<i>The M.O.</i>’s Lesson Learned Issue: "Night Watchman" The M.O.’s Lesson Learned Issue: "Night Watchman" Ann Marie Thurmond "...I've got a job to do." <i>What Happens in Reno</i>: New Excerpt What Happens in Reno: New Excerpt Mike Monson An unhappy wife, her criminal boyfriend, and a drunken gambler meet over a pile of money. <i>What's Done in Darkness</i>: New Excerpt What's Done in Darkness: New Excerpt Kayla Perrin No one knows what's done in darkness. <i>Blood Red</i>: New Excerpt Blood Red: New Excerpt Wendy Corsi Staub Lock your doors and keep the lights on...
From The Blog
October 5, 2015
Childhood's Bittersweet Wonderment: The Spirit of the Beehive
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CSI Shrewsbury: Brother Cadfael's Medieval Mysteries
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Killer Nashville's 2015 Silver Falchion Finalists Announced: Vote Now!
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The ZINNG: A Cool $25K for E-Mysteries (and Lethal Selfies)
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September 29, 2015
A Huge Case of Teensploitation: 1965's Village of the Giants
Brian Greene
Showing posts by: Corrina Lawson click to see Corrina Lawson's profile
Oct 9 2015 3:00pm

Heroes Reborn 1.04: “The Needs of the Many”

The visual of humans being hooked into part of some machine has become cliché. How do I know this? Because the Heroes Reborn scene last night immediately reminded me of similar scenes in two recent films.

One, in Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, is played as horror. The other, in The Lego Movie, is played for laughs.

Not having a big budget like Scorch Trials, Heroes Reborn went with a sterile white room. The reveal should have had emotional resonance, given Molly Walker’s self-sacrifice to avoid being cog in the Machine. Alas, I’ve seen it before.

When Heroes first arrived on television, it offered something different. Now, the world’s caught up to its stories. That’s crystal clear by the use of the word “inhuman” at the end of the show, the same word that’s being used to describe the people whose powers are evolving in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“Forget the past, save the future” would be good advice for the show overall, because it seems too much of the same instead of going for something new.

I’ve enjoyed watching the revival but I remain uncertain what it has to say.

[And that's a slippery slope for a TV show to stand on...]

Oct 2 2015 11:00am

Heroes Reborn 1.03: “Under the Mask”

If the two-episode premiere was mostly setup, the third episode took those seemingly random plotlines and turned up the pressure. In the process, the show has started to overcome the problems that plagued the original series: cohesion and lack of forward momentum.

And this episode did it well enough to overcome the “people with powers hunted even though they didn’t do anything” trope. If the rest of the season retains this quality, I’ll be impressed and pleased.

I’ve been familiar with the above trope since I started reading X-Men comics in 1980 and mostly it bores me. Yet by the end of last night’s episode, I was at the edge of my seat, horrified by what happened to Molly Walker.  Kudos to Francesca Eastwood for making me care. (And, yes, she’s the daughter of Clint Eastwood and Frances Fischer.)

[She wasn't feeling lucky...]

Sep 25 2015 2:30pm

Heroes Reborn: Good Enough to Pull Viewers In

The first season of the original Heroes rightly became a phenomenon. It contained a cast full of appealing and multi-cultural characters, a central mystery, a freaky villain, and a wonderful finale that tied up all the disparate plot threads.

Alas, Season 2 arrived and instead of a continuation, it was more like a reset, as characters who’d grown instead reverted to where they were at the start of Season 1. I bailed at the end of this season with a sad sigh.

But I’m totally on board with a reboot that might fulfill the promise of the wonderful first season.

Does Heroes Reborn do that?

[Click through to find out!]

Jul 28 2015 1:00pm

The Essential Jim Gordon Stories, Or, When Gordon Became Batman

In the current storyline in DC’s Batman and Detective Comics, Jim Gordon’s shaved his mustache, ditched the overcoat, and done some serious body sculpting for his new job—the pilot of a new robotic Batman suit that is protecting Gotham, because the real Batman is feared dead from a final confrontation with the Joker.

I thought Jim Gordon had reached the height of popularity when an entire show, Gotham, was built around him.

No. Not even close.

Because now he’s Batman.

It’s quite a pinnacle for a character introduced in 1939, who stayed in the background for decades, and then was shown as an ineffective bumbler in the Batman (1966) television show.

[Every bat has its day...]

Jun 3 2015 3:00pm

Now That You’ve Watched Daredevil, Read These Comics

Daredevil’s thirteen-episode season was a non-stop crime noir thrill ride populated by characters that stayed with me long after my binge watch ended.

The bad news: a second season won’t happen until sometime in 2016.

The good news: the comics listed below will help pass the time until then. It’s no coincidence that the first four creative runs are similar to the television show. The television show drew heavily on these stories for inspiration for storylines, atmosphere, and characters.

The last run listed? It’s just pure comic fun that should be read anyway.

[Let's start at the beginning...]

May 31 2015 8:30pm

Fresh Meat: Stay by Victor Gischler

Stay by Victor Gischler is a thriller about a stay-at-home dad who must juggle his home life with his military past (available June 2, 2015).

Stay by Victor Gischler is the pulse-pounding story of a special operations officer defending his family from a mob conspiracy and a dangerous hit man from his past.

But what sets this book apart from the usual action tale is that the hero, David, is also a stay-at-home dad.

This contrast is what attracted me to the book. Stay delivered on that promise, with domestic scenes of getting kids to school mixed in with a minivan car chase, a tense sequence on a boat in the waters around Manhattan, and a climax at one of New York City’s conference hotels.

The story moved so quickly that I read the book in one sitting, as the bulk of the action takes place in one very long night in Manhattan, with only one small bit of respite as David recovers from his exertions on the boat.  

[Don't skip this quick hitting read!]

May 14 2015 2:30pm

Batman Eternal: The Only Gotham Story You Need

Setting is character. The iconic image of Batman on the rooftops of Gotham City, protecting his dark, violent world tells the reader all they need to know about what kind of person this masked man is.

The television show Gotham has, to mixed success, attempted to make the city as much of a character as any of its citizens, though it labors under the handicap of not being able to use Batman or any of the city’s costumed heroes.

For that, readers need Batman Eternal, a 52 chapter story published in weekly installments last year. This year-long story, written by all the talent currently writing the Batman books, creates and epic story about Gotham and all its myriad facets.

Batman Eternal features every aspect of Gotham: the mob, costumed heroes, the colorful villains, the GCPD, the press, and the supernatural corners that lurk in the darkness. While an ambitious a story with a large cast could seem intimidating to a newcomers, each plotline has a tentpole that hold the elements together and provides its own point of view the city and its citizens.

[You'll be tearing through the pages in no time...]

May 5 2015 4:55pm

Gotham Season Finale: 1.22: “All Happy Families Are Alike”

Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz ) has so much to learn about his own parents./ courtesy FOX

It started, as the Batman legend does, with the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their young son, Bruce.

What Gotham promised to viewers in the premiere was a story about Jim Gordon’s fight to bring order to a chaotic city, Oswald Cobblepot’s quest to become Gotham’s crime lord, and Bruce Wayne’s dedication to finding justice, if not for his parents, for his city.

The season finale brought these plotlines full circle, with Gordon desperately trying to save Gotham from being a war zone, with Penguin confronting his rivals, with Selina possibly taking a step away from Bruce and to the dark side, and with Bruce and Alfred discovering part of his father’s legacy.

Unfortunately, the season-long journey to this point meandered, sometimes into utter ridiculousness. Promising ideas, such as Gordon recruiting detectives Allen and Montoya as allies, fizzled.  Penguin’s arc eventually stalled. Everyone but Bruce and Alfred forgot about solving the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

I wondered if the finale could possibly be good enough to redeeme the season and bring me back next year.

[Drum roll please...?]

Apr 28 2015 3:30pm

Gotham: 1.21 “The Anvil or the Hammer”

Barbara Kean in Detective Comics #500 / DC Comics

I know, a lot happened last night on Gotham, particularly the gang war set up for the finale of this season, but first, let’s talk about a character whose failure to become more than cardboard is indicative of Gotham’s overall failings.

In all her incarnations, Barbara Kean has never come off well. In the 1970s, she didn’t even have a name, she was simply Jim Gordon’s late wife and Barbara Gordon’s mother. She was finally given life by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano in 1981, in the classic “To Kill A Legend” story in Detective Comics #500.  (Brennert complained of receiving no compensation for co-creating Kean when Gotham added her to its list of characters.)

In Batman: Year One, Frank Miller wrote Kean as a long-suffering wife, a pale shade of Detective Sarah Essen, Gordon’s true love. Eventually, the elder Barbara died in a car accident. Sometimes Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon was her daughter, sometimes her niece. More recently, Kean was written as slightly mentally unbalanced due to terrorization by her firstborn, the unhinged Jim Gordon, Jr.

The first reports of Gotham cited Barbara Kean as a doctor, a definite step up in her characterization. I’m not sure what happened to that angle, but instead, we’ve gotten Barbara going from Jim’s supportive girlfriend to drug-addicted girlfriend of Detective Renee Montoya, to passively floating through life, to Selina’s fashion consultant, to outright victim.

Gotham 1.21: The Anvil or the Hammer, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, Milo Ventimiglia as Christian Grey, the Ogre

[She's pretty in pink...]

Apr 21 2015 11:00am

Gotham 1.20: “Under the Knife”

It finally happened. Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) finally conduct an actual police investigation, though I’m still having trouble buying the premise. Their target is the serial killer with the secret bondage room, ala Christian Grey, who’s looking for the perfect woman, i.e. a woman who does anything he tells her to do.

In other events, the young Bat and Cat attend a ball and banter, Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) takes his first step into villainy, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) returns worried about a job (she has a job?) with a new twist that’s only vaguely more interesting than the blank slate she’s been previously, and Oswald’s mother is menaced by Maroni (David Zayas).

Oh, and Gotham puts Morena Baccarin in a bathtub for no particular reason other than it seemed to want a T & A scene.

[I'm sure that got your attention...]

Apr 14 2015 10:45am

Gotham 1.19: “Beasts of Prey”

Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) in the “Beasts of Prey” episode of GOTHAM.

This weekend, I was binge-watching a great superhero noir series set in a corrupt city where the only justice to be had was by skirting the edges of the law. The show also featured a magnetic, compelling villain with a plan for full control.

But enough about Daredevil.

In fairness to Gotham,  part of the reason Daredevil is so much better is that it’s only 13 episodes, creating a tight focus, doesn’t have network restrictions on subject matter, and doesn’t have the network interference which might be part of Gotham’s largest flaw: the lack of focus.

Gotham is so diffuse that none of its stories end up being compelling, especially when the characters stumble into things rather than being proactive. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Fish’s escape from DollMaker Island most this week: Fish (Jada Pinkett Smith) not only has a goal, to escape, but a smart plan to accomplish it. Bonus: she even rescues the people she said she would rescue, while making sure she leaves dead enemies behind. Not to mention being able to play the Dollmaker for a fool and fly a helicopter after taking a bullet.

[There's only one Fish in Gotham's sea...]

Mar 3 2015 12:15pm

Gotham 1.18: “Everyone Has a Cobblepot”

 Detective Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Dent (Nicholas D'Agosto) investigate a lead in the "Everyone Has A Cobblepot" episode of GOTHAM.

“Petulance and naiveté are a bad combination.”

That’s Police Commissioner Loeb (Peter Scolari) telling Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) that he’s going about fighting corruption in the department the wrong way. But it might as well have been the audience rolling their eyes at yet another Gordon plan to stop corruption by yelling at people.

Perhaps Loeb’s comments stung because, in this episode, Gordon does a small amount of actual investigative work in an effort to find the evidence of murder and other misdeeds that Loeb has on, well, practically every member of the GCPD.

“Everyone Has a Cobblepot” also served up yet another offensive parody of the mentally ill, reassured viewers that Alfred (Sean Pertwee) will recover from last week’s stabbing, provided Fish (Jada Pinkett Smith) with a new eye, and showed that Selina (Camren Bicondova) is attached to Bruce (David Mazouz), whatever she may claim. Oh, and Harvey Dent (Nicholas D'Agosto) shows up but he makes little impression.

The episode also featured Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor), which was good, and lacked Barbara Kean (Erin Richards), which is double good. But, unfortunately, the episode itself was mediocre, much like most of the season.

[Same old, same old...]

Feb 24 2015 12:15pm

Gotham 1.17: “Red Hood”

When I complained that Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) needed more to do on Gotham, her sexing up Selina (Camren Bicondova) isn’t what I had in mind.

In an episode of Gotham filled with odd (and sometimes violent) twists, Barbara’s insistence that Selina would look great in an adult evening dress stands out. That’s going to make future conversations between Catwoman and Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon awkward.

“Hey, didn’t that dress used to belong to my mom?”

“Yeah, I got it when we were living together.”

O_o. I’m not sure the show intended the scene to come across as sexually predatory on Barbara’s part. I suspect it was meant to be a girl bonding moment. But it certainly plays as if the only reason Barbara wants Selina in sexy clothes is because she finds Selina attractive. And given their respective ages, that slides Barbara close to sexual predator.

If the show actually wants to go there, Erin Richards played it perfectly. If the point of Barbara’s character is to show how a basically decent person becomes corrupted by the darkness in Gotham and then Gordon, representing the light, brings her back from the brink, I’m good with that, save that Barbara’s descent needs to be more than moping, looking sad, a few short sex scenes with Renee and Jim, and lots of wine consumption.

[She's a pint of Ben and Jerry's short of a full-blown cliche...]

Feb 17 2015 12:00pm

Gotham 1.16: “The Blind Fortune Teller”

My eldest son (19) wandered in during this week’s episode during the scene where the snake finds its handler’s body. I tried to explain.

His response: “This show is so dumb.”

Yes, it is. That was made even clearer when I watched Sleepy Hollow immediately after Gotham. After floundering for some time, Hollow has found its stride again. Gotham is in the same old rut and looks to remain there.

That’s evident with the tale of a possible Joker origin in this episode. The Joker is the nuclear option of Batman stories. If you’re going to use him, it needs to be memorable and unique, especially with Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight seared into recent memory.

Gotham fumbles its chance.

[And it doesn't recover the ball...]

Feb 10 2015 1:15pm

Gotham 1.15: “The Scarecrow”

With the help of Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith, C), Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, L) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, R) set out to stop a biology teacher who has been harvesting the glands of his murder victims in the "The Scarecrow" episode of GOTHAM.

Gotham has been a roller coaster ride most of this season, its overly-fast pacing covering over its many flaws. But now that we’re at Episode 15, it’s time to decide whether this show is worth watching next season or not.

I’m on the fence and it’s for a reason I never imagined when the show as first announced:

This show has a hole at the center and its name is Jim Gordon.

[This isn't the Jim Gordon we know and love...]

Feb 8 2015 11:30pm

Hart to Hart: 5 Lessons in Love from TV’s Crimefighting Couple

Despite people trying to kill them at least once a week, Jonathan and Jennifer Hart kept their marriage steamy. A close examination of Hart to Hart (1979-1984) reveals how they did it, and how other couples can use their methods to add more romance to a relationship. (Yes, even without luxury cars, access to a private jet or money for shopping sprees at Bergdof Goodman.) 

1) Roleplay:

The countess and the ship’s steward. The lady and the chauffeur. The chemist and the industrial magnate. Over and over, the Harts assume different identities that not only help them solve crimes but add spice to their love life.

“Careful, you’ll expose me,” Jennifer says while undercover.

“I only expose you in private,” Jonathan answers. (Aside: I cannot believe the number of absolutely filthy insinuations that snuck past the censors of 1980s television.)

[More filth and loooooove ahead....]

Feb 3 2015 12:45pm

Gotham 1.14: “The Fearsome Dr. Crane”

Maroni (guest star David Zayas, R) tests Oswald Cobblepot's (Robin Lord Taylor, L) loyalty in the "The Fearsome Dr. Crane" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Feb. 2.

Gotham offers such wonderful bits and pieces of stories. This episode was no different but, still, I always wonder what the show would be like if it tightened its focus.

For instance, Oswald and Maroni’s confrontation, doled out in frustrating fragments. They played a game of ‘tell the truth,” at an isolated cabin in a scene that could have been straight out of The Sopranos. I wished for the entire episode to be just the two of them, in that cabin, telling horrible truths that neither wanted to hear. (By the way, Oswald apparently has never watched The Sopranos or he’d know never to take a ride anywhere with a mobster who suspects you of selling them out.)

If this had been The Sopranos, the confrontation would have ended with Maroni or Oswald dead. Since it’s Gotham, and we know Oswald survives for years, instead Maroni puts Oswald into a death trap. Oswald, of course, escapes. And we’re back to the beginning of the season, with Oswald headed back to Gotham to enact his revenge. Again. (I’m sure the church group who found Oswald won’t convert him. That ship has sailed.)

The entire mob plot is spinning in circles. None of the major players—Maroni, Falcone, Fish, Oswald—have died yet. The biggest event so far has been Fish being forced into exile and that isn’t likely to last long.

[There's still time. Someone needs to go for good...]

Jan 27 2015 12:45pm

Gotham 1.13: “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, R) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, L) address corruption within the GCPD in the "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon" episode of Gotham.Welcome back, indeed. This was the most coherent and compelling episode of Gotham to date. Not only did we get the usual surface fun—Oswald and Mama Kapelput, Fish being gleefully defiant—but the story reached far deeper in simultaneously giving Jim and victory and a defeat.

Gotham's unpredictability has always been a strength, and that’s in evidence, too. I expected Fish might die, I expected crazy Mama Kapelput to get caught in a crossfire, and, most of all, I expected Gotham's signature quick cuts between storylines to interfere with the overall impact of the episode. Instead, the police plot and the mobster plot coalesced into something greater than both, while the subplots of Bruce and Selina’s break-up and Eddie’s fumbling courtship of Miss Kringle reinforce the grief and loss of the overall story.

[Let's hope this is the new Gotham...]

Jan 20 2015 12:00pm

Gotham 1.12: “What the Little Bird Told Him”

“You think you’ve been careful so far?”

Lest we forget, Harvey Bullock repeats the phrase three times, each more incredulous than the last in the latest Gotham.

It’s a perfect line, well-delivered by Donal Logue, and points out the single biggest issue with Gotham: Jim Gordon should be dead by now.

But for plot reasons, he lives. It’s certainly not because his skills are invaluable to Gotham.  Oh, he yells at people for being corrupt and he condescends to those not doing real police work but it’s been a long time since we’ve actually seen him do something that makes things better for the city.

But yet Jim holds himself up as better than everyone else. He yells at other cops, various mobsters and the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. Yet no one takes him out.  This frustrates me to no end because the character has such potential.

[Jim, like Gotham, needs to find its identity...]

Jan 6 2015 12:15pm

Gotham 1.11: “Rogues’ Gallery”

Somehow, I expected Gotham’s biggest flaws to have vanished in its return. But the quick cuts between stories, the failure to give Gordon any plan for accomplishing his objectives, and the introduction of Batman villains for no particular reason are all flaws in stark evidence in “Rogues’ Gallery.”

It’s a measure of how off Gotham’s return was that a Shakespeare play performed by the inmates at Arkham Asylum instead reminded me of a King Tut routine from the campy Batman television show of the 1960s.

And then there are the vast issues with the show’s worst-written character: Barbara Kean. We learn why Barbara never left the Clocktower: all she does, apparently, is hang around the place and do drugs, a lifestyle that even Montoya can’t get behind. Montoya claims she and Barbara are “toxic” for each other but it’s Barbara who’s bringing everyone down. (What do Jim and Montoya see in this person?)

[Besides the obvious...]