Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Into The Speed Force" Is A Surreal Exploration For The Flash!

The Good: Good character work, Decent special effects, Generally good performances
The Bad: Very predictable (and derivative) plot, Very obvious character arcs
The Basics: The Flash goes "Into The Speed Force" to rescue Wally West, while Jesse Quick finds a way to confront Savitar.

One of the conceptual issues with The Flash - both on television and in the comic book source material - is explaining the science of the superhero in a satisfactory way. A long time ago, the abilities of The Flash were revealed not so simply be a chemical reaction that was mixed with lightning, resulting in super-powers. In addition to having altered DNA and a physiology that can be both drained of energy needed to move at super speeds and can act as a speed capacitator (anyone else notice how fast The Flash got away from Barry Allen eating massive amounts of food in order to sustain his energy to be able to run fast?!), Barry Allen gains speed through artificial means - using a tachyon collector developed by Eobard Thawne - and by tapping into a mystical "Speed Force." The Speed Force was namedropped surprisingly abruptly in The Flash well before is was explored in the surreal episode "The Runaway Dinosaur" (reviewed here!). "The Runaway Dinosaur" made the Speed Force into a transdimensional entity of sorts; the Speed Force had a persona and a characterization and The Flash has not satisfactorily found a way to scientifically explain the phenomenon.

So, as the third season progresses and The Flash is forced to go "Into The Speed Force" in his attempt to stop Savitar, the viewer might reasonably be on edge about how the show will deal with that. "Into The Speed Force" follows on the heels of the unfortunately erratic "The Wrath Of Savitar" (reviewed here!), which saw Savitar giving excessive exposition on who and what he is and what the Speed Force is. It also set up "Into The Speed Force" with an unfortunate potential to be entirely derivative. After all, when Savitar manifested in our world, he abducted Wally West to take his place within the Speed Force. Genre fans instantly see the potential of Barry Allen going into the Speed Force as having a plot and character arc identical to what Gunn went through in the final season of Angel (reviewed here!), with Gunn taking Lindsay's place in hell as a form of self-punishment. "Into The Speed Force" is very surreal, like "The Runaway Dinosaur" and is a moody piece that is obsessed with consequences more than giving viewers new information or advancing The Flash.

Barry Allen is moralizing about how the current predicament with Savitar is his fault, because of Flashpoint, when he makes the decision to return to the Speed Force. While the S.T.A.R. Labs team works on creating a technological tether which will allow them to monitor Barry's vital signs, Barry charges Jesse with keeping Central City safe while he is gone. Cisco once again vibes Barry into the Speed Force. As with his prior excursion there, Barry encounters surreal visions of people in his life, most notably individuals he has lost - Eddie Thawne, Ronnie Raymond, and Henry Allen.

With Barry exploring the consequences of the actions of all those who have died in his life, the S.T.A.R. Labs team analyzes the piece of armor Barry severed off Savitar. When Zoom attacks The Flash inside the Speed Force, Barry goes a level deeper by sacrificing his tether to our world. As Barry squares off against Leonard Snart and encounters Jay Garrick, Jesse confronts Savitar and has an inspired victory against him.

"Into The Speed Force" is more familiar than it is audacious, at least to fans of The Flash and science fiction. Blending the images of those who have died - or never existed because of their actions - with a protagonist who has a profound emotional realization to make is nothing new in genre works. "Into The Speed Force" does not add anything significant to that plot concept.

Jesse L. Martin is good during his brief time on screen in "Into The Speed Force." Martin has wonderful emotional range and in "Into The Speed Force" he uses his body language to present Joe West as a man nervous, broken, somewhat beaten down. He is a man suffering the loss of his son and dreading the potential loss of his other son. Martin gives a delightfully subtle performance as West during otherwise mundane dialogue with Barry Allen.

Similarly impressive is Grant Gustin's performance in "Into The Speed Force." While there is the delightful moment for the viewer when Wentworth Miller makes his appearance, Grant Gustin consistently delivers in "Into The Speed Force." Gustin manages to give a forceful and interesting emotional performance in "Into The Speed Force" without simply turning on the waterworks or playing off Candice Patton's emotional performances.

The character dynamic between Jesse Quick and H.R. Wells is engaging in "Into The Speed Force." Jesse experiences the loss of Wally West incredibly hard as she had a budding romance with him. H.R. is still trying to find his place on Team Flash and in "Into The Speed Force," he actually serves a decent purpose. The portrayals of H.R. and Jesse are so good in "Into The Speed Force" that viewers who were new to The Flash would never guess that Tom Cavanaugh and Violett Beane had worked together playing different versions of their characters.

"Into The Speed Force" is not at all bad, but it is surprisingly unremarkable. It is the point at which viewers might reasonably come to believe that The Flash does not have any new material to present . . . or is unsure how to present any familiar conflicts in a new way.

For other works directed by Gregory Smith, please visit my reviews of:
"Invasion!" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Leviathan" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Marooned" - Legends Of Tomorrow

[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 and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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