There’s something to be said for a show that can take the old and familiar and still make it an enjoyable watch. It sounds easy on paper, but the actual execution is much harder, especially when you must win over an audience that’s seen these types of stories done out time and again.
Fortunately, The Flash continues to be up to the task this week. This isn’t a high note for them, but it’s still a fairly enjoyable watch.
To the showrunners’ credit, they are continuing to work on improving weaker elements of the show. In a big step forward, the show is continuing to get the hang of actually building up its weekly antagonists- and they have personalities and motivations beyond ‘REVENGE!’ That said, I’m not going to say Tony Woodward (Greg Finley) was a particularly deep or nuanced character – especially after last week. At the same time, I have to admit I like the idea of having someone from Barry and Iris’s past turn out to be a metahuman.
That it turned out to be Barry’s old schooltime tormentor is a bit of a cliché, but it does at least make for a nice reminder that the STAR Labs incident was still fairly local, even if every other metahuman so far has been a total stranger. Further, while written as an archetypical bully determined to prove himself as the alpha dog of meta humans, Tony’s somewhat limited personality is at least made up for by having a bit more of an involved story arc – even though his fight isn’t personal since he doesn’t know who The Flash is, he still wants to beat him just to prove to the world (and especially Iris) that he’s the best. It’s a small step, but it’s at least one in the right direction.
Speaking of Iris, that train’s proceeding right on schedule along the tracks without any bump or delays. This week touching on the old superhero’s dilemma about endangering loved ones. To her credit, Iris is certainly not the type to just sit there and wait for the save, though given Tony’s powers, she can really only do so much. In some ways, it does at least speak well for her that, even when she sees the dangers of getting involved with the Flash (after several warnings from both of Barry’s identities) she’s still determined to see this through.
Again, I don’t mind this familiar path, largely thanks to the fact the cast makes the writing work, but it’s one of those areas where the show’s using familiar material works against it. Unless they’re planning a major swerve in the future, we’ve seen this story played out enough in superhero fiction to have a good sense of where it’s headed. In the meantime, it’s still not bad at least. It’s watchable, just a bit hard to, as an audience member, look at and not want to start yelling at characters to pick up cues.
That said, to that story’s credit this week, it did give one nice surprise. After the last few weeks, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the show try and give Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) something else to do on the show beyond be Iris’s boyfriend. This week we get to see him and Barry finally get to know each other more as well as investigating Tony. For as much of a template as he’s been before, this made for a welcome change to arguably the least remarkable member of the cast before – and to his credit, Cosnett works well with Gustin. Hell, the cast in general continues to mesh well with one another that way.
Speaking of which, this week brought in another dynamic I’m interested in seeing in the future. Still determined to clear Barry’s father’s name, Joe turns to Harrison for help with investigating the phenomenon that killed Barry’s mother. The result is some of the strongest writing and acting this week (though I do have to again given a shout out to Valdes and Panabaker, who have hit a great balance now).
There’s an interesting back and forth going on in this storyline – simultaneously dropping enough clues to get Joe -and the viewer- to suspect Wells had a hand in that incident, while also managing to then deny any smoking gun. It’s a pairing I’m going to be interested to see if the show brings up again, since the two work well together as the senior cast members. Also, seeing the two together makes it interesting to realize how
different each is as a mentor to Barry and what they bring to his growth.
One big plus to come out of this week’s episode – the show is finally starting to figure out how to make their action work with Barry’s abilities. Tony’s ability – being able to make his skin as hard as iron at will – presents an interesting challenge in terms of how to handle such an enemy. This is a point the show proves rather bluntly in their first encounter when Barry breaks his hand throwing a punch. While this week does technically make for a one-hit take down, it’s also one they put a fair amount of thought and effort into setting up.
Further, it’s one they actually put an element of risk into – before the attack in question, there’s a fair amount of discussion about how, if the shot lands badly, it could kill Barry. In fact, a lot of this week is a raised concern over Barry’s limitations, which gives the action more of a sense of involvement. Yeah, since he’s the hero we know he’ll win, but the fact the people in the series don’t have that guarantee does help the writers still maintain a sense of risk, even if it’s only an artificial one.
…and oh yes, the episode’s title is a nice touch, albeit a very last minute one. It’s that on the nose moment you learn to ride with in comics where they finally decide on the character’s name. It’s silly, but again, this show manages to make it work. All that really changes with it is that Barry’s made the name official and I can now stop doing the Beavis and Butthead laugh any time I hear someone talk about The Streak.
With this week’s episode providing probably one of the most interesting hooks of the show so far (Barry’s mother’s killer visits Joe and threatens him to call off the investigation), I’m already looking forward to next week’s episode: Power Outage.
Till next time
-More effort is being put into antagonists and the means used to deal with them now
-Wells and West team up is one I hope to see more of in the future
-The relationship arc is still watchable, but otherwise remains pretty predictable
-While Tony is a step forward in building up antagonists, he’s still a pretty stock rival