Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who Names These Things?!

The Flash
Episode 5: "Double Vision"

Something is happening in Central City's Hispanic neighborhood. As both Barry Allen and his alter ego the Flash try to unravel the mystery he discovers that a law enforcement officer is under government protection until he spills the beans on the leader of a drug cartel but the man's daughter is in hiding in the neighborhood. The cartel boss has hired someone to try to find the girl in order to use her as leverage and the man he has hired has, in turn, used technological wizardry to gain control of the Flash and turn him into a puppet! Barry must find this puppet master and figure out a way of cutting the strings or else a number of people will pay a very heavy price and an evil man will walk away scott free!

My Take:
Who chose the name for the episode? Because "Double Vision" has, as far as I can see, nothing to do with the plot. A better title would have perhaps have been "Puppet Master" or "Under the Influence" or something along those lines.

You know, I won't claim to be an expert on the Santeria religion nor on the Day of the Dead festivals but somehow I doubt both are portrayed in anything like a reasonable light here. Heck, the Day of the Dead parade alone here looks like a cross between Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnivale in Rio.

I will forgive the crappy sci-fi science here which basically makes no sense because, well, that sort of thing is actually a comic book staple. The more crazy and impossible it is in many ways the better it is. The grelbin* device created here is actually pretty good by comic book standards -- just vague enough and sounding just plausible enough to not break suspension of disbelief. Good show from the writers on that one.

As for the rest.... Well, we finally get a villain who is pretty close to being a supervillain. He has gadgets which help him pose more of a threat to our hero and he has a bit of a weird look which at least implies he has enhanced himself above human standard model. He also chews the scenery and overacts with all the verve of Snidely Whiplash.... eh.... this is not such a good thing. While fans expect a certain amount of over-the-top from supervillains there is a fine line which, once crossed, takes the villain into comedy territory. This guy crosses it. He also lacks a cool supervillain name. Half of selling a supervillain to the audience is giving him/her a cool and/or intruiging name and here the writers just copped out and didn't bother with one at all.

The story also feels a bit choppy, just like the one earlier in the season. It seems almost as though there are some scenes which were cut and this leads viewers to have these "What the heck just happened?" moments which jerk them right out of the story.

The villain is not the only one who overacts here -- several of the guest cast, and even Shipp, are guilty of scenery chweing like a flock of termites and/or going so far over the top they actually achieve escape velocity and are probably still orbiting somewhere around Jupiter.

From a technical standpoint, like with the previous episode, some of the special effects still look good today, some look a little dated. The props, though... oh boy. The villain's 'control unit' looks like the Nintendo Power Glove gone over to the Dark Side of the Force as interpreted by Darth Vader's father's brother's nephew's counsin's former roommate (bonus geek reference). The 'Power Glove's' sudden ability to shoot lightning also comes across as a 'What the h-e-double toothpicks?!' moment as you sit there trying to figure out where THIS came from.

Overall, a flawed episode but one that at least gives a glimmer of hope for the future in that we see some signs that the writers may actually be starting to understand that a superhero needs some supervillains to fight.

Flash Facts:
At one point in the story Barry has a nightmare in which he sees himself as the Flash with strings attached to his body, a la a marionette, being manipulated. This might, possibly, be a tribute to a famous Silver Age Flash comic book cover and story (The Flash #133) in which the 35th century supervillain Abra Kadabra (see what I mean about a good villain having a good name and hook?) turns the Flash into a life-sized wooden puppet (yes, the story is as bizarre as it sounds. That's the Silver Age for you -- lunacy where ever you look).

*For more on "grelbin" see my next post

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