Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Flash 'Fast Lane' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt for you, please do not read further.

'Fast Lane' is an episode of two halves, and two halves of very different quality.  Whilst the inclusion of another classic Flash villain was exciting to begin with, it soon became clear that the Tar Pit story was very formulaic, lacklustre and weak.  In contrast, the story with Harrison Wells was so brilliantly done it is probably the only thing that saved this episode from being one of the weakest of the season.

The villain of the week for this episode is Tar Pit, a monstrous hulk of living burning tar monster.  Sounds great right?  Sounds like it could be an amazing opponent for the Flash to go up against doesn't it?  Well, it fails in every aspect in this episode.

The first time Barry goes up against Tar Pit he stands around watching him for a minute before getting involved, reminding me more of an inexperienced season one Flash rather than the hero we've seen in previous weeks.  If that wasn't bad enough the final fight between the two of them was over so fast you'd miss it if you blinked.

Whilst I'm not against Team Flash occasionally getting an opponent that they can come together and beat with their wits rather than their fists, at least show us this process.  In this episode there's no scenes of working out a plan, or of Cisco figuring out how to stop Tar Pit, instead Barry just runs at him, throws a device at him that does something (it's that vague because there's never an explanation as to what they do to Tar Pit), then Joe knocks him out with one punch.

The whole resolution to the Tar Pit story feels cheap, ill thought through and weak, possibly one of the weakest villain take downs the show has ever managed to do, and it certainly feels like a disservice to what could have been a visually stunning showdown.  Instead, we get meh.

Thankfully elsewhere in the episode things get better.  We get more of the Wally West story and the writers begin to lay the seeds for him being a speedster when they reveal why he wanted to be an astronaut when he was a kid, because it's the fastest a human can go.  A little heavy handed with the foreshadowing maybe, but at least we know that when he does get his super speed he's going to be having a blast with it, something that's massively important about Wally's personality.

The Wally story and the Tar Pit plot intersect quite nicely in a way that looks like it's going to bring the street racing story to a close, though with Wally's need for speed it may not be completely over.  If anything the loss of his car may push Wally into new directions as far a speed goes, and considering the Flash saved him too it might be the start of an arc similar to the one Roy Harper went through on Arrow.

The best part of this episode though, and some of the best acting and writing we've seen from the show, is the Harrison Wells story.  After agreeing to help Zoom steal the Flash's speed in the mid-season finale Harry finally makes good on his agreement and attaches a device to the Flash suit that will syphon off a small amount of the speed force.

Unlike the Wells from season one, who was actually Eobard Thawn, this version of Wells really doesn't want to betray Team Flash, even though it's the only way for him to get his daughter back.  Every step of the way you can see the pain on his face as he works to betray the people who took him in, the people who, despite his best efforts, he's becoming attached to.  He even tries to tell Barry that he's going to betray them, by telling him point blank that if he had to he will betray them to save Jessie.

It's when this minor loss of the Flash's speed, only a two percent loss, causes Barry to be too slow to stop a shard of glass stabbing Iris does Wells come clean with the group, telling them what he'd done.  Joe, fairly understandably, gives Harry a beating and locks him in one of the cells.  This could have been where Harry ended up staying, but instead Barry makes a hugely heroic move and refuses to give up on him.

Harry stole his speed and gave it his enemy, he caused Iris to end up in hospital and Barry found out that he'd been lying to them for weeks, but he makes the choice to forgive him.  He understands that he's a father in a desperate situation, trying to save his daughter from a monster, and wants to help him.  This is the turning point in the teams relationship with Harry, where they put aside everything they felt about him because of Thawn and everything this version of him has done and agreed that he's a part of their family.

The episode ends with Barry welcoming Harry back into the group and making the bold decision to stop waiting for Zoom to make his move and take the fight to him.  That's right, we're off to Earth-2.


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