The Hero At Home
Arrowverse 2021 Season: Week 9
Frankly, we have too many shows in 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. to cover this week, but I want to highlight the episodes I think are most important. We're going to look at The Flash since we're essentially at the "season finale" for last season's arc (as this show is basically ignoring the one year production break as if it didn't happen), and then I want to look at the best episode of the week, which came from Superman & Lois.
I do, however, want to point out that Black Lightning was a only okay episode but that there was just enough to talk about that I could have almost done a full review. We'll get into it in the additional notes below, but it was razor's edge thus week. (Meanwhile, Batwoman was fine and it doesn't need much coverage.)
The Flash, Season 7, Episode 2: Mother
Story Arc Finale
As note, this episode of The Flash is essentially the season finale we were supposed to have from last year. As such, three episodes into the season we reach the end of the "Mirror Monarch" (as she now calls herself) storyline. Just what does this mean? Well, first, we get a conclusion of the "Flash Lost his Speed Force" story and, second, we see the Mirror Monarch shuffle her way out of the show. Neither story works at all well, are basically unrelated to each other, neither come to an ending that feel earned, and it all just seems like the show is running in place (some pun intended) to kill time. So, really, it's like just about any other recent Flash story.
When we talk about the excesses of the Arrowverse I feel like The Flash exemplifies all the ways that can be a bad thing. Here is a show where, at this point, every single character now has powers. Iris, having been trapped in the mirrorverse for half this arc, even has mirror powers (albeit temporarily for now), and now we have a return of the original Harrison Wells from this universe who can turn himself into particles and travel along his own timeline. Why? Because the show wants it and for no other reason. The series doesn't understand, at this point, how to make us care about characters without first giving them powers. It's dumb and removes everything "special" about being a superhero.
Add to that Flash's issues with the Speed Force. Due to actions he didn't understand at the time (and feel like they were thrown in just to cause a problem this season), Flash corrupted the Speed Force and it died this season. He tried to build an artificial Speed Force, but that went badly last episode. So, one episode later, he decides to build an "organic" Speed Force and he realizes he can do it because Iris is back and there's a spark between them. Their love someone has kept the Speed Force alive (in part because he's the Paragon of Love) and all it takes is Iris putting her hands on the very dangerous piece of machinery that would kill anyone else and, suddenly, there's the Speed Force again.
How? How does any of this work? How is the Speed Force alive in someone that isn't a speedster (Iris) and hasn't even been in the main universe for half the season? Why doesn't the machine kill her? Why didn't the Flash notice there was speed energy between them until just this episode? None of this makes sense and is simply lazy writing to tie up this story at the end of an arbitrary "season finale" that doesn't even exist now so they can move on with a fresh start next episode. Again, it simply doesn't work.
Meanwhile, Mirror Monarch is a total dud. Has she even felt like an actual danger to Team Flash? She's mostly been a pest, grabbing random people one at a time so she can make duplicates of them and then... annoy other people with her duplicates. She has these grand mirror powers but seems like she's running her own version of Jackass with them, pulling elaborate pranks to see if anyone will notice. Then she suddenly escalates this episode to snatching people en masse so she can repopulate the world with her own kind and "save it". I don't see it. She says, "I can use my powers to save the world," but that's never explained. And how is she saving it if there isn't any humanity left to save? She goes from too small in her actions to too big, like she's Winston pulling pranks on New Girl.
And her defeat comes out of nowhere. She's evil, she's yelling at everyone, she wants to dominate the word, and then the Flash and Iris are nice to her and suddenly she sees the error of her ways because... love? So her arc is 0 to 100 and back to 0 in the span of a single episode with no development of it beforehand and no proper resolution at the climax. Things just happen and the the story arc is over, dispatching Mirror Monarch off to her own mirrorverse again so she can make it into her own better world. If she could have done that all along why bother coming here then?
Part of me is glad that this came in the middle of a season so we could get the rest of this story out of the way and try again with the next 19 episodes or so. At the same time, though, this is the best the writers could do with a year to work on a story and nothing else going on. It's lazy and it's just bad writing. It forces me to say, once again, that The Flash really needs to be put out to pasture. The longer the CW keeps this show running (some pun again) the worse this is going to get. I don't think there's any saving this show at this point (but we still have the rest of the season, and next season at least, to suffer along with it).
Superman & Lois, Season 4, Episode 4: Haywire
So now on to the best episode of the week, which comes to us from the big man himself, SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s.. I have to credit the people behind the Arrowverse because it really seems like they're trying to do something different with this show, both in style and scope, so that it doesn't feel like "just another Arrowverse show. The production quality is better, the way the show is constructed is different, and everything about it tells me that the producers know how lucky they are to work with one of the Big Three at DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. and they aren't wasting it.
This week's episode is particularly good because it once again shows us something that the other shows in the 'verse fail at so spectacularly: its characters communicate. The episode is nominally about (a) Morgan Edge, corporate asshole, finally winning the vote of the town council and getting approval to take over the Smallville Mine, and (b) one of the football players at school showing the first signs of his meta-gene expressing, and the kid freaking out about his "haywire" powers (thus the name of the episode). But, at its core, the episode really is all about Clark and Lois.
What we see are a couple pushed in multiple directions just trying to make it all work. Clark is a loving father and husband and he struggles to balance all that with his needs as Superman. In the past this meant that he was absent from the lives of his sons and, as the show puts it, often missed birthdays, anniversaries, and other important events. Lois, of course, has her own life as well, always working as a reporter, but she's had to put more of her stuff on hold because the other person in the relationship wears an S and saves the world on a regular basis. When Clark, who is supposed to show up as Clark, misses the town hall meeting because Clark, as Superman, has to go stop a supervillain emergency, Lois gets understandably upset. This was important to her, her last chance to try and stop Morgan Edge (with the help of Smallville's favorite son), but Superman got in the way of that once more.
What the episode does, though, is that instead of Lois sitting on this for a span of episodes before blowing up, the issue is raised and resolved in the episode because, and this is important, Clark and Lois are a loving couple who talk. Clark notices Lois is upset, she finally lashes out saying, "don't use that super-hearing pulse detecting power of yours," to which Clark, as a husband that pays attention, responds, "you clench your jaw when you're upset," and then the two talk it out. Clark makes it up to her in the end by planning a nice, romantic dinner in their barn because, as Lois made clear, she just wants to know that she's more special than anything else Clark has to so as Superman. And she is, and Clark easily says it and illustrates it, and I really appreciated all of this.
It stands it sharp contrast, for example, to Black Lightning. No one on that show just talks, instead getting made and letting things fester over several episodes when a simple conversation would resolve everything. A different show would have driven Clark and Lois apart but then that wouldn't really feel like the relationship that's been in comics for several decades. This is a foundational marriage for the DC Universe, and Clark is such a boy scout that it's hard to see him, or Lois, ever letting a marriage get bad enough that they couldn't fix it. This is a health couple and even when they're upset they know the best thing to do is talk and care and share.
It comes to a head, even, as Lois's father, General Sam Lane, demands that Clark get is "priorities in order" and save the world before anything else. Clark, though, has a family to think of and, as he and Lois both make clear, they are the priority. The General leaves in a huff (and is likely going to grow to be one of our supervillains this season), but the core family relationship is stronger after this episode. Seriously, I wish more shows could have a central family that was this good. Whatever else goes on around them, this is such a good central group that the show is so much better for it, better than anything else going on in the 'verse right now. Well done, team.
Elsewhere in the 'Verse
- Batwoman does a lot of table setting this episode. We get another chance to hear Alice's back-story of her time she was on the mystical flower island and learn that Safyiah messed with her brain and made her into Alice. Also, Ryan is still dying but she somehow put a tracker in Alice's boot so Team Bat could track Alice when she goes back to said mystical flower island. This despite the fact that Alice changes clothes and would either (a) feel the tracker in her boot when she took them off and put them back on or, (b) would likely just change shoes anyway. I don't buy it, but it's a narrative shortcut the show takes because it can. Hopefully the nest episode is better.
- And then Black Lightning... actually wasn't bad. Bear in mind its another low-impact episode for much of the runtime, still dealing with the change of actress for Jennifer. But it was good, in that regard because the show actually took the time to process this change and fold in the new actress, letting her find her footing while the other characters revolved around her. If last episode was a memorial for the old version of Jennifer, this new episode is like a debut for the new girl, and this part works really well. That said, the ending of the Black Lightning episode was pure dreck.
- We learn, over the course of the episode, that the Freeland police will start using "no-knock" warrants to go after metas. This is, of course, trying to draw a parallel between the real world and this shows police force so the show can comment on police and racial violence, which still seems like a awkward fit when all the police we've seen in top position on the force here are Black. Regardless, what really didn't work was the police going, breaking into an apartment, getting into a gunfight with the residents (who are just defending themselves as they think they're being robbed), and then we go through a montage of BLM protests about the innocent people being shot, and that's fine... but then the show reverses time, has Black Lightning show up, and save the people. So what was the point? The only way to save the real world is vigilante violence? Metas caused the problem so metas have to solve it? The message this week is muddled at best and just didn't play. Try again next time, show.