Bethany and Kevin are simply shocked at the content of this week’s episode. Dim the lights and check the time, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.
Do you ever run into a situation where something you normally can do fairly well…and then suddenly you can’t anymore? It can be anything – you try to stand up after sitting in the wrong position for too long and your legs just won’t work right. For me, it’s whistling. When I got dentures, I had to relearn to do everything with my mouth. Chewing, biting, talking – I had to figure out where my new teeth were, and I still can’t whistle. It’s a kind of dumb thing to miss, and I was never particularly good at it, but it’s still something I can’t do anymore. (I still try because I’m stubborn.)
It’s easy to take certain things about ourselves, our abilities, for granted, and it’s really hard when those abilities fail us. When you reach for that tool in the toolbox and find yourself grasping air.
Barry Allen hasn’t had his powers for very long, but they have already become part of who he is, and how he identifies himself. We know how he reacts when he’s just not quite fast enough, what happens when he’s not fast at all?
As usual, spoilers under the cut.
There’s a flashback to some poor dude named Farooq getting hit by the accelerator incident while up on an electric tower (I’m not sure what it was called). He seems like a pretty nice dude in the short time we see him – danger is coming and he screams at his friends to get in the car while he’s climbing down, even though he knows that he’s not gonna make it.
After that, we go to Dr. Wells making a personal log. (I can’t see someone making a verbal personal log without going STARDATE and rattling off a series of numbers in my head; you can’t stop me.) He shows that Barry is using his superpowers in his everyday life. And, let’s be honest, this would be any of us. (I mean, for real, are you kidding me? I’d out myself and use it to deliver EXPRESS PIZZA for a surcharge when I wasn’t stopping supervillains.)
Farooq ends up with electricity-based powers. His friends died when they tried to restart his heart and he is out for revenge on Dr. Wells. (Again, I ask – where has he been all this time?) It also turns out that he can suck Barry’s powers right out of him, which is super creepy and also pretty awful.
Barry is the Flash no more. Even worse, when Dr. Wells looks into his future computer, it turns out that he WON’T EVER BE AGAIN. (Except of course he will, this is still the beginning of the first season.) He misses his powers, because on top of it being really cool to go super fast, he loved being the Flash. This is why Barry is so likeable – he genuinely enjoys being a hero. He has this really cool ability and he loves that he has a chance to use it to help people. He comes to it with joy and compassion. He’s the best of us – people who can help, who do help, who love helping.
When Farooq comes to the lab looking for Wells, Barry goes out to talk to him. Because he thinks that maybe Farooq just needs help, and he can offer that with or without his powers. It’s a good moment for Barry, to see himself as more than the sum of his powers.
Even so, it’s not particularly surprising that he’d risk death to get his powers back and, in the crux, that’s what he does. It seems not to work at first because he’s so wigged out that he lost them that his head’s not in the game. (Cisco refers to it as “the yips”, which is a term I’ve never heard before but also sounds like it means the thing it’s supposed to mean, if that makes any sense.)
It’s only when the chips are really down – Dr. Wells is about to be deep-fried by lightning – that Barry finds it in himself to be the Flash again, and this time trying to strip Barry of his powers actually kills Farooq, because apparently he’s supercharged.
The Clock King is holding the police station hostage and Iris is there. The only really noteworthy thing about this is that he takes Iris as a roving hostage when he goes up to get the helicopter, and when Joe begs to be taken instead, says that he is taking Iris because she’ll be less trouble. BUDDY, YOU SURE DID STEP WRONG THERE. By which I mean: she shoots him in the damn leg.
Eddie was shot during the hostage situation, he’s fine and stoned in the hospital, and Barry brings him flowers (which is freakin’ adorable) while the Flash shows up to apologize to Iris for not saving her.
I kinda feel like this episode was trying to do too much in too little time. This is one of the few arcs where I feel like the storyline might have benefited by being more than one episode in length – expanding more on the Clock King, or Tony Woodward (whom Wells lets out to distract Farooq, which ends up killing Tony), or everybody at once really. Eddie was barely in this until the end, for example, and I think we needed more of him. We didn’t get to dwell on Barry missing his powers because it was, like, five minutes. We didn’t see him hear about robberies taking place and end up looking at the police scanner in futility, or having Iris post “WHERE IS THE FLASH??” articles. It’s why this episode is more recappy than others, because the theme was “blink and you’ll miss it”.
Everyone has some good moments (including stoned Eddie at the end) but so much happens with so little time to dwell on it that the story arcs which could have really had some impact fell a little flat. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable, it just could have had a deeper well. The moral of the episode is that Barry’s compassion and humanity are what drive him (and are the threads Dr. Wells can manipulate to bring him to his full potential), but it’s such a good point that I just feel like it needed more time to mature.
I’ve said before that I don’t really read comics all that much1, so I didn’t realize until this series that the Flash’s powers are actually lightning-based powers. I thought the lightning bolts on his costume were just decorative, like how you paint flames on your car to make it go faster.
(It totally works, you guys. It’s science.)
It’s taken me this long to realize what some of you have known for ages, and that’s how Barry Allen rides the lightning. I’ve mentioned the power-up focus on his eyes, and the lightning trails for the speed-mo effect, but now we have someone who literally sucked the lightning out of him, and my first time around, it really never struck me until this episode that’s what it was.
I’m sure there are comic comparisons somewhere between the Speed Force and electricity, or what kind of midichlorians Barry Allen has which “generate” the Speed Force in his body2, and even in this show they seem to go back and forth on what the Speed Force actually is, but it can be sucked out of Barry, and it makes Evil Science Dad sit up and take notice.
Speaking of Wells, they’re really hammering in HEY THERE IS SOMETHING BAD HERE every episode, and I can see what they were going for, but sometimes it’s like, okay, we get it, he’s evil and from the future.
Bethany’s already hit the necessary story beats here (and she’s right, it’s kind of ten pounds of action in a five-pound bag), so let’s cut right to the Bulleted List Of Unfocused Observations!
- The Clock King, and the story about his sister dying, is carried over from Arrow. Next week will be a more direct Arrow crossover.
- Not only does Evil Future Science Dad talk in a very disjointed way, but Clock King also uses very clipped and precise statements. Attention to detail in vocal mannerisms is something I always appreciate.
- They’re starting to set up a shiptease between Barry and Caitlin, because allos are fuckin’ weird, mate, but it really just reinforces that they are all Science Siblings and their love is no less powerful for being platonic.
- YOU WILL TAKE MY SCIENCE SIBLINGS FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS, GREG BERLANTI
- Joe is a very no-nonsense, practical man. He doesn’t follow all the Silver Age Pseudoscience that gets thrown around, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t comprehend the effects. His intelligence, for the most part, is practical, and he’s no less a cerebral powerhouse for it. Don’t forget he’s still a detective, and a pretty darn good one.
- Also Joe’s cultured as fuck. He’s really well-read, as evidenced by him placing every single one of Clock King’s quotations.
- Joe West is kind of like Jack O’Neil, really. He doesn’t need to know the science, he just needs to know that it works, and he’ll know what to do with that knowledge.
- Unless it’s to gaslight his daughter.
- Iris West is a stone cold badass and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Next week: Arrows Are Fuckin’ Weird, Mate
Bethany the Martian is an abuser of parentheses and works in the Pizza Mines. She can be found on Twitter (@martianbethany – the account is locked for safety, not privacy, most follow requests will be accepted) and on Tumblr (bethanythemartian).
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- FAKE GEEK GUY
- I’ve heard all about the change from the Speed Force being a penetrating binding energy field slash alternate dimension to it being created by Barry Allen when he runs and that’s why Geoff Johns says that nobody will ever be a better Flash than Barry3 and how stupid that is but I’m not going to get into that.
- Better Flashes than Barry Allen:
- Jesse Chambers
- Wally West
- Max Mercury (yes I’m aware he’s not a “Flash”)
- Bart Allen and Jenni Ognats
But I’m not going to get into that.