It’s cage matches, kaiju, assassination, zombies and racism in this week’s CW/DC TV roundup
“Hello Megan!” This is an exciting entry to Supergirl’s already pretty outstanding cast of characters, as Sharon Leal enters the cast as the Last Daughter of Mars, M’gann M’orzz. However, anyone who reads comics, or has seen their fair share of “Young Justice” might already have figured out the big twist at the end. This leads up to an interesting point though that seems to have become a problem with stoking narrative flames in shows like this; when plot-points designed to create tension involving characters and aspects from the comics really are just self-fulfilling prophecies. Supergirl does provide a valid point to their merit with characters acting and reacting to these specific moments. After all, if it wasn’t for the characters, we would have no reason to keep coming back. “Survivors” has no problem leveraging this truth by putting the focus on the characters. The episode has a very clear major conflict, but the true merit comes from the exploration of the struggles between the players. Kara continues to butt heads with Snapper (but he is written with wit and intelligence, so it’s easy to identify his position.) Mon El and Kara are still trying to the find common and steady ground, Alex wrestles with her feelings for and about Maggie, and J’onn fights to get closer to M’gann. All these aspects of the episode provide valuable insight in to the characters’ perspectives, as well as equally valuable challenges that allow “Supergirl’s” cast to show a lot of different layers. Here’s the but though. The fight club gets practically no meaningful development, nor does it benefit from those aforementioned layers. “Roulette” a DC comics character played by Dichen Lachman is passable, but terribly uninteresting and poorly motivated. Sure they’re steeped in a lot of potentially deep themes buried there about loneliness, slavery, and survival, but it’s a sure sign the big bloodsport plot isn’t working when you feel more tension by the combatants talking than fighting.
The Flash decided to switch gears back to the serious for “Monster” and it ends up being an unprecedented success. Basically, there’s a monster in Central City and Team Flash is at a loss for identifying it’s very specific patterns of movement and attack. Luckily they have the new Harrison Wells, HR, to help them with his brilliant observations. I never cease to be amazed and how many different kinds of characters Tom Cavanagh can seem to play. His performance as HR sent my contact embarrassment in to overdrive though, making him a very authentic but equally unsettling presence for “Monster.” That being said, the twist relating to his abilities was probably the easiest thing to figure out about the episode. HR may be a standout in “Monster” but there are two mind-blowing aspects to the episode that I just have to gush over a little bit. Firstly, Caitlin is evolving as a character. Her complicated comic history is starting to play a bigger part, but there’s a really menacing and conflicting story relating to that evolution that will certainly make her much more intriguing, moving forward. If “Monster” is any indication to what direction that evolution is moving, it might even leverage her unfortunate role as a victim/damsel/target that she’s been saddled with in the past to fuel her unpredictable future, and complicate her alignment. I also think by showcasing the complicated relationship Caitlin has with her mother (played by Susan Walters,) the episode succeeds in making us question whether or not we really know Caitlin’s capabilities or motivations as a character. I don’t think I’ve ever even talked that much about anything happening with Caitlin to be honest, but astonishingly enough, she still doesn’t get top accolades for the episode. That honor goes to none other than Thomas Felton as Julien Alpert. I can’t say I expected this one. I’ve seen Tom Felton do evil and even complex, but he was always under someone’s thumb. His role as Alpert has shown him as a controlling figure, but “Monster” flips that expectation on his head by showcasing his character’s naked vulnerability and motivation. This switch has happened before, even on The Flash,but, and I can’t stress this enough, Felton nails it. The one thing that makes the episode work all around is Julien Alpert. His character, his past, his motivation it all ties in to “Monster’s” greater themes. Felton works alongside Gustin beutifully, and in the end that friction between the two starts to slowly morph in to chemistry. Julien Alpert is starting to look like a far more interesting character than what was previously anticipated, and “Monster” is the first sign of that.
Now we’re back to self-fulfilling prophecies… Luckily “Human Target” doesn’t try to linger too long on Oliver’s *assassination.* After all, besides being a DC comics character since 1972, Human Target has already appeared twice on network TV, so if you aren’t all that familiar with the mythos behind Christopher Chance, you probably at least have a passing familiarity with the character. Now here he is yet again under the Arrowverse umbrella, this time played by Wil Traval of “Jessica Jones”. His skill set is closer to how it works in the comics, and this ends up being a good fit for Arrow, but the episode doesn’t take a sufficient amount of time to really get in to the specifics of his particular expertise. It’s an avenue worth exploring, so we can only hope that he’ll show up again in a future episode to give us a better view of Chance’s character, but “Human Target” does whet the appetite for it’s possibilities. Chance is only a very small part of “Human Target” though. What surprised me the most about the episode is its finality. This is the suddden end of one chapter of the Arrow saga, and the immediate beginning of another. It all works on its foundations with very few frills or sidetracking, and as a result the episode suffers on a stylistic level. The no nonsense attitude of “Human Target” makes it efficient and level, but not nearly as entertaining as some episodes past. Which is surprising because it’s still a very important episode. To watch it you might not even realize that the episode is one of the season’s milestones, but there it is; the sudden and unexpected turn of the page.
Out of all the episodes of the week, this one has got to be the weirdest. Not the best, not even actually inherently bad like “Shogun” but so completely bizarre that it feels weird to write it out. “Abominations” is a civil war era zombie episode, but it’s mostly about the triumph of the African American spirit. You might wonder, why there are zombies in the first place. That’s a very good question. There are a lot of positive things for this installment of Legends to say, and all of them are worth saying, but it’s all buried under all the obligatory zombie cliches. I realize the distraction of the zombies is a necessary evil, as it’s the inciting incident, but it’s definitely not the most thought provoking or worthwhile aspect to explore in the episode. Franz Dremeh’s realization of the realities of civil war era slavery were mind-blowing, but the shambling hordes are always waiting on the outskirts of the episode ready to plunge everything right back in to familiar (VERY FAMILIAR) territory, as the characters will be forced to run away, and scramble for cover, and shoot the zombies in the head, or get eaten and do all the things that zombie survivalists do and we’ve constantly seen zombie survivalists do and just ugh… This was the single most potentially interesting episode of the season thus far, and it’s just so steeped in generic zombie cliches that it makes the sincere attempts to present the hideousness of historical racism through the eyes of a modern black male (while politely ignoring the persistence of racism during Vixen’s time) a sidenote to a lower quality Walking Dead (hell CW’s own iZombie had a better mini-apocalypse.) Like “Shogun,” “Abominations” is yet another missed opportunity, but at least this one had its heart in the right place.
Final Word: Supergirl has characters that are making the stories more interesting than they have any right to be. Introduction of new plot elements from the comics are creating the appearance of tension though, but this is a problem that’s more widespread than all that. Flash nailed it this week by not only giving two characters that have received no attention something to do, they revealed starting points for evolution for those characters with a promise to explore those paths. One of those characters was Caitlin…better late than never I suppose. Arrow suddenly ended a chapter that it had been building up since it’s first episode of the season. The episode doesn’t take any chances, but as a result doesn’t make any meaningful mistakes. The introduction of Christopher Chance is interesting, but left wanting. It’s not boring, but more often than not “Human Target” is minimally affecting. Finally, Legends of Tomorrow sets out to talk about racism and zombies and gets caught up on the zombies. Great performances are overshadowed by tired cliches and boring motivations, severely watering down the meaningful aspects of a retrospection of civil war era America. Flash rocks it again this week, with Legends lagging at the very back once again. Hardly as bad as they have done, but once again a painful hit when they can do so much better.