Sunday, October 31, 2021

Spittin' Image

Thanks to the whole pandemic/end of the world thing last year, fans of the Arrowverse were cheated out of the annual crossover event spanning all the shows.

The CW's attempting to make up for it this year though, by giving us a crossover storyline that spans the first five episodes of The Flash's eighth season.

Titled Armageddon, the event features appearances by various Arrowverse characters as they help the Flash defeat an evil alien called Despero.

Note that DC Comics featured a 1991 miniseries called Armageddon 2001, in which a villain called Monarch threatened the world. This live action crossover doesn't have anything to do with that comic, and appears to be a completely different story.

So who's Despero? He's a telepathic alien from the planet Kalanor, who debuted in the very first Justice League comic, way back in 1960— in the era when nearly every supervillain's name ended with an "O" (see Eclipso, Universo, Bizarro, Sinestro, etc).

He's an awesome looking character, what with his magenta skin tone, fin-hawk and third eye in the middle of his forehead. I can't wait to see him in live action on the show!

(Insert Price Is Right Sad Trombone sound effect here)

Are you fraking kidding me?

Apparently THIS is what Despero will look like in the Armageddon crossover. He'll be played by actor Tony Curran, sporting a fauxhawk hairstyle in lieu of an actual prosthetic fin.

Jesus wept.

I should have known the perennially cash-strapped The CW would pull something like this., Their shows are always filmed on the cheap, so it's inevitable they couldn't afford to put a fully CGI Despero in five consecutive episodes.

I get that computer animation ain't cheap, and The CW ain't sitting on a Scrooge McDuck money bin. But would it have killed them to put Tony Curran in some decent prosthetic makeup?

I know they have the capability to do so, as they gave us a wonderful alien makeup for Gary Green in recent episodes of Legends Of Tomorrow. If they can come up with an elaborate makeup like that, there's no reason they couldn't have given us a comic accurate Despero.

I've been watching these shows long enough now that I know exactly how this will go. Despero will actually be an alien, just like he is in the comics, but they'll come up with some bullsh*t reason for him to take human form for 98% of the crossover. We'll then be treated to a mediocre CGI version of him for one brief fight scene in the third act of the final installment. You heard it here first!

Hung Jury

Regular readers of my blog (all two of them) know that Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of my all-time favorite TV series. It's definitely the best of the modern Treks, and depending on the mood I'm in, I might even rate it higher than The Original Series.

One of the best episodes of the series is Season 4's The DrumheadIn it, the Enterprise suffers a warp core malfunction that may or may not have been the result of sabotage. Starfleet sends retired a retired judge, Admiral Norah Satie, to investigate. Satie sees suspects everywhere she looks, and believes she's uncovered a vast conspiracy onboard the ship. When Captain Picard tells her she's going too far, she accuses him of trying to cover up his involvement in the treacherous plot to destroy the ship.

The Drumhead is an obvious bottle episode, designed to save money by taking place entirely onboard the Enterprise-D. As such, it features little or no action, and consists of scene after scene of people standing around talking. 

It should have been a dull and boring disaster, but thanks to top notch writing and excellent performances, it's one of the show's finest hours (make that forty five minutes).

I recently watched the episode again, and even though I've seen it more times than I can count, I noticed something I never saw before.

Here's a shot of Admiral Satie in the outfit she wears for much of the episode.

Note the gold necklace or brooch she's wearing. It looks exactly like a noose! That's cause she's a hangin' judge!

WOW! I can't believe I never noticed that till now. I wonder if that was intentional, or just a happy accident? It ain't exactly subtle, so it was most likely planned. Either way, it's a perfect fit for her character. Kudos to the costume designer!

On the other hand...

You can't hit a home run every time at bat.

As proof, I submit this costume from the very same episode. This gentleman's one of Admiral Satie's aids, from the planet Betazed. Looks like the poor guy woke up late and got dressed in such a hurry that he put his shirt on backwards! Seriously, it looks like he spun his head around 180°! The actor seemed really uncomfortable wearing this cockamamie thing too, as every time he'd look down even slightly the material would bunch up under his chin.

See what kind of fashions we have to look forward to?

The Walking Deadiversary

Happy Anniversary to The Walking Dead, which premiered a whopping eleven years ago, on October 31, 2010. ELEVEN YEARS! Holy crap. How's that even possible? Over a decade of "Don't Dead, Open Inside" jokes already!

I was a fan of The Walking Dead comic long before it ever became a TV series. I first discovered the comic in 2007, when I bought several collected editions of it at a comic show in Chicago (back in the Before Time). The comic actually came out in 2003, so I got to read four years worth of it all in one go. I was immediately hooked by its dark, bloody and horrific storyline, in which mankind turns out to be far more monstrous than the zombie hordes could ever be.

So I was somewhat excited when I found out the show was being turned into a weekly TV series. I say somewhat, because I was a little concerned they'd have to tone down the gore and violence, since it was airing on television— on AMC yet! I needn't have worried though, as they managed to capture the tone of the comic quite well.

The show turned out to be amazing, and far exceeded my expectations The casting was spot on, as the characters looked like they'd stepped right off the printed page. And the storylines were fairly faithful to the comic as well.

Well, for a while anyway.

Once they got a few seasons under their belts, the producers tried their hand at creating their own original storylines on the show. The Grady Bunch and the Garbage Pail Kids were just a few of their horrible attempts at coming up with their own arcs. These efforts all fell flat, as the series worked best when it followed the road map laid out by the comic.

Sadly, as time went on, more and more cracks began showing in the series' foundation. The comic had several advantages that the series didn't. The Walking Dead comic was a singular vision created by Robert Kirkman, who wrote every single issue. Unfortunately the show wasn't as lucky, as it was produced, written and overseen by a revolving door of creators with varying levels of talent.

And unlike the comic, the series had to deal with numerous other real-world problems— mostly concerning the cast. After a few seasons, many of the actors began quitting the show for various reasons, ranging from pay disputes to simple burnout. This led to some unfortunate instances in which characters who never died in the comic were summarily killed off on the show. 

MAJOR SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The most notorious instance of this concerned the character of Carl Grimes. For reasons that still haven't been made totally clear, the producers made the bone-headed decision to kill him off— despite the fact that he does NOT die in the comic, and is still alive and well in the final issue. 

To make things even worse, they offed him right before he was due to feature heavily in several major storylines from the comic. They definitely shot themselves in the foot here, and I'll never understand why the hell they made such a shortsighted and terrible choice.

Sadly, that was the last straw for me. I could deal with their abortive original storylines, questionable writing and idiotic season finales that ruined the flow of the plotlines. But I had to draw the line at Carl's death. I was honestly looking forward to seeing his storylines from the comic come to life on the screen, and now that was impossible.

His death killed my enthusiasm for the show, and I stopped watching and reviewing it shortly afterward, in Season 8. I haven't returned to it yet, and at this point I doubt I ever will.

But hey, that's just me. Happy Eleventh Anniversary Anyway to The Walking Dead!

Saturday, October 30, 2021

War Of The Words

Eight three years ago* tonight, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater created a nationwide panic with his radio play of The War Of The Worlds

According to reports, the program was so realistic that millions of people across the country actually believed it was real, and fled their homes in panic.

It makes for a great story. Too bad it's 100% bullshit.

According to a ratings service of the day, just 2% of radio listeners were tuned into Welles' broadcast that night, as most were listening to the Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy Show. There's no evidence whatsoever that any of that 2% panicked in any way.

So how'd this non-story get so famous and become accepted as fact? Blame newspapers. At the time, papers feared that the advent of radio would put them out of business (sounds familiar!). So when they heard Welles' broadcast, they seized the opportunity to discredit the newly formed medium
, by cooking up a story about a radio show causing innocent citizens to believe that Earth had been invaded by Martians.

And that's one to grow on! 

*This post originally stated it'd been 75 years since the War Of The Worlds broadcast. Thanks to my pal Dr. OTR for pointing out that it aired in 1938, making this the 83rd anniversary!

Back To The Future?

This week Pixar released a trailer for their newest animated feature, Lightyear. I guess you could call it a prequel of sorts, as it's all about the "real life" Buzz Lightyear, who was the inspiration for the action figure featured in the Toy Story movies.

That's admittedly kind of a cool idea. There's one major problem with it though.

Based on the technology seen in the movie (such as spaceships with warp drive), it's clearly taking place sometime in the far future.

The action figures were modeled after the real Buzz Lightyear, right? That means they were manufactured AFTER he became famous. Which means all the Toy Story movies have to take place in the future as well!

Didn't think about THAT now, did you Pixar?

Hall Of Abominations

Hey, remember DisneyWorld's Hall Of Presidents? You know, the attraction everyone visits just to get a few precious minutes of relief from the ridiculous Florida heat & humidity? 

I don't know what's going on there lately, but it looks like Disney's "Imagineers" have definitely lost their touch.

As proof, I present their trump robot. Or at least I think it's supposed to be trump. It looks like someone stuffed trump and Hillary into one of Jeff Goldblum's teleportation pods, flipped the switch and this unholy abomination is what issued forth from the smoke and steam.

Curiously, they seem to have absolutely nailed his artificial polyester blend hair, so I guess that's something.

The current Prez doesn't fare any better. This is allegedly the Joe Biden robot, though it looks more like Johnny Carson wearing Clint Eastwood prosthetics. And check out those black, soulless eyes! Whenever I look at them, all I hear is Quint saying, "Y'know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes."

So what the hell happened to the Hall Or Presidents? The other robots don't look nearly as bad as these two horror shows. The Lincoln one for example looks amazing and spot on. Did all the good robot sculptors die off, so they hired some new subpar ones off of Craigslist?

Maybe it's tougher to make a robot that looks like someone we've all familiar with. After all, we've all seen trump & Biden on the news a million times. We know exactly what they look like, so maybe that makes it harder to come up with a good likeness.

Who knows, maybe the Lincoln droid is just as bad, and doesn't resemble him in the slightest either. Sure, we've all seen photos of him, but no one alive today ever saw him in person. So we have no idea just how far off his robot actually is. It could be just as big a nightmare as trump & Biden!

Stargirl Season 2, Episode 7: Summer School: Chapter Seven

This week on Stargirl we get a Yolanda-centric episode— one that short on action, and lonnnng on the psychobabble.

As I feared, the show's move from the amply-budgeted DC Universe to the perennially cash-strapped The CW is finally starting to show. The series still looks great, the acting's still top notch and the writing is still superb, but it's becoming more and more evident that the production's operating under a smaller budget. 

The fight scenes are now few and far between, and when they do occur they seem truncated and way too short. It's also clear they've also scaled back on the FX as well. Gone are the epic, movie-quality effects of Season 1, as this episode gives us a few brief purple eye flashes and... well, that's about it! I fear we may never see STRIPE in action again!

That's not to say this was a bad episode— far from it in fact. Summer School: Chapter Seven confirmed a suspicion I've had about Yolanda's mysterious and debilitating headaches, as we learn that in the Season 1 finale (SPOILERS!), Brainwave pulled a Wrath Of Khan and placed his mind into Yolanda's head right before he died. I actually predicted that's what happened in the season premiere, so I was somewhat happy to see I was right.

This episode also examined a topic that's generally glossed over in all these The CW shows. For years now I've been saying that murder doesn't seem to be a crime in the Arrowverse— as long as the perpetrator feels bad about it afterward. 

That's certainly always been the case over on The Flash, where the characters are notorious for killing villains without facing any kind of legal ramifications afterward, or suffering any kind of psychological fallout. 

So it was refreshing to finally see a character face some actual consequences for their actions. Granted, Yolanda isn't sent to prison this week for the murder of Brainwave— such real-world punishment for her crime is never gonna happen on a show like this. But she does feel overwhelming guilt and remorse over what she did, the point where she labels herself the JSA's resident killer. Baby steps, I guess. Frankly, I was astonished to see they tackled the subject at all, even in a superficial manner. So well done, producers!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Yolanda goes to confession, where she asks Father Thomas if the Devil is real. She then clutches her head in pain again, as she sees flashes of Brainwave in her mind. She tells Father Thomas the Devil is alive and well and in Blue Valley as she runs from the church.

Meanwhile, Courtney and Dugan are in the basement, staring at the wounded Cosmic Staff. Courtney says it went dark after attacking Eclipso last week, but is slowly getting better. She tells Dugan that Eclipso killed Isaac & Cindy, and maybe even The Shade. She asks why Eclipso's in Blue Valley, and Dugan says he doesn't know, but it can't be for anything good.

Elsewhere, the townspeople are decorating Main Street for the big Fourth Of July parade. At The American Dream, Barb meets with the staff and asks them to help save a sewing machine factory in nearby Oakdale. Her coworker Janet says the foundation barely has enough money to deal with their own town, much less others. Barb says Jordan Mahkent, The American Dream's founder, wouldn't have given up so easily and suggests liquidating their back stock to raise the money. The rest of the staff votes in favor of her idea.

As the others file out of the boardroom, Barb hears a voice croak, "Emily." She turns around, but of course doesn't see anyone. She then notices a shadow on the ceiling that concentrates into a drop of goo, which falls to the floor. She stupidly abandons all reason and touches it.

Meanwhile, Yolanda's working her shift at the diner. Her coworker Maria points out that "Grumpy Joe" is in Yolanda's section, and says she'll take care of him. As Maria starts to pour coffee for Joe, her eyes glow purple. She then pours the scalding hot liquid on Joe's shoulder. He makes way too big a deal over it, and the owner of the diner sends Maria home.

Yolanda then sees Young Bruce Gordon standing nearby, staring intently at the commotion. Thinking the coffee incident upset the child, Yolanda gives him a lollipop. She turns away for a second and when she looks back, Bruce is of course gone.

Courtney walks down Main Street and notices it feels more like Fall than July. Cameron comes up behind her, and she's so startled she instinctively slams him against a wall. She apologizes, and he asks her to help set up July 4th decorations. Just then she gets a phone call, but ignores it and says she'd love to spend time with Cameron.

Yolanda leaves the diner and has another headache attack. She starts to text Courtney, but sees her having fun with Cameron and changes her mind. She runs back to church, where she's shocked to find her horrible mother talking with Father Thomas. Mrs. Montez berates her for dragging Thomas into her problems. Fortunately he tells tells her that Yolanda needs help, not judgement. Just then Yolanda sees what appears to be Brainwave exit the church and she runs after him. Of course he disappears again once she's outside.

Later on at summer school, Courtney sits & scrolls through pics of her and Cameron. Yolanda sees her late boyfriend Henry King Jr. walk by the door. She follows him, as her headaches return. She runs into the cafeteria, where she sees a bloodied Henry staggering toward her. He says he's in a "bad place" because she never forgave him.

Yolanda tells him she's sorry, and Henry transforms into Brainwave— complete with the slashed throat she gave him in the Season 1 finale. He says HE'LL never forgive her, and Yolanda suddenly wakes up back in class. She realizes she was hallucinating and runs out.

Courtney follows her and asks what's wrong. Yolanda tells her, and Courtney says it must be Eclipso messing with her. Yolanda says she's been hallucinating long before Eclipso, and this is her punishment for killing Brainwave. For some reason Courtney suggests telling the entire team about it, saying they'll understand. Yolanda isn't sure, but Courtney insists.

Back at the Pit Stop, Dugan and Mike begin repairing & rebuilding STRIPE, who was destroyed last week by Sportsmaster 2.0 and Fiddler 3.0. Dugan leaves the room for a minute, and Mike sees a cloth bundle on a nearby table. He unwraps it and sees the broken shards of the Black Diamond inside. He picks up a piece and examines it, then sets it back down. The shard then crawls over to the others— as if it's trying to re-form itself.

Suddenly Mike notices his body's covered in leeches (?). He freaks out and starts brushing them off. Just then Dugan returns and asks what's wrong. Mike looks down and sees the leeches are gone, and realizes he was hallucinating. Dugan tells him to leave the Diamond alone. He says it was Eclipso's only weakness in the past, and hopes it still is.

The JSA members meet at Courtney's house, where Yolanda tells the others what happened. She says she slashed Brainwave's throat after he used his powers to disguise himself as Henry. She then stood and watched him die.

Rick says he'd have killed Brainwave himself if he'd had the chance, and Yolanda asks if that's why he didn't kill Grundy. Rick murmurs that his hour of strength was up, which allowed the monster to get away. Yolanda disagrees, saying Rick's clearly a better person than she is. Rick says she did what she had to do.

Beth isn't sure about that, as she's clearly horrified by the fact that Yolanda killed. Yolanda says it's obvious they're gonna have to kill Eclipso, and she's the only one who'll be able to do it. She says she'll be the team's designated killer, and storms out (she does a lot of running out of rooms in this episode).

Yolanda returns to the confessional booth, where Father Thomas once again asks if she's OK. She tells him no, and says she's a murderer. She looks through the screen and is shocked to see Brainwave's face. He tells her He and Henry both died because of her.

Yolanda bursts from the booth, and Brainwave telekinetically pins her to the floor. He says as he felt himself dying, he telepathically placed his mind into Yolanda's head. He said soon he'll take her over completely and live on through her. Yolanda screams.

Just then Stargirl arrives and tells Brainwave to leave Yolanda alone. He then psychically attacks Stargirl. Yolanda looks down and sees she's now in her Wildcat costume. She slashes Brainwave's throat again, causing him to turn into Henry. He tells Yolanda she'll burn with him.

Suddenly Yolanda snaps out of it, and sees she's holding Stargirl's staff. Yolanda asks Courtney why she chose her to be part of the JSA, as she just wanted to be left alone. She says she's quitting the team and walks out.

Later that night, Courtney sits in her room and gazes at photos of her and Yolanda. She tries calling her, but Mrs. Montez answers and says Yolanda doesn't want to take with her ever again.

At the diner, Maria gets a call from Mrs. Montez, informing her that Yolanda's quitting.

Courtney tells Barb and Dugan what happened, and says she wishes she knew how to help Yolanda.

At the vacant Zarick home, The Shade lies on a bed and recuperates after his battle with Eclipso. Bruce Gordon stands outside the home and giggles.

Thoughts: 
• Another episode that doesn't start with a flashback.

• As she has since the season premiere, Yolanda sits in the confessional booth of her church— hoping to overcome her feelings of guilt after killing Brainwave.

I'm not a Catholic, so my knowledge in this area is sketchy at best. I always assumed the point of the confessional booth was so one could confess their sins anonymously. Are there really little windows in the booths? If so, doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? Why even bother with a privacy booth if both parties can easily see one another?

• According to a helpful onscreen caption, this episode takes place on July 3. At one point we're treated to a swooping drone shot of Blue Valley's Main Street. Hmmm... Take a good look at the trees on either side of the street. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and bet that this episode was not filmed in the middle of the summer.

Later in the episode they actually lampshade the situation by having Beth mention the lack of leaves on the trees, and claim it must be Eclipso's doing. Nice try, producers!

• Looks like Isaac Bowin's still missing. I assume whoever he was living with after his mother was killed must have posted this sign. Based on what happened to him last week, I don't think they're gonna find him anytime soon.

• At The American Dream, the board meets to discuss Barb's plan to bail out a small sewing machine factory in nearby Oakville. Several things here:

An executive named Janet vehemently opposes Barb's idea, stating, "We are going to go broke acting like a charity!" Wait, what? Isn't that what The American Dream is? It's a private foundation formed to provide funds to improve and renew the town of Blue Valley.

Don't believe me? The textbook definition of a private foundation is "an independent legal entity set up for solely charitable purposes. Unlike a public charity, which relies on public fundraising to support its activities, the funding for a private foundation typically comes from a single individual, a family, or a corporation, which receives a tax deduction for donations."

I dunno, Janet... unless I'm way off base here, The American Dream sure sounds like a charity to me!

Secondly, Barb defends her idea by saying, "Jordan Mahkent wouldn't have given up on Oakville." The other board members agree and vote in favor of her plan.

Um... does it seem weird that Barb invokes Jordan Mahkent in order to push her agenda? You know, Jordan Mahkent, the deadly supervillain who aggressively pursued her despite the fact she was married, and then straight up tried to kill her when she spurned his unwanted advances? THAT Jordan Mahkent. It seems like she'd be reluctant to associate herself with his legacy.

Clearly this charity business is a setup for a future storyline— possibly one in which Barb's ideas end up causing the foundation to close up shop. Stay tuned!

• My respect for Barb took a big hit right after the boardroom scene. After everyone clears the room, she hears a disembodied voice call out for "Emily." She then looks up and sees a black shadow form on the ceiling. It contracts into a single drop of black goo, which falls to the floor. Incredibly, she walks over and sticks her finger right in this mystery substance! Jesus Christ! I was honestly surprised she didn't taste it!

OK, it's patently obvious that this black shadow— and the residual goo— is The Shade attempting to reconstitute himself after being attacked by Eclipso last week. But there's no reason for Barb to know that, so why the hell would she stick her finger in this supernatural substance?

• It's looking like they're doing the "Immortal Male Character Meets A Contemporary Woman Who Looks Exactly Like His Old Flame From The Past" plotline with Barb & The Shade. You see this same storyline a lot in Mummy and Dracula movies.

• At the Pit Stop, Dugan and Mike inspect the wreckage of STRIPE, who was disassembled in order to save The CW a ton of money on costly CGI effects, er, I mean dismantled by the ISA a few episodes back. 

At one point Dugan looks at one of STRIPE's disconnected hands, which is posed in the "devil horns" gesture. He asks Mike, "Did you do that or did they?"

I can't prove it, but I'm betting Luke Wilson adlibbed that line.

• Yolanda gets off work at the diner and walks to her church, which, like pretty much everything in Blue Valley, is just a few blocks away from the ever-present The American Dream building. You can see it there in the extreme background at the right.

Oddly enough, the part of St. George Catholic Church is played by the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Georgia!

Sigh... once again, Yolanda's parents prove they're the biggest supervillains on the entire show. This week her horrible, horrible mother shows up at the church and hisses, "How can you drag Father Thomas into your little problems like this?" Um, probably because she ain't getting the support she needs at home, bitch!

To his slight credit, Father Thomas shuts Mrs. Montez's shit right down, telling her that Yolanda needs her love and has had more than enough judgement from her. Good for him! Too bad his priestly oath probably prevented him from delivering a well-deserved punch in the mouth to Yolanda's mom.

• Back at summer school, Yolanda begins hallucinating both Henry Jr. and Brainwave. 

I was surprised they actually went to the trouble to bring back both Jake Austin Walker as Henry and Christopher James Baker as Brainwave. Surprised, but glad.

• Courtney talks Yolanda into telling Rick & Beth that she murdered Brainwave. Rick takes the news fairly well, saying he'd have done the same thing if he had the chance. Yolanda doubts his bravado, pointing out that he could have killed Solomon Grundy in last year's season finale, but couldn't go through with it.

Wait a minute... how does Yolanda know about that? There was no one else around when Rick beat Grundy into submission and then allowed him to escape. There's no way Yolanda or any of the others could have possibly seen what he did unless he told them— which seems unlikely.

• Ah, now it all makes sense now! St. George's confessionals were designed with a see-through screen in them just so we could get this shocking reveal of Brainwave in the next booth!

• Yolanda first began experiencing her crippling headaches way back in Summer School: Chapter One. At the time I made the following prediction:

So what's happening here? Is she simply suffering from PSTD after killing Brainwave? Or is there something more sinister going on here? Brainwave was a powerful telepath with numerous psychic abilities. What if he used his powers to implant his consciousness into Yolanda's head right before he perished? Maybe these visions are Brainwave's mind beginning to assert itself.

I'm betting we're gonna get a Dark Yolanda storyline, in which she's taken over completely by the remnants of Brainwave.


Woohoo! I totally called it! OK, so I was way off on the "Dark Yolanda" storyline, but I got the main prediction exactly right, as Brainwave did indeed pull a Wrath Of Khan and stick his mind into Yolanda's brain right before he died.

That said, I gotta admit I'm a little... underwhelmed by that explanation. I guess I was anticipating something a bit more clever and original— especially from this top notch writing staff. Instead they took the most obvious route possible. I can't believe I'm saying this, but for once I'm disappointed that I was right.

On the other hand... Was I really right?

Did Brainwave really set up shop inside Yolanda's head? Or is Eclipso making her hallucinate that he did? Making her see her dead boyfriend and the man she murdered definitely seems like Eclipso's M.O. After all, for the past few episodes he's been torturing the cast by making them see their worst fears.

But I'm not so sure it's him this time. As I said above, Yolanda's headaches began in the season premiere— long before Eclipso was freed and began affecting Blue Valley. Yolanda herself even says so in this episode. Which is why I'm inclined to believe Yolanda really is possessed by Brainwave's, er, brain.

It does seem mighty odd though that they'd feature TWO villains with similar psychic powers in the same season.

• Brainwave tells Yolanda that he'll soon take over her "weak" mind and live again in her body. OK, that would definitely be preferable to permanent death, but... does he really want to walk around in a teen girl's body? It's gonna make it tough for anyone to take him seriously when he starts spouting his world domination plans.

• Brainwave taunts Yolanda, causing her to hallucinate herself slashing his throat and killing him— for a SECOND time! A couple things here:

So if Brainwave really did put his mind into Yolanda's, did symbolically murdering him again "cure" her? Is he still in there, or did she chase him out? That seems to be what the writers want us to think, but at this point it's literally impossible to tell. We'll have to wait and see if her headaches persist.

Secondly, I wonder if they filmed this scene on a studio set, or if they really shot it inside the Baptist Church in Dallas? If it was the latter, can you imagine the producers having to explain to the church officials what they were gonna do there? "Hello, yes, we'd like to rent out your house of worship so we can film an underage girl in a catsuit murdering a telepathic villain."

• Yolanda says she's never putting on her Wildcat costume again and tells Courtney to leave her alone. Later we see Courtney trying to call her and talk. We get a closeup of her phone, revealing she somehow called Yolanda at least six times in one minute! Jesus Christ, Courtney? I know you're just concerned about your friend, but... stalk much?

• This is some heavy duty nitpicking, but whatever. At the end of the episode, Mrs. Montez calls the diner and tells them that Yolanda's quitting her job there. Maria says they'll miss her, and tells her that Yolanda's job will be waiting for her if she changes her mind.

Wait a minute... earlier in the episode, Eclipso caused Maria to deliberately injure a customer, and the owner of the diner sent her home for the day. Meaning Maria's just an employee. So how does she have the authority to give Yolanda an open invitation to come back?

Told you it was heavy duty!

Also, when Mrs. Montez says Yolanda's quitting, Maria says, "I don't understand. She was doing so well here." Was she though? In literally every scene set in the diner, Yolanda screwed up someone's order in some way, forcing Maria to hastily cover for her.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Smooth Operator

Saw this ad online today.

Thanks the gods old and new for Kohler's new Smooth-Sided®, Easier-To-Clean Toilets. Especially when I think of all the time I've wasted over the years, struggling to clean my old toilet with its
 irregularly shaped, suede covered sides! At long last I can have a commode made of baby ass-smooth porcelain!

Seriously, how dull and uninteresting is your product when the only innovative "feature" you can come up with is its smoothness?

I have to imagine their marketing meeting went something like this:

Kohler CEO: "OK, boys, sales are in the crapper this quarter— no pun intended. We need to come up with some way to get people excited about our toilets again! Are there any new and improved features we can tout?"
Marketing Head: "Um... not really. We sell toilets, and every model we make looks pretty much identical."
Koehler CEO: "What about water flow? Anything new there?"
Marketing Head: "Not really, no. Our products still whisk your product down the drain, just like they always have."
Koehler CEO: "What about new colors? That could be fun?"
Marketing CEO: "Eh, our research revealed most people prefer white."
Marketing CEO: "Well there's gotta be something we can advertise!"
Junior Marketing Exec: "Um... we could mention our toilets are easy to clean."
Koehler CEO: "What? Well... of course they're easy to clean. They're made out of smooth porcelain! All you have to do is wipe them down with a damp cloth!"
Junior Marketing Exec: "But if we pretend it's a new feature we just added, customers might think it's something new."
Koehler Exec: "Hmm... The more I think about it, the more I like it. It's genius! Jenkins, I like the way you think. I'm promoting you to Head Of Marketing, effective immediately!"

This was a true story I made up.

Dare Man? Bat Devil?

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and bet that this alleged Daredevil costume is a repurposed Batman mask & suit. Just a hunch.

Booster Rock It!

Welp, as of yesterday I've officially been boosted! That's right, I got my third shot— one more and I get a free sandwich! Hi-YO!!!!

I first got vaxxed back in February and March of this year. At the time I looked over the three possible vaccines, and determined that the Pfizer one seemed best— mainly because it was reportedly 1% more effective than the Moderna one. So Pfizer it was then!

As it turns out, the Pfizer jab wasn't the best one after all. Sure, it was initially more powerful, but in a surprise turn of events, it began losing its effectiveness quicker than the other two. By some estimates, the Pfizer vaccine drops down to an astonishingly low 47% efficacy after just six months! Holy crap! Leave it to me to pick the worst one.

Thing is, I can't even get mad about it. This situation is brand new to everyone, so nobody could predict how the various vaccines were going to act once they were out in the field. There was no way to tell Pfizer would crap out after only half a year.

So once they began offering booster shots, I signed up. There were three criteria for getting the booster: Being age 65 or older, having a weak immune system or working in a high-risk environment. I don't fall into the first two, but I figure I qualify for the third. I work in a cramped office full of people every day, and there's no way to tell who's vaxxed and who ain't. That sounds pretty "high-risk" to me!

I scheduled my booster shot at the same place I got the first two. Once I drove downtown to get jabbed, I found out that facility had apparently been closed! What the hell? Luckily I was able to find out where they moved, and got boosted.

After I got the first shot, my arm ached a bit for the next twenty four hours. The second one knocked me on my ass for an entire day though. I wasn't sick, but was just super tired— the kind of tired where it's too much trouble to get off the couch and crawl to bed.

So far I haven't had any real side effects from this third jab. My arm's a little tender at the injection site, but other than that I'm fine.

OK, so my DNA feels different, my testicles have shriveled and I've become magnetic for some reason, but hey, that's a small price to pay for peace of mind and protection.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Final Concerto

Just a reminder of that time in Star Trek: First Contact when the Enterprise-E jettisoned all the grand pianos from the ship. 

Maybe Captain Picard got tired of the constant din from all the lounge singers onboard and told 'em to get the hell off his ship.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Stargirl Season 2, Episode Six: Summer School: Chapter Six

This week on Stargirl, we get some much needed action as the JSA goes head to head with Cindy Burman and her newly-formed Injustice Society, in an awesome and impressive setpiece battle. 

More importantly though, Summer School: Chapter Six gives us the long-awaited debut of Eclipso, who finally appears in the flesh. 

So did he live up to all the hype and buildup? Absolutely! Most TV comic book villains are duds, but Eclipso was honestly terrifying. Everything clicked with him, from his comic-influenced design to the makeup and costuming. The CW did an amazing job bringing him to life.

On the down side, I've been waiting all season for STRIPE to do something besides stand motionless like a statue in Dugan's garage. Alas, this week the ISA completely dismantles him, eliminating any hope of seeing him in action.

Clearly this is a budgetary decision disguised as a plot point. I was worried that something like this would happen when Stargirl moved from DC Universe to The CW. They've always been notoriously cheap and underfunded, and I feared the show would suffer due to a smaller budget. Sucks to be right all the time!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Isaac Bowin enters the diner where Yolanda's working. She cautiously approaches and asks if she can take his order. He says he saw the photos she sexted last season, and she angrily asks him what he wants. He says he knows what she & her friends did to his mother and father, and storms out.

Beth brings lunch to her dad at The American Dream, and awkwardly mentions romantic getaways in a desperate effort to keep her parents together. Her father assures her they'll discuss the matter later and sends her on her way.

Beth tries to call Rick to talk, but suddenly Artemis Crock appears and knocks her phone from her hand. She says it's Beth's fault that her parents are in prison, and threatens to give her a royal beatdown before she runs off. A shaken Beth picks up her phone and sees the screen's shattered.

At the high school, Courtney & Dugan survey the damage Eclipso did to the art studio last week. Cameron enters and wants to know why they're there. Courtney covers by saying they volunteered to clean up after Mr. Deisinger's "episode." Cameron asks why bad things keep happening to good people in Blue Valley.

Dugan spots one of Deisinger's frantic painting, featuring Cindy Burman holding the Black Diamond to her eye. Cameron mentions that Cindy came to the studio to talk with him the previous day. Dugan & Courtney realize that not only is Cindy back in town, but she was trying to recruit Cameron. They leave to mobilize the JSA.

Elsewhere, Mike's hanging out at Zeek's junkyard. Zeek mentions he's building a chainsaw attachment for STRIPE, and tells Mike he can help. Mike roots through the garage, looking for more parts. Suddenly Cindy appears before him, and he tells her to stay away. She coos that she's putting together her own team, and needs Mike's help. Mike defiantly says he'd never join her team, and Cindy throws her head back and laughs her evil laugh. She says she wants him as bait.

Dugan enters the Pit Stop and activates STRIPE. Suddenly he hears a terrible screeching sound, and clutches his head as he doubles over in pain. Isaac Bowin, aka The Fiddler 3.0, steps out of the shadows playing his father's violin. He plays a couple more chords, incapacitating Dugan with sonic blasts.

Dugan painfully makes his way up to the balcony, where Artemis Crock, aka Sportsmaster 2.0, attacks him. She knocks him off the balcony and he lands hard on the floor, where The Fiddler 3.0 starts to finish him off. Sportsmaster 2.0 stops him, saying they're there for STRIPE. The two begin dismantling the giant robot.

Sometime later we see Dugan lying unconscious in a hospital bed, as Barb and Courtney sit beside him. Courtney tries calling Mike, but gets no answer. She says Dugan's condition is her fault.

Rick enters the Pit Stop, where he sees Yolanda and Beth surveying the wreckage of STRIPE. They figure Cindy and her crew are the main suspects.

Elsewhere, Cindy uses Mike's phone to call Courtney. She says she's gonna make Courtney suffer by destroying her friends and family first, and then finish by ripping her heart out. She tells her to meet her in the school cafeteria in an hour or Mike dies.

As Cindy hangs up, she hears Eclipso's voice tell her to leave Courtney for him, so he can feed on her soul.

Courtney says she's not sure she can take on Cindy again without STRIPE. Barb gives her a Patented The CW Pep Talk© and tells her to go kick Cindy's ass.

After Courtney leaves, Barb pulls out Richard Swift's business card and calls him. Suddenly he appears behind her, and she tells him what's happened. Swift isn't interested until Barb mentions that Cindy has the Black Diamond.

The JSA arrive at the cafeteria, where Cindy, aka Shiv, Sportsmaster 2.0 and The Fiddler 3.0 are waiting for them. Shiv tells Stargirl she got bored and already killed Mike. This enrages Stargirl, who attacks her. We're then treated to an epic setpiece battle between the two groups.

During the battle, Sportsmaster 2.0 throws Hourman through a wall, revealing Mike tied up in a storage room. Dr. Mid-Nite then rushes in and unties him.

Sportsmaster 2.0 takes out a hockey puck bomb and attaches it to Hourman's chest. Fortunately his hourglass gives him limited invulnerability and he survives. Stargirl manages to take down Shiv, and then goes after the other two villains. Just then Shiv rallies and pins Stargirl to the ground. Just as she's about to finish her off, Mike appears and clocks her in the head with a toaster (?).

Shiv shakes it off and says she's had enough. She takes out the Black Diamond, and an inky darkness issues from it, enveloping the entire cafeteria. Suddenly The Shade appears, and dissipates the darkness with a wave of his hand. He warns Shiv that she doesn't understand the Diamond or the danger she's in. He urges her to hand it over to him.

Shiv sneers and says she knows exactly what she's doing. Just then Eclipso makes his move, and possesses Shiv. He then blasts The Shade with his darkness. Shade fires back, and for a minute the two blast away at one another, evenly matched.

Stargirl flies into the fray and touches the Black Diamond with the tip of the Cosmic Staff. Surprisingly, the Diamond shatters in a burst of energy, knocking everyone on their collective asses.

All over town, the residents of Blue Valley stare upward at an odd-looking lunar eclipse.

Back in the cafeteria, the two teams come to, and see a shadowy figure standing in the middle of the room. He turns and they see it's Eclipso in the flesh, freed at last from the Diamond. Shiv hisses that he betrayed her and attacks him. He easily grabs her and lifts her off the ground, tearing one of the blades from her wrist.

Eclipso hurls the blade at The Fiddler 3.0 and tosses Shiv across the room. Isaac falls the the floor, clutching at the blade sticking from his chest. Eclipso reaches out and absorbs Isaac's soul, causing the teen's body to disintegrate. Sportsmaster 2.0 wisely takes off and nopes the hell out of the school.

Cindy tells Eclipso that he owes her for all she's done for him (?). He disagrees, and picks up a shard of the Diamond. He tosses it onto the floor, where it liquifies into a black puddle. Cindy's then pulled into it, as if it's a portal Courtney runs over and tries to pull her out, but the puddle's too strong and Cindy's sucked into it. The puddle then vanishes.

The Shade tells Eclipso it's pathetic that he's stooped to feeding on children, and blasts him with a wave of shadow. Eclipso walks through the shadow, telling The Shade his powers come from HIS own realm. He then grabs The Shade and tosses him aside.

Stargirl attacks Eclipso with the Cosmic Staff. He grabs it, and after a brief struggle the Staff goes dark. Eclipso waltzes out of the school and disappears, and the lunar eclipse ends as well. The injured Shade teleports away.

Courtney and Mike go to the hospital, where Dugan's now awake. They tell him and Barb what happened, and Dugan realizes that Eclipso was using Cindy to free himself from the Diamond. Courtney says the Staff's gone dark, and Mike says he wants to build his own version of STRIPE.

Elsewhere, Eclipso wanders through an alley. He morphs into young Bruce Gordon and laughs evilly and he walks down Main Street.

Thoughts: 
• Back in Summer School: Chapter Three, we saw Sylvester Pemberton (aka Starman) show up at a diner in Nevada. There he grilled a woman who appeared to be Dugan's ex-wife, wanting to know where he could find his old sidekick Stripesy.

That was three episodes ago, and Sylvester still hasn't shown up in Blue Valley. Granted, it's unclear just how much time has passed on the show since Chapter Three, but it seems like it's taking an inordinately long amount of time for Sylvester to drive from Nevada to Nebraska. The two states are about a thousand miles apart— a distance easily drivable in three or four days.

I suppose it's possible Dugan's ex either didn't know or lied about where he's living, so Sylvester's still searching for him. Maybe they don't have Google over on Earth-2.

• The episode begins with an establishing shot of the diner where Yolanda works, with the movie theater visible next door.

These businesses are located on Main Street in the tiny burgh of Dallas, Georgia, where Stargirl's filmed. Note that this shot of them on Google Street View was taken in January 2019, shortly before the series began filming. Looks like Richie's Diner was a defunct antique store before the production moved in and renovated the place.

Also, in this shot of the diner's interior, you can see a distinctive red brick building through the window behind Yolanda.

Turns out that building is actually right across the street from the diner in real life. That means the producers didn't just construct a fa├žade of the diner, they built a fully functional set inside it as well. That's a rarity in TV and movies, as interior and exterior sets are rarely integrated like that.

• When Maria the waitress appeared a few weeks back in Summer School: Chapter Two, I assumed she was a brand new character.

Nope! Turns out she made her debut back in Season 1's The Justice Society, where she waited on Jordan and Cameron Mahkent. She showed up in Brainwave Jr. and Shining Knight as well.

• There's a very cool shot near the beginning of the episode in which Beth waits for her father in The American Dream building. As she sits in the lobby, she sees a portrait of Jordan Mahkent (aka Icicle) on the wall beside her. Unnerved by the sight of him, she turns her back on the portrait. It then looms larger and larger behind her, till it practically fills up the frame. It's very effective, and executed so subtly that I didn't even notice it the first time I saw it. Kudos! 

I'm trying to figure out just how they shot this effect. I'm betting they sat Anjelika Washington on the camera dolly and slowly moved it toward the background, which made the portrait appear to grow. Either that or they used a form of the "Hitchcock Zoom."

Symbolism Alert! Artemis bullies Beth and knocks her phone to the ground. When Beth picks it up, she's saddened to see the screen's completely shattered. Gosh, I wonder what the writers are trying to say here? Could it be they're attempting to draw a parallel between the screen and Beth's equally broken life?

• Courtney and Dugan examine the high school's art room after it was trashed by Eclipso last week. Cameron enters and asks if they know what happened to Paul Designer, his art teacher. Dugan says he heard he'd been sent to a psychiatric hospital in Lincoln. 

Wow! They actually name-dropped a REAL city in Nebraska, rather than a made up comic book one like Farmersville or Smallville. I think this may be a first for Stargirl!

• When Courtney and Dugan find out Cindy's back in town, they immediately spring into action. Courtney says she'll get her staff and round up the JSA, while Dugan says he'll fire up STRIPE. 

I love this scene, as it shows just how far the two of them have come in the past year or so, when they were constantly at odds over Courtney becoming Stargirl and forming a new JSA. It's nice to see them completely in synch, working together like a well-oiled machine.

Callback Alert! Last week we saw that Zeek was selling all the stop signs conjured up by the Thunderbolt in Summer School: Chapter Three. In this episode we see poor Zeek just can't seem to get rid of the things. He's marked 'em down to three bucks each and they're still not selling!

• Callback Alert 2! Mike roots around Zeek's junkyard, looking for something he can turn into a weapon for STRIPE. At one point he picks up a toaster with four distinctive slashes in its side, stares at it for a second in mild recognition and then tosses it aside.

Believe it or not we've seen that toaster before! It belonged to the Dugan's, and Courtney used it to test out Yolanda's claws after she first donned the Wildcat costume.

Apparently after it was slashed, Barb must have thrown it out and Zeek either collected the Dugan's garbage or rooted through it looking for stuff to sell.

• A few episodes back, Cindy was in her lair looking through photos of her peers that she intended to recruit for her new ISA. Among them was one of Mike. I wondered why the heck she wanted him on her team, considering he isn't evil and has absolutely zero superpowers. Her interest in him was a mystery to me.

Welp, this week we find out that she didn't want him to sign him up after all, and simply wanted to use him as bait! That makes MUCH more sense. Although it doesn't change the fact that the writers deliberately misled the audience by making it seem like Cindy wanted him for her team.

• Back in Summer School: Chapter Four, Cindy presented Isaac with his father's violin, urging him to learn to play it and become the new Fiddler.

At the time I wondered just how all this worked. Was the original Fiddler a metahuman with the very specific ability to turn the violin into a deadly sonic weapon? Or did the power lie in the instrument itself?

Apparently it's the latter. In this episode we see Isaac expertly using his father's fiddle to fire sonic blasts at the JSA. There's no one around who could have trained him, so he must be using a superpowered violin. We get further evidence of this during the battle in the high school, when Isaac stops and turns a dial on the violin, ramping up its power level.

• As I mentioned in the plot description, Isaac Bowin is apparently now The Fiddler 3.0, as both his father and mother previously held the title. And Artemis Crock has followed in her dad's footsteps and become Sportsmaster 2.0 (rather than Tigress 2.0).

• After beating the living crap out of Dugan, Sportsmaster 2.0 and The Fiddler 3.0 dismantle and destroy STRIPE. Obviously they do this to weaken the JSA and prevent them from using the robot against Cindy's team.

That's the in-universe excuse for STRIPE's destruction. The real-world reason for it is the save the show's budget by not having to produce costly CGI animated robot scenes.

 Cindy calls Courtney and tells her she's going to hurt her, starting with her friends, then her family and then finish with her. 

But at this point she's already had Dugan beaten to a pulp, and is planning on killing Mike— all before ever laying a finger on Yolanda, Rick & Beth. Apparently Cindy's having trouble following her own revenge plot! 

• I know that's a butterfly bandaid on Dugan's lip, but in this shot it looks for all the world like he's got a pair of novelty buck teeth in his mouth.

• The JSA races to the high school in order to rescue Mike. Once they arrive, they realize they've been lured into a trap, as the ISA appears and takes a moment to strike a dramatic pose. Hourman sees them and quips, "And you call US losers?"

He's not wrong— the ISA looks pretty underwhelming here. They've got a skinny Goth kid who plays the violin, a sociopathic cross-trained athlete and a Mean Girl with knives in her wrists! Sure, they end up being somewhat formidable, but you gotta admit they don't look very impressive. Heck, the Cosmic Staff could probably take them all out by itself!

• Holy Boob Armor, Batman!

OK, I know full well why TV shows and movies continue to design costumes like this— because sex sells and all that. But in real life, boob armor is a terrible, terrible idea that's guaranteed to get the wearer injured or even killed.

Chest armor serves two basic purposes— to protect from injury and to divert blows away from the torso. If you've ever seen a real suit of armor, the chest plate is usually convex, and gives the wearer an almost potbellied appearance. That's to deflect a sword or lance harmlessly to the side.

Having chest armor with two big mounds built in to it completely negates the latter function. The metal boob covers expertly channel any weapon between them, right to the thinnest and weakest point of the armor— where it's sure to be penetrated.

There's also the fact that a hard blow to form-fitting boob armor would likely rupture the wearer's sternum as well. 

• The most amazing thing about this episode is that it somehow managed to take a silly character like The Fiddler and turn him into a legitimate and lethal supervillain!

• The highlight of this week's episode had to be the big setpiece battle between the JSA and the newly-formed ISA. It definitely didn't disappoint, as the stunt work was awesome. They clearly were saving up for a while to spend their budget on this scene.

The camera work was impressive as well. In particular I liked this sequence in which the JSAers face off against their counterparts. At several points the camera transitions instantly between individual battles, matching the various characters' poses exactly. It's hard to describe, so just watch the gif to see what I mean.

• Apropos of nothing, Sportsmaster 2.0 has a hastily-scrawled "ISA" spray painted on her backpack. Just in case we couldn't tell which team she's on.

• Speaking of Sportsmaster 2.0, does she have super-invulnerability? She gets slammed against brick walls and hurled through cement pillars numerous times during the big setpiece battle— yet she shakes it off and seems completely uninjured.

Similarly, she must have superstrength as well, as she picks up Rick— a teen who likely outweighs her by at least a hundred pounds— at tosses him across the room with ease.

To my knowledge they've never come right out and said she has metahuman powers, but she pretty much has to, as she's clearly performing feats of strength far beyond the scope of a normal teen athlete.

• One last thing about Sportsmaster 2.0 before I move on: During every single one of her fight scenes, she's wearing a mask & hood that completely obscures her face.

There's a reason for that! According to Shawn McBee, Stargirl's graphic designer, that wasn't actress Stella Smith in the Sportsmaster 2.0 costume. Turns out Smith is still underage, and as such wasn't allowed to participate in the potentially dangerous fight scenes. Her stunt double filled in for her, and filmed the battle sequences with a full-face mask on to hide her identity.

• During the battle Shiv gets Stargirl on the ropes, and right as she's about to deliver the killing blow, Mike suddenly appears and clocks her one— with the infamous slashed toaster that we saw earlier in the episode! Jesus Christ, that thing really gets around! At this point it's practically become a character on the show.

Of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask how in the name of Stan Lee's Mighty Toupee that Mike actually has it in this scene. 

Earlier in the episode we saw Mike find it in Zeek's junkyard and then toss it aside. The only way he could possibly have it is if he hid it under his shirt when Cindy kidnapped him, then pulled it out after Beth rescued him. Either that or he ran to the junkyard & back after being freed. However you look at it, it doesn't make a lick of sense for him to have it.

• The Shade to the rescue! I'm really liking this version of The Shade, as I've always been a sucker for morally ambiguous characters and villains who reluctantly team up with the heroes. Jonathan Cake does an amazing job too, playing him with the perfect blend of menace and charm.

I don't think I've pointed this out yet, but Cake is actually the second person to play The Shade. The character popped up for a few quick seconds in the Season 1's 
Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part Two  , where he was clearly played by someone else, whose profile and voice are completely different. Apparently they hadn't settled on anyone for The Shade at that point, and used an uncredited actor for the brief cameo.

• After six episodes of buildup, Eclipso FINALLY appears! Was he worth the wait? Most definitely! It's not often a TV series can create a villain who feels like a genuine threat, but Stargirl managed it here. 
Eclipso was legitimately TERRIFYING! He was scary in a way I've not seen on TV in a long, long time.

Even batter, Eclipso looked EXACTLY like he does in the comics, which is always a plus. Stargirl consistently does an amazing job with its costume designs, as the characters are all extremely faithful to the source material and look like they stepped right off the printed page. Well done, guys!

Congrats as well to actor Nick Tarabay, who plays Eclipso. I can't say enough good things about his creepy and menacing performance!

• At one point Eclipso has enough of Shiv's crap, so he grabs her by the neck, hoists her off her feet and rips one of her shivs right out of her wrist! Yikes! Remember, those things aren't just strapped to her wrist— they're cybernetic implants and part of her body! Brutal!

• "Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good!"

Eclipso demonstrates his terrifying powers by absorbing Isaac Bowin's soul and turning him to dust, Thanos-style. I guess it's time to start hunting for The Fiddler 4.0 now.

• Eclipso then seemingly kills Shiv by conjuring a gooey puddle in the floor which sucks her into it!

Note that I say seemingly kills her, because her demise was quite different from Isaac's. Cindy didn't have her soul sucked from her body, and she didn't disintegrate like Isaac did. 

There's no doubt in my mind that she's still alive somewhere, most likely in some other dimension. Possibly even the Shadowlands, where Dr. McNider's currently trapped.

• While sitting with Dugan at the hospital, Barb glances out the window and sees a strange lunar eclipse (coinciding with Eclipso's appearance. A bit later the astral phenomenon disappears, and Barb says, "There was an eclipse in the sky, but it's gone."

Yeah, Barb, that's how eclipses work. They generally only last a few minutes as the Earth and Moon briefly align.

• After being severely wounded by Eclipso, The Shade vanishes and reforms in the top of The American Dream building. Again with The American Dream! What's his connection to that place? He's popped up inside it in every episode in which he's appeared. Why's he so enamored of it? Because Barb works there?
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