The Good: Candice Patton's performance, Gypsy is pretty cool, Special effects
The Bad: Incredibly basic plot, No huge performance moments, Lack of creativity from the primary characters
The Basics: "Dead Or Alive" puts Cisco and Iris in the driver seat of The Flash . . . with mediocre results.
The third season of The Flash has entered inherently problematic territory for maintaining a long-running arc. The show has essentially added a prophecy to the mix; The Flash has witnessed the death of Iris months in the future and now the essential focus of the narrative is whether or not the future he witnessed can be changed. As "Dead Or Alive" begins, Team Flash has achieved one victory in changing the future - by having Wally West (Kid Flash) apprehend a villain The Flash was credited for - and missed a critical opportunity . . . in letting the S.T.A.R. Labs Museum open at all (it can't close in the future if it was never opened!).
"Dead Or Alive" follows on the last moments of "Borrowing Problems From The Future" (reviewed here!) where the bounty hunter Gypsy appeared rather abruptly at the end of the narrative. Kid Flash also began the process of exhibiting a pretty common hubris/pride arc as Wally West started showing a lot of ego after taking down the bad guys.
H.R. is narrating his own version of how The Flash is taking down the Electric Gang when Kid Flash joins the attempt to thwart the gunrunners. During the post-game analysis, Julian uses basic math to illustrate that The Flash's rate of speed growth is not fast enough for him to save Iris in May. While Team Flash investigates both the gun runners and trying to defeat the future, Gypsy blinks around Central City, looking for clues to where H.R. Wells is. Gypsy soon appears at S.T.A.R. Labs to collect H.R. and she shoots the writer. After Cisco hits on Gypsy, the new metahuman incapacitates both Cisco and Kid Flash.
Gypsy demands H.R. return to Earth-19, but the S.T.A.R. Labs team is unnerved when they learn H.R. faces a death sentence for his interdimensional travel. H.R. is willing to return home, but in the process, he mentions a trial by combat, which leads Cisco to step up to fight Gypsy to the death. At the same time, Iris becomes determined to follow the story of the Electric Gang, which gives her the chance to team up with Wally much the way they worked together during the Flashpoint tangent. After Barry and H.R. attempt to stop Gypsy, Gypsy takes H.R. as collateral until Cisco can fight her!
In addition to dealing with the new metahuman and fighting the future, Kid Flash is given a decent amount of airtime. At this point, The Flash is feeling a little character-packed and spending so much of the episode debating keeping H.R. around and alive is strange. Once again, Team Flash seems remarkably stupid. Julian suggests that letting Gypsy take H.R. might be a way to help change the future Barry saw, but this is a particularly witless attempt to avoid the future given that Wells is the only character on the show with multiple doppelgangers already in play. Just because someone looks like H.R. does not mean that he cannot be a different version of Harrison Wells, so trying to change that aspect of the future Barry saw seems strange.
"Dead Or Alive" allows Cisco to step up to be a hero, but the solution of "more training in a single day" is another unimaginative solution. If Barry wants to give Cisco the time to truly develop his powers, the tactical course that makes the most sense would be for Barry to run Cisco into a point in the future to train, then return Cisco to the present so he would overwhelm Gypsy and be a fair match for her. Cramming for a battle - just like for a test - is pretty ridiculous and sadly uncreative.
The Iris plotline in "Dead Or Alive" is momentarily fun, but it essentially makes Joe into a chump. Joe has been a solid and cool character for years and in the current incarnation of The Flash has not quite found the way to use him. As Iris plays one of the meanest distractions on Joe possible, Joe is merely frazzled. The viewer spends the rest of "Dead Or Alive" waiting for Joe to confront Iris and Wally and point out that he recognizes all of the side effects of a speedster zipping in and out of an area he is in. Iris does her best to be a strong, independent investigative reporter in "Dead Or Alive" and Candice Patton has the gravitas to pull off the two truly intense scenes she is given to play.
The performances in "Dead Or Alive" are good, though Tom Felton remains trapped in playing a pretty generic snob villain that he often gets cast as. He is fine and everyone else is good, but "Dead Or Alive" is given far too many soap operatic moments of melodrama as opposed to the truly compelling or clever that allows the performers to stretch their acting muscles.
The simple nature of "Dead Or Alive" makes for a pretty average episode of The Flash; the episode might not have all of the great continuity moments or clever aspects one hopes for, but it is a pretty solid episode from the third season.
For other works with awesome bounty hunters, please check out my reviews of:
Legends Of Tomorrow - Season 1
"Bounty" - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Soul Hunter" - Babylon 5
[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!
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