Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Flash 2x04 "The Fury of Firestorm" (Watching It Burn) [Contibutor: Deborah MacArthur]

"The Fury of Firestorm"
Original Airdate: October 27, 2015 

The Flash gives us a double voice-over this week: not only the usual "I am The Flash" montage before the "previously on" clips, but also one with a contemplative Barry talking about destiny and leaps of faith and making big choices that cause big changes. I could be remembering incorrectly, but I think this is the first Scrubs-esque summary of the episode's lessons we've had in a long time. Why is Barry voice-overing now? Is he writing in his diary again after ignoring it for a while? I do that too, Barry. Diaries are really hard to keep.

Actually, I kind of suspect that it has a lot to do with why I found this episode a little underwhelming: it's pretty scattered, and the voice-over is necessary to make it seem less so. In contrast with last week's fairly solid episode –– which didn't need the themes spelled out for us through a voice-over and let us figure out the connections ourselves –– this episode feels less unified and the blend between character development and superhero shenanigans is not as smooth. Without Barry’s voice-over tying together what’s happening around and within Team Flash, "The Fury of Firestorm" is just a bunch of moments that only work to set up the Legends of Tomorrow spin-off and introduce two of its soon-to-be-main characters.

The villain is... a villain. That's it. Dr. Henry Hewitt as Tokamak only truly makes himself known about halfway through the episode, and then he doesn’t even pose a much of a threat because Team Flash takes him down in no time at all. He has very little motivation, not a lot of depth (he's just REALLY ANGRY ALL THE TIME) and absolutely zero chance of being anything other than a villain. Seriously, they kind of imply a "Who will be the new Firestorm?" mystery, but ruin it before it has even begun by giving us a flashback of Jefferson "Jax" Jackson and nothing for Dr. Hewitt. I've learned from years and years of TV watching that the person in the flashback's going to be a new main character. Or in this case, a new main character for a spin-off.

Okay so, what's the voice-over message from Barry for this week's episode? "You're left with a choice: you can either embrace the change, and move forward — or fight it, and be left behind."

Um... Yeah, okay, Barry. Thanks. That does indeed apply to Jax Jefferson and his decision to become the other half of Firestorm versus his decision to keep his quiet, unfulfilling life after the Particle Accelerator explosion ruined his football career and college plans. It also kind of –– in a much, much smaller capacity –– applies to Barry's unrequited love for Iris and potential match with Patty Spivot. I also want to apply it to Iris's relationship with her estranged mother, but I think that would be stretching it a lot –– regardless of how Barry’s ending voice-over tried to include Iris’s difficulties into the overall theme. Iris neither “embraces” the change that might come with he mother’s reappearance nor “fights” it and gets left behind. She more like... acknowledges the change, then rightfully punts it out the door because she’s strong and understands that life is difficult, imperfect, and saddening but just accepting the people who have done you wrong isn’t the way to go about things.

And that actually brings me to the big positive of the episode: Iris West and how she deals with Francine West. Candice Patton freaking owns the scenes she gets this week, and I love how Iris handles the arrival of Francine (and that she calls her Francine, and not "mom" –– because Iris realizes that being connected to someone by blood does not automatically permit them a place in your life –– AHEM, Thea-and-Malcolm-Merlyn on Arrow). Even though the dismissal she delivers seems harsh on TV –– a world full of quiet anger followed by forgiveness when it comes to estranged parents –– it's a realistic way to react to something like this. Iris also struggles with the knowledge that she could have a brother somewhere out there in the world, and how she should handle that. Maybe that’s the “embraced change” that Barry talks about in his voice-over –– not so much the change that would come with letting Francine into her life, but the unrealized, unpredictable change that could result from finding her brother. It still doesn’t quite fit with the “embrace it or be left behind” ultimatum that Barry posits, though.

Like I said before, this episode is a bit scattered. In addition to trying to find a second half to Firestorm and Iris dealing with her mother, there are some smaller subplots woven throughout. One of them is Patty Spivot trying to find information on a man-shark that's been spotted around the city and the other is the fact that Harrison Wells is back, bein' creepy and stealing things. Both these subplots show up, then fade out, then really re-emerge at the end of the episode, when King Shark attacks Barry in the middle of his voiceovering about how he should try and ask Patty out on a date. And then Harrison Wells shoots King Shark! At least, I really hope it's just Harrison Wells, because I'm sick of calling the character Tom Cavanagh plays things like "Not-Wells" and "Thawne-Wells" in these reviews.


* Credit for finding this week's Barry Puppy GIF goes to Lizzie, by the way.


Other Things:

  • "Oh, Dios mío." Is that the first time Cisco has spoken Spanish in the show?
  • "Okay, cool, so how are we going to do that? Are we just gonna make a Tinder app for potential metahumans? Because I'm pretty sure merging with Stein and randomly bursting into flames sounds like the biggest 'swipe left' of all time." That was a long line to deliver so perfectly.
  • Oh my word, the awkward-cute levels of Barry/Patty are off the charts.
  • "Hewitt is a scientist! Clearly, he's trying to make something of his life." Kinda judgey there, Caitlin.
  • "People call me Jax." "Ooh. Catchy."
  • Iris says that it "wasn't fair" to make Joe the "bad guy" but I... don't recall her ever doing that?
  • "He's got an ego the size of Texas," says Cisco, accurately hinting at the probability of Hewitt becoming a supervillain.
  • "Oooh, look at that, that's so cute! We'll have two Professor Steins if this works!"
  • I really feel for Jax. It turned out well in the end, but he still can't really do what he wants with his life. But he can fly, so... that's nice.
  • "Definitely not a man-shark. Not even a landshark, ma'am." So much adorable in one human being. How is it possible? Will the world ever know?
  • Does anyone on Team Flash stop and ask why villains constantly get the metahuman powers? Not a single other good-hearted person (unrelated to the team) got caught in the blast and gained abilities? It's like superpowers are attracted to evil.
  • I like that the thing Jax throws at Hewitt hits him right on the head, perfectly. Because he was a football player and that makes sense!
  • "I'm an investigative reporter, Francine. I uncover things that people want to keep hidden." YOU TELL HER, IRIS.
  • King Shark interrupting Barry's voice-over by grabbing his head actually made the voice-overs in this episode worth it. 
  • "Put your hands... your fins in the air!"


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