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The Flash: “All Star Team Up”

Grant Gustin, Emily Bett Rickards, Brandon Routh/The CW
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All season long The Flash has had an Iris problem, except now it starts to look like the problem is actually everyone else. Truth be told, it’s mostly Joe and Barry, who continue to fiercely protect the Flash’s secret identity from her and nobody else. Joe is comfortable calling the Flash “Barry” in front of criminals, and Barry has no problem with the fact that Felicity spilled his secret to a guy he’s never met. The secret identity is officially a joke at this point, but the biggest joke is the continued insistence that somehow Iris is the only one who needs to be protected from this information.

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If this is all unfair to Iris, it’s at least as bad for Eddie, caught in the middle through no fault of his own. Granted, he should probably just grow a spine and dismiss Joe’s paternalistic overprotectiveness for what it is, but it’s still not clear why he was put in this position in the first place. Yes, he and Joe are working more closely with the Flash now, but there’s no compelling reason Eddie has to know their new ally is Barry in order to make this arrangement work. It’s just a melodramatic device to inject tension into the Eddie/Iris relationship, but it ends up making our hero look like a jerk when it could so easily be avoided. The sooner the show clears this up, the better.

Did I mention that Felicity’s in town? It’s always good to see her freed of what she self-reflexively refers to as “the mood and brood” of Arrow, although it was a lot more fun when she and Barry were both single. This time she brings boyfriend Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), so even though the chemistry between Grant Gustin and Emily Bett Rickards is still palpable, we know nothing will come of it. Sure, Ray is a genial fellow (albeit with a creepy streak), and his pairing with Cisco is a match made in geek heaven, but he’s the true fifth wheel here, not Barry. He’s also the Atom, although I have a hard time calling him that as long as he’s just flying around in a metal suit. The Atom shrinks. That’s what he does. I realize the groundwork has been laid, first with his injection of nanobots on Arrow and tonight with his line about miniaturization being the key to his power source, but until he starts shrinking, this is no Atom in my book.

If an episode is only as good as its villain, then “All Star Team Up” is definitely second-tier Flash. I‘m guessing the creative team has chosen to keep some of the A-listers in reserve for next season, because otherwise it’s hard to justify seeing the Bug-Eyed Bandit before, say, Mirror Master. As threats go, the robot bees are more than a little silly, especially since Barry should be able to outrun them with no problem at all. The scene where they burst out of the second victim’s body is effective enough, but it suffers by comparison to a similar (but far creepier) incident on Fortitude a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard to say whether The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney is well-cast as Brie Larvin, since she’s given so little too do. At least Larvin’s motive brings Tina McGee (Amanda Pays) back into the picture, so she can supply the crucial clue that Harrison Wells was “a completely different person” following the car accident.

Even on an off-night, The Flash is capable of hitting emotional grace notes thanks to its talented cast. The big theme of the night is trust and communication, not only in terms of Iris and Eddie, but also between Barry and the STAR Labs crew. Joe urges Barry not to confide in Caitlin and Cisco about his Harrison Wells suspicions on the chance that they might be the bad doctor’s accomplices. (Joe is not all about the trust this week.) A heart-to-heart with Felicity (who, after all, assisted Oliver Queen in some shady matters even before she knew he was the Arr0w) convinces Barry to show them his murder board (and supplemental Harrison Wells board), but while Cisco is a believer, Caitlin is more reluctant. As this scene comes at the very end of the episode, the matter is unresolved, and in retrospect the entire episode plays like a stalling tactic, with the real fireworks saved for next week. It’s always nice to have visitors from out of town, but once they leave you may realize you didn’t actually accomplish much while they were around.

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Stray observations:

  • Cisco is having flashbacks to something that never happened to him in this timeline. So I guess these are flash-sideways? Please tell me the season doesn’t end with everyone meeting up in purgatory.
  • “Wow. So everybody but Iris.” Eddie says what we’re all thinking.
  • “Is that a bird?” “It’s a plane.” “It’s my boyfriend.” Well, they can’t all be winners.
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