Monday, March 27, 2017

"Distant Sun" Restores Supergirl To The Role Of Obvious Hero.


The Good: Some fun lines, Special effects are all right
The Bad: Very predictable plot, Melodramatic character moments, No stellar acting moments
The Basics: "Distant Sun" is an unremarkable Supergirl episode that is set up obviously and develops predictably.


When Supergirl moves to the CW, many people were very exicted because that meant it would be much easier (from a production standpoint) to do crossovers between Supergirl and other DC Television Universe productions. Unfortunately, most of us who were excited had no idea just how intrusive those crossovers might be to the continuing narrative of Supergirl. Every now and then, a Supergirl episode will have an entirely tacked-on ending that is incongruent with the rest of the narrative (and sometimes even the spirit of the show!) before Kara Danvers makes an appearance on (so far) The Flash. "Distant Sun" begins after one such lousy episode end.

"Star-Crossed" (reviewed here!), which preceded "Distant Sun," ended without explanation or relevant information of how the Earth-1 Music Meister appeared on the Earth of Supergirl. For those who only watch Supergirl and did not follow her to The Flash episode "Duet" (reviewed here!), Kara Danvers was last seen in Mon-El's arms, having just been apparently hypnotized by a metahuman and casting Danvers into some form of hallucination where she was stepping up to a microphone to sing. "Distant Sun," however, begins with Kara back on her Earth, having already forgiven Mon-El for his lying to her.

Kara wakes up to Mon-El making her breakfast, though she gets out of bed before he can deliver it to her. Before Kara can eat, however, an alien attacks National City. President Marsdin asks J'onzz for details on the Daxamite ship in orbit and orders the head of the DEO to not engage the ship. On the street, Alex and Maggie run into one of Maggie's ex's and Danvers invites her to dinner that night. At the DEO, Schott discovers that the alien Kara incapacitated is an alien bounty hunter and the bounty on Supergirl's head is incredibly high. Mon-El calls his parents down to Earth and confronts them with the accusation that they put the bounty on Kara's head. They deny his allegations and commit to waiting as long as they need to for Mon-El to return to them.

When Mon-El returns to Kara's apartment, he is taken over by a telepath. While Kara attempts to incapacitate Mon-El without damaging his body, Schott finds a way to incapacitate the telepath. Back at the DEO, J'onzz telepathically strips the information out of the alien who placed the bounty on Kara's head. Mon-El's parents are implicated, but J'onzz refuses to authorize an attack on the Daxamite ship in orbit. When Mon-El and Kara confront Mon-El's mother, Queen Rhea, in the Fortress Of Solitude, Rhea attacks Kara. Lar Gand seems legitimately shocked to learn that Rhea placed the bounty on Kara's head. When Mon-El makes a sacrifice to save Kara's life, Kara becomes determined to save him.

"Distant Sun" is the episode of Supergirl where fans are pretty much forced to ask, "What the hell happened to J'onn J'onzz?!" David Harewood's J'onzz is in "Distant Sun," but he is a virtually unrecognizable character in the episode. J'onzz is kind and soft in "Distant Sun" and while his character has been somewhat underused in the second season, the transition to an easygoing, kind guy feels unfortunately abrupt. David Harewood plays the emotional range of J'onzz well, but it does not feel like one is watching the same character in "Distant Sun."

Throughout "Distant Sun" there is a subplot involving Alex and Maggie and Maggie's ex-girlfriend. For a change, Alex's relationship subplot feels very forced and tacked on as opposed to engaging and organic. It is not until late in the episode that Alex and Maggie share a moment that is genuinely realistic and romantic. But, for much of the episode, Maggie lies yet again to Alex and Alex doing her own investigation feels more melodramatic than engaging.

Kara and Mon-El's relationship appears fully healed in "Distant Sun" and it is hard not to feel cheated by that. "Star-Crossed" might have had a painfully melodramatic fall-out for Mon-El's lies being exposed, but it was executed in that episode. So, the easy resolution of that emotional rift getting healed on The Flash cheapens the overall arc.

Lynda Carter is painfully underused in "Distant Sun." Carter's President Marsdin appears for only two scenes that does little other than set-up J'onzz being powerless to interact with the Daxamites and then punish the head of the DEO. For viewers too stupid to recall or too unobservant to notice from the first episode that Marsdin was in, "Distant Sun" provides a fairly pointless revelation of the character's true alien form. Given that Supergirl has not done any sort of compendium of alien races and that "Distant Sun" did not include a White Martian shapechanging, the revelation of Marsdin's alien race lacks real impact. Marsdin being an alien was already established; seeing what kind of alien she is without knowing what that means is fairly pointless.

"Distant Sun" is the latest episode directed by Kevin Smith and it is also the most problematic to date. For sure, there is a delightful Star Wars reference, but some of the direction is just terrible. When Teri Hatcher's Rhea takes a swing at Melissa Benoist's Supergirl in the Fortress Of Solitude, the shot is easily one of the most fake of the series. Some of the shots are truly baffling; J'onn J'onzz is stabbed while in another form and the fact that the weapon does not break his skin makes no sense. The Martian Manhunter does not have impenetrable skin. The episode climaxes with one of the weakest, most telegraphed, death scenes in recent memory and the net effect is a fairly painful anticlimax.

Ultimately, "Distant Sun" is an unremarkable script for a series of predictable or obvious events that the characters more or less trudge through; it is hardly the high point of season two of Supergirl.

For other episodes of television featuring alien bounty hunters, please check out my reviews of:
"Colony" - The X-Files
"Bounty" - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Dead Or Alive" - The Flash

3.5/10

For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Vanity Is So Much Work! Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo Is A Tough Sell!


The Good: The shampoo appears to work to clean and dye hair subtly
The Bad: Expensive, Dries out hair, A lot of collateral work in cleaning
The Basics: After months of making my hair nice, a week with Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo pretty much ruined it again . . . though it did reduce my gray!


I am not a particularly vain person. In fact, I happily dress like a schlub most days and the only reasons I write reviews of health and beauty products are that they were a real moneymaker for reviewers when I wrote reviews for the now-defunct reviewing site for which I used to write and now my wife manages to get a pretty wide array of product samples. So, I was not feeling at all insecure about the gray in my hair that has crept in over the last five years. In fact, my wife has done a pretty amazing job of showing love for the new, grayer, me. But, with Just For Men doing a big product push for their new Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, she thought it might be worthwhile for me to try the shampoo for review purposes.

And I have.

Being someone who is not really vain at all, there are a number of beauty procedures that are normal that I was not at all familiar with before using the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo. Unfortunately for both me and Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, while there are some aspects to using a product like this that are normal, they are not exactly positive selling points to me. Unfortunately, all of the key aspects that my wife informed me were normal were all aspects of the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo that annoyed me. On the plus side, Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo actually does (generally) what it promises to do, so despite my issues with this shampoo, I am unable to deny that it is effective.

Sadly, the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is expensive, dries out hair, and requires a crapton of additional cleanup compared to other shampoos. In addition to my other disclaimers, it is worth noting that I have much longer hair than most of the target demographic for this product. My hair is a foot long; my wife tells me that, after looking at pictures of people testing this very product, this product seems to be used almost exclusively by men with buzz cuts and other very short haircuts. So, right off the bat, many people might not have the first issue I have with the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo; it is comparatively expensive because it does not last very long.

The Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a 2 fl. oz. tube of shampoo that is designed to both clean hair and dye hair in a subtle way to reduce grays in the hair. I used the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo for five out of six consecutive showers over a one week period and was only able to get five uses out of the shampoo before exhausting my supply.

Using the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a hassle compared to most shampoos. First, because there is a dye in the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, one needs to do an allergy test on the skin first. The Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo comes with directions on how to do a skin allergy test for the shampoo first. But, before the first proper usage, one needs to do preparation two days prior. I was not allergic to the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo.

After determining that I was not allergic to the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, I started using it. One begins their shower like normal, then applies enough shampoo to lather through one's hair. The Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a pearlescent brown shampoo and it took me two half-dollar sized dollops to lather both the top of my hair and my mane. The shampoo lathers fairly well and it coats well all of my hair.

But, the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is also incredibly messy. I've never dyed my hair before, but when I watch my wife dye her hair, it seems to be a pretty static process. She dyes it, puts her hair in a shower cap for about half an hour and then washes it out. A dying shampoo like the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo requires some agitation through the hair to get the cleaning properties of the shampoo and, no matter how careful I was, that led to splatter. I have the sneaking suspicion that my wife hooked me up with the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo just so I would clean our shower and tub more.

Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is not a shampoo for an insecure, graying, man-on-the-go. Any random lather or shampoo from the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo that splatters onto the wall of the shower or tub needs to be washed off pretty much immediately to prevent staining. Since we got our Hydroluxe Full-Chrome 24 Function Ultra-Luxury 3-way 2 in 1 Showerhead/Handheld-Shower Combo (reviewed here!), cleaning our shower has gotten much easier with the handheld showerhead and it became essential while I was using the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo. Fortunately, because the shampoo needs to be left on the hair for one to three minutes (I went with at least three minutes each shower before even beginning to rinse out my hair), there is plenty of time while one is in the shower to clean the dye splatter off the walls and floor of one's shower. Using Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo means the consumer has to spend time virtually immediately cleaning.

I have spent the past year and a half getting my broken, dry hair nicely conditioned and lustrous through the use of various conditioning products my wife has brought me. After the first use of Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, all that progress was gone. After the first time I used Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, my hair was noticeably more brittle and dry than before . . . and each time I used this shampoo, I conditioned twice after the last of the ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo was used. While the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo actually effectively cleaned my hair and it appeared to reduce the appearance of gray in my hair, it also ravaged my hair, noticeably weakening and reducing the luster of my hair.

As for the coloring effects of the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, it does appear to work to make non-drastic coloring changes to one's hair. To wit, the difference between my natural hair (BEFORE) and after five uses of this shampoo (AFTER) is:
 photo hairbeforefront_zpspjqkpehd.jpg
BEFORE
 photo hairafterfront_zpsklhlzzji.jpg
AFTER
 photo hairbeforeside_zpsqtxcnrek.jpg
BEFORE
 photo hairafterside_zpsnl0zbusi.jpg
AFTER

Ultimately, Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a lot of work, for a comparatively high price relative to many other shampoos I have used, to deliver fair results that are not overly extraordinary. As one who would prefer a distinctive smell, conditioning properties and straightforward clean hair, the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo left me unimpressed. But then, I might not be the target market for this product. But, for aging vain men who don't like cleaning the shower or bath tub as frequently, this is probably not the ideal product for them, either.

For other shampoo reviews, please check out:
Vidal Sassoon Pro Series Extreme Smooth Smoothing Shampoo
OGX Strength & Body Bamboo Fiber-Full shampoo
VO5 Honeydew Smoothie shampoo

3/10

For other health and beauty product reviews, please check out my Health And Beauty Product Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Return Of Beloved Friends (And Humor): Grace And Frankie Season Three


The Good: Very funny, Great performances, Wonderful character development
The Bad: Moments of forced conflict
The Basics: In the third season of Grace And Frankie, the humor comes back to the forefront with clever, amusing, heartfelt episodes that make all the characters shine!


There are few Netflix television shows I look forward to the way I look forward to new episodes of Grace And Frankie. Today is the day we get new episodes of Grace And Frankie as the third season premieres on Netflix. Grace And Frankie Season Three does what many of the best television shows do, which is to smooth out some of the rough spots from earlier seasons and hit a stride in the third season. Grace And Frankie is far less tortured than season 2 (reviewed here!) and it is well-beyond the initial character conflicts and the work of establishing the key characters which is what Grace And Frankie Season 1 (reviewed here!) had to do.

Grace And Frankie Season 3 does an excellent job of building all of the key characters, while remembering to bring the humor. The thirteen-episode third season of Grace And Frankie is funny, mature and socially-relevant.

A month after Babe's cremation and the execution of her will, Frankie is cramming to fill her gallery space, much to the chagrin of Grace, who is doing most of the work for their nascent business . . . and cleaning up their shared house. While Robert and Sol move into their new place, while Sol is obsessed with reconciling with Frankie, the tension in the family is still fairly high. Brianna reaches out to Frankie, while Sol crashes the gallery opening by trying a grand, sweet gesture with Frankie. As the family tensions even out, Grace and Frankie focus together on trying to get financing for their business of making vibrators for older women. Grace continues to be frustrated with Frankie over her friend's inability to stay focused, as Frankie continues to try to pitch easy-access condoms for senior citizens during their business meetings.

When Grace and Frankie's business get's an angel investor through Frankie, the pair is able to manufacture their prototypes and starts the tough job of figuring out how to get focus group data from a surprisingly reticent demographic. While Brianna and Mallory have a conflict with one another over Mallory's children and Brianna's reactions to them, Robert and Sol have issues with their work, retirement, and Robert getting cast for a big part in a local theater production. As Bud takes a bigger role at the law firm by dating a woman everyone else hates, Grace and Frankie struggle with balancing their business and romantic relationships with their living together in the face of things like a break-in, Grace owning a gun, and Frankie's pot getting smoked up without her!

Grace And Frankie continues to both expand the characters from the first two seasons, who have now become beloved to anyone who watches the show, while adding more adult conflict with his less morose than the second season. The third season has some very funny lines and the usual hilarious performances. Grace And Frankie Season Three manages to utilize almost all of the cast in impressive ways with greater balance than the prior seasons. In fact, only Ethan Embry's Coyote seems to have less of a role than in prior seasons, though Brooklyn Decker's Mallory seems to have more of a substantive part in the third season of Grace And Frankie.

The key Grace And Frankie continue to be the same in the third season. Here is where the third season finds them:

Grace - Committed to the business with Frankie, she is frustrated by Frankie's lack of focus. She has to adapt to having Jacob around more (as Frankie's relationship with him continues to deepen). She is upset by how cruel the finance market is to her and Frankie based upon their age. Despite that, she works hard to get the pair financing, takes risks with her friends to get market data and continues to make amends for her prior cruelty while drunk. She is miffed by how many of the people in her life seem to prefer Frankie over her and she reaches out to have a better relationship with her daughters,

Robert - He is initially frustrated by Sol's obsession with smoothing things over with Frankie at the expense of the happiness he feels with moving into their new, shared, house. Tired of how unhappy and mundane working as a divorce lawyer has become, he is eager to retire finally to enjoy life. He is cast in a local production of 1776, while Sol is not. He is tortured by visions of his mother after he finally comes out to her and deals with her wrath, but he is able to turn to Sol,

Frankie - As she and Jacob become closer, she finds herself less excited about focusing on her work with Grace. She has an amazing gallery opening, despite Sol's grand romantic gesture flopping, and she bonds with Brianna. When the house she shares with Grace is broken into, she becomes terrified . . . as much of the criminal as by Grace and her marksmanship! She remains fearless in exploring her emotions and she finds new ways to be supportive to Grace, whom everyone now acknowledges as her best friend,

Sol - Feeling guilty over lying decades prior to Frankie about the quality of her artwork and a sale that never actually occurred, he tanks showing off his new house with Robert with his fretting. He works to reconcile with Frankie, while he and Robert adapt to living together in a new home, where they don't have to listen to each other's music. He wants to be in a play with Robert and he helps Robert overcome his mother-centered issues,

Brianna - Frustrated with Mallory and her many children and how that has strained their relationship, she finds herself having to work actively on her relationship with her sister. Desperate to reconcile with her mother figure, Frankie, she comes through with the business loan needed to fund Grace and Frankie's vibrator business, with the caveat that Grace not find out where the money came from. When her relationship with Barry falls apart because she is not forward-seeing, she starts going through relationships, including meeting a male prostitute,

Mallory - Following the birth of her twins, she is overwhelmed. Her husband seems entirely ill-equipped to deal with having so many children and she is frustrated by how having more children has strained her relationship with Brianna. She tries to relax and be supportive of Grace after the robbery and is pretty psyched to have time away from the kids just to get high,

Coyote - Relegated to a supporting role this season, he leaps to Frankie's support when their home is broken into,

and Bud - Now dating a woman who has a slew of allergies, he becomes a bigger presence at the law firm as Robert steps back from the job.

On the acting front, the third season of Grace And Frankie is the point where it is impossible not to say, "Holy fuck, how can the big four not dominate every award's show?!" Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda, and Sam Waterston are all amazing actors and they each manage to have powerful and hilarious moments. They are all impressive, seasoned actors who have had long careers that have proven their talents, but in season three of Grace And Frankie, each one shows the viewer something new from their performance range. If Sheen, Fonda, Tomlin and Waterston are not nominated for acting awards for the third season of Grace And Frankie, the awards are just stupidly myopic.

The third season of Grace And Frankie also allows June Diane Raphael to break out as Brianna. Raphael has, historically, delivered some of the show's funniest, snarkiest, lines, but is has been hard for her to come out from the shadow of the four headliners. In Grace And Frankie Season Three, Raphael gives a more nuanced performance that shows off a far greater range than in prior seasons and other works she has been in. It is nice to see Raphael in a role where she can shine and show off more than one aspect of her talent. If June Diane Raphael is not even nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award for her work in the third season of Grace And Frankie, there is no real reason to pay attention to Award's Season.

Ultimately, Grace And Frankie Season Three manages to be very funny while exploring issues of aging, female sexuality, the psychology of religious oppression, and the complications of actually maintaining and growing family relationships. Grace And Frankie Season Three finds the actors hitting an uncommon stride while making their characters some of the most wonderful and memorable in television history.

For other works from the 2016 – 2017 television season, please check out my reviews of:
Iron Fist - Season 1
Love - Season 2
Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
One Day At A Time - Season 1
Travelers - Season 1
"Happy Fuckin' New Year" - Sense8
The OA - Season 1
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"The Ghost" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Duet" - The Flash
"The Fellowship Of The Spear" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Star-Crossed" - Supergirl
Luke Cage - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 1

8/10

For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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I Remember When Sugar Cereals Had No Nutritional Benefits . . . Cap'N Crunch's Oops! All Berries Are Fun!


The Good: Flavorful, Surprisingly good nutritional benefits
The Bad: Somewhat generic fruity flavor
The Basics: Quaker Cap’N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal is fruity, but somewhat indistinct on the flavor front, making for a good sugar cereal.


At some point, one reaches an age that they just sound old. Yeah, if one lives long enough, they invariably get to a point when a decent number of stories begin with "I remember when . . ." Well, I remember when sugar cereals were utter crap. Seriously, growing up, sugar cereals were loaded with sugar (not corn syrup) and they had no nutritional value whatsoever. Things have, apparently, changed and when I picked up boxes of Cap'N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal for my wife, I was shocked by how nutritious this obvious sugar cereal actually is.

In fact, the Oops! All Berries Cap’N Crunch is good, but the berry flavor is somewhat generic, and surprisingly nutritious.

Basics

Quaker Cap’N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal is a new variation on the classic Cap’N Crunch cereal. The Oops! All Berries is just crunchberries that were a novelty addition to the Cap’N Crunch with Crunchberries cereal without the standard yellow bricks of Cap'N Crunch cereal. Each of the Cap'N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal pieces are approximately 1/2" to 5/8" in diameter. The crunchberries in the Oops! All Berries feature four colors of berries - green, red, purple and light blue.

The standard box of Cap’N Crunch’s Oops! All Berries cereal is 11.5 oz. That represents approximately ten servings and we were able to get that many servings out of a box!

Ease Of Preparation

Cap’N Crunch’s Oops! All Berries cereal is a breakfast cereal, so this is one of the low-impact breakfast options as far as preparation goes! Simply open the box of Cap’N Crunch’s Oops! All Berries cereal, pour out a cup (I’ve taken to using a measuring cup) and add 1/2 cup of milk to it. I have discovered, as part of getting healthy, that one of the biggest challenges one might have with breakfast cereal is actually eating the serving size recommended by the manufacturer. After years of doing more rigid portion control, I am now able to enjoy only a proper 1 cup serving of Cap’N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal in a sitting.

For the purposes of my reviews, and my regular consumption, I only use skim milk (fat free) milk with cereal.

Taste

Opening the box, the Oops! All Berries Cap’N Crunch has a sweet, vaguely fruity scent to it. The aroma is infused with the recognizable underscent of corn, but the sugary, fruity scent is more prevalent than the grain scent.

In the mouth, the Oops! All Berries Cap’N Crunch cereal is very sweet. The standard puffed corn spheres are sugary and only vaguely fruity in their flavor. The sugar flavor dominates the palate, with only hints of a generic fruit flavor beneath the sugary coating. The corn flavor does not manifest in the taste of the Cap'N Crunch's Oops! All Berries; all of the flavor is sugary and slightly fruity.

Covered in milk, Oops! All Berries Cap’N Crunch pop with a more fruity flavor. The berries might not taste like any specific berry, but with milk the cereal is less generically sugary and more generically fruity.

There is nothing particularly distinct in the aftertaste to the Cap'N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal. The aftertaste is indiscintly sweet, but not unpleasant.

Nutrition

Quaker Cap’N Crunch’s Oops! All Berries cereal is a sugary cereal that is about as nutritious as most cereals used to be, back in my day. Made primarily of corn flour, sugar, and oat flour, the Cap’N Crunch's Oops! All Berries ingredient list degenerates into a chemistry equation after “strawberry juice concentrate.” This cereal has a lot of preservatives in it, as well as sprayed-on vitamins and minerals, making it important to drink the milk after one consumes the last of the Cap'N Crunch's Oops! All Berries.

A single serving of Quaker Cap’N Crunch’s Oops! All Berries cereal is 32 grams, 1 cup. In that serving, there are 130 calories, with 15 calories coming from fat. There is only half a gram of saturated fat (4% RDA) in this cereal and there is no cholesterol. With 200 mg of sodium and a gram of dietary fiber, this is not a bad dietary choice for those striving to improve heart health. With a gram of protein and 60mg potassium, Oops! All Berries Cap’N Crunch has some decent nutritional elements other cereals do not. On its own, this cereal has significant percentages of seven vitamins and minerals, most notably 100% of the RDA of Folic Acid!

Storage/Cleanup

Cap’N Crunch Oops! All Berries is a cereal, so as long as it is kept sealed in its box, it ought to remain fresh for quite some time. Obviously, when you are done pouring the cereal from the box, fold down the plastic inner wrap to help maintain the cereal’s freshness.

Cleaning up after Cap’N Crunch Oops! All Berries cereal is simple as well. Simply brush away crumbs left by it and you are done! It is that simple! This is a cereal that only minimally discolors the milk added to it!

Overall

Cap’N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal is surprisingly healthy, though not distinctly fruity, making for a good cereal that is not truly remarkable.

For other cereals, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Quaker Life Vanilla
Kellogg's Cinnamon Frosted Flakes
Nature's Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Granola cereal

5.5/10

For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the food reviews I have written!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Everyone Else Rules The Iron Fist Finale "Dragon Plays With Fire"


The Good: Claire Temple, Ward Meachum, and Joy Meachum
The Bad: Everyone else, Stale plot, Sudden macguffin, Stiff performances
The Basics: Iron Fist ends low with "Dragon Plays With Fire."


The entire purpose of a serialized television show is to tell a compelling story with interesting characters and the importance of a season finale is that it completes the long arc and makes viewers excited for any subsequent seasons. The television shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have often done a good job of bringing about strong resolution for the seasons, especially when the season has a strong adversary. Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave, and Jai'Ying all led to fairly decent finales for Marvel shows. Even John Garrett helped end the first season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in an interesting way, because much of the season had been spent confronting the effects of his character. When the full season is not devoted to a single adversary, the climactic conflict with that adversary makes for a weaker finale; Diamondback only appearing for the back half of Luke Cage made the focus on the conflict with him in that finale a weaker end for that season, for example. Iron Fist suffers in a similar fashion as Harold Meachum steps up in "Dragon Plays With Fire" to be the sudden Big Bad in a simplistic conflict that hardly seems nearly as big or powerful as the other adversaries Rand has faced in the season.

"Dragon Plays With Fire" picks up right after "Bar The Big Boss" (reviewed here!), which climaxed with Danny Rand and Colleen Wing on the run from D.E.A. agents. Harold Meachum tipped off the Drug Enforcement Agency that Danny Rand was a drug kingpin and in fleeing them, Rand incapacitated some of the agents. "Dragon Plays With Fire" begins with the inherent weakness of a contrived chase that the viewer knows entirely is a set-up. To that end, "Dragon Plays With Fire" engineers a macguffin - in this case a tablet computer with unadulterated documents on it - opposite the simplistic conflict. So, it is almost unsurprising that "Dragon Plays With Fire" is a painfully unremarkable season finale that allows some of the supporting characters and actors to entirely overshadow the protagonists and their performers.

Harold Meachum returns to work at Rand Enterprises, while Ward is in the process of enlisting the aid of Jeri Hogarth in saving Danny. Harold is using the DEA to bring down Danny and Hogarth clandestinely meets with Rand and Wing to figure out their strategy. Rand is being hunted by the DEA because Harold altered documents that were on a tablet belonging to The Hand. Determined to get the uncorrupted data, Rand and Wing return to Bakuto's compound, but find it completely abandoned . . . save for the imprisoned Madame Gao. Gao tells Rand the only way he will truly become an Iron Fist is by killing Harold Meachum, whom she reveals as being the one who killed Rand's parents.

While Rand sets his sights on Harold Meachum and recovering the tablet that will exonerate him, Ward visits Joy in the hospital. When Joy learns that Danny is wanted by the DEA, she leaves the hospital to confront her father. Joy quickly susses out that her father is lying to her. When Ward returns to Rand Enterprises, he realizes his father's personal army might be enough to stop the Iron Fist. Wing and Rand come anyway, with Temple providing a distraction. In the climactic battle against Harold Meachum, Danny must determine to what lengths he will go to stop his immortal enemy.

"Dragon Plays With Fire" might have been all right were it not for the fact that the episode rips off an earlier episode of Iron Fist. When Wing, Temple and Rand went to China to apprehend Madame Gao, the trip and the episode were bogged down with Rand moralizing about what to do with Gao when they find her. In that episode, Danny Rand was proven to be immature, uncommitted and somewhat stupid. That is repeated in "Dragon Plays With Fire." The repetitive nature of "Dragon Plays With Fire" becomes undeniable when Claire Temple bribes a cart owner the same way Wing bribed a beggar in China.

In "Dragon Plays With Fire," Harold Meachum loses any appearance of subtlety or nuance and moves into the over-the-top comic book villain category. Joy Meachum has some wonderful moments when she challenges her father's lies, but Harold's go-to of lying and violence make him seem ridiculous and a caricature . . . much the way Joy's ultimate scene is unsatisfying for its transparency.

Claire Temple and Rosario Dawson steal the early scenes of "Dragon Plays With Fire," while Tom Pelphrey crushes every scene he is in. Pelphrey turns Ward Meachum around and restores him to a professional, commanding character. Pelphrey's physical performance in "Dragon Plays With Fire" makes Ward compelling and once again seem credible as a businessperson. Ward and Temple have the most satisfying resolution to their character arcs in season one of Iron Fist.

Unfortunately, Danny Rand, Colleen Wing and Harold Meachum all have pathetic arcs in "Dragon Plays With Fire." Rand and Wing both have moments where they are stiff, clueless or poorly-defined. Season 1 of Iron Fist does not satisfactorily explain why Danny Rand worked so hard to become the Iron Fist only to abandon his responsibilities and go through the Trials without understanding even what the Iron Fist was. Moreover, how the hell did Davos - a devoted monk whose life and heritage were all designed around him become the new guardian of K'un-Lun - lose to Danny Rand?!

Finn Jones delivers an unfortunately inorganic performance at all of the key emotional moments of "Dragon Plays With Fire." Similarly, Jessica Henwick has minimal emotional connection with Jones on-screen and her reactions to Jones's most emotive lines are very stiff.

Ultimately, "Dragon Plays With Fire" is a predictable, formulaic, stiffly-executed season finale where a couple of the supporting characters steal all focus and credibility from the weak protagonists.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Iron Fist - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!
Thanks!]

For other finale episodes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please visit my reviews of:
"You Know My Steez" - Luke Cage
"AKA Smile" - Jessica Jones
"Daredevil" - Daredevil
"Ascension" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Valediction" - Agent Carter

1/10

For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Creme De Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls Hit The Flavor Right!


The Good: Very realistic dark chocolate flavor, Inexpensive, Protective canister is good, Addictive flavor, Protective bags inside the canister
The Bad: Very low on nutritional benefits, Could use a chocolate cookie coating for my tastes!
The Basics: Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls are a strong chocolate flavor that makes for a wonderful cookie!


The last few months, I have fallen back in love with wafer cookies and I've discovered the joy of wafer roll cookies. I have been very happy to try some new (to me) brands of cookies. Tonight, that takes the form of binging on Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls. I quickly fell in love with the Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls and discovered that it was to stop eating them, I enjoyed them so much!

Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls manage to have a realistic dark chocolate flavor for their filling, which appeals very much to a person like me who prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate!

Basics

Creme de Pirouline is an American company and these cookies are baked in the United States (Mississippi). The Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls come in a metal canister that houses thirty-two cookies. Each cookie is a 4 3/4" long by 3/8" in diameter tube. The wafer cookies are kept well-protected by two inner packages and outside removing the first two to three cookies, the cookies seem to remain incredibly well-intact!

Ease Of Preparation

Eating Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls is not a real challenge, simply open the canister, pull out one of the two inner bags, remove a cookie from it and consume! Once one selects a cookie, all you have to do is stick it in your mouth and chew; there is nothing complicated to eating these cookies.

Taste

Opening the canister, the Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls smell reasonably chocolatey. The dark chocolate aroma is muted some by the cookie coating, but there is some scent to the Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls.

In the mouth, the Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls are dry and sweet. The sweetness of the dark chocolate frosting inside the cookie tube overcomes the crispy shell's dryness very quickly. The dark chocolate filling is robust enough to impress those who love dark chocolate; there is nothing weak about the chocolate flavor that insinuates that the chocolate is anything other than dark chocolate. The flavor is not like an oversweet milk chocolate, but the dark chocolate filling still is sweet enough to overcome the mundane, but crispy cookie coating.

The Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls leave a slightly dry aftertaste in the mouth, but the flavor is not unpleasant.

Nutrition

Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls are intended as a sweet snack, not a full meal. Two of these cookies (weighing 25 grams) represents a single serving and they are not at all nutritious. Made primarily of sugar, flour and vegetable oil, these cookies are not at all an all-natural food product. The Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls have an allergy disclaimer about soy, milk, and wheat!

Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls have 130 calories for a single serving, 45 of which are from fat. A full serving represents 13% of one's RDA of saturated fat, though they are cholesterol-free. The Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls are exceptionally low in sodium for a cookie, having only 30 mg (1% RDA) per serving. The Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls have a single gram of protein, but no other significant amounts of nutrients. As one who is working on getting heart-healthy, I wish they had been even a full gram of dietary fiber.

Storage/Cleanup

Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls are easy to care for and clean up. Unopened, they have a pretty decent shelf life. The canister we picked up last month had an expiration date of October 3, 2017. Kept sealed, I am sure they would have lasted at least that long. Instead, they were consumed well before then! As cookies, they can leave crumbs, but because the cookies are found in a metal canister, they have little breakage until one bites into them and generates crumbs then! The Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls have very little breakage because of there are two inner packs of the wafer roll cookies.

Overall

Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls could only be better if they had a chocolate cookie coating around the dark chocolate frosting center. But as they are, Creme de Pirouline Dark Chocolate Artisan Wafer Rolls are pretty wonderful!

For other reviews of cookies, please check out my reviews of:
Peeps Oreo cookies
Snakkers Chocolate Creme Filled Wafer Rolls
Chips Ahoy! Thins Cinnamon Sugar cookies

7/10

For other food and drink reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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When The Meachum Plot Is Better Than The Iron Fist Stuff, "Bar The Big Boss"


The Good: Ward Meachum's character, Moments of performance by Pelphrey, Wenham and Dhawan
The Bad: Dull plot, Dull villainy, Protagonists are hard to empathize with, Poor performances by the protagonists
The Basics: "Bar The Big Boss" sets up for an unremarkable first season finale for Iron Fist.


As the penultimate episode of the first season of Iron Fist begins, I find myself in the weird place of trying not to begin yet another Iron Fist review with "This is what's wrong with this episode . . ." "Bar The Big Boss" is an interesting episode of Iron Fist in that the Rand Enterprises portion of the episode, which is essentially a family drama and a corporate drama, is far more engaging and well-developed than the martial arts plotline.

"Bar The Big Boss" picks up the Ward Meachum plotline that was entirely ignored in "Lead Horse Back To Stable" (reviewed here!) and continues the rising menace of Bakuto. Ward Meachum has, arguably, had the most dynamic arc in the first season of Iron Fist and he is a far more interesting character than Bakuto and Colleen Wing.

Ward Meachum awakens at Birch Psychiatric Hospital, restrained, having a nightmare about his father. Ward is unable to convince the nurse on duty to remove his restraints and he is restrained when Bakuto comes in to make him an offer. Bakuto wants to kill Harold and have a more advantageous relationship with Rand Enterprises. Ward is wary of Bakuto's offer, while Danny and Colleen encounter Davos on the street. Davos wants to destroy Bakuto's compound, but Wing refuses. At Meachum's penthouse, Harold and Joy reconnect, when Ward arrives. Ward wants to talk to Joy alone, but she is unwilling to leave the penthouse because she is in the process of cutting the financial ties between Rand and The Hand.

When Ward tries to get Joy out, Bakuto arrives. Bakuto shoots Joy in order to lure out Rand and he rushes to her aid. Bakuto is about to execute Harold when Rand arrives. As Rand is taken from the building, Davos and Wing come to rescue him. In the ensuing fight, Davos illustrates his devotion to the cause, while Harold continues his manipulation of Ward.

"Bar The Big Boss" fleshes Ward out even more than he had been and he proves to be surprisingly emotionally intelligent. Ward recognizes his father for exactly what he is and he wants to save his sister from him. Ward is presented as smart and actually loving, at least where Joy is concerned. Amid all of the machinations surrounding Rand Enterprises and The Hand, Ward is very genuinely protective of his sister. All he truly seems to want is to keep her safe. Tom Pelphrey delivers another impressive performance as Ward Meachum.

What is a little disappointing in "Bar The Big Boss" is that Joy seems more like a wounded little girl than the half of the "power couple" she became with her brother. Joy has been cunning and strong for most of the first season of Iron Fist. In "Bar The Big Boss," Joy is entirely weakened by her emotional desperation to be near her father. Jessica Stroup plays the part fine, but her character is diminished by how she is written in this episode.

Harold Meachum lives up to his cruel potential in "Bar The Big Boss." David Wenham perfectly delivers the most horrifying and meanly honest exchange he can. As Harold prepares for his execution, he tells Ward and Joy what he actually thinks of him and it is heartbreaking, if - arguably - the most honest thing he says in all of Iron Fist.

The portion of "Bar The Big Boss" that focuses on Danny Rand is exceptionally hard to care about. Danny Rand is, as it turns out, a character who neither learns, nor cares deeply-enough about anyone to keep his word. In "Bar The Big Boss," Danny makes the "noble sacrifice" of letting Bakuto take him in order to save Joy's life. But Rand is not even good to his word long enough to make sure she can be saved; as soon as he and The Hand reach the lobby, Rand breaks his shackles and tries to take on Bakuto and his men! Rand is not a hero or an anti-hero, he's just an impulsive little rich kid whose emotional growth was stunted at age ten.

Unfortunately, Colleen Wing is not much better in "Bar The Big Boss." Rand and Wing recognize Bakuto's obvious trap, but Wing leaps right into it. In a similar way, given that "Bar The Big Boss" occurs a very short amount of time after - context clues would indicate the same night as - Joy begins the transfer of The Hand's embezzled assets back to Rand, which was perhaps a day or two after Colleen learned that Bakuto and The Hand might not be what she thought it was, Wing seems unrealistically un-indocrinated with her entire training. Given that Gao was characterized by Wing as part of a different sect of The Hand that was destructive, Wing's willingness to denounce The Hand reads as false in "Bar The Big Boss." A more reasonable conclusion for Wing to come to would be that The Hand (the organization) was still fundamentally good with a core of innocent people and that Bakuto had let the power go to his head. Bakuto being villainous and ordering his disciples to do bad things ought not have entirely undermined Wing's opinions of the organization . . . at least not that quickly.

The direction in "Bar The Big Boss" is almost as problematic as the obvious plot twists and the mundane characterization in the episode. Lighting and the progression of time in "Bar The Big Boss" are noticeably off. When Joy is menaced by Bakuto, it is night in the penthouse, but day on the images of it that Bakuto streams to Danny's phone. Rand and his team chase Bakuto in a climactic nighttime scene. But the sun is up when, moments after Ward and Harold get Jot to the hospital, Danny calls Harold. The music in Wing and Rand's final scene is disturbingly incongruent with the intended emotions of the scene.

Ultimately, "Bar The Big Boss" is an uninspired penultimate episode that makes it very hard to care about what happens to the protagonists in the first season's finale.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Iron Fist - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!
Thanks!]

For other works directed by Andy Goddard, please visit my reviews of:
"Manifest" - Luke Cage
"Regrets Only" - Daredevil
"The Next Doctor" - Doctor Who

3/10

For other television season and episode reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Flash Forward, Flash Back: The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time


The Good: Good artwork, Engaging plot
The Bad: Predictable a-plot mystery, Dialogue that does not include any real wit to it
The Basics: The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is an interesting story, even if it fundamentally alters Barry Allen's character!


Every now and then when I read and review a graphic novel, I find myself considering what I would have done differently if I were the one writing the story. Usually, these days, I find myself thinking that I would give the books better artwork and I am pretty content to start with that. But when there is a book like The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, where the artwork is fine, I have to go deeper and it is a rare thing where I have so few critiques of a graphic novel that I cannot imagine changing much from what I read. In the case of The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, I probably would have made the dialogue zestier - the book is somewhat hampered by dialogue that is so straightforward it is sometimes boring - and an adversary in the a-plot that is not quite so obvious.

That said, The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is one of the New 52 books that actually popped for me.

The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time picks up after the events of The Flash, Volume 5: History Lessons (reviewed here!) and Forever Evil (reviewed here!). Those who have not read Forever Evil will miss a lot of the magnitude of consequence that is hanging over Central City in The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time. This is very much a book that relies upon readers having read and comprehended the world-shattering events in the prior volume and the ancillary work to understand what is going on with Barry Allen. The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is also the book that places Wally West in the role of The Flash for the first time in The New 52!

Opening five years in the future with Iris West and a teenager apparently dead at the scene of an accident that The Flash could have prevented, the narrative returns to the present, where the Central City Police Department has been ransacked in the wake of the Crime Syndicate's reign. Barry Allen has to visit the department shrink, Dr. Janus, to discuss the effects of the Crime Syndicate destroying Central City. During his session, he runs out and helps Forrest get through his trauma and brick up a hole in Iron Heights. Twenty years in the future, Barry Allen (in a very different Flash suit!) has an epiphany on how to change everything that went wrong in his life and Central City; saving Wally West's life from the car accident.

Barry Allen meets Wally West, Iris's nephew, when Wally is out graffitiing anti-Flash markings on a building. In the future, Barry reveals himself as The Flash to the wheelchair-bound Iris West and promises her he will save Wally. His first stop it to Gorilla City, where he executes the speedster Grodd! In the present, the Central City Police Department is overwhelmed with cases from the Crime Syndicate's reign and Barry Allen disappoints Singh by taking what appeared to be an easy-to-close case and proving that the prime suspect could not have committed the crime! When the Central City Art Gallery is attacked, The Flash runs into the robbery only to discover the thieves are armed with technology specifically-designed to take him down. Shortly thereafter, an attack is made in Central City using gear from the obscure criminal Black Mold; a crime Black Mold could not have done as he was in traction at the time! While Barry hunts down clues that make it appear that one criminal managed to get all of the super-weapons out of the crime lab storage during the Crime Syndicate's reign of terror, the future version of The Flash continues his trek back through time to thwart his enemies.

The Future Flash and The Flash ultimately collide in a battle that makes sense, even if it is not emotionally satisfying (though it is the least-predictable option for its resolution, which was nice!).

Fans of The Flash are likely to be split on the interpersonal melodrama contained within The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time. When The New 52 began and rebooted Barry Allen's story, the Barry Allen and Patty Spivot relationship was one that gave traditional fans of The Flash real issues. In reinventing the franchise, the writers actually worked to give Spivot and Allen a fair shake and for those who invested in it, it was reassuring to see that the writers did not simply mortgage that to reestablish the familiar dichotomy with Allen and West. In The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, there is far more interaction between Iris West and Barry Allen than there is between Allen and Spivot and the lengths Barry goes to to help Iris with Wally is somewhat unrealistic given the quality and character of his relationship with Patty and with Iris in the other books in the series.

That said, the Future Flash is an interesting one and his views on his younger self is pretty cool. The Future Flash bursts into the narrative not only with the weight of years of experience and guilt weighing upon him, but with training from some of the most dangerous fighters in the DC Universe, which makes him a formidable foe for all of the adversaries he encounters. There is a strong sense of irony throughout The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time in that Barry Allen evolves into, essentially, The Reverse-Flash.

As for the mystery of the weapons taken from the police evidence lockers, that is very insular to The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time and it suffers from a similar problem to most television mystery shows. On television, there is a habit - which was beautifully lampooned on Family Guy - of putting the most famous guest star in the role of the Murderer Of The Week. In The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, there is a similar phenomenon where after several incidents that Barry Allen investigates, a new, named person pops into the narrative in a painfully obvious way and attentive readers will instantly recognize his purpose there.

The artwork in The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is generally decent, which makes things like Grodd eating Eobard Thawne's brains particularly unsettling. The Future Flash looks awesome and for the brief time at the end of the volume that Wally West spends as The Flash, his costume looks pretty incredible, too!

While the dialogue in The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time might not pop in any interesting ways and there is the sudden obvious villain to resolve the mystery plot, the book is entertaining and has some deeper character themes that make it well worth reading!

For other The Flash volumes from The New 52, please visit my reviews of:
Move Along
Rogues Revolution
Gorilla Warfare
Reverse

6.5/10

For other Graphic Novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Lead Horse Back To Stable" Only Leads Engaged Viewers Farther From Iron Fist.


The Good: A few good performances (Dawson, Dhawan, Stroup), Temple and Davos's characters
The Bad: Stick to the god damn plan, Danny. Seriously. Terrible plot, Lousy protagonists, Harold Meachum turns stupid, Stiff acting between Henwick and Jones.
The Basics: "Lead Horse Back To Stable" continues to diminish Iron Fist, Harold Meachum and Colleen Wing.


I am not one to bitch about things unnecessarily. When I panned the living crap out of the Iron Fist episode "Black Tiger Steals Heart" (reviewed here!), it's not like I didn't have some pretty good ideas about how the formula could not have been effectively shaken up. Entering "Lead Horse Back To Stable," it is hard not to reflect on the big twist from the prior episode. That is a spoiler alert.

Colleen Wing was exposed in "Black Tiger Steals Heart" as being a member of Bakuto's sect of The Hand. While that could have been a huge twist, it fell instead into the painfully familiar Marvel Cinematic Universe (especially Marvel Television) formula and it lacked emotional resonance. The truth is that over the course of the first nine episodes before Wing's reversal was thrown into the mix, Colleen Wing was not an interesting or well-rounded enough character to make the reversal have genuine impact when it came. Could it have been done better? Absolutely. After about two seconds of contemplation, it occurred to me that Colleen Wing's allegiance to The Hand could have been both good television and a clever twist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe if Wing had been devoted an episode that showed how she came to Bakuto and was groomed to be a part of The Hand. "Lead Horse Back To Stable" features an oblique reference from Bakuto about how he found Colleen and gave her purpose as a child, but it is on-screen exposition in the form of dialogue.

But, imagine for a moment, how Iron Fist would have been different if the first shot of the series had been a young girl in crisis being uplifted by Bakuto and his organization. If the viewer had followed Colleen Wing's journey from the very beginning, seen her train, get tested, become indoctrinated, show her emotional ties to other members of The Hand, even have her learn the name of her organization, become a teacher and recruit for The Hand, start teaching Colleen and be given the task of bringing Danny Rand to the Hand, her story could have had a real character resonance. Danny Rand is a pretty pathetic character in Iron Fist - a perception bolstered in "Lead Horse Back To Stable" by Davos pointing out that Rand has abandoned his post at K'un-Lun and left the monks there entirely in jeopardy - and Iron Fist might well have worked better if the viewer knew all along that he was a dupe and waited for the power of his reaction after getting tied to Colleen emotionally. But, instead, Iron Fist attempted the reversal in the tenth episode and it felt cheap and predictable and the viewer didn't flinch because they were not emotionally invested in Colleen Wing anyway.

Rosario Dawson's reaction as Claire Temple in "Lead Horse Back To Stable" is more profound than Danny Rand's reaction in "Black Tiger Steals Heart."

In a flashback, Danny Rand awakens from the Trials he endured imbued with the power of the Iron Fist and the tattoo (or brand) on his chest. He is awoken by Davos outside the cave where he endured his Trials and Davos pledges his loyalty and allegiance to Rand. In the present, Danny recovers slowly from his escape from The Hand's compound. He suffers flashbacks of his betrayal and his Trials and is unable to center his chi to summon the Iron Fist. While Rand and Davos figure out their next course of action, Wing and Bakuto square off at Colleen's dojo. At Harold's penthouse, Joy and Harold work to expose all of the corporate espionage of the board members at Rand Enterprises.

Claire Temple has a heart to heart with Davos about the nature of the Iron Fist's power. When Wing visits Temple, Wing tries to explain her perspective. While Wing exerts influence over her own apprentice, Danny Rand gives Harold Meachum all the information he has on Bakuto's operation. Harold plans to draw out Bakuto by closing the Rand Enterprises accounts that Bakuto is skimming from. Bakuto's ninjas come for Wing and she willingly surrenders to them to avoid public bloodshed. Feeling betrayed by Wing, Bakuto prepares to use Wing for one of The Hand's grotesque projects.

"Lead Horse Back To Stable" features a lot of exposition about the monastery at K'un-Lun and has Claire learning about the dragon who imbued Danny Rand with his Iron Fist power. Davos is presented in "Lead Horse Back To Stable" as a far more interesting character than Danny Rand. Davos trained with Rand to be the Iron Fist and he seems far more devoted the to cause than Rand. Davos clearly cares deeply about K'un-Lun and he was betrayed by the monks he served. "Lead Horse Back To Stable" makes Rand seem entirely like a slacker instead of a dupe.

Danny Rand is not a zen character and "Lead Horse Back To Stable" actually features a flashback scene that illustrates how he became bored with doing his duty and was inspired to abandon his post. While this explains the initial enthusiasm he had in the pilot episode of Iron Fist when Rand returned to New York, it only serves to diminish his character. When Rand declares to Wing that he is the protector of K'un-Lun, the viewer already knows that is not true.

Rosario Dawson and Sacha Dhawan are good in "Lead Horse Back To Stable." Temple and Davos have good scenes, despite being filled with pretty overt exposition, that feel very organic. Dawson gives a well-rounded performance in discussing things with Davos, reacting to Wing's betrayal, and diagnosing Danny Rand. Dawson continues to make Claire Temple a surprisingly compelling and vital character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Dhawan does a good job of adding depth to a character who could easily come across as a heavy. Director Deborah Chow does a good job of focusing on Dhawan's reactions every time someone near Davos mentions having the power of the Iron Fist. Davos is being set up to be an Iago-like character and Dhawan plays that role better than Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick do the half-assed Romeo And Juliet thing in "Lead Horse Back To Stable." Unfortunately, "Lead Horse Back To Stable" includes some terrible character writing even for Davos. Davos and Rand were best friends and it is only in this episode that Davos tells Rand he wanted to be the Iron Fist?! Really?!

Much of the purpose of "Lead Horse Back To Stable" seems to be to impart to the viewer that K'un-Lun is vulnerable to attack. Danny Rand, however, is a pathetic hero who cannot stick to a single fucking plan and by this point in Iron Fist that is just irritating.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Iron Fist - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!
Thanks!]

For other works with Ramon Fernandez, please visit my reviews of:
Revolution - Season 1
No Reservations

2/10

For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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