Dark Night:A True Batman Story: By Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso ( Vertigo/Dc comics)

true bat

Anyone who is a fan of Batman knows the name Paul Dini, and even if you’re a moderate fan, chances are that his work has come to your attention at some point. After all, he is the co creator of Harley Quinn, who’s popularity is at an all time high. Paul Dini was a principal figure in shaping the world of Batman: the animated series. He wrote arguably the best episodes, none the least being ” Heart Of Ice.” He went on to write more Batman while working on Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited.

His run on Detective Comics also ranks high on his Bat achievements and to top it off he wrote two of the most successful Batman video games of all time! ( Arkham Asylum & Arkham City.)

gammasquaddini

Clearly the man knows Batman. His latest effort ( Dark Night: A True Batman Story) dives back into the world of Batman… Sort of. It’s actually a real life account of a terrible time in Paul Dini’s own life. One night during the 90’s Paul Dini suffered a brutal attack at the hands of muggers in L.A. The attack was so bad that he was beaten to within an inch of his life.

This graphic novel tells that tale and the work it took to overcome his demons and move past his ordeal. It’s a surprisingly naked look at Paul Dini’s personal life and all the problems he had before AND after the attack. Where does Batman come in? Dini uses Batman and the world around him as a further exploration of his psyche. Sort of like the angel ( Batman) and the devil on his shoulder( Joker). Let’s dive in and dissect it a bit further.

Story:

It”s essentially a recounting of parts of his life. Right off the bat, the first panel is a full page spread of Dini lying in a hospital bed. His face and head are covered in bandages.  We start with a brief glimpse into Dini’s past when he was growing up as a child. We discover that Dini had confidence issues and because of this he developed a vivid imagination to make him feel happy and safe. Perhaps it’s thanks to this imagination that Dini is able to write his characters so truthfully.

We get quick flashes forward in time and see the progression of his career. Eventually we get to the time when he was at his peak in terms of success, but even throughout this time he lacked the complete fulfillment he desired. Finding true love and companionship being his biggest hurdle.

It’s a treat to see Dini working at the Warner Bros. office and interacting with his co-workers during the height of Batman T.A.S. These moments are fleeting as the focus is always on Dini more than anything else. Even at this time Dini’s imagination would run wild. Every now and then you would get a panel of Batman popping in or an animated bird etc. These cartoons were very real to Dini. He knew they existed in his mind but they felt real in some way. He loved these characters and perhaps was guilty of using them as a safety blanket from the outside world.

Once we get to the night of the mugging we’ve sat in his skin along with him to understand the full extant of the psychological ramifications of said mugging. The attack itself is a haunting ordeal, both for him and the reader. Every moment is captured with stark realism. It’s ugly and unnerving. The viciousness of the attack was one thing, but the evilness was what really shook me. I forget how truly despicable people can be sometimes.  You hear about this kind of stuff all the time but this time we saw and heard it, practically reliving it with Dini.

I suppose I felt as if I almost knew the person this happened to. Sure, I’ve never met Paul Dini but I’ve known of him for years. Not to mention the fact that he’s one of my favorite writers of all time. I respect him. To know someone I respect and admire so much got the living hell beat out of them like that saddened me, let alone seeing it. I couldn’t help be overwhelmed with anger and sadness. Imagine how Paul Dini himself felt? In actuality, we didn’t have to imagine thanks to his gut wrenching writing. The story takes you down every dark turn in his scarred psyche. Batman and Joker remain at his side throughout the whole ordeal. Batman, more of a stern father figure than a consoling shoulder to cry on. He insists that he get back up and move forward. Face the outside world and don’t let the bad guys win, that kind of thing. Joker tries to be his friend telling him to stay in the confines of his safe home. There rest of the time he simply laughs at Dini, telling him to give up.

There are times when Batman berates Dini for not being smart or strong enough to handle the situation better. There’s a poignant moment where after Batman berates him Dini tells him ” You weren’t there to save me. I don’t believe in you anymore.” How could he? And how could he be expected to write a character he doesn’t believe in? It’s important to mention that this happened in the middle of writing the animated movie, ” Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm.” The journey to take back his life is a long and painful one but it’s execution is excellent.

It’s a truly engaging story that i couldn’t put down while I was reading it.

The Art:

Full marks have to go to Eduardo Risso for this project. I believe he may have put out the finest work of his career, it’s certainly the most varied art I’ve ever seen from him. We get many different flavors from almost, panel to panel. He brings his unique gritty style, made famous while working on 100 Bullets. He also delves into a stripped down cartoon style for some of the lighter moments. During the narration scenes of past and present we get a painted water colorish style. Risso manages to pull all these styles of convincingly, as if he’s always done them.

He really nails it in the attack scene. It’s chilling but tasteful. You see just enough without going into gory detail. The words tell the rest. Even Paul Dini, stated that Risso captured the attack scene so well  he couldn’t look at it for a week after. The colors also play a big part. Without a masterful use of colors, many of the surreal moments could come across wrong. Thanks to the creative effort here, everything fits very well and is easy to follow. It’s a stunning piece of work that should not be overshadowed by the rich story.

Conclusion:

Dark Night: A True Batman story is really a Paul Dini story that uses Batman in a way that has never been done before. In many ways he’s more real than ever and in other ways the opposite. As the story progresses you come to realize, as Dini did, that Batman is more about what he represents and what that means to people. At the end of the day, characters like him mean a great deal to many. They help to get people through pain, and in some instances inspire them to become greater than what they are. Paul Dini once received a letter from a Police Officer who told him that Batman T.A.S inspired him to become a cop. No, Batman isn’t real, but he can inspire real emotions and actions. It’s not just one story either. It’s the culmination of all the special ones that do that, and Paul Dini played and part in making that happen.

As we discover from the book, it took a great deal of soul searching to discover that, let alone believe it but he got there.

In it’s simplest form, this story is about trauma and how to get through it and come out okay. It’s a cathartic experience for the writer but it can also give hope to anyone going through a tough time. It can only work and seem genuine if it’s honest, and it is. In fact it’s honesty is it’s greatest strength. Dini puts it all out there for thousands of people to judge him or not. That’s an incredibly brave thing to do.

The book is a dark read but it does provide moments of levity from time to time. Even the ending is of a brighter tone. It’s not for kids but I don’t think it was intended to be.

I can’t recommend this book enough to fans and non fans alike. Survival, redemption and self worth are just some of the many themes explored in Dark Night. Does it have people in funny masks and capes? Yes. Can they be silly? Yes, but never have they felt more important. Perhaps one person’s drivel is another persons salvation. I think Paul Dini would argue the latter for himself.

As for Paul Dini, one question he asks himself is does he matter? My answer is yes, you do. Thank you for writing this and many other stories that continue to entertain and enrich lives. leave it to Paul Dini to write one of the most important stories I’ve ever had a chance to review.

 

 

 

 

DC: Rebirth: By Geoff Johns & various artists

DC comics has rebooted… Yet again. After the lukewarm reception of 2012’s the new 52, DC tried a minor retooling with DC now, but that was received even worse than the new 52. This time Dc: Rebirth promised to give fans what they wanted. An old school flavor, with a modern edge. They would finally embrace their character’s rich history. Geoff Johns was tasked with this endevour and for the most part it succeeds.

I would say that reading Justice League’s : Darkseid War, story arc would provide further context but the story does work as a stand alone introduction of what’s to come. But at the low price of 80 pages for 2.99, you can’t go wrong.

DCUREB_Cv1_ds

 

Story:

Essentially Rebirth tries to tie up all the past reboots by explaining them away as one particular reason.   Someone or something, has shifted time and changed things so often that no one in the current DC universe remembers there was ever another timeline, let alone relationships, or people. 10 years have basically become unaccounted for by the bulk of the DC universe, save for one person.

( SPOILER) Wally West. Yes, Wally has returned to the DC universe after a lengthy absence, and he seems to be on a mission to warn everyone of a disturbance in the timeline. Wally goes from place to place and person to person in an attempt to give them the news but in order to have enough time he needs a tether to this universe. The problem is no one seems to recognize him and thus no one can save him and give him a proper chance to explain things. There’s a great scene between Wally and Barry Allen that is the climax of this point. One of the main plot points is, just who or what is responsible for these time altering events? The answer is hinted at at the end of the comic. I say hinted because, it’s still unclear how everything connects yet, but needless to say it was surprising. I don’t want to spoil it because I think it’s a great moment to discover on your own. Aside from the main plot thread, several other things are touched on. None the least being the true origin of the Joker and the death of the new 52’s Superman.

DC: Rebirth is a clear labor of love for Geoff Johns. He has a deep affinity for these characters and understands how to bring out the best in in even the most obscure one. In the hands of a lesser writer the convoluted plot could seem too daunting  to the reader, but thanks to Geoff Johns approach you appreciate the characters first. You become willing to commit to the big story ideas he presents once you’re willing to go along for the ride. Major points have to go for the sheer creativity it takes to craft such an all encompassing story, not to mention the fact of the immense pressure on this reboot to succeed. I will say that you do need to pay attention as it is not an easy read. It’s not on a crazy-Grant Morrison level, but it is complex.

Art:

Of the highest quality is the best way to put it. The cream of the crop show up for this 80 page saga. Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank & Joe Prado each get a chance to shine on this book. Every panel is rendered with exquisite detail. The colors shine through and complement the fine inks.

It almost seems fitting that there is more than one artist, as it goes well with the theme of many different universes and timelines. However, each style is not different enough to be a distraction either. We’re not talking about going from a Jim Lee style to a Bruce Timm style, nothing like that. I would say that Ethan Van Schiver has the fewest pages ( which isn’t a surprise knowing his history of delays) and Gary Frank has the most pages of art.

Final Thought:

DC comics had to something to keep up with Marvel’s current surge in popularity and readership. It’s pretty evident that DC is behind in the movie game but they can’t afford to be behind in comics as well. Having another reboot so soon after the last one was a huge risk. DC had to know that just the very notion of having another reboot would piss off fans, and I think a lot of them are. There is a disillusionment among almost all DC fans at this point. We hope and want, a product worthy of our fandom without cheap gimmicks.

Having Geoff Johns’s name attached to this reboot is for many, a step in the right direction. I personally have a lot of trust in Johns and this issue does nothing to disprove that. It’s a strong multi-layered story with fabulous art that provides the new foundation of the DC universe. The ending of this issues will no doubt divide fans. I’m on the fence myself. It could prove very interesting OR a very bad idea.  Will the other books out there reflect the quality of this book, let alone be on the same page in terms of continuity?

Only time will tell. At the very least, the future looks just a bit brighter for DC.

 

X-Men Apocalypse, the third film among the soft-rebooted X-Men cinematic universe, has been widely met with mixed reviews, one of which was written by a colleague, valentinf.

I am inclined to agree with the bag of mixed nuts and as an addendum, I’d like to share in detail the finer points of failure.

I do so not impartially, as I am an X-Men fan first and foremost. I do so with the hopes that maybe the upcoming fourth film might learn from its mistakes and give us 90s millenials the modernized fanservice we deserve—that is, an effective storyline balanced by the mass scale super power clashes we’ve come to expect in the comics and cartoons.

 

AS THIS IS A MORE IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION, SPOILERS FOR X-MEN APOCALYPSE WILL BE PRESENT, IN ADDITION TO SOME OTHER FILMS (Captain America: Civil War and Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice).

 

X-centrically Inconsistent Powers

Storm’s powers were very underutilized, despite having been amplified by Apocalypse. In essence, Storm went from summoning minor winds as a distraction for her thieving ends to… shooting lightning bolts? Not once did she actually control the weather on a massive scale, which defined Ororo’s moniker as a goddess in the first place.

I guess the entire budget went to Magneto’s worldwide magnetic cataclysm.

X-Men Psylocke car

Newcomer Psylocke was a bigger issue. In her most memorable scene, Psylocke is able to slice through a car using her signature pink psychic blade. Fair enough.

But when she converts her blade to a whip and manages to subdue Beast in a stranglehold, suddenly she can’t cut through his thick neck?

Don’t even get me started with the over-Sylar-ized Apocalypse.

It is important to define the powers of each mutant clearly, through showcase, dialogue, or preferably both, as it gives watchers the parameters of what each character is capable of and what might define their weaknesses. In turn, this will allow a more fluid plotline as it gives the heroes a recognizable objective.

Not to say that the movie didn’t do it at all… just that it wasn’t done clearly. The last thing we want is a rehash of the Batman VS Superman scene, where Clark charge-stabs Doomsday with the kryptonite staff, sacrificing himself in the process.

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman—who is competent and durable enough to close the gap against Doomsday—is not given the staff to which she is immune.

Insert eyeroll.

 

X-Men Xeroxes Throughout The Decades

X-Men: First Class took place primarily in 1962, 21 years prior to X-Men Apocalypse. We can forgive Mystique barely aging, as her shape shifting mutant cells could explain her stunted age.

But for the rest of the cast whose debuts were in First Class—Magneto, Xavier, Beast, Havok, Moira—21 years were good to their baby faces.

In this film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox, from left, Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Lucas Till are shown in a scene from "X-Men: First Class." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Murray Close)

Cripes, did the entire makeup budget go to the three, blue-skinned mutants? I dread to think what the next movie, set to take place in the 90s, will look like.

On the surface, it might seem like critiquing the non-aged appearances of fictional mutant characters would be superficially pointless.

But just being real, this serves as 1) a distraction to the plot by virtue of a lack of believability and 2) a ruination of overall continuity.

Lest we forget, it was only in Days of Future Past where we are reminded of Xavier and Magneto’s aged, future selves. They’re supposed to look similar to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen by the year 2000, when the first X-Men film took place.

Bottom line is: if continuity isn’t to be respected, how can one expect the same of the film? This is where the Marvel Cinematic Universe has an edge over Fox’s X-Men.

 

Deus X-Machina

As valentinf has pointed out in his review, the Apocalypse storyline does not diverge. There were no red herrings… simply a deux ex machina in Jean Grey.

In Captain America: Civil War, following a lengthy sequence of “Mission Report: December 16, 1991”, we learn that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers had a much more connected past, where the actions of one indirectly led to the other’s tragedy.

In Batman VS Superman, the rivalry between two titular characters dissipated once they learn of each other’s strongest driving force—their mothers (however conveniently).

Both of these pivotal moments were meant to be plot twists—whether the watcher foresaw them coming or not—which diverged each storyline to a relatively unexpected dénouement.

X-men Phoenix

Apocalypse had none of that… or at least a marginal one when Xavier and Jean invoked a battle with En Sabah Nur in the Astral Plane, via a persisting mental connection borne out of the latter’s failed assimilation attempt.

Still… several scenes showcasing and foreshadowing Jean’s deadly capabilities would have been nice. Instead we are given dialogue of her potential power, which she then magically conjures up by the film’s conclusion.

 

Un-X-ceeded X-pectations

To be crystal clear, I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse, as it happened to be my third favourite X-Men film released thus far.

Quicksilver and Magneto were character highlights, as the script happened to accentuate their relatable motivations a lot more than some of the others.

X-men quicksilver magneto
Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Although she joins Mystique (Romijn-Stamos), Lady Deathstrike, Angel Salvadore, Angel Dust, and Arclight in a string of almost muted female minions, my favourite X-Man ever—Psylocke—gets the reward for best action scenes. More notably, she lives, hopefully to reappear as a good guy in the next film (and X-Force too, why not?).

Cyclops finally gets to do something and Wolverine finally gets to do next to nothing. Hallelujah, it’s a miracle!

However, I happened to recognize where the film might fall short… and it’s nice to articulate these points in response to the inexhaustible “the movie sucked”s in social media.

And as I have argued, these points are not necessarily rooted in the action scenes (as I found the fight scenes more grandiose than those of First Class or Days of Future Past’s). Rather, I think the critics found a disconnect primarily in the story’s fluidity.

Somewhat undefined, somewhat inconsistent, and somewhat convenient.

Mediocre for some, I can see why the film did not exceed expectations.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

But as usual, Cersei is spewing nonsense because there IS a middle ground. Characters don’t just live or die; some become fixed in the in-between. These characters are those still alive in the books but have met their end in the show.

Differences between the show and the books were to be expected. Nonetheless, it makes one wonder why Martin bothered to build up certain characters in the first place.

The following eight characters have said “not today” to the many-faced-god in the books and have yet to fulfill a purpose. And it stands that they should never have been killed off in the show.

…Or at least, not yet.

 

SPOILERS ABOUND. THE ARTICLE WILL ASSUME YOU HAVE CAUGHT UP WITH THE SHOW AND HAVE READ UP TO ADWD.

 

8. Myrcella Baratheon

Game of Thrones Myrcella

In ADWD, we learn that Myrcella, accompanied by Nymeria Sand, is set to make the long trip back to King’s Landing, some time after her face is scarred during a failed Dornish coup.

Because of the dismal amount of Myrcella lines and the lack of a POV chapter, it’s safe to say that Myrcella will die sooner or later. If only to satisfy Maggy the Frog’s prophecy…

 

Cersei: Will the king and I have children?

Maggy: Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.

 

Although Myrcella is set to die before Cersei—a major character—Myrcella’s presence in King’s Landing serves as a political tool for the Dornish plot. This will allow Nymeria Sand to exhibit her skills in subterfuge as the Dornish representative in the Small Council, hence legitimizing Dorne as a top contender in the Game of Thrones.

 

7. Pyp and Grenn

Game of Thrones Pyp and Grenn

AKA, the book’s equivalent to twiddle-dee and twiddle-dum.

I think the show did a very good job of giving Grenn and Pypar purpose. Their deaths had meaning, showing that Jon Snow’s steadfastness, at times, comes with much too high a cost.

That said, it still felt really empty that the only one left among Jon’s crew (with a name) is Dolorous Edd. Small wonder Davos Seaworth was lumped in with the Jon Snow loyalists after Ser Alliser Thorne’s coup d’état. Edd needed someone to converse with, given that Pyp and Grenn were long gone.

 

6. Jeyne Westerling/Talisa Maegyr of Volantis

Game of Thrones Talisa

I remember thinking during the Red Wedding scenes, “Talisa is Jeyne and Jeyne’s still alive in the books. The question is: how will Talisa and her unborn baby survive this seemingly inescapable situation?

Look how that turned out—a powerful reminder to viewers that absolutely no one is safe in the Game of Thrones.

As much as I enjoyed the shock value that came with Talisa’s inclusion, there’s a reason that Robb Stark’s widow, Jeyne, is still kickin’ in the books.

Or maybe I’m just overtly hopeful considering Jeyne’s story arc has nowhere to go. Her mother is slowly poisoning her fetus, she’s being imprisoned in her hometown, and she has no other connections with any living characters.

 

5. Mance Rayder

Game of Thrones Mance

In ADWD, Mance and his spearwives have infiltrated Winterfell and have successfully allowed Theon Greyjoy and “Arya Stark” (Jeyne Poole, in reality) to escape Ramsay Snow’s grasp. Seeing as Mance has never had a POV chapter, one might assume that his character has gone as far as he could.

Yet he still stands.

Captured, imprisoned, and forced to use the sewn-together skins of his spearwives as a blanket in an outdoor Winterfell cell. But alive, nonetheless.

With life comes possibilities, and in literature, a purpose. Beyond that, Melisandre has kept Mance alive via her magic, known only to Jon Snow, unbeknownst even to her paragon, Stannis.

We know Melisandre has a fascination for royal blood, presumably because the bloodline of the great houses is descended from the magically-potent Children of the Forest.

But since the free-folk King is democratically elected and not passed down from a powerful bloodline, I don’t think Melisandre necessarily performed the Mance-Rattleshirt switcheroo because she needed Mance’s bloodline.

She needed Mance for something else; something beyond Theon’s rescue, and something yet to be discovered.

What could it be? To be candid, I have no idea.

 

4. Roose Bolton

Game of Thrones Roose

Regarding the show, I was genuinely shocked to see Roose betrayed by his own bastard, as he was one of the few people who could actually keep Ramsay in line.

In a way, it was quickly escalated. Ramsay is a character that was pretty much psychologically traumatized growing up. Made to believe he was worthless because of his bastard status, Ramsay developed a sinister inferiority complex that made him want to drag others to his level.

That is, everyone except Roose.

 

Roose: All you have I gave you. You would do well to remember that, bastard. As for this… Reek… if you have not ruined him beyond redemption, he may be of some use to us. Get the keys and remove those chains from him, before you make me rue the day I raped your mother.

 

Yes, perhaps show Ramsay was pushed to commit his acts of betrayal because Walda had finally birthed a son (which she has yet to do in the books). Perhaps the outcome will be similar in The Winds of Winter, who knows?

But for a deplorable character responsible for the deaths of a few main characters, Roose did not get the comeuppance he’s meant to have.

 

3. Lady Stoneheart

Game of Thrones LSH

Going beyond being another Stark character with a vengeful agenda, Stoneheart—or the reanimated Catelyn Stark—serves another purpose in foreshadowing Jon Snow’s resurrection. If it’s possible for her, it should be possible for Jon.

So when Melisandre resurrected Jon Snow in the show, it came without precedence. More importantly, Snow’s return yielded no repercussions, very much unlike Catelyn’s resurgence that exchanged her death for Beric Dondarrion’s life.

Gosh. If Melisandre had such an easy time bringing someone back to life, it’s a wonder why the Lord of Light followers are too few.

In any case, Lady Stoneheart has another role—to facilitate the Jamie-Brienne rivalry into a bloody conclusion. Without LSH, how will Jamie and Brienne consummate their love-hate relationship?

I’m sure Benioff and Weiss can come up with a way, considering how much more useful they’ve managed to make Brienne in the show.

 

2. Arianne Martell

Game of Thrones Arianne

So I’m cheating a bit with this one. Princess Arianne, heir to rule Dorne, does not exist in the show (as of June 1st, 2016).

Nonetheless, Arianne’s role in the grand scheme of things is intriguing.

  • The trigger incident of the main plot began with the revolt against the Mad King Targaryen, which involved the following houses: the Starks, Baratheons, Targaryens, Lannisters, and the Martells. As such, the plot will end with most of these houses still in play.
  • Although a minor POV character, Arianne is still a POV character and will thus, influence the story in some way. How so…? By reading between lines.
  • When Arianne’s coup to validate Myrcella’s claim to the throne failed, she was imprisoned in a tower with four books to read. Their subjects were: history, Dornish law, septons/religion, and dragons. I have my own interpretations as to how these will come into play, but this fan theory by Preston Jacobs has a much more grounded way of articulation. Be sure to watch all four parts!

With that, it would be appropriate to segue into…

 

1. Doran Martell

Game of Thrones Doran

Nope, not Oberyn. He’s served his purpose. It’s his brother, Doran, who’s yet to fulfill his destiny, one he’s been waiting to accomplish for almost two decades.

With the deaths of most of the Dornish characters in the show, we can (probably) assume one of two things:

  • In the books, Dorne will follow a long string of failures in their attempt to materialize their master plan. In other words, the Dornish were never intended by Martin to be major players and this assumption was applied into the show, albeit in a much more one-dimensional way.
  • The Dornish plan will be executed masterfully in the books but is too complicated for the average viewer to follow, were we to consider the legacy Oberyn Martell left behind, the machinations of Doran Martell, and the craftiness of both men’s children (Arianne, Quentyn, Trystane, Sarella, Obara, Nymeria, Tyene). Do the viewers really need another family to root for when Daenerys and the Starks still require justice?

Whether the Songs of Ice and Fire will end with exultation or a requiem, one thing is certain—Prince Doran never meant to fade into the background quietly. Without the Dornish Littlefinger in the show, it is almost certain that Dorne will not enter the Game of Thrones’s conclusion in a meaningful way.

And that’s a shame.

 

Lost Purpose in the Game of Thrones

Some character deaths in the show, I found closure with. The wiping out of the Baratheon family (Stannis, Selyse, Shireen) in the fifth season—despite all three still alive and kickin’ in the books—served several functions:

  • Indirectly fulfilled Melisandre’s leech-usurper vision, as Stannis technically counts as a usurper to Daenerys’ throne.
  • Fast-tracked Melisandre’s role in Jon Snow’s ascension. Had Stannis still been alive, it would have overcomplicated Melisandre’s allegiance, since book readers could see her resurrecting Jon Snow from a mile away.
  • Fulfilled and strengthened Brienne of Tarth’s storyline, as she has yet to accomplish anything she’s set out to do in the books.

But with the exclusions of Doran, Arianne, Lady Stoneheart, Roose, Mance, Jeyne, Pyp & Grenn, and Myrcella in the show, large venues of purpose are forever lost.

And the potential for greater storytelling is erased.

ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Emancipation TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3, episode 20, ‘Emancipation,’ was a shell game, meant to shake up Hive’s (Brett Dalton) sense of certainty, but it may have gone a touch too far, in how Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) gambit may have played to fans, and in conveying just how important Daisy (Chloe Bennet) is to the series.

I expected the Secret Warriors to return, after the Daisy defection, but it was still nice to see the Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) come back. It was even better seeing her help a deflated Mack (Henry Simmons) get out of his funk – just in time for a little Fitz-Simmons (Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge) wish-fulfilment – with a little motivational talk about fear being for bullies.

Bullies like the Watchdogs – also returning to serve a purpose; but not the one they had in mind. If your stated purpose is to take down Inhumans, on account of them being so dangerous, then going after one to have fun with later – back home – suggests you might have a little madness to your methods. That’s okay – ‘Hellfire’ James (Axle Whitehead) was good for schooling fear-driven firing squads, too stupid to know how to be afraid responsibly. Next to Daisy and Lash (Matthew Willig), I was most interested in how his signature attack would come across, on the small screen. One wish down.

Since Hive’s stated purpose is (first X film) Magneto styled unity, burning Hellfire or being Inhuman worm food wasn’t in the cards, for the militia mutts. What they did get may have been our introduction to the Alpha Primitives – source characters I had hoped reserved for the eventual Inhumans film (whenever that will be). We could have both, sure; it’s just that Agents has been something of a designated landing zone, for low hanging fruit that the MCU has no plans for, is all.

Low hanging fruit like Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), I guess, since he seems to have settled into the role of viewer stand-in, whenever Coulson & co. pull a really big fast one.

Nothing like having a government sized Talbot hovering over you for focus, so May (Ming-Na Wen) – despite having personal problems of her own being poked at – had another talk with Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) that should’ve gone without saying. The fact that he never owned up to any of the reasons he was left locked away, when Daisy finally hacked her way into his cell (for superspy Skyping), left me hoping he had finally grown a pair. A pair of cranial hemispheres, that is.

If his acting like a dope fiend after a fix had turned out to be genuine, I would’ve declared him dead weight walking (and talking, and shocking, and various other things… annoying). Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait for an answer – some season-long wish-fulfilment was in order.

Then ‘careful what you wish for’ came blaring through my mind-speakers.

For viewers fretting over the notion that Agents has been entirely too much about Daisy, watching that wish wasted on just her will not salve their soreness. Still, it was nice to see Hive finally on the back foot – just as we knew he’d be, back when the wish didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would be wasted. That wish being wasted by Hellfire didn’t help, either (kind of insulting, if you think about it).

Ultimately, the wish was wasted in order to leave room for the central question of the ‘Fallen Agent’ arc to still hold sway. Our wasted wish was never an Agent; so that had to be ruled out pretty early. I had just hoped he’d be part of the solution, instead of the setup. With certain Agents having gotten over themselves, and a certain Trinket of Destiny having been passed to another, the question looms a little larger. I just hope the answer will come with enough satisfaction to justify this (currently) premature plot-twist sacrifice.