Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It's Not REALLY About "Shade" As The Flash Uncovers Its New Villain!

The Good: Decent performances, Good moments of character, Impressive special effects
The Bad: Very scattered plot until it gets where it is going!
The Basics: The Flash develops in a scattershot way before coming together in "Shade!"

Before the third season of The Flash began, viewers had a lot of trepidation about where the show would go. After all, the sweeping DC Comics crossover event Flashpoint was an ambitious piece of writing which was absolutely impossible to execute in the world of The Flash. So, when it was adapted as best it could be in "Flashpoint" (reviewed here!), viewers had to take the word of the executive producers that the events of "Flashpoint" would resonate through the entire season and justify the weird leaps the episode took. "Flashpoint" continues to profoundly influence events up to and including the latest episode, "Shade."

"Shade" picks up where "Monster" (reviewed here!) left off and it is impossible to effectively discuss the new episode without some references to where the previous episode went. After all, in "Monster," H.R. Wells was exposed as a fraud - or simply a writer, not a scientist - and Dr. Snow learned that she could not keep using her powers, lest she be unable to have them reversed (if her mother can even figure out how!). "Shade" resonates with the consequences of the events of "Monster" as well as "Flashpoint." Unfortunately, until the final act, the story truly goes off in a ton of directions - including a particularly banal "Metahuman Of The Week" story - before coming into focus.

Opening with Wally West running through Central City as Kid Flash, Wally is revealed to be only dreaming and he is relaying his dreams to his father, Joe. Joe is instantly made nervous as the types of dreams Wally is having are similar to the ones that Magenta and others affected by Alchemy had before they became super-criminals. At the Central City Police Department, Julian and Barry are visited by D.A. Horton, who reassigns Barry to the Metahumans Crime Task Force. At S.T.A.R. Labs, H.R. Wells is working to revamp S.T.A.R. Labs and the team. Cisco points out that H.R. cannot leave the lab without looking like a confessed murderer. To try to keep Wally West from harm, Barry Allen comes clean to Wally and Iris about who they were in the Flashpoint Tangent Universe.

But soon thereafter, a new metahuman kills a stockbroker; the metahuman appears to be the man's shadow before he became corporal enough to kill him. Investigating, Barry reaches out to Julian, while Cisco becomes suspicious of H.R. when his metahuman power dampening cuffs go missing. While preparing to bring Wally in to S.T.A.R. Labs, Wally collapses after having a vision of Kid Flash being killed by The Rival. Suffering the inadvertent effects of her sudden metahuman status, Dr. Snow turns to Ramon for help and he vibes her future, one where the two if them are locked in mortal combat. While most of the team goes out to a movie in the park night, Wally West is kept in the Pipeline. But when Shade appears in the park, The Flash needs his teammates to stop the new metahuman threat. With Shade defeated, though, Alchemy begins a full-court press on Wally West, so everyone has to close ranks to uncover the new adversary.

The Earth-19 version of Harrison Wells continues to develop in "Shade." H.R. is working to find his place and discovering that the previous version of Harrison Wells, native to Earth-1 confessed to the murder of Barry Allen's parents and he cannot actually leave the lab without looking like him. H.R. gets to play with some Earth-19 technology to get around the problem of having his face out in public, which is fun. H.R.'s idea to lock Wally up in order to keep him safe from Alchemy is a great twist that helps to illustrate to the team how he incepts people with ideas.

"Shade" is one of few Wally West episodes to date. The typical "metahuman of the week" story is diluted with Joe West and Barry Allen terrified that Wally West will be targeted by Alchemy. Ironically, Wally West leaps to the opposite conclusion of logic when Wally concludes that he loves Barry more than him by not wanting him to develop powers. Logic would be that Joe loves him more and wants to keep him safe. Wally being terrified of dying from the potential transformation into Kid Flash finally overwhelms his desire to be a speedster. Through his arc, the viewer gets to see just how Alchemy is influencing people, which starts to raise the profile of this season's new adversary.

The main characters from The Flash who are focused upon are Cisco Ramon and Dr. Snow. Snow's fear that she will become Killer Frost dominates her character arc and her knowledge of Killer Frost helps to nail down some of the details of things that were not changed as the results of "Flashpoint." Ramon being comfortable with vibing is a nice transition; his desire to keep Caitlin Snow safe is one of his most loving acts. The two are finally given enough space in the third season to show off that their characters have an actual relationship.

Joe West and D.A. Horton going on a date moves their relationship along and finally they begin to bond about things they actually have in common. It is refreshing to see as The Flash moves beyond the simple idea that "hey, these are the two age appropriate black people working around one another, we should have them hook up" phenomenon that plagues so much television.

The performances in "Shade" are decent, especially from Danielle Panabaker. Panabaker plays Dr. Snow with more emotional depth than her character is usually allowed and she rises to the occasion of playing an uncertain, deeply wounded version of Dr. Snow as she becomes consumed with fear over who she might become. Panabaker's performance outshines Keiynan Lonsdale whose moral dilemma and torment as Wally West seems like it would dominate the narrative. Lonsdale is cheated out of having the full episode focused on him, but when Wally is tormented by Alchemy, Lonsdale gets to show off more range and physical acting when Alchemy invades Wally's mind.

Jesse L. Martin gives his usual stellar performance playing Joe West as a loving father and an emotional man who just wants to develop a new romantic relationship. Tom Cavanaugh seems to have found his new shtick as H.R. and he is very funny and good in the new permutation of Harrison Wells.

The special effects in "Shade" are good as well, though Shade is defeated pathetically easily. The ultimate conflict in the episode is pleasantly low-tech, until the very final moments and the effects for the new Speedster villain are incredible.

Ultimately, "Shade" is a very satisfying episode that gives everyone in the cast something to do, even if the plot meanders before finally coming to a pretty incredible end.

For other works with Jesse L. Martin, please check out my reviews of:
The Flash - Season 2
The Flash - Season 1
Ally McBeal - Season 2
The X-Files - Season 6

[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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