Sunday, 25 October 2015

REVIEW: The Flash 2.1 - 2.3


Having enjoyed The Flash immensely during its first season, I'm now committing to reviewing the second run. (Run is probably the appropriate term for a period of this show.) The first series hit the ground running (I'll stop now), but this time, it's had a rather uneven start. Of the first three episodes, only one has really succeeded.

"The Man Who Saved Central City" has the unenviable task of resolving last year's catastrophic cliffhanger, which saw  Central City on the verge of being swallowed up by a black hole, as well as follow up on the emotional revelations that led to that event. It does so in a bizarrely roundabout way, joining a depressed Barry Allen six months after he saved the city from the anomaly. We gradually receive glimpses of what happened that day, with Barry not only shouldering guilt for the death of Eddie in last year's finale, but also Ronnie, who's bumped off in a disappointingly perfunctory manner in the act of closing the singularity. We already suspected he was going to leave, what with his being replaced as half of Firestorm in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series, but there must have been a better way to tackle it. In any case, we never see a body, so I'd be very surprised if we don't see him again somewhere down the line.

Firestorm's other half, Professor Stein, remains a joy, replacing the villainous Harrison Wells as the elder statesman of the series, acting as something of a father figure for Barry and Cisco. The problem being that Barry really doesn't need another father figure, especially with the astonishingly unlikely events in this episode. Evil old Wells/Thawne leaves a video will confessing to the murder of Barry's mother. His dad is free! Then he leaves! For no well explained or believable reason! It's a shockingly poor way of severing last season's ongoing plot threads and frankly comes across as lazy. 

I did, however, enjoy the juxtaposition of Barry's guilt and Central City's celebration of him with "Flash Day," and his subsequent return to form. The villainous Atom Smasher was dealt with rather more quickly than his pre-series hype suggested, but worked reasonably well as the freak-of-the-week, and the new plot thread dealing with a parallel Earth was seeded in nicely. But can STAR Labs really continue to operate after almost destroying the Earth with a runaway disaster like a black hole? That's hard to credit.


This is more like it. "Flash of Two Worlds" embraces The Flash's comicbook roots with the same joyful exuberance as it did last season. Calling back to the classic Flash issue that spawned Earth-Two and the entire comicbook multiverse that defines DC's mythology (and that of many of its competitors), this is full of cheeky little nods and gleeful winks. There's a lot introduced here - Earth-Two, Jay Garrick as the other Flash, the villainous Zoom, interdimensional rifts, Iris's mother revealed to be alive, Harrison Wells alive on the other Earth - it's chocka. However, it's all done with confidence and panache and it works, far better than the previous week's efforts at tidying up. 

I like Teddy Sears as Jay Garrick. He's heroic in a more old-fashioned, square-jawed way than Barry's millennial speedster. He has great chemistry with Caitlin, who seems to be getting over her husband Ronnie rather quickly (in fairness, he was dull as they come). Another nice addition to the cast is Shantal VanSanten as Patty Spivot, who has a wonderful rapport with Barry and is just as unashamedly nerdy. It's getting harder to support Joe, though, who comes across as obtusely stupid this episode. Are parallel universes really so hard for the average guy to grasp these days? And couldn't Cisco have just explained it to him with a movie metaphor like he did with time travel before? It's also strange that he's so resistant to letting the clearly talented Patty onto the metahuman taskforce. Also, it's a shame that Patty had to get herself into a cliched hostage situation so early on.

Overall, though, this is episode is just wonderfully good fun, from the sandy metahuman villain to the glimpses of Zoom (with Tony Todd providing his gravelly tones) to that glorious shot of Jay an Barry calling back to a classic comic cover. This is what The Flash excels at: cheesy, over-the-top fun.


Episode three is frustrating one, too concerned with setting up the players for Legends of Tomorrow than in telling its own story. Wentworth Miller gives the arch performance we've come to love from his Captain Cold, but he seems bored with this material. Sure, it's cool to see Michael Ironside as his abusive father, but it's all rather trite and uninteresting. Lisa, the Golden Glider, is not my favourite character, but she has good chemistry with Cisco and she's become genuinely sympathetic, although she's cursed with some terrible dialogue this episode. Mostly, though, what works in this episode is the rapport between Barry and Snart/Cold, as two enemies who nonetheless share a certain respect. It's all leading to Snart's eventual redemption as part of the Legends team, as he's a villain who clearly does have some compassion in him. On the other hand, Stein's illness - clearly a result of his sudden loss of his duller half - is an uninteresting storyline altogether, although it's presumably leading to meatier stuff next week.

It was fun seeing Barry get an obvious kick from playing the villain to get in with the Snarts. However, the science on this show drives me mad sometimes. I realise super-speedsters are nonsense, but when you intersect with real science you have to play by the rules a little more. Visible security lasers is a bugbear of mine - that just isn't how they work. The whole point of them is that you can't see them and know when to work round them. In this episode, Captain Cold uses his "cold gun" to freeze the laser beams. It's so utterly stupid I can only surmise it was put in there to deliberately piss nerds like me off.

The other major thread of this episode deals with the Wests, and I'm really warming to Iris after not particularly liking the character last year. It's good to see Joe come to terms with the fact that she's an adult now and that continually lying to her, regardless of his good intentions, is just a shitty thing to do. We'll see how this develops as the series moves on. More fun is the reveal that Earth-Two Harrison Wells has a "Speed Cannon" and can travel between worlds. So, is he Zoom? Surely that would be too obvious, not to mention repetitive, for the production team to run. Plus, as far as we know this really is Wells, not Thawne wearing a Wells-suit. My feeling is that this is a huge herring. The current theory at my place is that Zoom is actually Earth-Two's version of Barry. That would be fun.

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