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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Flash S3E1: Flashpoint.


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 1
Flashpoint.



After a several month long absence, The Flash is at last back on our screens for its third series. Incidentally, series three was where Arrow started to very rapidly go downhill, and given that, just like Arrow, The Flash hit a high point during its second series, that's more than a little concerning. If we're lucky, though, The Flash will continue to be good -- and if we're not, then there's still Supergirl, at least.

As a quick recap, when we'd left Barry and the others last time, Barry had just lost his father and defeated Zoom by having him be dragged away from time wraiths who are almost definitely going to make him into the Black Flash. After he and Iris reaffirmed their feelings for each other, Barry ran back in time, saving his mother from the Reverse-Flash and setting up the creation of a new timeline.

Series three picks up in that new timeline: While Barry still has his speed, Wally is the Flash of this timeline, as part of a brother-sister crime fighting duo with Iris. Barry's parents are still alive, and Joe is still an alcoholic, and estranged from both of his children. Meanwhile, Cisco is a highly successful entrepeneur and Caitlin is a pediatric eye doctor. When a speedster called the Rival begins tangling with Wally and threatening the city, Barry steps in to help -- but, as Thawne warned him would happen, he begins to lose his memories, and soon the timeline starts taking a sharp turn for the worse.

Let's just hope Wally and Thawne are never on screen together, that would get
confusing.

In all honesty, this episode was always going to be fighting something of an uphill battle, as it was always going to be compared to the comics storyline of the same name -- a storyline which, while controversial, was at least epic and sweeping in scope, something this episode decidedly isn't. In fact, this episode feels oddly small for the subject matter it covers. There's no real sense of urgency, and the Rival doesn't really play as a genuine threat, instead coming off as more just another metahuman of the week who Wally could probably deal with on his own.

The result is that Barry's decision to go back in time and let his mother be killed feels bizarrely out of nowhere -- after all, at that point, nobody has died, even if Wally is in a critical condition, and no threat which can't be dealt with has appeared.

Wouldn't it have worked better to have the Flashpoint episode be a two-parter, instead, or maybe even stretched over a Flash, an Arrow, and a Legends episode before ending on a second Flash episode: Establish the world state in the first episode, and then use the end of that episode and the remaining three to both continue building that world and to establish a vast, impossibly epic threat that Barry cannot hope to defeat.

Still not hugely keen on Letscher's Thawne, but he's better this week.

The reason, of course, that we only get a single rather hurried episode on Flashpoint is because Arrow airs today, Legends airs -- I think tomorrow? And then Supergirl airs Monday of next week. As a result, the new worldstate has to be in place immediately, so that people who only watch one of these shows (if those exist? I think people who only watch Supergirl and none of the others do, but I can't imagine there's someone who only watches Legends of Tomorrow) aren't confused and can immediately get into their respective show's story.

(Incidentally, you can tell they're running out of speedster costume ideas, because the Rival's costume is horrible. The mask in particular looks dire. Todd Lasance gives an excellent performance, in an angry frat boy kind of way, but not a particularly menacing one, and certainly not menacing enough to make up for the costume.)

That said, this episode does have its strong points. Matt Letscher seems to be settling into his role as Thawne a little more, and the result is that his performance is much more tolerable than it was before. Seeing Wally as Kid Flash was a nice fanservice moment, and hopefully is setting us up to see him assume that role in the main timeline. We got some fun romantic moments between Iris and Barry, even if they are all basically wiped away at the end.

D'aww.

It also does look like we'll be getting some pretty major consequences from Flashpoint, with a new timeline having been created by the end in which has Iris estranged from her father and, if the preview is anything to go by, Cisco apparently not on the best of terms with Barry anymore?

All in all, while I did enjoy watching this episode, it's not really up to the standards of a season opener. It's rushed, the storyline is kind of weak and lifeless, and its endearing characters and excellent cast of actors can really only do so much to carry it. We end up seeing a few plot threads rather abruptly dropped -- Joe's alcoholism chief among them -- and that's not exactly brilliant either.

Still, we do set-up for this year's main villain, Doctor Alchemy, who introduces himself by waking the Rival up and scratching the word 'ALCHEMY' into a mirror. That's nice, at least.


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