Back In a... Something or Other...
Arrowverse 2021 Season: Week 7
With this week we have another series coming back into 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. fold: the return of The Flash. With Arrow ending last season (and the CW not picking up Green Arrow and the Canaries), The Flash is now the longest running active series in the 'verse and also it's flagship.
Since we've talked a lot about Batwoman and Black Lightning lately, we'll focus on our newly returning series as well as recent addition Superman & Lois in this week's coverage.
The Flash, Season 7, Episode 1: All's Well That Ends Wells
So it's fair to say that "All's Well That Ends Wells" isn't really a season premiere, much as last season's final episode wasn't really a season finale. While other shows in the 'verse were able to finish their seasons, one way or another, before COVID completely shut everything down, The Flash didn't really have that chance. Parts of this episode were filmed last year, but the episode couldn't finish up (and there were still a couple of episodes to go). This season premiere doesn't even try to cover for it and just continues last seasons storyline without any major revamping, from the looks of things.
That means we pick up right where we left off, with Barry Allen's Flash running dangerously out of his "speed force" power after the actual speed force died earlier in the season, while his wife is still trapped in the mirror world while the new Mirror Master wanders around free in the real world. This leaves Barry needing to find a way to finish an artificial speed force before he runs out of juice. And Iris has to find her way free of the mirror world. Oh... and just about every other character we know is nowhere to be found as we get the C-Team that was just barely introduced last season picking up the slack.
Let's start with the first big issue: while the speed force issues were a major plot line last season, it's not much of a hook for a new season. Yes, Barry running out of his juice and no longer being "The Flash" would be a big issue, and it should be the biggest problem the show faces. If the resolution came at the end of a season, it'd be amazing to have it resolved here. But this issue gets resolved in this episode, meaning we're reintroduced to a problem, and then it's immediately taken care of as if it's no big deal.
This is the problem with starting the show back up with an episode that should have come at the end of the season. Instead of reinventing this episode to be the start of a new storyline, the show use the season premiere to end a storyline. It's baffling and actually drains energy out of the episode (ironic since the plot line is all about giving Barry his energy again). I fail to understand the reasoning for this from a storytelling perspective. It's either a cost saving measure or an indication that the creators of the show really don't know what to do with the series at this point. I kind of feel like it's the latter.
Meanwhile, Iris is stuck in a dead-end storyline that is going nowhere. Is this a way for the show to give Iris a super power, making her the next mirror master? Does Iris need to be a super? I'd argue no since not everyone on this series has to have a super power (for the record, right now only Iris and her father, Joe, are normies on this show as literally everyone else has a superpower now). Iris getting her own storyline is fine... if it were better, but she's basically cut off from everyone else on the show (we don't even see the two other people we know are trapped in the mirror-verse in this episode), and she just kind of wanders around having literal conversations with herself.
Thing is, I've seen reviewers that really liked this episode so I've trying to understand why I hate it while other people like it. What am I missing about this show (and, likely, have been missing for a couple of years now)? I hated this episode, just like I hated most of last season, but people apparently still really enjoy it so I'm at a loss. I think this show sucks and I'm hoping that once we burn off the last few episodes of story from last season and get into a new plot line later this year, this show might be able to perk itself back up again. I'm just not holding my breath. Maybe The Flash is no longer meant for me.
Superman & Lois, Season 1, Episode 2: Heritage
Last week, Clark and Lois made the decision to move to Smallville, uprooting their family (the two of them, plus teenage sons Johnathan and Jordan) to the relative safety of this small town life. It helps that Clark had just lost his job at the Daily Planet (downsizing) so he could focus on the family farm. Meanwhile, Lois was starting to suspect that Daily Planet owner Morgan Edge had nasty plans for Smallville (where he was buying up land and making deals with the town to "help" them). Oh, and at a fireside party, Jordan exhibited superpowers, making Clark think he might have inherited Superman's traits.
This week sees Clark taking Jordan up to the Fortress of Solitude to test his powers. What he finds is that Jordan's powers are seemingly one-off events, moments where the energy builds up but the kid can't control the powers or use them on command (a "fact" I suspect will evolve over the season as Jordan becomes motivated more and more to use his powers). Johnathan, meanwhile, is getting shit at school from the other football players who don't like him because he's new and different and his brother misread signals and tried to put the moves on one of their girlfriends. And Lois digs deeper into Morgan Edge and the plan for Smallville and writes a piece on it all, but Edge edits the story and runs a different version, the first time anyone has ever had the audacity to change on of Lois's stories. So she quits and goes to work for a Smallville paper.
So let's think about these things all in context. I liked the last episode because, which it did go "in" on the drama it was using it to humanize Superman, giving us the Clark side that so often doesn't get seen or cared about as much. This week maybe leans a little too heavily on the drama, though, with bad things happening to every member off the Kent family without a lot of breathing room. It's a lot of drama without a lot of the sunshine that Clark needs to go along side. He's a symbol of hope and the show needs that just a little here.
Jordan, for his part, isn't a very well developed character. He's there to act dramatic, throwing a fit any time his father disagrees with him, and then Clark has to bend over backwards to appease the boy. Johnathan is a normal teen by comparison (seemingly in all ways) and his high school drama is more understandable, with the show doing a pretty good job of fleshing out the "human" son of the family. But Jordan needs a lot of work, the show has to do a lot to humanize the kid because right now he's just a collection of ticks without a good personality behind it.
Meanwhile, I have serious doubts that no one has ever had to edit one of Lois's stories before. I get that corporate-owned newspapers are a bad thing, and the show is trying to use Lois to tackle that storyline, but there is no way in all the years that she's worked for Perry White that two of them haven't butted heads before and Perry had to change a story Lois wrote to protect the paper. She's a firebrand, and that's great for ratings, but there are times (as we've seen in other Superman works) where Lois could go too far in pursuit of a story, and I'm sure Perry has had to pull her off the ledge before. Sure, Perry is on "her side" and Morgan clearly isn't, but Lois was being more than a little hyperbolic with her rage.
Note, her leaving the Daily Planet makes sense. She's clearly outgrown the place and write for any paper or magazine she wanted. Hell, I'm sure someone would willingly make her the Editor-in-Chief of a publication, not only for the name recognition she'd bring but also to poke Morgan Edge in the eye. Her storyline here doesn't quite make sense in any context, and then her going to work for a tiny paper no one will ever read is a narrative convenience that feels beneath the world's most famous reporter.
All that being said, I do still like this show. The actors are great, and they're doing what they can with the material. This show has yet to have the truly hokey moments other Arrowverse shows regularly have (although I'm sure it'll happen sooner or later) so I appreciate the tone the show is going for in general. This just feels like the growing pains of a new series and, eventually, the writer will nail it down and this show will really get going. It's the CW's most popular show right now, so I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to watch this series get its feet on the ground and take flight.
Elsewhere in the 'Verse
- On Batwoman, the team almost gets the map to the secret island where Kate is behind held, and then an evil doctor steals it from them. Oh, and our heroine finally reveals her kryptonite wound to everyone on the team and we learn that the wound will prove fatal... eventually. This episode, on the whole, was uneven but the show is still doing great work growing our lead heroine. This just wasn't the best episode this season.
- Meanwhile, Black Lightning almost pulled off a good episode. It finally got all its characters talking to each other and resolving their issues instead of being big, dumb idiots and holding their issues against each other without explaining why. That's great! But it also barely moved the actual plot forward as the show continues to reside, more or less, in a holding pattern, and that sucked. The best episode of this season isn't really saying much with how bad this show regularly can be.
- We have two more weeks of Superman & Lois before that show goes on a temporary hiatus (due to a COVID filming issue). Instead, starting on March 30th, Supergirl will return on that time slot to carry the torch before Supes comes back for the rest of the season. Trading out one Kryptonian for another makes sense, and the CW is clearly making the best of a bad situation.