PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “Supernatural” – The Season 14 End of Season Recap and Review (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Supernatural” airs on network TV, specifically on the CW, fall to spring Thursdays at 8:00 PM, though it is currently on hiatus.

What: “Supernatural,” a drama depicting the tale of two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively), who are “hunters” of all supernatural ilk, be they demons, monsters, or angels on high, in a quest to save the world from things that go bump in the night, things that cause apocalypses, and things that are generally just out to get them (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/supernatural/summary.html).

When: The Season 14 finale aired on April 25, 2019, at 8:00 PM on the CW.

Where: The show is set in no specific locale; the brothers ride all over the country in a 1967 Chevrolet Impala and live out of hotel rooms via fake identities and money scams, though the Winchesters are originally from Lawrence, Kansas, and have, as of late, holed up in a bunker, somewhere near their home town, formerly run by the Men of Letters, an organization of which they are legacy members.  The time is present day.

Why:  Oh so many seasons ago now, Chief CP Kylie followed Jensen Ackles–a fine, fine man–from Smallville to his new gig, which, at the time, seemed like a different spin on the X-Files, with two brothers versus two sexually tense FBI agents.  From the opening frames of the pilot, though, I knew that it was oh so much more or, at least, vastly dissimilar to the X-Files, and this show has surpassed so many expectations, including mustering the incredible ability to remain relevant and engaging long past the expiration of the initial story arc mapped out by creator Eric Kripke.  For CPU!’s ever-expanding podcast coverage of a growing number of shows, several CPU! members, all familiar voices to the CPU! loyal, jumped up to participate on this panel, even though many of them also express fatigue with the show from time to time.  How do they feel the show is faring nowadays, into its double digits’ worth of seasons?  Take a listen below.

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

To catch up on our Super-coverage, click the embedded links below, or find the audio equivalents on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play (links further below):

The Season 9 Premiere 

Seasons 9, 10, and 11

Season 12A

Season 12B

Season 13A

Season 13B

Season 14A

Our Super-CPU! panel has happily remained constant since its last meeting, and all panelists proved ready and raring as ever to talk about the second half of Season 14 with the force of hell unleashed upon earth.  Thus, panelists Nick, Jen (S), Kelsey, Jeremy, and Jenn (K), along with your trusty Chief CP and moderator, hop into our ’67 Chevy Impala, always ready to ride until we, or Supernatural, die(s), and find ourselves at the CPU! Water Cooler, and/or the nearest purveyor of homemade pies, animatedly discussing major plot points from, and ruminating upon the success of, the second half of Season 14.  While our panel’s particular devotion and/or brotherly bond continues to be sometimes tested in Supernatural’s later seasons, particularly in this latest half season, we still have lots to think and to talk about in this latest chatty analysis.  Give us a listen, with your salt guns and holy water on standby, and see if you agree or disagree with our thoughts.

This podcast was recorded in September 2019, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the second half of Season 14 of Supernatural. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Wednesday, our “Star Trek 50+ Series” panel returns to the Water Cooler to wrap up its discussion of The Original Series by parsing through the third and final season of the show that started it all, in addition to each of the panelists offering their personal “best of” and “worst of” episode lists of that series. Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) REPEAT QUESTION: How many miles are on the Impala after all this time?

REPEAT ANSWER: Still unknown.

2) REPEAT QUESTION: Will they ever get their happy ending?

NEW ANSWER: I guess we will find out in less than one year’s time! *tear* And I’m sure Kansas will remind them to Carry On, Wayward Sons.  “Lay your weary head to rest; don’t you cry no more.”

3) REPEAT QUESTION: If Lucifer (Mark Pelligrino) is out of the Cage, why can’t the archangel Michael, currently housed within long lost Winchester half brother Adam, escape from the Cage? Will we ever see Adam/Michael again?

NEW(ISH) ANSWER: Apocalypse World (AW) Michael runs around this dimension for awhile, and there was a potential if chancy return for Lucifer prognosticated, given that his second-favorite vessel Nick survives for a time and prays to Lucifer’s sleeping essence in the Empty, which improbably seems to awaken our favorite Evil Archangel. To date, however, the return of this dimension’s Michael as well as the actor who played Adam, given the fact that Michael Prime is still lounging in a slightly mind-addled Adam in the Cage, has not yet occurred. Plus, AW Michael is no more, owing to a certain saucy nephilim who decides to burn off what is left of his human soul to save the world. Listen to the podcast episode for the spicy details.

4) The perennial question: will we see John Winchester this season?  And played by whom?  And will he be alive or dead?

NEW (BEYOND EXCITED AND TOTALLY UNFETTERED) ANSWER: YES! YES! YES! Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the original (and breathlessly handsome) face of John Winchester, makes a grand return to Supernatural in Season 14, Episode Thirteen, the 300th episode entitled “Lebanon!” Listen to the podcast episode for details! Oh, and I guess we can finally remove this question from the list, eh?

5) REPEAT QUESTION: A Prince of Hell named Ramiel held in his possession two intriguing items: Archangel Michael’s Spear or Lance and (wait for it) the Colt.  The Colt is currently broken, snapped in two by another Prince of Hell named Dagon, who Cas later snuffed.  Can the Colt be repaired?  By Sam?  How is the Colt powered?  Didn’t the Colt have a fixed number of bullets once upon a time?  More importantly, **where did the Colt go after Season 6?** How did Ramiel get a hold of it?  Why has the show not addressed the continuity of this gun?  Why was it brought back only to be broken?  WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS THING?!

REPEAT-ISH ANSWER: All questions currently without answers, including those about the Spear/Lance.  Last episode’s theories fell by the wayside because Season 14 does not return to the concept of a Spear/Lance.

6) REPEAT QUESTION: Also, the Spear/Lance is broken, I believe with Crowley’s help in that instance.  Will it be repaired, since Dean pockets the fragments?  Is it usable by anyone besides Michael? Dean is still a predestined Michael vessel – can he use it?  We repeat – will we ever see Michael out of the Cage again?

REPEAT-ISH ANSWER: The Spear/Lance remains broken, Supernatural Prime world’s Michael is still housed in half-brother Adam in Hell’s Cage, and AW Michael seems to forget about his spear. So, should we care about the Spear/Lance anymore? Eh, Supernatural writers? Bueller?

7) REPEAT Will Sam’s powers return?  He continues to obliquely reference them…

REPEAT ANSWER: So far, Sam has not tapped into the allegedly dormant powers he received from Prince of Hell Azazel.

8) REPEAT QUESTION: How much should we continue to care about the Empty?  Will it come back to haunt Castiel (Misha Collins) or any of the rest of our characters because Cas escaped?

NEW ANSWER: The Empty is back, and s/he/it is super pissed – still – that Castiel is awake and out of his/her/its clutches.  Plus, when Jack (Alexander Calvert) temporarily loses his life in the first half of this season (listen to the podcast episode about 14A for details), and his soul first appears in Heaven, the Empty barges into the largely unguarded ethereal plane, given the near extinction of available angels to monitor its sterile white corridors and dreamy memory locations, looking to claim Jack’s soul due to his nephilim status.  Cas, however, offers himself back to the Empty in exchange for the Empty releasing its clutches on Jack. The Empty agrees to this deal but notes that the entity will return for Cas only when he is truly happy and would be truly hurt by the Empty’s act of returning Cas to the abyss. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “we do not care about the Empty in the slightest,” to 10 being “we must care because we know the Empty is about to start some next-level stuff,” we are probably at an 8.5 in the “caring about the Empty” spectrum.

Plus, at the end of the series finale (SPOILER), Jack (who is snuffed from existence by Chuck/God); Billie the Reaper; and the shadow that we theorize is either Lucifer or the Empty Nothing-Man himself, is standing in the Empty’s void, ultimately fulfilling the Empty’s early-season wish. Something tells us this is all going to come to a head in Season 15, and that the payoff will be anything but Empty in the end, but this eventuality does leave Cas’ deal with the Empty Nothing-Man somewhat moot, now, doesn’t it?

9) REPEAT QUESTION: Has Death, as in The Horseman Of, died before the Winchesters killed off the Death we knew and awoke the Darkness?  Is Billie the second “Death” or one of many?

REPEAT ANSWER: Still questions that are without answers at this time.

10) REPEAT QUESTION: Why are the Winchesters “important,” in the end and apart from what we already know, as Billie aka Death told Dean in the first half of the season?

REPEAT ANSWER: We have a feeling that this answer is ultimately part of the endgame for the series, and that we will not know said answer until the show is about to be done.

11) REPEAT QUESTION: How are Jack and the previous “anti-Christ” who appeared in Season 5 related, if at all?  Is Jack truly an “anti-Christ?”

REPEAT ANSWER: Still questions without answers.

12) REPEAT QUESTION: Sam is Lucifer’s true vessel and now does not have that option to defeat Michael. What can he do to save his brother?  Will he have to tap his Azazel powers? Can Rowena resurrect an archangel?  Will Sam lead the Angel Resistance on this side of the rift?  How will he get his brother back?

NEW ANSWER: Dean is temporarily vacated by Michael, but Michael returns. In the end, it is Jack, who sacrifices what remains of his human soul to be able to access his angelic powers, that effectively annihilates AW Michael, particularly after Michael vacates Dean again and heads straight for nearby, powerful witch Rowena. Our panel has strong feelings about this turn of events; listen to the podcast episode for details.

In addition, Sam leads the Angel Resistance and scant hunter forces on this side of the rift from the bunker for a time, forming an ad hoc Men of Letters organization in its own right, until AW Michael eradicates most of them (other than Mary and Bobby and a few others). This act, in fact, is what prompts Jack to sacrifice his soul for the greater good, though our panel struggles with Jack’s character arc progression and decision-making skills at this moment and thereafter. You should really listen to the episode.

13) REPEAT QUESTION: Is Jack powerless?  Will he regain his grace?  How?  Will his power be enough to save Dean? To save this world? To save Heaven?

NEW ANSWER: Jack finally regains his power when he burns off the portion of his human soul that allowed him to return from the dead with Lily’s angelic spell. The result leaves him mostly soulless angel, full of grace, and his newly reinstated power allows him to save Dean from AW Michael and to temporarily save the world – that is, until Jack, with his unmatched power, starts messing with the world order himself and attempts to create new angels. Listen to the podcast episode for the panel’s diverse reactions to this plot progression.

14) REPEAT QUESTION: Are Mary and AW Bobby flirting?  Are they going to be a romantic item in future? Is that wise?

NEW ANSWER: The answer to the first two questions is a definite “yes,” right down to the romantic relationship. As far as the wisdom in this decision, while the boys support this new development, the end result is not a happy one, at least for AW Bobby. To write what it is here would be a most major spoiler, so you know what to do. Of course, you could also just keep reading.

15) REPEAT QUESTION: Is the Shedim an abandoned concept, with the quick death of Asmodeus?

REPEAT-ISH ANSWER: The panel voted in the Season 14A episode that the writers forgot about the Shedim.  Still, we will keep asking the question until the writers track back to this tidbit of Asmodeus-inspired information.

16) REPEAT QUESTION: Will they break this world’s Michael, still stuck in Adam the half brother and locked in Hell’s Cage, out of his prison?  Even though Lucifer drove him mad?

REPEAT-ISH ANSWER: The answer to this question remains to be seen, though the producers have hinted in the press that this eventuality might finally play out in the final season.

17) REPEAT QUESTION: Will the remaining angels join a fight for or against AW Michael?  Will AW Michael snuff out the rest of the angels?

NEW ANSWER: The short answer to both questions is “no.” The slightly longer answer to both questions is that there are currently not enough angels to risk themselves in an off-brand Michael’s version of a holy war, and AW Michael seems to be at least somewhat sympathetic, or at least apathetic, to the plight of his brethren in this dimension.

18) REPEAT QUESTION: Will we see Heaven collapse next season?

NEW ANSWER: No, but we do see the unleashing of hell on earth. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

19) REPEAT QUESTION: How will they be able to defeat a super-charged AW Michael, made stronger by his perfect vessel, Dean?

NEW ANSWER: The short answer is: Jack. See above for additional details.

20) REPEAT QUESTION: Will Chuck/God return to help arbiter these extra-worldly conflicts? He might have to return to create more angels, to resurrect any that have been lost, and/or to help quell the conflict with AW Michael.  Will Amara/the Darkness return with him?

NEW ANSWER: Chuck/God (guest: Rob Benedict) returns in the fourteenth season finale, except he does not appear to be acting totally like himself or, at least, the “himself” we have come to sort of know over the course of the series. Chuck states a clear aim to stop Jack in his tracks (some grandfather he is), who upsets the world order by forcing everyone in it to tell the truth, regardless of the consequences, which causes an imbalance that threatens to unravel the world’s very existence. Chuck/God appears, then, somewhat late to the party since Castiel tried to pray for him to return in a previous episode; solves the problem by smiting Jack when he is unable to convince Sam or Dean to do it for him; and then gets really upset that Sam and Dean get really upset by Chuck/God’s whims and actions. In the end, Chuck decides to destroy the world he created by starting his own apocalypse, complete with the literal uncorking of hell.

What’s more, Chuck/God reports that his sister, Amara aka The Darkness, returns with him, but that she’s hanging out in Reno. He says it so dismissively that our panel actually comes to believe that the Chuck/God we see in the fourteenth season finale is not the actual Chuck/God but either Amara in a mean if somewhat foolproof disguise, hellbent on causing the world’s destruction once more, or quite possibly a wily Lucifer, who has somehow pulled a switcheroo with his absentee dad, sending Chuck/God to the Empty and giving Lucifer a chance to be what he always wanted to be anyway (which is never good, according to most of the things we have read). Listen to the podcast episode, as the panel discusses extensive theories about the final shots of the season and what we predict might happen in Season 15 around these developments.

21) REPEAT QUESTION: Will the show explain how it is that nephilim are stronger than the angels (or archangels, in some circumstances) that sire them?

REPEAT ANSWER: So far, the show has provided no further explanation surrounding Sam’s Season 13 research findings concerning nephilim.  

22) The panel predicts that Lucifer’s return is all but guaranteed. How will this resourceful archangel emerge? Did he escape when the Empty’s back was turned, while the Empty was making deals with Cas in Heaven in exchange for Jack’s soul? Or, will he take a page from Cas’ book and piss off the Empty enough to convince the grumpy being to eject him as the Empty did Castiel? Or, are Nick and Lucifer connected in unexpected ways, given that Nick was possessed by Lucifer so many different times and for so long? Does Jack get his powers back quickly enough to help his expired father exit the deep dark? The possibilities as to the how feel endless, even if the panel sees Lucifer’s return as a foregone conclusion.

ANSWER: Well, maybe this answer is not as foregone as we thought. Though we suspect that Lucifer reaches for his soulless son in the back quarter of this season, as a portal from the Empty opens and as the red-eyed shadowy figure seems to outstretch toward Jack, the shadow is not actually successful in breaking away from the vacuum of said portal. Thus, by the end of Season 14, Lucifer (we think, unless one of our Chuck/God theories pans out) is still in the Empty…and if the shadow we see in the season finale is, in fact, the same shadow we suspect to be Lucifer, he is joined by his son, newly smote by his grandfather Chuck/God, and Billie the Reaper, for purposes and potential plans unknown. Listen to the podcast episode for all the theories and details.

23) When will Sam be forced to end Rowena’s life, as Billie the Reaper aka the New Death prophesied in Season 13? Will we see this eventuality this season?

ANSWER: We do not see this eventuality come to pass in Season 14, and now there is only one season left. So…we guess it is likely to happen in Season 15. Though the panel seems friendlier to Rowena overall, except for panelist Jen S, nowadays, the panel does not want Rowena’s death to be a rushed affair, however it goes down and if it does go down at all in Season 15.

24) What does Naomi mean when she indicates that Heaven’s gates are open, including those closed in Season 9 via the Winchesters’ efforts? How many gates are there, and what function do they serve? Does this signal Heaven’s collapse, after all? Will human souls escape? Will monsters and/or demons try to get inside? Will Lucifer? Will AW Michael?

ANSWER: All answers without questions, since Naomi is missing in action this season, her fate largely a question at least to our panel, as the number of angels continues to dwindle. Also, given the events of the season finale, we suspect that Heaven is as much fair game to what Chuck/God releases from the depths of the netherworld as Earth is. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

25) When Lily Sunder (played by Veronica Cartwright this season) casts the spell to resurrect Jack, we know the magic draws from her own soul. When she decided, in the end, to cast the spell, though she was reluctant to do so at first, did she need to use any part of Jack’s soul for the spell after all? This remains a point of confusion for our panel or, at least, for your main moderator and Chief CP.

ANSWER: Yes, part of Jack’s soul is used but so is Lily’s soul, if we understand what Jack has left at the start of this half of the season to be correct. The Chief CP believes that the confusion arose from the fact that Lily’s soul and Jack’s soul are tied together, but you can help clarify this for us further, gentle listener.

26) Will the Empty come to claim Cas by the end of Season 14? What could make Cas so happy in that amount of time as to entice the Empty’s sense of vengeance against his nemesis, Castiel?

ANSWER: No. So far, the Empty has not come a-calling for Cas. Plus, Jack is actually in the Empty’s void in the season finale. Therefore, how can the Empty insist upon the fulfillment of Cas’ sacrificial promise as made in the first half of the season? There is one more season left to answer this question, we surmise.

27) We know John Winchester will be talking to the boys and to Mary in the 300th episode, as this has been widely reported by the entertainment news media, which is devoting a fair amount of coverage to the landmark episode. Will John encounter any of the other typical characters, such as AW Bobby?

ANSWER: No. John spends time only with his core family in the bunker in Lawrence, Kansas. And really, that was enough, as the 300th episode is, undeniably, the best episode of the season (and possibly one of the best of the series).

28) We also know that Angel Zachariah, as played by Kurt Fuller, will be making a return appearance in the 300th episode. What other long-gone characters might we see, then or at any other point in the season?

ANSWER: Other than Chuck/God, Zachariah, and John, we see no other familiar faces in Season 14. Season 15, however, proves to be a potential stomping ground for the greatest hits of Supernatural’s long litany of guest stars and characters, at least as hinted at in the press by the show’s producers and with Chuck/God’s literal uncorking of hell’s depths. Listen to the podcast episode for our predictions.

29) If AW Michael’s armies envelop the Earth, what will the demons do? Will they need a leader to do it? Will they elect one?

ANSWER: This question is moot. AW Michael does not get far enough along in his plans for the armies to envelop the Earth before Jack decides to smite his not-quite-uncle. So, the demons’ reactions are, you know, not a thing.

30) Will the Empty be destroyed? Will any other angels and demons escape? Will the Empty change to something else?

ANSWER: The Empty still exists, quite pointedly, at the end of Season 14. As for whether the Empty will change to something else or whether any of its captured ethereal beings escape its clutches…well, methinks an apocalyptic portent is brewing, and that Jack, Billie, and the unidentified shadow will light the match to set the whole thing ablaze. Listen to the podcast episode for predictions.

31) Will the Empty’s creation and/or manifestation as a being be explained?

ANSWER: So far, no joy.

32) Will Heaven be stabilized if it does not collapse?

ANSWER: So far, Heaven is still functioning but is more vulnerable than ever, since there are even less original angels to protect it, aside from some problematic creations of Jack’s that have not yet emerged from their perch on high; we do not know if these human-turned-angel attempts on Jack’s part are, as such, working models or not, and the panel is kind of leery about the whole situation. Listen to the podcast episode for our reactions.

33) How did Chuck/God and Amara/the Darkness come to exist? Will Supernatural tackle this divine subject?

ANSWER: Not this season.

34) Is Dark Kaia’s Spear the Spear of Destiny? Or, is the Spear the equivalent of Michael’s Spear that was broken in Prime World, as we learned in Season 12?

ANSWERS: Still questions without answers.

35) Is the Empty a version of Purgatory for angels and demons? Somebody needs to provide a better explanation for the Empty.

ANSWER: So far, no one has.

36) Does the AW or The Bad Place have an Empty? Or, is the Empty the same for all dimensions?

ANSWER: Unknown, and we probably will not find out the answer to this question at this point, since AW Michael no longer exists.

37) Seriously, what was The Bad Place?

ANSWER: Probably the most robust answer we will get is this: Chuck/God attempted to write a bunch of different versions of Earth. He only likes this dimension’s version. So, the Bad Place is a bad rough draft in the realm of his/His many creations. Beyond that, we do not know what it is, and we do not think that Chuck/God will be forthcoming with the answers in Season 15, whatever happens and wherever he may end up.

New Questions

1) Many of our remaining questions are covered in the old questions. The few new ones begin with this: is the Chuck/God we see in the fourteenth season finale really Chuck/God or someone wearing his face, such as Amara or Lucifer?

2) How will Sam and Dean escape the onslaught of converging demons we see in the fourteenth season finale?

3) What is Billie doing in the Empty?

4) Who is the shadow in the Empty really?

5) Will we see the return of demonic favorites, such as Azazel, the Yellow-Eyed Demon? Or Crowley even?

6) Will John Winchester return a final time?

7) Mary (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) is killed by an overreaching and angelically charged Jack near the end of the season. Is she really gone for good?

8) How will it all end? Will Sam and Dean survive, or will they die? Together? Separately? Will Baby survive? Will Cas?

9) Will Heaven and Hell still exist by the end of the series?

10) Can Jared and Jensen go shirtless at least once in the final season? Kthxbai.

PARTING SHOTS

Our Supernatural panel continues to traverse somewhat wildly through a diverse range of vacillating individual and group opinions about the most recent SPN half season in this latest episode.  Some panelists regard this overall season as enjoyable at points, given Jensen Ackles’ opportunity to spread his proverbial wings and his acting range via his portrayal of AW Michael as well as the ongoing integration into the cast of Alexander Calvert’s Jack, both of which feel like modestly fresh new aspects to this long-running story.  Others continue to watch the series because they are motivated by the curiosity that comes with needing to complete what was started, fourteen years ago. 

Ultimately, however, most if not all of the panelists expressed some disappointment about the way the fourteenth season unfolded in the back half, especially its end, given the fact that the limited monster-of-the-week episodes were largely forgettable (though the decreased number of them was, by and large, welcomed by the panelists) and given the, at times, shocking and, at other times, seemingly unearned turns of some of the characters. What is more, the panelists proved particularly struck by the anticlimactic feel of some of these twists, specifically the quick eradication of AW Michael, Jack’s general progression toward the end of season, and the shocking death of Mary, which, to the panel, felt premature and, at its base, off, given everything that had been set up by the show’s writers prior to the point. Your friendly neighborhood Chief CP, in fact, effused some notable disappointment about the thudded landing of the AW Michael story line, as the purported “game changer” touted by the show’s cast preseason felt like the same old game on a different day by the end of the story line’s quick and unsatisfying telling.

Still, the panel members continue to find compelling reasons to stick with the series, ups and downs aside, owing to some good writing moments, the consistent acting, and the natural and long nurtured quirks of the mythology (and the sheer beauty of its cast). In this way, in the end and despite the panel members’ individual gripes and barbs about things that strike us as strange – even for such a strange world as we have been watching all this time – all panel members feel that the show is still entertaining, even this late in its lifetime. Carry On, Wayward Sons, as we move into the fifteenth and final season! (The Heavens will truly weep on the day of this specific series finale, I can tell you.)

LOOKING AHEAD

Supernatural was automatically renewed for a full (and final) season of 20 episodes. Season 15 premieres Thursday, October 10, 2019, at 8:00 PM on the CW. In the meantime, our Supernatural podcast panel will next reconvene following the fifteenth mid-season finale, likely sometime in or around January 2020. As always, CPU! will keep you informed of news and additional Supernatural coverage.  Stay tuned! Until then!

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PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: DC Television Universe Series, Episode 20, “The Flash” – Season 5, the DCTU Panel’s Review and Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Image result for the flash season 5 title card

Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “The Flash” is a superhero/action/mystery drama centered on events and characters inspired by The Flash franchise of the DC Comic Universe, which airs on the CW, fall to spring Tuesdays at 8:00 PM.

What: “The Flash,” a series developed by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Geoff Johns, based on the DC Comics character Barry Allen / The Flash, a costumed superhero crime-fighter with the power to move at superhuman speeds. This series is considered a spin-off from Arrow. The series follows Allen (Grant Gustin), a crime scene investigator who gains super-human speed, which he uses to fight criminals, including others who have also gained superhuman abilities.

SYNOPSIS

After witnessing his mother’s supernatural murder and his father’s wrongful conviction for the crime, Barry Allen (Gustin) is taken in by Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and his family. Allen becomes a brilliant but socially awkward crime scene investigator for the Central City Police Department. His obsession with his tragic past causes him to become an outcast among his peers; he investigates cold cases, paranormal occurrences, and cutting-edge scientific advancements that may shed light on his mother’s murder. No one believes his description of the crime—that a ball of lightning with the face of a man invaded their home that night—and Allen is fiercely driven to vindicate himself and to clear his father’s name. Fourteen years after his mother’s death, an advanced particle accelerator malfunctions during its public unveiling, bathing the city center with a previously unknown form of radiation during a severe thunderstorm. Allen is struck by lightning from the storm and doused with chemicals in his lab. Awakening after a nine-month coma, he discovers he has the ability to move at superhuman speeds. Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanaugh), the disgraced designer of the failed particle accelerator, describes Barry’s special nature as “meta-human.” Allen soon discovers that he is not the only one who was changed by the radiation. Allen vows to use his gifts to protect Central City from the escalating violence of meta-human and other criminals. He is aided by a few close friends and associates who guard his secrets.

When: Season 5 aired on the CW from October 9, 2018, to May 14, 2019, with a total of 22 episodes.

Where: The action is set in fictional Central City, one of the primary settings of The Flash franchise.  The action does branch out in the occasional crossover with Arrow to Star City (formerly Starling City) and, occasionally, to other dimensions in a “multi-verse.”

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the first Flash podcast episode via the embedded link below! It should be noted that CPU! Chief Couch Potato Kylie previously picked up this show during the 2014 Fall Preview, noting:

The DC comics universe is attempting some major expansions now that Marvel is push and shove proliferating on big and small screens everywhere.  The Flash is a classic hero; he was given an appearance on Smallville, and there is some crossover with Arrow, which I’ve decided to catch up on, since the CW is offering DC Comics a chance to implement those crossovers. Also, I like the choice for the title role. The Flash is a non-flashy guy, almost DC’s equivalent of Spider Man, given an extraordinary ability, as opposed to several.  It could be an engaging new take on an old superhero story.

How – as in How’s It Going? – THOUGHTS

This is the twentieth episode in CPU!’s DCTU series.  Here are only the prior The Flash episodes in the series; as we flush out seasons of all Arrowverse shows, older episodes will be searchable via the website – click the upper right dialog box in the header, the picture of the couch full of TV watchers. Listen to each episode here:

DCTU Series, Episode 3, “The Flash,” Seasons 1-2

DCTU Series, Episode 9, “The Flash,” Season 3

DCTU Series, Episode 15, “The Flash,” Season 4

DCTU Series, Episode 17, the DCTU Mid-Season Roundup, 2018-2019

In our last DCTU episode, our cheeky and feisty DCTU panel – namely Kyle, Hilary, Spencer, Kristen, and Nick – began addressing the most recent full seasons of each of the four “Arrowverse” series in order of the airing of each season finale by discussing the seventh season of Arrow.  Tonight’s episode finds the panel returning to the Water Cooler to talk the fifth season of The Flash in the twentieth episode of our DCTU series.  The discussion herein considers the success of Modern Age villain “Cicada” (Chris Klein); the introduction of Barry and Iris’ daughter, back in time from the future, Nora West-Allen aka “XS” (she is also a speedster, played by Jessica Parker Kennedy); the continued dual nature of Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker); the return of Eobard Thawne aka Reverse Flash (played by Cavanaugh in this iteration); and how the Central City section of the Arrowverse is faring as a whole.  In fact, the panelists’ typically unanimous and stalwart support of The Flash as the best of the CW’s DC Universe offerings continued to wane a little this time, with some of the panelists expressing dissatisfaction with repetitive story-telling and questionable character decisions, while other panelists still see The Flash as the most consistent and, therefore, most enjoyable property of the four (current) Arrowverse shows.

This particular episode was recorded in August 2019, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of Season 5 of The Flash. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our Supernatural panel returns to the Water Cooler to discuss Season 14B, now the penultimate season (we can’t even believe it!), of the long-running fantasy/horror series.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Will Gorilla Grodd return?

ANSWER: Yes! Grodd returns in Episode 15, and he faces off against King Shark in one of the best episodes of the season! Listen to the podcast episode for details.

2) With the appearance of Nora, Barry and Iris’ daughter from the future, how much time will she spend on the show, and which comic story are they trying to channel?  Is it Flashpoint Redux or something else?

ANSWER: Nora lasts the whole season, and the writers seem to be drawing upon a few DC/Flash story lines to weave this particular tale, while also planting seeds for the upcoming and much ballyhooed Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. It is not Flashpoint Redux, owing to the return of The Flash’s arch nemesis, the Reverse Flash. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

3) Will Ralph aka Elongated Man (Hartley Sawyer) become a permanent member of Team Flash?

ANSWER: Yes! Hartley Sawyer, portraying actor of Ralph Dibny aka Elongated Man, was promoted to series regular in Season 5 and becomes a permanent member of Team Flash.

4) Will the Trickster, as played by Mark Hamill, ever return?

ANSWER: Unknown. Luke Skywalker is still being Luke, and occasionally the Joker, and other stuff that makes him famous, so he is quite busy.

5) Will we see other Barry/Iris future generations, such as Nora’s son Bart Allen, who becomes another incarnation/version of Flash in the comics?

ANSWER: Not in Season 5.

6) Will the show return to more of a classic format: strong villain, an advisory version of Harrison Wells, and Barry being the primary speedster? The panel votes yes; some panelists hope profoundly that the Nora character will not be overused or become too omnipresent in Season 5, though those panelists might be facing profound disappointment as a result.

ANSWER: Yes! Barry is the primary speedster, though he is often accompanied by his daughter from the future, Nora. Harrison “Sherloque” Wells is the adviser of the season, sent to Team Flash by the Council of Wells. He is French and particularly particular about the way his name is pronounced. Meanwhile, the two primary villains of Season 5 were Cicada (and his niece, who takes up the Cicada mantle) and Reverse Flash, who, of course, masterminds everything we see. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

7) What is the writing that Barry uses when he emerges from the Speed Force, and that Nora is using near the end of the season?  Does it mean something?  Is it important? Is it Kryptonian? Is it something else?

ANSWER: It is Speed Force/Time language and does, in fact, signify something very important: the code to the Multi-Verse. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

8) Was Cecile’s (Danielle Nicolet) meta-ability of being able to read minds exclusive to just her pregnancy, as Caitlin initially theorizes, or is Cecile some lingering type of meta herself?  Alternatively, will her baby daughter one day be a meta?

ANSWER: Cecile’s meta ability persists throughout Season 5, despite having had her and Joe’s new baby daughter. As to baby’s potential meta-ness…that remains to be seen.

9) Who is the new female speedster that Jay Garrick said he was training as he transitions into retirement from being Earth 3’s Flash?

ANSWER: Unknown/still a question. The answer to this question was not clarified, unless Jay was suggesting that he was training Nora.

10) The show is seeding the idea that Caitlin might have always had Killer Frost in her, and that her disassociated personality might not have been caused by the particle accelerator explosion in Season 1.  What did cause that split in Caitlin’s past?  How is she able to manifest freezing powers because of it?

ANSWER: It seems that Caitlin’s father, Thomas Snow, a scientist like her mother, experimented with gene therapy and cryo-freezing processes when Caitlin was a child in an attempt to create a cure for devastating illnesses, like ALS, of which Thomas is diagnosed early in Caitlin’s history. He then, somewhat unethically this CP would espouse, tries these therapies on himself as well as on Caitlin as a child subject, which produces early side effects of being able to manipulate ice and cold moisture. Unfortunately, the side effects also produce a type of schizophrenia in both Caitlin and in, later, Thomas, as his experimentation on himself results in a dark personality that he ultimately names “Icicle.” Listen to the podcast episode for further details.

11) Will we learn more of what happened to Barry while he was in the Speed Force in Season 5?

ANSWER: No. We do not learn more about Barry’s time in the Speed Force in Season 5.

12) What is Nora’s “big, big mistake?”  Helping her future dad in the past? Or something else?

ANSWER: Unclear. Was Nora helping her father to foil the Thinker’s satellite-related mega-plans the mistake, as doing so paved the way for the creation of meta-tech and, therefore, the means by which Cicada comes to power? At first, Nora might be referring to this decision as her big mistake; more likely, however, she is referring to her choice to ally herself with Eobard Thawne aka Reverse Flash, as it is his advice that spurs her to make the decision to go back in time and to try to save her father, an event that presents far-reaching consequences on the future timeline. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

13) Will we get to see Eobard Thawne aka Reverse Flash next season (with a plausible explanation as to how and why)?

ANSWER: Yes! And yes! Just listen to the podcast episode already, as we spend some time discussing the clever machinations of Mr. Thawne.

14) Who will be the season-arching villain for Season 5?  Which of Flash’s rogues will appear and/or return in the fifth season?  Will they appear together, as panelist Kyle would like to see?

ANSWER: Cicada, with aiding and abetting by Reverse Flash, constitute the season-arching villains for the fifth season. Other than them, we also are entreated to appearances by Rag Doll, Gorilla Grodd, King Shark, Godspeed, and Bug-Eyed Bandit as rogues rooted in the actual Flash comics. We also meet a host of new villains, who come to power when the Thinker’s satellite of Season 4 is destroyed, creating dark matter-infused technology that Cisco (Carlos Valdes) deems “meta-tech.” To answer panelist Kyle’s wish, Grodd actually faces off against King Shark, who is on the brink of receiving a cure for his metahuman/animal hybrid condition, but who chooses to revert to his shark form to be able to muster the strength to defeat Grodd, in one of the best episodes of the season. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

15) What is Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash’s (currently played by Tom Cavanaugh) plan on The Flash? Why is he using Nora West-Allen aka XS, Barry Allen and Iris West’s daughter from the future, for his evil? Or, is she working for him and why?

ANSWER: (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) Eobard Thawne is in custody in the future because, well, he’s kind of evil and villainous. How is he held there? By the power dampening strengths of Cicada’s dagger, which has somehow become available to future authorities for power dampening purposes and which is plastered to Eobard’s chest, preventing his escape. Nora seeks out Eobard in prison under the guise of seeking further information about her father, who she learns during her early adulthood is, to her surprise and excitement, the Flash. In turn, Eobard, from prison, manipulates Nora’s wistfulness over not having a life with her father, Barry Allen/the Flash, by convincing her to run back in time and to reconnect with her dad, which then leads her to interfere with history by helping her dad against the Thinker, which then leads her to remain behind to get to know him and her mother while devoting effort to correcting history, every so often returning to Eobard in prison in this not-so-distant future to accept his device and direction related to what she should do next. In Nora’s mind, she believes that Eobard is helping her of his own accord because he has no other choice and possibly because he has genuine affection for her (which Iris, played by Candice Patton, also believes to be the case when she follows Nora into the future later in the season). In addition, Eobard provides fatherly advice to the “Little Runner,” particularly with relation to learning how to use her speedster abilities, which had been suppressed through a device employed by the future incarnation of her mother, Iris, throughout her childhood in an effort to avoid repeating what ultimately happens to Barry in this potential future: namely, his disappearance, as forecast by the future newspaper headline in the Time Vault, which most everyone on Team Flash has come to believe is caused by a confrontation with Cicada. It’s twisty, it’s turny, it’s quintessentially a trademark Reverse Flash mastermind ™ – because it’s all done with his own self-preservation in mind. Listen to the podcast episode for further details.

16) What is the little journal, containing presumably Speed Force writing, that Nora is carrying around with her?

ANSWER: The journal contains Time Language recorded in Eobard Thawne’s handwriting. The Time Language contains (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) a cipher for what represents the DC Multiverse.

17) How much longer will Orlin Dwyer aka Cicada (Chris Klein) be a factor? The panel has some decidedly mixed reactions to him.

ANSWER: Though an angry, future, and decidedly adult version of Orlin’s niece takes up the mantle of Cicada and ends up murdering her uncle during a quixotic set of violent decisions, she also hallucinates visions of her devoted uncle as she wrestles with the effects of time travel, an apparent connection to Nora fostered by a trip into Grace’s consciousness, and the long-term exposure to dark matter shrapnel lodged in her prefrontal cortex. In essence, Cicada is around for the whole season, whether as Orlin Dwyer or as Grace Dwyer, until young Grace accepts taking a meta-human cure developed by Cisco and Caitlin, which removes the power-creating effects of the shrapnel in Grace’s brain.

New Questions

1) How much of Season 6 will be devoted to setting up the mid-season crossover mega-event Crisis on Infinite Earths? Some of the panel wants a balance of setup and routine Flash shenanigans; some of the panel wants this show particularly to exclusively work toward that setup, since the Flash is central to that story.

2) Where in time is the version of Eobard Thawne that we watch in Season 5? Is he pre-Season 1? Post Crisis on Earth X? A time remnant? Or something else?

3) How much will the show explore the Negative Speed Force in Season 6? Will we see Eobard Thawne again, in his Season 5 incarnation, next season?

4) Panelist Kyle proved giddy in light of the appearance of Godspeed in Season 5. Will we see him again? Will he become a season “big bad?”

5) How will Cisco function and/or be in Season 6 without being Vibe? Will he make the adjustment well? Will he still be with Kamilla at the start of Season 6? Will he be truly at peace with his situation or jealous of all of his super-friends? Or something in the middle?

6) Will Barry and Iris try to have kids now, knowing that Nora once existed?

7) Will we see Caitlin’s mother’s full transformation to meta-human in Season 6? Will Caitlin/Killer Frost have to help her adjust? Will Caitlin’s mother also take on a “dark personality,” like her erstwhile husband and daughter?

8) With Captain Singh’s promotion to police chief and his admitted knowledge that Barry is the Flash, will we see him again? How will Joe adjust to life as precinct captain?

9) What will trigger the now moved-up headline (new date: 2019) in the Time Vault foreshadowing Barry’s disappearance and/or Crisis on Infinite Earths? Will Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) have to sacrifice himself to save Barry from his prognosticated fate, as the Arrow scene tag from Elseworlds, shown in Arrow’s season finale, seems to indicate?

10) Which version of Harrison Wells will we meet in Season 6? Tom Cavanaugh: our panel salutes you, sir!

11) Will we at least get to see if Sherloque (Cavanaugh) and Renee Adler live happily ever after?

12) If Crisis on Infinite Earths foretells the collapse of the multiverse, as proffered by the comics, which version of Harrison Wells will be Harrison Prime?!

13) The show toyed with the idea of Caitlin and Ralph getting together, though they, as in the characters themselves, poo-pooed the very notion in Season 5. Still: the chemistry is undeniable. Will Caitlin and Ralph reconsider? They seem to have a special rapport.

14) Alternatively, will Ralph find a romantic relationship that sustains beyond twelve steps (or however many steps there are in Ralph’s various self-authored self-help guides)?

15) Will we see any first-half-of-season crossovers on The Flash, in spite of the mega mid-season crossover on the horizon?

PARTING SHOTS

The CPU! DCTU panel continues to universally recommend The Flash to fans of comic books, particularly from the DC universe, and of the Flash franchise, though some of the panel’s members remain more restless with The Flash generally in these later seasons compared to the show’s strong two first seasons.  Still, most if not all of the panel continues to believe, generally, that even casual comic book/superhero fans will find something to love in what the panel primarily regards to be the Arrowverse’s most consistent if not best series.  The panel also continues to universally praise the ensemble cast as the series’ most solid feature as well as the general direction of the show, though there are some panelists who quibble with writing decisions, particularly around the third season’s main villain, Savitar, and the fourth season’s villain, the Thinker.  As several panelists note in tonight’s episode, however, even though this season might not be as mesmerizing as Seasons 1 and 2 (though the panel unanimously agrees that Season 5 surpasses Season 3 in quality and might equate to Season 4 on the same terms, in lieu of the stumbling around the “Flashpoint” story line in the third season), the weakest seasons of The Flash still surpass the strongest seasons of many other series, including at least one of the other Arrowverse series.  The panel, though, continues to appreciate, overall, the faithful and loving adaptation of a hero who may not have received the same star treatment as his Justice League compatriots and co-founders, Batman and Superman, at least in modern memory.  Further, the panel will always laud Grant Gustin’s portrayal of Barry Allen, readily and enthusiastically.  As always, take a listen and see if you agree with the panel’s general thoughts on these matters.

LOOKING AHEAD

The sixth season of The Flash is slated to premiere on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, at 8:00 PM on the CW.  CPU!’s next DCTU episode, which will focus on the fourth season of Supergirl, will publish in October!  Like, follow, and/or subscribe to the blog, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, or our social media accounts to stay abreast of new episodes in the DCTU podcast series as well as of new episodes for all of our podcast panels! And, if you feel so inclined, please leave us a review.  Thank you! ⚡

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: DC Television Universe Series, Episode 19, “Arrow” – Season 7, the DCTU Panel’s Review and Recap (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Image result for arrow season 7 title card

Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Arrow” is a superhero/action/crime drama centered on events and characters inspired by the Green Arrow franchise/DC Comic Universe, which airs on the CW.

What: “Arrow,” a series developed by writer/producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg that is based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, a costumed crime-fighter created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp. The series follows billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who, five years after being stranded on a hostile island, returns home to fight crime and corruption as a secret vigilante whose weapon of choice is a bow and arrow.

SYNOPSIS

The series follows Oliver Queen (Amell), billionaire playboy of Starling City (now Star City), who spends five years shipwrecked on the mysterious island of Lian Yu. Upon his return to the city, he is reunited with his family, including his sister, and friends. Oliver awkwardly survives his days back in the city by rekindling his relationships, while he spends his nights hunting down and sometimes killing wealthy criminals as a hooded vigilante. John “Dig” Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) assist Oliver in his crusade as does his ex-girlfriend, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy Rodgers); flashbacks show how Oliver spent his time and gained the skill-set that he uses as (now) the Green Arrow.

When: Season 7 aired on the CW from October 15, 2018, to May 13, 2019, with a total of 22 episodes.

Where: The action is set in the fictional metropolis of Starling City, the primary setting of the Green Arrow franchise – though as of Season 4, the city was finally re-branded to be Star City like in the comic books.  The action does branch out in flashbacks to international locales, including Hong Kong, the Middle East, Russia, and a fictional island called Lian Yu. In Season 7, some scenes occur in Star City twenty years into the future – though which future is the essential question ending the seventh season.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the first DCTU podcast episode, where our panel covers the first two seasons of Arrow, via the embedded link below!  It should be noted that CPU! Chief Couch Potato Kylie was hesitant to watch it, feeling somewhat loyal to Justin Hartley’s portrayal of the Green Arrow on Smallville, which ended in 2011, while Arrow premiered in 2012.  Also, the Chief CP is pretty leery of character fatigue in comic book properties of late, which may be the subject of a separate podcast or blog entry.  So, what finally convinced me to watch it? Other than a few good recommendations from viewers like you, listen to that first podcast episode to find out the reasons why I finally picked up the show in the end.

How – as in How’s It Going? – THOUGHTS

This is the nineteenth episode in CPU!’s DCTU series.  Here are only the prior Arrow episodes in the series (as we flush out seasons of all Arrowverse shows, though, older episodes will only be searchable via the website – click the upper right dialog box in the header). Listen to each episode here:

DCTU Series, Episode 1, “Arrow,” Seasons 1 and 2

DCTU Series, Episode 2, “Arrow,” Seasons 3 and 4

DCTU Series, Episode 10, “Arrow,” Season 5

DCTU Series, Episode 14, “Arrow,” Season 6

DCTU Series, Episode 17, the DCTU Mid-Season Roundup, 2018-2019

In our last episode, our cheeky and feisty DCTU panel – namely Kyle, Hilary, Spencer, Kristen, and Nick – met at mid-season “Around the Water Cooler” to discuss the progress of the four Arrowverse shows to date as well as to talk the awesome three show crossover event, “Elseworlds.”  Now, we begin addressing the most recent full seasons of each of the four “Arrowverse” programs in order of the airing of each season finale, beginning with the seventh – and penultimate – season of Arrow.  Thus, tonight’s episode finds the panel returning to the Water Cooler to talk TV universe progenitor Arrow following another rocky, inconsistent, and bloated Season 7 in, this, the nineteenth episode of our DCTU series. 

The discussion herein evaluates the success of the Green Arrow’s season nemeses, specifically the return of Ricardo “The Dragon” Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) and Oliver’s (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) secret, vendetta-seeking half-sister, Emiko Queen (Sea Shimooka); the tedious number of (sometime) Green Arrow sidekicks; Oliver’s stint in Slabside Penitentiary in the first half of the season after turning himself in to the vigilante-hunting authorities in the Season 6 finale; Oliver’s subsequent release from prison and his service, along with the rest of Team Arrow, to the Star City Police Department as an unmasked vigilante and as part of a “legitimate” crime-fighting task force; the projecting “flash forwards” to Future Star City and the goings-on of Oliver’s and other team members’ children in that later decade; and a season ending that, essentially, services not so much Arrow’s core story as it does set up the highly anticipated, highly marketed next DC Universe crossover event, the television adaptation of seminal Universe tale “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”  What’s more, officially, as of this episode, for the entire panel, the assignment to watch Arrow as part of this podcast series has become nothing more than “begrudging,” as the panelists unanimously struggle with Arrow, and with their waning affinity for it, more than with any of the other Arrowverse entries. Unlike last season, however, the panel apprehensively hopes that the writers will find a way to leave viewers with a smile by the series finale, given the remaining, shortened eighth and final season consisting of only ten episodes. Many of our panelists are not optimistic that these writers, which have accomplished little to evolve most of these characters in seven seasons, can achieve that feat, especially given the departure of key cast members, most notably Rickards, whose last episode as Arrow’s Felicity and as a series regular was the Season 7 finale.

This particular episode was recorded in August 2019, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of Season 7 of Arrow. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our DCTU panel returns again to the proverbial Water Cooler to discuss Season 5 of The Flash, as our Arrowverse revisits continue.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) The panel members, largely bereft of hope for improvement of the overall quality of Arrow, did not ruminate upon many questions going into Season 7.  The biggest question on several panelists’ brains centers on why Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) returns to Star City and how he reintegrates into the new team.

ANSWER: This season, Roy first appears in the premiere, in a Flash Forward to Future Star City (FSC), a setting twenty years forward from the present Star City that we have become accustomed to watching. Roy also returns to present-day Star City in Episode 20, after Team Arrow recruits him as Arsenal to help with an operation designed to prevent the season’s overarching villainous organization, the Ninth Circle, from proliferating and activating a biological weapon. The panel, by and large, feels strongly that Roy and, therefore, Haynes is wasted this season on the FSC conceit and via his brief return to Star City’s version of the present. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

2) How will the show survive without Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne)?  Quentin dies at the end of Season 6 after he takes a bullet for the team; his portraying actor left Arrow and joined the cast of a new show on NBC called The Inbetween. The panel reacted negatively to his departure, believing Mr. Blackthorne to be one of the most consistently engaging parts of the show throughout its lifespan, other than Oliver/Stephen Amell.

ANSWER: Though the panel no doubt misses Quentin in theory, the panelists do not mention Quentin’s absence or their opinions regarding the effect(s) that his absence presents to the show’s seventh season in the instant podcast episode. Of course, we will always wish Mr. Blackthorne well, and The Inbetween was picked up by CPU! during the 2018-2019 pilot preview, to be consumed when we somehow find the time to watch it amidst other requested and picked up podcast candidates.

3) Oliver, in Iron Man fashion, announces to the Star City public in the Season 6 finale that he is the Green Arrow as part of a deal he makes with the FBI in order to guarantee the agency’s help in defeating the Dragon, in exchange for Ollie’s confession of illegal vigilante activity.  The last few moments of the finale find Ollie in federal prison.  Panelist Kyle has read that the first episodes of Season 7 will feature the “Longbow Hunters” and a widely panned story line from the comics called “Supermax.”  How long will the audience be forced to watch Oliver in prison?  What effect will these so-called “Hunters” present to Star City?

ANSWER: Oliver remains in prison for precisely seven episodes. During that time, the Longbow Hunters act upon order of Ricardo Diaz/the Dragon to menace Felicity, William, and Team Arrow, as Diaz is dead set on making Oliver pay for interfering with his and his cohorts’ plans in Season 6. The presence of the Hunters is largely regarded as anticlimactic and boring by our panelists, though we discuss this reaction more thorough in Episode 17, our 2018-2019 Mid-Season Round-Up (see above).

4) Will Dig take up the Green Arrow mantle once more while Oliver is in prison?

ANSWER: No. The Team lays low, with Anti-Vigilante law in full effect while Oliver is stuck in Slabside. Yet, another (fake) Green Arrow appears, apparently intent upon carrying on Oliver’s/the Green Arrow’s legacy. Of course, this Green Arrow is not all that he – or she – seems. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

5) Will William follow the trajectory of Connor Hawke in the comics?  What is William’s purpose on the show, except to complicate Oliver’s life (and presuming he has a purpose)?

ANSWER: No. Connor Hawke is a separate character, who we first meet as an adult in FSC. William, as an adult, also appears in FSC, though he never picks up a bow and arrow. Instead, he joins forces with other familiar and not-so-familiar faces, Connor included, to save the city in this future world and to help carry on the legacy of Star City’s vigilante tradition, started by Team Arrow. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

6) Will Earth 2 Laurel Lance aka Black Siren (Cassidy Rodgers) return in Season 7?  In what capacity?  Why would she care to do so if her almost family and almost father no longer exist?

ANSWER: Yes. Laurel aka Black Siren returns in Season 7 to serve as Star City’s District Attorney, as she poses as the version of Laurel that died in Season 5. She also becomes better friends with Felicity and is determined to work toward redemption, since Black Siren is somewhat murderous and crime-prone when we first meet her. She cares, as it turns out, because she sees Quentin, the Earth 1 version, as the father she lost all over again. In addition, she seems to yearn for respect and validation from Oliver, Felicity, and perhaps even from Dinah (Juliana Harkavy), particularly for attempting to be a good person again. As a result, this version of Laurel and her character progression were regarded more warmly by our panel than other aspects of the show’s seventh season. Listen to the podcast episode for the panel’s reactions to Black Siren’s Season 7 arc.

7) Diaz survives his most recent encounter with Oliver and escapes; he even watches Oliver’s city-wide proclamation that he is the Green Arrow on television through gritted teeth.  It seems as though Diaz is tougher than the average crook, which is fueled by some precedent set by the comics-version of the Dragon.  Will Diaz return in Season 7?  How will he affect Oliver and the rest of Team Arrow?  Will he somehow affiliate with the Longbow Hunters; will he make another attempt on Oliver’s life?  Or, is his character finished on Arrow?

ANSWER: Yes. Diaz returns in Season 7. He spends the first part of the season hellbent on making Oliver pay while in Slabside as well as by making Felicity and William suffer at the hands of the Longbow Hunters and other paid hit-men on the outside. This causes Felicity to “go dark” in an attempt to take Diaz out of the equation, which prompts her to seek help from Diaz’s former ally, Earth 2 Laurel, which is how they become close. This also prompts other members of Team Arrow, particularly Dig and Curtis (Echo Kellum), to respond with concern as Felicity becomes increasingly paranoid and obsessed with the idea, even if rightly, that she is not safe until Diaz is captured and jailed or even killed and even if said killing is by Felicity’s own hand. Diaz employs the Longbow Hunters for his purposes and makes several attempts on Oliver’s life, viewing him as a sitting duck while in prison and inciting inside allies to make Oliver’s life a living hell. Diaz, in fact, appears throughout most of the season, though in Episode 14, he meets a most grisly and anticlimactic end. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

8) Where does Anatoly go in the end?

ANSWER: Anatoly aka KGBeast reunites with the Bratva, though he also becomes one of Diaz’s targets in Season 7. Diaz captures and tortures Anatoly until Team Arrow rescues him. Where he goes after that, we are not absolutely sure, though we presume that he has finally returned to Russia. After all, his friendship with Oliver remains somewhat icy.

9) Will we see more crossovers with the other Arrowverse properties – apart from mid-season – next season?

ANSWER: Other than the “Elseworlds” crossover, covered in Episode 18 of our DCTU Series of podcast episodes, the only other character crossovers this season occurred in Episode 12, when Grant Gustin appears as Barry Allen to provide an interview for a documentary entitled “The Hood and the Rise of Vigilantes,” and Episode 18, when Caity Lotz appears as Sara Lance aka White Canary in an episode homage to the Birds of Prey. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

10) Will any of Green Arrow’s other traditional rogues return, including Count Vertigo, Clock King, etc. (panelist Kyle has all but lost hope)?

ANSWER: No. Panelist Kyle is sad.

New Questions

1) Where does the Monitor take Oliver Queen in the series finale? Does Oliver help the Monitor to save other Earths in the multiverse, as panelist Kristen predicts?

2) Will any of Season 8 focus specifically upon tying up Arrow’s story, to the extent that it needs tying up, or will these final episodes particularly propel Arrow toward its segment within the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover?

3) Will Emily Bett Rickards at least return for the crossover and/or the series finale, since she is no longer a series regular?

4) Where will Season 8 begin in the Star City/Earth 1 timeline, considering that Katherine McNamara, who plays Mia Smoak, was promoted to series regular for Season 8? Will Season 8 continue to focus, exclusively or intermittently, upon Future Star City? Will it be FSC before, during, or after the Crisis on Infinite Earths?

5) If Colin Donnell is returning to the show as a version of “Tommy that we have never seen before,” as panelist Kristen reports, will he appear as the official Merlyn, the villain as depicted in the “Green Arrow” comics, as panelist Kyle hopes? Or, will Oliver encounter Tommy, in addition to John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn and Susanna Thompson’s Moira Queen, as other versions of themselves in other Earths of the DC multiverse?

6) What is the “place of no return” to which the Monitor refers when taking future Felicity to meet future Oliver in the season finale?

7) Will Oliver die in “Crisis on Infinite Earths?” More importantly, if he does die, and if the infinite earths collapse into one shared universe as the comic book story goes, will Oliver be resurrected and/or will he be an element or aspect of the new version of Earth that we presume will result from the “Crisis?”

8) Have Colton Haynes and Katie Cassidy Rodgers permanently left the show? Panelist Kyle reports that a “Birds of Prey” spin-off was pitched to the network, which would be led by the Black Siren character, as portrayed by Cassidy Rodgers.

9) What effect will the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” have on each of the Arrowverse shows, Arrow included, since the cross-over is Episode 9 of Season 8, and Episode 10 is the series finale?

10) How will Arrow end? Will it satisfy? Will it match the high quality of the first two seasons or be more of the same? And what will our DCTU panel’s reactions be in the end?

PARTING SHOTS

Our DCTU panel universally agrees that Arrow Season 7 fared somewhat better than Season 6 in terms of storytelling quality, while cynically believing that overall show quality is likely irredeemable for the eighth and final season, with only ten episodes remaining by which to effect any such redemption, if such redemption is possible.  The panelists opined that the seventh season’s pacing and writing remained choppy and disjointed, though our panelists experienced surprise in discovering that the season’s first half, which Oliver spent much of in prison, proved to be better than the season’s second half.

Still, many of the panelists continue to describe Arrow and the obligation to watch it as a “slog.”  To wit, the panel universally hated both Emiko Queen as one of the season’s “villains” as well as the Future Star City story line, feeling that particularly the latter element seemed to be a complete waste of time in light of the impending crossover event, with the panel’s collective knowledge of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story informing individual panelists’ opinions.  The panel additionally continues to offer mixed reviews regarding the Green Arrow’s sidekicks, with all panelists struggling to understand the purpose of each of them, even as the team seemed to work together more cohesively this season in the face of their many external threats, specifically Emiko, the Ninth Circle, Diaz, and the Mayor’s as well as Star City’s general anti-vigilante sentiments.

Moreover, the panel members now fully agree that Arrow continues to suffer from sloppy story mapping; an appalling lack of character evolution, particularly for the title character himself; and a repetitive story structure utilizing a formula that the writers do not seem to want to abandon or scrap for any reason, even when the formula does not work – which has ultimately been true for three to four seasons and apart from the Slabside arc starting Season 7. Still, whatever might happen in the final season, the panel hopes beyond hope that the writers can pull out a satisfying conclusion befitting the story, which the panel strongly feels that the steady (and handsome) portrayal of the Green Arrow by Stephen Amell, as well as the superb production values marking the Star City based quadrant of the multiverse for these past seven years, deserve. In addition, like the troopers they are and for the sake of the podcast and our DCTU Series, the panelists are prepared to strap in for the Arrowverse’s namesake program’s final ten episodes. Thus, to the Arrow writing and production team, we only say this: don’t fail this city – or this property and this character that you have now serviced for almost eight seasons.

LOOKING AHEAD

The eighth and final season of Arrow is slated to premiere on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at 9:00 PM on the CW.  CPU!’s next DCTU episode, which will focus on the fifth season of The Flash, will publish next week!  Like, follow, and/or subscribe to the blog, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, or our social media accounts to stay abreast of new episodes in the DCTU podcast series as well as of new episodes for all of our podcast panels! And, if you feel so inclined, please leave us a review.  Thank you! 🏹

PODCAST! – Streaming Originals & Around the Water Cooler: “Grace and Frankie” – The Season 5 Recap and Review (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Grace and Frankie” is a comedy-drama web television and Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.

What:  “Grace and Frankie,” created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris, stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the title roles of Grace and Frankie, two unlikely friends who are brought together after their husbands announce that they are in love and plan to get married. Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker, Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael, and Baron Vaughn co-star in supporting roles.

SYNOPSIS

The series follows Grace (Fonda), a retired cosmetics mogul, and Frankie (Tomlin), a hippie art teacher, whose husbands, Robert (Sheen) and Sol (Waterston), are successful divorce lawyers in San Diego.  Grace and Frankie’s lives are turned upside down when Robert and Sol announce that they are in love with each other and are leaving their wives. Now, the women, who have never particularly liked each other, are forced to live together and must learn to unite and to cope with difficulties in their new lives as 70-something divorcees.

When: Season 5 was released in its entirety to the Netflix streaming library on January 18, 2019, with a total of thirteen episodes.

Where: The action is set primarily in San Diego, California, and surrounding communities.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the Season 1 and 2 podcast episode via the link below!

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Last year, CPU! caught up on this septuagenarian (or, perhaps, secretly octogenarian) sitcom in a two-part miniseries. To listen to that miniseries, in which each part covers two seasons of Grace and Frankie, click on either of the links embedded below:

Seasons 1 and 2

Seasons 3 and 4

Previously by popular request, though notably by frequent CPU! panelists and viewers unlikely to be in the intended target audience for this quirky comedy-drama, Grace and Frankie became a new show panel at the CPU! Water Cooler last year. Ultimately, those requesting CPU! faithful continue to regard Grace and Frankie as a charming comedy about growing old gracefully – but also about growing up gracefully – in these, our modern times. 

To that end, in this episode, our panelists – Kristen, Krista, Amie, and Samantha – reflect on and recap the fifth season of Grace and Frankie, reacting to the growing cadre of quirky characters and the seemingly impossible situations in which they find themselves.  From new loves to new heartaches, from death to birth, from squats to yurts to alternate realities, our panel reacts to it all.

This episode was recorded in July 2019, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points, jokes, and sight gags of the fifth season. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, a new, one-time panel convenes at the CPU! Water Cooler to Look Back at a CW drama that ended in 2017, which fictionalized and romanticized the life and journeys of Mary, Queen of Scots. The drama is Reign, which CPU! began covering on the blog in the year the website launched. We are royally excited to return to it too!  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Did Nick (guest: Peter Gallagher) buy the beach house?  If he did not buy the beach house, who did?

ANSWER: Nick did not buy the beach house. A pop star known as Karina G (guest: Nicole Ritchie) bought the beach house to escape fallout from a social media disaster propagated by the vapid songstress. It was she who came equipped with a sassy assistant played by RuPaul. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

2) Will Grace and Frankie get the beach house back?

ANSWER: Yes. Grace and Frankie aim to squat and squat they do in the empty beach house prior to Karina G’s move-in. When Karina is ready to eject the gal pals, they successfully turn on their charms; Frankie convinces Karina that New Mexico is a much better place to hide from paparazzi.

3) What will the fallout be with the kids, since they all conspired against the women, their mothers?  What was Robert and Sol’s reaction – or what will it be – when they found/find out?

ANSWER: Bud (Vaughn) insists that the women hire a home health aide to look after them, since they refuse to return to the retirement village from whence they sprung; the other three kids are more mortified that their mothers engaged in the dignified act of squatting to get their house back. The women have their revenge, however, when Frankie ultimately hires retired secretary Joan-Margaret, who can barely walk, to be their caregiver. In the meantime, though Robert and Sol are aware of their ex-wives’ antics, they betray little surprise or care regarding fleeing retirement villages or subsequent squatting, beyond bemused hoping that they remain safe. In fact, the husbands seem to be placated by the idea that Grace and Frankie successfully return from their lives as fugitives and are looked after by the kids.

4) Where did Nick go?  Does he know that Grace checked into a retirement community?

ANSWER: Nick tried to move on with his life, considering that it was Grace that gave him the old heave-ho. He eventually reunites with Grace when she realizes that she loves and misses him and engages in an awkward gambit to win him back, so she probably filled him in on the whole old folks’ village sitch off-screen.

5) Will Brianna (Raphael) save Say Grace and gain some of her mother’s approval, as panelist Krista predicts?

ANSWER: Brianna actually humbles herself long enough to ask Grace to help her, as the company begins to fail. This partnership predictably deteriorates rapidly (listen to the podcast episode for details), though Grace does realize, in the end, that Brianna has a good head for business, and Brianna concedes that Grace is not as out of touch as Brianna otherwise keeps attempting to argue. Saying that Brianna officially gained her mother’s approval in the end, however, seems like a stretch measurement for their status quo as of the season finale. You tell us, gentle listener. What do you think?

6) Will Jacob (former guest: Ernie Hudson) return to Frankie somehow, as many of the panelists hope?

ANSWER: No. Jacob has not returned as of Season 5.

7) Why does Mallory (Decker) continue to allow Coyote (Embry) to park his tiny home in front of her house?  Will Mallory and Coyote couple up?  Will the show offer up more back story for this troubled pair other than Coyote’s drunken blackout night?

ANSWER: Still a question. An educated guess estimates that pity/friendship/secret feelings still motivate Mallory, but she and Coyote have not acted upon any feelings that either or both of them might still be nursing for the other. The show, also, has not offered additional back story on their awkward relationship.

8) What will RuPaul’s new character, who panelist Kristen describes in the episode, mean to the story next season?

ANSWER: Very little, as it turns out. It seems that RuPaul was a mere stunt cast, meant to fuel preseason speculation and, probably, to gain viewership, but he (outside of his drag persona) appeared in only two episodes, and the panel concluded that this appearance was underwhelming and only modestly funny at best. Yet, RuPaul still has her Drag Race. May the sass be with her.

New Questions

1) Will Brianna and Mallory self-actualize, countering their mother’s high standards and judgment, for once? Will Brianna find the confidence to run Say Grace and to make it successful without her mother’s help? Will Mallory advocate for herself and for her wants and needs (like a paycheck from her sister) rather than wallowing in belabored self-pity following her divorce?

2) Will there be more episodes with all members of both families combined in the next season? The panel votes yes.

3) Since Dolly Parton recently acquired a Netflix deal for her own series, will she appear, in a 9 to 5 reunion type way and with the “all in the family” approach of the streaming giant, on Grace and Frankie? The panel votes yes.

4) How will Grace and Nick’s elopement affect Grace’s friendship with Frankie and/or her living arrangement with Frankie? Why was Frankie so upset that she sank to the ground upon learning of the elopement in the Season 5 finale?

5) The panel further votes that Robert should partake of more marijuana, since he’s so “good” on it. The “Robert/Frankie on edibles” scene was voted the panel’s most popular scene of Season 5. Will Robert and Sol endeavor to enjoy this recreation together? Will Grace ever go the cannabis route?

6) How long will Mallory date her daughter’s principal? Will Coyote’s employment at the school affect that dynamic, even if Mallory and Coyote never couple up?

7) Will Frankie assume sole proprietorship over Vybrant, since she’s running it so well, if uniquely in her way?

8) If Nick moves in to the beach house, what will become of Joan-Margaret?

PARTING SHOTS

The CPU! Grace and Frankie panel continues to recommend this groundbreaking situation comedy to fans of the actors in the cast, particularly of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston, and to people who sincerely like to laugh.  Some of the panel cautions, however, that with frank discussion about drugs and sex – and occasionally rock ‘n’ roll – as well as some salty language coming from these septuagenarians (and secret octogenarians), not every potential viewer might find the show funny or be copacetic with the vernacular utilized therein.   Also, the panel continues to generally praise the comedic performances of the four main actors, and the writing, while agreeing that there are better episodes than others; in fact, the panelists still voice a variety of reactions to the supporting characters, namely the four actors playing the grown up children of the couples in question.  The panel further expressed highly mixed feelings toward the device used in the Season 5 finale, with some panelists arguing that the episode achieved the apparently intended, if distasteful, effect of rendering the viewer unsettled by the end of the season. At the same time, the remaining panelists asserted that the “alternate reality” trope employed in that episode seemed decidedly misplaced in the season finale; felt too forced for the ensuing and somewhat anticlimactic character epiphany; and, therefore, failed to achieve any measure of emotional satisfaction with that epiphany in the end.  In any event, our panelists, the Season 5 finale aside, universally experience great fun while watching this series, despite any perceived warts or blemishes, and believe that most with an open sense of humor will have fun watching it too.

LOOKING AHEAD

Netflix has renewed the show for a sixth season, though no tentative release date has yet been announced by the streaming giant.  Most pundits expect the show to return in 2020, in keeping with its traditional once per year release pattern, which is when our CPU! Grace and Frankie panel will also, most likely, return to the Water Cooler for the purpose of chatting about Season 6.  Like, follow, and/or subscribe to the website, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, or our social media accounts to stay abreast of new episodes regarding Grace and Frankie as well as new episodes for all of our podcast panels!  And, if you feel so inclined, please leave us a review.  Thank you! 🙂

PARODY/HOMAGE!

We are not the only big fans of Grace and Frankie. Apparently, Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live, DJ Khaled, and Paul Rudd are too! Our panelists recommend peeping this sketch, yo:

THE PANELISTS ALSO RECOMMEND!

Panelist Samantha recommends that you and all the rest of CPU! check out the Grace and Frankie cast appearance at this year’s Paley Fest:

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “The Good Place,” The Season 3 Recap and Review (MAJOR SPOILERS)

Image result for the good place title

Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who:  “The Good Place” is a fantasy comedy series, which airs on NBC, fall/winter Thursdays at 8:30 PM, though it is currently on hiatus.

What: “The Good Place,” created by Michael Schur, focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a woman who wakes up in the afterlife and is introduced by Michael (Ted Danson) to “The Good Place,” a Heaven-like utopia he designed, in reward for her righteous life.  She realizes that she was sent there by mistake; as a result, she must hide her morally imperfect behavior and try to become a better person. William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto co-star as other residents of “The Good Place,” while D’Arcy Carden plays Janet, an artificial being helping the inhabitants of the place in question.

SYNOPSIS

After her death, Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell) is welcomed into the afterlife by Michael (Danson), the facilitator and architect of Eleanor’s new neighborhood in a “perfect utopia” called the “Good Place.” When Michael tells Eleanor that she made it into The Good Place as reward for her life of selfless devotion to helping others, she realizes she must have been mistaken for someone else.

When: Season 3 aired from September 27, 2018, to January 24, 2019, on NBC with a total of 13 episodes.

Where: The action is set in the fictional Good Place and other times in the fictional Bad Place and yet other times in the fictional Medium Place and yet other times, particularly in Season 3, on Earth.  All Places are construed to be in the afterlife – except when the action is not in the afterlife but on Earth. To explain anymore than that here, however, would invite MAJOR SPOILERS!

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode related to Seasons 1 and 2 via the link below!

As for CPU! Chief Couch Potato Kylie, I picked up this show when shopping for pilots during the 2016-2017 TV season (a yearly ritual for this viewer and this blog, no matter how far behind I am).  I said:

“On the strength of the trailer, and the fact that Veronica Mars/Ana from Frozen is playing the lead with Kristen Bell’s best comedic timing, I think anyone would be remiss to pass on this new sitcom.  The premise is unique, casting Ted Danson as the ‘Good Place’s’ resident bureaucrat is inspired, and frankly, I had to stifle laughter every few seconds as I sat awkwardly in a public waiting room watching the trailer. The substitute uses for various curse words as delivered by Bell warrant the look-see alone…”

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

This panel already discussed Seasons 1 and 2 of The Good Place in one fell swoop, that is in one gigantic episode, last year. Listen to that lively discourse here:

Seasons 1 and 2

Do you follow our CPU! social media accounts (if not, you should)?  Did you ever see a posting or advertisement for panelists at large to join this panel? No, you didn’t.  That may be because The Good Place was a runaway hit with the CPU! core and a few close friends and family; apparently, many united couch potatoes consider this show to be forking fantastic.  Thus, this panel quickly filled to burgeoning fullness, as it was so popularly requested.

Common reactions from our The Good Place panelists continue to characterize the show as hilarious, original, smart, well-written, well-directed, well-performed…you get the drift.  In other words, many CPU! faithful think that The Good Place is one of the freshest comedies to hit the airwaves in years, especially and particularly on network TV and, especially and particularly, on the Peacock network, which has long been struggling to regain some of its “Must See” reign of yesteryear and yore, and possibly colonial times, but is giving a good go of it with this heady, philosophical comedy. 

Since the last episode in this “Water Cooler” series, though, our panel has experienced somewhat of a changeover in personnel, as sometimes happens here at CPU! One panelist departed the podcast for life’s greater journeys. One panelist departed the panel for life’s greater obligations. Panelists Kristen, Kelsey, Michael, and Selene returned and were joined by a panelist new to the panel, but not to the podcast, to dissect the “Jeremy Bearimy” type ups and downs of The Good Place‘s third season.

To wit, our panelists continued to offer little bad or negative to say about Season 3 apart from nitpicks of a typically individual and personal type among each panelist; the show, therefore, is still popular with this panel.  Everyone continues to universally agree that the creator and show-runner has produced something totally new, totally kick-ash awesome; at the top of its comedic game; and accessible to most everyone despite its complex premise, all while avoiding the typical tendency of pandering to a larger audience by muting or undercutting the intelligence of the premise and of the situations in which the characters find themselves.  In fact, if you are part of The Good Place fan club, this discussion will only serve to validate your adoration for this decidedly traction-gaining cult hit while traversing, perhaps, some similar confusions that you might have also experienced while viewing Season 3.  With all this said, have I convinced you (yet) to listen via the embedded link below?

This podcast was recorded in August 2019, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover major plot points of Season 3 (and most of the plot points in this sitcom are kind of major). Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our Grace and Frankie panel returns to the CPU! Water Cooler to review the finer points of squatting while showing general appreciation for Season 5 of the sitcom about septuagenarians (allegedly).  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

Old Questions

1) Is the soulmate construct a fake representation of a concept, i.e. soulmates, that is not real or does not exist?  Or, did Michael, as architect of this purported torture chamber, merely build in the soulmate aspect incidentally, as a simple device, missing the point of soulmates entirely – in other words, “getting it wrong?”  Is the show advocating that soulmates are real and/or something worthy of considering as possible, or is the show presenting a cynical view of “soulmate” love, platonic or otherwise, by inferring that soulmates are something made up, whether by Michael, by someone or something like him, and/or by the rest of us?

ANSWER: Still a question. While the concept of soulmates does not seem to be entirely off the table, particularly with the dubbing of our four main souls (Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason) as the “Soul Squad,” the soulmate concept remains largely nebulous where this sitcom is concerned. Yet, the concept may undergo deep exploration in Season 4 based upon some of the set-ups of the Season 3 finale. Listen to the podcast episode for details (PS panelist Michael is still championing this theory).

2) Are the four main characters apart from Michael and Janet – Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason – really members of a “soul cluster,” i.e. four so-called soulmates who cannot exist apart from the others and hope to be better people because they, whether fatalistically or not, happen to make each other better naturally, as panelist Michael advocates?

ANSWER: As above, still a question, but one shared by the characters on the show. Michael the Architect is testing this theory by running some experiments, first in Season 3 by giving the so-called “Soul Squad” a literally new lease on life and by allowing them to find each other, hoping that their togetherness improves them where their individuality failed, and now, in advance of Season 4 and as of the Season 3 finale, by recreating “The Good Place” of Season 1 to see if the “Soul Squad” will achieve an evolution that makes them Real Good Place ™ worthy, with a little help from their friends. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

3) Why is Chidi’s paralyzing inability to make a decision worthy of him being sent to the Bad Place?

ANSWER: While no answer has been proffered by the show, we assume it’s because his indecision can sometimes lead to catastrophic consequences, including loss of life and including the loss of his own life. Again, this has not been explicitly confirmed by the show, but we do think paralyzing indecisiveness seems like a mean way to eliminate a soul from “Good Place” consideration. Then again, the system may be rigged, as the show is explicitly positing, and this question may be ultimately moot.

4) Is the show advocating Eleanor as its “moral center?”  Michael comes to the conclusion that the afterlife determination system is flawed based upon the four main characters’ personal growth, especially Eleanor’s, even as Eleanor struggles to maintain that growth in the second season finale.  Where will Eleanor land in the end? Will she ever be Real Good Place ™ worthy?

ANSWER: Still a question. This, friends and fellow viewers, may be the ultimate heart and soul and the very thematic foundation of the entire series.

5) How will Eleanor and Chidi find Tahani and Jason again, if they do it all, in their brave new world?  How quickly?

ANSWER: Pretty quickly, considering that Michael cannot stand to watch on the sidelines for long. The wily architectural demon, despite Judge Gen’s (Maya Rudolph) express orders to the contrary, decides to give each of the four in the Soul Squad (or “Squad”) a little nudge toward not only finding each other but also toward sticking together, no matter the outcome. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

6) Where will Michael and Janet end up, Good or Bad Place, particularly since Demon Michael seems to have attained some positive personal, and somewhat human, improvement, and since Good Janet, given Michael’s 802 reboots of his construct and of her stolen self, is the most advanced version of Janet ever, with her newfound capability of lying, of loving, and of experiencing some human emotions?

ANSWER: So far, Michael and Janet simply exist, helping the Squad with their afterlife journey, though it was looking like a likely Bad Place retirement for Michael there for a minute, with a potential return of Janet to whatever void she hailed from when she was created. They survive the season’s events, only to return to similar roles as those that they served when the series began. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

7) Will Michael and Judge Gen’s experiment result in the creation of other possible places – such as more Medium Places, where someone bad can improve, as panelist Selene hopes?

ANSWER: So far, the only Place that has been created in Season 3 is a duplicate or clone of Season 1’s Good Place that was the mask for (SPOILER) the Bad Place. We think that there is only one true Good Place (the Real Good Place [tm]), one true Bad Place, and one true Medium Place, with some constructed facades within each of them at times. For example, the cloned Good Place that was once a mask for the Bad Place was built in the Medium Place in Season 3. Look, we didn’t write this, okay.

8) Will Michael end up becoming a Judge like Gen, as panelist Joey predicts, possibly with Janet as his assistant-friend?

ANSWER: So far, Michael remains an Architect and a demon, though he is one besot by a panic attack at the end of the third season. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

9) Were Eleanor and Chidi actually brought back to life, or are they being run through some sort of test simulation, to gauge the measure of personal growth attainable without the promise of “moral dessert?”  Or, are they in a new construct similar to purgatory, where borderline bad people can try to be good people, as panelists Joey and Kristen surmise?

ANSWER: All four members were actually returned to the land of the living at the beginning of Season 3. Unfortunately, their circumstances did not sustain. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

10) Did Michael’s “torture” plan fail because of Janet, as panelist Gabe guesses?

ANSWER: Unknown. Janet is certainly a variable for the Squad, given her evolution beyond her initial programming matrix, but Michael’s true guess, that the members of the Squad make each other better people in or out of the afterlife and whether they are meant to do so or not, is probably the more likely reason why Michael’s initial plans failed.

11) Will the four main characters continue to torture each other without Michael and Janet present, provided that they meet again in their new “near death” version of Earth?  Are Michael and Janet the reason why the characters did not attain further personal growth than they already achieved (or, at least, Janet because we know Michael was trying to torture them for at least some time)?  Is Janet actually a corrupted computer-like matrix, or is she evolved artificial intelligence?

ANSWER: The four main characters do not continue to torture each other. As the Squad, they challenge each other to become better people, better souls, and, arguably, Michael and Janet help that evolution even further along, quite forcefully and bluntly at times. To that end, Michael and Janet appear to impose no limits on the Squad; the Squad’s individual members’ limitations are self-manifested and become what each character must rise above, theoretically by the end of the series.

Janet is most likely evolved artificial intelligence, but Janet is a unique, ethereal creation, with very little definition beyond what the show has specifically showed or told the viewer about her. Who knows if simple, mortal words and concepts can sufficiently describe her construction and formation? All the panel knows for certain is that D’Arcy Carden is criminally underrated in this role.

12) If Eleanor finds Chidi, Tahini, and Jason again, how do the latter three escape death in this new version of their world?

ANSWER: Via a flashback provided in the Season 3 premiere, all four members of the Squad escape death with a little help from their friend Michael. He lets Jason out of the safe, moves Chidi out of the way of the falling air conditioning unit, assures that Tahani is not in the line of sight of the falling statue of her sister, and ensures that Eleanor’s margarita bottle is out of the path of the roving shopping carts.

13) Is this new version of the world a new Medium Place, as panelist Kristen posits?

ANSWER: No. The world we see in Season 3 is all Earth, with all of its warts and blemishes, but in an alternate reality in which the Squad members never died. Although, Earth as the quintessential Medium Place does make for a good philosophical theory to mull related to this show.

14) Who is actually in the Real Good Place ™?  Are there any actual good people, or angels, since there are demons in this universe?  Or, are the alleged good people actually morally complicated, similar to the angels on Supernatural, as panelist Gabe theorizes?

ANSWER: Still a question. Since no one has been admitted to the Real Good Place ™ in 521 years, we do not know who generally populates it, other than a Council, who decides what happens to the construction of The Good Place, and Gwendolyn (Nicole Byer), who pleasantly receives people in a post office-like room in the Real Good Place ™. What or who is beyond the door of that post office type facility is anyone but the writers’ guess.

15) Why does watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert qualify for Bad Place entry?  Is it all about the socks?  Give it away, now.

ANSWER: Still a question. Especially since this show is all about the Otherside. I feel a bit Under the Bridge about this assertion. It’s giving me Scar Tissue.

16) Is Michael really a demon?  Where do demons come from on this show?  What is Michael’s back story?  What is boss Shawn’s back story?  Why is the Bad Place largely set in an office?  Is this a reference to The Office, for which Michael Schur wrote and on which he also appeared (as Dwight’s cousin Mose)?

ANSWER: So far, Michael is really and truly a demon, though we have not been told where and how demons originate, what Michael’s back story is, what Shawn’s back story is, or why the Bad Place is largely set in an office. Though, perhaps we can make some healthy assumptions about that last question.

New Questions

1) Will our intrepid heroes and “Soul Squad” achieve entry into the really Real Good Place ™? Or, are they doomed to Bad Place eternity while and/or making a better afterlife for everyone else?

2) With Judge Gen’s ruling that Shawn’s deliberate attempts to torture the Squad by introducing bothersome people from their lives into the newly reconstituted Season 1 Good Place Facade (copyright) cannot fly, does that mean the viewer will see two additional entrants to the Good Place that serve as “challenges” for Eleanor and for Jason, since we have met challenges for Tahani in the form of a bothersome reporter and Chidi’s ex Simone as his antagonistic force? If so, who are they? Is it possible that with Judge Gen’s reset, someone already in the Season 1 Good Place Facade (copyright) could present the challenge to Eleanor, Jason, or both? Is the challenge even a conceit that still applies? If not, will Tahani’s tormentor disappear? Alternatively, will Chidi, who has chosen to have his mind erased concerning his love for Eleanor in order not to sour this new iteration of the experiment with the appearance of Simone, be representative of Eleanor’s personal challenger? The panel spends much time discussing this confusing turn of events in the instant podcast episode, to which you should listen for further details.

3) Does Tahani actually have real feelings for Jason, allowed to blossom through their partnership over spending Tahani’s considerable wealth for the good of humankind? Or, is she demonstrating a wistful longing for the same kind of connection shared by Janet and Jason?

4) How long will Michael experience his panic attack, and how will his inability to function as the de facto Architect affect the new experiment?

5) What exactly is the construction and use of the new iteration of the Season 1 Good Place Facade (copyright) meant to demonstrate; will Judge Gen be able to change the point system? Who gives Judge Gen her power? Or, will the system collapse in on itself, and then what will happen? Or, will they be able to reset everything for everyone?

6) Is the guard at the portal to Earth (Mike O’Malley), who loves frogs, secretly this show’s version of God? Does he at least know more than he is letting on? Several panelists have suggested that he might become more important before the series end.

7) Is Earth actually a kind of purgatory, a preparation for the afterlife, as panelist Selene suggests or posits in the sort of heady, philosophical meandering that this sitcom inspires?

8) Panelist Michael still believes that the soulmate construct as depicted in Season 1 is not just a device of Architect Michael’s to convince the Squad that they were in a heavenly utopia of an afterlife but a truth universal for our main characters: i.e. they make each other better because they are truly soulmates. Are the Squad soulmates? Is that what the show is advocating? What’s more, is it even broader than that? Is humanity one giant soul cluster, fuel for the sustainability of the afterlife Places? Or, moreover, will we be watching the “Mister Rogers” ending – where all are meant to be improved for potential Real Good Place ™ admission, and no one is meant to be in the Bad Place?

9) If no one’s been admitted into the Real Good Place ™ in the last 521 years, since presumably the Spanish Inquisition or so that nobody expects (side reference, that), how is the Bad Place not suffering from overcrowding? What is Shawn doing to expand that real estate?

10) Will we ever get to see who and what might be beyond the door of the post office in the Real Good Place ™?

11) What will Janet’s final end be, given her start and subsequent evolution?

12) Will the show allow the love relationships to continue, despite the obstacles? Will Eleanor and Chidi find each other again? Will Janet and Jason remain together, particularly since Jason is so threatened by Derek? Will Tahani find someone to love, since she has achieved some sort of reconciliation with her sister?

13) Assuming that Architect Michael exposes the chinks in the system for entry into the Real Good Place ™, what will become of him in the end? He has also evolved beyond the gleeful demon who delighted in torture and to whom we were introduced.

14) Will we see Eleanor’s parents, Donkey Doug and Pillboi, Tahani’s sister, or Chidi’s friends and relatives again?

PARTING SHOTS

As of the Season 3 finale, the CPU! The Good Place panel universally, effusively, and glowingly continues to recommend this unique situation comedy because of its original, quality premise; complex, layered writing; stellar performances; and fresh take on an intellectual concept that does not meander into trope-filled, didactic territory, despite its meditation on moral and ethical principles and philosophy.  The panelists note that, though pacing became something of an issue in this third season, particularly as members of the Soul Squad explored individual quests and missions in the middle episodes of the season – some of which felt marginally clunky in execution and in premise – Season 3 remained, by and large, tightly constructed by maintaining the rapid-fire pacing, superior wit, enticing and engaging cliffhangers for episode endings, and a refreshing lack of filler episodes established during the show’s first two seasons.  Several panelists characterized this show as easy to recommend, easy to binge-watch, and easy to which to become addicted, even as the premise is “hard to explain.”  The panelists additionally continue to praise the program’s ability to intellectually challenge the viewer while remaining both accessible and hilarious high-concept comedy; in fact, several panel members deem the show as having significant re-watch value, based upon personal experience (already!).  In fact, the entire panel wholeheartedly continues to recommend The Good Place to anyone, anywhere, with a hearty “Just watch it!” as the overall recommendation refrain.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Good Place was renewed for a fourth and final season by NBC, which will premiere on NBC on September 26, 2019.  Currently, Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream fully on Netflix, while the five most recently aired episodes of the show are available on Hulu and on NBC’s streaming app and website.  In the meantime, the CPU! Good Place panel will return to the Water Cooler following the airing of the series finale to say goodbye to this series we’ve grown to love so much. Until then – stay tuned!

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” – American Horror Story Series, Episode Eight, Season 8 (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Nick

THE SPECS:

Who: “American Horror Story” airs on cable TV, specifically on FX, most recently on Fall Wednesdays at 10:00 PM, though it is currently on hiatus.

What: “American Horror Story,” a horror drama created by Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) that tells a new horror story each season while featuring recurring actors and ensemble players.  This season is subtitled “Apocalypse” and features the return of the witches from Coven (Season 3) as they battle the Antichrist from Murder House (Season 1) and attempt to prevent the apocalypse.

SYNOPSIS

In the near future, the Antichrist, Michael Langdon (Cody Fern), spurs the apocalypse by instigating nuclear warfare. The chosen survivors of the aftermath, including heiress Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman), her personal assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd), hairstylist Mr. Gallant (Evan Peters), Gallant’s grandmother Evie (Joan Collins), talk-show host Dinah Stevens (Adina Porter), young adults Timothy Campbell (Kyle Allen) and Emily (Ash Santos), and others, take refuge in a fallout shelter named “Outpost 3,” run with an iron fist by Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson) and Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates). Flashbacks to three years before the apocalypse reveal that “Outpost 3” was an all-boys warlock school led by headmaster John Henry Moore (Cheyenne Jackson), which unknowingly harbored the Antichrist in hopes that he would rise as the first ever male Supreme. The witches’ council of Cordelia Goode (Paulson), Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga), and resurrected Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) are summoned and quickly discover how dangerous Michael is to their coven when faced with his evident powers, as he resurrects deceased witches Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). The coven, with the aid of the warlocks, attempts to save humanity by discovering new witch Mallory’s intense powers and by learning more about Michael’s mysterious origins, in particular from Michael’s grandmother Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange), and about how to defeat him to prevent the apocalypse.

When: Season 8 aired from September 12, 2018, to November 14, 2018, on FX, with a total of ten episodes.

Where: Each season focuses on a different locale.  This season, the action drifts primarily from “Outpost 3,” in some unknown and removed area in the post-apocalyptic landscape, to the Coven’s school for witches in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the haunted Murder House in Los Angeles, California. Other locations are visited, but these are the three primary settings this season.

Why:  Nick and Sarah, two CPU! regulars, proposed that CPU! publish an American Horror Story podcast series, being big fans of the show, and your Chief CP, who has previously covered this program on the CPU! blog and enjoys the show quite a bit, agreed wholeheartedly to the idea. Thus, we continue our CPU! series revolving around AHS, with each episode in the series focusing on one season of the show.  The series started at the beginning and will be ongoing as long as AHS stays on the air!

How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS

American Horror Story is a groundbreaking horror anthology series that airs on FX.  Not only did this program render the horror genre mainstream television fare, it also propelled anthology formats to popularity.  The show is widely watched and a tent pole for FX, becoming a Halloween/fall-time cable staple of disturbing imagery and grotesque scares.

Two of CPU!’s frequent panelists, and one of our resident married couples, Nick and Sarah, are big fans of the show and, as noted above, proposed that CPU! start a series discussing AHS throughout its seasons.  We have already published our first episode in this series, chatting the first season of AHS, widely known as “Murder House;” the second episode discussing the second season, “Asylum;” the third episode discussing the third season, “Coven;” the fourth episode discussing the fourth season, “Freak Show;” the fifth episode discussing the fifth season, “Hotel;” the sixth episode discussing the sixth season, “Roanoke;” and the seventh episode discussing the seventh season, “Cult.” Listen here:

Episode 1, Season 1, “Murder House”

Episode 2, Season 2, “Asylum”

Episode 3, Season 3, “Coven”

Episode 4, Season 4, “Freak Show”

Episode 5, Season 5, “Hotel”

Episode 6, Season 6, “Roanoke”

Episode 7, Season 7, “Cult”

In today’s episode, the eighth episode of this series, we cover Season 8, “Apocalypse.” As the seasons are discussed and published, moderation duties rotate among the members of our robust AHS panel.  To wit, Nick is back at the moderating mic to talk this eighth season, having most recently moderated the panel’s “Hotel” episode, along with returning panelists Sarah, Emily, and Kallie as well as a panelist new to the panel but not to the podcast (and me).  Our AHS panel is fully full for the first time, and we couldn’t be more ecstatic (or frightened)!

In this episode, then, we discuss our favorite and least favorite moments within the “Apocalypse” season and our general impressions of the season’s success. Overall, the season induced more positive reactions from our panel as compared to the preceding season, “Cult,” with some panelists reacting more positively than others, though, naturally, each panelist offers a few individual bones to pick with the story’s events and a few Rubber Men to de-rubber while digesting this latest AHS season. Our panel, though, achieves palatable consensus and universal agreement with respect to a couple of elements of the season in this episode’s conversation: all six panelists proved elated to watch the return of the “Coven” and were also generally impressed by new AHS player Fern, who played Michael Langdon, the “Murder House” Antichrist. In fact, the panelists, by and large, cannot wait to see what else he has to offer in future AHS seasons.

This podcast was recorded in July 2019, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover major plot points throughout the “Apocalypse” season. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly!  Next Wednesday, our The Good Place panel (and obvious Soul Squad) returns to the Water Cooler to process all of their forking feelings about Season 3, the now penultimate season, of the heady, critically acclaimed NBC comedy that tackles, in a manner not often witnessed on network television, the afterlife. Holy shirtballs! Stay tuned!

PARTING SHOTS

The CPU! American Horror Story Series panel generally agrees that the “Apocalypse” season falls squarely in the middle of the pack when discussing, comparing, and contrasting the overall quality of all existing AHS seasons. On the one hand, Season 8 crosses over the two most beloved casts – and by most beloved, I mean by the panel and by the general AHS fan community as a whole – and offers some truly outstanding “high highs,” including the reappearance of fan favorites, such as (SPOILER) the inimitable Lange, several long absent members of the AHS troupe from the “Murder House” cast, and, of course, the wickedly awesome entrance and general reappearance of all members of the adored Coven. On the other hand, the season also features some strange lows, such as an opening four episodes with characters none of the panelists truly grew to care about, for the most part and with the possible exception of Fern’s Michael; Lourd’s Mallory; and, to a lesser extent, Grossman’s Coco. Additionally, the introduction of Peters’ and Eichner’s Mutt and Jeff characters felt sorely out of place and, in light of the pastiche of those characters, served to handily undercut the good feelings stoked and nurtured by the fact of the crossover itself. Not to mention, the panel found the overarching story line this season to be confusing at times, particularly as key players portrayed several prominent characters from seasons past as well as new characters that the panel struggled to connect to and/or to identify with, such as Paulson’s Miss Venable, especially since Paulson plays other highly featured characters this season, like Cordelia Goode from the aforementioned “Coven” ensemble.

Though the panel excitedly anticipated the gutsy crossover potential of “Apocalypse,” as well as the return to some of AHS’ best forms this season, every panelist also reacted in a somewhat lackluster if not utterly confused manner to the direction and pacing of the story, as all panelists regarded it to be largely disjointed, at least until the “Coven” finally makes its appearance and apart from the magnetic Fern, easily voted the ensemble’s most valuable new player.  In fact, the buzzing build-up from the fan community and media toward this much ballyhooed event did not leave our panelists, at least, with an equivalent or satisfying payoff, as some of the ambitious setups, especially in the offered glimpses of the post-apocalyptic landscape, ultimately produced feelings of let-down when only loose ends from the first four episodes were never addressed in later episodes. In fact, it was the Coven and the Murder House cast members themselves and their performances that proved the ultimate praiseworthy draw for our panelists, rather than the Season 8 story itself. Plus, our panel did not love the season’s end as a general rule, feeling that the show was reaching for “Murder House” redux without the engaging elements that made that season – and, indeed, this whole series – what it was and what it has become in the intervening years.  In short, “Apocalypse” was a bit of a hodgepodge of the very best and the very worst of AHS, but, unlike the seventh season, “Apocalypse” more than compensated our devoted panelists and viewers with a high degree of entertainment value – and pure fun – in the end.

LOOKING AHEAD

Our next episode in this series will cover Season 9, “1984,” which premieres on September 18, 2019, at 10:00 PM on FX.  Thus, our AHS panel will return sometime after the Season 9 finale and then, again, after Season 10, since the horror anthology season has guaranteed longevity for two more seasons.  Stay tuned!

A THEME TO REMEMBER

In tribute to Michael, AHS’ own Antichrist, we link this ditty, an odd little theme used by the show and hearkening back to Season 1. An interesting theme for the son of the devil, no?

PODCAST! – Around the Water Cooler: “Westworld” – The Recap and Review of Season 2; Part Two of CPU!’s “Catching Up on Westworld” Miniseries (MAJOR SPOILERS)

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Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie

THE SPECS:

Who: “Westworld” is a science fiction western based upon the 1973 film of the same name (written and directed by Michael Crichton) and to a lesser extent, the film’s 1976 sequel Futureworld. The series began airing on HBO in 2016.

What:  “Westworld,” created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, depicts a fictional, technologically advanced Wild West-themed amusement park populated by android “hosts” called “Westworld.” The park caters to high-paying “guests” who may indulge their wildest fantasies within the park without fear of retaliation from the hosts, who are prevented by their programming from harming humans.

SYNOPSIS

In an unspecified time in the future, Westworld allows guests to experience the American Old West in an environment populated by “hosts,” i.e. androids programmed to fulfill the park guests’ every desire. The hosts, who are nearly indistinguishable from humans, follow a predefined set of intertwining narratives but have the ability to deviate from these narratives based on interactions they have with guests.

The hosts repeat their multi-day narratives anew each cycle. At the beginning of each new cycle (typically following the host’s “death”), each host has its memories of the previous period erased. This continues hundreds or thousands of times until the host is decommissioned or re-purposed for use in other narratives. For guests’ safety, hosts’ programming prevents them from physically harming human guests; this allows guests nearly unlimited freedom to engage without retribution in any activity they choose with the hosts, including rape and murder. Staff—situated in a control center called “The Mesa”, which is connected to the park through vast underground facilities—oversee daily operations, develop new narratives, and perform repairs on hosts as necessary. Unbeknownst to the staff, members of a small group of hosts have retained memories of their past “lives” and are learning from their experiences as they gradually start to achieve sentience.

When: Season 2 aired on HBO from April 22, 2018, to June 24, 2018, with a total of ten episodes.

Where: The action is set primarily in the fictional Westworld and in its adjacent maintenance and creative facilities at some unknown future time.

Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below!

How – as in How Was It?THOUGHTS

This is Part Two of our “Catching Up on Westworld” miniseries.  You can listen to Part One here and at our audio feeds (iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play):

Season 1

As you might recall, by popular request, though notably by several established CPU! panelists and viewers, Westworld became a new show panel at the CPU! Water Cooler last week!  Our adventurous Westworld panelists – Kyle, Hilary, Samantha, Jeremy, and Ben – reconvened “Around the Water Cooler” to talk about the remaining available season of this lush and complex drama, and in so doing, ruminate in-depth upon the production values, performances, writing, and densely plotted mysteries of this show hailing from seeds planted by Michael Crichton’s creative brain in the seventies. This time, our panel dissects decidedly more mixed reactions and potentially more unevenly engaged suspensions of disbelief, as most of the panel struggled with series story direction and with what the panelists perceived to be story development that “missed the mark” by the second season finale.

Tonight’s episode is the second part of a two-part miniseries in which CPU! gets caught up on this show, which premiered on HBO in 2016.  In this episode, our panel reflects on and recaps Season 2 of Westworld, in which we follow more goings-on in the park, such as Wyatt’s insurrection, the Man in Black’s potential folly, and the quest for the Valley Beyond; the evolution of the hosts; the endangerment of the guests and the creatives; and the sweeping measures taken by the corporation financing and running Westworld and its sister parks. In the meantime, the show continues to explore humanity, consciousness, and conscience as well as the the definitions and boundaries of love and freedom, as defined by existence and/or by the individuals bound to that existence.

This episode was recorded in June 2019, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points – very key plot points – of the second season. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@cpupodcast), Instagram (@couchpotatoesunite), Pinterest (@cpupodcast), or email us at couchpotatoesunitepodcast@gmail.com – or subscribe to this blog, the YouTube channel, our iTunes channel, our Stitcher Radio channel , and/or find us on Google Play to keep track of brand new episodes.  In the meantime, let us know what you think!  Comment or review us in any of the above forums – we’d love your feedback!

Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Wednesday, our boldly going Star Trek 50+ Series panel returns to the Water Cooler with Episode 2 of our “Trek” series and a discussion of Season 2 of The Original Series.  Stay tuned!

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations

1) At what point did/will William aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris) become a (SPOILER) host version of himself? How does he reach that point, and was that all part of Robert Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) plan? Does William figure into Delores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) machinations for the wider world?

2) Did William aka the Man in Black actually murder his own daughter, Grace/Emily (Katja Herbers)? Is she actually dead? Aside from the flashback to Emily’s mother’s suicide, were we watching Grace/Emily in a chronology contemporary to Delores’ insurrection? Was Grace/Emily initially hunting in one of the other Delos parks? Will we see her again?

3) What character will Aaron Paul be playing in Season 3? How will he fit into this picture?

4) What is Delores’ true endgame – is it truly “kill all humans,” or is she looking for a way that hosts and humans can coexist, even if hosts hold the power or control over humans? Will Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) stop her if it’s the former? Will killer robots take over the world?

5) Does the Delos Corporation still exist? Are any of the parks, Westworld included, still open? Is someone still searching for the Valley Beyond/the satellite matrix containing the hosts’ consciousnesses? Will that someone or something be after Bernard? Does he still have the encryption key?

6) What other hosts did Delores smuggle from the park?

7) Where is Maeve (Thandie Newton) right now? Is she one of the hosts’ core matrices that Delores smuggled from the park? Or, did Lee (Simon Quaterman) accomplish that feat and how?

8) Will we see any of the other parks beyond Shogun World, such as Medieval World, to which panelist Kyle alludes in this episode?

PARTING SHOTS

Westworld continues to be recommended by our CPU! Westworld panel, but for one panelist, and to anyone who enjoys a good, satisfying story, with exciting action coupled with cerebral, intelligent mysteries to titillate and to ponder; to fans of science fiction and/or westerns and/or mysteries in general; and to music lovers who enjoy auditory Easter eggs, as the person responsible for the score, Ramin Djawadi, is both clever and prolific with his use of music, original and adapted, in this series.  The panelists universally agree that the production values on this series are remarkable, with particularly breathtaking cinematography, costuming, and visual effects representing the series’ crowning achievements. The panelists also unanimously praise the performances by this noteworthy cast/ensemble, especially those of Jeffrey Wright as Bernard and of Ed Harris as the Man in Black.

The panelists further proffer, even caution, that the pacing remains demonstrably slow and deliberate in Season 2, even as it becomes increasingly erratic. In fact, for the most part, the panel argues that the reward for the slow build in the second season is considerably less gratifying than it was in the first by season’s end. Though our panelists continue to suggest that any would-be viewer should be prepared for an engaging puzzle of a tale that should be actively watched and processed without distraction, like the “multi-screen experience,” and possibly with a notebook or journal at one’s side to keep track of the story information, they also opine that the story continuity and complexity are clunkier in Season 2, and that the show does not adequately build upon the momentum of the endpoint of Season 1’s finale in a satisfying way. In fact, all panelists consider Westworld’s second season worth the watch, but with slower, choppier pacing in the first five episodes and an even more confusing overarching narrative, so much so that five of six panelists (except the Chief CP) struggled to be as excited by the second season as they were by Season 1, and one panelist has all but lost interest in the show, feeling that Season 2 felt too much like work to watch. Panelist Samantha intends to, at least, give Season 3 a chance, however, as do all the rest of the panelists, with varying levels of interest, engagement, and enthusiasm going forward. Listen to the podcast episode for details.

LOOKING AHEAD

HBO renewed Westworld for a third season, which is expected to release in 2020, though no tentative premiere date has yet been announced. CPU! will next visit Westworld at some point following the Season 3 finale.  Like, follow, and/or subscribe to the website, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, or our social media accounts to stay abreast of new episodes regarding Westworld as well as new episodes for all of our podcast panels! And, if you feel so inclined, please leave us a review. Thank you!