Four Color Television - CW/DC TV Week 11 - Recap / Review
The Four Color Ark
DC/CW Television Week Eleven
Supergirl Season 3, Episode 11: “Fort Rozz”
While researching the Worldkiller, Winn discovers the list of prisoners who were on Fort Rozz (the Kryptonian Phantom Zone prison from Season One) and that one of those prisoners is a priestess who knows a lot about the Worldkiller. The first problem is finding Fort Rozz, since Supergirl tossed it into space. The second problem is where Fort Rozz ended up; it is in orbit of a star that emits a radiation harmful to men – and a light wavelength that will sap Kara’s powers from her. Kara needs a team of ladies to go with her to Fort Rozz, and she recruits some unlikely candidates: Saturn Girl is the first one to join the team, but then Supergirl reaches out to Live Wire and Psi – two of her bitter enemies. Meanwhile, in normal people land, Sam is going away on business for L-Corp and needs someone to watch Ruby. Enter Alex, the currently wounded DEO agent with nothing but time on her hands. Supergirl and her team of rivals leave for Fort Rozz and when they arrive they find a ship in a deteriorating orbit full of dangerous aliens who have no love for the daughter of their jailor (Kara’s mom for those that missed Season One.) Psi and Saturn Girl have an incident that leaves Saturn Girl rattled and causes everyone to lost trust in Psi so they remain on the ship. Reign is informed that Supergirl is at Fort Rozz so she jumps in a pod and heads there as well. Supergirl manages to find the Kryptonian priestess (Sarah Douglas) and gathers information on the multiple Worldkillers who were genetically engineered in Krypton’s last days and sent to Earth. Before they can get all the intel they came for, Reign shows up to stop Supergirl – and their fight reveals something Supergirl did not expect: Reign’s powers are not tied to Earth’s yellow sun the way Kara’s powers are. Supergirl fights valiantly against a villain she cannot possible beat, Live Wire sacrifices herself to save Kara. Psi manages to arrive in time to prevent Reign from catching Kara again and uses her mental powers on the Kryptonian villain, and it is just enough to briefly break the Reign personalities control – giving Sam control of her body again. Psi and Supergirl escape and head back to Earth. Sam also returns to Earth and realizes she has been missing time and never arrived at her L-Corp business trip. She asks Alex for help in figuring out what is wrong with her. Elsewhere – two young women are hit by a speeding car and survive completely unscathed and we are left to wonder: are these the other Worldkillers?
Here in The Four Color Ark I have been somewhat reluctant to talk about some of the behind the scenes problems that have plagued the Arrow-verse this year in the wake of the bombshell sexual harassment allegations against and subsequent firing of Andrew Kreisberg for cause. Largely I feel that we focus on the storytelling and not the process of creation, and I present these reviews as a fan and not as an expert on television production. I stand with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, and I support the organization/empowerment network Shethority that was founded by the DC/CW female cast members. This is the first episode in a post Kreisberg franchise, and it’s somewhat striking to me how night and day the difference is between the tone of the previous 10 episodes and this one. This feels like a return to the hopeful, female empowering, and earnest tone of Season One – something that felt like it didn’t survive the jump from CBS and LA to the CW and Vancouver. The fact that this tonal resurgence happens in an episode that centers around Season One elements like the relationship between Supergirl and Live Wire, as well as the Kryptonian prison ship Fort Rozz feels intentional. It’s like the writers are saying that these are the elements that were lost under Kreisberg’s leadership throughout Season Two, and that they don’t want to leave those elements off the table any longer. It’s a satisfying return to form, although not a perfect one. Wrapping out the Live Wire storyline is probably for the best, as it gives Kara a reason to push forward in taking Reign down – and it takes a weak performance off the table. Including Sarah Douglas as the Kryptonian Priestess with the information about Reign and the other Worldkillers is a masterful call back to her role as Ursa in Superman II. Random musing: is anyone ever going to notice that CFO of L-Corp keeps shirking important duties and disappearing for days on end?
Yael Grobglas as the villain Psi* who gives the subtlest performance of deciding to do the right thing by following the example of Supergirl and Live Wire.
The Flash Season 4, Episode 11: “The Elongated Knight Rises”
Barry is settling in to life in Iron Heights as best he can, but it certainly isn’t easy for him in a place where everyone knows he’s a cop. Iris visits him every day, and he is trying to not make waves inside. He has a brief encounter with Axel Walker, the Trickster’s son, who later that evening escapes with the help of his mother Zoey Clark (Corinne Bohrer) who was the original Trickster’s sidekick: Prank. The two of them decide to go on a classic Trickster rampage, and Ralph Dibney suits up to stop them. Ralph has done some basic crime fighting in Barry’s absence and has been given the name “The Stretchy Man” by the media – and he rushes to stop The Trickster to strengthen his good name, only to have the Trickster spray him with an acid that begins breaking down the chemical bonds of his leg. Finally: Ralph Dibney is vulnerable to something. Inside Iron Heights a gang tries to jump Barry and kill him, but a rather large gentleman named Big Sir (Bill Goldberg) intervenes and saves Barry’s life as repayment for a debt he feels he owes to Barry’s dad Henry who had saved his life. Prank and the Trickster capture some people and create a deadly game-show to call out “The Stretchy Man,” but Ralph has completely lost confidence in his abilities now that he has faced his own mortality. Cisco has created him a new supersuit, but he is too scared to don it and too scared to stop the Terrible Twosome. Cisco and Caitlin vibe to the gameshow location but they aren’t enough and get captured. Ralph tries to bust Barry out of prison so that he can stop Trickster, but instead he gets a pep talk that inspires him to put on his suite and go save the day. And he does. Ralph arrives just in time to save Caitlin, Cisco and the civilians. This time Tricksters acid has no effect and Ralph is the big damn hero, he even has a chance to rename himself and accidentally names himself The Elongated Man. In Iron Heights Barry sees that Big Sir is about to get jumped himself and intervenes, stopping the gang. Big Sir and Barry sit down together and start bonding over conversation about Henry.
Perhaps it is the old school Flash fan in me, but it is in episodes like this where The Flash continues to shine. On its surface we have a relatively simple episode about the young Trickster escaping Iron Heights to torment Central City once again, but that’s when this series leans in and pulls from deep within the lore to deliver a treat to longtime fans. In 1991 CBS’ The Flash starring John Wesley Shipp aired an episode called The Trial of the Trickster in which a woman named Zoey Clark broke Mark Hammill’s Trickster out of jail and became his sidekick Prank (a sort of prototype Harley Quinn;) in Season 1 of the CW Flash we established the Mark Hammill’s Trickster had preyed upon Central City in the 90’s while wearing the same costume as his CBS series counterpart and that the new Trickster on the show was his son. This episode doubled down on that 91 Flash connection by having Corinne Bohrer reprise her role as Prank, establishing her as the new Trickster’s mother. Any time this series has connected to the old series, magic has ensued. Bohrer is amazing as the manic Prank, working with her son to try to take down Central City’s newest hero, setting the stage for this to be Ralph Dibney’s coming out party. And Ralph actually delivers, finally taking the bull by the horns and being a hero. Goldberg is excellent in his cameo as Big Sir, adding a great deal of heart to the relatively plodding B-story about Barry getting used to life inside Iron Heights. Random musing: I know he doesn’t want to make another Savitar – but why hasn’t Barry just made a time remnant of himself to get around the whole “imprisoned in Iron Heights” dilemma? To play this logically you could easily just have it so that the Barry outside of Iron Heights being The Flash is the time remnant and the one serving his time stoically in prison is the real Barry Allen.
Corinne Bohrer* for reprising a 27 year old performance and making it feel both fresh and deeply rooted in lore. You could feel the presence of Mark Hammill in this episode without a single frame ever showing him, and that is entirely because of Corinne.
Black Lightning Season 1, Episode 02: “Lawanda: The Book of Hope”
Picking up where we left off last week, Jefferson is beaten from his fight with LaLa’s gang and is unable to sleep from the pain. His ex-wife soothes him a little and the two talk about the events that just transpired, she makes it plain that she thinks he is addicted to being Black Lightning and that she is sorry she asked him to use his powers. The next day he has an assembly for the parents at his school and he speaks about the closing of the motel after the fight with Black Lightning, but the parents are quick to inform him that it reopened within hours and they are scared for their own children who weren’t nearly as lucky as his. One of the parents’ present is Lawanda, who was one of Jefferson’s students when he first began teaching at Garfield. Lawanda’s daughter is in with LaLa’s men and she wants Jefferson’s help. LaLa sends a messenger to Jefferson’s house to let him know that his family isn’t safe, before finding Will and killing him for creating this situation in the first place. Jefferson comes to LaLa and wants to square off, but LaLa has armed men with him and will not negotiate. Lawanda begins staking out the motel, taking photos of the license plates of every man’s car who comes there to sleep with one of LaLa’s girls. Lawanda is shot and killed, her body dumped miles away. Jefferson loses it, he feels guilty for Lawanda’s death and the state of Freeland since his retirement from being Black Lightning – he feels he could have saved so many lives – and he goes out to prove just that while letting the whole city know: Black Lightning is back. Black Lightning confronts LaLa and his men and manages to take LaLa down, but before he can finish the fight: Henderson shows up to arrest LaLa. Lawanda had been recording video on her cell phone when she confronted LaLa, and her cell phone footage captured the moment LaLa shot her. LaLa is placed in lock up, and Black Lightning is ready to fix his city. The only real hitch here, is Tobias Whale. Whale pulls up in a limo, gets out and a cop escorts him into the Police station, taking him directly to LaLa’s cell. The cop opens the cell and walks away, looking the other way while Whale strangles LaLa as casually as if he were just having a conversation. Whale walks away in silence, and walks past his own wanted poster.
I love everything about this series so far; it is grounded, unflinchingly honest and surprisingly realistic. There are two moments that illustrate this perfectly: the first is the meeting in the school gym where Jefferson is talking about the effect of episode one on the neighborhood and the typical expectations of the Superhero genre are thrown out the window. Jefferson saved his daughters from the motel so he thinks it’s done, and in a normal superhero show he’d be right. In this show, the seedy motel waited maybe twenty minutes after the cops left to reopen as if nothing had happened. That alone would be a great subversion of the normal genre tropes – but we’re not done. Someone in the audience asks the question EVERYONE would ask in a real situation like this: “why did Black Lightning only rescue your children?” The second moment that perfectly illustrates the realism is the moment where Lynn and Gambi discuss the fact that they blame each other for what happened the first time Jefferson was Black Lightning, neither offers any kind of apology or pushes a plot forwarding “let’s get along for Jeff’s sake” style argument: they both just basically say: ‘No, it’s your fault’ and walk away. In real life tensions don’t magically ease, certainly not long held grudges like that one – it’s a very small moment but an incredibly real one. Cress Williams’ Jefferson has some truly great material in this episode, building his relationship to the community – to his children – to his own powers, and not a single second of that is wasted. The cold blooded nature with which LaLa dealt with the Will situation seemed starkly unsettling, until we realized it was only a precursor to Tobias Whale doing the same to LaLa. Absolutely EVERYTHING about this episode was perfectly executed, pun definitely intended.
Tracey Bonner as Lawanda* brought a real sense of grief and loss that became central to this episode as she staked out the motel looking for her daughter. The fact that this humble mother is what sparks Jefferson to finally put that suit back on permanently is a deft bit of storytelling.
Arrow Season 6, Episode 11: “We Fall”
It’s just a normal day in Star City, William is getting help with his math homework from Felicity before leaving on a school trip – Oliver doesn’t have many meetings – things seem okay for the moment. And then weird power anomalies and internet disruptions begin to wreak havoc. Elevators electrocute their passengers, a small airplane crashes on the highway, this is all clearly the work of Cayden James – but Felicity has no idea how to figure out what exactly he is doing. That is until Cayden James shows up at City Hall to meet with Mayor Queen to tell him exactly what he is doing. Cayden says that his takeover was timed to commemorate the day one year ago where The Green Arrow killed his son, James then threatens to use his bomb to destroy Star City if Oliver doesn’t deposit millions of dollars in an off-shore account by midnight. Elsewhere Curtis, Rene and Dinah (briefly calling themselves The Outsiders) track a signal from Vigilante, who separates Curtis from the rest of the team and informs him that he is actually a good guy who is deep undercover within James’ organization. Vigilante claims that James is about to make his massive move to completely control Star City and he needs help to stop him, he feeds Curtis some information about an accident James will cause in the Subway in a few hours time. Felicity realizes that James is targeting every way out of and into the city – he means to trap everyone inside Star City and hold it ransom. Oliver races to where his son’s school bus is located in the tunnels under the city and saves him; revealing that he lied and is still The Green Arrow. Felicity talks to Alena and discovers that James’ belief that Oliver killed his son stems from video footage that was sent to him from someone in Corto Maltese. Oliver and Felicity both know that this video footage must be fabricated, because on this day one year ago when James’ son was killed – Oliver and Team Arrow were in Hub City trying to recruit Dinah to the team. Curtis informs Team Arrow that James is targeting the Subway, and his team goes to stop a train collision. After stopping the collision, Curtis reveals his intel came from Vigilante – who gives Curtis more intel about where to take on James and disarm his bomb. Dinah and Rene decide to trust Curtis and call Ollie and Diggle in for back up. The reunited, though only briefly, Team Arrow tries to stop James and his men: but they are too late. The city is closed off and the bomb is now on the move. Oliver does the one thing he swore he wouldn’t do, and wires money into James’ account.
First I have to admit to geeking out extensively over the decision of Curtis to try to rename the new Team Arrow as The Outsiders. I’ve often told the story of how my love of comics as a medium was sparked off of seeing a K-Mart polybagged collection of five comics, with the visible cover being Batman #416. What I’ve rarely shared is what the other four comics were, the set included Batman #414-416 and two older issues that served as filler: one being The New Teen Titans #29 from 1987 which kicked off a lifelong fascination with Wally West and his tenure as The Flash. The other filler book was 1984’s Batman and the Outsiders #14 featuring Batman, Metamorpho, Halo, Geo-Force, and Black Lightning. Ever since reading those two filler books I have had a soft spot in my heart for second tier (and sometimes third tier) team books; The Justice League may have the flashier characters but The Titans and The Outsiders always have more interesting storytelling. So it was awesome to me that Curtis Holt otherwise known as Mr. Terrific wants to name his team The Outsiders (specifically given that the comic version of Mr. Terrific is creating his own team called The Terrific’s and is including longtime Outsiders member Metamorpho.
Watching the two teams go at the problem of saving the city from different angles has been used effectively to give us a better understanding of who “The Outsiders” are, in contrast to the already incredibly well established Team Arrow. We get the expected twist of the mole in James’ organization, but in the form of Vigilante instead of Anatoly who long time viewers expected to be infiltrating the organization on Oliver’s behalf. It is of course perfectly fitting that Curtis is the first one to consider trusting Vigilante. Things are ramping up very heavily in this episode, with Cayden James doing his best Bane impression and cutting Star City off from the rest of the US so that he can hold it hostage with a moving bomb – which seems an odd point to ratchet up the tension considering there are eleven episodes after this one. Where does the show have any headroom if we go to 11 straight episodes of the sword of Damocles hanging over Ollie’s head – it didn’t work on The Flash last year with Savitar. I suspect we’re going to get a March sweeps reshuffling where we reveal who it was who framed Oliver to Cayden James and that person then becomes the real big bad for the duration of the season.
Emily Bett Rickards* who made the melodrama of the “William just found out Oliver never stopped being the Green Arrow” subplot bearable.
NEXT TIME: Someone is trying to kill Morgan Edge, and it might be Lena Luthor on Supergirl. Cisco and Ralph are shrunk down to the size of G.I. Joes on The Flash. Black Lightning is back, and some people are not excited on Black Lightning. Gotham City is under siege by Bane, I mean Star City is under siege by Cayden James on Arrow.