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The Flash S1.05 Plastique Review

“Plastique”, despite some standout elements, is The Flash’s least impressive instalment so far. The script feels rushed and perfunctory in places while the workmanlike direction often fails to paper over the cracks. This culminates in a climax that – until some impressive special FX save the day – is disappointingly flat and contrived. When Barry rushes to stop Bette from killing Eiling, what should be a huge dramatic moment is over in a blink of an eye. Bette’s change of heart is so sudden she seems to be the one with super speed, and then – bang – she’s dead, trying, but failing, to tell Barry with her last breath that Wells is a bit of a bastard. The whole scene is so half-hearted and emotionally flat it feels like the show is just in a hurry to go, “Look! Pretty explosion! Tidal wave!”

Admittedly, this action set-piece is splendid. One thing The Flash is getting right is making sure there are one or two really memorable visual set pieces per episode.

Another thing the episode has going for it is the arrival of General Eiling, played with relish by Clancy Brown. The man manages to growl lines like, “You heard him Joe – give me what I want,” sound like the most dangerous threats ever uttered without needing to raise his voice. He looks set to be a great recurring character.

Meta-Reference

When Joe muses, “So, human bomb. Must be Tuesday in Central City,” that’s an in-joke referring to the fact that The Flash airs on Tuesdays in the States (and the UK, but that’s a coincidence).

Other than these and the show’s other usual dependable elements (the fun, easy-going relationship between Barry, Cisco and Caitlin; Wells showing the shadowy side of his character; a final scene that raises the hairs on your neck as the plot thickens), the episode is a little humdrum. Bette only ever feels like a half-developed character adding to the lack of emotional clout to her death. Barry’s rooftop chat with Iris has an almost complete lack of spark or frisson. Barry’s (lack of) drinking problems is a forgettable and underdeveloped running gag.

If “Plastique” is the blueprint for what makes an “average” episode of The Flash, then things could be a whole lot worse. It’s entertaining fluff and only really disappointing because the show’s been so good so far.

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It's Wotsisname

Guest star Clancy Brown, who plays General Eiling, was the Kurgan in the original Highlander and Captain Hadley* in The Shawshank Redemption, but he also has DC credentials: he’s been the voice of Lex Luthor in various animated Superman cartoons, the voice of Parallax in the Green Lantern movie and the voice of Zartok in Green Lantern: The Animated Series.
*Incidentally, there’s a character called Dr Harold Hadley in this episode.

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Living In The Plastique Age

Plastique was introduced into the DC Comics universe as an enemy for Firestorm in Firestorm Volume Two #7 (1982).

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General Knowledge

In the DC Comics universe Eiling was the dodgy officer who helped turn Nathaniel Adam into Captain Adam, and then blackmailed him into working for the military (when he was given the alias Cameron Scott – the name given as Plastique’s “emergency contact” in this episode of The Flash). He was first introduced in Captain Atom #1 in a run that also featured Plastique.

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Too Much Proof

Alcohol cannot be 500 proof (which is what Caitlin claims the drink she concocts for Barry is). Pure alcohol is 200 proof.

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Calculating

Presumably Dr Wells “calculates” that Barry needs to reach a speed of “approximately 650mph” to run on water so quickly, because he knows the figure already.

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52-Spotting

Just that trusty old war horse Channel 52 this week (it’s cropped up in Arrow too, and is based on the fictional news channel in DC comics that “reported” on New 52 events).

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I Am Grodd – The Sequel

Just a reminder, really: we saw the super-ape Grodd’s cell in the pilot episode, but empty. Presumably he escaped in the wake of the STAR labs explosion, though it’s just as likely Wells released him.

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New Powers

Barry discovers three new powers this week: the ability to run up walls; the ability to run on water; and the ability to know exactly where to stand to be beautifully backlit.

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Best Line

Barry: “Guys, there’s a window washer and he’s gonna fall.” Cisco: “Don’t try and catch him. You don’t have super strength.” Barry: “Well, is there like a bed store near here. What if I get a bunch of mattresses and stack ’em?” Caitlin: “Barry, this isn’t a Road Runner cartoon.”

The Flash airs on Sky 1 in the UK and the CW in the US on Tuesday nights.

WritersAaron Helbing, Todd Helbing, Brooke Eikmeier
DirectorDermott Downs
The one whereBarry has to deal with a metahuman whose touch turns objects into bombs.

More Info

Available platformsTV