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The Flash - Abra Kadabra - Review: "Borderline between enjoyable and frustrating"

It’s hard to grade shows, you know? You have your 1 to 10 systems, your F to As, but those are pretty meaningless if you don’t have a criteria for them, just putting them at the bottom of your review is supposed to mean something, which is why on this backhalf I hardened my criteria for reviewing The Flash, so the grades would mean something. And sadly, aside from episodes 10 and 11 and the musical crossover, The Flash has been mediocre or boring to me. This episode, in particular, was somewhere in the middle of mediocre and engaging, while still not completely fun. So, what should it be? Should I give it a B- to highlight that it is a slight improvement from other episodes? Or a C+ to showcase its mistakes? You’ll find out at the bottom of the review, but I wanted to tell you know so you understand that, going into this review, I’m a bit conflicted: I was engaged and frustrated with this week’s episode.

So, let’s break it down: what didn’t work for me? The predictable plot of the episode. Once again, a captured villain lies to get his way and someone on Team Flash believes them out of desperation. I’m sick of this, not only other shows have done it to death, The Flash has done it to death. I get it, Joe is desperate to save Iris, he took a shot, but come on, did he really think he was going to keep his end of the bargain? The guy showed psychopathic tendencies all over the episode, he doesn’t have any signs of empathy, so of course he was going to escape as soon as he opened the door. Joe should know this, he is a cop. Instead, he should have come up with a better way to force the guy to talk, alongside the team, after all Gypsy gave them time.

My biggest problem with Team Flash right now is that they are not using their brains: with all the tech they have, they could have easily, I don’t know, make gas truth serum? Study the tech on his body to disable it? At least if that failed they would have tried something. Or, who knows? Maybe they have knocked him out and have Cisco vibe him? There were so many options to get him to cooperate that it is mind boggling, for me, that a team of scientist with access to sci-fi technology wouldn’t explore any of these angles, or that Joe, a cop, who should be able to identify a psychopath on the spot, would fall for the offer and not seek cooperation from the scientist at Star Labs.

From an emotional standpoint, I get where the writers wanted to go, they wanted to explore Joe’s frustration, powerlessness and fear, and that’s all well and good, but the way they did it compromised his credibility: he’s supposed to be smarter than this. I can forgive him, but I feel the writers are failing so hard with him, like they drop the ball and make Joe look like an idiot who acts on feelings. You knows what that is called? Impulsive, and that’s not a good trait, for a cop or a person. It is very frustrating to see a character constantly portrayed as such as well.

And as much as I like Gypsy, why did she have to shout the whole episode? Again, I get her frustration, I really do, she is hurt and she is seeking for revenge, but couldn’t she have one scene where she didn’t shout? She was so loud that I had to down the volume on some of her scenes, it was really annoying. And again, I understand the writer’s and actress’ choice of portraying her frustration, but they overextended, both writing wise and acting wise, it was off.

I’ll lightly take on that last post credit scene, in which after pulling her necklace, Caitlin is revived and turns into Killer Frost. Jullian, didn’t you think that after pulling off the necklace, you could, I don’t know, PUT IT BACK ON ONCE THE WOUND CLOSED?! I’m sorry, but during the scene I was like “she is stable, put it back on, put it back on! And we’re back with Killer Frost…”. I really hope they don’t overextend with it, because as much as “Killer Frost” was the best episode this season, I don’t want them to just keep on going with that forever.

I’m also not too thrilled with Barry’s decision to go to the future. Didn’t Jay Garrick told him speedsters are not supposed to go there? Well, there goes a new lesson Barry has to learn the hard way: ignore what a more experienced speedster told you, maybe you get scolded by the speed force again, but hey, you get to save Iris… maybe? I don’t but it, the answer is probably going to magically show up in the season finale. Maybe it’s friendship, maybe it’s someone yelling “Run Barry, Run!” and he magically runs faster, maybe… whatever, I don’t believe the show will give proper build up to it. At this point I just wish he went to Kara and say “please help me save my fience√©, here is the date where she is supposed to die”, I’m sure Kara would be “Sure thing pal! Like you, I’ll be there in a flash *winks*”, that I think would be more believable than anything the show’s writer are planning to do. I have little faith on them guys and gals.

In fact, can Barry just call everyone to help him out just this once? Have Oliver on the roof, the Legends hovering on the Wave Rider, Supergirl there to punch the crap out of Savitar, and he returns the favor by helping them in their respectives shows. I know, I know, each show is worried on their own stuff, but I think it would be a more epic finale than anything else they may be cooking. I hope to be wrong about that and be surprised, but discounting the musical episode, this is yet another episode of The Flash that has me longing for its potential.

But not everything is doom and gloom: I did manage to enjoy the episode, and that’s in spite of absolutely hating Abra Kadabra: not because he is a psychopath (good psychopathic villains can be fun to have), but because the actor lacked charisma. Who cast him? I swear he was sucking the charisma out of the room. But in spite of that, I thought the episode was still interesting: I did like his powers and his backstory, in paper it was intriguing, and while actor lacked charisma, the visuals alone kept me interested and engaged.

I liked the superhero team up we have here: Barry, Wally (who did little, but hey, he was there), Cisco and Gypsy, make for an exciting combination. I like to see Cisco both on the computers, tech and in the field, fighting as a superhero. I think The Flash wins big time when he fights alongside people, it makes for good spectacle (and here’s hoping Caitlin eventually controls her powers and joins the roster) and it makes for enjoyable screen time.

I think Barry and Iris’ angst was well played in this episode: when they are not worries about being a couple or not, the show and the actors actually are able to pull off the emotional weight of knowing their future: the script sold their fear and anxiety without playing them for fools (like the show did with Joe now) and I think the show has portrayed Iris in a very heroic manner as she doesn’t want her life to be picked over others: I think she is inspired to be a hero, and she stands up to fear and chooses others over potential ways to save herself, and that’s great, honorable. At first, it was like Iris was just doing it because the plot demanded her to, but now her heroism feels honest to me, because it doesn’t come with lack of a fear.

Jullian and Caitlin… I’m on the fence. They were selling the couple well at the beginning of the season, but now they have struggled. The writers clearly wanted to push them together and now it seems forced: one week they are ok, the other not, then yes, and now again trouble in paradise. This flip flopping is lazy writing, it’s far too often to be believable. There are on and off couples, but the way the show does it fails to have any credibility, you feel the writers just slapping you with plot. So, for as much chemistry Tom Felton and Danielle Panabaker have, you can’t outweigh force contrivances.

So… the character writing had some hits and miss. Barry, Iris and Cisco were all winners this week (minus the Barry choice at the last minute), while Caitlin, Jullian and Joe (especially Joe) were either underserved or outrightly bad written. The pace of the episode was enjoyable, the villain had interesting powers, but the actor lacked charm… it’s really hard to grade this one guys.

Just because I’ve been so hard on the show lately, I’ll give it a break: at least I wasn’t completely frustrated or bored out of my mind, so I’ll cut the show some slack. But it better start picking up, because dropping is becoming more and more tempting. Come on Flash, pull yourself together and deliver the great stories you can deliver.

Grade: B-

Quick Note: remember that so far this season, The Flash hasn’t gone below C- (besides that half of the second episode I gave a D+, but the episode averaged a C, I think), so all the episodes this season had a passing grade. This means that none of them were a failure, but many have been disappointing. The Flash is not a bad show, but it is certainly going into a bad writing route in which the writers make bad choices and the weight of the show is being lifted by the cast, but that’s not enough: the writers need to break from tropes and clich√©s.

So, if I’m hard on the show, don’t think it’s me saying that The Flash is bad. It may be mediocre, but never bad. I want it to be better, so sometimes I’ll be harsh, but so far, none episode is truly terrible (though some may flirt with it). I want the show to be better though.

Here is a little breakdown of what each grade means to me:
A: Outstanding, memorable episode that will be remembered (like “Fast Enough”).
A-: Excellent, yet not completely outstanding or memorable enough (like “Tricksters”)
B+: Very enjoyable, with some flaws, but nothing that can’t be overlooked (like “Duet”)
B: Good, but with noticeable flaws that bug, but doesn’t bring the episode down a lot (like “King Shark).
B-: Enjoyable, but with many frustrating issues that keep the episode from being truly good (this one).
C+: Interesting, yet constantly frustrating. Its flaws are obvious and while I can enjoy many aspects of the show, the frustration keeps coming back (like “Into The Speed Force”).
C: Passable, but truly mediocre. It’s not outright bad, but I do feel annoyed constantly, and there are redeeming aspects to it, but there is also a lack of interest (like the two part “Attack on Gorilla/Central City”).
C-: Barely passable; the character writing is bad, the plot works to a bare minimum and while there is a flicker of good on it that can keep you going, the episode is mostly enraging (like “The Wrath of Savitar”).
The following ones have not a Flash episode equivalent for me (yet).
D+: A clear failure: the episode fails in all fronts, and it only has to showcase for it good ideas bad executed, some decent acting and some potential.
D: Bigger failure: acting is what keeps it from going below plus some little moment here or there decently written, but the plot is completely and utterly absurd and badly executed.
D-: Almost no redemption: acting is what keeps it afloat an “F”.
F: Complete Failure: not even the acting can save it from being atrocious,