Random Musings: Reviewing Supernatural and Arrow

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    Supernatural title card

    (Supernatural title card. Courtesy the CW Network)

        Now in its eighth season, Supernatural (Wednesdays at 9 on the CW) remains an excellent character-driven series.
        Over the years, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) have fought all manner of “things that go bump in the night.” Now they’re working to lock all demons inside Hell forever. An ancient tablet (a literal word of God) tells how. It involves three Herculean tasks, which Sam has begun to undertake at a painful cost.
        Both the demon Crowley (Mark Sheppard), the self-proclaimed “King of Hell”, and an angel named Naomi (Amanda Tapping), who recently “programmed” the angel Castiel (Misha Collins) to be an unwitting assassin (he seems free of her thrall for now), have reasons to oppose the Winchesters. In the April 3 episode, “Taxi Driver”, Naomi helped the brothers after Sam completed the second task (freeing an innocent soul— the brothers’ friend and surrogate father, Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver)— from Hell); but Dean— wisely— doesn’t trust her.
        Castiel being one of the few exceptions, angels aren’t much better than demons. While demons (who were once human), possess people against their wills, angels need their intended vessels to agree. But they aren’t above playing dirty. In season five, Lucifer manipulated a man named Nick into saying “yes” by tormenting him with visions related to the brutal slaying of Nick’s family; and an angel named Zachariah tortured both Sam and Dean in an effort to get Dean to say yes to being the archangel Michael’s vessel.
        Sam’s third task may be the most difficult, since Crowley appears to have taken the prophet Kevin Tran (Osric Chau), the only person who can translate the tablet.
        In the March 20 episode, “Goodbye, Stranger”, the Winchesters got unexpected help from the demon “Meg” (Rachel Miner), who had long been at odds with Crowley. Even after he told her the brothers’ plans, she sided with them. “Meg” died fighting Crowley so Sam and Dean could get away.

    Meg vs Crowley
        (“Meg” Vs. Crowley. Courtesy the CW Network).

        I’ve got mixed feelings about the brothers’ recent alliances with “Meg.” They first met this demon, then played by Nicki Aycox, in season one, and exorcised her in the season finale. But her host body (“meat suit”), a college student named Meg Masters, died.
        The “Meg” demon returned once in season two— possessing Sam and going on a killing spree— before being exorcised again. She returned in season five in a new meat suit (Miner) and caused the deaths of hunters Ellen and Jo Harvelle (Samantha Ferris and Alona Tal).
        So why would Sam and Dean work with her?
        For mutual benefit, at first. In season six, both the Winchesters and “Meg” needed the other’s help against Crowley. In season seven, “Meg” helped against a mutual threat (the Leviathan), and because she still needed protection from Crowley.
        And it must have stuck in Dean’s craw having her drive his beloved 1967 Impala (“Baby”) as a diversion.
        In all these “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” scenarios, one detail never came up: the brothers were confronted by the angry ghost of Meg Masters in the fourth season episode “Are you There, God? It’s me, Dean Winchester.”
        Dean: “You’re the girl the demon possessed.”
        Meg: “Meg Masters. Nice to finally talk to you when I’m not, you know, choking on my own blood.”
        She described herself as just a college girl— “Sorry. Was”— who became a prisoner in her own head.
        Meg: “I was trapped in there, screaming at you, ‘just help me, please.’ You’re supposed to help people, Dean. Why didn’t you help me?”
        As she started beating him, Meg’s ghost asked, “did you ever think there was a girl in here? No. You just charged in, slashing and burning.”
        She also blamed Dean for her sister’s subsequent suicide.
        Meg: “Fifty words of Latin a little sooner and I’d still be alive. My baby sister would still be alive. That blood is on your hands, Dean.”

    Megs Ghost confronts Dean1
        (Meg Masters’ ghost confronts Dean. Courtesy the CW Network).

        The Winchesters are technically responsible for Meg Masters’ death. Unaware that she was a possessed human, they once threw her off a building. Only the demon’s presence kept her alive. But even after learning the truth while beginning the exorcism, Dean argued that it was better to put the girl out of her misery.
        Maybe so, but Meg’s ghost had a strong case. The “Meg” demon may have sacrificed herself for the Winchesters in the end, but I’d liked to have seen her fate somehow left to the ghost of Meg Masters. That would have been justice of a sort.
        Missed (so far) Supernatural opportunity: Given Sam and Dean’s last name, and their chosen occupation, it’s odd that no one has so much as mentioned the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.

    Arrow title card

        (Arrow title card. Courtesy the CW Network)

        Arrow (Wednesdays at 8 on the CW) is a freshman series starring Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, the once ne’er-do-well scion of the Queen Consolidated business empire.
        Oliver was believed lost at sea five years ago when his father’s yacht, the Queen’s Gambit, sank. Instead, he struggled to survive on an island; and now, back home in Starling City, he’s on a mission:
        Using a list of names his father, Robert (Jamey Sheridan), gave him before committing suicide, Oliver goes after the (usually powerful) people who are “poisoning” his city.
        He does this cloaked in a green hood and using the archery skills he learned on the island.

    Oliver Queen in his vigilante persona
     (Oliver Queen in his vigilante persona. Courtesy the CW Network.)

       Arrow is inspired by the DC Comics character Green Arrow, who first appeared in 1941; though no one refers to Oliver’s hooded persona by that name. They call him either “The Hood” or “the vigilante.”
        In the comics, Oliver was marooned for three months and learned his archery skills by necessity, to hunt game. In Arrow, he not only spent five years on the island, but he also had to contend with some very bad people. Survival involved more than not starving to death.
        As was the case in both Highlander and Forever Knight (and in somewhat different way in Lost), each episode has a flashback “B” plot that complements the “A” plot. In Arrow, these glimpses of Oliver’s time on the island show, among other things, how those experiences changed him.
        When he disappeared, the callow Oliver was having an affair with his girlfriend Laurel Lance’s (Katie Cassidy) sister, Sarah, who died when the yacht sank. So Laurel wasn’t thrilled to see him again. Ironically, she has turned to the vigilante for help on occasion.
        Laurel’s father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), doesn’t care much for Oliver, either.
        He’s also determined to catch the vigilante.
        John Diggle (David Ramsey), a man hired by Oliver’s mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson), to be his bodyguard, assists Oliver in his mission.
        Circumstances forced Oliver to also reveal his identity to Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), an employee of Queen Consolidated’s IT department (who’d been working with Oliver’s now-missing stepfather, Walter Steele (Colin Salmon)), and to his best friend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell).
        Unknown to both Oliver and Tommy, Tommy’s father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), is involved in various unscrupulous activities (and is the other archer-vigilante at work in Starling City). Both are also unaware that an assassination plot against Malcolm (foiled by Oliver), was orchestrated by Moira Queen, who’s part of the same cabal.
        She also had the recovered Queen’s Gambit hidden in a warehouse (which Walter discovered shortly before he vanished), and possessed a copy of the same list Oliver has.
        Never read Green Arrow? No problem. The comics-related elements are in the background. And in some cases, they’re recast. But then, comics are, in many ways, our modern mythology; and myths can be reworked to suit their intended audiences.
        Green Arrow had a young sidekick named Roy Harper (AKA Speedy). In Arrow, “Speedy” is the nickname of Oliver’s younger sister, Thea (Willa Holland); and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) is a “bad boy” with whom she has started a romance.
        In the comics, Dinah Laurel Lance is the second Black Canary (her mother (played by (Alex Kingston in Arrow) was the first) and has traditionally been in a relationship with Green Arrow. While Laurel has started to forgive Oliver, it doesn’t mean they’d ever get together again. Kind of hard to get past the whole dead sister thing.
        Mrs. Lance believes Sarah survived. Her initial clue turned out to be wrong, but who knows?
        Other changes from the comics: In Arrow, Felicity is in her 20s. In the comics she was older, the head of a software company who became the stepmother of Ronnie Raymond, half of the hero Firestorm’s composite persona.
        On the island, Oliver joined forces with Australian intelligence agent Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett). Wilson was betrayed by a fellow agent named Wintergreen. In the comics, Wilson was an American one-eyed mercenary and assassin called the Terminator (full name Deathstroke the Terminator), who first appeared in New Teen Titans #2 in 1980. Wintergreen was his butler and ally. In a confrontation in Arrow, Wilson shot Wintergreen’s eye out with an arrow, suggesting the latter (assuming he survived) will be the Terminator.
        I don’t know why Slade Wilson has been called “Deathstroke” instead of “Terminator” in recent years. It can’t have anything to do with the Terminator movies, as the character pre-dates them by four years. I’ll continue to call him “Terminator.”
        Despite its origins, Arrow doesn’t involve people with super powers. Instead, it’s about the efforts of one man to clean up his city, interposed with the machinations of various others in his circle.

    Copyright 2013 Patrick Keating

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