Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Firestorm (Mostly) Resolved In “Fallout!”

The Good: Good plot progression, Performances, Defines the new characters well, Development in the context of the season
The Bad: Is Eddie even a member of the cast still?! Techplot-heavy
The Basics: Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein are hunted by General Eiling in “Fallout!”

One of the dangers of television that involves big secrets that the audience already knows is making the character’s revelation and reaction entertaining and engaging. In The Flash, the concept that Barry Allen and the Reverse Flash were present at the initiating incident of the show, the murder of Nora Allen (Barry’s mother), was known to fans of the comic books before the first episode, known to astute viewers from the first episode and has slowly been dawning on the characters since the Reverse-Flash popped up in “The Man In The Yellow Suit” (reviewed here!). “Fallout” is the episode where time travel is explicitly mentioned as a theory and in a rare move, The Flash manages to pull off the character revelation perfectly. Barry Allen is suitably upset by the idea that he was at his mother’s murder and failed to save her life. While much of “Fallout” is focused on the Stein/Raymond plotline wherein Firestorm is hunted by General Eiling, Barry Allen’s character arc in the episode is his reaction to the news that he will develop the ability to travel in time and that he will fail to save his mother’s life.

Picking up seconds after “The Nuclear Man” (reviewed here), “Fallout” is very focused on the plotline surrounding Firestorm, the metahuman who is housed in the body of Ronnie Raymond, Dr. Snow’s fiancé. From the outset of the episode, there are issues with minutiae in “Fallout,” but there is nothing extreme or seriously wrong in the episode. In fact, the biggest issue that makes no real sense is the appearance of Dr. Stein’s body. As previously noted (in prior reviews), the clue that led Cisco to believe Hartley that Ronnie and Stein were sharing a body was the blast shadow outside S.T.A.R. Labs. Blast shadows occur when physical bodies/organic matter, are vaporized in a blast of extreme energy. Dividing the consciousnesses of Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein from Ronnie’s body should not have resulted in a physical manifestation of Stein’s body.

Barely outrunning the mushroom cloud that resulted from the explosion of Ronnie Raymond’s body, the Flash and Dr. Snow realize that the lack of radiation indicates the potential Raymond somehow survived the explosion. They recover Raymond and Stein, who both appear very much alive and healthy, though they are instantly at odds with one another, having unwillingly been sharing a body for the past fourteen months. Joe takes Barry to his childhood home and shows him the presentation that Cisco created that led to the blood sample and the knowledge that an adult Barry Allen was at the scene of the fight. While Barry asks Stein about time-travel theory, Ronnie Raymond is attacked by General Eiling, who wants F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M.

While Raymond is rescued by The Flash, Wells sells-out Dr. Stein to Eiling. The connection Stein and Raymond have, though, allows the S.T.A.R. Labs team to figure out where Eiling has moved Stein. With The Flash able to run Ronnie to the secret lab where Stein is being held, they are able to restore Firestorm, though Eiling remains a threat to their work.

Peppered throughout the episode is a plotline wherein Iris and her frenemy from work start to investigate S.T.A.R. Labs. Mason Bridge has suspicions about the S.T.A.R. Labs explosion and Iris becomes curious when her friends and family lie to her about the identity of Ronnie Raymond. That plotline helps illustrate a commitment to the serialized nature of The Flash, as does the use of General Eiling. Eiling popped up in “Plastique” (reviewed here!), where he was given a backstory with Harrison Wells and none of that is made as explicit in “Fallout.” Instead, Eiling is a pretty generic villain in “Fallout” with minimal context clues to his importance (and a number of good in-jokes missed by those who are tuning in this late in the season for the first time!).

Minutia problems in “Fallout” build up in each act. General Eiling has developed a super-cool weapon to use against Barry Allen. While it is pretty agonizing to watch Barry have the metal shards pulled out of him, it seems like the weapon would be far from debilitating if: 1. Barry used his super-speed to remove the shrapnel or 2. Pulled off the costume, which should have pulled out a good number of the metal fragments. Moveover, the solution to the Eiling problem is fifth grade social studies. Eiling’s military operation violates posse comitatus, which says that military personnel cannot be deployed domestically. All anyone has to do to stop Eiling at this point, is report him to a military tribunal. Hell, Iris and Mason have photographic evidence; the military would not want such things to be made public and they would want to deal with Eiling internally.

While there is a metaphysical answer to how Stein and Raymond separate, it shows a severe lack of judgment on the part of everyone involved to let them make the attempt inside S.T.A.R. Labs (the last time, they detonated an area much larger than S.T.A.R. Labs). Unfortunately, that general lack of judgment persists in the writing of Dr. Stein. As much as I love Victor Garber, none of his dialogue in “Fallout” was particularly erudite or jargon-filled or indicative of the character’s supposed intelligence.

That said, “Fallout” progresses the plot of The Flash well. The episode is entertaining, but it is so busy resolving plotlines and setting up future ones that there is actually remarkably little meat in the episode itself. While fans of the comic book series have a strong idea of where the series is going, the vital characters are only now getting into position for that. “Fallout” itself has little in the way of genuine character development, though characters like Stein are explained more.

The result is an episode that is a bit more average than incredible; it is not a miss – not by any means – but it does not rise to the heights the show has in the past!

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


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© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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