Thursday, 5 November 2015

Review - 'The Flash', S02E05 - 'The Darkness and the Light'

The previous episode of The Flash ended with the surprising introduction of the show's most outlandish villain, so far - King Shark, a half-shark hybrid who was brought to life with some very impressive CGI. At the time, the scene had comes across as the punch-line to a running gag throughout that episode. And, it seems as though that is how King Shark's brief time on the show is intended to remain. Rather than continue with the appearance of King Shark, the episode focuses, instead, on the figure who came to Barry's rescue - Earth-2's version of Harrison Wells.

Earth-2's Harrison Wells is adamant that he is here to help Barry stop Zoom - though, it is also fairly clear that there is more to it than that. In flash-backs, we learn that Harrison Wells had been, previously, reluctant to offer the same help to Jay Garrick, so something as obviously changed. Tom Cavanagh was, of course, a very important part of the previous season - and, it is impressive to see him take on what is, essentially, a very different role, here.

Once again, though, Zoom has sent another meta-human villain over from Earth-2 with orders to kill Earth-1's Flash. Though, this time there is an interesting twist. This particular villain, who goes by the name 'Doctor Light', is actually Earth-2's double of Linda Park - a woman who Barry briefly dated in the previous season (this is, of course, a different identity for the character than you find in the comics - though, it works quite well for the show). Jay Garrick, who has encountered Doctor Light before, is adamant that she is a thief, not a murderer, and that it should be possible to talk to her. But, when Barry's first encounter with her results in him accidentally revealing that she has a double in this world, Barry comes to believe that he may have placed Linda's life in danger. Of course, it turns out that he is right to be concerned, as Doctor Light is so desperate to escape from Zoom that she is willing to try to take her Earth-1 double's place, in the hope that she can disappear. This is something which, of course, Barry can't let happen.

Doctor Light's powers are visually impressive - and, they definitely would have provided a challenge for any other hero. But, as so often seems to happen on this show, I wasn't really convinced that she provided a true challenge for someone who can move as fast as the Flash. It's an issue that I'm often willing to overlook on a show that is as consistently fun as The Flash has been - but, the show has also always been somewhat inconsistent with its portrayal of Barry's abilities, which have always seemed to vary from week to week, based largely on the needs of the plot.

Despite this, though, Doctor Light was able to make a better impression than many previous villains, thanks to the extra attention given to her characterisation. Malese Jow has only had a few scenes as Doctor Light, so far - but, already, she has done an impressive job of distinguishing her from the character that she has already been playing since last season. Even though Doctor Light is still a mystery to the audience, she and Earth1's Linda Park already feel like two people who have lived very different lives. She, clearly, isn't a straight-forward villain - and, hopefully, the new developments for both her, and Earth-1's Linda Park, will lead somewhere interesting in the future.

But, of course, Doctor Light's arrival wasn't the episode's only new development.

It did feel like a bit of an anti-climax to have Cisco's carefully hidden power be be so abruptly brought out into the open by Earth-2 Wells, though. Yet, at the same time, I was never entirely convinced that this little detail was going to develop into anything interesting, anyway. I was never really convinced really able to understand why Cisco would be insistent that his own meta-human ability should be hidden, either - even when he did try to offer an explanation, it wasn't a terribly convincing one. So, while it was abrupt, I think that it's probably for the best. Cisco's simple joy at the realisation that being a meta-human means he gets to give himself a code-name was much more convincing.

While I'm on the subject of unconvincing behaviour, though, I also have to admit that I'm not entirely convinced by the level of the team's instinctive distrust for the Earth-2 version of Harrison Wells. I can accept that it's a very confusing, and emotionally complicated, situation for these characters to find themselves in, sure - but, really, their distrust of Earth-2's Wells seems to suggest that they haven't fully wrapped their heads around the fact that Harrison Wells and Eobard Thawne were two very different people. The Earth-1 version of Harrison Wells was murdered at around the same time as Barry's mother - and, Eobard Thawne was the time-traveller who used some strange piece of future technology to steal his identity. It was the big plot-twist of the show's first season, and something that the entire cast of characters learnt for themselves by the end. So, in the end, they aren't even comparing Earth-2's Harrison Wells to the Wells of Earth-1 - they're comparing him to Eobard Thawne. And, they all know that they're doing it, too - but, that hasn't stopped them. Though, to be fair, they are trying to understand the situation and work with Earth-2's Wells, at least (though, admittedly, with varying degrees of success) - so, it's not quite as bad as Barry's instant distrust of Jay Garrick earlier in the season.

But, then, there was Joe, police officer and protective father figure, whose first reaction to seeing Earth-2's Wells was the pull out his gun and start firing. I understand the point of that scene, of course - it was intended to show Joe's willingness to protect the people he cares for, and also give the audience that great shot of Barry catching the bullets heading toward Wells. But, it seems as though the writer's didn't really stop to consider the negative light that scene would cast on Joe, himself. Thanks to that scene, Joe is now a character who will march into a situation that he doesn't understand and immediately start shooting - something which seems to go against his previous characterisation as a 'good cop'. I can't imagine that this was the impression that was intended.

But, of course, after all of that, it turns out that there is reason to be suspicious of Earth-2's Harrison Wells, anyway. There is definitely a genuine antagonism between Wells and Jay Garrick, after all - something based on years of mutual disdain for each other. It is made fairly clear, here, that Jay Garrick seems to have genuine reason to distrust Wells, just as Wells seems to have reason to believe that Jay is a coward who has always been afraid to confront Zoom.

On a lighter note, the episode also made room for some elements of romantic comedy, as Barry and Patty Spivot made time to go on their first date, after awkwardly tip-toeing around each other for the past few episodes. The whole situation may have bordered on absurd, with Barry left temporarily blinded by an encounter with Doctor Light and with Cisco acting as his 'eyes' through a pair of high-tech sun-glasses - but, it was absurd in a way that was genuinely entertaining. Also, having Patty see through Barry's attempts to hide his blindness so quickly was a great little moment for her. Honestly, the whole situation felt like something straight out of a bizarre sitcom - but, it somehow managed to work.

While I do have lingering issues with the actions and behaviour of certain characters, this was still a great episode of The Flash. It added a new villain who was able to make a much better impression than some previous ones. It brought an end to one of the less convincing character arcs, with Cisco's powers finally being brought out into the open. It introduced a new romantic sub-plot that actually seems like it will add to the show, rather than detract from it. And, it even managed to make room for another brief glimpse of Zoom, himself, as the show continues to build toward that inevitable conflict. Overall, the episode got much more right than it did wrong, for me.

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