Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Flash 2x20 Review: "Rupture" (Plan for the Worst) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: May 3, 2016

Who’s ready for some fun The Flash shenanigans! Haha, just kidding — this show hasn’t had shenanigans in weeks. It’s hard to shenanigan when Zoom is hanging around, since the guy’s real superpower isn’t super speed, it’s being a huge buzzkill. Harrison Wells is a pretty big buzzkill, too, come to think of it... And Barry hasn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs recently, either. Caitlin’s sad all the time, and Cisco’s wonderful quips have been reduced significantly. You know what? Let’s just retitle the show The Buzzkills.

This week on The Buzzkills, Barry and the team are still trying to stop Zoom, and Barry is debating on whether or not he wants to let Harry recreate the particle accelerator explosion on him (around him?) so he could, maybe, get his Speed Force powers back. Cisco is checking up on his brother, whom I forgot existed, and his storyline seems like it was mostly included for character development. Which is fine because I’m A-okay with more Cisco screentime.

In the grand scheme of things, “Rupture” was a pretty great episode that did a lot to set up what’s to come. It took the dark turn of season two and ran with it (pun totally intended), creating a lot of intriguing questions that will be answered as the season concludes, and without sacrificing the intelligence of its characters (unlike some OTHER recent episodes). It even made Zoom more threatening than he was before, which is really saying something for a former serial killer turned superpowered serial killer bent on conquering the multiverse.

(Also: sigh, no, I won’t be calling the show The Buzzkills throughout the whole review. Because, in the end, I am just as much a buzzkill as any of these characters.)


At first, I thought that Cisco’s storyline — he gets a vibe of who he thinks is his brother, Dante, and then gets attacked by Dante’s Earth-2 doppelganger — was going to be the equivalent of the “metahuman of the week” plot, and I was really disappointed. The Flash occasionally makes the mistake of throwing unnecessary metahuman trouble into the mix, when — especially in episodes that should be focused on the season arc — splitting up screentime is the last thing they need to do. So I was pleased when Cisco’s storyline was woven into the Zoom A-plot pretty seamlessly.

The Earth-2 version of Dante Ramon ("Rupture" — hey, title drop!) is working for Zoom but wants to kill Cisco as a side project, because he thinks Cisco killed Earth-2 Cisco. Team Flash decides to focus on trying to stop this much-more-stoppable-than-Zoom adversary, working under the idea that removing some of Zoom’s players might help to “weaken” his assault on Central City/Earth-1. They’re very wrong about this.

Oh, sure, they stop Rupture just fine by using a hologram of the Flash and some good timing from the CCPD. But Zoom is actually perfectly okay with disposing of his failed subordinates and kills Rupture himself. The sight of seeing his brother get murdered — regardless of whether he’s actually an evil double from a parallel world — freaks Cisco out so much that he declares that he wants to get to know Dante again. The scene where the two Ramon brothers hug is touching; surprisingly so, since we as an audience have such little investment in Dante as a character. Carlos Valdes sells it, though.


Everyone wants to stop Zoom. That’s a pretty unanimous decision that becomes even more unanimous when Zoom takes over CCPD and declares the city his, making the already pressing matter of “stopping Zoom” even more pressing. The problem, though, is that Team Flash is without their star player and has resorted to a very clever hologram ruse to keep people around Central City thinking the Flash is still protecting them. Correctly, the team thinks that keeping the hope of the city alive is incredibly important. A city that thinks it’s still under the protection of its very own superhero is one that’s not panicking, and a city that’s not panicking is one that can be kept safe.

Zoom is not a fan of this whole “keep hope alive” idea. He’s also not a fan of clever holograms, or metahumans failing to accomplish the goals he sets out for them, or Caitlin (still being held captive by the evilly enamored Hunter Zolomon) surreptitiously texting Rupture’s attack location to her friends so they can plan a defense. Legitimately crazy and angry, and generally not a guy anyone wants to make angry, Zoom reacts exactly how you’d think a former serial killer and current supervillain would react: he kills a bunch of people.

The scene in which Zoom super-speeds around and snaps the necks of every reporter and Central City police officer in residence (except for Captain Singh, who is spared to deliver Zoom’s threat, and Joe, who is spared because Caitlin likes him) might be the most chilling thing that The Flash has ever put on screen. Honestly, the way it’s done — with Zoom zipping around and heads turning, followed by a pause... and all the bodies falling to the floor — is something more in line with a horror movie than the fun, lighthearted show this started out as.

I know I complain a lot about how dark The Flash has gotten, but this is not one of those complaints. It works to elevate Zoom as a villain and push the heroes into the desperation they need to be in for the final episodes. In the short term, it works to motivate Barry into making the decision he needs to make. Unlike darkness for the sake of darkness, it’s a critical element to telling the story the show wants to tell.


After Zoom proves that tricks and cleverness can’t be the way to take him down, Barry finally agrees to step into Harry’s newly made particle accelerator and try his whole “re-create the explosion” plan. It’s a pretty huge decision, as Iris said earlier in the episode (in a scene that was TERRIFIC because Candice Patton is just fantastic at emotional acting and because the show made the clever decision of having Iris confess her feelings for Barry, rather than the — more customary, for shows like this one — reverse), and Barry only makes it because he thinks he has no other choice. Which he really doesn’t.

Harrison Wells is absolutely sure that his plan will work. He’s made all the calculations, prepared all the chemicals and evaluated all the possible outcomes. Cisco’s job is to recreate the lightning. Harry says he’ll handle the rest. He assures everyone that there’s no way this contained particle accelerator explosion could go wrong.

... Eh, well. The best laid plans of mice and overconfident scientists often go awry.

Barry is disintegrated. Like, literally we see his tear-stained face turn to dust in the blast, and everyone is horrified when the particle accelerator (NOT contained, by the way — the blast hits Jesse and Wally, running through the S.T.A.R. Labs halls, and I wonder what the result of that will be...) winds down and Barry is gone. Zoom shows up to gloat, of course.

Harry's cocky, happy arrogance early on in the episode, contrasted with his bewilderment and sadness when he sees what he's inadvertently done? Thumbs up. In fact, thumbs up for everyone's reactions at the end: unshed tears in Joe's eyes, Henry genuinely collapsing in despair, Iris absolutely sobbing, Cisco's confusion and shock... It was all WONDERFUL. Yes, we know that Barry isn't really dead, yes we know they're going to find a way to bring him back — but it doesn't matter that WE know that. It matters that the characters think Barry's death is real, and that we believe in their loss and their hopelessness.

When shows attempt a storyline like this, they assume a suspension of disbelief in their audience and we, as an audience, have to assume they're neither trying to trick us nor think we're stupid. Part of storytelling is understanding when to let the fictional universe live on its own. With good actors — which The Flash certainly has — it's possible to kill off your main character and, through the characters left behind, convey the drama necessary to push the story forward. We feel for what's happening on screen, in the "reality" of that universe, without the logic of OUR reality (in which a TV show does not kill off its titular character) getting in the way. It’s hard to get right, but (in my opinion) this episode manages it well.

So, that was fun! Next time, we have an episode called "The Runaway Dinosaur," which has definitely earned a place in my list of Favorite The Flash Episode Titles.


Other Things:
  • I really liked the hologram idea. It's such a clever solution to the whole "the hero is gone, but we have to keep up appearances" problem that these sorts of shows inevitably run into, and it's so quintessentially Team Flash — so quintessentially Cisco, actually — that I found it immediately charming.
  • I love that Iris acted as Barry's mime interpreter. Like, how aces would that team be on the Team Flash Charades Night?
  • Kudos to Tom Cavanagh for his "I have your Wells's data..." speech, because that sounded like a lot of technobabble for the guy to get through. Also, it was some of the rare lines he gets to say above a whisper.
  • "Garrick?" "Garrick, yeah, why?" "My mom's maiden name." And then Barry just ignores the fact that he could possibly be related to Jay Garrick. What?
  • "I'm sure there's something out there that will satisfy your need for speed and helping people." Ha!
  • Grant Gustin's "nervous, slightly nauseated fidgeting" acting is top notch.
  • I can't put my finger on why, but I find Teddy Sears to be a much more interesting actor when he's playing Zoom/Hunter Zolomon than I did when he was playing Jay Garrick. There is just something appealing about the casually unhinged way he plays the villain.
  • I think I ship Wally and Jesse. Are they around the same age? Eh, who cares. Shipping it.
  • "You must have me mixed up with somebody else, Inigo." Sometimes I can't even handle how perfect some of the line readings are on this show. The Flash is full of AMAZING talent.
  • “Ramon, do you have the wand?” “The one I made for Mark Martin?” “No, the one you built for the Harry Potter convention — yes, the of course, the one you built for Martin!” “How do you know about that Harry Potter convention?”
  • Cisco yells “Expecto Patronum!” when he generates lightning for the particle accelerator and basically, he’s the best. He’s the actual best.


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