CW Superhero Roundup: One step back, two steps forward


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.

Our alarm was set a bit too late, so we missed the boat on doing a full feature for the first week of the CW Network’s quartet of DC shared universe shows, so let’s briefly touch on those. The big theme for each show last week seemed to be “get back to the status quo as quickly as possible,” for better and worse. Supergirl makes a big deal about Kara ditching her personal identity to superhero full-time, but gives in on that by episode’s end with a minimal amount of convincing. The Flash MacGuffins Barry back into the fold by the halfway point before seemingly restoring everything back to normal by the end of the episode. 

Over in Legends of Tomorrow, we resolve last year’s dino-centric cliffhanger literally in the cold open as a way of setting up this year’s new, slightly altered status quo (Rip Hunter started an organization of stuffy time travelers and is kind of a jerk about it, but our heroes ultimately still get to fly around on their spaceship and have adventures). Arrow drops us right back into the action in Star City, choosing to use last season’s explosive cliffhanger as seeming fodder for this year’s flashback story (rather than doing the most sensible thing and ditching them entirely now that the narrative circle has been closed).  

Of course, this week puts the lie to that interpretation a bit, as each show picks up light plot threads spinning out of the previous season while still getting back to the standard villain of the week plots and beginning to build out this year’s arcs. It felt a bit forced last week, but this time around we settle into a much more comfortable groove as the Arrowverse’s various seasons start to spin up. If last week was a step back, this week is two steps forward. 

Supergirl, S3E2 – “Triggers”

When Lena decides to oversee day-to-day operations at CatCo, she finds herself at odds with both Kara and James. Meanwhile, DEO must contend with Psi, a metahuman who can evoke people’s greatest fears – which forces Supergirl to confront her lingering fear and self-loathing over Mon-El. Ruby puts herself in danger in hopes of forcing Samantha to prove she has superpowers.

It’s very weird how they’ve spun Lena Luthor buying CatCo into Lena just…working at CatCo now? Obviously this is a move designed to get Katie McGrath into the normal story flow more naturally, since she’s been upgraded to a main cast member this season. But I’m pretty sure megarich people who buy media companies don’t then set aside their more profitable businesses to work at the media companies day-to-day. Like, I’m pretty sure Jeff Bezos isn’t hanging out at the Washington Post every day looking over editorial content like Lena seems to be doing here. This wouldn’t be so weird if we were led to believe this was just Lena getting her bearings as the new owner and learning about her investment, but introducing Supermom at the end as the person picking up day-to-day operations at L-Corp is what makes it unusual. Are we to believe Lena is handing over executive operations to an outside hire?

The rest is pretty boilerplate Supergirl stuff, but its got some subtle seasonlong stuff going on here. The premiere ended on a note that made it seem like Kara’s struggles with her personal life were basically settled – from “I’m not Kara anymore” to “I guess I’ll unquit my job” in 45 minutes flat – but with “Triggers” we see that it’s not so simple. Kara may have given up on her plan to become Supergirl full-time, but she’s still got a sense that her non-super life is in shambles and fighting evil is the only thing that really makes sense. I definitely appreciate that, even if a lot of it is still wrapped up in Mon-El-related mourning. Like, I get it as a character motivation, but I think everyone who isn’t directly connected to the show kind of agrees that Mon-El never really worked.

The Flash S4E2 – Mixed Signals

Barry is back, which means the Flash has returned to Central City. Not all is well, though, as the Scarlet Speedster finds himself at odds with the new leader at S.T.A.R. Labs – Iris West. Concerned about this new stress on their relationship, Iris signs the two up for couples therapy – which leads her to reveal some deeper issues with Barry. Team Flash must deal with a technopathic metahuman trying to kill his former business partners, but the Flash runs into a snag when he confronts the meta while wearing the new high-tech suit built for him by Cisco. 

The crux of this episode is Barry and Iris and their relationship troubles, but it doesn’t actually get that interesting until maybe two-thirds of the way through. Most of their arc this episode is every “Couples Therapy” cliche in the book – Barry doesn’t pay attention! The therapist writes down things the couple thinks she shouldn’t! It’s hilarious!  but once we get to the root of the issue it actually gets fairly interesting. Iris is upset with Barry for just bailing at the end of last season, which is perfectly reasonable. It’s an interesting, crunchy conflict, because everyone knows that Barry trapping himself in the speed force was the only move, but that doesn’t mean Iris isn’t hurt by the fact that he made a split-second unilateral decision that kinda wrecked her whole personal life. It seems to have largely been resolved in this episode, but it’s good that we’re still dealing with the fallout of last season in smaller ways.

(Also, haha, everyone in-universe assumes that Barry and Iris are “gold standard” for a relationship, that is HILARIOUS.)

The rest of the episode is pretty standard – nothing to write home about, though it is pretty fun. The villain of the week isn’t anything special, mainly an excuse to introduce another one-off comic villain and make bad Silicon Valley jokes (both the geographical location and the HBO comedy series). It’s a fun if largely inconsequential episode – the stuff with Barry’s malfunctioning supersuit at the end is pretty solid, sneaking in a reference to Fat Flash from Flash #115 (but seriously, why does his suit have a laser beam now?). 

Legends of Tomorrow, S3E2, “Freakshow”

The Legends find themselves in 1870 Wisconsin, investigating an anachronism at P.T. Barnum’s famous circus. When the team accidentally frees the sabertooth tiger Barnum had captured, Sarah re-recruits Amaya to help track it down. Barnum already has his sights set on his next act, though, when he starts capturing members of the Legends to put into his act. On the Waverider, Sarah interrogates a Time Bureau spy and has to contend with an angry Agent Sharpe.

Look, I don’t have much to say here. Legends continues to be the most buckwild of these shows, just because the premise lends itself so much to zany adventures that can’t really be done on the other shows. And it leans right into it! It’s got the prerequisite soapy drama you expect from a superhero show on the CW, but most episodes of this show devote the bulk of their runtime to the wild adventure of the week. It isn’t always good but it’s always fun as hell.

Take “Freakshow,” for example – this show decided to do an episode set in a circus, and then got Billy Zane to play P.T. Barnum! That is wild! This episode makes the dude that played Superman do a scene where he scientifically analyzes sabretooth tiger shit! Then they capture that sabretooth tiger and turn him into a pet cat! This episode is just silly and fun, like the best of Legends

Arrow S6E2, “Tribute”

Oliver struggles to juggle his new life as a father with his duties as both mayor and vigilante, while an FBI investigation into whether he’s the Green Arrow spins up. Meanwhile, Ollie’s old friend Anatoli comes to town, taking hostages in an attempt to shake down Star City for a big payday. Diggle continues to deal with the injuries he sustained in Lian Yu and has to decide if he’s fit for Team Arrow duty.

I’ve gotta admit, the end of this week’s episode got me good. “Tribute” and “Fallout” both hit on the idea that Oliver can’t keep up his personal life and his superhero life now that he has a son pretty hard, but I didn’t expect that to come to a head quite so soon (I also wasn’t ruling out the idea that the show was playing a long game here, setting up a natural out for Oliver for a potential series finale this year). Diggle taking on the hood is a clever way to give him the spotlight – something David Ramsey really hasn’t seen for a few years on this show – and it keeps his subplot from getting stuck in B plot hell. I give it five episodes, tops, before Oliver is back in the green, but this is a nice change of pace for now.

Meanwhile, I find myself underwhelmed by Oliver’s latest identity outing. We’ve been down this road several times before, to largely the same conclusion. It seems like the FBI agent is sticking around for a bit so this genie hasn’t been totally stuffed back into the bottle yet, but I can’t imagine a scenario that doesn’t have a similar conclusion to the last few times we’ve been down this road. The FBI seems pretty intent on bringing Oliver up on murder charges, and I can’t imagine any scenario where that actually happens; it seems clear we’re going to end up in the same place we were back in season 3, at least at this early juncture. 

Also, this episode may be a one-off, but it’s possible my interpretations of last week’s island adventures as the new yearlong flashback arc may have been premature. We’ve got no flashbacks this week, and if that’s a sign of things to come for this season that’s for the best. Arrow tied itself to the five-year flashbacks early on, but seemed to have largely run out of steam there by the end of the second season, which each successive flashback adventure feeling less relevant and focused than the last (although last year’s picked up a bit, if only for that scene in the finale where Oliver puts on his fake “deserted island” beard, which I contend is the most hilarious thing this show has ever done). If “Fallout” did represent the last of the annual flashback story – we’ll see you at the crossroads, Flashbacks, and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.