An Unknown Road Ahead
Arrowverse 2021/2022 Season: March Finales
With 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. taking most of February off it seemed prudent to simply wait until March to do our next check-in report. But then we also have the finales for two of the four shows (counting Naomi) running right now and, well, that's obviously gotta be our focus. We have to say goodbye to Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow this season, their run of episodes over (at least for the time being).
So let's go in and see just how these two shows finished out their seasons. Was it with a bang or a whimper?
Season Finale: "We Having Fun Yet?"
I have felt pretty conflicted over this third season of Batwoman. On the one hand I really do like the characters they have on the show, especially Ryan and Alice, and the actresses behind the characters continue to turn in great performances. There is no lack of talent on the show in front of the cameras, that's for sure. And yet, at the same time, everything else about this season really has betrayed all the fine work that Batwoman put in on season two.
Think about where this show was at the start of its second season. It's lead actress, Ruby Rose, had a very public falling out with the production team behind Batwoman and bailed after just one season. The show had to figure out how to continue the series and the producers opted to introduce a new Batwoman while still keeping all the old plot lines going. It was a bold move, and one that shouldn't have worked, and yet somehow it did. But the second season also wrapped up all its storylines, putting its various characters into definitive places, all things considered. The show had to find new angles to explore in whatever shape the third season took.
I can see the logic of what the team decided to do. The first season was all about Kate Kane and her family issues (tied up with her supepr-heroing as well), and the second season continued those familial stories alongside Ryan's own plot line. So, for the third season, why not introduce new family for Ryan and have them become the focal point of the series going forward. And that would have been great if the new family they gave her -- Jada Jet and her son Marquis -- were at all interesting. Instead they're both comically over-the-top characters without any depth or shading.
Jada, for her part, was an inconsistently plotted mother that seemed to do things on a whim not because it suited her story but because the show demanded some way to put a cliffhanger at the end of each episode. So regularly Jada was trotted out to put the screwed to Ryan, to Batwoman, or both, recklessly throwing away key character development so that Ryan could struggle against some new, engineered threat the next week. Ryan loses her company, Batwoman is in danger of getting outed, on and on, all because of Jada. It means that the times the show wants her to act like a good mother it just doesn't work.
Worse off, though, is Marquis in large part because the show simply didn't have a hold of his villain at all. At each step of the way it ham-fistedly shoved Marquis into Ryan's life, having him steal her company, having him kill people in front of her, having him become the engineer of Batwoman's (alleged) downfall. But any time you tried to apply logic to him, his actions, or the actions of everyone around him, none of it worked. Logic and reality had no place around Marquis, almost like he had a perception filter around him. Realistically it's just that if the show had treated him realistically and had actual consequences for his actions he would have lasted half an episode before he ended up in Arkham.
Perhaps this could have worked even then if the show could have found someone capable of playing this version of Marquis properly. Nick Creegan was not that actor. He played the character like a comical cartoon, someone out of the 1960s Batman. Clearly he wanted to put his spin on "The Joker" but he failed horribly. He never felt like a threat, or a tragic figure. He was just stupid and tedious.
All of this betrayed the season. Giving Ryan not only a family but also her version of the Joker was interesting. Batman has the Joker, Batwoman had Joker II... except, effectively, Batwoman already had a Joker-like figure: Alice. Now the show had two and, tellingly, the more focus Marquis took the less Alice had to do. Everything about the construction of this season, its balance, and the story it wanted to tell was wrong.
So where does the show go from here? That's hard to know. The final episode, "We Having Fun Yet?", was structured in such a way to tie up all its loose ends. Ryan defeats Marquis but then cures him of his madness. Jada, Marquis, and Ryan hug it out. Luke comes to terms with losing his father and becoming a hero. Alice decides to go to Sweden to get treatment for her mental illness. Aside from a tag-ending that promised some new threat (in the shadows of Gotham), this episode functioned like a series finale. The show could end now, with a bow, and it wouldn't feel like something was left hanging.
But, more to the point, the show's ratings having been great. the CW is loathe to cancel anything, but so far Batwoman remains un-renewed and on the bubble, waiting for word from the CW higher-ups whether it will have a fourth season to soar over the skyline of Gotham. If I had to lay odds I think this show might just get the axe. There's really no reason to bring it back and this season was, creatively, the worst the show has done yet. There's no time like the present to lance the show and move the 'verse forward fresh. Hopefully we'll get an announcement soon about it but, honestly, I wouldn't be sad to see this one go.
Legends of Tomorrow
Season Finale: "Knocked Down, Knocked Up"
Speaking of "bubble" shows: Legends of Tomorrow. This show, too, has yet to get renewed by the CW. That's sad, though, because this show has managed to find its creative peak this season, pushing the bounds of the show's formula in new and exciting ways. Seeing what the show could do, going forward, would be a highlight of the next season of the Arrowverse.
This season saw the Legends fighting to regain their ability to time travel after their ship was blown up at the end of last season. The ventured through 1925 until they managed to find the creator of time travel, Gwyn Davies (Matt Ryan playing a new role). From there they then helped him build his machine and used it to slowly travel their way through time, avoiding an evil version of the Waverider populated by an Evil Gideon and Evil Robot Versions of themselves. It was very Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey in a way (just without the jaunts to Heaven and Hell).
From there we then had adventures at not one but two fixed points in time and space, which then led to the introduction of Booster Gold, a battle in World War I, and a great send off from not only Gwyn at the end of all this but also Nick Zano's Nate Heywood. And all of this because the show's team decided to take the ship away from the Legends and force the heroes onto a new kind of adventure. All around this was a great reinvention of the show.
Legends is one of those shows that when its good its really good. It also makes it hard to talk about at length because I usually say the same things over and over again: it's funny, it's creatively interesting, it's fresh and hip and wow. And yet all of that is true. This show is the bright spot of the Arrowverse, a fun and funny episodic jaunt week after week. Superman & Lois tells the strong, dramatic superhero stories in the 'verse, and it does it well. Legends gets to be cornball and silly, but that works just as well. It wouldn't be the Arrowverse without the Legends.
And, more to the point, this season doesn't really end in a place where you'd expect the series to just wrap up. Our heroes get arrested by the Time Authorities so stand trial for Time Crimes. If the show ended now we wouldn't know what happened. While there have been storylines that have been dropped before (poor Mia Queen and her future quest to find her missing brother) but never in a series that was actually running full-bore. The Legends had one of their best seasons yet, a strange and delightful romp that showed there was still a lot of life in the show. Now is not the time to cancel them.
Hopefully, at the very least, we'll get one more season to wrap up the adventures of the heroes on the Waverider II. The Legends have varied the 'verse through thick and thin. They deserve a proper send-off in season eight.
- Well, Superman & Lois has been doing some great things, and the show continues to be fantastic. We'll talk about that, and the return of The Flash, later this month. Meanwhile, Naomi is boring and that makes all of us sad.