Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S02E16 - 'Trajectory'

The Flash returned after its month-long hiatus with an episode that, at first, felt distinctly 'stand-alone' in nature - something which would have felt especially disappointing to those in the audience still impatiently waiting for some elaboration on the big reveal, regarding Zoom's identity, from a couple of episodes ago. While this episode may not have connected to the 'Zoom' plot-line that has been driving this season directly, though, it did ultimately make room for some surprising, and indirect, connections which managed to push things forward on that front, regardless.

As the episode opens, Barry is still clearly obsessed with his efforts to become faster, in preparation for his eventual return to Earth-2, and his re-match with Zoom. His latest effort, we soon learn, involves attempting to build up enough momentum to leap over an impressively wide canyon - something which, in a scene which manages to be both tense and amusing, he ultimately fails to achieve (leaving him in need of a quick rescue from Cisco and his net-carrying drones). It was a great moment, overall - and, one that manages to adequately display Barry's own determination, without forgetting the humour that makes this group of characters so endearing.

From there, we move quickly into a similarly endearing sequence when 'Team Flash' are able to convince Barry that what they really need, more than anything, is a night off to recuperate and have some fun. Honestly, it has always been one of the greatest strengths of The Flash that simply watching this very likable group interact can often be just as much fun as the more traditional 'super-hero' action that the series provides - and, that remains true here, as they make their out to a night-club. Jesse Wells, only recently rescued form her imprisonment by Zoom, has her first real opportunity to bond with the rest of the cast. Also, Cisco manages to work his way out onto the dance-floor - much to the amused horror of his friends.

Even Wally West managed to put in an appearance, here - in a scene which, unfortunately, felt more like a reminder for the audience that he was still around. While Wally does, admittedly, still feel a little out of place (especially when you consider that this was his only appearance in the episode), it's still good to see that the creator's are, at least, trying to make it seem as though he has a part to play - although, honestly, if there are any plans for Wally's character before the end of the season, then I think ti would be best if the series gets to them sooner, rather than later.

It was another very entertaining little sequence, though. But, it was not long until their pleasant evening was interrupted by the sudden appearance of another Speedster - one who, quickly and efficiently, robbed everyone present, and left the crowd with the mistaken impression that the Flash may have turned to a life of petty crime. With his reputation suddenly on the line, Barry is left with little choice but to track down this new Speedster and stop her - and, unfortunately, it's here that things start to go a bit wrong for this latest episode of The Flash.

I think the most unfortunate aspect of this episode is that nothing about Trajectory (Allison Paige), as this new Speedster calls herself, really worked, for me - either as a character, in general, or as a villain, in particular. The reveal that she is actually Eliza Harmon, a scientist friend of Caitlin's who was able to reverse engineer her own version of Velocity-9, was interesting enough (if a bit convoluted, since this is the first we heard of Caitlin sharing her research with anything other than Harrison Wells) - but, the follow-up reveal that Trajectory was, literally, an alternate personality, rather than simply a persona she adopted, came out of nowhere. And, even worse, the whole thing came across as a bit too goofy to take seriously. If this is the direction that the writer's really wanted to go in with Trajectory, then the whole idea really needed to be set-up, and explored, in much more detail.

On a similar note, Trajectory's sudden evolution from petty crime to out-right villainy (when she abruptly shifted to threatening the lives of innocent people on a bridge that she was suddenly determined to bring down - for no clear reason) also made little sense.

If the ultimate point of this episode was to suggest that it was Velocity-9 that was effecting her behaviour, then that plot-thread was explored in a very muddled and unsatisfying way. If, on the other hand, Trajectory was simply 'crazy', then it is a shame that the episode didn't do a better job of explaining that.

Despite this, though, Allison Paige still managed to be fun in the role - especially early on, before we really had the opportunity to learn anything about her. Eliza Harmon (in her time on-screen before her true identity was revealed) managed to come across as genuinely enthusiastic and likable - someone who you could imagine being a close friend of Caitlin's, and who I would have liked to have seen more of. Also, in her best moments, Trajectory managed to walk a fine line between entertaining villainy and over-the-top campiness that was, occasionally, genuinely entertaining to watch. It's really just a shame that her performance was, ultimately, wasted on such a poorly defined character.

But, what was that indirect connection to Zoom that I mentioned in the opening paragraph? Well, that came about with the reveal that the lightning that Trajectory generated, when her speed was boosted by an overdose of Velocity-9 toward the end of the episode, turned blue - much like Zoom's. This new knowledge, combined with the fact that Cisco had been having flashes of Zoom whenever he got too close to Jay's helmet, allowed the team to put some important pieces of the puzzle into place. So, there was something of interest to be gained from Trajectory's role in this episode, at least.

Overall, this would have to rate as one of the weakest episodes of The Flash so far, for me. Rather than the fun of having a new Speedster for Barry to test himself against, Trajectory's role throughout this episode ended up being a source of frustration - with her motivations, and back-story, being largely unexplored. There were still some positive elements to this episode, though. Those moments of good-natured bonding between the core cast were a clear high-light, as they always are. Also, the new details that emerged about Zoom promise some interesting developments in the future. Though, I definitely would have preferred it if all of this didn't rest on a villain who was so poorly developed.

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