This week on The Flash, a metahuman with combustion powers is not a criminal for once, but a soldier in over her head, while Iris takes another step into investigating the Streak — to Barry’s dismay.
Of the episodes The Flash has aired thus far, this one probably has the weakest overall story that it grabs from the extensive DC Universe. Another tertiary character is brought in as a metahuman who isn’t evil, but a regular soldier with PTSD who is literally a ticking time bomb. Her powers won’t let her be a hero or villain. She’s a necessary person for the young hero Barry Allen to meet because she’s doomed to die and Barry won’t be able to save her anyway, but she’s also a bit boring with fuzzy motivations.
Bette/Plastique (as Cisco names her) changes her motivations like she changes her molecular structure, and she’s really there to introduce a greater threat: General Eiling (more on that later).
What is great are the little moments of the show. The moments where Joe laughs at Barry’s vocal abilities (as the perfect stand-in for the audience) or when Caitlin worries about acting like Felicity or Wells’ tiny moments of deception — those matter. They do so much more to endear the characters to us and make that inevitably final act conflict mean something. Sure, Barry is in danger at the end of every episode and we know he’ll survive, but for us to care about everyone else whose fates are not wrapped up in the title of the show (though they could kill Barry off and replace him with Wally West or something) is hard work.
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Hanging Out Down the Street, The Same Old Thing We Did Last Week
Last week, we were treated with the wonderful Felicity Smoak, and her contagious energy left an imprint on The Flash in a good way. The gang hanging out with Iris and Eddie is a fun way to introduce that the trio of pals/heroes is working well and meshing with Barry’s life. Also, it’s a nice way to remind us that Barry’s still hopelessly in love with Iris and that Eddie is a series regular!
Everyone is called away when the freak of the week breaks into some top secret file room and leaves a “bomb” in her wake as Barry runs up the side of a building to save a window cleaner and happens to be caught by Iris, in the flesh. I’ve been championing Iris to do something since the pilot and finally she has a plot. Would I have liked it to be more about Iris-related things and less about Iris being the best best friend to Barry? Sure. But I’ll take what I can get.
Joe asks Barry to intervene on Iris blogging about the Streak. Iris takes Barry’s plea as him not taking her blog seriously so she puts her name on it. The two know that there is a certain danger in harboring knowledge about a masked hero (and I wonder if the DC universe has fictional superheroes as well as real ones).
But Iris is adamant about this so we get our first Superman/Lois Lane moment of the show. And on a rooftop, no less! Barry dressed as “The Streak” warns her to stop writing about him, but Iris is adamant. To Iris, writing about the Streak validates all of her friend’s crazy theories about the impossible. It’s not clear if she was listening or always believed Barry, but she stuck by him no matter what. It’s really touching to see Iris speak about Barry to Barry as a way of proving how much she loves him (even if she doesn’t see him that way yet).
Iris’ love for Barry (who if you don’t love, then why are you watching?) is heartbreaking at their later scene. Barry asks Iris one last time not to write about this, lying that he put his family stuff behind him. Iris is not stupid, even if she couldn’t hear through Barry’s ridiculous voice modifications, and she demands the truth. Barry can’t give her the truth, so he sort of “breaks up” with her. He asks for space since they can’t get along and Iris won’t budge anyway. When we see her crying, it feels earned. That is a weird thing to say, but because of this episode, we better understand that Barry is very important to Iris and she’s determined to give people hope. That’s really awesome.
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General Eiling and Dr. Wells
I have mostly glossed over the meat of the episode’s freak of the week — Bette/Plastique — but this is mainly because she was more plot device than character (which is super icky since this aired on Veterans Day). The freak of the week’s main purpose is to introduce us to the shady General Eiling and the even shadier Wells.
General Eiling wanted to experiment on humans and soldiers to find people very similar to metahumans and he is determined to capture Plastique. In the past, he used to do business with Wells, who claims he backed out once he realized what the General’s true intentions were. In a flashback to five years earlier, however, Wells is just as corrupt over his inhumane experiments on … Gorilla Grodd, a big villain in The Flash universe and DC comics. I’m not sure The Flash has the budget for an animatronic gorilla, but we’ll see how that goes.
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— I know Grant Gustin is 24-ish and Barry Allen says he is 25, but I’m still shaking my head like nope. He really looks so young.
— Seriously, though, Joe West laughing at Barry’s vocal power was my exact reaction. Also, of course Joe West knows Barry is in love with his daughter. He probably ships them together.
— The show is actually really good at humanizing its characters with humor. Cisco’s inappropriate line at Bette or Joe West laughing and Barry’s amazing shoulder shrug in the last episode are some great standouts. I just feel immense joy watching this show.
— If anything needs to die a quick death, it’s the voiceovers. It’s a crutch that The Flash will quickly outgrow. Also, here’s a plot hole for the writers to fix: where does Barry live? If not with the Wests and not at S.T.A.R. labs, then where?
— If you are looking at some more shows to watch in the DC universe, I just binged through the animated show Young Justice, which was very excellent if not tragically cancelled.
— From my notes: Iris really made her name QUITE LARGE in her byline.
— Theory Corner: Wells is also a metahuman with the power of persuasion. How else did he get Bette/Plastique to do his bidding without any hesitations?
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)