Danielle Panabaker

The Flash (2014) s06e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three

Crisis: Part Three is a scant handful of okay moments surrounded by truly godawful dialogue, sometimes so bad it’s impressive the actors are keeping it together—points to Grant Gustin, Elizabeth Tulloch, Cress Williams, and Candice Patton—one inventive plotting point, a couple big nostalgia deep-dives (they really felt the need to validate “Birds of Prey” fans, which I’m not sure I believe is a thing), and a lot of nonsense. Along with plot points from other DC Comics crossover events, including one of the silliest ones.

There are a lot of obvious budgetary shortcuts, like how Brandon Routh’s Superman returned never gets a shot actually going through the teleportation effect because apparently there’s only so much CGI budget. But also the lack of exterior shots (they don’t even recycle footage from the last time they showed Crisis hitting Earth on “The Flash,” which might threaten some kind of extended cut?).

The three big plots this episode—almost called it issue, but no, if it were an issue of Crisis it’d look better, George Perez and all (seriously, how they didn’t get a uniform good score for the crossover instead of just dropping in the old superhero themes…)—anyway, it’s Gustin, Carlos Valdes, and Danielle Panabaker trying to save the world from the speed cannon, which is an utterly crappy sequence. Especially compared to the comic, but even compared to when Gustin disintegrated in his nightmares earlier this season. Like they spent more money on that effects shot from a regular episode than the money shot in this one. It’s a bummer. Even if it’s got a good nostalgia hook but also an exceptional missed opportunity. The crossover asks for a whole bunch of slack and doesn’t deserve any of it.

Oh, wait, there are four big plots. I forgot about Matt Ryan leading David Ramsey (whose acting has gotten worse the longer he’s been on “Arrow,” and not just because he has a very forced Malcolm X quote to show he’s a Black man, which might be the most questionable creative decision in a series of very questionable creative decisions), Stephen Amell, and Katherine McNamara on a cameo-filled field trip through the Arrowverse purgatory. Even though it’s unclear how the infinite Earths work with purgatory, because it seems to be unified between realities but… whatever. Anyway, it’s just for cameos and to give Ramsey some crossover time. McNamara’s got almost nothing to do so she’s nowhere near as bad as last episode.

Then Ruby Rose and Melissa Benoist are bickering about Benoist wanting to use the Book of Destiny or whatever it’s called to save the lost universes and acting like they’re in a Frank Miller rip-off until they get girl power. Rose is bad, Benoist’s not good but also not bad; it’s neither of their faults. It’s the script, it’s the direction. Their plot’s a pointless, terribly written one.

Finally, Patton is tasked with introducing Osric Chau to the Arrowverse. I’m sure he’ll have a job after the crossover as Atom II. He’s actually okay, even though the scenes are atrociously written. Because of course they are.

The big cliffhanger—it’s five weeks until the last two entries—lacks in grandeur and execution, also not a surprise. It’s almost like they don’t have the budget for the guest stars and special effects and so went with the former. Or maybe it really is just a terribly produced crossover. It’s not like the last one was any good either.

There is a pleasant surprise at the finish, but only because it promises to amuse when they get back. Amusement would help. This episode’s not amusing. Or entertaining. And Audrey Marie Anderson and LaMonica Garrett are still terrible. Oh, and they managed to get an even worse performance out of Tom Cavanagh than he’s been giving the rest of the season (he should quit after this disservice to his filmography, just for the godawful costuming alone).

Is it as bad as the first episode of Crisis? No. Is it as middling as the second one? Nope. But whatever’s coming in five weeks, it’s pretty clear even if it’s entertaining or amusing or manages some decent moments from the actors… it’s not going to be good. And it’ll probably be bad. It’ll definitely be tedious. The cliffhanger would have been the end of the first installment if this Crisis were any good.

The Flash (2014) s06e08 – The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 2

So unlike previous seasons, the CW “Arrowverse” showrunners—at least on “Flash,” “Supergirl,” and to some extent “Batwoman”—are doing a pre-Crisis arc and a post-Crisis arc, which might end up making a lot of sense depending on how Crisis goes… so this episode is the big finale to the comically godawful Sendhil Ramamurthy arc. He gets to turn into a big skull-faced Venom CG monster at the end, but the monster still has his voice so even if the CG is bad, Ramamurthy is able to make it even worse with his performance.

Also with the end of the arc thing there are big action set pieces, except they’re not big. They’re fake big. There’s a zombie apocalypse as Ramamurthy infects people in Central City with brainwashed “Dark Flash”’s help. We don’t get to see the apocalypse because budget; instead it’s Candice Patton and Carlos Valdes arguing about what to do next. As Grant Gustin left Valdes in charge (for after Gustin dies in Crisis), Valdes thinks he’s got the best plan. Meanwhile Patton has a different plan, one where Gustin’s not acceptable collateral damage.

Both plans are stupid because the script’s stupid but Valdes’s performance is so lousy, it’s impossible to side with him. He and Danielle Panabaker desperately need to get off this show, both for the show and for themselves. Panabaker at least has some okay moments as (don’t call me Killer anymore) Frost, but when she reverts back to regular Caitlin she’s bad. Not sure why. It’s obvious why she doesn’t use her powers against the zombies when she and Jesse L. Martin go out to the street to fight them. Because budget. But why’s Panabaker so thin playing her regular role? Maybe because she’s so bored with it they had to make her a different character to keep her on the show?

As for Gustin, who last episode went over to the dark side, possibly willingly, he doesn’t get anything to do until the end of the episode when they’re all sitting around moping about Crisis. It’s a terrible scene, though possibly better than the previous episode where he frets about his mortality. I foolishly thought the show might have some good “Road to Crisis” stuff but it’s all crap. It’s not exactly disappointing but it’s surprisingly poorly executed.

The one technically good thing in the episode is when Cecile (Danielle Nicolet, who’s all the show’s got going on anymore) and Victoria Park have to escape from a building overrun with zombies. Nicolet uses her psychic abilities to sneak them out in a long “continuous” shot sequence, which is technically proficient but still bad.

Because budget.

It’s probably not a good idea the show set its whole season up as a jumping off point for after the crossover, but unless they clean house on the cast and get some better writing, “The Flash” has run out of steam.

Tom Cavanagh sucking the season certainly doesn’t help things.

The Flash (2014) s06e07 – The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 1

“The Flash” seems to be in a race—no pun intended—to see how bad it can get before the Crisis crossover. This episode gives Grant Gustin his first showcase all season and instead of giving him scenes opposite the regular cast, like his wife, dad, friends, sticks him in a battle of the wills. On one side is Sendhil Ramamurthy, who—against all odds—is actually worse than usual. He’s Ultimate Venom. On the other side is Michelle Harrison, who sometimes plays Gustin’s dead mom, sometimes the Speed Force. Harrison’s always been a weak casting choice. She did a little better in the stunt as Earth-Three not-Barry’s mom earlier this season and it’s hard to fault her with anything this episode. The personified Speed Force is a really stupid idea. Not Harrison’s fault.

So while Ramamurthy tries to convince Gustin to embrace the Venom so Gustin doesn’t have to die in Crisis, Harrison tries to convince Gustin he needs to sacrifice himself because he’s Jesus.

Only he’s not Jesus. When “The Flash” introduced the idea of Gustin disappearing in the Crisis first season, it was an Easter egg. The way they’ve turned it into a plot point this season has been godawful but not surprisingly so. The “Arrowverse” Crisis for Gustin doesn’t have the traditional gravitas from the actual comic. It’s got the “Flash” gravitas, which is pretty slim stuff.

The episode opens with a lousy cliffhanger resolve—Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) versus Ramamurthy, but really just an excuse to get Sawyer out of the episode to… film crossover scenes? Because dramatically it’s crap. Though everything related to Ultimate Venom is crap.

Meanwhile, Candice Patton gets a big reporter arc. But not really. She’s just avoiding writing her obit of The Flash, which is that season one Crisis Easter egg, which makes sense because she has no idea how he’s going to die. Dumb.

Though Kayla Compton is working out all right, despite being somewhat pointless except to prod Patton into various actions.

It’d be nice if it were at least a good performance from Gustin, but Gustin’s either in dream sequences or possessed by Venom. It’s all so pointless, protracted, cheap, melodramatic, silly, and dumb, it really doesn’t work out.

Kind of like the show at this point. I keep catching myself thinking Crisis might fix the show’s problems but unless they’re replacing the writers are the crossover, I can’t see how it could.

The Flash (2014) s06e06 – License to Elongate

So Ralph (Hartley Sawyer) gets his own episode and it’s, for some reason, a James Bond send-up. He and Grant Gustin are in tuxedos trying to stop Bond villain wannabe (literally, the guy wants to be a Bond villain, it’s part of the narrative) Carlo Rota from selling a doomsday laser to some one percenters. It’s really dumb, but slightly charming just because Sawyer’s charming. Gustin can be charming too but not here. He just wants to Flash-up and take out the villains but after six seasons of fighting superpowered adversaries, he can’t take on a bunch of Eurotrash. It’s kind of humiliating, actually.

Meanwhile, Tom Cavanagh has a subplot about convincing Kayla Compton to use her superpowers to prevent the upcoming Crisis and maybe give the regular cast time to film their Crisis crossover appearances. It’s a lousy subplot mostly because it meanders and seems pointless. No one was missing Compton since her last appearance and Cavanagh’s “Nash Wells” adventurer character somehow manages to be even slighter than his Quebecois trash Sherlock Holmes riff last season.

Then Danielle Nicolet gets a subplot with Brandon McKnight about him waking up from a black hole-induced coma and trying to ask out the barista he likes. It’s not well-written—nothing in the episode is well-written—but Nicolet’s good and McKnight’s fine. Nicolet’s psychic powers are off because she feels lost in her career or something—doesn’t matter—but it works out thanks to the actors.

In fact, the episode ends on solid enough ground if it weren’t for big bad and terrible actor Sendhil Ramamurthy showing up to set up the cliffhanger, it might even be a success. Or as close as season six “Flash” is going to get to a successful episode. It’s really too bad for Sawyer, who props up the show quite a bit these days. Maybe he’s a big James Bond fan?

McKnight’s a whole lot less annoying than regular cast member Carlos Valdes these days… maybe the show’s prepping for Valdes and Danielle Panabaker (who directed the episode and does a fine job) to depart.

Fingers crossed anyway.

The Flash (2014) s06e05 – Kiss Kiss Breach Breach

How is this show so boring… so much happens yet so much of it

It’s a very strange Cisco episode. Barry and Iris go on vacation before the Crisis crossover (possibly to film the Crisis crossover) while Cisco holds down the front. Now, I can’t remember the last time Carlos Valdes was charming but I think it was two seasons ago. It’ll happen every once in a while now and you can tell it’s not intentional. Somehow Valdes’s original energy gets through, despite finally being a superhero and having a girlfriend. Only now he’s not a superhero and he’s got a different girlfriend (Victoria Park) and he’s unsure of himself. There’s an absurdly bad subplot where Valdes and Park are supposed to be adorable together and they really aren’t. They’re annoying together.

Because even though they get the big story, involving guest star Danny Trejo and a couple big surprises, the most interesting stuff in the episode is the very small subplots with the other cast members. Because they’re also filming Crisis? Who knows. But Danielle Panabaker having another super-quick showdown with season big bad and Venom wannabe Sendhil Ramamurthy is not great drama. Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin being trapped in a collapsed subway tunnel and running out of air could be great drama—a good show would’ve turned it into a full episode—but the show manages to kill it by giving Martin this monologue about faith. Only his faith turns out to be in the upcoming Crisis meaning he can’t die now. He’s got to be around for the crossover. Only really schmaltzy and not meta at all. It’s a bummer.

Valdes eventually gets better and it’s not the worst episode by the finish—the show leverages Hartley Sawyer being a success after what seemed like a questionable start—but if all Valdes’s storylines going forward are going to involve him getting into situations where his stupid powers would save his life or mean he could save others… maybe he shouldn’t have gotten rid of them.

I wish I could remember when this show worked on a regular basis. I wish I could remember back to season two, to when it actually disappointed when it didn’t deliver on its potential. Now it just doesn’t even try to generate potential. It’s distressing how poorly the show utilizes its cast these days.

Also there are no big action set pieces here. Cheap ones only. Maybe the money’s going toward Crisis. Hopefully. This whole season hinges on the big crossover to breath life back into it. Not a great place to be. If a Jesse L. Martin monologue can fail, nothing’s safe anymore.

And Martin’s monologue failed hard.

The Flash (2014) s06e04 – There Will Be Blood

It’s a big sad episode, with all the men going through their pre-Crisis sads about Barry (Grant Gustin) dying in just six weeks. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is sad so he steals the super-cure they’re supposed to be stealing to save villain Sendhil Ramamurthy, who is stunningly bad at the acting thing. They clearly hired him because he’s a hot dude, not because he can convincingly blather pseudo-scientific superhero show dialogue. To himself, of course. He talks to himself all the time. If Ramamurthy were better, it could be a great hammy villain. But he’s not.

So then it turns out Hartley Sawyer is sad too. Iris (Candice Patton) finds out because she does nothing this episode except go visit her friends. No one in Central City calls, texts, or e-mails. They go visit. Makes sense for Gustin, since he can run super-fast, but presumably Patton took a Lyft or something? Anyway, she checks in on Sawyer but he’s in a weird mood. Turns out he’s just sad about Gustin. Jesse L. Martin goes to talk to Sawyer, which affects Martin, so he and Gustin have a big hug scene at the end of the episode only it’s not one of those great Gustin and Martin hug scenes because 1) there’s no “Dad” and 2) it’s just Crisis. Who gives a shit? DC does one every few years… Arrowverse is overdue.

But seriously, the show’s dealt with impending, observed future death so many times, it’s not really surprising Gustin’s so nonplus. Though, just because it’s “The Flash,” he’s inevitably going to have to have a breakdown episode. Patton hasn’t had one either. She and Danielle Panabaker are just there to keep the boys functioning this episode.

On the only real plus side… liking Tom Cavanagh now. The tease of Cavanagh last episode wasn’t enough, you need full Cavanagh. The multi-dimensional adventurer thing is fine. He still gets to the fun stuff.

The Gustin and Valdes stuff is exhausting. Six weeks to Crisis. Can’t come soon enough.

The Flash (2014) s06e03 – Dead Man Running

Congratulations, show, I’m less interested in Indiana Jones Wells than I was Sherlock Holmes Wells. Make better choices with Tom Cavanagh; he’s the show’s second secret weapon (first is Jesse L. Martin, even now); don’t make us wait until halfway through the season to actually like whatever asshole variation of Wells he’s playing. Also don’t make us wait because Cavanagh’s best doing things with the cast, not on his own. This episode teases Indiana Jones Wells—“Nash” Wells; the characters are way too polite about the dumb names—but doesn’t give him anything to do opposite the regular cast. They could get away with it second season. They’re sixth.

I’m already dreading getting through the Arrowverse (sans “Arrow”) to Crisis. Last “Flash” reassured me I could, this “Flash” suggests I can’t. Or at least I’m not going to be enthusiastic about it. Ironically, it’s because of Crisis. They’re doing the right things but not well. Grant Gustin freaking out about the dying instead of vanishing (and six years early), Danielle Panabaker doing Frost full-time and freaking about the dying when she’s only lived in the world for a week, Candice Patton all conflicted but strong. None of it comes off. It feels forced for the upcoming event, which is a bummer. But is it a bummer because they rushed Crisis or because last season was a bummer? Not to mention last crossover.

There’s good stuff for Hartley Sawyer and (to a lesser extent) Danielle Nicolet; supporting secret weapons four and three, respectively. “Flash” relies way too heavily on the non-original cast members these days, but they’re also much livelier. You forget Carlos Valdez is even in the show. He doesn’t even get a C plot this episode. And Jesse L. Martin’s reduced to a cameo… and, just from a lazy writing perspective, it’s unclear if Nicolet has gone into meta-human defense yet or if she’s still a D.A.

Also… the show seems way too unaware of the Barry lying to everyone about something superhero-related trope from… the show. “The Flash” has been running out of steam so long now, the show can’t even realize when it’s worked up momentum again.

Oh, and the whole thing where Barry talks about his impending doom with season villain Sendhil Ramamurthy? Ramamurthy’s performance doesn’t cut it. The writing’s not there, but Gustin can make it work, but Ramamurthy’s a miscast. Yet again. Why can’t they hire season villains who can act?

The Flash (2014) s06e02 – A Flash of Lightning

It took me a few minutes to realize what’s going on with this episode of “Flash.” It’s a pretty good episode. It’s been a while since the show’s had a pretty good episode without some major qualifications—last season had way too much bad acting from the season guests and way too little Jesse L. Martin because of an injury.

Almost everything about last episode—the season premiere—was concerning. Almost nothing about this episode is concerning. And even the episode’s big fail is easily dismissible. The fail is the villain reveal and showdown. We’ve already seen Barry Allen Flash’s face melt off as he runs to outrace the Crisis. A Flash of Lightning has delivered. And more, it even makes this comic book nod work in the show’s context. Lightning finally brings back a justifiably conflicted and overwrought Barry Allen. You know it’s justifiable because Grant Gustin is awesome when it’s justifiable and kind of boring when it’s not. And Gustin’s awesome this episode. Even when the dialogue isn’t great, he’s awesome. He’s double-jarred this episode too. He doesn’t just see billions of versions of billions of deaths of billions of people, he’s also discovered since getting back to Earth-3 Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) has gone and married Gustin’s dead mom’s doppelgänger, Michelle Harrison. The show doesn’t go overboard with it either, just has the nicest touch.

It’s almost like the show’s missing a season; not they needed another one before Crisis, but they needed another one before the future daughter one. Gustin and Candice Patton needed to grow a little bit more. They seemed off last episode. They don’t seem off this episode.

And there’s a great Joe and Barry scene. Again, not the dialogue but the actors and the tone. The show’s sure footed all of a sudden. Like with Danielle Panabaker’s Killer Frost arc and Hartley Sawyer’s constantly pleasantly surprising Ralph stuff. And Danielle Nicolet is awesome getting to do the law stuff. She’s even getting a real subplot. “Flash” feels like a show again all of a sudden. This episode should’ve been the season opener, not whatever they did last time.

The Flash (2014) s06e01 – Into the Void

After a brief revision to last season’s finale, this episode skips ahead four months, missing the summer where everyone recovered or reacted to last season’s upheaval. So instead of seeing Barry (Grant Gustin) moping all summer, instead he’s just faking enthusiasm to mask the mope. He and Iris (Candice Patton) are still mourning the loss of adult daughter from the future Nora, who got wiped out when she changed the timeline. Only they’re not talking to anyone about it so it’s festering. It’s the only subplot in the episode with any… maturity. Even though it’s very soapy, it’s big, serious, and potentially searching… but “Flash” isn’t a show to do too serious or potentially searching. Especially not this “Flash.”

The episode plays like a “Star Trek: TOS” Season 3 episode where everyone is playing caricatures of themselves. Joe (Jesse L. Martin, who’s very active, which is good) blathering about how it’s his city too as he confronts a black hole appearing over the city. Carlos Valdes is a lot more fun as Cisco without the superpowers. Danielle Panabaker meets the season’s potential big bad (the handsome and charming Sendhil Ramamurthy) and finds out he’s a creep before dating him the whole season, so at least she’s not getting that plot again. For the third or fourth time. Gustin’s aging nicely, giving him a weathered, tired look for the character, though everyone’s chemistry is at an all-time low. Other than Hartley Sawyer, who’s got enthusiasm and bad jokes.

And, for whatever reason, it’s nice to have Danielle Nicolet hanging around the team. They need a mom.

That chemistry thing is a problem with Gustin and Patton, who—once again—seem like strangers. The show’s always done a bad job dealing with their transition from step-siblings only he had a crush on her for years to dating and then married only it’s preordained in the future—they’re way too chaste and at this point, it’s yet another liability.

The big problem, if it’s a problem, is the show plays like a live action Saturday morning cartoon of the early eighties Cary Bates comics. Only without much emphasis on the special effects spectacular. There is one really cool, albeit absurd, song accompaniment, but the action sequence itself is lackluster. Maybe it’s Gregory Smith’s direction. Maybe it’s just the show running out of steam.

It’s like the show wants to avoid anything actually difficult—like Gustin taking over leading the team, especially with the team all out of juice.

The ending tease of the upcoming Crisis crossover is a fail. If LaMonica Garrett was the best audition for the role of the Monitor, doomsayer of the multiverse, I’m curious to see who didn’t get the part. Though at least “Legends” last season had the tiniest bit of fun with him. Otherwise there’s no fun.

It’s going to be a long slog to the crossover.

Mr. Brooks (2007, Bruce A. Evans)

The scariest thing about Mr. Brooks, ostensibly a serial killer thriller, is what if it’s not an absurdist comedy. What if we’re really supposed to believe Demi Moore is a millionaire cop who’s out to get the bad guys….

Thankfully, between William Hurt’s performance (he gleefully chews scenery like his omnipresent gum) as Kevin Costner’s imaginary friend and then Costner’s silly nasal voice, it’s impossible to take seriously. And I’m not even mentioning when the movie obviously lifts scenes from Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs… or makes fun of Demi Moore being married to Ashton Kutcher.

The first half of the film maintains this absurdist approach—some of the dialogue between Moore and Lindsay Crouse is so funny, it’s hard to believe Crouse could keep a straight face. Unfortunately, writers Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon can’t keep up the farcical nature and eventually feel the need to insert narrative. There’s actual potential, but it’s problematic given the film as it exists so far.

For example, Hurt sort of disappears and Moore becomes prevalent.

Dane Cook’s around too, as Costner’s erstwhile sidekick and Moore’s suspect, and he’s awful. Marg Helgenberger, as Costner’s unknowing wife, isn’t much help either. She sells some of the absurdity in the first ten minutes, but then her presence becomes troublesome. A lot of the plot threads go nowhere.

When it finally gets to the inevitable twist ending, Mr. Brooks has lost the momentum. But, in a certain frame of mind, it’s not exactly worthless.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Bruce A. Evans; written by Evans and Raynold Gideon; director of photography, John Lindley; edited by Miklos Wright; music by Ramin Djawadi; production designer, Jeffrey Beecroft; produced by Kevin Costner, Gideon and Jim Wilson; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Kevin Costner (Mr. Earl Brooks), Demi Moore (Det. Tracy Atwood), Dane Cook (Mr. Smith), William Hurt (Marshall), Marg Helgenberger (Emma Brooks), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Hawkins), Danielle Panabaker (Jane Brooks), Aisha Hinds (Nancy Hart) and Lindsay Crouse (Captain Lister).


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