Batwoman 1×20: “O, Mouse”, Supergirl 5×19: “Immortal Kombat”, and Legends of Tomorrow 5×12: “I Am Legends” reviews
This Last Week In The Arrowverse is back. I apologize for the delay. I’d like to say it’s because I was very busy this week, but the truth? Sometimes I just get in a real procrastinatey mood. I’m not ashamed (well, only mildly ashamed).
Still, I hope this was worth the wait, because we’re covering here the Covid-19 induced season finales of Batwoman and Supergirl (as well as the pen-penultimate episode of Legends of Tomorrow Season 5). I may have procrastinated in writing ’em, but I hope you won’t procrastinate in reading ’em.
Batwoman 1×20: “O, Mouse” review
It’s difficult to review this episode on its own merits. Just as it’s unfair to criticize Schindler’s List for not having enough jokes, or Airplane for not having anything to say about the human condition, it’s unfair to criticize “O, Mouse” for not living up to the position of importance that circumstances have put it in.
Like with Supergirl and The Flash, the Covid-19 pandemic forced Batwoman to shut down production before it could finish its season, with this being the last episode completed. Most of us knew that was coming, and had time to prepare for it. What almost no one was prepared for was the announcement that came two days after the episode aired, that Ruby Rose would not be returning to Batwoman for Season 2, and that the show would be recasting the role.
So not only is “O, Mouse” our farewell to this season of Batwoman, it’s our farewell to its lead actor and her version of Kate Kane. Had those events been planned for, you’d expect this episode to be a grand farewell, bringing the season’s storylines to an epic climax, give Rose’s Batwoman a big sendoff, and take some time to reflect on what this journey has meant before she goes riding off into the sunset.
That ain’t what we get, of course.
Which is a tad ironic, ‘cause normally Batwoman fits shocking revelations and major, dramatic shakeups into as many episodes as it can. I can think of at least two, possibly three episodes from earlier in the season that, had they been our impromptu season finale and goodbye to Ruby Rose? They would have felt entirely appropriate in the part, reaching an epic crescendo of action and emotion, making a big statement about what this character and this show are all about, and setting the series down a new, nothing-will-ever-be-the-same-again path.
Instead, what we get is a rarity for Batwoman: an episode that’s almost entirely standalone.
Oh, some major developments go down in Alice’s B-plot, and in Luke’s somedays-you-just-can’t-get-rid-of-a-Kryptonite-shard C-plot. But the main plot of the episode? It’s about our heroes fighting a new villain who has no connection to Alice or any other ongoing story, and whose own story is resolved pretty conclusively by episode’s end. This plot is used to exacerbate the conflict between Batwoman and the Crows, but not in that big a way. Them fighting each other isn’t that new, and it’s not like Jacob learns who Kate is or turns Sophie against her. This is one of only a handful of episodes this season which really does feel like it’s simply a day-in-the-life for Team Batwoman.
And yet …
The plot may be standalone. Nothing that major may have changed for our heroes by the time the credits role. It may not be trying to be a grand farewell extravaganza. Yet in the themes it tackles, this episode does, in fact, get to the core of what this season has been about, and makes as clear a statement as the show has yet about what it wants to say.
This season has been built around the idea of family, and whether it’s something determined by blood, binding people together regardless of their wishes, or whether it’s determined by your actions, by finding people who accept you and care for you and choose to be your family. The conflict between Kate and Alice, which has dominated the season, is built around that question.
Alice felt abandoned by her blood family, incensed that the connection they shared did not lead them to rescue her. In her rage at what she viewed as a betrayal, she rejected them, rejected the name they gave her, and built a new life and identity for herself with Mouse, the family that she chose and that chose her … yet she couldn’t let her connection to Kate and to Jacob go. Even as she insisted their bonds of family were dead, she inserted herself into their lives again and again, trying to rebuild those bonds even as her psychosis twisted them into something vile.
Kate, for her part, spent so long unable to let her connection to Beth go. Even after discovering Beth had become Alice, after seeing all the terrible things she’d done, Kate would, again and again, try to reach out to her, try to redeem her, try to make her family again. All this while Mary, who was a better and truer sister to her than Alice ever even pretended to be, was continually ignored or dismissed. It’s only recently that Kate’s begun to see how misguided her previous attitude towards family was, and begun to approach it in a different way.
This episode confronts Kate with what this new approach to family means. She begins the episode confident that she can patch up the differences between Batwoman and the Crows, because while the Crows may not know it, their boss is her father, and she believes eventually she’ll be able to bring him around, saying, “I know my dad.”
She says that to Mary, who needs to remind Kate, “He’s my dad, too.” Maybe not by blood, but he’s been a part of her family long enough, she also knows him quite well. Better, in this instance, than Kate does, as she can predict he’ll never back down from his crusade against Batwoman. Kate is confronted with this harsh truth as her own father orders her shot dead.
Thus she ends the episode with a glass of strong liquor in hand, trying to drown the sorrow of knowing that her father can never again be fully part of her life, that despite their bonds of blood, the paths each has chosen to follow will keep them apart. But what family Kate has lost in Beth and Jacob, she has found again, in Mary, and in Luke. As she tells them that, from now on, “No more secrets, not between us”, we see that Kate has come to see these two as her new family, the people who truly know her, who she can be herself with, and who will accept her as she is.
That’s a lesson Alice has never been able to learn. When forced to choose, between wreaking vengeance on her blood sister Kate, or living a peaceful life with her adopted brother Mouse, she chooses the former. She murders the only person left in this world who gives a damn about her, the only real family she has left, because she won’t abandon her ties of blood. To Alice, Kate will always be her family above all others. Even if their bond is no longer one of love, but one of hate, she will pursue it to the end, burn down the new life and new family she could have made for herself, because she simply can’t let her old family go.
It may not have been meant as a finale, it may not have the razzle-dazzle you’d hope for. But in laying out what this season has been about, what the conflict between Kate and Alice will truly mean when it finally comes to a head, this episode scores the highest of marks.
- Making the Batsuit’s one weakness be the same as Superman and Supergirl’s one weakness was … a weird choice. Based on this episode, it looks like the existence of Kryptonite is not common knowledge Post-Crisis, which at least explains why everyone here believes Lucius Fox had the world’s only piece of Kryptonite, while the Supergirl ep airing the same night has the stuff thrown around like crazy.
- I wonder if this Kryptonite connection will play into the promised Batwoman/Superman & Lois crossover next season.
- I get that the Batsuit’s bulletproof. I even sort of like it as a creative decision: since most fight scenes are going to turn into hand-to-hand combat anyway, why bother pretending that guns even matter? That said, it does seem weird that no one ever talks about aiming for that bit around the mouth and neck that the Batsuit doesn’t cover.
- Almost every week, I talk about how Rachel Skarsten hits it out of the park, and you think I’d be tired of saying it, but the scene of her saying goodbye to/murdering Mouse … damn, if she doesn’t make that scene work in all the ways it’s supposed to!
- It may not have been meant to be a season ending cliffhanger, but closing the episode on our first look at this universe’s Bruce Wayne? Not a bad moment to go out on.
- Anyone have thoughts on who they’d like to see play Kate Kane come Season 2?
Supergirl 5×19: “Immortal Kombat” review
Unlike The Flash and Batwoman, which had to end their seasons abruptly due to the Covid-19 shutdown, and unlike Legends of Tomorrow and Black Lightning, which were able to finish filming as planned, Supergirl had filmed enough scenes out of order that, when the shutdown occurred, it was able to stitch together a season finale out of footage that would have, if production had continued as planned, been featured across the next three episodes.
They couldn’t film everything they wanted in time, so there are still some untidy loose ends (Lex still being at large, Leviathan’s leader still being unseen, Brainy still being mid-death scene on a basement floor). Despite that, they were able to piece together an episode with the epic spectacle, whiz-bang action, impassioned speeches, end-of-the-world stakes, and climactic character moments we’ve come to expect from season finales. “Immortal Kombat” may be messier than what was planned, but it moves from big moment to big moment and from new idea to new idea fast enough, it makes for a wildly fun ride.
Still, it has its problems, problems that were likely exacerbated by the season order being cut short, but that I don’t think can be entirely laid at the shutdown’s feet, either.
As much as it can with the footage already shot, this episode is trying to wrap up all of the season’s ongoing storylines. The problem with that is, there’s a pretty stark division between the storylines from the Pre-Crisis episodes, which aired back in 2019, and those of the Post-Crisis eps that have aired in 2020. There are many storylines from those first eight episodes that, while not outright dropped in the Post-Crisis reality, were moved decidedly to the backburner.
There’s Leviathan, of course. In the first part of the season, they were set up as the big threat our heroes were worried about, whose latest scheme they needed to thwart. But after Crisis, the heroes were convinced Leviathan no longer existed in their new reality, so a threat that had previously been at the forefront was forced into the background, referenced only in Lex and Brainy’s C-plots, or in brief scenes with Gemma looking suspicious. It’s only now, in this episode, that Leviathan comes back to center stage and we get to see them being the sort of active villains they were earlier.
There’s also Andrea, who was similarly a big deal in the first part of the season, only to be sidelined after the winter break. Those early eps spent a lot of time developing Andrea: her relationship with Lena, her managing style as Kara’s boss, her ideas for transforming CatCo, and her role as Leviathan’s superpowered hitman. But Post-Crisis, Andrea developing superpowers and killing people for Leviathan never happened, and only comes back around here. We got one brief scene between Andrea and Lena Post-Crisis, used to establish how her backstory had changed, but I can’t think of a single other scene they’ve shared together between then and now. And it kinda feels like Andrea owning CatCo is something the writers just lost interest in, opting to have her focused on the VR lenses one-hundred percent of the time.
And then there are the Lena/Kara and Brainy/Nia relationships. Now, those relationships weren’t forgotten about Post-Crisis. They were clearly still something the story was being built around. But since the path those relationships took was to have the relevant characters separated from each other, that means we’ve had very few Lena/Kara or Brainy/Nia scenes in the last five months. This is something that would likely have been rectified had Supergirl finished its episode order, but as it stands, the switch from those pairings being barely present in this last stretch of episodes, to super-important in the finale, is jarring.
Supergirl has often had sudden plot shifts mid-season. In Season 2 we went from Cadmus being the main concern early in the season to the Daxamites in the later half. Same with the Children of Liberty giving way to Lex Luthor in Season 4. But this season the shift feels especially prominent.
It’s like the Pre-Crisis episodes established a lot of things as being super-important, the stuff the whole season was going to be built around, but sometime between filming Crisis on Infinite Earths and resuming regular production, they decided they weren’t interested in all that anymore. They weren’t ready to abandon what they’d set up; they assured us we’d get back around to Leviathan battles, Andrea redemptions, Brainy/Nia smooches, and Lena/Kara confrontations … eventually. But in the meantime, all of that was sidelined to such a degree, it now being the centerpiece of the finale feels awkward.
I should reiterate, this was still a fun enough finale, and does an admirable job providing closure to the season on such short notice. It’s just the storylines it’s providing closure to don’t feel like they’re what the season’s been about for quite some time.
- I’m going to assume that, in the planned conclusion for the season, there’d be some explanation about what exactly Gemma is and why she didn’t get shrunk like the rest of Leviathan.
- While she may be vaguely defined, I do like that, for her final Obsidian press event, Gemma just goes “Screw it” and shows up in her supervillain outfit.
- I may not have screamed in delight like Kara, but Alex’s superhero outfit does look rad. And in a world where a pair of eyeglasses can fool everyone, why not some deep purple eyeliner?
- Hopefully they take a break from the “hope speeches” next season. Once characters start relying on them like just another weapon in their arsenal, they lose a bit of their impact.
- Of course, I question whether they really needed a hope speech here, and not a simple statement of, “A supervillain has hijacked the system and is going to kill you all. Log off now if you want to live.” I’d think that’d be much more effective.
- “Shrink code”. There are sci-fi concepts so ridiculous they make your brain hurt (virtual reality food provides real calories, anyone?), and then there are sci-fi concepts so ridiculous, you can’t help put love how goofy they are. “Shrink code” is the latter.
Legends of Tomorrow 5×12: “I Am Legends” review
For most of this episode, it feels like Legends is simply stalling for time. The MacGuffins have all been collected, the bad guys have made their big move, the good guys are ready to go face them; everything is set for the story to reach a climax. So, to keep the season from coming to a premature end, we need to have Gary hide the MacGuffins, have Astra dither with the bad guys, and have the good guys get stuck in bumpkin country Britain without transportation. Yeah, it’s part of the joke that “immortal superheroes” are stuck waiting for a bus, or for a device to finish charging, but it still feels like a frustrating delaying tactic, like a contrivance just to stretch the story out a bit longer.
Until we get to the last act, and suddenly the whole story is reframed.
Through Sara (who calmly accepts her own impending death) and Astra (who comes to accept her mother’s death), we see that this episode has been about making peace with mortality so you can enjoy the good things in life while they last. But what is good in life? For the Legends, it’s traveling through time, having adventures, stealing stuff, hanging out with their friends, and making the world a better place. In other words, exactly what they’ve been doing all episode.
“I Am Legends”, then, is not about stalling, but about savoring. Watch this episode again, and you see it through Sara’s eyes, through the eyes of someone who knows this is all going to end in carnage, death, and betrayal. Through that perspective, it becomes oddly comforting how much this episode brims with classic Legends antics.
We’ve got an extended homage to a branch of pop-culture. A change in scenery, with matching wardrobe change. Inappropriately timed makeout sessions. John never getting to light that cigarette. Mick stealing stuff. Our heroes tangling with the law. Our heroes getting into a bar fight. Our heroes accidentally destroying civilization. At one point, there’s even a Wilhelm Scream!
The message of the episode is that what matters most isn’t how dark and bitter the end might be, but how many good memories you’ve racked up along the way. And it serves as its own proof of concept, leading us to one hell of a brutal climax, but littering the way there with all the shenanigans we’ve come to love from this show, so it can’t help feeling worth the trip.
It’s definitely an episode that plays better on rewatch than on first viewing, but with the added context of knowing where it’s all heading, it makes for a story that’s simultaneously a wildly fun madcap adventure and a poignant look at all we have to lose. Well played.
- I’m certainly glad Legends was able to finish filming before Covid shut everything down. Still, if they had shut down early, this would have made a pretty killer cliffhanger to go out on, wouldn’t it?
- I can give or take the John/Zari romance, but Charlie instantly realizing what those two were up to? That I am all here for.
- Gotta love the soldier who concludes “The super zombies have become sentient!” It’s both a totally insane and off-base conclusion, and yet makes far more sense than what’s actually happening.
- I think Nate may have steeled up more times this episode then he did for the entirety of Season 4.
- As the Legends were struggling to get to the Time Bureau safehouse, I couldn’t help wanting them to remember that, with the Air Totem, Zari should be able to fly (a use of her powers the show rarely bothers to utilize). Then again, she’s only just recently learned how to use the totem; trying to fly might result in a very painful landing.
- Any time Gideon appears in the flesh is a delight. Her being Gary’s ultra-supportive imaginary friend is a particular joy.
- I love how this episode casually destroys Britain with a zombie apocalypse, and no one really seems to care. Granted, they probably figure they can just undo the damage and bring everyone back to life once they get the seven Dragon Balls the Loom of Fate.
MVP of the Week: Lena Luthor
Her desperately trying to get back in Kara’s good graces, and being so transparently jealous of Alex’s relationship with Kara? It’s nothing short of adorkable.
Question of the Week: How are you hoping these shows handle their post-coronavirus returns?