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