It’s alien rivalry, multiverse schmucks, women in film, and totally illegal drugs, (John!) in this week’s CW/DC TV Roundup!
Supergirl: Season 3: Episode: 6: “Midvale”
This time, it’s Alex’s turn. In light of everything that happened with Maggie, Alex is experiencing the same thing that Kara has been running away from all this time. Though Kara actually knows exactly how to deal with it, when it comes to addressing Alex’s situation anyway, it only makes her attempts at comfort seem all the more hypocritical after she has vigorously pushed away Alex’s help. Those are the broad strokes of the story. In all actuality, this is a walk down memory lane as we explore the girls’ lives just ten years ago while they were growing up together in their hometown (well…sort of) of Midvale. This episode highlights the difficulties that Alex and Kara went through while growing up together, involving each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. It’s an examination of both characters in a light that we haven’t seen them in before. As teenagers. Kara is still shaking off some of her Kryptonian superiority and Alex is dealing with her jealousy for Kara’s inherent gifts and abilities. It also translates into how they interact in school, whereas Alex seems to be in with the “popular kids” Kara struggles to relate to anyone beyond the designated “freak” of the school, smart and soft-spoken nerd Kenny Li. The day after an almost kiss with Kara, Kenny turns up dead (ala Riverdale) and Kara is heartbroken at losing her only real friend on Earth. The episode doesn’t gloss over it either. It takes time to establish their connection and then dwell on it’s severing, so we understand the impact. Once the dust settles, the episode begins its murder mystery with the younger Kara and Alex’s relationship-building at the helm.
What impressed me most about “Midvale” is how it includes an entire arc for both Alex and Kara in just one episode. Kara is forced to find harmony between her powers and her connection to humanity and Alex begins to see her strengths as a person as she leaves her high-school mentality behind in favor of her passion for crime-solving and law-enforcement. The two girls become closer as they slowly begin to discover their respective selves, which is equally impressive considering how far apart their relationship is shown to be at the beginning of the episode. It’s not a great mystery though. There’s a Smallville reference that locks any natural development of the mystery storyline up until the very end when the solution suddenly presents itself all too late to have any positive effect beyond “just the nick of time;” which was pretty much the exact same thing that happened in Batman V Superman with the flash drive. It was a disappointment then and it’s a disappointment now. The Smallville reference itself is pretty cool because it mentions Chloe (a fan favorite from the show) but it goes too far by dropping buzz words and phrases too, (“wall of weird”) erasing any ambiguity which would have made it clever or even subtle. But considering that the last minute and frankly sudden reveal and a bad Smallville reference is the worst of “Midvale” I’d still say this episode was incredible. By the end, Kara and Alex’s relationship was reinforced and the whole thing had a cathartic feel that goes back in the past to put everything that’s happened to them in the proper perspective. It really feels like the characters have a new jumping off point for everything that happens next.
The Flash: Season 4: Episode 6: “When Harry Met Harry…”
After a seriously low-tier Flash episode, things refocus on group dynamics without leaving behind the humor. Ralph continues to be a big part of the season, in such a goofy and irreverent way that I can’t help but think he’s what the show has been missing since HR made his dramatic exit. It’s just so completely rewarding as a fan of the comics to see such an underrated character like Elongated Man getting a prominent role in the Flash’s colorful universe. The highlight of Ralph’s character still comes from his friction with Barry, who can’t seem to get the selfish detective to understand the morality of being a true hero. Meanwhile, in an attempt to force a lead out of the bus incident, Barry and Iris take Ralph to a hypnotist to get him to remember something about the bus and maybe identify someone else who was there to get ahead of them. When that ends up being a bust, the universe steps in with a body left behind by a wild animal attack with the only suspect being a large stone jungle-cat statue. Joe and Barry follow up on their lead, meanwhile, Harry introduces his “friends” which are a series of Tom Cavanaghs acting in progressively silly roles as various Harrison Wells from various Earths. …I want to hate this but Cavanagh’s such a dynamic character actor that I can’t help but be amazed by all the personas he can adapt in the course of one show (even if they are a bit cheesy.)
The crux of the episode’s conflict involves Barry failing to give Dibney a sense for why the preservation of innocent (and interestingly enough, guilty) people’s lives always take priority over whatever threat the team seems to be facing at any time. It’s probably the most fundamental difference between Barry and Ralph, and it highlights just what Barry’s experience as the Flash has taught him about general law-enforcement and public safety and how without that experience Ralph doesn’t draw the same conclusions. It’s a necessary lesson that is paramount to the hero’s journey though, and Ralph learning it the hard way is given all of the necessary severity to have a profound impact on the character, and it really is profound and expands on the character’s arc. Less profound is the villain of this episode, the Black Bison. There’s a lot in her backstory with the intention of making her sympathetic, but she’s just really really evil. It makes it odd that she goes on a tear about the treatment of Native American people and then is just kind of smug about power poles falling on to young children. She’s effective if nothing else though. She’s very threatening considering her powerset and history, so she makes for a great first major villain for Dibney to take on. It also leads to two important character moments for Dibney that prove, as a hero, he’s not just a goofball and a punching bag. The storyline itself is a relatively contained one and by the time things with the Thinker progress to a suitable climax the episode ends. Still, it’s quite the revelation that’s gleaned that is sure to lead to an interesting development when the story continues next week.
Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3: Episode 6: Helen Hunt
The Legends are back on track (yet again since their default setting seems to be off-track) as they make their way to nineteen-thirties Hollywood after an anachronism displaces “the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Illium,” Helen of Troy (played by Bar Paly of NCIS Los Angeles.) With Helen of Troy appearing in nineteen-thirty-seven Hollywood, the fictional feud between K&G pictures and Warner Brothers escalates to bloodshed leaving a stain on the history of filmmaking that throws the future of the medium into chaos. Helen has a superhuman level of charisma and affects every man she comes across in a terrible way, leading to both small conflicts (like fist fights) and large ones (like shootouts.) With an asset like that in Hollywood, the entire history of Tinseltown is in jeopardy of unraveling, starting with the usurping of the original star of the movie that Helen finds herself cast in, Hedy Lamarr. Meanwhile, Damien Dahrk is acting as Helen’s agent and makes Sara a proposal that involves staying his hand in return for the Legends’ departure. This also leads to the first long-awaited yet brief conversation between Kuasa and Amaya. Meanwhile, attempts to separate Firestorm lead to Martin and Jax switching bodies. So yeah, “Helen Hunt” has a lot of balls in the air which means it’s going to be a juggling act. How’d it go?
Truth be told, it’s a bit weird considering what’s happening in the news involving Hollywood sexual assault scandals. Because of the male aspect of this problem, there’s an atmosphere where the show unapologetically gets anti-men, sidelining practically all the male characters due to rampant bouts of masculinity caused by an inability for men to control their libido around an attractive woman. It spends plenty of time building up Helen’s victim-hood but ignores and outright blames the men affected without touching once on why men are affected by Helen, and instead, it’s content with “because they’re men.” as the explanation. It’s a joke sure, but the episode has a troubling mentality and goes a bit too far at times with its barbs. There aren’t any new ones either. You might have already guessed a few…men are stupid, men are shallow, men are easily manipulated, etc. I get the idea of the mythos behind Helen’s ability to affect men, especially because of its roots in literature, but it’s still pretty blatant where the episode sits as far as intention is concerned when Sara (who just last episode was making eyes at women on the streets of London) is not affected in the slightest by Helen’s charisma. Female positive and male negative is just a hair’s breadth from each other, and this episode is unable to sit comfortably in that narrow spot. It’s a shame too because when the episode isn’t on the attack, it does have important things to say about women. It’s half-assed, but Hedy Lamarr’s incredible scientific accomplishments end up being a significant part of the plot (though admittedly it still circles back to sexual attraction which is the episode shooting itself in the foot and proving its own point,) and Zari, having experienced her own hellish backdrop, ends up being less content about sending Helen back to her horrible native time.
Meanwhile, the subplot involving Martin and Jax switching bodies naturally leads to some cringe-worthy delivery of each other’s lines, but it’s still entertaining to see Victor Garber acting like a 20-something black millennial. What’s more significant though is that Jax experiences Martin’s older body and confronts the physical strain what they do as Legends has on him firsthand, leading to him better understanding Stein’s need to leave the team. Meanwhile, Martin uses the opportunity to meet his “boyhood crush,” Hedy Lamarr and ends up having to help her find her way back on her path to both stardom and invention. In Jax’s body he ends up having a lot of interaction with an attractive white woman in the nineteen-thirties and no one seems to bat an eyelash…so one social subject at a time, I suppose.
I don’t want to harp too much because despite having a muddy message, “Helen Hunt” is a good episode. It’s far less in the moment than “Return of the Mack” was, but its heart really is in the right place when it comes to female-positivity. Also, that major reveal at the end could lead to some very interesting questions that I for one hope someone eventually decides to ask.
Arrow: Season 6: Episode 6 “Promises Kept”
There’s nothing technically wrong with “Promises Kept,” but it’s just flat and dull despite any attempt to make it more meaningful. I usually have these long tirades about Arrow not living up to its potential or shaming any positive stock its built up, but since it seems like they aren’t even trying anymore, I guess I’ll stop trying too. “Promises Kept” addresses just a few problems that didn’t start until this season and therefore don’t really matter or have any substantial history. Slade, now learning the fate of his son Joe (who was not truly discussed till this season,) has to contend with how responsible he is for creating this version of him, and how difficult it is for him to reprogram him now that Slade himself is technically good. For an abridged version of this…it’s the ending of Austin Powers: Goldmember. Then Joe lets loose the information that Slade has another younger son named Grant. Side note: in the comics, Slade does indeed have two sons. Joseph and Grant Wilson. Joseph Wilson is the younger brother. He’s a pacifist, an empath, and the superhero/Teen Titan Jericho. Grant Wilson is the older brother. He’s a psychopath, a murderer, and the villain/mercenary Ravager. You might be wondering why this guy in Arrow is named Joe Wilson, and not Grant Wilson considering he seems to have more in common with the supervillain Ravager. That’s a very good question, and one I would also like the answer to. This doesn’t matter, but it’s indicative of Arrow’s big problem with not knowing how to properly utilize its source material.
Meanwhile, John continues to rely on some nondescript street drug to handle his tremors (yet another conditional plotline that just cropped up this season) and now that the pusher of the drug has murdered someone (y’know…like a criminal) John has to contend with his reliance on the drug and his duty as the new Green Arrow to take down criminals. What the hell is going on!? This is John Diggle! Look, I understand that Arrow is trying to introduce new elements to keep their characters engaged in potential arcs but not when the purpose of that arc is to undermine any previous development. At least with John’s previous problem with his brother Andy we had some emotional context to empathize with since it’s been a part of his character since the beginning of the series, but this is brand new, totally avoidable (as evidenced by how easily Curtis is on board for helping his deal with the problem,) and frankly insulting to his character development thus far. It isn’t even a hard one like “Is it wrong to murder a child molester?” John (a grown-ass man, superhero, former soldier, and father) struggles with “Don’t do drugs.” It’s literally the first thing they shove down your throat when D.A.R.E. walks in. Arrow keeps creating storylines where there are none and trying to solve problems that just aren’t there. This season doesn’t feel like it’s been built on the previous ones. It feels like it was built next to them with shoddier materials. The characters don’t seem like the same ones we’ve become attached to over the past five years, and they don’t seem like they’re growing. The world of Arrow isn’t expanding, and the characters keep making the exact same mistakes no matter how many times they should have learned from the last time they did it. There’re just a whole bunch of empty-payoffs for emotional checks that Arrow never wrote.
Final Word: Supergirl was quite fun this week, and gave us a history lesson that tied into who Alex and Kara are in their adult life, The Flash was technically filler, but it extended (that was not on purpose) Dibney’s arc in a significant way that shows a lot of growth in his character, Legends may have kind of missed out on doing anything more than taking bites of low-hanging fruit, but it was still an entertaining episode, and Arrow…I don’t know if they’re asleep at the wheel or if the car already crashed and they’re just dead. Supergirl brought us back to who Alex and Kara not just were, but are. It was truly refreshing and cathartic, and for that reason, Midvale wins the week.