The Flash Season 3 Review

  • Series: The Flash
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 6
  • Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale, Tom Felton
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

The third season of The Flash begins with Flashpoint, after his father is killed, Barry Allen travels back in time and saves his mother. He has three wonderful months with both his parents being alive, but eventually things don’t go so well, and Barry decides he’s made a mistake, so he has to reverse it. He releases the Reverse Flash whom he’s kept hostage and allows the death of his mother to happen. But when he returns to the new present things are different. Iris isn’t talking to her father, Joe. Cisco is extremely angry at Barry and grieving. Caitlin, unknown to the others at first, is developing cold powers and fears becoming Killer Frost. And at the Central City Police Department, Barry is now working under a new head of the CSI department, Julian Albert, a man that doesn’t like or get along with him.

At first, Barry is at a loss. But within an episode or two, Barry gets the team back together, and although things are not perfect, they are at least working together. It takes Cisco a little longer to come around (he lost his brother, Dante, as a result of Flashpoint), but he works with Team Flash anyway. Flashpoint has another effect – new metas are appearing in Central City, and the police forensic department is finding husks that are somehow linked to these new metas and a villain called “Alchemy”. Barry suddenly realizes that the new metas had existed in Flashpoint.

There’s more investigation, and it becomes apparent that Julian is Alchemy but he’s merely a harbinger and servant to Savitar – the God of Speed. Julian had become obsessed with an artifact known as The Philosopher’s Stone, but when he found it on a dig in India, his entire archaeological team died, and unknown to Julian, he became Alchemy. Julian is brought in to Team Flash and the fight against Savitar. Meanwhile, Caitlin’s cold powers become more obvious. At first, she takes a pair of meta-power damping bracelets to suppress her powers. Later, Cisco makes her a necklace. Wally also becomes Kid Flash – as he was in Flashpoint.

But once the Alchemy plot is resolved, and the fallout from Flashpoint largely settled, the main focus of the season becomes clear: Savitar. In an attempt to destroy The Philosopher’s Stone, Barry is thrust into the future and he sees Savitar murder Iris. Saving Iris becomes the focus of the rest of the season. Team Flash tries to change the future, by changing the other headlines Barry saw on a TV news broadcast when he traveled to the future. There are villains of the week to defeat, but the majority of the plot is devoted to preventing Iris’s death, and figuring out who or what Savitar is and how to stop him. Barry even travels to the future again, and discovers just how messed-up everyone is without Iris – and how broken, he, Barry, is. By the end of the season, it becomes clear who Savitar is: he’s a time remnant of Barry Allen – and essentially a time paradox.

The last two episodes of the season play like one big 2-hour finale, even though there is no “to be continued” title card at the penultimate episode. In the second-to-last episode, we see the events from a few months before – and Savitar kills Iris despite Team Flash finding a physicist, Tracy Brand to build a speed cannon to defeat him. But, it turns out to not be Iris but rather HR Wells, using a projector to hide his appearance and take Iris’s place. Tracy, who was starting to fall in love with HR was devastated. But now that Iris is alive, it changes things – and essentially Team Flash is waiting for the Time Paradox to catch up and for Savitar to disappear from reality. Savitar tries to save himself at the last minute – but Barry shows him mercy and even invites this other scarred Barry on to Team Flash.

This doesn’t go well, and Savitar kidnaps Cisco. But Cisco gets through to “Killer” Frost. At first, it looks like Caitlin will still choose Savitar, but in the end she doesn’t. Julian develops a cure for her, but she also chooses to return it to him, deciding to keep her frosty personality, but maybe without the “Killer” part. Barry has a final fight with Savitar, defeats him, turns away and is nearly killed – until Iris saves Barry by killing Future Evil (Savitar) Barry.

You’d think all would be well, but as Barry and Iris start to discuss wedding plans – a speed force storm erupts and threatens the entire city. Barry voluntarily goes into the Speed Force to fill the prison that Savitar left empty.

Season three of The Flash had it’s ups and downs. Although having Yet Another Evil Speedster seems like a bad idea – I had less of a problem with that than the main plot point being the threat to Iris’s life. The majority of the season seems to rest on the idea that no matter what Team Flash does – they can’t change things enough to save Iris – and the future is fixed. But, we know, Iris is a main character – and she’s not likely to really “die”. Throughout the history of DC Comics – Iris West is Barry Allen’s wife, not his girlfriend – and whether she is “Iris Allen” or “Iris West-Allen” she is his wife. So, despite this “big threat” that she will die – it’s an empty one, we know that she won’t. It is possible to make something interesting to see how she will survive, and HR’s sacrifice to save her is actually a surprise – but that she survives isn’t really a surprise.

That Savitar turns out to be Barry almost doesn’t work – it explains how Savitar knows everything Team Flash will do – he simply remembers what happened. But it’s actually “Killer” Frost who gives the game away – when she says everything Barry will say, as he says it, she’s actually giving Barry a big hint as to who Savitar is. Plus the Savitar-is-Barry plot actually mirrors the Wells/Thawne/Reverse Flash plot from season 1 – but this time in a sense we see the time travel paradox from Barry’s point-of-view, and Savitar is Barry as Reverse Flash, which in some ways works but in a lot of ways does not fit Barry’s character. Barry, despite his dark past, is one of the happiest characters in DC Comics. And, although it makes sense that in a fit of despair, after the loss of his father, he would go back in time and create Flashpoint, it doesn’t follow that he would then become Savitar, especially as Savitar originally exists in the Flashpoint Universe – which is the one where Barry’s parents are both alive and Barry doesn’t have super speed.

However, despite that, and season 3 of The Flash being darker than previous seasons, I still enjoyed it. Watching the development of Iris and Barry’s relationship is joyful. Wally West, especially once he becomes Kid Flash is awesome. I like Julian and HR as members of Team Flash. Caitlin’s story was well told – and I liked, a lot, that she was given agency throughout her story. She was able to choose if she’d be “Killer” Frost (though it’s Julian who causes the manifestation of her powers), and, more importantly, it’s Caitlin who decides not to take the experimental “cure” to remove her powers. It would have been so easy for someone to simply shoot the cure into her – but The Flash didn’t go that route. I also really liked Tracy Brand as a character, and I hope we see more of her in Season 4, but I doubt we will.

Follow this link to read My Review of Season 1 of The Flash.

Follow this link to read My Review of Season 2 of The Flash.

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Supergirl Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Supergirl
  • Season: Season 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Jeremy Jordan, Floriana Lima, Chris Wood, David Harewood
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the second season of Supergirl.

With it’s second season, Supergirl switches over to the CW, which frankly, is where the show belongs instead of on CBS. Also, Supergirl is now officially part of the CW DC-verse (aka the “Arrowverse”) and this season of the show includes two crossovers. Click here to read my Season 1 review of Supergirl.

There are some character changes for Season 2, Cat Grant is in the first two episodes, but then she leaves to find herself, putting new reporter, Kara Danvers, in the care of Snapper Carr. The opening episodes with Cat show her both as her acerbic self and as a mentor to Kara, and when Kara announces she wants to be a reporter, Cat hands her a sealed envelope – inside is Kara’s resume, with the word, “reporter”, written across it. But rather than shepherding Kara through her new role, Cat leaves. Snapper, Kara’s new boss, is rude, entitled, and a bit racist and sexist. As annoying as that is, by the end of the season – Kara’s experiences with Snapper do show a different type of mentorship – and for a show with a younger audience, an audience that it probably dealing with “old guard’ bosses at work that behave like Snapper or worse, and it shows how to deal with it and with people like Snapper. Kara even follows her heart and publishes a story on her own, a story that Snapper refused to publish due to his own prejudices. Breaking her contract with Catco gets Kara fired. To get her job back, not only does Kara need to find another exclusive story, and bring that story to Snapper with it’s resources and documentation done precisely as Snapper wants, but she has to share the byline with Snapper who did nothing on the story. Then Kara has to apologize to him and declare he “was right” and that she’s learned a lot from Snapper. Watching that scene is hard and it made me bristle – clearly it was Snapper who’s anti-alien prejudice prevented him from wanting to publish either story in the first place. In both cases, Kara was right in her stories – and she wasn’t writing mere opinion, but facts.

Snapper also co-opted Kara’s work and took credit for it. But, as unfair as that seems – it’s also the way of the world. That type of stuff happens all the time in the real world, and in all sorts of industries. Supergirl shows, especially to it’s young audience of teens and twenty-somethings, how to deal with those situations in the real world. Essentially by swallowing her own pride and sucking up – Kara gets her job back, and is given more freedom to do want she needs to do – be a reporter. Would Snapper have treated a male reporter the way he treats Kara? Probably not. If Kara’s stories had been full of anti-alien trash and prejudice with no research and just prejudicial language and hate speech – what would Snapper have done? Probably publish them without a single red-pen edit. In a sense, his Archie Bunker attitude is the one being criticized, while at the same time showing just how to circumvent such people. Snapper also attacks James, whom Cat has named as her successor during her sabbatical. But within an episode or two, James tells Snapper off – pulling the “I’m the boss whether you like it or not” card.

Season Two also introduces Maggie Sawyer, a National City cop, and a lesbian. Alex meets her, they become friends, Maggie gets Alex to realize she is also a lesbian, then Maggie rejects Alex. They do get back together, and Maggie is present in some form or another for the rest of the season. The Maggie/Alex relationship is brilliantly played, with ups and downs, rather than as a fairy tale. It becomes clear that both Maggie and Alex have some self-esteem issues. Both have had trouble in the past being true to themselves and opening up to others. These flaws make the characters more interesting, and give the audience different types of characters to identify with.

Winn also meets a girl (are we sensing a pattern?) an alien named Lyra. Their relationship seems fine, and very hot, until she sets him up to make it look like he broke into a museum and stole Starry Night by Van Gogh. Winn, though, doesn’t buy the police line that he was simply used. Even when Lyra tells him the same, he pushes, until he finds out that Lyra was blackmailed into the theft and a series of others to pay off her brother’s gambling debts and free him from the alien mobsters who are holding him. Even though Supergirl, Winn, Alex, and the DEO are able to free Lyra’s brother and arrest the mobsters, after the incident we seldom see Lyra.

The season introduces Megan McGann, (aka M’Gann, Miss Martian) whom at first seems to be a Green Martian refugee like J’onn J’onezz. She turns out to be a White Martian instead, one whom became disgusted at the genocide of the Green Martians on Mars – and whom helped some escape. The relationship between the two also has its ups and downs and ends with M’Gann deciding to return to Mars to find similar thinking White Martians.

Finally, Kara, herself finds love – but it’s a bumpy, season-long process. At the very beginning of the season, a Kryptonian pod crashes on Earth. It’s occupant is Mon-El of Daxam. Since Daxam, sister planet to Krypton, has also been the enemy of Krypton for centuries, we get the rare experience of seeing Kara’s prejudice against someone – namely Mon-El. She even jumps to conclusions and blames him for a crime that he is innocent of and has no knowledge of. When it quickly becomes apparent that she was wrong, Kara, to her credit, admits her mistake. She then starts to work with Mon-El, trying to basically make him exactly like herself – from wardrobe, to internship at Catco, to becoming a superhero, to wearing silly glasses to hide his identity. It doesn’t work. However, over time, the real Mon-El emerges, and as Mon-El becomes his own person – it is that person that Kara falls in love with. And Mon-El also improves himself because of knowing Kara. Once he gives up on being an intern at Catco, Mon-El gets a job as a “mixologist” at the alien bar that’s a reoccurring location for the season. But he gradually becomes more involved in helping the DEO and Kara.

This season also introduces Lynda Carter as President of the US, who passes the Alien Amnesty Act, allowing alien refugees to become US citizens. In contrast to her compassion and understanding, Cadmus – run by Lillian Luthor (Lex’s mother) is an anti-alien organization that wants the destruction of all aliens – especially Supergirl and Superman. Like most people who act out on unreasonable prejudices – Lillian sees all aliens as the same – something evil, to be hated, to be feared, and Lillian also uses her resources to stir-up hatred in the general population. Lillian is unable and unwilling to see people as individuals but sees all others as evil ones to be hated and feared. Cadmus makes threats over the airwaves, taking over the media in National City. They use alien weapons to commit crimes and attack people then blame aliens for the crimes. Cadmus even co-opts Jeremiah Danvers, Alex’s father and Kara’s adoptive father, convincing him that deporting all aliens is the Final Solution to the Alien Problem. Yeah. For the most part, however, even with the destruction, death, and set-backs (at one point the alien bar is attacked and every alien is killed), the DEO, Alex, Maggie, and Supergirl are able to stop Cadmus and Lillian.

In contrast to Lillian, Lina Luthor is actually a good person. She becomes a fast friend of Kara (who, again, was willing to hate her for being a Luthor, but saw Lina as a person and became her friend instead), and goes up against her own mother to protect the people of National City, including aliens. Lina is fascinating, she’s also a businesswoman, re-branding “LuthorCorp” as “L Corp” to distance the corporation from her notorious brother and evil mother. She develops an alien detector, which becomes a plot point, though not an over-used one.

The beginning of the season tends to have a lot of stand-alone episodes, though threads are being laid for season-long plots, especially in terms of the characters and their relationships. One problem with the stand-alone episodes is it generally goes like this: alien menace arrives, alien menace (or cyborg or constructed alien like Metallo, etc.) defeats Supergirl in a fist fight or by using special powers (Kryptonite, absorbing her powers, etc.) Kara goes to the DEO and John, Alex, Winn, and maybe James or Maggie come up with a way for Supergirl to defeat said alien menace. Supergirl challenges the menace and wins. This is a boring and repetitive plot. Fortunately, it’s only a few isolated episodes in the first half of the season, and all of those, as I’ve said, have other character stuff going on, but it’s something future seasons really need to avoid. Besides, seeing Supergirl get defeated over and over again weakens the character, and makes her subsequent wins unbelievable.

There are two crossover events for this season of Supergirl: Invasion and the Musical. Invasion is the 4-part crossover that features the entire CW DC universe (aka the Arrowverse). Invasion is actually a pretty much stand alone episode. For the Supergirl episode that introduces it – it’s pretty much just the last five minutes of the episode, when The Flash and Cisco arrive via a universe-hopping portal and ask Kara for help. She then leaves with them and spends three episodes as a lead character in Invasion. Unfortunately, those other episodes are not included on the DVD set. Because the DVD releases of all four shows were spread out over a month, it’s also not possible to stop watching Supergirl and skip over to Invasion (until after The Flash and Arrow were finally released that is). I highly recommend that, since I do enjoy the crossovers, the crossover story be released as a separate special DVD with all four episodes in order. Which isn’t to say those episodes shouldn’t be included on the season sets of their respective shows. But like the Doctor Who Christmas specials – Why not release the Crossover Event as a DVD a few weeks after it airs? I’d buy it – and I’d still buy the season sets at the end of the season. From watching Invasion during the highly-rated Crossover Week – it’s pretty stand alone anyway, and it’s a good introduce to the Arrowverse for new fans. An inexpensive DVD/Blu-Ray release would be an awesome idea.

The Musical is a story that is integrated well in the season arcs of both Supergirl and The Flash. In Supergirl, Kara has just found out that far from being the “palace guard” that she thought Mon-El was – he’s the prince. Although every one tells her to work through her anger at being lied to, in the end, Kara breaks up with Mon-El. Meanwhile, on The Flash, Barry and Iris are in a similar situation – Barry had proposed marriage to Iris, she accepted, then for plot purposes they broke it off (there will be more when I watch and review The Flash). Again, at the end of a Supergirl episode, suddenly an “alien” is being led into the operations center of the DEO, he breaks free of his bonds, and whammys Kara, who collapses. Now by this time, my copy of The Flash had arrived from Amazon, so I was able to go straight to “Duet” and watch it. In “Duet”, we find that the “alien” is the Music Meister, an imp with Mxyzptlk-like powers and an interest in “true love”. He traps Barry and Kara in a musical, which features some actors from Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow as well as The Flash – though everyone is playing different characters. They sing. I was disappointed with “Duet” though. The music was, overall, only so-so both the old songs (“Moon River”) and the originals (“Superfriends”). The storyline in the musical is OK, but pokes fun at musicals (“It really is easy to convince people in a musical!”) The story does end with a beautiful scene of Barry proposing again to Iris (for real) and in song. Kara also sees the error of her ways and declares her feelings for Mon-El.

The final arc of Supergirl is brilliant – well acted, relevant, smart, and a better season finale than even Myriad. Cat Grant returns and we realize just how much we’ve missed her. The President (Lynda Carter) becomes a important part of the story. We meet Mon-El’s parents, played by Kevin Sorbo and Teri Hatcher – and discover that Queen Rhea is the most controlling parent in the the universe (not to mention a little nuts). Rhea returns and tries to get Mon-El to return to lead the survivors of Daxam as prince and future king. But Rhea hates Kara because she’s from Krypton, and after all when Krypton was destroyed it bombarded Daxam and made the planet a wasteland. Mon-El eventually is forced to sacrifice himself and his love for Kara, but she rescues him. This puts Rhea on the warpath. She passes herself off as human, approaches Lina, and gets Lina to work with her on a portal to move goods and people from point A to point B instantaneously. There are two issues with this: one – major side effect, the radiation from the generator that runs the portal turns telepathic aliens into dynamos that attack with the uncontrolled power of a tornado, and two – Rhea has no intention of the portal being used for the humanitarian uses Lina envisions, instead she brings in a fleet of Daxamite ships, which attack National City and hold it hostage.

In the end, even though Supergirl challenges Rhea to single combat for the planet, Rhea cheats – not only by using Kryptonite, but by calling in her guards and airstrikes despite Supergirl winning. This causes Supergirl to release a weapon of mass destruction developed by Lillian and Lina Luthor – they seed the entire planet with lead, which is toxic to Daxamites. This kills Rhea outright, and means Mon-El has to leave the planet. He escapes in the Kryptonian Pod, only to be swallowed up by a wormhole.

I had to wonder about the whole “lead” thing. First, lead is highly poisonous to humans, birds, and animals – it causes brain damage to children and babies; yet Lillian, Lina, and Kara don’t seem to even notice this fact or care. Second, it’s stated several times that Supergirl and Superman (who makes several guest appearances this season) cannot see through lead. If microscopic pieces of lead are in the very atmosphere, it would rend both characters blind until the lead settled out of the air, at the very least. It would be like walking outside on a day with heavy mist – you get wet. Not as wet as in a downpour, but your face and hair is going to be covered in a fine spray of water. So the “fix” to get rid of the Daxamites doesn’t make a lot of logical sense.

Still, Season 2 of Supergirl is an enjoyable series. The characters are likable – and it’s nice to see the interpersonal struggles without either falling into the extremes of soap opera plots or perfect characters who never have problems. I liked the relevance of the series, from Superman’s “I’m with her” statement while standing next to Supergirl, to the female president who has compassion and sense, yet is still strong and capable, to the last episodes being entitled, “Resist” and “Nevertheless She Persisted” – this is a show with something to say, and that is good. Also, looking at the credits in the episode guide flyer included with the set – nearly every episode is written, co-written, and/or directed by women. And that is awesome! This season also has less of a “aimed at teenaged girls” feel and more of a “general audiences” feel which is good, many of the people who “need” the messages of this show won’t watch a program they think is for teen girls. Kudos on that.

Recommended.

 

Legends of Tomorrow Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Legends of Tomorrow
  • Season: Season 2
  • Episodes: 17
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Franz Drameh, Victor Garber, Maise Richardson-Sellers, Dominic Purcell, Nick Zano, Matt Letscher, John Barrowman, Neal McDonough
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

This review contains spoilers for the second season of Legends of Tomorrow.

Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow starts off very much as an anthology series – Rip Hunter is missing, and the remaining Legends are travelling through history to fix “aberrations” or changes in the established timeline of history. The first nine episodes have the Legends in a variety of places: World War II, where they meet the JSA (Justice Society of America), including Amaya Jiwe (Vixen) who joins the Legends. Also introduced in the season premiere is Dr. Nate Heywood (Citizen Steel). The Legends also end up fighting zombies in the civil war; they travel to 17th century Japan meeting Katana’s great-great-great etc grandfather, and they go to the Old West where they meet Jonah Hex again. These episodic stories are fun, and also allow the characters, especially the new ones to grow and the team to gel. Sara Lance (White Canary) is appointed leader and captain in the wake of Rip’s disappearance.

Eobard Thawne, from the first season of The Flash is one of three main villains, however, the Legends don’t know that is who they are facing. Firestorm finds a secret message from a future Barry Allen warning of an evil speedster – which they don’t immediately share with the team. Damien Darhk, from Season 4 of Arrow is another villain. Sara meets Darhk in the season premiere and intends to kill him, but her team prevents her, since killing Darhk in the 1940s would change everyone’s history. The third partner in the trinity of sin is Malcolm Merlyn (from Arrow from the beginning). Thawne, Merlyn, and Darhk make for great villains. Audiences who have watched the CW-verse (or Arrowverse) from the beginning are familiar with their stories and their endings. Many of our characters, especially Sara, have personal conflicts with the villains. And by introducing them more gradually, as well as their goals, the series flows better than last season where the main villain (Vandal Savage) just did not work. Also, each episode begins with a spoken intro that explains the premise of the show, however, Legends of Tomorrow keeps this from being boring by having each character repeat the info in their own style, and in episode 10, “The Legion of Doom”, it’s one of the “villains” from the Legion who put their own spin on the by then familiar introduction. Note that officially, the villains are “The Legion of Doom”, despite Sara saying, “Yeah, we’re not calling them that”. Nate had come up with the moniker, after a “Hanna-Barbara cartoon I watched as a kid”.

After “Invasion” the 4-part crossover featuring all four CW DC shows, the conflict between the Legion and the Legends heats up. In “Raiders of the Lost Art”, the Legends meet George Lucas while he is a film student, and have to convince him not to quit film school. The episode is filled with Star Wars references and a great deal of fun. They find Rip as well, who has completely forgotten who he is, his mind being scrambled by contact with the Waverider time drive. Rip thinks he is a film student, working on a student film of his script, “Legends”. Not only does “Legends” feature versions of all the Legends, but Rip is frustrated by a really bad actor playing the Vandal Savage character, and the script introduces the plot for the rest of the season, the search for the legendary “Spear of Destiny”, which has been broken in to multiple pieces. Rip calls this the McGuffin of his script. This is the type of self-referential humor that Legends manages to do really well. It also helps that the villains and the season-long plot are introduced slowly.

The second half of the season has the Legion of Doom (Merlyn, Darhk, and Thawne) and the Legends all looking for the Spear of Destiny. The Legion also messes with time to try to trap the Legends – and the Legends have to put it back. Rip, meanwhile, is captured by the Legion at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Art”, and tortured for information. However, the Legion discovers that Rip can’t tell them anything because his personality has been overwritten. However, one of the Legion pulls an artificial tooth from Rip’s mouth that hides a bank acct number, the Legion goes to the bank, first intending to rob it, then having Rip simply ask for his vault to be opened, only to discover Rip doesn’t know his passphrase. The dynamics between the Legion are great. Once they get the future tech that would restore Rip’s mind and personality, Malcolm alters it to make Rip a mindless tool of the Legion. Although the audience won’t know it until later – this is also when Captain Cold is pulled out of time from before he dies and recruited by the Legion.

With Rip on the Legion’s side, the Legends are in trouble. The Legends also discover that the Spear was broken into pieces, and each piece was given to a member of the JSA to guard. The JSA was then scattered throughout history. So, we now have a quest to get back the spear. The Legion strikes first, killing Dr. Mid-Nite in the future and taking his piece. The Legend gets Rip’s piece of the Spear from 60s Los Angeles, saves George Lucas, but as mentioned previously, fails to save Rip Hunter. Another piece of the Spear is found in Camelot, guarded by Stargirl, whom the locals know as Merlin, and whom has created the Round Table. Commander Steel, Dr. Heywood’s grandfather, and member of the JSA, worked for NASA, and hid his piece on the moon. But with all their successes, and even assembling the Spear themselves, the Legends decide they must destroy it – the Spear is too powerful an object for anyone to wield. They head to the Battle of the Somme in World War I, to meet JRR Tolkien, who had written an unpublished paper about the final resting place of Sir Gaiwan, said to be the hiding place of a vial of the Precious Blood of Christ – the only substance that can destroy the Spear. The adventure with Tolkien is also great, with multiple Lord of the Rings references, and includes a quote of the “Men of the West” Speech from the film Return of the King. But for all their efforts, the Legends fail and the Legion of Doom gets the Spear.

The penultimate episode, “Doomworld”, has a world re-created by Merlyn, Thawne, and Darhk. However, they have also messed with the Legends – making them into their worst and most unlucky selves. Dr. Heywood, however, figures out something is wrong. He meets Ray who has created a device to restore the Legends memories. This works OK, until Jax tries to restore Professor Stein – who resists and breaks the device. There’s a massive fight, but in the end, Thawne gets the Spear and drops it into an very hot reactor to destroy it (not unlike the destruction of the One Ring by volcano in Lord of the Rings). The Legends decide they must go back in time and prevent the Legion from getting the Spear in the first place. In the end, it’s Sara, who all along had been the strongest voice to say they mustn’t use the Spear, who uses it to defeat the Legion. Yet, when the team arrives in Los Angeles – time doesn’t seem quite right.

Legends of Tomorrow is quite fun and the second season was an improvement on the first. Sara shines as captain, able to make tough decisions, wrangle her crew, but also able to learn from her own mistakes, and even to develop compassion. These characters are still screw-ups, which is a great way to do superheroes – as perfect characters are boring. The crew this time around: Sara, Professor Stein, Jax, Dr. Ray Palmer, Mick Rory, Dr. Heywood (Steel), and Amaya (Vixen) work better than last year’s line up.  I missed Rip in the early part of the season, and for much of the second part of the season he’s working with the villains, but overall he’s there enough – and Sara actually made for a better captain with a better leadership style. Dr. Heywood fits in to the Legends immediately, and Amaya also is not as awkward a character as Hawkgirl from last season. And Vixen’s power, the ability to channel the power of any animal, is very cool and realized beautifully. Overall, Legends of Tomorrow was my personal favorite of the CW shows last season.

You can also read my Season 1 Review of Legends of Tomorrow.

Book Review – The Flash Season Zero

  • Title: The Flash Season Zero
  • Author: Andrew Kreisberg
  • Artist: Phil Hester, Marcus To
  • Line: CW DC Verse
  • Characters: Barry Allen (The Flash), Caitlin Snow, Felicity Smoak, Suicide Squad, Capt. Cold (Leonard Snart), Heatwave (Mick Rory)
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/23/2017

Based on the CW TV Series, The Flash Season Zero is a series of short stories set during Season 1 of The Flash. The first story takes place only nine months after Barry gets his powers, and has Barry and his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs facing off against a defunct circus who’s performers have been turned into Metas by the Particle Accelerator accident. The story of the performers: a strong man, a snake wrangling girl, and the ringmaster, is a good story. The powers – related to their places in the circus – are interesting, and the way that Barry and Caitlin work with the performers, especially the snake girl, works. This isn’t a black-and-white, us-verses-them, good guy/bad guy story. These “bad guys” have their own point-of-view and they were given a raw deal before the particle accelerator exploded. The only issue with this first story is that it’s set so early, it’s hard to remember things like who knows Barry is the Flash, and it’s weird to see Iris with Eddie. (Talk about your doomed relationships.)

In the second story, “Smoak Signals”, a mysterious Nemesis comes after Felicity. Barry rescues her from certain death, then helps her out, but the story just ends without revealing who is after Felicity or why. I’m thinking it might have been Bree (Bug-Eyed Bandit) but I wasn’t sure. Still, it’s great to see Felicity and she and Barry have great chemistry.

“King Shark”, a crossover with the Suicide Squad (Cap’t. Boomerang, DeadShot, Cupid) and a more traditional Amanda Walker, is a surprisingly sympathetic view of the character. It’s definitely a different story, but if you ever wanted to get an idea of what Jaws would be like from the POV of the shark, then this story is for you.

“Black Star” gives us a lot more background on Caitlin (as does the final story, “Melting Point”) and another, in the end, sympathetic “villain”. Caitlin’s involved in a secret military project that goes horribly wrong. The particle accelerator explosion doesn’t help matters at all. It’s also an interesting SF story of a human combined with machine that doesn’t fall into a lot of the known tropes.

After the darkness of the previous story, “A Day in the Life”, shows Barry trying to have a relaxing day off, when he ends-up rescuing people instead. However, Barry inspires a young boy that he rescued to rescue someone else. It’s a light and happy story that is perfectly placed in the collection.

“Ice and Fire” is background about Leonard Snart (Capt. Cold) and Mick Rory (Heatwave). I could hear Wentworth Miller as Snart. This shows how the two met, their opposing views on how to commit heists, and their friendship. It also shows Detective Joe West coming up against the two again and again and being unable to get enough evidence for an arrest and conviction of the two. It’s a character-driven piece that works.

The final story, returns us to character background on Caitlin, as we meet a professor and mentor of hers, as well as some of her classmates. It’s a classic “mad scientist” story, or science without compassion or consideration of consequences story. Not my favorite genre, to say the least, but it’s good to see Caitlin and Cisco together for the story and to get an idea of what makes Caitlin tick.

This is the second time I read this collection, and I really enjoyed it. The characters are in character especially considering the book is set before and during Season 1 of the The Flash. The stories are a bit longer than the ones in Season 1 of the similar Arrow TV Show tie-in. This allows them to develop plot and character more. I also felt the characterizations were more spot-on with the television series than the Arrow tie-in, and accurately portraying the characters is essential for a good tie-in. Recommended to fans of the TV show.

Book Review – Arrow vol. 1

  • Title: Arrow vol. 1
  • Author: Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg
  • Artist: Mike Grell
  • Line: CW DC Verse
  • Characters: Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), Huntress, John Diggle
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/17/2017

Arrow is a collection of short stories set during the first season of the CW Network’s television show, Arrow. As the show is now in it’s fifth season, it’s a bit difficult to remember the details from Season 1 – especially who did and did not know Oliver’s secret.

This is my second time reading this book, and the individual stories are very, very short, which makes them a bit difficult to get in to. I liked the two stories about Huntress. The story about Diggle completely contradicts what we later learn about his brother, Andy, especially in Season 4. There’s also some great moments between Oliver and Tommy. However, there isn’t much depth to these stories or this book, mostly because the stories are distinct and separate – and they are very short.

Still, if you want to go back and read some untold stories set in Season 1, Arrow Vol. 1 is worth picking up.

Flashpoint – Is there more to be revealed on the CW DC Shows?

I have now caught-up on the current seasons of all four DC CW shows. And I’ve noticed something. The Flash mentioned Flashpoint at the opening of the season, and Barry attempted to reverse Flashpoint. But his attempt failed. The Flash is now in an alternate reality – Cisco, as Vibe, is much more powerful than he was last year when he was first discovering his powers. In some ways it’s like that character has skipped ahead in time. And that’s not all – somehow, as a result of Barry messing with time – Cisco’s brother Dante is dead, killed by a drunk driver. Meanwhile, Caitlin is exhibiting cold powers – and she fears she is turning in to Killer Frost. And at the Central City Police Department a new guy is in charge of forensics and he’s a total, well, you know, to Barry. By the mid-season finale, we know a lot more about this guy who’s suddenly appeared from nowhere.

But it isn’t just The Flash that’s in a new reality. Arrow is also subtly changed. One thing I’ve noticed – last year on Legends of Tomorrow they visited future Star City – where they met future Green Arrow Connor Hawk (aka John Diggle Jr) and there was a skyscraper called Smoak Technologies. Due to Flashpoint, Diggle now has a son – John Jr, not a daughter, Sara. Felicity has also lost Palmer Tech – and in last night’s episode, Curtis mentioned he and Felicity were working on a start-up company (he mentions this as a cover for his Mr. Terrific duties to his husband) which Felicity seems to know nothing about. But easily, that could be the spark of an idea for her – especially if she pulls back from Team Arrow for other plot reasons. Flashpoint seems to be bringing the Arrow universe closer to the disaster we saw in last season’s Legends of Tomorrow. And let’s not forget – this season’s bad guys on Legends are the Triumvirate of Evil: Reverse Flash (from Season 1 of The Flash); Damien Darhk (from Season 4 of Arrow); and Malcolm Merlyn (aka “The Magician” in the comics, but he’s been hanging around Arrow since the beginning). I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think it’s all related to Flashpoint (which was a world-ending event in the comics and the animated movie).

I suspect since we also saw Damien Darhk in the Legends of Tomorrow last season; and he’s clearly working with the Reverse Flash this season, and later with Malcolm Merlyn. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think something is going on. I suspect time travel is most definitely involved. And I think the disappearance of Rip Hunter is also involved. I would love to see Rip return, maybe with his father, Booster Gold. I think the time paradoxes are only getting started and they will get more and more complex.  The four shows, but especially The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, will have a bang-up complexly-related “super-crossover” feel by the end of this season. Maybe they will even change the “Supergirl is it’s own universe with no other Heroes” left over from last year when Supergirl was on CBS. Have I mentioned how that never made sense?

But I have to say, I love, just love, how all the DC shows are inter-related, just the way the comics are. Yes, you could just watch one or two of the shows – and you wouldn’t be lost. But when you watch all four, everything is connected. Also, just as is traditional for DC – all the Heroes know each other: they know each other’s real names; they know each others allies, friends and family; they know each other’s superpowers; and they work together when needed to overcome major threats (as in this year’s 4-part crossover event). That’s something that’s always been important in the DC Comics Universe. The heroes cooperate with each other. They don’t see each other as threats or rivals. When I first read Justice League International (later Justice League America / Justice League Europe) in the late 1980s and early 1990s – every hero, from the most powerful like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to the ones who really had no powers at all, like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were members of the Justice League. In between the two extremes were a lot of single power individuals such as Fire, Ice, Black Canary, Vixen – all of whom were female. There were many minorities in the League as well, including John Stewart – the Green Lantern at the time and an African American. And there were the magic users: Zatanna, Dr. Fate, etc. There was something for everyone, and a well-balanced League. Young Justice, the animated series, although it had a modern aesthetic and look, also reflected the width and breadth of the Justice League with many female and minority characters or both (Rocket and Bumblebee are both African American young women). The CW Shows have women and minorities on every show. And the women are not simply there as set dressing or to be rescued by the “male hero” – they are smart, educated, career-oriented women (reporter, scientist, computer expert), minorities have viable roles (engineer, army veteran), and Legends of Tomorrow has a balanced team of women and men with minorities on the team. Plus, you have to love a team of self-styled “screw-ups” who manage to be heroes, um, excuse me, Legends, anyway. The CW Network is doing a better job at this point of doing live action DC stories that Warner Brothers is doing with the films – though Suicide Squad was fun (though Arrow did a suicide squad storyline in it’s first or second season) and I have high hopes for Wonder Woman.

Arrow Season 4 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, John Barrowman, Paul Blackthorne, Neal McDonough
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Season 4 of Arrow is very dark, and that isn’t just a pun based on the main villain of the season being Damien Darhk. But the season is also very…strange. The first eight episodes of the season play like an extended backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow, cumulating in the two-part crossover with The Flash that introduces and spins off Legends. Laurel decides to bring back her dead sister, Sara, so she and Thea dig her up and bring her to Nanda Parbat to drop her in a Lazarus Pit – this despite the plot thread of Thea continuously fighting the blood lust she now suffers thanks to being brought back to life by the same Lazarus Pit. Once in Nanda Parbat, both Malcolm Merlyn and Nyssa al’Ghul warn against using the Lazarus Pit – but Laurel persists. When Sara is brought back she’s a feral beast. Even Quentin Lance, her father, considering killing her. Oliver calls in John Constantine to bring her back to herself. Constantine’s magic works. Shortly after, Felicity discovers that Ray Palmer wasn’t killed in the explosion at Palmer Tech, rather his Atom Suit works and he’s become extremely small. Unfortunately, Ray and his suit are captured by Damien Darhk. Felicity and Curtis Holt (Mr. Terrific to be) rescue him. With Ray now alive, and in possession of a working A.T.O.M. suit – he’s ready to become part of the Legends. The lead in brings us to the crossover with The Flash that also introduces Legends of Tomorrow, and Ray, Sara, Heat Wave,  Captain Cold, and the Hawks (Hawkgirl and Hawkman) spin off to face Vandal Savage. However, that crossover also features Barry Allen’s Flash running through time to prevent a disaster, Oliver discovering he has a son (an element from season 1), Barry accidentally messing-up Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, and Malcolm Merlyn taking the dust of Savage as a trophy or something. But both parts of the crossover are included in the DVD set – Warner Brothers must have heard the cries of protest about last year’s DVD sets not including both halves of the crossover on both sets.

Having successfully spun off Legends, Arrow settles down to be it’s own thing. There’s a continuing thread of “let’s bring people back/in for an episode”. We see Constantine – and yes, I loved his episode so much I bought Constantine on Blu-Ray, as well as all six issues of the Justice League Dark and all four issues of the Constantine DC graphic novels – so I’m glad Arrow introduced me to the character. And – it fits with the CW pulling together references to the wider DC universe. But the episode also sticks out a bit – for a series that stated at the beginning that it would be realistic with no “superpowers” it’s slightly odd to have an entire season of magic. John Constantine isn’t the only DC hero to show up – much later in the season, Oliver brings in Vixen, remarking, “We shared an animated adventure in Hub City,” a reference to the CW Seed animated Vixen series. Vixen has also become a regular in Season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow. Arsenal, Roy Harper, also returns for an episode. But villains return for single episodes (or two) as well, we see: Brie Larvan (the Bug-Eyed Bandit); Cupid; Anarchy; Felicity’s hacker boyfriend, Cooper; and the Calculator, another hacker who turns out to be Felicity’s father. These one-offs work – but at the same time, they distract from the main villain – Damien Darhk – though Cooper works with Darhk, Anarchy wants to kill him, and the Calculator ends up helping Oliver and company against Darhk. But the effect of the one-offs, especially the Cupid episode (which seems designed to be used in trailers to suggest something happens that doesn’t) and the Bug-Eyed Bandit episode seem like breaks in the storyline. Almost as if when putting together the Damien Darhk story the writing and production crew didn’t have enough story planned for the entire season.

The flashback storyline for this season has Oliver returned to Lian Yu to break-up a drug ring, attempt to save a kidnapped Russian girl, and rescue the rest of Ryder’s slave labor force. However, the last few episodes of the season clearly relate the flashbacks to the current storyline – as the idol used by Ryder and briefly, Tatiana, is the same as the idol used by Damien Darhk (or very close). Oliver also meets John Constantine on the island in one episode, which, at least, explains how he knows him. I liked the smoothness of the flashbacks, and the cuts between the past and the present. It worked so much better than last season.

The season is also marked by Star City’s mayoral campaign. First Jeri Ryan (Star Trek‘s 7 of 9) shows up to run for mayor, but she drops out when Damien Darhk kidnaps her child. Oliver then steps in to run, challenging Darhk, but he, too, eventually pulls out of the race because of Darhk’s threats against his son William, and others he cares about, including Felicity. Darhk’s wife, Revé wins the election.

The season is also framed with a flash forward to Oliver at a grave site. When watching the season for the first time, the obvious question is – Who died? When re-watching it, we know who died, in the episode “11:59” – Laurel Lance is killed, and her legacy as the Black Canary eventually revealed to Star City. Still, these flash forwards still work, not driving the story with an obvious question and worry about who died, but letting the audience know just how serious things are with Darhk.

Darhk’s plan is terrifying and for a “comic book series”, very real and frightening as a threat – Damien Darhk’s “Genesis” plan is to destroy the world in Nuclear Fire – with only his chosen few surviving in an underground colony. The people in this colony, whom we see – because Malcolm has Thea brought there and drugged into compliance – are white families – mother, father, child. ALL of them – there are no minorities, heck there seem to be no families with more than a single child. It’s a “perfect world” of rich, white, no doubt – single religion believing, fascists who have no hope. None. They buy Damien Darhk’s claim that the world is “so evil” it must be destoryed. And despite Darhk’s “Arc” there’s no real plan to rebuild anything. It’s a terrifying vision.

It is a very, very dark season. “And smile, and smile, and be a villain”, which is a Shakespearean quote – seems to apply to Damien Darhk. Neal McDonough, whom I had seen in the short-lived series Medical Investigation, plays the part with a smile – a smile in the midst of his true evil – which makes him that much more chilling. Darhk uses his magic to stop Oliver time and again. He controls the “ghosts” an army for an organization called Hive. These ghosts will literally die for Hive – when one faces capture they take suicide pills to prevent revealing any information. Darhk also gets Quentin Lance, whom he’s bribed to work for him, to upload a virus/worm to a Federal server farm that erases the entire existence of the ghosts – or their records at least. One of the ghosts is John Diggle’s supposedly dead brother – who isn’t so dead, but is a dedicated member of Hive. Quentin Lance sees Darhk’s evil and eventually helps Oliver and Company (he hadn’t wanted to work for Darhk – but at first he didn’t see the harm of supplying information, and later Darhk threatened Laurel). John tries to bring Andy to his side, but it fails – and fails spectacularly.

Felicity and Oliver do get engaged, but she decides against marrying him due to his “Lone Ranger” attitude and occasional lies. Though I felt the subplot concerning Oliver’s son was a bit forced. Samantha, the boy’s mother, comes off as extremely self-centered. Her concern to keep William secret and safe makes some sense (especially as after Malcolm tells Damien about William – Damien kidnaps him); but her insistence that Oliver can’t tell Felicity about William makes no sense at all except to create a secret that would break up the couple. It wasn’t her place to say he can’t tell his fiancée. There’s a big difference between Oliver announcing to the world he has a kid and taking William in – and Oliver letting his closest family and friends know. Also, the bit with the uncashed check makes no sense. True, I could see the pride thing of Samantha not wanting to take Moira’s money – but from a practical sense – she moved to a new city, bought a house, and she was pregnant – so she couldn’t work immediately even if she found a job. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars right there. Raising a kid isn’t cheap. Sam really should have used the money.

Getting back to Darhk – every time he tries to stop him, Oliver fails. At one point, he and his team capture Darhk – but Darhk claims he’s someone else and tries to get the charges dropped. The only thing that stops him is Lance, who incriminates himself to testify against Darhk. Darhk then immediately escapes prison – and in the resulting “riot” he kills Laurel. Darhk also attacks Lilia and baby Sara – and takes Rubicon, a computer program meant to prevent nuclear disaster. Darhk will, of course, use this fail safe program to launch the world’s weapons and create Armageddon. Felicity, Curtis, and Noah “The Calculator” Kuttler (Felicity’s father) work together to bring down Rubicon. However, unusually for this genre – one of the missiles escapes – the only thing Felicity can do is divert it – and the missile hits and destroys Haven Rock rather than Monument Point. Felcity’s feelings about this disaster and the tens of thousands of deaths are played way down in the few remaining episodes of the season. Not only that, but the work of Curtis, Noah, and Felicity only buys the world another twenty-four hours. The computers in the Bunker (or Arrow Cave) are destroyed by a Hive attack and the laptop with the anti-Rubicon program is stolen. But Felicity and her crew are able to get to Darhk’s hideout to stop his hacker, Cooper – who gives his life in the process of saving the world. Felicity and Curtis also save Star City from imminent attack. Meanwhile, Thea and Anarchy destroy Darhk’s arc community – driving Malcom back to Oliver and Company, because he’s sane enough to realise he lives in the world that Darhk still, arrogantly, wants to destroy. Revé is killed, and Thea kidnaps Darhk’s daughter. Oliver and Darhk fight, again, but having learned some magic of his own from a friend of Constantine, Oliver is on more even footing. In the end, Oliver kills Darhk. Oliver is also sworn in as Star City’s interim mayor.

Season 4 of Arrow was overwhelmingly dark – not simply the bad guy of the season – who’s ultimate plan is to destroy the world – but in terms of personal relationships. The season opens with Felicity and Oliver living in Ivy Town, and Oliver states many times he is happy there – though Felicity is bored. Yet, the two’s engagement falls apart. One of John Diggle’s motivating factors was the “death” of his brother – yet when Andy comes back, it isn’t a happy reunion and in the end, John kills him. Thea gets Yet Another boyfriend who is just bad for her. It’s a season of reunions and one-time returns, but all those characters appear in one-off episodes. Well, for the most part. The season spends it’s first eight episodes in an extended back door pilot, and as much as I like Legends of Tomorrow, and it was necessary to bring back from the dead the two characters who would spin off, it felt odd to put so much effort into that “mini-story” and then never mention any of those characters again. The next story has Oliver unsuccessfully running for mayor – because he’s forced to drop out of the race by Darhk. Though, in the last episode of the season, he becomes mayor anyway. Felicity is shot in the back and becomes paralyzed – but regains the use of her legs due to a techno-miracle developed by Curtis. This will, no doubt, make comparisons to Oracle even more obvious – though I feel such comparisons between two brilliant characters to be a disservice to both. Felicity loses control of Palmer Tech at the end of the season. The flashback story is much better integrated into the main story, and provides a lot of background – so that’s helpful, but it’s a dark story as well. And then the main story is about, to be frank, a powerful white rich guy who has every, single, advantage, and still feels the world is “too evil” to exist – so he becomes determined to destroy it. Even when his “ark” is destroyed – he still wants to destroy the world. The arrogance, egotism, and hubris boggles the mind – and Darhk is a pure psychopath as well. Neal McDonough is a brilliant choice for Darhk though, and plays the part with a fascinating twinkle – which of course makes him even more scary. It’s an odd season. It’s a dark season. It a very real sense, it made Arrow my least favorite of the CW DC shows. One thing Arrow has gotten right though, and it’s something I like about the entire CW DC line-up, is the bringing in of other characters from the DC Universe – heroes, villains, allies – CW is almost close enough to having a weekly Justice League on the screen they’ve brought in so many characters. That is fun, seriously. It rewards the long-time DC fan, and for new fans, it send them scrambling for the DC Wiki. This is how DC is done!