Is it aliens time yet? Alas, not quite—first, we’ve got more villains to introduce, a train to stop, and more than a few questions to ponder.
Spoilers for all three shows below!
The Flash 3×06, “Shade”
Poor Wally. Even when he dreams about being Kid Flash, his suit just doesn’t look like it fits properly. But obviously he’s got bigger problems: He’s so desperate to have powers, his creepy Alchemy dreams seem like a good thing. The whole West family is in a state of doubt: Wally and Iris are both unsure how they can help—and just when Joe decides that a date with Cecile is a good idea, HR shows up to out-chatter him. That guy! Even when he’s being helpful, he’s just regurgitating others’ ideas in a really overt way. Is his face-disguising device going to play a major role, or is it just a fun toy?
Wally and Iris’s shared desire to do something useful is entirely understandable, but both times it comes up, it turns into a conversation about Barry. Wally’s not wrong to ask why Barry gets the trust and the leeway he does when he’s made such massive mistakes. Does he really deserve that trust and freedom? And then we have Iris, who asks a question some of us have been pondering for a while: What’s her role on this team?
Barry’s response should’ve gotten him dumped. Nothing about “There is no Flash without Iris West” would make Iris feel better about her contribution; it’s essentially a way of saying that he just needs her to believe in him, like Tinkerbell needs us to believe in fairies. That’s not about Iris; it’s about Barry. It’s also about an ongoing problem with the show: What is Iris’s role? Is this scene the writers’ way of drawing a target on this question and beginning to answer it? Can she punch a few more people along the way to figuring things out?
Meanwhile, every time a tidbit about Flashpoint comes out, everyone complains that Barry didn’t tell them, which is a bit rich considering no one wanted to know. Keeping secrets from your team never turns out well, but everything revealed this week further complicates a tense situation. Cisco rats out on Caitlin because he’s afraid of what he saw in his vibe, but he has no idea what their future selves are fighting about. Does he cause the fight because she’s mad he told the team? Are vibes self-fulfilling?
“Shade” is a misdirect; the titular meta is a tiny villain, quickly defeated by headlights and a handy pair of power-dampening cuffs. The whole episode feels like a bit of a misdirect, jam-packed with inconsistencies and possible clues. Who is Randolph Morgan, other than HR’s partner on Earth-19? Why does “ALCHEMY” only appear on the glass in the pipeline for a second, then disappear? Are we meant to infer that only Wally sees it, not Iris? Who’s Julian’s unseen girlfriend? (Please don’t make Julian be Alchemy.) Is anyone else a little skeptical of Cecile? Who are all the rest of the robed people with Alchemy?
And where did Savitar suddenly come from? “Shade” packed all the real action into the last few minutes—and a ton of questions, too. Why can’t Joe see Savitar when he’s holding Barry up against the ceiling? Does that cocoon turn Wally into one of these bad guys? How are Savitar and Alchemy connected? And will Savitar be a more interesting sort of speedster villain than the last few?
Next week, Flash seems to be focusing not on all this villainy but on the Caitlin question, since the episode is called “Killer Frost.” I hope she comes to accept her powers and use ‘em for good, but it seems like that might be a lot to ask.
Arrow 5×07, “Vigilante”
The identity of the latest vigilante to show up on Arrow is no secret to DC Comics fans or anyone who pays the least bit of attention to the internet—but the show seems determined to play it as a mystery, to the point of having him escape at the last minute, before Oliver can remove his goofy mask. Is this a hint that maybe it’s not who we think it is? Why draw this out? Why have one mysterious villain when you could have two?
Assuming it’s that one guy (I’m being vague in case there’s still someone out there who doesn’t have a strong suspicion), then possibly the delayed reveal is to keep Mayor Queen in the dark a little longer. What will Oliver do if he finds out who Vigilante is, then has to keep that to himself in order to protect his own identity?
If Oliver’s secret is still secret by then, anyway. It took me a minute to realize that even though the audience is aware that Prometheus knows who the Green Arrow is, Oliver’s team doesn’t know that Church gave up the information—though I’m a little bit surprised that they haven’t considered the possibility.
“Who gets to decide who’s a psycho and who’s a vigilante?” Thanks, Evelyn, for asking the question that defines the season thus far. To Arrow’s credit, this question isn’t getting a quick answer, and people are changing their minds about it as they get more information. Last week, as Oliver points out, the new kids were angry that the Hood had once been more of a murderer, and now they aren’t sure if they should stop a seriously murdery new guy. It’s worth noting that Felicity was the one to ask if they really had to stop the new guy—that’s pretty dark for her, especially given the guilt she’s carrying about Havenrock. As for Oliver, the new vigilante’s super-violent ways give him pause: He’s been trying to be “legitimate,” but if the extremist appears to be getting more done to clean up the city, is he still doing the right thing?
“Vigilante” looks like it’s about the ugly mask guy who signs his victim’s faces with a bloody V, but as with Flash, there’s a ton of little stuff going on in the background. This is the first time we’ve referred to Curtis as Mr. Terrific, isn’t it? His continuing attempts to master the salmon ladder are a great visual reminder that the team, while they’re definitely getting stronger, don’t have Oliver’s strength or experience, at least not yet. Ragman’s bullet-repelling powers come in really handy with the gun-toting Vigilante on the scene. Rene’s sympathy for Diggle’s hurt and rage is a graceful callback to Diggle talking Rene through his guilt. Susan mentions her Twitter war with a Russian investigative journalist, which suggests she’s still digging into Oliver’s missing five years. And, early in the episode, there’s one very notable reference to Slade Wilson.
And then we’ve got the flashbacks, which reveal that Oliver is not so clever as he thinks he is. “Truth is a matter of perspective,” says Dolph Lundgren’s Konstantin Kovar—more than once. Why would the Bratva let an American in, unless there was something of value in it for them? What’s the endgame here, and does it have something to do with Prometheus? And is this setup being mirrored on present-day Oliver’s own team? He joined the Bratva thinking it was good for his personal quest, but they’re just using him for mysterious ends. And he added Evelyn to his team thinking it was good for the city—but maybe she’s just using them for her own reasons.
I really don’t want Evelyn to be a bad guy, and I’m not convinced she is—that was such a tiny snippet of a scene that it could mean a lot of things. But this further entangles an already ambitious plot in potentially curious ways. First, though, everybody’s got bigger problems. Aliens!
Legends of Tomorrow 2×06, “Outlaw Country”
“All I know is that it’s never a good idea when your nemesis starts accessorizing.”
Sara didn’t quite get all the best lines this week (“I don’t wanna wait for it”) but the balance was definitely tipped in her favor. Last week, we went back to the ‘80s; this week, it’s back to the Wild West for a reappearance from Johnathon Schaech’s Jonah Hex—and the Waverider’s best Western garb (which looks fantastic on the team). “Outlaw Country” is good fun, in large part thanks to the goofy-earnest Ray and Nate teamup, but also feels like well-traveled ground at this point: Sara’s the captain, olde-timey men continue to have a problem with that, and Sara continues to not care at all about their opinions. It’s sort of tiresome and delightful at once: I don’t need any more jokes about “fillies,” but watching Sara roll her eyes and ignore every bit of male posturing never gets old.
Jeff Fahey—who I can never not think of as the pilot from Lost—turns up this week as Quentin Turnbull, Hex’s nemesis and the cause of this particular time aberration. He’s going to turn all of the west into Turnbull Country. Turnbull wants it to remain “wild,” which appears to be code for “dudes doing whatever they want.” Aiding him in this quest is a big hunk of dwarf star found by what I can only assume was another short-lived time pirate.
The dwarf star is a handy plot device, both for this aberration and for Ray; his suit was powered by the material. Turnbull, on the other hand, uses it to devise a gun that shoots poor special effects, one of which injures Nate even though he’s steeled-up. Good thing they’ve got both the Waverider‘s medical bay and Ray, who gives Nate a sweet little pep talk that’s echoed in the subplot involving Mick and Amaya. Amaya’s stuck babysitting Mick as he gets drunk and claims he wants to watch the world burn, but Mick can’t scare her off with his big talk. Amaya knows a thing or two about feeling wild, and, apparently, a thing or two about talking teammates out of a dark place. Maisie Richardson-Sellers plays her steely sympathy in the same way she plays Amaya’s fight scenes: with cool, thoughtful pragmatism.
This episode isn’t quite sure what to do with Martin, who stays behind in the ship because he’s been having headaches, or maybe visions—images of a life other than the one he’s lived. (Finally, some consequences from interacting with your younger self!) With Stein sidelined, Jax mostly plays backup to the rest of the team as everyone else moves forward. Sara—or Captain Lance to anyone who challenges her—further establishes herself as leader, and does a good job of it. Amaya and Mick come to a careful and unexpected understanding. Nate and Ray have an awfully good time chewing on bits of cowboy dialogue and their individual senses of self-worth. They’re a couple of big curious puppies and neither of them care about looking cool so much as they care about doing things that matter—like stopping a train or building a new suit or helping a teammate. If they bro down a little in the process, that’s ok too. (To a point.)
“Outlaw Country” is a lot of fluffy filler, apart from the acquisition of the dwarf star and the sidenote about Martin’s visions—and yet another unsubtle reference to the mysterious secret message from future Barry Allen. But if the show’s going to spin its wheels a little on the way to the “Invasion” crossover, it might as well involve Sara disarming cowboys with a whip.
Molly Templeton can’t stop watching clips from the four-way teamup, but is really, really trying not to spoil anything.