Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Flash, Season 3

In Season 3 of (so far) 4 of the ongoing adventures of the Scarlet Speedster, DVD viewers are treated to Part 1, but (aaarrgh!) only Part 1, of a crossover episode involving four(!) superhero series based in the DC Comics "Arrowverse"—namely, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and, of course, The Flash. In an earlier season, there were crossovers with Arrow and Legends about which I complained that it wasn't really fair to expect me to be up on the backstory of all these different series, and I didn't care for what they brought to the tone of this show, and I thought that concept was much more interesting (albeit mostly for nerds) than the execution. But in at least one case, the DVD set included the corresponding episode from Arrow in the two-part crossover. This time, I feel obliged to bitch, no Part 2 is evident. To find out what happens after the cliffhanger, I would have to find the DVD of whatever season of Arrow was involved in that particular crossover.

Another thing I'd like to bitch about, while I'm bitching, is Season 3's musical episode, featuring Darren Criss (whose gay character in Glee was pursued by a recurring character played by Grant "Barry Allen/the Flash" Gustin) as some kind of alien entity from Supergirl's universe who puts both Supergirl and the Flash in a shared coma/dream world where they have to sing and dance their way through the plot of a musical in order to survive. The Criss character's motivation is painfully lame, and the so-called musical falls approximately two musical numbers short of its full potential. It's one of those episodes, like certain Star Trek outings I've ragged on in the past, that I think in the long run fans will wish had never happened.

The main thing about Season 3—nope, I'm going to have to stop myself already. There are actually two serialized stories in this season. During the first part of the season, and to a certain extent throughout the season, Team Flash must deal with the fallout from Barry's decision at the end of Season 2 to go back in time and erase the murder of his mother from history. He thereby creates an alternate timeline called Flashpoint, in which he has everything he wants on a certain level, but some of the things that are different are just too awful to let stand. So, before he can completely forget about the way things were in his primary timeline, Barry turns the Reverse-Flash loose to kill his mother again in the hope of resetting everything. It almost takes, but not quite. The differences create some pretty serious dramatic situations for Central City and Team Flash, at least during the first third or perhaps half of the season. (Excuse me for not going back and counting the episodes.) One of them is that Cisco Ramon/Vibe's brother gets killed by a drunk driver. Another is that Caitlin Snow starts to become Killer Frost, just like her Earth-2 doppelgänger. Then there's the fact that Barry's tampering with the timeline has also conjured into existence an obnoxious co-worker, a CSI specializing in meta-humans named Julian Albert, who happens to be played by Tom Felton ("Draco Malfoy" in the Harry Potter movies). A third version of Harrison Wells gets pulled into the Team Flash family circle, this one a romance novelist of only average I.Q. named H.R., so not as handy when technobabble is urgently needed. A parallel-earth bounty hunter named Gypsy becomes a romantic foil for Cisco. Wally West finally (outside of a parallel timeline) gets speedster powers and becomes Kid Flash. And Barry and Iris actually move in together and, eventually, get engaged. But overshadowing all this is (oh no, not again) an evil speedster who is hell-bent on destroying the Flash.

What, again? Well, I guess the Flash wouldn't be very interesting if he didn't have a nemesis or alter ego to go up against. The way to tell this recurring evil speedster apart from the previous two: Reverse-Flash is the one in the yellow costume who came from the distant future and killed Barry's mom; Zoom is the Earth-2 supervillain with the skull mask who just wanted to be the only speedster in the multiverse; and Savitar is this guy in shiny, spiky armor who claims to be the ancient Hindu god of speed, the very first speedster in history. Savitar has a cult of followers, including a certain Alchemy, who can give people the superpowers they had in the Flashpoint timeline, provided they help him bring about the re-ascension of Savitar. This particular villain's strategy for destroying the Flash is a little different: Kill Iris in front of him, and he'll just fall to pieces. Barry, now resigned to the knowledge that he can't keep tampering with the past, visits the future in search of clues about how to defeat Savitar, and there witnesses what a bummer it is if he lets his new nemesis accomplish this goal. Eventually he finds out that Alchemy is actually [spoiler deleted], and Savitar is actually [so completely deleted], and meanwhile Caitlin [are you serious?], and finally H.R. [just forget about it], but you'll know it's a cliffhanger when after they finally defeat Savitar [I'll let you have that one], Barry realizes that he must [nope, nope, nope, nope, nope], and surely this must be the end for Team Flash. Right? Only somehow, there seems to be a Season 4, so I wouldn't call off any bets yet.

Three scenes that made it for me: (1) What H.R. does to ensure that Barry defeats Savitar. Uh-uh. I'm not telling. But it's set up with some pretty solid foreshadowing. (2) Pretty much the whole "Attack on Gorilla City/Attack on Central City" two-parter, especially the way Julian lights up when he says, "Are you telling me you're going to the Planet of the Apes?" (Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Tom Felton in a relatively recent Planet of the Apes movie?) (3) The way Barry and a revived Leonard Snart (actually borrowed from the past) break into A.R.G.U.S., which is located in part of the Arrowverse but I'm not sure which series, and what they experience there.

So, it's still a pretty cool superhero series. At times, it explores darker possibilities than the usual upbeat, clean-cut Barry Allen, but these side-trips always remind us why we like the ordinary CSI-turned superhero so much. Also, he gets the girl, loses the girl, kind of gets her again, kind of loses her again—in other words, his romance with Iris keeps moving forward, but never for a moment does it go too easily. And finally, in spite of some crossover events that the series could have done without and an occasional turn of events that makes you curse the stupidity of characters who never seem to learn from their past mistakes, it has a satisfying story arc overall. I'm looking forward to the DVD of Season 4!

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