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The Flash s1.18 "All Star Team Up" Review

When it comes to drama there’s an accepted wisdom that it’s much easier to create interesting villains than heroes. Certainly in Gotham the villains are invariably the best thing about any given episode. The Flash, however, bucks the trend week-in week-out, and doesn’t suffer much because it.

We’ve said before that the villains of the week in The Flash are rarely more than a motive and a themed gimmick. There can be no better example than the Bug-Eyed Bandit in “All Star Team Up”. There’s the whole bee shtick, right down to a beehive haircut and honeycomb effect on her dress and computer monitor. She says things like “the sting of betrayal” and “the queen of this hive”. She’s out for revenge on the people who tried to stop her research. And… that’s it.

To a large extent it doesn’t matter. If the writers start beefing up the villains it could be at the expense of other things the show does well – chiefly the relationships between the key characters, the time travel arc plot and laying Easter Eggs like Superchicken. Besides, while the villains of the week are so much chaff, Wells more than makes up for that as the behind-the-scenes über-villain.

And there’s certainly a lot to enjoy this week, in another gag-packed crossover with Arrow. Felicity and Ray/The Atom fit into Central City like they were written for The Flash, and once again the show has great fun playing host to Geeks Reunited. It’s fun, it’s action-packed, it’s visually stunning and the dialogue is rammed with bad puns, cultural references, in-jokes and good old-fashioned wit. There are some classy character moments, the arc plot inches forward and a couple of revelations are clearly setting up the season finale. It’s not a stand-out episode but it’s a solidly entertaining one.

Still, it does seem a waste of guest stars like Emily Kinney to give them such thin roles. Maybe they like the easy money and the chance to wear silly costumes? There’s also a danger that the meta-villains could become a cliché with which to beat the show in coming seasons. Their disposability and interchangeability is fun for now, but it could become wearing.

Mega-Crossover

This is the second appearance of Hudson University in The Flash (after “Revenge Of The Rogues”). It’s a fictional educational establishment which has appeared in a number of US TV shows, primarily Law & Order and its spin-offs and then in shows such as Castle, Beauty And The Beast and Murder, She Wrote. It’s usually depicted as a New York establishment but appears to have opened a campus in Central City now.

Besides, surely the writers could cut back on the number of scenes featuring Iris being really selfish and sulky? Poor Eddie, stuck between a rock and a hard face. Perhaps this is why the Thawne family end up having a grudge against the Allens? With seemingly everyone in Central City except Iris knowing Barry’s secret, Eddie must surely be thinking, “Hang on… how come I’m the one who has to sacrifice my relationship? Is Barry engineering this to drive her away from me?” If anything, it’s Eddie who has the right to be paranoid, not Iris.

After all, the writers don’t always paint Barry in a 100 per cent glowing light. Here, once again, he’s shown to be cocky and overconfident when tracking down the C-list villains at the start of the episode, boasting, “I’m just curious but… you guys not heard of me or what?” No wonder Eddie gives him that odd what-a-jerk look. This is not a criticism; it makes a change to have a superhero who isn’t all brooding and “My powers are a curse!” He’s like Tennant’s Doctor with go-faster stripes. But he should bear in mind that old proverb about pride and falls.

The only real spanner in the works here are Cisco’s rather convenient “dreams”. In the comics Cisco is the superhero Vibe, one of whose powers is the ability to see into the multiverse, so you could argue there’s a precedent. But this Cisco has no powers as far as we know, and so his flashbacks to an alternate time-line that’s been wiped out feel totally unmotivated – a bit of a scripting cheat to help the writers out of a hole.

So now even more people know secrets that Iris doesn’t. However, Caitlin has repeatedly proven to be the worst liar in the world (she really should learn not to suck on that bottom lip) so expect the Central City Picture News to have the story splashed over its front page next week.

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Best Line

Tina: “Did you finally find my tachyon prototype or are you here to blackmail me for another one?”
Wells: “Do you have another one?”

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52-Spotting

This week’s reference to DC’s New 52 could be seen on the registration plate of the STAR Labs van.

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A Very Bad Idea

Considering that The Flash is the unofficial League of Really Crap Liars, inviting Iris to a meal where everybody but her knows Barry’s secret must rate as one of the stupidest ideas in history.

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Unexpected Guest Star

Did anybody else think that the flasher arrested at the start of the episode looked uncannily like Michael Keaton in Birdman? Well, he did expose himself in Times Square in that film. And how come there were no Flash/flasher gags?

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In-Joke #1

Caitlin: “Is that a bird?”
Cisco: “It’s a plane.”
Felicity: “It’s my boyfriend.”

Brandon Routh, who plays Ray Palmer/The Atom, was, of course, once Clark Kent/Superman in Superman Returns.

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In-Joke #2

When Felicity says, “I thought Central City was supposed to be the fun one,” she’s also clearly referring to the difference in tone between The Flash and Arrow too.

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It’s Wossername

Emily Kinney (Brie Larvan/The Bug-Eyed Bandit) arrives in The Flash fresh from The Walking Dead where she played Beth Greene. In the DC comics universe, the Bug-Eyed Bandit is a male villain (Bertram), usually a foe of the Atom, who first appeared in Atom #26 (1966).

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In-Joke #3

Cisco’s “Why does it have to be bees?” paraphrases Indiana Jones’s reaction to snakes in Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

InfoArrows mates Felicity and The Atom visit STAR Labs just as a woman with an army of robot bees starts killing old rivals.

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