Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Flash 3x12 Review: "Untouchable" (Another One Bites the Dust) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

Original Airdate: February 7, 2017

Well, kids, Iris is in trouble again! Still? Still and again, I guess. The Savitar threat is still looming while a Meta of the Week wreaks havoc, Joe West finally learns about the danger his daughter is in, Barry is trying to train Wally in the Ways of the Speedster (or “Zippy Zen,” as I’ve decided to call it), and Caitlin is still maybe a little bit evil. But it’s fine because there’s a hint of a romance between her and Julian, and he’s a little bit evil, too. They can both be a little bit evil together.

“Untouchable” is a well-balanced episode, keeping the plot evenly spread out between the weekly dose of metahuman villainy and the Save Iris half-season arc. It also manages to balance action and character: its flashy speedster sequences for Barry and Wally don’t overshadow the great acting of Jesse L. Martin or a couple nice and too-infrequent character moments between Caitlin and Iris. Overall, while not my favorite episode of the season, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed what the trailers depicted as yet another episode in which Iris plays damsel in distress.


It’s been a few episodes since Flashpoint reared its ugly head again on a lesser scale. The season started out implying that these Alchemy-caused metahumans were going to be a big problem for Team Flash, but that got pushed aside for actual big problems like Savitar and the possible death of Iris West. So “Untouchable” brings the team back to basics with a metahuman villain who is using his Alchemy-granted powers to get back at the people in this reality who mocked him in the Flashpoint reality as members of the Central City Police Department. That seems like a bit of an overreaction to me, but I don’t know. I’m not a revenge-fueled metahuman with the ability to turn people (and things) into dust, so maybe my scale is a bit different from ol’ Clive Yorkin’s.

Clive Yorkin, by the way, might just be the first metahuman of the week without an alias since the show started. I have to believe that Cisco was just so overwhelmed by the dust- and ash-related puns he could use in a moniker that he gave up before even starting. Spoiled for choice, and all that. I mean, what would he go for? “The Sweeper”? “Dustman”? Or maybe something a bit more abstract, like “Captain Kansas” — since everything is dust in the wind.

Pushing aside my problems with the villain’s motivation and backstory (quick summary: it makes no sense for Yorkin to kill people who hurt him in an alternate timeline; he should be using his powers to rob banks, like any self-respecting throwaway villain would), the elements of the plot that deal with the dynamics and people on Team Flash are wonderful this episode. Iris, Caitlin, Julian, and Joe all get their moments, but “Untouchable” is really Wally’s time to shine.

Barry is doubling down on his training so that Wally can be the one to save Iris from Savitar in the future. (Points to Barry for not trying to take that responsibility on himself and inevitably screwing it up because he fails at being a lone hero, by the way.) During a race to test how Kid Flash compares to Original Flavor Flash, Wally proves what I’ve been saying ever since he got his powers: he might be fast, but he seriously lacks the strategic mind and dedicated training it takes to be in the same league as Barry. Barry has to teach Wally what he knows, but Barry’s struggling with being a teacher instead of a student.

Wally learning from Barry becomes the throughline of the episode and provides simple but very good character development for both Wally and Barry. And The Flash manages to do it while keeping the two speedsters amiable and brotherly, which I find delightful — sometimes shows have trouble depicting non-physical struggles without diving for the easy realm of lost tempers and shouting.

When Yorkin makes his way through the Flashpoint-CCPD ranks and ends up with Joe as his next target, Wally and Barry are able to stop him during his initial attack, but his powers mean he’s — title drop! — untouchable, and he gets away. I guess Yorkin read “The Hack’s Guide to Supervillainy” between his scenes, because after his first failure he decides that the best way to hurt Joe is to hurt Iris. Wally manages to stop Iris from getting a full hit of Yorkin’s dust-to-dust powers, but he’s not fast enough to save her completely. Symbolism! Or is it foreshadowing? Whatever, it’s important for reasons.

Here’s where the plot and the character stuff really starts to intertwine. The decay caused when Yorkin touched Iris’s arm needs to be halted long enough for the team to find a cure. It’s not something that Barry can use his powers to help with, but it’s something that his team can help with — namely, Caitlin, who can use her Killer Frost abilities to freeze the progress of Yorkin’s poison touch. But Caitlin has to be able to focus completely, for a long period of time, and avoid turning evil, which is something she isn’t sure she can do. This leads to some small-but-mighty moments in which Iris and Caitlin interact and Iris proves that, despite us not seeing the evidence of their friendship much on screen, she has complete faith in Caitlin’s ability to be good. The moments between them are so natural (probably a credit to the actresses more than anything) that I find myself questioning why the writers don’t put these two together more often. Their friendship seems like it would be absolutely effortless to depict.

Caitlin also gets some pep talks from Julian, who is awkward but seemingly well-meaning and relates to Caitlin’s inner evil, since it was his Alchemy alter-ego that set Yorkin loose on the city. I start to like Julian a little bit more and secretly hope neither he nor Caitlin turn evil, so they can go on dates and be not-evil together and maybe, just maybe, Caitlin can have a boyfriend who doesn’t die or turn into a villain. Like, jeez.

Eventually, a cure is found — speedster blood! I guess Barry did help, after all. Iris gets a dose and she’ll be fine, although she will have to deal with Joe now knowing that she might be killed by Savitar in the future. (Side note: Jesse L. Martin is the absolute MVP of this episode; his scene when he finds out about Barry’s flash-forward was some amazing acting.)

But they still have to stop Yorkin. It’s up to Wally to stop the villain this week, and it’s up to Barry to overcome the issues he was having with teaching him in order to help him do it. Barry manages to get through to Wally by channelling his inner Harrison Wells and Wally phases his blood into Yorkin, neutralizing his dusty, dusty powers. Barry even gets to do a “Run, Wally. Run,” since H.R. is too goofy to deliver that line these days. Let’s hope Barry doesn’t adapt any of Evil Harrison Wells’s other personality traits, though.

And speaking of Harrison Wells: Jesse shows up at the end of the episode to say that her dad’s been kidnapped by Grodd. We get to go to Gorilla City next week!

Other Things:
  • I love how easily Wally and Barry have settled into some good-natured sibling rivalry. They’re terrific together.
  • The show is dropping hints about who might be dying (is it Joe? Is it Iris? Is it Wally? Caitlin? BARRY?) left and right and I can’t keep track of them anymore. And it reminded us this episode that there are other parts of Savitar’s prophecy we have to look out for, too. My head is spinning.
  • "There is protocol to follow... surely?" Oh, Julian. The protocol is a myth.
  • Jesse L. Martin was good at the comedy in this episode, too. Just, A+ episode for him, all around.
  • I didn’t get to talk about Iris as much as I hoped, but just suffice to say that Candice Patton also acted the heck out of this episode and Iris is amazing.
  • "I actually went to that class." "You better be going to all your classes." Joe is in Dad Mode, even during a crisis.
  • I forgot to mention the P.I. who was also targeted by Yorkin, but eh.
  • “No more lies, even well-intentioned ones.” Oh, buddy. Let’s see how long that lasts.
  • "That was so nice!" I don't know if that was Barry or Grant saying that line, but it was adorable.

1 comment:

  1. The used the speedster blood to neutralize Yorkin's powers, then they used Yorkin's blood to create an antidote for Iris.