13 Reasons Why: Season 1 Review

Some television shows exist to provide comedy, while some others exist to provide action and entertainment. Left hiding in the shadows are a select few that have a strong message and purpose, such as 13 Reasons Why. This wildly popular Netflix-original show (produced by Selena Gomez) is one that leaves its mark on viewers and is created with such fervor that it rivals other top shows.

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The premise of the show revolves around high school sophomore / junior Clay Jensen discovering a set of tapes on his doorstep addressed to him. He is in for a surprise when he finds out that they were made by his classmate, co-worker, and friend, Hannah Baker, just before committing suicide. Each tape is about a specific person that is, in a way, responsible for Baker’s death and is filled with instructions and information related to that event. As Jensen starts listening to the tapes, he recognizes that others have listened to them before he had (each person passes the tapes along to the next person in the order of who is featured on which tape). Unfortunately for Jensen, the others do not want this information getting out and will do whatever is necessary to keep Jensen quiet.

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My favorite part of this 13-episode arc is the way in which it is written and directed. Every episode is sharp with transitions, misdirections, and misdirections of misdirections. The depth within the dialogue and what / who is in the shot reveals not just what is being spoken, but also conveys that information to what or who is being shown. Plus, the interweaving narrative of Baker’s retelling on the tapes combined with Jensen hearing the tapes in the present day is handled extremely well. The lighting in the past utilizes warmer colors while the present features darker illumination to further demonstrate the different feelings of before and after the death of Baker. It is not something new, but works well in the context of how it is used.

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The characters in 13 Reasons Why are, thankfully, not clichéd or stereotyped. They are unique in their own ways and are all well-developed. You know the writing is tremendous when we feel for a character that most probably could not stand in previous episodes. The entire purpose of the show is to demonstrate that every person is going through or dealing with something in their lives. The writers take the time in every episode to explore the different characters associated with Baker’s life. One might state that it might be a little too convenient for the plot to explore characterization through the tapes, but it is done in a way that ups the suspense and mystery – which makes the viewer want to know more, so in my mind it furthers the plot in an engaging way.

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There is no way to avoid the potential danger that accompanies this show. I realize that every episode begins with the warning and encourages troubled individuals to reach out, but with a television show that is centered on a likable female protagonist that puts so much thought into committing suicide and making tapes for those responsible to listen to afterwards, it could encourage those watching that are troubled to make a bad decision. I hope the show helps those in need to discover that suicide is never the right option and there is always a way through the dark times.

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There are also some dark, graphic, and violent moments peppered throughout the show that might not be best suited for the faint-of-heart. It is powerful, but could be too much for some to handle. As they say: viewer discretion is advised.

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At the end of the day, 13 Reasons Why is not only top-notch, but incredibly important due to the subject matter. While at first I was not sure how a TV-MA rating would coincide with a show based on a novel targeted for high school kids, it is clear that it is handled in the best way it possibly could. The acting is almost always on-point and combination of direction and writing is nearly masterful. I cannot wait for what the next season will unveil.

Grade: A

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13 Reasons Why features creator Brian Yorkey based on the novel by Jay Asher. The series entails directors Gregg Arraki, Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Carl Franklin, Tom McCarthy, Helen Shaver, and Jessica Yu and writers Nic Sheff, Thomas Higgins, Elizabeth Benjamin, Diana Son, Nathan Jackson, Nathan Louis Jackson, Kirk A. Moore, and Hayley Tyler. The show stars Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, and Miles Heizer. 13 Reasons Why is produced by July Moon Productions, Kicked to the Curb Productions, Anonymous Content, and Paramount Television. Season 2 is expected to arrive on Netflix in 2018.

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Did Tom Welling Just Tease His Next Film Project?

Some might remember Tom Welling as Charlie Baker from the Steve Martin-led film, Cheaper By the Dozen, but most probably remember Welling’s portrayal of Clark Kent / Superman from the hit WB and CW series, Smallville. After the show’s 10-season run ended in 2011, he has only appeared in a handful of projects, including Parkland, Draft Day, and The Choice.
After The Choice debuted in February 2016, things have been mostly silent for Welling minus his St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital t-shirt campaign. He hasn’t been announced to be involved with any other projects for the past 17 months, but now we may have an indication of a new project he may appear in – with Welling’s Instagram as the direct source.
On July 7th, Welling posted the following picture onto Instagram (which has been screenshotted from an iPhone).

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As you can see, he wrote “Back on set,” which is obviously a strong indication that he is filming something, but there is always a chance he might not be. As for what that project could be, your guess is as good as mine. I’m just happy that he might be involved with a new project. Let’s hope this is the beginning of his true comeback; he’s too talented of an actor not to.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that this picture is actually about Welling promoting Saddle Club with his girlfriend, Jessica Rose Lee. Sorry for the misinterpretation. It looks like we will have to wait longer to hear about any other potential projects. 

“Riverdale” Season 1 Review

This critically-acclaimed CW series, based upon characters from Archie Comics and currently available for streaming on Netflix, has some awesome, multi-dimensional, and relatable characters (and actors portraying those characters), intriguing murder-mystery moments, fun Easter eggs and references (hint, hint, DC Rebirth), and a refreshing tone and take on this type of source material. This will be a non-spoiler review, but a few very minor spoilers may appear. The basic, end-all, be-all question I set out to answer by the end of this review is the following: is “Riverdale” a good show that I can recommend to others?

When I first saw promotional material for the pilot, I was immediately intrigued by the plot and tone that the show was going for. “Riverdale” turns the opportunity for a stereotypical high school drama into a fun, dark, and wacky murder-mystery with a high school template. The plot of the pilot, which sets up the entire season, begins with high school reject, Jugghead Jones (Cole Sprouse), narrating the story he is writing about all the events happening in the small town of Riverdale, which happens to be the content of each episode. The opening finds a high school girl named Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) located on a rock next to Sweetwater River with a distraught look on her face. It is revealed that her brother, high school football star, Jason Blossom, has been found murdered and the investigation begins.

One thing this show nails is characterization. The show revolves around a small group of attractive, yet real and believable high school kids. Football star and up-and-coming musician, Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), appears to be the focal character of the show. He might appear to be the perfect “boy next door” type of character, but he is written in a way that makes him much more flawed and relatable. His best friend, Jugghead, might be the best character on the show. The constant turmoil that his character deals with and continues to rise above is something admirable and inspirational in a sense. The “girl next door” to Archie is Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). She is another character that masterfully avoids being a stereotype. She has her own issues to deal with at home that complicate her life. Her best friend and new girl in town, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), is probably a fan favorite. She has charisma and charm, but despite her rich family and endless talents, she gets caught up in the heart of the story.

One aspect of the show that has surprised me is the critique of parenting. All of the parent/guardian figures have decent intentions at heart, but don’t always live up to expectations. Veronica lives with her mother, Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols), in which it is revealed that Hermione is not a completely innocent parent (Veronica’s father is in jail, so I suppose he isn’t innocent, either). Betty’s parents, Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) and Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro), are control freaks and believe in discipline and perfection, which obviously leads to conflict with Betty and others. Cheryl’s parents, Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt) and Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope), run a $1 million syrup company and are probably the most problematic of the parents on the show. For two people that recently lost a son, they still seem quite cold and suspicious to viewers. The most unsuspicious and well-hearted parent is actually Archie’s father, Fred Andrews (Luke Perry). We do get to meet his mother, Mary Andrews (Molly Ringwald), but Fred is the parent that everyone wishes they had. He is the heart of all that is good in Riverdale, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be human, either. The plot seems to hammer home the idea that too much power and control can lead to chaos (like strict parenting, for example), but chaos has already become a staple for the town of Riverdale – which is fascinating as a viewer.

When the plot takes a break from the murder investigation and slows down, there are some great musical moments. Following not just Archie’s storyline involving music, but also a band named The Pussycats are excellent and fit the show perfectly. Obviously the song lyrics are meant to subtly reflect and reveal the feelings of the character singing, but the music itself has great replay value – even outside the show. It’s not only that the musical scenes have good music, but it furthers the plot of the episode and adds to it tremendously. This is one area of the show that I cannot wait to see expand with the characters and the plot.

Riverdale main cast

Every television show or movie has pros and cons to them, and “Riverdale” is no different. Don’t get me wrong, I like high school shows (including this one), but there is one particular aspect of the show that bugs me a little bit. I cannot understand why the show has an elaborate kissing scene in almost every single episode. Most of them actually work well, but it can feel overdone at times to a point where it takes me out of it and it loses its impact. In addition, certain characters hate each other during one episode, then get along really well the next episode, and then hate each other the episode after that. I find it to be a little odd and somewhat unbelievable. Plus, some of the dialogue doesn’t feel authentic at times, but it never took me out of any particular episode.

I think it’s obvious that there will be some kind of reveal at some point during the season. For me, I didn’t find that specific reveal to be very rewarding or impactful, which negatively impacts the entire murder-mystery subplot throughout the season. All of the build-up, twists, and turns in regards to the murder is actually fascinating and digs up new questions, but how it all concluded feels like somewhat of a letdown – although it is actually filmed really well. In fact, after I initially watched the finale episode, I thought it was a weak ending to such a good show. After taking some time to process it, I’ve actually come to like it quite a bit more, but not entirely. I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself. What I can say is this: the best scene of the entire season is in the season finale.

My only other minor gripe about “Riverdale” is based on the season finale. To me, I feel like I already know exactly what is going to happen in the next season. I like the idea of how they were setting up the next season, but I think they set it up a little too well – although, I have to admit, a particular scene with Archie and Veronica is pure gold.

With everything considered, I think this is a show that I can definitely recommend to potential viewers. The good easily outweighs the bad. The show’s producers, writers, directors, and tech crew (most notably: executive producer, Greg Berlanti, and composer, Blake Neely) have a hit-show on their hands. I think the part I like most about “Riverdale” is that while the first season is a success, the future seasons have so much potential and ability to elevate the show’s quality even more.

 

Grade: B

 

The Flash: The CW’s fantastic TV-series made better from where it originated

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The Flash is one of the most popular shows on TV today. It has the young, science-like feeling of Kyle XY and also the magic of DC Comics all put together with its combined, grounded universe with Arrow, another hit CW TV-show. Not only does it have a wonderful score, and some “flashy” special effects (no pun intended), it has a wonderful cast that includes Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/Flash, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Rick Cosnett, Jesse L. Martin, and Tom Cavanagh as Dr. Wells. They really excel in every scene of every episode they are in. I also can’t forget to mention the amazing guest stars they have: notable names are John Wesley Shipp (from the former same-titled show back in the 1990’s), Robbie Amell (The Tomorrow People), Wentworth Miller (Prison Break), Greg Finley (Secret Life of the American Teenager), Mark Hamill (Star Wars IV-VI), and Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead). This show might have the best overall cast on television (even better than NCIS). Not only do these specific people just bring credibility, but also build upon the wonderful, already-existing chemistry that this show has. Without a doubt though, Grant Gustin (Glee) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed) are the definite lead actors in the show, and it wouldn’t be able to sustain such high ratings and viewers without them both. They are perfect for the roles they play, and bring a presence and personality that makes viewers ecstatic.

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The show was created by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, who have both written every episode so far, and probably will the rest of the first season. Geoff Johns – Chief Creative Writer at DC Comics – has also been involved with the writing process, having helped written 11 of them so far. That’s a huge plus when it comes to knowledge and familiarity with the characters in the comics, and helps a lot when it comes to bringing those characters onto the screen. The Flash has a long list of directors so far, but David Nutter and Glen Winter have both directed two episodes so far, and have a pretty good resume and reputation in the business when it comes to directing television. One of my favorite parts of the show is how they have universal themes tied into each episode and keep the story flowing very smoothly, keeping good continuity. With those themes come the dialogue that are also brought into the show that deal with speed in some sort of way. It’s another nice touch when it comes to adding depth to the show (and just makes it sound that much more awesome – in my opinion). In addition to that comes the sunny, brighter lighting that contrasts really nicely with Arrow – which we will discuss in further detail below – and also resonates with the WB/CW show Smallville, which ran ten seasons from 2001-2011.

Barry Allen Dr. Harrison Wells

Another area it excels is in its storyline. Each week adds a new villain for Barry and the team at S.T.A.R. Labs to face, and without doing the whole villain-of-the-week quota where they disappear after that episode – they re-introduce them in other episodes that tie-in together with what’s currently at hand. This allows Barry and the gang to keep learning more not only about Barry’s potential with his powers, but also something new about themselves. Another element included in the mix are the suspenseful plot twists that each show unfolds – particularly in the ending scenes of each episode – that really carry the story on to the next episode successfully and in a way that makes the viewer (especially me) want to watch the next one right away. Of course, these kind of scenes usually involve one specific person: Dr. Harrison Wells. The particle accelerator which he developed was supposed to be a big advancement in the field of science, but instead the core lost control and ended up sending that matter into the sky. That ultimately created havoc throughout the city and led to the loss of S.T.A.R. Labs employee Caitlin Snow’s fiance (portrayed by Robbie Amell – cousin of Stephen Amell from Arrow), and also gave Dr. Wells paralysis . . . or so everybody thought. With little hints dropped in and major plot twists in every episode, The Flash evolves more and more into a must-watch spectacle of action, science, drama, romance, mystery, and even a little comedy.

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Many people are probably wondering how does this particular TV-show fit in with Arrow? It’s a really interesting question to answer, and will be my pleasure. On Season two of Arrow, they introduced Barry Allen as a CSI for the Central City police force. He was visiting Starling City and while there ended up becoming close friends with Felicity Smoak, who is Oliver Queen’s right-hand girl at the helm in the Arrow-cave. She came to Barry when Oliver’s life depended on Barry’s ability to save him. He then left for home intent on keeping Oliver’s secret identity of being the Arrow, when it’s shown that he is zapped by lightning in his room. Now ever since he woke up, he has been going to Oliver for advice and even to team up in the two-episode crossover between the two series in both of their eighth episodes in their current season. The first one was titled “Flash vs Arrow”, and the second “The Brave and the Bold.” Both were spectacular, earning a 9.5 rating (out of 10) on IMDB, and also a 9.1 rating. Another interesting fact they incorporate into both shows is how they add little “Easter eggs” into the background of scenes that involve the other show. For instance, I just re-watched the first episode of Season 2 of Arrow recently, and in one of the scenes you see a television showing the news and before it gets into the intent of what’s being shown (Oliver returning to Starling City), the broadcaster tells how the particle accelerator will be up and running soon. Another example is in the follow-up episode to the last crossover titled “The Climb,” when Felicity is seen sitting in the Arrow-cave at a computer and the very first thing on the screen is a picture of the Reverse Flash, which is a reference to The Flash‘s follow-up episode to their crossovers called “The Man in the Yellow Suit.” Plus, Felicity Smoak and a new character on Season 3 of Arrow named Ray Palmer (a.k.a. The Atom, portrayed by former Superman Returns star Brandon Routh) have been and will continue to cross over independently into episodes here and there as well.

DC Comics

One last cool thing before I turn you loose to go watch The Flash: the blended, incorporated small references to the DC Comics and also the DC Cinematic Universe. In one of the early episodes, Dr. Harrison Wells and the rest of the crew at S.T.A.R. Labs discover a meta-human whose skin is metal-like strong. Wells next words once Barry describes his encounter with this meta-human were “‘Interesting . . . a man of steel,” which is a reference to not only the full-length film Man of Steel, but that main character well-known in the comics known as Superman (the king of all superheroes, and my favorite superhero). Dr. Wells in a different episode also referred to Barry as “The light and hope to inspire people” in the city (referencing Superman again), and also when speaking about the Arrow arriving in Central City made it sound like he called the Arrow “Batman,” although he said “That man,” which is an indirect reference to the allusion of The Flash and Arrow being the TV-universe’s version of Batman and Superman, which is a cool image juxtaposed to the sequel to Man of Steel titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The Flash

Now with all this mentioned, I think it’s time to stop questioning the show based upon a first glimpse of seeing or hearing about it. It has one of the highest ratings of any TV-show and one of the most-watched shows on screen. Even if you have no clue who the Flash character is or what the show is about, I suggest to start from the beginning and follow along. It’s the kind of show that you can talk about for hours on end. Thank you for reading my article, and I have plenty more coming in the future. If this hasn’t helped make you want to watch The Flash, I’m not necessarily sure what will. Go watch it!