This week’s episode was hit and miss. The continued exploration of future Barry’s time-travel back to the night of his mom’s murder made for some interesting internal conflict. Barry has begun to wrestle with the idea of being destined to fail, and on a more subtle level, they’ve even broached the idea of alternate timelines, which is always a handy concept to turn to when creating a superhero show.
The focus on FIRESTORM made for some good emotional material between Ronnie and Caitlin, and some decent chuckles between Dr. Stein and Ronnie. Their dynamic, at times, kept the episode from getting too dry, and served the sometimes light-hearted tone of the show while Barry’s story took him into more troubled waters.
General Eiling is not a compelling villain. He’s the definition of one-dimensional, and his material is really just a network of evil-military-clichés. His involvement in the episode dragged it down, and forced me to suspend disbelief more than I’m ordinarily comfortable with. Why would people on the run return to their homes? Why wouldn’t the general have people waiting at STAR Labs and Professor Stein’s house? Why would a secret base have its designation on crates in the interrogation room? Why can Barry outrun bullets, and a nuclear explosion, but not some little spikes?
I’ll stop pulling at those threads before I make this episode sound worse than it was, because it really wasn’t all that bad. Iris’ storyline was sort of lost in the shuffle, but that’s probably for the best. Yes, it seems she’s on the case, investigating STAR Labs, but the show has not established her as an intellectual heavyweight, but rather the sorority girl who needs the nerd to do her homework, how much of a threat does she really pose here?
For all this episode didn’t get right, the tag teased some really exciting stuff. We get a look at Harrison being the Harrison that Barry doesn’t know yet, and a huge look at a Flash villain we’ve been teased with already. There’s definitely a lot to look forward to for next week.
Looks like Jim didn’t leave a lot of meat on this bone. Again, I can’t disagree with much of what he’s saying, so I’ll go a different route.
Jim touched on one of The Flash’s greatest strengths: tempering dramatic waters with a touch of comedy. Cisco usually plays the role of comedic relief, but when he’s unable to do it, the rest of the cast can fill in for him. This week’s episode “Fallout” saw Cisco dropping some sweet pop-culture references—who didn’t like how he explained time travel theory to Detective West by means of Terminator and Back to the Future?—and the addition of Firestorm as a dual-personality presented another character capable of filling those light-hearted shoes. With that said I’ll admit that I wasn’t as impressed with half of “Fallout’s” serious elements.
We touched on it months ago that General Eiling doesn’t work as a character, and he still doesn’t. Clancy Brown’s talents are wasted, playing that shuffling cliché. Iris as the reporter who’ll uncover STAR Lab’s secrets doesn’t ring true. Her connection with Barry was the only reason she got Flash stories, and she hasn’t shown that she can do anything without Barry’s help. The only way she blows the STAR Labs story open is if Barry opens the front door for her. But despite the lesser half of dramatic threads, “Fallout’s” other half of drama did ring true.
I enjoyed Caitlin and Ronnie’s star-crossed lover’s story—this made Caitlin relatable and softened her edges, which was nice to see. I also liked the continued Barry’s mother’s murder investigation and time-traveling Barry story threads, but the most exciting part of this week’s episode was the tag. You’ve got to love Harrison as a speedster, and I geeked out at the first real appearance of a major villain.
This episode stumbled, but as long as Barry keeps running, he’ll punch his way to another great episode.
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but Arrow was up and down. This week featured less Laurel, but still some, which is automatically too much.
The premise of the episode, needing to go back to the island to prepare for a rematch with Ra’s was already shaky. The payoff to it was new material for Slade, and that was the strength of the episode. I was hoping for a much larger and more developed confrontation, but what we got was–if nothing else–a good call-back to the highs of last season. I think the real let-down was that Slade ended up back in the cell. I was hoping this visit to the island would put Deathstroke back in play.
The flashback segments gave us another look at Tommy, and that was a plus, as being reminded of his friendship with Ollie was humanizing for both characters, but some of the attempts to tie the past to the future–or vise versa–were painful. I cringed at the tongue-in-cheek reference to Ollie’s disguise not being enough even if he smeared grease paint over his face. Shoe-horning Diggle and Felicity into the flashback segments didn’t help the awkward factor.
Thea learning about Malcom using her to kill Sara was another overdue development, and it added something to the tension, but this is another case of the writers rushing a story along. Malcolm and Thea’s relationship was never given enough time to build for its destruction to mean much.
There’s still time for this season to end on a strong note, but this week’s episode wasn’t enough of a step in that direction.
I thought and hoped we’d get another Deathstroke sighting but this was not the Deathstroke I wanted. The Joker’s line in The Dark Knight, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free,” fits Deathstroke better than it fits The Joker, and in this episode Slade was nothing more than Merlyn’s free play thing.
Then we find that Ollie and Thea were stupid enough to return to the island at Merlyn’s suggestion. Why would they go without him? I’d keep an eye on that slime and question why the island’s a better training location than the Sierra Nevadas, the Cascades, the Rockies or the Appalachians. Ra’s lives in the mountains. He actually lives on a mountain that’s more than a mile high–I’m looking at you, Denver. You train in a location similar to the one you’ll encounter. Case in point, the US Marines moved their basic training from the Baltimore/Annapolis region to South Carolina because they were preparing to go to Vietnam and Paris Island, SC closely resembled the climate and terrain of southeast Asia.
I did like the flashbacks with Tommy and disliked the scenes with Diggle and Felicity. Tommy acting as Thea’s adopted brother worked and tied into Ollie wanting to protect his sister. Diggle was superfluous, but Felicity’s cameo did nothing more than provide fan service. The most popular form of Arrow fanfiction is Olicity stories. People wanted to see Felicity and Ollie together, and we got a “He’s cute” from Felicity. And I didn’t cringed when I heard the grease paint line. I had an awkward laugh that turned into a groan. This line proved that Team Arrow knows it’s flailing, and they’re trying to tap into something that works on The Flash. Arrow needed to set up a precedent for lines like that in order for them to work.
But worse than awkward flashbacks was watching Arrow’s decision to fast forward nine months between seasons bite them in the behind again this week. Skipping Roy’s training, Detective Lance becoming police Captain, and the Arrow ascending to Starling City’s public defender don’t hurt, they actually helped. But we traded Roy’s training for the new Black Canary’s, so that’s a wash, and missing Thea and Merlyn’s nine months together torpedoed the dramatic turn of Thea denouncing her father.
We were told and not shown Thea and Merlyn’s relationship. If this was the endgame for this season, we should’ve seen these two together in flashbacks (more than the one or two we saw). Even if the flashbacks lasted only a minute or two each week, something (of consequence) would’ve been preferable to nothing. And nothing was what I got out of Thea’s big speech.
Arrow’s uneven writing has bogged down this season, and this week best illustrated how.
Marvel’s Agent Carter
This week’s episode “SNAFU” put a fine point on why Agent Carter erred when it insisted on shoving chauvinist references down our throats. Up to this point Peggy figuratively wagged her finger at her viewer’s pigheadedness (or their parent’s or grandparent’s pigheadedness), but this episode had her literally chewing out the audience. Yes, there were SSR agents in the room with her, but when the camera zoomed in on Peggy, the scene was framed in such a way that she let us have it. What did we do, Peggy? We watched you and listened to you for seven 40-minute episodes.
The message against misogyny is an important one, but a modicum of subtly goes a long way. Saturday Night Live—who celebrated their 40th anniversary this past week—worked best when the humor left enough to the audience that they could be in on the joke. Agent Carter bashed us over the head with its social commentary so many times that there’s nothing to get. And what’s worse is that one can walk away from this show thinking that at least we don’t act like that anymore and that these viewpoints don’t persist today. Newsflash: they do, but Agent Carter presents these issues in a way that’s counterproductive. SNAFU is right.
Fortunately, events occurred in “SNAFU” that should put this caveman club of a message aside. The director of the SSR, Roger Dooley, pulled his best Qui-Gon Jinn (a pivotal character introduced in a prequel that makes you wonder why they aren’t mentioned later in a series) and sacrifices himself for the greater good (and then you find out why they aren’t mentioned later). But my favorite moments involved Bridget Regan as Dottie Underwood. She has enough stage presence that she’ll make you forget that the show’s named Agent Carter at times. Plus, you’ve gotta love that staircase sequence.
This episode put to rest any desire for an extended series.