Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 8 -- The Flash returns to the Speed Force; The Legends go to the Moon; Arrow has run out of moves in their Chess game

The Flash
“Into The Speed Force”
When Flash can balance its soap opera elements with meaningful action or meaningful scenes where the characters actually take the time to learn something and progress, that’s when it’s at its best. What was frustrating last week was Wally being taught a lesson and then failing to learn from it immediately after. It’s something we see with Barry often too. Flashpoint is now the most significant of these failings. But “Into The Speed Force” challenges Barry to face the consequences of those failings. The Speed Force, using fallen characters who died in place of The Flash, even calls him out for this: Barry promises one thing and does another, such as using his powers as Flash to move on, instead going back into the past to save his mother again.

Barry recognizes that his fear is what has gotten him here, and at the top of the episode he seems prepared to accept his comeuppance, to right all his past wrongs, and finally move on. The episode opens in voiceover, and the cast doing their Mannequin Challenge a few months too late. Everyone is focused on how to keep track of Barry while he travels within the Speed Force to retrieve Wally. There’s a ton of great little moments in this episode that are worthwhile, even if the sum doesn’t quite equal the same value for the episode. One in particular is when Barry pulls Iris aside to talk to her and after looking down at her finger, he notices the lack of ring, asks simply, “Iris, did I lose you?” The actors are able to pull a lot of heartbreak from such a simple line, and I did enjoy the line’s structure. A nuanced line with a lot of meaning. It shouldn’t work, but they bring so much humanity to the roles.

The way Barry’s arrival into the Speed Force, set in the CCPD, with the shots, accompaniment, and silence, garnered some genuine tension from me. I wasn’t quite sure what Barry was going to encounter in his second visit to the Speed Force. What was going to be the significance of arriving it what looked like the CCPD, or how was he going to find Wally? His discussion with Speed Force Eddie starts to lead us toward their main point. A lot of people have sacrificed for Barry to be standing here as The Flash, for the opportunity to be a hero, a hero that could stand for something and be inspiring (not to mention the hero Iris seems to think he is) yet he has instead insisted on being fearful, on holding back, and allowing so many others to take responsibility for his screw-ups.

Are we really supposed to believe that those elevator doors closing really stopped that Time Wraith?

Back in Central City, everyone’s a bit at a loss as to their next step with Barry retrieving Wally. Jesse is insistent on figuring out how to track Savitar now that he is loose on Earth. Everyone else thinks it’s too dangerous to tackle Savitar with only one speedster present, and HR puts his foot in his mouth when he says that we should wait for the “real Flash” to get back. Again, it’s intriguing to see two actors play a completely new dynamic in the same show. Just like last week when I said the show does not deserve Jesse L. Martin, similarly it likewise does not deserve Tom Cavanaugh. HR was rather grating in this episode, and so I felt the same satisfaction Jesse did when she finally punched him out. I understand the resistance of Jesse to listen to HR because she believe it’s him attempting to replace her father. Even though I really don’t think that’s what he’s trying to do (he really does see all of them as his big gang of friends) but nevertheless, I appreciated him changing up his tactics, and appealing to her sensible side. He’s also right there to help her out when she still decides to go after Savitar alone.

Back in the Speed Force, Barry is confronted by Speed Force Leonard Snart and boy, have we missed Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold. It’s deliciously insightful, and also finally gets to the heart of Barry’s problems. Despite his promise to move forward, he has continued to harbor on the past, while also inadvertently allowing others to make sacrifices for him. In Snart’s case, in his honor. Eddie and Ronnie were the same. And think of everything others have lost: Joe, Iris, Cisco, Caitlin, and others. Only Snart’s slimy smooth delivery could convey to him that he’s being a coward. Even now, Wally is here because Barry failed to do what he was supposed to do. It’s interesting to think at this moment is when Jay Garrick arrives from Earth 3 to save Barry from Speed Force Snart, a character as selfless as The Flash should be, a trait made even more clear by his sacrifice at the end of the episode.

Barry and Jay find Wally reliving his worst moment in a quantum lock: seeing his mother die in the hospital. They remove him, realizing how if Savitar was forced to experience his worst moment for an extended period of time, and Barry’s the one who put him there, it’s no wonder he hates Barry. Of course, the Speed Force is more or less an eye for an eye, so a speedster has to remain to replace Wally. That’s why Jay is here. Yet again, it’s someone taking a bullet for Barry when he’s the one who should be taking Wally’s place. That’s what he said he was going to do all along too. But, it’s also true that the bigger problem at play here is Savitar, and Barry is the only one fast enough to stop him. The Speed Force, with Jay’s sacrifice, allow for their safe return to Earth to deal with Savitar.

Two stray moments I loved in this sequence were Snart referencing Jay’s “Golden Age” heroism. It’s true. The heroes were just taller, prouder, more pure, more idealistic. It was a different time when they were created. It’s almost like a different Earth. To that, I loved Jay’s line, “I’ve run a hell of a race.” You sure have, John Wesley Shipp. And we thank you for it. (I hope this isn’t the end of it, though.)

Here’s a problem I have with a lot of TV shows and stories: there’s a secondary couple that I end up being way more invested in. I don’t know why, but Wally and Jesse just clicks for me in a way that Barry and Iris just doesn’t. Maybe it’s that their love story is so overwrought with twists and turns at this point, maybe it’s the fact that in this Savitar plot Iris is battling constantly for agency in the proceedings, but I think it’s most likely just a problem of structure: I’m not invested in a love that is “destined.” Again, that’s for any story. If the main romance is about destiny and fate, while it all sounds flowery and beautiful, doesn’t give the relationship any dramatic stakes. They will always find their way to each other again, which I agree is something Barry requires in his line of work, but it doesn’t do much to add dramatic tension to a situation. When the shellshocked Wally returns home, and he and Jesse share a private moment, they meet as equals, both speedsters, both worried about each other, and both experiencing trauma. Jesse’s decision to take Jay’s place on Earth 3 mirrors the final scene with Iris and Barry, but there’s a genuine investment from me and sadness in seeing them part ways for now. Wally could use someone like Jesse more than ever in this moment while he recovers. And despite how the past couple episodes went, the show is better off with Jesse on Earth 1.

It also begs the question of what Earth 2 is doing without their speedster.

And speaking of Barry and Iris… It does seem like Barry’s learned his lesson. And it’s one that Iris also has been teaching him, though I’m sure this isn’t how she expected it would turn out. Barry comes home to tell Iris that part of his problem has been holding back, working to prevent the future, basically everything has been done out of fear and that has been what is causing their missteps: Wally’s Speed Force foray, Caitlin stealing the Stone, all of Barry’s decisions. He needs space to focus and motivate. And that means space from Iris. It’s a big, unexpected blow to Iris. But I think is necessary. Like I said, it’s been an overwrought relationship since they showed her death in the future. The drama hasn’t quite unfolded in the way that I’d hoped. I’d hoped Iris would have more utility in it all, that Barry would be more proactive and willing to work together, and that the team would be invested in keeping themselves together. So I think this re-focus is important. Barry has yet another life he’s put in jeopardy: and Jay doesn’t deserve the hell he’s in thanks to all this.

Legends Of Tomorrow
When Legends can be delightfully light with its science side of sci-fi, and can make me believe in both its comedy and drama, it’s a masterpiece of a show for what it is. This is another episode featuring yet another good period setting. The team meets up with Henry Heywood, the JSA’s Commander Steel who was dropped in the 60s to hide his piece of the Spear of Destiny. Turns out he joined the burgeoning space program and his spear is hidden on the moon, in the Apollo 11’s flag. Too bad Eobard has figured this out and took the place of one of the astronauts on Apollo 13, headed for the moon as well.

Martin, Mick, and Jax infiltrate ground control to run interference. Sara takes the rest of the crew into space to follow the Apollo module. Ray takes his suit to the landing module to confront Eobard. Everything goes awry in their ensuing fistfight, mostly because we haven’t seen a good Ray Palmer screw-up in a while! (Sara tells him not to be spotted in his miniature size, we cut to Ray staring eye-to-eye with Eobard, who’s already seen him.) The module crash lands on the Moon, unable to return. The Waverider has to protect the command module of the Apollo from an asteroid shower, disabling much of its capability. Thankfully, the ground control team keeps everyone distracted long enough for them to figure out a plan, in one of the best scenes in the show’s history possibly ever. The show does not deserve the marvelous acting chops of Victor Garber, nor does it deserve his amazing voice, which he gets to showcase here on Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song. They need a distraction and in the panic, this is what Martin Stein decides to pull out. It’s so out of nowhere and so perfect. Equally good is Mick attempting to harmonize with him.

On the Moon, Ray is geeking out over getting to step on lunar dust. In order to rendezvous with the Waverider, he requires the second set of hands of the depowered Eobard Thawne. They have a very good heart-to-heart that I don’t readily expect from Legends. It’s much more fare for Flash, but we haven’t really had one on Legends since possibly Mick and Leonard when Snart stayed behind to sacrifice himself. I love that this episode manages to mix the epic of landing on the moon with the comedy of Stein’s Belafonte, and the earnest conversation of Ray and Eobard. It’s the most characterization we’ve gotten for Eobard in a long time. He derides Ray for wanting to be better. He could have taken that dwarf star and powered entire cities, developed the technology to help so many people all over the world. Instead, he took it and became a hero in a supersuit. There is a valid viewpoint that that is inherently selfish. Eobard tells him to own it, to not be hypocritical. Ray didn’t do this to be helpful. He did it to be better. It’s what many heroes do it for. Eobard wants something even more simple than that: he wants to live.

Rip has his own mini-arc in the proceedings of the episode. We see him attempting to lead, but Sara has that under control. We see him offering to help, but everyone has a purpose and a job on the ship. We see him give his opinion, but he’s outmatched in the dynamic. He’s come to questioning his place on the team, but thankfully the way he phrases it means he’s staying on as a second. Another good heart-to-heart was Henry telling Rip he was proud of the Legends, because when they met back in the 40s the team could not stop bickering. Now they act like a team. Rip bemoans the fact that he really had nothing to do with that. The credit does not solely lie with Sara’s superior leadership either. The team has settled in to their dynamic. They’re smart and have gotten better at their jobs. They understand their place in the universe now, and they have put their differences aside to embrace each other as family. And like any good sci-fi misfit crew aboard a rogue spaceship helping where they can, this is the camaraderie we want from them. The moment Rip defers to Sara is a defining moment for this dynamic: it’s the true moment Rip hands the captain’s chair to Sara.

One interesting scene to me was Nate confronting Amaya. He asks her if you could choose history over your own family, before revealing what happens to hers when she gets returned to her native time stream. I wanted to believe that Amaya would choose history over family, because she’s better than Nate, she’s better than even Rip, who in the first season chose constantly family over history. She’s more pragmatic and realistic. She does end up telling Henry the dangers of returning to where he left his time stream, how he could change everything that’s happened to this day. But at the end of the episode, she asks Gideon to view her future. Now I’m not so sure if she’s as strong-willed as I’d hoped she’d be.

I end with one stray praise. I love Nate meeting his father as a kid at the end. Nate giving advice to his own father that will mean a lot to him and his own son is an incredibly moving and crazy moment, giving comfort to a boy when that boy turns into a father who could not give Nate that same comfort, that is a paradox of a moment that only a time travel story could hope to accomplish.

When Arrow properly tempers its darkness with light, it finds the humanity of its characters. It continues to fascinate me how closely Barry and Ollie’s mutual journeys parallel each other. While Barry is slowly learning from loss how his own fear is getting in the way, Ollie becomes increasingly frustrated (complete with trashing the Overwatch) with a villain who remains very much in his face, anticipating his every move. I love the fact that after so much frustration and a lot of supernatural villainy, we finally have a violent and effective antagonist who has no powers. It started with a twist that I absolutely did not see coming, and has continued to showcase an increasingly unhinged psychopath put together a tour de force performance. This guy playing Adrian Chase is amazing. All of his scenes are disturbing and upsetting. His confrontation with Ollie in the hospital room of the comatose police chief being my favorite. His characterization is suddenly so unsettling. When it started, and we all thought Chase was Vigilante, he was great as the DA, very smart and aware, with flashes of uncontrolled rage towards wrongdoing. As soon as it was revealed that he was Prometheus, it became completely nuts.

        Chase continuing to show up to work must be incredibly upsetting for the likes of Quentin and Rene, and also Susan when he shows up at the PD. It’s a such a beautiful stalemate. There’s nothing they can do to bring Chase in while at work, he’s still the upstanding DA. Speaking of the Police Department by the way, that back alley entrance is incredibly unsafe, if we’ve learned nothing else. People need to stop using it.

I love that it always comes back to Diggle & Ollie. Ollie trashes the Overwatch in his frustration. He can’t believe Chase has outplayed him every step of the way. Diggle reminds him and reassures him that his friends, family, and team are not weaknesses, they are strengths. Diggle is the humanity, both the team’s and Ollie’s. They are the heart of the show. It has to come back to them because if they do not grow and learn from their mistakes, the rest of the team frays. It’s a point likewise illustrated in The Flash. If Barry cannot learn from his mistakes and move forward, the rest of the team frays.

One stray bit of praise and one bit of criticism to end. I like that Arrow says Ra’s al Ghul’s name what I consider properly (‘Rahhz’). We all knew the twist before it was revealed to Ollie of course, Talia is an al Ghul. And she’s pissed. And that leads me to my criticism: I’m always a little bummed when a big reveal is the villain is actually a two-villain team. Instead of Chase being this masterful manipulator, it cheapens it ever so slightly that he’s teamed with Talia al Ghul. I feel the same when it’s used elsewhere. Like Scream, when the killer is two people? It’s a genius twist in the moment, it doesn’t stand on rewatch. Regardless, it gets us to the episode title: Checkmate, with Ollie captured by Chase and imprisoned. And we’re not sure what the endgame is now.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 7 -- An Epic Encounter with Cadmus on Supergirl; Savitar is freed on The Flash; The Legends are in the head of Rip Hunter!

It’s felt like a lot of Supergirl towards the end of the fall and some of the spring so far has been a bit of a holding pattern. That changed a couple weeks ago with Mr. Mxy coming to visit and trying to marry Kara. The rest of the cast is also finally settling in to effective roles. We’ve gotten to see J’onn be a good authority figure, Alex has a more defined identity than simply Kara’s sister (although that is still their main theme, and we’ll get to that), Winn is doing more than being a sidekick, Jimmy has a plot though I’m still not sold on Guardian. Mon-El has been a great addition, rising above being a bland, white protagonist (although I do like the term Mxy coined for him: “blandsome.”) and I’m bummed that M’gann is gone so I hope she comes back at some point. I’m also still warming up to Lyra, but Maggie Sawyer is a definite winner.

I’m always for a TV show having less episodes than it does. I think it allows for tighter storytelling, and more efficient development. Both Supergirl and The Flash had holding pattern stretches this season. I think Flash can handle it, since so much happens during their big episodes. Supergirl’s got it a bit rougher, because besides the fact that Flash is generally already better, Supergirl’s in its second season and should be making a lot of effort to avoid the slump (which it does for the most part, though just barely more often than I’d like it) and it’s also jumped networks meaning it’s had to reestablish a viewing base after it had just barely established its first.

Supergirl needs more arcs like this, and needs a grander feel like this. If more episodes were two-parters with this kind of build, Supergirl’s holdover episodes for would quickly be a thing of the past. This second part addressing the supposed betrayal of Jeremiah Danvers, Alex’s father and Kara’s adopted dad, is the pacing and character development the show needs to be running constantly. It was a huge episode for Alex. We got to see this fully realized character: a woman, an agent, a person in a relationship, a sister, a daughter, a moralist, an idealist, and a monster. Her “interrogation” scene as the bad cop was perfect. I put interrogation in quotations because that’s a pretty liberal interpretation of a questioning. She beat that guy into a bloody pulp, and I loved every moment of it. She knew it was against procedure, but I loved her reply to J’onn who said he’s no good to us dead: “I would’ve stopped before then!” Alex and Maggie is already my favorite relationship on the show because it’s so beautifully portrayed. There was something really nice about the way Maggie supported Alex. Again, there was an expectation of something cringey, but the actors bring such earnestness to the relationship that it works. It was also not, “I believe you, you have to fight for what is right!” it was, “Let’s make a plan.” I’m just used to certain conventions, two of them being subverted here: the level-headed partner is not usually presented as an equal. They’re given occasional moments of brilliance, even though they’re older or smarter. The other is that significant others working together usually has them be heart-led. Alex is definitely heart-led, but Maggie balances her out instead of enabling her.

In the first part, we finally got to see J’onn as a capable fighter. I found it incredibly weird that he kept getting his ass kicked when he was partnering with Superman. Or that he was constantly handicapped against White Martians or Cyborg Superman. He’s finally started phasing and I’m very happy to see it. In this second part, the writers finally gave us an incredibly Martian Manhunter moment, where he shapeshifts into Jeremiah to test where Alex’s head is in all of the turmoil. When she’s poised to betray the DEO for her father, J’onn reveals himself and suspends her. I love the peacekeeper J’onn J’onzz, but the endlessly pragmatic Martian Manhunter is the character I fell in love with. Alex definitely feels betrayed and rightly so, but J’onn is not completely in the wrong either. Alex is emotionally compromised and at that point, we didn’t know what Jeremiah’s loyalties were.

We do get a better sense of it during this episode, and see that Jeremiah’s influence is significant: Lillian’s plan was to exterminate the alien population hiding on Earth. Jeremiah has managed to move them to having them all deported on a captured alien frigate. In a wonderful nod to the Lois & Clark show, Lillian references Nietzche’s Superman (ubermensch) and tells Jeremiah, “You’re the only Superman we need.” Oh, Dean.

Kara is facing a big dilemma this episode as well, and similar to how I think there needs to be a good Ollie conflict once in a while, there needs to be a Kara conflict that doesn’t involve her being Supergirl. Of course, she’s at odds with Snapper, her boss. The article she wants to publish would warn earth-based aliens that Cadmus has their identities and to be careful. Snapper doesn’t want it published without sources and can’t even verify that such a list even exists. Kara can’t confirm it without exposing the entire DEO. Even a face-to-face interview with Supergirl isn’t enough to convince Snapper, who tells her that her word alone is not gospel. What I like about this arc is that Kara has learned to politic a bit, and knows how to play Snapper. When she offers up Supergirl as an interview, you see the most animation in his face he’s ever likely to muster. Snapper himself providing an unwavering philosophy on journalism’s job to present neutral facts and the truth (properly sourced) is a not-so-subtle commentary on today’s endless barrage of not only fake news but speculative 24-hour news cycles. If Supergirl continues oblique references like this to real world culture, I welcome it. They’re already doing wonders with feminism.

        In order to figure out Cadmus’ plan, Kara turns to Lena once more. Despite an interstitial scene where we see that Lena’s assistant is in cahoots with Lillian and tracking Lena’s moves (going so far as to try and have her killed) I can’t shake this worrisome feeling that Lena is in her own way a traitor. She’s a Luthor, after all. So it’s hard to shake that feeling. If that’s what this is all eventually leading to, I’m gonna be pissed. Kara and Lena is a great dynamic, a wonderful subversion of Superman/Lex, and an equally great subversion of two powerful women competing. They are friends who support each other, and help each other. Outside of Alex/Maggie and now Kara/Mon-El, Lena/Kara is my favorite.

        Alex has a good comic moment in the episode, once she and Maggie enact their plan to get into Cadmus’ hideout, they down two agents who are attempting to bring in an alien. Alex and Maggie split off and kiss. The alien smiles creepily and says, “I wish I had what you two had.” Maggie tells him to get lost. Alex says the same, but calls him ‘Bill.’ I just love the fact that Alex knows the creepy-ass alien.

       Kara’s also got a good comic moment, when her arc resolves. She is debating whether to independently post her article on a blog, because she’s concerned about the safety of aliens. Mon-El tells her she should, but he calls it “Blobbing.” Even after she corrects him, when she finally does post it, she says, “It’s blobbed!” and it was frikkin’ adorable. Mon-El was reduced to comic relief in this episode, but that scene was important for him. He told her it was her decision and that she always knows what’s right. For all the rough spots over the past couple weeks, I do love this relationship and Mon-El learning to treat Kara with the respect she deserves.

       The central theme of the whole story rests with Jeremiah and the driving force behind his decisions is fear. He knew Cadmus would kill his daughters and he would do everything to protect them. The emotional climax of the episode was Alex telling Jeremiah that being his daughters, he should’ve known they’d never want others to suffer for their well-being. But Jeremiah stands justified, because he’s a father. It’s a beautiful argument, with no right and wrong. Ultimately, the greater good is served, because Jeremiah chooses to help Alex. Alex, without hesitation, jumps on the launching frigate to attempt to keep it from jumping to lightspeed across the universe. All of Alex’s decision were done out of fear as well: she was afraid for her father’s life, then for what the DEO would do if they got to him before she did. Kara also allowed fear to lead her, even though she also had a rationale behind her decisions.

       All of it culminates in the frigate preparing to leave Earth, with no way to override the controls. Alex is on the ship trying to hack it but unable to. Winn and the DEO aren’t able to help her. Only Supergirl can help her. This is probably my favorite manifestation of the central theme of this show. Supergirl, outside the ship, is going to push the ship back from launch. The show has always been about sisters. It’s about family. How Alex and Kara are always there for each other. How they can only do what they do because of each other. Alex jumps on that ship to save aliens because of who Kara is and what she means to her. Kara pushes with everything she has to save the one person who loves her as an equal and family. When she feels like she has nothing more to give, it’s Alex who tells her, through the cockpit window, you can do more. And it works. I love this moment. Like I said, when they manage to bring that central theme home, it makes for great television. There’s almost no dialogue between the two sisters, but their looks convey volumes.

       One stray moment I loved, after Kara sadly gets fired from her job for posting the article independently, Mon-El comforts her and tells her she’ll get another job. Kara argues that she’d found what was important to her. It made her who she was. Mon-El tells her Kara is Supergirl. That’s who she is. She says back, “Supergirl is what I can do. Kara is who I am.” I like the line. I don’t totally agree with the sentiment, because I think the superhero/alter ego dynamic is much more complex than “one that I do, and one that I am” but it adds to Kara’s character that this is how she views it at least right now.

       I try not to read spoilers beforehand, but once in a while I see a couple. So I knew about Teri Hatcher being set to appear on the show soon. So her as a wandering Daxamite was not a surprise for me. Still, it’s a treat to see her, and I’m excited for a Lois & Clark reunion! BUT. The one that DID take me by surprise… was HERCULES!? Guy takes off his hood and I go, “What’s KEVIN SORBO doing here!?” Awesome. I’m very excited, but of course I’m nervous for what this all means for Mon-El and Kara.

The Flash
“The Wrath of Savitar”
       Whenever a show doesn’t immediately resolve a cliffhanger, I’m always slightly miffed. We’re unsure what happened with Barry’s proposal in the cold open, but they make a big announcement to the family soon enough. In the cold open, Barry is training Wally to get fast enough to save Iris in the future. He clears the time and it’s a feel-good moment, except that Wally is seeing visions of Savitar, like he did in the tag last week.

        Yo, Wally? You need to tell people when you’re seeing visions of the big bad for the season. It’s an ongoing problem in this episode especially, but Wally’s incredibly reckless sometimes. When Savitar takes the form of Wally’s mom later to get him to stop running, only Jesse manages to snap him out of it. Even after that, after seeing how much influence he has over Wally, he insists to Jesse that he needs to handle it on his own. Yo, Wally? This is a problem.

        That being said, I do like Wally on the team. I enjoy his dynamic with HR, who has proven a worthy mentor. And I love him and Jesse. I’m glad Jesse has stayed, and I’m glad they made that decision together. It plays into a reveal with Barry that I’ll talk about later.

         I must take this moment once again to say that this show does not deserve the treasure that is Jesse L. Martin. When Iris and Barry announce their engagement, everyone is overjoyed, but Joe is restrained initially. When he cries a little and congratulates them both, it’s pretty moving. Everyone constantly reminds me that this show has no business being as good as it is, but a big reason it is, is this man.
         When the team realizes that the disposal of the Philosopher’s Stone may not have been as foolproof as once thought, Wally finally reveals he’s seeing Savitar and the tension and apprehension causes them to put Julian under once again to mind-link with Savitar, who is lost in the Speed Force. I found myself legitimately chilled by the first possession scene. Tom Felton’s a great actor, Savitar’s voice modification is my favorite in the shows because it’s powerful and scary (not as gritty as Zoom’s which I appreciate), and everyone totally nailing being on edge for the scene made it for me. Savitar reveals that he’s confidently set on returning at any time now to exact his revenge. It’s one of the more effective scenes that they’ve done as an ensemble.

          Barry confronts some of the acolytes, maybe they have a piece of the stone, which is what Savitar means when he says he’s returning. I liked the touch that this rando acolyte knew about Barry and Iris’ wedding, when he said, “Better move the wedding date up,” before getting knocked the fuck out. I didn’t like that he knew about it. Creepy.

          But speaking of the wedding, Cisco vibes Wally into the future scene to see what he can glean and one important detail is that he notices Iris doesn’t have a wedding ring on. He puts 2 and 2 together and confronts Barry in front of everyone to confess why he really proposed to Iris. It’s another beautifully acted scene, with some complexity from Barry and Wally and some trepidation from Iris. It offered some good development for Wally and Iris. Wally in the immediate, because he finally got to stand up to Barry (who has been, while training him, kinda hard on him) and Iris later on, when she sits Barry down at the dinner table to tell him how fucked up it was that he did this. Flash has a tendency to oversimplify relationships sometimes, so I’m happy to see this wrinkle be introduced. Even though we all know Barry loves Iris, and we know how Iris feels about Barry, this takes away from the beauty of the proposal somewhat. Iris is absolutely right.

         A second twist further frays the group, and it minorly excuses a lack of direction for Caitlin over the past few episodes. Turns out she was the one to betray the team, but not in the way everyone expected in Killer Frost. She was the one holding a piece of the Philosopher’s Stone. She’d hoped to utilize it to permanently suppress her powers but had been thus far unsuccessful. Julian is shaken, as are the rest of the team. It’s especially painful to watch Julian and Caitlin fall apart though, because I was really liking them. And it’s true what Caitlin says, I would think they can understand each other the most. That being said, Caitlin’s decision was dangerous. And sure enough, it brings Savitar back.
Wally, like I said, goes by himself to confront Savitar. Savitar uses him to replace him in the Speed Force. What that means, we don’t know for sure, but it rings very Rebirth comics right now (Pre-New 52 Wally West is lost for ten years in the Speed Force after Flashpoint. I was curious if this was going to be a plot element after the show actually did Flashpoint). But it turns out I was right: Wally suffers a fate worse than death. If Savitar is to be believed, wherever he was sent he is in some way suffering. Barry feels bad and is stabbed for his troubles. Caitlin apologizes to him and he accepts, because he knows all too well that fear makes people do terrible things.

       We saw on Supergirl fear drive a whole family into a series of rash decisions. And Barry like I said knows what fear can make him do. It led to the proposal, hell it led to Flashpoint. Unfortunately, where the Supergirl team is better for it, it looks like the fear has frayed Family Flash in several places.

        Overall, the acting in this episode was stellar. There was a lot of emotion to be had. Caitlin and Julian finally kicked it into another gear, Wally and Jesse I think have a really natural chemistry, Joe was excellent (his heartbreaking plea to Barry at the end was tearjerking. “I will not lose Wally.) Iris turned in a strong scene as well. Like Supergirl, Flash has been spinning its wheels a bit, so I’m glad to see Savitar re-introduced in a big way (he’s a great speedster foe) and I’m glad to see some of the arcs progress. Supergirl affected me much more emotionally, but Barry and Co. put together a more cohesive episode.

        It’s heartbreaking to see fear be so controlling of Barry. If only a certain other green-clad friend of his who wears a cool ring powered by will existed in this universe to help him overcome that yellow shade of fear…

“Land of the Lost” 

         With Arrow taking a much-needed break this week (and doing a good simmer on the last episode’s cliffhanger) it was up to Legends to bring us home. And I kinda think they kicked a lot of ass.

          The episode was so deliciously sci-fi fantasy plus ridiculous camp and I love that blend. It all starts with a huge crash into the past. I feel like the Waverider crashing sequence is the most expensive CGI sequence of the week. I mean, taking a brainwashed Rip Hunter on board the Waverider as a prisoner is literally the worst idea. But there he is. No one the wiser, and soon enough he causes the crash.

          They’ve landed in Ray’s old neighborhood from when the Legends got scattered through time. He, Nate, and Amaya have to recover a vital piece of the Legends from T-Rex infested ground. It’s up to Sara and Jax to try and recover Rip Hunter from within his own mind.

        I honestly stopped taking notes because I was so invested in what was happening next in this. I thought, what batshit thing is going to happen next. It’s kind of fun that Rip, played by Arthur Darvill, gets to be his own sort of Doctor from Doctor Who. Once Sara and Jax are jacked into Rip’s mind, it stops being Inception, and gets a bit “Wife of the Doctor” episode from Doctor Who. In that episode, the TARDIS comes to be embodied in a woman who is very fond of the Doctor, as his one constant companion. In Rip’s mind, Jax eventually finds the physical manifestation of Gideon, the Waverider’s super-intelligent, on-board AI. Gideon’s been trying keep the “real” Rip safe inside his mind.

        One thing that I had forgotten until Rip mentions it when he’s returned to normal, is that Rip hasn’t been Rip far longer than Eobard’s brainwash a couple episodes ago. He wiped his mind and hid in the 70s at the end of Season 1. This has been a long time coming. I didn’t understand at first why Rip would kiss Gideon at the end, but after putting that back together, it made more sense.
The wiring setup to hook Sara, Jax, and Rip together is very Matrix, but the adventure inside is much more Inception. Sara and Jax meet mind versions of themselves and the other Legends (and they are jerks) who are designed to keep Rip’s mind blocked. Their goal is to make Rip understand that he’s dreaming, which is very much like planting the idea. Similarly to our other two shows, Rip made the initial decision out of fear and having no choice, and it is currently fear that holds him back. As soon as he accepts who he is and what he is, he can return to normal.

        The reunion is subdued. Everyone is pretty trauma-struck, considering what Rip had just put them through over the last few episodes, not to mention leaving behind no means of finding him when the original team was split. I enjoyed the scene of him greeting everyone again and trying to make amends.

       This episode is rather unique in the Legends canon so far, because we’re completely devoid of villains. In Rip’s mind, the Legends battle themselves. In the pre-historic wild, we get little intervention from Gertrude the T-Rex until the end, where Amaya’s touch pacifies her. As Amaya says, “We talked woman-to-woman.” So no Legion, and no other historic villains. We get much more character development from the team as they battle within themselves. It’s a testament to the strength of the ensemble that something like this works. They basically have a MacGuffin plot coupled with a journey to the center of the maze plot and it’s capped with a dream kiss between a pilot and his AI co-pilot. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

        My only complaint, and it’s minor, is that Mick reveals the idea of breaking into Rip’s subconscious. He says the Time Masters did it to him as Chronos all the time and he saw it done to others. Gideon reveals that she’s aware of the operation, but that it is incredibly dangerous, and even cites that Rip forbade its use as barbaric. The problem is, when they first brought Rip onto the Waverider, Gideon diagnosed that she was unable to re-wire Rip’s brain through their magical medical chair because he simply wasn’t there anymore. Why didn’t Gideon reveal her knowledge of the procedure before? Even deeper, why doesn’t Gideon seem to know Rip actually IS still in there mentally, because they seemingly formulated this plan together. It makes it even more muddy when real world Gideon acknowledges their kiss supposedly inside Rip’s mind. If all that’s true, it makes the delay in attempting this procedure seem odd.

        But overall, it’s still a solid entry from Legends. They’re in third this week, but it’s beautiful to have Rip back and in better form than before. Like I said, Supergirl and Flash mark higher for pulling out of a hold. Supergirl was more emotionally resonant. The Flash put together a solid story to bring back a great villain. Legends has been chugging toward bringing back this great hero. Legends delivered as expected, the other two delivered a lot. I also think what pushes Supergirl over Flash is a fitting conclusion to a two-part arc.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 6 -- Reunion on Supergirl, Flash Vs. Gorillas Part 2, and Oliver Queen on Trial on Arrow

Week Six rolls in and Legends is off this week. Team Arrow and Family Flash have a similar central theme of finding a better way, and Supergirl’s homecoming reunion, while not as strongly thematically connected, is still very much about playing with fire.

I’ll start with Supergirl, since I liked it the most. All the elements are there and polished. It’s a good episode with the season-long Cadmus as the main threat once more. The safe return of Jeremiah Danvers is a welcome and happy reunion for the Danvers family, who get together to celebrate. Unfortunately, Mon-El is skeptical and even the semantics of “return” or “rescue” are called into question during the joyous, Flash-esque, family toast scene. (The Super Girls however prefer tequila to champagne or beer.) Everyone takes Mon-El’s opinion rather harshly, and ask him to leave, particularly Kara and their relationship is once again on a thin piece of ice. Jeremiah quietly threatens Mon-El though, so that immediately clues me in to the fact that Jeremiah is not what he claims to be. Mon-El soon recruits Winn and while spying on Jeremiah as he returns to work in the DEO, he confirms that Jeremiah is doing some sort of covert infiltration to restricted files. They tell Kara who is at least skeptical, and even after Jeremiah’s justification (which satiates Alex) J’onn is also unsure. It all puts Alex and Kara at odds, with Alex even pulling the “act like you are part of this family” card. As an adopted kid, I find that to be a pretty hard line to take. Soon enough, the group’s suspicions are confirmed, as Jeremiah sends them into a wild goose chase while he goes to steal DEO classified files. He returns to Cadmus pursued by the sisters, Kara forced to go and save a train from falling into a ravine (in a pretty badass train save) and Alex faced with the decision to kill her father or let him return to the enemy. She does the latter and it sends her into a drinking spiral, saved only by Maggie (god, I love this relationship). We get an idea of what Cadmus’ next plan is at the end, along with Jeremiah’s cryptic promise that he was doing this for his daughter, for Alex. It could mean literally anything, he and Lillian mention having a deal in the tag scene as well. At the moment though, I don’t find anything redeeming to Jeremiah’s point of view. It’s not like Rogue One’s big retcon of the Death Star’s exhaust port. I don’t clearly see Jeremiah’s alliance, which is why I say this story could go in any number of directions.

Supergirl’s biggest issue I’m starting to see more and more now is its pacing. The episodes as an arc flow nicely, but within each episode there’s almost constantly this season a pacing issue. I started to see it with the Kevin Smith directed episode “Supergirl Lives.” Arcs begin and end almost within a commercial break. We got Jeremiah rescued and reintegrated in two segments, half a segment where Kara herself confronts him and it’s Alex VS. Kara then the next segment, Jeremiah’s enacting his plan, J’onn realizes he can’t read his mind (no point in trying that as soon as he was suspicious?) and Alex and Kara are on the same page again. It’s a hairpin turn of a plot. It lacks enough to be a two-part, but it feels so crammed into one episode, so I don’t know what the solution is. I suppose it’s just accepting how quickly everything happens, though none of the other shows seem to have this same pacing issue. What I think is adding to how quick the arcs feel is how extreme everyone’s reactions are to everything. You know, it was rude that Mon-El said something at the party to Jeremiah, but we’re really going to kick him out and Kara’s going to call off the relationship again because of it (granted, their romantic arc is fraught on its own, so that’s a different discussion). Then when Kara is convinced, Alex immediately goes War On Terrorism with a line not unlike, “You’re either with us or against us,” and I think it’s just crazy. If Alex was just more like, “Look, we just got him back, can we please have a moment after ten years?” It’s almost Shakespearean in how swiftly and sharply everyone reacts to things. 

Of course, it’s anchored by the show’s talented actors. They manage to make the leaps believable, that the world they live in is just moving faster, people are reacting more passionately, and each new development changes all the stakes. I know I say, “It’s very comic books,” a lot, but it’s true. And I usually say that not as a criticism. Though in this case, I must concede it is. It helps us keep up and invest when there’s time to breathe in between the major beats of a story. For how well they handled the slow burn of Mon-El and Kara getting together, filled with a good mix of high-energy and slower scenes, there feels like there’s connective tissue missing from other arcs.

Like I said, the major theme of both The Flash and Arrow this week was doing the right thing, finding another way to do that right thing. And what was interesting to me was that they were two sides of the same coin. The Flash was optimistic, and Arrow had to embrace its darkness.
So thwarting the Gorillas did not go according to plan. But we already knew this. Grodd took control of our other vibe breacher in Gypsy. Grodd proceeds to play mind games and out-fox (out-gorilla?) Family Flash every step of the way. Even Barry finally has to acknowledge that he keeps fighting Grodd the same way every time and it’s quickly stopped working. The team all together (including two Wells and three speedsters) is having a hard time putting a plan into action. Barry eventually arrives at the idea that he is going to have to kill Grodd. It’s the only way to stop Grodd, and it’s the only thing that the Gorillas understand. Everyone is working their ass off to convince him it’s wrong. He brings up that Wells has done unsavory things, particularly to protect Jesse. He also brings up that Ollie kills and is still considered a hero. Iris tells him that Ollie has to live with those choices. Harry says much the same. He knows that every time he makes a bad decision, that every time it gets easier to make those bad decisions. And Barry has to be better than that. Every week we see Barry find a better way. We see him grant mercy, we see him defeat his best enemies without killing them, he continues to see hope and the best in the human race. Just last week we saw him spare Solovar. And that actually plays into how this two-parter resolves itself.

Grodd leads the Gorilla army into the heart of Central City, and while the troops deal with Wally and Jesse, Barry confronts Grodd, who tells Barry he’s going to have to kill him if he wants to truly end this rivalry. Barry tells him he’s wrong. Cisco recruits Gypsy, who brings Solovar to Earth 1 as well. Solovar and Grodd fight once more for control of Gorilla City and when Grodd is bested, Barry is able to prevent Solovar from killing him, because he once showed Solovar mercy. Solovar and the army are ushered back to Earth 2. Grodd is arrested and taken to ARGUS.

It’s a beautiful example of how good The Flash can be when it’s working and firing on all cylinders. All the characters get used well, and the solution is perfect. It exemplifies The Flash’s optimistic “other way” and it’s a good resolution that makes sense. The Flash won’t kill Grodd, and he can’t reason with Grodd. But! He can get Solovar who likely can beat Grodd. Then he can reason with Solovar, because Solovar owes him.

Flash is also still getting a lot of mileage from its comedy. It’s easily the funniest of the four shows as well. I enjoyed Joe’s, “You wanna hook me up to magnets so I can imagine being an evil gorilla again and possibly figure out what he’s doing based on memories he left in my mind? …Sure. Go ahead.” These days, Joe, literally the average Joe, the beat cop, is resigned to how weird his world has become. Two subtle “alternate universe” jokes here: Gypsy asks Cisco, “Are you Luke Starkillering me right now?” in reference to the almost-name of the Star Wars protagonist; and at the end, Jesse and Wally are watching Casablanca and Jesse asks if this is set during the War Of The Americas. “We have a lot more wars,” she shrugs.

In the tag, Wally sees Savitar! And it’s frightening!

One thing I’m a bit down on lately is the Barry/Iris arc. We get it. They’re in love, they’re doing this together, and they’re going to face whatever happens. I don’t need the reminder of it every episode. Barry goes overboard with a Valentine’s morning at the top of the episode, then has another over-the-top decorating of the apartment for the end of the episode. Then he proposes. Of course, we leave on the cliffhanger of her not answering, which is never a good sign. But anyway, if there’s a criticism to be had, it’s that I think it’s unnecessary to dwell on Barry and Iris and the fact that they still love each other. A couple of their lines to each other this episode were downright cringeworthy, and it’s just silly at this point. They’ve moved in together and we hear them say I love you all the time. Barry is literally rewriting the future to keep her alive. I don’t need to be reminded of their relationship every episode. I think the problem is that Iris still doesn’t have a lot of agency in a story that involves her death. Hopefully they find something more for her to do next week.

Meanwhile, on Arrow, Ollie is facing a hearing threatening impeachment for his cover-up of the circumstances of the death of Billy Malone. I’m very happy that they followed through on the storyline of Thea from last week. It seems like the one who entered their darkest recesses wasn’t Felicity (who looks to be signing up with Helix anyway, though they don’t seem nefarious as of yet), or Diggle (who tortured a man, but seems to be taking on a much more respectful mentor role on Team Arrow) but Thea. She even says it herself when she resigns at the end, that her blood lust has just switched from her Speedy vigilante days to political backhanded ruthlessness. She’s ready to smear the lead council on Ollie’s hearing, she’s ready to blame Billy Malone in some way for the cover up, and of course there’s still the fact that she got Susan fired last episode. Ollie is fighting for Thea’s soul here, and she eventually recognizes her shortcomings. What I liked about it was that Thea didn’t come to the realization and fix everything. She simply left. She does help Susan get her job back, but it’s not a full 180. What I like about Arrow contrasted with Flash is that it’s not all wrapped up neatly at the end. All the characters are on journeys and they are works in progress. Thea is leaving to rediscover herself. Curtis is now on his way to learning what bitterness may feel like. Mistaking a dinner as a reconciliation with Paul, he is instead served with divorce papers for quite the heartbreaker at the end of a very good Arrow episode.

Most intriguing is not a one appearance by the Emerald Archer. He remains a figure of mystery. The rest of the team finds themselves suiting up. But it’s too important that Ollie be the mayor in this episode. He’s facing a hearing, and possible impeachment. And to contrast Flash again, at the end of the episode, he thanks his team for saving him, representing a growth in character. A winning outcome at the hearing though comes at the cost of the reputation of Arrow, whom he throws under the bus and labels him a cop killer. Ollie is presented with either taking the blame himself and getting impeached, allowing Adrian to take the blame and step down as DA, going with Thea’s plan to indict Billy as a corrupt cop and that was why they altered his death records. But everyone tells Ollie the same as Barry: you have to find another way. And it’s what Ollie has been preaching to his team for the past few months. They have to be better. There has to be a better way. But that other way still comes at a cost. Ollie has to embrace the darkness, unlike Barry who can live in hope. Making Arrow the bad guy gives a sense of hopelessness, especially with Prometheus still at large (it’s also a massive nod to the Dark Knight, but we already get that Ollie is the Batman of the CWverse).
The episode is literally titled “Fighting Fire With Fire.” Ollie warns Thea that you can’t end a trial about corruption by threatening the exposure of corruption of others. It leads to worse decisions. And like Iris says to Barry over in Central City: “Yes, Ollie’s made horrible decisions. And he has to live with the weight of those decisions for the rest of his life.” Ollie finds a better way through his dilemma as well. He decides to be honest, in a way. And he sacrifices himself, while keeping himself in a strong position. It's very Arrow, and so beautifully contrasting with The Flash.

And we see very real ramifications of these choices. Ollie recognizes that being mayor has become more important to Star City than being the Green Arrow. It’s going to need both to survive. But I’m intrigued by one now being a criminal.

Speaking of criminals, I legit did not see the Prometheus/Adrian Chase reveal coming. I’d been so hard fixated on him as Vigilante that Prometheus as a possibility never entered my mind. I was also too busy pointing to Prometheus being Kovar or maybe even Talia al Ghul that I just didn’t see the trail to get here. Obviously it makes a lot of sense. And clearly it took me by surprise. Suddenly we know Adrian’s the one who’s been pulling all the strings. I’m fascinated by how this plays out. Did this go according to plan? Was the short-term goal to get Arrow seen as a villain? We’ll see what happens!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 5 - Supergirl VS. Mxyzptlk; Flash VS. Grodd; Legends In Camelot; Arrow VS. China White, Cupid, & Lady Cop

It seems like the Valentine’s Day episodes were saved for the week after Valentine’s! After last week’s lighter fare, all four shows came back locked and loaded. The week off did wonders for Flash and Legends, the former launching an epic two-parter, and the latter turning in a strong incarnation of their usual stuff. The lack of a week of heavily benefited the other two shows as well, with Arrow continuing a deep character study, and Supergirl putting up an episode for consideration as the best of the season, certainly the best since the start of the mid-season.

I’ll start with Legends, since much of it was a standard episode, although it felt like it had a much more Dr. Whovian bent in its premise, with an isolated former JSA member (Star Girl) molding a niche settlement into the Camelot of Arthurian legend, complete with the Round Table and Star Girl assaying the role of Merlin. Nate, ever the historian, is none too pleased with this gross inaccuracy, but Ray, ever the lover of high fantasy, is excited simply to meet Sir Galahad, the Knight of the Siege Perilous. Rory Williams… I mean, Rip Hunter, who is now my favorite villain, is using a Bluetooth device to control his own army along with Damian Darhk to lay siege to Camelot and take the piece of the Spear that Star Girl hides there.
We get more detail in the original plan of the Spear of Destiny by way of another scene, where Rip kills another wayward JSA member (Dr. Mid-Nite) hiding in the year 3000. When the Spear was split, Rip sent it in several different directions with JSA members to keep it safe. The tooth that Eobard, Damien, and Malcolm extracted from Rip’s mouth contains the road map to these locations, and now with Rip successfully brainwashed to help, they’re making short work of reforming the Spear.

Courtney, Star Girl, is of course in love with Arthur, a well-kept secret that only Amaya manages to unearth when she deduces that standing up to the siege is more important to Star Girl than staying alive. Ray is choosing to stand and fight with the Knights, because he realizes it’s about fighting for what is right. The rest of the team is ready to leave Camelot behind to fall now that they have the spear, but Amaya, Nate, and Sara soon return to his side. Rory, Martin, and Jax meanwhile work on understanding Rip’s mind control technology. Their experimentation turns the tide of the siege, and ends with Damien running off and Rip being taken prisoner.

Of course, having the former captain of the ship as prisoner on that ship may not be the best place to keep him…

It’s a solid episode, especially as a showcase for Ray, who continues to be one of the best parts of the show. Martin and Rory is an unexpectedly good pairing that is so far paying off every time it happens. They end up being a very worthwhile B-plot. It’s nice to link it all back to the JSA for this episode, as Amaya has been stagnating a bit. I was thankful to Stargirl for pointing out how well Amaya fits with the Legends, which I hope means she’s staying past this season. Now if the Nate/Amaya subplot can be put aside forever, that’d be great…

Speaking of Nate, he was a bit grating this episode. I understand the need for the historian to have things be historically accurate, but it’s just silly to have a character insist on precedent when reality is staring them in the face. You can’t say Camelot shouldn’t exist when it’s existing right in front of you.

I also would like to see them add some dimension to Sara Lance’s sexuality and romantic entanglements. Thus far, it’s played for laughs and that’s fine to a point but eventually I’d like it to mean something or to have the writers start emphasizing other parts of Sara’s character. Right now, she’s the captain and oh look, she kisses girls, isn’t that so funny? is the extent of characterization for Sara.

It’s made more glaring by the fact that Alex and Maggie on Supergirl is so, so good. I can barely think of another show with as prominent of a lesbian relationship being portrayed so plainly, so honestly. It’s not a joke, it’s not overly sappy, and it’s not inexplicably perfect, all things that other homosexual relationships I’ve seen in other shows. Obviously, that’s not a blanket statement on all non-hetero relationships on TV, just the ones I’ve been exposed to. Alex and Maggie are adding layers to their characters and finding new obstacles and discoveries in their relationship together. It’s really, really beautiful, and I think them as the B-plot of the episode earned their corny Valentine’s Day ending, with a private Prom dance.

The C-plot too is rather fun. It’s finally a chance for Winn to work alone again apart from Jimmy. He gets saved from a bar fight at the Mos Eisley Cantina by an alien girl named Lyra. She’s tough, no-nonsense. I’m not quite sold on the characterization… I’m not sure if it’s an acting choice, or if it’s a limitation of the prosthetics, but I didn’t feel the vibe from Lyra. I think it’s definitely a cool wrinkle to Winn’s space on the show, and I’m sure it’s going to become a factor in the Guardian team dynamic. But mixed in with all the carefree stuff is a scene where Winn meets Lyra in a regular restaurant. Lyra is hesitant, as people are staring. But Winn doesn’t care. He says they are the future.
Overall, after a bit of floundering since the mid-season premiere, Supergirl finally hits a huge home run.

In addition to the B and C-plots, the villain of the week is Mr. Mxyzptlk, the 5th dimensional imp of mischief and mayhem. Mxy not as impish and is younger and handsomer than he’s normally portrayed, but that’s because he’s intent on marrying Kara. Immediately, he is a fascinating villain, and soon enough he reveals how menacing and dangerous he can be. Immediately taking issue with Mon-El, whom he considers bland and boring, he challenges him to a duel to the death and to spare his life, Kara agrees to marry him.

But it’s actually just a big ruse and Kara manages to outsmart Mxy, sending him back to his own dimension. I do admire the fact that Kara was in control the entire time. There is a lot of need by the male characters on Supergirl to protect Kara, even though she’s Supergirl. The same goes for Alex to a lesser extent, but you can understand that desire as they are sisters. But I really enjoyed that Supergirl stated she had control of the situation, that that remained true, and that she was respected for it. And she wins!

Her wanting to handle everything and Mon-El’s desire to protect her is of course their central conflict. After leaving us on a cliffhanger for a kiss last week, the relationship seems to be grounded before it even starts. Mon-El is clearly jealous of Mxy but is in denial, and he’s not wrong when he tells Kara she often has no idea what her limits are until she is confronted by them, usually violently. I want to highlight the unbelievable chemistry of Chris Wood and Melissa Benoist. They turned in two of my favorite scenes of the week in this episode. The first was their fight in the DEO. It was well-shot and well-acted. It didn’t feel like a scripted fight. They were in the moment, acting and reacting to each other, and it felt completely authentic. I loved how it resolved (or didn’t really) but they found ways to argue without resorting to horrible low blows.

The final scene of the show is the two of them at last picking up where they left off last episode. Yes, again, it’s their chemistry. But also, Melissa Benoist pulled into an entirely different gear. This wasn’t her flirting or being awkward and quirky with Jimmy or Winn or Cat Grant’s son in the first season. This wasn’t her picking a strong feminine side or a damsel in distress. She was neither, but she was both. It’s hard to explain, but the scene was just acted so beautifully. She was coy, in control, and yes, I think it was supposed to be sexy, so I’ll say it was sexy. When they finally kissed it was magical. So I’m very happy for them, and I can only imagine what this means for when Our Gang inevitably butts heads over the Guardian issue again.

Speaking of butting heads, over on Arrow… While Team Arrow has to deal with tracking down three escaped and dangerous lady prisoners, Mayor Queen and Deputy Mayor Lance have to deal with Sergeant Pike getting evidence that The Green Arrow was responsible for the death of Detective Billy Malone. It’s a war on the streets with a manhunt within a manhunt, but Prometheus seems to be pulling the strings. Ollie visits Prometheus’ alleged mother in the outskirts of Star City. When she refuses to help him, it’s not long after that a manhunt is called on Green Arrow. It’s good we’re starting to feel the presence of Prometheus again, give him a sense of menace back to slowly re-introduce him as we head into the home stretch of this excellent season.

But what I feel is the main conflict of the episode is Thea and Ollie. Susan Williams reveals that she’s put the pieces together about Ollie and Green Arrow. When Thea finds out, she instructs Felicity to sabotage her, resulting in Susan blackballing her entire career. It’s a real knockout blow to Ollie, who was legitimately interested in Susan, despite seeing her ulterior motives. It’s a continuation of the “Bratva” episode’s arc, with Ollie confronting Diggle and Felicity about not succumbing to their dark sides. The only inaugural team member who had yet to confront that was Thea. Now she’s gone and done something completely unethical, and Ollie sees a lot of their mom, who was not always the most ethical either. He’s worried about her, as he was Diggle and Felicity. Their arc ends with them sitting to talk, but we never see the conversation. Hopefully we get some of the ramifications on this next week.

I may be the only one, but for a fleeting moment after the episode, there was a part of me that felt like maybe Thea wasn’t talking about sabotaging Susan when she mentions her great sin. Maybe Felicity acted on her own after given the information. And maybe what Thea is really confessing to is outing Arrow to the police and sparking the manhunt. What gets out of hand about this leak is revealed at the end of the episode: the cover-up of Arrow’s involvement in the death of Detective Malone is exposed on the news and is going to be a scandal and shit-storm for the Mayor. As Ollie himself says, “This could be the end of my administration.” Could Thea have been talking about exposing this to make Ollie honest? Unlikely, but the thought had crossed my mind.

Finally, Flash kicked off the two part Grodd episode. For this half of the story, Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, and Julian all travel to Earth 2 and to Gorilla City to rescue Earth 2 Wells, brought there the team guesses, to open a breach back to prime Earth and start the war talked about in the future news. What I did like about this part 1 was that it felt like a complete episode. The cliffhanger is obvious, though I’m still not clear on how their invasion will happen now, but the arc of the episode resolves itself before the end.
I’m so glad to see Grodd again. It was a fantastically done episode, and another great use of Tom Cavanaugh, as the mouthpiece for Grodd (Cisco also gets in on the action for a scene). Thank goodness Grodd is a psychic gorilla, right!? It really cuts back on the CGI budget when they don’t have to render his face talking. It actually helps with the CGI look too, because when CGI animals talk that’s when they tend to lose their realness for me.

It’s a marvelous setup for a long con by Grodd: He tells team Flash that Barry has to defeat Solovar in combat so that Grodd can take power and stop Gorilla City’s plan to invade Earth One. So Barry meets Solovar in the gorilla gladiator stadium and after a little trial and error bests him in combat. After a rousing speech about showing mercy, the team prepares to leave Gorilla City. That’s when Grodd reveals that with Solovar displaced he can now enact his plan of invading Earth One. What a twist! There were no plans for invasion until Barry fought Solovar, viewed as a declaration of war, despite Barry’s speech.

It’s a great adventure episode with one of my favorite fearsome villains of the Flash universe. I love that Julian tags along because of Caitlin. And I frankly also loved that Caitlin went along with Cisco (who has to Vibe the breach) and Barry. It’s what made the “Bratva” episode of Arrow so exciting, the team all working together in the field. And although much of Gorilla City is confined to the team in a prison block, they get a chance to do some good. It was also a nice nod to remember Grodd and Caitlin’s connection from the last time we saw Grodd.

In the B-plot, Jesse hangs out on Earth One, keeping watch over Central City with Wally’s Kid Flash while the team is abroad saving her dad. She’s put off by how together Wally is now that he has his powers. He’s put off by how cold she’s being. He figures this is something they can now share, and he wants her to move permanently to Earth One. I am also for this move, because I’m always down for a larger Flash family at work. On the plus side, I have always loved Jesse and Wally’s relationship, and I’m really happy with how well they’ve handled Wally as a character throughout the show overall. He’s great here, and I almost wish I’d gotten to see more of them just patrolling the city.

So this week, I’m so happy I get to give top spot to Supergirl. I can’t stop gushing about Mon-El and Kara’s scenes together, particularly the final scene of the show, one of the best falling in love scenes I’ve seen in a while. After that, I’d say Flash is next, because it was so cool to see Grodd again, and see Gorilla City and I thought it was a great conflict. It’s a good cliffhanger without leaving any loose ends. We know Grodd is coming in the second part, I’m intrigued to see how. I’ll give Arrow the third spot, because the lady villains Chien, Carrie, and Warner are great and they continue to do great political stuff with Mayor Queen. Legends gets fourth, but like I said at the top, they give us some of their usual but it’s a very strong. It’s just that the other three all managed to do something slightly to very ambitious with their episodes this week.

One stray thought, I loved HR and Jesse hugging and HR apologizing for not being her father. Then later, he manages to give her some fatherly advice in his own way and it’s lovely. We do not deserve Tom Cavanaugh.

Gee, Supergirl has a plot about outsiders being accepted for who they are. Flash makes a speech about not giving in to fear, and living together in peace. Arrow asks for fairness and place trust in others. Legends is about fighting for what’s right despite overwhelming odds. I don’t need these shows to be overtly political, just as I never needed comics to be overtly political and topical. But if they can offer these messages without being overly preachy, then I welcome them. See you next week!

1.) Supergirl – A       + fantastic villain, great subplots, excellent resolve of Mon-El/Kara
                                  - uneven acting from Lyra
2.) The Flash – A      + good cast split, Grodd is scary, original Wells!
                                  - not a lot happens while in jail, could’ve used more Earth One
3.) Arrow – B+         + strong villain trio, lots of political intrigue
                                  - not sure where the Susan plotline is supposed to end up
4.) Legends – B       + awesome setting, nice break from historic stuff, good guy Ray
                                  - everyone’s very one-note for the entire episode

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blockbusting Movie Reviews - The Lego Batman Movie

I have a small confession. I say small, because it ultimately is not one I'm afraid to admit, nor is it, as I'm coming to find, all that implausible.

Batman is not my favorite character. I think because of his immense popularity, I tend to scrutinize him more, I tend to be very unforgiving of when they get something wrong. And I get annoyed with people giving Batman too much credit. Yes, he's very cool, and it's very ballsy that he has no powers. But there's so many cool characters both with and without powers in just the DC universe alone. I'm fine with Batman having captured the imaginations of so many, but I think he's far from the most important character of the DC universe.

That being said, the influence and popularity of the character is impossible to deny. And on good days, in good runs, Batman becomes one of my favorites. This is the tale of one such favorite.

LEGO Batman's charm is that fine line between revering its source material and completely dismantling its source material. Only LEGOs could get away straight-faced with saying that Batman's been crimefighting for 70 odd years and proceed to show a montage of all the times he gets into a weird mood about his place in the world. Only LEGOs could provide a platform for Batman to be both the most hilarious and the most heartwarming, while acknowledging the fact that he is also one of the most tragic figures of DC canon.

LEGO manages to find a way, over and over again, to walk this fine line of reverence and irreverence and make us laugh, while also making us feel something for a character that really, by all accounts, we should be exhausted by.

The line, as I like to illustrate it, is described thusly: Batman's parents were gunned down in a random act of violence that leads to him becoming Batman. Two of his best friends in the world are a man who is bulletproof and a woman who wears bulletproof bracelets. In there, there is an ironic tragedy and poetry... and a very, very good joke.

That line though is not exclusive to LEGO, because it carries on a tradition begun with the Adam West series in the 60s. The Adam West was ridiculous, broad, and absurd. But Adam West's Batman/Bruce Wayne played it all completely straight. He took it completely seriously. The Will Arnett-voiced Lego Batman is of a similar vein, though he often finds himself the butt of the joke more often than not. In fact, his problem may be that he takes himself way too seriously. He's managed to buy into his own hype and forgotten what it truly means to be a hero, and only what it means to be Batman.

And that's Batman as we've come to define him over the years. The Nolan Trilogy not only brought Batman into a realistic and plausible universe, it made Batman no-nonsense, and incredibly brooding. Which is an amazing feat to accomplish, considering Batman's always been a pretty broody character, at least in his big screen appearances. This is taken to an extreme with Batman V. Superman, where we see a war-torn, despondent, almost psychopathic Batman with a complete disregard for human life. In this way, he's managed to make himself a legend again, but only as Batman, the symbol of fear, not as a hero.

People always seem to conflate seriousness and darkness with grim, gritty, and tragic. Granted, if you lived through the 90s, they were one and the same. And it seemed like everyone had to be angry, violent anti-heroes who had everyone around them constantly dying, and every win tempered with unbelievable loss. Like it or not, Batman had a lot to do with that, with Frank Miller's 80s Dark Knight Returns, whom many cite as the inspiration for the BVS version of the Dark Knight. What people seem to miss though, is that this was a very specific moment in Batman's time, a specific aspect of him drawn to the forefront to explain his flaws and shortcomings. It was a character study in a very specific context. People mistook it for Batman always. And important people mistook it for comics always. Suddenly everything was grim-dark.

Some things managed to balance out the darkness along the way. We got the '89 Batman from Tim Burton, which mixed the Gothic and noir style with some good campy fun. And the 90s animated Batman was the perfect mix of tragedy and light.

But you can tell how good an adaptation is at handling the light, which ultimately is a necessary part of the Batman mythos, by how well they handle what people term the Bat-Family, specifically Robin. It's important to his story and his legacy. When Nolan and the creatives behind the Dark Knight Trilogy straight up said that they would never have Robin in their story, they were admitting to the shortcomings of their particular adaptation: their story isn't about the light, and the world was too sad to handle that kind of hope.

What I do truly love about the Batman mythos is the family. It's the fact that Bruce Wayne is an orphan, the kids he ends up taking under his wing are mostly orphans. His best friend is an orphan. And yet they band together to help him. Whenever he needs them, they are there. Despite his protestation, they are his family. And that is the most beautiful part to me: that despite how much he protests, the ultimate message of Batman is that everyone deserves a family. He has people to rely on and count on despite who he is and how he is. Yes, he is so often the loner, the brooder, the keeper of shadows. But that's not all he is. To pigeonhole Batman to the darkest corners and recesses limits the amount of wonderful stories you can tell. You don't need a new hero to tell those different stories. You can have Batman do it. Batman is also a person.

It's what makes the Lego Batman Movie so incredibly good to me. At the heart of it all is a simple message: we can't do it alone. We need friends. We need friends who become our family.

Huge props to what I think is the best voice performance of the movie, Michael Cera as my favorite character, Richard Grayson, aka Dick, aka Robin. Grayson's always been the light and what keeps Batman from slipping into his real dark side. It's why (well, it's not the sole reason why) Chris O'Donnell in Batman & Robin makes next to no sense and doesn't work. They're too close in age. There's no father/son foundation that can be formed with so little an age gap. Not one that we'd buy in a movie. Of course they play it as a joke in the movie, but Wayne adopts Grayson after the latter loses his parents, that much is true. And having someone to take under his wing makes Bruce a better hero. Like I said, much of this arc is played for laughs (Grayson is accidentally adopted by a very distracted Bruce; Grayson ends up living in the mansion for a week before Bruce even knows he's there; Grayson has no idea that Bruce and Batman are the same person until the very end of the movie) but Cera, much like Adam West and that series before him, plays it all absolutely seriously. I was touched when he asks if Bruce is looking to adopt, and his restrained glee as he frolics through Wayne Manor watched on security cam by Alfred and Bruce is heartwarming. In the grander scheme of the comics, Dick Grayson really holds a lot of the universe together, because he's everything that Batman the character has gotten right over the years. And when Batman admits what he's proud of, he's proud of what he did with Dick as Robin. Grayson grew up.

And what holds Batman back so often is that he is not allowed to grow up. He is not allowed to change and evolve. He must always be the loner and what's unfortunate is that so often he's rewarded for this behavior. He ends up proving everyone else wrong, his preparedness and paranoia allow him to escape any situation, and then with his skepticism and brooding he manages to do impossible things like single-handedly defeat the entire Justice League. Doesn't that sound like he's too powerful for a human? Hell, he's too powerful for a meta. Superman is never allowed to do that, yet people complain all the time that he's way too overpowerful.

It's what makes Will Arnett's Batman so interesting. He is these incarnations of Batman: cool gadgets, limitless supply of preparedness (he even has a counter for how many good ideas he's had versus everyone else), and an answer for everything (exaggerated here, because the world is made of LEGOs, so Batman has the added ability of making whatever he needs out of whatever is lying around). But we also see how his isolation makes him not only a tragic figure, but one that logically also becomes the butt of everyone's jokes. A major scene involves Batman and Robin infiltrating the Fortress of Solitude to steal the Phantom Zone Projector. Batman has to distract Superman while Robin breaks into the vault. Fortunately, Superman is already sufficiently distracted because they're having a huge party... that Batman was never invited to.

It's rather a sad situation when you really think about it, but of course it's played for a joke here, because humor is derived from sadness. It's what made the 60's Batman work. You don't just take something that is silly and make it silly. That's ineffective. You take something inherently sad and exaggerate it to its logical endpoint. You take an orphan who tragically loses his parents and decides to fight crime as a costumed vigilante, and take that to its logical extreme: a socially awkward billionaire who dresses up as a bat at night to fight crime with a number of improbable and increasingly specific gadgets because he preaches being prepared for every situation. Here we see where Batman's isolation and brooding has gotten him: his friends don't enjoy his company.

Juxtaposed to this, is a very fun, cinematically pleasing scene (as are a lot of the scenes in this movie, but this one really stood out for me) where Robin has to acrobat his way through the vault's defenses to steal the Projector. Batman guides him all through it, and Robin deftly navigates to the goal. We get to see something we don't normally see: we get to see Batman learn and grow. He realizes he's having fun. He realizes the bright side of having a sidekick, of having someone else other than himself to rely on. And that's fun to see!

That's the main point of all this. This is what I loved about Lego Batman. As good as the Dark Knight Trilogy is, and I do love The Dark Knight, it simply doesn't showcase growth. We see a Bruce Wayne become Batman, and through it all only Alfred asks him to stop being Batman, and the solution by the end of the trilogy is to be more Batman than before.

While it's very cool to see Batman be a badass, be the hero and save the day all while looking awesome in blac, it doesn't always make for a compelling movie. It doesn't make for a good story. It's a great character on its own, sure, but we want to see our characters struggle and grow and become better for it. The Batman of the Nolan Trilogy lacks growth and therefore lacks our empathy.

Arnett's Batman goes from being the butt of jokes to being the savior of Gotham once again. Early in the movie we have everyone coming to the realization that Batman is actually not good at his job, considering every single one of his adversaries is out and wreaking havoc. By the end, the city learns to trust him, because Batman learns to trust others. He insults Alfred initially, telling him he doesn't know what it's like to have a surrogate son. Again, it's a moment played for laughs, but when you consider the history of Batman, it's a terribly sad moment; it's a boy telling essentially the only father figure he's had in his life who has looked after him every day for the past few decades, you don't know what it's like to have a son. By the end, he fights alongside his faithful butler/friend/father figure. Same with the aforementioned Robin. Initially hesitant, following that Projector heist scene, the dynamic of Robin and Batman changes. Batman sees him as a capable partner. Barbara Gordon, the new police commissioner also has a rocky start with Batman. She wants to find a way to work alongside him, and he will have none of it (a not so subtle metaphor). He's also smitten with her (I hate this ship, by the way. I hate that people keep insisting on it. But that's a different discussion for another day) and so that's distracting, because he simply wants to impress her, not consider an equal.

But Barbara is more than capable. We get to see it shortly after she takes over and saves the mayor during a villain's raid (The mayor, inexplicably voiced by Mariah Carey, easily the most inconceivable voice for this movie) and all throughout when she has all the trappings of a Batgirl in the making. As a sidenote, I loved that she was a Lego-of-Color (that has to be a thing, right?) as was Two-Face! I'm one of those people who was sad that we never got to see the Billy Dee Williams Harvey Dent pay off in the Burton movies, so I'm glad it had some screentime here.

Babs is also the voice of reason with Bruce, as she continually pushes him to team up. She only lets him out of jail after he agrees to team up (she incarcerates him after he breaks into Arkham and sends Joker to the Phantom Zone) and has a save the cat moment (well, save the butler moment) as they attempt to raid the Joker-occupied Wayne Manor.

The movie is absolutely hilarious. It manages to get jokes both out of the inherent absurdity of everything in Batman lore, while also pointing out absurdities (Babs catches Batman and Robin sneaking about, and asks if this is his son. Batman waffles. Babs states this whole situation is weirder if he's not) in its decades long history. Obviously, because Lego itself is a visual medium, it pulls great sight gags only achievable with Legos. Batman having a tantrum in front of Alfred comes to mind.
It's also action-packed. Along with the impressive visual style and cinematography, the movie's got a lot of action sequences. Some of them I will say are not as clean as The Lego Movie's, some of the later sequences are bit harder to track, but overall it's impressive and moves so fluidly you forget it's all animation sometimes. I mean, then something crazy happens and you're like, "Of course," but overall.
But ultimately, it's got heart. It gives these characters so much more than jokes and fun. But it also doesn't make them all sadness and grief either. It makes Joker question his purpose if Batman doesn't care about him, it gives Batman a reason outside of himself to be the hero he was meant to be.
You see, when you watch the Nolan Trilogy, when you read a lot of comics, and when you play Arkham, you see Batman's highest priority is Gotham. But ultimately, that love is something intangible and abstract and doesn't convey to an audience. What does however, is the love of a boy for his father, the love of an orphan for his parents and his surrogate father, and a person who was afraid to love find a way to accept love in his life. And learning that the ultimate goodness in the world is how you inspire others and how together people can change the world, rather than what one person does on their own, is the meaning of being a hero.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 4 -- Supergirl VS. The Luthors, and Arrow Takes On Guns

A lighter fourth week as two of the shows (your friend and mine, Flash; and the Legends) are on hiatus for Valentine’s, but the remaining two shows decide to double down on their increased prominence this week, and it’s a good thing too.

Arrow I think is still suffering ill will from its previous two seasons lost in a kind of plot hell. This season has done wonders to course-correct that: ending the Felicity/Ollie love story chief among them, but adding the new recruits and giving them a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds, de-powering the main villain and linking them to Ollie’s past, placing Diggle and Thea in key places to move their respective stories forward, and Ollie also being mayor are huge helps as well. The characters Adrian Chase, Susan Williams, and now Tina/Dinah are solid character additions as well. The flashbacks have also been better utilized this season, better narrating relevant storylines and even occasionally flashing back to the first season, linking it to one of Arrow’s better years.

All this to say though, for everything that Arrow has been doing right as of late, it needed “Spectre of the Gun” to prove that all this wasn’t just retcon, but building a more solid foundation. We’ve now seen that Susan is not someone to trust (and how sad are we that Ollie as of right now doesn’t know but we as the audience do? Oh, dramatic irony, thou art cruel) and with the return of Thea this week (I cheered when the elevator doors opened to reveal her standing with Ollie) who still doesn’t like her, we understand how founded her feelings are. It’s also given us more development for Quentin other than being a drunken mourning father. He is now taking his deputy mayor duties seriously, and has taken Rene on as an assistant. It’s logical, strong development.

The episode manages to accomplish two things that I think Arrow needed: it gave us Ollie as an effective mayor, not just as Green Arrow. One emphasis in particular of Arrow this season is the double lives of the characters. Flash doesn’t have this emphasis, Barry and The Flash are one contiguous character. The Legends need no such differentiation outside of space and time. Of course, Kara and Supergirl deal with the duality a lot, and we’ve been seeing that come to the forefront with Mon-El as of late. But Ollie is unique, in that his alter ego is as influential as the “other guy.” Imagine the immense consequences of Green Arrow being revealed to be the mayor. Kara is at the end of the day, just a reporter. Ollie however is the highest-profile figure in Star City, so the duality is more interesting to me. What I liked about this episode that was pulled off better than other episodes with a similar premise is that it needed to be Ollie that solved the problem of the week, not Green Arrow.

And the problem of the week is an immense one, an ambitious one, almost out of place in this very alternate DC-CWverse. Gun control, gun violence, the second amendment, and the politics of the rights and wrongs of owning, selling, buying, registering, and carrying guns is a huge, messy, ugly topic of conversation. It is not one that can be solved in an hour-long comic book TV adaptation. Although they don’t try to, and Arrow takes great pains in containing the tragedy and the ensuing political action to the city in which it is, and in making this a very specific branch of a farther-reaching conversation, it is initially a cringe-worthy feeling episode. Rene advocates owning guns and we see why in his flashbacks, to a drug-addled wife murdered by her dealer, and the daughter who was taken from them. Curtis does not, and he voices the side of black citizens who feel specifically targeted by recent gun violence. Felicity is everyone’s party-planning aunt, who insists that politics be left out of social interaction. Quentin’s a cop who sees the necessity for registration, Diggle’s a military man who sees similarly. Dinah’s a former cop who doesn’t. Ollie’s caught in the middle, believing he owes the victims of the shooting spree in City Hall some form of justice.

What makes it cringe-worthy is that the gun debate comes strong out of the gate, with Rene and Curtis immediately politicizing the City Hall shooting spree. (Exacerbating everyone’s point of views is Rene’s use of a firearm that considering his record should not be allowed to own one. Considering he stopped the shooter though, at least temporarily, he remains steadfast.) We already know the limitations and constraints of the show, and we know they’re not going to magically solve this debate because we know all too well in the real world that it is as of yet unsolved, with many choosing to believe that “this is simply what it is.” But the discomfort doesn’t last too long. Because the emphasis remains on Ollie and how he is going to close up this issue. Guided by Quentin and Thea (who I’m glad are both taking more active roles this season) Ollie forgoes the Arrow (although Arrow does hunt down the name of the shooter for a segment) to guide legislation as the Mayor. He bunkers down with one of the city counselors who shot down the Registration ordinance in the previous administration. As he says, there must be something they can agree on.

It’s what the rest of the cast slowly learns too. Rene and Curtis being the main mouth pieces for the opposing sides, come to an understanding. Curtis breaks it down with Felicity, getting at the true heart of the matter: why don’t people talk about things anymore? Everyone shut down and anything we could disagree about was seen as rude if we brought it up in public. It’s a sentiment that rings true in the current political climate, and is one of the truer moments of the episode.

Ollie’s confrontation of the shooter makes this a personal moment, and gives the Green Arrow alter ego a real purpose. We get to see the power and influence and trust of the mayor. The other thing that I think Arrow has needed has been a good, unclear villain devoid of powers. Ultimately, the man responsible for the shooting is no one connected to Prometheus or Darhk, or Tobias Church or some darker conspiracy of coordinated shootings. It’s just a man who lost a wife and kids to another random act of violence. Everyone is mad, he says. Everyone feels powerless. Again, it’s prevalent commentary on the state of things these days, and we never feel he is a true villain. But he does embody true frustrations, and true fantasizations of how we would maybe like to deal with those problems, even though we know better and know it solves nothing, only causes more pain and loss.
There’s a lot that the Arrow episode manages to get right. Like I said, the treatment of its villain is sympathetic, but he still faces justice for the people he killed. Ollie makes a decision, he weighs the sides but understands what side he has to come down on. He passes Gun Registration laws that satisfying the opposing councilwoman, as they are drafted by Rene, a responsible gun owner who also acknowledges the other side. (Tellingly of course, we never see what the order actually entails. Like I said, it’s too big of a conversation for them to have an easy solution by episode’s end.) The conversation between Felicity and Curtis is an unexpected gem of a scene and one of my favorite scenes in a strong line of them from Arrow’s last couple of episodes.

Two stray thoughts before we cross over to Earth 38:
I like Dinah and Diggle as a pair. Diggle really making sure Dinah feels safe and feels like she belongs is a great character development opportunity for both of them. My fear? I’m just trained to recognize certain beats after years of TV drama. I’m worried that this leads to romantic interest. Best case, Dinah admits she likes Diggle. Worst case, it’s an affair. I’m hoping I’m wrong, and it’s just a case of the actors giving takes that were way more comfortable than they really should have been.

Chase is shot during the City Hall massacre so he remains in the hospital at his wife’s request. Later, when Arrow is interrogating a gangleader on the street, Vigilante shows up and kills the gangleader. Now, we all know at this point Vigilante is Chase. They’ve been dropping hints about it all along, and if you actually go to the IMDB page, Chase’s actor is actually listed as the actor for both Chase and Vigilante. (This is what spoiled it for me, although I already had this thought long before.) So was this a red herring to all of us? Chase looks barely able to move and Vigilante seemed pretty mobile, jumping off that scaffold at the end of the scene. Or are we really supposed to believe that there is yet another masked hero whose identity is yet to be revealed? Either way, it’s interesting.

Supergirl also needed an episode like this. So far, I’ve been enjoying the sophomore season of Kara and friends, with two major minuses: the loss of Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant is a much more glaring blow than even I realized at the time she left; and the Jimmy Olsen/Guardian storyline is just not as interesting to me as the screentime it’s getting. I also think of the four shows, it’s struggling the most to keep up. While Arrow is giving us a strong course correction that’s paying off, Legends has trimmed the fat and given us a better focus, and The Flash remains as strong as its first season, the episodes of Supergirl have been good, not great. They’ve had moments, but not quite as much to bring you back week to week as would be required of an average viewer.

So something like “Luthors” comes along and manages to give us some good development for the main characters, as well as a compelling villain and hero dynamic amongst the eponymous Luthor family. Lillian, who heads CADMUS, and is still causing problems for all the alien friends of Earth, is back and is appealing to Lena’s sympathetic side, her need to feel like she belongs. Lillian’s pure evil done right. While various portrayals of her son Lex may come off as misguided but well-meaning, there is no sugar-coating Lillian. She hates aliens. She knows that destroying them is what’s best for Earth. And she alone has the solution to make it happen. Huh, a narcissistic xenophobe who blames aliens for all our problems. I wonder where they got that idea?

What makes the episode truly inspiring though, is Kara’s insistence that Lena is innocent in the proceedings. It’s taking the boy scout benefit of the doubt and revving it to its fullest. After all, when would an El ever trust a Luthor? Everyone is trying to talk her out of it, but Kara sticks to her guns. What I enjoy about it is something that feeds into a larger argument about Superman and his superfamily in general. People believe it’s naïveté, but Kara is not naïve. Based on what she knows, she is forming her opinion. The fact that it clashes with everyone else’s, from Alex and J’onn to Jimmy and Snapper, does not somehow make her naïve. But it’s something we do throw out when a minority opinion is expressed. Feeding back into what we were discussing about Arrow, it’s indicative of us never talking anymore. We prefer to be validated by someone who shares our opinion, rather than challenged by someone who opposes that opinion with one of their own. When and why did we stop listening to each other? Taking each other’s ideas and opinions into consideration? I don’t know, but it leads to situations like this. These are fictional characters, but how much does the situation ring true? A person who simply association is seen as guilty of crimes they did not commit. One person alone believes they are telling the truth, but the world dismisses it, because it doesn’t jibe with what they already know. In this case: the Luthors are bad, therefore Lena is also bad. Nothing Kara says is all that convincing, but it’s still not taken into consideration not because she lacks compelling evidence, but simply because it makes more sense to them: Lex was bad, Lillian is bad, Lena must be bad also.

I also love that Lena is innocent, and that Kara was right. There’s a possible tease in the tag that Lena may turn at some point, but for now, everything was done right. Everyone’s very much in pure support role to Kara this week, but it does need to be all about her, for an episode as important as this. Supergirl is still the reason to watch the show, and this episode showed that. A protagonist who is willing to fight for what’s right despite the odds, that sounds like the House of El to me.

My two closing thoughts are my least favorite and most favorite relationship moments:
Kara and Mon-El have a chance at episode’s end to talk, and Kara is ready to admit her feelings for him. There’s a kiss coming, before Mr. Mxyzptlk interrupts to tease next week’s episode. I think Kara and Mon-El are adorable and it’s been going right. The moment I hate is as Kara closes in for the kiss, she takes off her glasses. It’s so stupid. Do people just not kiss with glasses on? I wear glasses, I’ve kissed girls with glasses on. Hell, I’ve kissed girls who also have glasses on, we don’t just remove our glasses to kiss, we know how to do it with glasses on! It happens only in TV and movies! People remove their glasses, and most blatantly, they do it JUST BEFORE THE KISS. It’s so obvious and so telling. It’s purely for the audience to know a kiss is happening. It’s a character who literally never takes off their glasses suddenly taking off their glasses because reasons!? Ugh, it’s so trite. They’re lucky they’re so charming.

On the other hand, the top of the episode sees the whole gang waiting in the space bar for Alex to finally bring in this person she’s been dating to meet everyone. Of course, everyone’s ironically saying ‘he’, Kara is nervous. Alex arrives with Maggie, and introduces her, though initially not as “my girlfriend.” But everyone is quick to catch on, and quick to embrace it. Winn and her play pool. Jimmy hugs Alex, asking why didn’t you say already. J’onn only smiles knowingly. Alex: “You knew!?” J’onn: “It wasn’t my secret to reveal.” Perfect. They continue to do right by this whole relationship.