Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Flash Season 4, Episode 15: Enter Flashtime

This week on The Flash, Barry and his speedster pals are stumped when they have to figure out how to save Central City from a nuclear bomb that's already gone off!

So far I've been enjoying The Thinker arc that's been going on all season. That said, it was nice to take a break from it this week. 

The bulk of Enter Flashtime takes place in just a fraction of a second a concept that could only happen on a superhero show. Best of all, it's VERY loosely based on one of my all-time favorite stories from The Flash comic. Just don't think about any of it for too long, or the whole idea will come tumbling down!

The whole "Flashtime" concept was first introduced a few episodes back in The Trial Of The Flash. In that episode, Barry accidentally discovered he could accelerate himself and anyone he touched to super duper speed so fast in fact, that the rest of the world seems frozen in time.

It's an interesting ability, and one that seems like it was set up just so it could be used here. I'm pretty sure the comic version of the Flash never developed that particular power (unless it happened after 2000, when comics became too expensive for me!).

This week we also get the welcome return of Jesse Quick. That said, I'm puzzled by her feud with her dad Harry. Suddenly she's pissed off at him because he refuses to share his feelings about his late wife. Huh? Where the hell did that come from? Unless I missed an episode (and I didn't), the two of them have never fought about that before.

Always great to see Jay Garrick on the show. Sadly, based on the end of the episode it looks like his days on the series are numbered.
Lastly, we get another glimpse of the mysterious, er, Mystery Girl, who keeps popping up in the lives of Team Flash. Is she Barry and Iris' daughter from the future? That's how it looks to me, which of course means it's too obvious and she'll turn out to be someone else.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We begin as a sweaty, disheveled Barry enters STAR Labs. He sees Iris, grabs hold of her and speeds her up into "Flashtime," so she's moving as fast as him, because that's a thing he can do now (since his murder trial). He apologizes and explains that he can't save her this time.

Flash back to 8 minutes ago and 46 seconds ago. Inside STAR's Speed Lab, Barry's practicing running fast enough to dive into one of Cisco's breaches (not his britches). Why? So next time DeVoe teleports, he can follow him back into his pocket dimension. Unfortunately, Barry just can't seem to run fast enough. Cisco says he's had enough practice for one day and leaves. Iris tells Barry he needs to relax, and amazingly he agrees. He plans a romantic evening for the two of them.

Inside the Cortex, Jesse Quick unexpectedly shows up from Earth-2 (even though I could've sworn she went to live on Earth-3 last season). She's there to confront her father Harry, blaming their strained relationship on his inability to talk about her mother's death (a problem that's never been alluded to before).

Just then Team Flash gets an alert from Joe. Cisco tracks the signal to a Central City hangar. Cut to Joe and a group of ARGUS soldiers shooting it out with a group of terrorists. As Joe and the others are pinned down, Veronica Dale, leader of the terrorists, opens a large cargo container in the middle of the room.

Inside the container we see a large nuclear device. She arms it, grabs the detonator and backs out. Suddenly Barry, Jesse, Cisco and Caitlin (as Killer Frost) arrive on the scene. The speedsters take out the other terrorists with ease, saving Joe and the ARGUS guards. Barry confronts Veronica, but before he can stop her, she presses the button on the detonator, activating the bomb!

Barry and Jesse then instinctively shift into "Flashtime"— a hyper-accelerated state that's thousands, maybe millions of times faster than normal. Because they're moving so fast, everyone else appears to be frozen in time. She asks how they can deactivate the bomb, but Barry says they can't, as it's already gone off— it just hasn't exploded yet. Jesse runs down a list of possible options, but Barry poo-poos them all in order for the plot to happen. He says veteran speedster Jay Garrick might know what to do, so Jesse heads for Earth-3 to bring him back.

Meanwhile, Barry drags Cisco into Flashtime. He tries to open a breach to send the bomb to a dead Earth, but  his power sputters and fizzles out. Cisco theorizes that he's moving so fast there's no time for a breach to form. He then becomes dizzy and stumbles, as his non-speedster body can't handle being in Flashtime for more than a few seconds. He apologizes as Barry drops him back into normal time. 

Barry then runs to STAR Labs and Flashtimes Harry. The only idea he can come up with is to toss the bomb into the Speed Force and hope for the best. He makes Barry promise to save Jesse no matter what.

Barry returns to the warehouse, just as Jesse and Jay show up. Jay flips out when he hears Barry plan, saying that detonating the bomb inside the Speed Force could irreparably damage it, causing every speedster in the entire multiverse to permanently lose their powers!

Jay suggests cooling the nuclear reaction inside the bomb. Barry speeds up Killer Frost, who tries her best to encase it in ice. Unfortunately she can't handle Flashtime either, and her powers quickly fail. He leaves her in normal time again.

Jesse suggests neutralizing the bomb with Speed Force lightning (Comic Book Science!). Jay says it might work, but they'd need the power generated by the lightning of all three of them simultaneously. They begin running around the warehouse, building up energy. Barry and Jesse throw their lightning at the bomb, but Jay stumbles and falls. He says he's getting too old for this sh*t, and can't handle being in Flashtime this long. He reluctantly drops out and freezes in place.

Barry and Jesse realize they're starting to slow down as well, as the explosion is visibly expanding. He tells her to save herself and hightail it back to Earth-2. She refuses to go, but he insists, saying Harry made him promise to save her. She says goodbye and zips off. Instead of heading for Earth-2 though, she returns to STAR Labs to see Harry. She tries to bring him into Flashtime with her, but either doesn't know how or is too tired. Her energy finally gives out, and she slows down to normal time and freezes.

Back at the warehouse, Barry begins tiring and realizes he can't keep operating at this speed forever. Out of ideas, he speeds back to STAR Labs and finds Iris. He yanks her into Flashtime and says he can't save her, as we catch up to the opening scene.

Suddenly Iris comes up with a bright idea. Back in The Flash Reborn, Cisco invented a "quark sphere" that was imprinted with Barry's DNA. He tossed it into the Speed Force to fool it into thinking Barry was inside, so he could escape from it. Iris says he might be able to use the sphere to draw lighting out of the Speed Force and use it to neutralize the bomb. Sure, why not?

Barry decides to give it a shot. He uses the last of his strength to open a portal into the Speed Force. Inside, he finds the quark sphere just sitting there, and yoinks it away. Immediately a storm of lightning begins following him through the vortex. He exits into the real world, the lightning close behind. He tosses the sphere at the bomb, and the Speed Force lightning strikes it, somehow rendering it inert.

Barry finally slows down and promptly passes out. He wakes up inside STAR Labs. Joe shows the team a taped message from Veronica Dale, meant to be played after the bomb went off. She claims to be a member of Eden Corps, an eco-terrorist group. Jay, who's now recovered, says goodbye to the gang. He says he's returning to Earth-3, where he plans to retire and train a new speedster to replace him.

Meanwhile, Harry says he's still not ready to talk about Jesse's mother with her. Instead, he uses a modified version of the cerebral inhibitor he invented last week, to allow Jesse to experience his thoughts and feelings toward his late wife.

Sometime later, Harry and Caitlin go to Jitters for coffee. While there, a young woman accidentally spills her coffee on them and apologizes profusely. It's the same mystery girl we've seen a couple times before, who we're not supposed to realize is Barry and Iris' future daughter.

Thoughts:
• At the beginning of the episode, Barry's struggling to jump through one of Cisco's breaches before it closes. Unfortunately he consistently fails. Iris helpfully says, "
Look, Barry, a bridge closes in three picoseconds. DeVoe's could shut even faster."

The upshot here is that Barry's just not fast enough. I'd say not! A picosecond is equal to ONE TRILLIONTH of a second! No wonder he can't jump though a breach in time!

• At one point the camera slowly pans across a board inside STAR Labs, and we see the formula "3X2(9YZ)4A" scrawled on it. DC Comic fans will recognize this as the Speed Force formula!

In the comics, Golden Age speedster Johnny Quick would recite this formula to gain access to the Speed Force and activate his powers. So... does that mean anyone who says the formula out loud could do this? Probably not.

Also, to complicate matters, Johnny Quick is Jesse Quick's dad in the comics. Here on the show though, Jesse's the daughter of the Earth-2 Harrison Wells. Confused yet?

For some reason Ralph's AWOL in this episode. At one point Barry asks if anyone's seen him, and Caitlin says he's downstairs moving in. The implication here is that Ralph's nervous about becoming DeVoe's next victim, so he's holing up in STAR Labs for safety's sake.

Ah yes, that super-safe impenetrable fortress known as Star Labs. The only high tech think tank in the world with no apparent way to keep out unwanted intruders. Surely no harm could ever come to him there.

• In a stunning subversion of our expectations, this week Team Flash confronts a villain inside an airplane hangar, rather than the typical "abandoned warehouse." 

• Cisco tracks Joe's alert signal to Waid Airfield.

That would be a reference to Mark Waid, who began an epic eight year run on The Flash comic back in 1992.

• Veronica Dale's the one who ends up setting off the nuke in this episode. She's from the comics, but oddly enough she's not a Flash villain. She's actually one of Green Arrow's foes, called Hyrax!

The comic version was an eco-terrorist who headed Eden Corps, just like in this episode. She tried to set off a nuclear device, but Green Arrow, aka Oliver Queen, stopped her. Unfortunately he died in the process, clearing the way for his son Conner Hawke to become the new Green Arrow. Eventually Oliver got better after being resurrected by Green Lantern (!). Comic books!

• The basic concept of this episode— in which Barry has less than a second to solve a deadly problem by moving so fast the rest of the world seems frozen— seems to be taken from The Flash #30, published back in 1989 (it's entirely possible the comic's used this same plot many times since, but this is the only instance I'm aware of).

Anyway, in the comic, Wally West (who was the Flash at that time) takes in a movie with his girlfriend Connie Noleski (whoever she is). They both act like jerks and talk during the movie, until Wally realizes Connie's seemingly frozen.

By the way, are they watching a porno here or what?

Suddenly Wally feels something pressing against the back of his neck, and discovers it's a bullet! 

Apparently the instant it touched his skin, his superspeed instinctively kicked in, causing the rest of the world to seemingly freeze in place.

So yeah. The Flash published a comic about a nut job shooting up a darkened movie theater with an automatic weapon, twenty three years before James Holmes did it in real life back in 2012. Gulp! Talk about unfortunate coincidences!

Fortunately for the residents of the DC Universe, Wally's able to hunt down all the bullets in the theater and pluck 'em out of the air before they can do any damage.

I'm betting DC's editors probably wouldn't approve this story in our current dark times.

• Once the nuke is detonated, Barry and Jesse both enter Flashtime and try to figure out what to do. Jesse and the entire cast run down a list of options, but because there's still half an hour left in the episode, Barry rejects every one of them for increasingly vague and unsatisfying reasons.

Among the solutions suggested:

Jesse proposes running the bomb into the Badlands. Barry says no, stating, "If we run that long, it'll speed up the reaction. We won't make it outside the city before it explodes." I don't understand any of that, but whatever. 

Cisco wants to try breaching it to a dead Earth. Unfortunately he's moving too fast to open a breach.

Harry suggests tossing the bomb into the Speed Force. Jay forbids this, fearing it'll destroy the mysterious realm and rob all speedsters of their powers.

Jesse actually comes up with one of the better ideas— why not just run back in time a few minutes and "yoink" the detonator away from Veronica, and prevent the bomb from ever exploding in the first place? Sounds logical to me! Barry stupidly shoots down this notion as well, saying it's too risky. He tells Jesse, "The second you alter the timeline, everything changes, especially the people you love. Trust me. I learned that the hard way."

Jesus wept.

Yes, Barry, you learned NOT to go back twenty some years and prevent your mother from being killed (several times). But we're not talking about decades here. We're talking about five minutes, tops! How the hell much damage could they do in that short amount of time? Even in the unlikely event that five minutes could "alter their loved ones," wouldn't it be worth it to save hundreds of thousands of lives?

Look, I get it. The writers came up with a high concept threat, and then had to invent a bunch of reasons why it couldn't be resolved in a few seconds. I understand that. But surely they could have came up with some more credible sounding excuses for why they couldn't shut down this bomb.

• As much as I enjoyed this episode, even I have to agree that its concept doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. Shortly after the nuke goes off, Barry speeds up Cisco to have him try and breach the bomb to a dead Earth. Unfortunately, they're moving faster than a breach can be generated.

But... at the beginning of the episode, Barry's too slow to jump through a breach before it slams shut. Now he's moving faster than they can even form? Whoops!

And then there's Jesse. Somehow she zips over to Earth-3 and brings Jay back with her. Wait a minute... if everyone's moving faster than a breach can form, then she shouldn't be able to travel between Earths, right? Whoops again!

But let's throw the writers a bone and say Jesse figured out a shortcut. That means she got to Earth-3, searched the city and eventually located Jay, explained to him what was going on and brought him back all while she was in Flashtime. She had to, right? If she'd slowed down for even a second, she'd have returned to Earth-1 AFTER the bomb exploded.

• So just how fast are Barry and the other speedsters moving in this episode? Pretty darned quick. In fact they're running far, FAR faster than any of them have ever been able to go before.

Back in Season 2 it was mentioned in dialogue that Barry's top speed was Mach 2, which is approximately 1,534 mph. That's pretty speedy, but nowhere near fast enough for the world to appear frozen in place, or to accomplish everything they did in this episode before the bomb finished exploding.

When Cisco enters Flashtime, he says he's moving too fast to form a breach. That means the speedsters are all 

Remember that it takes 3 picoseconds for a breach to close. That means it likely takes the same amount of time for one to open. When Cisco enters Flashtime, he says he's moving too fast for a breach to form.

That means Barry and the other speedsters are all running faster than 3 picoseconds. As stated earlier, a picosecond is one TRILLIONTH of a second. I don't know what that is in miles per hour, but I'm betting it's considerably more than Mach 2! In this episode at least, Barry's powers have suddenly gone from impressive to utterly ridiculous!

• Say, you know who might have been helpful in this situation? Wally West! You guys on the writing staff remember him, right? He's the character you created back in Season 2, and then promptly ignored for the next two years, never quite figuring out what to do with him.

Sure, he's on another show now (and doing great there, thanks!), but he probably have come in really handy once Jay weakened and was forced to drop out.

• It's always great to see Jay Garrick again. He's obviously from an earlier era where people were more polite. He even insists on calling sometime-supervillain Killer Frost "Ms. Frost!" Haw!

That said, I hated seeing him become winded and fall. Superheroes aren't supposed to get old and weak, dammit!

At the end of the episode, Caitlin examines Jay and notes that his glucose levels are low. She gives him some kind of supplements (sugar, I guess?) and tells him to get some rest.

Hmm... Was Jay really just tired? Or is this a bit of ominous foreshadowing before we find out he's really dying? Remember, nothing happens by accident in fiction— nine times out of ten, when a character coughs at the beginning of an episode, they're on their deathbed by the end. Hopefully this isn't the case, and he really is just winded.

• For some reason, Iris— who's a former newspaper reporter, mind you
 is the one who comes up with a way to cancel out the nuclear explosion. Not Cisco. Not Caitlin. Not Harry. But Iris

• In the third act, Barry removes the removes the quark sphere from the Speed Force in order to undo the explosion. The very same quark sphere that Team Flash was using to fool the Speed Force into thinking a speedster was inside it.

So now what? We've been told in the past that the Speed Force always needs to contain a speedster, else it goes haywire and threatens to destroy the real world. Now not only is there no speedster residing there, but there's no longer a fake one either. Surely that's got to have some sort of dire consequences, right?

• Barry steals the quark sphere and uses it to pull lightning out of the Speed Force, and use it to neutralize the nuke.

Wow, look at how close he that lightning gets to Joe as Barry drags it past him! Luckily there were no stray bolts that branched off and fried Joe where he stood!

• After the crisis is over, Team Flash plays Veronica's manifesto recording, in which she explains her plan. Basically she's against nuclear power. So in order to prove just how dangerous it is, she decided to blow up Central City.

Um... that doesn't make any sense. It's like shooting yourself in the head to prove that guns aren't safe.

• At the end of the episode, Caitlin and Harry meet in Jitters. Suddenly they're interrupted by the Mystery Girl we first saw in Crisis On Earth-X Part 1. You know, the young woman who showed up at Barry & Iris' wedding.

We still have no idea who exactly she is, but most fans (myself included) are betting she's either Barry & Iris' future daughter or granddaughter, who's come back to the past for some reason.

This week I heard a new theory, that's she actually Joe & Cecile's daughter. I hadn't considered that before, but it's entirely possible! It would depend on what her powers are. If she's a speedster, then she's definitely related to Barry. If she's got some other ability (like mental powers, perhaps?) than I could buy that she's Cecile's offspring.

We'll find out sometime around the end of the season.

Whoever she is, she seems to be systematically running into all the various members of Team Flash. So far she's encountered Barry, Cisco and Ralph, and now Caitlin and Harry. It's almost like she's "collecting" members.

But for what purpose? Based on the unsettling and malicious look she shoots Caitlin and Harry in the final shot, it can't be for anything good.

This Week's Best Lines: 
Cisco: "Listen, Miyagi..."
Barry: "What?"
Cisco: "I've been here all day, opening breaches, all right, so unless you wanna rub your hands together and do some magic shoulder popping..."
Barry: "I'm not rubbing your shoulder."
Cisco: "That's what I thought."

Barry: "How is it we live together, work together, sleep in the same bed together, but it stills feels like we don't spend any real time as husband and wife?"
Harry: (over intercom) "ALLEN! WEST-ALLEN! CORTEX! NOW!"
Iris: "I have no idea."

Jesse: "Oh, that's a nuclear bomb."
Barry: "I know."
Jesse: "And its core has already gone critical."
Barry: "I know."
Jesse: "The second we slow down, it's over."
Barry: "I know. That's not helping."

Cisco: "Whoa, what is going on?"
Barry: "You're moving with me at super-speed."
Cisco: "What? Is this what it looks like when you run?"
Barry: "More or less."
Cisco: "I have to say, it's a little uneventful."

3 comments:

  1. I don't know when the idea first appeared in comics, but speedsters can definitely "borrow" speed from others. Also, it was also well established that Jay Garrick was never as fast as the others -- and in the JSA comics in the late 90s/early 2000s, he was definitely feeling his age a bit (but was nowhere near death's door).

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  2. Interesting! Never knew Jay was slower than the others.

    So speedsters could borrow speed from one another. Were they ever shown speeding up non-speedsters, as happens in this episode?

    As I said, my comic knowledge ends around 2002, when I bought a house and could no longer afford $3 - $4 apiece for comics.

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  3. I've read very little since then myself. But the public library buys a lot of trade paperbacks, and I'll pick them up occasionally. There was a long, really good run of the JSA in the early 2000s that is well worth reading if you're a fan of those characters.

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