At first glance, “Plastique” looks like a step back for The Flash. We left off two weeks ago with Captain Cold beginning to assemble the Rogues, hinting that more A-list villains were on the way sooner than later. Instead, we get another couple of characters plucked from deep in the DC Comics archives and another metahuman Freak-of-the-Week threat to Central City.
These are already familiar ingredients for this show, but the episode does something more interesting with Bette Sans Souci (inevitably dubbed Plastique by Cisco) than with past one-off threats like Multiplex and the Mist. Early in the episode, Sans Souci at first appears to be a run-of-the-mill mad bomber, setting off an explosion in an office building to cover her theft of a top secret file. (Barry responds to the bombing in time to save the poor fellow on the window-washing night shift.) Instead it turns out she’s yet another victim of the particle accelerator blast: a soldier recovering from an explosion that left bomb fragments in her body, fragments that fused with the dark matter from the accelerator and turned her into a human explosive.
Plastique presents a new kind of dilemma for the STAR Labs team: she’s not a villain like the previous metahumans they’ve encountered, so they can’t just lock her up in their super-jail. Neither can she simply join their team, as Barry suggests. A woman who might accidentally blow up anything she touches isn’t someone they can rely on to help save the day. The other problem is that Sans Souci is being sought by General Wade Eiling (Clancy Brown), who sees her as a useful weapon who belongs to the Army. (Both Plastique and Eiling have their origins in DC Comics, but they’re more associated with Captain Atom than with the Flash.)
Dr. Wells, whose evil becomes less ambiguous with each passing episode, has a solution to the dilemma, though he doesn’t share it with his STAR colleagues. He advises Sans Souci to kill Eiling, ostensibly to satisfy her own need for revenge, but clearly with his own nefarious purpose in mind. Whether that purpose is to bring about Sans Souci’s demise in a way that leaves the STAR team’s hands clean, or to finish off his old adversary Eiling, or preferably both, remains unstated. In any case, the former effect is achieved, partially because Barry shows up in time to distract Sans Souci long enough for Eiling to shoot her dead. That isn’t Barry’s intent, of course, but that’s how it works out in practice, depriving him of the one other metahuman with whom he’s been able to relate and commiserate.
The other major storyline this week concerns Iris and her ongoing blog about the Streak. (Here’s hoping we’re only a week away from disposing of that nickname forever.) Iris remains a problematic character, but at least she’s given a little more to do this week. Barry, in his other big bumbling move of the episode, inadvertently talks her into signing her hitherto anonymous blog posts, potentially putting her in danger with future villains who may assume she has a personal relationship with the speedster. Later, Barry and Iris recreate Lois Lane’s first interview with Superman, except that Barry reveals absolutely nothing about himself but a talent for disguising both his face and his voice.
It’s a relief when Barry later meets with Iris to suggest they not see each other for a while. A break between these two characters might give the writers a chance to figure out how to make this relationship work, whether by having Barry reveal his secret or by doing something interesting with Eddie, who is barely a character at all to this point. Still, the creative team has given me more than enough reason to believe they can fix this flaw in the show, one way or another.
- No flashbacks this week and no visit to Iron Heights. Even though we’re only five episodes in, it’s a relief to see the show isn’t going to be rigid about its episodic narrative patterns.
- Clancy Brown is no stranger to the DC Universe, having voiced Lex Luthor in a number of animated series and Mr. Freeze on The Batman. I’d put money on seeing General Eiling again in future episodes.
- Barry tests the limits of his powers in several ways this week, first running up the side of a building and later running on water. I’m not sure why he kept asking how fast he had to run, though. Just run as fast as you can!
- Another limit to Barry’s powers: He can’t get drunk, poor bastard. Even Caitlin’s 500 proof concoction only gets him buzzed for a few seconds.
- An advantage to Barry’s powers: He doesn’t need an electronic device to distort his voice. He can simply vibrate his vocal cords. (I loved Joe’s unrestrained delight in this revelation.)
- Grodd! So that wasn’t just a throwaway visual gag in the pilot.
- A cover of “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls? I see what you did there, The Flash.