[Review] - DCTV: Arrow Season 4 And The Flash Season 2, Episodes 3 And 4, "Restoration", "Beyond Redemption", "Family of Rogues" And "The Fury of Firestorm"

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television. 
Perhaps the most significant thing to happen in any of these four episodes was the casting of Michael Ironside as Captain Cold's father. Not because of the gravitas he brought to the role (though, yeah, there is that), but because it marks the third time that a voice actor from the previous best adaptation of the DCU - the Bruce Timm produced DC Animated Universe - has been cast as a villain in The Flash. Ironside, who played Darkside to perfection during the Superman Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, joined former Lex Luthor Clancy Brown (General Eiling) and Joker Mark Hamill (The Trickster) as a wonderful reminder of how things were when they were done as best as they possibly could be. It helps that these men are all fantastic character actors, and professionals that school their co-stars whenever they are on screen. But hearing those voices in a DC context again is wonderful.

Which got me thinking, which other DCAU actors would it be great to show up in Berlanti's series? My immediate vote goes to Micheal Rosenbaum, just to keep things in the Speedster family, as he performed Wally West's voice on the Justice League and Unlimited series. Kin Shriner, who voiced Green Arrow might be reasonable too. Powers Booth, who voiced the animated Grodd, would be the most logical, considering the pattern they are already following casting previous baddies as new baddies. But really, the DCAU had such an amazing depth of characters that The Flash could hire a different actor to play every guest role in every episode, and they've have to run for ten years before they exhausted them all. Which would be your picks?

Oh, and despite all of these episodes being pretty terrible, King Shark showed up for half a minute in a live action series, thus expunging any ill will and giving them significant leeway in the future.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that use their natural athleticism not to be racist.

If we're burning these four episodes down to their basic elements, and for the sake of this review, I am, Arrow and The Flash came down to this over the past two weeks: Legends of Tomorrow will soon be a thing. Seriously, all four of these episodes were essentially very long, very ridiculous build-ups to the spin-off. Which is not really how one prepares for a spin-off. When I think of the best ways spin-offs have been introduced, I think of Angel wandering off into the night at the end of season three of Buffy. I think of Fraser picking up after Cheers. I think of Torchwood coming out of Doctor Who. I think of the Flash coming out of Arrow. And what these examples all have in common is brevity. Characters might have been long established in all of those instances, but the physical act of proceeding into a spin-off was brief, if not sudden and immediate. Cheers didn't spend the last half of their final year with Fraser talking about Seattle all the time. Angel didn't talk to Cordelia about how great LA might be while everyone else was fighting the Mayor. And even Barry only turned up for a single episode of Arrow before getting his own show half a year later. the act of spinning off new shows from their core programs didn't hijack the core program.

And it's not as if these shows both don't have their own season arcs to deal with in the mean time. Ollie has politics and Dahrk running around, while Barry is dealing with wormholes to second Earths, and Zoom sending every too-weird-to-be-real character in the DC catalogue from the other side to this one. And yet both shows have shoved these arcs to the back burner for two consecutive weeks (and looks to be inclined to do so for the next few) in favour of the writers being patently unsubtle about assembling a team of secondaries and ne'er-do-wells. So, while Family of Rogues may have featured some strong characterization for Leonard Snart, and pushed him onto the path of being an anti-hero rather than a straight up villain, and Restoration brought Sara Lance back to the land of the living, the over all effect was like hitting a pause button on the forward momentum of the season plot. Happily, neither show opted to also pause the character development, so at least there continues to be positive progress in some regard.

But let us be clear, neither of these are well written shows. Sometimes it is hard when watching a movie, or an episode of TV, to really listen to the words. Sometimes, they are all you can hear. Sometimes, a performance can drown out the script, and sometimes a script bellows its own mediocrity above all else. The Flash is the former, Arrow the latter. The Arrow's problems are worse than that though. There has been a significant drop in quality across the board on the parent program. The acting, the writing, the directing, the staging, the common sense. It has all continued to erode to the point where each episode has to over extend itself just to approach banality. I draw attention to the fight sequences in Beyond Redemption, which were sluggish, poorly shot, and obviously manufactured. You can see, in the episode, the pulled punches and the missed swings. This was shoddy.

I wish to say that it was an outlier, but more and more it is just the way that show is running. I've theorized before that with Berlanti producing upwards of five series, and more critical praise and attention being drawn towards The Flash, and the fact that Arrow is going into its fourth season, it might just be a case of creative inertia. that behind the scenes, the gusto just isn't there. In which case, I say clean house and bring in a gang with gusto. Little you can do about the "talent" in front of the camera short of killing everyone and starting from scratch, but that hardly seems fair. though, at this rate, Arrow seems destined to burns itself out at five seasons and let the Flash take the lead.

That is not to say that Flash is any better. The writing is at the same level - pretty terrible. But it excels over the parent program in two important respects. First, the writing, as bad as it is, is at least playful. It allows for humour in a way that seems inorganic on Arrow, and revels in its own absurdity by fully embracing the ridiculousness of it's origins, with the cheesy names and the fact that The Fury of Firestorm ended with a ten foot shark-man attacking the hero. But more importantly, no matter how bad the writing gets, the acting is considerably better. The words get hidden in the performance, as it were. So, cringe inducing scenes like Barry and Spivot's flirting are made manageable by the fact that Gustin Grant is pretty charming, and Shantel VanSanten is really good at playing awkwardly adorable. But perhaps the strongest horse in the race is Jesse L. Martin. This is a man who is spinning gold out of cat turd most episodes. Look at the scene in Family of Rogues where he breaks down while confessing to Iris the truth about her mother. That is a performance, something that is not usual fair for the CW, and especially not in the Arrow-verse. Felicity broke down in tears at the end of Beyond Redemption, but it felt manufactured. Martin's performance in that scene felt raw, and earnest, and like it was coming from a true place rather than a directive in the script.

But its everything with Martin that reminds you that he is a better actor than a show like this maybe deserves to have in its full time cast. The scene in Firestorm where he and Spivot investigate the supposed reappearance of Wells. The expressions that Martin rolls out in that scene are priceless. He is doing more with less, rather than give us less with little, with is what his crossover co-stars are doing on Wednesdays. And this is largely the case with The Flash, which has attracted a higher level of talent from the likes of Victor Garber, Tom Cavanagh, and the aforementioned plethora of guest stars. While Neal McDonough, Ryan Robbins, John Barrowman and others might be having fun over on Arrow, they aren't being given anything to do by the scripts, and aren't really getting anything in return from the main cast.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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