Everybody prepare, I’m gonna get a little Mamet on your ass.
For those of you unaware, David Mamet is a world renowned playwright, author and script writer known for his stark, gritty and realistic portrayals of human relationships. Of of his more well known tropes is exploring and exploiting latent homosexuality in platonic male relationships. It’s drawn the respect of many, the ire of some and has influenced many other writers in all mediums. I postulate that his writing is playing a major part in the musings of the writers for “The Flash”.
This weeks episode is a study in the different dynamics of love and relationships. In it we have the old school criminal, Bonnie and Clyde style love with baddies Peek-A-Boo (Shawna Baez, played with an eccentric naivety by Britne Oldford) and Clay Parker (played less than convincingly by Micah Parker); Barry and Caitlin’s burgeoning interest in one another; Caitlin and Ronnie, in the form of her actually trying for a change to get over him; and lastly- and I may be going out on a limb here, so bear with me- Cisco and The Pied Piper, aka Hartley Rathaway.
And the worst part is- I’m gonna make you wait for an explanation on that last one!
I’ll tackle Shawna and Clay’s relationship first. Despite a interesting performance from the former, the whole thing is quite a bit on the unbelievable side. We’re led to believe that these two are in your classic us-against-the-world, poor-criminals-living-on-a-prayer relationship, but everything about their relationship says otherwise. First off is the car. I’m no automotive expert, but it looks pretty expensive. Way more than projects girl and guy could afford- unless they lift cars for a living. In which case: why wouldn’t they sell the expensive (read: easily traceable) car and get something with a little less profile. (Don’t even get me started on continuity errors with the car: how did they get back to the car after running away from Barry, who was standing right in front of it? Why didn’t Barry take the car in for evidence?) Now for those of you who didn’t catch it- that bar that Barry and Caitlin went to? Not the bar that these two used to frequent. More on that later. But the big infraction comes from the lack of passion in their relationship. The two regard each other as though they had been married for twenty years. There’s no spark, no passion, no umph. It really makes there parts in the episode fall flat.
Next in this deposition on love comes Barry and Caitlin. At this point, their plot makes a lot of sense and it’s kind of a breath of fresh air for the viewers. It’s good to see Barry doing something other than pining after Iris. It’s good to see Danielle Panabaker in…well in that dress and not made up “like a High School Principal”. It also holds the most informative minutes for us men out there. Barry’s case is a classic case of the beta male becoming Alpha. When’s he’s a beta, he’s desperately pining over Iris who, in turn, shuns him at every turn. But the two women he is relatively distant and unavailable to (read: masculine to) essentially throw themselves at him. Caitlin tricks him into going to a bar (see above) so she can have a shot at him and later basically lets him undress her (kudos to Barry for acting like a complete gentleman in that scene). Linda Park gets next to nothing from him and she gives him her number (I’m gonna have to find that app and remember that line though). It’s a classic example of how, when you act masculine, you get the girl.
Throughout the season we’ve had glimpses into Caitlin and Ronnie’s relationship. Now what’s interesting here is, if you read the DC Comics, Caitlin’s character becomes the villainess Killer Frost, while the seemingly devilish Ronnie/Martin Stein character Firestorm becomes a good guy hero. I don’t think that’s where the writers are going with this, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition. Anyways, I digress. Where the show misfires in their relationship is, well, not showing it. We’re told that they have a great relationship and Ms. Panabaker does a good enough job showing how Ronnie’s death affects her, but we really don’t see how they worked together as a couple. This episode attempts to rectify that by showing a natural progression in women when they’ve been through a bad break-up at a young age, especially when the aforementioned beau was a good guy. They get desperate and sloppy -sometimes sloppy drunk- and typically tend to latch onto the first thing that resembles their ex-guy. Unfortunately, in this case, that means Barry. What this means, essentially, is that we’re going to be getting too many episodes with Caitlin now pining after Barry before she realizes that he views her as just a friend or worse- just a work colleague.
Okay. Now the big one. Cisco and Hartley. But how, you ask. They hate each other, you say. It’s obvious from the last episode that Hartley Rathaway got under Cisco’s skin something fierce. Hartley was already an established expert in his field, while Cisco was just an emerging scientist. Though they haven’t explored this on screen (and it’s likely they won’t), it’s reasonable to assume that Cisco and Hartley had a huge rivalry going, each pushing each other to be better in the process. And look what happens to Cisco when Hartley leaves: he creates the guns that eventually go to Captain Cold and Heatwave. In other words, he gets sloppy and probably isn’t as good without his literal better half there. Now Hartley is a cunning enough fox to know this and exploits Cisco latent feelings towards him in order to escape. One could easily draw a parrallel between Shawna’s breakout of Clay and Cisco’s “breakout” of Hartley. They needed each other because they were worse without each other.
With that in mind, I applaud the series for letting these two actors play. Once again Hartley is played with a menacing cunning by Andy Mientus, while Cisco starts to come into his own by way of Carlos Valdes. By the way, there is an awesome scene where we get to see Cisco release his inner bad-ass on Hartley. If he ever does become Vibe, this is the foundation upon which they can easily build. Now, there’s nothing explicitly romantic about their relationship. As I said earlier, their relationship is expressed with hues of Mamet, in that it is platonic and latent. And most importantly it is absolutely brilliantly done by the two actors.
Now to move away from the Mamet side of things, I have to give a special paragraph to the father/son chemistry of Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp as Barry and Henry Allen, respectively. It is an odd one- Henry being the large, probably former jock father to a skinny, nerdy son. But nonetheless Henry Allen beams with pride at his son and, especially in the touching last scene in the prison hospital, Mr. Gustin does a superb job of showing how much his fathers approval means to him.
Oh and Gorilla Grodd makes an appearance at the end. I really hope they do that well, because that could easily make or break the series.
Danielle Panabaker as Dr. Caitlin Snow. We finally get to see Caitlin outside of a laboratory setting and, given the nearly meatless lines her character is given, Ms. Panabaker really paints a detailed picture of just how desperate and broken up Caitlin is over Ronnie’s death.
Carlos Valdez as Cisco Ramon. I really like how they’re fleshing out Cisco’s character and Mr. Valdes makes a great show of it along the way.
John Wesley Shipp as Henry Allen. Really for the first time in the series We get to see Henry and Barry interact without a glass pane in front of them, and even though they still aren’t allowed any pats on the shoulders or fatherly embraces, the two speak volumes to each other in a very few lines. Mr. Shipp really lets his experience both as an actor and in the world of Flash shine through here.
Britne Oldford as Shawna Baez aka Peek-A-Boo. Ms. Oldford doesn’t have a lot to work with thanks to a flat performance from her counterpart, but she still manages to shine as a forlorn lover who deep down knows the heartache she will eventually have to suffer because of the man she loves.
Since “The Flash” seems to be chalk full of them lately, I felt it necessary to include a brief list of them.
Shawna and Clay wind up in the exact same car they ran away from when Barry was standing in front of it.
Barry should have taken that car in as some sort of evidence.
Despite their characters being brilliantly portrayed, Cisco Ramon is a terrible prisoner guard.
It literally took The Flash about a second to run back to the aforementioned car and open the door and in that brief time Clay somehow escaped without Barry noticing. I mean, how far can a non-metahuman go in one second?