Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fangirling: Flash, Season 1, Episode 17

Summer is media time for me. I can't really watch TV much during the school year, not and keep up with teaching, mothering and writing. So, I binge in the summer. Netflix is my bud.

I watched all of Stranger Things, two seasons of Penny Dreadful, most of season 6 of The Walking Dead, and half of a season of Jane the Virgin so far this summer. I've also watched a few episodes of The Flash (I'm still in season 1 because the husband and I are trying to watch it together--and he's not got the summer off).

I really want to love The Flash. It's my kind of show. There's so much that is right about it.

Barry Allen (played by Grant Gustin) is perfect. He's youthful without being a child, romantic without being sappy, idealistic without being an idiot, funny without being a clown, and vulnerable without being a wimp. Even when the writing goes all emo on me and Barry is handed loser lines to speak and weak plots, Gustin makes a silk purse out of that sow's ear because he gets the heart of the character.

What I love about the character in this iteration is that, in spite of tragedy and bad luck in his past, he still has heart. He hasn't become bitter or vengeful. Even as he struggles to deal with the mystery of what happened to his mother, he doesn't turn a Batman sort of dark.

I also love Joe West (played by Jesse L. Martin). He's a rare creation in television history: a good father. There's no sign of Mrs. West so far in the story, so he appears to have been doing this alone, at least for a while, and raising an extra foster son with love as well as his own biological daughter. So, a good, black, single dad. Are there any more of those anywhere on television? Even rarer, he seems to have a clue when it comes to parenting adult children.

Harrison Wells (played by Tom Cavanagh) is a complex villain and I love how his contradictory motivations are coming into play. The man who does good things, but has a dark over-riding purpose--and this particular episode (season 1, episode 17) furthers that story and gives us an explanation we've long been lacking, while still leaving mystery.

Cisco (Carolos Valdes) has way more personality than the science guy is usually allowed. And he's a male character allowed to be emotional!

I wish I could love the other characters as much. But the women in this show. Gah! Have these writers ever met a real woman?

Caitlin Snow, science girl (played by Danielle Panabaker) isn't outright offensive, but she's also not very interesting. When it's time for the science support team to act, it's always Cisco's skills that save the day. She's supposed to be a brilliant scientist in her own right, but we never get to see her be one. She's just monitoring and communicating, supporting, but not actively problem solving. She might as well be the secretary in a 1950s show. The best she gets is a little heart to heart talk with Barry from time to time. Even when we brought her long lost back-from-the-dead beau in, they still only gave her an emotional range of "bravely not crying" to "crying."

And Iris. Good G-d, I can't stand Iris West (played by Candice Patton). The writers have done women the world over a disservice in making the object of Barry's affection a selfish woman who toys with the emotions of others. I think I'd like her better if she was aware of her manipulations and doing it on purpose, but no, they don't even give her that. She's not manipulative because she enjoys it or as some kind of power play. It's supposed to be unconscious.

She's so blind to the inner workings of her own heart, that she seems TSTL (too stupid to live). She reminds me a lot of Bella from the shiny vampire series…and I hated her, too. Good people just don't string other people along like that--they confront the feelings or they cut off contact. If I were writing this show, Barry would realize that any number of women would be better for him than Iris and move past his little boy crush for good.

And the way the men in the show (Dad, Barry, and Boyfriend) condescend to her by lying to her and misleading her under the guise of protecting her because they love her…what year is this again? They might as well pat her on the butt and tell her her not to worry her pretty little head about man stuff.

The portrayal of women isn't the only flaw in the show, unfortunately. There are also huge plot holes, all the time. Like, if the Flash just "flashed" he could win the day, but for some reason, he just…doesn't. As a superhero writer myself, I recognize that it must be difficult to write good challenges for a speedster character, but there have been many cases where it felt like the writers phoned in the plot when they were on a bender on a fraternity reunion weekend, ignoring completely obvious solutions to the problem and hoping you wouldn't notice through the haze of relationship drama.

That's why I was so thrilled with Season 1, Episode 17: Tricksters. For once, it felt all right. It was so good! In a show that's all about the breaking of the fourth wall and meta-moment Easter eggs, this episode was amazeballs.

So, first off, we've got Barry's dad, Henry, played by John Wesley Shipp who played the Flash in the 1990s series. He's been there the whole series, but he gets more screen time in this episode to enjoy that meta-goodness. Then, we've got special guest Mark Hamill as The Trickster. Mark Hamill played the Trickster in the 1990s show, too. They even work in footage from that 1990s performance in some stills and showing his costume.

And the very very very best part?

Mark Hamill, in his best villainous whisper, honed from years of voice work in superhero cartoons, references his Star Wars history at the same time by announcing, "I am your father!" I thought my geek heart would burst with joy!

If only all the episodes could be this good! So much potential…so not fully realized.


  1. There we have it - a flashy flash review of the Flash. Well done. I am current on it, seasons out from where you are. You have sooooo much to look forward too. I love it when the Green Arrow shows up to help. And, not to be outdone the Flash shows up in Supergirl when he loses his way in a time stream. All that, and I still get into bed by 8:30 - Ha..

    1. I'm also part way into Green Arrow . . . which does a little better with its female characters and plan to watch Supergirl someday :-)

  2. Haven't seen this one. We're still limping our way through Stranger Things.

    I admit I don't watch a lot of TV, but I'm enjoying your reviews.

    1. Thanks. I only get to watch TV in the summer, at least in any significant amounts. So, I'm always behind on all the popular stuff, too. But I'm interested enough to want to watch it, given the chance.

  3. I'm going to check out some of your suggestions. I do the same thing--Netflix Gorge. I just finished watching BLUE BLOODS and rewatching HELL ON WHEELS. I started BEAUTY AND THE BEAST so have that to look forward to. Happy watching.

    1. Yes, I think Netflixing is on its way to becoming a properly recognized verb in English.

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