Luke Cage || Review

*Spoiler Alert*

8.5/10

There’s nothing that can hurt you, so what the hell are you afraid of?

My issue with Superman is that he’s boring. He is essentially all-powerful and he lives to save people – no matter what he comes up against, the outcome is pretty predictable. I was slightly worried that Luke Cage might suffer from the same problem. If he’s invulnerable, how exactly were they going to create real stakes? Never doubt Marvel.

After months of anticipation, the first episode of the series was aptly named, “The Moment of Truth” and it delivered. They made sure to pack it full of wider MCU references, from the Avengers, to Jessica Jones, and even Justin Hammer (definitely look out for all kinds of Easter eggs in this series – including that Power Man costume).

If they felt that they had to reinforce the fact that this show was a part of the MCU, that’s because this is completely different to anything else that Marvel has produced.

Whilst the Netflix shows are known for their grittier, darker takes on heroism; Luke Cage strays from that model. Yes, there’s blood and violence but Luke isn’t like Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones. He has his issues but he’s not the tortured vigilante: Luke Cage is warm and funny and it takes an Uncle Ben-esque moment to force him into the position of hero.

There are no masks and Luke doesn’t fight crime in the shadows – he’s out in the open. Honestly, this feels almost revolutionary for a superhero show: a hero who doesn’t hide??? Obviously there are reasons why this doesn’t happen often in the genre and this show examines those to great effect.

One of my favourite scenes in the entire season is where Luke and Cotton Mouth fight, not with their fists but in a debate. It’s brilliant and a technique that other shows can’t employ. It makes it immensely clear that the battles in this series extend past brawls between individuals and incorporates a fight for the public support.

A hero is nothing without a good villain and there are plenty to choose from in this show – maybe too many? This show was fantastic at building the back-stories of all of their characters but sometimes it felt too late. They would wait until that character’s final arc and then reveal their motivation which meant that there was such a long period in which these villains just didn’t quite make sense.

The perfect example of this is the show’s “big bad”, Willis. We’ve seen the theme of religion handled expertly with Daredevil’s Catholic guilt, and in comparison this felt weak. The idea of the character was a lot more interesting than the execution and at points it felt like he was just a caricature of an evil religious zealot.

On the other hand, I liked the other villains of the season a lot more – particularly Shades and Mariah. Throughout the season a part of me was rooting for Shades and I was certainly sympathetic towards Mariah during that game-changing scene in episode 7 where she kills her cousin.

Rape, racism, prejudice: this show handles some heavy themes. Luke Cage is a black superhero and that matters a lot. The creators of the show don’t try to dismiss that, they really embraced it and portray this honest depiction of black lives in Harlem without being preachy. It gave a balanced view: looking at the racial divide from both sides of authority.

There are a lot of things that make this series special and you certainly can’t forget the soundtrack. It had already been announced that music would be a large part of this show and it was true. The mixture of jazz and hip-hop, whilst actually shooting in Harlem gave a wonderfully authentic feel to events. Harlem feels like more than a setting, it’s like a character in and of itself.

Amongst my favourite parts of this show were the flashbacks, which were always superb, the gorgeous cinematography, and more Claire Temple than we’ve seen in Daredevil and Jessica Jones combined.

This didn’t hit as hard as Daredevil with the action sequences; it didn’t have as compelling an antagonist as Jessica Jones; but it held its ground. Luke Cage is a different kind of hero so he has a different kind of show. It’s still amazing.

What did you think of Luke Cage? What were your favourite parts of the series? What didn’t you like? Let me know in the comments.

Preacher: The Possibilities – Review

The first two episodes of Preacher had us wandering around in unknown territory – nobody really knew what was going on but there were interesting characters and beautiful cinematography so it was fine. This week we actually got some answers and learned a little bit more about what’s going on. Don’t worry: the characters were still interesting and the cinematography as beautiful as ever.

After last week’s revelation with Jesse discovering his abilities, the big question was whether he would use his powers for good or evil. Sadly he decided to be a good person (which always makes for less fun television) but it was definitely a journey. As far as mentors go, Cassidy probably wasn’t the best person to reveal his ability to but now that Cassidy is Team Heaven who knows how their dynamic is going to shift.

Speaking of Cassidy, it turns out that he is relatively safe as his supposed hunters are actually after Jesse. Perhaps Cassidy is turning double agent – that could make for a fantastic season and honestly, the more Cassidy the better.

One character that could do with less screen time is Lucy Griffiths’ Emily who has done nothing for the story. It looks like she’s just there as a reminder that Jesse has a job and a device that other people’s stories can get told through but as far as a personality of her own… So far this show has been really strong so I have to hope that her role will develop but at the moment she really feels unnecessary.

The tone of this show is so bizarre and unique that the way they find music which fits perfectly in the scenes just has to be commended.

Jesse is now in full command of his powers; Cassidy is on the side of the angels; and Tulip really wants to kill Carlos. I’m very excited for next week.

What did you think of this week’s Preacher? Do you think that Cassidy will sell Jesse out? Will Tulip convince Jesse to help her? Let me know in the comments.

Preacher: See – Review

The pilot of Preacher already told us that we were in for something new and entirely weird and this latest episode just solidified that idea.

Tonally, the episode jumps all over the place: from lynching to baptism to paedophilia. On paper, it is entirely insane but it makes for something that is exhilarating to watch. The episode starts with a flashback that never quite lines up with the rest of the show and I’m not convinced ever will but everything that follows is amazing.

As far as superheroes go, Jesse Custer is probably the most unwilling that has crossed our screens in recent years which gives the show an unpredictability that is rare for the genre.

At the end of this episode Jesse discovers his ability to compel people to follow his orders and whilst there are certain things that have to happen in this ten-episode season – e.g he’ll probably help Tulip with whatever it is that she’s trying to do – Jesse doesn’t seem the type to don a spandex suit and foil dastardly plots. So we’re dealing with an anti-hero, but where does he fall on the scale?

We saw more of everybody’s favourite functioning-alcoholic, 119-year old, Irish vampire: Cassidy. Fortunately, it looks like he’s not trying to kill anybody (think Twilight vampires but less sparkly and more violent) so this is a character that we can look forward to sticking around for a while.

At the moment it doesn’t feel like the story has come together – although there a lot of great elements flying around – so the characters are the glue right now. Scenes with Cassidy or Tulip immediately raise the energy of the show but the more subdued performances from Jesse and Arseface are just as valuable. Everything about this show, from the setting to the plot, is weird so it’s important that they have good enough actors to make it believable and they do.

Overall, if you discount the first four minutes then this was a great episode and it looks like this is going to be a brilliant first season for the show.

What did you think of this week’s Preacher? How will Jesse use his powers? Do you have any theories about how this will play out? Let me know in the comments.

The Flash: Invincible – Review

The Flash: Invincible (Season 2, Episode 22)

“Some people are calling it the Metapocalypse.”

If you weren’t already excited for the finale of The Flash then this should have got you there.

This week we saw a very cocky Barry take on Black Siren, the late Black Canary’s Earth-2 doppelganger. Wally tried his hand at being a vigilante much to the disapproval of his father and Caitlin made her return to Team Flash after spending the last few episodes as Zoom’s hostage. Ultimately Barry stopped the aptly named “Metapocalypse” but lost his father and revealed his secret to Wally.

Wally has grown into a great character and fan-favourite this season. This week we saw him take a turn into the vigilante justice business and I’m still holding out hope that a Kid Flash is something that we can look forward to in the future of the show.

We also saw Wally’s relationship with Jesse develop slightly this episode. The show is a fan of slow-burn romances and this is no exception – so far Wally and Jesse have probably had a grand total of five minutes of screen time yet there’s still chemistry there. With one episode left, I’m not expecting a Say Anything– style declaration of love but I think that that’s another thing we have to look forward to next season – especially if they both discover speedster capabilities.

Black Siren made her first appearance this episode and I hope that she has more. If you’ve been watching Arrow then you’ll know that Laurel’s character didn’t do much in the last couple of seasons. Although Black Siren was a villain, she represented all of the wasted potential of Black Canary. I didn’t cringe when she used her sonic shrieking power and everything about her was electric on screen.

As far as The Flash is concerned, this was a pretty dark episode but they punctuated it with plenty of humour and warm moments. For example, we got to witness some amusing banter between Cisco and Wells to the point that Wells was a much more likeable character than usual. Naturally the show then went on to place him in mortal peril – dammit, always playing with my emotions.

Not content with simple ‘peril’, the show went on to kill off Henry – a death that would honestly have meant nothing to me if it wasn’t for Grant Gustin’s heart-wrenching performance. Zoom has done some terrible things to Barry this season but there’s no getting past this. If you weren’t convinced that next week’s finale was going to be big, I can’t see them holding back anything else.

What did you think of this week’s The Flash? How do you feel about Wally and Jesse? What are expecting from the finale? Let me know in the comments.

Game of Thrones: Book of the Stranger – Review

Game of Thrones: Book of the Stranger (Season 6, Episode 4)

“We never should have left WInterfell.”

Finally: Game of Thrones has been good this season but this episode demonstrated the level that the show is capable of and it was amazing – like, literal jaw-dropping amazing-ness. As always, there so many different stories so let’s go chronologically.

As Jon got ready to leave Castle Black, Sansa turned up with Brienne and Podrick. It’s been a while since any Stark children have been together and of all of them, Sansa and Jon probably have the least love between them but none of that mattered. We saw them embrace and it really reminded us of how much they had been through and how much they have lost. Jon wanted to leave quietly but for the first time in a long time Sansa felt safe and she wants to fight.

Littlefinger made his first appearance of the season. I love his character and it appears that he is still as devious as ever. Whilst he may not control the Vale, he certainly controls the little Lord Arryn and now he’s managed to manipulate the launching of a war against the Boltons. Littlefinger wants to kill him; Sansa wants to kill him: I don’t see Ramsay making it out of this season alive.

As wonderful as Tyrion and Varys are, even they can’t stop Meereen from being the least interesting story-line of the show at the moment. Tyrion negotiated with the masters and has made a shaky deal to end slavery (in seven years): I’m sure nothing will go wrong there.

Daario and Jorah finally reached Dany and along the way Daario made plenty of jokes at Jorah’s expense before realising that he carried a deadly disease and could end his life with a touch.

The Tyrell siblings are in dire straits – Loras more so than Margaery. The High Sparrow took Margaery from her cell and told her about what led him to a life of religion. The more we learn about the High Sparrow, the more confusing he becomes. Is he truly motivated by morality? Does he want power? Everybody wants something in this show and to have no idea what that something is makes him the most dangerous and unpredictable character.

The High Sparrow may have to reveal a bit more of himself as Cersei has rallied the King’s Small Council to wage war on the Sparrows in the city and reclaim their power. Not that Tommen was particularly helpful before, but now he seems like even less than a figure-head: everybody that he talks to is able to manipulate him which is no real help to anybody.

Theon returned to the Iron Islands and received a less-than-warm welcome from his sister but now that she knows that he’s not a threat it could be the beginning of a beautiful alliance.

If you were anything like me then you were hoping that Ramsay had met his match in Osha, but when is the world ever that good? In a normal episode this would have been the most captivating scene (but that happens at the very end) – the sense of danger was enormous yet it hard to work out who was going to strike first. It came down to the last second but Ramsay came out on top.

Back at Castle Black, Jon received a disgusting letter from Ramsay that spurred some action. Not only is Jon going to try and take Winterfell back, he’s going to have an army of Wildlings with him. Jon may not want the Iron Throne but with this manoeuvre, he’s placing himself in the game.

This season the episodes have been ending at Castle Black but that changed this week. Dany was at Vaes Dothrak awaiting judgement on her fate from the Khals when Jorah and Daario came to save her. Now, she could have left with her rescue party or even hoped that the Khals would let her stay but none of that was anywhere near as bad-ass as burning down the building and all the Khals with it. The Dothraki bowed down to her and once again, Dany has an army. Now she just needs to get some more ships…

What did you think of this week’s episode? Whose story are you most invested in? Let me know in the comments.

The 100: Perverse Instantiation (1) – Review

The 100: Perverse Instantiation (1) (Season 3, Episode 15)

“Clarke’s always in trouble.” – Murphy

The first half of The 100′s season finale was just as action-packed and intense as deserving of such a great season for the show.

Roan found Clarke in the woods and was going to take The Flame back to Ontari but Clarke convinced him otherwise. They embarked on a plan to get into Polis and remove the chip from Ontari’s brain and then implant The Flame so that they could learn how to shut down Alie. After a stream of deaths they were unsuccessful and ended the episode stuck in the tower with no real way to leave. Over in the home base, we also learned that Jasper had been chipped and was doing his best to disrupt their plans from there.

I haven’t been keeping count but has The 100′s death rate surpassed Game of Thrones yet? I understand that it’s the finale but we’re running out of main characters and they still have to do the fourth season. Roan was killed; Ontari was killed; Indra and Marcus may be dead; and Monty was stabbed by Jasper. The show is definitely communicating that these last two episodes are high stakes – nobody is safe (except Clarke, Clarke’s pretty much always safe) so it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Amongst all of the death and destruction, we saw some nice moments: Bellamy and Clarke have barely been in the same place this season but now that they’re back together it’s like nothing has changed. Romances in The 100 are strong but fleeting (largely due to the high probability of death) but the friendships and alliances are really the back-bone of the show.

Monty and Jasper were a prime example of a strong friendship which is why I was so ready to believe that Jasper had turned a corner and so crushed when he stabbed Monty in the stomach. Just like last week, the show is using these characters to give me emotional whiplash and I don’t appreciate it (except I kind of love it…).

Clarke is a “strong” character: she’s not a great fighter but she is a leader and she makes difficult decisions whilst maintaining a calm front. For these reasons, seeing her cry and her emotional wall break was really sad. She was being tortured by her own mother and whilst her relationship with her mother hasn’t been the best throughout the series, you could still the hurt and betrayal in her eyes.

The show ended with no real way forward but that’s how it seemed last week. With only one episode left I can’t see how they’ll be able to beat Alie but I can’t wait to watch next week and find out.

What did you think of this week’s The 100? How are they going to get out of the tower? Let me know in the comments.

Arrow: Monument Point (Season 4, Episode 21)

Arrow: Monument Point (Season 4, Episode 21)

“It’s left me with some time to kill – so to speak.” – Lonnie

After Laurel’s death, the last couple of episodes of Arrow have been slightly slower but they brought back the pace this week with a really strong episode.

The team are trying to stop Damien Darhk’s plan to nuke the Earth and they enlist the help of Felicity’s dad so that they can hack the nuclear launch program. Donna convinces Quentin to not sign an affidavit saying that he was unaware that Laurel was the Black Canary. Thea is still in Darhk’s underground haven and helps Malcolm to stop Lonnie Machin (a.k.a Anarky) from killing all the people inside.

We saw the return of some great characters this week: Malcolm Merlyn, Donna, but even better, Lonnie Machin. This season of the show hasn’t been it’s best but Lonnie stands out by far as one of the most interesting villains. Compare Darhk’s cartoonish plot to destroy the world to Lonnie’s unrelenting thirst for vengeance; bizarre fixation of Thea; and unusual penchant for puns which are equally funny and disturbing. He steals scenes and makes everything more interesting.

The fight sequence between Lonnie and Thea was beautifully choreographed and what you expect of the show. There haven’t been many fight sequences recently but those that there have been haven’t felt as good as what you expect of Arrow – probably because of all of the magic. Not just with Thea, but with Oliver in the stairwell, we got to see some great hand-to-hand combat.

Oliver took a backseat in this episode and we focused more on Felicity and her father. They broke into her old workplace and hacked highly sensitive technology together: you know, typical father-daughter bonding stuff. As much as the show is trying to redeem Noah as a character, it’s not working: Felicity doesn’t seem interested and I’m not interested. Yet, I’m guessing that he’ll die in some heroic fashion before the season ends and Felicity will be overcome with grief – either that or he steals more of her stuff before making a run for it.

We heard Darhk’s plan last week but it was reiterated again in this episode and it’s making less and less sense. Damien Darhk wants to nuke the world so that he can start over again with his little dome of people: that sounds dumb but fine. My issue is that if he uses nukes, the world is going to be filled with dangerous radiation – nuclear apocalypse anybody? I’m imagining a The 100-type situation where the Earth becomes uninhabitable. Still, I think that Oliver will probably stop him before he wipes out the human-race.

Although we saw that the heroes don’t always win. Felicity diverted a nuke that would have killed millions of people but in doing so tens of thousands of people died. This scale of damage is unprecedented within the world of Arrow where they usually keep their problems within Star City. This season is raising the stakes and with only two episodes left I’m excited to see where they take it.

What did you think of this week’s Arrow? Are you a fan of Lonnie Machin? Do you buy Damien Darhk’s plan? Let me know in the comments.

The Flash: The Runaway Dinosaur – Review

The Flash: The Runaway Dinosaur (Season 2, Episode 21)

“A zombie? For real?” – Cisco

This week The Flash did a really good job of balancing a very emotionally heavy story with one of the funniest stories that they have done in a while.

To recap: Cisco “vibed” and discovered that Barry was not actually dead but in the speed force. Barry had to come to terms with the death of his mother before he was allowed to leave the speed force with his powers. After being knocked unconscious last week, Wally seemed fine but Jesse wouldn’t wake up. The team tried to deal with Jesse but at the same time contain Tony who had come back as a zombie. Fortunately Barry came back and fixed everything.

With Barry’s powers gone and this week, with Barry gone, we have seen everybody take up a bigger role in the team and none more so than Iris. Iris has constantly been in the periphery but now she’s getting involved and we’re seeing what a bad-ass she is. This episode we saw her tell Cisco to get behind her after he told her to do the same thing and at every venture she was ready to step forward no matter how much danger it put her in. I love this version of Iris and I hope she doesn’t disappear now that Barry’s back.

I have long since given up on the science of The Flash making sense – if you think too much about it, you’re not going to enjoy it. That’s why I only had a short moment of disbelief when a zombie was introduced to the episode. Tony was the least fear-inducing zombie that the show could have made but it was great: he was so slow that there was no sense of immediate threat and it gave Cisco plenty of time to crack some jokes.

Barry’s story-line was a real journey and examination of what Barry’s been through in his life. Grant Gustin has proven how good he is at playing these emotional scenes and he didn’t fail us this week. He spent the majority of the episode looking like a sad puppy but it was believable – all of his pain and grief felt real.

So, what were the consequences of the second particle accelerator explosion? Jesse and Wally haven’t yet revealed that they have any powers (although not for lack of effort on Joe’s part) but Barry seems to have this new zen-like clarity.

The end of the episode had us revisiting Zoom and Caitlin at CCPD where we saw that Zoom had gathered an army of meta-humans to help him destroy the Earth. He also gave Caitlin the ultimatum of joining him or dying and whilst I don’t care all that much about Caitlin’s life, I do want her to join him – if only because it might make her character more interesting.

So what did you think of this week’s episode of The Flash? Are Wally and Jesse harbouring some speedster abilities? Will Caitlin join or leave? Let me know in the comments.

Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker – Review

Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker (Season 6, Episode 3)

“Good. Now go fail again.”

The first two episodes of the season felt like they were setting up the show but now we are definitely in the action and it’s great. As usual, there was a lot happening so this is part-recap, part-review.

We first went to Castle Black and met the re-born Jon Snow who (understandably) had a minor panic attack. Jon’s being alive has a lot of consequences for plenty of people but the glint in Melisandre’s eye was unmissable – she wants Jon to be her new Stannis and going forwards maybe he will be. The typically grim north didn’t miss out on the chance to make a few jokes at Jon’s expense, including one about the size of his “pecker”.

From Jon we went to Sam: as much as I like Sam as a character, I had honestly forgotten about him and it took a while to remember what his story-arc was. He is travelling to the Citadel with Gilly and her child but he intends to first drop Gilly with his parents. Previously I wasn’t particularly interested in this story but now that the show is diverging from the books, it would be fantastic to actually meet Sam’s father.

Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven continued in their trips to the past – this time watching an older Eddard Stark do battle in order to gain access to a building. So far the common thread in the flashbacks is Lyanna Stark which means that this season we may unwrap some of the mystery around her and according to some fan theories that could change the entire landscape of the game of thrones.

Dany’s future is looking less and less certain: when will the girl learn that introducing herself that way does not endear people to her? She was delivered to Vaes Dothrak but whether she will stay there or be killed will be voted on by the Khals when they arrive. Now that her dragons are free I wonder if they will arrive in time to save her from whatever fate awaits her.

In Meereen, Varys was able to find out who was funding the attacks on Dany’s men and the show hilariously addressed the fact that Grey Worm and Missandei are perhaps the most boring characters in Westeros.

In King’s Landing, Maester Qyburn has commandeered the use of Varys’ “little birds” and the little power that the Lannisters had is quickly diminishing. Lady Olenna made an appearance and was just as perfect as always. Tommen tried to assert some dominance (tried is truly a key word here) and get the High Sparrow to allow his mother to see Myrcella’s grave. The High Sparrow clearly came out on top but it was amazing how easily manipulated Tommen is. There’s no way that Tommen is going to keep the throne but rather than killing him, they could probably just politely ask him to hand over the crown and he would do it.

Once again Arya was senselessly beaten by a girl who seems to enjoy it all too much but there was more this week. Finally Arya is stripping away her identity and becoming no-one. She got her eyesight back and the Hound even got a mention: is he really dead?

Ramsay continues to rule over the North and was given an unexpected gift by one of his liege lords. Rickon Stark – the last time we saw him he was a tiny kid disappearing into the forest with the Wilding, Osha – is back and that can’t be good news. He was the final Stark that was free: now he either becomes Ramsay’s ward (what kid wouldn’t want Ramsay as a mentor?) or more likely, he’s tortured until he dies.

Our final scene took us back to the Wall where Jon hanged the people that killed him. They all gave their final words but worst of all was the unfiltered anger on Olly’s face as he looked at Jon. There was a lot of hate towards Olly after he stabbed Jon in the heart at the end of last season but seeing his dead body brought home the fact that he was really just a kid. This was the funniest episode of the season so far but Olly’s death reminded us how cruel this world really is.

We learned that Jon is leaving the Night’s Watch but for what?

Will he make a play for the Iron Throne? Did you want Olly to die? Will Dany survive this season? Let me know in the comments.

The 100: Red Sky At Morning – Review

The 100: Red Sky At Morning (Season 3, Episode 14)

“Jasper’s actually smiling.” – Bellamy

The last episode of The 100 made it seem as though we had potentially reached a stand-still yet this week showed us just how untrue that was.

Clarke, Octavia, Bellamy and Jasper were on board the boat and tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Luna to take The Flame. Meanwhile in Arcadia, Raven became more obsessed with Alie’s code and despite Monty’s advice otherwise she took their one chance to kill Alie and failed. Finally, in the Polis; Murphy, Pike and Indra managed to escape and attempted to destroy one of Alie’s power sources but failed. There was a lot of failure this episode.

As the main antagonist this season is computer code, it makes sense that the show goes into more sci-fi territory but most notably, their transition has been seamless. Raven typing furiously away at a computer over ten different monitors doesn’t look out of place but fits perfectly within the narrative of the show.

Remember Jasper and Monty in season 1? So young and care-free? Well, after seeing and doing terrible things over the last year, we haven’t seen those people in a while – that was until this episode. Monty had sex; Jasper had a pleasant conversation with a girl: they actually smiled! Naturally the show couldn’t let that stand so Monty had to kill his mum a second time and Jasper’s new friend was murdered. The emotional whiplash that this show subjects me to is dangerous.

We’re seeing a new side of Raven – as one of the toughest and smartest characters in the show, it was always going to be interesting to see how she responded to having been under Alie’s control. Her response has been to throw herself into the mission of destroying Alie but that has affected her decision-making skill. This week was a major blow for her: her relationship with Monty has been damaged, I don’t imagine that the others will have a great response when they found out what she did. Ironically, what they’re unaware of is that Raven managed to greatly weaken Alie.

The only reason that Alie wasn’t destroyed this week was because, contrary to popular belief, John Murphy has a heart. I could wax lyrical about Murphy’s beautiful character development but we can see how he has gone from cold and calculating to a truly loving character: the idea that Emori’s mind would be lost was enough to stop him from destroying Alie.

Alie spent a lot of this episode talking about a ‘migration’ and now it appears that the City of Light is on the Arc. Considering that the City of Light isn’t real, I’m not sure what difference that makes but I’m sure it’s relevance will be revealed soon enough.

The end of the episode found Clarke, Octavia, Bellamy and Jasper dumped away from the boat community, without Luna and with no real plan of action going forwards. As Bellamy put it, “what now?”

What did you think of this week’s episode? How will they stop the City of Light? Did you agree with Raven’s actions? Let me know in the comments.