Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Characters Catch Up To The Audience When They Take An Unremarkable "Trajectory!"

The Good: Moments of plotting, character and performance
The Bad: Unremarkable story, Light on character development, and not bursting with great acting moments
The Basics: The Flash returns with "Trajectory," which allows the characters in the show to get where the audience already is.

The Flash has been on a weird schedule this season. The show seems to return for a few episodes, then takes a weird hiatus, and answers for the season's enduring mysteries have been remarkably slow in their revelation. As well, The Flash seems to have an unfortunate habit - in both its seasons so far - of having its strongest serialized episodes followed-up on with bottle episodes that are ridiculously simplistic. "Trajectory" is established as a Metahuman Of The Week episode and most of those have, traditionally, not tied in very well to the larger season's narrative.

"Trajectory" follows on the events of "King Shark" (reviewed here!) by about a week and it is a bottle episode that serves only to catch the characters up to what the audience already knows. This happened in the first season when viewers learned that Harrison Wells was the Reverse Flash long before the characters figured it out. At the climax of "King Shark," viewers learned the identity of Zoom (sort of) and rather than drag it out the remainder of the episodes this season, "Trajectory" climaxes with the S.T.A.R. Labs team having the same realization. Unfortunately for fans, that critical serialized element is a very minor b-plot. Most of "Trajectory" is a lackluster Metahuman Of The Week a-plot and a primary subplot designed to keep Iris and Barry from hooking up fast.

Opening with The Flash attempting a canyon jump that will illustrate a new level of speed achieved, Barry Allen remains frustrated that he is not fast enough. His failure to achieve the necessary velocity leaves him and the S.T.A.R. Labs exhausted. Allen, Ramon, Snow and Jesse Wells go out to a club where they meet up with Iris and Wally West. The night out is interrupted by the appearance of a speedster who robs everyone at the club and manages to outrun The Flash. While Iris is given the assignment of writing an anti-Flash article by her editor, Scott Evans, Jesse confronts her father about his murdering in the attempt to save her. Allen is disturbed to learn that Velocity 9 exists and the new speedster may have been created using Dr. Snow's speedster drug. When the other speedster resurfaces, Barry Allen discovers that the thief is a woman and Dr. Snow realizes she might know who it is.

Snow's colleague, Eliza Harmon, is a scientist at Mercury Labs with whom Snow consulted on the creation of Velocity 9. Snow's instinct that her friend might be involved proves right and Harmon is quickly revealed to be the speedster Trajectory. Trajectory arrives at S.T.A.R. Labs to force Snow and her team to manufacture more Velocity 9. The hostage situation degenerates into an incident out in the real world that puts The Flash into conflict with Trajectory and the choice the female speedster makes leads Barry Allen to a deeper understanding on the nature of Zoom.

Arguably the best moments of character in "Trajectory" come from Harrison Wells. Wells is confronted by Jesse, who heard his diary from his attempts to save her and is alarmed by his actions, and he uses the opportunity to come clean with her. Harrison Wells murdered The Turtle and Jesse is horrified by him and his protective nature. Wells is honest with her and he uses his daughter's sudden distance from him to step up and moralize to Barry Allen when Allen considers using Velocity 9. It's refreshing to see characters not lie to one another. Similarly, Dr. Wells is smart enough to observe when Barry steals the Velocity 9.

"Trajectory" is packed with detail problems that remain unresolved within the episode. The moment Eliza Harmon is shown on Snow's computer, there is a casting issue that is irksome. Harmon looks remarkably similar in her photo to Dr. Lamdon from the prior episode. The casting could have been done better; having two bitchy white brunette scientists in back to back episodes that interact with Dr. Snow is somewhat problematic. Similarly problematic is how Harmon's costume is addressed, but not smartly resolved. Trajectory has a Flash-level outfit, but Harmon is an exhausted research scientist with no apparent skills as a seamstress. Her costume, then, implies a support infrastructure that does not exist in-episode.

The Iris subplot in "Trajectory" is remarkably disappointing, especially for fans of The Flash. Iris is Barry Allen's wife in an alternate universe and in the future, as revealed by Hunter Zolomon's database from the future in the computer, Gideon. In "Trajectory," Iris West goes out with her editor, Scott Evans, for coffee. Evans misinterprets the late night coffee as a date, which shocks Iris, but the episode moves Iris toward the idea that she is open to actually dating Evans. Within The Flash universe, it is disappointing to watch Iris go in the direction that not only seems temporally inevitable, but seems most enjoyable for her character. Outside the fourth wall, The Flash continues a disturbing trend in television; Iris West opens up to being interested in Evans (a character with whom she has a severely different philosophical difference!) because he is the only black character in the cast not related to her. Their relationship seems that artificial and forced.

"Trajectory" is a study in artificial and forced, though, and it returns in a bad week when the new Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode (reviewed here!) was saddled with similar issues. Both Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Flash used their new episodes to write out characters for other projects - one presumes that Jesse Wells going out on her own makes her available for the next season of Legends Of Tomorrow, especially if the niche of Dr. Stein needs to be filled. The other purpose of "Trajectory" is to help the S.T.A.R. Labs team catch up to the viewers. The viewers know who Zoom is and the characters needed an easy way to get there (though Cisco vibing could have made it exceptionally simple without all of the build-up in the episode). Seeing the effects of someone who has overdosed on Velocity 9 provides viewers with an important tether and suggests how the character seen evolved into the season's main adversary.

Unfortunately, the journey is not an overly satisfying one and one has to hope that leaping off from the new information, The Flash is able to satisfactorily build to a resolution for the season and the Zoom arc.


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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