SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART THREE

Intro, with parts 1 &2 are here:

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/12/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-one/

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/19/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-two/

Truth, Justice And The American Way

Airdate: 22 Feb, 2016

Witten By: Yahlin Chang and Caitlin Parrish
Directed By: Lexi Alexander

With Astra dead by the hand of Alex, Kara joins Non for a Kryptonian funeral in the sky. Vance, as Non, does good work balancing grief with controlled menace. At Catco, Kara has a rival in new assistant Siobhan (Italia Ricci) and a villain of the week: the Master Jailer (Jeff Branson) who is executing escapees from Fort Rozz. Something akin to a vigilante Iron Man, the Master Jailer is a generic one-shot (Iron Man himself rarely had memorable villains).

Even short of a superior antagonist, “Truth, Justice, And The American Way” does a good job balancing the various plot points this time. Not too much time is spent on Kara’s growing resentment of Henshaw (for wrongly believing that he impaled Aunt Astra), Cat’s poignant revelation of a past mistake, the rivalry of Siobhan, Olsen’s conflicts over Lucy and Kara, and what to do with the imprisoned Max.

It is Olsen who motivates Kara and the DEO towards an ethical choice in the latter.  Mehcad Brooks shines in the scene and is more convincing as Supergirl’s pal than he is doing the lovestruck routine. Ricci and guest actor Todd Sherry (as alien professor Luzano) add salsa to the mix.

Benoist takes something of a side burner here, but the episode is well-paced.

Solitude

Airdate: 29February, 2016

Written By: Rachel Shukert, Anna Musky-Goldwyn, and James DeWille

Directed By: Dermott Downs

Enlisting”Smallville” Supergirl Laura Vandervoort as computer intelligence nemesis: Indigo was a smart casting move. Vandervoort’s interpretation of the Supergirl role having been quite different, she slips into her villainous blue x-man-like virus skin with iced charisma. Better yet, Indigo is in cahoots with an aroused Non, who is briefly allowed to grit his teeth. However, even he can’t compete with Vondervoort; Supergirl’s best baddie since Livewire. Vandevoort impresses enough that one resists accepting her inevitable defeat.

At Catco, Siobhan continues competing with Kara. She disses Winn when he tries to greet her: “I’m sorry, I have difficulty making conversation with men under six-feet tall.” Hoping to deliver a package with a potential “scoop,” Siobhan defends delivering it to Cat unopened: “I just spent the last 90 minutes in the mail room letting a glorified postal work stare at my chest so that I could be the one to give this to Cat. I’ll take the credit.”

On the domestic front, Lucy Lane and James Olsen appear to be kaput (finally), while Winn and Siobhan, having moved past her initial contempt, promise to be the series’ first interesting potential romance; both having deviant daddies, which of course can make for refreshing off-kilter bonding.

Winn also gets to flash techie talent in assisting good Supergirl against bad blue Supergirl, which may come in handy for a Toyman Jr. resume. Jordan has appealing eccentricity and needs to breath more as he does here.

With the truth of Astra’s fate finally revealed, the episode ends in a scene emotionally well-acted by Benoist, Leigh, and Harewood.

Falling

Air Date: 14 March, 2016

Written By: Robert Rovner & Jessica Queller
Directed By: Larry Teng

With the exception of Superman II, the Kent/Superman character has proven to be consistently better suited to television. Even the 1978 Superman with its episodic quality, plays more like strung-together TV segments (which is not a bad thing). Superman III and IV, along with the Zack Snyder movies are dung heap. Slightly better, but woefully uneven and dour is Superman Returns. However, the first two seasons of “Lois and Clark” are 90s bliss. The first actual Superman feature, Superman and the Mole Men was intended as a precursor to the series, “The Adventures of Superman” and feels like television. It’s also often forgotten that in the first noir season of the George Reeves series, Superman was darker than Batman.

Even with its traditional Superhero gone bad theme, “Falling” restores that darkness in the series’ best episode to date. Unlike the Snyder films, it retains a sense of entertainment and narrative coherence. Poisoned by red kryptonite, Supergirl loses her puppy demeanor and goes full pit-bull mode. Benoist is more than up to the challenge and napalms naysayers. There’s a small nod to one of the few decent vignettes from Superman III when Supergirl demolishes a tavern with a pile of peanuts. In this episode, she almost expunges memories of Christopher Reeve.

As iconic as Reeve was in the role of Kal-el, his Kent bordered on caricature and he really only had four good hours as Superman. Dean Cain was a fine Kent; albeit one stuck in a Superman costume. George Reeves’ Kent is the proverbial yardstick to measure all by; almost more steel than his alter-ego, which was quite good and paternal (something no other actor attempted in that role), but he only had one great season (his first), one very good season (2) and a final good, but uneven one (6). Tyler Hoechlin (from Season 2 of ‘Supergirl’) nails both characters with a balance unequaled by his predecessors. His Kent is sexy geeky, as opposed to cartoonish. Unfortunately, he is competing with the godawful Henry Cavill and it’s likely Hoechlin will be consigned to an occasional appearance in this series.

As distinctive as all the above have been respectively, it’s a supergirl who soars highest as a strange visit from another planet. In the space of one season, Benoist’ dual characters have done something none of the boys have managed; she’ve evolved and proves she was born to play this role. Here, she employs a range that takes comic book character acting to new heights. Supergirl begins by doing her usual suburban hero beat, but after being exposed to and poisoned by synthetic Red K, Kara becomes brassy, sassy, and competitive at work. She gets rid of potential usurper Siobhan (which unfortunately looks to end an interesting relationship with Winn), takes the boys dancing and then turns against everyone. That climaxes with nearly splattering Cat and leveling the city until Maxwell Lord (who created the poison to stop Non) creates an antidote for the DEO (oddly, Lord seems more creative and effective dealing with alien threats than the organization whose job it is to do so). Although Lord hasn’t lived up to full-blown antagonist potential, he’s an interesting minor character.

Henshaw again self-sacrifices, although why he needs to is questionable. Still, Harewood’s characterization is superbly colored (and has been throughout the series). Now, with the plot turn, he adds new potential that begins with a friend’s xenophobia. Along with Leigh and Benoist, Harewood is indispensable.

Exorcized, Kara is devastated and Benoist knocks it out of the park with a performance that has run the gamut within an hour.

For complexities beyond the simplemindedness of Trump and his toons, along with opening the xenophobia can of worms, “Falling” earns a “you ain’t grabbin’ shit award.

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SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON ONE REVIEW, PART TWO

Part one is here:

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/12/supergirl-exploding-trump-toon-heads-one-season-at-a-time-season-one-review-part-one/

and…

https://alfredeaker.com/2018/04/01/supergirl-the-hippest-damned-superhero-show-on-television/

Hostile Takeover

Airdate: 14 December, 2015

Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Caitlin Parrish
Directed by: Karen Gaviola

There are parallel potential hostile takeovers, but the second is akin to a sketch of something that will be colored in later.

The first and more prominent attempt at a coup involves a walking personification of white male privilege attempting to oust Cat from her own company.

Winn, Olsen, Kara, and Lucy Lane join forces to protect Cat from her potential usurper and there’s a bit of cold-war type of counterinsurgency that’s bubblegum fun. Olsen has a shining 007-like moment when sabotaging by Mr. White Male Privilege. Almost caught, our intrepid CATCO photo journalist slithers his way out of that scenario with all the charm of a GQ Sneaky Snake.

Meanwhile, Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) and hubby Non (Chris Vance) attempt to hack Earth and there’s some gladiatorial combat in the sky afoot, but as DEO Green Beret Alex (take that John Wayne) observes; Kara’s not up to par. The emerald training session, where Alex proves to be an artisan in combative encounters, renders the Kryptonian tug-of-war as comparatively tame. Of course, the key ingredient is Chyler Leigh as Alex.

However, this episode ultimately belongs to Benoist and Flockhart in their respective roles, which enjoy edifying development here. Family secrets from both ladies are revealed and those revelations inspire them towards shared intimacy that’s heroic. This climaxes in the big reveal, which takes place after the threatening crisis has been subverted. Benoist excels with such hushed vulnerability that the scene is her best since “Human for a day.”

For exposing the morally bankrupt Trump Toon mindset of winning and the hypocrisy of white male privilege, “Hostile Takeover” earns …

Blood Bonds

Airdate: 4 January, 2016

Written By:Ted Sullivan and Derek Simon
Directed By: Steve Shill

“Blood Bonds” picks up where “Hostile Takeover” left off; in a rousing battle between Kara and Non. However, this outing becomes narratively cluttered and although enjoyable, the direction is off-kilter in kinetic pacing to accommodate multifarious bullet points.

There’s an additional misstep in the writing when it segues into handicapping Astra with sentimentality. Bennati is too commanding a presence in the role(s) to be potentially diminished. Likewise, Maxwell Lord is proving to be an underwhelming adversary when he holds back after capturing Olsen in a bit of photo espionage.

Olsen and Winn are two characters who thus far are lacking the level of complex development on a par with Kara, Cat, Alex, and Henshaw. Here, the interplay between Olsen and Winn refreshingly moves past Supergirl pals, but it’s still filler.

There’s also disappointment in the back-peddling of Cat’s discovery from the previous episode. The secret identity troupe can wear thin and it’s hardly conceivable that the smartest person at CATCO is so quickly convinced that she erred while Olsen and Winn are in the know. That aside, Cat’s relating to Kara and the big discovery is whimsically prismatic and there’s fun to be had in seeing Cat humbled. Henshaw’s aiding the ruse works wonderfully even if we’re not convinced it was necessary. Taking a cue from the “Adventures of Superman,” it’s a kick to see Supergirl and Kara side-by-side.

As with the source material, J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter is proving to be the enigmatic green “illegal” with a heart of fiery gold. Harewood is drawing out the character in a gradually compelling way and although his divulging to Kara comes sooner than expected, it’s also welcome.

The strength of this episode is the fleshing out of Kara’s authentic need for life at CATCO. Benoist adds considerably to the outsider quality of her character, especially when things go south. Per the norm, Benoist nails it; continuing to add versatility and meaty dimension to a pulp hero.

For guts in tackling status quo biases across the board, “Blood Bonds” earns one exploding Trump Toon head.

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THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN STARRING GEORGE REEVES: SEASON 2 EPISODE GUIDE AND REVIEWS

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN SEASON 2

Five Minutes To Doom (Dir. Tommy Carr) is the introductory episode to season two of The Adventures Of Superman. Already, it is a slicker product than what passed in previous season and, as expected, there are gains and losses. It’s lost none of its grit, even with a new, bourgeoisie Lois Lane.

Five Minutes To Doom is literally a noir cliffhanger with Clark Kent using his abilities as a human lie detector test (gauging the heartbeat of a convicted killer) to determine the man’s sincerity. Someone doesn’t want Kent and gal pal Lois Lane uncovering the truth behind a corrupt contract deal and attempts to assassinate the cub reporters. Lane condescendingly praises Kent for his out of character bravery.

Noel Neill, George Reeves

Reportedly, Carr was hard on Neill, whom he found lacking, compared to the much missed Coates. Reeves’ defended Coates and while that’s an admirable example of cast camaraderie, it’s difficult not to sympathize with Carr’s POV. Neill claimed that she was merely playing herself but that may be part of the problem with her portrayal of Lane, who often comes across as a Sarah Palin styled Avon lady huffing and puffing her way through the newsroom with status quo shoulders, chastising Kent for not being man enough, even though we never see his cowardice. Occasionally offsetting this unattractive trait is a winning perky quality, which renders Neill’s Lane as consistently uneven.

Surviving the elements, Superman literally saves the day at the last moment by breaking through a prison wall to halt an electric chair execution. Stylish and moving like quicksilver, this is a helluva open to a legendary season, despite a fidgety debut from Neill.

Adventures Of Superman Five Minutes To Doom

Adventures Of Superman Five Minutes To Doom George Reeves Noel Neill Adventures Of Superman Five Minutes To Doom Nole Neill Adventures Of Superman Five Minutes To Doom John Hamilton, George Reeves, Noel Neill, Jack Larson Adventures Of Superman Five Minutes To Doom John Hamilton Noel Neill

The Big Squeeze (Dir. Tommy Carr) is noir for the 50s family. Dan Grayson has received a citizen of the year award from the Daily Planet after he was nominated by his employer. Alas, Dan has a past that comes to put the big squeeze on him. Kent is obsessively driven in righting wrongs and finding/allowing redemption. Obsession and redemption are dual, key themes in season two.

The Adventures Of Superman “The Big Squeeze”The Adventures Of Superman “The Big Squeeze” George Reeves

The Adventures Of Superman “The Big Squeeze” Hugh Beaumont.

The Man Who Could Read Minds (Dir. Tommy Carr) Kent, Olsen, and Lane attend a nightclub act, which features a phony mind-reading swami that leads them to a phantom burglar. The writing is straight out of the 1940s radio drama program tradition. Well-paced, well-acted, and a stylishly suspenseful entry. Reeves steps back, allowing the (considerable and authentic) chemistry between Neill and Larson to breathe. Mutual respect and generosity between cast members was developed early and is a testament to their longevity.

The Adventures Of Superman “The MAN WHO COULD READ MINDS”

The Adventures Of Superman “The MAN WHO COULD READ MINDS” Jack Larson Noel Neill

Jet Ace (Dir. Tommy Carr). Perry White’s nephew Chris is a jet ace pilot with a confidential report for top-secret eyes only. He is kidnapped and it’s up to Kent/Superman to prevent government files from falling into enemy hands. And Hillary thought she had problems. Needless to say, Kent is up to the job as is cast and crew in this superior Air Force oater. In this half hour setting, perfect for its topic, there’s no time allotted for celebrity pandering or Tom Cruise-like prancing. It’s a full-throttle narrative without a minute wasted.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN JET ACE

STARRING GEORGE REEVES

Shot In The Dark (Dir. George Blair) is in no way related to Blake Edward’s Pink Panther. Rather, it’s about an accidental lens capture of Kent’s alley transformation. However, other dark room secrets emerge along with a shadowy underworld figure believed to be dead. The story was reportedly taken from the daily newspaper comic strip. Sly nods to Hitchcock-like voyeurism abound and guest star Vera Marshe is a scene-stealer as Mrs. Harper. Her shrill, comedic timing is pitch perfect (and with a threatening fifties dress which could kill if moving too far in the wrong direction, it’s no wonder Perry White sends her packing off to Kent). Marshe’s performance is matched by Larson’s multi-faceted Olsen.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN SHOT IN THE DARK GEORGE REEVES

George Reeves SUPERMAN.%22Shot in the Dark%22 The Adv of Superman George Reeves

The Defeat Of Superman (Dir. Tommy Carr). Gangster Happy King has returned to Metropolis and wants to make a deal with Superman. “No deals.” King has a mad scientist at his disposal and he’s played with full-blown ham zeal by character actor Maurice Cass, who could give both Bill Shatner and Ricardo Montalban serious competition in scene-chewing. Such over the top eyebrow arching works here, especially when he’s equipped with a kryptonite gun, ordered straight from the Acme warehouse. Lane and Olsen come in handy when disposing of the green rock, which Kent hurls into space. Unfortunately, for King and company, the offending rock (wrapped in a pipe) comes-a-crashing into their windshield, sending them off a cliff to a fiery fate below. Only in this type of melodrama could such an outlandish, improbable finale be pulled off. This is the first appearance of kryptonite in TAOS and it’s all the better for it. Reeves leads a fine cast who approach both role and narrative with the earnestness required to convince us. They do, with flying colors.

DEFEAT OF SUPERMAN

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BATMAN V SUPERMAN : DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016 ZACK SNYDER)

BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016 ZACK SNYDER)

How can a movie with the two biggest male kahunas in comic book history go wrong? Easily, if it’s made by Hack Snyder. The best thing that can be said about Batman vs. Superman (2016) is that it’s not quite as wretched as Man Of Steel (2013).

BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016 ZACK SNYDER)
Predictably, upon receiving news that actor Ben Affleck had been cast in the role of the Dark Knight, comic book fans took their protest to social media. Actually, the actor has little to work with here, and, for some reason, uses Christian Bale‘s “mouthful of rocks” voice when wearing the Bat armor. Thus, through Snyder’s apathetic direction, Affleck is rendered a beefcake yet again, unable to make the role his own. The writers (David Goyer and Chris Terrio) certainly did not give Affleck the humorous, burnout nuances that he perfected in his performance as TV Superman George Reeves in Hollywoodland(2006). With Good Will Hunting (1997), GoneBaby Gone (2007), The Town (2010), and Argo (2012), Affleck has certainly proved to be a better writer and director than Snyder or his team, which may give DC Comics fanboys a glimmer of hope for his upcoming solo Batman project. One would think fans would have been more worried about Snyder and prepared for the predictable worst since he has never made even a remotely good film. What Snyder had delivered in BvS amounts to a disarrayed, Michael Bay-styled “Passion Of The Batman.” As for the handling of Superman: that is a Snyder slider that can only be craved by people who hate the character.

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SUPERMAN ON SCREEN, AND MAN OF STEEL (2013)

MAN OF STEEL (2013 ZACK SNYDER)

Superman should have kept his underwear on.

Despite his status as the oldest, most iconic comic book character, few seem to be able to do Superman justice when it comes to the big screen. Internet buzz among the DC fan base revealed a high level of anticipation for Man of Steel (2013). It had disaster written all over it before the project even started. It would seem obvious to anyone except film executives: co-writer and producer Christopher Nolan has a reputation for excruciatingly complicated narrative, which promised to be a case of oil meets water for a very simple, very old, and very well-known story. This was the first bad sign. The second, even more predictable omen of failure was in the choice of hack directorZack Snyder. His one-dimensional 300 (2007) was a new, crude lesson in soulless, video game stylized juvenilia. Sucker Punch (2011) actually strove to be even worse and, incredibly enough, succeeded.

SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN. GEORGE REEVES, PHYLLIS COATES
There have been only two solid cinematic treatments of this solemn American myth: Superman And The Mole Men (1951) and Superman II (1980). Superman and the Mole Men depicted Superman in exactly the way he is supposed to be, as envisioned by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. He’s a barrel-chested, steadfast believer and proponent of Truth, Justice and the American Way even in the face of social bigotries. (Though he had a lighter side, too; Superman was probably at his zaniest, funniest and most surreal in Jack Kirby’s spinoff “Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen”). It works, despite the film’s being undeniably dated, and despite the threadbare budget which resulted in clunky makeup and special effects (such as a souped up vacuum cleaner subbing for a ray gun). It is in Superman’s very first feature film that the filmmakers (a ragtag team of assignment types, including director Lee Shalom, who went onto work in television) captured the rudimentary essence of a decidedly unpretentious character. Preceding the Man of Steel’s first feature were the art deco Fleischer Brothers animated shorts (1941-1943), the noirishradio show “The Adventures of Superman” (1940-1951, starring Bud Collyer as the voice of Superman) and two 1950 theatrical serials, Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (both starring Kirk Alyn). All of these productions were true in spirit to the original “Superman magazine.”

SUPERMAN II (1980, RICHARD LESTER)

The first season of the televisions series “The Adventures of Superman” (1953-1958) continued the edgy noir flavor of the radio show from which it took its name. Like Superman and the Mole Men, the series starred George Reeves as the quintessential Clark Kent and Phyllis Coates as the equally quintessential, feisty Lois Lane. Possessing virtuous fire, Coates’ Lane still has not been surpassed. Unfortunately, the show’s producers, believing virtuousness was not compatible with fire, decided the way to make the show more “kid friendly” was to replace Coates with the hopelessly “Leave it to Beaver”-styled virgin Noel Neill. That wasn’t the only change. While the second season did have a few good episodes, the saccharine quickly began to set in. The series, low budget to begin with, dissipated into embarrassing Ed Wood territory in budget, writing and acting. Mercifully, it came to an end, albeit through the tragedy of  Reeves’ suicide.

Max Fleischer Superman

The next screen incarnation came with the mega hit Superman (1978) starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. It was, by and large, a bloated, unimaginative affair, although it did have fleeting moments of charm. Superman II was far better for having bypassed the redundant origin narrative.  Superman II has a host of great villains (Terence Stamp as Zod, the underrated Sarah Douglas as Ursa, and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor). Clark Kent, stripped of his powers for the sake of love (the priestly Superman must remain celibate, of course), is far more than a bumbling oaf, and succeeds in winning our empathy in his fight to regain what he has lost.

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GREEN LANTERN (2011): RUBBERY LOOKING GREEN GUY VS. SPACE FIREWORK SNAKE THINGAMAJIG WITH YELLOW HEAD.

Green Lantern (2011)

DC comic characters (thankfully) never took themselves as seriously as Marvel Comic characters, at least not in the 1970s, when I read them as a lad. Batman later took himself quite seriously and one could argue too much so. Like most people who go to college, I lost interest in the funny books, but I still had a nostalgic affection for the period during which they excited me. Years later, I had to take a nephew to a comic store. It had been years since I even looked at a comic and I was rather surprised. One could always tell when Jack Kirby drew a comic, or Gil Kane, or Frank Robbins. Their style was stamped on everything they did, just like one could always tell whether a Looney Tunes cartoon was drawn by Chuck Jones or Tex Avery.  But, these pulp artists were no more. Individual style in comic book art had been replaced with bland, monochromatic computer drawn art. All the comics looked the same, were dull to look at, and seemed to abound in laughable pseudo-intellect.

Green Lantern (2011)

 

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