Kevin and Bethany are burning up with excitement for this week’s episode. Try not to bite off more than you can chew, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.
One of the reasons that I like The Flash so much is that its characters seem very real. I have met people like Cisco, like Caitlin, like Joe, like Barry (minus the super-speed). The way Barry interacts with his friends and family and colleagues and even his enemies is believable – he acts like a real person. An idealized real person, but he feels real. When we say a character is relatable, we don’t just mean that they seem like us, but that they seem real like us.
The show doesn’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes the characters step out of “real” into “dude, what?” Harrison Wells sometimes seems to be taking his cues from Snidely Whiplash.
The character whom the show fails the most often, does the most harm to, and treats much more like a lamp with a name tag than any other character is Iris West.
Spoilers under the cut.
When Iris is real, she’s great. She genuinely loves her friends and family, she’s not science smart (like Barry) but she’s still smart, she’s a journalist with a journalist’s instincts, the daughter of a cop who’s tough in her own right (she shot her would-be kidnapper who only selected her because he thought she’d be less trouble). She punched a dude who could turn into iron in the face. Iris West is fantastic.
The show does her so many disservices.
The one that bothers me most constantly is that she has, at no point, picked up on the fact that she might know the Flash’s real identity. I know they’ve tried to hedge around this, but she doesn’t even have a hint, a niggle of a suspicion. Even if she didn’t believe it could possibly be Barry because they’re too close and it’s hard to see someone you’ve known so long in a new way, she still should be examining the possibility that the Flash patronizes her coffee shop. It’s 100% because The Plot Says So and does Iris West, the character, a huge disservice. I’ve talked about it before, I’ll probably talk about it again.
This episode does her one worse.
Iris West attempts to sabotage Barry’s newly-hatched relationship with one of her co-workers, Linda.
There are times, and this is one of them, where it seems like they don’t know what to do with Iris. She’s the future love interest and central to Barry’s and Joe’s lives in a big way, but the show sometimes puts her in an episode…just to have her show up, I guess. To remind us that she exists. Which this episode could have done without having her try to screw up this thing with Linda.
(How? So easily. Are you kidding? Barry and Iris have been friends forever and he hasn’t had a girlfriend in ages; it would be really easy for them to have a lunch where she is super pumped for Barry. That’s what I honestly expected, and I feel like I’ve been burned. Barry really likes this girl and wants it to work, she seems nice! Dude, high five!)
I’m not saying that Iris can’t have personality flaws, or jealousies, or…anything. But this comes out of nowhere, and just seems to be Because the Plot Says So. It’s happened before, with Iris.
It’s starting to become a problem.
In other news, plot happened.
The Firestorm story has moved on – Firestorm hurts someone, and this leads to Barry having a brief but extremely cool fight with Firestorm.
Once they have Firestorm back at the lab, they clean him up and give him some meds to stabilize his brain. Stein seems like a pretty decent dude, all told.
Anyway, it turns out that if they can’t separate the two people that make up Firestorm, he’s gonna blow up in a nuclear way. (He blows up and the Flash can outrun the shockwave of a nuclear bomb.)
(Shouldn’t they be worried about the radioactive fallout? Thirty miles away isn’t far enough to avoid that, I’m pretty sure.)
The plotline I enjoyed most this episode was the “What the hell happened to Nora Allen” show starring Cisco and Joe.
- A: Cisco and Joe should work together more often.
B: Silver Age science plus a mirror equals holograms of the night of Nora Allen’s murder
C: They find some blood potentially from the speedsters present at the time, and apparently Adult Barry was somehow present during his mother’s murder.
The third is important because it’s the first evidence any of the characters have that time travel might be possible. The second was “I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way but Cisco is excited and, I’ll admit, it looks cool”. The first is just fact.
- Barry’s “IMMA EAT THIS GHOST PEPPER TIL YOU GO OUT WITH ME” was both incredibly dumb and kind of adorable.
- (This is one of those “could be manipulative” things but since it was more about proving how into Linda he was while knowing that she’s already into him, just hesitant, it falls under “adorable because it’s stupid”.)
- Barry’s incorrect about the ghost pepper being the hottest pepper, but it is one of the more well-known really hot peppers.
- (Linda could still have figured out that Barry was getting/had gotten over someone else, leading to the ghost pepper scene, without having Iris involved.)
- Excellent use of “Uptown Funk” in the opening of the episode.
- Wells almost has feelings this episode – willing to take a setback on villainy to help Caitlin out. I know it goes away, but it’d be nice if they did something with this.
- This is one of those cases where the Netflix thumbnail clip from the next show somewhat spoiled the end of this episode. Fortunately for me, I don’t care, but if you’re following along, heads up.
I’ve been rewatching Friends lately. It’s really kind of an anthropological treasure of society in the mid-’90s. Not because it’s accurate in any way of how people acted in the mid-’90s, mind you, but because it’s perfectly representative of how society and the media treated men and women and the inherent double-standards involved in pretty much everything.
I tell you, it’s a completely different show now watching it in 2016, in my early 30s, than when I was a teenager1.
Why do I mention this?
Because Iris West’s “I don’t want to date him but I don’t want anyone else to either” bullshit is ripped right from the whole Ross and Rachel clusterfuck that to this day I cannot believe we, as a society, ever thought was romantic.
We just went over my “people get crushes when they aren’t supposed to” rant a few episodes ago, so I’m not going to rehash it here, but seriously, this is not only lazy, it’s irresponsible. Iris is better than this.
There’s really a lot to unpack here, but Bethany kind of covered it nicely herself, so let’s move on.
Joe and Cisco are getting together to do secret science things. I love how involved Joe gets with Barry’s life, in that he not only keeps up with the S.T.A.R. Labs crew, but also knows their strengths and specialties. Joe’s strength isn’t science, but he knows what everyone else is good at.
And as he says, what he’s good at is judging people’s characters. He not only knows that something’s going on with Harrison Wells, but that Cisco is the best equipped to help him with the case behind his back. And the thing about Cisco, that Joe hit upon perfectly, is that no matter how he feels about people, he’s always going to do the right thing.
Now if only the right thing wasn’t putting him at odds with Evil Science Dad, who has been a Science Dad to all three of the Science Siblings.
Things to note this episode:
- HI CHASE MASTERSON!
- I haven’t seen Chase Masterson since Deep Space Nine, speaking of ’90s television.
- People who are on the asexuality spectrum and don’t know it often feel uncomfortable talking about or performing sexual acts, but will push themselves anyway because they feel like this is something they have to do, that they’re supposed to want it. The way Barry talks to Linda shows that he’s romantically attracted to her, but uncomfortable and awkward with anything sexual.
- I don’t think I’m “projecting” so much as recognizing things that I went through myself.
- (I never doubled as a Hitachi Magic Wand, though.)
- Burning is often a metaphor for love, or at least for romance. Between the actual nuclear fire and the six-digit scoville peppers, this metaphor is front and center all episode.
- Caitlin Snow, HBIC.
- Again, more opportunities to touch upon the fact that Evil Science Dad honestly does care about the Science Siblings.
- HI THERE, GENERAL ASSHOLE.
- Major Disappointment.
- Corporal Punishment.
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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- I’m being generous here and not mentioning that I was nine years old when the pilot aired.