Friday, October 7, 2016

The Flash Season 3, Episode 1: Flashpoint

The Flash is back for Season 3!

Season 1 of the series was pretty good, while Season 2 was very, very uneven. I'm hoping Season 3 will get the show back on track.

In this premiere episode, we see the fallout from last season's finale, in which Barry very selfishly decided to alter time and save his mother. I'm very surprised that this new Flashpoint timeline only lasted one episode. I figured they'd drag it out for several months, finally setting things right in the mid-season finale. 

I suppose that could still happen though. At the end of the episode he restores the timeline, but finds some of the details still aren't quite right. I have an uneasy feeling the writers are going to have him constantly tweaking reality for the remainder of the season. If that's their plan, it's gonna get old real quick.

I was a bit disappointed to see yet another evil speedster in this episode. What's that make now, three? Four? Twenty if you count all the versions of Reverse Flash?

I used to read The Flash comic back in the late 1980s (after Barry Allen was killed off and Wally West became the new Flash). I quickly grew bored with it though, because virtually every supervillain Wally fought was another speedster. The TV series is coming dangerously close to going down that same path. 

On the other hand, speedsters are really the only type of villain who should be able to give Barry a run (heh) for his money. He can literally move so fast that everyone else appears to be frozen in time. He could literally round up every criminal in the city in between heartbeats. Like it or not, speedsters are the only real threat to someone like the Flash.

I wonder... since all The CW "Arrowverse" shows are connected, will Barry's meddling have an effect on their timelines as well?


The Plot:
After Zoom killed Henry Allen in the Season 2 finale, Barry decided enough was enough. He ran back in time and altered history by preventing the Reverse Flash from killing his mother.

Barry's now seemingly living in a paradise. His mother's alive, and his father was never falsely accused of her murder. But that also means he was never taken in by Joe, and didn't grow up in the same house with Iris.

Barry sits in Jitters, waiting for Iris to show up so he can awkwardly ask her out. He's interrupted by a news report that the Flash is battling a villain called The Rival. Whaaa...? Barry zips away at super speed to the scene of the action. He sees Wally West, aka the Flash, battling The Rival, a black-clad speedster. The Rival gets away, and Barry tells Wally, (who doesn't know him in this timeline) better luck next time.

Barry returns to Jitters and works up the courage to talk to Iris. She doesn't know him in this timeline either, and he awkwardly asks her out. Amazingly she says yes. Barry goes to work and speaks with Captain Mendez, his boss(did he accidentally erase Captain Singh from this timeline?). Mendez asks where Det. Joe West is. Barry makes a lame excuse for his absence.

Later that day Barry takes a bag of Big Belly Burgers to an abandoned warehouse (the only kind that exist in Central City). Inside we see he's holding Eobard Thawne (aka the Reverse Flash) captive in a glass case that somehow dampens his powers. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! Thawne taunts Barry, telling him that this new timeline is just an illusion, and soon he'll be begging him to kill his mother again.

The next morning, Mendez is furious that Joe's absent yet again. Barry rushes to Joe's house and sees he's sleeping off a hangover. He cleans him up at superspeed and rushes him to the police station. Joe, who's now fully awake, tells Barry he doesn't need his help. Iris then walks in for her lunch date with Barry. Joe assumes Iris is the reason he's taken such a sudden interest in his well-being.

On their "date," Barry says it's like he's known Iris for years, and she says she feels the same way. Suddenly Barry doubles over in pain, as his memories begin disappearing. Just then they hear that the Flash and The Rival are fighting again. Iris says she has to cover the event and excuses herself. 

Barry rushes to the scene of the battle. He sees The Rival throw the Flash out of an upper story building. Barry tries to create a superspeed updraft to save him, but his powers unexpectedly fade, and the Flash lands in a dumpster. Um… was that some kind of metaphor or symbolism? Are the writers saying this version of the Flash is garbage? For some reason Barry lifts the Flash's mask and is shocked to see he's really Wally West (to the surprise of absolutely no one in the audience). Wally comes to, realizes Barry unmasked him and rightly asks, "What the hell, dude?"

Wally takes Barry to his apartment, where they meet Iris, who helps her brother solve crimes. Wally says he became the Flash after his car, that contained a new nitro formula, was struck by lightning. I guess that's not any more nonsensical than Barry's origin. Barry says he wants to help them capture The Rival. Iris says the only man who can help them is Cisco Ramon.

After developing several popular apps, Cisco is now the richest man in the country. His headquarters are in the former STAR Labs building. He tells Barry, Iris and Wally that he doesn't want anything to do with stopping The Rival, as he fears retaliation. Barry sweet talks him into helping, and says they're meant to be a team. Barry then doubles over again, as he loses more of his memories.

Barry visits Thawne again, who tells him that this new timeline is starting to write over his old life. Thawne's apparently immune from the same effect due to the cage he's in. He says eventually Barry will forget all about the original timeline, and won't even remember that he's the Flash. Eventually this timeline will set like cement, and nothing will ever be able to alter it again. 

Barry goes back to Ramon Industries and reveals that he's the original Flash. He then uses his superspeed to kidnap Caitlin Snow (who's an ophthalmologist in this timeline) to complete the STAR Labs Gang.

The New Gang deduces that The Rival's hideout is in an abandoned (of course) sawmill on the edge of town. Barry and Wally head there and confront The Rival, who reveals he's really Edward Clariss, whoever the hell that is. After a prolonged fight, Wally beats him. Unfortunately he turns his back, and The Rival runs a large pipe through his side.

Clariss tells Barry that if he can beat him, he can take Wally to the hospital. Barry agrees, and they begin another superspeed fight. Clariss creates two F3 tornadoes, which overpower Barry. Iris, who's been monitoring the fight, gives Barry a pep talk, saying she felt incomplete until she met him (oy!) and she believes in him (double oy!). This is apparently just what he needed to hear, because he gets his strength back, Popeye-like. He uses his speed to dissipate the tornadoes and knocks out The Rival. Barry bends down to check on the comatose Wally, and The Rival rises up and starts to kill him. Suddenly a gunshot rings out, and The Rival falls dead to the ground. Barry turns to see that Joe shot him (just like he shot the Weather Wizard way back in the very first episode). 

Later in the hospital, Barry's puzzled to find out that Wally isn't healing at superspeed like he should. He realizes what he has to do. He takes Iris with him and visits his parents one last time. He then goes to the warehouse and releases Thawne. Barry and Thawne speed off together. 

At the Allen home, Barry sees his younger self stop the younger Thawne from killing his mom. The current Thawne then steps up and kills Nora Allen for the third or fourth time. It's all very confusing. The timeline resets itself to normal.

Barry returns to the West home. Inside he sees Joe and Wally hanging out, celebrating the defeat of Zoom (which happened at the end of last season). Barry asks where Iris is, which infuriates Joe so much he walks out. When Barry asks what the hell, Wally reminds him that Joe and Iris "don't talk." Barry wonders what he's done, as the audience wonders if this entire season is going to consist of Barry trying to fine tune the timeline.

Later that night, Edward Clariss (who's alive and not The Rival in this timeline) is awakened by a voice in his head (I think) and sees the word "ALCHEMY" etched in his mirror.

• As you might expect, very little about this new timeline business makes any sense. Especially the fact that Barry still has his Flash powers. Did the particle accelerator even blow up in this timeline? Did it still cause lighting that struck him in his CSI lab? If so, why is he even a CSI in the first place in this timeline? In the old timeline he became one to help find his mother's killer and prove his father's innocence. Those events never happened here, and he shouldn't have been driven to pursue the forensic sciences.

In fact, it seems like Barry— and Eobard Thawne, I guess— are completely unaffected by the changes to the timeline. Barry went back in time twenty or so years to the night his mother was murdered and saved her. Everyone in the world seems to have been living an altered existence for those twenty years, except for Barry, who seems completely unchanged. He seems completely immune to the changes he made, as he remembers the original timeline, and even retains the superpowers he acquired there.

Also, when Barry has breakfast with his parents, his mom asks him, "Lately you hug me every morning as if it's the first time you've seen me in months." Whaaa…? That implies that Barry's just now enjoying the changes he made decades ago. As if he time traveled back to 1996, altered reality, then came back to 2016 to enjoy the benefits.

If that's so, wouldn't he remember a new, wonderful childhood spent with his loving parents? So why does he act like the timeline's only been around a few months? And why does everyone else in this altered timeline experience different pasts that they can still recall? Did Barry travel twenty years into the past, alter the timeline, then jump back to the present and overwrite New Timeline Barry?

See? None of this makes any sense.

And I'm not even going to begin to try and sort out how and why Eobard Thawne is still around. Nora Allen's murder scene has become so convoluted I can no longer follow what's going on. Maybe Thawne's a time remnant?

• Why aren't the Time Wraiths coming for Barry after he blatantly screwed around with the timeline? Gosh, it's like they only exist when the plot calls for them or something.

• As Barry tries to work up the courage to ask Iris on a date, we see a report from Channel 52 News on a screen behind him. That's yet another reference to DC Comic's New 52 line of comics (that came about as a result of the Flashpoint storyline).

• The first time we see Kid Flash, he's rapidly vibrating his face to hide his true identity. Note that he does this even though he's wearing a mask. If he has to disguise his face even in costume, then maybe it's time for a better, full-head mask like Barry's.

I know the "open head" mask of his costume is based on the one in the comics, but it seems like a bad idea here. Comic book Kid Flash is white, while the TV version is black. According to the most recent census, blacks make up just 12% to 14% of the U.S. population. That significantly narrows down the choices for anyone trying to figure out this Kid Flash's true identity. Add to that the fact that his mask completely exposes his specific hairstyle, and he might as well not bother with a disguise at all.

• When Barry and Iris reminisce about elementary school, they mention they both had Mr. Hinkley for math class.

Hmm. I don't know how things are done in Central City, but when I went to elementary school way back in the Before Time, I sat in one classroom all day and had one teacher who taught every subject.

• Barry alters the timeline by preventing Eobard Thawne from killing his mom. He then constructs an elaborate prison cell and keeps Thawne captive in it, indefinitely.

I don't think Barry's completely thought out this situation. Is he planning on keeping Thawne in this tiny cell for the rest of his life, without a trial? That seems as bad (or worse) as what Thawne did to Barry's family. Not to mention highly illegal! The law tens to frown on private citizens abducting and imprisoning one another. 

And what about the practicalities of keeping someone a prisoner? Is Barry going to feed Thawne a sack of Big Belly Burgers every day? Is he gonna bring him clothes after his Reverse Flash suit rots and falls off? What's he gonna do if Thawne gets sick? Or if someone buys the abandoned warehouse and wanders inside? And what about bathroom facilities? C'mon, don't say you didn't think about that too!

• At one point Thawne mocks Barry, saying, "What should be call this brave new world you've built for yourself? I was thinking, "Flashpoint." And we have a title!

• Apparently Barry's boss Captain Singh doesn't exist in the Flashpoint timeline, and has been replaced by Captain Mendez.

Mendez is played by actor Alex Desert. I was racking my brain trying to figure out where I'd seen him before, and finally had to look him up. Of course! Desert was on the 1990 Flash series, where he played Barry Allen's best friend Julio Mendez!

I guess this is another example of how Barry's universe features characters with the same names as those from the 1990 Flash series, but are somehow completely different people.

• In this timeline, Joe's a slovenly, borderline alcoholic who rarely shows up for work. Barry doesn't want to see him fired, so he uses his powers to help him out.

OK, it was funny when Barry got Drunk Joe out of bed, cleaned him up and whooshed him to work, until you stop to think about just what was involved. Did Barry really carry the unconscious Joe into the bathroom, strip him naked, scrub him down in the shower, brush his teeth and dress him again? Yikes.

• For such a large metropolis, Central City seems oddly devoid of traffic. At one point Barry and Iris are able to causally stroll down the middle of a downtown street!

• The Rival turns out to be someone named Edward Clariss, whoever that is. 

Believe it or not The Rival actually appeared in the comics, wayyyy back in 1949. In fact his first appearance was in the Golden Age Flash's last issue.

In the comic, Edward Clariss was a university professor who just happened to duplicate the formula that gave Jay Garrick his Flash powers. He then began a campaign to make the Flash's life a living hell. Visually he looked pretty much exactly like the Golden Age Flash, but with a darker colored costume.

• One of the policemen interrupts Barry and Iris' "date" by telling them the Flash and the Rival are going at it over at the Werther building. I misheard that as Wertham, as in Frederic Wertham (the guy who said comic books caused juvenile delinquency).

There's an artist named Werther Dell'Edera who draws some of the Batman books over at DC, but that seems like a pretty obscure reference. Sometimes a cigar is just a penis. CIGAR! I meant cigar.

Later on Cisco tracks down The Rival to the old sawmill on Williamson. The series just lovvvves to name Central City's fictional streets after real life comic book creators, so that's likely a reference to Joshua Williamson, currently writing The Flash for DC Comics.

• Cisco says he doesn't want to get involved with the plan to stop The Rival. Barry endears himself to him by repeating a story about how Cisco helped his older brother Dante out of a jam.

It's lucky for Barry that this version of Cisco apparently has the same history as the one he knows. Cisco could have had an entirely different childhood in this timeline.

• Cisco says, "You know what happens when you mess with a speedster?" He then mimics a vibrating hand and punches it into Iris' shoulder.

Um... how the hell does this Cisco remember that? In the original timeline, Cisco had a vision of Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne, vibrating his hand through his chest and killing him. I don't see how that could have possibly happened to this version of Cisco, and he should have no memories and knowledge of it.

Does this Cisco secretly have vibing powers too?

• When The Rival creates two F3 tornadoes with his superspeed, Cisco says, "This guy's like a weather wizard or something!" Clyde Mardon, who could control the weather, did something very similar back in the very first episode.

In a similar vein, after Barry seemingly defeats The Rival, he rises up and tries to stab him while his back is turned. Joe shoots The Rival in the back. Joe did the exact same thing to Clyde Mardon in the first episode as well.

• It wouldn't be The Flash without an "I believe in you" speech. When the new timeline causes Barry to start losing his powers, Iris gives him a patented The CW Pep Talk. Sure enough, it gives him the strength to rally and beat The Rival.

• Iris seems to handle all of Barry's shocking revelations very well. Shortly after she meets Barry he reveals he's really the Flash, he kidnaps Caitlin Snow and reassembles the STAR Labs Gang, he takes her to a warehouse where he's holding a costumed man prisoner (!) and matter of factly says his mother has to die in order to reset the timeline. Iris simply says, "Well, that all sounds just fine."

Yeah, yeah, I know she says something about how she feels they belong together, and she may even be subconsciously remembering the original timeline, but still... it's a wonder she doesn't slowly back away from Barry and call the cops.

• Barry goes to see his parents one last time before he frees Thawne. His mother senses something's wrong and says, "Barry, you're scaring me." Barry replies, "No. There's nothing to be afraid of."

• When Barry goes to see his parents for the last time, his mother says, "Barry, you're scaring me." Barry replies, "No. There's nothing to be afraid of."

Well, nothing that is, except he's about to unleash a superpowered killer who's going to stab her with a knife for the third or fourth time. But other than that, nope, nothing to be scared of.

• I wonder if Michelle Harrison, who plays Nora Allen, is getting tired of coming back to the show to film her death scene over and over.

• Once the timeline is reset, Edward Clariss is no longer The Rival, but it looks like he's going to become Dr. Alchemy. He was a villain from the comics who, as you might have guessed from his name, could transmute elements from one to another.

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