Supergirl 4×17: “All About Eve” and Legends of Tomorrow 4×09: “Lucha de Apuestas” reviews
This week in the Arrowverse . . . Legends of Tomorrow is BACK, baby!
And also a new episode of Supergirl, but mainly the Legends thing!
Supergirl 4×17: “All About Eve” review
Ignore the title. This episode is not, as it claims, “All About Eve”.
Even if you remove the side plots, the episode doesn’t truly focus on Eve Tessmacher. Instead, she’s the MacGuffin, the thing everyone is searching for but that isn’t terribly important in its own right. Our heroes are interested in her only in so far as finding her could lead them to Lex. And on the bad guy side of things, Eve serves only as a convenient minion to carry out Lex’s scheme and relay instructions to Red Daughter. And even that she does mostly off-screen.
No, this episode isn’t really about Eve. What it’s about, is setting the table.
“Table setting episode” has become a bit of a pejorative among TV reviewers. It describes an episode that’s less concerned with delivering a satisfying episode now, and more with moving characters around and establishing plot points that will be needed in the following (and hopefully more interesting) episodes. They set the table for future episodes, but don’t give you a meal in their own right.
“All About Eve” certainly qualifies as one. Outside of J’onn’s side plot (which is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but still clearly a side plot), everything here is about getting conditions right for the episodes ahead.
There’s no payoff to the search for Eve Tessmacher, as our heroes are no closer to finding her by episode’s end as they were at the beginning. However, through the search, they find out lots of information about what Lex and his cronies have been up to, which will undoubtedly come into play later. It also establishes Supergirl, Alex, and Lena as a crime solving trio, and spackles over Lena’s differences with Supergirl, explaining why they’ll remain on Supergirl’s side in coming episodes, even as the public turns against her.
James gets a new storyline this episode, one that theoretically has dramatic potential. However, other than establishing that he has Lex Luthor-triggered PTSD, and that his sister will be sticking around a while, there’s not much else to it right now.
And then, of course, there’s the villain’s big plan. Which is shocking, audacious, and a huge gamechanger for the season. But since the plan isn’t put into action till the very end of the episode, and we’re shown so little of it beforehand, it functions more as a cliffhanger to be resolved next episode, rather than a culmination of this episode’s story.
When put like that, this probably sounds like a very dull episode. But for all that it’s clearly just setting things up for the future, watching these characters go through that setup is still pretty fun.
The analytical side of my brain sees that all the scenes with Kara, Lena, and Alex were put here because, with Supergirl becoming Public Enemy #1, there needed to be a reason why Alex and Lena, who have previously been distrustful of Supergirl, don’t turn against her, too. The “Lena doesn’t like Supergirl” storyline has been going for over a year now, but here it ends with a resounding whimper; a plot point quickly resolved because it would be inconvenient for the upcoming story, rather than the dramatic conclusion it maybe deserved. Yet these three have so much chemistry together that an hour of them solving mysteries, outwitting bad guys, and exchanging lots of banter makes for damn good television, whether or not their storylines pay off this week.
And the ending twist, where the Alien Amnesty Act is repealed, and Red Daughter (posing as Supergirl) murders the legislators responsible, turning the country against Supergirl . . . as I said, it’s more of a cliffhanger than an actual story. But what a cliffhanger! This is quite possibly the most effective “our heroes are so screwed” moment Supergirl has ever done, and teases so much potential for upcoming episodes that it is hella exciting in its own right.
And James’s storyline . . . okay, that one’s pretty dull. But it’s a James storyline; we can’t expect miracles.
- Just a couple episodes back, Lena said that the key to making the cure-anything serum non-lethal was removing the give-people-superpowers component. But now both Lex and Bitsie have gotten superpowers from using it. Does this mean James should have superpowers now, too? If so, maybe someone should tell him
- Given he’s been going through tons of painful, life-and-death situations since before the series even began, James went from having no PTSD symptoms to being crippled by them awfully
- As I mentioned above, J’onn’s story this episode was fantastic. This may very well be the most energized we’ve ever seen J’onn, and his relationship with his father, even if it’s now just a phantom in his head, is easily the best thing ever done with the character. Though there were a couple things that bugged me about it. First, a big deal is made about Martian religion and culture dying if J’onn abandons it, but given he’s the last Green Martian, with no indication that he can or intends to have more children, doesn’t that all die when he does, anyway? Second, why do they still take human form even when they’re talking inside J’onn’s head?
- How is it no one but Kara noticed Eve’s hologram disguise fritzing out on national television? Only thing I can come up with is that Lex has hacked into CatCo’s TV feed, waited till Kara was watching the news coverage, then digitally inserted Eve’s disguise “failing” so that Kara would be lured to D.C.
- It feels like this superpower serum is going to have to be destroyed or revealed as too dangerous to use pretty soon. Otherwise, the ability to cure every disease and injury, as well as give everyone on the planet superstrength, would change the world of the show far too much.
- That said, I hope Bitsie gets to keep her superpowers and become our newest superhero. More Bitsie, please!
Legends of Tomorrow 4×09: “Lucha de Apuestas” review
On the surface, “Lucha de Apuestas” is pretty standard formula for Legends of Tomorrow Season 4.
There’s a magical fugitive causing trouble in history. The Legends go back in time to deal with it. Lots of pop-culture homages ensue. Eventually, the day is saved, and characters get some feel-good moments of self-realization. Meanwhile, one or two subplots go on back at the Waverider or the Time Bureau, making sure everyone’s got something to do.
It’s a formula that’s been working well for this season, has given us some immensely entertaining hours of television. However, returning from its midseason hiatus, Legends is looking to go beyond the episodic structure that defined the first half of the season, and bring the arc story to the forefront. But that transition didn’t go as smoothly as we might have hoped.
Up above, I talked about how this week’s Supergirl was a table setting episode. Well, this week’s Legends is a good example of why table setting episodes exist. “Lucha de Apuestas” barrels headlong into powerful climaxes where Nate turns against his father, Ava breaks up with Sara, Mona and Konane see their budding romance cut short, and El Cura reclaims his role as Mexico’s supreme luchador. But to get there, it has to do a bunch of legwork first.
See, the crux of this episode is “Project Hades”, Hank’s plan to turn the Time Bureau’s magical prisoners into weapons. This storyline was established during the first half of the season, but until now it’s existed outside the orbit of our main cast. The only character who’s had any involvement with Project Hades is Mona, and other than one conversation with Ray (and an alternate timeline meetup with John and Charlie) she’s never even met the Legends before. So before we can get to all the juicy dramatic stuff mentioned above, a lot of time is spent just getting the Legends up to speed on the situation.
It takes several minutes to explain how Konane wound up in 1960’s Mexico and how Mona wound up on the Waverider. Nate doesn’t even show up until a quarter of the way through. And by the time Sara learns that Mona’s telling the truth about “the men in black”, kickstarting her conflict with Ava, the episode’s almost half over.
All this time spent on setup leaves the remainder of the stories feeling rushed or underdeveloped. The Sara/Ava story gets hit by this the hardest.
Their conflict this episode is a good one. From the moment they’ve met, Sara and Ava have been opposites. One is a free-wheeling maverick prone to reckless improvisation, the other a by-the-book hardass who follows a bureaucratic command structure. That they’ve managed to make a relationship work at all is due to them coming together whenever they have common ground, and staying out of each other’s way when they don’t. But it was only a matter of time before a situation arose where they could never agree, and where neither could ever back down.
Sara Lance was once part of the League of Assassins, taught to follow Ra’s al Ghul without question and without conscience. But when she could no longer stomach the things they asked her to do, she left them, left her love Nyssa, and was even willing to kill herself rather than go back to them. Since then, Sara has never let the rules or someone else’s authority get in the way of doing what she feels is right. She helped blow up the Time Masters because she saw how twisted their control over history had become, broke the first rule of time travel to end the Legion of Doom’s reign, and stole back the Waverider when the Time Bureau told her the Legends were no longer needed. So when she sees that Hank is using the Bureau for something cruel and inhumane, her response is naturally to fight back and damn the consequences.
Ava Sharpe was literally created to serve the Time Bureau. Her memories of a life before the Bureau are a fiction, existing only to give her the illusion of being a normal person. All she has ever truly known is the Bureau, and keeping it going, maintaining its rules and organization as the best defense of the timeline, is the core of her identity. So when she’s told what Hank’s been doing, she responds as many people do when accusations are leveled against a person or an institution they’re invested in: first, to deny the accusations are true, then to rationalize why, even if they are true, they’re no big deal. Hank is her boss, and Ava will follow his orders. And if Sara fights against those orders, then she’s fighting against Ava, too.
To see these two torn apart by their differing ideals, their different ways of approaching the world, makes for some heartbreaking drama. But, as I said, this drama doesn’t even get going until halfway through the episode. Add in three other storylines competing for screentime, and the conflict between Sara and Ava has to go from 0 to 60 fast. For all that it’s well-grounded in who these characters are, the pacing of their fight ends up feeling very artificial.
The other storylines suffer from this pacing problem less, but it still doesn’t do them any favors. Certainly, it feels like Mona doesn’t get to spend nearly enough time interacting with the Legends, given this is her first mission with them. And El Cura’s story, while decent enough, feels a bit light and underdeveloped.
I don’t want to give the idea this was a bad episode, though! There is a ton of fantastic stuff in here. There’s Ray’s petition. Mick shooting Mona. Cards To Save The Timeline. Sara/Ava doing the tango. Everything about the big wrestling arena brawl. There’s even a Wilhelm Scream!
It just come together quite as well as it should have, and it feels like maybe there should have been an episode before this one that did some of the narrative heavy lifting, so that this ep wasn’t stuck trying to set the table and eat off it all at once.
- That John Constantine is a lucha libre fan, and that his favorite luchador is a “warrior of piety and goodness” . . . I just find that awfully cute.
- In a nice callback, Nate’s parents host an annual fundraiser for hemophilia research, because until he got his superpowers, Nate was a hemophiliac, so that would be a disease the Haywoods would take an interest in.
- Also a nice callback, John and Charlie calling Ray “Rayge” when they peer pressure him.
- I love that the Legends have so many screwups in their past that Ray can make an entire card game out of them.
- So they were hinting at Nate/Zari being a thing here, weren’t they? Unclear at this point whether that’s a planned storyline for those two, or if this is just them testing the waters. If you want, you can read Zari’s reactions here as simply a bit of self-consciousness, wondering why Nate thinks that dating her would be “weird”.
- Neron was at the hemophilia fundraiser and was clearly paying attention to the Sara/Ava fight. Even money on whether he somehow exacerbated their later breakup. I’ve been thinking for a while now that, if Ava ever does turn against Hank, he might try replacing her with another Ava from the future, one programmed to be more loyal to him.
MVP of the Week: Whoever does costuming for Legends of Tomorrow.
‘Cause damn those are some pretty dresses.
Question of the Week: Who would you say is the funniest character in the Arrowverse?