Saturday EuroCrime: The Disappearance parts 1 & 2

After a four week interlude in Wales, BBC4’s Saturday night slot reverts to European Crime Drama with an offering entitled Disparue or, for those of us reliant on the sub-titles: The Disappearance.

This is my first time with a French one, though Spiral has long since been a BBC4 favourite, but it was already established once my interest was first piqued by The Killing (the same with Inspector Montalbano), so I’ve never tried to catch up.

At first sight, there’s little to distinguish The Disappearance from its fellows. It’s very well made, and well acted, and it’s kept a low key over the first two episodes. It’s set in Lyons, about which I know nothing except that the makers of the programme are prone to aerial shots to give you a panorama and, especially when they follow the river, it looks a beautiful place.

I don’t want to use the word ‘cliche’ but there’s not a lot so far that we haven’t seen many times before. The Disappearance is about the disappearance of Lea Morel, a pretty, long blonde-haired girl on the eve of her seventeenth birthday. She goes out to a park concert with her elder brother (who’s supposed to get her back for 3.00am) and her cousin/best friend Chris, and doesn’t come back. So far, so The Killing 1.

There’s no sign of overt trouble at home, just a bit of teenage bolshieness/selfishness. Lea’s gone and gotten herself a small, discreet tattoo: Mother Flo, a civil servant, is disappointed, but only because they were supposed to be going together and getting one each. Father, Julien, works in a restaurant with his brother Jules (Chris’s father).

There’s obviously more to it than that. Over the first two episodes, we learn that Lea is a bit of a Laura Palmer: she takes cocaine, she’s had a boyfriend she’s concealed from her family for six months (Romain’s entirely respectable so why’s she been so secretive?), it turns out she’s forged parental consent for Formula FR racing training (at which she’s naturally gifted), and there’s a suggestion thatshe may have been involved to some extent in prostitution (she has to have gotten the money for the coke and the racing lessons somehow).

There’s a bit of a tangle in the backgrounds. Julian had an affair with a waitress last year, which he broke off when Flo found out about it, and spends a lot of episode 2 under arrest when she unexpectedly became part of his alibi and tried to get revenge by screwing him over. And Romain’s slept with Chris once or twice when he was mad at Lea, but he regrets it now, though Chris seems to think it means more, and it was discovering Chris’s earring in Romain’s car at 3.00am whilst fucking that sent Lea stomping off into the night from which she has yet to return…

Then there’s the cops. Leading the investigation is Commander Bertrand Molina, recently reposted to Lyons after ‘trouble’ in Paris. He’s hoping to see more of his daughter though she doesn’t exactly seem keen, not even when Maman decides it’s time Papa has to put up with the insufferable brat and dumps her on Molina mid-case.

And his second-in-command is Lieutenant Camille Guerin, recently split up with boyfriend, fending off Maman’s enquiries and forever eating (she’s a bit overweight but not worryingly so).

In short, cops with problems. We seem to have ticked all the boxes so far.

So The Disappearance is thus far another compilation of cliches, but I don’t want to accuse it of that. It’s not pretending that any of this is earth-shatteringly original, or high drama. It’s none of it risible, like Salamander or Follow the Money, and it’s entertaining enough for me to allow it time to develop.

It also has the benefit of a fine performance by Alix Poisson in the role of Flo: finely-drawn face, and a nicely pert bottom in jeans, she’s a worthy successor to Pernilla Birk Larsson as a distraught mother and by far the best thing about the show so far. Though I’m reserving judgement on the scene where she apologises to Julien for doubting him when he was arrested by the Police

Structurally, the episodes to date show a pattern of slow accumulation of detail leading to a low-key cliffhanger. Episode 1 ended with Julien’s arrest because he had lied in his statement in a manner that we didn’t know. Episode 2 ended in a rather more serious manner, with a voicemail at 3.14am on Julian’s mobile that he didn’t wake up for in time: from Lea…

The Disappearance was a big hit in France. It’s adapted from a Spanish series broadcast in 2007/8 so, along with the English sub-titles, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, internationally. There’s only eight parts of it and it’s been compared to Broadchurch, which, for my sins, I confess I’ve never watched, but if so, here’s hoping it’s a comparison to series 1.


A Brief Post about Captain America


I don’t really comment about Marvel Comics, their series and characters. I grew up on DC, and that’s always been the way my tastes have run. I had a spell of dabbling in the Marvel Universe that basically lasted from about 1979 to 1984, but I severed my last remaining connections with Marvel over the Jack Kirby Dispute and have never really gone back. The films are great fun, though.

This week has seen the latest development in the career of Captain America. Steve Rogers is back, after a couple of years of being too old, but he’s now been rejuvenated. Sam Wilson is staying as Captain America, so now there are two of them, with different series. Nifty idea.

But the new Captain America: Steve Rogers series has decided to start with a twist ending. It’s a very controversial twist that has got many people outraged. It’s led to mass condemnation, death threats against the writer and copies of the comic being burned. Oh my.

What is so bad that it’s aroused such hostility? Consider that Cap was created 75 years ago by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby specifically as an American symbol to fight against Adolf Hitler. Consider that both Simon and Kirby were Jewish. Consider that Cap’s most significant enemy is the Red Skull, a left-over Nazi. Consider that the Skull is an important figure in the creation and history of HYDRA, the fascistic organisation bent on taking over the world. Consider that this all has been the case for seventy five years solid.

Now consider that the twist in Captain America: Steve Rogers 1 is that Cap is, and always has been a secret Hydra Agent.

Never mind that it won’t last, that there’ll be an explanation for it, that sooner or later he’ll revert to his real self, this is a stupid idea. It’s a stupid idea because it is completely unbelievable. Because no-one with half a degree of intelligence can believe in it for even as long as the split second it takes to read the panel in which Cap says, “Hail Hydra”.

Because the very idea is a complete profanity of the character. It is an exact reversal of everything that Captain America is, was, always has been and always will be so long as he remains a character of any significance. I’m wary of accepting any mythical dimension attaching to superheroes, let alone the suggestion, only today, that they are our modern gods, but it is not exaggerating to say that this idea is a blasphemy.

Which is why it fails completely as a concept, as a springboard for a story. It’s wrong, and it’s impossible to take the idea seriously for a moment. Anything done with this idea has nothing to do with Steve Rogers. It will be divorced utterly from Captain America’s history.

No point in protesting, no point in death threats (there are never any point to death threats, save to identify those who are inadequate in their comprehension of life), although there is a point in burning the idiot thing: might as well start the process of excising the thing now as later.


The Infinite Jukebox: The Carnaby Street Pops Orchestra – Teenage Carnival

A long long time ago, I can still remember…

But this is not a reminiscence about Don MacLean, but about another piece of music entirely.

Some time in the Nineties, I began to get fragmentary memories of a distinctive piece of music. At first, there was only a tiny fraction of melody that, try as I might, I could not resolve into enough of a full tune to give myself a decent chance of remembering it.

It stayed as scanty as that for literally years, floating into and out of my head at irregular intervals. The segment expanded slightly: a roll of drums preceded it. I began to have vague images join my piece of music. A speedboat, crashing across the waves from crest to crest.

I began to ask myself, was I recalling the theme music to Freewheelers?

It’s practically forgotten today, and only parts of some of the later series still exist, but in the mid-Sixties, Southern TV’s Freewheelers was a massive phenomenon, syndicated in the pre-ITV News slot, with a handful of spin-off novels to boot. It was a teenage action drama series, starring a two boy, one girl line-up, three teenagers coming together accidentally to get involved in espionage and crimes. They began by helping British Secret Service Agent Colonel Buchan, played by Ronald Leigh-Hunt, and despite this being only a supposed one-off, the Freewheelers kept getting involved in case after case of Buchan’s.

Being made by Southern TV, there was a strong aquatic element to the stories, taking full advantage of location filming on the Channel. From time to time, the cast would change: Adrian Wright as Mike had the longest lasting role, but the initial line-up included Tom Owen, son of Bill, as a working class lad complete with serious young poet denim cap, whilst Wendy Padbury, fresh from playing companion to the Second Doctor, was added in series 5, playing well below her real age.

It was a good fun show, but then ITV teen drama in the Sixties and early Seventies was frequently very strong and greatly imaginative.

But that did me no good with my scrap of music.

By now, we’re in the early 2000’s, and our regular Saturday morning entertainment is Sounds of the Sixties from 8.00 – 10.00 am on Saturday mornings. There’s a transistor radio in our bedroom, and the timer on the hi-fi automatically records the two hour programme so that if any unknown gems come on – and at the time, producer Roger ‘The Vocalist’ Bowman is plucking wonderful obscurities out of this air on a regular basis – they can be copied over to a permanent cassette tape.

Besides, several times I’m the only one awake and listening from 8.00am and a tape of the programme ensures that anyone sleeping in can hear it at leisure.

Then, as now, the show goes to the Nine O’Clock news – end of Side 1 – with an instrumental. I am listening to the show and to gentle breathing on my immediate right, when Brian Matthew announces that this weeks instrumental is Teenage Carnival by The Carnaby Street Pops Orchestra. I know, sounds awful doesn’t it.

Then a drumroll pours out of the speakers and my head jerks round because I recognise it instantly, two beats, that’s all I need. It’s that piece of music that’s plagued me for years by now, I’m listening to it, and I’m actually taping it! I have it!

It was the instantenaity of it that astonished me. Just two beats on the drum, and I didn’t need the first note of a musical instrument to know what I was listening to. It was a classic Sixties TV theme tune, broad, expansive, sweeping, a great melody. And the speedboat crashed across the crests with an older man at the wheel and a younger man in a white t-shirt beside him.

This was the moment at which I was more than fifty percent convinced this was Freewheelers: Teenage Carnival by The Carnaby Street Pops Orchestra meant nothing to me. I e-mailed the show, identified the track played, asked if this was indeed the theme I suspected.

And two Saturdays later, once again the only one listening whilst my lovely spouse dozed on, my name came over the radio, my enquiry turned into a request! I didn’t get an answer – but I got the track played again!

Nothing daunted, I started seriously researching on-line, and it didn’t take me long to confirm, despite some initial claims for another, far less memorable piece of music, that I was right all along. Imagine that!

No copies of the early series with Tom Owen are extant, sad to say, but Wendy Padbury fares better, which is a pleasure because she was a sweet, delicate, elfin lady who was a sight for my naive eyes at a time when I was beginning to recognise that girls differed from boys in more ways than just having longer hair and wearing skirts.

We can never really recapture the impact of teenage hormones. But sooner or later we can recognise a Teenage Carnival

DC Rebirth… or, Fifty Years, Seven Universes and What About the Scrap of Red Cloth

It’s five years since Flashpoint reset the DC Universe one time too many for me, as detailed here. It’s considerably longer since I last bought an actual DC mainstream comic, but I’ve not been entirely out of touch. Old habits fade only slowly. The thing about the New 52 Universe was that it broke the thread of continuity that had run through DC since the beginning. It undercut history, removed legacy, deleted the proper Justice Society of America, and took down Superman’s shorts. I borrowed a couple of GNs from the library, on occasions, and the storytelling was incomprehensible.

It’s also been a bust, commercially, which is why the universe is being reset yet again. DC Rebirth is the name of the game, and since ‘Rebirth’ is Geoff Johns’ property, it’s yet again his show. Though only in the set-up: after the appearance this week of DC Rebirth 1 and only, Johns is being shunted over to the films division to apparently counteract the effects of Zack Snyder.

I don’t like Geoff Johns’ writing. This has made following DC awkward for the last ten years and more, since he has been flavour of the decade, to the point of having been appointed DC’s first Chief Creative Officer (first, because they’ve never needed one before). Basically, that means that the DC Universe is run according to the tastes and preferences of one man, and if you generally don’t agree with that man’s perspectives, things are a bit of a wasteland for you.

Reading DC Universe: Rebirth 1, I felt a tremendous sense of deja vu. It was exactly like reading Countdown to Infinite Crisis eleven years ago: the same dynamics, the same focus upon an individual whose fate is the forerunner of change. Even the art was by the same artists , or ones who drew pretty much like the ones who did Countdown.

Whereas that one was the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, on his way to his lonely, but significant death, this character aroused a more immediate sympathy in me, because it’s Kid Flash: the Kid Flash, Wally West, the real Wally West, whose been on the missing list since Flashpoint. And whilst Barry Allen and I may have been born around the same time, Wally was, in a realer sense, ‘my’ Flash, the one I collected assiduously – until Geoff Johns took him over, at least.

What it’s about is that, despite his having been Flash the last time we looked, Wally has spent the years since the Flashpoint trapped in the Speed Force as Kid Flash. Now he’s trying to get out. In fact, he’s desperate to do so. The problem is that, to return to reality, he has to appear to someone who recognises him, and that’s not happening. Not Batman, not Johnny Thunder, not even his beloved Linda Park (who is now a struggling reporter from a very tiny blog about to lose everything. Not even the Flash, Uncle Barry, remembers who he is.

And Wally is utterly desperate. Not because he wants to return to life. He’d be happy to slip away, to dissolve in the Speed Force, to lose all identity forever, but he has to deliver a message, a warning. Five years ago, the Flashpoint, Barry Allen changed time by saving his mother from being killed in the past (odd coincidence that you should bring that up…)

Everybody believes that it was Barry’s action that changed time, created the New 52, but that’s not the case. Wally has a different perspective. There’s someone else, someone who manipulated things, who deliberately chose to steal ten years from everybody’s lives, ten years of incidents and events. It was done to weaken them, for some nefarious purpose…

And in the last possible second, Barry remembers, and Wally is back, to bring this warning. The Universe is about to be reborn, time to be restored, history will come back.

Because Barry, at the last possible instant, says Wally’s name.

Who is behind this, who has done this? That’s the good old fashioned sixty-four thousand dollar question. We get two clues.

One is a pan, from the earth to another planet, one with dark skies, pink sands, desert conditions. There’s a rigid, nine-panel grid page focused upon a watch, Wally’s watch, a gift from his Uncle. Someone is dismantling it, cog by cog, without touching it. There’s also some dialogue, with someone named Adrian, dialogue I remember from thirty years ago.

And meanwhile, Batman has been digging away at something, ever since the unknown stranger with a yellow and red costume and ginger hair manifested himself in the Batcave, pointing to the letter from his father that was an integral part of Flashpoint. There’s something behind the letter, buried in the rock, that Batman chips out in time for the final page. It’s a badge, a simple, yellow, smily-face badge, popular in the year 1985. And it’s got a diagonal streak of red – of blood – across one eye. (Except that it’s the wrong fucking eye…)

So the Watchmen Universe is about to be folded in with the rest of the DC Universe/Multiverse, after thirty years of separation and despite all the paramount reasons not to do so. But then, Johns and DiDio couldn’t give a shit about promises made by previous management, not when they can tangle their shitty fingers in a superior creation. It’s like the ‘let me piss in it and make it taste better’ joke.

So, what do we assume? At the end of Watchmen, Dr Manhattan, who had previously sequestered himself on Mars, decided to leave that Universe and create some life. Are we now to assume that the former Jonathan Osterman created the DC Universe? And that despite the good Doctor being a basically neutral but benevolent individual, he’s decided to play games with his creation? (Of course he will, Johns and DiDio are incapable of imagining that someone with Manhattan’s power wouldn’t act like a dictatorial shit with it. They really are extremely limited in their visions).

Rebirth is good as far as it goes, which is up to the point where the big reveal is intimated, at which point it turns into a possible utter disaster. I’ve signed up to get Earth-2 Rebirth, which is the Justice Society reboot, but that’s on a contingent basis, and depends very much on how authentic that series feels.

Nevertheless, I do not see myself making a return to DC like I used before, even if they restore Superman’s red trunks, an issue that remains to be seen. Too much time has gone by, old habits and old knowledge have been strained beyond repair. Johns may be gone but his spirit lives on, and my place is back among the back issues. Especially if they’re going to start shitting even more on Watchmen.

The Infinite Jukebox: Oliver – Good Morning Starshine

I’ve had this on my mind and in my ears a lot, lately. It got added to a compilation CD, it got added to my mp3 player, it even turned up on a recent Sounds of the Sixties.

This song comes from late 1969. It’s a part of those hazy days when I first started to absorb music: it was in the top 10, although it had peaked and was slipping down, but it was still on the radio. It’s been an integral reminder of that time of early discovery ever since.

It’s also probably one of the most hippy-dippy songs I’ve ever heard. It’s from the musical, Hair which was still very big and controversial business then. It’s a lightweight sound, an open-hearted, overconfident compilation of all the hippy cliches, about natural beauty, about living with the earth instead of against it, of wide-eyed wonder triumphing against anything remotely concrete. Good morning starshine, the Earth says hello. You twinkle above us, we twinkle below.

It’s naive, unrealistic, silly and twee. And that’s the whole point. Because it’s a glorious rush of optimism, straight from a time when we, naively, thought that things were getting better, and that they would continue to do so. It’s more poignant than ever now, because it’s unsullied by doubt, fear or the terror of the bastards who rule us, whose only thought is to divide us, to take advantage, to think me not us.

‘Good morning starshine’ still believes that it’s good and it’s getting better and it’s never going to stop. It can sing ‘glippy gloop glooby, nibby nabby nooby, la la la la low’ without fear of ridicule and believe in it. It’s an uprush, of light and heart and spirit, and for three minutes it doesn’t matter that you have to close your eyes, it has the power of a time machine, it takes you there.

And it reminds you that we made the most colossal of all mistakes by leaving in the first place.

Can you hear me?

A Collection of J.L. Carr: What Hetty Did

What Hetty Did, J.L. Carr’s seventh and penultimate novel, was the first to be published through his own Quince Tree Press company. It was published in 1988 in an edition of 2,850 copies. My copy, unnumbered, is signed by Carr, leading me to assume that the entire run was signed. It was Quince Tree Press’ first publication. I saw it in the Manchester Waterstone’s one day that year and was intrigued enough by the set-up (and the limited edition)  to take a punt on it. I assume I remembered Carr’s name from Steeple Sinderby, but at this range I can’t remember for certain.
There are a couple of oddities about this book. One is that, though the cover bears the name J.L. Carr, on the spine the author chose, for the only time, to identify himself as James Carr. The other is that, alone amongst the author’s work, What Hetty Did has an alternate or sub-title: or, Life and Letters.
It’s an apt sub-title since Hetty, the narrator, is a very literary inclined young woman, a tall, long-legged, red-haired, flat-chested eighteen year old who is very intelligent, and given to constant quotation. The thing about Hetty is that, whilst she’s strong on letters, she isn’t that hot on life. Only she doesn’t know that. Hetty has her own ideas, ideas and a voice that render her completely unbelievable as an eighteen year old girl, whilst convincing her of her own innate  and overriding superiority. In twenty-five years, I don’t know quite what to make of this book.
Previous Carr novels have betrayed a very conservative mind-set and an ingrained contempt for the majority of every day people, their ignorance and vulgarity. Hetty is a supposed eighteen year old girl in 1988 or thereabouts but she holds the same opinions. Indeed, Hetty holds practically everybody in contempt for not being as strong as her, or not having the same literary appreciation as her. Even her best friend, Polly Horbling, is treated with a degree of contempt for no more than actually having teenage hormones, and betraying an interest in boys and sexual leanings.
To some extent, Hetty’s attitudes can be seen as a reaction to her life and upbringing. Properly, her name is Ethel Birtwistle (which explains a lot in itself, especially why, once she breaks free, she adopts the surname Beauchamp) and she’s determinedly Ethel at home. Her family is dominated by a seriously unpleasant father, miserable, ignorant, offensive, perpetually angry: a mind so small that the least thought would bang against all sides before it was half-expressed. He’s a rate collector, a miser, hates Hetty for her intelligence and plans to force her into a job on the switchboard at the local Council, rather than allow her to use the brilliant A-level results she gets to go to Cambridge.
Hetty’s mother is worse than a doormat and her younger brother Sonny, who never rises above a name on the page, is an envious sneak. Ethel, or Hetty, is an improbable cuckoo in the nest, and that’s because she isn’t the Birtwistle’s daughter, save by adoption: Mr Birtwistle couldn’t produce children. Sonny’s adopted as well.
So, after learning this, having already come to the point of knowing she has to leave, Hetty heads off to Birmingham, where she was collected from. An improbable but Carr-esque meeting on the train with a man going to Australia for adventure, sees her directed to the boarding house run by the twice-widowed Rose Gilpin-Jones, who gives Hetty a room in return for service round the house.
Later in the book, Hetty brings Polly and her eccentric grandfather, the Major, to stay for the weekend, which ends up with the Major marrying Rose. Later still, Hetty finds out who her birth mother is, by breaking and entering. She approaches her, finds her a stuck-up, reasonably wealthy wife with a husband and two legitimate children, none of whom know. Hetty, who has decided for herself that her being ‘thrown away’ is entirely down to the egregious moral flaws of Wendy, bullies and blackmails her birth mother in a nasty fashion, for money with which to go to Cambridge.
Of course, with complete improbability, she has a volte-face and hands the money back before parting with a tiny cry, and goes on to Cambridge where her Professor turns out to be her unacknowledged birth-father.
The plot, as you can see, is minimal. This is basically a portrait book, set in a world of unpleasant people doing objectionable things, but What Hetty Did extends this to the book’s first person narrator, making this an awkward experience.
Because I don’t know if Hetty is meant to be real, is meant to be taken seriously, as a paragon to be respected, an ideal to be pursued, or if she is an elaborate and ultra-black joke. Given the tenor of Carr’s work going back over a quarter century to A Day in Summer, I suspect the former, but am I falling for a more complex version of Johnny Speight’s Alf Garnett, who was created as a monster to be laughed at and discredited, but who became a totem for those who saw him as justifying and amplifying their narrow and bigoted world-views?
Certainly, I have known people affected by both sides of the adoption issue that Hetty sees in black and white, and these are the last two shades that apply to such a situation, so I can’t feel anything but anger towards her in her angry self-righteousness. But this is only an extreme: Hetty thinks she knows everything, but she knows nothing. Paragon or example? I have never been able to decide, but only because I want to give Carr the benefit of the doubt.
But this reminds me of Dave Sim’s Cerebus once he got into the final book, when his misogyny ran riot, spewing forth ever more ridiculous and exaggerated situations as the ‘natural extension’ of what he found so offensive today, since it no longer mattered. Carr is his own publisher and thus his own editor. Had his prior work been toned down? There is a distinct tonal difference between his first two novels and those that followed: had he had to adapt some aspects of his work, or make it more explicitly comic to be accepted for publication? Was he now free to cut loose again, untrammelled?
As I say, I don’t know. But what I do know is that What Hetty Did  is one of the most difficult books I own, and certainly the most unlikeable.
There is, thankfully, a little more to the novel than Hetty herself. Rose’s boarding house may be home to Ted, an honest, straightforward, uncomplicated young man who takes an unreciprocated liking to Hetty (who treats him abominably) but it also houses two more familiar figures, in Edward Peplow and Emma Foxberrow.
We see much of Peplow, whom Hetty adopts in minor manner but, barring the most fleeting and oblique reference to the events of A Day in Summer, we learn nothing of his life since then. He is merely an old man, troubled by pains in his legs, living without family in a Birmingham guest house. Peplow recites stirling and martial poetry to take his mind off his painful legs: it frequently keeps Hetty awake at night. His story is n story however: it has no plot, no ending.
At least there is slightly more shape to Emma Foxberrow’s tale. Until the very end when, thanks to Major Horbling, George Harpole turns up to take her away from all this, she doesn’t even appear onscreen; she is a voice behind a bedroom door, lamenting eternally losing George through her failure to simply admit she loved him. According to Rose, who is flagrantly wrong about all this, Emma is aware people are listening and is making it up for attention: she is Harpole’s widow, he having gone to the gallows for beating a woman to death.
Emma blames everything on Cambridge, teaching her to focus upon her head, not her heart. Hetty ends the novel at Cambridge. Do you see why I can’t decide how I’m supposed to take Hetty? Is Carr really, in 1988, saying that education is a bad thing for women? This is a world apart from How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won The FA Cup.

End of Term Report: Arrow

When the baddie’s the best thing about your show…

Arrow‘s third season took a serious beating from critics and audience alike, so it was incumbent on it to come up with something much better this year. With one sterling exception, it didn’t up its game anything like as much as it needed to, and in one area the show broke a bond with one loyal member of the audience who’d been there from the beginning and who was willing to forgive much just because this was a show about Green Arrow.

Essentially, season 4 was same again, arranged slightly differently, from season 3. And season 2. And season 1. True, the show upped its game in the form of its chosen Big Bad whose season-long arc aimed at destroying Star City: I may have been among the few who enjoyed Matt Nable’s performance as R’as Al’Ghul last time, but Neal McDonough as Damien Darkh was an upgrade and a half: McDonough’s larger-than-life relish of his role was great to watch.

And the stakes were higher, since it was not just Star City that was up for destruction, but this time the entire planet.

Now that’s two mentions of Star City and one of Green Arrow already, when this show has lasted three seasons on the non-comics names of Starling City and The Arrow. It’s been a welcome development, but it really only emphasised where the show got it wrong in the first place, thinking that it had to go with more realistic names so as not to put off its audience.

Like The Flash, the first half of the series was limited by the need to participate in setting up Legends of Tomorrow, which in Arrow‘s case, primarily meant bending the story around reviving Sarah lance and returning to Nanda Parbat and re-evoking the rivalry between Malcolm Merlin and Nyssa Al’Ghul over the league of Assassins.

Meanwhile, Oliver is living happily in retirement with Felicity and planning to give her a ring until she drags him back to assist Team Arrow, which is drowning vertically. Felicity finds herself head of Palmer Technology, which leads into rescuing Ray Palmer for Legends, whilst Oliver fools everybody in the newly-rechristened (in honour of Ray, an offcomer who was only there for about nine months) Star City by appearing as the Green Arrow that nobody connects with the recently deceased no-colour Arrow who was functionally and physically identical to the Green one.


Complicate this with the mysterious flash forward at the end of episode 1, with Oliver (and Barry) mourning someone inknown who’d wound up in a grave, which the showrunners just threw in without any idea of who would end up in it, and the stage was set for another typically confused season, in which very little would make any coherent sense, especially if you took the trouble to compare the events of one episode with that of another (or sometimes even within the same episode).

This year’s flashbacks saw us back to Lian Yu, with Ollie sent in under cover to frustrate the mysterious efforts of Baron Riker to uncover something that turned out to have a magical link to Damien Darhk. As Ollie was away five years, seeing the final year of flashbacks link into the start of season 1 is my main motivation for staying on for season 5.

Because about two-thirds of the way through, a very large part of my connection to this series broke, suddenly and finally. I’ve always liked Felicity, and I like how Emily Bett Rickards plays her (and I like how Emily Bett Rickards looks when playing her). It’s been a rollercoaster this year: from idyllic retirement together, ending because Felicity couldn’t leave crime-fighting alone, to engagement, warmth, trust, tycoondom, paraplegia, and a completely hypocrital reversal over Ollie keeping secrets from her when it came to his son.

Never mind the concept that sometimes people have to keep secrets even from those closest to them, because they are not free to spread the information without the say-so of the person to whom it belongs, Felicity totally lost it over little William. And when Ollie decided that the only way to protect his offspring was to send his ex- and the boy away somewhere even he didn’t know – without consulting Felicity on something that had fuck all to do with her – and she broke up with him, I broke with the programme.

If they want to go to such contrived lengths to fuck around with a successful and valuable relationship, sobeit, but I completely lost interest. Ever since, I’ve been watching solely from habit and the primeval urge to know how it comes out, but I can no longer invest anything of myself into the show.

It ended up being Laurel (Black Canary) Lance in the grave, the showrunners finally giving way to nearly four years of hatred by getting rid of Katie Cassidy (not without a last words declaration that it was always Ollie she loved that rang about as true as a three dollar coin). Incidentally, showing my shallow side here, in nearly four years on Arrow I never found Katie Cassidy attractive, but one ten minute guest spot on The Flash as the Earth-2 villainess, Black Siren, and boy was she hot!

One positive for next season is the announcement that Echo Kellum will be a regular. Kellum has appeared sporadically in season 4 as a genius level inventor at Palmertech, but although he’s been saddled with the name Curtis, instead of Michael, he’s been seen designing T-spheres, so I hope next season we’ll be looking at Team Arrow expanding to include Mr. Terrific.

As Terrific is another old favourite of mine, I am hoping for spin-off material.

The season ended with the same disregard for practicality and emotional logic that the show has developed from the beginning, except that a show four years old should have grown out of it by now and this one’s only getting worse by the episode as the emotional beats are being tortured into ugly and impossible shapes in order to service the latest plot contrivance.

So  Damien Darhk dies, at the Green Arrow’s hands, in public, the Green Arrow that’s Star City’s investment in hope. Diggle and Thea resign to cater to their inner demons, Thea to sit on a couch, picking at the hem of her designer jeans and Diggle to re-enlist in the military (makes perfect sense to me, folks). Oliver gets sworn in as Mayor for giving an inspirational speech whilst stood on the roof of a taxi (which wasn’t moving, thankfully) that somehow managed to get people rioting in panic over being about to die from a nuclear missile to stop and listen to, even when the missile was visible in the sky, racing towards them.

And Felicity sticks with Oliver which, by my count, is about the seventy-third different and incompatible emotional stance she’s struck this series alone.

It’s been a busy season. I’ve bailed on Lucifer already, and had Agent Carter cancelled out from under me. I’ve gotten hooked on iZombie which will come into next season’s mix, and I’ve also gotten into Person of Interest, which won’t because it’s rapidly closing in on the end of its final season. The rest look good for another year, but I am very close to dropping over the edge with Arrow, which needs to have an exceptional season 5 if it wants to keep me on board for any season 6. Based on its record to date, I’m not expecting miracles.

So, summer’s here and, except for Preacher it looks like being three months or so of catch-up. I’ll try to finish off Parks and Recreation and Spartacus. See you in September.