When last week’s episode aired and the preview for this week followed, I rolled my eye. I assumed this would be a ridiculous filler episode because how else could it not be? The Flash loses his powers? In the seventh episode? Okay, we all know immediately that it won’t last long, and it lasts about as long as I’d predicted but the episode still manages to surprise me. Sure, it’s still technically a filler episode of sorts especially with the Arrow crossover taking place next week, but “Power Outage” is also easily my favorite episode of the series thus far. Yes, Barry gets his powers back, and Eddie lives despite being shot by the Clock King. For now all seems good, but there’s doubt lingering underneath, motives are being revealed, and Barry’s power is increasing.
There are a number of reasons why I thought this was such a strong showcase for the show, check them out:
1. The Barry we see at the beginning of the episode is the Barry we know from other iterations. He’s the self-assured, wisecracking dork who enjoys being a superhero and isn’t afraid to embrace his powers. Sure, Grant Gustin instills a lot of innocent charm into the character, and he’s still a little Peter Parker-ish. But boy, mix the biting edge of his delivery to the robber at the start with his indignation with Doctor Wells at the end and we’ve got an immensely interesting version of Barry Allen.
2. Iris gets to be her own hero, again. Often in superhero adaptations the female supporting team are the ones wandering into trouble and forcing the male heroes to save them. Even when they land themselves there due to just reasons, it’s a contrived plot device that has gotten old. Even when females get to save themselves, it’s usually used as a one-off moment, a surprise. Even franchises I love have this problem. I love that so far in The Flash (and this can be said for Arrow too) the female characters respect of their heroes haven’t rendered them defenseless. Sure, Iris believes in the Flash and believes that he could come and save them, but when it comes down to it she’s not simply going to wait to be saved, she’s going to save herself along with a room full of fellow hostages.
3.Double the villains mean double the stakes and that makes a show exciting, even when we’re pretty show we know the outcome. We have the Clock King who terrorizes Iris, Eddie and Joe at the police precinct, and he’s devilish, precise and deadly. We have the energy vampire, or Blackout, who’s coming after Doctor Wells because of what he did to him, blaming him for the death of his friends and it’s his power that strips Barry of his, making him formidable. And then, there’s Wells, who’s certainly not cleanly cut on the side of the heroes, who desperately needs Barry alive until at least a certain point and with his powers, but shows tonight how willing he is to throw someone under the bus to save their lives. He uses last week’s villain, Tony, as a distraction and even the bully of Barry’s past gets a redemption moment when in his (seemingly) final breath he tells him to run. Having multiple villains is a great tool to have in their arsenal if the can continually deliver like they did tonight, upping the ante for our heroes as time runs out and Barry finds himself in an increasingly desperate situation. Michael Reventar also does a wonderful job as Blackout, allowing the character depth by refusing to play him as straight-forwardly evil. Also, worth mentioning every week, but Tom Cavanagh is a gift to this show (as is Jesse L. Martin) and each week he continues to paint a very intriguing picture of who Wells is. By the end of the episode I truly believe him when he says he cares about Barry, but I don’t know why.
4. Barry versus Wells. I love the dynamic between these two because it’s obvious that there’s a mutual respect but both approach their gifts with polar opposite beliefs. Wells regards his intelligence as something to utilize to seek out a better future, not a particular fan of the present, and Barry uses his speed to help those in the now because of his genuine compassion for others. Their showdown where Barry accuses Wells of using them all as pawns is on the best moments the show has done to date.
5. Barry losing his power made sense in regards to the episode. Listen, obviously the notion seems a little silly considering the nature of the show, but stripping him of his powers don’t only allow for the antagonists to seem all the more imposing (none more so than the showdown between Blackout and the Star Lab team at the end), but it also allows Barry a moment of clarity. He was struck by lightning; he woke up with powers and just accepted it. What he can’t accept is the idea of losing them because he’ll no longer be his best self. This is him really embracing his transformation.
This was a fantastic episode of the show, and in general, because it introduced new threats, continued with old ones, hinted at possible future storylines, and dove into big character moments, all the while being exciting and looking cool. Don’t skip this episode because you think it’s a throwaway before next week’s big event.
However, speaking of…the December 2nd episode is entitled “The Brave and the Bold.” This is clearly the closest we’ll be getting to the Justice League onscreen before 2016, and boy, I can’t tell you how much I’d rather see this.