When it comes to superhero television shows, particularly DC television, these series are at their best when they let the characters drive the plot. Sometimes it’s really easy to get lost in said plot due to the epicness of the villain or the storyline (*cough* Flashpoint *cough*). But the times that these shows can really capitalize on the characters’ responses to the adversity of the situation are times when these shows are really shining.
The Flash has capitalized on that formula as it’s driven the second half of its junior season so far. The risks mean more, hurt more because of who it affects and how it affects those around them.
In “Untouchable,” The Flash looked poised to get caught up in the whole comic book look of The Flash training Kid Flash thing. But the hour took a surprisingly refreshing turn as it used that storyline to really flush out who these characters are at this point in their journeys. Not to mention the continued threat of Iris’ future at stake, as well as the threat of the reemergence of Killer Frost.
The Flash might’ve disappointed me in season 3A, but so far this season is more than making up for it. And it’s episodes like “Untouchable” that are reminiscent of season one Flash that left me terrified, satisfied, and breathless for more.
Let’s break this down:
Teaching to Inspire
Ever since Wally became Kid Flash – actually since Wally was introduced into The Flash world – there has been an anticipation for the moment Barry would take Wally under his wing and train him. Surely we never expected it to come under such dire circumstances, but the moment has arrived.
Honestly, I wasn’t feeling optimistic about this storyline if only because I thought the desire to focus on the comic book look of these characters would overshadow the reasoning behind this. I was more than relieved to find that it was not the case. More than that, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this storyline was executed. Keep impressing me, Flash.
With Wally being dubbed the one who will save Iris from Savitar some four months from now, obviously he was already behind in his training. But luckily he’d be learning from the best. Only teaching isn’t something that you can read in a book. Teaching relies on the ability within to inspire your students.
See, Barry wasn’t understanding that. He would show Wally what to do, tell him his expectations, and just expect him to succeed. That wasn’t the case. Even H.R. told Barry what typically has worked for Wally, which is the motivation factor (to which H.R. began cheering.) Clearly Barry didn’t take that seriously. But really, that was the key.
When it comes to teaching and learning, there are going to be mistakes. On both sides. Nothing comes that easy, not even to The Flash. We saw Wally experience that mistake – one that could’ve winded up being tragic – when he wasn’t fast enough to save Iris from receiving the touch of death from a seriously deadly metahuman.
Barry realized that teaching isn’t just about showing how to do something. It’s also about motivating the student to believe that they can accomplish that goal. Most of the time we give into fear that we’re going to fail, whether that’s academically or in life in general. Fear is paralyzing. The way to counteract that fear – the teacher’s job – is to inspire the student to believe that one is capable of anything they set their mind to. Speaking as a teacher myself, I couldn’t agree more.
Barry referenced Wally’s raw ability as a strength, but having raw ability isn’t enough to succeed. Plenty of students have that. They all have that potential to achieve greatness. But most of the time they’re never able to truly discover that because they don’t believe that they can. Barry understood that Wally needed to face insurmountable odds – face something he’d never attempted before – with the guidance and inspiration from a mentor to accomplish his goal.
There was a moment when Barry was forced to attempt the impossible – something he couldn’t have ever conceived before – and he was able to achieve it because he believed that he had to do this. After Barry showed Wally the lengths that Barry could push himself – to do something he’d never done before – Barry then used that to inspire Wally.
It’s not just about showing someone how to succeed. It’s also about inspiring them to succeed. It’s human nature to have doubts about one’s ability to do something, whether it’s academically or when it comes to honing one’s powers. But when one has the confidence – believes that they can truly do it – that is when they are able to defy the odds. Which is exactly what Wally was able to accomplish.
Would you look at that, Barry Allen is quite the teacher. And Wally is quite the student. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this as we wind down the season.
Touch of Death
This week’s metahuman was perhaps one of the deadliest yet. I mean, what other kind of metahuman had the ability to kill with a single touch. And in such a speedy way. It was acutally kind of terrifying. To be honest, I still don’t understand how they were able to save Iris (all I know is that it involved some kind of antidote with the meta’s blood.)
Speaking of which, Iris West has been having a hellish three weeks. The badass lady has faced more adversity than most see in their entire life in the matter of weeks. But most importantly, she’s had to grapple with the knowledge that she’s supposed to die in a matter of four months as her friends and family fight to stop that from happening. But when you’re told your number is going to be up, you start to look at life a little differently.
For Iris, that has involved a kind of fearlessness that comes with knowing that her time won’t come until that fateful day. It kind of gives her this cocky edge where she’ll run headfirst into dangerous situations (but she’s always done that) knowing that she’s not going to die today.
So when this meta broke into Iris’ home and gave her the touch of death, for the first moment you saw Iris begin to question that invincibility. Perhaps life, much like the weather, can change in a single moment. Perhaps fate isn’t set in stone. Perhaps fate can be overcome by certain decisions that have a significant impact on the circumstance. Simply put, maybe this was Iris’ time to die?
But thankfully Iris had a supporting cast around her that was able to work together to prevent the poison from spreading (Caitlin Snow is a damn hero) and catch the guy that did it, all while acquiring an antidote that once again had us wondering if perhaps fate is meant to be.
The moment that absolutely killed me was the moment Joe learned about Iris’ potential fate. It was as tragic as we’d thought. Actually, it was more heartbreaking. Joe West is the heart of this show and watching him have to swallow that hard pill and not start breaking everything around him was as painful as one could imagine. It was also a reminder that The Flash, at its core, is a show all about family. Sure, there’s the superhero thing. (I happen to love the superhero thing.) But there’s also the family thing that makes this show worth giving a damn about.
Touch of Inspiration
One of the surprising dynamics that I find myself enjoying this season is the relationship between Caitlin and Julian. There’s a real symbiotic nature there where both can really relate to each other’s struggles and find a way to draw strength from one another.
Caitlin was forced to use her powers in order to save Iris. Well, not necessarily forced – she wanted to save Iris – but this was a last resort that she had to do even knowing that Killer Frost might reemerge. The thing is Iris’ fate isn’t the only one in jeopardy this season. Caitlin’s future is also at risk. The future showed a headline where Killer Frost was once again on the loose, prompting us to believe something between now and then happened that set Killer Frost free. So naturally it’s okay to be a little uneasy.
Caitlin was able to suppress Killer Frost for a good while, but there was a moment when she nearly took control. But it was Julian who inspired Caitlin to fight against her. He reminded Caitlin of her strength and her compassion and how she was so much stronger than Killer Frost. Once again it comes back to the inspiration aspect of teaching. Motivation might not make the top of your priority list, but it really is an important element in inspiring people when they need it most.
While I didn’t need a romance (seriously, men and women can be friends, okay?), I’m not going to necessarily complain because there’s a nice chemistry between them. And it doesn’t appear to be anything too serious or moving too fast. And to be honest, given Caitlin’s romantic past, there’s no way Julian survives the season. (My poor baby girl.)
A Bit of Foreshadowing?
Ever since the overarching theme of “fate” was dropped upon us this season, I’ve been hypersensitive to anything and everything involving changing the events of that fateful day in May. I’ve been paying attention to potential hints being dropped at us – mostly undetected.
And perhaps the most important one came with Wally failing to get to Iris in time before the deadly metahuman gave her the touch of death. You had Wally saying, “I wasn’t fast enough,” and doubting that he could actually save Iris in four months. But what I detected was a wonderful literary element known as foreshadowing, which gives audiences a tease of what’s to come in the story.
While Wally might not have succeeded in getting to Iris in time – this time – this might be the factor that actually helps him get to her in time when the time is most important. Failure is a first attempt in learning (FAIL). If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. Wally wasn’t going to be able to instantaneously pick these things up. You learn from your mistakes in this superhero business, simple as that.
Now that Wally has failed, he’s going to train all the harder to ensure that he doesn’t fail the next time around. Wally is going to be fast enough to save Iris. Just you watch.
Oh My Grodd, He’s Back!
Speaking of comic book elements for the sake of comic book elements…
While I’ve had mixed feelings about Gorilla Grodd on The Flash, I have to admit that there’s always a certain level of excitement that comes when he makes his presence known. Sometimes it’s okay to really get excited about comic book aspects of The Flash. Gorilla Grodd is one of them.
When it comes to Grodd, I’ve always been apprehensive because I don’t want his storyline to feel forced and one-sided. I want there to a purpose and not just a random stop in Gorilla City.
Anyway, just when we thought we were safe from post-credit scenes, we came across Wally training. While I anticipated someone evil sneaking up behind him, I didn’t expect Jesse Quick to come racing from Earth-2 with the news she had. Gorilla Grodd has kidnapped Wells and has taken him to Gorilla City. We’re heading back to Grodd…
- Barry inspiring Wally is what I’ve been waiting for. Sure, it’s cool to watch The Flash and Kid Flash standing side by side in the field. But it’s even cooler to watch The Flash teach and inspire Kid Flash to be an even better version of himself. More of this, please.
- Joe’s reaction to learning about Iris’ fate destroyed me. It’s that kind of raw emotion that makes you stop for a moment as you have to remind yourself that what you’re witnessing is fiction. There’s so much emotion conveyed in a single tone of voice: love, fear, anger, hope.
- Barry and Iris make my heart go pitter patter. It’s those moments away from the superhero action of it all that remind us why we care about this show in the first place. We give a damn about these characters and their relationships with each other. Barry and Iris have such a magnetic chemistry that lights up a room even in the smallest of scenes.
- Joe being pressured to choose Team Flash or Team Kid Flash was the greatest. Watching Joe squirm in awkwardness as he was confronted in front of both of his speedster sons was the funniest thing we’ve seen in recent history. Of course he’s not going to pick a side. But that doesn’t mean I object to pressuring him about it continuously.
- Oh no, Julian is going on a date with Caitlin. He’s going to die. I’m sorry, I love Caitlin, but those that she dates seemed destined to meet a tragic end. You could argue “third times the charm,” but even that isn’t enough to overcome Caitlin’s chilly curse.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.