Thursday, February 9, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 3 -- It's A Matter Of Family for Supergirl, Family Flash, Team Arrow, and the Legends of Tomorrow

We dive into week three and it’s all about family on the CW foursome!

Legends has become way more comfortable in its own skin with slicker writing and more streamlined storytelling. It was the clear winner of the week as it took to the week’s unofficial theme with aplomb, even ending with a toast to family! We got to see a lot of potential from the team working as a cohesive unit: Sara gives everyone’s marching orders for when they hit the ground to rescue George Washington and preserve the legacy of the American Revolution. Obviously, these are simply the best laid plans of mice and men, as things quickly go awry: Sara gets shot and is taken back to the Wave Rider while Mick and General Washington are captured and taken to the British encampment. Nick and Amaya are sent to track down the British squadron that have them, Martin has to operate on Sara without the help of Gideon with the Wave Rider’s power off-line, which Jax and a miniature Ray are working to restore.

Speaking of mice, mini-Ray, who has also been de-powered, is pursued by a stowaway rat through the ventilation system on his way to restore power to the Wave Rider. It’s a great callback to Ray telling Mick at the beginning that his messy living habits have attracted rodents. (He later gifts Mick the rat, because… it’s Christmas! A couple months late, but I guess nothing happens “on time” while lost in the time stream.)

The prodigal son of the Legends Rip Hunter has returned, but he’s been brainwashed through the machinations of Eobard Thawne, and is now working for the Legion to recover the Spear of Destiny. Rip is actually the one who shoots Sara, then boards the Wave Rider to take out Jax, Martin, and finish the job on Sara. I’m stoked about this interesting bit of character development for Rip, and I’m curious as to how it gets developed with the next couple of episodes. Rip now has a disregard and loathing for everything he attempted to do with his so-called previous life: his attempts to save his child and wife, and his recruitment of the Legends are now excessive mistakes; I fear this is all going to be disregarded once Rip returns to normal, and may be very much sidelined on the way there. But with how self-aware and self-correcting Legends has been this season, it’d be a refreshing attempt to add layers of complexity to Rip and how he goes forward from there. Maybe he doesn’t necessarily continue dismissing the slaughter of his family, but maybe he now regrets not being more ruthless in his convictions. Maybe he becomes more direct, rather than putting together a convoluted plan like the Legends in the first place. Would a more ruthless, angry Rip fit in to the seemingly more organized Legends team dynamic? That’s speculation, of course. Until the next beat, we can only guess. Rip gets away with their piece of the Spear.

Even with the team’s initial plan completely decimated, everyone rallies and does their best with what they’re given. In particular, Jax gets put in charge when Sara is disabled. He shows some mettle, but gets bested by the superior strategist Rip (it’s actually a great showcase for both of them, as they both were pretty much relegated to buffoonery in the first season). He laments to Sara at the end, “How do you make the right decision when there isn’t even a right choice?”

Supergirl is missing Jimmy (entirely) and Mon-El (for the main part) for the episode’s proceedings, but it does pit J’onn, M’gann, Kara, Alex, Winn, and a few DEO red-shirts up against a White Martian who was once bonded to M’gann and is now hell-bent on killing her for her treachery. It actually turns out to be two White Martians, in what is one of my more favorite twists from the four shows. J’onn has to convince M’gann not to confront the White Martian on her own, that she is stronger with her newfound family protecting her and working together. It’s a meaningful insistence from the person on the show who for so long was so alone and had more or less adjusted to being on his own. Everyone is willing to pitch in, Winn foregoing the beat with Jimmy to track the Martian, and Alex delaying meeting Maggie that evening at a concert of her favorite band to check up on the team.

Of course, the central relationship of the show is rocked a bit, with Alex and Kara at odds. The aforementioned concert is the same night as Kara’s “Earth birthday”, celebrating the day she arrived on Earth. Kara wants to make it a big deal, Alex is hoping they can raincheck it for another night. It’d be a kind of flimsy source of conflict for my tastes, but Alex and Kara, and specifically pointing to the performances of Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist, provide enough humanity and ground them in enough reality that we sympathize with their perspective. Alex and Maggie’s relationship has been portrayed so positively so far that we are rooting for them. In the last couple episodes, we’ve seen Kara struggle with isolation from the rest of the team as they form new relationships and dynamics (Alex & Maggie, Jimmy & Winn, J’onn & M’gann, and now Mon-El wanting some distance) leaving Supergirl herself often by herself. It’s what makes their heart-to-heart so tragic, when it’s revealed that the second White Martian was posing as Alex since they’d locked down the DEO. It sucks to lose the impact of the two sisters resolving their feelings, even though they do try and do a second version of it at the conclusion of the episode. Of course, since Supergirl has always been about family first and foremost, it is simply an affirmation of what they’ve always promised to each other. Alex promises that her new relationship will not change their sisterhood, and she even pushes Kara to rethink her feelings of Mon-El. But I can’t shake the feeling that something is coming that will really test the newly fractured team. We’re going to see if everyone really is there for each other in more than just word.

Team Arrow and Team Flash stepped up their teamwork games this week, with both ensembles called together to deal with the respective threats. Team Flash has another baddie of the week, who is also a remnant of Flashpoint and is killing the cops that brought him in there, even though they’re not cops in the real timeline. We’re deprived of Cisco or HR dubbing Clive Yorkin with a meta nickname, but he proves to be a very perplexing and dangerous threat of the week. It forces Wally to fast-track learning how to phase (something he was struggling with at the episode’s onset). We also get a fantastic feat-of-the-week from Barry as he manages to phase an entire train through an obstacle. (Coming in very close second is Cisco, who manages to vibe into Flashpoint, which involves first vibing into an alternate universe where Flashpoint was not undone.)

I’m a bit disappointed that Iris again plays victim for the episode, leaving it to Barry to constantly re-assure her, but she does make the decision to finally tell Joe about her impending death. Joe is appropriately angered at everyone for not telling him sooner, but that soon goes by the wayside when Clive Yorkin manages to infect Iris instead of killing Joe. It brings the team together, to work as a unit. Caitlin steps up to use her powers and freeze the infection in Iris’ arm. She’s of course afraid to do this as Killer Frost takes over, but Julian manages to talk her down. So with losing Iris’ agency this week, we do manage to involve Caitlin and Julian once more, who were left out for the most part last week. Caitlin and Julian have a unique perspective, both possessing the potential of a villain within. Clive is another remnant of the Alchemy husks, so we’re still mopping up Julian’s alter ego’s mess, and Caitlin is never far away from Killer Frost, but she for now has her under control. The two have a complex dynamic, evidenced by the proceedings of this episode, culminating with them getting a drink together at the end, symbolizing their mutual bond and relief at having each other. Last week, we learned what it means to be a hero. This week, we’re learning that the main thing to remember is that no hero does it alone. (Hmm… “Stronger together”… That sounds familiar…)

Joe doesn’t have as much to contribute to the team sometimes, lacking the knowledge of Caitlin, Barry, and Cisco (and now Julian), or the powers of them and Wally. But it’s a relief to have Team Flash all on the same page again. In an aside, Joe asks Barry to confirm if Savitar’s prophecy is specifically about Iris. Barry confirms, but I’m still sticking to my theory that Joe himself may attempt to replace her. I also liked the comic relief that he brought to the episode, twice being asked to choose between Barry and Wally (once in a bet on who’s faster, and later by Cecile’s daughter who asks which Flash is the true hero). I now can’t shake the feeling that there is a foreboding to this question too, that Joe is possibly going to have to answer this question in a life-or-death situation.

Team Arrow are jumping into their own life-or-death situation as the team heads to Russia. It’s the first outing for Dinah who is learning to control her powers as the Canary. Rene gets held back (citing “international incidents”) but he’s also babysitting a returning Quentin who has an interview with Susan Williams and he’s helping him prep. It’s an unexpected pairing that works, and also has a rather touching story at its heart, revealed towards the end of the episode. The rest of the team meanwhile is working well together, Diggle’s back in the fold, Felicity’s stepping up in a more active role that actually works, and Dinah offers a fresh perspective to Ollie that none of the rest of the team is willing to give him. I’m not quite so taken with Dinah as of yet, but she does show a lot of potential. I think she’s going to be a great Canary, but I am not there yet, neither is she.

The focus though is that Diggle and Felicity are allowing their darker natures to take over: Diggle
tortures a prisoner for information, Felicity threatens a contact with information she learned from the Pandora. Ollie confronts them both and again demands that they be better than him. Unlike last week, this plea felt more earned, and it felt less hypocritical by Ollie. He truly cares about Diggle, who has a son, and Felicity, who he knows is hurting right now. We see Ollie have to resort to his old ways again in order to bring General Walker within reach. It makes the dynamic of the trio complicated. Of course all of them see the reasoning of being better, but the results speak for themselves. Julian pleading with Caitlin rings on one level. They are new friends. Ollie pleading with Felicity and Diggle for the sake of their humanity rings on a whole other level. They are old friends. The old guard. At this point the most senior members of Team Arrow and the wider CWverse. At the end, Diggle at least sees the light, but realizes that they aren’t better than Ollie, they make each other better. They are each other’s reason to be better. Felicity is still taking the Pandora to heart. Granted, her dark side path was nowhere near as upsetting as Diggle beating up a hostage. I’m interested to see where her path with the Pandora continues, as it seems Diggle’s has, at least for now, come to a close. Even separated, Rene and Quentin both learn the same essential lesson: no one is able to do this on their own.

We had some exciting twists to end Arrow and Flash. Supergirl’s ending was less exciting, more melancholy, with M’gann unexpectedly deciding to return to Mars to free other White Martians who may share her altered view. J’onn and M’gann share a psychic good-bye. Team Arrow also had a good-bye, with Rory, aka Ragman finding his rags suddenly depowered from containing the nuclear blast of the stolen warhead, departing for parts unknown. Susan Williams, the reporter, who is now Ollie’s girlfriend for all intents and purposes, reveals her true colors in the tag scene. I knew I never could quite trust her, and it looks like her real scoop is trying to connect the vigilante Green Arrow to the mayor Oliver Queen. I thought maybe she’d have some connection to the Bratva or an enemy in the Russian past, due to a foreshadowing camera shot of the alcohol she pours for Ollie when he visits her late one night. (It’s Russian Vodka, the same that appears in the flashbacks with Ollie and Anatoly.) It looks like she’d just done a lot of in-depth research. Thea’s doubts are confirmed though, so I’m interested in where this goes.

Of course, the big cliffhanger is Flash’s, but we all kinda knew what it was going to be because of the headlines from the future. Jessie Quick returns from Earth 2, and it looks like Earth 2 Wells has been captured by… Gorilla Grodd. (Looks like the budget for the shows has been expanded significantly, considering the CGI-heavy Dominators crossover, then the Kevin Smith aliens on Supergirl, plus an extended appearance by both J’onn and M’gann in their Green Martian forms, and now Grodd’s coming back!? Not to mention Legends and Ray and Nate.) That reminds me, as a side-note, can I say I really love how they visualize Amaya’s Vixen powers? When she jumps in the water and we see the Patronus-like specter of a seal as she hits the water is awesome. Basically, I like that they’re Patronuses. Oh, but that also reminds me, because I almost forgot, I really didn’t like this side-plot in Legends of Nate sleeping with Amaya. But I will say that I do like twice now Legends has had the girl determine the nature of the relationship, and we’ve had Ray and now Nate be left as the pining unrequited. I still find it boring character development, (I find the platonic and respectful dynamic of Mick and Amaya much more interesting) but I thought they acted it really well, and it drove to a cute conclusion.

No major cliffhanger for Legends, or particularly crazy ending. But we end with them here, because they get to cheers a toast to saving George Washington, the American Revolution, America, and Christmas all in one adventure. I loved Mick’s inspirational speech to Washington, about how being an American means being the rebel, being the upstart, and never giving up. It’s true, and it’s so much a part of our legacy. He deserves that statue dedicated to him. I really am impressed with the writing in particular on Legends as of late. Sara’s toast highlights the essential theme of the week: “We will get Rip back. We will beat the Legion. Because we have something they don’t have. We are family. And family… fight like hell.” And never was a sentiment more true: you watch the sisters on Supergirl, the multi-faceted family on Flash, the multi-generational family on Arrow, and the misfit bickering time travelers on Legends fight ferociously with each other, but most of all for each other. And that’s why they are our heroes.

Final Power Ranking and Individual Grades:
1.) Legends of Tomorrow - A
2.) Arrow - A
3.) The Flash - B
4.) Supergirl - B