A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
A marked improvement in storytelling over last week’s hour, the poorly titled Power Outage garners its narrative propulsion from the Flash losing his powers. It’s not the most novel concept and indeed the idea of a superhero having to struggle with the loss of his or her powers is one of the most used concepts in the genre. The Flash subverts that familiarity with a stroke of genius that largely works because of its simplicity. Barry loves being the Flash, that red suit gives him a sense of being and power and even more than that, it’s just fun. Most of us have at some point or another dreamed of having superpowers (because why not) and frankly, we’re all a bit more likely to behave like Barry and use our powers superfluously just because we could. Anyone who comments otherwise is full of it. In the midst of all of that fun is the rudimentary villain of the week who was in the particle accelerator exploration. Farooq, who doesn’t survive the episode and end up with the other prisoners in the same location, was stupidly climbing an electrical tower with two of his friends. Talking about bad timing, his two friends were immediately killed and Blackout was born (nickname courtesy of Cisco).
The visual effects as usual are great considering the budget and timeframe. The sequences where Barry outsmarts a mugger and then loses his speed are simply sublime. For Barry, losing his powers isn’t simply a chance to become normal or try to lead a life that doesn’t involve running at fast speed. He, for better or for worse, became the Flash and suddenly having to snap out of that and not respond to threats so quickly is frightening to him. It’s as if his actual identity had been stripped away, leaving behind a mere skeleton. He’s afraid. The episode takes good advantage of that very human fear, leaving Barry at his most vulnerable. There really isn’t a doubt that he is going to overcome his fear, but the episode largely succeeds on milking just the right amount of tension from that storyline. It could have almost been saccharine when Barry is able to figure out how to use the cellular connection with his speed and save the day, but it largely works.
I complained significantly last week about how Iris is consistently placed in the way of danger because of villains. It would be fine if it happened once in a while, but every week is not just straining credibility, it’s also fairly vapid storytelling. This week Iris is once again placed in the line of peril, which made my eyes roll faster than I thought possible. Her peril comes as a result of yet another Arrow/Flash crossover, the Clock King, who unfortunately isn’t wearing a cloak full of old-fashioned pocket watches or some other clock accessories. But, as if the writers were paying attention to the criticisms leveled at Iris’s character, eschew the Flash rescuing her this week (well, not that he was exactly in a position to do so, but whatever). She takes the impetus in conjuncture with Eddie and it saves this episode from mediocre territory.
Dr. Wells is on the saving end of a similar grace. Plenty of faithful audience members have noted that the constant endings of him as the obviously bad guy hiding in the creepy shadows overstayed its welcome the third time it happened. Antagonists are at their best when they’re complicated and their motives are difficult to read. At the beginning of the episode, Farooq’s humanization works remarkably well (time frame and stupidity of activity considering) and his hatred of Dr. Wells is immediately sold by the episode without it going overboard. But Dr. Wells himself isn’t simply a man to some degree responsible for the entire fiasco in the first place nor a caricature of a villain (the latter which the show is largely responsible for). He’s a complex figure who has come across a dream of a future that he so anxiously wishes to preserve at any cost – a wish that he releases in the best moment of the episode is somewhat that Barry shares (albeit in a different fashion). Yet his release of Girder (which, to be fair, might be a reasonable decision considering the circumstances) doesn’t reverse his earlier humanization, but serves to complicate it even further. It’s smart step for the show, as long as they don’t end another episode on him in the shadows, rubbing his hands together with the sample of Farooq’s blood.
Title: Power Outage
Written By: Alison Schapker & Grainne Godfree
Directed By: Larry Shaw
Image Courtesy: Hitfix