After more than a month on hiatus, CW's The Flash was back last night to kick off the second half of its sophomore season. Up to this point it's been an bumpy ride, with one of the show's worst episodes to date coming on the heels of two of its best. But if fans had one solid thread through it all, something to look forward to from week to week, it was the romance between our hero Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and the plucky detective Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten).
It's a shame, after all this time, that it had to end like this.
Making matters worse the show introduced, and then summarily executed, one of its most powerful and menacing villains before it had given them more than a handful of lines.
Early in the episode, Flash finally makes the decision to reveal his secret identity to Spivot. It's the only way, he reasons, to save their strained relationship. Unfortunately, he decides to do it with as much bravado as possible by inviting her along on a date to an art exhibit where he plans to set a trap for this episode's villain, a colorful character named The Turtle.
Of course, it all goes terribly wrong.
You see, The Turtle is a metahuman with the ability to slow things down in a bubble around him, allowing him to stop The Flash mid stride. Playing The Turtle was the always delightful Aaron Douglas, who I realize I've missed terribly since his time on Battlestar Galactica. He's been out of the game for a while it seems. In fact, that last time I saw him on screen he was reminiscing about his time as Chief Tyrol and painting model airplanes with Adam Savage in his nerd cave.
But I digress. While Allen and Spivot are dancing cheek to cheek, just as he's about to spill the beans about the red leather suit, that's when The Turtle shows up for the heist. Allen leaves Spivot in the lurch, vanishing to throw on his costume and brute force his way through The Turtle's force bubble.
Of course, it all goes terribly wrong.
While The Flash is coming at him from behind, Spivot pulls her gun on the thief right there in the middle of the dance floor. But The Turtle is faster than both of them. Or ... well ... slower, I guess. He disarms Spivot with no trouble at all, and then turns the gun on the massive chandelier hovering over her head. As it comes crashing down The Flash is forced to choose between saving Spivot or capturing The Turtle.
For a split second The Turtle sees how The Flash looks at Spivot. The Turtle is a bit of a psychopath. He doesn't steal for money or fame. Instead, he steals items of huge emotional value. In that frozen moment he realizes that The Flash loves her, and so she becomes his next target.
His theft is a way for him to inflict pain on people, and he hoards that pain away in an abandoned library along with the embalmed corpse of his ex wife.
He is a dark, disturbing character and Douglas does him justice with what little screen time he's given.
In the episode's climax, Flash frees Patty from The Turtle in the nick of time with a series of perfectly timed dashes. Here again, it's the perfect moment to reveal himself but he just can't bring himself to do it.
While even the villain gets it by now, Spivot is still clueless.
"Thank you for saving me," she says, weeping awkwardly. "Whoever you are."
Allen's reasoning is sound, even if he is oblivious. If he lets Spivot in on his secret she'll be a target for Zoom. And yet here's Spivot in danger because The Turtle was able to see through his mask that he loves her. Spivot is at risk whether Allen reveals his secret identity to her or not, and his decision not to tell her stretches the show's credibility.
I wanted to scream at the television. Not at the characters, but at the writers. They put themselves in this corner, and the only way out of it was to get rid of Spivot. And so they did. Just a few minutes later Barry Allen gets dumped. In the final moments, Spivot can't even bring herself to look him in the eye. She's done with Central City, with life as a detective. And she's done with Barry Allen's bullshit.
Who can blame her at this point?
Meanwhile, Joe West (Jesse Martin) and his son have an odd power struggle. Seems that Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) is into illegal street racing. West confronts him, trying to do a lifetime of parenting in about 45 seconds. Wally's excuse is that it's the only way to pay his mother's medical bills.
"I'm the man of our house," he says. "The position's been filled." They eventually make up over Chinese food.
It feels like Joe and Wally's relationship could be an interesting aside, if the show could just give it some room to breathe. Right now, though, it's a bit over the top.
Also playing a larger role this week was Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) who, it seems, is suffering from a terminal illness. What that illness is, or how Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) was able to catch on, isn't actually explained which was frankly irritating. All we were told is that the only way to save his life is to get him back his lost speed powers. That can only mean that we'll be seeing more of him in the weeks to come.
I wanted to scream at the television.
In the final moments of the episode Wells does the unthinkable. The Turtle's powers, if the team at STAR Labs could harness them, might be able to even the playing field between The Flash and Zoom. But before Cisco (who is developing a weird bear fetish it seems) and company can work on a technical solution, Wells kills the man in cold blood.
It's going to be a difficult thing for Wells to cover up. There will be a reckoning between him and The Flash before long ... but not before we deal with Reverse-Flash, who sprinted into Central City just before the credits rolled.
Now that we're leaving the Spivot storyline in the dust, the writers will need to start treating this final stretch of episodes as a kind of reboot. I'm not sure throwing Reverse-Flash in there is the way to do it, but here's hoping.
I just hope Patty Spivot finds happiness, wherever she's headed.