Category Archives: starz

Arrow: Betrayal

“Arrow” is at a point now where you need a score card to know what’s what and who’s who. I’m not sure that’s a place this show should be at right now. I’m sure there’s a core audience, but despite the handy elevator pitch origin story in the opening of every episode, I’m not sure that any new viewers wouldn’t be hopelessly lost. No matter how you slice it, even I was having trouble keeping all the balls in the air at the beginning of “Betrayal.”

Oliver confronts his mom about the notebook full of names that he got from Felicity last episode. She throws it in the fireplace, suggesting the only way the family can heal is to stop asking questions. Diggle tails her throughout the episode, discovering some nasty secrets. When Oliver confronts her later as Arrow, heh, well, that’s this episode’s cliffhanger.

In the main story this episode, Cyrus Vanch, former muckety-muck of the Starling City underworld has been released from prison, Iron Heights specifically – nice shout out to the comics. He wants what’s his back, as well as the Triad’s and the Bertinelli family’s (I guess that means we haven’t seen the last of China White or the Huntress). And he also wants Arrow out of the way. Using his contacts on the police force, he learns Laurel knows Arrow, so he kidnaps her. This forces Dad to cooperate with The Hood.

In the attack on Vanch, I am again struck by the violence of this so-called hero’s methods. By my count, there are at least eight of Vanch’s men who take arrows right in the chest. Can you live through that? It’s what bothered me about previews of the show before it aired. Have they made Green Arrow into a serial killer? Man, give me an old-fashioned boxing glove arrow any day.

In the soap opera portion of the show, honesty gets between Laurel and Tommy. Disappointingly this coupling has yet to be used to its potential as far as being a plot complication. So much unused potential, but I’ll keep waiting. Laurel’s relationship with her dad is suffering from problems similar to hers with Tommy as well this episode. I wonder what’s next on “All My Arrows”…

On the island, Oliver meets Slade Wilson, played by Manu Bennett, Crixus of Starz’ amazing “Spartacus” series. Comics readers will immediately recognize the name Slade Wilson as the not so secret identity of Deathstroke. Again, for TV they have flipped things. Wilson is apparently one of two Deathstrokes, and not the one Oliver encountered earlier. Apparently Slade is who trains Oliver. I won that bet.

There are other cool shout outs this episode as well. Vanch’s lawyer worked for Wolfman and Perez, referencing the writer/artist team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, who created the New Teen Titans, a team that occasionally featured Speedy. They also, most notably, created Deathstroke. Laurel wants to call DA Kate Spencer for help to put Vanch back in prison. Kate is of course the civilian identity of Manhunter. Arrow and Laurel meet atop the Winick building – Judd Winick, former MTV “Real World” wrote the Green Arrow comic for a while.

Be here next episode when Oliver tells his mom that she’s failed the city, same Arrow time, same Arrow channel.

Spartacus: Vengeance

I recently had the chance to see a sneak peek of “Spartacus: Vengeance” from the Starz network. This is a very different television series from its predecessor “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” and its sequel, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.”

“Vengeance” is not just different for the obvious reason, Liam McIntyre replacing the late Andy Whitfield. McIntyre is a different Spartacus. This is not just a Darren Stevens type change out. He plays the character differently. In comparison to Whitfield, he seems smaller, softer, and tense, rather than intense. He also has compassion, and appears to care, and be more of a leader than Whitfield’s predominantly loner from “Blood and Sand.” While there’s nothing lacking in McIntyre’s performance, there still needs to be quite a bit of suspension of disbelief that McIntyre went through all that Whitfield did to get Spartacus to the place he is now.

And the place he is now is what the major difference in this cycle of the show as compared to the first two. The story has left the arena and the world of the gladiators, which was where much of the show’s charm was in my opinion. Let’s hope the characters, those that remain from the previous series, are enough to propel viewers along this new path.

Having freed himself and his allies from slavery in the house of Batiatus, Spartacus is now on the run and rampaging hit and run style against the Romans and the city of Capua. We see a brief glimpse of the arena, and I have to admit it’s a highlight, but I wish there was more. I loved the first two series so I’m willing to give the new season, and Whitfield more than a fair chance.

“Spartacus: Vengeance” starts on Starz on January 27, 2012.

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Spartacus: Gods of the Arena

I’ve been looking forward to this six-part prequel to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” since I first heard of it, and that was before I had even finished watching that entire series. Yeah, that’s how good it is. As with most prequels, we know the way things are going to turn out, we just don’t know how they’re going to turn out.

The series follows the young Batiatus (John Hannah) and his wife Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) as they rise to the top of the gladiator management game in Capua. We get to see their early doings as well as those of “Blood and Sand” favorites Crixis (Manu Bennett) and future Doctore, Oenomaus (Peter Mensah).

We’re also introduced to an earlier and cockier champion of Capua, Gannicus (Dustin Clare) and the seductive Gaia (Jaime Murray). You might remember the latter as Dexter’s sociopath girlfriend and as H.G. Wells on “Warehouse 13.” Both characters are much fun, and a reason to watch even if you already know what happens to everyone else.

“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” airs Friday nights on Starz. Check it out.

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Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Yeah, I know, I’m late to this party as this Starz TV series originally aired at the beginning of this year. Having just recently obtained Starz I had an opportunity to catch up via OnDemand, watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, despite Comcast mucking with the HD. It wasn’t that I was really that bored or had lots of time on my hands, the series was really that compelling.

Now period pieces of this type I am usually all in or all out. I’m not a sword and sandal guy, and I don’t really dig gladiator movies. They seem just a bit too gay bathhouse for me. Reality check – I haven’t even seen all of Kirk Douglas’ 1960 Spartacus by genius Stanley Kubrick. I guess I should fix that. On the other hand, I am a big fan of movies and programs about Rome and the history of that time. I loved “I Claudius” and HBO’s “Rome” for instance. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” falls solidly into the latter category. I loved it.

At first glance, I didn’t think I was going to like it though. There is a lot of the slow motion blue screen CGI effects that made things like 300, Sin City and The Spirit so visually unique. While the comparison to 300 is obvious because of the time period and the violent content, I did not mean to compare “Spartacus” to the others. This has nothing to do with Frank Miller, because this TV series is actually good.

“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is visually thrilling and something we haven’t ever seen on television before, and that alone makes it must-see, but there is also a compelling story, addictive characters and performances that are better than most on TV. In all aspects, this is must-see-TV.

Just one of those performances you will only be able to see in this thirteen episode series unfortunately. Title actor Andy Whitfield was stricken with cancer and will not be returning to the series in its second season, but will make a brief appearance in the prequel series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” that begins in January on Starz. He will be hard to replace, but rest assured I will be on hand for whatever comes next. This is truly great television.

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