Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Flash Season 9, Episode 2: Hear No Evil

This week on The Flash we get what may be one of the worst episodes of Season 9 (and possibly the entire series) and we're only two episodes in! Well done, writers!

Over the years I've felt many emotions while watching The Flash: Excitement, enjoyment, shock, surprise, sorrow and occasionally even boredom. Rarely have I ever felt outright anger and rage though— until now.

The reason? Because this episode confirms that Caitlin died in the Season 8 finale— without a tearful death scene or even any final words. In fact her death happened completely offscreen, like it didn't even matter. 

Then before we even have time to process that info, the episode introduces us to Caitlin's dollar store replacement, who looks just like her (but now with new blue highlights!). This new and definitely not improved version of Caitlin (who calls herself Snow) dispenses wisdom like an ersatz Counselor Troi, and seems to have nature-based powers as well.

Jesus wept.

Caitlin's one of the three core characters, and seeing her treated so shabbily is honestly infuriating. I knew Eric Wallace wasn't gonna be able to deliver a decent final season, but I didn't expect him to botch things this badly.

To make things even worse, somehow Hear No Evil felt like a dreaded Filler Episode, and that ain't good. We're only getting thirteen episodes in this truncated ninth season, so one would think the writers would want to make every one of them count. 

We also get more of the interminable Chester/Allegra romance that absolutely no one cares about (including the actors), and a brief but pointless glimpse at Red Death, this season's puzzling Big Bad.

Feh. Enough preamble, let's get this over with.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Barry brings the mysterious Caitlin/Frost entity to STAR Labs to meet Team Flash. When they ask who she is, she tells them to call her "Snow." She says she's neither Caitlin nor Frost, but a new entity with no memories of her own.

Chillblaine's there as well, and the others ask him what the hell happened. He says he and Caitlin built a CRC machine to bring back Frost, but something went wrong and they ended up with Snow instead. He then casually informs them that Caitlin's dead (!), but with a stable power source provided by Team Flash he can bring her back again.

Team Flash reacts to this news by... no wait, that's not right. They have absolutely zero reaction whatsoever to this grim news about Caitlin, who was one of their oldest friends and a valued teammate. About all that happens is Barry looks haggard and says they'll get to work right away and help Chillblaine restore her.

As the others all leave, Chillblaine cryptically tells Snow she did great, and things are going better than planned.

In the Lab, Chester's distracted by Allegra and wants to talk about their big kiss last week. Mercifully, Allegra shuts him down and says they need to focus on restoring Caitlin. By the gods, I don't care about these two's adolescent relationship.

At the West home, Joe tells Cecile he's worried that her powers are putting her in danger from evil metas. He says he can't stand the thought of losing her, and once again says he wants to move away from Central City. She asks him how she's supposed to choose between her family and protecting the city (!). I smell a breakup on the horizon! Good thing the two of them never officially tied the knot!

Cut to the Krakatoa Club, which is run by Hartley Rathaway (aka Pied Piper) and his boyfriend Roderick Smith. Hartley leaves, and a strange woman follows him out to the parking lot. She pulls out a violin, says she's The Fiddler and uses the instrument to fire a blast of sound at Hartley.

He dives behind a car and activates his sonic gauntlets, which he's wearing because it's in the script. The Fiddler says Hartley has something she wants, and the two of them blast one another and are both thrown backwards. Hartley escapes by flying off on a wave of sound. The Fiddler warns Roderick that she'll be back.

Back at STAR, Team Flash is ready to restore Caitlin. Snow enters the CRC pod, while Chillblaine and the others monitor the controls. They activate the pod, and everything goes OK for a few seconds. Suddenly Chester detects a technobabble overload, and Snow screams in pain. Barry zooms her from the pod, causing Chillblaine to shriek that she has to stay inside it if the experiment is to work.

Snow then slips up by saying she didn't know the procedure would hurt, and thought it would bring THEM back. The others realize they've been bamboozled, and Chillblaine's still trying to bring back Frost as well as Caitlin. They ask why he lied, and he petulantly says he can't trust any of them and he'll never give up trying to restore Frost. He angrily storms out.

Just then an alarm sounds in the Medbay. Barry rushes in and sees Hartley there, dying from The Fiddler's attack. As a former STAR Labs employee, he's familiar with their equipment and tells Barry to use a sonic cuff to stabilize his heart. Barry does so, and Hartley's condition improves a bit. He tells Barry about The Fiddler and then lies down to sleep (?).

Cut to the warehouse from last week, where The Fiddler reports to the Shadowy Mystery Villain. He says failure isn't an option, and fires an energy blast at The Fiddler. He tells her not to screw up again or he'll kill her.

Barry finds Chillblaine drowning his sorrows at O'Shaughnessy's Pub. He tells Chillblaine he knows how much he loved Frost, but he did the wrong thing for the right reason. He tells him he's part of the team now (?), and he needs to learn to trust them. Just then Barry gets a text and says they both have to leave immediately.

Barry zooms Chillblaine to STAR, where Chester informs them that the procedure was never going to work, as it needed neural imprints from Caitlin to bring back Frost. Chillblaine says there's no way to ever find a map of Caitlin's mind, but Barry says her late father Thomas Snow had one. He says Caitlin stored all his research in her apartment and at Tannhauser Labs. He vows to retrieve all the data and bring back both Caitlin and Frost this time.

Back in the Medbay, Hartley's awake and trying to boost the power of his gauntlets. Snow enters and intuitively knows he plans to kill The Fiddler. She senses he's afraid someone he loves will be hurt, and says killing is wrong. She tells him the choice is up to him.

At the Loft, Iris goes through Caitlin's laptop, trying to find something that can help restore her. Barry enters with Thomas' research, which says it's impossible to restore BOTH Caitlin and Frost— meaning they'll have to choose which one to bring back.

Cut to STAR, where Team Flash votes on who to restore— Caitlin or Frost. 
Allegra and Iris both vote for Frost, while Chester says Caitlin. Barry can't decide (!), prompting Chillblaine to say he's giving him eight hours and then he's bringing back Frost with or without their help.

Just then Snow enters and says they're all being torn apart because of her. She says she wishes she'd never been born and storms out.

Later Barry tells Iris he shouldn't have blown up Caitlin's lab last season, and this is all his fault (which is absolutely true). She says Caitlin made the choice to step into the pod, so it's on her, not him. This somehow sparks a realization in Barry, and he says he knows what they need to do.

Meanwhile, Snow stands in the Lounge and watches the storm raging outside. Cecile enters, and Snow tells her that nature makes her feel at peace and she feels connected to it or something. Cecile's puzzled that she can't read her emotions— a plot point I guarantee will become important later in the season.

Just then Barry enters and says Snow should be the one to decide who to bring back (!), as only she can decide who she's going to be. Which is sort of like asking a condemned criminal which executioner they'd prefer.

Suddenly the team gets an alert that The Fiddler's attacking the Krakatoa Club again. Barry zooms to the Medbay and sees Hartley's gone, and figures he left to kill The Fiddler. Snow says he must have made his choice.

Inside the club, Roderick and several bouncers confront The Fiddler. She fires off a sonic blast that seemingly vaporizes all of them but Roderick. Hartley then enters and tells her to let him go. She vaporizes Roderick, a second before Barry zooms in and destroys her fiddle.

The Fiddler says her instrument was just a tool, as her true power lies within. She picks up a mic, screams into it and unleashes another blast of sonic energy at Barry & Hartley. Barry phases through the onslaught (?), and Hartley manages to fire back at her, knocking her unconscious.

Hartley says he has nothing left to live for, and starts to kill her. Barry stops him, saying he's wrong. He then grabs Hartley's arm and phases him, and they see that Roderick and the bouncers are still alive— trapped in some vibrational void.

Hartley uses his gauntlets to free them, and Barry says he did the right thing. Just then Captain Boomerang 2.0 teleports in. He wakes The Fiddler and the two vanish. Hartley notices they somehow stole his gauntlets as well— which is what The Fiddler was after the whole time.

Back at STAR, Chillblaine asks what Team Flash has decided about Caitlin & Frost. Snow pipes up and informs them she's not getting in the pod, as she's decided she wants to be her own person. Furious, Chillblaine says she doesn't even have a name. She says she's already picked one out— Khione, after the Greek goddess of snow.

Chillblaine isn't having it, and orders Snow into the pod, as none of this was the plan. Just then Hartley enters, says plans change and destroys the pod with a sonic blast. When Chillblaine asks if he knows what he's done, he replies that he helped a new friend. Chillblaine hisses to Hartley that the next time they meet he's taking him down.

Back at the Loft, Barry tells Iris he thinks Caitlin would have liked Khione. He then suggests they continue their "babymoon." Oy.

Cut to the Krakatoa Club, where all of Team Flash (including Joe) whoop it up on the dance floor— just hours after finding out their teammate Caitlin died. What the hell?

Back at the warehouse, Boomerang 2.0 hooks up Hartley's gauntlets to a device. The Mystery Villain steps onto a platform and The Fiddler activates it. A sonic field then envelops the Villain, which I guess stabilizes them. We then see it's Red Death. He says the Flash disgraced him, and Central City will pay the price (?).

Thoughts:
• As I said in the intro, my main problems with this episode are the revelation that Caitlin's dead (for real, if you can believe showrunner Eric Wallace), and the various characters' reaction to her demise. Or rather LACK of reaction.

The episode begins with Chillblaine and Snow meeting with the team, and informing them that Caitlin died trying to restore Frost. Team Flash reacts to this news with all the emotion of someone who just found out the toast is burnt. For frak's sake, she's been on the show since the Pilot episode, and everyone just kind of shrugs when they find out she's gone.

Team Flash doesn't even hold a memorial service for Caitlin. Instead they all go clubbing at a techno bar. With a woman who looks exactly like Caitlin. What. The. F*ck?

Caitlin's been on the show since the very first episode. I don't think I'm overreacting when I saw this is a HUGE slap in the face to the character, as well as the fans. It made me angry and disgusted with the characters and the series' writers.

• Last week I said that according to behind the scenes info, the new incarnation of Caitlin would be called "Snow." That much was accurate.

I also confidently stated it was obvious that this new version was an amalgam of both Caitlin and Frost. Whoops! Looks like I was wrong there.

While that was indeed a logical assumption, turns out I was way off base. Snow seems to be a completely new entity— one who has no memories of either previous version.

Ah well. Can't predict 'em all correctly.

HEAVY DUTY NITPICKING: Chillblaine describes Snow as "a total blank slate, with zero memories." Wellll, that can't be true. She can't be a COMPLETELY blank slate, otherwise she wouldn't be able to walk or talk and would be crappin' herself like a newborn baby.

• Team Flash has just been informed that Caitlin's dead and gone for all time. So Chester picks that exact moment to try and talk to 
Allegra about the kiss they shared last week. Are you frakin' kidding me? Time and place, Chester!

• Last week Joe told Cecile it's time their family left Central City for good.

This is no doubt due to the fact that actor Jesse L. Martin left the show at the end of Season 8, and this is the producers' way of writing him out of the show. But what about Cecile? What's gonna happen to her character? 
Will she leave with Joe? Or will the writers have the guts to split them up so he can go and she'll stay?

I'm starting to wonder if maybe there's a third option. I'm betting they'll drag out this storyline for the entire truncated thirteen episode season. That way Joe & Cecile can move away in the series finale, and won't need to split up.

• When Joe says he wants to move away, Cecile— whose telekinetic powers are increasing exponentially— tearfully replies, "How am I supposed to choose between our family and the greater good of the entire city?"

Are you f-ing kidding me? Of all the reasons the writers could have come up with for her to stay put, that's gotta be the lamest. We're seriously supposed to believe that Cecile would willingly give up her husband and child in order to stick around and play superhero? Jesus Christ! 

I'm sure the writers thought they were making her look noble and selfless here, but instead she comes off as a selfish, narcissistic asshole.

• For some reason, this episode gives us numerous flashbacks to things that just happened last week. Sure, they've always done this on occasion to remind us of important plot points, but never to this extent. It was truly bizarre. 

Showrunner Eric Wallace directed the episode, and he apparently doesn't think the audience can remember anything that happened just seven days ago.

• After the stunning news of Caitlin's offscreen death, Iris asks Barry if he's OK. This triggers a flashback to last season, where Barry found out Caitlin was trying to resurrect Frost, summarily decided this was wrong and used his Speed Force lightning to destroy her equipment. The memory of this then gives him icky bad feelings.

As well it should! I said last season that whether he agreed with her experiment or not, he had no right to trash her lab. Now he's apparently upset to find out that his actions have consequences, and Caitlin would likely still be alive if he hadn't thrown a hissy fit and blown up her equipment.

MORE HEAVY DUTY NITPICKING: At the Krakatoa Club, Hartley says goodbye to his boyfriend Roderick and then walks out the front door. We then see a Mystery Woman get up and follow him. Let me repeat that: She FOLLOWS him out the door.

We then cut to him walking to his car in the parking lot. Suddenly the Mystery Woman appears IN FRONT of Hartley and confronts him. Wait, what?

How in the name of Stan Lee's Mighty Toupee did she walk out AFTER he did but end up in the lot BEFORE him? Did she elbow her way past him really fast, and he was diddling with his phone and didn't notice? Did she walk out backwards so he thought she was coming in? Or can she secretly teleport, in addition to her musical powers?

• The Mystery Woman turns out to be The Fiddler, who fires off a sonic blast at Hartley with her, er, fiddle.

Amazingly, this is the fifth version of The Fiddler in the Arrowverse! There was the Izzy Bowin version, who appeared in The Flash Season 4 episode Subject 9. Then over on Stargirl we saw the original Fiddler, a male villain who was a member of the Injustice Society Of America. After his death, his wife Anaya Bowin became the new Fiddler. Then after she was killed, her son Isaac Bowin took up the family mantle.

I don't exactly get why, but the producers of these shows are positively obsessed with the whole Fiddler concept!

• When Hartley exits the club, he's most definitely NOT wearing his sonic gauntlets. 

A few seconds later The Fiddler then attacks him, causing him to duck behind a car. When he emerges— you guessed it— he's suddenly wearing the gauntlets!

OK, there's plenty of time for him to put 'em on while the camera was pointed elsewhere. The real question is where the hell did they come from? Did he have 'em stuffed inside the pockets of his trench coat? Was he wearing them under his coat and rolled up the sleeves while we weren't looking? Can he materialize them somehow?

• Before The Fiddler can finish off Hartley, he uses his gauntlets to literally fly away, propelled by sonic beams. I gotta admit, that was pretty darned cool!

• Hartley shows up at STAR Labs, seconds away from death. As a former employee of STAR, he's familiar with the Medbay and its equipment, and tells Barry to get the sonic cuff from the bottom drawer and place it on his arm. He's then annoyed when Barry can't find the cuff and finally locates it in the top drawer.

Jeez, Hartley, cut him a break! It's been at least nine years since you worked in the STAR Labs Medlab. It's a given the place has been rearranged and reorganized at least once in that time!

• After Chillblaine storms out of STAR, Barry tracks him down at O'Shaughnessy's Pub. There, he tells Chillblaine he's part of the team now, and needs to trust them.

Wait, what? When the hell did THAT happen? And why would they make this former— and probably  still current— criminal a member of Team Flash? Because he was snogging Frost?

Barry also tells Chillblaine that being part of the team means no more "going rogue." Is... is that some foreshadowing there? Like a subtle hint that Chillblaine might be forming his own Rogue's Gallery, as seen in The Flash comics?

By the way, for the past couple seasons now we've been getting establishing shots of O'Shaughnessy's like this one. As I pointed out in past reviews, the part of the Pub is played by the Back Forty bar, located at 111 Robson Street in downtown Vancouver. Amazingly, it's literally right across the street from the BC Place— the stadium used for STAR Labs exteriors.

So why no establishing shot this week? Welp, because the bar doesn't exist anymore!

According to the CBR website, the building was razed for some reason back in December 2022. RIP O'Shaughnessy's Bar!

I don't get why the producers still couldn't have given us an establishing shot of the place though. They clearly filmed numerous angles of it in both day and nighttime, so I don't understand why they couldn't just splice an old shot into the episode. Puzzling!

• In the Medlab, Snow talks with Hartley, who's now wearing an official STAR Labs t-shirt. I guess he took off the shirt he came in with and helped himself to one from their storeroom (or the gift shop!). Note that he would have had to remove the sonic cuff around his upper arm to do so! I guess it didn't kill him to take it off for a few seconds?

• During their chat, the highly innocent Snow seems to intuitively sense Hartley's mental pain, and knows exactly what to say in order to get him to reconsider about his life choices and do the right thing. Apparently Snow has the incredibly useful superpower of Patented The CW Pep Talks®!

• Hartley tells Snow that Central City has more meta violence per capita than any other city in the world. After nine seasons of The Flash we all knew that of course, but it was nice to have it confirmed.

• Snow spends hours staring out the windows at the rain, and tells Cecile she loves nature and feels connected to it or something. It's impossible to watch this scene and not think of the plant-controlling Layla Williams, Danielle Panabaker's character in Sky High.

• Cecile's puzzled (but strangely unworried) when she finds out she can't read Snow's thoughts. I have a feeling this throwaway line's gonna become really important later on, and Snow's gonna turn out to be a secret evil meta or something.

• Barry discovers the technobabble pod can't separate Snow into both Caitlin AND Frost, and can only restore one of them. Team Flash then takes a vote to decide which one to resurrect. Snow gets wind of this and refuses to go along with it, saying she's a real girl now and doesn't want to die.

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it is. This storyline is virtually identical to the plot of the Star Trek: Voyager Season 2 episode Tuvix.

In that episode, a transporter malfunction fused Lt. Tuvok and Neelix into a brand new being, dubbed Tuvix. The Holographic Doctor began looking for a way to separate Tuvix into his component halves, but in the meantime he experienced life onboard the ship, and became a valued member of the crew.

When the Doctor finally discovered a way to restore Tuvox and Neelix, Tuvix objected. He stated he was his own person now, and the procedure would effectively kill him. In the end, Captain Janeway made the decision to literally murder Tuvix so she could have her original crewmembers back.

Methinks Eric Wallace is a secret Voyager fan and hoped no one would notice his copy & paste job here.

• A thought just occurred to me about Khione's situation. In the third act she puts her foot down and refuses to get back in the pod, because doing so will make her cease to exist and she wants to live.

Is... is this some weird Right To Life metaphor? It kind of seems like it, but man, it seems really out of place here. The Flash— and the Arrowverse as a whole— has always been aggressively woke in its storylines and viewpoints. Which makes an anti-abortion subplot the last thing I ever expected to see on this show!

• At the Krakatoa Club, The Fiddler tortures Hartley's boyfriend Roderick with a sonic blast. When Hartley shows up to rescue him she quips, "I knew if I put the squeeze on your squeeze you'd show up sooner or later!"

Hey, it ain't Shakespeare, but it's definitely the best line in this fakakta episode.

• Barry arrives at the club and destroys The Fiddler's, er, fiddle. She then demonstrates her power was inside her all along, and lets loose with a sonic scream. It knocks Hartley to the floor, but Barry manages to withstand the blast by phasing and letting it pass harmlessly through him. Wait, what? 

So... that means he's deaf when he phases then, right? The sound waves would go right through his eardrums and prevent them from vibrating, meaning he couldn't hear anything as long as he's phasing. 

Didn't think about that, did you, writers?

• This new Fiddler's real name is Andrea Wozzack (pronounced something like "Vojack"). She appears to be an original creation of the show, as I couldn't find any evidence of her in any DC comics.

• Snow informs Chillblaine that she won't be morphing back into Caitlin or Frost, because she likes who she is now. When he protests, she says, "I found out today that my father always dreamed of creating something or someone new, and he called her Khione. But science is like nature. It can be cruel as well as beautiful. Either way, we can't control it."

That sounded... ominous, and felt like some more foreshadowing. Despite her gentle and innocent disposition, I get the distinct feeling she's not as sweet as she appears, and will soon discover she has some sort of major nature-based powers.

• As mentioned above, Snow decides to call herself "Khione," after the Greek goddess of snow. If that name sounds familiar, there's a reason for it. Back in the Season 5 episode All Doll'd Up, Team Flash discovered an equation in Thomas Snow's lab, which somehow translated into chemical symbols that spelled out "K H I O Ne." Somehow this made Caitlin realize her father knew she was secretly an ice meta or something. Just go along with it or we'll be here all day.

By the way... if Chillblaine was right and Snow really doesn't have any memories of her own, then how they hell did she know about the whole "Khione" thing? Whoops!

• Chillblaine doesn't take kindly to Khione's decision to live her own life, and orders her into the regeneration pod. Just then Hartley enters and destroys the pod with a sonic scream. 

Woah, wait a minute... if he can generate his own blasts, then why's he need his gauntlets?

Welp, chalk that up to our old friend Crisis On Infinite Earths. The Pre-Crisis Hartley had the incredibly useful power of enhanced hearing, and built his own sonic gauntlets to get his revenge on Harrison Wells for firing him from STAR Labs.

The Post-Crisis Hartley suddenly had internalized powers, and could fire off destructive sonic blasts by screaming. For reasons known only to the writers, he still kept his gauntlets too.

• I actually wouldn't mind if Hartley became a full-fledged member of Team Flash. He's definitely more a interesting character than Chillblaine!

• The god rays return again this week! Jaysis, look at all that atmospheric smoke! Did Barry & Iris' Loft catch on fire or something? Did Barry try & make microwave popcorn and burn it?

• Even More Heavy Duty Nitpicking: Early in the episode, Iris was disappointed when Team Flash business forced her and Barry to cancel their plans to visit the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park.

In the obligatory wrapup, she asks Barry if he has any weekend plans and he replies, "Actually, I was thinking we could take in a geyser." We then hard cut to the two of them dancing at the Krakatoa Club.

Yeah, Krakatoa was a famous volcano, not a goddamned geyser. While the two do share some similarities, they're completely different phenomena. A volcano's a mountain or hill that spews molten lava, rock fragments and gases from the Earth's crust. Geysers happen close to the surface, when subterranean water becomes superheated and shoots from the ground as steam.

Geysers generally form near volcanoes, but aren't related. Way to ignore basic science for the sake of a lame joke, writers!

Annnnnnnd then we come to the most infuriating part of the episode, as Team Flash honors the memory of their beloved friend Caitlin by holding a solemn vigil for her. Nah, I'm just kidding. They go out clubbing!

And to make things even worse, they're cavorting around the dance floor with a woman who looks EXACTLY like their fallen comrade, and none of them seems to be the least bit weirded out by it.

Jesus Jetskiing Christ On A Cracker!

OK, lots of people will hold a wake after a friend dies. But that's usually after the funeral ceremony, and involves a small carry-in dinner and polite conversation. Team Flash skips all that nonsense and heads straight for the night club!

It's one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen on a TV show.

Joe here perfectly captures the way I feel about this whole sorry episode.

• Sometimes I feel bad for the actors on this show— especially when they're handed a script like this one. They likely know it's bullsh*t that their characters are dancing at a club right after finding out Caitlin died, but they're contractually obligated to perform such scenes anyway and pretend they're fine with it. Kudos to them for even showing up every day!

• Over at the warehouse, Boomerang 2.0 and The Fiddler hook up Hartley's gauntlets to a technobabble device. They activate it, and it envelops their Mystery Villain leader in sonic waves that stabilize them or something.

Once stabilized, we see the Mystery Villain is indeed Red Death, as I said last week.

In the comics, Red Death started out as the Batman of Earth-52, who went crazy for reasons, kidnapped his world's Flash and stole his speed. He then became an unhinged speedster vigilante.

Obviously this version of Red Death will have a radically different origin, since there's no Batman in the Arrowverse.

Here's a better look at Reddy's armor, courtesy of a behind the scenes photo. A lot of fans are complaining that it looks like a Power Rangers costume, but eh... it's actually a pretty accurate representation of the one from the comics. It'll do.

And no, despite that watermark in the image ("Canadagraphs"), I had nothing to do with this photo.

• Red Death then stares out over the city and hisses, "Central City, the Flash disgraced me. Now all of you will pay the price, and justice will be served."

Yawn. Yet ANOTHER villain who wants revenge on the Flash and/or his home for some perceived slight against them— which seems to be the only plot Eric Wallace can ever come up with.

• We then get a first on the show, as what appears to be a blooper reel of the club scene plays over the end credits. Unless I'm completely mistaken, they've never done anything like this before.

Look How They Massacred My Boy!

Ever since I was old enough to pick up a Marvel comic, I've always loved the character of M.O.D.O.K.— created by Stan Lee and the amazing Jack Kirby.

What's not to like? He's a super-intelligent evil artificial lifeform who's basically a giant head on a withered body, who rides around on a rocket chair. The whole concept is so over the top and outlandish it just naturally appealed to me.
In fact I liked M.O.D.O.K. so much I even drew my own version of him a few years back!

As the MCU films became more and more popular, I kept hoping that we'd eventually see M.O.D.O.K. in live action. Welp, be careful what you wish for, I guess!

I couple years ago Marvel Studios produced a M.O.D.O.K. stop motion animated series for Hulu. This show reeeeally pissed me off, as the character was voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt and was played completely for laughs.

I figured that was the end of it, and we'd never, ever get a proper live action version of the character after that.

Incredibly, I was wrong about that! Turns out the new Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania film (which I haven't seen and likely never will) actually features M.O.D.O.K. in a supporting role. 

THIS is what M.O.D.O.K. looks like in the film (cue sound effect of a phonograph needle scratching on a record). Are you fucking kidding me right now?

This version of the character has a completely new origin, and has absolutely nothing to do with the one in the comics. That in itself would be bad enough, but... just look at it What the hell?

This movie reportedly had a budget of $200 MILLION DOLLARS, and this is the best they could do? Jesus fuck! It literally looks like a CGI effect from twenty years ago, and not a current year film.

Why is his head so stretched out and distorted? I work in graphic design, so I recognize a low-res image that's been blown up too much when I see one— and this is a low-res image that's been blown up too much! Did the director let an intern work on this character?

He looks for all the world like the evil Vorok in Creating Rem Lezar

And to add insult to injury, once again M.O.D.O.K. is played for laughs in the new Ant-Man film. Sigh...

I've seen lots of chatter online from fans who say this new version is perfect, because he's always been a "joke villain." That's patently not true! M.O.D.O.K. regularly clashed with Captain America in the comics, where he was a serious and deadly threat.

He's rapidly becoming a joke villain though because that's the way the goddamned MCU keeps portraying him! The comedic version's the only one folks have ever seen these days!

I also see people saying the character's never going to work in live action, because he's just too goofy looking. Again, that's not true. If done properly, M.O.D.O.K. would be a creepy and deeply unsettling character.

As an example, the 2020 Marvel Avengers videogame featured a realistically rendered M.O.D.O.K, and played him absolutely straight. As a result he was truly disturbing and frightening, and proved the character can indeed work in live action, if they'd only treat him seriously. Feh.

RIP MCU, 2008 - 2019.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Flash Season 9, Episode 1: Wednesday Ever After

Welp, for better or worse it's the big premiere of the ninth and FINAL season of The Flash!

Wow, nine seasons already! Seems like just a couple years ago that I started writing reviews of the show. Where the heck has the time gone?

If you'll recall, back in 2022 it was unclear as to whether there'd even be a ninth season or not. That prompted the producers to structure the final episode of Season 8 to serve as a SERIES finale if need be. After some touch & go contract negotiations with the regular cast, it ended up being renewed for one more year.

Should it have been renewed though? Ehhh... that remains to be seen. As much as I like the show, sadly I'm gonna have to say no. Ever since Eric Wallace took over as showrunner in Season 6, the series has become an exercise in ever-diminishing returns. 

Wallace is the brilliant visionary who gave us the execrable Mirrorverse Saga, the Power Rangers-esque Godspeed debacle, the disastrous Positive AND Negative Forces arcs and Iris' pointless "Time Sickness" storyline. 

He also stupidly and shortsightedly fired actor Hartley Sawyer (aka Ralph) to appease the Angry Twitter Mob, legitimately believed that Chester and Allegra would be adequate replacements for Cisco and Wells, added Chillblaine and killed off Frost for reasons known only to himself.

When you take all that into account, it's honestly a miracle the show's made it this far. It's definitely become an empty shell of its former self, and a far cry from its early glory days. Even the actors are starting to look like they'd rather be doing anything else.

I'll miss writing about the show once it's gone, but it's time for it to end.

From what I've read online, most fans are confident that Wallace is gonna pull off a miracle, and deliver an epic conclusion to the series. Just where they're getting that misguided notion, I have absolutely no idea. Based on his past work, I fully expect Season 9 to be more of the same.

Case in point, this week's episode, which does nothing to dispel my expectations. It wasn't a terrible episode, as there were actually a couple decent moments in it. It just didn't feel like a season opener. A premiere needs to set up the plot and the tone for the entire season, and Wednesday Ever After did none of that. It was just sort of... there.

Also, the writer clearly took a page from The Big Book Of Script Cliches when working on this week's script. See, whenever a TV show goes on for too long, it'll eventually run out of new ideas and feature several familiar plotlines before the end. It's a given you'll see the Musical Episode, the Puppet Episode, the Alternate Universe Episode, the A Christmas Carol Parody Episode and the Groundhog Day Episode.

The Flash has already done two of those, so it was inevitable they'd get around to the Groundhog Day one. That's what we got this week, as Barry and Iris found themselves stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over. It wasn't the worst thing they'd ever done, but it was far from new. Heck, it's not even new in the Arrowverse, as they did the same schtick over on sister show Legends Of Tomorrow, in the Season 3 episode Here I Go Again! 

It wasn't the worst thing the show's ever done, but like I said, the fact that they went there is an undeniable sign of writer fatigue.

We also get a non-answer as to what the hell happened to Caitlin in the Season 8 finale, and a very brief setup for this year's Big Bad, as the writers are clearly dragging out these arcs to fill up as many episodes as possible. Meh.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The episode begins with evil meta Tar Pit attacking a Central City dockyard. Fortunately Team Flash arrives on the scene to stop him. Frost (!) immobilizes him with an ice blast, while Chester uses a hi-tech doodad protect nearby explosives from his rampage. Cecile telekinetically lifts Tar Pit into the air, while Allegra fries him with a UV blast. Joe even gets into the act, firing a meta-dampening bomb into Tar Pit's mouth, causing him to revert to his human form of Joseph Monteleone. Barry then cuffs him, as Team Flash strikes an heroic pose.

Monteleone hisses that Team Flash can't win, and says it's the end of everything. Barry then looks around and realizes something's wrong. Frost and all the others accuse Barry of not being good enough to protect them. Iris appears as well, and says he can't save her. Their eyes all flash (heh) red as they shriek in pain and collapse.

Barry then wakes up, and we see it was all a nightmare (groannnnnn!). Iris wakes, looks at their clock and sees it's Wednesday, February 1. Barry's sad they both have to go back to work after a glorious week-long vacation, and zooms off to CCPD.

At STAR Labs, Cecile's training by trying to telekinetically hurl a football through a tire. It doesn't go well. She notices Joe looking distant and uneasy, and asks what's wrong. He says it's nothing, and to keep practicing.

Iris arrives at Central City Citizen Media, where Allegra fills her in on what's been happening. She says 
Cat Grant, of CatCo Worldwide Media, wants to buy the company. She claims all Iris has to do is agree, and this will somehow be the start of her global news network. Iris looks ill and says she has to leave.

At CCPD, Barry goes to Kristen Kramer's office and tells her he wants to be the new Director of the CSI Division. She's skeptical that he can handle more responsibility along with his duties as the Flash. He assures her it won't be a problem, and she gives him the job. Just then Officer Korber enters and says Kord Industries is under attack. Barry zooms off.

Barry arrives on the scene and sees a new Captain Boomerang stealing a power module from a large piece of tech called a Roemer Accelerator. He hurls several explosive boomerangs at Barry, then teleports away. Amazingly, Barry seems strangely unfazed by this incident, as he's more interested in his dinner date with Iris. As he zooms off, the device crackles with energy.

Later that night, Barry & Iris return home from dinner. She mentions the CatCo offer, and he says he already knows about it. He then shows her a "mapbook" he's been working on, which outlines all the future events of their lives— that he pieced together with the help of Gideon. He says all they have to do is follow what's in it, and they can have the future of their dreams.

When Iris asks why he'd do something like that, he admits he's been having dreams in which he can't keep her safe, and this is his way of protecting her. Iris says she can't deal with this revelation right now, and they go to bed. Unbeknownst to them, their bed begins glowing with purple energy.

The two wake the next morning, and head off to their respective jobs. Iris is puzzled when Allegra tells her the exact same things she did the day before. She brushes it off as deja vu.

At CCPD, Barry's called into Kramer's office, and she says she doesn't think he can handle the Director job. Puzzled, Barry says she already offered it to him and can't take it back. Korber enters and says Kord Industries is under attack, and Barry zooms off.

Barry confronts Captain Boomerang 2.0 again, and this time tries to stop him from teleporting away. A massive explosion results, blowing Barry sky high and actually killing him (!).

Barry & Iris wake up in bed, and realize it's February 1st again and they're stuck in a time loop.

They go to STAR, where they're scanned by Gideon. Chester detects residual temporal energy in them both, but says it's nothing to do with Iris' "time sickness" from last season
. He theorizes that Barry's Speed Force energy must have interacted with the Roemer Accelerator, which caused the time loop. He says if they can get their hands on the Accelerator's power cell, they may be able to end the loop.

Barry zips off and returns a second later with the power cell, much to Chester's surprise. He begins picking around on it, and inadvertently sets off an explosion. Right on cue, Barry & Iris wake in bed.

We then get a montage of Barry & Chester fiddling with the power cell, dying and starting over again. In all, he and Iris go though the loop FIFTEEN TIMES.

On the last loop, Barry wakes in bed alone. Panicked, he searches the loft for Iris and finds her in the kitchen, day drinking (or I guess morning drinking). He asks her what she's doing, and she says she's getting good & drunk because the day will just reset itself again and she won't have a hangover.

She also says as long as they stay in the loop, she doesn't have to make a decision about the CatCo buyout. Barry believes that's the reason they're trapped to begin with. His mapbook indicates she says yes, and they'll be stuck repeating the same day until she does so.

Iris says that by following the book they're eliminating their free will. Barry disagrees, saying the book guarantees a safe future. Frustrated, Barry goes out for some air.

He ends up at Joe's house, where he tells them what's going on. He shows Joe & Cecile the mapbook, and says he's just using it to keep Iris safe after almost losing her so many times. Joe leafs through the book, and says that while it contains all the facts of their future, it doesn't say how or why things happened, or how it made them feel. Joe's homespun homilies make Barry realize he's right.

Barry goes back to the loft and tells Iris she has a point, and they should experience their future as it comes. He tosses the mapbook into the fireplace and ignites it.

They wake the next morning, still in the loop— but this time they take control. The two of them go to the Citizen, where Iris tells Allegra she plans on expanding her empire, but she's gonna do it her way. She's contacted Sue Dearbon, who's agreed to give her a loan to buy the Coast City Gazette. The two of them then go to Kramer's office, where they convince her that Barry can handle the Director position.

Barry then goes to confront Captain Boomerang 2.0, who's stealing the tech again. Just as he's about to teleport away, Iris shoots him with a blaster, incapacitating him. Unfortunately Boomerang says he always has a backup plan, and activates a nuclear device inside the Accelerator. He tells the Flash it's been fun as he teleports away.

Chester contacts Barry and says the nuke will go off in just twenty seconds. With no other options, Barry grabs the Accelerator and begins phasing it. The nuke explodes, but the phased shockwave passes harmlessly through Central City and all its citizens (!).

At STAR, Chester and Allegra realize they're both still alive and kiss. They then pull away from one another and look embarrassed.

Cut to Thursday, February 2nd, as the loop's finally been broken. Barry confirms they went through it a total of fifty eight times. Chester's upset that Boomerang got away, but Barry says he's confident he'll find him. Allegra wonders where Boomerang got all his hi-tech gear, and Joe theorizes he has a partner.

Iris is happy that she and Barry were able to get everything they wanted, but on their own terms. He says they should take a "baby-moon" instead of a honeymoon, in order to finally start a family.

In the Lab, Cecile finally masters her telekinesis. She senses Joe isn't happy, and asks him what's wrong. He says it's time they left the show, er, I mean Central City.

Elsewhere, Barry gets a mysterious text and zooms to Caitlin's old apartment. He sees someone standing in the window, and asks who it is. The figure turns around, and appears to be half Caitlin and half Frost.

Boomerang then enters a dark & deserted warehouse, and says his battle with the Flash used up most of his weapons. A case slides out of the shadows, and when he opens it, he sees it's filled with more explosive boomerangs. A shadowy figure then appears, and ominously says the Flash is never truly alone, but when he's done with him he will be. It then teleports away, leaving a glowing red bat-like symbol floating in the air...

Thoughts:
• The episode opens with a pretty cool scene of Tar Pit (who's never actually named in the episode) attacking a dockyard in Central City.

Tar Pit's actually been on the show before, as he first appeared wayyyyyy back in Season 2's Fast Lane. It's been so long I honestly didn't remember him till I started researching the episode.

• At one point Tar Pit knocks over a scaffolding with two workers, sending them flying.
 
Not to worry though, as they land safely on two strategically placed cardboard shipping crates! Wow, what are the odds?

• I love the fact that the dock workers are all running for their lives from Tar Pit, except for the guy on the right— who stands there calmly welding. I guess maybe he can't see very well through his helmet?

• Barry then zooms to the scene, looks up at Tar Pit and dramatically says, "Welcome back. Let's do this one last time."

Clearly that was an affectionate little nod to the audience, acknowledging the fact that this is the show's final season.

 • Team Flash then appears and use their combined powers to defeat Tar Pit, and it's glorious. No one gets knocked out, no one does anything stupid and no one lets the villain get away so the plot can happen. Too bad it's all a dream sequence, and the characters never actually behave like this in "real life" on the show.

• This Week's Stupidest Line Award goes to Cecile, who uses her telekinetic powers to lift Tar Pit into the air, where he squirms helplessly. She then quips, "Hey Joey— leave my FRIENDS alone!"

Tar Pit's real name is Joseph Monteleone, so Cecile's obviously taking advantage of that to make a "Friends" joke, as the 90s sitcom featured a character named Joey Tribianni.

When I heard this idiotic line I slapped my forehead so hard I didn't wake up for twenty minutes.

• After Tar Pit's defeated, he reverts to his human form...

Wow, what a difference a couple years make! This current Joseph Monteleone looks completely different than the one that debuted back in Fast Lane. Why, it's almost as if they're two different people!

• After they defeat Tar Pit, Team Flash takes a moment to face the camera and strike their best "Bad Motherf*ckers" pose.

• I was hoping the producers might return to the classic "My Name Is Barry Allen" opening title for this last season, but I guess it's not to be. I noticed they updated the soap opera intro this week to includer CHILLBLAINE of all people, who's now been promoted to main character status. Oy gevalt.

I absolutely loathed Chillblaine and everything about him when he first appeared back in Season 7's Growing Pains. That said, the writers really workshopped his character in Season 8, to the point where I will grudgingly admit he started to grow on me. So I'll tentatively allow his inclusion here.

Also, it sounded like they had to extend the opening theme music by a few bars in order to cram Chillblaine into the montage.

The Flash has always taken place more or less in real time, and this episode's no exception as it occurs on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. Unfortunately it first aired on Wednesday, February 8— one week later. Did they actually intend to start the season on February 1, but something happened to push it back?

By the way, despite the fact that Barry & Iris' clock/calendar looks like something a terrorist cobbled together to detonate a bomb, it's a real thing, as I found some very similar models online.

• I realize The CW has always been about beautiful people who look like supermodels standing around spouting melodramatic lines, but c'mon, guys— make it make sense! It's been established that Central City is in Missouri. It's currently February 1st on the show. NO guy in his right mind is gonna be sleeping shirtless that time of year. I live in the Midwest too, so trust me, I know.

Maybe Barry & Iris have their furnace cranked up to 90ยบ, I dunno.

• So is that bonnet that Iris wears to bed a black thing that I'm unfamiliar with, or is she just insane?

I get that it's probably supposed to protect her hairdo while she sleeps, but... Seems to me that wadding up her hair and stuffing it into a bonnet would do just as much damage to it.

• Over at STAR Labs, Cecile practices her telekinesis in the Cortex, by attempting to fling a football through the center of a tire. At one point she causes the football to fly from her hands 
and smash into a tray of empty glass beer mugs, shattering them. WHAT THE HELL WERE THOSE DOING IN THE CORTEX IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Then a few seconds later she tries again, and this time the football destroys an expensive monitor. Here's a thought— m
aybe next time don't try telekinetically hurling objects in a room filled with breakables?

• In this scene, Cecile has to use her psychic/empathic abilities to tell that something's troubling Joe. Thank Thor for her powers!

• At CCC Media, Allegra tells Iris:

Allegra: "CatCo Worldwide Media wants to buy CCC Media and expand your global footprint under the umbrella of a major news conglomerate. She said it's a blank check. All you have to do is just say yes. Iris, this is your future empire, the one that Nora and Bart are always talking about. This is how it starts."

Um... Maybe I'm just really dumb about how big business works, but... what? If CatCo does a buyout of CCC Media, how is that gonna expand Iris' empire? Wouldn't Cat Grant own the company from that point on— with Iris possibly staying on as a figurehead? I don't get it.

By the way, Cat Grant was a regular in Season 1 of Supergirl, where she was played by Calista Flockhart. She appeared very sporadically in subsequent seasons. I guarantee they're just name dropping her here, and Flockhart isn't gonna make an actual appearance.

• Barry gets an alert from Kord Industries, and when he zooms to the scene he sees it's being robbed by Captain Boomerang 2.0, aka Owen Mercer. He's actually from the comics, where he is indeed the second Captain Boomerang— and allegedly the half brother of Bart Allen, aka Impulse (!). It'd take another 50,000 words to adequately describe— so I ain't goin' down that rabbit hole.

I will point out though that in the comic, Boomerang 2.0's powers included short bursts of speed, allowing him to hurl his weapons at incredible velocities. Some have even speculated he may be able to tap into the Speed Force and become a full-fledged speedster like Barry. 

The show seems to be ignoring that little aspect of his powers though, which is probably for the best.

Even though Mercer is the second Captain Boomerang, his costume's pretty close to the original version from the comics. Mercer's duds aren't quite as flashy, but he's sporting the same kicky white scarf.

The original Arrowverse Captain Boomerang was Digger Harkness, who first appeared in Arrow Season 3 episode Draw Back Your Bow. He was mentioned a couple times on The Flash, but never actually showed up in the flesh.

• Barry contacts Team Flash to get a rundown on Captain Boomerang 2.0. Amazingly, Allegra answers and fills him in on the perp. Wait, what? Why the hell is SHE there? We just saw her at CCC Media literally thirty seconds ago!

• Barry battles Boomerang 2.0 in front of the Hotel Georgia in downtown Central City.

Turns out there's a Hotel Georgia in our world too, located at 801 w. Georgia Street in... where else, Vancouver. It's right on a major downtown street, so it's a given they had to shut it down, blocking traffic for and entire day. I'll bet the residents of Vancouver will be glad when this show's over and finally leaves town!

• That night Barry shows Iris his "mapbook," which outlines all the major events of their future together.

* Later that night, Barry shows Iris his "mapbook." We get a quick glimpse of one spread, which reads:
Iris looks through it, and we get a quick glimpse of one of the spreads. Several things here:

First off, the lefthand page reads:

Sue 2024
Bart let slip
She buys Big Belly Burger Chain
Makes all plant based
Becomes world's richest woman.

Who the hell is Sue? Smart money would say it's likely Sue Dearbon, since she's a semi-regular on the show. But that's most definitely not her in that photo! Have they decided to recast the part? I hope not! Actress Natalie Dreyfuss brought a fun, quirky charm to the character of Sue, and was a breath of fresh air on the show. It's gonna suck if they bring in someone else play the role.

Secondly, the idea that Sue's gonna make a fortune by transforming Big Belly Burger. This is America, Barry. Home of bacon-wrapped burgers, 72 ounce steaks and pizza crust stuffed with cheese. No one's gonna become the world's richest anything by taking its biggest fast food burger franchise and making it plant based.

Third, the mapbook says Iris will win her first Pulitzer for an article titled, Nightmare Under Red Skies. Wait, is this article about Crisis On Infinite Earths? The Crisis that happened like four years ago? If so, why the hell's she just now writing about that? Or is this referring to 2024, when Barry's famously supposed to disappear in yet another Crisis with red skies?

Lastly, isn't this little scrapbook incredibly dangerous?

Barry of all people knows firsthand just how fragile the timeline is, and how little it takes to irrevocably screw it up. So why in the name of Zeus' Mighty Nose Hair would he compile a book giving him and Iris unprecedented knowledge about their futures?

Amazingly, none of the characters seem very upset about the existence of the book and how it could permanently ruin their lives. Instead they just half-heartedly point out that its contents robs them of their free will. THAT'S all they got from a book that could potentially destroy the entire timeline?

• Iris goes into work, where everyone tells her the same things they did the day before. It never dawns on her that she's stuck in a time loop, as she dismisses it as deja vu.

Apparently she never looks at her desk calendar that's literally two feet away from her. If she did, she'd see that it's February 1st again, and she's reliving the previous day!

• Meet the real star of this episode— Barry's dirty sock, which reappears on the dresser every time the time loop resets! Seriously, I think it gets more screen time this week than Joe does.

• After fifteen times through the loop, Iris says screw it and decides to take advantage of it. To that end, she gets good & drunk on wine, reasoning that once the day resets she won't have a hangover. A few things here:

First of all, is that condensation on her glass there, or does she really suck at washing dishes (you may have to zoom in to see it)?

Secondly, I guess her theory makes sense. If Barry repeatedly gets killed and comes back to life when the loop resets, then I guess their hangovers would vanish too.

Third, what an amazing stroke of luck that Barry & Iris somehow happen to retain their memories and knowledge of each trip through the loop. Because if they didn't... they'd be stuck inside it forever, completely oblivious to the fact they were repeating the same day.

Lastly, the usual purpose of a Groundhog Day episode is to show the characters learning from their mistakes after repeating the same day, eventually becoming better people. That was the entire point of the Bill Murray movie.

Sadly, The Flash's writers didn't seem to get that memo, as Barry & Iris get little or nothing out of their many times through the loop.

Barry inexplicably does the exact same thing over and over, never learning a blessed thing until the last cycle. Iris comes off even worse! She's content to live out the same day forever, just so she doesn't have to make a decision about expanding her news empire and becoming a media mogul. Seriously? In a time when many Americans have three jobs yet still can't afford their rent, she's whining about her own success! Feh!

• Whoever the cinematographer was on this episode reeeeally got their money's worth out of the smoke machine they rented. They use it in virtually every shot in the episode, filling the sets with vapor so they can blast visible God Rays through the windows.

I can only imagine what all that smoke's doing to the poor actors' lungs!

• At one point Barry goes to Joe's house to whine about Iris not wanting to live her life according to the mapbook. Joe picks up the book and leafs through it, and is surprised when it says Barry's gonna move into his house:

Joe: "You're gonna move into this house?"
Barry: "Yeah. Yeah, yeah. A couple years from now, Nora chips a tooth on those stairs. And then right here on this couch is where Bart says his first word."

Wait... so does this mean Joe & Cecile are gonna move out and sell their place to Barry? Or are he & Iris gonna move back in with their parents?

• After much soul searching and melodramatic tsuris, Barry realizes Iris is right and they shouldn't let their lives be dictated by the mapbook. He then tosses it into the fireplace, snaps his fingers and sends a bolt of flame into it, incinerating the book. Wait, what?

Did.. did Barry just use his Speed Force lightning to set something on fire? What the hell? 

OK, I know this is nothing new, as they've shown the destructive properties of Speed Force lightning many times before. Particularly in Season 8, where Barry & Thawne fought Godspeed with Speed Force lightsabers, for corn's sake.

It still seems wrong to me though. If Speed Force lightning really is combustable, then Barry should have burned down Central City years ago!

• Barry and Iris then decide to ignore their future and make their own decisions, hoping that'll break the loop. They revisit CCC Media, CCPD and the scene of Captain Boomerang 2.0's robbery.

It's the latter that bugs me. After so many trips through the loop, Barry knows the EXACT second that Boomerang 2.0 will show up to steal the Roemer Accelerator. So why doesn't Barry arrive on the scene a little bit early and stop him BEFORE Boomerang 2.0 gets there, to ensure he defeats him? 

Instead, he and Iris screw around at a resort somewhere, sipping mimosas until it's time for Boomerang 2.0 to show up. Sometimes I wonder about this show...

• Barry & Iris team up and manage to defeat Boomerang 2.0. He's not finished yet though, as he sets off a nuclear device right before he teleports away. With only seconds to act, Barry grabs the device and actually phases the explosion, causing it to pass harmlessly though the city and its citizens. Boy, are we gonna talk about this!

First of all, when Barry's informed the nuke will detonate in just twenty seconds, he seems curiously powerless to stop it. 

Apparently he forgot about Season 4's Enter Flashtime, in which a terrorist group set off another nuke in Central City. In that episode, Barry moved so fast that time seemed to stop for the rest of the world, giving him a chance to think of a way to prevent or reverse the explosion.

It also apparently never occurred to him to simply zoom the nuke out to the middle of the ocean, where it would do relatively little harm. Yes, Chester warns him that even touching the thing will cause it to explode, but so what? If Barry goes into Flashtime, then everything else stoips. He'd be able to move the device somewhere safe and get away before the explosion could even happen.

Too bad he completely forgot he has these amazing abilities and doesn't even consider using them here.

As for him phasing the explosion... Jaysis, where do I even start? A nuclear explosion has three main effects: The shockwave, the fireball and radiation. One could reasonably argue that a phased shockwave might be able to pass harmlessly through people and objects without affecting them, so I'll give 'em that one.

The fireball's another story though. Even if he was able to phase the actual flame, he couldn't affect the extreme heat it generates. Or the intense light given off by the blast. Anyone within several miles of the explosion would be blinded and then incinerated.

And then there's the radiation from the nuke. I'm not sure he's be able to phase that either, since it occurs on the atomic level and isn't a tangible thing.

I get that this is a comic book show, and as such subject to heaping helpings of Comic Book Science. But there's a limit to how far our suspension of disbelief can safely stretch, and I think this scene just snapped it.

• After the blast passes harmlessly through them, Chester & Allegra are so happy to still be alive they get carried away and embrace.

Thank the Christ Baby Jesus these two FINALLY kissed. Now maybe we can stop seeing them fumbling around one another every week like a couple of nervous, inexperienced teens. Does anyone out there really care about these two and their inexplicably awkward little relationship?

• After the crisis is averted, we get this aerial drone shot of Central City.

In reality it's a piece of video clipart of downtown Portland, Oregon, available on Shutterstock!

I'm perfectly OK with this! There's nothing wrong with using clipart, as that's what it's there for. Plus by spending just $179 on it instead of sending an expensive film crew out on location, there'll be more money left in the budget for cool special effects and comic book battles!

• In all, Barry & Iris lived through the time loop fifty eight times.

• Near the end of the episode, Joe tells Cecile he wants to leave Central City. 

This comes as no real surprise, as actor Jesse L. Martin announced he was leaving the show at the end of Season 8, but would make a handful of guest appearances this year. So what's that mean for Cecile? She appears in the opening titles so she's clearly not going anywhere. Are she and Joe gonna split up?

• Barry gets a text from Caitlin and rushes to her apartment. It just occurred to me that at this point in the show, Barry doesn't know she's supposed to be dead. Anyway, once there, he sees a Mystery Woman standing dramatically in front of the window (surrounded by those God Rays!). So... did she stand there like that for an hour or two, waiting for him to show up?

The Mystery Woman then turns, and we see it's just Caitlin with some cheap blue hair extensions. Barry asks if she's Caitlin or Frost, and she says neither— but won't actually come out and say just who she is.

Why all the secrecy? It's patently obvious that she's supposed to be an amalgam of the two, created when Caitlin entered her high-tech pod at the end of last season to try and resurrect Frost. Seems pretty obvious to me.

According to showrunner Eric Wallace, this new version of Caitlin/Frost will be known as "Snow."

By the way, Snow's reveal here retroactively makes Chillblaine look like a dimwitted boob (even more so than before, if that's possible).

If you'll recall, in the Season 8 finale Chillblaine agreed to help Caitlin bring back Frost. They built a resurrection pod, Caitlin stepped into it and Chillblaine fired it up. When it opened he gasped at the unseen figure inside and incredulously asked, "Who the hell are you?"

Turns out it was just his girlfriend with blue streaks in her hair. Yet somehow he was too dimwitted to recognize her?

• Boomerang 2.0 enters an empty warehouse, where he meets with the Shadowy Mystery Villain who's supplying him with tech. 

At first glance I thought it was Thawne yet again, as the show seems contractually obligated to bring him back at least once every season. But then the Mystery Villain speeds around the room and disappears, leaving a vaguely bat-shaped Speed Force symbol hanging in the air.

So what the hell's happening here, and who's this new evil speedster on the scene?

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE IDENTITY OF THE MYSTERY VILLAIN! LOOK AWAY IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHO IT IS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
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So the Mystery Villain appears to be Red Death, who first appeared in the comics a few years back. He started out as the Batman of Earth-52, who had a whole team of Robins (Dick, Jason, Tim and Damian) who were killed during various missions. 

Their deaths caused him to lose his mind, and he decided to do whatever it took to eliminate crime in Gotham once and for all. To that end he kidnapped the Earth-52 Flash and demanded he show him how to access the Speed Force. When Flash refused, Batman somehow stole his powers and became an unhinged speedster vigilante.

Note that this is a VERY condensed version of his origin, as it'd take another 50,000 words to adequately explain his backstory, and I ain't got the time or the desire to write it all out.

Obviously the Red Death seen in this episode isn't gonna be an other-dimensional version of Batman. That's because the Powers That Be have inexplicably decreed that the character can't be used in the Arrowverse. According to them, having a Batman on TV who's different from the one in the movies would be "too confusing" for the audience.

Never mind that Ben Affleck and Robert Pattinson are currently playing two different versions of the character, and Warner Bros. is bringing back Michael Keaton in the role as well. There's no way people could handle a fourth Dark Knight on TV.

So if Red Death ain't gonna be Batman, then who the heck is he?

Welp, according to Eric Wallace, this version of Red Death is... Batwoman. Specifically the Ryan Wilder version (played by Javicia Leslie), who was last seen in the recently canceled Batwoman TV series. 

So why is this new Red Death obsessed with destroying the Flash? What could he possibly have done to turn her from hero to villain? I'm assuming that'll all be revealed in future episodes.

Personally I'm not a fan of any of this. Not because they've race, gender and orientation-swapped the Red Death character— that's just par for the course these days. My beef with it is it's now Red Death in name only.

What's the point of taking a fan-favorite character and stripping away virtually everything that made them popular in the first place? If you have to fundamentally change a character until they're unrecognizable to get them to work in your script, then maybe choose a different one instead— one who'd work without needing a ton of alteration? Surely in the entire DC Universe there was a character better suited as a Big Bad?

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