Tuesday, May 3, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - Barry Contemplates Wells' Crazy Idea While Cisco Reunites with His Brother in 'Rupture'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 2.20 "Rupture"

Zoom arrives on Earth-1 intent on taking over Central City. Barry and Wells come up with a plan to stop Zoom once and for all but it's extremely dangerous. Cisco is shocked when Earth-2 villain Rupture is revealed to be his brother Dante's doppelganger, who has come to this Earth seeking justice for Reverb's death. Iris decides she's finally ready to open up to Barry about her feelings for him.

Superheroes losing their powers is a very familiar and iconic comic book storyline. It's not surprising at all that The Flash has gone to that well to establish the stakes for the final portion of its second season. Barry was facing off with yet another speedster and lost the key thing that made him into a hero who could protect an entire city. And yet, the show hasn't done anything to justify such a storytelling move. These last two episodes have slowed things down with the main story - just as the threat from Zoom is escalating. But it hasn't replaced the energy that's made the episodes where Barry was The Flash so exciting and thrilling with anything equally as compelling. It has just always felt like an inevitable conclusion that Barry would be able to get his speed back and face off with Zoom in an epic season-ending showdown. But the show is again choosing to delay that foregone conclusion - which creates yet another very boring and tedious episode.

Barry is essentially reduced down to a reactive character throughout "Rupture." He's agonizing over not being a hero anymore and what that means for his life at STAR Labs and in Central City. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Zoom has once again traveled through the still open breach in order to terrorize the city now that it is defenseless. And yet, everyone is still shocked when it happens. The characters are making a lot of dumb decisions lately. They gave in to Zoom's plan and traded Barry's speed for Wally's life without a whole lot of consideration of what that would mean for the future. And now, it takes an entire episode for Barry to realize that Wells-2's crazy plan to give him his speed back is something that he needs to do. The show is just asking the audience to put up with too much right now without offering a whole lot of excitement.

It should be meaningful that Barry ventures north to bring Henry back from his cabin that he escaped to for unknown and vague reasons. That largely gives this episode the opportunity to have all three of Barry's father figures discuss and argue about what's best for him. Wells-2 is really pushing for Barry to experience getting stuck by lightning during a particle accelerator explosion. Henry is afraid that this experiment could kill Barry. He doesn't want his son to believe that he needs to be a superhero in order to be special. Barry is still making an impact on Central City. Now, he's simply appearing as a hologram Cisco has rigged up to make the city believe the Flash still exists and is keeping them safe. But it's not long before Zoom shows up to wreck havoc and throw all of those plans off. Joe really doesn't contribute much to the discussion. Plus, it forces Barry into a reactive role where he just wanders around while people deliver speeches to him. That's really not engaging to watch.

In addition, one of the big speeches Barry gets comes from Iris as she's finally ready to admit her true feelings towards him. This has been such a rushed and formulaic storyline over the last few episodes. Iris believes it is an inevitability that she and Barry will get together. That's what the future says according to Eobard Thawne. Plus, they were already married over on Earth-2. She believes it's something that is meant to happen. So now, she's just forcing it to - which is a really horrible way to start a relationship. This whole story is just too forced and unnatural. Barry and Iris do have solid chemistry. But developing a romantic bond between them is too weird right now because their relationship hasn't really been important this season. She admits her feelings now because she wants him to know that she loves Barry and not the Flash. But it's just too complicated and boring to muster much of a reaction.

Complicated family dynamics are a key focus of this hour. The episodic plot features Zoom bringing meta-humans from Earth-2 through the breach as well to terrorize the city. One of them happens to be Rupture who is targeting Cisco because he believes he killed his brother - Reverb. It's all just a roundabout way of getting Cisco's brother back into the narrative. The show asks the audience to care about this brotherly dynamic. Things haven't change since they captured by Snart a year ago. That's not surprising at all considering Dante hasn't been seen or mentioned at all since then. But now, it's suppose to be meaningful that Cisco wants to be close to his brother. Rupture forces that reunion to happen. And yet, Rupture is a very bland meta-human. He has a powerful scythe and that's about it. What's so special about that? Sure, it looks cool. But the hour just doesn't have the time to develop any kind of real story here - which is surprising considering the lack of big developments elsewhere.

All of this is just building to the inevitable final beat where Barry agrees to Wells-2's crazy idea of recreating the circumstances that give him his powers. It's a tense final act for the episode. All of the problematic beats from earlier in the hour disappear because Barry is an active part of the story again. Plus, the episode ends on the terrific cliffhanger of these events seemingly killing Barry by transforming him into energy - which then hits Wally and Jesse. Of course, the show isn't going to kill off its leading man. The promos for next week's episode don't even try to keep up that facade. But it's a horrifying final plot beat for the entire team at STAR Labs. They believe they have failed in this endeavor. It was their last hope against Zoom. And now, they are completely defenseless against his reign of terror. That's an effective plot beat to end on that hopefully sets up the final three episodes of the season to be more interesting than the last two have been.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Rupture" was written by Kai Yu Wu & Lauren Certo and directed by Armen V. Kevorkian.
  • Henry just casually slips in that Garrick was his mother's maiden name. Yeah, that's a pretty obvious tease that another big twist with Jay Garrick is going to be coming soon. Also, how did Barry not know that?
  • Barry also suggests that Henry will be back for good now and not until this debate about getting his speed back is over with. That's promising. But it again raises the question of why he left in the first place?
  • Zoom brings Caitlin back to Earth-1 to watch as he begins his conquest of this new world. Their love story has been really boring. Now, Zoom is suggesting he loves Caitlin because he can see a dark side to her just like there was in Killer Frost. That just makes no sense - except in possibly setting some big reveal up for the future.
  • Caitlin still proves herself useful to the main team though. She's not just going to be the damsel in distress. That's admirable even though she is really testing Zoom's patience right now.
  • Rupture is a bad villain solely because he gets defeated by a hologram version of the Flash! Sure, police are ultimately the ones who catch him. But it's not a very great resolution to that story. Fortunately, Zoom shows up to add stakes to the narrative again - and out the Flash's big secret.
  • So, Wally and Jesse are definitely going to have super speed now, right? They are just cast aside so casually here. But that ending moment with them is a very effective tease of great things to come.