Friday Tunes: ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul,’ They Might Be Giants

Birdhouse in Your Soul,” by They Might Be Giants, is a great little tune that reminds you to keep a safe spot in your soul for something small and vulnerable. You can read the lyrics here.

I was browsing through Netflix, hunting for a new show to watch, the other day, and stumbled across The Blacklist, starring James Spader. I love the action/spy, cop+criminal drama genre on TV – Burn Notice, White Collar, Leverage, that kind of thing, and The Blacklist looked like more of the same, so I fired it up. And it turned out it kind of is, if you take those kind of shows and add a heavy dose of serious quality.

It’s so good I actually thought it was Netflix Original until I googled it this morning to link to it. Turns out this thing is on NBC. How on Earth do you get a show this good made on network TV? I have no idea, but if you aren’t watching it, you should be.

Continue reading Friday Tunes: ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul,’ They Might Be Giants

Agents of SHIELD: The Patriot (S4, Ep. 10 | Spoilers)

“Separated from their team, Coulson and Mack discover a shocking secret about Mace, leaving all of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a precarious position.” (IMDB)

This episode we finally got to find out what’s up with Director Mace. We all knew there was something hinky about that guy, but just about the time I’d be ready to write him off as a villain, he’d go and do something trustworthy or heroic and I’d have to recalibrate. I assumed the reveal would be that he was living some sort of lie, but I was genuinely surprised that they went the super soldier route with him, lying about his Inhuman status for the publicity.

Also, they’re using an improved version of the Hyde formula to give him powers. I’m sure that won’t come back to bite anyone in the ass at all. (And if it doesn’t, I’m going to be a bit disappointed.)

The FitzSimmons plot is beginning to wear a bit. I could excuse Fitz hiding Aida the first time around because he had reasoning that made sense. Now he’s walking on thin ice. Also, I’m a little annoyed with Simmons not being more supportive of Fitz’ hunch that there was something more going on with Aida. It’s not like Fitz has a habit of being wrong or something, and his hunches pay off often enough that I feel like Simmons could indulge him even if someone did die. It makes her seem dismissive.

I’m curious to see what happens next with LMD May, particularly now that she knows – or suspects – she’s an LMD. Jim and I were curious as to how much of May’s memories she has, and I’m curious as to how hampered she might be by Radcliffe’s “subconscious” programming. For example, now that she’s seen the robotics in her shoulder, can she even tell anyone?

Finally, I’m thinking Dr. Radcliffe needs to dial back on the snark with Aida, or that girl is going to lose her temper and take him off at the knees. I’m calling it now: She’s going to do something nasty to him in an episode or two.

Line of the Night Award
There was a lot of competition tonight, but the winner has to go to Coulson’s deeply exasperated “I don’t know!” to Mack when he asked what Mace thought he was doing.

My live tweets are archived here, if you want to check them out for some reason (there are some fun .gifs in there). Next week’s episode is “Wake Up.”

Lagunitas NightTime

The Electoral College is voting today, but that’s not going to break our way and honestly, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. I’m pretty sure that if, by some miracle, the Electoral College actually voted someone besides Trump into the presidency, this whole damn country would burn straight to the ground.

Instead, let’s talk about the best beer I’ve tried in awhile: Lagunitas NightTime.

So, some backstory: I did not drink prior to moving to Oregon. It wasn’t out of any sort of puritanism or tee-totaler mentality as much as because everything I’d tried up to that point had tasted pretty bad. Wine, beer, liquor – it all tasted gross to me. To be fair, I had mostly sampled garbage. Miller and Budweiser. Watered-down dirt cheap well liquors. Five-dollar wines. I once tried a sip of Mad Dog and I swear to god I can still taste it in my mouth to this day, and it’s been 20 years. That kind of crap will cure anyone of liking alcohol.

Then I moved out to Oregon where, as far as I can tell, they only sell Budweiser as a joke.

It also helps that my Jim has pretty good taste in alcohol. Previous boyfriends/husbands had – it turns out – terrible taste in alcohol. (In retrospect it seems perfectly obvious that they would’ve, but y’know. The things you don’t notice at the time…)

Jim introduced me to beers that actually taste like something you’d want to drink, and now I’m starting to investigate wines. We’ve also determined that there are several liquors I quite enjoy. (Notably, they’re all ridiculously expensive. I don’t have the budget to drink liquor.)

We drink pretty rarely. Jim’s diabetic for one thing, and I have no interest in drinking a lot. We have a beer or a glass of wine once every couple of months or so, but we do like to try new things when we have a drink, so we tend to scoop up interesting new beers or wines whenever we spot them.

The Lagunitas NightTime was one of these finds. We bought it back in October for Halloween, then ended up having a Fall plague that prevented us from going to the party where we’d intended to drink the beer. So there it sat, forlorn and nigh-forgotten, in the fridge, until last night.

I know nearly nothing about alcohol. Lagunitas refers to NightTime as an IPA, India Black Ale and India Dark Beer, and it does say “ale” on the bottle, but NightTime reminded me of all my favorite stouts and porters. It’s a dark beer, which I tend to prefer. Really, I want a loaf of rye bread in a bottle when I get a beer.

The first thing I noticed about NightTime was the scent. It smelled like fruit and toast in the glass, and it tasted sharp and bitter and black, if a thing can taste like a color. It was acrid and dry, and left little aftertaste – very clean. The scent combined with the flavor to create something lovely and rich, though.

Unlike a porter or stout, NightTime is a pretty light beer to drink. Drinking a good stout almost feels like you have to chew it. It’s a very thick beer. NightTime isn’t. You could have this ice cold on a hot day and be pretty happy with yourself over the choice. It’s also best cold, unlike most of the stouts I enjoy. Those usually do better at room temperature.

I’ve liked quite a lot of different beers. Deschutes has a couple I really enjoy, as does local brewery Block 15 and coastal favorites Rogue. Very few of those have knocked my socks off quite like Lagunitas NightTime, though. This one was an instant favorite.

It’s a limited release so who knows how long you’ll be able to get your hands on a bottle of this. But if you can, you definitely should. It’s fantastic.

Invasion: Heroes vs. Aliens – Legends of Tomorrow (Spoilers)

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this crossover since it was first hinted at and I have to say, I’m thoroughly thrilled with the end product. Sure, the plot was thin in some places, the seams showed a bit in others, and the Supergirl portion of the event was disappointing, but overall? It was awesome.

I’m amazed at what the CW and the Berlanti crew accomplished on a TV budget and considering the constraints of their shooting schedules. I read somewhere that everyone had to work five straight weeks to get this done, and having nearly all the heavy hitters involved and showing off would have strained the best TV budgets.

The end result was a week of high-octane fun that also tied into several threads dangling on other shows and offered some character advancement for several members of the cast. That’s impressive.

When we last left our intrepid adventurers…

It turns out that the Dominators came to Earth back in the 50’s because of the JSA. Metahumans had appeared on Earth, and this apparently got the Dominators’ panties in a bunch, so they came to check it out. The governmental Men in Black managed to strike a deal with the Dominators that they’d leave Earth alone, as long as the metas didn’t get too out of hand.

Enter the Flash and Flashpoint, which was a dealbreaker. But no worries! The MiB strike a second deal with the alien pearl-clutchers: Earth’ll turn over the Flash, and the Dominators will bugger off and leave us alone. Barry, being Barry, is down for this deal.

Meanwhile, the Legends crew decides they need more intel, so they hightail it back to the 50’s to kidnap a Dominator to interrogate, bringing Felicity and Cisco along with them. This? Is glorious. This whole crossover was a four-part love letter to nerdy knowhow. Cisco and Felicity geek out the whole time and it’s a hoot.

(I want a whole crossover with just the nerds, by the way. Felicity, Cisco, Nate, Ray, Curtis and Winn save the world. Who’s with me? It’ll be brilliant.)

As expected, the kidnapping mission goes pear-shaped and the Legends – Nate, Mick and Vixen – get caught by the MiB, along with the Dominator they were trying to snag. Felicity and Cisco rescue them, but Cisco, being a decent sort, decides they also have to rescue the Dominator, which changes history.

Now the deal for giving up the Flash is a no-go, and the Dominators are here to drop a meta-killing bomb that’ll also probably devastate a sizeable chunk of the US in the bargain. The upside to this is that Cisco realizes how easy it is to mess up the timeline while trying to do something good and finally forgives Barry for Flashpoint and Dante’s death.

And after that comes the most amazing five minutes of TV this year, with the entire cast of the crossover throwing down with the Dominators. It is the best. Ass-kicking everywhere. Everyone gets a moment to shine. Firestorm transmutes an entire huge bomb into water. It’s awesome.

The actual resolution of the fight, which involves nanotech invented by Prof. Stein’s daughter being used to cause intense agony to the Dominators, was a bit anticlimactic, but at least it wasn’t the cliche “destroy the mothership which causes all the aliens to die” thing you usually get in this scenario, so I’ll let it slide.

With the Dominators defeated, the heroes congregate at the totally-not-the Hall of Justice for accolades from the president, followed by the wrapping up of loose plot threads. This is easily the character highlight of the crossover.

Brandon Routh got a call-out to his turn as the Man of Steel, Mick and Sarah agreed that the new president was hot, and Kara got to twinkle menacingly at the old CIA/MiB fart causing everyone headaches. Seriously, that girl is pure, weaponized cute. Adorable shouldn’t be that unnerving. Plus we got a group hug with Ollie, Barry and Kara, which was really what we all showed up for, and Mick dropped his “Hey Skirt, call me.” That plus Kara’s reaction killed me.

The episode finished with Barry and Oliver grabbing a beer together at some bar, presenting us with a solemn, heartwarming moment to finish on. More than any of the other characters, these two really went through the wringer during the crossover. Seeing them toast each other and agree that it was all worth it in the end was the perfect way to wrap up Invasion.

Line of the Night Award

Jax: “All right, Grey. Spill. How is it you have a kid?”
Stein: “I didn’t think I had to explain such matters to you, Jefferson.”
Jax: “Come on. You know what I mean.”
Stein: “When we traveled back to 1987, I gave my younger self a lecture about neglecting Clarissa, and he -”
Jax: “- followed your advice all the way to pound town.”

Other Notes

  • Why were the Dominators so concerned about the Flash? There are so many other speedsters at this point we had problems trying to name them all, and many of them are perfectly capable of dicking up the timeline exactly the way Barry did.
  • Wow. Citizen Steel’s helmet is awful. Ray should be embarrassed.
  • Why is Legends of Tomorrow so much better at Flash’s CGI than The Flash is? Someone at LoT must’ve just watched the Quicksilver X-Men movies or something. They had some really good speed shots.
  • Three episodes here plus that mention on Arrow and the whole season of The Flash, and I’m still not sure why Dig would be so upset over not having a Baby Sarah around. I could see being bothered a bit, sure, but it’s not like he completely lost a child, he just had a boy, instead. And notably, Baby John appears to be a bit older than Baby Sarah was, which would indicate that Dig and Lyla either got back together sooner or never divorced in the first place. I’d call it a wash, myself.
  • As Jim pointed out, a cute little blonde with heat vision? Of course Mick’s in love.

And finally, IGN has an article detailing some of the crossover bits that got left on the cutting room floor. You know what this demands, right? Extended editions of the crossover on the DVD releases.

Other Episodes

Invasion: Heroes vs. Aliens – Arrow (Spoilers)

Arrow turned in a great episode – a bit rushed and slightly overfull, but tailored to yank on heartstrings, which is only fitting considering it was also Arrow‘s hundredth episode.

Starting with the B Plot

Our heroes need to find and rescue Oliver and Co., so Cisco arrives with Felicity at the Arrow Cave to “vibe” something Oliver owns and hopefully get a location. Cisco gets to meet nuTeam Arrow (“That’s two Rorys I know now. The other one, he’s a douche, though. You’re not a douche, are you? Ok. Good. Had to make sure, right?”) and tries to vibe a location off one of Ollie’s old bows. He gets a vision, but – as one might expect – it’s not particularly useful.

Step two is to engage in the obvious trope of having the nerds hack a piece of alien tech, a scene which made me snicker because Cisco’s all “I tore this piece off the alien ship that crash landed in Central City, we can hack it,” but Cisco never got, like, inside the ship, right? So he just tore a piece off the outside of the ship. Which means that basically the Arrow nerd crew is trying to hack the hood ornament. Okay.

Improbably, this sort of succeeds. Except the gang needs a power booster, which exists, but has been stolen by some random cyborg woman villain, which nuTeam Arrow has to go beat up. Cyborg Gal has souped herself all up with tech, necessitating the help of Flash and Supergirl, who basically swoop in and do all the heavy lifting. I’d be a little miffed about shortchanging the Arrow crew on their own show, except this happened, followed by this, which was frickin’ awesome, so that’s fine.

Tech acquired, the gang retires to the Arrow Cave where (off screen) they find the location and (one presumes) alerted the remaining Legends.

This portion of the episode was pretty rushed and fairly obviously written to shoehorn Flash and Supergirl into the action for crossover purposes. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but there wasn’t a lot of thought put into it. We got a lot of weird, atonal moments due to that.

For example, suddenly Wild Dog has a problem with metahumans? Has this been mentioned previously? Because I don’t remember it. Also, the Dominators’ language is based on Jewish numerology, so Rory and Felicity can translate it, which was kind of bizarre. Curtis even had a translator widget, but the show had the widget not work, so they could bring in the Jewish language idea. I assume this was so that Rory had something to contribute to the effort, but it wasn’t done very gracefully.

Meanwhile, in the A Plot

The meat of the episode was in the A plot, where Ollie, Thea, Sarah, Diggle and Ray are living in a dream world based on the idea that Oliver Queen never got shipwrecked. This is as common a trope as hacking the alien tech or yesterday’s hero fight. Shoot, Supergirl even did a version of it with their “For the Girl Who has Everything” episode last season. Supergirl‘s version may have fallen flat, but Arrow‘s knocked it out of the park.

The point of a “dream world” episode like this is to underline the heroic-ness of your character(s). You offer your hero everything they ever wanted and then they refuse it because, despite the inherent suffering and sacrifice of being a hero, the world needs them. It ennobles your hero, reaffirms their herodom, and, often, provides them some closure for past sacrifices and justifies their course of action.

It’s something that Arrow – Ollie, specifically – has desperately needed. He’s been struggling, losing his way a bit, and he’s suffered through a lot. He needed a moment like this, to face the demons of his loss, make his choices, and move forward.

In the dreamworld, Ollie’s folks are alive and well, he’s not the Green Arrow, and he’s about to marry Laurel Lance. Meanwhile, Thea’s a happy entrepreneur, Sarah’s showing up to visit her sister for the wedding, Ray’s there with his fiance (notably, Felicity) and Dig… is the Arrow. Interesting how Dig dreamed himself up a world where he’s unhappy and suffering.

In short order, real-world memories start breaking through the dream and our heroes eventually realize something is up and attempt to break out, turning the dream into a Greatest Hits of all their villains – Darhk, Merlyn, Death Stroke, etc. There’s an awesome fight scene and then, despite the heartbreak of leaving “paradise,” Ollie and the gang break out.

Only to find themselves trapped, on an alien spaceship, in space, surrounded by enemies.

Okay, now, loyal Arrow viewers, think back to that very first episode and ask yourself… did you ever think we’d get this far? Arrow. Fighting aliens. In space. I did not.

Of course Ollie and Co. fight their way free, steal a Dominator dropship, and escape, to be picked up by Nate from Legends of Tomorrow in the Waverider, which neatly sets us up for tonight’s sure-to-be-epic finale.

Final Thoughts

I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me was Stephen Amell’s growth as an actor, and Ollie’s growth as a character. Seeing him juxtaposed against all the old cast members really showed off how Amell’s grown into the role.

Line of the Night Award

Ollie: “How’d you find us?”
Nate: “I didn’t. Your nerd army back on Earth did.”

“Nerd army.” Heh. T-shirt, anyone?

Other Episodes