The Flash s06e05 – Kiss Kiss Breach Breach

How is this show so boring… so much happens yet so much of it

It’s a very strange Cisco episode. Barry and Iris go on vacation before the Crisis crossover (possibly to film the Crisis crossover) while Cisco holds down the front. Now, I can’t remember the last time Carlos Valdes was charming but I think it was two seasons ago. It’ll happen every once in a while now and you can tell it’s not intentional. Somehow Valdes’s original energy gets through, despite finally being a superhero and having a girlfriend. Only now he’s not a superhero and he’s got a different girlfriend (Victoria Park) and he’s unsure of himself. There’s an absurdly bad subplot where Valdes and Park are supposed to be adorable together and they really aren’t. They’re annoying together.

Because even though they get the big story, involving guest star Danny Trejo and a couple big surprises, the most interesting stuff in the episode is the very small subplots with the other cast members. Because they’re also filming Crisis? Who knows. But Danielle Panabaker having another super-quick showdown with season big bad and Venom wannabe Sendhil Ramamurthy is not great drama. Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin being trapped in a collapsed subway tunnel and running out of air could be great drama—a good show would’ve turned it into a full episode—but the show manages to kill it by giving Martin this monologue about faith. Only his faith turns out to be in the upcoming Crisis meaning he can’t die now. He’s got to be around for the crossover. Only really schmaltzy and not meta at all. It’s a bummer.

Valdes eventually gets better and it’s not the worst episode by the finish—the show leverages Hartley Sawyer being a success after what seemed like a questionable start—but if all Valdes’s storylines going forward are going to involve him getting into situations where his stupid powers would save his life or mean he could save others… maybe he shouldn’t have gotten rid of them.

I wish I could remember when this show worked on a regular basis. I wish I could remember back to season two, to when it actually disappointed when it didn’t deliver on its potential. Now it just doesn’t even try to generate potential. It’s distressing how poorly the show utilizes its cast these days.

Also there are no big action set pieces here. Cheap ones only. Maybe the money’s going toward Crisis. Hopefully. This whole season hinges on the big crossover to breath life back into it. Not a great place to be. If a Jesse L. Martin monologue can fail, nothing’s safe anymore.

And Martin’s monologue failed hard.

The Flash s06e04 – There Will Be Blood

It’s a big sad episode, with all the men going through their pre-Crisis sads about Barry (Grant Gustin) dying in just six weeks. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is sad so he steals the super-cure they’re supposed to be stealing to save villain Sendhil Ramamurthy, who is stunningly bad at the acting thing. They clearly hired him because he’s a hot dude, not because he can convincingly blather pseudo-scientific superhero show dialogue. To himself, of course. He talks to himself all the time. If Ramamurthy were better, it could be a great hammy villain. But he’s not.

So then it turns out Hartley Sawyer is sad too. Iris (Candice Patton) finds out because she does nothing this episode except go visit her friends. No one in Central City calls, texts, or e-mails. They go visit. Makes sense for Gustin, since he can run super-fast, but presumably Patton took a Lyft or something? Anyway, she checks in on Sawyer but he’s in a weird mood. Turns out he’s just sad about Gustin. Jesse L. Martin goes to talk to Sawyer, which affects Martin, so he and Gustin have a big hug scene at the end of the episode only it’s not one of those great Gustin and Martin hug scenes because 1) there’s no “Dad” and 2) it’s just Crisis. Who gives a shit? DC does one every few years… Arrowverse is overdue.

But seriously, the show’s dealt with impending, observed future death so many times, it’s not really surprising Gustin’s so nonplus. Though, just because it’s “The Flash,” he’s inevitably going to have to have a breakdown episode. Patton hasn’t had one either. She and Danielle Panabaker are just there to keep the boys functioning this episode.

On the only real plus side… liking Tom Cavanagh now. The tease of Cavanagh last episode wasn’t enough, you need full Cavanagh. The multi-dimensional adventurer thing is fine. He still gets to the fun stuff.

The Gustin and Valdes stuff is exhausting. Six weeks to Crisis. Can’t come soon enough.

The Flash s06e03 – Dead Man Running

Congratulations, show, I’m less interested in Indiana Jones Wells than I was Sherlock Holmes Wells. Make better choices with Tom Cavanagh; he’s the show’s second secret weapon (first is Jesse L. Martin, even now); don’t make us wait until halfway through the season to actually like whatever asshole variation of Wells he’s playing. Also don’t make us wait because Cavanagh’s best doing things with the cast, not on his own. This episode teases Indiana Jones Wells—“Nash” Wells; the characters are way too polite about the dumb names—but doesn’t give him anything to do opposite the regular cast. They could get away with it second season. They’re sixth.

I’m already dreading getting through the Arrowverse (sans “Arrow”) to Crisis. Last “Flash” reassured me I could, this “Flash” suggests I can’t. Or at least I’m not going to be enthusiastic about it. Ironically, it’s because of Crisis. They’re doing the right things but not well. Grant Gustin freaking out about the dying instead of vanishing (and six years early), Danielle Panabaker doing Frost full-time and freaking about the dying when she’s only lived in the world for a week, Candice Patton all conflicted but strong. None of it comes off. It feels forced for the upcoming event, which is a bummer. But is it a bummer because they rushed Crisis or because last season was a bummer? Not to mention last crossover.

There’s good stuff for Hartley Sawyer and (to a lesser extent) Danielle Nicolet; supporting secret weapons four and three, respectively. “Flash” relies way too heavily on the non-original cast members these days, but they’re also much livelier. You forget Carlos Valdez is even in the show. He doesn’t even get a C plot this episode. And Jesse L. Martin’s reduced to a cameo… and, just from a lazy writing perspective, it’s unclear if Nicolet has gone into meta-human defense yet or if she’s still a D.A.

Also… the show seems way too unaware of the Barry lying to everyone about something superhero-related trope from… the show. “The Flash” has been running out of steam so long now, the show can’t even realize when it’s worked up momentum again.

Oh, and the whole thing where Barry talks about his impending doom with season villain Sendhil Ramamurthy? Ramamurthy’s performance doesn’t cut it. The writing’s not there, but Gustin can make it work, but Ramamurthy’s a miscast. Yet again. Why can’t they hire season villains who can act?

The Flash s06e02 – A Flash of Lightning

It took me a few minutes to realize what’s going on with this episode of “Flash.” It’s a pretty good episode. It’s been a while since the show’s had a pretty good episode without some major qualifications—last season had way too much bad acting from the season guests and way too little Jesse L. Martin because of an injury.

Almost everything about last episode—the season premiere—was concerning. Almost nothing about this episode is concerning. And even the episode’s big fail is easily dismissible. The fail is the villain reveal and showdown. We’ve already seen Barry Allen Flash’s face melt off as he runs to outrace the Crisis. A Flash of Lightning has delivered. And more, it even makes this comic book nod work in the show’s context. Lightning finally brings back a justifiably conflicted and overwrought Barry Allen. You know it’s justifiable because Grant Gustin is awesome when it’s justifiable and kind of boring when it’s not. And Gustin’s awesome this episode. Even when the dialogue isn’t great, he’s awesome. He’s double-jarred this episode too. He doesn’t just see billions of versions of billions of deaths of billions of people, he’s also discovered since getting back to Earth-3 Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) has gone and married Gustin’s dead mom’s doppelgänger, Michelle Harrison. The show doesn’t go overboard with it either, just has the nicest touch.

It’s almost like the show’s missing a season; not they needed another one before Crisis, but they needed another one before the future daughter one. Gustin and Candice Patton needed to grow a little bit more. They seemed off last episode. They don’t seem off this episode.

And there’s a great Joe and Barry scene. Again, not the dialogue but the actors and the tone. The show’s sure footed all of a sudden. Like with Danielle Panabaker’s Killer Frost arc and Hartley Sawyer’s constantly pleasantly surprising Ralph stuff. And Danielle Nicolet is awesome getting to do the law stuff. She’s even getting a real subplot. “Flash” feels like a show again all of a sudden. This episode should’ve been the season opener, not whatever they did last time.

The Flash s06e01 – Into the Void

After a brief revision to last season’s finale, this episode skips ahead four months, missing the summer where everyone recovered or reacted to last season’s upheaval. So instead of seeing Barry (Grant Gustin) moping all summer, instead he’s just faking enthusiasm to mask the mope. He and Iris (Candice Patton) are still mourning the loss of adult daughter from the future Nora, who got wiped out when she changed the timeline. Only they’re not talking to anyone about it so it’s festering. It’s the only subplot in the episode with any… maturity. Even though it’s very soapy, it’s big, serious, and potentially searching… but “Flash” isn’t a show to do too serious or potentially searching. Especially not this “Flash.”

The episode plays like a “Star Trek: TOS” Season 3 episode where everyone is playing caricatures of themselves. Joe (Jesse L. Martin, who’s very active, which is good) blathering about how it’s his city too as he confronts a black hole appearing over the city. Carlos Valdes is a lot more fun as Cisco without the superpowers. Danielle Panabaker meets the season’s potential big bad (the handsome and charming Sendhil Ramamurthy) and finds out he’s a creep before dating him the whole season, so at least she’s not getting that plot again. For the third or fourth time. Gustin’s aging nicely, giving him a weathered, tired look for the character, though everyone’s chemistry is at an all-time low. Other than Hartley Sawyer, who’s got enthusiasm and bad jokes.

And, for whatever reason, it’s nice to have Danielle Nicolet hanging around the team. They need a mom.

That chemistry thing is a problem with Gustin and Patton, who—once again—seem like strangers. The show’s always done a bad job dealing with their transition from step-siblings only he had a crush on her for years to dating and then married only it’s preordained in the future—they’re way too chaste and at this point, it’s yet another liability.

The big problem, if it’s a problem, is the show plays like a live action Saturday morning cartoon of the early eighties Cary Bates comics. Only without much emphasis on the special effects spectacular. There is one really cool, albeit absurd, song accompaniment, but the action sequence itself is lackluster. Maybe it’s Gregory Smith’s direction. Maybe it’s just the show running out of steam.

It’s like the show wants to avoid anything actually difficult—like Gustin taking over leading the team, especially with the team all out of juice.

The ending tease of the upcoming Crisis crossover is a fail. If LaMonica Garrett was the best audition for the role of the Monitor, doomsayer of the multiverse, I’m curious to see who didn’t get the part. Though at least “Legends” last season had the tiniest bit of fun with him. Otherwise there’s no fun.

It’s going to be a long slog to the crossover.

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