On the D/L – The Flash
Season 1 Episode 7 – “Power Outage”
The Flash gets around to the mandated losing powers episode as Barry is faced with a foe who can absorb his speed energy as well as any electrical energy he comes into contact with.
We get this in pretty much every superhero story so it’s no surprise that it crops up here. I think that The Flash handles the story really well and does some cool stuff with it. For one thing it’s actually quite refreshing to see a character lose his powers and be upset about it from the get go. If you look at Smallville or Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 you see characters who feel liberated when they think their powers are gone because it allows them to focus on the parts of their lives that are suffering due to their responsibilities elsewhere. This story is well and good but it is a little played out to me so I’m glad to see that Barry’s objective was to get them back as soon as possible.
I suppose the difference here is that Barry’s personal life compliments his exploits as The Flash. Joe being his boss and knowing his identity really helps him with the issues his rapid departures would otherwise cause him if Joe wasn’t aware. His job gives him access to the sort of information he needs to fight crime as well. Cisco and Caitlin are filling the role of his best friends in his life and they know everything about him so there’s no real drama there either. The only issue is with Iris who doesn’t know his secret at this time but it only seems to have caused a brief rift in their friendship. Her relationship with Eddie has made them drift apart a little though.
Grant Gustin does a great job of playing the frustration Barry is feeling after losing something that makes him feel really unique but the arc hits all the standard stops after this point. It’s an excuse for us to see the kind of man Barry is without the speed which predictably has his bravery and morality intact. Don’t get me wrong this is done very well but it is a little predictable. I like how sincerely Gustin delivers his morality speeches. There’s a definite sense that he 100% believes every word he’s saying which prevents them from becoming too corny. His compassion for those around him is incredibly consistent as well.
I was a bit confused by the revelation that much of Barry’s power loss was psychological given how enthusiastic he has always seemed about having them. The line from Caitlin about how he stopped thinking about them and connected with them wasn’t explained as well as it could have been. I took this to mean that there’s something about his powers that goes beyond the physical changes they have caused. The idea of being chosen is reinforced here so it seems that there was a mental blocker involved where Barry didn’t actually feel like he was worthy of being chosen whereas he now sees what makes him unique. Now it seems like the speed force is truly a part of him and he will begin to realise his full potential from now.
Barry’s power loss does provide a distinct contrast with the villain Blackout (Michael Revantar) who is frustrated because he has powers juxtaposed with Barry losing his. Blackout is given some decent context since we see him with his friends just as the particle accelerator exploded. It’s good enough to elevate him above standard powered thug status and there’s a hint of tragedy by framing his powers as a curse. There’s even a mention of him being responsible for the death of his best friends. I was entirely sympathetic to his plight given that he just had rotten luck, had been indirectly responsible for killing his friends and had an irresistible urge to absorb the energy around him. As Barry put it, the guy simply has a disease that he is ill equipped to manage. Who wouldn’t go a little crazy in these circumstances?
The scenes inside STAR Labs were fantastic, feeling something like a horror movie with a bunch of helpless bystanders trapped in a confined place with a psycho killer on the loose. There was a great sense of urgency in these scenes as Barry was powerless to take him on and Blackout was bent on hunting down Dr Wells for retribution. I was genuinely surprised by the return of Girder who was let out to distract Blackout long enough for everyone to escape. Given how well he was used here I’m actually disappointed to see him die but he gets to go out on a heroic note which goes a long way to redeem some of his sloppy characterisation last week. It does neatly let Barry off the hook for the blunder of revealing his identity to him .
Dr Wells really has more sides than a dodecahedron as evidenced here. More is revealed about his future knowledge which seems to be on tap as much as he wants it. This episode also establishes that the future isn’t fixed and can be changed meaning that the newspaper headline about the disappearance of The Flash isn’t a certainty. One thing that seems to drive everything Wells does is protecting Barry and helping him realise his full potential. I really like how deviously he plays with the truth when he’s found out. Barry flat out confronts him about sending Girder after Blackout and Wells tells a version of the truth to justify his actions. The calculated nature of everything he says and does is really sinister and setting up something interesting that is keeping me guessing at every point. I also wonder how Barry will react when he finds out everything Wells has done to protect him.
If all this good stuff wasn’t enough we also have the crossover of William Tockman aka The Clock King (Robert Knepper) from The Flash parent show Arrow. He’s used really well here but it has extra impact if you’re aware who he is, I’m not sure how easy it would have been to follow without having seen him in Arrow. That aside he was a solid second villain who stood out with his really strange mannerisms and the air of tragedy that surrounded him. His appearance was well timed as in any other episode he would have been absolutely no match for Barry. The hostage situation would have been dealt with pretty instantly but with Barry distracted and powerless it was the perfect time for a threat like this have a sense of urgency. Clock King’s psychotic ramblings and quick trigger finger made these scenes feel really tense.
Technically there were 3 villains in this episode -albeit one with a heroic edge- but this show handled them all really well. It’s amazing that a 40 odd minute episode of a TV show can handle multiple villains better than a nearly 2.5 hour Spider-Man movie. There’s generally an air of confidence in the material each week and the strength of the characters is left to carry much of the story. I continue to be impressed with how this show is building the stories and the characters. The villains can be a little hit and miss but the execution of those is getting a lot better as the season progresses.
A really strong outing for this show. It takes the seemingly tired presence of the hero losing their powers and makes it work despite the predictable nature of the ensuing arc.
The episode juggles multiple villains really well with none of them really suffering as a result. Between doing this, dealing with Barry’s issues and expanding on the Dr Wells mystery this episode still manages to keep the pacing tight in the face of several plot points. It does help that they all feed into each other and the urgency is ramped up as a result.
In general the handling of the villains is getting well with some context given to Blackout as well as some really tragic elements to his story and a sympathetic edge to him being cursed with these abilities. It provides a nice contrast to Barry’s power complimenting his life in many ways and not causing him any major issues like needing to constantly absorb energy to survive.