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RTF Review: Tales from the DC MulTVerse #2

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By: Adam Basciano

We’ve got plenty more content to cover this week on the second installment on RTF Review: Tales from the DC MulTVerse #2. This week saw the season premieres of Supergirl and Arrow, in the Arrowverse, and the series premiere of TITANS, on DC Universe! Let’s dive right in!

TITANS:

“Rachel Roth, a teen haunted by dark visions and powers, falls under the wing of Detective Dick Grayson. We also meet Kory Anders and Beast Boy Gar Logan.” (DC Universe)

The first episode of TITANS, packs plenty into it’s first episode, without overloading you with too many characters, or Too much information. You’ll watch and get intrigued enough by each main character presented, wanting to come back for more in episode two. The bulk of the episode revolves around Rachel Roth aka, Raven, and Dick Grayson, the first Robin. There’s a sizeable chunk devoted to Starfire, with a little tease for Gar Logan, aka Beast Boy, at the end. Much has been made, about the more serious, and darker nature of this show. I was perfectly fine with the tone of the pilot, especially when dealing, with a demonically imbued Rachel Roth, and a Dick Grayson who was disillusioned with Batman. That coupled with the fact that the creators took inspiration from the 1980’s New Teen Titans and this tone absolutely fit. Dick Grayson, is now a police detective in Detroit, taking cues from Chuck Dixon’s run on Nightwing. He’s been away from Gotham for a year and a half. Dick tells his new partner, that the partner he left behind, had different views on how to do the job, became too violent, and Dick was becoming too much like him. To his new partner, they were talking about another officer, but Dick and the audience, know this is referring to Batman. The other references to Batman, include the much ado about nothing, “F**k Batman” line, quick cut flashback’s to the interior of Wayne Manor, and presumably, Bruce Wayne’s hand on a young Dick Grayson’s shoulder. What I found the show did beautifully, was balance the violence and brutality of Dick Grayson, as Robin, and his kindness, care and empathy towards Rachel as a police Detective. When Dick Grayson saves Rachel, eventually taking responsibility, for Rachel, he is essentially doing what Bruce Wayne did for him, after he watched his parents die. So while he may think Batman has negatively affected him, he definitely took some of his positive traits. I loved that Robin’s journey seems to be coming full circle. He is the mentor, where he once was the mentee.

Rachel Roth, who will eventually become Raven, needs Dick Grayson’s help, after her mother was shot in front of her. Throughout the episode she is hunted by 3 different people/groups. Why are they hunting her? Rachel is supernatural. She has a demon version of herself, residing within. One person wants to kill her, as she is the portal to which the demon will use, to enter and conquer this realm of existence. I really appreciate that TITANS embraces the supernatural and horror elements of the Raven character. I also like that she knows she is different and thinks there is something “wrong” with her, but she doesn’t know exactly what. I always enjoy discovering characters, along with the characters themselves. With Starfire, she wakes up in a car crash and is chased by what seems like the Russian mob. The interesting thing is, she has no recollection of where she is, why they are chasing her, or more importantly, who she is. Through her own investigation, she discovers she double crossed Konstantin Kovar, who is the one after her. She tracks him down and when he tries to kill her, she essentially burns him to a crisp with her powers. I’m so intrigued by Starfire so far. Why doesn’t she remember who she is? How did she get involved with the Russian mob? Finally, why was she also after Rachel. Our brief glimpse at Beast Boy, saw the teenager shape shift into a tiger and steal a video game, which is what, I’d expect a teenager with those powers to do.

The main actors showcased give very strong performance. Brenton Thwaites, after one episode, is already the best modern era depiction of Dick Grayson/Robin. Mind you, the bar was really low, by his predecessors ,Chris O’Donnell, and that Robin in Name Only, Joseph Gordon Levitt! Either way, the actor has more talent than being Orlando Bloom 2.0, in the last Pirates film. Usually, I find younger, to early teenaged actors and actress, terrible and hard to watch. However, newcomer Teagan Croft really nails the dual performance, of the scared confused girl, and the demon child personality within. She was both likeable and frightening. Anna Diop, in a much more limited role than the other two actors, stole every scene she was in. Her performance was enigmatic and captivating. You couldn’t look away when she was on screen. Robin’s major fight scene was more graphic than the trailers indicated, and the fight choreography was great. As an actual martial artist, I appreciated the brutality and skill, by those involved. I loved the visual conceit, that Rachel only saw Raven’s demonic visage, when she looked through a reflective surfaces. Also, when Raven attacks, the visual representation of that, is an out of body spirit. The way Starfire transitions to her comic book look, and manipulates fire, to defend herself against attack look pretty damn BADASS! Beast Boy transforming was brief, but the CGI tiger look pretty good. Judging from the limited sample, the effects for TITANS, are no better or worse, than what we’re seeing from the Arrowverse and I’m okay with that!

TITANS first entry on RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse is a great one, in my opinion. Sure the pilot is mostly setup, yet that set up leaves our characters in interesting places, with exciting promise for what’s to come! As someone who can’t stand the juvenile ridiculousness of Teen Titans Go, but loves Young Justice, it’s great to have another adaptation of these characters, that is uniquely different to both. TITANS may be on a digital platform, but the first episode continues the DC Universe tradition of television success!

Score: A

SUPERGIRL:

Supergirl is called into action when remnants of Cadmus attempt to assassinate pro-alien leaders, but their endgame turns out to be more sinister than she thinks.” (The CW)

The opening scenes of this 4th season, set up the new status quo. Our lead character is happy. She’s pulling double duty as Supergirl, since Superman is off world, helping the survivors of Argo which was, set up last season. As Kara Danvers, she is now a seasoned reporter, mentoring new recruits to CatCo Worldwide Media. James Olsen, is still running the media empire, still dating Lena Luthor, and awaiting a decision about prosecution, over he reveal about being the vigilante Guardian. The Martian Manhunter is no longer running the DEO, instead living a life of peace, helping other aliens adjust to life on Earth. Meanwhile, Alex Danvers has taken control of operation of the DEO, with Brainiac 5 taking the role of her right hand man, that was once assumed by Winn Schott. I like how the show started with a montage of Supergirl making heroic saves, including rescuing a derailing train, who’s tracks had been destroyed. I loved seeing a happy, hopeful Supergirl, after a season 3, where she was depressed over Mon-El being gone for half of it and the other half, took her to dark places. I loved the visual effects of the train rescue. Even though it was different, it reminded me of Superman: The Movie. As Kara, she is a more confident, self aware reporter. The fact that she is mentoring a new reporter, who is meek, clumsy and doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers, brings her full circle. The character of Nia Nal, is essentially Kara from Season 1, with Kara becoming a nicer, less rude version of Cat Grant. The advice to take risks, and come out of her shell, is what you expect from the girl that is Supergirl to impart to someone.. I’m sold on Melissa Benoist’s chemistry with actress & Nicole Amber Maines. Then again, Melissa Benoist is great at everything. After one episode, the character of Nia is likeable and someone you root for.

As always, the premiere sets up the threat/ “big bad” of the season. This season, that will be anti-alien extremists, who are trying to disrupt the Alien Amnesty Act. It goes further than that, as they target, assault and kill members of an alien support group. Clearly, Supergirl is once again going to get political, with the aliens, being the stand ins for immigrants, and people of colour in America. So if you don’t like when your superhero shows tackle real issues, or get political, there’s your warning. A couple of cool things about this plot point; it gives the show an excuse to bring Lynda Carter back as the President of the United States. It also introduces Mercy Graves and Otis into the Supergirl mythology. The main difference to what we’re used to, is that they’re brother and sister. Oh, and Otis isn’t a blithering idiot, like he was in the Christopher Reeve Superman films. He’s more of a brute macho thug but I’m okay with that, because I don’t like the previous version of Otis. Mercy, like her animated counterpart, seems to be a badass! Oh, and she’s still alive at the end of the episode, so she lasts longer than her movie counterpart. Those two characters are only second and third in command, to the real leader of this Anti-Alien movement, who is Agent Liberty. Sure he has a creepy looking mask, and he stabs someone but for me, there wasn’t enough there to have too many thoughts at this point.

I wasn’t a fan of the Lena Luthor/James Olsen pairing in season 3. It felt contrived and forced. That continues into this first episode of Supergirl Season 4. This whole relationship feels like it’s in place only to have Lena go behind James back, which she does and eventually turns evil. I don’t want that, as I like the character, on Team Supergirl, fighting for truth and justice. I’m fine with Alex as the head of the DEO, but Braniac 5 as her quirky, fast talking mistake making, second in command is annoying! Essentially, he’s an alien Sheldon Cooper. That schtick is already old for me, and it’s only episode 1. The briefly teased the “Red Daughter of Krypton plot point! was exciting. however, I’m a little disappointed at how minimal it was alluded to, as it’s what I was most looking forward to, at the end of last season. I hope they sprinkle this “Red Son”, adaptation throughout the whole season. However, the way Supergirl structures itself, it could be the “B” storyline of the season, so we may have to wait awhile, for “Red Daughter” Kara. I know a series premiere, usually just sets the table for a season, which this did, but to me it felt like they handled things too broadly and quickly at times.

Score: B+

ARROW:

“After surrendering to the police for being the Green Arrow, Oliver tries to survive in the prison while a new unknown vigilante emerges in the Star City.” (The CW)

The season premieres for this edition of RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse #2, continue. Next up, is Arrow. The season picks up with a dream sequence of Felicity Smoak getting shot and killed by last seasons villain, Ricardo Diaz. Sadly for me, it was just a dream and Oliver Queen wakes up in prison, after turning himself into FBI custody for being the Green Arrow. In exchange, his team would get full immunity for their vigilante activities. The show emphasize the repetition and monotony of being in prison. The same routine day in and day out for Oliver. It’s the Groundhog Day from hell. Not only that, but he’s got a collection of villains he helped put away, constantly coming after him. Trying to insight him to fight, losing any chance he has of getting off early, for good behavior. When that doesn’t work, they pick on weaker inmates, to try and get a rise out of Oliver. For most of the episode, he painfully looks the other way and resists. That is until he is attacked in the shower, on orders from Ricardo Diaz. Then all hell breaks loose. This is easily the most brutal fight scene I’ve seen on Arrow. There’s bone cracking, stab wounds and blood. This is likely the scene that pushed The CW censors to their limits. Unlike last season when The Flash went to prison, which felt like nothing more than a new set for actors to have dialogue in, this prison feels like a hellish experience. Arrow star Stephen Amell sells that experience and Oliver, as a man who has finally had enough and reached his breaking point.

As for the rest of Team Arrow, Felicity is in witness protection with Oliver’s son William, and is a barista. Yes, she has Iris’ old job, just not at Jitters.  Dinah Drake, is now calling the shots at the Star City Police Department, with John Diggle serving as second in command at A.R.G.U.S. Curtis Holt is there as well, bestowing his technical prowess to the organization. Meanwhile, Rene Ramirez runs a youth boxing center, in the impoverished, crime ridden community of the Glades. With Team Arrow having to cease all vigilante activity, crime is on the rise, specifically, illegal gun selling and distribution. Even though Oliver Queen is in prison, another man, who’s identity is unknown to the members of Team Arrow, has taken up the mantle of Green Arrow, and apprehends the two criminals, spearheading the illegal gun trafficking. This Green Arrow seems more vicious, cerebral and violent. More like the way Oliver Queen was in the first season of Arrow. Thinking of who this Green Arrow is, the go to choice, would be Roy Harper, since actor Colton Haynes is returning to the series. However, there are scenes featuring a mysterious man heading to the island where Oliver Queen was once lost and retraces all of his old steps. Along the way, he runs into a slightly older Roy Harper. As Roy prepares to defend himself, they mystery man pleads with Roy to wait, telling Roy that he was friends with his father. The man declares his father to be Oliver Queen, before revealing himself to be William! Wait? What? As I type this, I’m still reeling from this reveal. So with Arrow having exhausted it’s flashback, they’re now doing flash forwards!? Needless to say, I didn’t see this coming.

This season premiere of Arrow was fantastic! When I do a retrospective of Arrow‘s past seasons, you’ll get more context for this statement, but for me, this is the best episode of Arrow, since seasons 1 & 2! Like with TITANS, I simply can not wait for episode 2 of Arrow!

Score: A+

THE FLASH:

“Barry and Team Flash track down a meta that is stealing high-tech weapons, only to cross paths with a new foe named Cicada, who is hunting the very same meta, with nefarious intent.” (The CW)

This episode sees Barry and Nora tell the rest of Team Flash, why Nora is really here. That discussion is interrupted when Barry is called to a crime scene of stolen weaponry, perpetrated by a meta, Cisco dubs as Block because she can create pockets of condensed air, formed into cubes. After Nora sneaks onto the scene as a intern, we see her and Barry do something Barry hasn’t done often enough…Actual forensic work. Picking up from last week, The Flash is making a concerted effort to get back to basics this year, which makes me so happy. The humor here isn’t forced, instead comes from Nora’s frustration that future tech is much faster than present day tech. Even though we aren’t all speedsters, we’ve all complained about the speed, or lack there of, with our technology. In their training sessions, Barry and Nora’s bonding is hitting a snag. He wants her to focus on doing little things to improve, while she always rushes to take the, “go big or go home” approach. When Barry begins to get frustrated, he turns to Joe West for advice. Joe cautions Barry, that all Nora knows of him, is from a museum, where The Flash, is presented as this larger than life hero, with statues erected to him. Barry realizes that Nora is just over doing it, to impress him, much like he did with Joe, when Joe took him in as a child. This leads to another emotionally charged, heartfelt moment between Barry and Nora, where Barry shows her that he too, made mistakes when he first gained his powers. He gives her a vote of confidence that she has already impressed him, with her world saving heroics, which we saw at the end of last season. As children, we’ve all tried to over extend, or go the extra mile to impress our parents, who many of us view as our heroes. As a result, Nora continues to be a relatable character. For the second week in a row, The Flash is at its best, when Grant Gustin and Jessica Parker Kennedy share the screen.

Speaking of people doing things they haven’t done in a while, this episode features Iris West being a reporter. I’m talking investigating on the actual crime scene, prodding Captain Singh for information, and piecing clues together, as to who murdered Gridlock, at the end of last weeks episode. Her investigation proves helpful, in revealing who the big bad of the season is, when he makes his first official appearance in the third act of this episode. This is what I’ve wanted for the Iris character and for Candice Patton. To fully explore the awesome reporter, that we see in the comic books. This is my favourite Iris related content, since season two. Caitlin and Cisco are counselling each other. Cisco is s still suffering over his breakup with Gypsy, which is affecting his Vibe ability, while Caitlin, is struggling whether to investigate the revelation, that her father is still alive. One of the strongest friendships and pairings on The Flash, are Cisco and Caitlin. More often then not, we’re seeing them combine their scientific prowess, to solve problems. Once in awhile, we see them drop their guard, and be each others rock in times of need. Real human interactions interwoven with super heroics, always makes for great entertainment. It’s not all a cry fest with these two. The humor in these scenes, comes from the fact that Ralph Dibny is acting as their surrogate therapist, and they are using his rules for getting over bad relationships. Last season, The Flash over did the comedy, in my opinion. However, this season the balance of humor, and heart, are in perfect harmony. Well, at least after two episodes.

The meta of the week had a cool power, and the block effect actually looked good. The characters name is Vanessa Jansen, which is a nod to Van Jansen, who was a comic book creator, who worked on The Flash, during The New 52 run. However, the real big moment of the episode, occurs when the main villain of the season, Cicada makes his entrance. I don’t know much of this character’s comic book roots but what’s presented, is a serious threat. The character has a lightening dagger, which allows him to leech a metahuman’s powers temporarily. When he does this, he absolutely beats the crap out of The Flash, Vibe and the Elongated Man. As he was about to kill The Flash and fully absorb his power, XS arrives and screams out to her dad. When Cicada hears and sees this, he stops and runs. I haven’t seen The Flash this physically beaten up since Savitar in Season 3. As I said, I don’t know much about this character, or his motivations but after this opening salvo, I look forward to see what Chris Klein and the writers have come up with. In my opinion, Season 5, episode 2 of The Flash, is another victory lap for the show.

Score: A

BLACK LIGHTNING:

“Jefferson must break the news to his students and faculty that he is stepping down; struggling with his new life as Painkiller, Kahlil pays a visit to Jennifer in hopes of mending things; Tobias continues to enact his plan.” (The CW)

The final show covered for this week in RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse #2, is Black Lightning. This episode sheds some more light on the “Green Light Babies”, specifically those in stasis chambers. As an ASA scientist does a routine check on the pods, one wakes up, and accidentally kills himself and the scientist, with his burgeoning, uncontrolled powers. He also inadvertently releases another metahuman from the pod. This Metahuman awakens in a paranoid, delusional state. Considering that Wendy Hernandez, who has the ability to control the wind, was the metahuman of the week, I found that the “fight” with Black Lightning, was a little too much of an easy win for our hero. The episode does check in with the “Green Light” metahuman. Issa Williams, who rose from the dead last week. His family wants nothing to do with him, so Lynn takes him home with her for dinner. His power, which forces people to reveal their true feelings, when he looks into their eyes, makes for a very tense dinner conversation in the Pierce household. After more study by Lynn, we get even more revelations about the “Green Light” metahumans. That being, that out of stasis, the manufactured metahumans bodies, can’t process their developing abilities, which will eventually lead to their bodies deteriorating, and eventual death. Issa Williams decides to live out his remaining days with his family, while this weeks metahuman of the week, decides to go back into stasis, while Lynn works on a cure, after she is returned to the ASA headquarters.

The Anissa character and everything associated with her, brought this episode down big time for me. She is suddenly dating a singer, frolicking in fancy pools and attending concert after parties with her. That’s all well and good, my only problem is, this relationship seemingly dropped out of thin air, developed, and apparently flourished, all over the course of an episode. As of last season, Anissa was “dating” Grace Choi, who appeared in in a hand full of episodes. She appears here, only for Anissa to apologize for not calling her in a while, effectively ending their relationship. For a network that has a ton of “shippers” and hypes up the relationships on their shows, in my opinion, The CW is absolutely terrible at developing and handling 3/4 of the romantic relationships on their shows. In addition to this eye rolling material, When Black Lightning and Thunder are cleaning up a traffic accident caused by Wendy Hernandez, Anissa begins arrogantly playing to and showing off, to the crowds applauding. This is nothing like the Anissa we’ve seen last season, or during the premiere of this season. It’s an abrupt change, with no story reasoning or context for it. The other positive aside from the “Green Light Babies” information we get, is the full return of Tobias Whale this season. He’s as ruthless as ever, taking out people within his ranks, he considers loose ends to the next stage of his plans. He shoots a dirty cop on his payroll, as well as snapping the neck of his former second in command, who was now residing in a Retirement Home. Prior to the neck snap, Tobias reveals to his one time associate and the audience, that he plans to become the largest weapons dealer, with his empire extending well beyond the city. The weapons he will be dealing in?…..Metahumans! Now this has the potential for intriguing story. Dear CW, more of this in upcoming episodes please.

This episode of Black Lighting, was the biggest let down, coming off a season premiere episode. Furthermore, for me, it is the worst episode of DC television of this week.

Score: C+

That’s it for this week. Come back next week for installment #3 of RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse, where we will board the Waverider, for the final Arrowverse season premiere, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow!

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Adam Basciano

I'm a long time fan of superheroes. I love DC and really like Marvel. Will be contributing comic book review columns, to Revenge of The Fans.

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