‘Potential Energy’

I know you’ve heard this before, but boy meets girl… During the very first line The Flash lets the audience know what this episode is all about — forget other worlds, forget new superpowers, slightly forget about Zoom, because this episode is all about Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten).

Barry, still reeling from Zoom’s brutal beat-down, is having nightmares that he will not be able to save Patty when the time comes. He’s just not fast enough! After some back-and-forth with members of the S.T.A.R Labs squad, he decides he’s going to tell Patty that he’s the Flash and that his superhero identity is the reason he is a crummy boyfriend. It’s an old superhero storytelling trope and one The Flash has told before, but instead of dragging it out, the show is seemingly running into the problem head on.

Except, it doesn’t. Barry being Barry is too hesitant and before he knows it the villain-of-the-week is there to ruin his day. The secret-identity-from-girlfriend-to-protect-her storyline may be a time-honoured tradition but it is now antiquated because it makes the female characters look stupid. It’s a storyline that even Sam Raimi, king of the OTT, knew to drop at the end of Spider-Man 2. The Flash’s writers aimed a bit of meta-commentary but the execution felt slapdash and wrong, because the delay made Patty look stupid and Patty is not a stupid character.the-flash-season-two-episode-10-still-01Gustin’s acting is as reliable as ever but he’s repeated these beats so many times that the writing is letting him down. VanSanten on the other hand levitates the material she is given. Her scenes are nice and the emotional undercurrent is relatable. As the opening line of narration said, relationship strife is story that has been told before and everyone, regardless of being fictional or not, has had relationship downers. It’s odd that a show that involves alternate universes and a telepathic gorilla has super-relatable characters. Patty, after a fight with her beau, sits in her apartment, puts on some music and has a glass of red wine. The storytelling may be trite this week but the character moments show that The Flash gets its characters and gets what they would do in the real world.

Elsewhere, the show moved on at a nice pace. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) got to know his newfound son Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) and Harry (Tom Cavanagh) was lurking in the corners, being uptight and up to no good. Harry’s relationship with the other characters simmers with distrust and Cavanagh brings about this air of authorial arrogance that it’s almost impossible to not like him. He is the dick people love to hate.

The Harry-Barry relationship hasn’t been as noticeable this season as the two try to get over the trust barriers but there was one scene in particular where Gustin and Cavanagh used their facial expressions to bring the audience up to speed. Barry wants to trust Harry but just can’t bring himself to do it. It will be interesting to see what happens next week when the Reverse-Flash returns.

★★

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