Out With the Old

Arrowverse 2021 Season: Week 21

It really feels like 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. is two different universes right now. On the one side you have Superman & Lois, a pretty solid show that keeps doing great work in its first season. And then there's... well, everything else. I know I sound like a broken record, week after week, but much of this universe really does feel like it's running on fumes now and I'm not sure that there's anything the CW can do to save it short of ending most of the shows and getting new series up in their stead.

So let's look at a couple of the shows that are struggling and try to figure out why:

Legends of Tomorrow, Season 6, Episode 5: The Satanist's Apprentice

I won't say that Legends of Tomorrow has always been the best show. I think by now everyone knows that first season -- the Hawkman focused season, aka "The Dark Times" -- was pretty awful, but the second season did a solid soft-boot of the concept of the show and, for four years there, the series had a good run, having fun with its concept without taking anything too seriously. I have to say, this current season, five episodes in, still isn't thrilling me, and I think it's all down to the characters. The fun of the big ensemble, with all the weird character and the fun ways they'd bounce off each other was what powered the show through the last few years, but that same dynamic is missing this time around.

For starters, much of what made those earlier seasons work is missing now. Sarah is off on another planet having her own adventure, far removed from everyone else. Mick is barely in the series at this point (and is completely leaving sometime soon). Brandon Routh's Ray Palmer was kicked off the show last season, and the version of Zari we liked from the earlier seasons was replaced by the shallow "Zari 2.0" who is barely a character at all. So many solid characters are no longer actually involved in the main thrust of the show at all.

Meanwhile, the characters that we do have aren't really doing much at all. None of them seem to be growing or changing, they're all just in stasis until the show can trot them out for their own catchphrase or tick. Ava is organized, Steel is a nerd, Behrad gets stoned, Mick gets drunk (when he's actually around at all), Constantine is a horn-dog that uses magic. What we're missing is real growth. Even the new character introduced this season, Spooner, is little more than a cowgirl who can hear aliens. There's nothing to her character where, on previous seasons, the show would have gone out of its way to flesh her out and dedicate an entire episode to her growth.

That's actually what this episode is about: taking a character and making them grow. It just so happens that the character this time around is Astra Logue, the one-time queen of Hell who came topside and has chosen to live as a mortal. The thrust of this episode is that she's found it hard to be a mortal and, when she stumbles upon a painting with the soul of Aleister Crowley (dark magic practitioner), she decides to take a shortcut and learn dark magic so she can have everything she wants. This, naturally blows up in her face.

Don't get me wrong, there was some fun to be had with this episode. Astra, in a fit, turns her friends into objects, like a binder and a fork and a wheel of cheese, and then they all start talking to her. This then leads to an animated sequence with her friends basically being the objects from Beauty and the Beast while she sings a song and acts like a Disney Princess. It's a cute idea, and the animation is solid, but what it's all missing is a soul. The spark that would have made an episode like this work in the past is missing now.

Astra has been on the show for over a season so far and, frankly, I don't care about her. She started off as a villain, maybe reformed a little but is still, in essence, the same person she was when she ruled Hell (right down to the fact that she still has a collection of soul tokens she carries with her). This episode doesn't flesh her out so much as it finally gives her some comeuppance and then gently lets her off the hook after she kind of saves the day in the end. But she doesn't learn anything and is still the same person by the end of it all. It's less that she motivated the plot than that the plot simply happened to her.

I keep waiting for this season to take off, to finally give us a good episode, a good story, something for us to care about. Astra is not the way to go about it (nor is the B-plot about some random megalomaniac that has designs on alien DNA). Nothing about this season has come together, and this episode is like that in miniature. There are all the pieces of a classic Legends episode her, but the comedy, the chemistry, and the characters were all wrong. We're a third of the way into this season and I think we may be on the down swing for this show. It's sad as this was one of the best shows of the 'verse and now it's getting as tedious as everything else the CW has to offer (outside of Big Blue).

The Flash, Season 7, Episode 12: Good-Bye Vibrations

Meanwhile, The Flash is its usual, tedious self. This week's episode isn't bad, per se, it's just that it isn't good, either. The plot revolves around the fact that Cisco and his girlfriend, Camille, are both leaving Central City and they finally reveal that fact to their friends one day before the big move. The friends try to keep up a happy face so that Cisco doesn't feel like he has to stay while Cisco is upset that no one seems to be broken up. Everything eventually cares, and shares, and then they all party for him and his big news.

It's weird, in a way, because the show is at a place where a character leaving doesn't feel like a big deal. Cisco has earned his big exist, and the show tries to give him that (and some of the emotions of his exit are well earned). At the same time, though, the show has squandered all these characters for about two solid seasons now so it's hard to feel bad that Cisco is leaving. If anything you're happy he'll no longer have to suffer being on this show. Good for you, buddy, go off and save yourself.

The timing of his departure is also weird. This episode marks the start of a new "pod" for the show, a new overarching storyline that will carry the back-half of this season. Cisco leaving at the start of it seems strange, like he either should have waited until the end of this pod to leave, or he should have bailed on episode earlier. In fact, why didn't he leave them? That pod was all about family, about new beginnings and the sadness of seeing family move on. Wouldn't that have been the right moment for Cisco to make his exit as well, to contrast him leaving against the Forces and their own family unit. Go out on a high note (that is if that whole arc hadn't been a huge waste of time, of course).

Instead we get the team taking on a one-note villain, a girl with rainbow powers, who clearly will never show up again. This is the bad guy Cisco gets to help battle right before he makes his hasty exit? A bit player near the bottom of the Rogues' Gallery? It's a waste of the story potential of Cisco's exist, but then that makes perfect sense, really: The Flash hasn't understood what to do with its various story bits for years now. Why would this episode be any different?

The Flash used to be great. It had two excellent seasons, and then two mildly okay seasons, but now we're in the deep dregs of the show and it's getting increasingly hard to care at all. I know the CW wants this show to stick around but when the series can't even nail an easy episode like this, one where a major character that's been with the show leaves and all the earned back-story can be put to good use, then it's pretty obvious the show just doesn't know what it's doing anymore. If we have to have one more season, make it just one more and then put this show out to pasture. It's for it's own good, CW.

Elsewhere in the 'Verse

  • Batwoman sparks a social revolution as The Crows have to deal with obvious corruption in their ranks. This was actually a pretty decent episode, and it lead to Jacob Kane shutting down The Crows entirely which is a big change for this show. In comparison to the two episodes we discussed above, this week's Batwoman was pretty solid, but we still don't have a clear idea of where this season is going or what the overarching story will be. Considering we're nearly two-thirds of the way through the season, I get the feeling there isn't an overarching story. That's... weird.
  • Superman & Lois, meanwhile, is heading right into its endgame with all engines firing. Last week we learned all about Morgan Edge's plans, how he's putting the souls of dead Kryptonians into humans and giving the dead aliens new life. Now, though, it's revealed that Edge is doing this because he's actually a Kryptonian himself (clearly using "Crisis" to reboot this character from the version that showed up on Supergirl) and he wants to build a "New Krypton" here on Earth. That's certainly a twist and, if nothing else, we have a villain capable of taking on Clark. Just have to see where this goes from here.