Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 2017 End Of The Month Report!

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November saw our output skyrocketing in the best possible way! It was a pretty Marvel-intensive month, as Star Trek: Discovery and Inhumans ended (for a while, at least) and the DC Television Universe shows picked up, as did The Punisher! It's been a busy month and our readership was up, along with our productivity, so thanks to everyone who has been reading!

We are adapting the Amazon product links as we reference old reviews now. Most of the links have been properly converted and the reviews now have the right products associated with them. We appreciate our readers sticking with us through Amazon reconfiguring, which is likely to continue to be ongoing for a bit longer!

This month, we picked up four new followers on Twitter, but no new subscribers! We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading on the blog, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're slowly growing our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In November, we updated the index pages every few days and remembered to upload the changes, so the index pages continue to be a useful tool to our readers! The primary Index Page, is usually updated daily and lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out and feel free to use that as it is a much more useful and organized index to the reviews I've written!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As holiday shopping picks up, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of November 2017, I have reviewed the following:
590 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
959 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
3372- - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
240 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
936 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
1079 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
289 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
116 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
232 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
217 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
110 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
62 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of November are my reviews of: Justice League and Destiny 2!
Check them out!

The month of November was packed with new, highly-read reviews, especially for new television works! For November, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. "When Harry Met Harry . . ." - The Flash
9. "Phone Home" - Legends Of Tomorrow
8. "Elongated Journey Into Night" - The Flash / "Midvale" - Supergirl (TIE!)
7. Man Of Steel
6. "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" - Supergirl
5. "Sic Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" - Star Trek: Discovery
4. "3 AM" - The Punisher
3. "Therefore I Am" - The Flash
2. "Into The Forest I Go" - Star Trek: Discovery
1. "Girls Night Out" - The Flash

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 339 reviews
9s - 537 reviews
8s - 1027 reviews
7s - 1138 reviews
6s - 1065 reviews
5s - 1356 reviews
4s - 1015 reviews
3s - 795 reviews
2s - 389 reviews
1s - 259 reviews
0s - 131 reviews
No rating - 143 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but no new additions to the all time Top Ten Reviews, though for some wonderful reason people were reading our #1 review even more this month, allowing it to pull even further ahead! At the end of November 2017, the most popular reviews/articles are:
10. Oz The Great And Powerful
9. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
8. Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
7. Warm Bodies
6. Iron Man 3
5. Now You See Me
4. Tyler Perry's Temptation
3. The Burden Of Being Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Closes The Arc With "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4!"

The Good: Good character moments, Performances, Decent effects
The Bad: Predictable resolution, End robs the Legends Of Tomorrow of their big moment
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow gets the big moments of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4," but the biggest character moment for the team is robbed for a saccharine end to the crossover.

In some ways, it seems like the showrunners for Legends Of Tomorrow had a good idea that the massive crossover event for the DC Television Universe would be falling just as the third season of the show began to gain momentum. That seems like one of the best reasons that almost as soon as Damien Darhk pops up as one of the principle antagonists for the third season of Legends Of Tomorrow, there is an almost completely divergent episode that puts Grodd in the narrative. Just as "Welcome To The Jungle" (reviewed here!) had no real tie to the prior episode (save the very last scene), "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" has no real connection to "Welcome To The Jungle."

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" comes right after the climactic events of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the final episode in the arc without some references as to where the show prior ended. After all, with Dr. Stein shot on Earth-X and a distress call from Felicity Smoak out to the Waverider crew, it seems like the Legends Of Tomorrow characters who have been noticeably missing from the prior three parts might actually become integral to the episode's resolution.

Almost instantly, it becomes clear that the reason most of the Waverider crew was absent from the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West was that the room being too full of super powered people would have defied the suspension of disbelief.

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" opens with Dr. Stein shot, bleeding to death on the floor where he manages to open the breach to Earth-1. The Flash and The Ray manage to take out Red Tornado before managing to return Earth-1 with the rest of the heroes. When Eobard Thawne attempts to slice into Kara, The Atom appears and manages to save her. With the S.T.A.R. Labs team freed, Stein and Jax lay near death from Stein being shot repeatedly. Mr. Terrific figures out that the Earth-X Nazi Waverider and Earth-X Kara are bombs with the potential to destroy much of Earth.

Realizing that he is tethered to Jackson, Dr. Stein separates from the Firestorm matrix. While the heroes unite to protect Kara from the Earth-X Oliver and Eobard Thawne, Felicity, Ramon and Wells try to bring down the alternate Waverider. And the big battle ensues and it is cool and it gets resolved pretty much as anyone with a brain would have figured it would.

More than with last year's big crossover event, the Legends Of Tomorrow actually are integral to the resolution of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4." While there is a key moment where it seems like Cisco would have been able to open a breach to resolve a serious problem, much of the resolution to "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" feels organic and the big emotional moments are mostly related to the Legends Of Tomorrow. And then the very end of the episode craps on what should have been the big moments for The Flash and Arrow.

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" finally rewards Franz Drameh with a part that plays up to his acting talents. Drameh plays Jefferson Jackson and while Victor Garber gives his usual masterful performance in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4," it is Drameh's acting and reacting to Garber's performance that makes the episode's emotional moment land. The episode's final scene gives Drameh a moment to stand on his own and it promises to keep Jefferson Jackson vital going forward.

Legends Of Tomorrow bears the brunt of the big, emotional, casualty in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" and the series creates a powerful moment that will remain so . . . unless it is undone. Leonard Snart made a powerful exit from Legends Of Tomorrow, but "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" restores the character by bringing the Earth-X doppelganger over in his place. Snart and Thawne being put back in play is interesting, but it diminishes the multiple sacrifices made that put their characters in the ground. "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" gives a big character a decent, heroic exit and it has the potential to rock the Waverider crew to its core . . . but it does not emotionally decimate the viewer because the follow-up to the loss is such a non-sequitor moment for Legends Of Tomorrow fans.

Ultimately, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 4" does what it needs to in order to finish the crossover, but it falls more toward average than exceptional.

For other DC Television Universe Crossover episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"Crisis On Earth-X Part 1" - Supergirl
Crisis On Earth-X Part 2 - Arrow
"Invasion!" - Legends Of Tomorrow


For other television and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Entirely Average Dog Treat: Benny Likes The Zuke's Z-Bone With Apples!

The Good: Decent ingredients, Dental benefits, Benny likes them
The Bad: Smells terrible, Environmental impact of the packaging, Expensive
The Basics: Benny' actually liked the Zuke’s Z-Bone With Apples, so I suppose the scent is more offensive to humans than dogs!

My poor Benny! Benny, the English Setter my wife and I adopted back at the beginning of July probably has a food allergy (gosh, I hope that's what it is because my wife has tried everything to alleviate poor Benny's constant desire to itch). Benny's skin is redder than most and his hair was initially patchy, because of how much he scratched at his body, but after various medicines, baths twice a week and now a special diet food he seems to be getting better. Odds are, the special diet food the veterinarian prescribed for Benny is what is actually showing the positive results we have started to see.

But, even with the change for Benny's diet, he craves the occasional treat and finding one that fits into his new dietary needs has been a little difficult. Benny found a treat he generally enjoys with the Zuke's Z-Bone With Apples dog treats.


The Zuke's Z-Bone With Apples are a treat that is in the same snack niche as Greenies. Made to look like a green-brown bone, much like Greenies - save that Greenies are green, the Zuke’s Large Z-Bone With Apples are more brown in its coloring - the Z-Bone With Apples are supposed to be difficult for the dog to chew, which helps them scrape the plaque and tartar off their teeth. When Benny actually consumed the Z-Bone With Apples, they did actually clean his teeth like they were supposed to. The fact that Benny wanted more and more of the Z-Bone With Apples seems to indicate that they work and English Setters, at least, like them!

The Z-Bone With Apples Treats are brownish-green and shaped like a bone, though they are flat on the longest portion. Each large Z-Bone With Apples is 4 1/2” long and 1 11/16” wide at its widest point and 1" thick. Each Large Z-Bone With Apples is a 2.5 oz. treat that comes individually as a wrapped bone-shaped treat.

Ease Of Preparation

The green ground potato and pea "bone" is designed to help fight plaque and tartar build-up by having a texture to it and being very hard. The bone-shaped treat is smooth until the dog bites into it and fractures it. Then it becomes very mealy and the texture helps remove matter from a dog's mouth. Because the bone is too big to simply be swallowed, the Z-Bone With Apples effectively brushes the dog's teeth and tongue using friction whenever the dog bites into it to split it and swallows it, dragging the bolus across their tongue. Benny's experience with the Z-Bone With Apples seemed to prove that it worked for that purpose!

Preparing the treat for consumption is very easy; simply unwrap the individually-wrapped bone treat and give it to your dog. I highly recommend having water nearby for the dog to drink as they eat the Z-Bone!

Benny’s Reaction

The Zuke's Z-Bone With Apples smell like apple cider vinegar. The aroma is much more like apple cider vinegar than apples and that is not very appealing to me. Fortunately, Benny was enticed by the aroma of the Z-Bone With Apples. Woken up from a sound sleep, Benny actually got very excited about the Zuke's Z-Bone With Apples.

The Zuke's Z-Bone With Apples is big enough that it forces even a decent sized dog like Benny to chew up the bone to break it up and consume it. As a result, the physical action cleaned Benny's teeth well. Unfortunately, because of the somewhat vinegar scent to the Z-Bone With Apples, the treat did very little for Benny's breath (which, to be fair, is not terrible to begin with). The fact that Benny enthusiastically consumed the Z-Bone With Apples almost justifies its price!


These treats are pretty decent for dogs, especially those who have allergies to various meats. The package recommends that dog owners have clean drinking water available to their dog when they feed them this treat. This treat is a dietary supplement, not a full meal. Z-Bone With Apples in the large size have at least 9.5% crude protein, 1% crude fat, and no more than 5% crude fiber and 20% moisture, so those looking out for their dog's specific dietary needs, that might help. They are made primarily of ground potatoes, ground peas, and vegetable glycerine. There are a fair amount of preservatives in the Z-Bone With Apples, which explains why the ones we got last week had a June 15, 2019 expiration date.


The Zuke’s Z-Bone With Apples is expensive, but does what it promises as far as enticing Benny to eat them and cleaning his teeth, even if it does not overly freshen his breath!

For other Zuke's dog treat reviews, please check out my takes on:
Zuke's Crunchy Naturals Baked With Peanut Butter & Bananas Dog Treats
Zuke's Roasted Chicken Recipe Mini Naturals
Clean Berry Crisp Z-Bones


For other pet product reviews, please visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing of reviews on the subject!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" Introduces More Heroes, More Villains, And Predictable Reversals!

The Good: Good performances, Decent direction, Moments of character
The Bad: Introduces/returns new characters to the mix in an already-crowded pageant, Somewhat simple plot, Whatever happened to Mick Rory?!
The Basics: The Flash is given the crossover installment "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3," which allows characters from other shows in the DC Television Universe the chance to shine.

One of the real tragedies of the crossover event that began with Supergirl last night is that by the time The Flash episode in the series comes up, the narrative momentum on The Flash has been utterly killed. Coming off the series high of "Therefore I Am" (reviewed here!), "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" seems entirely like a non-sequitor. Indeed, time has passed and The Flash and other heroes of the DC Television Universe have popped up for a completely different adventure that has absolutely nothing to do with The Thinker (Clifford DeVoe).

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" picks up right after "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references as to what came before. After all, Barry Allen and Iris West's wedding was broken up by interlopers from Earth-X and most of the heroes of the four DC Television Universe shows ended up on Earth-X in a concentration camp. As well, the point of the whole invasion - and the theft of a technical device nicknamed the Prism - was finally made clear: the Earth-X Supergirl needs a new heart, so the villains intend to drain Supergirl of her powers, then perform surgery on her to steal her heart. And fans of The Flash are likely to be most thrilled (or bewildered, if they've missed the prior installments) of the return of Eobard Thawne - this time as a temporal remnant still wearing the face of Harrison Wells.

The inherent weakness of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" is that the crossover hinges on so many of the characters teaming up . . . but there have been so many who have no surfaced (both from the regular shows or the Earth-X doppelgangers). So, the viewer goes into "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" with a pretty good sense that Wally West, most of the Waverider crew, and several other heroes have simply not popped up yet and are likely to be integral to the resolution of the story. Sadly, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" does not keep viewers waiting very long as Sarah and Dinah Lance's father appears very quickly on Earth-X, as does another familiar face.

On Earth-X, the heroes of Earth-1 (and Alex), find themselves trapped without their powers and outfitted with collars that might well kill them. Cisco Ramon awakens in one of his own cells, near Dr. Snow, Harry Wells, and the Black Siren. Kara is prepped for surgery under a light of a red sun. On Earth-X, Sarah Lance's father arrives as the commandant of the concentration camp and he has the Earth-1 heroes, and another detainee, out for execution. The group is rescued by Leo Snart, who frees the Earth-X native, The Ray. Getting back to Star City, The Ray reveals that he is from Earth-1 also.

While Felicity sends a distress signal to the Waverider, on Earth-X General Schott orders his freedom fighters to destroy the facility that contains the breach that will send the heroes back to Earth-1. Alex attempts to reason with Winn Schott, while Dr. Stein reaches out to Jefferson Jackson to apologize to him for wanting to retire. While the medical procedure on Kara begins, Felicity manages to knock the power at S.T.A.R. Labs out. On Earth-X, Oliver Queen impersonates the Fuhrer. There, he sends the alternate-Waverider to Earth-1.

Melissa Benoist continues to rock in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3." Benoist continues to play both Kara and Earth-X Kara and there are long scenes where Benoist is tasked with acting opposite only herself. Benoist manages to take on an entirely different body language as the evil Kara. More than simply hair and make-up changes, it is Melissa Benoist's performance that truly lands the major scenes in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3."

The other performance winner in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" is Jeremy Jordan. Jordan plays the alternate version of Winn Schott and the authoritative stance and voice he approaches the role with is pretty incredible.

It's hard not to be absolutely thrilled by the appearance of Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart. Miller has had a rough couple of years, but any opportunity to see him in action is truly a thrill. The moment Miller appears on "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" the viewer is likely to get completely giddy and simply thrilled by every frame he is on screen.

The relationship moments in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" work much better than in the prior two installments. Seeing Dr. Stein finally acknowledge the essential truth between him and Jefferson Jackson is delightful. It's good writing to finally have a smart character like Stein also be emotionally smart.

Like most of the prior installments, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" is hardly an episode of The Flash; the surprise adversary is a throwback to the first season of Supergirl and Eobard Thawne's scenes are all upstaged by the emotionally-open, plan-oriented version of Leonard Snart. It is the characters from Legends Of Tomorrow and Supergirl who actually have the most to do in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3," while The Flash characters are stuck playing second fiddle on their own program.

Ultimately, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 3" might not be much of an episode that relates to the rest of The Flash, but it is a solid penultimate act to the crossover event!

For other crossover episodes on The Flash, please visit my reviews of:
"Flash Vs. Arrow"
"Legends Of Today"
"Duet" - The Flash


For other television 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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The Split Decision On The 2017 A Duel To The Death Ornament!

The Good: Good sculpt, Wonderful sound effect, Decent balance, Some of the coloring
The Bad: PRICE, Simplistic coloring on Obi-Wan
The Basics: The 2017 "A Duel To The Death" Hallmark ornament is a good idea, with a split execution, that makes it a harder sell than it otherwise could be.

Star Wars fans have a lot to love and hate about Hallmark. Hallmark goes out of their way to make more and more Star Wars themed ornaments each year, which is good for fans, but also very expensive for fans. This year, alongside the plethora of space ship and character ornaments, there is a single diorama ornament for Star Wars fans. The Star Wars diorama ornament for the year is the A Duel To The Death ornament and it keeps up the general trend for Hallmark's 2017 Star Wars ornaments of paying tribute to the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope (reviewed here!).

For those unfamiliar with the key moment, the A Duel To The Death ornament features the climactic battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Death Star hanger bay. The Hallmark recreation of that moment features a section of Death Star flooring, Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, and a background sticker of the hanger bay.


The "A Duel To The Death" is a diorama -style ornament from Hallmark, which recreates scenes from Star Wars both with a molded scene and special effects. The "A Duel To The Death" ornament features a sound effect, but no light effect. The 2017 "A Duel To The Death" is made of durable plastic and a sticker and includes a sound function emitted through a tiny speaker in the ornament. The 4 1/2" wide by 3 1/2" tall by 1 1/2" deep ornament faithfully recreates Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, facing one another with their lightsabers raised in battle, on the Death Star. The backdrop that shows the Hangar Bay and the Millennium Falcon there is a simple sticker, which finishes establishing the scene incredibly well.

The sculpting on the A Duel To The Death ornament is quite good. Darth Vader looks completely perfect for the character and the flooring for the Death Star is textured to look realistic. The Obi-Wan Kenobi figure on the ornament is sculpted to look recognizable, at the very least. Hallmark cheated Kenobi some by having the character's hood up. Between that and the smaller scale of the characters on the ornament, Hallmark did not have to make an exceptional amount of detailing for the people on the 2017 A Duel To The Death ornament.

The coloring on the A Duel To The Death ornament is part of the split decision on the quality of the ornament. Darth Vader is perfectly rendered in both sculpt and coloring. The lightsabers for the A Duel To The Death are made of translucent plastic, which is nice, but the coloring is hardly as vibrant as it ought to be for lightsabers. Unfortunately, the coloring for the deck plating and Obi-Wan Kenobi portions are painfully simple. Obi-Wan looks far more like an animated character than like a real representation of Sir Alec Guinness. The beard on Obi-Wan, especially, stands out as very much off.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the "A Duel To The Death" ornament features a sound effect, but not a light effect. Powered by a connection to a light strand, the "A Duel To The Death" has the dialogue from the climactic battle between Vader and Obi-Wan. The sound clip even includes the noise from the lightsabers and that is neat. When the button on the side of the ornament is pushed, it plays the sound clip which captures perfectly the moment the ornament portray and the volume was loud enough that it may be easily heard.


As an ornament, the "A Duel To The Death" is intended to be hung on a Christmas tree and for that purpose, the ornament is great. The "A Duel To The Death" features a steel loop protruding from the top of the backdrop portion of the ornament. The ornament might lean a little forward, but it is not a fatal flaw in the ornament. There are ways to arrange the ornament so it may actually hang perfectly level. From the hook loop, the ornament hangs remarkably stable. It does not tip in any direction, though it will twist if the tree or ornament is bumped.


The "A Duel To The Death" ornament was issued at $29.95, which is comparatively expensive, especially for the size and quality of the ornament. At that price, it is not terribly collectible and it is unlikely its value will appreciate significantly. This is one Star Wars ornament that has not yet sold out at any of the Hallmark stores I've been to. I suspect it will not be a fabulous investment piece.


The 2017 "A Duel To The Death" Hallmark ornament looks all right, is balanced well, but is very expensive, making it a much more erratic ornament than some of the other Star Wars ornaments this year.

For other Star Wars diorama ornaments, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
2016 Royal Or Rebel?
2015 There Is No Try
2014 Cantina Band
2013 At Jabba's Mercy
2012 Han Solo To The Rescue
2011 Showdown At The Cantina
2010 His Master's Bidding
2009 A Deadly Duel


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Character Torment Keeps "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" From Progressing Organically.

The Good: Decent performances, Moments of character, Special effects, Bits of plot progression
The Bad: Nothing - character or plot - is actually resolved, Erratic pacing, Lack of focus in the direction for the battle sequences
The Basics: Arrow continues the 2017 crossover event with "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2," which kills the plot progression to pair off characters to talk about their feelings before the villains' agenda is made clear.

When it comes to crossover episodes, one of the clear purposes of a massive crossover story is to cross-promote other shows that fans might be interested in. From where I sit, the big crossover events right around Fall Sweeps is The CW's annual attempt to force me to watch Arrow. And this year, my annual episode of Arrow is "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2."

"Part 2," obviously, picks up where "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the Arrow component of the crossover event without some references as to where the prior installment went. After all, the Supergirl portion of "Crisis On Earth-X" established the conceit that would bring together the heroes of the four CW DC Television Universe shows: the wedding of Barry Allen to Iris West. The wedding was broken up by the arrival of Nazis from another Earth and while they were repelled, most escaped. One, an archer, was captured and brought to S.T.A.R. Labs.

Opening in Central City, the captured archer from Earth-X is revealed to be Tommy Merlyn, which shakes Oliver Queen. The S.T.A.R. Labs team and its visiting heroes regroup and Harry Wells reveals that there is a 53rd Earth in the multiverse: Earth-X, an Earth where the Nazis developed (and used) the atomic bomb before the U.S. Queen tries to appeal to Tommy Merlyn, but Merlyn kills himself before he can be of use to Oliver. The three remaining villains - Earth-X Kara Danvers, Eobard Thawne (still with Harrison Wells' face), and Oliver Queen - regroup.

The various character pairs - Oliver and Felicity, Dr. Stein and Jackson, Alex and Sara - take time ot talk about their feelings . . . until the Earth-X nazis attack Dayton Optical for a prism. Kara, Queen, and Allen face off against their doppelgangers (and Thawne in Allen's place). When a battle ensues, the Earth-X Supergirl attacks a nearby building. That allows the villains to escape with the Prism, which they can use to develop into a neutron bomb. When most of the team goes to a factory where the villains have the prism, Mick Rory and Dr. Snow stay with Smoak and West at S.T.A.R. Labs to protect against the Earth-X Oliver Queen. When the Earth-X Metallo appears at the factory, the tide turns in favor of the Earth-X invaders.

The choice of villains for "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" are good. Without the Earth-X Supergirl, Supergirl alone would be able to repel the invasion and the inclusion of a Speedster enemy distracts Barry from simply taking out alternate Kara. Easily the smartest moment of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" comes when Queen came to the meeting with the doppelgangers with a Kryptonite arrow. Sensibly, Cisco Ramon remains out of action for "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2," which makes sense because Ramon would easily be able to track any of the invaders from an alternate Earth.

Felicity and Oliver take time to mull over their relationship, in the wake of Smoak telling Queen in the prior episode she did not want to marry him. Smoak's reasoning is fairly solid; the last time she got engaged, she was shot. Smoak is good at explaining just what is important to her and why, while Queen seems blindly determined to marry her.

The relationship between Stein and Jackson is well-explored (albeit briefly) in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2." Jackson finally is able to tell Stein how important his other half is to him in the face of Stein's impending retirement. It's nice to see Jackson finally open up and it is unfortunate that Stein, who latched so completely onto his temporally-anomalous daughter, would be so thick in regard to how Jackson feels.

The relationship portion of the episode slows the momentum of the story that was left at the climax of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2." While it is enjoyable to see something other than a bland action-adventure crossover, the "everybody gets a chance to try to resolve their emotional turmoil" scenes quickly start to feel like the same type of trope. The characters on the four CW DC Television Universe shows are all dealing with big emotional conflicts . . . it is this moment when ALL of them manage to start having an honest dialogue about what is going on between them?! This is equally frustrating because most of the conversations remain unresolved, so the conversations feel more melodramatic than real.

The dramatic suit-up scene is painful to watch for its sense of melodrama after all of the relationship discussions. There is something entirely ridiculous about the dramatic shirt opening to reveal Supergirl when she is in a lab surrounded by people who know who she is. In other words, there is no reason for her to assume a Kara Danvers persona at S.T.A.R. Labs where everybody knows she is Supergirl.

The big battle sequences all seem to underplay the power of Firestorm, especially in contrast to people like Oliver Queen. In fact, as Firestorm pointlessly zips around taking out footsoldiers, it's hard not to ask "why doesn't Firestorm transmute Earth-X Kara's outfit into Kryptonite?" Certainly, that would both incapacitate her and contain her. Firestorm simply zipping around like a half-assed flaming Superman reduces his power and Professor Stein's intelligence.

The actors in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" all do fine with the parts they are given, but outside Melissa Benoist and Stephen Amell, none are charged with doing anything that truly challenges them. Benoist, especially, has to play an alternate, dark version of her character and the best that can be said about the Earth-X Supergirl is that Benoist manages to not play her with even a hint of how she played Bizarro.

Ultimately, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" manages to finally get around to explaining what the point (in-universe) of the crossover is. The idea of why the Earth-X invaders have come is an interesting one, though it seems like a somewhat troublesome conceit. If the Earth-X Supergirl needs Kara's heart, it seems like she and her team might have had a much easier time of getting it if they had attacked Kara on her native Earth. "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" leaves the viewer desperate to understand how someone as smart as Eobard Thawne could make such an obvious mistake.

The net result of the various contradictions and plot holes is that "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 2" develops into a very average hour of television.

For other DC Television Universe Crossover episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"Pilot, Part I" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Medusa" - Supergirl


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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Kellogg's Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats Will Disappoint Anyone Who Loves Blueberries!

The Good: Decent nutrition, Reasonably priced, Does not taste bad
The Bad: Tastes nothing like actual blueberries, Unexceptional ingredients
The Basics: Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Blueberry cereal has nothing on adding actual blueberries to Frosted Mini-Wheats . . . on the flavor or nutrition fronts!

I feel bad, sometimes, for breakfast cereal manufacturers. The breakfast cereal market seems to be a pretty competitive one and the manufacturers seem to be in a constant battle to innovate, as opposed to duke it out in the marketplace with their tried and true, "greatest hits." And part of the appeal to the cereal concept is convenience. So, it seems like a natural progression for the cereal companies to try to add fruit - or fruit flavors - to their standard cereals and try to market the cereals as something new. Sadly, in the case of Frosted Mini-Wheats, adding fruit flavor to the frosting does not yield the same - or even comparable - results as adding fruit to the cereal. Such is the downfall of Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Part of the ever-expanding line of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereals, the Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats is one of the few unremarkable selections in the line.


Kellogg’s Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is a newer twist on the tried and true Frosted Mini-Wheats formula. Instead of simply being a generic sugar flavor, the Blueberry cereal strives for more complicated sweet flavors, but it fails to accurately replicate the flavor of blueberries.

The standard box of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is 15.5 oz. That represents approximately eight servings and my box made it to the full eight servings when I measured each one out to 25 pieces per serving. The actual Blueberry cereal is comprised solely of 5/8” wide by 3/4” biscuits of shredded wheat. One side has the light purple frosted side (it is also where the rest of the flavoring is apparently painted on) and one “naked” shredded wheat side.

Ease Of Preparation

Frosted Mini-Wheats 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 Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal, count out twenty-five biscuits and put them in a bowl. 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. Given that I have been monitoring my intake for a couple of months now, I am now able to enjoy a single serving of only 25 pieces of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal in a sitting!

For the purposes of my reviews, and my regular consumption, I only use skim milk (fat free) milk when reviewing Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal.


Opening the box, Frosted Mini-Wheats Blueberry cereal smells weakly of fruit. The Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats are not very aromatic and the blueberry aroma is more vague than distinct.

On its own, the Blueberry cereal is very sweet and generically fruity in its flavoring. The Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats are dry and grainy with the frosted side providing a somewhat underwhelming sweetness. The aroma from the Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal foreshadows its weak and barely fruity-flavor. The Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats taste more like a diluted flavor of what people think blueberries might taste like as opposed to anything realistically blueberry-flavored.

With milk, the Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal loses the dryness, but becomes no more flavorful than it is when it is dry. In fact, the Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats have a strong wheat flavor and the milk takes on the sweet frosting flavor . . . without taking on any more flavor of actual blueberries.

The Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats have a slightly dry aftertaste that endures in the mouth for several minutes after the last of the cereal is consumed.


Kellogg’s Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is fairly nutritious on its own and with skim milk! Made primarily of whole grain wheat, sugar, and milled corn, there is nothing unpronounceable in the Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal. There is, however, nothing resembling actual blueberries in the Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats, so it is somewhat unsurprising that there is very little in the way of blueberry flavoring in the cereal. Given that there is a separate listing of vitamins and minerals, I suspect that Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is one of those cereals where the nutrients are then sprayed onto the cereal, making it important to drink the milk with this cereal in order to get all of the nutritional benefits out of it.

A single serving of Kellogg’s Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is 55 grams, 25 biscuits. In that serving, there are 190 calories, with ten of those calories coming from fat. There is no saturated fat in this cereal, nor cholesterol. With no sodium as well, one might think this shredded wheat could be devoid of any real nutrition, but it has 6 grams of dietary fiber, which is 22% of the RDA! With five grams of protein and 190 mg potassium, Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats has more nutritional benefits than the average sugary cereal. On its own, this cereal has 25% or more of the RDA seven vitamins and minerals, with significant quantities of Iron (90% RDA) and Folic Acid (50% RDA).


Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats is a cereal, so as long as it is kept sealed in its box, it ought to remain fresh for quite some time. The box of Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal we purchased last week had an expiration date of November 19, 2018. 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 Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats 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 significantly discolors the milk added to it, though, so if the milk gets on your clothing consult a fabric guide to clean it out. Still, it is a cereal that will easily stain light colored clothes.


Frosted Mini-Wheats Blueberry cereal is interesting, even if it is not entirely evocative of actual blueberry flavor.

For other Kellogg’s cereals, please check out my reviews of:
Froot Loops With Fruity Shaped Marshmallows
Frosted Mini-Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Chocolatey Almond


For other cereal reviews, please visit my Cereal 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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Monday, November 27, 2017

Blase Beginning: "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" Is A Crowded, Divergent, Start To The Next Big Crossover Event!

The Good: Performances are fine, Good direction
The Bad: Continuity (kills the momentum of Supergirl), Final reveal is more dull than revelatory, No real character development, Formulaic plot
The Basics: Supergirl starts the "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" and it has so much to do to tie together the four DC Television Universe shows that it does remarkably little of its own.

One of the more unfortunate aspects of the DC Television Universe is the crossover episode. The trope is a problematic one, especially when Supergirl is forced to incorporate with the rest of the DC Television Universe and protagonist Kara Zor-El has to make a trip between universes just to include her. So, there's usually a contrived threat, then a contrived coming together, then a forced conflict between the characters - who range now from metahumans to vigilantes to time travelers to extraterrestrials - before a massive conflict that results in a solution that only works out because all of the various teams contributed. For the latest crossover, "Crisis On Earth-X," the binding initiating incident is the wedding of Barry Allen.

And that begins the issues with both "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" and the crossover in general. In Supergirl, the story has been going along just fine, building its own thing and the narrative momentum - shaken up just last week with "Wake Up" (reviewed here!) - makes a pretty abrupt stop to divert for the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West. Starting the wedding on Supergirl is a conceit that comes from the days of the week the DC Television Universe shows air on instead of a sensible storytelling order. As a result, the first appearance of Supergirl in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" has Kara fighting a Dominator (out of nowhere!) with the only real purpose being to make a joke that alludes to last year's big sweeps crossover event.

Opening on Earth-X, which is a world where the United States is under Nazi rule, an archer takes out an entire scientific team. The archer kills Guardian, who is still James Olsen in that reality. In Central City, The Flash prepares for his wedding day by taking on King Shark and in Star City, Felicity bugs Oliver to get him to commit to going to Iris and Barry's wedding. In 1183 England, the Waverider crew cuts their mission short to go prepare for the wedding and Kara, mourning the return of Mon-El (who is now married) talks with Alex about her feelings . . . and Barry Allen's wedding. While the four groups come together, on Earth-X, the scientists prepare to test their new super weapon, with a one-day deadline.

At the rehearsal dinner, Felicity tells Oliver she does not want to marry him. The next morning, Alex wakes up with Sara and freaks out. The wedding begins fairly normally, until the officiant is killed by the Earth-X version of Supergirl and Earth-X Nazis invade the church. In the ensuing fight, The Flash rescues his civilian guests and the bulk of the invaders are put down by the others. When the battle turns against the invaders, the interlopers retreat. While the heroes from Earth-1 manage to capture an archer from the invaders, Prometheus, the three main invaders manage to escape.

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" has a number of major events spread throughout the DC Television Universe on Supergirl, which is an awkward and somewhat ridiculous conceit. National City and the universe of Supergirl is entirely divorced from the other three shows. So, Dr. Stein and Jefferson Jackson's quest to separate Firestorm, Oliver and Felicity's on-again, off-again relationship, and even the wedding of Barry Allen is not even peripherally related to Supergirl.

The first half of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" has everyone coming to our Earth (Earth-1). Barry and Iris suggest to Oliver and Felicity that they get married, the S.T.A.R. Labs team miraculously develops the cure Stein has been looking for in order to separate from Jackson. The only truly organic aspect of the many people coming together is that Kara brings Alex as her "plus one" and she gets super drunk and ends up in bed with Sara Lance. For a generally fluffy episode, "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" continues the realistic portrayal of a heartbroken woman (Alex) turning to alcohol and uncharacteristic decisions.

Unfortunately, most of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" is forced and contrived. Barry Allen invites Kara to sing at the wedding, which is a particularly lazy way to get Melissa Benoist singing on-screen again (Grant Gustin and Benoist were both on Glee prior to being cast as super heroes) and it feels almost as forced as the Waverider crew talking about going to the wedding mid-battle. Ironically, most of the best lines in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" are delivered by Mick Rory. Dominic Purcell might not have a huge role in "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1," but he makes the most of it.

"Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" is not actually a Supergirl episode; it is barely a television episode. Most of "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1," despite being very stylishly directed, feels like a trailer to an action movie or a commercial. The fast-pace, lack of depth, the obvious plotting (Stein's moral dilemma quickly turns into an incident that proves to him the value of Firestorm), and the lack of genuine surprises or character development make "Crisis On Earth-X, Part 1" a very disappointing start to the crossover event.

For other DC Television Universe Crossover episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"Flash Vs. Arrow" - The Flash
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"Invasion!" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Duet" - The Flash


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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Hallmark Gets Everything Right With The 2017 Wonder Woman DC SuperHero Girls Ornament!

The Good: Excellent coloring, Cool rendition of the character, Decent mix of plastic and thread, Good pose, Decent balance, Affordable
The Bad: Nothing!
The Basics: The 2017 Hallmark Keepsake Wonder Woman DC SuperHero Girls ornament is a pretty cool variation on the theme and is an awesome addition to anyone's Wonder Woman collection!

Nothing makes me realize just how fast time flies like getting to a review, seeing a prior year's review of a similar product, and thinking, "I really meant to watch that movie [upon which the product was based] before now!" And yet, that is exactly what happened with DC SuperHero Girls. I found out about DC SuperHero Girls last year when I reviewed the 2016 Supergirl DC SuperHero Girls ornament (reviewed here!) and I intended to watch the movie, but I just never quite got around to it. So, as I sit down to review the 2017 Wonder Woman DC SuperHero Girls ornament I find myself doing a pure review of the ornament because I still have not seen the source material.

It is the DC SuperHero Girls version of Wonder Woman, running or leaping with her lasso ready, that is the subject of the 2017 Hallmark ornament!


The Wonder Woman ornament faithfully presents Wonder Woman as seen in the DC SuperHero Girls series. This version of Wonder Woman features the iconic DC Comics super heroine in a much more youthful appearance, with full leggings, a shirt that has big shoulder wingtips and a cool tiara. In addition to her flowing black hair and over-large eyes, this version of Wonder Woman looks like Wonder Woman is in motion.

The ornament, released in 2017, is a very basic work for both the sculpted and coloring details. The colors are cast and painted in monotones and the detailing lacks finer points, like fingernails, though it is unclear how sophisticated the source material is. Measuring three inches tall, three and one-quarter inches long and two and one-half inches deep, the DC SuperHero Girls Wonder Woman ornament is one of the few DC super hero-based ornaments released by Hallmark for 2017 and it is actually one of the best!

The Hallmark DC SuperHero Girls Wonder Woman ornament is made of durable plastic and it looks good. Wonder Woman's costume is colored in red, white, and blue for the outfit, with yellow accents on the shoulder. This version of Wonder Woman looks just like Wonder Woman from DC SuperHero Girls and the accent to the plastic ornament of the gold thread for her lasso is pretty awesome. The sculpt is decent and detailing like the way the legs are molded in a running or leaping pose makes this version of Wonder Woman look very dynamic.

As for the coloring, the DC SuperHero Girls Wonder Woman is very basic, which makes some sense given the animated nature of the character the ornament is based upon. The skin tones are monolithic, but accents like the red star on the yellow tiara and the white stars on Diana's leggings are very nicely rendered. This version of Wonder Woman looks surprisingly cool!


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the Wonder Woman could have a sound chip, but she does not. This is just a basic rendition of Wonder Woman as she appeared on DC SuperHero Girls without any additional flair, save the thread Lasso of Hestia, which is one of the better blends of plastic and non-plastic elements from a Hallmark ornament.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Wonder Woman ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate super hero Christmas Tree, the Wonder Woman ornament is anything but an essential piece, at least in this incarnation. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top of Wonder Woman's head, in her flowing hair. While it is hard to make such a thing invisible, the hook loop is not overly obtrusive. From the hook loop's position, the DC SuperHero Girls Wonder Woman ornament hangs perfectly level, which is great for her action pose!


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all major franchises like DC comics, The Wizard Of Oz and Harry Potter. The DC SuperHero Girls Wonder Woman ornament did not sell out at any of the Hallmark stores I have yet been to, which probably has to do with this being a very new and not inherently popular version of the iconic character. Over the last year, though, DC SuperHero Girls seems to have become more popular and with the resurgence of popularity for Wonder Woman in general, this might end up being a decent investment piece.


Fans of Wonder Woman and DC comics characters are likely actually likely to enjoy the quality of the DC SuperHero Girls Wonder Woman ornament and want to add it to their collection!

For other Wonder Woman Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2016 Wonder Woman Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice ornament
2015 Lynda Carter As Wonder Woman
2009 Wonder Woman ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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"Front Toward Enemy" Continues The Punisher's Sense Of Consequences Strong!

The Good: Good performances, Decent character development, Good direction and writing, Decent philosophical balance
The Bad: Simplistic plot and development
The Basics: "Front Toward Enemy" puts The Punisher in conflict with Lewis Wilson when Wilson sets off his bombs and threatens Karen Page!

One of the inevitable problems with creating a perfect, or near-perfect, episode of television is that following it up almost inevitably becomes a little bit disappointing. The truth is, I never expected The Punisher to have that type of problem because it was hard to imagine that the show would rise that high. And yet, with "Cold Steel" (reviewed here!), The Punisher took what was usually a formulaic certainty for the Marvel Television Universe and made it feel fresh again through the intensity of the characters involved. So, "Front Toward Enemy" begins at a place that is conceptually an uphill battle given the quality of the prior episode. Despite that, "Front Toward Enemy" makes for a surprisingly gripping hour of television by returning to Lewis Wilson and his post-combat, post-return trauma storyline.

"Front Toward Enemy" is impossible to discuss without some references to precisely where "Cold Steel" ended because of how it deals with the consequences of the prior episode. After all, "Cold Steel" climaxed with Madani's operation intended to root out Agent Orange by baiting a trap with the idea that Frank Castle was coming for bullets that Homeland Security is monitoring. The trap drew out Russo and a small team of mercenaries and Madani's operation ended with heavy casualties on both sides, including Russo murdering Stein.

Madani is depressed about the failure of her operation and the death of her partner and she allows her mother to minister to her. Castle and Lieberman monitor Madani from across the street and are shocked when a bomb goes off on street level nearby. The bombing was one of three explosions at government facilities . . . bombs created by Lewis. Lewis sends a letter to Karen Page at the Bulletin, asking her to print his letter and threatening to kill more people if she does not. Back at the lair, Castle and Lieberman watch footage of the bombing and Castle is offended by the terrorist act. Rafael Hernandez visits Madani at her mother's home to try to find out what happened with her operation.

Karen Page responds to the bomber publicly in print and then on the radio. Lewis calls in to the radio program Page is on and threatens her while Frank Castle listens on. When Lewis says "Sic Semper Tyrannis," Castle figures out that the bomber is Lewis and he tasks Lieberman with finding him. Hoyle, however, manages to get to Lewis first and the resulting fight leaves Hoyle beaten almost to death. Castle calls Page and Page implores him to turn the identity of the bomber over to the F.B.I. Lieberman, however, finds where Hoyle has gone and Castle rushes over to try to stop Lewis Wilson and save Curtis Hoyle. The Punisher finds himself over his head when he tries to figure out how to defuse the bomb Wilson left on Hoyle. At the same time, Madani decides to take a stand at Stein's funeral, but meets with an unexpected person on her way to the event.

"Front Toward Enemy" is an interesting detour that picks Lewis Wilson's story back up and the reappearance of Karen Page in The Punisher's narrative is a nice way to tie the series back to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Page continues her character arc of being ballsy and assertive as a writer for the New York Bulletin. Page has transitioned nicely from being a damsel in distress to a strong character in her own right. In "Front Toward Enemy," Page takes a stand and actually baits the terrorist who makes the bombing personal to her.

The real important issue in "Front Toward Enemy" is that The Punisher, which has a tendency to be viewed as a pro-military, pro-America, honestly more redneck appealing comic book, actually has a dialogue about terrorism and the Second Amendment. "Front Toward Enemy" makes the implicit argument that militias and other reactionary groups are fundamentally anti-American and that the Second Amendment is not intended to be an absolute right. It is impressive that The Punisher uses the opportunity to speak to its potentially more conservative audience with a reasoned argument that tries to balance the liberal desire for fewer gun deaths with the reactionary arguments about gun rights and vigilante justice.

More than an issue-driven story, "Front Toward Enemy" continues the trend in The Punisher to have the characters drive the plot. Madani's grief and trauma are explored with realism that might not make great television, but they make Madani's character pop and make her relatable. Madani continues to trust Russo and the viewer waits for Russo to make a slip of the tongue, the way Madani does when she notes that Russo was not at the operation where Stein lost his life. Lewis Wilson's transition from patriotic soldier to deluded terrorist is handled with appropriate philosophical delusions. Wilson has become brutal and fails to equate his actions and perspective with those of an enemy of the state. The writing for the episode is sharp and complicated on the philosophical front.

The make-up in "Front Toward Enemy" is absolutely brutal. When Castle finds Hoyle, the carnage makes the character unrecognizable. It is agonizing to see Hoyle so beaten and the make-up is so well done that the entire scene between Castle and Hoyle is difficult to watch for how Moore looks.

Daniel Webber manages to find the right balance in "Front Toward Enemy" between philosophically angry, coldly delusional and twitchy as fuck. Jon Bernthal continues to make Frank Castle the embodiment of masculinity and emotionalism. In "Front Toward Enemy," Castle tells the story of his relationship with Curtis Hoyle's lost leg and Bernthal makes a scene where Castle is simply telling a story into intense and heartwrenching television. The cold anger Bernthal presents while Castle and Wilson are squared off is intense and Bernthal taps into his dark side for his delivery of the lines in a powerful way.

The real magic of "Front Toward Enemy" is that The Punisher continues to transition from a potentially monolithic character plagued by an insatiable thirst for revenge into a well-motivated, deep character whose philosophical core remains surprisingly patriotic in a real (not faux, flag-waving) way.

And "Front Toward Enemy" continues to, delightfully, defy the expectations of a Marvel Cinematic Universe television show by making a military story with realism and a character-driven exploration of trauma that is unlike anything else in the MCU!

For other works with Tony Plana, please visit my reviews of:
One Day At A Time - Season 1
Pain & Gain
The West Wing - Season 2
"The Maquis, Part II" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"The Maquis, Part I" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


For other Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews, please visit my best to worst listing at the Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page!

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