Another week goes by and another killer week of DC TV. This one spans multiple dimensions, multiple universes, and multiple timelines as DC TV just gets bigger and bigger. So join us as Supergirl travels back to Krypton, the Flash crosses dimensions to find some joyous fan service, Arrow gets very personal with the Al Ghul family, and the Legends of Tomorrow heat up the Cold War in our latest “This Week in DC TV (2/8-2/12)” recap!
DC Comics loyalists know that Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” has become one of the most classic Superman stories of all time. So, you would think that this timeless tale of paradise lost wouldn’t be able to be told without certain elements present. How do you adapt “For the Man Who Has Everything” without Mongul, Batman, Wonder Woman, Robin, or, well, Superman? You’d think it would be impossible but Supergirl pulled it off with aplomb this week.
Now, “For the Girl Who Has Everything” did not carry the emotional resonance of Alan Moore’s classic, but it was still damn good. The tale was very personal and small scale but effective enough to change Kara by episode’s end. The whole thing started when James Olsen and Winn found Supergirl’s prone form, the legendary Black Mercy attached tightly to her chest. Remember now, the Black Mercy is a parasitic plant that lulls its prey with dreams of the victim’s heart’s desire. Like Superman did in the comic, Kara dreamt of a perfect life on Krypton with her family. She dreamed of her mother, her father, her untainted Aunt, and even her cousin, a young Kal-El. This dream never left the confines of a single apartment so the scale was rather small, but it was still very effective as Kara is seduced by the idyllic unreality. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Alex and J’onn endeavor to free Kara from the Black Mercy. One of the most entertaining parts of the episode was when J’onn has to take Kara’s form in order to fool Cat Grant. Remember a few weeks back when J’onn J’onzz had to face a White Martian? That is nothing compared to the wrath of Cat Grant. Truly, a warrior did tremble. This is some welcome comic relief in this otherwise tense episode.
The Black Mercy is sent, unbeknownst to Astra, by Non. Astra tried to help free her niece as did the still imprisoned Maxwell Lord, but even these villainous minds couldn’t break the Mercy’s spell on Supergirl. Astra is none too happy to see her niece felled by trickery and takes her husband Non to task but there is nothing Astra could do to free Kara. That task is left to Alex who, thanks to Lord, is able to enter the Mercy dream and convince her sister that she is living in an illusion. In her most heroic act, Kara broke the spell. Of course, this basically is like watching her mom and dad die again. Kara took all her angst out on Non. The villainous Kryptonian is playing his end game and trying to destroy the world. This is where the episode faltered a smidge as it was never made quite clear why Non was doing what he was doing or how his apocalyptic end game was going to work. It didn’t really matter because Kara stopped him but some finer details would be nice. Meanwhile, Alex and J’onn take on Astra, and let me tell you something, seeing the Martian Manhunter in all his glory take on a Kryptonian villain just tugs on every nerd joy center in my body. Sadly, Alex ends up killing Astra, basically destroying Kara’s last connection to Krypton. J’onn tells Kara he delivered the death blow as not to drive a wedge between Alex and her super-powered sister so that could bring some drama in coming weeks.
All in all, this episode kind of pulls off the impossible, delivering a solid adaptation of a Superman classic while changing pretty much everything about it, all while keeping it emotionally poignant. So call this one a win. And the Cat/J’onn stuff was freaking gold, man.
4 ½ stars
The Flash Season 2 Episode 13: “Welcome to Earth 2”
I suppose you have heard of all the Easter eggs in this one. And let me tell you, “Welcome to Earth-2” truly has all of the Easter eggs. In fact, it’s hard to sit here and not gush over just how profound a love letter to old school DC this episode of The Flash truly is. Really, you have little winks and nods from every era of DC Comics to the Golden Age. From Earth 2 Barry’s Silver Age bow tie, to the Justice League on Barry’s speed dial, to a flash of the 90s Flash TV series, to an appearance of the modern day TV Supergirl, this episode has so much joy that this whole review could be a 2000-word gush over just how much this old school DC fan adored every little strategically nuanced bit of wonderful fan service. But if I did that, I would be ignoring an absolute killer story and that would be doing everyone a disservice.
So ignoring my multiple fangasms, let me focus on the plot. Last week, Barry and Team Flash swore to travel to Earth-2 in order to save Harrison Wells’ daughter Jesse from Zoom. This week, Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon arrive on Earth-2 with the dire warning that if they fail to return in two days, they will be trapped on Earth-2 forever. So, you just know that there is going to be a last second save but until then, we get to experience Earth-2 in all its glory.
In the comics, Earth-2 originally housed all of the World War 2 Golden Age heroes and the Earth-2 on display on the CW has a very cool 1940s aesthetic. So much so, that I almost expect Barry to run into Peggy Carter any second. They don’t run into Captain America’s best girl, but they do run into some very familiar faces. We had a hilarious Earth-2 version of Floyd Lawton (who was anything but a Deadshot); we had Earth-2 versions of Joe and Iris West, and we had evil Earth-2 versions of Caitlin Snow and Ronnie Raymond. Since The Flash premiered, fans have been waiting to see if Snow would ever transform into her comic book identity. Our Snow is safe, but Earth-2 Snow is the classic, twisted villain that fans have been waiting for. And she is important to the unfolding drama. Killer Frost and Ronnie, who uses the twisted moniker Deathstorm on Earth-2, are the villains of the week and oh, I should probably mention that Barry meets his own doppelganger, a nerdy CSI worker who is married to Detective Iris West! We also meet Earth-2 Joe, a cranky lounge singer. This all seems like it should be impalpable, busy and confusing, but the episode handles this character juggling, doubles and all, with the same aplomb as it does those awesome Eater eggs we mentioned.
It even handles this intricate plotting when Cisco’s double, the villainous Reverb, enters the picture. Things get parsed out quickly though as Reverb, Deathstorm and Earth-2 Joe West all bite the big one, leaving Barry and our Cisco trapped on Earth-2. Killer Frost survives and seems to blame Zoom for Ronnie’s death so I guess evil Kaitlin still has a big role to play.
But the main event was Barry Allen as he gets to experience his double’s happy life side by side with Iris. It is very cool how Earth-2 Barry was a walking tribute to the Silver Age Barry, bow tie and all, but it is the Earth-2 Barry that shines as he does everything he can to protect his Earth-2 family. It just shows that to Barry, duty is the same in every reality, and even though it endangers the mission to save Jesse Wells, Barry does all he can to keep his other-dimensional family safe. Barry failing to save Joe sets up so much drama on Earth-2 it’s almost mind-boggling. Zoom seems more evil than ever and it is shocking to think that on another world, it is a version of dear, sweet Caitlin Snow that kills Joe West.
Our Caitlin was busy on her own world as Earth-1 faces some danger of its own this week. The generic villain Geomancer came to Central City and Jay Garrick had to suit up once again to stop the earth-shaking villain. Geomancer is really just a plot device to get Jay to take a new version of Velocity 7 (two more to go!) in order to stop Geomancer. Jay fails and it’s back to formula for Caitlin.
The Earth-1 drama is a pretty great B-story to an episode that truly had it all: humor, pathos, new characters, and too many multi-media DC Easter eggs to count. This episode is an hour where it becomes intensely obvious that we are living in the Golden Age of DC TV.
Arrow Season 4 Episode 13: “Sins of the Father”
After the reality spanning scope of The Flash and Supergirl, it is good to get down to Earth with Arrow. Sadly, this episode of the series that kicked off the DC TV explosion indulged in some circular logic that kept the installment from greatness.
It is all about fathers this week as the daughter of Ra’s Al, Ghul Nyssa, tried to supplant her dearly departed, despot daddy as the head of the League of Shadows by killing Thea Queen’s father, Malcolm Merlyn. Of course, Merlyn is the current Ra’s Al Ghul but Nyssa wants that honor, using the dying Thea as a pawn to force Oliver Queen to kill her rival.
This leads to a great deal of hemming and hawing and whispered discussions about morality. It really feels like a first season episode of Arrow and that isn’t a bad thing. What is bad is that a half hour of story is spread out into an hour. The whole thing ends with Oliver stepping in for Nyssa and forcing a showdown with Merlyn.
Merlyn gets his hand sliced off and the position of leader of the League of Assassins goes to Nyssa who summarily discards it in favor of disbanding the murder cult. Okay, that is an unexpected and a rather cool twist, but all of a sudden a woman who was willing to kill Thea Queen is moral? It seems like the creators don’t know on which side of the line Nyssa stands. Of course, this all leads to an embittered and handless Merlyn entering into a bargain with the returning Damien Darhk. So what was the point of over two seasons worth of Malcolm Merlyn redemption stories? His whole issue is that he doesn’t want to see the League fall into the hands of a woman as dangerous as Nyssa. But by the end of it all, Thea was alive and the dangerous League was no longer an issue. Isn’t a hand a small price to play for Thea’s cure, But for some reason it all causes Merlyn to break bad once again and ally with Darhk. I think some motivations need to be made clearer.
More effective is the daddy drama between Felicity and her recently discovered father the Calculator. Seeing Felicity try to come to terms with her newfound father really allows viewers to get an idea who Felicity was before she became the heart of Team Arrow. She is hoping against hope that her daddy is sincere when he said he means her no harm. But when he leaves a spying device in her lab at Palmer Tech, Felicity knows her father is just another villain. She does the right thing and sends the Calculator to prison because to Felicity, morality is more important than the illusion of family. Good stuff.
The flashbacks are still going absolutely nowhere and make me want to run to the fridge, and while some of the logic of the main storyline was lacking, “Sins of the Father” was still a very physical and personal adventure for Green Arrow and his extended family.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1 Episode 4: White Knights
Our Legends finally leave the 70s and jump a decade to 1986 to find themselves smack dab in the heat of the Cold War. And speaking of Cold, of course it is Len Snart who takes point in this really fun heist episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
We start out with silent, recurring baddie Chronus perusing our heroes as they arrive in the 80s. The Legends’ mission? To bust into the Pentagon in order to steal a top secret file on Vandal Savage. Not only is this a fun little heist action piece but it also sets up the conflicts for the episode. During the sacking of the Pentagon we have Jax and Martin Stein’s continued inner turmoil as Firestorm, we have Kendra giving into some newly ignited blood-lust, and we have Captain Cold proving he is way more capable that Ray Palmer when it comes to the ladies. All these conflicts lead our heroes to Russia where they must stop a top secret weapon from being developed by scientists loyal to Savage.
And hey, old school Doom Patrol fans, the head scientist loyal to Savage was none other than Valentina Vostok, the hero better known as Negative Woman. Well, in this episode Valentina isn’t a hero or a metahuman, but she is a Savage loyalist. But she isn’t immune to the charms of Captain Cold and with this charm Snart gets our heroes into the Bondesque secret Russian lab and we are off.
Back to those conflicts. The episode centers on Martin Stein and his guilt over bringing Jax on this mission. This guilt causes Stein to be fiercely overprotective as he tries to massage Jax through missions in order to insure his protégé’s safe return. This causes Jax to be injured and Stein to go it alone. The secret hidden in the Russian lab is very personal to Stein as Vastok and Savage are trying to create a Russian version of Firestorm. Yeah kids, this really was a mid-80s John Ostrander comic come to life and that is a very good thing.
Not as great was the conflict within Hawkgirl. Lately, DC TV has overly relied on the bloodlust trope for some of its female characters. We have Sara Lance, Thea Queen, and now we have Hawkgirl all trying to hold back the killer within. In truth, it’s getting old. And yeah, this allows Sara to train Kendra in holding back her berserker rage but do we really need three characters with the same issues? It’s like the CW is trying to turn all its female heroes into weak-sauce versions of Wolverine. It was effective with Sara earlier in the year, but now that we are on bloodthirsty girl #3, it’s getting old.
Not getting old is this series, though. It ends on quite the cliffhanger with Heat Wave, Palmer, and Stein captured by Vastok and Savage’s men. The episode also does a great job in establishing more of Heat Wave’s character as he is becoming the loyalist of the Legends, always willing to lend any of his teammates a hand. Now that Heat Wave is captured, it’s going to be awesome to see the lengths his very loyal partner Captain Cold will go to free him, because as we all know, Cold never eaves a fellow Rogue behind.
More Cold War coolness next episode as this week raised the stakes considerably.
3 ½ stars