-->
TV

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 10 - "Potential Energy"

Gregory L. Reece

The Flash is the best of the current crop of superhero television; "Potential Energy" shows us why.


The Flash

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
Cast: Grant Gustin, Shantel VanSanten, Jesse L. Martin, Candice Patton, Keiynan Lonsdale, Danielle Panabaker, Teddy Sears, Tom Cavanagh, Aaron Douglas, Carlos Valdes
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 10 - "Potential Energy"
Network: CW
Air date: 2015-01-19
Amazon

I'm a fan of CW's The Flash. Readers of this column know that, I'm sure. The Flash, I believe, is the best of all the current crop of superhero television. The acting and writing aren't as good as Netflix's Daredevil or Jessica Jones; the production values aren't as good as ABC's slick Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; The Flash is not as dark and violent as Fox's Gotham or as earnest as CBS's Supergirl.

There are better crime shows on this list, better action adventure stories; there are more realistic and moving dramas. The Flash, however, is something special.

I've been trying to put my finger on exactly why this is, why I enjoy watching a lot of these other shows but get a thrill, a genuine thrill, from almost each and every episode of The Flash.

Clearly one of the reasons for this is that I’m a huge comic book fan, and The Flash is probably the purest comic book superhero program of the whole bunch. Most of the others are examples of superhero stories embedded in other, more traditional, television genres: urban crime story, spy thriller, hip romantic dramedy. The Flash, however, feels like a comic book story. Its success at this has helped its older sibling, CW's Arrow, transition into more of a comic book show as well -- a welcome improvement. Of course, comic books work in all of these genres as wel,l and have stretched the form to include as complex and diverse a set of storytelling methods as any other medium. But, at its heart, at least since the rebirth of the superhero in the Silver Age, comic books have been about super-powered beings in battle with other supe- powered beings set against a backdrop of a pulp sci-fi universe that includes extraterrestrial civilizations, time travel, and alternative dimensions.

That is the universe in which The Flash resides, the universe that The Flash embraces.

The Flash takes all the chances that every other television version of superheroes has been afraid to take. The pulp sci-fi universe of comic book superheroes is complex and potentially confusing to outsiders, what with all those alternative timelines and alternative dimensions, all those duplicate characters from Earth-1 and Earth-2, all those super-scientists and futuristic ray guns and cosmic treadmills. For decades we've been told that you can't do all of that on television, that the audience won't buy it, that it’s just too much. Nothing seems like "too much" for The Flash. Multiple versions of a character, some evil and some good? Check. Giant talking gorillas? Check. A whole cast of super fast heroes and villains? The Flash gives us the title character, plus his alternative version from Earth-2; it gives us the villains Reverse Flash (Matt Letscher) and Zoom (Tony Todd); and it drops big hints that Kid Flash and Jessie Quick may be on the way. You think building a series around a man who can run at super speed sounds ridiculous? What if we do that, and then toss in four or five others as well? And what if we refer to them all in the squarest way possible by calling them "speedsters."

It shouldn't work. But it does.

Watching this week's episode, "Potential Energy," helped to give me a good sense of just why The Flash is able to pull this off when everything says that it shouldn't.

First of all, it should be clear that the show doesn’t take the slow and steady approach. The Flash, likes the superhero at its heart, never stops moving. Excess, as it turns out, is a good thing in this case. In this episode Barry (Grant Gustin) worries about whether or not he should tell Patty (Shantel VanSanten) that he’s The Flash. Joe (Jesse L. Martin) and Iris (Candice Patton) struggle to find a way to bring Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) into their family. (Comic book fans know that Wally West is the alter ego of The Flash's sidekick, Kid Flash). Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) discovers that Jay (Teddy Sears), the Flash from Earth-2, has a secret. The Earth-2 version of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) reveals that he’s willing to go to extreme measures to defeat the evil speedster from Earth-2 known as Zoom in order to save his daughter (who comic book fans suspect may turn out to be the speedy hero Jessie Quick.)

And then there's the main storyline involving the arrival of a B-list villain from the comic books known as the Turtle (Aaron Douglas) a villain who has the ability to slow down all the objects, and people, around him, a power that he uses to commit robberies, kidnap Patty, and give The Flash a serious run for his money.

All of this works because this cast is so unbelievably good. In particular, Jesse L. Martin, Shantel VanSanten, Tom Cavanagh, and Carlos Valdes as Cisco manage to do the impossible. They make us care about their characters, care about their loves and losses, their struggle and their pain, but they do it with a lightness that also allows us to believe them when they talk about time travel, supervillains, and alternative timelines.

And leading them all is Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash. His performance in "Potential Energy" made me, for the first time, stop and realize what he achieves week in and week out, made me realize how he, even better than the rest of this wonderful cast, walks the tightrope between serious drama and hokey pulp superheroics. Stepping too far in either direction -- toward melodrama or toward sci-fi camp -- would send this whole show tumbling from the high wire. Gustin -- looking for all the world like the comic book version of Barry Allen just stepped from the pulp pages of an old Carmine Infantino drawing, what with his slight frame and oversized head and thoughtful, sad eyes -- is earnest, but never too earnest; he’s ironic, but never too ironic. I believe him when he’s mourning the loss of his mother, when he’s lovesick and sad, and when he puts on the red suit and says something that should sound ridiculous about the speed force or time travel, or breaches into another dimension. It is a weekly tightrope act that’s always exciting to watch.

That's my answer for why The Flash does the impossible, why The Flash succeeds where it shouldn't: Grant Gustin is just that good.

Ezra Miller has been cast to play The Flash in the character's big screen incarnation. "Good luck" is all I can say. Grant Gustin has created some pretty big winged boots to fill.

8
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image