in which I gush about the Flash and Arrow
June 8, 2016
I’ve FINALLY caught up on the season finales of my two favorite shows. What I still love about them both: the over-the-top absurdity and risk-taking of the stories. No holds barred. The “Yeah, we’re just going to launch all the nukes and introduce the multiverse and keep throwing stuff against the wall and we don’t actually care if it sticks because the crazy-ball bouncing is pretty damn cool” nature of it all. I can’t predict it and it’s just great and I’m constantly surprised and delighted. Even when I think the story decisions are bone-headed, they’re usually brave, and I appreciate that.
SO MANY SPOILERS BELOW
First, Arrow: It’s starting to feel a bit tired, which I think is totally normal for a TV show entering its fifth season. This is where it gets really hard to try new things while still maintaining the dynamic that drew your fans in in the first place. I do love where we ended up: Ollie as mayor by default, the team in shambles. Felicity still being awesome. What I’m looking forward to next season: the Cobra Island flashbacks ought to catch up to the beginning of the show. It’s five years on the island, yeah? Ideally, we should end up with scruffy hobo Ollie on the island by the end of next season, and I think that’s great.
What I loved about this past season: Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk. I’ve loved McDonough ever since White Dwarf, I loved him in Tin Man, I loved him as the baddie in Justified. He moves effortlessly between good guy and bad guy roles. He’s one of those actors no one really notices but that everyone knows about. And I think if anyone else had played Darhk, the character would have been ridiculous. But McDonough added menacing to the maniacal, and chewed the scenery with actual skill. He took it right to the edge of absurd without turning into a clown. And I fully expect Darhk’s daughter to come back for revenge at some point.
What I didn’t love: Felicity’s recovery from her life-changing injury was way, way too easy. Hollywood, this is why disability advocates hate you.
And The Flash. Oh. My. God. I love it. I had to avoid spoilers because it took me a couple of weeks to catch up, but I did notice some really baffled responses on FB the night the finale aired. I know not everyone is happy, but the more I think about it, the more I’m just absolutely in awe of where they went. Basically: They’ve undone the entire show. They’ve erased two seasons of events. That’s. . . .wow. And normally this kind of thing is rage making, but let’s look at this a different way: Aren’t you super curious about what would have happened if Barry had actually saved his mother at the end of last season? Isn’t part of you still asking that question?
Well. Now we’re going to get an answer. Barry’s screwing with the timeline isn’t erasing everything that happened before. It’s taking the story in a loop — because the story of the Flash has always been a loop. Just like him racing Zoom on the generator. That moment, his mother’s death, has always been the defining moment of the story and we’ve gone back to it over and over again for two seasons now. And now it’s. . . different. Time isn’t linear, it’s a circle, and as Harrison Wells said, the number of worlds is INFINITE. (That word right there is going to be important later, kids! Seriously, my comics friend and I fell out of our chairs when Wells said that word with such breathy import.) I felt like I did when I was a kid sticking my fingers in various sections of my Choose Your Own Adventure books because I didn’t want to commit to one ending. It’s genius. (We also had to immediately watch the Invader Zim episode “Bad Bad Rubber Piggy,” but never mind that.)
What I loved about this past season:
Earth 2. I love that they just did that storyline full speed ahead. I love that this show could pull off the “alternate versions of main characters in alternate world” trope just halfway through its second season.
Barry’s journey to the underworld/Speed Force. The journey to the underworld to gain power and knowledge is a deeply literary trope, and the show handled it in a deeply literary way. Love it.
Jay Garrick. The whole damn storyline. I’m still so freaking confused. (Wait, that guy on the park bench isn’t actually important? Are you sure?) And I still love it.
What I didn’t love:
How whoever is regularly kissing Barry can’t know he’s the Flash for some reason. It’s weird.