Arrowverse – Invasion! Review

  • Series: The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow
  • Second Arrowverse Crossover Special: Invasion!
  • Episodes: 4
  • Discs: Episodes Located in Individual Boxed Season Sets
  • Cast: Grant Gustin, Stephen Amell, Melissa Benoist, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Emily Bett Rickards, Victor Garber, Caity Lotz, Chyler Leigh, Franz Drameh
  • Network: CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

The first full crossover event between all four of CW’s DC Superhero shows includes episodes of Supergirl (Season 2 Episode 8: “Medusa”), The Flash (Season 3 Episode 8: “Invasion! Part 1”), Arrow (Season 5 Episode 8: “Invasion! Part 2”), and Legends of Tomorrow (Season 2 Episode 7: “Invasion! part 3”). The Supergirl episode is more of a preview or “part zero” as a breach keeps opening around Kara and then disappearing. Kara meanwhile is dealing with Cadmus releasing a Kryptonian virus that kills all aliens. At the very end of the episode, Barry and Cisco arrive and ask Kara for her help.

Kara joins Barry and Cisco and is introduced to everyone and the plot. An alien spacecraft crashes in downtown Central City, bringing with it some very unfriendly aliens. The Dominators had previously been to Earth in the 1950s where they kidnapped people “for intel” according to Lyla. Kara is introduced to everyone, and as more characters join Barry’s crew – the characters from Arrow and Legends, specifically, everyone is introduced to everyone else. It’s very much like the great comic book crossover events where various characters come together to combat a major threat.

Invasion! is great in that we see all our characters interacting, together, and broken up into smaller groups, each with their individual assignments, including the Waverider heading back to the 1950s to kidnap a Dominator so the heroes can figure out what they want. I enjoyed seeing Cisco, Felicity, Curtis, and Caitlin working together as “Team Science” and “Tech Support”. And since this is just post-Flashpoint for The Flash, everyone is dealing with the repercussions of that, especially Cisco who’s brother Dante died as a result of Flashpoint. Also, the Legends have a message from “future Barry” not to trust current Barry. This brings some depth to a story that otherwise is pretty much just a big fight with all the heroes costumed or not playing their part. This is also the episode that introduces Lily Stein, Dr. Stein’s daughter who was created by his meeting his younger self in an episode of Legends of Tomorrow.

Oliver, Thea, Ray, Sara, and John Diggle are kidnapped by the Dominators and put into a dream state where Oliver and his father never got on the Gambit – so Moira and Robert Quinn are alive and Oliver is about to marry Laurel Lance. John is the Green Arrow. Sara is just living her life. Eventually, Oliver realizes as perfect as this fantasy life is – it’s not real, and they must break out of the illusion. They do and find themselves on an alien spaceship. They escape and their escape craft is rescued by the Waverider before it’s can be destroyed by the Dominators.

Finally, the ultimate plan of the Dominators becomes clear. They consider Metahumans a threat and have come to Earth to eliminate that “threat”. Curiously, Rene Rameriz, Wild Dog, is also showing his hatred and prejudice against Metas and Superheros, basically being a jerk in the one episode where he is heavily featured. He even seems to think eliminating Metas is a good idea.

The heroes have to fight off the Dominators. Firestorm will transmute the Dominator Metabomb into water. Supergirl stands off against the “Man in Glasses” an X-files-like character who was there during the previous Dominator invasion, ordered the torture of one of the aliens, and shows-up when the Dominators do to suppress information about the incident and take charge, even pushing aside Lyla and ARGUS. The Heroes fight is successful. Especially, after their bomb is turned into water the Dominators just leave.

The good about this crossover. It does feel like a big comic book crossover event – with lots of characters (the entire casts of Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow are seen at least briefly, and the core casts have featured roles). There are some more emotional parts to the story – Cisco’s visible anger at Barry, though he eventually learns to let go as he realizes after traveling to the past with Felicity in the Waverider how easy it is to accidentally change the past. And Stein’s acceptance of his daughter really works in this story. But, at the end – it’s a slugfest: heroes versus aliens, that’s it.

Although the Supergirl episode is really more of a prologue than a full part of the story, it is thematically linked. Cadmus, led by Lillian Luthor, mother of Lex and Lena Luthor, wants to destroy all aliens, good, “bad”, or indifferent. Actually, as racists, they believe all aliens are bad and must die to leave America clean for the humans. Yes, it’s racist. But at least their plan is seen as evil, and Kara stops it fairly easily, with some help from Lena. The Dominators, who want to eliminate all Metas are the same. They don’t care if some Metas might be good. They consider anyone with power to be a threat and someone that must be eliminated. Again, they are racists who are willing to commit genocide (like Lillian) to preserve themselves. Rene Rameriz is the same – he clearly hates Metas and Superheros and never changes his mind, despite working with a couple dozen people with powers or talented mortals who put on a mask and become a hero.

I recommend Invasion! I do wish that CW and/or Warner Brothers would put all the crossovers out on individual DVDs or Blu-Rays like movies. It is a little awkward to pull out different DVD sets to watch the various episodes. And I had to look-up the order online when I want to watch this again. But it’s a not insurmountable problem, it’s just a little awkward.

You can also read My Review of Crisis on Earth-X the next crossover.

Arrow Season 8 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 8
  • Episodes: 9 (Plus Crisis on Infinite Earths)
  • Discs: 3 (Including Crisis on Infinite Earths)
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, Audrey Marie Anderson
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

The first seven episodes of the final season of Arrow are set-up for Crisis on Infinite Earths, followed by the 5-episode Crisis (which is included in its entirety as a special disc in the set), followed by two episodes that tie-up loose ends and potentially set-up new series for the future of the Arrowverse. It’s also Old Home Week – as the Monitor sets Oliver to tasks where he runs into old friends and foes from the past for three episodes. By the third McGuffin Hunt, Oliver begins to doubt the Monitor, but his search for a weapon to use against him really is just yet another Monitor quest. And yes, more cameos by previous players from previous seasons of Arrow. Oliver then meets his grown children, Mia and William, along with Connor, who have time-traveled to the past.

I really liked both Mia and William here. William, I liked in Season 7 too, but it took me a while to warm-up to Mia. Season 8 also wraps-up some of the loose ends for Mia, Connor, and William from Season 7. Once his children return, with some help from Lyla, Laurel (of Earth II, whom Oliver rescued in the first episode of the season) and Oliver learn a few lessons, assemble all the pieces of the McGuffin, and discover they cannot avert the Crisis.

Then Crisis on Infinite Earths happens. One very nice thing about the Blu-Ray set, and the reason I went with Blu-Ray instead of DVD – is the entire Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series is included, on a separate disc in this set. It’s very nice and even has the Crisis logo on the disc and on the disc menu. This does, however, make the watching order of the set slightly weird. Watch all of Disc 1 (episodes 1-5), then episodes 6 and 7 on Disc 2, followed by Crisis (all of Disc 3), then watch Episodes 9 and 10 on Disc 2. (Crisis Hour 4 is also included on Disc 2 – presumably so you know when to watch Crisis).

After Crisis, in “Green Arrow and the Canaries” we leap to 2040 – and for once it’s not a dystopia. Rene is the mayor of a city with almost zero crime, Star City is bright and beautiful, and Mia, Zoe, and JJ are spoiled rich kids. Laurel arrives and tries to prevent the kidnapping of Mia’s friend Bianca and fails. She finds Dinah Lance and Mia and together they find and rescue Bianca from her kidnappers – hopefully preventing the disastrous dystopia of 2041. Dinah also is a woman without a past who owns a nice bar, where she sings, and lives above it – in what could easily become the Birds of Prey clock tower base of operations. I liked the episode and it set up the possibility of a new Birds of Prey or Canaries series.

The final episode of Arrow Season 8 is basically the Funeral of Oliver Queen. The statue of Green Arrow is revealed to a mournful crowd. At the Queen Estate, family and friends gather at Oliver’s grave – including Moira who is no longer dead, Tommy (also no longer dead), Talia and Nyssa al Ghul, Sara Lance, and others. Moira and Tommy still living have to do with changes to the timeline post-Crisis. We also find out a number of our key characters are moving to Metropolis (meaning they will probably at least make some appearances on the new Superman and Lois Lane-Kent series coming in 2021) and we get a hint about a big change for John Diggle.

I enjoyed Season 8 of Arrow very much. We got to see a lot of characters we hadn’t seen for a while. Loose ends were wrapped up. For once 2040 isn’t a horrible dystopia (though I feel like I need a chart of all the various versions and changes to the Arrowverse timeline because there have been changes due to events in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow too.) The season was just fun to watch, and the first time through you never know who will pop up from Oliver’s past. Also, it felt like Oliver was being shown his past and his connections It’s-a-Wonderful-Life-like to help prepare him for Crisis and the events that happen there. The series really paid off all the hints it’s been laying especially for the last few years. I highly, highly recommend Arrow Season 8 and Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Read My Review of Arrow Season 3.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 4.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 5.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 6.
Read My Review of Arrow Season 7.

Arrow Season 7 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 7
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Echo Kellum, Rick Gonzalez, Katherine McNamara, Ben Lewis, Colton Haynes
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

This review contains spoilers for Season 7 of Arrow.

Last season when I watched Season 7 of Arrow on the CW, I didn’t like it and I found the flash-forwards very confusing. Having seen most of Season 8 and having re-watched Season 7 on DVD, I liked it a bit better but I still think there are issues with the writing and characterization of the show. Season 7 of Arrow is also very, very dark, making the season much less enjoyable to watch. The season opens with Oliver Queen in jail for his “crimes” as a vigilante. Ricardo Diaz, the previous “big bad”, is still free and running a criminal empire. He even attacks Felicity and William in their apartment where they are living under assumed identities. This leads Felicity to send William away to boarding school for his own protection. Felicity decides she must get Oliver out of jail and kill Diaz. She turns to Laurel (Black Siren) for help. Laurel has become the district attorney, and surprisingly for someone who was not a lawyer on Earth-2, she’s doing fairly well. In jail, Oliver goes from “keeping his head down” to trying to solve a mystery in the prison. He also initially trusts the wrong people. Meanwhile, Rene is secretly continuing his vigilante ways as Wild Dog – despite Mayor Pollard’s law that makes vigilantes illegal. Rene is also helping the New Green Arrow who has suddenly arrived in Star City.

After about 6-7 episodes, Laurel finally gets Oliver out of prison and she also prevents Felicity from murdering Diaz. Later when Laurel is accused of murder, Felicity is the only one who believes she was framed. Luckily for Laurel, Felicity gets Dinah to help her anyway and they clear Laurel’s name and capture a dangerous jewel thief in the process. Laurel also assembles a case against Diaz and he is sent to jail – finally. Diaz is almost immediately murdered in prison.

Meanwhile, everyone is wondering who the New Green Arrow is and if they have good motivations or not. Rene is convinced she is trying to help. The New Green Arrow turns out to be Emiko, Oliver’s half-sister. It turns out that Robert Queen had a secret second family whom he abandoned. Emiko is, she tells Rene and Oliver, on the trail of her mother’s killer. This leads to a terrorist financier named Dante, someone John Diggle and Lyla at ARGUS are also after. Dante, they think, leads an organization called the Ninth Circle which seems to be dedicated to regime change and causing chaos. Much of the season consists of Lyla and Diggle slowly putting together the pieces in their chase of Dante and the Ninth Circle.

Meanwhile, in the flash-forwards, we meet William, Roy Harper, Mia, and Zoë, who are all now young adults, living in a dystopian Star City, where the Glades are protected by a wall but also a police state where the corporation Galaxy One rules with an iron fist. Outside the wall, there’s no police, no law, no order, nothing – people scrounge to survive any way they can. At first, William and the others are looking for Felicity (They briefly think she was murdered after planning to blow up Star City but figure out she’s being held captive by Galaxy One who plan on destroying Star City.) Rene is the mayor of the Glades and deeply involved with Galaxy One, building the wall, outlawing vigilantes (and blaming them for Star City’s problems) and ultimately the plan to destroy Star City. When the Galaxy One CEO tells him they plan on evacuating Star City prior to destroying it so it can be rebuilt, Rene believes it. He’s shocked to find out that there was no plan for an evacuation order. William and Mia rescue Felicity and together with Zoë, Dinah, and the Canary Network they prevent the bombing.

Back in the present day, Oliver is determined to find out who Dante is, stop the Ninth Circle, and forge a relationship with his new sister, Emiko. These goals prove to be someone incompatible with each other.

Season 7 with it’s flipping back and forth between the present and the future is extremely confusing. I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in the Flash-forwards and who everyone was. On a second watch, it helped a lot knowing who various people were, so I could focus on the characters’ goals. But I still found Mia to be very unlikeable until the very end of the season (she improves in Season 8). The adult William on the other hand, I liked immediately – much more so than his younger self, who seemed to be a spoiled brat. Zoë in the future is much different than she is in the present, so much so that I had a hard time reconciling the two as being different versions of the same character. Roy, though, is Roy – and it’s great to see him again and with a lengthy storyline.

Also, Season 7, focuses on Rene Ramirez, Wild Dog, and I still don’t like his character at all, and I find him to be really dumb. In a very real sense, he causes all of Oliver’s problems in the present and all of Felicity, William, and Mia’s problems in the future. In the present, Rene immediately trusts the New Green Arrow, defends her/him to everyone, including the police, helps him/her (no one knows NGA is a woman for several episodes) and convinces the police and what’s left of Team Arrow to trust and help her. When Oliver discovers Emiko is his sister, it’s Rene who pushes Oliver to forge a relationship with her. But Emiko is actually part of the Ninth Circle, deeply involved with Dante, and she isn’t to be trusted. But that’s not Rene’s only mistake – he’s the mayor of the Glades, approved building a large physical wall that’s actually a supercomputer in charge of a Big Brother type security system around the Glades. He bans vigilantes (the same guy who argued constantly against Mayor Pollard’s anti-vigilante law) and then lets Galaxy One talk him into policing the Glades with Zeta Soldiers – super-powered, technically-enhanced soldiers who can plug into the Archer Network and use DNA to find anybody, anywhere, any time. Rene basically created the nightmare that is Star City in the 2040s. Rene also believes the Galaxy One CEO when he says Star City will be “evacuated” before it is bombed. He’s not suspicious at all. His naivete is unbelievable.

Felicity however also is out of character. After Diaz gets into her apartment, she becomes obsessed with home security, developing a DNA-based home security system. Much of the season has Felicity in the background working on this system – having both successes and setbacks. She invites Alena (from Helix) to be her CTO of Smoak Technologies. Felicity also briefly works with Curtis too. Her system, Archer, is ultimately stolen, and although Felicity destroys it, Alena had copied the base code. Archer is the “big bad” for the flash-forwards. Felicity had always been the conscious of Team Arrow – the one who would stop Oliver from going too far, and get everyone to slow down before doing anything drastic. That she would suddenly become obsessed with first, killing Diaz and then developing this security system just doesn’t seem like her.

Even Lyla and John – who are lying to everyone for much of the season, as they prioritize catching Dante above all (even bringing back Task Force X, eg The Ghost Initiative) and freeing Diaz to use him to get to Virgil, a money man for Dante.

It just doesn’t make sense. No one is behaving the way they should. The storyline hops around from present to future to present. The storyline also keeps changing its mind about who the villain is – and not in a good way, but more of a “we couldn’t decide” way. Watching Season 8 actually helps Season 7 make a little more sense, and be a bit more tolerable, but that’s not a way to write a show. Still, it is definitely worth having season 7 (if only for Elseworlds which is brilliant) and as a lead into Season 8 and Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 3.
Read my Review of Arrow Season 4.
Read my Review of Arrow Season 5.
Read my Review of Arrow Season 6.

Arrow Season 6 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Michael Emerson, Kirk Acevedo
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Due to circumstances beyond my control I missed Arrow last year and as well as the rest of the CW DC shows, so the DVD release was my first chance to watch Season 6, and it was not good. I try to be positive in all my reviews, and I will keep to the attitude and promise here, but this past season of Arrow really shows the program’s age.

The season starts with everything status quo – Oliver is mayor of Star City and managing his new team as the Green Arrow. If you were wondering what happened on Lian Yu, the series gives you a few flashbacks and that’s it. Thea is in a coma – everyone else is fine, and the series doesn’t even mention that Malcolm gave his life to save Thea. We guess. Because she’s the only one who is still injured. Oliver’s one-time girlfriend, Samantha, and mother of his child is dead. With her dying breath, she asks Oliver to care for her McGuffin, oh sorry, I mean their mutual son William. Because, yes, this season, Oliver has a child. William starts out as an annoying and spoiled child, though to be fair, he just lost his mother and he’s been introduced to a new father who basically came from nowhere. However, Oliver, with Felicity’s help manages to get through to William, so the two at least seem to be close by the end of the season.

It’s Deja Vu all over again and once more a villain is introduced, who seems unstoppable – only to be completed defeated halfway through the season. And to make matters worse, Cayden James is killed in police custody. This reveals the “real villain” a drug pusher, mobster, and gang leader with ideas above his station. Ricardo Diaz is not a compelling villain – he’s the type of bad guy Oliver ate for lunch in Season 1. Plus, in the current climate – a Hispanic villain who personifies everything that racists claim about Hispanics is not exactly the best choice for a season-long villain. At least Cayden James was compelling (he reminded me of Felicity’s father, Noah Cutter, aka “The Calculator”, actually).

The other theme of the season is family. But in this case, it’s the breaking up of families. Cayden James manages to break up Oliver’s team. First Rene (“Wild Dog”) leaves after admitting he decided to be a witness against Oliver in his trial (Oh, did I forget to mention? Oliver is accused of being the Green Arrow and is due to be put on trial.) Rene was pressured to testify because he was told he’d never see his daughter Zoe again if he didn’t. Apparently, no one in Star City hs ever heard of witness tampering, because you simply cannot do that.

Cayden James briefly assembles his own powerhouse of bad guys that look like Star City’s own Legion of Doom, including: Black Siren (Laurel Lance from another Earth), Vigilante (who turn’s out to be Dinah Drake’s former police partner and boyfriend), Ricardo Diaz (introduced as a drug dealer and thug), and Anatoly Knyazev. As alluded to before – most of these characters will end-up dead as Diaz takes over from James as villain of the season. Diaz also brings in The Quadrant, four super-mobsters who allegedly control the entire country. He manages to kill one member of the Quadrant and his son for a seat at the table, and latter kills two more members – threatening the last remaining member.

Meanwhile, Quentin Lance attempts to convert Black Siren to being his Laurel. And she does at one point claim to be Laurel in the public eye – claiming she was held hostage for two years. Quentin’s love for his daughter is a two steps forward one step back situation, though in the end it seems Laurel is willing to go against Diaz and help her father.

In Oliver’s world, having exiled Rene, he does the same thing to Dinah when she decides to kill Black Siren for killing her boyfriend, Vigilante. Even Curtis gets fed-up and walks out. Wild Dog, Black Canary, and Mr. Terrific form their own superhero team. It’s cute, but they are the B team for sure. And when Felicity discovers that one reason they’ve had so much trouble all season is that the bunker was bugged, honestly, everyone should have come home. When Oliver is dosed with Vertigo and starts hallucinating, including seeing Adrian Chase, and imagining Felicity dumping him – it should have brought the team back together. And considering how badly Oliver’s been behaving during most of the season, the Vertigo seems to have been introduced far earlier than the episode stated it was. But alas, for plot reasons, though his team seems to understand a bit more – they don’t return. And even John Diggle has left to join Lyla at ARGUS.

Thea, who is missing for much of the season, eventually awakens from her coma, only for Nyssa al Ghul to show up with a warning: Athena has formed a new group – The Thanatos Guild, which wants Thea’s blood to lead them to a mysterious box and a map. Felicity describes the box as “the box from Hellraiser” which is the best pop-culture description on the show since a Lazarus Pit was described as a “magical jacuzzi”. By the end of the episode, not only has Team Arrow found the box, opened it, and figured out how to read the map that seems at first to be blank – but Thea, Nyssa, and Roy Harper who has suddenly arrived – leave, for good, on a mission to destroy what the map reveals – the last three remaining Lazurus Pits. The entire episode comes from nowhere and reads like a backdoor pilot, at least for a mini-series. And since I’ve come to really like Thea and I like Nyssa – it’s a mini-series I’d watch. But, really, the entire episode seems to be an excuse to get Thea off the show. This makes me sad.

Oliver and Felicity also apparently get married this season – for real. Though I say, “apparently” because their marriage was during the 4-series crossover event which is not included on the DVD set. The Arrow episode of the crossover is the only one included, so it more or less makes no sense. I look forward to watching the entire crossover – but I won’t see it until all three remaining CW shows are released on DVD in late August or even September. Warner Brothers/CW needs to do with the crossovers what the BBC does with the Doctor Who Christmas specials: release them on a separate disc within a few weeks after the special airs. Then they also need to include the episodes on the respective series box sets. I would gladly shell out money for a “movie version” of the crossover. I’d even buy it if they retroactively released each crossover to date – the crossover often feels a little out of continuity anyway, they are great stories, and like the comics the idea comes from – it’s the type of thing fans will pick-up as a collector’s item even if they aren’t normally interested in the individual title(s). Plus – more money, just saying. And yes, also put the crossover episode on each season set. I wouldn’t mind owning it twice, once in the series each story comes from, and once as a complete movie on DVD or even Blu-Ray.

Meanwhile, especially once Cayden James is out of the picture, Diaz consolidates power – he has Black Siren kill Vigilante, whom he’s figured out is an undercover double-agent. He extends his control over the police force, city hall and the DA’s office. Anyone who gets in his way, Diaz kills off as he consolidates power. But the problem with this plot is two-fold: first, Diaz is basically a mobster or gang boss – no more, no less. He doesn’t have the scary psychopathic planning laser focus as Adrian Chase from last season – yet the plot seems about the same as just last season. Diaz really is more like the type of two-bit hoods and connected yet corrupt business people and officials from Season 1. Also, but the entire story reminds me of the Batman graphic novel Dark Victory – which did a better job of showing a vigilante superhero new at his job cleaning up a corrupt city. For Green Arrow, for Oliver to step back, distance himself from everyone, and attempt to clean up Star City by himself? That simply makes no sense. It also destroys what Oliver has built and what makes him work as a hero: his team.

In the end, Oliver is tried for being the Green Arrow. Diaz has a corrupt judge in charge of the case, and a prosecuting attorney who while probably not corrupt will try every trick in the book to win her case. The best bit of the trial? Christopher Chase, the Human Target, showing up to save Oliver’s butt. After the trial the team starts to realize that they need to work together again. Oliver even loops in Diggle who brings in ARGUS. Oliver also manages to get Anatoly on his side. And yes, David Nykl is brilliant – and compelling as Anatoly. In the last two episodes, everybody works together. Even the FBI is brought in. The team gets Diaz’s list of corrupt officials, who are subsequently arrested by the FBI. But Diaz himself gets away – in one of those “they never found the body” moments. Quentin Lance is killed saving Laurel. Oliver also throws himself under the bus, bargaining for immunity for his entire team, by publicly admitting he’s the Green Arrow and being sent to prison by the FBI officer they have been working on. With Diaz loose and Oliver in prison – the entire season feels like a transitional one. We will have a Season 7, but it may be the last.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 3.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 4.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 5.

Arrow Season 5 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, John Barrowman, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Segarra
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

When I watched Season 5 of Arrow last year, for much of the season I really didn’t like what I saw. The flashbacks, guest-starring David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis) were much more interesting than anything going on in the present-day for Oliver and company. In the present-day, the series opens with Oliver now mayor of Star City, Thea as his chief-of-staff, Felicity still working as “Overwatch” to help Oliver as the Green Arrow, and after a bit of wrangling, Quentin Lance as deputy mayor. Felicity pressures Oliver to form a new team of recruits, especially after a number of new vigilantes start showing up in Star City. Curtis, now “Mr. Terrific”, helps Felicity as tech support for the Green Arrow and has a comics-accurate, but looks somewhat silly on camera, costume that he wears in the field. Oliver initially resists Felicity’s plan to form  a new team, but eventually he agrees. Wild Dog, Evelyn (using the name, “Artemis”), and Ragman join the team.

This new team is part of the problem for Season 5 of Arrow. It does not work – at all. Wild Dog (Rene Rameriez) is a character I didn’t like from the beginning. He’s rude, arrogant, refuses to follow orders, isn’t a cool team-mate, and he’s too violent. Towards the end of the season they try to make him more sympathetic by adding a sub-plot involving his daughter, but it plays like a sympathy-ploy rather than anything organic. And in the comics, at least in Rebirth, Wild Dog is a villain – a mercenary who’s against the Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Evelyn Sharp, very quickly becomes a double agent working for the season’s Big Bad, Prometheus. However, her betrayal of the team is very unrealistic, because her reasons make no sense. Evelyn, and the rest of the team, discover that during his first year as the Hood – Oliver was killing the people named as enemies of Star City in his father’s book. Disgusted that Oliver would kill people, Evelyn throws in with Prometheus – who’s killing people. And not only is Prometheus a serial killer (initially known as the “throwing star killer”) but he kills innocent people simply because their names can spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Does this make sense? No. Although in the last few episodes of the season, Evelyn proves to be just as much of a psychopath as Prometheus.

Ragman is the only new character that, as a superhero and new member of Oliver’s team, I actually liked – and he disappears in episode 12, “Bratva”, and we never see him again. Ragman’s purpose, when all is said and done, seems to be simply to help Felicity work through her guilt for dropping a nuke on Havenrock (to spare Monument Point). But Rory was a far more interesting character than Rene, whom they kept.

The season also opens with Felicity in an intimate relationship with Billy Malone, a SCPD detective and member of the Anti-Crime Unit elite force. He’s fridged. Many commentators on comics have complained that the girlfriends/wives of superheroes only exist to be kidnapped, tortured, and even killed – and condemn the idea as making women victims. Yet, this is precisely what happens to Billy – he’s staged to look like Prometheus, by Prometheus, including a speaker that the actual Prometheus uses to taunt Oliver. So Oliver, who had vowed four years ago (at the end of season 1) to never kill, kills him – when a arrow the the leg would have been more effective. Felicity accepts this almost immediately.

At the end of the previous season, John Diggle had left the team to re-join the army. This doesn’t go well. He’s in Afghanistan (or wherever) and his general steals a WMD, kills Diggle’s squad, and blames Diggle. Diggle, still overcome with guilt at killing his brother, Andy, last season, decides to just roll with it. He’ll accept the punishment for a crime he didn’t do as retribution for a crime he did. Lyla gets Oliver and his team to break him out. It works, but John is mad. Later in the season, John is baited and captured again. This time, Oliver gets Star City’s DA, Adrian Chase, to clear John. This works, and with information that Felicity gets from the Hacker group, Helix, they have evidence to put the general away. John re-joins team Arrow.

Meanwhile, as mayor, Oliver keeps having to weather political crisises – often made worse by Susan Williams, a reporter. Oliver starts dating the reporter, convincing her to give him a chance. Thea proves to be more effective at running the mayor’s office than Oliver, though she’s willing to play dirty pool to get what her brother needs and to protect him. Oliver complains about her ruthless tactics, especially when she makes it look like Susan plagiarized her stories, which discredits the reporter, gets her fired, and means she can’t get a new job as a reporter. This, however, is rather quickly reversed.

Meanwhile, the flashbacks tell, in chronological order, the story of Oliver’s time in Russia – and how he became a captain in the Bratva (the Russian mafia). He and Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl) become good friends. I liked the flashback story more than the present-day one for much of the season. Oliver, as a result of his promise to Katiana from last season, is determined to kill Konstantin Kovar. Since Kovar is corrupt, and would leave a power vacuum, Anatoly agrees with this – but he’s also a lot more realistic about how things work in Russia and in the Bratva. When Oliver undercovers Kovar’s plot to stage a new Russian coup, killing government officials, generals, and Bratva captains alike, Anatoly, Oliver, and Anatoly’s faction in the Bratva have to stop him. They succeed, barely, and not without losses. And Kovar proves to be, like Prometheus, a villain who is very hard to kill.

Prometheus proves to be Adrian Chase, Star City’s DA, who manages to capture Oliver and torture him. Adrian, also, by now, is a proven to be quite the psychopath. And he’s creepy, manipulative, and smart. He’s also a chess master who is not only always ten steps ahead of Oliver, but manipulates him to do exactly what he wants. Oliver and company even realize that Chase is manipulating Oliver – but that doesn’t help him to not get manipulated. Chase finally kidnaps Oliver, and tortures him, getting Oliver to admit “he likes killing people”. There’s a major, major, flaw in this. First, Oliver doesn’t like killing, even in the first season, where he does a lot of it. Second, in Season 2, Oliver vows, on Tommy’s grave to never kill again. When he does – it’s a big deal. Third, Adrian’s insistence that Oliver likes to kill seems to be a pure case of projection and no one picks up on it. Adrian, after all had killed a single mother because her name would help him spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Once he’s in protective custody of the Federal marshals, and they get the message that he’s the serial killer not an innocent victim and witness – he kills both men, violently, and grins. Adrian clearly likes killing. Yet, Adrian convinces Oliver, by use of torture, that it’s Oliver who enjoys killing. After this admission, Oliver is broken. Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?

Oliver attempts to disband his team and calls in Anatoly and the Bratva to do his dirty work and get rid of Chase. Oliver will pay Anatoly in diabetes drugs. However, Rene (Wild Dog) and Dinah (the new Black Canary) overhear a conversation between Anatoly and other Bratva members that leads them to believe that Anatoly is taking the drugs to make and sell an extremely addictive street drug. Again, this doesn’t seem to make sense, given what we’ve seen about Anatoly in the season’s worth of flashbacks. Oliver continues to tell his team to stand down and let the Bratva do their thing. Oliver’s team doesn’t listen. In the end, this breaks the deal between Oliver and Anatoly and Chase escapes.

This was disappointing to say the least, and a horrible way to end the arc of nothing but friendship between Oliver and Anatoly. For once, I wanted to see Oliver actually thinking and telling off his team, not simply for disobeying orders, which they did, but for messing up. It would have been cool if Ollie had pointed out they have diabetics in Russia too. Or, at least, that Anatoly was playing a game with other Bratva captains, and he was going to use the drugs to help his people, but he couldn’t let the captains who merely wanted money know that. Or that simply, as usual, Rene totally misunderstood what he overheard in the first place. But no, Rene even claims the drug manufacturer is “barely holding on” and “can’t afford to lose stock”. Yeah, sure. In what universe?

So with the deal with the Bratva now completely broken, Chase is in the wind. Oliver does manage to send him to prison. Thea and Felicity throw Oliver a surprise birthday party, but Rene and Dinah are missing. Oliver quickly learns that Chase has had them kidnapped. Oliver swears he won’t free Chase – then Chase shows him a picture of his son, William, also kidnapped. At that point, Oliver, as Green Arrow, helps Chase escape during the prisoner transfer. This gets Oliver absolutely nothing.

In the two-part finale, pretty much everyone is kidnapped by Chase.  Oliver realizes Chase has taken his team to Lian Yu. Malcolm Merlyn arrives because he cares deeply for his daughter, Thea, and convinces Oliver he’s there to help.  Oliver also calls in Nyssa al’Ghul because he suspects Talia is helping Chase. They arrive in Lian Yu and Oliver breaks into the Argus prison. He frees Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) and Digger Harkness (Captain Boomerang). Deathstroke proves to be an actual ally, though at one point he pretends to betray Oliver. Digger Harkness, not so much, first chance he gets he falls in with Chase.

Oliver quickly finds and frees Felicity, Curtis, Thea, Captain Lance, John, and Samantha, but is still looking for William. He has Malcolm stay with the first group to get them to a plane to escape the island. Deathstroke’s fake betrayal gets Oliver to Dinah and Rene where he gives her the sonic scream focus device (that also cancels the sonic dampeners in her cell) and she gets them free. Oliver asks her to find the others and escape.

It turns into Oliver and his team verses Chase and his girl groupies (Talia, Evelyn, Black Siren (aka Evil Laurel)) as Oliver tries to find Samantha and William. Meanwhile, Malcolm is in charge of getting everyone off the island. The plane they get to is sabotaged – so they must find another way off the island. Since the plane is gone, Malcolm leads the group to the other side of the island to escape. As they are tramping through the forest, Thea steps on a landmine. Malcolm sacrifices himself to save her. Though his death is off stage and very suspiciously so – he may have survived. Felicity and Curtis also discover another problem – the entire island has been wired with bombs – it will blow. They actually tell Oliver this – so they know the danger before he does.

Oliver follows Chase to a boat and uses a very convenient dock, that Chase pilots the boat conveniently close to, to run and jump on the boat. Also, extremely conveniently, William – the only one that Oliver hasn’t found so far, is being held on the boat. Chase holds a gun to William’s head, threatening Oliver that “it’s your son or everyone else you care about”. Oliver, finally, shows some sense – and shoots Chase in the leg with an arrow, freeing William without killing Chase. Unfortunately, Chase cares more about winning than living. He kills himself setting off the deadman switch and blowing up Lian Yu. Oliver is safe with William, on a boat, but doesn’t know if all his friends and relations have survived or died on the island.

The finale also is intercut with flashbacks to Anatoly taking Oliver to the island. He provides Ollie with a costume, including a wig of long, ash blond hair. Unfortunately, Kovar, an unkillable villain, shows up and fights Oliver before he can get into the costume and light the signal fire. Kovar shoots up Oliver with a torture drug, then locks him in a cell with a gun with one bullet. Oliver, of course, uses the gun to shoot out the lock and escape. He gets in his costume, lights the fire, is rescued by a Chinese fishing boat, and calls his mother. The intercutting between the present and the flashbacks, as the flashbacks themselves intercut between Oliver facing off against Kovar one last time and winning, and what we saw in the pilot way back in season 1 as Oliver gets rescued are brilliant! And destroying Lian Yu, now that it has been Five Years, symbolically “kills off” the flashbacks. It marks an end and a beginning. We now know, exactly, what Oliver did for his “five years in hell”.

Overall, all the way through Season 5, I just wasn’t impressed. I didn’t like the new team, other than Curtis, who was introduced last season. And characters who could have been cool – Evelyn and Rory (Ragman) left. Evelyn joined Adrian Chase – and Rory simply left. Evelyn’s betrayal makes no sense at all. She, along with the rest of the new team, discovers Oliver killed during his first year as a vigilante – so she betrays him to a serial killer? Uh huh – and how does this make sense? I mean, they could have at least given lip service to a reason – like someone she cared for was collateral damage in Oliver’s Green Arrow campaign – something. But no. Evelyn betrays Oliver to a serial killer because Oliver’s a killer. OK, then.

Second, this season includes, “Spectre of the Gun”, an episode that has the same title as one of the worst original classic Star Trek episodes (not in the top three but definitely top five worst). It’s not a good omen. The episode is about gun control/”gun rights” with Rene very vocally pro-gun. Curtis is more logically and intelligently pro gun control – not that he EVER gets to say anything. The minute Curtis ever tries to point out the facts, or quote statistics, he’s interrupted by Rene or even Felicity. And Felicity, a woman who lost the use of her legs when she was hit by a stray bullet, keeps insisting she has no opinion and doesn’t want to hear the arguments. Meanwhile, Rene comes up with right-wing sayings like “guns make you safe” – and no one challenges him. Oliver attempts to pass a sensible gun registry law in Star City, part of his campaign as mayor, and a female city official also goes on with right-wing propaganda which is presented as fact rather than incorrect and not backed by facts – such as a registry “limits gun owners rights” – no it doesn’t, or that the registry is “government interference” – no, it isn’t. In the end – instead of the gun registry, Oliver pushes through the “gun owners freedom act” (yep, that’s what they call it), which Oliver and Thea both insist is about “sensible gun control”. No doubt, yet another law that allows anyone, even criminals, even the insane, even people who have restraining orders against them or who have made credible threats the right to buy as many guns, assault rifles, and military weapons as they want. Oh, and Rene’s “reasons’ for being so pro-gun? He walked in on a confrontation between his wife and her drug dealer. Rene insists if he had his gun he could have saved his wife. If you watch what happens – that’s just not something he could have done. From the second he gets in the apartment – he tries to get to his gun in a safe, rather than try anything else (like, say, calling the cops). He even sends his daughter, Zoe, to her room, which he hasn’t even bothered to check when it’s obvious someone broke into the apartment, rather than to a neighbor’s or anywhere safe. Rene gets the gun – shoots the dealer, but when he falls he fires his gun – which kills Rene’s wife. If Rene wasn’t so dumb he’d realize his wife’s death was his own fault and that if he hadn’t shot the dealer in the first place she’d still be alive. But Rene can’t face that.  The episode is also a place holder episode – it has no flashbacks, and other than introducing Zoe who is in foster care, doesn’t add anything to the season.

Chase/Prometheus is a psychopath – he enjoys killing, he’s obsessed with destroying Oliver, who he blames for his father’s death, and even tries to destroy the reputation of Oliver and Thea’s father, Robert Queen. But for most of the season, the flashbacks are much more interesting and  much better story than the present-day story. Oliver takes on the actions of his team as being his own fault, especially when they make mistakes or disobey orders. He’s still, though trying to lead, and at times, taking responsibility as a leader, like he should, but also refusing to back people. Felicity ends up joining Helix, a hacker group, and when re-watching the season, it’s clear they will betray her. Yet, when Felicity does take a risk, Oliver doesn’t back her – and even uses the team to help Argus against Helix (it doesn’t go well). Oliver trusts Anatoly in Russia, invites him to Star City, only to not stop his team and have Anatoly believe he betrayed him. Chase manipulates Oliver throughout the entire season, and Oliver lets him. It’s a mess. Oliver also is back to not really trusting his team or working with them to meet his goals.

But, having said that – the two-part finale was really good. I’d missed it when it originally aired, due to poor weather conditions blocking Dish Network, but when I saw it – I liked it. Malcolm actually did a better job of leading Oliver’s team than Oliver does at times – though all they had to do was get off the island. Malcolm sacrificing himself to save Thea showed how much he really loves her. Even Thea was strongly affected by this. Talia and Nyssa get to fight each other – and it’s not the stereotypical cat fight. Chase, in the end, proves to be the killer that doesn’t want to be simply caught, but to die – though Oliver basically “wins” because Chase kills himself. Also, Oliver does rescue William. And I loved the symbolism of blowing-up Lian Yu.

For more on Arrow, please read:

My Arrow Season 4 Review

My Arrow Season 3 Review

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.

The Batman Season 5 Review

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  5
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Evan Sabara
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The previous season (4) finale introduced the Justice League to The Batman, so it’s fitting that the final season of The Batman features several team-ups. These team-ups also featured the partner superhero’s greatest villain. I enjoyed the team-up episodes very much. The opening two-part story features a team-up between Batman and Superman – verses Lex Luthor. Batman still doesn’t trust Superman – which complicates things, but in the end they both learn how to work together as a team. “Vertigo” features a team-up between Green Arrow and Batman. Initially,  Oliver Queen (the Green Arrow) thinks Bruce Wayne is responsible for the sudden rash of people getting sick in Gotham. Batman has to convince Ollie that Bruce can’t possibly be involved in Count Vertigo’s actions – which was fun, of course. “A Mirror Darkly” features a team-up between Batman and the Flash verses Mirror Master. “Ring Toss” sees Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan battling Sinestro. And “What Goes Up” features a team-up between The Batman and Hawkman.

As much as I enjoyed the team-up stories, and I did enjoy them – the solo Batman adventures, well, adventures of Batman, Robin, and sometimes Batgirl, were less enjoyable. They just very much seemed to be the same old thing. Even the two Joker episodes, “Joker Express” and “The Metal Face of Comedy”, though they had interesting ideas behind them, seemed to fall a bit flat. The Joker in The Batman just never had the wonderfully villainous, interesting, and perfect quality of Mark Hamill’s Joker from Batman: The Animated Series and the various follow-up movies.

The finale for Season 5, and of the series, “Lost Heroes”, is a team-up of the entire Justice League. One by one the super-powered members (Superman, Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter) are kidnapped. It’s up to the non-super-powered members, Batman and Green Arrow to rescue the rest of the League and find-out what’s going on. And what’s going on is that the Joining are back thanks to Hugo Strange. It’s a good story, and I enjoyed very, very much how Batman and Green Arrow worked together. The Joining were an interesting extra-terrestrial villain in the final of last season and it was worth it to see them return.

However, there is one little problem with the Justice League as shown in this iteration. And that is – its an all-male League. No Wonder Woman. No Black Canary. No Hawkgirl. I seriously have a problem with this. The Justice League has always included female members. Wonder Woman is one of the original seven. Even the precursor to the Justice League of America, the Justice Society – included women. And Black Canary (Oliver Queen’s wife, girlfriend, or ex-wife depending on the timeline) was the second-in-charge of the late 1980s – early 1990s Justice League behind Batman. Since Batman tended to be busy – Black Canary ran the League. As much as I really liked the team-ups in the Batman, I felt there was something seriously wrong with not including any female superheroes – at all – in the Justice League. This series is from 2008 – there’s absolutely no excuse to completely exclude women (except Batgirl) from the series.