The Flash: 107 “Power Outage” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
The Flash has delivered six great episodes of relatively similar quality so far; but a niggling problem that’s emerged in the past weeks has been that for the most part, The Flash has stayed nicely in its comfort zone with a set formula – and it’s that feeling of playing it safe just a tad that’s inhibited the show from reaching greatness. Maybe it’s about time it kicked it up a notch…
This week’s installment, Power Outage, switched up the tried and tested formula a little by delivering a bad guy double (or triple, but that’s for later) whammy and stripping Barry of his powers for a great deal of the runtime. The meta-human of the week was Blackout aka Farooq Gibran, who had the ability to siphon electricity – and it’s those powers that enabled Blackout to feast on Barry’s superspeed. Blackout initially appeared to be a fairly vanilla metahuman – but the electrical villain was actually a pleasant surprise (although maybe not for Barry). Blackout didn’t quite have the charisma of Captain Cold, but he was a villain with actual nuance, a generous amount of screen-time allowing us to get to know the character a little more and logical, well-defined motivations that linked in nicely to this week’s focus on Harrison Wells . Blackout may stand out a little more due to the fairly poor standard of his predecessors, but it’s refreshing to have a genuinely well-written metahuman after last week’s misfire.
Superheroes losing their powers is a familiar plot device in comic books and their adaptations – so Barry’s loss of his powers couldn’t help but feel a little familiar. However, it did allow Grant Gustin to flex his acting muscles a little as he grappled with losing his powers – and Barry’s grief at losing his powers marked just how different The Flash is to most superhero adaptations out there at the moment. Barry genuinely enjoys his powers and the feeling of saving people, which lends the familiar ‘power loss’ plotline a slightly more original feel than the usual ‘Now I can get on with my life!’ take on the plot. The reason for Barry’s power loss was relatively satisfying too (even if Barry suddenly getting all his powers back at once was a little convenient) – it would have been a tad predictable for Barry to get his powers back through the electrical zap, and Barry psychologically suppressing his powers felt right for the self-doubting speedster at this early point in the show.
Meanwhile, at the Central City Police Department, events were a little more Arrow-esque as William Tockman aka the Clock King from the aforementioned show held Joe, Iris and co hostage. The Clock King was (and still is) one of Arrow’s strongest one-off villains – and Robert Knepper is very entertaining here as a slightly nuttier Tockman who’s fallen into full-blown supervillainy. The Clock King’s coup also gave Iris a little more to do – for the second time in a week; she was the one to take down a villain, this time with the help of Eddie’s pistol. Iris didn’t have too much screen-time this week, but it’s encouraging to see The Flash showing Iris as an ass-kicking hero in her own right rather than a damsel in distress, as she was presented for parts of last week. Despite Iris’ hero moment, it was a quiet week for her father Joe (though his quote-off with Tockman was a fun moment) – although considering his visit from Reverse Flash last week, it’s hard to blame him.
We’ve seen Wells step into his secret evil room in only a couple of episode-ending stingers and access a futuristic newspaper – but Power Outage managed to shed a little more light on the scientist’s secret motivations. The short scenes with Wells logging Barry’s progress and checking whether the future was preserved didn’t exactly represent a breakthrough in the ongoing Wells mystery, but it was good to see a few more hints on the dark future awaiting Barry Allen in 2024 (and now we have an idea of how affecting time works on The Flash, which should prove pretty important later on). Wells’ chess-playing approach to life was also finally confronted by Barry – considering Wells has been doing most of his machinations in secret, it’s interesting to see our protagonists given a few hints of the secrets Wells is hiding (though it was slightly disappointing to see Barry’s anger at Wells somewhat handwaved away later). Power Outage also continued last week’s work on making Wells a little more sympathetic – and his roll call of the people that died in the accelerator explosion while confronting Blackout was a great heroic moment that added a little more depth to the character and showed Wells isn’t quite the secretly moustache-twirling villain he appeared early on.
Wells’ secret machinations did inspire an interesting new take on the traditional metahuman plot, as he released last week’s villain, Girder, to take on Blackout. It was very fun indeed to see a proper (if a little brief) villain versus villain battle – and Girder’s sacrifice surprisingly went some way to redeeming a villain who had pretty much zero nuance last week. It might have been perhaps a tad out of character for someone who was thirsty for Barry’s blood just a week prior, but Girder’s death ensured that Tony didn’t go out as the moderately embarrassing villain he appeared to be last week, and had his own hero moment that was pretty much the best way possible to cap off a character who really didn’t have that much potential for a return appearance.
And onto the stinger of the week – and it’s a sinister Wells one this week (is it something to do with even and odd episodes?), but not a hugely exciting one. Wells taking a sample of Blackout’s blood to find out how he took Barry’s powers was an interesting twist that firmly placed Wells back into probable-villain territory – but compared to previous weeks’ exciting appearances from characters like Grodd and Reverse Flash, Power Outage’s stinger felt just a tad unexciting. On the other hand, Wells researching super speed might ring some alarm bells… Next week, it’s the big crossover – Oliver Queen and team Arrow come to Central City for a rousing superhero battle in Flash vs Arrow!
The A and B plots of the episode don’t quite smoothly slot together, but Power Outage is a great episode that delivers two strong villains, a well-executed take on an old trope and a little more development for everyone’s favourite probably- evil scientist.
Scene of the Episode: Out of Time – Iris turns the tables on the escaping Clock King with the help of a handy pistol.