It’s the second amendment, Drago, and Ronald Reagan in this week’s CW/DC TV roundup.
Supergirl takes on a group of criminals with powerful guns provided to them by Cadmus. Based on Supergirl’s usual M.O., there was a way to make this episode political, and you can bet they went this route, by taking aim at gun control this time. It’s especially surprising to see Supergirl swing so far to the left given the current political climate, but what the hell. I mean they’ve done a good job of presenting intelligent and three dimensional arguments within their narrative so far, what are the chances they’ll get it wrong? Well, “Crossfire” is the answer to that. Instead of devising intelligent opposition for the gun debate, “Crossfire” introduces a group of drooling psychopaths to be manipulated by a conspiracy to create an atmosphere of fear and discontent among the populace by Cadmus. Whereas the previous episode, which I absolutely praised, “Welcome to Earth” contained the subtext in the narrative, “Crossfire” is a bit too meta to contain its own argument, revealing its hand way too early and invalidating its own position. From a story standpoint though, I found a lot of sub-plots that agreed with the context of the series rather than the correlation with the real world. Mon-El trying to decide what kind of “human” he would be did add some interesting aspects to the identity of the series, putting the changes Kara had experienced as a teenager from Krypton to Earth in the proper context. The symbolism of Jimmy’s camera’s destruction aside, this is definitely a worthwhile point of origin for Jimmy’s superhero persona of Guardian, not to mention the fact that Mehcad Brooks might actually have an appropriate niche in the series as he exhibits a proficiency with action. Finally though, and what I believe is most important, is Alex’s struggle with her own feelings about Maggie. This is a real make it or break it moment that puts a lot of weight on the sensitivity of the uncertainty of sexual identity, and it’s that uncertainty that’s taken literally in this case as no definite conclusion is reached. It’s a logical way to end things. We don’t yet know enough about Alex’s past to really connect with this plotline, but much of it (especially the silence) rings true enough to be emotionally affecting.
Wow. A lot of stuff happened in “So It Begins.” Oliver keeps vital information from the team, Prometheus escalates his MO, and in the past scenes: Oliver comes face to face with Konstantin Kovar (guest star Dolph Lundgren.) It’s odd though, because despite a heavy and varied load, “So It Begins” doesn’t really have a toe-tapping rhythm. Breaking this down bit by bit, the first standout of this episode is the sheer brutality of Prometheus’ attacks. They aren’t gory or graphic, but they are straight up horrifying in their suddenness, simplicity, and ruthlessness. This more than anything sells Prometheus as a villain, so the episode succeeds by putting his threat in to the proper context. The other aspect of the episode of note is the severe miscalculation of Oliver to not trust his team with important information. Of course the realization of his keeping the information from them is, in and of itself, a sign of his distrust in their abilities and that concern is well represented by Rene’s hurt pride. Surprisingly enough it’s Evelyn who gets the baton on this one though. The team finds out that Oliver has been the Green Arrow, the Arrow, and the Hood; and as a result Oliver has to come clean about his past as a cold-blooded serial killer. This creates an unstable dynamic that tremors through team Arrow as Oliver’s hypocrisy comes full circle. Nobody represents this level of betrayal better than Evelyn, who was convinced by Oliver to be more than a killer in the first place. Her entire motivation is based on that hypocrisy as it turns out. As glad as I am to see someone other than Rene getting a little limelight, I was still let down by how quickly it all seemed to work itself out between her and Oliver. They could have dragged this out a little more to give it more impact, but they might just be saving up for something better. Speaking of impact, did I mention that Dolph freakin’ Lundgren is in this episode. He doesn’t do much beyond pontificate bad guy style, but he still brings his standard heavy presence which is an asset for a character as talked up as Konstantin Kovar. The episode delivers, the story works well, and everything falls in to place nice and neatly. Unfortunately it’s all kind of dry and by the book. Despite nothing actually being wrong with “So It Begins,” there’s nothing all that spectacular about it either. Even that big reveal at the end is just kind of intriguing. I can see from the script that there was a lot that could have created more atmosphere and fluctuation, but as it stands “So It Begins” just kind of comes in, does its job, then goes home.
“Compromised” is a marked improvement over the rest of Legends’ second season outings. The scenery this time is a little more varied than that of “Shogun” and “Abominations,” but the episode still feels a bit claustrophobic. The 80s make for a more interesting backdrop as well, including the fashion, technology, world events, and humor; all of which connect to give “Compromised” more dimensions. Lance Henriksen slums it to take over the role of Obsidian from Dan Payne (who portrayed the character in the second episode of the season, “Justice Society of America.”) He’s Lance Henriksen, so he gives a good performance, but the episode severely underutilized him. His role is practically a footnote, despite having an exceedingly interesting story that spans multiple decades. Meanwhile, the Legends find themselves each thoroughly distracted in pocket story-lines that, while connected to the main conflict, are still separated. Martin contends with his younger self’s ambition and penchant for neglecting his wife, Sara tries to kill Damien Darhk to save Laurel in the future, Amaya and Nate try to track down the JSA in nineteen-eighty-seven and Ray tries to fill Leonard’s shoes. We’ve already been through Sara’s vendetta and Martin’s disapproval before, so it’s kind of tiring to go through the whole thing again. Nate and Amaya’s storyline does reveal just a little bit more about the JSA, even more than the “Justice Society of America” episodes did, oddly enough. But Mick rescues this one yet again as he attempts to find the ally he had in Snart with Ray, and Ray does his best to accommodate him. It’s all so awkward and muted, and unbelievably charming as Ray and Mick play like a bumbling comic version of a buddy cop show (complete with an awkward stakeout scene.) It all works in reality though, tying in both Mick’s loneliness and inability to express his feelings and Ray’s vulnerability and desperation to be helpful. Sadly as is once again the case, this is the most interesting part of episode, and it is definitely not the main conflict. So, while Legends’ “Compromised” shows the season two plot beginning to take shape, at this point it’s more like watching paint dry.
Final Word: “Crossfire” while not bursting with subtle metanarrative like “Welcome to Earth” tells and solid story rife with intrigue that works exclusively for the Supergirl universe. Ideas are presented with incredible narrative applications, but the story’s attempts to bring them in to the real world are too blunt to go unnoticed. While my greatest fear for the episode was that Alex trying to unravel her true sexual identity would be equally as blunt and obtrusive as the episode’s commentary on guns, this was surprisingly not the case. It’s treated as a major development, but it’s subdued and enough to keep the matter personal instead of exploitative. Arrow’s “So It Begins” wastes no time on getting Prometheus footing as a villain, gives Rene a break as the limelight member of the JV squad, and gives the series a major heavy in Konstantin Kovar (did I mention that he’s played by Dolph freakin’ Lundgren?). All this has elements of success but the episode feels flat and boring thanks to by the numbers direction and action. Legends of Tomorrow’s “Compromised” ends the week with a “meh” as the Legends explore Washington D.C. nineteen-eighty-seven, but never really leave the ship, the white-house, or a park or something. Despite being the most high-concept of the DC shows, Legends is seemingly starting to shrink. Add that to recycled plotlines and motivations and a continued lack of focus and you can already feel all that good will from season one running out. The potential for Legends is there, it just needs to take more chances, as for Arrow “So It Begins” feels too much like past episodes to be comfortable, and Supergirl… Not bad. Keep it up.