Arrowverse Roundup: Catch-up

It’s become abundantly clear that I can’t keep up with doing a weekly roundup of the Arrowverse shows. I either have very little to say, or too much to say, or am tied up the weekend after the episodes air and don’t have time for a massive writing/recording session. Whatever the reasons, I’m currently twenty four episodes behind, and every week that I put it off several more find their way onto the list. So I’m going to wrap everything up in one post and one track/video. The Flash and Arrow season finales have aired at the time of me writing this, but I’m going to cover all of the final episodes together after I watch Supergirl and Legends next Monday and Tuesday.

Instead, here I’m going to very briefly go over my thoughts on this past season of the Arrowverse, mostly focusing on the episodes I’ve failed to cover, but also in broad strokes for the whole lot.

Black Lightning

I’m pretty sure I made my feelings clear in my first two roundups, but I felt season two of Black Lightning was pretty weak when compared to the first. The character of the show is still there, but introducing such a massive influx of metas so quickly into a world in which they were previously rare has done something to damage the groundedness of the show in much the same way that Arrow dipping into the multiverse and meta stuff did.

I’m a sucker for a superhero family. It’s one of the things that makes Batman cool to me (and I’m really not a Batman fan). The day to day family dynamic and how it influences their superhero lives is super interesting and contains a wealth of storytelling potential. The focus on this side of the show at the start and end of the season is the best the show has to offer, and it’s pulled off really well. I like the idea that they have rules they all have to agree to, and I like that Lynn isn’t kept in the dark, because it would get really old keeping up the charade.

I know it’s comics-centric, but I don’t like that Jennifer’s alias is “Lightning” when you already have a hero in the team/family called “Black Lightning”. Thunderbolt, Firebolt, Strike, Volt, Discharge, Fulmination… I don’t know how many of these are already DC heroes because my DC game isn’t as on-point as my Marvel knowledge, but even if none of these were on the table, then why not stick with Blackbird, her other alias? It’s a silly moan, but it’s something I dislike.

The overall connection, or lack thereof, to the wider Arrowverse is irritating, but I understand wanting to see if the show can find its legs on its own. It’s going to be really weird and an interesting bit of development if/when heroes start to cross over, since we’ve seen that many of our other Arrowverse heroes are comic books on this Earth. But a part of me really wishes that the whole blue-balls thing of keeping them totally separate would end already. They’ve already jumped the metahuman shark, so they may as well get down to it and bring the rest of the Arrowverse together. My money’s on it happening during Crisis on Infinite Earths, especially if the ending is breaking down the boundaries and leaving them in a single shared Earth, but I’m not thinking that will be how it ends.

I like Black Lightning, but I was hoping for better from Season 2. Roll on Season 3, though!

The Flash

This season has, like many others, been so up and down that it’s unreal. There have been some awesome episodes, really cool setup and use of established powers, but then we have the cast holding the idiot ball for half a dozen episodes at a time. At no point do they try and breach Cicada’s dagger to a different Earth, or straight into the Sun, or, and this one’s especially galling, slap a pair of cuffs on a weakened Cicada. Either of them.

Cicada’s dagger is at different times a massive problem or a minor inconvenience. Barry is either the fastest man alive, able to move at 99.9% the speed of light, or unable to catch fleeing villains after being knocked on his arse for twenty seconds. Nora’s sudden growth in power is insane; between episode 1 and episode 14 she goes from being unable to phase to being able to locally reverse time sans-time wraiths.

In general Nora’s motivations have been understandable, as well as her willingness to trust Eobard, since she didn’t have all the information about his past when they met. What really grinds my gears though, is Iris. Barry too, where his kid is concerned, but mainly Iris. People hate Felicity on Arrow, and I get it even though I disagree, but holy crap I just don’t understand how anybody can see Iris as even somewhat likeable. Future Iris cuts off Nora’s only connection to Barry’s legacy and has all her friends in on the plan. Present day Iris is consistently prioritising “spending time with” her daughter over letting her actually solve the massive serial killer problem she came back to help with. Barry’s reaction to Nora having been lying to the team is rough and a bit overblown, but it actually gave me one solid episode where I thought that for a change Iris was in the right.

On the bright side, this season has mostly strayed away from an overabundance of speedsters, but on the other hand we’ve seen the team repeatedly bested by newbie villains and replacement rogues who they totally outclass. It just seems like anytime there’s character growth whether emotionally or in terms of their repitoir of abilities, said growth can and will be abandoned for plot convenience at a random point in the future. Kind of like how several times a season in Arrow, Oliver has to re-learn not to keep the truth from his family and friends, and is constantly shocked to find that it’s still not okay and people might get miffed if he keeps doing it.

No discussion of The Flash season 5 would be complete without talking about the metahuman cure. It makes sense that one would be created. It even makes sense that it would be the Star Labs team to create it. What doesn’t make sense is applying the “it has to be a choice” mantra to dangerous villains. There’s a reason murderers aren’t allowed to own guns, and the same should be true of metahuman abilities. It’s sort of like the whole Batman’s awful argument, because he keeps putting the Joker back in prison despite knowing he’ll get out and kill dozens or hundreds before getting put away again. If Cisco has a cure that can strip Cicada of his abilities, every day it’s not used, the people Cicada kills are on Cisco’s head. End of.

Legends of Tomorrow

There’s not a whole lot I can say about Legends. I love Legends. It’s absolutely mental; it’s basically American Doctor Who with a larger cast and the DC name stamped on it. Each season has an overarching plot that very rarely comes to the fore in force until the second half of the season, and this one is no different. The episodes start out as a literal fairy tale monster of the week causes havoc somewhere in time, with the overall issue of Neron being touched on early on by Constantine, but he doesn’t become a real threat until after Nate’s dad’s death.

And can I just say, the reveal that Nate’s dad was doing his shady shit to build the theme park Nate imagined up as a child. God I must be getting on a bit, because that got me in the feels. I want to say that the twist of Ray being overtaken by Neron should have been obvious but I missed it until the episode’s stinger; and it should have been obvious mainly because this season hasn’t had its obligatory evil Legend. And this one technically has two with Gary’s turning temporarily bad.

I guess what I want to say is that I don’t see any real threat in Legends. Consider how the Legion of Doom became a bit of a running gag by the end of their tenure, or how Mallus was killed by a giant animated Bebo toy. Neron as Ray is just so damn charismatic that even when he’s being moustache twirlingly evil I can’t help but find it funny. We know that some of them might die, or leave the team, or get lost in time, or get trapped in hell, but when it boils right down to it, we’ll have a blast getting there.

Arrow

This season did what The Flash failed to do last season when Barry was in prison. It left Oliver there for a while. It allowed the cast to do their own thing for a bit, and when he got out it was through legitimate means. It’s been fun, although at times laborious, to see Oliver and co try desperately to go legit. At first they try to just be normal, but in no time at all they’re working for the police, and then with the police, and then more or less autonomous again.

And it’s good. It’s hard not to see that the show is winding down, tying off loose ends in advance of the shortened final season, but it’s doing so tastefully. Finding out there was another Queen child, but from the other side (which means Emiko and Thea are not related, by the way) felt a little weak to begin with, but taking her from hero to villainous sidekick to the leader of an international terrorist organisation in the space of a few episodes was done surprisingly well. She manipulates, fights, lies, and pulls off the impossible just like Oliver does. And while having another archer as a villain in a city that seems to at times be teeming with them like speedsters in Central City, she’s actually a match for Oliver in more ways than one.

But by far the biggest twist of the season was the realisation that her organisation planted the bomb on the Queen’s Gambit, and that she knew about it, and originally planned to stop it from happening. This means that she is, indirectly, the catalyst for the entire show. And it makes sense that she’s even better at out-and-out deception than Oliver because she’s been at it longer than he has!

And how could I not talk about the flash-forwards? The standout of the season has been swapping out the usually expected jumps back into Oliver’s past to touch on the legacy he leaves behind. Star City in 2040 is awful. It really looks at times like nothing the team did helped anything, and the realisation that Felicity is responsible for the current crisis adds a further gut punch to the gut punch conga line. The team itself; Mia Smoak, William Harris, Connor Hawke, and Zoe Ramirez, are like the generation 2 Team Arrow and aside from Zoe who’s given precious little screen time, they’re all solid characters. So solid in fact that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw a TV spin-off show when Arrow goes off the air next year called Star City 2040, or Arrow 2040. And as I said in one of my roundups, I’d watch the shit out of it. They’ve got way more chemistry as a cast than the original Team Arrow had starting out, and I’d love to see more of them. Honestly just in general I want to know why other heroes don’t seem to be interested in helping them considering the hellish dystopia that Star City appears to have become. Of course the Legends can visit them even if it doesn’t happen or doesn’t get picked up, but I definitely want to see more one day.

Supergirl

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Supergirl is far and away the series I’ve enjoyed the most this season. That might not sound like much on its own, but I’ve hated Supergirl for a massive chunk of its run, watching it only to pay lip service to the Arrowverse and its continuity. I hate that they just kind of say that Kara’s stronger than Clark despite her being displayed as generally quite weak considering her power set. I hate the constant super left-leaning narratives throughout the series; anti-gun, anti-men, anti-white, etc. It’s just a bit too much social justice in my TV for my liking; and that’s coming from someone that generally likes the stuff the CW puts out.

In particular I hated the bit last season where they demilitarised the DEO, a government agency that exists to protect the planet from aliens and aliens from the planet, aliens with incredible super powers. No guns. Because that’s the political line at the moment. And then to top it off, General Haley comes in and forcibly rearms them, and is displayed as this monstrous despot. Yes, her characterisation develops across the season, but it’s clear that the intention was that guns equal bad. The same anti-self defence attitude can be seen where we’re supposed to side with Kara having issue with people stocking Kryptonite. How many times has an evil Kryptonian rocked up and started trouble on Earth? How many times has Kara been mind wiped, or mind controlled? The idea that people shouldn’t want to have a trump card against someone infinitely stronger than them, and the idea that we’re supposed to empathise with that attitude, is mental to me.

I’m deliberately belabouring the point that I have serious reservations about large swaths of the show to further demonstrate how much I’ve loved this season. Yes, I think the harping on Dreamer being trans is a bit much, although I do applaud the showrunners for not having Nia’s sister coming running to apologise to her immediately after her big speech. But in general, even though it’s pushing a refugee narrative, it’s doing it well, and (and I never thought I’d say this), tastefully. Ben Lockwood is almost a parody, but not quite– there are enough Republicans that hold his anti-alien views towards flesh and blood humans that he’s an uncomfortable character. And that’s good. A little discomfort around your villains is something that should be hailed! The new President is clearly a Trump expy, and it’s fine, because again he’s cartoonishly evil. He’s working with Lex Luthor for god’s sake!

But it’s the way that it’s built up. The reveal that the Harun-El duplicate of Supergirl is their way of adapting the Red Son storyline into a Red Daughter one is great. The way that Red Daughter has an “A-Lex” is a great allusion to the early thoughts that Alex would wind up being twisted into a Luthor-like character in the first season. Dreamer being used as a half-human, half-alien reason why the martial law being enacted cannot possibly make sense is great too– is she half illegal? all illegal? all legal? Who gets to make the distinction? Even as we somewhat understand Ben Lockwood’s rationale, we accept that no normal person would go the extremist route he does, and in much the same way as earlier seasons have shown us some of the worst that aliens have to offer, this season has done a great job of showcasing the worst in humanity. And god damn, Lex Luthor is done perfectly.

I haven’t been behind Brainy or J’onn’s arcs this season, and I think we all knew that Alex’s mind wipe wouldn’t last through to the end. But for every Brainy, J’onn, or mind wipe we have a General Haley being developed into a real person, or Lockwood’s kid being built into his foil, or Lena struggling once again with being a Luthor.

I will say, Kara needs to tell Lena who she is at the end of the season, and if she doesn’t I feel like the whole thing will lose some major points for me. I liked the almost reveal this last episode and understand Kara’s reasons for not following through, but she’s decided to tell her once the current crisis is over, and it had better damn well happen.

In Closing

I definitely won’t be doing weekly roundup videos next season, but will likely do bits here and there as things I want to talk about pop up instead. This has been a learning experience, and I know for sure this isn’t a segment I’ve enjoyed failing to keep up with. Love the idea, but in execution I’ve failed pretty consistently. That said, we’ll have a finale roundup next week! Also, the Batwoman trailer just dropped, so I guess it’s nearly time to update the thumbnail:

–Adam

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