Flash: A Flash of the Lightning

 

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Barry, that helmet just doesn’t work for you. 

 

Last episode ended on a bummer of a note, as the Monitor dropped by to erase Nora’s goodbye message and bring grim tidings to Barry and Iris. There’s been a lot of advance buzz about the major crossover coming this winter, and this episode definitely contributes to the hype. It also makes me pretty sure I know the role one actor will play. Interestingly and ominously, the title of this episode is the same one in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths comics series where Barry Allen dies back in the 80’s. Let’s hope for a better outcome this time around with “A Flash of the Lightning.”

We start off with Barry and Iris still in the Time Vault, stunned by the Monitor’s news. Iris refuses to accept it, while Barry is seemingly already partly resigned to his fate. Iris makes a few good observations related to the newspaper from the future that’s been part of the show from episode one. Iris inspires Barry to a course of action, while Ramsey Russo attempts another black market weapons deal which doesn’t go as expected for anyone involved.

Making good on her offer from before, Caitlin is letting Killer Frost “drive,” with some help from Cisco, Ralph, and a gadget from Ray Palmer. I’m not sure this was the best choice of where to take her for one of her first outings. You know it’s bad when even Ralph thinks someone is behaving badly. As a first trip, it leaves something to be desired. Somewhere else, Joe walks Cecile through a case involving a new meta we haven’t met yet. You know when you hear “open and shut” it’s going to be anything but. Cecile’s powers, still shifted form telepathy to empathy, make her doubt the case and unexpectedly side with the defendant, Allegra Garcia. Allegra, in the comics, was a minor character in an obscure and very odd run of Titans.

At STAR, Barry has decided that, previous fiascos to one side, the best answer here is time travel. It does sound better thought out than some of the stupid he’s done in the past, at least. He’s also traveling with a portable version of Gideon, which isn’t a bad idea at all. He gears up for his trip and zips ahead, but there’s an issue and he gets bounced back and spit out the breech, gaining a new injury in the process. Deciding he needs some expert advice, he switches Earths instead of times, and pays a call on Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth 3. Despite this supposedly being where Jessie Quick relocated to, she’s never mentioned or referred to. Barry explains what he was trying to do and why, and Jay actually agrees with him. He’s gotten some disturbing readings that make him think all the Earths might be in danger, and holds up an Easter Egg-filled map to illustrate his point.

There are two other things of note in this scene, one a lot more obvious than the other. Jay has met and married Joan Williams. In the comics, Joan is his long-time girlfriend/eventual wife, and has been around since Jay’s first appearance in 1940. Here, she’s played by the same actress that usually plays Nora Allen, Barry’s mother, as the doppleganger effect of multiple Earths kicks in. Secondly, Jay is using a cane, which means he’s not likely to play a big part in the Crisis crossover. Since the actor is supposed to be part of it, that makes it likely he’ll be reprising his original role as Flash of Earth-90, last seen in Elseworlds.

Wanting some help, Cecile goes to her very off-the-books team, in this case consisting of Iris, Kamilla, and Ralph. We get to see Allegra’s origin, and Ralph agrees Allegra is probably innocent, citing some evidence in the crime scene photos others have missed. Oddly, Ralph and Iris get sent to see the witness to Allegra’s supposed crime, two of the team that have no official standing at all. They find the witness, who won’t be telling them anything and get several other surprises while they’re there. The scene doesn’t go well for them, but Joe saves the day. Jay and Joan have come with an idea to help Barry see what’s going on with the Crisis, and they hook him up to a gadget that involves what looks like giving Jay’s helmet a jumpstart. Barry sees the Crisis, complete with the comic book effects of red skies, an anti-matter wall that destroys everything it touches, and, interestingly, Cisco as Vibe again. This changes to Barry exploring billions of possible futures, living through them all, which sounds a lot like Dr. Strange in Marvel’s Infinity War.

The visit to the future doesn’t go well, and Barry is out cold for a while, eventually coming around to Joan reading him poetry. It’s a morbid choice, but does include the episode’s title, and gives them a chance to make another Lady Gaga joke. Barry will recover, slowly (especially for him), and tells them what he saw, which isn’t encouraging and sounds like his fate is sealed. While the Garricks agree to help get Barry home, Ralph is treated at STAR, Killer Frost won’t let go of the wheel, and the others plan out what to do next.

Things aren’t looking good for Allegra, as she has a sit-down with Joe in one of the CCPD Interrogation rooms. She gives an odd accounting of herself, which includes a career goal that lets us all know where she’s going to end up eventually. What Cecile and her powers is ignoring is that, whatever the truth of this strange case, Allegra did commit new crimes here, but legal technicalities never seem to matter on these shows. Cecile talks with Allegra after Joe’s turn, and doesn’t get anywhere. After this, Cecile and Joe have a talk, and she very unfairly holds against him what he’s feeling, not what he’s saying. It’s hard to have a rational discussion with someone who is essentially reading your mind.

With a little help from his friends, Barry gets home and Iris comes to meet them. I don’t know why Barry avoiding doing so, but Iris tells them about Joan being a dead ringer for Barry’s late mother. The Garricks go, saying they’ll be scanning for more antimatter issues, and Barry is really worried about what’s coming. He tries to share his concerns with Iris, but she’s stuck in “never say die” mode and I’m not sure how much she’s listening. After her dramatic exit, Joe comes by and shares some case notes with Barry. When the wounded speedster tells him a bit about what’s coming and what he might have to do, Joe gives a very good speech about one of his early days on the job.

Back at STAR, Killer Frost is trying to branch out, but she’s neglecting a few other things. Coming to find her, Cisco scolds her about her job, which ties back to last episode, and then gives her a lesson in being human. It’s a nice scene, and gives her a great new nickname, “Vincent Van Snow.” Cecile goes back to talk to Allegra, violating several rules to the point where the case could be tossed at this point, and finally shares a secret with Allegra. We finally start getting the story of what actually happened, when Allegra’s story gets some corroborating evidence in the form of this week’s meta villain.

Nothing goes well in the next few scenes. Despite all his experience, Joe handles the attack like a rookie and is utterly ineffective. The new baddie, Ultraviolet, keeps blasting away and doing painful things to the lights in the precinct. This show should have come with a migraine warning. Eventually, Barry and Iris between them figure out something’s wrong, and Iris says she will send Ralph, who is standing next to her doing absolutely nothing in this emergency. Bad writing/staging, that. Barry rises from his sick bed and charges off to the rescue, where he makes some very bad choices in the fight, but eventually wins anyway. They wrap up the case back at STAR, although it sounds like there’s a new evil organization lurking in the background now.

Back home, Cecile makes a decision. Joe supports her, because he supports everyone all the time, but the “I can’t be a good guy and work for the prosecution” trope is getting old and tired quickly. I get it’s an age where so many fear the government (and with reason), but instead of trying to make things better and use her powers to aid the office, she takes a very different path. Allegra ends up where anyone with two brain cells to rub together knew she would. Barry and Iris plan for the future and the oncoming Crisis, and decide to share what they know with the team. Thank God that’s not going to be a long, drawn-out pointless secret keeping. Of course, the conversation also mentions Iris seeing Barry fight at CCPD earlier, when she wasn’t even in the building. The show ends with Ramsey studying the effects of his new powers, and getting a serious surprise.

What I liked: It was great to see Jay Garrick again, and I’m so glad they introduced Joan. The nods to the original, comic book Crisis were nicely done. It’s good to know Ralph is taking the heroing seriously enough to carry his costume around now. Barry’s time travel plan for once wasn’t a dumb idea. The portable Gideon was a clever idea. Killer Frost’s growth scenes were interesting to watch. Despite his own life being a train wreck, Ralph does actually give good advice. Joe is a good, solid, warm character who I really do think is the heart of the show.

What I didn’t: I mentioned my thoughts on Cecile’s career change and her motivation. Having Ralph standing next to the phone in an emergency was dumb, as was the slip-up about where Iris was during the fight. Joe knows better than to fight how he was depicted here. They telegraphed what was coming with Allegra a mile away.

They are doing a good job of making the coming Crisis a lot more than just another crossover. We haven’t seen a Wells yet, and, given what’s happening with the character in Crisis, we might not for a while. This was an uneven episode. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. It’d be higher if they hadn’t done so many screwy things that just amounted to dumb mistakes.

 

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