The Flash: Season 2, Episode 16 - "Trajectory"

Gregory L. Reece

The Flash is good. It's the superhero show that I've wanted my whole life.

The Flash

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
Cast: Grant Gustin, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 16 - "Trajectory"
Network: CW
Air date: 2016-03-23

While watching the latest episode of The Flash, I found myself distracted by just how good this show is. Seriously. I arguably enjoyed it less than I should have precisely because I enjoyed it so much, as I couldn’t stop wondering how they manage to pull this off every week.

Now, I haven’t gone off the deep end here. I know that The Flash is a light-hearted affair. It isn't The Sopranos, and I get that. It is, however, the absolute best in a crowded field of superhero television, most of which have a much harder time pulling together all of the components that are required for success in that genre: exciting superhero action; campy, but menacing, super villain; a believable world in which costumed freaks don't seem too out of place; a cast of characters deep enough to make us care, but light enough to pull off the requisite cheesy dialogue; and movement, a story that is going somewhere combined with characters that learn and grow without losing their essence.

The Flash does all of this effortlessly.

So, while Barry (Grant Gustin) and the gang were busy trying to get the Flash up to speed for his upcoming battle with Zoom (Tony Todd) and his present battle with new speedster villain, Trajectory (Allison Paige), I was distracted by precisely how much fun I was having right from the very start.

The episode opens with Barry and Team Flash attempting to increase his speed by having the hero run/fly across a ravine. It's serious business, but they're all having a good time. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) is making jokes about Evil Knievel. Barry gives it a try and is doing just fine, but then he looks down. Everybody knows that you should never look down.

Everything that makes this show work, everything that every superhero show needs, is right there in that opening scene. The Flash, the Scarlet Speedster, with his friends at his side, risks his life in a spectacular gamble, lightning streaming from his speeding form, as he pushes himself beyond his limits to prepare to face the mask menaced that threatens not one Earth but two.

That scene is a metaphor for the episode as a whole, for the series as a whole. Everything here moves at breakneck speed. Earths bleed into earths. Doppelgangers and doubles keep everyone guessing. Simple threats, like a petty thief with super speed, race along beside big threats, a man in a black mask that covers the face of a friend. And throughout, the Flash and The Flash just keep on moving.

What this show possesses, in way that few other superhero series can claim, is trajectory. It is always moving, at Mach 3 and beyond, and moving along a carefully calculated line. Arrow's tone and trajectory were reset after The Flash showed how much fun that a fun superhero show could be. Legends of Tomorrow is still be trying to figure out what it wants to be. Supergirl sometimes gives the impression that they're making things up as they go along. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can't decide what kind of story it wants to tell. And Gotham? The less said about Gotham, the better.

The Flash, however, throws a million things at you each episode, and every single one of them has a pay-off. It really feels as if someone is in control here. It’s almost as if someone had a plan for this from the very beginning, and is confident and sure enough to see it through. (This may, of course, be a false impression. If it is, I don't want to know.)

Every episode is jam packed with action sequences. (Barry runs across water! Barry runs through the air!) Every episode gives us villains worthy of our hero. (Mark Hamil as the Trickster, anyone?) Every member of the big cast of regulars can carry their weight, stand the glare of the spotlight when it's their time to take center stage, make us believe that they care about one another, and make the nonsense about multiverses and the speed force seem almost real. (Tom Cavanagh, as Harrison Wells, is my current favorite.) On top of all that, the story keeps on moving, speeding into the future and into the past and across worlds. Always on a trajectory. Always going somewhere. Always with a purpose in mind.

Okay. I've said too much. The comic book fan has overwhelmed the TV critic. I get it. I really do.

But, The Flash is good. It’s the superhero show that I've wanted my whole life, since I was too young to get that Adam West's Batman was being played for laughs, since Linda Carter was Wonder Woman and Bill Bixby was the Hulk (and since Nicholas Hammond was Spider-Man.) It's better than all of those and so many more, not because it's darker and more mature (which, thankfully, it isn't) and not because the special effects are better (which, thankfully, they are) but because it's on a trajectory, it's going somewhere, and it's taking me along.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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

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

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.