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The Flash #1.5 “Plastique” Recap & Review

An episode that’s light on plot does some subtle characterwork and expands the scope of the show in useful ways.

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FLA105a_1019b.cSummary: An episode that’s light on plot does some subtle characterwork and expands the scope of the show in useful ways.

Recap

After a bomb goes off downtown, the army, led by General Eiling, rolls in and takes over the case, much to Joe’s surprise. Suspicious, Joe tells Barry that he and his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs should look into the army’s involvement. Wells informs the team that Eiling was experimenting on his men to turn them into super soldiers. Cisco confirms one of Eiling’s soldiers, Bette Sans Souci, aka Plastique was at the bomb site. The Flash tracks her down and realizes that she’s not setting off the bombs, she is a meta-human who can blow things up just by touching them. Meanwhile, when Joe learns Iris is writing about “the streak,” he tells Barry to make her stop. Barry realizes Iris won’t listen to him so he decides to have The Flash pay her a visit. Barry learns that Iris was only doing it because she thought it had to be connected to what happened to Barry’s father, but Barry shuts her down, causing a big schism in their friendship. Iris decides to continue writing about him…not anonymously, and even without Barry’s approval. Eiling comes for Plastique, having tracked her to Dr. Wells. While the STAR Labs crew plans to protect her, Wells tells Plastique to go and kill Eiling. He shoots her before she can, causing her body to explode, and Barry saves the city by running on water and disposing of it away from the population. In a flashback, Wells and Eiling fight over a project, which is revealed to be a caged gorilla named Grodd.

Review

The first season of The Flash has been quite dedicated to exploring the psychology and philosophy of the metahuman concept. Sure, we’re familiar with superheroes and their powers. But suggesting that the particle accelerator explosion is the initial and (at least now) sole reason for the existence of any superpowers makes the clean slate of this world very clear. Every metahuman is a new opportunity to showcase something very specific about the consequences of randomly developing powers. We admittedly haven’t seen that much variety in our villains so far, but the arrival of Bette Sans Souci, aka Plastique, shows off the possibilities for where the show can go.

FLA105a_0075bMainly, this is a major expansion of the show’s scope. We’ve seen the involvement of the government in oblique ways on Arrow through ARGUS, but this is the first time we’re truly seeing a government official play this kind of role. Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor from Superman: The Animated Series, among many other things) is never not a bad casting choice, and casting him as General Wade Eiling is inspired. Brown plays Eiling pretty much exactly how you’d expect, an uncompromising man with questionable ethics who’s devoted to his mission and in love with his power. What’s bigger for this show is the idea that these investigations and experiments have been going on for a while; Wells was in bed with Eiling in the past involving a certain Grodd gorilla, and currently the military is fully aware of the existence of metahumans. While ARGUS only has a place on Arrow when things get extra rough, there’s potential for Eiling and the military to be a mainstay in the show. Every metahuman is a potential crisis, after all.

Kelly Frye is solid as Plastique, not quite given enough time to make a true impact, but handling her material just fine. Deviating a bit from her comics iteration, this Plastique is a clear foil to Barry, someone who only has the best intentions for her powers but without the positive circumstances. Plastique is akin to an X-Men archetype like Cyclops or Rogue, good people who are cursed with incredible, but mostly uncontrollable and violent powers. Plastique is especially like Rogue in that her power is rooted in touch, immediately severing her connection with people. This episode doesn’t delve into anyone in her personal life and instead focuses on the military’s involvement in the metahuman crisis, which of course opens up more potential for wider storylines.

That said, the choice to make Plastique a character squarely involved with the military story, and not exploring any detachment from friends or family, is a bit of a missed opportunity to better parallel Barry’s troubles with Iris. Those troubles seem too trite by comparison, and pumping them up to function thematically would work significantly better. This isn’t a bad progression for the Iris/Barry material, though; that it happens just as the world is expanding into darker government territory just makes it seems less consequential by comparison. But on its own, this is a fairly classic Lois Lane-esque story, letting the love interest be proactive enough that she intersects with the story without necessarily being shoehorned in. It’s always a problem to find ways to define the love interest roles so they don’t feel superfluous, and Iris’s incessant investigation and curiosity is a reasonable step for the show to take. Unlike how Arrow plugged Laurel into the story in the similar “An Innocent Man,” which also had rooftop hero confession scenes, “Plastique” manages to amp up Iris’s storyline significantly without awkwardly plugging her into the plot.

FLA105c_0658bMore importantly, it makes her “protectors” be the ones responsible for pushing her closer to danger. That Joe and Barry emotionally manipulate Iris to keep her away from the Streak (ugh), only to have her out herself to the public and definitely plunge further into the investigation, is a clever highlight of the problems of the trope. Arrow has done similar work with this on Laurel, often having her negative attributes expose the problems with the superhero’s girlfriend trope. But with Iris, the problems are that both Joe and Barry treat her far too delicately; Joe’s fear of her getting to involved with the metahuman business is justified, but the two are going about it in the worst of ways. The more Barry saves people, the more there will be people writing about him on the internet. All Iris was doing was anonymously documenting those exploits, probably pulling from other people’s Twitter accounts and articles. Frankly, she’s not doing anything more dangerous than any journalist anywhere, and that makes their decision to come down hard on her so bad for them. The show seems to be siding against them, luckily, making it clear that Iris is going to keep pushing through, and that they’re at fault for being unnecessarily hurtful about it. As good as Grant Gustin is in their “break-up” scene, you can’t help but sympathize with both of them, regardless.

Revealing Iris’s interest to be completely rooted in Barry is actually ingenious; yeah, it would be nice to have a female character whose interests aren’t squarely about man, but it makes her a more likeable character in this case. Her feelings about Barry losing his unique interest in the supernatural are purely rooted in friendship, the things we all try to do for our friends when we see them changing for the worse. Barry is in a tough situation, pulled between Joe and Iris, but his attempts to break her spirit and break their friendship work far better as drama than most of the love triangle material thus far. In general, there seems to be a conscious effort to keep her from being unlikeable (unless you don’t like the “spunky inquisitive girl” archetype), and coupled with Candice Patton’s performance keeping her funny and just-quirky-enough, it’s working.

FLA105a_0596b.cThis friendship stuff is highlighted well in Barry’s voiceovers, which are also meant to apply to Plastique as his sort of “new” friend. That theme doesn’t really carry with her much, but it does showcase Barry’s penchant for trusting people and welcoming them with open arms. He’s elated at the possibility of bringing a new member into his superhero family, and that optimism is what’s made Barry such a fun character to follow. It also makes the ending all-the-more devastating; even though we’ve only known Plastique for a short time, the tragedy is how quickly Barry lost a potential comrade.

And then, there’s Barry’s other comrades. Cisco is a bit of a creep this time around, unfortunately. The character is in desperate need of material, and this is absolutely not the direction to go in. It would be one thing for Cisco to be awkwardly crushing on Plastique–he would fall for a metahuman, after all. But all his remarks are pretty much on the same level as catcalling, and as thick skinned as Plastique is, it doesn’t make the remarks any less gross. This wouldn’t be so bad if any of the other characters noticed or if Plastique bit back, but everyone just kind of goes along with it. The implication is that Cisco is intended to come off as adorkable in the same way Felicity did when she got flustered around Oliver in Arrow, but it’s too condensed and off-the-cuff to work.

Dr. Wells, on the other hand, is pretty much definitely a bad guy, even if a bad guy with presumed good intentions. It’s unclear how the truth could come out about Plastique’s death, but if it does, that will definitely be the moment Barry will have to turn against Dr. Wells. As grating as those Wells tags have already become, the show is smartly building up a reveal that will clearly make an impact on the characters, even if his actual identity is a letdown.

Essentially, “Plastique” establishes things that should come into play later on. This is far from the best episode of the show thus far, if only because there just isn’t much going on, often feeling like there’s just not enough plot to fill out the episode. That’s not a huge detriment, though, because Plastique’s brief storyline is solid ground for the show to tread on. Even as something so plot-light, it packs a punch at the points it needs to.

Odds & Ends

  • Barry’s metabolism works so quickly that he can’t get drunk, which…actually, I totally agree with his devastation. That’s a terrible thing to find out.
  • A cover of “I Ran” as the dramatic episode ending song? Good job, whoever decided to do that.
  • So Barry uses his own organic voice modulation with the face-blur, both clever ways to handle his secret identity. Even better? Joe’s jubilation and bought of laughter after hearing about it.
  • Really like that Barry has to use his STAR Labs scientists to literally do the math on how fast he needs to run to do certain things. Granted, I’m not sure how Barry is so in tune with his body that he can tell how fast he’s going right down to the mph, but it’s still interesting considering most superheroes just…do it.
  • Latest “Dr. Wells is probably from the future” anvil: He specifically says the technology “hasn’t been invented yet.”
  • “Oh my god, do I sound like Felicity?”
  • “I have a problem.”
    “We all do with guys like him around.”
  • “You can walk on water, puts you in pretty interesting company.”
  • “She blew up my suit.”
    “You have like 3 more!”

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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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