The Tragic Loss of Old Friends
Arrowverse 2021/2022 Season: May Check-In
We come into May (after a bit more time away than I expected) with sad news for 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.: we've lost two series even as the universe as a whole keeps on plugging on. We'll address that loss below (and, in one case, it really does sting), but we'll also check in with both The Flash and Superman & Lois, our two ongoing stories.
So let's not beat around the bush; we have grief to work through:
The Cancellations of Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow
This last week brought the news that both Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow had been canceled. Now, while some were saddened by the loss of Batwoman -- I didn't really enjoy this last season but I can see why people like the show, including its solid cast both African-American and LGBTQ+ representation -- the loss of Legends stings all the harder. But whichever show you're mourning, this is certainly a sad day for fans of the 'verse.
To start, this is the first time that the CW has canceled. any of the Arrowverse shows. While they have canceled. shows that were in development (Green Arrow and the Canaries, Painkiller) despite even giving those shows back door pilots to launch them. That said, pilots being canceled. are vastly different from shows that were actually up and running. While shows have ended naturally (like Arrow, Supergirl, and Black Lightning), those shows were given proper send-offs to wrap themselves up nicely. Whether they were truly cancellations or just "this series is done" is a matter of debate for some (the ratings on Black Lightning certainly make that a cancellation), but those shows did still properly wrap up.
Sadly for fans of Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow, these shows didn't get proper series finales. For Batwoman, the show did end in a way that could be considered something of a proper finale (you have to think the creators saw the writing on the wall, what with the show's dire ratings, and worked to accommodate that). Legends of Tomorrow, though, ended on a big cliffhanger (as the show has always been wont to do every season), meaning we're stuck with our heroes captured by the time authority to stand crimes for their changes to the timeline. That's a dire place to leave the series.
While ratings are part of the story here, they aren't the whole story. Legends of Tomorrow actually improved on its ratings year-over-year, showing the fan-base was there for the series. Ratings were low, but steady for the CW, so it's not just the ratings but probably a combination of performance and the cost of keeping all the actors around with ballooning contracts. Still, it sucks.
Could the shows find new life over on HBO Max? It's unlikely. This decision was handed down by the higher-ups in the newly formed Warner-Discovery and considering these two shows are in the Warner catalog, and HBO is controlled by Warner, this cancellation feels like the last word. Fans might still hold out hope for a movie to wrap up one (or both) of these shows, but probably the best finale that might happen is a comic down the road to tie everything up. It's weak but that's all we got.
So yeah, pour one out for these shows. They're gone, probably too soon, and the Arrowverse just got a little smaller.
Meanwhile who knows what it means for the previously announced Justice U. Right now that new show is still on the books for the CW, as part of the 'verse, but considering it doesn't even have a pilot yet so... who knows.
Meanwhile, for shows that are currently running, we have a fair bit to discuss. These last two episodes of The Flash brought the introduction of the new villain for the season: Deathstorm. Deathstorm is the undead version of Firestorm, first introduced back in Blackest Night in DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s.. You will note that the Arrowverse hasn't had it's own "Blackest Night" yet, so the show had to contort itself around a bit to get this character in the show.
So, for starters: Deathstorm can be an interesting character. He can be scary, and dark, and the inclusion of him in the show should promise a very thrilling storyline for the series. Issue is, this is The Flash, a long-in-the-tooth series well past its prime. The inclusion of Deathstorm here doesn't feel interesting. We're supposed to view him as a cataclysmic threat bu the CW doesn't have the money to do big cataclysm (see: the sad state of "Crisis on Infinite Earths"). That, plus the current, steady poor writing of The Flash, takes all the bite out of this villain.
The state of Deathstorm is made even worse by the fact that the show basically isn't featuring him at all now that he's been introduced. He had maybe two tiny scenes in "Death Rises", his big full episode, and the rest of the time the show focuses on people talking about Deathstorm. To save money the show loves to tell, not show, but it doesn't make for a compelling villain arc. Compare this to Superman & Lois which, because it has very human looking villains, those villains can feature in many scenes each episode and act like villains properly. It feels like the creators behind The Flash want to reach for something big (for what seems to be their penultimate season) but they just don't have the means to handle the character.
Consider the fact that they brought Robbie Amell back to play the character of the fake Firestorm (that then becomes the undead, skeletal Deathstorm). They could have kept Amell around, have him just play Deathstorm with minimal effects, and only use the Deathstorm CGI effect sparingly. Maybe Amell was too costly, but the CGI isn't much better, and looks much worse. The show needs to understand its limitations and work within them, instead of talking and talking and talking about absolutely stupid stuff endlessly.
This actually ties into the B-plot of the season: Iris has a time sickness. Bear in mind I've been watching this show since the beginning and I can't remember why she has this time sickness or where it came from. It had something to do with last season, and all the spirits of the Forces coming together, but even that was poorly handled. The show loves to throw out big concepts and explain them in the dumbest way possible. "Let's spout a bunch of technobabble and that will cover everything, right?" Wrong.
This led to the dumbest moment of the season so far. With iris suffering her time sickness, and vanishing out of existence, the show has to explain how she was able to bring herself back into the present. "Oh, she was protected by blah blah because she's got these particles on her. Obviously." That alone was stupid, but then when the Still Force guy, Deon, shows up he's all, "we need a way to track you." Iris suggests, "well, we have an app for tracking metas. Maybe you can do that?" So he just instantly makes a particle and puts it in Iris and, boom, done? Uh, sure. It's totally illogical and stupid, but sure.
That's The Flash for you, a stupid and illogical show that really loves to talk and talk and talk but when it actually comes time to do anything the show breezes past the stuff that matters as quickly and stupidly as possible. Have I noted this show really needs to get retired soon? Well, it does. Please.
Superman & Lois
But then we get to watch what's easily the best show in the 'verse, especially now that our beloved Legends is gone. This show continues to operate brilliantly week to week, and these last two episodes show exactly why. "30 Days and 30 Nights", from about a month ago, is a SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s. episode without any Superman, which is a bold choice. As Clark flew off to the alternate world (the Bizarro Earth) two episodes ago, we then got an episode watching his family and friends dealing with a world without Superman. We can see the stress and toll it takes on his loved ones, but we also see their strength and appreciate them as characters. The show finds ways to humanize each of them as they focus on their very mundane, very normal lives, and it's great.
That then leads us to "Bizarros in a Bizarro World" which is focused on Superman in this other Earth. First, I want to compliment the show for going all in on the Bizarro World. We'd seen a "Bizarro" in the first season of Supergirl, way back, but that was a human clone of the Girl of Steel (borrowing a page from the DCAMU Superman cartoon. That Bizarro is gone, wiped away by "Crisis", and now we get a proper Bizarro world, and it is much more in line with the comics. Everyone talks backwards (or, when Superman goes over, we see him talking backwards while everyone else talks forwards) while living on a Cube World (with a Cube Star). It's so goofy and dumb but, damn it, I love that they kept all these dumb-ass details in the show.
Once Superman gets over there we get a series of flashbacks showing the history of this world's Superman, Kal El, celebrity and superhero. He's very public about his identity, uses his super powers to profit, and he struggles to find connection with his family (all except his brother, Tal Ro, who is his best friend). We learn that it's Johnathan (not Jordan) that has powers on this world, and there's much conflict mined between father and son over what it means to be a hero. This drives Johnathan to help the evil Allies, and, of course, they then gain the pendants thanks to Johnathan, allowing them to merge.
What this one episode does is allow us greater insight into how this opposite world works. The writers thought everything through, not just making the characters the "mirror" of their Prime counterparts but also growing them as characters. The writers put in the thought and effort to treat these people as real, and give them character dynamics and true stories. They aren't just "bad world" people but real people with real needs. It's impressive, which just shows the quality of the writing on this series.
I also can appreciate that the show managed to throw a curve and give us a villain that can prove a challenge for Superman but that isn't simply yet another Kryptonian. I had worries when Bizarro Superman was introduced, but the show elided that and, now, is really exploring these new villains on this new world and telling a story we very much haven't seen before. That, too, is a credit to the creative staff on this show.
Seriously, in all respects Superman & Lois continues to be a better show than The Flash in all respects. I doubt we have to worry about this show going away any time soon, no matter what happens to the CW. It continues to get decent (although still not premiere-high) ratings while also being a great performer over on HBO Max. I expect in a season or two well see this show move over to HBO fully, once the rest of the Arrowverse dies off, becoming the critical hit it needs to be for that streaming network. This show is too good for the CW.
- We're already steadily cruising to the finales for The Flash and Superman & Lois, and we'll cover them as they come up.
- Meanwhile, I gotta admit I've totally fallen off Naomi. There was a break for the shows, and when everything came back I just couldn't bring myself to watch this new series again. It's so boring. I'll try and catch up with it when the whole season hits Netflix or HBO Max, but I gotta admit, if this gets canceled. I wouldn't be surprised.