We Are Not The Hero In This Story…

“There are people in this world who deal only in extremes. It’s naive to think that anything less than extreme measures will stop them.” – Amanda Waller, Arrow

Call it a fitting coincidence, call it good timing, but the Arrow episode, “The Brave and the Bold,” provided an unintentional precursor to the debate the U.S. is currently having about torture after the CIA report summary from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released to the public on Tuesday.

Arrow does an excellent job with Amanda Waller’s character. She is not a hero in the traditional sense and often blurs the line between anti-hero and villain in the comics. However, in the New 52 version of Waller and in the show, she is a well-intentioned extremist who acts on her perception of the greater good.

Personally, this is my favorite version of Amanda Waller. There is more complexity to this character. Ultimately, she acts on what she believes is the greater good. She makes difficult choices that are, at times, morally shady; her character is even amoral. She cannot concern herself with what is and isn’t moral. For Waller, it is about the big picture — the greater good.

“The Brave and the Bold” explores the contrast between the type of hero Barry Allen/The Flash is and the type of hero (or anti-hero) Oliver Queen/The Arrow is. The question both men have to look inside themselves to answer is, what makes a true hero? And, what kind of hero does the world really need?

Allen is the archetypical hero. He believes there is a moral line that cannot, under any circumstances, be crossed or sacrificed even for the greater good. Arrow, as well as ARGUS agents and Waller, believe that to deal with the extreme, extreme measures are necessary — including torture to get information.

Arrow believes that by going to these extremes, he has sacrificed his humanity, but that is a necessary sacrifice to achieve the greatest good.

Is the United States not reflecting on a similar question right now? Instead of asking what hero we are going to be, we are asking what role we should be playing in the world and how much of who we are we are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of our enemies.

The U.S. was founded on the principles of due process and equal protection under the law. Due process applies to everyone — not just citizens. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, either in the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment, does it say that only citizens are entitled to due process.

The Fifth Amendment says, “no person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment says, “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Not just citizens… any person.

After reading some of the tactics used by the CIA to interrogate suspects, there are incidents of cruel and unusual punishment, which of course is in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

After September 11, 2001, we entered uncertain times. We were willing to go to war to fight terrorism. We were willing to go to extremes, and we adopted the very mentality that Amanda Waller has about fighting extremism. We were chasing people who only deal in extremes and we concluded that it was foolish to think anything, but extreme measures would produce results.

But in doing so, we forsook the very principles this nation was founded on. We violated our own laws and we turned our backs on any concept of right and wrong. Torture is wrong. There is no debate here. The only debate we can have is what role we want to have in the world — what image do we want to have?

Are we willing to sacrifice who we are — what makes us different from our enemies? Or, are we going to be the moral standard-bearer, the example that no matter how extreme the enemy is, we will not sacrifice who we are in our response to them?

‘Gotham’ May Do Well to Stay Away from the Joker

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If I was a gambling man, I would bet money that the standup comedian from the Pilot episode of Gotham was not the Joker, despite a number of websites posing that very question. While some say it was on the minds of everyone watching the episode, I didn’t even consider him a possibility.

However, without Batman, I didn’t think creators of the show would touch the Joker.

I think the idea that creators of the show may tease different people who could possibly end up being the Joker is brilliant from a marketing standpoint. The Joker is a villain everyone — whether they are avid comic readers or not — wants to see. However, the Joker is an established Gotham villain that shows up after Bruce Wayne puts on the cape and cowl.

Even if they incorporate the Joker at some point in the Gotham series, it is way too early to even introduce the person who will end up being the iconic villain. As creators of the show said, the Joker is the “crown jewel” of Gotham villains.

Not just Gotham villains either, but DC villains. Of all the DC villains that have shown up in the comics, none of them can really be considered ‘sacred’ in the way the Joker is. Any story involving him, especially dealing with his origins, needs to be handled with care. Even the tiniest screw up will mean severe backlash from the fans.

It is true that Gotham could go with Alan Moore’s origin story for the Joker from The Killing Joke, portraying him as a struggling standup comedian, but it may not make much sense when they are playing the gang wars up as much as they are. If they do bring in the Joker at some point, we may see him first emerge as a rival gang leader who works behind the scenes and threatens the balance of power — maybe as the Red Hood — but then again this is pure speculation.

Without Batman, it may be best for the creators of Gotham to stay away from the Joker period. It may not go over as well with the fans if James Gordon confronts the Joker and not Batman. This is one of those delicate balancing acts that creators of the show have to consider, because there are some villains that are accepted as almost Batman exclusive. Batman has to be the one to face them and no one else.

However, as previously mentioned, some critics have raised a legitimate point that the show may not last long if it turns out to be just another cop drama about a good cop in a corrupt department or city. The show has started off well, but they have to continue to offer more.

It will be interesting to see what creators of Gotham do in future episodes. Personally, I am excited about the future of the show. I was excited to see it finally premiere on Monday. I look forward to seeing the second episode, “Selina Kyle,” on September 29. I think creators of the show have plenty to work with to make this not only a great TV series, but a series with a long run.

Why Everything Gotham Has Done So Far Is A Good Sign

There has only been one episode of Gotham, but already there are plenty of things the show is doing right and certain things creators of the show need to keep in mind as it progresses.

Gotham is dark, gritty, and everything a fan of the Batman franchise wants to see from a show that centers around James Gordon, Gotham City, and the vast corruption that festered in the city before the Zero Year. It also promises a new look at the origin stories for Commissioner Gordon and some of Gotham’s most notorious villains.

Some critics have questioned the longevity of a show based off the Batman franchise that does not actually have Batman in it. On the surface it seems like another cop drama — something the market has been severely diluted with — and the familiar story of a good cop trying to make it in a corrupt police department and city.

Well, that is the story of James Gordon. When he arrives in Gotham, the city is controlled by organized crime. There are very few cops who are actually on the level and Gordon makes a lot of enemies before he makes friends.

However, the creators of the show are also working with the creators of the comics — Geoff Johns in an executive producer on the show.

There are plenty of origin stories to work with along with Jim Gordon’s — Selina Kyle (who was the first to appear in the Pilot), Edward Nigma (The Riddler), the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Harvey Bullock’s transformation from being a cop who is just looking to survive in the Hobbesian state Gotham is in to being Gordon’s right-hand man, other villains that will emerge, and the early years of Bruce Wayne after his parents are murdered — which is not something that has been explored much.

There is a major villain that is not established in the comic book cannon — Fish Mooney (played by Jada Pinkett Smith). There is a gang war in Gotham coming. Gordon will still be investigating the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Creators of the show have indicated that they will incorporate the Joker at some point, but they are going to treat his character with care since he is the crown jewel of Gotham villains. The Joker is sacred and one misstep in telling some form of an origin story for him will be met with severe backlash from fans.

Gotham has plenty to work with to keep the showing going for at least a few season. That is, as long as Fox doesn’t cancel it, which I wouldn’t put it past the network to do given its history.

Everything that the creators of the show are setting up so far promise a good show with a long run, but the concern that the show could just turn into another cop drama about a good cop in a corrupt town is valid. It is up to creators to follow through with what they have already set up in the Pilot.

So far, the only character I am not entirely sold on is Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred must become Batman’s tie to humanity, the one person who keeps him from going full dark side and keeps him in check. People have pointed out that Alfred came off mean in the Pilot, but I think meanness should not be confused with sternness since now he has the responsibility of being a father figure to Bruce Wayne.

Also, Alfred is ex-British special forces. They haven’t gotten into that in the show, and they may or may not do so, but since this is a younger version of Alfred than fans are accustomed to, they have some room to work with. These are all origin stories that creators of the show can take some liberty with — although not too much.

I always apply the three episode rule to new shows. It doesn’t matter if I loved the Pilot because I want to know that there is consistency, so we will see how the creators of the show do. So far, however, Gotham has met my expectations and I look forward to seeing where they go with it.

Silicon Valley: The Smart New HBO Comedy No One is Talking About

Ok. To be fair. It is not that no one is talking about the show. If you Google “Silicon Valley,” you will see plenty of reviews, but it is not likely a show your friends are talking about on social media or will follow the conversation starter, “Did you catch the latest episode of ___” at school or work Monday morning. Silicon Valley is a well-written comedy that is forced to dwell in the monstrous shadow of Game of Thrones.

For those who have not watched the series premiere of Silicon Valley, log on to HBO Go and check it out. It is not going to be a comedy that will appeal to everyone, but it may be the perfect comedy for the millennial generation.

The show was created by Mike Judge, who brought us Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill, Office Space, Idiocracy, and Extract. Fans of these shows and movies should give the show a chance at the very least because there is a good chance they will enjoy this show too. Unfortunately, this may be the latest smart comedy HBO cancels well before its time because it is not going to have violence and sex in it, and that is what the audience wants.

Seriously. Who doesn’t like Game of Thrones? I love the show. Several members of my family love the show. It seems everyone I am friends with on Facebook loves the show. It has everything the average TV audience wants. It is a dark, high-drama thrill ride with violence, sex, scandal, more violence, and even more sex. It’s got dragons, zombies, dark magic, and plenty of twists and betrayals. How can a show compete with that unless the show in question caters to the same audience?

Smart sitcoms simply don’t do well on the small screen. It doesn’t matter if it is network television, cable networks, or online video streaming services, shows like Silicon Valley will have a specific fan base, but will be cancelled because they don’t get the ratings the network wants them to get. Unless a sitcom follows the same formula as shows like Modern Family, it is not going to take off with the average TV audience.

It is a shame, too, because Silicon Valley seems like it is going to be a good satirical comedy. It is perfect for a generation that has as much of an entrepreneurial spirit as previous generations, but as the labor market has changed, so has the focus of how to make it big in America. Who are the icons of these aspiring young entrepreneurs? They are the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. They are the young billionaires who dropped out of college, but made it rich in the tech industry by introducing the right idea at the right time.

Young people go to Silicon Valley thinking it is going to be their golden ticket to the chocolate factory. But, what do they encounter when they get there? It is a culture of, as Judge put it, “true believers in something, and I don’t know what it was.” The show depicts the environment as cult-like and an enemy of higher academia. Judge worked in Silicon Valley briefly, but was turned off by the prevailing culture and quit his job in less than 3 months.

Judge’s experience in Silicon Valley, however, gave him all the material he needed to create his new show. As I said before, if you like the work of Mike Judge, check out Silicon Valley. However, it certainly is not be a show that will appeal to everyone. People will either love it or will not get it.