The Flash: Dear Ralph Dibney

I didn’t like you.

For 4 seasons of The Flash I have wondered why it seemed like the criminal underworld got the mega-share of metahuman gifts, seriously, didn’t any nice, normal people get hit with the dark matter and decide to help out like Barry Allen? Sure, we had a few nice ones get hit. But they appear and are usually dead in the same episode, so, they didn’t count.

And then we got Ralph Dibney. Gross, self-piteous, self-focused, dirty-minded Ralph Dibney. Really? THIS is the one we get to keep? Why in the heck couldn’t Julian have stuck around for another season?!? You actually made Joe puke, and I agreed with his assessment.

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Ralph, sir, you made yourself so hard to like. You were a mess. I hated it when you made off-color comments about women. I hated it when you ate gross food. I hated your extraneous banter. I hated the establishments you loved to frequent. I hated your self-absorbed attitude about how your life had turned out. I was delighted when we had an episode where you were mysterious “out of town” or otherwise occupied. I hated it all, and I still do.

I. Did. Not. Like. You.

Dear Ralph Dibney, I’m going to miss you.

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I know, I never, EVER expected those words to come out of my mouth. You had managed to take me beyond indifference for an unlikable “good guy” character and make me actually wish you were gone! But now that you are, all I want is for you to come back.

‘Cause here’s the truth, Ralphie-boy, even when I still didn’t like you, you started to make me proud of you.

I was proud of you when you saved someone even if it meant letting the bad guy “get away”.

I was proud of you when you decorated for Christmas, even if your taste in decorations is atrocious.

I was proud of you when you encouraged Joe to stay true to his moral standards and not plant false evidence at the DeVoe’s house to save Barry.

I was even prouder of you when you choose to step up and protect Caitlin and Cisco from the Prankster’s acid, even if it meant you died a horribly painful death.

I ached for you and was proud of you when tried to help Izzy, when you didn’t turn away from her pain but rather embraced it. I saw the heroic, protective, kind heart you had hidden under the slime, and I was proud.

But Ralph, when you sat and told Barry what you were afraid of, that you didn’t fear losing your own life, you feared losing the people you loved. When you looked him in the eye and said with passion,

I would walk into a furnace for them….they’re mine! DeVoe can’t have them!

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Ralph, at that moment, I wasn’t just proud, I didn’t just ache, Ralph, at that moment I LOVED you. You did it, you won me over. I loved you so much I couldn’t even believe I was there, but I was.

And now you are gone. Just when I loved you, you are gone. You died looking at Barry and thanked him for the gift he had given you, and my heart broke.

How did you do it, Ralph? I’ll tell you how.

We are all broken people. So many of us are unlikable, smarmy, gross, self-absorbed, jerks. Without help, many of us stay there. But someone saw you, Ralph, for who you could be, and your story took a different turn.

Love empowers. But I’m not talking about just any old brand of “love” that gets sold as lust and chocolate. No, I’m talking about real love. Real love sees someone, no matter where they are at, and sees who they can be, and that kind of love never lets go. That kind of love can happen to anyone, it’s not confined to romantic relationships. That kind of love crosses colors, nations, boundaries, personalities, and any other obstacles that get put up. That kind of love changes people.

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It changed you, Ralph. You couldn’t even believe it, not for the longest time. Someone actually cared about you? About slimy, worthless, failure-ridden-old you? They cared more about you than you cared about yourself. When you fell down, they picked you up. When you made a mistake, they forgave you. When you hurt, they hurt with you. When you didn’t feel like a hero, they told you that you were one and gave you the strength to become that person.

It changed me too, Ralph. I believe in the power of Love to change, this kind of love anyways. Love came down and saved me at the Cross regardless of how unworthy or unlikable I was.

But it was nice to be reminded, I needed to be reminded.

You died a hero, Ralph; you died a changed person. You died knowing you were loved, and you died giving your life for the people you loved. Someone offered you something that no, you didn’t “deserve”. But that’s not how true love works, love keeps giving even when we don’t deserve it. And choosing to accept that love changes us.

It changed you, Ralph. And it touched me.

Dear Ralph Dibney, I wish I had seen you sooner. I wish we had more time. I don’t know if you will be brought back or not, that episode seemed pretty final. But I had to thank you, I had to thank you for reminding me of something so precious.

You reminded me to look beyond the book cover. To see beyond the unlikable. And to love first.

Goodbye, Ralph. You made a difference and watching how your story progressed encouraged me to keep making a difference as well.

Dear Ralph Dibney, you will be missed.

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The Ultimate “ASSEMBLE” Collection

I apologize for my absence. I’ve been pulling some Tony Stark-level hours trying to release a specific collection before Avengers: Infinity War on April 27th!

*Deep breath*. Okay, who else is both insanely stoked and also coldly terrified for this movie? Every warning the Russo brothers release just terrifies me more and more. I really have no idea what to expect, I just know I will not be wearing makeup to this movie for fear I will come out smeared like some wayward clown.

But for now, we get to anticipate the unknown with joy. We are blissfully unaware of the tragedies and heartbreak to come, so we enjoy the sunshine while it lasts and discuss our theories, eagerly look forward to seeing our favorite faces, and watch every new TV spot that hits the social media channels.

We are in store for so many goodies, but we must prepare. If you are going to fight a war, you need to put on a uniform.

I’ve got you covered! No, you won’t need to pillage some poor mannequin at the Smithsonian for this uniform, you can get your perfect size.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I have created the ultimate ASSEMBLE collection for Marvel fans of all shapes and sizes. And this time, no heroes are left out. Are you a Dr. Strange fan who has been left without fanwear? Do you feel like the only The Vision fan in the world, not important enough to be recognized? Are you one of the many Clint Barton fans who are sick of feeling like the “forgotten” Avengers?

Y’all, I’ve got them all. I have been that fan, the one who loves something deeply, but no one thinks I’m worth making a shirt for. I started designing t-shirts because I was fed up waiting for someone else to design them for me. I made this ASSEMBLE collection as a Marvel fan, with Marvel fans in mind.

I hope you enjoy them! You can like my t-shirt page G’STEES on FB, and follow me on instagram @gsteeshirtdesign to stay updated. May the Force be with you, fellow Avengers.

Check out the collection here!

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Infinity War: The Avengers We Will Lose

You’ve probably seen the epic second trailer for Marvel’s highly anticipated film Avengers: Infinity War by now. If not, here you go.

Once we get past the awesomeness of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Starlord giving Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Ironman some sass, or the sweet adorableness of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker introducing himself to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange

“Oh, we’re using our made-up names? Then I’m Spider-Man.”

Could this baby Avenger be any cuter?

And let’s not forget the intensity of Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers/currently The Nomad screaming at Thanos while holding back the Titan’s guantleted hand. Excuse me while I go find some AC, cause it’s getting HOT in here!

Obviously we all have one, very dreadful question hanging over our heads right now….

….who are we going to lose?

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We have been teased by multiple Marvel people that this movie is gonna hurt, and once the dust settles we will never be the same. The Marvel movies after Avengers 3 will be a completely different direction than the one we have been heading for the last ten years.

We’ve also been told to prepare ourselves, cause some of our most beloved people are gonna die. 

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I don’t relish character deaths. They hurt like heck and leave me in a fog for days as I mourn the loss of someone I counted as an old friend (NEWT, WHY???). But I’m going to try and look at this from an analytical angle and keep my emotions out of it.

So, my theories on the chances of which Avengers we will be saying goodbye to.

Tony Stark

Tony Stark/Ironman 7/10 Chance of Death

Tony has been with us since the beginning. 3 solo Ironman films, 2 Avengers films, and 2 major appearances in both Captain America: Civil War and SpiderMan: Homecoming. He is like the father of Marvel as we know it, and we would not be here without him. Tony’s personal character arc is deeply intertwined with the overall MCU story. He’s gone from being a reckless weapons dealer/playboy, to leader and father figure. Tony has faced some pretty fierce demons, but he’s still standing.

Tony’s arc feels like it’s heading to a point of finality. Either he will make the ultimate sacrifice and end his story with a heroic death, or he will survive and move into retirement where he just keeps making toys for “the kids”. I WANT Tony to make it. I feel like he should get to come home to kiss Mrs. Pepper Stark *squeal*, pick their baby up out of a high-tech crib, and have Star Wars marathons with Dum E.

But what I want, and what may end up happening could be two very different things. One point of hope we might be able to cling to is that Tony almost did make the ultimate sacrifice in the original Avengers movie, so perhaps to repeat that scenario would be repetitive. It may be a fool’s hope, but it’s still a hope.

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Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow 1/10 Chance of Death

Given that it was recently announced that a Black Widow solo film was in the works, I highly doubt Natasha will be the Avenger to buy it. Not only is she a survivor, but Nat is a character with a lot more story to explore. Even though Nat’s arc has followed the typical pattern of making her a better character over time, her story is a reverse. She started out with her worst fears, there is almost nothing in her future that can compare to the terror and horror she endured as a young child/women in the Red Room. To Nat, fighting and potentially dying alongside people she loves and trusts is a gift, therefore, she has little to lose.

A character like Nat is deeply intriguing. We’ve literally watched her learn how to be human again. I believe that her film should focus on her future, rather than be a prequel film about her past. If I’m right about this prediction, our Nat is safe even with the Mad Titan roaming around. Which is good, since she’s my second favorite Avenger.

hawkeye

Clint Barton/Hawkeye 4/10 Chance of Death

We got a major fake-out foreshadow of Hawkeye’s death in Age of Ultron, only to be taken by surprise with Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver took the bullets for him. Hawkeye is the coolest Avenger. His ability to stay focused and on target #punfullyintended #yourewelcome shows his steady personality and grounded character. Hawkeye is also the happiest Avenger. He is the only member to have a settled home and family to return to. He only comes out of “retirement” when the other Avengers get extra unruly.

The only reason I have any fear for Hawkeye’s potential death is because he is so happy, I’m afraid the writers won’t leave him in peace. They had better leave him alone. The knowledge that the Barton farm and family exist have literally kept me going during the most upsetting Marvel moments. I need to know at least one of my Avengers is happy. And I am willing to bet he will get to stay that way.

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Bruce Banner/The Hulk Chance of Death 8/10

I hope you didn’t just choke on your drink. I’m gonna go out on a limb here with this one, so bear with me.

The Hulk is “unkillable”. He’s a powerful smashing machine who has survived death a hundred times and ways over. That’s exactly why I think The Hulk may be the one to go. Our MCU world is about to be turn upside down! It would shock everyone if the second-most powerful Avenger was the one to buy it well before his fellow Avengers did.

But shock value aside, here is another reason. I think Bruce Banner is nearing the end of his story. I don’t see much of a future in following MCU films for this character, and it feels as if his light might be fading. Banner is tired. He was just trapped as The Hulk in space for 2 years. Fun fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the vision that Scarlet Witch gave Banner back in Age of Ultron. His worst fear, being trapped as a smashing machine with no control. And that’s exactly what happened for two years.

Banner hasn’t really been a part of the continuing story on earth for a while now. He’s not as vital to our overall story as other characters, but his death would still punch us in the gut.

One final reason? I think Bruce would be okay with dying. As I said above, he’s tired. Other than his science sessions with Tony, and his feelings for Natasha, Bruce doesn’t feel he has a whole lot left to live for. I believe that dying for someone he loves would be perfectly okay with Bruce, I think he would almost welcome it.

Okay, okay, stop crying! I know *sniffs*, it’s so sad. But I can see it happening.

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Thor/Himself 7/10 Chance of Death

Directly after Thor: Ragnarok I would not have thought that Thor’s chances of doom were so high. A whole new chapter had just been opened up for the prince, no, the King of Asgard. Despite the fact that he lost his father, and his planet, Thor’s character was given new life and purpose as he led his people into space in search of a new home.

However, that end scene in Ragnarok where we see the Asgardian ship come upon a oh-so-familiar hostile alien ship left me feeling very nervous. I got even more nervous when the first Infinity War trailer came out and showed Loki (who has chosen to stand by his brother in Ragnarok) holding the Tesseract/Space Stone, surrounded by dead Asgardians. Loki has had dealings with Thanos since Avengers, and Loki didn’t deliver his end of whatever bargain was made. Thanos is not one to forgive past grievances, as the dark scene on the Asgardian ship could mean that the Asgardian people are dead, thus freeing Thor up from the task of leading his people. Which means he’s now open for the kill.

Another reason Thor could be in danger is because Chris Hemsworth who has brought The Mighty Avenger to life recently announced he is thinking of retiring from acting for a while so he can watch his children grow up. An incredibly noble choice, one I applaud him for, even as my fan soul sinks a little.

One hope we may have is that like Tony, Thor has already sacrificed himself in his first movie Thor. He allowed himself to be killed so that Jane Foster and the small town in New Mexico would be saved from Loki’s wrath. Perhaps killing him again would also be repetitive.

Then again, maybe it just proves Thor is fully prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

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Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Vision Chances of Death 5/10

Again, I hope you didn’t just choke on your drink there. I know I must sound like a crazy person since Vision literally is a host for the Mind Stone, and we have seen Thanos attempting to remove this stone in one of the trailers while Vision screams gut-wrenchingly. Something has to have happened to Wanda for Thanos to have gotten that close to hurting the one she loves. And that “something” has to be drastic as Wanda is the most powerful Avenger, something she proved when she brought even the Hulk to his knees.

However, I am betting these two are safe for a couple of reasons.

One, they’re the new kids on the block. They haven’t had the years of tragic backstory and fighting to wear them down like the veteran Avengers have. They are new, fresh, and have a lot of story left to tell. Vision is just learning what it is to be human, to feel, to love someone. He is a puzzle of a character, and fans love a good puzzle.

Wanda is a beautiful character, she has come so far, and she has so much to learn. Her character, as well as her mind-blowing powers make her ripe for more movies, perhaps even a solo film in the future. She’s still got a lot more to give to the MCU, a fact that I think makes her very safe. Her brother has also already made the ultimate sacrifice, it seems like at least one of the Maximoff twins should remain standing.

Wanda and Vision being together as a couple also protects them from death-by-gauntlet. A love story creates this other, new angle that needs to be followed through and explored. Unless the writers are able to follow-through with this story and wrap it up properly in Infinity War, Wanda and Vision have plenty of time left!

Unless they pull a Romeo and Juliet on us. But that’s been done, let’s leave the one to Mr. Shakespeare.

And as a final bit of ammo for my argument, Paul Bettany was filming for Avengers 4So, while it could be a flashback, there is a good chance that Vision lives. And if Vision lives, I’m betting Wanda does as well.

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Dr. Stephen Strange/Dr. Strange Chances of Death 0/10

Dr. Strange is a fresh, unique new face that was recently added to the MCU with a great reception. He can venture into dimensions that other heroes cannot, which makes him extra powerful and gives him a way of survival.  He also has a great future and much more story to be told, as is confirmed by the fact that Dr. Strange 2 is a future MCU film on the docket for 2021. I believe Strange may get some bruises along the way, he is after all, the caretaker of the Soul Stone, so Thanos will be paying him a visit. But the Sorcerer Supreme (sounds like a knockout pizza) will survive.

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Bucky Barnes/White Wolf Chances of Death 0/10

Bucky has been to hell and back again. His worst fears have already come true. Bucky has recently been reborn and given a new purpose as well as a new superhero title after his healing in Wakanda. And dogon-it he deserves it! I am convinced if death even tried to send Bucky so much as a text a horde of rabid fans would arrive on scene and kill death on the spot!

On a more practical note, Sebastian Stan still has quite a few Marvel films left on his contract. Our boy is just getting started!

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Sam Wilson/The Falcon Chance of Death 3/10, James Rhodes/War Machine Chances of Death 5/10

Rhodey almost bought it in Captain America: Civil War. He’s back on his feet thanks to some snazzy Stark tech, and as we have seen from the trailers, he’s not only back in the fight, he’s fighting alongside Avengers that he formerly fought against in Civil War. This is a big deal, since in my opinion, Rhodey was the strongest supporter of the Accords. I think Rhodey could make for a lower impact death that kind of softens us up for a bigger character death. I could also see him walking away from the fight. (was that joke too soon?) I’m pretty much 50/50 on his chances.

Sam Wilson (who is my 3rd favorite Avenger) I believe, will survive. Sam is one of the most amazing and underrepresented characters in the MCU. The way he just calmly walked into Steve Rogers’ life and never left, come heck or high water, blows me away. Top that off with a smooth, oh so smooth, personality, and a combat skill-set from a normal guy that puts some super-powered individuals to shame? SAM WILSON FOR PRESIDENT!

Sam just has the feeling of a survivor. He’s a great character who I would love to see pulled out of the woodwork and given more limelight.

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King T’Challa/Black Panther. Chances of Death? Death asked Okoye for permission, very politely, and she stabbed Death to death. 0/10

The King isn’t really an Avenger, he’s his own thing. Wakanda is it’s own version of the Avengers. Not to mention that T’Challa and Black Panther is making massive waves in the world right now. He has a second movie coming, and like I said, Okoye said NO to death.

The King is safe!

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Scott Lang/Ant-Man Chances of Death 0/10

Look at this goober, he’s gonna be fine! Ant-man is a fresh new hero who brings a lot of heart, and a lot of laughs to the table. Even though his next movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place before the events of Infinity War, Scott has a long and happy future ahead of him. The potential for his character in the future MCU is huge, especially since Hope Pym/The Wasp is joining on as his lovelier co-star. There is a lot of untold story to look forward to, and we can’t wait to hear Luis narrate it!

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Peter Parker/Spider-Man Chances of Death….if you touch my baby Avenger I WILL END YOU! But for real, 0/10.

Look at this precious boy! I love him so much, I want to adopt him. Tom Holland has brought our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man to life in such an endearing way, I know we have a long and happy future with this character. He’s young, he’s fresh, he’s energetic and because he is choosing (oh so maturely) to take his time and build up, he has a long runway ahead. Spider-Man, I believe, will be a key player in the future of the MCU once our Avengers’ chapter has been closed. God bless Peter Parker!

 

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The Guardians Chances of Death 1/10

If anyone buys it, it will be Nebula. And she will die doing something that hurts Thanos, perhaps even eventually destroys him. I hope she gets the killing stroke, she deserves it the most.

Our Guardians are pretty safe. They have a whole galaxy to keep worrying about, we already lost Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Yondu in Vol. 2. Our Guardians also are a key part of the MCU after Phase 3 closes, and they have one more movie to go. I anticipate a happily-ever-after for them. After all of the chaos, the pain, the horrible backstories, it just feels right. This family has a future.

And you’re thinking, she’s missing someone very big.

No, I haven’t forgotten. I left him to the very last for a reason.

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Steve Rogers/Captain America/The Nomad Chances of Death 5/10

Really, you need to stop drinking your beverage right now, I don’t want to be responsible for you choking to death. Yes, I did just give Steve Rogers a 50% chance of surviving Infinity War. And no, I didn’t do it just because he’s my favorite Avenger, my main man, and one of the greatest characters to ever be created in the history of stories.

I say it, because everything is pointing at his death. He’s Steve Rogers, he’s the guy who throws himself on top of the grenade. He’s the guy that ditches the plane and is frozen in the ice for 70 years. He’s the guy who takes down Hydra and still lets his best-friend-now-assassin beat him almost to death because “you’re my friend”. He’s the guy who is willing to stand against an entire room in opposition against him and stay true to what he believes.

Yes, I saw the same trailer you did. I saw Thanos going one-on-one with Steve. I’ve seen Steve’s nightmares in Age of Ultron where he couldn’t be at peace. I’ve seen it all and been terrified the whole time.

But now I’m starting to wonder if it is all too obvious. Marvel is great at the big fake-outs. We expect one thing, and then the opposite happens. They do it over and over again, and we still don’t see it coming. Steve is the most glaringly obvious choice for a sacrificial character, which is exactly why it would be perfect for him to actually survive.

Clearly the Steve Rogers we will meet in Infinity War is a bit darker, a bit badder than our Rogers of the past. He’s been off with his two amigos, Nat and Sam (a triangle of perfection and my top 3) doing Secret Avenger stuff. I think he’s only grown stronger, more strategic, and more determined than ever. I wouldn’t count America’s golden boy out yet.

Chris Evans has said that he is open to more movies with Marvel. Whether they choose to head in that direction or not, I’m not believing that they have signed his death warrant. I think Steve may have just bought himself a happy ending after all, one where he finally gets some peace and can pass his shield on to a “younger” generation.

I’d love to see him get to settle down with the right partner. I don’t know if that will be Sharon, a resurrected Peggy (it’s Marvel, we know it can happen) or my personal choice, Natasha. But Steve is a man who will always have friends, and after the dust settles, I believe he will finally come home from the mission he set out on all the way back in the 1940s.

So, what do you think? Who is going to buy it in Infinity War? Are my predictions sound, or way off? What do you hope happens? Who do you hope survives?

Share and write your predictions!

 

The Flash Vs. The Thinker

Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) in The CW’s The Flash is one of the clearest heroes on-screen today. A more straightforward “knight in shining red suit” than some hero characters on the sibling CW super shows, Barry Allen is a family-friendly hero who strives to stay true to himself and fight the good fight.

I have no problem with this, I wish more of today’s on screen heroes were less gray. It’s a common misconception that villains are more interesting because they are more “conflicted”. Wrong! Heroes deal with internal conflict on a regular basis, they just win the battle more than the villains do. We have seen Barry Allen go through hellish things and come out, not unscathed, but still true to who he is.

Barry’s strong moral compass and hopeful spirit have a huge impact on those around him. He collects friends and allies like some people collect stamps. He has a contagious spirit that rallies people to action and inspires a fierce loyalty and strength.

For every great hero’s story, it is important to have a strong contrast to your hero, otherwise everything comes out black and white. The creators of The Flash have come up with a perfect solution to this need: the villains are all a twisted reflection of Barry himself.

The scariest villains we meet are the ones we can see ourselves in. Ursula in The Little Mermaid is a dramatic and fabulous villain, but she fails to strike fear in us on a personal level. She never touches that part of your mind that says, “That could have been me…”

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Eobard Thawne aka The Reverse Flash is the most obvious example. He began his journey trying to become another Flash, but he lacked the character and inner strength that Barry possesses. He personally attacks everything about Barry that he is the opposite of. His previous goal of becoming the Flash has twisted into becoming the dark alternative. And he’s really good at it.

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Hunter Zolomon aka Zoom has an eerily similar childhood background to Barry, with a few very important exceptions. Barry was taken to a home filled with love and good people, Zolomon was kicked around from one miserable place to the other. Zoom is obsessed with speed, but his goal to become the universe’s fastest speedster stems from a self-glorified desire for power and people to fear him. Barry is constantly trying to get faster, but his desire stems from a desire to protect innocent people. Barry loves it when people feel safe because of his efforts.

savitar

Savitar aka the god of Speed is actually a time remnant of Barry, he’s essentially a clone. More than any of the other villains he starts from a place of being a mirror image to our Scarlet Speedster. But as we’ve seen in the cold cruelty of his heart, he is what Barry could have become had he not been loved, cared for, and chosen to do the right thing.

Barry has faced each one of these villains on a very personal level. They have either threatened, or actually taken his family, his health, his confidence, the love of his life, and so much more. And yet, he always overcomes. He picks up himself up after failure. He resolves himself to stay true to who he is, no matter what. He outruns every villain and their plan to destroy him.

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Clifford DeVoe aka The Thinker is our first non-speedster villain. I was excited to have a new kind of villain this season, at the same time, I had to wonder how DeVoe would impact Barry on a personal level, what part of Barry he would attack.

He enters the picture as we were welcomed into a new era of The Flash and Barry Allen as we know them. Barry was reborn in Season 4, Episode 1 The Flash Reborn. He’s settled, he’s confident. He’s stupid fast. He’s faced Vader and the Emperor and come out the victor. He’s a Jedi Knight now.

Barry ties the knot with the love of his life, Iris West-Allen and together they are reigning as Central City’s heroic power couple.

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Clifford DeVoe begins as a deeply sympathetic character. He’s a kindly professor, quiet and intellectual. He is married to a gorgeous woman who is his perfect partner. They have a beautiful house and eat homemade macaroni and cheese together. At first glance DeVoe has little in common with Barry, nor does he pose a deep threat. I couldn’t find the connection between Barry and his villain.  In fact, for the first several episodes I actually LIKED the DeVoes and appreciate their devotion to one another. “Just like Barry and Iris.”

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And then it hit me. This villain isn’t a dark reflection of Barry, he’s his own version of Barry. This season isn’t about attacking some personal aspect of who Barry is, this isn’t about making the Flash better, faster, stronger. This is all about DeVoe and his own “origin story”.

Like West-Allen, the DeVoes start out as a power couple. Soul mates, best friends, practically inside of each other’s heads. Their love has stood the test of time. Like Barry, Clifford wanted to make a difference in the world. He started out with the best of intentions, and his adoring wife The Mechanic went into the trenches right alongside him. They were a team.

As the season has continued, we have begun to see the unraveling of Clifford DeVoe from his own hero to a villain. He began his journey with the desire for two things:

(1) To love and be with his wife

(2) To educate

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Once DeVoe gained powers, he managed to hold onto these two goals for a time, but the power began to take over his priority list, along with fear as his body gave way. Desperation, bitterness, and anger took root in his heart, now he must rule. He must be the best. He must know everything. He must have power.

We have seen him go from a loving husband and decent citizen to a crazed maniac who keeps switching bodies on his poor wife. There is no greater indication of just how low DeVoe is sinking than to watch Mrs. DeVoe’s face as her husband sinks lower and lower into crazed villainy. He sees her doubts, her questions, the way she is looking at him with distaste. He no longer seeks to partner with her, she has now become another object he desires to control.

Barry has lost himself at times, but it was always remembering the PEOPLE he loved that brought him back around. He welcomes and builds up the strength of others, even if they surpass his own in some aspects. West-Allen is so powerful because both Barry and Iris know they are at their best when the other person is thriving and strong.

DeVoe has lost sight of all the people, even his most beloved person, Marlize DeVoe, in his desire for control. He is rotting from the inside out.

It is said that we are all “the heroes of our own story”. This rings incredibly true in this season of The Flash. This season isn’t about the villain changing Barry, it’s about showing the heart of Barry and what makes him different from other people with “good intentions”.

Barry Allen and DeVoe may share a few similarities, but in the end one will fall to ruin, and the other will rise even higher. Why? It’s simple, Barry has never been about the power, he’s always been about the people. And people last. Power does not.

Barry invests in the people around him, and that is why he will win, because he is not alone. DeVoe has invested so heavily in his power that it has destroyed the people around him and himself in the process.

I applaud The Flash writers for taking a different approach with their internal and external conflict this season. Even though I am sure we are not done with Barry evolving as a hero, or with speedster villains, it was nice to explore a different side of The Flash and his dark alternatives.

The CW’s “The Flash” series airs Tuesdays at 8/7 Central.

 

 

Black Panther, Mostly Spoiler-Free Review

Black Panther is unlike any other Marvel movie you have ever seen. It is a story that is in many ways self-contained, fantastical, a fairytale of sorts. And yet, it is grounded in the heart struggles and deep questions that our world has been wrestling with since the dawn of time. Wakanda may not be real, but the battles it fights most certainly are.

I was deeply drawn in to these characters. They are complex, beautiful, mysterious. They are unlike anyone you have ever met before, and yet they seem like familiar friends. They surprise you regularly. The past and the present are entirely intertwined in this story, and that is something the characters themselves struggle with.

T’Challa is a beautiful character. He’s kingly, regal, and a strong warrior. The greatest strength of his character, however, lies in his gentleness and compassion. He makes compassion look like the most macho thing ever, and he uses his power to heal. I could scream at the world with how delighted that message makes me.

Nakia, she’s magnificent. Passionate, constantly in motion, and so strong. You feel the life and the heartbeat in her every look and word. I found her character to be so beautifully balanced, she was T’Challa’s equal, his perfect match. She was beautiful and vital to this story. I especially loved how they highlighted her compassion, something that many women carry but rarely get credit for. Her compassion changed the course of this story as it influenced those around her. Can I get an amen?

Princess Shuri. Hilarious. Lovely. Intelligent. Full of surprises. The dynamic between her and her older brother warmed my heart. Shuri is magnetic, you could see her winning the hearts of nations by just being herself. She’s like the Phineas and Ferb of Wakanda, and she will knock the socks right off of the other “brains” of Marvel.

Okoye. I think she is the character that intrigues me the most. General of Wakanda, their greatest warrior. I wasn’t sure how layered they would make her, I didn’t know if we would stop at just making her a warrior. But she was more than a warrior, she was deep. I felt like she represented an aspect of tradition, and yet it didn’t hold her character hostage. She surprised me with a rare sense of humor, an almost motherly attitude, and my favorite moment in the film involved something most unexpected with her character. She was fully a woman, fully a warrior, fully a Wakandan. Beautiful in every way.

Everett Ross. Well, if Bilbo showed up in Wakanda, this is what would have happened. Martin Freeman has played the same character in everything I have ever seen him in, and not once have I been disappointed. I think Ross was an important aspect of this film. The Wakandans were mostly raised with an air of superiority over the rest of the world, they hold the secrets no one else has. And they’re smug about it. Ross carries himself in this movie with a quiet confidence that remains unshaken, his faithfulness and steadfast courage take the other characters by surprise. He has a job, and he will get it done. I think his presence also did much to change the course of the story.

Erik Killmonger. He’s one of the coldest Marvel villains I have ever come across. He’s so full of hatred and bitter darkness it terrifies you. But he represents the opposite side of the coin from T’Challa. They are meant to be opposites even as they reflect one another, the contrast is there to be a lesson. Killmonger’s story moved you to a place of compassion, even if you abhorred what he became.

I still believe this to be one of the most violent Marvel movies I have seen. This is for two reasons.

(1) The violence is deeply personal. It’s hand to hand combat with sharp weapons. It’s full of betrayal, a life and death struggle for a nation and a set of ideals. Former allies turn on each other, and they do actually kill. This isn’t the Avengers fighting Chatauri, or drones, or Ultron bots. This isn’t even the Avengers fighting each other where the injuries could all be healed. These people KILL each other, and it is heartbreaking.

(2) It’s deeply raw in the emotions, which makes the blades all the sharper. I shook for hours after watching this movie. During the end climax I heard muttering, and looked over to see my mom praying tensely under her breath. It’s so intense you forget it’s not real. She was praying for T’Challa because it’s that intense.

This Marvel movie is so worth it. It takes on some of the hugest issues we are struggling with as a nation, and as a world; beautifully, this movie ends with the truth. It doesn’t deny the pain of past tragedies, you ache with that pain during the entire movie. Pain can move you to hatred, or it can move you to compassion. Both results are shown in brilliant colors in this movie, but we end in the right place.

I am so proud of the people who made this movie. It’s life-changing. It’s honest. It’s heartwarming and funny. And it puts value on the right beliefs. Beliefs that if carried out, will change our world for the better.

Wakanda forever!

*Deeper article to come later.

black panther car scene

The Flash: Why We Love West-Allen

Barry and Iris

Legendary relationships can become landmarks for certain TV eras, and West-Allen is no exception. In a world of TV shows where commitment and long-lasting devotion have been cast aside for cheap overnight romances, West-Allen is like a breath of fresh air.

Barry- “I love you Iris.”

Iris- “Aw, I love you too.”

Barry- “When we were kids I loved you even before I knew what the word ‘love’ meant.” (Season 1, Ep 9- The Man in the Yellow Suit)

Iris West

Iris is the one constant Barry has ever had in his life. She is his safe place, his sounding board. She is his heart and his home.

Iris “I don’t want you to think that there’s nothing for you here….do good, Barry, and then come home.” (Season 2, Ep 13- Welcome to Earth Two)

Iris- “Barry, you’ve always had someone to come home to. Me.” (Season 2, Ep 20- Rupture)

Iris has a superpower, her superpower is that she can reach Barry’s heart when no one else can. She was the sweet hand that picked him up when his life was torn apart as a child. She has been his greatest source of strength, comfort, and represents the beautiful things in his life. She’s his soft place. That’s what women can bring to men, beauty, comfort, security, compassion, and life. It’s a uniquely feminine touch, and without Iris, Barry would have lost that the moment his mother died.

Barry Allen

Barry is a hero, he has been his entire life, even before he became The Flash. Barry runs headlong into danger without question, it’s who he is. Being around someone like Barry her whole life has changed Iris. His brokenness taught her compassion, his heroic heart inspired her, and his steadfast loyalty and will to keep trying is a light that she has relied on for years. Barry brings that light to everyone around him, he has a magnetic pull that draws people in. Iris knows he will always be there for her, she knows he is someone she can count on.

Iris- “Barry, I need you to know, that it doesn’t matter to me if you’re the Flash or not. You, Barry; that’s who I want to see if I have a future with.”

West-Allen

The years of sweet memories built between them are firmly rooted in going through the bad and the good times together. When one makes a mistake or a poor choice, the other person is willing to call them on the carpet about it. But they are also both willing to walk through the consequences of those mistakes together.

Any moments either one shared with Linda, Patty, or Eddie simply pale in comparison to the connection that these two have.

When Barry was lost in the Speedforce, it was Iris’s voice that called him home. He rose from speaking to his “mother”, the symbol of his past, and stepped forward to take the hand of Iris, his future.

“Come home to me.” 

She’s been his home since his life fell apart. When he broke, she put the pieces back together again.

Iris has also felt lost and alone in her life. Being abandoned by her mother has left sore places in her soul.

“I never really liked that book…..because it was about a mother who was always there for her child and that wasn’t my mom….we never had anyone who was just right for us.” (Iris, Season 2, Ep 21 – The Runaway Dinosaur)

That line speaks volumes about Iris’s brokenness in her past. Growing up without a mama is hard, she had to learn some things about becoming a woman all on her own. But Barry has seen her from the beginning. He knows what a spectacular person she is, he knows what she has meant to him all of these years.

“All I know is you’re everything to me and you always have been, and the sound of your voice will always bring me home.” (Barry, Season 2, Ep 21, The Runaway Dinosaur)

Speaking of those mistakes.

Iris wasn’t my favorite person in Season 1. The fact that she was with Eddie instead of Barry felt so wrong. We knew it, he knew it, Joe knew it, and somewhere deep down inside, Iris knew it. We can’t exactly blame Iris for the mistakes she made in Season 1  regarding the Flash, she had no idea who he actually was. But, the Iris of Season 1 made choices with far less maturity than the Iris of Season 2.

Still, Barry was forgiving. He loved her through it all, valued her opinion, and desperately wanted her to be an even more intimate part of his life. When she lost Eddie, Barry didn’t push. He didn’t force anything with, despite the fact that his love for her hadn’t changed. Barry helped her heal, he put her needs ahead of his own.

We all know what mistakes Barry made in Season 2. The Earth 2 field trip was a big disaster. Our season finale ended with the biggest mistake at all, Barry’s choice to go back and save his mother. It was maddening, heartbreaking, and we all know there will be nasty repercussions.

Still, Iris didn’t judge. She stood beside Barry, called him on the carpet when he was being foolish, held his hand when he was hurting, and was his refuge whenever he needed it. Now Barry is going to need to heal, he’s making mistakes and he’s blinded by his pain. He’s hurting so bad he can’t even accept the one thing he has always dreamed of; being with Iris.

But Iris doesn’t panic or lay it all down, instead…

“Barry, listen to me. You waited for me for years, you let me get to a place where this was possible. So I am telling you, I am gonna do the same thing for you. Wherever you need to go, whatever you need to do, do it. And when you get back, I’ll be here.” (Iris, Season 2, Ep. 23 The Race of His Life)

“I love you, Barry.” (Iris)

“I love you too….and I always will.” (Barry)

True love waits.

Loving someone means that you put their needs above your own. It means that you are in tune with where they are at and you seek to fit your life around that person to help them be okay.

Loving someone means that you listen, you comfort, and you encourage. Both Barry and Iris have been given opportunities to be this for each other.

Barry and Iris are the perfect couple because they have grown strong together through their imperfections. Their interaction is beautiful because they have been there for each other through the beautiful and the ugly times. They don’t give up, they hang on for the long haul. They are a team, the best of friends. They better together than apart.

I am so utterly delighted that we are able to enjoy such a great romance such as West-Allen. Big thanks to The Flash writers, and to Grant Gustin and Candice Patton for bringing this legendary couple to life. We can all learn a lot from watching these two, and I can’t wait to see what Season 3 has in store!

*****

Season 3 of The Flash premieres Tuesday, October 4th on the CW! 

 

Wanda Maximoff’s Room: Backstory in Less than 3 Minutes

The Russo brothers had their work cut out for them in Civil War. They had to bring us up to speed on all of our old characters, seamlessly introduce new ones, and engage in a deeply layered and interpersonal conflict in a way that was organic and engaging. What is the answer to that dilemma? Multitasking storytelling; using every aspect of a scene with characters, props, setting, music, etc to get the point across.

They pulled it all off magnificently. There are so many of this aspects of this film that I could discuss, but today I want to talk about how we were brought up to speed on the character of Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch.

When we last saw Wanda, it was in Age of Ultron where she spent most of the movie on the hunt for revenge on Tony Stark. We got a bit of her backstory, she and her twin brother lost both their parents and their childhood to a missile made by Stark Industries. Still, we didn’t really get to experience her heart, and we learned next-to-nothing about her personality.

Now, it is one year after the tragic events in Sokovia. Wanda lost her brother to that battle, and that meant she lost pretty much the only stability or identify she has ever known. Pietro was her foundation and safe place. She has been with the Avengers for a year now, and they have become her new sense of family and security. She’s no longer thirsting for vengeance, so….just who is Wanda Maximoff?

We got a few glimpses of who she is in the battle with Crossbones in Lagos, Nigeria. Wanda is obviously still in training, but her powers make her one of the biggest assets on the team. She was very tuned in to instructions and quick to have Captain America’s back. Her face was heartbreaking when she saw the accidental explosion caused by her efforts to save Steve from Crossbones’ bomb.

But the greatest download we got on Wanda was in the short scene in her bedroom. This scene was brilliantly done of every level, but I have to give the biggest applause to the set designer. Multiple levels of information and story were given to us in less than 3 minutes.

We know exactly who Wanda is when this scene is done; we know her desires, her hopes, and her fears. Her character arc for the rest of the movie is established in this scene. we know where she is coming from, which means we also now know where she needs to go.

Shall we examine this fine bit of set design?

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Notice the pin markers in her globe. Are these places she has already gone with the Avengers, or places that she dreams of going? Her life before wasn’t exactly one where she could dream, it was a life of survival and vengeance. She was experimented on and became this insanely enhanced person.

Despite all that she lost before, her normal life, her parents, and especially her brother, I would venture to say that Wanda also feels a sense of relief. She is now free to dream again. She is young and it is a big and beautiful world just waiting to be discovered.

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The color palette in this room is very subtle and restful. Soothing grays, blues, greens, and ivory. Despite her superhero name of “Scarlet Witch”, Wanda Maximoff is very non-scarlet in her both her color choices and personality. This room is her refuge, her quiet place to be vulnerable and to dream. This room represents who she is inside, and inside she is a soft, sweet person.

See the guitar? Wanda is learning to play music. She is a very gentle soul. There is a soft throw on the back of the chair, perhaps she cuddles up in it to watch late-night movies or read a good book. A bit of laundry in the hamper? It would seem she is actually still quite normal in the fact that she is procrastinating laundry day.

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Her shelf. It has books, a glass globe (I have one like it), candles, and this oh-so-telling bulletin board which I will get to in a minute.

My favorite part here is the cute hanging rack she made with a gold chain and a feather. Feathers represent freedom and whimsy, a side of Wanda we never saw in Age of Ultron. She has a feminine pair of dangly earrings hung on this homemade rack. I’ll just bet you she got the idea to make it when she saw a similar idea on Pinterest. Wanda can manipulate and create with her powers, but she can also create beautiful things with her hands.

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We can see a photo of what is obviously little Pietro. It is both sweet and heartbreaking. There are also photos of dogs and a cat. Were they her pets? Or does she just love animals? This bulletin board is completely stuffed. Memories matter to Wanda, she treasures them. She has experienced other people’s memories through the visions she gave them, how telling that she keeps her own memories out in plain view, even the tragic ones.

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More subtle colors. Another glimpse of her stuffed bulletin board. A stray headband that she never put away. Baskets stuffed with what looks like stationary or scrap booking materials. And the final detail, a cross necklace hung in the background. Could it be a part of her past, or has faith become a part of her life since the events in Sokovia?

Dreams. Memories. Sweetness. Peace. Refuge. Femininity. We learned all of this just from the background setting, this doesn’t even include everything we learned in Wanda’s conversation with Steve.

This is not the room of a child, nor is it the room of a woman. It is the room of someone who is in between. It is a room reminiscent of the childhood that she never got to have, but it is also longing for the womanhood she is not yet sure how to grasp. Instead, she is a girl caught in the middle between fear and vulnerability, and bold strength.

Wanda made huge strides to grow and become braver. She faced down her fear when Vision confronted her and she triumphed. Everyone is well aware of just how powerful she is, she is not lacking for capabilities to protect both herself and others.

But underneath all of that, Wanda still has a sweetness that needs to be protected. All those who know her feel that and try to guard her. Steve, Vision, Clint, even Tony. She’s the baby Avenger, the kid sister, the girl who they have all grown to love and want to protect. I think Pietro would feel great relief to know that his sister is so well looked after.

We were truly introduced to Wanda Maximoff for the first time in Civil War. And we were introduced so subtly and organically that we never even noticed it.

Meet Wanda Maximoff, a sweet young woman with a heart that’s even bigger than her beautiful eyes.