The Flash: The Fury of Firestorm

Posted on October 28, 2015

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It must have been somewhere around the time Barry went around stealing blood from people that we realized the plot had been lost on this show. Not that we’re predicting doom and gloom based on one bad episode. Sure, it came immediately on the heels of a somewhat mediocre episode, but that doesn’t mean the Flash team has lost their mojo, right?

Right?

Because you guys, this was a really bad episode of television. It took us a full forty minutes to realize the entire plot was going to revolve around setting up a character for a spinoff show and pointlessly indulging in a family melodrama subplot that couldn’t possibly be less interesting to us or more of a CW series cliche. When they got to the giant shark man, we threw our hands up in despair. You wasted the ridiculous glory that is King Shark on this muddy, melancholic, mostly pointless episode? For shame, Flash people. King Shark deserves a 6-part mini-series event, dammit.

Our problem with this episode isn’t so much that it was boring (although it was); it wasn’t so much the enormous sense of narrative housekeeping and the obvious setting up of a spinoff series that’s not coming for several months (Legends of Tomorrow, which will form a Justice League-like team of characters mostly culled from The Flash and Arrow families), because sometimes you’ve gotta take one for the team, narratively speaking. Housekeeping episodes are a requirement in this long-form storytelling age where we expect entire seasons of television shows to have complete plots, like a book or a movie. If you look at each episode as a chapter in a longer story, then by necessity, some of them are going to be more dynamic and exciting than others. No, it wasn’t the housekeeping or the lack of excitement that made this episode fail. Those were just symptoms of the main issue, which is that this felt like an episode put together by people very rushed and overwhelmed, who may just be trying to do too many things at once.

This is not an unfair concern to have, given that showrunner Greg Berlanti is not only helming this ship, but the Arrow one, the newly launched Supergirl, and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. More power to him and his team if they think they can handle all of this, but there looks to us to be cracks forming in the foundation. How else to explain the fact that Barry withdrew blood from two people without their knowledge or consent? And we’re not talking little blotter pinpricks, we’re talking vials of blood. That’s a downright criminal act of violation and no one batted an eye over it. In fact, Barry made some sort of joke about how he kinda “forgot” to get consent. Pardon us, but WTF? How distracted do you have to be to okay a script with a scene like that in it? A room full of scientists and not one of them found that action problematic? A room full of writers (presumably) and no one thought it was a little off to have their up-till-now perfect shining knight of a hero act like consent is some sort of silly inconvenience?

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You could say, “T Lo, calm yourselves. It was just one small, short point that never came up again. Can we call it a mistake and move on?” To which we would reply “NEVER!” melodramatically. Because if that was the only weirdness, we might be able to chalk it up to an oversight by a tired showrunner, but then we had the scene where Joe basically encouraged Barry to date Patty with the understanding that Iris would be waiting for him when he changes his mind about her. Pardon us again, but WTF? So you think it’s a good idea for Barry to just use Patty as a placeholder until he’s ready for your daughter, Joe? You realize she’s like, an actual person and all, right? And why would you want someone who treats women that way to date your daughter? WHY ARE YOU SO FOCUSED ON AND INVOLVED IN THE ROMANTIC LIFE OF YOUR DAUGHTER AND FOSTER SON, YOU WEIRDO?

Again, this could be chalked up to some narrative and scriptwriting weirdness that got through without anyone noticing it, but Joe West has always been a deeply problematic character when it comes to his daughter. He routinely lies to her or withholds information from her and has encouraged Barry to do the same. It’s good that they finally brought her into the fold and stopped treating her like a moron, but it’s hard to forget how badly her character was treated last season, especially when we see Joe turn around and act like Patty’s just a tool to help Barry get with Iris. Patty, who is his partner, not just some stranger. All the credit goes to Jesse L. Martin for infusing this character with so much empathy and warmth, but when you get past the performance, the writing for Joe West almost makes him look like an outright villain at times.

And then there’s the issue of Francine, Iris’s mother. While we don’t necessarily think this subplot is a problem – and we certainly don’t think it’s weird in the way our other two examples are –  it feels like a total drag on the story. If there’s a point to this family drama, we confess we have no idea what it could be. So far, it seems to yet another mechanism for characters to keep massive secrets from each other, something Berlanti and his team tend to do too much in order to stir up drama and conflict. There have been times when Arrow practically collapsed under the narrative weight of so many characters pointlessly keeping secrets from so many other characters. It’s a very CW style of television drama and we can put up with it up to a point, but we have our limits. There was absolutely no good reason for Joe to order Patty to keep the Harrison Welles info a secret from Barry. And when Iris dramatically declared to keep the existence of HIS OWN SON FROM HER FATHER, we couldn’t have been more annoyed by it all.

Flash team, we love you, but you need to stick to the psychic gorillas and shark men in order to keep our interest. The CW melodrama and the bizarre weirdness you keep forcing your characters to undertake is hurting the show.

 

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