The Flash S02E12 “Fast Lane” REVIEW

The Flash S02E12 “Fast Lane” REVIEW

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stars 3

Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Brooke Eikmeier, Kai Yu Wu, Joe Peracchio
Director: Rachel Talalay

 

Essential Plot Points:

  • Metahuman threat of the week is Tar Pit, a guy who was dumped in a vat of tar and left for dead by some small-time crooks just when the particle accelerator exploded.
  • Two years later he emerges a walking tar monster taking revenge on those responsible for nearly killing him (and you’d hope he fills in a few pot holes in between times).
  • Barry has an initial skirmish with him during which Cisco notices that he’s 2% slower than normal.

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  • This is because Wells has secretly attached a device to Barry’s Flash suit that is syphoning off his speed to give to Zoom.
  • Meanwhile the West soap continues as lethargically as ever with Wally refusing to give up street racing and Iris dressing as a tart so she infiltrate the illegal gatherings and write an expose.
  • Barry and Wells work out a way to close breaches. They close one successfully and so now have 51 to go.
  • Anyway it all comes to a head when Tar Pit disguises himself as the track on which one of the street races is taking place – a race involving Wally!
  • Tar Pit turns the flat surface into a spectacular and deadly roller coaster ride. Cars go flying. Barry comes to the rescue but he’s not fast enough to save Iris from a shard of glass that hits her in the shoulder.
  • Barry rushes her to hospital. There she binds with a remorseful Wally who has learnt this week’s moral – only men with facial hair and tattoos street race because they are expendable.
  • Back at STAR Labs a guilt-ridden Wells admits he tampered with Barry’s costume. Joe punches him then carts him off to the cells to lock him up, because otherwise he’d kill him.
  • Barry now quickly defeats Tar Pit using some gizmo Cisco knocks up because Tar Pit’s usefulness to the plot is over.
  • Barry realises that Wells only did what he did to save his daughter, so when Wells asks them to send him back to his Earth Barry tells him he’s not going alone; they’re a team now, and they’ll rescue Jesse together.

 

Review:

Since The Flash came back from its Christmas break it’s been treading water a little bit. The three episodes so far have all been solid but they’ve lacked a certain va-va-voom. We’d just like to reassure you: things really pick up again… next week. But for now it feels like we have another week of housekeeping to get out of the way. Because “Fast Lane” feels more like an exercise in manoeuvring all the plot elements into a position to make next week’s big leap possible than a real episode in its own right.

There’s stuff to enjoy along the way, sure, most of it involving Wells scowling at Barry’s irrepressible perkiness. Wells is all kinds of grumpy this week and it’s fantastic to watch. He wants to be heartless and cold and able to carry out what’s necessary to save his daughter without a pesky thing like a conscience getting in the way. Touchingly he just can’t do it. Barry’s optimism and compulsion to do the right thing by everybody in the multiverse finally breaks him down.

It’s interesting how the writers decide to present the moment Wells makes his decision. Perceived wisdom is that such revelations should come at moments of high drama; perhaps immediately after Iris has been hit by the glass, Wells should break down in guilt and confess his sins. But not here. The moment happens back at STAR Labs as the others discuss the problem facing them: Barry might not be fast enough to defeat Tar Pit. The conversation isn’t even particularly heated; it’s all rather pragmatic. But we get a series of close-ups of Wells slowly but surely caving in. It’s a marvellous piece of acting from Tom Cavanagh and much more effective than a melodramatic break down.

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There’s also plenty of good action and FX (the big set piece at the street race is very impressive) and some great moments of humour (Cisco take a bow, as usual). But Tar Pit is yet another underwhelming, underdeveloped villain-of-the-week, while the West family soap takes up huge chunks of the episode without providing much of interest. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of soap in an action series but this is truly run-of-the-mill daytime soap stuff. It feels like it needs an extra twist to give it a reason to be in the show (and no, that doesn’t mean Iris rather gratuitously dressing like a tart), which presumably we’ll get when Wally becomes a Speedster.

So, a shorter review than usual because there’s not really much about “Fast Lane” that we haven’t said before in reviews of previous episodes. That’s the main problem – there’s not much wrong with this episodes, but it has precious little new to offer.

 

The Good:

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  • Grumpy Wells is endlessly entertaining. His range of, “Just piss off, Barry!” expressions is a masterpiece in passive aggression, then he steps it up to aggressive aggression with a fantastic tantrum where he actually throws his marker pen at Barry in exasperation.
  • That, set against Barry’s unquenchable chirpiness this episode, make them an even better double act than Wells & Cisco.

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  • Plus, Wells trying to do a feeble, “Big fish, little fish, cardboard box…” is adorable.
  • The big action set piece at the speed race is actually really good, especially when Tar Pit makes the car flip over.
  • There’s some interesting use of music this episode, almost as if somebody actively said to Blake Neely, “Hey, can we change the cues a bit this week?” The scene with Barry and Cisco wandering around STAR Labs nattering on about nothing consequential while Wells guiltily sabotages Barry’s Flash suit could be quite a dull sequence but the edgy, brooding thrum that scores it ramps up the tension a good few notches.
  • Tar Pit may have been a naff villain but his speech about his death is deeply unsettling in all the right ways: “Since I went in head first I actually felt my ears and nose burn off… The pain of my eyeballs searing was unimaginable but it was the way that it burned down my throat as I tried to breath that I thought was really special.”
  • “Who is the best hacker in the world, people?”
    “Felicity Smoak.”
    “What is wrong with you two? That is not friendship.”
  • “I will unflinchingly choose my daughter. I will betray you,”

 

The Bad:

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  • Sorry, but both in his human form (where he look like a coal miner who’s just emerged into a rain storm) and his CG form (where he looks like the Fantastic Four’s the Thing recreated as a balloon animal) Tar Pit is rubbish.
  • He’s also defeated with almost contemptuous ease as the end.
  • The West family saga continues to be about as exciting cold porridge which is a real shame as they’re all really good actors trying their best.
  • Where has Jay vanished to? It’s odd to think he’s skulking about in the bowels of STAR Labs but not interacting with anybody.

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  • Iris’s attempt to look slutty was just downright embarrassing.

 

 

And The Random:

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  • 52-spotting: Aside from the usual repeat offenders (we hear from Channel 52 News again) Cisco’s metahuman-detecting app has a panel top left that says: “XRD-52”.

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  • In the DC comics universe, Tar Pit was a very different beast. He was created in The Flash Vol 2 #175 (2001) by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolin. He was a small-time drug trafficker called Joseph Monteleone who discovered while in jail that he could project his astral self out into the world. But then his astral self became trapped in a vat of tar, leaving Joey’s consciousness to walk the Earth in a body flaming, molten asphalt while his physical self remained in a coma at Iron Heights Prison.
  • There’s a brief mention in a news report of Oliver Queen running for Mayor in Star City; that’s one of the current storylines on The Flash’s sister show, Arrow.
  • There was a time when Rachel Talalay was best known for directing the cinematic turkey Tank Girl. These days, though, she’s one of the most respected directors of episodic TV and has both the two-part finales of Doctor Who seasons eight and nine to her credit. She does some interesting work here, her first time on The Flash, but it’s a shame she didn’t have a more exciting script to work on.

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  • Is Wells cosplaying as Cyclops in this bit?

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  • Wells has quite literally caught lightning in a bottle.

 

Review by Dave Golder


Read our other reviews of The Flash

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