The Flash — Shade
So this week the Flash gang faces off against the fearsome new rogue known as the Shade, but really, most of “Shade” was dedicated to catching back up with all of the little subplots that have been building alongside the more major events of the season. Caitlin reveals her Killer Frost powers to the group, or rather Cisco reveals her Killer Frost secret against her wishes, Joe finally goes on a date with Cecilia, Wally’s still having problems with not having any powers, and Barry spills his guts over everything he’s messed up by creating Flashpoint. Also, now Iris wants powers too? And apparently H.R.’s Earth-19 is completely nuts?
Taken as a whole, I actually thought “Shade” was a step up from most of the recent Flash episodes, and though some of the individual storylines didn’t do that much for me, it was at least mildly refreshing to have so many of this show’s dangling threads openly addressed in front of the whole group. With Joe and Cecilia, I don’t know how anyone can look at that development and think anything but “meh” (or maybe “buh” or “sneh”), but at least it gives Joe something to do other than worry about his kids, and if we’re really lucky… maybe it’ll lead somewhere sinister. With Wally, whose problems actually form the crux of the episode, I’m not sure they’re sticking the landing. I mean, I like Wally enough by now, but I just don’t feel the show’s done a good job illustrating the difference between Wally wanting powers for himself and Wally wanting powers to help people. They’ve said that Wally really wants to help people enough times, but to me the actor’s portrayal still reads a little bit too selfish for me to buy it, and his “So what?” at the possibility of getting hurt was such a good chance for him to display his selflessness by saying it’d be worth it, but instead it mostly came across as just another bitter, jealous I-hate-how-Barry-has-powers-and-I-don’t moment.
I felt differently about Caitlin’s story though, because there was a pretty strong grain of truth in her not being able to cope with the implications of what she’ll become, followed up with her admitting that she’s not good at asking people for help. I think both of those aspects of what she’s feeling are surprisingly mature for this show, and they’re revelations that help everything she’s been going through really sink in. Also, through Cisco’s vibing, we got to see a straight-up meta-battle between Vibe and Killer Frost, and was that Cisco wearing a full-on Vibe suit, complete with vest? Could Cisco always see the future? Did I forget that?
Anyway, we can pretty much skip right over the villain of the week, Shade, because I guess he got beaten with car headlights or something, and I still have nothing to say about Alchemy and whatever he’s got going on (Draco Malfoy is conspicuously absent? Shock!), and I don’t even have much to think about the cliffhanger because more “sneh”, all I really have left to say about the episode is this: I wish they would stop throwing the science and tech advancements around so casually, because it’s getting ridiculous how light and airy and unthoughtful this show can be with that stuff. In this case, it’s H.R.’s image inducer, a device that can completely change anyone’s appearance and is even so advanced that it can selectively disguise so that allies know who it is. That’s a game changer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it never really comes up again other than to keep H.R. from being lynched by the people who thinks he’s the original Wells.
The Flash “Shade” episode score
Legends of Tomorrow — Outlaw Country
Last time the Legends were in the old West, they were hiding out from the newly introduced threat of the Hunters while still contending with whatever crap Kendra/Hawkgirl had going on, and while we weren’t terribly impressed with either what we learned of Kendra and the possibly cursed nature of her eternal love with Carter or the overly quick dispatching of the Hunters who turned out to be almost no threat at all, we were probably least impressed with Jonah Hex, the gruff, scarred gunslinger who mostly became a passenger in his own guest-starring debut. It seems like the writers decided to amp the character up a bit for his second appearance this episode, but they chose a pretty stupid way of doing it: Now he hates women.
This time the Legends are alerted to a time disruption caused by a rogue time pirate leaving dwarfstar, the same substance that powered Ray’s Atom suit, in the hands of a corrupt businessman, Quentin Turnbull, played by the great, great Jeff Fahey (who I mostly know from Lost, but he’s also Lawnmower Man), and I didn’t think it’d matter, but this new time quake alert system really does make the show better by making the team’s exploits less egregiously questionable. So off to the Old West they go where they save Jonah Hex from a wrongful hanging (again, highlighting the importance of the “Time Seismograph” and it’s ability to show our heroes what they should change) and head into town where they learn of Turnbull’s attempts to build his own empire that will threaten the development of the United States, and… well, they stop him. It’s all pretty straightforward even if I wasn’t always exactly sure of what the individual team members were doing to contribute to that goal, but by the end of the episode, Nate’s gained a new confidence in his abilities (and maybe a new upcoming costume!), Ray’s regained the means to build another Atom suit, Amaya (Vixen) and Mick have a heart to heart of sorts, and Jonah Hex learns a valuable lesson about women not all being complete, incapable, idiots.
That’s the thrust of the episode anyway, and it was definitely exciting to see that Nate will be getting a real super suit, the Atom’s coming back, and even Mick has grown (discussing metaphors in a scene that reminded me of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy), but we also got a strange glimpse into some possible changes in Dr. Stein’s past as he sees flashes of another woman he knows but doesn’t know, and finally it seems like we might be delving into the idea of messing with the timestream as something that could have consequences. We might really start heading down the road of time travel being important and brutal and hard to control, and if they can really get us there and start telling stories with weight, we might finally really have a show with Legends of Tomorrow!
Legends of Tomorrow is back on December 1.
Legends of Tomorrow “Outlaw Country” episode score
The Walking Dead — Go Getters
There’s been a lot of table setting these last few episodes, A LOT of table setting. In fact, every single episode of this season so far has been about setting up the very real, very different threat that Negan represents to Rick and co., and while I’m sure that most of you TV watchers are feeling pretty board by the whole thing by now, if you’re also a fan of the comics, that boredom is probably tipping all the way over to indifference. Last year we comicbook readers at least had some significantly different events and action scenes, an ideological struggle between Rick, Morgan and Carol that couldn’t have happened (because the latter two were already dead in the comics), and some unexpected swerves in the storytelling, but this year every significant event has played out almost exactly the same way as they did in the comics. Not only that, this time a lot of them are worse — Gregory’s poor leadership and lecherousness was a more of a sudden turn than the slow build it needed to be to really make us hate him and from the second we saw Carl and Enid watching Negan’s trucks, we all knew he was going to sneak aboard, only this time it feels more like a stupid miscalculation on the kid’s part rather than the impetuousness of youth because Carl’s so much older in the show than he was at this point in the comic.
I guess we need to talk about Maggie first, because it’s her full turn this episode from distressed damsel whose husband was just brutally beaten to death in front of her to determined survivor with the strength of will to overthrow an entrenched leader that forms the backbone of the episode. I guess that’s good, it’s certainly good to see that she’s found her resolve somewhat in spite of what she’s experienced, and it’s also good to see that it’s a turn that feels somewhat organic, but it also felt a little overly facilitated in that the cowardly leader Gregory was the perfect fodder for Maggie and Sasha to rail against, especially because it was all accomplished in one episode rather than built over episodes. At this point, as happy as I was with season six of The Walking Dead overall, I really wish the Hilltop had been built up a bit more last year because the entire community feels severely underdeveloped. Who really was Gregory, a big selfish jerk or just a useless wimp who tricked his way into being in charge? What does the Hilltop have to offer beyond a doctor in residence? How many people are even in the Hilltop? And are they really so unprepared that their gates are that easily opened from the outside? Also, hands up, who honestly remembered that Sasha was with Maggie? I kind of just thought her absence since the first episode was just because she didn’t have anything important to do. I did like seeing her sharpening her knife with Abraham’s cigar in her mouth though, that was a really good visual that didn’t feel put-upon, at least not to me.
One inarguably great thing this episode did establish, and it’s something I’d forgotten you non-comicbook readers wouldn’t know, is that Jesus kicks ass. We already knew he was highly skilled having stolen Rick and Daryl’s truck, escaped from being tied up, and broken into Rick’s house (back in the good old days), but we hadn’t yet met him as also being a highly trained fighter, and it’s cool to see someone bringing some genuine finesse to zombie conflicts. On the other hand, almost everything going on between Carl and Enid was cringeworthy, and juxtaposing their “budding romance” (he said sarcastically) against Carl’s plans ultimately diminished how serious he was about killing Negan himself.
I think we all know The Walking Dead isn’t a great show like a Breaking Bad or a Mad Men, and I think we’re all happy to accept that because not all shows need to have storytelling that airtight, and The Walking Dead has at least frequently been good at some things on the extreme opposite end of that scale — gory, supernatural violence. What’s galling about the show’s slow burn this season is that it feels like the writers think they’re doing something great in telling a somber, downtrodden mood piece when they’re not, they’re doing nothing we haven’t seen before, and we’ve all seen it done better. We don’t need you guys to do this stuff, at least not to this extent, not for five whole episodes, almost a third of the season, we just want a fun show, and this isn’t it.
The Walking Dead “Go Getters” episode score
Another week, another win by Legends of Tomorrow? What’s happening? How is this possible? Is Legends really winning or do the rest of these shows just suck?