Matt Ryan

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e05 – A Head of Her Time

Continuing whatever this season is doing with its creative Arrowverse accounting, Dominic Purcell and Caity Lotz mostly sit out this episode. Lotz is in Star City on some kind of bland personal business, which leaves Jes Macallan in charge. Macallan, who used to run an extra-dimensional time agency, gets very worried about captaining the Legends, which leads to her bonding with Tala Ashe, which is fine.

Meanwhile Purcell is just heartsick and apparently off drinking about it during the action.

Apparently having Purcell and Lotz on partial duty means Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Adam Tsekhman get to do things, so they’re the backup in Matt Ryan’s Constantine story arc. They really should’ve renamed it “John Constantine and the Legends of Tomorrow,” then did a bit about how Ryan got more famous than everyone else and it’s a thing. But they didn’t and instead it’s “Legends of Tomorrow with Special Guest Star John Constantine.”

Ryan, Richardson-Sellers, and Tsekhman are doing a horror humor bit involving Ryan’s history with Hell villain Olivia Swann. Turns out Ryan used to have a thing for Swann’s mom, Alice Hunter, and maybe only consigned Swann to Hell because he was trying to resurrect Hunter. The flashbacks also allow for Ryan with a mohawk, which is a lot of fun.

Also a lot of fun is the main plot, which has Macallan, Ashe, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, and I hope they keep him around somehow Shayan Sobhian trying to get a resurrected and not entirely unjustifiably angry Marie Antoinette (Courtney Ford) from ruining history.

Ford, who also plays another character, a fairly regular cast member, is pretty funny as Antoinette and the gimmick works.

Amidst the Antoinette arc is Ashe’s misadventures as a rookie time traveling superhero, though some of those misadventures are because she’s also a 2040 social media influencer who wants to exploit history for likes. It works out, especially with the big gala event for the action-packed finale. “Legends” is doing an excellent job integrating the character development with the action this season.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e04 – Slay Anything

“Legends” does a double homage this episode–Slay Anything is simultaneously an eighties John Hughes homage and an eighties slasher movie homage. High school prom killer Garrett Quirk is the latest condemned soul sent back to Earth to reign Hell or whatnot. So what does a spree killer become once Hell-powered? A telekinetic slasher, out to get the final girl (Veronika London).

Caity Lotz, Jes Macallan, and Dominic Purcell are trapped in the high school reunion where Quirk’s back to get London—it’s also Purcell’s old high school and he runs into almost flame Lisa Marie DiGiacinto, giving Purcell a rather personable arc—while Nick Zano and Brandon Routh go back further in time to the first prom to try to stop Quirk from ever becoming a killer in the first place. I think it’s the first time “Legends” has used Back to the Future logic, but it fits so much I wish they’d homaged it better.

Complications ensue because Routh’s fairy godmother girlfriend Courtney Ford is visiting him and when she hears the pleas of Quirk as a teen–now played by Seth Meriwether—she finds herself bound to him. A slasher with a fairy godmother. It ends up being Ford’s best turn on the show; she does an excellent job.

Also doing an excellent job are Tala Ashe (obviously) and Shayan Sobhian. They’re hanging out on the ship while Routh and Zano try to save Meriwether from himself. Very nice sibling interaction and character development for Ashe and Sobhian. “Legends” ends up doing a lot this episode—though besides some fighting and being cute with Lotz, all Macallan gets is a reveal about her podcast, which is rater funny.

Meanwhile, apparently the show’s saving Maisie Richardson-Sellers for Matt Ryan’s plot lines, which this episode separates from the main.

The stylish opening titles are permanent now too. “Legends” is firmly footed this season; the showcase for Ford just makes it too bad she’s leaving at some point in the near future (along with real-life husband Routh).

Bummer. But until then… “Legends” is working just fine.

Nice direction from Alexandra La Roche this episode too; lots of effective slasher movie nods.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e03 – Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me

It’s a strong episode. Like, really strong; great pacing too. It starts with Constantine (Matt Ryan), who teleported to Hell at the end of last episode, getting to Hell and having a chat with lost soul turned season villain Olivia Swann. It’s a welcome scene not so much for the content—Swann is better in her second appearance this episode, when Ryan’s actually able to surprise her—but for its presence. I was thinking Ryan was zapping off to Hell for an unseen adventure and would be sitting out this episode—he’s still credited as a “special guest star” or some such thing; he’s not a “Legends” star proper. But, as it turns out, he seems to be a regular because he doesn’t just get one of the biggest plot threads this episode, they also get him to start acting goofy.

Ryan’s never really been goofy on “Legends” before. But now he’s getting close.

His part of the episode involves him trying to get forties gangster moll Haley Strode to turn on Bugsy Siegel (Jonathan Sadowski); Bugsy’s this week’s back-from-Hell villain. Sadowski’s doing a Vince Vaughn impression but he’s not bad. He’s got a solid sense of humor, which is the most important thing for a “Legends” actor to have. Strode’s okay—she’s playing the Annette Bening part from the movie only without enough detail to be an actual historical figure—Ryan’s really good with her.

Meanwhile, odd couple Ava (Jes Macallan) and Mick (Dominic Purcell) are bonding over drinks, leading to some truly wonderful comedic showcasing for Macallan. It seems like it’s going to be good, then it just keeps getting better and better.

Caity Lotz and Brandon Routh are doing more serious (and less interesting) mission stuff, Maisie Richardson-Sellers is M.I.A., so the third major subplot has Nick Zano and new guy Shayan Sobhian visiting his family. Sobhian’s a new regular this season, in for Tala Ashe, who blinked out of the timeline at the end of last season. Only then Zano found a Princess Leia-esque message and now he runs into her at Sobhian’s parent’s house. Only this Ashe was never a superhero or Zano’s girlfriend, she’s a social media influencer in 2044 or something. It shouldn’t exactly work but… it does because Ashe’s amazing. The writing’s really good too—credit Ray Utarnachitt, especially on the bickering between Ashe and Sobhian—but Ashe playing lovestruck Zano? Just fantastic.

Between Ryan and—eventually—Routh playing Chinatown, Ryan getting some character development, Macallan getting to be hilarious, Ashe getting to flex her range… it’s a strong episode. It’s one of those, “Now, this is why you watch ‘Legends’ episodes.”

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e02 – Meet the Legends

Good “Legends” is both bad and obvious, and obvious. When the show hits the right notes, it keeps ringing the bell through the end of the episode. Once an episode of “Legends” clicks, it stays in that higher gear.

This first post-Crisis episode means there can be all sorts of new changes in addition to Shayan Sobhian being the new guy on the team only no one knows it because before they messed up time last season, Sobhian was Tala Ashe (who’d really gotten good on the show, even with the absurdity of her romance with hero bro Nick Zano) before. They keep the same powers. Sobhian’s likable—you can be middling on “Legends” but you can’t be unlikable. You’ve got to enjoy watching “Legends,” they work for it.

Anyway, it means there are changes to be watching for. But there’re also the first real episode of the season changes to be watching for. And then the show’s in a fake documentary form; Jes Macallan has to prove the Legends’ worth to the U.S. government so they want a documentary. The Legends are famous after saving the world least season, which is a bit of a blur. It didn’t end well. Starting with the documentary bit seems like a cop-out. Except they stop the format—the team fights a resurrected Rasputin (Michael Eklund) this episode; it’s fun. Eklund’s… a likable villain. Rasputin tries to become an influencer. It’s works just well enough. Throw in some good fight scenes for Caity Lotz, the right amount of Brandon Routh’s adorkable, occasionally Matt Ryan appearances (with Adam Tsekhman as his sidekick), and it works out well. Ramona Young becoming Dominic Purcell’s sidekick, however, is an unexpected delight. They give Young more than she tended to get last year and better material and she kills it; Macallan’s gotten funnier with being so serious, which is really nice because Zano’s only fun around Routh really, but Young’s the biggest success.

So bummer when she bows out for some of the season. A few of the other cast members go off on side missions so they can keep the casting budget down. But “Legends”’s budget constraints sometimes work out for it and having characters recur instead of loiter in the background… I’m going to be really bummed if Young’s not back soon. Like. No. They’re making Young’s not simple part—a superhero fangirl becoming a werewolf—work and they need to stick with it.

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.

Batwoman (2019) s01e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two

So “Batwoman”’s Crisis crossover is rather instructional, at least in understanding what’s going to go wrong with it (the crossover). The writing. “Batwoman”’s script is all right. Not great, but leaps and bounds over the previous one. Even if the performances get a little shaky and they’re trying too hard to foreshadow, but Don Whitehead and Holly Henderson’s script does something “Supergirl” couldn’t manage. They make a decent “hour” of superhero adventure TV.

Albeit an hour with absolutely nothing to do with the regular “Batwoman” stuff, including having Ruby Rose play second-fiddle to pretty much everyone and then have this weird “straight-coding” moment with Melissa Benoist, which is a pointless Bechdel fail. How is it possible the Arrowverse shows can’t find a writer capable of not screwing up at least one of the characterizations. It’s not like comics got to have writers’ rooms or paid assistants so you’d think there’d be someone checking on this stuff, but whatever. It’s a short scene and soon gives way to the simultaneously successful and not successful Kevin Conroy cameo.

How does “Batwoman” get away with never having Batman on the show? Go to the future on an alternate Earth during the Crisis and introduce old man Batman Kevin Conroy (who voiced the “Animated Series” cartoon for years along with a bunch of other cartoon features and video games). Shame Conroy’s really bad at acting. Though director Laura Belsey gets major props for trying to hide it. Most of Rose and Conroy’s scenes together consist of Rose standing and listening to Conroy speak, close-up on Rose, maybe an over the shoulder from Conroy every once and a while because that way Conroy’s speaking but not having to emote. It’d be more impressive if the Conroy cameo added up to anything, but not really.

Meanwhile, there’s the Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor hopping universes to kill Superman over and over again, leading to a shockingly good Tom Welling cameo. I’ve never seen “Smallville” but Welling seemed like he’d impress as an actor but he’s good here. Is able to play off Cryer without much setup. Good stuff.

Then there’s Brandon Routh getting to put on the Kingdom Come Superman outfit and do a Superman Returns sequel, with plenty of references… then a sad Joker one. And it turns out… Routh really was a lot better at playing Clark Kent than Superman. Maybe he’d have grown into the part if Returns had gotten its Man of Steel but… also maybe not. Though he’s in old age makeup and CG-buffed or something to play old man Superman here so who knows.

Oh, right, then there’s Grant Gustin and Caity Lotz (the best performance in “Supergirl,” decidedly not feeling it here; she seems exhausted) going on a secret mission with Green Arrow fille (Katherine McNamara, who’s not good) and exhausted too but still lovable Matt Ryan. Dominic Purcell shows up for some comic relief, along with an actual nice surprise cameo.

Candice Patton’s also around, participating in the continuing Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch “Superman Family” backdoor pilot. It’s still cute enough, more so here just because the episode’s a lot better television than the “Supergirl.”

Shame the Arrowverse producers didn’t care about consistent writing… with this crew on the whole crossover, Crisis might have had a chance. But hopefully it won’t ever be as bad as “Supergirl”’s entry again.

Got to be fair and point out there’s less LaMonica Garrett in this episode than the “Supergirl,” which means less absurdly godawful acting and just regular tepid TV performances and not even many of those… it’s a very professionally executed episode.

Harbinger 5 (October 2012)

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Dysart brings Harbinger’s first arc to an extremely strong finish. He had some sublime foreshadowing earlier (it read like long-term foreshadowing, but it turns out to be short) and he doesn’t waste time establishing the characters. Instead, he just lets the scenes play out fast. For example, there’s a returning character who finally gets a name, but Dysart then develops the character (a little) in his actions. No painful expository scene.

There are also a bunch of unexpected plot twists. Three definitely surprised me; a couple more might be surprising to others. None of the surprises, even the second soft cliffhanger, feel forced. Dysart does a great job. One wonders if he had this issue in mind and just had to write to it.

He also brings in compelling supporting characters, which the book has been lacking.

The writing’s so strong, I didn’t notice if Evans messed anything up.

CREDITS

Omega Rising, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Khari Evans, Matthew Clark and Jim Muniz; inkers, Evans, Matt Ryan and Sean Parsons; colorists, Ian Hannin, Jeromy Cox and Chris Sotomayor; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Justice League International 3 (January 2012)

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It’s an action issue in the old Justice League tradition, two heroes break off and have a related adventure. Jurgens takes it even further, with the administrators teaming up too. Only Guy Gardner gets to play it solo.

The result’s a mixed bag. Batman and Booster Gold are good together, but only because Jurgens’s characterization of Batman as encouraging Booster is interesting. He sells the unlikely mentorship.

The Red Rocket and Ice though? Boring. Red Rocket’s a self-stylized ladies’ man. It’s weak. So is Fire and Vixen. Of some interest are the two new characters, the Chinese guy and Godiva. Their sequence is fine.

Lopresti and Ryan start rough, but have things mostly under control by a few pages in. They can’t handle the administrators, but they do manage the crazy scale of the comic. Giant Sentinel looking things, huge spaceships and sci-fi nonsense; they pull it off.

CREDITS

The Signal Masters, Part Three; writer, Dan Jurgens; penciller, Aaron Lopresti; inker, Matt Ryan; colorist, Hi-Fi; letterer, Travis Lanham; editor, Rex Ogle; publisher, DC Comics.

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