[Review] - DCTV: Arrow Season 4 And The Flash Season 2 Episodes 6, "Lost Souls" And "Enter Zoom", And Supergirl Season 1 Episode 3, "Fight or Flight"

Courtesy of Warner Pictures Television
I may have made this joke before, but with these three shows, a reasonable case could be made for renaming these reviews DCTV: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Because that really is how they line up. the Flash is good, Arrow is bad, and Supergirl is getting uglier and uglier with each episode. Now, I don't want to be too judgmental against Supergirl just yet, as it hasn't past my self-imposed but entirely accurate six episode proving period. But we are half way through, and things ain't looking any brighter.

But, while Supergirl proves to be tone and theme deaf, things continue to progress as per normal over in the Arrow-verse. The Flash had a spectacular episode that involved the Legends of Tomorrow in no way, instead choosing wisely to focus on it's own arcs, and a significant amount of character development. And Arrow tried to do the same, but fumbled mightily as it attempted to merge the Legends set-up with the ongoing H.I.V.E storyline, and also some character stuff that it was all over the map with, and resulted in a pretty sizable mess of an episode. So yeah, business as usual.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are the size of a tater-tot.

As a personal aside to being, I happen to be a big fan of alternate universes. I think it dates back to my childhood love of those spot the difference comics in the funny pages. So, when characters travel to a world slightly off from our own, the fun-loving part of my brain kicks in and I start paying close attention. Half the fun of watching Fringe was all the subtle and not so subtle ways things were different between the two worlds. So, the more time we spend glimpsing into Earth-2, the more I enjoy myself because the more chances for us to spot the differences. Those might come in the form of something completely spelled out to us, like the fact that on Earth-2, Oliver died, and it was his father who lived, to become The Hood. One wonders if he had to put up with all that Amanda Waller bullshit in his season three too, or if he just hung out with Slade, learning to become a killing machine the old fashioned way.

This week's Flash was everything that most of this season hasn't been to this point, which is to say, it's been about the Flash. This episode couldn't have cared less about a team-up spin-off, as it was 100% about moving these characters forward in their arcs. Identities were revealed. Goofy training sessions were had. Kisses were inflicted (you inflict a kiss upon someone, right?). Shit got dark and fast. And all of it in the name of the this series and this season's bottom line. It also featured three Flash love interests in plot-primary roles, and none of them pointlessly (or at least, as pointfully as Iris can be). Picking up from last week, the team decides to ensnare Zoom using a cunning plan, which utterly backfires on them and ends up keelhauling their entire operation. But, in the process, there was a significant amount of forward motion made in the character department, which is just fantastic.

Perhaps the best, and my favourite interaction of the episode, came from Wells. Which, get used to that phrase, because Wells is pretty much the best character on this show, whether he be the time travelling evil version, or the dick from another dimension. Joe's spidey-sense about Wells was on full alert, and Cisco opted to vibe the man to find out his hidden secret in the least subtle way possible. Wells catching him on it, and demands that if he has any questions, "just ask." This was lovely to hear, as its a particular pet peeve of these sorts of shows. CW-standard, you might call it, but really most network fair. Manufactured drama, is how I refer to it; you may have seen me use that phrase before. Essentially, its where a character acts against standard normal behaviour (either for the character, or for a rational human person) to generate artificial drama. And a big one, especially on the CW (Smallville was practically built on it), are characters not having conversations. One character gives a speech, then walks away, and both characters dance around the issue when the whole thing could be resolved with a simple Q&A like adults. If you have a question, don't stew and plot and get yourself worked up about it and act like a whiny pouting child, ask the damn question.

Of course, Cisco doesn't. He conforms perfectly to the stereotype and stomps off, to let the SuperSTARs think Wells is up to no good. But, his secret doesn't remain secret long. by episode's end he has revealed all. His entirely motivation is made known by him. He is asked about it, and wonder of wonders, he answers their question. He was sent by Zoom because his daughter has been kidnapped, but decided to side with Barry because he's a dick, not a bastard. But please, understand how phenomenally against type this action is. Wells explained himself. On a show. On the CW. On a less well structured show, Wells being cagey would have gotten them through to Christmas. And, the reveal of his daughter also introduced yet another potential Speedster to the show in the form of Jesse Quick. Her reveal has made a lot of people wonder if Wells has a comic counterpart after all, but I don't see the point in worrying about that. I think that having original characters is incredibly important. Like Diggle over on Arrow, original characters have a freedom to be defined by the writer's intent and the direction of the narrative instead of fan-demand adherence to comics canon. Would Wells have been killed last season, and would his doppelganger come through to this universe this season, if he'd been based on a comics character?

For an examination of comic-prescribed destiny, we need only glance at the sister series, Arrow, which seems to be uncomfortably and inorganically pushing Oliver and felicity apart and Oliver and Laurel back together. Last week, there was definite closeness between them, and this week, the gap between Oliver and Felicity widened. Is this because the narrative direction is naturally driving those characters apart and the former love interests together? Nope. They needed some drama for the episode, so they had Felicity push Oliver away, and make that ring he's been keeping in his sock drawer look like a stupid idea. Will the show bring him and Laurel together, just because their characters are traditionally partners in the books? I hope not. Oliver and Laurel, and Barry and Iris, are not Lois and Clark. Not by a long shot. And within their respective narratives, those arrangements have been investigated, and the shows have decided to go in different direction. Felicity and Oliver because the chemistry between those actors was far more energetic then between Amell and Cassidy. And despite Patty being brought into the show on Flash specifically to be a love interest (a shallow reason), I'm willing to accept it because her chemistry with Grant is superb, and her character is actually interesting besides. The problem is that, as long as Iris is still on the show, and still has nothing better to do, the temptation will still be there. As it currently is with Laurel.

Arrow this week was about bringing Ray back. Now, Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer was the highlight of last season. Pretty much the only highlight of last season. And giving him his own series is a smart move. But, the writers came at this episode from an odd angle, and the net result is an episode in which a lot simultaneously did and did not happen. And their first mistake was tying Ray's condition into the ongoing Dahrk arc. Because, why? And how? The problem with Ray being stuck in a glass cube on Dahrk's desk is that it is both the least interesting version of how they could have done that, and makes very little sense besides. The reason is that it leaves Palmer powerless, and requires the rest of the team to save him. Folks often talk about female characters having their agency taken away form them, but this is a perfect example of how bad writing affects all characters, not just female ones. Ray is the Tony Stark of the Arrow-verse, put into an Ant-man situation. And the best idea the writers could come up with was a glass box and a hand-waved Honey I Shrunk the Gun re-bigulator gun.

Their second problem was the sheer amount of stuff they opted to cram into the episode. And part of me blames the cross-over episode. Because it is scheduled for episode 8, it means that they have to get X-amount of plot out of the way before the crossover happens. Barry loosing the use of his legs is a great idea, and one that I wish has more room to play out than a single episode, because two episodes from now is the crossover, and they aren't going to sideline the Flash in Professor X mode for the Big Show. Likewise the quick-shot development of Curtis, the turmoil in Felicity and Oliver's relationship, the return of Felicity's mother, and the horrible job the writers have done with Sara's resurrection. Just utterly terrible. Caity Lotz was a gem in this series' belt back in season two, and her promotion to a regular on her own series was well deserved. But given the half-hearted hoops they've had to jump through to get her back on the roasters, I can't help but feel that the show, the character and the actor all would have been better served simply setting her involvement with the Legends in her past. It is a show about time travel, after all. It also committed another CW drama sin, one that Flash already committed this year, which is when they don't have enough time or interest to properly explore a dramatic situation, they have the character leave to "find themselves" so they can come back half a season later all better, without showing us the hard emotional stuff. And with that, Canary exits stage left.

Which leaves us with the cousin series, Supergirl, which has substantial cousin problems of its own. Last week, I wrote about the inherent problem with Supergirl when Superman is unavailable. And how this series fetishously (yep, made that one up) keeps hammering on about her cousin, the hero, the next town over, drawing ever more attention to the fact that he's not showing up. this episode took it to ridiculousness, almost galling levels, when they kept hammering on about how much Kara doesn't need Clark to help her, then needs him to help her, then shows up, twice, off screen. It is enough to make you shout fuck you at the screen. Either work within the confines that you have - you can't use Superman - and move on, allowing the show to develop its own identity, or don't and suffer your own stupidity. They've opted for the latter. This episode was anvilicious about how Supergirl didn't need Superman's help. In fact, it was anvilicious about a great many things. It tried to be feminist, tried to be modern, tried to make a point about developing its own identity. And then proceeded to not listen to itself. How tone and content deaf are the writers that they can be this unaware?

The problem is, I feel like they are fundamentally attempting to attract a different audience than Arrow or Flash. And I don't mean women, plenty of women watch Arrow and Flash (Arrow because of the eye candy, and Flash because its a good show). But I mean network viewers. people too lazy to turn the channel after watching Big Bang Theory. So they throw in references to the Kardashians (at least two that I caught in this episodes alone) and make cookie cutter characters like Maxwell Lord, who is a bizarre Tony Stark/Steve Jobs hybrid whose purpose on the show is really unclear, on a show already over-burdened with too many directions and subplots, and not nearly enough focus on any of them. So, they are going broad, and broad isn't helping, because broad sucks. Broad makes you a master of no trade. A problem is that, for every attempt to go broad, the show also makes an attempt to move in a focused. Which is why Kara has a Super-cave, and a Fortrish, and the DEO nonsense. Why Henshaw's eyes glow, and why there is so much unresolved sexual tension. The show is being pulled apart by its lack of identity, while speechifying at about establishing its own identity.

And then there is the frankly insulting way they are presenting Kara. they talk about her forging her own identity separate form a man she's associated with. They talk about how she's being unfairly judged and demeaned because of her gender. They talk about her being just as strong, as capable, as good as Superman. All good, feminism 101 stuff. And then they have her get beaten at every turn, ridiculed and minimalized in the press, incapable, and ultimately saved by the man she's trying to disassociate from. If part of the modus operandi of the series is to give girls a role model that hasn't been given to them on the big screen, they are failing terribly. And again, its the lack of self awareness that is doing it. I find it difficult to believe that its all intentional, and if it is, I'm insulted as a viewer. As it is, I'm just insulted as a person. If they want her to forge her own identity, and prove herself, guess what? You are the writers. Make it happen. I get that there is an aspect of "when you fall, you pull your self back up" and to their credit, the episode didn't end with Kara in the fetal position, crying into a tub of Americone Dream. But there is a difference between dramatic character growth and being unaware of the disservice you are doing a salvageable character.

Its only three episodes in, and there is more than enough time for things to turn around, but if ever a series felt like it was in need of a retooling, it is this one. Dump the stupid DEO stuff, cut the relationship drama down from high school cafeteria levels, get Kara out of CatCo and away from anything else that makes her a carbon copy clone of Clark Kent, and actually forge that original identity that Kara deserves. Because a show in this condition might have legs on the CW. But on CBS, if they don't meet certain bench marks, then you're out. And ratings are dropping in significant ways. This isn't something they can pretend isn't an issue for much longer.
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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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