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The Flash #1.22 “Rogue Air” Recap & Review

A rushed cavalcade of fanservice has structural issues, but packs in so much fun that it’s hard to criticize.

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FLA122A_0351bSummary: A rushed cavalcade of fanservice has structural issues, but packs in so much fun that it’s hard to criticize.

Recap

The team learns that Wells has been hiding in the Particle Accelerator the entire time, and saves the captive Eddie. Iris discovers the wedding ring and realizes Eddie was going to propse to her, but Eddie instead breaks up, revealing the future West-Allen headline. However, Wells leaves behind a future device that is charging the Accelerator to activate. Realizing that the imprisoned metahumans will die if it’s activated, they make arrangements to move them all the Lian Yu with help from Lyla. Cisco finds a power source in Wells’s wheelchair which he used to absorb power to be faster than Barry, and uses that to build a power dampener to transport the metas. Barry enlists the help of Captain Cold and Golden Glider to man the transport, but they betray the team and release them — making it so the metas owe him a favor (aside from Deadbolt, who he shoots in the face because he owed him money.) Reeling from the loss, Barry finds Wells and confronts him, but with the help of Oliver/Al Sah-Him and Firestorm, the Reverse-Flash is finally defeated.

Review

Much of the success of The Flash stems from its charisma overshadowing potential nitpicks, logical or otherwise. While many live-action superhero fare may struggle to ground or explain the sillier or nonsensical comic book choices, this show goes at them confidence, relying on sheer fun with a dash of self-awareness to cover its bases.

“Rogue Time” fits this concept to a T, because it’s an immensely fun, fanservice-heavy episode, but not one without its narrative, structural, and logistical problems. Much like “Crazy For You,” the individual concepts — a metahuman breakout, a Rogues/Flash team-up, an Arrow/Firestorm/Flash team-up, the climactic Reverse-Flash battle, not to mention all the loose ends of the last two weeks — are each worthy of their own praise, but don’t necessarily jibe well in an episode together or at this particular moment.

FLA122A_0026bDoes that matter if we’re all having fun? Probably not, because the promise of The Flash has always been to provide superhero fun first and foremost. And if anything, the biggest problem with “Rogue Air” is that it’s like getting too many Christmas presents — there may be a point of diminishing returns because you’re splitting your attention between so many things, but your “problem” is still too many good things.  Yet, while I enjoyed the hour spent with “Rogue Time” quite a lot, it’s worth breaking down why this “more is more” approach doesn’t always work in a narrative sense, if only just to truly appreciate how much the fun of The Flash lets us overlook unless we’re nitpicking.

The deal with the metahumans is the core of the episode, which sees every surviving metahman baddie appear. Kudos to the creators of the show for getting all those guest stars back for this episode. It’s never easy dealing with scheduling — so much so that “scheduling conflicts” is basically the go-to excuse whenever an actor refuses or is not allowed to come back — and juggling so many, especially for rather small appearances, is quite a feat. Getting the Amells and Wentworth Miller back makes sense, considering how entrenched in the DCwU they are. But it’s not always easy, financially or logistically, getting your one-off guest stars back whenever you need them, especially on a CW budget. Whether it’s the foresight to pre-emptively sign the guests on for multiple episodes, substantial money offered, or such a good set environment that people want to come back, the producers of The Flash are really making this world work. The resulting battle is appropriately chaotic, but it’s also pretty rushed, enough that it doesn’t quite live up to the hype considering we all expected this to happen from day one. But it’s a good showcase of how The Flash has grown as a hero; he uses the arm-spinning skill he learned in “The Trap” to fend off Mist, for example, and generally handles everyone at once more capably than when he faced them one at a time.

That said, the actual metahuman team-up isn’t the focus so much as figuring out what to do with them. In a long-awaited discussion, we finally have the characters addressing the gray area they entered when they decided to hold the metahumans captive. Honestly, beyond all the fight sequences, some of the best fanservice and interesting discussion of “Rogue Air” is how it confronts this, with Joe and Barry playing two opposing sides in the situation. The show doesn’t answer the question of who’s right so much as acknowledge that it’s complicated, and both sides have valid arguments. The intentions were always good — they’ve taken fine care of everyone, and this was only supposed to be a temporary situation until they were rehabilitated — but “we were busy” doesn’t fly when it comes to illegally holding people captive, which Joe voices his uncomfortability with. There wasn’t anywhere else for them to go until Cisco had the technology to make a power dampener to transport them to Lian Yu, sure. But at the same time, no one had tried very hard to figure out an alternative all this year. Surely Wells threw up brick walls to keep the metas on reserve, so the team can’t be completely at fault. But their prisoners are still their responsibility, and this episode makes clear that however dangerous they are, the STAR Labs team aren’t willing to cross a line and play executioner, even when they’ve been forced to play judge and jury.

FLA122A_0400bHow far they’re willing to go is at the crux of Barry’s dilemma this week, which makes up the heart of an otherwise plot-heavy episode. Captain Cold and newly named Golden Glider are mostly on the side this time around, with some funny moments, but little by way of character development like their previous appearances. That’s fine, because they’re essentially in place to show Barry pushed to his own limits. Grant Gustin aptly plays a darker Barry, but one that’s purposefully unnatural and forced out of desperation. Though it gets buried under the many plot points, “Rogue Air” hinges on Barry’s struggle with being the optimistic good guy among a series of losses and betrayals. Barry has seen Oliver Queen go to absurdly great and manipulative lengths to win his battles, to a point that his “superpower” isn’t his archery prowess, but his ruthless tactical ability. As such, Barry tries to manipulate Captain Cold, firmly stand against the wishes of his teammates, and play with the lesser of two evils. It blows up in his face, ultimately, because he still chooses to see the potential good in Captain Cold, despite all the facts pointing at his betrayal. Cold may have agreed to not murder anyone and hasn’t told people Barry’s identity (even his sister!), but he’s still a crook who lies and robs people. Oliver Queen would have seen the limit of Cold’s honor system — it exists, but it’s short and adjustable — and he would have had countermeasures. Oliver Queen sees the darkness in people, and that helps him assess who can truly be trusted and used.

Barry, conversely, has succeeded a hero because of his ability to provide light and optimism to the world, which Joe has said countless times and reiterated again this week. Eventually, reaffirming how Barry is a “light” will get old, but it’s been an important factor in the first season’s journey. That Barry fails so miserably at being Oliver Queen almost seems like a criticism of what’s happened in the last arc of Arrow‘s third season, in fact, because much of the Al Sah-Him drama has come from Oliver possibly crossing the line when it comes to manipulation and subterfuge. Barry not only shouldn’t resort to the “do whatever it takes” attitude, he honestly can’t, because it goes against everything that’s made him such a good hero in the first place. When he ultimately faces Reverse-Flash, he beats him not because of thorough manipulation or edge-of-morality plans, but a simple team-up with his friends. Oliver and Firestorm pretty much come completely out of nowhere, but it plays like a reward for Barry, who deserves it considering how much things have sucked for him lately.

Of course, continuity is another nitpick here when it comes to Oliver’s appearance. While the timing is much better than the awkward and non-descript timing of Ray and Felicity’s crossover, it still takes some completely unspoken logical leaps to get the thought-to-be brainwashed Al Sah-Him over to Central City without Ra’s knowing or being mad about it (the most common assumption I’ve seen is that it takes place during his search for Nyssa.) It’s not impossible to make this work, and the non-chronological order of the Arrow and The Flash episodes make sense considering we had to learn Oliver was faking his brainwashing first. But it’s definitely awkward, in that it lessens the power of the presumed all-seeing eyes of Ra’s al Ghul that has been the crux of season 3’s direness. Not to mention that Oliver uses nanites courtesy of Ray Palmer — a really cool bit of fanservice that lets the Atom spiritually participate in the team-up, but one that begs even more questions of how, where, and when Oliver got it.

FLA122B_0161b.cIt feels like the writers of The Flash really, really wanted a team-up no matter what, and had to write around Arrow‘s storylines the best they could instead of letting them work organically. Crossovers are easier to do during looser periods of the show, and that looseness is how Buffy and Angel managed to make their similar back-to-back crossovers work. But The Flash and Arrow both thrive on heavy continuity and momentum, so when the story is kicked into high gear like now, it’s unsettling that the narrative brakes be put on to force in some cross-promotion.

But, again, it goes back to the same thing — that team-up, however contrived, is really, really cool. It hits a superhero sweet spot, because there’s always been the question of “Why doesn’t Superman fly into help Batman take out the Joker?” The Flash needs help with his greatest enemy, so his friends fly in and help him. The simplicity of that is obvious, but that doesn’t take away from the giddiness of that fight. I wish the promotional materials had kept this team-up secret — they could have easily only focused on the metahuman brawl and gotten a great promo — because the appearance of Oliver and Firestorm, random as they are, is a very cool moment. There are points in the fight where it’s hard to figure out what’s going on, admittedly, but that’s an inevitable challenge to using characters that hinge on their speed. Having Oliver face-off with Reverse-Flash sans superspeed is a nice touch, but the exhilirating rush with Flash and Reverse-Flash superspeeding their way up a sattelite dish and topping a tower is the standout. The show still has kinks to work out to keep the fighting characters looking like humans instead of cartoon-y CGI, but there’s still a clear attention to the choreography, computer-generated or not, that’s much appreciated.

Sandwiched between all the madness is Eddie, who has been held in the Particle Accelerator the entire time. It’s going to be interesting seeing where Eddie goes next season given his swift downward spiral. Hopefully the show doesn’t take the easy route and immediately make him a villain like we expected at the beginning of the season. Right now, he’s an understandably broken man — being told you amount to nothing and don’t get anything you want is a horrifying notion — but that shouldn’t necessarily (or at least, solely) cause such a decent guy to lose his morals. Breaking up with Iris is a logical decision; Wells merely allowed Eddie to come to terms with the truth. Either way, Rick Cosnett and Candice Patton are both solid in their break-up scene, showcasing the chemistry they both have even if their characters’ relationship was doomed from the start.

FLA122C_0506bHanging over all of “Rogue Air” is the notion that all of this is part of Wells’s plan somehow. The biggest problem with this episode, and “Grodd Lives” as well, is that once Wells became the full-on bad guy, his screentime suddenly dwindled. It makes sense, in that he’s clearly playing master manipulator. But it’s also contributed to an unfortunate slowing of the pace after “The Trap” amped everything up. “Grodd Lives” worked because everything still felt dire, but even with the ticking Particle Accelerator clock, “Rogue Air” is still nothing more than a distraction from whatever the master plan may be. Perhaps the penultimate episode wasn’t the time to halt the story to address the morality of metahuman captivity and pay off the prison storyline. In its own bubble, though, this is an entertaining wild ride of an episode, even if it’s unnecessarily rushed. And we get a ballsy ending with Reverse-Flash seemingly defeated, an unexpected lead-up to a very, very anticipated finale.

Odds & Ends

  • Remember when I said it’d be fun to let Wells have the voiceover? Well, well, well…
  • All the Cisco and Lisa crush-banter is a major highlight. Also, definitely laughed at loud when Lisa revealed she has a Class A CDL license.
  • History books say Queen lives to be 86 years old, eh? This is a fun tidbit, but considering a big plot point in the Arrow season finale is (SPOILERS) that Oliver planned to die on the plane with Ra’s…shouldn’t that reveal have made Oliver reconsider his plan? Then again, Oliver could be more genre savvy than he looks, and figured that time is fluid and that fact could be overwritten anyway. Still, being told how old you live to be ought to be something that shakes a person to his core.
  • Speaking of genre savvy, I love that Cisco not only noticed the pattern of liquid floating whenever Wells was around using his superspeed, but turned it into a way to detect him.
  • Because we’re just going headlong with the nitpicks here: there’s a shot after Peekaboo’s initial attack where the team is putting the pieces together, and Cisco’s hair is very messy from the fight. Cut away and back again, and suddenly it’s nicely combed.
  • Nice bit of continuity getting the DA from “Who Is Harrison Wells?” even if she didn’t contribute much.
  • In retrospect, Doug Jones ended up being rather wasted in his Deadbolt role.
  • Not sure why we necessarily needed to repeatedly see Caitlin reacting and whispering “Ronnie!” whenever Firestorm gets hit, at least more than once. Broke the pace of the battle sometimes.
  • “Damn, you can’t get that at Radioshack.” – Soon you won’t be able to get anything at Radioshack, if we’re being honest here.

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Blu-ray Review: The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season

Review of The Flash Season 6 Blu-ray set from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

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The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, and we have been provided with a copy of the set to review on the site!

The set features all 19 episodes of The Flash Season 6 plus extras — the Blu-ray includes all of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover!

Here’s what’s up:

Packaging & Design: Starting with this because it’s probably the first thing you’ll notice. The box art for this set has changed since the original press release — the fired Hartley Sawyer’s Ralph Dibny is no longer on the packaging. While I understand the show distancing themselves — Ralph was indeed an important part of Season 6, with his Sue Dearbon story, and I’m not 100% sure how I think they should have handled it. As it is, it looks odd with just the other four members of Team Flash on it. Though, to be fair, Nash Wells isn’t on the cover either.

With that said, The Flash sets usually have some of the best designed packaging and menu art and this set is no exception.

The Episodes: Also seems I am repeating myself but the Blu-ray presentation on The Flash is loads better than what we see on TV and is pretty cinematic. All 19 episodes of Season 6 are here, and — spoiler warning — because of COVID-19, they were cut off at 19 episodes, so that means some storylines aren’t completely wrapped. With that said, this season saw Eric Wallace taking over as showrunner, and with him came a new tactic that he referred to as “graphic novels.” The first “graphic novel” included the character Bloodwork (Sendhil Ramamurthy) as characters are facing death, and the second, after Crisis, dealt with a new “Mirror Master.”

I will say that The Flash under Eric Wallace has a great vision and I love his enthusiasm, which you can actually hear on the “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” commentary. He’s as big of a geek as we are, and I mean that in the absolute best way. The only thing I’d have to say negative about Season 6 is that the mirror storyline has gone on way too long — and I wonder, if they had known all along that we’d end with 19 episodes (an impossibility, because who would?), it might have been a bit shorter.

This “graphic novel” set-up, however, does offer the chance to binge the season in parts, which is pretty cool, and the Blu-ray bonus disc of all of Crisis on Infinite Earths is a good thing to throw in the middle to tee up Graphic Novel #2.

The other thing I will say about Season 6 is that I really liked some of the new characters that are set up. Chester P. Runk, Sue Dearbon, Kamilla, and Allegra — all fun characters that add to rather than detract from the series.

The Extras: The set includes a bonus black and white noir version of “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” with commentary by Eric Wallace. Commentaries don’t happen too often these days, so I’m so glad they put something on this set. There is also a gag reel and deleted scenes. And, of course, all of Crisis which has a lot of great Flash content!

Is It Worth It? If you’re a Flash completist or want to see the most recent season in high definition, sure. You might want to start at the very beginning, though. Still, I think The Flash is on its way back to its former glory and Season 6 is the start of that journey. Can’t wait for Season 7, and for now, this set will be revisited often.

Get your copy of the Blu-ray from Amazon.com at a discounted price and support FlashTVNews!

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Blu-ray Review: The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season

Review of the Flash Season 5 Blu-ray set.

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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided FlashTVNews with a free copy of this set for review in this post. The opinions shared are my own.

The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season hits Blu-ray and DVD this week, containing all 22 episodes of Season 5 plus bonus episodes from the Elseworlds crossover. In addition to the entire season, there are few extra features for all to enjoy, though some are duplicated from other sets that were made available this year. Here’s the review.

The Episodes: As mentioned, all 22 episodes plus extras are on this set. And as I tend to write every year, the show isn’t quite at the high level it was in its first season, but there are definitely standouts in Season 5. A big theme for the season is family, and the conflicts between parents and their children. Caitlin and her parents are a part of that. The season’s villain is a part of that. And the biggest part of that is Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy), the daughter of Barry and Iris brought back from the future. Kennedy is fantastic in the role, though it is at times disappointing to see so much attention on a new character when we are here for the ones we’ve seen for 100+ episodes.

The Flash Season 5 contains the series’ 100th episode which is a great journey through the five years of the show. Sadly absent from Episode 100, though, is Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) who was recovering from an injury for a good part of the season. Martin’s presence was certainly missed though it is nice that the show upgraded Danielle Nicolet (Cecile) to series regular this year.

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t very invested in the Cicada story, at least not as much as I probably should have been. And I was even less into the latest Wells, “Sherloque,” which was a joke that stopped being funny within about 2 minutes, with no offense meant to the writers or Tom Cavanagh. It was nice to see the talented Cavanagh in another role, though part of me still is wondering why it was not Matt Letscher, though I’m forgiving that because, again, Tom Cavanagh.

I’m also not sure what to make of Vibe’s eventual fate, unless it is a way to make things less easy for next year’s crossover. In any event, watching these episodes still has me excited for Season 6, and The Flash is certainly a series that is worth the Blu-Ray upgrade.

The Extras: There’s a fantastic featurette about the origins of Killer Frost which is really well put together. I was, however, surprised that such attention wasn’t paid to XS/Nora as she was also a major arc for Season 5. Was there only room to cover one story? I’m also surprised there wasn’t some kind of 100th episode spotlight, especially since Warner Bros. did have press kit people on the line interviewing the cast.

There are Elseworlds, villains, and Comic-Con featurettes that you can find on the other DC TV shows this year, which I can only imagine is a cost-cutting measure to include them everywhere.

The set also has deleted scenes, with the most notable being Superman running with Oliver Queen from “Elseworlds Part 1.” It’s a shame that was cut. There was also a “My Name Is Barry Allen” from “Elseworlds” with Stephen Amell replacing Grant Gustin as Grant replaced him in the aired Part 2 — this was surely cut and unfinished so as to not blow the reveal that Oliver was Barry in Part 1. It’s still really cute and fun.

Finally, there’s a gag reel. While they are introduced with credits like The Office, they’re still a bit… meh.

Packaging and Design: Seeing Barry and Nora running side by side is the perfect way to sell this. Very nice looking.

Is It Worth It? I’ll always recommend picking up Flash Blu-Rays from the beginning, but this is certainly worthwhile, especially to prepare for Season 6 to premiere on October 8. You can purchase this set (and support this site!) here.

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Blu-ray Review: The Flash: The Complete Fourth Season

Review of the Blu-ray set for The Flash: The Complete Fourth Season

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The Complete Fourth Season of The Flash hits Blu-ray and DVD this week (Tuesday, August 28), and we’ve got our hands on a review copy!

Before we get to the review, here’s how the season is described:

In Season Four, the mission of Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Grant Gustin), is once more to protect Central City from metahuman threats. First, he’ll have to escape the Speed Force. With Barry trapped, the job of protecting Central City falls to his family – Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin); his fiancée, Iris West (Candice Patton); and Wally West/Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale) – and the team at S.T.A.R. Labs – Dr. Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), Cisco Ramon/Vibe (Carlos Valdes) and brilliant scientist Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). When a powerful villain threatens to level the city if The Flash doesn’t appear, Cisco risks everything to break Barry out of the Speed Force. But this is only the first move of a life-or-death chess game with Clifford DeVoe aka The Thinker (Neil Sandilands), a mastermind who’s always ten steps ahead of Barry, no matter how fast he’s running. Shocking surprises come fast and furious in all 23 action-packed adventures featuring The Fastest Man Alive.

So, how’s the set?

The Episodes: It’s going to be very hard to ever replicate the greatness that was the first season of The Flash. Unfortunately, one thing that The Flash Season 1 did so well that still didn’t connect for Season 4 is a strong villain. While I have more appreciation for The Thinker after rewatching some episodes and checking out the extra interview features on this set, I still don’t really feel that empathy and care for him that I had for, say, Eobard/Wells.

Season 4 also tried to course correct with more humor to varied success. Sometimes it worked; others the show was far too amused with itself. (I don’t need to see any more Wellses no matter how much I love Tom Cavanagh, for example, and “psychic pregnancy” will never not be too campy for me.)

There’s some good stuff, though. The best version of Barry’s suit so far premieres in Season 4, and Barry and Iris finally get married this year, even if every time they got married, they ended up interrupted. There are some episodes that worked to innovate, and there are also things like Barry in jail which seem to go on for too long. But at least with a DVD or Blu-ray you can fast forward, right?

Season 4 is also where we meet Ralph Dibny. He grows on you until you finally stretch your appreciation levels. By season’s end, you love Ralph as much as everyone else might.

The Extras: Of all the DC TV shows, The Flash usually gets the best treatment as far as extras go. We’ve got deleted scenes (including some WestAllen!), bloopers, and the all-encompassing Comic-Con video… and some other great extras, including Sterling Gates and Eric Wallace with Katee Sackhoff offering commentary on Amunet (who I do enjoy more after seeing Sackhoff speaking about her, but I still don’t understand why the silly accent was a thing). There’s also a really nice feature about the Elongated Man, and all four episodes of this year’s DC TV crossover are represented.

There’s also talk about The Thinker, and as I said, I appreciate the storyline more but I still didn’t have that emotional connection with the character that I feel I needed. The other bodies thing at midseason made that all even worse.

Packaging & Art: This is one of the best looking Flash Blu-ray sets so far. Dynamic design on the box art and on the discs. I like it.

Is It Worth It? As I said, nothing will be Season 1 again, but if you’re a fan of The Flash there are a lot of extras to make this worth it. Order yours from Amazon.com at a discounted rate and support this website!

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