Sunday, 23 October 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S03E03 - 'Magenta'

If I'm being honest, I would have to admit that I'm always going to be a bit disappointed by the manner in which Barry Allen's trip into the alternate time-line that he created come to an end. The idea that a story-line as important to the character, and the DC Universe as a whole, as 'Flashpoint' would be resolved by the end of the season's first episode just felt incredibly underwhelming, to me.

At the same time, though, the fact that the lingering consequences of Barry's meddling are set to be the source of much of this season's conflict does go some way toward mitigating that. In the previous episode, we had 'The Rival' – a somewhat underwhelming villain, admittedly. But, one who was made very interesting due to the manner in which he came to exist. 'The Rival' had, after all, been an entirely ordinary man in this new universe, until Dr Alchemy had, somehow, merged this version with the one that had existed in 'Flashpoint'. And, with evidence that Dr Alchemy has already put others through the same process, it is clear that there are going to be many more new meta-humans to contend with.

It may just be another set-up for the same sort of 'villain of the week' situations that we have always had, of course – but, the personal element added by the direct link to Barry's own actions does make it somewhat more interesting, this time. And, of course, it leaves the lingering mystery of who, exactly, Dr Alchemy actually is – and, how he is able to do what he does.

With the season's third episode, it seems that Dr Alchemy is active, once more – moving on from the failures of 'The Rival', and to Magenta (Joey King), a teenage girl with deeply ingrained anger issues and powerful telekinetic abilities. Of course, while 'The Rival' had been a somewhat one-dimensional figure, Magenta manages to comes across as a much more complex individual – if only due to the fact that 'Magenta', herself, is only a part of the equation.

Magenta, we soon learn, is actually the result of split personality disorder – the defence mechanism of a traumatised teenager, Frankie Kane, who currently endures near constant abuse from her foster father. Magenta might be every bit the one-dimensional villain that we have seen, before – but, Frankie is a genuinely sympathetic figure, who quickly settles into her role as the 'true' victim of the episode (the abusive father who Magenta desperately wants to kill certainly doesn't seem to deserve any of the audience's sympathies). It also adds an interesting element of genuine uncertainty for Barry, also – since, despite the clear danger that Magenta, and her formidable powers, present, Frankie is entirely innocent. So, Barry finds himself caught in the somewhat awkward position of trying to prevent Magenta from harming her abusive foster father, and any innocent bystanders who might get in her way, without actually harming Frankie.

Fortunately, Barry has some unexpected extra help in the form of Jesse Wells (Violett Beane) who, along with her father, returns from Earth-2 having manifested her own super-speed (as a result of being hit by the particle accelerator explosion, last season). With Earth-2's Harrison Wells adamant that his daughter needs to undergo some tests (and, equally adamant that his daughter needs to be talked out of any aspirations she might have to follow in Barry's footsteps), the two make the journey to seek out the help of their old friends – only to find themselves drawn into the current conflict. And, Wally West, meanwhile, finds himself feeling a sudden surge of jealousy and resentment at the idea that Jesse should have gained super-speed abilities, while he hasn't.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what to make of the character-arc that Wally West seems to be set on, at the moment. On the one hand, it's great that the series finally seems to be giving Keiynan Lonsdale something worthwhile to do – but, on the other, his behaviour throughout this episode came across as a little too petulant, for my tastes. Wally West as been a likable enough presence on the series, so far – so, it would be a shame if that were to suddenly change. At the same time, and with the number of hints that we have already received, it is also possible that this sudden change in his behaviour could be attributed to Dr Alchemy's behaviour (he is suddenly so desperate because he, like so many others, suddenly finds himself 'remembering' his life in the 'Flashpoint' time-line). If that were to prove to be the case, than his current behaviour could turn out to be some very interesting foreshadowing – but, I suppose we will just have to wait and see.

For now, though, Wally's behaviour remains something of a weak point in an, otherwise, perfectly entertaining episode. Due to the complexities of her duel personality, Frankie Kane/Magenta instantly manages to become one of the more interesting 'one-off' villains to have appeared on The Flash (assuming that this is intended to be only a 'one-off' appearance, of course). Joey King's performance as Magenta may lean toward the standard sort of over-the-top scenery-chewing, but it is still entertaining – and, she does a great job of making Frankie Kane genuinely deserving of the audience's sympathies. On a series that has often seemed to struggle with somewhat bland, and under-developed, 'villains-of-the-week' (as a somewhat depressing contrast to the, typically great, season-wide villains we have met), the fact that Frankie Kane was able to make a strong impression is actually quite impressive.

On top of that, the episode also features some very impressive displays of Magenta's powers – as well as a great opportunity for the two Speedsters to team-up, for the first time. So, while the season's third episode might amount to little more than some fairly standard 'filler', it is genuinely entertaining 'filler', at least.

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