With few episodes left, and so much on the line, you might expect The Flash to waste little time. But given that the first season’s big bad is already safely entrenched, The Flash has more time to play with, and that’s precisely what the writers did with “All Star Team Up.”
Though primarily a filler episode, “All Star Team Up” did bring a few welcome additions to Central City. Joining the S.T.A.R. Labs team this week were Felicity Smoak and Ray Palmer, the latter of which has been jet setting around Starling City as the Atom the past few episodes. It was nice to see Arrow folks on a Tuesday evening, furthering the fiction that the two shows are in the same universe, and it doesn’t need to be a crossover event to bring them together. While it’s always a pleasure to witness Emily Bett Rickards and Grant Gustin sharing the screen, and Brandon Routh fit in superbly with the brighter demeanor of The Flash, the two guest stars didn’t bring much narratively to the episode, and overall served little purpose. The writers failed to utilize the two in any significant way until the final moments, hampering the episode. There wasn’t much to hamper, though, as the hour proved to be one of the biggest duds of the first season.
The biggest issue with “All Star Team Up” was the lack of an interesting main story. The Flash has done a commendable job of creating inviting single episode stories throughout the year, but this hour would not rank among its finest. The main villain here wasn’t a metahuman, but a scientist hellbent on revenge. Already a familiar trope, the story wasn’t aided by the fact that little time was given to any sort of character development for the villain, Emily Kinney as Brie Larvan (a.k.a. Bug-Eyed Bandit), and while her robotic bees were a delectable nerd treat, they did not serve as a worthy adversary to the Scarlet Speedster. Instead, the hero of the evening was Felicity, who used her smarts and technical savvy to dismantle the horde of mechanical stingers. My favorite encounters this season have been those that force Barry to discover something new, or develop something new in his powers in order to conquer the enemy. “All Star Team Up” avoided this scenario in favor of giving its special guests something to do, which is fair (given that if it hadn’t, Felicity and Ray would have been completely unnecessary). Unfortunately, as anyone who’s seen a television show or film with a supposed “hacker” can attest, watching two people battle it out with their hands planted firmly on keys (and not balled into fists) can be a bore. I understand the quandary the show is in at the moment, clearly with a direction to head but not quite ready to head there, but, I would have much preferred a setup episode for the impending Reverse-Flash finale, or even a tease episode for Grodd, than the mediocre hour Bug-Eyed Bandit brought us.
One of the more interesting developments of the evening came thanks to Cisco, who began to have “dreams” that were, in reality, flashbacks to the events before Barry broke the time continuum. Not much came of them until the end, when Barry and Joe finally revealed their findings to Cisco and Caitlin. The latter was, at first, vehemently in denial of the possibility that Harrison could be the Reverse-Flash, until she heard of Cisco’s dreams. While the episode ended before any definitive choices could be made, it’s safe to assume that Barry’s pals are now on his side in regard to Harrison. Unfortunately, it’s likely that we’ll get a few more filler episodes until we finally get into the meat of the Reverse-Flash story to round out the season. That’s the danger of revealing as much as The Flash has as early as it has. Everything now feels like treading water because we know where it’s all headed. Though, in a January interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gustin mentioned a huge twist on the horizon that he didn’t even see coming. Whatever is on the way, what I know for certain is that the writers need to find a way to placate those like me, viewers who are getting restless.
?In a 23-episode season, not every hour can be a winner. The Flash has done many things right in its freshman campaign and still deserves to be lauded for all that it’s managed to accomplish in such a short span of time. But both “Tricksters,” which was propped up by a nice performance from Mark Hamill, and “All Star Team Up” feel like, if not full steps back, at least steps sideways for the show. I fully expect The Flash to reap what it’s sown since the pilot and deliver an exciting final stretch, but at the moment it’s in an up and down cycle after consistently delivering for much of the season. Now that Caitlin and Cisco are in on the Harrison investigation, the storyline should hopefully take significant steps forward, making for significantly more interesting episodes. Otherwise, we could be in for a few more dull hours.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.