Friday, November 18, 2016

The Flash Season 3, Episode 6: Shade

Last year I accused The Flash of spinning its wheels, padding out episodes as it saved its shocking revelations for the big season finale.

You certainly can't say they're treading water this season! They're currently juggling at least seven different plotlines, and this episode just added another major one with the introduction of Savitar. Well done, writers!

That said, there were a couple of fumbles in this episode. The main one was the horrible use of the Shade as a throwaway villain of the week. He's been a major player in The Flash comics since the 1940s for Thor's sake— he definitely deserved better. 

The writers continue to bend over backwards trying to make us think that Julian Albert is really Alchemy. Eh, I'm not buying it, as that would be way too obvious. So who else could Alchemy be? I doubt he's really HR, as Alchemy appeared on the show before he did. There is something a bit off about HR though, and I don't think he's the harmless goof he appears to be. 
That leaves Cecile Horton, who's the only other newish character on the show. I'm not quite ready to crawl all the way out on a limb and say with 100% surety that she's secretly Alchemy. But I am starting to suspect her. That would definitely be a twist that most people wouldn't see coming though!

We finally get a few more scenes with Alchemy in this episode. It feels a bit odd that we're now six episodes in and we still know very little about him. Pacing-wise, I think some of the mysteries should have started peeling away by now. It's hard for the audience to be scared of him when we don't know anything about him.

It also feels way too soon to introduce Savitar, especially when we're still right smack in the middle of the Alchemy storyline. Maybe you should solve one mystery before starting up another, OK guys?

And really, Savitar, The God Of Speed? Do we really need yet ANOTHER speedster villain on the show? I get that speedsters are really the only type of villain that can pose a threat to Barry, but Jesus, how many more are waiting in the wings? 

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Wally begins having dreams about being Kid Flash, which excites him, as he wants nothing more than to be a superhero. It upsets Joe, who fears his son's not dreaming, and it's actually Alchemy messing with his mind.

At the Central City PD, Cecile reassigns Barry to the Metahuman CSI Department. Isn't that where he's been working all along? She flirts with Joe, who's apparently finally asked her out to the West family movie night. Joe tells Barry about Wally's dreams. Barry agrees that Wally's in danger.

Over at STAR Labs, HR wants to turn the building into a museum (of what?). Cisco and Caitlin finally decide to tell him that his Earth-1 doppelganger was a murderer, and if he shows his face in public he'll be arrested. Somehow HR restrains himself and doesn't kill the two of them on the spot, like a normal human would.

Elsewhere in Central City, a businessman is attacked by a large, shadowy humanoid who grabs him by the throat and kills him. The next day Barry and Julian Albert investigate the death, but find no physical evidence on the victim. Barry invites Julian to movie night, but he declines, saying he has plans with his girlfriend (to prove he doesn't have teh gays).

Back at STAR Labs, HR appears with a totally new face, courtesy of an Earth-19 feature-morphing gizmo. Cisco accuses HR of stealing his superpower-dampening cuffs from him. Caitlin looks nervously away. Barry arrives and tells the Gang about the businessman's murder. Cisco calls up a CCTV recording and sees the shadow thing kill the man. HR names it Shade, after an Earth-19 metahuman.

Meanwhile Wally visits Joe at the CCPD. Joe explains that he trusts his son, but not what's happening to him. Just then Wally's doubled over by some sort of painful attack. Back at STAR, Caitlin returns Cisco's dampening cuffs to him, saying she borrowed them because she's developing powers. She asks him to "vibe" her to see what's in her future. He does so, and sees himself fighting Caitlin, who's in full Killer Frost mode. He lies and tells her he saw nothing.

Joe brings Wally to STAR Labs for help. Barry confirms that the "dreams" Wally's having are really events that happened in the Flashpoint timeline. He's afraid Alchemy is trying to recruit Wally. HR suggest locking Wally up in the Secret Super Jail to keep Alchemy from harming him. Joe starts to call Cecile to cancel their movie night, but Barry says he'll stay with Wally and to go enjoy himself. Amazingly, Joe agrees to this and leaves his sick child in order to go on a date. Cisco, Caitlin and HR go along with Joe, which seems a bit odd.

At the movie night in the park, Caitlin confronts Cisco about what he saw in his vibe vision. He says he saw the two of them battling one another. He urges her to tell the rest of the Gang what's happening to her. Suddenly Shade appears in the park and attacks. The crowd panics and runs. Barry begins battling Shade. Cisco hacks into the headlights of some nearby cars (?) and turns them on. Somehow this disintegrates Shade, leaving a human behind. Barry puts the dampening cuffs on him (man, those things really get around!).

Back at STAR Labs, Wally's psychically attacked by Alchemy, who says, "The time has come to set you free!" Wally screams for Iris to open his cell door, and like an idiot she lets him out. In his crazed state he attacks her, and she punches him out (!). The Gang returns and restrain Wally. Barry realizes that Shade was merely a diversion so that Alchemy could attack Wally. Cisco apparently thinks the Gang doesn't have enough to worry about, and decides this is the absolute best time to force Caitlin into telling everyone she's turning into Killer Frost.

Joe and Barry decide to use Wally as bait to capture Alchemy. Wally senses him in an abandoned subway (at least it wasn't an old warehouse this time). Barry, Joe and a SWAT Team follow. They find Alchemy inside, surrounded by acolytes. He greets Wally and asks if he wants the life he once had (in Flashpoint). The Flash attacks Alchemy, who raises his Philosopher's Stone and uses to zap him. Barry's knocked on his ass, and Joe and the SWAT Team move in and capture Alchemy. In all the confusion, he drops his stone.

Suddenly Barry begins seeing a speedster zipping back and forth through the room. It's moving so fast that Barry's the only one who can perceive it. The speedster dispatches the entire SWAT Team, except for Joe of course. While everyone's distracted, Wally picks up Alchemy's stone. It begins glowing and he's immediately encased in a pillar of stone.

The unknown speedster grabs Barry by the throat. Barry croaks, "Who are you?" The speedster replies, "Savitar!"

Thoughts:
• HR tells the Gang that it's only a matter of time before the public figures out that STAR Labs is working with the Flash. In order to hide this fact, he wants to disguise STAR Labs as a museum. 

A museum of what, exactly? One would think STAR Labs has a pretty poor reputation in Central City, since it housed a particle accelerator that, you know, exploded the very first time it was turned on. The general public probably has a low opinion of the joint.

And what would they even put in such a museum? I suppose they could have an exhibit detailing why the place exploded, and one outlining how it's affected the city so far. Other than that I got nothing.

I can't imagine there'd be much public interest in such a place. It'd be like putting a museum inside the Three Mile Island reactor.

• Cisco and Caitlin inform HR that he can never leave the STAR Labs grounds, because he has the face of confessed murderer Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne. They tell him if he shows his face in public, he'll likely be arrested.

First of all, I don't remember anyone ever warning Harry about this, and he actually left the building on several occasions.

Secondly, I don't know how long HR's been on Earth-1, but it has to be at least two or three weeks by now. So in all that time, he's never once had an urge to leave the lab? Does that sound right?

Thirdly, as I said earlier, HR takes this news, and the fact that the Gang is just now telling him about it, very well. Much better than I would have if I found out I'd just jumped to an Earth where I share a face with a wanted murderer.


• HR uses some Earth-19 "facial transmogrification device" to alter his looks. Oddly enough, the new face he chooses is that of Randolph Morgan, his former "business partner" on Earth-19.

I googled the name, and as far as I can tell there's no Randolph Morgan in any DC comics.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Morgan is more than just HR's business partner. Here's the full exchange when he talks about Morgan with Cisco:S
Cisco: "How does this work?"
HR: "Light refraction technology."
Cisco: "Light refraction?"
HR: "I think... I don't... Randolf, my... business partner, he's sort of more with the science. But this little sucker is gonna go a long way to solving my Harrison Wells facial issues."
Note how HR stumbles when describing his relationship to Morgan. Then Cisco brings up his missing power-dampening cuffs.
Cisco: "I'm gonna hang onto this until I get my power cuffs back."
HR: "What, your power cuffs? Your meta-human power-dampening cuffs?"
Cisco: "Those very ones, the ones that are missing all of a sudden."
HR: "What... you think... you think I took them? I didn't take them. What do I need cuffs for? I just got to this Earth. I came alone. I haven't met anyone yet; it's gonna take a while, even when I do meet them, to get to the cuff stage."
This may just be me reading to much into it, but I'm betting this little exchange was meant to lay the groundwork for the revelation that HR is gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Based on HR's stammering replay, it's obvious that Morgan's more than just a business partner. I'm betting there was a big fight and even a breakup, prompting HR to leave Earth-19 altogether. And the less said about the cuffs, the better. 


• Caitlin tells Cisco that if she goes full Killer Frost and becomes evil, she'll be forced to leave forever. Sigh Yep, it looks like we're doing the old "My Particular Pain Is Special And It's Forcing Me To Leave Everyone I Know And Love And Never Come Back" trope.


How many times have we seen this same plotline on shows like this? They're even doing it right now with Daisy over on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.


• Barry says the businessman was attacked by Shade in Chubbuck, at the intersection of Palmer and Racine.


We all know how much The Flash loves to name buildings and streets after comic book creators. Unfortunately I don't think that was the case this time.


According to the internet, Chubbuck is a residential areal of Central City. The internet also says Central City is in Missouri, which I don't think has ever been confirmed on the series.

I can't find any DC-related link for Palmer and Racine. Well, there's Ray Palmer, aka the Atom, but I doubt this is a reference to him. Apparently these are just random names and have not any kind of in-joke.

The same goes for the Horror At Hofherr Park banner. As near as I can tell, there are no DC characters, artists or writers named Hofherr. Like I always say, sometimes a name is just a name.

• According to HR, Earth-19 uses coins called "helbings" as currency. We also find out that his world has "many" telepathic gorillas. Here's hoping the Gang eventually visits Earth-19 in an episode!


By the way, I'm assuming the coins were named after Todd Helbing, a writer on The Flash.


• Alchemy's psychically attacks Wally, causing him to go into seizure. Caitlin gives Wally a shot of Lorazepam to calm his tortured brain.


Believe it or not, Lorazepam is a real drug here on Earth-1, used to combat seizures! Well done, writers!


• This week the series finally introduces the Shade, one of the Flash's oldest and most persistent villains. Unfortunately, the version we see here bears little or no resemblance to the one in the comics, as they completely and utterly wasted one of DC's most memorable characters, using him as nothing more than a lame plot device to distract the Flash from Alchemy. 


They could have used literally ANY other character here— why'd they have to ruin one of the Flash's best villains?


The comic book version of the Shade has been around since 1942, and was one of the Jay Garrick Flash's main enemies. He was a thief who sported a top hat had the power to manipulate shadows with his magical cane. He was also immortal, and eventually clashed with the Barry Allen Flash.

He's actually quite a complex anti-hero, whose biography is way too long to get into here. The Shade is a major player in DC comics, and he deserves much better than he received here. Hopefully they'll revisit this character at some point and do justice to him, or better yet introduce a different version in the future.

To make things even worse, the awful "smoke effect" used to represent Shade in the episode was very lacking, as it was realized through the miracle of early 1990s CGI. I have a feeling the budget for this episode was pretty tight, as The CW's no doubt putting everything into the big four part crossover at the end of the month.

In fact I'm kind of wondering if the writers confused the Shade with the Shadow Thief, an old Hawkman villain who could turn himself into a living shadow.

• So who the hell is Savitar, the latest in a long line of speedster villains we're supposed to care about? I have to admit I'd never even heard of him before, as he apparently came along well after I stopped buying comics.

In the comics, Savitar is a Cold War fighter pilot from a "third world nation." I guess DC didn't want to offend any countries? He was testing a supersonic jet when it was struck by lighting, causing it to crash. He survived the crash and discovered he could now move at super speed. He named himself "Savitar," after the Hindu God Of Motion (whose name is actually "Savitr." I guess Savitar can't spell very well). 


Savitar has powers that no other speedster has. He can steal from or give speed to others, protect himself with a force field, and heal instantly.

Visually the comic book Savitar is a mess, sporting a garish (even by superhero standards), hodgepodge of a costume, complete with pencil-thin mustache. 

The Flash producers wisely chose to redesign Savitar, giving him a look not unlike between Ultron and a Transformer. I'm OK with this change.

Many fans think there's a reason for TV Savitar's robotic look. They're convinced that engineering student Wally actually built a robot or some sort of speedy armor, and that he's secretly Savitar. 

I guess that's possible. Wally's currently encased inside a stone pillar, but I suppose he could be mentally controlling the armor. And his resentment at not being granted speedster powers like Jesse could fuel a turn to the dark side. I'm betting we'll find out in the mid-season finale.

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