in Television

Superhero Showdown: Gotham, The Flash, Constantine, Arrow, S.H.I.E.L.D.

Superhero fans, welcome NBC’s Constantine to the fold, finally premiering last night to mediocre ratings.

Comic Book Adaptation of the Week: Archie Comics is coming to FOX, with Riverdale, a series that will feature Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, etc. The series comes from Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash) and will be written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who’s in charge of what is apparently the stellar zombie Archie comics, Afterlife with Archie. The show is said to be bringing along Sabrina, Josie & the Pussycats and anyone else in the Archie-verse for the ride, promising what could be a crazy friggin’ show. And honestly, I don’t hate the idea. Riverdale can be a Capeside or a Sunnydale, with the promise of weird genre shifts whenever they do bring in popular guest stars.

5. Gotham (FOX): “Viper”

I was told by one of my loyal reader(s) not to even include Gotham on my rundown because of my consistently angry slant against it. I’ve definitely been negative toward the show from the beginning, but it’s been warranted. Plus, I’m sarcastic about every show I write about, it’s just been more fun with Gotham in the early going. I’ve been harsh on the show, and will continue to be, because we deserve better, and Gotham should be better. There’s nothing more infuriating than wasted potential, or butchering what could be a solid premise. But, I’ll give Gotham credit: this is the “best” episode the show has had since its pilot. While still mediocre, it was palatable, and hinted that perhaps a turnaround can happen. It also had a few genuinely good moments that surprised me.

“Viper” is Gotham‘s obligatory drug episode, in which a guy with a mangled ear starts handing out free drugs to the uncouth civilians of Gotham. It delivers a massive euphoric high, one that includes super strength, until their bones collapse in on themselves, incurring an awkward and painful death. When the drug hits, the city goes to hell, as it tends to, but I loved when Harvey suggested that maybe it can be a good thing: get Viper into the hands of all of Gotham’s unsavory types, and let them kill each other, and the city would be better off. In fact, he said it’d be the “end of crime.” This is one of two times I actually appreciated Harvey Bullock; maybe this show is growing on me like a fungus. It also helps that I’m all in on this idea, except they probably couldn’t get the corrupt members at the top, the ones that Stan Potolsky (Daniel London) is trying to implicate/murder with his “Viper” spree. His insane professor Isaac Steiner (Peter Maloney) was the first gleefully over-the-top villain that I truly enjoyed watching on this show, possibly because he only appeared in one loopy, loony scene.

gotham oswald cobblepot

This was the first time that Gotham = corrupt didn’t just make my eyes roll. I liked that we got to meet one of the evil faces of Wayne Enterprises (Sharon Washington’s Molly Mathis), and that Bruce Wayne is learning about the city, his company and doing so through the lens of his parents’ murder. The idea that a kid would ask to talk to the board and confront them about their offshore accounts and illegal activity is awesome/hilarious, and I hope happens. Thomas and Martha Wayne are normally painted as Saints in the comic books, but might we see a darker shade of them in Gotham? Thankfully, instead of being a constant annoyance, Alfred decides to help in Bruce’s investigation at the end of the episode, more promising progress from the show.

I have no idea why Oswald decided to reveal his cards to Sal Maroni so soon, since it almost got him and Jim Gordon killed, but I’ll rarely fault a show for propelling the story forward, and this definitely did that. I also liked that Sal finally told Oswald what he should’ve been hearing the whole time: Penguin is a good name. Better than Oswald Cobblepot, you Dr. Seuss wannabe.

For this entire episode, I felt like I was on drugs (not the super powered euphoric kind) when Fish Mooney was on screen. What the hell is Jada Pinkett Smith doing? What is going on? Her subplot with Liza (Mackenzie Leigh) has got to be one of the weirder, more out of place stories in all of TV. It starts with Liza complaining about being bored (like all of us), wondering what being turned into a weapon means. For awhile, it appears that means learning opera, and to earn “Mama” treatment from Fish. Then Fish has Liza practicing how to say “I love you, baby” over and over. It all becomes clear at the end, and while the journey there was SO bizarre, I was admittedly impressed: Liza’s been groomed to woo Carmine Falcone, who is absolutely smitten with Liza during their first meeting, and I couldn’t blame him in the slightest. Inbetween this reveal was another about Fish: that she’s sleeping with Nikolai (Jeremy Davidson). Nikolai is just as blustery and over-acted as everyone else on the show, leading me to groan that this likely means we’re going to see more of him, but the point was clear: sexuality is a weapon, and it’s one that Fish and now Liza are using to take over Gotham. There are certainly worse tactics. I’m looking at you, Balloonman.

Sarah Essen’s Quote of the Week: “A drug did that? Wow.”

Harvey Bullock’s Quote of the Week: “What’s altruism?”

GRADE: C+

the flash things you can't outrun

4. The Flash (CW): “Things You Can’t Outrun”

Three episodes in and we’ve established The Flash formula: a villain of the week affected by the Particle Accelerator explosion that Barry Allen and his team must defeat, with an overwrought but still endearing monologue acting as bookends, topped off with a foreboding post-credits scene featuring Tom Cavanaugh’s Harrison Wells. So far, none of the villains have been remarkable or interesting and The Mist (Anthony Carrigan, who was hired because he’s a creepy bald dude) doesn’t break the tradition in the slightest in “Things You Can’t Outrun” (a title that Barry repeats in the opening monologue). The powers that be alter Kyle Nimbus’ powers for the episode: in the comics he’s known for being invisible (and to render others the same), and for being the arch-nemesis of Starman. Instead of being a brilliant scientist, he’s a death-row inmate who was dosed with poisonous gas just as the Particle Accelerator hit, turning Kyle into a man who can become poisonous gas at will. It’s clear that all future villains will be a victim of circumstance, finding themselves in ready made situations for a power boost, but that feels right; this feels very much like an old school comic book adaptation.

But back to the Gas Man: you can’t really fight gas, so it proves to be a tough match for Barry until the final act when he realizes he can outrun the gas and outlast him with his super-stamina (at  least this time he doesn’t need a full-on motivational speech; “Go get ’em” suffices). While I could’ve cared less about the Mist, there was a promising development in how to deal with these ubiquitous meta-humans: a super-prison, built out of the massive Particle Accelerator base at STAR Labs. This distances the super powered villains from Iron Heights, which is Flash’s Arkham Asylum in the comics, but is important on its own for locking up Barry’s father Henry (John Wesley Shipp, the face who launched a thousand tears). I like the distinction, and I like heroes taking a more active role in imprisoning who they catch, rather than leaving it up to hapless law enforcement. The Mist is hardly a name to get excited for as its first inmate, but they weren’t going to be killing every bad guy.

Joe wasn’t kidding about helping Barry with his Mother’s murder case. He brings back the old files, and he even visits Henry in prison, telling him that he’s reopening the case, and that he’s sorry. The scene between Barry’s two Dads is one of the best in the series. You feel for Barry because he lost his mother, but he has two parents that adore him, and it makes me warm and fuzzy inside. Joe is the greatest mentor ever, and every scene he’s in with Barry or Henry leave you teary eyed and feeling foolish. Jesse L. Martin is the MVP of the show.

We also meet Caitlin’s dead fiance Ronnie (Robbie Amell of Tomorrow People/the Amell superhero family genes) in flashback form (“he called us fire and ice”), as Caitlin is forced to come to grips with his death (again) when Wells and Cisco crack open the Particle Accelerator vault, the site of Ronnie’s massively heroic last stand (it felt very Chris Hemsworth in Star Trek, minus the pregnant Jennifer Morrison). This gives us some much needed character development for Caitlin, and even Cisco, who has managed to tone down his awful to become a palatable part of the ensemble. I kind of like that he names all of these villains as they appear, even if he sounds moronic. I’d be doing the same, and sound just as dorky about it. I half-expected Ronnie to come back to life as Firestorm in this episode, but we at least saw his fiery end foreshadowing. I expect Ronnie to come back right when Caitlin and Barry kiss for the first time, or something like that. It’s the CW. And I don’t mean that derisively really, while The Flash has a bevy of flaws, it’s impressively made Eddie Thawne semi-likable now; he just wants to be with Iris and hates hiding everything from her Dad. That tired subplot ends mercifully here, and now things can move forward. I hope The Flash‘s villains improve, especially if we’re doomed with a villain-of-the-week scenario in its first season, but everything else is up to snuff.

GRADE: B

FLASH CARDS

  • During the opening “Previously…” segment of The Flash, Barry consistently says that he saw the impossible kill his mother, and then later refers to himself as becoming impossible. I know it won’t happen, but I keep thinking it: what if Barry accidentally killed his mother when he loses control of his powers when launching himself back in time? Talk about a brutal, heartbreaking mind fuck.
  • The Flash Moral of the Week: Being alive means running, guys.
  • This week in Harrison Wells villainy: on the night the particle accelerator goes bang, Harrison goes into a secret room and watches Barry get electrocuted, promising to see him soon. We already know Wells is a time traveler, or at least has knowledge of the future. Now it appears that Wells planned the Particle Accelerator explosion, or at least planned to give Barry his powers? Or he just likes to witness the prophecy he’s been told by Gorilla Grodd, the ruler of the world in 2028 or whatever. The Flash is really Planet of the Apes.