The Flash 6×11: “Love Is a Battlefield” and Legends of Tomorrow 5×03: “Slay Anything” reviews
I had another busy week at work, which means another late installment of This Last Week In The Arrowverse. By the time you read these reviews of last week’s Flash and Legends episodes, new episodes of Batwoman and Supergirl will have already aired. I won’t be getting reviews of those up until this Sunday (assuming if I’m not late again), but I’ll understand if people want to discuss those eps in the comments below.
Sorry for the delay everyone. Hopefully this doesn’t become a regular thing.
Anyway, on with the show!
The Flash 6×11: “Love Is a Battlefield” review
“Love Is a Battlefield” knows you’re going to be suspicious of Iris. Even if your first thought after last week’s cliffhanger wasn’t she’s-been-replaced-by-an-evil-mirror-doppelganger, when she comes back from that cliffhanger this week and doesn’t say a word about it to Barry? Everyone should expect something to be up with her. And this ep leans into that right away, with Iris displaying sudden knowledge of Italian and baseline cooking competency that practically scream, “Imposter! Imposter!”
Yet it also wants to hold off on definitively saying, yes, Iris has been replaced by an evil doppelganger, until it’s time for this week’s end-of-episode cliffhanger. How can the mystery be kept going that long, when from its opening minutes this ep is giving the game away?
The answer: By making us not want to believe the Iris we’re seeing is an imposter. By making this Iris such a joy to watch, and giving her such a fun dynamic with Barry, that we’d like to believe this will just be how Iris is going forward, that the discrepancies in her behavior are not signs of an imposter taking her place, but legitimate character growth on her part. Even if, in the back of our minds, we’re expecting the imposter reveal, we’ll be inclined to put those doubts aside if the new Iris endears herself to us.
For my money, that was a job spectacularly well done!
A big part of making that work was how this episode pared down The Flash’s bloated cast. Cisco is off on his walkabout. Ralph, Cecile, and Kamillah are each doing their own thing, presumably. Joe only shows up for one scene to dispense advice. And Frost, Allegra, and Nash are confined to small B-plot that’s kept completely separate from the main plot of the episode. The focus is thus confined to Barry and Iris, working together, without the rest of Team Flash. And with that focus, we get a glimpse of just how delightful Barry and Iris as a husband-and-wife crime-fighting duo can be.
While it does serve as another spot-the-imposter sign, it also feels right that Iris would be the more hard-edged and morally murky of the two, ready to collaborate with criminals or break liquor bottles over guys’ heads. This is the woman who killed an evil time remnant of her husband by shooting him in the back, after all. And through her methods conflicting with Barry’s more squeaky-clean approach to heroics (he actually tries to formally arrest Amunet Black, despite only being a CSI), we get plenty of conflict to spice up their interactions, without having either of them ever lose sight of how much they love, trust, and depend on each other.
This episode is basically The Flash reimagined as a romance tinged buddy comedy, and it works gangbusters. Barry and Iris’s interactions are in turn hilarious, dramatic, and just plain sweet. It’s such a fruitful, enjoyable picture of their relationship, you find yourself eager to believe Iris’s explanations about picking up some Italian phrases, or having learn-to-cook-pancakes as her New Year’s resolution. So when that last scene comes, and the imposter reveal is made, it hits on a whole ‘nother level.
Iris screams from inside the mirror, trying in vain to warn Barry, horrified beyond reason at the lookalike who has stolen her life. And in that moment, we feel complicit in the horror wrought upon her, because we also saw the warning signs of an imposter, but we were having so much fun with the new Iris we wanted to overlook it . . . until the curtain is pulled back, and we see what that willful blindness has done.
“Love Is a Battlefield” thus manages the remarkable feat of being one of the most fun episodes The Flash has done in a long while, while also having one of the darkest, most disturbing endings this show has ever done. For making all that work, this ep deserves one great big thumbs up.
- I’m not positive, but I think this may be the only episode of The Flash where Star Labs does not appear.
- Amunet and Goldface were absolute gems of villainy this week. Their bickering was hilarious, and their “telepathic narcotic” make up/make out session may be the hardest I’ve ever laughed at anything on this show.
- On the negative side, I didn’t like how the “gang war” happened almost entirely off-screen. On the plus side, I loved that, in the little bit of gang war we got, not only was everyone firing ray guns, but they were using color coded ray guns: blue ray guns for Amunet’s crew, red ray guns for Goldface’s.
- I also loved the “telepathic narcotic” orchid. Really, I love it any time this show includes bits of out there super science that have nothing to do with dark matter. It makes the setting feel bigger and more alive with possibilities.
- On the same note, Allegra mentions that her ex didn’t have a problem with her being a meta, saying, “Turns out his new drummer is bio-luminescent.” I adore how all this metahuman weirdness has become part of everyday life for folks on Earth Prime.
- “Banana! Banana! Iris, banana!”
Legends of Tomorrow 5×03: “Slay Anything” review
I think Legends bit off more than it could chew this week.
Normally, I like it when this show stuffs episodes to the brim with wild ideas. Maybe my favorite episode of the series is “The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly”, where Jonah Hex and Helen of Troy teaming up to fight Vikings is only a very small part of all the nutso stuff that goes down. But in “Slay Anything”, it feels like many of the story ideas never get to develop their true potential, because they’re all jockeying for space with each other.
Consider the case of one Freddy Myers. We’re introduced to him this episode. We need to establish him as a bullied nerd with a possessive mom. We need to see him get hit with the double whammy of the most popular girl in school asking him out and getting a fairy godmother. We need him to be humiliated at the prom, get over his anger, and come back to wow everyone with a big dance number. And then we need to see him discover his mom is a psycho killer and make his peace with that bombshell.
That’s a lot to do in forty-something minutes, especially when his story also needs to be used to advance Nora’s story, letting her relate to Freddy’s issues and find some meaning in her fairy godmother gig. And if Freddy and Nora were the focus of this episode, maybe that would work out, and this would be a very deep and moving character portrait. But since it’s only one of several plotlines going on this week, all these revelations have to be breezed through at a lightning pace. The emotional moments mostly still land, but they don’t pack quite the punch they seem to be aiming for, ‘cause we don’t really get to know Freddy or spend as much time with his struggles as we’d need to for that.
But while Freddy’s story suffers from having to share the episode with other storylines, that problem also goes in the other direction.
This episode has the Legends going to a high school reunion to stop an Encore slasher villain. And it turns out to be Mick’s old high school, with Mick’s graduating class! And, while half the team is fighting the killer at the reunion in 2004, the rest of the team’s gone back to 1989 to stop the killer’s original attack on prom night.
There was so much fun potential in this storyline! We could have seen the Legends being picked off by the killer one-by-one, going whole hog on the slasher flick homage, since they’re going to use that change-the-past/undo-the-deaths trick anyway. We could have seen Mick really reconnect with his past, beyond spending a couple scenes with an old flame. Heck, we could have seen teenage Mick in 1989, mixing it up with the Prom Night Slasher the first go around.
And think of how many gags and plot twists could have come from Nate and Ray bumbling along in 1989, with whatever changes they make to the past changing reality for 2004. Like, they destroy a piece of school property in the 80’s, so it gets replaced by something else in the 2000’s. Or maybe some reunion goers are cornered by the killer, so our heroes track down their teenage selves and pressure them to join the karate club, so all of a sudden their adult selves know martial arts moves to defend themselves. Those are just top of my head examples, but don’t they sound like fun?
It’s not that what we got wasn’t fun. I want to be clear, this was still an enjoyable episode. But it kept establishing these scenarios with terrific possibilities, then barely scratched the surface of what they had to offer. It’s a frustrating case of a good episode that could have been terrific, if its ideas had just had some more room to develop, and that wasted potential can’t help leaving one a tad frustrated.
- Another bit of wasted potential: not having teenage hall monitor Joe West at Central City High School.
- The return of Ava’s serial killer fangirling, now escalated to podcast creation levels, was the highlight of the episode. Her delighted cry of “We’re Final Girls!” may be the moment she truly became a Legend.
- Best line reading of the episode goes to Nate, though. “I’d say medium. Medium concerned.”
- I know the reason Mick’s still alive is because they changed the past, but wouldn’t it be kind of cool if he did die, but then he came back to life because, turns out, he’s on Astra’s list of villains to send back from Hell?
- Speaking of changing the timeline, at least Ray’s aware how lax they’ve become about that. “Let’s be honest, we’re a little past the whole ‘should we change history?’ debate, right?”
- How adorable were Ray and Nora this episode? Maximum; they were maximum adorable.
- I didn’t see Nora connecting with Freddy over their evil parents coming, but when it did, it just worked so well. Heck, their evil parents even have the same superpower!
- There were a lot of great horror movie references this ep. Obviously a lot of the stuff with Freddy is from Carrie, with a touch of Prom Night. The scene with the coroner’s van is very reminiscent of Halloween IV. And if you’ve ever seen the original Friday the 13th, you could probably see the “it was his mom!” twist coming.
- While I’m glad Zari’s getting some of her old-timeline memories back, I am liking the new energy this changed version of her brings to the team. I chuckled every time she called Gideon “computer”.
MVP of the Week: Amunet Black
She may very well be the hammiest, most over-the-top villain in the Arrowverse, and given that roster includes Alice, the Trickster, Damien Darhk, and original recipe Count Vertigo, that’s some achievement. But damn if Katee Sackhoff doesn’t make it work. Even just little moments, like looking around a room, or going “Huh?”, are filled with this off-beat, manic energy, and I just love it.
Question of the Week: What Arrowverse villains would you like to see square off with each other?