Four Color Television - CW/DC TV Week 14 / 15 - Recap / Review
The Four Color Ark
DC/CW Television Week 14/15
The Olympics are over and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled updates shortly. In the meantime, here is our last update column covering Weeks 14 and 15.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 10: “Daddy Darhkest”
When we left The Legends back in 2017, John Constantine had just shown up to tell Sara that there was a demon that knew her by name – turns out Constantine was called in to perform an exorcism on a girl named Emily – and that was when he encountered the demon who called Sara by name. Sara instantly pieces together that this demon is Mallus, and the team plans to help him complete the exorcism. Kuasa shows up to try to prevent the exorcism, Nate uses Snart’s cold gun to freeze Kuasa – and Mallus lashes out with his power and throws Constantine, Sara and Snart back in time to 1969. Zari and Ray are building what they think will be an anti-magic gun that could be used on Nora Dahrk, while Mick is taking advantage of the rare opportunity to watch live football since the crew in the present (relatively.) When the crew come to him for advice on what’s going on, he tells them to put the frozen Kuasa on ice for the moment and sends Nate, Ray and Zari back to the asylum to find out what went wrong. It doesn’t take long for them to discover that this girl named Emily, is really Nora Dahrk who became a ward of the state after her father was killed by The Green Arrow at the end of Arrow Season 4. Ray and Zari bust Nora out and take her out into the real world to try to make her feel normal and buy some time. Meanwhile back in 1969 Snart, Sara and Constantine separate to enact a plan to leave a message in the asylum for The Legends to find in 2017. Sara and John end up having some laundry room sex, while poor Snart gets caught by orderlies – his note for the future Legends gets read and the staff presumes he is crazy and prepares to give him a lobotomy. Before they can do anything to Leo, Sara and Constantine show up and save the day. The team revises their escape plan and decides that what they’ll do is let Mallus possess Sara long enough for Sara to enter the spirit plane and draw the same time travel rune that Emily/Nora drew to send them back to 1969. Meanwhile in Star City Jitters everyone is having a lovely time until Emily/Nora sees a news report about Oliver Queen being accused of being The Green Arrow. Seeing a photo of her father’s killer freaks her out, Mallus emerges and craziness ensues. While Mallus is possessing both Sara in 1969 and Emily/Nora in 2017 the young girl and the woman can communicate with each other in the spirit realm. Sara encourages Emily/Nora to fight back against Mallus and draws her rune. Mallus rages through SC Jitters until encountering Zari who touches him causing physical pain to Nora. Mallus fades away and Damian Dahrk shows up, revealing to his daughter for the first time that he is still alive. He places her in the care of the nurses from the asylum and informs her that she must get stronger to bring him back to life. Sara, Snart and Constantine return to the present. Kuasa and Amaya have a conversation about the future, where Kuasa somewhat convinces Amaya that she is motivated by the best interests of their people. Amaya lets her go. Constantine leaves, but first tells Ray to use his anti-magic gun to kill Sara if she becomes possessed again; Snart decides he’s returning to Earth-X and says goodbye to Mick. Sara calls Ava to flirt, but is told that surprisingly Rip Hunter has escaped his prison and disappeared.
Back from the long hiatus, Legends returns with the long brewing episode featuring John Constantine trying to perform an exorcism with the help of Sara Lance – the result is the best episode of Constantine that never aired and an odd amalgam episode of Legends that is not quite sure what it wants to be. The time displacement to the 1960’s and the straightforward plot by the team in the past to leave a note for their future selves is relatively well played. Perhaps too much time is spent exploring the mysterious origins of the young possessed girl who turns out to be Nora Dahrk and the setting up of a secret cult-run mental institution in Starling/Star City. There is a long road from young Nora’s conflicted self, and the batshit crazy version of Nora that Courtney Ford is playing in the future iterations of the character; so the episode leaves me very curious just what happened in between the two events in her life. Damian Dahrk is certainly no candidate for father of the year, but he’s not nearly as psychopathic as his daughter is. What happens to break her so thoroughly, and did meeting The Legends in the past mark a change in her timeline that can be exploited moving into the back half of the season? The brilliant emotional goodbye between Earth X’s Leo Snart and Mick is exactly the goodbye we needed between these two fan favorite characters and the actors who play them. It’s a shame to see Wentworth Miller leave the show again so soon after coming back, but it’s made easier through this being the sunnier Leo and not the snarkier Captain Cold.
Matt Ryan* is excellent as John Constantine, and gives you a sense that this character has a rich life beyond this story that he’s in currently. By god someone should give him his own show, oh wait…
Black Lightning Season 1, Episode 5: “And Then the Devil Brought the Plague: The Book of Green Light”
Gambi and Black Lightning are testing the Black Lightning suit’s new flight ability and it works incredibly well. Gambi suggests Jefferson has done enough testing, but Black Lightning wants to keep on flying – and flies right into a police standoff with someone high on Green Light. Black Lightning stops the cops from shooting the guy, and manages to take him down – suggesting that the cops try a taser before pulling their guns. Meanwhile Tobias Whale shows up in Gambi’s shop under the pretense of buying a new suit, but really he wants Black Lightning’s identity – the takeaway though is that both Gambi and Tobias Whale know a lot more about what is really going on in Freeland than Black Lightning does. Tobias goes home and Tori informs him that visiting the Tailor was a mistake, and that all of his failures stem from the fact that he never defeated his oldest enemy. Tobias reveals that he is tired of his current situation and wants to play at the same level as Lady Eve, Tori says she can help with that. Black Lightning goes out looking for the name of the seller of Green Light and gets the name Joey Toledo – the former right hand man of Tobias Whale whom he believes should be long gone. Gambi is unsurprised to find that Toledo is back and begins to try to track him down – when suddenly Jefferson collapses in Gambi’s shop. Not knowing what to do, Gambi calls Lynn to try to help. Anissa is researching people with powers and comes across information about a conspiracy of children with powers who disappeared over thirty years ago; the video she watches on this conspiracy speaks of the reporter who was breaking the story being killed before he could reveal everything: and the name of the reporter was Alvin Pierce – her grandfather. Jennifer goes ice skating with her friends and gets in a fight with two other girls, but defends her self adequately – breaking one of her attackers arm. Jefferson is recovering from his headaches while Gambi looks over the suit to see if it is the cause of Jeff’s issues. As Black Lightning, Jefferson hides in the shadows and tells Inspector Henderson to look into Joey Toledo to tack down the supply of Green Light. The mother of the girl whose arm Jennifer broke shows up at the Pierce house to confront Jefferson and Lynn, and the couple manage to calm the women and it seems they arrange to pay the medical expenses. When Jennifer gets home, Lynn punishes her – the ensuing conversation someone divides the parents, as Jefferson is somewhat proud of Jennifer’s fighting ability and that it was self-defense. Anissa meets with Alvin Pierce’s former Editor at the paper and he is at first terrified to give her any information about the events that got her grandfather killed, though he does relent and gives her all the records he has of the last story Alvin was writing. She searches those records and finds a key to a storage facility. Anissa goes on a shopping trip and acquires a starter superhero costume to conceal her identity when she goes to the storage facility. Henderson calls Black Lightning with the whereabouts of Joey Toledo. Tobias and Tori go to visit Tobias’ first enemy: their father Eldridge (T.C. Carson) and after a brief conversation: Tobias crushes his father’s spine and leaves him for dead. Jefferson shows up at Gambi’s to retrieve the Black Lightning costume, Gambi says he thinks the suits control system is interacting dangerously with Jefferson’s system and is causing his seizures. Jefferson takes the suit anyways and goes after Joey Toledo. Anissa, wearing her new costume, goes to the storage facility of her grandfather and finds copious records, and an old rusted safe in which she finds a vial containing some mysterious liquid. Black Lightning confronts Joey Toledo, but in the middle of their fight he has another seizure and collapses to the ground, Toledo escapes but Black Lightning remains on the ground convulsing.
I’m going to get the BIG geekery out of the way first and talk about the incredibly comics accurate first costume that Anissa wears in the final scene when she goes to the mysterious storage unit formerly owned by her grandfather. To begin with, her costume shopping sequence was delightful, but to have her in the end standing tall in the actual costume Thunder costume was just an awesome nod to long time fans of the property. Now onto the rest of the episode – the joy from Jefferson as he flew for the first time was incredibly well handled, and it was a necessary direction to move in. Frankly watching Black Lightning walk everywhere was getting a tad tiresome. Tobias and Gambi’s shop showdown reveals two very unique pieces of information about these characters that is unique to the television series. First is that Tobias Whale has some sort of serum that is preventing him from aging, presumably this serum was administered by Lady Eve when Tobias courted membership in Kobra. The second piece of information is that at one point Gambi was a member of the ASA (a clandestine security agency known for creating metahumans) and that Tobias believes he still is. In the world of the comics, neither of these facts is true, but in this revised context where Kobra is an overarching threat that controls The 100 and Jefferson’s father was killed for exposing a metahuman experiment conspiracy the addition of these elements certainly opens up the story in fascinating ways. In the original comics concept, Jefferson’s father was killed by a mob hitman – and that hitman was none other than Peter Gambi who left the lifestyle and became a tailor in Metropolis to try to redeem himself through helping Black Lightning save lives. Here we’re presented with a clear understanding that it was Tobias Whale who killed Jefferson’s father. If, as I’m guessing, Gambi and the ASA were responsible for the experiment that caused the disappearance of teenagers and the creation of Black Lightning that would preserve the dynamic of Gambi having a dark secret that he is attempting to atone for – while not directly making him a former murderer as the comics did. Speaking of murder, Tori’s plan to put Tobias to rights by tracking down and murdering their abusive father is the most sadistic thing the Whale family has done yet. Jefferson’s powers causing damage to him getting worse the more he uses them is an interesting trope, but I fear it might get overwrought if not dealt with relatively quickly.
Nafessa Williams* for taking us on Anissa Pierce’s surprisingly joyous superhero origin story in the midst of the overwhelming darkness of the current stalemate between Black Lightning and The 100.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 11: “Here I Go Again”
While the legends are off on a disco mission in the 70’s, Zari is installing a program into Gideon that is designed to look for loopholes in the timeline that The Legends could exploit to change time for the better, like when she left Helen of Troy on the island of Themyscarra rather than returning her to Greece proper. The problem is that Sara Lance is ardently opposed to any such loopholes, and demands that Zari fix Gideon and remove the program – the two have a fight that quickly escalates before Zari storms off to the engines. Nate and Amaya head off to argue over whether they should continue to have sex or not, Ray goes off to do laundry and Mick goes off to do the same after smashing an 8-Track tape of the Abba album Waterloo. Zari heads off to the engine room to fix the ship, and is sprayed in the face with some sort of glowing fluid immediately before the ship explodes.
While the legends are off on a disco mission in the 70’s, Zari is experiencing some déjà vu as the starts to live the same day over again, complete with the same argument with Sara and the same accident in the engine room and the same rattling of the ship before it explodes.
While the legends are off on a disco mission in the 70’s, Zari is now definitely convinced that she is stuck in a time loop where her consciousness snaps back to her argument with Sara and she lives out the last half hour of her life before the Waverider explodes and sends her right back to the beginning.
While the legends are off on a disco mission – Zari believes that perhaps something the rest of the crew is doing is responsible for the explosion so she tries to recruit help from Nate – who at the end of one loop urges her to go to him in the next loop and invoke Groundhog Day to get his help. Nate and Zari now go through several loops investigating each of the crew members to determine what actions they are undertaking that might lead to the explosion: Mick is doing his laundry but is mysteriously leaving his quarters locked. Zari and Nate sneak in and take several loops to get through all of Mick’s various booby traps that he has left in place to hide his deep dark secret: which is the typewriter on which he is writing the manuscript for his science fiction, bodice ripping, romance novel. They discover that Ray is struggling with the idea that he might have to kill Sara. They then discover that Sara is sneaking off to the shuttle to talk to Ava – where she reveals that her issue with Zari’s plan isn’t Zari but the temptation to use one of these time loopholes as a means to save Laurel from dying at the hands of Damian Dahrk. Zari goes a little nuts and has a montage where she decides to just have several loops of fun before finally she tries to get Sara to help her. Sara instantly believes Zari about the time loop and the whole crew begins to search for the bomb, and with one dramatic exception they turn up completely empty… Time Agent Gary has teleported aboard and trapped himself in the garbage chute. Zari takes a device off him and destroys it before he can explain that it is a device he employed to create the time loops until they could discover what destroyed The Waverider. All hope is lost until Zari realizes the one place they never looked: the crushed 8-Track tape that Mick brought on board. With seconds to spare and no way to get the tape off the ship, and no time loop to save them now: Zari locks herself in the library and tells the crew how she feels about each of them before using the powers of her totem to try to prevent the explosion from destroying the rest of the ship. Zari has a brief interlude where she meets a physical embodiment of Gideon who claims to have created this scenario in Zari’s mind to get her to fully embrace her role as a member of the crew. She then wakes up in the med bay, recovering from being sprayed in the face with time engine lube – and computer Gideon denies ever having done anything to Zari. Meanwhile in 2018 China, Wally West is practicing meditation in a Zen garden when Rip Hunter arrives and says that he needs Wally’s help to save the universe.
Before anything else is said: I feel the need to point out the hilarity of the fact that the episode begins with The Legends returning from a mission involving the crew in the 1970’s and the Abba album Waterloo – where Mick returns from the mission dressed as a French soldier from the Battle of Waterloo. This moment is quick and is brushed aside so quickly, but it has stuck with me since watching it. What happened on this mission? This is the standard “stuck in a timeloop” episode that frankly I’m surprised took this long to do, and while it certainly provided us some interesting looks at our characters beyond what we normally presume we know about them – it didn’t particularly break any new ground with this timeloop plot. It’s literally Groundhog Day on an exploding Waverider with Zari having to get to know her teammates better to find a way to save the ship and escape the loop. The fun, of course, is in our peaks at the lives of the Legends between adventures: with Nate and Amaya secreting off to continue their affair – and Ray Palmer obsessing over his secret knowledge that he may have to one day kill Sara if she becomes possessed by Mallus. Sara continues to sneak away from her crew to have a secret conversation with Ava Sharpe of the time agency as their “will they/won’t they/of course they definitely will and probably next episode” romance continues to “develop.” The real comedy comes from seeing that Mick is writing a trashy sci fi romance novel. Where the episode shines, as it often does, is in its reference game. The episode is basically Groundhog Day, so of course it calls out Groundhog Day by name. Ray Palmer, instead of referencing Groundhog Day when discussing the time loop throws a nod to the classic time loop episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Cause and Effect” which also featured a time loop that repeatedly ended with the explosion of the space ship. Growing weary of the time loop, Nate urges Zari to take a break and have a “mid time loop montage” as a reference to the time loop episode of Stargate SG-1. The writers are in on the joke and they love letting us know it, which as always makes Legends a hell of a lot of fun – even when it isn’t particularly strong of an episode. The urgency of it all was undercut by the knowledge that it was all a figment of Zari’s imagination caused by Gideon, and Wally West’s last act reveal felt like it was cut from next weeks episode and tacked on to this one. Bonus points to Caty Lotz for taking advantage of having her cast mates in 70’s costumes to direct an impromptu Bee Gee’s music video.
Tala Ashe’s Zari gives a great and desperate performance as the only one aware of the time loop, but this week and for the first time this season: Nick Zano* was finally a standout. When the character of Nate Heywood was added to the roster in Season 2 he was a breath of fresh air, bringing a genre saavy self awareness to the show that built some of the season’s funniest moments. In Season 3 this sense of humor has been largely absent: but here it is once more and it is incredibly welcome.
NEXT WEEK: With the Olympics over the DC/CW Universe returns! On Legends of Tomorrow: The Legends take on Black Beard the Pirate and Damian Dahrk. On The Flash: Barry Allen is free and trying to prevent DeVoe from capturing a music playing meta. On Black Lightning: The showdown we’ve been building toward: Black Lightning Vs. Tobias Whale. On Arrow: With Cayden James out of the way it’s the showdown we’ve been hoping to avoid: Team Arrow vs. Team Outsiders!