There really is no other show on TV right now like The Flash, and I’m not sure there ever has been. The Adam West Batman show of the 1960s was, for decades, the first thing that came to mind when one mentioned “superhero television,” and it offered the outrageous characters that had long inhabited comic books as pure camp. More recent DC TV efforts like Smallville adopted a “no tights, no flights” philosophy borne out of both effects limitations and what too often felt like embarrassment on the part of their producers at the the material they’d inherited. Even Arrow, in its early days, followed Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy in treating its protagonist and his world as realistically as possible, with a minimum of wonderment. But The Flash… Well, The Flash is a whole other story. Here, an actress like The Walking Dead‘s Emily Kinney, debuting in this week’s episode as the bee-whispering Bug-Eyed Bandit, a nom de plume for the equally ridiculous “Brie Larvan” (a gender-swapped version of Bertram Larvan, who first appeared as the Bandit in 1966’s Atom #26), gets to deliver lines like “You think you understand the sting of betrayal? I’ll show you what it’s like to be stung!” (in honeycomb-patterned attire and headquarters no less). And rather than act as though she’s above the material or invite the audience to mock it with her, she, like so many of this season’s other guest villains — from Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold to Mark Hamill’s Trickster — instead looks like she’s just having an absolute blast with material that was always meant to be fun. Sadly, if there’s one thing lacking in this week’s episode, it’s more of Kinney’s jaded roboticist, who seeks revenge upon her former employer, Mercury Labs, for firing her — with a swarm of lethal mechanized bees.
Given the episode’s title, and the widely circulated news that Arrow‘s billionaire inventor Ray Palmer was coming to Central City this week with his fan-favorite girlfriend Felicity Smoak, it’s no surprise that most of “All Star Team Up” is devoted to the adorably awkward couple. Arriving at STAR Labs in an attempt to improve Ray’s super-suit, with which he intends to fight crime as the Atom, the two soon realize they’ve come at a most inconvenient time. Barry is starting to lose it over having to pretend he doesn’t know Wells is the Reverse-Flash, Eddie is starting to lose it over having to pretend to Iris that he doesn’t know Barry is the Flash, and Cisco is haunted by a series of nightmares in which he recalls being killed by Wells. And all poor Felicity wanted was a break from the gloom of Starling City.
There’s some levity on hand, however, in the bromance that’s struck up between Cisco and Ray (ala The Avengers‘ Tony Stark and Bruce Banner), two hyper-intelligent, perennially cheerful tech heads who take as much delight in collaborating on the name of Kinney’s antagonist as in making some upgrades to the Atom’s outfit. Speaking of which, the episode makes dual use of of the Bug-Eyed Bandit in that she provides the final inspiration for Ray to “go smaller” with his high-flying invention. Here’s hoping we soon get to see him battling evil, as he does in the comics, as the Mighty Mite, if only to further distinguish himself from Iron Man — and to educate the world that Ant-Man was not the first tiny titan of the funnybooks.
Barry’s principal arc this week focuses on his doubts as to whether he can trust Caitlin and Cisco with what he’s learned about Wells’ identity. Sure they’ve demonstrated their loyalty countless times, but so has Wells. Felicity offers her belief in the duo, recalling how she once saw beyond Oliver Queen’s deception to the good man within. In the end, Cisco takes a bee for Ray and Caitlin, and Barry and Joe share their findings on STAR’s duplicitous founder.
It’s a little disappointing we don’t get to see the Flash and the Atom fighting side by side, or even one another, as we did Barry and Oliver a few months back in “Flash vs. Arrow” and “The Brave and the Bold.” But it’s hard to complain when Ray gets as big an opportunity as he does here to demonstrate his suit’s capabilities. There’s probably more of the Atom in flight in the last ten minutes of “All Star Team Up” than in all his appearances in Arrow to date. We also get a return appearance by actress Amanda Pays, who again reprises he role as Tina McGee (which she originated on the 1990-91 Flash show). It’s Dr. McGee, the target of the Bandit’s wrath, who alerts Barry to the fact that Wells was once a good man who changed dramatically when his wife died.
There’s again not a lot to be gotten out of the Iris-Barry-Eddie triangle. Iris distrusts Eddie’s sudden silent routine, so she dumps him and moves back in with Joe and Barry. Yet in the final image of a forlorn Eddie, a seed is planted that should soon grow into the trigger-happy cop we’ve glimpsed in the show’s recent promos — along with an even bigger team-up on the horizon with the DC TV Universe’s assembled Justice Leaguers.
— We’ve had three actors reprising roles they created on the first live-action Flash show, as well as its star John Wesley Shipp as a semi-regular, on the new Flash. So can we please have Barry visit a parallel universe in which the events of the original show took place?
— “It’s kind of like I’m dating Barry but in Oliver’s body… A sentence you’ll never repeat to anyone.”
— I’m counting the seconds until the Ray/Cisco man-crush videos start appearing on YouTube.
— “Oh she’s good. She’s like my nemesis. I never had a nemesis before. I kind of like it.”
Next week: A disbelieving Caitlin confronts the truth about the increasingly suspicious Dr. Wells.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).