SciFi Weekend: Avengers Age of Ultron; Agents of SHIELD; Orphan Black; Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; Community; Revenge; Scarlett Johansson On SNL

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle)..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron opened with the second highest box office receipts of all time, trailing only The Avengers 2012 opening. I would rank the first Avengers movie, along with the better Iron Man and Captain America movies, above Age of Ultron, but it was still a very enjoyable movie, falling in the middle of the recent Marvel releases. My discussion here is primarily as to how it fits into the rest of the Marvel universe and I avoided major spoilers of plot points, but those who want to totally avoid any information about the movie before seeing might want to jump down to the next section. Some of the linked articles have even more significant spoilers.

There is an attempt at continuity between the Marvel television universe and cinematic universe, but it is largely one way. The movie definitely takes place after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with SHIELD broken up. The members of the Avengers are working out their own hierarchy, no longer taking orders from SHIELD. Agents of SHIELD did have a lead-in for the movie in last week’s episode, including the search for Loki’s scepter, but as far as the movie series goes, Coulson is dead. While Nick Fury and Maria Hill appeared in the movie, there was no sign of Coulson, even at a party where it seemed everyone who ever appeared in a Marvel movie was invited. For those who primarily watch the movies, they avoided having to explain how he is alive, and viewers of the show could just assume he was too busy hiding from HYDRA and the other SHIELD to attend. Joss Whedon discussed the conflict between the television and movie people, including a reference to the ending of St. Elsewhere:

“Yeah he’s dead. The entire television series is just a fever dream. It’s a Jacob’s Ladder moment he’s having at the point of death, but we don’t give that away until after season seven. And there’s a snow globe. Now I’ve given it away. Bollocks!

“It’s a weird little yes and no. As far as I’m concerned in the films, yes he’s dead. In terms of the narrative of these guys [The Avengers] his loss was very important. When I created the television show, it was sort of on the understanding that this can work and we can do it with integrity, but these Avengers movies are for people to see the Avengers movies and nothing else. And it would neither make sense nor be useful to say ‘Oh and by the way remember me? I died!’”

The Agents of SHIELD show runners discussed the tie in to the movie with Variety. Note that it is not necessary for understanding of the television show to have seen the movie to make sense of its references in last week’s episode. We will see how the events tie into future shows, but my bet is that the movie and television show are sufficiently self-contained so that it won’t necessary to have seen the movie.

One limitation of Avengers movies is that there are too many characters to spend much time on each individually. They did throw in a new romance, and we learned much more about Hawkeye and about The Black Widow. The most significant opportunity for characters to be seen as individuals  occurred when Scarlet Witch caused them to have dream sequences. These sequences told more about the motivations and thoughts of the characters, and are discussed further at Slate.

It shouldn’t come as a spoiler to note that the Avengers win in the end. The ending shows some of the original Avengers leaving the group, although we know they will be seen again in Captain America: Civil War. The ending did suggest that newer superheroes would be replacing some of them, but I would not be surprised if more of the original Avengers also play a role in the future. It looks like the Avengers will primarily consist of Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, and two introduced in this movie: Scarlet Witch and Vision. More on this here , here, and here. There was not a scene at the end of the credits, but there was a brief scene during the credits which also ties the movie to Guardians of the Galaxy. Discussion of that scene can be found here. Of course there was the obligatory Stan Lee cameo.

Orphan Black s03e03

Orphan Black got back to Mark and the Prolethean storyline, and had a big revelation about the Castor clones (I am  your sister). In watching it is hard to tell to what degree the writers had a long range plan and to what degree they are making things up as they go along. This is most apparent in how they retcon Paul’s role to fit into whatever is happening each season. This season they have him working with Team Castor, and therefore retroactively came up with the explanation the he had previously infiltrated Dyad. There is an even more retcon with Mark. Ari Millen was originally intended to only play Prolethean Mark, but at the end of the season it was decided to have him play the line of male clones. I had wondered how they would reconcile Mark’s character with the other clones. Now the explanation is that he was only with the Proletheans to retrieve material from Henrik. The change in each character seems even less plausible when considering the scene last season where Mark and Paul met in a bar and gave no indication that they were both on Team Castor. While they should have recognized each other, I imagine this scene could be explained away as each engaging in meaningless banter to avoid giving themselves away to anyone who might have been around them.

The Hollywood Reporter discussed the episode with Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, who pretend this was their plan all along:

Though the male line of clones was only introduced in the second season finale, it took just three episodes of season three for a key piece of the puzzle to fall into place: The clones from Project Castor (the males, played by Ari Millen) and Project Leda (the females, played by Tatiana Maslany) are biological siblings.

“There’s no doubt that’s been a plan of ours for a long time,” Orphan Black co-creator Graeme Manson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It does shape the season going forward. We wanted a big revelation about these male clones, and the revelations are going to keep on coming.”

Cosima (Maslany) shared the truth with Sarah (Maslany), and then Sarah informed Mark (Millen) of their connection. And while Sarah has fiercely embraced protecting her new sisterhood, the discovery will lead to her own mixed feelings on the matter.

“It certainly adds a massive layer of complexity for Sarah, especially,” says series co-creator John Fawcett. “She’s just coming to grips with the fact that it really wasn’t that long ago where she was basically running away from her own daughter. Shunning her responsibilities of her immediate, biological family. Sarah’s done a lot of growing up in the past; going from street urchin, running around, avoiding the fact that she’s a mother to changing her life, wanting [her daughter] back, wanting to be a mother, going, ‘Oh my God, I have clones running around.’ There’s been a lot of acceptance and discovery for Sarah through this journey. There’s this other brain-numbing facet that Sarah has to take on board. It’s a big part of the mystery going forward.”

“Bearing in mind, none of these ‘brothers’ are acting very much like siblings,” added Manson. “So, we are also raising questions in terms of family of, ‘What makes family?’ Does biology make family? Do you choose your family? Sarah, like John said, has grown up a lot. She’s choosing her clone family. Are they going to choose the males or not?”

The above trailer for the television adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has been released.

Looking to the week ahead, both Gotham and Person of Interest have each set up a high stakes battle for their season finales, and the end games for The Flash and Arrow appear near. I will wait until these stories have played out more to discuss them further. I have not been thrilled by the last couple of episodes of Outlander, but those who have read the book do say that big things are happening in the remaining episodes of the season.

Syfy has canceled Helix after its second season.

Community Annie Pleasure Droid

With twenty-eight minute episodes. Dan Harmon can get into more into an episode of Community now that it is on Yahoo! instead of NBC.  This week’s episode, Intro to Recycled Cinema, mocked commercials, Chris Pratt, and movie-making. It amusingly ripped off Star Wars, including the Cantina and garbage chute scenes. Chang was briefly a star, Jeff was the Mayor of Outer Space, Abed did his thing, and Annie was a  pleasure droid-turned-bounty-hunter Scorpio 9, who sometimes reached into her shirt and pulled out a laser bomb.

In an act of mercy killing, ABC is canceling Revenge. This is a perfect example of the problem with the US model for television series. It was a fine escapist show the first season, but continued long after there was any reason to drag out the story. While the BBC or cable might have ended the series at a natural point, even if only after a season or two, the American networks don’t work that way. The final straw was, after the rational for the show was seeking revenge for the false imprisonment and death of David Clarke, he suddenly turned up alive.

Scarlett Johansson was guest host on Saturday Night Live this week, and in this video showed how Marvel would make a girl superhero movie:

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