Last night’s The Flash, titled “Magenta”, was such a pep-talk heavy hour of television that if I get frustrated and leave this recap halfway through, I want someone to say “I’ll talk to him” and follow me out of the room. That exchange is like the middle square on the CW Superhero Bingo Card.
But honestly, grandiose half-time locker room speeches are kind of The Flash‘s bread and butter (have been since day numero uno), so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that a get-back-to-basics episode like “Magenta” gets waaaaay back to basics straight away, with the return of the original “run, Barry, run” DMC himself, Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells. Turns out, his daughter Jesse recently developed speedster abilities over on Earth-2 as a result of that face full of Particle Accelerator she took last season along with Wally West. This leads to…well, a lot of things, but mostly it leads to moping. It leads to a mopey Harrison Wells, it leads to a mopey Wally West, throw in some peripheral moping from Caitlin Snow and it all leads up to a nevertheless action-packed episode that in no way dragged its yellow-booted feet across an hour despite featuring, quite literally, two speedsters.
Or, as no one but Harry Wells says on Earth-2…”not.”
Let’s start with Wally, because even though Wells’ connection to his daughter’s newfound powers is more tenable (as a concerned father) and logical (as a legit scientist) Wells did not stand in front of a moving truck in an attempt to gain super speed. Points, Wally. There’s actually a lot to like about this Wally development, so much so that I wish Keiynan Lonsdale was better at emoting more than an “aw shucks” disappointment. He comes off here as more of a jealous kid, which is fine because shit man, I get a blast of particle matter and I’d be pissed it didn’t give me at least a better 40-yard-dash time, too. But Lonsdale doesn’t sell what the story overall–along with noted Dad Cop Joe West—is trying to get across; namely, the speed doesn’t make the hero. It’s just an add on. It’s like giving a magical hammer to a dude who can already control lightning. The fact that Wally is so passionate he’s willing to stare down a truck is the telltale sign he’s already got everything he needs to be a hero. Stepping in front of danger is what makes the superhero, not the rewards that come afterward.
Oh man, now there I go, getting in on the pep talk game. It’s infectious, man. I blame Tom Cavanagh, who just makes The Flash a better show with his presence. I don’t care that Team Flash’s speed-lab has conducted pretty much any conceivable test on Jesse already, considering literally the only test is her running in circles, because I’m fully on board with him and Jesse sticking around for a while. Give Jesse her costume, have her run around with Barry for a while. Maybe have Wally keep stepping in front of increasingly ridiculous modes of transportation. As long as Cavanagh keeps elevating even the droopiest of Flash dialogue with small subtleties, like the cracks in the phrase, “I guess that’s your first victory as a superhero. My daughter…Jesse Quick.”
Meanwhile, on the meta-front, “Magenta” featured a character so forgettable her actual, real-life creator got halfway through the episode before realizing who she was.
There’s nothing technically wrong Joey King’s Frankie, aka Magenta (“meh” says Cisco, because he’s a treasure), because you can never get too upset with a character that tries to mind-murder Tom Felton with a giant gold wall decoration. It just seems like such well-worn territory for this show to tread, considering we just learned the dangers of traveling back in time.
And, again, I suppose that’s the whole point. We’re re-establishing a status quo of sorts: the team is a well-oiled machine, Iris and Barry are lovebirds, Wells is back, no one is having a crippling existential crisis over the fact the life they thought they lived is but one string in multiple dimensions created by time-meddling. Everything is all cool! But it makes Barry’s episode-ending speech to Magenta–as she held a massive tanker over a hospital with her mind which, okay, cool stuff–ring a little bit hollow. “He couldn’t face who he is,” Barry says, referring to Frankie’s abusive foster father. “He couldn’t move forward.”
As much as I love characters explicitly stating out loud a show’s main theme, Barry’s right, and by episode’s end the characters certainly think they’re on a progressive path. But is The Flash? This show altered the universe, changed time and splintered reality and yet simultaneously seems hellbent on returning to the safest of formulas. “We have to stop denying who we are,” Barry says in the episode’s closing minutes. But still, I’m afraid The Flash, much like Iris West at the end of “Magenta”, is stuck hundreds of miles away from where it’s supposed to be.
- No but seriously, Barry straight up dipped on Iris after dragging her out of the city into the countryside. On a trip she did not ask for, mind you. I hope Iris is absent from next week’s episode because she’s taking a $300 Uber ride back to Central City.
- Fan Theory Corner: On a scale of one to Malfoy, how likely is it that Julian Alpert is actually Doctor Alchemy?
- Fan Theory Corner #2: On a scale of one to West, how likely is it that Wally seeks out Doctor Alchemy the second he learns he was Kid Flash in Flashpoint, and that Alchemy has the ability to restore those powers?
- Honestly, having Magenta in this episode was worth it because, as uninteresting as Alchemy has been so far, hearing Tobin Bell’s terrifying-ass voice say the name “Frankie” was just kind of funny.