So far, we’ve met two kinds of metahumans on The Flash: The first kind is embodied by Barry Allen, a hero with a selfless sense of justice and a heart of gold. The second is his polar opposite, the murderous Weather Wizard, Multiplex and the Mist. This week, however, we were introduced to Bette Sans Souci, aka Plastique, who treads the gray area between good and bad — and a woman who leads Barry into a complex conflict he isn’t ready for.
A morally ambiguous character, Plastique was introduced into the DC Comics universe as a villain in the pages of Firestorm before going on to become a supporting character in Captain Atom. She also served time as a member of the Suicide Squad. Her television debut pretty much captures the nature of the character, who possesses the tragic power to turn whatever she touches into an explosive. It’s ultimately her propensity for violence that destroys Plastique, but more on that in a bit.
The episode also introduces longtime DC foil General Wade Eiling, played perfectly by Clancy Brown. With his history with Dr. Harrison Wells and his moral ambiguity in regard to metahumans, I’m sure Eiling will become a fixture of The CW’s DC Universe. It’s all a matter of time before Eiling butts heads with Arrow’s Amanda Waller, creating a potentially volatile situation. In his Flash debut, Eiling hounds the dangerously empowered Plastique, forcing her to fight back and use her powers in the worst way possible. This brings her into contact with Team Flash, and Barry views her as an extension of himself and desperately wants to help.
Sadly, we get to see the darker side of Harrison Wells once again, as he convinces Plastique to take down Eiling before the general can capture her. Barry, fueled by his convictions, stops her from killing Eiling. Unfortunately, Eiling has no such moral compass and shoots Plastique in cold blood. This moment is the The Flash’s first little hiccup, as Plastique’s death doesn’t make Eiling seem more evil; it instead makes Barry seem naïve and stupid, as he just stands there as Plastique gets shot. What, he didn’t think to move the guns away from Eiling and his fallen soldiers at super-speed? The episode rushes Plastique’s death simply to establish how despicable Eiling is, but it only serves to make our hero look dumb.
Apart from the introduction of Eiling and Plastique, the heart of the episode deals with Barry trying to convince Iris West to give up her search for the truth about “The Red Streak.” Barry feels, and Detective West agrees, that associating herself with “The Streak” would place Iris in danger. When Barry asks Iris to stop, it drives a wedge between them, as Iris is hurt that Barry, who’s searched his entire life for evidence of the unknown, is denying her the same quest. What follows is a beautifully rendered rooftop scene between The Flash and Iris that harks back to the exchange between Superman and Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie. The sequence is heartfelt and iconic, capturing the essence of both superheroism and Barry’s love for Iris. As he masks his voice and speeds around the roof, never allowing Iris to get a good look at his face, Barry’s longing for her is palpable. While the ending of the story of Plastique is the show’s low point thus far, this rooftop rendezvous is its emotional crescendo.
Also effectively presented this week is the bond between Detective West and Barry. West reveals he has always known that how Barry feels about Iris, and he seems to support a future romance between the them. West is a wise man and a great mentor who fuels the emotional edge of the series.
Not much Cisco or Snow goodness this week, as the former spends much of his time hitting on Plastique. There is, however, a funny sequence in which Barry discovers his powers won’t allow him to get drunk. The producers do know how to play Barry’s powers for laughs at times, keeping the series from becoming too melancholy.
They also knows how to use Barry’s powers to make viewers go “Coooool!” The series is parceling out Barry’s iconic abilities week by week. In this episode, The Flash both runs up a building and across water (which Caitlin unironically compares to Jesus, further driving home the idea as Barry as selfless savior). We have yet to get time travel, vibrating through solid objects or the race around the world, but we are seeing all the tricks that may have appeared on a Carmine Infantino cover during the early days of Barry Allen.
Before we go, we have to address an ending that comic fans have to be thrilled with. Arrow has long kept its world relatively grounded, with no elements being too “out there.” That’s why the beginning of the origin of Gorilla Grodd is such a thrill: There is not a more “out there” character than a super-powerful, telepathic talking gorilla, but The Flash, bless it, embraces the inherent insanity of Grodd and gives us a flashback of Wells and Eiling creating the Silver Age villain.
The Flash isn’t ashamed of the source material — any of it — which is why, despite dropping the ball a bit with Plastique, we still love the series.
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