We recap this week’s Arrowverse episodes: Legends of Tomorrow 3×17 “Guest Starring John Noble,” Black Lightning 1×11 “Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion” and Arrow 6×17 “Brothers in Arms.”
This week in the Arrowverse, the Legends join forces with Damien Darhk against Mallus, Jefferson is framed as a Green Light dealer and arrested, and John and Oliver confront years of baggage between them.
‘Legends of Tomorrow’ 3×17 ‘Guest Starring John Noble’
I’ve long suspected that Damien Darhk would turn to the Legends to save Nora from Mallus. And while that did come about, it was satisfying to see genuine emotion for another human being in Damien. It humanizes him more than just being the (admittedly delightful) mustache-twirling villain we’ve come to know.
Plus, his dynamic with Sara remains one of my favorites, as he is Laurel’s killer, and their one-on-one when Damien tells her that he’d take it back if he could was both startling and powerful. But it’s not enough for Sara, who has had to bear the loss of her sister. Yet she eventually puts her personal feelings aside to work with Damien for the sake of the mission.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that Damien would turn on the Legends — yet he doesn’t do it for predictable reasons. Further humanizing him, he interferes with the plan to free Mallus because he would lose Nora in the process. It is his love for his daughter, and his realization of his many failings as a father, that drives him. Again, it’s satisfying.
Oh, did I mention part of the plan was for Ray to visit John Noble while he was filming Lord of the Rings to get his voice (note: he voices Mallus in real life) saying lines that would trick Nora to visiting the Waverider? Because it’s ridiculous and perfect.
Meanwhile, Nate and Amaya work together to save Zambezi. They discover that Amaya’s daughter was supposed to inherit the Spirit Totem the night before the village’s destruction but she didn’t show up, thus leaving the village unprotected. Amaya is able to talk her future daughter into accepting her destiny, which prevents the warlords from destroying the village.
The more heartbreaking realization comes on Nate’s end when he speaks with the older Amaya: she doesn’t remember him. She erased her memory of the Legends before returning to Zambezi. This is a development that I contemplated in last week’s recap, but seeing it play out and the pain that it causes is hard to watch.
I’d also like to take a moment to appreciate Wally, who refuses to help Nate and Amaya change history. It’s easy to forget that Wally became a speedster as a result of Flashpoint — from Doctor Alchemist and Savitar — so he knows better than just about anyone the danger of messing with time.
Oh, I didn’t even mention the Legends having to save a young Barack Obama from Grodd. Make America Grodd again!
The episode closes with the full reveal of Mallus: a truly hellish-looking demon worthy of the hype. The season 3 finale airs next week, and it’s bound to be crazy!
‘Black Lightning’ 1×11 ‘Black Jesus: The Book of Crucifixion’
Black Lightning has never shied away from depicting the everyday issues that African Americans face today, and this week’s episode truly digs into the inequity that exists between cops and the Black community.
In a climate in which young Black men are being shot in their backyards while holding a phone, the Freeland police framing Jefferson as a drug dealer, marching him out of his school in cuffs and humiliating him in every way as they process him into jail, such as the lingering scene of Jefferson being cavity searched, forces the viewer to confront some hard truths.
But it does so through the lens of a typical superhero trope: the hero being falsely accused of a crime and having to keep both their powers and their identity a secret. Oliver has been in and out of the SCPD on Arrow, and The Flash recently saw Barry framed for murder.
Yet Jefferson’s story has greater resonance because of what Jefferson’s represents to his community. For Jefferson, his work as an educator is far more important than his work as Black Lightning; that’s why he could give up using his powers for nearly a decade. He strives to be an example for Freeland while helping future generations onto the right path. To be publicly humiliated as Cayman does to him not only hurts him but it hurts his image — the image he has spent a long time cultivating. Two crooked cops nearly ruined his legacy in one morning.
Jefferson has inspired loyalty in those around him, though, and he has allies working to free him from two sides. Gambi and Anissa work together to convince the ASA that Jefferson isn’t Black Lightning — and their plot to publicly show off a hologram of Black Lightning in action is quite clever. Meanwhile, Henderson takes the chance to start rooting out corruption on the Freeland PD, and he’s able to both free Jefferson and arrest Cayman — oh, and get a promotion — as a result.
It’s a positive message that even though there are crooked cops like Cayman, there are good cops like Henderson who will do the right thing.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Fowdy isn’t happy about her orders to take care of Jefferson. I wonder if she’ll eventually defect the way Gambi did.
‘Arrow’ 6×17 ‘Brothers in Arms’
Trust is a theme that runs through the episode, as we focus on the years worth of resentment that has built up between John and Oliver. Six years of working side by side, seeing each other at their best and worst, is bound to result in some strong emotions, and all the negative feelings spilled over when John starts snapping at Oliver about not getting to be the Green Arrow again.
After speaking with Lyla, John realizes that his anger is not about the hood but the man under it. This leads to an argument between the two men in which John questions Oliver’s leadership and his ability to save the city when his focus is so divided — husband, father, mayor, vigilante. Oliver, not one to take attacks on his character lying down, lashes back. And this leads to a rather incredible exchange in which the two men throw each other’s failings back in each other’s face.
But when Oliver brings up John’s brother, it’s too far and the fight turns physical. Felicity luckily interrupts before they can actually hurt one another (physically anyway; the emotional damage has been done). What I appreciate about this scene, besides the incredible acting by David Ramsey and Stephen Amell, is the brutal honesty.
It shouldn’t actually be shocking that when the team finds itself feeling at the end of its rope, outmatched by Diaz, that frustrations would come to a head. And because the two men know each other better than just about anyone, they know how to do maximum damage. I don’t feel like either man is totally right but neither man is totally wrong either.
And though they are able to put their differences aside long enough to take down Diaz’s Vertigo plant, John decides to walk away. This is where I get frustrated. So much of Oliver’s story has been about getting him to open up, to let down his walls and let others in to help.
John is one of the few people he’s been able to do that with, so having him walk away feels like a narrative punishment for Oliver for daring to open himself up. It would be far more satisfying for the two men to acknowledge their struggles and then work to fix their relationship.
This is a symptom of a large problem this season of Arrow has struggled with: immaturity and lack of communication between the characters. This stems back to the civil war between OTA and NTA and has continued, seemingly just to meet narrative beats rather than for any reason that feels honest for the characters. For a show that is supposed to be about adults, very few characters act like it.
We also have more movement with Diaz in the background. Oliver fires the DA and police captain because they are corrupt, but they go public, claiming Oliver firing them is obstruction of justice and an impeachable offense. Most of the (very few) clean cops in SCPD, including Dinah, survive an attack from Diaz’s men but are also fired.
And Curtis’s new boyfriend, one of the clean cops, discovers that he is a vigilante, but he is still open to dating Curtis despite being previously anti-vigilante. This is a sweet scene, and I hope Curtis can have something nice with his new beau.