ZOMG this show is like chocolate flavored orgasms!
*cough* I mean uh… welcome to the completely unbiased and straight-talk Flash reviews. It was told to me that there was some confusion in the last review so let me clarify: the “Muggle” section is a straightforward review with no comic-book references to be found. The “Metahuman” section is the part of the review devoted to full on comic-book geekery. So if you’re looking for comic-book talk, or want to avoid it, then you know what to skip to/avoid.
Recap: Barry Allen runs so fast he lands himself in the Matrix Reloaded. Meanwhile the older actors engage in a full on competition to see who can get the most tears out of the audience.
I am old enough to remember the days of not only the first Flash series, but also the Lois & Clark Superman series. Even back then, I noticed the shows had one glaring problem: They really needed to be only a half hour long. But these shows were set to last 1 hour. The heroes could solve the plot in 1 minute (and often did). What do you with the other 59? Often it was filled with pure time-waster or silly “obstacles” to slow down the hero, emphasis on silly.
So with the new Flash, part of me has been wondering: how are they going to fill the hour? Will it be worth it or will it be largely frustrating? Two episodes in, it looks like the powers in charge of television have learned something important: CHARACTERS! Make interesting characters, and you can use up a lot of the episode’s time examining them. So in this one we get Barry trying to get into the habit of living a double life while those involved with said life try to deal with him living it. And what can I say, especially at this age (where so many of my peers are fathers now), the struggle of 3 different father figures against each other on Barry’s behalf was touching. (Sure my younger self would have been bored, but my older self really appreciated it. Dad’s need more love nowadays.) John Wesley Shipp, Jesse L. Martin, and Tom Cavanagh all turned in very excellent, compelling performances, often putting in emotionally powerful performances in a tiny amount of screentime without resorting to scenery chewing. One of the things that bugs me in modern society (that I may have to write a longer essay on) is that an artwork being “manly” or “masculine” means not having any emotion. In truth men have emotions too, it’s just often a different flavor and style compared to more “girly” or “feminine” works. My go-to example is always Secondhand Lions, but episode 2 of this series now joins it. …Give me a minute, this room seems extremely dusty all of a sudden.
The other big lesson of the past decades of TV is the balancing between arc/episodic in shows. For those who may be confused: Arc = shows which have storylines running from one episode to the next. Basically, you must watch them in order or you’ll be very confused. Episodic = shows where each episode is largely stand-alone. You can watch almost any episode from any season at any time and be able to enjoy it with minimum confusion. In light of how reruns are done, it’s not surprising that originally most long running TV shows used an episodic nature, it’s only been with the rise of DVD & Netflix that arc shows have even become reliable and possible. Then, viewers would have had to catch the show and watch everything religiously to be able to follow any plotlines, making it highly unlikely you’d ever attract new viewers if you were arc focused. But now if new viewers get intrigued by what you’re doing, they can catch up to where the show is in a weekend, thus the new golden age of arc shows. Of course some shows do a mix. Supernatural, X-files, and others will have about half a season devoted to an arc, with the other half of it being very episodic (or “Monster of the Week (MotW)” style). Arrow (also comic-book sourced, also on CW) has been set up and running as very much an arc show while from the first episode, it looks like the Flash is going to be episodic. Now two episodes in, it looks more like the Flash will adopt my favorite mix (perfected by, in my opinion, the show Burn Notice). Each episode looks to have an “A plot” devoted to MotW (I guess in this case it’s “Metahuman of the Week”) with “B plots” devoted to the show’s arc(s). Though in this case the closing/opening episodes of each season are full on devoted to the arc. Again, I’m glad to see this method get some more adoption and perfection as it will make it easier for the show to pick up additional viewers, yet give us faithful a reason to turn in week after week.
The special effects are still holding up. I mentioned before how I was a little disappointed the effects were all “big and flashy” without much subtlety to them, but this episode we had more subtle ones, like rescued civilians just “appearing” in shot with a bit of red blurring painting in just behind them. I liked that. The Multiplex fight was well done and surprising how much better it was than the Matrix Reloaded fight of a similar nature a decade ago.
I liked that they kept Barry’s high food requirement (a source of some amusement in the first Flash show) as a way of balancing out the character and made the fight against Multiplex fairly logical for why the Flash can’t just insta-win (when there’s enough of them, they can still get a hand on you). Of course we can also debate on whether Multiplex is dead or not, but that’s the fun of a copying character: it’s not that much of a stretch to believe he faked his own death.
All in all, a fun run.
NOT ONLY IS MULTIPLEX IN HERE BUT RONNIE IS MENTIONED! SQUEEEEEEE
Ok ok, I’ll talk about the actual title character first before going off on the REAL star of the show.
I was willing to consider that maybe the show was going to misdirect us fans and have Harrison Wells NOT be Bad Flash (yes, I know his “proper” name is “Reverse Flash” but since he doesn’t run backwards, that doesn’t make sense and I refuse to use it), well this episode made it a lot less likely. The bad Flash (as I had last read about) was written as a villain who had essentially taken “ends justifies means” along with “fandom” to excessive measure. He wanted the Flash (I think specifically Barry Allen, at least it seems so in this show) to be the best hero he can be, so Bad Flash does some horrible things all in the aim to making Barry better. As we see at the end of this episode, that involves killing an innocent (if very douchey) man in order to keep Barry from being manipulated or anything by said man. If anything this episode hints that the show (or at least the first season) will be a war for Barry Allen’s soul, and when it comes to Harrison Wells, he’s willing to do WHATEVER it takes to “win” that war. So far Joe West (and maybe Henry Allen) are on the same side as Harrison in this war, but what will happen if they end up opposed?
Now for fun. If you don’t know (few people do) the hero Firestorm (originally) was created when an experimental nuclear reactor exploded. Two people: Ronnie Raymond & Martin Stein were nearby and gained the power of nuclear fusion, merging to create 1 new being (part of why I like Firestorm, he always has built in drama ready and his powers are weirdly weak, yet overpowered at the same time for an odd balance). It was then revealed that, Danton Black (former employee of Martin Stein) had sabotaged the reactor, but messed up and got hit by the same explosion, giving him the opposite ability of Firestorm: nuclear fission (aka, making copies). So… yeah this appearance by him in the show is pretty accurate, though they traded his bitterness at Stein for bitterness at Simon Stagg in an almost literal repeat of the story they invented for Mr. Freeze’s first appearance in the Batman: Animated Series episode, “Heart of Ice”. Not that that’s a bad thing, that episode was very good and elevated a 1-note villain into a tragic, engaging figure, it’s just kind of funny to now having seen the change to such a villain happen twice in my lifetime, to two different foes.
Of course as a lot of fans (both of us) were predicting, Caitlin Snow’s lost fiance was named Ronnie, meaning that the upcoming Firestorm was previously engaged with the soon-to-be (probably) Killer Frost. Who’s had about 3 or 4 people be her now (yep, she’s a legacy villain), which is doubly funny because the first KF, Crystal Frost (yeah, Caitlin Snow is an improved name) was originally crushing on Martin Stein (the other half of Firestorm). See, THIS is how you adapt works and characters, people: You take them and add a few tweaks to bring it into a new medium and set up while allowing tributes to the original source to shine through in small ways JUST to show the fans that you did your homework and that you care. And as a comic geek, man I couldn’t be happier.