The Flash – Season 3 Episode 12
The Flash explores the pupil/teacher dynamic between Barry and Wally while a metahuman able to kill with a single touch threatens Joe.
Barry training a new Speedster should be a more interesting arc than it currently is. He has a lot of experience fighting crime as the Flash so figuring out how to pass that on is a story with lots of potential. When his student is as reckless and hot headed as Wally is that adds further scope to create conflict that is worth watching.
The reality of what we’re actually getting is far different. This episode opens well with a race between them in the name of training. Wally sees it as a chance to prove that he can be faster than Barry and for a while it looks like it’s heading that way. Barry phasing through a building to win the race was a really nice touch as it teaches Wally two things. Firstly it shows him that he shouldn’t be so arrogant because failure is an option and he will experience it a lot through his superhero career. The second lesson is that there is more to being a hero than simply being the fastest. Barry beats him because of his intelligence, skills and experience where Wally relies on his raw talent. This is something he needed to learn before his arrogant nature gets him in trouble.
Unfortunately this is about as interesting as their relationship gets because the rest of the episode devolves into a dull retread of everything we’ve seen before. Barry becomes somewhat consumed by self doubt as usual and realises that he isn’t able to train Wally effectively because he doesn’t understand how to do that. Some trial and error is expected because teaching another Speedster is relatively new territory. Barry has been trained by Speedsters before but Eobard Thawne and Jay Garrick/Hunter Zolomon were both evil which wasn’t ideal. Even at that Barry is able to acknowledge that they were good teachers who passed on knowledge effectively. The real Jay Garrick has also had a hand in his training so Barry needs to find his own way to impart knowledge.
The thing is, based on the opening scene I don’t feel like Barry is a bad teacher. He is inexperienced and has difficulty explaining things but his practical example did exactly what it needed to do. The difficulty he has explaining what it takes to phase through solid objects is an interesting obstacle that he needs to overcome and the mention of him learning that skill back in “Tricksters” is a welcome one because Thawne was able to articulate what it takes where Barry isn’t. It suggests that Barry doesn’t fully understand why he can do it so is unable to explain it. I wish the episode had done more with this as these questions help define how characters will develop.
Wally’s obstacle for the episode is learning how to phase and his early lessons involve running into walls while becoming frustrated. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite qualify as an arc because it turns out the answer is simply believing in himself as usual. Where’s the conflict between Wally’s inability to learn and Barry’s teaching style to make this more interesting? Wally has self belief in spades and Barry’s point earlier in the episode was all about it taking more than that to master his powers. Of course he learns how to phase while also managing to learn nothing profound about himself so it all feels like a complete waste.
I do find it interesting that there is no jealousy between Barry and Wally despite Wally’s vast increase in speed over a short time. It’s very possible that Wally will eclipse Barry in terms of speed and eventually in skill but Barry seems absolutely fine with it. He is encouraging Wally to reach his full potential and behaving in a really mature way about the fact that he might end up being second best in terms of power level. He is even willing to put aside his own ego so that Wally can be in a position to save Iris when the time comes. I still think that a future version of Wally will turn out to be Savitar but for now Barry’s attitude to the whole thing is a refreshing one.
This episode boasts another forgettable villain with an admittedly cool power. Clive Yorking (Matthew Kevin Anderson) feels like a hangover from Flashpoint as he is a villain given his powers by Alchemy. His mission is to kill every cop responsible for his arrest in Flashpoint. Naturally Joe is one of them so that creates personal stakes for the team. There isn’t much to say about this other than Cisco suddenly being able to Vibe into Flashpoint. There really should be some established limitations of Cisco’s powers by now as it feels like he can pretty much do everything.
One thing this plot achieves is putting Iris in mortal danger again. She is touched and starts to die which causes everyone to be concerned. It seems that everyone pretty much assumed that she was safe until May but the current arc is about changing the future in a really significant way. They already managed it with Wally bringing down Plunder but they need to do more or things will still play out more or less as they have already seen. I don’t think it was necessary to have Iris be the damsel in distress again in this episode but the suggestion that the future could be changed by having her killed earlier is in theory quite interesting.
Joe finally finds out that Iris is due to die soon and he takes it exactly as I thought he would. Naturally he’s upset but he’s also angry that Barry kept this from him when he should know better. I get that it was Iris’ idea but secrecy within the team is never a good idea. Jesse L. Martin delivers an excellent performance as always so he mostly sells the scene even though it shouldn’t really exist.
His declaration that they need to be honest with one another because they are more effective when they support each other. It’s a good lesson and it’d be really effective if they hadn’t already learned it multiple times. Is there a metahuman that erases all lessons learned and forces them to make the same mistakes over and over again? At this point it feels like the only plausible explanation that doesn’t involve most of the characters in this show being idiots. I’m sure this lesson will be repeated a few more times before it sinks in.
One thing that recently occurred to me is that Joe might be heading towards an unfortunate end. I don’t want this to happen but I wonder if his honour at City Hall as predicted is a posthumous one. This show tends to kill off father figures and Joe is pretty much the only one left. I’ll go on record with this prediction but I really hope not.
I’m really liking Julian being on the team and never thought I would say that. His temperament is a nice contrast to the optimism favoured by everyone else and he definitely has a lot to bring to the table. His dynamic with Caitlin works really well and I like the way they bicker over who is better able to do something. Having him be the one to make sure Caitlin doesn’t become Killer Frost again by using his experience of being Alchemy as a way to empathise her was a really genuine moment that shows why connecting those characters is a good idea. Julian feels responsible for everything he did as Alchemy and NAME is proof of that so he can understand what it means to bury the dark impulses within. I’m guessing Julian will be Caitlin’s next boyfriend which probably doesn’t end well for Julian since we know what happens to all of Caitlin’s boyfriends.
Another uneven episode that starts to do something interesting with the pupil/teacher dynamic between Wally and Barry but messes it up in the execution. Opening the episode with an example that teaches Wally why he shouldn’t be arrogant and shows him that there’s more to being a hero than simply being the fastest was a great start but the self doubt consuming Barry over how to articulate his lessons really didn’t work. Having this result in a simple “believe in yourself” conversation that allows Wally to achieve his goal is really lazy and uninteresting. The villain of the episode wasn’t all that interesting either but having him used as a vehicle to suggest Iris could die sooner than they expected.
I’m glad that Joe finally find out that Iris is due to die in a few months and his reaction was as expected. Jesse L. Martin sells the moment well enough but we’ve seen this all before and I wish the characters would retain these lessons between episodes. Julian being on the team is working surprisingly well and he has a compelling back and forth with Caitlin. The scene where he talked Caitlin down from becoming Killer Frost was a genuine moment that taps into his guilt over his actions as Alchemy. I can see Julian becoming Caitlin’s next boyfriend which probably means his days are numbered too. Gorilla City in two weeks! Who’s excited?
- Barry’s example to Wally
- the risk of Iris dying earlier than expected having potential
- Jesse L. Martin’s performance when Joe found out the truth
- repetitive lessons about honesty and self belief
- the inconsistency of the Wally/Barry pupil/teacher dynamic