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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Flash S3E2: Paradox.


The Flash
Series 2, Episode 2
Paradox.



You know, I was sure that the Arrowverse was going to use Flashpoint as an excuse to merge universes, working Supergirl into the main universe and incorporating Earth-2 Harrison Wells so that they could bring back Tom Cavanaugh -- after all, Flashpoint in comics was literally just there as a means of incorporating three different continuities into one to kick off the New 52. So far, that doesn't seem to have exactly happened, which I'll grant is a little disappointing for me.

In this week's episode, Barry speeds over to Star City to discuss the changes to the timeline with Felicity. As his story unfolds, it's revealed that not only are Iris and Joe estranged in the new timeline, but Cisco's brother, Dante, is dead, leaving Cisco not only devastated but also, for reasons Barry can't figure out, furious at Barry. At work, Barry finds himself butting heads with Julian, an expert on metahumans who now shares his office with him, and who hates Barry. Worse still, the Rival is back, his powers having been restored by a mysterious man calling himself Alchemy, and he seems to remember the previous timeline. 

So, I'm not exactly thrilled to have the Rival back as a villain for the second episode in a row. He's almost certainly not going to show up again after this, and it hammers in an important storyline point, in that Doctor Alchemy is empowering humans who had powers during Flashpoint (although it really shouldn't be that easy to give someone the Speed Force, which is, after all, a cosmic, timeline-spanning force of fast), but he's just so boring as a villain, even a villain of the week. He has one character schtick, and that's Todd Lasance doing an admittedly excellent impression of an irate frat boy -- but 'angry super-fast frat boy' isn't really a solid pitch for a villain, you know?

"I'm glad Jay is back," said nobody.

The other reason why he's brought back is that he doesn't require much set-up, and this episode is broadly focused less on a metahuman-of-the-week and more on Barry dealing with the fallout from Flashpoint. In truth, Barry doesn't do a tremendous amount to fix anything, though -- he kind of muddles about attempting to reunite his fractured, broken team and, predictably failing, before a combination of Jay giving him a stern talk about not making things worse by resetting the timeline again, and Iris giving the team a spirited  speech does all the work for him.

That's not necessarily a problem -- I always like it when Iris is given a bigger role -- but it does cause some issues when you consider how much damage Barry has wrought. I'm thinking of two specific things here, and it's difficult to figure out which one is worse. 

Firstly, Cisco's brother is dead because of Barry -- in this timeline, he got hit by a drunk driver, and Barry refused to go back in time and save him, but that's not what I mean when I say it's Barry's fault. It's Barry's fault because it happened because of changes Barry made to the timeline, and so, Barry is responsible -- but that's never touched on. Instead, Cisco is angry at Barry because he's apparently willing to go back in time to save his own family but not Cisco's. That's reasonable enough, and true, but kind of glosses over how Barry is to blame for Cisco's brother being dead in the first instance.

I saw another journalist describe Julian as being just like Draco Malfoy.
He isn't.

The second thing is that in this timeline, Diggle doesn't have a daughter, he has a son. Since these children are two separate people, that means that Barry erased a baby from existence, an act which is basically tantamount to accidentally killing a child. But again, the show doesn't really acknowledge that Barry is responsible for what is a tremendously significant and morally weighty matter. If they did acknowledge it, that would create interesting plot opportunities, but they don't.

The episode ends with the dynamic having more or less gone back to normal, bar that Cisco is still depressed (obviously) and Caitlin now has ice powers that she isn't telling them about, and while the part of me that wants to see these characters happy and cheerful is glad, the reviewer in me is a little bit annoyed that they're brushing issues that should be taking the entire third series to work through under the carpet. A slow resolution to these kinds of emotional issues is ultimately always more satisfying than a quick one.

It's always a little odd, seeing these promo stills without the special effects.

Anyway, it was a fun episode nevertheless, and while these first two episodes have been a little bit below-par, we're certainly not at 'the villain is an upset Australian man' levels of direness yet, so we'll see where it goes from here. Caitlin hiding ice powers from everyone else is an interesting turn, and it looks like next week we'll be seeing Harry and Jesse back for at least one episode.

Also, I do like Julian. I hope he joins the team.

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