Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Review - 'The Flash', S02E20 - 'Rupture'

A couple of episodes ago, we had a moment where Barry Allen willingly gave up his powers in order to save the life of Wally West. It was a moment which was supposed to come across as a tense, dramatic, and very necessary, sacrifice on Barry's part – but, thanks to the way the scene was scripted, it just didn't come across that way. What we had, instead, was Wally West already set free, while Barry chose to give up his powers anyway, just because he had given his word. It was a frustrating scene at the time – and, it still frustrates me, now.

In the previous episode, Barry's plan to deal with the 'villain of the week' (who, it should be remembered, was actually little more than a scared and desperate kid) was to, essentially, trick him into killing himself. If we were supposed come out of that episode believing that Griffin Grey had survived then, once again, the point really wasn't conveyed very well. If not, then that means that Barry willingly killed a meta-human – and, no one felt any particular urge to call Barry out on it. Either way, it was frustrating.

The point I'm getting at, here, is that I just haven't been very impressed with Barry Allen, lately – and, the fault for that, I believe, lies largely with the writing and direction of the previous episodes.

The previous episode did, however, end with Harrison Wells announcing his intention to recreate the circumstances that gave Barry his powers. That meant that there was, at least, some small possibility that we would soon be able to put all of this nonsense behind us. So, going in to this episode, that is exactly what I decided to do – to put aside the frustrations of the past few weeks in order to judge this newest episode on its own merits (which seems only fair, after all).

As the episode opens, we learn that Harrison Wells has, apparently, been hard at work on developing a safe, and contained, method of creating the accident which initially gave Barry his powers – while, at the same time, the rest of the team are just as hard at work trying to convince the city that a hologram they have concocted is actually the Flash. While the hologram seems to be working for the moment, though, it is fairly clear to everyone (especially Wells) that it is only a temporary solution, at best. Despite this, though, Barry seems reluctant to go along with Wells's plan.

His uncertainty is understandable, of course. After all, the initial accident left him in a coma for nine months before he was able to emerge as the Flash – and, on top of that, it was also responsible for creating just about every meta-human who has emerged in the time since. Just as understandably, though, Wells finds himself growing increasingly frustrated with the rest of the team's refusal to see things his way – Wells has, after all, already lived through Zoom's reign of terror on Earth-2, so he clearly feels that he knows what's coming now that Zoom is free to travel to Earth-1, once more.

Wells's fears are quickly confirmed, too, when Zoom re-emerges at the Central City Police Station, seemingly set on taking it over and making it his new base of operations. With Caitlin being brought along for the ride, it's only through her pleas of mercy that any of the officers are even allowed to leave the station alive.

With Zoom active once more, it seems inevitable that Barry will soon find himself pushed toward doing whatever is necessary to get his powers back – even if it is a decision made out of pure desperation. Even still, though, the sequence of events which led to Barry making that seemingly inevitable choice, here, have to be among the darkest moments we have ever seen on The Flash.

While I do have to admit that I was, initially, somewhat worried that Zoom being unmasked as Hunter Zolomon would undermine the effectiveness of the character as a genuine threat, that simply hasn't been the case, so far. If anything, Teddy Sears as managed to give us a character who seems more unhinged and dangerous than that faceless mask had ever been. His disturbing fixation on Caitlin, and his willingness to kill an entire room full of innocent police officers just to make a point, would have to rival anything we have seen even on the usually more grim and serious Arrow. The fact that we still have occasionally moments of Tony Todd's imposing voice coming out of that intimidating mask really only enhances the character's effectiveness.

Zoom isn't the only villain to make an appearance in this episode, though. Rupture, the villainous Earth-2 double of Cisco's brother, Dante (Nicholas Gonzales), has also made his way over from Earth-2 – and, he is looking for revenge for the death of his own brother, Reverb (Cisco's own villainous double). It's an amusingly convoluted situation – one that is only made more so by the fact that it all takes place just as Cisco makes an unsuccessful attempt to reconnect with Dante.

Even though Rupture, himself, really amounted to little more than another example of the bland and undeveloped 'one-off' villains we have had since the beginning, there was still a fair bit to enjoy about his appearance – not from the character himself, of course, but rather what his presence means for Cisco, and his relationship with his own brother. For one thing, there was definitely an enjoyable element of irony in this episode's implication that Rupture and Reverb may, in fact, have had a more genuinely loving brotherly relationship than Cisco and Dante – but, beyond that, there was also the very genuine possibility that Rupture's appearance might provide them with the catalyst to finally begin working on their own issues.

Nicholas Gonzales may have had only one previous appearance on The Flash – but, in his brief time on screen, he has still managed to give a great performance as Cisco's antagonistic older brother. He may not have succeeded quite as well at developing Rupture into an equally well-rounded character, but this episode still managed to feature some very strong scenes between Dante and Cisco – something which he, and Carlos Valdes, deserve equal credit for.

Beyond that, though, this was a great episode for just about everyone. Caitlin had the opportunity to display some great moments of genuine bravery as she attempted to use whatever influence she possessed to curtail Zoom's more violent impulses, as well as taking any opportunity to quietly work against him. Wally West and Jesse Wells had a few amusing moments together, as they found themselves hidden away together for their own protection. Also, given the status of each character's comic-book incarnation as a fellow Speedster, the fact that they just happen to be at STAR Labs in time for the aftermath of Wells's attempt to restore Barry's own super-speed should be enough to offer some interesting hints about where things are headed.

One of the clearest high-lights of this episode, though, would have to be John Wesley Shipp reappearing in the role of Henry Allen. His initial casting, back in the first season, may have been intended more as an entertaining bit of stunt casting, given his previous acting history – but, he had quickly managed to become a very important part of the first season's success. Seeing him here, encouraging Barry and arguing with Harrison Wells, was enough to make me wish he had never left.

With only three episodes left in the season, this felt like a very important episode – one intended to set the scene for the season's final confrontation between Zoom and the Flash. Of course, the fact that it also managed to end with something of an unexpected last-minute twist added some fascinating new complications to the second season's final arc. The last couple of episodes of The Flash are still a source of frustration, for me – but, this episode seems to have managed to get things back onto the right track as we move toward the finale.

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