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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Flash (2014) (Second Half)


The Flash (2014)
(Second Half).



I'm writing this review on very little sleep, so forgive me if I accidentally refer to someone by the name of a character from Flash Gordon or, I don't know, start talking about the 1990 The Flash series.

(Actually, I did realise it before, but the guy playing Henry Allen, Barry's father, played Barry himself way back in the 1990 series. I do love little nods like that, in spite of the fact that that show was - okay, look, there are good reasons why people call it the bad Flash show, okay.)

Picking up some days after Barry's confrontation with the Reverse-Flash midway through the series, the second half of The Flash follows the speedster as he tries to unravel the mystery of the Reverse-Flash and his mother's death, deal with rogues like the Weather Wizard and Pied Piper, and tries to get faster, all while having to deal with mentor and secret-time-traveller Harrison Wells manipulating events from behind the scenes.

If I'm being entirely straight with you guys, pretty much everything I said about the first half of the series holds true for the second half - The Flash isn't like Once Upon A Time or even Arrow, where each half of the series can be different enough to practically serve as a distinct entity.

Looking charmingly evil there, Wells.

And you know, that's good. I deeply enjoyed The Flash during its first half, and I wasn't hoping for a big change - more of the same is totally fine with me. Not to mention that the second half does have one new tool in its toolbox: Namely, that the audience now knows that Wells is the Reverse-Flash, and are now in a position of having to see when the rest of the cast figures it out. It's a mystery that they arguably take too long to solve, and yet without ever seeming to do much detective work in the way of it, bar Joe and Cisco's trip to Starling City (complete with cameos from several Arrow characters) to investigate Wells' mysterious car crash.

The writers seem to know this, as at one point they give the audience a big pay-off on both that mystery and the Barry-Iris romantic subplot, having Cisco and Caitlin discover Wells' treachery only for Wells to murder Cisco to death, while Barry and Iris confess their feelings elsewhere. It falls a bit flat on account of being immediately retconned out of existence by way of Barry running so fast he accidentally breaks time, with only Barry and Cisco remembering any of it, but they do at least manage to pull it back by having Cisco's repressed memories of his death be a catalyst for later plot twists.

(One way they don't manage to pull it back is that that whole arc feels like a terrible waste of Weather Wizard, who is a great villain excellently cast with Spartacus' Liam McIntyre.)

I accept that this is maybe not the best picture.

One thing that was very interesting about this second half was the finale, which having had its climactic blow-out battle the previous episode (two, actually: Barry and Joe vs Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, Rainbow Raider, Golden Glider, and Mist; and Barry, Firestorm and Ollie vs Wells, showing once and for all that Wells' super speed is apparently no match for a dude who can shoot arrows at things), instead focused very much on Barry being given a choice by Wells: Either preserve the life he currently has, or go back in time and save his mother (and in so doing allow Wells to escape, although it's never made clear why that part is necessary).

It's quite a lowkey, personal episode, in which Barry talks the choice over with various people, and it's refreshing to see that not only are a range of viewpoints represented, but that all the characters involved come off as having reactions that are not only in-character, but also as being appropriately invested in Barry's wellbeing: Stein cautions that changing the past carries massive risk and seems massively against it, but lends his support anyway, fitting his role as a good version of Wells; Cisco is ambivalent about the whole thing and refuses to involve himself on the basis of the risk to Barry's health; Iris urges Barry not to think about other people in this and just make the decision entirely for himself; while Barry's fathers, Joe and Henry, each have opposing viewpoints, with Joe thinking that Barry has to do it for his own happiness (even though it would erase their father-son relationship), while Henry urges him not to, as he sees the act of changing the timeline as one that would erase Barry, at least as he currently is.

The reactions feel very natural, and they all make a certain amount of pragmatic and emotional sense, and given Arrow's tendency to have massive, explosive finales, it made a nice change of pace.

This team-up was just a little confusing and abrupt, to be honest.

Not that the finale didn't have some action-y moments. The last five or ten minutes, featuring Barry battling Wells within the particle accelerator, and a black hole threatening to consume the world, are both heavy on the action and the CGI (seriously, it must have cost a fortune). There's a character demise there too, in the form of Eddie sacrificing himself to erase Wells from ever existing, and - okay, Eddie never made much of an impression on me, so I'm not that bothered, but I also doubt that either of them are dead, given that the last we saw of Eddie he was being sucked into the black hole.

The series ends on a cliffhanger, but it's a cliffhanger we know is going to turn out fine, as I would hasten to remind you that we've already seen the trailer for Legends of Tomorrow, where Barry, Ronnie and Stein are fine and nobody seems overly traumatised by the destruction of the planet or aught like that.

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