Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: The Flash, Arrow, and The Grinder!
Dylan Roth is Watching…
Season 2, Episode 2: “Flash of Two Worlds”
Tuesdays at 8/9c on The CW
The best superhero show on television continues to delve deeper and deeper into its comic book roots, with The Flash of Earth-1 (Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin) teaming up with The Flash of Earth-2 (Jay Garrick, played by Teddy Sears). Yes, it seems we’ve got a Crisis on our hands, folks. A Multiversal threat is looming, heroes and villains are crossing over between dimensions, and reality as we know it may be at stake. This is some Real DC Comics shit happening on your TV, folks, and it works startlingly well thanks to The Flash’s lively cast, strong visual effects, and not-too-serious tone.
With the disgrace and departure of Dr. Harrison Wells from Team Flash at the end of last season, Jay Garrick has a chance at filling in as the resident “chill mentor” (though Jesse L. Martin’s Detective Joe West is this generation’s best TV dad, and already fills that role brilliantly). Garrick’s been stripped of his powers by multiversal travel (a wise creative decision, since having a more experienced speedster around would steal our lead’s thunder, so to speak), but still has some tricks to teach Barry, and these tricks look hella cool. I’m still regularly stunned by what The Flash is able to pull off on what can’t possibly be a large effects budget.
This episode also introduced Officer Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten), a sunny, nerdy, super-competent cop who wants to join Joe’s anti-Metahuman task force. Like her comics counterpart, she and Barry immediately strike some sparks—a little too easily, I think. Spivot has the potential to become this series’ counterpart to Arrow’s Felicity, in either a bad or good way. She’s smart, she’s quirky, she’s quippy, and she has a thing for our hero, but VanSanten doesn’t seem to have the charisma of Emily Bett Rickards, and I get the feeling that Spivot could become a Wesley Crusher-level annoyance in the future. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
Episode Highlight: *ahem*
Season 4, Episode 2: “The Candidate”
Wednesdays at 8/9c on The CW
Ah, Arrow, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. of DC Comics TV shows. The other Batman show without Batman. Always just good enough to keep you watching, never quite good enough to be must-see TV. Year after year, the producers of Arrow tweak and re-tool this series to try and get the recipe right, but have they finally cracked the code this season? Not exactly, but they’re getting closer.
While Arrow began by casting DC’s swashbuckling archer as a grim avenger of the night, this fourth season sees Oliver Queen more contented, more balanced, and leading a team of masked heroes on a quest to restore hope to Starling City. The series that once thought calling their hero “Green Arrow” was too comic-booky now features Neal McDonough as mystically-powered villain Damien Darhk. Arrow now feels less like an aping of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and more like an adaptation of post-No Man’s Land Batman family comics, which is something I’ve personally always wanted to see on screen.
That’s not to say that it’s become bright and sunny like The Flash—there’s still murder and torture and crying. this episode saw guest star Jeri Ryan as a woman bold enough to run for mayor after the last two mayors were both assassinated, and she suffers some frightening consequences. But the story ends with a fairly bold twist that’s actually straight out of the comics (highlight for SPOILER: Ollie decides to run for mayor), and the theme that “what we were doing before wasn’t working” has rung heavy through the first two episodes of the season. We may be headed towards a Silver Age of Arrow, and I for one welcome it.
Episode Highlight: Thea Queen, now fighting alongside Green Arrow as Speedy, is slowly becoming the show’s Jason Todd–complete with short temper, Lazarus Pit resurrection, and perhaps a grisly fate ahead of her (the season premiere flashed forward to a funeral, and safe money says it’s hers or Felicity’s). Willa Holland has always been one of the stronger actors in this ensemble, but now that she’s officially part of the team and spending more time kicking ass and less time getting kidnapped, her Thea is becoming one of my favorite parts of the show. But are her days numbered?
Joe Stando is Watching…
Season 1, Epsiode 3, “The Curious Disappearance of Mr. Donovan”
Tuesdays at 9:00 on FOX
Now that we’re reaching “Peak TV,” the era described by TV critics like Alan Sepinwall as having so many different outlets creating content and so many opportunities for new shows, reboots, and revivals that it’s frankly impossible to watch everything. Even if you got paid to do nothing but sit around and watch television (the dream job), there aren’t enough hours in the day. This is especially apparent with sitcoms, where every time you look, there’s a new slate of comedies with all kinds of set-ups, stars and pedigrees.
The Grinder, starring Rob Lowe and Fred Savage, is pretty typical. It’s got stars, it’s got a fun set-up (Lowe is a TV actor from a successful legal drama who moves back to his hometown and squeezes his way into his brother’s (Savage) law firm), and there’s nothing really wrong with it. Lowe is great, doing a slightly dumber version of his Parks and Recreation character/real self, and production and writing are slick enough to avoid SBC-style laugh tracks or references to twerking and pumpkin spice lattes. It’s a good show, clever yet safe, and hopefully that means it’ll find enough of an audience to hang around for a while. If not, though, it’s almost hard to be mad, because there are so many shows out there that it’s hard to imagine the people involved landing on their feet. Peak TV: surprisingly full of ennui!
Episode Highlight: Lowe is great, as is Savage, but maybe my favorite part of the show are their law firm co-workers, played by Natalie Morales and Steve Little. Morales has been a favorite of mine since Parks and Rec, and the more screentime and bigger gigs she gets, the better. Little is a slightly tamer version of the idiot he’s played on stuff like Eastbound & Down, and the bit with him drunkenly rambling about cases to the eavesdropping opposing lawyers was gold. It’s sort of weird to recommend cutting down the family elements from a show about a family law firm (and I don’t want Mary Elizabeth Ellis, who plays Savage’s wife, to get the short end of the stick, either), but when you’ve got workplace comedy chemistry that good, lean into it.