Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 10: Borrowing Problems From The Future

Sorry this week's review is so late, but it was unavoidable. My local The CW station decided, in their infinite wisdom, to pre-empt The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow this week to air a goddamned basketball game instead. Isn't there already more than enough sports on TV? Is it really necessary to shove network shows aside to make room for more?

Don't the networks have rules about affiliates pre-empting their shows? If not, they should. I'd imagine it plays havoc with their national ratings when local stations can decide not to air their programs on a whim.

Anyway, because of this vitally important basketball game, I had to track down alternative viewing sources for the Arrowverse shows, which delayed this week's reviews. Please contact WTVW in Evansville, Indiana and voice your displeasure with them. 

The first thing I noticed this week is that Barry's opening narration has changed. In the previous episode, he said:
"After defeating Zoom and saving the multiverse, I ran back in time and created the alternate timeline, Flashpoint. I restored the timeline to how it was, only to find things weren't as I left them. I brought new threats to our world, and I'm the only one fast enough to stop them. I am... The Flash."
However, in this week's narration he says: 
"In an attempt to stop the evil speedster Savitar, I was accidentally thrust into the future, and I saw him murder the woman I love. But I won't let that happen. I'm going to do everything in my power to change the future, and I'm the only one fast enough to keep her alive. I am... The Flash."
Interesting. No mention at all of the Flashpoint Universe. So does this mean that storyline's over? It wouldn't bother me if it was, as I was getting a little tired of Barry and the others constantly moping about it. But as near as I can tell there was never any kind of resolution to the Flashpoint story arc. It just sort of... faded away, like the writers forgot about it.

Speaking of Flashpoint, apparently none of the characters learned anything from the incident. All season long Team Flash has been angry with Barry for meddling with the past, which altered their lives in major ways. But now he's talking about deliberately trying to change the future in order to save Iris, and suddenly they're all cool with that. I guess the difference is he's talking about changing the future instead of the past? 

The Flash has a longstanding tradition of characters keeping important and potentially life-altering information from one another, usually for the sake of drama. That's why I was very surprised this week when Barry told Iris about seeing her potential death. I honestly expected him to keep that from her until the season finale. In fact he tells the whole STAR Labs Gang about it. Amazing!

Of course then they all revert to their old ways and decide it would be best not to tell Joe about his daughter's impending death in order to "protect" him. Oh, The Flash writers. You give and then you snatch away...

I wonder... since the writers seem determined to punish Barry every time he meddles in time, if he does manage to save Iris from Savitar, will the Universe demand another life instead? Someone like... Julian Albert, perhaps, who conveniently joined Team Flash in this very episode?

There was a cool moment this week between Barry and HR. In the past, Barry looked to the original Harrison Wells as a mentor. He obviously needs advice from Wells this week, but has to settle for HR instead. You can almost see Barry wishing HR would stop being such a doofus for a minute and somehow become the real Wells.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Barry sees Savitar killing Iris again and screams. He wakes up in bed and we realize he was having a nightmare. We also see he's in bed with Iris, as they're apparently now co-habitating. She asks him if something's wrong, and of course he lies and says no, because god forbid anyone on The Flash ever tells someone the truth. Barry gets a text alert that a fire's in progress, and rushes to the scene.

The Flash arrives at the fire and finds Wally, aka Kid Flash, is already there.They work together to put it out and rescue everyone.

At STAR Labs, Caitlin tells Cisco that her power-dampening wristbands are on the fritz. He says they're fine and blames her for not charging them properly. HR zooms into the lab on a Segway, and says it's time for the unveiling of his new STAR Labs Museum. It's very well designed and looks awfully expensive, which brings up the question— how the hell does STAR Labs generate income? HR shows the Gang the centerpiece of the Museum— a hologram of Cisco welcoming visitors. Cisco's unimpressed, especially when the hologram begins glitching and malfunctions.

Wally goes to the CCPD to visit Joe, and overhears a man he saved from the fire saying that Kid Flash is slower than the Flash. This gives Wally icky bad feelings. Caitlin visits Julian Albert, and apologizes for almost killing him a couple episodes back. For some reason she seems to think Julian can help her get rid of her unwanted ice powers. Amazingly, she suggests he join the STAR Labs Gang (which seems like something she really should talk over with the others), but he politely declines. Her wristbands begin glitching and her eyes go white, signalling she's turning into Killer Frost. She runs into the hall and charges the bands and returns to normal. 

Iris tries to ask Barry what's bothering him, but he gets another crime alert and zooms off again. He arrives at a jewelry store, which is being robbed by none other than Jared Morillo, aka Plunder. He's the crook Barry captured in his future vision, who will be mentioned on the news the night Iris is killed four months from now. While Barry's distracted by this, Plunder shoots him with a high-tech blaster and escapes on his motorcycle.

Barry asks HR, who was some sort of sci-fi author back on Earth-19, if he thinks the future can be changed or if it's fixed. HR says he believes it's fixed. That's what he gets for asking HR anything! Cisco tells Barry there's another robbery in progress. 

Barry rushes to the scene and sees Plunder again. He fires special "Flash-seeking" bullets at Barry, who has to run at full speed and phase through a building in order to evade them. While he's doing this, Wally shows up and captures Plunder. A bystander records the whole thing on his phone. Back at STAR Labs, everyone congratulates Wally on his first win. Barry snaps at him for some reason, telling him he's supposed to be shadowing him, not taking the lead.

HR then forces them all to attend the grand soft-opening of the Museum. Unfortunately no one shows up, which crushes HR's spirit. Julian arrives and says he's decided to accept Caitlin's offer to join the team. Barry and the others excuse themselves and say they need to speak with Caitlin immediately. Downstairs, they all ask her what the hell's wrong with her. She gives them a big impassioned speech about how everyone needs a family— even antisocial jerks like Julian. Somewhat abashed, they say they'll think it over.

In what must be a first for the show, Barry decides to NOT keep a secret for once, and figures this is the perfect time to tell Iris what's been bothering him. He takes her into the Wells' Time Closet, er, I mean Vault and shows her that the byline on the futuristic newspaper has changed. He says he saw a possible future in which Savitar murdered her before his eyes. He tells her he'll do whatever it takes to protect her and keep that from happening.

The two of them then tell Team Flash about Iris' possible death. They're stunned by this revelation, and for some reason they all decide they need to keep this secret from Joe, who might worry. Barry wants to try changing the future, and says he saw a news scroll on a TV in the future, including a report saying he'd captured Plunder. He reasons that if they could change any of those news reports, they could change Iris' fate as well. 

Cisco and Barry then vibe into the future to check out the news reports. They list them off to HR back in the present, who writes them all down on a board. One of the headlines reads, "Killer Frost Still At Large," which sounds pretty ominous. Barry then sees Savitar kill Iris again, but this time he spots HR on the roof of a nearby building, holding a rifle. Gasp! He wasn't there before, so the future's already been changed! He and Cisco return to the present.

Wally reports that Plunder has escaped. Barry tells Wally he's sorry for the way he acted earlier, and to suit up. They zoom to the site of Plunder's latest heist. Plunder shoots Wally with his blaster and speeds off on his bike. Wally shakes off the blast and he and Barry pursue Plunder. They capture him, and a crowd forms, chanting "Kid Flash" for some reason.

Back at STAR Labs, the Gang watches a news report saying Kid Flash, and not the Flash, captured Plunder. Hooray! They made one small change to the future! Barry says if they can change this event, they can alter the entire future as well.

The Gang goes upstairs and sees a large crowd in the Museum, complete with an updated and perfect Cisco hologram. Cisco tells HR that he sent a bunch of half-price tickets to a local elementary school to drum up business. 

That night Barry and Iris have a house warming party. A contrite Julian shows up, and Barry tells him they've deigned to allow him to join their precious team. So I guess that's happening. Cisco and Julian give Caitlin a new power-dampening pendant. Just when they had time to whip up that little device is left to our imaginations. Everyone's happy!

In a dark alley, a glowing portal opens. We see a black clad (of course) woman named Gypsy jump out of the portal. She takes out a hologram of HR, looks at it and stalks off determinedly.  

Thoughts: 
• Greg Grunberg guest stars as the man Barry and Wally rescue from the fire. Did JJ Abrams secretly direct this episode?

 All through the episode Barry keeps wondering if it's possible to change the future, or if it's set in stone. He even asks HR, who writes some sort of "sci-fi romance novels" back on Earth-19 (?), for his views on the subject. 

Gosh, if only Barry knew a group of superheroes who regularly travel through time, so he could ask them what they think. But where would he ever find such a team?

 Caitlin meets with Julian, notices he has a prescription for Zolpidem, and asks if he's having trouble sleeping.

Turns out Zolpidem is a real drug, and really is used to treat insomnia! Well done, writers! All season long, any time Caitlin mentions a drug and why it's used, she's been spot on. Either someone on the writing staff is on a LOT of prescription medications, or they figured out how to bookmark WebMD.

 Although I enjoy the Arrowverse shows quite a bit, I'm not a big fan of the villain costumes seen on the various series. With very few exceptions, the bad guys all ten to wear generic, black leather outfits that lack any kind of style or fun.

So it is this week with Plunder. He doesn't look anything like the comic book version, as he's decked out in the usual black leather jacket. Oddly enough, as much as I'm tired of seeing black leather, in this particular case I think the TV version is an improvement. With his jet black garb and jaunty eye patch, he looks much more menacing and... well, cool, then the goofy comic version.

 When HR debuts the STAR Labs Museum to the Gang, the hologram of Cisco comically malfunctions. Somehow HR manages to sweet talk Cisco into fixing it for him. Um... if HR doesn't have the know how to repair it, then he probably didn't build it in the first place. So who did?

By the way, when the Cisco hologram starts glitching, its voice gradually slowssss down until it stops. It's very obvious here that they didn't actually slow down the audio, but had actor Carlos Valdes try to draw out his speech and sound like a faulty recording. It didn't work.

 When Cisco sees the Museum, he asks HR, "Uh, who exactly is paying for all this?" HR deftly avoids his query by laughing it off and saying, "That's a great question."

Nice try, writers. But who IS paying for all this? And how does STAR Labs itself stay open? How do they keep the lights on? Who's paying the massive property tax on such a building? Who's paying Cisco and Caitlin's salary?

Most fans think STAR coasts along on patents created by the original Harrison Wells. That's as good an explanation as any, I guess, but I don't think it's the right one. When Cisco questions why they need a museum in the first place, HR says, "What you want is an income, and we collectively need a cover for STAR Labs for our continued operation." That statement makes it sound like they don't have a revenue stream at all!

C'mon, guys! Throw us a bone here and explain how three twenty-somethings can afford to run a building the size of the average civic center.

• Speaking of STAR Labs, it looks like they're finally repairing its exterior. At one point we see a scaffolding around the pylon that was damaged when the particle accelerator exploded three years ago. Again, who's paying for all this?

• While we're stuck on the subject of real estate, I'm still wondering how Barry can afford his Massive TV Apartment. Either CSI's make a LOT more money than I think they do, or the housing market in Central City is severely depressed.

 Shortly before Barry sees Iris die in his glimpse of the future, he hears a news report saying he captured Plunder. He then believes that as long as he doesn't catch the criminal, Iris will be saved. To that end he actually lets Plunder escape a couple times in this episode.

Barry's had some questionable ideas before, but that's gotta be one of the fundamentally dumbest. So what's he gonna do, stop catching all crooks in order to save one person?

• According to the future news report, the date of Iris' possible death is May 23, 2017. That date just happens to fall on a Tuesday, the day The Flash airs. How much you wanna bet that May 23 will turn out to be the date of the season finale?

• Why does Wally even bother wearing a mask?

If a villain wanted to try and figure out Kid Flash's secret identity, it doesn't seem like it would be that hard. Hear me out, and I'll try my best not to sound like a horrible racist. 

OK, it's quite obvious that Kid Flash is black. That's just a fact. According to the most recent Census Report, blacks make up about 13% of the U.S. population. I would assume Central City probably falls in line with that statistic. That means our inquisitive villain can automatically eliminate a whopping 87% of the populace when he's trying to discover Kid Flash's identity!

Kid Flash is also obviously a male, so that automatically eliminates around 50% of the remaining number. He looks like he's in his early twenties, so that narrows down the candidates even more.

Kid Flash's mask exposes the top third of his head, and he sports a very distinctive hairline that few others are likely to have. By now the villain's list of suspects is probably down to ten or less! Wally might as well just ditch the mask altogether, for all the good it's doing him!

• In this episode we find out that HR wrote a "scientific romance novel" on Earth-19 titled The Future Ain't What It Used To Be.

• HR tells Barry he believes the future's set, but a few scenes later he uses dominoes to prove it can be changed. So which is it, HR? Can it be changed or can't it?

• HR does have a pretty good line tonight. When Barry asks him if the future can be altered, HR says, "Well, I think that a man often meets his destiny on the very road he takes to avoid it.”

 What's up with HR and all the cappuccinos? Comedy relief or something more sinister? Somehow I still don't completely trust our visitor from Earth-19.

• Barry gets an alert concerning a robbery at the Payson Hotel. The Flash writers love to name streets and buildings after comic creators, but I'm not aware of any named "Payson." Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

• Barry says he saw a news feed in his future vision, and reasons that if they can change any of those events, they could possibly prevent Iris' death as well. He and Cisco vibe into the future to see read the news feed.

Among the news stories for May 23, 2017:

 Music Meister gets six-figure book deal (I assume that's a shoutout to the upcoming The Flash/Supergirl crossover musical episode. Yep, they're going there. I think it's a federally mandated law that all sci-fi and fantasy shows HAVE to do a musical episode at some point during their runs. I'm lookin' at you, Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy The Vampire Slayer!).

 Luigi's opens after murder.

 Joe West honored at City Hall.

 Killer Frost still at large (Obviously her new power-dampening pendant isn't gonna work).

 S.T.A.R. Labs museum closes.

 City still recovering following gorilla attack (Huzzah! We're getting another Gorilla Grodd episode!).

• Julian shows up at Barry and Iris' housewarming and says he'd be happy to join Team Flash. So I guess that's happening, and he's a regular now. I guess he can be the show's new Designated Asshole now that Harry went back to Earth-2.

 At the housewarming, Cisco and Julian present Caitlin with a gift the two of them whipped up a brand new power-dampening pendant to replace her faulty bracelets. A few things here.

First of all, Julian is a CSI, and according to Caitlin, the world's foremost expert on metahumans. Fair enough, but how does that qualify him to help design and build a device to dampen superpowers?

Secondly, just when the hell did Cisco and Julian have time to whip up this little doodad? The Gang just welcomed him to Team Flash five minutes earlier! Did he help Cisco design the pendant BEFORE he was officially accepted onto the Team?

Lastly, Caitlin immediately puts on the pendant, but wears it OUTSIDE her clothes (so the audience can see it glowing and be reminded of her situation). Her wristbands seemed to need to be in contact with her skin in order to work. So why doesn't the pendant need to touch her skin as well?

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