DC Series Roundup: 2/5

This week’s mini-recaps of The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow.

THE FLASH: “Fast Lane”

A pretty dull episode that exists as a counterpoint to the idea that this show moves too quickly, “Fast Lane” still manages to further a few important storylines. Namely, that of Earth-2 Harrison Wells, who makes good on his plan to sap Barry’s speed, only for Barry to almost immediately find him out — which is a nice touch. Earth-2 Wells is not the same man who mentored Barry in Season 1, so for their relationship to hit a similar-but-not-exact beats shades both characters nicely. Barry is ready to trust, and Wells is aware of how little he deserves that trust. When Barry forgives him (since he has good reasons for siding with Zoom), it bodes well for both characters going forward, and is the best development this episode brings. It doesn’t hurt that Barry is an overeager turd (that speedreading thing would be incredibly annoying), and Harry warns him that this sort of thing would happen.

The episode’s “villain,” as it were, is Tar Pit, a fourth-string DC villain who appears in maybe five scenes, all of them short. He was thrown into a vat of boiling tar during the particle accelerator explosion, spent two years stuck underground, and starting murdering his former associates after escaping. Eventually, Barry stops him, only running into trouble (heh) after Wells’s theft of his speed affects him. Aside from a very cool-looking sequence where Flash runs up a wall of molten lava to save Wally (who is still a drag racer, in the episode’s and potentially series’s least interesting sideplot), this doesn’t add much.

Anyway, a pretty light and uneventful episode that nevertheless gets things moving towards the season’s second half. We’re going to Earth-2 next week!

Episode Grade: B


ARROW: “Unchained”

I actually sort of missed Roy Harper. Despite being one of the better supporting characters in Seasons 1 and 2, his inclusion into Team Arrow proper last year felt forced, a necessity of comic canon and less an organic result of the show itself. He was a bit superfluous. As a returning guest character (one of many tonight), he fulfills a very specific and important purpose: he’s an outsider, and able to see through Oliver’s newfound dedication to taking the blame for everything.

Tonight’s main plot concerns DC villain Calculator, who is initially behind Roy’s re-emergence. There’s a camera in Roy’s eye (a sly nod to Arsenal’s comic book cyborg roots), and he’s been enlisted in stealing an assortment of parts for a “web nuke,” whatever the hell that is. Calculator, eventually revealed to be Felicity’s estranged father, is a fun villain, a logical big bad of Felicity’s own. Their interplay is great, and contributed to Felicity’s general rehabilitation this season.  After Roy manages to defeat Curtis at Palmer Labs (shades of Mr. Terrific for Legends Season 2?), he is captured and saved by Team Arrow, eventually joining their crusade against Calculator. When he decides to jump on the proverbial grenade, that theme comes to its conclusion, with Roy adamant that the sacrifice he’s prepared to make is his choice, not Oliver’s. Being a cool guy, Roy doesn’t look at the explosion, but he does survive it, freeing him up for future returns.

The flashback plot sees *another* return for Shado, and not much else, but the secondary plot sees Nyssa escape captivity in Nanda Parbat, duel Katana in Japan, and arrive in Star City to give Oliver another “Kill Malcolm or else” ultimatum. Except this time, the “or else” concerns Thea, who is slowly dying from Lazarus Pit complications of some sort (it’s magic, don’t look too hard at it). Malcolm insists that her bloodlust can keep her alive, but she refuses to kill, and is consigned to die. Echoing Roy (they’ve always been cutely in sync), she maintains to Oliver that it’s her choice. Oliver seems to accept this, but when Nyssa comes knocking with an alternative, of course he jumps on it. Learning a lesson and actually putting that lesson to use are two different things, and Oliver has yet to understand that.

Episode Grade: A-


LEGENDS OF TOMORROW: “Blood Ties”

In what is becoming typical Legends fashion, we jump into things quite quickly. Kendra is still in critical condition, and fading fast due to several shards of Vandal Savage’s knife in her bloodstream. Ray and Stein team up to save her, while Jax does his best to try and fix the ship and keep Snart and Mick in check, as the damage sustained in the first episode has kept the team moored in 1975.

Rip and Sara do their best to cripple Savage’s funds, tracking them to a bank that quite predictably turns out to be staffed by ninjas and assassins. Good news for us, bad news for the assassins, as in a nice bit of cross-show continuity, Sara too is suffering from the post-Lazarus bloodlust. Thankfully, she has plenty of bad dudes to kill, but it still has an effect on her psyche. When the last surviving ninja banker (what a goofy show) lets slip that Rip tried to kill Savage once before, just after he first received his power, and failed. Both characters consider themselves monsters for their failings, which is a bit hokey but a good way of helping the cast gel.

Speaking of, Snart and Rory hijack the hitherto never-mentioned scout craft, travel to Central City, and steal a diamond. At first, this just seems like good harmless fun for a pair of thieves and their unwilling getaway driver, but turns into some really solid character development for Snart, who is stealing said diamond so his father won’t go to prison for attempting it. Snart quite predictably runs into his younger self, and for once lets his cool (heh) facade down, telling Young Snart not to let anyone ever hurt him.

Ray and Stein have a few moments of their own, as the former begins to overcome his inferiority complex and save Kendra’s life, thanks to Stein pretending to remember Palmer as a student and feeding him a bunch of platitudes. It works, amusingly, and both characters are stronger for it.

When the crew eventually reunites to confront Savage at a posh ball — held to celebrate the death of Hawkman — to save Rip and Sara (prompting a great “Eyes Wide Shut” reference from Mick, who, as Rip said at the start of the episode, isn’t as thick as people say), they work pretty well as a team, taking out Savage’s goons. Rip eventually gets the better of Savage, but can’t kill him (he literally can’t). As it turns out, his meddling, both 4,000 years ago and now, has consequences, inadvertently setting Savage on the hunt for Rip’s loved ones in retaliation for the Time Master’s meddling. Similarly, Snart’s efforts to change his future backfire, as his father is arrested for trying to sell the diamond instead of stealing it. Snart, to his credit, is a little more self-aware about his meddling, brushing off Jax’s insistence that the effort is what counted.

In the end, Savage is temporarily defeated, Carter’s body is saved, Kendra is healed, and the team says their goodbyes (to their worst member) before they blast off into the future. If the first two episodes were table setting, this was table clearing, and two things are apparent. One, Vandal Savage is not a particularly invigorating villain (though his snarling contempt for Rip was his best appearance yet), and two, the four primary characters seem to be Ray, Rip, Sara and Snart, with everyone else playing ancillary roles to one or both of them in most storyline. That mixing and matching is liable to make things feel fresh, and the action is still propulsive, but one has to wonder what the end game might look like.

Episode Grade: B

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