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Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Flash S3E11: Dead or Alive.

The Flash
Series 3, Episode 11
Dead or Alive.

So, it turns out that the character we saw in a poorly lit room last week was not Linda -- nor does she even look like Linda when seen for more than two seconds in a scene with actual lighting -- but Gypsy, who is basically the Thawne to Cisco's Flash, that is to say 'somebody who has similar powers to Cisco, but is much better trained with them and whose relationship with Cisco and the rest of the heroes is both friendly and antagonistic.'

That kind of character arriving on Earth-1 isn't actually a terrible elevator pitch in and of itself, in fact you could spin a whole arc out of it, but the resulting episode is actually pretty charming. It doesn't add much to the overall plot of the series, and true to form HR's supposed crime is a pretty boring one (one person commented on last week's episode saying that his crime was probably just 'traveled between worlds' and they were entirely correct), but it has tension, stakes, a lot of nice comedy beats, and even some character development.

Picking up a little while after episode ten, this episode sees a Collector, a kind of law enforcement officer from HR's Earth, arriving to take him back home and have him put to death for the crime of crossing between worlds. With no other option, Cisco challenges the Collector, Gypsy, to a trial by combat, giving him twenty-four hours to figure out how to defeat someone who is demonstrably more at ease with their shared powerset. Meanwhile, Julian struggles with his interpersonal skills within the team, and Iris doggedly chases down an arms dealer, roping Wally into helping her.

Wally's suit bothers me somewhat.

Okay, so, the one big flaw in this episode, apart from the B-plot with Iris (sorry, Iris) is that HR comes across as very manipulative in this episode, and I don't think he's meant to be. He's meant to be the same lovable, charming fool he always is, but the moment he offhandedly dropped 'trial by combat' into conversation at a point where Cisco and Barry conveniently had no time to ask about it, or to give it any thought before committing to it, warning signs saying 'THIS MAN IS MANIPULATING YOU' began flashing in my head.

I'm fine with HR being manipulative, but the result is that when he took Barry aside and suggested they try to take down Gypsy before Cisco can fight her, it seemed jarring and out of place, since up until that point I had been working on the completely reasonable assumption that he had used emotional manipulation and passive-aggression to push Cisco into the fight in the first place.

This is a great example of the writers having a different idea of the character to the audience, because clearly he was meant to just come across as a motor-mouth who mentioned trial by combat in passing, and it wasn't meant to be anything more than a means by which to enable the plot. But since we already know that HR is an inveterate liar, and since we're familiar with previous Wells(es?), both of whom were also pretty manipulative, it immediately comes across as a ploy on his part, a gambit to survive by throwing Cisco to the proverbial wolves.

Or to the nice angry police lady, as the case may be.

The rest of the A-plot is a lot of fun, though, especially in that it gives us an opportunity to see Julian work with the team, having becoming their new Wells figure -- the abrasive, socially inept one who flatly and tactlessly delivers scientific and strategic wisdom to them. We also even saw Julian ineptly attempting to be a nice, comforting guy to Cisco, which made for some nice comic relief moments.

The plot's real purpose seems to be to give Cisco something like character development, smoothing over his relationship with HR and positioning him as something of a mentor to the older man, which is -- fine, I guess? I don't like HR, so I have some bias against this plot.

The B-plot with Iris and Wally, meanwhile, is lacking, mostly because it never has room to breathe. What little we do get of it is actually pretty good, as we get to see how Iris is coping with knowing she'll probably be refrigerated for Barry's manpain soon (the answer is 'poorly' but also 'very productively for her editor'), and even get a nice comedy scene where Iris has to distract Joe and does so by nearly convincing him that she and Barry are having a child, before changing it to 'oh, I actually meant a pet.'

BA and HR.

But it's barely in the episode. There's maybe four short scenes of it in total, and the pacing is all off, to the point that when Iris actually confronted the arms dealer, it felt jarring and totally out of the blue, and I was just kind of confused and alarmed by it all. 

Still, it was a fun episode, and probably the one I've enjoyed the most this series. Next week seems to be another Wally focus episode, although it also seems to be damseling Iris a bit more than I really approve of. Still, we'll see what happens.

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