Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Flash Season 1, Episode 7: Power Outage

This week's episode of The Flash was quite the jam-packed affair. Not only did Barry lose his powers, but he got them back with an upgrade to boot. And we got not one, but two villains. Three, if you count the brief return of Girder.


The Plot:
In a flashback scene, we see the origin of yet another villain who got his powers from the particle accelerator explosion. This time it's a young man named Farooq Gibran, who's watching the particle accelerator come online with his two friends. Farooq is blasted by the wave and becomes and "electricity vampire" called Blackout. He blames Dr. Wells for his transformation, and for the death of his two friends.

In the present, Dr. Wells uses his fancy computer to monitor the news from Barry's future. He tells Barry he needs to "kick it up a notch," whatever that means. Blackout arrives at STAR Labs to exact revenge on Dr. Wells. Barry confronts him, but Blackout zaps him and feeds on his energy or life force or something, which steals his speed. When Dr. Wells checks his computer again, he discovers the future's been altered and there's no mention of the Flash anywhere.

Now powerless, Barry begs the STAR Labs Gang to restore his super speed. Dr. Wells suggest "jump starting" him with an electrical charge similar to the lightning that gave him his powers in the first place. It's dangerous, but when Blackout breaks into the Lab, Barry realizes he has no choice and goes through with it. Unfortunately the jump start doesn't work.

Dr. Wells is bummed about the power loss, but he seems less concerned with Barry's health and more upset that the future's been altered. He secretly frees Girder from his cell as a diversion. Blackout attacks Girder and kills him. Whoops! So much for a rematch between him and Barry.

Eventually the STAR Labs Gang figures out that Barry's powers are back, but he's suffering from performance anxiety. He finally gets his groove back when he sees Blackout is about to fry Dr. Wells. He rescues him at very super speed, traveling faster than Blackout's lightning bolts. One of Blackout's stray bolts catches him though, and he begins to feed on Barry's energy. It's too much for him to handle though, and he overloads and dies.

Meanwhile, the Clock King takes a short leave from Arrow and holds the entire Central City Police Department hostage. Detective West, Eddie and Iris are all inside and in danger. Eddie's shot but gets better later, and Iris ends up taking out the Clock King by herself, without the Flash's help.

In the Obligatory Creepy Dr. Wells Tag Scene, Creepy Dr. Wells checks his computer and sees that the future's back to normal. He then takes some blood from Blackout's body and chuckles to himself that he can use it to unlock the secret of the Flash's super speed.

• The title of this week's episode is pretty clever, referring both to Blackout's power and Barry's loss of his speed.

• Blackout is a newer character who was introduced in the 2011 miniseries Flashpoint. This TV version has little or nothing to do with the comic version.

• Farooq is transformed into Blackout by the particle accelerator wave. Man, the show's really getting its money's worth out of that explosion. I hope that's not gonna be the origin of every metahuman all season, or it's going to get old fast.

• As the wave approaches, Farooq warns his two friends to get in the car. So apparently a car can shield you from a particle accelerator wave. Good to know.

• Barry tells Caitlin how much he enjoys being the Flash and having super speed. What a refreshing attitude! I've grown very weary of DC's stable of grim, mopey superheroes who resent their powers. It's nice to finally see someone who enjoys being super.

• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but here goes. Barry stops for coffee on the way to work (although apparently not at the same place where Iris works) and is frustrated to see a long line. He then uses his super speed to make everyone's coffee for them, including his own.

A couple things here. First of all, unless this coffee shop offers just one type of coffee, there's no way in hell he could possibly know what everyone wanted. 

Secondly, Barry might have super speed, but the espresso machine doesn't. Unless he can make objects speed up by touching them, the coffee's going to pour out of the spigot at the normal rate. He'll be super frustrated as he watches the stream of coffee pour excruciatingly slowly into the cups.

Told you it was hardcore!

• Outside the coffee shop, Barry's held up by a mugger. He smiles broadly as he uses his super speed to disarm him, remove his clothing and bring a cop over to arrest him, all in the blink of an eye.

So what's the cop supposed to do? By the time the cop appears, Barry's already taken the mugger's gun away. Unless he whispered in the cop's ear at super speed, all he's going to be able to do is arrest him for wearing his underwear in public.

• Dr. Wells' futuristic computer has a female voice and is called Gideon. Is that something from the comic? I'm assuming the name is somehow relevant, but if it is I'm not sure how.

• Dr. Wells tells Barry that his super speed could lead to dozens of discoveries and medical breakthroughs. He conveniently leaves out the part about how that might work though. He then tells Barry that "Speed is the key to progress. You need to kick it up a notch."

I'm not quite sure what he means here. Does he think Barry's been slacking? Does he think he can run faster and just hasn't been doing so? Has he been watching too much Emeril?

• When Barry loses his powers, Dr. Wells checks his futuristic newspaper and sees that it's changed. There's no longer any reference to the Flash in it, which causes him to freak out.

This pretty much cements the idea that Wells is from the future. If the future is changing, might that mean he could change as well? Or even disappear altogether, Back To The Future style? No wonder he's so anxious to restore events!

And by the way, that headline in the altered newspaper about the Postal Service collapsing in 2024? Haw! I wouldn't be surprised if we see that particular news item long before then.

• Blackout attacks Barry and sucks the life force or speed energy or something from him, rendering him powerless.

That's definitely bad news for Barry. But what about the fact that there also appears to be a lightning bolt going.completely through his chest? Shouldn't that kill him? Or is his "altered" DNA protecting him somehow?

• After Barry loses his powers, he mentions he had to make his way back to STAR Labs by using Uber. I wonder if someone watching this episode ten years from now is going to scratch their head at that reference.

• Caitlin is puzzled by Barry's loss of power. She says his DNA was transformed by the lightning strike, and it's not possible to untransform DNA.

Why not? If lightning can transform him, why can't another strike untransform him? Seems reasonable to me.

• I had a feeling we'd see Girder again at some point, but I didn't think it would be this soon. The second that Dr. Wells got up out of his wheelchair and stood in front of Girder, I knew he was toast. He wouldn't have revealed his secret to him if he expected him to survive the encounter. Too bad. He could have been a fun character to keep around.

• When Barry learns that Dr. Wells released Girder as a diversion to buy them more time, he accuses him of using them all as pawns in an unholy chess game. He's right of course, and I was interested in seeing just how this would drive a wedge between the two of them.

Then after the commercial break the whole matter is apparently forgotten. I guess Barry also forgives at super speed.

Girder's death also neatly wipes out Barry's boneheaded move to reveal his secret identity to him last week. Well, that was certainly convenient!

• Over at the Central City Police Department, William Tockman, aka The Clock King, escapes custody and holds everyone inside hostage.

Clock King made his debut over on Arrow in Season 2 . He was a former employee of Kord Industries (which I assume is a nod to Ted Kord, aka the Blue Beetle) who suffers from MacGregor's Syndrome, a fatal made-up disease. He's using his remaining time to steal money to help his sister, who has cystic fibrosis. Talk about your hard luck cases!

He tells Detective West he's trying to escape from custody sohe can say one last goodbye to his sister.

Sigh... must we make every single super villain sympathetic? Must they all be poor, misguided souls? Why do their illegal activities always have to be justified somehow? Why can't a villain just be evil for the hell of it? I guess it's a sign of the times we live in.

By the way, this MacGreggor's Syndrome that Clock King has? That's the exact same disease that Mr. Freeze's wife Nora had in 1997's Batman And Robin. You know, I love all this world building and the shared universe concept. But associating yourself with that particular cinematic turd is a bad, bad idea.

• Eddie Thawne tries to take out Clock King, but is shot and wounded in the process. So I guess that pretty much torpedoes the idea that Eddie is secretly the Reverse Flash. If he was, he'd have simply zipped out of the way of the bullets, right?

Maybe he's just not the Reverse Flash yet.

By the way, I really wish the comic writers had come up with a better name than "Reverse Flash." If he's truly the reverse of the flash, then wouldn't he be... slow? His other name, Professor Zoom, ain't much lot better.

• Blackout stalks the corridors of STAR Labs, looking for Dr. Wells. When Wells tells Barry that he's going to have to kill the electrical intruder, he balks at the notion. 
Dr. Wells screams, "HE'S A MURDERER!" 

That's an interesting thing to say, considering he's killed at least two people since the series began.

• Blackout says the average person generates 342 watts of electricity. A quick trip to Google tells us that the amount is variable, depending on what a person is doing. You generate around 500 watts when you're running, and about 100 when you're lying on the couch. So I'll give them this one, even if the amount mentioned is oddly specific.

• When confronted by Blackout, Dr. Wells recites a list of names of people who died as a result of his particle accelerator explosion. This list is a goldmine of DC Comics character references.

He mentions Blackout's friends Jake and Darya, who were most likely made up for the show. He then mentions Ralph Dibney (who's the Elongated Man), Al Rothstein (Atom Smasher), Grant Emerson (Damage), Will Everett (Amazing Man), Bea DaCosta (Fire) and Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm). 

It's implied that these people are all dead, but we know for a fact Firestorm is going to make an appearance soon. Who know, maybe the others on the list will as well.

• Barry gets his powers back— and then some— right as Blackout attacks Dr. Wells. From Barry's accelerated point of view, Blackout's lightning bolts slowly make their way across the room toward Wells. It was a very well done scene.

It also means that Barry is now moving much faster than the speed of sound, which has sort of been his limit the past few episodes. Much, much faster. The speed of lightning is variable as it travels through the atmosphere, but most people agree it's around 220,000 mph. Barry had to be running even faster than that! Speedy!

• Blackout tries to absorb Barry's powers again, but this time it's too much for him and he overloaded and dies. 
Caitlin very seriously tells Barry, "He choked on you." Ahem. Surely there was a better way to phrase that sentence.

• Barry visits Eddie in the hospital and brings him flowers. A nice gesture I suppose, but do guys really do that for other guys?

So... how is Dr. Wells planning on keeping Blackout's dead body in his super jail? Are the cells refrigerated? 

Wells then extracts some (dead) blood from Blackout, saying it's the key to unlocking the mystery of Barry's super speed. It's all he can do to keep from throwing his head back and letting loose with a patented evil laugh at this point.

This is obviously meant to suggest that it's Dr. Wells who becomes the Reverse Flash instead of Eddie, but at this point, who knows?

• Next week: The Flash/Arrow crossover event! Cool! Now if only the people in charge of DC Comic TV shows were in charge of the movies.

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