Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S02E10 - 'Potential Energy'





The revelation on which the mid-season finale of The Flash had ended, last year, managed to be both mildly disappointing and actually fairly intriguing, at the same time. It was disappointing in that what we learnt of Zoom's actual motivation for hunting down other Speedsters (that he, apparently, feeds on them, like a vampire, in order to grow faster and stronger) seemed fairly mundane - unless, of course, there is more to it than what he was willing to reveal. But, that final moment was also intriguing in that it placed Earth-2's version of Harrison Wells of being forced to make a deal with Zoom in order to save his daughter's life - that deal being, of course, to help make Barry faster and stronger before Zoom comes in for the kill.

What made this little development so interesting, for me, is that we really don't have any way of knowing what Earth-2's Wells is going to do next. He accepted Zoom's offer, of course - but, is he actually going to go through with it? Or, is he going to continue trying to find some way to turn the tables on Zoom? Or, is he going to play them against each other until he sees some way to get what he wants out of the situation? Honestly, there was really no way of knowing - but, it was fascinating to see a completely different brand of moral ambiguity play out with this character, compared to what we had in the previous season.

Of course, while this episode wasn't actually about Harrison Wells and Zoom, there was still some acknowledgement of the awkward position that Wells has found himself in - and, some fairly clear indication of exactly how far he is prepared to go to save his daughter.

Even though he was only a supporting character in this episode, Harrison Wells continues to be a highlight on the show. That moment, in particular, when Wells told Cisco the story of how Zoom got his name might have been my favourite part of the episode - a small moment between the two which perfectly captured both Wells's disdain for Cisco's habit of giving villains cute nick-names and the intense mixture of hatred and fear that he feels for Zoom.

But, of course, this episode wasn't actually about Harrison Wells. Instead, the focus was placed on a mysterious thief who Cisco labelled 'the Turtle' (Aaron Douglas) - a man with the ability to freeze time in the area around him. The Turtle's entire criminal career, up until this point, is seemingly solely based on stealing items of deep personal value to his victims - not for any personal gain, of course, but simply to possess them. Not only is the Turtle someone whose criminal activities need to be stopped, just as a matter of principle - but, there is also the intriguing possibility that his unique ability could, somehow, be used against Zoom. So, while this might feel like another example of the classic 'villain of the week' set-up, there is a greater insensitive in the Flash's efforts, this time.

While, at first, the Turtle comes across as a comparatively harmless villain (being, essentially, just a thief), he does become significantly more dangerous once he takes an active interest in the Flash - and, once he catches on to the fact that the Flash seems to care about the safety of Patty Spivot. Then, of course, there's also the disturbing revelation that the Turtle's collection of stolen items includes the wife that had tried to leave him previously.

In all, the episode did a great job of taking a character concept that did, admittedly, feel a little goofy, at first, and twisting it just enough until we ended up with a villain who came across as genuinely intimidating - and, Aaron Douglas did a very impressive job of bringing the character to life. Also, his unique ability proved to be a genuinely difficult challenge for Barry to overcome - which is always appreciated.

Alongside Barry's efforts to stop the Turtle, we also had two main sub-plots intended to add some elements of character drama to the episode. The first, concerning whether Barry would finally reveal his identity as the Flash to Patty, would probably have to count as a low-point of the episode, for me. Honestly, that entire plot-line has been a source of frustration for me for much of the season. While it is great to see Barry, at least, acknowledge that he should probably be honest with her if he intends to pursue any sort of meaningful relationship with her. That Barry's ultimate decision regarding whether to tell Patty the truth should come at the same moment as her being caught in the middle of the conflict between the Flash and the Turtle feels like a very conventional way to bring this particular character-arc to a close.

Along with this, we also have Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale), who was briefly introduced in the previous episode. This is, of course, the first proper introduction to a character who is clearly set to become important in the future. He is a troubled young man, clearly - and, one not above breaking the law when it suits him. Though, he is also clearly devoted to caring for his increasingly sick mother. There is, of course, no real reason for Wally to be so angry with Joe (who, after all, only recently learnt that he even had a son) - but, then, emotion is rarely logical. Obviously, there is no real way of knowing when, or how, Wally is going to gain his own super-speed abilities (since, given the character status in the comic-books, that is clearly the intent) - though, his talent for illegal street racing was foreshadowing so obvious that it bordered on heavy-handed.

Overall, while this episode did an adequate job of establishing what is important to Wally, there really wasn't much opportunity to establish him as a character, here. So, I feel like a still need to see more of him, and of Keiynan Lonsdale's performance, before I can make up my mind on whether he is a positive addition to the show.

Jay Garrick's role on the show, though, continues to be a frustrating element, for me. Especially coming after so much build-up for the character's introduction before the season started. He's a great characters, sure (and, the blossoming relationship between him and Caitlin has been a nice touch) - but, with Jay Garrick being such an important part of DC's comic-book history, it's a little disappointed to see how little he has actually been permitted to contribute. Though, at least, the developments in this episode seem to hint at the possibility that that might change in the future. The revelation that Jay was sick came out of nowhere, sure - but, the suggestion that defeating Zoom, and getting his own super-speed back, would effectively cure him does give him a much stronger personal stake in the whole struggle (and, given that his attitude toward Zoom has been to run and hide up until now, it's probably well passed time that something changed).

Overall, this second season of The Flash has been very impressive, so far - and, that continues to be the case, here. There were some weaker elements in the episode, sure - but, in the end, it was a great episode centred around a great new villain. On top of that, it was an episode which also provided some fascinating hints at how the rest of the season was going to progress. Honestly, if The Flash could handle character drama as well as it handles super-hero action, the show would be pretty close to perfect.

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