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!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Week In The DC-CWverse - Week 9 -- Supergirl meets the parents; The Flash and Supergirl put on a show; Legends of Tomorrow meet the Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien; and Arrow calls it quits.

So the twist we all saw coming with Mon El came to pass this week. The Daxamite King and Queen (played by one-time Hercules, Kevin Sorbo and opposite Dean Cain’s Clark Kent the intrepid Lois Lane, Teri Hatcher) arrive to retrieve their son, the Prince of Daxam. It’s a bit difficult at this point to sympathize for the central couple, as this is now a recurring theme for them, breaking up once more. However, this does add a ton of character development for Mon El, who defies his parents, refusing to return home, and choosing instead to remain on Earth. Kara, he says, makes him a better person, even if they do not remain together.

I can’t shake the feeling that there’s villainy afoot for our King and Queen of Daxam. If everything we’ve heard is true about the oppressive rule of the royal family on their home planet, they appear to be too forward-thinking and calm in their demeanor. They also let Mon El go incredibly easily, despite spreading a search across the cosmos to find him again. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of them, and something tells me we’re going to see a tragic blood feud where Mon El finally gains his hero wings.

 In the week’s B-Plot (which frankly felt more like the A-Plot), we at first learn that Lyra is not everything she says she is. She has Winn break them into a museum under pretenses of a tryst, but he gets arrested for stealing priceless artwork when surveillance footage shows Winn at the museum but not Lyra. Lyra’s people it turns out can’t be captured on film. When they track her down, Winn is willing to believe that Lyra really is stealing the art to pay off a debt owed by her brother Bastian to a smuggler named Mandrax. Once again, while the main couple struggles through their growing pains, the side characters prove to have a much stronger bond. Lyra’s actor was much more believable in this episode than previous ones. I don’t know if it was the prosthetics, the choices, or the lines, but I had a real hard time getting behind Lyra in previous installments. Here, her and Winn showed a good chemistry and a level of maturity for giving each other the benefit of the doubt: Winn trusting that Lyra is telling the truth, Lyra seeing Winn for a man who truly cares. It makes Mon El and Kara’s fight seem petty, and Winn even highlights this when he and Kara share a scene and he tells her that people can still have good reasons for doing bad things.

And to be fair to Mon El, I am willing to believe that he did want an opportunity to start anew. Why would he lie otherwise? His royalty could have been leveraged, but he chose instead to carve a new beginning for himself on Earth. He met Kara too, and his life changed for the better. I can see how in wanting to start fresh but basing it on covering up the past, he was conflicted about whether or not he should be honest with Kara. After all, we can’t help whom we fall in love with. I can understand Kara’s frustration as well though. I think the balance of the fight though is thrown off by the mere exhaustion of seeing them break up once again. I believe in their chemistry, and I want them to be together. But for a normal relationship, if a couple were breaking up this often, it doesn’t bode well.
The action picked up a lot on Supergirl this week, and I was glad to see it. I wish the CW shows could consider doing shorter seasons. I think this second season for Supergirl (and similarly with The Flash) the good episodes have been superior to the first season’s. But the filler’s been killer. Kara and Mon El’s rocky relationship is one such victim of the filler, as has Guardian, who has been pretty rudderless since he debuted. Like I said though, I enjoyed the fight sequences this week, especially with Mandrax at the finale.

In the tag, we get Darren Criss’ Music Meister who puts Supergirl in a coma and hops off to see Barry Allen as we crossover into…

The Flash“Duet”
I had very high hopes going into the long-awaited musical episode of The Flash. For the most part, I am happy to say it did not disappoint. Criss is charismatic as all get out for his role, and it’s a charming oddball in a universe suddenly filled with charming oddballs (Kara even mentions Mxy in passing, saying she’s tired of inter-dimensional beings visiting). You have such a vast amount of musical talent spanning all four shows that this was highly anticipated for all the fans. And we definitely got some good out of it.

Kara opens the episode proper with her rendition of “Moon River.” It’s straightforward and sweet. Melissa sounds great. I’m sad we didn’t get at least one more solo from her, but it is a Flash episode after all, so I’ll give it a pass.

Then it’s the proper opening number, “Put A Little Love In Your Heart.” I’m glad they used covers. With Glee and Smash, it’s been awesome to have good renditions of classic songs put out into the world for new generations to hear and connect to. I also enjoy when people think of songs a bit off the beaten track. I wouldn’t have thought to make “Love” the opening number but it works thematically, and the arrangement makes it incredibly stirring. Carlos Valdez, Jeremy Jordan, and John Barrowman provide the main vocals (in the mutual alternate reality of the musical world created by the movie musical-obsessed Kara and Barry, Cisco is a waiter and Winn is the pianist at a bar owned by Malcolm Merlyn who in this universe goes by Cutter Moran) and while they all sound awesome, I gotta give props to Jordan who kills it on his vocals.

As I was watching the episode, I kept thinking, gosh, why does this sound so weird? And I realized, it’s because this cast can actually sing. And production is allowing them to sing as if this were a musical. Nothing sounds over-produced. They sounded like a Broadway cast recording. They weren’t auto-tuned, they were properly sound mixed, and they allowed these voices to shine. It’s really a treat.

Flash and Supergirl are charged with following the script of the musical to get out of it. They find out two gangsters’ daughter Millie has gone missing and was last seen at Cutter’s club. They agree to help recover her safely. They find her instead in the arms of Tommy, Cutter’s son, and they are madly in love. It’s the age-old star-crossed lovers tale, set in gangster Central City. We know it well, and I love the uncomfortable irony for Kara and Barry when Tommy and Millie are being “played by” Mon El and Iris.

Everything is easier in musicals, so the pair tell their parents about their love and their parents are more than accepting. It’s then that we get pretty much the best treat of the musical episode, the best pay-off: “More I Cannot Wish You”, from Guys And Dolls, sung as a trio by Victor Garber, Jesse L. Martin, and John Barrowman. It is everything I want and need it to be, they all sound wonderful, and I watched the segment like Barry was watching it in the show: a dopey grin, and clapping like a hysteric fan as each new part happened.

The song also helps our two heroes understand their situations. Barry realizes he can’t make his decisions out of fear, he has to make them out of love. Fear is only holding him back, keeping him from making the best decisions. Kara realizes that people do things out of love that seem hurtful or selfish, but are well-intentioned.

Rachel Bloom, who is phenomenal on My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, penned the next number, “Super Friend,” a fun throwback duet for Barry and Kara. It’s a fun number, made charming by the two leads who dance and sing high with a lot of pep, but I think there could have been more to the number. I hope they do another musical next season, because this isn’t anywhere near some of the best numbers from Crazy Ex- and I think Rachel can do even more given more opportunity.
Interspersed with the musical segments, we keep returning to the real world of Earth 1, where J’onn and Mon El took Kara, following the Music Meister. Barry is also comatose, so when the Music Meister goes and runs amuk, it’s up to Cisco, Wally, and J’onn to save the day. The team-up is very cool, and worth it. It manages to provide a more than sufficient action sequence in an episode we all expected probably wasn’t going to have one. Vibe makes portals while J’onn and Cisco lay the beatdown in a very cool team-up.

Back in the musical world, the real Iris and Mon El make it into the alternate reality to save a dying Kara and Barry just in the knick of time. It’s a kind of goofy, clumsy resolution that only a musical has the charm to pull off: with the power of love. By the end, the couples are fixed and we get one last number from Barry, written by the songwriting music duo Pasek & Paul (who just won Best Original Song for La La Land, and whom I know, because I used to sing their song “Monticello” for cabarets). It’s a very sweet number, but again one that I don’t think shows off the ability of Pasek & Paul. (To be fair, I’m not all that blown away by City of Stars or any of La La Land for that matter anyway.) But I do love the songwriting team, like I love Rachel Bloom. These are good songs, but they have definitely written better.

So overall, it’s a solid entry into musical TV episode canon. The original numbers are sweet, but not stellar, but the opening number and the Guys and Dolls cover nail it. (Going off my earlier point about off-beat numbers chosen well, the Guys And Dolls song is so unexpected too, but what a perfect song choice.) It’s a fluffy ending, but it resolves some plots for the main characters. Everyone in the episode performs top-notch. My small complaints are why did Music Meister say he was doing it just to teach them a lesson when we saw him attempt to rob a bank? How was that part of the lesson? And also, Barry mentions Superman in his and Kara’s duet, and I don’t recall the two meeting. Oh well. Musicals!

Legends Of Tomorrow“Fellowship Of The Spear”
It’s too bad that Legends is a bit lost in the shuffle, with Supergirl and Flash kicking it into high gear, and Arrow really going balls to the wall to make up for two seasons in agony. Because Legends is really turning in some quality time travel fun. They are at their best when they are slightly irreverent history meddlers with historic figures that are fun. This week, it’s Tolkien. Back when he was a soldier during the Great War. The Legends are after the Blood of Christ to activate the Spear of Destiny and it seems a vile is buried on a French battlefield that Tolkien studied in his college days before joining the war effort.

It’s just absurd enough to get all our characters together. For the most part, it’s a pretty straightforward formula for the Legends. They arrive, assist in the war effort, arrange a momentary cease-fire (Rip doing so by quoting the Black Gate speech from Return Of The King, with Tolkien sitting beside him, therefore eventually inspiring the speech he pens), find the artifact, and lead the Legion right to it. The Blood gets destroyed, but that’s okay: Malcolm’s been away (hear he moonlights owning a night club in gangster country) recovering what is basically the instruction manual of the Spear.

The main conflict of the episode and the last couple has been Mick’s growing mistrust of his place on the team. The others seemingly do not trust him, and he’s always relegated to the role of tough guy, but he’ll never feel fully accepted. A part of him I’m sure wants that, as that’s what we all want, acceptance. But a part of him is remining him that he is a criminal. And he always has been. And he’s gone soft siding with the good guys for this long. This doubt has manifested itself in the form of his friend Leonard Snart, Captain Cold. Cold derides him for all is goody two-shoeing. It’s been happening for a while now, but this episode delivers something truly unexpected, when the hallucination of Snart delivers a very real punch to the face of Mick during their exchange on the battlefield.

It’s the real Snart, pulled from earlier in the timeline by Eobard to assist them. The con all along was to get Snart to convince Mick to take the Spear for themselves. By the episode’s end, it happens.
We sacrifice some character development and some interaction this week for some bigger action sequences and set pieces. It’s a lot of moving parts, bringing everyone together on a battlefield in France, and the main arc is all Mick’s, so a lot of the other characters get lost in the shuffle. Outside of Rip’s rendition of the Black Gate Speech, there isn’t too much else. A possible good divide was hinted at when Amaya gained the Spear and planned to use it, only to be shot down by the rest of the Legends. It was also an interesting wrinkle to me when Mick asked her to come along when he and Snart left at the end. We knew she’d say no, but I was intrigued at the possibility of her at least following them under false pretenses.

The episode ends on a huge cliffhanger, with the Legion chanting from the Manuscript and the Spear illuminating. I have a feeling the next episode’s gonna be crazy.

I’m also glad I saved Legends for last this week because boy was Arrow HEAVY.
Adrian finally has Ollie where he wants him: locked up. He’s trying to get him to confess to something but Ollie has no idea what. He tortures him, he nearly kills him, he brings out a destroyed Evelyn who also nearly kills him.

The flashbacks finally arrive at a meaningful story, as we see the sordid tale of Anatoli, Kovar, Ollie, and the Bratva. Anatoli warns Ollie repeatedly that he cannot simply hide his monster, pretend it is something else. He says it will only bring him ruin.

So finally, the flashbacks are more appropriately lining up with current events. Of course, that’s what they’ve always been designed to do, but it’s taken them a while to get the balance right: you don’t want the past storytelling to be so on the nose that it looks like the protagonist is simply repeating a pattern in his life over and over again, but you also don’t want the story to be so broad that we as the audience fail to see the connection to the present conflict. Previous seasons have been mostly miss with this, and this season got much more back on track, especially with flashbacks to the first season. The Bratva storyline has been a challenging one to follow though, and this episode fortunately gave us the payoff it needed.

We learn Ollie’s lesson at the same time he does. We learn that he’s lied to himself for so long. He kills because he likes it. He’s a killer in the truest sense of the word. And how this undoes him is that he cannot demand others be better when he himself fails to, and he established an entire movement not because he wanted to do better, but because he wanted to kill. He believed killing was right, while touting that this other way would be the better way forward. He is a hypocrite.

The episode is intense and dramatic. Adrian Chase really kicks it into a new gear with his intensity and madness. Evelyn plays up the deceit beautifully. Most upsetting is when Ollie comes to at the end of the episode and sees he’s been let go. He’s free, because his true self is free. And the freedom of that, is the doom of the rest of his life that he’s built. The episode ends with him telling his team that he’s shutting it all down. We believe it too. We see it in the eyes of a broken, disturbed, and haunted man who no longer believes in himself.

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!