Thursday, May 5, 2016

Character Prevents "Rupture" From Breaking The Momentum Of The Flash!

The Good: Wonderful character development, Good performances, Special effects
The Bad: Packs a LOT into the hour
The Basics: The Flash manages to progress everyone but Zoom in "Rupture," making for a solid episode!

As the second season of The Flash ramps up to its season finale, it has a lot of character arcs to resolve and a number of plot balls being juggled. The danger for the serialized series this late in the season would be for the show to throw in a Metahuman Of The Week bottle episode that would break the momentum of the season which the CW has already jerked around enough to break any sense of internal rhythm fans might want or expect from the show. "Rupture" looked like it could degenerate into a Metahuman Of The Week episode, but the writers and executive producers made the episodic elements and Cisco character arc in the episode a b- or c-plot to the season's main Zoom narrative, in the process creating one of the best episodes of the season.

"Rupture" picks up where "Back To Normal" (reviewed here!) left off, with The Flash powerless and Zoom determined to return to Earth-1 to conquer there. To that end, "Rupture" has Zoom following his same successful strategy as he used on Earth-2; enlisting the aid of metahumans to enforce his will. The Metahuman Of The Week is the Earth-2 version of Cisco's brother, Dante, but because the episode manages to focus much more on Barry Allen than Dante or even Cisco, the episode works far better for its serialized elements.

Opening with a police chase through Central City, the S.T.A.R. Labs team has adapted to Barry Allen losing his powers by developing a holographic Flash to slow criminals down long enough for the Central City Police Department to catch them. Harrison Wells objects to what he sees as a waste of time, urging Barry once again to help him recreate The Flash by making another dark matter release from the particle accelerator. Allen decides instead to visit his father, where he confesses he has lost his speed and could use guidance. Returning to Central City, Allen finds himself in an emotional tug of war between Henry Allen, Harrison Wells and Joe West.

Allen is not the only one with emotional conflict going on. When Cisco has a vision of his brother, Dante, he reaches out to his estranged brother. Unfortunately, their reunion is cold and when they are separating for the night, they are attacked by Rupture, a metahuman from Earth-2 who was Reverb's brother. Rupture's presence and face forces Cisco to come out to Dante as a metahuman. Rupture is working for Zoom, who has arrived on Earth-1, where he has taken over the Central City Police station. When Barry's plan to reform the CCPD is realized by Zoom, the consequences are disastrous and the showdown between Zoom and the CCPD leaves Barry at a place where he feels he must accept the risky attempt to become a metahuman speedster again.

"Rupture" succeeds largely because is it character-focused. More than most episodes of The Flash, "Rupture" gives each of the principle characters something significant to do. Dr. Snow may be a prisoner and filling the niche of "damsel in distress" for the episode, but she is smart and resourceful and she manages to get a message out to the S.T.A.R. Labs team to try to thwart Rupture. Zoom might not develop, but the effects of the Velocity 9 and the superspeed seem to be causing him to become more demented and evil (which is the only real explanation for how he could be likable and cool for the first part of the season and now, after the revelation, how he is just batshit crazy). In fact, Hunter Zolomon's arc might be the most subtle bit of character development of the episode; like Barry Allen, Zoom has super-healing properties. If Zolomon was a mentally ill sociopath who had been treated, the effect of his hyper-super-healing would be for his body to return to its natural state; in other words, his body would reject the treatment and revert to his more natural biochemistry, in effect re-instating his own mental illness!

Cisco's arc in "Rupture" is actually refreshing as there are far too many idealizations of family on television. The Ramon brothers can barely stand one another and Cisco is upset because the events of "Rogue Time" (reviewed here!) in the first season did not have a substantive effect on their relationship. That level of realism is very relatable and while "Rupture" leaves both young men shaken, it is unclear how fundamentally their relationship will be changed; it gives viewers something to come back to!

Much of "Rupture" is focused on Barry Allen and his moral dilemma. Allen is tugged by Henry Allen to be himself and explore what he can do without metahuman powers and by Harrison Wells who wants to restore The Flash to save the world to keep his child safe. Joe West is caught between wanting to help people, keep Wally safe and protect Barry. Joe and Iris provide a loving framework whereby they reassure Barry that they will love him regardless of the decision he makes. Iris all but tells Barry she loves him in "Rupture" and it is nice to see that relationship progressing and her expressing emotions, as opposed to feeling like the relationship is simply a multidimensional inevitability. Iris's sudden emotional honesty complicates Barry's choice and that makes for compelling viewing.

Barry Allen makes a decision in "Rupture" and the episode is long enough to allow him to make a choice and then second guess himself. Rupture and Zoom do not force Barry Allen to make a choice or change his mind, but Allen's own sense of heroism and his desire to help makes him realize that Zoom will not be stopped by half-measures. That makes for a particularly interesting journey for Allen throughout the course of the episode.

The special effects in "Rupture" are good and the costume for the titular villain is so cool that it is almost a disappointment that he's a one-off villain. The effects are coupled with cute and funny lines and allusions to Fringe (reviewed here!), Harry Potter and Back To The Future which are bound to truly thrill the geekiest of fans. Despite how fans of the source material for The Flash can pretty much figure the direction of the rest of the season based on where "Rupture" ended, the journey there promises to be impressive. "Rupture" is one of the best, most packed episodes of the series to date.


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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