Sunday, April 30, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: The Fate Of The Furious

The Fate Of The Furious was written by Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson, and directed by F. Gary Gray.

Morgan is no stranger to the series, as he previously wrote The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, and co-wrote Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7. He also wrote Cellular, Wanted, 47 Ronin and The Vatican Tapes. Looks like he'd be better off sticking with the Fast & Furious franchise.

Thompson is also heavily involved in the franchise, as he previously wrote The Fast And The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and co-wrote Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7. He also wrote The Underachievers, White Ghost, Split Second, K-911, Hollow Man, Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision, Hollow Man 2 and 88 Minutes. I've never even heard of ninety percent of those. Sounds like he'd be better off sticking with the Fast & Furious films as well.

Gray previously directed Friday, Set It Off, The Negotiator, A Man Apart, The Italian Job (ah... now I understand why Charlize Theron is in The Fate Of The Furious), Be Cool, Law Abiding Citizen and Straight Outta Compton.

In my review of Furious 7, I said it was interesting that the franchise began as a small-stakes movie about California street racing culture. Somehow along the way it's evolved into a series about indestructible superheroes, who speed around in cars that effortlessly defy the laws of physics. It's like a live-action cartoon at this point. In fact it reminds me a lot of M.A.S.K., the 1980s cartoon about a task force of crime fighters with transforming cars, who battled the evil criminal organization V.E.N.O.M.

In fact I have a theory that the screenwriters watched a child sitting on the floor playing with his Hot Wheels cars, and took careful notes in order to come up with this script.

And you know what? I'm fine with that! I'm a big fan of dumb, loud action movies, and this is one of the dumbest and loudest I've seen in quite a while. Turning it from its street racing roots into a series of superheroes fighting over-the-top Bond villains has kept the franchise fresh, and is no doubt why were up to movie #8.

As I said back when I reviewed Furious 7, I've only seen three of the previous films— the first two, and the seventh. So a lot of the references and callbacks were lost on me, especially the reveal of the reason for Dom's betrayal of his "Family."

This is the second Fast & Furious movie without the late Paul Walker, and the first since his untimely death in 2013. Does this new film suffer from his absence? With all due respect to Walker, not a bit. Dwayne Johnson and his larger-than-life charisma is more than able to fill the Walker-shaped hole in the cast. 

Jason Statham is no slouch either, and his chemistry with Johnson is one of the highlights of the film. In fact the two of them completely overshadow Vin Diesel, who's the ostensible star of the franchise. After the first act he's shoved completely to the side, becoming little more than a guest star in his own film.

In fact Universal Studios just announced plans for the first ever Fast & Furious spinoff movie, starring Johnson and Statham!

Supposedly there was some kind of tension or feud between stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson during filming. Some say it was all just a publicity stunt, while others swear it was real. Either way, I'm not even gonna get into it here. They both have dream jobs that pay more money than the average person will ever see in his lifetime. Maybe they should quit acting like five year olds and try being adults for a change.

Earlier this year I reviewed xXx: Return Of Xander Cage. It featured a highly diverse cast of superhumans performing physically impossible stunts as they traveled the world in search of a high tech McGuffin. Compare that to The Fate Of The Furious, which features a highly diverse cast of superhumans performing physically impossible stunts as they traveled the world in search of a high tech McGuffin. 

They're the same goddamned movie! At this point there is absolutely no difference between the two franchises, other than the character names and cast. In fact I'm ninety percent convinced that Vin Diesel just took a rejected Fast & Furious script and used it to make Return Of Xander Cage.

Last month Ghost In The Shell, starring extremely white actress Scarlett Johansson as Major, a role many moviegoers believe is an Asian character. Predictably, the internet lost its collective mind, as terrabytes of bandwidth was wasted arguing over the film's "whitewashing."

Meanwhile, The Fate Of The Furious features an incredibly diverse cast of actors. Blacks, whites and Hispanics of both genders, all working together and contributing to the team. Yet I've not heard one word of praise about the casting in the film. Not a single peep. 

Apparently the Social Justice Warriors only complain when a film isn't diverse, but can't be bothered to praise one when it is. So as far as I'm concerned, the Casting Police need to shut the f*ck up. You can't boo if you're not willing to cheer, guys.

Before the movie came out, there was lots of online speculation as to what was causing Dominic Toretto to betray his "Family" this time around. Some believed he'd been some sort of double agent all along, while others were sure Dom had been replaced by a double in an effort to destroy the "Family" from within.

There was even a theory floating around saying the reason Dom was attacking his "Family" was because he'd been replaced by some sort of Terminator-like robot (!!!). Now THAT'S a movie I'd like to see!

I can certainly understand why so many people bought into the robot theory. With his stony, immobile face, Vin Diesel definitely seems like an emotionless android throughout most of the picture.

As expected, The Fate Of The Furious is kicking major ass at the world box office. Here in the States it's scraped up a surprisingly mediocre $192 million against its $250 million budget. It's grossed a whopping $870 million overseas though, pushing it past the BILLION dollar mark! Yeah, there's definitely gonna be a Part 9.


The Plot:
We begin in Cuba (now that its borders have been opened) as Dominic Toretto (played by Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (played by Michelle Rodriguez) celebrate their honeymoon. Dom admires the way the Cuban people have been keeping their cars running without new parts for the past fifty years. Dom's cousin Fernando approaches him, saying his car is being towed away because he can't keep up the payments to a man named Raldo. Dom challenges Raldo to a street race (in Fernando's ancient car). If Dom wins, he gets Fernando's car PLUS Raldo's. If Raldo wins, he get's Dom's souped-up Impala, free and clear. Raldo agrees.

Dom begins knocking body panels off of Fernando's car to make it as light as possible (sure, why not). He tunes up the engine as well, and hooks up the requisite nitrous tank while he's at it. Dom and Raldo begin racing down the Cuban Mile, whatever that is. Raldo easily pulls ahead, until Dom activates the nitrous. His car then blasts off like a rocket, passing Raldo.

Unfortunately Fernando's cobbled-together car can't handle such abuse, and the engine quickly starts glowing red hot. It catches fire and the heat shatters the windshield, sending flames straight into Dom's face (luckily, he doesn't have any hair). Dom does what anyone would do in this situation— he simply spins the car around and finishes the race in reverse. Um... I don't think that's possible, but let's just go with it or we'll be here all day. Dom wins the race (backwards) and jumps out of the car just before it flies off the road into the ocean and explodes (!).

A crowd gathers as Dom and Raldo size up one another. Finally Raldo hands Dom his keys and says he has his respect. Dom gives the keys back to Raldo, saying his respect is enough (insert the first of many eye rolls here). Dom apologizes to Fernando for blowing up his old car, and offers him his Impala in return (riiiiiight).

The next day Dom and Letty relax in bed. She asks him if he's ever thought of starting a family (Foreshadowing Alert!). Later he's walking through the streets with a bag of groceries (that actually has a loaf of French bread sticking out of the top!). He sees a woman having trouble with her car, and offers to fix it. As he looks at the engine, he realizes she sabotaged it herself. The woman reveals her name is Cipher (played by Charlize Theron) and menacingly says she has a job for Dom. He scoffs until she shows him a photo on her phone. An expression almost flashes across Dom's stoic face as he stares at the photo the audience can't see.

Meanwhile, Luke Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) is coaching his daughter's soccer team. He's approached by a government agent, who wants him to go to Berlin and recover an EMP device that could disrupt the power of entire cities. The Agent warns Hobbs that this mission is off the books. If he fails the government will disavow any knowledge of it, and he'll go to jail. For some reason, Hobbs agrees to the mission, but only after his daughter's team wins.

Hobbs gathers the "Family," consisting of himself, Dom, Letty, Tej (played by Ludacris), Roman (played by Tyreese Gibson) and Ramsey (played by Nathalie Emmanuel) and head to a base in Berlin. They quickly recover the EMP and hightail it out of there, chased by a number of armed goons. Taj reveals his secret weapon— a comically over-sized wrecking ball (attached to lord knows what, high overhead) that swings through the streets and demolishes the pursuing cars.

Hobbs pulls up next to Dom's car and congratulates him on another successful mission. Dom swerves into Hobb's car, causing him to crash. He then makes off with the EMP. As the police surround Hobbs and arrest him, he radios the others and tells them Dom's gone rogue. Dom then arrives at an airport, and drives his car into a large jet that does a touch and go landing. Take THAT, Laws Of Physics!

As Hobbs is taken to jail, he's approached by Government Agent Mr. Nobody (played by Kurt Russell) and his new partner, "Little Nobody" (played by Scott Eastwood, son of Clint). Mr. Nobody offers to get Hobbs out of prison if he accepts another mission. Hobbs refuses, saying he doesn't trust Nobody (heh), and will take his chances with the court system. He's locked up in the same maximum security cell as Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham), the man who murdered at least one member of Dom's "Family" in the previous movie. Hobbs' cell is right across from Deckard's, and they begin "comically" threatening one another.

Meanwhile, the rest of the "Family" regroups in a garage somewhere. Are they still in Berlin? Back in the States? Your guess is as good as mine, as it's often unclear just where things are happening in this movie. Anyhoo, the group is stunned by Dom's actions. Letty stands by her man, refusing to believe he would betray them (even though he just did).

Back at the prison (which I guess is in America?), Hobb's cell door opens by itself. When guards arrive to force him back in, Deckard grabs one of their batons and uses it to escape, inadvertently opening ALL the cell doors. This starts a prison riot, as Hobbs and Deckard fight off both guards and other inmates in an effort to escape. They make it out of the prison, where they're met by a smiling Mr. Nobody, who engineered the whole thing.

Mr. Nobody takes Hobbs and Deckard to his HQ, where the rest of the "Family" have already gathered. There he tells them about Cipher, a mysterious woman who's the world's most clever and dangerous hacker. He says Cipher tried to steal both the Nightshade and God's Eye McGuffins from the previous films. Nobody notes that Dom foiled both those plots, which is likely why she's targeting him.

Mr. Nobody says no one can locate Cipher, as she constantly flies around the world in a command jet. Roman suggests they use the God's Eye (the magical software program from Furious 7 that can locate anyone anywhere on Earth) to find her. They try, but get pings from all over the planet. Tej and Ramsey remove the fake signals, leaving just one— which is coming from the building they're in! The killer's in the house with you! Get out of there!

Suddenly an explosion rocks the building, stunning the whole crew. Dom and Cipher enter and steal the God's Eye. Letty sees Dom, and asks if he's really going to turn his back on "Family." Um, since he just tried to kill you all just to steal a piece of tech, I'd say yes. Yes he is. Cipher walks over and plants a wet, sloppy kiss on Dom, making sure Letty gets a good look, and the two saunter out.

Cut to Cipher's jet, where we finally get to see why Dom's working for her. She's captured Dom's old flame Elena, who apparently bore him a son he never knew about, and is holding them in a cell on her plane. Elena shows Dom his son, and explains that she gave him the middle name of Marcus. She says she wants Dom to give him an official first name (Foreshadowing Alert!). Dom is furious with Cipher, and threatens to kill her. Cipher pulls out a gun and hands it to him. She says he can shoot her if he likes, but the instant he does, her men will storm the room and kill Elena and Marcus, before killing him. He hands the gun back to her, and for some reason, hangs his crucifix over the cell door (MAJOR PLOT POINT ALERT!).

Cipher then orders Dom to New York City, where he's to steal a briefcase full of nuclear codes from a Russian Ambassador. As he drives through the city, he pretends to have car trouble and pulls over in an alley that's strategically hidden from Cipher's omnipresent cameras. He then enters a pub and asks Magdalene Deckard (played by Helen Mirren, if you can believe that!) for help in rescuing his child. He returns to his car before Cipher becomes suspicious.

Hobbs and Deckard are still seething with rage at having to work together. Hobbs discovers that Deckard was a highly decorated British Army Captain, and then suddenly the two become fast friends, which isn't the least bit unrealistic at all. Somehow Deckard tracks Dom to NYC and the "Family" follows him there.

Cipher detects the crew and causes a diversion by hacking into every self-driving car in the city, in a huge "trailer moment" action setpiece. She creates a massive stampede of driverless cars, which immobilizes the Ambassador and blocks the "Family" from him. Dom threatens the Ambassador unless he hands over the briefcase, which he reluctantly does. He drives off, but is soon pursued by his "Family." They fire several grappling hooks into his car, stopping it in its tracks. Suddenly he backs up rapidly, which somehow causes the other cars to flip end over end, and gets away. Take that AGAIN, Laws Of Physics!

Dom exits his car with the case, and is confronted by Deckard. Dom shoots him, and Deckard drop dead to the pavement like a sack of wet laundry. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll get better. No one stays dead for long in this world. Dom runs down an alley, where he's stopped by Letty. She grabs the case from him and says she knows he won't shoot her. Suddenly Cipher's henchman Connor Rhodes (played by Krisofer Hivju, of Game Of Thrones fame) appears and points a gun at Letty. Dom points his gun at Rhodes and tells him to let her go. Letty gives the case back to Dom, and he and Rhodes scamper off.

Back on the plane, Cipher's disappointed that Dom let Letty go. She holds Marcus in her arms, while Rhodes executes Elena. OK, SHE'LL probably stay dead.

Mr. Nobody says now that Cipher has the Russian launch codes, she'll likely steal a nuclear missile next. The "Family" deduces she'll strike the base of a Russian Separatist Group, who've "acquired" an ICBM in Siberia. Mr. Nobody outfits the crew with souped up cars and tech from a secret government warehouse.

Dom approaches the Siberian base and uses the EMP device to knock out the security, so Cipher can hack into their nuclear sub. Unknown to her, two figures parachute INTO the cargo hold of her plane (take THAT yet again, physics!). The figures turn out to be Deckard Shaw, whose "death" at the hands of Dom was all a ruse, and his brother Owen Shaw, who died in the previous movie, but apparently got better.

Meanwhile, the "Family" somehow arrives in Siberia just minutes after deducing that's where Cipher would strike. It's a small world after all! Letty and Hobbs infiltrate the Separatist base and liberate the control center. Ramsey hacks into the center, and tries to gain control of the nuclear sub. Unfortunately Cipher is the better hacker, and locks her out. She somehow pilots the sub by remote control into the sea, even though seconds earlier it was in dry dock. Continuity, schmontinuity! Ramsey notes that the sub's heading for a gate ten kilometers from the base, and if it passes through into open ocean, there'll be no chance of stopping it. The crew jump in their cars and race across the ice for the gate.

Back on the plane, the Shaw brothers gun down Cipher's numerous grunts. We take time out for a flashback, so the movie can explain how Deckard faked his own death, as for some reason, his mother Magdelene somehow talked him into teaming up with his brother to help out his former mortal enemy. Deckard makes his way to the cell and rescues Marcus. He radios Dom and tells him the "package" is secure.

With his son safe, Dom no longer has any reason to obey Cipher. He kills Rhodes, and radios Cipher, warning her he's coming after her next. Cipher orders her men on the ground to wipe out the "Family." There's a big action setpiece as the vehicles careen across the ice and the two sides shoot at one another. When it looks like the "Family" is winning, Cipher launches torpedoes at them. The torpedoes break through the surface and travel along the ice toward the crew's cars, which I don't think is possible, but let's just move on. A torpedo approaches Hobbs' vehicle, and he actually leans out and uses his bare hands to shove it off course, where it slams into one of Cipher's trucks and explodes. Now I'm positive the screenwriters watched a kid playing with his Hot Wheels cars for inspiration.

Cipher then crashes the sub through the ice, and launches heat seeking missiles at Hobbs and the others. Just then, Dom dramatically appears, letting his "Family" know he's back for good. He gets the missiles to chase his car and then jumps it over the sub. The missiles slam into the sub, causing a massive explosion that somehow doesn't harm any of the "Family."

Back on the plane, Cipher is furious. Deckard confronts her, and revealed he found her "untraceable" plane after Dom placed his crucifix— which contained a secret homing beacon— on Marcus' cell. She grabs a parachute and leaps out of the plane, ensuring she'll return in the inevitable Furious 9. Deckard— still holding Marcus— lands the plane. On the ground, Dom and Letty are reunited and embrace.

Cut to New York, where the "Family's" having a rooftop barbecue. Mr. Nobody tells them Cipher is still on the loose, but is confident they'll catch her. He offers Hobbs his old job back, but he turns it down, saying he'd rather continue coaching his daughter's team. Deckard returns Marcus to Dom, who introduces everyone to his new son. He says he's picked out a first name for him: Brian (insert the world's largest eye roll here). Wow. Didn't see that one coming.


• I don't have many thoughts about this film, as it's pointless to nitpick such a big, dumb, over the top action movie. After all, it's designed to excite, not to make sense. That said, here are a few ridiculous moments that leaped out at me.

 I was very surprised that the word "family" is only uttered thirteen times during the film.  #restraint

And yes, I actually kept a running tally there in my theater seat!

• At the beginning of the film, Dom's in Cuba, and for reasons wagers his beloved Impala in a street race. Um... how'd he get his car to the island? Is there a ferry from Miami to Cuba? Is that a thing now that we're all friends again and can travel there once more? 

Going from Miami to Cuba isn't like trundling across a bay. It's over a hundred miles. Is there really a ferry that can go that far?

• The Fast & Furious films are what I like to call a
 "Barnacle Series." Any time a new character is introduced, they immediately become part of the "Family" and appear in all subsequent entries. These movies add characters like a ship picks up barnacles.

Take Ramsey, for instance. She was introduced in Furious 7, where she served more as a cheap expository device than an actual character. Sure enough, she's back for The Fate Of The Furious, even though we still know virtually nothing about her, other than she's a hacker. The writers seemingly realize this, as the movie suddenly goes meta. When Tej and Roman shamelessly hit on Ramsey during the barbecue, she playfully tells them she'll go to dinner with whichever one of them knows her last name!

Same thing with Nobody Jr. He makes his debut at the beginning of the film, and by the end he's driving around and blowing up sh*t with the others as he seemingly becomes an official member of the "Family." There's no doubt in my mind he'll show up in the ninth film. 

But most amazingly is Deckard Shaw. Even though he murdered Han in a previous film, all is forgiven as he's also brought into the fold. His chemistry with Hobbs practically guarantees he'll be back in the next movie.

As the series goes on (and on, and on), eventually they're going to have to think about weeding out the "Family" a bit. You can't have a movie with twenty five main characters.

• In Fast & Furious 6, Dom seriously injured Owen Shaw, putting him in critical condition. This understandably upsets Owen's brother Deckard, so in Furious 7 he swears vengeance on Dom and his "Family." He murders Han and blows up Dom's house.

Annnnd then we get to this film and suddenly all is forgiven. Hobbs and Deckard comically trash talk one another for a few minutes, then they throw their heads back, laugh heartily and become good friends. Dom somehow even talks Deckard and Owen into going on a ridiculously dangerous mission to save his infant son!

I dunno... I guess I'm just not as forgiving as the people in this cinematic universe. I can't see myself sharing a beer with a man who killed a close friend. Or trusting my son to him! 

Not to mention the Shaw brothers have absolutely ZERO motivation to save their sworn enemy's kid. Even if their mom did bully them into it. That's another thing! Why possible reason would Magdelene Shaw have for helping Dom, after he seriously injured her son?

• Jason Statham and Charlize Theron are reunited here, after co-starring in 2003's The Italian Job. Theron also worked with Michelle Rodriguez in Battle in Seattle, in 2007.

Sadly, we never get to see Theron behind the wheel in this film. She's certainly no stranger to chase movies, as she starred in the aforementioned The Italian Job, as well as Mad Max: Fury Road.

• At one point Deckard mocks Hobbs' hulking physique by calling him "Hercules." This is no doubt a shoutout to the fact that Dwayne Johnson, aka Hobbs, starred in the sub-par Hercules in 2014.

• I'd really like to know how the filmmakers talked Helen Mirren into starring in a Fast & Furious movie. She's an Oscar winning actress, for Thor's sake! I guess they conned her into it the same way Michael Bay tricked Sir Anthony Hopkins into being in a Transformers movie.
• I won't liec I thought the "Self Driving Car Stampede" in the middle of New York City was pretty darned cool. Patently impossible, of course, but cool. 

Apparently the film takes place in a parallel world in which Manhattan is populated by thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of self-driving cars. I'm sure they have some there, but nowhere near THAT many.

• The streets of NYC are curiously devoid of traffic during the many chase scenes there. Yeah, there were a few cars dotting the streets, but nowhere near the number you'd no doubt see on a typical day. I have a feeling it's not possible to drive ninety five miles an hour through downtown Manhattan. 

• Great confusion surrounds the Russian motorcade scene in NYC. A Russian Ambassador is being driven to his embassy in a stretch limo. There are four black sedans in front of his limo, and four behind. Like this: = = — = =

At one point Cipher tells Dom that the Ambassador is in "the third car," and to target it. I assumed that meant he was really in one of the sedans, and the limo was a decoy meant to fool any would-be terrorists.
But then a few minutes later Dom stands on top of the incapacitated limo and demands the Ambassador hand over the nuclear codes. So I have no idea what all the "third car" talk was about. I guess Cipher meant he was in the third row back? Confusing!.

I could also swear there's a shot during the self-driving car attack in which the Ambassador's limo flips end over end, yet a few scenes later it's driving down the street, no worse for wear. 

Apparently the film was also edited fast and furiously!

• I don't think the filmmakers understand just how an EMP pulse works. From what I've read, it fries any kind of electrical system in the vicinity. I think maybe devices that aren't actively switched on will be OK, but I'm not 100% sure about that.

Anyway, at the Russian Separatists' base, Dom uses a stolen EMP device to fry a pursuing attack chopper. A couple things here. First of all, Dom's driving in his car when he sets off the EMP. His car's ignition should have been fried and it should have immediately coasted to a stop, but of course it's completely unaffected.

Secondly, when the chopper's hit, its rotors instantly stop spinning, and it starts careening wildly toward the ground. The pilot then radios a Mayday call. Whoops! Radios are electronic devices too, writers!

I guess maybe you could argue that the EMP device is directional, and can be aimed at a particular vehicle so it affects it and nothing else. The only problem with that theory is that when Dom activates the EMP, we actually see a visible pulse emanate from his car!

• More wonky editing: During the big third act action setpice, we see the Russian sub that Cipher's trying to steal is dry dock. It's actually sitting on several large supports, several feet off the ground. 

A few minutes later the sub is in the water, sailing merrily away. 

Apparently there's a big chunk of film missing here to explain how the sub instantly got from dry land to under the water.

The Fate Of The Furious is big, dumb and loud, filled with over-the-top action scenes that defy the laws of physics. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's a heck of a lot of fun, and a worthy entry in the series. The absence of Paul Walker doesn't hurt the film a bit, as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham more than make up for his absence, going so far as to shove star Vin Diesel out of the spotlight. I give it a B.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 19: All The Madame's Men

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the pieces are all falling into place as we can begin to see AIDA's endgame.

We also get the return of yet another long-dead character inside The Framework, as Sunil Bakshi pops up as a propaganda-slinging Bill O'Reilly TV blowhard.

And we finally find out just what Project Looking Glass really does, as the writers may have just revealed how they plan bring back an old character for good!


The Plot:

We’re still inside The Framework this week. We see Sunil Bakshi, who hosts his own propaganda-spewing show called the Bakshi Report. He feeds the public a fake news story, claiming the Patriot attacked and destroyed the Hydra Enlightenment Camp (which is just the opposite of what actually happened last week). 

Inside Hydra HQ, Daisy completes her Terrigenesis, courtesy of Agent May, who’s decided to switch sides. In addition to restoring her quake powers, the Terrigenesis healed her many injuries sustained during her stay at Hydra. Daisy and May fight their way through wave after wave of Hydra agents as they try to escape the building.

They make their way to the elevators, where they’re confronted by Madame Hydra, aka AIDA, and a couple of her goons. They throw down their weapons and seemingly surrender to her. Just as AIDA starts monologuing, Daisy hits her with a quake blast, knocking her backwards. She crashes through the windows of the Triskelion and falls to the pavement several hundred feet below. Somehow she doesn’t explode on impact.

AIDA wakes up in the real world and sees the Superior standing over her. If you'll recall, at the end of Self Control, AIDA removed the Superior's head and placed it in a jar, and his brain now controls an LMD replica of himself. Why? Um... because comic books?

Anyway, AIDA tells LMD Superior that Daisy and May tried to kill her in The Framework. He pulls a gun on the real May, who’s lying comatose on a slab while she's hooked up to The Framework. Fortunately for May, he can’t seem to make himself pull the trigger. For some reason, AIDA built his LMD body with the same restrictions she has— she’s bound by her programming to protect the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at all costs, and can’t physically harm them. Because Daisy and Simmons hacked into The Framework on their own though, they’re not covered by this limitation, and she’s free to kill them. She tells the Superior to find and kill them, pronto. OK, none of that makes any sense, since Daisy and Simmons are both S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and should fall under AIDA's programming restriction, but let’s just roll with it.

Back at Resistance/S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, Coulson and the others debate how to carry on now that the Patriot is dead.

At the Triskelion, a doctor tends to the injured AIDA while Fitz and his father Alistair look on. The doctor tells Fitz that AIDA’s spine is shattered, and she’ll likely never recover. Fitz angrily sends him from the room. Alistair says that with AIDA incapacitated, Fitz is now the new head of Hydra! Fitz meets with Bakshi, who wants to interview AIDA to reassure the public. Fitz says he doesn’t want the public placated, he wants them afraid.

Bakshi goes on the air and announces that the terrorists “Skye” and Melinda May tried to kill Madame Hydra, and are dangerous enemies of the state. He urges the public to be on the lookout for them, and if they see something, to say something.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Ward wants to go out and search for Daisy, but Coulson warns against it. Ward dismisses his concerns, pointing out that Coulson’s just a teacher, not an agent. Coulson reveals he was invited to join S.H.I.E.L.D. when he finished college, but passed because he was afraid. He realizes now that that was a mistake. Ward admits he was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. as well, by Victoria Hand (Callback Alert!).

Daisy and May try to make their way to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, and see their faces on a billboard. Daisy says they’re too exposed out on the street, so they steal a car.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Simmons examines the Project Looking Glass plans that Trip stole from Hydra last week. She realizes it uses Darkhold technology, which can generate matter from nothing. She says it’ll need a huge power source, and Trip says he heard chatter at Hydra about an oil rig in the Baltic. Simmons says the Superior had an oil rig in the real world, and that AIDA must be working with him.

Daisy and May make it to a S.H.I.E.L.D. outpost, and knock on the door (!). A Resistance fighter answers, sees May and pulls a gun on her. Suddenly a truck full of Hydra soldiers appears and open fire. They wound the Resistance grunt, and Daisy and May drag him inside and barricade the door. Burrows tells Coulson & Mack something’s happening at the contact point, and they go to check it out.

Inside the Resistance outpost, May admits to Daisy that she’s the one who called in the air strike that killed the Patriot. Daisy tells her it wasn’t her fault, as AIDA and Hydra both messed with her head.

Meanwhile, Fitz sits with AIDA. Alistair tells him that Bakshi’s fear-mongering is working, and their forces are closing in on Daisy and May. AIDA wakes up and makes Fitz promise to finish Project Looking Glass.

The Hydra troops break into the Resistance outpost, and Daisy and May take them out easily. Just then Coulson and Mack arrive. Mack sees May, and recognizes her as the Hydra agent who raided his house and threatened his daughter Hope. He points his gun at her, but Coulson talks him down, saying he doesn’t know why, but he trusts May.

Simmons and Trip fly a Quinjet to the Superior’s oil rig. They discover there’s a huge facility deep under water, below the rig. They infiltrate it, expecting to find Project Looking Glass there, but the place is completely empty. Simmons realizes that the Project is actually being built in the real world. AIDA plans to use to become a real girl, utilizing the Darkhold tech to create an actual human body for herself. Once she does so, she’ll be free of her restrictive programming and can kill the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (and finally feel real emotions too).

Alistair tells Fitz that Daisy and May escaped. Fitz shrieks at his father, who shuts him down quick. He assures Fitz they’ll find the traitors. Fitz says he’d better, as he has to send a message that failure won’t be tolerated, even from his own father. Alistair tortures interrogates Radcliffe, asking him where to find Daisy and Simmons. Radcliffe laughs at him, pointing out that Alistair’s a pathetic drunk in the real world. That earns him another beatin.’

Coulson and the others return to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Resistance HQ. Daisy feels dumb for not realizing that the S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ inside The Framework would be in the same spot as it is in the real world (!). Ward’s happy to see Daisy, and they discuss what’ll happen when she leaves virtual world. Coulson examines May’s body cam footage of the air strike on the Enlightenment Center, which showed Hydra planes bombing a building full of kids. He says it’s the perfect anti-propaganda to sway the public to their side.

Daisy tells Coulson that Radcliffe told her how to escape The Framework, and they don’t have to go on any further missions that don’t matter in this fake world. Coulson says they can’t just leave The Framework in this state, and believes if they solve its problems, they’ll solve their own. Doesn’t make any sense, but they’ve got three more episodes to fill, so I guess this is what we’re going with.

Fitz finishes building Project Looking Glass, and tells AIDA it’s ready. He apparently knows what it’s for— to create a human body for her in the real world— and asks her to take him with her. So I guess that’s a thing that can happen?

Coulson and the others infiltrate Bakshi’s TV studio and take it over. As Coulson prepares to broadcast May’s footage, Ward tells Daisy that Hydra will try and stop them, and he’s willing to sacrifice himself to keep them on the air as long as possible. He says he wants Daisy to know he’s nothing like the Grant Ward from her world. Coulson records his message, and he and the others leave the station. Ward hits the switch, and the message goes out all over the country. In it, Coulson shows the shocking footage, and pretty much urges the public to rise up against Hydra.

Burrows enters the control room and tells Ward there’s a crowd outside the station. Ward grimly picks up his gun, ready to go out in a blaze of glory. Burrows then says it’s not Hydra outside, but the public, showing support for the Resistance. Jesus, why didn’t he just say that in the first place, instead of being dramatically vague?

In the real world, the Superior tells AIDA that he’s located Daisy and Simmons onboard Zephyr One, and prepares to rendezvous with the plane.

• The late, great Bill Paxton makes a guest appearance on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week.! Well, sort of.

The episode opens in a TV studio which is airing The Bakshi Report. We see a bank of monitors displaying various graphics. One of the screens features a graphic saying, "In Memoriam: John Garrett, American Hero."

It's been a while since Garrett and Bakshi appeared on the show, so to refresh your memory, Garrett was the Big Bad back in Season 1. He was originally a high level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, as well as a secret Hydra operative. He was injured during a mission and used Deathlok technology to extend his life. Later on he became the secret entity known as the Clairvoyant, and started the Centipede Project.

As for Bakshi, he was an assistant to Hydra leader Daniel Whitehall, and specialized in brainwashing experiments.

• During The Bakshi Report, there's a news crawl along the bottom of the screen. Among the stories in the news crawl:

"A UC Berkeley linguistics student has been arrested for harboring an Inhuman refugee in her dorm room (ten points to Gryfindor for spelling “Berkeley” right!)”

“...which commemorates the life and legacy of American hero John Garrett. (this one was incomplete, so I couldn't see the beginning of the line)”

“A new biography of Daniel Whitehall examines his close relationship with the Malick family. (Gideon Malick was one of the villains in Season 3)”

“New Inhuman Stop & Screen Program declared a major success after Hydra reports record number of incarcerations. (this one's obviously a not-so-subtle dig at Trump's ICE program, which targets the "bad hombres" who are in our country illegally)”

• One last thing about The Bakshi Report— it's a propaganda program, designed to misinform and sway public opinion. But take a look at Bakshi's logo. Would the general public really trust and believe in an organization whose logo is a stylized octopus with an evil skull for a head?

• It was extremely satisfying when Daisy blasted AIDA out the window of the Triskelion.

That said, is gravity different inside The Framework? AIDA falls a good twenty or thirty stories, and actually BOUNCES when she lands on the pavement far below! As a result of her fall, she suffers a shattered spine. That's it? She should have made a huge red splash from that height!

• With Agent May's help
, Daisy undergoes Terrigenesis and gets her quake powers back inside The Framework.

Why do Inhumans and Terrigen exist in The Framework in the first place? Last week AIDA said she tweaked The Framework a bit to remove the biggest regrets of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hooked up to it. So she can obviously has some degree of control over the parameters of this virtual world. So why didn't she just delete a couple lines of code and eliminate Terrigen altogether? That way there'd be no possibility of superpowered threats to her.

Even though it doesn't make much sense, I get why the writers added Inhumans to The Framework. AIDA's superhumanly intelligent, and could effortlessly alter the conditions inside the virtual world so there's absolutely no possibility for the heroes to overthrow her. They've got to give the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents a tiny advantage and level the playing filed a little bit, else there'd be no reason to watch.

• When LMD Superior points a gun at Agent May in the real world, he's unable to pull the trigger. When he asks what the hell, he and AIDA then have the following conversation.

LMD Superior: "What have you done to me? Why can I not kill her?"
AIDA: "Because I built you. The same parameters that limit me must also limit you. My primary directive requires me to protect these people."
LMD Superior: "Then we are both powerless."
AIDA: "Not entirely. If they become a direct threat to the Framework, then they no longer require protection."

So even though there're several helpless, comatose S.H.I.E.L.D. agents right there in front of AIDA in the real world, she can't kill any of them unless they threaten the virtual world she made. Doesn't May now pose a threat to The Framework? She just willingly transformed Daisy into an Inhuman, and now she's switched sides and is actively working with the Resistance to take down AIDA and Hydra. That sure sounds like "a threat to The Framework" to me!

• When Coulson takes Daisy to the top secret Resistance HQ, she feels stupid when she realizes it's the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, and even dumber when she realizes it's in the same spot as it is in the real world!

Um... how is it that AIDA never thought of that? She's been to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the real world! Why didn't she send a Hydra army to the base to wipe it out months ago? That's the first place she should have looked for the Resistance!

• Looks like Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. definitely believes in nurture over nature. Framework Ward was recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. by Victoria Hand, who supported and guided him, making him into the decent fellow he is today.

Compare that to Real World Ward. He was recruited by secret Hydra agent John Garrett, who manipulated and twisted him into a cold, traitorous killer we saw in the first three seasons.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues it's campaign against the Trump administration this week.

During Coulson's anti-propaganda speech that's beamed out over the airwaves, he says, "Hydra doesn't think we're smart enough to know when we're being fed alternative facts to keep us afraid, to keep them in power." 

This of course is a reference to Kellyanne Conway, who used the term in a Meet The Press interview back in January. Interviewer Chuck Todd asked why Conway why White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lied about the size of the crowds at Trump's inauguration. Conway replied that Spicer's comments weren't falsehoods, but "alternative facts."

Naturally the internet went nuts over the comment, and a thousand "alternative facts" memes were born.

Toward the end of the episode, we see Bakshi brazenly hitting on an attractive female producer in his TV studio:

Producer: "That's very kind of you, Mr. Bakshi, but I couldn't possibly impose."
Bakshi: "I'm just saying, if you need to shop for furniture, I'll take you. I know just the place."

This is a reference to the infamous Donald Trump "Pussy Grabbing" tape, which was accidentally recorded backstage in 2005 while waiting to shoot his cameo appearance on Days Of Our Lives

In the tape, Trump brags to Access Hollywood's Billy Bush (whoever the hell that is) about how easy it is for a big shot celebrity like himself to bed any woman he sets his sights on. Our president, ladies and gentlemen!

Here's an excerpt from the tape:

Unknown Male: "She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful."
Trump: "You know I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f*ck her. She was married."
Unknown male: "That’s huge news."
Trump: "No, no, Nancy. No this was— and I moved on her very heavily, in fact. I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture, I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture."
Unknown Male: (laughs)
Trump: I took her out furniture. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look."

Obviously Trump must exist inside The Framework, and Bakshi was trying out some of the president's patented moves on his producer!

• During Coulson's anit-Hydra broadcast, he says (among other things): 
"Remember, there are more of us than there are of them. And now that we know the truth, we have a choice to make. We all have the opportunity to be patriots. Will you take a stand? Are you going to hold them accountable?"
Did Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. just encourage the public to rise up against the Trump administration? It sure sounded like it to me!

• So this week we find out the true function of Project Looking Glass— it uses Darkhold technology to create matter out of thin air. AIDA plans to use it to create a flesh and blood body for herself, one that can feel pain, experience emotions, and isn't bound by Radcliffe's restrictive programming.

I wonder... are the writers planning to use this device to turn Framework Ward into a real boy, and keep him around on the show? Think about it. The original Grant Ward was an irredeemable asshole who died a couple times last season. This would be the perfect way to reboot the character and bring him back full time. It would be convoluted as hell ("This is Grant Ward. He used to be a program in a virtual world, until we used a magic device to turn him into a real person), but it would make perfect sense in the universe of the show.

Assuming there's a Season 5, that is...
• This Week's Best Lines:
LMD Superior: "Has one of your playthings rebelled?"
AIDA: "Agent May has begun to question the narrative she was programmed with."
(I got news for you, AIDA, I question the narrative I was programmed with on a daily basis! Who the hell wrote this sh*t?)

Framework Ward: "Anyone else getting sick of this propaganda crap? It's like sipping poison. Little bit every day, you don't even notice till it kills you."

Coulson: "The smart move is to wait for her to reach out."
Framework Ward: "Look, this isn't your wheelhouse. I'm sure you're a good schoolteacher, but...uh, you're a schoolteacher."

Trip: (after Simmons explains the concept of The Framework to him) "Hey, I'm not gonna pretend to get all this, but I'm here to help."
Simmons: "You believe me? About another world?"
Trip: "Come on, girl. That's way too crazy a story to make up."

Alistair: "Don't you snap at me, boy. If I wanted you hysterical at every setback, I would have left you with your mother."

Daisy: (as she's brought into the Resistance Base, which is really S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ) "So the secret base is the base. Probably should've guessed that."

Alistair: "Do you think I don't know who you are? Where you're from? You come from that other world, just like them. You're just as tainted."
Radcliffe: "You want to talk about that 'other world,' as you call it? It's the real world. Here, you're just a snippet of code that Aida changed slightly so you'd stick around for Fitz. You may be part of his life here, but there Alistair Fitz is so thick, he doesn't recognize his own son's genius. He's a pathetic drunk. Even here, you're nothing without him. So do what you will. I've got nothing left to give. You'll be a disappointment to your son yet again."

Coulson: (as the Resistance infiltrates the Hydra TV studio) "Heard you were looking for some enemies of the state?"

Framework Ward: (to Daisy) "I know I'm not going with you when you leave, but I can still help out from this side. I would hate for you to think that I am anything like the Grant Ward you knew over there."

Coulson: (giving his anti-Hydra speech) "As you all know, a Hydra facility was destroyed yesterday. Hydra told you that it was an act of terrorism. They told you an Inhuman named the Patriot murdered civilians. But what they told you was a lie. We're gonna show you what really happened.

This footage was taken from the body-cam of a high-level Hydra operative. Hydra used this Enlightenment Center to brainwash anyone who dared to question them. Jeffrey Mace saved these people, but Hydra was willing to kill them just to maintain their lie. Once you see this footage, the truth is undeniable.

Hydra doesn't think we're smart enough to know when we're being fed alternative facts to keep us afraid, to keep them in power. Remember, there are more of us than there are of them. And now that we know the truth, we have a choice to make. We all have the opportunity to be patriots. Will you take a stand? Are you going to hold them accountable? 

Throughout history you've seen empires rise and fall. A wise man once told me that a person can do anything once they realize they're a part of something bigger. It's taken me a while to understand that. For years, I was just a face in the crowd, a history teacher who spread Hydra's lies. They seemed too imposing for any one person to fight. But now I'm choosing to stand up, to become a part of something bigger. I really do believe that together, we can accomplish anything. Because the truth is I'm not just a history teacher. My name is Phil Coulson and I'm an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 19: The Once And Future Flash

The Flash is back, after yet another one of its endless and interminable breaks. How I loathe these constant interruptions. Blame them on Sweeps Weeks.

This week Barry travels to the dark and dreary future, one that's somehow darker and drearier than his regular time period's been lately. In fact, this nightmarish version of Central City is so grim and gritty that I can't help but think it's meant as a parody of Zack Snyder's DC Movie Murderverse (see Man Of Steel or Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice for examples).

We also get yet another tease of Savitar's identity this week. Sigh... OK, it was kind of fun trying to guess who he was at first, seemingly eighteen or twenty months ago, but the mystery's definitely lost its allure. The promos promise they'll finally reveal his identity in next week's episode. I hope so, because I'm honestly about five seconds away from not giving a sh*t. Enough's enough.

A while back I did a rundown of the candidates I thought were most likely to be Savitar, including Wally, HR, Eddie Thawne and even Barry himself. Based on various plot points, I narrowed the list down even further to HR or Barry. Eh, after this week's episode, I'm changing my mind again, as I don't think he could be either of them.

See, we don't learn who Savitar is this week, but get a pretty good indication of who he isn't. Future Barry says he finally managed to trap Savitar in the Speed Force in 2020. We then see that every character on the show— Barry, Cisco, Joe, Caitlin/Killer Frost, Wally, HR and Julian—is present and accounted for in 2024. If Savitar's locked up tight in the Speed Force, then he can't be any of them, right?

There's a fan theory floating around that Savitar is either Eddie Thawne or Ronnie Raymond, both of whom were fiancees of Caitlin Snow. Eddie was sucked into a singularity or something in the Season 1 finale, and Ronnie became one half of Firestorm and sacrificed himself to stop a singularity sometime in Season 2, I think. 

The technobabble nature of their both their deaths could easily serve as an excuse for them to turn into Savitar. And the appearance of either of them would definitely account for the look of shock and wonder on Caitlin/Killer Frost's face at the end of the episode.

I'm doubting it'll be Eddie though, since he just appeared (sort of) a couple months ago in Into The Speed Force. I think it'd be too confusing if he was both a Speed Force manifestation AND Savitar as well. 

That leaves Ronnie Raymond. I dunno if I really believe he's Savitar or not, but based on this episode, he seems to be the most likely candidate.


The Plot:
Barry and Iris hang out in their apartment. It's snowing outside, which is odd, considering this episode's airing in April. Barry's busy working out speed calculations (?) as he struggles to figure out how to save Iris from Savitar on May 23rd. Iris makes Barry promise to look after for Joe once she's gone (Plot Point Alert!). Barry gets a message from STAR Labs and rushes off.

At STAR, Killer Frost, aka Caitlin Snow, runs amok and attacks Cisco, HR and Julian. The three of them hide inside a cell in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail, which seems like a dumb idea, since Killer Frost can simply open the door from the outside. Just as she's about to kill them with an ice blast, Barry appears. He urges her to try and fight her evil side, but she says "Nah," forms a wall of ice in front of him and runs off.

Cisco and Julian try to figure out how to find Killer Frost before she kills someone. Barry decides this would be the absolute perfect time to run to the future and find out who Savitar really is (?). When the others say "What the hell?" he reminds them that he can visit the future and be back a second after he left. Technically he's right, but it still seems wrong to run out in the middle of a crisis like this.

Unfortunately Barry's not fast enough to break the time barrier by himself, so he enlists Wally to help. The two of them run around the STAR Labs pipeline, until a time vortex begins to form. At the proper time Wally shoves Barry forward, which propels him into the vortex and seven years into the future.

In 2024, Barry's immediately attacked by Mirror Master and the Top, but manages to get away from them. He visits his apartment, but finds it empty and abandoned. Cisco appears, saying he had a feeling Barry would show up here some day. He notes Barry's wearing the 2017 version of his Flash suit. Barry tells Cisco that he needs to talk to his future self.

Cisco takes Barry to STAR Labs, or what's left of it. He says after Iris died, Future Barry shut it down and abandoned Team Flash, saying they reminded him too much of what he lost. Cisco stays in the elevator as Barry enters the darkened Cortex. Barry then encounters Future Barry, who for some reason speaks in a gravelly voice and has a ridiculous looking emo hairdo. Future Barry says he knows why Present Barry's here, and that he can't help him. He says he never found out who Savitar was. He tells Present Barry to go back and spend as much time as he can with Iris.

Barry says goodbye to Cisco and then attempts to run back to 2017. Oddly enough, he can't open a vortex. Apparently it never occurred to him that if it took two people to get him to the future, it would take two to get him back. Barry asks Cisco to just use his powers to open a breach and send him back. Unfortunately that's impossible, because at some point in the past seven years, Killer Frost froze off Cisco's hands, effectively neutering him. He now sports a pair of bionic hands.

Barry decides that since he can't get back home, he might as well catch up with his old friends. Cisco takes him to a prison where Killer Frost is incarcerated. Julian tends to her, and is surprised to see a slightly younger looking Barry. Julian says Killer Frost teamed up with Savitar and knows his true identity. Barry pleads with her to tell him, but she refuses. She does predict he'll be very surprised when he eventually finds out.

Barry visits Wally next, at the West house. Cisco say that after Savitar killed Iris, Wally went  crazy and tried to kill him by himself, with disastrous results. Wally's now wheelchair bound with a shattered spine, and whatever he saw while fighting Savitar left him completely comatose. He then goes to see Joe, who's tending to Iris' grave. Joe's not happy to see him, especially after he broke his promise to Iris and completely abandoned him.

Barry returns to STAR Labs, and demands to know why Future Barry turned his back on his friends and family. Future Barry tells him that he did everything he could to save Iris, but Savitar took her anyway. Once that happened, there was no reason to go on, so he wasn't there for Joe, for Caitlin or for Wally. He tells Barry he may not understand it now, but he will. 
Future Barry also says he eventually figure out a way to trap Savitar in the Speed Force forever, but by then it was too little, too late.

Barry talks to Cisco again, trying to figure out why he can't get back to his own time (um... because you don't have Wally's help?). Cisco says Barry can leave whenever he wants, and sheepishly admits he used some kind of dampening device to slow him down so he'd stay. Cisco wants Present Barry's help in getting Team Flash back together. Barry just can't resist Cisco's puppy dog eyes, and agrees to help.

Barry and Cisco go to Jitters, which is now called "HR Jitters." HR's there, reading his latest trashy novel to a group of enthralled MILFs. They round up Julian and Joe as well, and bring them back to STAR Labs. Barry talks them all into resurrecting Team Flash, and they're all on board. Cisco gets an alert saying Mirror Master and the Top are robbing another bank.

The Flash zooms to the scene and confronts the villains. They attack him again, and quickly get him on the ropes. Back at STAR, Cisco says his power dampening device could save Barry, but there's no way to get it to him in time. Suddenly Future Barry makes a dramatic entrance, saying he'll take it to him.

Future Barry zooms to the scene of the robbery, decked out in his updated Flash costume. He uses the dampening field to shut down the villains' powers and cuffs them, saving Present Barry.

Back at STAR Labs, Team Flash celebrates their sad little win, which doesn't matter because as soon as Barry returns to the present, this future timeline will likely cease to exist. Despite this, Future Barry says he sees now that this future's worth fighting for. He tells Barry that a scientist named Tracy Brand helped him trap Savitar in the Speed Force, and gives him some kind of futuristic flash drive (heh) with all the info he needs on it.

Barry enters the pipeline and somehow makes it back to 2017, even though earlier in the episode he wasn't fast enough to break the time barrier by himself. He tells Cisco and the others about his future adventure, and says the first thing they need to do is find Killer Frost and keep her from teaming up with Savitar.

Cut to Killer Frost walking through a wooded area. Savitar appears, and offers to help make sure the 
Caitlin side of her persona never returns. Killer Frost asks him why she should trust him. Savitar kneels down and the back of his suit opens up. A mysterious, shadowy figure steps out of it. All we see though is Killer Frost's face, as she's astonished by who's inside the suit.


• As the episode opens, We see Barry and Iris in their apartment. The fireplace is blazing merrily away, and it's actually snowing outside. 

Just when is this episode supposed to be taking place (in 2017, that is)? I was under the impression the series was happening more or less in real time, as their Xmas episode actually aired back on December 6, 2016. So why the heck is it snowing on the show at the end of April? Is Killer Frost making it snow?

I'm betting this is a case of the show's numerous idiotic breaks screwing up the schedule, causing us to get a winter episode in the Spring.

• Cisco, Julian and HR run from Killer Frost, and hide in a STAR Labs Super Jail cell. I loved the Raiders Of The Lost Ark moment in this scene, as HR slid under the cell door, then reached out to grab his trademark drumstick just before the door closed on his arm.

• By the way, did you wonder why HR doesn't spend a lot of time in front of the camera this week? That's because he spend most of his time behind it. Actor Tom Cavanaugh directed this week's episode.

• Barry says he's not fast enough to open a time portal on his own, and needs Wally's help. They run around and around the pipeline, and at the appropriate moment, Wally gives Barry a boost to propel him through time.

Unfortunately it looks for all the world like Wally grabs Barry by the ass and tosses him into the vortex.

• When Barry arrives in 2024, he sees several newspapers blowing down the street, and picks one up to check the date and make sure he's really in the future.

Why the hell are there still physical newspapers in 2024? For three seasons now, every time Barry enters the STAR Labs Time Vault, he gazes at what appears to be a holographic newspaper dated 2024.

So I guess there aren't holographic newspapers in the future after all? Maybe we're to assume they still have paper newspapers in 2024, but what we see in the Time Vault is just a holographic recording of one of these? Or am I putting way more thought into this than the producers did?

• OK, this doesn't have much to do with this episode, but whatever. When Harrison Wells' Time Vault was first introduced back in Season 1, it was controlled by an artificial intelligence called "Gideon."

In the first season episode The Trap, Barry accidentally discovers the Time Vault and is greeted by Gideon's voice. He doesn't want Wells to know he's found the room, and asks Gideon if she can keep it quiet. She says of course. When Barry asks why she's obeying him, she says it's because he created her! Impressive!

Wow, Barry'd better get busy. He now has less than seven years to somehow figure out how to create an advanced, self-aware artificial intelligence. 

I get the feeling the writers forgot all about this little factoid...

Maybe Gideon's conspicuous absence is a feature of the revised timeline? The characters are still living in a slightly altered reality, right? First Barry meddled in time and created Flashpoint, then he went back and tried to fix it, and kind of did, but not quite. Did his constant time traveling accidentally erase his smartypants intelligent computer?

Oddly enough, over on Legends Of Tomorrow, Rip Hunter's timeship, the Waverider, is also controlled by an A.I. named Gideon. Hmm... Did he steal Gideon from Barry? Or did Barry give Rip a copy of Gideon for his ship?

• When Cisco meets Present Barry, he notes that he's wearing the 2017 version of his suit. That implies he'll be getting a new one soon!

• Barry meets the 2024 version of himself, complete with black hair that falls over his face in dank, greasy locks.

Obviously the producers were trying to make Barry look older here, but oddly enough his hairdo made him look younger, like a high school kid going through an emo phase.

• Did the producers deliberately try to make Barry look like Ezra Miller here? He's the actor who's playing the Flash in the upcoming Justice League movie.

• Great confusion surrounds the issue of Barry's method of time travel.

Barry tells Wally he's not fast enough to run into the future, and needs his help. They run in circles at superspeed until a portal forms, and Wally literally tosses Barry into it. So far, so good.

Once Barry finishes his business in 2024, he tries to go back to 2017. Surprise! He can't seem to run fast enough to open a portal and get back! Derp!

Did it never occur to Barry (or the writers) that if getting to the future is a two man job, getting back would probably be the same?

To confuse the matter even further, Cisco admits he deliberately used a power dampening device to suppress Barry's speed, because he didn't want him to go back to 2017. This implies that somehow, Barry should have been able to return to the present by himself. And at the end of the episode, that's exactly what he does!

So which is it, writers? Does Barry need help traveling through time or not? Does it take two people to jump to the future, and only one to get back? Is going to the past like running downhill?

• Barry asks Cisco to use his vibe powers to open a time portal for him. Cisco says he'd love to, but unfortunately Killer Frost froze off his hands at some point in the past. According to Cisco, "No hands, no vibes."

Did his hands contain special vibe-emitting glands? Couldn't he manifest his power some other way? Through his stumps, or even his eyes?

So where did Cisco get such advance Attack Of The Clones bionic hands? The writers realize he's only seven years in the future, right? It seems unlikely prosthetic technology's gonna advance that far in so short a time. I guess maybe Cisco invented them? And had someone else make them for him? Or maybe he got them from Atom.

• Barry goes to visit Future Killer Frost in her cell. She's surprised that Cisco didn't tell Barry she teamed up with Savitar. She says, "You didn’t tell him, did you? Well, secrets always were our thing, weren’t they?" 

Meta Alert! Wow, truer words were never spoken, as characters consistently keeping secrets from one another for no good reason has been a hallmark of The Flash since the series began. Maybe this is the writers' way of saying they're gonna cut back on the secrets? HAW HAW! What the hell am I saying? They'll never learn their lesson!

• Mirror Master's Inception-style reality warping effects were very well done. Kudos to the effects team!

• I like the Future Flash costume quite a bit! It's still overly complicated, but it looks more like the one he wears in the comic than any previous version, plus it's a brighter red. Slowly but surely, the show's working its way toward a comic accurate Flash costume!

• At HR Jitters, HR reads excerpts from his new novel to an appreciative audience. The title of his book is The Streak Vs. Mr. Reflecto, which I assume is based on a real life future battle between the Flash and Mirror Master?

• Apparently smartphones won't change much in the next seven years, as the ones the future characters all have look pretty much the same as our current models.

I'm sure this was a cost-cutting measure, so the prop department didn't have to cobble together futuristic looking phones. But it also makes a certain amount of sense, as the phones we have now haven't changed much in the past seven years. They've probably gotten a bit thinner, but that's about it.

• After 2024 Team Flash's little victory, the news media of the future celebrates the return of the Flash. What the heck's going on with that newscaster's collar? Is that what men's shirts will look like in 2024?

By the way, we've seen Channel 52 on the show before. It's a reference to "The New 52," one of DC's semi-annual revamps of their entire comic line.

• Before Barry leaves, Future Barry gives him the name of Tracy Brand, the doctor? scientist? who figured out how to trap Savitar in the Speed Force in 2020. He also gives Barry some kind of futuristic flash (heh) drive, in the hopes that Brand can figure out how to eliminate Savitar three years early. A couple things here. 

First off, I googled the name, and as near as I can tell, "Tracy Brand" isn't a character from any DC comic.

Secondly, about that button drive that Future Barry gave to Present Barry: I sure hope Tracy Brand or Cisco or someone can figure out a way to read the info off a storage medium that hasn't been invented yet!

• Math is hard! Barry travels to the year 2024. Once there, he mentions several times that he came from 2017.

When he finally gets back to 2017, he has the following conversation with Cisco:

Cisco: "You're back?"
Barry: "I went to the future."
Cisco: "How far?"
Barry: "Eight years from now."

Hmm. I freely admit I'm not a math expert, but eight years from 2017 would be 2025, right?
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