Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Flash 4x15 Review: "Enter Flashtime" (Stop the Clock) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Enter Flashtime"
Original Airdate: March 6, 2018 

Ah, The Flash. Whenever I think all you have left is filler episodes, you throw in a concept that proves you’re still invested in telling some interesting stories. This week, it’s an episode in which the crisis takes place in under ten in-universe minutes, thanks to Barry (and other speedsters) being able to move faster than time. That’s not only a nice little storytelling framework, but it’s a framework particular to this show and this hero — in the right hands, it’s a recipe for cleverness and innovation. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure “Enter Flashtime” went quite as far as it could have gone with the foundation it set for itself, which is a shame. Still an interesting episode with some great moments, but not a revelatory one by any stretch of the imagination.


Okay! Right off the bat, we have Barry rushing up to a time-frozen Iris and un-freezing her so they can talk. First thing I want to mention about what this episode does right is allowing the actors to do some quality acting. More so than I think they’ve done in recent episodes, we get serious emotion from a good number of characters this week, and we’re ushered into it with this excellent opening scene between Barry and Iris. Barry’s frazzled, sweaty, and clearly exhausted as he tries to explain to Iris how there’s a nuclear bomb going off and he can’t save anyone.

You get the impression from Grant Gustin’s frantic delivery of every line that Barry is genuinely hopeless, that he’s absolutely given up on saving anyone, but he wants to make sure that the last person he talks to before he allows the bomb to take out the whole city is Iris. He wants Iris’s face to be the last one he sees. It’s some phenomenal work and it sets a bar that the episode, sadly, just misses reaching. Not enough of “Enter Flashtime” utilizes the emotional energy that this opening scene promises.

But before all that: eight minutes and forty-eight seconds ago, everything was not about to explode. Barry and Iris are lamenting their lack of alone time together, Harry is dealing with a visiting Jesse (he apparently sent her an apology hologram cube which contained no actual apology), and the question of how to defeat DeVoe is still hanging over Team Flash. Cisco has figured out a way to track DeVoe’s jumps from his and his wife’s pocket dimension, but no one can translate this discovery into a real, concrete plan of attack against the evil mastermind.

Meanwhile, Joe and CCPD are under heavy gunfire while on a mission to escort ARGUS and some shipping container, which appears to be what the people shooting at them are after. The metahuman members of Team Flash — including Caitlin/Killer Frost, which is a bit of a surprise, but I guess the dual personalities have been making progress with being participating team members recently — suit up and arrive to rescue CCPD.

They manage to get all the faceless goons, but Barry has to stop and brag about how everyone got caught, which gives the leader of the pack a chance to promise destruction for Central City and hit a button. The button is for a nuclear fission bomb, which begins exploding, but Barry and Jesse have a little extra time to figure out how to stop it because they start moving in Cisco-dubbed “Flashtime,” which is basically so fast that everything else in the world looks frozen. Since Barry and Jesse decide they need another helping hand, Jesse zips off to Earth-3 to retrieve Jay Garrick.

Here’s where the problems of the episode come in: the bulk of the second act is just Barry, Jesse, Jay, and whomever Barry briefly un-freezes trying to figure out how to stop the bomb. First, it’s Cisco, who tells Barry and the audience exactly what kind of bomb it is and how the explosion process will go (it’s color-changing! Pretty!), then Harry gets unfrozen to lend his genius brain to the problem, then Killer Frost to lend her freezing powers. While I know it was sort of necessary to cover ground on stopping the explosion, the writers don’t bother to add any special touches to the formulaic process of checking attempts off a list. Like, “Cisco? Tried that — check. Harry? Check. Killer Frost? Check.” Dull? Check.

Yes, we get a few decent moments within this uninspired second act sequence — some father/daughter concern between Harry and Jesse, a nice line where Killer Frost shows concern for the team members and Caitlin — but they’re not given the emphasis they deserve.

To further prove the show almost had something fantastic with “Enter Flashtime,” when Jesse and Jay have already re-frozen out of exhaustion and Barry’s energy is starting to run low, the camera work turns all cool and strange. We get trippy cross-fades and frenetic, handheld circling around our hero as Barry desperately scratches out failing formulas on the S.T.A.R Labs display board. It’s a cinematic translation of desperation that culminates in a 90-degree camera tilt, when Barry gives up and makes his way to Iris for their final goodbye.

Or so Barry thinks!

After the minutes we saw during the opening (again: fantastic acting in this whole scene), Iris sparks (ha!) an idea by telling Barry that the speedster-generated lightning might not have been enough to stop the bomb, but the lightning from the Speed Force itself — which sprouted out of the Speed Force to capture Barry, and only went away when the team tossed in a device that mimicked him somehow — might. Iris is a lightning rod of inspiration, and Barry’s Speed Force dummy device acts as a lightning rod to attract the Speed Force energy to the bomb, which is neutralized just in time.


Throughout the episode, one of the other emotional threads has been the relationship between Harry and Jesse. Jesse thinks that if Harry talks about her mother and accepts her mother’s death, then he’ll be able to move on and be less of a grumpy mess who throws things and punches tables when he’s frustrated. Harry is very much against talking about his dead wife because the pain of losing that love is too enormous, and this plot culminates in a scene toward the end of the episode in which Harry uses a modified version of the mind reading dampener he developed to help Cecile to actually share his memories of Jesse’s mom with Jesse.

It’s a lovely little scene that allows the emotions of the characters do all the heavy lifting. There’s just the voiceover from Jesse’s mom over the two of them sitting in Harry’s workshop, listening, remembering, crying... Once again, the acting in this episode is allowed to shine, and I only lament that the structure of it left a bit more room for these kinds of moments and less of Barry using trial and error to defuse a bomb.

Excluding the scene between Harry and Jesse, the ending portion of “Enter Flashtime” reflects some of the procedural nature of the episode. The scenes that close the episode don’t so much flow into each other as collide, like the loose cars of a train flying down a steep track. In succession: Jay shows up during the aftermath to say he’s actually training a (female) speedster on his Earth to be his successor, Barry and Iris have a cute moment together while he recuperates from the Flashtime ordeal, the Harry and Jesse scene happens, then Harry and Caitlin are getting coffee at Jitters and Caitlin tells Harry she consciously remembers what she did as Killer Frost for the first time ever.

Then that conversation is interrupted by Speed Force Mystery Girl, who spills a coffee all over Caitlin and Harry’s table and awkwardly apologizes, saying she’d nervous about meeting some people. When Caitlin tells her she hopes the meeting goes well, SFMG bizarrely, evilly says “It did.”


Other Things:
  • Everyone significantly looking at Harry after Jesse shows up, then Barry leaning over and blurting, “Wally’s not here” like a clueless buffoon — I don’t know why that’s just A+ comedy to me, but it is. I love that moment so, so much.
  • Other fun moment in this heavier episode: Barry waking up and asking Joe, the only team member with no idea what had happened: “Are we dead?” and Joe’s utter confusion when he goes, “No?”
  • Next time: Iris is a speedster! Yaaaay!


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