It’s Evil-Ravi, Emo Barry, and Super Saiyan Edward Snowden in this week’s CW/DC TV roundup!
Supergirl: 2:18 “Ace Reporter”
Kara has run through the petty street crime supply in National City, and so as her friends and colleagues take the time off to catch up on their respective work, she’s earned/cursed herself with a day off. Cue Lena Luthor, who invites the newly unemployed Kara to attend a keynote held by one of Lena’s old flames, Jack Spheer (DC Comics’ Biomax) with guest star Rahul Kohli playing the character against his current role as lovable sidekick Ravi on iZombie. Obviously the killing the whistle-blower before they can reveal the dark secret of the supposed scientific marvel is nothing new, but Supergirl does take it to a dark extreme. The fact that it happened in such close proximity to Kara makes it much more personal, which successfully explains why Kara is so driven as the episode continues. However, the episode tries to do this close-proximity attack trick twice, and poor staging and protagonist-power keeps the second one from working out as well as the first did. Regardless, it’s all still very menacing and Rahul Kohli, despite playing such an standard supervillian, comes out with a convincingly intelligent mania as well as likable magnetism as Jack Spheer. Katie McGrath once again sells this one, as the truly hurt and aggrieved party, in a way that’s at this point second nature to her character of Lena. The episode remarkably good work at building Jack and Lena’s past with exposition blended in to believable enough dialogue. “Ace Reporter” tries to throw the scent off of the twist behind Jack Spheer’s motivations for the murders, but it’s pretty easy to tell early on that he’s the red herring. This is even confirmed by some last minute dialogue laying the groundwork just before the reveal. It’s still sincerely acted, which makes it even more unfortunate that it doesn’t quite work. It does however build on the villain that Lena will most likely become, if her dialogue at the end is any indication. As the series pushes her character more and more, it’s easy to see her breaking point is clearly in sight. Two storylines run parallel to the main one, James and Winn attempting to induct Lyra successfully in to their duo despite her volatility and Kara trying to mend fences with Snapper. Both are good for different reasons, but it’s worth noting the emotional weight of Kara’s attempts to be the reporter she wants to be, thanks in no small part to Ian Gomez who gives the storyline just the right amount of resistance to make it believable as well as empowering.
The Flash: 3:19 “The Once and Future Flash”
Flash rears back for a crushing emotional blow this week as a future without Iris is even more bleak than Barry, or we, previously thought. With the past officially off limits, Barry looks to the future to find the identity behind the moniker of “The God of Speed.” What he finds instead are his greatest fears realized in a Central City without a Flash. This episode gives fans a lot of love as Flash returns from its almost month long hiatus. Two Flashes, the return of Mirror Master and Top, and Tom Cavanagh’s directorial debut for the series. Firstly, Grant Gustin plays two versions of Barry Allen with enough space in between them to pull out the nuances, aside from the specifically Squall-like hair. The transformation here is much more effective than depressed and one-armed Ollie from Legends of the Tomorrow’s what-if future scenario because Gustin’s version of Barry from the future is so different from the past. The night and day comparison really shows off the crater of Barry’s personality that Iris’ death left behind. His chilling and despondent dialogue, especially that relating to Savitar’s inevitable defeat really puts his damaged psyche in to perspective, making the need to save Iris all the more dire. How well Gustin does in his dual-role only acts as the measure though for how phenomenally Carlos Valdes owns his role in “The Once and Future Flash.” The real victim of Barry’s misery after Iris death is clearly Cisco. He acts as the guide to showing Barry what became of the rest of the team, which has a bit of a “It’s a Wonderful Life” vibe (ha! Vibe!) but Cisco’s losses are made all the more evident by his desperation for Barry’s help in seeking out what they lost as a team. Seeing what became of Wally, Joe, and Caitlin is difficult, but Cisco’s strained optimism even the face of such a grim fate is staggering. Some cool visual effects, a funny approach to HR’s placement in the future, a short yet satisfying fight, and a tease and Savitar’s true identity that will most likely be revealed in the next episode round out this rock-solid episode of The Flash.
Arrow: 5:19 “Dangerous Liaisons”
Arrow makes for a welcome return in an episode that’s all about lines. When we first see the team, they are in the process of trying to track down Adrian, and when they’re lead just turns out to be fun and games for the psychopath on the lam, the team is forced to confront a totally cold trail. However, Felicity has a plan in motion that will get team Arrow a magic hacker-thing that they can use to locate Adrian. Unfortunately there’s a giant black-op sized wall between hacker-thing and them, and with Helix fully prepared to cross that obstacle to rescue a detained cybersupercriminal, the team is less than amicable on how they should proceed; with Felicity believing the reward is worth the price and Oliver and Diggle not wanting Felicity to have to cross that line in to extremely extralegal territory (some people might even call it treason.) I have to applaud the episode for putting Felicity against the rest of the team in an actual mission, because her addition to the team and skills have always been a key ingredient to their success. Unfortunately, their definition of “the dark-side” doesn’t exactly consider all the factors. Yes Helix does commit a murder, (which Team Arrow has done), they want to break a person out of technically illegal detainment (which Oliver did *this* season), and they use morally and legally questionable intel and surveillance to pull off their mission (which is also a mainstay of Team Arrow). So Oliver’s attempts to define Felicity losing her soul, don’t make a lot of sense in context and sort of unravels the entire argument between them. Diggle’s on the other hand, had a lot of weight and needed more development. Instead of jumping on the SS Topical (like Supergirl) though, the thread chugs along on pure development as Lyla and Diggle attempt to reconcile her questionable choices as the Director of Argus with Jiminy Diggle’s full time role as Oliver’s conscience. I’m not actually trying to bash this development between Lyla and Diggle though. In fact, I appreciate that it’s even an issue between them. But delegating this moral conflict between duty and authority and justice and idealism to a background plot doesn’t give the theme a sufficient look, and I think that’s a wasted opportunity when you consider that the theme of the episode seems to be “lines.” Renee’s storyline with Lance also feels a little bit forced and overly saccharine, but the fatherhood link between them manages to come full circle and meet a satisfying thematic conclusion. These missed opportunities and muddied intentions all blur the picture but taken at face value, “Dangerous Liaisons” does commit to being entertaining. Everyone is able to stay on the rails, so it’s not difficult to reach the same conclusions the episode does, it just may take more casual attention and a minor feat of suspension of disbelief.
Final Word: A good week for the superheroes of the CW though. Supergirl didn’t overextend itself on plot, but a guest appearance by Rahul Kohli and Katie McGrath’s Lena Luthor taking some character building hits keeps this standard fare from going stale. Meanwhile, Kara’s recent employment troubles are quietly solved thanks to the return of Ian Gomez as Snapper Carr in a once again small but necessary role. The Flash hit all the right notes thanks to a contrastastic performance from Grant Gustin as a emotionally defeated Barry and an equally or possibly greater sad smile performance by Carlos Valdes as a tragically optimistic Cisco. The episode is hard to watch in all the best ways but “The Once and Future Flash” masterfully mixes the good with the bad to create a dark tone that somehow manages to dig out a small but significant sliver of hope. Arrow on the other hand delivered a stable episode but can’t get a handle on pesky flaws buried in the narrative. It’s still easy to see where the episode is going, and follow along with the proceedings, so the message still comes across by the end. Flash is the clear winner here, though I’m tempted to revoke the honor for the incredibly annoying end of “The Once and Future Flash.” Then again, they’ve definitely got my attention. Maybe the fact that I’m so engaged by discovering the villain’s identity (even though this is the third season and the third time they’ve done this) is proof-positive of how well they’re doing. Bravo, Flash. You win. Now tell us who Savitar is! ><