Four Color Television - CW/DC Week 6 - Recap / Review
The Four Color Ark
DC/CW Television Week Six
Supergirl Season 3, Episode 06:”Midvale”
In the wake of the breakup of Maggie and Alex, Kara takes Alex home to Midvale to spend a little time getting over the emotional trauma of losing the woman she was going to marry; but Alex gets a little mean when she drinks and lashes out at Kara for the way she has behaved since Mon-El vanished. The two go to bed angry, and we dissolve into an episode long flashback to what life was like in the Danvers home before Alex and Kara bonded. 10 years ago Alex and Kara could not be any more different, to begin with they hate each other – and are constantly fighting the notion of “bonding.” Alex hangs out with the popular kids, and Kara hangs out at the losers table with Kenny – the astronomy nerd who has a super obvious crush on the girl of steel. Kara has her heads firmly in the clouds, drawing Superman symbols on her notebooks – daydreaming about living with Clark and being a Krytponian hero just like him: this is a Kara Zor-El who has not embraced being Kara Danvers and just wants to go off to be Supergirl. Kenny invites Kara out to watch the stars, and tries to make a move on her, but Kara misses the opportunity to kiss the boy and heads home. The next morning – Kenny has been murdered and Kara takes on the case. Alex, it turns out, was being tutored by Kenny and is equally gutted by his death – the two work together to investigate how Kenny died. The two teenagers approach the investigation in a way that clearly reflects the characters they will be in the present storyline, and the two work through multiple suspects: outing the star quarterback as a pothead; exposing an illicit relationship between a teacher and a student; and ultimately discovering the real motive for Kenny’s death: Kenny had accidentally caught Midvale’s Sheriff brokering a drug deal. Alex and Kara stop the sheriff and get him arrested – but the fact that Alex was almost murdered twice and a visit from an FBI agent who looked exactly like her mother telling her to avoid using her powers scares Kara into blending in better. Alex and Kara forge their strong relationship in the aftermath of the death of Kenny and we cut back to the present where the two sisters have bonded over their shared relationship losses and are ready to head home to National City.
This is the first truly good episode of Supergirl this season, and it barely even features the primary cast. Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh portray Kara and Alex in a framing story that opens and closes the episode, then they scurry off to shoot Crisis on Earth X while two amazing young actresses play the teenage versions of the characters. Two PERFECTLY CAST young actresses who will make you question whether or not someone in Canada has developed the time travel necessary to have made this episode work perfectly. It is a great tale of how these two inseparable sisters truly bonded, but at its heart it is something far more interesting. “Midvale” is a big sappy love letter to the WB’s “Smallville” in both overt and subtle ways. The biggest one of course is that big obvious reference Kara made to Chloe Sullivan, Clark’s good friend and computer whiz who helps the girls decrypt the pictures on Kenny’s laptop – Chloe Sullivan was created whole cloth for Smallville and has made only a few appearances in the comics, so this is indeed a direct reference to the show. The Chloe reference is a bit unfortunately timed as it came out just last week that the actress who played Chloe, Allison Mack, is apparently at the head of a creepy BDSM sex cult. Quickly moving past that, this episode is structured like a Smallville mystery episode, playing on the themes of the superpowered teenager struggling with their identity in the small town they call home, and turning to an adoptive family member for support and guidance; what makes this work well is that they use these standard tropes from that other series to highlight the differences between Clark Kent and Kara Danvers. Clark wanted desperately to fit in and be normal, where Kara wants nothing more than to shed her human life and be super; Clark’s primary support system was his adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha, Kara at this point in the story sees Eliza as overbearing. Obviously the appearance of Erica Durance as FBI agent Noel Neill counts as both a reference to Smallville and to The Adventures of Superman, but in reality this is just a dick move on J’onn J’onzz’s part in trying to discourage Kara from using her powers. The final nod to Smallville is a blink and you’ll miss it moment where the exterior of Midvale High is the exact same building used as the exterior of Smallville High. The chemistry between the young Alex and Kara is fantastic and used so well that you never actually feel like you aren’t watching the characters you know and love.
EPISODE MVP: This week we’re giving this nod to two people: Izabella Vidovic* who brought young Kara to life and Olivia Nikkanen* who became young Alex. These two girls did such an amazing job portraying younger versions of older characters that one could seamlessly believe that they grow up to be Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh.
The Flash Season 4, Episode 06: “When Harry Met Harry”
Barry is continuing to train Ralph Dibney in how to be a hero, and Harry Wells has an idea on how to uncover the mystery of the man known only as DeVoe who seems to have orchestrated Barry’s return from the Speed Force. Harry reaches out to a group of his “friends” from other earths in the multiverse to help him discover a theory as to who DeVoe is and how to find him: his friends turn out to be other Harrison Wellses from other earths. Meanwhile Joe and Barry are brought in to investigate a homicide where it appears a man was killed by a statue. One of the metas made on DeVoes bus has the ability to control effigies, and some investigation shows that it is a Native American woman named Mina Chaytan who is attempting to steal back an artifact stolen from her people. Barry and Ralph suit up to go stop her, but she endangers the life of an art dealer to buy time to escape – Barry chooses to save the dealer and Chaytan gets away making Ralph angry at the idea of letting the criminal go free to save someone elses life. In their second encounter with Chaytan she again divides the attentions of the team to effect a getaway – Barry goes to save bystanders but Ralph insists on catching her no matter what: and a child is electrocuted by a downed power line in the process. Ralph is hit hard by his mistake, and sulks a little bit before he is confronted by a Barry Allen pep talk about being a better hero. The two then find out that Chaytan is escaping from the CCPD. Barry and Ralph race to stop Chaytan once again and do indeed manage to stop her without endangering anyone else – and Ralph does some cool fighting with an animated effigy of a dinosaur. Ralph visits the wounded little girl in the hospital, and Harry reveals that the Cisco named “Council of Wells” has discovered who DeVoe is. Rather than being cautious: Barry races to DeVoe and is confronted with a seemingly normal man in a wheelchair.
I think that The Flash writers are so gun shy from last season’s overly dark Savitar plotline that they’ve forgotten how to write The Flash. Over the summer we were promised that this season would return to the lighter more engaging tone of Season One, all we’ve been given instead is a sort of forced lightheartedness and a show that goes out of its way to deliver punchlines. Unnecessary punchlines. Groan worthy punchlines that are being peppered into the episode to “lighten the tone” rather than simply writing a better episode of The Flash. For example let’s look at last year when Harry Wells helped Team Flash send a call out across the multiverse to recruit a new Wells to help out at S.T.A.R. Labs. We had a hilarious scene where the team looked through a few purposefully over the top alternate Wellses but it just a quick and cute gate that was in service of shuffling Harry off the show and introducing H.R. This week we get “The Council of Wells” which is an extended and unnecessary riff on a German Minimalist Wells, a Matthew McConaughey esque Wells and a strange Australian Cyborg Wells. That’s all, that’s the whole joke. There is a tiny little bit of nuance in there about how Harry is really just reacting negatively to his own worst traits – but by and large there is nothing there but the forced opportunity to have Tom Cavanagh stretch his comedic legs. The A story about Barry training an increasingly arrogant Ralph Dibney to be a hero until Ralph’s arrogance forces him to learn Barry’s lesson’s really quickly is also miles behind Flash’s best storytelling from Seasons 1 and 2. The Flash is at its best when the show’s light-heartedness comes from the fact that Barry Allen is a naturally optimistic guy, and the comedy grows organically out of the characters and their interactions. For example two weeks ago when Elongated Man first appeared we were treated to a great deal of slapstick physical comedy with Ralph’s elongated limbs – but the funniest joke in the whole episode was where Joe West was so repulsed that he threw up. The vomit wasn’t the joke that landed, it was Joe commenting that it had taken three years of really weird shit and stretchy Ralph finally hit his threshold – and it works because the joke plays on that character in a specific way. It’s not too late to give us a light hearted take on this show again, without forcing the comedy. I trust we can get back there.
EPISODE MVP: I’m giving this once more to Hartley Sawyer* for taking a heavy handed episode about his redemptive arc, and made it work. He elevated the material and did the work to show that beneath his slimeball façade, the wheels are turning toward making him something better.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 06: “Helen Hunt”
Helen of Troy (Bar Paly*) has, through the breaking of the timeline, found herself in old Hollywood, and she immediately becomes Tinsel Town’s hottest commodity: starting a bidding war between Warner Bros. and other studios. On board The Waverider Ray is implementing Stein and Jax’s plan to ty to place the Firestorm matrix fully within Jax – but the plan backfires and instead places Stein in Jax’s body and Jax in Stein’s. The team goes to Hollywood to try to track down Helen to take her back to her own time, but before they can nab her she escapes the lot in the car of the head of a rival studio launching a potential shooting war between film studios. Helen is cursed and her beauty will fuel this kind of violence wherever she goes. The team tracks her to a Hollywood cocktail party, where they find Damian Dahrk waiting for them and demanding parlay with Sara to negotiate a way out of the situation without a fight. While they meet to talk, Stein in Jax’s body meets and is immediately smitten with Hedy Lamarr (Celia Massingham) while Mick, Nate and Ray manage to get charmed by Helen into starting a fight. The team bolts back to the Waverider to regroup, and only the ladies return to nab Helen and bring her back to the Waverider to take her home. All is well, until suddenly the ship no longer functions. Helen arriving and being cast as Helen of Troy in the Warner Bros. Picture being filmed disrupted the timeline and prevented Hedy Lamarr from patenting the frequency hopping system that today is the background of cellular communication. Jax/Stein leaves the Waverider to try to put Ms. Lamarr back on the right path, Dahrk shows up to try to kill Jax/Stein and the Legends show up to save the day. Hedy Lamarr figures out how to return Stein and Jax to their proper bodies and Zari takes a reluctant Helen back to her own time, but rather than taking her back to her own place in time she takes her to an island of warrior women known as Themyscira.
There are a limited number of episodes left that will feature Victor Garber as a regular member of the Legends cast, and you can see the writers are reacting to that by attempting to squeeze every last drop of awesome out of the time they have left with him on the show. First up is this week’s body swap episode where Garber is allowed to do his best impression of Franz Drameh’s Jax and vice versa. If I’m to be honest, Franz did the better job of playing his opposite number – his Victor Garber impersonation is spot on and absolutely hilarious. Aside from the fun of the two halves of Firestorm being swapped, the rest of the episode is a fairly straight forward retelling of the legend of Helen of Troy and the way she corrupts men’s hearts with her beauty, but kudos to the Legends writers for putting the twist that Helen is aware of her power and wants nothing to do with it. We finally get confirmation that Courtney Ford’s Eleanor Dahrk is indeed the daughter of Damien Dahrk, and of course Damien’s second full episode back is full of awesome snark and sass from the immortal magician. The BIG piece of awesome in this episode though is the ending where Zari takes to an island of warrior women which turns out –of course – to be Themyscira: home to the Amazons and their champion: Wonder Woman. Though it may not be exactly the same, the Legends crew certainly used shots of an island that incredibly like the island featured in the film version of Wonder Woman which is way badass.
EPISODE MVP: Franz Drameh* for giving us an amazing performance of Professor Stein trapped in Jax’s body. Truly brilliant and absolutely hilarious.
Arrow Season 6, Episode 06: “Promises Kept”
We pick up literally where we left off with Slade discovering that his son Joe is actually the leader of the notorious terrorist organization known as the Jackals, and worse he is threatening to murder Slade right there and then. Slade however is not intimidated by a mere gun to his face and makes a solid case that the Jackals could use a merc like him in their ranks, Joe brings him on board – completely unaware that Slade is looking for information he can use to stop whatever the Jackals are planning. Oliver reveals to Slade that he never left town and won’t leave town until Slade saves Joe and they stop whatever the Jackals are after. Ollie does some sneaky investigation and discovers that they’re planning to blow up the water supply of Kaznia, leaving millions of people with a tainted water supply. Ollie attempts to steal the detonator but gets captured and brought to Joe who brings his father’s hated enemy to him. Joe encourages Slade to kill Oliver Queen once and for all, instead Slade breaks Ollie loose and the two escape to plan how to disrupt Jackals’ assault on the water supply. Ollie gives Slade a pep talk about honor and dignity and the two go off to face Joe and the Jackals again. Oliver fights the terrorists and Slade fights his son who reveals to his father that he knew Slade was a killer long before he was affected by the Mirakuru – and demands an explanation why Slade would forgive Oliver. Slade explains that he forgave Oliver because Oliver forgave him – because nothing is unforgivable. Joe gets the upperhand and is about to kill Slade, but Oliver intervenes. Joe escapes, leaving Slade once more without his son. Slade and Oliver part company, Oliver returns home to Star City even more convinced that he made the right choice by stepping away from being the Green Arrow.
STAR CITY STORY
Oliver may have made a huge mistake by naming Diggle as The Green Arrow, Diggle’s nerves are not getting any better and he is needing to take more and more of his mysterious drug to compensate. It turns out that the drug is an experimental drug not yet approved by the FDA being sold by a man named Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) and Diggle is getting in way over his head trying to keep himself supplied with the drug. Dig finally tells Lilah that he’s using the drug, and she rightly calls him out for the way he moralized over decisions she was making as the head of ARGUS. Meanwhile Team Arrow is going after a mysterious drug dealer named The Dragon who has stolen a military grade 3D printer so he can synthesize his own chemical compounds. During a botched robbery Diggle comes face to face with The Dragon and discovers that it is his own drug supplier: Diaz. Felicity tries to track down Diaz, but the dude is a ghost – Diggle reveals he knows Diaz’ base of operations but fails to tell the team how he found it. They raid his space but Diaz kills his employees and torches his product rather than face Green Arrow and company. Diggle lets the team in on his secret and apologizes for lying to them, everyone forgives him and they offer to help treat his injury and get him out in the field the right way.
If you come here to see whether I yet again declare that Arrow delivered the best hour of DC/CW television this week, then I will tell you that it very nearly did. Supergirl was such a strong episode that it managed to edge out Arrow – but only barely. The Star City storyline where Diggle’s drug usage finally collided with the team was an excellent way to tie up the threads of Dig’s secrecy and turn Diggle’s tension with Lilah on its head by having John make the same mistakes in taking over from Oliver that Lilah did in taking over from Amanda Waller. The way the team forgives Diggle for his secrets and lies is heartwarming, but the best moment is from Curtis who admits to being offended that Diggle didn’t come to him for treatment – after all he was the man who developed the tech that gave Felicity back the use of her legs. The true star of the show though is the A Story following Slade and Oliver as they navigate the fall out of what has become of Joe Wilson. This week we complicate Manu Bennett’s performance ever further by calling on him to play three different versions of Slade: the pre Mirakuru version of his character, the version succumbing to the mania of the Mirakuru, and the current Slade who has risen above the effects of that drug and is attempting to atone for what he did under its effects. The nuance of each of these different performances is excellently calibrated so that you can see the entire arc of who Slade has been in just a handful of scenes. If anyone out there is waiting for my vote I say again: please give this version of Slade his own series. Overall the episode’s A story is a straightforward story of mirrors: Joe Wilson – the actual son of Slade is a mirror of the man Slade tried to turn Oliver into on the Island; Oliver is a mirror of Slade himself when they were on Lian Yu, and Joe is a mirror of the man Slade became as a result of the Mirakuru – and it is Oliver that has the simple way out of the conflict between these three realities: honestly revealing who you are. If nothing else, Oliver stepping back from the role of Green Arrow served to give him the experience and wisdom to give Slade the advice he needs to confront Joe honestly to try to repair the breach in their relationship.
EPISODE MVP: Stephen Amell* who for the first time in 6 seasons of television actually manages to overshadow Manu Bennett in a scene.
Next Week: Mon-El returns to Earth. The Thinker taunts Barry. The Legends hunt Gorilla Grodd. Oliver Queen goes to jail.
In Two Weeks: THE CROSSOVER EVENT