Friday, November 17, 2017

REVIEW: The CW's 'Supergirl,' 'The Flash,' 'Legends of Tomorrow,' 'Riverdale,' 'Arrow,' 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' and 'Jane the Virgin'

Various reviews from The CW shows for November 12-18, 2017:

Supergirl - Episode 3.06 "Midvale"
The Flash - Episode 4.06 "When Harry Met Harry..."
Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 3.06 "Helen Hunt"
Riverdale - Episode 2.06 "Chapter Nineteen: Death Proof"
Arrow - Episode 6.06 "Promises Kept"
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - Episode 3.06 "Josh Is Irrelevant."
Jane the Virgin - Episode 4.06 "Chapter Seventy"

In 2017, it's impossible to watch every scripted show out there. There are over 450 of them. It's even more impossible to even provide adequate coverage of some of them. Great shows slip through the cracks. Some shows take awhile to figure themselves out. So as a way for me to provide more coverage of various shows, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes on The CW from November 12-18, 2017. Enjoy!

Supergirl - "Midvale"
Kara and Alex head home to Midvale for a little R&R. While there, Kara recalls a painful memory of a childhood friend's death and how that traumatic experience brought the Danver sisters closer together. Written by Caitlin Parrish & Jess Kardos and directed by Rob Greenlea

"Midvale" is a break from the norm for Supergirl. It's an episode of Supergirl by way of Riverdale. It's a weird experiment that doesn't quite work at all. And yet, it still has to be appreciated that this show takes risks like this in its individual episodes. It doesn't always have to be wild adventures on Mars. It can be a nice quiet drama about character relationships as well. It's just so awkward to spend so much time in the past as teen Alex and Kara solve a murder mystery. The mystery itself seems rather quaint compared to some of the things the two of them have investigated over the past three years. But again, the Riverdale influences are apparent - even to the point where Kara wonders if Kenny Lee was killed by his father. But it seemed a little too obvious that the sheriff was the one who committed the crime. The procedural aspect of the story wasn't that great. It was more important to see Kara and Alex actually bonding as sisters. But again, that's weird. This is a moment in the present when Kara and Alex should be relying on each other because of the respective heartbreaks in their lives. It shouldn't be a time when the show flashes back to how the two first learned to be sisters. It's awkwardly placed. Plus, the actual story beats are weird. There is no reason for Erica Durance to be in this episode other than the creative team has enjoyed working with her and has contorted a way to include her more often. And then, there is no actual weight or context for how this story in the past informs the present for Kara and Alex. They basically just fall asleep mad and wake up the next morning to drive back to National City after suddenly feeling better. The show should continue to linger in the emotional aftermath of these characters losing their greatest loves. This episode really doesn't address that at all. Of course, it's not all bad. The casting for the teen Alex and Kara was pretty terrific. C

The Flash - "When Harry Met Harry..."
When collectors of Native American artifacts are attacked by a meta named Mina Chayton who can bring inanimate objects to life, Barry turns to a surprising ally for help. Determined to crack the identity of The Thinker, Harry enlists Cisco's help to summon the ultimate think tank: "The Council of Wells," a roundtable of the brightest Harrison Wells from various Earths. Written by Jonathan Butler & Gabriel Garza and directed by Brent Crowell

When the creative team said that the fourth season would be infused with more comedy after embracing too much doom and gloom lately, there was the worry that the show would do too much course-correcting. It's been fine to watch the show produce more comedic beats this season. And yet, it's been blatantly clear that the show is trying too hard as well. Playing things for laughs won't inherently fix some of the systemic issues at the core of the show and the characters. It's just a difference in tone that may cover them up more. All of this basically adds up to the first clunker of the season. There are some intriguing ideas throughout this episode. But they mostly fail due to surface level observations played for comedy and nothing else. The team has Ralph undergo hypnosis in order to identify the other people on the bus. It's funny that they use the couples therapist for the job. But then, he only reveals the identities of people the audience already knows or who'll be important in this specific plot. The case-of-the-week is pretty lame even though it provides some social commentary as well. It is trying for depth in starting a conversation about where Native American artifacts belong. But it's too wrapped up in a villain whose powers manifest out of convenience. She sure is lucky that the police happen to be testing a new piece of technology while she's there. That was weird and forced. And then, there is the Council of Wells. Again, Tom Cavanagh is so good on this show in playing the various iterations of Harrison Wells. This setup was already glimpsed once when the team was searching for a new Wells last season before landing on H.R. But here, it's basically all schtick and nothing else. Sure, it does lead to that reveal of Barry discovering where The Thinker and the Mechanic are. But that's mostly just a tease that the motivations of the season-long story are still barely in focus whatsoever. C+

Legends of Tomorrow - "Helen Hunt"
When the Legends track down an anachronism in 1930s Hollywood, they discover it's none other than a time-displaced Helen of Troy and she's just started a war between two film studios. As the Legends try to fix history and return Helen to the Bronze Age, things get complicated when they are blindsided by the appearance of a former enemy. Sara contemplates an offer she is made, which would make the Legends leave the anachronism be. Stein and Jax find themselves in an unusual predicament. Written by Keto Shimizu & Ubah Mohamed and directed by David Geddes

At first, it seems like this episode has the really awkward position of showing how stupid, foolish and abusive men can be when allured by a beautiful woman. The show isn't featuring Helen of Troy as someone with special abilities. She's just a thin, blonde woman with a gorgeous face that drives every man crazy. Those optics aren't great - especially following the sexual harassment revelations about executive producer Andrew Kreisberg over the weekend. Those do undercut the female employment message the episode is going for in the end just a little bit. But still, it's great to see this show continue to have fun while still offering some pointed commentary about history. Helen is tortured by a life where men are killing each other for her while she's trapped away. The glitz and glamor of 1930s Hollywood is seductive to her as well. But it's not as seductive as seeing how badass Sara, Amaya and Zari are. She sees them as incredible women. And that sets up the great twist in the end where Helen is returned to her regular time but will be living on Themyscira - the land of the Amazons that will eventually be the home of Wonder Woman. I doubt this is this show's introduction of that character into the Arrowverse. It's more of a nod to how successful the film was over the summer. But it's a nice moment as well that plays on the audience's understanding of the greater DC universe. Elsewhere, it's great to see Jax and Stein get caught up in a Freaky Friday situation. It's more of a showcase for Franz Drameh as he is very specific about Victor Garber's various mannerisms as Stein. But Garber is still pretty amusing as well. Sure, the big climatic moment is revolved around him as Firestorm overpowering two villains aided by magic. The science of it all is completely ridiculous. But it's still a fun concept that doesn't get bogged down too much in the explanation or the ongoing story of the season. B

Riverdale - "Chapter Nineteen: Death Proof"
After a charge led by Mayor McCoy threatens to further escalate tensions between the North and Southside, Jughead and Archie try to put a stop to a dangerous alliance being considered between the Serpents and a long-time rival. Betty turns to Veronica for help when she's thrust into the center of a burgeoning mystery. Cheryl confronts her mother after a traumatic run-in forces her to make a stark realization. Written by Tessa Leigh Williams & Arabella Anderson and directed by Maggie Kiley

There is always a lot going on in Riverdale. That chaos works for the show because of how campy it treats all of it. And yet, it's starting to seem like there are no ongoing consequences for the main characters' actions. That could become a huge problem that removes weight from any singular action. Last week's episode was so effective because of the torture being inflicted on Betty by having to break up with Veronica and Jughead. Those moments were painful and traumatic. But now, she's back to being best friends and dating with them by the end of this episode. That's lame. It's restoring the status quo without following through on the repercussions the Black Hood promised. Of course, it's also empowering to see Betty turn the tides on her tormentor. She's playing a dangerous game that may come back to hurt her. That's already playing out with the Black Hood killing the Sugarman. But I'm much more intrigued to see how Betty's investigation into the Black Hood progresses because she's absolutely right to say that she is the smartest person in this entire city! Elsewhere, this new fight between Archie and Jughead should be a big deal. The show is already underplaying it by having Fred say they'll make up like they always do. And yes, it was reckless to do that drag race. It's this hyper-stylized sequence that plays well because of all the camp. But did Archie seriously not think to tell any of his friends that he called the police? That just seems dumb. Jughead's reaction to that is the only one that matters. It could force him away from his northside friends even more. But he has Betty again. So, that threat isn't as real as it could have been. Elsewhere, the show tackles the complexities of sexual assault in an intriguing way. It probably simplifies things too much in delivering swift justice with Nick being driven off the road and being seriously injured. It's much more intriguing to see what this does with Veronica and Cheryl. It brings Cheryl closer to her mom as they talk about the secrets they've kept from each other. But it also sets Veronica on the path to becoming just as ruthless as her father. B

Arrow - "Promises Kept"
As Slade continues to uncover clues about his son's last few years, Oliver makes a big decision. The Green Arrow leads the team into battle against "The Dragon," a villain who is stealing valuable tech in Star City. Written by Oscar Balderrama & Rebecca Bellotto and directed by Antonio Negret

This season of Arrow just hasn't found its hook yet. It feels like there is a little too much going on in the narrative - especially in terms of adversaries. There's what's happening with Slade and his son. There's what's happening with Vigilante. There's what's going on with Cayden James and Black Siren. And now, "Promises Kept" introduces a new villain of ongoing importance in Kirk Acevado's The Dragon. He's the manufacturer of the drug Diggle has been taking to control his tremor. And yet, this episode is only really effective because Diggle finally comes clean to his wife and the team about his issues. Plus, there's the obvious solution staring him right in the face with Curtis and Felicity. So, it may ultimately be a big deal for nothing in the longterm. Elsewhere, the Slade flashbacks are more effective this week because they play on the audience's own understanding of the history of the character. They aren't just predictable and formulaic in an uninspired way. But they are still pretty boring without doing anything new to conceptualize the relationship between Slade and Joe. Plus, things get rather confusing when Joe mentions that he has a brother and then immediate talks about killing someone. It may purposefully be misleading. But it's mostly just setting up an ongoing story. Slade has picked his side. He chooses to fight alongside Oliver. He no longer holds a grudge towards him even though he is tempted to join his son in this new devious endeavor. That's a perfectly fine outcome that ensures this story isn't done just yet. It's just not something I'm all that excited to revisit at some point this season either. Yes, it brings clarity to Oliver that he made the right decision in giving up life as the Green Arrow. But it still feels inevitable that the show will be getting him back into that suit and ruining that relationship with William. It will happen sooner than later - like maybe in time for this month's epic crossover between the four Arrowverse shows. B-

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - "Josh Is Irrelevant."
Rebecca tries to come to grips with her new life and some new information about herself. Written by Rachel Bloom, Aline Brosh McKenna & Ilana Peña and directed by Max Winkler

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend comes out and diagnoses Rebecca in "Josh Is Irrelevant." It plays as a significant turning point in her life and the show. She has been hitting her rock bottom this season that culminated in last week's suicide attempt. That was such a tragic and bleak moment for the show that still offered that glimmer of hope with Rebecca wanting help. And now, she's back in West Covina surrounded by her friends willing to welcome them back into her life. But it also truly digs deep into what it is like to live with mental illness as well. Rebecca didn't want to die. She just wanted the pain to go away. She wanted help but felt like she had pushed everyone in her life away. And now, she has the potential to see the world in a completely different way now that she has a diagnosis. As such, it's fascinating to see her reaction to that. It's uplifting when she hears this good news of being misdiagnosed for all of these years. That's what gets her to brighten her mood once more. But she becomes angry upon learning about borderline personality disorder. It's something that terrifies her and seemingly confirms her suspicions that she truly is broken and crazy. Her lashing out is fitting. But it's also completely genuine and emotionally earned when she is listening to Dr. Akopian talk about the signifiers of this illness. Sure, it creates the question of how someone who exhibits all nine of these traits could be misdiagnosed for so long. It could be a biting commentary on the modern healthcare system just wanting to throw medication at the problem. But it's also a genuine moment where Rebecca needs to accept that this is who she is. It's heartbreaking when she then has to tell Valencia that she can't promise she'll never try suicide again. It's a moment of significant growth and maturity. It's her accepting the reality of her disease in a way that she never has before. For the first time in her entire life, she's accepting that this is a part of her identity. It's scary and frustrating. It's a precarious time for her friends as well as they don't know how to react to her because they are so afraid she'll try to kill herself again. The show plays everything so thoughtfully and respectfully. This is a difficult subject that it is exploring in such a fascinating and important way - while still leaving time for a song about poop. So now, Rebecca is coping with how her life changes with this diagnosis. But her friends have to cope with how their lives have changed now that Rebecca is accepting these truths about herself as well. B+

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Seventy"
Jane's book is finally being released but her plans to have a party at the local bookshop where she was inspired to be a writer hit a snag. Always wanting to help Jane, Rogelio devises a plan to save the day, but one of his archrivals threatens to ruin the day. Rafael finds a job, but it is not exactly what he was hoping for. Petra has come up with an interesting strategy to get the Marbella back, but Rafael wants nothing to do with it. Written by Carolina Rivera & Micah Schraft and directed by Melanie Mayron

Jane is now a published author. Her book has finally been released for the world to read and enjoy. It's such a momentous occasion for her. And yet, it's marred by so many complications as well. She just wants a simple book party at the bookstore that inspired her love for books in the first place. However, the place has gone out of business. That's not something that needs to spiral up into becoming this big, ridiculous plot. It's disappointing for Jane but she knows how to adapt and can find happiness elsewhere. Rogelio making it into a big deal is true to him. But it's also a pattern of him overcompensating in his desire to care for his family. It's the show once again returning to the well of him trying to make up for lost time. But the show is smart in finding a new spin on this familiar story. Now, he's starting to suspect that he always knew that Xo kept Jane. That inspires such different reactions from Jane and Xo. Jane is understanding and Xo can't handle it right now. Xo has her own problems to deal with. Everything works out with the bookstore. But this news could build up to some tension between her and Rogelio. Meanwhile, the release of her book means Jane is seeing Michael everywhere. She's dealing with their love story and the bittersweet feelings of him not being here to celebrate with her. Michael isn't there. Rafael and Adam can't attend either. She's bummed but she understands. She knows that they have jobs they need to do. But it's not as simple as that. The show doesn't allow it to be. Yes, it's moving to see the acknowledgement in the book Jane has written for Rafael. It's then devastating how Jane spends the whole episode wanting to tell Adam she loves him only for him to say that he has taken a job in Los Angeles. That's so personally destructive. It keeps her from enjoying the happiness of this moment. She wants to live and love passionately. That's the advice her literary idol gives to her. But living passionately means getting heartbroken and that's tragically where Jane is once more. Elsewhere, it's good for Rafael to take this step back from all the scheming with the hotel. It's allowed him to mellow out. That's something that Petra could use as well. She's still in the midst of scheming with her family. She seemingly comes out on top. But in the process, she could have forced her sister to kill herself as well. The show promised a big death this season. And now, it has delivered in a way that could ensure the characters needing to take a step back and reflect on the lives they've been living lately. B+