I have to apologize for the fact that (besides once again being super behind) this post may be a bit more critical than the last two (not to mention very rant-heavy). After such a strong showing, I have to admit that this episode didn’t quite hit the mark set by the first two in my expectations.
I was hopeful when I saw the episode title because, as I’ve said way too many times now, The Flash really is a hard character to make physically vulnerable because it is so hard to come up with good ways to threaten someone who can punch you a thousand times before you can even hit the ground.
This is why writers have always made a point of making him emotionally and/or psychologically vulnerable in the comics. This is especially true for Wally, who spent the majority of his time as The Flash feeling as if he was always trying to outrun the legend of Barry Allen. Barry had cast such a long shadow that it might as well have been a black hole constantly holding Wally back, even as he neared the speed of light.
At one point it was thought that Barry had come back (SPOILERS: It turns out it was really Professor Zoom with amnesia who only thought he was Barry) and Wally, feeling that his mentor and only real father figure was rejecting him, temporarily quit being The Flash all together.
Wally eventually got over all of this, but then they just found other ways for him to maintain some level of doubt, or to worry about the safety of his loved ones. There is even a bit in issue #200 during Wally’s run where, after Zoom (Hunter Zolomon, not to be confused with Professor Zoom: The Reverse-Flash who was Eobard Thawne, and who many people on the internet think is who Dr. Wells is supposed to be for various reasons) is able to almost kill Wally’s wife Linda, Wally gets Hal Jordan (The Silver Age Green Lantern who, at this point in time, had become the new Spectre) to erase all knowledge of his secret identity from the world because he no longer feels like he is fast enough to protect her from everything (for those who haven’t read the comics, after Barry’s “death” Wally pretty much gave up any pretense of a secret identity). Wally does this out of fear and doubt and it ends up backfiring because it actually works. The catch is that no one remembers Wally is The Flash, including Wally.
The point is, when you can’t always come up with an adequate form of external conflict for a character, you are usually forced to come up with internal conflict, and Wally had that in spades. Barry on the other hand, for the most part, didn’t. Barry’s internal weakness was mostly that he was a little too idealistic and trusting. He was also, as I’ve mentioned, a super nice guy which usually translated to him holding back a little so as not to do serious damage to his enemies. In the New 52 reboot they gave him a little of Wally’s insecurity about his powers because, since DC had taken him pretty much back to the beginning, his powers were kind of new to him again, so he wasn’t always sure how to use them. Of course now he’s kind of up to speed (hilarious!) and is more confident with his abilities, so now they’ve introduced the idea that he is suffering major guilt over all the damage Central City sustained during the events of the Forever Evil storyline which is now causing him to feel like he has to be a hero all the time to fix everything that happened while he was missing in action. And now, in the most recent issues, we’ve also got a developing issue that involves the rebooted Wally West, which the internet is throwing a hissy about because they decided to make him a bi-racial (Caucasian father, African-American mother) kid instead of his classic red-headed version.
I might get into this in greater depth at some point if I can ever catch up with all of these reviews/recaps enough to have the time (maybe I’ll do it when we get a few weeks of reruns of the new series). But seriously guys…we live in a world where we have a bi-racial president and DC has obviously already decided to cast Wally aside in favor of Barry, so why is it such a big damn deal for us to finally have a black Flash (besides that one that isn’t “black” in that way)?
I’d like to think that these people will all grow out of this strange need to rail against what is sometimes referred to as “race lift” or “affirmative action legacy”, but our society seems to want to really pull out all of the stops in being horrible, so I’m not holding my breath. Get over it please. There are so many better things to be offended by.
Anyway, that was an unreasonably huge digression. I apologize. Moving on to the episode at hand. So, due to the title, along with the strong showing of the first two episodes, I expected this one to bring it. What it brought was not so great. I swear, it was almost as if this episode was written by someone who had not only never read a single issue of the comics, but who hadn’t even bothered to watch the other two episodes of the same show. Let’s see what we’re dealing with here with the highlights and lowlights.
I have to admit, I really love this. It seems like it might get old, but for me it is a great callback to the comics. Wally did it in every issue, keeping readers up on all his thoughts and reflections. This is actually also how both Barry and Wally provided the kind of exposition on their abilities or the current situation that is now being relegated to the S.T.A.R. Labs Pep Squad in the show. In the comics, even if he didn’t utter one word out-loud, the panels would be filled with him “talking”. I don’t know why, but it worked for the character. Sadly, the only time you get it on the show is in the very beginning of the episode (sometimes at the very end), but it makes me happy none-the-less.
Grant Gustin (As Usual)
Still digging him. Though I am quickly getting bored by the whole “Barry Loves Iris But Iris Doesn’t Pick Up On It” thing, Grant Gustin continues to make almost any interaction tolerable. He also gets to interact a lot with Caitlin in this episode as this is a very special episode focusing on the loss of her fiance during the Particle Accelerator accident.
Much like Mr. Gustin, Jesse L. Martin has yet to stop being enjoyable in this show. This episode seems to cement his role as voice of fatherly wisdom for Barry. We kind of have this job shared between Harrison Wells and Joe overall (with a little handled by Barry’s actual father), but it is definitely Joe that is handing out the good ol’ heart-to-heart stuff in this episode. He is also the one who lays out our title’s concept that just because you are the Fastest Man Alive doesn’t mean you can help everyone, and that the hardest thing Barry will have to face isn’t the monsters with powers, but the feeling of uselessness when he can’t do anything or the guilt when he makes a mistake. This, honestly, is probably the best part of the episode. It ties the character in well with the attitude I mentioned above. Unfortunately I get the feeling that this concept will be reserved just for this episode. It does, however, give us some more really good insight into Joe’s character and the obvious guilt he is feeling over being wrong about Henry Allen.
I like that they are making him a regular facet of the show. As I’ve said, as much crap as I give John Wesley Shipp for his time as The Flash, I like the guy. I’m really liking him in this. There is this nice dynamic where Barry really has two dads. Joe is the one who raised him for most of his life (as Barry was only 11 when Henry was put in jail and Joe raised him for the next 14 years), who saw him into adulthood, but Henry is still his biological father and that still means a lot to Barry. I’m just wondering what will happen if Barry ever does get Henry out of prison. That will be interesting to see. Also, I think John Wesley Shipp might be a cat owner. If you look at his left wrist during the last scene you’ll see a small cut. Now, in the reality of the show you can write it off as prison being a rough place, and there are a number of things that could cause a scratch like that, but as a cat owner myself, it looks exactly like what you get when you try to pet your cat and he flips out on you and sinks some claws. And this little observation kind of makes me like him more.
Once Barry and Joe decide the crime was committed by a metahuman, they realize something that really should have come up before. Naturally, Iron Heights, the local prison, is just a regular prison and so it isn’t up to the challenge of holding people who can control weather, multiply, or (SPOILERS) turn into gas (more on that in a second). Fortunately they only need to worry about the last one since the first two ended up dead (Spoilers? I mean, assuming you didn’t read my first two reviews and for some reason just skipped to the third one).
It is proposed that the Particle Accelerator itself could be turned into a makeshift prison capable of holding metahumans and we get a bit of drama face from Caitlin because dramatic tension tropes dictate that she will have to face the place where her fiancé died that she hasn’t visited since the accident, thereby facing her own fears/sorrow/guilt/etc. over his death.
In the comics Iron Heights is actually where they send all the metahuman villains. It has a specially designed ward to house them and ends up looking a lot like most depictions of Arkham Asylum, but I get that the show is trying to “Men-In-Black” this whole thing and keep the existence of metahumans a secret. This makes sense because, if the world at large knew about them that would draw even more wrath from the public over the particle accelerator. Then again, this thing did create an unknown number of super-villains including, possibly, a giant talking ape with psychic powers, so maybe people should be a little more mad at S.T.A.R. Labs. But we of course can’t have that because then Barry would be on his own to figure all this stuff out…oh…wait. Here’s hoping people start catching on.
All in all though, the concept of the metahuman prison is appealing to me. Probably because it harkens back to the same concept as done in Ghostbusters. A special containment unit housed in the middle of the city to hold dangerous beings (that has the potential to be destroyed and release them all. Don’t tell me you don’t see that one coming). I like me some Ghostbusters (despite the fact that, as I get older, I’m more inclined to agree with the EPA agent that tries to stop them from being total irresponsible @$$hats, I still think the movie is funny).
Granted there is one kind of annoying thing about the whole idea. Dr. Wells points out he’ll have to design each “cell” to counteract metahuman abilities. As we have seen (and probably will continue to see) metahumans can possess a wide variety of powers. While a certain containment structure will probably hold most of them, obviously it won’t hold them all. This means that every time they run into a new one, somehow this team of THREE PEOPLE will have to figure out what kind of containment is needed and construct it in the time it takes Flash to stop the BGotW. That seems more than a little ambitious.
Character Development: Cisco Ramon
I still really don’t like this guy. His clothes are stupid. His hair is stupid. And he really just needs to stop with the…well…everything. But in this episode we get some really really great and subtle input into his character. I’ll just let you know now that this gets really spoilery. We find out that on the night of the accident, Cisco was the one to go down to the particle accelerator with Ronnie (Caitlin’s fiancé) to try to fix things. Ronnie tells Cisco to wait while he goes and…does something to fix the problem. As the lead structural engineer, Ronnie helped build the accelerator so obviously he is the best suited for the job. However, since this whole thing is about to explode, he tells Cisco that if he isn’t back in two minutes, that Cisco needs to initiate lockdown, otherwise everyone in the facility could be killed. Cisco sets his watch and Ronnie goes of to be the hero of the day. Needless to say he doesn’t make the 2 minute cut off. The point is, we get to see how much this affected Cisco since he pretty much guaranteed that Ronnie wouldn’t make it out.
We actually, for the first time, get to see a normal Cisco who I don’t want to punch in the face. Maybe that is why he acts the way he does. Maybe after that point he started putting up this “everything is awesome” front to cover the guilt he feels for closing the door on Caitlin’s fiancé.
This was kind of cool. Right before the final fight scene Joe is at Iron Heights talking with Henry Allen when Mist attacks, though he unfortunately doesn’t utilize a series of puzzles to do this. Barry shows up and uses the antidote Caitlin made for him to counteract Mist’s poison on Joe. Henry is still standing there on the other side of the visiting room glass and Barry looks up at him. Barry realizes that his own dad might actually be able to recognize him even with a mask so he vibrates his face to blur it.
This is not only smart, but is also another callback to the comics. The Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) didn’t wear a mask. He eventually stopped worrying about a secret identity altogether, but, when he first started, he kept his identity secret by blurring his face in the same way. Whenever he slowed down enough to talk to people, all they saw was a blurry man…which would have probably been pretty creepy.
Pointless Bookend Superheroics
I get it, it is a superhero show and people want to see Flash in action as much as possible, but what is the point of a random event where Barry has to quickly run off to stop a “Bad Man with a gun in a getaway car” trying to evade the cops while Iris is distracted talking with Eddie Thawne on the phone? It literally serves no purpose other than to set up a little bit about how Barry isn’t looking for accolades, but is finding it hard to keep all the things he can do secret from Iris. Then you get the one on the other end of the episode where a man with a knife is trying to steal a woman’s purse. This one is even more pointless because Barry doesn’t even stop they guy. All he does is run between them and give the woman the thief’s knife and then runs off. Now, this criminal isn’t exactly a huge guy, but he is still bigger than the really scared woman who stays really scared even when she realizes she has a knife which she holds in a way that doesn’t really make it an effective weapon. Now, Batman has taught us that criminals are a “cowardly lot”, but really, what are the chances that this guy, despite being a little thrown off by the change in the situation, is just going to run off after putting that much effort into taking the purse in the first place. At the very least you’d think he’d want his knife back. It would take very little effort to get it back from her. But no, he just takes off, leaving the purse and the knife (which probably still has his prints on it and could be turned over to the cops). This just kind of makes Barry seem like a crappy superhero. Seriously? You couldn’t knock him out, or tie him up, or maybe even take him to the police station? Seems pretty irresponsible, Barry.
Smallville Kryptonite Syndrome strikes again. This time we get The Mist (who, to add to the stupidity of his villain name, has the secret identity of Kyle Nimbus. Because get it? Nimbus? Like a cloud? Yeah) who (SPOILERS) is a hit-man who was being executed in the gas chamber when our magical Particle Accelerator blew which of course gives him the ability to turn into sentient poison gas so that he can fulfill the trope of killing all the people responsible for sending him to said gas chamber. So we are still going with the “bad guys with powers in some way associated with what they were doing when they were hit with the Particle Accelerator Dark Energy blast” thing which already isn’t holding up too well. I’m assuming in the near future we’ll be running into a criminal who can turn into a giant cat because he’s a Furry and was wearing his cat-suit that night. Or a villain who is a living pizza because he was cooking a frozen personal pizza in the microwave when the blast hit him.
This is also another example of the writers using a villain that ISN’T one of Flash’s Rogues. He’s a Starman villain. So I guess they want to run through as many obscure villains from other heroes as they can so they can use the ones that Flash SHOULD be fighting sparingly, which is probably good considering that they just straight-up killed one of his main villains in the very first episode.
I do have to say though that, despite thinking the concept for the villain was kind of stupid, the actor, Anthony Carrigan, was actually really good. He has a really interesting voice and manner that just makes for a really creepy bad guy. Of course this explains why he is slated to play Victor Zsasz (one of the creepiest Batman villains ever) in an upcoming episode of Gotham. I think he’ll pull it off.
Here we get the something that really bugged me about this episode, though, unlike the other stuff that bugged me, there really isn’t a lot of reason for this to bug me so much. This episode features several flashbacks to the night of the accident. A good chunk of the episode, in fact, is devoted to these flashbacks that basically show us all the details of what went down that night. Why does it bother me? Mostly because I’ve always thought flashbacks were a kind of clunky way of just handing exposition to the audience. If your audience is smart enough, they can get a more subtle relaying of information on past events without you actually just showing the events. Heavy use of flashbacks tells me the writer doesn’t trust the audience’s intelligence. Granted, sometimes a flashback is the best way to handle something, but use like one or two, not a good third of the runtime. This is what always kind of bugged me about Arrow as well since it seems like every single episode of that show has at least one flashback, if not a few. Characters can have discussions to convey that kind of stuff. Of course it does let us see Caitlin’s fiancé (which will be important later), so I guess there is very little way to avoid it in this case.
Character Development: Dr. Caitlin Snow
Jeez is she annoying. I really want to like her, I really do. She is supposed to be an example of a capable and intelligent female and that is something I can get behind, but they really make her hard to like. I’m actually starting to get a little self-conscious about how much I’m hating on her because I really don’t want to come across as yet another in a recent and unfortunately long line of misogynistic turd-burglers haunting the internet. I’m not, the writers just aren’t giving me a lot to work with.
I honestly can’t even tell what bugs me so much. The writing for her isn’t very good (she’s supposed to be a strong and capable scientist, but she spends most of her time fretting and saying things like “it’s not safe!” And I get it, that is supposed to be due to her fiancé dying in the accident, but it gets a little old when it happens every episode, and frankly it would only make sense if she had feelings for Barry, which I guess could be true, but if it is then she is definitely not conveying it right). The actress herself is also just kind of annoying. She’s grating and does a lot of weird stuff with her face while trying to convey emotion. Maybe it is also the fact that, while she does have input whenever the team is trying to figure something out, she seems to get relegated to throwing out the really kind of stupid stuff. She doesn’t really seem to actually figure anything out herself, that seems to be handled by the two guys on the team. In this episode all we get from her is an antidote she manages to whip up in like two minutes (and which she pronounces by REALLY stressing the ANTI in the word) and then the vague hypothesis that maybe Barry can wear Mist down if he keeps him in his gaseous form long enough which Dr. Wells confirms, also in a kind of half-assed way. It really seems like these guys are just guessing most of the time. Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe it is just me, but I really kind of want her to fulfill her comic book destiny (more on that later) sooner rather than later. At least that might make her interesting.
The Fight Scenes
It seems like this is something the writers have the most trouble with. You want engaging fight scenes that are visually cool, and you need them to last for more than two seconds, but normally this requires Barry to do stupid stuff like throw non-superspeed punches and, in general, not use his superspeed when he really should. I was initially confused by this during his first encounter with Mist because he literally just stands there, all normal speed, and lets Mist hit him. On second viewing though, I think he did this on purpose so that Mist would try to enter his lungs, so he could get a sample back to the lab. Of course how he not only knew he could run all the way from the mall to the lab with a lungful of poisonous gas, but how he actually managed it, is a mystery that is a whole different issue. When he gets back to the lab he is saying he can’t breathe. As a runner I can tell you it is kind of hard to run when you can’t breathe. It usually stops you pretty quick. Apparently Barry doesn’t need to breath when he runs. They give us some off-the-cuff remark about his rapid healing managing to keep him alive, but you still need to breath in order to move. Barry isn’t the Highlander for crying-out-loud.
And then for the final fight scene we get the amazing idea…for Barry to just keep running away from Mist until he gets tired. Seriously? Did we forget that Barry can run around in a circle really fast and create tornadoes? That is totally how he’d have done it in the comics. He’d have waited for Mist to…uh…mist, and then he would have just run around him, basically forming a cage of wind which would hold him in place until he had to reconstitute himself, then he would have punched him when he was too tired to go gaseous again. Instead we get dramatic music while Barry runs a little down the road, stops, breaths heavy, runs a little further, and then repeats the whole process again and again until Mist finally runs out of steam (hahaha!), reconstitutes himself, and then Barry punches him. I don’t know, maybe they felt that it was too soon for another tornado since that just happened in the first episode, but seriously, Barry does it a lot in the comics, and it really would have been the most effective thing here…and a lot more dramatic. I guess it was pretty dramatic when he, I don’t know, kinda dove all hard into the dirt, maybe. But yeah…not really the best fight scene ever.
Missing Elements That Make Me Wonder If The Writer Has Seen The Show Before: Barry’s CSI Vision
The hell? We get our usual crime scene, but at no time does Barry use his magical CSI Vision to find clues. He still finds clues, but just, you know, the normal way. I really can’t tell if this means they are abandoning the concept or that they just forgot to include it. I honestly can’t tell which is worse. If they abandoned it that means they decided it didn’t serve a purpose and so it makes its use in the first two episodes even more pointless. If they just forgot to include it, it means sloppy writing. Of course considering how weak the rest of the episode is, I’m leaning toward the latter explanation.
This week actually featured a lot of subtle ones rather than any big obvious ones. From what I’ve read in other write-ups, I missed a lot of these smaller ones in the first two episodes. I’m not going to bother to go back and look for them again, but it did make me pay a lot closer attention to this one. So what do we have:
Blue Devil and Rita Farr
When Barry and Iris leave the theater where they were watching some unnamed zombie movie, we see that there are two movies listed on the marquee: Blue Devil II – Hell to Pay and The Rita Farr Story. While the Blue Devil movie might seem like it is some kind of Hellboy reference, it is actually a reference to another DC superhero. Without going too far into it, Blue Devil was a special effects artist and stuntman that created a special suit to play a character called the Blue Devil and ends up having the suit become a part of his body when he fights a demon. The same thing goes for Rita Farr, who is actually a member of the Doom Patrol as the superhero Elasti-Girl. Rita was an Olympic swimmer who became an actress and was widely considered to be extremely attractive. When she gets exposed to unusual volcanic gas while on a movie-shoot she gains the ability to shrink and grow. Despite still being beautiful, she considers herself a hideous freak and becomes a recluse. Considering the fact that apparently metahumans aren’t widely known about in this world, I’m guessing that part isn’t in The Rita Farr Story.
This one may be me reading too much into stuff, but at the beginning of the episode, the criminal Flash takes down is traveling down Waid Blvd, which I took to be a reference to popular Flash writer Mark Waid. He is responsible for some of the best Flash stories during the 90s. It could just be a coincidence, but it would make sense for it to be a shout-out.
“It’s not like I want a museum built in my name.”
This one made me actually laugh out loud when I watched the episode. As anyone who reads The Flash comics knows, long ago Central City decided to build a museum dedicated to The Flash called, simply enough, The Flash Museum. For decades The Flash Museum has been a fixture in the DC Universe and is occasionally destroyed, only to be rebuilt.
“Jury only took 52 minutes…”
Apparently each episode likes to sneak in a reference to the number 52, which of course is a reference to the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe in the comics.
“I feel like I’ve waited for this day for centuries.”
Dr. Wells says this when he initiates the particle accelerator in one of the many flashbacks in this episode. This serves as kind of an inside joke since it is obvious that he is involved in some way with time travel and seems to be from the future himself. By the end of the episode (SPOILERS) it also becomes obvious that he either knew the accident would create The Flash or even caused the accident on purpose to give Barry his powers as he is seen watching video footage of Barry’s lab accident while the particle accelerator accident is happening and says “See you soon, Barry”. We even get this weird look from Ronnie right before the particle accelerator is started up that makes it seem like either he knew something would go wrong, or that he at least suspected that something wasn’t right. Then there is the fact that most of the internet believes Dr. Wells is really Eobard Thawne and will eventually become the Reverse-Flash which would mean he is, in fact, from several centuries in the future.
“Like fire and ice.”
Caitlin says this when describing her relationship with Ronnie. If you’ve paid any attention to discussions on the internet (which you really shouldn’t), you should know by now that Caitlin Snow is really the secret identity of the current version of the villain Killer Frost who is another Firestorm villain. So who is Ronnie Raymond? Well, Firestorm himself. Actually Firestorm is an amalgam entity created from Ronnie Raymond and the physicist Martin Stein who are fused into one being during a nuclear accident. In the comics the accident not only fuses the two men together, but gives them/him the ability to rearrange the atomic and subatomic structure of inorganic matter, rearranging subatomic particles to create objects of different atomic characteristics of equal mass. This kind of makes things confusing because, while it is obvious that we will see Firestorm at some point since he was in the heart of the “power-granting” machine, what about Martin Stein? Not only was Ronnie alone in the particle accelerator ring, but he is already established as an engineer. The point of the Firestorm in the comics was the Ronnie was a high school teenager, and it was Stein’s understanding of physics that allowed him to understand and use his powers effectively. So I guess maybe they’re just going to get rid of that aspect. I suppose there was really no way around it since we couldn’t have Dr. Wells stand in for Dr. Stein since we needed him as a physical person and it would have been hard to come up with a reason for there to be another brilliant scientist at the site that would have needed to go down into the accelerator ring with Ronnie. Only actually…it wouldn’t. On a project like this you’d actually EXPECT there to be more than one main scientist. In fact you’d expect a whole team of scientists working on this kind of thing. In fact, the closest thing we have in the real world, the Large Hadron Collider was built in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries, as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. Granted, the one in Central City is smaller, but you’d still expect more than three main scientists and an engineer to be on this team. Why not add a Dr. Martin Stein who needed to help Ronnie stop the accident. This is just a really unnecessary oversight.
While we are on the subject of Firestorm, apparently the door to the accelerator ring is itself a reference to Firestorms symbol, so it looks like Firestorm is definitely going to happen. The question now is just whether or not he eventually gets his own show, or is just a bit part on this one.
Overall, not the best episode. There were a lot of cool things, but honestly, even the cool parts were kind of weak, and the weak parts were REALLY weak. I am however really excited to see next week’s episode as it looks like we are finally going to get the appearance of the main Flash Rogue: Captain Cold. Here’s hoping they manage to bring things back to the upward trend they had with the first two episodes.