About mbarkersimpson

Melissa Barker-Simpson is a multigenre romance author. Her stories are about connection, friendship, and love in all its forms. So whether in a magical setting, an alternative universe, or a world where anything can happen – and often does – there is always an element of romance. Melissa is currently residing in the North of England with her two daughters, and when not writing, is fulfilling her other role as a British Sign Language Interpreter.

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 23 – My Name Is Oliver Queen

BannerIf I hadn’t already known Arrow would return for another season, I might have worried it was the end for Oliver and his friends. Driving off into the sunset, happy no less, is not how I expected the series to end. Not that I’m complaining, you understand. Olly deserves a little happy after everything he’s been through. But I’m getting ahead of myself as usual. There was a lot to love about the finale, so let’s reflect on what happened.

The show continued right where it ended last week, and after marrying Nyssa, Olly spent his wedding night on a plane with his father in law – bound for Starling City. With the bio-weapon packed and ready to go, Ra’s didn’t waste any time in moving forward with his plan.

Team Arrow in cell

Back in Nanda Parbat the team regained consciousness in their cell, clearly confused, though thankful they weren’t dead. Merlyn couldn’t wait to take the credit for their miraculous recovery. His betrayal last week was just another thread in the tangled web of deceit, and all a plan so Olly could prove his allegiance once and for all.

John Barrowman was at his best this week. He took control almost immediately, delivering the news that the group had been vaccinated against the virus. His smug line, ‘I believe the words you’re looking for are, thank and you!’ was classic Merlyn. But then he knew what was coming, and so did we given the teaser trailers. Enter the Flash! Barry was his usual entertaining self, disabling the guards as he came to the aid of his friends. It was a particularly nice touch when he referred to the Lazarus Pit as a hot tub! It was only a flying visit, but Barry managed to spread some of his cheer.

Flash

One of my favourite scenes was undoubtedly the moment Olly stood up to Ra’s. Granted, he was on a doomed flight at the time, having sabotaged the plane, but it was still pretty great when he declared, ‘My name is Oliver Queen.’ I might have cheered a little! I didn’t even mind when Ra’s got away, because it was obvious the show couldn’t end there. Still, it was tense when Ra’s took the only parachute and left Olly and Nyssa to fend for themselves. The landing was a little rough, but they managed to touch the bird down.

The team made it back home too, converging in Ray’s lab to decide their next move. Merlyn continued to have fun, barking out orders to each member of the group, and standing his ground when they hesitated, ‘I’m sorry. Did I mumble?’ Diggle was the one to allow him the role of temporary leader.

Merlyn

Not that it lasted very long. Olly and Nyssa arrived moments later. It was actually kind of sweet when she moved to protect Olly from the hostility. Diggle still got a punch in though, which was deserved. Olly was quick to explain why he sided with Merlyn, and though Diggle pointed out that sorry didn’t cover it, there were bigger things to deal with than hurt feelings (and broken trust).

Felicity was angry about the fact Olly would have sacrificed himself to take down Ra’s on the plane. But she too recognised the urgency and set to work. It was nice to see the team working together, even Malcolm. They learnt that Damian Dark was in the city, which meant Olly’s ascension wasn’t the only thing on Ra’s agenda. He wanted to take down his nemesis.

Team Arrow searching for Ra's

In a coordinated effort, they set out to confront Damian, and instead found one of his associates. The man himself was long gone, so that was a dead end. Ra’s couldn’t resist taunting Olly though. After putting an arrow in Damian’s associate, he ranted about releasing four vessels in the city; four instruments of death. It at least gave the team something to work at.

Laurel visited her father at the station, a memorable scene because it turned out Captain Lance had fallen off the wagon. She challenged him, made him face a few facts and left him to decide whether he wanted to hide behind the bottle, or help save the city.

Ray, in the meantime, was working to build and disseminate an inoculant, utilising his nanotech. The others were trying to determine the four probable locations.

Olly and Felicity

I’ve missed seeing Oliver and Felicity together, sharing a connection which has been lacking recently. In another favourite scene, Olly finally opened up. He spoke of his reoccurring dream, the one he’s had since leaving the mountain. It starts the same way, with Felicity begging him not to fight Ra’s. In the dream he agrees, and sometimes they even escape. In that version, it ends with the two of them driving away.

Throughout the season we’ve seen Olly struggle with his identity, and it’s clear he’s winning the battle. Felicity too believes he is someone else, something else, and that his heart is the key to defeating Ra’s. It was a powerful moment, especially when she asked him to fight to live.

The final scenes were great in terms of the cohesion between the team. We saw Lance rallying the troops, everyone take their positions on site, and Speedy arrive to join the fight. They quickly discovered Ra’s had turned his men into the weapon, and got to work disabling the threat as Ray continued to find a way to get the inoculation to the city.

Ra's and Ollie fight

Meanwhile, Ollie faced Ra’s again and the pair fought a fierce battle. This time, Olly was victorious, earning the position as the new Demon Head. Unfortunately, the police saw him as one of the enemy and opened fire. Olly took a few shots to the chest, before falling over the side of the dam.

Felicity saved him, wearing Ray’s suit, which was a really nice twist. It was like old times again when she told him she’d kiss him if she could figure out how to get the thing off. It’s the first time I’ve seen Olly smile in quite a while.

Felicity in Ray's suit

Perhaps the most surprising twist in the series, was Olly’s decision to leave the city, though as he said himself, there are enough heroes to watch out for Starling. Including his sister, who finally took her place as Speedy. Even Diggle may be getting a new identity.

Merlyn’s storyline ended on an interesting note since Olly gave up his title, allowing Malcolm to fill the Demon Head’s shoes. It will certainly be fun to discover what kind of leader he turns out to be, and what his plans are for the League.

Another story arc which will be thrilling to watch in the next season, or indeed if the spinoff happens, is the Atom. Ray’s last scene was explosive, literally. Who knows what’s in store for us now, or whether Felicity has just inherited her own company.

Ray

Which brings us to the final scene. It was really moving when Oliver chose Felicity, a decision which must be long overdue for Olicity fans. As the pair drove off into the sunset together, Olly happy for the first time in who knows how long, I had to wonder what’s next for the Green Arrow. Maybe he’ll return in season 4 a changed man. We might see a happier, lighter Oliver Queen.

What did you think to the finale? Are we going to see Olly’s lighter side? Whatever happens, it is sure to be a thrilling season. We don’t have too long to wait, as the season looks set to return in October (if previous seasons are anything to go by). Until then, thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’ll look forward to joining you for Season 4.

driving into the sunset


NB: Images used within this review are the copyright of The CW Network. All rights reserved.

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 22 – This Is Your Sword

Banner

The penultimate episode addressed some of my doubts regarding the validity of Ollie’s alliance with Malcolm Merlyn. It never really sat well with me, but at least it makes more sense. Essentially, it boils down to the fact he understood how useful Merlyn’s knowledge would become.

But let’s look at the episode, and discuss the revelation that Ollie was faking it (not a complete surprises given the spoilers). The fact he decided to take on the League from the inside, cut all ties to his life and hurt those he loves is a little extreme, even for Ollie. He rarely takes the easy route, and he certainly knows how to punish himself, but if he continues to burn those bridges, there won’t be anything left to stand on!

The show opened with a flashback, but I’ll skip over that for a moment. It likely served to remind us of Ollie’s history with Maseo and their experience in dealing with the Alpha-Omega. As it turns out, Maseo gave Ra’s the virus. It’s certainly a powerful bargaining chip, given its destructive potential.

ollie and ra's

Shortly after Ra’s made a speech about wiping the slate clean, and sending death to Starling City (on a plane), they moved to the subject of Ollie’s impending union with Nyssa, and had a rehearsal dinner. Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t strictly a wedding rehearsal, but they certainly talked about Nyssa becoming a wife and mother. Ra’s is seems, would like to become a grandfather!

Olly excused himself because, though he was no doubt genuinely unnerved by the topic, he had arranged to meet with Merlyn. The pair discussed Ra’s schedule, and given that things were moving at an alarming rate, Ollie decided to call in reinforcements. It was clear neither Olly nor Merlyn had thought the plan completely through.

When Ollie’s continued absence was noted by Ra’s, he sent Maseo looking for him (luckily Malcolm was gone by then). I liked that we got to see a glimpse of Maseo’s inner torment in the scene with Ollie. The fact Maseo is stuck inside a prison of his own making – which began with the death of his son.

Team Arrow

dig

In Starling we saw that Diggle and Black Canary were working to keep the city safe. They took down a street gang, with a little help from the Canary Cry (and Cisco’s modifications). The action was enjoyable, especially the way they worked together. It took a turn for the worse though, when Diggle lost the leash on his control. He is barely hanging on to his anger.

Merlyn only made things worse when he arrived to tell them that Ollie’s allegiance with the League is a charade. Since both Malcolm and Ollie anticipated their reaction, Malcolm brought Tatsu with him. It was a little odd, because they don’t know her, yet anyone stood a better chance than Merlyn at gaining their trust.

After hearing about the virus, they agreed to accompany Malcolm to Nanda Parbat, though there was more than a little resistance. They found the plane which was fuelled and ready to go. Felicity did her thing (remotely connecting to the on-board computer), as the others fought a group of assassins.

gang arriving

Ray joined the gang, coming to their rescue and blowing the plane from the sky. His timing was impeccable, given that Felicity’s equipment was damaged. It was a treat to see Ray fly in, though he might want to work on his landings – he literally crashed to the earth. It didn’t hurt his sense of humour ‘you should see the other guy’ was a nice touch.

In an earlier scene between Ray and Felicity she signed papers which turned out to be a transfer of ownership (not that she even looked at the document). I’m not sure what Ray’s plan is, but he’s definitely up to something!

Thea and Roy

Thea decided to go looking for Roy, and the reunion was incredibly sweet. The chemistry between them was reminiscent of their earlier relationship, so it’s a shame that their time together was short lived. Roy decided to cut the ties because he didn’t want to subject her to a life on the run. He left her with his suit (which she managed to get back via her father). It means we will likely see Speedy in action pretty soon.

Maseo and Tatsu

tatsu

The flashbacks this week were focused on the fight to save Akio’s life. When they realised the inoculation wasn’t working, Ollie and Maseo teamed up to locate a cure. It ended badly for all of them because, not only were they too late, and Akio died, they managed to walk into a trap set by General Shrieve.

Back in the present, Tatsu fought with Maseo as the team took down the plane. It was a difficult battle to watch, especially when Maseo gained the upper hand and was about to end her life. In the end they both lost. Though Tatsu killed Maseo, she did so at great personal cost. Maseo’s final words were poignant. He thanked her for releasing him from his prison.

Nanda Parbat

episode 22The scenes between Ra’s and Nyssa were disturbing. We rarely see him lose that icy control, but he certainly lost it this week – threatening untold horrors to his daughter.

His mood didn’t improve when he discovered Ollie’s friends in Nanda Parbat. It meant there was a traitor in his ranks. The plane had been a test, which was an interesting twist. Ra’s had the virus the whole time. Of course this put seeds of doubt in his mind about Ollie’s true allegiance, something Malcolm fed into by telling him about their plan. Why am I not surprised Merlyn double crossed Oliver to save his own bacon? In any case, it didn’t make a difference. Ra’s decided to give Ollie the benefit of the doubt.

After breaking the news that Ollie was to be married, he threw the gang in a cell. The look between Ollie and Felicity was heart-breaking – you could see the pain in Felicity’s eyes.

unconscious

It only got worse, because Ra’s released the virus in their cell. And still Ollie did nothing. Not even after Diggle told him he’d lost more than his friendship – he’d lost his respect and trust. He walked out of the cell, closing and sealing the door – and their fate.

So that leaves us with the cliff-hanger. As Ollie got married (he almost got stabbed by Nyssa, but he’s learnt a few tricks), the team could be seen in the cell. It was eerie, not because I believed them to be dead. It was more about the symbolism – that of a dying friendship.

wedding

One thing is certain, it will be an emotional and action paced season finale. What do you think? Did you enjoy the episode? Do you have any predictions? I’d love to hear from you.


NB: Images used within this review are the copyright of The CW Network. All rights reserved.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Collaborative Review

Ultron posterHannah and I thought it might be fun to do a review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron together, so you get two opinions for the price of one!

First we’d like to deal with Ultron, and the delightful portrayal by James Spader – it might only be his voice onscreen, but his presence was stamped all over the robotic villain.

1 Ultron

Mel: Ultron made for a highly entertaining supervillain. His crazy genius was in turn highly amusing and downright terrifying. His arrogance surpassed even Tony Stark’s, which makes sense, since Stark created him. Seeing a range of tonal and even facial expressions on a robot, has to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen – at least in a while. And that voice. When he spoke I paid attention, even when his grandiose statements made me groan! In the interests of being constructive, the only real criticism I have, is the rushed introduction to Ultron’s hatred of Tony and the other Avengers. In the space of a few seconds (yes I know he’s incredibly smart), he turns against his creator – without even having interacted with him. I connected the dots, but it would have been nice to see greater conflict in the beginning.

Hannah: Ultron was one of my favorites too! I thought his dialogue was very skillful — he mimics the sort of villain who has a grand (but misguided) scheme for making the world a better place, but he’s not that kind of villain. His plan didn’t make much sense, but that works… He’s a flawed program built from an alien weapon and Tony Stark’s fear. It all comes back to Tony as the movie’s villain, the self-proclaimed mad scientist whose creation is out of control. Yet he’s on the heroes’ side, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kind of structure before! That brings me to my VERY favorite part, though: The Vision. One of the (many) new characters added in this movie.

2 Vision

Mel: I loved Vision too. This may have something to do with the fact I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Jarvis! I loved that Vision incorporated his essence – that dry, unaffected sense of humour – love it! In relation to Ultron, I enjoyed the fact that, ultimately, Ultron is responsible for Vision’s creation. In a way, Vision is the balance – the positive effect of Tony’s creation and his evolution was thrilling to watch. The hammer moment was particularly clever, because it cut through all those questions about his morality – it also added to the overall humour. I enjoyed the twins, especially Wanda, but the person who really stood out for me was Hawkeye. He might not be a new character, but we certainly saw a new side to his character. I thoroughly enjoyed the way he became almost like the glue that held them all together.

So, Hannah, what are your thoughts? I know you’re dying to talk about Vision!

Hannah: They really did a good job of balancing so many characters! I thought Hawkeye’s development was a little implausible, but cool and creative all the same. And I definitely appreciated the moment he stopped Wanda from messing with his mind, after all the fuss about that in the first movie. But The Vision was absolutely my favorite part. He is so, so good. He’s perfect in the story, as the final form of what Tony was trying to create. I think Tony had in mind a more comprehensive system of defense, but what he really wanted was The Vision. Something insanely powerful and transcendentally good. Instead of having a flawed, weaponized beginning, Vision is created from a combination of good things, Jarvis foremost among them.

Cap

Funnily enough, I hardly know the Vision at all from the comics, so I can’t say much about how he’s the same or different. My main reference for how much I love him in the movie is actually Superman, or Captain America in the MCU. Lots of people don’t like “good” characters because they think they’re boring, but they don’t have to be. Cap is a good person, despite all the darkness he’s seen, without being naive and cutesy or boring. That’s what makes him inspiring, and it’s the same in a really good Superman story. Vision being so colorful is related to that. It’s okay for him to be a little more stylized and have a flowing golden cape because he’s symbolic in a way the other characters aren’t. I could go on about this forever, I really could. Of course, anything could happen now. Maybe his Ultron origins will come back to haunt him, or his alien point of view will cause him to act against the Avengers.

This whole movie seemed transitional, tying in to Loki’s staff and whatnot from the past and thematically connected to Iron Man 3, but mostly foreshadowing future events. How does this movie fit?

3 Hawkeye

Mel: Before I answer that question, I wanted to go back to your point about Hawkeye – the way he prevented Wanda from messing with his mind. This was a powerful scene for me (I think I may have done a mini fist pump) because his mind is one of his sharpest tools; his focus. Clint has a deep sense of honour and Loki took that away from him. In Age of Ultron we got to see who Hawkeye really is, and I think he helped to humanise the team in a way – to be their anchor. Anyway. On to the questions about where the movie fits.

The movie certainly set some of the groundwork for the transition into the next phase. It will be interesting to go forward with the current team. As it stands Thor has returned to Asgard, Hulk is goodness knows where (for the time being), Tony took a step back, and Hawkeye is hanging out at the ranch. So that leaves us with Cap, Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, the Scarlet Witch and (happy dance), Vision! These additions still offer a powerhouse in terms of ability, and at the same time, a new dynamic. So, though I don’t see this team lasting very long, it will be fun to see where they take us, and how they fit into the next phase.

I think the destruction inadvertently caused by the Avengers in this movie, definitely set things up for Civil War. First we had the debacle in South Africa when Hulk lost control, and the obvious battle in Sokovia. If this isn’t the cause of the civil war, it’s certainly fuel for the fire. How do you think these storylines will fit into upcoming movies, like Civil War? Are you happy with the development of the characters so far?

Hulk Smash!

Hannah: The movie certainly highlighted destruction, so they may well be using that as a sticking point in Civil War. They make an effort to save civilians, but they can’t always be successful. For instance, Tony picked an empty building to throw Hulk through, but he didn’t do anything to protect all the people in the street when the building fell. So, I think it’ll be a worthwhile debate rather than a contrived conflict.

Age of Ultron did a good job of giving each character a little bit of attention, but not too much. It’s essentially a character-driven movie, a very simple plotline serving as a vehicle for little bits of character development. I see it as almost a cutoff point, tying up dangling threads so they can have standalone movies and then come back. We’ve basically set up “intervening events” rather than “the next Avengers movie.” A smart way to do it.

Mel: I couldn’t agree with you more about the character-driven plot. It was one of my favourite elements; the unity within the team. We’ve come to expect the humour, but this time there was a level of cohesion we haven’t seen before. I wish I could give you a favourite quote, because there are many great examples, but I’m having a hard time deciding! Certainly the running joke about Cap’s language highlighted their camaraderie, and the way they now work together (especially Cap and Thor), was just wonderful.

4 Avengers

We could talk about the visual effects all day, because they were truly magnificent. I’ll just talk about my favourites. I absolutely loved Veronica (Tony’s Hulk buster!), especially when she sent in reinforcements. I particularly enjoyed the opening scene, not least because it set things up in terms of how seamlessly the team work together. I loved Natasha’s ‘Can someone take care of that bunker’ – cue Hulk! And then, of course, there is the scene where the Avengers unite (including Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) – taking out Ultron’s robot army and basically kicking ass!

What about you Hannah? Which scenes stood out to you? Do you have a favourite quote?

Hannah: I think the answer to that is, “I need to see this movie again!”

While the plot is simple, the characters are complex, and there’s plenty more to say. Leave your Age of Ultron reactions in the comments!

Arrow: Season 3, Episode 21 – Ah Sah-Him

BannerIt seems that Ollie has flipped his humanity switch, or hero switch, one or the other! I have to say that I’m with Diggle on this one – I thought he was stronger. After everything he’s been through, both on and off the island, I didn’t think Ra’s could turn him into a mindless machine. That said, he makes a pretty terrifying assassin – which is no surprise. I enjoyed the contrast because, though he’s not the most expressive person, usually his emotions are plain to see. Not this week, this week he gave absolutely nothing away.

It was a grueling initiation process and, with the drugs in his system, it took three short weeks for the brainwashing to take effect. Perhaps this is an occasion when his strength worked against him. At the beginning of the episode we saw Ollie execute Diggle, or a man he thought was Diggle. The fact he killed someone without showing any sign of remorse was disturbing to watch, yet at that point I was hoping it was a ruse. Okay, so I’m still hoping it’s a ruse!

Al Sah-Him

There was one major benefit to Ollie’s transition because, given he proved himself worthy, Ra’s let slip a few of his secrets. He spoke of his nemesis, a man he was required to kill, but failed to – Damian Dark (Damien Darhk in the comics). According to Ra’s, Damian has been causing havoc ever since (attempting to steal Malcolm Merlyn’s earthquake machine, for example.) This no doubt links to H.I.V.E – the mysterious organisation behind Andrew Diggle’s death. It could mean we’ll see more of the organisation, and Damian – perhaps in Season 4.

But this isn’t the only bombshell Ra’s dropped during the episode. He informed Ollie (or Ah Sah-Him) he must eliminate his rival to the throne, the only one capable of preventing his ascension.

Nyssa and Laurel

In Starling City, Nyssa and Laurel continued to bond (something we haven’t seen nearly enough of in my opinion). Laurel’s skills have certainly improved under Nyssa’s tuition. The party soon ended though, because Nyssa discovered that Ollie accepted her father’s offer, which meant only one thing – he was coming for her.

Thanks to Nyssa, the team learn exactly what kind of training programme Ollie has been subjected to. They all try to deny this knowledge, but nobody fights harder than Diggle. He doesn’t want to believe his friend is lost to them. That Olly is gone. David Ramsey’s performance this week was exceptional, especially in the scenes where Diggle assumed a leadership role.

Both Diggle and Felicity were reluctant to interfere with League business, but Laurel managed to convince them to help Nyssa. They arrived in the nick of time too, since Ollie gained the upper hand (it was fun to see him using swords). I loved the way Laurel (Black Canary) screamed like a Banshee, and though she had a little help with the effect, it looked really cool.

Diggle and Felicity

I enjoyed the way the team dealt with the emotional impact of losing their friend. They banded together, showing how strong they are as a unit, and this included Thea. While she seems to have recovered from her dip in the Lazarus Pit, she’s hurting because of Ollie’s sacrifice. When she learns who her brother has become, she seeks her father’s help.

Ollie further burnt his bridges, when he kidnapped Lyla, and I don’t think Diggle will forgive him for putting his family in danger. The team showed up at the rendezvous point to exchange Lyla for Nyssa and though they made a pretty good attempt to stop the League, Ollie won the round and took Nyssa back to Nanda Parbat.

Two things stood out for me in this particular scene. The fact Diggle and Ollie fought one another, and the moment Thea appeared to provide backup. It seems Ollie’s not the only one adept with a bow, but then she was trained by her father.

Diggle and Canary

Before I deal with the rather confusing ending to this episode, I’ll touch briefly on the flashbacks, because they are kind of important considering what’s coming. After Ollie inadvertently broke the vial of Alpha-Omega, and exposed people to the virus, the Yamashiros decided it was time to return to their son, Akio.

They managed to thwart a plot to unleash more of the virus, and when they get to Akio, they decided it was time to leave the city – using the chaos to slip away. All seemed well until Tatsu realised something was wrong with her son.

So, back to Ra’s. I was surprised when he spared Nyssa’s life; deciding it would be more fortuitous for his daughter to become the Demon Queen. Nyssa’s face at the prospect of marrying Ollie was hilarious – anyone would think it was a fate worse than death. One of the reasons for Ra’s change of heart could be that he recovered the object Nyssa stole from him when she left. It turned out to be a vial of Alpha-Omega, which Ra’s would like Ollie to unleash in Starling City.

nyssa

It was quite a curve ball, though clearly Ollie will find a way to break his conditioning and save the city – again. I’m just unclear about Ra’s motivations. I get his obsession with cleansing, and the whole symbolism thing, but would he really go to all that trouble just because Ollie beat the sword? I’m not sure.

What do you think? Will Diggle forgive his friend? Can Ollie find his way back? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


NB: Images used within this review are the copyright of The CW Network. All rights reserved.