Review: ‘All Star Team Up’ Was a Supremely Entertaining Episode of ‘The Flash’
OK, let’s state up front that the Iris material is a complete anchor on the show and that Eddie Thawne is probably the only reasonable person on The Flash when it comes to her being in the dark about Barry Allen’s identity. The show is building towards a place where Eddie is disillusioned by The Flash and ultimately starts the path that Eobard Thawne picks up a few centuries from now. The show can’t undo the mess it’s done here, so it just has to plow through the muck until that glorious, glorious day in which Iris knows Barry Allen’s secret.
I wanted to state that up front because everything else about “All Star Team Up”, right down to its very name, was classic, bright, glossy, and above all funny superhero entertainment. I think it’s far too much to ask a comic book show to have the patter of classic screwball comedies like His Girl Friday, but tonight’s episode did show a path towards that glorious possibility. I half-thought about simply copying and pasting half of the script with .GIFs of laughing hyenas punctuating the bullet points. And yet there was a clear arc to the episode that also fit into the larger theme of the season, which makes it both a supremely entertaining episode while also being a really well-constructed one to boot. Sometimes, those two elements are exclusive. Here, they came together to create their own kind of buzz.
Yes, I used “buzz” intentionally there, as this week’s villain, The Bug-Eyed Bandit, uses robotic bees to exact revenge on her previous employers. It puts a whole new spin on “drone strike,” if I might try and co-opt the flavor tonight’s pun-heavy script. The Bug-Eyed Bandit is really just a MacGuffin designed to put together a bunch of disparate people in the small-screen DC Comics universe and let them feel each other out. The combinations were all great: Caitlin reacting to the Geek Squad of Felicity/Ray; Cisco and Ray working on the A.T.O.M. suit; Barry confiding in Felicity during a time in which he feels he can’t trust anyone in S.T.A.R. Labs. All of these combos worked. Bringing Felicity/Ray over under the guise of improving the suit was flimsy beyond belief, but who cares? These team-up episodes are a lot of fun, and even if this didn’t have the mythic feel of The Green Arrow vs The Flash, I’d argue this episode did a better job of being a sustained start-to-finish episode that that original pair-up.
Part of why The Flash works so well is that it’s generally fun to watch smart people figure out puzzles. This works for something as straightforward as Sherlock in terms of application, but it holds true here as well. When Barry and Ray go to save Dr. Tina McGee from the killer beers, it’s not just the two of them punching their way to victory. They rely on their wits as well as those provided by Caitlin, Felicity, Cisco, and yes, Eobard/Harrison in order to secure triumph. The Flash enjoys intellectual victories, which is fitting for a show rife with scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. Sure, over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s fun to watch Iron Man fire his repulsor beams into Captain America’s shield. But that’s not the only type of team-up.
There’s even a kind of joy in the introduction sequence, in which Barry, Joe, and Eddie do a month’s worth of policework in the span of a few hours. It’s a slick, well-directed sequence of simple misdirection that suggests a finely-honed dance of justice. Eddie is slightly taken aback during this sequence, but it’s primarily disorientation rather than outright jealous. (Although to be fair, there’s a smidge of that as well.) The sheer fun of this episode highlights how much keeping Iris out of hurts the show. Yes, I said I wouldn’t talk about this, but it’s too difficult. It’s the elephant in the room that is The Flash, because if she’s not in on the secret, she’s not in on the fun, and that means every moment she’s onscreen is the opposite of fun. The show completely activated her in “Out Of Time,” only to undo it a week later in “Rogue Time.” When the show puts Iris into the thick of things, it works! We saw it! It was totally a thing! This isn’t Candice Patton problem. This is a problem for The Flash as a whole.
Even with all this gee-whiz-aren’t-powers-and-supersuits-awesome vibe, there was still narrative room to push Barry past his doubts about Caitlin/Cisco and bring them into the fold in his fight against Harrison. Having Cisco remember the alternate timeline feels a bit convenient, but I’m not exactly going to quibble with the realism on display. Barry needed to trust the two, and Cisco needed to have a reason to believe Barry’s Big Carrie Matheson Conspiracy Board. Missions accomplished.
Tom Cavanagh didn’t have much to do tonight, but every scene involving him from this point on is fully charge with tension. No, not the “most awkward five-person dinner in the history of ever” tension, but the good kind! Cavanagh seems to relish playing this thinly-disguised heel turn, although I’m still holding out hope the “real” Harrison is somewhere in this borrowed body. Part of that comes from wanting Cavanagh in the show for the long haul, which will be hard on a weekly basis once he’s fully outed as The Reverse-Flash. But part of that also comes from the fact that Wells’ duplicity has always made him interesting. If he’s just a straight up villain now, that’s just not as juicy.
Still, it’s a minor quibble! I really liked “Tricksters,” but I loved this one. The show seems to be finding a way to move through its mythology but still stay light on its feet in the present. “I thought Central City was supposed to be the fun one!” Felicity bemoans halfway through the episode, upset that the darkness of Arrow had crept into this world. By episode’s end, there’s a lot more light in The Flash, even if there’s plenty of fight left ahead.
A whole lot of bullet quotes to wrap things up, because why not?
- “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s my boyfriend!”
- “He seems a little…tall for you.”
- “God, there’s two of them!”
- “You just died.” “Maybe you should order in tonight.”
- “It’s kinda like I’m dating Barry in Oliver’s body.”
- “She’s good. She’s my nemesis. I’ve never had a nemesis. I kind of like it.”
- “I’ve never had anyone take a bee for me. Thank you!”