The Flash: Dead or Alive

“Fortunately, our team has a secret weapon. A man of science. A man of action. And that man’s name is HR Wells.”

After a multiverse crossover and a delightful hiatus-spanning two-parter, The Flash deserved something of a break. “Dead or Alive” may not have been earth-shattering, but it was a nice reminder of why we root for everyone on Team Flash, even those who aren’t metas.

Iris has not been well-served by this show. Have you heard the old saw that everyone is the hero of their own story? I’m not sure how accurate it is in real life, but in creating stories it’s a good reminder that even the most tertiary character is likely thinking of how the events of the plot relate to them, and occasionally thinking of their own lives, not the lives of the main characters.

But the writers rarely give Iris the opportunity for her own perspective or her own life, and that’s become more obvious as she has been slotted into the damsel-in-future-distress role recently. Does she have friends outside of STAR Labs? Have she and Caitlin ever gone out for girl’s night? Do she and HR ever talk about what it’s like to work with a bunch of metas but not be one?

Iris has very few plots that aren’t related to her brother or her boyfriend, and she doesn’t seem to even think of herself as the heroine of her own story. As she told Wally, “I want my life to mean something. More than just as a daughter or a sister or a girlfriend, but as a reporter. This story can do that. It can say that I, Iris West, mattered.”

The story on the arms dealer was Iris’s way of staking her claim. She used teamwork—especially Wally—but she also took the initiative. Good reportage may not be as flashy as zipping around, but it’s another form of heroism. Iris’s desire to be her own kind of hero is risky, but so was Wally’s desire to become Kid Flash. It’s a good arc that avoids making Iris into a saint, finally granting her a complexity that she has long deserved.

The treatment of HR is a great contrast to Iris. As my lead quote indicates, he is the hero of his own story in more ways than one. A “central protagonist the audience can invest in”—in his own mind, at least. Although this is my least-favorite iteration of Harrison Wells, I’m not arguing that he should receive less development, just that Iris should receive more.

After all, HR’s wackadoo approach to heroism, truth, and the multiverse leads to some great plots. Gypsy’s arrival led to some great Cisco moments, especially when he said that HR, unlike “the other Wellses” depends on Team Flash. Cisco is aware that he is now on the other side of a mentor/mentee relationship, and he’s done a great job of living up to—even exceeding—his responsibility.

But the best part was Cisco’s taste in women, which rivals Xander’s for the prize of Most Adorably Misguided. Only Cisco could mix a Lord of the Rings reference into a trial-by-combat promise wrapped up in a request for a dinner date. And only Cisco could make defeating an undefeated bounty hunter into something so charming.

Flashpoints:

• I loved Barry’s reaction to the Lego diorama, but not as much as I loved Joe’s reaction to what he thought was Iris telling him she was pregnant.

• In the training scene, Caitlin’s heels were so high that I wondered if they were yet another accessory meant to limit her powers. It’s hard to be evil in four-inch stilettos. Trust me, I know.

• This episode was the first one that made me realize the fine ethical line that Iris is walking. She talked up Kid Flash in her article, but couldn’t disclose her close personal relationships with either of her favorite heroes.

• I really like how Julian fits into the team. He’s a good substitute for last season’s iteration of Harrison Wells: snarky, sciency, and a strong foil to the other scientists.

• And there’s some chemistry with Caitlin, right? Right?

Three out of four bags of contraband coffee.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

2 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

Quick Programming Note: I'm helping JRS catch up on reviews of The Flash over the summer, so you'll see new reviews of last season's episodes pop up at odd intervals between now and the show's fourth-season premiere in October.

Billie Doux said...

What an adorable review, Josie. :) I agree that this is my least favorite iteration of Wells, but I can't imagine this show without some Wells or other since Tom Cavanagh adds so much.