Friday, May 20, 2016

The Flash Season 2, Episode 22: Invincible

Well, we're one episode away from The Flash season finale. This week we see an awesome battle, an unexpected reunion, some dodgy or nonexistent supervillain motivation and a predictable death. In other words, a typical episode of The Flash! I keed, I keed!

The opening metahuman battle was impressive, if way too short, forcing us to just hear about it instead of see it for most of the episode. Caitlin's return was a bit head scratching as well, as instead of Barry rescuing her, she simply walked out of Zoom's lair undetected. I was dearly hoping she'd ask Barry why the hell he never tried to rescue her at any point in the past three weeks.

To be honest, I'll be glad when the whole Zoom storyline is over. When he first appeared at the beginning of the season he was truly frightening, what with his gravelly voice and creepy, torn membrane mouth. The characters were all suitable terrified of him as well, practically soiling themselves whenever he'd appear.

But as usually happens, the more we learned about him, the less frightening he became. Especially when he revealed he was really Jay Garrick, or Hunter Zolomon or whoever the hell he's supposed to be. Like Boba Fett, he was much more interesting and menacing when he was still shrouded in mystery.

And just what the hell is Zoom trying to accomplish? His motivation has been all over the map this season, flitting around like a moth trying to light on something. When he was first introduced all he wanted was to destroy Central City by sending his Earth-2 minions through the breach to wreak havoc. Then he became obsessed with stealing Barry's speed and adding it to his own. After he dosed himself with Velocity-9, he then moved on to punishing Harry by killing his daughter Jesse in front of him.Then he decided he wanted to steal Barry's speed again, and did so. Now he wants to rule Central City, after destroying it first. And then this week he's got yet another plan to emotionally hurt Barry, and prove they're the same, or turn him evil, or... I'm not really sure. At this point I have no idea what Zoom's trying to accomplish, and I don't think the writers are either. 

This is why season-long story arcs are a bad idea. Very few plots can be dragged out over twenty three episodes, forcing the writers to add a lot of padding, or in this case make the villain constantly change his plan. Either reduce the number of episodes, or come up with two or even three story arcs for the season.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
As the episode opens, Zoom's army of Earth-2 metahumans attacks Central City. The police are seriously overwhelmed.

Meanwhile Zoom has apparently released Caitlin Snow after holding her captive the past several episodes. She wanders into STAR Labs in shock, and oddly enough doesn't ask the Gang why they never tried to rescue her. Henry Allen, who was a doctor before he was an inmate, checks her out and prescribes rest. Barry sits with her for a while, which is apparently much more important than saving the city. He tells Caitlin he has faith he can stop Zoom, because the universe is with him. Cisco and the others exchange nervous glances and fear that his odd, new-found overconfidence is dangerous. Cisco vibes and sees a dead bird lying on the ground, which seems pretty odd.

Out on the streets, the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance, who calls herself Black Siren, uses her sonic scream to bring down the Mercury Labs building. Barry zooms over and rescues Dr. Tina McGee from the collapsing tower. She says, "Thank you, Mr. Allen," which shocks Barry. Apparently she used her mad science skills to figure out his true identity. Wally West sees a thug snatch a woman's purse. He tackles the man, who turns out to be a metahuman. Just as he's about to blast Wally with his powers, Joe appears and puts a superpower-dampening "boot" around the meta's neck. Joe scolds Wally for risking his life, and once again he says he's just trying to make up for his past wrongs. Oh my god, would you guys hurry up and turn him into Kid Flash already!

Barry brings Tina McGee back to STAR Labs. Caitlin keeps having visions of Zoom everywhere she looks. Henry takes Barry aside and tells him he's being overconfident and reckless. Barry says his time in the Speed Force changed him, and he's not afraid anymore. Uh-oh. You're tempting the script writing gods, Barry!

An alarm goes off at the Central City Police Department. Barry rushes over and finds Zoom snooping around in his lab. Zoom tells Barry that they're both the same. They both had a tragic childhood, and both have the same reason for running. He says Barry refuses to accept his anger, and caring for others and trying to save them will be his downfall.

Back as STAR Labs, the Gang figures out a way to take out Zoom's entire army. People from Earth-2 "vibrate" at a different frequency, so they can create a sonic weapon to use that against them. Cisco vibes again, seeing a collapsing building with more dead birds at his feet.

Wally sits in his car, listening to his police band radio. The Flash appears and tells him he needs to stop playing hero before he gets hurt, because defeating Zoom isn't his fight. Wally says it's everyone's fight. Just then the Flash gets a call about a disturbance on Fifth and Main. He runs over and finds Black Siren waiting for him. 

Barry asks Siren why she destroyed Mercury Labs, and she replies, "I like to watch things fall." She then attacks him with her sonic scream, somehow incapacitating a speedster with plain old sound waves. Black Siren's about to finish off Barry, when Wally hits her with his car, knocking her out. He tells the Flash to get in and speeds off. Barry rides along for a while, then leaps out and runs back to STAR Labs. Black Siren recovers and returns to Zoom's hideout. He tells her to take out more buildings to distract the Flash.

Meanwhile, Cisco and Harry have created a "dimensional tuning fork" that will send a pulse through Central City, knocking out anyone from Earth-2. Harry tells Barry he'll need to run around the city at top speed to create an energy wall that will reflect and amplify the tuning fork pulse. Just then, Siren begins taking down more buildings. Barry's first instinct is to rush out and stop her, but Cisco tells him no. He says he and Caitlin will distract Siren so Barry can create the energy wall.

To that end, Cisco and Caitlin dress up as their deceased Earth-2 counterparts, Reverb and Killer Frost. Never mind where they got their outfits. They tell Black Siren they're planning to kill Zoom and rule Earth-1 themselves, and ask her to join them. Amazingly, she actually falls for this half-baked ruse. Barry begins running around the city, creating the energy wall.

Black Siren's about to go along with "Reverb" and "Killer Frost." But then she tosses a pipe to Cisco, who catches it with his right hand. She hisses that all doppelgangers are mirror images, and Reverb was left handed (Siren's quite observant!). She attacks them, but Cisco defends himself with some sort of vibrational beam from his hand, surprising everyone (including himself). Just then Barry reaches top speed, and Harry activates the tuning fork. The pulse reverberates throughout the city, knocking out everyone from Earth-2 (Harry and Jesse wear headphones so they're not affected). Zoom manually opens a breach and escapes.

The Flash collects all the unconscious metas and incarcerates them. He tells Joe and Captain Singh that unfortunately, Zoom got away again.

That night, Barry comes home and finds Iris has organized a dinner for the whole cast, including Henry and Tina. Barry tells Iris he's ready to take their relationship to the next level. Henry and Tina flirt with one another. Suddenly Cisco vibes again, and this time in addition to seeing dead birds, he sees Earth-2 being torn in half.

Just then Zoom appears and takes Henry and takes him to Barry's childhood home. Barry follows and pleads with Zoom to release his father. Zoom says he's going to turn Barry into him, and kills Henry right before his eyes.

Thoughts:
• The opening scene of the Earth-2 metahumans attacking was very impressive, especially for a TV series. It reminded me a bit of the big superpowered brawl in Captain America; Civil War. Unfortunately the budget would apparently only allow the battle to last for about a minute. After that, we had to settle for hearing about the city being destroyed. Damn you, TV budget limitations!

• Unfortunately the CGI of Barry saving Tina McGee from the collapsing Mercury Labs was a bit wonky, looking not unlike cut scenes from an early 2000s video game. That's OK, effects guys! You can't hit a homer every time at bat.

• After Caitlin escapes from Zoom, she goes back to STAR Labs and collapses. So Barry decides that sitting at her bedside is infinitely more important than saving the city from the army of crazed supervillains. Got it.

• I haven't been watching Arrow lately (hey, there's only so many hours in a day), so much of the Black Canary/Black Siren stuff was lost on me.

As near as I can tell, Black Siren was never in the comics, but appeared in the Justice League animated series in 2002, in the Season 1 episode Legends. She was a member of the Justice Guild, a superhero team on yet another alternate Earth.

• After Barry saves Tina McGee, she says, "Thank you, Mr. Allen." Barry stammers for a second, shocked that she was able to figure out his secret identity. Big deal! Just as in Season 1, the Flash's identity is the worst kept secret in Central City. The only two people on the show who don't know it are Captain Singh and Wally.

• It was fun to see Henry Allen and Tina McGee "together again for the first time." Actors John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays played Barry Allen and Tina McGee on the 199Flash series. I'll bet they never dreamed they'd ever be sort of reprising their roles someday!

• Something occurred to me this week as Zoom's metahuman army attacked the city— are there any superheroes on Earth-2? With the exception of the Flash, every metahuman we've seen there has been evil. I thought Earth-2 was supposed to be the shiny, happy BETTER version of our world? In the comics there were dozens of superheroes on Earth-2.

There was an Earth-3 in the comics, which contained nothing but supervillains, and the only hero on the planet was Lex Luthor. This TV version of Earth-2 is starting to feel more and more like Earth-3.

• When Barry confronts Black Siren, she uses her sonic scream to knock him on his speedster ass. Seriously? He can't outrun sound waves?

The speed of sound varies depending on the medium in which it's traveling, but it generally moves at about 768 miles per hour. In the episode Trajectorywe learned that the Flash's top speed is Mach 3.3, which is around 2,532 miles per hour. So Barry's capable of moving over three times as fast as Siren's sonic scream! How the hell was she able to pin him down simply by yelling at him really loud?

This is yet another example of the writers conveniently "forgetting" how fast the Flash can really move, in order to let the villain of the week get in a couple shots. If they didn't do this, every episode would be about five minutes long, as Barry could easily round up every criminal in the city in between blinks. It's one of those things we just have to learn to overlook.

• In a similar vein, why the hell hasn't Zoom killed off everyone on the show by now? His motivation this week is torturing Barry, or trying to turn him into a clone of him or something. What better way to do that than to use his super speed to snap the necks of the entire cast, just like he did to the entire CCPD a few weeks ago? There's certainly nothing stopping him from doing so. He could kill everyone in Central City while Barry was putting his boots on!

Again, this is one of those comic book situations that doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, and it's best that we just don't think about it too much.

• The "Reverb" and "Killer Frost" scene was fun. It was particularly interesting since Carlos Valdez and Danielle Panabaker were playing Cisco and Caitlin who were in turn playing Reverb and Killer Frost. Subtle, but there's a difference.

I won't ask why they just happened to have Reverb and Killer Frost costumed at STAR Labs.

• Black Siren figures out that Reverb is an impostor when she tosses a pipe at him and he catches it with his right hand instead of his left. According to her, all Earth-2 doppelgangers are mirror images of their Earth-1 counterparts. You know, Earth-2 is starting to sound more and more like Star Trek's Mirror Universe. I'm surprised everyone from Earth-2 doesn't sport an evil goatee.

• When Cisco activates the Tuning Fork, Zoom manually opens a breach and escapes into Earth-2. So he's been able to open portals between Earths all along? Then what the hell was the point of devoting an entire episode to Barry closing all the breaches in Welcome To Earth-2? Sometimes I seriously wonder if the creators watch previous episodes before they sit down to write a new one.

• Joe tells Captain Singh that the majority of the Earth-2 metahumans were locked up in Iron Heights Prison, while the rest were stored... elsewhere. Singh ssays he doesn't want to know about it and walks off.

Last season, virtually every time Barry defeated a metahuman, they were locked up in the Secret Super Jail inside STAR Labs. I pointed out that this couldn't possibly be legal, as even the worst criminal is guaranteed a trial under law.

This season they sort of stopped doing this, and there were even a few mentions that Iron Heights had been upgraded with a special metahuman wing. But now it seems like we're back to illegally incarcerating people again. I know, I know, it's a comic book world, but this is a problem that could easily be solved with a line or two of dialogue.

• At the end of the episode, Iris organizes a dinner for the whole cast. Did anyone out there not predict it would end in disaster?

• Welp, I totally called it. Last week Henry told Barry he was tired of living in his Evil Dead cabin in the middle of nowhere, and had decided to move back to Central City. I said that statement sealed his doom, and he'd be dead by the season finale.

And that's just what happened, as Zoom killed him in front of Barry (a week early, even!) to try and turn him evil or... something. I'm honestly not sure what Zoom's trying to do at this point.

• Henry's death pretty much confirms my suspicion that his Earth-2 counterpart is the man in the Iron Mask. And at this point I would not be surprised to learn that he's also the Golden Age Flash over on Earth-2. Especially after that "my mother's maiden name was Garrick" line from a couple weeks ago.

• Best Lines Of The Week:

Tina McGee (when Barry's surprised she deduced his secret identity): “Come on, Barry. I’m a scientist. We’re paid to be perceptive.”

Well, at least she didn't say, "Science, Bitch!"

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Joe (discussing Wally): “He ain’t you, Barry. He can’t just go mach 50.”
Barry: “Mach 50 isn’t a real thing.”

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Joe: (as Harry explains the Tuning Fork) “This is where I play stupid and you explain science.”

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