Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S02E12 - 'Fast Lane'

With shows like The Flash, which have so many episodes to fill over a single season, it is almost inevitably that you end up with some that feel very transitional, in nature - as in, episodes which seem to exist more to set the scene for future events, rather than tell a story of their own. Unfortunately, to a large extent, that seems to be exactly the case with this twelfth episode of the show's second season.

Once more returning to the familiar 'meta-human of the week formula', this episodes gives us Tar Pit (Marco Grazzini) - a petty criminal hurled into a pit of boiling tar at the precise moment of the particle accelerator explosion two years ago. There are elements of a fascinating character here, of course. The idea that he had been, essentially, buried alive for the past two years before finally being set free was certainly a disturbing enough fate to explain his deranged desire for revenge. Also, his new-found abilities are put to good use, at various points throughout the episode - with his ability to kill by drowning his victims in boiling tar, much as he was before being transformed, making him one of the more disturbing meta-humans to appear on The Flash.

Unfortunately, this whole plot-line regarding Tar Pit's desire for revenge against the people who had tried to kill him was treated in such an off-hand manner that it was never going to lead to any sort of satisfying resolution. Much like with so many of the show's previous 'one-off' villains, Tar Pit was simply never allowed to be anything more than a fairly one-dimensional, if dangerous, villain. With such a disturbing origin story, there was a great deal of potential for Tar Pit to have become a genuinely sympathetic villain - but, sadly, that potential was ultimately wasted. In the end, despite some impressive special effects work that went into creating Tar Pit, we weren't even given a proper confrontation between him and the Flash - so, the villainous figure wasn't even permitted to provide the truly impressive visual spectacle he could have.

Instead, the bulk of the episode concerned itself with a plot-line which, as I've already mentioned, felt very transitional, in nature. With Earth-2's Harrison Wells finding himself in a difficult situation since he was forced to make a deal with Zoom, in order to save his daughter's life, it was definitely interesting to see that brought into the spot-light, here. One thing that this episode made very clear, if it wasn't clear already, is that this this season's version of Harrison Wells might be the most morally complex character to feature on either The Flash or Arrow. Here, Wells even seems genuinely disgusted with himself as a put his plan into effect - building a device which would allow him to syphon off some of Barry's power.

It was genuinely fascinating to watch the way in which Wells found himself, very reluctantly, growing closer to Barry as the two worked together on a plan to close the rifts spread across central city. Also, the episode allowed for more great character development as we saw Wells growing increasingly conflicted about his plan to betray Barry - ultimately reaching a point where he realises that he can't bring himself to go through with his plans and, instead, reveals them to Barry (just in time for Joe to swoop in from out of nowhere and punch in the face). Of course, the end result of all of this is the team's final decision to, finally, travel to Earth-2 to try to rescue Wells's daughter from Zoom. That should, hopefully, make for a very entertaining episode.

While all of this was going on, there was also room for further developments for the West family. With Francine West, apparently, passing away between episodes, Wally seems to have decided to hurl himself back into illegal street racing, despite the fact that his primary reason for taking part (earning the money to help pay his mother's medical bills) is no longer a factor. It's fairly clear that this is really just a way for Wally to attempt to cope with his own grief - though, his increasingly reckless behaviour earns disapproval from both Joe and Iris. While Joe is reluctant to express his disapproval, though (for fear of driving his new-found son away), Iris doesn't seem to have any qualms about taking on the role of a disapproving older sister - even prepared to go as far as trying to blackmail the man behind the races with the threat of exposure in a article she has written. It didn't quite work out for her, but it was a noble effort. While it was good to see Iris be given the chance to be more proactive, in a story-line of her own, it is a shame to see her efforts undermined when the episode's initially separate plot-lines begin to collide.

As for Wally, though, even the most cursory knowledge of the character's comic-book history would push his often repeated obsession with speed into the realm of heavy-handed foreshadowing - but, it did allow for some much needed character growth, in the end. Wally being given the opportunity to reveal the connection between his love of moving fast with his childhood memories of long drives with his mother probably did more to develop him into a genuinely likable character than anything else we have seen of him, so far. I'm hopeful that he will have more opportunities for further character development before he inherits his own super-speed abilities (whenever that might actually happen) - but, this episode does show that the writer's seem to be on the right track.

In all, while this episode still had it's share of great moments (mostly thanks to Harrison Wells - though, the West family drama was fairly interesting, as well), it's most fascinating details is what it promises for the next episode - with a trip to Earth-2, finally, set to take place next week. With any luck, the trip to Earth-2 might even give Jay Garrick something worthwhile to do (after the fairly intriguing revelation, concerning Jay, that ended the previous episode, he didn't even appear, here) - since, the vague and unfocused treatment of the character continues to be a source of frustration, for me.

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