TV shows like Arrow or The Flash have always been superpowered soap operas – and there’s nothing wrong with that

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Arrow, from the beginning, was always about the personal lives of its characters. Yes, there’s the obvious angle of the love triangle between Oliver, Tommy and Laurel – but it’s not as though Oliver’s mission wasn’t deeply personally motivated, or inextricably tied to the affairs of his father. That’s demonstrably a soap opera plot, right from the beginning!

Superheroes keep secrets, living double lives, and hiding parts of themselves from those around them that they love. That can surely be considered a soap opera story, no? And surely no one would ever argue that these superhero TV programmes don’t rely on sensationalised and exaggerated plotting – lest you forget, the Flash fought a race of sentient gorillas just a few weeks ago. Besides, everyone loves a good scenery chewing villain, and that’s the epitome of melodrama.

I always thought it was pretty ridiculous when people complained that Arrow was like a soap opera – as if they’d only just noticed? So here’s a post explaning how Arrow has always been a soap opera, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

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The Flash will need to break with formula to survive

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In a way, the shows that operate alongside The Flash are becoming its greatest threat; Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow – and likely eventually Black Lightning – all work from fairly similar formulas to The Flash. (This was particularly evident in Supergirl season one, which mimicked the structure of The Flash season one fairly closely.) While it’s undeniable that each show executes the formula well, when four programmes are executing the same formula in the same way each week, it does start to get a little tired.

And so The Flash needs to evolve – it has to grow beyond the formula it adheres to so closely, and stop sticking to the same structure with every episode. After all, there’s surely only so many times that Barry running faster to beat someone who is also fast can be considered a satisfying payoff to a year of television, no?

A few thoughts on The Flash, and the changes it’ll need to make to continue to grow and develop and stay of a high level of quality. I am fond of the show, of course, but there’s a frustrating feeling that I’ve simply seen it all before – sometimes even four nights a week – and that needs to change. (I didn’t even begin to get into the whole “mentor is secretly evil” thing they’ve done each year!)

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Supergirl and the question of refugees, immigrants, and illegal aliens

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The show is exploring the theme of immigration through their various dispossessed alien characters – an entirely understandable choice. It’s attempting to convey the message, basically, that there’s no need to be suspicious of refugees, and to treat them with acceptance and tolerance – an entirely admirable decision. It’s not, however, conveyed particularly effectively, because many of these same dispossessed aliens end up being the ‘threat of the week’ – while the episode is saying one thing about refugees, while demonstrating another through its plot. This paradox was painfully evident in the aforementioned episode Welcome to Earth, wherein one of the alien refugees does turn out to be evil, despite frequent insistence that this wouldn’t be the case – it’s a frustrating lapse that undercuts the message that Supergirl is reaching for.

What makes this particularly frustrating, though, is that there are several other avenues open to the writers from which to explore this concept – many of them more effective than the direction they opted for.

Here’s an article I’ve been meaning to write for a little while, about how Supergirl has been handling the themes of immigration. There’s a chance it might form something of a broader series of articles – alongside, I suspect, “Legends of Tomorrow and historical racism”, “Arrow and capitalism” and then something else about The Flash just to cover all four – but I wouldn’t hold your breath there.

(Yeah, I never did do those other ones. Would’ve been interesting to see what I came up with. Ah well. If I remember correctly, actually, I wrote the above post in school during a free period. Those were the days. Anyway, I’ve not re-read the above; I suspect the basic point I was going for still works, but forgive me any lapses borne from ignorance.)

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Are the CW making too many super hero shows?

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More to the point, though, there’s a definite limit on how much content the CW can produce – not just in terms of resources, but in terms of hours that they can broadcast programming. After a point, the CW reaches its limit, and can’t actually make any more television shows.

And when that time is limited – well, isn’t it better to diversify the content more? Certainly, I know I’d rather see the CW attempt to give us another Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Jane the Virgin than yet another superhero show; it’s worth remembering that while the DC shows might have brought the CW renewed popularity, it was programmes like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that brought them renewed acclaim.

Obviously, it’s a difficult question, but when it gets down to it – this is a zero-sum game. After a time, adding new superhero shows is going to be to the detriment of other programmes. And I can’t help but wonder what genuinely innovative and brilliant television we might be missing out on, like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for something like Black Lightning.

Much as I do love these superhero programmes (frustrating though they often are), I’d much rather see the CW continue to encourage their original ideas, rather than continuing to pursue the tried and tested DC formula they’ve stumbled upon.

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The Flash: Why Zoom should have been Eddie Thawne

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What I find so surprising, though, is that the writers had a much better option open to them that they decided not to take. I’m quite firmly of the believe that had Zoom been revealed to be Eddie, he would have been a far superior villain, and indeed given us a far superior season to boot. I’ve written a little bit about this before, highlighting why I thought Eddie-as-Zoom not only made sense in terms of the plot, but also thematically and dramatically. Consider – Barry has been dealing with the choice he made at the end of the S1 finale. What better villain to confront him with than the one who most directly suffered from this?

This has been bothering me for ages. Basically whenever I watch The Flash, I bring this up, because of how irritated I was by the whole Jay Garrick thing. It was just a mistake. Such a mistake. Ugh.

I will probably write about this again in future, because I’m not convinced this article really does justice to my extensive thoughts on the subject. But it is a start.

Oh, and the image credit is there at Yahoo, but the picture above is by the very talented BossLogic.

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Supergirl: Where next for Jimmy Olsen?

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The first season ended with Kara and Jimmy in a relationship together – meaning, then, that the majority of Jimmy’s plotlines will no longer be linked to a love triangle, because this love triangle simply doesn’t exist anymore. Which does then beg the question: Where next for Jimmy Olsen?

The problem when trying to answer that question is that we’re trying to answer it for Jimmy Olsen – a character who has, historically, essentially only been a minor character whom Superman would occasionally tease. Certainly, there have been departures from this, but only the most dedicated of comic book devotees would be able to point to “the definitive Jimmy Olsen story”. So, let’s widen the field a little bit – this is a journalist character who’s in a relationship with our Super main character, and has thus far acted as a moral centre for them. When you distil it down to those base elements, which character does Jimmy Olsen most resemble?

Another Yahoo article, this time about Supergirl, putting forward a few ideas about a potential character arc for Jimmy Olsen. Somewhat irritatingly, I’ve inadvertently picked up on a few spoilers for the upcoming season… and it sounds like Berlanti and co are doing the exact opposite of my suggestions! Honestly, it’s like they’re not even listening to me.

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What does Kid Flash mean for The Flash?

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Right now, one of the chief complaints levelled at the show is that it can be quite formulaic; though they managed to move past it somewhat in the second season, there was often a basic recurring set up across each episode. Barry would investigate the villain, and fight them; he’s incapacitated during this first fight, for reasons essentially linked to his own incompetence, and by the end of the episode has learned how to get around the problem previously posed to him – usually the solution is, of course, some variation on “go faster”.

It’d be difficult to take Barry and Wally seriously if, between the two of them, they’re consistently beaten by the same formula. The show would need to shake things up, possibly dramatically, to present scenarios that retain a level of dramatic weight – after all, both of these two individuals are exceptionally fast. That between two of them they’d struggle to take down petty thieves is, to be honest, somewhat unlikely.

An article I wrote for Yahoo; it’s all about Kid Flash, and how his inclusion as a character might change or influence The Flash.

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Why Supergirl merging universes with Arrow & The Flash would be a mistake

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The DC comics that these television shows draw on as source material has a history of “Crisis” events, wherein different universes are split apart from one another or merged together; typically, it’s an attempt to streamline continuity, although it’s debatable as to whether or not it really does make things simpler. As such, then, there are a vocal group who are clamouring for a similar such event to occur now, moving Supergirl into the same reality as The Flash and Arrow, positing that the slated crossover special should be used to reset Supergirl, and essentially reboot it to better fit with the other superhero programmes currently airing on the CW.

To my mind, though, this would be quite the mistake – both in terms of the story, but also from a business point of view.

Despite now being in a position where it has to move networks, Supergirl’s viewership on CBS did in fact far outstrip the ratings that The Flash maintains on the CW; this is, of course, because CBS itself has a far wider reach than the CW, but it’s also a certainty that the CW is hoping that a large number of these viewers follow the show to the CW. It makes little sense, then, to try and change what is essentially the more popular show to ‘fit’ the more niche one – why would the CW consciously alienate the fans they’re trying to attract?

A new Yahoo article from me, all about why I think a Supergirl reboot to fit in with Arrow and The Flash is, essentially, a terrible idea.

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Why DC is right to keep their TV and Movie Universes separate

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There have still been a few voices expressing a degree of disappointment, positing that this would have been better had the DC movies and the DC television series been unified; that the story we see on Arrow and suchlike would follow the story we see in movies such as Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, and the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. It’s a model that Marvel employs, with their Avengers movies being set in the same universe as their Netflix programmes such as Daredevil or Jessica Jones; it’s in part because of this that people would like DC to have followed the same model.

These people are, however, incorrect – DC is entirely right to keep their TV and Movie Universes separate. Allow me to explain why.

Most immediately, there’s the matter of granting the programmes (because movies would undoubtedly take precedence) a level of freedom to chart their own path. The DC movie universe has, rightly or wrongly, thus far opted for a much darker interpretation of their iconic heroes; one that’s entirely valid, of course, but one that’s also worlds away from the lighthearted, even campy, tone of programs like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow. Keeping the universes separate allows for both the movies and the television shows to have a greater level of control over their own direction and progress. Indeed, this was the same logic behind the choice when Zack Snyder committed to not using Grant Gustin’s Flash in the Justice League movie.

This article is in fact from late last week, I’m only just getting around to posting it on my personal blog now. It’s discussing the different DC universes, and why – ultimately – I’m actually rather glad that Warner Bros. decided to take the route of a multiverse rather than a shared universe. (Even if they didn’t approach it in those terms!)

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What will a DC TV Flashpoint look like?

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A lot of people online seem to expect that Green Arrow would fill the role of Batman in this story, with Robert Queen rather than Oliver; that’s possible, perhaps, particularly given that it wouldn’t require Stephen Amell to stop filming Arrow. Personally, however, I’d prefer it if Colin Donnell was brought in to guest star as an alternate Tommy Merlyn who took up the mantle of the Green Arrow. It’d have a far greater emotional resonance for the audience, I believe, given that we already know and have a connection with Tommy – one we don’t have with Robert Queen, who never really featured in particular depth before. 

Another Yahoo article; I’ve been writing a lot of them for the past few weeks. This time it’s all about the upcoming Flashpoint arc over on The Flash; my thoughts, my expectations, and indeed to an extent my reservations.

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