On ‘The Flash’s’ Metahuman Problem

The Flash has a serious metahuman problem. That much is a given but the one I’m referring to depends entirely on how invested you are in the show. I like The Flash a great deal and I’m still fully onboard with it even though I’ve been less than impressed with the last few episodes. It’s because I like it so much that I’d like to see the writers tackle this telepathic gorilla in the room: what is up with Barry Allen and his friends running a secret prison under S.T.A.R. Labs?

This is something that’s been an issue since season one, but now that the captured meta population has doubled in light of this week’s episode, in which Flash and the gang subdued all of the rampant Earth-Two villains, it’s laughably impossible to ignore. There are now a substantial number of super-powered people imprisoned in a high tech dungeon without due process by four STEM geeks, only one of whom has any connection to law enforcement (Barry is a forensic scientist). No one on the show appears to be aware of this moral quandary.

What the hell, Flash? Assorted musings below:

  • These cells are very small and they do not have beds or toilets.
  • There is no reason to believe the imprisoned metas are getting any sunlight, which is awfully harsh. There’s no yard for these guys to shoot hoops or lift weights in. They’re just living in a glass and steel box 24/7.
  • Do you know what else regular inmates have that these prisoners don’t? Showers.
  • S.T.A.R. Labs must have some extremely powerful ventilation and air refreshers; because there’s no way that the metas aren’t pissing and shitting in the corners of their cells.
  • Are the metas even getting fed? What about water?
  • Provided they haven’t perished from a gruesome combination of malnourishment and dehydration or asphyxiated from the fumes of their own bodily waste, all of these prisoners have most certainly been driven insane.
  • Can we please get a whole episode devoted solely to the starving, smelly, now insane prisoners of S.T.A.R. Labs? I’d be fascinated to know more about their day-to-day existence.
  • Maybe The Flash actually takes place in Earth-Three (or the Anti-Matter Universe in Post-Crisis comics) and Barry and his friends are all villains except their evilness is only manifested through their brutal and callous treatment of captured badguys? Eh…I’m really reaching on that one.

Listen, Flash writers, I get it; this is another one of those things you just don’t want to deal with because it might slow down the story and maybe you guys didn’t even realize the implications of the S.TA.R. Labs prison, but at this point it can’t be glossed over anymore. I know I have zero right to give professional TV writers advice, but you guys really ought to address this in season three. And if you think that’s a boring waste of screen time, know this: one of the all-time greatest DC graphic novels has a substantial chunk of its plot devoted to the imprisonment of rogue metahumans. If Mark Waid and Alex Ross can pull a mesmerizing tale out of that, I don’t see why Flash can’t.

Season three’s finale airs this upcoming Tuesday. Here’s the preview:

Why Do TV Superheroes Need Their Own IT Teams?

First off, I know damn well why this is becoming a trend: it’s a ridiculously useful plot device. How does this superhero get the costume? Who made it? Who fixes it when it gets damaged? If the hero uses gadgets then where do those come from? How does the hero gather information on villains and find their weaknesses? How does she or he know when and where something bad is going down? All of these can easily be explained away with what I’m officially calling the superhero IT team.

That sounds like a terribly reductive way of putting it, but I don’t know how else to describe this phenomena. Three of DC/Warner’s premier superhero dramas – Arrow, Flash and Supergirl – have it to some extent. Green Arrow/Oliver Queen has Felicity Smoak. The Flash/Barry Allen has Caitlin, Cisco and Dr. Wells (evil imposter or otherwise). Supergirl/Kara Danvers has a sister at a top secret government organization, photographer/Superman pal James Olsen and Winn Schott, who is an actual IT guy. All three shows milk this trend it for all its worth.

I get it, to an extent. There are a lot of superhero stories out there and people are getting less patient with origins and minutiae. We want to jump right into the action and the superhero IT team is an excellent way to brush aside small world-building stuff that not everyone cares about. While I like most of Supergirl’s not-super friends and Flash’s S.T.A.R. Labs crew have acquitted themselves admirably over the course of a season and a half, I can’t help but to feel that this trend is becoming far too convenient of a crutch and it’s giving these shows a “samey” feel.

I’m not going to call the hardworking professional TV writers behind these shows lazy (like I can talk; I barely post anything on the Starship these days), but this plot device definitely encourages laziness. It can also lead to some pretty massive unforeseen problems, such as the one Flash has. At this point, there are so many people who aware that Barry Allen is the Flash that it is downright insulting for him to not tell his love interests when half of Central City already knows. Sheesh.

If I had to put my thumb down on where this all started (at least in regards to TV/film superheroes, who are usually a decade or more behind their source material) I would pick the perennially uderappreciated Superman: The Animated Series, whose Superman would occasionally seek assistance from that show’s own version of S.T.A.R. Labs. The expanded role of Lucius Fox in The Dark Knight trilogy, in which he was basically the Q to Batman’s Bond, probably has a lot to with the IT trend, too.

The superhero IT team was a novel idea that has now become a minor annoyance. I don’t think it diminishes Flash or Supergirl, both of which are fine shows despite their occasional hiccups. The good news is that DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the latest entry of the Arrowverse, is already breaking this mold by being a team-based show that features STEM-savy heroes who can do the technical and science stuff in the field on their own. I don’t want this trend to go away; it would just be nice if it got less trendy.

‘Flash’ Season Two to Feature Two Flashes

Perhaps the most pleasurable thing about The Flash is the way it has been delightfully unafraid of showcasing the weirdest and silliest aspects of its title character. Throughout the initially bumpy but overall brilliant first season, Barry Allen has traveled through time, ran through worm holes and even threw down with an evil psychic gorilla. It may not be the perfect Flash show, but it’s far better than I ever could have hoped.

And now there’s this latest promo, where Barry meets his Earth-2 counterpart, Jay Garrick, the superhero that your dad could probably cosplay. This isn’t exactly surprising; Jay’s distinctive helmet made a super conspicuous cameo in season one’s finale and sharp-eyed viewers may also have spotted a figure on the Central City Police Department’s mural that bears a striking resemblance to him. Once Flash made it clear (from the very first episode, no less) that it wasn’t going to shy away from the time travel and alternate universe stuff, I expected Jay to show up at some point in the series.

So who is Jay Garrick? Simply put, he is the original Flash, having first appeared in Flash Comics #1 all the way back in 1940. Created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert, Garrick was a key member of DC Comics’ Golden Age lineup and was also part of the Justice Society of America, the first ever superhero team both in real life and in DC Universe continuity. Jay’s solo series was cancelled in 1948 and DC rebooted the Flash eight years later in the form of Barry Allen. The two Flashes famously teamed up in The Flash #123 (September 1961) by Fox and Carmine Infantino. More so than the team up itself, that story is best remembered for introducing the concept of multiverse to DC Comics, which is where things get interesting…

Will Earth-2 (Jay’s native world) appear in The Flash’s second season? Will we be introduced to the multiverse? Hell, is the freaking JSA going to show up? That I’m asking all of these questions should indicate to you that I’m yearning for Flash to come back on the air almost as much as Star Wars: Rebels. To my knowledge, no live action DC movie project has ever tried to take a crack at the dense and endlessly confusing multiverse. It may have come up in Smallville at some point during its decade run but that would require me to actually watch Smallville, which is a fate I wouldn’t wish upon anyone except for maybe these people.

The Flash season two will premiere on Oct. 6 on The CW.

My 2015 San Diego Comic-Con Top 5

As just about all of you already know, last week was San Diego Comic-Con. While SDCC has strayed pretty far from its roots over the years (and for the record, that hasn’t always been a bad thing), there’s always been at least a handful of stuff to get really excited about. This time around, though, there were five big effing deals that have captured my attention. Without further ado, here’s the SDCC announcements that I was most excited for.

  1. The newest “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” trailer:
     
    Putting aside all of my concerns about this movie, it’s pretty damn hard not to be excited about it. Zack Snyder is a goddamned genius when it comes to spectacle and visceral thrills, and in many ways his inner eight-year-old is perfect for Batman and Superman’s first live-action onscreen pairing. Until the movie itself rolls around, I’ll save the judgment and just take in this breathtaking three and half minute trailer. We see our first glimpse of Wonder Woman in action (fleeting, but there nonetheless), Jesse Eisenberg’s “Silicon Valley” version of Lex Luthor (I’m thinking of trademarking that description), and that money shot at the end…damn.
  2. The Darth Vader crossover: Trade waiting all of the ongoing “Star Wars” comics Marvel is currently publishing is so far my biggest regret of 2015. It seems that Marvel is hell bent on punishing me for that disastrous decision even further. In addition to that new Chewbacca miniseries we’re getting, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada announced that the “Star Wars” and “Darth Vader” ongoing series will crossover in an event known as “Vader Down.” Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen will be handling the writing duties and Salvadore Larroca will be illustrating. I’m about to lose so much money this fall…
  3. Grant Morrison’s new DC projects: Weirdly enough, there were quite a few really cool SDCC announcements that actually had something to do with comics. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the great Grant Morrison is doing a followup to his “Multiversity” miniseries, called (I kid not) “Multiversity Too.” Considering how awesome “Multiversity” was – the whole series is this jubilantly insane celebration of every bizarre nook and cranny of the DC Multiverse – I’m definitely hungry for more. In addition to more of that stuff, Morrison will also be doing a series of “Batman: Black and White” graphic novels.
  4. The “Star Wars” behind the scenes video:
     
    This video was shown to fans at “Star Wars’” Hall H presentation. Watching it, it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm shared by JJ Abrams, the cast and crew. Look at those real sets! Those on location shoots! Was that an actual explosion?! Holy crap, that bucking bronco Millennium Falcon cockpit looks like a blast! So far Operation: Make This as Different as Humanly Possible from the Prequels seems to be working out for Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and co.
  5. This: If you don’t like this, we can’t be friends.

The Brilliance of the Ahsoka Face

Ahsoka in a state of shock. Image courtesy of Agents of Geek.

Ahsoka in a state of shock. Image courtesy of Agents of Geek.

During “The Siege of Lothal,” the second season premiere of Disney XD’s “Star Wars Rebels” animated series (read my thoughts on it here), there is a cool moment when Ahsoka reaches out with the Force and ascertains the identity of the Sith lord pursuing The Ghost: her former master, Anakin Skywalker. It’s some fairly heavy shit and it will no doubt be setting up even more heavy – and potentially tragic – shit down the line in season two.

While I thought it was great, the most memorable take away I have from that scene is the face Ahsoka makes in the above photo when she makes that awful realization. This is quite possibly the greatest face conveying shock and horror I’ve ever seen. It is also my new favorite facial expression. Expect this to become my go to JPEG when I need to express those same emotions in a comments thread.

I bring all of this up because I want to make a fun game out of this face by re-contextualizing Ahsoka’s expression with alternate scenarios where looking like that is a reasonable reaction. Now let’s add some levity to “Star Wars Rebels’” most dramatic moment.

  1. Ahsoka is a Cavaliers fan.
  2. Ahsoka just watched the brass knuckles scene from “True Detective’s” season premier.
  3. Ahsoka just listened to The Acacia Strain for the first time.
  4. Ahsoka just watched the Patrón Challenge.
  5. Ahsoka has overheard Obi-wan and Yoda using the term “turnt” in casual conversation.
  6. Ahsoka has just learned that the last In-N-Out on Coruscant has closed.
  7. Ahsoka found the search term “Togruta bukkake” in Anakin’s browser history.
  8. Ahsoka has just finished issue #15 of “Miracleman.”
  9. Ahsoka just became the first non-Wookie to actually see Wookie genitalia.
  10. Ahsoka just realized that the younglings in lightsaber practice aren’t using the safety blades.
  11. Ahsoka just read a sample of erotic “Luxsoka” fanfic.
  12. Ahsoka just discovered an early screenplay draft of “Revenge of the Sith” that prominently featured her, stuffed in George Lucas’ medicine cabinet.*

Wasn’t that fun? Please contribute your own Ahsoka Face Moment in the comments section.

*Rest assured, this was never a possibility. To my knowledge, Ahsoka Tano did not exist prior to development on “The Clone Wars” (both the theatrical film and the subsequent Cartoon Network series) in 2008.

‘Star Wars Rebels’ Briefly Comes Back; Is Still Awesome

Here are my thoughts on “The Siege of Lothal,” last night’s “Star Wars Rebels” TV movie:

  1. If getting James Earl Jones to reprise Darth Vader’s voice is considered fan service, than it is fan service I can get behind.

  2. The “Should we join the Rebels or sit this one out?” dilemma that the Ghost crew faces made for a good B-story. It actually had me sympathizing with Kanan, who I generally care about the least.

  3. If I recall correctly, Minister Maketh Tua is the first casualty we’ve seen on “Rebels” (ie, a character with a name and a speaking part, as opposed to the mostly nameless and faceless Stormtroopers).

  4. Ezra and Kanan’s duel with Vader was exceptionally well done and was also made unusually more visceral (for Disney standards) by that bit were Vader forces Ezra to hold his lightsaber against his own throat.

  5. Sabine once again displays a fondness for blowing shit up, which once again proves that her character is flawless. Also, visors on Mandalorian helmets are blaster proof.

  6. That bit with Ezra after the gang escaped from his parents’ house added some unexpected, though welcome, poignancy.

  7. I’m not sure how I missed Lando’s deep V-neck and medallion necklace in season one, but I guess that look suits him…

  8. Of course Vader could wipe his ass with an entire squadron of A-wings! No one should doubt this! On a more serious note that whole sequence is flawless.

  9. In case Kanan and Hera’s status as the surrogate parents of the Ghost crew wasn’t obvious enough, Hera drops this line: “Alright kids, do mom and dad proud!” Brilliant.

  10. Damn, Ahsoka finding out that it’s Skyguy under the helmet wrecked me. We’ve got a fascinating season ahead of us.

  11. Given the unfortunate history of mustache-wearing Imperial Navy officers, that Star Destroyer captain who failed to capture the Rebels and accidentally trapped Vader’s TIE fighter in the tractor beam probably doesn’t have a long career ahead of him.

  12. I’m sure Ahsoka has perfectly valid reasons for not sharing Vader’s identity with Kanan and Ezra, but it makes we wonder if there is such a thing as Master-Padawan privilege in the Jedi order. Like the ones between doctors and patients and lawyers and their clients? The sad part is that I’m not entirely kidding.

  13. Speaking of Ahsoka, I still haven’t seen enough of the adult version of her to get a good read on her character (she’s largely absent during this movie), but I’m still hoping that the writers retain at least some of her spunk and playfulness from “Clone Wars.” The “Star Wars” galaxy has an unfortunate habit of turning Jedi dry and stodgy once they reach veteran status.

  14. Chopper continues to give no shits and the show is so much better for it.

  15. Do we really have to wait until the fall for season two to begin properly?