DC on TV for February 27, 2017

“Homecoming.” Supergirl, Season 2, Episode 14. Directed by Larry Teng. Written by Caitlin Parrish and Derek Simon.

“Attack on Central City.” The Flash, Season 3, Episode 14. Directed by Dermott Daniel Downs. Teleplay by Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes. Story by Todd Helbing.

What the heck was this crap? More gorillas, less Mon-El (Chris Wood), please.

Supergirl: Fools

I’ll let Troy Baker, voice of the Joker and numerous DC characters, describe every character but Maggie (Floriana Lima) in this episode:

None of y’all in the DEO did an exhaustive medical review to spot the robot arm Jeremiah (Dean Cain) had. None of y’all delayed putting him back to work so that he could actually recover. None of y’all actually listened to reasonable doubts about what he went through, as well as a thorough debriefing you would think the United States government would impose–except, of course, now that this government is run by a man-child, I guess that’s the only realistic part in this trainwreck of a fiasco of an episode.

Oh, and this show doesn’t take place in the U.S.: it takes place in Canada, because the DC on CW drinking game has corroded my liver every time the Vancouver Tower pops up in the background. Seriously, Vancouver does have the Baxter Building: go film outside that instead!

And yes, I said “but Maggie,” because screw Mon-El. I am so tired of his nonsense. Get rid of this worthless, vanilla, dull, frat boy, pain in the tuckus character already.  

And don’t think this isn’t coincidental that Mon-El is positioned as a substitute for James (Mehcad Brooks). This is the third week without him in an episode. When James was here, he was the love interest for Kara (Melissa Benoist). When James was here, he brought in the CatCo publishing world. As this season has shifted its focus to the battle against xenophobia and Cadmus, the reporter side has disappeared. Without a dynamic character like Cat Grant to draw attention to CatCo, those characters there like James go away. So, the show tries making James a superhero, and while I find the introduction of James as a kickbutt vigilante awkward, at least he was involved in storylines. Now, he’s not involved in the last two DEO-heavy episodes. Winn got to jump ship to DEO, James doesn’t.

If the show really does not know what to do with James, then just remove him from Season 3–and be prepared for the blowback that the switch to the CW is accompanied by the removal of one of the few black characters in this show. James gets replaced by the whitest frat boy since Van Wilder–and at least Ryan Reynolds has shown he has personality, charm, and a sense of humor, unlike whatever poor writing and direction the show gives to Mike Wood. (And let’s all now resist making a joke about Mike Wood and wooden acting. At least he’d be an effective antagonist to Alan Scott.)

One argument has been that Mon-El shows Kara a dimension to relationships that is not about changing the person you date, not having to be a perfectionist like she was with James. I find this argument flawed, as so much of this season has been Kara taking on Mon-El as a protege, with a very creepy teacher-student romance present. (If I wanted to see students crushing on their teachers, I’d watch Interviews with Monster Girls–and even then that subtext is creepy.)

It’s not as if there were not alternative approaches to write this episode. One of the best options was to have Maggie be the one serving as the detective–you know, since she is one–with some concern about Jeremiah. The only reason the story chooses Mon-El is because, not without reason, he is not reliable, so when he says Jeremiah is so much obviously evil than Uncle Creepy from The Legend of Korra, no one will listen to him and we drag out a five-minute plot to a full episode length.

Now, imagine if it was Maggie. The problem would be it would drive a needless wedge in her relationship with Alex (Chyler Leigh) just for the sake of drama, yet it would give Maggie some attention, it would not focus on Mon-El, it would actually use Maggie’s skills, and the wedge may not necessarily be Alex’s frustration with Maggie questioning her father but maybe, if Alex listened to Maggie, cause more of a wedge between Alex and Kara, if the latter did not believe such accusations. Or maybe Maggie and Kara agree but Alex does not, and we see those two characters interact and, upon Jeremiah’s sudden but inevitable betrayal, we see the two comfort Alex in different way.

Because, really, the only good moment of acting and writing was the one with much less dialogue: Alex, drowning her sorrows, before collapsing into an emotional wreck. That should have been the end of the episode. But nope–we get Jock Itch from Draxam comforting Kara, then a tease to the next episode, and you didn’t have to be a twelfth-level intellect to expect that Cadmus got the Alien Registry Database…except, what kind of United States governmental agency would put all their database into one server that can be–

…Right. Our government is run by a fucking moron. And this show takes place in Vancouver. Damn it, can we just get back to Kara kicking the shit out of patriarchy, write out Mon-El, and move onto better television?

The Flash: Anticlimactic

I said better television–not boring television!

…Okay, that’s not fair. Harry (Tom Cavanagh) versus HR (Tom Cavanagh of Earth-19) was hilarious: he spits in his coffee. And Harry faking a terminal illness was so dark but such good payoff.

But man, when you promise me gorillas fighting fast superheroes in spandex, I need that payoff, not Barry (Grant Gustin) disarming nukes and some military guy who is not Season 1’s Eiling (Clancy Brown).

I have a complaint about Agents of SHIELD–and The Flash got really close to that same problem this week.

For four years, Agents of SHIELD has done a lot of teasing: Graviton, LMDs, Inhumans. Thanks to limited special effects budget, constrictions both financial and rule-based that prevent use of characters from the Marvel movies, and poor writing choices, the time extends where these details are stretched out, making the inevitable reveal of any one of them disappointing. Four years to get to LMDs, and it’s reduced to introducing a female character naked for corny sexbot jokes. Four years to get to Ghost Rider, and he’s written off halfway through the season because of budgeting. Four years to get a SHIELD show going, and we’re steeped in Inhuman content that is problematically eugenics-oriented and gets in the way of spies being spies–as those spies then spend numerous episodes whining about how dare their coworkers keep secrets from them, as if they didn’t know that’s what spies do.

Agents of SHIELD for four years has been like a trip to the fireworks factory. The trip is so tedious, you’re stuck in a Yugo way past its warranty, your cousins Matt, Jessica, and Luke got a faster and cooler vehicle with wireless Internet and a new Switch (even if they have to drag along their annoying sibling Danny), so by the time you get to the fireworks factory, all the good fireworks are gone because the movies took them all. And all that are left are sparklers–and Samuel L. Jackson pissed on them.

I understand the effects budgeted for a television show like The Flash is limited. Before, the show made it work to have Grodd possess Eiling, Harry, and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to pass along his messages: the lighting, tone, and knowledge we have about these established characters makes their behavior unnerving and shows the lengths to which Grodd will go. In this episode, those same excellent qualities persisted with Grodd possessing Joe (Jesse Martin), like he did in Season 1, and making good on his threat last time to have Joe fire a bullet into his own head. (Although, I would think Joe lost some hearing from a gun firing right next to his ear.) But now, a no-name general (Paul Jarrett) is possessed–and it’s not Eiling, so missed opportunity there.

And the battle Barry fights initially is not against gorillas but against disarming a nuclear weapon, which I’ve seen far more often in television than seeing speedsters versus gorillas. And when a show promises speedsters fighting gorillas and limits that spectacle, I get disappointed. I don’t say this as if spectacle substitutes for plot and characters; I say that, when a show like The Flash has been largely excellent at characters and pretty good with plots, I treat speedsters versus gorillas as a fringe benefit that better be given, and when it’s disappointing, I’m going to complain.

All of this is because the show is struggling to find ways not to animated CGI, so they choose their moments carefully, the climax to this episode being one of them. And I’m being unrealistic and want more: I want to see more of Grodd. At least there was more Grodd here than there was of Hive in half of a season of Agents of SHIELD, who spent the rest of his time occupying the body of Ward–another boring character, like Mon-El, with no presence except “resting bro” face.

Aside from effects, however, The Flash continues to be far better written when it comes to side characters. The Valentine’s–er, Friendship Day scenes were the good kind of fanservice, just gags riffing off of characters’ personalities. Much like I am surprised that Mick in Legends of Tomorrow became my favorite character, I am eating crow at how this show made HR into delightful, even as I cringe knowing this sow is going to do some hero’s journey with him that is going to make way too big a deal of him. HR’s remarks to each as he hands out the cards was funny, as were his interactions with Harry. I felt less about Cisco’s interactions with his alternate-universe Vibe counterpart played by Jessica Camacho (not using that character’s name, show), but at least they got the kiss out of the way.

But there is one character beat that was lacking in this episode. In real life, we have to be nonviolent and always work towards pacifism. This episode presents the obvious problem Barry, like any superhero faces: whether to kill. There is a challenge to communicate that detail when it comes to whether Barry should kill a gorilla intending to nuke a city, which could have led to a more fascinating discussion about sentience and give Cisco the opportunity to quote good Optimus Prime stories–and I can never forgive the show for skipping on that opportunity. HR and Iris (Candice Patton) do their best to guide Barry to adhere to a no-kill rule, even as his actions have led to unintended deaths, even as he has confronted peers like Harrison Wells / Eobard Thawne for using Tony “Girder” Woodward as fodder.

And that is what was missing: that moment of continuity where someone addresses the elephant in the room, which is Barry owning up to how his actions the beginning of Season 3 were effectively telling Eobard Thawne to kill his mother. So, does Barry already think of himself as a murderer? That would have been a fascinating storyline to follow in this episode, albeit one steeped in debates about the sentience of gorillas and some good old-fashion sci-fi moralizing rather than gorillas vs speedsters action. But again, I want it all, and I feel disappointed that road was not taken in this episode.

Finally, Harry telling Barry not to kill Grodd so that Barry remains the hopeful example also has its problems, that being Barry is positioned as infallible rather than human–which means, should Barry have to kill, I wonder what the show will do. And that is likely where we are heading, given the Season 1 tease to Barry in prison.

Random Observations

  • Was it ever explained what Cadmus added to Jeremiah’s arm to let him repel J’onn (David Harewood)? I mean, even the Justice League animated series had electricity used to disable J’onn when he was intangible, but this arm seemed to be just same vague phlebotinum device.
  • While I did find Harry’s fake-illness hilarious, it is still super creepy how he does so to control Jesse. The fathers of the Arrow-verse have a really fun time just determining the lives of younger people around them: Stein roofies Jax, Joe keeps every secret from Iris, Alex’s dad is Dean Cain. When J’onn is the better dad to Kara and Alex than these fools, there’s a problem. What is it with green dads being the best dads?
  • Oh, yeah, and Savitar appears to Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), and Barry proposes to Iris. Three seasons of teasing that romance, this feels underwhelming. I guess I was hoping more to see the two as a couple before marriage, especially a marriage emerging out of
  • And yeah, there are too many anime references in this review. (The Legend of Korra one doesn’t count: don’t dispute me on this one or I’ll start spamming this site with PhD-level analysis of Shyamalan’s Last Airbender.) What do you want from me–I’m trying to put together an anime/manga syllabus, translate some manga chapters, and get to work on presentations about My Hero Academia, Batman manga, and Spider-Man Sentai.
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