Well, my fall/spring TV season is officially over, and it’s pretty easy to say my three favorites of the year were The Flash, Agents of SHIELD and Arrow. In general, I felt like they all had strong seasons, and if I liked one, it’s easy to see how I’d like the other two, because they all had some awfully similar things going on. Spoilers here, obviously.
It’s the end of the world
Let’s face it: When you’re dealing with superheroics, eventually the end of the world has to be a threat. On Arrow, 1,500 nukes lit up the sky. On The Flash, an evil metahuman tried to end all the other Earths in the multiverse. And on Agents of SHIELD, an evil inhuman tried to release a toxin into the atmosphere that would transform the global population into primitive inhumans who would follow him.
Strangely enough, I think Agents of SHIELD did it best.
While Arrow was its typically exciting self with big fights, hard deadlines and inspiring speeches, there was something a little anticlimactic about its nuclear resolution. A warhead was heading straight for Felicity and Curtis in Star City, they waved some technobabble at it, and it turned course and flew away. “Hey world, this is how you move the nukes, pass it along!” is essentially what happened to that threat. And when it rears its head again, Felicity talks an old flame into doing the right thing. And I get it. The story was really about Oliver and Damien Dahrk and the virtue of hope and necessity of darkness. But the nuke thing felt kind slapdash, considering it was the backbone of a season long threat. Not to mention, I need someone scientific to explain what would happen if 1,500 nuclear weapons exploded “in space,” however far up that is. Seems to me shockwaves and radiation would be a factor, but I’m no scientist.
On The Flash, it took a little while for the world-ending threat to reveal itself, and then it wasn’t our world in danger of literally being torn apart. So, for as bad as Zoom was for wherever he was, there was a little bit of a disconnect between the biggest of threats. Plus, if I’m being honest, the story got a little convoluted after we saw Zoom’s face. Because oh, no! Zoom is Jay Garrick! But is he the Earth 2 Jay Garrick that we’ve spent a season getting to know? How can that be, because we just saw him die? Is he another Earth’s Jay Garrick? Did Velocity 6 pull a Superman 3 and split Jay into good and bad versions of himself?
Oh? It’s just some evil dude who stole Jay’s name, moonlights as a hero because he got bored, and faked his death just to mess with our heroes? O…K…
I mean, it wasn’t bad, it was just a little hard to follow for a bit. But I did enjoy the hell out of meeting the real Jay Garrick, and the man in the mask story line had me guessing pretty much right up until the last couple episodes, when it became really obvious.
Agents of SHIELD
But Agents of SHIELD owned this plotline.
It succeeded in its end-of-the-world story (technically end of humanity, I guess), because we could see it play out on a small scale. Even when one of Arrow’s nukes hit a rural town, it’s hard to small-scale a nuclear blast. It happens, a town’s gone, and you don’t go there. And all we got on Flash was one vision and then a lot of talk about how breaking worlds like eggs is bad for the people on them. But on SHIELD, in addition to seeing the massive threat Hive is to people before he ever starts employing his end game, we also get an up close look at what his end game is via the handful of primitive inhumans he creates.
There’s just something really unsettling about the idea of your very self being turned into a mindless drone just because you breathed today. It’s more than a week a later, and just thinking about that gets under my skin in a way the others don’t after a couple of days.
The tie to The Flash for this category is tenuous at best. There was a while there when Zoom united a bunch of metahumans under his cause, but given they were really just around to be a distraction and played no role in the season climax, it’s a thin connection.
But it’s not so thin for Arrow and Agents of SHIELD.
I don’t read comics, so my exposure to HIVE the organization and Hive the inhuman is pretty limited to what I saw on Arrow and Agents of SHIELD. But given that Arrow’s HIVE is out to scorch the earth and start fresh while keeping the chosen few happy and compliant with mind-altering pills, and Agents of Shield’s Hive is out to turn humans into something else and start fresh, aided by a cadre of followers kept happy and compliant by mind-altering nano-parasites…yeah, there are some similarities.
Whatever it takes
A lot of tough decisions came out of this season, and several people were lining up to die for their cause.
Once again, while I enjoyed Arrow, I feel like it was probably the weakest of the bunch. Still not bad, but Damian Dahrk’s desire to reset the world had shades of Malcolm Merlin’s plan to destroy The Glades in season one. Granted, it came with 10 times the crazy cakes, but I guess magic will do that to you. But it takes some conviction (and I guess a load of grief) to stick to your end-the-world plan after your super special bunker is destroyed. Similarly, I feel like we’ve spent four years watching Oliver wrestle with whether he can do what he does and still be a good guy, and his ultimate decision to kill Dahrk for the good of the world didn’t feel quite as powerful, given that…well…we’ve seen a lot of people get shot in the chest with arrows this season. But thematically, I do think the show did it right with its handling of Diggle having to put Andy down.
On The Flash, I have to give it a lot credit, and then take a little bit of it back. Team Flash took things to the extreme when they locked up Barry, and then agreed on a plan that would have accidentally left Joe stranded with Zoom on Earth 2. I mean, really, once their plan to get Zoom off Earth 1 worked, I seriously think they would have left Joe there. They’d have been sad about it, but they’d have done it, because they all agreed that when the breach between worlds was closed, they weren’t ever opening them again.
Fortunately for Joe, Barry and Wally weren’t having any of that.
But that’s not all. Zoom’s arc this season wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for his willingness to kill his own time remnants. It’s how he’s able to be two places at once and fool Team Flash into believing he’s Earth 2 Jay. Now, in the context of this arc, I get what time remnant is — it’s when you go back in time to a place where you were previously and then there are two of you. I don’t understand how that doesn’t create a paradox when Zoom kills one of his remnants, but some things you just have to go with. (Maybe it’s the past Zoom killing the Zoom that came back? I don’t even know, and honestly, I don’t think it matters that much. Either you accept the premise and move on, or you don’t.)
Early in the finale, after Zoom kills Henry Allen and is goading Barry, Barry has the chance to kill Zoom. Except, surprise, the Zoom he has is a time remnant, and gets axed by the “real” Zoom, before Barry can make a decision.
“You see, Barry,” Zoom says, “There can be two of you, too. You just have to be willing to kill yourself.” The context for Zoom’s statement obviously fits with his MO of murdering his own time remnants, but Barry puts his own spin on it.
Barry, showing the first of a few instances of being willing to do whatever it takes to reach his goals, agrees to race Zoom to get Joe back, knowing full well that doing so will help power the doomsday device for all the other Earths in the multiverse. So they’re running, running, running, and whether it was intended or not, Barry ends up traveling back a few moments in time and collecting a time remnant of his own, who does some mumble mumble comic book science to depower Zoom’s device.
The effort kills Barry’s time remnant, and Barry makes the comment “He was willing to die to save us all” And this is where I think the ball got dropped a little bit. Barry and Team Flash pay a tiny bit of lip service to the time remnant still being Barry, but then largely treat him almost like it’s some other person. I guess it’s easy to do, because Barry is still standing there talking to them and says “He was willing to sacrifice himself for all of us.” But that time remnant was still Barry Allen! Not even a distant-past Barry Allen — a “moments before” Barry Allen who was willing to sacrifice himself to save the other Earths and everybody on Earth 1 that Zoom would have killed if he’d been successful.
And I think that’s an idea that deserved way more attention than it got before and after it happened.So, A+ for idea, B+ for execution.
And Barry was also willing, at the end of this episode, to do whatever it took to save his family, but let’s put a pin in that for a moment and move on to Agents of SHIELD.
Agents of SHIELD
Ultimately, Agents of SHIELD’s conquering of their big bad included flying his WMD off into space as well, but unlike Team Arrow, Team SHIELD had to be more hands on about it. And unlike Team Flash, there doesn’t seem like there’s any coming back from it.
Though Daisy was willing, Lincoln ended up being the sacrificial lamb on this show, and they were hitting the Jesus metaphor so hard it barely counts as metaphor what with Coulson acknowledging that Lincoln died for the litany of sins this season, including Coulson’s killing of Grant Ward, which led to the rise of Hive on Earth in Ward’s body.
The conclusion of Hive’s story wasn’t the most original or the most exciting, but there was something I really enjoyed about the quietness of it as he and Lincoln, with no other options, wait for their deaths in the disabled Zephyr. It’s in that moment we learn that everything Hive did — however awful and evil — wasn’t about power or glory, but rather was all an attempt to feel a connection to something.
But he was still a bad dude, just a slightly more sympathetic one. And really, I think that’s one of the best kinds of villain and I’ve really enjoyed Brett Dalton’s run on this show.
Everything will change
Agents of SHIELD
With the deaths of both Ward and Hive on Agents of SHIELD, it’s hard to say if Dalton will be back for season 4. Signs point to no, but it’s a comic-book show, so who knows. Personally, I kind of feel like it’s time for the Ward face to be gone. He’s been a “good” guy, he’s been a bad guy, he’s been the big bad, let’s move on.
But regardless of what happens with that, the six-month jump at the end of season 3 teases some great things for season 4. Coulson’s not SHIELD director anymore but is teamed up with Mack, Daisy’s on the run and robbing banks to help other inhumans, and FitzSimmons are working with Holden Radcliffe doing science-y stuff seemingly far, far away from the agency. So who’s running SHIELD now? My money’ on May or Talbott, and either would make me super happy. Either way, I’m looking forward to a lot of dynamics being turned on their ears.
Roles are changing all up in Arrow, too, but the finale didn’t really give us much insight into how. Laurel died earlier this season, Thea and Diggle have left Team Arrow to go find themselves or somesuch, and the former Captain Lance seems to be heading out, too, after being fired. Oh, yes, and Oliver’s the mayor now.
I’ve no doubt Diggle and Thea will make their way back to the team, and there’s no getting rid of Malcolm Merlyn, apparently. He’s like a wonderful cockroach that comes and goes as he pleases (and is also the only context in which the words wonderful and cockroach will be used anywhere in the same vicinity to each other by me). As for Captain Lance…look, I avoid spoilers these days, so I don’t know if Paul Blackthorne is signed for season five, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out he’s gone. Lance has served pretty much every role he could throughout the series from antagonistic foil to reluctant partner and protective father/mentor. I’m not sure what else he can offer that would promote character or story growth for anybody. So, much as I enjoy the character, let him go off and live happily ever after with Donna and maybe pop in for the holidays or if Oliver and Felicity ever get married.
Hearing Oliver take his oath of office though really has me wondering about his future. The oath:
“I, Oliver Queen, do solemnly swear to support the charter and laws of Star City and to faithful and impartially perform and discharge the duties of the office of mayor according to the law and to the very best of my ability.”
I suppose if you want to get technical, Oliver only vows to follow the law while doing his mayoral duties, but continuing his vigilante ways would violate the spirit of the oath pretty seriously. Again, I don’t read comics, so I don’t know if I should expect Oliver Queen: Mayor by day, Green Arrow by night or if someone else will take up the mantle (temporarily, of course).
Also, I’m hoping we get some confirmation this season about whether the flashbacks have have been keeping time with the current seasons. Because if they have been, season five will have us in Oliver’s last year of being lost. And I think something pretty severe is going to have to happen to make me be able to reconcile Season 1 Oliver with all the stuff we’ve learned happened to him before that point.
And now for the big granddaddy example of everything changing in the upcoming season.
Unable to deal with losing his father, Barry goes back in time and finally stops Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash from killing his mother, essentially re-setting the whole show. And that presents a ton of questions.
If Barry’s mom never died and his dad never went to prison, will Barry still be close to Joe or Iris? Will we essentially see Barry having to adopt his Earth 2 doppelganger persona to fit in with the new timeline? Will Wally still be around? If Barry stops Eobard then, does that mean Eobard never kills Harrison Wells and steals his identity? And if THAT happens — as I said on Twitter — does that mean Tom Cavanagh can put away the Diet Batman whisper he used throughout season two and instead portray the lovable nerd we saw for about 2 minutes in season one? And more importantly, will Barry still be The Flash (and how does he get home)? Because it’s been established that Eobard pushed up the timeline for the particle accelerator blast that gave Barry his power. What about Katelynn and Ronnie, and what does that mean for Legends of Tomorrow and Firestorm? Or Arrow and all the stuff that was only possible through the relationship with Barry and STAR Labs?
So many questions, and the only thing I feel pretty confident of is that the future Barry goes back to will be the appropriate present, not the season one time period, and that it’ll be put back to normal before the season’s over.
I started this post not really sure how to rank these shows in terms of favorite. I think now I can say that Arrow pulls up the rear for having character growth and presenting a charmingly fun villain in Dahrk, but also still managing to feel like more of the same. Agents of SHIELD and The Flash were in a dead heat for No. 1 for a while. But ultimately, I think AoS had the more compelling season. It wasn’t as flashy, if you’ll pardon the unintentional pun, it just seemed better developed overall.
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