Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Waste Of An Adaptation: Why "Flashpoint" Flops!

The Good: Generally good performances, Some fun character tweaks
The Bad: Vastly repetitive plot device, Huge technical/scientific problems, Only one truly impressive acting moment
The Basics: "Flashpoint" yet again tries to reinvent The Flash and this time fails in a big way.

This has been a big week for fans of comic book works adapted to television. Following on the heels of the debut of Luke Cage (reviewed here!) on Netflix, the third season premiere of The Flash is finally here! "Flashpoint" opens the third season of The Flash and fans of the comic book source material of The Flash have had cause to look forward to anything by that title. After all, after decades of virtually every other DC Comics hero getting a major crossover event centered upon them, Geoff Johns gave The Flash his only a few years ago with the universe-altering event Flashpoint (reviewed here!). While I am a fan of the source material, it had been a few years since I read Flashpoint, so in preparation of "Flashpoint," I boned up by watching the animated adaptation Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (reviewed here!).

Fans of the source material would have to figure that "Flashpoint" would be a tough concept to pull off as a television episode. "The Race Of His Life" (reviewed here!) set up "Flashpoint" in exactly the way readers would have expected to be difficult. After all, at the core of the literary Flashpoint and its animated cinematic counterpart is a relationship between Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne's incarnation of Batman in a dark, alternate universe on the brink of war. The idea of adapting some form of Flashpoint to a television series that did not have Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Atlantis makes it virtually impossible to pull off.

So, going into "Flashpoint," I found it helpful to rewatch "The Race Of His Life" and clean my mental palate of all prejudices I might have with associating The Flash with the comic book source material. That said, "Flashpoint" does establish a tangent universe based upon Barry Allen going back in time and rescuing his mother from the Reverse-Flash.

In order to truly understand what is at the heart of my beef "Flashpoint" on its own (as opposed to being a half-baked adaptation of a superior crossover event), one has to understand that fans of The Flash have seen exactly this type of episode before. In the second season of The Flash, there were multiple episodes that put The Flash in the alternate universe of Earth-2. And even within the normal continuity of The Flash, there was a significant character rewrite due to temporal meddling in "Flash Back" (reviewed here!). "Flashpoint" is like one long rewrite of "Flash Back" and a mashing up of it with Earth-2. So, the plot of "Flashpoint" feels remarkably stale and before even going into the plot, there is a glaring technical issue that anyone who understands The Flash is likely to see almost instantly.

"Flashpoint" never addresses a missing Barry Allen. "Flashpoint" focuses on Barry Allen, temporal remnant, in his brand new universe that the Reverse-Flash calls Flashpoint. But in the Flashpoint world, there should be a native Barry Allen who is never addressed. At the end of "The Race Of His Life," Barry Allen runs back in time and saves his mother's life and in "Flashpoint," viewers see that version of Barry Allen take Eobard Thawne back to the time he left. After Barry Allen saved his mother's life, the child Barry Allen was still alive and he grew up to be a CSI who remained living in his parents' home. The thing is, when the Barry Allen who stopped Eobard Thawne in "The Race Of His Life" returned to the future, the Barry Allen who grew up and became a CSI would still be there. The "The Race Of His Life" Barry Allen would have punched into the Flashpoint Barry Allen's reality; there is no temporal mechanic by which The Flash Barry Allen returning to the future would have overwritten the native Barry Allen.

So, when there is no explanation of what "our" Barry Allen did to the Flashpoint-native Barry Allen, attentive viewers will wonder what the hell is going on . . . even more than when Candice Patton appears in one of her earliest scenes wearing a wedding or engagement ring. Those who catch that will be waiting for Iris to reveal to Barry that she is engaged, but that moment never comes. Yuck, technical glitches.

Three months after Barry Allen returned to his present from saving his mother's life from Eobard Thawne, he is living the dream. No longer bearing the mantle of The Flash - there is another speedster named The Flash protecting Central City from a speedster named The Rival - Barry Allen has Eobard Thawne locked up in a speed-dampening cage. Allen works as a CSI and lives with his parents and, after three months of stalking her, he gets up the courage to ask Iris West out. After rescuing The Flash from The Rival and learning that The Flash is Wally West and he works with Iris fighting crime, Barry begins to lose some of his memories.

Barry Allen learns that Joe West is a drunk, Cisco is the richest man on Earth and Dr. Snow is just a pediatric ophthalmologist and that his rapidly accelerating memory loss is the result of his temporal interference. Allen and Wally work together to thwart The Rival before Allen's condition deteriorates to the point that he has to ask Thawne for help in restoring his timeline.

"Flashpoint" has the members of the cast who appear in it, outside Grant Gustin's Barry Allen and Matt Letscher's Reverse-Flash, playing variations on their established characters. Viewers of The Flash have seen that before with Earth-2 episodes and episodes in our world where the characters pretend to be their Earth-2 dopplegangers. Keiynan Lonsdale plays the Flashpoint Flash fine, but frankly Wally West was not defined so well in the second season of The Flash that he had a lot to play with to clearly define the character with differences in the strange, new world.

Jesse Martin has the acting moment of the episode when Joe West reacts to seeing The Flash unmask himself. For the rest of the episode, there is nothing truly impressive in the performances.

Eobard Thawne's scenes in "Flashpoint" are arguably the only reasons to rewatch the episode. For sure, "Flashpoint" attempts to set up the rest of the season with the final act temporal revision and the introductions of The Rival (and his mundane character) and the scrawled "Alchemy," but the set up is riddled with problems. "Flashpoint" is an unfortunately un-compelling season premiere that sets up whatever is to come in a very poor way.

For other big season premieres, please visit my reviews of:
"The Man Who Saved Central City" - The Flash
"Pilot, Part I" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"The Search, Part I" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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


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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