Berlanti’s universe at CW has come such a long way since that super exciting release of Arrow’s maiden telecast. To be fair, even though loads of comic book inspired TV shows have always existed, Arrow set a precedent for a whole new standard. About five years hence, not only has Arrow grown and journeyed with ups and downs, but also it did lead to birthing 3 other prime time superhero shows within the same said universe. This is a report card of sorts, of how each show performed individually as well as collectively, this year.
This season was a HUGE upgrade from the last two seasons. The best part about Arrow were the first two seasons. Season 3 and 4, had glimpses of glory but were overall terribly dull. This season was a resurgence of sorts. A promise that the producers had made before the season began was that in many ways it was meant to honour the beginning of the show. Which was kept. So what were the best parts of Arrow?
- The Villain. Adrian Chase was a formidable villain for so many reasons. He was insane. More insane than any of Oliver’s previous foes. Probably because the previous big bads in some way meant to attack the city that Oliver protected while Chase wanted to break Oliver himself. Prometheus being Adrian Chase was a bit disappointing because I was hoping it would be someone from the past many seasons. But the twist worked because we were thrown off by Vigilante’s existence in the city. And the villain worked because he was not only crazy but also always ten steps ahead of the Green Arrow and team.
- The Season Finale. One thing that worked well with Arrow was it was meant to be a Batman-esque reprisal on TV. Which meant that the Green Arrow spent most of his time fighting crime in the nights. I know this sounds like a very sublime detail, but I enjoyed the visuals of the last episode more simply because of it being made in broad daylight. Also, the return of Slade Wilson is always welcomed. All in all, it wasn’t as disappointing a fight as these overcrowded superhero fights are on CW’s superhero shows.
- Flashbacks. The flashbacks of the previous two seasons were awful. As simple as that. But one thing us fans have been waiting for is Olly’s connect with the Bratva. We finally got to see it. Granted that it could’ve been so much more, but in contrast to the previous seasons’ flashbacks, it did fairly well.
Arrow has had it’s ups and downs in terms of quality over the last five years. It’s fair to say that this year did have more ups than downs, but that doesn’t discount the fact that there were downs at all in the first place.
- New Team. My favourite thing about Arrow’s Batman-esque quality was his ability to do things on his own. His reliance on others was never there. Even when the new team came into play in the earlier seasons, it all seemed fine by me because it was written out more organically. Felicity got on board for her tech skills. Something that Oliver would test before she actually came aboard the team. Sarah Lance is my favourite reprisal of the Canary. Also believable because she had training from the best. As opposed to how Laurel just randomly chose to take on her mantle and some how magically became good it. (‘Randomly’ because the show began with her stance of anti-vigilantism defining her character.) Finally Roy Harper was a fair inclusion because he was trained by Olliver himself. This season, the new team was shoved down our throats unnecessarily. Mr. Terrific was exciting in the previous season. But he was just used this season for comic addition. Which he’s not all that good at, by the way. But points for trying. Wild Dog is very random. A bit annoying even. Ragman was so useless that the writers wrote him off themselves. Artemis was abused as a character, when it could’ve been something important if the storylines were more cannon. I liked the new Black Canary, but again a storyline that was forced in. It could’ve taken it’s time or even been kept for the next season.
This is the unforgivable parts of the show. The Bad parts are just choices that the show made that may have not worked. But, there are things that’s holding this show from being a gem of work. I mean it’s literally the haven of DC comics on television. Marvel seems to be upping their quality with production alone.
- Writing. The overall storyline is fair enough and I can buy them. But it’s the writing of episodes that throw me off. Weak dialogues. And even weaker narratives. These screenwriters shouldn’t assume that the audience is stupid. Characters don’t have to reiterate the obvious. And henceforth what happens is that in the 40 odd minutes of the show you end up having to cram things without letting them happen naturally. This isn’t a soap opera. That being said, arguably this isn’t a comic either. Arrow promised to be a realistic retelling of the superhero’s saga. And it did start off as that. But you got to up your writing in order for me to take you seriously.
- Acting. Alright, this is a tricky one to address. I don’t know if I have to blame weak writing for the bad acting or bad actors for it. For instance Felicity is amazing as the funny geek who rambles while being productive as well. But when it comes to serious (and god so unnecessary) conflicts, she’s terribly synthetic and not believable. Same goes for most of the other characters who can’t act out serious dramatics. As much as I love Willa Holland, I can’t believe I’ve never noticed how bad her dialogue delivery is. She always has her jaws shut and breaks her sentence into every word. It puts you off.
The Flash had a fantastic first two seasons, even more so because correspondingly Arrow was producing some substandard work. Now the downside to this is that Season 3 wass set out with high expectations. That being said, the writers have tried real hard to bring in their A game, with the likes of Flashpoint and Savitar. Unfortunately, these same parameters blew back at the show’s face. But there still were some goods in the show that hasn’t wrecked it up entirely and help us cope with the damages made at all in the first place.
- Killer Frost. Caitlyn worked extremely well as a character whether it was as an ally or villain. Moreover that very conflict of friend or foe, has built enough intrigue for this character. Full points to Danielle Panabaker for her reprisal of this iconic Rogues villain.
- New team. Unlike on the Arrow, the new members to the team were written in rather more carefully. More effectively, these characters weren’t given so much of core importance initially, and that way we got to first get ourselves familiarise with them before beginning to root for them as one of us. Julian Albert was exciting simply because of Tom Felton. But the one who seemed to have struck a chord with the audience was H.R. This new Wells was relieving and well portrayed and everyone seems to have loved him.
Unfortunately this season, the bads definitely overweigh the goods.
- Flashpoint. This just did not work. This is such an iconic storyline in all of superhero comics. But this one episode rendition of it was disappointing to say the least. The writers tried. And that’s fair. But man, I’d rather not have a Flashpoint episode at all. This story could have arced out for a few more episodes at least. The consequences of Flashpoint were annoying. Like Cisco’s newfound brood. Even more so I would’ve loved if Flashpoint affected the other shows on the universe but I get why that’s operationally difficult for how many ever reasons.
- Savitar. Now it’s not that the character was bad. Neither do I have any problem with the villain being another speedster. But since the stakes were so high, the writers had to throw in everything that they had including there being an ultimate twist of who Savitar was. We even had Abra Kedabra from the future having to reiterate how Savitar was the biggest baddie that he’s ever had or ever will have. Now the problem with the show is that the clues they place are far too obvious if the internet figures it out in mere minutes post the telecast. Same as was the issue with Arrow, the writers need to up their game by taking their own characters seriously.
The acting and writing issue holds valid even here. Maybe not as much as it does in Arrow though. But there are some bigger issues here as well.
- Kid Flash. Man, this was terrible. Wally West is iconic. Such an important Flash. But Wally in the show was just a joke. Can you believe they actually wrote Wally’s character as someone who felt bad because his friend had superpowers but he didn’t? What is this, a kindergarten recess party? They NEED to fix this so that Wally West has the respect he deserves.
DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow
Season 1 was exciting simply because this show was introduced to us as the Justice League B team. But Season 1 failed for many reasons. Even though it had such an important villain. The season would’ve have probably worked better as TV movie. But Season 2, upped it’s game much like Arrow managed to do.
- New Members. Nate Heywood and the new Vixen were interesting additions and very comfortable fits for the team. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are such important DC characters but somehow weren’t existing to the best of their reprisals on the show.
- Justice Society Of America. A glimpse at this legacy Justice League team was exciting. I wasn’t too wild about how their fates panned out, but I just love that these characters were given a live-action creation in the first place.
- Time-travelling liberties. The writers had some fun with introducing us to Einstein, Tolkein and George Lucas even. Which was pretty cool simply because these guys literally have a time machine and you’d have expected the writers to have some fun with it. Moreover the over-all storyline wasn’t very constrained anymore as was in the first season.
This show for me is still the weakest of the lot. And inevitably will contain a list of lulls.
- Characters. I honestly don’t like the White Canary. I loved Sara Lance as the Canary in Arrow. But I don’t get her new attitude on this show. Jax is very underwhelming as Firestorm. I loved Ronnie Raymond, but I find Jax terrible. Worst is how again this show goes on to write lame story arcs like the ego clash of who should captain the waverider. I still don’t get why Heat Wave is on the team.
- Legion Of Doom. Now it’s not that the Legion is a bad villain group. It’s just that it felt way too dominated by the Reverse Flash. Technically, it felt like he was more of the main villain than the Legion. That ambiguity should’ve been corrected.
Bad writing and acting definitely is a massive issue on this show. More than The Flash even.
- Rip Hunter. I like Rip Hunter as a character. But this season he was simply all over the place. Worst of all was him having a moment with Gideon.
- Characters. Now I really wish that we could see some in depth character dissection of our favourite heroes, but like I’ve mentioned before our actors are simply not good enough to go that far. So instead I’d at least enjoy some realistic bonding of characters as opposed to the artificially appearing forced nonsensical interactions that the show portrays. Every episode’s trail is banal and winds up having characters just throwing about jargons within their field of expertise. Point being writing should improve. Drastically.
I enjoyed Supergirl Season 1 more than most people seemed to have. There were some very obvious issues with the first season but the new season instantly righted them.
- Superman. Hands down the most exciting thing about the new season. This was such a tricky thing to do especially when we already have a current live action version, but I loved what they did with CW’s Superman. He was fresh, optimistic and had a sense of humour. Very close to Christopher Reeve’s version. His role in the final episode was kinda blah though.
- Martian Manhunter. Now this is a very very powerful character. He did not get the amount of respect he deserved in season 1. Season 2 righted that by putting out his superpowers such as mind reading and intangibility into play. Most iconic thing that went unnoticed was that this was the first time we got to see Superman and him on screen outside the animation world. So iconic because these are two founding members of the original Justice League. I didn’t enjoy the fight they had with Metallo though. Basically they portrayed Alex(a human) and Supergirl as equally powerful as Superman and Martian Manhunter. Bollocks.
- Relationships. Jimmy Olsen and Kara’s relationship was so shite in season 1 that it was painful. Nothing has ever been forced down audience’s throats as much as this. But Season 2 corrected that almost instantly. I loved how the show handled Alex’s sexuality as well. Mon-El’s relationship with Kara was more organic, and something I’d buy over that of Olsen’s any day.
- Feminism. One of the most annoying thing about Season 1 was the explicit endorsement of feminism. I’m fine with feminism. But when you have to verbally keep iterating a woman’s worth it kinda defeats its purpose. This season resolved that. Nobody was saying things like “Oh, women are more stronger”. They instead went on to write their female characters as more powerful. Not just by virtue of superpowers. But by virtue of everything in the storyline.
- Luthors. Lena Luthor was really good. But her vulnerability seems a little off the charts. But again, the Luthors are such important characters in Superman’s world and I think they were gracefully treated this season.
Now my list of the good stuff seemed to go on and on that I had to stop myself to get to this part. This wasn’t a perfect show at all. But there’s hope that it could get there. There are many things that’s stopping it from being there, and some are below.
- Guardian. It’s almost like they introduced Olsen into the show and don’t know what to do with him. So they keep throwing his character around in experimentation. The Guardian is a terrible idea. Send Jimmy back to Metropolis at least. That way we won’t unnecessarily start disliking him.
- Cyborg Superman. This guy is a joke. I’m fine with bad costuming but what the hell? This guy is written so badly. It’s like he’s just there because he was already introduced so they don’t know what to do with him.
- Winn Schott. I love this character. I would actually rather have him go out with Kara. But I hate that he’s always gotta play second fiddle in every story line. Alex is given way too much of weightage in this show and I’d rather have all that importance given to Winn.
I know I know I’ve mentioned it on every show but it’s important to say it again and again till its gotten right.
- Writing. This has to be corrected. It’s not the hardest thing to do. Across all four shows I’m fine with CGI and costuming being weak. But not bad writing. This is unforgivable. Needs to up the game.
- Cat Grant. Cat is a fantastic character and brilliantly portrayed. But she could get a little over the top. Which seems like an unnecessary price to pay. But she fits the bill as Kara’s mentor and should contain more character than she does. But her absence led to an underused Snapper Carr and an overused Jimmy Olsen which should’ve been fixed.
Okay. The simplest way to say it is this. The four episode arc crossover was bad. Reason being (I repeat) bad writing. Don’t take your audience for granted. I’m fine with the story. But some of the interactions were stupid. The screenwriting team at CW has to drastically improve. All this being said, I enjoyed it. Simply because I’m that big a fan of DC. Crossovers, whether done well or not, will always excite me. But as a fan, I deserve better quality.
The musical episode wasn’t bad. I get that it was a mini Glee reunion and they didn’t really mock the actually superheroes or characters because they wrote them into a different world. We didn’t see these guys in capes dancing about like in a bollywood gig. So that was alright. But the episode’s end. God the cheese! I could do without it. CW obsesses over romance, but sucks at writing it.
All in all this was a very exciting year at CW. As a fan, I am content. But it’s 2017, and excuses can’t be made for bad execution. Every show has to up it’s game to survive. Reports already prove loss of audience for some of the shows, down by drastic numbers. Also lots of unanswered questions need to be addressed. Such as what happened to Vigilante? So when Hourman warned the Legends about their future in episode 1, was it an inevitable outcome or did the writers forget to fix the past? So is the flashpoint never gonna entirely be erased? Where’s Lucy Lance? Or what happened to Cadmus and Papa Danvers?
The same time last year, I wouldn’t have expected this much satisfaction for this season though. So same way I have hope that I would be even more pleased at the end of the next season.