Four Color Television - CW/DC TV Week 13 - Recap / Review
The Four Color Ark
DC/CW Television Week Thirteen
Sorry for the delay folks, but the Four Color Ark offices were stricken with the dread and debilitating disease known as: Olympicitis and we were too busy watching Canadian Shuffleboard to get our usual reviews out to you. So this week we’ve got a double bill covering the missing three weeks. This issue we’ll show you Week 13 which features four of the five DC/CW shows, and next issue we’ll present Weeks 14 and 15 which features only one episode of Black Lightning and two episodes of Legends of Tomorrow.
Supergirl Season 3, Episode 13: “Both Sides Now”
The DEO and Supergirl track the second World Killer to her home and they breach to find a seemingly normal girl listening to music, then that seemingly normal girl shifts from her everyday human form and becomes the Kryptonian bio-weapon known as Purity (Krys Marshell) – complete with a strange set of vibrational powers. The team manage to subdue her and bring her in along with some Kryptonian crystals she had in her possession. Supergirl pieces together that she is literally two separate identities sharing a body. Supergirl believes she can reach out to the human side, while Alex believes that to be Supergirls innate naiveté. Mon-El asks J’onn for a piece of his ship to jump start the batteries of the Legion vessel; this sends J’onn, Mon-El and Wynn on a space ship repair side journey. Out in the real world, Lena is worried about her friend Sam and orders her to take a day off and spend it with Ruby. Sam and Ruby play hookie from school and work, heading off to have a mother/daughter adventure. On the Legion ship there is some frosty tension between Mon-El and Imra, and Winn gives J’onn some space to talk to Mon-El about his marital troubles – but Mon-El has no interest in discussing it. Back at the DEO, Purity’s crystals explode taking out the power to the DEO and allowing Purity to escape. Sam and Ruby are engaging in a lovely afternoon of ice skating when Sam is suddenly triggered to become Reign and vanishes – leaving Ruby worried and alone. In a panic she calls Lena Luthor who comes to pick her up and take her home. Mon-El and J’onn have a discussion about the tension in Mon-El’s marriage, which it turns out was really a marriage of convenience to unite the peoples of Earth and Imra’s home planet. Supergirl and the DEO track Purity into the subway system of National City and a fight ensues; Alex tries Supergirl’s tactic and reaches out to the human buried within Purity and it works until Reign shows up and prepares to kill Alex. Purity convinces Reign to not kill everyone’s favorite agent and offers to go with her if it will spare Alex. Reign takes Purity to her Fortress of Killitude; Mon-El has an honest conversation with his wife; Kara and Alex talk about the tension between them caused by Alex not really being over Maggie. Imra reveals to Mon-El that their presence in the 21st Century was no accident, she and Brainiac 5 undertook a secret mission which she will soon reveal to him. At L-Corp Sam shows up in a panic to collect her daughter and Lena confronts her about her disappearances and her blackouts – there is a moment where Sam briefly becomes Reign and Lena tells Sam she knows what’s wrong with her and promises to help her fix it.
Given everything that has happened after the return from Crisis on Earth X, this was an episode I was very much expecting to see; a sort of restatement of Supergirl’s core principles juxtaposed against the more militaristic ideology of Alex Danvers and the DEO. Season One had very much played this dynamic as this secretive paramilitary government agency rising to meet alien threats in a more compassionate way as a result of Supergirl’s influence – and somewhere in Season Two that concept got lost. Reintroducing it as kind of the key to defeating Reign, making it a matter of not stopping Reign but of saving Sam is a deftly handled bit of writing. I am curious to see if the momentum of slowly putting back in place dropped elements of the series canon is something that will hold up after what is now essentially a two-month gap between aired episodes. The revelation that things are not necessarily perfect in Mon-El and Imra land has me worried somewhat. This Legion focused/married Mon-El has been a vast improvement on last season’s iteration of the character; so if all of that growth gets chucked out the window so that we can put Supergirl and Mon-El back together romantically I will feel somewhat cheated. The notion that Lena Luthor will be involved in the final act of the Sam/Reign saga in some way is hardly surprising and I suspect will lead to the Lex style heel turn that seems almost inevitable for the character.
David Harewood’s J’onn J’onzz returns to the role for which he is best suited: being the father figure at the center of the series, offering strong council and advice to both Mon-El and Supergirl.
The Flash Season 4, Episode 13: “True Colors”
When we left Barry Allen he’d been drugged by Warden Wolfe and was being dragged away, we return to find him waking up in the metahuman wing of Iron Heights with all of the other Bus Meta’s from the course of this season. Warden Wolfe has called Amunet Black to arrange the sale of the Bus Meta’s to her, and has added the crown jewel of a speedster to the collection to get himself even more money – but he withholds the information that the speedster is none other than The Flash. When Iris and Cecille arrive at Iron Heights to visit Barry, Wolfe informs them that there was a fight and all of the inmates involved – including Barry – are in solitary and that they cannot visit him. It’s a great cover, except that Cecille has gestational Metahuman mind reading powers and immediately reads that Wolfe is planning to sell Barry to Amunet Black. At the secret evil lair of the DeVoe’s: husband and wife are having a bit of an argument over Clifford’s increasing recklessness as he grows closer to completing his plan. Ralph has a run in with a rival P.I. named Earl Cox (Paul McGillion) who makes him feel like a failure, as Ralph describes the incident to his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs his rubbery body reshapes itself until he looks exactly like Cox. Realizing that Ralph’s new mimicry ability might be the key to preventing the sale of the Bus Meta’s to Amunet, Iris has Ralph morph into Warden Wolfe and set up a meeting with Amunet to call off the sale. In Iron Heights Barry is using his “ordinary forensic scientist” skills to take his lunch and various other items to create the means to escape the metahuman wing, he succeeds and breaks out all the Bus Meta’s – including a very reluctant Becky Sharpe who just wants to serve her time where she can’t hurt anyone else. Ralph as Warden Wolfe meets with Amunet, and it goes swimmingly for a bit – until he reverts back to normal Ralph and blows his cover, Ralph manages to escape. Amunet calls real Wolfe about the sale, which forces Wolfe to check on his metas and discover they’ve escaped his power dampening prison. The Bus Metas manage to finally navigate the tunnels beneath Iron Heights and exit into the free air where their powers are restored to them – only to find Warden Wolfe and his corrupt prison guards waiting for them. A brief fight ensues when Amunet shows up, and then suddenly DeVoe arrives and in turn uses the same part of his super chair that he used on Dominick Lanse to steal the powers from each of the Bus Meta’s before downloading himself into Becky Sharpe’s body. Cisco and Caitlin show just in time to free Barry and mop up the fight, but it is too late for Warden Wolfe and his men who are all dead. DeVoe escapes in his new body and Cisco preps to vibe everyone out, but Barry refuses to escape – he runs back to his original cell and phases inside as if nothing has happened. At Barry’s appeal hearing, the judge is ready to dismiss the case entirely – when suddenly the doors open and in rolls the wheelchair of Clifford DeVoe in which sits a very alive DeVoe who claims that Barry Allen didn’t kill him. Ralph Dibney has taken the form of Clifford DeVoe, and it works: Barry’s conviction is overturned and he is released from prison. DeVoe in his new body continues his machinations to do whatever he is doing, but there is now increased tension with his wife – and Team Flash realizes that the key to all of this might be the remaining Bus Meta’s: one of whom is Ralph Dibney himself.
When this episode aired I immediately took to social media to crack wise about how it used similar tropes to the original Trial of the Flash from the comics, which is an amusing notion that it used ultimately the same beats to end this story but with a very unique spin. Check our feed for a detailed Trial of The Flash breakdown on The Four Color Ark podcast if you are curious for the full skinny; but the gist is that comic book Barry was spared from prison by a face changing Iris West-Allen posing as a juror to vote in favor of Barry’s innocence. Here that same conceit spawns out of Elongated Man discovering that he can change his own face as well, and taking the form of Clifford DeVoe to claim that he is not actually dead. While this is a neat get out of jail card for Barry, it creates an interesting long-term problem in whether or not Ralph is going to continue to pose as the presumed dead DeVoe. More damning though is that the set up for this finale wastes a brilliant actor in the form of Canadian actor Paul McGillion known best to fans of Stargate Atlantis as Dr. Carson Beckett. McGillion is a journeyman character actor and here he is just kind of there for two quick and pointless scenes. I suppose this might be rectified later, as the character of Earl Cox is introduced as a foil for Ralph and might reappear before the season is out. Barry’s escape attempt with the “bus meta’s” showed sides of these villains that were compelling, particularly Becky Sharpe’s unwillingness to inflict her powers upon Central City once again. The brief battle with Iron Heights staff and the way that DeVoe absorbed the bus meta’s powers before downloading himself into the consciousness of Becky Sharpe asks some intriguing questions about DeVoe and his abilities: if he can simply download his consciousness into any body: why not Barry’s body? Is he only able to leach powers from and/or download into the bodies of the metas created in the bus incident – and somehow unable to the same to anyone whose powers were derived from the Particle Accelerator?
In an episode with two brilliant performances by Richard Brooks* as both Warden Wolfe and as Ralph Dibney pretending to be Warden Wolfe I would be simply remiss not to give the man his due. I was hoping his turn as questionable Warden of Iron Heights would last longer, but I’m definitely very pleased with what we were given.
Black Lightning Season 1, Episode 4: “Black Jesus”
In Garfield High, a student has taken the new drug Green Light and is tearing apart the men’s room. Jefferson goes there to try to stop him, and ends up needing to shoot the kid with lightning to take him down as apparently Green Light gives users superhuman strength. Tobias Whale is called onto the carpet by Lady Eve for his absolute failure in stopping the protests last week, and questions whether his reputation as the killer of Black Lightning was really a lie. Jennifer is spending a great deal of time at the hospital trying to help Khalil work through his physical therapy, both her homework and track practice schedule are suffering as a result; meanwhile eldest daughter Anissa unleashes some of her strength on a group of Green Light pushers who were trying to sell to Garfield High students. Black Lightning tracks down the name of a seller of Green Light, and approaches him first as Jefferson Pierce without results and then returns once more as Black Lightning and gets more details about the source of the drugs. Gambi examines the drugs and determines that they are instantly addictive. The school board demands that Jefferson expel the boy found in the bathroom with Green Light, and Jefferson sets up a confrontation between him and the board because he has always had exclusive control over disciplining students at Garfield – he sends the Vice Principal to speak with the board and it becomes clear that she is growing to resent being used by Jefferson as a go between with the board. Jennifer decides that she wants to quit track, and despite being told to think it over – she decides that helping care for Khalil is more important than her own goals. Tobias Whale tracks down the Medical Examiner who examined the body of Black Lightning all those years ago when Whale supposedly killed him, and the ME reveals that he never really confirmed it was Black Lightning – he just assumed. Whale kills the ME and calls his sister, asking her to come back to Freeland to help her determine his next course of action. Khalil is told that he will never walk again, and Jennifer swears to stand by him. Jefferson agrees to give up his say on discipline at Garfield if it means that the student on Green Light can remain at Garfield. Black Lightning goes to surveil the warehouse where Green Light ships out. Elsewhere Anissa goes to visit Grace, and the two are jumped by a group of homophobic white guys – Anissa unleashes after Grace is knocked unconscious and takes all of the violent homophobes down by stomping on the parking lot with enough force to create an earthquake that shatters a transformer on a light pole. Black Lightning is about to go investigate the explosion he heard in the distance, but Gambi tells him not to and watches the entire incident after hacking the security cams. Gambi tells him that whoever caused the explosion is long gone, despite the fact that he clearly saw it was Anissa and she is still on scene with her friend Grace. Gambi sneaks to the location and takes photos of the impact crater that Anissa created with her powers. Black Lightning follows the shipment of Green Light back to an even larger warehouse – clearly this drug ring is MUCH bigger than just The 100. Elsewhere, Tori Whale (Edwina Findley)* shows up and with her brother Tobias they come up with a plan to turn public sentiment against Black Lightning. In his hospital room Khalil finds that video game systems and televisions and a cell phone – all the cool toys any 17 year old would want – have been sent to him by a mysterious benefactor. The mysterious benefactor arrives to introduce himself, and Tobias Whale sits down with Khalil to talk to him about how they’re both victims who have had their lives destroyed by the vile outlaw Black Lightning.
Last week I talked about typical episodic television structure where Episode 3 serves as a kind of breather before we plunge into the first major turn of the season arc – it’s a standard structure trope that episode 3 of Black Lightning subverted – by reversing the usual standard and having episode 4 fill that role tonally. “Black Jesus” is a deep breath episode where we finally get a chance to look at all of the collateral damage from the first few episodes. We spend some time living with Jefferson Pierce as the principal of Garfield High having to deal with the beginnings of a drug epidemic within the halls of his school; we spend some time with Tobias Whale having to deal with the fallout of his very overt actions in dealing with the protest march; we spend time dealing with Khalil’s spinal injury as a result of Tobias’ actions. The name of the game in this episode is in facing the consequences of our actions, and showing how the characters rise to meet the challenges that arise out of those consequences. Jefferson doubles down on protecting the kids of Garfield and is willing to trade away some of his power as principal to protect his students from expulsion; Anissa takes to the streets to take down drug dealers preying on the kids of Freeland in a way that feels much more urgent and primal – the not-yet-tempered actions of a hero in training; Jennifer takes personal responsibility for Khalil’s injuries. It is interesting to see that Jennifer is the only one who reaches out to deal with consequences that were not of her own making, which is a great taste of who she’ll one day become.
Jill Scott* as Lady Eve in the scene where she is questioning the loyalty and commitment of Tobias Whale gives a performance that is genuinely creepy and speaks of a level of power that Tobias fears and aspires to.
Arrow Season 6, Episode 13: “The Devil’s Greatest Trick”
Cayden James is done toying with Oliver Queen and the people of Star City, and plans to finally detonate his thermobaric bomb at midnight, he has a scheduled airlift planned to get him and his Revenge Squad out of Star City before the bomb goes off. Oliver, Diggle, Felicity and Alena go over the evidence that was used to frame Oliver for the murder of Cayden’s son – the same basic face replacement algorithm that was used to create the fake still image of Oliver as Green Arrow earlier in the season. The Revenge Squad has gathered for the airlift, but they can’t help but notice it hasn’t arrived yet. Oliver and Diggle track down Cayden James and show him the evidence that Oliver was framed for the murder of James’ son, in the hopes of convincing him to halt the bomb detonation. James examines the data and realizes that the only person who could have sent him this false evidence is one of his own Revenge Squad team members – and they all have now scattered from their airlift site now that they realize it isn’t coming. Rather than shutting down the bomb, James tells Oliver that he will only shut it down if Oliver helps him track down all of his teammates so he can determine who betrayed him. Team Arrow realizes they need help in tracking down the Revenge Squaders – so they call Rene and Curtis. Meanwhile, Dinah has tracked down Black Siren and they are engaged in an epic battle for revenge over the death of Vigilante last episode. Before Dinah can unleash fully on Black Siren, Oliver arrives and uses a restraining arrow to lasso both sonic warriors to pillars in the building they’re fighting in. Dinah is violently opposed to turning Black Siren over to Cayden James, wanting instead to simply kill her now – which puts her at odds with Quentin Lance who believes he can still rehabilitate his daughter’s doppelgänger. Debating what to do with her, her would be killer and her would be redeemer are left to guard her while the rest of the team track down the others. Curtis and Rene go off in search of Ricardo Diaz, while Diggle and Oliver go off on the trail of Anatoly. Meanwhile, in the Arrow Cave, William is scared for his father and listening to the team as they plan where to meet Cayden James. William sneaks out thinking he can help Oliver if he gets to the meet in time. Oliver delivers Anatoly and sees William, there is some monologuing from Cayden James directed at William - Oliver tells the boy to hide. Curtis and Rene arrive with Ricardo Diaz, and Quentin and Dinah arrive with Black Siren. James refuses to stop the detonator until someone confesses to murdering his son; as the detonation draws closer: Black Siren falsely confesses. James tries to shut down the detonator, but his signal is interfering with Black Siren’s power dampening collar. She realizes this, rips off the collar and creates a massive blast – and escapes in the confusion. Outside she enters into a fight with Dinah, and Quentin gets in the way so that Black Siren can escape – Dinah is having none of that and simply shoots Black Siren in the stomach. In the fight inside everyone engaged with henchmen, Diaz and Anatoly both escape and Oliver manages to disarm the bomb and capture Cayden James. James is taken into custody. In custody Oliver talks to Cayden and wants him to provide proof that this isn’t a ploy to get into prison to destroy the city – complying: James gives Oliver information that might lead to the capture of Diaz and Anatoly. Quentin Lance is trying to nurse Black Siren through her gut wound. The next day Diaz arrives in lock up to admit it was he that killed James’ son, and all so he could get Cayden to put all the pieces in place for Diaz to take over the city. Now that Star City is primed for that takeover, he no longer needs James – so he simply kills him.
Everything about this episode screams that it was intended to be a Season Finale, it’s like the writers decided to do a 13 episode season that blows up and immediately dives into a second 10 episode season, which is a brilliant conceit. It is also a bold direction for a show that has been accused of dragging out season long mystery villain arcs for far too long. Obviously to untangle the Gordian knot that is Cayden James’ plot to nuke Star City to get vengeance for the death of his son, we must first dispel the illusion that Oliver Queen is responsible for said death. Then we’re off to the races in a gonzo chase to gather up the henchmen to determine which one was secretly the big bad the entire time, the decision to make it Ricardo Diaz or Richard “The Dragon” was in retrospect a rather logical choice given that he is a prior existing comic book villain for Green Arrow. The Comic book Diaz created his group: “The Longbow Hunters” and basically performed the exact same actions that Cayden James’ team did in the first half of the season. It’s possible that with Diaz now revealed we’ll get a different and more deadly team made up of some all star Arrow villains out for the reward for the head of Oliver Queen. From a place within the narrative of Arrow itself, I’m unsure if the Diaz twist is earned. From the perspective of the show as written, it would have perhaps been more logical if the ultimate villain had turned out to be Anatoly. Anatoly as the villain would reflect the arc of the season better in that he would embody the choice Oliver had to make between his older life, and his son William. While the urgency of no longer being Green Arrow has been removed, it is still plain that Oliver’s Bratva past is at odds with his life as father and mayor. Thankfully the conclusion of the Cayden James plot doesn’t undo the tension between Team Arrow and The Outsiders, because the broken team dynamic is still quite compelling – even if it feels like it is close to running its course narratively.
Michael Emerson* who in his final outing as Cayden James added great pathos to his arc through his performance in the flashback scenes as a man trying to forge a relationship with his son – and damaged by this relationship being ripped away from him right as he was on the brink.