Uncollected Thoughts: The Flash s05 e01


Now *that’s* more like it…

From being my favourite of the DC superhero shows, because it was such sheer fun and the perfect antidote to the forever gloomy Arrow, The Flash has tumbled down a long way for its insistence upon turning Barry Allen into a near carbon copy of Oliver Queen. This got so bad that by the end of season 4 I was prepared to switch off, like I have with Arrow and the terminally wet Supergirl.

But, to be fair, I decided to give season 5 the Four Episode Test, and I’ve just watched episode 1. So, what’s the initial verdict?

Well, first of all there’s a switch-up through the cast with Hartley Sawyer (Ralph The Elongated Man Dibny) and Danielle Picot (Cecile Horton) being promoted from recurring, and Jessica Parker Kennedy as Nora West-Allen, aka XS as the newest arrival. There’s also Chris Klein as season 5’s big bad who doesn’t really get a look in yet.

What’s being set-up is last season’s cliffhanger. Nora is Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future, thirty years into the future in fact. She’s supposedly stranded in time, due to the effect of negative tachyons. Bearing in mind the risk of damage to the timeline, Barry’s all gung-ho to get her back where/when she belongs before the excitable young woman gives anything away about what’s to come.

This hovers on the edge of extreme drippiness, especially in the formulaic scene with obligatory slow music when Barry discusses how, by meeting his daughter as an adult, he feels he’s been cheated out of all the ‘firsts’ a parent gets whilst their baby becomes a child and more. Even without the one spoiler I knew coming in, this counts as pretty blatant ironic foreshadowing, but it’s here that the season gets something that might all on its own be enough to sustain it.

Because according to that futuristic newspaper that was first introduced in season 1, The Flash will disappear in 2024 in some form of Crisis (seasoned comics fans will know what is being implied, some variation on 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the Barry Allen Flash was killed off, not to return for twenty years). Nora’s not here because she’s stranded. She’s here to spend time with the Dad she never knew, the Flash who, according to a new future newspaper she projects, from 2049, never came back.

There was a clever bit at the start when the customary opening credits monologue went to Nora West-Allen, not Barry, which justified the closing credits monologue in which she makes it plain she’s come back to do everything in her power to keep her Dad from disappearing.

Thinking about things logically, that gives her another five seasons before it all gets a bit critical, though I’m betting that by episode 22, The Flash and XS will somehow find themselves in 2024, dealing with it.

After all, the programme has already started to blur this simple human tragedy by having Barry do what Oliver Queen always does and keeps the whole thing to himself. No, we’re not going to tell Iris, even though she knows about that 2024 headline, we’re going to be completely fucking stupid as usual and do the one thing that drives me insane about this show, gah!

Anyway: there’s a couple of Easter eggs for us fans, such as Barry and Nora’s favourite desert coming from a place in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, home of the real Snapper Carr (forget the stupid one in Supergirl, oh, and by the way, don’t ask. Please) and, incidentally, the first Justice League of America secret headquarters. And The Flash’s new suit is mentioned as having been designed by Ryan Choi, aka The Atom 4.

Speaking of that new suit… it’s taken them until season 5 but The Flash finally looks like the real Flash, in a bright red, non-leather, non-dark, non-stupid chinpiece costume, projected from a signet ring… It was one of those moments that veterans like me long to see and it made the whole episode worthwhile, just like that bit in season 2 where the two Flashes recreated the cover of The Flash 123. Sometimes I’m easily pleased.

We’ll see. If only they’d cut the crap, which is still there in embarrassingly large chunks. I doubt they will, since it’s all part of the show’s formula, but if they can come up with enough decent bits in between, and lay off the bloody angst a bit, i might get to next June still watching this.

Uncollected Thoughts: Crisis on Earth-X


The TV promo

Where there are four DC Universe TV shows appearing on the same network, you’re going to get crossovers, especially as three of those shows are practically incestuous to begin with, having spun-off each other.

Last year, the crossover was spread over four consecutive nights, with each of the shows retaining their own identity and concerns for the most part against the background of invasion by distinctly unconvincing CGI aliens. It was fun, but most of that came in the last part, when everybody got together for a mass superhero brawl.

This year, it went a whole lot better. Firstly, the four-parter was stripped over only two nights, in blocks of two hours (for which Arrow shot forward three days),which maintained the momentum far more successfully, and secondly it went out under its own title, Crisis on Earth-X, and played as a distinct, four part mini-series, which worked fantastically.

The title alone had a nostalgic ring for veterans like me. Ever since the first JLA/JSA team-up back in 1963, Crisis has been the DC got-to title for big events. And Crisis on Earth-X is personally significant to me because that was the title of Justice League of America 107, all those years ago, my gateway back into reading comics.

The mini-series borrowed the same principle but built its story upon a colossal twist. This further forward in time, their Hitler has died (in 1994) and a new Fuhrer is in charge, supported by a female General. The Fuhrer is an expert archer with a mainly green leather costume, the General is a superstrong, flying, blonde-tressed Aryan type: yes, it’s the Earth-X Oliver Queen and Kara Danvers Queen – his wife!

And supporting this unlovely pair of versions, we have the Reverse-Flash, still wearing Harrison Wells’ face and, if we don’t have enough allusions to early series, another expert Archer called Prometheus, under whose mask is… Colin Donnell, aka Tommy Merlin.

The main thrust of the story is that Super-X-girl is dying due to some form of radiation poisoning and needs a new heart – that of Kara Danvers. As she’s going to be on Earth-1, attending Barry and Iris’s wedding, our villains bust in on the ceremony (does anyone have any objections? Pouf: Minister is vapourised).

The wisdom of trying this on just when the Church is crammed packed with the superheroes of four whole series may be questionable but not to Green-X-Arrow: in fact, the show is heavy with speeches, from him, from Super-X-girl and even from poor Tommy (before he chucks a cyanide capsule down his throat after being captured) wholeheartedly espousing Fascist ideology, and despising the heroes and, by extension, all the other 52 worlds of the Multiverse, as weak, deserving only of serving their betters.

It’s horribly contemporary, though nobody makes that connection outside the audience, and the F-word is never used, though Nazi is bandied around with comfortable ease. But this strength through purity, contempt for the weak, the poor, the non-Aryans: tell me that doesn’t ring a bell with a lot of what we see around us.

The Comics promo

I particularly liked the way that each show abandoned its individual identity in favour of the four episodes going out as Crisis on Earth-X. This was particularly welcome in the case of Supergirl, which I’ve given up watching.

Generally, there was a common core cast of the principals and a couple of essential supporting characters, with the other supporting players having only relatively limited roles, in passing. For instance, Kara brought her sister Alex with her to the big wedding (whereupon Alex copped off with Sarah Lance at the rehearsal), and Oliver Queen brought Felicity.

The Flash got the best of it, but then the story was mainly taking place in Central City and was built around Barry and Iris’s wedding, so having the full cast play through was pretty much a given. And whilst only Sarah, Mick, Jax and Professor Stein went to the wedding, the positioning of Legends of Tomorrow as the close-out show again ensured the rest of the Legends got a good look-in too.

There were more than a couple of surprises along the way. Russell Tovey turned up for the back half as a Concentration Camp victim on Earth-X, imprisoned for being gay but, as advertised, he’s also a superhero, the solar-powered The Ray. Though the Ray is actually from Earth-1, once the whole thing was done, he went back to Earth-X to continue the good fight, but his lover (from Earth-X) decided to stay on Earth-1 for a bit. His lover was captain Cold, the Earth-X version, Wentworth Miller enjoying subtly camping things up as ‘Leo’ Snart, his interactions with Dominic Purcell a total delight.

And despite the vapourised Minster, Barry and Iris did get married at the end. They’d had the ceremony, all they needed was the Licenced Minister, so Barry speed-snatched John Diggle out of Star City.

Not to be outdone, having rather loudly turned down his proposal in part 1, because she did not want to get married, Felicity had a sudden change of heart, and got Dig to tie her and Ollie’s knot too. Aww!

But there was one thing I didn’t expect, not in itself but especially not in a more or less self-contained mini-series with only a minor degree of relevance to each show’s ongoing plotlines. I rigorously avoid spoilers, so I have had no idea where the Legends plot of Professor Stein and Jax trying to separate themselves as Firestorm, to enable the former to return to his wife, daughter and grandson, was going to lead. Was Victor Garber leaving? He is the first name in the credits, after all.

So the cliffhanger for part 3 was that he and Jax had separated to speed up what needed to be done to get everyone home to Earth-1, but they were all being attacked by machine-gunning Nazis, and Stein made a run for the lever he needed to pull, and was shot. In the back.

In the final episode, he made the final effort and pulled the lever, but at the cost of another bullet. So he was rushed back to the medbay on the Waverider, and his physical suffering fed back to Jax, but it rapidly became very clear, that Martin Stein should be dead from his wounds, that he would be if he wasn’t sustaining himself on Jax’s life-force, and that Jax would die alongside him. So Stein refused to drag Jax in with him. And he died.

It was a shock and it was felt by everyone. Next week’s Legends is the Fall Finale and I’m eager to see where they go with this now: I mean, Stein could ‘survive’ as a ghostly voice in Jax’s ear, as Firestorm, or maybe Franz Drameh is out of the series two, and depending on the reaction to Russell Tovey, I’m guessing on the Ray joining the Legends before the season is over.

But this was really a surprise, even if it did turn the last part into Two Weddings and a Funeral (I’m sorry, but the producers were angling for that, obviously).

Speaking of Supergirl, I didn’t see anything to suggest I’m missing anything, and with the exception of Sarah helping Alex get over her separation from Maggie (and I don’t mean by that that her… head was turned by a lesbian one night stand, you filthy-minded sods), there was nothing to do with ongoing continuity there: Kara/Melissa Benoist was in it for the mini-series story only, and thank the TV Gods for that.

So, a palpable hit by being almost purely superhero geek from start to finish. Keep this format for 2018 and, as one who has recently watched Justice League on the big screen, take a bloody big dose of Crisis and inject into everyone who will have anything to do with the sequel: this is how you do it, you pompous bastards!

The nostalgia…

The Fall Season 2016: The Flash season 3

The Fall Season 2016: The Flash season 3

Now there's two of them
Now there’s two of them

I dunno.

I’ve spent the three months since Barry Allen, in an excess of grief over his father dying, went back in time to prevent the Reverse-Flash from killing his mother, Nora, thus changing time and history, in avoiding all but the most unavoidable spoilers for season 3, i.e., photos.

Thus I have seen Wally West in his Kid Flash costume, and Jay Garrick-the-real-one in his Earth-2 Flash uniform (which, in the DC TV-verse is going to be Earth-3 and I’m going to get a terrible headache because that’s just wrong) avoiding learning anything about what was going to happen.

Which meant that I had a lot of time to speculate for myself about how they might play this and what they would do, and how it would affect everything else, and how long they would run it for (privately, I was thinking four episodes, maybe three if they panicked.)

It’s already over. Not entirely, which I shall explain in a moment, but by the end of this episode the big Reset has been, well, reset. Bye bye alternate timeline, bye bye, and you were a hell of a lot less fun than the Earth-2 (DC TV-verse) version of Team Flash.

This is because, as I may have mentioned from time to time, all my fascination with time travel and alternate pasts and presents and futures stems at root from Justice League of America 37. I expected changes, big changes, unrecognisable changes. I got small, disconnected changes. Cisco is rich, owns what used to be STAR Labs. Caitlin’s a pediatric opthalmologist. Iris is a reporter for Picture News, Wally used to drive illegal souped-up cars (now, wait a minute….). Joe, admittedly, is a hopeless drunk, uncaring of his job, whilst Barry has changed the most of all. He’s a CSI with the Central City Police Department and he’s got super-speed. Now, come on.

The biggest thing I expected and which I decidedly didn’t get was that Barry would not have his powers and would not be the Flash. The show not only bottled that decision, they fudged it. Barry had his speed, he had all his memories, he was still the Flash except that, there being another Flash in town, he didn’t have to be a speedster (except for when he ran somewhere fast like he was always doing).

And I’m sorry it may be comic-book logic but I’ve had fifty years of this logic and it is logic, but if the alternate timeline had Cisco be very rich and have bought a STAR Labs not damaged by the proton accelerator blowing up, where did the accident that gave Barry his speed come from?

True, Wally’s ‘origin’ was completely different (illegal car, experimental turbo-mixture fuel, lightning strike, bongo, except that Wally doesn’t have supermetabolism for when villains stick a pole through your ribcage, for some unexplained, convenient and lazy reason).

What Barry did have was his parents back. Recently deceased Henry but, above all importance, long-gone Nora (played with charm, grace and a hint of calm MILFness by Michelle Harrison), for three idyllic summer months. What Barry didn’t have was any contact with the Wests. Ok, he’s been stalking Iris for three months whilst, in pure klutz-mode, working up the nerve to speak to her, but he doesn’t know either of the others and Joe doesn’t like him. But then Joe-the-drunk-fuck-up doesn’t like, or care about, anyone. Why was the alternate Joe a drunk duck-up? You expect that to be explained?

In terms of the story, there is a new speedster villain in town, the Rival (a very obscure Golden Age opponent of Jay Garrick, in the very last issue of Flash Comics in 1949, revived by Geoff Johns) who’s facing off with Kid Flash (don’t call me ‘Kid’), whilst Barry has got Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash (wearing Matt Letscher’s face, not Tom Cavanagh’s, the latter being AWOL this episode) locked in a speedproof glass cage and intending to keep him there forever. Like that was thought through particularly well by Barry.

The thing is, Thawne is issuing apocalyptic warnings about Barry dooming them both, and Barry’s getting spasms in which memories of his former timeline are getting sucked out of his head until he realises he has to collapse this bubble of time before it becomes permanent and Wally dies. Which means that to do so, he has to ask Thawne to kill his mother.

One episode. I am not the only person to feel cheated by that.

So, back to life, back to reality. Everything is as it was. Except that Barry done fucked up again. It’s not all quite the same. Iris and Joe aren’t speaking to each other. Father and daughter are estranged and have been for no little time. Maybe it’s because Joe is, or was, a drunken fuck-up like in the alternate timeline, I don’t know, that would be neat, but for that we’ll have to wait and see.

By the way, there’s a new actor playing precinct Captain Mendez this year. He’s played by Alex Desert. Hands up who remembers the awful 1990 version of The Flash

So, given that I thoroughly loved season 2, this is for me The Flash‘s first major disappointment, making the whole cliffhanger thing into an annoying intrusion (still, Bary won’t mope about saving his mother any more). I’m going to pretend next week is the real start of the season. We have already got a twist coming: Edward Clariss, aka The Rival, was shot dead by Joe in Earth-A (for alternate) but is alive in Earth-1. He’s woken up by a mysterious voice and an invisible hand etching a word into his bedroom mirror. The word is ‘Alchemy’.

The Doctor will see you shortly…

End of Term Report: The Flash


A happy crew

I love The Flash. Forget this grim’n’gritty nonsense, the superheroes I grew up on, who imprinted upon me my innate sense of recognition for the form, were filled with excitement and a sense of fun, and from its inception, this show has been the best at portraying that internal lightness, the joy and thrill of powers and the sheer yee-hah cut-looseness of superspeed.

A lot of people have talked down season 2, and are already talking of even further limited expectations for season 3. Not I. Whilst I recognise the flaws of this season, especially the way its first half was rather clogged up by the donkey work required to set up Legends of Tomorrow, the show had me from the moment when, at the end of episode 1, this tall, clean-cut guy walked into Star Labs and said, “I’m Jay Garrick.”#

The Flash of Earth-2. Earth-2. Earth-freaking-2 and it’s on tv and I’m watching people crossing the vibrational barrier that blew my mind so much fifty years ago!

So my objectivity and critical faculties tended to get overlooked on Wednesday mornings and I luxuriated in the show. And there was a lot to luxuriate this season. Iris growing into a viable and respectable character. The introduction of a young, strong Wally West (even if he isn’t ginger-haired). The week-in, week-out excellence of Jesse L. Martin’s performance as Joe. Danielle Panabaker getting to rock it out as Killer Frost.

And the presence of Jay Garrick, wearing a darker version of the Golden Age Flash’s costume, but hell’s bells, I am watching such an esoteric thing on TV!

True, I wasn’t happy with the show turning Jay into a villain, though the reveal was nicely handled. And I was definitely not on board with how, after the writers revealed that Jay wasn’t Jay at all, but was actually Hunter Zolomon, everybody still kept calling him Jay. But, still…

The finale was well set-up last week, with Zoom, aka Hunter (not Jay Garrick) Zolomon, killing Barry’s Dad, Henry, who we all remember is being played by John Wesley Shipp, the Barry Allen/Flash on the 1990 series. This wound Barry up to a pitch of genuine agony/anger that everyone else thought was unsafe, but which enabled him to face off and defeat Zolomon in a final race, where the penalty for losing was not just death for Barry and everyone on his side, but the destruction of the entire Multiverse, Earth-1 excepted. Barry pulls off a neat trick by duplicating himself, leaving one version to save the day Crisis on Infinite Earths style, by running himself into disintegration, whilst the other whupped Zoom.

So, this led into a seemingly downbeat endgame. The man in the iron mask in Zoom’s lair had already been revealed by Zoom to be the real Jay Garrick, whose name he had stolen, and who turned out to be the Flash of Earth-3. But the kicker – which did not come unforeseen – was that he was the spitting image of Henry Allen. Which did Barry no good at all.

So, rather improbably stuffed into a red and blue Flash costume, John Wesley Shipp took Harry Wells and Jesse back to Earth-2, where they would help him get on to Earth-3 (it’s funny how Barry hasn’t told anybody about his side-trip to Kara Zor-El’s Earth). Jesse wanted to go home. Harry had her blessing to stay, since he obviously fit in over here, but his promise never to leave her held, which means some hopefully tolerable contrivance is going to be needed next season to bring Tom Cavanagh back, because he is just as important to The Flash as Grant Gustin.

But the real Jay’s appearance completed the job of breaking Barry Allen. Iris is ready for him, what he’s dreamed of, but he feels too hollow, too broken inside to be what she deserves. So the real finale is Barry running back in time to his old home, that very night, the night the Reverse-Flash killed Nora Allen.

This time last season, Barry did this, but was warned off saving his mother by a future version of himself, wearing this season’s uniform. But this time, the season 2 Barry rips into the Reverse-Flash, and saves Nora. When season 1 Barry peeps through the door, he sees his Mom alive, and promptly fades out. As does season 2.

So. Barry’s saved his Mom. He’s Flashpointed his world (which ought technically to bugger up Arrow, Legends and Supergirl, if it now turns out Barry never became the Flash) which led to absolute disaster in the comics (the new 52, for a start).

Let’s bring it on! I can’t wait to see how they get themselves out of this. Roll on September.

The Fall Season: The Flash


This is the one I’ve been most looking forward to seeing return. The Flash‘s first season was the unexpected hit among the superhero shows, mainly for its air of fun, and underlying lightness of touch among all the grim’n’gritty series focusing on the oh-so-serious and dark elements of costumes and powers.

In fact, I understand that, whereas the week 8 crossover between The Flash and its parent vehicle, Arrow, was intended as support for the newbie, by the time it hit the screens it was Arrow that needed the crossover appeal: outside of the crossover, Arrow‘s best rated episode didn’t get neat The Flash‘s worst.

So, good things to look forward to, and even better things on the card if season 2’s underlying arc is to involve Earth-2: the appearance of Jay Garrick’s winged helmet in the season finale was not just an easter egg for us D veterans.

But what of the cliffhanger that we were left with at the end of season 1? After a whirlwind flashback covering the whole season, we jumped straight to a perfect world: Flash and Firestorm take down Captain Cold and Heat Wave, everybody’s happy in STAR labs until we see Eddie Thawne and Harrison Wells… No, the reality is a deserted, dilapidated STAR labs and Barry alone.

It seems that for the past six months, the Flash has been pushing everybody away and trying to go it alone. Eddie and Wells are still dead. Caitlin’s quit and gone to work for Mercury Labs. Cisco is Joe’s science expert on the Anti-Metahuman squad. And Barry’s being very stubborn.

It’s quite understandable: he didn’t get to undo his Mom’s death, his Dad is still unjustly in prison for it – but it’s not until the carefully delayed flashback to the save from the Singularity that we see the real reason. Central City is holding Flash Day to celebrate the man who saved the City, but Barry knows that he only did so much, and that the true hero was Firestorm. Except that when Firestorm split, only Victor Gerber emerged, not Ronnie Raymond. Ronnie’s dead, and Barry won’t let any of his other friends face that risk.

Of course the episode is dedicated to reversing that decision and restoring the basic set-up for the next 22 episodes. This is accomplished around the menace of Atom-Smasher, aka Al Rothstein, a chunky, radiation-sucking gentleman with the power to expand his size and weight. Team Flash comes up with the solution of overloading his radiation absorbing capacities, though this doesn’t merely neutralise Rothstein, it kills him.

His dying words are to say that he was trying to kill The Flash at the behest of Zoom, who had promised to send him home. Who Zoom is was not explained, though we ancient comic book fogies know full well that the other name for Flash-foe Professor Zoom is… the Reverse-Flash (though since Geoff Johns is all over this series, it’s bound to be his revised version of Zoom: if you hear the name of Hunter Zolomon being bandied about…)

Nor was any detail given of where Rothstein calls home beyond, ‘You wouldn’t believe me.’ Oh, but I would: try Earth-2…

But there was still a surprisingly emotional moment to come. Barry receives a kind of living Will from the late Harrison Wells that he’s resistant to watching until Caitlin volunteers to share the pain. The late Doctor woofles a bit before telling Barry to erase the tape up to here: he then launches into a full confession for the murder of Nora Alllen. Barry’s dad is set free.

It’s a joyous moment, as well as an end to an overbearing plot that Johns introduced into the comics, and which I’ve always felt was totally inimical to the world of the Flash. To have that lifted was a great blessing on all levels, though the show then made its great mistep: no sooner is Henry Allen free than he’s buggering off out of Central City to parts far away from the son who has missed growing up with a father and whose greatest wish has just been realised. And why? Because having Henry around will stifle Barry’s growth as the Flash.

That’s definitely a comic book moment: stupid, implausible, based on specious reasoning, a clueless expedient towards trying to recreate the status quo after game-changing incidents.

So, we and the vast majority of Team Flash are now back where they were, which is to be both expected and welcomed. There are still tweaks to be ironed out: as Tom Cavanagh is staying with the show, either Harrison Wells has left a whole parcel of living Wills or else something ingenious is up someone’s sleeve (hopefully).

Nevertheless, it’s all good. STAR Labs is fully intruder-proofed: no-one’s just walking in here unannounced anymore. Except for the guy who does. He’s hear with a warning: Team Flash’s Earth is in danger. The guy’s name is Jay Garrick.

And he’s the Flash of Earth-2…