[This is a review of The Flash Season 1, Episode 7 – There Will Be SPOILERS!!]
Whether due to the series’ early success, or the need to devote writing efforts elsewhere in the lead-up to the show’s two-hour Arrow crossover, the most recent episode of The Flash left something to be desired. This week’s episode can’t be accused of treading water, willing to defy expectations and give even its darker characters a more noble – or tortured – side.
In “Power Outage”, written by Alison Schapker and Grainne Godfree, one more metahuman with a thirst for vengeance arrives to shock Barry (Grant Gustin) by stripping him of his powers, forcing his team to take a closer look at just what fuels the speedster’s metahuman abilities. Elsewhere, Starling City’s ‘Clock King’ (Robert Knepper) takes Barry’s closest friends hostage, with The Flash’s absence forcing them to save their skins all by themselves.
Although the episode deals with some of the heaviest themes and ideas (as well as the highest stakes seen thus far), the same balance of humor and drama remains intact; viewers get a chance to see just how un-heroically Barry has been putting his superspeed to work, acting carefree enough to almost tempt fate into returning him to Earth. Just hours later, the metahuman arrives to do just that, stripping Barry of his powers and returning him to the ‘normal’ person he was before the particle accelerator.
After the fairly underwhelming bully-turned-super-bully in last week’s episode, it was a welcome change to see “Power Outage” actually open by showing the harsher consequences of the ‘miraculous’ S.T.A.R. Labs disaster, all but killing one innocent bystander immediately, who cared more about warning his friends to safety than saving himself. The justification for the villain’s later actions are nowhere near as ambitious, with the showrunners clearly hoping that some Star Wars-esque lightning attacks will pick up the slack.
That’s for each viewer to decide, but the larger purpose(s) served by the electrically-charged Farooq (based on a minor character in Geoff Johns’ “Flashpoint” series) are blatantly clear. By giving a face to those turned into ‘monsters’ by Dr. Wells’ (Tom Cavanagh) failed experiment, the good doctor gets the chance to show that his efforts in unlocking Barry’s powers are his own attempt to pay penance. The confession arriving just minutes after his darkest machinations to date proves that whatever the future hold for his character, his motivations remain impossible to pin down.
Elsewhere, Farooq’s arrival grants the opportunity to finally bring some much-needed substance to last week’s villain, Tony Woodward (Greg Finley). Left as simply a bully who never learned his lesson, his willingness to fight off a murderous metahuman casts his actions in the previous episode in a new light; after all, he merely wanted to mimic ‘the streak’s’ arrival in the spotlight. He gets to play the hero by sacrificing his own life here, providing Barry a means to show that his compassion knows few limits.
It would be unkind to call the Clock King hostage subplot ‘filler’ – to simply show that the blackout caused by Farooq has other impacts – but aside from Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) being put into jeopardy, and another confirmation that Arrow and The Flash exist in the same universe, the writers do little to actively link the parallel stories. But given the return of Finley’s Woodward, perhaps the story will be expanded upon when the two heroes join forces next week.
“Power Outage” is another solid chapter in The Flash‘s early world-building, hinting at larger forces behind Barry’s powers, and locking into place the time travel elements of Harrison Wells’ episode-ending stingers. When all is said and done, the potential for surprising long form storytelling shown may leave viewers more excited than the episode’s own action. After a formulaic episode last week, it’s a relief to see something a bit more inspired before the networks plans for its Arrow/Flash shared universe are finally unveiled.
The Flash returns next Tuesday with “Flash vs. Arrow” @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview of next week’s episode below:
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