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CW Superhero Roundup: Mature breakups

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Deathstroke'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 S3E5, “Damage”

When children all over National City start getting sick from lead poisoning, Lena’s business rival Morgan Edge claims the cause L-Corp’s lead bomb, used to repel the Daxamites. As Kara investigates the cause, public opinion turns against Lena who, feeling responsible, falls into a spiral of depression and self-doubt – until she decides to take matters into her own hands and confronts Edge.  Meanwhile, Alex and Maggie must face the fact that they want different things in life, but breaking up is hard to do. 

I really appreciate how the show has handled the dissolution of the Alex/Maggie romance. It seemed inevitable when news broke over last spring that Floriana Lima would shift to a more recurring role, but one could have reasonably expected the split to be more dramatic - cheating, a big fight, or death. What we get here, and what we’ve been moving toward since the beginning of the season, is something treated with a more deft, mature touch; this is a relationship that falls apart for understandable, adult reasons. These are two people who care about each other, who desperately want to find a way to resolve their issues in a way that allows them to continue on as they have been, but slowly come to realize there’s no way to stay together without one person making a major compromise, and that's untenable. There’s no malice or major inciting incident, just a sad, dawning resignation that there’s no way forward…it’s a treatment we see far too infrequently on television, and less so on a show like this, where the soap opera aspect is perpetually heightened. 

The Flash, S4E5, “Girls Night Out”

Barry and Iris split up for their respective bachelor and bachelorette parties, but neither goes exactly as planned. Ralph talks the boys into heading to a strip club, where Cisco manages to get Barry drunk and Joe discovers Cecile’s daughter is a dancer there – and Ralph runs afoul of the staff when he uses his newfound stretchy powers to skim from dancers’ tips. The girls, joined by a visiting Felicity, find themselves attacked by a figure from Caitlin’s past, which leads to a re-emergence of Killer Frost and a confrontation with a metahuman called Amunet, who wants Frost to join her as she starts selling a powerful new drug. 

We’ve got a fun little Caitlin/Iris spotlight here, but at its core is something that’s bugged me since last season. The Caitlin/Killer Frost dynamic is key to this one, and its frankly never worked for me since it was first introduced last season. The show has never effectively sold that Killer Frost is a wholly disparate identity from Caitlin and there’s never been a compelling explanation for why her powers manifest in this way when that’s not true of any other metahuman we’ve seen on any of these shows – it’s always felt more like a shortcut to get Danielle Panabaker into the same persona we saw from Earth-2 Caitlin back in the second season without doing any of the character work to get her there in a way that made sense (and be able to undo it on a whim), and now they’re stuck with a split-personality thing that’s just never really worked. Hopefully this episode - which leaves the two sides of Caitlin Snow with something akin to understanding one another - in a place where that can be effectively downplayed in the future and we don’t need to go through all of this rigamarole every time Caitlin wants to chill her beer.

That said, this episode is a lot of fun. The CW shows continue their streak of landing killer guest starts this year, with the phenomenal Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame stepping in as Amunet, gleefully chewing the scenery wherever she goes. I also appreciate that this episode cracks into the Iris and Caitlin’s friendship, which has never really been a “thing,” and deepens it a bit (but okay, if we’re supposedly this close to Barry and Iris’ wedding, it is crazy that Iris is only now just finding her maid of honor, right?). Over on the boys’ side of the episode, I’m enjoying what Hartley Sawyer brings to the show as Ralph, even if he is still drawn a bit too broadly as a seedy lech. Drunk Barry is fun enough, but it suffers from some of the same concerns that plagued the “magic LSD” plot in Legends a couple of weeks ago - it’s a bit too broad and a bit too stereotypical. 

Legends of Tomorrow S3E5, “Return of the Mack”

The Legends travel to Victorian London, teaming up with Rip Hunter to investigate what appears to be a series of vampire attacks. Hunter is seeking information on an evil called Mollus, the reason he allowed the Legends to take the Waverider. The team discovers the attacks are the result of Mollus’ followers, attempting to gather enough energy to resurrect a corpse from the future – Damien Dahrk. Sarah and Hunter clash over whether to prevent Dahrk’s resurrection or use him to draw out Mollus. Meanwhile, Ray attempts to come up with a solution that will allow Firestorm to separate, leaving Martin suspicious and Jax with some short-term memory loss. Zari finds herself drawn to a Mollus-worshipping psychic who seems to be able to channel her dead brother.

This is a fun episode, if somewhat disjointed and overpacked. It’s an interesting stealth Rip spotlight that has some solid insight to how he operates – that he only really trusts himself and ends up betraying any group he’s a part of isn’t something I’d considered but makes total sense; that subplot also has the benefit of putting the “Legends on the run from the Bureau” business to bed, which is something that hasn’t really made a ton of sense so far.

It’s interesting how quickly we move on from the ostensible premise of the episode - “Legends riffs on a Dracula story” - in favor of getting to how it ties into the seasonlong plot. Bringing back Damien Dahrk is a trick this show has pulled before, but Neal McDonough is still so charismatic and scenery-chewing in the role that I’m willing to forgive it. This also appears to be a version of the character from after his time on Arrow (as opposed to the “plucked-from-an-earlier-point-in-the-timestream” version we saw last season), so I’m curious to see if that changes the dynamics at all. Plus, he’s the catalyst for the “Return of the Mack” running gag the episode takes its name from, which pays off in a really amusing way at the end of the episode.

Arrow S6E5 “Deathstroke Returns"

Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke, returns, seeking help finding his son, Kane – but he wants Oliver Queen, not the Green Arrow. The two travel to Kasna and discover the boy is a spy who’s been captured by a deadly group of mercenaries, but not everything is as it seems. Team Arrow must again contend with Vigilante, revealed as Dinah’s former partner and lover, Vincent Sobel, who has his sights set on an anti-vigilante councilwoman, all while Agent Watson expands her investigation into the team. Flashbacks explore Slade’s relationship with his son, detailing a camping trip that led Deahtstroke on the path to Lian Yiu.

The Team Arrow side of the episode is solid enough, but let’s talk about how hilarious this Vigilante reveal is. See, Vigilante first appeared last season and the expectation early on was that he was Adrian Chase, another new character who happened to share the name with the character from the comics. That was a red herring, as Chase was revealed to be the season’s primary villain, Prometheus, but the showrunners went on record in saying that they knew who Vigilante was and it was someone viewers had met before. And now we know and they were right but…only in the most technical sense. Vincent Sobel is a character we’ve met exactly once before to my memory, in a flashback, for a few seconds. They’re technically not lying, but it feels a bit like a cheat.

The Oliver side of things is solid, if a bit predictable. Manu Bennett is always a welcome presence on the show, and his dynamic with Ollie is good as usual – even if we’re sort of narratively tiptoeing around the fact that this is a dude who slaughtered Oliver’s mom, crazy-making drugs or no. I don’t even mind that the flashbacks return this week; shifting from something that feels like an obligation every week to something that appears every now and again when they feel like they have something to say is okay by me.

Next week: The Danvers sisters go home for a little R&R, Barry trains Ralph, Jax and Martin pull a Freaky Friday and Slade deals with the fact that his son is a dangerous mercenary.

 


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Matt Liparota
Matt LiparotaEditor   gamer profile


 



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