The Flash S02E10 “Potential Energy” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Director: Rob Hardy
Essential Plot Points:
- Cisco says that a metahuman he’s been tracking for ages – the Turtle (whom everybody but Barry knows about) – is the key to defeating Zoom. The Turtle can slow things down so if they capture him and harness his power they can create a weapon that will slow Zoom down.
- Barry is having nightmares about Zoom killing Patty.
- Patty is wondering why Barry is evasive and distant.
- Iris tells Barry he should tell Patty he’s the Flash. Wells says this is a bad idea as Zoom goes after the ones you love.
- Team Flash decides to trap the Turtle at an art exhibition; they know he will go after a particular painting. Barry invites Patty as he had already agreed to take her out for a meal on the same night. He’s going to tell her his secret when…
- The Turtle attacks. Team Flash fails to capture him but the Turtle notices how the Flash is desperate to save Patty from harm. So, later, the Turtle kidnaps her and intends to turn her into a half-living, slowed-down exhibit to taunt the Flash.
- Oddly, huge neon lights flashing “THIS IS A PARALLEL TO WHAT WELLS SAID ZOOM WILL DO!” do not appear.
- The Flash rescues Patty by running really fast or something. The Turtle is incarcerated at STAR Labs.
- But Patty, fed up that Barry keep running out on her, decides to quite CCPD and go to Midway University to study CSI.
- In other news, Caitlin learns that Jay is dying, and he tells her the only cure is to recover his speed (apparently this won’t just make him die faster).
- Wally lives up to his name, not bothering to turn up to family meets and street racing to win money for his mum’s medical costs. For some reason, Joe ends up apologising to Wally for all this rather than slapping cuffs on him.
- Wells secretly kills the Turtle and extracts something from his brain via his nose.
- Reverse-Flash enters our world through a portal…
And so The Flash returns after its UK hiatus with an almighty… “meh!” This is one one of those episodes that if a mate who’d missed it asked you what it was like, you’d probably shrug and go, “S’alright, I suppose.”
It’s okay. There’s nothing particularly terrible about it. The speed racing is dull but not objectionable. Wally’s irritating, but then he’s supposed to be. The problem is, until the stinger scene at the end there’s nothing particularly memorable about “Potential Energy” either. Because, let’s be face it, the one thing you probably would say if your mate pressed you is, “Hey, there’s this great twist at the end!” But that’s really a prologue to the next episode, nothing to do with this one.
Other than that this feels like Flash on automatic. A humdrum villain of the week whose personality is his power. Barry in an emotional quandary getting lots of advice. Huge leaps of logic from Team Flash to track the villain. Caitlin looking doe-eyed at a hunky guy. Joe being fatherly. Wells having his own agenda. We would say the episode is merely going through the motions but since the villain is the Turtle we might as well go for the obvious gag and say it’s the show going through the slow motions.
There are little moment when the episode shows sparks of extra energy. The running gag about Barry being the only one who’s never heard of the Turtle is fun. Stroppy old Wells-2 continues to be one of the season’s biggest assets from his hissy-fit in Cisco’s lab to his nasal attack on the Turtle at the end. His advice to Barry about not telling Patty about the Flash is a powerful moment too; you can’t help but think he’s wrong, but his words genuinely feel as if they come from the heart for once, and it’s not just another of his subtle bits of manipulation for his own ends.
The Patty plot, though, is just another familiar superhero trope. The show inverted it last year to some degree with Barry and Iris, but this time it’s pretty standard fare. Admittedly Patty stands up for herself more than many most superhero-other-halves do but that’s not enough to prevent the plot feeling recycled. Gustin and VanSanten act it all decently enough, but it’s a lot of effort being put into a situation that’s not really delivering for the audience. It’s okay. It’s not going to drive anybody away from the show. But it’s not going to draw anybody in either.
Which is the perfect metaphor for the entire episode really.
- Lots of pretty wavy lines. Okay, that’s a really frivolous thing to like, but they were pretty.
- The stinger scene at the end with Reverse-Flash is one hell of an unexpected moment.
- The running gag that Barry is the only one who didn’t know about the Turtle never gets old.
- Patty’s really pained, “I’m actually really upset,” after Barry tries to be goofy about how he’s treated her has a raw, emotional truth about it that’s more genuine that many more weepy, overly-sentimental scenes.
- You have to love the way the Turtle types really, really slowly.
- But best of all was Well’s childish strop in Cisco’s lab straight after Cisco tells him off for having a childish strop. Wells-2 is the character of the season so far.
- The revelation that the Turtle has his wife in suspended animation is such a creepy idea it’s a shame it’s wasted in a throwaway moment at the end of the episode.
- The way Team Flash deduces where the Turtle’s hide out is located is ludicrous. The show is an old hand at scripting sleight of hand that disguises massive plot contrivances but this time the “trick” was fooling no one: they just made a really good guess. (See also the way they work out he’ll go the the Crystal Ball painting.)
- Similarly, how did Jay deduce, “You took my DNA from the champagne glass” a millisecond after Caitlin says,“I know you’re ill”? Surely there are other more likely ways he would have thought she could have found out first?
- Barry’s concerns over telling Patty his secret are just another variation on a superhero trope that’s been done to death a zillion times before and doesn’t really offer any new twist.
- Wally is supposed to be an irritating teenager, sure, but he does he have to turn Joe – usually one of the best things about the show – into an idiot dad?
- The speed racing stuff is generally quite naff and cosy. GTA it ain’t.
- Patty will be studying at Midway City University. In the DC universe, Midway City is the home of Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Doom Patrol and will be the setting for the upcoming Suicide Squad film. In The Flash episode “Fallout” Caitlin once claimed she had a cousin there, though she was actually fibbing and covering up for Ronnie Raymond who was on the run at the time.
- After the Flash rescues Patty at the end of the episode, Barry – still in costume – comforts her in his own voice, not his “Flash” voice. Was his a production lapse or an error on Barry’s part that Patty will pick up on? She’s proven sharp about such things in the past.
- In the immensely yawnsome street racing scene, Wally is, of course, driving a red car. THIS IS FORESHADOWING!
- Wally is from Central City’s twin city Keystone City which is where Golden Age Flash came from. In this series of The Flash, Eobard Thawne is from Keystone as well.
- The Turtle’s lair was in Naydel Library. The character was co-created by Gardner Fox and Martin Naydel in All-Flash #21 (1945).
- This is the first time on the show that Cisco calls Grodd by his full comic name “Gorilla Grodd”.
- The Vandervoot diamonds are clearly named after Laura Vandervoot who played Supergirl on Smallville and will soon be appearing in Supergirl as Brainiac-8.
- Aaron Douglas, who plays the Turtle, is still most famous as Chief Galen Tyrol in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, but he does also have previous live-action comic book form. He played two different characters in Smallville (Deputy Michael Vertigo in “Obscura” in 2002, and Pierce in “Traveller” in 2008); he was a detective in the terrible Catwoman movie (2004); and he was one of Stryker’s soldiers in X-Men 2 (2003).
- The Crystal Ball painting was recently recovered from Markovia. In DC comics Markov is Geo-Force, a superhero with geo-kinesis abilities who is also prince of Markovia.
Review by Dave Golder