Friday, November 10, 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 5-11, 2017:

Supergirl - Episode 3.05 "Damage"
The Flash - Episode 4.05 "Girls Night Out"
Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 3.05 "Return of the Mack"
Riverdale - Episode 2.05 "Chapter Eighteen: When a Stranger Calls"
Arrow - Episode 6.05 "Deathstroke Returns"
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - Episode 3.05 "I Never Want to See Josh Again."
Jane the Virgin - Episode 4.05 "Chapter Sixty-Nine"

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 5-11, 2017. Enjoy!

Supergirl - "Damage"
When multiple children get sick from lead poisoning, Morgan Edge points the finger at Lena and blames her creation of the lead bomb she made to save National City from the Daxamites. While Lena knows she never intended any harm, she fears there may have been a flaw in her design, leaving her responsible. Kara teams up with Samantha to clear Lena's name, but it turns out to be harder than they thought. Alex and Maggie make a crucial decision about the future of their relationship. Written by Eric Carrasco & Cindy Lichtman and directed by Kevin Smith

This was the episode that became inevitable the moment it was announced that Floriana Lima wouldn't be returning as a series regular this season. The reason for Alex and Maggie's breakup has been pretty clear for awhile now with their disagreement over having kids. And frankly, it seems like the best possible way the show could have handled the situation. It's not ideal. But it has a mature and genuine conversation between the two that doesn't vilify one. Plus, it leaves the door open for Maggie to one day return should that be something everyone involved wants to do. Elsewhere, the main story focuses on Lena dealing with the potential consequences from her lead bomb last season. It's great that there are possible ramifications for that action. But it's mostly just something that the show teases the audience with before revealing who the true villain is. It's not surprising in the slightest that Lena was proven to be innocent. But it did force a fascinating existential crisis for her. Her family name is defined by being evil masterminds trying to destroy the planet. And now, her action to save it may actually be the thing destroying innocent people's lives. She has to face potentially living up to her family's expectations. That's fascinating to see how she deals with that. It mostly comes out in erratic behavior - like excessive drinking and pulling a gun on Morgan Edge. But it also leads to that fantastic action sequence where Lena needs to find her strength again in order to climb to Supergirl for rescue. It's a solid visual to watch but it actually means something for the characters as well. However, the show does suffer a little bit by Morgan Edge becoming a pretty one-note villain. Adrian Pasdar is great. There's just no nuance or subtlety to the character at all. That makes him an okay villain for the start of the season before the show can truly get to the more important story later on. B

The Flash - "Girls Night Out"
Having received an ominous threat from her old boss, Amunet Black, Caitlin fears that her past time as Killer Frost may be back to haunt her. Felicity comes to Central City to help the girls celebrate Iris' bachelorette party, while Cisco, Joe and the guys take Barry out for a night on the town. Written by Lauren Certo & Kristen Kim and directed by Laura Belsey

This episode is all about putting the female characters out front in all of the action. That's so empowering. It's one thing for the show to say that Iris has more agency now that she's the one who was leading the team for awhile. But the actual writers needed to do something more with her following a season where everyone was just waiting around for her to die. And now, this episode proves that they are giving the character and her female friends some great material to work with. The guy subplot is where most of the humor comes from. It's perfectly fine as well. It's a pretty typical "bachelor party gone wrong" type of story. The C-plot with Joe freaking out about becoming a father at his age while catching Cecile's daughter performing at a strip club is pretty lackluster and awkward. But it's also just a lot of fun to see Barry get drunk. Meanwhile, it's powerful to watch Iris, Caitlin, Felicity and Cecile team up to deal with the latest crisis in the city. All of this female empowerment extends elsewhere as well. The villain is played by Battlestar Galactica alum Katee Sackhoff who is clearly having a blast playing this over-the-top character. Meanwhile, the hour was written and directed by women. That's just terrific to see. Of course, it's still awkward seeing how much of this story revolves around the duality of Caitlin and Killer Frost. Now, the show is saying they are two distinct personalities in the same body. But it's still ultimately a story where one of the main characters is pleading to Killer Frost about her not necessarily having to be evil. It doesn't lessen the effectiveness of the overall story. But it is familiar plot terrain as well. Plus, why does everyone just allow Amunet to walk away from all of this? Shouldn't she be arrested? B

Legends of Tomorrow - "Return of the Mack"
When Nate thinks he has found a pattern to the anachronisms, it leads the Legends to London in 1897 to hunt down a time-traveling vampire. When they arrive in London, they run into Rip, but not everyone welcomes him back so quickly, leaving Sara to make a tough choice in the end. Amaya tries to connect with Zari, but she is still struggling with being part of the team. Stein discovers what Ray and Jax are up to and is not entirely pleased. Written by Grainne Godfree & Morgan Faust and directed by Alexandra La Roche

This episode has a fun premise just like the majority of this season so far. The Legends travel to Victorian London to track an anachronism that appears to be a vampire terrorizing the city. And yet, it quickly devolves into an hour that does a lot of setup for the ongoing big bad of the season. In that respect, it's a bit disappointing. Once again, the show is telling a season-long story about a villain whose success in his endeavor could destroy the timeline as everyone knows it. That story loses more and more weight the more the show uses it. As such, it feels like the series is more effective when it comes to one-off episodes where the actions of the Legends complicate the story but don't build to disasters that could destroy all of time. And yet, there does need to be some serialization. And Mallus seems like an intriguing bid bad even though he's still being cloaked in secrecy. The news broke today that John Noble would be voicing the character. He pops up here and immediately gives some gravitas to this new evil. However, it would be better if Noble was actually playing the character. Right now, it's a bunch of secret and hidden agendas. Those are just building to the resurrection of Damian Darhk. He's a bad guy this show has incorporated into every season so far. There's not a whole lot new the show can do with him. He's always going to be the man who killed Sara's sister. The show has tried to provide resolution with that. But then, Damian is resurrected once more and everything gets rehashed. A new spin on it must be found shortly. Meanwhile, the subplot with Ray and Jax feels like the show running into the same problem The Flash did in Season 3. Why in the world would they keep their efforts to break up Firestorm from Stein? He is actually a nuclear scientist! If anyone can figure it out, it is him. He's right to be upset for being kept out of the loop. But there was no reason for him to be in the dark whatsoever. Things are repetitive with Rip as well because he once again is proven to be someone who prefers going rogue than being a part of a team. And that ultimately leads to the Legends no longer being fugitives evading capture from the Time Bureau. B-

Riverdale - "Chapter Eighteen: When a Stranger Calls"
When Alice publishes a fiery piece in the Riverdale Register blasting the Southside, Jughead is forced to take matters into his own hands to try and keep the peace. Betty turns to Archie for help after receiving an ultimatum that could potentially destroy some of her closest relationships. With their SoDale open house fast approaching, Hiram and Hermione enlist the help of an unlikely ally to get some potential investors on board. Veronica welcomes her old friend Nick St. Clair to Riverdale, but his plans for a wild night with the gang quickly takes an unexpected turn. Written by Aaron Allen and directed by Ellen Pressman

Dark Betty has been teased a lot across these two seasons. Betty is so much more than the sweet, innocent and naive girl of Riverdale. In fact, she's one of the most compelling characters on the show because she is so nuanced but flawed. She's hopeful and optimistic. But she has these dark impulses that come out at weird times. They haven't had much explanation yet. And now, it seems like the Black Hood is digging deeper into those impulses. He has intimate knowledge of her life. It makes it seem more and more clear that it has to be someone very close to her - her father perhaps - who is under the mask. But right now, the show is doing an excellent job in conveying the terror of this changing world for Betty. She's being pulled deeper and deeper into the darkness in the hopes of unmasking this deranged individual. But in order to protect her friends, she has to do some pretty destructive things - like saying that Veronica is the same person she was in New York and breaking up with Jughead. And in the end, that isn't enough. It's torture for the Black Hood to want her to name his next victim. In that regard, it's easy for the show to introduce a character in this episode, have him do something so completely reprehensible only for Betty to name him to the Black Hood. Nick St. Clair is a one-note character who verges on being an after-school special addition to the show with his actions of drug use and sexual assault. And yet, it's a very rousing moment to watch as everyone runs to save Cheryl from such depravity while promptly beating up Nick. It feels like an easy victory in a world that is growing more and more complicated and compromised. Betty targeting Nick like this will ensure he sticks around and becomes a part of the world of Riverdale. That will cause even more problems. Meanwhile, it's great that Archie is an active participant of Betty's story even though he is now sworn off his efforts to be a vigilante. Plus, it's way too soon for Jughead to enter a new relationship with Toni. And yet, the show justifies that twist because Toni is the one actually looking out for Jughead as he prepares to officially join the Serpents. That's a decision he still makes which pushes him even further out of the loop of his friends and what's going on in their lives. This season is pushing characters away and forcing them to make dark choices. They need each other to survive. But that's becoming more difficult. B+

Arrow - "Deathstroke Returns"
Slade returns and asks Oliver for help in tracking down his son. When they learn Joe has been taken hostage by mercenaries, their mission to save him gets complicated by a terrible revelation that could shatter Slade's hopes of reunion forever. Vigilante reappears in Star City. Written by Ben Sokolowski & Spiro Skentzos and directed by Joel Novoa

The narrative has really started to stall on Arrow this season. It's difficult to find anything to really get excited about. Slade Wilson is back on the show this week! And yet, that story is full of really annoying contrivances that don't really add up to something. The flashbacks return as well. And yet, that story doesn't really reveal anything new or necessary about the relationship Slade had with his son. Overall, it's basically all about the symmetry of Slade having a double life in Joe's youth while Joe now has a double life as Slade's ready to be a good father. But it's all building to that reveal. It mostly just feels like setup. And yet, there really is no understanding of who Joe is before that big twist in the end. The show is just delaying that reveal. But it does so by going with a death fake out that was never going to actually be true. The show wouldn't bother to give so much attention to Joe only for him to die. It was very obvious what was going to happen. At least it had a good fight sequence with Deathstroke storming the building. Back in Star City, Vigilante's identity was finally revealed. It is incredibly underwhelming. There was just no point to Vigilante being a character last season other than to be a fake out with Adrian Chase. Once Chase became Prometheus, Vigilante was extraneous. The reveal could be delayed until Season 6. But if someone in the audience just watched this episode and not any of Season 5, the impact of the reveal would be exactly the same. Vigilante being Dinah's former partner and lover whom she thought had died is a reveal to actually give that character importance and dimension. The show doesn't drag it out long in this specific episode. But there was no reason to care about anything that Vigilante did in the fifth season either. C

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - "I Never Want to See Josh Again."
Rebecca goes home to Westchester where she draws closer to her mother and tries to find a way forward. The friends and co-workers she left behind, including Paula and Nathaniel, struggle with their emotions regarding her departure. Written by Jack Dolgen and directed by Stuart McDonald

The tone that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend aims to strike where it can tackle really dark subject matter while still being a funny, musical comedy is very specific and delicate. This season the show is especially delving deeper and deeper into the darkness within Rebecca's mind. She starts this episode having returned to her mother's house after going full-on "crazy ex-girlfriend" and seemingly burning all of the bridges she had in West Covina. It's a dark and depressing time for her. Naomi isn't the most comforting or caring person she can be with. And yet, her mother is the only option she seemingly has left. The show doesn't shy away from the darkness in Rebecca either. She is having suicidal thoughts. That reveal isn't that surprising but it is serious and needs to be treated as such. It's a shock to Naomi. It motivates her into action. She genuinely cares about her daughter and wants her to be better. It's an act of kindness when she is slipping anti-anxiety pills into her milkshakes. But it's also an act of betrayal to Rebecca as well because she sees it as the latest example of the world trying to force their ideas of normalcy onto her. It's this vindictive act that destroys the illusion of peace, happiness and understanding she believed she had suddenly found with her mother. It pushes her away to California once more. But it also further isolates Rebecca. It's the act that makes her actually decide to swallow a bunch of pills in the hopes of killing herself. It's an incredibly dark twist that shows that these episodes aren't pulling their punches when it comes to Rebecca hitting rock bottom. But it's also uplifting and hopeful that she ultimately hits that call button to get the help from the flight attendant. It's scary and uncertain but she is still clinging to life for some reason as well. It may just be an illusion her mind is creating to protect herself. But it's important for her to pull herself out of this as well and accept that she needs serious help. The depression and destructive acts are spiraling out of control for her. She's experienced highs and lows which almost got her killed. It's brutal to watch. That's especially true with the audience seeing the hole Rebecca has caused in the lives of everyone back in West Covina. Her replacement is the perfect employee for Nathaniel. But she shows no interest in the personal lives of any of her new co-workers. She's just glad that she can sue for harassment and pursue her own dreams in life. That's uplifting and a simple story while digging even deeper at the depression and uncertainty the other characters are facing as well. This is such a complicated story. And yet, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continues to do a stellar job in exploring the ugliness of it all. A-

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Sixty-Nine"
When Adam reveals his dating past to Jane, the information puts a strain on their relationship. Lina seeks Jane's advice about whether she should get married and begs Jane to give her honest opinion about her fiancé. Petra hears some important information that could help Rafael get the hotel back, but Rafael is more concerned about his sister's well-being. Xo asks Rogelio to consider having a medical procedure done, but Rogelio is very hesitant. Written by Paul Sciarrotta and directed by Stuart Gillard

This show has done such a tremendous job over the years subverting the expectations and tropes of the romance and telenovela genres. It does a wonderful job in respecting those forms and the appeal that they have to their audiences. It's a love letter to those stories while also deconstructing them in a way that delivers a powerful statement in the modern world. The show continues to do that with the reveal that Adam is bisexual. That's such an important and empowering visual. The new love interest for the title character happens to be a bisexual man. Yes, it's a twist that helps create more distance between Michael and Adam. But it also does a wonderful job in addressing Jane's own bias on the matter. She's very progressive and supportive of many social issues. She understands how society's male gaze treats bisexuality in men. It's much more common and accepted for a woman to experiment with her sexuality in college than it is for a man. She understands all of that on an intellectual level. But now, it's incredibly personal for her because it feels like such a shock. One that she believes should have been brought up in conversation before. She wants to have an open and honest conversation about it. She wants to understand Adam's sexual identity. She needs confirmation that he's not just easing into being a gay man by saying that he is bisexual. She needs to know that what they have is what he wants and desires right now. It's an important discussion. One where Jane has to work through all of those feelings. It's meaningful that Lina returns to help her do so. With Diane Guerrero being busy elsewhere, it means she appears on this show less and less. And yet, her episodes now have more power to them. Jane and Lina are still best friends. But they don't see each other as much anymore. As such, they have to make the most of their time together when they do. It's meaningful and earned that they know each other so well that they can see when the other is struggling and needs the other's support and guidance. Lina needs confirmation that she should marry Danny while Jane needs the push to have this conversation with Adam. It's all very special and rewarding. Plus, Danny's surprising strip tease for Lina is just as awkward and fun as one would imagine. Elsewhere, Rogelio needing to accept that he should have a vasectomy for Xo is a strong and sentimental story as well. It addresses a real issue for couples as they age regarding birth control while still being wrapped in the silliness of what's happening on Rogelio's telenovela. Meanwhile, the continuing Marbella drama is the only aspect of this season that still seems a little too repetitive. It changes ownership once again. Honestly at this point, I'd be perfectly fine with Rafael and Petra losing their money and needing to start over from the ground up. It's something that Rafael believes he has to do in order to avoid becoming his father. But the final twist ensures there will be more drama at the Marbella for the immediate future. A-