The Flash: 105 “Plastique” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Barry Allen has been pretty liberal with revealing his secret identity so far in The Flash – considering that at this point in CW neighbour Arrow’s first season, only one other person knew Oliver Queen’s identity, there’s already a reasonably sizeable list of people who know Barry’s identity as the Streak (sigh) – but despite Barry’s poor secret-keeping (or helmet keeping) skills, there’s one notable person who’s been left in the dark about Barry’s new powers; Iris.
But before we get to the Streak (sigh) and Iris’ first meeting, there’s some metahuman business to clear up. The metahuman of this week’s installment of The Flash is the eponymous Bette Sans Souci, aka Plastique, who has the nifty power to craft explosives. Just as last week saw a departure from the show’s previous formula with the first ‘normal’ villain, Souci was markedly different to the previous four villains… in that she wasn’t really a villain. Souci’s story might have done with a few extra scenes just to flesh out the character, but it was a nice switcheroo to have a sympathetic metahuman (Kelly Frye does well with Plastique’s fairly short screen time) – and to have the possibility of Plastique joining the team thrown up, even if it wasn’t to be. Plastique’s powers weren’t exactly awe-inspiring, but the effects for the character were solid enough nonetheless – with the explosion on the water as Plastique met her end a particularly strong effects scene (as well as providing The Flash’s traditional Barry hero moment). Plastique certainly had an awful lot of potential as a recurring character – so it felt like a little bit of a waste that after just one episode, Souci fell to a watery grave.
Plastique also saw the debut of General Eiling, played by SpongeBob SquarePants’ (a strong pedigree) Clancy Brown, and the army general was an entertaining if a little unoriginal (I’m fairly sure that similar characters have appeared in hundreds of shows) addition to the show – and it’s good to see that the door is left firmly open for Eiling to return in the future. What elevated Eiling, however, above a standard if enjoyable stock character was the character’s history with The Flash’s trump card – Harrison Wells. We spent a fairly large amount of time with the mysterious scientist this week – and while the mystery surrounding the character is clearly a long time away from being revealed, Wells is proving to be one of the show’s strongest characters, if not the strongest character. Not only did we have a return of the ‘sinister Wells’ stinger (but more on that later) – we also had a brief glimpse of the ruthless bad guy that many believe Wells to be in Plastique as Wells talked Souci into killing General Eiling – Tom Cavanagh is good enough in his scenes with the STAR Labs crew, but the scenes with the more villainous side of Wells bring out the best in Cavanagh. I’ve complained about the heavy focus on sinister Wells stingers before, but by this point Wells has become the most intriguing character on the show, and any scenes where the character sheds his friendly façade are bound to be a highlight.
Of course, however, we need to talk about Iris. After Barry’s initial, failed attempt to talk her out of writing about the Streak (sigh), we saw the first meeting, presumably of many, between the Flash and Iris. Iris has been a fairly problematic character for The Flash, threatening to become bogged down in the standard CW romance subplot – but the recent development of the Streak blog has shown some potential for one of The Flash’s weaker characters. While Iris’ adventures still aren’t the most exciting parts of the show, the character is improving – and her meeting with the Flash was an entertaining and well-executed scene (though Barry’s mildly ridiculous superhero voice threatened to overshadow the whole thing). The whole subplot feels a little unoriginal at the moment, inspired a little too much by Superman and Lois Lane, but there’s potential now for a genuinely interesting plot for Iris – if The Flash manages to execute this subplot well enough, then it’ll have avoided the problem with love interests that plagued Arrow for a good season and a half.
Away from all the nitty-gritty of the episode, we also had some enjoyable, light-hearted scenes with Barry and the STAR Labs crew to bookend the episode – Barry’s inability to get drunk is a bit of fluff that could easily have been left out of the episode, but it’s an amusing subplot nonetheless – and one with a genuinely funny conclusion. Back in episode two, the STAR Labs crew seemed like fairly dull characters – but in the episodes since, both Caitlin and Cisco have developed into entertaining, three-dimensional characters; Caitlin has become less two-dimensionally cold, and Cisco has become far less annoying – and it’s impressive that The Flash has managed to turn around the two characters into fun, actually interesting ones in a short space of time.
After last week’s holiday, the sinister Wells stinger is back with a vengeance this week – and it’s a terrific little tease this week, as a flashback sees Wells visiting Gorilla Grodd (!) himself in his cage. A mind-controlling, super intelligent gorilla is going to be awfully hard to do on a TV budget, but the fact that The Flash’s producers have even teased Grodd at all is impressive (and also a little bit nuts). Never mind the Rogues – if The Flash nails Gorilla Grodd, then it may just go down in legend…
Some elements of the story could have done with a bit more development, but Plastique is another solid episode of The Flash, delivering the show’s first sympathetic metahuman, a suitability comic-book style first meeting between Iris and the Flash and more entertaining Wells machinations. Next week, it’s the Flash versus the man of steel (no, not that one) as The Flash is Born…
Scene of the Episode – Water Skiing: Barry outruns Plastique’s explosion by running on water – as Caitlin said, not bad company you have there, Barry…