Friday, March 17, 2017

THE FLASH Season 3 Episode 16 Review: Speedster Prison Breakout

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Anytime a show has a smash success like The Flash did with “The Runaway Dinosaur,” an episode that was almost universally praised by fans and critics alike, it’s almost inevitable there will be a sequel episode or a rehash of the premise in some way. And considering how little we still know about the Speed Force, spending another episode in the mystical dimension isn’t such a bad idea. But like most sequels, it has a hard time capturing the magic of the original. 

This second jaunt into the Speed Force distinguished itself from the first mainly by forcing Barry to fight the specters of his dead friends rather than receive words of wisdom from helpful visions of his mentors. The most compelling encounter to watch was easily Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold, a character who had a much too short life on the show. The series has never quite been able to fill the hole left by his absence, and The Rogues have pretty much fallen into obscurity at this point. Seeing their fight was a bittersweet moment that showed what their rivalry could have been like in another universe. 

While seeing a darker side of the Speed Force was entertaining, this episode was unable to reach the heights of “The Runaway Dinosaur” because it lacked the emotional kick the other had. While it was great to see old familiar faces, none of them really had anything to teach Barry about himself or any closure to give him — unlike with his mother, he had already come to terms with these deaths a long time ago. There was a moral tacked onto the end of his journey, but it seemed to drop out of the sky rather than come about naturally through Barry’s ghostly reunions. 

And the lesson Barry did learn — that he needs to defeat Savitar by himself, without relying on Wally or his other friends — doesn’t really jive with the tone of The Flash. The series has clearly shown time and again that Barry is at his strongest when he’s working in tandem with his team; having him suddenly go lone wolf isn’t just a departure from the norm, it’s a contradiction. 

The fact that the Speed Force itself was the one telling this Barry just makes it feel even stranger. It would be one thing if this were a flawed conclusion that Barry had come to himself that he would outgrow eventually, but he basically got told by the comic book equivalent of God to stop relying on other people. Not exactly the type of thing you can brush off. And with Wally temporarily out of commission and Jesse off on Earth-3, it seems the show is going out of its way to make this easier for Barry to do. 

One of the things I enjoyed most about the quest to save Iris from Savitar was that it pushed Barry to be closer to Iris and his other loved ones instead of keeping his distance. It highlighted Barry’s strength as a hero, he’s optimistic and doesn’t wallow in darkness. The show’s ultimately a hopeful one. But making Barry be forced to go it alone changes that drastically; we can see that almost immediately when Barry bizarrely even breaks up with Iris in the aftermath of receiving this message, even though there’s really no way their relationship status could affect Savitar’s evil plans. And sure, the two will undoubtedly get back together, just as Barry will end up needing his team again at some point. But what does the show gain by having Barry try to push them away? Him learning that friends and family are important? That’s something he’s already gladly espoused. 

It feels like an unnecessary twist added for extra drama, when there was already juicier, less cliche conflict being explored with Barry’s botched proposal or Wally being a speedster prodigy. I do appreciate the fact that Barry is taking responsibility for creating Flashpoint; earlier in the season, it seemed like he had more or less escaped any real consequences from changing the timeline. But having Barry come to terms with his mistakes doesn’t mean he needs to become an Arrow style loner superhero, and it’d be foolish for the show to keep acting like it does.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer -- Click to read Kaitlin's posts


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THE FLASH Season 3 Episode 14 Review: Even 3 Speedsters Can’t Save a Story This Slow

THE FLASH Season 3 Episode 13 Review: [Meta] Humans Beware

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