Supergirl: Season 3 Episode 2 “Triggers”
A supervillain code-named Psi is robbing banks easily and leaving bystanders and guards incapacitated through some sort of psychic (go figure) attack. Surprisingly though, despite my complaints from the last episode, the external conflict ends up being a footnote compared to what’s going on with the characters. It’s a vast improvement over “Girl of Steel.” Much of the episode is just Supergirl getting back to form but there are some scenes that I’d say are standouts for the series. One, in particular, is a first-person view of the destruction of Krypton that really plays to the context of the moment itself (Kara re-experiencing the destruction of her homeworld once again via Psi’s attack that causes her to experience her greatest fear.) Impressive CGI makes the scene bold, but the escalation of the events from the perspective of a young Kara is what really gives us a sense of why it’s such a devastating and affecting part of her history. Yael Grobglas (also of Jane the Virgin fame) portrays DC Comics’ supervillain Psi in this episode, and most of the time her villain persona is actually pretty effective. Psi is a minor villain in the comics, and in this episode, there’s only one big mayhem scene involving her, but there’s still a fair amount of threat coming from her. Unlike the usual bluster, Psi projects the instability and volatility of a crazy person. Her words and demeanor, as well as her cold and almost bemused expressions, add to the unpredictable nature of her character.
Moving on, we finally get a real storyline for Lena as she becomes the owner and CEO of Catco, and that creates a believable amount of friction between her and Kara and her and James. Best of all, it plays naturally to the situation! Lena’s forced to act, in the face of Kara’s insubordination and immaturity, as a boss. She even goes so far as to give Kara and savage and very boss-like scolding. It’s an especially dramatic clash of egos considering Kara’s current attitude which could be described as not employer friendly and her need to keep her Supergirl’s identity hidden from Lena. This does complicate Kara and Lena’s friendship and there’s no way we’ve seen the end of that complication, but it’s a fascinating direction that brings Katie McGrath’s character in to as a more active player in future Supergirl storylines.
Lastly, the Samantha storyline gets expanded quite a bit, or rather the framework is built in “Triggers.” It’s also the point where it’s brought crashing into the main plotline, and it seems to be shaping up to be a promising and unusual origin for a supervillain.
“Triggers” is well directed, does a better job of explaining Kara’s mental state, and adds in some new and interesting dynamics for well-established characters. It’s far more effective than the premiere episode at foreshadowing the relationships and hardships for Supergirl’s characters in the coming season.
The Flash: Season 4 Episode 2 “Mixed Signals”
This week’s Flash is all about communication, and how much of a problem it can be when it breaks down. Barry is back after six months of being trapped in the speed force, and while to him it seems like nothing has changed, there has been a clear shift in the dynamic of Team Flash. One that both Barry and Iris seem to be struggling with. Most of the episode is played off as a joke. Even the way the villain of the week (DC Comics’ Kilg%re played by Dominic Burgess) takes out his first victim is darkly funny. So this week’s Flash actually ended up on the lighter side of the spectrum. Honestly, it’s so interesting to watch The Flash do episodes like this because it all seems so natural. Every one of the cast seems to be just as adept at performing comedy as they are drama, so “Mixed Signals” has very few gags that don’t land. Unfortunately, if you were looking forward to seeing more Flash VS suit moments, you might be surprised to learn that the episode isn’t even about that. In fact, that entire sub-conflict happens in a five-minute chunk near the end. The only reason it’s odd is that of how prominently it was featured in the after-episode preview last week. Mixed Signals (suit shenanigans and just plain ol’ shenanigans aside) is pretty solid in its presentation of the dramatic aspects of its story. Barry and Iris for all the goofy ways they play off the misunderstandings actually experience some very true to life relationship woes that are given the right amount of elbow room to be appropriately heavy when the time comes. It’s also another great episode for Candice Patton who is still just wowing me with how well she’s settled into Iris’ evolution as a character.
There’s also a very small but fun sub-plot involving Gypsy and Cisco attempting to communicate about expressing somewhat embarrassing feelings that I felt played well into the episode’s theme of communication.
Beyond that, the main storyline is pretty basic, and while entertaining, the writers seem to realize that the really interesting things about “Mixed Signals” is what is happening with the show’s characters. The main story never gets in the way of the humor and drama unfolding around Team Flash, and that insight into how to present the best of its material, it really what makes “Mixed Signals” such a great way to get fans back into the swing of how the Flash does things.
Legends of Tomorrow: Season 3 Episode 2 “Freakshow”
Billy Zane is P.T. Barnum! That was a collection of words that I never thought I would need to put together. The Legends are back in the Waverider and all is right with the world (allegedly.) So using the Time Beauru’s new method of classifying the difficulty level of containing anachronisms, they choose an easy-difficulty mission for the first outing under the Time Beauru’s watchful microscope. The year is 1870, and P.T. Barnum’s newest attraction to his roving circus is a real saber-toothed tiger, so the Legends decide to contain the anachronism and, as a result, end up being more involved with the circus than they originally planned. Like Flash, Legends is pushing the comedic angle of its material over the dramatic (or so it seems so far) but there’s still some worthwhile drama to be had in the form of Nate and Amaya’s less than amicable breakup, due to the unstable fate of Mari McCabe (Amaya’s future granddaughter and the superhero Vixen in 2017) and the continued pressure from the Time Beauru and agent Ava Sharpe in particular. The breakup is a constant element throughout the episode and it ends up pulling a really good performance out of Nick Zano’s Nate. It’s not only his acting, but it’s how the character’s actions are directed in the episode that makes a lot of sense for being motivated by his breakup with Amaya.
Just like the first episode, Sara and Ava end up being a hilariously mismatched pair of rivals including a surprisingly cool fight scene that showcases a lot of similarities between the two. It makes me feel really rewarded by their chemistry when they are onscreen together and butting heads (so to speak,) so I look forward to seeing her show up more in the coming episodes.
Finally, we get to the fact that Bill Zane is indeed P.T. Barnum or rather a Zanified version of P.T. Barnum. He seems to be having a lot of fun in this role, playing it like a goofy over-the-top villain kind of like his playful demon The Collector in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (This week’s Weekend Download.)
All in all, “Freakshow” is enjoyable, but it still suffers from Legends’ usual flaws like using the characters’ unpredictable natures to concoct deus ex machina (Oh! So Ray is also a poop whisperer…how quirky) and playing fast and loose with history. Despite all that though, “Freakshow” leans heavily into Legends’ strengths like comedy, characters, and irreverence. Despite the grim and foreboding nature of the Legends’ final pow-wow of the episode, I was still left laughing out loud at their reaction to the idea of a new threat. Legends have good momentum so far. I am so glad to see this show finding its way in such a crowded landscape.
Arrow: Season 6 Episode 2 “Tribute”
“Tribute” is better than “Fallout.” Having said that, Arrow still hasn’t quite gotten back to cruising speed. Oliver has been outed as Green Arrow, but he’s also still the mayor and a single dad so there’s a lot of his plate right now. He’s not really succeeding at any of it though, and boy that is just a barrel of laughs. Now, Anatoly has come back to Star City to pretty much wreak havoc on Oliver at this time when he’s most vulnerable. Also, John is experiencing some problems that keep him from being as effective as Spartan as he used to be. Also, there’s an FBI agent with an ax to grind when it comes to Oliver’s life as Green Arrow. Honestly, I don’t even know what this show is anymore. There’s one light spot of this entire episode and that’s Felicity and Curtis’ back and forth about day jobs and even that was just giving me whiplash. Besides that, it’s all just misfortune. I really don’t even get it. How is it that one of the biggest jokers in the DC Universe was the inspiration for this parade of melodrama and misery? In past seasons there was a steady mix of both, but somewhere along the way there grew a dedication to soap-opera style plot development. There are no more arcs, it’s all just conflict and hardship, which is a necessary aspect of evolution, but it still isn’t all of it. I couldn’t enjoy this episode because it didn’t have a point beyond making bad things happen to the characters, and seemingly with no reason. It’s only the second episode, so I’m not ready to give up on this season, but I’m still at a loss. Arrow needs characters who evolve, and this season doesn’t seem to have that particular goal in mind. Instead, it’s trying to develop a compelling mystery like there was last season, but so far it’s just irritating and downbeat. It’s a waste of great characters and great relationships to just crush every bit of personality your story has until there’s nothing left but flat, bland, and tasteless melancholy. If I wanted to watch my heroes fail at everything, I’d just watch the news.
Final Word: Generally speaking this was a positive week for the CW/DC shows. Supergirl gave us new character dynamics and a big and exciting set-piece that filled in a few of the blanks in Supergirl’s origin. The Flash managed to be fun, funny, and exciting but also was sure to include an undeniably human element to make the characters that much more relatable. Legends was ridiculous but embraced it without missing a beat. Then there’s Arrow. They didn’t make the rookie mistakes, like telegraphing fights and repeating stunts to dull the sense of action like they did in “Fallout,” but “Tribute” delivered a down-note story, mainly of ebbs, including a very tiny upbeat subplot that just made everything else seem even grimmer. It’s like Arrow is starting to act like it can’t exist without conflict, and that attitude is making an exciting action and adventure nothing but a bummer to watch. Even more so since it’s batting cleanup on Thursdays now. Honestly, ending the week like that kind of dulls the whole experience. We’re at a point now where Arrow is so depressing that it’s making Legends, The Flash, and Supergirl less enjoyable because there it is at the end of the week…just threatening to brood.