Last week we pointed how that episode was so chock full of terrible puns there might not be any left for future episodes. Well, there’s only one cringeworthy pun in the actual script this week (“Sorry guys,” says Barry after being held up, “I got a little held up”) but – and it’s a big but – the flipping’ episode title here is a groansome pun: because as well as the episode featuring a villain who causes a power outage, Barry loses his powers! What’s that noise? Ah, just the sound of writers hammering home a point.
But as we also said last week, The Flash does all this guff with such an unabashed twinkle in its eye, you end up loving the silliness of it all.
Like last week, we’re spared a cod-philosophising Barry voiceover. Instead we have Wells giving a secret journal entry, and it’s a clever framing device for the episode, giving it a slightly different edge from the starting block. Well, the starting block bar a quick flashback to the STAR Labs explosion. This “origin of Blackout” scene isn’t strictly speaking narratively necessary (all the info we need to know is delivered later in the episode through dialogue) but again, it throws the emphasis of the episode on Wells, recapping this pivotal moment in his life from an outsider’s point of view.
So in an episode about Barry losing his power, it’s Wells that we learn more about, and he’s turning out to be very intriguing indeed. It’s interesting that he doesn’t seem to care about coming across as a bastard on occasion; he doesn’t try to lie about releasing Girder to fight Blackout when the energy vampire breaks into Star Labs. He clearly has enough belief in his own opinions that he’s sure he can convince others he’s right too. Hubris?
It’s also notable that when he’s in very real danger from Blackout, he doesn’t get out of his wheelchair and skidaddle. That’s some commitment to a lie there.
William Tockman, aka The Clock King, previously appeared in the season two Arrow episode “Time Of Death” earlier in 2014. He is based on the time-obsessed comic villain who was first introduced in World’s Finest Comics #111 (1960). A different version of the character, Tempus Fugate, was the main antagonist in one of the finest animated Batman episodes ever – “The Clock King”.
Slightly more worrying is that he seems less concerned that Barry’s heroics could get him killed than with the fact that Barry’s heroics mean less “study time”. He only warns Barry against being reckless when he’s powerless; Wells seems pretty sure that a fully-powered-up Barry is invincible.
So, a powerful episode for the doctor then. Barry, meanwhile, has to undergo “standard superhero plot line #5” with the loss of his powers. It comes to every Spandex warrior sooner or later, and this show handles it efficiently if with no great originality.
What the episode does have going for it are a very exciting supervillain versus supervillain slugfest between Girder and Blackout, and a B-plot that could easily have been an A-plot (after all, the siege is a staple of US crime shows). The Clock King is an excellent bad guy, played with a nervy edginess by Robert Knepper, who dominates the screen whenever he appears. Let’s hope he’s coming back.
Just a couple of other minor minuses before we go. Chess analogies should be banned from sci-fi. Admittedly, The Flash this episode doesn't go for the whole “dark versus light” shtick but it’s still guilty of a “We’re all pawns to you!” moment. Why can’t characters in telefantasy play something else for a change? We’d love to see some Connect Four or Mousetrap analogies. Actually, Connect Four would be a great analogy for The Flash because the playing pieces are red and yellow. We should start a campaign!
And finally… dear lord, Barry’s chat-up lines are pathetic. When he says to Iris, “You’re worth being on time for,” you have to give full credit to the girl for not vomming.
Did You Spot?
When Barry is being (unsuccessfully) mugged there's a poster on the wall behind him for Nighthawk & Cinnamon, presumably based on the two occasionally lip-locking character from the DC comics universe.
Wells calls the AI in his secret den “Gideon” but it sounds distinctly female to us. Indeed, it’s voiced by Morena Baccarin of Firefly and the V remake fame (which leads us to believe there’s a much bigger role for Gideon planned).
As well as a chat outside “Intake 52” again, all the entries in Wells’s journal are prefixed “ENTRY-52”, and Gideon says that she has checked for references to the Flash and Barry Allen 3,452 times.
Many of the names listed by Wells as having died on the night of the STAR Labs explosion did indeed have “potential” – they are the real names of various DC superheroes. Aside from Ronnie Raymond, who’ll become Firestorm, and we already know is still alive, Wells mentions: Ralph Dibny (the Elongated Man), Al Rothstein (Nuklon/Atom Smasher, Grant Emerson (Damage), Will Everett (Amazing Man) and Bea DaCosta (Fire).
Wells: “I hurt a lot of people that night.” Farooq: “People? You don’t even know their names.” Wells: [lists the names then…] “I know the names of everyone that died that night – I know that they mattered. And the fact that the world is now deprived of their potential is something that I have to live with every day.”
The Flash airs on Sky 1 in the UK and the CW in the US on Tuesday nights.