of the camp in broad daylight, and none of the other Tuskens pays the slightest bit of attention to him. Is the the chief's son or something, and can do whatever the hell he wants?

And why is Fett going along with this? The Youngling's half his size. This would have been the perfect chance to knock out the brat and escape.

• While doing whatever they're doing in the desert, the little band runs across a group of marauders or pirates who're attacking a homestead. Before leaving, one of them paints a symbol on the front of the house, that looks like opposing letter "Js." Or maybe it's a pair of socks, I dunno. 

This is an obvious bit of setup, so I'm sure we'll find out who they are and what that symbol means in future flashbacks.

• I'm in awe of this show of the massiff kicking up sand as it walks! Now that's some damn good CGI!

• Once they're miles into the deep desert, the Tusken Youngling orders Fett and the Rodian to start digging in the sand. 

At first I thought the episode had taken a dark turn, and he was ordering them to dig their own graves! Thankfully that wasn't the case. Apparently this kid dragged them all the way out here to dig for tiny, liquid-filled black gourds (!). Got it.

So... they couldn't have done this closer to the camp? I suppose it's possible the Tuskens have already depleted the gourd supply there, so the kid needed to range out farther.

• While digging for gourds, the Rodian inadvertently wakes a large, six limbed creature that attacks the trio.

Many fans are claiming the creature's a nod to the four-armed Tharks, one of the alien races in Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter Of Mars series.

Eh, I guess it's possible. I thought it looked much more like the alien Ymir from 1957's 20 Million Miles To Earth— which featured stop motion animation from the late, great Ray Harryhausen. Not only does the creature in this episode resemble the Ymir, but it had the same body language as all of Harryhausen's classic monsters. Especially the way it reared up as it held its arms out straight.

Whatever the creature's inspiration, I really enjoyed the way it could switch from a two legged to four legged gait at will! I'm also amazed at just how "stop-motion-y" it looks here. You could splice this scene into any Harryhausen movie and it wouldn't look out of place. That's a good thing, by the way!

• The appearance of this previously unseen creature brings up a good question— why the frak did humans ever settle on Tatooine?

First of all the planet orbits twin suns, making it a dry, desolate desert word where little or nothing can grow.

Then there's the wildlife, most of which is deadly. Massiffs, Sarlaccs, Worts, Rancors and even Krayt Dragons! And now whatever this thing is. About the only animals who don't seem to be actively trying to kill everyone are Dewbacks and Banthas.

And don't forget the indigenous tribes! You've got the scavenging Jawas, who can be deadly despite their diminutive size. And of course the Tuskens, who shoot first and grunt questions later.

The entire planet is nothing but a nightmare of hardship and certain death, and I don't understand why anyone would willingly ever live there.

• The Tuskens clearly are a pre-industrial society. So where'd they get their sneakers with the fancy treads? WHOOPS!

I suppose we could say they might have looted them from an unlucky colonist. I suppose we could say that, but I don't know why we should.

• I assume the scene of Fett strangling the creature with his chains is an homage to Return Of The Jedi, since Princess Leia killed Jabba the exact same way.

• Back at the camp, the Youngling carries the creature's severed head and parades it around the camp. The others feign interest in this and fawn all over him, reinforcing my theory that he's the Tusken Chief's son.

• Loved the moment at the end between Fett and the Chief. The leader obviously knows his son's full of sh*t and wasn't the one who killed the beast. He then wordlessly thanks Fett for saving his kid's life— along with officially accepting him into the tribe.

Network For Sale! Cheap!

This week ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia, owners of The CW, announced they were putting the TV network up for sale (!). Wow!

As readers of my blog (both of you) know, The CW is the home of all the various Arrowverse shows, such as The Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow, Superman & Lois, Stargirl and yes, even Batwoman. They also air other series such as Riverdale, Legacies, All-American, Walker and The 4400.

Why consider selling? As usual, it's all about money. Amazingly ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia claim that The CW has NEVER turned a profit since its inception back in 2006! That seems... hard to believe, but I suppose they know what they're talking about.

Another reason for the potential sale may have to do with Netflix. It's all way more complicated than I care to get into here, but basically The CW had a deal with Netflix, who would air their various series and help them reach a larger (and more profitable) audience.

Unfortunately that deal ended in 2019, as ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia shifted their libraries to their own streaming services— HBO Max and Paramount+. Foreign sales reportedly ended recently as well.

So what does all this mean for the future of the Arrowverse? I have a casual interest in all this after all, as I regularly review several of the shows here on my little blog.

Unfortunately it's wayyyyy too early to know. It'll likely depend on who— if anyone— buys the network.

If I had to guess (which is always dangerous), I'd say it'll mean the end for a lot of the shows. Aging series like The Flash (currently in its eight season) and Legends Of Tomorrow (in its seventh) will likely be canceled. In fact The Flash would probably be ending this year even without the network sale, as many of its stars are tiring of the show and are anxious to move on.

Batwoman will probably be on the chopping block as well, since it's ratings have been consistently and shockingly dismal ever since it premiered. In fact the most recent season's pulled in less than 500,000 viewers per episode! Holy cow! That's lowwwww!

Legends Of Tomorrow's not doing much better, as its recent ratings are only slightly higher than Batwoman's.

Hopefully the newer— and frankly, much better— shows like Superman & Lois and Stargirl will continue on the network after its sold. Or find a home over on HBO Max. They're both too good to lose. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, January 8, 2022

The Flash Season 8, Episode 5: Armageddon, Part 5

This week on The Flash, it's the conclusion of the big Armageddon crossover event.

So, how was it? Did it live up to its potential, or was it another disappointing dud? Eh, it's not quite that simple. If I had to describe this crossover with a single word, I'd say it was puzzling. At every turn, the writers made the worst and most puzzling decision possible.

It started out on a promising note, as it was leaps and bounds better than anything the writers crapped out in the disastrous Season 7. Armageddon, Part 1 and Part 2 were actually surpisingly decent outings, as the ultra powerful alien Despero arrived in Central City, bent on killing Barry in order to prevent him from destroying the world. And Part 3 ended with a shocking, plot-twisting cliffhanger that may have been the best thing the series has ever done!

But then the cracks began showing. Armageddon should have been a straightforward story— an alien comes to Earth gunning for Barry, and he has to find out why and ultimately defeat him. Instead the plotline became hopelessly and needlessly muddled. Despero has psychic powers and says he'll kill Barry if he senses his mental state deteriorating. Shortly afterward, ANOTHER psychic villain shows up and begins tampering with Barry's mind! Why clutter the story with TWO villains who have the exact same powers? It was clumsy and confusing. Puzzling even.

Things really got muddled in Armageddon Part 4, when the writers seemingly got bored with Despero, and shoved him aside in favor of Eobard Thawne. Yep, that's right— once again they trotted out the most overused villain in the Arrowverse for yet another appearance. 

Don't get me wrong, Thawne's definitely the best villain on The Flash, and actor Tom Cavanagh plays him to perfection. But he didn't belong in this crossover. It should have been two separate storylines— one featuring Despero, and one Thawne. Cramming them both in the same arc only served to dilute Despero, to the point where he might as well not have been there at all.

Ah, but the puzzling decisions don't stop there! Part 4 featured Barry finding himself in a hellish alternate timeline of Thawne's making— one in which HE was the Flash. It was an interesting concept, but wasn't given enough time to breathe as Barry set everything right before the last commercial. The "ThawneWorld" arc really needed to be two or three episodes long.

Which brings us to this week, in which there's nothing left for the characters to do besides sit around and debate whether to let Thawne die, or try to save him. The idea of helping an insidious villain like Thawne is utterly preposterous, and made the characters all seem like idiots. Oh, and Despero— the ostensible villain of the piece— makes a final, perfunctory appearance, almost as an afterthought. Puzzling!

More puzzlement— this big "crossover event" featured a slew of characters who, strangely enough, were all from defunct Arrowverse shows that are no longer on the air. We got appearances from Alex Danvers of Supergirl, Jefferson Pierce from Black Lightning, Ryan Choi, who was in Crisis On Infinite Earths and nothing else since and even Mia Queen from Arrow. Atom and Nora Darhk also showed up, fresh from their firings from Legends Of Tomorrow. How strange! Honestly, would it have killed them to bring in someone from a show that's still on? 

Even more puzzling was the fact that the crossover spent an inordinate amount of time on characters who didn't really "exist" or who we'll likely never see again. Part 4 featured a ton of relationship drama between versions of Team Flash from a timeline that was about to be erased. Why we were meant to care about them before they disappeared, I have no idea. 

Then Part 5 doubled down on Mia Queen, who was to be the star of a series that was canceled before it was even greenlit! Again, why insert an ersatz character and her abortive storyline into a crossover on The Flash? I don't get it.

On the plus side, Barry finally gets gold boots to wear with his costume, so that was a positive.

Ah well. Let's get this over with, shall we?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
After finding out that Joe's alive, Barry runs to his house to greet him. He explains to Joe that Thawne created a hellish "Reverse Flashpoint," but he was able to undo it with the help of Damian Darhk (!).

Right on cue, Damian appears. Barry asks how he's alive after the events of the previous episode. Damian explains that Barry used the Time Stone to undo Thawne's changes, and it must have preserved him somehow. He says once the new timeline solidifies though, he'll die for good. He hopes to see his daughter Nora Darhk one last time before that happens though. Barry gives him back the Time Stone, hoping it'll stabilize him or something.

Meanwhile, Thawne (who's now the Reverse-Flash again) speeds into CCPD. The officers tell him he's under arrest, and he points out he hasn't done anything wrong yet (?). He tells them he's there because he's not ready to  die.

Back at STAR, Barry tells Team Flash about the alternate timeline. Joe thanks him for risking everything to save them all. Just then they get an alert that Thawne's at CCPD. Barry speeds off to confront him.

Cut to CCPD, where Thawne's throwing lightning at the officers in an effort to draw out Barry. Just then Mia Queen appears (?), knocks Thawne to the floor and aims an arrow at him. She demands to know where "William" is, and Thawne (along with the audience) says he has no idea who she's talking about.

Thawne's body flickers as the timeline begins to solidify. Mia recognizes the effect and realizes he doesn't have much time left. He blasts Mia with Negative Speed Force lightning, grabs her by the throat and preps to vibrate his hand through her chest. Just then Barry finally arrives and punches Thawne across the room. Thawne says he didn't come there to fight— instead he wanted witnesses to see him ask the Flash for help.

Barry & Mia take Thawne to STAR, where they lock him up behind a force field. Mia tells Team Flash she was looking for "something" when she picked up Thawne's "temporal scent," and followed him to 2021.

Barry tells her Thawne's being erased due to the changes he made to the timeline, and that if he disappears this time it'll be permanent. Mia's all for this, but Team Flash isn't so sure. Iris says they need to talk it over before making any decisions about Thawne's fate (!). Mia says they're all nuts (preach it!) and walks off.

Iris follows Mia and asks why she's really in 2021. Mia confesses she's there to find her missing brother William, as he disappeared the night she put on the Green Arrow costume and she hasn't seen him since. She's been looking for him for two years now, and she found evidence that indicated he might have come back to 2021. Not sure what any of this is doing in a Flash episode, but there you go.

Mia tells Iris she'll kill to get William back, and says that Team Flash is too afraid to do the same and give Thawne the death he deserves. Can't say I disagree with her there.

Caitlin analyzes Thawne's readings and tells him he has two hours left before he fades away forever. He says he's not worried, as Team Flash are the "good guys" and they'll think of a way to save him. Caitlin snaps that she might surprise him and let him die. He then taunts her, saying she hasn't moved on and is in the exact same place she was before her fiancee Ronnie Raymond died. She angrily tells him that death's a part of life, and it's his turn to die now.

Caitlin finds Barry and tells him they need to let Thawne die. Barry's stunned by this uncharacteristic outburst from her.

Barry goes to see Thawne, and asks why he hates him so much. Thawne says that thanks to time travel shenanigans, they'll meet for the first time two hundred years from now. He says he made himself into speedster hero, and just as he was about to present himself to the world, Barry showed up and stole his thunder. Humiliated, he vowed to become faster than Barry and destroy him.

Barry asks what Thawne will do if they save him, and he answers truthfully— he'll continue trying to kill him.

Barry walks out of the detention area in anger, and is immediately confronted by Despero. Hey, remember him? The ostensible villain of this crossover, who was cast aside in favor of Thawne? Despero says he went to the future and saw that Barry was telling the truth about Thawne actually being the one who causes Armageddon. He says as long as Thawne lives he could still destroy the world, and tells Barry to let him die. He then vanishes.

Barry gathers Team Flash and tells them he's decided to let Thawne die— for the good of the world. Chester, Allegra and Cecile are horrified at this, pointing out that heroes don't let people die. Iris tells them that as the "new kids," they don't get a vote (!), and the decision is made.

Just then Joe enters, and asks to speak with Barry & Iris privately. He tears them both a new one, asking them what they hell they think they're doing letting Thawne die. He says Thawne came to them for help, and they're obligated to at least try and save them. Quite rightly, Barry points out that if they let Thawne live, none of them will ever be safe again. Joe says as heroes they're duty bound to help everyone, whether they're good or evil. I'm at a loss for words here.

Amazingly Barry agrees to try and save Thawne. For some reason he believes that permanently taking his speed away will stabilize him and prevent him from being erased. 

Barry tells Caitlin and the others they've decided to try and save Thawne. He says once they take his speed away they'll hand him over to ARGUS, where he'll spend the rest of his life in custody. Caitlin says life in prison isn't enough for all the lives Thawne destroyed.

Elsewhere, Despero telepathically monitors the situation, and decides he'll have to kill Thawne himself. He takes over Mia's mind to help him. Despero then appears before Barry, and demands he let Thawne be erased. Barry argues that Thawne won't be a threat if he's stripped of his speed (wrong!). Despero gives him a final warning, telling him to let Thawne die or suffer the consequences.

Barry refuses, so Despero teleports them out onto the street in order to fight. Iris tells Allegra and Frost to protect Thawne, and then goes after Barry. The second Iris is gone, the now mind-controlled Mia fires a sonic arrow at Allegra and Frost, knocking them out.

Out on the street, Barry says he's figured out Despero's secret— he wasn't a rebel leader as he claimed, but the cruel despot who ruled his planet. Despero admits it, saying he did what was necessary for the greater good. He morphs into his true form and the two begin battling one another.

Back at STAR, the power goes out— but luckily not for Thawne's forcefield (?). Mia attacks Iris and the others, as they realize she's under Despero's control. Iris somehow dodges one of Mia's arrows (???), but Caitlin's hit in the leg. Mia tells Iris (in Despero's voice) that she's going to die for making the wrong decision about Thawne.

Iris gives Mia a Patented The CW Pep Talk®, telling her she has the power to fight Despero's mind control. For some reason Mia aims her bow at Cecile, but Iris pulls a gun on her and tells her to stop. Cecile psychically urges Mia to resist Despero. Iris tells her to think about William, and which path he'd choose. Mia hesitates a bit and then drops her bow. Suddenly she clutches her head in pain and drops to her knees. She tells Iris she's sorry.

Just then the CGI budget runs out, as Despero senses Mia's rejection and reverts back to human form. He teleports into STAR, where he causes the reactor to begin overloading. Chester says when it blows, it'll not only take out Thawne but the entire city as well.

Allegra says there's gotta be a way to stop Despero without destroying everything (well that was a helpful comment!). Barry suggests they sever Despero's link to the Flame Of Py'Tar— his power source. Chester says he has just the tech to do it, and opens a large box. Barry and the others look inside the box with wonder.

Barry takes a pair of gold boots from the box and puts them on. Chester says he made them out of the PED device from the previous episode (?). Barry zooms to Despero, who's unleashing the Flame. He speeds around him, creating a vortex. He runs up a nearby building, dragging the Flame with him. He then redirects it so it blast Despero back on the ground. This somehow breaks his connection to the Flame, leaving him powerless. Despero says Barry will pay for what he's done and vanishes.

Chester radios Barry and says they only have thirty seconds before Thawne disappears. Barry zooms back to STAR, and blasts Thawne with Speed Force Lightning. This forces the Negative Speed Force energy from him, and it shoots up into the sky and disperses.

Caitlin scans Thawne and says his speed's gone for good. Barry tells him they just saved his life, and hopes he doesn't make them regret it. Thawne says Barry's taken everything from him and left him in Hell.

Sometime later Team Flash gets all dressed up and celebrates at a nightclub. Mia apologizes again for trying to kill them. Just then Damien appears, and she puts a knife to his throat. He tells her to go ahead and kill him, as he should already be dead. Mia relents and goes to get a drink. Damien tells Barry he doesn't understand why he's still alive.

Iris gives Mia some info she got from a hacker that may point to William's location. She thanks her, and Iris says she should visit the past more often.

Frost senses Chester's feelings for Allegra, and urges him to tell her how he feels. He approaches Allegra and the two awkwardly chat, till Barry comes over and cockblocks Chester. He tells them they were right about saving Thawne.

Joe thanks Damian for helping Barry restore the timeline. Damien says being a parent changes a person, and wonders why he's here instead of his daughter Nora. Damien gives Joe his Time Stone, saying he's going to need it some day (FORESHADOWING ALERT!).

Just then Damian disappears and finds himself in a ghostly version of the club. Nora Darhk appears, and asks what's going on. Damian says it doesn't matter, as he's glad he got to see her one last time before he goes. He tells her he loves her, and she reaches out to touch him.

Suddenly Nora's standing inside the real club. She asks what's happening, and Joe says her father just saved her. He takes her aside to tell her what Damian did for her.

Barry gathers Team Flash and makes a toast to "making and protecting their own destiny."

At CCPD, we zoom in on a photo on the wall of the Overlook Hotel, er, I mean New Year's Eve 2014. Suddenly the photo changes, and Bart and Nora Allen appear in the background (?).

Thoughts: 
• Nice to finally see Joe again. Too bad it took FIVE episodes for him to show up.

• In the Lounge, Barry tells Team Flash about his adventure in Thawne's alternate timeline, and how he saved them all from horrible futures and/or certain death. Amazingly, they're all suitably impressed and even praise him for being such a hero and risking his life to save them.

It's funny to me how they all just blindly accept his outlandish tale— one which he can't possibly prove really happened. Just once I'd like to see him tell Iris and the others something like this, and then they'd all say, "Surrrrre you went to an alternate timeline and saved the world, Barry! Now let's get you up onto this bed so Caitlin can check out your brain."

• During the debriefing, Barry says Chester invented the energy absorption tech that helped save the world in Thawne's timeline. He then zooms off to... somewhere and comes back with the piece of tech. He hands it to Chester, who examines it and says, "Holy Ron Mallett, this circuitry is next level."

As always, Chester's Black History Month exclamations go right over my head, causing me to have to look them up. Ronald Lawrence Mallett is an African-American physicist, professor and author at the University Of Connecticut. He's best known for his theories on the possibility of time travel. Because Knowing Is Half The Battle!

• Wow, when the gang's chilling in the Lounge, Cecile actually takes Joe's hand for a few brief seconds. I'm pretty sure this is the first time they've even been in the same room with one another in over a year— much less touched. I wonder... is there some kind of behind the scenes tension between the two actors that prevents them from working closely these days?

Nice Touch: At CCPD, Officer Korber and a fellow policeman walk past a large portrait of Chief Singh.

• When Thawne appears in CCPD, Officer Korber tells him he's under arrest. Thawne smiles and smugly says, "For what, officers? I haven't even done anything... yet."

OK, so he may not have done anything illegal TODAY, but what about his lengthy rap sheet full of priors? Surely there's at least one past crime they could arrest him for?

• As happened last week, Thawne lumbers around in his new Reverse-Flash costume like Frankenstein's monster, seemingly unable to even turn his head.

It's unclear at this time why they changed the costume, as the old one was perfectly adequate(even though I never quite understood why the yellow material faded to black on the forearms and shins). The original outfit was a completely different material and allowed for much more movement.

Many fans have speculated that they built the new Reverse-Flash suit for Grant Gustin to wear in last week's episode, and Tom Cavanagh's now inherited it. Eh, that seems unlikely to me. Yes, both men are tall and have slim builds, but there's no way in hell they're exactly the same size. If this really was a hand-me-down it likely wouldn't fit Cavanagh at all.

• During Thawne's rampage, Mia Queen shows up at CCPD. For those not familiar with Arrow, she's the daughter of the late Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak, and is from the year 2040.

Um... has Katherine McNamara, who plays Mia, ever seen a bow & arrow before? When she first pops up in CCPD, she has an arrow nocked on the left side of her bow, just above her hand. A few seconds later the arrow's on the OTHER side! WHOOPS!

For the record, the first way— with the arrow to the left and above her hand— is correct.

• Speaking of Thawne's ill-fitting costume: When Barry finally arrives at CCPD, where Thawne throws up his hands and surrenders to him. If you look closely, you can see the thumb of his right glove is all punched in! Holy crap! Now THAT'S A bad fit! Maybe it wasn't made for him after all.

• Barry takes Thawne to STAR Labs, where Team Flash debates on whether to let him die or not. For some reason, they hold him inside some sort of open platform surrounded by a forcefield. Where the hell did THIS come from all of a sudden? What happened to the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail (with its power-dampening cells) that we've been seeing for the past seven years? 

Did the producers of The Flash scrounge this set piece from the Waverider over on Legends Of Tomorrow?

• Last week I pointed out that Armageddon, Part 4 spent an inordinate amount of time on the banal relationship drama between members of Team Flash who were from a timeline that was about to be erased. It was a bold choice to focus so much on characters who didn't really "exist." Puzzling, but bold.

Welp, something similar happens in this episode as well!

For reasons known only to the producers, this episode leans HARD into Mia Queen, and devotes a shockingly large amount of screen time to her and her backstory. Which is strange, since she's currently a "character without a country," so to speak. 

See, Mia was introduced back in Season 7 of Arrow, and over time became the new Green Arrow. The Season 8 episode Green Arrow And The Canaries served as a backdoor pilot for Mia and her team, setting them up to star in their own spin-off series.

Unfortunately the whole pandemic thing torpedoed that plan, and the series was unceremoniously shelved.

Which makes her appearance in this crossover all the more baffling. Why the hell would The Flash producers feature a defunct character and focus on her superfluous storyline? A storyline that's gone unresolved for two years now? Were they hoping viewers would instantly take to her and demand she get another shot at her own show? Who knows.

• Mia infodumps her backstory to Iris, as well as to members of the audience who have no idea who she is or why she's there (like me!). She and the Canaries became a team and began fighting crime sometime in 2040.

Apparently her brother William was abducted by someone at some point (which was no doubt going to be the focus of her unproduced series), and she detected "temporal signatures) at the crime scene that led her to 2021. 

How'd a woman with no superpowers manage to travel back in time, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine.

• When Despero finds out Barry's holding Thawne at STAR Labs, he warns him to do the right thing and let the villain die... or else.

If this superpowerful alien is so concerned about Thawne potentially destroying the Earth in the future, why doesn't he just kill him right now? Why wait till the midnight deadline when Thawne will vanish? Despero's tried to kill Barry on numerous occasions throughout this crossover, so it's not like he's afraid of getting his hands dirty. Just march into the detention area and twist off Thawne's head!

• While I didn't think much of this episode as a whole, kudos to the director for staging this shot. Team Flash is divided— philosophically as well as visually— as to what to do with Thawne. The two sides stand on opposing sides of the screen, while Cecile— who's apparently on the fence and acts as mediator— is in the middle.

 Too on the nose? Eh, maybe, but it works and I appreciated the effort.

• When Barry tells Team Flash he's decided to let Thawne die, Chester and Allegra strenously object. Iris condescendingly tells them that as the "new kids" on the team, they don't get a vote. 

What the f*ck? Who elected her team leader? Jesus Christ! Chester and Allegras should have told Iris to f*ck right off, then spun on their heels and walked out as they quit this cockamamie team.

• Annnnnd then we come to the absolute stupidest part of this entire crossover event. Maybe even of the entire series!

Joe calls Barry & Iris aside and rips them both new assholes for agreeing to let Thawne die. Are you freakin' kidding me? Yes, I get Joe's line that heroes and public servants are obligated to save people despite personal their feelings. But Thawne's a special case, and not your average small-time crook. Let's take a look at just a few of the wonderful things Thawne's done over the years, shall we?

— Killed the original Harrison Wells and took his place.
— Murdered Barry's mother Nora.
— Tried to kill Young Barry.
— Framed Barry's father Henry for Nora's murder, resulting in him going to prison for years.
— Caused the Particle Accelerator explosion, which killed Caitlin's fiancee Ronnie Raymond and created numerous evil metas.
— Attempted to murder Cisco by vibrating his hand through his chest.
— Joined the Nazis from Earth-X and helped them try to take over Earth-1.
— Attempted to murder numerous heroes in the Earth-X crossover.
— Formed the Legion Of Doom, and used the Spear Of Destiny to rewrite reality.
— Was imprisoned in 2034, and manipulated Barry & Iris' future daughter Nora into helping him escape, which caused her to be erased from the timeline.
— Possessed Nash Wells before being dispersed into space.
— Tried to kill Barry after teaming up with him to defeat Godspeed.
— Ruined Barry's life by making him question his sanity. 
— Altered the timeline by killing Barry as a child, became the Flash, got engaged to Iris and turned Barry into the Reverse-Flash.
— Killed Joe in an alternate timeline by shoving him in front of a train.

And that's all just off the top of my head! I'm sure there are other crimes and atrocities he's committed that I'm forgetting.

The notion that Barry or ANY member of Team Flash would object to letting Thawne die is absolutely preposterous. Thawne is Barry's most dangerous and persistent foe— one who's attempted to murder him and his friends and family on numerous occasions, and will continue to do so if saved. Barry'd have to be an idiot to even think about saving him.

It doesn't make any sense for Joe to want to save him either. Thawne just callously killed him in an alternate timeline, simply to mess with Barry's mind! Jesus Christ!

Joe's objections make are even more nonsensical when you realize that Barry isn't actively trying to kill Thawne. Thawne's situation is a direct result of his own actions— he's reaping what he's sown, so to speak. His impending death is all on him. Barry's just choosing to let "nature take its course" and erase Thawne. That's quite different from deliberately trying to murder him.

I get that the writers probably wanted some kind of moral dilemma in this episode, to divide the team and provide dramatic interest. But this was NOT the way to go about it.

• Stung by Joe's harsh words and righteous reasoning, Barry says he can prevent Thawne from disappearing by taking away his speed. Lots to unpack here!

First off, how would removing Thawne's Negative Speed Force energy keep him from being erased from existence when the timeline resets? Comic Book Science, that's how! 

An even better question— how does Barry know this would save Thawne? It's not like he ran an exhaustive series of complicated computer simulations, brainstormed with Team Flash or consulted with Cisco over at ARGUS. He just blurts it out with the utmost confidence, as if it's an established scientific fact on par with the Theory Of Gravity. It's clearly all just supposition on his part though, that he pulled straight out of his ass. Maybe he read the script, I dunno.

Lastly, Barry takes it upon himself to forcibly remove Thawne's speed in order to keep him from being erased. Woah, woah, woah! Wait just a goddamned minute here... Did Barry just decide to take away Thawne's powers... without his consent?

If you'll recall, the whole meta consent thing was a MAJOR part of Season 5. Cisco invented the meta cure, a glowing blue serum that would strip away a person's powers. Much of the season then focused on the various members of Team Flash arguing over the morality of turning metas into normal people without first getting their express written consent.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Barry planning to de-power Thawne against his will? What happened to all the lofty, high & might talk about getting permission before erasing someone's powers? Feh.

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. Despero takes over Mia's mind, and she fires off a sonic arrow to knocks out Frost and Allegra.

I'm struggling to understand just how she managed to shoot an arrow horizontally down the hall and make it stick straight up in the floor like that!

• Did Iris retain a bit of her speedster powers from last season? At one point the possessed Mia fires an arrow at her, and she somehow jumps out of its way! What the hell?

According to the interwebs, arrows can travel between 150 and 200 mph. I'll leave it to you to decide if Iris is indeed fast enough to dodge something coming at her that fast. Maybe she took advantage of the scene's sudden switch to slow motion, which gave her plenty of time to dive for the floor.

• Angry over the Thawne decision, Despero morphs into his alien form and battles Barry. For some reason, Barry seems to have a wide array of never-before-seen powers this week.

First of all he's able to block one of Despero's energy blasts by inexplicably using his arm as a shield!

Then a few seconds later Despero attempts to smash him with a car, but Barry's somehow able to catch it and even push it back.

I guess we're to assume that Barry's using Speed Force Lightning here, but he's never done anything remotely like this before. I don't mind him gaining new powers and abilities from time to time, but they've got to be properly set up. He can't just pull a brand new power out of his ass whenever the need arises!

• I'm a bit fuzzy on Despero's motivation in this episode. When he first appeared in Part 1, he 
intended on killing Barry in the past to prevent him from destroying the Earth in the future. It's implied he's a humanitarian who's just looking out for his adopted homeworld. So far so good.

Suddenly in this episode he believes Thawne will still destroy the world in the future, and decides to kill him— by overloading the STAR Labs reactor, which will wipe out Central City and the surrounding area. 

In essence, he's going to destroy the world in order to save it. Got it!

• Chester tells Barry he has just the thing to help him defeat Despero, and drags out a large case. Barry opens it, and Team Flash stares in wonder at what's inside.

Why the hell is the interior of the case glowing? Does it contain Marsellus Wallace's soul or something?

• In the very next scene we see what was inside the box— a brand new pair of gold boots for Barry.

With them, his costume is now closer than ever to the Flash's classic Silver Age look. The only thing missing is the little wings on the boot tops.

While I'm usually all for accuracy to the source material, I don't know how I feel about his gold boots. If I'm being honest, I think they look kind of goofy. Eh, maybe jarring would be a better term. I think I just need some time to get used to them.

Oddly enough, despite the fact the news of these new boots was all over the internet, it was nearly impossible to find a decent photo of them. This behind the scenes snapshot was the best look at them I could scrape up.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that as a fan of MST3K, I was reminded of THIS when I saw his new footwear.

• After trying out his new boots, Barry radios Chester and says they're a perfect fit. Chester then utters a variation of the series' catchphrase, saying, "Run, Boss, Run."

• Barry creates a vortex and uses it to draw the Flame Of Py'Tar away from Despero. 

He pulls the energy high into the air, then redirects it so it slams into the alien warlord back on the ground. The resulting explosion severs Despero's link with the Flame.

And just like that, Despero's completely powerless. He hisses the standard Defeated Villain Threat®, saying, "I swear by the moons of Kalanor, you'll pay for this! This whole planet will!" and then teleports away.

Much like last week, my first thought was "That Was Easy!" If severing Despero's link was all it took to defeat him, then why the hell did Barry wait till NOW to do it? Team Flash knew about the Flame Of Py'Tar all the way back in Part 1!

• With Despero defeated, Barry only has seconds to deal with Thawne. He blasts his body with Speed Force lightning in an attempt to save him. So... I guess in addition to suddenly being able to form energy shields and lift cars with super strength, Barry also has the power to drive Negative Speed Force energy from evil speedsters. Convenient!

• Once it's freed of his body, Thawne's Negative Speed Force energy stabs straight upward. Ah, Giant Beam Of Energy Shooting Into The Sky. How you been, old friend? I haven't seen you since the last MCU movie!

• The episode wraps up with a lengthy scene in which Team Flash gets all tarted up (boy do they ever!) and celebrates their victory. Because that's what you want to see in a superhero show. Infinity War/Endgame wouldn't have been nearly as successful without all the cocktail party sequences.

• Damian Darhk unexpectedly shows up at the party, and Mia instantly pulls a knife from... somewhere,  and holds it to his throat. So where the hell was she storing that in her skimpy cocktail dress?

• Joe approaches Damien at the party. Damien asks if he going to arrest him and Joe scoffs, "I'm not a cop anymore."

WOW! So I guess when he quit the force last season, he wasn't kidding! But wait... In Armageddon, Part 3 we saw surveillance footage of Joe getting killed by a train, presumably while investigating a case. If he really quit, then what was he doing at the train station?

It gets more convoluted. Earlier in Armageddon, Part 2, Barry saw Joe's memorial plaque, which listed him as RETIRED Captain. WHOOPS!

One of these scenarios has to be wrong, as he can't be retired and investigate cases at the same time. I suppose it's possible he may have retired from the force and became a private detective, and that's why he was snooping around the train station?

• Damian appears and chats with Joe for a bit. Before he disappears forever, he gives his Time Stone to Joe, saying, "It's a gift. Father to father. And I think you're gonna need that some day."

It's obvious from the big closeup we get of "Chekhov's Time Stone" here that this scene's setting up a future storyline for Joe. One in which he needs to travel back (or maybe forward!) in time for some reason. Expect to see this return later in the season.

• Right before Damian's erased from the timeline, he's granted a cosmic reprieve and gets to see his daughter Nora Darhk one last time. 

Nora's puzzled as to what's happening, then sad when she realizes she's losing her father a second time. She's referring to the events of the Legends Of Tomorrow episode Mr. Parker's Cul-De-Sac, in which Damian stabbed himself with the Hell Sword to atone for his many sins. At the time I said this was most likely Damian's Arrowverse swan song, but I'll be darned if they didn't bring him back yet again.

Nora Darhk is played as usual by Courtney Ford— the real life wife of Brandon Routh, who played Atom on Legends Of Tomorrow. Oddly enough Atom was featured in Armageddon, Part 1, meaning Routh and Ford made bookending appearances in this crossover event!

Sadly, Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford were forcibly fired from Legends Of Tomorrow back in 2020, much to the consternation of their fans. 

The producers claimed they let the two of them go because "their characters' storylines had reached their conclusions, and there were no other tales to tell about them." Of course we all knew that was HollywoodSpeak® for, "The two of them were being paid too much, so we dumped them in favor of some cheaper actors."

It was a stupid and shortsighted decision, and the Legends suffered greatly for it. Frankly the show just hasn't been the same since they left. 

I'm honestly surprised that Routh & Ford actually agreed to return to the Arrowverse after their unjust dismissal. If it'd been me, I'd have probably told the producers to go f*ck themselves. Fortunately for the audience, Routh & Ford are consummate professionals who took the high road and didn't let their feelings color their decision to return.

Nice Attention To Detail: Barry makes a toast, and everyone in Team Flash lifts their glasses as they join him. Note that everyone's drinking champagne except for Chester, whose glass is filled with a darker liquid— most likely root beer. Looks like the creators remembered that he doesn't drink alcohol. Well done, guys!

• In the tag scene, the camera slowly zooms in on a photo hanging in CCPD, depicting New Year's Eve of 2014. There's a sudden crackle of Speed Force energy, and Barry & Iris' future kids Bart and Nora appear in the background of the photo— implying they must have traveled to the past again for some reason.

If you didn't get serious The Shining vibes from this scene, then you're just not trying...

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