It’s three rings, one big bomb, and half a team in this week’s CW/DC TV Roundup!
Supergirl: Season 3: Episode 10: “Legion of Superheroes”
A little background. The Legion, in the comics, is a team of superheroes from the 30th century that frequently travel back in time to interact with the heroes of yesteryear (but the present to us really.) They’re a well-known part of the comics history for fans, but for casual observers, the level of obscurity would best be described as The Guardians of the Galaxy, before James Gunn plugged them up to an amp. The Legion. Can’t say I was waiting for it, but it’s still kind of cool that the DC TV shows are digging in the mines for gems rather, than scooping up whatever rises to the top like they are with the movies. The setup for the Legion in Supergirl has been surprisingly effective, remaining in the background for the most part which has alleviated that part of the story from the strain of unnecessary exposition (They’re superheroes from the future…just go with it.) There’s even a throwaway line here, in an exchange between the DEO and the Legion, where Mon-El tries to reveal a bit more about their purpose and is cautioned by Brainiac-5 not to. That alone does a decent job of explaining the lack of information on the Legion as characters thus far. Knowledge of the future is a dusty old trope sure, but what makes the motivation here unique is it’s entirely selfish. Mon-El isn’t as concerned for the present as he is for the future. I’ve liked Chris Wood’s Mon-El for his charisma, but his motivations were all kind of flat and ended with “because that’s what Kara wants.” This is a much more autonomous version of the character than what we’ve seen before, seeming to make decisions independently, so it really does seem like he’s grown. Then they reveal why the Legion was so tight-lipped and…it’s sort of contrived and the stakes are fairly moderate given the setting. It just makes the fact that the Legion didn’t just come out and say it seem all the more baffling. It’s a shame…they really had me thinking that there was going to be something more intriguing at the end of the line.
That’s really my biggest complaint. “Legion of Superheroes” is solid, gives the Legion at little bit of time in the sandbox, and even has a few really high points (One being J’onn’s Kara impression and the other being Kara’s attempts to ascertain the purpose behind her “mind-prison.”) There are a few clever throwbacks and references to the comics in here that also make it a treat for fans, but most of all this is a perfectly adequate return to the third season of Supergirl. “Legion of Superheroes” may not have left me chomping at the bit for the rest of Supergirl, but it reminded me why I still watch it. It’s charming, funny, and best of all it cares enough about the characters and the story it wants to tell. No matter what, as long as Supergirl still has these elements, it’s always going to be a worthwhile way to spend an hour of your Monday.
The Flash: Season 4: Episode 10: “The Trial of the Flash”
This. This is why the Flash is one of the best superhero shows of all time. Barry Allen as a character in a modern age refused to run from the police in the last episode, and that was a powerful moment because it highlighted Barry finding his way to victory against the Thinker by doing the one thing that The Thinker doesn’t account for and that’s having hope. This plays into the next episode which sees Barry refusing to use one of the numerous ways he could escape conviction, and instead opting to put his fate in the criminal justice system that he tries to uphold in every aspect of his life (both his day-job and his work as the Flash.) There are few characters that can handle this unironic dedication to the paragon of virtue that has become the shorthand for the ideals of the superhero, but Barry Allen is one of those rare few. As the morals of the people close to him bend and strain under the shoe being on the other foot, Barry’s ability to maintain dignity in the face of his essentially sealed fate is an absolute beacon that reminds us that Barry Allen isn’t a millennial caricature like he was in Justice League. Barry’s not a hero because he is lucky enough to be the Flash. The Flash is a hero because he is lucky enough to be Barry Allen.
There’re things happening in the Trial of the Flash, but besides the Thinker’s continuing machinations, there’re no villains (Even Fallout is just a dim guy surrounded by misfortune.) The greatest thing about this season thus far has been how much of it has been about changing up the program. The first three seasons of the Flash were about Barry getting faster, but now it’s time for him to slow down, and that has led to situations that have been out of the control of the main cast of characters. It’s slightly disheartening to see Team Flash, which has only moved forward and has been motivated thus far, being forced to grind to a halt, but this season has also featured the team fighting a losing battle when they’re current way of doing things stops working. My hope is that this realization will lead to a reckoning against the Thinker, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Flash has something even better planned. The pieces of this make it all worthwhile. Namely, Barry’s dedication to the truth and justice of his city and his character, the masterful planning and execution of the Thinker’s plan, especially his wife’s part in it, and Joe realizing the weight of circumventing honesty in the pursuit of justice, thanks in no small part to Ralph. The Flash has incredible pieces, and sometimes they put them together to create an absolute masterwork, and Trial of the Flash is yet another one of those. While the outcome is no surprise, and it never even seemed to be anything but unhappy, there’s victory in how dignified the whole thing is. It’s cliche, but this episode proves that Barry’s spirit is unbreakable, and the reason it matters is that every aspect of the proceedings of Trial of the Flash seeks to. It’s not just a testament to TV’s Flash, it’s a monument to the character as a whole.
Arrow: Season 6: Episode 10: “Divided”
Boy, Arrow has been beating me up this season. I swear, there was a time that I felt like I needed to watch this show, but now I’m just wondering if I’m going to leave with a black eye or a sigh (whether it’s of relief or exasperation ends up only being a matter of chance.) Alright, so let’s just say that I’m not ready for Arrow to blow me away this week, but it starts promising enough. Jerry Bertinelli is a likable enough guy as a character, sort of a lesser Anatoly, to counter-weight Oliver as the criminal ally, with the same enemy as the hero. Then it just…
I’m supposed to be reviewing Divided, but I just can’t find anything about this episode that actually stands out. It’s immensely boring. Even the main three members of the Team seem to have lost their spark. Arrow is running the same old ground over and over and over again. The same conversations over and over and over. “I can’t trust insert character. I don’t know if I should kill insert character. Oliver, you can’t do this alone. Shouldn’t you wait for backup? No, I have to do it alone, because I can’t trust anyone!” We’re on the sixth damn season and it seems like nothing has changed. No one has grown. Everyone is just running the same lines, and I can’t care. Oliver throws in with a criminal to take on Cayden James, and the show is giving me no reason to care.
Divided highlights one of the biggest problems Arrow has had this season. Nothing is connecting anymore. Everything just feels slightly less human. The show keeps telling us the stakes, but there’s no way to empathize with them because nothing about them is natural. William as a character doesn’t even seem like a real person, so whenever Oliver talks about all he’s doing for his son I just think “Oh, you mean that robot that lives in your house suddenly?” Whenever Dinah talks about her connection to her ex-boyfriend it’s just like “Oh, you mean that guy you have no chemistry with that we’ve never seen you interacting with in any meaningful way?” Whenever they talk about Samanda Watson’s “evidence” it’s just “Oh, you mean that incredibly easy to obtain information that’s entirely available to even the most casual observer that doesn’t even make you seem like a real character but a whistle-blower that’s only designed to critically injure the show’s suspension of disbelief while simultaneously acting like a smug asshole?”
Divided continues to have NO FREAKIN’ IDEA how to use Dinah, who jumps between Mariska Hargitay in SVU and Katherine Heigl in every friggin’ movie she’s ever been in, with no downtime in between or development beyond “THIS GUY AND I WERE INVOLVED, DESPITE US HAVING NO ACTUAL CHEMISTRY!” It’s so cringeworthy to watch Juliana Harkavy flip this ridiculous switch week after week and never grow or develop or evolve (kind of reminiscent of Laurel’s stagnation early in Arrow before they finally just gave up and killed her like there’s some kind of Canary Curse.) She gets knocked out…by a JUDO FLIP, Oliver drops down directly in the middle of a firefight, the “plan” makes no sense and gets practically everyone besides the bosses killed and just ends in chaos and disaster…I think. Luckily, the episode ends with a yet another return to basics, and I don’t know how many times Arrow has tried this move, but they always seem to fall back into old habits so I’m not getting hopeful just yet. …I’ve been hurt many times before.
Final Word: Supergirl finally hit us with the Legion and put forth enough effort to make us invested, even if it all sort of petered out a bit. The Flash built a compelling and sincerely personal story around its main character that highlighted not only how well the story thus far has shaped him but gave us a genuine reason to stay afraid and intimidated by the Thinker and his plan. Then…Arrow happened. So many problems, most of them solvable though if the creators would just start paying more attention and…I don’t know do some storyboards, build diagrams, interact with other humans. At this point, anything would help. It goes without saying that The Flash came back with a bang, hinting at something on the horizon, even going so far as to cast the actor responsible for the second most terrifying villain of Joss Whedon’s Firefly (Richard Brooks) as the incredibly crooked warden of Iron Heights, Gregory Wolfe. The appearance of Fallout (*POSSIBLE SPOILERS* The power source for the prison, in the comics) suggests that The Thinker’s collection of metas and the Warden’s might even overlap, but we’ll see where these take us next. Also, I got a late start this week so I wasn’t able to, but I will be adding Black Lightning to the roundups, so look forward to that. Till next week!