Last night's episode of The Flash was frustrating to watch. Not only frustrating in that viewers had to watch good actors struggle with some nonsensical plot points, but frustrating in that it was literally difficult for the audience to keep up with what was happening from scene to scene.
A quick tip for anyone writing a superhero show: If there's time travel, be gentle with your audience. I beg you.
Let's start with the highlights: We got a whole bunch of Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) last night. He and Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) spent some quality time trying to figure out how and why Cisco gets his visions. Wells has a hunch and tests it by using the captured Reverse-Flash suit to scare the pants off of poor Cisco in the basement of STAR Labs, causing him to vibe. Success! Seems vibes are a result of an adrenal response, prompted by Cisco getting scared.
The pieces are starting to fall into place, if you will.
The solution then is to create a pair of glasses for Cisco to wear that scare the crap out of him on demand. Wells uses a particular wavelength of ... something. They sort of mumble through it. The result is a sustained vibe that Cisco can guide by focusing on individuals he'd like to know more about. The visual effects were pretty snazzy as well. Cisco was surrounded by visions floating around him like tiny solar systems, the camera swinging around before settling on the desired scene — the location of this week's villain, Reverse-Flash.
Also in this episode's plus column is a touching scene between Iris West (Candice Patton) and her dying mother, Francine (Vanessa Williams). With her time running short, Iris finally forgives her for abandoning her family. In that moment Francine passes the torch of caring for her troubled son to her troubled daughter.
That's about it for the highlights, unfortunately.
If you caught the tail end of last week's episode you realize that Reverse-Flash isn't dead. In fact he's here, right here in Central City and in his timeline it's his first visit — and his first time meeting the Flash. This, my friends, is his origin story.
You see, he's travelled into this episode from ... somewhere else. It's never made clear, really. This gets to my big issue with this particular episode: There was so much hand-waving, so much eye-winking, so much DC Universe lore being unpacked in the background that it was hard for someone without deep knowledge of the stuff to follow along.
Making matters worse, the way the episode was cut together made it difficult to parse.
At one point the show returned from a commercial break to find the Flash in the middle of hand-to-hand combat with Reverse-Flash. How did the Flash even get here? Was this a flashback we were seeing? Was it happening on Earth 1 or Earth 2? Maybe this is a commercial for another episode? Or was this something Cisco was vibing? Before I could really put my finger on what was happening the fight was over.
Fast forward a bit and Flash managers to track down Reverse-Flash and knock him cold. Usually this would be the end of an episode, but there was about 30 minutes of show left. Seems that by capturing Reverse-Flash, Barry and company disrupted the timeline. On the plus side, with Reverse-Flash behind bars Barry's mother won't get murdered. Unfortunately, it will also cause Cisco to do the floppy chicken dance until he dies.
Yes, it's at this exact moment that Cisco starts getting nosebleeds, then uncontrollable seizures and finally a full Back To The Future style fade-out right there on a hospital gurney.
The only solution, Wells shrieks, is to have both The Flash and Reverse-Flash combine their speeds inside the ring of the particle accelerator in order to re-open a hole in space time. And so they do that in the most awkward way possible, with Flash running really fast and then literally picking Reverse-Flash up and just kinda tossing him into a blue hole.
And that's how Barry killed his own mother.
Anyway, Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) was back. Seems she finally took a look at the files at the police department, the files which essentially constitute her one and only job there, and figured out that every single case involving the Flash also involved Barry. Eureka! So, back she goes after breaking up with him to confront him one last time.
This is it. You better tell me the truth. No fooling. I'll leave! I mean it!
But Barry won't budge, prompting Patty to roll her eyes at him so hard that it may have actually been CGI. At the very least I hope they got Shantel VanSanten a stunt double.
Just so you know where she stands, however, the episode ends with Patty calling Barry to tell him about a crazed gunman on her train out of town. The Flash dutifully races to her rescue, only to find out it was a goof. There's Patty, her cellular phone in her hands, tears in her eyes and surrounded by the beauty that is public transportation.
She knows, and now he knows that she knows.
And so Patty will remain on deck, ready to be damseled again at a moment's notice.
Be sure to subscribe to Polygon's YouTube channel for more gaming videos