Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Flash Season 3, Episode 2: Paradox

After last week's premiere, I was worried that we were going to get an entire season of Barry Allen fine-tuning the timeline until he finally undid all the terrible changes he inadvertently made. Thankfully it looks like that's not going to happen. Instead of trying to fix things and just mess them up further, Barry's apparently decided to live with this somewhat familiar, but still broken timeline.

Tom Felton makes his debut this week as Barry's fellow CSI Julian Albert, along with new villain Doctor Alchemy. I wonder… both characters just happen to appear in the same episode. Are they one in the same? Is Albert secretly Alchemy? I'm sure that's what the producers are wanting us to think, but it's probably a bit too obvious.

I was going to congratulate the writers on finally giving us a Big Bad who ISN'T a speedster, as super-fast villains on The Flash are frankly getting a bit old. But then I canceled the celebration when Alchemy announced he was "preparing this world" by handing out superpowers to everyone who had them in the Flashpoint timeline. In essence he's creating supervillains to fight the Flash. Sound familiar? It should— it's the exact same plot that Zoom implemented last season (well, ONE of his many plots, at least).

I thought the STAR Labs Gang took the news that Barry selfishly altered their lives VERY well. Probably much better than I would have. At least we were spared another patented CW Believe In Yourself Pep Talk this week.

Lastly, according to the internet, the ratings for this episode hit an all-time series low, drawing in just 2.75 million viewers. Not good! I wonder… is The CW only counting viewers who watch the show live? 


I generally watch the show live, but on occasion I stream it on Roku or other sources the next day. If an old fogey like me can figure out how to stream a TV show, I'm sure hundreds of thousands, if not millions of young whippersnappers are doing the same. If The CW isn't tracking those streaming viewers, then they need to start, STAT, as they're seriously throwing off the ratings.


SPOILERS!

The Plot:
After he tried to restore the timeline last week, Barry discovers he didn't quite fix things the way he'd planned. Among the changes: Joe and Iris aren't speaking, and Cisco is cold and distant toward him. In fact the whole STAR Labs Gang are a bunch of sullen jerks.

After several inquiries, Barry learns that Iris is mad at Joe because he didn't tell her her mother was still alive. Cisco's angry with Barry because he won't go back in time and save his brother Dante from dying in a car accident. And Barry finds out he and Iris aren't a couple in this timeline. 


He also discovers he has a new roommate at the Central City Police Department—  a CSI named Draco Malfoy, er, I mean Julian Albert. He's a young hotshot who isn't charmed by Barry and doesn't particularly like him. When Albert is examining a mysterious human "husk" found by the river, Barry offers to help him figure out what it is. Albert curtly declines his help, saying he can do it himself.


Barry jogs over to Star City to chat with his pal Felicity Smoak, and tell her what's been happening on his show. Felicity wonders if any of his changes have bled over into her own series. Barry checks her computer and finds out that in this timeline, John Diggle's daughter is now a son, which is really going to confuse Arrow viewers who don't watch The Flash. Felicity encourages Barry to tell his friends what he's done.


Meanwhile, Edward Clariss, who we met last week, begins having visions of his life in the Flashpoint timeline. He sees the name "Alchemy" scrawled in the window of a bus. Later on he meets a mysterious hooded figure who calls himself— you guessed it— Alchemy. Clariss asks him if he can make the visions stop. Alchemy says he will make the visions come true, and turn Clariss back into The Rival.


Barry uses wacky sitcom tactics to manipulate everyone into having dinner at the West house, so they can all patch things up and get back to normal. It goes about as well as you'd think.


Just then Cisco's metahuman alarm (which apparently exists in this timeline) goes off. Barry speeds off and finds The Rival waiting for him. The Rival remembers the Flashpoint timeline from last week, and isn't happy with Barry for wiping it out. They battle at superspeed to fill up some of the runtime, and then Clariss disappears.


Barry goes back to STAR Labs, where Iris demands to know why he's acting so strangely. He tells her that all their problems are his fault, and decides to try and fix things again. He runs back in time— I guess to save Cisco's brother?— but before he can do so a hand appears, grabs him and drags him out of the time stream.


The hand belongs to Jay Garrick (the one from Earth-3), who takes Barry to a diner in 1998 (?). Somehow Jay knows about Barry's timeline-meddling, and tells him to knock it off. He says he did the same thing when he was younger, and learned the hard way that no matter how hard you try to fix time, it'll never be perfect. Jay says they're not gods, just men with powers who have to live with their mistakes and move forward.


Barry returns to the present, and tells the STAR Labs Gang how he selfishly altered the timeline for his own benefit, which inadvertently altered their lives for the worse. They're all pissed at him, and rightly so.


Barry deduces that The Rival is hiding out at the old Prescott Sawmill. He heads there and is confronted by The Rival, as well as Alchemy, who blasts Barry with some sort of ray (I think from his Philosopher's Stone?). The telemetry in Barry's suit triggers an alarm at STAR Labs. Iris convinces the Gang to get over their anger and help Barry.


Alchemy tells Barry that he's "preparing this world" and helping people meet their true potential. The Rival then begins beating the living crap out of Barry. Just as he's about to deliver the killing blow, Cisco shows up in his Vibe gear and blasts The Rival. Barry thanks Cisco, who apologizes for taking so long. 


The Gang's seemingly back to normal, as no one's mad at anyone anymore. The only one who still looks worried is Caitlin, who seems to be secretly developing icy powers...


Thoughts:
• The first two episodes of this season— Flashpoint and Paradox— can be combined to form the title of the comic book arc this storyline was based on.

• Barry catches a generic crook he dubs "The Thief." He takes a bag of stolen jewels from him and returns them to the store, a second or two before the police arrive.


Wouldn't it have been better to hand the stolen jewels over to the cops instead? Seems like they'd be evidence, and without them the police might not have a case against The Thief.


• Barry has a new "roomie" at work in this timeline Julian Albert. He's played by Tom Felton, aka Draco Malfoy of the Harry Potter films. Once again Felton plays the Designated Asshole™— a character who hates the hero and makes his life hell for no other reason than because the script says so.

I'll give Felton credit, it's a role he plays very well. Hopefully he's not like that in real life. Maybe someday he'll actually get to play a nice character.

• Last week in the Flashpoint timeline, I noted that it looked like the Particle Accelerator never blew up— or if it did it was repaired. In this semi-restored timeline, one of the pylons is damaged again.

• Barry decides to try and fix the timeline again, and starts running into the past. Note that once again, there's still no sign of the Time Wraiths, the ghost-like caretakers of the time stream. Like I said before, it's as if they only show up when it's convenient to the plot!

• During Barry's second attempt to alter time, he's yanked out of the stream by Jay Garrick. Is it ironic that Jay takes Barry back to 1998 in order to give him a stern lecture about the dangers of altering the timeline?

Yes, there's a line about how Jay "punched" Barry out of the timeline, and they probably just happened to end up in 1998. But even if Jay had no such intentions, he could have stepped on a butterfly or something and inadvertently altered history.

Why would they have dropped out of the time stream in 1998 anyway? Barry was heading for the night his mother died, which, as we've seen many times, happened in 2000.

I'm betting the only reason the writers picked that year so they could toss in a reference to Dawson's Creek, which premiered in '98. When Jay and Barry enter the diner, the show's even playing on a TV in the background! Not to mention the fact that actor John Wesley Shipp played Dawson's father on the show.

Lastly, how the hell did Jay know what Barry was doing? Jay lives over on Earth-3, for corn's sake! Did he build some kind of Barry-scope, to secretly spy on him?

• Again with the Back To The Future charts! Barry tries to explain his timeline-meddling to the STAR Labs Gang by drawing a diagram yet again. This is at least the third time he's done this.

• So how do the human skin husks figure into the plot? When Alchemy makes someone "reach their full potential," do they shed their skin like a snake?

• Due to Barry's time-shenanigans, Arrow's pal John Diggle now has a son instead of a daughter. I would not be surprised if someone out there complains about this, calling it "gender overwriting" or something like that.


Dig having a son actually lines up with things over on Legends Of Tomorrow. In the Star City 2046 episode, Diggle's son appeared as a future version of Green Arrow.

• Last week in the Flashpoint timeline, The Rival's headquarters were at "the old sawmill on Williamson." In this episode The Rival's headquarters is at the Prescott Sawmill. I'm assuming they're the same place, and exist in both timelines.

• After meeting Alchemy and hearing his plan, Barry says "I think everyone who had powers in Flashpoint is going to get them back." Note that we then immediately cut to a shot of Wally. Obviously Wally's going to become Kid Flash in this timeline as well before the season's over.

• Cisco, er, I mean Vibe shows up in the nick of time to save Barry. His "vibe rays" looked a LOT like freeze blasts to me. In fact that's what I thought they were at first, until I remembered which superhero show I was watching and that Cisco has vibration powers.

By the way, can this version of Cisco still "vibe?" If so, then he should be able to remember the original timeline.

• After the battle we're told that Barry took The Rival to Iron Heights Prison, instead of throwing him in STAR Labs' Illegal Secret Super Jail. Maybe the Gang doesn't have their little prison in this timeline?

The most interesting development of this episode— Caitlin's ice powers are manifesting. Does that mean she'll be turning to the dark side as well?

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