Lot of episodes this week, so let’s not waste any time!
Legends of Tomorrow 6×02: “Meat: The Legends”
Last week was all setup for the season ahead, so this episode jumped straight into doing a traditional case-of-the-week.
This was about as by-the-numbers as Legends get. It’s not even the first time they’ve gone to the 1950’s and spoofed old monster movies (heck, it’s not even the second; anyone remember “Night of the Hawk” from Season 1?). But that comfortable formula was needed, ‘cause this ep was dealing with three new paradigms:
- Spooner is now part of the Legends.
- Aliens are now our baddies du jour.
- Sara is now off in her own side adventure (with Gary).
We needed to see how these played out in the course of a typical episode, if the show can still deliver its usual fun with these changes in the mix.
And I’d say they did a bang up job!
- Spooner is hardly my favorite (yet) but she’s proving to be interesting and has some nice dynamics with the other characters. Her learning exactly the wrong lesson from her pep talk with Ava (but Ava just rolling with it anyway) was a hoot.
- I love how we spent the last season dealing with the Legions of Hell and the Fates of Greek Mythology, and this season we’re dealing with space aliens, and neither feels at all out of place on this show.
- While I hope Sara isn’t separated from the Legends all season, seeing her in a slow burn mystery plot on an alien world, while Ava gets to step up as captain in her absence? I’m liking it.
Plus, I can’t help but love an episode-long homage to The Stuff.
- Spooner totally frequents Children of Liberty message boards, doesn’t she?
- Speaking of which, I’m calling it now: between her initial kill-all-aliens attitude, and Gideon not finding the source of her powers, it’s gonna turn out that Spooner is an alien herself.
- Zari 1.0 cameo!!! It’s so great they were able to get her actress to come back for such a short scene.
Batwoman 2×13: “I’ll Give You a Clue”
Is it wrong that I just want more Batwoman eps like this one?
This show has swung for some high fences in the past, going for intense psycho-drama and ripped-from-the-headlines social commentary. But, if I’m being honest? Having the characters go on an adventure, solve puzzles, escape death traps, and tangle with wackadoodle bad guys … I might be okay if we just got 22 episodes of that a year.
This may be my favorite episode of Season 2 so far (only other contender is the Zsasz ep), and that’s because it’s largely a break from both the season’s story arc and its main thematic concerns. Our baddie here isn’t someone with deep ties to Batwoman or Alice, nor is he a representative of social ills. He’s just a disgruntled gameshow host who wants to prove he’s smarter than everyone, and does so in as flamboyant a manner as possible. And it’s a hoot! Add in some textbook butt-heads-then-learn-to-work-together character growth, and I’m not really sure you need anything else.
And, I’ll be honest, so far I’ve found Javicia Leslie only passable when she’s playing Ryan as grim and intense. It’s when she plays Ryan’s carefree, excitable moments that she really brings the charisma.
Plus, this ep got Mary directly involved in the case of the week, which always earns extra goodwill from me.
I’m sure we’ll be back to the dark and intense Black Mask/Safiyah/Alice plots soon enough, but as much as they can in the episodes remaining: more of this, please.
- Maybe not a good idea to have Batwoman call out the Crows for their unethical behavior mere seconds after she threatened to break a suspect’s bones. Like, I legit can’t tell if the writers are building to Ryan realizing she’s Not So Different from the Crows, or if it’s just cognitive dissonance: that they wanted this season to speak out against police brutality, but never drew a connection between that and how they depict superhero brutality.
Black Lightning 4×11: “The Book of Reunification: Chapter Two”
I don’t usually have a whole lot to say about Black Lightning here. It’s not that there isn’t stuff to talk about, but this season is very much in hyper-serialized mode, where each episode is focused on laying building blocks in the season-long story. As such, I’ve mainly been waiting to see how this all wraps up before making up my mind about anything.
But with only two more episodes left … I’m starting to get worried. ‘Cause with what’s in play right now, I’m not sure if they have the tools to deliver a satisfying series finale. The season so far has neither felt particularly grand in stakes, nor has it felt like a particularly deep dive into the characters. Well, during the first half of the season, it looked like they might be going the character heavy route, with lots of psychological counseling, aftereffects of trauma, and Jefferson refusing to become Black Lightning again. But now that’s all been either dropped or resolved, and it kinda feels like they’re just ticking off plot beats, without a sense that we’re building to anything special.
What this back half of the season has been best at is building hype for a Painkiller spinoff. The guy’s got panache, and the setup for him and Ishmael to duel has definitely got me excited. I just hope the inevitable Pierces v. Whale battle proves worthy, too.
- There’s a vein of radioactive metal underneath Freeland. That’s concerning. Especially since the series is almost over; the whole city getting blown up or irradiated could legitimately happen now.
- Tobias has an immortal gangster with a grudge against him encased in concrete and sitting in his living room, where any superpowered attack against him is liable to break him free to unleash great vengeance and furious anger. This guy has just never heard of hubris, has he?
The Flash 7×09: “Timeless”
This was …
This was an episode where I applaud the ambition of what The Flash was going for, but they just did not have the proper setup to make it work.
If the New Forces introduced this season had all been like the Speed Force, cosmic entities who have taken human form so they can act on Earth? Then this could have been dynamite. Barry would be trying to prevent their creation with the best of intentions, but slowly comes to realize that, while they may not be human, they are still living, feeling beings, beings he created. When Barry and Wells watch the birth of the Forces, it creates a genuine sense of awe, that we’re seeing something new and wondrous coming into the world, leading to the conclusion that it’s wrong to deny them their existence.
But that’s not how the New Forces have been set up. Instead, their exact nature has been muddled by bonding them to human avatars. It’s thus left unclear whether the Forces have identities or personalities of their own, or if they’re simply bundles of energy that give people superpowers, no different from a chunk of dark matter. It’s hard to get onboard with Iris and eventually Barry referring to the Forces as their children, talking about how they have a right to exist, when the show hasn’t given any clear evidence that the Forces are actual people.
And even if you approach it from the “stripping people of their superpowers, even villains, is unacceptable” angle, it’s still unclear if that’s what’s happening, given the timey-wimey nature of Barry’s plan. If he’d gone through with it, would Deon and Psych suddenly find themselves without their powers? Or would it be that they’d never had their powers in the first place, so there’d be no sense of loss to deal with?
This episode aims big, and has an interesting idea behind it, but it just assumes the audience will share its view on what the Forces are what preventing their creation will do, despite never demonstrating for the audience why they should think that. Which (for me at least) leaves it a frustrating mess.
- I will say, the scene where Deon showed up at Star Labs? That was a fantastic bit of understated menace. Makes me hope they do a lot more with the character, and don’t just have the Nora Force kill him between episodes.
- It feels like Iris has lost sight of the fact that the Speed Force and Nora Allen aren’t actually the same person. Either that or the writers have. Not sure.
Supergirl 6×07: “Fear Knot”
I’ll admit, part of me was disappointed by this episode of Supergirl. This is a “characters’ worst fears are brought to life” episode. Those are often a goldmine for character development, revealing surprising truths about who these people are and how they see both themselves and the world. But all the worst fears on display here … they’re pretty basic; they don’t tell us anything about the characters that we didn’t already know or couldn’t easily guess (except for Brainy’s balloon fear, which was delightful).
However, what the Phantom induced visions lacked in character detail, they made up for as a tool of suspense. When Alex’s worst fear starts up, there’s nothing to indicate we’ve switched from reality over to a hallucination. Even when she locks up J’onn and causes disaster for the mission … it may be a stupid and contrived course of action, but this show is no stranger to stupid and contrived actions in the name of drama. Despite being warned about the Phantoms’ fear abilities earlier, I one hundred percent bought that this was reality.
It’s only when Lena’s ten minutes got going that I realized what was happening. So we got to see everything escalate to 11 in Alex’s story, but then got an explanation that makes sense of it all, while also establishing that the Super Friends are screwed in a very different way.
After rewinding time once or twice more, we got to Nia’s fear hallucination, and in a brilliant touch, they start hers off with a prophetic dream. That adds a whole new wrinkle to the suspense, since we’re now wondering if the dream was part of the hallucination, or if it was warning Nia about the hallucination, and might help her work her way out of it.
And when we get to J’onn at the end, it may look like he’s unaffected, but so much of what he’s seeing (Phantom breaching containment, everyone else taken out, Phantoms attacking the ship) was also part of everyone else’s hallucinations, we can’t help wondering whether this is yet another fakeout.
Overall, this episode did a fantastic job of constantly creating suspense and mystery about what’s real and what’s not, and just how screwed our characters really are. If they’d also had some imaginative and insightful takes on the characters’ fears, this could have been a top tier episode of Supergirl. As is, it makes for a very strong closing chapter to the Phantom Zone story arc.
- So … Supergirl is going to be on hiatus until August frickin’ 24th while Superman & Lois takes over its timeslot. That seems like a horrifically long mid-season break, especially since we only just got Kara reunited with her friends. But given the season till now has been focused on the Phantom Zone story, which is now (hopefully) over, it might be better to think of these last seven episodes as a very short Season 6, and when the show returns in the fall, to think of those thirteen episodes as Season 7.
Question of the Week: What’s your favorite Arrowverse origin story?