This week, RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse has finally brought the 3 night “Elseworlds” crossover to our screen. This week’s column will focus on Titans and “Elseworlds.” I will cover the Black Lightning mid-season finale, in next weeks column.
“The origin story of Hank Hall and Dawn Granger. (DC Universe)
As the description suggests, this episode takes a break from focusing on last episode’s cliff hanger, instead picking up with Hawk and Dove. Dawn is still in the hospital, The majority of the episode takes place in the past. First, it chronicles Hank and his younger half brother Don Hall. As a younger boy, Hank Hall was a young football star. One day after practice, his football coach offered to show him the team gym. Unbeknownst to Don, the coach planned to sexually abuse Don. Hank knew and when he tried to take his brother home, the coach threatened to get he and his brother expelled from school. To save his brother and not get expelled, Hank agrees to go in the weight room with the coach, if he lets his little brother go home. Years later, Hank is a superstar football player. However he is beset by concussions and warned not to play. Hank is furious by Don reporting his concussion to the dean, getting him kicked off the team. The two start fighting in a library, which escalates into a larger fight, with other students getting involved. This moment gets them expelled. The two brothers are at home, the incident with the coach cones up, prompting them to search for him online, noticing that a multitude of sex offenders are registered in their area. This gives them the impetus to create the identities of Hawk & Dove, taking out child abusers. Given that they have no superpowers and their isn’t any mystical force that gives either of them powers, relating their origin to overcoming a tragic event is “Superhero 101” and makes perfect sense for them. The hand held footage of the two brothers as Hawk & Dove, for the first time, kind of reminds me of a mix between Kick-Ass and Chronicle.
As for Dawn in this episode, we learn she is a ballet dancer, who has also studied martial arts,which explains her bad assery as Dove. She’s dealing with her own form of tragedy, in the form of trying to get her mother, to leave her abusive father, for good. The cool thing for Star Trek fans, is that Dawn’s Mother is played by Marina Sirtis. Hank and Dawn’s path’s first cross, when she and her mother, bump into Hank and Dawn, literally, on the street. As the four characters talk and exchange pleasantries, two cars get into an accident, swerve out of control, hitting several bystanders. Casualties include, Dawn’s mom and Hank’s brother. From then on, we see snippets of the relationship development of Hank and Dawn. First it’s drowning their grief at a bar, before eventually attending grief counseling. The episode highlight’s happier times, like the two honoring their fallen family members, by enjoying their respective favourite activities together. For Dawn’s mother,that was afternoon tea. For Hank’s brother, it was enjoying a slice from his favourite Pizza joint for lunch. Much like the comics, you can see the calmness Dawn provides for Hank. I love that this relationship isn’t born out of pure physical desire or a lust for sex, which most TV shows focus on. Even when Dawn decides to stay over, they agree it’ll be on the couch.
When she is preparing the couch, she stumbles upon the Hawk costume. This forces Hank to tell her about his extra circular activities with his brother. He admits this was all essentially born out of being sexually abused by his coach, when he was a kid. Though Hank and Don never went after the coach, because doing so would make the assault real. While Hank sleeps, Dawn searches for info on the coach, tracks him down and confronts him. Dawn gets in a few good hits at first but finds herself in trouble, when the former coach pulls a gun on her. Luckily for her, Hank awoke and found out what she was up to, arriving in time, before the coach shoots her. Hank beats the coach senseless and before delivering the killing strike, tells Dawn to leave. She refuses, opting to see this through. I love that she does this. Titans has showcased her nurturing side, and her tough and sometimes ruthless side. Women can and are both. One doesn’t cancel out the other. The episode ends, with Dawn waking up telling Hank they need to save Rachel and that requires them to find Jason Todd.
This episode was phenomenal. Hard to watch because of the subject matter, yet also incredibly powerful and hard hitting, for the same reason. The only negative with this episode of Titans is that it feels out of place. This should have been the episode directly following the first appearance of Hawk and Dove, not halfway through the season, following an episode with a stunning cliff-hanger. Regardless, this show is always a great way to start an RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse column.
Elseworlds balances the high concept and high stakes stories, with humor. Oliver and Barry have swapped lives, not bodies. Oliver is living Barry’s life, while Barry slings arrow’s as Oliver. Oliver’s face when he wakes up in Barry’s bed, or when Iris started kissing him, was a look of confused horror and it was hilarious. Also, the way he struggles with his speed was just as funny. As he looks at himself in the mirror, with The Flash costume on, he wonders what Barry has done this time to cause this mess! The go to line of thinking within the Arrowverse, when things change, or get out of whack to these levels, is to assume Barry changed the timeline. We get to see both heroes foil at heft in their new identity. Oliver stops a diamond heist at IVO Labs, while Barry joins Diggle, and stops a weapons heist. Both heroes get the job done, though Barry seems more at ease and is enjoying being the Green Arrow, while Oliver haphazardly handles his rescue and seemingly hates being The Flash. When he threw a lightning bolt punch at his thieves, Oliver accidentally hit equipment, that charged up a hidden, dormant AMAZO. More on that later. After telling the Team at Star Labs of the identity swap, they are thrown in holding, because no one believed them. I enjoyed the fact that during the explanation, mention was made about the similarities to both Freaky Friday and Quantum Leap. Never pass up a good pop culture reference. I loved the taunting between Oliver and Barry as they try to escape, when Barry expresses fear of fracturing his thumb to aid in the escape, or when Oliver expresses nervousness at the prospect of phasing through their cell. The dynamic between these two is reminiscent of Batman and Superman’s back and forth, as written by Jeph Loeb and as seen in various animated series and movies.
Speaking of Superman, once free, Oliver and Barry vibe to Earth 38, to see if Supergirl can help them with their problem,. As they transport through the portal, the Smallville theme “Save Me”, plays in the background. As we enter Earth 38, we see the vista of Smallville Kansas. It’s the exact same shot that opened that show. We then see the Kent Farm. This location is also the same location that doubled for the Kent Farm on The WB/CW’s first superhero show. I have a love/hate relationship with Smallville but seeing these locations again, is an absolute treat. Even more of a treat, was once again seeing Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent/Superman again. He’s counseling Kara about her issues with being fired by the President, over not revealing her identity. Clark sides with her, reaffirming she is doing the right thing, reiterating that keeping a secret identity keeps their loved ones safe. Despite some infuriating things done by the Supergirl series, with the two cousins, the fact that she looks up to him as an example and the standard bearer, is great. Superman is exactly that and always will be. Thanks to this crossover, audiences finally meet the Arrowverse’s Lois Lane, played by actress Elizabeth Tulloch. Tulloch’s Lois has a look that evokes Margot Kidder, but her attitude/sass and drive, reminds me of the Terri Hatcher iteration. One thing that makes this iteration unique, is that Lois not only knows Clark is Superman but they’ve been together for years. Even though we only got two episodes with Lois and Clark, Tulloch and Hoechlin’s chemistry was electric. You believed their relationship had longevity, and the way they looked at each other, it felt like I was watching a real couple truly in love! These two actors have achieved in two episode, what other Lois & Clark actors had 3 movies, or multiple seasons of television to accomplish.
Eventually Cisco vibes to Earth 38 to get Barry and Oliver, bringing them back to Earth 1 to stop AMAZO, who is on the lose. Superman and Supergirl offer their assistance. When Cisco asks Clark who he is, he says; “A friend”, followed by a trademark shirt rip. This was great re-purpose of that famous line from the 1978 film. As someone who was frustrated with the Smallville series finale and Tom Welling’s CGI shirt rip, it was nice to see an actor on THAT Kent Farm, doing the shirt rip scene for real. You know what else was great? Seeing this whole group of heroes, take on AMAZO. First of all, prior to the episode, I had no idea AMAZO would be in it, so that was a surprise. Seeing this collection of heroes take him on together, all at once was like watching the comic book page come to life. One of my favourite moments was the big Superman entrance, where he fly’s down at incredible speed, fist clenched, delivering a super punch that drove AMAZO into the ground. That was an entrance worthy of the World’s Greatest Superhero. Equally exhilarating was seeing AMAZO get up, mimic all our heroes’ powers and fighting back. This is the stuff I remember seeing on TV as kid, in animation. Back then, I never thought I’d see this in live action, especially on TV. Even though we have so much great content on TV and film. superhero wise, I will never not get giddy, seeing something like this. Even better, was watching the heroes regroup and work cohesively to defeat AMAZO. Every hero got a moment to shine, but it was Arrow and The Flash’s idea, that delivered the virus enduing final blow.. As it should be, given that they began this whole shared universe. After the fight, Superman returns to Earth -38, while Oliver, Barry and Kara, return to Star Labs. Cisco has a vision and sees the Monitor and John Deegan with the book. Oliver uses his new super-speed, to draw what Cisco described. Wayne Tower in the background of said drawing, points our heroes to Gotham City. A cool nod about Oliver’s drawing, is that in reality, it was drawn by superstar artist, Jim Lee.
The Gotham City portion of this episode, was part of Arrow‘s hour. This episode largely served as a backdoor pilot for the Batwoman series, in development. Gotham City in this universe, calls to mind Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. That makes sense, given that both this episode of Arrow, and two thirds of the trilogy, was shot in Chicago. In terms of how our Earth 1 heroes see Batman, Barry Allen is in awe of the idea of Batman. He’s the audience, a Batman fanboy. Meanwhile, Oliver sees Batman as a myth, made up by the police to scare criminals. When Oliver exclaims rather childishly that he’s the first vigilante, we get a sense that his take on Batman is born out of jealousy. Enter Kate Kane, who begrudgingly helps our heroes track down John Deegan, in an effort to expedite our Arrowverse heroes out of Gotham City. Operating out of a rather defunct Wayne Enterprises, she tells our trio that Batman left the city 3 years ago. Kate covers for Bruce Wayne, by saying he left shortly after Batman, because the city got worse and it broke Bruce, to see his city fall into such disarray and decay. Our trio use the rouse ofadmitting Caitlin into Arkham Asylum to get inside. Here we get Easter eggs for some of the patients. We see rooms with the names of The Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Clayface on them. I wonder if those specific characters were purposely mentioned, as they are being lined up for the perspective solo show!? When John Deegan realizes the heroes are onto him, he releases several inmates, causing chaos inside the asylum as well as escape to the outside.
As Green Arrow and The Flash battle the chaos on the inside, Batwoman makes her official debut stopping escapees on the outside. We see Batwoman use her grappling gun to swoop up criminals escaping on foot. She crashes onto the roof of a geta way van, pulling the driver and his passengers out of the vehicle, and uses her batarang, Batwoman’s tactics evoked specific moments from Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Batman (89) for me. On the inside of the Asylum, Oliver and Barry attempt to save Caitlin from Nora Fries, who has gotten a hold of her husband, Mr. Freeze’s gun (the one used in Batman & Robin….yuck). During the battle, Nora knocks over viles of Scarecrow’s hallucinogen. Barry and Oliver have been exposed and while standing in front of each other, they are seeing their worst enemies, namely, Malcolm Merlyn and the Reverse Flash respectively. After a little hand to hand combat between the two, Batwoman swoops in, taking them both down, getting them thinking straight again! I think Ruby Rose was wonderful as Kate Kane/Batwoman. She had the swagger, toughness and conviction, in and out of the cowl, that I see in the comic books. Her costume remains the best hero costume put to screen in the Arrowverse, to me. Kudos to the fight/stunt choreographers, for their part, in bringing this bad@$$ Bat-Family member to life. There’s a great moment and reference, between Batwoman and Supergirl, that will make Batman and Superman comic book and animated series fans, smile from ear to ear. For those who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin it here.
There’s a lot of good in part 3 of the crossover, which is the Supergirl episode. However, of the three, it is my least favourite. Heading into this episode, Earth 90 Flash has breached to our world, to warn and help our heroes. They confront the Monitor and The Flash of Earth 90, vows to not let him end this world, as he did Earth 90. Based on what we have been presented with, it would be fair to see the Monitor as a straight up villain. However, after seemingly teleporting The Flash back to his own Earth, he tells the remaining heroes that this is a test of different Earth’s and heroes, to see which Earth, has what it takes to stop an even greater threat. He then gives the book to John Deegan and tells him to think bigger. Deegan alters things to the point where he is Superman on Earth 1 and has absolute rule. Kara is locked up on Earth 1’s DEO. A pertinent bit of information is gleaned here and that is, on Earth 1, the real Superman or Supergirl don’t exist. Meanwhile, in this reshaped reality, Oliver and Barry are villains and use a mob boss version of Cisco, to teleport them to Earth 38’s Fortress of Solitude, to retrieve Superman and Lois Lane, Returned to Earth 1, Superman takes on Deegan aka, Black costumed, evil Superman, while Barry orchestrates Supergirl’s escape, with that Earth’s Barry Allen. The Superman Vs. Superman fight was great. They fought while flying and yes, even threw each other through buildings, akin to Man of Steel. However, unlike Man of Steel, which I love, this never got overly excessive, or dragged to long. Tyler Hoechlin was great at essentially playing 3 roles, Superman, evil Superman and John Deegan, playing evil Superman. Superman gets control of the book long enough to rewrite reality so that Barry and Oliver have their true identities and abilities.
Eventually, Deegan regains control, and decides to just destroy everything. The Flash and Supergirl devise a plan to run/fly around the Earth, from opposite directions, slowing down time, enough for Superman to retrieve the book, and Oliver hits Deegan with an Arrow. Superman advises Supergirl and The Flash against this, because he saw it play out in the book. They are willing to take the risk anyway. While they speed off, Superman heads out to distract Deegan. However, Oliver makes a deal with The Monitor. The specifics of the deal are unspoken, but Kara and The Flash are able to survive their jaunt around the Earth, slow down time and complete their plan just as they drew it up. Two thing’s bothered me about this final part of the crossover. John Wesley Shipp was practically non existent apart for two minor scenes, before being sent somewhere, supposedly back to Earth 90. All that hoopla about the classic TV version of The Flash showing up, was much ado about nothing. What a waste. Then there’s the last conversation that Clark has with Kara. He tells her that she is stronger than he is and that as long as there is Supergirl, the world doesn’t need Superman. If there’s one thing that bothers me about Superman on Supergirl, it’s that every time he shows up, they feel the need to knock him down in some way, to bolster and prop up Supergirl. That’s not needed. The comics didn’t do it, nor did Smallville. However, the final scene between Lois and Superman in the Fortress of Solitude is great. It’s a take on their date scene from Superman II. Elizabeth Tulloch is even wearing an outfit similar to the one Margot Kidder was wearing. After revealing to Kara that the couple is expecting ta child, Superman uses coal to fashion a diamond stone, attaches it to a ring and proposes. Of course, Lois accepts and the two share an emotional moment. As I see Lois and Clark as the quintessential relationship in the DC Universe, seeing these characters take this step once again, in live action TV. If you think about it, this choice aligns the show closer to Superman comics. Maybe next time we see Superman, be it next crossover, or on his own series, Superman and Lois will be joined by their son, Jon Kent, a.k.a Superboy.
The crossover ended with Batwoman informing Oliver Queen that John Deegan made a friend in Arkham Asylum and might become a problem. In the prison, we hear Psycho Pirate assure Deegan that worlds will die, and that a Crisis is coming. As the episode ends, we get a title card which reads….CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS….FALL 2019! Okay….WOW! Never in a million years, did I think I’d ever see an adaptation of this. I don’t know how they’ll pull it off, but I know I can’t wait. Elseworlds is another great crossover, in the Arrowverse library. It fully embraced it’s comic book source material, and had crazy wacky fun, while serving up spoonfuls of fan service. Even with the hiccups in hour three, this crossover represented the best 3 hours of consecutive television, this year.
That’s it for this RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse. In the last installment before the new year, I’ll discuss the final 2 episodes of TITANS first season, and look at the mid-season finale, of Black Lightning.