‘The Flash’ Review: The Atom Comes to Save the Day in ‘All Star Team Up’
Recap and review of The Flash – Episode 18 – All Star Team Up:
A lot of shows build suspense around secrets characters are withholding from one another, and The Flash is no different. Personal connections can’t thrive among secrets, and yet, there can be value in keeping certain information under wraps. “All Star Team Up” shows the risks in both telling the truth and maintaining secrecy.
The episode brings Ray Palmer/The Atom (Brandon Routh) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) back to Central City so Ray can have STAR Labs take a look at his suit. It might seem like a flimsy premise for a crossover, but it actually works fairly well, particularly since the Case of the Week is another science-based villain. Brie Larvan (Emily Kinney) is a scientist fired from Mercury Labs, who’s getting revenge by commanding a swarm of robotic bees to kill her former colleagues, which makes her more of an intellectual opponent than a physical one, particularly since she actually succeeds in killing Barry (Grant Gustin) early in the episode. Sure, Wells (Tom Cavanagh) is able to restart his heart with the defibrillator in the suit, but this is basically the closest anyone has ever come to truly defeating The Flash. It presents a villain who is formidable in her own right, while also allowing for a more expansive team-up. In fact, the climax is pretty exciting, as virtually everyone on the team gets involved: Ray flies off to save Dr. Tina McGee (Amanda Pays, reprising her role from the 1990s Flash series) before Brie’s bees can get at her, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) follow him in their van, Barry races to Brie’s location to arrest her, and Felicity engages in a hack-off with Brie. It’s awesome stuff, and it features some of the best visual effects any CW show has ever delivered. Hell, the visuals on the bees and, particularly, on Ray’s flight are better than most other shows on network TV. It’s actually kind of amazing what the show can pull off with its budget (although it probably helped that the climax takes place at night). Before long, Brie is in handcuffs, and the Case of the Week is behind us. Except, its complications linger…
Felicity has noticed that Barry has been acting weird, and he eventually reveals that it’s because he learned Wells is the Reverse Flash, and he’s torn on whether or not to tell Cisco and Caitlin. Right now, his only confidante is Joe (Jesse L. Martin), but the investigation is expanding beyond their scope, so they need help. However, Barry can’t be 100% certain that the scientists won’t side with Wells. And even if they don’t, their knowledge of who Wells truly is could very well get them killed. And we know this to be the case, since Cisco himself is starting to have “dreams” in which he’s killed by Wells. Cisco doesn’t realize that these are memories from the original timeline that Barry erased, but we, the viewers, do. This serves the function of reiterating to us that Wells is no idle threat. He’ll get active if/when he needs to, which adds a certain amount of menace to Cavanagh’s portrayal. It’s as if Wells knows Barry suspects him, and is debating whether or not he wants to make a move against him. And you can almost sense that Barry knows that he knows. It’s subtle work from the cast, and it’s part of why I love this ensemble so much, since the interactions all feel so natural, yet immensely complicated as well. Barry does eventually let Cisco and Caitlin in on the secret, after they prove their heroism in the climax (Cisco took a bee sting for Ray, for crying out loud!). But only Cisco seems to believe Barry and Joe, as the memories of the original timeline give him an eerie feeling of deja vu. I love this storyline, and I find it speaks volumes of the confidence Barry has in his team, and the relationships fostered between them, that he openly shares the Wells secret with them. I suppose you could argue that the show has been biding its time getting to the Wells reveal for everyone else, but I think it’s advancing at just the right pace, as Barry continues to pick up tiny bread crumbs here and there (such as Dr. McGee noting that she and Wells used to be “thick as thieves” until his fiance, Tess, died. Then, it was as if Harrison Wells became “a completely different person”). It’s all starting to come together, and I couldn’t be happier with how this story has progressed.
Of course, there are other secrets that require addressing this week. Eddie (Rick Cosnett) is beside himself with worry, since he’s unable to effectively lie to Iris (Candice Patton) about Barry’s secret identity. She always manages to see through his facade, and his evasive nature is only making her more suspicious. Eventually, Iris blows up at Eddie while at dinner with Barry, Felicity and Ray, prompting Barry to go to bat for his romantic rival. It’s a great moment for Barry as a character, and also for Grant Gustin, as this scene manages to make Barry even more likable than he is already, since Barry recognizes that this relationship issue is pretty much his fault. So he makes up a cover: He explains that, as a homicide detective, Eddie sees a lot of things that could mess up any normal person. He recalls how Joe often came home with a similarly blank expression when they were kids. Barry tells Iris that if it seems like Eddie is keeping silent, it’s only because he’s trying to keep her in the light, and out of the darkness that is his work life. It’s a poignant speech and it makes a lot of sense as an explanation. So much so that Iris kind of comes off badly for not really seeing Eddie’s point of view. Granted, Iris is right to suspect that there’s still something Eddie isn’t telling her, but you’d think “I can’t speak about an ongoing investigation,” or something to that effect, would have sufficed. But nope, she storms into the precinct and gives him an ultimatum: either fess up or find a new girlfriend. Part of me thinks it’d be crazy for the show to have Eddie be the one to reveal the secret, since it really seems like something Barry should reveal to Iris. Yet the episode makes a big to-do about Eddie confronting Joe and asking him when his opinion as Iris’s boyfriend will matter. Joe’s response? “When you’re her husband.” Could Eddie possibly propose? I mean, even with an engagement ring, the situation doesn’t really change. For Joe and Barry, it’s still better off that Iris doesn’t know. And yet, she isn’t really all that much safer for not knowing, considering how many times she’s been imperiled this season already. Perhaps it really is time for Iris to know. I’m anxious to see how the show handles this, since it’ll be hard to top the last time Barry revealed his secret identity to Iris.
The Flash is back to its crimefighting basics, although it doesn’t ditch the serialized aspects that have made it so immensely compelling. “All Star Team Up” isn’t a Justice League-style battle royal of heroes and villains, but it’s a satisfying adventure with a more complex plot running underneath it. The show’s versatility continues to impress, and I imagine the bombast is only going to build from here on out. I say bring it on.
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