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Author Archive for Cliff Wheatley

Top 10 Batman: The Animated Series Episodes

There’s no doubt that Batman: The Animated Series is the greatest superhero cartoon of all time. For many of us, Batman: TAS holds the most hallowed incarnations of these great characters, from Kevin Conroy’s Batman to Mark Hamill’s Joker. It introduced many new ideas that would later be brought to the comics and other interpretations, not the least of which is the breakout character Harley Quinn, as well as launch an entire universe of animated stories set in the DC Universe.

Since this week marks the 25th anniversary of the show's debut, we’re celebrating our 10 favorite episodes of the innovative series. But it’s worth noting that we’ve excluded episodes that were adapted from specific comics. Great segments like “Mad Love,” “Legends of the Dark Knight,” and “The Laughing Fish” are all undeniably fantastic, but we thought it better to point out episodes that were wholly created for the show. So with that said, here are our picks for the top 10 Batman: The Animated Series episodes ever...

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Supergirl: “Solitude” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

“Solitude” is a hit-and-miss episode, but when it hits, it hits big. More than any episode before it, “Solitude” provides the most exciting Superman-related easter eggs, including the return of Smallville’s Supergirl Laura Vandervoort to a Super-show, as well as great character moments for Kara, high stakes, and the seeding of big things to come. Unfortunately, the primary threat of the episode relies on Hackers-level techno-cheese that won’t do the show any favors when it comes to rewatchability in a few years’ time. Couple that with a severe lack of Cat Grant, an odd subplot, and some insufferable relationship drama, “Solitude” winds up an exciting ride for Super-fans but low on engagement in the personal lives of characters that aren’t named Kara.

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Supergirl: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

“Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” as its name implies, explores the moral compass of Supergirl and the lengths she’s willing to go to save the world. It’s by far the series’ most thematically complex and compelling episode to date, with storylines running parallel to one another that culminate in what is perhaps the most important lesson that Kara has yet learned: that “there’s always another way,” as she so astutely observes in the concluding scene.

The primary threat deals with a Fort Rozz guard called the Master Jailer that’s run amok delivering a severe brand of justice to the escaped Rozz inmates, Judge Dredd-style. While his visual design recalls that of Dredd and his ethics would make Frank Castle smile, the character serves his purpose well in forcing Kara to confront the question that looms over the episode: when does “doing what’s right” become wrong?

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Supergirl: “For the Girl Who Has Everything” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

Using a story as classic as “For the Man Who Has Everything” as the basis for a mainstream CBS superhero show is a bold move, no matter how much you’ve been enjoying Supergirl. Keeping in mind that it would be unfair to completely judge “For the Girl Who Has Everything” against the Superman Annual #11 classic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Supergirl delivers a perfectly enjoyable episode on its own merits. What I found most surprising, however, is that it finds its greatest success in the times it diverges from the source material.

Right off the bat it’s fun to see the Black Mercy latched onto Supergirl and to see Krypton -- including Kelex and a young Kal-El -- in full swing. The setup to the episode is intriguing, but unfortunately the show is forced to play its hand quickly. Before long, we’re let in on the fact that the Black Mercy is just a vile plan hatched by Non to disable Supergirl while he makes a play for Earth, unbeknownst to Astra. Sure, the original story lets us in on this secret immediately (though it’s Mongul in the comic), but here the disorientation could’ve been used to the episode’s advantage. The Krypton scenes are anchored by Benoist, who is able to sell the premise with gusto. Watching Kara struggle to remember Earth and her adopted family is effective, even if we’re not totally invested in Kara’s new surroundings.

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Supergirl: “Bizarro” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

After such a strong and emotional showing last episode, it’s a bummer to watch “Bizarro” and see it all fall apart. While this episode manages to capture the endearing compassion of the Supergirl character and some of the inherent tragedy of the Bizarro character, it’s ultimately rife with melodrama, hammy acting, odd character choices, and relationships we simply aren’t invested in.

I enjoyed Supergirl’s inner conflict when it came to taking down Bizarro. She was clearly aware of the ethical dubiousness with which she was created and was hesitant to get violent. It felt true to the character, as did Alex’s harsh opinion that Kara was “acting as though

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Supergirl: “Strange Visitor From Another Planet” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

Combining some heart-wrenching backstory and a bit of on-the-nose political commentary, “Strange Visitor From Another Planet” was a good, if heavy-handed, bit of television.

Kara’s romantic interests were brushed aside this time around, with James only in a handful of scenes with no real story of his own and Winn still reeling from the Superfriendzoning he received last week. In their place was Adam Foster (Blake Jenner), the estranged son of Cat Grant, who made his way to National City after receiving a letter that Kara mailed under the identity of his mother.

The themes of the episode were family and loss, with Adam and Cat’s reunion running parallel to the stories of J’onn and Kara’s losses, but it was the least interesting piece of “Strange Visitor From Another Planet.” Despite another funny-yet-touching performance from Calista Flockhart, watching Kara play matchmaker and mediator between Cat and Adam was profoundly boring and illogical, considering the horrific White Martian that was tearing apart the city at the time. I’m just not invested in Adam, at least not enough to feel his plight of wanting a relationship with his mother and certainly not as a new romantic interest for Kara. It was also odd that there was nary a mention of Cat’s other son that we spent an entire episode with some weeks back. At the very least, watching Melissa Benoist bumble around while getting flirted with is charming.

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Supergirl: “Blood Bonds” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

Supergirl is back from the winter break with “Blood Bonds,” picking up where the winter finale left off: General Astra in custody and Cat Grant figuring out Supergirl’s secret identity. All great plot progression that gets undone by the end of the episode.

The escape of Astra isn’t all that surprising given how she’s the Big Bad and there are still plenty more episodes to go this season. I thought the relationship development between Kara and Astra was fairly strong here – even if Astra still isn’t all that compelling as a villain – and I was glad to see that the show dealt with the complex emotions of fighting against your own blood.

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Supergirl: “Hostile Takeover” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

Supergirl’s winter finale, “Hostile Takeover,” found Kara face-to-face with General Astra and Non while CatCo dealt with a Sony-like hack that threatened to ruin Cat Grant’s life and career. It was a solid episode with some significant revelations that definitely left viewers on the hook for the show’s return after the winter hiatus.

Astra still isn’t a compelling villain beyond the fact that she’s Supergirl’s aunt. I liked her attempts to destroy Kara’s memories of Alura and the additional layers that the show tries to give her (even as heavy-handed as the global warming allegory is), but Laura Benanti still isn’t quite able to make Astra feel like anything other than a mustache-twirling evil doer. It’s as though the pieces are all in place, but the actress hasn’t quite figured out how to put them all together. There’s no warmth in the scenes between her and Kara, so that relationship we’re told has history never feels genuine. Coupled with the cliché “she wanted to be caught” plot element and the convenient Kryptonite-shield, Supergirl is still struggling to make the escaped Kryptonians feel like an interesting, unique threat.

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Supergirl: “Human for a Day” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

What a crowd pleaser, huh? “Human for a Day” is that pivotal moment in any superhero story that demonstrates why our hero is a hero regardless of their power level. It’s a necessary story for us to see as viewers, even if we’re well aware that the stakes aren’t as high as they seem given that this is a show called Supergirl with 13 episodes left to go this season. It’s pretty clear from the get go that she’ll have her powers back in no time.

This episode continues what the previous one began and allows Melissa Benoist to expand her charms into the realm of other emotions. Specifically: fear, pain, and confusion. When an earthquake hits National City and she’s helpless to save a man in need, she’s left to ponder her purpose if she has no powers. It’s basically her “All those powers, and I couldn’t even save him” moment from Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie.

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Supergirl: “Red Faced” Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

“Red Faced” is not only a vast improvement over last week’s misfire, but also the best episode of Supergirl to date. It manages to tackle important questions and put Kara front and center in a way that forces her to grow, while also giving us some great Cat Grant moments and making headway on the series’ lingering mysteries.

Melissa Benoist has been the high point of every episode thus far, and while that certainly doesn’t change here, it was a relief to see her get to add a new layer to Supergirl. Kara dealing with the disparity between her lowly secret identity and being the Girl of Steel is a staple of the Super-mythology, but “Red Faced” proved to be a turning point. The underpinnings of the episode were a huge step forward in terms of letting Kara deal with her deeper issues. Or, as Cat puts it, “the anger behind the anger.”

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