Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Flash Season 1, Episode 23: Fast Enough

It's the season finale of The Flash!

The Flash has quickly (heh) become my new favorite show this year. It's not perfect, but it gets a lot more right than wrong, and most of all it's just plain fun. The producers seem to know they're making a comic book series, and are reveling in its insanity. For proof of that, look no further than the Gorilla Grodd episode. Let's hope they keep up the good work.

The TV producers are also building an impressive shared universe on The CW, something that the movie people can't seem to do to save their lives. Too bad the TV crew can't also be in charge of the films.

I have to say I wasn't particularly thrilled by this finale. It felt for all the world like they had about ten minutes worth of story and padded it with forty minutes of Barry navel gazing. He spends the majority of the episode wringing his hands and asking all the other characters whether he should go back in time and save his mother. The worst part is, no matter what anyone tells him, we KNOW he's going to end up doing it, because this is a TV show about a superhero. So why make us sit through scene after scene of him debating the issue?

The entire episode seemed like a big tease. Heck, Ronnie and Professor Stein even showed up but didn't even get to turn into Firestorm. Wotta gyp!

All season long the show's been beating us about the head with the fact that Barry is a fundamentally good person; a hero in costume as well as out. For example, last week he was determined the save the lives of the metahumans imprisoned in Wells' Secret Super Jail even when no one else cared about them. Then suddenly in this episode he decides to prevent his mother's death, an action that could have dire consequences not just for himself, but for the entire world. Doesn't seem very heroic, does it?

I'm also not a fan of the limp non-ending we got. It wasn't even a proper cliffhanger— Barry runs into the air to stop the singularity and the credits roll. They could at least have shown him being sucked into the vortex or something before they faded to black. 

Kudos to the effects team though, especially in the "singularity destroying Central City" scenes. Those couldn't be cheap, especially on a TV budget, but they looked top notch, comparable to The Avengers films. In fact this series regularly features some surprisingly good effects.

Lastly, since the very first episode, fans have wondered if and when Caitlin would become Killer Frost (her supervillain identity in the comics), and if she did, how'd they'd avoid destroying her character forever. This episode offers us a clue. We get a glimpse of an alternate timeline in which we see Caitlin in all her Killer Frost glory. Next season Barry could simply encounter her in an alternate timeline, leaving the Caitlin we all know and love intact. Genius!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Barry visits Dr. Wells in STAR Labs' Secret Super Jail. Wells does the supervillain monologue thing, explaining why he killed Barry's mom. At some point in the future, Barry and Wells were (Are? Will be?) locked in a never ending struggle. Wells discovers Barry's secret identity (HA!) and goes back in time to kill him before he can become the Flash. Unfortunately for Wells, he finds the adult Flash there waiting for him. So he does the next best thing— he kills Barry's mom, expecting the tragedy to traumatize him so badly that he'll never recover. Unfortunately for Wells, he expended all his Speed Force energy and was trapped in the past, so he had to create the Flash to help him get back to the future. Convoluted!

Wells says he needs Barry's help to create a stable wormhole in the particle accelerator. If he does so, Wells can go back to the future, and Barry can go back to the night his mother was murdered and prevent it from happening. This of course means if Barry changes the past, his present will be vastly different. Joe won't become his foster father, and he'll probably never meet Iris. He also most likely won't become the Flash. But on the plus side, his family will be intact!

Barry then spends a good part of the episode brooding and asking all the other cast members what they think he should do. Joe thinks he should go for it, even though it means he won't get to raise Barry. Henry Allen says he definitely should not do it, because he's proud of the man Barry's become. Iris pretty much says "Whatever."

Meanwhile, Eddie mopes to Professor Stein, saying he has no future. Stein tries to perk him up by saying Eddie's the only person present whose future isn't set in stone. Eddie then meets with Iris and says he doesn't care about the future Wells showed him, and wants to get back together with her. Ronnie and Caitlin decide to get married for some reason, and Stein performs the service.

There are other complications. Professor Stein says that if Barry goes through with the experiment, he'll have to control his speed precisely. If he miscalculates his speed even slightly he could be disintegrated. The wormhole could also collapse and form a singularity that will destroy the whole world.

Barry says "Screw it!" and decides to change the past anyway. Wells instructs him to begin running at top speed through the particle accelerator ring. As he does so, time begins opening up before him and he sees glimpses of the past and several possible futures. Cisco releases a hydrogen particle into the accelerator, and Barry collides with it, causing a stable wormhole to open. Barry appears at his house the night his mother died, and has one minute and fifty two seconds to save her. Why the oddly specific time limit? Because tension, that's why!

He sees his future self battling the Reverse Flash as they circle his mother. He's about to zoom his mother to safety, when the Future Flash notices him and motions to him to not try and save her. Future Flash saves young Barry, and the Reverse Flash stabs Nora Allen, just like before. Barry then enters the room and gets to spend a few precious seconds with his dying mother, telling her that he's fine. She dies in his arms.

Back in the present, Wells enters the Time Sphere and is about to fly it through the wormhole. Suddenly Barry emerges from it and destroys the Sphere, preventing Wells from leaving. Barry and the Reverse Flash battle again inside the accelerator. The Reverse Flash gets the upper hand, and just as he's about to kill Barry, Eddie shoots himself in the chest. This causes the Reverse Flash, asa Eobard Thawne, to be erased from existence, since Eddie is his ancestor. Somehow this radical act doesn't seem to change anything else, as Barry remains the Flash.

Just then the wormhole flares up again and becomes a full-blown singularity. It rises above Central City, sucking up cars and buildings. Barry runs toward it, somehow expecting his super speed to be able to shut it down. Annnnd roll credits.

Thoughts:
• According to the Reverse Flash, he'll be born 136 years from now, which works out to 2151. I was expecting him to be from a lot farther in the future. In the comics he comes from the 25th Century.

• When the Reverse Flash is monologing, he says he finally discovered the secret to killing the Flash— his secret identity. HAW HAW! It is to laugh! At this point there are very, very few people on the show who don't know this so-called "secret."

• When Professor Stein infodumps how the particle accelerator works, he says something like, "And if you successfully travel through time, I might shout 'Euerka.' Or perhaps 'Excelsior!" Apparently Stein is a big fan of Stan Lee.

• Professor Stein tells Barry that once inside the particle accelerator, he'll need to run at Mach 2 in order to go back into time. Mach 2 is around 1,520 miles per hour (it varies with air pressure and altitude). That doesn't seem like it's fast enough for time travel. NASA has an experimental plane that can fly at Mach 10, and I'm pretty sure it's never created a wormhole and traveled through time. Seems like "speed of light" would have been more apt here.

• Cisco tells Dr. Wells he remembers being killed by him in the alternate timeline. Wells says, "Well I'm sure I had a good reason." HAW!

Wells also apologizes to Cisco, saying he didn't realize he'd be able to remember past timelines. He tells Cisco he must also have been affected by the particle accelerator explosion, saying, "You're able to see through vibrations in the universe. A great and honorable destiny awaits you now."

Of course as we all know by now, in the comics Cisco Ramon is the superhero known as Vibe. Looks like this Cisco's going to do the same for sure. Let's hope that when he eventually does so, he has a costume different from the one he wore in the comics.

• Caitlin and Ronnie Raymond suddenly decide they've got to get married in this episode, for no apparent reason other than to fill up another few minutes before the action finally starts. Maybe they wanted to hurry and marry before Barry destroyed the timeline.

• Caitlin gets to play the Cabbage Head™ (someone who serves as a cheap expository device by asking stupid questions) this week. Professor Stein says that Barry's time travel experiment could possibly generate a singularity and destroy Central City. Caitlin says, "What's a singularity?"

Jesus Christ, Caitlin, you work in a goddamned particle accelerator! How can you not know what a singularity is? No wonder the thing exploded and your boyfriend turned into Firestorm. Heck, I'm not a scientist and even I know what the hell it means.

Wouldn't it have made a lot more sense if Joe or Eddie or someone without a background in theoretical science had asked that question? Maybe Caitlin was all giddy from her whirlwind marriage.

• Cisco's skills continue to impress. This week he whips up a slick and very impressive Time Sphere for Dr. Wells in a very short amount of time. You know, given Cisco's ability to invent high-tech devices in what seems like minutes, you'd think he'd be Bill Gates or Tony Stark rich by now.

Wells takes a look at it and tells him that Rip Hunter would be impressed. Wells identifies Rip Hunter as the creator of the first successful time machine. Hunter will also be appearing on The CW's upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series.

• As Barry begins begins running through the accelerator, he breaks through the time barrier. He sees glimpses of the past, as well as possible future timelines. In order he sees:

His younger self being adopted by Joe.

A glimpse of a possible future or an alternate timeline, in which Caitlin is the supervillain Killer Frost.

The Flash Museum, which will presumably be built in Central City at some point in the future.

A "Darkest Timeline" in which Barry's the one in Iron Heights prison. Yikes! How'd that one happen? Did the police think he killed his mom when he was a child?

A couple of images from the upcoming Justice League, er, I mean Legends Of Tomorrow series, which will be showing up on The CW next year. We see a giant robot foot crashing through a roof, as well as a brief glimpse of the team.

• As Wells is preparing to go back to the future, a metal Mercury helmet flies out of the wormhole and lands on the floor. This was obviously a nod to Jay Garrick, the original Flash from the comics. Garrick wore such a helmet as the Golden Age Flash, and regularly fought Nazis in WWII.

It's a pretty good bet that we're going to see Garrick at some point next season, as well as Earth 2, where he lives. Or did live. I have no idea what's going on in the comics these days.

• As Cisco rightly points out, when Barry goes back to the night of the murder there'll be three of him there—  his younger self, the older Flash who fought the Reverse Flash, and his current self.

Let's hope Barry doesn't try to stop the murder again after this, or his house is going to be filled up with copies of himself.

• Barry goes back in time to prevent his mother's death, but ultimately decides not to change history. Maybe now we can drop the whole "saving his mom" plot thread that's been running through the entire season, which frankly was getting a little old.

Of course by not altering history, he's pretty much sealed his dad's fate. Looks like Henry won't be getting out of prison any time soon now!

By the way, when Barry sees his future self, he's wearing a different version of his costume, one with white in the chest logo (which is much closer to the comic version).

• Welp, I totally called it. For a few weeks now I've been worried about what Eddie. He's been acting twitchy ever since Eobard Thawne told him he's his direct descendent and showed him proof that he doesn't end up with Iris. I was afraid he was going to try and kill himself to prevent Thawne from ever being born, and I was right.

Say, Eddie, here's an idea. What if instead of killing yourself, you just went to the doctor and got yourself a vasectomy. That would have eliminated Eobard just as surely, plus you'd still be alive. I guess that wouldn't have been as dramatic though.

I admit it looks bad, but I wouldn't count Eddie out just yet. If you'll notice his lifeless body was sucked into the singularity (or black hole, Caitlin). I would not be surprised if he comes back at some point.

• Time travel is a tricky thing to write. Eddie kills himself, which rightly so causes Eobard Thawne to disintegrate. But if Thawne no longer exists, then there was no one to go back in time and cause Barry to become the Flash. So why does Barry still have super speed? Why isn't he a normal CSI? Why isn't his mother still alive? Why do Joe, Iris, Caitlin and Cisco still know who he is? Why does the particle accelerator still exist? See? Complicated!

In a similar vein, after Eddie dies, the Reverse Flash no longer looks like Dr. Wells and reverts to his true form of Eobard Thawne. Does that mean that the real Harrison Wells is still alive? If there's no Eobard Thawne, then he can't have ever killed Dr. Wells, can he?

• Despite the fact that the wormhole collapsed, it opens up again for some reason a few minutes later. Before long it turns into a full blown singularity, as predicted. It rises above Central City, sucking up cars and buildings. 

Barry announces he can close it by running really fast around it in the opposite direction, just like he did the Weather Wizard's tornado back in the very first episode. Because of course a hole in the fabric of space/time is exactly like a tornado, dontcha know, and there's no problem that can't be solved by running.

• As the singularity hovers above the city, we get a few shots of various citizens looking worriedly up at the sky. First we see Captain Cold, and then an unidentified woman staring upwards.

That woman is Kendra Saunders, aka Hawkgirl from the upcoming Legends Of Tomorrow series.

We also got glimpses of Captain Singh and Henry Allen gaping at the sky in awe.

• Barry must have watched The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and saw Legolas running up a wall of falling bricks. He performs the exact same stunt at the end, running from one piece of flying debris to another to get close to the singularity.

• I noticed something about Barry's Flash mask in this episode. Every time he'd start to put it on, he'd grab it with both hands and sort of act like he was pulling it over his head, and then the camera would cut away. When it cut back to him the mask would be on.

I'm betting that in reality his molded mask is really, really tight and probably takes a team of suit wranglers five minutes to put it on his head.

• I still think that someone who calls themselves the "Reverse Flash" ought to move really, really slow. It's only logical. The Flash has super speed, so shouldn't someone who claims to be his "complete opposite" have super, er, slowness? Blame that one on the comic, I guess.

• Bring on Season 2 now!

3 comments:

  1. "Excelsior" is also associated with Jean Shepherd (author of the stories that became the film "A Christmas Story" (his book of short stories is named "It's Excelsior, Fathead!"), as well as Al Gore (thanks to South Park, apparently).

    ReplyDelete
  2. That may be, but since this is a comic book show, I'm sure it was a nod to the Marvel Universe.

    ReplyDelete

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