Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Flash! Proceed with caution, speedsters. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “Magenta,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
The superhero genre isn’t always ideally suited to tackle issues like domestic abuse. Superheroes are, at their core, power fantasies intended for the young and the young at heart, so using them to comment on the most horrifying of real-world problems, especially those for which there are no easy solutions, has led to far more well-meaning misfires than meaningful treatises. That this week’s episode of The Flash manages to handle this kind of material with a fair amount of grace while also making full use of its completely restored ensemble results in the best episode of this still new season.
Alchemy is still on his mission of giving powers to those metahumans who possessed them in Flashpoint, and his victim this week is Frankie Kane: a teenage orphan (played by indie film starlet Joey King) whose mistreatment at the hands of her abusive father has made her especially susceptible to the corrupting lure of superpowers, even as her psyche cracks beneath their weight. She essentially trades one awful dad for another, and is only saved by Barry’s growing awareness of his own flaws, which allows him to identify them in others.
The biggest reveal in “Magenta,” however, is one we’ve all seen coming for over a year. Harrison Wells returns from Earth-Two with Jesse, who is finally revealed as a metahuman in the wake of last season’s recreated particle accelerator explosion. She’s delighted, of course, though her father is terrified for her life. Meanwhile, Wally is immediately distraught that he too, having been caught in the same blast, hasn’t gone meta. Though Joe is relieved that he doesn’t have two speedster sons to worry about.
The Flash has never shied away from its preoccupation with fathers and their children, and “Magenta” features this theme in spades. But despite its many heart-to-hearts the show never feels suffocating, and there’s a refreshing (for this show) lack of scenes depicting parents and their kids breaking down in tears. Instead, it lets the audience squeeze out a teardrop or two on their own, especially when Harrison finally realizes the world now needs his daughter just as much as he does, and lets her go with a bittersweet, “Run, Jesse, run.”
Iris and Barry’s new romance is also starting to grow on me. They’re not engaging in the cliched romantic tension of will-they-or-won’t-they, but they’re also not rushing into things; despite his speed being the perennial elephant in the room of their relationship. Iris, like most every member of the cast, gets a moment to shine on her own this week, when she tries to protect Frankie’s sadistic brute of a foster father from his daughter’s alter ego. While Jesse prevents a tanker from leveling the hospital in which he’s held, and Barry pulls a frightened Frankie out of Magenta’s fury. It’s that rare kind of climax that The Flash strives for but doesn’t always pull off: one that satisfies on an emotional and narrative level while offering plenty of special-effects-laden spectacle.
For once we’re not left with a threat looming over Iris and Barry’s nascent relationship, or the risk that someone they trust will soon betray them. Yet I can’t help but wonder who lurks beneath Alchemy’s mask. Julian is such an unpleasant jerk that it would be a tad too obvious to make him this season’s Big Bad. Although who else are we being asked to invest in enough for us to care if they’ve secretly gone to the dark side? For now, the answer will have to wait. A new rogue is targeting Central City next week, and Barry and a newly super-suited Jesse will face the menace of the Mirror Master.
— Barry begins this episode in remarkably good spirits considering just last week he learned his time-traveling shenanigans resulted in the death of Cisco’s brother.
— “Really? You guys are doing ‘not’ on Earth-Two?” Ah, Harry and Cisco, together again.
— Barry’s brief impersonation of Draco’s, er, I mean Julian’s accent is uncharacteristically mean-spirited of him, but the guy really did have it coming.
— Caitlin’s concern over manifesting Killer Frost’s powers is nicely alluded to in her talk with Jesse. I’m anticipating a battle between these two new friends almost as much as I’m dreading one.
— “You’re like a second daughter. You overshare your feelings.” Best Joe-Barry talk ever.
— “I put a panic button on everyone’s phone because we kept getting kidnapped.”
— “I was always too good at forgiving myself, Allen. You were never good enough.” Man, the dialogue is on point this week.
— Pretty every word of Wells and Jesse’s reconciliation got to me. But that moment he gives her her suit? Well, that’s when I kind of lost it.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).
Images: The CW