Berlantiverse Review: Flash and Supergirl

This will be a two-for-one review for reasons that shall become apparent as we go along.

Item the First: It’s a puff piece, it’s agit-prop, no, it’s Supergirl!

Dear, God, SOMEBODY SAVE THIS SHOW.

….Sigh. Too late.

Let’s break this down into its component suckage.

The Good: The move for the CW has, in all honesty, improved the series. In the first few episodes, you can see the budget show up on the screen.

I guess that means that the filming on location in LA really did eat up most of the budget while they were on CBS.

Here and there are signs that obvious effort  is being put into …. elements of the episodes. EG: The final result of the villain, Parasite, wasn’t that bad. I say the final  result because in this version, he was really a global warming fanatic who went insane. Because, you know, that’s such a motivator.

I will also compliment them in taking some decisions that surprised me. Mostly, they decided to avoid making every member of the Luthor family into a flaming psychopath.

While we’re being honest, I liked their Superman. He SMILES. Was he allowed to smile since Christopher Reeves? I mean, Brandon Routh was so dang stiff, he should have been an awesome Superman. He wasn’t even allowed to smile until he became Ray Palmer, and now, he makes a great Clark Kent on Legends of Tomorrow … as the wrong character.

The Bad?

Everything else.

No, really. This is bad. While the opening of the season was okay, with Kara and Clark … they also had the character of Cat Grant lusting after a man who is obviously 15-20 years younger than she was. But that’s what my fast forward button is for.

The primary thread for the season revolves around “anti-alien sentiment” and a “home-grown terrorist group, Cadmus.” And it’s as though no one can understand why anyone would have harsh feelings against aliens after they nearly DESTROYED THE PLANET last season. While someone on the writing staff offered a little counterpoint to this thinly-veiled political analogue (Martian Manhunter directly opposing an “alien amnesty” proposed by a President Lynda Carter), this balanced approach isn’t that constant.

And, seriously, “amnesty”? I’m sorry, in a world where Superman has official citizenship of the United States, are they telling me there’s no way for these ETs to just fill out some paperwork? Is INS / ICE really still screwed up, even in the DCU? Are we kidding?

The less said about their message fiction this year, the better — the blunt forced message around Kara’s sister becoming a lesbian out of … nowhere, really. Yes, the character of Officer Leslie Thompson from the Superman comic was gay … then again, so was Rene Montoya, Cassandra Kane, and about half the women in the DC universe feel like they’re at least bi, if not 100% lesbian.

The sister’s sudden coming out of the closet is particularly startling after first season and her having a relationship with Maxwell Lord — who was so overbearing and overshadowing last season, his disappearance this season is whiplash-inducing.

This show has spent so much time with the sister becoming gay, and less and less time addressing an overall plot. I fast forward through at least a third of every episode, looking for a plot. Relationships are fine, but I want a story now, thanks

Oh, and then there’s Jimmy Olsen becoming the Guardian …. Do I even have to explain why this is a bad idea? Jimmy Olsen as a superhero.  Somehow, Jimmy Olsen is a cross between Iron Man and Batman. Look at him. He’s even IN IRON MAN’S SUPERHERO POSE.

Even Kara mentions how her cousin sometimes works with a guy with a lot of gadgets and a lot of issues — ie, Batman.

Oh, does this mean I can have Batman now? Please? Pretty please?

But, yeah, Jimmy Olsen as a superhero … because the son of the Toyman made him a suit. Point of order, but was this cobbled together out of DEO technology? Did no one miss themillions of dollars in hardware? Is it as inefficiently run as every other government organization? And now we have the problem that Tony Stark has — why is Wynn not making Guardian suits for every tactical team in the DEO?

Worst of all … why does JIMMY OLSEN have more time on screen as a superhero THAN SUPERGIRL in a series calledSUPERGIRL?

It it possible that Supergirlcan recover? Maybe. There was hint that Lynda Carter’s President was an alien, suggesting that she’s an alien menace, and that all of this illegal immigration analogy falls apart. But I don’t see it happening, their narrative would fall appart.

And this is so easily fixable. I honestly don’t care about Kara’s sister and her new girlfriend; if they focused less on that and more on THE PLOT, I’ll be happy.

In fact, you will find that complaint very often in the Berlantiverse reviews.  I want less focus on interpersonal relationships, and more of a plot. The sad thing is, for Supergirl, this is still an improvement over last season.

I may keep watching, if I have additional brain cells I feel like sacrificing. Otherwise, this is one hero I can do without.

Speaking of heroes I can do without…

I would really like to enjoy The Flash, I really would. But they make this so hard, it’s insane. For the entire calendar year of 2016, Season 2 and 3 on The Flash had more to do with whiny angsty soap opera crying about crap that’s easily fixed, or that people have no control over, or JUST. PLAIN. STUPID. CRAP.
If you thought I was joking about fast forwarding through fifteen minutes out of every Supergirl episodes, guess again. But I do that with The Flash as well. It drives me crazy.

In fact, one of my biggest problems with Season 3 has been how little they’re focusing on the villain of the week, and trying to focus on a primary villain for the season. And some efforts to actually try and make a villain du jour are half-hearted, at best, and a train wreck at worst.

For example: Let me introduce you to Richard Swift, aka: The Shade.

I am such a fan of the James Robinson Starman comic, which had, as a side character, a Flash villain called The Shade.

He looks like, well, this.

Yes, with those specs, he looks like hipster Jack the Ripper. But his powers really are from Hell. No, not from a reactor, not from lightning strikes, but from sacrificing over a hundred lives (I think over 300, but I could be mistaken). His powers are essentially demonic in nature. He would call creatures from the shadows that look like the demons of Ghost. I’m relatively certain that he could have taken out the Flash — any of them — except he was too busy having fun. He was generally amoral, immortal, and had more than enough money on his own. He didn’t particularly enjoy hurting people, but if they were intent on hurting him, he’d have no qualms over killing them.

And the Shade was cultured. He quoted Len Deighton novels and Igmar Bergman films, and was friends with Dickens and Wilde and Hans Christian Anderson.

He. Was. Awesome.

After I saw Stargirl on Legends of Tomorrow, my first thought was “Can I get the Shade now on Flash? Pretty please?”

And then, I see an episode title in the listings called: Shade.

YES!!!!!

I got …. nothing.

Really, nothing.

This is what I got. This is the best image my google-fu can come up with.

He wasn’t The Shade, just “Shade.” He didn’t call up shadow constructs, he turned into a shadow golem. He didn’t have a name. He didn’t have dialogue. He didn’t have motivation. In fact, I’m not even entirely certain why he killed the victim in the opening, and I really hope to God it wasn’t just for money, because he could turn into a shadow and walk into banks if he wanted to AND WHY AM I PUTTING UP WITH THIS?

Hell, so much of the episode dealt with the year-long arc, I’m trying to figure out why they even bothered with an enemy du jour in the first place. And to grossly, painfully, and deliberately use a character who was so freaking awesome for the near decade of Starman comics … this really pissed me off.

And that’s only ONE element of this that pisses me off.

This season started with a highly disorienting Flashpoint alternate timeline, which was then reversed. Honestly, I can’t tell you why messing with time released this year’s enemy, even though I’m certain they’ve mentioned it at least once. Then they brought out an enemy so obvious, HE’S PLAYED BY DRACO MALFOY.  I mean, seriously. Might as well have “Villain” tattooed on his forehead. And for some reason, Caitlin Snow manifests Killer Frost powers … why? How? When did this happen? No idea. Never explained. Why do her powers turn her evil? No idea. Never explained.

So far, the best elements of this season involved their Christmas episode, which actually explained something …. and the crossover episode.

This is another one I have totally given up on. There have been 9 episodes this season, and it feels like there may have been 4 episodes worth of content going on here, at most.

And the first person who tells me that Agents of Suck is good this season, no, I don’t want a Ghost Rider TV show. Thanks.

Here. Here’s something way more interesting, and a crap ton less angsty and whiny than any single episode this year. 

And, I can say without any shame at all, you’re better off reading any of the following books.

And if you have read them already, please leave a review.

    

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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