It’s “The Supergirl Defense”, Miles Dyson, and the Arrow-Tomb in this week’s CW/DC TV roundup!
Supergirl: 2:19: “Alex”
How I love when Supergirl’s crusade against injustice remains contained in a hypothetical/fictional situation. This might be an obvious one, but superheroes/vigilantes VS a state funded police force er…service. Now, every single superhero show has touched this one, because as soon as superheroes enter the plan, this particular elephant drops right in to the narrative to shake up that good old suspension of disbelief, but here’s what Supergirl did right to make this more than just another conversation about vigilante justice. One: Showed the situation from an outside yet still personally sympathetic perspective and two: factored in that perspective’s (Maggie’s) personality and character to mount a reasonable and let’s face it, compelling argument. Basic gist: superheroes are most effective outside of the law, but that also means that every situation ends with violence. You think Bruce Wayne hides his identity to protect Alfred? No, it’s because a couple thousand insurance claims and lawsuits would easily deplete that Wayne fortune. I’m being cynical. In all actuality Maggie’s argument makes sense from a practical standpoint when you consider police training for not just combat and self defense, but strategy and hostage negotiation. Of course the tension between Kara and Maggie only gets thicker when the plot kicks in and Alex is kidnapped, turning the episode in to a Tony Scott thriller as tense cuts, rotating shots, and shaky cams unsettle the tone. These directorial tricks set the stage, but “Alex” relies on strong performances from Melissa Benoist and Floriana Lima as Kara and Maggie to keep the tension taut. Despite having an imposing presence like Gregg Henry as inmate for life Peter Thompson, it’s David Hoflin as Rick Malverne (and his interrogation scene in particular) that keeps the stakes high. His taunting of Kara is convincing as reasoning for her emotional state only deteriorating, making Maggie’s instinct and training as a detective and police officer instrumental to their success (and not so coincidentally proving her already valid point from the opening scene.) Despite the show being about Supergirl, this episode proves how limited and short-sighted idealism can be in the grand scheme of things. This was a heavy salvo for the “Supergirl” philosophy, but the show’s willingness to point out flaws in its own formula speaks volumes about its ability to adapt and improve. Meanwhile, a parallel story involving Lena acts as the secondary focus as yet another matriarchal figure preys on her for personal gain. As painful as it is to watch, it’s equally impressive to witness Rhea’s transformation from larger than life killer queen to tech savvy businesswoman. This version of the character is a better fit for Teri Hatcher, without losing a bit of menace. It’s a wise decision to bring Rhea down to earth, so to speak (though tragically short-lived) It’s writing well done though, as Lena’s considerable intelligence is used as reasoning enough for her attention to detail and ability to adapt and verify without tipping her hand.
The Flash: 3:20 “I Know Who You Are”
We now know who Savitar is. While I can’t say I wasn’t ready to settle on this answer, it always made the most sense to me. By the beginning of the third act, it’s easy to call it out with a fair amount of confidence though. Still, it’s not so much the who that’s all that important but the why. “Why” is absolutely everything. Savitar’s suit could be full of puppies for all I care, if they could explain it. (“Speed dogs!”) The why is still a mystery, sadly. The actual why, anyway. The episode does give a quick and dirty “without love” reason that answers no questions but seems to satisfy Barry enough to figure it out. All this is shoved in to the last page of the script, and since it was the main selling point of the episode I wanted to get it out of the way first. Meanwhile, the “I Know Who You Are” is more along the lines of Terminator 2 in actual plot, and knows that enough to point it out all on its own. Team Flash attempts to rescue genius scientist and inventor Tracy Brand from the newly deputized Savitar lackey, Killer Frost, without causing any permanent harm to their former colleague and friend. Obviously this episode takes the heavily trodden road of finding the future savior at a crossroads in their life between success and ambition and failure and surrender, and as much as I want to lampoon this cliche I found myself connecting to Anne Dudek as Tracy Brand, for exhibiting the very qualities I connect to “The Flash” for. Namely: naive idealism, reverence for scientific discovery, and charming yet innocuous clumsiness. She fits in so well to the show’s paradigm that it wouldn’t surprise me if she turned traitor, or ended up as a plant for a villain later on. In fact, her interactions with HR raise both of their characters’ stock, since she’s on the same wavelength and able to keep up with Tom Cavanagh’s energy. So Tracy Brand is great, but the inconsistencies with the villainous antagonist Killer Frost (yeah…her) leave much to be desired. They pile up in ways that show the plot working against the show’s established rules. For one, the ice powers make no sense. I’m not talking about the ice-slide thing which, for what it was, looked fairly integrated; but how is freezing air (like air literally able to freeze things) just knocking people back? What makes this inconsistency worse is just how little of Caitlin is being portrayed by Danielle Panabaker, making the usual conflicted mind conflicted powers explanation so ineffective to reason her uneven abilities. I should clarify though, my problems with Killer Frost are solely narrative. Danielle Panabaker does own this version of the character. There’s sincerity, but it’s her ability to be aloof (cold…ugh) that leaves an impression; specifically her chilling (oh jeez, it just never ends) mockery of Barr’ys speech. However, Cisco’s explanation for his power fluctuations are sold with a bit more consistency, and Carlos Valdes once again hits a high emotional bar, giving Cisco’s breakthrough visual, along with narrative, context.
Arrow: 5:20: “Underneath”
Like most arguments with significant others, this one is just an extension of last week’s. The episode opens with two familiar arguments between two different couples. Felicity and Lyla are having important arguments about the state of things with Oliver and Diggle, respectively. Felicity and Oliver (while not actually a couple) argue about Oliver still refusing to stand behind Felicity’s decisions and “plays” and it only takes a twenty foot fall on to an exposed bolt to get him to budge. Diggle on the other hand continues to actively disapprove of Lyla’s actions as the director of ARGUS, despite his current extracurriculars also taking liberties with the law. Meanwhile, there’s a bigger problem than human resources and marital issues to work through and that’s the fact that the new high tech Arrow Cave has become a crypt, thanks to an EMP set off by Adrian Chase, locking Felicity and Oliver in with not connection to the outside and very few resources…also they’re running out of air. I appreciate that the episode didn’t waste time with the other members wondering where they were, instead they just immediately go in to troubleshoot mode. It’s all hands on deck with this one, which makes the reliance on ARGUS doubley awkward for Diggle. The best thing about claustrophobic episodes like this is that they allow for a deeper level of characterization thanks to the intimacy of the setting, which works conveniently since Oliver and Felicity were just in the middle of a very personal discussion about trusting each other and working together. I like the way that the episode piles on in convincing ways, but also has the characters looking at solutions. Proactive, yes. Intelligent and resourceful, absolutely; I’d expect nothing less. Easy? Hell no. “Underneath” makes the danger believable by putting intense physical strain on the characters. This was not an easy resolution, but by the end it’s clearly worth it. The characters experience growth and reconciliation that is not insubstantial, and they go through a gauntlet to do it. “Underneath” is a small and satisfying victory with compromise and closure that is long overdue. A new threat emerges by the episode’s end, but everything up until that point would still be considered a good day.
Yet another good week, with questions answered and incredible personal character driven stories for three of the best CW shows currently airing. Each played on intimate details about the different characters to deliver stories that cut deep. “Alex” played with the practical fictional dynamic between law enforcement and superheroes and used an appropriate character as the lens to do so. It also further strengthened the bond between Maggie and Alex, and addressed the rivalry for Alex’ support between Kara and Maggie. The way Maggie worked the “case” also speaks to the flaws inherent in the Supergirl formula and mythos and it takes real guts to be able to address that in real time. Flash introduced a new character with all the makings of a great Flash ally and effectively turned a former ally in to a deadly enemy. While there still needs to be a substantial internal episode relating to Killer Frost/Caitlin Snow this one was visually interesting and oh yeah it reveals the biggest mystery of the season, but we’ll still have to wait to see how they actually handle that one. Arrow repaired bridges between Oliver and Felicity in a way that surprisingly didn’t pander to their not so silent shippers. The moral arguments were a continuation from last week, but the fact that they still have to be addressed just goes to show their importance to the characters as they work to find trust and validation from their allies for the morally grey decisions they make for a greater good. All three episodes of the week brought down their titular hero emotionally and played with intimacy, whether it be physical or emotional. I wanted to give the week to “Alex” due to the every-day yet deeply rooted identity of the villain and the way Maggie and Alex’ relationship was strengthened, but I’ve gotta give it to “Underneath.”
I’ve never been big on the OIllicity thing, but their chemistry in undeniable and the episode looks at their relationship from a much more mature and well thought out perspective, rather than just switching between saccharine fairy-tale and late 90’s WB melodrama, like it has in the past. Their emotional and practical situation evolves at an even pace, and the solutions they develop, both inside and outside of the bunker, are creative, technical, and tense. Best of all, “Underneath” has closure for Oliver and Felicity. That’s like seventy-percent of what makes it so satisfying.