Synopsis of 2×10: As Barry wrestles with whether to tell Patty his secret, Central City is threatened by the slow motion robbery of The Turtle.
Rating: ★★★1/2 out of 5
Those superheroes, they just can’t get what they want, can they?*
*Besides being attractive, talented, fit, and superheroes.
Watching The Flash often feels like watching a pretty great Spider-Man story every week. At least, one of the Sam Raimi variety that I grew up watching over and over unto exhaustion. Barry Allen, much like ol’ Peter Parker, is a superhero of flaws. They are so righteous and committed to superheroism that their personal life nearly falls apart because of it. They’re constantly late and (despite a supportive entourage) just can’t keep a romance together. They are torn between being the best hero they can be and having the woman of their dreams, and always come down hero.
Not every hero has these problems. Tony Stark is perfectly capable of keeping a relationship alive. Age of Ultron taught us that Clint Barton has a secret wife and two children. But there is a certain Average Joe variety of superhero (frequently dressed in red) that just can’t get it together.
Barry has solidly mangled things with Patty, perhaps irrevocably (though we pray it doesn’t go that far). Because he failed to tell let Patty in close or tell her about his alter ego, Patty is moving on. She’s taking the chance to become a CSI that she’s been putting off for years. She’s off to live the dreams life has kept her from taking. She’s George Bailey and Barry is Mary if It’s A Wonderful Life went in a very different direction.
It is understandable at this point to feel very frustrated with Barry Allen. I say this because I certainly am.
I adore this show. I love the pace and the humor. Its actors are game and lean full-tilt into the dorkiness of it all. My only real complaint has ever been that Barry seems incapable of telling his love interests about his life as The Flash until it is nearly forced out of him at gunpoint. He has no problem telling his friends, his allies, either of his fathers, the Flashes of alternate worlds, multiple Harrisons Wells. But when it comes to telling the women he loves, he can’t perform.
The frustration only increases as the plotlines go on. In Season One, it was understandable why Barry wouldn’t tell Iris about his superhero thing until he had a handle on the thing. But as the show went on and every other major character knew but Iris, it was enough to drive you TV Mad. And the cycle repeats here.
In spite of all logic, Barry just won’t tell Patty who he is. Sure, Harry told him that Zoom will come after the people he cares about. But Barry doesn’t seem concerned about Joe knowing or Iris or his dad or any among the phone book of people that know his secret identity getting captured. Just Patty. Because she’s his girlfriend.
The plotline proves increasingly frustrating as it really holds back Patty Spivot. Spivot is great and Shantel VanSanten is a winner, but she could be so much more useful and dynamic as part of Team Flash. The possibilities of her teaming up with Joe as Barry’s eyes on the force are too good to pass up.
Imagine a world where Patty Spivot is part of the crew at S.T.A.R. Labs and tell me that’s not a world in which you wish to live. Barry’s love interests have always had a bit of a short stick. Linda got to have some fun at Dr. Light but that storyline seems either wrapped up or unlikely to be touched for some time. Poor Iris hasn’t had much since she left Barry’s romantic sphere.* It’s a persistent problem holding back a great show.
*Although, it should never be taken for granted that The Flash isn’t leaning into Iris having any unrequited love. We can never be too thankful for that.
During all of this, Barry is plagued by a villain called The Turtle, one of an apparent list of White Whales hunted by one Cisco de la Mancha. The Turtle, replete with a splendid comic book puffy green jacket, sends out waves that convert kinetic energy to potential energy. He can slow anything down, including the great Barry Allen.
He kidnaps Patty in exactly the kind of way Barry fears Zoom might and he keeps Barry from telling Patty who he is and I will never forgive him for that. Turtle is a creepier villain than we’re used to on The Flash. He has a library of valuables curated from people who don’t appreciate them, including his own wife, frozen forever in a display case. It’s all very atmospheric and creepy, and a far cry from the likes of Golden Glider.
The Turtle is ultimately dispatched by Barry’s standard tactic of Running Really Fast, although The Turtle requires the extra step of Getting a Running Start. The Flash never really leaves itself time to stay with anything for too long, so we don’t get any resolution to The Turtle’s Library of Treasures. Is his wife alive? Is she dead? Do they at least exhume her body from the library or do they just leave her because, like, where else are they going to put her? These are the questions, The Flash. These are the questions.
Across Central City, Joe is dealing with his own problem that came from waiting too long.* After Wally’s surprise appearance at Christmas, one would expect him to become a part of the family, but the boy West seems less than interested in becoming part of the family. He doesn’t want family dinner. He just wanted to meet Joe so he could see the man who wasn’t there.
*Are we noticing a theme here?
It turns out Wally is a street racer like those cool kids in them Fast & Furious movies. He wins cars to sell them and pay for his mother’s hospital bills. For an illegal street racer, he’s a noble little guy. His turn to pushing away from being a West is sudden, but understandable. Joe could have found him at any time, but he never did. But we also understand Joe. The woman he loved took a bad path and nearly killed his daughter. He was done with her and couldn’t bear to check in. It’s a tough spot for both men, and wonderfully acted by both performers.
“Potential Energy” is a perfectly fine episode of The Flash. Its moments between side characters shine, like Cisco and Harry’s laboratory bickering, or Caitlin and Jay’s budding romance taking a sideways turn into the tragic, but some of the show’s longtime flaws hold it back from rising above its station. But after a month and a half being gone, any Flash is good Flash.