Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Librarians - '... and the Dark Secret', '... and the Christmas Thief' and '... and the Silver Screen'

I don't think proper priests do like this.
What's that you say? A new season of The Librarians? I don't mind if I do.

We begin this series with 'The Librarians and the Dark Secret', in which a group of bad, bad Catholics(1) calling themselves the Order of Shadows, and devoted to destroying the Library in order to snuff out reason and learning, and bring about a new Dark Age. They have found a map which shows the locations of the four cornerstones of the original Library of Alexandria, which can be used to tear down the current incarnation of the Library. The Librarians' only hope is a secret Jenkins has been keeping from everyone; a prisoner held in the Library after seeking to destroy it. That prisoner is Nicole Noone, Flynn's first Guardian, thought dead but actually displaced in time. Can they trust Noone now, or is she pursuing a grudge of her own against the Library - and perhaps the Librarian - that never came to bring her back?

It's possible some of the Joneses may be adopted.
There might be some mucking with the order of episodes again, as we seem to have skipped '...and the Steal of Fortune' to get to 'The Librarians and the Christmas Thief' in time for the season. In this episode, we meet Ezekiel's family of thieves. Devotees of a figure called the Saint of Thieves, they celebrate the holiday of Thankstaking, and all look down on Ezekiel for his failure to steal anything worthwhile, since his dedication to moral thievery and now to his Library commitments prevents him doing the kind of stealing that they respect. As with many episodes focusing on this most superficial of the Librarians, it is one of the deeper and most emotional episodes, as any time you scratch the surface of Ezekiel the hidden depths just gush out and smack you in the feels.

'...and the Dark Secret' is arc led, but '...and the Christmas Thief' is character driven, and the better for it. As ever, John Kim digs deep to convince us that, for all his smarts, he would be willing to risk everything by showing his mother the Library. He does also get the chance to be recognised as one of the greatest thieves in the world, to defeat the Saint of Thieves, and make his mother and Santa Claus proud. The Librarians also have to 'borrow' Santa's sleigh to retrieve the magic door from Ezekiel's mother, which is really the sort of thing that lies at the heart of how much I love this series.

Also,I love noir.
Similarly, '...and the Silver Screen' does one of my favourite things and traps our heroes in a work of fiction. Eve and Flynn's date ends up with them trapped in one of her favourite noir classics. They try to follow the plot along to the end in order to escape - because this is The Librarians; of course they have protocols for this sort of thing - but it doesn't work, leading them to wonder if the film actually ends the way it was supposed to. That's a fascinating exploration of authorial intent right there. 

Also, the junior Librarians get trapped in a western trying to help, then wind up in a scifi B-movie, both of which are huge fun, before stumbling into the noir thriller to save the day with lassos and rayguns.

I found '...and the Dark Secret' to be a bit of a wobbly start, but the stand-alone episodes - in as much as The Librarians have actual stand-alone elements; traditionally, everything links in the end - were superb, not least because they moved Flynn back out of the limelight to let the junior team do their stuff. I don't hate Flynn, but I've grown to love the team, and our opener this year was very much about Flynn and his relationship with Noone. It also took out John Noble's dubious monsignor a little too quickly - few things are better for losing John Noble, although Sleepy Hollow certainly got worse, if not for keeping him around too long then for reasons relating to it - which means that the Order of Shadows and the Keystones probably aren't the arc plot. Which does beg the question what, if anything, is?

Oh, right! Flynn and Eve marrying the Library.
(1) No real priest would go around stabbing construction workers, or being played by John Noble(2).
(2) It is entirely possible, even likely, that John Noble would play a brilliant priest.

Star Trek: Discovery - 'Despite Yourself'

"You are walking through a red forest and the grass is tall. It’s just rained.
Most of the blood has washed away."
And we're back, with the first post-break episode of Discovery.

Following up on last episode's cliffhanger, the crew of Discovery realise that they are where they should be, but sans starbase and surrounded by wrecked Klingon vessels. After they are attacked by a Vulcan ship, they come to the realisation that they are in an alternate universe; the mirror universe, where the Terran Empire is the dominant power in the alpha quadrant and Star Fleet promotion is via dead men's boots(1). Fortunately, they are able to grab a data core and learn before things get embarrassing and/or lethal that in this universe, Lorca is a fugitive after apparently murdering Burnham, who was the captain of the Shenzhou, and that the Discovery is commanded by none other than Sylvia 'Captain Killy' Tilly.

The first half of the episode is pretty light, as the crew redecorate the ship to look like its MU counterpart - assumed to have been transposed into the regular universe when Discovery accidentally unlocked the interdimensional axis of the mycelial network(2) - and Tilly taps into her inner bitch queen from hell. Unfortunately, all is not laughs and light, as Culber struggles to treat Stamets, whose over-exposure to the spore drive has left him pale-eyed and largely unresponsive. In addition, Tyler's fugues are not helped by L'Rell using a Klingon prayer to try to help him 'remember who he really is.'

"She's like a twisted version of everything I've ever aspired to be.
I'm gonna have nightmares about myself now."
Finding references to the visit of the USS Defiant, Burnham suggests that details of that visit could give them a clue how to get back without the spore drive. To get these records, she plans to board the Shenzhou, announce that rumours of her death were greatly exaggerated in order to allow her to capture Lorca, present him as a bounty and retake command. Then she can access the secure files aboard the Shenzhou and it's home for tea and crumpets (and to hand over the critical anti-cloaking equations.) Tyler will act as Burnham's bodyguard, since he has no known MU counterpart - funny that - and he desperately tries to get Dr Culber to find out what was done to him without getting pulled from duty. Alas, Culber learns that Tyler has undergone extensive bone reshaping, and Tyler kills him.

Not going to lie to you, I am not happy about this. There's been a lot of backlash against Culber's death, since he's both an excellent character and one of the few who straight up butts heads with Lorca over his dodgier decisions, and one half of what is a) the franchise's first on-ship gay couple, and b) the most adorable couple on the Disco(3). I'm not happy for both these reasons, although I will allow that the high level of representation on the series - there are only one and a half cishet white men in regular speaking roles and one of them is an alien - means that minority characters will catch a fair percentage of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune(4). Now, After Trek insists that he is 'not 100% dead', so since they've ruled out his mirror version I'm thinking some sort of fungus-based or even tardigrade miracle cure for a snapped neck, but I guess we'll find out.

Damnit.
Anyhugh. Tilly threatens to rip a man's tongue out and use it to lick her own boots, and thus Burnham is placed aboard the Shenzhou, where she is forced to allow Lorca to be placed in an agoniser booth and then to kill her replacement as captain(5) when he tries to protect his promotion. What with one thing and another, she's kept super busy until late in the day, at which point she retires to her cabin to get all The Bodyguard with her bodyguard(6), while Lorca frankly languishes.

So, it would appear that we were right about Tyler. Shazad Latif is a good enough actor and a big enough woobie that you still feel bad for his confusion and pain, just a lot less bad than you do for Culber suffering the fate of those who are too clever for their billing. I wait to be convinced on that one, because right now it felt like a shock for shock's sake, which is a bad reason to kill anyone, let alone to traverse the perilous waters of killing your gays.

For the future, we have the aftermath of Cuber's death to explore, the way back to the main universe, whatever damage the Witch of Wurna Minor may have done, and the mystery identity of the Terran Emperor, the anonymity of which has been referenced so often that we can't possibly go home without a shocking reveal.

(1) Or dead women's boots, because thankfully there are no 'captain's women' in this incarnation of the MU, just captains and women, often both at once. Possibly this is a result of the Constitution-class USS Defiant making a time-slipped journey to the MU and encountering the Enterprise NX-01, and Hoshi Sato subsequently overthrowing her male colleagues.
(2) I'm starting to realise why no-one ever replicated the spore drive.
(3) A title they were unlikely to lose so long as Tilly remained single, and even then with anyone currently on the ship.
(4)My next essay on fan reaction is totally going to be called 'The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fandom.'
(5) A fresh-faced youth whose alternate she had to watch die in the brig in the two-part opener.

(6) Apparently this too is time she couldn't be spending retrieving the information from the secure terminal which, presumably, the captain has in her cabin.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Watch with Father: Julie's Greenroom


Sometimes, a series comes along that is pretty much just what you want your child to be watching, and then sometimes a series comes along that is what you never knew you needed your child to be watching. If you'd asked me what I wanted Arya to be watching a month ago, I probably wouldn't have shot for a diverse group of Muppet children and a duck attending an all-star series of performing arts workshops led by Julie Andrews(1), and yet here comes Julie's Greenroom, and it is glorious.

Ms Julie and her stage manager, Gus, run a performing arts centre with a prestigious youth 'Greenroom' workshop. When a burst pipe destroys the prop collection, the latest workshop group set out to create their own original musical using what they learn in a series of masterclasses given by the Greenroom's alumni. The latter group includes Idina Menzel, Glee! alumnus and author Chris Colfer, baritone Josh Groban(2), Alec Baldwin, ballet dancers Robert Fairchild and Tyler Peck(3), Sara Bareilles, Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess, violinist Joshua Bell, and David Hyde Pierce. There are also appearances from Stomp, Cirque de Soleil and a visit to the set of Wicked.

The 'Greenies' are performed by veteran Henson puppeteers, including Stephanie D'Abruzzo, John Tartaglia and Jennifer Barnhart, three of the four Sesame Street performers who originated the puppet roles in Avenue Q(4). The characters are diverse in many ways, including: Hank, a paraplegic pianist and sports fan; Peri, a theatre buff and drama queen from a rich family; Fizz, a young Hispanic girl; Spike, an African-American linguaphile; and technophile Riley. Riley is most interesting for what she isn't quite. She is identified, when unavoidable, as female, but lacks any distinctive gender coding. With production crew suggesting that Riley is likely to self-identify as non-binary at some point, I'm not sure why they didn't just go for it.

There's also Hugo. He's a duck.

Through their workshops, the Greenies learn about various aspects of the performing arts, including technical skills like costume design and harmony singing, as well as more personal lessons, such as the importance of practice, or that ballet isn't just for girls and waterfowl. In episode 2, when Spike feels unequal to the task of being a writer because he's never seen a writer who looks like him, everyone sings a song about the importance of diverse voices. Peri learns that being cast as the ogre instead of the princess isn't a slight, and Fizz learns the importance of practice. Hank learns to dance, and Riley learns that the technical and creative are not mutually exclusive.

You know what it is? It's like if Julie Andrews took over the Muppet theatre and ran a class for Sesame Street characters, and exactly as awesome as that sounds. The only problem is that there are only thirteen half-hour episodes and no sign of a season 2, alas.

(1) Who is also credited as creator of the show. I also imagine it didn't hurt when it came to attracting guest stars. "You've had an offer to do a show with Julie Andrews and Muppets," probably isn't a tough sell.
(2) I may have to forgive him for his butchering of 'Evermore' in the end credits of Beauty and the Beast.
(3) They make a lot of their 'fairytale marriage', so I imagine a lot of parents may end up having tricky conversations about how they separated a few months after the show came out.

(4) A poster for which appears in the greenroom itself.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Doctor Who - 'Twice Upon a Time'

"A life this long – do you understand what it is? It’s a battlefield, like this one… and it’s empty. Because everyone else has fallen."

This review will contain spoilers

The Doctor has fall, which means that it is time to rise again. But what if it isn't? What if this time it's the end?

In the frozen landscape of the Antarctic, the Doctor comes face to face with his past, and with his future. Time stands still - literally - and a dead man walking enters the field. What is the Testament? Is that really Bill Potts? Could it be time for a Dalek to do something productive? And is the universe finally big enough and old enough to look after itself?

The Good
Once more, the show displays the grasp of who (if you will) the Doctor is that has been eluding it since the regeneration into Capaldi.

David Bradley is a superb First Doctor, complete with horrendously outdated attitudes and pre-heroic grumpiness.

Both Bradley and Capaldi get a more dignified sort of end than Tennant ever did, even if Twelve does manage to wreck the TARDIS up as badly as Ten did during his Regeneration.

I love the fact that the villains turn out to be anything but, and also the fact that they didn't resurrect Bill.

The Bad
I know it was Twelve who wrecked the TARDIS, but you just know people are having a field day with the Thirteenth Doctor starting her innings by crashing the vehicle (like no Doctor every did that before(1).)

Oh, yay; it's Clara. I mean, not actual Clara, but now I have to remember that she's still out there, Mary Suing her way around the cosmos.

I wasn't convinced by Ben and Polly.

The Ugly
Nothing to report.

"Oh, brilliant!"
Theorising
Okay, so Thirteen seems to be starting the same way Eleven did, with a crash and presumably a period of recovery. I look forward to seeing how she handles whatever the world below has to throw at her.


Top Quotes
First Doctor: Well. I assumed, I'd get... younger.
Twelfth Doctor: I am younger!

"Technically, that is your TARDIS. It’s about 70 feet that way, see? Always remember where you parked, it’s going to come up a lot." - The Twelfth Doctor

First Doctor: What’s so important about one captain?
Twelfth Doctor: Everybody’s important to somebody, somewhere.

First Doctor: You’ve saved him!
Twelfth Doctor: Both of them. Never hurts – a couple fewer dead people on the battlefield.
First Doctor: So that’s what it means to be a doctor of war.
Twelfth Doctor: You were right, you know. The universe generally fails to be a fairy tale… but that’s where we come in!

"Don’t die. Because if you do, I think everybody in the universe might just go cold." - Nardole

"Oh, brilliant!" - The Thirteenth Doctor

Verdict
Yep; I'll take this. The interplay between Bradley and Capaldi is perfect, and I have far more respect for these two Doctors' determination not to regenerate than I did for the Tenth Doctor's.

I wish this was a longer review, but it's been almost a fortnight. Christmas turns out to be a busy time with a family.

Rating - 8/10

(1) Three began by being dropped on Earth with a TARDIS that didn't work at all. Five's innings began with jettisoning most of the interior dimensions, including the critical Zero Room. Seven was dragged out of the TARDIS unconscious by the Rani's Tetraps. The War Doctor Regenerated after crashing on Karn. Ten wrecked the TARDIS for Eleven pretty much exactly as Twelve did for Thirteen. And that's ignoring intra-Regeneration crashes.

Watch with Father: The Highway Rat

It's been a couple of years since the mind-shattering horror of Stick Man, so it must be time for another Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler adaptation. This time, it's Donaldson's take on Alfred Noyes much-studied-at-GCSE poem 'The Highwayman', The Highway Rat.

The mean and selfish Highway Rat steals food from travellers, fattening himself at the expense of the other animals, even on food that he doesn't really want. At last, with the entire country suffering, a brave duck risks all to trick the villain and reclaim what has been stolen. The story borrows its tempo and rhyming scheme from the Noyes verse, but omits a lot of the death, gun violence, sex, assault and suicide in favour of rapier flourishing, food theft and some subterranean soul-searching (the latter primarily added, wordlessly, in the adaptation.) The TV version features the usual cavalcade of star voices, with Rob Brydon on narrative duty and David Tennant in native Scots mode as the titular thief.

For my money, The Highway Rat lacks the charm of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child, the warmth of Room on the Broom, and the soul-shattering horror of Stick Man. Perhaps because it is so closely modelled on 'The Highwayman', it lacks a certain vitality that marks Donaldson's work out from the crowd(1). It's still good fun, and even second tier Donaldson/Scheffler animation is a Christmas treat, but I'm hoping for Tabby McTat or A Squash and a Squeeze in two years' time.

My daughter, on the other hand, loved it, which is probably what matters.


(1) I find the same with her The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, which is technically excellent, but still feels more like superior fan fiction than its own thing.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

DC Roundup: Supergirl - 'Reign'; The Flash - 'Don't Run'; and Legends of Tomorrow - 'Beebo: God of War'

Giving new meaning to the term 'street fight'.
It's that time again, when the CW superheroes close out for the mid-season break with pain, failure and frustration.

We begin, as always, with Supergirl, and 'Reign', which unsurprisingly introduces the Girl of Steel to the season's big bad. Wrongdoers around National City start turning up dead by superstrength, and a Kryptonian sigil unknown even to Kara's holo-Mom is burned into the crime scene with heat vision. The crazy prophet of Supergirl turns out to have a clue, however, explaining that in his research into Kryptonians he spoke to Fort Raz prisoners still at large and tracked down many Kryptonian artefacts, which led him to learn of an apocalyptic prophecy from the ancient days of Krypton, pre-dating the unified worship of Rau, and speaking of the coming of the Beast, the Worldkiller, an unstoppable force of judgement.

At the same time, she learns that in the far future, Mon-el had formed a team of superheroes called the Legion, modelled on Kara's example and including his now-wife Whatsherface(1). This is a bit of a good news, bad news thing - good news: you inspired a Legion of Heroes; bad news, one of them married your squeeze - and not helped by Imra telling her how Mon-el was dedicated to getting back to Kara for four or five of the seven years he was in the future before their team was caught in some sort of time vortex and thrown into the distant past, where it lay dormant with them in stasis until Edge's torpedo shook them up.

Speaking of Edge, Lena and James try to prove he's been building an evil Kryptonian, mostly to push forward their whole romance angle. Sadly, after a few weeks of no movement, this is now feeling a little forced. Eventually, it turns out that the Kryptonian killer is Reign, and she and Supergirl have a massive fight across the city which ends with Kara being dropped off a roof and rushed to the DEO for medical treatment, because damn.

Oh, and Sam may be turning permanently into Reign in front of her teenage daughter. Yay!
 
Yes, these are also the Christmas episodes.
Meanwhile, the Flash is abducted by Devoe, and Caitlin - who is feeling pretty pissed that the guys have been hanging out with Killer Frost while her side of the persona has been sleeping - by Amaunet. Devoe's motives are obscure, but Amaunet wants Caitlin to save a metahuman telepath who was shot resisting her attempts to capture him to sell to an interested party. This leaves Iris in the unfortunate position of having to make the tough call on where to focus their efforts: Rescuing Caitlin or rescuing Barry. She tries to do both, but after a tough love pep talk from Harry chooses to focus on Caitlin and trust that Barry can escape on his own.

Caitlin works with the telepath to try to escape, but in the end the outside assist is needed, as neither of them are exactly sluggers. Barry, however, is able to seemingly outthink the Thinker by vibrating his molecules fast enough to appear to vanish from his Speed-proof cell. The team reconvene in triumph, but when Barry is called away to the apartment, he gets a call from the telepath, whose power has been abused to transfer Devoe's mind into his body, leaving Devoe's body a) dead and b) in Barry's apartment with the police knocking on the door. Steeling himself with the titular advice 'Don't Run', he prepares to face the music.

All praise Beebo!
Finally, we wrap up Legends of Tomorrow with 'Beebo: God of War', in which time falls out of joint when the younger Martin Stein becomes an anachronism and the must have Christmas toy Beebo becomes the 'blue god' who will lead Leif Erikson and his sister Freydis to the conquest of the New World and ultimately supplant Christ as the winter festival deity(2). While the team is able to infiltrate the camp, rescue Stein and eventually destroy Beebo, this just leaves the Vikings to be wowed when Damien Darhk turns up in a winged helmet, with Nora playing a Valkyrie to his Odin, clearly planning to take over the world, starting with Vinland.

With the off-the-books assistance of Agent Sharp, the Legends have no choice but to take on the Darhks, magic and all. Sara, Zari and Nate face off with Damien, while Mick and Lenny Snart use the old crossed-stream trick to take down Nora. Sara tries to stop Damien time-teleporting out, and finds herself in the domain of Molos, but is dragged out at the last minute. It's pretty upbeat for a mid-season finale; except that Stein refuses to keep Jaxx's Back to the Future letter and as a result Jaxx opts to leave the Waverrider. Oh, and John Constantine pops up and tells Sara that a possessed girl is calling her name.

So far, it's been a pretty strong season for DC/CW, although not without its flaws. The transition of Sam to Reign still feels too sudden, and there is always a problem with convincingly portraying a super-genius as a convincing threat, but also as one that could possibly be defeated. Legends is managing the best, perhaps because its goofy nature means that it can weather a few little inconsistencies. Arrow, I'm not sure about, since we're a ways behind. Maybe we'll get caught up before the end of the midseason break; or maybe not.

(1) It's Imra, but I always find it telling when I can't remember the name after a couple of weeks.

(2) Agent Stick-Up-Her-Butt - she's sympathetic enough I ought to call her Sharp from now on, especially since she has conspicuously and literally let her hair down - suggests that the Legends handling an anachronism on this level would be a Beebo's Day miracle.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

DC Roundup: Supergirl - 'Midvale' and 'Wake Up'; The Flash - 'When Harry Met Harry' and 'Therefore I Am'; Legends of Tomorrow - 'Helen Hunt' and 'Welcome to the Jungle'; Crisis on Earth-X - Parts 1-4

So, apparently a three-week DC catchup was in order.

It's like they traveled back in time to kidnap Chyler Leigh and Melissa
Benoist's younger selves; only presumably way less illegal and space-time
destroying.
We begin with Supergirl and the bucolic flashback episode 'Midvale', apparently Smallville's slightly larger sister community(1) and home to Kara's foster family. The plan is to wallow in family and help Alex recover from her narratively jarring break-up with Maggie, but the immediate result seems more to be that Alex descends into semi-sanctioned alcohol abuse and gets pissy with Kara for being all 'plenty more fish in the sea' after her own dark night of the soul following the loss of Mon-el.

The bulk of the episode, however, takes us back to when the girls were both teenagers, Kara the overachieving newbie and Alex an aspiring bitch queen. The death of a fellow student - a close friend of Kara's - leads the two girls into their own investigation, revealing an affair between Alex's queen bee BFF and a teacher and the dead boy's penchant for... Well, blackmail is an ugly word, and it's not actually made clear if he spies on the town for fun and profit, or if his motivation was to try to make the world a better place by pressuring teachers not to sleep with their students or corrupt law enforcement officers to come clean(2). The loss and the investigation bring Alex and Kara together for the first time, and the flashback works the same magic in the present, although it's not entirely clear how given that they don't really talk about it and there isn't a lot of parallel plot intercutting to link then and now.
 
Right! The telescope. That was the link.
'Midvale' gives us a fairly strong tale of the young Danvers sisters, but the world they inhabit is too isolated for the events to have much interest. Kenny Li is a sweetheart - or a blackmailing perv, but I'm pretty sure the idea is that he just sees things and wants to change that which he feels to be wrong - but we have little time to invest in him before his death, and conversely it's just too obvious that the nice-guy sheriff is the real killer because there is literally no-one else it could be. On the other hand, the young versions of our leads are on point.

Also, J'onn talks Kara out of being too powers-usey by pretending to be an FBI agent who happens to look like her mother, which is a touch creepy, and still confusing because her mother doesn't look like her mother anymore.
 
"Well, wherever he's been, he's clearly had access to grooming accessories
and a gym."
But anyway, that leaves Kara feeling a little more composed about the loss of Mon-el, just in time for 'Wake Up', in which a mysterious ship is disturbed by geology. The DEO investigate and find Mon-el and a bunch of peeps in suspended animation, including - as it turns out - a Saturnian space babe named Imra. Has Mon-el relapsed to his pre-Kara ways? Well, no; actually for him he's been away for seven years, living in the 31st century, recovering from his lead vulnerability, and getting married. Oops.

Elsewhere, J'onn struggles to connect with his father, having been kind of closed off for a while and not knowing how to show his dad the world outside the DEO. In arc-land, Sam goes on a quest to discover who she really is. She presses her foster mother and discovers that there is a spaceship in her barn, which leads her to the 'Fortress of Sanctuary'. A hologram tells her she was designed to be an instrument of punitive judgement before having a kid messed up the timeline, but now her personality can be overwritten(3) and she can get with the tyranny.

This is a lot of variety for a total of 52 Earths, on all of which Barry and Iris
gravitate together.
On to The Flash, and a two-episode mini-arc in which Team Flash try to track down DeVoe. In an attempt to expand his working capacity and, as advised by Cisco, make friends, Harry assembles 'the Council of Wells', a collective of his alternate selves from various dimensions. In the meantime, Barry takes Ralph out on his first case, where the Ductile Detective's drive to get the job done at any cost - the same thing that got him fired when he planted evidence to get someone he knew to be guilty sent down - clashes with Barry's focus on defending the innocent. We also get some stock business with Barry and Iris asking their couples' therapist to hypnotise Ralph and get some sort of lead on who was on the bus.

As Black Bison's whole deal is getting objects to do things, there aren't many
action clips of her.
Our meta of the week is a Native American activist with the ability to bring effigies to life, hell bent on retrieving a tribal relic and punishing those who have sought to keep it in private hands. She goes by the self-appointed moniker 'Black Bison', to save the cringe of having Team Flash try to name a Native American themed villain. The abuse of power in the name of a worthy and even righteous cause is somewhat underused as a theme - perhaps because ultimately this ends up being a B-plot to the Council of Wells - although part of Ralph's ongoing development(4) lies in ultimately swiping the relic from the scene of capture and returning it to the tribe to whom it belongs on the downlow.

"There. Sure glad I don't look stupid in this."
The Council of Wells eventually overcome their collective supermass of ego and provide an address for one Clifford DeVoe, a wheelchair-bound college professor. In 'Therefore I am', we alternate between his start of darkness story - in which he designs a 'thinking cap' which his wife makes for him, and gets his brain lightly poached into a hyer-brilliant but slightly megalomaniacal state while trying to steal energy from the particle accelerator to make it work - with Barry's increasingly lonely attempts to uncover his secret identity, while others come to believe that he might just be an innocent professor and Captain Singh fields complaints against Barry for his actions, because once more we see that Barry Allen is terrible at not getting caught by obvious traps like a few home security cameras.

In the end, DeVoe comes clean, not because Barry catches him out, but because - so it seems - he can't bear to have no-one but his wife understand just how overwhelming his intellect is(5), and challenges Team Flash, who traditionally approach big bads by outthinking them, to marvel at how completely he has them figured out.

DeVoe is a real dick.

Still awkward.
We're still stalled on Arrow, so on to Legends of Tomorrow. In 'Helen Hunt' the Legends detect an anachronism in the golden age of Hollywood. Hedy Lamarr - siren of the silver screen, brilliant inventor and Professor Stein's 'hall pass' - has been bumped from the career-making role of Helen of Troy by, well, the actual Helen of Troy. Helen's mere presence seems set to escalate studio rivalry to gang warfare, while the truncating of Lamarr's career interferes with her work on spread spectrum frequency hopping, which begins to unravel future wifi technology, including the team's comms. Oh, and Stein and Jax get body-swapped by an experimental untangling formula, leading to a bit of Freaky Friday business even as Stein (played here by Franz Drameh) gushes over Hedy Lamarr.

Things take a turn for the serious when Damien Darhk appears in the role of a Hollywood agent. He agrees to a straight fight with Sara, but when she wins the medium steps in, and is revealed as Darhk's daughter, all grown up and unwilling to see her Dad killed by another vigilante. In addition, Amaya learns that water-witch Kuasa is her granddaughter, and while the Legends ultimately win the day, Mallus' anti-Legends are an increasingly sinister and looming presence, as well as being far less of a sausage fest than the Legion of Doom.

Oh, and Zari decides that taking Helen back to Troy would be cruel, so as her ongoing impact on the timeline is limited she instead drops her of on Themiscyra.

Like father, like son.
'Welcome to the Jungle' takes the team to Vietnam, where a mysterious and charismatic figure is recruiting people on both sides to some sort of new tribe and a monster is stalking US patrols. The two turn out to be one and the same, when the Colonel Kurtz figure proves to be none other than an anachronistic Gorilla Grodd. Grodd wants to assassinate a president and take over the world, which obviously the Legends are against, but Mick has problems of his own, most particularly his own father, a gruff non-com with a flamethrower and a familiar attitude.

Grodd is stopped, Jax saves the President(6) from an ambush and Mick saves his father from committing a massacre in revenge for Grodd's crimes, and begins to open up just a little as a result. Grodd seems to fall to his death, but instead is snatched through time and greeted by Damien Darhk.

And all of this leads us at last to the four part crossover event Crisis on Earth-X(7).

I've got a good feeling about this ceremony.
Heroes from all four series assemble in Central City for the wedding of Iris and Barry. Alex comes as Kara's plus one, despite the fact that this is not the wedding she was planning to be at, gets drunk at the rehearsal dinner and wakes up in bed with Sara, because of course Sara hit that. Cue a major existential crisis for Alex, who has had precious few relationships, and never a one-night stand. Fortunately for Alex - less so for everyone else - the wedding is soon interrupted when a mystery Kryponian vapourises the reverend as the opening act of a Nazi invasion from the 'fifty-third, but it's so bleak and horrible we don't even give it a number' Earth-X.
 
In the CW-verse, doubting conservative parents ask their newly-out
daughters: 'How can you be a lesbian if you haven't slept with Sara Lance?'
The attack is led by the Kryptonian and a brace of archers, one of whom is captured and revealed to be Tommy Merlyn. He mocks Olvier's attempts to relate to him as weakness, before taking poison. Meanwhile the other archer - parallel Oliver Queen, the Fuhrer of Earth-X - and 'Overgirl' - Kara's opposite number - rally their forces with the aid of transtemporal cockroach Eobard Thawne, but are once more pressed to retreat by Oliver's kryptonite arrows. The assembled teams are able to track the Nazis based on radiation leaking from Overgirl as a result of absorbing too much yellow sunlight, but are ultimately overwhelmed and everyone but Iris and Felicity gets captured. The sidekicks are imprisoned in the pipeline, the heroes are taken to Earth-X and thrown into Commandant Quentin Lance's concentration camp, and Kara is exposed to red sun radiation to soften her up, so that her heart can be transplanted into Overgirl.

Not sure about the masks, but the use of the SS logo in place of the S of House
El is horribly inspired.
Iris and Felicity delay things long enough for the rest of the Legends to stop Thawne killing Kara and to break out the other sidekicks. The heroes break out of the camp with the help of Leo Snart, Earth-X's Captain Cold, a touchy-feely, plan-oriented, openly gay hero in a relationship with Ray 'the Ray' Terrill, and join up with a group of freedom fighters led by Earth-X's Winn Schott(8). Schott is committed to the destruction of the Reich, and intends to use his world's Red Tornado to destroy the portal linking the worlds. He offers the teams time to get through, but then sends Tornado anyway, leaving the Flash and the Ray to hold off the android while the rest of the team storm the portal (a plan which involves Oliver disguising himself as the Fuhrer before blowing his cover to protect Earth-X Felicity, who is of course interned for being Jewish.)

It's that man again.
The heroes break back through and take down the bad guys, even managing to bring down the Nazi version of the Waverider, but not without cost. Professor Stein takes a bullet activating the portal, and although briefly stabilised by the fusion of Firestorm, ultimately persuades Jax to take the formulae developed to separate them, so that he will not take Jax with him. Massive props to the series for skipping the tediousness of Stein's family blaming Jax to create unnecessary conflict. Instead, they embrace him as a member of their grieving family, because the loss of Stein is painful enough for Jax, who has spent much of the mini-series coming to terms with the father-son relationship he and Stein share.

In the end, Overgirl explodes, Oliver shoots his Nazi doppelganger, and John Diggle - who was ordained as a minister to marry his brother, back before he killed him - is brought in to do the honours for Barry and Iris, and for Oliver and Felicity(9). Sara tells Alex to fly and be free. It's all pretty uplifting and then everyone goes home for what I expect to be a brutally painful round of mis-season finales.

Phew.

Oh, and Snart stays on Earth-1.

So, that was an exciting batch of episodes. Supergirl is doing pretty well at the moment, and Legends of Tomorrow has never been as much fun. Ralph Dibney is taking The Flash to some odd places. He's being played with what seems to be a lot of Plastic Man in his characterisation, and I don't know if that plus the wackiness of the Council of Wells(10) is doing the tone any favours when set alongside the scheming of the Thinker. Crisis on Earth-X was an outstanding crossover, avoiding the segmentation of Invasion while keeping its strengths, and expanding to a full, four-episode arc. Also, punching Nazis really plays to the crowd.

(1) In many ways it's remarkable that such deliberately generic place names as Smallville and Metropolis have survived to the present day.
(2) Given the lack of condemnation of his actions, I assume the latter.
(3) I really hope this isn't as total as it seemed, because otherwise the character's whole set up seems likely to have been background for a pat resolution where she either recognises her daughter and lets herself be taken down, or doesn't and kills poor Ruby for dramah.
(4) On this note, I'm glad to see that the writers aren't playing with some of the creepier 'jokes' about stretching powers, despite Ralph's slightly sleazy persona.
(5) Although in classic form, he is physically crippled and needs a life-support wheelchair from House of Davros to survive.
(6) LBJ.
(7) Italicised, because it was basically presented as a four-part miniseries, complete with its own titles.
(8) As if to cement his position as 'character the writers have least idea what to do with' James 'Guardian' Olsen was killed in the cold open of Part 1.
(9) A character plot has Felicity refusing to get engaged to Oliver, because that was where everything when to shit last time.
(10) Even excluding 'Wells the Grey', a wizard.