Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Flash Season 1, Episode 11: The Sound And The Fury

Another solid episode of The Flash this week, as this show moves to the top of my favorites list, surpassing even Doctor Who.

Although I'm really enjoying the show, there are a couple of things about it that prevent me from liking it 100%. The biggest problem— Dr. Well's Private Super Jail, where he's holding most of the series' villains captive. Comic book world or not, you just can't up and jail people without a trial! The writers really need to do something about this issue, and soon.

I'm also kind of worried that they're burning through their super villains awfully fast. The Flash has always had an extensive rogues gallery, but they're eventually going to run out of bad guys, and soon!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
As the episode opens, the Flash uses his super speed to stop the motorcycle-riding Royal Flush Gang, which has absolutely nothing to do with this week's plot. Barry goes home and finds Iris there, moving out yet more of her stuff. She gets a phone call telling her she's been hired as a writer by the Central City Picture News. Dr. Wells goes home to his spacious, modern, all-glass home and is attacked by an unseen foe who says, "We both know what you did. It's time to pay the Piper!" Wells uses his super speed to avoid the falling glass.

The police investigate, and Eddie and Joe becomes suspicious of Wells when they realize the supposedly wheelchair-bound scientist wasn't hurt by the falling glass. Barry studies the glass and realizes it was shattered not by an impact but by sound waves. He confronts Dr. Wells, who tells him he knows who did it— Hartley Rathaway.

Rathaway was Wells' brilliant but very abrasive protege a couple of years ago. They had a falling out when Rathaway threatened to expose the fact that Wells' particle accelerator could potentially explode if activated, which seems like a justified concern to me. Wells fired him and threatened him if he went to the press.

Rathaway then attacks his estranged father's office building with his sonic powers, in order to deliberately get captured and placed in Dr. Wells' Private Super Jail, which he can't possibly know about. His plan works, and he's indeed incarcerated. He then tells Cisco that Wells has a dark secret. Later he escapes and steals STAR Labs computer files pertaining to the Flash.

Cisco, Caitlin and Barry confront Dr. Wells about this dark secret, which turns out to be that he activated the particle accelerator, knowing it was unstable and was likely to explode. The Gang is disappointed and hurt by this, especially Caitlin, who lost her fiancé Ronnie Raymond in the explosion.

Rathaway studies the stolen computer files and determines Barry's "internal frequency." He then begins causing havoc on the Central City-Cleveland Dam, which draws out the Flash. Rathaway uses his sonic powers to "tear Barry apart from the inside." Fortunately Dr. Wells comes up with an inspired plan to save Barry, involving satellite radio.

Rathaway is thrown into Super Jail again, but tells Cisco he'll let him out because he knows what happened to Ronnie Raymond. Then we see Dr. Wells in his Secret Super Villain Lair, recharging himself with tachyons and wondering why his super speed is glitching. He says, "The real endgame is almost here." I don't know what that means, but it sounds like a season finale setup to me.

Thoughts:
• The crooks on the motorcycles at the beginning of the episode were a barely recognizable Royal Flush Gang, as evidenced by the graphics on the sides of their helmets.

As much as I like this show, it continues to vex me with its lack of proper superhero costumes. The Flash wears one and the world didn't implode into a black hole, so why not give the villains costumes as well?

• Cisco wants the STAR Labs Gang to take a group photo. Barry balks at this, saying taking a picture while he's in his costume defeats the purpose of having a secret identity. Dr. Wells says, "Maybe people in the future will want to know how all this happens." I just bet they will, Dr. Wells.

• Dr. Wells lives in a stylish, ultra modern mansion that appears to be built mostly out of glass. He comes home from work, rises from his wheelchair and struts around his spacious house. 

Should he really be walking around like that, in front of all those floor to ceiling windows? Anyone who glances his way as they pass by will see him up and sashaying around. Or is his mansion in a secluded area, behind a high fence? Methinks some curtains wouldn't hurt.

By the way, when Rathaway attacks, we see Dr. Wells use his super speed, confirming once and for all that he's the Reverse Flash. We already knew that of course, but it was still significant as this was the first time we've seen him "speeding" without his costume.

• The Pied Piper turns out to be Dr. Wells' protege Hartley Rathaway. We've heard that name before, just last week in fact, when the fabulously wealthy elder Rathaway bought the Fire And Ice painting that Heat Wave destroyed. I should have made the connection as soon as I heard that name last week, but alas, it's been a long time since I've read any Flash comics.

The TV version of Pied Piper differs quite a bit from the comic version, as you might expect. In the comics, Hartley Rathaway was born deaf, but his hearing was restored by research funded by his father. He became obsessed with sound and invented a way to hypnotize people with music. He eventually turned to crime, calling himself the Pied Piper.

Later he reformed and became an ally of the Flash, working with the poor and underprivileged. I don't see that happening with the abrasive TV version.

His powers were tweaked a bit for TV as well. The TV version doesn't use sound waves to control minds; instead using them exclusively as force beams. He also wasn't born deaf, but wears some sort of hearing device to counter what appears to be tinnitus, which he developed after the particle accelerator explosion.

The Pied Piper was also one of DC Comics' first openly gay characters, which is referenced in this episode. Note that when the Flash captures him, he says, "Being scooped up by a guy covered in leather from head to toe has been a longtime fantasy of mine, so thanks!" Rawrr! Listen to her!

• The biggest surprise of the night (to me, anyway)– apparently you can now call someone a "dick" on network TV. When discussing Rathaway's abrasive demeanor, Cisco says, "He was mostly a jerk, but every once in a while... he could be a dick."

We're very near the end of civilization.

• Iris is ecstatic when she gets a job as a honest to gosh real-life writer at the Central City Picture News. I was thinking there's no way in hell her horrible blog could have landed her a writing gig, and I was right– she only got the job because the editor of the newspaper thinks she has an "in" with the Flash.

However she got the job, hooray for Iris! She's now the proud owner of a horrible, high stress job in a dying industry. Well done!

• Iris' editor pairs her with an experienced reporter named Mason Bridge. I'm guessing he'll eventually turn out to be more than just a reporter, as they placed way more emphasis on him than they would have a throwaway character.

There's no Mason Bridge in the Flash comics though, although there was supposedly a minor character named Mason Trollbridge. Hmm...

• Luckily when Pied Piper says he's going to reveal Dr. Wells' dark secret, it's not the one we think. I assumed he was going to spill the beans about the whole Reverse Flash thing, but instead he told everyone that Dr. Wells knew the particle accelerator might explode, and activated it anyway. Oh, that dark secret! Is that all?

• The TV Pied Piper uses sound waves and vibrations as weapons. In the comics, Cisco Ramon was the superhero known as Vibe, who had sonic powers and could generate shock waves. Pretty similar powers there. I wonder if TV Cisco will eventually adapt the Piper's gloves and become a super hero like his comic book namesake?

• The Pied Piper lures the Flash to the Keystone Cleveland Dam. So... Central City is in Ohio? I don't see how that name could mean anything else.

• Rathaway uses the stolen STAR Labs files to find out Barry's "internal frequency," and uses that knowledge to vibrate him to death.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess this is most likely comic book science. I'm pretty sure human bodies don't each have an individual sound frequency. 

• At the end of the episode, Cisco locks up Rathaway in Dr. Wells' Private Super Jail (for the second time), without even a hint of a trial. I know this is a comic book world, but Jesus Christ! Private citizens can't just jail someone indefinitely without a trial! Who does Wells think he is, the United States Government?

Besides being highly illegal and unconstitutional, there don't appear to be any facilities in these tiny spherical cells. How are the prisoners fed? How do they go to the bathroom? Do they just have to go on the floor, and Cisco hoses them down every night?

One last thing about Private Super Jail— supposedly it exists to house super powered criminals, who could easily break out of the everyday county jail. But Rathaway isn't a metahuman crook— his powers came solely from his gauntlets. Without them, he's just an ordinary schmoe. Even more reason why he shouldn't be in Super Jail!

• In the tag scene, we get to see Creepy Dr. Wells in his secret super villain room. We find out that his super speed is apparently unstable, and cuts out at inconvenient times. Is that why he's so interested in Barry, so he can use him to somehow stabilize his powers?

We also see his Reverse Flash suit is hanging in its alcove. Why does the suit appear to have veins built into it?

• Joe assigns Eddie to start investigating Dr. Wells. As I've said before, there are several different versions of the Reverse Flash in the comics, and Eddie Thawn is one of them. Is this how TV Eddie may end up becoming the Reverse Flash as well?

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