Thursday, 26 January 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E10 - 'Borrowing Problems from the Future'

From the very beginning, Barry Allen has been a character very concerned with the past. The night when Barry's mother was murdered has been the main driving force behind many of Barry's decisions, over the past few seasons – and, it has been the catalyst for a fair amount of drama. It was also, most notably, what finally drove Barry to alter the events of the past, resulting in the creation of the 'Flashpoint' time-line and the still fundamentally different time-line that Barry now inhabits.

Of course, with Barry finally coming to terms with the fact that attempting to alter the past is too dangerous, and too unpredictable, it seems that writer's felt the need to come up with some new source of drama to act as a replacement. How else can you explain Barry's sudden trip to the future, in the previous episode, and his glimpse of Iris West's seemingly inevitable death at the hands of Savitar.

It had certainly been a very dramatic note to end on, as The Flash came to its mid-season break – and, it is clear Barry's efforts to prevent Iris's death are set to become the source of quite a bit of drama as the season continues. Sure, you could argue that it is a little predictable for a series that has come to place so much emphasis on time travel to replace the issue of changing the past with a plot-line centred around preventing a future event (it does, after all, set up a rather blatant parallel) – but, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, depending on how it is handled.

One thing that I definitely did appreciate, as we come to the season's tenth episode, is that Barry's approach to this new dilemma does actually provide some evidence that Barry is capable of learning from his past mistakes, after all. In the past, it might have been fair to expect that we would be forced to endure a few episodes worth of Barry trying to keep secrets from his friends, until the truth inevitably came out in a way that left everything feeling angry and depressed – but, here, we have Barry prepared to reveal the truth of what he saw on that trip into the future well before the episode is over. Sure, it's not an instant decision, and it does involve an angry outburst directed at Wally (who inadvertently interfered with Barry's first attempt to change the future) – but, it is encouraging that the whole team is actually able to come together to take on this new challenge (well, everything except for Joe, at least – who is still being kept out of the loop).

While Barry's behaviour, in the past, has often been a source of frustration for me, I actually found most of his actions and decisions in this episode to be perfectly reasonable – which, in itself, does feel like a clear sign that some progress has been made. Similarly, the way in which the entire team is able to quickly come together to save Iris (and, as it turns out, also prevent Caitlin from becoming 'Killer Frost' once again) is encouraging, Even Julian Albert, still struggling to cope with the aftermath of his time as 'Alchemy', is given the opportunity to become an active member of the team.

Sure, the idea that the team are currently basing all of their efforts on trying to change a handful of head-lines from a future news broadcast, in the hope that this might also change the events leading up to Iris's death, might feel a bit like grasping at straws – but, then, you could also make the argument that this is exactly the case. There is a sense of uncertainty to Barry's current plan which I actually enjoyed – as 'Team Flash' currently seems more concerned with proving, to themselves, that future events actually can be altered.

Their current focus is on Jared Morillo (Stephen Huszar) – a jewel-thief armed with a futuristic gun who comes to be known as 'Plunder'. Plunder may not be a terribly compelling, or even particularly effective, villain (and is, in truth, not much of a challenge for either Speedster) – but, his appearance in Barry's trip to the future does add a somewhat interesting complication. In that news broad-cast which serves as Barry's current motivation, after all, Plunder had just recently been caught by the Flash – so, Barry is left momentarily uncertain about whether capturing this particular criminal is the right course of action.

Alongside all of this concern with preventing a future tragedy, the episode also finds time for a more light-hearted sub-plot involving H. R. Wells, and his efforts to open a Star Labs museum. It's a somewhat unnecessary sub-plot, of course – but, there was something genuinely endearing about Wells's earnest desire to find some way to make himself useful, and in the way that Cisco finds himself won over in spite of himself. Of all of the versions of Harrison Wells that Tom Cavanagh has played, since the series began, H. R. is clearly the most comedic in nature – but, that very genuine desire to be taken seriously that we have seen in the past, and which becomes even more pronounced throughout this episode, manages to add quite a bit of depth to the character. I wasn't sure what to make of H. R. Wells, at first, but he has managed to become a genuinely likable character who I am eager to learn more about.

In the end, I think that it's probably fair to say that the most interesting aspect of this episode is in what it sets up for the future. Even if his presence did finally provide Wally West with an opportunity to finally step forward as the 'hero', as he continues to settle into the role of 'Kid Flash', Plunder was ultimately just another example of the disappointingly undeveloped villains that have been a constant issue for this series. On the other hand, though, the quest to save Iris promises to add quite a bit of drama going forward – and, those hints at upcoming events given by the future news head-lines ('The Music Meister', 'A Gorilla Attack on Central City', 'Killer Frost Still At Large') all seem to promise some very entertaining future episodes. So, there's definitely a lot to look forward to, even if this episode ultimately proved to be a little underwhelming.

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