Friday, March 2, 2018

REVIEW: The CW's 'Legends of Tomorrow,' 'iZombie,' 'Black Lightning' and 'Jane the Virgin' (February 26-March 2)

Various The CW reviews for February 26-March 2, 2018:

Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 3.12 "The Curse of the Earth Totem"
iZombie - Episode 4.01 "Are You Ready for Some Zombies?"
Black Lightning - Episode 1.06 "Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder"
Jane the Virgin - Episode 4.11 "Chapter Seventy-Five"

In 2018, 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, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes on The CW from February 26-March 2, 2018. Enjoy!

Legends of Tomorrow - "The Curse of the Earth Totem"
Written by Grainne Godfree & Ubah Mohamed and directed by Chris Tammaro

The narrative spine of this season is now ultimately built around the sides of good and evil hunting down six magical plot devices - aka totems. These objects have been important in the past. They've always informed Amaya's story, with Zari being introduced with one as well. But it's also just a generic story concept that has been played out in the superhero genre. Mallus fears these totems for some reason. And thus, Damien and Nora are hunting them down. But Damien has just become really bland as a villain after too many appearances without enough change within him or clear purpose and motivation. As such, the effectiveness of this episode must come from the execution of an insanely silly concept. And yes, it is a lot of fun seeing Amaya find her power again as a pirate trying to strike a deal with Blackbeard. It's amusing to think of the infamous Blackbeard as a coward. It's even better seeing just how badass all of the women are throughout this episode. It's also the hour that finally has Sara and Agent Sharpe go on a date together. Sure, there's some silliness with the two of them believing the other just wants a "normal" dating life. That would be too boring and not what either of them deserves. They spark the moment they kiss and are then immediately flung into battle with pirates who bound the Waverider. That's the quality that makes this potential relationship unique and a delight to watch. Elsewhere, Rip Hunter and Wally West are enjoying drunken adventures through time. That's a subplot meant to make them appealing to the audience before they join the Legends permanently. Right now, the configuration of the Legends is pretty solid. Maybe the best it has ever been. And now, that's at risk because these new additions are coming in and demanding so much screen time. It leaves Ray with nothing to do but be the focus of a potentially awkward and forced cliffhanger. Though the idea of finding redemption within Nora is a fascinating one. B

iZombie - "Are You Ready for Some Zombies?"
Written by Rob Thomas and directed by Dan Etheridge

iZombie completely blew up its main premise in the third season finale. It was a stunning twist with zombies being revealed to the world with a small faction of Fillmore Graves infecting the population of Seattle. And now, the show has to deal with the aftermath. This premiere largely points out how things are different under this new status quo while still fundamentally the same. It's a very tricky balance that does create a number of questions. There is still the brain-of-the-week with Liv helping Clive solve a murder by consuming the brain of the deceased. But now, the world at large is aware of the visions and has already determined that they can't be used in trials. That's just stated in a matter-of-fact way. The police has formed a new operating procedure in this world that already makes sense because Liv and Clive have been doing it for three years now. And yet, Fillmore Graves is still the organization tasked with maintaining the peace in the city. Walls have come up forcing everyone in the city to stay within it for the time being. That's potentially very dangerous - especially to the humans trapped in there. Chase wasn't responsible for the plan to infect many people but he did take advantage of the situation to his own benefit. He continues to do that here with Major's story. Major is completely devoted to what Fillmore Graves is doing. But it's also nice to see him return to the career he was passionate about before all of this craziness started happening with zombies. He's a teen counselor again and Chase exploits that to get more recruits to the patrols. Major can still look out for these kids and change their lives. It just has to be through this specific program where the abuse is already on display. It's fascinating to see the show examining class in a way it hasn't before. This new season is striving to tell stories of how zombies with money are treated better than those who don't. Blaine is still high in this new world by running multiple businesses for his wealthy clientele. But there's still the ominous and mysterious business of Angus being freed and immediately consuming the brain of a priest. Plus, there's the tragedy of the case-of-the-week with the father being unable to accept his zombie son and his wife killing him for that. The over-the-top Seattle Seahawks personality did undercut the effectiveness of that story a little bit though. Finally, there's the resolution to the Ravi cliffhanger which leaves him mostly in a limbo state. The vaccine does work. But it's not permanent with him turning into a zombie every few weeks. That's a significant change as well that is mostly played for comedy here with Ravi becoming a nudist. But that's a lot of fun to see too. B

Black Lightning - "Three Sevens: The Book of Thunder"
Written by Charles Holland and directed by Benny Boom

The most effective parts of Black Lightning have been how the show uses social commentary in order to fuel a story about family and superheroes. It's different than your typical show based on a comic book character. It has a voice and perspective that is an important part of every character. As such, whenever the show tells a more conventional superhero story, it can fall flat a little bit. Yes, it's important for the title character to be conflicted about the idea of killing the villain of the season. Black Lightning has always operated as a vigilante. But now, Jefferson feels pushed over the edge by learning Tobias is still running The 100. He is willing to kill Tobias because he killed his father many years ago. It's a personal motivation for his actions. But it still seems like a sudden shift for a character who has been preaching about the power of one's actions and how it can be misinterpreted by the rest of the world. It continues to highlight that he doesn't always listen to his own advice. But it also seems forced when he's standing on the edge and Lynn needs to talk him down by fully accepting who he truly is as a person. And yet, this episode has a very effective ending with Black Lighting and Anissa fighting because they don't know the truth about each other. They are both trying to protect Lynn. They don't understand what's going on. But it does lead to the big reveal of Black Lightning's identity to Anissa as well as Anissa's powers to her parents. That moment is inspired because the show really couldn't spend too much time dragging that out - considering Lynn already knew something major was going on with her daughter. But it's also heartbreaking for Lynn because she's seeing that her daughter is exactly like Jefferson which will only make all of the vigilantism even more complicated. Hopefully, the show making this turn right now indicates that the truth about whatever is going on with Gambi will come soon. He's still mostly operating as a shifty character. He has a past with the villains in addition to being Jefferson's sidekick. It's all just bland and cryptic for reasons that don't really enhance the story at this point. B-

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Seventy Five"
Written by Merigan Mulhern and directed by Gina Lamar

This episode was produced for the #MeToo era. It's the show reflecting on its own past and recognizing that Jane's relationship with Professor Chavez wasn't okay. In the second season, it was played for the romance. Jane got swept up in this attraction for her professor. She was almost willing to lose her virginity to him. She didn't and she found a much better mentor in Professor Donaldson. But now, the show is highlighting how the context of more information makes Jane realize just how inappropriate that relationship was. It does feel like a pretty self-contained story for the show to perhaps address this small aspect of its past. The show has always been about Jane growing and evolving in her sexual identity. Chavez was an important part of that. As such, it's strong to see her get empowered and speak up to ensure that this abuse of power isn't encouraged any longer. Yes, it's a somewhat silly story too - especially in the moment when a sex injury forces Jane to touch the body of Chavez's new girlfriend/student. It shows that Jane's words have power because of the position of authority she is in at the moment. But it's also just so relatable to see Jane's struggle in finding a direction in her life she is actually passionate about. That's the big thematic link of this episode. Everyone wants to have that passion in their careers. The show is being very realistic in showing the struggle. Of course, some things are more important than others. Rafael finding the ambition to be a real estate developer again mostly happens offscreen. As such, it's a potentially weird start to that personal story for him. But it's much more important for Jane to be confident in taking their relationship public with their family. Meanwhile, it's heartbreaking to see how lost and adrift Xo is at the moment. She needs support from her family as she tries to find the next stage of her life. She's not getting that from Rogelio because he's too focused on Baby and launching his new show. That's a ridiculous story as well even though it's a lot of fun to see Eva Longoria come in playing herself and matching Rogelio's crazy energy. But that silliness may be alienating Rogelio from Xo and pushing her to make a morally compromising choice. Elsewhere, the Petra-J.R. story also suffers from some crucial details happening offscreen. Yes, it's important for J.R. to come clean to Petra about what's been going on and how that new information completely changes Petra's perception of this relationship. She romanticized it until she learned the truth about who J.R. was. And yet, J.R. getting the screws thrown out of the case happens too easily. It certainly wasn't worth the build up from a cliffhanger in the previous episode. And so, something big is bound to be coming at some point in this story. It should just happen soon. B