Arrowverse Roundup - Midseason Premieres - Week 10 Review
We are back! This week we will see the return of Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow. But the most exciting part is getting to meet Jefferson Pierce and everyone else in Black Lightning!
Legends of Tomorrow is still off, so we have to wait a bit longer to see Constantine help them. In the mean time, you can read all of this season's reviews right here.
There will be spoilers for the episodes throughout.
Supergirl - Episode 3.10 - "Legion of Super-Heroes"
Supergirl came back with a bang! Well, the show did anyway. The character was in a coma, as told by Brainiac 5 who was one of the first people we see in Supergirl this year. Never judge a book by its cover - I saw a still shot of Braniac 5 before the episode and I was not impressed. The makeup and effects looked very cheap. It looked like a Halloween costume. Well, within the first ten seconds, he won me over. Jesse Rath played him to perfection, and almost instantly made the makeup not matter.
Midseason cliffhangers are relatively new phenomenon. It was a thing invented in the modern landscape of television, when the seasons became more segmented. They aren't as effective in this day and age after the first airing, because of the binge watching culture we live in. So because of that, I expected the cliffhangers to be resolved quickly. What I didn't expect was for one to be completely irrelevant. Last year, the episode ended with Sam Arias in the living room of her house on Christmas morning, after she had been Reign and essentially killed Supergirl. She had her back turned, and her daughter came down to see her. It was left ambiguous as to if she was still Reign or not. Spoilers: She wasn't. The show Supergirl would never kill a little girl, especially one we know, so it wasn't fooling anybody. They played it off with one quick scene, and then wrote Ruby off again quickly.
There are a lot of things in these shows that are rich with storytelling potential. It happens in Doctor Who too. There is a supporting guest cast that is so good and has such depth that you would follow them to their own spinoff. The Legion of Super-Heroes fits this criteria. I didn't think this when I just saw Mon-El and Imra together, but adding "Brainy" as he's called, to the mix, made me see the potential of that team, in the future and away from Supergirl and her team. It is certainly a popular thing to do, and even if The CW doesn't want it, DC is launching their own streaming app soon, and it could have a nice home there.
Chad Lowe returns as his religious Thomas Coville character. His allegiance has switched since Supergirl was defeated and now wants to serve Reign. He has a Michael Emerson type demeanor to him, with his soft low-key, subtle yet intense acting. I am more sold on him now than I was, and he will make a good crony for Reign.
By far the best part of the episode was when J'onn had to pretend to be a sick Kara to Lana while she was in a coma. Melissa Benoist doing an impression of David Harewood playing J'onn pretending to be Kara was amazing to watch. She nailed it, and it was far and above the rest of the episode.
Overall this episode was a strong entry into the season, and gave Supergirl some powerful allies outside of J'onn. The team - including Mon-El - probably won't stay (hence the spinoff potential) but it will be good enough to defeat Reign. This is the best villain that Supergirl has had since the shows inception, so for them to build it right is nice to see.
The corny-ness hasn't left, however. The Legion of Super-Heroes has power rings with big light up "L", and it is way too on the nose. Them quoting Bon Jovi was fun, but it surprised me that they were able to use a song. That couldn't have been cheap. But the heart of Supergirl is the unabashed corny-ness. It isn't at Legends of Tomorrow's glorious levels of ridiculousness, but still part of its identity.
This show and Legends of Tomorrow will switch off for the rest of the year, so we will only have a few more episodes before it is off again for a hiatus. Hopefully it doesn't hurt the momentum that it gained during this episode, because they made a lot of great strides this episode.
The Flash - Episode 4.10 - "The Trial of The Flash"
When I describe The Flash to someone, I say it is a show that has the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This episode had both. Let's get the lows out of the way so we can finish strong.
Iris West-Allen. Let me get my usual disclaimer out of the way too - I adore Candice Patton, and she does the best with what she is given. None of this is her fault. But the writers made her look so stupid this episode. The first big thing was when she was in the hallway with Mrs. DeVoe. In today's day and age it would have been so easy to hit record on her phone on the sly, and record her saying all that stuff. If the end game is needing Barry in jail for story purposes, there are two ways around this. One, make it a point to say that no cell phones are allowed in the courtroom. Well, that wasn't true because not only did Cisco and others have their phones as bystanders, Barry, the defendant, had one on him, and checked it during the trial, in the court room too. The other was to remove that scene completely. If that scene is needed for character beats, then go with the first option. But doing neither is lazy.
Secondly, Iris having her husband, brother and nearly all of her friends with secret identities would make a person think - and protect - a certain way. Her going to blurt out that Barry was The Flash in the middle of an open, public courtroom was mindboggling, and not in a good way. I know that desperation set in, and that is why this one is a tiny bit more forgivable than the hallway conversation, but not by much. To make matters worse, they gave new powers to The Flash that we had never seen before, and explained it away by making Barry not even know how he was doing that. Well, if he wasn't sure, how would he know people wouldn't see that? If he is trying to stop someone from telling people he is The Flash, the last thing he should do is use his powers - especially if it is one that he doesn't know how to use! All Iris had to do was call Oliver Queen and ask how his life is going, with people thinking he is the Green Arrow, and she'd have understood. I just don't buy that she would have done what she did in the courtroom. It is a shame, because Iris is important to The Flash's story (We are the Flash), and it makes it harder and harder to want that.
There were some great character moments though. Ralph's evolution was nice to see. The man who planted evidence against guilty people so they'd go to jail was now the one warning against it, when Joe wanted to do it. Joe's desperation made sense, and it was nice to see Dibny be embraced fully as a member of Team Flash.
In big stories like this, B-plots are wholly unnecessary, it is just to give the other characters something to do. However, this one carved out a nice metaphor, and was able to have the best moment at the end with the judge and the chief giving opposite speeches about Barry Allen, and The Flash, respectively. The meta they were chasing was "Fallout". He was able to release radiation from his body until a build-up worthy of an atomic bomb. The metaphor, is of course, that having The Flash locked up and not able to protect the city without compromising his identity, is like a bomb going off in the city. We've seen the team work without Barry before when he was stuck in the speed force, so that is nothing new. But this time it's for different reasons, and we'll see how long it lasts. While they can rely on Cisco and Ralph, this would be a good time to bring back Wally. He can wear Barry's suit though, and no one will question why the Flash disappeared all of a sudden.
The biggest parallel presented is that this is very similar to what his father went through. His father was falsely accused of murder and put in jail for life. What was a bit too on the nose for me was him being put in the same jail cell that his father was in. The parallel was clearly spelled out, we didn't need it spoon-fed for us. But we have the picture now. Hopefully they can move on from that.
The chief praising the Flash for saving the city from Fallout, while the judge was condemning Barry for murder was the best part of the episode. It was intercut beautifully, and really showed the duality of Barry's life.
Next week, the Trickster returns! No not that one, the other one. It isn't Mark Hamill unfortunately, but it will be nice to see how "The Elongated Man" will do on his own now. If they could fix their Iris problem, The Flash could be high and above the rest of its counterparts. There's still time. I will stay optimistic like Barry!
Black Lightning - Episode 1.01 - "The Resurrection"
Well, that didn't take long! The premiere of Black Lightning was different than the rest of its CW Arrowverse counterparts. The biggest thing that set it apart was him having been Black Lightning, completed his mission, and retired before we even met him. Now he's getting back in the game, and that is where we pick up our story.
The rest of the shows were origins. Sure, Kara Danvers had her powers already, but she wasn't Supergirl yet, when we first met her. There are enough superhero properties in the mainstream lexicon now to get away with this. We could never have a show like this - even 10 years ago - that didn't start with a young Jefferson Pierce developing into Black Lightning. That is also why it could be told in standard hour story. We didn't need to origin, or him figuring out who to be. That was all done already.
The other reason it didn't feel like a CW Arrowverse show, is because it wasn't one originally. This was originally developed for Fox. So, like Supergirl I think it will feel more like a CW show in time. It isn't a criticism, the pilot was strong! If the show stayed like this, that'd be fine too.
Out of the now 5 (wow) shows, this is the most relevant to today. The reality that the Pierce family lives is the closest to our real reality. They deal with a lot of real race issues, as well as police relationship issues, and things like that. Even as sanitized as it was for Fox/CW, it was still intense at moments. This was the "PG" version of what is really going on, and it is something that needs to be reinforced every week - that this is going on in your neighborhood, or one close to you. That real, innocent people are being affected by it, and that the culture others have created is toxic to those that live in it. They managed to pull all of that off, and still give us some fun superhero moments as well!
Being set in "Freeland" is a bit on the nose, and after a bit of research, it doesn't look like that is from the comics. Black Lightning mostly operated in a slum of Metropolis. I understand not wanting to do it in Metropolis, but they could have had a better city name.
The cast is great. Everyone is intriguing and easy likeable, they all have interesting back stories that can't wait to be explored. None of them are hacky or stereotypical. They are all layered, and nuanced. It is great to see these properties treated with the respect and dignity they have always deserved.
A common problem with the other CW Arrowverse shows is that it is hard to balance the duality of their ordinary identity with their superhero identity. Most of the time we tolerate one side to get to the other. Usually we tolerate the ordinary identity, but it does vary. Jefferson's identity is intriguing on both fronts. Remove either, and you still have a great show. If it was just a show about a principal trying to run his school while gang activity was happening around, that would still be compelling. The balance is essential here, hopefully the show can continue to pull it off.
The show doesn't shy away from the argument about violence, and whether it works or not. It will be great if it continues to explore that with the same respect and maturity it did here in the pilot.
Black Lightning is product of today's day and age, and it takes that mantle on proudly, with dignity and grace. Comic books have always been a product of the time they were produced in, and the TV show is staying true to that. The pilot won me over, and I am eager for more!
Arrow - Episode 6.10 - "Divided"
One thing they are ignoring is the promise made by Ollie to his son about being the Green Arrow. I know it will come back with a vengeance, but there aren't even any remnants of it. Diggle was fixed at the end of the episode, so he could take up the mantle again, but he won't. There should even be some intercutting between Team Arrow's actions and the FBI hunting him down, but they seem to have ignored that too.
The most intriguing thing that has happened in the show in a long time is the two teams of vigilantes. While it is inevitable that they will reunite, it will be fun to watch two different teams, with two different bases try and fix the same city. It is a dynamic that we've not seen before, and after 6 years it is nice that they can keep things fresh.
The villain team that has been assembled is fine. But people who watch these shows will always compare, and between the Legion of Doom in Legends of Tomorrow and the other villain alliances we have seen, they have a high hurdle to get over. I love the Anatoly character, so his involvement is great, I just hope he isn't reduced to a henchman. Black Siren is of course the most intriguing part, just because of the will she/won't she with flip flopping and her dynamic with Quentin.
The impact of Cayden James always being ahead hasn't been felt yet. Slade Wilson, Ra's Al Ghul, Damien Darhk, and especially Prometheus were always "steps ahead" of Oliver and his team. It was felt at every turn, and at every juncture. Cayden's ways of being ahead are more subtle, and it doesn't feel as bad as the others. We are told that it is. Show him feeding intel to the FBI, or better yet, that the FBI agent investigating them works for Cayden. He's a different kind of dangerous than Oliver has faced before. He'd never beat Team Arrow in a physical fight. But he doesn't have to. It is nice to see a different type of villain, but I would love for them to show us why he's a worthy adversary of the Green Arrow more than "able to blow up the city" and "get leverage on them" which other physically threatening villains have been able to do as well.
This is that murky little bit of mid-season area where these shows get lost before finding their footing for the finale. They have halted story lines, and it feels like things are in limbo right now. They made two teams that we know are going to be one again, so now what? I've said this in other reviews before, and you will see me write it again: If Arrow could be 12-15 episode seasons, it could have the potential to be the best show on TV.
Onwards and upwards though, let's see how the back half of the season fares.
Black Lightning is with us the rest of the time, and Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl will be switching off. I will cover them all here, so come back!
What was your favorite moment of the Arrowverse this week?