I have mentioned previously on this blog, and to friends, that the TV series The Flash (from CW) is a show I genuinely enjoy, but at the same time am regularly frustrated by the quality of some of the writing. To be fair, I get the pressure on writers that work on recurring TV series like this. Short turnaround times, high pressure to balance faithfulness to the source material, while still keeping fresh, creating overarching series plots, while also delivering regular 40 minute essentially self contained stories for each episode. This is not about bashing the writers. This is about deconstructing the reasons I can feel passionately in both positive and negative aspects for the same show.
So I will work through each episode, deconstructing and taking down commentary as I go. I will be dropping spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go watch it and then come back. If you don’t plan on watching it, then this will have no contextual relevance to you.
I did collect comics, including DC, when I was younger. So I am not completely ignorant of the Flash’s lore, while at the same time, most of my collection was during periods when Barry Allen was not The Flash.
And I will put this foreward at the beginning of the post for each episode, just like The Flash has that little introductory ‘My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive’ section at the beginning of each episode. Also, my text will be colour coded. Green for parts that I thought worked well. Pink for parts that bugged me. Red for parts that had me yelling at the screen in incredulity. And blue for parts that are neutral or just commentary, observations or speculation.
Season 1 Episode 3 – Things you can’t outrun
Open with Barry geeking out about zombie movies. This is perfectly in character for a nerd / geek.
Iris knows the streak is a guy. Will not even entertain the vaguest notion that it could be anything else and claims her intuition is the source of her infallible knowledge. Blech. At least let her have managed to find a tweet or two something from someone the streak has helped already.
Also the streak is just because Smallville already did the blur when they approached the origin of the superhero name in a very very very similar fashion.
Boyfriend calls Iris just to push home the Friendzone level 999 situation. Instantly endearing Barry to, as some social sites would put it, the fedora wearing forever aloners. Which, in a geek fandom, is probably not an insignificant demographic. (I am probably a fedora and a couple of cats shy of qualifying for that category)
No issue with Barry knowing police codes. If he is a CSI, he should. The idea that Cisco would even try and use them without having googled the right code, though. Less believable. But obviously a humour set up so who cares.
Barry zooms off the middle of a crowd of people. Because nobody could have by any chance accidentally been looking at him. Or some traffic camera or CCTV or security camera, even though there is always one that practially anyone can hack in to at a moments notice when they need to find somebody for the purpose of plot progression. Hey, here’s an idea. Somewhere down the track some random just happens to pick up Barry going whoosh and tries to blackmail him about his secret identity. Leading to Barry and his science posse coming up with software to scan those feeds and delete footage that might expose him in the future. That software eventually becomes the AI we meet toward the end of the season.
Okay, Barry zooming the baddie into the back of the car is coool to watch. But for physics sake, the effect on a moving vehicle when a door opens at the speed Barry travelled should have had some effect on the driving or at least the air displacement.
Jogging joke is corny. Suits the show though.
Baddie starts choking. But…..must…..finish……making……threatening…….point…….
“It’s not like I want a museum build in my name.” Wink to fanboys, and a good one.
Side note: Despite remembering the previous Flash TV series from the 90s. It took me a while to click that John Wesley Shipp who plays Barry’s dad was the Flash from that series.
Barry should be able to identify signs of hypoxia on sight. Perhaps even a toxin induced hypoxia. But not identifying the source as poison gas without lab tests. Lazy for expedience.
Eddie apparently already figured out it was poison gas since he was looking for a way for it to be pumped in from the outside even without CSI training. What do we even need Barry here for? Hey, maybe their water was spiked? Or a contact poison? More laziness for expedience.
And Barry makes the intuitive leap of sentient gas. Facepalm. Did someone mistake the storyboard for a script?
Barry says what should be reacted to as the dumbest idea ever. Joe follows it up with perhaps the single most suspicious way to respond. Joe could have at least implied that he was about to chew Barry out for being a moron. Eddie eats it up and goes on the obviously busy work errand without so much as a hiccup.
Barry’s explanation explains nothing. Aside from whatever x-ray vision ability enabled him to know that ‘They all started in the same spot’, the nature of gas is to enter at a central spot and diffuse. The most suspicous part should be that poison gas is normally not visible, so the only reason for a dude to shoot at the window is by noticing an odd smell just as his buds are collapsing to the floor. And the idea that they should all have been affected at the same time is rubbish. While poison gas will kill, it isn’t instantaneous (at least for any kind of gas that Barry has any reason to suspect being used). And NOTHING about guys laying in positions suggest that they were killed one by one. Apparently Flash is the only show on TV with a CSI that lacks a science advisor.
Joe seeks back up from the Scoobies. Weaksauce but given the even weaker way they seem to jump to the sentient gas monster theory, is just building on that momentum. Should have had Barry collect samples, find something impossible under a microscope or mass-spectrometer, then call in the Scoobies. But I guess there is only so much logic one can fit in to a time restricted episode.
At least the Scoobies brainstorm theories and mechanics of the villain. Not just jumping immediately to a conclusion based on pretty much nothing. Well, sort of. Wells does cut it short. But he probably knew the answer going in.
Joe suggesting Wells & Co come up with a way to illegally detain metas is lazy and out of character. Joe still doesn’t trust Wells. And no law enforcer with the integrity Joe portrays would not at least first try and convince official channels of addressing the issue of how to handle meta criminals. And later in the series Joe criticises the arrangement that he just suggested.
Caitlin’s reluctance to visit the accelerator is perfect.
Flashback sequence. Why would Cisco even mention an incoming storm? And given that he did, why would Wells dismiss it as nothing if Cisco, smart and respected by Wells as he is, thought it was important enough to mention. Actually, skip the latter question. Wells dismisses it because he already knew (wibbly wobbly timey wimey – its easy to lose track sometimes).
Fair reminder of Ronnie to prep for upcoming plot.
Given Wells understanding of what is coming, his reaction to the floating champagne is interesting. He doesn’t really do so well at hiding his excitement at making things go the way he wants them. Of course, he could have been rehearsing this day for a very long time so as to play the part well. But given that, his doofy speech with its lame waiting for this for centuries moment doesn’t have the same fit.
Wells seeking Caitlin to go to the accelerator is foolish, but Barry’s intervention is (quietly) heroic so just a set up. Could have been a green section had the set up been more subtle.
Danielle Panabaker earns herself a green in this episode. She doesn’t stand out often for me in the series so far, but does this one incredibly well.
Barry has a personal physician who he brings to work (thats not weird at all) .
Eddie pops in on Iris. Joe, detective that he is, knows the two of them are an item. If he didn’t before.
Iris is scared of her father’s reaction. Eddie does perhaps the only douchey thing ever by suggesting Iris fear is destroying their relationship. Emotional blackmail. Selfish. Utterly out of character. Eddie could easily have made his case that their relationship could never move forward without aiming blame at Iris and been much much more in character.
Cavities of copper to contain metahumans? Copper is malleable, conducts electricity, and can result in toxicity through prolonged exposure. If the cavities need such a massive overhaul to work, why did anyone think of this as a viable holding area? An empty storage room would be more viable.
Ronnie as lead engineer is a significant split from the source material. The comic book Ronnie was a student, and not a very bright one either. That shortfall in Ronnie being a strength in Prof Stein is part of what actually made the amalgam compelling. But having Ronnie as the work experience kid or there as an intern would have been dumb and wouldn’t have fit in with the Caitlin relationship. Not sold on Ronnie’s character yet.
Nice transition from flashback to current.
Voltage calculations? Helium explosion? This is some old school comic book science here. Where somebody looks up random scientific words and strings them together regardless of how the result sounds. Science words sound sciency. Tick. Move on.
Talking to Caitlin about Ronnie. This sequence where Barry gets Caitlin to open up and the way she lets those guarded emotions come to the fore.
“You can notice sometimes I can be a bit…….. guarded.” HOW IS THAT LAST WORD ANYTHING OTHER THAN COLD.
“Like fire and ice…” Line of the episode.
“He wasn’t supposed to be there that night? What is this? Clerks? The head engineer wasn’t supposed to be present at the event where the machine he engineered goes live?
And a call out right here. If Snow doesn’t end up pursuing her comic book destiny, there will be riots.
Reports of a toxic gas attack? Because green smoke of course means toxic gas and not just SMOKE.
Barry is a stooge. For an allegedly smart person going to combat the gas monster mutant evil killer thing, the idea of, I don’t know, zooming to an army disposal and snatching a gas mask perhaps, never crosses his mind?
Big Belly Burger reference.
Phsycho gas killer runs in to dude in a red costume and zero reaction. Is he from San Francisco?
Gas villain punches Barry before gassing him. Okay, if he wanted to slap Barry around for the psycho entertainment value, I get that. But then he would stop and enjoy it properly. But if he was going to kill Barry, he would go straight there. And even seeing Barry zoom, no reaction. Maybe the villain inhaled?
A heightened metabolism does not resist toxin. It makes it take effect faster. Barry should be dead. And Barry’s lungs regenerating were never part of his powers. Barry heals fast, he doesn’t regenerate. Anything that a normal person can heal from, Barry can heal from faster. A normal person cannot heal from a deadly toxin. Upgrading Barry’s healing abilities to regeneration is lazy for convenience only. Scoobies should have picked up his physical distress and stopped Barry from speeding to them so as not to speed up the spread of the toxin. Maybe with Wells talking Barry through controlling and slowing his metabolism while Caitlin, having scienced an antitoxin from the samples they had at the station grabs Cisco and speeds over with the fix.
Caitlin: “You could have…. ” and that expression.
Barry has to get to the station to talk to Joe. Because telephones don’t exist.
Barry just came too close to getting ended. Gas villian is still on the loose and planning to kill again. Barry still has no plan to combat villain. So lets stop and obsess about Dad in prison for a scene.
You can’t save everyone talk. Both Joe’s delivery and the fact that Barry needs to hear it. Nicely in character for both.
Eddie gets calls about the streak. Dismisses as crazy stoners. Actually, that sounds a lot like crazy stoners.
Clumsy awkward reconciliation between Eddie and Iris. Eddie still acting like a douche. His emotional blackmail manipulates Iris to commit further to a relationship than she was ready for. Great message there!
The Barry, Caitlin mechanic this episode is a highlight. Make no mistake, Caitlin is still a vanilla character overall. But she needs to be for the reasons of her future destiny. Its the way these two actors play off each other that are part of what makes this show enjoyable. Their chemistry including Cisco are carrying this show.
Barry can also recognise Hydrogen Cyanide on sight from a 3d model. Well, actually not that big a leap given that isn’t that complex a molecule. An odd bit of detail to get right given the show’s general inattention to detail. Barry also knows the chemicals used in executions. Also not that big of a stretch given the connection to police work and his geeky curiosity.
(left screencap / right molecue model for comparison)
Joe is on the gas list. Obvious. Who else could it be?
Now Caitlin sciences the antitoxin.
Dad’s reaction is that he doesn’t like Joe. Despite Joe looking after Barry all these years. Yes, Joe arrested him. But Dad never came across as someone to hold a grudge for a person doing their job. Particularly given the insane story he gave. Who would believe him? Feels like it would have been more in character had they just focused on Dad being worried that Joe would only visit because Barry was in trouble or something bad had happened to him. Especially given the way that conversation ends.
Gas psycho kills the guard for the LOLs.
Some consistency in the speed and progression of the poison thanks.
Barry with blur-face. Nice move. Wish they applied it more consistenly as the series progresses.
Confronting gas psycho with no plan AGAIN? Sometimes the way Barry goes from ridiculously clever to unbelievably stupid is FRUSTRATING!
Finally, Barry figures out hitting someone at speed is a weapon in his arsenal, instead of running up to them, slowing down and then throwing the punch.
Joe calls on the Eddie / Iris dating. The momentary look of terror on their faces is nice.
“Witness protection program.”
Cage is powered by a magnet. So what. If gas cannot enter or leave, how does he breathe?
Ciscos confession moment. Dumb idea. Caitlin not letting him finish is one of the only times where one character cutting off the other just as they are obviously trying to say something they feel is important actually works in this show. Another point that could have been green if the set up wasn’t so clumsy. And the cutting off thing, happens too often in this show.
Barry’s a mama’s boy. Yep, fits perfectly. Though the didn’t just learn to walk, but run line was meh.
Final scene. Final flashback. Given that this is the retelling of the accident, there is nothing to even attempt to explain why or how Wells ended up in the chair. A manufactured event, true. But seeing him manufacture it would have been more revealing of Wells’ manipulative nature, than the otherwise unremarkable visit to the already established hidden room.