CW’s Arrowverse kicks off its 2019 season tonight with the series premiere of Batwoman, and I could not be last-minuting this wrap-up of last season’s shows any harder. It turns out these shows that are usually my happy-place brain candy TV options really kind of let me down.
Legends of Tomorrow, mostly delivered a fine season but the landing was rough. The Flash was the opposite with the bulk of the season dragged down by elements I didn’t care for, but it pulled up before completely crashing. And then there was Arrow. Poor Arrow that started it all. After years of defending it against criticism, it’s finally become something I just want to be over because I can’t imagine there’s any saving it. There might be a speck or two to look forward to in the shortened final season, but for the most part, it has failed me hard.
So let’s break it down.
Here’s the thing about Arrow: The present-day story line fumbled a lot of balls but was mostly fine. And all the flash forward stuff with the next generation was really interesting and would make for a good show in its own right. But mixing the two I just don’t think worked, and the very last little bit really killed my enthusiasm for whatever the new season brings.
I didn’t mind the Oliver-in-prison plot. I really liked Felicity and William on the run from Diaz, and seeing a bunch of the old villains was a trip. Plus, I really liked the stuff with Oliver’s nebbish cell neighbor, even though he was CLEARLY not the innocent little lamb he pretended to be. And even though Oliver’s “therapy” was obviously at the hands of a madman, he wasn’t full of bad points.
Oliver’s revelation that he was trapped in a cycle of violence that began with the burdens his father placed on him felt *a little* repetitive after all the Adrian Chase stuff a couple seasons ago, but only because of the “bad guy forces Oliver to peel back some personal layers” trope. But the message was good. We know, because Oliver kept repeating it again, and again, and again when he was trying to get newly discovered half-sister Emmiko to not be so murderous as she tries to frame Oliver and all the vigilantes for yet another “destroy the city with giant bombs!” attack because her daddy issues are strong. (Also, for how little we ever actually see him do, Robert Queen outdoes Malcolm Merlyn for the worst father ever trophy so many times over.)
The present-day second half the season dealt with the Emmiko drama and Team Arrow trying to find a place with the SCPD, and ARGUS generally being shady, and it was fine. But there was a reason Arrow stopped being appointment viewing for me.
And that brings us to the flashforwards, which take place in 2040, when William is all grown up and chasing ghosts that lead him to Old Man Roy Harper, through which he finds his half-sister Mia Smoak, John Diggle’s adopted son Connor Hawk, and Rene’s daughter Zoe, and finally, Felicity, who’s apparently turned into a villain while nobody was watching (except not really). We learn Dinah is running a whole network of Canaries to protect the Glades. And blah blah fight the man (only, plot twist, The Man is now Rene) and blah blah save the Glades.
The problem with this kind of interesting but incredibly bleak future is that it means nothing good happens for anybody in the present day. Barring some sort of time-travel reset button nonsense, all these people that we’ve spent years learning to like and love will just have lives full of misery on top of misery until 20 years from now when things start to look up maybe for their kids. And I mean, I’ve accepted that Oliver’s probably not going to make out of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, but come on. And in further proof that there’s no pleasing me, if there IS some giant nonsense reset button, then what was the point of half of last season, other than to get us a little invested in characters that mean nothing?
And I really wasn’t thrilled with pretty much everything about William’s future. I liked his kidly presence and his conflict, but after getting sent off to boarding school for his own safety, then choosing to live with his grandparents, we get a line about Oliver and Felicity trying to stay in contact but clearly being blocked by the grandparents. And then a future line about William feeling abandoned by Oliver and Felicity and…nothing else. No explanation of that. No resolution. Just Felicity reuniting with her 20-years-absent step-son and years-estranged daughter for like a day, deciding that was enough and that they didn’t need her and I guess traveling off into the great beyond to be with Oliver, somehow?
Don’t get me wrong, if they made a spin-off with the future kids, I’d watch it. But Arrow as a whole…let’s just say it’s one of the few series I’m going to finish but be incredibly glad I never started buying on DVD.
I’m not used to being disappointed in my shows! Quick, somebody get a Beebo GIF!
Ah. That’s better.
Chris Klein hammed up the place with his portrayal of Cicada, but it was fine. I loved Caitlin’s need to get Killer Frost back and Cisco questioning his purpose, and Ralph being Ralph, and let’s be real, Sherloque grew on me.
But god, did I hate Nora West Allen. I mean, as a concept she was fine: Adult daughter from the future comes back to meet her father and have drama with her mother and come into her own as a superhero all while guided by misplaced trust in Eobard Thawne. But in practice? She was an idiot who screwed everything up all the time. If you ran dialogue through a word processor, “Sorry!” and “Oops!” would probably dominate her lines. She was the living embodiment of the sad trombone, and I couldn’t stand her.
Until the end. It wasn’t until Barry lost all his cool about her working with Thawne and it just completely broke her that she became the slightest bit sympathetic. So, congratulations Nora! It only took 95% of the season and you had to basically wink out of existence, but you weren’t a complete a dumpster fire after all!
But honestly, I’ve given up all understanding on how Thawne exists in any form these days. Now, I just kind of roll with it when he shows up. And I don’t actually like that Cisco gave up his powers and is starting down a journey of “who he is without them.” Um…the same person you were for 20+ years before you had them? There are ways depowering him could have been satisfying, but this wasn’t it.
LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
Legends of Tomorrow gets wackier with every season, and in general I kind of love it. It’s a lot of fun, but it always manages to slip some really poignant themes and character growth into its craziness.
Apparently there was a real-life reason Nick Zano needed to not be around as much, and that led to Nate’s arc of stepping back from the Legends to work at the Time Bureau with his father as everyone tries to round up mythical creatures released during the previous season’s fight with Mallus. The season was fun as ever, and I especially liked the way they kept Maisie Richardson-Sellers on the show by having shapeshifter Charlie take the form of Amaya to mess with Nate only to end up stuck that way. Charlie is so fun, and I hope she sticks around.
Of course, this is a show where no cast is ever really safe. Each season has seen characters come and go, and it’s really a testament to its quality that it never really falters because of it. However, after finally finding her place on the team and generally being awesome, the end of last season looks like some timeline changes have swapped Zari out with the brother who was her reason for fighting in the first place. I hope she isn’t as forgotten as it seems, and if she is, I hope brother Behrad is just as good a fit.
Really the only thing that kind of fell flat for me was the bait and switch on Nate’s dad Hank. For most of the season he was written and acted as kind of a bad guy out to turn all the mythical creatures into weapons, but then…out of the blue…he really just wanted to make an amusement park for Nate all this time? What? Fortunately, Thomas F. Wilson, the ubiquitous Biffs, Griff and Buford Tannens of Back to the Future fame, makes it believable enough once you just shake your head and say “Okay, I guess we’re doing this now.” So it worked, but it was weird.
But really, weird is kind of par for the course on this show.
Overall, while I’m basically just running out the clock on Arrow, I’m still reasonably excited for The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and all the cast news about the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event has me jazzed for that. I’ve never really watched Supergirl outside of the premiere and the crossovers and don’t intend to start, so sorry if you were here for that.
I’m crossing my fingers for Batwoman tonight. I liked Ruby Rose as Kate Kane during the Elseworlds crossover last year, but even then her Batwoman wasn’t exactly…what’s the word…good? Exciting? Enjoyable? I don’t know, it was definitely missing something. But she wasn’t really the focal point then. Maybe her own show will give her more room to shine. I’m just not sure I want to look at that ridiculous red wig all the time.
So, yeah. Arrowverse is back. I wish I were more excited for it.
By the way, I’ve got a twitter poll for what the Arrowverse should be called when Arrow is no more. (I think CW is going with CW-verse, but I don’t have to.) So give a vote, why don’t you.
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