Hiding In the Darkness
Arrowverse 2019/2020 Season: Week 26
Another week, another finale for one of the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. shows. This week we're checking in on the finale episode this season of Batwoman, a finale that once again really doesn't feel all that final. The Coronavirus really put a crimp in a lot of production schedules, that's for sure. But, along with that finale we also have the debut of another DC show, the cross-pollinated CW/DC Universe production, Stargirl.
We're going to check out both of these shows in detail, as the CW universe steadily draws to a close this season:
Batwoman, Season 1, Episode 20: O, Mouse!
This week Batwoman draws to a close, but much like with the The Flash last week, this hardly feels like a true finale. Kate has to track down one of the murderers that escaped from Arkham, but in the process she gets on the shit list of the Crows (the paramilitary force empowered by Gotham who patrol the streets and try to keep things safe) and the Crows want to take her down by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Alice plots her revenge, knowing that the take Batwoman down (something she craves) she needs the only substance that can penetrate Batwoman's suit: Kryptonite. Oh, and then Alice kills Mouse (because she feels betrayed by him and she's clearly going off the deep end, even by her standards).
This episode was clearly intended to setup the machinations of the last two episodes for the season: take out Alice as a villain, whatever that means, and also have the Crows either come to a real truce with Batwoman or set them up as the villains for next season. Of course, because we're now missing the last two episodes of the season, and whatever storylines we plotted for here are going to be pushed into next year, who knows how that will play out. There's every chance that the show could completely retool itself for next year and take all these plot lines and rework them into 22 more episodes for the coming year.
And, frankly, it would seem like the show would have to do that due to the other big news we got this last week: Ruby Rose, star of the show as she plays Kate Kane / Batwoman, has elected to leave after only one season as the hero. The CW is already planning to recast the role (which they'd obviously have to do since you can't have Batwoman without Batwoman), but I doubt they can just put a new actress in the show, produce the last two episodes as planned, and act like nothing is weird about that. Instead they'll have to get viewers acclimated to their new lead actress (whoever it will be), and that will delay wrapping up these storylines.
In a way, I think this is for the best. The Arrowverse shows have a habit of eliminating their villains at the end of the year, very rarely bringing them back in any capacity for future season. Those few holdouts -- Reverse Flash, Lex Luthor -- returned through contrived means because they ended up as beloved characters. The rest that have returned usually undergo some kind of reform, turning from hero to villain, and then become main cast members (often on other shows in the 'verse). But Alice is different. Reforming her would ruing the vital, evil charisma of the character. Meanwhile, killing her off would eliminate one of the best villains in the whole 'verse, and the best part of this show certainly. Alice is fantastic and if this development forces the CW to keep her around for another season (at least) I welcome it.
On the flip-side, I'm less saddened by the loss of Ruby Rose. She's a fine actress who has had charismatic turns in other films (I liked her performance in John Wick: Chapter 2), but it always felt like something was missing from her Batwoman, like she wasn't quite connecting with the character, or the material, or... something. Whatever the case, this might help revitalize the show if they find a new actress to play Kate Kane who can really connect with all aspects of the character.
Who knows where Batwoman will go next season (or even if, after consistently poor ratings plus a forced change of the lead actress, it'll even survive past next season). I am interested to see how this all plays out. At the very least I think we're in for another long season of Alice's carnage and I look forward to it.
Stargirl, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot
The DC Universe streaming service has quite a collection of shows under its belt at this point. We've already discussed Titans and Doom Patrol, and even Swamp Thing (which, ironically, will now be moving to the CW for its next season). All of these shows are tangential to the main Arrowverse, existing in an acknowledged multiverse, each on their own world. And now we get to add another to that list with the premiere of Stargirl, a CW/DC Universe co-production that's airing on both networks simultaneously.
Let's be frank, this very much feels like a CW show. In fairness, Titans also had that same issue, just way more cussing and sex, in that it had production values (and writing, really) that felt straight out of the CW. Low-budget, live-action, television superheroics can only look so good and at this point I think we all have to realize that the CW does just about all it can given that limitation. So if we compare Stargirl to the standard Arrowverse fair, it holds up okay. But in comparison to some of the better productions DC can make (like Doom Patrol), it feels a little weak.
The pilot introduces us to Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger), a high school teen forced to move to Nebraska, from California, when her mom gets a good job out east. Although Court initially hates the move, things change for her what she finds out that her step-father, Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson), has a big secret: he's actually Stripesy, sidekick to the original Starman (Joel McHale). Starman, along with the rest of the Justice Society of America, was killed ten years prior by Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) and the rest of the Injustice Society, but as he was dying, Starman entrusted his staff to Stripesy for safe keeping, lest it fall into the wrong hands. That staff, a magical alien artifact, is what gave Starman his powers, but it only ever worked for that hero. That is, until Courtney found it and discovered she, too could control the staff.
Now Courtney has to explore her new life on two fronts. One the one hand she's the new girl in school, and outcast that no one knows (or likes) who has to claw her way into popularity. And then there's he potential late-night escapades as The yet to be named) Stargirl since that magical staff refuses to leave her alone and want to go out doing superheroics. But with her using the staff she's caught the attention of Brainwave, and this could lead to even bigger problems for everyone in her new town.
This pilot has a lot to cover, not only introducing us to the old Justice Society (so we understand the stakes), but also giving us our new heroine, establishing her new situation, and trying to setup the storyline for the season. That's a lot for any show to handle and, honestly, Stargirl isn't so good at it. It crams as much as it can into 45 minutes, but the episode struggles to get it all taken care off effectively. It's a touch ham-handed at times, a tad 0bvious in its intentions, and it sometimes has to rely on happenstance (and bad writing) to get all the seams to fit together.
Unfortunately the worst part of the episode was the lead, Brec Bassinger. She's a relatively new actress who has mostly starred in Nickelodeon shows and low-rent comedies. A number of solid actors and actresses have come out of those kinds of productions but Bassinger is, at least in this pilot, a pretty low-wattage actress. She doesn't sell the material well enough, nor does she have the charisma just yet to glide by on her affability alone. If you take Joel McHale as Starman, who in just a couple of scenes sells his entire character, and then compare his performance to his successor, the difference is night and day. I'm not saying Bassinger can't grow into the role, simply that she has yet to by the time the pilot ends.
Also, honestly, the action in this episode sucks. Courtney is supposed to be a graceful gymnast (something the show emphasizes more than once), a skill set that is supposed to translate into her being athletic enough to be a superhero. Bassinger, though, has none of the grace to pull this off, while the action is staged in such a hokey fashion that all the gymnastic stunts its trying for look pretty damn stupid. It's like watching the terrible 1980s action film Gymkata in execution and style.
I think a show based around a new generation of the Justice Society has merit and if this show can work out the kinks it might eventually be good. Certainly outside of Bassinger there's acting talent even in this first episode that gives me hope. The show just has to find its feet or it's going to end up feeling like an also-ran even on the CW. Still, I will watch the full run of this show and, once it's wrapped for the season, we'll have a full review to see just how wall the show progressed and if it feels like, at this point, Stargirl has justified itself for a second season. Right now, though, this pilot doesn't give me much hope.
Elsewhere in the 'Verse
- Supergirl, interestingly, actually gets us into a position for a proper finale next week. It's hard to know if that will actually happen, but this week's episode cleared the board -- Obsidian Platinum is effectively shut down, all the Leviathan gods are basically dealt with (shrunk into a Braniac bottle), and the only guy left active is Lex Luthor. Rumors are that the Lex finale that was planned has already been rewritten to extend through next year, so next week's episode could, in fact, be a real finale that properly sets up next year's story. And considering just how awesome Lex Luthor is on this show, I think that's swell.
- Meanwhile, the Legends of Tomorrow all die. I actually mean that. The entire team, and anyone connected to them, are all wiped out this episode during a zombie apocalypse. It's actually a pretty bold move but, considering there are two more episodes yet to roll this season, both of which are already in the can, I'm pretty sure this will get walked back. And, from the trailers for the next episode, they're going to do it in their usual, gleeful fashion.
- Next week, Supergirl comes to some kind of an end as this season of the Arrowverse slowly staggers to its conclusion.