My, my – what a busy episode, this “Magenta” (S3:E3). The show had to introduce a sympathetic villain driven to superpowered rage in response to abuse from her foster father, but it had to do so in such a way that said abuse was defined in family friendly viewing hour terms, mostly sticking to vague statements like “I just wanted him to stop hurting me.” On top of that, Jesse and Harry needed to be reintroduced into the show, largely picking up where they left off, i.e., he’s overprotective, she’s a teenage girl prone to eyerolling and melodramatic exits from rooms after talking to her dad. Meanwhile, Jesse and Wally’s friendship/potential romance needed to be re-establlished, the secret existence of Caitlin’s freeze powers needed to be further developed and Barry and Iris had to go on their first date. Oh yeah, also Julian had to again be super suspicious of Barry, and Wally had to almost get himself killed as part of his new story arc in which he’s desperate to have superpowers.
It’s no wonder then that there were multiple glorified “Are we still talking about me, here?” moments, first with Caitlin talking about herself while consoling Jesse and then with Barry projecting like crazy onto the villain of the week while trying to get through to her. Sure, it worked, Barry, but you got lucky with one wild guess about her foster father after another, awkward dialogue penned to more mirror your own mental state and guilt over Flashpoint than to actually speak to the specific situation at hand.
All of that, and a scene where an ocean tanker was this close to being dropped on to a hospital.
Oh, Flash. How do you manage to stay so watchable despite being so increasingly overstuffed?
Favorite Moments: Because Tom Cavanagh will save an episode just by plomping down on a set of stairs and telling his TV daughter, “You know you’ve always been my hero, but now it’s time for me to let you be one for everyone else.” And the show will do something somewhat newsish for it, such as eschew a final fight in favor of allowing Barry to win by simply talking to the villain and empathizing with them.
Shipper’s Delight: Barry and Iris tried to be a normal couple for all of one date before deciding boring, non-Flash related life stinks. Like, who really wants to hear Barry talk about all the paperwork he had to do for Julian?
Sidnote: Was this the first concrete acknowledgment in quite some time that Barry sits at his desk at his job for hours and actually works? Apart from his customary walk-and-talks into/out of the police precinct with Joe/Iris/whoever and occasional appearances at crime scenes to collect evidence his days seem to be spent almost entirely at STAR Labs. However, it’s nice to be reminded that he’s often just doing the boring stuff of life when he’s not on screen.
Anyway, Barry and Iris are going through that Ross/Rachel, Penny/Leonard early awkward phase of transitioning from friendship to romance, and while they’re not having to get drunk just to kiss each other for the first time ala Penny/Leonard they’re also not totally in sync yet. It’s a fun and relatable dynamic to watch, if a bit marred by the pesky “It’s not incest, but it’s certainly a tad abnormal” reminder that they spent their pre-teen and teen years together in the same house being raised by the same father. I will be very curious to see how the show handles the inevitable escalation of the physical side of their relationship, like will it be at all weird for anyone, particularly Joe and Wally, if Barry and Iris start having sex?
However, the real next phase might be Barry learning to make time for Iris considering how often his life as Flash called him away from her this episode.
Dad Moments: Totally fair point, Joe. The initial dark matter wave from the particle accelerator impacted nearly the entire town, and statistically speaking very few people came away with superpowers from the ordeal. However, Harry did say some people take longer than others to manifest their powers. Maybe that’ll be the explanation for Caitlin’s secret powers in this new timeline.
Theories About the Big Bad: I have no idea who Alchemy is. I mean, the obvious candidate is Julian, largely because he’s the new guy who just joined the cast and the last time we were in this situation Teddy Sears turned out to secretly be playing the big bad the whole time. But they wouldn’t do that two seasons in a row, would they? Or maybe that’s exactly what they want us to think! No, seriously, Julian is not Alchemy. Or is he? He’s not. Or is….this could keep on going for a while. Best to stop now.
I will say this about Alchemy: it seems abundantly clear they are building toward Wally getting his Kid Flash powers back from Alchemy at some point this season. Speaking of which…
Things That Got a Little Lost in the Speed Force (aka My Nitpicks Section):
1. Hey, Julian, you realize that British accent of your’s doesn’t grant you some kind of invisible force field, right? When you walk up to someone you suspect of being a dangerous metahuman and openly antagonize them you’d better have thought it all the way through because Flash won’t always be there to save your ass. That being said, aw, that British accent is cute, and you’re right – something’s totally up with that flaky Barry Allen.
2. Um, did Wally’s desperation to have superpowers of his own come a bit out of nowhere? Or is it a natural extension of his ongoing desire to find a purpose in his life after being saved by Flash last season? Additionally, while it might have come off a bit “Aw, now Jesse has powers! No fair. I want powers too” in this episode it is fair for him to wonder why she changed and he didn’t after they were both hit by the same dark matter wave.
3. Barry’s the fastest man alive, as he is so fond of telling us. He couldn’t have spared a second to zoom Iris home after superspeeding her to God knows where on their second date? I initially thought he took her to a completely different city, and then just stranded her there. However, I suppose it must have simply been downtown Central City. Still, she shows up in her nicest little blue dress, and then is instantly taken to the opposite side of the city before being left to fend for herself, simply so Barry could go to STAR Labs and talk to his Team? Dude, Iris is on your Team. Just take her with you.
4. Did Magenta’s foster father go to jail because he admitted to the abuse in front of Iris? Also, how exactly did Caitlin find her a new home so quickly in Keystone City? Should we add social services agent to Dr. Snow’s ever-growing list of job responsibilities?