Tag Archive: CW Network


Review by C.J. Bunce

For all the hype, CW Network’s latest series adapting DC Comics had an uneventful start this week.  After Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning, and several crossovers, Batwoman is the next crimefighter to throw her dagger-lined gloves into the ring.  The pilot is a straightforward introduction following the Greg Berlanti model of the other CW Network shows:  A voiceover by the caped hero/heroine, backstory training in a far off strange land, and a tidy origin tied up in a bow with a closely-connected villain, to be the focus of conflict over the course of the first season.  And like the other series, excepting the later introduction of Superman in Supergirl and crossovers, there’s no expectation that one of the biggest characters of the DC line-up will ever show.  In this case, that means Batman, but the set-up for the first episode of Batwoman pretty much requires an appearance at some point in the show’s future.

Batwoman is Kate Kane, played by Ruby Rose, who has had cameo appearances in the other CW series, starred opposite Jason Statham in last year’s summer action flick The Meg, and she got to show her skills as a badass character in John Wick: Chapter 2, the last Resident Evil, and appeared opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.  She brings an edgy quality that matches the comic book superheroine, complete with tattoos that would distract from any other character but works for Kate Kane.  Batwoman changes the course for the CW Arrowverse, with real-world issues of lesbians in the military, gender identity, and bias, so hopefully the series ultimately finds the right balance to match that edginess.  The first episode very much reflects that less-than-edgy quality of Arrow.  But it’s only the beginning, and the other series in this genre took some time to get going, too.  Sorry–Rose doesn’t don that cool red supersuit in the first episode.

The only question is whether Ruby Rose, who seems to fit perfectly into the superheroine role and this take on the comic book story, can match the charisma and acting of series antagonist Rachel Skarsten, who plays Alice, an Alice in Wonderland-inspired villain who isn’t really who you think she is.  It feels early to let loose an identity bombshell, but Batwoman’s writers jump right in, revealing what you’d think would be big secrets (we won’t disclose them here).  Skarsten has had her share of fantastic badass roles, too.  She was Dinah Lance in the original Birds of Prey, Tamsin the Valkyrie in Lost Girl, and she was the young Queen Elizabeth on Reign.  Skarsten’s Alice has some similarities of the Arkham Asylum variety as that millennial-favorite character Harley Quinn, but Skarsten’s level of acting is more subtle and polished than we’ve ever seen Harley portrayed.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Is there a more likeable superhero in all of the DC Comics and Marvel Comics extended universe than Melissa Benoist’s Kara Danvers on CW’s Supergirl?   New this year from Abrams/Amulet Books is Jo Whittemore’s latest novel in her CW Arrowverse tie-in series, Supergirl: Master of Illusion.  Readers will catch up with Kara as she teams up with J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, sister Alex, James Olsen, CatCo tech genius Winn Schott, and her boyfriend Mon-El against her next foe, vintage DC Comics supervillain Felix Faust, an illusionist, manipulator, and hypnotist.  He’s out to gather some ancient artifacts to unleash a trio of demons on the world, and he has plenty to distract the protectors of National City.  As Kara assembles her team to help, she meets up with another oldie-but-a-goodie, the multi-talented Princess Tlaca and Justice League Dark favorite Madame Xanadu.

Kara’s self-effacing inner monologue said out loud (“did she really just say that?”) makes her the most accessible protagonist of any of the recent slate of superhero novel adaptations of comics, TV series, and movies.  Nice, kind, and never snarky (and always seeming to be hunting down her next snack), she accomplishes all she needs without acting like an all-powerful, infallible god like Superman and Wonder Woman, or her all-powerful counterpart named Danvers from that other comic book universe, Marvel Comics’s Captain Marvel.  Supergirl doesn’t forget the “girl” in Supergirl–she’s cute but not cutesy, and she’s smart and has her own skills, but a key component of her character is her lack of confidence.  She’s learning, but she makes mistakes along the way, like every young woman (or man) or girl (or boy), and that’s a great way to get readers on her side.

Felix Faust seems like a good guy at first, helping Kara get her way out of a fix as she’s schmoozing the local city elite at a gala event.  But his real agenda soon becomes clear.  How does the mysterious princess from the ancient Aztec civilization fit in?  It’s up to Kara to maintain her alter ego as a journalist, get a story and keep her job, and save National City before it’s too late.

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After a painfully long wait for fans, the CW Network renewed the hit horror comedy/drama iZombie for a fifth season last May.  A year later and that final season is here, beginning with its season opener next Thursday.  What began as a successful comic book series by writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred for DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint about a gravedigger zombie gal who eats brains to survive, took on its own life under the deft management of showrunner Rob Thomas, who had already dazzled his target audience with Veronica Mars Powerhouse star Rose McIver′s Liv Moore has become every bit the ace detective that Veronica was, but she also bridged the audience back to the pop culture references and off-the-wall fun Joss Whedon brought to TV audiences with the original badass heroine in his groundbreaking series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

McIver had the added bonus of playing a character that had to change up her performance every single episode while also appearing in nearly every scene, like Quantum Leap’s Sam Beckett and more recently Tatiana Maslany’s several sisters in Orphan Black.  And she has met the challenge with high energy along the way.

The first teaser for next week’s season opener, “Thug Death,” doesn’t give away much about the 13-episode series arc ahead.  But it’s something new: Liv and Malcolm Goodwin′s Clive Babineaux must solve a murder with no body and no brain.  And of course it’s clear there’s no skipping the craziness of the characters as we know them, except Robert Buckley′s Major, who probably needs to lighten up a little bit.  The excellent villainy of the past four seasons has smartly balanced out the heroes’ story: first with the brilliant Steven Weber’s Vaughn Du Clark and his daughter Gilda (Leanne Lapp), then with Eddie Jemison’s mobster Stacey Boss, followed by the return of Veronica Mars lead Jason Dohring as the questionable zombie law enforcer Chase Graves, and meanwhile the writers built the character arc of Robert Knepper’s Angus into compelling new territory.  Who will be the villain this year?

Check out a peek here with this preview to Season 5’s season opener for iZombie:

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC).  No other series touches on the ramifications of technology, specifically the perils of an onslaught of real-world cyborg technology, like AMC’s Humans.  This year three characters stood out, including Gemma Chan’s Mia, the cyborg Synth from past seasons, who sacrificed everything for the liberty of cyborgs in the UK.  Then there was Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss, a Synth who refused to live segregated from the humans, opting instead for a normal life for the cyborg son she assumed care for.  And Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, a human lawyer who fought so hard for the cause of the Synths all year, only to throw away all the good she had done, failing the first real challenge that was presented to her.  This year’s best TV borg is shared by Synths Mia and Karen, as each showed the uphill battle any future outsider must overcome when faced with humans.

Best Sci-fi TV SeriesThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  What had been a two-season build-up all came together in the series’ third season with the audacity of killing off key characters, wisely adhering to the framework of the source Philip K. Dick novel.  The use of science fiction to tell an often gut-wrenching array of subplots and unique characters has set up a fourth season with plenty to address.  Exciting, smart, scary, and even fun, it is an unusual science fiction show that isn’t merely trigger-happy sci-fi.  Honorable mention: Humans (AMC), Counterpart (Starz).

Best New TV Series, Best Reboot, Best Ensemble CastMagnum PI (CBS).  If you would have told us a year ago our favorite show this year would be a reboot of Magnum, p.i. starring Suicide Squad’s Jay Hernandez and an actress in the iconic role of John Hillerman’s Higgins, we wouldn’t have believed it.  And yet, even as diehard fans of the original, we had to acknowledge that many elements of the reboot series were even better in the new series.  With the dangerous risk of taking on a beloved property, the production maintained loyalty to the original while making it fresh, scoring Magnum PI high marks on all counts.  Every character was smartly written–suave and confident Magnum, energetic Rick and TC, and a savvy Higgins–every actor was perfectly cast, and each show was another round of nostalgic fun for fans of the original.  Best New TV Series Honorable mention for Best New TV Series: Counterpart (Starz), Lodge 49 (AMC).

Best Series, Best Drama, Best ComedyLodge 49 (AMC).  Lodge 49 told two stories: a darkly serious drama of real people dealing with real-life 2018 adversity, and the other a comedy farce like no other.  Hanging over our heads was the idea that this was going to be a fantasy show, complete with secret codes, hidden rooms, and psychic visions.  If you’re looking for all the elements of great fantasy the hint of it all could be found throughout this series.  And yet it wasn’t fantasy at all.  An oddball Cheers?  A southern Twin Peaks without the Lynchian weirdness?  Star Wyatt Russell’s hero Dud could be dismissed as a typical young man with no vision, or maybe he’s that idealist that everyone needs to strive to be.  Maybe we’ll learn more about that next season.  Honorable mention for Best Drama: Counterpart (Starz).  Honorable mention for Best Comedy: Baskets (FX).
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It’s time for borg‘s annual look at 2018’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  This year we selected 24 characters that rose to the top.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2018 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked as well had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a former MI-5 agent, bounty hunters, assassins, doctors, defenders, advanced superhumans, superheroines, warriors, witches, and even a few cyborgs–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters.

Better yet, here’s something we haven’t said before.  Several of our selections this year were played by women over 50.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2018:

Enfys Nest (Solo: A Star Wars Story).  For the first half of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Enfys Nest was the leader of a band of pirates, a character as cool and ruthless as anyone Han Solo ever faced.  But once she took off her mask,  it became clear how important she was, how significant her mission was–even more so than Han Solo’s own pursuit of mere wealth.  She foreshadowed what Han would later find with Leia, an early glimpse at a rogue and scoundrel who actually had some good in him.  When they joined forces, it made their characters even better.  And she became one of the best warriors in the Star Wars universe since the original trilogy.  (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Okoye (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War).  Is there any woman warrior as powerful and impressive in a fantasy movie this year as Danai Gurira’s Okoye?  We can’t think of any.  A smart commander, a brave soldier, a loyal ally.  Stalwart, devoted, steadfast, strong physically, intimidating and wise, with a keen unwavering ferocity, she represented the best of Wakanda, and fought bravely to defend the world at the last stand against Thanos.  (Disney/Marvel)

Higgins (Magnum PI).  Few television characters are as beloved as Jonathan Higgins in the original Magnum, p.i.  So it was going to be risky having any actor step into the role John Hillerman made famous.  So when the show honored the original character and late actor with such a finely tuned, updated character and actor, we took notice.  Perdita Weeks’s Juliet Higgins is everything Robin Masters was–the character we all thought Higgins was in secret.  We don’t know whether we’ll learn the truth this time around and what that truth will be, but as an ex-British secret service agent, she’s a James Bond for Thomas Magnum to partner with–literally running alongside the show’s star and fighting and shooting her way as an equal.  And the result?  Every episode of the first season was full of great action and fun.  (CBS)
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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fitting into the CW television series’ fourth season, the first book in Amulet Books’ series of novels based on the DC Comics famous speedster, The Flash: Hocus Pocus, takes readers through an all-new middle-grade adventure mystery.  Barry Allen works with Team Flash, Cisco Ramon, Caitlin Snow, and H.R. Wells fka Dr. Wells (aka Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne, H. Lothario Wells, H. Wells, Harrison H.P. Wells, Harrison Wells, Harrison Wolfgang Wells, etc.), plus Joe, Iris, Wally “Kid Flash” West, and Captain Singh to try to find the cause of a recent series of deaths in Central City.  But while Cisco and Caitlin try to take a break from work at S.T.A.R. Labs at an old amusement park, a new villain rises calling himself Hocus Pocus (Cisco hates it when villains name themselves).

This mad magician takes control of Barry as he tries to save his job, protect Wally, save the city and have more time for he and Iris to move on with their lives together.  But this magician has found a way to control and direct anyone’s movements, and once Hocus Pocus can control Barry he can control anything, even kill a stadium full of innocent baseball fans.  Along the way Barry finds himself in front of the storefront of a psychic reader, the strange Madame Xanadu, who seems to have foreseen cryptic steps ahead in Barry’s future.  But Barry isn’t a believer.  Can he use science to find his answers, or will he need to meld both science and magic to take down this murderous magician?

 

Author Barry Lyga, who also penned the two follow-on books in the series, The Flash: Johnny Quick, and The Flash: The Tornado Twins, knows his characters well, creating a good story full of pop culture references, quips, and science–enough real science to prompt middle-grade readers to investigate some of the concepts used to solve this mystery on their own.   Continue reading

After a painfully long wait for fans of the series, the CW Network renewed the hit horror comedy/drama iZombie for a fifth season late Friday.  Even the folks at TV Guide had their fingers crossed for this renewal, stating, “At last, our long national nightmare is over,” in response to the news.  What began as a successful comic book series by writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred for DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint about a gravedigger zombie gal who eats brains to survive, took on its own life under the deft management of showrunner Rob Thomas, who had already dazzled his target audience with Veronica Mars.  Powerhouse star Rose McIver’s Liv Moore has become every bit the ace detective that Veronica was, but she also bridged the audience back to the pop culture references and off-the-wall fun Joss Whedon brought the TV audience with the original badass heroine with his Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  And McIver had the added bonus of playing a character that had to change up her performance every single episode while also appearing in nearly every scene, like Quantum Leap’s Sam Beckett and more recently Tatiana Maslany’s several sisters in Orphan Black.  And she has met the challenge with high energy along the way.  Everyone should be taking a good look at McIver’s performance this year come award season.

That isn’t to say the series hasn’t had a few ups and downs as it found its footing each season, upping the ante for its characters faster than anyone could have predicted… Liv and Major (Robert Buckley) are off, then on again… Ravi (Rahul Kohli) and Peyton (Aly Michalka) are off, then on again… Major and Blaine (David Anders) were zombies, then they weren’t and now they are, etc.  The experimentation worked, as the change-ups kept the show fresh and interesting, and as other shows get tired after the first or second season iZombie has taken the road traveled by NBC’s Grimm, a show that kept up the momentum taking major risks and changes only to get better with every new episode.

This week’s Episode 10 of the fourth season, “Yipee Ki Brain, Motherscratcher!” was the kind of crazy fun you might find on an early episode of South Park or Buffy.  Mocking shows that run out of funds that then are left to have their action scenes off-screen to be summarized on-screen by a character afterward, in an audaciously hilarious move by the writers, co-star Malcolm Goodwin (last year’s borg.com pick for Best TV Actor) was left to pantomime a recap of his off-screen heroics for the episode.  That was coupled with the kind of genre trope episode the series’ fans love: a bombardment of movie references and Easter eggs tied to 1980s action flicks.  And Blaine and Bryce Hogson’s Don E continue to surprise us, but never more than in this week’s episode.  The excellent villainy of the past four seasons (iZombie has three episodes left in Season 4) has smartly balanced out the heroes’ story: first with the brilliant Steven Weber’s Vaughn Du Clark and his daughter Gilda (Leanne Lapp), then with Eddie Jemison’s mobster Stacey Boss, followed by the return of Veronica Mars lead Jason Dohring as the questionable zombie law enforcer Chase Graves, and meanwhile the writers were furtively building the character arc of Robert Knepper’s Angus/Brother Love into compelling new territory as we prepare for what’s coming next season.

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Tonight the intrepid Winchester brothers take a bold step into one of the few paranormal realms they haven’t yet visited:  the animated world of the original Scooby Gang and their Mystery Machine, as Supernatural enters its strangest crossover yet Will some villainous ogre be unmasked by film’s end and say that famous phrase, “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”?  Who wouldn’t want to see Sam and Dean join forces to sleuth out a mystery with Shaggy, Scoob, Daphne, Velma, and Fred?

Zoinks!

Probably no other long-surviving television series has delivered for its fans as much as Supernatural, so witnessing the monster-hunting brothers add a wacky animated mystery to their singular version of the X-Files is not all that unusual.  And every time the show delivers one of those one-off, strange, meta episodes, stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles seem to be really good sports about it.  This time, long-time angel pal Castiel (Misha Collins) gets to come along for the ride.

Jinkies!

Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby Doo: Where Are You?, which originally aired for two seasons in 1969-1970 and featured the voice of American Top 40 host Casey Kasem as Shaggy, is almost at its 50th anniversary.  Over the years in its several incarnations the Scooby Gang featured its own crazy assemblage of guest stars, everyone from Sandy Duncan, The Addams Family, Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas, to the Harlem Globetrotters, Josie and the Pussycats, to Speed Buggy, Phyllis Diller, Don Knotts, from The Three Stooges to Batman and Robin.  In a bit of a backward twist, Scooby and the gang get to be the guest stars tonight.

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Black Lightning is the latest character from Greg Berlanti’s DC Comics “Arrowverse” taking your TV by storm.  Cress Williams plays the new CW series lead character, school principal Jefferson Pierce by day, masked superhero with actual energy-harnessing powers when called upon.  Raising two daughters, divorced from their mother, and trying to lead the kids in his community in a world full of hate and prejudice, this superhero is very different from what we’ve seen from DC on TV.  On paper Black Lightning sounds a bit like The Incredibles, with a retired hero returning to the superhero business.  But this isn’t all fun and games superhero antics like the other CW shows.

The superhero debuted in the comic book Black Lightning, Issue #1, forty years ago.  Writers Tony Isabella and Dennis O’Neil wrote the original stories, with artwork by legendary artist Trevor Von Eeden.  Black Lightning is the first DCU major African-American superhero, and rounds out the key classic African-American male superheroes of decades past to make modern on-screen appearances, along with Anthony Mackey’s Falcon, Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, all from the Marvel universe. 

Episode one of Black Lightning makes for a solid pilot, and is re-airing on the CW network tonight.  The stakes in the series are real, it’s more grounded in reality than the other DC Comics shows, more like the Netflix Marvel Universe television series.  The pace, choice of music, and tone are similar to Marvel’s Luke Cage, the other superhero based on a 1970s black lead comic book title in a current TV series.  Principal Pierce stopped being a superhero for nine years–he had originally become Black Lightning to fight a villain named Tobias Whale and a string of mobsters, to give people hope, but he made a commitment to his wife to stop the violent lifestyle.  But crime is worse now and when his youngest daughter is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he has no choice but to make his return.  He says he saved more lives as a principal than he could have as a superhero and he doesn’t want to go back.

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It’s been one long year of great entertainment.  Before we wrap our coverage of 2017, it’s time for the fifth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have plenty of honorees from 2017 films, plus many from past years, and a peek at some from the future.  You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

In anticipation of the 2017 film Logan, last year we added Old Man Logan, Laura/X-23, and cyborg-armed mercenary Donald Pierce.  We also added Scarlet Johansson’s character The Major, previewing 2017’s live-action film The Ghost in the Shell.

We didn’t get the big ballroom at our venue reserved early enough for the induction ceremony this year, so it limited us to tapping only 24 named characters into the revered Hall of Fame this year.


As with last year, we’re granting a few early entrances this year, first to Simone Missick’s badass cop Misty Knight, who is getting a borg arm for season two of Luke Cage in 2018.


And here is an early look at Josh Brolin’s Cable, from 2018’s Deadpool sequel.  The borg comic book character Cable was a first round honoree to the Hall, so this is just another update to the character.


Onto this year… Kingsman’s almost-a-Kingsman Charlie was thought to have been killed off in the first film.  But he was back in the 2017 film Kingsman: The Golden Circle, sporting cyborg components.


A host of new borgs–Replicants in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?–returned to the big screen in Blade Runner 2049, including some new names and faces, like Ryan Gosling’s K

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