The Flash – Season 3 Episode 3
The Flash goes back to basics with a standard metahuman story also featuring the return of Harry and Jesse from Earth-2.
It’s good to have Harry back even if he has picked up the annoying habit of saying “Not!” when making statements to announce that he was being sarcastic. The episode does this not once, not twice but three times and it wasn’t really funny the first time.
Even at that, Tom Cavanagh is one of the major pillars of this show and his absence was definitely noticed in the first two episodes. I understand why he wasn’t around; living in a different universe means that he can’t really pop in for no reason so there needs to be some justification for his return.
The reason he comes back is to get help with Jesse who is now a Speedster. Apparently her contact with the Dark Matter wave released when Barry was absorbed into the Speed Force had a delayed reaction and her powers were only recently triggered. It’s as good an explanation as any since we’re dealing with super powers here and it allows her powers to be much more than just another thing happening in the background. If they had manifested last season then they would have been another part of some really cluttered storytelling so the delay actually makes sense.
Her abilities are really freaking Harry out and causing him to go into overprotective father mode. We’ve seen this from him numerous times so it is in keeping with what we have seen of Harry before. Jesse is of course eager to be out there using her powers to help people and having a lot of fun while she does it but Harry fears for her safety and wants to stall as much as possible by conducting test after test to prove that Jesse’s abilities aren’t having a negative effect on her.
It doesn’t take long to get to the root of Harry’s desire to run tests and he tries to get other to talk her out of using her speed. These scenes work really well because Cavanagh completely sells the frantic father desperate to protect his daughter. The episode handles his overprotective nature with a light touch as the idea is that the audience is supposed to see how ridiculous he is being. The fact that he tries to make Cisco talk her out of using her powers is proof enough of that considering how often he deliberately used his powers to help the team last season after some early reluctance. In fact, it was Harry who encouraged him to do that.
Caitlin is the one to eventually talk to her and she has no real idea what to say. Everyone except Harry knows that Jesse has already made up her mind and nothing anyone else can say will change that in any way. Harry thinks that Caitlin is the ideal person to get through to her because she doesn’t have powers but Caitlin’s reluctance to be the one to talk to her comes from the fact that she does have powers and isn’t sure what to do about them. Is it a re-tread of Cisco’s arc from last season? So far it seems to be but I’m still interested to see where they’ll go with this.
For the purposes of her conversation with Jesse; Caitlin can impart the advice that it’s best to take it slow until she can get to grips with her abilities because that’s exactly what she’s doing. Jesse makes an interesting point about the advice being down to Jesse being a girl. She doesn’t think Barry was advised to take it slow at any point –though in actual fact there was a lot of advice about how to use his powers in the early days- so sees it as having its roots in gender politics. The episode doesn’t deal with this heavily but having it be in there is interesting. Gender politics being applied to superheroes was a major theme in the first season of Supergirl so it’s good that it the possibility of it being a factor isn’t completely ignored.
Harry and Jesse’s disagreement goes through some fairly predictable beats but it’s handled well by Tom Cavanagh and Violett Beane. They have always had good father/daughter chemistry and I like how they are both passionately stubborn people who refuse to back down easily.
Eventually Harry comes around to the idea and decides to support her with in using her powers. It’s a slow realisation for him but eventually he has to accept that he can’t really stop her using her abilities but he can support her and keep her safe that way. He gives her a suit which symbolises the fact that he’ll support her and it seems that they’ll stay on Earth-1 for a while; presumably so that Jesse can get some hands on training from Barry.
Wally is really jealous of Jesse having powers which makes sense as he was hit by the same energy that granted her abilities. He really wants to be a Speedster because he wants to help people and struggles with the fact that he doesn’t have them. He clutches at straws throughout the episode. He hopes that the delayed reaction applies to him too and later when he learns that Jesse’s abilities were triggered by almost being hit by a car he tries to recreate that. It’s easy to relate to Wally being jealous of seeing someone else with powers because many of us wish we had powers. His reaction is an entirely human one and in many ways he is the most human character on the show at this point.
Barry chews him out for being so reckless and risking death by stepping out in front of traffic in the hope that it will trigger powers that he may or may not have. It is a stupid thing to do but it shouldn’t be coming from Barry who is hardly in a position to judge anyone for making stupid decisions. What Barry should be talking about and isn’t is the fact that Wally was a Speedster in the Flashpoint timeline. Given that there is a villain going around granting abilities to people who had powers in the Flashpoint timeline it’s something that should at least be mentioned as a possibility.
I get that he might not want to tell Wally about it especially since he seems obsessed with having powers but it’s something that Team Flash should at least be prepared for. Will this jealousy and obsession make him a better target for Alchemy who is in a position to offer him what he wants? It’s certainly a possibility.
Wally’s chewing out should have come from Joe who had been handling the problem up until that point. There was a really good discussion earlier in the episode about Wally not hanging his hopes on becoming a Speedster. Joe encourages him to use his brain to apply his engineering knowledge and skills to helping others. I always like the scenes where Joe delivers advice; they’re so reasonable and insightful. The conversation Joe had with Barry where he tells him that Barry is more like a second daughter because he’s very open with his feelings where Wally is more like a son in that it takes more effort to get him to open up. It may be confirming gender stereotypes but I found Barry’s reaction amusing.
This episode moves back to the one shot metahuman villain formula with Frankie Kane aka Magenta (Joey King). She’s a lot better than most disposable villains because she is ultimately quite sympathetic. It is established that she has bounced around the foster care system and her current situation isn’t a good one. To top it all off she has a split personality disorder and that’s where Magenta comes in. Having a villain where the alternate identity is a competing persona is a great idea. She’s not a bad person as she is just someone completely overwhelmed by her circumstances.
Unfortunately the episode doesn’t take this idea as far as it could. It is referenced often but Magenta comes and goes throughout without any significant development. I did like that Barry defeats her by appealing to her better nature and offering her support. It’s very different to the usual end of episode brawl and allows Barry to be heroic in the sense that he can inspire people. The threat that she creates is a much larger scale than Barry normally deals with. The Tanker hanging over the hospital was an impressive visual and represents a problem that can’t simply be outrun.
Magenta also gives Julian something to do in the episode. This episode establishes that he is the senior CSI –though it may have been mentioned last week and I missed it- which means that Barry is no longer the top of the CSI food chain at CCPD. Julian is shown to be completely unlikeable in this episode through his strict adherence to start and finishing times as well as pretending to be kind to Frankie just so he can get a sample for testing. Usually with unlikeable characters there is some hint dropped that they aren’t all bad or some kind of backstory that justifies why they are the way they are but so far this has yet to happen with Julian. It is only his second appearance but there’s just nothing to like about this guy at all.
Barry and Iris are giving this relationship thing a try and I actually like the approach that the writers are taking with this. Their first date doesn’t go so well and the problem seems to be that they are trying to deny what their lives really are. Iris wants to not talk about the Flash at all which means that they are awkwardly looking for conversation topics. It’s a major part of their lives so it’s not something they can distance themselves from.
Solving that problem at least allows them to move on and try properly but there are other problems with this. Barry and Iris have had various indications that they are “meant to be together” so this episode starts to tackle if they can actually function as a couple. Knowing the future doesn’t make it any easier for them to be a couple in the present and for both of them there is a lot of pressure that they struggle to get past. It’s good that the question of whether they are actually compatible is being asked and I’m interested to see what the answer will be. So far they are being cautious about it.
This episode gives some insight on how significant the changes of Flashpoint are outside of the small changes we’ve seen here and there and Caitlin’s powers. Harry and Jesse aren’t affected by the changes as they are from another Earth so the new Speed Lab is as much a surprise for them as it is for Barry. This means that Supergirl will be unaffected by Flashpoint despite Barry crossing over.
Another minor lasting effect is that Flashpoint is the new villain factory. Season 1 had the Particle Accelerator explosion and season 2 had Earth-2. This season seems to have Alchemy restoring powers to those who lost them when the timeline was reset. As I’ve said before, no time was spent exploring the Flashpoint reality so they are just giving random people powers and applying the Flashpoint excuse to them. It has had no significant lasting impact as of this point.
A vast improvement on the previous episodes with a more back to basics approach. The return of Harry is always welcomed and his reaction to Jesse having abilities is really well done despite the predictable plotting. It works because of the performances of the actors and the chemistry they have. Wally’s jealousy of Jesse causing him to desperately want to be a Speedster as well is really relatable and the extreme lengths he goes to in order to try to trigger them makes sense.
The villain is different to what we normally see and the idea of the villain literally being a separate personality is a good one. Having Barry defeat her by talking her down was refreshing as well since it’s more heroic than a simple fight. Barry and Iris’ attempt at a relationship is asking the right questions about their compatibility as a couple and I’m interested to see where it goes. I’m still not convinced that “Flashpoint” was worthwhile considering the lack of real impact that it’s had but at least this was a fun episode that took a step in the right direction.
- an interesting and sympathetic villain
- the approach to the Barry/Iris relationsip
- Harry and Jesse’s dynamic
- Wally’s relatable jealousy
- Flashpoint still having no significant impact
- predictable plotting around Harry and Jesse’s conflict
- Barry being a hypocrite chewing Wally out for making stupid choices