Thursday, 29 October 2015

Review - 'The Flash', S02E04 - 'The Fury of Firestorm'





Two main plot-lines set in motion during the previous episode are picked up again, here. The first concerns Dr Stein - who, it seems, is still suffering the lingering side-effects of the loss of his 'other half'. Of course, with the new revelation that Dr Stein actually, genuinely, needs to fuse with a compatible partner in order to survive, the stakes have been reason considerably higher, now. With no treatment available that would be of any use, and with his body slowly deteriorating, it seems as though the only way to save Dr Stein is to find a new partner - one similarly affected by the particle accelerator explosion who would be willing, and able, to fuse with him and create a new Firestorm.

Thankfully, though, Caitlin is quickly (and, perhaps, slightly implausibly) able to track down two likely candidates through their hospital records. First, there is Jefferson Jackson (Franze Drameh), the former star of his high-school's football team whose dreams of moving on to college football were dashed when he injured his leg on the night of the particle accelerator explosion. Then, there is Henry Hewitt (Demore Barnes), a successful, though arrogant, scientist.

It feels like a fairly conventional set-up. There are two potential candidates - one who is reluctant to accept the power of Firestorm, and the other who seems almost giddily eager to accept it. It's fairly obvious that one quickly prove to be the 'right' choice, while the other will prove to be very wrong. Also, even without any knowledge of the comic-books, you shouldn't have any issue figuring out which would be which. To their credit, though, the writer's also seemed to be perfectly aware of that. There wasn't even a token effort put toward building any real mystery around which of these two potential candidates would become half of the new Firestorm. Instead, it was made clear right from the start that it was the under-dog, Jefferson Jackson, who was destined to become a super-hero.

Caitlin did manage to complicated matters with her behaviour toward the two candidates, though - with her being almost recklessly supportive of Henry Hewitt (included telling him everything about Firestorm before any of the others had even had a chance to speak to him), while at the same time being almost insultingly dismissive of Jefferson Jackson. It was definitely a strange decision, on the part of the writers, to have her behave like this. Honestly, were it not for the fact that both men were African-American, her strange behaviour toward Jefferson might even have come across as racially motivated. But, instead, it just came across more as a form of intellectual snobbery - which they later tried to suggest was actually a result of lingering grief over losing Ronnie, and a reluctance to see him 'replaced'.

Of course, while Jefferson is destined to join Dr Stein as the new Firestorm, that still leaves Henry Hewitt. Hewitt's own brief exposure to the power of the Firestorm matrix, is turns out, was enough to trigger his own latent abilities - and now, motivated by anger and jealousy, he feels compelled to lash out at the ones who took something that he felt he deserved. I have to say that, of all of the villains to ever appear on either The Flash or Arrow, Henry Hewitt would have to be the most unconvincing. - not because he didn't make for a threatening figure, but simply because his rapid shift into villainy didn't make a lot of sense. There was some effort to justify the seemingly sudden change, by revealing that Hewitt had a history of anger-management issues and violent behaviour - but, we didn't actually get to see any of that on screen. Also, it really should be mentioned that, despite his angry outbursts and some impressive displays of his new powers, Hewitt didn't actually hurt anyone - so, it didn't really make a lot of sense to have the Flash and the new Firestorm instantly go on the offencive, either. Despite his arrogance, and his anger, it really did feel like Hewitt should have been treated as a sympathetic character - at least until he actually did something to earn his status as the episode's designated villain.

Still, though, as far Dr. Stein and Jefferson Jackson (and, their new partnership) is concerned, this episode was still a success. It is obvious, though, that this was another plot-line intended to set the pieces in place for the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow - something which both The Flash and Arrow are doing a fair bit of, at the moment. Your own mileage may vary on how acceptable this is, of course - but, as someone who is looking forward to the new show, I'm definitely enjoying the strong sense of continuity they're building.

The second of the two primary plot-lines picked up during this episode, though, is the (much less interesting) West family soap opera - as Francine West (Vanessa Williams) is finally given the opportunity to meet her daughter, only for Iris to declare that she isn't actually interested in having any sort of relationship with her estranged mother. This, in turn, leads to the revelation that Francine is suffering from a terminal illness, and has less than a year to live - which leads to the further revelation that she was actually pregnant with another child when she ran off all those years ago. While I still feel that it is important to allow the show's supporting cast to have their own unique story-lines, it's definitely a shame that this is the one that they decided on for the West family. It just feels too much like heavy-handed melodrama. While all involved give fine performances with the material they are given to work with, it still feels like the screen-time could have been put to better use.

One a more positive note, though, the episode also managed to find room for some smaller sub-plots. Patty Spivot's investigation into the rumoured sightings of a 'shark-man' was treated almost like a entertaining running gag throughout much of the episode, only for it to receive a hilarious punch-line at the very end. Also, the Earth-2 version of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) has travelled through the stable rift in Star Lab's basement for reasons of his own - reasons which, so far, seem to involve stealing technology and sneaking about. I'm hopeful that the eventual revelations will be interesting, though.

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