Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: Oct 17, 2012 (The CW)
Nielsen ratings information: 3.55 million viewers, 1.3/4 with A18-49
It seemed like an alright-ish episode, but I’m already annoyed of the fact that the writers were not thinking about anything else than going the procedural route during the beginning of the show. Instead of going right into the mythology and fuck shit up, the writers serve stand-alone arcs that let ARROW look more like a crime procedural with some hand-to-hand combat, plus flying arrows, and a show like that is definitely not worth my time. Like I already said in the pilot review, ARROW defines “wasting time”. But here comes the twist: it was still entertaining of sorts. Because while the stand-alone arc of Martin Somers (Ty Olsson) was a typical waste of time, and not much of a story either (plus pretty much a repeat of the Adam Hunt arc in the pilot) the character (relations) development intrigued me. Okay, less the “fling” between Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy), because it’s still a big fat cliché – especially with Tommy (Colin Donnell) in the background, just waiting to get back together with Laurel, and eventually create a love triangle between him, her, and Oliver – but all the other character relations. What was missing in the pilot was served in this episode (of course) – which makes me realize once again that the second episode of a new show is as important in introducing and setting up the drama as the pilot episode. First of all, every episode should be important for the character development. Secondly, why is it that almost all writers dump all the necessary character setups in the SECOND episode and not in the pilot? Something is clearly wrong here.
Anyway, the character relations. A scene between Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and Laurel was missing in the pilot, which I realized here, when the two shared their big conflict twice. Quite an interesting family situation between the two, though I can’t say for sure if it’s gonna be important for the show later. After all, Laurel Lance is known for something else than defying her father, so I doubt that the conflict between father and daughter is going to be developed throughout the season. It’s probably gonna be dropped right before the halfway point of the season. But whatever, it was nice to see Laurel in another conflict. First her confusing feelings about Oliver, because he is an asshole, cheated on her, killed her sister (well…), and now her confusing feelings as a daughter, because her cop father actually has something to say about that topic as well. What I also like is Oliver right in the middle of that conflict, because he somewhat tries to bundle together with Laurel again. Though I must say that “When you’re around, people die” comment from Quentin was an utter cliché. We’re two episodes in, and it’s not even a regularity that people die around Oliver. Pretty much just Sara and Robert five years ago, and now that one assassin Diggle (David Ramsey) shot and killed. In addition, I like the brother/sister relations between Oliver and Thea (Willa Holland). Yes, the “But it was hell here too” was cringe-worthy, but the rest of the scene in front of the two gravestones was nice. It’s almost like the writers WANT TO get into a somewhat different brother/sister relationship, because they don’t want to make her a bitch. She was one in the pilot, with her slut friends and the bag of coke in her hands, but here, Thea was more mature. Which I liked. Continuing with the buddying relationship between Oliver and Diggle. As if the latter is going to be the first one who finds out about Oliver’s nightly activities. “Are we going out tonight?” almost serves like the first teaser for Diggle to learn about the green-hooded guardian angel, and it would be nice if it’s the case, because it would bring a partnership into the action story, which ARROW definitely needs. Because after a handful of episodes I just can’t believe that Oliver is doing it all by himself.
Oliver trying to honor his father… It was an alright-ish story, but a forgettable one. It had to come though, and I’m glad it came here, and now the writers were able to move on. That Oliver was poised to take his father’s position seems a little ridiculous though. I mean, five years ago Oliver was a spoiled brat – Paris Hilton with a dick and a few more IQ points. I never could have imagined that his father was thinking of Oliver being his successor. And I never could have imagined that Moira (Susanna Thompson) and her official boytoy Walter (Colin Salmon) are thinking the same, especially with Oliver being a survivor and gone for five years and all. That Oliver would say “No” to the leading position was obvious though. If he would have taken the spot, he could have called himself Bruce Wayne Junior. Of course the show wouldn’t go down that route. The final “kick in your balls” moment in front of all the people and press… Well, I’ll take it as is, though I must say that the scene delivery here was terrible. Stephen Amell can’t even do the double role of Oliver Queen and Green Arrow properly, and now he wants to play two different versions of Oliver Queen? Sorry, but it wasn’t working.
The stand-alone arc? Forgettable. Only the appearance of China White (Kelly Hu) interested me, because her character has a comic background. And I’m keen to believe that the stand-alone arc was only written to throw her character into the show without giving her much of a background – which seems lazy, considering which writers are behind the show. But it was also to be expected. I had to laugh about Oliver’s words in the voice-over, when he was talking about Somers: “Laurel targeted the worst of Starling City…” – wasn’t Adam Hunt in the last episode the worst in Starling City? Isn’t the next random stand-alone villain in the next episode the worst in Starling City? I can already see, ARROW is going to be extremely ridiculous every now and then. At least it makes me laugh out loud. 5.5/10
Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: Oct 10, 2012 (The CW)
Nielsen ratings information: 4.14 million viewers, 1.3/4 with A18-49
I am probably not the only one who wonders whether comic adaptations are working well on television. Especially when you’re just not able to go through the whole rogue gallery of one superhero, because every villain is good enough for one big story arc, maybe even a season, and it would be a waste of time if a big-name villain is wasted for just one or two episodes. Therefore the writers have to waste their times with no-names no one cares about, and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of a procedural that ones to be a comic adaptation, which wants to be something big in television. ARROW is most likely exactly that, until the writers will find a way to go through the rogue gallery of superhero Green Arrow, but the question is how long it will take for the writers. Thankfully I’m expecting a long wait. So I can demolish my wishes to get some real comic action on television right now and instead prepare for a comic procedural that might not have anything to do with the original and is most likely wasting my time for 80 percent of the time. And as long as I’m expecting exactly that, the 80 percent of time wasted can actually be quite entertaining. And then that time isn’t wasted any longer.
The pilot episode of ARROW was a waste of time, because it did not make me care about the characters (which is quite usual in pilots for high-profile network dramas these days), but the hour was still entertaining. Instead of real comic action, I could once again see why and how writers (and directors) often fail in getting a perfect television pilot onto the small screen, and maybe don’t even care about the little mistakes. I wonder and question why it is not possible to at least erase all the goofs and directing mistakes (even the most obvious ones – just look at the first screenshot below), and I wonder and question why it is not possible to get a little character strength into the first episode. I know that the story has to be set up, but after seeing dozens of horrible network pilots for high-profile shows during the last few years, there is still the question whether TV writers learn from each other’s mistakes, or if just no one gives a shit. I think no one gives a shit, which is a shame in today’s times of television.
But whatever, I was saying the pilot was entertaining, which it was. Really. I’m not joking with you. Bringing Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) back into the world after being missing for negative fifteen seconds was hilarious, so I couldn’t get into the little arc of Starling City’s citizens either celebrating Oliver’s return, or continuing o hate his guts, because he is the male Paris Hilton in a comic universe (only more intelligent). Hearing Oliver talk about how rotten his city is after he returned was hilarious as well. Especially during the opening, expository monologue, when he was already talking about “revenging his city”, even though I haven’t even seen one single second of the city he is talking about. Or why he thinks his city needs to be revenged. And considering the rest of the episode, I wonder how Oliver was able to learn about the failures of his hometown, while he isn’t even IN his hometown, and instead just has to go through a list of names. Story-wise, the pilot makes you think that Oliver has all the answers before his return, and the audience obviously doesn’t need to know how he got the answers. Of course, it brings me to think that this is part of the “background mystery” of Oliver’s five-year adventure on the island. I have three theories: The first one is that he was not alone on the island, which seems to be the most logical choice (he could have never trained to be Green Arrow by himself). The second one is that he was not on the island for all of the five years. The third one is the writers not caring one single bit about the back story delivered in this episode, and instead just go right into the mystery arc, because why the fuck not? So, yeah, these little points were hilarious to me, because it would have been so easy to eradicate all these mistakes and make the pilot more logical in itself. In addition, I just hate it when the first episode doesn’t even try to give you answers to the first questions. How can you trust your television writer, when he rather decides to give you one question after another, week after week, while you are still waiting for the answer of your first question? LOST fucked up television for sure. The first few mysteries alone seem so damn predictable, I don’t even know why the writers even cared to make mysteries out of them. The shipwreck for example. From the beginning I was thinking that Oliver’s father Robert (Jamey Sheridan) might still be alive somewhere, and that he would return later in the show (since Jamey Sheridan is somewhat of a name in television), but when I saw his suicide scene, I thought of Sara (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) maybe still being alive. After all, how she died was not to be seen, and when Oliver is in the water, perfectly alive, so can Sara have survived the storm. And I’m PRETTY sure that Oliver is not the only survivor of that one fateful night.
Anyway, there were still some good moments in the pilot. First of all, the action worked. The duel Oliver versus the masked men was alright, even with Oliver succeeding to escape the dozens of bullets that are fired upon him. The action in Adam Hunt’s (Brian Markinson) office was also quite nice, even though I STILL had to roll with my eyes, because Oliver easily jumped past all the flying bullets. At least he was knocked out for a second there (or to be precise: for a whole commercial block), which makes me think that Oliver is not much of a man of steel and can be blacked out, when his villains just try hard enough. Furthermore, Oliver’s back story with Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) is pretty good. It’s of course the fucked-up friendship slash former relationship, which brings all the tension between the two characters, and is all kinds of stereotypical, but I don’t mind. And even though there was chemistry missing between Katie Cassidy and Stephen Amell, I actually anticipate the “relationship” between Oliver and Laurel in future episodes, because both characters are pretty much the guardian angels of Starling City. Compare Lauren to Harvey Dent, and Oliver to Batman, and you have a nice setup for a weekly TV show. At least for a few more episodes than just one, because it’s gonna be interesting to see how the “evil in town” gets chased out of town by a district attorney, as well as a superhero. Also, the final scene was good, because it simply established the villain for the next few episodes, maybe even the season. Okay, the thought of Oliver fighting his mom Moira (Susanna Thompson) makes me shrug with my shoulders (since he hates her already, so there is absolutely no inner-conflict material), but whatever. The fact that the first episode established the enemy is nice, because not all TV dramas are doing that. At least not that clearly. Though it’s also to be expected that Moira is not gonna be the main villain of the show. After all, her reasons for being bad only seem to lie in the information Oliver might had. Not really the biggest reason to become a supervillain…
So, at the end ARROW delivers a typical 21st century network pilot: Heavy plot setup, no work on the characters. At least it’s not such a big failure like SWITCHED AT BIRTH or THE FOLLOWING, since ARROW was actually working on some of its plots quite well. Mainly the relationship between Oliver and Laurel, as well as the “mysterification” of Oliver’s background arc on the island. Also, with Adam Hunt being the throwaway villain for one hour, the episode didn’t have enough time to go into more shit, which would have made the whole setup more confusing and bad for some people (that was most likely the problem for THE FOLLOWING). A nice little stand-alone arc that gets a quick five-second setup, a five-minute story, and a quick ending. That’s how it should be in network pilots for procedural dramas, even though I don’t like it this way. But if it has to be like that, then ARROW did actually a good job. Other than that, I neither jizzed in my pants, nor am I super-excited about a comic adaptation on television. ARROW is just another TV drama with a little bit of action and a background in comic. Nothing less, nothing more. Disappointing for sure, but at least not a huge flop. Typical average. 6/10
Issue Number: #1
Cover Date: October 2000
Est. Numbers of Pre-orders in First Month: 54.407 (#15)
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis, Bill Jemas
Art by: Mark Bagley
Colors by: Steve Buccellato
Letters by: Richard Starkings
With the seemingly never-ending THE WALKING DEAD and THE AVENGERS (I only know that the Disassembled arc is a nice way to finish reading those comics), I thought to pick another ongoing comic series, just to have a little more consistency in my reading material. And which series would be more suitable to read than a new origin story of an already established superhero, written by one of my favorite writers? I was planning to read ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN for a while now, and with Sony’s growing cinematic universe, and the possibility that the next decade for the SCU (Sony Cinematic Universe) might have Miles Morales to offer as Spider-Man, there probably couldn’t have been a better time to finally start reading the series.
And the premiere issue, perfectly expanded into a double-issue, to make this series even more a beginning, was awesomely neat. Which I, of course, expected, because ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN kind of was the beginning of Bendis’ big Marvel career. Here, he could pack out the big guns, make stories and characters count, without running himself into inconsistencies, because he was taking care of too many Marvel characters, too many stories, too much action in the panels, and wrote on too many comic series. This issue doesn’t just succeed because of Bendis’ level as a writer, but also because it’s a true origin story. Bendis took his time in establishing Peter Parker as a character, give him some character treats, some conflict material, and all this before he even gets bitten by the spider. And at the end of the issue, he is just hanging from the ceiling – so, no Spider-Man action at all in the first issue, instead just a simple, yet expanded, origin story, which I loved. At the end of this issue, it almost looks like as if ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is rather a story about Peter Parker being a superhero, and not about Spider-Man himself. And when it comes to comics, I prefer these storytelling methods more than the usual panel-by-panel fantasy action. Which is why I love graphic novels so much, especially when they don’t deal in the superhero genre at all.
This issue is all about Peter. How he gets constantly bullied by Flash and Kong. How he doesn’t consider Harry Osborn as a friend, because he is part of the “cool group” in school. How he seems to have a crush on Mary Jane Watson, without her ever being an important part of the story here. How he might have a social anxiety disorder (bringing a psychological aspect into Peter’s character arc: awesome). How Aunt May and Uncle Ben either don’t seem to care much about Peter’s social problems, or know that their boy will be fine, because he already made it this far. How Norman Osborn seems to be the first major villain for Peter Parker. And how Norman might know from the beginning who Peter Parker will become. I found it pretty interesting that Norman saw a potential in Peter, before either of them become their alter egos. Which could make the enmity between Green Goblin and Spider-Man even more interesting. When the basis for this feud is already laid in this issue, I’m expecting some awesomeness. And I hope it’s going to take a while until Norman becomes the Goblin. Because I really want to see his human evil side. Norman Osborn could become a supervillain first, before Green Goblin is born. Kind of like Ultimate’s very own Lex Luthor.
The issue had some great moments, which let ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN shine in a bright light. Not only the character treats make the series intriguing, but also the fact that Bendis kept the story down-to-earth. Instead of instantly developing the spider powers, Peter instead faints a few times. Instead of immediately understanding what is wrong with him, he seems to crawl up the wall in his bedroom in his sleep, as if he was sleepwalking. Instead of fucking up Peter’s world from the beginning, Bendis slowly goes into his new fate, and slowly brings Peter into a position where he could be the perfect comic superhero. Sometimes, an extended origin story in comic form is the best that can happen to you, and even though Bendis is known for his slow pace in storytelling, it just helps the reader to identify with the characters. And in the case of Spider-Man, it’s even more important to identify with Peter Parker. After all, the success of Spider-Man in the comics during the 1960s and 1970s was lying in the readers identifying with Peter – too similar were the fictional hero and the real-life readers, too understandable were his choices and life events. The only thing is that writers back then weren’t able to focus on the comic characters at all.
All in all, I liked this issue. Okay, the assassination plot against Peter was a little too much for me (at least it got an explanation), but other than that, the 42 pages were simply stellar. Probably one of the better comics I have read recently. And the fact that it was a double-issue makes it even better. This issue is like a TV pilot episode. It makes me hot and wet like a little girl for the rest of the comic series. And, seriously, not all #1s can manage to do that these days. 9/10
Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: Oct 21, 1998 (The WB)
Nielsen ratings information: N/A
A pretty boring and annoying episode. A) Shapeshifters are boring supernatural villains, especially when they are as stupid as the shapeshifters were in this episode. B) Victor (Tony Denison) was a completely annoying character. I didn’t know if he was villainous, or if he was a good-hearted father with not such a good heart after all. C) Two episodes in a row, where one potential villain is teased, while this episode doesn’t even go into the details of last episode’s teasing. Uargh. D) Are the sisters dumb or something? Otherwise I can’t explain myself why they don’t ask questions and don’t go into investigative mode themselves. After all, they had the clear pictures before them.
Let’s go to each point one by one. I was laughing, when the mail delivery shapeshifter (Jimmy Dineen) just threw the Book of Shadows into plain sight, if he could have … I don’t know, hidden it under the couch or something, just so the sisters don’t see the book right in the open, question absolutely everything? I mean, the shapeshifter couldn’t have known that Prue (Shannen Doherty) is just telekinesing (is that a word?) the book under a random piece of furniture, instead of wondering what the shit was going on… In addition, what was up with the dog shapeshifter at the beginning? The glowing eyes he presented were pretty much for nothing. Also, if the dog shapeshifer tried to get the book out of the house during the teaser, the mail delivery shapeshifter would have known the attic door was locked, right? The mail delivery shapeshifter didn’t have the key for that one? Or was the dog shapeshifter never in front of the attic door? Which brings me to ask: Why the fuck was he in the Halliwell manor in the first place?
Oh, Victor. What a shitty character you have become in this episode. I have to give it to the writers and their efforts to deepen the past of the Halliwell family and give some background, but couldn’t they have done that with a less annoying character? At first he came over as this supervillain-like character, who also has a side gig as a supermodel – completely unrealistic. Then he apparently didn’t have anything to do, when he was interrupted by Phoebe during his massage. Like a supermodel he was getting up on the table, hugging the hearts out of Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), and even offering her his massage therapist. I would see that behavior in some rich guy from Gotham, but not in CHARMED. That was a really ridiculous scene. The ending was also a little ridiculous. And I didn’t quite understand it: Was Victor a good guy or a bad guy now? The safety spell obviously banished the stupid shapeshifting neighbors out of this reality, but since Victor survived… Was he really after the book to stop the evil going after the book and therefore helping his daughters? Or was he simply after the book himself? His partnership with the three stooges bites with the revelation that Victor is in fact the good-hearted daddy.
This episode also marked the first appearance of Leo Wyatt (Brian Krause). Okay, in this episode he was just the hot handyman, who had something to say about the age of the manor, but exactly these words let me think that the writers purposely put in Leo into the first episodes to make the audience think that he is another one of the badass demons who is after the Book of Shadows. The thing is just: It doesn’t really look that obvious, even though the obvious part lies in the fact that Leo was thrown into this episode to serve a recurring story arc. Whether it be him as a demon after the book, or as a love interest for one of the sisters. The problem is that the last episode did the same already: Rex and Hannah were introduced to show the audience that evil lurks everywhere. And they showed Prue that love lurks everywhere as well. Putting the same story teaser twist into two back-to-back episodes without going further into the first of those teaser twists is pretty lame. And yes, I’m aware that this episode was actually the fourth episode produced, and therefore there is a one-episode gap between Rex and Leo, but still… You don’t bring that into a show. You can’t just establish numerous potential threats to the main characters without ever going into the first of your threats.
And finally, the stupidity of the Halliwell sisters. Especially Prue. She saw the Book of Shadows lying around. She could have asked herself what the book was doing downstairs, while Andy (Ted King) was also in the house. She could have figured that Andy might not be a good guy. She could have figured that the Andy she saw in her house could have been a shapeshifter, especially after she learned about the shapeshifters later. Not only the mail delivery shapeshifter was pretty stupid by throwing the book into the open, but Prue was stupid as well, because she couldn’t add one and one. The writers missed a great storyline by letting Prue not realize Andy might be after the sisters and the book. Apparently they were more interested in putting a relationship on the heels of these two love birds. In addition, how could Piper (Holly Marie Combs) and Phoebe be so open about their father? Did they never hear the bad stories about him from both Prue and their grandma? If I would be in the girls’ situation, I would definitely be reserved about my father coming back into town (right after I discovered my witch powers), when I never dealt with him in the first place, and when there are only bad stories about him. I know that children need their father figure, but these children are adults by now, and they should have their heads clear. After all, they are being hunted by warlocks and other demons – so why are they letting Victor into their lives so quickly and easily? Especially Phoebe, who had a premonition about Victor’s bad intentions – yet she was not tired to let him into her life. Sorry, but that’s just stupid. And didn’t help me at all to accept Victor as a character in this show.
Fun fact: The door to the attic is not only the first piece of furniture in the manor to be destroyed, it’s also the second one. Also, Piper and Phoebe want a security system in the house, but Prue said it’s too expensive. Eight years later, someone better add all the repair costs, and compare it to the cost of a security system, and how much money it might have saved the Halliwells.
The scorecard after three episodes: Prue had two guys courting her, slept with one guy. Piper had one guy courting her, but he was a warlock, so he had to be killed, before sex was an issue in this show. Phoebe is still in last place with zero guys and no sex. Also, the attic door gets replaced for the second time. 4/10
Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: Oct 14, 1998 (The WB)
Nielsen ratings information: N/A
I’m actually surprised about how this episode didn’t suck. The story of Javna (Michael Philip), and his way of sucking out the lives of innocent, young, sexy women might have been a remake of everything the fantasy genre has already dished on your table, but the personal arcs of the Halliwell sisters was quite nice. Prue (Shannen Doherty) trying to get her life under control after the witch-y reveal in the pilot; Piper (Holly Marie Combs) trying to understand the lives of witches more; and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) just wanting to enjoy having powers… It’s almost like the writers knew that’s what real-life witches would do, when they find out they are good witches. I found it refreshing. It wasn’t over the top, it wasn’t too much (except Piper’s first church scene, which resembled a horror movie), and it was somewhat sad, too. Seeing Piper shedding a few tears, because she thinks she is a bad witch, and she doesn’t deserve this at all, was touching. Especially since that scene showed a nice moment between two sisters. I can’t remember if it happened, but I hope the first season will have lots of those kind of scenes. And I don’t mean the babbling when it comes to their love life.
Like when Prue came out of the shower and Piper told her about Andy’s (Ted King) phone call, and Phoebe had to get into the mix as well. If three sisters talk about their failing love life, I automatically turn off my listening devices, because it’s almost always shitty. I don’t need to listen about failing love lives, when my own love life fails on all levels. And above all, I don’t need to listen about the failing love lives of three young and beautiful women, who could get every man in the world. It makes me even more miserable. But I can already see how the love life of these three ladies will be more important sometimes than killing some badass demons. By the way: Prue is the first one to have sex in this show, which means she leads the scorecard by one point. She also leads the scorecard by men she had a fling (of sorts) with, with two guys courting her since the pilot, and a third guy presumably coming up. Piper only had one guy and zero sex sessions, while Phoebe still stands far below anything and everybody in both regards. I will continue to keep track of the girls’ guys and their hot nights together.
That brings me to discuss one certain point, which came up in this episode. Prue and Andy had a one night stand, and in one scene, one of them said they were actually making love. I know that “making love” and “having sex” are two completely different things, and “having sex” is the thing that simply happens most on this planet. Especially after a first date. I would never believe in a single second that Prue and Andy made love after their first date. No, they had sex, simple as that. The fact that “making love” was put into this episode and the dialogue between the two was only because the writers wanted to make the two a couple as soon as possible, and when they would talk about love early in the show, it would not take a while, until the wedding bells are ringing. What a way to suck at writing. But what do I care, right? I never “made love”, and my love life sucks. So, what the hell.
Piper’s little witch-angst story was okay. Like I said, it led to a good scene with Phoebe, but I was laughing when the first church scene pretty much led to a straight horror movie. Seriously, how can you make so much thrill out of such a little scene? What was unfortunate was the fact that neither Prue nor Phoebe were included in this witch-angst story. It’s completely normal to be scared about getting burned at the stake (I can’t even begin to mention how witches in Salem weren’t burned at the stake), but what puzzles me is why Phoebe or Prue are not scared about this topic. Are they so deep into their power-hungry asses that they want to use their powers for their own gain before thinking about the consequences? That would explain Phoebe’s teenage-behavior, but not Prue’s.
In the meantime, Javna was a terrible villain. First of all, the script didn’t even give him a proper background. Seriously, a demon that tries to stay super-young for many millennia by sucking out the lives of young people? What a cliché. And doing that sucking thing a few times during the week, but then stopping for a while? Umm, why? Is Javna going into hibernation after sucking out the young and beautiful? Does he have enough youth in his blood that keeps him alive for another year? Then why was he rapidly aging throughout the day, when he was about to suck out Phoebe?Meh, how I hate it when demonic villains are thrown into a plot, just to be a danger for one of the sisters (of all of them), while not being given a proper background, or even a proper reason for their existence in today’s world of television. No wonder why Ghostbusters 3 never happened, when television already ridicules demons enough for the audience to laugh at them (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is another realm of TV, only half the demons that showed up there actually deserved to be called demons).
Finally, a few words about Rex Buckland (Neil Roberts) and Hannah Webster (Leigh-Allyn Baker). It almost looks like the writers were totally ready to get into a recurring storyline with a villain, and this two episodes into the show – neither did I remember this, nor did I expect this to happen so soon. Okay, Hannah’s “I think she is the luckiest woman alive, or she is a witch” could mean a lot in television these days, but it usually means that secrets are out, and that at least Prue is going to deal with those two characters more than she’d like. Is it an interesting arc in general? Not really. But for a late 90s fantasy show, it was a step into the right direction. 6/10
Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: Oct 7, 1998 (The WB)
Nielsen ratings information: N/A
Buckle up for some CHARMED reviews coming throughout the next few weeks, and maybe months. I always wanted to get into the show fully, but my knowledge of its campiness during the latter stages of its life always kept me away from the three witches that repeatedly saved the world and destroyed their San Francisco manor in the process. But I figured I could just go into it, knowing that the camp will actually be fun. And what is more fun than ripping apart a funny show? I don’t believe I will ever go past season five here, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right? Also, I really want to see a beautiful Rose McGowan again. But first, three seasons of CHARMED. Or, how to produce a supernatural show that looks like it has been produced without any budget to speak of.
Seriously, the pilot looked super cheap. Most of the effects were just SFX anyway – lighting tricks, playing with shadows, pulling wires, make-up. Practical effects still work best on a show, and it surprised me that the pilot were defined by its practical tricks. Okay, the one VFX that looked ridiculous was Jeremy’s (Eric Scott Woods) face distortion during his confrontation with Piper (Holly Marie Combs), but other than that, the premiere of CHARMED definitely survived the test of time. It is surprising how this show is almost sixteen years old, even though it feels like it has been around me and in television history for all my life, yet it premiered in the US when I was twelve. It is almost like CHARMED is still young. Also, CHARMED is so cheap, you could probably remake the pilot with your own hard-earned money, and catch the audience like WB did in 1998. There really didn’t seem to be anything complex about the production of the show, which might define the campiness of later seasons. And which might have been the problem of the show after the fourth season. But I can barely remember the show as it is (I have never even seen the final two seasons), so who knows what my final verdict will be.
Story-wise, the pilot came over like a normal crime procedural. The first scene brings you a killer and his new victim, the after-intro scene brings you a crime scene and two arguing detectives. And in the middle there are two arguing sisters, who wait for the arrival of their arguing third sister. Somehow the whole first half of the episode was mostly about arguing, a little bit of hate, and a whole lot of simple, metropolitan TV drama. It was a proper introduction to the show for late 1990s standards, but there was no deeper level to be discovered. The first half never cracked the surface, and always stayed safely on its two feet. Which is okay for one episode, but it can turn out extemely boring when TV writers keep it up for multiple episodes in a row. But anyway, the pilot did a good job in introducing and foreshadowing, and I can even excuse the tropes and clichés that can be found over the course of these 43 minutes. The only thing that really annoyed me was the sisters’ quick realization that they are witches. Powerful witches at best. Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), for some reason, instantly believed in magic (and it would have been nice to show why). Prue (Shannen Doherty) didn’t even go into thinking mode, when she realized that Phoebe might be right (especially during her first time-freeze – the only thing she could think about is boosting the taste of her pasta for the chef). And Prue didn’t go seriously crazy when she saw she could move things with her mind, and almost blew up a whole drugstore. It’s like “No way, witches don’t exist”, followed by one or two pieces of practical proofs that magic does exist, and the sisters are all like “Wow, we’re getting more powerful.” A better written pilot would have played on the emotional level of the sisters, and it would have made it difficult for them to accept that they are witches. An emotional level always helps to connect with a character, and the pilot didn’t have one layer of emotions at all. Which makes it less believable for the sisters to discover magic that easily.
Of course the pilot had multiple points where I either rolled with my eyes, or was just laughing, because I realized the campiness of the show was existent from the very first second. It begins with the fact that our first-scene victim couldn’t hear the footsteps behind her, when even I was able to make out the sounds of the steps. Seriously, if you don’t want your character to hear the perpetrator sneaking up behind you, you should eliminate the sound effects from the scene. Number two would be the fact that Prue and Piper have “a spare room”, when they were talking about having another roommate. Here’s what’s off: The two have a whole house for themselves. And there is only one spare room? No way I’m gonna buy that, though I can buy that the soundstage didn’t have much room for four rooms. Number three goes to Piper: When the power is out, it is only logical that the phone doesn’t work. That’s at least true for the 1990s world in television. At least Prue instantly knew why the phone wasn’t working. Number four will be closely monitored during the rest of the show. Apparently, the sisters didn’t really have their powers, right up until Phoebe was reading the first page of the Book of Shadows out loud during a full moon. My question is (and I’m looking at all the future episodes I can’t even remember): Can the sisters regenerate their powers by simply rereading the first page out loud, if they have lost their powers for whatever reasons? Number five is about Phoebe. Considering what I remember of her, it’s hilarious that she was the only sister without being courted by a guy. Yes, she just moved from New York, and logically she didn’t have time to fish through the market of available bachelors (which all turn out to be gay, or demons, anyway), but Phoebe was also the only sister with some pure cleavage in this show. Which makes me wonder even more why she didn’t end up with a guy by the end of the episode. Warlock Jeremy, the polygamist, owns number six: Being whacked by a piece of wood… Come on, you were a pretty shitty villain. It makes me question if all the warlocks in this show are pussies. Number seven is TV history: Let us all remember that the door to the attic was the first thing in the Halliwell manor that was annihilated by a demon. From what I can remember, at least one door/window/wall/piece of big furniture was a victim to supernatural violence in each episode.
I don’t consider CHARMED as one of the shows that is worthy of a rewatch. Or as a favorite show of mine. I’m going into this thing with the knowledge that I will be amused by its sometimes boring acting, ridiculous line deliveries, gruesome special effects (even BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER had better face transformation effects, though they only lasted a split second, while Jeremy’s facial configuration took a little more than a whole second), meaningless stories and predictable twists, and unenergized confrontations between the heroines and villains. But the pilot was fun. Not in a good way, and definitely not in a bad way. You could see that the producers were in it with some seriousness, but without losing the sense of the camp that comes with the premise of three good-looking witches and their boy problems. Let’s see how much of that seriousness mixed with camp survived over the course of the next two seasons. 7/10
Season 1, Episode 13
Date of airing: Feb 4, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 6.62 million viewers, 2.2/6 with A18-49
I agree with the consensus of the internet and say that this was the best episode of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. so far, and the reasons for this are simple: The story had a few unexpected twists, the storytelling was different from previous episodes and had something new to offer (at least for the characters), and there was some chemistry between some of the characters that I have never seen before. Who would have thought that Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) have a better chemistry than Fitz and Ward had during “The Hub”? And who would have thought that the writers cared a bit about the sexual relationship between Melinda (Ming-Na Wen) and Ward (Brett Dalton)? And who would have thought that one of the characters is in actual danger for once? This episode showed what AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. was missing during the first half of the season, and I’m happy the writers finally found a way into the show. To make things count. To make it difficult for the characters.
It begins with the fact that Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team were in the field, and could not go back to their Bus and figure things out like normal spy agents. Instead they had to improvise, which made things a little more difficult for them – and difficult is always better, because it makes the characters shine in a different light, when they act differently to known situations. Let’s just take the holotable as an example. Usually, after the title card, you see the team standing around the holotable, analyzing evidence, leading themselves to the next chapter of the story, but this time the team was already in danger after the title card. The holotable couldn’t help them at all this time, and Coulson and Ward themselves were pretty helpless when standing in front of the holotable. Here I felt for the first time to watch a show that comes out of the hands of Joss Whedon and his writing team. The comedy was reminiscent of Whedon’s earlier work, and the scene in general was just ridiculously hilarious. AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. needs far more scenes like these, but so far, even THE AVENGERS had more comedic scenes than AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. in thirteen episodes. But it’s a step in the right direction for the show.
The unpredictability of the story led to a few cheap cop-outs, as well as a nice final act, but the former didn’t annoy me much this time. When the train disappeared in front of Coulson and Ward, I was surprised to realize that this story might lead to extraterrestrial realms once more, despite Coulson’s words that he can’t deal with Asgard right now. That the grenade was just a toxin to “freeze time” for Coulson and Ward was, of course, a cop-out to an intriguing story, but it was neat anyhow, because a potentially great storyline was demolished in a quick and logic way. The other cop-out would be Melinda killing off Luca Russo (Carlo Rota), but only because I saw it coming from a mile away that he was a bad fish and that his days would be numbered. But Melinda has gotten a nice scene in the barn, and she showed me once more that you really are not allowed to make her mad, or otherwise you’ll have a knife in your throat. Or in your back. Also, seeing Melinda tortured and freeing herself gave me some form of pleasure. It reminded me of the best days of Jack Bauer, and I’m kinda happy that the MCU has a Jack-Bauer-like character to offer. Even more, I liked that the little session of torture didn’t go unnoticed within Melinda. Her scene with Coulson in the Bus, being interrupted by Ward, was some nice character work. Previous episodes repeatedly established a unique friendship/partnership between Coulson and Melinda, and it’s good to see that the writers try to go even deeper. All of a sudden there is more respect between these two, and it tremendously helps the character development.
And then there is the final act. I didn’t see it coming at all that Quinn (David Conrad) would shoot down Skye, though it would have been completely stupid of him not to shoot her. There he was testing Mike’s loyalty to the Clairvoyant, and who knows how dumb he would have been, if he just would have let Skye run after Mike, or if he would have neglected Skye to go after Mike himself, so that he can … I don’t know, what exactly was his deal in this episode? Anyway, with Skye down and in imminent danger, the writers FINALLY had a great reason to bring some character drama into the show. First of all, Coulson’s angry “Where is she?”, when he sees the blood spatter on Quinn’s hand, fearing the worst. Then his fears becoming a reality, when he sees Skye lying there, about to bleed to death. It somehow reminded me of Doug Ross finding the beaten-down Mark Greene in the washroom close to the end of the third season of ER – especially the position Skye/Mark were lying/half-sitting when Coulson/Doug found them. Anyway, seeing Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) getting bossy for a nano second and forcing her team to get Skye into the hyperbolic chamber was good, and seeing her getting crushed by her emotions was even better. I loved that scene. Even more when Fitz came and enclosed her into an important hug. That is the team-building I wanted to see from the beginning, and it’s also the moments between the characters I wanted to see from the beginning. I can’t give a shit about the characters, if they haven’t scenes like in this final act. Why did it have to take thirteen episodes for me to finally be rewarded with scenes like that?
In the meantime, the actual story of the episode was a different narrative way for the AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. writers, and I liked it. Okay, the narrative of telling one story from different perspectives is an old one, and wasn’t quite well executed during the beginning of the episode (Ward’s action could have been synchronized with Coulson’s scenes, since he was just walking through the train anyhow), but I liked that this episode resembled ALIAS. I realized the similarities between those two shows in previous episodes (with Simmons almost being a Sydney Bristow look-a-like), but now it became obvious. Also, the story felt like a true spy thriller. Multiple undercover agents in a small confinement are after a mysterious device – it’s the typical spy story, and despite the stereotypes in those kind o stories, I loved them here, because it was something different for AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Furthermore, it was great to see Skye and Fitz working together. Yes, they really have a better chemistry than the “brothership” between Fitz and Ward, because Skye and Fitz are on a similar level, when it comes to expectations and knowledge about field ops. They could play each other the ball more easily than Ward and Fitz could.
And finally, thanks for this episode to establish that Coulson actually told Skye about her being a 0-8-4. I wasn’t quite sure about it, since the last episode silenced out Coulson during the tell-the-truth scene, and since the information of Skye being a 0-8-4 could be some heavy stuff, especially for S.H.I.E.L.D. I can’t really imagine that Coulson and/or Melinda would keep that secret under wraps for now, but it looks like they really did. I wonder what’s to come here. I only have one theory. With Skye shot and almost dying, will her 0-8-4 connection save her life?
By the way: Applause to a few ridiculous things: Queen-sized beds in trains, Stan Lee‘s cameo (I rolled with my eyes), and Russo wanting to know from Melinda where Coulson and Ward are, when he could have just taken a look on the side of the tracks 7.5/10