Stumbling Through Gotham
Arrowverse 2021/2022 Season: January Check-in
Right now 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 in a pretty solid spot for viewers. Two nights a week, four shows total (counting Naomi, which I am watching but won't discuss in detail here), it's just the right level of investment that viewers can easily keep up. Whether this will help the continuing flagging ratings of the 'verse is a question -- Superman & Lois is holding steady, Legends is actually up after last season, but "Armageddon" was barely a blip for The Flash, Naomi is losing viewers post-Superman, and Batwoman is absolutely sucking wind. One has to wonder how much longer the Arrowverse is sticking around.
But while the 'verse is still alive (see far below for more news) we're going to continue doing our monthly check-ins. So let's start with the worst this time around and work our way up.
While The Flash is on hiatus I was really hoping we could just have a nice few weeks without utter garbage in the 'verse. Sadly I forgot about Batwoman as this show flails about. The first half of this season was bad and, wow, the second half is only getting worse. I'm a supporter of this show, and have stuck around through two pretty solid seasons, but this third season really is a direction-less mess. If the rumors that this show is getting axed after this season are true it will be a mercy kill, honestly.
To start, who is the villain of this season? Is it Jada Jet (Robin Givens), corporate shark and, secretly, Ryan's mother? I thought so at one point, but then we learned she was just doing what she could for her family and her motivations (if not her actions) were good. But then she keeps heel turning/face turning, over and over, that not only are we confused if she' a bad guy or not but we also have no clue who she is at all. Her motivations have become so muddled that we can't really care about her either way.
Is the villain Marquis Jet (Nick Creegan), son of Jada and our likely stand-in for the Joker this season? He was blasted in the head as a boy by Joker's "joy buzzer", and that shock caused him to become a raging sociopath. he somehow took over Wayne Enterprises (a plot line that is still stupid no matter how much they try to explain it away), only to then be easily defeated. There's a cure for his insanity (the joy buzzer, apparently), and that suggests he might end up not being the villain, but then he's also finding a way to escape and go on the loose again, so who knows.
It's not Mary, our Poison Ivy II, as she just had her powers drained away three episodes after getting them, marking another heel turn/face turn for the show with no weight behind it. It could be the original Poison Ivy, Pamela Isley (Bridget Regan), as she was just brought back from her own death two episodes ago and now is on the loose. Except she was defeated quickly, too, and then sent off to a happily ever after with her boo, Renee Montoya. Frankly, week to week I don't know what we're supposed to be focusing on or why.
All of this points to the bigger issue with this season: the show simply doesn't know what it's doing. We waver from one plot to the next, each and every one slapdash and thrown together, with characters acting different week to week with no consistency. There's supposed to be arcs at play here -- Mary's insecurity (which frankly came out of nowhere), Ryan's issues with her family (which she shouldn't care about because she barely knows them) -- but none of it lands because it's all so rushed and contrived.
Honestly, I think the big issue is that the writers don't know what to do without Kate Kane. First season was all about Kate, and the second season was "what happened to Kate?" Now, though, the show has to focus on the cast it has left, a group of people thrown together not because they were deeply connected -- Kate was in charge of Wayne Enterprises with Luke worked, she was Sophie's ex, Alice's sister, Mary's step-sister, while Ryan is none of those things -- but because they're still around when a new woman is the superhero at the center of the show. It's trying, but failing, to give it all relevance and it just doesn't work.
Look, I like what this show can do when it's firing on all cylinders. I actually like the cast, old and new, and I think the show still has some good bones here it could build from. Right now, though, this season is an absolute train wreck and I don't think there's any way to save it. Likely we're just going to have to play this out and, if somehow this show gets another season, we'll see if it can pull things around next year. Other shows in the 'verse have done it (just look at Legends) so it can be done. It's just a tall order for a show this lost in the weeds.
Superman & Lois
After the awful episodes of Batwoman anything would seem better. That said, Superman & Lois would be my pick for best episodes this month were it not for the fact that Legends of Tomorrow were running at a creative peak right now. If the lackluster "Armageddon" and all of Batwoman make me question the health of the 'verse, Superman and Legends show here's still good things to watch in this corner of the CW.
Carrying the story out from the season premiere, Superman is still getting weird visions and these are compounded by intense pain and, no, rage as well. He nearly lashes out at each of his sons and can barely contain his powers. Why? Because somehow he connected to the thing that was transported into the Smallville mines (due to all the X-Kryptonite there), the thing that's been trying to crawl its way out. And that thing, somehow, is Kryptonian.
Now, to the show's credit it pull off a pretty awesome twist (and if you don't want to be spoiled about it skip the rest of this and go on to Legends of Tomorrow below). The show said over and over again that the beast was Kryptonian. They called it a monster. They kept hinting at what it could be, showing spiky surfaces in the mine, having people talk about "the end of the world" and "your doom's day". The show wanted us to think that Doomsday was coming so we could do a "Death of Superman" arc. It even had the beast escape finally and slowly start walking out of the mine in a weird, armored, protective suit (just like Doomsday in that classic comic arc). We all knew what was coming.
Except then, curve ball, it's revealed that the creature isn't Doomsday but Bizarro, the "anti-Superman" from another dimension. I will admit I didn't expect this for a couple of reasons. The first is that, to the credit of the production team, they put every clue and hint (and big red arrows) pointing at Doomsday and then toyed with our expectations. Well done on that, too, because that pay off was so good. But it's also because we had a version of Bizarro in this universe, the Bizarro Supergirl from season one of Supergirl. This character idea was done so we wouldn't get another one, would we?
Well, apparently we are and the show is acting like the other Bizarro (the Supergirl version) doesn't exist. Everyone is confused how there can be another Clark, an evil Clark that doesn't act the same way Clark does. This, though, does point to a big issue: as the show goes about doing the same storylines that Supergirl already covered -- Maxwell Lord, Bizarro, Kryptonian invasions -- it raises a giant specter over the show: where is Supergirl and why isn't she telling Clark about all this crap so he doesn't have to second-guess all this shit again?
I've been commenting for a little while now that it feels like Superman & Lois exists in a different universe from the main Arrowverse and this season is only making it worse. I know the universe was reset after "Crisis" and this gives the show leeway to redo and reinvent anything it wants. But there are times where a simple call to Kara would suffice, or moments where the characters say, "there's no one that can help us right now against a threat this big," and I have to wonder, "why don't you call your cousin, you moron?!" I get that Melissa Benoist quit her character and isn't likely to come back but they could recast her, or just do a phone call, or something. This is a bit hard to swallow.
These flaws do make me question things once in a while, but the rest of the time I just sit back and enjoy the show. If you can ignore the lack of Kara at all, even in a reference (and I do ignore it because, eh, you kind of have to), then everything on this show is great. Continuity gives me a niggly tingling at the back of my skull, but the show does what it can to ignore it and move on. I guess we all just need to do the same. Just saying, though, if Kara shows up in some later episode I'm going to have all kinds of questions.
Legends of Tomorrow
Oh, Legends. Season to season you're the reliable, goofy show that lets us know there's still life in this whole Arrowverse idea. And as this season is showing, the series isn't afraid to reinvent. Hell, if anything, making the crew lose the Waverider, live in John's duplicate mansion, and have weird adventures against the evil robot versions of themselves, was the perfect way to find new creative life for the show (and the fact that ratings are up illustrate that it's working, too).
Since the mid-season the show has given us a variety of fantastic episodes, no two alike. We went from the mid-season pickup following not our heroes but the villainous robot duplicates of the crew. Then we got to hang out with the man heroes as they were stuck in Hell for an episode, trapped in a reality program (which allowed everyone to play with reality show tropes). And then we have this week's episode, a story engineered to let the heroes do another "time loop", but this time in such a way that the whole concept of a time loop episode felt fresh and new (to the point that I only noticed it was a time loop episode at all while writing this).
Although the previous two episodes were good, it's the time loop episode that does most of the heavy lifting for the plot. See, the crew is trying to stop the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, not because they want to break time but so they can cause a time issue big enough to cause their evil robot versions to show up. Then they can steal the Waverider back, defeat the evil Gideon, and go back to doing the time travel they love. It's not a bad plan, and watching them try (and fail) to alter history over and over again (set against a Eastern European folk version of "You Spin Me Round") was fantastic.
The reason they struggle to change time, though, is because the assassination is an event in history so important that it's a "Fixed Point". You can't change it, and time will fight back if you try. Usually that means the person that made the attempt dies, but since Sara is basically immortal now (due to her half-alien DNA) that's less of an issue for her. But as they delve into how time is able to fight back they discover that time is a person, or at least an agent of time itself: the old Reverse Flash (Matt Letsher). This is one of those weird quirks about the Arrowverse and something we have to touch upon: how can there be two Reverse Flashes when one of them was just in "Armageddon" (played by Tom Cavanaugh)?
Well, we have a couple of things we have to theorize there. First, Letsher's version of the Reverse Flash died in the second season of the show (while he was part of the trio of villains, the Injustice Society). His version of the character was sucked into the time vortex by a time wraith and, presumably, died. Yes, The Flash hand-waved that away and said that somehow he survived that (while having him played once again by Cavanaugh) and that might have held true at the time, but then we had "Crisis", the universe soft-boot, and a lot of other things that have happened since. My theory is that this is actually the "Pre-Crisis" version of the Reverse Flash, who got sucked into the vortex, and everything else was a "Post-Crisis" version (even if the timelines of that aren't perfect). That makes more sense than anything.
Still, his inclusion here raises an interesting plot point: to change the "Fixed Point", Sara strikes a deal with Thawne. However, if she can't make her changes and reset the timeline back after four hours then she and the Reverse Flash have to fight and if she wins she has to take his place as the guardian of the "Fixed Point". Fan theory is that Sara is going to end up having to become the guardian and will be leaving the show this season which, if that's true, would be sad. The show just wouldn't be the same without her. And that does raise the question of if the show would even continue after this season. Ratings are up and the CW could renew (if they CW still exists, see below), but maybe it would be good for the show to exit on a high note. We'll just have to see.
Overall, though, this has been a great season of the show and this past month has only shown how much energy is still left in Legends of Tomorrow.
- In big news for the CW, and maybe for the 'verse, WB and CBS are looking for someone to buy the CW from them. This could mean that the Arrowverse would move off to other channels, like HBO Max, and stop being a broadcast entity, but that's just speculation. For now the question is who would even want to buy this low-rated fifth broadcast channel in an era when broadcast itself is dying?
- Meanwhile, at least one show is likely to return next season no matter what: The Flash. Actor Grant Gustin has apparently signed a contract for a ninth season of the show so, no matter what happens with the CW, or the Arrowverse as a whole, the Scarlet Speedster will continue running for at least one more year.