This Week in the Arrowverse: The Past is the Present

The Flash took a bye week, but plenty happened on our other super-shows! Legends of Tomorrow may be the one about time-travel, but Arrow is currently very focused on Oliver Queen’s past coming back to haunt his present…

Spoilers for both shows follow!

Arrow 5×06, “So It Begins”

So It Begins

Was that mall scene Arrow’s not-so-subtle argument that armed citizens aren’t necessarily helpful in a threatening situation? It certainly felt like one—but like so much in this very busy episode, it blew by in a hurry. Of course, Oliver and company are also armed citizens, which underscores this episode’s (and possibly this season’s) questions: Is changing your mind, your stance on things, inherently hypocritical? Can you believe that an idea applies to some people, but not to others? Is holding yourself to a different standard ever acceptable?

Arrow has spent plenty of time dealing with the question of how a person can overcome the person they used to be. Felicity’s not a goth hacker anymore; Oliver’s not a drunken playboy (except when it suits him). Thea’s narrative is full of change. Having firmly established that people can change, Arrow is now interested in a new perspective on this question: Can people who learn about Oliver’s past forgive him for it, and accept that change? How do you reconcile who a person used to be with who they are? How do you know what’s true change, and what’s lip service?

Evelyn/Artemis’s anger at Oliver is too quickly resolved (with the tired cliché of you-saved-my-life-so-I’m-not-mad-anymore), but at least it gave Madison McLaughlin something to do; she’s better than the material she’s gotten so far. I want to see her really become the Canary, not just wear the outfit. I still worry for the long-term prospects of these new recruits, but getting to see Artemis put up a fierce fight against Prometheus was a treat.

In the Bratva flashbacks, Dolph Lundgren makes his first appearance as Konstantin Kovar, the man Oliver promised to kill. In the present, Prometheus turns out to be targeting people whose named are anagrams of people on Oliver’s first-season kill list, and his weapons are made of Oliver’s old melted-down arrows. Everything is about Oliver’s past—not just the new kids’ frustration with being kept in the dark about his murderous tendencies. I hope we don’t spend too much time on the question of whether you can be a good serial killer, but on the other hand, Arrow’s at its best when it questions its own moral universe: What really separates the Arrow and Prometheus, other than intent? Does intent matter when you’re killing people?

And, in pressing narrative questions, what does Prometheus have to do with Quentin Lance? That episode ending tease was viciously effective. I don’t think Lance is Prometheus, but someone could be controlling him the way Merlyn controlled Thea. Is he actually not drinking, but blacking out for mysterious reasons? Is Felicity’s super sketchy boyfriend involved somehow? (Oh, Felicity, why did you tell him about your job?) And what was the point of the music festival? Thea’s a genius, but even she couldn’t pull together a day-long, multi-act stadium show in a few days. I hope that quirky plot point turns out to serve some purpose.

 

Legends of Tomorrow 2×05, “Compromised”

Compromised

Somebody on the Legends team really loves sending their gang to the ‘80s—and why not? You get to dress Damien Darhk like a Miami Vice reject, put Sara in acid-washed jeans, and give Amaya a feminist complaint about shoulder pads. I’m not sure about the state-dinner tuxes, though; they fit everyone a little too well to be period-accurate.

The whole White House/Damien Darhk/Cold War nukes plot felt somewhat stale, but around the edges, “Compromised” was full of little moments that let characters shine. Much like the way Arrow is interested in questions about morality and hypocrisy, Legends has the team arguing, a little, about the morality of the decisions they make. With great time travel power comes great historical responsibility—but to who or what or when are the team responsible? To the past as it happened, or to the people destroyed by that past? How do you make decisions about these questions when you’ve no idea what the consequences might be?

Speaking of consequences, I’d like there to be some. The Legends keep showing up, well … late. Good on Nate for building a new machine to find time aberrations, but if they’re constantly going to arrive just in time to further complicate things, shouldn’t that affect the future? If things are already different when they get there, are they too late? Or when they stop a certain thing from happening, does that essentially reset time so that their mistakes (hello, rocket man in the White House) never happened?

I know, I know. It’s a loosey-goosier show than that. And its delights are still plentiful: Sara fighting a man three times her size (and pelting toughs with her heels). Graeme McComb once again doing a spot-on young Martin Stein, while Victor Garber dealt with the true difficulty of traveling to your own past: finding out how much of a jerk you were. Amaya revealing, bit by bit, a little more about her relationship with the JSA. Ray gleefully appropriating Reagan’s jelly beans. A Ghostbusters joke about not crossing the streams—and the continuing odd partnership of Mick and Ray, who are horribly, wonderfully good for each other. Nick Zano’s increasingly endearing Nate Heywood, who you just know is going to hug everyone, all the time, no matter how much they roll their eyes. Lance Henriksen as an older Obsidian, telling Amaya he wants to go home to the man he loves.

I loved seeing Obsidian as an older man; there aren’t enough older heroes or metas, especially in this universe. (Apparently The Flash’s particle accelerator explosion somehow only affected the under-40s.) But is it too much to ask for a woman over 40 to also have a steady role in the Arrowverse? Since Arrow killed off Moira Queen, we’ve only had the occasional appearances of the other moms (Dr. Tannhauser, Dinah Lance, Nora Allen, and Francine West), and the too-rare Flash scenes with Mercury Labs’ Tina McGee (Amanda Pays). Meanwhile, across the three shows we’ve got regular and recurring characters including the various Wellses (played by 53-year-old Tom Cavanagh); Joe West (Jesse L. Martin, 47); Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman, 49); Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne, 47); Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell, 46); Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher, 46); and Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough, 50) along with the 67-year-old Garber. It’s just a touch unbalanced (though of course another Earth has Supergirl’s Cat Grant).

At any rate, the Legion of Doom is slowly forming from among these men, with Thawne twice approaching Darhk this episode. It’s not until after Sara tells Darhk what awaits him in the future that Darhk agrees to team up with the nefarious speedster—but if Darhk knows what’s coming, won’t he take steps to change the outcome? Shouldn’t the world be a very different place when we return to Star City next week? Or will the mysterious box Sara pickpocketed from Darhk make all the difference?

Molly Templeton anxiously awaits the reappearance of both Malcolm Merlyn and Leonard Snart.

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