Batwoman 1×19: “A Secret Kept from All the Rest”, Supergirl 5×18: “The Missing Link”, The Flash 6×19: “Success Is Assured”, and Legends of Tomorrow 5×11: “Freaks and Greeks” reviews
Pour one out, fellow Arrowversinites, for this week marks the effective season finale of The Flash, only 19 of the planned 22 episodes being finished ‘fore old lady Covid came a calling. We’re also covering penultimate episodes of Batwoman and Supergirl before their seasons reach their own abrupt ends. And we also have Legends of Tomorrow . . . carrying on just as planned.
So there’s that, at least.
Batwoman 1×19: “A Secret Kept from All the Rest” review
Arkham Asylum: Outpatient Facility
All right, why don’t we go around the room, and everyone can introduce themselves?
. . .
. . .
Oh, you wanted to start with me. I thought we were doing clockwise and . . . no, that’s fine. *ahem* Hi, everyone. My name’s Luke, and . . . I’m an underappreciated sidekick.
I guess I got into the sidekick game ‘cause of my dad. He was Batman’s sidekick. Well, one of his sidekicks. Between the Robins, and the Batgirls, and the Alfreds, and guys like my dad, I’m pretty sure half of Gotham was sidekicking for him by the end there.
Anyway, after my dad died, and Batman disappeared, there was still a secret lair and all these gadgets left hanging around, and Bruce left me a very clear sticky note saying, “Keep this shit working.” He used little bat symbols to dot the i’s, which should be cute, but was somehow threatening.
So for three years, that’s what I did, just looked after the junk they left behind, learned how all of it worked, what it was all for. Then Kate came barging in, wanting to be Batwoman, and just sort of took it for granted that I’d have nothing better to do than work on her tech issues all day.
I mean, did you?
. . .
. . .
No. But that’s not the point! Look, I get it, she’s the hero, this is her TV show: she’s pretty much always going to be right. That’s no excuse not to hear the rest of us out. Like, when I told her we could trust you; sure, I was wrong, but that’s no reason just to shoot me down.
Oh, so we’re bringing that up again. You know, my father was just as much a Batman sidekick as your father, but I still found a career for myself besides looking after his toys and polishing his giant penny.
Is that a British expression, or does the Batcave actually have a giant penny?
It does . . . or, well, it might. Depends if they get the budget to build the prop next season.
Point is: I torpedoed that career, and took on considerable risk to life and limb, just to do Kate a favor. Yet all it takes is a little white lie, and she acts like I’m the enemy.
And she should know about little white lies. I mean, I’m her sister, and I’ve been patching up her Batwoman injuries since day one, and it took her forever to tell me what was going on. She let you know, and Luke, and even Alice. I mean come frickin’ on!
She told me, too.
Okay, seriously, who are you!?
Wait, I knew I recognized you. You’re the girl who hijacked that train and tried to blackmail all of Gotham.
Oh, great, so another supervillain got let in on the big secret before me?
Can we not throw the “supervillain” label around? I prefer . . . gray hat hacktivist?
You say “supervillain” like it’s a bad thing. That hurts.
What are you guys even doing here? This support group is for sidekicks, not henchmen.
We are not henchmen! We have names and backstories.
You never even learned your henchmen’s names?
Why do you think we made them wear those freaky white rabbit masks? If we can’t tell them apart, they can’t expect us to remember who they are.
Being a sidekick wasn’t exactly my first choice either, but it still beats being a henchman. Not that Alice knows the difference. All I wanted was some help breaking out of Arkham and for her to cut the face off a dead guy and stitch it onto mine. Does that justify her treating me like her little lapdog?
I mean, kinda?
Alice treats everyone like that. I told her we should have stuck to running Arkham. We could be safe there and still do all sorts of creepy, Addams Family style stuff, and no one would even notice. But she just had to keep antagonizing her sister, and burned the whole joint down without even caring how I felt.
Exactly! I mean, I’ve put at least as many hours into this Bat operation as Kate has, almost been killed, multiple times, but she always has to call the shots. I’m gone for just a few hours, and she brings in some rando teen to mess up my computer.
Okay, I’m starting to feel attacked here.
And they always act like their sisters-turned-enemies shtick is the most important thing in the world, like nothing else matters.
And I want to tell her, there are a hundred costumed lunatics running around Gotham, but we spend 80% of our resources on the one she happens to be related to.
And all that talk about “ruling Gotham” early on, all that gets dropped the instant she sees a chance to stick it to the Kane family.
They are so obsessed-
-like they’re the only two people who matter-
-and the rest of us will just go along with whatever they want!
. . .
. . .
You wanna hang out sometime?
I mean, I’m pretty sure you’d try to cut off my face and wear it on top of your own, so . . . no. But . . . Facebook friends?
I’d like that.
Well, I think we’ve all made some good progress today, but it’s about time for my next group to meet.
Hey, is this the Cop Fathers Of Superheroes support group?
I don’t see why you dragged me here. No daughter of mine is running around with vigilantes; they know I won’t rest till those masked freaks are driven out of my city.
Boy, does that take me back.
Supergirl 5×18: “The Missing Link” review
I can’t help wondering whether this was always the planned trajectory for Lena’s story.
The showrunners have stated that, when the coronavirus shutdown became imminent, these last couple episodes were retooled to wrap up the season. So storylines coming to an abrupt conclusion is to be expected, and due to factors beyond anyone’s control.
On the other hand, abrupt conclusions to storylines that seemed like they should be a bigger deal? That’s always been something of a pattern with Supergirl. Remember when Alex had all her memories of Kara being Supergirl erased, but then she snapped out of it in the season finale, and the whole thing had no real consequences? Remember Red Daughter, who got wonderful buildup in Season 4, only to get an anticlimactic death in the last episode? Or, hey, remember when Kara found out her mom was alive?
So I can’t help thinking maybe this was what they had in mind for Lena from the beginning. She’d keep her resentment against Kara going a long time, would keep working on her plan to Non Nocere the world, and would keep working alongside her supervillain brother, letting her guard down around him. But, in the end, she’d realize that Non Nocere was unworkable, she’d see Lex for who he really is, and she’d go crawling back to Kara.
To a certain extent, these events are inevitable. Non Nocere was always going to be fatally flawed, because there’s not much future for an action-adventure series if the whole world’s made incapable of violence. Kara and Lena were always going to reconcile, because there’s no way one of the most optimistic shows on television doesn’t have two best friends patch up their differences. And Lex was always going to prove himself to be a monster to Lena because . . . he’s Lex Luthor.
But the way these events go down? It seems designed to resolve them as quickly and inconsequentially as possible.
Instead of Non Nocere going haywire after Lena has used it on a massive scale, it happens while it’s still in the testing stage. And seeing this problem, Lena almost immediately discards the project she’s been obsessed with all season, coming to see it as fundamentally flawed and inherently unworkable. Just like that, Non Nocere is dead, and with all her test subjects cured, there are seemingly no repercussions left from her season long experimenting.
And almost immediately after that, Lex makes his big “we can rule together” pitch. Lena sees right through him, pegs him as the manipulative monster he is, and resolves to oppose him with everything she’s got. All the work he’s been doing since Crisis to get in her good graces, to bring her around to his way of thinking: didn’t do squat. They’re right back to where they were when she killed him.
And following these events, Lena goes to Kara to apologize, to admit she was wrong, and try to make things good between them again. Why she does this isn’t quite explained. Oh, she needs to warn Kara about what Lex is planning, but there’s no reason that should affect the frostiness in their relationship. Lex and Non Nocere weren’t the cause of her issues with Kara, but the symptom; getting rid of the symptoms shouldn’t get rid of the cause. Except apparently it does, thus bringing all of Lena’s story threads this season to a close, all cleanly and rapidly tied off.
Whether this is how things were meant to go down or not, this rushed resolution to what has, until now, been a very slow burn storyline for Lena, it can’t help feeling unsatisfying. Unless next week’s finale surprises us, it doesn’t look like there will be any major consequences resulting from Lena’s year long flirtation with the Dark Side, which makes this whole story seem like a lot of wasted time.
From a writing perspective, this turn of events lacks the proper payoff. And yet . . . the scenes where all this happens work exceptionally well, thanks to three simple things: Katie McGrath, Jon Cryer, and Melissa Benoist. Supergirl’s greatest strength has always been its remarkably strong cast, and these actors all bring their A-game to the material.
Cryer makes Lex’s wrathful outburst a thing of beauty, a moment where the debonair facade slips and he reveals the hate-filled maniac underneath, all without ever losing sight of Lex’s view that he’s the wronged party, that everyone should be grateful for all the nefarious scheming he’s done.
McGrath shows every ounce of pain Lena is feeling in her eyes, the mix of sorrow and horror as everything she’s been working towards falls apart, as she realizes how thoroughly she’s screwed up. But she also shows Lena’s determination. As she faces down Lex, you can see the steel at her core coming to the surface, pushing past the pain, and letting her know what she must do,
And Benoist, in that final scene, turns Kara’s emotions into a wonderful tool of suspense. As Lena pours her heart out, Kara’s folded arms and narrow gaze keep her own emotions clouded. Is it suspicion we see on her face? Anger? Merely reserved judgement? We’re kept wondering just how Kara is going to respond, tension mounting as wait to see if any of what Lena’s saying gets through. And when, in the end, Kara tells Lena to have a seat, her tone hits precisely the right note: entirely non-hostile, and accepting enough to cause a surge of relief after the scene we just witnessed, but with just enough coldness, just enough of a hint that Kara isn’t entirely won over yet, to let us know these two still have a rocky road ahead of them.
On paper, the end to Lena’s story is disappointing in how rushed and remarkably easy the resolution is. But with such a fantastic trio of performances at the center of it, taking us through a wild rush of emotions with every glance, every quaver of their voice, I’ll be damned if I didn’t still love every second of it.
- So the DEO is gone. Most of us had been saying for a while that the organization had outlived its usefulness, a holdover from the CBS days when they were trying to court the procedural cop show audience. It’s clear the show hasn’t been interested in using the DEO as much more than a clubhouse for our heroes in a very long time, and now that they have their own, private clubhouse in the Tower, the DEO’s destruction feels like a sigh of relief more than anything else.
- In my notes, I wrote down a complaint about Lex using a portal device to distract the inmates, when he could have used that to get him, Lena, and harmless-schlubby-inmate out of danger immediately, without all that running around. But then the ending came, and I realized, that was all part of Lex’s plan: by helping Lena and harmless-schlubby-inmate run for their lives, he looks like a brave, self-sacrificing hero, yet another attempt to get Lena on his side. Well played.
- Is Andrea still Kara’s boss Post-Crisis? At the beginning of the season, a lot of focus was put on how she was running CatCo, but lately she’s been spending all her time on the Obsidian lenses, and the CatCo storyline’s fallen by the wayside.
- “What do you put in these things? I can’t stop eating them, they’re so good!” “Crack.” That joke may be the most I’ve ever liked William.
The Flash 6×19: “Success Is Assured” review
This was clearly never meant to be The Flash’s season finale. It’s not just the plot threads left unresolved; this is hardly the first time The Flash has created storylines that weren’t resolved till the following season. What gives it away is how there’s no attempt to bring everything together for a big, emotional fireworks show.
Iris and Kamilla remain trapped in the Mirrorverse and never have any contact with the rest of the cast. A proper season finale could still end with Iris disappearing in a shatter of glass; every season of The Flash ends on some sort of cliffhanger. But if this finale had been planned, she’d have reconnected with Barry and everyone else first. That way, we’d get the emotional catharsis of her Mirrorverse ordeal reaching its close, only for the rug to be pulled out from under us at the last minute. As it stands, Iris vanishing is only one more development in a story that hasn’t hit its emotional high point yet.
Also separated from the rest of the cast is Cisco, who left on his Atlantis expedition last week and isn’t so much as mentioned here. Frost/Caitlin have a few scenes with the others, but they’re still in their only little side story that never ties in with what everyone else is up to, and ends on a mild “we’ll see where this is going” note that’s not very season finale-ish. The Nash/Allegra and Ralph/Sue stories do intersect with the main plot, and do see some significant development here, but still not quite to the level you’d expect. I have zero doubt that, had the season ended as planned, we’d have seen Ralph and Sue smooching before it was over. And of course, there’s Barry’s speed gauge: you don’t give the hero a ticking clock before their powers run out and not have them reach zero at a dramatic point.
In many ways, “Success Is Assured” falls short of what we’ve come to expect from a season finale of The Flash. And yet, in other ways, that divergence from expectations makes this episode more surprising and engaging than many past finales have been.
It seems quite likely that, had The Flash been able to film a full 22 episodes this season, the last three would have focused on Eva as the main antagonist who would be defeated in finale. That would have made her killing Joseph in this episode the equivalent of the Thawne and Cicada II twists from last season: the true villain of the season disposing of the pretender in time for the home stretch. But by ending here, with Joseph Carver’s death and Eva McCulloch’s triumph, the season’s story is reframed.
Rather than being a decoy Big Bad, there to occupy the heroes’ and the viewers’ attention while Eva waits in the wings, Joseph Carver and his Black Hole organization are the main villains of the season. Even during the early episodes, when Bloodwork was getting all the attention, Black Hole was still around, doing shady stuff that put them on the heroes’ radar. This season, then, still follows the conventional pattern of introducing a villain early in the season who becomes gradually more prominent as the story goes along, before being defeated for good in the finale.
The twist being, it’s not Team Flash who beats the bad guy. They’re the ones protecting the bad guy, and so become the obstacles that Eva must defeat to save the day.
Now, Eva is hardly an exemplar of heroism. However you feel about her assassinating Joseph, her framing Sue for his murder and keeping Iris and Co. as hostages is very not cool. But in the context of this episode, Eva functions as the hero. She’s the one tracking down the villain’s hideout, fighting her way through his goons, and finally bringing him to (what she considers to be) justice. It’s almost a classic superhero-defeats-their-archnemesis plot. It’s just that the characters we’re used to thinking of as the heroes are on the wrong side of it.
The season thus ends on a chaotic mix of emotions. We got to see the Big Bad defeated, a dramatic and action-packed spectacle of a hero triumphing over evil . . . yet all of our heroes lost. The season ends on their failure, and on Eva magnanimous in victory; still a villain to them, but in her own eyes, and in the eyes of the public, a triumphant hero.
While almost purely an accident, this gives The Flash Season 6 a shockingly subversive ending, turning our heroes into the well-meaning antagonists in someone else’s (anti-)heroic narrative. It may not have the catharsis and cohesion that the planned ending would have had, but if a random episode must serve as the finale, the way this ep flips the script, wraps up the Black Hole story, and creates an intriguing new status quo for Season 7 . . . I don’t think they could have chosen a better one.
- Since The Flash and Supergirl are on the same Earth now, I hope next season has a mini-crossover where Eva McCulloch and Lena Luthor meet up. It would make a surprising amount of sense for those two to be friends.
- It’s darkly amusing how this episode writes out Frost/Caitlin, because they assumed Danielle Panabaker’s pregnancy would make her unavailable to film the end of the season, yet the coronavirus shutdown means she’ll likely be up and spry and not-covered-with-blankets by the time the next episode starts filming.
- They leaned way hard into the Never Kill The Bad Guys, No Not Ever Ever talk this ep. It’s not like Team Flash has never bad guys before. And they’re friends with people like Sara and Oliver, whose body counts are probably in the triple digits.
- It was especially odd having Harry say that the Barry he knows would never consider letting Carver die to save Iris. I mean, I know we all like to pretend Season 3 never happened, but the Barry from that year would absolutely have considered that deal.
- The big fight scene at the end had some fun parts (the split screens were a nice touch), but given how many distinct superpowers were in play, it was often very muddled who was doing what.
- When Iris and Kamilla are talking about how to find Singh, I kept wanting to tell them, “You’re the only living people in the city! Just walk down the streets shouting into a megaphone and eventually he’s gonna hear you!”
Legends of Tomorrow 5×11: “Freaks and Greeks” review
Legends of Tomorrow exists as a balancing act. On the one hand, it’s the story of larger-than-life heroes risking life and limb to save the world from terrible threats. On the other hand, it’s the story of bumbling, irresponsible misfits who just want to have a good time. That the characters can be both, can succeed at both, is what makes the show such a delight, combining world-saving superheroics and sitcommy antics into one, seamless package.
And whenever a new Legend is added, they usually take a bit to adjust to this dichotomy. Ava and Amaya came to the team as serious, no-nonsense professionals; it took a while before they started to loosen up and appreciate just how fun time traveling escapades could be. Conversely, Mick and Charlie started off uninterested in the heroic side of things, just wanting to drink a lot, party hard, and get into some trouble; coming to care for the team and their mission was a gradual process. Those are the extreme ends of the scale, but most Legends have had to spend at least a bit of time on that learning curve.
That’s not a complaint. Each season of Legends has brought new characters to the team, and seeing these newbies acclimate to the controlled chaos that is the Waverider has formed some of the show’s most consistently solid character work. Now it’s Astra’s turn to go through the process.
She’s an odd mix of being both too carefree and not carefree enough for the Legends. She certainly has no interest in putting on colorful outfits and engaging in wacky shenanigans; she just wants to get the job over with as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, she also has no interest in responsibility or heroics, opting to maim, kill, and brute force her way through any problem, and damn the collateral damage. This double-dose of not-fitting-in is complicated by the fact that she’s aware the Legends are trying to fit her into the team’s mold, and is actively resisting it.
It takes some doing to convince her that the Legends way isn’t about changing her into someone she’s not. The Legends all remain wildly different from each other, and Astra’s hell-born ruthlessness is no more out of place than Nate’s dude-bro tendencies, Mick’s gruff hedonism, or Gary’s . . . Gary-ness. Fitting in with the Legends isn’t about becoming like the other Legends; it’s more a matter of approach. It’s a matter of acknowledging their own dysfunction, how unsuited they are to heroism, but still giving it the old college try anyway, while still remembering to have fun along the way.
The episode perhaps gets a bit too on the nose with this. Certainly, some of the talks with the sorority recruits take the finding-a-place-where-you-belong message to sappy levels. Still, while a dash more subtlety would’ve been nice, I can’t not love an outing where the solution to a teammate wreaking wanton destruction isn’t to convince them that wanton destruction is wrong; it’s to find ways to fit wanton destruction into what the team does. And that’s a trick the Legends have got down.
- This was an overall a nice, low stakes, breather episode of Legends. Dionysus isn’t some villain who needs to be stopped, just a guy who happens to be an obstacle in their way, and is amiable enough in defeat. It’s a rare episode where no one’s life or well-being is ever threatened . . . at least as long as they can keep Astra away from the carbon monoxide detectors.
- Too bad the Philosopher’s Stone was a myth, ‘cause getting it from Merlin would probably be pretty easy; that’s their old friend Stargirl, after all.
- Hypbrotized or nipnotized? I’m not sure which I love more.
- Thanks to time travel, Mick’s got a college campus named after him and a statue in Washington, D.C. What you wanna bet some other wacky enterprise gets his face put on Mount Rushmore?
MVP of the Week: Sara Lance
Beating the god of drunken parties at Dartmouth rules beer pong while blind may be the coolest thing she’s ever done. And that’s coming at the top of a very long list.
Question of the Week: How do you feel about end-of-season cliffhangers? Do you enjoy them, or would you prefer each season to end on a more definite conclusion?