It’s closed circles, speedster races, redcoats, and brotherhood in this week’s CW/DC TV roundup!
The chip on Kara’s shoulder plays second fiddle to M’gann and J’onn’s clash with the white martians, and by extension the Martian culture as a whole. The episode struggles to provide a frame of reference for the massive war only spoken about and shown in flashes by previous episodes. But with no visual examples, the words convey very little meaning and the impact is only felt by David Harewood’s performance which mimics the severity of a POW. I’ve enjoyed M’gann and J’onn’s interactions throughout the series. They’re both very wooden in how they act, but when they’re together they don’t seem so out of place. The episode fools around for a bit before it gets to the actual heart, which is the closed circle mystery variation. As a fan of both classic literary devices and mysteries I was naturally predisposed to this concept and I was intrigued by how it was fit in to the situation of the series and the show’s mythology. The tension that usually powers this device though is nowhere to be found without more extreme direction to dial up the suspense, so the plot-line falls kind of flat. Instead, the highlight comes from (surprise surprise) the interaction and team up of J’onn and M’gann against the white martian Armek, because it brings a satisfying conclusion to both the “Martian Chronicles” and the first chapter of M’gann and J’onn’s friendship and camaraderie. Despite that, I’d be remiss to not give props to Melissa Benoist for giving Kara’s emotional conflict life. While I feel like the sister sister abandonment struggle has been done so much that it was necessary to come up with a term for it (Earth-Sister Monophobia,), I have to admit that Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh can do it so naturally at this point that it’s harder to make stale than other recurring story-lines and themes. All in all, the suspense of the episode fails to capture the attention, but Supergirl’s strong characters once again save the day.
The episode starts off light-hearted, which considering the current climate of the show is a welcome change of pace. The race reflects the different approaches to the powers that Barry and Wally each have, as well as what drives them to get faster. There’s some ego there, to be expected, but it’s the philosophy of the two heroes that gets the most mileage. Barry has become Wally’s rival out of necessity, meanwhile Wally’s challenging of Barry represents a more personal goal in proving he’s just as good if not better than the Flash. Meanwhile, the main plot kicks in when a murder points to a metahuman that can decompose anything he touches, with the exception of his clothes I guess… Matthew Kevin Anderson gives Yorkin just enough menace to match his swagger with the incredible potential of his ability; which puts another obstacle in Wally’s path to reaching Barry’s level: a villain he can’t beat with just speed. The Flash and Kid Flash’s mentor mentee relationship is made official here in a way that brings the interactions between Barry and Wally closer to what we’ve seen in the comics. Despite having so much to say about Barry and especially about Wally, the episode doesn’t seem to leave anyone out in the cold. Caitlin and Julian working together is a much more interesting story than it has been before, as each finds strength in their shared experience and guilt, Cisco and H.R. take proactive and appropriately sci-fi steps to determine Yorkin’s targets, and Jesse Martin gets to play up the emotional angle, that he’s so good at doing, once Joe learns of Iris’ likely fate. Wally takes massive strides forward, and Barry’s growing friendship with him is the cornerstone of what makes that happen. “Untouchable” is an impeccable episode in function, but the stores of information and context that it reveals regarding motivation and emotion is concerned involving the characters makes it invaluable at tracing Wally’s evolution as well as Team Flash’s utility.
Arthur Darvill is quite ironically the best new villain that the Legends have faced this season. He’s such an effective villain that the episode makes a lot of compromises to keep the status quo of the series intact. The series is raising the stakes and changing things up, which is good; but it’s also immediately taking things back or inventing barely solvent plot devices to undermine serious twists with actual impact, which is bad. The evolution of the Legends from team to family is a worthwhile direction for the series to take, because it makes the characters as a whole more empathetic to the audience, and that’s something that Legends of Tomorrow does struggle with. However, it’s the CW, so that has to include some internal melodrama. In this case, Amaya and Nate. Honestly, was this really needed? My biggest problem with Amaya is that the writing has obviously been trying her out against different characters to see which one clicked with her in a semi-believable romantic fashion. I guess it ended up being Nate. I don’t want to say that this direction was worthless though, because there’s a fascinating difference there between the time periods that both Nate and Amaya grew up in, and their differing approaches to both relationships and sex. This isn’t shore leave, nor is it even downtime or believably tense and desperate. If anything, it’s just stupid for the characters to prioritize this over a mission that CLEARLY has a ticking clock. You can tell it’s the end goal too, because the circumstances that cause Amaya and Nate’s sexual encounter are heavily fabricated. I’m all for characters building relationships even if they’re completely casual, but this plays like bad fan-fiction. Ooooooo cold and wet, body heat, happening to find a tent fully stocked with furs and a fire still going. It’s such a contrived set of circumstances and that’s not even as infuriating as their casual stroll in the forest while trying to RESCUE SOMEONE from an enemy that already shot one of their teammates! Ugh…*sigh* Two other storylines worth noting for their success though is Jax’s sudden promotion and the tension that comes from going from doing a job he’s never done before to to deep end of facing Rip’s intimate knowledge, intelligence, and ruthlessness by himself. It plays like a slasher, and it’s absolutely incredible. The last storyline worth noting is how Mick essentially inspires the guerilla tactics that famously won the colonists independence. It’s SO cheesy, but it’s given to us so straight faced it’s hard to not play along with it. I hated railing against this episode because it’s just so heavy in its plot devices like Sara’s “death,” Rip’s infamous return and effectiveness as a villain, and Jax suddenly being responsible for the group’s survival. But Nate and Amaya are absolutely wasted in a storyline, that diminishes the value of both their characters, comes out of nowhere, and is so unnatural that the world itself has to strain to force it to make sense. Seriously, with everything else going on in the episode, you’d think there would have been a better time to pull this one out.
“Bratva” is any many ways a retread of previous Arrow episodes, but before you discount that statement as being derogative, I would like to note that that’s kind of the point of the episode. Oliver returns to Russia to track down General Walker, putting the kibosh on Diggle’s whole treason story-line, knowing full well that he’ll come face to face with the Bratva, a group he cut ties with during his time as the Arrow. The episode features the return of David Ankel as Anatoly, this time as a shaky ally rather than friend. The newfound animosity between Oliver and Anatoly creates the parallel of the values of Oliver’s past life with his former. It’s yet another way that Oliver is seeking to erase his past sins with his present virtues, and how that practice has alienated him from practically every aspect of his old life and survival during his time abroad. It’s yet another “Who am I? Am I a bad man? Did I ever escape the darkness blah blah blah?” episode, so if you’re not sick of that by now, you’re in luck; but this episode does feature a new dynamic which I happen to embrace with Dinah not buying in to Oliver’s brooding. FINALLY! A character that calls Oliver on his crap. I feel like this might actually be a long overdue way to allow the character to evolve past this Batmanesque brooding over genuine characterization. Okay, two new dynamics actually. Oliver worries that in bringing Diggle and Felicity in to his crusade he has corrupted them, and the episode does provide some compelling evidence that he might have a point. This refocusing of his priorities pays off, as his interactions with Felicity and Diggle adapt with this new information in a way that is natural and shows character growth. It’s hardly infallible though, which makes the variation a darker and more fascinating future for the character of Felicity. Paul Blackthorne returns as a newly rehabilitated Lance, but something tells me that his character’s dark days are far from over. Ragman’s exit, though tragic does add a dimension of vulnerability to his character, and the his uncertainty about his possibility of returning does work in line with the Gordian way that magic has been presented in the Arrowverse. The episode continues to wrap up the five years story-line in a satisfying way. It’s been a long journey back to Lian-Yu and I honestly can’t wait for the flashbacks to catch up, and Talia’s involvement has been invaluable in bringing things up to speed. Her character existing in a vaccuum has been successful in adding to her mystique, and not knowing anything about her fate makes me all the more curious where she’ll fit in to the Arrowverse later.
Final Word: “The Martian Chronicles” lives and dies on M’gann and J’onn who are incredible, but the lack of screen-time or specialized character pursuits puts all the weight on a narrative parlor trick that Supergirl doesn’t have the direction to pull off in any meaningful way. Wally and Barry’s relationship improves and the amount of time given to Wally pays off as the young hero gains a lot of ground against the far more developed Barry. Rip Hunter is the villain the Legends deserve, but unfortunately there is an unseen pact that there needs to be sexual tension between some characters in certain series and Legends wasn’t meeting its quota. Finally, Arrow brings the week to close in a satisfying way with an episode that reuses old material and themes, but also takes advantage of new aspects of the series to effectively remix them in a way that makes them seem completely new. The OGs (yeah, I’m not gonna use that one again) Arrow and Flash win the week. Flash has always been able to keep up the quality, but Arrow has bounced back in a really big way and Bratva, despite being a small showing for the Arrowverse, is a solid episode that reflects that improvement.