Feelin’ TV: October 9-15, 2017

The biggest news in my TV watching world this week is that the CW’s Arrowverse kicked back into action after the summer layoff. These aren’t the best shows that I watch every week, but they’re probably the ones that I most look forward to. Each of them went through spells where they were uninspired and drab, but they’ve also had some impressively high highs. If you haven’t watched before and you like properties based on comic books, I’d suggest giving them a shot. But if you just want to jump right in, the next few paragraphs will give you a bit of where we’ve been and a quick note or two on where the season premieres seem to say that we’re going.

Supergirl ended its second season overall (and first season in the Arrowverse on The CW) in gut-wrenching fashion. In order to save National City and the world from the invasion of the Daxamites, Team Supergirl was forced to take measures that meant the love of Kara’s life, Mon-El the Daxamite, wouldn’t be able to live in the earth’s atmosphere anymore. Our season premiere picks up a few months after that decision with Kara still unable to handle her feelings. She throws herself into her life as Supergirl and neglects her responsibilities as Kara like her job, to her friends and her family. She’s facing an interesting question: If she’s going to continue to have to give up the things that make Kara happy for the greater good, then what is the point of the altar-ego in the first place. It isn’t the first time this line of thinking has been explored in the superhero genre, but it’s handled well because of a predictably great performance by Melissa Benoist. She has the ability to give Supergirl vulnerability without it coming off as weakness that is just a joy to watch every week. Season three brings a few new faces that will be familiar to longtime fans of super-hero TV about as well.  Adrian Pasdar (of Heroes and Agents of SHIELD fame) appears to be taking up the mantle as this season’s baddie Morgan Edge and Erica Durance (Smallville’s Lois Lane, taking Laura Benanti’s role) slides in to a supporting role as Supergirl’s Kryptonian mother, alive only in dreams and holograms, Alura Zor-El. If there’s one thing I didn’t love about the episode, its’s the way that everything gets set back to the status quo by the end of the premiere rather than letting things linger. These are complex issues that Kara is dealing with, so it would be nice to see it take a bit of time to resolve. It’s something that the Arrowverse does pretty often, and this season appears to be no different. It will be a recurring theme this week.

Speaking of a refusal to let things linger, The Flash returned this week as well. At the end of last season, Barry successfully thwarted Zoom’s plot to kill Iris West, but had to exile himself to the Speed Force Prison to keep the universe from being destroyed (it was a whole thing, I’m not sure I could explain it). If I’m being honest, it was kind of a dumb way to get Barry removed from the equation, but I was looking forward to seeing Team Flash in action for a few episodes this season until Barry’s inevitable return, provided the writers had the guts to keep him away for a while. But they did not.  Of course a villain came to town that promised to destroy Central City unless the real Flash faced him. Of course Sisco had been working on a way to bring him back that was just about done (it’s as if the writers totally forgot that the show tried to sell Barry’s banishment as permanent). Of course it worked, admittedly with some side effects. And of course, the side effects were a-okay by the end of the episode. It was an unfortunate development even though I’m a big fan of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen and I like having him around. But when the consequences of a character’s decisions last for less than an hour in TV runtime, it’s pretty hard to believe that any of the stakes are very high. All of that being said, most of last season (and the season before that) was pretty mediocre to poor, so if hitting the reset button a little too quickly gets us to the fun Flash of season one as the writers are promising, then I’ll eat crow. We’ll need some more context to see if that’s the case.

At least The Flash took a whole episode to press reset. Legends of Tomorrow did it before the first commercial break. When we last left the Legends, they had returned to the present day only to see that time had gone crazy. There were dinosaurs in the streets for crying out loud! But not a minute after the “Previously on” segment, Rip Hunter shows up with his new team of time fixers, who take care of everything effectively and efficiently, and disbands the Legends. Each of our heroes find themselves in the middle of a mundane existence that they can hardly stand (one that looks a lot like yours and mine), but they’re given a reason to regroup when Mick Rory runs into Julius Caesar on his vacation in Aruba. The group proceeds to attempt to take him back to his time, make a mess of things, and then clean it up again. Legends is one show where I don’t mind the quick reset. Each season so far has seemed like its own thing to the show’s credit. It isn’t a show that asks the deep questions. It’s a show about a bunch of heroes that travel through time and screw stuff up. It’s not going to win any Emmy’s, but it might just be the most enjoyable show that I watch every week. Having a season by season arc rather than carrying past seasons worth of baggage keeps the show light and fun.

Arrow returned after an explosive (pun intended because, let’s admit it, all puns are intended) finale that saw Oliver watching in horror as an island with all of Team Arrow blew up before his very eyes. The finale gave us little in the way of hope that anyone other than Ollie survived. But, hey, this is Arrow not Game of Thrones, so season three quickly assures us that everyone is okay (well, Oliver’s son William’s mom died, but we didn’t know her really and Thea is in a coma, but still). That didn’t make me upset because there’s no one on Team Arrow that I don’t like, but again, like The Flash, it keeps the stakes pretty low. The rest of the episode was really solid though with Bad Laurel back from the dead to wreak havoc on Star City’s police department and someone finally outs Oliver as Green Arrow on the news for all to see. Now unless the Legends of Tomorrow show up and use their Men In Black style flashy-thingy on the whole city, things are going to get pretty difficult for Ollie. Throw on the added difficulty that he’s experiencing as a new single father, and you have the makings of a pretty good arc for Arrow’s sixth season. While Arrow has had its issues, I believe that season five really put the show back on track. The biggest difference has been Oliver Queen’s growth as a character. He seems to be in a position to grow even further this year.

Previous seasons for all four shows in the Arrow universe can be streamed on Netflix. Episodes from the current season can be found on The CW app. 

Channel Surfing:

  • Riverdale also returned to The CW this week in a premiere that picks up literally minutes after the finale left off. Riverdale was last season’s most surprising show in that from the outside looking in it appeared to be just another CW drama in a long line of CW dramas that I had no interest in. But by grounding the story in the rich world of the Archie comics and presenting a solid mystery with great performances from a young cast, it completely surpassed my expectations. I’m interested to see if the tension can be sustained now that last season’s arc is complete. The questions about the identity of Fred Andrews’ killer and whether or not Jughead joins the Serpents don’t grab me nearly as much as the mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of Jason Blossom. We’ll see if they can bring in a little more intrigue here in the next few weeks. Mark Consuelos’ addition to the cast as the slimy Hiram Lodge is a good start. The first season of Riverdale can be found streaming on Netflix and the season premiere is now available on the CW app.
  • Halt and Catch Fire ended this past weekend with a solid 2 hour finale. I hesitated to mention it here because I plan on writing more on it later, but it was too perfect not to mention. In the beginning of the episode, Lee Pace’s Joe McMillan recalls a time when he told Scoot McNairy’s now deceased Gordon Clark that the advent of the personal computer wasn’t “the thing” but that it was “the thing that gets you to the thing.” In the context of his speech, “the thing” is the internet. But the finale shows how that idea of “the thing that gets you to the thing” has been weaved throughout the tapestry of the show from the very beginning. In the end we see that the thing at the end isn’t nearly as satisfying as the thing that got you there. In the case of Halt and Catch Fire, that thing is the relationships between the five core characters. While Joe, Cam, Donna, Gordon and Boz have experienced love and hate and everything in between over the course of almost 15 years, they’ve also been constant in each others’ lives, spurring each other on towards growth and maturity. The characters in the finale would be nearly unrecognizable to the characters in the series premiere. But that isn’t the case because of poor writing that isn’t true to the characters, it’s the case because each of them has experienced tremendous growth. It’s not often that I get sad when a show ends because there are so many out there that I keep up with, but I’m going to miss Halt and Catch Fire. Seasons 1-3 of Halt and Catch Fire can be viewed on Netflix and season 4 can be streamed on the AMC app with your cable subscription.

That’s all for this week. That was a long one! Next week, The Walking Dead is back and we’re less than two weeks away from Stranger Things 2! If you’re an Arrowverse fan, come talk about the shows in our weekly Facebook Arrowverse thread. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. I really do listen! I didn’t start watching Halt and Catch Fire until I heard about it from someone in the group, so keep those suggestions coming.

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