Thursday, March 30, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 10 -- Supergirl fights for love; The Flash battles magic; The Legends of Tomorrow find their minds; Arrow finds his soul.

Supergirl “Distant Sun”
As I was saying last week, it’s felt like a lot of episodes for both Supergirl and The Flash in particular have been holdovers in between the bigger, important arcs. The reunion of the Daxam Royals essentially serves as the two-parter of the season, and this chapter I think delivers even better than the first one did. Again, I prefer Mon El and Kara when they are not falling apart. It’s much cuter, it’s much stronger, and for me it’s much more interesting. Having obstacles thrown in that make them throw in the towel on their relationship is no longer a viable conflict in my mind. So instead, show me them dealing with their adjusting relationship and day-to-day life. A small change from previous episodes is when the first trouble of the morning arrives, Mon El offers to tag along and “get ‘em together”, Kara just says yes. It’s now the power couple, and it’s a dynamic worth exploring. I will also say Chris Wood is masterful in his comedy. He’s really pulling the majority of the weight on that end of the show right now, while still being an awesome romantic interest. I liked his line to Kara as she rushed off before breakfast in bed: “I’ll just…get a head-start on those dishes!” and later on, Winn compliments him on his use of the word ‘palette,’ he replies: “Thanks! I cook now!” His delivery is perfect, and is a good reminder of how funny the show can be when it is able to. Another little change to their dynamic later on that I love, is after Mon El returns from interrogating his parents about the bounty on Kara, she asks him where he was and he simply tells her, where in previous episodes we would have seen him lie or not say anything, and it would lead to another fight between the two. The changes are small, and it’s refreshing.

Kevin Smith’s first foray into Supergirl was an okay episode. It was nothing amazing, I’d say safe. As interesting as the world building was, it didn’t have much in terms of stakes. Or at least, in its execution, I never felt a true sense of danger. There is a lot here though that is built upon from that first Smith episode: Winn uses the same warp door from that adventure to get the crew aboard the Daxam ship. And that was also the first episode we saw Mon El’s mother and father searching for their son. This episode though is exceptional in its pacing, and juggles its subplot very well. It concerns Maggie and Alex running into one of Maggie’s ex’s. Now, Maggie and Alex are already my favorite relationship on the show. In addition to the fact that I just can’t think of another straightforward presentation of a lesbian relationship on television that’s as good. There’s also been a lot of layers added to their relationship, and another was added here. Alex finds out from Emily (the ex-) that it was actually Maggie who cheated on her and ruined their relationship years ago. Maggie had told her otherwise. Alex is home to confront her and tells her it is not because she cheated, but because she recognizes a pattern that Maggie is unwilling to talk about pain in her life because she doesn’t trust anyone to help her. It’s a really beautiful scene. I cried a bit. I see a lot of my emotional hang-ups in Maggie, as well as a lot of my idealism in Alex. The fact that the dynamic is switched here in this episode, with Alex kind of being the caretaker, reflects a growth in their relationship. It shows Alex growing in maturity and awareness and understanding. She is comfortable in her own skin now because she is in a relationship where she is happy. You don’t want to enter relationships with the intent of changing people, but when we can help each other through our personal hang-ups, it leads to a mutual growth in the individual people as well as the couple.

Tempering the sensitive scenes are some crazy violence. It’s eventually revealed that Queen Rhea put out the bounty, and during a conversation with Kara and Mon El, Rhea just decides to take matters into her own hands, draws some Kryptonite sais and proceeds to cut up Kara. It appears King Lar Gand knew nothing of the bounty, and assumed Mon El was returning with them of his own accord. Rhea’s revealed to be crazy though, and has chosen to go to any lengths to retrieve her son, even if it means he no longer wants to. I’m just a little disappointed that we have another crazy woman archetype for a long-arc villain, but it’s Teri Hatcher and seeing her be absolutely ruthless like this again is wonderful. The episode ends with her coldly killing King Lar Gand for allowing Mon El to stay on Earth and essentially defying her wishes. She’s gone full-on psychopath, people. We’re heading for a big showdown possibly at the end of this season. It took us a bit to get to our big bad for the season, but I think it was well worth the wait. I’m excited for the eventual meeting of Queen Rhea and Jeremiah Danvers (played by the distant past’s Lois and Clark, Hatcher and Cain).

Congrats to Kevin Smith for helming this one, because this was my favorite episode of the season. Getting to see J’onn be a badass again (he masquerades as Kara on the Daxam ship then morphs to his green self to take out the guards) and then having a gladiator-style face-off with the former Hercules in Kevin Sorbo is the kind of thing I live for and can only happen in the ridiculousness that is the DC-CWverse.

The Flash“Abra Kadabra”
Another kind of loopy interloper arrives on The Flash, but Abra Kadabra feels legit dangerous this time. The gravity of the situation is escalated by the fact that Gypsy returns to Earth 1 to apprehend him for crimes on her Earth. It’s possible he holds the secret of Savitar’s identity but it’s also more likely he’s making a game of it all. I do take issue with the fact that Barry is so immediately willing to believe him when he says he can help. Iris calls him on it rightly so in their scene together, saying how do we know he’s telling the truth. Barry only offers up, “I know he is. It is true.” With no other evidence. Maybe if we’d caught a glimpse of Abra at the murder of Iris West in the future, we’d be more inclined to at least give him the benefit of the doubt. But nothing in the data of the episode provides evidence that Abra actually knows Savitar’s identity, and so the gambit Family Flash is playing with him is incredibly dangerous and ultimately fruitless.

That being said, some crazy stuff happens in this episode. We get several fun action sequences with Abra outwitting the team on multiple occasions, including two vibers and two speedsters. I enjoyed the fact that it’s Barry who ultimately catches him, scaling buildings, vibrating through the time ship, and apprehending our villain. A pattern Barry unfortunately faces throughout the show’s tenure has been either he is useless or clueless in battle until his friends provide play-by-play. This was not true here. He led the field team and came through in a clutch and it’s nice to see. Last week, the musical episode also allowed us to see a bit of earlier seasons Flash, the “eat Chinese take-out in uniform” Flash. Obviously it’s been an emotionally heavy and taxing season with Flashpoint and now Savitar making Barry question his value as a hero, but the musical episode made me remember how much I miss the fun Barry that always balanced out Oliver Queen. It’s a weird moment when Flash’s team has been fraying since the start of this storyline, while on Arrow we’re starting to see more light brought to their secret lair.

I liked the initial interactions of Cisco and Gypsy. I thought it was fun and different, but as the relationship has continued, we haven’t seen a lot of it develop romantically, so when Cisco gets meaningful about it I don’t understand the transition. He asks, what are we. At the end, she asks where does that leave us. But we’ve seen no real development other than Cisco awkwardly flirting and Gypsy not returning anything in kind. Sure the revelation that her partner in work and love fell victim to Abra gives her pause, but we haven’t seen any kind of development for them thus far. The kiss last episode they were together was funny and unexpected, but it doesn’t amount to defining any sort of relationship.

Joe was the MVP of the episode though, taking matters into his own hands. I’m so happy that almost every episode I get to say this show does not deserve the talent of Jesse L. Martin and this is his highlight reel, he nails it. He goes to bargain with Abra for the name of Savitar but Gypsy distracts him and Abra gets away. When Gypsy later confronts him about his mistake, he takes a hard stance against her. Totally unexpected. I loved the line, “I took two oaths: one to uphold the law, the other to protect my family. Which one do you think I honor first!?” Joe West, a cop among metahumans, stands tall and brave because he is a father, and a family man. I’m glad that they told Joe West about Iris’ death, because it leads to scenes of absolute conviction like this, but I also sympathize with Joe the father when he breathlessly admits to Barry at one point, “I really wish you hadn’t told me about this sometimes.”
Later, he gives us an amazing monologue about being a father. It’s so beautifully earnest, and Candice Patton looks legitimately moved by it all. Much like Supergirl this week, we have beautifully constructed and sensitive scenes like this tempered by fantastic action sequences against Abra. Another excellent scene is after Caitlin wakes from her highly invasive and mutilating surgery scene. (In Abra’s escape, he blows up the lobby where Joe, Julian, and Caitlin are standing, and Caitlin gets impaled by some metal piping.) Unable to operate on herself and with no one else qualified to do the job, Julius has to be walked through extracting the shrapnel. It’s graphic and gross and I haven’t gotten uncomfortable watching a show like this in a while. Afterward, Caitlin passes out and when she wakes, her and Julius share a moment of forgiveness and admiration. They both just saw each other through a very harrowing moment and came out of it stronger. I’m loving Caitlin and Julian together, and now we get to see how they come through this next phase…

Because at the end of the episode, Caitlin dies. But Julian rips off the power dampening necklace and from the bed rises Killer Frost. Oh, now you’re going away for a month, Flash? How dare you.

Legends Of Tomorrow“Doomworld”
The penultimate chapter is always that difficult chapter to put together. Think The Empire Strikes Back. Think The Two Towers. There’s transition to it, but it also has to stand on its own. There’s development, but we also have to set up for the final confrontation. Legends’ Doomworld is that middle chapter. And for the most part, it sets us up perfectly for the final showdown and finale, while still being a very fun entry on its own.

We are dropped right into the re-written world of Eobard Thawne, where he is a successful scientist and businessman in Central City’s Star Labs, Damien runs Star City as its mayor with Sara and Amaya doing his bidding hunting down vigilantes (they catch and kill Felicity at the top of the episode, seemingly the last stray vigilante of the old Arrow team, whose masks adorn a trophy case of Darhk’s), Malcolm has his family (and his hand) back, Snart and Mick are running amok playing bank robbers. I say playing, because Snart owns the police and the banks, so there’s no longer stakes to their heists. Jax is Stein’s boss, Ray is a janitor, and Nate is a conspiracy theorist.

Again, it’s so unabashedly time travel and sci-fi, and I can’t help but love it. The main arc has become Mick Rory’s redemption. We see here that he realizes what a mistake he’s made. He has to atone for correcting everything, even though most of the episode is now him trying to course correct. He learns that the Legends truly trusted him even if they didn’t always show it properly, but that the Legion sought to control him, not befriend him like he’d originally thought. He realized that the Legends, misguided as they were sometimes, were always upstanding in their intentions. It’s thanks to his playing both sides that brings everyone together at the reactor core where Eobard plans to throw the Spear.

Everyone fights each other then realizes that they should be fighting Eobard. But Eobard outwits everyone, because he’s the speedster. He knows and they know he can kill any of them in a second. He warns them not retaliate, and to remember this day of grace he granted them. With the Spear gone, no one knows what do.

They lose Amaya in the process, though I hope not permanently. Because I saw a lot of potential in that character, outside of just being a love interest for Nate. At the end Sara suggests time travel as the solution, and that they have to find the Wave Rider (which has been a souvenir on a desk for the previous year and so) and I hope this leads to them getting Amaya back on the team.

The performances you have to give the most kudos to are the villains. We have some truly compelling and entertaining villains, and the way they work together reminds me of Adam West Batman days, just with the antagonists way more sophisticated. Darhk does a fantastic “villain’s monologue” to a captured and dying Sara Lance, which she escapes from at the last minute because hero magic, but Barrowman’s Malcolm compliments him on an excellent speech even though it may have been wasted. Snart is frustratingingly good in this role as the dominant smart guy. It’s so cool to see him in his earlier incarnation, but I do miss the character development he witnessed over a season with the Legends. Snart makes a passing reference to Prison Break, suggesting he and Mick get captured and break their way out “just like the old days.” And again, it’s truly Mick’s episode to lose, and he does not. He puts together a complete and compelling performance, trying to give us a lot of nuance with essentially only one face he allows himself to make. Mick’s journey is one of redemption and growth, and it’s great to see. As funny as Mick has been all season, it’s nice to see a moment where he gets to grow as the other Legends have.

So the Legends and the Legion, and all of reality itself, are on the brink of a war with Eobard, who controls all the pieces. I don’t know how the finale ends up. I couldn’t be more excited for something I’m totally unclear on how to predict.

I mentioned earlier that Flash has seen much more fraying while Arrow’s team, while showing initial signs of fraying (Felicity’s Helix connection, Curtis retiring from the field, Thea going away, Rory going away, Evelyn’s betrayal) is actually growing stronger. Curtis’ new role has introduced the very helpful T-Spheres. Felicity’s newfound connection has helped with multiple investigations and other than the “tit-for-tat” hacking courtesy, there doesn’t seem to be anything nefarious about Helix as of yet. Dinah and Rene and Diggle have proven to be an effective field team.

The episode concerns itself with Ollie’s soul. Where does it stand, how much did Adrian corrupt, what is the solution? At first we’re met with a broken and guilty Ollie who has given up. He has returned to work and has nothing more to say to Chase, as they each return to their mutual offices. Everyone is fired up to do something but Ollie insists on all of them standing down. They take matters into their own hands, but it’s soon revealed that Ollie is turning to Anatoli. He has a plan, a plan that Chase wouldn’t expect. He is asking Anatoli to kill Chase. Now I understand the significance of the flashbacks. This moment has a huge impact if you’ve been investing yourself in those five years in Hell. Ollie is resorting to the Bratva, nothing but ruthless, hired killers. We see that he is not as broken as we initially thought, he is desperate. And he is going to do what it takes, without bringing more saints to sinnerhood.

It all boils down to an intense scene of bros and brotherhood, with no one but Ollie and Diggle left standing, as it all started. Their scene is probably my favorite dramatic one of the week. Diggle puts it all out on the line. He knows Ollie’s better side and he will continue to fight for it everyday even when Ollie himself has lost sight of it. It’s moving and it speaks to a core theme of Arrow. The mission of the Green Arrow has always need to evolve. As overused as the phrase has become, it truly must be something else. And the next step has always been to be bigger than one person. Ollie cannot do it alone, more importantly he does not have to. He has a huge support team to bring this all home. And in Anatoli he sees where the other path would lead him. If he closed everyone off, and made his decisions to keep everyone else safe, he loses himself. He loses his humanity. The Anatoli we see in Star City is not the one we meet in the flashbacks. He is changed, hardened, shut off. The Bratva are willing to fight for Anatoli for pay, for loyalty. The Arrow family is fighting for Ollie because they love him, because they are truly family. They are a family formed in trust, which is always stronger than a family forged in bloodshed.

All four shows really hit the ground running this week, to leave us on cliffhangers for late April. We’re now steering towards pretty crazy conclusions for all four shows. Supergirl was easily the most directionless, but now has a worthy (and female!) big bad. Flash has telegraphed their path for a while, but new wrinkles have been added along the way, and Barry’s trip to the future could be interesting. And the Legends showdown is going to be interesting. Black Flash is in that holding pen… And Arrow ends on a truly chilling note with Adrian killing his witness protection officers, and smiling and whistling as he drives off avoiding the police. Let’s bring these shows home with a bang, folks!