Batwoman 1.11 – An Un-Birthday Present

Marie and I decided a couple of weeks ago to take Batwoman out of rotation after episode eleven for the rest of this season, because we are completely sick of Alice and Mouse. And man, I wish we’d have stopped last week, because it was a really good episode and this time, we’re back to more endless, gruesome flashbacks from Beth’s captivity. Making things worse, this time we had the incredibly fascinating development of the Good Beth from one of the other infinite earths (Black Lightning’s, maybe?) merged into this one and learning that everything she knew is upside down and she needs to find a place here in a world that does not know her. THERE’S YOUR STORY. THAT IS INTERESTING. CREEPY KIDNAPPER GUY KILLING KITTENS IS NOT.

Initially, I figured that we’ll look at the season finale and possibly resume the show next season if Alice is retired. We also might stop in if I hear about a good guest star, an interesting crossover, or some Gotham City character like Dick Grayson or Barbara Gordon or Mr. Freeze or Egghead showing up. However, in light of yet more Silence of the Lambs serial killer crap in this flashback, I’m also going to cross my fingers that this grisly tone we see in the “basement of horrors” gets retired permanently before the producers choose to view any of those classic characters through such an ugly prism.

Batwoman 1.10 – How Queer Everything is Today!

The above photo is not the finest this blog’s ever provided, but the scene is excellent and otherwise lacking in a good two-shot. I thought the whole adventure, up to a point, was very good, but they knocked it out of the park with this scene.

In “How Queer Everything is Today!,” a prep school hacker, who has been revenge-outed by her ex to her strict and terrible parents, arranges a fake runaway subway train as a prelude to demanding five million dollars, a “prank” which she hopes will collect her enough blackmail money to start her life over. This ends up colliding with Kate’s dual identity when, stopping the train, she ends up being saved from her own failed grappling hook by a super-dreamy cop called Slam Bradley. Photographed by a million people, the city thinks this is a wild meet-cute. Luke’s in favor of this. The more people who see Batwoman as straight, the less likely anybody will think she’s really Kate.

But in the end, and after this gut-punch of a scene where Batwoman confronts the hacker, Kate realizes that Batwoman needs to be honest. There isn’t a superhero show with a gay lead on the CW-equivalent of the Arrowverse; all that the hacker can hope for is to be “represented by an ancillary character on her favorite TV show.” And honestly, if, with an extra twist or two in the middle, this scene was the climax of the episode, it would be a triumph. Unfortunately, Alice has to get involved. There aren’t any words left to describe how utterly bored we are with this villain. This was the most disappointing derailing yet.

But our son had words. He wasn’t as put out as the grownups with the villain, and wanted me to tell all you readers “I liked it all the way through and then, at the end, one big giant question mark.” Because at the end, there’s a delightfully strange cliffhanger in which Kate’s sister Beth – not Alice, who is (for now) in custody – arrives as if she only went away a semester ago. Is this some “Crisis” fallout and the Beth Kane from one of the other two worlds merged into Earth-Prime has been inserted into this one? Is it Clayface? Stay tuned…

Oh, some other observations:

* Whoever’s running that prison needs to lose their job for putting Jacob Kane in general population, I say.

* Even though the long-running Batman-Joker rivalry explained in earlier episodes means that this can’t be the same Gotham timeline as the three Bat-films with Christian Bale, there was once apparently an incident with the Scarecrow and subway trains similar to what happened in 2005’s Batman Begins.

* That is cool as heck that Kate called on Kara, since they’re on the same planet now, and asked for a Catco Magazine cover scoop for Batwoman to come out. However, I’m sorry, but I have to question the “stop the presses” requirements to get that arranged, because the episode suggests that was the cover feature maybe two mornings after this episode’s climax. And according to the “Winter 2020” date on the cover, it’s a quarterly magazine!

Crisis on Infinite Earths (parts four and five)

I had originally planned to watch the final two parts of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” – presented as Arrow 8.8 and Legends of Tomorrow 5.0 – over two nights, but part four was so lousy and uninspired that I decided to stampede to the end, and I’m really glad that I did, because part five was downright fun.

So the big changes to the Arrowverse are that the Superpeoples’ Earth was merged with the Arrow/Flash/Batwoman/Legends Earth and Black Lightning’s Earth, and now Supergirl’s National City is on the other side of the river from Flash’s Central City. Atop that, Diggle’s daughter is alive again, Superman and Lois have two kids, Lex Luthor has been a good guy who’s just won the Nobel Prize, and Lynda Carter’s no longer the president. A bunch of other DC shows now have their own Earths, and at the end of the story, seven of the heroes (Barry, Kara, Sara, Kate, Clark, J’onn, and Jefferson) get together to hang out in the Hall of Justice (the building was introduced in the 2016 crossover), where there’s a monkey named Gleek running around and the old Super Friends theme plays. Best ending possible, I’d say.

Otherwise, part four was a last roundup for Stephen Amell to have yet another death scene and to marvel at how months apparently passed at the Vanishing Point but Kate kept her hair perfect. Part five was what I understand is the usual Legends of Tomorrow mayhem, with enough violence and superhero action to keep our son completely riveted and enough romance novels and fifty-foot teddy bears to keep the grownups baffled. Lots of the usual Arrowverse talk about how tough it is being a hero as well, but balanced with the show’s playful and silly spirit.

So I reckon they’ve left the big impacts on the Batwoman storyline for us to learn about in a few days, so stay tuned for that. Hopefully the next time we see the Hall of Justice, Barry will have cleaned the place up. And if any of you readers happen to see any fan art with our new seven Super Friends drawn in the classic style of the Alex Toth originals, won’t you please drop me a line? I’d love to see this cover below done with the TV gang. (Bonus points if they have somebody redraw Tyler Hoechlin’s face in a Curt Swan style.)

But fun aside, did it work? Well, I honestly don’t know that they did everything that they could or should have done. The spit-n-cough cameos from Ashley Scott, Burt Ward, and Robert Wuhl were cute, but the actors could have been given more substantial roles to play somewhere in the narrative, couldn’t they? There’s a brief bit in part four where “our” Flash meets the Flash played by Ezra Miller in the current movies, which was nice. I suppose Zachary Levi or Gal Gadot or Margot Robbie are outside the TV shows’ budget, so it was nice to see somebody from the big screen show up on TV, where I think DC’s superhero stories are told better.

But speaking of Levi and Gadot, this really was a fine opportunity to introduce DC’s other big hero names into the Arrowverse, and I think I’m disappointed that they didn’t give us the chance to meet Shazam, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. Some footage which may have been from the Ryan Reynolds GL film is in the “new worlds” montage at least, but there should be a Green Lantern on the new combined Earth, not on his own world, because that’s precisely the problem that this story solved. And TV is long overdue a Wonder Woman. I hope some of the big names start appearing as guests on the Arrowverse shows in the future.

Anyway, wonder what they’re going to do for the November 2020 crossover? Hopefully something a shade smaller…?

Super Friends cover credit: Pencil Ink Blog

The Flash 6.9 – Crisis on Infinite Earths (part three)

First things first: our son was furious about the month-long wait before the next episode. A whole month! I’d make a crack about the age of instant gratification, but then again, when Disney+ launched, at least three people I follow on Twitter whined about having to wait a week between episodes of The Mandalorian.

Anyway, much like episode two, this part was agonizing talk-talk-talk while all two hundred actors with speaking parts got their names onscreen, and then it got entertaining. We got a far shorter cameo from one member of the cast of Birds of Prey than I expected, and an incredibly surprising appearance by Tom Ellis from the Fox/Netflix series Lucifer. He and John Constantine share some dialogue that’s certain to please anybody familiar with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic.

John Wesley Shipp also shows up as the Flash from his 1990-91 series, and not only gets that great theme song, but an actual clip from his series. Cress Williams gets to cross over from Black Lightning, because it was about time he met the rest of these characters. The most dramatic moment in the story comes when Supergirl is about to do something very dangerous and stupid with the Book of Destiny and Batwoman stares her down.

So it cruises to a cliffhanger that was pretty much in line with what I was expecting, but there’s a downright brilliant twist right before we were set to go to the credits. Jon Cryer may have just overtaken John Shea as my favorite Lex Luthor, put it that way.

So since we’re pausing this story for a month, I guess my only real complaint is that they missed a serious trick in identifying the seven essential “paragon” characters. Five of them are from the regular casts of these shows. We see these characters every week. Instead of just giving playful winks with cameo appearances from Burt Ward and Ashley Scott and Tom Welling, it would have been smashing to have them play substantial parts as the paragons (maybe adding Teri Hatcher and Lynda Carter?) and let the regular cast members be tasked with protecting them. It just seems like a missed opportunity, but it’s pretty fun anyway.

Batwoman 1.9 – Crisis on Infinite Earths (part two)

The second episode of this crossover was much, much better than the first… eventually. It starts with an endless all-talk opening about the new goal to track down seven “paragons” who will save the day in the end, but things get a lot better. I particularly enjoyed how the stakes kept getting higher with each cut to what the heroes on their missions were doing. The structure was very similar to the time-heist second hour of Avengers: Endgame.

Anyway, this time we got to catch up with Tom Welling, from Smallville, as he stares down Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor. Brandon Routh gets to play Superman again, but this time his Superman has gone down the same path as the Superman in the popular comic series Kingdom Come. There was a fine fight between the Routh and Hoechlin Supermen, and a subplot involving John Constantine (played by Matt Ryan) leading some of the other heroes to a life-restoring Lazarus Pit.

But the meat of the story came with Kate and Supergirl tracking down the Bruce Wayne of one of the Infinite Earths, finding him visually similar to the Batman from Kingdom Come who wore a steel rod exoskeleton to make up for all the bones in his body being broken in combat. But this isn’t Kingdom‘s honorable Bruce, it’s one of those gone-crazy Batmen from comics that invariably have to kill Superman with kryptonite. This Bruce is played by Kevin Conroy, who’s been the voice of Batman in hundreds of cartoons, and his appearance left me hoping that when Batwoman finally introduces us to the sane Bruce of Kate Kane’s world, they invite Conroy to play the part.

It’s mostly splendid and unpredictable and done with a lot of love for the characters, but whoever is in charge of the music is set on stealing the show. This time, we get the themes from the nineties Batman cartoon and John Williams’ legendary music from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies dropped in at key intervals. How could you not smile?

Supergirl 5.9 – Crisis on Infinite Earths (part one)

Many years ago, an acquaintance was telling a pal of mine about the great folly that was the comic book Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC Comics dotted every I and crossed every T and believed that every possible continuity “problem” within their funnybooks had been resolved by this great big cosmic reset. The whole editorial office relaxed and stretched and closed their eyes and suddenly realized, as one, that they had wiped out Superboy from their backstory and forgot about his quarter-century of appearances with the Legion of Super-Heroes. So two years later, they had to fix that. And then they were fixing something else. The fans seem to love it all, but I’ve always felt the cures are worse than the disease.

But the Crisis has been a fan favorite for decades, and its television adaptation was promised six years ago in the first episode of The Flash, so expectations for this five-part story have been pretty high. I’ve got mixed feelings about it so far. This time out, not a lot happens while pieces are put into place, but – if I counted right – eight heroes are tasked with defending a “Quantum Tower” in National City from shadow demons while the planet is evacuated. It’s Superman, Supergirl, the Flash, Green Arrow and his daughter, Batwoman, the Atom, and White Canary, and before the hour is finished, one of these heroes will be dead.

Granted, this is an episode of Supergirl, set on hers and Superman’s Earth – not the same dimension as the other Arrowverse programs – but I really wasn’t interested in all the material with the DEO and Lena Luthor from this series. On the other hand, there’s a great opening montage, which checked in on Robert Wuhl, from the 1989 Batman movie, and Burt Ward, from the 1966-68 Batman TV series, and Hawk and Robin from what I guess was the current Titans streaming series.

Several more of these winks, apparently with much more substance, are coming in the next few episodes. Other than these, the most interesting scene featured Superman and Lois, living without super powers on a distant planet, having to launch their infant son to Earth in a pod. It all turned out okay – the tyke got detoured to the year 2046 on Earth-16 and one of the cosmic gamesmasters moved our heroes before the planet blew up – but I liked how our son could spot the deliberate reminder of baby Kal-El being sent here from Krypton. A lot more of this playful levity, and a lot less of the Monitor and the Pariah and the Harbinger being portentous and melodramatic, will improve this story.

Batwoman 1.8 – A Mad Tea Party

There’s a fairly amazing one-take/one-shot bit in this episode where Batwoman beats her way through a lobby of goons. Other than that, none of us really enjoyed this installment much at all. It ends, like I fear much modern television ends, at a crisis (no pun intended), with one major character dead and several relationships strained to breaking point, nobody ready to trust anybody again, and everything left in limbo until things pick back up in January.

Isn’t eight episodes enough for one non-superpowered villain? I’d really have preferred it had this one ended with Alice either arrested or killed, wiping the slate for next week’s crossover, and then we could start a new villain arc in episode ten. So color me disappointed.

Photo credit: BatwomanTV.com

Batwoman 1.7 – Tell Me the Truth

The comic book stuff this week is far less important than the relationships, but “Tell Me the Truth” does introduce us to Alfred’s daughter Julia Pennyworth. Seems a little unlikely to me that she’d be yet another super-expert in unarmed combat, but there you go. Julia’s part of some super-secret organization tracking this week’s villain, who goes by the name The Rifle. Why they didn’t just use Deadshot I couldn’t tell you, especially since he gets away at the end. And he’s working for some other Big Bad Supervillain – apparently called “Soofiyah”? – who has some very bad blood with Alice.

Anyway, with Julia in town, Kate at last has a chance to throw her ex Sophie off her trail, by having Julia dress as Batwoman while Kate’s in civvies. And that’s what this episode is really about: Kate and Sophie finally letting the past stop controlling them. They broke up six years ago with a lot of very bad feelings that neither ever addressed and, through flashbacks and a discussion that gets interrupted an absolutely criminal number of times, including once by the bigoted owner of the restaurant where Kate’s trying to finally open up, they finally resolve things and move on. The episode even gets a happy ending with Kate buying the derelict building across the street from the restaurant and intending to open a gay bar there, with her stepsister helping with the design.

We had a really good discussion of the story with our son afterward. He’s understood that there are gay men and women and is an accepting child, as we’ve hoped. He just doesn’t like seeing anybody doin’ any smoochin’, period. But of course he’s young and while he understands and accepts people for who they are, he has not understood why Kate got kicked out of military school, why Sophie acts so ashamed, and why that restaurant owner was so snippy about Kate’s sneakers. So we had an upbeat little chat about how important it is to be free to in a loving relationship with people who accept you, and how important it is for other people than white guys to have representation on adventure TV shows. I also added that Supergirl got some praise early on because Kara was adopted, and foster families need representation on TV too. That’s more important than wondering why that guy who was so much like Deadshot had such a silly name. Why wasn’t he Deadshot?

Batwoman 1.6 – I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury

Tonight’s episode of Batwoman was much, much better, largely because the focus was on another villain and another case and the resultant fallout, and the endless Alice story was consigned to a small running subplot. The Executioner, played by Jim Pirri, appears to be an original-for-the-show creation, and no, I wouldn’t say that he’s the most original idea ever seen in adventure TV. But there are some very topical elements to him as well, and the very real issue of crooked DAs, cops, and judges conspiring to prosecute easy cases against poor minorities is one worth highlighting.

One thing we can’t help but notice is just how bad Kate is at superheroing. She’s fine with fighting and she knows to save civilians, but we got confirmation this week of two more characters knowing her identity. We also got confirmation that the Penguin had served as Gotham’s mayor at one point – that was the plot of the funniest episode of the ’66 series – and that the Joker of this Gotham either went by or goes by the name Jack Napier, which was the name that the Jack Nicholson version used.

Also this week, probably inevitably, Batwoman has to save Jacob Kane from a deathtrap while he growls and snarls about vigilantes and Kate probably prayed that this story wasn’t going to finish with a hat trick and have him learn her secret as well. It’s a good scene, but I guess I’m too old fashioned for liking a Gotham where the cops are glad to have superheroes around. Some other police commissioner – not Gordon, surprisingly – is mentioned this time. I hope that he and the GCPD are on Batwoman’s side, so our hero can have somebody in charge of this dump who appreciates her.

Batwoman 1.5 – Mine is a Long and a Sad Tale

One problem with television series that rely on serialization and constantly churning subplots is that it’s occasionally tough to let the narrative just stop long enough for the next episode to feel like it naturally takes place a few weeks later. Episode five of this story is apparently set long enough after episode four for Batwoman to briefly meet the Flash and Green Arrow and to tell them to get outta Gotham, because Luke briefly mentions an Arkham Asylum breakout, which we saw in Arrow last year. On the other hand, the subplot with Kate’s stepmother and sister seems to have had a break of maybe two days, so it doesn’t fit like a glove.

I’d really been hoping that the show was going to reveal something a lot more fanciful about Alice’s origins than what this episode shows us. I was thinking the Mad Hatter and hypnotism, which would have been a million times more pleasant than the intense and very frightening kidnapping that we learn about in this story. Alice’s kidnapper is a horrible “just an ordinary guy” serial killer-type, a mundane and scary real world evil. His son, whose name is Jonathan Cartwright but who goes by Mouse, was one of the Arkham escapees, and he and Beth, renamed Alice, grew up together. Mouse, whose face is scarred and who has the talent of perfect mimicry, is based on a Batvillain of more recent vintage called Jane Doe, and who went by “Jane Cartwright” when she was used in Fox’s recent Gotham TV series.

Because Beth’s kidnapper is so humdrum and ordinary, full of the banality of evil instead of comic book grandiosity, it put a chain of events together that had our son briefly get upset. The elder Cartwright tells Beth that he will kill anyone who comes looking for Beth, and it will all be Beth’s fault. So Beth stays silent when she had the chance to call out for Kate. Our son rebounded, but that scene hit him hard enough that both of us parents were worried. We asked whether he’d like to shelve the show. He’s emphatic that he likes it and wants to watch more. I’ll be happier if the show would stick to jewel thieves and bombs in elevators. Or bring the Flash back through so Kate can snarl at him again. Maybe a Frosty Freezy machine or something.

Kate and her dad share a good scene right at the end. I sincerely hope that everybody’s resolved to stop treating Alice with kid gloves from here on and stop letting her get away because she might be Beth and everybody wants answers instead of an arrest. Everybody knows, so let’s take out the Wonderland Gang, okay? After all, the show and all its subplots have to have enough of a conclusion very soon in order to close the curtain and pretend a few months have passed so it can catch up to all the other Arrowverse programs and tie in to “Crisis on Infinite Earths” with them next month.