Tuesday, October 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - Bad Luck Strikes Team Flash as They Learn About the New Metas in 'Luck Be a Lady'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 4.03 "Luck Be a Lady"

Barry and the team are hit by a string of bad luck and realize it is the handiwork of a new meta, Becky nicknamed Hazard, who has the ability to give others bad luck, while cashing in the benefits for herself. Harry Wells returns to Earth-1 to give Wally a message from Jesse.

"Luck Be a Lady" is the most effective episode of the season so far. It's so much fun while still in keeping with everything the audience already knows about these characters. The first two episodes felt forced with the comedy. It felt like the show thinking it just needed to throw in a couple of laughs per episode in order to fix the problems that creeped up across the past two seasons. The solution couldn't be as simple as that. This is the first episode that shows that the creative team realizes that the problems run much deeper than that. Last week Barry was an annoying jerk who didn't care to think about how he was coming across to the people around him. And now, he is capable of being the leader of this team without any angst or bad feelings. This team is becoming more of a cohesive unit again. Of course, there's still a reshuffling going on with Team Flash. A returning ally rejoins the team while another exits to find his own path in this world. There's still a fair amount of exposition to this overall hour. But everything happens quickly and with purpose. It's setting up the narrative for the season while making sure it doesn't get bogged down in the morally compromising feelings that could go along with the realization that Team Flash inadvertently created the new metahumans that are terrorizing Central City. That's a detail that could have been this huge, disruptive thing for the episode. Instead, everyone is choosing to focus on all of the bad luck that is seemingly controlling their lives at the moment. The show has a lot of fun in playing those small details and then building up into something verging on absurd parody while still maintaining a sense of grounded realism. It's a tricky balance to pull off. The Flash has done it before. And now, it seems capable of doing so again.

As a character, Becky may seem like a broad person who couldn't realistically survive in the real world. And yes, her story is incredibly extreme. The show plays off of that quality though. It notes how ridiculous it is that bad luck seems to follow her around everywhere she goes. It's a nice escalation of events while doing enough to establish her motivation once her powers manifest themselves. It could be silly to watch that opening sequence where her coffee order is wrong with her name misspelled on the cup, her boyfriend is cheating on her and she can't confront him because she's lactose intolerant, and she loses her job because a customer at the casino sexually harasses her and she spills his drink on him. Her luck seems to be turning around when the bus stops for her after taking off. It's that kind of convenient plotting that puts her in the exact place in time to be struck by dark matter and be given her powers. But it's also fun to see the question of whether or not she knows that she has powers. On one hand, it seems like she does because she walks into that bank with the confidence that she'll be able to walk out with a ton of money. It's still easy to rob the banks of Central City despite all the previous times it has happened. On the other hand though, she seems completely baffled by the idea that she has powers when Barry confronts her about it.

The show is vague for a little bit as well in regards to the event that gave Becky and Kilgore their powers. That opening sequence ends with Becky getting on that bus, the camera focusing on Kilgore and some of the other passengers, only to end with a flash of white light. It doesn't provide an explanation right away. But the show knows it can't live in the mystery of this event either. Prolonging mysteries for the sake of stretching the narrative out across 23 episodes has been a significant problem for the show in the past. It allows time for the audience to get way ahead of the show and the characters. In that case, it's less surprising when the show ultimately does the big reveals. And now, this mystery is solved in the span of this episode. Kilgore wasn't forthcoming with information. He was just a typical villain who wanted to be cryptic about the event that gave him these powers. He saw it as a way to still maintain control over the hero who took him down and stopped his revenge plan. It's reasonable to expect Team Flash to investigate this new event knowing that it could mean more threats for them to deal with. And so, they pull out the dark matter detector and explore the city. They eventually end up in the spot where Barry exited the speed force. That portal created a field of dark matter that affected one bus full of twelve passengers. Those are the threats Barry and company will be facing this season. They will give this season it's focus for at least the first half of episodes.

All of this is impressive to The Thinker. He may have underestimated the team because they were able to figure out what was going on ahead of schedule. Of course, that is then immediately followed by a moment that highlights the stupidity of the main team. Not all of the problems can be fixed apparently. And so, the show thinks it's smart to keep The Thinker one step ahead of the team by having Cisco just leave the robotic samurai head laying around STAR Labs. That seems foolish given how technologically advanced it was in the premiere. The team saw how well it moved and could be controlled remotely. Cisco is good with technology. Does he not realize that the helmet is still broadcasting to an unknown location? That seems like a stretch that is a little hard to believe. But that's basically the only real hindrance to this story at the moment. Yes, The Thinker still exists in vague and cryptic sequences. He's seen outside of the last few minutes of the episode as well. His relationship with the Mechanic will probably be important eventually. Right now, it's basically the two of them keeping an eye on everything from afar. These twelve new metas are important to The Thinker's master plan in some way. His motivation is still shrouded in secrecy. That's perfectly acceptable right now as well. He's this big and broad villain. But at least his identity is being kept from the audience. That's a step in the right direction as well. He is exactly as he appears to be. That's refreshing.

Ultimately, this episode can just be fun because of the little displays of horrifying bad luck that follow Becky around. Cisco dubs her Hazard which does seem fitting for the situation while still being a potential awkward name for an evil metahuman. It's so fun to watch Barry run to the scene of the latest bank heist only to slip and fall on a bunch of spilled marbles. That's strange and unexpected. So, the episode starts high with the humor and only keeps increasing it. It's fitting for the overall story as well. And so, it's amusing that Iris wants to move the wedding up and do it as quickly as possible because luck doesn't seem to be going their way. She wants to turn a funeral into an impromptu wedding. But even that is struck down because of an allergic reaction to incense. It's twisted humor that is allowed to be fun and playful. It's a tone that works perfectly for this story. It can then turn to terrorizing as soon as things start escalating out of control as Betty pushes her luck. It's horrifying when Barry looks around Jitters to see all of the potential chaos coming to the people around him. He can't save all of them and many seem in mortal danger. But it also highlights the extent of Becky's powers because the situation subsides as soon as she leaves the building. The good luck field just encompasses her. Of course, the more lucky she becomes the larger the field grows and the more dangerous the results. And so, her return to her old job to win over a million dollars is the most dangerous place she could be. It could turn the particle accelerator back on, lead Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to have to make another emergency landing on the water, and stop The Flash in his tracks. Those all seem completely absurd. But they are all still believable. Sure, the effects of the particle accelerator emitting an energy throughout the city probably has consequences beyond stopping Becky. But it's more convenient that it's as simple as that and The Flash is able to arrest her for what she has done. And so, The Flash saves the day once again. But it's a formula that is still incredibly rewarding to see too because of the humor involved. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Luck Be a Lady" was written by Sam Chalsen & Judalina Neira and directed by Armen V. Kevorkian.
  • Wally and Jesse were going to have date night. But then, Harry appears from the breech delivering a break up cube that delivers a hologram message where Jesse breaks up with Wally. At times, it feels like a convenient plot beat in order to force the reshuffling amongst Team Flash. But it's at least very effective at that.
  • And so, Harry has officially rejoined the team on Earth-1. He helped Jesse form her own Team Flash over on Earth-2 - which Cisco wants to dub either Team Quick or Jesse and the Quicksters. But then, they kicked him out because his skills weren't necessary. But his knowledge is important for the team on Earth-1. And so, this universe has its Harrison Wells again for the season.
  • Wally is absent for the majority of this episode. That's a point of the story as well. He left for Earth-2 to have a conversation with Jesse about their break up. No one noticed that he wasn't there to help save the world. And so, he feels extraneous and is leaving the team for his own adventure elsewhere. That's not particularly surprising. His story has felt a little redundant. He's basically just following in Barry's footsteps. It's potentially better to see him take a different journey elsewhere.
  • The pipes at Joe's house are ready to burst. They need to be completely replaced. It's a job that will cost $15,000. Cecile thinks it would just be a better idea to move to a new house. Joe is reluctant at first because of all the memories in this house. But he also realizes in the end that the memories will stay with him even if the house is different.
  • Of course, Cecile changes her mind in the end because she makes the announcement that she is pregnant. That's a somewhat shocking twist. It would be fun to explore Joe as a father to a newborn and still trying to be a detective and member of Team Flash. But his reaction to the news is absolutely delightful as well. Not sure where this story will go but I'm very intrigued to learn more.