Getting Slightly Better

Arrowverse 2021 Season: Week 23

After my rant last week about the state 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. and how it felt like it was generally sliding into obsolescence, this week was actually a marked improvement over past weeks. I don't want to say things have already righted themselves -- one good week does not make a good series -- but this is a sign that the writers and producers still know how to crank out a good series when they actually have the right ideas. It's nice to tune in for a week and not be completely irritated.

This week we're covering a couple of big episodes that push their respective series towards their end-games, so let's get into it.

Superman & Lois, Season 1, Episode 11: A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events

This week's episode of ol' Big Blue is an odd one. Due to the fact that 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. was already up and running for years and years by the time he appeared in the Arrowverse on Supergirl, we never actually had to have an origin story for the hero. That was fine when he was a side character to someone else's show, but eventually people were going to wonder just how this version of his story aligned to the other versions we've seen in comics and TV shows and movies. It wasn't a nagging question, to be sure, but we had a show that actually focused on Superman the more likely it was going to be that we eventually delved into his own back-story to shore up details and learn the particulars of his origin in this 'verse.

His origins now, frankly, aren't that different from over in Superman '78 (and I'm glad we just recently watched that so I could make that comparison). Superman came to earth as a baby, was raised by the Kents, and then went off as a teenager to the Arctic so he could drop a crystal into the snow and build his Fortress of Solitude. Then he spent probably a decade up there, training with the hologram of his father to learn all he needed to about Earth (like all of its languages, literally all of them) and become the planet's champion. Then he moved on to Metropolis to he could figure out what he wanted to fight for.

And that's when he met Lois and found his true direction. It wasn't love that motivated him (although there was a bit of love at first sight between both of them) but her sense of right and wrong and justice for all. He desire to tell the stories about crimes that no one else was telling drew him in, and together they worked on a bunch of stories that wouldn't have gotten coverage otherwise. And then they fell in love, and he revealed who he truly was. Then, of course, marriage, kids, and all that...

For a while it seems weird that we do the origin story this late in the show; structurally it's a little weird to have just had a massive battle last episode only to then take a step back and spend 30 minutes of a 45 minute episode focusing on a tale we've already seen before. On the other hand, though, the origin we see actually shows Lois as Clark's equal, something the series has worked to emphasize again and again. He might have the super powers, but she's just as much of a hero in her own way, and the bond they forge is strong because of mutual trust, respect, and a sense of justice. It really works.

Also, there's the fact that it's revealed that the reason we're going through Clark's origin story is because his mind was being dug through by Morgan Edge (Clark's evil Kryptonian half-brother). Using the knowledge of Clark, Lois, and their two boys that he gleaned, Morgan then threatens Clark's family; "join me or they die." So, finally defeated in a way he can't fight against, Clark bends the knee and pledges his loyalty. It all seems like we're headed back to the same eventuality that we saw in the alternate timeline, where Superman helps the Kryptonians take over Earth.

I mean, I'm sure that's not the case. We have four more episodes and I'm sure we'll get some big reveal that Clark is still playing things as he can, looking for an opening where he can defeat the evil Kryptonian. Only a matter of time. That said, this episode does a good job of setting the stakes for the endgame and getting everything in motion for the big climax in four episodes. That, plus a really solid retelling of Clark's origins makes this a really great episode.

However, if there's on niggling thing that bothers me it's that there's never a single mention of Supergirl. When Lois worries that "Superman might be turned" at the end of the episode, she calls John Henry Irons (Steel) instead of Clark's cousin. When Morgan is asked by his own hologram-dad at his own Fortress if there's another Kryptonian, only Clark is mentioned (which was factually true at the time, as Kara hadn't arrived yet, but is still a fudging of the details). If Clark is turned, Kara would care. Kara would be there immediately. Kara would already be fighting at his side.

I'm guessing this series is supposed to take place entirely within the time frame Kara was just trapped in the Phantom Zone, or it takes place after Supergirl ends and Kara somehow goes off to whatever future she has where she's not available to be Earth's Mightiest Defender (as we've already seen her beat her cousin and we know she's the stronger Kryptonian). It's just weird; this series continues to do a bad job of explaining where Supergirl is during all of this, almost like it thinks she doesn't exist. We need more, Superman & Lois. Give us some kind of explanation as this one detail is really starting to bother me.

It was a solid episode in general, I just want a few minor details to be tidied up in the show to make it perfect.

Legends of Tomorrow, Season 6, Episode 7: Back to the Finale: Part II

And now we have the Legends back up and running properly. I've been complaining for a few weeks now that the series didn't feel like its normal self, and I pinned that blame, to a certain extent, on the fact that the show pull Sarah away and put her on her own timeline, leaving the rest of the team (and the show) adrift. Well, the episode this week brings the whole team back together and, in the process, the series managed to find its old spark. This is the show I remembered, the one that grew from one of the worst shows in the 'verse to it's absolute best.

This week sees two separate plot lines that do, indeed, come together in the end. On the one side we have Sarah and Mick, on the alien planet, trying to find a way to defeat Bishop and escape home. We get a few revelations along the way -- Sarah's clone was spliced with DNA of an alien and she might just have a monster lurking in her genetic code (but she also gets a cool healing factor, so that's neat). Mick has also fallen for Kayla, the evil, shape-shifting alien, and the two have a bond that, hopefully, they get to explore down the road (even if she was seemingly left for dead on the alien planet). And there's Bishop who, as we learn, is basically a digital soul living from one clone to the next. To truly defeat him the heroes have to not only shut off the generators to all his cloning machines but also take out his digital backups -- if he gets to the cloud he can replicate anywhere. Presumably, even though he is seemingly destroyed at the end of this episode that won't be the end of Bishop this season.

Meanwhile, in the B-plot, the rest of the team heads back to last year's finale (thus, "Back to the Finale, Part II") to go through the motions of that night and try to find a way to change events and save Sarah from ever being pulled up into space and spirited away to the alien world. This lets the team be silly, and weird, and cross their own timeline in fun ways, but it also gives us a version of Sarah that the team can interact with and that old spark we've needed for the show returns, full force, just like we wanted.

What I think this episode illustrates, more than anything else, is that Sarah is the beating heart and soul of this show. When she's away the series flounders but when she's there to lead the time the series has its spark, its fire, everything it needs. That's an amazing turn for a character who, honestly, irritated the shit out of me back when she was introduced in the second season of Arrow; Sarah Lance has grown a lot these last eight years. And it also shows that if lead actress Caity Lotz ever decides to leave the show (after this season she will be the only cast member still around since first season) the show will need to end. There just isn't a Legends of Tomorrow without Sarah Lance.

Overall this episode was a solid return to form -- a good time travel storyline, great character interactions as the cast finally gets to bounce off each other properly, and a reunion of the whole team for the back-half of the season. We might have stumbled a bit as the show tried something different for the first part of this season, but now that everything is together I have a good feeling about the rest of this season. Just... don't disappoint me, guys.

Elsewhere in the 'Verse

  • Batwoman Black Mask puts all his plans in motion while Team Bat makes some serious mistakes. Kate, who is back to thinking she's Cercie, is welcomed into the Batcave because the team (aside from Ryan) thinks she's Kate and they want their friend back. Once Kate/Cercie gets her hands on Kate's old journals, "a user manual to everything in the Batcave," she then betrays them all, steals all the stuff from the cave -- the suit, the armaments, and all the "Level 3 Biohazard materials" Batman took from villains over the years, and drags it all back home to daddy. Team bat will be in a very rough place for the final run of episodes, but at least the show has found its focus and given us a proper endgame to shoot for. That's what this season needed, and better late than never at least.
  • The Flash, meanwhile, gives us one of its best episodes this season (which, admittedly, isn't saying a lot) simply by removing the Flash from the picture. While Barry and Iris go off to an island getaway for the weekend (and Killer Frost goes off on her own personal project), the remnants of the team -- Allegra Garcia, Chester P. Runk, and Sue Dearbon (sans Ralph) to protect the town. And the team has to pull it together as Allegra's evil cousin, Ultraviolet, is back in town looking to kill a target (she is an assassin, after all). This then gets into family matters between Allegra and her cousin, some fighting, some caring-and-sharing, and then a big climax where Sue and Allegra kick a lot of ass. It's not the best episode of the show, by far, and it does have some of the show's big issues -- Allegra, for example, finding sudden new powers out of nowhere just when the climax needs it for one -- but it was a pretty solid outing for this long-in-the-tooth show. And it once again shows that the series is at its best, now, when it doesn't do big, overarching stories and just focuses on a single baddy-of-the-week.