Half of the CW comic book shows (Riverdale, Arrow, The Flash) just had their season finales, as did Agents of SHIELD & Gotham. It’s gonna be a long spoilery one!
Riverdale has too much tonal consistency! The first season had an ironic appeal by commingling the wholesome Archie Comics characters with Twin Peaks. Unfortunately it dug itself into a dour hole by focusing on even more crime (real estate crime < maple syrup crime). They even rubbed crime in the core four’s faces during a couples’ retreat breather outside the town. (This felt completely gratuitously until it was suddenly relevant in the finale.) Instead of branching out (partly because Sabrina is coming to Netflix not CW), it just got absurdly more dire. Having proved a serious Archie drama was sustainable for longer than a skit, it could afford to occasionally lighten up. Though it still has the prettiest cinematography on The CW.
The core four all became directly engaged in criminal activities to varying degrees of character assassination. Archie becoming a fascist mobster may be the worst, although he was the dullest last season. I’m really surprised trusting this teenager worked out so well for Hiram Lodge. Veronica is probably the most disappointing since she spent last season subverting the notion she’s a mafia princess. The Southside Serpents were involved in illegal activities until Jughead became their de facto leader, & suddenly The Ghoulies were introduced as being the really criminal gang. They also hamfistedly tried to make the Serpents an allegory for indigenous people even though Toni “best new character” Topaz is the only Serpent directly descended from the town’s fictional Uktenka (whom were massacred in 1941?). Betty took way too long to realize her dad was The Black Hood, not to mention that whole Chic debacle.
Canadian crimester Papa Poutine’s son is named Small Fries. If only all of Riverdale could be as tongue in cheek rather than dour. Veronica, your father didn’t turn Riverdale into Gotham City. Gotham is less grimdark.
As one of the rare lights in the perpetual darkness, Cheryl Blossom feels like she belongs to a campier adaption. (Veronica can also be arch on occasion, suggesting that only the wealthy can afford to be droll.) Even then, the series forgot they set her up as the avatar of retribution by damselling her for most of it. “My daughter burnt down our house & threatened my life while I was hospitalized, but I draw the line at her having a girlfriend!” (I don’t know why they introduced long lost Uncle Claudius Blossom when Penelope is holding down the wicked parent fort just fine by her lonesome.) The upside is that Cheryl is going to be literally
#RiverdaleStrong from lugging all those sacks during the Sisters of Quiet Mercy’s milquetoast conversion therapy. It’s awesome that she became the new Speedy! The Southside Serpents inducted her with a custom jacket without requiring her to perform a jailbait striptease like her cousin.
In the episode where tokens Kevin & Josie (who kept losing everything but nobody cared) had the most to do, they put on a ludicrously professional musical with maybe a week of prep. (Still not as improbable as Southside High’s class merging with Riverdale High’s literally overnight.) Everyone’s festering interpersonal issues are solved swiftly thanks to the magic of song! Except for Midge Klump, who the writers REALLY hate. They’re the ones that made her an obstacle to Kevin & closeted bisexual Moose shacking up. I thought it was bad enough when the Black Hood seemingly gunned her down at the end of her first episode. Poor Midge.
Recent ex-con Hiram Lodge’s master plan is to sow panic in town to so he can build a for-profit prison in Southside once his wife becomes mayor. Since Shankshaw Prison exists, shouldn’t the town’s priority be to hire more than one cop? Wouldn’t the Lodges have to clear the prison with the state first to make it legal?
The penultimate episode of the season was thrillingly over the top, but the finale was an underwhelming denouement. The Ghoulies did such a lousy job killing Jughead that he was walking around a day later. He was merely incapacitated long enough so the epic Ghoulies vs. Serpents turf war could occur off screen. Veronica cuts off her nose to spite her face in a Pyrrhic real estate swap with her dad. Archie finally realizes Mr. Lodge still doesn’t like him in addition to being evil, so he threatens Hiram’s life by stabbing his mahogany desk. So Mr. Lodge gets him arrested for murder during the most ostentatious Student President swearing-in assembly. I really don’t care if Archie gets sent to Shankshaw. They can give that dunderhead’s scenes to the series’ superior gingers, Ethel Muggs & Cheryl.
Gotham’s first few episodes of season four were unique in not having any fatalities in a show known for its gratuitous violence. That made all the carnage of “No Man’s Land” more resonant. The third season finale got me excited that it would burn off the dross & give us the most Batman show possible. Despite the Batsuit being deferred, I’m happy to say it paid off on that promise! This season has been an embarrassment of riches with lots of great mini-arcs. The downside is that it’s much harder to tie all the disparate characters back together for a finale. I didn’t think it would work, but they proved me wrong.
Jeremiah Valeska becoming the new Joker doesn’t land quite as well because we barely see him being Bruce’s friend, although I’m glad they didn’t drag it out for a season. Fortunately, Monaghan plays him so distinct from Jerome that it gets the point across. It makes more sense than insisting that The World’s Greatest Detective never noticed there were three different Jokers. Sadly Jeremiah is less jovial than his brother. He’s more like Andy Warhol. Both are snazzy dressers, with the new one sporting a bichromatic blazer in case they don’t get back to Two-Face. (What happened to his Harley Quinn cosplayer bodyguard, Ecco?) The final arc uses some elements of The Killing Joke, yet not the Joker origin that’s its most compelling bit. (Why torture an impostor Alfred in front of Bruce when you’ve abducted the real deal?) In this universe Ra’s al Ghul & Mr. J are really Bruce Wayne’s biggest fans who just want to see him be Batman already! They could’ve just tossed a bat through his window!
Boo to giving Selina Kyle the Barbara Gordon treatment! That’s the part of The Killing Joke I don’t like! (How does Wayne Manor still not have any door locks?) She was 95% of the way to being Catwoman! Much like Deadpool 2, I dislike how tropey this is yet I appreciate how it still elicited such a strong emotional response from me even though I know she’ll recover. She’s not cut out to be Oracle, so they’ll probably find another Lazarus Pit to heal her.
Babs got Ra’s back for jerking her around about being The Demon’s Head. She put the magic dagger into Bruce’s bound hands & pushed him into Ra’s to disintegrate him. (Does that mean his power reverted to her?) THE STABBY QUEEN TURNED BATMAN INTO A GLORIFIED KNIFE HILT!!! YAASS QUEEN! SLAY!
Previous episodes suggested Riddler was being spurred by Doc Thompkins to become the heroic E. Nygma, consulting detective. Just as they swerved on Barbara’s redemption towards the end of season two, I’m glad they subverted this expectation. The writers didn’t forget Ed murdered plenty before The Riddler persona was in control. Despite her illegal deeds, however, Lee remains altruistic & independent. The scene where she & he stab each other is somehow simultaneously tragic, romantic, & hilarious. Is Hugo going to revive them as a two-headed monstrosity?
I was displeased Hugo Strange was able to revert Solomon Grundy into Butch until Penguin revealed it was part of his belated revenge on Tabitha for murdering his mom. He’s gone for good now, because in Gotham you only die twice. Kudos to Oswald on finally getting some vengeance this season in the most bastardly way possible.
As the title promised, this episode goes full “No Man’s Land.” Not only does this reference the classic crossover event, Barbaric Kean goes full misandrist. Boats & helicopters still exist so losing all the bridges shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but Gotham City is now officially Supervillain City! Carving up a city cut off from civilization sounds untenable in the long run, but you do you, you kooky crimesters! BRIDGIT PIKE HAS HER OWN BAND OF PYRO PUNKS! THE GODDAMN MAN-BAT OUTTA NOWHERE!!!! (He doesn’t look that great, but points for showing up. Is this the same guy from season 3?) The ax-murdering Orphan serving Mother probably isn’t Cassandra “Batgirl” Cain. Whither Poison Ivy?
Scarecrow began the season looking similar to the Batman Begins costume. When the part was recast, he got a hood like in Arkham Knight. Now he finally has a hat like his classic comic book appearance. It’s a simple detail that’s so resonant. Most live action comic adaptations will include a prototype costume that intentionally looks lousy before moving onto the real costume with less personality. Here Scarecrow’s costume evolution goes the opposite direction to make him more comic accurate yet still badass. This signifies Gotham is going full comic book! Always go full comic book.
I DRANK ALL THE GOTHAM KOOL-AID! I’m happy it’s getting a final season, but how can they introduce a bunch of new rogues (Still no Killer Moth & Gentleman Ghost?) to the already huge cast & still wrap everything up in only thirteen episodes?
Arrow was preempted for baseball a couple times & I didn’t even mind. It ended the season just as terribly as it began. Let’s give it up for consistency! I disliked season five as a whole, but at least it yielding a bunch of solid episodes. The best thing about this season is it made me finally appreciate Colin Donnell as Tommy Merlyn. The Anatoly/Oliver scenes were too good for this season. Even with a new showrunner taking the reins, I doubt I’ll be back for season seven aside from the crossover.
Now that I’ve had to endure Ricardo “The Dragon” Diaz, I may have been too hard on Prometheus. WHY DOES RICARD-0 HAVE SUCH INDOMITABLE PLOT ARMOR WHEN HE’S SO DAMN BASIC? Cheryl Blossom would’ve put an arrow into Diaz at their first encounter! He sounds like Nicolas Cage on cough medicine. Why were Anatoly & Black Siren so afraid of this punk ass when they could’ve easily killed him & taken over his criminal empire? Oliver didn’t take Diaz down with one punch. I’m calling shenanigans!
Diaz threatens Black Siren’s life in an attempt to get new Mayor Quentin Lance to tell the FBI to leave him alone in a press conference. HOW IS HE THIS SUCCESSFUL AT BEING DUMB? Quentin (who Felicity tracked via his secret pacemaker, which can be chalked up to a Flashpoint ripple if you’re feeling generous about contrived continuity errors) decides he’d rather be heroically slain instead of complying. Sara Lance pops up just in time for his demise to remind you she escaped onto a much better series. Much like Willa Holland, Paul Blackthorne was too good for what this series became.
Did The Flash introduce Siren-X just to have a more evil Laurel to distract from Black Siren’s unearned redemption arc in Arrow? “What about all those innocent people Earth-2 Laurel killed?” “Doesn’t matter if she’s not a Nazi!”
Much like Barry, Oliver (temporarily) thwarted the judicial system via impostor chicanery. “Objection, your honor. The prosecutor is a FILTHY CALAMARI MATA HARI!” Why did this show give a throwaway reference to Intergang when they could’ve been more interesting than The Quadrant it just made up? They’d probably botch it too, but at least its goofy name doesn’t make me think of squares.
Diaz bluffs that he’s got The Longbow Hunters backing him up. That’s the name of an influential mini-series this show has already strip mined. They were also a C-list supervillain team in the New 52, but here they’re supposed to be assassins even the League of Assassins are afraid of. I am unconvinced.
In order to get the FBI to help stop a criminal with interstate & Russian ties who’s taken over a major city (i.e. its job), Oliver has to plead guilty to vigilantism at a federal trial. He also apologizes to all the teammates who betrayed him at his most reasonable & empathetic. (Stephen Amell using his best “WTF?” face in response to the writers forcing David Ramsey to spew all that character assassination made it go down marginally smoother in a prior episode.) So Oliver Queen finally goes to super-max prison. I don’t care because it took too long to get there.
THEY COULDN’T EVEN KILL RICARD-ZERO?!
I liked Agents of SHIELD‘s previous season slightly more, but this one features zero Grant Ward. In the first season, the team talked about how they were family. It felt artificial because it was way too early. Now they don’t have shoehorn “family” into their conversations because they definitely feel like one.
I really liked how they handled Glenn Talbot this season, even if they didn’t really explain how his already injured brain could dominate the Gravitonium gestalt. While they’ve dabbled in the past, “The End” definitely has a costumed superhero battle (albeit a a short one). I’m disappointed Graviton was vanquished when Centipede-juiced Quake quaked him into outer space. Since he’s mastered gravity, he could’ve altered his trajectory to someplace breathable. Although I guess a shockwave of that magnitude would’ve liquefied all his organs anyway, providing a being infused with Gravitonium still needs them. (Assimilating the Absorbing Man really didn’t give him any additional powers.) Alas, he didn’t get the chance to compress Thanos into a paperweight!
Yo-Yo was right! I’m glad Coulson told her he agreed, because half the team were being really cruel abut it to her. Quake not becoming SHIELD’s director is good too, although Mack is also judgy. Piper survived! I’m surprised Coulson & May got to retire on actual Tahiti for a temporarily happy ending. The ricochet fireworks off the holo-shield during the Philinda kiss were perfect.
As a Whedon family tradition, Fitz is removed from the Fitzsimmons equation by unromantic rubble. Did Deke blink out of existence, or is Simmons already pregnant with his mum? If it’s not just denial, Jemma’s notion that they can defrost the wee Scottish prince literally chilling in space with Enoch oddly undercut the tragedy. Even if they did divert the future from the season’s start, don’t they need Fitz to defrost in the future to help them return? It’s not like they can revive him for a few decades of marital bliss & then return him to cryosleep either. This could cause all sorts of predestination paradoxes! Unless the future Fitz was from an alternate timeline all along?
I’m glad this didn’t end with any of the cast disintegrating. That would’ve been such a dick move if this was the series finale. (It’s coming back for a victory lap in 2019, hopefully with Griffin & Hellow!) No, this doesn’t mean the show takes place in an alternated timeline to the MCU. The episode just ended before Infinity War’s The Snappening.
The Flash may have the shallowest gulfs between its peaks & valleys this season. It doesn’t reach the heights of Legends of Tomorrow’s best episodes, but it also doesn’t make me scream waves of obscenities at my TV like Arrow. Although it’s not as good as the first two seasons, at least it’s trying. While he’s faster than ever, The Flash acts so sluggish. It’s also at the disadvantage of not having any Gorilla “Speed Force Kryptonite” Grodd this season. (Coincidentally some poor soul stumbled onto my blog last week searching for “grodd porn comics” & left unsatisfied.)
Killg%re, Hazard, Black Bison, Dwarfstar, & The Fiddler were really well cast & used their powers creatively. Having them team up with Barry in prison was fun. It’s a pity they all got husked by The Thinker. Despite the constant murders of potentially great recurring characters, it’s not as much of a downer as season’s three’s looming threat to kill Iris. So does Elongated Man now have all the meta-powers The Thinker absorbed?
Making this year’s villains a dark mirror of Barry & Iris was clever. Forget what I wrote about The Thinker & The Mechanic being the ideal couple because that fell apart into an abusive mess. It would’ve worked better if their relationship flashbacks hadn’t been crammed into a single episode late in the season with much connective tissue missing.
Lots of people dislike unbeatable strategist villains like The Thinker. I can relate, except having one whose superpower is to be so monstrously brilliant is one of those acceptable exceptions. He’s wise enough to steal a variety of metahuman abilities so he can thwart the Flash without superspeed. While it made the heroes look like dunces, the episode where he defeats the STAR Labs team on their own turf had some of the most dynamic action. His attack on ARGUS had an array of glow effects too. There’s a hypocritical irony in this pretentious Luddite wanting to revert humanity to a pre-technological mindset when all he’s accomplished is due to advanced technology. His Enlightenment Satellites were introduced early enough, unlike Zoom’s surprise Crisis On Infinite Earths tuning fork. Compared to Diaz, Mallus, & Reign, I actually believe The Thinker is the most intriguing of the CW’s Big Bads this season. He’s not up there with Reverse-Flash, but he’s a welcome respite from another Savitar.
Killer Frost & Caitlin Snow were no longer integrated this season due to a placebo? Even if they do activate the anomaly in Caitlin’s brain sans dark matter, wouldn’t they just get Killer Frost’s personality without powers? I’m glad she’s finally getting counseling for her dissociative identity disorder, but a repressed memory indicates she’s been metahuman Killer Frost since she was a child?
Aside from Flash smacking Thinker’s mental clones with Elongated Man, the finale itself could’ve been more thrilling. Thinker’s ability to anticipate every countermeasure quietly vanishes. There’s a weird anti-intellectual moral implying genius can’t coexist with empathy. The mysterious caterer who’s been popping up is
Dawn Nora, Barry’s & Iris’s daughter who’s half of the Tornado Twins. So despite writing in Interlac, she’s not XS from the Legion of Superheroes. After all the foreshadowing, I was expecting her to be more involved in the finale. Next season’s foe teaser was cut for time? Did Nora’s twin turn evil?
Well now I’m out of things to blog on until fall. Thanks for nothing, network TV scheduling!