Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Flash Season 1, Episode 2: Fastest Man Alive

This week The Flash continues to move right along, throwing out concepts and back story left and right. I like that. Too many shows these days tend to drag things out for far too long. It's refreshing to see a series that speeds things up, so to speak.

Last week I said I wasn't completely sold on actor Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash, mainly because he looks much too young, especially for a CSI. Eh, I didn't even think about that this week. I guess he's winning me over with his nerdy charm.

Kudos also to Carlos Valdez as tech guru Cisco Ramon. Cisco, who comes up with all of Barry's cool gear and technology, could have easily been an annoying character, what with his constant overenthusiastic patter and catchphrases. Surprisingly he hasn't come off as too irritating (so far) and I haven't wanted to strangle him yet. 


The Plot:
After rescuing citizens from a fiery apartment building, Barry starts having performance issues. Don't worry, Barry. It happens to all guys from time to time. Anyway, he begins passing out every time he uses his powers. The STAR Labs Gang run tests on him and determine the problem-- he's not eating enough tacos to fuel his super speed.

Meanwhile, Barry's boss slash surrogate father Detective Joe West is angry with him because he's always late to his day job. Wah-waahh. They investigate a robbery at the Hex gun shop (Easter Egg Alert!). Even though the security camera only shows one man committing the robbery, Barry finds six sets of footprints. Hmm...

Barry discovers a new metahuman (which is nothing like a mutant, so calm down, intellectual property lawyers) called Multiplex is behind the robbery. Multiplex has the ability to show more than one movie at a time, er, I mean he can split into countless duplicates of himself. I bet that comes in mighty handy when he moves to a new apartment. Multiplex is after sleazy businessman Simon Stagg, who stole his research.

Barry then has to figure out how to balance his day job with his life as the Flash while he deals with his relationship with Iris, while a man who can turn into an army wants to kill him.

Oh, and creepy Dr. Wells does his "Surprise! I'm not really crippled" party trick again and kills Stagg.

When Joe summons Barry to the crime scene, he dashes off so quickly he forgets he's still wearing his superhero togs. He glances over at a men's wear store and a second later he's wearing brand new civilian clothing. One of the cops notices a price tag still attached to Barry's new jacket.

Did Barry just steal those clothes? It's unlikely that he carries his wallet in his Flash suit, since it doesn't appear to have pockets, and a clerk would probably remove the tag if they rang it up. So I'm going to say yes. Yes he did.

By the way, the whole "Fastest Man Alive Is Always Late For Everything" trope was a staple of the comic book for many years.

So we're doing the old "My Powers Are Going Haywire" plotline so soon, eh? Fortunately they didn't drag it out forever and solved the problem... in a flash! Yeah, you're gonna get tired of that joke real quick.

This also happened to the comic book Flash from time to time. Heck, it's happened to pretty much every superhero, especially Spider-Man and Superman-- their powers have all gone haywire now and then.

Barry starts feeling faint and collapses after every burst of super speed. The STAR Labs Gang runs tests on him, and discovers his metabolism is now so high his super speed is burning up calories faster than he can eat them.

Once again, this is an element taken straight from the comics. It happened in the 1990s to Wally West, aka Kid Flash and later just the Flash.

Cisco tells Barry that when he uses his super speed he'll needs to eat the equivalent of 850 tacos a day.

First of all, poor Cisco. He has to measure things in terms of Mexican food, because of his ethnic heritage.

Secondly, I hope for Barry''s sake that if he really does eat that much food, his body converts nearly all of it to energy. Because if not... that's gonna be a lot of poopin.' Don't look at me like that, you know you were thinkin' it too!

Thirdly, if Barry really has to eat that much every day, that's gonna run into some serious money! Hope he gets paid well!

Holy crap, Cisco just invented the Flash's Cosmic Treadmill, another staple of the comics. The Flash used to use it to travel to the future, running on it so fast he broke the time barrier. 

Given last week's glimpse of Dr. Wells' 2024 newspaper, I wouldn't be surprised if he uses the Treadmill to time travel here as well.

Multiplex was the arch enemy of Firestorm The Nuclear Man in the comics, and his name really was Danton Black. Someone on the writing staff's doing their homework. He dressed a bit more like a swashbuckler in the comics though.

In the comic, Multiplex was created in the same nuclear explosion as Firestorm. However, where Firestorm was the result of two separate individuals fusing together, Multiplex gained the ability to split into hundreds of copies of himself.

This makes three characters from Firestorm that have shown up or been mentioned so far-- Caitlin Snow, her fiance Ronnie Raymond (who's secretly one half of Firestorm) and now Multiplex. I'm betting it won't be long before Firestorm himself shows up. Hopefully with a flaming head. 

• When you're dealing with a comic book world, sometimes it's best to not try and explain how super powers work.

Case in point, Multiplex. Instead of just saying he can make duplicates of himself, they try to come up with a rational explanation for how this could possibly work. According to them, Danton Black was working on some sort of cloning experiment when Dr. Wells' particle accelerator exploded, giving him the power to endlessly duplicate himself.

This "explanation" wasn't necessary, and raises more questions than it answers. Multiplex is instantly creating clones of himself. Fine. But how is it all the clones are wearing the same clothes as him? Shouldn't the clones all be naked? Are his clothing cells somehow being cloned as well?

This is why you shouldn't bother trying to ground your superhero's powers in reality. Just say he duplicates himself and don't try to explain how.

Simon Stagg is also a character from the comics. He was an unscrupulous businessman who often clashed with Metamorpho, The Element man (that's element, not elephant). It would be awesome if his appearance signaled a Metamorpho cameo, but given the events of this episode that doesn't look like it's going to happen. 

The scenes between Barry and his surrogate father Joe West were very well done. Kudos to the actors! 

When Iris is blathering to Barry about her problems, he can't contain himself anymore and confesses that he's really the Flash. But because he does so at super speed, she doesn't see or hear him.

Hmm. At one point he zips beside her and then speaks several sentences before zipping back. Let me repeat that-- he moves at super speed, stands still and then zips back.

The moving at super speed I can understand, as it's been determined that Barry can run faster than sound. But the only way he could stand there and speak and not have Iris hear him is if he was standing and speaking at super speed as well.

Apparently he ran to her side in a split second, so fast she couldn't see him, then stood there and said several lines in a split second as well. If not, he'd have become visible and she'd have seen and heard him.

I wonder if he sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks when he was talking at super speed?

• Speaking of Barry's powers, several times in this episode he rescues people by moving them out of harm's way at super speed. He moves them so fast they're not even aware of what happened.

In the comics, whenever Barry used his super speed, a force field automatically formed around his body, protecting his clothing and anything-- or anyone-- he was carrying from the effects of friction and velocity.

I'm assuming the same thing is happening here. Because if something's not protecting people when he moves them at top speed, there's gonna be a lot of snapped necks in Central City. 

So Caitlin takes some of Danton Black's cells that she found at a crime scene, and nonchalantly creates a clone from them. A full grown adult male clone. In the space of a few hours. Something our top genetic scientists still can't do. Perhaps they should consult Caitlin's notes? 

This raises a ton of ethical questions. She just created a human being. Granted, it's mind is blank, as it "doesn't have any brainwaves," but it's still a person. Is she planning on feeding and caring for what is essentially a 150 pound infant? Does it have guaranteed rights like the rest of us?

Detective West then enters the lab, see the clone of Multiplex, and shoots it dead. Looks like Joe's now guilty of murder! Clone or no clone, he just shot an unarmed human being.

What would the STAR Labs Gang have done with the clone had Joe not killed it? Keep it around the lab for the rest of its natural life, or shove it in the incinerator when they were done examining it? 

Growing people like you'd grow penicillin in a petri dish seems like a misuse of science. I know, I know, lighten up, it's a comic book show. 

By the way, the Multiplex clone is wearing the same outfit as all the others. So unless Caitlin just happened to have the same kind of leather jacket lying around the lab, I guess his clothes really do get duplicated along with Multiplex.

• Near the end of the episode we find out the reason why Dalton Black is trying to kill Simon Stagg. Black was experimenting with genetics in order to clone a new heart for his dying wife. Stagg fired him and stole all his research. Awww, poor Dalton.

Of course all this is an attempt to justify Multiplex's actions, and make us feel pity for him. This touchy-feely, poor misunderstood villain thing started with the original Spider-Man films, and it's still going strong today.

I'm not a fan of this particular trend. Why does the villain always have to be misunderstood, or have no choice but to go bad? Just once, why can't a villain just be a big asshole?

 Multiplex shows up at Stagg's office, intending to kill him. Barry intercepts him and the two of them recreate The Matrix: Reloaded. Multiplex goes all Agent Smith on the Flash's ass as hundreds of his duplicates attack. It was fairly impressive for a TV budget. 

Barry defeats the army of Multiplexes by knocking out the prime. Ah, the old "Take Out The Mothership And The Rest Of The Fleet Will Fall" plot. Haven't seen that one before.

Then Multiplex Prime, who sounds like one of the less popular Transformers, is hanging off a ledge. Barry grabs him by the arm and tries to save him, but then a little baby hand, that reminds me of one of those novelty banks, comes up out of his arm! It looks like it pries Barry's hand off, and Multiplex falls to his death. Weird.

So... there are now hundreds of Multiplex's dead bodies littering Stagg's lobby. What the hell are they going to do with all those? They're gonna run out of burial plots in Potter's Field!

Of course they can always bring back Multiplex if they want by saying one of the hundreds of clones somehow survived.

• I'm hoping Dr. Wells isn't going to dramatically rise from his wheelchair bit at the end of every episode. It'll start to lose its shock value after a while.

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