Review: Luke Cage E.02 - "Code of the Streets"

By Laramie Martinez

Like its predecessor, episode two of Luke Cage moves at a slower pace. The simmering tensions between characters come to a head by the end of it. In a lot of ways, this episode coupled with episode one serve as the origin of Luke Cage as a hero. And while dramatic, the big bang at the end of this episode isn't the most surprising thing about the series' second showing. No, the most surprising thing turns out to be a little piece of character insight in the form of what I call the, "Pull the trigger" speech. To find out what that is and what I think of the show after the first two episodes check out my review below.

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Review: Luke Cage E.01 - "Moment of Truth"

By Laramie Martinez

Last Friday I sat down with my girlfriend to watch Luke Cage, Netflix’s most recent series in the quadfecta that is The Defenders. Now, I wasn’t the biggest Luke Cage fan going into this series. Don’t get me wrong; I was excited, but that excitement came from watching the others series Netflix has put out. I liked Daredevil, and Jessica Jones was even better, so my enthusiasm was coming from a place of wanting to see another great TV show rather than excitement about seeing a character I loved on TV. Now I wasn’t completely ignorant; I had read a few Heroes for Hire, and I was impressed when he showed up in a crossover or two. He was more like a historical figure for me, the Jack Johnson of comics. Historical and important, but not really fleshed out.

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Review: Brooklyn Nine-Nine S4 E.01 “Coral Palms – Part-1”

By Dustin Cabeal

I only have one friend that watches this show which is a damn shame. It is one of the funniest shows on TV and the only other comedy besides Modern Family that makes me laugh like a raving idiot. To put it plainly, I loved this episode. I also worry about its writing constantly. To explain that I will tell you that this episode picks up six months after the end of last season which is something they’ve done each season. I appreciate that because it gives a real sense of time passing. People can look different due to other roles they’re working in the “Biz,” and it’s fine because time in their world has passed.

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Review: The Good Place – E.01 “Pilot/Flying.”

By Dustin Cabeal

Why a TV review? Because there’s a section for it and I always wanted to have more than just comics reviewed on the site. That and with all the new shows out I get curious and like to check them out. The Good Place stayed with me, but not for the right reasons. The premise is easy to sum, but the show actually takes seven minutes or so to get you to the answer. The afterlife isn’t what you thought it was and there only exists a “Good Place” and a “Bad Place.” Kristen Bell… sorry, Kristen Bell’s character Eleanor is a bad person that has been mistakenly put into the “Good Place.” For whatever reason, she reveals this to her soul mate, and he faces the dilemma of helping her become a good person or narcing her out. Pretty simple. Things go crazy when all the crap Eleanor talks on day one, suddenly come to life on day two. Now the clock is really ticking for her to be a good person.

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Review: The Tick - Pilot

Amazon Pilot Season is here! What does that mean and why the hell should I care? It appears to be Amazon’s slightly weasely means of getting out of putting its weight and money behind a variety of shows catering to different interests by backing the pilot episodes of three different shows and letting the public decide which show is worth the most money. In my opinion, the other two shows look just awful, so The Tick gets my vote for simply being the most immediately clever and colorful show. For perspective’s sake, I liked the old cartoon show, did not like the old live-action show, and I never read the comics. The Tick, as a character, is best not when engaging in visual gags like his contemporaries Freakazoid! or Earthworm Jim, characters known for their engaging encounters with their villains but in exchanging wacky, almost-mundane dialogue with his sidekick Arthur. This is probably the reason that the original live-action show seemed like a solid idea. Which it was. I just take extremely petty issue with their execution.

So how’s the pilot to the new Tick? God help me I have no idea. I understand what a risky thing this is to say for a reviewer, but hear me out.

The Tick, again, in contrast to Freakazoid, The Mask, or Earthworm Jim, has always been a parody: every aspect of it is ingrained in being a twist on the conventional formula. The Tick himself being an idiot is a joke on both the ridiculous degrees of heroism displayed by normal superheroes and something of a performance gag based on his ludicrously muscular appearance. The Terror being geriatric is a gag based on the concept of the elder space-villain, and his age having an effect on his performance as a villain is consistently funny. Arthur being both a mockery and kind of a dweeb is a play on the sidekick’s usual resignation to "the brains" to the hero’s "brawn." Freakazoid’s a freak because being a freak is funny, but the joke doesn’t rely on pre-established knowledge like The Tick does.

Tick_Landing_page_750x375._V282759396_That being established, I cannot tell, for the life of me, how much of this new Tick is a joke. A shocking amount of time is given to the character of Arthur and his tragic backstory: spaceship lands on his father and the superheroes inside are blinded by space-syphilis and shot to death. Attempting to play that angle straight to any degree seems like a joke in itself, but lo and behold, characters take genuine pity on him and his sister takes a deeply personal interest in making sure that her brother is healthy. These scenes are played with equal parts silence and somber music. The degree to which it appears to be sincere is difficult to explain because explaining it sounds like the show is trying to be funny about it.

I’m not convinced that it is trying to be funny about it, though. It’s as if this show is literally trying to make my job harder on me.

The Tick himself takes up about 30% of the screen-time in this pilot and what I can say is that his presence is a genuine delight. Save for the dodgy CGI that surrounds his scenes and a suit that’s not totally visually appealing; The Tick is written as masterfully as he ever was and Peter Serafinowicz is a phenomenal actor, doing an amazing job with the part. The Tick's pilot would have been served much better by not focusing on Arthur's development before becoming a superhero but rather his development as a superhero. I understand this to be a pilot, and its efforts are in making sure everything is in place, but this pilot is also trying to sell the show as a whole to both its producers and audience. Spending so much time away from the show's main draw was always going to be risky, and I don't think it paid off this time.

This review is tough because while 30% of the show is funny and compelling, I can't tell how much the other 70% of the show is. If it isn't kidding, then the makers aren't phenomenal at character building and can only advise that they spend as much time on The Tick as possible, whether in or out of his suit a la Deadpool. If it is, I advise they spend more of their time on better, funnier jokes in the future.

This is assuming The Tick has a future. I will say I genuinely hope it does if nothing but to see what little character development we are given pay off and to see "average" fulfill its promises of being "good."

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The Tick - Pilot Director: Wally Pfister Writer: Ben Edlund Studio: Amazon Studios

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Review: Stranger Things - Season 1

Written by Jake Wood

Remember Super 8? The 2009 J.J. Abrams film, produced by (and largely inspired by) Steven Spielberg? Well directed, solidly entertaining, but shallow and derivative? This review is about Stranger Things.

For the people who have Ad-blocker on (and thus missed out on the ads for it on every Youtube video in existence), Stranger Things is that new Netflix series your buddies watched in one sitting the other day.

Is it worth watching yourself?

You liked Super 8, right?

Because I’m new to this, and I’m already testing your patience – Yes. If you have any interest at all in seeing Stranger Things, then you should absolutely check it out. It’s Amblin Entertainment nostalgia-porn, somewhat visually interesting at times, kinda touching in places, and I want more things like this to exist.

Still here?

That’s cool too.

I hope I don’t unconvince you.

It’s a little over-simplified to just call Stranger Things “Super 8: The TV Show,” but for the most part – it kind of is. In a nostalgic time period (1983 in this case), small-town U.S.A. has a monster problem, with some confusing government conspiracy involved. It’s also “Super 8: The TV Show” because it’s aiming directly for that Classic Spielberg hole in your heart; it looks like it at times, it feels like it at times, but it doesn’t fill you up like the real deal (*snicker*).

The show ultimately revolves around three storylines:

Police Chief Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers (David Harbour and Winona Ryder) are the adult leads of the show. Their story has the most in common with Close Encounters (and a lil Poltergeist); with Joyce being the obsessed adult destroying her family life, as well as the sad mother whose child is abducted by the monster (so she’s both Richard Dreyfuss AND Melinda Dillon in Close Encounters).

Stranger ThingsJim Hopper is basically your less-likeable Chief Brody surrogate. They investigate the conspiracy involving the local nefarious research facility (that they always had their suspicions of), the monster, and the disappearance of her son, Will.

The second storyline is the least derivative of Spielberg movies; this one focuses on Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers (Joyce’s creepy older son), admirably played by cutie Natalia Dyer and reanimated corpse Charlie Heaton. Their storyline is pretty much a teenie-bopper monster movie: Boy likes girl from a distance, girl has a douchey boyfriend who pressures her in to having sex for the first time, creepy boy creepily takes pictures of girl taking her clothes off before aforementioned dicking, and wuh-oh there’s something in the background of one of his creepy pictures.

Hey you liked Super 8, right?

Their storyline is actually inconsequential to the over-all plot, and has no real satisfying conclusions. Pity.

The third storyline revolves around Mike Wheeler (Nancy’s younger brother), a mysterious girl in a buzz-cut named Eleven (Elle for short), and Mike’s annoying friends – the token black one (also the ONLY minority character of significance in the show), and the token one with a speech impediment (also fills the "fat kid who likes food" role). Mike and the other two boys were Will Byer’s friends. They team up with Eleven, who has a connection to the monster, and also has psychic powers - because the writers ask a lot of you.

Oh they also dress her up at one point, with a wig and everything, just like in E.T.

There’s an infamous clip from the ad campaign of Terminator Genisys, where James Cameron says

“The movie starts – and I start to see things I recognize.”

This is the movie-going (and now TV-watching) experience these days. Nostalgia is the name of the game, and has been for years. Is it all bad? Kinda. I mean, not all the time. Just most of the time. Okay almost all the time. On the whole, we’re scraping for literally anything recognizable to make a movie or show out of. But this is different. If only slightly. Classic Spielberg is basically the pinnacle of entertainment to me. From 1975-1993, that dude just fucking cranked out masterpiece after masterpiece.  It’s nice to see a few take a step back, and at least aim high. Aim high. You might hit low, but you can’t hit high if you don’t aim high.

So yeah, The Duffer Brothers (they may want to work on a more showbiz-friendly last name) aimed high. Didn’t quite hit high.

The visual touchstones of the show are lovely, easily the most cinematic looking show produced by Netflix. I’m a sucker for Christmas-light lighting, so I loved how prominent they are, I loved seeing Winona stringing them inside her house like a crazy person (this is her Devil’s Tower mockup in the living room), or her clutching a clump of lights until they glowed. They aimed high. However, the look of the show is a bit too modern, too slick. I’m not a celluloid film snob, but it has its place, this is one of those situations where it needed to be shot on film.

And the monster looks like a Tremors: The Series reject.

The music, both score and soundtrack are great to listen to. They aimed high. However a synth score is more indicative of something like a John Carpenter film, not Spielberg. The show needed a more traditional score; I don’t know jack about music but I’d call the type of music John Williams did “dingly.” It needed a dingly score. With xylophones or whatever. Hell, the trailers for the show had that.

Winona Ryder is pretty shrill and not-believable – I think she got hung up on being "unhinged." I can’t stand almost all of the child actors (not that they give bad performances, I just hated them), don’t ever give a kid with a lisp that many lines ever again; the exception being Eleven (played by the unfortunately-named Milly Bobby Brown), Hollywood - do not ruin that girl. The rest of the actors are all serviceable in their parts: creepy boy Charlie Heaton is a serviceable creepy boy, douchey boy Joe Keery is a serviceable douchey boy (I want to punch his haircut), and David Harbour acts gruff or something.

Natalia Dyer is a standout. If anyone’s going to breakout from this – I would expect her to; it’s nice to see a girl-next-door role played by a more mousey girl these days. If this were any other show, I would’ve expected an MTV Original Series boom boom young woman. Bella Thorne. I would’ve expected Bella Thorne.

Oh, and Matthew Modine is an evil science guy with white hair. There wasn’t anybody else available?

It’s frustrating at times, especially when ‘Stranger Things’ almost hits something truly special. The ending to episode three is where the story itself reached out for something daring and interesting, if only the producers took that route and ran with it – that sequence, set to a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” (sung by Peter Gabriel) is genuinely haunting and a hint at what the show could’ve been.

I have no idea whether this is a mini-series or not, because it was my understanding going in that this was a one-and-done story (and after a quick google, I still don’t know). There’s a lot in this show that doesn’t make a lick of sense (even after suspending my disbelief that all this wacky shit can happen), ESPECIALLY if this was supposed to end with some finality.  I already said the teenagers’ story doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion, but none of the other storylines really put a button on it either.  At best, the main story of “Does Joyce Byers get her son back?” gets a definitive yes or no.

…Or does it? Fuck you.

It’s not perfect. Far from it. It’s not amazing. It’s watchable overall. But only just.

Like Super 8.

But I want more people to try more things like this.

I want more Stranger Things to exist and less The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or whatever. At least I think I do.

3/5

Review: Outcast E.01 – “A Darkness Surrounds Him”

To start with I have never read Outcast. I know that’s probably weird given how much I read and the fact that I run a comic book site. The reason I passed on it was A) it was picked up as a TV show before the first issue hit stands and B) I wasn’t sent a review issue because the sales for it were too good. I figured, why bother reading it if the sales or so good it doesn’t need to be reviewed. I don’t regret this choice.

It's hard not to compare this to Preacher since they're both summer cable programs based on comic books turned into TV shows and that said Outcast seems to be better suited for the TV medium. Even if it’s just slightly better. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Robert Kirkman has had a lot of hands on time with The Walking Dead or that Fox/Cinemax was there to guide it better or simply the fact that by selling the TV show before creating the comic allowed him to write the story out as a rough draft in comic form and then final draft for TV. Whatever the case it worked better as a TV show than Preacher. That doesn’t really have anything to do with the review, but this is really the only place for me to make a statement like that.

Outcast PosterTo recap the show there’s a kid possessed by a demon. A dude whose mom was possessed by a demon or possibly the same demon, living back at his childhood home because supposedly he did something to his daughter which broke up his marriage. Eventually their paths cross and dude discovers that basically demons have been trying to get at him his entire life. There’s a lot of flashbacks from his childhood showing his possessed mom’s abuse and then one flashback that reveals that he’s not as bad of a guy as the story has 100% led you to believe.

It’s built for TV minus all the flashbacks. The flashbacks are typically a comic book gimmick and while I don’t know how many issues of the comic this is combining, I kind of hope that it’s at least more than one because the episode was bogged down by them and hopefully they lighten up on them for future episodes.

The acting is a mix bag. There’s some good acting when it comes to horror, but it also all involves children which is not for the faint of heart. Hopefully it being demon’s will pacify anyone that would be like, “there’s a lot of kid beating going on here.” On second thought it’s on Cinemax so I don’t think people who say such things have Cinemax. At any rate, the lead actor Patrick Fugit does a fine job. He’s believable even if he looks like utter shit. They show him at one point looking all clean-cut and dapper and while his appearance is reflective of where he is in life, it’s just not a good look on the dude. I know that’s that a weird criticism, but it bothered me the entire show. The rest of the cast is seasoned. There’s a lot and I mean a lot of familiar faces. It’s too soon to say if they’re a good cast together or just a bunch of good actors working on the same show.

I will likely watch more of Outcast and here’s why… I haven’t read the comic. I think that if you haven’t read the comic its worth watching as well. If you have, it doesn’t matter. It never matters because even though Kirkman wrote the comic for TV, TV still changes everything. Looking at this as just another TV show, I’m interested and would continue to watch it. For a first episode it did a hell of a job of not feeling like a pilot and rather the start of a season. That’s a difficult feat for any TV show so it should be applauded for that. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start. If we did half points this would get one, but as decent as it was it's still pretty average when you remove all the shock value.[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Outcast E.01 – “A Darkness Surrounds Him”
Friday’s on Cinemax

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Review: Preacher E.01 - Pilot

I have not read all 75 issues of Preacher. I own and enjoyed the first volume, but as I read it I felt as if I was late to the party. In my personal opinion the comic is a bit dated. In the same way that Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns have had their corpses picked so much that you’ve seen their influences throughout comics, so too has the ultraviolence of Preacher. Hell, I can point out five comics just at Marvel in which writer Garth Ennis picked his own corpse like Arseface and his Marvel brother Fuckface. My point being that I’m not an authority on Preacher nor am I really shocked by it. I get that for some it was their window into “comics can do that?”, but that wasn’t the case for me. That brings us to 2016. We’ve read the casting, we’ve see who’s producing and we’ve even gotten AMC aka “The Walking Dead channel”, all lined up for a Preacher TV show. But how? How can you have the ultraviolence and the politically incorrectness of the comic on TV? Surely it must be rated X?!? To answer that question… you do it exactly the way they’ve done it here.

Step one is to get producers that are passionate about it. Doesn’t matter if they read comics or not, its Hollywood and even Robert Kirkman doesn’t give a fuck about his comics when he adapts them for TV. The next step is to get hot talent. Get that guy that stunk up Misfits for two seasons because he looks and sounds the part and get those two Marvel TV actors that everyone loves right now. The next step is the network. You need a network that’s desperate for some kind of hit after losing all their top shows and can’t seem to recreate the magic of their first comic book TV show’s success. Once you’ve got AMC it pretty much means you’re golden to do whatever.

So what do you do?

Do you stay close to the comic or do you Walking Dead this thing and use the frame-work and create a new version? Well… you’re on AMC so the answer should be pretty obvious. If you’ve read all 75 issues of the comic series then do not and I repeat, do not compare this show to the comic book. In fact, we as comic fans should never do that. They’re different mediums and we’ve seen both ends of the adaptation spectrum. On one side you have Sin City, the most faithful adaptation ever and then on the other side, oh I don’t know pick anything from Fox or Sony. The point is, they’re never going to be like the comics because that would defeat the purpose of the comics.

Now after four paragraphs you’re probably wondering what happened on the episode? Not what is it about because you’re a comic fan or at the very least saw a shit ton of promotion for this show and already know about the characters and world.

Well it’s about Jesse coming back to his home town to make good on his promise to his father who was a Preacher as well and was shot in the head. This unfolds through a series of annoying flashbacks, each longer than the last, but still the same flashback. Tulip is on the run for stealing a map for the biggest score ever and she’s a woman scorn so she’s in town to bring Jesse back into the mix of her life. Cassidy is being hunted and gets ambushed on an airplane in which he’s working as a host. And the voice of God is searching for a host and making Preachers of all different faiths explode including Tom Cruise.

Hilarious.

The pacing for this first episode can best be described as a teenage boy blind folded searching for his first pair of boobies to grope only to feel a man’s chest because he’s being pranked by older teenagers and now his raging boner pitching a tent in his underwear (he’s in only his underwear by the way) is circulating social media along with him grabbing man-boobs with a smile... and then a frown. Basically it’s groping around in the dark and not finding what it’s wants to, but still really excited that it might get there. Or just bad. The pacing is bad.

It takes 36 minutes to have our main character introduced to us and it’s a cheap pop for the comic readers. It was written and executed as if it were going to be played to a large crowd at some point, say South by Southwest, so that one idiot could cheer-shit their pants and get the rest of the people watching hyped. If any other TV show waited until it was half over to tell you whose who, you would probably give up on the show. By waiting that long you give the audience a chance to give the character a name and you know what I called him? Even knowing the character’s name, I called him Howard Stark. Because you refused to tell me his name outside of calling him Preacher. Which is the name of the show.

The acting is good. That’s the sad part about the pacing is that these actors are doing a hell of a job, but you keep letting their performance down with all the breaks and the “here’s how we all meet” origin story. Joseph Gilgun is a bit hard to understand at times, just as he was on Misfits, but after a few episodes your ears will be trained and it won’t matter. Ruth Negga is hands down the best actor on the show, even if her accent seems unnecessary. Dominic Cooper is right behind her, both with acting and the accent. He’s good at it, but he loses the deepness in his voice that makes it so distinct. Everything he says is light and whispery and it might be intentional, but let's hope they're not being that lazy and not wanting to put a filter on him when he "god talks."

The action is the best part of the show. Which is good and bad. I wanted to be into the story more, but I wasn’t. Everything in-between the action seemed like a waste of time. Like go ahead and look at your phone and just look up at the action. Even though it was the best part, the choreography and the slow motion was not the best. There’s a really bad fight between townies and some “politically correct” mascot people, which is absolutely bad-looking. Like student film, first time with a camera bad-looking.

The show itself isn’t bad, but it’s not good. It doesn’t play to the strengths of the TV medium and I don’t know if that’s a director thing, producer thing or an AMC thing, but it’s something. It shows inexperience on many levels and perhaps too much trust from AMC. It’s as if they just said, hey you’ve made films and shit all your careers, clearly you understand pacing and how to hold a viewer’s attention for an hour with commercial breaks… go for it. And then they realized they didn’t know how to do that. It’s a pilot though so really the next three will show a true vision of what to expect from the show.

There’s still a couple of questions up in the air though. If you’re a fan of the comic and haven’t watched it should you? If you’re a fan of comics in general should you watch it? And lastly, if you’re just a fan of good TV drama should you watch it? No, no and maybe.

Preacher has a long road to go before it’s pulling in fans like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. It’s already got one mark against it due to the subject matter which is going to chop some viewers no matter what you think, but there’s nothing awe-inspiring about this adaptation. It’s perhaps a little too safe and catered to a TV audience in all the wrong places. But hey… you probably already watched it so who cares?

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Preacher E.01 Airs Sundays on AMC

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Review: Lucifer 1.2 – Lucifer, Stay. Good Devil

After enjoying the first episode I was curious to see how they would actually pair Lucifer and Chloe up so that they can continue to solve crimes together… the answer is not very thrilling. The episode is unfortunately a lot like most second episodes… rehash of the first. The reason being that pilot episodes are usually created in a bubble. They’re more standalone than jumping off points and so it’s usually pretty difficult to continue stories from the pilot when the second episode is filmed six months later and the entire direction of the show has changed. If you need any bigger proof of this just watch the first two episodes of Constantine as they abandon the entire premise of the show and recast a character. I know, I know… I’ve brought up Constantine again. Well… that’s because this show is a lot like Constantine in some ways. I fear that based on this episode that it might be heading towards cancellation like Constantine. Really the only thing saving it is that it’s a late season premiere and Fox hasn’t announced anything else coming down the line. That and Million Moms continues to give it great publicity by not shopping at places they don’t already shop at because “Lucifer” is the name of the show and god forbid kids watch it… what fucking kid wants to watch procedural TV shows based off a comic book they never read? I don’t know, but they’re a pretty cool fucking kid and their mom should back off.

In this episode we explore Chloe’s movie star past… in painstaking detail. We meet a Paparazzi she hates as he confesses to running someone off the road and getting them killed. The case is, who actually ran them off the road and if you pay attention you’ll figure it out before they do. Lucifer just tags along… that’s how he continues working with her. It works considering Chloe never checks in with a boss and is technically on Medical leave because Lucifer could save her life, but not heal her arm. At one point Chloe invites Lucifer to tag along because it’s easier than dealing with him just showing up. That was an actual exchange between them.

Lucifer-1.2

Maze and Amenadiel do the exact same thing and say practically the same lines.

Maze: “What are we doing here Lucifer? Why have you changed?

Amenadiel: “Go back to Hell Lucifer, there’s a balance… also, you’ve changed”

Wow, I hope in the third episode they remind us that Lucifer has changed and that he’s not being very devilish anymore… except for when he is. Tom Ellis isn’t perfect this go around either. Having Lucifer look at everyone and say, “Tell me your desires” is more like a pickup artist trying to land a date then it is an interesting story device. Try just having him look at them and adding a sound effect rather than boring us with the same line over and over. That and I will say that him sweet talking the desk officer, who just so happened to be a woman each time, was the biggest chunk of convenient writing I’ve witnessed since giving up on The Flash.

Let’s not forget Dan, who is the newest addition to the cast and has the lamest name. I mean Trixie and Chloe are nothing that grand, but fucking Dan? Why not shoot for the stars and call him Dante just to make it interesting. His character makes zero sense. He’s nice to his ex-wife and really he doesn’t come off like a bad guy making his character motivation strange. At least the previous Dan looked like a smug dickhead, new Dan just looks fishy.

I’m used to second episodes being rehash of the first, but this was a bit too much. It’s not enough that I’ll give up on the show, but it leaves me to believe that there’s not a lot of faith in this show succeeding which is always a bad sign. It’s like, why should I get invested if the studio didn’t? Too bad it’s not like Gotham and they just let them fuck around and do whatever for two seasons.


Score: 2/5


Lucifer 1.2 – “Lucifer, Stay. Good Devil Director: Nathan Hope Writers: Tom Kapinos, Joe Henderson Airs Monday’s on Fox