Tuesday, January 19, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - Things Slow Down as The Flash Battles The Turtle in 'Potential Energy'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 2.10 "Potential Energy"

Now that they've grown closer, Barry considers telling Patty that he is The Flash. Joe and Iris try to get to know Wally. The team hunts down a meta-human who can slow time itself.

"Potential Energy" is a really fun first episode back for The Flash. At times, this season has struggled maintaining constant momentum with its season-long narrative. It has had to start and stop at awkward times in order to set up elements for the upcoming spinoff Legends of Tomorrow. But now, the show is able to unburden itself of such responsibilities considering the new show debuts this Thursday night. It is able to focus on its own narrative elements. That really works in this episode too. "Potential Energy" isn't without its scenes that really drag the story down. But it's also fun and amusing to watch while keeping the threat of Zoom high.

The most troubling aspect of this episode is Barry's indecisiveness over telling Patty the truth about his super-heroics. So many people know the truth about Barry's secret identity. It seems someone finds out that he's the Flash every other episode. So why can't Patty know the truth as well? Her being left in the dark actually puts her in even more harm's way. She is capable of protecting herself. She's a cop after all. But the show has also made her a victim a lot too. This is the second time where she is captured by the villain-of-the-week. It's suppose to personally motivate the Flash into a conflict with the bad guy. And now, Barry and Patty's relationship is much more serious - despite this huge thing that he is keeping from her. Secret identities have been a part of the comic book genre for decades now. It's a typical storytelling device. It just no long plays out in an interesting way in live-action adaptations. It forces horrible dialogue and situations onto Barry in this episode that are incredibly awkward. His internal conflict over needing to keep Patty save from Zoom and other bad guys just really isn't that interesting.

Barry fears that by letting Patty in on the secret, it will put a target on her back. However, just by allowing the relationship to grow more serious, it's putting her in danger for any bad guy who figures out that Barry is the Flash and that he cares about Patty. That's exactly what happens in this episode too. The Turtle is a cool villain. He is able to slow down time. That allows him the opportunity to steal whatever he desires. It also makes him a major foe for the Flash. So much of the series has been about Barry gaining enough speed to defeat the bad guys. That's a part of this story as well because Barry needs enough forward momentum and potential energy to actually break free of the Turtle's slowing abilities. But it's a very different obstacle that Barry has to face which creates interest in a very simple and effective way. It still amounts to Patty being kidnapped because the Turtle notices that the Flash cares for her. That interrupts Barry being able to tell Patty the truth. But it's still cool and rousing to see the Flash emerge victorious in the battle. Of course, personal devastation is just around the corner as well as Patty has decided to leave Central City to continue her education elsewhere. It's an odd and abrupt exit for the character. She leaves not knowing the truth. That's probably for the best too. Barry's romantic drama with his secret identity has grown tiresome while the number of people who know the truth has gotten too big. It was just too awkward of a dilemma to work all that well.

The Turtle also provides an opportunity for the rest of the team to find a way to defeat Zoom. Slowing him down to make it a more fair fight for Barry didn't work so well the last time Zoom showed up in Central City. Barry and the team have been focused on making him faster. But the Turtle could present a new way to slow Zoom down. It's Cisco's big idea because the Turtle has been one of the meta-humans he has been tracking for a long time now. However, it's further complicated by Wells-2's agenda to rescue his daughter from Zoom. Once the Turtle is locked up in the meta-human prison at STAR Labs, Wells-2 either takes a sample from him that kills him in the process or just straight up kills him to destroy this possible opportunity for the rest of the team. The urgency is finally being felt with the main story of the season. Wells-2 is working against the rest of the team because his love is so strong for his daughter. It continues to be a fantastic performance for Tom Cavanagh. The way he accounts the chilling details of Zoom killing a dozen police officers is one of the highlights of the episode. Meanwhile, his conviction to save his daughter makes it so sympathetic once he kills the Turtle. It's complicated emotional territory that the show nails wonderfully in this episode.

And lastly, Joe and Iris try to learn more about Wally. He has walked into their lives not knowing what to expect. At first, Joe does push away his son because of how forceful he is in trying to be his instant father. That has to come gradually over time. For Wally's entire life, he has been the man of the house. He hasn't needed a paternal figure. And now that he has one, he remains upset about a detective not being able to figure out that he had a son. Joe can't just insert himself into Wally's life now that he knows about him. Joe learns that Wally is a drag racer. It's an illegal activity that Joe disapproves of but Wally has a rational explanation for why he does it. It's a tense dynamic to start things off. In the end though, Wally can't resist Joe's charms. The two sitting down for Chinese food is the perfect first step. They aren't a family yet. But they are attempting to be open with each other.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Potential Energy" was written by Bryan Q. Miller and directed by Rob Hardy.
  • There is a very amusing running joke throughout this episode that everyone knew about Cisco's obsession with the Turtle except for Barry. It was a nice way to turn the tables for a chance.
  • Caitlin learns that Jay is slowly dying without his speed. Their feelings have gotten more intense as of late. And now, she is personally motivated to either finding a cure or stopping Zoom so that Jay can get his speed back. It should be an interesting development given the amount of speedsters this season.
  • No surprise here but Barry, Patty, Caitlin and Jay all look good in black tie attire. Too bad they couldn't enjoy that gala for a little while longer. Of course, that would have painfully dragged things out with Barry's inability to tell Patty the truth.
  • The episode also closes with an intense tease for the next episode. The Reverse Flash is back somehow. It's actually Eobard Thawne and not Harrison Wells this time too. It certainly suggests dangerous things are about to happen for Barry.