Consider this fair warning. I make fun of this show. Actually, I watch this show for the purpose of making fun of it. Well, I also watch it because I’ve promised Elizabeth that I would, but she’s used to my snarky comments. If you’re a regular reader of JK Geekly reviews, you know we try to stay positive, or at least to be fair. I make no such effort here. So, with that out of the way, on with the review.
The premiere did exactly what anyone who pays attention would have expected. Some people who don’t matter died to show the seriousness of the situation, and some people who wouldn’t matter if their faces weren’t on the promos got away. A lone woman used a herd of zombies to overrun a secure compound. Once freed, our heroes rescued some unnamed survivors from their secure position so they could wander, disoriented and unarmed through the fray and wind up as zombie food. The baby, Judith, was nearly murdered because Tyreese forgot to make a hostile prisoner pinkie-promise not to.
We got a teaser for the return of a popular character at the end, and that should make fans happy. The truth of this episode is if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll be glad to see (mostly) everyone reunited and back on the road, and the teaser for next week will have you pumped. If you’re like me, you’ll shake your head, laugh out loud, and ultimately decide gnawing Rick’s face off is a goal worth supporting.
Verdict: Satisfying, laughable, or satisfyingly laughable, depending on your standpoint.
It was an unusually mixed bag for me this week. I like the premise of the episode. Involving too many comic book characters runs the risk of emphasizing the super hero/super villain elements that Batman’s absence will cause to feel unsatisfying. Centering the story around a hitman and a struggle between the Falcone and Maroni families keeps this show in the realm of the more grounded aspects of Gotham City. There can be more of a payoff with that, I believe. The problem, or at least part of it, is that the episode tried to do so much.
Yet again, Bruce’s presence added nothing to the episode, and it continued to highlight the awkward and unbelievable relationship between Jim Gordon and a young Bruce Wayne. Gordon’s special relationship, and even borderline collaborative relationship with Bruce is made even more awkward by the conflict with Barbara over his secrecy. Barbara’s insistence on Jim’s openness is a problem for two reasons. The first is that Jim and Barbara’s relationship is still too undeveloped for us to care about the conflict in it, and the second is that it has the strangeness of a psychiatrist’s wife demanding that her husband break doctor/patient confidentiality. Her unwillingness to accept that he can’t discuss open cases makes her seem needy and unrealistic. A final note on their relationship, her defensiveness of her lesbian relationship with Montoya felt sloppy. She’s implying that Gordon’s objection is based on homophobia, and that rings hollow. She’s his fiancé. She knows Jim Gordon, and she’d know his feelings on same sex relationships. Getting that commentary felt like a desperate attempt on the part of the show to remind us how “modern” the show is. It worked better as a piece of information that everyone treated as normal, because it is normal.
Fish Mooney is getting on my nerves more and more. Her on again off again, pseudo-accent is distracting and over-the-top, and while I appreciate that she’s a wildcard in the war between the Falcone and Maroni factions, how she plans to make use of a teenage singer as her ace-in-the-hole, I have no idea.
Verdict: It’s still not bad, but it’s still not improving.
The hitman works, and the Penguin wrinkle adds spice, but no Batman, no real Penguin. I know nothing about Jim Gordon’s and Barbara’s relationship—besides the fact they’re engaged for some reason—and I don’t care to know. The Barbara/Montoya relationship is tacked on because the creative team wants to horn in on the hot issue that is marriage equality. Never mind that the show’s title is “Arkham,” and even the most casual Batman fan knows what a show titled Arkham should be about: mental health and illness. But I guess mental health isn’t as sexy as two women making out on-screen. The Arkham angle should’ve had Batboy dealing more with his parents’ deaths and Alfred tending to Bruce’s wellbeing, but Alfred doesn’t seek therapy for Bruce, and Bruce has already decided he’ll serve as Gordon’s sidekick and suppress his feelings, even though the Bruce Wayne character works best when he fights his demons. From now on, the only Batboy I want to see in Gotham is the one retrieving foul balls for the Gotham City Knights baseball team. And Fish smells something fierce when it’s left out for three days. This was episode four.
The Flash serves as a nice counterweight to Arrow. While Arrow takes itself too seriously at times, The Flash with its gregarious titular character always looks on the bright side of life.
The characters continue to feed us exposition with their dialogue, but it wanes in the second episode—thank goodness. Most of the characters are settling into a groove. And I liked that they introduced Barry’s blood-sugar levels dropping from the Nineties Flash series. But in the Nineties’ Flash series, Barry suffered from the symptoms a lot sooner—I think in the pilot—and the science team diagnosed him quicker. If you’re going to lose that much glucose in your system each time you hit 300 mph, you’d suffer from hypoglycemia in a day or two. By this point he’s been running for weeks.
Multiplex as a villain works, but he doesn’t do much else but function as the catalyst that galvanizes the relationship between Barry and his adopted father, and I love the relationship between Detective West and Barry. Their connection comes through with all its levels. I enjoy the Cisco character, who reminds us that DC characters can be light-hearted. And Harrison Wells shines, pulling strings and showing his hand a bit. I won’t drop any spoilers, but will say that like the pilot this show gives us hints at other Flash villains.
To paraphrase Barry Allen, we have the introductions out of the way, let’s progress the story.
Verdict: The Flash continues its playful romp.
This was a nice build-up after a strong start. They’ve still got some awkward expositional dialogue, but the characters are engaging. The angle with Barry’s blood-sugar levels dropping and causing him to pass out seemed odd. I would think caloric intake would have occurred to the scientifically minded much sooner, but it’s encouraging that the writers are thinking in terms of complicating Barry’s powers. This show is definitely headed in the right direction.
I feel like I’m doing this a lot lately, but I’ll start this off with another fair warning. At this point, I’m going to assume if you’re reading a review for this week’s show, you’ve seen last week’s, so I won’t tiptoe around last week’s big development. With that in mind, read on, friends.
I’ll get to it. With Sara’s death coming at the end of last week’s episode, a part of me was suspicious of whether or not that would stick. I wondered if we were going to find out it was just a poisoned dart, and despite falling off a building afterward, there’s still hope to find and antidote, or worse yet, Sara would just be in a coma. As we all know, death in the world of comics is often just a temporary state, and so a show based on a comic book is subject to that same consideration, but at least for the time being, they’re letting Sara’s death stick. I’m glad for that. It shows they’re willing to make big moves, and to take chances.
Ollie’s reaction to Sara’s death was well done, and I even enjoyed his rant about needing to lead, and no having the luxury of “falling to pieces,” but I didn’t buy everyone’s response. Simply put, Felicity’s level of grief rivaling Ollie’s was unbelievable, as was Diggle’s. Yes, they’ve been through a lot together, but the show never developed individual relationships between Sara and the rest of the team, so their references to her being “family” rang hollow to me. As for Felicity’s sudden realization that one day, it could be Oliver killed in their crusade, I found it tough to buy. Tommy has already died, as has Moira. This team has been confronted with death before, and while Sara is different because like Ollie, she was trained, it’s still a bit of a leap for me.
Speaking of Tommy, it was good to see him back this week, if only in flashback form (this is not an example of death being a temporary setback). It really would have been nice to get more of his dynamic with Ollie, but given the situation, and what that would have done to the show’s continuity, it wasn’t possible. With that aside, therein lies my problem with the flashback sequence this week. It really didn’t do anything for the narrative. We didn’t learn anything new.
My last big concern for the show this week involves Thea and Laurel. We close with a glimpse of Thea in her new role, too easily donning her bad-guy clothes, and training under her too easily accepted daddy, Malcolm. Between that and the telegraphed punch of Laurel staring at Black Canary’s jacket, the show is running the risk of making first-aid certification look tougher to acquire than the skills of a world-class assassin.
With all that in mind, Season 3 is still off to an entertaining start. The narrative is moving forward, and there are still enough Easter eggs to keep any comic nerd smiling. Anyone catch the Amazonian Princess remark? How about Palmer calling it, “Star City?” Did I just hear that wrong?
This show is popular. Let’s not construe that to mean it’s perfect, but it’s popular for a reason. It hits more than it misses, and while the first two episodes of Season 3 have their shortcomings, they never had me bored.
Verdict: I remain confident
This episode was a mixed bag for me but still entertaining. While I believe in Ollie’s reaction to Sara’s death and his motivation (even though I questioned it last week), the supporting cast stumbled. Like Jim, I don’t think Felicity could ever sell the “there was a death in family” line. I’m more willing to trust Diggle’s response to Black Canary’s absence, but not for the reason the script says. Diggle wants to get back into the fray, and Sara’s death opens a spot in Ollie’s support team. I don’t want Laurel to don the Black Canary costume—because the actress who plays her gets on my nerves—and Thea must’ve eaten her Assassin-Ohs every morning for the past seven to eight months. Either that or she slept in a Holiday Inn Express the night before. Despite these flaws, Arrow keeps my interest, and I can’t wait for next week’s episode.
This was really just more of the same, I’m sorry to say. We still haven’t moved forward in the narrative. We don’t have any real answers about what’s happening to Coulson, or what the alien writing is all about. Readers of Marvel comics can make some pretty solid educated guesses, but the show hasn’t played those cards yet. Beyond that, it was another instance of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra fighting over an object, and that’s a formula this show has worked far too much. It’s beginning to feel every week like watching a football game where two teams are wrestling over a fumble. It’s okay for a while, but the show needs to give us a hint of the larger picture.
More so than usual, this episode had some really awkward dialogue. Coulson and May’s banter at the early stages of the mission felt forced, and in the end, it was all just a setup for the ending. The lengths those awkward “nostalgia” moments between Coulson and May were stretched to made the end feel like just another one of the show’s unearned moments.
Maybe I’ve put the writers in a bit of a no-win situation with Fitz. I’ve complained before that he’s had nothing to do this season, but this week it felt like he was given something to do just to be given something to do. I should be glad to see him earning his place back in the group, but it’s hard to give the show that credit when his conflict feels so incidental to the main plot.
They upped the production value this week, but all it gave us was another look at a trick that Winter Soldier already played. May fighting fake May in a nightie wasn’t exactly a chore to watch, but it also comes off as pandering.
Verdict: Nothing was ventured here, and nothing was gained.