Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Flash: Things You Can't Outrun and Going Rogue

And with this, I finally catch up on all the shows I missed while in Australia! I'm only a casual viewer of The Flash (and it's already clear that there are some gaps in my continuity considering I've yet to watch season two of Arrow) but I'm enjoying it as a light comic book show.

I like the visual tricks they play when it comes to portraying super-speed – either the yellow lightening streaks and the gusts of wind that Barry leaves in his wake, or the immobility of people seemingly caught in stasis as he sprints around them (though we see him moving normally). It all looks fantastic on what must be a fairly modest budget.

And there's a good sense of pacing going on. So many shows are too concerned with stuffing as much in to the premiere as they can, but The Flash writers (possibly due to practice over on Arrow) know how to regulate themselves. It's a steady process as they bring all the bits of the show together, and in these two episodes alone they give us some background on Caitlin and Cisco, introduce a way of containing the meta-humans, and raise the possibility of Barry using his super-speed to break his father out of jail. Things are chugging along nicely, without feeling too rushed or too slow.

Things You Can't Outrun put a focus on Caitlin and her relationship with her fiancĂ© Ronnie who totally and absolutely died in the accelerator particle explosion, though given the amount of emotional beats she was given with Barry I'm terrified that a love triangle is about to rear its ugly head. It seems unlikely considering that Barry is so devoted to Iris, but between Iris encouraging him to see other women and her newfound "steady" status with Eddie, there's always a chance that he'll make a move on Caitlin.

Kyle Nimbus was a pretty bland Villain of the Week, but at least the actor looked genuinely creepy, and as ridiculous as the science is on this show, there was a nice internal logic to how Team Flash managed to figure out his identity (that his DNA was inside the victims, that the chemical used in executions was in the gas). From a Doylist point-of-view, I was rather fascinated by how the episode went about building up the suspense of his murders. First he went after a crime family, people that we're not inclined to mourn, but second victim was a mother (who was cleverly humanized in the seconds before her death by having her speak to her daughter on the phone), and the third was Joe, someone we're all genuinely invested in.

Perhaps the best dynamics on the show are between Barry and his two fathers, helped by the fact that Jesse L. Martin is bringing his A-game to every scene, even though he really doesn't have to. Although I'm still irritated at his "keep Iris in a bubble" mentality (especially since they haven't explained how keeping her in the dark about Barry could possibly make her any safer than if she knew about it), the way he interacts with his biological daughter and his surrogate son is the high-point of the show.

And he made a surprisingly good point about what it means for him that Iris is dating his partner. Here I thought it was just going to be the usual curmudgeonly excuses, but he actually had valid reasons for being leery about the relationship and how it would affect his job.

That said, I hope Iris gets some juicier material soon. Fandom is just waiting for a reason to dogpile her, and she must be protected from that at all costs! It's easy enough to see why Barry is besotted with her (especially since she's played by Candice Patton), but at the moment it feels as though she exists on the fringes on the show; that there's a super cool secret club she's been excluded from. No doubt the "no more secrets" exchange with her father is going to come back to bite Joe in the proverbial, but I love that she's investigating the Red Streak. It's something that belongs to her character alone, and her fascination with the occurrences all over Central City mean that she's moving toward Barry without even knowing it.

Now let's all cross our fingers and hope that she gets to figure out Barry's secret identity by herself.

And then we come to Going Rogue, guest-starring Felicity in the show's very first cross-over. I must be a contrarian at heart, because I don't love Felicity as much as everyone else does. Fandom seems determined to canonize her as some sort of deity, and practically every character on this show got the chance to talk about how great she was, and I'm just a little bemused by it all.

I should be so happy that fandom loves a female character this much (because how often do girls become Ensemble Darkhorses?) and yet I just feel oversaturated by her at this stage. Also, her endless stream of Freudian Slips are a long-overplayed joke.

At least her presence in this episode wasn't too gratuitous. Having not caught up with season two of Arrow, I'm assuming that Felicity and Barry (clearly) have a history together, and this was used to bring Barry's feelings for Iris into sharper focus. And I know that Barry/Iris are endgame, but geez – at this point she's just not that into him. I watched closely, wondering if perhaps Iris was overcompensating her enthusiasm for Barry and Felicity hooking up, but she seemed pretty sincere about it.

So we got a bittersweet (more sweet than bitter) farewell between Barry and Felicity, after the latter gives some sage advice about how to handle being part of a team.

The most interesting part of the episode was in ironing out the kinks of Team Flash after it becomes apparent that Cisco has designed a gun that poses a serious threat to Barry's abilities. Cisco is a lot of fun, though I don't for a second buy him as a super-genius, and as far as backstory goes there was some good material here: first by forcing him to make the tough decision to close the blast doors with Ronnie still inside, and then by having him pay the consequences of having made a failsafe to deal with Barry should he ever go AWOL.  

Like Batman carrying around kryptonite, it seems a fairly sensible thing to do in crafting a weapon that will deal with a meta-human that nobody knows or understands, but Barry's grievance is in the fact Cisco didn't tell him about the gun after they got to know each other (and after it ends up in the hands of a killer). I loved that the death of the theatre attendant is treated as a big deal; as something that Cisco and Barry will have to live with despite being only indirectly responsible for his death – though the show will probably never mention him again.  

And it all allows for Wells's dark side to emerge, with him all but threatening Cisco after learning of the gun's existence. Doctor Wells should henceforth be known as Captain Stinger, for with only one exception he's dominated the final scenes. Here we find out in flashback that he knew all along that Barry would be struck by lightning and bestowed with super-speed (which also explains the ambiguous look on his face when the champagne in the bottle began drifting upwards into the air), and it's clear that he's here to protect Barry at all costs.

Hopefully some of this stinger material will make it into the meat of the actual episodes soon.

And last but not least, Wentworth Miller turned up as this week's villain. Unlike all the others, there's every chance he's going to be back for more, so it was a good idea to give him a bit more characterization. He explicitly doesn't shoot cops – but only because there are dire consequences for criminals that do so, and he even looked vaguely amused when Cisco named him "Captain Cold." And of course, plenty of room for hot and cold puns. Given that he stole the stinger away from Doctor Wells, it's only a matter of time before he returns.

Miscellaneous Observations:

Was it meant to be significant in any way that Kyle Nimbus mentioned people "on my list"? Probably not, but if it was unintentional, it was still an intriguing echo to Oliver Queen.

As a non-comic book reader I feel as though I'm missing about a million in-jokes. Caitlin's remark that she and Ronnie were like "fire and ice" was no doubt significant, but I've no idea why.

Ronnie was Killed Midsentence, so any thoughts on what the end of his sentence was: "whatever happens..."

How many outfits does Felicity have? She went through at least four, and for some reason packed a fancy black cocktail dress. Then she got embarrassed about wearing it to trivia night. Girl, it's trivia night. Why one earth would you think it would require dressing up?

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