There's a boundary between the Arrowverse and the real world, and it's one that's guarded by superpowers, aliens and hooded vigilantes. Our emotions bridge the gulf, creating a sense of familiarity as our day-to-day troubles fall away. Until, of course, reality finds a way to break through.
For The Flash, that moment happened as Barry (Grant Gustin) reveled in a return to normalcy. Unfortunately for the speedster, his spirits were dashed the moment he stepped foot into the CCPD. It was the same moment our own 24-hour news cycle ripped a hole in the multiverse.
"We've got a problem that I'm not sure how to fix. Some people don't think you should be back on the force," Captain Singh (Patrick Sabongui) informed Barry as he laid out the CSI's forced leave and the city's sense of his culpability. "People nowadays will believe anything. Fake news, social media. Allegations are treated as facts."
Fake news. Social media. Allegations. It's as if Singh was determined to list off every reason why we'd switched off CNN/MSNBC/FOX and clicked on The CW for a brief, blissful hour of sticking our heads in the sand. There's little doubt Barry Allen is a victim of internet vitriol, the subject of a stream of conspiracy theories spurred on by media speculation. His case was sensational, after all -- an upstanding citizen turned stalker and homicidal maniac, a man who would use his wedding gift to murder in cold blood -- and undoubtedly received headline after headline from his hometown to Star City.
The core of the problem, however, lies in the credence Singh unwittingly gave those sources. We know Barry isn't a killer, but we also know the DeVoe that entered the courtroom wouldn't be able to establish his bona fides if his life depended on it. In other words, people are right to take to fake news and social media with outlandish claims of metahuman trickery and alien interference.
Aside from accidentally encouraging the ills of sites like Breitbart, The Flash
appeared to take a swipe at the "Me Too" movement. Unintentional or not, Singh's denouncement of allegations cast aspersions on the punishment of sexual harassers, even as a steady stream of corroboration works to morph those allegations into hard-won facts. It's as if the writers want to pour cold water on a victim's courage to step forward. Certainly an odd sentiment from a series' that recently had to remove its showrunner after the Hollywood purge elucidated his unbecoming behaviors
This isn't to say superhero series should never mirror the world around us. Agents of SHIELD produced particularly strong dialogue around propaganda during season 4, and Black Lightning has intentionally dropped its heroes into the real world, spurring vital conversations about everything from racism to gangs. The Arrowverse merely has a terrible track record when it comes to merging fact and fiction -- everyone remembers last year's panned episode of Arrow during which Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) had to equivocate on gun control. Yes, that was an important message, but it turned into the same slog we see when we look up at Capitol Hill.
Do you think The Flash should leave us to ponder political woes over our breakfast cereal, or should it take another stab at addressing the trends of 2018? Does it jolt you out of the narrative, or are you interested to see how your favorite hero handles issues you face every day? Was this simply a writers' stumble on the way to a better integration of timely discourse? Sound off in the comments below!
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Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW. (Image courtesy of The CW)