The Flash: Liberation

"Shhh. I know. The truth hurts."

By nature I love brevity: Sure, okay. We're not there yet, but this is finally some good material. I'm quite pleased, although there are some clear underlying problems with the way this season has been structured.

You'd be forgiven for writing off 'Liberation' after the first scene. It starts out very messy, continuing last week's problem of jumping straight into the plot of a scene with practically no setup or introduction. But then it proceeded to deliver a solid, emotionally decent episode with some nice action and a good sense of pacing. It's not perfect, but I'm quite relieved. Maybe we'll close this season out on a high note.

But let's start with what really didn't work. First, the 'B' story. Though I generally prefer 'B' stories to just leaving out half the characters every episode, this one was way too short to be interesting and didn't connect at all to anything else. Although it did try to explain why Caitlin wasn't in the last episode. Too late. The dialogue was also noticeably worse here than it has been lately. Good examples of this include the scene with Ramsey inside McCulloch, and the final conversation between Iris and Eva. Much of the dialogue doesn't sit right, and it does take me out of the story a bit.

The last big point I'll make against 'Liberation' is actually a broader point against the back half of this season as a whole. While I really appreciated that we finally got some movement on some of the more stagnant elements of the plot, it's really only because they've been spinning their wheels on much of this for a long time. I get that the network usually determines the number of episodes you get, and they don't usually care how that affects your storytelling, but shorter seasons are usually much tighter than the sprawling 22-episode seasons most of the CW superhero shows still rely on. But even without a smaller episode count, certain steps could have been taken to spread the story out across episodes in a more interesting way. The incremental development we've gotten for months looks ridiculous when you compare it to everything that happened this episode.

After all that, why do I still really like 'Liberation'? It mostly boils down to the smart and effective use of characters. Barry, Iris, and especially Cecile, haven't been used this well since the first half of the season. I've hinted at it before, but I really hate it when Cecile is relegated to buddy comedy with one of the other cast members. Danielle Nicolet is really not very good at comedic material, or at least the comedic material this show tends to throw at her. It's when she adopts a mentor role that Nicolet's talents shine and the character works. That's why she's a good character, not because of her powers or her silly antics. The powers that be of The Flash would do well to remember that.

I actually really liked fake Iris here. The issue is that she should have been at least partially sympathetic sometime before this episode. This is the first inkling I've had that she and the other mirror folks were even anything more than extensions of Eva's mind. A little bit of setup for that a few weeks ago would have worked wonders. And then, after introducing that concept, it's instantly thrown out as fake Iris disintegrates. It's not the most original idea in the world, but it's a good place for material. They could have gotten at least a couple episodes' material out of this. But instead it's all crammed into this one. I liked it, but again, it could have been so much better. Taken by itself, I have no criticism. But as a piece of a whole, it needed some work.

The performances in this episode range from great to bad. Actually, Efrat Dor's performance in particular ranges from great to bad. She does some of her best and some of her worst work in this episode, depending on the moment. I do like her as a villain, but Dor seems to have no idea what to do with anything other than the best of her material. Sendhil Ramamurthy's long-awaited (by me) return is dampened by some abysmal dialogue, but at least he's starting to figure back into the plot. But it's Grant Gustin, Danielle Nicolet, and especially Candice Patton that carry this one to the finish line. I don't think Patton is a particularly strong actor compared to her fellow cast members, but she delivers here in a way that she hasn't in a very long time.

I want to give some credit to director Jeff Byrd. His background in cinematography serves him very well in this episode, as he demonstrates an excellent visual sense. He and cinematographer Brenton Spencer shoot the action and the conversation alike in a very engaging and entertaining way. Much of the success of this episode can be traced to them.

Running Plot Threads:

-Eva finally escaped from the mirror dimension, leaving Iris, Kamila, and Singh still inside. The only one of her minions still around is Singh (as far as we know).

-We found out that Bloodwork is no longer being kept at STAR Labs in the Speed Lab. He gave fake Iris a small amount of his blood. About half of it was used to get Eva out of the mirror dimension, and the rest was still in the open container when fake Iris threw it.

-Caitlin's ice powers are having undetermined problems. She thinks the best thing to do is to call her mother.

-Barry finally lost his speed, and the Speed Force device they've been working on failed its first test.

Pensees:

-It took Barry way too long to figure out something was off with Iris. Wally figured it out in no time flat, and Barry's known her a lot longer.

-Everyman is alive in the post-Crisis reality.

-More Multiverse confusion. Somebody on the writing team needs to explain whether there is a Multiverse or not in an interview, and soon.

-Why does this show seem to think Hartley Sawyer is Jim Carrey? He keeps getting comedic material that's extremely Carrey.

-"I'm a scientist. I know who Eva McCulloch is." Right, because all scientists know all other scientists. It's really more of a sixth sense.

-It's not just Cecile's character that's put to the best use in a long time. Her powers haven't been used this effectively since the Bloodwork zombie detection, and this might be better than that.

-I'm glad to finally have confirmation that Kamila and Singh are still alive in the mirrorverse.

-Come to think of it, if Eva has been trapped in the mirrorverse since the particle accelerator, how has she heard of the Flash? I doubt her husband has been giving her regular updates on the current news cycle. If he had been doing that, she might not have wanted to come out at all.

-Who healed Barry at the end? His wounds were all closed up. Seems ominous to me.

-According to IMDb, this season is supposed to have 22 episodes. Episode 20 is the last one that has an announced title. However, this season, all the CW shows are appearing on Netflix US one day after the final episode airs. The deal as it's been reported puts The Flash on Netflix US on May 20th, also according to an IMDb list of titles appearing on Netflix US this month. If the release schedule keeps up as it has been, Episode 20 will air on May 19th, leaving Episodes 21 and 22 still to air when the Netflix release date comes. Production on The Flash was reportedly halted due to COVID-19, but there was no word what episode they were working on. Part of me wonders if all this means the season is only 20 episodes long.

Quotes:

Barry: "Tell her I miss her."

Fake Iris: "How do you get over that, Cecile?"
Cecile: "Well, I don't know, Iris, but I think the first step is wanting to."

Barry: "Cecile, trust me. Iris can't make pancakes."

Cecile: "When Iris gave me a spare key, it was so I could water the plants, not so I could hack her computer!"

Ramsey: "What do you want?"
Iris: "To be alive."

Ramsey: "There's more than one way for me to be alive. Let's just call this the long game."

5 out of 6 falling mirror shards on its own. 4 out of 6 falling mirror shards as a part of the whole season.

--
CoramDeo was born one dark gray morn with music coming in his ears.

No comments: