The Flash, Ep. 1.07, “Power Outage” a satisfying instalment of the best new series

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The Flash, Season 1, Episode 7, “Power Outage”
Written by Alison Schapker & Grainne Godfree
Directed by Larry Shaw
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm ET on the CW

This week, The Flash goes up against Farooq (guest star Michael Reventar), a metahuman who must harness electricity in order to stay alive. During their battle, Farooq attacks The Flash and siphons all his powers. Meanwhile, Tockman leads a coup inside the Central City police department and takes several people hostage, including Joe and Iris.

With great power comes great responsibility. We’ve heard it time and time again, and while many superhero stories emphasize the burden of that responsibility, “Power Outage” takes a very different approach. This week, Barry admits that he loves being The Flash. We see it early on in the episode, when Barry uses his super-speed to cut through a lineup at a coffee shop, than later on when he laughs in the face of a would-be mugger. The joy he takes in these opening scenes is what makes watching The Flash so much fun.

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As Dr. Wells records his notes via a sentient computer (Gideon), he points out how Barry is starting to rely on his extraordinary powers for both the heroic and the mundane. Wells believes Barry’s desire to help others is commendable, but impeding him from realizing the full scope of his abilities, and thus reaching his full potential. “Power Outage” brings two antagonists front and centre who cause havoc on two separate fronts. The interesting thing with “Power Outage” however, is that the writers put Barry in a situation in which he has no way of stopping either villain, and Barry’s brush with normalcy actually makes this the best episode since the pilot. First, his inability to stop the hostage crisis proves Iris is more than capable of taking care of herself. Anyone concerned that she would be written only as a damsel in distress can stop worrying. Secondly, Barry proves that even without his powers, he is just as heroic. We see this when Barry first attempts to talk Farooq out of killing his friends, and later when he is willing to absorb a potentially fatal dose of electricity in order to get back his speed. It’s a common comic book trope for superheroes to lose their powers, whether it’s temporary or permanent. The aim is to illustrate that it’s not just their powers that make them special.

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The real danger this week is Farooq, posthumously dubbed Blackout by Cisco. The opening flashback gives us a brief glimpse of Farooq and his friends before the particle accelerator explosion. It turns out he was struck by the explosion while climbing an electrical tower. The flashback gives context to his troubles and his deep hatred of Dr. Wells, and it allows viewers to sympathize with him to some degree. It helps that Michael Revantar delivers a solid performance despite not having much to do, apart from trying to kill everyone in sight. Running alongside the emergence of Blackout is the return of Robert Knepper as William Tockman (Clock King), a villain who previously debuted in an episode of Arrow. Tockman is hands down the most interesting villain so far introduced in both Arrow and The Flash. He’s extraordinarily smart, has some of the best dialogue, and extensively uses clock and time related gimmicks to devastating effect. Of course his appearance here has more impact if you’re familiar with the character, his backstory, his degenerative disease, and more importantly, his quest to save his sister. Regardless, Robert Knepper’s performance ranks as one of the best — and his odd mannerisms and physical demeanour, coupled with his tragic past, make him stand out. It is also great to see a bit of role reversal at work as Tony Woodward, aka Girder, is requested to step in while Barry tries to regain his super-speed. It isn’t so great to see him prematurely die. Did the character really deserve to be written off so abruptly?

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Wells is arguably an equally important villain this week; still as shady as ever, he releases Girder from his cell to do battle with Blackout in order to buy Cisco and Caitlin time to restore Barry’s powers. For the majority of this episode, it seems as though Wells is trying to help Barry. Only the episode’s stinger shows him extracting a sample from Farooq, ostensibly to figure out if he can use it to also drain the Flash’s powers. Wells remains the biggest question mark of the series. Does he want to use this sample against Barry, or is he trying to find ways to stop the Reverse Flash?

“Power Outage” is a pleasant surprise, and while Barry’s character arc is bit familiar, as a whole, this is another satisfying installment for the best new series of the fall season.

– Ricky D

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Flash Facts:

This leaves the Mist as the only prisoner in the super-prison.

The Clock King was played by Walter Slezak on two 1966 episodes of Batman. I highly recommend watching these episodes when you have a chance.

The confrontation between Iris and Tockman is poorly edited. The camera cuts away just as the two struggle over the gun, and we never get to see what exactly happened. I guess it’s meant to generate suspense, but I feel it doesn’t really work.

Blackout is a minor DC character who appeared in the recent Flashpoint mini-series, but the version of the character seen here might as well have been an original creation.

Surprisingly, the Clock King’s presence in this episode doesn’t seem in any way tied to the upcoming Flash/Arrow crossover.

Some people online have speculated that the show didn’t want to place too much of a focus on the name Blackout, since it’s more commonly associated with a Marvel character.

Farooq, aka Blackout, is actually a character from “Flashpoint,” and was recruited into a team of American heroes led by Cyborg to take down both Emperor Aquaman and Wonder Woman, and stop the Amazon and Atlantean war, which devastated Europe.

William Tockman: “That’s a quality timepiece, young man.” Barry: “Thank you.” Tockman: “They took mine. All of them.” Barry: “Guess you shouldn’t have done whatever it is you did.”

Barry: “Sorry guys. Got a little … held up. … Had to be there.”

Cisco: “He runs slow even for a normal person.”

I guess Barry really did love that mug. 

Barry to Wells: “What’s your move, doctor? Which one of us gets sacrificed next?”

Cisco: “You have the yips!”

Is Girder really dead?

I’m pretty sure most DC fans geeked out when Dr. Wells mentioned the names of those who died in the particle accelerator explosion. It seems we can look forward to the eventual debuts of characters like Elongated Man (Ralph Dibney) and Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond).

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