Stuck in a Rut: The Last Two Weeks Show How Stale “The Flash” Has Become:
It wasn’t long ago that television was considered the ugly stepchild of the movie industry. It was a platform where actors either started or went to die, not a place where careers were made. Today, however, we are in the Golden Age of Television where the budgets are bigger, the acting is better, and the stories are deeper. One of the best things about television is it allows for a longer and more complex story, something a two-hour movie can’t do. The problem with this, though, is if a show’s writing doesn’t stay fresh, each week feels like a drag and each episode doesn’t feel unique.
The last two weeks of The Flash are a perfect example of this. The potential is clearly there but a lack of execution has made it feel like we are just supposed to be waiting for the final few weeks of the season. At this point, each episode of the superhero show lacks its own identity and they just seem to run together. Last week’s episode, “Dead or Alive”, centered around HR and a meta named Gypsy, a collector who has appeared to bring him back to Earth-19 and sentence him to death. As it turns out, HR’s inter-dimensional travel has been outlawed back on Earth-19 and Gypsy, who happens to have the same Vibe powers as Cisco, is there to bring him back in a body bag. On the surface, the story seems like any other problem Team Flash would have, but it got interesting when Cisco called for a trial by combat to save HR.
At first, I thought this was one the most interesting and creative things The Flash has done in a while. Not only was it completely unexpected, but it gave us an opportunity to see more of Cisco and his seldom-used powers. In reality, though, it was just another stale, “feel good” story packaged as a cool idea. Most of the episode showed either Cisco attempting to train for his big fight or Barry trying to figure out a way to fight Cisco’s battle for him. Then, when the fight did happen at the end, is was very underwhelming. The scene consisted of Cisco and Gypsy breaching through a few different dimensions while wrestling like a couple of twelve-year-old children. The potential for “Dead or Alive” to be a unique and great episode was there but unfortunately, the writers didn’t execute and left it very unsatisfying.
This week’s episode of The Flash, entitled “Untouchable”, suffered from a similar lack of execution and repetitive nature. The episode started off well with a race around Central City between Barry and Wally. The race was used as both a training session for Wally’s inevitable showdown with Savitar and as a way to humble the confident speedster because as it turned out, Barry’s experience was just too much for Wally to beat. The race itself was fun to watch, but the real highlight was the rest of Team Flash placing bets on the outcome of the race back at STAR Labs (again, the dynamic relationship Team Flash has is the strongest aspect of the show). Unfortunately, the rest of the episode didn’t fare so well.
This week saw another underdeveloped and forgettable “villain-of-the-week” in Clive Yorkin, a meta with a death grip that causes instant decay in anyone or anything he touches. His victims were all members of the CCPD and responsible for his arrest back in Flashpoint, which included Joe. As per usual, a little creative thinking from Team Flash eventually stopped Yorkin and saved Iris from becoming his next victim. In my opinion, Yorkin was one of the more compelling villains we have seen in a while, but like usual, he was just a pawn, used only to develop and inspire Wally and as a temporary filler for the bigger story. The potential for a cool villain and interesting story was there but it just wasn’t executed, a theme we continue to see.
The repetitive nature of the show wasn’t done there, either. As we have seen in the past, Barry and the rest of Team Flash’s commitment to keeping secrets backfired once again as Joe became aware of Iris’ potential fate. He was expectedly upset which paved the way for a kumbaya moment and everyone realizing that working together is the best course of action. Has that not been clear for two seasons now? While this episode was clearly flawed, we did see Barry and Wally continue to grow closer and Julian seems to be less and less evil each week so the episode didn’t seem like a total waste.
The last two weeks of The Flash really showed how much of a rut the show is in and the threat of Savitar hanging over everyone’s head hasn’t helped the story either. We all know the final few episodes are going to feature a showdown between him and Team Flash, so right now the show is just stalling for time. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I think I’m particularly frustrated because the potential for this show is clearly there but the execution is not. Right now, it just seems like the show is lacking a creative way to grow the main story.