This is The Breakdown, one of Ground Punch’s brand new creations in 2017! You may recognize me from such reviews as The Flash: “Monster” Review, Supergirl: “Survivors” Review, or from one of Ground Punch’s weekly podcast, Superhero Highlight Reel. While I enjoyed reviewing both The Flash and Supergirl, heading into 2017, I wanted to both improve and drastically change my approach to these reviews. The Breakdown is where that path has taken me.
Apposed to writing ~1,000 word reviews for each episode, singularly focusing on the duo of The Flash and Supergirl, I will instead be focusing on all CW DC properties including the addition of both Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. I will also be bringing Fox’s Gotham into the mix, as well as upcoming comic book-centric shows like FX’s Legion, and NBC’s Powerless to The Breakdown. This new format will allow me to still discuss and dissect the shows that I love, while not restricting myself or burdening myself with long-form review formats. Without further ado, this is The Breakdown for the week of January 30.
Episode 511 – Aired on 2/1/17
In his quest to take down Kovar, Oliver gets help from a surprising source – Talia al Ghul. However, when she reveals what she wants from him in exchange, Oliver isn’t sure he can accept her help. Felicity attempts to hack the NSA to help free Diggle but when her online efforts are flagged, she faces off against an unknown adversary. Meanwhile, Curtis tells the team about a female vigilante, Tina Boland, he uncovered online who has been wreaking havoc all over the country.
Last week, two new characters were introduced into Arrow: Talia al Ghul and a new Black Canary. While introducing one new character, much less two, can be problematic in an already jam-packed season, Arrow was able to keep me interested and invested in these introductions. On the side of Talia, a character with such renown within Batman lore, it was more of a tease of what’s to come in her mentorship role with Oliver. Additionally, we already know that not only will she be important in Oliver’s path to becoming Season 1’s “The Hood”, but will surely come into the limelight when the big Prometheus reveal comes. For the introduction of Tina Boland (The Walking Dead’s Juliana Harkavy), I was more than pleased. The relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary is such an important part of any Green Arrow comic, especially in DC’s Green Arrow: Rebirth. While it appears that Black Siren will fill a different void within the Arrowverse going forward, I can’t wait to see where Tina Boland, I mean Dinah Drake(!), goes next.
Sure, we had more lackluster B-Team moments again on Arrow, but Felicity took the cake this week. Oh, sorry, I mean “the great Ghost Fox Goddess” of course! Much like James is back and forth in finding his place on Supergirl, Felicity has held a same role on Arrow. Sure, she’s a bit more valuable for all-things tech, but with Billy no longer in the picture, what’s next for Felicity? It certainly appears that she wants more, that she wants to do more, and perhaps an exit is soon on the horizon to make way for a more Oliver/Dinah-focused Season 6? While I’ve (mostly) adored Felicity, it certainly seems like her time on Arrow may be changing soon.
While I’m all for a continued push to return to focusing on Oliver and his growth as Green Arrow, and moments spent with B-Team and Felicity’s hacking exploits took away from those stronger scenes, this was still a strong episode for Arrow. Not only did we get proper introductions to both Talia al Ghul and Dinah Drake, but these new introductions have the opportunity to have big payoffs on the side of Talia, and to create powerful and exciting new progress on the side of Dinah. Arrow appears to have some exciting plans ahead for the remainder of Season 5, and I can’t wait to find out what’s next.
Dead or Alive
Episode 311 – Aired on 1/31/17
Barry and Cisco must work together to save H.R. from an inter-dimensional bounty hunter who seeks to kill him, as it is a crime on Earth-19 to transport yourself to another earth. Cisco and Barry must fight against the bounty hunter in a fight to the death in order to save Harrison’s life.
For the first time in many, many moons, The Flash didn’t introduce a new villain that was simple throwaway. Color me surprised. Time and time again, The Flash has introduced one-off villains that pop up, and shortly fuck right off. In-between these events, Barry usually runs fast. This week, not only did The Flash introduce a new and exciting villain, who we will surely see again, but Barry didn’t solve this week’s problem by simply running fast. It wasn’t even Wally who solved this week’s problem by running fast! It was the Cisco Power Hour on The Flash this week, which was much needed after a handful of episodes that I haven’t been the biggest fan of. Cisco and Gypsy’s interactions were dynamic and humorous and the immediate highlight of the episode.
I couldn’t stand H.R. last week and while The Flash attempted to get me invested in his character through some great interactions with Cisco, I still don’t care about H.R.. H.R. is not the version of Harrison Wells that I care about, not now, and presumably not ever. I cannot continue to praise Tom Cavanagh’s performances in Season 1 and 2 highly enough, but he continues to be wasted in his new Season 3 form. Yes, there is opportunity for growth for H.R., which is teased at through his heart-to-heart with Cisco. Unfortunately, it’s on the precipice of too little, too late. We now know that H.R. will be an important piece of changing the future and defeating Savitar, but that doesn’t mean that I want H.R. to be that vital.
Despite shortcomings with attempting to create investment with H.R., The Flash had a solid episode this week. Not only did this episode introduce Gypsy, who wasn’t simply a one-off villain with zero intrigue, but Cisco took the reigns in being the hero this week. Sorry Barry, not even your fast running could save the day! The Flash doubled down on character, in both Cisco and Gypsy, and it paid off in spades. Not only did they focus on character, but this episode was jam-packed with humor. Sure, Cisco’s life was on the line, and there was plenty of reason to be perturbed, but some much needed quips and humor were sprinkled throughout this episode especially, something that has been missing as of late. Despite the lackluster attempt of forced investment into H.R., The Flash was strong this week.
The Legion of Doom
Episode 210 – Aired on 1/31/17
The Legends must find the Spear of Destiny before they can rescue Rip, while Malcolm and Damien realize that Thawne is pitting them against each other.
Legends of Tomorrow finally gave us a glimpse into the inner-workings, and establishment, of the Legion of Doom. While their presence has been back and forth, it was great to see the majority of this episode dedicated to, essentially, their origin story. Both Malcolm and Damien have been reduced to being errand boys and henchmen since being recruited by Thawne, and while this trend somewhat continued before the big event, it was great to see them interacting out in the field on their “mission”. While both Malcolm and Damien are a far cry away from their terrifying and intimidating personas that were introduced during their reigns of terror on Arrow,
The glaring hole in this episode of Legends of Tomorrow, obviously, was Black Flash. It was teased leading up to this episode, that Black Flash would be back after Zoom’s disfiguration into this familiar comic threat, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise, and even the surprise was lacking. Yes, Thawne is frightened of DC’s “Death-like” figure, but Black Flash was relegated to a laughable CGI mess. While Teddy Sears’ Zoom had his own ups and downs, at least he felt like a true and intimidating threat to Barry on The Flash. After being defeated, and being transformed into Black Flash, we didn’t know what to expect. But now, Black Flash is no longer a charismatic villain, and has regressed into a CGI speed zombie. Is Black Flash intimidating? Well, not really? All Thawne had to do, was not use the Speed Force or move, and that was it? It was anticlimactic, and took away the weight that Black Flash should surely have within the CWDC Arrowverse. Instead, we have a speed zombie that remains as a CGI mess, that I don’t really care to see again.
Overall, I really enjoyed Legends of Tomorrow this week. Even with a pivot away from spending time with the characters we have come to know and love, I was still able to enjoy spending time with the baddies this week, and see them start the foundation of the Legion of Doom. No longer with Damien and Malcolm be lackeys or henchmen, and are now equal partners within the Legion of Doom, which will only elevate them as we head deeper into the season. Additionally, we now have a much different threat going forward, in Rip. At the end of this week, we see a much different Rip Hunter, who seems to be an intimidating force heading into the back half of the season. As much as the Legion of Doom holds interest, a Rip Hunter rewritten by the aforementioned Legion holds just as much, if not more heading forward. Legends of Tomorrow continues to impress week over week, and it’s hard to find much wrong with each episode, which I can hardly complain about!
We Can Be Heroes
Episode 210 – Aired on 1/30/17
When Livewire apparently breaks out of prison, Supergirl sets out to recapture her..
While I have complained time and time again about James Olsen and the Guardian storyline, I was glad to see that it came to a head this week. Supergirl had drawn out the oblivious mystery for long enough, so I was happy to see it come to light, even if bits of it still remain hanging. We were able to see a conflicted Kara, who immediately threatened to stop James and Winn if they continued, but then saw growth in a halfway acceptance of Guardian. While there are still strings of tension and conflict, I’m glad that Supergirl finally pushed this storyline forward into interesting areas. Additionally, it was lovely as always to see David Harewood back with some scenes between J’onn and M’gann for him to shine in. But of course, the highlight of this episode was the approach to the return of Livewire. Supergirl hasn’t exactly built up a Rogue’s Gallery like her cousin’s detective friend, but Livewire has now cemented herself as such. Not only am I invested in seeing Livewire return at some point, but the approach to her return was unexpected, albeit cliche with an “evil scientist”, but I’ll take what I can get!
As mentioned about, I was immediately impressed how Livewire was brought back into Supergirl, but that doesn’t mean that the “evil scientist” trope gets a pass this episode. While Livewire has now cemented herself into Supergirl’s Rogue Gallery, this “Livewire Dr. Frankenstein” will certainly be all but forgotten in a few weeks. For the most part in Season 2, Supergirl hasn’t had quite as many one-off villains like The Flash has been notorious for, but this week was as bland as ever. Sure, it allowed for Livewire to return in an neat and unexpected way, but it was full of trope all the same. This, as usual, is the downfall of The CW’s usual 22+ Season. Where Marvel (mostly) excels with a 13 episode series, cutting out (most) of the filler, The CW shows still suffer from filler episodes and filler villains, unfortunately.
Supergirl was good this week. Not bad, not great, but (mostly) just right. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but this week’s episode was kind of just there. Sure, I can appreciate how they approached the return of Livewire, albeit a stilted return with an “evil scientist”. I can appreciate the continued connection between J’onn and M’gann, although I’m not sure how much the same interactions can continue on. I can appreciate the Guardian storyline finally coming to a head, even if it’s still threaded into the rest of Season 2. I can appreciate most of this week’s episode, but it wasn’t anything that necessarily blew me away. Although “good” and “okay” aren’t necessarily bad, in a world of ever-increasing comic book adaptations, it’s a dangerous path to tread.
Fox, FX, and NBC
Mad City: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Episode 314 – Aired on 1/30/17
Bruce and Alfred’s safety remains at risk while Jerome is free to move about on his own.
Even if my feelings for David Mazouz’s Bruce Wayne have been up and down across the course of Gotham‘s (almost) three seasons, after this week’s episode, I truly believe in Mazouz’s Bruce Wayne. This episode of Gotham truly felt like something leaping off of the pages of a Batman comic. This was one bad night in Gotham, akin to the likes of many of the best Batman comics and stories. Although Jerome isn’t 100% confirmed to be an early representation of the Joker, he was the perfect foil to Mazouz’s Bruce. Jerome didn’t have a master plan to take over the city, or to pull some sort of long con, he simply wanted to kill Bruce, and to show Bruce how hopeless Gotham was. He wanted to show Bruce that Gotham had no heroes, even as Bruce reinforced that there were good people in Gotham. As much as I have enjoyed seeing Gordon’s journey into the mustachioed commissioner that we all know so well, Gotham took a huge step in the direction of making this an origin story for Mazouz’s Bruce. This was also, in part, to the final scene with Bruce and Alfred, where a key Batman rule, “I will not kill.” was established. Although Gotham is constantly overlooked for the initially portrayed procedural look and silly origin stories for characters from Batman lore, the slow shift into a true Batman origin story is one that I will continue to embrace with open arms.
Penguin, what are we going to do with you? While it’s exhilarating to see Nygma’s slow descent into madness and riddles, I couldn’t be less enthused by Penguin’s weekly happenings. While I usually enjoyed seeing Penguin’s underdog story through early Gotham, he’s more of an annoyance of late. While we do have Bruce and Nygma and Jerome and so many characters slowly transforming towards their comic book counterparts, Penguin remains wishy washy as ever. One moment Penguin is attempting to rule Gotham, and the next, he’s moping around like a real sad bird… We saw flashes of brilliance from Penguin in those early moments of Gotham, but they’ve been fleeting ever since. With the continued interest built around Gordon, and now with the slow emergence of Bruce’s journey into Batman, I’m tired of my time being wasted by Penguin.
Gotham, despite having so many ups and downs, continues to grow on me in Season 3. There have been tight narratives focused around singular villains, and more time dedicated to the characters we care about. Where too often The CW Arrowverse throws forgettable after forgettable villain fodder at viewers, Gotham is meticulous and precise in the placement and arrangement of the main antagonists. We saw 11 episodes dedicated to Mad Hatter, and those episodes dedicated time to grow Jervis Tetch as a villain with true substance. We saw this as well with the return of Jerome into a possible early version or inspiration of the Joker that will one day terrorize Gotham. Furthermore, with this week’s episode, we saw a huge step in the growth of Bruce Wayne as a character. While I lamented at early Bruce through the first two seasons of Gotham, now that David Mazouz is coming of age, and able to hold his own as an actor, I’m thrilled to spend more time with him. While the various versions of Batman on the silver screen have only used young Bruce in repetitive flashbacks, Gotham is giving Mazouz the room to grow, and to keep viewers interested with that growth. While I’ve been back and forth with my feelings about Gotham in the past, I can’t wait to see what the rest of Season 3 has waiting for us.
Wayne or Lose
Episode 101 – Aired on 2/2/17
Emily begins her first day, and quickly learns that her expectations far exceed those of her new boss, Van Wayne, and her co-workers.
I want to like Powerless, I really do. With a cast containing Vanessa Hudgens, Danny Pudi, Jennie Pierson, Ron Funches, and Alan Tudyk, it should be easy to like Powerless. But the fact that here I am, in the “Good” section of Powerless’ Breakdown, telling you that I want to like the show, speaks on how rough it is. But I’ll save that for “Bad”, and of course, for the inevitable “Breakdown”. I hope that Powerless can tap into the potential of the strong cast, and the ability to play with DC in ways that The CW and other networks cannot. While I cringed at the use of various DC properties in this episode, while we’ll get to, there is limitless potential in how they can approach the DC universe in a different way than what anyone else is doing. Powerless has potential, in the properties and the cast, and I’ll hold out hope, for now.
So, Powerless has potential, but Powerless is not good. NBC banked on both The Office and Parks and Rec as the hit “workplace comedy” in their comedy lineup which has meandered since, and Powerless continues that meandering. The setting should immediately make for an intriguing workplace comedy, but the workplace and the comedy both fall flat. I cringed at the introduction of “Joker Gas Anti-Venom” and rolled my eyes at the general obliviousness of the cast. Powerless‘ comedy treats viewers to a very simple approach, with very simple humor that often misses the mark. I chuckled here and there, but the humor was aiming for a very low bar, one that the cast played to time and time again. Both The Office and Parks and Rec had a wide net of comedy, depending on who the episode focused on. Powerless pushed forward at a steady baseline of humor that mostly missed the mark. I hope that as Powerless continues, the cast is able to settle in and the humor hits the right spots, but I’m not exactly optimistic. Also, the CGI is bad. Really bad. Like really really bad. I hope that going forward, Powerless stays as far away from the CGI as possible, but again, not a lot of optimism around these parts of The Breakdown.
I didn’t totally hate Powerless, just mostly! Well, hate is a strong word. I want to enjoy Powerless, and with the amazing cast, I should enjoy Powerless. Instead, we were introduced to one-dimensional characters, and characters that could and should be bolstered by the talent behind them. With Powerless sitting within its own DC universe, apart from The CW’s Arrowverse or Gotham‘s, umm, Gothamverse, this could be a detractor, but should actually equate to something interesting. Powerless should take advantage of this, and take advantage of it in less cringe-inducing ways. Was it great to hear both Batman and the Joker name dropped in the pilot episode? It sure was. But the way Powerless went about it, woof. I’m not giving up on Powerless right away, but Powerless sure isn’t lovable from the get-go.