It’s mid-season finale time which means game-changing developments, holiday themes and cliffhanger endings were passed out like presents this week.
Destiny was a common thread running through The Flash, Arrow and Agents of SHIELD. Characters on all three shows either met some larger fate head on or had these life-changing moments thrust upon them by outside forces. But one thing is for sure, none of these characters will be the same when their shows return this winter.
We’ve known for a while that Barry Allen is supposed to stop this enormous cataclysm in the future, because the Broom Closet Future Newspaper tells us so. What we didn’t know was the lengths Dr. Wells has been going to steer Barry down his heroic path.
The big reveal on “The Man in the Yellow Suit” was that Wells is in fact Reverse Flash, the man who created Curious Barry by going back to the past, killing Nora Allen thus sending Barry down the road to be in that CSI lab when the lightning struck.
Much of Arrow was spent in flashback as Oliver climbed Himalayan mountain thinking back on the events that are leading him to his own date with destiny against Ra’s al Ghul.
There are two things Ollie is willing to protect with his life above all else: his family and his city. The showdown with the Demon’s Head is supposed to do both.
The League of Assassins wants Sara Lance’s killer brought to their brand of justice quickly and they’ll start murdering 50 citizens a day if the Arrow team can’t figure it out in 48 hours. Incomplete DNA evidence points initially points to Ollie, but a visit from Malcom Merlyn reveals the whole truth.
Merlyn is so desperate to clear his blood debt with the League, he’s willing to use his own newfound daughter as a pawn in his scheme.
On the night of the Mirakuru riots, Merlyn flew into town with a roofied up Thea in tow. The drug he has Thea on makes her vulnerable to suggestion and unable to remember the time she was under the influence. It made her per perfect tool to stick some arrows into Sara’s gut and set the crazy plan into motion.
Merlyn knew the League would seek revenge on Sara’s killer, and that Ollie wouldn’t sacrifice his last living relative (that he knows about) to al Ghul. Merlyn believes Ollie has a good chance of beating al Ghul in the Trial by Combat that would result if Ollie came forward as the killer. As the leader of the League dies, so do the debts assembled under his reign.
Merlyn’s whole plan is a cowardly dick move so he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder every time the ice maker dumps out some new cubes thinking it’s the League coming to get him instead. I guess you can’t put a value on a good night’s sleep. Left with no good options, Ollie says his good-byes (and “I love yous”) and begins his climb.
The most Earth-shattering (pun intended) revelations came on Agents of SHIELD. Despite all her efforts to the contrary, Skye still found herself in the temple chamber of the alien city with the Obelisk ready to separate humanity’s wheat from its chaff. And that wasn’t the first traumatic thing that happened to her that day.
The mission to clear the fog from her past has been a part of Skye’s storyline from the opening of Season 1. After a meeting with her father, The Doctor, all become clear. Skye’s mother, whose “gift” was she never aged and was experimented on to death by Whitehall, lived in a Chinese village where she served as a translator for the Doctor (a wonderfully manic Kyle MacLachlan). The two fell in love and had a baby they named Daisy. One day, SHIELD (more specifically embedded Hydra agents) shows up and rounded up the villagers including Skye’s mother. The Doctor left his baby with people he trusted in order to find his beloved wife. And we all saw how that worked a couple of episodes ago.
Later on, after getting tied up in the same room as Ward, she confronted her biological father beating the life out of her father figure, Coulson. She commands her father to leave and he does with a warning that she’ll come back to him after her change.
Despite not wanting anything to do with the Obelisk or the city, Skye’s sense of duty to both Coulson and SHIELD’s cause kicks in and sends her headlong to her destiny. She becomes determined to stop Raina, who has made her way down to the temple area with the Obelisk in hand. Unfortunately the Obelisk finds its proper resting place and seals Skye, Raina and a late arriving Trip inside.
The Obelisk opens up to reveal its payload of alien crystals that spray over the three people trapped inside. Skye and Raina survive the cocoon of rock that forms over them, Trip … doesn’t appear to be that lucky.
Meanwhile in Starling City…
Obviously the fight doesn’t go well for Oliver, who winds up with a hole in his gullet and is last seen plummeting to an uncertain fate - except that fate isn’t so uncertain, because it’s kind of hard to have a show called Arrow without the Arrow.
It does bring up some fascinating possibilities. Time jumps are pretty popular devices these days and this situation seems rife for that kind of thing. While Ollie is out recovering from his multiple injuries, Felicity could starting helping (and dating) Ray Palmer/Atom, Red Ranger Roy could have lost an arm in a tragic parkour accident and Lawwrel could have taken up the Canary’s wig to fight crime.
Or if there’s a secret temporary brainwashing formula, Merlyn must certainly know the location of a Lazarus Pit or two for Ollie to use as an ace in the hole.
No matter what happens, I’m hoping we’re able to see more functioning in the real world Oliver Queen. It’s a touch that’s been missing in the first half of the third season. He was the wealthiest man in Starling City and lost it all, yet there’s no curiosity about what he’s doing. The world seems content to let him stay in the basement of Verdant training and waiting for the next crime to be committed but the show has suffered because of it.
STOP, Hammer pants: Sure people wear goofy stuff during the Holidays like ugly sweaters and Santa hats. However the sparkly, silver harem pants Thea wears while decorating the tree is a retro look that should stay in the past. I guess they do provide the room to do high kicks and such, but wouldn’t yoga pants make more sense - in both fashion and functionality? Oh oh oh oh oh ohohoh, don’t wear that!
Awful Lawwrel is awful: After two episodes mostly off the radar, Lawwrel came back to remind us all why she sucks. There are three modes of communication in Star City: telephone, telegraph and tele-Lawwrel. What’s with the people of Starling City visiting the cemetery at night? Maybe it was holiday guilt but Laurel first spills the beans about Sara’s murder to Thea first then fesses up to her mother about it. Both times with the caveat of “don’t tell dad, the news will KILL HIM.” How much you want to bet the reason why Laurel’s version of the Canary carries that police tonfa is because she does it in tribute to her dad, who is killed by some awful news that somebody couldn’t shut up about.
Big week for Felicity: It wasn’t exactly a jolly holiday for Felicity. Although she was in the spirit with the mini-menorah on her desk, Ray pulled her aside and used the dead soulmate card to explain the reason why he freaked out after their kiss. Later on he unveiled the ATOM plans and invited her to help him. (Felicity Smoak: Superhero Tech Support spin-off here we come. I can’t wait to see her help the Demon Etrigan download Candy Crush onto his smartphone.) Then she had to exhort Ollie to break his vow against killing right before he left they shared a tender moment before he dropped the “L word” on her.
Mid-season report: Arrow has still been solid and entertaining, but I can’t help feeling the show has been struggling to live up to the standard it set during Seasons 1 and 2. This year the Hong Kong flashbacks don’t seem to be going anywhere, unlike before when you knew shit was going to go down between Ollie and Slade Wilson. There was also the meaningless death of Sara, all of Lawwrel’s hero related shenanigans and the hero clubhouse getting crowded. We got spoiled in the first two seasons, because each episode built toward a big payoff. Right now the payoff doesn’t seem that big, a lot will depend on how they bring Oliver back from his fall from grace. Arrow returns in late January.
Meanwhile in Puerto Rico…
Skye’s change into the superhuman, Quake, may be looked back on as a watershed moment for the series. Up until this episode, SHIELD has been mainly reacting to events in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Coulson’s team was formed in a response to the events of the first Avengers movie, they cleaned up London following the Thor sequel and have since been dealing with the fallout of Captain America: Winter Soldier for a dozen or so episodes.
Believe that you will that SHIELD to this point was the planned origin story of Marvel’s first female superhero or not. What is more significant to me is that the show is going to set the agenda on a subject that will lead to a Marvel movie.
For those who left SHIELD in the early going because there weren’t enough superheroes for your tastes, it might be a good time to catch back up. There are more Inhumans with powers out there, more “worthy” with untapped potential and more Obelisks filled with terrigen crystals waiting to unlock the gifts of the worthy or turn the unworthy to ash. This is going to be the engine that drives SHIELD for the foreseeable future because it ties in to part of the Avengers sequel coming out in May and will lay much of the origins of the Inhumans movie in November of 2018.
Ch-ch-ch-changes: Skye’s evolution from regular Mary Sue to the power to move the earth didn’t start in the last five minutes of this week’s episode. She still might not be the most favorite character on the show, but she’s light years better than she was before. Skye of Season 1, would not have put two slugs in Ward for being a dick or put her duty over her fears to complete the mission. She’s gone from a punk to a competent agent. Now she’s a traumatized superbeing with the ability to level Cleveland during a nightmare. It’s going to be rough for her before it gets smooth, but at least it will be interesting.
A new pet: Ward didn’t get the redemption he wanted, but he did get a replacement for Buddy the dog in the guise of Agent 33, who was left adrift after the death of Whitehall. It’s a good way for Ward to repair the sins that Agent Garrett visited on him if that’s what he chooses. Either way, Ward and 33 are going to be a wild card in the episodes to come.
Shady Bobbi: Mockingbird seemed to be up to no good the last couple of episodes acting all sneaky while gathering little bits of this and that for unexplained reasons. Could she be a brainwashed double agent? Is she on a double-secret mission for the exiled Nick Fury? I just hope she stays on the right side of the fight. She’s been too good off an addition to the show to end up a villain.
Mid-season report: At this point last year, fans were bailing out on SHIELD and there wasn’t much reason to blame them. The show was a mess, the characters were dull and the story wasn’t really going anywhere. Since the Hydra reveal, the show has taken so many positive steps that’s it is a contender for the most improved show of the season so far. The cast expansion has helped. The serial storytelling has helped. The stakes have raised. Now with the addition of the world of the superpowered Inhumans, this has become the Marvel TV show fans have been squawking for all along. Agents of SHIELD returns in March, but the Agent Carter mini-series starts in early January.
Meanwhile in Central City…
Barry did more than just confront his tormentor from the past (and the future), he also dealt with his own ghost of Christmas present - Iris.
Unbeknownst to Barry, Iris and Eddie have decided to take their relationship to the next level by moving in together. So he shows the giant torch he’s been carrying for Iris to her that came off as awkward as it you expect it to be. It made the Christmas celebration at the West house uncomfortable, but Barry managed not too completely break down in tears.
Speaking of long lost loves: Ronnie Raymond, Caitlin Snow’s fiancé, is alive, powered and damaged by the experience. He helped save the Flash’s bacon during his battle with Reverse Flash before flying off in a column of fire. He’s now on Dr. Wells’ radar, which might not be the best thing for all involved.
Midseason report: It’s been a good first half season for The Flash. Ratings have been good thanks to its lighthearted tone. The strongest episodes have been the ones where they have veered away from the formula of new metahuman paired with flashbacks paired with creepy Dr. Wells. With Reverse Flash revealed, characters established and the world solidified, hopefully the second half of the season will draw us toward the cataclysm that the Flash is supposed to avert. The Flash returns in late January.
Meanwhile in Mexico…
Constantine broke away from its case of the week routine and picked up after the adventure with the satanic angel left off and had a major reveal.
Zed is recovering from her encounter where she held pure evil in her hands, but she can’t get visions of a particularly powerful demon out of her head. Constantine blows it off as the residual effects of what the bad angel saw, but her visions prove to be as on the money as always.
Constantine gets an astrally projected distress call from a woman from his past. She pleads for him to come to Mexico to help find the malevolent spirit that is causing has been kidnapping newborns and killing their mothers.
Chas and Constantine head south while Zed stays at the mill. But as a twist, we actually get to see what she’s doing. A real B-plot and everything.
Anyway, it turns out Anne-Marie is an important figure from John’s past. She is the one who introduced him to the occult and was present during the ill-fated séance in Newcastle.
When Constantine discovers the missing baby is still alive, it narrows down the list of spectral suspects. The guilty entity is one of the Sister of Eve, who is stockpiling the babies (and their delicious blood) for the Brujeria, a race of super-demonic warlocks who have been waiting to take over the mortal realm and are the ones behind the Rising Darkness.
After a ruse involving a blood soaked chicken, Constantine, Chas and Sister Ann-Marie find the baby stash in the sewers. Constantine can’t help but interrogate the Sister of Eve about the rising darkness. She spills about the Brujeria’s plans to create hell on earth.
In the aftermath, the powerful demon from Zed’s drawings comes crawling through the tunnels. Constantine has no idea what to do. Ann-Marie goes with her intuition and gut-shoots Constantine leaving him as a sacrifice to buy time for her and the final baby to escape. What goes around, comes around Johnny boy.
Zed in danger: Zed’s mysterious past came back to her in a big way. It appears that Zed escaped a mystical cult, led by “The Father” who used her powers for his own purposes. She fell for the old honeypot trap, allowing the sexy model dude from her art class into the mill. More cultists arrive and while Zed manages to give one the slip, another gets the drop on her and gives her a knockout dose.
Both plots pick up next week.
Craig Wack is a veteran journalist. Please follow his Twitter.