Marc Alan Fishman: The Flash Reaches Light Speed
So I’ve gabbed about Gotham. I’ve adjudicated over Agents of SHIELD. Isn’t it time I got flustered over The Flash? After the episode debuting this week, “Out of Time”, I’m beside myself with glee. For those who saw the episode, that knowing smirk over my pun-tacular metaphor means we’re going to be the best of friends. For those who are missing out on the festivities – or don’t wish to spoil themselves having not seen the episode yet – I’ll see you next week.
OK, are the buzzkillers gone? Good. My god, what an episode! The Flash started off with a bang – melding the innocence of the silver age, with a well-rendered modern edge – and has quickly become appointment DVR television for the ole Fish-man. Whereas I boot up an episode of Gotham with tepid hope, and SHIELD with a yearning for less angst, I hit play at breakneck speeds when Grant Gustin slips in the red leather and lightning bolt ear cups. And “Out of Time” ensured that amongst all the comic-to-TV series being blasted throughout the airwaves these days, The Flash is the best one on by leaps and bound.
If I’m to ape my old Snarky Synopsis column from www.MichaelDavisWorld, allow me to sum up what all we saw this week. We callback to the very first episode wherein the Martin brothers kill Joe West’s partner and take off in a biplane. Lucky for them, Dr. Wells’ particle accelerator don’ blowed up, and the resulting storm they pilot through. It splits their plane and leaves the crappy criminals imbued with wizard-like power over the weather. But the brothers were separated by the crash, and ole Mark Martin (the older of the pair) wouldn’t catch up to his kin before Joe would put two bullets through his chest. Now, some time later, Mark returns to get his revenge (on the revenge Joe got on his brother for killing his partner, I suppose?). What follows – in between some typical CW-style love quadrilateral drivel – is a breakneck deluge of amazing exposition.
The new Weather Wizard attempts to murder Joe and nails (but doesn’t kill) the captain of the squad instead. He captures Joe and lures Barry and Iris out into the open – where a waiting tsunami begins to crest. Barry reveals to Iris he’s the Flash! Caitlin Snow preps the Flash to fight off the impending tidal wave with a wall of wind to contain it. And for the thousandth time in the show’s history, Barry asks “How fast do I need to go?” Of course the answer is always “as fast as you can, dummy!” Hence, he begins to run from one edge of the beach to the other at breakneck speeds. As the counter wall begins to rise, to subside the decimation, a smash cut lands Barry Allen mysteriously back to a familiar street-corner, literally an evening ago!
Oh, and while all of that was happening Dr. Wells revealed to the ever-curios Cisco that he was indeed the Reverse Flash, Eobard Thawne, trapped in the past after attempting to murder a young Barry Allen. And what does Cisco get for having the man who took him in practically as family, for finding out the juicy little spoiler? He gets his innards shaken, not stirred. And we’d be devastated over this… had Barry not literally traveled back in time to end the episode.
We Flash followers have known that time travel was on the horizon. Enough episodes had hinted at it to warrant more than a passing notion. And as Joe’s suspicions of Dr. Wells swallowed Cisco in just a few episodes ago, the end was nigh. But here we’re given the most dubious of double-backs. Having Barry now alter the timeline, we’re treated to the Hitchcockian allure of seeing the bomb under the table, whilst Barry be forced to save us from it. It’s the kind of storytelling that was made for the comic-to-TV adaptation. The silly psuedo-science of metahumans and speed forces are combined with well-worn characters who’ve spent just enough time with us for we, the audience, to truly care about their well being.
And at the center of it, a happy, smart, fun-to-watch hero. It’s something literally every other comic book TV show on today is sorely missing. Jim Gordon can’t smile without seething. Skye, Coulson, and their gang can’t smile without it being a smirk. And Arrow… c’mon! Barry Allen has not been without his flaws, failures, and share of doubt. But the overarching message week after week has been one of optimism and good will. The Flash has introduced us to plenty of villains of the week, but knows that there’s no use in wasting them away after a single appearance. And by being inspired by the comics that gave birth to itself, instead of feeling like it’s a burden to bear, we’re treated to serialized stories that don’t always pile on angst and guilt. By having a definitive end to the first Martin brother, we’re given the potent return of his revenge-seeking brother (who we knew must have existed, versus some damning plot device). And with Cisco getting to hear the villainous monologue of H. Wells (natch) only to have the entire story Superman: The Movie its way back to a world where it hasn’t happened yet? Well, that’s called having your cake and eating it too.
The Flash is comic book TV done well. Perhaps it’s never been done this slick, this smart, and this fun. “Out of Time” maybe the episode that proves that even the most comic book of concepts can be done sans snark. And that my friends… is a Flash fact.