Supergirl 3×05: “Damages”, The Flash 4×05: “Girls’ Night Out”, Legends of Tomorrow 3×05: “Return of the Mack”, and Arrow 6×05: “Deathstroke Returns”
As I continue making these “This Week In The Arrowverse” articles on the new Avocado sight, I feel I should tell people upfront: I’m not a big fan of Supergirl. There are parts of it I like and enjoy, but honestly, if it weren’t for its connection to the other Arrowverse shows, I’d have probably stopped watching. And this week’s episode is a good example of why.
There is good stuff in this episode, undoubtedly. The airplane rescue at the end is a very impressive action sequence. Morgan Edge occupies that nice middle-ground between cartoonish evil and genuine menace that’s perfect for supervillains. The Alex/Maggie breakup (while it didn’t get quite as much buildup as it deserved) was played beautifully. And, as is always the case on this show, the acting is top notch, particularly Katie McGrath during Lena’s drunken breakdown.
My issue is with the main plot of the episode. Quite simply, Supergirl is afraid to let its heroes screw up. Oh, they’ll make mistakes here and there, but never anything so big that it can’t be corrected and brushed aside by episode’s end. That’s been true of this show for a long while, but this episode was a prime example of it.
“Damages” goes back to the deus ex machina from last season’s finale, the device that dispersed lead throughout the atmosphere to drive the Daxamites off, and asks, “Hey, what if that had some unintended consequences?” That’s a good story hook to go with. The other Arrowverse shows have gotten great mileage out of the heroes’ efforts to save the day creating new problems they have to deal with (heck, other than in their first seasons, Flash and Legends open each episode with a reminder that the world only needs saving because our heroes screwed it up first). But, knowing Supergirl, and seeing that human slime-weasel Morgan Edge is the one announcing that the lead dispersal device accidentally poisoned children, it was no surprise at all that the whole thing turned out to be an elaborate effort to frame Lena, who did absolutely nothing wrong (well, other than going after Morgan Edge with a gun, but no one seems particularly concerned by that in the episode’s coda).
I’m not saying that Lena had to be responsible for giving children lead poisoning; that is a pretty dark turn given this show’s overall tone. But if you’re going to introduce that idea as a major plot point, and wring plenty of pathos out of Lena believing she’s responsible for such a tragedy, then backing out of it and absolving Lena of any blame feels like a cheat, right up there with “it was all just a dream”. And because Supergirl has made such a habit of not letting its characters make serious mistakes, I couldn’t even fully enjoy the drama while it lasted, as I just kept waiting for the reveal that would make everything okay.
Whoo. All right, with that off my chest, let’s move on to . . .
As has been true for most of this season, this episode of The Flash was big on laughs and a whole lot of fun. Drunk Barry, sleazebag Ralph, way-too-into-the-bachelorette-party Felicity: all a blast. But the absolute highlight had to be new villain Amunet Black, played by Katee Sackhoff doing an English accent and chewing up the scenery like it was made of marshmallow and fudge. I’ve mentioned before how The Flash really seems to have improved its villains this season, giving them a lot more personality than most villains got in the first three seasons, and our new metahuman crime lord continues that trend nicely.
It was also nice that we got an episode focused on the female characters. Partly because, yes, #feminism. But also because, in most episodes, the characters all slide into very specific roles when it comes to defeating the villain-of-the-week: Barry’s out there being the muscle, Joe gets information from the police department, our STAR Labs employees come up with a science solution, and someone gives Barry a pep talk over the comms that helps him power through and save the day. Sending most of those characters to a cellphone-free strip club (and later a jail cell) requires setting up a new problem solving dynamic that makes things feel much fresher.
Not that there aren’t problems. While Amunet Black is deliciously over-the-top, her and her snake-eyed minion have rather underwhelming powers, to the point that, 90% of time, they probably would have done just as well using a regular gun. The Killer Frost split personality thing is also, as usual, not terribly well portrayed. Frost is supposed to be a separate persona that takes over, but it’s not really clear what motivates Frost, or why someone so outwardly evil has apparently never actually killed anyone (other than Hunter Zolomon, who was kind of undead already). Still, having Caitlin come clean with the others about her continued Frostiness, and how she now seems more in control of going back and forth, hopefully creates a better path for this plotline going forward.
Let’s move on to Legends, then, where instead of introducing a new over-the-top villain, they’ve brought one of the best over-the-top villains from the past back to life. I knew Damien Darhk was going to be resurrected at some point this season, both from statements by the creative team and a brief appearance he had in the Season 3 sizzle reel, but the vampire fake-out this episode genuinely threw me off the scent until the big reveal.
In addition to getting Darhk with his memories and magic restored, we also got a new Mallus croney in “Madame Eleanor”, as well as our first peak at Mallus himself, who’s voiced by John Noble, and whose description of himself as a god who exists in all points in time at once sounds like a version of Savitar who actually got his master plan to work. Along with Kuasa, resurrected with water-shapeshifting powers a couple episodes back, this season looks to be establishing a very impressive neo-Legion of Doom.
Despite all that, the most surprising antagonist this episode was Rip Hunter himself. Even when he was leading the Legends, he always had something of an adversarial relationship with them, never agreeing on the right way to do things, and not above forcing or manipulating them to do things his way instead. Him starting the Time Bureau this season was a natural extension of that, and even when he sneaks away from the Time Bureau this episode and asks for the Legends’ help, he still ends up double crossing them.
Rip is not a bad person; in many ways, he’s a very genuine hero, and seeing him working alongside the Legends again brought back some good memories. But when it comes to being arrogant and unable to trust others, he can rival even Oliver Queen. It was a very satisfying moment when Sara pointed this out, as well as the fact that “You’ve gone rogue from every organization you’ve ever been a part of”. Despite that, seeing Sara hand Rip over to the Time Bureau comes as a shock and is actually painful to watch, even though it makes perfect sense in light of their characters.
Finally, we come to Arrow. I don’t have too much to say about this week’s episode, because it’s pretty clearly Part 1 of a two-part story. We spend a long time setting up the situation with Slade and his son in Kasnia before getting to a wonderful and brutal Deathstroke rampage, and a twist that promises the story will take a very interesting turn come next week. We also got the reveal of Vigilante’s identity, and I have to say: Dinah’s ex-partner/boyfriend who survived a bullet to the head because he’s a metahuman now? Did not see that coming, so well done there, Arrow writers. We’ll need to see more of them together, though, including (yes, I know a lot of people hate them, but here I feel they’re necessary) flashbacks.
Oh, and that FBI Agent is still snooping around, but until she moves from just asking questions to setting some sort of trap, not much to say about her.
- Another thing that bugged me about Supergirl this week is that Edge didn’t actually poison children with lead. Instead he used a high-tech chemical that perfectly mimics the effects of lead, seemingly for no reason other than allowing the children’s condition to be cured with off-screen science in the last five minutes of the episode. It’s not that I want to see children suffer the long term effects of lead poisoning, but it just seems so contrived.
- Making fun of STAR Labs’ lack of security has been a good running gag for The Flash, but as much as I laughed at Felicity describing how she could literally just walk in, without encountering so much as a lock, they may have taken it as far as they can take it.
- Fun bit of foreshadowing: early on in “Girls Night Out”, Felicity asks Caitlin if she wants a pink or blue feather boa; latter, Killer Frost will be disgusted by Caitlin’s choice of a pink sweater, and will change into something blue.
- While it was no salmon ladder, this week’s Arrow did give us a member of Team Arrow using workout equipment while angsty and shirtless, which elevates any episode.
- On a related note: damn Dinah, you lookin’ fine!
- Legends of Tomorrow is practically built for a Stray Observations section, because more than the plot or the characters, a lot of the appeal of the show is random, goofy moments. Stein having an identical ancestor working for an occult society (seemingly just so Victor Garber has more to do). The revelation that Mick always keeps a wooden stake on his person, just in case he ever meets a vampire. Damien Darhk asking who stole his watch. Jax and Stein enjoying grapefruit together (and Jax being delighted when his craving for grapefruit disappears) . . . oh, and there was some scene where Darhk killed a bunch of guys while music was playing, I wasn’t really paying attention. 🙂
MVP of the Week: Amunet Black. I’ve only ever seen Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica before, and while she had one of the livelier characters on that very dour and stoic show, seeing her go full campy (and British) supervillain was just a delight.