Friday, March 23, 2018

REVIEW: The CW's 'Legends of Tomorrow,' 'iZombie,' 'Black Lightning' and 'Jane the Virgin' (March 19-23)

Various The CW reviews for March 19-23, 2018:

Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 3.15 "Necromancing the Stone"
iZombie - Episode 4.04 "Brainless in Seattle, Part 2"
Black Lightning - Episode 1.09 "The Book of Little Black Lies"
Jane the Virgin - Episode 4.14 "Chapter Seventy-Eight"

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 19-23, 2018. Enjoy!

Legends of Tomorrow - "Necromancing the Stone"
Written by Grainne Godfree & Morgan Faust and directed by April Mullen

The pursuit of the totems has also created the ongoing mystery of who would wield each totem. Amaya and Zari already have their distinctions of spirit and wind. And now, the Legends have the earth, fire and death totems. As such, it's interesting to see who gets to wield those powers. It's not completely surprising that Rory gets the fire totem. His personality has always been closely associated with fire. It just forces him to accept that he really is a hero even though he is much more comfortable being seen as a thief. Similarly, it's understandable why the death totem calls out to Sara. She was dead and brought back to life. That informs her connection with Constantine. And now, it also forms her connection with Mallus. She has visited the realm Mallus is trapped in a couple of times now. And here, the two actually trade places. Mallus uses the death totem in order to control Sara's body. He's causing panic and destruction on the Waverider. This feels like a very contained episode. The majority of the action happens on the ship. But it's also a surprisingly moving story about Sara needing to fight back to suppress this demon. The first time Constantine showed up, he warned Sara that she would soon be overpowered by Mallus. And now, that has happened and Ray can't follow out the plan to kill her. It's ultimately up to the other totem bearers to fight back and push the demon away. Rory succeeds with fire after Ray, Wally, Nate, Zari and Amaya fail. But it's also just as important for Ava to show up pleading with Sara to return to her. This romance has been building throughout the entire season. It's such a great story as well. They have such electric chemistry. It makes it so moving to watch in this moment and so heartbreaking when Sara ultimately decides to push Ava away. That may be a mistake. It would be best if the show addressed that sooner than later. But it also allows this hour to be very emotional despite all of the silliness on display - including Gary and Constantine's D&D adventure. B

iZombie - "Brainless in Seattle, Part 2"
Written by Heather V. Regnier and directed by Michael Fields

The police investigation story of this two parter didn't really need to be split over two episodes. It has the typical amount of story normally seen in a self-contained episode. But it's stretched out across two weeks because the show has many personal stories it wants to tell about these characters and the world of New Seattle. As such, the police investigation is mostly comprised of Liv and Clive sitting in a car and Ravi going undercover with a delightfully amusing accent. It's all wrapped up very neatly. Plus, the show still plays into the conventions of romantic comedies with Liv being high on hopeless romantic brain. Now, this story wouldn't work across two episodes without the perfect brain to overwhelm Liv. It also needed to be a case of her walking away from this story having learned something. She gets swept up in the moment time and time again. She is meddling in Clive's love life - which is the only story that doesn't entirely work beyond the painful reveal in the end. But it's just so much fun to see Liv accept that in the end true love is the friendships she's made along the way. Humans vs. zombies is clearly a big theme of this season. That's what makes it so fun when this episode ends on an epic dance party that is celebrating the similarities between the two species. It's a blast. That moment is surely needed as well because of how dark things are getting throughout the city. Yes, there are other moments of levity throughout this hour with Blaine and Major being on their own brains. It's always great to see Robert Buckley and David Anders go for the comedy as well. But there's also the ominous note of Blaine tracking down Renegade just as the audience learns her backstory. It's wonderful storytelling to realize that Renegade was most likely turned by Blaine back in Season 1 and was one of the clients who consumed the brains of runaway teens. She tried going public with her information and her husband was killed. Connecting her story to the show's history makes it so easy for the audience to be sympathetic to her and emotionally invested. That's what makes it so intense when Blaine drops her off for that meeting with Chase Graves. And then, there's the uncertainty of Angus' growing support as the leader of this cult that views zombies as the superior race that must fight back against the urge to blend in with humanity. Major finds himself at the crossroads of these various stories. As such, his reaction to all of this is going to be so key. B+

Black Lightning - "The Book of Little Black Lies"
Written by Tawnia McKernan and directed by Keli Goff

This is the episode where the entire family learns the truth about all of the superpowers. Jefferson, Anissa and Lynn have been able to form this new dynamic as people in the know. It's alienated Jennifer just as she developed her own powers. The show isn't actively exploring what she can do. Once Anissa found out that she had powers, she wanted to test herself and see just what she was capable of. She's an activist who wants to take a stand in the world and fight injustice wherever she sees it. Jennifer is different. She just wants a normal high school experience. Here, she explains that she just wants a normal life of going to college and starting a family. That's the future she has dreamed of. And now, it's in jeopardy because she has powers. She didn't ask for them. She feels betrayed because no one warned her that this was a possibility. She is mad because it seems like everyone has been lying to her. They are all trying to connect with her but it's difficult right now. It's good melodrama for an episode. It's not something that could sustain a storyline for an extended period of time. It's moving to watch Jennifer break down with her mother over the thought of not being able to have kids one day. But it's just as celebratory when she invites her father to watch a movie with her in the end. This family is growing up and learning how to be completely honest with one another. That's reflected in the main investigation as well with Jefferson telling Anissa that they can no longer trust Gambi. It's interesting how Jefferson, Gambi and Henderson are all investigating the same criminal outfit but going about it different ways. There's a new face to that threat as well with the Gregg Henry character. Tobias is nowhere to be seen this week. And yet, it's important that all of these dangling threads come together so that they can converge at this takedown. Sure, Henderson really isn't a character the show has asked the audience to invest in. As such, it's lame when he is brought into all of this and treated as someone worthwhile. But it is genuinely exciting to see Anissa dressed up as Thunder for the first time and her working so well with her father in attacking the lab making green light. B+

Jane the Virgin - "Chapter Seventy-Eight"
Written by Valentina Garza & Micah Schraft and directed by Justin Baldoni

This is the second episode of the season to be directed for the first time by one of the main cast members. Justin Baldoni follows in Gina Rodriguez's footsteps to helm an episode of the show. He too proves just how strong a grasp these actors have not only on their own characters but the entire universe of this series. This is one of the most emotional and gripping episodes of the season because of the decision Xo has to make about her upcoming surgery. Baldoni handles it so well while also bringing out a number of really engaging and moving performances from his castmates. Andrea Navedo has always been fantastic as the fierce and protective Xo. But here, all of that confidence has disappeared. She is in shock by her diagnosis. Everyone is telling her to make a decision about her health when she has yet to fully process it. She is no longer the woman taking charge of her life. She's leaning on Jane for support but all of her research really isn't helping Xo come to a decision she is actually proud of. This is still fundamentally her choice. She is given all of the information about her cancer. She is presented with options. Her entire family has an opinion. But it's not until she sits down with Rafael that she realizes her own power in this decision. The show hasn't talked a whole lot about Rafael's cancer. It happened before the show started. But it does form a powerful connection with Xo in this story. Plus, it then produces two phenomenal sequences that really articulate why this is such a big deal for Xo. She has always been confident because of her body. Yes, it's shallow of her to look at her clothes and remember the way she looked in them. But it comes with the memories of the important events where she was fully herself. She doesn't want to lose that by losing this part of her body. She also needs to have an adult and frank conversation with Rogelio about how this will change their physical relationship. He wants to be completely supportive. He's proud of Jane's research and is helping Alba express her feelings in a healthy way. But he ultimately knows and respects that this is Xo's choice. He understands the power of this decision and the permanent effects on her body. She's the one who'll have to deal with that. But Xo is the one who starts the conversation knowing that this is a decision they must come to together. It's really mature and moving of the show. It's such an open and frank conversation that is almost never seen in television. That's what has made this storyline so powerful. Plus, the episode does a nice job breaking up the heaviness with the zany story of Petra trying to express her feelings to J.R. It is silly to see her obsess over texts and get into a car accident while stalking J.R. And yet, Petra showing her vulnerable side is always great. And now, J.R. is willing to be with her knowing just how deeply Petra feels about this relationship. A