Season One, Episode Seven – “Power Outage”
By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod Jones. Even when CW’s The Flash feels the need to continuously dip into the well of its incredibly convenient conceit, where one event is the impetus behind all of Barry Allen’s woes, the show remains fascinating to watch. This isn’t only because the pilot episodes’ now-infamous cataclysmic explosion yielded all kinds of foes for the Flash to repel, but because there is a maddeningly compelling mystery operating underneath The Flash.
“Power Outage”, the series’ seventh episode, furthers that mystery in a big way. And even though more questions are culled from the episode’s events than answers, those questions are tantalizing enough to garner further interest for the rest of The Flash‘s inaugural season: who killed Barry’s mother? Why is Barry so important to Dr. Wells’ agenda? And who the hell is Dr. Harrison Wells, anyway? All good questions, but there’s zero evidence that The Flash is going to spill the beans any time soon.
With all these questions permeating the show, dilemmas come in equal measure. Every subsequent metahuman brought into the series, all by-products of Dr. Wells’ (Tom Cavanagh) hubris, are becoming more and more difficult for Barry (Grant Gustin) to handle. It’s an episodically gentle crescendo of The Flash‘s effective superheroics, and this week’s villain, Michael Reventar’s Farooq (christened “Blackout” by Cisco – Carlos Valdes), actually manages to steal our hero’s powers for most of the episode. He’s yet another villain given super-powers by Wells’ reactor accident, only this time Farooq’s power allows him to feed on electricity and energy as well as expel them (and the visuals he elicits owe more than a little to Jamie Foxx’s Electro in this summer’s Amazing Spider-Man 2).
Farooq intends to wreak havoc with his new-found power, but his path of destruction is far more perilous than he can ever know: because Dr. Wells has the ability to consult with the timestream, we’ve become aware that Barry’s importance to our future is paramount. (Also, it’s just nice to have him around.) Farooq has somehow rendered our Scarlet Speedster powerless, so once Wells confers with his super-secret-talking-future-computer, Gideon, he finds that Barry has been erased from the future.
This alarming turn of events causes the purportedly good doctor to grow even more sinister, making it quite plain that he is more than prepared to sacrifice lives for the sake of his agenda. And while it’s still not clear what his intentions may be, it’s glaringly apparent that his methods will clash with Barry’s, and soon. (Wells calls the Flash his “most important invention”, referring to the hero as a mere object, something a good sociopath is wont to do.) Cavanagh ups his creep-factor – the man forms a slow, evil smile way more than once – and when speaking to Gideon, his sequences have the gravitas of a Bond villain monologue. His “good” intentions make it all the more ominous.
Wells makes for a great slow-burn menace, but The Flash has a Smallville-ian penchant for the freak-of-the-week, with every single nemesis somehow originating with the hero’s entrance into the world. Here’s hoping something else massive enough to cause a metahuman wellspring comes along, because these randos, mostly trawled from DC Comics’ back channels, will only cut it for so long.
Everything about the pacing in “Power Outage” is (pun intended) lightning-fast. With near-constant action, even the episode’s subplot – featuring Iris West (Candice Patton) and her father, Det. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) – sees its fair share of conflict when the (thankfully non-super-powered) villain William Tockman, alias the Clock King (Robert Knepper), takes the Central City Police Department hostage after Farooq causes a power outage in the city. Once the lights go out, Iris and Joe’s fate become inextricably tied to Barry and his partners in S.T.A.R. The Flash is out of commission. Only the Flash can save us.
And though the series is secure with its marquee hero, this episode makes an attempt to show that Iris – one of the show’s few prominent female characters – can actually rise to the occasion. But here she isn’t given much to do other than threaten Tockman with the Flash’s imminence, and turn the tables on the secondary villain du jour. But that conceit is only followed through because of Iris’ ability to follow the instructions of the men in her life. The writers need to allow Iris her own motivations for once: throughout the series, most of what she does is for (or because of) her dad, Barry, or her boyfriend, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett).
All things considered, “Power Outage” is The Flash at its very best. There are notable things that keep the series from achieving true prominence, but with this episode’s brisk pace and the series’ sheer momentum overall, there are few reasons to deny Barry Allen his day in the sun. And what’s more, The Flash continues to inch toward its uncertain future while furthering the CW’s grand scheme: next week’s episode features part one of a two-part Arrow crossover that has the makings of greatness. That kind of kinetic energy is appropriate for a show called The Flash. But when that show has a cast and crew that care as much as this one does, it truly feels like lightning has been caught in a bottle.
Barry loses his speed powers towards the beginning of the episode, and has to call an Uber to get back to the lab. He says his Uber driver charged him sixty-five bucks, and he had to tell them he was at a cosplay party. Perfect.
At the beginning of the episode, Wells says that Barry’s desire to help others impedes him from further development of his powers. By the end, however, he says that the people Barry cares about are what will help him “get up to speed”… which sounds much more menacing than you’d think.
In a list of people who “died” in the reactor explosion, Wells rattles off a bunch of beloved DC comics characters: Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm) – who we know to be alive, as he is cast and set to appear in full regalia on the show; Ralph Dibny (The Elongated Man!); Al Rothstein (Atom Smasher!); Grant Emerson (Damage!) and Bea DeCosta (Fire!). If Firestorm is alive, well, and super-powered, let’s cross our fingers the rest of them are too. (But if we get two separate Justice Society of America guest-stars on The Flash, MJ might just pee her pants.)
When Eddie Thawne tries to charge in and save the day during the hostage situation, he shoots at Tockman, misses terribly – despite close proximity and a clear visual – and proceeds to instead get shot by his target. It’s official: Eddie shoots like a Stormtrooper.
At one point, Farooq tries explaining to the lab staff (all of them brilliant scientists) electricity and how it works. If only he’d have asked them, “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning?”
When trying to figure out how much energy could “jump start” Barry’s speed powers, the fact that there was not even a joking mention of “1.21 gigawatts!” was sad indeed.
Barry, as the Flash, tells Iris, “you’re worth being on time for,” and you can tell she’s smitten. And Barry knows it, too. Once again, Barry: why are you telling absolutely everyone else that you’re the Flash, except for your unrequited lady-love???