Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Flash Stays In Its Rut For "Mixed Signals"

The Good: Good initial humor, Therapy scenes, Performances are fine
The Bad: Forced humor as the episode goes on, Very generic metahuman plot, Gloss over all the best character moments
The Basics: "Mixed Signals" keeps The Flash mired in being a genre show without committing to its own inherent complexities.

The Flash got off to a rough start for the fourth season. The impact of Barry Allen's sacrifice and even the idea of the Speed Force prison was severely undermined in the fourth season premiere when Cisco managed to get Barry Allen out of the prison exceptionally quickly. As "Mixed Signals" begins, it is hard for fans of The Flash not to feel like they have invested in something that has gone completely to pot.

"The Flash Reborn" (reviewed here!) precedes "Mixed Signals" and the whole purpose of the fourth season premiere was, ostensibly, to reunite the entire S.T.A.R. Labs team (less some version of Harrison Wells), seed that there continues to be a problem with Dr. Snow and her metahuman powers, and introduce DeVoe (The Thinker) on screen. The magnitude of Barry Allen's sacrifice were completely undermined by "The Flash Reborn."

When an arrogant, rich young man comes to Central City and attempts to buy the most expensive apartment there, he is killed in the building's elevator by a man whose eyes indicate he has the ability to manipulate electronic devices. Barry speeds through his morning and catches up on all he missed while trapped in the Speed Force. When Barry has to run off to work, Iris is miffed that Allen has already completed their wedding plans. Cisco Ramon arrives on the scene and discovers that the elevator has malicious code in it - that it has been hacked.

While Barry is slow to adapt to the new dynamic in the S.T.A.R. Labs team, Ramsey Deacon strikes again, rewriting the code in a car being driven by Tim Kwon, a tech genius. Gypsy comes to visit Ramon, while he spends his time trying to track down the connection between the tech geniuses who have been targeted by Deacon. When Ramon discovers there is a third person on the team with the two prior targets and Deacon, Wally and Joe West work to protect her. With Ramon distracted by not being able to be with Gypsy and Allen and Iris West experiencing relationship problems, the S.T.A.R. Labs team needs to regroup to try to stop Deacon.

"Mixed Signals" actually starts to deal with some of the effects of Barry Allen being returned to Earth and normal speed. Barry is not exactly listening to Iris through most of their interactions and as a result, Iris decides to take Dr. Snow's advice and go to couple's counseling with Barry. The idea that Barry did not come back the same is a smart one and the episode works to explore consequences. Despite the happy initial tone of "Mixed Signals" with Barry Allen dancing and lip synching, the episode turns to a darker tone with Iris listing off all the people they know who have died.

The Flash is hampered by the expectations placed upon it in "Mixed Signals." The best moments of "Mixed Signals" are when Iris West works to reconcile her problems with Barry, both from his leaving and how he has acted since his return. Because The Flash is regarded as a genre work for late-teens, early twentysomethings, "Mixed Signals" is unwilling to commit to its best aspects. Iris and Barry have compelling, real and very adult problems and watching an honest therapy session between them could have been a truly compelling hour of television for a series that committed to being an adult drama.

The Cisco Ramon and Gypsy subplot is similarly forced. The idea that Gypsy has visited Earth-1 in the prior six months enough to build a relationship with Ramon is a fine one; the idea that she has only visited on the few moments when Central City is not being menaced and Ramon is busy is just utterly ridiculous. As a result, up until the moment when Gypsy actually explains why this particular day is important to her, the relationship moments between Gypsy and Ramon fall flat.

Ramon has upgraded The Flash's suit and the idea is initially good, but it quickly turns to parody. The Flash's new suit features pulse cannons that are reminiscent of Iron Man and a flotation function that stretches the limits of what the show's special effects can handle. The idea behind Cisco's upgrades to the suit are all solid, but the suit being co-opted right away seems far too plot-convenient. All of the suit's upgrades make Barry Allen seem far less impressive - he does not need to think as much or use his innate skills; his suit can do so much more now.

Even Wally West is undermined as he stands around waiting for Barry Allen to act as opposed to acting like (one presumes) he was for the past six months . . . like a fully actualized speedster.

"Mixed Signals" earns some geek points for the introduction of Warden Wolf and it seeds well the idea that Central City is soon to be overrun by more metahumans. The acting in the episode is fine, but because the plot quickly takes precedence over the character aspects, none of the performers are afforded truly deep opportunities to show off range.

Ultimately, The Flash could have grown quite a bit from the set-up and inherent conflicts in "Mixed Signals," but it treads toward the familiar instead of the audacious.

For other works with Dominic Burgess, please check out my reviews of:
"Eye Spy" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Bad Wolf"- Doctor Who
Batman Begins


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment