I was commissioned way too many months ago by a generous [and patient!] donor to review an episode of The Flash of my choosing. (Commissioned post #8, booya!) First I thought I’d do the pilot, because it was a pretty darn good one and record-setting to boot. Then I thought I’d do the Flash/Arrow crossover, because it was pretty epic.
And then last night’s episode came along, and, well, I had to write about it. Not because I loved it, but because it is such a hugely important episode (a real “gamechanger” as the showrunners have been telling us), and ultimately, to me, a hugely frustrating episode. And I feel like most reviews are going to be going gaga over how awesome they thought it was, so I just have to come along and poop on everybody’s opinions before it’s too late.
[SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS I CANNOT BE HELD LEGALLY OR MORALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGES INFLICTED ON YOUR SPOILER-PROTECTED SOUL IF YOU READ PAST THIS POINT]
So on the one hand, I am really really glad that they FINALLY told us who Harrison Wells is (or confirmed it, anyway, since my comic book geek friends have been telling me for weeks that in the comics, Reverse Flash’s last name is Thawne, and thus he’s probably a descendant of Eddie Thawne — aka Mr Romantic Obstacle who will be discussed later — and that’s why Reverse Flash didn’t kill Eddie when he had the chance). And the show told us his main motivation: to pull a Marty McFly and get back to the future. He’s been trapped in this time period for 15 years, and he believes the Flash’s speed holds the key to him getting back to his own time, and he’s so desperate to return that he’s been sociopathically murdering anyone who might hurt or kill Barry, because that would destroy his only chance to get home.
Great. Got that. It mostly makes sense. (Except the part where he was going back in time to kill Barry in the first place. That one’s still a mystery for a later date.)
What I did NOT get:
What are the parameters of Dr Wells’ powers? Wtf is that speed mirage thing? How fast can he go and what else can he do, and also WHAT THE HECK was Cisco looking at when he was reexamining the containment field? That was what almost killed the whole scene for me — he’s running some kind of test on the containment field and then the Reverse Flash appears within the forcefields, doing and saying exactly what he did and said that first time, and it’s supposed to be this BIG REVEAL MOMENT, but I…didn’t get it? What was it? A recording? A hologram preprogrammed by Wells to do all that stuff, including beating him up (there were actual bruises on Wells; they treated him for his injuries) and killing all those cops? But can a hologram beat up a person and kill things? And if it wasn’t a hologram then what? Huh? Was it another application of this whole speed mirage nonsense? That Wells-in-the-Yellow-Suit was a speed mirage left over to beat up Wells-not-in-the-Yellow-Suit? But a speed mirage lasts seconds.
I haven’t looked up anyone else’s reviews or explanations of what that was, because I want this review to be about my untainted reactions at the time that I watched it, and my untainted reaction at the time was: Error. Error. This does not compute in any way.
So for me that whole scene was a fail because when your Big Reveal moment winds up being just a Big Huh??? moment, it’s incredibly distracting and not only takes away from the reveal but takes away from what comes afterward because I was still all WHAT IN THE NAME OF ZEUS IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOING ON HERE when Wells himself came into the scene and [SPOILERED] Cisco and I suspect that part had much less of an impact on me than it was supposed to, because my head was still stuck several minutes back.
Speaking of which!
The other awesome/gamechanging development in this episode came in those final seconds when Barry somehow punches a hole through the fabric of the spacetime continuum and travels through time. Woohoo!! And surprise, he doesn’t go to the future or the very distant past — he goes back, conveniently, to nearly the beginning of the episode, so that the writers have in effect hit a handy dandy reset button on everything that happened after that. Cisco isn’t [SPOILERED], Wells hasn’t revealed himself, the police chief hasn’t been struck by lightning to save Joe, Joe hasn’t been kidnapped by the Weather Wizard, Barry hasn’t revealed his powers to Iris AT LONG LAST, Iris hasn’t confessed her undying love for Barry, Iris and Barry never did something so abominably thoughtless as smooch each other while in relationships with other people — but more on that development later.
As for time travel, it’s still super unclear what the rules are. Like, are there now two Barry Allens walking around in the past or did he somehow merge and become only one, because I didn’t see a second Flash on that streetcorner when he appeared in the past? And can he alter history now, or not? Because if he could, then what we saw happen would never have happened, because there would have been a second Flash running around stopping it in the first place, because time travel is circular and paradoxical and totally makes no sense.
But I figure they probably won’t address that and just have him try to change things and have OTHER things go wrong. Which I’m looking forward to, for sure.
But I think it’s a bad thing when an episode makes you feel glad that it pressed a reset button if the reason you’re glad is because you think most of the choices made by the characters were stupid choices and phew, now they get a do-over.
Like, oh my god, I am not okay with the direction the romance on this show has taken. I am really not a fan of when a show presents alternate love interests who (a) might as well have OBSTACLE emblazoned on their foreheads and then (b) proceeds to treat them poorly, depriving them of development and having the main characters who are dating them instead of each other treat these disposable obstacle characters like crap. (This is what happened to Dean after Jess got introduced on Gilmore Girls and so much NOPE there too.)
Barry, you are dating Linda. Focus on that. Stop dwelling on Iris. Stop asking Joe for advice about her; ask a neutral party. (Joe gives terrible advice here that deserves to be erased from the spacetime continuum; he advises Barry to “hold onto those moments” when he thinks Iris loves him back, rather than pay more attention to the girl he is actually dating. You cannot date someone seriously — and Linda has made it clear she would like to be dated seriously — if you are actively holding onto hope for someone else. Bad, Joe. You should know better.)
Iris, you are living with Eddie. You know Barry has feelings for you. Stop feeding that. Stop inserting yourself into his love life, by crashing his dates, being touchy-feely, giving him your unsolicited opinion that the girl he’s trying to date is wrong for him. That is an area of his life that you need to butt out of, period. Let him get over you and build new relationships. Not to mention the discomfort you’re causing Eddie. Which has reached a point where he speaks up about it and calls Iris on it. (Aside: I really liked how he did it, btw, the way he phrased it: “I didn’t like how I felt when…” I didn’t like how I felt. He doesn’t accuse and blame her, but he makes his feelings clear that he felt like a third wheel when he shouldn’t have to feel like that. He was much more diplomatic than my little sister’s assessment, who is only 14 but can still tell that Iris’s behavior is not okay: “Iris is really bugging me right now.”)
All of this detracts majorly from the moment at the waterfront where Iris confesses her feelings and they kiss — the whole time my brain was just screaming “WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS ROMANTIC??? You are dating other people! You are lying to them! This is not romantic! This is not okay!” But with the music swell and the camera’s loving, lingering shots, clearly the show is presenting this moment as romantic, and I am so not cool with that. (Also Joe was being held hostage and there’s an impending tsunami and why are you kissing. Also that.)
Also was not cool with Linda’s line to Iris that she thought Iris had told Linda about Barry’s feelings because that was “typical weird crap women do to each other” — that line just radiates Male Writer in a way that really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe a woman who sees herself as such an outsider compared to other women might say something like that, but we really don’t know enough about Linda for that to feel authentic to her character. It basically sounds like a man writing a woman, and doing it badly.
Female representation on this show is not its strong suit, which is a crying shame, because representation of other minorities is done so well. There are multiple non-white characters in the regular cast, and it was established in an earlier episode that the chief of police has a boyfriend, who is now a fiancée.
That’s the one moment that I am sad to see vanish into the ether of rewound spacetime: the way everyone reacts to the fiancée — that is, they don’t react at all. They treat him as anyone would treat any distraught significant other, with no mention whatsoever of the fact that this is not a heterosexual relationship and no “look at us, we have a gay couple on our show!” It’s presented as completely mundane and normal. The show made such a statement by deliberately not making any statement at all, and I loved, loved, loved that.
One final gripe: Dear lord, everyone is so stupid about the Weather Wizard. After Cisco makes that magic weather wand, and after it has been proven to work, WHY ON EARTH IS JOE GOING ANYWHERE WITHOUT IT? What is wrong with you?? And since he didn’t take it, why didn’t Barry take it when he went to the waterfront?! WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID. (I know, I know, gotta pass the Idiot Ball around because Plot.)
One final non-gripe: The Weather Wizard is pretty. So glad he’s the one who gets to have a recurring role, and not the creepy-looking dude who played his brother.
So…yeah. These are my thinky thoughts. Basically, most of what happened in this episode bothered me, especially the romantic subplots and the stupid way everyone dealt with the Weather Wizard, and I was glad it was stricken from the record of history. If it was the intention of the writers to make me feel that way, well, good job, writers. But that doesn’t make me any more thrilled with the contents of this episode.