TV Review: The Flash – The Fury of Firestorm (2×04)

The Flash Logo review analysis retrospective barry allen grant gustin greg berlanti andrew kreisberg cw

Sometimes great possibilities are right in front of us and we don’t see them because we choose not to. I think that we need to be open to exploring something new.

They managed to pull off the same cliffhanger twice in the past two weeks, which I was quite impressed by. Both of the last two episodes ended with Professor Stein in some sort of medical distress; it was a clever device which has set up a rather tense emergency at the beginning of this particular episode.

Now, admittedly, going into this episode, I already knew a fair bit about what was going to happen, because I’ve been following the news about Legends of Tomorrow with a fair bit of excitement. It had always been obvious, I think, that even though Ronnie was no longer part of the show, there would be a Firestorm of some sort of another. And going by the casting announcements, I already knew we’d be seeing Franz Drameh as the new Firestorm, as opposed to… Demore Barnes, who played Henry Hewitt.

But, to be honest, I don’t feel like that was a problem; certainly, I don’t think I’ve missed out any important aspects of the episode, and I’ve more or less derived the same level of enjoyment from it that I would either way – which was, to be clear, a fair bit. It was a good episode!

I’ve always enjoyed the Firestorm central episodes, actually, because Victor Garber as Professor Stein is one of my favourite supporting characters, hands down. He’s an excellent actor, giving a brilliant performance; I enjoy seeing his character a hell of a lot. There’s always some great humour from him and his interactions with the other regular cast, but a fair bit of pathos too; despite the fact I knew Stein wasn’t going to die, there was some genuine emotion surrounding his circumstances in this episode.

Franz Drameh as the new Firestorm was also impressive, but I’m not sure if this was the best possible debut he could have had. I think that in part it’s because his origin was held back by a few clichés – specifically the lost football scholarship aspect, which felt overly familiar. But, on the flip side, they did a pretty good job of setting up some interesting character elements as best they could within the constraints of a 45 minute episode; I’m hoping that his reluctance to be a hero is expanded on somewhat in Legends of Tomorrow, because it seems like an angle that has a lot of potential to it.

the flash review the fury of firestorm martin stein jax jefferson star labs victor garber franz drameh legends of tomorrow

More interesting to me, admittedly, was the further development of the plotline featuring Iris’ mother – and the first reference to her brother, the as of yet unnamed Wally West. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, I’m really enjoying the weightier plotlines given to Iris this year, and I very much appreciate the continuation of them here.

It’s been really well handled, I think, and a lot of that comes down to the acting skills of Candice Patton, Jesse L Martin and Vanessa Williams, who plays Francine West. It’s a very interesting dynamic they’ve set up; Francine is clearly a struggling woman, even broken, and Iris is consistently very forceful in her dealings with her mother, because of the betrayal she feels. They’ve managed to give the characters entirely believable motivations, and their actions clearly stem from said motivations; the use of the MacGregors disease (which is from Batman and Robin, according to the internet) added a great layer of pathos to the whole thing.

It was also interesting to see another nod to Joe West’s lying in this episode, when he chooses to hide the sighting of Professor Wells at Mercury Labs from Barry. As a character flaw, it’s quite impressive, and it definitely has legs (haha) for them to run with it (hahaha) – it’s a subtle little thing, but it certainly has potential, and I’m glad that they’re turning it an actual facet of his character.

(Though, having said that, I sometimes worry if the character moments they throw in can be too subtle? It seemed clear to me that part of the reason why Caitlin has been placing so much emphasis on Professor Stein’s health in previous weeks, and her borderline desperation to save him this week, is because she sees him as her last link to Ronnie – and, similarly, the educated scientist Henry Hewitt reminded her of Ronnie far more than mechanic Jay Jackson. It was clearly there in subtext, but I wonder if perhaps that aspect would have been stronger had it been made more overt?)

the flash review KING SHARK patty spivot the flash vs king shark grant gustin earth 2 cgi

The rest of the episode was similarly entertaining too, of course. I love the fact that they used a character like King Shark – who’s properly expensive for them to render in CGI – as little more than a throwaway joke. That’s genuinely hilarious, in more ways than one, and I really admire the panache of The Flash.

Shantel VanSanten remains completely charming; Patty Spivot is a wonderful character, really brightening up the show every time she makes an appearance. Genuinely love the character, she’s wonderful. (Which is making me think she’s going to end up dead by the end of the series, which would be a huge shame. Hopefully we can avoid that particular route.)

And, of course, the cliffhanger ending is worthy of comment – Harrison Wells is back.

Brilliant. I love Wells. I’m so looking forward to seeing where this goes.

8/10

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TV Review: The Flash – Family of Rogues (2×03)

The Flash Logo review analysis retrospective barry allen grant gustin greg berlanti andrew kreisberg cw

You don’t have to admit it to me, but there’s a part of you that knows you don’t have to let your past define you. A part of you that really wants to be more than just a criminal.

With this episode, we see the return of Leonard and Lisa Snart – AKA Captain Cold and Golden Glider – who were amongst the best recurring characters on the show throughout the first season. It was great to see them back, and particularly in a story that added a great deal of depth to their characters.

Family of Rogues explores a bit of the backstory to the Snarts, introducing their father Lewis (Michael Ironside). The elder Snart is a well realised character, portrayed in such a way to deliberately and diametrically juxtapose him against the Snarts we’re already familiar with – though Leonard and Lisa have always been shown to be criminals, they’ve also always been fan favourite characters, and in certain ways quite likeable. There’s none of that here for Lewis, who’s clearly a violent and abusive person – possibly the most violent we’ve ever seen on The Flash, in terms of the type of punishments he deals out. He is, as Lisa put it, a “bad guy”.

The story of the abuse was handled quite sensitively, I think, and therefore quite effectively. Peyton List (Lisa Snart) carried a lot of that story really well – dialogue like “He always said he was teaching me a lesson. I must have been a slow learner, because the lessons never stopped” was very poignant, and the delivery of it was part of what made it so effective. Similarly, Wentworth Miller (Leonard Snart) and Michael Ironside also gave great performances, portraying the tension between father and son really well.

the flash family of rogues review captain cold barry allen leonard snart wentworth miller michael ironside

And of course, the Rogues’ interactions with the regular cast were as fun as ever. Cisco’s almost-romance with Lisa is rather entertaining, and quite sweet in many ways; they have an interesting relationship, one which is always nice to see more of. Similarly, Barry and Leonard Snart always have great interactions; I think Barry pretending to be ‘Sam’ will go down as one of the best comedic moments of the series, but the more serious moments, showing the grudging respect between Barry and Lewis, are quite compelling.

The Snarts weren’t the only family getting attention this week, though, with the return of Iris’ mother being an important plotline in this episode too. This was similarly well handled – like I’ve said before, it’s very clear that the writing team have listened to the criticisms made of last year’s series, and they’re actively trying to fix them.

We’re getting to see more of Iris’ relationship with Joe, seeing her act in a more independent fashion (how brilliant was the cold open in this episode? So brilliant) and now, when confronted with another lie, Iris is allowed to take responsibility and make her own decisions. It’s really well realised, and it’s great that Candice Patton has got this chance to show off her acting abilities.

the flash family of rogues review jesse l martin candice patton west joe west iris west francine west wally west

It’s also important, actually, that this was emphasised as a complicated situation; whilst Joe’s lies are never condoned, they’re not exactly outright condemned either. It was something that I quite liked, actually; Jesse L Martin gives an excellent performance here. I was particularly impressed by the story of Iris calling 911 as a child – it was quite poignant, and worked really well within the larger context of the episode.

Family of Rogues, then. This is certainly the strongest episode of The Flash’s second series (should that be season, since it’s an American show?), with two very strong plot threads running throughout. The contrast between the different families, and the use of family as a thematic thread throughout, gave the episode a very strong basis for some genuinely compelling character interactions, alongside great scenes and excellent dialogue.

9/10

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TV Review: You, Me and the Apocalypse (Episode 6)

you me and the apocalypse review nbc sky atlantic rob lowe mathew baynton jenna fischer megan mulally joel fry pauline quirke hulu iain holland

You, Me and the Apocalypse is a bold, adrenaline-fuelled comedy drama about the last days of mankind – boasting a relentlessly entertaining mix of action, adventure, romance and wit set against a backdrop of apocalyptic chaos.

The story follows an eclectic group of seemingly unconnected characters around the world as their lives start to intersect in the most unexpected ways, all triggered by the news that a comet is on an unavoidable collision course towards earth.

This one was… bizarre.

I mean, obviously, it was excellent. Very entertaining; Rhonda and Scotty’s plot this week was particularly well done. The show has managed to create a really interesting group of characters, all with believable motivations and responses to the crises they face. Something I really liked about this episode, actually, was the confrontation between Paterson Joseph’s General Gaines and Kyle Soller’s Scotty; it’s made very clear that they both love each other, and love each other strongly, but to Gaines, the end of the world is much more important than that love. It was a really well realised character moment, in point of fact, and it’s definitely worth commenting on.

But there remains an elephant in the room, because that was just one of the plot threads of this episode. In the other, of course, the paths of Father Jude & Sister Celine, Jamie & Dave, and Ariel & Sutton all crossed over, and there was… a rather seismic revelation.

There’s no way to talk about this without spoiling it, to be completely honest with you. If you haven’t seen it, jump out now – heavy, heavy spoilers abound.

Everyone is related.

Yeah. That’s an Empire Strikes Back level twist – and that’s how they did it. Father Jude is Jamie’s literal Father Jude. Diana Rigg’s Mysterious Old Woman is Jude’s mother. Scotty is Ariel and Jamie’s uncle, making Rhonda their aunt; Jude is Rhonda and Scotty’s brother, and Diana Rigg their mother.

(Incidentally – Pauline Quirke’s speech about the nature of parenthood to Jamie works really well, feeding into larger themes of family throughout the episode. The adoptive family is shown to be much stronger than the genetic one, which is nice. ‘Twas a wonderfully realised scene.)

It’s a really weird twist, and I’m not sure what to think of it.

On the one hand, there’s obviously more explanation coming, and I trust the writers to have come up with something interesting and compelling to go along with it – and yet, on the other hand, I really liked the charm of them being a group of eclectic, unconnected individuals, drawn together by a random series of events. I wonder if perhaps by adding in this connection, they’ve lost some of that charm?

It’s too early to judge, really. For now, it’s just… bizarre. Entirely crazy.

But crazy in a wonderfully entertaining way, and I admire their panache.

8/10

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