The State of the Arrowverse – Supergirl

The latest in the set of Arrowverse shows is CBS transplant Supergirl. I really wanted to like this show, especially since lead Melissa Benoist is charming as Kara Danvers and kick-ass as Supergirl. Season 1, for me, was a total train wreck. Season 2 seemed to right the ship a little bit, before devolving into a big mess once again. And season 3 feels like a chore, because I genuinely do not like 95% of this show. How could they get the Girl of Steel so right but the rest of the show so wrong? Let’s explore. Spoiler alert: anything up until 2017’s winter finales is fair game.

SUPERGIRL – Current Season: 3

Season 1 of Supergirl oddly aired on CBS, home to many NCIS’s and the baffling “comedy” that rhymes with Mig Mang Meory. As I said, I really like Melissa Benoist in the role, but 3 aspects of the show’s first season really failed:

(1) The Setup
Kara’s adoptive sister Alex works for the DEO, a secret government agency that deals with aliens – a truly solid way to set up a Supergirl series. Inexplicably, the DEO base is in some remote desert that Kara has to fly to whenever there’s trouble. I can suspend disbelief for a TV show quite easily, but Kara left her job so many times that Cat Grant hired another assistant to do Kara’s job instead of firing her. I think it might have been better if they didn’t address that issue, because making Cat oblivious is not as stupid as hiring 2 people to do 1 job. HR department on line 1, Miss Grant. Speaking of…

(2) The Supporting Characters
I am in the minority as someone who never liked Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. I think she was miscast, and never believed that she was some high and mighty publishing maven; she was just louder than everyone else in the room. Winn Schott and James “Don’t Call Me Jimmy” Olsen were okay as Kara’s coworkers, but shoehorning them into DEO adventures rarely worked. James as a love interest and Winn pining for Kara also fell flat – James and Kara had zero chemistry (anyone remember Lucy Lane?), and the nerdy-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold drooling over the cute girl bit has been done to death. Super soldier Alex was solely a super soldier and supportive sister; Martian Manhunter was a cool addition, but was usually relegated to a command center instead of using his abilities to help Supergirl. Ultimately Supergirl’s Scooby gang didn’t come together organically because the show was trying to live in both the DEO world and the CatCo world.

(3) The Villains
Besides the villains of the week (including the aforementioned second assistant, Siobhan Smythe, aka Silver Banshee), Kara’s Kryptonian aunt Astra was the big bad of season 1 – though I think she was around for a total of 4 episodes. Astra was trying to take over everyone’s mind to destroy them for… reasons. But then she died, and her husband Non and evil robot Indigo took over. I don’t really remember what their plan was, but it was evil. Only an impassioned speech by Supergirl could free the public from… whatever it was. Yeah, it didn’t make much sense.

There were many welcome changes in season 2. James/Kara/Winn decided to just be buddies. Cat Grant chose her family over her career (as Calista chose LA over Vancouver). The DEO moved to National City, so Kara didn’t have to leave her job for days at a time to fight evil. Winn became a DEO agent so he’d actually have a reason to be involved with things. Kara got a real love interest in Mon-El, and Alex got a real love interest in Maggie.

Just when I thought things were on the uptick, we had these developments:
After a Cadmus tease, Lillian Luthor was a big bad, sort of? (Metallo was pretty cool)
Way too much time was devoted to Alex and Maggie. I got the emotional heft, but it just dragged on for me, and seemed like filler after a while.
That whole Guardian sub-plot (sub-not?)
Kara just becomes a reporter? Also cranky Ian Gomez is not good Ian Gomez.

And in the case of 1 step forward, 2 steps back:
Superman, for me, was just meh. I didn’t dislike him, but he didn’t add much either.
Casting Kevin Sorbo and former Lois Lane Teri Hatcher as Mon-El’s parents was genius… and then they were both killed off. Rhea forcing her son to marry Lena Luthor felt forced, as did Mon-El’s banishment by lead poisoning.
Ex-Superman Dean Cain as Jeremiah Danvers also disappeared without a trace.

Now in season 3, we have Reign to deal with. It was an interesting choice to have Samantha Arias integrate into Kara’s life and have her become Reign before our eyes. Again though it feels like the story is moving too quickly; as with the first two seasons it seems like the writers are teeing up another story for the back half of episodes.

On a side note, at one point in this current season, Lena refers to Kara as her “best friend.” I guess this a “show, don’t tell” moment, because if anyone asked me who Kara’s best friend was, my first response would be Alex. End side note.

So Sam is Reign, Maggie broke off her engagement, Mon-El is back with a wife (and soon a Legion of Superheroes), and Kara is out of commission after Reign beat her up. We’ll see how the rest of the season shakes up with Mon-El and company since I have a funny feeling Supergirl will defeat Reign (with Ruby’s love, of course). I’m not hate watching yet, but this may be the season that tips me over the edge…


The State of the Arrowverse – LoT

Third up in the Arrowverse shows is Legends of Tomorrow. After a rocky first season, the show has found its footing and continues to grow and evolve with each episode. Ex-Black Canary Sara Lance leads a ragtag crew around time trying to right the wrongs… that they created. How did these heroes become legends? Spoiler alert: anything up until 2017’s winter finales is fair game.

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW – Current Season: 3

The first season of LoT was not great. The core “Legends” were fine: White Canary, The Atom, Firestorm, Hawkgirl, (sometimes) Hawkman, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and Rip Hunter. But that was problem #1 – too many characters. None of them were able to develop properly because there were just too many people on screen at once. Personally I could have done without Captain Cold and Hawkman, and maybe Atom, just because the other characters seemed so much more interesting (and Captain Cold, for me, ran his course on The Flash). I was very much looking forward to seeing Arthur Darvill take his turn behind the wheel of a time machine, after being on Doctor Who as lovable sidekick Rory. Although he’s still on the show in a diminished role, he is still very enjoyable as Rip.

The main antagonist for our Legends was Vandal Savage, a classic from the comics, and his quest to… honestly I don’t remember. They just kept saying he was immortal, which is not an ideal quality for a villain in a show’s first season… The backstory about Savage, Hawkman and Hawkgirl being reincarnated over and over fell flat, since there weren’t really consequences for them; they even killed off poor Hawkman, who was a capable  version of the character.

Predictably, the Legends stopped Vandal Savage, and lost a few people along the way. Captain Cold and Hawkgirl (along with a missing Rip Hunter) bounced off the team in season 2, and we welcomed Vixen and Steel. The Arrowverse created a Legion of Doom with Damien Darhk, Malcolm Merlyn, and Eobard Thawne fighting to find and use the Spear of Destiny to alter reality. This led to some fun along the way (the 80’s! Shogun! Jonah Hex! Camelot!), and Vixen and Steel quickly fit well into the team. The overall tone of the show changed during this season to be much more lighthearted (instead of all the death and destruction of season 1), and learned to play with time travel instead of just using it for gloom and doom.

With the Legion defeated and Rip found, the Legends inadvertently broke time, and are currently tasked with fixing their anachronisms while battling a newly resurrected Damien Darhk and a currently unknown enemy named Mallus (voiced by the great John Noble). Rip formed the Time Bureau, an FBI – for time – and has been popping up here and there, along with obviously-an-eventual-love-interest-for-Sara Agent Ava Sharpe. Along the way we met younger versions of the Legends and even an imp named Beebo who temporarily took over Christmas.

What usually doesn’t work with other shows does seem to work for LoT: a somewhat rotating cast. With Firestorm no longer a thing, thanks to Stein’s death, there are 2 vacancies on the WaveRider; I hope they’ll be filled with The Flash’s (underutilized) Wally West, and supernatural sleuth John Constantine. It definitely keeps things interesting when Legends can come and go at any time, and is a fun way to explore new team dynamics like Ray and Nate’s bromance or Amaya and Mick’s friendship.

What hasn’t really been working for me in season 3 is the seemingly disjointed villains/storylines. I’m hoping Darhk, Mallus, and Kuasa come together at some point – hopefully Mallus is pulling all the strings? But overall it’s been an interesting ride for the Legends, and I’m happy to stay aboard the WaveRider for some more jaunts through time, if only to see some more DC classic characters come to life.


The State of the Arrowverse – The Flash

It seems like we’ve heard “Run, Barry, run” a lot over the past few years on The Flash. The first Arrow spin-off officially created the shared universe, and has brought laughter, tears, time travel, and murderous apes (and sharks!) to our screens. How have Barry Allen and company fared? Spoiler alert: anything up until 2017’s winter finales is fair game. Let’s explore!

THE FLASH – Current Season: 4

What I’ve always loved about The Flash is its humor. While Arrow was always dark and brooding with some comedy sprinkled in, The Flash was far lighter and more fun in tone and content. Rightfully so: the Flash of the books and cartoons was typically used for comic relief. The first and second seasons of The Flash artfully combined comic book elements with humor, while not only crafting one world, but a whole multi-verse to boot.

Season 1’s reveal that the Harrison Wells who had been Barry’s biggest champion, was in fact Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash, was just brilliant. It was one of those twists that made you want to go back and re-watch every episode to see if there were clues you may have missed. The introduction of iconic characters like Captain Cold, Trickster, Firestorm, and Gorilla Grodd to name a few, was so much fun – only made better by the terrific core cast of Grant Gustin, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton.

*Special shout-outs to John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays, and the Mark Hamill (Pays and Hamill reprising their roles from 1990’s underrated The Flash show on CBS).

I also enjoyed season 2, constantly guessing at the identities of Zoom, and “the man in the iron mask.” Those reveals were good, though not on the same level as Wells-Is-Thawne; Zoom was a decent villain, and it was this season that introduced us to the multi-verse, allowing for evil versions of Caitlin, Cisco, and even Arrow’s Laurel Lance. But there were a few missteps, here: Barry and Patty never had real chemistry, that backdoor Legends of Tomorrow pilot, and the season kinda ending with a thud, since Zoom just wanted to… race? But the standout developments were the introductions of Jay Garrick, Wally West, Jesse Quick and Wells 2.0. The season was capped off with a jaw dropping tag in which Barry saved his mother from being killed by Thawne, thereby creating Flashpoint. You’d expect the next season to be the ‘Flashpoint fallout season’, right? Well…

Season 3 spends exactly 1 episode fixing Flashpoint, and while there were certainly lasting effects, (CSI coworker, Julian! John Diggle’s son! Killer Frost/Vibe! Pied Piper [remember him?] being a friend!) I wish they would have lived in Flashpoint a bit longer. The rest of the season got dark and broody, since Alchemy was running around transforming people into metas, trapping Wally in a… cocoon (?) and being all scary voiced, thanks to Saw villain extraordinaire, Tobin Bell. The reveal that Alchemy was Julian was pretty anti-climactic, since he was pretty much the only new character/only one it could have been; also dividing up the season into Alchemy-Is-The-Villain then No-Really-Savitar-Is-The-Villain ultimately just slowed down the story.

The story continued to be a bummer, since it revolved around Savitar killing Iris. By the time Savitar’s identity was revealed, I was pretty bored with the story, and having it be a ‘time remnant’ of Barry’s was also pretty weak. Here I’ll note that Savitar was a character from the comics, but the show didn’t use the source material at all – only the name. So, what’s left to say but ultimately they defeat him by sacrificing one of the Wells (Wellses?) pretending to be Iris. Then Barry just abandons everyone by going into the speed force. Yay?

There were a few great things in this season: meeting Caitlin’s mom and Caitlin finally becoming Killer Frost, the introduction of Gypsy, and Anne Dudek as Tracy Brand. I also enjoyed the cutesy “Duet” episode/Supergirl crossover/mini Glee reunion of Gustin with Darrin Criss and Melissa Benoist. In that episode, there were are a lot of people who have some serious singing talent: John Barrowman, Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber, and Jeremy Jordan.

Currently in season 4, The Flash has seemed to err on the side of comedy and bring the series back to its roots. Barry’s malfunctioning new suit and the unwitting metas created by Barry’s return from speed force jail have been great to watch. The villain is, thankfully, not a speedster, but a genius named Clifford DeVoe/The Thinker (nicely foreshadowed in season 3) who seems to always be a step ahead. Though the show retconned DeVoe back to include him in season 1, he is an interesting and compelling villain, along with his wife, Marlize DeVoe/The Mechanic.

Though I think too much time has been given to Ralph Dibny, (destined to be Elongated Man) at the expense of Kid Flash. Wally just disappears for a while and honestly, who noticed? Move that guy over to Legends of Tomorrow! Ralph’s sleaziness also doesn’t fit the show; dragging Barry, Joe and Cisco to a strip club, and Joe seeing Cecille’s daughter on stage… what was that about?! If they toned Ralph down by 20% and gave him a purpose, I think he’d be fun to see once in a while.

Someone who I love seeing on my TV screen is Katee Sackhoff, who looks like she’s having a blast playing Amunet Black (though why is the American Sackhoff playing British Amunet?) and I hear she’ll be back later in the season.

The Flash has become my favorite of the Arrowverse shows, and after a depressing third season, it’s rebounding in season 4. Despite the hijacking of Barry and Iris’ wedding by a certain other couple, this season has been enjoyable because of the humor that’s been injected back into the show, and the willingness to explore another type of villain. The latest twist, in which The Thinker has framed Barry for his murder, was jaw dropping, and for the first time, Barry hasn’t run out on a terrible situation.


The State of the Arrowverse – Arrow

I’ve been watching the ever expanding list of shows of the Arrowverse for years now, and there have been a lot of interesting developments in over the past few years: team shakeups, breakups, and betrayals (Hi Evelyn!), the introduction of Supergirl (and Superman), Dominators, Legends of Tomorrow, Legion of Superheroes, and big bads galore. How have these changes shaped the DC superhero shows? Spoiler alert: anything up until 2017’s winter finales is fair game. Let’s explore.

ARROW – Current Season: 6

The show that kicked it all off has been through a lot over the past few years. Olicity fans were thrilled that the couple got engaged, enraged that they broke up, then thrilled again when they got back together. After too many seasons of “will they, won’t they?”, Olicity finally tied the knot (after hijacking another super couple’s wedding). Laurel was killed by Damien Darhk, a new team was formed with a new Black Canary, and Oliver Queen somehow became mayor of Star City and gained a son in the process.

After a rocky season 4 – Thea and Sara in the Lazarus Pit, the Andy Diggle detour, a wasted Anarky, Oliver’s season ending city rally, etc – season 5 seemed to right a lot of wrongs. There was a functional team again, decent storylines, and a great villain in Adrian Chase/Prometheus. There were still a few problems – Anatoly, Vigilante, Talia Al Ghul, and (for me) Black Siren – but overall it seemed like a return to form that led to a captivating finale that saw Oliver sacrifice everything for his son.

I think the biggest issue with Arrow lately is there are no consequences for anything. That captivating finale, in which almost everyone on the show was in danger of being blown up on Lian Yu, resulted in exactly 3 deaths: Malcolm Merlyn (RIP, the only true loss), Digger Harkness (Captain Boomerang), and William’s-mom-I-can’t-even-remember-her-name. Thea was put in a coma, but recovered in seven episodes, or so. Other than that, no one else had a scratch on them, even Evil Laurel.

Can we talk about Evil Laurel for a second? I’m sure Katie Cassidy is just lovely, but I’ve hated the character of Dinah Laurel Lance from the very beginning of Arrow. It’s like no one ever knew what to do with her. Love interest? Not really. Hard hitting attorney? Meh. Bad-ass district attorney? Sorry, no. Kick-ass Black Canary? Not even close. Killing her off seemed like the right choice, since she never really fit into the show. But wait! Now Laurel from Earth 2 is here and she’s EVIL. KC sure looks like she’s having fun, but she still serves so little purpose. I just wonder what the end game is with this version of Laurel. I suspect they will eventually turn her from her evil ways through (not-really-her-dad) Quentin, but… then what? Two women with sonic screams on the team? Love interest for Rene? Just keep her evil and running amok forever? They should have let Laurel go, in my humble opinion, because she never really worked in the first place.

Something that did work was introducing a meta human with a sonic scream – such an easy solution for the Canary shaped hole in the team! Juliana Harkavy brought a certain attitude that worked so well – a grizzled cop who took no prisoners. And then… they decided to make her real name Dinah Drake – a nice nod to the comics, for sure, but a little eye-rolly. I’m enjoying her interactions with Diggle, and like her on the team much more than “throw some spheres” Curtis or “shoot everyone in sight” Rene. Her relationship with Vigilante is certainly a creative way to link the characters, but seems like it should have been a story from last season, when Vigilante was more relevant. Since Canary, Wild Dog and Mr. Terrific all just “quit” the team, the jury’s still out on how she’ll fare in the long run.

So far season 6 has been highly inconsistent:

  • I don’t know why they keep shoving Anatoly into the story, and it seems like they’re setting up a mini Legion of Doom with all the bad guys converging to… well, we don’t know yet.
  • Michael Emerson is great as Cayden James, but I wish they’d explain what he’s up to, since stealing a bunch of stuff and blackmailing people is just boring; it seems like the story is being made up as it’s going along, which is never a good sign.
  • Now that Deathstroke is off limits for TV, due to DC’s bizarre movie universe policies, we probably won’t be seeing Slade Wilson for a while. It’s a shame because Deathstroke Returns and Promises Kept were great Slade-centric episodes, and Manu Bennett is perfect in the role.
  • The team “breakup” obviously won’t last, and Oliver-as-mayor and being investigated by the FBI storylines are just absurd. It’s understandable that Oliver can’t be mayor/Arrow/dad to William at the same time; it’s just sad the writers chose to sideline Oliver as Arrow, when the mayor storyline is so ill conceived.

I still enjoy Arrow, and despite the folks at Reddit changing their support to The Punisher, I’ll keep watching. However, I think it’s time the CW starts to think of ways to wrap up the series with season 7, as this arrow lately misses its mark more often than not.