I Guess We're Building to a Crisis

Arrowverse 2018/2019 Season: Week 29

So, by now everyone should know that Arrow is ending next year with a shortened, ten-episode season. The question leading up to now was how would the CW end the run, and what exactly would that least season look like? Well, we have at least half an answer (and we can pretty well guess at the rest, as we will below): Season 8 of Arrow will be very different, with Oliver Queen no longer operating as the protector of Star City but, instead, venturing out into the multiverse with the Monitor. And, from what we've seen, The Flash could directly tie into these events as well.

Arrow: Season 7

Obviously this is all in service of the next big crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which, presumably, will also serve as the series finale for Arrow. It will be the biggest event in the history of the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming., tying in Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and the newest addition, Batwoman. It'll be interesting to see how that all plays out (and if, somehow, Black Lightning will have any appearance in any form), but for now let's look at the end of season finales.

Arrow, Season 7, Episode 22: You Have Saved This City

Season Finale

So, all season long we've been building to a story of Oliver vs. Emiko. Emiko is the illegitimate daughter of Robert Queen, Oliver's father, making her Oliver's half sister. She was upset that Robert never acknowledged her or made her part of the family and, when repeated attempt to get him to own up never had any effect, Emiko was swayed to the dark side by the Nine Rings. She planted the bomb on the Queens Gambit that blew up the ship and lead to Oliver getting stranded on the island, essentially leading to Oliver becoming the Green Arrow. She then become a dark version of him to ruin his reputation and sink the Queen family once and for all. Oliver, then, had to become a good version of the arrow-based vigilante, someone that fights for good, and doesn't kill, to balance Emiko and redeem his family's legacy.

At least, I think that's what the series was trying for this season. What really amounted to was a bunch of half-assed retconning and a bunch of retreading storylines we've seen before, just in a different order to make it seem fresh and new. But it was neither fresh or new, and the season basically amounted to yet another arrow-based bad guy/reflection of Oliver trying to ruin Oliver's rep and destroy the good work the Green Arrow has done. And, as before, it ended the same way. Really, nothing about this season amounted to much and it all felt like the show spinning it's wheels, recycling content when it didn't really have anything new to say at all.

Most of the effort, honestly, went into the Star City 2040 setup. Clearly the series really wants to spin off adventures about Oliver's daughter, Blackstar, in the future setting but, seriously, this whole section was awful. The character wasn't interesting, nor were any of the side characters around her, Overwatch II or Spartan II included. The story was half-assed, the special effects couldn't keep up with the futuristic story the series wanted to tell, and it all resounded in a great big meh. Really, it felt like the show doing a futuristic parody of itself than a self-sustaining idea for a spin-off. I dread having to watch this show if it actually does become a reality (although so far there has been no announcement from the CW on the matter, so let's all hope it dies a quiet death).

The biggest part of the season finale was the last few minutes when the Monitor shows up to whisk Oliver away. The show flat out states that by the end of Oliver's next adventure he'd be dead, so the finale, eighth season really is the swan song for the character and the show. What really intrigues me about this is everything about season seven felt like a series finale. Oliver and Felicity leave Star City, going into hiding to protect their child. They pass the reins of Team Arrow to Diggle so he can manage it. They say their good byes. They have a back-door spin-off primed. Hell, Felicity's actress has permanently left the show. In any other television universe this would have been the finale but there's the big crossover event next year to think about.

It's the crossover that has the biggest implications for Arrow, the thing that could make this show feel fresh and new all over again. This season has been indicative of the problems with most seasons of Arrow, namely that it's always some vigilante or another coming in with a criminal empire to try and take over Star City and ruin Oliver's rep in the process. Over and over again. But with this last, ten-episode season to come, Arrow has seemingly ditched all the trappings of the show. Now it can go anywhere, do anything, and who knows what that means. A dimension-hopping, time-traveling heroic adventure? Maybe, and that's what's cool about the setup. I think there's a good chance next season could be amazingly good because the setup for it promises all kinds of new things to come.

Or it could be like this last season, awful and tedious and a chore to get through. Let's just hope for the former.

The Flash: Season 5

The Flash, Season 5, Episode 22: Legacy

Season Finale

Speaking of dull plot lines... So over on The Flash this year we've been dealing with Cicada. At the end of last season the Star Labs satellite crashed to the ground, spraying dark-matter enhanced materials everywhere and causing all kinds of new meta-humans, and meta-technology as well. One side effect of this was the creation of Cicada, a meta-human who blames other meta-humans for the satellite incident that, it just so happens, plunged Cicada's young niece into a coma, so he goes around killing other metas. To help stop Cicada, the one villain Barry Allen's Flash never caught, his daughter Nora / XS comes back from the future. This causes a whole series of new events to form, a whole new time line where Cicada starts killing years earlier, a second Cicada from the future arrives, and somehow it all ties back to the Reverse Flash who is in prison in the future and, apparently, orchestrating everything so he can free himself. It's... complicated.

As I groused last week, the whole concept of a villain pulling all the strings from prison is a trope that is so hoary at this point it's no longer fun. Hell, we already have two different versions of the trope this year as Lex Luthor was doing the same shtick over on Supergirl. While I can appreciate the construction of a villain using those around him as long-con to free themselves from prison, the plot in this season is so convoluted and complex it just doesn't make any sense.

For starters, the rules of time travel in The Flash are maddeningly stupid. People can jump back and forth in time and ripples of their actions don't seem to cause any problems until it's narratively convenient. If Nora went back and changed the past so that Cicada happened years early, presumably everything in her future would change to reflect that (like the exhibit in the Flash Museum should be updated and Nora should have two sets of memories at a minimum). Later, because of the whole Cicada plot, the Reverse Flash is able to escape -- Cicada's dagger absorbs powers, and the dagger was being use in the future to control the Reverse Flash, but then Team Flash in the present destroys the dagger, so then it disappears at just the right moment and suddenly the Reverse Flash is free. Again, that shouldn't happen -- if the dagger was destroyed, the future should act like it never existed at all.

I say this because in prior time travel events, the future did change every time a change was made. Remember the third season plot line about Flashpoint -- there, Barry went back and saved his mother which immediately changed the present. If that's how it works then, why does it work differently now? It's inconsistency like that that really ruins a good time travel story, and this season of The Flash was far from good.

Meanwhile, the show never really managed to make Nora into a decent character. She was always a plot device, someone there to initiate actions and cause new twists in the story. From the beginning she had the vibe of being a deus ex machina, and the fact that in the end it's revealed that Reverse Flash was controlling her actions and using her to free himself only cements that. Then, right when everything was revealed the Reverse Flash was free, Nora is wiped from existence because her time line no longer existed. How? What? If her time line was wiped away then so was the version of Reverse Flash we were witnessing, and then everything she did before that would be wiped away and the whole time line would nuke itself. Essentially, Nora ruins everything.

In comparison to last season, season five of The Flash was a vast improvement. Cicada (I and II) were better than season four's villain, The Thinker. The plot was more interesting even if, in the end, it all fell apart under badly designed time travel (lack of) rules and it was far more watchable than it's been in a long time. I just wish it could have been better. It was close to actually being a good show again.

Still, we have Crisis coming up next year, and apparently Barry is supposed to die there (at least that's what the show is indicating right now). This is a parallel to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths story from the 1980s comic series. There, Barry Allen and Kara Danvers (of Supergirl) died. Here it seems as though the Arrowverse is engineering it for Oliver Queen to take their place, but we'll have to see how it all plays out. Again, Crisis could change everything and make all these shows fresh and new again. Let's just hope they're able to pull it off.

Elsewhere in the 'Verse:
  • Supergirl finally gave us the big confrontation between Red Daughter and Supergirl, and it was... okay. A tad rushed, honestly, but then Red Daughter hasn't really be much of a character this whole time. There were so many things going on in this season that something had to give and Red Daughter had to take a back seat to Lex and his machinations and Agent Liberty, too. She's an interesting concept but not a strong character. And, apparently, Lex killer her after she apparently killed Supergirl (she didn't, not for real), so this sets up the final fight between Supergirl and Lex to come.
  • Legends of Tomorrow have to deal with Neron and his plans to steal all the souls of humanity via an app. Yes, an app. It's an amusing storyline, one that no other show in the 'verse would attempt, and that's why this is the best series in the set. Next week we'll get the rousing conclusion and see just how the Legends are able to defeat Neron once and for all (and, presumably, free both Ray and Constantine from Hell in the process).
  • And then Doom Patrol introduced yet another strange character, Flex Mentallo, a strong man who can bend reality around him just by flexing his beefy muscles. It's as weird and strange as it sounds. This is all leading up to the big confrontation with Mr. Nobody next week, but I'm still wondering what his game really is. Since he knows everything and seems to be able to play the heroes like a fiddle, I get a feeling that whatever we think is going on is far from the truth. We have two episodes to go before we learn the truth there.