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!