This week’s Flashcap is about family – what makes it, what breaks it, and why you probably shouldn’t go to a drag race undercover to yell at your long-lost younger brother on this week’s recap of CW’s The Flash.
Come ‘ere, young’uns, let ol’ Grampy George tell you ’bout the first internet debate he was a part of, just before the turn of the century.
Spoilers under the cut.
It was on a Star Wars board, back when those were weren’t a place to bitch about the prequels, and the topic was “Was Luke right to leave Dagobah when he sensed Vader torturing his friends?” Yoda and Obi-Wan warned him not to, because they believed that Vader and the Emperor could turn Luke to the Dark Side. But Luke went ahead anyway, because he felt he had no choice. Han, Leia, Chewie, and even Threepio had become his family (okay, Leia was already his family, but he didn’t know that yet) and being an orphan who had already lost both his birth and adoptive parents, losing another family because he did nothing wasn’t an option.
Family makes you vulnerable, but it can also be be your greatest asset. We see that in this week’s episode, when Barry uses things he learned from both Eobard and Harry to create breach imploders. We see Harry and Wally isolated because they’re unwilling to accept the familial invitations of Team Flash/the West clan. We unintentionally see it when someone as unloved and unwelcomed as the Turtle is forgotten about, despite Harry having murdered the guy. Seriously, guys, you’re really not gonna say anything about that? It’s a continuing theme on The Flash that unless bad guys are a threat in the moment, they aren’t given another thought.
Anyway, that isolationism is what gives Harry that binary thinking Barry mentions. That, combined with his devotion to his daughter, makes Harry vulnerable to Zoom’s machinations. But it’s his growing respect for Barry, the way Barry continues to try and make Harry feel like part of the family, that overcomes his fears and finally drives him to tell the truth.
And then Joe punches him.
And then Joe punches Tar Pit. I think if Joe could punch Zoom, the season would be over. Now then…what was I talking about? Oh, family, right. Anyway, I like that Iris is finally being treated as more than just a prize for Barry to win, but she was bone stupid in her pursuit of the organizer of the drag races. I also completely understand why she did it. One of the things I like about the way characters on The Flash are written is that they do get overconfident and impulsive at times, and they try to take care of things directly instead of navigating around the problem. Iris was stupid in trying to convince Bronwen to leave town, especially since she should’ve had Barry or Cisco or Jay come back her up, but she at least thought a little ahead of this problem with the recording to voice mail.
It’s a bit of a frustrating episode, but family is frustrating. Next week, Earth-2: Electric Boogaloo (I bet I’m the first person to make that joke).
West family bonding. I am all about that. I am also loving Wally and his lifelong need for speed; it’s good groundwork for him eventually becoming Kid Flash – because he is Wally West and you don’t not make that boy a speedster.
It’s a difficult time for the West family because trying to bring Wally into the fold is tricky when the guy’s practically an adult and, unlike Joe’s experience with taking in a preteen Barry, Wally can get up and walk out of Joe’s life. That terrifies Joe because he already feels he screwed up by not knowing about Wally’s existence, and not being able to be there for him for his entire life. Iris continues to be the best thing ever, saying what everyone else is dancing around and refusing to put up with bullshit she doesn’t have to. Walking straight into the mix of things to handle it herself in a combination of pure bravery, compassion and a sense of journalistic inquisitiveness. As a comics Flash fan, this is the Iris West I know – who, without powers, has long been the real head of the Flash Family. The women attached to the Flash legacy are leaders and doers, and Iris is their matriarch. It’s great to see her TV counterpart stepping into that role.
Jeebus H. Wells on a Cosmic Treadmill. Every version of this guy mucks shit up for everybody. On the one hand, I get that he’s willing to do all kinds of wrong in order to save his daughter, but does he honestly think Zoom won’t betray him after he betrays Team Flash?
Barry trying to bond with Harry and unwittingly making Harry feel (deservedly) guilty is a nice counterpoint to the current West family events. While Iris and Joe are trying to bring a younger family member they never knew about into the fold and give him another parent figure, Barry is the unwanted family bonding – trying to bring Harry into the fold of a younger group when Harry doesn’t want to expand the number of “children” in his life. It’s hard to deny the warmth and comfort the Flash Family exudes. The best I can say for Harry is at least he is straightforward with Barry about where his loyalty lies. It’s frustrating to see Barry so trusting when we know what Harry is up to, but being a beacon of hope is synonymous with being the Flash, and that extends to hoping for others to be the best people they can be.
The show is doing a lot this season with having Barry’s and Iris’ narrative paths reflect one another. It really came together this episode with a single event, where her pursuit of truth and working to bond with and protect her bother brought Wally closer and drove Joe to put his foot down, while Barry’s trust in Harry’s better self ended up reducing his speed enough to be unable to protect Iris. The fact that Barry didn’t even suspect Harry is why Harry felt the need to admit his betrayal. Similarly, Iris’s continuous love for her brother after her injury kept Wally from walking away and got him to open up to her.
The episode ended, appropriately, with Barry recommitting himself and Team Flash to hope and family. Hope in people to be their better selves, hope that together they can change things for the better, and hope that they are all better than letting a world of strangers suffer just because they don’t have to see the results of their inaction. As much as I don’t trust any Wells, that optimism is the Flash I’m here for.
Fun Flash power quirks this episode: Barry speed-reading to become an expert on technical things outside his current knowledge. A neat detail from the comics is that while most Flashes have demonstrated this skill at some point, only Bart Allen (Barry’s grandson) has exhibited the ability to permanently retain his speed-acquired knowledge. This has something to do with how their brains process things. Barry, Jay, and Wally had to learn how to operate at high speed. It’s an effort for them. Bart was born with speed and had to learn how to function at normal rates. His brain processes information at super-speed by default. It’s also why his impatience earned him the code name “Impulse”. If Bart shows up later, I really hope they touch on this difference in learned versus born speedsters.
George Hatch is a bit like Tar Pit, if you swap the tar for snot. And if he sneezed a lot. Friggin’ allergies. He can be found on Twitter at @Raeseti.
Becky Shire is everyone’s favorite Flash Guru, cosplayer and all-around badass. You can find her on Twitter at @ElfGrove.
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