The second episode of The Flash is another villain-of-the-week, and I’m OK with that. Last season was so dreary there wasn’t any room for episodes like this. Even one-off villains that should have been fun were ruined because they had to be tied so directly to Savitar. While this season’s villains are all somehow tied to The Thinker, the show isn’t telling us how yet. Last week, The Thinker built a robot Samurai to draw The Flash out of the Speed Force. This week’s villain gets captured and put into Iron Heights, which is right where The Thinker wants him. He’s planning something, and it involves getting certain metahumans in specific places. Even if the season starts out with a bunch of villain-of-the-week episodes in a row, they’re all contributing to the larger season arc. We just don’t know how yet.
If they’re all as fun as this one, that’s completely OK. We all love serialized television now, but sometimes you just want to watch a superhero fight a bad guy. The overarching story is important, but it’s nice to have episodes you can turn on and enjoy for 40 minutes without having to keep three seasons worth of lore in mind. This week’s bad guy was basically everyone’s Internet of Things nightmare personified. Great, perfect. While the Kilg%re of the comics is an extraterrestrial, malevolent A.I., it makes sense for this version of The Flash to turn him into a tech-controlling metahuman. While aliens show up all the time in comics (and on Earth-38, where Supergirl takes place), this show has established that aliens showing up on Earth-1 is a big deal. That’s four-show crossover material, not a one-off villain.
The Flash takes the view that hey, maybe making everything into an internet connected computer is a really bad idea. Sure, it lets us turn off our lights from our phones, makes us never have to get up or move, and accelerates our transformation into the humans from Wall-e, but it also opens up another potential security vulnerability in your home. Or car. Or work the elevator. Of course, this meta-human doesn’t need a Hackers-style laptop (with a 28.8 bps modem!) to ruin your day. The virus is in his DNA. All he has to do is be near the piece of tech to control it. He first kills someone with an elevator, moving it up and down quickly to shake them to death.
The really cool thing about this villain is that it gave Flash things to do with his powers beyond “outrun the bad guy.” That’s going to be important this season. We need to see what the show can do to keep things interesting with a main villain who isn’t another evil speedster. The tension this episode didn’t come from whether or not The Flash was fast enough. It came from how he would use his speed to save people from everyday objects. That led to some really cool, different action scenes that made the whole episode more enjoyable. It was fun to watch Barry take apart a car. It was fun to watch him gather up shrapnel from an exploding grenade. The fight at the end was even better when Kilg%re started taking over all the tech in Barry’s suit. That alone let the scene heighten the stakes and the comedy at the same time, as Barry kept discovering more ridiculous devices Cisco had come up with. It was also great how it forced him to use older non-internet-based technology to contact Team Flash. How many parents do you think had to explain to their kids what a collect call was last night?
The only disappointing part of last night’s episode was that Wally didn’t have much to do. When Barry went into the Speed Force at the end of last season, I was hoping we’d get a little more time with Wally as the hero. Now, Barry’s back and Wally is a sidekick yet again. The most heroic thing he does is grab a syringe of glucose after Kilg%re hacked an insulin device. Not to belittle that, he saved someone’s life. He just doesn’t get to do the cool stuff anymore and that sucks. I hope he gets more to do as the episodes go on, because Wally is the best. What’s the point of having two Flashes if you’re only going to use one?
The rest of the episode dealt with relationship drama, and actually pulled it off pretty well. I got nervous when Iris and Barry entered the dreaded “can I talk to you” hallway, but the conversation was short. It only served to set up a few scenes where they go to couples therapy. The first therapy scene was funny with both Barry and Iris getting nervous every time the therapist wrote something down. The second got real in a way I didn’t expect. They never really dealt with the fact that Barry left Iris for six months. Throughout the episode, he’s clearly overcompensating, trying to make up for lost time. As a result, he’s not listening to what Iris wants. I wasn’t expecting the show to deal with that in such a genuine, emotional way. By the end of the episode, they’re more in sync again, but I hope the show doesn’t drop this arc. There’s a lot of dramatic potential in Barry and Iris going to therapy in the months/weeks before their wedding. Also if everything is suddenly better after two sessions, that’s super lame.
Cisco’s relationship drama was well-done too, exploring the perils of inter-universe dating. His relationship with Gypsy was one of the cooler things to come out of season three, and it’s nice to see it moving forward. Cisco remains a lovable idiot as he keeps blowing off his date to work on the Kilg%re problem. It’s funny that he keeps needing Caitlin to explain to him how annoyed Gypsy is. In the end, their story is sweet. She wanted to spend time with him on 1-1-1 day, which is essentially her universe’s version of Valentine’s Day. It’s a fun, light subplot in another fun, light episode. It still feels like the season hasn’t really got itself going yet. The Thinker needs to become a bigger presence to really drive the season forward, but it looks like it’s going to take a few episodes to get there. If the next few villain-of-the-week episodes are as fun as this one, I won’t complain.
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