Four Color Television - CW/DC TV Week 10 - Recap / Review
The Four Color Ark
DC/CW Television Week 10
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 2018 and the return of the CW DC Television Universe. We have a brand new series to welcome into the fold and a few schedule changes to take note of: so I hope you’re ready to head on back to the world of costumed heroism.
First off we have a casting shake-up that everyone saw coming but no one could get the CW to confirm: Keiynan Lonsdale’s Wally West will be joining the cast of Legends of Tomorrow for what looks to be the remainder of its third season.
Also we’ve got brand new series: Black Lightning debuting which means we have five CW DC shows, and only four CW DC timeslots. Stick with me this is where it gets interesting: Supergirl will air on Monday nights in its 8:00 PM timeslot until February 12th. Beginning February 12th, Legends of Tomorrow will take over the Monday 8:00 PM timeslot and will every week until its season finale airs on April 9th. The following week on April 16th, Supergirl returns and will run out the rest of its season with its season finale airing on June 18th. Black Lightning is taking over the Tuesday 9:00 PM timeslot formerly held by Legends of Tomorrow and will remain there throughout its first season. The Flash and Arrow will continue in their respective timeslots uninterrupted.
All of that housekeeping out of the way: let’s dive straight in.
Supergirl Season 3, Episode 10: “Legion of Superheroes”
When we left Supergirl on the other side of the divide between 2017 and 2018 she had been beaten into a coma by the Kryptonian genetically engineered superweapon/single mom Reign. When we rejoin her now she is getting a knock on the door of her apartment, and letting in a blue skinned visitor named Brainiac 5 (Jesse Rath) who informs her that she’s not really in her apartment. Kara is trapped in her own mind as a result of the coma that Reign beat her into, and Brainy is a member of the Legion that Mon-El woke up to communicate with her while she heals. The big problem is that Reign is still out there, completely unchecked, and Mon-El refuses to join the fight to stop her. He explains that this is because there is an alien menace called the Blight threatening Earth in the future and the Legion went to find the means to save Earth, and rather than saving that info on a flash drive they encoded it into their own DNA. If they die, so does the future. We check back into mind prison Kara, and she is pissed about the fact that she can’t wake up – particularly after Brainy tells her there is no reason she should still be comatose. While James covers for Kara’s absence at CatCo, the DEO is planning to try to take Reign out by using a plan created as a contingency should Superman ever go evil. Reign is behaving as a savior who is eliminating all evil doers, so the DEO sets up a fake bank robbery and when Reign comes to kill the bank robbers they all turn out to be DEO agents with Kryptonite weapons and other tech designed to be used against Superman. None of it works, and Alex breaks her leg. James calls J’onn out to pretend to be Kara with Lena so that Kara won’t lose her job. Supergirl tries to heat vision her way out of her apartment, but that doesn’t work so well either. Brainy explains that he believes her subconscious is trapping her in her own mind until she works out some issues. Reign goes to Albatross Bay prison, and Mon-El decides that he will indeed join the fight to stop Reign after all, and the DEO decides the best way to do that is to mainline some Kryptonite right into her neck. Reign tries to kill some prisoners, Mon-El and Imra show up to stop her. Meanwhile in mind prison, Kara realizes that her subconscious is trying to remind her to be Kara Danvers, that she’s stronger when she’s human. She wakes up just in time to save Mon-El from having his ass kicked by Reign. Reign escapes to her fortress and it turns out in the prison confusion Coville escaped and is now not Supergirl’s devoted worshipper but Reigns. Kara and Alex have a little sister time and things start feeling normal again.
I’ve got a bit of a bugaboo to address here that is not within the narrative of the episode, so I’ll hit on that first. Supergirl has created a world where Clark Kent/Superman is just a text away, but willing to give Kara the space she needs to handle her own life in National City. As an idea, that is a delicate balancing act – because you don’t want to reference Superman TOO much (as they did in the first half of Season One.) The other side of that equation though is that you don’t want to reference Superman too little, and this feels like a time where Superman needed to be referenced in some way shape or form. Kara is in a coma because in the last episode a Kryptonian villain beat her nearly to death. If there is something going on in Metropolis that is so important that Superman can’t hop over to the West Coast to check on his cousin who is possibly dead, it would be fairly newsworthy and you think it might be worthy of a mention. Otherwise there should have been some sort of mention about Clark having come to check on her, of course that would open the can of worms of having Superman (who has a Legion Flight Ring in his Fortress) interacting with Legion Members. Still – somewhere there needed to be something that doesn’t make it look like Superman doesn’t care about his cousin.
Before I stray too far into the rest of the episode here, I need to talk about Brainiac 5 who is one of my favorite characters in the Legion of Super-Heroes’. Brainy, in the comics, is a green skinned alien with bright blond hair who is the smartest guy in the room (you would be too if your ancestor was the original Brainiac who often nearly killed Superman. The bluish tinted makeup, white haired, glowing orb forehead look on the live action iteration here is off-putting and not what I would prefer: but the characterization is spot on so I forgive it and am firmly on Team Brainy.
The mind prison conceit that Kara’s subconscious will not release her back into the waking world until she deals with her behavior is a strained premise, but frankly it’s an attempt by the writers to deal with an issue that has been a drag on the character’s momentum since the season began. What was the most appealing about this show in Season One was that Kara’s optimism and sense of humanity was innate and unshakeable, in Season Two the character began to sort of load her identity into her relationship with Mon-El and here in Season Three her reaction to that relationship ending has swallowed her whole. It’s a fine story and it’s relatable, we’ve all been shaken to our core by the end of a relationship. The problem is that this is still her show, and the direction so far has kept her from shining in the way she can as the central figure of this show. In a connected universe where Oliver Queen and Barry Allen have soldiered on through bad breakups without sacrificing any of their agency, the time has long since passed to put Kara back to rights and move forward. Reminding Kara of who she really is by using the trappings of Kara’s apartment and a photo of her cat Streaky is a deft and subtle way of reminding both Kara and the audience of what really works about Melissa’s performance as this character.
The rest of the episode is more or less forgettable, and some things are incredibly predictable: like having the creepy Kryptonian cultist join Reign’s side. All in all, not Supergirl’s best Season 3 episode.
EPISODE 10 MVP
This week I’m calling out a brilliant moment from Melissa Benoist this week: With Supergirl in a coma the team is covering for Kara Danvers’ disappearance which necessitates once more J’onn J’onzz shapeshifting into the Girl of Steel and pretending to be Kara Danvers. The multi layered performance of Benoist playing David Harewood’s J’onn pretending to be Kara is an absolute joy to watch. Bonus points go to actual David Harewood for playing the aftermath of learning how good a kisser James Olsen really is.
Black Lightning Season 1, Episode 01: “The Resurrection”
Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is sitting in a police station with his daughter Jennifer (China McClain) while they await the release of eldest daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) who has been arrested while attending a protest against the violent and oppressive street gang known as The 100 that runs the streets of Freeland. When Anissa is released, the Pierce’s get in their car and hustle toward a fundraiser at Garfield high school where Jefferson is the principal. En route to this fundraiser, Jefferson is stopped by the Police and hauled out of his car – handcuffed and detained all because a woman’s liquor store was robbed and she said it was a black male who committed the crime. He is held until she says it wasn’t him. Later at the school, Pierce is honored for his work within the community by Inspector Henderson (Damon Gupton.) Jennifer goes off with her friends to a club run by the 100 gang, and gets involved with a boy named Will who owes money to his cousin: a mid level dealer named LaLa (William Catlett) who detains Will and Jennifer, threatening to force Jennifer to prostitute herself at the Seahorse Motel to work off Will’s debt. Anissa tells Jefferson where Jennifer is and he shows up there, using his power to control electricity to enable his daughter’s escape. Jefferson’s estranged wife checks on Jennifer after she gets home to make sure everything is fine, and Jefferson goes to a tailor named Peter Gambi (James Remar) to get patched up. We learn the backstory, that Jefferson Pierce discovered he had powers to control electricity and became the Superhero known as Black Lightning. Jefferson’s then wife Lynn (Christine Adams) and Gambi were the only ones who knew, Gambi designed Jefferson’s costume and helped him with his heroics while Lynn – a neuroscientist – studied Jefferson. Ultimately Lynn demanded that for the good of their children, Jefferson needed to stop being Black Lightning and he agreed. Gambi, in the present, tries to convince Jefferson to resume his role as Black Lightning. Will shows up at Garfield High and has a disastrous interaction with Anissa and Jennifer that ends with him threatening Jefferson. Jefferson confronts LaLa who agrees to get Will to leave Jefferson’s children alone, but it’s too late. Will has already gone to kidnap them and brought them to the Seahorse. Everyone knows that the girls have been taken there, but the police are taking their sweet time to do anything, so Lynn asks Jefferson to become Black Lightning again and save the girls. Jefferson goes to Gambi to get a new super suit and goes to the Seahorse, taking down LaLa’s operation and saving his girls. Black Lightning is back. Word immediately reaches top level mob boss Tobias Whale (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III) who claims that this isn’t the real Black Lightning, because he killed the real one.
I had toyed with the idea of delving very deeply on Black Lightning with its own separate review, but the more I thought about it – the more I realized the show itself was so instantly at home among its peers that it belonged being reviewed alongside them. My first thoughts about the series are that it is the most mature comic book series I’ve yet seen. The Netflix Marvel universe conveys maturity through grit, grime and often intense violence – and while this certainly feels more grown up than the four color counterparts of the CW, those shows ultimately still live and breathe in the same spaces. Not true of Black Lightning. We’re first introduced to Jefferson Pierce as a hero whose origin story has long since passed us by, and we subvert the trope of the first episode being about building a support system because Jefferson already has one. Rather than slowly exposing a world where big villains live, we dive into a world where small injustices mask much larger and more real world evils like racism, gang violence, bigotry. Jefferson Pierce is presented as a man who has spent his life serving his community in ways much larger than his brief stint as a costumed vigilante when his children were little, and it is in this sense of community that we see Freeland as a much more REAL place than Central City or National City. Jefferson’s having given up the hero life for the sake of his daughters is the kind of sacrifice Oliver Queen wasn’t able to make for 6 whole episodes over on Arrow. The dangers of a club owned by a deadly street gang, the best run high school in a troubled neighborhood, all of these backdrops in this pilot episode serve to create a reality to Freeland and the characters in it that is compelling and engrossing in a way other shows haven’t been. Central City/National City/Star City/Metropolis/Gotham are all “anywhere’s” that ultimately feel like nowhere; New York in the Marvel TV Universe is treated less as a locale and more as another character; Freeland is real enough that it feels less like anywhere and more like right here. The cast is fantastic, and these characters arrive very thoroughly fleshed out but without fitting into the sort of standard CW/DC mold. Obviously watch this space to see if I remain as impressed with the series as I was of this outing, but certainly for this week: Black Lightning was the best of the CW output. The mid level menace of a man like LaLa doing real word level crime at the behest of a “Kingpin” like Tobias Whale manages to feel more realistic than the machinations of The Kingpin over on Daredevil.
EPISODE 01 MVP
I wanted to come out of the gate giving this to Cress Williams for his portrayal as Jefferson Pierce, and he very nearly took the top spot. Except of course that Marvin “Krondon” Jones is so incredibly dialed in to the malice and strength of Tobias Whale* that he just had to get top honors.
The Flash Season 4, Episode 10: “The Trial of the Flash”
Barry Allen is on trial for the murder of Clifford DeVoe, and all the evidence points to him – what’s worse is that he refuses to testify in his own defense because doing so would require him to lie about any questions that might relate to The Flash. Cecille has taken a leave of absence from the DA’s office to mount Barry’s defense, and Team Flash is trying to figure out just how to exonerate Barry. In the background of all of this, people all throughout the city are succumbing to massive amounts of radiation. Cisco, Caitlin, and Harry investigate the strange radiation; Iris tries to convince Barry to testify; and Joe goes off with Ralph to try to get pictures of DeVoe’s wife in an embrace with DeVoe’s new body so that Cecille can use this to create reasonable doubt, but Marlize DeVoe just paints a picture of a marriage in crisis because of Clifford’s ALS – and Clifford encouraging her to find physical comfort with someone who could meet her needs. Knowing that this didn’t play well, Iris plans to admit in court that Barry is the Flash so that she can save him, Barry superspeeds to her and they have a conversation at superspeed about how he can’t endanger her or anyone else by revealing his identity. Desperate to save Barry, Joe tries to get Ralph to break into the DeVoe house so that Joe can plant evidence to exonerate his son/son-in-law – Ralph convinces him not to. Cisco and Harry discover the radiation is due to a meta who is about to go nuclear, Barry leaves his own trial to save the day – but it’s just a momentary blip of heroism before the jury comes back with a verdict: Barry Allen is found guilty for the murder of Clifford DeVoe and is taken to Iron Heights where he is put in the same cell that once housed his father Henry.
First: FLASH PREDICTIONS: Iris is pregnant, which is where her mysterious ability to talk to Barry at superspeed came from.
The Flash, on trial for murder, for comic fans – we have been down this road before with some incredibly strange results. The most significant of these was the multipart 1980’s Trial of The Flash, where The Flash (not Barry Allen) was on trial for the murder of long time rogue Eobard Thawne. The CW Trial of the Flash is not nearly as out there, nor does it take as long with Barry Allen being tried and sentenced all in one episodes – though both stories see Barry Allen represented by Cecille Horton. Granted, the comic version of Cecille offered a more thorough defense for Barry than live action Cecille did. I understand that Barry didn’t want to testify and have to perjure himself if pressed to answer questions that dealt with his double life, but I’m still unsure why that would prevent Cecille from pressing DeVoe’s wife further on cross examination. Even a bad episode of Law & Order would have blown the case wide open with the revelation of an extra-marital affair. Speaking of Ralph, it was wonderful to see him actually be portrayed as a human being again rather than a walking talking sleazy cartoon; having him be the one to give Joe West the crucial perspective on what would happen if he planted evidence in the DeVoe home to try to exonerate Barry was incredibly well played.
EPISODE 10 MVP
Every week we tune in to the events of The Flash and we watch amazing performances from our main cast, but this week they finally gave some nice meaty dialogue and emotion to long term supporting player Patrick Sabongui. Captain Singh* has been on board since episode one and we’ve had some great moments with him as a character, but the conflict he experiences having to testify against Barry is palpable and beautifully played. When in the end of the episode they cross cut Barry’s sentencing with Singh giving a press conference thanking The Flash for saving the day, you can’t help but wonder if Singh knows who The Flash really is.
Arrow Season 6, Episode 10: “Divided”
Cayden James and his Green Arrow Revenge Squad need access to the ports, and the best way to do that is to take over the mob controlled ports of the Bertinelli family (From way back in Season 1) to do that they strong arm Jerry Bertinelli (SGU guy) and give him 24 hours to turn over the docks. Curtis comes over to take another stab at activating the tech that will help Diggle get over his tremor, even though he is still not rejoining Team Arrow. Diggle’s implant causes interference that accidentally reveals the bug that Black Siren placed in the Arrow cave, and Felicity rigs up a temporary way to fool the surveillance. Oliver has Felicity back trace the bug, and is contacted by Bertinelli who wants to use the old “The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend” principle to sic Green Arrow on Cayden James. Oliver discovers proof that Cayden has built a team, and gathers the current team members and those who just quit to fill them in on the surveillance. Everyone gets a little tense over the fact that Oliver, Dig and Felicity knew about the bugs for a whole 24 hours without notifying them. Oliver drops the bomb that Vigilante, otherwise known as Dinah’s ex Vince, is on James’ team. Nobody takes the news well. Curtis offers to help Rene get out of his situation with the FBI by hacking them to discover what info they have on him and Oliver – Dinah confronts Vince and he manages to narrowly edge her out in a fight to escape. Oliver goes to confront James’ team alone and manages to only barely escape, the Bertinelli’s give the docks to Cayden James. Oliver realizes he can’t work alone, and offers his apologies and the opportunity to bring the other three back onto the team. They refuse and form a team of their own, but not before Curtis gives Diggle a now complete implant that should reverse his never damage thoroughly. Oliver, Felicity and Diggle prepare to try to face James as the team they once were; while Curtis introduces his teammates to their new base of operations.
I have a startling observation for you, something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say about Arrow before: Oliver Queen is a human being who is just as capable of fear as any of the rest of us. Everything that has happened since Cayden James threatened Oliver’s son several episodes ago has come from a place of Oliver being afraid, and it is causing him to make bad decisions to try to protect himself. For once he is not the all brooding, always correct proto-Batman of the CW universe – and it is incredible to see. The way he flails from not trusting the other half of the team; to realizing he cannot proceed without them; to pulling back to the insular core of himself, Diggle and Felicity is like watching a cornered animal look for an escape plan. Watching Team Arrow compress back to its Season One core is compelling, but that story is not nearly as interesting to me as an audience member as watching the formation of the new team of Wild Dog, Mr. Terrific and Black Canary. Even once they’re aware that Cayden James had bugged them and manipulated the team into falling apart as a divide and conquer tactic, they’re still so hurt and angered by Oliver’s mistrust of them – that they cannot rejoin the team. Obviously, this being television and all, the two teams will work together before the season’s end and everything will go back to normal. For now, the tension between these former teammates is palpable, and kudos to Arrow for letting the show breathe in this uncomfortable place for a little while.
EPISODE 10 MVP
Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake* brings us home with a performance borne out of anger and frustration over being betrayed by her partner AND ousted by Oliver.