New Heroes Abound

Arrowverse 2018/2019 Season: Week 5

I swore I wasn't going to cover Titans again this week, if for no other reason that it's not really connected to the main Arrowverse beyond being about DC characters and having the same production company. But then both The Flash and Black Lightning were off this week and my pool of episodes was greatly diminished. And what with only decent episodes from Supergirl and Arrow, my decision was essentially made for me.

Also, Titans had a pretty eventful episode this week, so it really felt like I had to talk about it. Thankfully we also had Legends of Tomorrow to be goofy and weird and introduced a new character to the mix. Otherwise, this might have been one long episode about Titans and this article series about the Arrowverse wouldn't have had any of the 'verse in it at all.

Titans, Season 1, Episode 4: Doom Patrol

Last week Raven went on the run from the convent she was staying at after the nuns locked her in their basement ("for her own good," of course). She blew a hole in the side of the church, fled across their yard, and disappeared into the woods. There she met up with Gar/Beast Boy and he took her to his home. There we are introduced to a bunch of new characters: Clifford Steele/Robotman (Brendan Fraser), Larry Trainor/Negative Man, and Rita Farr/Elasti-Woman. These three are troubled, but good-hearted people who, due to their meta-issues, are forced to remove themselves from public life. Although they think that their leader, Dr. Niles Caulder (Bruno Binchir), can help Raven, in the end she doesn't like his methods and leaves their home, in the process taking Gar with her. She teams back up with Robin and Starfire, and the four venture off to get answers about what's really going on with Raven, her powers, and the people after all of them.

"Doom Patrol" is an interesting episode even if it's mostly just padding. The entire plot of the episode really boils down to "Raven goes to a new place, realizes she doesn't belong there, leaves". It's less a story about her than about the people she meets, the eponymous Doom Patrol. This episode is, essentially, a back-door pilot for the next live-action series set in this corner of the DC 'verse, which, will come as no surprise, is called Doom Patrol.

Honestly, making only the fourth episode of a series into a back-door pilot is a bold move, as well as a little weird. DC must have a lot of faith in their streaming offering to already have green-lit, cast, and be producing a second show here. That says nothing about trusting audiences to accept a side adventure with an almost entirely new cast of characters so early in the run of a different show.

Having Hawk and Dove come onto the second episode of the series felt organic -- they had a history with Robin and it helped to flesh out some of his character while giving us new recurring characters to latch on to. The Doom Patrol, though, doesn't really serve much of a purpose in this episode except to distract us from the main characters of the series. Sure, having them here gives us a context for what Gar has been up to, but it doesn't shade in his character the way Hawk and Dove did for Robin. They're here, and they're neat, but they aren't necessary to Titans.

Aside from the Doom Patrol, all we really get this episode is the Raven can't control her powers and is an emotional mess. Oh, Robin also can't control himself and is also an emotional mess. These two have a great dynamic together and can really carry their scenes, getting a kind of older brother/younger sister vibe, of one mentoring the other to help with their shared darkness. And that's all from one scene. More of that in the future would be great.

Also, please series, give us more of Starfire and finally explain her story. I'm tired of the adventures of Female Jason Bourne, as well acted as she is.

Legends of Tomorrow, Season 4, Episode 3: Dancing Queen

Contrasting with the dark and the weird over on Titans, we have the silly and amusing. This episode had three plots going on, but the A-plot is also the weakest. The new magical creature for the heroes to battle resides in 1970s London during the punk scene. As we're shown, Queen Elizabeth II apparently goes to a punk concert, had a blast, shows her bum during a concert, and then destabilizes the monarchy, plunging England into chaos. Whether this could actually have happened (isn't the monarchy of England largely decorative at this point?), that's the story we have to work with. The team lands in London before this can occur and attempt to infiltrate the band that was on stage for the future incident. Most of them fail, though, while somehow the least punk member of the team, Ray (aka, Atom), ends up befriending the punk band. As he soon learns, one of the members is a shape shifter and it's her, not the real Queen, that ends up on stage.

Ray, though, doesn't think Charlie is evil, just misunderstood, and the two become friends. He thus has to find a way to stop Charlie from getting sent to help by the rest of his team. This then eventually leads to Charlie getting stuck in the shape of their one-time crew-member, Vixen, leading to further consternation for the team (but allowing that actress, Maisie Richardson-Sellers) to return to the series after her last character was written off).

As noted, the main story just isn't that interesting. Ray doing his "aw shucks" thing is fun in small doses, and I certainly like Brandon Ruth as an actor. This just isn't the kind of story that plays to the character's strengths. While I like the quiet moments between Charlie and Ray, the larger scenes with the full band, pulling pranks and being punks, don't really work.

I also find the "resolution" with Charlie a little odd. Constantine casts a spell on her that stops her from being able to shape-shift. Permanently. I don't know if the rest of the season will be her trying to find a way to get her powers back, but it's a weird thing to introduce a character with a cool new ability for the team and then to immediately lock it away. Plus, it's a little weird to have a man essentially strip a woman of what make her unique, leading to some unaddressed gender politics in this episode (from a series that's usually better about topics like that).

The B-plot, minimal as it is, works much better. Here Constantine tells the rest of the team to piss off while he goes to a pub. But as Zari finds out when she follows him, the pub he went to was actually owned by his mother. A mother he never met because she dies in childbirth. This story add some nice pathos to both characters, gives them time to bond a little, and helps to bring the overall silliness of the main plot back a step. It's not a great story, largely because it's shuffled off to the side and probably won't even get addressed again, but it does provide a handful of nice scenes.

And then we have the C-plot of Steel and Gary going into prehistory and accidentally unleashing a magical plant (that looks a lot like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors) onto their office. This plot line doesn't really add anything to the overarching story of the season, but it is amusing to see the two guys messing about and cracking jokes. Gary has been the butt of the series since he was introduced, but this season seems to be working to rehabilitate his character somewhat -- a good move if they're going to continue using him in the series.

On the whole the episode was a bit uneven, but it did at least push stories forward and get some momentum going. Traditionally, Legends seasons have been shorter than the other shows in the 'verse, though, so it's not like this series has time for place-setting episodes.

Elsewhere in the 'Verse:
  • On Supergirl, Kara has to learn to live inside the super-suit she was encased in last episode. Remember, there's kryptonite powder all throughout the atmosphere, and without that powered suit Kara will die. Except the show doesn't really commit to that for long, and by the end of the episode the kryptonite has been cleared and Kara is free to fight as she likes once more. I hated this as it took what could have been a bold narrative choice -- Supergirl trapped in a suit, unable to directly connect with anyone -- and wipes it out in a single episode. The action was decent, and the cast dynamics were solid, but the story failed to deliver.
  • Over on Arrow, Oliver has been sent to the lower level of prison after purposefully beating a bunch of guards. But before he can join the prison population he has to undergo a psych evaluation, which is really more of a mental reprogramming, one that may lead him to give up his crime fighting ways after learning to let go of the mission his father gave him ("right my wrongs") at the start of the entire series. I doubt the show is truly going to have Oliver give up being the Green Arrow, so who know how long this potential plot line will really last.
  • Meanwhile, Felicity and the rest of the team have completely unrelated adventures in Star City. She's going down a darker path, one that I honestly thought we'd already explored last season, but the rest of the team once again wants to stop her from crossing a line. Maybe this time she'll actually cross it and the show can commit to finally exploring this story properly. Otherwise, just wait for next season where she'll do it all over again.
  • As noted, The Flash and Black Lightning were off this week. They should be back next week, though, and hopefully we'll have some great episodes to cover from those shows next time.