Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 11: Dead Or Alive Or

This week on The Walking Dead, we finally, at long last, check in on the show's two most beloved and popular charact... I'm sorry. I thought I could keep a straight face while I typed that, but I can't finish the sentence.

One of the more annoying things about The Walking Dead is its habit of veering away from the main narrative (often at the most frustrating times possible) to spotlight some of the minor members of its incredibly large cast. And so it is with Dead Or Alive Or, which features the dynamic duo of Father Gabriel and Dr. Carson 2. Yeah, that's right— Dr. Freakin' Carson. I bet you forgot he was even a character on the show, didn't you?

As you might expect from an episode starring these two, there's really nothing of note that happens here. Most of it concerns Gabriel and Carson's sad little roadtrip that ends up precisely where it began, making the whole thing extra pointless.

Then there're the riveting scenes of Daryl and the survivors of Alexandria making their way through a perilous forest as they head for the Hilltop, which is about as exciting as it sounds. There was honestly no reason for us to have to see any of this, as Daryl and the others could have just shown up at the Hilltop's gates and said, "Whew, I thought we'd never get here!" The only reason any of this is here is so the show can tread water until the season finale. 

The only semi-important events in the entire episode are Dwight reluctantly returning to the Saviors, and Negan deciding to use zombified weapons against the Hilltop. As relevant as these two plotlines were, they took up just a fraction of the languid runtime, and could have easily been incorporated into other, more exciting episodes. Again, the show's padding here.

Father Gabriel has always been one of the more flat-out annoying characters on the show, and he was even more aggravating than usual here. His absolute and utter confidence that God was looking out for them made him seem less like a man of faith, and more like a smug, sanctimonious asshole.

It was also incredibly obvious that this episode was setting up Gabriel for a huge fall. Every sentence he spoke was ridiculously pointed and on the nose. Every time he smiled in rapture and evoked the name of God, you just knew he was climbing another rung on the Karmic ladder that was about to snap in half and toss him to the ground.

In any other series, seeing a believer get slapped down hard would be tragic and shocking. Unfortunately eight seasons of The Walking Dead has trained its audience to recognize that hope equals disaster, and this episode didn't disappoint. Gabriel's fall was so telegraphed it became unintentionally hilarious.


The Plot:
As we begin, the Saviors are searching for the escaped Father Gabriel and Dr. Carson 2 (who Eugene helped escape from the Sanctuary many episodes ago). They drive over a bridge, and a few seconds later Daryl and a few Alexandria survivors— including Rosita, Tara and Judith— emerge from the brush. Dwight's there as well, and I guess he's kind of a prisoner? Or not? It isn't really clear. Anyway, they're all desperately trying to make their way to the Hilltop before the Saviors find them.

Tara's still peeved at Dwight for killing her girlfriend Dr. Cloyd several seasons ago, and doesn't believe he's really changed sides. A walker approaches, and Tara pretends she's going to stab it, but sort of throws it at the injured Dwight. He catches it and barely manages to dispatch it without any weapons. Daryl glares at Tara and hurries the survivors along.

Meanwhile, Gabriel and Dr. Carson are sitting in a car, hopelessly lost as they try to find the Hilltop. Gabriel's apparently feeling better, having gotten over whatever disease he caught from smearing walker guts on himself back in The Big Scary U. He squints at a map, and Carson asks if he's OK. Gabriel replies he's fine, as "God's leading the way." Yeah, well God's also the one who let the zombie apocalypse happen, so why trust in him?

Carson examines Gabriel's eyes and discovers they're infected by... something. He says if Gabriel isn't treated immediately, his vision could be permanently damaged. Suddenly the ever-squirrely Gabriel says he hears a bell, and takes off into the woods.

Back with the Alexandrians, Tara asks Daryl why Dwight's still alive. Daryl, who believes Dwight really has changed, tells her now's not the time to kill him. Surprisingly, Rosita agrees. She says the killing needs to stop, especially considering they just lost Carl.

At the Hilltop, Carol, Morgan and Young Henry stand guard over the Savior prisoners, including the assholeish Jared. Henry wants to know which one of the Saviors killed his brother Ben. If you'll recall, Jared killed Ben way back in Season 7's Bury Me Here. This cute little psychopath obviously has nothing but revenge on his mind, which worries Morgan and Carol. And when MORGAN'S concerned about someone's mental state, you know they're in trouble.

At the Sanctuary, Negan tells Eugene that Gabriel and Dr. Carson escaped, and asks if he knows anything about it. Eugene of course helped the two escape a few episodes back, but wisely pretends to be clueless. Negan promises he'll catch them both, and when he does he'll torture 'em to find out who helped them leave. Gulp!

Negan then says the Sanctuary's low on bullets, so he's giving Eugene his very own outpost, one dedicated to making ammo.

Gabriel follows the bell sound and finds a deserted house in the woods. They cautiously enter and find the owner, dead and reanimated in the bedroom. Carson finds the homeowner's gun, while Gabriel notices the floor's strewn with pill bottles. Carson examines the pills and says they're exactly the kind of antibiotics that Gabriel needs. Once again Gabriel smiles smugly, and says God's providing for them. Carson's had enough of Gabriel's pontificating and sucker punches him, knocking him unconscious. OK, I made up that last part, as I was hoping that's what would happen.

In the woods, Daryl tries to decide which way to go. Dwight says the Saviors are undoubtedly on their trail, and will catch them soon. He says their only chance is to go through a nearby swamp, which the Saviors avoid because it's too dangerous. Daryl and Rosita agree with this plan, which angers Tara. Others in the group agree, wondering why they should trust Dwight. Daryl reminds them that Dwight saved their lives by killing several Saviors back in Alexandria. Dwight tells the Alexandrians he hates Negan as much as they do, and only wants to stop him. Daryl decides they'll head for the swamp.

At the Hilltop, Diane reports to Maggie. She says they're dangerously low on food and supplies, and will have to drastically cut rations to survive. Maggie asks about the prisoners, and Diane says they'll have to tighten their belts even more if they intend to feed them as well. She says Jesus is out scavenging, and will hopefully bring back enough food for everyone.

Maggie walks out to the makeshift prison. Gregory asks to be let out, saying she can't keep him locked up forever. Aiden The Friendly Savior approaches and says they don't have to be enemies. He asks if they can get some occasional time outside the pen. Maggie hisses that she doesn't have the resources to assign them all guards, and wouldn't do so even if she did. She announces she's cutting off their rations altogether.

Dwight tells Daryl that his wife Sherry is the one who let him out of solitary back at the Sanctuary. He says she escaped and fled into the forest, and is out here somewhere (foreshadowing?). They come to the swamp and Daryl and Rosita wade in to clear the area of submerged walkers. Suddenly they're surrounded by soggy zombies that pop up out of the water. Daryl, Rosita and Siddiq quickly dispatch them all.

The rest of the Alexandrians wait in the woods as the swamp is cleared. Tara sees a small group of walkers shambling around, tosses a knife to Dwight and tells him he just volunteered to help her clear them out.

Back in the house, Carson gives Gabriel the pills and tells him to rest. Gabriel accidentally knocks a giant piggybank off a table, and it shatters on the floor. Carson looks inside it and finds car keys and a map. He opens the map and realizes they're just a few miles from the Hilltop. Again, Gabriel smiles beatifically and says God's guiding them. Sigh... We get it, script! You're setting Gabriel up for a gigantic and obvious fall.

Dwight puts down several walkers, and stupidly tells Tara he's sorry he killed Dr. Cloyd. Of course this sets her off, and she points her gun right at him. He asks what good killing him will do, and of course she replies that it'll make her feel better. She shoots at near point blank range, but somehow misses him. He takes off running and she follows him through the woods. Eventually the two of them come out into a clearing. They hear voices and both dive for cover. A group of Saviors appear, searching for the Alexandrians.

Carson sees a garage behind the house and heads for it, hoping there's a car inside. Gabriel hangs back and waits. He looks up and sees a sign hanging over the garage. He squints and barely makes out that it says, "CAUTION! TRAPS!" He yells to Carson to stop, but it's too late. Carson steps in a bear trap and it clamps tightly on his leg. Suddenly several walkers hear his screams and come a' shamblin.'. Carson shoots a couple, but another falls on top of him, causing him to drop the gun.

Gabriel fumbles around in the grass, and eventually finds the gun. He holds it up, squints and fires. Miraculously he hits the walker and doesn't blow off Carson's head. I guess we're supposed to believe God guided his hand and aimed for him.

Meanwhile, Tara and Dwight are still hiding from the Saviors. The group starts heading in the direction of the Daryl and the others, so Dwight makes a decision. He pops out of the brush, much to the surprise of the Saviors. He lies and tells them he was ambushed by the Alexandrians, but managed to kill them all. He says he's been wandering through the woods alone ever since. They welcome him back into the fold and leave.

Tara's stunned, as she realizes Dwight really was telling the truth all along, and just sacrificed himself for the sake of the Alexandrians. She turns and sees Rosita behind her, who says she witnessed the whole incident. They return to Daryl, who's livid. He says Dwight could be leading the Saviors to them right now. Tara and Rosita assure him Dwight really has switched sides, and won't betray them. Daryl starts ranting that he's gonna kill Dwight the first chance he gets. He then glances over and sees Baby Judith looking at him in horror, realizes what he's doing, and stops.

Gabriel frees Carson from the bear trap, and they open the garage door to reveal a car inside. The get in, and Carson says maybe Gabriel's right, and God's looking out for them after all. Naturally at that exact moment they hear guns cocking, and when they look behind them, they see they're surrounded by Saviors. D'oh!

They're loaded into the back of a truck, as Gabriel assures Carson this is still part of God's plan. Just then Carson reaches for a Savior's gun, as another one shoots him dead. Hmm. Was THAT part of God's plan too?

Daryl and the others finally make it back to the Hilltop. Carol rushes to the gate to greet them. Daryl shakes his head and simply says, "Carl." Carol and Maggie are stunned, while Enid collapses to the ground.

Later Morgan, Carol and Henry are guarding the prisoners again. Henry asks how Carl died (did he ever even meet him?). Carol says he died helping a stranger. Morgan stands up and lies to Henry, telling him that Gavin killed Ben. He says Henry already killed Gavin, so it's all settled. Carol smiles, approving of the fib.

Maggie offers some food to Siddiq, apologizing that it's not much. He disagrees, saying it's everything. He asks if they have a hospital, announcing that he has medical training. This shames Maggie into deciding to let out two Saviors at a time for work and exercise. Just then, Rick and Michonne arrive.

Cut to Eugene at his outpost (already?). Negan bursts in with Gabriel, who covers for Eugene and says the escape plan was all Carson's idea. For some reason, Negan puts Gabriel to work sorting bullets instead of killing him. 

Negan then asks how the bullet-making's going, saying he's gonna need lots of them soon to wipe out the Hilltop. Eugene says he's working at capacity, but it's gonna take time to build up enough ammo. Negan ominously says that won't do. In a panic, Eugene suggests psychological warfare, by building a catapult to throw walker parts over the fence at the Hilltopians. Negan dismisses this ridiculous idea, but it gives him a brainstorm of his own.

Back at the Sanctuary, he rounds up the Saviors for a demo. He bashes in a walker's head with Lucille, and then rubs her in its gory wound, coating it with blood and brains. That way, even a glancing blow by a Savior weapon will infect and kill the Hilltopians. Evil!

• Once again, the vague Virginia geography comes into play. Gabriel and Dr. Carson escape from the Sanctuary (with a little help from Eugene), but actually get hopelessly lost on their way to the Hilltop! How the hell is that even possible? All the little communities on the show seem to be within a ten mile radius of one another. You could probably pick a direction at random and have a pretty good chance of running into one of them.

• Father Gabriel's always been a twitchy and unlikable character (in my opinion), but he was extra insufferable this week. He spends the entire episode smugly asserting that everything that happens to them is all part of God's plan, and he's "looking out for them."

The show's touched on religion a few times in the past, as characters like Hershel have claimed they still have faith. This baffles me no end. I have no use for God or organized religion NOW. There's no way in hell I'd continue believing and praise his name after a zombie apocalypse. A god who caused something like this, allowed it to happen or was powerless to prevent it isn't worthy of worship.

• Man, have you ever seen two more imbecilic post apocalyptic "survivors" than Father Gabriel and Dr. Carson 2? I can kind of excuse Gabriel for acting like an idiot in this episode, as he can barely see. But what's Carson's excuse? How the hell did he ever last this long in such a world?

• At the Hilltop we see Henry, as he sits glaring at the captive Saviors. He's trying to figure out which one of them killed his brother Ben, so he can murder them in kind.

In the comic, at the end of the All Out War storyline, Negan's captured and tossed in a makeshift prison inside Alexandria. Carl then secretly begins visiting him, and the two form and unlikely bond, as Negan gives him advice and becomes sort of a surrogate father to him.

Because showrunner Scott Gimple stupidly killed off Carl, we'll never get to see him form his relationship with Negan. Or will we? I wonder... is Gimple grooming Henry here to become something of a substitute Carl? Will we see Negan be imprisoned and Henry sneak in and start bonding with him? I'm thinking that may be where they're heading.

• At one point, the still-pregnant Maggie sits worriedly in her Hilltop office.

Hilariously, we see her staring in wonder at Baby Gracie, who Rick rescued from a Savior outpost back in The Damned. It's almost like she's never seen a baby before, and doesn't understand what this tiny human is supposed to be.

And why not? Maggie's been pregnant since goddamned Season 5, and she STILL isn't even showing yet! Hopefully being in the presence of an actual, honest to goodness baby will cause the dormant embryo in her womb to start growing.

• Oh boy! Another conference room scene! I dunno about anyone else, but that's the main reason I watch The Walking Dead— to see endless fascinating boardroom meetings!

• Near the beginning of the episode, Negan tells Eugene he's giving him his own bullet-making outpost. Then in the third act, we Eugene's actually making ammo, as his outpost is up, running and humming along!

Jesus Christ, that was fast! It's unclear how much time passes during this episode, but it appears the whole thing takes place all in the same day. Somehow the Saviors got a foundry up and running in just a few hours!

• As Daryl and the others clear the swamp, we see some really fun waterlogged walkers rise up out of the much. I particularly liked the way their moans gurgled as the water ran out of their soggy bodies.

• All through the episode, Tara's incensed by Dwight's presence in the group, as he's the man who shot an arrow through her girlfriend's eye.

At one point she gets Dwight alone and says she's gonna kill him. He tries to assure her he hates Negan and he's left the Saviors. She hisses, "Don't care. You don't get to switch sides and make it OK."

Um... Tara? Did you maybe forget something?

Sometimes I wonder if the current writing team has ever seen the show before.

• A group of Saviors approaches, as Dwight and Tara hide in the brush. Even though Dwight hates the idea of going back to the Sanctuary, he does so in order to save the Alexandrians. This completely gobsmacks Tara, who realizes he was telling the truth all along.

Tara then turns and sees Rosita's been behind her the whole time and witnessed the incident. Wha...? How the hell did Rosita catch up to Tara and Dwight? Last we saw she was clearing out the swamp with Daryl and Siddiq, a good half mile away! 

Did Rosita really finish clearing out the swamp, trudge back through the brackish, waist-deep water, see that Tara and Dwight were gone and then sprint through the woods in the exact direction they went and then catch up to them in time to see everything that went down? I'm starting to think she's secretly a teleporter!

• Apparently when Gabriel slathered zombie guts all over himself back in The Big Scary U, he picked up some horrible bacteria from them. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone on the show's ever gotten sick from this trick.

The infection almost killed him a few weeks back, but apparently he managed to overcome it enough to move around. Unfortunately the infection's settled in his eyes, and threatens to irreparably harm his vision.

This is of course a real thing, as infection-related blindness is rampant in some Third World countries.

It's too bad Father Gabriel's not part of the Mobile Infantry anymore. I bet they could fix his eyes up in no time! Remember, Service Guarantees Citizenship! Would you like to know more?

• As Dr. Carson explores the abandoned house, Gabriel looks up and is barely able to make out a sign that says, "CAUTION! TRAPS!" Why the hell would the owner of the house put up a warning sign? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of a booby trap?

• Sure enough, Carson 2 triggers a bear trap, and writhes helpless on the ground as a gaggle of walkers approach him. Gabriel sprints to the rescue, and we see him actually stomp on several other traps as he makes his way to Carson.

I guess the implication here is God really is watching out for him, and kept the traps from clamping shut on his ankles as he clumsily plodded over them (insert eye roll here).

• Gabriel eventually rescues Carson, and the two find a fully fueled Jeep inside the garage. Hooray! They're saved! Until they hear guns cocking, and turn around to see a group of Saviors standing directly behind them.

Note that this scene is edited with precise comic timing, so even though it's deadly serious, it's impossible not to burst out laughing.

• I can't let Dr. Carson 2's death go without commenting on it. Even after the two are captured by the Saviors, Gabriel sits in the back of their truck smiling like an idiot, still insisting this is all part of God's plan.

Carson, who witnessed firsthand the miracle of Gideon shooting a walker in the head while his eyes were closed, is finally convinced. Given everything that's happened to them in this episode, there must be a God watching out for them, right?

Believing himself invincible, Carson lunges for an inattentive Savior's gun, and instantly gets his blown off by another. Way to go, Gideon! Your stupid misguided faith in a petulant, mercurial god just got your friend killed— as surely as if you'd pulled the trigger yourself. Have fun living with that knowledge!

• Back in Honor, Daryl assured Rick that he'd get Judith safely to the Hilltop. All through this episode though we've seen Tobin (the guy in the very back center of the screen) schlepping her on his back. He was even playing with her to keep her occupied!

Now suddenly the group's made it to the Hilltop, and guess who's triumphantly carrying Judith through the gates? Is it Tobin? Nope! It's Daryl, who apparently grabbed the kid and carried her twenty feet just for show.

• Daryl tells the Hilltopians that Carl didn't make it, and we see a montage of Carol, Maggie and Enid reacting to the news. The soundtrack then plays a distinctive tinkly, descending piano riff that's dark and foreboding.

Note that this tune is INCREDIBLY similar to the Bella's Lullaby theme from the Twilight series. Seriously, it's reeeeeally close. Go ahead, look it up. I'll wait. See? Told you! I guess the composer didn't think anyone would notice?

And yes, I'm very embarrassed that I recognized music from the Twilight movies.

• When Maggie finds out the Hilltop's almost out of food, she decides to starve her Savior prisoners. Then Siddiq shows up and thanks her for the meager rations she gives him. For some reason, this triggers a 180 degree turn in Maggie, and she decides to feed the Saviors again. Really? That's all it took? A couple nice words and she completely changes her mind about these dangerous thugs she's holding prisoner?

• Negan really needs to make up his mind. Last week, Simon wanted to wipe out the Garbage Pail Kids for no other reason than they were annoying. Negan warned him not to touch a hair on their collective heads, saying that people are the greatest resource in this brave new world.

Then just one episode later, he's willing to wipe out the entire Hilltop by infecting them with zombie blood.

So which is it, Negan? Are people valuable cogs in your supply chain or are they expendable?

• After speaking with Eugene, Negan gets the bright— and nasty— idea to coat the Savior weapons with walker blood and guts, so that even a glancing blow will infect them.

Negan explains it to his troops like so: "You all know how it works. You get a bite, some kind of wound from one of these
 things, something from them gets in you, and you die. You join the club which sucks. What if we could use that to our advantage? (He jams Lucille into a walker's gory chest) Ah, you see how Lucille is getting to know our beautiful, cold friend here? That's it. Look at that. No more smashing and bashing. With this Well, this, it can just be a touch. Or a big, wet kiss. Either way, this gets you full membership, and that's what we want. We want people to join the club. Hilltop is gonna learn to toe the line one way or another, dead or alive Or some kinda shit in between."

This scene comes directly from Issue #122 of the comic, where Negan gets the exact same idea. It's amazing just how close the episode is to the comic. The entire sequence is played out almost shot for shot and word for word. Note that Negan's language is a bit more colorful in the comic, of course.

Of course this brings up an issue that fans of The Walking Dead have been debating for years— just how does the zombie virus work?

In the vast majority of zombie movies, the undead carry some kind of mysterious virus. When a person's bitten by a zombie, they contract the virus, become sick and eventually die. They then reanimate as a zombie themselves.

The Walking Dead's a bit different, in that EVERYONE is already infected with the zombie virus. It doesn't seem to cause any problems for the living thougheveryone seems to be perfectly healthy. No fevers or infections to be seen. However, when anyone in this world dies for ANY reason, they reanimate shortly after death.

However, a zombie bite or scratch will also infect or kill you in this world, causing you to die and come back. It's not quite clear just why there's a secondary method of infection in this world, or how exactly it works. The consensus is the zombie's bite doesn't transfer any kind of virus to the victim. Instead, a walker's mouth is crawling with all sorts of horrible bacteria, which causes a massive infection when they bite their prey. Once they're dead, whatever's already infected anyone makes them reanimate. Complicated!

Negan's plan is actually a good one, since even a slight cut or glancing blow from a blood-soaked knife or bullet will infect the target. In effect, it's simulating a zombie bite.

There's just one problem— in past episodes we've seen characters shoot walkers at close range and get splattered with zombie blood and guts. It covers their faces, no doubt getting in their eyes and mouths. And yet they don't get sick. If even a slight cut from a bloody weapon spreads the disease, shouldn't blood in the eyes do so as well?

It probably seems silly to argue disease vectors and realism in a show about shambling corpses, but it's not. Horror films and TV shows need clear and well-defined rules, and they need to stick to them. Otherwise you've got chaos like we have here.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Flash Season 4, Episode 16: Run, Iris, Run

This week on The Flash, Iris takes front and center as she becomes yet another in the show's long line of speedsters... for a little while.

Run, Iris, Run had the potential to be one of the worst episodes of the entire series. Fortunately that didn't happen, and it was one of the better hours this season.

I was skeptical when I first read that Iris was becoming a speedster, as it sounded like a terrible idea. The Flash has a bad habit of eventually turning every supporting character in the cast into a superhero. So far the only people on the show who haven't been handed powers are Joe, Iris and I guess Harry. Hell, even goddamn Cecile has pregnancy-related telepathy! CECILE! 

Like Syndrome said in The Incredibles, "When everyone's super, no one will be." 

But as it turns out, Iris' tenure as a speedster was only temporary— her powers lasted just long enough for her to learn a valuable lesson about being a hero. And you know what? I'm OK with that! It was a fun little sidetrack as we lumber on toward the big season-ending confrontation with DeVoe.

The B-plot featured Harry trying to build his own version of DeVoe's thinking cap, which has some pretty ominous implications. Harry's been visibly frustrated the past few episodes, as he realizes his legitimately vast intellect is still no match for DeVoe's mind. To that end, he's willing to do anything he can to boost his own brain power and match wits with him. Even if that means losing what little humanity he has.

I have a bad feeling this subplot may be setting up Harry's departure from the show, paving the way for another version of Wells next season. I hope I'm wrong though, as I've grown to like Harry the past few seasons.

Lastly, I'm disappointed that Run, Iris, Run didn't give us this scene:

Iris: “So Barry, how’s it feel being the fastest man alive?”
Barry: “But, Iris... you have my powers now. I’m not the fastest man alive anymore.”
Iris: “Is that so?”
Barry: “Yeah, you know that. I................ ohhhhhhh.


The Plot:
In STAR Labs, Cisco and Harry debate how to protect the remaining three bus metas. Cisco calls it a day and goes home, while Harry spends the night working in the lab.

The next morning, Harry assembles Team Flash and shows them his newest idea— a "thinking cap," much like the one DeVoe first used to supercharge his intelligence. Harry says he can use it to increase his brain power and figure out how to save the bus metas and defeat DeVoe. 

The only downside to Harry's device is that is that it would expose him to dangerous and unpredictable amounts of dark matter. Amazingly, Iris, Caitlin and Ralph feel this is a solid plan. Cisco's the sole voice of reason, refusing to help Harry kill himself.

Since Ralph is also a bus meta, that means he's a target for DeVoe as well. This understandably makes him nervous and on edge. He becomes furious when Cisco won't help Harry and storms off. Iris follows and tries to calm him down. He says she never puts herself in any danger, because as Team Leader, all she does is sit behind a console inside STAR Labs all day (which is kinda true). Ralph's words really hit home, as Iris realizes he's right.

Meanwhile in a local bank, a meta named Fry uses his fire powers (get it?) to burn a hole in the vault. A Bystander approaches and asks him to stop and think about what he's doing. The two scuffle, and Fry shoves the man away. The Bystander falls on top of another man, dressed in heavy metal gear.

Fry then tells the Bystander he's gonna, er, fry him where he stands. He raises his hands, but nothing happens. He wails that his powers are gone as the guards nab him.

Later Joe and Cisco arrive on the scene to examine the melted vault. They question Fry, who says he's had his powers for years and just arrived in Central City. This means he's not one of the bus metas. Cisco examines the security tape, and sees the Bystander touch Fry shortly before his powers disappeared. He suspects the man somehow stole Fry's powers.

At STAR Labs, Cisco checks the bank records and deduces the Bystander is an EMT named Matthew Kim. As Joe goes to find Kim, Iris decides to tag along
 no doubt to get away from her console for a bit. They track down Kim at the hospital and begin questioning him. He becomes suspicious, fearing they want to steal his powers (?). 

Suddenly Kim takes Iris hostage and holds a scalpel to her throat (!), causing Joe to activate the Flash Alarm app on his phone. Barry zips into the room a second later and rushes toward Kim. In the chaos, Kim briefly touches Barry and then Iris. He escapes, and Barry tries to run after him. Unfortunately he discovers his speed's gone. Iris says she just found it, as her hand begins vibrating at superspeed!

Back at STAR, Team Flash run tests on Barry and Iris. They discover that Kim is apparently a bus meta, and somehow absorbed Barry's powers and then transferred them into Iris. Caitlin begins looking for a way to reverse the process and restore Barry's speed. The Gang also realizes that if DeVoe absorbs Matthew Kim, he'll be able to remove all their powers. Not good!

Just then there's a fire alarm at Baldwin Tower, trapping dozens of people on the upper floors. Barry's forced to watch helplessly as Iris dashes to the scene and rescues the inhabitants. This makes her positively giddy, as she's finally out in the field doing something. 

Iris then goes back in the building to try and put out the fire. Unfortunately she's still new at the whole speedster thing, and actually ends up making the fire worse. She's then pinned under falling rubble as the flaming ceiling collapses. Cisco breaches into the building and saves her just in time, making the audience wonder why he didn't just save everyone to begin with.

The next day Barry helps Iris train. Caitlin informs them that she's tried everything, and the power transfer seems to be permanent. Harry badgers Cisco again about helping him create his thinking cap. Cisco finally relents, saying he'll do it on the condition that Harry not use dark matter in the experiment. Harry agrees.

Another alarm goes off, and the Gang sees the Heavy Metal Dude from the bank
 who now has Fry's fire powers  is causing trouble downtown. He lobs a few fireballs at the cops, and threatens to burn the city unless he "gets his money." 

Cisco whips up a new costume for Iris, and she speeds to the scene. Matthew Kim shows up as well, hoping he can steal Heavy Metal Dude's powers from him before he kills someone.

Barry radios Iris and tells her to create a vortex around Heavy Metal Dude to extinguish his fire. Unfortunately the heat's too intense, preventing her from getting close enough. Heavy Metal Dude then creates a massive fire vortex that reaches into the sky. Iris asks the Gang what to do.

Everyone's stumped, until Harry— wearing his newly-completed thinking cap— comes up with an idea. He tells Iris to run across the nearby Central City Bay (?) and return to shore. This'll create a huge tidal wave that'll put out Heavy Metal Dude's fire. With no other options, Barry says, "Run, Iris, Run." We have a title!

Iris runs across the water at superspeed, and pulls a giant wave back with her. It crashes down on the street and puts out the fire, just like Harry said it would. Heavy Metal Dude is knocked unconscious. Yay!

Iris brings Matthew Kim back to STAR Labs (apparently having forgiven him for holding a knife to her neck). He asks Barry and Iris if they're sure they want to go back to the way things were, and they say yes. He touches both of them, transferring Iris' speed back into Barry. Then then explain the threat of DeVoe, and Kim decides to join Team Flash to take him down.

Later Iris decides to start writing her Flash blog again, for some reason.

At STAR Labs, Harry and Cisco test out the thinking cap. Harry tries it on, and says he's figured out the names of the last two bus metas...


We have a title! I suppose it was inevitable that at some point in this episode, somebody would say, "Run, Iris, Run!" I guess it was only fitting that Barry would be the one to say it.

If I'd known it was going to become the series' catchphrase, I'd have started a "Run, Barry, Run" counter three years ago. I'm sure it would be up to thirty or forty by now.

• At the beginning of the episode, Harry's frustrated because he can't outsmart DeVoe. He stares at a photo of DeVoe on a computer screen and broods, "Maybe you have thought of everything... just like Thawne."

As Harry says this, we see his face reflected on the screen, right next to DeVoe's. It's a clever bit of foreshadowing, as Harry's about to build his own version of DeVoe's "thinking cap" to boost his intelligence and finally outsmart him.

It's also a bit ominous, as if Harry's not careful, he could easily go down the same villainous path as DeVoe.

As I said earlier, I think this is the show's way of setting up Harry's departure from the show. I can easily see him boosting his intellect and becoming another Thinker, forcing the Gang to have to battle him as well. It's been a while since we've had a new Wells, so it wouldn't surprise me if we got a new one next year.

• This episode features my favorite type of nitpick. When Harry's explaining how DeVoe got his Thinker powers, he shows Team Flash a security tape of the event, which happened back in Therefore I Am

Oddly enough, this footage is covered from several different angles, and looks amazingly identical to the way the audience saw it!

Either STAR Labs has numerous security cameras covering the exact same spot, or Harry downloaded the episode and showed a clip of it to the Gang.
• When Iris tries to reassure Ralph, they have the following conversation:

Ralph: "You don't have any concept of how dangerous it is for me out there."
Iris: (defensively) "Yes, I do."
Ralph: "How could you?"
Iris: "Because I'm the leader of this team."

Huh? Since when is she the leader of Team Flash? I know she's been sitting behind her console all season barking out orders to the others, but I'm pretty sure this is the first onscreen confirmation that she's now Team Leader.

Why Iris? How'd she get that job, other than she's married to the Flash? She's a former newspaper reporter! How does that qualify her to manage a team of superheroes?

• At one point a meta named Fry (heh) uses his fire powers to melt a hole through a Central City Bank vault. Later when Cisco examines the vault, he says, "This fire melted through ten inches of reinforced steel. I mean, that would take over 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Ten times the thermal output of Rory's heat gun." A couple things here:

First of all, 6,000 degrees is pretty danged hot! The surface of the sun is around 9,900º F! Seems like that would have vaporized everyone inside the bank. Not to mention incinerating the money in the vault!

Secondly, we now know how hot Heat Wave's (of the Legends Of Tomorrow) flame thrower is! According to Cisco, it's top temperature is 600º F!

• Cisco apparently hacks into the Central City banking system in order to identify and locate Matthew Kim.

The bank computer readout we see was never meant to be seen and studied in great detail. Still, it's kind of fun to give it a closer look. If you click on the image and zoom in, you'll see that the designer used the same few names over and over again to construct the list. J. Paulson, H. Specter, J. Pearson, J. Lamb, W. Dalton, M. Cruz, E. Randolph, H. Hartman, L. Shelton and J. Sheppard appear numerous times in the two columns. Funny!

There's also a T. Cobb and an M. Pence (!!!) on the list. Apparently whoever typed it up is a baseball fan who voted for Trump!

• When Iris accompanies Joe to question Matthew Kim, she's wearing a stylish purple and white leather jacket.

Later in the episode, Cisco grabs her jacket and converts it into her temporary Flash costume!

• The thinking cap, er, I mean "intelligence booster" that Harry builds...

...looks a LOT like the one DeVoe used a while back to increase his smarts. I'm sure that was probably intentional, given the ominous way Harry's paralleling DeVoes in this episode.

• Once again we see Cisco perusing an issue of Noughty Bytes magazine. I'm pretty sure the magazine made its first appearance earlier this season in Mixed Signals.

Noughty Bytes is an school tech magazine that featured centerfolds of motherboards and the like. Cisco dug out his stash of issues to find info on Kilg%re. I'm betting it probably ceased publication years ago, or transitioned to digital format.

• As usual for The Flash, this episode features some wonderfully ridiculous comic book science. Caitlin tries to explain Matthew Kim's transferring powers by saying, "As best I can tell, Matthew's abilities work by melting down the highly concentrated bonds between DNA. That makes them totally pliable so he can extract them and infuse somebody else with the exact same meta DNA."

• After Iris gains Barry's speedster powers, she trains on the treadmill in the Speed Lab. Unfortunately she's not used to being so fast, and stops running, causing the rapidly moving treadmill to fling her backwards across the room.

For some reason, there's a big ol' pile of empty boxes stacked directly behind the treadmill. The perfect thing to cushion her landing. Lucky for her they were there too! As you can see, right behind the boxes is a wall full of spinning fan blades! I can only imagine what would have happened if she'd slammed into that at superspeed!

• Team Flash gets an alert that Baldwin Tower is on fire. As we all know by now, this show lovvvves naming streets and buildings after prominent comic book artists and writers. I did some googling, but can't find anyone named Baldwin who's involved with The Flash comic. 

There's a Greg Baldwin who's written for the Supergirl series. Maybe they named the building after him?

• Iris zooms into the Baldwin Tower and rescues the tenants at superspeed. She then goes back in to try and put out the fire, but is pinned by falling rubble. Cisco ends up breaching her out of there at the last second.

Gosh, it's too bad Cisco couldn't have used his powers to rescue the residents in the first place, and prevent the inexperienced Iris from putting herself in danger. Or better yet, they could have sent them both and rescued everyone in half the time.

Obviously the writers sent Iris alone because the plot needed he to use her newfound powers and realize there's more to the superhero game than she thought.

• When I watched this episode on my TV, it looked for all the world like Iris was generating pink Speed Force lightning. I immediately thought, "Oh, no," as I imagined the tidal wave of complaints from the SJWs in the audience, who'd all be incensed because the producers gave the female speedster pink lightning. I could hear them in my mind— "Why pink? Because she's a dumb old girl? How dare they assume her Speed Force color!"

Fortunately when I watched the episode on my computer to make screencaps, the lightning actually looked more purple than pink. Whew! Crisis averted!

I'm assuming they made her lightning purple to match her costume? If so, that doesn't make any sense for a variety of reasons. First of all, her lightning was purple before she got her official lavender costume!

Secondly, the hue of a speedster's costume has nothing to do with the color of their lightning. Barry wears a red costume, but he always has yellow lightning. The Reverse Flash wore a predominantly yellow costume, but generated a red trail.

Lastly, Matthew Kim transferred Barry's powers into Iris' body. If he has yellow lightning, then so should she.

• Harry locates Heavy Metal Guy by detecting his heat signature. His exact words are, "Satellite strike— the temperature's the same intensity of the bank robberies." 

Wait a minute... the readout says the temperature anomaly they've detected is 700º F. Cisco said Fry used a temp of 6000º F to melt through the vault! Something's off somewhere here!

• When Heavy Metal Guy's monologuing, Matthew Kim approaches him and says, "Stealing is a sin. You shouldn't be using the powers you've been given this way." 

Although he doesn't come right out and say it, it's implied Kim believes God gave him his powers. It's interesting to see a religious character on an Arrowverse show, since they usually give the topic a pretty wide berth.

• Heavy Metal Guy starts lobbing fireballs (that are either 700º or 6000º) at the cops. One just misses Joe as he dives for cover. It's tough to tell for sure, but it looks for all the world like it's really Jesse L. Martin in that scene. 

Most likely there was a healthy amount of CGI trickery going on in this scene, because I can't imagine they'd let an actor stand three feet away from a massive explosion like that. If it was a real stunt though, then kudos to Jesse!

• Iris rushes to the scene to stop Heavy Metal Guy, and has the following conversation with Team Flash:

Iris: "Can't get close to him!"
Cisco: "Temperature's at 800 degrees."
Ralph: :Like, how hot is that?"
Caitlin: "As hot as lava."

I'll say! Bright read lava is typically around 1,165º F!

• So Matthew Kim can absorb a person's powers by touching them. He can then transfer said powers to someone else by touching them as well.

Inside the bank, Kim steals Fry's fire powers and accidentally transfers them into Heavy Metal Dude. He then uses his newfound powers to extort money from the city. Iris whips up a tidal wave to douse his fire, and Joe carts him off to Iron Heights prison.

So... I guess that all means Heavy Metal Dude STILL has his fire powers! We never see Kim take them away from him, and no one ever mentions that he did it offscreen. Does that seem right? Should they really let an unstable psycho like him keep such destructive powers?

On the other hand, I guess there wasn't anything they could do. Kim could steal the fire powers back from Heavy Metal Dude, but then HE'D have them. His only choice then would be to walk around with fire powers, or transfer them to someone else.

• At the end of the episode, Matthew Kim decides to stick around and help the Gang defeat DeVoe. He seems like he could be an interesting character, so I actually don't mind him joining Team Flash. Star Labs is starting to get a bit crowded though, so I honestly doubt he'll last for long. He'll either be killed in the season finale or decide it's time to move on.

• At the tag scene, Iris decides to start writing her stupid Flash blog again. Note that she's writing it the same day this episode aired. The Flash is happening in real time!

This Week's Best Lines:
Harry: "How about this? We alter each bus meta's DNA by performing intercellular surgery." 
Cisco: "And what? And turn them into chickens?"
Harry: "Yeah."
Cisco: "We're not Frankensteining innocent people."

Ralph: "Just so I'm clear on this, someone finally came up with a way to stop this La-Z-Boy riding lunatic and we just might not do it?"

Barry: "Those are innocent people, Ralph."
Ralph: "I'm innocent. I'm still gonna get terminated. Oh, my God. I'm Sarah Connor!"

Cisco: "I'm gonna help you finish the thinking cap."
Harry: "It's an intelligence booster, actually. It's called an intelligence booster.:
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