Thursday, March 23, 2017

Comic Book TV recap (3/20/2017 - 3/23/2017)

Riverdale continues its mini hiatus before its final three episodes. In addition to the regular shows we watch every week, we also got in the complete first (?) season of Iron Fist.

Supergirl: "Star-Crossed" - Couples are having problems this week as Mon-El's parents (Teri Hatcher and Kevin Sorbo) arrive, revealing that he is the royal prince of Daxam. Winn's alien girlfriend gets caught in an art theft, and Winn could be arrested if he can't figure out what happened.

The Flash: "Duet" - The long awaited musical crossover of Supergirl and The Flash sees the Music Meister (Darren Criss) put Kara and Barry into a sepia-toned alternate world where familiar faces are characters in a musical they're living in. Just two catches: they must see the show to the end, and if they die in the musical, they will die in their world.

With all the musical talent that have been featured in The Flash and Supergirl, doing a musical episode was basically inevitable. John Barrowman, Melissa Benoist, Grant Gustin, Jeremy Jordan, Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber, Carlos Valdes and Darren Criss have all done musical theater, so finding a clever way to do a one-off musical episode (that thankfully isn't all-singing all the time and didn't forget about the currently running plots of the two shows) was brilliant and quite welcome.

Legends of Tomorrow: "Fellowship of the Spear" - The Legends are determined to destroy the now completed Spear of Destiny. But in order to do so, they need some of the blood of Christ. There's one man who knows where to find a sample: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In order to counter the Legends, the Legion of Doom adds a new member: Leonard Snart. Vixen, meanwhile, has other ideas about what to do with the Spear.

Arrow: "Kapiushon" - As Adrian Chase tortures Oliver, we're shown an adventure from Oliver's past that built to some of his defining moments.

Legion: "Chapter 7" - David's friends finally understand the very real threat of the Shadow King/Lenny as David works with his rationality (depicted as Dan Stevens with his British accent) to understand the threat himself and what he needs to do to be a hero.

Powerless: "I'm a Friend You" - This is strange, but it seems the episode was pulled at the last minute. I randomly selected the above promo picture, but now it seems most appropriate for my reaction.

Iron Fist - This is Marvel's fourth show on Netflix, the final one before the crossover event The Defenders. It also wound up being controversial for casting a white actor as a white character. This follows from a distinct lack of Asian-American led properties on film and television, and the fact that the character of Danny Rand learns a traditionally Asian (or Asian-like) skill and takes an honored title and special ability. No one raised a fuss when the character was introduced in the comics in the 1970s, but the movement for better representation wasn't quite there then. Also, the character has never been a major one for Marvel.

Keeping Danny white falls into problematic tropes about white characters taking part in non-white cultures and becoming a leading example of that skill. Marvel and Netflix decided to continue with the character as established. I don't think the show deserves the extremely negative criticism on this point, but the issue does deserve to be brought forward. The lack of representation for Asian-Americans as lead characters should be addressed.

Well, going in with the problematic premise, how is Iron Fist itself?

The Rand family was reported dead fifteen years ago when their plane wrecked over China, leaving Rand Industries in the hands of Harold Meachum (David Wenham) and his family. However, young Danny Rand survived and was brought to the mystical realm of K'un-Lun, a city in another dimension, where he spent the next fifteen years learning to fight and claiming the power of the Immortal Iron Fist. But now, Danny (Finn Jones) has returned to New York to take his place as his father's heir at Rand Industries.

It's not so easy, however. As it seems, forces inside Rand Industries were responsible for the plane wreck, and the way the company's grown since, Danny's return is inconvenient. Danny is also on the lookout for the cult known as The Hand, which he's looking to destroy. He winds up meeting and enlisting the help of Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) returns.

The Marvel Netflix shows have had a problem of being thirteen-hour long movies with long plots and subplots running through them. Daredevil and Jessica Jones were able to fill the episodes with enough drama and supporting characters to keep us happy. Luke Cage began to show signs of suffering due to needing to fill thirteen hours. Iron Fist really shows that weakness. Fans are suggesting Marvel and Netflix change up after The Defenders, incorporating Danny into Luke Cage and creating Heroes for Hire, and having Colleen and Misty Knight team up for their own show, Daughters of the Dragon. Others feel that 13 episodes is too much and future seasons should look into fewer episodes.

Iron Fist spends little time on the expected martial arts, despite it being very present. A lot of the show is spent inside with board meetings and talks about how to move forward with Rand Industries. The acting is fine, the pacing is slow, and fans looking forward to an energetic series are disappointed. If you're a Marvel fan and want to keep up, find some time to watch it. It's all right enough if you're fine with a slow pace. It seems some issues were tied to Iron Fist having the smallest budget of the Netflix shows and being contracted for 13 episodes. Still, smaller budgets should force creative talents to make a better show without spending more money. The writing certainly suffers by never saying exactly why Danny came back to New York, with a kind of clue being given late in the series. Perhaps the next Netflix/Marvel series, The Defenders, can improve on this take on one of Marvel's more obscure heroes.

Pryde of the X-Men - This week's throwback is the pilot for an animated TV series based on the X-Men. Using Kitty Pryde, we are introduced to the X-Men as she joins their fight against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants.

I'm not a big X-Men comics reader, but I thought it was a rather nice start for an 80s X-Men cartoon, but it seems fans thought the tone was too campy and there were too many changes with the characters. However, if you don't mind that, it's just fine. This stands as an obvious forerunner of the popular X-Men animated of the 1990s, even some of the animation designs are similar.

If you want to see the pilot, it's on YouTube.

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