It’s all about new friends, old scores, breakouts, and ancient history in this week’s CW/DC TV roundup.
Supergirl’s last two episodes have been balanced and entertaining, but sort of flat. There’s been action and drama and boatloads of foreshadowing and reference, but something has still been lacking and surprisingly enough I would say it was a real world element. “Welcome to Earth” succeeds at correcting that. It’s one thing for a series or episode to be topical, but “Welcome to Earth’s” plot manages to do that while still being contained within it’s own narrative. Despite Kara presenting a clear view of the events of the episode, “Welcome to Earth” gives equal ground to opposing viewpoints from characters that are both intelligent and autonomous despite being contrary (Lena and J’onn specifically.) The intelligent exploration of all the different perspectives of the argument gives the episode depth, but “Welcome to Earth” also increases the Supergirl universe in scale by revealing interesting locations and elements like the Science Police, Daxam, and an alien dive bar/safe haven right in National City. DC TV legend Lynda Carter guest stars as the President Olivia Marsdin, Floriana Lima joins the cast as DC Comics’ Det. Maggie Sawyer, and Chris Wood returns as DC Comics’ Mon El.
“The New Rogues” comes from the opposite direction as “Welcome to Earth” as the Flash family has increased, but the episode itself is far less ambitious. Rather than disrupting the momentum of the Flashpoint ripple, the lighter fare “The New Rogues” instead refreshes the tone to one that allows levity and chemistry over drama. While the seriousness of Flash’s last couple of outings have insured that we all know just how dire the consequences of Barry’s meddling are, it’s still worthwhile to see the series get back to what it does even better, and that’s character interactions. The Barry and Iris drama is presented as a worthwhile conflict, but it does so without being contrived or overly dramatic. In fact, it’s quite funny at times. It’s also interesting to see how both Barry and Harry’s (heh) characters have evolved, with one maturing and one immaturing (not sure if that’s actually a word, but it’s still accurate.) Nowhere is this more obvious than watching Jesse work and train alongside Barry. We can clearly see just how far Barry has come when compared to a far more green speedster. Lastly though is the villain, or in this case villains. The new rogues in question are DC Comics’ Mirror Master and Top (Grey Damon and Ashley Rickards respectively,) former members of a crew of criminals led by Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) they are now metahuman bank robbers with a score to settle…against Snart. This plot (with slight variations) has actually been done many times before, but they aren’t the main focus of the episode so the whole thing doesn’t live and die on them; and their powers are actually visually interesting, so while supplementary they are still a positive aspect of “The New Rogues.” But what I really took away from this episode was Caitlin’s final scene. Danielle Panabaker is finally getting a plot that is potentially interesting (that doesn’t revolve around a guy.) It only took two seasons…but better late than never.
Now then, on too more serious matters, case in point: “Penance.” Previews showcased this one as a jailbreak, but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. The broad strokes of the story divide this one in to three different plot-lines. Oliver goes to break John out of prison, Team Arrow Jr. tries to figure out Tobias Church’s grand plan, and Tobias Church enacts a grand plan. The jailbreak harkens back to a similar event from Oliver’s past as he tried to join the Bratva, but unlike the last episode that highlighted the twisted logic of the Bratva, this one focuses more on Oliver’s choices and their consequences. It reveals a darker side of Oliver which we’ve seen before though this time it thrives on reservation and subtlety, but it also highlights just how important his journey as the Green Arrow has been. The prison break, and the B-team sequence match up, and are both exhilarating with choreography and timing that reflects the benefit of their planning and skills. Having said that though, the episode does suffer from nagging problems, such as weird acting, flatly delivered lines, and a few editing snafus that mess up the pacing. None of this breaks “Penance” but it’s noticeable and occurs frequently enough to point out. It in no way outshines what the episode does right though. The team’s coming along, and their progression has been gradual enough to warrant all the vetting episodes that have taken place, but they are definitely not invincible. “Penance” ends with scars, some bigger than others. Not only does this fallibility kick-off the next episode but it also highlights the price of a life as a vigilante.
“Shogun” is just like a run of the mill “Japanese episode” from a basic 90’s era TV show. So much so that despite having a historian character, it’s completely ignorant of history; specifically where the episode’s main antagonist, “Tokugawa Iemitsu (Stephen Oyoung in this case)” is concerned. So, there’s a girl, Masako, she’s gonna have to marry Tokugawa who likes to murder his wives…alright, so they’re gonna have to do something about that…I guess. This episode did make me want to learn a bit more about the real Tokugawa Iemitsu, so I guess it’s educational in that way. By the way, he was a fascinating figure, I’d recommend doing your own research if you’re interested in the subject. But as I was saying, the glaring problem with “Shogun” is that it’s just so damn generic. Boring storyline, boring side characters, boring and contrived conflict and all of it is based in historical inaccuracy, clichés, and ignorance. The most offensive things about “Shogun” has nothing to do with the Legends themselves, but the little boxes that the episode tries to put them in. A forced romance between Masako and Nate, a sagelike mentor in Masako’s father, AND A WALK THROUGH CHERRY BLOSSOMS!? SERIOUSLY!? I can’t tell if “Shogun” is messing with me… Look the episode isn’t a complete dumpster fire. There’s an intriguing side-plot involving a hidden compartment on the Waverider and a message to Rip Hunter from an old friend, a conflict between Ray’s self worth and the worth of his armor, Sarah’s history as an assassin, Vixen’s distrust of Mick and just Mick…oh thank god for Mick. The problem is that none of these are the episode’s focus. Instead it’s this love plot that relies on one of the oldest Hollywood martial arts cliches, heroic white guy with a flowery asian love interest…who has a sagelike father. Ugh…did this come out of a can or something? Legends can and has done better than this, but speaking frankly “Shogun” is dull and lifeless.
Final Word: Supergirl has had a solid season thus far, but this week it received depth and clarity of intent. Kara as a character has long been established, but it was interesting to witness her Krypton borne prejudices firsthand. Interestingly enough, this was a much more clear interpretation of Krypton than even “For the Girl Who Has Everything” was last season. Flash came back in a big way this week to tell a story that was equal parts fun and intriguing. The way the characters of Mirror Master and Top were presented fit the mythos while paying homage to the comics, but they managed to do it while remaining true to the Flash’s tone and presentation. Arrow made a big deal about John’s return, and despite some trips it was all warranted. And then Legends came along and sucked pretty hard, but it did plant some seeds that could turn in to very interesting plants…er story-lines; only time will tell of course. If there’s one thing you can take away from this week, it’s that Supergirl is hinting at a big universe that Legends is supposedly steeped in. So Legends of Tomorrow either has to come back with a new trick, or think up something that’s not only different but better.