The Flash: The One with the Nineties

"So, tonight we're going to party like it's 1998?"

With Barry recuperating in cryo-sleep, Team Flash is left on their own to protect the Central City Metro Area from a time god. Luckily, Chesco is on the case. Their term, not mine.

I just want to start off by saying I called it! First, by thinking that there must be an entity for each of the lightning colors. Second, by suspecting that Psych was not permanently dispatched. And for any DC Comics nerdlings out there, I don’t want to know if this is all from the comics and I could have just googled it. Don’t rain on my parade.

Back to our story.

This episode was great in theory. A trip back to the nineties is a fun way to introduce a new super villain and give the most recent member of Team Flash some much needed backstory. Unfortunately, the execution left a little something to be desired.

The first time I watched, the episode amused me. The walk down memory lane had me sniggering when I wasn’t cringing at the accuracy of the clothes. Then I realized that for most of this show’s typical demographic, this was akin to a museum field trip, and then I just felt old. However, when I re-watched the episode in preparation for this review, it dawned on me this episode had no idea what it wanted to be.

It started as a mash-up between Back to the Future and Groundhog Day, complete with a DeLorean reference. The nods to the late nineties cultural touchstones such as Blockbuster, Space Jam, The Matrix felt rote after the recent release of movies with the money and time to do a better job (Captain Marvel or even Ready Player One spring to mind). Then we took a hard left into time loop territory. And before it could take root, we had random temporal displacements throughout Central City that felt more like The Powers That Be's excuse to stick our characters in strange clothes and do their best Jurassic Park impression than a narrative necessity.

Which is why I spent much of the episode confused. Chesco needed a (insert MacGuffin) so the sensor can detect the time god. Understood. Instead, the sensor detects some kid trapped with them in the time loop. Why? And how did the kid know he was in a time loop or how “He” had found out and would reset said time loop? We don’t know, and Cisco and Chester never think to ask.

The time loop is reset and the sensor, the only thing protecting them from the effects of the time god’s little games, is now broken. The part needed to fix it can only be found by contacting Chester’s Dad on the day before his death. This would normally signify his death is tied to the time loop. Like say, Chester must make peace with his Dad in order to break the loop. They do reconcile, and Chester uses what he’s learned to save the city. However, the reconciliation is neither the reason nor the resolution to the time loop.

Cisco and Chester repair the sensor. Only now it’s a weapon Cisco uses to try to defeat Deon. I have no idea what he hoped it would do, but it didn’t work. And why does no one ask how Deon became a time god? Were Fuerza and Psych ordinary humans before becoming god-like entities? This seems like something Team Flash may want to know the next time they have to face any of them.

This episode had its moments. Chester’s conversation with his father was more heartfelt than it had any right to be given the predictability of the dialogue. Besides, it was nice to see Brandon given something to play other than overexcited nerd puppy. Then there’s the tiny fact that Quincy’s invention will be the answer to one of Team Flash’s unanswerable problems. Wait, was I not supposed to realize that?

It’s not as if the writers can’t do nuance. Iris’s explanation to the Speed Force why seeing her gives Barry comfort proves that. I loved everything about the Speed Force’s desire to learn more about her charge. And Iris’s desire to connect with someone who cares for Barry as much as she does. It all seemed so sincere. Which made Barry’s concern seem to come out of left field and made me wonder what I missed.

I found Caitlin and Frost’s reenactment of The Odd Couple far less interesting. Frost lived in Caitlin’s head for years. She has to know when she’s pushing Caitlin’s buttons. Just as Caitlin must understand how Frost’s tastes differ from hers. All of which made their conflict over the apartment’s d├ęcor fall flat. I wish The Powers That Be would stick to the story of Frost exploring her newfound freedom rather than the story of Caitlin coming to terms with living with a Large and In Charge Frost. Their attempts to have it both ways aren’t working.

The most interesting part of Frost’s story was her refusal to lie low. She’s a wanted criminal who claims to have turned over a new leaf. Yet Frost’s response to finding out the government wants her behind bars is to threaten to go mano y mano with the woman tasked to bring her in? This will not end well.

If you don’t look too close, this was a cute little episode. If you do, you’ll realize there’s more surface than substance.

3 out of 5 X-76 power converters

Parting Thoughts:

I'm 99.99% certain that the title of the episode is a nod to EVERY episode title of Friends.

If, like me, you were wondering who Henry T. Sampson was, here you go. You learn something new every day.

Did anyone else notice Cisco and Chester's breath during their discussion on the bench? It's supposed to be December, where there are no coats in the lost and found?

If Chester gets to be John Boyega (Star Wars) can I be Lupita Nyong'o (Black Panther)?

Quotes:

Chester: "Wow, so you're the actual, all-encompassing, immeasurably interstellar, and mind-bendingly cosmorriffic--"
Nora: "Yes, Chester P. Runk. I am the Speed Force."

Frost: "You know, art should always provoke a strong reaction."

Cisco: "Look, is this fricking awesome? Yes. Do we desperately need to figure out a way to get back home? Also yes."
Chester: "Well, how are we supposed to do that without a DeLorean or a hot tub?"

Cisco: "All right. Let's go find ourselves a time god."

Iris: "I may be his lightning rod but you are his lightning."

Quincy: "Everything I do is for him. He's the reason I get out of bed in the morning."

Frost: "I don't care if she's Xena, Warrior Princess. I am finally free to live my own life, and no one is going to take that away from me."

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Shari, an excellent review. You hit the nail on the head. This episode could have been a classic, like Supernatural's "In the Beginning," but it meandered and didn't quite know where it was going.

Although it was still fun. It made Chester more interesting, and Cisco is probably my favorite character. And I did like the Iris and the Speed Force subplot.

Shari said...

Thanks Billie,

Like you, I was disappointed because I hoped for so much more. Not because the episode was inherently bad.

I'm so curious about what's going on with the Speed Force. Making her turn evil would mean Barry loses his speed again. I don't really see that happening. But he definitely seems to have doubts about her.