Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Flash Season 2, Episode 16: Trajectory

This week's The Flash was a typical villain-of-the-week episode that seemed like it was full of revelations, but didn't actually do much to further the overall plot.

This episode also gives us the series' first female speedster in Trajectory. I'm kind of worried they may be overloading the show with speedy characters. In addition to Barry we've already got Zoom and the Earth-2 Flash running around, and now there's a third. Plus given their names, it's pretty much a given that Wally West is going to become Kid Flash at some point, and don't be surprised if Harry's daughter becomes Jesse Quick.

So how many speedsters are too many?

This episode also featured a rather heavy-handed metaphor for the evils of steroid abuse. Barry even spouts a few of the pat excuses many athletes use to justify their steroid use, saying "Everyone else is cheating, so why not me?" and that he's simply trying to "level the playing field."

The show raises some good questions about the subject, but or course doesn't bother to answer them. Unless you count what happens to Trajectory. Don't take steroids, kids, or you'll develop a split personality and run so fast you literally disappear! Stay in school!


SPOILERS!

The Plot:
In order to defeat Zoom, Barry starts training to become faster. He and the Star Labs Gang decide the best way to do this is for him to try and jump over a deep ravine. He jumps, but falls short and plunges into the ravine. Luckily he's caught by Cisco's net-equipped drones.

Back at STAR Labs, Harry's daughter Jesse is struggling to adjust to life on Earth-1. Cisco suggests she join Team Flash for a night on the town. Harry's not happy with her going out, and gives her a high-tech wristband for "protection."

Team Flash, and Jesse, whoop it up at a club that seems to have no trouble admitting underage patrons. The Team drinks to Jay Garrick, who was seemingly killed by Zoom a few episodes ago. Wally and Iris show up at the club as well. Wally and Jesse hit it off. Iris and Barry talk about the fact that their Earth-2 counterparts are married. Jesse's wristband keeps dweedling, and when she fiddles with it, she inexplicably hears an audio entry from Harry, admitting he killed the Turtle in order to boost Zoom's speed

Suddenly the club is invaded by a speedster who robs everyone on the dance floor. Barry runs after him, but the new supervillain is much faster and gets away.

The next day, Iris' editor Scott Evans believes the Flash is responsible for the superspeed robberies, and orders Iris to write an article slamming him. Of course she knows the Flash wasn't responsible, but can't reveal how, so she's stuck writing the thing. Jesse tells Harry she knows he killed the Turtle and was working with Zoom. He tries to tell her it's not what she thinks, and he did it to save her life. Naturally she doesn't believe him and storms off.

Team Flash debates on who this evil speedster may be, and how they got so fast. Caitlin mentions Velocity-9, and Barry's furious that he's just now finding out about it. Cisco vibes and sees a vision of Zoom. Before he can mention it, the metahuman alarm sounds, as the evil speedster attacks again. Barry zooms off to confront them, and sees she's a masked young woman. She zips away again.

Back at STAR Labs, the Gang questions Barry about the speedster. He says her costume wasn't thrown together and looked very high tech. Caitlin admits she outsourced parts of Velocity-9 to her old friend Eliza Harmon at Mercury Labs, and wonders if she knows anything about it. She visits Eliza and asks if there've been any recent robberies or security breaches there. Eliza assures her the evil speedster didn't get anything from her.

Iris really doesn't want to write the Flash slam piece, and invites Scott for coffee to discuss the matter. As she tries to convince him the Flash isn't a supervillain, he begins putting the moves on her, clearly thinking they're on a date. When she deflects his awkward advances, he pouts and leaves. For some bizarre reason, Iris looks intrigued.

At Mercury Labs, we see Eliza holding a vial of Velocity-9, as we realize she's the evil speedster after all. She does her best Gollum impression as she argues with herself over whether to inject it or not. Her evil side wins, she takes the drug and speeds away. Meanwhile at STAR Labs, Barry sees Caitlin's stash of Velocity-9 and thinks about taking it himself, saying he's the only speedster who's playing fair and not "cheating." Harry tells him he's an idiot if he takes it, especially after what it did to Jay. Barry wisely smashes the vial.

Just then Eliza shows up in STAR Labs and throws the Flash into the Secret Super Jail. She calls herself Trajectory (oy) and demands more Velocity-9. When Caitlin says there isn't any more, Trajectory threatens to kill Jesse. Harry pleads with her to not harm Jesse, and whips up some more. Trajectory suspects a trap, so she injects Jesse with the drug to test it. Jesse doesn't drop dead, so Trajectory shoots up and speeds away.

Cisco releases Barry from the jail cell. Just then Jessie has a seizure from the V-9. Harry gives her a transfusion of his own blood to clean it out of her system. Despite this, she's still pissed at him (he did kill a guy, after all). Caitlin says she added a tracer to the V-9, so they can detect Trajectory. They see she's running back & forth on a bridge, trying to somehow destroy it with superspeed.

Barry zooms to the bridge as it crumbles. He manages to whisk everyone on the bridge to safety, seconds before it collapses. He's now separated from Trajectory, who's on the other side of the river. Barry realizes he's going to have to run faster than he ever has to make the jump to get to her. I guess it never occurs to anyone for him to simply take another route around the bridge, or run across the water as we've seen him do several times before. He begins running at Mach 3.3 and jumps across the river and punches Trajectory. She starts to take another hit of V-9, but Barry gives her an impassioned speech, saying the STAR Labs Gang can help her get off the juice. For a second she looks like she may take him up on his offer, and then shoots up anyway.

As she zooms off, Barry notes that her speed lightning is turning blue. She runs faster and faster, until she disintegrates, leaving only her costume behind.

Back at STAR Labs, Harry finds a recording from Jesse, who says she's leaving to explore their new world, and not to try and find her. Barry tells the Gang that Trajectory's lightning was blue, just like Zoom's. Harry says maybe Zoom is dying, just like Jay claimed to be, and needed the V-9 as a cure. That gets them all to wondering if Jay could be Zoom. Cisco touches Jay's helmet, and has a vision of Zoom unmasking. He sees Jay's face. The Gang's now caught up with the audience, who's known this for weeks now.

Thoughts:
• As the episode opens, Barry's training to increase his speed by running and leaping across a deep canyon. I'm at a loss to understand why he thinks leaping a thousand feet will improve his running speed.

• Jesse, who's from Earth-2, sits in STAR Labs catching up on Earth-1 pop culture. When she hears that Beyonce is a famous singer, she says, "Wait, that doesn't make any sense. They mean Senator Knowles?"

Oy gevalt. I can't imagine any universe in which something like that could happen.

• At the dance club, Jesse starts to take a drink. Barry says she's underage and takes it from her. So if she's underage, what's she doing in there in the first place? Fake Earth-2 I.D.?

• When Wally arrives at the club, Barry introduces him to Jesse. Barry awkwardly struggles to explain their familial relationship, saying, "This is Wally. He's my foster or step... adopted..." before finally giving up and saying he's his new friend.








I'll make it easy for you, Barry. You're not related to Wally in any measurable way. He's your foster dad's son. The end.

• Of course Caitlin would take her purse with her out onto the dance floor. Do women really do that? If she didn't do this though, she wouldn't have immediately known her purse was stolen after Trajectory zoomed through the club.

• I honestly forgot about this until Jesse brought it up this week— a few months ago in Potential Energy, Harry killed the Turtle to see what made his time-stopping power tick, as a potential way to slow down Zoom. 

So I guess we're all OK with the fact that Harry's a cold-blooded murderer? Yes, yes, his back was against the wall and he was doing it to save Jesse, but still… he killed a guy!

The rest of the STAR Labs Gang doesn't know about it yet, but Jesse does. I don't know how things work on Earth-2, but here that makes her an accessory to murder!

• When Cisco's alarm goes off, he tells Barry that the "Bad Flash" is coming up on Fifth and Everett.

I can't tell if this was one of the show's ubiquitous comic references or not. There was a comic artist named Bill Everett, but he mostly worked for Marvel. DC has a character called Amazing Man, whose real name is Will Everett, so maybe it's a reference to him.

Or maybe it's just a random name for a street!

• A few episodes back I marveled at how Caitlin was able to manufacture several versions of the Velocity drug in what seemed like just a few hours. A drug that alters a persons very DNA to grant them superspeed.

Welp, now we know how she was able to invent the drugs so quickly— she outsourced them to her pal Eliza at Mercury Labs! 

This reminds me of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which we found out that Scotty gained his reputation as an engineering miracle worker by constantly exaggerating his repair time estimates!

• Eliza must have been a freakin' genius. Caitlin cautiously gave her a small part of the Velocity-9 recipe, and she not only correctly deduced what the drug was for, but was able to figure out the missing ingredients and reverse engineer it!

• So Caitlin's pal Eliza Harmon is secretly the super-speedster Trajectory, which may be one of the dumbest super-names I've ever heard. I guess after eighty years of comics, all the good names have already been taken.

Trajectory's a character from the comics, but there she had a completely different origin. Eliza Harmon was given speed powers by Lex Luthor, as part of his "Everyman Project" that was designed to replace Superman. She died shortly after receiving her powers.

• Eliza suffers from Comic Book Schizophrenia,™ as she has two distinct personalities— one good, the other bad— and literally argues with herself. She even sees her evil personality in the mirror! Any second I expected her to say, "Nasty Allenses. Tricksy! False! We hates it forever!"

• Unlike Barry, who simply has to quickly wriggle into his super-suit whenever he becomes the Flash, Trajectory has to braid her hair into aerodynamic cornrows and apply raccoon makeup to her eyes before donning her mask and costume. 

• When Iris' new editor Scott Evans was first introduced, it was like the show was trying to create their own poor man's J. Jonah Jameson, of Spider-Man fame. Evans even hates the Flash and labels him a villain, just like good ol' JJJ! 

Unfortunately Evans was never anywhere near as memorable as Jameson. He did have the potential to be a thorn in Iris' side though, as he was something of a blustering asshole. Then suddenly in this episode he thinks Iris is hitting on him, only to literally sulk like a hurt child when she rejects him. Annnnnd in one fell swoop his character is destroyed forever.

• Hmm. Evans is suddenly on a big kick about the Flash being held responsible for his actions. I'm sure it's totally a coincidence that this plotline is happening just a few days before the big premiere of DC's Dark Knight V Hopeman.

• Is Iris thinkin' about sleeping with her boss? Bad idea, Iris.

• Jesse has a violent reaction to Velocity-9, and Harry says a transfusion is the only thing that can save her. Barry asks what her blood type is, and Harry says PZ, which is apparently a thing on Earth-2.

PX? So are Harry and Jesse even human? Or do they just look like us? What else is different inside their bodies? Two hearts? No spleen? Unidentifiable organs?

• There's a female speedster in DC comics called Jesse Quick. I'm betting we just saw her origin story here. Despite the fact that Harry gave Jesse a transfusion to clean the Velocity-9 out of her system, she's no doubt still going to develop superspeed at some point in the season.

• Barry manages to temporarily stop Trajectory. She starts to shoot up again, and he pleads with her not to take the Velocity-9. When she does so anyway, he looks to the heavens in frustration and rolls his eyes. Maybe if he'd skipped all those theatrics and used his speed to punch her in the face a couple hundred times, she'd still be alive.

• Near the end of the episode Trajectory runs so fast she literally disintegrates.

I thought disappeared simply because she went too fast, and either burned up or was consumed by the speed force. But Caitlin says it's because the Velocity-9 caused "cellular degradation" in Trajectory's body. Cellular degradation? Hmm… Sounds like someone on the writing staff used to work on Star Trek: Voyager!

• At the end of the episode, Jesse decides she just can't stay around anymore, and runs off to find her place in this new (to her) world.

Sigh… yet another episode in which a character seemingly leaves their series forever. The same exact thing just happened earlier in the week over on The Walking Dead.

I hate these storylines and find them tedious. It's lazy writing, done as a last resort when the producers can't think of anything else to do with a character. Worse yet, no matter how many times the character tells their loved ones they're never coming back, the audience knows damned good and well that the character's going to eventually return.

• Jesse takes a bus (hope she's got some Earth-1 money!) out of town. The side of the bus is labeled "Midway Bus Lines," which is most likely a nod to Midway City, where the comic versions of Hawkman and the Doom Patrol live.

The bus also says it's going to Opal City, which was home to Starman and Elongated Man.

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