Friday, March 16, 2018

REVIEW: The CW's 'Legends of Tomorrow,' 'iZombie,' 'Black Lightning' and 'Jane the Virgin' (March 12-16)

Various The CW reviews for March 12-16, 2018:

Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 3.14 "Amazing Grace"
iZombie - Episode 4.03 "Brainless in Seattle, Part 1"
Black Lightning - Episode 1.08 "The Book of Revelations"
Jane the Virgin - Episode 4.13 "Chapter Seventy-Seven"

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 March 12-16, 2018. Enjoy!

Legends of Tomorrow - "Amazing Grace"
Written by Matthew Maala & Tyrone B. Carter and directed by David Geddes

This season of Legends of Tomorrow has been remarkably strong. The team cohesion has never been better. The show absolutely knows what it is and how to tell ridiculous stories that still mean something personal for the characters. The season was bound to have a clunker at some point. It appears that a trip to 1950s Memphis to visit a young Elvis was the tipping point. There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea that a young Elvis Presley wields the death totem and threatens all of rock 'n roll by terrorizing the city with ghosts. There just never seems to be a purpose to the madness. It's a plot largely about Nate trying to get everyone motivated by the power of music in the most obnoxious way. It suddenly means the world to him. And yes, music is a significant part of the culture. But the threat to it never abundantly seems clear. It's never really established why Elvis picks up this guitar with the death totem in the first place. It doesn't appear to be a major anachronism that Gideon picks up despite all of the changes made aboard the ship. Nate suggests that the Darhks had something to do with this but they aren't seen at all this week. There's just a lack of focus. It seems like it was destiny for Nate and the Legends to visit this time period to give Elvis the confidence he needs to perform on stage. But there's just no fun in that. It just seems like a ridiculous plot in order to be silly. Yes, that is the formula of the show. But usually, there's a stronger sense of identity and purpose. Perhaps that will come in the future with the tease that the death totem is restless. But that would only marginally improve this story. Meanwhile, it's still clunky having Wally as a part of the team now. He comes in with the speedster mentality that the solution is always how quickly the Legends can restore things to normal. He's a character without a ton of nuance here even though the story makes a point of him learning his lesson and actually talking to the people in history. But he never seems like a crucial part of this story either. It's all just too weird to be very effective. C+

iZombie - "Brainless in Seattle, Part 1"
Written by Heather V. Regnier and directed by Michael Wale

This episode may be the most overtly fun the show has ever been. It just has a blast taking its time in telling the main story. It knows that it features a police investigation that will play out across two episodes. As such, there doesn't need to be so many scenes upfront about Liv getting visions and figuring out the clues to solve the crime with Clive. Instead, it's much more important for her to be on this hopeless romantic brain. It's absolutely mesmerizing to see just how easily this show can toggle between a fun brain like this and the episode-closing reveal that the victim was murdered by a serial killer. That balance is so delicate and so crucial to the effectiveness of this hour. Without it, it would just seem so aimless for Liv to be obsessing over every cute guy she meets. And yet, it's also a blast because the show is fully aware of its own romantic history with Liv and the tropes of this particular genre. So, it has fun with acknowledging that many of her boyfriends are dead. Meanwhile, it plays into the long dramatic pauses with music swelling in the background while hearing Liv's inner thoughts as she meets who she expects to be the love of her life. That's what makes it funny when she's too self-involved to keep this guy's phone number. There's also just a fun montage in the middle of the episode with Ravi getting a makeover. Now, Ravi doesn't really need a makeover. He's still pretty sexy and has been entangled in his own love triangle over the course of the series. But it's just so much fun seeing him put on all of those different outfits while Liv and Peyton have a good time. Of course, the show still needs to make the pivot back to the dramatic. In that regard, it seems like this hour is purely setting up the darker side of having Fillmore Graves in charge of New Seattle and the delicate system currently in place. It's setting up various threads like there being too many people becoming zombies for Chase to feed. Major is off in a throwaway story about looking for an incriminating video. Blaine is confirmed to be the one who stole the zombie cure from Ravi. That's a mystery that needed an answer and it gives Blaine newfound power in this new world order. But it's also just engaging to see Liv further form this dynamic with Renegade and understand that she's the smuggler with compassion. She's the one who has sympathy for the humans trying to get out and the sick trying to get in for better lives. It ends on the ominous note of Liv and Clive figuring out what they're dealing with. This brain may not be as much fun two weeks in a row. But it should be very interesting to see what the show does in the second part of this story. A-

Black Lightning - "The Book of Revelations"
Written by Jan Nash and directed by Tanya Hamilton

This is a thrilling episode because it understands the power that comes from secrets being revealed to shake up the character dynamics. For this entire season, Gambi has been positioned as a shifty individual. He's been having covert conversations with Lady Eve and Tobias without Jefferson's knowledge. And now, the show is finally confessing his secrets and his connection to this mysterious cabal of villainous individuals. It takes until the end of the episode. But he does have that conversation with Jefferson in which he confesses to being a government agent for the ASA who came to Freeland thirty years ago to experiment with a drug that would pacify people. The consequences were that it gave people powers. And now, the formula has been perfected to make green light. It's a stunning reveal that also carries the weight of Gambi feeling personally responsible for getting Alvin Pierce killed. That's the largest betrayal to Jefferson. Gambi has been his friend and ally all of these years. And yet, he kept the truth from him. That's so destructive and it should be fascinating to see what will happen next. Elsewhere, Jefferson is training Anissa on how to be a vigilante superhero. He is trying to change her to get her to become just like him. But it's such a rewarding moment when he returns home as a proud parent after she listened to his advice and acted quickly in order to save lives. He understands the importance of these lessons while knowing he can't change Anissa's spirit. She wants to make a difference in this community. Her motivation is different than his. And yet, that should be embraced and encouraged. He's helping her understand her powers and it's so marvelous to see. And now, Jennifer is starting to develop her own powers. That seemed inevitable to happen this season as well - with Lynn being too busy with the break-in to check on Jennifer's genetic makeup compared to Jefferson and Anissa. But it's exciting that the show won't be repeating Anissa's coming out story with her powers. It needs to be different because everyone else in the family already knows what's going on. They have to be aware of the possibility of Jennifer having powers. They are just developing more quickly. That's fascinating. Her being in on the secret should have fascinating consequences as well as the season sets up its end game. B+

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Seventy-Seven"
Written by Deirdre Shaw & Chantelle M. Wells and directed by Gina Lamar

This is such a moving and powerful episode. The audience knew heading in that there was uncertainty regarding Xo's health. It takes almost the full hour to confirm whether or not she has breast cancer. But there's so much power that comes from the strength and brave faces the family is trying to put on during this time of waiting. Xo doesn't want anyone to worry until there is something worth worrying about. And yet, the thought of losing her creeps into everyone's minds. This hour highlights just how important Xo is to this show. It connects her to all of the magical realism to show that she is the true inspiration for Jane and Rogelio. They have built lives and careers out of the example she has led. And now, they are beginning to really notice and appreciate that. Jane understands that there is so much to write about and understand through her relationship with her mother. Meanwhile, Rogelio needs the extra push from Xo in order to go to several meetings with River Fields to get her to sign onto his TV show. She has always been there to support her family. She understands the importance of Rogelio making this final meeting even though it's right as she gets the call from the doctor. That's such a tense and heartbreaking moment. She is getting this horrible news but realizes she has to keep it together for her family. It's good that the show isn't having her keep this secret for very long. There is so much power that comes from her leaning on her family during her time of need. It's so moving to watch as Alba instinctively falls to her knees to pray and the rest of the family joins her. That's how they can possibly cope with this horrible news. It's all a part of the traditions and beliefs that Xo encouraged and supported in the family. It's magical to believe in something greater than ourselves in moments like this. It's the lesson Jane is trying to get Mateo to learn by believing in the tooth fairy even in the face of the twins' denial. It's so simple to watch Petra try to bring magic into the Villanueva household after learning everything that's been going on. But it's those simple actions that really help shape a person's worldview as well. That connects well to the other story being told here about reanalyzing events from the past from a different perspective. The audience has long known the inciting incident of the series. But now, Jane is reflecting back on that time from Luisa's perspective. That character has always been a struggle for the show. She hasn't always been the most nuanced character. But here, Jane and the audience learn more details about her headspace heading into that fateful insemination. It's the show proving it remembers its history while still adding new dimension to those past actions. It's significant because it paves the way for Jane to better understand Luisa and have sympathy for her. That's what makes it so great when she returns seemingly happy and healthy. She has finally gotten Rose out of her life. And yet, Rafael's pursuit of his biological parents could be the thing that ultimately sends Luisa spiraling back down in her addictions. So, it's obviously going to be a very intense and complicated future for many of these characters. But at least the show has some fun in revealing that Petra's blackmailer is nothing more than a side character in her story: Krishna - with the threat going away quickly thereafter. A