Taking a Break for the Mid-Season
Arrowverse 2021/2022 Season: December Check-In
I ended up taking a much longer break for the holidays than I originally expected. I was going to talk about The Flash a week or so ago, and then do a "end of the month" check-in for our other shows but, well, that didn't happen. Instead we'll let The Flash play through it's five-episode event and we'll see what all happened there once that's done.
In the meantime, let's look at the two 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. shows already taking their mid-season finales:
Legends of Tomorrow
I had a realization watching Legends of Tomorrow after being utterly annoyed by the Supergirl Finale: despite taking place in the Arrowverse, Legends had a very different attitude to its "superhero antics" than the other shows in this 'verse. Where The Flash or Supergirl (Supergirl) especially settled on the idea that every character had to be a superhero and every solution to every problem required the use of super powers, Legends goes the opposite route. It seems like, most of the time, the show goes out of its way to keep the characters as grounded and human as possible.
Let's look at a couple of recent episodes from the show. "Deus Ex Latrina" features the characters accidentally time traveling into Chernobyl the day of the big nuclear core meltdown. Do the heroes use their powers to stop it? Nope, because for most of the episode they don't even know where they are (they think they're in the woods in prehistoric times). Hell, the only time a character uses any "super power" is when Astra casts a magic spell to turn a stick into a hatchet so Ava can break up some logs. That's it. The rest of the time the team talks, works through problems, and hangs out, all without any super powers. And it's the same in the following episode, "A Woman's Place Is In the War Effort". Here, Astra again uses the only super power, her magic, and the rest of the time the heroes all act like mortals, pitching in at a World War II factory to build an airplane (and fix their broken time-ship).
It's funny to realize how little the show actually relies on super-heroics considering it's absolutely packed with superheroes. Every single character on the show, barring Ava, has a super power or ability (and Ava is a futuristic clone, so it's not like she's entirely mortal, either). And yet, for the most part, the show finds pretty mundane ways to solve it's problems, absolutely refusing to rely (and over rely) on super powers to get the team out of every scrape they find themselves in.
Compare that to any of the others shows in the 'verse right now and you'll see a stark difference. Every character on every other show has to become a superhero because the writers apparently can't think of a way to make characters engaging without giving them abilities. And then those powers are used again, and again, shoe-horned in to solve every issue when more practical solutions could have been on the table. "Let's track down Barry. Where could he be? Should we use the GPS in his phone to track him down? Or maybe there's a chip installed in his suit that pings his location? No, let's have the empath on the show use a techno-babble device so she can 'focus' on Barry to find him." This is the kind of thing Legends avoids.
Instead of always focusing on the powers, Legends focuses on the people. Arguably this show has the largest and most sprawling cast of characters of any of the shows in the 'verse, but all of them are well served by the show. They have character development and arcs. You understand them all as people and you appreciate how the show treats each and every one of them. Legends understands its characters but, more importantly, it understands what's most important to a superhero story: It's the story, not the superhero.
That's really why Legends of Tomorrow remains the best show in the Arrowverse while everything else around it falters. This show, by side-stepping powers much of the time, keeps the focus on the characters and the story, the heart of the show that drives everything forward. As as long as the show keeps doing that it's going to be the jewel of the 'verse for seasons to come.
Now, while we talk about shows faltering, we come to Batwoman. I have so many issues with the current season of the show and we're going to try to cover them all, but the biggest one is power creep. When the show started the only character with "powers" was Batwoman herself, first as Kate Kane and then Ryan Wilder later. This season, though, has given us Luke Fox's Batwing, along with every villain on the show now being a meta-version of one of Batman's old villains, and now we have poor Mary also being forced to be a meta as she becomes Poison Ivy II.
On one hand I can understand why the show decided to make a character we know into the next Poison Ivy; we already have a connection to them so we should, presumably, be invested in their villain arc. And that would work if the construction of this New Poison Ivy actually maintained any part of Mary in the process. But the longer Mary is Ivy the less she's Mary (as per the show's own setup, Mary is infected and being taken over). -ary no longer acts like -ary, effectively erasing the character we knew and replacing her with one we now no longer care about. That's not exactly great writing there, guys, and for what? Another super-powered member of the team eventually?
Making -ary into a villain also throws off the dynamic of the show as now there's a hole in the core team. -ary has been a part of the show since the first season and the trio of characters -- Batwoman, Luke, and -ary -- have been the focal point of Team Bat since its inception. A pillar has been knocked out and the team feels off I worry that the change in dynamic will be too much, like how in last season Legends sent White Canary off on her own storyline for half the season and it drained all the energy out of the show. The mid-season finale of Batwoman, "Pick Your Poison", already showed that strain as the energy of the episode felt off, so we'll have to see how the show handles it (or failed to handle it) when it returns in January.
Meanwhile, the show is also screwing up the Ryan half of the storyline. For a few episodes now Wayne Corp. has been in trouble because someone (Ryan thought her "evil" CEO mom) was tanking the Wayne stock so they could launch a hostile takeover. That alone raised an issue because why was Ryan the CEO of Wayne Corp. I get that Kate used Wayne Tower as her secret hideout (as, for whatever reason, the Batcave is under Wayne Tower), but Kate never showed any indication she was CEO. Suddenly this season, though, Ryan is CEO because Kate made Ryan the CEO. When did Kate get voted in by the Board? Why was Wayne Tower abandoned if the Company was still actively working? And if the company was working but they weren't in Wayne Tower why does anyone care if Kate or Ryan or whoever is CEO?
Ryan as CEO should have tanked the stock long before any storyline this season, mind you. She has absolutely no executive experience, with her last job being a convicted felon. Hell, Kate being CEO should have tanked the stock since she has as much executive experience as Ryan, and she also "died" and disappeared for a year, only to return as a villain with a new face. Like... guys. Wayne Corp. would have died a thousand deaths long before Ryan became CEO.
If you ignore all if that, this mid-season finale culminates with Ryan's half-brother, Marquis, breaking into Wayne Tower, attacking Luke, killing a security guard, and then blackmailing Ryan into signing a letter of resignation (over the body of the dead security guard) so he can launch his hostile takeover of the company. Let's think this through: he has blood on his hands, and is caught on security cameras killing a guy. He makes Ryan sign a letter of resignation under duress. He could be convicted of murder and Ryan could have the letter thrown out because it was just to appease a violent crazy in her office, making it not legally binding. Instead, though, the Board apparently votes to make Marquis CEO, bearing in mind that, as we've seen, marquis has as much executive experience as Kate or Ryan, and he's a violent, homicidal maniac. Really?
The point the show wanted to make was that Ryan (and Luke and all the rest) would be locked out of Wayne Tower (and the Batcave) while Marquis (who has been built up to be this show's version of a Joker II) sits on the throne where Ryan should be. It would be interesting if all the plot contrivances up to this point weren't being illogical, if the scenario wasn't so forced if basically splits the show into little shards, and if this plot line hadn't just been done, nearly beat for beat, over on Titans (insert Scarecrow in for Joker to the same basic effect). I'm just not interested in this storyline at all.
In essence, then, Batwoman has managed to squander all the good will I have for it. It's going to really have to work to try and dig itself out of this hole when it comes back in January. Sadly, I don't think the show has the ability to right this ship.
- Next week we finally address The Flash: Armageddon, the one big crossover event we're getting this season (if it even really counts as a crossover).