Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 11: Dead Or Alive

Barry takes a back seat on this week's The Flash, as the episode revolves mostly around Cisco, Iris and HR. That's a good thing, by the way.

There's some interesting stuff in this week's episode, particularly Iris' and newfound bravado. Now that she knows the exact date of her impending doom, she suddenly believes she's invincible. Makes sense, doesn't it? If you see a glimpse of the future and witness yourself die four months from now, that means you HAVE to stay alive until then, right?

But is it a good idea for her to be so confident about the nature of her demise? Barry and the others are actively trying to change the future, and have tentatively proven it can be done. There's no real guarantee her May expiration date is true!

It was also nice to see the writers finally remember Iris is a journalist, and give her an appropriately investigative storyline.

The rest of the episode was sort of an origin story for HR, explaining why he came to Earth-1. I dunno... the more we learn about him, the more suspicious he becomes. Despite his seemingly harmless hipster doofus exterior, somehow I still don't fully trust him. There's just something... off about him somehow. I think he's still hiding something.

Julian's now a full-fleged member of Team Flash, and his integration into the Gang was much easier and smoother than I expected it to be.

Lastly, everything's going really well for Wally lately. He's getting faster all the time, his superhero skills are increasing, and the public can't get enough of him. Of course all this buildup just means he's due for a tragic fall before the end of the season. It's Writing 101.

Many fans believe Wally's somehow going to end up becoming Savitar. I'm starting to lean in that direction as well, as his ever-increasing speed certainly lends credence to that theory. Why else would they emphasize his speed so much unless it was leading up to something important?

I think the writers may go in another direction though. In this episode Barry realizes Wally's faster than he is, and wants to send him to save Iris from Savitar instead. What if Wally ends up saving his sister, but ends up getting killed himself? Savitar probably doesn't care which member of the West family he stabs. We'll find out in May!


The Plot:
Barry and Wally team up to chase after the Electric Gang, who are speeding through Central City in a getaway car. The Gang is no match for two speedsters, and are easily caught and defeated. A crowd forms, sees Kid Flash and starts chanting his name. Boy, the public sure does seem to love Wally! He's even more popular than the Flash. It would be a shame if fate (or the writers) decided to do something horrible to him.

Back at STAR Labs, Barry asks Cisco if he's figured out a way to change the future and save Iris. He says no, but he did construct an elaborate recreation of her future death scene out of Lego so they can study it. Helpful! Julian, who's now joined Team Flash, tells Barry that saving Iris is mathematically impossible unless he somehow massively increases his speed in the next four months.

Cut to CC Jitters after hours. A portal opens up, and Gypsy who we saw briefly at the end of last week's episode steps through. She touches a coin in the tip jar and vibes that HR has been there. Just then the police show up and she blasts them with her powers and steps back through a portal. The writers apparently remembered that Barry's a CSI, so the next morning he investigates the break[in, and determines the suspect was a metahuman.

Joe senses something's wrong between Barry and Iris, and asks if they're OK. Barry of course lies and says everything's fine. Joe tells Barry that Iris is investigating some sort of shady arms deal, and he worries she's going to get hurt. He asks Barry to tell her to drop the story. Barry visits Iris at work, but can't convince her to change her mind about the article.

Back at STAR Labs, the Gang is reviewing security footage of the Jitters break-in. Just then Gypsy steps through a portal and says she's looking for HR. Cisco uses his vibe powers to blast her, which takes her by surprise. He then shamelessly flirts with her, as he's always been attracted to the "bad" girls. Wally enters and speeds toward Gypsy, but she stops him cold with her powers (!). She tells the Gang that HR is a fugitive from justice, and she's a collector who's been assigned to return him to Earth-19. She gives him an hour to say his goodbyes and disappears.

Everyone turns to stare at HR, who fesses up and explains that his home of Earth-19 has a strict ban on interdimensional travel, which is punishable by death. Barry refuses to just hand over HR, but Julian points out that the law's the law, even on other Earths. HR starts packing his things, and Cisco asks him why he risked his life to come to Earth-1 in the first place. HR says he was successful back home, but felt like a fraud, and wanted to start fresh on a brand new world. It all sounds perfectly reasonable, but ehhh... I still don't completely trust this guy. Barry enters and says there has to be some way out of this mess. HR says the only way out is trial by combat (!!).

Gypsy arrives to collect HR. She's about to take him back, when Cisco steps up and volunteers as tribute volunteers for trial by combat. Gypsy accepts, and tells him that the battle will be to the death. She gives him a day to prepare and disappears. Cisco gulps hard and says, "She's going to kill me, isn't she?"

Meanwhile, Wally asks Iris to drop her article. Instead she convinces him to go with her to the CCPD and use his superspeed to copy files on the arms dealers.

Cut to STAR Labs as the Gang trains Cisco. It doesn't go well. Barry and HR realize Cisco's not going to survive, so they track down Gypsy, who's "hanging out down at the waterfront (?)." They try to force her into leaving without HR or something, but their lame plan fails and she takes him with her as insurance until the trial.

Back at STAR Labs, Julian's been analyzing footage of Gypsy, and thinks he's found her weakness. Whenever she leaps out of a portal, her feet are off the ground for a split second. Cisco could use this to his advantage and knock her off balance.

Iris and Wally use the stolen files to track the arms dealers to an old warehouse. She distracts Wally while she sneaks inside. She finds crates full of weapons, and right when she whispers, "Got 'em," one of the dealers enters and pulls a gun on her. Amazingly, she walks toward the thug and presses his gun to her chest, apparently confident that she can't die until Savitar kills her this coming May (!). Luckily Wally speeds in and knocks out the thug.

At STAR Labs, Joe yells at Iris and Wally for pulling such a dangerous and boneheaded stunt, especially since the CCPD already had the arms dealers under surveillance. Barry asks Iris what's wrong with her, and she says she's afraid of dying and not leaving a mark on the world, the way her mother did. She wants to accomplish as much as possible in the time she has left.

Cisco, decked out in his full Vibe gear, meets Gypsy in an empty field, and their trial by combat begins. They blast away at each other with their similar powers, and Cisco surprisingly hold his own against the more experienced Gypsy. She then opens a portal and gives him a multidimensional beatdown, dragging him to various other Earths while blasting him. They battle on Earth-2, at Catco Headquarters on Earth-38 (where Supergirl lives) and some sort of lava-filled hell world.

Gypsy opens a portal back to Earth-1 and tosses Cisco through it. As she's jumping out of it, he remembers Julian's advice and sees her feet aren't touching the ground. He blasts her, knocks her backward and pins her down. She admits defeat and says she's prepared for him to kill her. Cisco tells her "we don't roll like that around here" or something, and refuses to kill her.

Later in STAR Labs, Gypsy says she doesn't want to ruin her perfect collection record, so she's decided to lie to the Earth-19 authorities and tell them she killed HR. The catch is this means he can never return home. She kisses Cisco and then jumps through a portal and disappears. HR thanks Cisco for saving his life, and asks him about the previous versions of Harrison Wells.

Barry reads Iris' article on the arms deal bust (which she must have written at superspeed) and tells her it's great. He promises her he's going to stop Savitar. Later Barry watches Wally train, impressed that his speed continues to increase. Barry tells Wally, "I'm not gonna save Iris from Savitar. YOU are."


• At the very beginning of the episode, Barry and Wally chase after the Electric Gang. Believe it or not, they're actually from the comic, but as you might imagine, in a completely different form. 

The Electric Gang first appeared in The Flash #242, back in 1976. They were a trio made of living electricity, who used their powers to temporarily paralyze people so they could rob them.

• The Flash has always had a hit-or-miss record when it comes to adapting characters from the comics. Some are spot-on in looks as well as powers, like Grodd and the Reverse Flash. Others, like Mirror Master and the Top, don't fare quite as well, looking absolutely nothing like their comic namesakes.

Gypsy definitely falls into the latter category. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they didn't try and recreate her unfortunate, stereotypical "costume" from the comics, but egad! Surely they could have come up with something better for her than the Standard Black Leather Superhero Costume we've seen a hundred times before in movies and TV. It looks for all the world like the costume designer found an old X-Men 2 costume in the dumpster behind Fox Studios and said, "Yep, this'll work jusssst fine."

Additionally, this version of Gypsy has none of the powers of the comic version. In the comic she had the power to create elaborate illusions, usually of something her opponent feared most. She could also cloak herself and other objects, rendering them virtually invisible. She also had limited psychic abilities.

TV Gypsy seems to have pretty much the same powers as Cisco. She can project power vibrational blasts from her hands, and open portals to other dimensions.

This version is Gypsy in name only. It makes me wonder why they just didn't invent a brand new character. I'm guessing they used her so comic nerds would point at their screens and say, "I know that name!"

• By the way, Gypsy was originally a member of the Justice League of America, in what most fans consider to be the absolute, all-time worst lineup of the team in comic history. 

This "Detroit Era League" consisted of Gypsy, Vibe (!), Commander Steel, Vixen, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and Elongated Man. Aquaman was briefly the leader of this new team before coming to his senses and leaving (ignore Firestorm and Cosmic Boy in that image above they were just guest stars in the comic that particular panel came from).

Oddly enough, a whopping FIVE members of the Detroit Team (Gypsy, Vibe, Vixen, Steel and Martian Manhunter) have appeared in the various Arrowverse shows. The only ones who've not yet appeared in live action are Zatanna and Elongated man. Somebody on the creative staff must really have a soft spot for this team!

• Gypsy's a very polite and considerate "collector." She gives HR an hour to "get his affairs in order" before taking him back to Earth-19. Is that something that real bounty hunters actually do? I'm guessing not.

• You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Cisco's quite an amazing superhero, er, I mean metahuman, with a very all-purpose power. He can send his mind into the past or future and take a look around as if he's really there. He can fire powerful vibrational blasts from his hands, and he can open portals or breaches into other dimensions. Whew! That's quite a list! Is there anything his amazing powers can't do? In comparison, all Barry and Wally can do is run fast!

• HR explains to the Gang why interdimensional travel is banned on Earth-19. Twenty five years ago, troops from another Earth opened a breach and invaded HR's world, almost destroying it. To prevent this from ever happening again, Earth-19 banned any and all interdimensional travel. They then employed the collectors to punish those who violated the law.

Wha...? That doesn't make any sense to me. How does Earth-19 proclaiming a ban on interdimensional travel stop other worlds from invading them? What's to stop another world from ignoring their ban and flooding the planet with troops? It's like putting a "NO TRESPASSING" sign in your yard and expecting it to keep burglars out of your house.

• This week we find out that HR violated the rules of his Earth, and is now an interdimensional criminal. Oddly enough, Barry votes to ignore the law and refuses to hand HR over to Gypsy. Um... isn't he supposed to be a superhero? Don't they generally uphold the law? Cisco and Caitlin feel the same, saying that HR shouldn't be punished because he's a "good person." It takes Julian to remind them all that the law's the law, even on other Earths, and they can't just dismiss it because they don't agree with it.

This little moral dilemma could have made for a compelling and interesting subplot, but alas, the episode can't be bothered to devote more than a few seconds to it. Too bad.

• Last week we got an establishing shot of STAR Labs, and there appeared to be scaffolding around the damaged pylon. I said it looked like they were finally fixing the damage caused by the particle accelerator explosion three years ago.

Or not! This week we get the same old establishing shot we always do. There's no scaffolding, and the pylon still looks like someone took a bite out of it. Maybe the editor grabbed the wrong footage in this episode?

• Speaking of buildings, most of The Flash's overhead establishing shots of Central City are actually filmed in Portland, Oregon (they sneak in shots from other cities now and then to mix things up a bit and prevent the audience from the location). 
The series itself is filmed in Vancouver though, and any exterior scenes involving the actors are shot there.

There's a very distinctive building with a round top that shows up in the background over and over in virtually every episode. It appears twice in Dead Or Alive, once during a day shot and again at night. You can see it in the upper left in both the above shots.

The building is the Vancouver Lookout, a popular tourist destination in the city. Since all the Arrowverse shows are filmed in Vancouver, it's popped up in every one of the series at one point or another. Either that building really gets around, or every city has an identical tower in it!

• At one point, Iris needs to distract her father Joe so Wally can use his superspeed to steal an important file. She gets Joe's attention by implying she and Barry are thinking about having a baby, but then changes the subject by asking if Barry's a dog or cat person.

It was a fun little scene, and the actors sold it well. But it doesn't make much sense. Iris should already know which type of pet Barry prefers, since they grew up together and they're foster siblings (!).

Yep, you probably forgot about that. Barry's technically shacking up with his sister!

• The best part of the episode was Cisco & Gypsy's Mutliverse-spanning battle.

They visited Earth-2, even though it didn't much look the way it did the last time we saw it. What's all the spaghetti-like stuff on the ground? Am I forgetting something that happened?

Next they went to Earth-38, specifically Catco Headquarters...

...where they ran into the easily startled Miss Teshmacher, former secretary to Cat Grant. I guess the budget must have been running low at this point, and they couldn't afford to get Melissa Benoist to pop her head in for five seconds.

And finally they ended up on some hellish lava world (number unknown) before returning to Earth-1. Too bad they didn't have the time or money to squeeze a few more Earths into their battle.

• At the end of the episode, Gypsy lets HR off the hook, on the condition he never return to Earth-19. So I guess he's now a permanent resident of Earth-1? I hope that doesn't mean the end of the Alternated Wellseses. I like the show's tradition of giving us a new version of Harrison Wells each season.

• This week's fun lines:

HR: (to Julian) "Bond, are you coming?"

Cisco: "Julian suggested we make a 3-D reconstruction of the scene from the future exactly as we saw it."
Barry: "With toys."
Caitlin: "The medium's not important."
Cisco: "Thank you. Eye on the ball, Barry."
Barry: (picking up a Lego figure) "Is this me? Why is he an astronaut?"
Cisco: "Eye on the ball, Barry, okay?"

Cisco: (confronting Gypsy, then slowly starting to flirt with her) "Let's just talk about this, like two adults, over coffee, or maybe dinner, if you prefer that. There's a great Thai place up the road, if you like Thai. I'm Cisco, by the way. You must be Gypsy. It's nice to meet you."
Caitlin: "Are you asking her on a date?"
HR: "Are you kidding me?"
Cisco: "I am negotiating."

Wally: (to Gypsy) "Ma'am, I'm gonna have to ask you to leave the building."
I'm not sure, but that sounded like an Army Of Darkness reference to me. Or it's possible it's a play on Superman, and the fact that he's unfailingly polite, even to supervillains.

Iris: "
You know, sometimes I wish we had normal-people problems." 

Barry: "Yeah, that would be nice."

Wally: "Oh, that, uh, arms dealer thing?"
Iris: "How do you know about that?"
Wally: "Because both Dad and Barry want you to lay off of it. The phrase "death wish" got tossed around a lot by them."

Cisco: "By the laws of Earth-19, I hereby challenge you for possession of H.R. Wells. If you want, we can solve this another way. There's a great spot for drinks."..
Gypsy: "You realize trial by combat is to the death?"
Cisco: "Yeah. For the loser. Listen, you want him? You're gonna have to come and claim him. Hmm. That's Arwen. That's... Arwen."

Cisco: (to Gypsy) "I'm just a regular guy. Just a regular... single guy."

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