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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Flash S3E9: The Present

The Flash
Series 3, Episode 9
The Present.

You see, the title of the episode is a pun, as it refers to both 'the present' as in the current time, thus tying into both the episode's focus on past events and its later focus on the future, and 'the present' as in the gift given to someone, referring to the apartment Barry gets for him and Iris, Wally's supersuit as a Christmas present, but also more obliquely to the 'gift' of metahuman powers, and to the Philosopher's Stone.

It is not a very good pun, and as such we shall now move on.

Anyway, this is the last episode before The Flash goes on hiatus for Christmas, due to return probably some time in January or February. Typically, pre-hiatus episodes represent something of a watershed moment, leaving things on a cliffhanger to entice viewers to tune back in after the long break, and often also tying up plot threads. In this case, the plot thread that's tied up (for the moment, at least) is the Doctor Alchemy plot, leaving the Savitar plot to continue into the latter part of the series.

In this week's episode, Barry travels to Earth-3 to get Jay Garrick's help, hoping to find out more about Savitar, and also to get his help taking down Doctor Alchemy. After the two catch Doctor Alchemy attempting to bestow metahuman powers on the entire city, Barry takes down Alchemy while Jay duels Savitar without much success -- leading to the discovery that Alchemy was actually Julian. Back at STAR Labs, the team realises that so long as Alchemy's stone is contained within its box, Savitar cannot manifest in the physical world, and they learn more about both of their origins: That Savitar was the first man to be granted super-speed, utilising the Philosopher's Stone to give himself metahuman powers, and that Alchemy is just him speaking through a possessed Julian. After fending off another attack by Savitar, courtesy of him appearing to Cisco as his dead brother, the team attempt to contact him through Julian -- leading to the revelation that Savitar's imprisonment is due to Future Barry, and that at some point in the next five months, one of the team will betray Barry, one of them will die, and one will suffer a fate worse than death.

Well, that was the longest summary I've done for a while.

Garmes jurnalizm.

As an episode, this is definitely one that starts off at a high and then sort of meanders its way downhill. The early stuff, with the investigation into Savitar, the revelations about Julian's trip to India (resulting in him becoming Alchemy, complete with Jim Sterling mask), and with the first battle between Jay, Barry, Savitar, and Alchemy, was actually pretty strong and a compelling watch, and even the middle stuff with Cisco being tempted by Savitar appearing to him as his brother was pretty good -- not least because it adds an extra dimension to Savitar's villainy, that he's a skilled manipulator who can influence people's minds to an extent, even when he's sealed away.

It's in the last third of the episode that things start going downhill -- the second fight with Savitar is not really all that impressive, and the entire 'seance' section (and the resulting vision of the future where he kills Iris) had me rolling my eyes. Yes, yes, doom and foreboding, the group will fall apart, Iris will be fridged, yadda yadda. The intention is obviously to make us all deeply concerned about what will happen to the main characters, but at this point, I'm so jaded by this kind of gambit that it just washed over me.

Mark Hamill shows up again as Earth-3's Trickster.

The result is that if they do end up fridging Iris, I'm not going to be shocked, or sad, I'm just going to be extremely annoyed. The show can do shocking deaths pretty well -- Cisco's death in the first series managed to have impact even when we knew for an absolute fact at the time that it wasn't going to stick, and they even managed to make it have a lasting effect despite that. But honestly, if they kill off Iris, they'll have dived so deep into weird, skeevy cliche territory and shock tactics that all they'll be doing is hurting the show, depriving themselves of one of their best actresses and most loved characters for the sake of -- really nothing.

That part of the episode also involves the entire cast picking up the idiot ball, as they decide to throw the stone into the Speed Force, which Jay describes as 'eternity itself' just minutes after Savitar had said he was trapped in 'eternity.' Look, you guys should be able to put the pieces together and figure out that you're sending the stone straight to him.

Like, you're both intelligent people and have experience of the Speed Force. C'mon.

On the bright side, HR is starting to irritate me much less. He might even be growing on me a little. I am nevertheless exceedingly glad that he'll presumably be gone by the end of the series, to be shortly thereafter replaced with a completely different Wells.

Anyway, that's episode nine. Could have been good, just kind of ended up going downhill. Honestly, what is it with Arrowverse shows and their third series? It's like they always peak in their second series and then barrel rapidly downhill just afterwards. Weird, to be sure, but hey, maybe the writers can turn it around when the show returns from hiatus. Savitar is certainly a villain with a lot of potential, at the very least, so there's that.

You're going to run out of evil speedsters eventually, though, guys.

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