Bullies – superheroes just don’t realise how lucky they were to have them. They’re a kind of rite of passage, and no superhero truly has a moral compass unless at some point in their teenage years they were given a wedgie or had their head put down a toilet.
The Flash clearly knows this to be true and even has its geek trio playing a game of my-bully-was-bigger-than-yours at one point. It’s a typically silly moment from an episode that’s low on real drama but bursting at the seams with funny character moments and self-consciously groansome lines. The show has never been a stranger to wink-at-camera lines, but this week has so many you’re left wondering if there are any gags left for future scripts.
So we get “Speed reading” (ho ho ho), “A man of steel” (Dr Wells practically strokes his chin at that one), “An Iron Fist?”, “Just a little beat, sir” (after Barry come off worse in a fight), “You need a car”/“I’m usually okay on foot”, “You need to work on your speed”. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Forget Gotham; the true spirit of ’60s Batman lives on in Central City.
But you know what? It works. It’s amusing. It’s this show’s comfy, dopey, loveable signature style, and the cast knows what level to play it at.
The main plot is serviceable, if hardly memorable. The idea that eternal bully Tony Woodward just craves attention/publicity feels a little bit lost in the wash, but it’s an angle that just about stops him being another anonymous metahuman-of-the-week. Some of his metal skin visual effects are bit sub-par, though – more often it looks like he’s made from grey leather.
This week the opening and closing voiceovers are spoken by Iris, rather than Barry.
It’s slightly disappointing that the show seems to be embracing one ancient superhero cliché: boy loves girl who loves his masked alter-ego. Especially as it has no real new twist to offer, and there’s very little spark between Iris and Barry and/or The Flash. It also means that big event of the episode – the Red Streak is now officially The Flash – feels far from the iconic moment it should be.
But hey ho, this is clearly an ongoing plot that’s here to stay. Maybe there are some surprises in store.
The most compelling and, presumably, ongoing-plot-pivotal scenes of the episode, however, involve Joe and Dr Wells. As Joe draws uncomfortably close to the truth, it’s fascinating to see Wells squirm but keep his cool. There’s a wonderfully edgy exchange early on when Joe says, “Long before your machine gave Barry his powers...” and Wells testily replies, “An accident gave Barry his powers.” It’s a real game of, “How much do you know about how much I know about how much you know?”
Later, Wells turns the tables on Joe completely, actually making the guy feel sorry for him. Hell, the audience almost has sympathy for him when he says, “I thought we were just two guys out for a drink.” Ultimately, will Wells turn out to be a just consummate actor or will he be one of those villains you actually feel a little bit sorry for?
Possibly not, considering the final scene. Presumably that was Wells doing the Reverse Flash shtick? Or if not, someone he has some control over.
In the DC comics universe Tony Woodward is the supervillain Girder who has a very similar origins and powers. He was co-created by Geoff Johns (along with artist Ethan Van Sciver) who is also credited as a co-creator of this show, and writes the occasional episode. Girder first appeared in The Flash: Iron Heights (2001).
Blimey, we’re going to have to rechristen Iris’s boyfriend Eddie Eagle-Eye Thawne. We’re amazed he could see the sparks fly off Woodward’s face when the guy was driving towards him at speed, at night and was a fair distance off when he was being shot at.
You have to acknowledge the fact that the teenage Tony Woodwood wears braces, considering he becomes a metahuman with metal flesh.
We’re glad somebody in the show – specifically Caitlin – points out that Barry’s rooftop chats with the Flash-smitten Iris are a little bit creepy. We were worried the writers though they were supposed to be sweet. They aren’t.
Did You Spot?
Nice reference to one of the “other” Flashes from the comics – Jay Garrick. He lives in Keystone City in the comics, which is where this piece of action takes place.
Cisco gets very excited about sonic booms, doesn’t he? Anyone would think he might be destined to become a metahuman with sonic abilities called Vibe.
Ah, now that’s a much better look at the Firestorm logo on the blast doors.
Caitlin: “Check the math. Your dispersal models don’t correlate.” Cisco: “They do if you factor in the seasonal fluctuations and reproduction cycles.” Dr Wells: “What exactly are we debating?” Caitlin: “The average number of bugs Barry swallows in a day of running.” Dr Wells: “I look forward to seeing you accept your Nobel.”
The Flash airs on Sky 1 in the UK and the CW in the US on Tuesday nights.