Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Flash Season 6, Episode 2: A Flash Of The Lightning

This week on The Flash we get another darned good episode, as the Crisis On Infinite Earths continues to loom closer, Barry pays a visit to a welcome guest star and Killer Frost learns to become a real girl. Wow, two decent episodes in a row! Well done, new showrunner Eric Wallace.

I'm trying not to get too awfully excited about all this Crisis stuff, because I'm afraid it's gonna be a huge dud and end up disappointing me. But damn, what we see of it in this episode looks amazing! The scenes we see this week look exactly like the comic miniseries, only better! If the actual crossover is anything like what we saw here, it's definitely gonna be epic.

Nice to see John Wesley Shipp guest star this week too, as Barry's speedster mentor Jay Garrick. I hope his appearance here isn't setting up some poignant death in the Crisis though... that would suck.

I'm liking the Killer Frost storyline a lot more than I thought I would. Part of that's no doubt due to the fact that Danielle Panabaker looks like she's having a ball playing her chilly alter ego. And why not? Frost is far more interesting than the uptight, straight-laced Caitlin Snow ever was, and likely way more fun to play. Wouldn't that be something if the audience liked Frost so much that she became the new default version of the character?


The Plot:
Barry mopes in the Time Vault after finding out he's destined to die in the Crisis on December 10th. Iris refuses to give up, suggesting various plans to stop it. Barry decides to time travel (oh no!) to December 11, to see the Crisis for himself and find out if it can be prevented. 

Barry places a portable Gideon unit (?) in his ear, enters the Pipeline and begins running. He goes forward a few weeks, but encounters a wall of solid anti-matter blocking his path. He crashes into it and rolls painfully to a stop. He looks down to see his leg's been slashed open.

Iris examines Barry's leg, and says his speed-healing isn't affecting the wound. Gideon says that's because he was injured by anti-matter, and says he can't get past the wall without the help of another speedster. Barry decides to consult with Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-3.

Ramsey Russo meets with another arms dealer to buy another blaster, presumably to obtain more dark matter. Unfortunately the dealer tells him the price has gone up to $5000 instead of the original $500. A crazed and desperate Ramsey tries to grab the weapon from the dealer and run off with it. The dealer pulls out a gun and points it at Ramsey's head. Ramsey involuntarily extends a goopy black tentacle from his hand, which penetrates the dealer's chest and kills him.

In the episode's fluff plot, Cisco & Ralph take Frost to an art gallery where Kamilla's displaying her photos. Before they enter, Cisco injects her with nanites, which make her look more human. She scoffs at the art on display, calling it all trash— including Kamilla's photos.

Meanwhile, Cecile meets with a judge to discuss the case of Allegra Garcia, a meta accused of using her radio wave powers to steal a car and accidentally kill its owner. It seems like an opn & shut case, but Cecile uses her telepathy and determines Allegra's innocent. She asks the judge to free Allegra on bail.

Barry arrives on Earth-3, where he meets with Jay, who's apparently an expert in anti-matter now. Jay pulls out an old school, hand drawn map of the multiverse. He says he's been detecting elevated anti-matter signatures which are endangering all the various Earths. Barry asks how he can get past the anti-matter wall, and Jay says he can't. But maybe his mind can...

Jay shows Barry his "neural hyper collider" that will project his consciousness across space-time, or something. As he hooks Barry to the machine, Jay's wife Joan enters. Barry's stunned to see she looks exactly like his late mother.

Ralph examines Cecile's evidence and agrees that Allegra's innocent. He and Iris visit the witness who identified Allegra as the killer. They enter his apartment and find the witness dead on the floor, with Allegra standing over him. She fires a blast of heat waves at Ralph's face and runs. She's instantly caught and arrested by Joe, who I guess tagged along for some reason.

On Earth-3, Jay activates the collider, sending Barry's mind through the multiverse. He sees a wall of red anti-matter sweep across Central City, disintegrating everything and everyone in its path— including Frost, Elongated Man and Vibe (who may or may not have regained his powers). He watches in horror as Iris is obliterated as well. He then experiences millions of different timelines as he begins running for his life. He disintegrates as the wall catches up with him. Back in the real world, Joan sees he's in distress and pulls the helmet off him.

Sometime later Barry wakes in excruciating pain. Joan says he'll recover in a day or two. He says he saw countless worlds die, and now knows The Monitor is right— in order for billions to live, the Flash must die. He says he has to get back to Earth-1 now.

At STAR Labs, Cisco examines Ralph and says he was blasted by UV rays. He explains that UV and radio waves are all part of the same electromagnetic spectrum. Which means Allegra can control far more than just radio waves.

Jay & Joan bring Barry back to Earth-1. Iris thanks them and remarks how much Joan looks like Barry's mom. After the two leave, Barry tells Iris what he saw and again says he knows he must die. She still refuses to accept this, saying we control our destinies. 

Iris leaves for work, and sometime later Joe visits. He gives Barry a Patented The CW Peptalk®, telling him that they're both public servants who answer the call of duty no matter the cost. He says he knows Barry will do what's right, as he's resilient. I think Joe needs to look up the meaning that word.

Cisco enters the lounge, where Frost is attempting (and failing) to draw after being inspired by the art show. She says she sucks at it, and Cisco gives her a Patented The CW Peptalk® (wow, two in as many minutes!), telling her to express herself the best way she can.

At CCPD, Cecile tells Allegra she believes she's innocent, and asks who really killed the witness. Allegra says no one will believe her anyway, so why bother telling? Cecile reveals she's also a meta, which finally gains Allegra's trust. She explains that she was in Juvie the night of the Particle Accelerator explosion (of course), which gave her her powers. Her evil cousin Esperanza was there as well, but was seemingly killed. Cecile has Ralph check Esperanza's file. He reports that after the explosion she was actually in a vegetative state, and was whisked away by a shadowy organization.

From this Cecile & Ralph deduce that Esperanza is not only still alive, but has identical powers to Allegra and is out there using them.

Suddenly the power goes out, and a masked Esperanza orders the officers to bring Allegra to her or burn. They fight back of course and she blasts them, as well as attacking with sweet karate moves. Joe fires on her, but either he's a really bad shot or she easily deflects his bullets. Allegra tries appealing to her cousin, but she says Esperanza is dead, and she's now "Ultraviolet."

Barry gets a meta alert, and rises from his sickbed to painfully speed to CCPD. He saves Cecile and Allegra, then battles Ultraviolet. Somehow she manages to hit him several times with her blasts, despite the fact that he's a speedster. Eventually he's had enough, and just plows straight toward her as she blasts away at him (?). He uses his "resilience" to inch along until he's close enough to punch her in the nose and knock her out. He collapses, as Joe calls for a medic.

Later at STAR, Ralph explains that Ultraviolet was hired by someone to kill the car owner, then had to eliminate the witness so no one would know she was still alive. Barry sees the Cortex is decorated with art, and Frost says it belongs to her— which she bought it with Caitlin's credit cards. I guess she's expressing herself by buying art, instead of creating it?

That night, Cecile tells Joe she wants to quit her job as D.A., and become a defense attorney for metas. He tells her that's a great idea.

To that end, Cecile uses her pull with Iris to get Allegra a job as an intern at The Citizen. And the cast expands once again!

Jay & Joan tell Barry they'll keep their eyes open for more anti-mater signatures, and they head back to Earth-3. Barry tells Iris he knows that Joan's not his real mom, but it was nice to see her anyway. Iris says she knows Barry will never give up and will do the right thing in the coming Crisis.

Ramsey examines the corpse of the arms dealer in his lab. He determines the man's blood has completely coagulated, which caused his death. Suddenly the corpse reanimates and attacks Ramsey.


• I just realized they've apparently stopped doing the "My Name Is Barry Allen" intros, and are now starting episodes with "Previously On The Flash." Cue Price Is Right sad trombone.

• When the arms dealer threatens Ramsey Russo, he involuntarily throws out a goopy tentacle that kills the thug. So why does this appendage look like hot tar? Rosso's codename is Bloodwork, right? Shouldn't the tentacle look like, or I don't know... blood?

• Before entering the art show, Cisco gives Frost a shot of special nanite juice that makes her eyes look normal and her voice sound human.

The in-universe explanation for this modification is so she can "live her life without scaring the ever-loving crap out of people."

The real world explanation is no doubt the budget. In past episodes, Killer Frost only appeared in one or two scenes, so it wasn't a problem to add her glowing eyeballs in post. Now that she's become a regular this season, The CW likely can't afford all that CGI. Hence this hastily-concocted excuse to make her look normal.

Personally I'm not a fan of this new look. I liked it when Killer Frost looked inhuman and otherworldly. Not she just looks like a normal everyday girl with black lipstick. Disappointing!

So I guess this change is permanent? When Cisco first injects Frost he says she'll look normal "as long as the nanite cocktail is active." She still looks normal at the end of the episode, which obviously takes place at least a day or two later, so... apparently it takes a while to wear off.

• Last week Caitlin decided to let Killer Frost take control of their body and "drive" it for a while, so she can finally "live her best life." This episode shows her doing just that. 

Oddly enough though, the way it's played it seems like Frost is experiencing everything for the first time. Hmm... I just assumed that even when Frost wasn't in control, she was still in Caitlin's head passively observing everything that was going on. Apparently not. Based on what we see here, it seems like Frost is either unconscious or even non-existent when she's not in control! So I guess that means Caitlin's mind is in limbo, now that she's not behind the mental wheel.

• Cisco and Ralph take Frost to an art gallery, in order to learn her some cultcha. Kudos to The Flash Prop Department, as they populated the loft with some truly laughable— but eerily authentic— pieces of modern art. I've seen works exactly like this in virtually every gallery I've ever visited. 

Like these shots of discarded pull tabs and cans. No doubt these pieces represent our disposable consumer culture, or some such hooey.

I've seen mixed media pieces like this one too. Minus the used tissues though. Yick!

I love these works here, as they literally look like a child's finger paintings! As I said, these could easily be on display in any gallery in the country.

Lastly, Frost disses Kamilla's photographs, saying, "What I am connecting to in these photos is that the photographer is afraid to get a shot in focus." Haw! I agree with her one hundred percent here. Why is it that all photographers seem to think that blurry equals art?

• What the heck's going on with Ralph's character this season? When he first appeared in Season 4, Ralph was a pot-bellied slob who sat around boozing it up in the office of his detective agency.

And in the Season 4 episode Girls Night Out, we see that he's the number one customer at The Golden Booty strip club! He wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed either, as they literally had to draw him a diagram to help explain the concept of the multiverse to him.
Then suddenly last week he's giving Caitlin a physical while wearing a stethoscope around this neck. And in this episode he's schooling Frost in how to appreciate fine art!

What the hell? Apparently the writers have decided that Dumb Ralph is passe, and are actively trying to smarten him up for some reason.

• At the gallery, Cisco and Kamilla have an excruciatingly "cute" exchange, in which she points out that he has "schmutz" on the new shirt she bought him.

In the third act, Cisco wanders into the STAR Labs lounge and chats with Frost. Based on the events of the episode, it's clearly a day or two later. Yet Cisco's STILL wearing the same shirt! No wonder it has schmutz on it! He never takes it off!

• Way back in Season 1, Barry discovered the Time Vault, which contained a helpful AI codenamed Gideon. When he asked Gideon who created her, she cheerfully replied, "You did, Barry Allen."

For the last five seasons I've been beating this dead horse, saying that Barry's a CSI, not a computer science major, and doesn't seem like the type who could engineer a sentient program. And even if he could create her, when was he planning on doing so?

Last week's episode put a ticking clock on the matter, as we found out Barry's destined to die in the Crisis on December 11, 2019. I said if he ever plans on creating Gideon (even though she already exists time travel!), now's the time!

Looks like the writers realized that as well, and MAY have finally, at long last, done something about it.

Before Barry attempts to travel to the future, he sticks a tiny device in his right ear. Iris asks, "Is that Gideon?" Barry replies, "It's a mobile Gideon unit I built from salvaged parts of the plinth (which was destroyed last week). 

Was... was this the writers' attempt at depicting Barry "creating" Gideon? Is this really what she meant when she said he made her? I highly doubt it. But you know what? I'm OK with this!

I know darn good and well that this scene is NOT what they meant back in Season 1 when they said Barry created Gideon. But there've been so many time travel shenanigans and the show's changed so much since Season 1 that this was probably the best they could do.

It's not what I expected, but I applaud the fact that they even attempted to fill in this plot hole, so I'm gonna allow it!

• Barry attempts to travel to the future in the Pipeline, but hits a solid wall of anti-matter and severely injures his leg. As he lies there, we get a really good look at the floor of the pipeline. See that design on the floor? It's not a printed carpet— it's a raised, dimensional pattern.

It seems like it'd be impossible to walk on that floor, let alone run. One wrong step and you'd twist your ankle and go down like a sack of potatoes.

• After Barry's injured, Gideon pipes up and says, "My readings indicate you were exposed to an extra-universal material that destroys positive matter on contact, a substance known as antimatter." Iris then says, "Antimatter? That's new."

Is it? Jesus Christ, anti-matter was discovered back in 1930! I feel like it's a pretty familiar concept, and while the general public might not be able to explain what it is, they've at least heard of it. Hell, they mentioned it almost every week on Star Trek back in the 1960s! 

I don't have time to go through all 116 episodes, but surely Cisco or someone on the show's mentioned anti-matter at least once before in some long-winded technobabble explanation before.

• Barry travels to Earth-3 to consult with Jay Garrick. As always, you can tell it's Earth-3 by the preponderance of blimps filling the skies.

• Always nice to see John Wesley Shipp back on The Flash. I met Shipp in person at a con last year, and he couldn't have been nicer.

• Despite what it looks like, Jay is not showing Barry a drawing of a pepperoni pizza here. It's a hand-drawn map of the multiverse, showing the locations of the various Earths. Not sure how you map something like that, but there you go. I guess Jay's an old school guy who'd rather draw things out than display 'em on a computer screen.

Great confusion seems to surround the question of just how many Earths there are in the Multiverse. Some say fifty two (or three), others insist there's an infinite number. It's all very vague.

Back in the Crisis On Earth-X crossover, it was stated in no uncertain terms that there are fifty two Earths (to match DC Comic's New 52 line). There was also a top secret, Nazi-controlled Earth-X that no one liked to talk about, bringing the total to fifty three. This is the theory to which I subscribe, as it's what was shown onscreen.

Some insist there are far more than fifty three Earths, based on their numerical designations alone. For example, in last year's Elseworlds crossover, the Flash who appeared in the 1990 TV series was from Earth-90. And Sherloque Wells was supposedly from Earth-221. Surely that means there's more than just fifty three Earths, right?

Others insist there are an infinite number of worlds in the Multiverse, hence the title Crisis On INFINITE Earths. In fact I was called a "f*cking moran (sic)" online by one classy gent for suggesting otherwise. Unless I'm missing something, there's no evidence for an infinite number of Earths, other than the name of the crossover which is likely a case of poetic license.

If you look closely at Jay's map, you'll see he's indicated FIFTY different Earths. Sheloque's Earth-221 is there, but oddly enough I don't see Earth-90 anywhere on the map. Maybe it's been destroyed, and is the one at left that's been X-ed out? I guess he hasn't found the other two yet?

Anyway, this map would seem to settle the matter of how many Earths there are once and for all. Unless the upcoming Crisis crossover states otherwise, I'm going with fifty three.

By the way, there's also what appears to be an Earth-827 next to the X. Since none of these numbers form any kind of pattern, I'm assuming the Earths aren't sequentially numbered, so some can have three digit designations, despite the fact there are just fifty three of them.

If you zoom in on Jay's map, you'll see it's a goldmine of trivia and info. For example, the name "Thaddeus Brown" appears next to Earth-51. That's the name of DC character Mister Miracle, who was mentioned last season in Gone Rogue. Supposedly he trained Sherloque Wells in the art of escape.

According to the map, Earth-18 has "great tequila," while Earth-30 is vegan only (a good reason to stay far away from that one!). Earth-19 is home of the Breacher Agency (where Cisco's gal pal Gypsy lives) and Earth-X is home of the Freedom Fighters. It looks like Earth-13 (I think it's hard to tell) is the home of Wells The Gray. And poor Earth-15 was somehow destroyed back in 1986 (the year the Crisis comic ended).

If you look at the bottom of the map, Jay's drawn a giant red arrow (heh) pointing to Earth-2, and is predicting it'll be the site of the next antimatter occurrence.

I dropped out of Arrow a long time ago, but from what I understand, in the Season 8 premiere Starling City, Oliver Queen, Diggle and Laurel Lance find themselves on Earth-2 for some reason. At the end of the episode, a wall of anti-matter sweeps across the world, and Ollie & Co. watch in horror as their Earth-2 friends are snapped, er, I mean obliterated by the anti-matter. They manage to open a breach and jump back into Earth-1 at the last possible second.

Holy crap! This is HUGE, people! Earth-2 just got wiped out! Say goodbye to the Earth-2 Barry Allen and his bitchin' bowties, his kickass wife Iris, Joe West, Harry Wells, Jesse Quick and Gorilla City!

• Barry meets Jay's wife, who turns out to be the Earth-3 version of his late mom Nora. I see what you did there, The Flash. When Joan first appears, the pattern on the window behind her looks like rays of heavenly light beaming from a god! Subtle!

• Some people can pull off a metal Mercury helmet, and some can't. Barry's definitely in the latter group.

• When Joan hooks up Barry to the neural hyper collider, she literally attaches jumper cables to the wings on his helmet!

• I loved Barry's awesome yet terrifying vision of the Crisis, as Central City— along with his friends and loved ones— are obliterated by the wall of anti-matter.

Best of all, the scene played out exactly as it did in the comic, and looked the just the way I imagined it would look in live action. Kudos to the FX team!

I recently said we all need to lower our expectations about this Crisis crossover, and not expect to see Infinity War/Endgame on our TV screens. Maybe I spoke too soon!

Similarly, Barry's glimpse of his own demise...

Was nearly identical to the Flash's distubing fate in the Crisis On Infinite Earths comic!

• After Barry's catastrophic vision, he loses consciousness for several hours. When he wakes, Joan's reading poetry to him, because she thinks it "stimulates collapsed neural pathways."

In case you're wondering, the title of this episode comes from the poem she reads by William Knox: "Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud? Like a fast-flittering meteor, a fast-flying cloud a flash of the lightning a break of the wave he passes from life to his rest in the grave. " 

• Last week Cisco unveiled the MAC, aka the Mental Augmentation Chamber. It's designed to boost Barry's cognitive abilities, in order to give him "speed-thinking."

I argued that Barry should already have speed thinking— otherwise when he runs he'd plow into a brick wall before even realizing it was there.

Welp, looks like I was right! After Barry's vision, he complains that it feels like his nerves are on fire. Joan says, "Because you're a speedster, your synapses fire ten times the normal rate, so you're feeling ten times the amount of pain a non-speedster would."

So there you have it! Barry already does have speed-thinking, so there was no reason to build the MAC. Other than so they could put Chester in it, of course.

 Halfway through the episode, Jay & Joan bring Barry back to Earth-1 and then leave. I assumed they immediately went back to Earth-3 at that point. Nope! Later at the end of the episode they say goodbye to Barry & Iris before finally opening a breach and going home.

So what were the two of them doing for half the runtime? Did they try out some trendy new Earth-1 restuarants they'd heard about? Actually that would make sense! They traveled all the way to a parallel Earth why not do a little sightseeing while they're here?

 • For Thor's sake, will someone please get Kamilla a chair? Every time the episode cuts to The Citizen, she's awkwardly leaning on Iris' desk.

• After Allegra blasts Ralph in the face with her UV rays, he somewhat resembles a certain orange-hued president. Hi-YO!!!!

• Speaking of Allegra, here's a helpful tip to the writers of The Flash: In future, maybe try not to name your characters after over the counter allergy medicines.

• Inspired by her trip to the art gallery, Frost attempts to draw. After seeing her sad little doodle, I actually felt bad for her here.

This is what Frosty was attempting to draw. I feel like I've seen that image somewhere before, but I can't imagine where.

• So the real Big Bad of the episode wasn't Allegra, but her cousin who calls herself Ultraviolet. At one point she yells "Bring me Allegra Garcia or burn!" I couldn't help but think of Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia!

Now there's a deep cut that I don't expect anyone under fifty to get!

• Late in the third act, Barry battles Ultraviolet inside CCPD. She fires away at him with a mighty UV blast, as he uses his newfound power of resilience to run straight toward her.

Sigh... once again, Barry either forgets he has superspeed or how his power works. There are half a dozen better ways this scene could have played out.

OK, so UV rays travel at the speed of light, and Barry's nowhere near that fast. Fine. What about ducking under the blast then? We literally see him do that twice in this scene before he meets it head on! 

Better yet, why not just sidestep the beam and run at her? Again, he's not faster than light, but he's much quicker than her. If he moved out of the way of the beam, he could get to her long before she'd ever have time to react and change her aim.

Or what about simply phasing and letting the beam pass harmlessly through him? Would that have worked? It was surely worth a try. Work smarter, not harder, Barry!

• When Barry gets hit by one of Ultraviolet's blasts, he asks Gideon how that's possible. She helpfully chimes in and says, "Ultraviolet light travels at 186,000 miles per second, which is 80 times your top speed."

Wow! For good or ill, after five seasons The Flash writers just definitively quantified Barry's speed. This seems like a really bad idea to me, as it's guaranteed to come back and bite them in the ass someday.

OK, so if light travels at 186,000 mph, and Barry's top speed is 80 times slower, that means he can run 2,325 mph. That's about Mach 3. Which sounds pretty impressive, until you realize the X-15 aircraft can fly at about Mach 6.7.

2,325 mph also doesn't seem anywhere near fast enough to make time seem to stop for Barry, as it did back in the Season 4 episode Enter Flashtime. That's the episode in which a nuclear bomb went off in Central City, and he ran fast enough for the explosion to seemingly stop for him, until he could figure out a way to reverse it. 

See? It's only been ten seconds and this confirmation of his speed has already backfired on them!

• Back at the West home, Joe tells Cecile that Baby Jenna's sleeping soundly. This is two weeks in a row now that she's been mentioned in passing, but never seen. In fact I can't remember the last time she actually physically appeared on the show. Why the hell'd they bother giving Joe & Cecile a kid if it's just gonna be an afterthought?

• After Barry defeats Ultraviolet, Team Flash briefly discusses a potentially important storyline that goes by almost unnoticed as it's buried by other dialogue:

Cisco: "And you skipped over the part where this Ultraviolet person might've been trained in the art of assassination by a secret organization."
Ralph: "Yeah, that's on my to-solve list."
Barry: "Yeah, well, it's on ours now. If there's a group out there exploiting metas, then they're gonna need our protection."

This is obviously a setup for a major upcoming arc that's gonna play out over the first half of the season. I'm mentioning it here because I feel like it didn't get nearly the attention it deserved. In fact I completely missed it the first time I watched the episode.

• At the end of the episode we see Frost has decided to become an art collector. She actually purchased the trash piece (the one with used tissues on it), as well as one of the finger paintings and a couple of Kamilla's blurry photos!

This Week's Best Lines:
Frost: (looking at an art exhibit) "This isn't art. It's garbage."

Ralph: "Come on, Frost. It's not all that bad."
Frost: "There are used tissues on this!"

Ralph: (as he's treated for severe UV exposure) "Ow, ow, ow. It's not getting any less ow.!"

Cisco: (discussing Ralph's condition) "Most UV light gets absorbed by the ozone layer. This was entirely undiluted. If it wasn't for his powers, that "sunburn" would've killed him."
Frost: "So put some aloe on it."

Frost: (experiencing guilt for the first time) "I feel like a Yakuza baddie is stabbing me in the stomach. Repeatedly. Is this how I made everyone feel at Kamilla's show?"

Cisco: "Yep. That's a feeling we like to call 'guilt.' It's a little stabby."

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