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CW Superhero Roundup: Back in the saddle

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Mon-El's back, baby

In this weekly feature, we’ll offer up brief recaps of each of the CW’s ever-increasing stable of interconnected superhero shows – Supergirl, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow. We’ll offer up brief recaps as well as some of our light impressions on each episode.

Supergirl S3E7 "Wake Up"

The DEO discovers a spaceship hidden underground with a surprise passenger aboard – Mon-El. Kara's joy is shortlived when she discovers Mon-El seems to have changed, and attacks DEO agents to obtain an artifact. Mon-El reveals he spent seven years in the far off future and that his ship's life support needed to be fixed...and that he's married. J'onn helps his father adjust to life on Earth. Sam discovers the not-so-shocking truth about her origins, as well as a dire destiny.

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Mon-El's back, baby, and he's broodier than ever! This is actually a solid episode, though it does feel a little bit undercooked – I found myself waiting for the plot of the thing to kick in right up until the final minutes. As much as this episode has a "villain of the week," it's Mon-El himself, but it's about halfway through the episode before that becomes clear, and even then the conflict is dispensed with pretty quickly. Anyway, if Mon-El must come back, this is probably the best way for him to do it – as a character, he's seven years removed from when we last saw him, which gives the show an excuse to mature him a little bit and give him some rougher edges. Keeping him and Kara apart with a surprise wife is the most obvious choice Supergirl could've made, but we had to get some relationship drama this year, I guess.

I've been sort of on the fence about the Sam stuff this year – she's a decent enough addition to the main cast, but she did just sort of slide in and become a primary character, and it seemed obvious they were setting her up to be, if nothing else, a major mystery for the year, if not an outright villain. With the reveal that she's actually Reign, a major comics villain from a few years back, she seems poised to become the season's primary antagonist for this year. I'm into this so far, and I'm intrigued to see how it plays out, but I do wonder if this will lead Supergirl to the same issue we've seen with The Flash until recently – for the third year in a row, the primary threat appears to be mainly an evil version of the main character, which is a trick you can only do so many times before diminishing returns start to set in. 

The Flash S4E7 "Therefore I Am"

Though Clifford DeVoe seems like an upstanding citizen with a happy home life, Barry is convinced he's the one responsible for the new metahumans the team has been dealing with. Iris and the rest of the team are concerned as Barry resorts to ever more desperate methods trying to prove his theory – including breaking into the DeVoes' home. In flashback, DeVoe and his wife, Marlize, work to implement a plan to expand Clifford's mind, with the help of technology and the STAR Labs particle accelerator. When the accelerator explodes and DeVoe is struck by lightning, he finds his intelligence greatly expanded, but his body failing.

This episode is a straight-up banger, y'all. This episode sets up DeVoe as an extremely compelling villain, and I'm very interested to see where this goes. The flashbacks go a long way toward establishing DeVoe as someone who feels relatively human and, at least within the confines of this show, believably selling his motivations and transformation. I'm not totally sure what the plan is to begin with – he wants to make his students smarter but he can't do that until he's smarter, or something? – but that's a minor quibble.

A lot of this, I think, comes down to Neil Sandilands' performance; as DeVoe, he manages to portray a character who's charming and quietly frustrated, and I completely buy the affection he has for his wife. I'm willing to grant that a lot may come from the fact that this is just a refreshing change of pace for The Flash – in the Thinker, we have a villain who isn't just a menacing speedster, and we've dispensed of the mystery of who this guy is and what he's about pretty early. That's the kind of changeup this show sorely needed, and I am here for it.

I'm not sure I totally buy Barry's motivations here – I don't know that we ever properly lay the groundwork for why he's so suspicious of DeVoe from the start, or at least why everybody else is so willing to write him off as a suspect. It's not really until Barry finds the surveillance equipment that it really starts to feel properly motivated, but beyond that this works well enough. We know Barry's right and we know the episode will play that out, but pitting him against the rest of the cast, however briefly, is a fun thing to see play out.

Legends of Tomorrow S3E7 "Welcome to the Jungle"

With Sara in a coma, the team looks to distract themselves by investigating reports of a creature attacking soldiers during the Vietnam War.  The creature is actually a time-displaced Gorilla Grodd, and he's not attacking anyone – he's recruiting American soldiers and Viet Cong in hopes of creating an army, as well as killing President Lyndon Johnson to ignite World War III. Mick runs into his father, a Green Beret – and must contend with the fact that his dad might have been a more damaged and complicated person than he realized. Jax discovers that Stein's research proves Firestorm can be separated, but leave Jax powerless, leading him to consider what life on the Waverider would be as a regular person.

I don't have much else to say about this episode, but I'm always here for some Grodd. We do some nice character work with Grodd in this episode, though, while keeping him firmly in the supervillain camp. His rage and pain over the way he's been treated by humanity works pretty well, and it's totally believable that Amaya would, however briefly, be able to get through to him. Legends seems poised to keep him around this year, what with him meeting up with Darhk at the end, so I'm interested see how much, if at all, this comes up in future episodes.

The rest of the episode is fine and hits most of the beats you expect this show to hit by going to Vietnam. The stuff with Mick and his dad (who is hilariously named Dick, because rhymes) is as predictable as you'd expect – Mick discovers the dad who abused him was maybe a person with lots of damage, Dick is basically just doing a bad Mick impression, they both like fire. I'm not totally sure where the Firestorm stuff is going; Victor Garber is, indeed, on his way out, so it seems likely that they'll end up writing in one of the many, many comics characters who've been part of Firestorm over the years, but given the ways the show has not-so-subtly kept Stein and Jax apart in the first two seasons to write their way out of an expensive effect, it wouldn't surprise me at all if they just left Jax as a regular dude, at least for a while (surely this rampant, obviously incorrect speculation will hide the fact that I just don't have much to say about this episode!).

Arrow S6E7 "Thanksgiving"

At a public event commemorating the opening of the new Star City Police Department, Agent Watson arrests Oliver on charges related to him being the Green Arrow. Meanwhile, Curtis gives Diggle an experimental treatment for his nerve damage, only to discover in the field that it hasn't worked. As the team contemplates how to stop Cayden James and Black Siren without the Green Arrow, the duo plots to detonate a massive bomb during a concert. Unable to get the concert canceled with mayoral powers, Oliver must don the hood again to lead the team. 

It was only a matter of time before Arrow put Stephen Amell back in the hood, but I admit the show zagged on me a little bit. At first I found myself disappointed that the Diggle era, such as it is, was ending so quickly, but Arrow seems committed to this direction – it's made very clear that the plan is for Diggle to take back the hood, so we're really just divining a reason for Oliver Queen to be the Green Arrow for the big crossover next week, which I guess I don't have a strong opinion about one way or another – though it would be cool to see Diggle headlining the thing as the Green Arrow, and this episode seems to set him up to sit it out more or less entirely, which is a bummer. 

Aside from that, this episode feels a bit by-the-numbers; the story beats are pretty predictable here – the way the Diggle-Oliver argument plays out, the stuff with Oliver deciding to put the hood back on, even the "James turned public opinion against us" twist at the end. Honestly, the weirdest choice this episode makes is name-dropping Billy Joel a lot, down to having some stock footage of him to sell that yeah, he's playin' Star City. I can't decide if this is some sort of cross-promotion or if the writers decided this would be some nice flavor and just decided to double-down on it.

Next week: Crisis!


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Matt Liparota
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