Thursday, February 2, 2017

REVIEW: 'Supergirl,' 'The Flash,' 'Legends of Tomorrow' and 'Arrow' (January 30-February 1)

Reviews for The CW's Arrowverse shows for January 30-February 1:

The CW's Supergirl - Episode 2.10 "We Can Be Heroes"
The CW's The Flash - Episode 3.11 "Dead or Alive"
The CW's Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 2.10 "The Legion of Doom"
The CW's Arrow - Episode 5.11 "Second Chances"

Due to the demands of Peak TV, it is becoming more and more difficult for this website to devote the time to full length episodic reviews. And yet, there are still thoughts to be had about the ongoing adventures on a number of series. As problematic as they may be, the Arrowverse shows on The CW are having interesting and engaging seasons at the moment. So I thought it would be good to still write down a couple of brief thoughts about each episode on a weekly basis. Of course, you can still expect full reviews for premieres and finales. If The CW should make screeners available, those episodes would get detailed analysis as well. But for now, this will be the way to continue to provide content for these shows while also being a lighter workload for me.

Supergirl - "We Can Be Heroes"
After Livewire seemingly breaks out of prison, Supergirl is intent on recapturing her. After training Mon-El, Supergirl takes him with her when she sees Livewire attack the NCPD but things go awry when Mon-El puts Supergirl before the citizens of National City. James decides to come clean with Kara. M'Gann has a psychic attack and collapses into a coma. Written by Caitlin Parrish & Katie Rose Rogers and directed by Rebecca Johnson

The return of Livewire is framed as this huge nemesis for Supergirl. Yes, the two of them had a couple of battles in Season 1. But I wouldn't really describe their dynamic that way. Of course, it's very deliberate as well. Supergirl needs to hate Livewire so much so that the stakes are raised and she lashes out at everyone else for the motivation behind their heroics as well as the big twist that Livewire is being tortured. The episodic plot really isn't that great or impressive. It's the personal dynamics between the characters that give this episode some depth. It's about damn time that Kara learned the truth about James being Guardian. It feels like it's been a long time since the two of them have shared a scene together. That's probably not true at all logistically. Plus, the fallout of this reveal is interesting. She always saw James and Winn as heroes but she also sees being an alien as more heroic than being a vigilante crime-fighter. James and Winn still choosing to fight crime should be an interesting conflict moving forward. And then, Kara and Mon-El finally discuss that kiss that happened between them. It's mostly just the show saying he loves her but she doesn't feel the same way. It's good to have that stated for the record - though it's doubtful it will stay that way for very long. And finally, the stuff with J'onn and M'Gann was pretty emotional. Sure, it was just setup for the pending attack from the White Martians. But it was nice seeing those two characters get on the same page again and forgive each other despite their differences. B

The Flash - "Dead or Alive"
H.R.'s past catches up with him when a bounty hunter with vibe powers named Gypsy arrives in Central City to bring him back to Earth-19 to stand trial for his crime. It turns out inter-dimensional travel is illegal on their Earth. H.R. surrenders but when Barry and Cisco find out that H.R.'s only hope would be to challenge Gypsy to a fight to the death, they intercede and Cisco offers to fight Gypsy instead. Directed by Harry Jierjian with story by Benjamin Raab & Deric A. Hughes and teleplay by Zack Stentz

The show could go all dark and brooding now that it has laid out the path towards Iris' death. That was a quality that basically doomed the second season and the show really hasn't learned many lessons since. And yet, this hour is a more fun and light action adventure - which is odd considering it's titled "Dead or Alive." It's able to be that way with Cisco and H.R. taking priority in the A story. It's fun seeing Cisco learn how to use his powers. His evolution as a hero has really taken a back seat. Wally has become Barry's sidekick now even though Cisco's powers emerged first. And yet, Cisco's battle with Gypsy for H.R.'s fate was truly captivating to watch. It was filled with so much fun energy. It was great to see them travel to multiple Earths - including the CatCo offices of Supergirl. But it was also fun to see them maintain such witty and sexy banter throughout. It's unlikely that this will be the last we've seen of Gypsy. Meanwhile, the B-story reminds the audience that Iris is a reporter. The show has really dropped the ball on that side of her life. She's basically either Barry's girlfriend or Joe's daughter. It's nice to see her do something different even though she has a new sense of recklessness with the belief that she can't be killed until May by Savitar. That's dangerous but it at least gives her her own agency. B+

Legends of Tomorrow - "The Legion of Doom"
The Legends are determined to find and rescue Rip, but first must focus on locating the Spear of Destiny. Stein thinks he has the perfect person to help but knows involving her will be risky. Malcolm Merlyn and Damien Darhk realize that Eobard is pitting them against each other. Written by Phil Klemmer & Marc Guggenheim and directed by Eric Laneuville

Surprisingly, the show is off to a really good start in 2017. Last week's episode was a fun and silly adventure. This week's is a little more serious with Rip actually being tortured by the Legion of Doom and the legends trying to figure out what to do next. And yet, it does so much in better defining the ambitions and motivations of the legion. By the end of this hour, it's clear that Eobard Thawne, Malcolm Merlyn and Damien Darhk are equal partners who are honest with each other. That resolution comes after an hour of being at each other's throats regarding getting the information out of Rip Hunter about the Spear of Destiny. It's a very entertaining battle too. But it's also meaningful that Eobard's big secret is unveiled. He is constantly running because he's being hunted by a time monster. The speed force is the reason he's still alive. That's a much simpler explanation than him being a time remnant like he has been on The Flash. That is way too confusing. Here, everything is simplified and amped up for much enjoyment. Sure, it seems like the villains become a unified team in this episode. That should terrify the legends as they are still just flailing around. Of course, they get some victories as well by being able to identify Eobard as the speedster. That took much longer than it should have. Plus, Stein finally tells the truth to his daughter about her being a time aberration. She has proven to be a fun and compelling addition to the show as of late. And finally, the introduction of being able to change Rip's personality at whim should be very interesting. B+

Arrow - "Second Chances"
In his quest to take down Kovar, Oliver gets help from a surprising source - Talia al Ghul. When she reveals what she wants from him in exchange, Oliver isn't sure he can accept her help. Felicity attempts to hack the NSA to help free Diggle but when her online efforts are flagged, she faces off against an unknown adversary. Curtis tells the team about a female vigilante, Tina Boland, he uncovered online who has been wreaking havoc all over the country. Written by Speed Weed & Sarah Tarkoff and directed by Mark Bunting

Unsurprisingly, an episode titled "Second Chances" primarily focuses on the characters embracing the idea of second chances. The Arrowverse shows are never all that subtle when it comes to themes. And yet, it still works in this episode. The show itself has found renewed creative energy this season. Oliver has had a new chance to be a leader to a new team. It's been a change to the core dynamic of the show. But him being a mentor to the new recruits has largely worked for his character arc - even though the recruits are still bland a lot of the time. Plus, Tina Boland - whose real name is actually Dinah Drake - is a much more captivating replacement as the Black Canary than Evelyn ever was. It could just be because the actress is older and has more of a developed backstory throughout this episode. The hour is all about Oliver, Rene and Curtis helping her get revenge against the man who killed her lover. But she has more charisma that should be interesting to see join the team moving forward. Meanwhile, the flashbacks get a shot of energy with the introduction of Talia al Ghul. She basically says what everyone has been thinking for awhile. Oliver could have returned home and carried out his father's mission essentially after Season 2. That's when his arc was over with in the flashbacks. And yet, the show has had frivolous time to fill for no reason whatsoever. It's doubtful that Talia will remain just a fixture in the flashbacks though. And finally, Felicity is able to help get Diggle out of prison. But in doing so, it could reignite her interest in hacker activism. Her goth hacker days was a horrible story. So, it's slightly worrisome that the show is going back to that world with her. B+