Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What it Says on the Wrapper

And now we return you to your (semi) regularly scheduled Flash reviews..

Episode 11: "Beat the Clock"

One year ago a local jazz sax player was convicted of murdering his wife, a jazz singer right on the cusp of hitting it big. Now he has one hour before facing the electric chair. One of the people who believes in his innocence is Barry Allen's crime lab co-worker Julio Mendez. Julio's belief is enough to have Barry decide to get the Flash involved but is even the Flash fast enough to solve the crime in one hour?

My Take:
You almost have to love something that tells you exactly what it is. Almost. Lots of TV shows and movies like to do "beat the clock" style stories. The premise of the TV series 24 is actually an entire season leading up to beating a clock. Basically, no matter what kind of structure the story takes a 'beat the clock' story is one in which the hero or heroes have a limited amount of time to solve a puzzle or a crime or to put a stop to the villains or else.... The "or else" is usually someone (or multiple someones) will die or a city or even a country will be destroyed. Some shows "play fair" -- i.e. they run the story in real-time so that if it would take two characters 15 minutes to drive somewhere 15 minutes pass for real before viewers see them arrive at their destination. Other TV shows play fast and loose with the time frame.

For this episode of The Flash the show splits the difference a bit. Most of the scenes seem to play out pretty close to real-time but the writers do fudge a little bit here and there. The director also keeps things honest by consistently showing various clocks in the background or having someone give the time so that the audience can keep up with the passage of time. It's a nice effect and eliminates the need for putting a countdown clock in the corner of the screen as some 'beat the clock' stories do.

The fact of the matter is, though, that viewers are left with yet another rather pedestrian story. Sure, it's a pretty solid mystery but it still doesn't produce enough *omph* to make it seem worthy of the Flash. Also, with what is known now about forensic science it seems impossible that the fact that something was 'off' about this murder wouldn't have been caught before this. The writers try to throw various things out to keep the Flash from solving this until the last minute with the result that suspension of disbelief is stretched pretty far and our intrepid hero looks a bit ineffectual. There are also some real cringe-worthy scenes of over-the-top, forced hysterical laughter and Tina playing cowering little damsel that just make you want to smack someone... writer, director, actor, I don't know but at least one of them.

The best thing here is the jazz songs and the score by Shirley Walker. I've praised Walker before but she was really on the ball for this episode. Not only did she score the whole episode in a jazz/blues/swing style, she even wove in some snippets of jazz standards AND she also crafted a jazz version of Danny Elfman's Flash theme which is a delight to hear.

In the end, while this isn't my favorite episode to watch it is my favorite episode to listen to thanks to Walker's music.

Flash Facts:
Angela Bassett's character of Linda Lake wears a large flower pinned in her hair -- more than likely a call back to famed jazz singer Billie Holliday, who was also known to wear a flower in her hair.

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