Welcome back, Barry! We missed you. If you read my last review you know that I wasn’t a big fan of The Flash’s previous episode, but “All-Star Team Up“ is definitely an improvement, even if it’s not quite the rousing return I was hoping for. I love that the CW is building up their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s already much more fun than the dour cinematic outings DC has to offer. At this point I’m more excited for the small screen version of the Justice League than the big screen version. At least the CW seems to really care about this world and the characters that inhabit it. This latest episode gives us all the zippy one-liners and fast-paced action we’ve come to expect from the show. To top it off, we have the much anticipated team up between Barry and Ray Palmer, a.k.a. The Atom!
Things are off and running at full speed right from the start with a hilarious, action-packed car chase. Joe and Eddie (who is now fully aware that Barry is The Flash) are chasing down some criminals. They give Barry a call to ask for some assistance and before they can even register what’s happened, Barry has already delivered them one of the baddies. They take out the driver and then head to a jewelry store to arrest a couple more goons. All in a day’s work, complete with fist bumps and high-fives between Barry and Joe while Eddie looks on like the awkward third wheel he’s become.
But, all is not well in Central City. A professor is mysteriously murdered in her car…by a swarm of bees.
The STAR Labs gang looks into what might be the cause of this random bee attack, but before they can get too far in their research, they get a surprise visit from Felicity who’s just dropping by because, you know, it was about time for another Arrow/Flash crossover. She introduces Barry and the rest of the group to her new boyfriend Ray Palmer, who makes a grand entrance in his sexy new Atom get-up. They throw in a nice little Superman reference just to remind us that Brandon Routh did indeed play the Man of Steel in a long, lost day and age. (As a Superman Returns fan, it makes me so happy to see Routh still finding a way to do the whole superhero thing.)
After some STAR Labs shenanigans, Felicity invites Barry and Eddie out on a mega date with her, Ray, and Iris. You see, now that Eddie knows Barry’s secret identity, he’s been having trouble keeping it secret from Iris. Iris knows he’s hiding something and is starting to get fed up, so the idea is that this dinner will allow Eddie to get back on her good side. Not so. The dinner ends awkwardly when Iris, for some odd reason (and perhaps because her character is slowly but surely becoming the show’s most obnoxious) she decides to bring their relationship issues to the table. Literally. Because it’s an actual dinner table, you dig? Eh, never mind.
Despite Barry’s attempts to convince Iris that Eddie is just trying to do what’s best for her, Iris feels certain Eddie is cheating on her and gives him an ultimatum: Either tell her what’s going on or it’s time for a break-up. Poor Eddie doesn’t want to reveal that he knows Barry’s the Flash, but what else can he do?? He stands there helplessly while Iris storms off. Glad to know she’s so understanding. It’s a shame that Iris’ character is devolving into a conniving little brat. It really feels like the writers aren’t sure what to do with her, so they’ve just turned her into an obstacle for practically everyone to side-step. Seriously, Eddie, you can do better.
Is it weird that I’ve spent most of this review talking about all the soap opera stuff more than the villain? That’s because the villain in this episode, Brie Larven (played by Emily Kinney of Walking Dead fame), does next to nothing. Seriously, her subplot feels like an afterthought to all the other stuff going on. Kinney doesn’t have much to work with and gets stuck with some truly awful bee puns and one-liners. The whole thing feels so disconnected from everything going on in this episode, it almost feels like it was written separately as a ‘just in case’ storyline and then shoved in at the last minute. It would be a bit more forgiveable if this was just another episode, but it’s a little disappointing that when the Flash and Atom finally team up, their opponent isn’t even worth the trouble.
The only thing of consequence that occurred in this episode was Cisco’s weird ‘dreams.’ He’s starting to remember the alternate timeline where he discovered Dr. Wells’ true identity and was murdered for it. Things are definitely going to start to get interesting when the rest of the group discovers Barry’s time-travel abilities and the repercussions thereof.
So, aside from the awkward, pointless villain subplot, I’d say this was a pretty decent episode. Not a big standout, but at least it was pretty fun. It’s a shame that so much of it felt throwaway, considering it was advertised as the big, long-awaited team up between the Atom and the Flash. They don’t actually do much teaming up, but it was still nice to see Brandon Routh pay a visit to Central City. I think we’re getting to the point where these kinds of episodes are going to feel more and more frustrating as we draw closer to the finale. It’s hard to get invested in underdeveloped, throwaway villains and subplots when we’re well aware of the major threats looming on the horizon. Is it really so much to ask that we focus more on the Reverse Flash story arc in these final few episodes?
The Flash: All Star Team Up is fun overall, but as we approach the finale, these throwaway episodes are more than a little frustrating. It would have been nice to see Barry and Ray team up against a worthy foe too. Maybe next time.