Well of course he’s alive. Oliver Queen is simply participating in the time-honored tradition of comic book heroes who seemingly die and then come back. Superman did it. Batman did it. Wolverine did it. Even Oliver in the comics did it. Now it’s his TV incarnation’s turn.
One of the virtues of Arrow is that it doesn’t spend a lot of time jogging in place. Diggle and Felicity found out Oliver’s secret identity fairly quickly. Regular characters can and do die. And if there is romantic chemistry between two people (usually Oliver and a woman), they get together fairly quickly instead of spending a whole season acting out unresolved sexual tension. It’s nice to see that The Flash carries on the same tradition in this episode. We now know who the Reverse Flash is, who killed Barry’s mother, and Barry has also confessed his feelings to Iris. And it’s only the ninth episode.
Everybody who was called on to deliver an emotional scene rose to the challenge. The highlight of course was Barry’s confession of love to Iris. It actually partially resolved some of the underlying questionable aspects of their relationship. The idea of foster siblings falling in love with each other is always going to be a little creepy, but Barry revealed that he had a crush on Iris before his mother died and he moved in with her. Joe’s rooting for Barry to get with Iris is still a little weird, and apparently even a guy in jail can see that Barry is in love with Iris. But in the end, Grant Gustin took a monologue that could have been hokey and made it noble and sympathetic instead. For his part, Joe West’s speech to Barry about keeping his light was also heartfelt where it could have been hokey (the line “I need my Barry Allen” depended on Jesse L. Martin nailing the delivery). And Caitlin Snow’s sobbing speech to Cisco was heartbreaking. Danielle’ Panabaker’s tightly controlled performance received some criticism early on for seeming emotionless. I don’t think anybody will say the same about her now.
So let’s talk about the revelation of the Reverse Flash. In the comics, there are two Reverse Flashes. Both are men in yellow suits with speed powers similar to the Flash. And both are time travelers from the future. However, they have rather different motives. One is Eobard Thawne whose family has been feuding with the Allen and West families for centuries. He time travels back to the present time to seek revenge on Barry. In this show, Eddie Thawne’s name is surely not a coincidence, and it could be that the Reverse Flash refused to kill him because he is the Reverse Flash’s ancestor. The other Reverse Flash is Hunter Zolomon who believes that he is helping the Flash by forcing him to experience tragedy. This would fit in with what we know of Harrison Wells so far. We know that he is ruthless and that he believes that his actions are saving the future. Murdering Barry’s mother in order to motivate him to become a hero is certainly the kind of scheme he’s capable of.
So the Reverse Flash in this show may be a combination of the two from the comics. We also have the theory from Cisco that there were actually two speedsters the night that Nora Allen was killed. This raises the possibility that on that night the other speedster may have been Barry himself time traveling to the past. He may have been the one who saved his younger self by carrying him out of the house and onto the street. But then why didn’t he save his mother? Could it be that he knows something about the future and that his mother has to die? This was part of the plot for the Flashpoint crossover event in the comics which rebooted everything into The New 52.
So is Harrison Wells actually the Reverse Flash? How did he beat himself up? In the comics, the Reverse Flash has the ability to create after images of himself and can also change his appearance, so this might be part of it. Or maybe the Reverse Flash is a separate person who just happens to be working with Wells.
Now if only somebody would just tell Iris already that Barry is the Flash. But I guess there’s only time for one revelation for now.
X-Men: Days of Future Past was a pretty good movie, and of course it had videogame tie-ins. One such videogame came out for mobile platforms and had the full title “The Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past” (even the acronym is a mouthful!). Normally, the game costs $2.99, but I got it on a Black Friday sale. What I found was a game that was ultimately worth supporting even if I didn’t end up caring too much for it.If you follow comics at all or if you saw the movie, then you know the story. An assassination by Mystique in the past sets off a chain of events which leads to the creation of the Sentinel program to hunt down mutants. In the future, the remaining X-Men launch a desperate plan to send someone into the past to prevent the assassination and change the course of history. In this game, the time traveler is Kitty Pryde and she has most of the dialogue. However, throughout the game you can switch with any number of other characters to play with even in the middle of a level.
If you follow comics at all or if you saw the movie, then you know the story. An assassination by Mystique in the past sets off a chain of events which leads to the creation of the Sentinel program to hunt down mutants. In the future, the remaining X-Men launch a desperate plan to send someone into the past to prevent the assassination and change the course of history. In this game, the time traveler is Kitty Pryde and she has most of the dialogue.
It began as a seemingly spontaneous uprising, startling the establishment and gathering a popularity that nobody expected. Its participants were fueled by a righteous sense of justice and communicated with each other using social media in ways that observers hadn’t anticipated. For a while, they were all the talk of the town, and there were pundits in the media who openly speculated that this movement would lead to a permanent change. And then, slowly but surely, the momentum died down, the press started paying less attention, and the participants dispersed except for a dedicated core group. A few years later, hardly anybody talks about it, and no actual change has come out of all the noise and fury.
This was the story of Occupy Wall Street, and a few years from now, it will be the story of GamerGate. Not too long ago, the front pages of many traditional newspapers as well as blogs and social media were posting new stories about GamerGate on a daily basis. Now it’s already pretty clearly dead, having accomplished nothing that anybody can discern. The unofficial motto of the movement, “It’s about ethics in videogame journalism,” is now more likely to be used as a sarcastic punchline than a sincere wish. To understand what happened, I think it will be useful to look at how Occupy Wall Street started with a similar bang and then slowly collapsed in upon itself.
The typical Constantine episode plays like a slasher horror film and tries to get our attention with violent imagery or by grossing us out. So it’s interesting that this time around, the show opened with people being miraculously healed and had barely any gory imagery. Instead, we got an extended discussion of theology, human free will, and redemption.
But first things first. It looks like Zed really was at art school, as the previous episode stated. And this time, Chas gets the day off. This show has a curious lack of urgency in its proceedings. Sure, there’s a darkness rising and people are dying horribly, but apparently there’s no need to get all hands on deck to deal with it. Or more likely, the show runners don’t have the budget to use all the actors they’ve hired.
Anyway, it was nice to see a lighter side to Zed as she joked around with John and the two of them tried to talk over each other. And giving her a religious view on her powers was an interesting angle. And Megan West was excellent as the angel Imogen. I didn’t see the twist coming with her turning out to be a fallen angel. West played the helpless innocence and sinister evil with equal assurance and in such a way that both sides of her were still recognizably coming from the same person.
Plus, Manny got to actually do something in this episode. Most obviously, he killed Imogen, but his conversations with her and with John revealed a lot about the mythology of the show. On a more prosaic level, the angels are not all knowing, and Manny has more than just Constantine to look after. The prime directive of angels is apparently not to interfere with human free will, and to that end they cannot take a direct hand in events or even give out information. They’re even compartmentalized so that they don’t know what the others are doing. This free will thing is apparently a huge deal since Manny states that it’s even more powerful than anything the angels can do. And apparently they have no human senses which means they don’t feel pain and also don’t know what sunlight feels like. Oh, and there’s a rising darkness, but we’ve known that for a while. So what is the big deal with free will and what are we supposed to do with it, anyway?
The plot with the preacher dying from a snake bite is so close to the story of Jamie Coots (right down to being based in Kentucky) that I have to think it was a deliberate rip from the headlines. I didn’t feel much sympathy for him, but I did wonder what happened to all the people he healed. Did the blind man go blind again? It would seem that the answer is yes, but then again, the pastor himself is still alive after being bitten by a snake. I’m honestly not sure if I believe the writers thought things through that far.
And now, surprise surprise, it turns out that Zed has a past that is going to catch up to her. It better be something interesting and not just old gambling debts or something like that. On the bright side, it appears that both Chas and Zed will appear in next week’s episode.
Which probably means no Manny.
It’s probably a simple matter of the two shows having different writers, but it’s interesting to note how the Arrow and Flash characters act differently when visiting each other’s cities. When the Arrow crew visited Central City, they were more light-hearted and fun, especially Diggle. On the other hand, Team Flash got comparatively more serious and somber when they came to Starling City. This was best encapsulated by Cisco’s comments when everybody was sitting around the table at Club Verdant. It was a little on the nose, though. In fact, this whole episode spent a lot of time talking about the differences between the two heroes instead of just showing us.
All in all, though, I still had a lot of fun watching it. The casts of the two shows work well together and really bring out the best in each other. I was actually having the most fun watching Roy’s reactions to everything around him. Colton Haynes is not the strongest actor on the cast by a long shot, but he is at least not actively bad. And his normal slightly bewildered expression at everything going on around the Flash served him well.
Credit also goes to Nick Tarabay for a sinister portrayal of Captain Boomerang. In the comics, Captain Boomerang is not taken nearly as seriously as other villains, and let’s face it, his gimmick is a little silly. Nick Tarabay managed to make even some of his cheesiest lines sound menacing, however, and rather than being a cheerful bandit robbing banks, he came off as a truly remorseless killer. It helped that his costume was designed to look like practical battle gear with an overcoat and that he wasn’t wearing Captain Boomerang’s usual hat.
By the way, once again that Laurel is mostly absent and that the show still does just fine without her. And speaking of characters who got shortchanged, it looks like Thea is still fighting off the advances of her club’s new DJ. I was kind of hoping one of Barry’s acts in this episode would be to grab the guy and transport him to Nebraska.
So what to make of the discussion between Barry and Oliver? Is Starling City really that much harsher and is Barry being naive by opposing torture? It’s easy to bring real world parallels into this discussion, but such comparisons don’t really hold up. There’s a lot of doubt that the ticking time bomb scenario depicted in the flashback ever really happens in real life, and of course it’s absurd to think that Captain Boomerang would have the time and resources to place five bombs in separate places around the city for our heroes to defuse. The stories presented on this show are fictional, and it would be foolish to draw any real-world lessons from them.
In the context of the show, though, there are a couple things to say. Barry is right that Oliver does not have to be brooding and wallowing in his pain all the time. And he was right to point out that his own mother was also killed in front of his eyes. But then again, Oliver’s troubles are an order of magnitude greater than Barry’s since they include years of torture and isolation on a deserted island, multiple people killed in front of him including both of his parents, and being forced to work for Waller as an assassin.
Speaking of which, do we really trust that what Waller was telling him was true? Could she have set up everything in order to convince Oliver that there was no choice but to torture the prisoner in order to get information? I honestly wouldn’t put it past her.
It was also nice to have John and Lyla acknowledge that there really isn’t any reason for them to not be married. This may lead to John having a different outlook on life, but we will have to see exactly what that means.
I wonder what exactly was the immediate next move in the final duel between Barry and Oliver. The episode cut away when Barry was about two steps away from hitting Oliver, so it doesn’t seem like there’s much time for Oliver to avoid the impending hit. But then again, Oliver must have known that standing still and firing arrows was going to be pointless. And he probably knew that Barry’s response would be to charge directly at him. So he probably prepared a next move. But what could that have been?
Final thought: Come on! Must we have Barry do the salmon ladder, too? He has super speed, not super strength. It made for a nice visual gag, but can we let Oliver have one thing that he does best? Ray Palmer’s and Barry’s actors aren’t even doing it for real.
This episode was fanservice all around, and it was glorious. Most obvious was the climactic fight between Barry and Oliver which I will get to in a moment. But let’s list all the other continuity call backs we got in this episode:
- Team Arrow was in town to investigate Captain Boomerang who appeared on their show (even though he is a Flash villain in the comics).
- We got a mention of the freeze gun when Barry went bad.
- Oliver’s baby mama who appeared during a flashback in Season 2.
- The island where Oliver is keeping Deathstroke.
- Barry mentions the Huntress when Oliver complains about silly code names.
- People being concerned about the Arrow’s past as a killer.
- And of course the mention of (sigh) Black Canary’s murder.
Even with all this packed in, there was no need for audiences to be familiar with the backstories in order to follow along. It was just a treat for loyal fans who caught all the references.
The other fun of the episode was seeing these characters interact with people they don’t regularly interact with. We had Barry and Oliver, of course. But there was also Iris meeting Oliver, Caitlin and Felicity bonding over having no other female scientists to talk to, Diggle’s hilarious reaction to seeing the Flash for the first time, and Diggle and Cisco arguing about whether Barry or Oliver would win in a fight.
With all this fanservice going around, it’s too bad that the actual villain got so short-changed. They couldn’t even spare 30 seconds to show him getting captured but simply cut to him appearing suddenly in the prison vault. There were too many other weighty issues such as Barry being too care free, the police department forming a task force to catch the Flash, and the Flash’s relationship with Iris being on the rocks.
So let’s talk about that fight for a minute. To me, it seemed that Oliver was in the driver’s seat and should really be called the winner, despite Cisco calling it a tie. It’s clear in any case that Oliver was holding back while Barry was not. Yes, Oliver was having a hard time at many points, and there were times when he could have been defeated or killed. But a little adjustment in aim could have sent some of his arrows into Barry’s heart or throat or spinal cord. Barry heals fast, but a fatal wound is still a fatal wound. The whole thing was an illustration of how Barry relies too much on his powers while Oliver has had to use experience and training.
Diggle’s conversation with Cisco was rather out of character for him, especially when he uttered lines like, “Whatever. Oliver’s been doing this a lot longer.” The whole thing was written in speech patterns that Diggle normally never uses. But it’s clear that he and Cisco were meant to be stand-ins for comic nerds having this kind of debate, and in a world where a man can run faster than the speed of sound or a woman can make things explode by touching them, why not have a little fun with it, too?
Meanwhile, Harrison Wells is getting worse and worse at hiding how creepy he is. Oliver just had to spend a few minutes with him to notice it. Speaking of which, we know that Wells probably discovered Oliver’s secret identity by using his knowledge of the future, but it also wasn’t that hard to figure out considering that the Arrow started appearing right around the time Oliver came to town. He really needs to find a better way to hide who he is.
If Felicity’s shirt caught on fire due to air friction, that would imply that the rest of her (most notably her face) would also be pretty badly damaged. But oh well, it was a nice gag anyway (and it turns out that Caitlin is very well prepared for such a situation. Either that or STAR Labs has t-shirts lying around in random places).
The excuse given for why Barry reacted the way he did to the rage-inducing power was that his body was fighting it off which made its effects last longer on him. However, that doesn’t really make sense given what we know of his power. Barry doesn’t have a super immune system. What he has is a super-fast metabolism which means he processes alcohol really quickly and also has super fast hearing. This would imply that he should actually get over Bivolo’s rage eyes very quickly. Oh well. It gave us an excuse for a kickass fight scene.
This has been an ongoing issue, but it’s not clear how much of the Flash’s speed gets translated into actual power. Barry has stated a few times that he has super speed, not super strength. Of course, it takes tremendous amounts of energy to achieve the speeds that he does (which is why supersonic jets require humongous rocket engines), and kinetic energy increases as the square of velocity. This would imply that the Barry’s super fast punches should have liquefied Oliver’s internal organs. But Oliver was able to simply grab one of Barry’s punches and stop him dead in his tracks, presumably because Oliver is a larger and more powerful man. It would also mean that when Oliver was holding Barry with a bolo arrow, Barry should not have been able to drag Oliver along from a dead stop. Oh well. It gave us an excuse for a kickass fight scene.
While watching this episode, I was thinking that it would have actually worked pretty well if it had come earlier in this season. Sure enough, it turns out that this was supposed to be Episode 2 and NBC in their bone-headed wisdom decided to air it out of order. I don’t know why networks continue to do this unless they are trying to deliberately tank their own shows (a theory which has been often advanced about Fox).
Let’s count the ways this episode would have been much better in its proper place:
- It would have explained the absence of Zed. There’s a throwaway line in this episode about her being in art school, but that’s completely out of character considering that in the past she has had to doggedly pursue John while he tries to fight her off. It makes much more sense if she’s not in the episode simply because she hasn’t made an appearance yet.
- We wouldn’t have spent the whole episode wondering why our heroes don’t just call in Zed already since she could have easily solved all the problems since she could have simply done a psychic touch of the catatonic patient.
- Episode 2 aired in the last week of October which would have fit the Halloween theme that was already going on.
- We would have gotten more character for Chas early on in the series instead of having him inexplicably missing for a long period.
- John’s conversation with Manny about the rising darkness would have felt like a consistent theme instead of something that just popped up all of a sudden after being missing for the past two episodes.
On its own, the episode was all right although nothing special. The creepy child with supernatural powers is a standard trope these days. The actor playing the possessed boy was extremely creepy and believable. Somehow, I actually found him less believable when he was playing his normal, constantly frightened self, but that was less important. The mother was also an excellent, strong character who believably made the transition from disbelieving to horrified suspicion that her son really is possessed. She was obviously there to fill in the role of female audience surrogate before we met Zed, but in that function she worked well enough.
It was a little strange that the episode started off very grim and bloody and then got tamer as it went along. After the initial murder, nobody else was killed. It’s understandable that the boy being thrown onto the merry ground happened off screen, but other than that, the most menacing sight was some puppets in a haunted house (by the way, I’ve never seen a haunted house in real life as elaborately designed as this one, but maybe I just haven’t seen many). After “A Feast for Friends” proved that the show won’t shy away from the gross-out creep factor, this was a disappointing come down.
The most intriguing line for me was actually spoken by Manny: “Once humans got free will, angels could no longer direct events.” This implies that Manny actually knows what’s happening and simply can’t tell anyone. Is there anything he can do besides appear suddenly and startle people?
I suppose it makes perfect sense that a villain based on time would make an appearance on a show about a speedster (who is nonetheless constantly late). And it’s nice to give fans a little inter-series continuity with Arrow which is where the Clock King originally appeared and was captured. But if you think about it too much, you might wonder why someone who was in a Starling City prison ended up in a Coast City police headquarters.
Given how nicely the Clock King’s gimmick fits in with the Flash, it’s surprising that the two never actually meet in this episode. But that does give the normal humans an opportunity to prove that they don’t need Barry’s help to take down a criminal (albeit an unpowered one). I wonder what Clock King’s plan was going to be if the power didn’t go out.
Blackout was sort of a flipped version of Plastique from two episodes ago. Like her, Blackout was not fond of his powers and viewed them as a curse. But whereas Plastique tried to hide in order to avoid hurting anyone, Blackout went actively searching for the source of his torment: Harrison Wells. In the end, though, Blackout was a victim.
And speaking of victims, it was nice to see Girder return, and his death was surprisingly touching. He may have been a dangerous jerk and a bully, but in the end he tried to protect Barry by telling him to run. However, I knew he was dead as soon as Wells stood up from his wheelchair to release him. There was no way Wells was going to leave anybody alive who knew that he can walk. I do wonder how Wells knew that Blackout would be able to kill Girder, but I guess that’s just comic book logic for you. I’m finding that Wells is getting scarier by the episode. I still think that he believes he is working for the greater good, but I’m not even sure any more that he necessarily wants the best for Barry. And it’s worth noting that the newspapers from the future have been changing as the episodes go on. Somewhere on the internet, there is probably someone documenting how the future has been changing on this show.
Science Lesson of the Week: without his power, we see Barry just barely hitting 10 mph on the treadmill. This is absurdly slow, even if Cisco does lampshade it. 10 mph is really a fast jog which would be impressive to maintain for a long time but is pathetic for an all out sprint. Most of us who aren’t disabled could manage that speed going backwards. Given that Barry is not overweight or obviously disabled, a more realistic top speed for him would have been around 15 mph. Then again, perhaps what we saw in that scene was the aftermath of Barry trying to run for several minutes straight.
This week we got a whole lot of comic book shout-outs in the form of a list of names that Harrison Wells recites to show that he knows everybody who died as a result of his failed experiment. The first two were of course Blackout’s friends who died in the aftermath of the collider explosion, but every other name is a superhero from DC Comics. They are:
- Ralph Dibny — Elongated Man. He can stretch his limbs much like Plastic Man or Mr. Fantastic
- Al (Albert) Rothstein — Nuklon or Atom Smasher (depending on the time period). He has super strength and an grow to enormous size.
- Grant Emerson — Damage. He is a living fusion reactor with super strength and energy blasts
- Will Everett — Amazing Man. He can mimic any substance he touches.
- Bea (Beatriz) Da Costa — Fire. She can light herself on fire and fly, much like the Human Torch.
- Ronnie Raymond — Firestorm. He can transmute inorganic matter by rearranging its atomic structure.
Viewers with sharp memories will also remember that Ronnie Raymond is the name of Caitlin Snow’s fiancé and that he was played by Robbie Amell in flashbacks. We also know from Hollywood reporting that he will appear in the present in his Firestorm guise, thus revealing that he didn’t die after all. This suggests to me that we may see all the other characters on this list at one point or another. I personally would really like to see Elongated Man and Fire, but that’s mostly because I’ve seen them in Justice League Unlimited. I suppose it’s possible that all these people were created by the explosion at STAR Labs, and it will be nice to have some meta-humans appear who aren’t homicidal maniacs.
The problem with branding an episode as the “mid-season finale” is it can prime audiences to expect the sorts of things you would normally get in a finale. This might include events reaching a climax, lots of action, characters fundamentally changing (some of them dying), and truths revealed. Although this episode did have a lot of action and a change of assignment for Jim Gordon, it didn’t really have much of a climax. And the mob storyline was essentially treading water. Don’t get me wrong, the episode was quite good. It just isn’t a finale.
While we’re talking about changing characters, though, let’s take a moment to appreciate Alfred the Battle Butler. The most obvious badassery from him is the way he went toe-to-toe with the assassins and even killed one of them after being shot himself. To me, what was even more impressive was the way he handled the investigation and approached each person in the most effective way possible. With the street kid, he offered money. He held a knife to the thug’s throat. And with Fish Mooney, he made a simple and straightforward appeal to honor. His adaptability makes him very effective and serves as a contrast to Jim Gordon who is incorruptible but also inflexible.
The other highlight of the episode was the interaction between Bruce and Selina. Using child actors is always a dicey proposition, but these two didn’t strike any false notes and played well off each other. The brief chase across the rooftops pretty well encapsulated their future relationship. The cameo by Pamela Isley was also a nice treat which avoided hitting us too hard over the head with foreshadowing (I’m looking at you, Edward holding a question mark coffee mug).
But in the meantime, did anything actually happen with the Carmine Falcone storyline? It seemed like they could have cut all those scenes without losing any important information. The episode would have held up just fine.
In any case, we now have Jim Gordon taking a stint at Arkham Asylum. This is probably going to be a chance to meet other future members of the Rogue’s Gallery. I’m betting on an appearance by the Mad Hatter. We may also have cameos by more obscure villains just to keep the fans happy. Perhaps Calendar Man or Maxie Zeus. If the writers are really stretching, they could include a young Harleen Quinzel (but I personally think that would be a step too far).
Speaking of fan service, I’m told that the female assassin running around this episode was supposed to be Copperhead (who has become female since Arkham Origins). She isn’t named, but the way she moves and strangles her opponents is a pretty clear clue.
Final questions: why didn’t Jim just shoot the two assassins while they were still standing some distance away?
And is Barbara still relevant at all?