Supergirl 3×18: “Shelter from the Storm”, The Flash 4×22: “Think Fast”, and Arrow 6×23: “Life Sentence” (SEASON FINALE) reviews
This week, we’ve got the frickin’ season finale of Arrow, the penultimate episode of this season of The Flash, and a Supergirl episode that is somehow still five episodes away from being the finale, despite all the plotlines coming to a head.
We’ve got a wild ride in store, so buckle up, Gentle Readers!
Supergirl 3×18: “Shelter from the Storm” review
I guess I owe Supergirl an apology. Last week my one big complaint with the episode was that Kara being so distrustful and resentful towards Lena for having kryptonite seemed overblown and irrational. Well, turns out the show seems to agree with me, as this week Lena is allowed to call Supergirl out on her hypocrisy.
For once, Supergirl . . . was wrong.
This isn’t entirely without precedent. There have been other episodes where Kara’s realized she made a mistake or wasn’t approaching things the right way, but it happens far less often than for any of the other Arrowverse heroes. And when it does happen, she’s been able to easily resolve and paper over it by episode’s end.
So the fact that Lena is allowed to have serious, legitimate complaints about Supergirl’s behavior, and those complaints stand firmly in place by the time the end credits role: this is sort of a game changer for the series. It’s leveling a serious critique at its lead hero in a way it hasn’t before.
That scene in the elevator, where Lena (unaware of her friend’s secret identity) tells Kara what she really thinks about Supergirl, how the Girl of Steel has betrayed her trust and still has the gall to act superior, is jaw dropping. You can tell that, up until that moment, Kara thought that she was the one being the bigger person, trusting Lena despite her Luthor heritage and experiments with kryptonite. It never occurred to Kara that she might be the one who needs to earn Lena’s trust. She just took it as a given that everyone loves and trusts Supergirl, and never stopped to think how her actions might look from someone else’s perspective.
I know I’m spending a lot of time on this one aspect of the episode. There’s a lot of other stuff involving Reign and Ruby and Mon-El and Myrnn that I haven’t touched on. But while all those story threads have progressed mostly along a route you can predict, the friction in Kara and Lena’s friendship, and harsh criticism of Kara’s behavior, represents something new and unexpected for the series.
Kara has always been a little arrogant and self-righteous, but the show has rarely addressed those as character flaws, instead insisting that Kara really is just as good as she thinks she is. To step back from that stance and portray Kara as a genuinely flawed person, it opens up so many avenues for stories and characterization to come. Assuming the episodes ahead handle it well, this could be what Supergirl needs to take its game to the next level.
- That Winn collects dirt, and that Brainy could both deduce and exploit this, is kind of adorable.
- Mon-El coming back was predictable, but the way Imra gave him permission to go, and said essentially “what will be will be”, is a good testament to how maturely everyone involved has handled this love triangle.
- Reign’s assault on Lex’s hidden mansion was a fantastically silly action sequence, full of homages to Superman: The Movie.
- Ruby and Alex continue to be adorable together (every adult should make sure children under their care are well-versed in the films of Mel Brooks). Still, they’re laying the Alex-is-gonna-adopt-Ruby foundations hard.
- Props to Ruby for picking up the machine gun to help fight Reign, before she realized it was her mom and all.
- Everyone acted like Myrnn gave them such great advice on how to reach Reign, but really, telling someone who claims to be all about justice that killing an innocent child isn’t just . . . that’s kinda Negotiating With The Enemy 101. Still, given how things went down in the Lena plot, maybe it’s fitting that for Kara “People can have values different from mine!” is a genuine revelation.
The Flash 4×22: “Think Fast” review
Before Season 4 of The Flash premiered, we were told that this season would have a lighter and more humorous tone than Season 3, which spent much of its runtime obsessed with either Barry’s post-Flashpoint guilt or the looming threat of Iris’s death. While there were other problems with Season 3 besides the darker tone, problems that Season 4 has not always addressed, this season has delivered on its promise of putting greater focus on humor and warm character interactions.
Nothing indicates that better than the fact that we’re at the penultimate episode of the season, and the Thinker completing his master plan is allowed to play out mostly in the background, while the focus is on our heroes splitting into pairs for some good natured banter and team building exercises. Even though there’s a ticking clock looming over the episode, with mere hours left till the Thinker unleashes his IQpocalypse upon the world, there’s still time for Joe and Cecile to fret over wacky new pregnancy side effects, and for Caitlin to join the growing club of characters who have gone to see Dr. Finkel.
Of the three main plots this episode, the Barry/Caitlin/Cisco plot has the most serious focus, as they try to work out how they’ll stop DeVoe while also saving his hostages. But even this plot has a lot of old school Flash charm, with our smarty pants characters putting their heads together to solve a problem using bizarro science and a creative application of superpowers, complete with training sessions full of pratfalls as they try to get it right.
Then there’s Iris and Harry teaming up to try and track down Marlize DeVoe. Harry’s gradual intelligence loss could have easily been played for tragedy, but the show continues to find humor in Harry’s transformation into a “dum-dum”. It may seem like a disrespectful portrayal of a pretty horrifying fate, but does anyone really think they won’t reverse the intelligence loss before the season is over? When you go in assuming this is just a temporary dose of humility for the normally arrogant genius, seeing Harry bumble his way through the episode is a lot of fun. Especially when his new touchy-feely approach is allowed to contrast with Iris, who always has a bit of a harder edge to her whenever she gets to interact with people who aren’t Barry.
And then there’s Joe and Cecile, who are so focused on preparing for Cecile to go into labor, the fact that a villain is about to destroy civilization is practically forgotten. Cecile’s pregnancy-induced telepathy getting a boost as she approaches her due date, so that she not only reads minds but fully absorbs the personality of whoever is nearby, makes this the broadest and wackiest plot of the bunch. It may also be the best of the bunch, though, as Danielle Nicolet shows off some amazing comedy chops, and seeing Cecile and Joe dealing with the mundane stress of preparing for a new baby, filtered through the lens of weird science, is the sort of thing that makes The Flash so endearing.
Of course, we do end the episode with the Thinker outsmarting our heroes yet again and kickstarting the Enlightenment, because we do need to have some stakes heading into the season finale. But rather than focusing on doom and gloom and how hopeless their situation is, this penultimate episode focuses on reminding us why we love these characters, and why we don’t want to see them get turned into mind-erased slaves. Maybe the finale will drop the ball on paying that off (who’s to say?) but for now this is feeling like the right move to make.
- The Thinker demolishing an Argus facility using his whole host of stolen powers, all to the tune of Handel’s Messiah, may be the best fight scene The Flash has done all season. And the fact that the Big Bad slaughtering a bunch of people includes bouncing bullets back at people with his super-elastic body, and using his luck powers to make one guy slip on a marble and break his neck, shows how even in its darker moments this episode still keeps the humor strong.
- There’s not much of John Diggle in this episode, but his presence made for a pleasant surprise, and his violently ill reaction to superspeed is never not hilarious.
- “It’s rude to breach into a person’s home uninvited. And dangerous when that person is holding a grudge and a katana.” Marlize vs. Iris showdowns are always the best.
- It is kinda weird how, throughout the episode, multiple characters specifically mention katanas. None of them ever just call it a sword.
- So Caitlin’s been turning into Killer Frost ever since she was a child, long before the particle accelerator exploded meaning her powers had to have come from somewhere else. Since each season of The Flash has introduced a new source of metahumans (particle accelerator in Season 1, breachers in Season 2, Philosopher’s Stone in Season 3, and now bus metas in Season 4) I’m guessing whatever caused her to become Killer Frost will be part of Season 5’s main story arc.
- While I enjoyed Harry’s condition being played for laughs, it was weird seeing it immediately after watching a Supergirl episode where Myrnn’s similar condition is very much not used for comedy.
- In a darker and more dramatic moment that works very well, Cisco telling Barry he can’t let what happened to Ralph stop him and Caitlin from helping fight DeVoe, referencing how the whole bus meta situation is something they caused together, was quite touching. I appreciate that, unlike with Flashpoint, they haven’t been constantly referencing their guilt in having pulled Barry from the Speed Force, but can still bring it up when dramatically appropriate.
Arrow 6×23: “Life Sentence” review
And that was Season 6 of Arrow.
I’ve said a lot of crap about this season. And it’s been richly deserved crap. Of the six season of Arrow that have aired to date, this was definitely the crappiest. But I want to be clear about who, precisely, I’m flinging that crap at.
None of my complaints with Arrow Season 6 concern the actors, the directors, or other members of the production crew. Our main cast has continued to turn in excellent performances; even Jack Moore as William, who I was initially iffy on, has grown into his character well. Episodes continue to look great, even if the budget does become obvious in places. And the series continues to have some of the best choreographed fight scenes, not just in the Arrowverse, but on network TV in general.
No, the problems with Season 6 lie pretty squarely at the feet of the writers’ room and the hash they’ve made of the season’s plotting. Having now seen the ending they were working towards, I can understand some of the plot decisions they made a little better, but I’ll discuss that more in the This Season In The Arrowverse post I have planned for after The Flash and Supergirl wrap up. But even if I can understand the thinking behind it, this season’s plot is still a mess of poorly thought out character motivations and underwhelming antagonists.
That the finale works as well it does is because, by the time it begins, the plot has already been pretty much resolved. We open on Team Arrow and the FBI, now working together seamlessly, taking down the entire corrupt police force Diaz has been using to control the city. Diaz himself escapes this initial raid, and still has a couple ploys to use against the heroes, but the bulk of the work needed to bring down the villain’s organization is accomplished. All that’s left is to mop up.
So with not much actual plot left to attend to, the finale is able to exist largely as a collection of moments. Each character (with the notable exception of Curtis) is given at least one moment where they get to be emotionally vulnerable and speak from the heart, and another moment where they get to do something extra-badass. And because the acting and directing are still so good, and because the fight choreography is still so awesome, and because we’ve had years to get to know and become attached to these characters, all of these moments land.
Would they have worked better if the story leading up to them had been more skillfully constructed? Indisputably.
Dinah putting her vendetta aside to work with Laurel would have been a much stronger moment if the show hadn’t bungled most efforts at conveying either character’s inner lives. Rene calling his daughter when he thinks he’s about to die would have been even more of tearjerker if the middle part of the season hadn’t done so much to make viewers hate him. And Oliver turning himself in to the FBI, giving up his freedom so that they’ll help him save the city from Diaz, would have been so, so much more powerful if Diaz seemed like a threat worthy of such extreme measures.
But despite all that? Dinah and Laurel doing tag team Canary Cries was awesome. Rene’s phone call to Zoe got my eyes genuinely misty. And the staggering, game changing nature of Oliver’s sacrifice, and his final goodbye with Felicity and William, still pack an emotional wallop worthy of a season finale.
The same holds true for a dozen other moments throughout the episode: the big Arrow vs. Dragon fight on a rooftop, the return of Sara Lance and her meeting with not-Laurel, Oliver’s whole farewell tour . . .
And, of course, the death of Quentin Lance.
Like those other moments, I wish it had come as the conclusion to a better season. A season where Quentin had a vital and well-written character arc, to which his death would be the ultimate resolution. Instead, after a season where he’s done little but repeatedly tell Laurel she can be a good person, it reads as them finally writing out a character they’d long since run out of ideas for.
But we’re still talking about Paul Blackthorne here, one of the show’s most reliable actors when it comes to portraying a man in pain. Whether taking a bullet for Laurel, or having a final conversation with Oliver about fatherhood, he brings his A-game, and the character has built up such a bond over the last six years, both with the other characters and with the audience, that his departure can’t help but be a reason for tears. And the way his death mirrors the death of the original Laurel, but without overtly calling attention to it, is a piece of dramatic subtlety we’ve rarely gotten from this season.
With the leadup this finale had to work with, there was little chance it could be truly outstanding. But by making the resolution of the season’s plot more of a background element, the connective tissue used to string together a series of powerful character moments, “Life Sentence” comes within a hair’s breadth of being great, which is probably the best version of a Season 6 finale we could hope for.
Fingers crossed for Season 7, everyone!
- “Don’t call me ‘hoss’ at my funeral.” Quentin may have waited till he was on his death bed, but at least someone’s finally giving Rene an intervention for his “hoss” addiction.
- In a very odd decision, the finale ends with Diaz not only still alive, but still on the loose. Technically, the same thing happened with Malcolm Merlyn after Season 1, but at the time the audience was led to believe he was dead. I have to assume the writers must have plans for him. However, since we’re going to be getting a change of showrunners for Season 7, who knows if they’ll actually follow through on those plans.
- While Oliver sacrificing himself to the FBI was one of the best moments of the episode, the fact that he didn’t tell Felicity anything about it, leaving her to care for William herself and having to go into protective custody, was a colossal dick move. Like, this is one case in a CW drama where someone flipping out because their romantic partner kept a secret from them would be entirely justified.
- It’d be mighty hard for them to put the secret identity genie back in the bottle after this season, but they’re gonna have to get Oliver out of prison somehow. My guess is he’s either recruited to a Suicide Squad-esque organization, or they pull a Roy Harper and fake his death.
- I knew Sara was going to appear in the finale, but the way she appeared, having been called by Black Siren, and the way the two interacted, was a legitimate surprise and delight.
- Speaking of Sara, though, the last time a supervillain killed a member of her family, she made him her archnemesis and devoted herself to killing him. While Sara’s no longer likely to try changing history to bring her father back, with Diaz still in the wind, it’ll feel a little weird if Legends of Tomorrow comes back in the Fall and she’s not using the Waverider’s resources to try and find him.
- It’s unclear whether the FBI’s immunity deal extends to Anatoly. If he ends up sent to the same supermax prison as Oliver . . . that could actually be pretty cool.
- Seriously, though, did they film some scenes for Curtis that got cut for time? Or maybe Oliver didn’t include him in the farewell tour because, “Eh, Curtis is really more Felicity’s friend than my friend.”
MVP of the Week: R.I.P. Mayor Deputy-Mayor Captain Officer Detective Lance.
Or “Hoss” as he liked to be called.
Question of the Week: What’s your favorite fight scene in the Arrowverse?