media commentary

What I Watched This Week: One Day at a Time, Legends of Tomorrow, Constantine

After beginning to readjust myself to non-holiday hours and get up before 10:00AM and back to 8:30AM like I’m suppose to I’m beginning to hash out an after work schedule. This mainly means writing article ideas in my notebook, or catching up on movies and television I’ve missed. Or playing on my 3DS and beating Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (I will win!). Or catching up on comics; see why I need an after work schedule?

Anyway, this week I watched three shows mainly: Legends of Tomorrow, Constantine, and One Day at a Time. I’ll break them down into parts.

Constantine – Episodes 1 – 3

Property of DC Comics and NBC
Property of DC Comics and NBC – this cover alone is grossly cheesy

Okay so I know I’m a year or two late for this show but I was given this as an assignment for a project happening next week (more details to come I’m just a huge tease). So I finally sat down, and began watching the season on Amazon.

Boy was the first episode awful. I mean there’s rough-around-the-edges and then there’s just sloppiness. The Constantine Pilot was outright sloppy. The opening scene was hard to get through given the choppy cuts, and exposition dumping they did on the audience off the bat. The rest of the episode wasn’t as bad but it didn’t get much better either.

The lead female character was boring and predictable which is why I guess the reason they wrote her out. That was one of the episodes main issues, the very obvious rewrites. The original female lead was written out in such a sloppy way it was near laughable. The action was poorly done, with little scares and cliched horror elements. Overall it felt neutered in a lot of ways. The best part of the episode was the ending. It had a completely different feel than the rest of the episode. Constantine walking down a dark alley, setting his hands on fire ready to spit and punch demons in the face, transposed into an image of a lone woman drawing iconic images of Hellblazer? That was fantastic. It felt comic book-y without being forced or campy.

That being said, the next two episodes were an improvement on the Pilot. Zed is a much more interesting and engaging leading lady than the Pilot’s character. She’s also Latina which is always a win for me. Matt Ryan felt much more at home in his role than in the Pilot and I like Charles Halford as Chas so much more than the film version (I actually don’t loathe the film it’s just a terrible adaption of Hellblazer). I also really enjoyed Harold Perrineau as Manny the Angel. I hope he plays a bigger role in future episodes.

There were some actual genuine scares in these two episodes even if they follow a rather formulaic process. I hate to say Constantine is similar to Supernatural but you can tell Supernatural took a lot of cues from Hellblazer comics than just Castiel’s coat. What’s a shame is I think Constantine could be a fantastic horror film, but only if it’s rated R. Constantine just seems like the type of character that works best and pushes the boundaries when restrictions are lifted off his canon.

Still, the show isn’t terrible (except for that god awful Pilot). I like Ryan in the role of Constantine, I can see why he’s such a fan favorite and I’m glad to see he has such an attachment to the character.

Things that bothered me were some standard sexism, and racism in the show. I thought the Evil Mystical Romani (or in the show G**sy woman cause “there’s nothing darker than g**sy magic” really show?) was unnecessary. Especially when earlier in the episode the character had some clear coding as a domestic violence victim. I wasn’t in love with how Papa Midnite was portrayed either. I didn’t like how the show demonized voodoo and of course Papa Midnite is a drug dealer with no morals? And his two henchmen are also moral-less thugs? That all was really bothersome and unneeded.

Hoping the rest of the season avoids these aspects and continues to improve in quality.

Legends of Tomorrow Episodes 1 – 6

Property of DC Comics and CW Network - You're all so dull
Property of DC Comics and CW Network – You’re all so dull

I’ll be honest, the only reason I’m even bothering with this show is because I know Laurel Lance is suppose to show up sometime in season two. Also Snart aka Captain Cold. Who is also the only real aspect of the show I enjoy. Him and Mick are the only relationship I find myself at all interested in. The rest of the cast feels mashed together without purpose or reason, lacking in overall chemistry with each other.

The episodes also feel overly long without a lot happening. The plot itself doesn’t seem to make much sense and this adaption of Vandal Savage is just insulting. He’s horrible and completely uninteresting. The characters just aren’t that interesting. They do stuff because the plot says they should do it. With storylines coming and going at the drop of a hat.

Suddenly Kendra is suffering from…bloodlust? But Hawkgirl/Priestess bloodlust? Which is different from Sara’s I guess? Why do both women have this exact storyline? I guess it’s better than Ray who has no storyline other than “fall in love with this woman whom you have no real chemistry or built up any history with”.

The show isn’t bad persay (except for that absolutely horrid Arrow crossover episode with fake Connor Hawke and fake Slade’s kid who doesn’t deserve a name), but it’s just cripplingly average. Snark and Mick are the only ones with interesting characters and a relationship that speaks to intense and engaging history. Everyone else is boring and Rip Hunter’s manpain storyline is as cliched as they come.

One Day at a Time – Entire Season

Property of Netflix - Amazing. Beautiful. Lovely.
Property of Netflix – Amazing. Beautiful. Lovely.

I’ll be honest, I thought the trailers for this show were horrendous. Just outright bad and cheesy which doesn’t do the show justice at all. The show itself is actually very real and genuine, balancing comedic elements with social issues, and Latinx (specifically Cuban) culture.

The cast is all strong though Marcel Ruiz (Alex Alverez) is the weakest cast member. I attributed this to his lack of any sort of real storyline and being the youngest cast member. Rita Moreno (Lydia Alverez), Justina Machado (Penelope Alverez), and Isabella Gomez (Elena Alverez) were all fantastic. It was amazing to see the show showcase three generations of Latina women and how each generation has a specific worldview including on their own culture. The show feels very genuine in its presentation of Latinx culture and identity. It tackles issues that Latinx people face, and specific issues that only Cubans have faced.

Not being Cuban I can’t speak to how accurate that presentation is, so I’d love to hear what some Cuban fans have to say on the show. Speaking as a Puerto Rican woman, I was very engaged in seeing an honest, non-stereotypical insight into a Latinx family. It reminded me of my own ‘mila in a lot of ways.

There’s also a lot of women of color who play supporting roles on the show outside of Penelope’s family which I loved. I live with an Airforce Vet who told me Penelope’s problems and struggles were pretty close to reality. Especially her and Victor (her husbands) struggles with the VA. The female Vet therapy group was also another amazing aspect of the show. There’s also discussion about immigration, sexism, mental illness, substance abuse, and racism. Some of these issues are touched upon more than others, but they’re not hamfisted or heavily handed.

The show isn’t perfect, I wish there was more men of color on the show. Currently the two leading men (aside from Alex) are white which is disappointing. I like them, but I think the show can do better on that front regarding including more men of color in their cast. There’s also the issue of non-Cubans playing the part of Cubans. The laugh track is annoying but it’s not as in-your-face as I feared from the trailers. There are moments when the humor falls a bit flat; a sort of awkwardness of the show getting it’s legs.

Overall the show feels very honest, very genuine, and very real. I totally recommend it if you want a genuine sitcom that’s an easy watch and a solid cast about a Latinx family. Out of all the shows I watched this week, this was by far the best one of the bunch. I can’t wait for season three.

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