Batwoman 1×07: “Tell Me the Truth”, Supergirl 5×07: “Tremors”, The Flash 6×06: “License to Elongate”, and Arrow 8×05: “Prochnost” reviews
This week in the Arrowverse, Lena and Lyla had their secrets revealed, while Kate managed to put her secret back in the bottle. And Barry got told that no one really cares about his secret, which, ouch. Way to kick a dying man while he’s down.
Batwoman 1×07: “Tell Me the Truth” review
Until now, Sophie has been an enigma.
When she broke up with Kate back at Point Rock, did she actually love Kate less than Kate loved her, or was she just saying that to make the split easier?
And what of her behavior in the present? At times, she acts like she and Kate barely even knew each other, like what they had meant nothing. Other times, she’s insinuating herself into Kate’s life, to the point of becoming Mary’s bodyguard just so she can get info on Kate. This would seem to point to Sophie still having feelings for Kate . . . if it weren’t for the fact that Sophie also suspects that Kate is Batwoman, and could simply be working that lead.
And what about her husband, Tyler? Actual relationship, or just a beard used to disguise her sexual orientation?
Batwoman has so far avoided giving us clear answers to these questions, because Kate hasn’t had clear answers to these questions. The story has been told from Kate’s point of view, where she doesn’t know what to make of Sophie, and is alternately puzzled and frustrated by her inscrutability. Looking back, it’s rather impressive how they’ve constructed Sophie’s scenes in such a way to let us share in Kate’s perspective, because, as it turns out, there’s no big mystery to Sophie. Yes, she cared about Kate deeply and still does, but she put her career first, and is now leading a more-or-less happy life with someone else instead.
It’s a simple answer, but we couldn’t be given it until now, because until now Kate wouldn’t have been able to understand it. Kate has always been very direct, open, and confrontational, especially when it comes to her sexuality. That Sophie would sacrifice the relationship they had just to make nice with intolerant jackasses is something that Kate could never truly grasp, not on an emotional level.
Because Kate has advantages that Sophie doesn’t. She has a family that supports her, and not just in the “I don’t care about your sexual orientation, I love you just the same” way. I mean support her in the “we heard you got kicked out of the military academy, so we hired the best combat specialists in the world to be your personal trainers” way. Kate can afford to be brash and open about who she is, because she can afford damn near anything. If a homophobic restaurant owner discriminates against her, she can just buy the property across the street from him and turn it into a gay bar. She’s never had to worry, really worry, about her career or how she’s going to make a living. That Sophie might put that ahead of a woman she loves, it’s just not something that computes for Kate.
Until she became Batwoman.
Now Kate has a career she cares about, and it’s something her family will not support. If her father finds out about it, he will shut the whole Bat operation down, and be furious with her to boot. For the first time in her life, Kate has to hide part of who she is, from both the world at large and from the people closest to her. It can’t be a coincidence that, when Mary barges in on Kate in the middle of a Bat conversation, Kate slams a literal closet door shut to keep her from seeing what’s going on. And even as Kate Kane, out and proud gay woman, tears into the discrimination at Alessandro’s, as Batwoman, she can’t stop herself from being held up as the restaurant’s protector, because to oppose it would risk revealing too much about who she is.
It’s only now, once she’s had this experience, that Kate has the right frame of reference to understand Sophie, and so it’s only now that Sophie’s inner life is made clear to us. I’m not sure if it was worthwhile, keeping the main love interest so frustratingly unknowable for so long, but I admire the craft in keeping us in Kate’s perspective. Only as Kate grows as a person, and becomes able to see things from different points of view, do other characters’ points of view become apparent.
- Mary continues to be awesome, and I hope helping Kate with her real estate business means seeing those two spend a lot more time together. Gal needs some TLC.
- The Rifle got lucky that, every time he went to assassinate that one dude, the nearby crimefighters spent more time tussling with each other than chasing him.
- Not much Alice this week, but she continues to get oodles of mileage out of every second of screentime. “If I failed at a third of everything I did, I’d still be locked in a cell on a diet of my own fingernails.”
- Place your bets on how long before Tyler kicks the bucket. Anyone betting he’ll live through the end of the season?
Supergirl 5×07: “Tremors” review
In an adventure/drama series like this one, there’s rarely a perfect balance between the save-the-day/beat-the-bad-guy storylines and the more personal, soap operatic storylines. Ideally, the two become one and the same, and saving the day from the latest villain also brings the heroes’ personal issues to a head. But, failing that sort of synergy, a series will almost inevitably devote more of its energy to one of those storylines than the other.
For anyone who’s been watching Supergirl awhile, it’s no surprise that having the heroes work through their personal drama takes precedence over whatever the latest threat to the world might be. But even by Supergirl’s standards, it’s surprising how much “Tremors” focuses on the soap operatic over the superheroic.
‘Cause it’s not like there isn’t important stuff in the crime-fighting/planet-saving domain going on here. For the first time, we’re introduced to the leaders of Leviathan. We’re at last given a sense of their motives, their origins, and their true power. We have Leviathan’s leader (or one of its leaders) facing off with Supergirl in the Fortress of Solitude. Everything is in place for an episode that establishes Leviathan as a truly formidable and engaging antagonist for the season.
Except that’s clearly not what this episode is interested in. All this new information about Leviathan is revealed in a rushed, off-hand manner. Much of it comes from Rama Khan simply recapping Leviathan’s backstory to a subordinate (a subordinate who should already know this backstory and not need it repeated). The rest comes from either the DEO computer or Brainy’s overclocked brain handing our heroes the info they need. This episode is aware that we’re going to need to learn more about Leviathan, but it treats these developments, not as something exciting or interesting in its own right, but as a chore to be completed, so it can get back to what it really wants to do.
Note that, after Supergirl fights off Rama Khan, there’s still a quarter of the episode left to go. From that point forward, Leviathan is no longer seen or even mentioned; their role in the episode is wrapped up early and with minimal fuss. The last quarter of the episode, then, is devoted to three different scenes of two characters talking to each other about their feelings. This is what Supergirl really wanted to get to. Everything that happened earlier in the episode? Just stepping stones to get to this emotional payoff.
So the question becomes: how good are these personal confrontations? Are they worth making the plot leading up to them a rush job?
Well . . . yes and no.
The confrontation between Kara and Lena? Darn tootin’ it’s worth it! For the last three years, their friendship has practically been the heart of the show (only losing that spot to Kara and Alex’s relationship), and since it began, we’ve been waiting for this moment. All the cards are on the table: Lena knows Kara is Supergirl, and at last she’s making clear exactly how she feels about that. We’ve had years to see this all from Kara’s perspective, to hear her many justifications for keeping her secret from Lena, but now we get to see it all from Lena’s perspective, and it is devastating.
She’s been looking back at every time she sacrificed something for her friends, every time she put her life on the line for them, and can now only see it as them using her. If they were really her friends, they’d have told her the truth; instead, they lied to her, pretended to be her friends, because having a genius scientist at your beck and call comes in handy, and that’s all she ever was to them.
The pain that both Lena and Kara are going through, all the emotions boiling to the surface, conveyed beautifully by Katie McGrath and Melissa Benoist . . . it’s a breathtaking scene, easily the best we’ve gotten so far this season. If the last quarter of the episode was just these two talking, it absolutely would have been worth rushing through the Leviathan story to get here.
But this is only the first of three scenes in this final act of the episode. Now, the second emotional confrontation between two characters (this time J’onn and Malefic) is also good. It can’t hope to compare to Kara & Lena, since the Mars Bros. haven’t had nearly as much buildup to their relationship, and their reconciliation depends on psychic powers letting them skip over a lot of the difficult talking that would need to be done. Still, J’onn putting himself in such a vulnerable position, knowing that he’ll either redeem his brother, or sacrifice his own life and redeem himself? It makes for a powerful moment.
But then we get to Alex and Kelly.
I don’t want to come down too hard on this pair. It’s not like their scene together was bad. It was decent all around, with a touch of heartwarming to it. But it suffers immensely from its position in the episode. The final act starts off with the emotional powerhouse that is Kara and Lena destroying their friendship, moves from that to J’onn and Malefic putting an end to a centuries old blood feud, and then it closes with . . . Kelly telling Alex she worries about her safety a lot. That is the scene this episode ends on (not counting a quick stinger showing Kara still trapped at the Fortress). How can it help but be a letdown?
I’m sure there are Alex/Kelly fans out there. And it’s not as though I dislike them as a couple. But it does often feel like the writers overestimate how much people are invested in their relationship, especially when they deal with such minor problems compared to what everyone else is going through.
There’s an old quote, attributed to director Howard Hawks, that says a good movie is one that has “Three great scenes. No bad scenes.” There aren’t any scenes in this episode that I’d call bad (some are clunky, some miss out on their potential, but none are outright bad). And had all three of these climactic conversations been on the same level as Kara and Lena’s, that’d easily fulfill the three great scenes criteria.
As it stands, we’ve got one great scene, and a few pretty good scenes. Is that enough to make this a good episode? I’m not sure. I’ll just say that, if Supergirl is going to skimp on its day-saving/villain-stopping plots for the sake of its relationship drama, it should get a better sense of which relationship drama is worth that sacrifice, and which is not.
- Do you suppose lawyers had to advise them how many times they could call Rama Khan an “Earthbender” without getting sued?
- Anyone remember the end of Season 3? Back then, Alex was looking to become a mom, so she decided she needed a less dangerous profession than field agent. That’s why J’onn made her head of the DEO, so that her job would be mostly admin. Yet Alex doesn’t seem to remember what her new job’s responsibilities are supposed to be, because she’s still personally tracking down supervillains with no one but Brainy for backup, and has no solution to offer Kelly when she worries about Alex’s safety.
- I loved M’yrrn in this episode. Not only does he get a smooth saxophone number to announce his appearance, but he gets easily the funniest line of the episode:
M’yrrn: Your brother is here.
J’onn: You mean here in my mind?
M’yrrn: No, I mean he’s across town.
- Brainy losing a limiter on his brainpower is going to have bad repercussions, isn’t it? Should be fun while it lasts, though.
- So, was Eve/Hope just hanging out at Lena’s place in pink pajamas? Are they roommates now?
The Flash 6×06: “License to Elongate” review
Okay, look, I try not to do spoilers in these reviews. But if you’re enough of an Arrowverse fan to be reading this, I imagine you must know that Episode 9 of this season will be part of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. Y’know, the thing where Barry’s been prophesied to die? What you may or may not know are the titles for Episodes 7 and 8, the episodes between now and the Crisis. If you consider knowing the title of an episode in advance to be a spoiler, and would rather skip it, you’d best do so now, ‘cause I need to talk about it.
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All spoilerphobes are gone?
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You’ve been warned.
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The two episodes airing between now and Crisis? They’re titled “The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Parts 1 and 2”.
I don’t have any other info on these episodes, just what I can glean from their title and from what this season has already set up. But that’s enough to tell that these coming episodes are gonna deal with some dark stuff, that Barry’s impending death and the emotional toll it has on him and his loved ones is going to take center stage. Between that and Crisis, things are gonna be real heavy on The Flash for the remainder of 2019. Which is why I appreciate that “License to Elongate” is such a light, breezy, and just plain fun outing. We’re gonna need that mirth to sustain us through the weeks ahead.
Sure, this episode has Cecile dealing with anxiety over her change in careers, Allegra being afraid of becoming like her supervillain cousin, and a guy planning to blow up Central City, but c’mon. We’re not asked to take any of this too seriously. Cecile’s problems manifest as sitcom hijinks, Allegra’s got the irreverent and doesn’t-do-feelings Nash Wells as the sounding board for her problems, and that guy trying to blow up the city? Once he openly admits to stealing villainous plans from Goldfinger, you know you’re not meant to see him as a serious menace.
This episode is simply a fun romp. Maybe a few bits of character growth and a couple things that advance the story arc, but mostly it’s just about pairing characters up so they can get into shenanigans, and maybe do a James Bond homage along the way. And at that, this episode is aces.
Ralph and Barry is a well-established comedic pairing, but it’s a nice twist to have Ralph be the more competent one for a change, with Barry not fitting in at all with James Bondian milieu (and being utterly flabbergasted at the rules for mahjong). Cecile and Chester have great energy together (even if one part of their plot went too far into cringe comedy for my taste), and what we get here more than sells me on Chester as a new (at least semi-)permanent member of Team Flash.
And as for Nash and Allegra: there’s an interesting pairing. Even if one of them’s played by the always reliable Tom Cavanaugh, they’re both new characters this season, having only appeared in a handful of episodes so far. Sending them off on their own plot together, with no established characters to anchor them: that could easily go wrong, fall into “why should we even care about this?” territory. But Allegra and Nash have a surprisingly great dynamic together, her earnest curiosity and relative innocence working well with his seen-it-all attitude and penchant for casually dropping cosmic revelations mid-conversation.
All this makes for an hour of The Flash that is far from groundbreaking, far from the best work the show has ever done, but is an uncomplicated bit of fun with these characters, one last time before the Speed Force hits the fan.
- Just try imagining what’s going through Allegra’s head as Nash explains five seasons worth of sci-fi weirdness to her.
- As if his opening scene at Star Labs wasn’t enough to convince us that Chester was great, I love that he’s the first person to bring up how Cecile being a prosecutor who can read defendants’ minds is kind of unethical.
- I also love that Chester does not get a date with Natalie in the end. It’s good to send the message that you should be confident, that you shouldn’t be afraid to go after what they want, but that doesn’t automatically mean someone’s gonna want to go out with you.
- This episode said that Jitters was gone, and they only had a delivery service now. Am I forgetting when that happened? Are they talking about the black hole from the season premiere? ‘Cause it didn’t look like it did that much damage.
Arrow 6×05: “Prochnost” review
Oliver Queen is a member of the Russian mafia.
That’s been established since the third episode of Arrow, when Oliver strolled down to the Starling City branch of the Bratva to ask for info on an assassin. No explanation was offered for it at the time; we were simply assured that joining the Russian mob was one of many strange things that happened to Oliver during his time on the island.
That’s kind of a bonkers detail to add so casually to your superhero, that when they’re not fighting crime, they’re also a high-ranking member of a murderous criminal syndicate. That this revelation made sense, even without an explanation, in the broader portrait of Oliver Queen, is a testament to how devoted the early seasons of Arrow were to portraying him as a very, very . . . veryveryvery flawed man, one who still had a ways to go before he could really be called a “hero”.
The Oliver who began the series? He’s a man you can imagine doing the sorts of things that make brutal mobsters accept him as one of their own, and who would turn a blind eye towards said mobsters if it advanced his own agenda. It’s only as the series has gone on, as Oliver has become a better person, become a genuine hero, that his time in the Bratva has become his greatest source of shame.
Which is a bit of a problem, because he’s bringing his children, whom he’s desperate to impress, onto the stomping grounds of his old Bratva buddies. Like any parent, Oliver wants to shield his kids from the mistakes he’s made, to show them only the good parts of himself. He wants to share his mastery of archery and arrow-themed gadgets with Mia, not tell her about the time he snapped a man’s neck in an underground cage match (and is certainly not thrilled to learn Mia’s been in underground cage matches of her own). But the truth must come out, because it’s something his children need to hear.
Maybe not so much William, who already got to know some of Oliver’s flaws (if not from experience, then from Adrian Chase ranting about them endlessly while he had William captive). But as we get to see how Mia’s view of Oliver and Team Arrow doesn’t quite line up with the truth, we at last understand where so much of her anger and bravado comes from.
Mia is always comparing herself to Star City’s legendary heroes: the Canaries, the original Team Arrow, and especially to her father, the Green Arrow himself. And she always finds herself lacking. So she lashes out by asserting that, no, actually she’s better than everyone. Remember how Oliver gets whenever he’s around Barry or Kara, heroes whose powers put his skills to shame: he starts getting competitive, bossy, downright petty, and will literally puff his chest out so he can still feel big next to them. That’s what Mia’s been doing all the time, just trying to fake it till she makes it. With this revelation, a part of her character that’s never quite clicked finally makes sense.
Mia needs Oliver to be honest and upfront with her, to tell her the whole story of his past. No one’s gonna blame him for wanting to gloss over, say, that time he skinned a man alive, but for his daughter to develop along her own path to heroism, she needs to see him, not as a paragon she can’t live up to, but as who he was: a deeply, deeply flawed man, but one who always strove, year after year, step by painful step, to become someone better. To become something better.
- ANATOLY’S BACK!!! And also Roy, who’s gonna be sticking around for a bit, but mainly Anatoly! It’s so good to see him one last time, to see him and Oliver back on good terms, and for him to embrace his new role as “fun uncle”.
- The opening training sequence with Oliver and Mia is one of the best things this show’s ever done. The look on Mia’s face when Oliver released the barrage of tennis balls . . .
- “He is twice your size.” “So I give him half a chance.” That is an ultra badass line, and since it’s the final season, I like that we’re past the point where we’re expected to believe any non-superpowered opponent can take Oliver in a fight.
- “All we have to do is whip up an energy wave to destroy an all-knowing space being.” Imagine how insane and out of place that line would sound if plopped down in Arrow’s first season?
- So Lyla’s secret Monitor agenda is coming out early. But who do you think shot Team Arrow with those tranquilizers? We haven’t seen anyone else working with Lyla or the Monitor so far, and it’s kinda hard to picture Mar Novu just crouching on a rooftop with a tranq gun, knocking people out the old fashioned way.
MVP of the Week: Lena Luthor
‘Cause hot damn did Katie McGrath sell it this week.
Question of the Week: Which hero has done the worst job of protecting their secret identity?