So, remember how I said in my Gotham review that last week of October tends to be when shows pull out their horror-styled episodes? Well, The Flash ain’t playing that. Though for what we do get, I’m really not complaining.
This week’s episode improves on several of the elements I’ve been having issues with. It’s no overnight fix – there really aren’t any – but the show is far finding its footing in very good time.
First thing’s first- this week marks the first antagonist to leave much of an impression. After the last couple of ‘one and done’ villains the show has been running with, this week’s addition of Leonard Snart (later dubbed Captain Cold by Cisco) gives the show an enemy worth keeping an eye on. A big part of this is thanks to the fact that the character is given something to do beyond just his power shtick. In fact, that’s one of the other things Snart has going for him – he’s their first non-metahuman antagonist.
Rather than being someone wronged who’s now using the powers to fix their problem, legality be damned, he’s a career criminal who’s just gained a leg up care of some stolen STAR Labs tech. On top of that, the fact he actually considers Barry a direct target instead of just something in his way means the conflict is far more interesting this time around. The show is still trying to find uses for Barry’s abilities beyond fighting, and this week gave a good challenge on that front with Snart playing on his desire to protect others to keep him busy.
Speaking of the stolen tech and Barry’s motivations, that leads into one of the other strengths of this episode: unresolved tensions within the STAR Labs crew are brought up and resolved. To start with, we have the existence of the freeze gun that Snart owns – a device that whose existence Harrison was apparently unaware of, and is subsequently furious about. It’s an interesting moment for Cisco, a character the show has largely played for lighter elements, to realize his attempting to think ahead in the past may have come back to bite the team in the present. It wasn’t born out of malice, but it still backfired.
To that end, there’s the shock to Barry when he realizes the gun was first developed as a possible deterrent to be used on him if he turned out to be insane. On the one hand, we can sympathize with the feeling of betrayal from Barry, but on the other, it’s not like the STAR crew is out of line in taking precaution. It’s a rift that gets patched up by the end of the episode, but it’s still nice to see the show addressing the idea that they had considered what would happen if Barry didn’t want to play ball.
Plus, I did find it interesting to see Harrison completely blindsided by the existence of the gun. The big running element the show has been playing up so far is just how knowledgeable he is about what’s happening, and having him in that dark like that – and being that angry about being in the dark – says a lot about his character.
The other big accomplishment this week comes in the form of another crossover with Arrow. Instead of Barry skipping town to see Oliver, we get Felicity Smoak taking a trip out to visit Central City. Don’t worry too much if you haven’t seen Arrow – The show lets you know enough about her character so even if you aren’t watching, it still works.
Plus, she actually blends in well; In fact, the chemistry she has with Barry is used in a roundabout way to nudge the cliched storyline with Iris. After a lot of comments about how the two seem perfectly suited to one another, it all ends with a conversation between the two where she finally outright calls out his crush on Iris (after which she comments on the irony of the two seeming perfect for each other, but each being drawn to someone else who doesn’t realize it).
I can’t really say it accomplishes a lot, but after the last few weeks of awkward pauses from Barry and situations to crank up the drama in little ways, it feels good to have him actually discuss it in the show with someone rather than say it to no one. Even if the person he’s saying it to is heading back to her own series.
As a nice bonus, the show does also follow up on Joe’s feelings about Iris’s new love life. Given she’s been seeing his partner, Eddie Thawne, his reaction is more than to be expected here, and Jesse L. Martin plays it well this week, particularly with his scenes with Eddie. After the last few weeks of trying to play perfect, it is amusing to see Rick Cosnett in the position of awkwardness, especially in one humorous moment in the car where it seems as though the radio is conspiring to make things even more awkward through song choices.
I’m still surprised I’m this on board with this show, and even more that it’s improving this much. I realize that sounds harsh, but humor me, I’m still trying to get past the CW stigma. In the meantime, the show has laid out its groundwork, and this week it’s made some good strides in advancing its storyline. Even if you’re not on board for crossovers, this week sees some notable developments between the main cast as well as a villain who actually leaves a lasting impression after the first few ‘metahuman of the week’ stories.
I know I’ll probably be saying this a lot in the future, but right now this may be the best the show’s done yet.
Not a bad start, not a bad start at all. Makes it a bit of a shame that we won’t be getting the next episode for another two weeks, sadly. Still, keep an eye out. I’ll be there to discuss Plastique when the time comes.
-With Captain Cold, the show finally has a worthwhile antagonist
-The Arrow crossover gives the cast a chance to flex and grow a bit more
-Though it’s moving forward, the Iris storyline is still progressing slowly
-The whole trust issue is resolved fairly quickly (though this still could come back in the future)