After two straight weeks of The Flash working through all the possible repercussions of Barry changing the timeline — twice — this week’s episode “Magenta” puts the show back on normal villain-of-the-week footing for the first time in a while. The “Flashpoint” reality continues to have an effect, with the menacing, masked Doctor Alchemy recreating the alternate world’s rogues and disrupting the daily business of Central City. But whatever his (or her) impact turns out to be on the season’s longer arc, for right now the writers don’t seem inclined to let it interfere with rip-roaring superheroics.
The Splash Page
The key moment in this week’s episode has nothing to do with main plot, really. “Magenta” is named after the supervillain moniker of the hero’s latest nemesis: a meek young woman named Frankie Kane who uses her latent magnetic abilities to wrap a lamppost around her abusive foster father. The real star of the show though is the return of Jesse Wells, aka “Jesse Quick,” a newly powered-up Earth-2 speedster who zips through the dimensional breach with her father Harrison Wells to show the S.T.A.R. Labs team what she can do.
It’s a joy to see the Wells family again, because Tom Cavanagh and Violett Beane are such charismatic actors who play well off the rest of the ensemble. But the arrival of Jesse Quick also signals that we’re moving into a phase of The Flash where powers will be plentiful. Last week we saw Cisco in full Vibe regalia, and he so effective on a rescue mission that Barry asked him to pitch in more often. We also saw Caitlin secretly trying out her icy Killer Frost powers. And now here’s Jesse, back on Earth-1 and ready to give the Flash a speedy sidekick.
This leads us to the most important image in “Magenta,” which involves poor Wally West stepping in front of a truck, hoping that the same Dark Matter-induced super-speed that manifested in Jesse will rise up in him during a life-or-death crisis. We already know that Wally had powers in the Flashpoint universe; and odds are that before long Doctor Alchemy will come calling and bring Kid Flash back. But right now, he’s looking more like the odd hero out with nothing to contribute to the group but enthusiasm. So he puts himself in mortal danger in a gripping scene (right before a commercial break). He does it mainly because he’s jealous of Jesse, who ultimately saves him from getting run over.
And why wouldn’t he be jealous? This episode builds to the inevitable confrontation between the Flash and Magenta, as the latter prepares to drop a giant metal ship on the hospital containing her brutish legal guardian. But the more important arc has to do with Harrison accepting that it’s amazing what his daughter can do and that he shouldn’t try and stop her just because he’s afraid that she’ll get hurt. That’s what The Flash should be about: Amazing superheroes awing spectators with their skills. Thats the legacy that Wally wants to be a part of. That’s why the real climax of “Magenta” isn’t Barry talking Frankie into putting her big boat down safely, but rather Harrison Wells looking his kid square in the eye and saying, “Now run … Jesse … run!”
Magenta’s storyline is enjoyable primarily because it’s so uncomplicated: She’s a menace (though with good reason, given her rough home-life), the team comes up with a plan to defeat her, and that’s that. But her appearance here does reveal a little more about Doctor Alchemy, whom she confronts in the middle of the episode. Apparently, this mysterious new archenemy appears to former Flashpoint metas in dreams, offering to give them back their powers — which is a deal Frankie takes under the condition that she gets to stop being the scared little girl who gets beaten all the time by her foster father. Otherwise though, the Alchemy story creeps along, aside from some clues unearthed by Julian Albert about the possibly Doctor-generated “husks” which keep popping up all over town.
The other big subplot this week is strictly of the soap opera variety (and by no means in a bad way), as Barry and Iris go out on their first date. The episode opens with their awkward first attempt, where they make boring small talk and fail to click; and then it ends with a much more exciting second effort, where they both admit that it’s silly to try and keep the Flash out of their romantic life, since he’s such a major part of who they’ve become. It’s smart writing whenever a TV episode lets its themes resonate in every aspect of an episode. The way the Barry/Iris date plays out does just that. The Flash, like this romance, isn’t about to start being a story about not having powers.
To Be Continued
The lone disappointment about the Jesse Quick scenes in “Magenta” is that toward the end Harrison gives his daughter her own speedster costume, and we don’t get to see her in it. There’s something to look forward to for next week. Also, in the closing scenes an unseen figure — possibly Doctor Alchemy — appears to kill the Rival at Iron Heights. And the teaser for the next episode promises the introduction of one of the comic book Flash’s greatest rogues, Mirror Master. With all of that in the wings, it’s fair to say that this third season is getting off to a strong start, even with all the chronology-bending in the first two weeks.
- Longtime comics readers first met Frankie Kane in a 1982 The New Teen Titans issue, where she was introduced as an old friend of Wally West who believed she’d been possessed by a demon. Once she figured out that she actually had magnetic powers, she became a hero for a while — and also, for a time, Wally’s girlfriend. But over the past three decades of DC continuity she’s wavered between positive and negative … magnet-style. Magenta’s not a major Flash character, but she’s an complicated one, and it’ll be fun to have in the mix for the show in the future. (Plus: She’s played by Joey King! Star of Ramona and Beezus! That’s a good get.)
- The return of Harrison Wells means the return of Tom Cavanagh’s bizarre, halting line-readings, which have reached Jeff Goldblum/Christopher Walken-levels of weirdness over the past two years. Part of the kick of Harrison’s “run Jesse” line is that it’s delivered with those curious pauses.
- As soon as Harrison and Jesse pop through the breach from Earth-2, he can tell things are different, and because he’s a super-genius, he immediately — and angrily — realizes that Barry’s messed with the timeline.
- Earth-2 has different pop culture crazes than Earth-1, but Jesse insists that her father’s new habit of adding a Waynes World “-NOT!” to the end of sentences is purely his own nerdy idea.
- It’s good that Jesse called out the inherent sexism of her dad’s hesitancy toward her powers, noting that the Flash was putting criminals away almost as soon as became super-fast. Let Jesse be quick!
- Cisco’s mostly a non-presence in this episode, perhaps because the show’s keeping him in mourning for his brother rather than rushing him back to being happy-go-lucky. Still, he does get one good line, when he hears that Frankie Kane is calling herself “Magenta” and he says, “Meh.”