Thursday, February 4, 2016

Remembering The Breach Problem: "Fast Lane" Effectively Redirects The Flash!

The Good: Wonderful character moments, Engaging plot development, Most of the acting
The Bad: Effects largely negate the coolness of Tar Pit, Some predictability in moving toward the next two big episodes
The Basics: "Fast Lane" introduces one of the more fantastic Flash villains and does an exceptional job tying him into the larger storyline.

Fans of the comic book The Flash have a lot to be apprehensive about with the second season of The Flash on television. After all, the current season is much more fractured than the first season, with huge unresolved plotlines involving dimensional rifts peppered around Central City, the villainous Zoom menacing Barry Allen, the metahumans created by the reactor in the pilot episode and the new additions of Wally West and Jay Garrick to the mix. Usually, before entering a whole alternate universe scenario, the television show would be on firmer ground than The Flash was when it went in that direction. While Geoff Johns did an amazing job with creating a rogue's gallery for The Flash second only to Batman's cast of villains, those villains have not always translated well to the television show. To wit, in the first season episode "The Flash Is Born" (reviewed here!) saw the television show making a terrible rendition of Girder (he appeared in the show as, essentially, a variation of the Marvel Universe's Collosus. So, when "Fast Lane" was teased with the idea that the Johns'-Era villain Tar Pit would make an appearance, fans of the book had a reason to experience trepidation.

Fortunately, fans have a lot to enjoy in "Fast Lane" as the episode gets a lot of Tar Pit right - even is his comic book appearance is only in the show for one brief part of the final scene! "Fast Lane" picks up right after "The Reverse-Flash Returns" (reviewed here!) with Harrison Wells working on Eobard Thawne's technology. The episode effectively blends the serialized elements of the show with a Metahuman Of The Week story.

Opening the night of the reactor accident, two years prior, two goons drop Joey Monteleone in an industrial tub of boiling tar. The reactor accident occurs and Monteleone becomes a metahuman. While Iris tries to get Wally West to stop his drag racing, Joe and Barry investigate the murder of Daniel Burge, at the hands of a new-to-the-scene metahuman. Harrison Wells completes the device needed to sap the Speed Force from Barry to save his daughter. Finding metahuman DNA on Burge's body, Cisco coins the new metahuman Tar Pit and soon his app indicates Tar Pit is active. When Barry encounters Tar Pit, Wells uses his new device to sap some of the Flash's Speed Force.

While Barry Allen investigates Tar Pit, Wells delivers Zoom the Speed Force sample. Cisco and Barry are concerned because The Flash is negligibly slower. While Barry and Wells work together, using our Earth's Wells's research, Wells warns Barry that he will betray Barry and his team to save his daughter. When Iris's reporting brings her to Wally's race, where the man organizing the races is related to the thugs who created Tar Pit, Tar Pit shows up and nearly kills Wally to get to Bronwen. In the process, Iris is wounded and that pushes Wells to tell the truth, which puts Barry in the odd position of defending his quasi-mentor to his friends.

"Fast Lane" is notably light on Dr. Snow (Danielle Panabaker has two big episodes coming up!) and Cisco, whose most significant moment is bringing his metahuman app online (which is what Wells had developed in the alternate universe in his first major flashback for this season!). Jay Garrick is entirely absent from the episode and this actually works in the episode's favor. "Fast Lane" has the feeling of being more focused on the show's core characters and it works nicely in that regard to allow most of them to develop better and have the actors showcase their talents more.

Tom Cavanagh returns in full force to the forefront of his range and ability in "Fast Lane." Harrison Wells is committed to his family and Cavanagh brilliantly presents monologues that illustrate his character's absolute commitment to his family. The raw emotionalism of it plumbs a new depth for Cavanagh on The Flash and it works out brilliantly in the episode.

Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin's experienced deliveries are balanced by Grant Gustin and Candice Patton. Gustin gives a brilliantly forceful performance opposite Cavanagh. He sets his gaze and gives some vocally strong performances that sell the character's sense of determination and compassion. Patton gives a similar range of performances making Iris tenacious and determined, completely dominating all of her scenes with the guest stars she squares off against. Patton gives one of her most subtle and strong performances in "Fast Lane."

"Fast Lane"'s minutia is a bit weird. Out of all the history of music, Barry Allen cites an Ingrid Michaelson song, which is cool, but somewhat shortsighted. In an immediately adjacent scene, the Wests have Coast City Pizza. In the first season, The Flash ran to Coast City in California to get everyone pizza; how they got it without the Flash seems to bank on the idea that Coast City Pizza had a radical expansion over the past year and got a Central City branch. It's flimsy and someone in the prop department should have caught the problem.

The special effects in "Fast Lane" are incredible. While it might have been cost-prohibitive to replicate Tar Pit's comic book appearance in every shot and that is disappointing, his ultimate appearance is pretty awesome. The effect of the episode, though, is the scene featuring Wally's ultimate race and The Flash trying desperately to rescue Iris.

In fact, one of the big things missing from "Fast Lane" is a scene reconnecting Iris and Barry after she is wounded. That said, the episode does much right and leads into one of the big potentially promising events of the season!

For other works directed by Rachel Talalay, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"Hell Bent" - Doctor Who
"Heaven Sent" - Doctor Who
"Death In Heaven" - Doctor Who
"Dark Water"- Doctor Who


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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