written by Conrad Wrobel (@conradwrobel)
Finally, an episode of The Flash with the punny name! If the DC Universe is known for anything, it is plucky heroes with snappy one-liners, spandex, and puns galore! Although the latest CW-TV creation has had a steady implementation of linguistic libations, it took its time to tout a truly teasing title. Tipping the tide towards a tantamount tropish tale, the top-speed trickster takes on trouble on two tiers, while turned totally tame! Time out! Though a triumph of tomfoolery, this tricky talk is tedious and my temple throbs from these tongue twisters... To tone it down, things are turned up a tick (I can't stop!) with the tirade of two (seriously?) villains simultaneously! This episode introduces both Farooq Gibran (Michael Reventar) A.K.A. Blackout and William Tockman (Robert Knepper) A.K.A. The Clock King to tear our hero's attention in twain, but raises the stakes further by removing his powers in an early altercation.
Dr. Harrison Wheels (that's his new nickname and I'm sticking to it)(Tom Cavanagh) begins the episode in his chamber of secrets, accessing his female-gendered supercomputer named Gladice, er, Gideon to record his Captain's Log. Stardate 11252014: Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is using his powers for the everyday tasks instead of the irregular, is showboating unnecessarily, and is getting a bad case of inflated ego. Luckily, the good doctor can prescribe a life-changing event right before our blurry-barista gets too comfortable. In a heart-to-heart conversation, he asks Barry when the speedster is going to give more back to science, instead of solely to society. Seemingly to forget the huge leaps Barry has made over the previous two episodes, Dr. Wheels challenges Barry to turn it up a notch... again, because apparently everything (diseases, aging, paralysis, a bad golf swing) can be solved with more speed. #ADHD?
But of course, this episode revolves around the contrived case of a metahuman that can absorb energy, including the The Flash’s uncanny powers. According to Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), Barry's "DNA was transformed by the Particle Accelerator Blast, there's no way to un-transform DNA!" This statement made me very excited because it seemed like they were finally leading into the discovery of THE SPEED FORCE, the mysterious extra-dimensional energy that all DC speedsters tap into. But Dr. Wheels had to ruin the moment by stipulating that Blackout "siphons electricity, thereby removing [Barry's] power." So basically, Blackout was able to suck out the electricity that fuels Barry's speed, but not that which powers his central nervous system.... The pseudoscience continued to deteriorate as they theorized Barry could repower by electrocuting himself... cause that makes sense! At least when Kid-Flash does this in Young Justice to regain his lost powers, HE FRIES HIMSELF IN THE PROCESS! He is a charred corpse for the moment before the Speed Force reenters his body and jumpstarts his hyper-metabolism healing (which might not have saved him from death's door, but he knew the risk going into it). So barring the introduction of the Speed Force, we are at least engaged in an interesting cat-and-mouse game in S.T.A.R. Labs, as Blackout comes looking for the man who made him become a monster. #HeIsTheOneWhoKnocks
As if that was not bad enough, the stakes double as a prison transfer goes awry at Central City Police Department. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and Iris West (Candice Patton) are taken hostage by the nefarious Clock King, who takes advantage of the citywide blackout to pick his cuffs and take an unsuspecting guards' sidearm. The punctual prisoner turns the tables, shooting several in the process and further leveraging pressure on the powerless Barry stuck in his own ticking-clock situation. Things continue to escalate on both fronts, bringing every lead character to face death one-after-the-other until the climax is practically taken straight out of Survivor, "Who's getting voted off the island?!" #BarryHasImmunity
The process of putting every character in mortal danger is ideally supposed to show the audience their true colors. However, it only showed me how little I care for any one of them if they had died at this moment, which leads me to My Takeaway: Character Value. #NotExactlyGameOfThrones
It is a reoccurring plot device in superhero series to have an episode where the lead protagonist(s) lose their powers; either by mistake, the antagonist's doings, or their own free will. It is often one of the best episodes of the relevant series because it provides the audience a true character study outside of the punchfest norm. For instance, Peter Parker relished the idea of giving up the Spiderman life and responsibilities so he could happily marry Mary Jane Watson free of danger. However, when given the opportunity, he is haunted by villains running unopposed, and instantly regrets the decision, toting his ever-present mantra, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." #WithGreatClicheComesGreatRepeatValue
However, this trope is rarely implemented THIS EARLY in a series because it IS a character study, which requires fully-developed characters TO STUDY. The intrigue in this storyline comes through recognizing both what the character has to gain, as well as what he has to lose. For this obstacle to ring true, the hero needs established responsibilities, fantasies of an alternative lifestyle, and a choice that is hard to make! Although we have had a good time getting to know Barry so far, I feel we still hardly know him. I have yet to glimpse his true self. Perhaps that is why the show-runners chose to pull this trigger now, to shoot Barry so we can see how he bleeds? Sadly, by posing this question so early in the series, it had a muted effect as we all knew the show must go on. At no point did I fear for Barry's life, felt loss or relief from his regained mortality, or hope-against-hope that he could find a solution. Frankly, throughout this episode I never felt as though Barry regaining his powers was ever a life-threatening choice or necessity, but just another day in the life. #Underwhelming
As I mentioned in the previous article, CW is ramping up Barry's abilities fast, moreso than typical of a series focused around the growth of a hero and their subsequent abilities, but faster than I would like. After all, it is only through growth, adversity, and overcoming obstacles that we see a character's true colors. So why rush the journey? At this point, the only reasoning for this is BECAUSE things are already moving so quickly towards the first clash with the much-anticipated Professor Zoom, and are quickly teasing characters central to The Flash's Rogues Gallery: Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Gorilla Grodd, Weather Wizard (No, he's not dead yet!), and more! At this point, Dr. Wheels might even be one of them, but who? I still think he's future-Flash or an offspring, or maybe one of The New Gods...? But I digress; my point being, things seem to be moving at an accelerated rate simply for the sake of escalation.
There seems to be no room for a healthy lead-in for a series run under the umbrella of a network that fears cancelations by episode 6, as Constantine has quickly proved example. So instead of capturing audience interest and ratings through a complex plot, quality character development, and real-life goals and ambitions (beyond the veil of ascertaining "true love"), we have a quick-and-dirty superhero show racing along almost as fast as its lead protagonist. Arrow at least had the brilliance of introducing the mysterious "Island" as the central-hook giftbasket that-keeps-on-giving, but just how far can the Dr. Wheels' Time Machine(?) and Professor Zoom storylines lead us on? #IStillThinkItsTheSameIslandAsFromLost