September 12, 2016

The Flash: "Plastique"

Another metahuman arrives in Central City: Bette Sans Souci (Kelly Frye), an army veteran with the unwanted power of turning anything she touches into an explosive. She is on the run from the US military under the command of General Wade Eiling (Clancy Brown). When she encounters the Flash (Grant Gustin), he thinks he and the team at STAR Labs might be able to help her. Meanwhile Iris (Candice Patton) continues to blog about the Flash, potentially putting her life at risk.

The problem with a 'bright and breezy' series like The Flash is that there can often be a very narrow line between what makes an episode enjoyable and what makes one grating. It comes down to the acting and the specific dialogue: the storylines are generally quite formulaic and simple, so it is really up to how the story is told to actually make a difference. In this case I think the series fails. The dialogue feels particularly forced, and the performances simply aren't very interesting. Certainly there is much worse television drama produced in America pretty much every week, but critically there is also much better stuff being made as well. In the context of those series, "Plastique" is a difficult episode to recommend.

The formula of this series is beginning to wear on it: another episode, another metahuman antagonist for Barry Allen to fight. While it is fine for the series to focus on these sorts of plots it does require some kind of variation from time to time, and so far it does not feel as if we are getting it. Things are not helped by Kelly Frye's relatively bland portrayal of Bette, nor the script's by-the-numbers treatment of her character. A lot of depth and character gets left off the page, and it really does leave the entire A-plot feeling dull and unengaging.

The B-plot makes the mistake of focusing upon Iris West's attempts to document and research the Flash via her blog. Candice Patton is the series' least accomplished actor, and her scenes get dragged down along with her. It leaves the whole subplot dragging the rest of the episode down, and there simply is not enough in the Bette plot to counter-act it.

It is not all a write-off. Grant Gustin delivers another charismatic, likeable performance. Jesse L. Martin feels particularly relaxed and engaging as Joe West, and he and Gustin share a great scene together halfway through the episode. An ominous epilogue introduces the one comic book Flash villain I felt comfortable assuming we were never going to see. This is very much a case of the series as a whole doing exactly what it needs to be doing for its target market, but this specific episode simply failing to deliver. Better luck next time: with three good episodes out of five, the quality ratio slips to 60 per cent.

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