Friday, April 29, 2016

The Flash Season 2, Episode 19: Back To Normal

Reviews are gonna be late this week, because the goddamned storms that hit my city Tuesday night knocked half the TV stations off the air. I had to find alternative sources to view the various shows I watch, which delayed everything.

So the wind blows a little and our TVs go black? Jesus, what is this, the 1950s? Why are we still at the mercy of whatever the weather sees fit to throw at us? It's the 21st Century! Forget jetpacks, I want weather control! But I digest...

To be honest I really wasn't looking forward to this episode. I've never been a fan of the "Superhero Loses His Powers" plot. It's supposed to give us insight on what makes a character tick, and show us that even when he or she is stripped of their powers, they still have what it takes to be a hero. Yawn.

That plot's been around since the dawn of superhero comic books, and it was dull then and it's still dull eighty years later. I read comic books to see colorful characters with powers battle evil villains. If I want a story about ordinary schmoes, I'll watch Melrose Place or whatever the kids, with their hula hoops and their big pants, watch these days.

Not only did this week's The Flash trot out this worn out trope, but they did absolutely nothing with it. The only thing we learned about Barry this week is that being powerless makes him sad and depressed.

In fact most of this episode isn't even about Barry. He takes a back seat as Harry, Caitlin and even Wally carry the plot on their shoulders this week. Why give us an episode about Barry becoming normal if they're not even going to take the time to go into detail about the ramifications? The closest they come is the brief montage at the beginning in which Barry learns that riding the bus and waiting in line for coffee sucks.

Harry seemingly learns a lesson in this episode, as the villain of the week mistakes him for the Earth-1 Harrison Wells, who was secretly Eobard Thawne (Programs! Can't tell yer characters apart without yer programs!). Even though Harry's not responsible for what Wells/Thawne did, he still has a lot to atone for. And just when it seems like he's going to take responsibility for his actions, he announces he's going to recreate the particle accelerator explosion— the very event that created the Flash, and also gave rise to an endless tide of dangerous metahumans. Wha...?

The scenes of Caitlin meeting Killer Frost were fun, and Danielle Pannabaker did a fanatastic job playing two sides of the same character. That said, Killer Frost definitely seemed to be channeling Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold here. What is it about cold-themed villains that makes them act so over the top?

Zoom was definitely much scarier before we knew who he really is. Now he's just Jay in a funny suit. I kind of wish he'd leave the mask on all the time.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Cisco "vibes" and sees Caitlin alive and well in Zoom's lair on Earth-2. Unfortunately since Barry stupidly gave up his powers last week, they have no way of crossing over and rescuing her. Harry, who's disgusted with the entire STAR Labs Gang for ignoring his warnings, leaves to track down his daughter Jesse. Why do characters on TV shows always insist on looking for people who don't want to be found?

Over on Earth-2, Zoom has Caitlin chained to a bed (kinky!). Zoom, aka Jay Garrick, aka Hunter Zolomon (confusing!) tells Caitlin he won't hurt her because he loves her. When she recoils in revulsion at his touch, he tells her that she'll come around soon and love him back. Amazingly he then removes her chains and zooms off, leaving her free to wander around the lair (!). She sees Iron Mask in one of the escape proof carbonide cells, still tapping away about something. In the other cell she sees Killer Frost, her Earth-2 counterpart!

Back on Earth-1, Wally tells his dad Joe he wants to meet the Flash. Apparently now that Wally's no longer involved in illegal street racing, the writers can't think of anything else for him to do. Joe tells him no, as technically there's no longer a Flash.

Harry uses some Earth-2 technology to track down Jesse to an apartment. He tells her to get her things and come with him, but she refuses. She brings up the fact that he murdered the Turtle a while back, and says she's as afraid of him as she is of Zoom. I have to admit, she's got a point there.

Harry looks crushed and drives off his his white creep van. He crashes into a man standing in the middle of the road. Apparently the man's a metahuman, as the van is demolished but he doesn't get a scratch. He rips off the van door and abducts Harry. Back at STAR Labs, Cisco gets an alert and checks the video feed in the van. He sees the metahuman take Harry. Cisco triangulates the van's position, and Barry calls Iris (?) for help.

On Earth-2, Caitlin and Killer Frost chat. Frost tells Caitlin that her powers won't work inside the cell, so if she frees her, she'll help her get back to Earth-1. Caitlin, perhaps swayed by the fact that she's talking to her own doppelganger, stupidly agrees.

Harry wakes inside an abandoned carnival. His captor introduces himself as Griffin Grey. He thinks Harry is the Earth-1 Harrison Wells, and blames him for causing the particle accelerator explosion that turned him into a metahuman. He demonstrates to Harry that he has super strength, but every time he uses his power he ages prematurely. Chronologically Grey is only eighteen, but he looks forty. He's afraid at this rate he'll die of old age within the week. He demands that Harry cure him or die.

While we weren't looking, Barry and Iris somehow tracked down Jesse, told her Harry was abducted, and brought her to STAR Labs. They I.D. Grey from fingerprints he left on the van. Jesse, who's apparently normal on Earth-2 but the equivalent of a genius here, examines some of Grey's blood found at the scene and figures out his powers are causing him to age rapidly. They determine if they can get him to use his powers enough he'll turn into a harmless old man (!).

Barry deduces the location of Grey's hideout. He, Cisco and Joe go to rescue Harry. Barry dresses as the Flash, hoping Grey won't realize he's powerless. At the hideout, Harry tries to come up with a cure for Grey. Still thinking Harry is Wells, Grey blames him for ruining his life, saying his irresponsible actions affected the entire city. Even though Harry had nothing to do with that, he's still affected by Grey's accusations.

Caitlin uses science to break Killer Frost out of her cell. Of course Frost immediately tries to kill Caitlin by firing a large icicle at her. Just then Zoom appears, vibrating through Caitlin (yikes!), catching the icicle, and plunging it into Frost's heart. That's cold. Zoom tells Caitlin if she tries to free Iron Mask, he'll kill him too.

Harry hands a potion to Grey, saying it'll cure him. Even though he's only eighteen, Grey's no idiot, and realizes Harry's been faking it, and there is no cure. He's about to kill Harry when Barry, Joe and Cisco enter the building. Barry gets Grey to attack him, barely dodging his super punches. Grey visibly ages each time he attacks. He starts slowing down, and finally collapses, dying of old age. For no good reason at all, his body reverts back to eighteen again. Jesse runs to Harry and tells him she's sorry for being angry with him for being a cold blooded murderer. He promises from now on he'll be the kind of father she can be proud of. Not killing anymore people would probably be enough, Harry.

Joe brings Wally to a rooftop so he can meet the Flash. He tells the Flash thanks for sacrificing his powers to save him, and says he won't waste the second chance he was given. Actually I think by now it's like the fifth chance, but whatever.

Zoom chains Caitlin to the bed again (still kinky). She begs him to take her back home. He agrees, saying he'll take her back to Earth-1 in order to conquer it.

Harry tells Barry he wants to atone for all the mistakes he's made, and says he's going to help him get his speed back. When Barry asks how the hell he plans on doing that, Harry says he's going to recreate the particle accelerator explosion that created the Flash in the first place. I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan!

Thoughts:
• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but hey, it's what I do. At the beginning of the episode we see superpowered Barry get his morning coffee by zooming into Jitters, cutting to the front of the line, grabbing a cup and zipping back out.

So what exactly is happening when he runs into the coffee shop at super speed? There's no way he could be ordering something specific, unless the barista has super speed as well. 

If you watch the episode closely, the barista sets two cups on the counter, and it appears that Barry just grabs one of them and zooms out. Hopefully it's some kind of coffee he likes! What if he gets some kind of frothy, frou-frou cappuccino thing he hates? 

And hopefully he drops some money on the counter before he zips away too, and hasn't been stealing a four dollar cup of coffee every day for two years.

• We see a montage of Barry slogging through a typical day without super speed, as it takes him forever to get dressed, get to work and get his coffee. All through this scene he looks depressed and disgusted, as he has to do everything like us powerless sheep.

This whole scene reminded me of a comic I read way back in the 1990sX-Factor #87. In that issue, the members of X-Factor are all psychologically evaluated by Doc Samson, a superhero who also happens to be a psychiatrist.

Sampson has a session with Quicksilver, who's sort of Marvel's version of the Flash, and who's always been a bit of an asshole. He tells Sampson how frustrating it is to live in a world that literally crawls along in comparison to him. I doubt the writers copied Barry's montage from this comic, but the two are pretty similar.

• Poor Griffin Grey he's so inconsequential that Cisco doesn't even bother to give him a cool code name.

By the way, Griffin Grey is a comic book name if ever I've heard one.

• As near as I can tell, Grey isn't based on any character from the comics. Looks like he was made up just for the series.

• Grey wants Harry to cure him, because he prematurely ages every time he uses his power, and is afraid he'll die of old age within the month. 

There's a really easy solution to his problem stop using his power! As near as I can tell he only ages when he uses his super strength and hurls barrels at the Flash. So stop throwing crap and live a normal lifespan!

• Cisco says that Harry's van crashed into Grey at the corner of Woodman and Shore. The Flash loves sneaking the names of famous comic artists and writers into addresses like this. I don't recognize either of those names though. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and not an Easter egg.

• Killer Frost says she had a younger brother named Charlie, who died. Oddly Caitlin doesn't have a brother. They do both have mothers that are "cold and distant" though.

• When Killer Frost attacks Caitlin by hurling a giant icicle at her. Zoom saves Caitlin by literally vibrating though her body and catching the icicle. 

I wonder if that'll have some sort of effect on Caitlin later on? Like maybe some of Zoom's atoms interacted with hers or something, giving her powers? Maybe even turning her into the Earth-1 Killer Frost?

• I was sorry to see Killer Frost, er, killed off so soon. She was a hoot. This is a comic book show though, so who knows? It's entirely possible she'll get better.

• Jesse tells the STAR Labs Gang that she had five different majors in college, which is apparently the norm over on Earth-2!

• Wally tells Joe he wants to meet the Flash, so he can thank him for giving up his powers to save him. At first I was wondering how the heck Wally knows about that. Surely Joe wouldn't blab something like that, not even to his son?

Then I remembered that last week Zoom left a message scrawled on the wall of Wally's room that said, "Your speed for Wally." So I guess Wally probably saw Zoom write that, and put two and two together.

• Barry tracks down Grey to Ace Chemical, which appears to be another of the many, many empty and/or abandoned warehouses in Central City.

In the comics, Ace Chemical is where the Joker was created, after falling into a vat of acid.

• Jesse keeps busting her dad's chops for killing the Turtle (and rightly so). But Barry's no better, as he just killed Griffin Grey. OK, so he didn't callously murder him (like Harry), but he indirectly killed him by forcing him to use his power until he died of old age. They both seem equally guilty.

• At the end of the episode, Harry tells Barry that he's decided to atone for his mistakes. For a second I thought he was going to turn himself into the police and confess to murdering the Turtle, but of course he doesn't. Can you tell I'm obsessed with this subplot? Does it bother anyone else that Harry's a coldblooded murderer who's walking around scot-free? 

• Harry announces he's going to help Barry get his powers back by recreating the particle accelerator explosion. Besides being a monumentally stupid, dangerous and irresponsible idea, it also potentially opens a big can of worms. After the accelerator exploded the first time, Barry was in a coma for nine months before waking up with super speed. Hopefully the writers haven't forgotten about that. 

If they do remember, I'm sure they'll technobabble their way around that particular inconvenient detail.

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