Random Musings: Traveling back in time for The Final Countdown

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Final Countdown

In 1980, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz departs from Pearl Harbor under the command of Captain Matthew Yelland (Kirk Douglas). The ship is carrying efficiency expert Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen), an employee of Tideman Industries, sent to the Nimitz by the mysterious Richard Tideman, a man he’s never met. In fact, no one on Yelland’s crew has ever met Tideman, who helped design and build the Nimitz.

Lasky is introduced to Executive Officer Dan Thurman (Ron O’Neal) and assigned to quarters adjacent to Wing Commander Dick Owens (James Farentino). He gets off on the wrong foot with Owens by entering his cabin and reading his manuscript about the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

He’d knocked on the door to say hello, found the cabin empty, noticed the manuscript and gotten curious.

The Nimitz encounters a strange electrical storm. When the skies clear again, the crew is unable to reach any familiar contacts by radio, but picks up an old Jack Benny broadcast.

The storm

The storm.

Yelland accepts Lasky’s word that this isn’t part of some test, but he also rejects the suggestion that a nuclear exchange has taken place.

The truth is even more surprising. Somehow, the storm has sent the Nimitz back in time.

To Dec. 6, 1941.

The Final Countdown is one of my favorite films. It’s one of those films I’ll sit down and watch if I come across it on TV.

But the plot makes absolutely no sense.

Spoilers follow:

Yelland decides to engage the Japanese fleet. The crew’s job is to defend the country, and that’s what they’ll do— even if it is decades in the past.

Discussing strategy

Discussing strategy.

But it’s not that simple. During a scouting mission, two jets from the Nimitz rescue survivors of a yacht attacked by a pair of Japanese Zeros and Owens brings them back to the ship. These are Senator Samuel Chapman (Charles Durning); his secretary, Laurel Scott (Katharine Ross) and her dog, Charlie.

Chapman and Scott

Chapman and Scott.

History records that Chapman disappeared and was presumed dead on Dec. 7, 1941. According to Owens’ manuscript, had Chapman lived, he would likely have been Roosevelt’s running mate in 1944 and subsequently become president in 1945.

Owens tells Lasky he recognized Chapman at once, but couldn’t very well toss him back into the sea.

Owens and Chapman

Owens and Chapman.

For his part, Chapman, co-chair of the Senate Defense Committee, is perplexed that such a ship should even exist. Yelland allows him to contact Pearl Harbor, but the Pearl Harbor radio operator dismisses him as a crank because there’s no record of either a USS Nimitz or a Captain Yelland.

Yelland tells Chapman he’ll have him and Scott flown to Pearl Harbor, but actually instructs Owens to drop them off, with suitable supplies, on a small island, well away from the Japanese attack.

When Chapman realizes he’s been tricked, he surreptitiously grabs a flare gun while Owens and Scott are on the beach. He commandeers the helicopter, which explodes a moment later during a struggle over the gun.

Meanwhile, just as the Nimitz is preparing to engage the Japanese fleet, the mysterious storm reappears and transports the ship back to 1980.

As Lasky disembarks, accompanied by Charlie, he’s told that Mr. and Mrs. Tideman would like him to join them. He steps into a limo and is greeted by an elderly Commander Richard T. Owens and Laurel Scott.

Mr. and Mrs. Tideman

Mr. and Mrs. Tideman.

Roll credits.

Wait, so for all intents and purposes, the USS Nimitz went back in time to strand one guy in 1941, so he’d one day become the mysterious millionaire (or billionaire) who helped design the Nimitz? Wouldn’t it have been more efficient if the time storm had simply swept up Commander Owens when he was walking down the street?

Question: Did the Nimitz change history by being in 1941?

No. I believe that it was always part of events. It’s the only logical explanation why Laurel Scott is still alive in 1980, much less on Dec. 7, 1941.

There was never an “original history” in which Chapman was killed on the yacht. He’d always died in a struggle on board a helicopter he’d tried to commandeer. If he’d died on the yacht, Scott would have, too; it was far from land and there was no indication that she was an exceptionally strong swimmer. Only outside intervention could have saved either of them.

There was also no indication history was changed by her survival.

The strongest evidence that the Nimitz was part of events in 1941 is the fact that we “sort of” meet Tideman in the opening scene (he’s in silhouette inside a limo, watching Lasky’s departure).

It still leaves unanswered why the Nimitz went back to 1941, yet played no role in the events of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Other than raising some interesting philosophical questions in a movie, there doesn’t seem to be any “in universe” rationale for the Nimitz to be part of those specific events.

There isn’t even the suggestion that fate decreed that the Nimitz should be on hand to ensure that Laurel Scott lived to old age because she had an important destiny to fulfill. That would have been more interesting than having the ship— essentially— serving as a time-traveling ferry service.

At least in the novelization by Martin Caidman, Tideman tells Lasky that Scott was the master of the power politics h’d played over the decades.

That’s the frustrating thing about the film. Nothing happens in the grand scheme of things. We don’t even know what led Owens to assume the name Richard Tideman. The name meant nothing special to him in 1980. Even if you assume Owens’ middle name was Tideman, what made him realize that he and the Richard Tideman were the same person?

Unfortunately the novelization doesn’t provide any answers.

There’s also a single word of dialogue I wish had been cut from the script. When Lasky and Charlie descend the gangplank, the dog runs to the limo. We hear a woman’s voice say, “Charlie.” That spoils the surprise regarding the occupants of the limo.

For all its flaws, The Final Countdown is an enjoyable film; but it might have been more interesting (and satisfying) to have followed the adventures of a time lost Commander Owens than those of an aircraft carrier that goes back to Dec. 7, 1941, only to return to its own time before it can engage the Japanese fleet.

Copyright 2017 Patrick Keating.

 

 

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Random Musings: Revisiting the Doctor Who episode “Hide.”

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doctor-who-hide

On a stormy night in 1974, at Caliburn House, Major Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) and Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine), a psychic, are conducting an experiment to communicate with the spirit inhabiting the house, when there’s a knock on the door.

It’s the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman). The doctor says he’s looking for a ghost. He also lets Palmer, who specialized in espionage and reconnaissance behind enemy lines in World War II, believe he’s with military intelligence.

A reluctant Palmer tells the Doctor and Clara that while Caliburn House has been around more than 400 years, the “Caliburn Gast” has been around much longer, having been mentioned in local Saxon poetry and parish folk tales.

caliburn-gast

The Caliburn Gast.

He shows them a board of photographs depicting a translucent figure in various locales throughout the house.

Clara asks why the figure, who screams, according to various reports over the years, is always in the same position, regardless of the angle or the framing of a particular photo.

“We don’t know,” Palmer says. “She’s an objective phenomenon, but objective recording equipment can’t detect her.”

“Without the presence of a powerful psychic,” the Doctor interjects.

“Absolutely,” Palmer confirms.

For her part, Grayling says she can feel the ghost, who knows she’s there, calling out to her, saying, “Help me.”

As they talk, a figure flits past them.

the-doctor-and-major-palmer

The Doctor and Major Palmer.

When the Doctor asks if she’s coming to find the ghost, Clara replies with the very sensible, “Why would I want to do that?”

But she goes off to investigate, anyway, especially when the Doctor agrees to dare her.

Palmer recognizes the Doctor as a liar, though he doesn’t know if he’s lying about being from the ministry.

“But, you know, that’s often the way that it is when someone’s seen a thing or two,” he tells Grayling.

During their investigations, the Doctor and Clara hear a loud thudding sound, which the Doctor, not-so-helpfully, identifies as, “a very loud noise.”

In a scene reminiscent of The Haunting, when Clara tells the Doctor that while she’s a tiny bit terrified, there’s no need for him to hold her hand, he shows her that he’s not. A flash of lightning reveals something and they run.

They rejoin Palmer and Grayling, where they see both a spinning disc and a woman shouting, “Help me.” The words subsequently appear on the wall.

The Doctor borrows Palmer’s camera and uses the TARDIS to take a series of pictures from throughout the history of the Earth.

Returning to 1974, he shows the slides he’s taken, asking what if the Caliburn Gast isn’t trapped in a moment of fear and torment, but just trapped somewhere where time runs more slowly?

“What if a second to her was 100,000 years to us?” he asks.

The Doctor reveals that the Caliburn Gast isn’t a ghost, though she is a lost soul; she’s a time traveler named Hila Tacorian (Kemi-Bo Jacobs).

He also says Tacorian crash landed three minutes ago, from her perspective, in a rapidly collapsing pocket universe and tells Grayling that she’s a lantern, shining across the dimensions and guiding Tacorian back to the land of the living.

The slides also reveal that Tacorian is running from a creature of some sort.

One of the names for the Caliburn Gast is “The Witch of the Well”, though Palmer said there’s no well on the property, so far as they know. Once he knows the truth about the “ghost”, the Doctor realizes the “well” is a wormhole, “a door to the echo universe.”

the-doctor-and-emma

The Doctor and Emma Grayling.

With help from equipment cobbled together from the TARDIS, Emma Grayling opens a portal and the Doctor goes into the pocket universe to retrieve Hila Tacorian. She gets back safely, but the Doctor isn’t so lucky. It’s now up to Clara to convince the TARDIS, which apparently doesn’t like her, to travel into the pocket universe while an exhausted Grayling tries to open the portal again.

The Doctor, successfully retrieved, explains why the psychic link was so powerful: Hila Tacorian is Emma Grayling’s many times great granddaughter.

But if Hila Tacorian was a time traveler running for her life in a pocket universe, who or what held Clara’s hand inside the house? The penny drops as the Doctor realizes the full truth about the creature and the episode reveals its second twist.

Although “Hide” is not a Halloween story, per se (it takes place in late November), I thought it apropos for discussion today. It is a ghost story, after all.

Speaking of ghosts, I particularly liked a scene in the TARDIS, after the Doctor has taken the final picture at the end of the Earth’s life. When he confirms that he and Clara have just watched the entire life cycle of Earth, birth to death, she asks if he’s okay with that.

“Yes.”

“How can you be?” she asks, adding that one minute they’re in 1974, looking for ghosts. “But all you have to do is open your eyes and talk to whoever’s standing there. To you, I haven’t been born yet. And to you, I’ve been dead 100 billion years.”

She asks if her body’s out there somewhere, in the ground.

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“But here we are, talking. So, I am a ghost. To you, I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you.”

“Hide” is an enjoyable Doctor Who episode, suitable for Halloween viewing. The revelation about the Caliburn Gast probably explains every ghost story out there. Oh, those pesky time travelers, always causing mischief. 🙂

Seriously, though, the idea that a “ghost” seen for centuries is, in fact, a living woman who’s only experienced three minutes is pretty cool.

All things being equal, I like the truth about the ghost more than the truth about the monster, though I recognize that the latter has a thematic connection to the story of Alec Palmer and Emma Grayling.

Again, “Hide” is a good tale to revisit on Halloween.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: A review of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

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Flashpoint paradox

Last week’s season finale of The Flash ended with Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) going back in time and preventing his mother’s murder at the hands of the Reverse Flash. The implication is that season three will be similar to a 2011 DC Comics storyline called Flashpoint.

Any adaptation of Flashpoint next season will, of necessity, be on a smaller scale than in the comics, because only a handful of DC’s characters have been introduced— or even mentioned. In short, don’t expect the appearance of certain “flying mouse” from Gotham City.

However, DC Entertainment did release an animated movie inspired by Flashpoint in 2013: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.

Before we get to that, a few comments about The Flash. As I’d predicted, Zoom’s (Teddy Sears) prisoner was the real Jay Garrick. I also thought it was fitting and proper that he was portrayed by John Wesley Shipp, the original TV Flash from the 1990 series.

Real Jay Garrick

The real Jay Garrick.

Shipp also played Barry’s father, Henry. I’m sure some people feel it’s too coincidental that Jay should be Henry Allen’s alternate universe doppelganger, but Shipp was still the most appropriate actor for the part.

Speaking of other universes, it’s somewhat apropos that Supergirl lives on an alternate Earth, because the characters’ roots trace to separate, but related, companies. In 1938, the company we now know as DC Comics introduced Superman in Action Comics #1 (Supergirl would debut 21 years later in Action Comics #252). In 1940, the (Jay Garrick) Flash debuted in the anthology Flash Comics (along with Hawkman), published by All American Comics.

Granted that by the time Barry Allen debuted in Showcase #4 in 1956, DC and All American had merged, but he would never have existed if not for Jay Garrick. So Barry’s roots trace to All American Comics.

Ironically, Green Arrow, who does share the same TV universe with The Flash, was part of a separate comics universe (first appearing in DC’s More Fun Comics #73 in 1941).

The connection between the two companies is that Jack Liebowitz was a partner in both.

Two weeks ago, Zoom, who’d been impersonating Jay and feigning friendship with Barry and his allies for the first part of the season, killed Henry in front of Barry in a re-creation of his mother’s murder. But Barry’s time-traveling actions could mean Shipp (and Henry) might be back next year. As might be Michelle Harrison, who played Barry’s mother.

Or it could turn out Nora Allen got hit by a bus days after the failed attack. Time travel always has unexpected consequences.

Whatever Flashpoint-style direction The Flash takes next season, I’m sure Barry’s decision is going to go all “Monkey’s Paw” on him. It certainly did in the animated film.

At his mother’s grave, Barry Allen (Justin Chambers) still feels guilty about not preventing her murder when he was a child, telling his wife, Iris (Jennifer Hale), that if he’d just run a little faster that day, he could have been there. Iris tells him there’s nothing he could have done.

A short time later, the Flash, with the help of the Justice League, stops Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash (C. Thomas Howell), from destroying the Flash Museum (and most of Central City). Thawne reminds the Flash that he can’t save everyone.

“Not the ones that matter to you.”

Reverse Flash mocks the Flash

Reverse Flash mocks the Flash.

When Batman (Kevin Conroy) asks if everything’s all right, Flash says it’s nothing he can’t run off.

And he does just that.

After the opening credits, Barry wakes up at his desk, surprised to discover that Captain Cold (Danny Jacobs) is a hero, “Citizen Cold”, battling Captain Boomerang outside the “Cold Museum.”

(By the way, speaking of alternate timelines and parallel universes, we learned in The Flash that “Mayor Snart” is in charge of Earth 2’s Central City. Some people assume that’s Leonard Snart, Captain Cold on Earth 1. Maybe, but why couldn’t it be his sister, Lisa?)

Barry is confused by the fact that he’s lost his speed and even more confused when he encounters his very-much-alive mother.

That’s the good news.

The bad and the worse news is that the world is ending. One-time allies Aquaman (Cary Elwes) and Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) are now deadly enemies— as are Atlantis and Themyscira, home of the Amazons. What’s more, their war killed more than 132 million people when Atlantis sank Western Europe and the Amazons invaded Great Britain.

Aquaman vs Wonder Woman

Aquaman vs. Wonder Woman.

In this reality, Thomas Wayne (Kevin McKidd) became Batman after the death of his son, Bruce— and the loss of his wife, Martha, in a robbery years ago. This incarnation of Batman is a violent alcoholic who’s more than willing to kill.

Cyborg (Michael B. Jordan) tries to recruit Batman— the best tactician on the planet— to join a team of super-powered individuals fighting to stop Aquaman and Wonder Woman.

Barry, meanwhile, is trying to understand how his mother is alive and his wife is married to someone else. Seeking answers, he drives to Gotham City and Wayne Manor, only to discover an empty husk. In the Batcave, he encounters a very angry Thomas Wayne who doesn’t appreciate this stranger’s casual use of his son’s name.

Somehow Barry still has his ring, but when he ejects his Flash uniform to prove he’s telling the truth, Thawne’s uniform emerges instead. Barry concludes that Thawne did something to change the past and left his uniform as a mocking “calling card.”

Barry and the Thomas Wayne Batman

Barry and Thomas Wayne.

He seeks Batman’s help in recreating the accident that gave him his powers and begins to “remember” the events of the new timeline. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Aquaman and Wonder Woman had been lovers— until she’d killed Aquaman’s furious wife, Mera, when the latter confronted her.

We also see an enraged Thomas Wayne beating the mugger who’d killed Bruce, while Martha Wayne had a much different reaction.

In the present, in London, someone who can move extremely fast saves Lois Lane (Dana Delany) from Amazon warriors.

Barry is successful in restoring his speed, but he can’t run fast enough to break the time barrier.

He does, however, convince Batman to join Cyborg’s team. En route to London, Batman shows Barry a transmission from Lois Lane that depicts a yellow blur. Barry realizes it’s the Reverse Flash and both men wonder why Thawne let himself be seen, much less helped Lois.

In London, Thawne reveals himself, telling Barry he let Lois see him because it would draw Barry to him.

He also says he didn’t alter history; Barry did.

“Think, Barry. Isn’t there some little thing, some little good deed you might have done?”

“I saved someone.”

“Yes.”

Barry begins to remember. “I saved her. I saved Mom.”

“That’s right.”

Barry says it wouldn’t have changed events that happened before her murder, such as the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne and Superman’s arrival (his ship crashed in Metropolis and he was imprisoned by the government). However, Thawne replies that it did.

“Break the sound barrier and there’s a sonic boom,” he says. “You broke the time barrier, Flash. Time boom. Ripples of distortion radiated out through that point of impact, shifting everything just a tiny bit. But enough. Enough for events to happen slightly differently.”

“I just wanted to save her.”

Thawne mocks Barry, saying he didn’t save JFK, but instead saved his Mommy.

“And in a supreme act of selfishness, shattered history like a rank amateur,” he says. “Turned the world into a living hell moments away from destruction. And I’m the villain?”

As nuclear Armageddon begins, a mortally wounded Batman kills Thawne, giving the Flash full access to the Speed Force. He gives Barry a letter to Bruce and tells him to run.

Barry stops his younger self

Barry stops his younger self.

Barry stops his younger self from changing history and wakes up in his office to find everything restored to normal.

At his mother’s grave, he tells her he finally understands the serenity prayer she’d tried to explain to him as a boy.

The murder of Nora Allen is a relatively new bit of Flash history, first introduced in Flash: Rebirth in 2006. However, her death in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox happens under slightly different circumstances than in the comics. For one, Henry Allen isn’t blamed; he’s not even mentioned, leaving viewers to assume Nora had raised Barry alone.

The movie is something of a mixed bag. I liked the basic story and the ironic idea that Barry’s efforts to change things for the better only made them much worse. I also liked that Bruce Wayne was able to read a letter from his father, thanks to Barry.

On the other hand, we’re never told whether Aquaman and Wonder Woman had once been heroes in this alternate reality. Granted, an 81 minute movie can’t cover everything in a comics series, but it would have been nice to have gotten a better idea of how the two antagonists had interacted with the rest of the world before their war.

It’s also extremely violent (in one scene, Wonder Woman holds up Mera’s severed head), with a fair amount of blood spilled, so you might not want to let young kids watch it.

Overall, though, it’s an entertaining film.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: More Flash time travel thoughts

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Eobard Thawne and Harrison Wells
In the March 31 episode of The Flash, “Tricksters”, we learn in flashbacks that Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher) killed the real Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) 15 years ago, subsequent to his murder of Nora Allen. He also used a device to change his appearance so he looked like Wells.

This revelation answers the question of why Wells’ DNA wasn’t at the scene of Nora Allen’s murder. The real Wells was never there (and, presumably, the device that let Thawne impersonate Wells didn’t just change his outward appearance, but his DNA as well).

A teaser for upcoming episodes shows Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and Arrow’s Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) finding a skeleton. My guess: It’s the real Harrison Wells.

The flashbacks start with The Flash (Grant Gustin) chasing the Reverse Flash, whose destination appears to be the Allen home 15 years ago. It appears the Reverse Flash’s intent was to go back in time and kill Barry as a child, only to find himself stranded. So, ironically, he found himself having to wait until Barry grew up so he could orchestrate events to make Barry the Flash and then somehow use the Flash’s speed to get home.

Eobard Thawne stranded in the 21st century.

Eobard Thawne stranded in the 21st century.

It also looks like the Reverse Flash is the one who removed the younger Barry from the house. Why? To kill him? Why not do it in the house? To add to the confusion, the two speedsters were in the living room; the younger Barry was initially in his bedroom, but came out to investigate. If young Barry had been the target, wouldn’t the Reverse Flash have headed straight for the bedroom, where a child would likely have been at that time of night?

Also, what happened to the Flash back then? Why didn’t he chase after the Reverse Flash when the latter ran off with the young Barry? Or, for that matter, if he didn’t continue his pursuit, why didn’t he rush his injured mother to the hospital?

I think the moment the Reverse Flash ran off with the young Barry, he “overwrote” past events and the Barry of the original timeline ceased to exist. Just as Barry himself overwrote the events of a day or so when he tried to stop the tidal wave.

Right about then is when the Reverse Flash lost his super speed, by the way. Though, young Barry wasn’t with him, so he must have dropped him somewhere and kept going until he ran out of super speed. Again, why?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Flash carried off his younger self. If so, the end result is the same. He overwrote the past and the older version suddenly disappeared, leaving young Barry standing in the middle of the street however far away he’d been taken.

Leaving aside the question of which of the speedsters carried young Barry from the house, the fact remains that there’s no indication the Flash remained active in the past.

The real Harrison Wells with his fiancée, Tess Morgan.

The real Harrison Wells with his fiancée, Tess Morgan.

As for the Reverse Flash, after becoming stranded in the past, he stalked the real Dr. Wells. He didn’t choose Wells at random, however. After causing a car crash that killed Wells’ fiancée, Tess Morgan (Bre Blair), the Reverse Flash told Wells that in the history he knew, Wells and his wife activated the particle accelerator in 2020, but that he— Thawne— couldn’t wait that long. Though, given that he had to wait until Barry grew up anyway, what’s a few more years?

Presumably the particle accelerator also malfunctioned in the original history, giving a slightly older Barry his super speed. Whether Barry ever interacted with the real Dr. Wells in the original timeline is impossible to say. Even if he had, the circumstances would have been different, because in the timeline we know Wells/Thawne had an agenda in mentoring Barry.

In the same episode, Barry also revealed his identity to both his father (John Wesley Shipp), who was taken hostage by the Trickster (Mark Hamill), and Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett). He made the latter revelation because he and Joe needed Eddie’s help in convincing Iris West (Candice Patton) to give up searching for her colleague who was killed by the Reverse Flash. Eddie told her his investigation found that the man had moved to Brazil.

In the April 14 episode, “All Star Team Up”, Arrow’s Felicity Smoak and Ray Palmer (Emily Bett Rickards and Brandon Routh) guest starred. So did Amanda Pays, making her second appearance as Mercury Labs’ Tina McGee. Pays, of course, played a character of the same name in the original 1990 Flash series opposite John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen.

In Arrow, Ray recently began operating as the Atom (though this iteration does not (yet?) shrink to six inches or smaller). In one scene, Felicity, Barry, Caitlin, Cisco and “Dr. Wells” watch the Atom fly in.

Caitlin: “Is that a bird?”

Cisco: “It’s a plane.”

No, it’s an inside joke. Brandon Routh played Superman in Superman Returns.

The Atom.

The Atom.

Meanwhile, Cisco is having flashes of memory from his fatal encounter with the Reverse Flash in the previous timeline (not unlike sound from a previous recording bleeding through a re-recorded audio tape). At the end of the episode, he tells Joe, Barry and Caitlin that he remembers that Dr. Wells is the Reverse Flash (adding weight to what Barry had just told a disbelieving Caitlin) and that he remembers Dr. Wells killing him.

In an earlier scene, Dr. McGee told Barry that after the car accident, Harrison Wells— once a close friend— became a completely different person. According to the teaser for tonight’s episode Barry will either realize (or deduce) that it’s literally true.

Question: Why has Eobard Thawne, in his persona of Harrison Wells, helped Barry capture and contain dangerous metahumans? Two reasons: He can’t risk any of them harming or killing Barry before he can use Barry’s super speed abilities to return to his own time and if there comes a time when Barry could pose a threat to his plans, he could release the captured metahumans to keep Barry occupied.

Another question that remains to be answered is whether Barry will learn that another version of himself was in his childhood home; not his future self. Even if he does, I doubt it would dissuade him from trying to go back and save his mother.

How do we know that it isn’t Barry’s future self? Because, again, the Reverse Flash has already experienced those events.

Also,  to what degree has Eobard Thawne’s 15 year impersonation of Harrison Wells changed him? He has to keep Barry close and safe for his own purposes, but he also genuinely seems to care about Cisco, Caitlin and others. The fact that Thawne allowed himself to get close to any of his colleagues during his impersonation of Dr. Wells is curious. Why not maintain a cool, professional detachment? Why did he “bond” with Cisco, watching an old silent film? Could Thawne have come to identify so much with his Wells persona and life in the 21st century— where he is effectively a hostage— that he’s affected by some ironic form of the Stockholm Syndrome?

Perhaps, but he wasn’t affected enough to let Cisco live in a previous timeline. Still, would he have risked exposure to save Cisco’s life in circumstances were Barry wasn’t around (and Cisco wasn’t investigating the Reverse Flash)? I think the answer to that is a definite maybe.

Even so, I don’t think we should expect the Reverse Flash to have a “road to Damascus” moment of revelation and attempt to set things right by changing history so Nora Allen never died. Even if such a thing were to happen, it would only be because the Reverse Flash had realized he’d created a new timeline and he’d need to restore the original to return to the 25th century he knows. In short, any act of altruism would be a means to an end.

Barry and “Dr. Wells.”

Barry and “Dr. Wells.”

Still, it’s curious that in his persona of Dr. Wells, Eobard Thawne has been grooming Barry Allen to be a hero. If all he needs to get home is the Flash’s speed, how Barry uses that speed is incidental.

It’s ironic that the Reverse Flash’s attempt to change history and eliminate his enemy led him to become stranded centuries in his own past. Whatever the cause of their enmity in the original timeline, you have to wonder if he had wished he’d never met the Flash.

I’ve no idea if such a scenario would ever happen, but suppose the Reverse Flash met someone who could return him to his own time, only at the cost of the permanent loss of his super speed? Would he accept the deal? It’d be more ironic if that were the only way he could get home.

I’ve no doubt that Barry will get justice for his father, falsely imprisoned for his mother’s murder; but whether he exposes the truth about Eobard Thawne or goes back and changes history remains to be seen. Either way, I feel certain some close approximation of the original timeline will be restored.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: Déjà vu all over again: fallout from the recent time travel in The Flash.

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Flash runs alongside himself

In last week’s episode of The Flash, “Out of Time”, Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) discovered that his employer and mentor, Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), was Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, the man who’d killed Nora Allen 14 years earlier. And was himself killed by Wells/Thawne as a consequence.

Meanwhile, Mark Mardon, AKA the Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre), targeted Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) for revenge in the death of his brother in the pilot; and as part of that vengeance unleashed a tidal wave on Central City. In his efforts to stop the tidal wave, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) ran so fast he traveled back in time to a moment near the start of the episode.

As I predicted, there weren’t two Flashes running around in this week’s episode, “Rogue Time.” Instead, Barry had “overwritten” his past self and the events of the past day or two. How did that change things?

First, since he knew about the Weather Wizard’s intentions, Barry was able to capture and imprison him before he could even get started with his plan of revenge.

Weather Wizard: “Curses, foiled again!”

Because the Weather Wizard never launched his attacks, Barry’s boss, Captain Singh (Patrick Sabongui), didn’t receive a crippling injury.

Captain Singh injured.

Captain Singh injured.

Captain Singh: “That’s a relief.”

Also, since events now took a different path, Cisco never investigated how the Reverse Flash escaped from containment and thus didn’t make his discovery and get himself killed.

Cisco: “Hooray, I’m not dead.”

On the other hand, in the new timeline he was captured by Leonard Snart, AKA Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), who tortured Cisco’s brother, Dante (Nicholas Gonzalez), to make Cisco reveal the Flash’s true identity.

Cisco: “Darn it!”

And while Cisco is still breathing in the new timeline (ironically, Dr. Wells gave him a pep talk in the same room where he killed him in the original history), newspaper reporter Mason Bridge (Roger Howarth), who was investigating Dr. Wells, wasn’t so lucky. In the altered timeline, Dr. Wells somehow learned about Bridge’s investigation and, as the Reverse Flash, punched a hole through his heart at super speed.

Bridge: “Ouch!”

For his part, Barry, who’d again confessed his love for Iris West (Candice Patton) in the original timeline— and been told she felt the same— was surprised to find she didn’t share those feelings in the altered timeline.

Barry and Iris.

Barry and Iris.

Barry: “Rats!”

The reason, Dr. Wells theorized, was a major emotional event in the original timeline. That, obviously, would have been the attacks on her father.

At the episode’s end, Barry had somehow become suspicious of Dr. Wells, telling Joe that Joe might have been right about everything about him.

Dr. Wells: “Uh, oh.”

As for Captain Cold knowing Barry’s identity, Barry made it clear that if word got out, the Flash would make Captain Cold’s life an unpleasant one.

Captain Cold: “I probably shouldn’t make him angry. I don’t think I’ll like him when he’s angry.”

Flash confronts Captain Cold.

Flash confronts Captain Cold.

So, was it a bit of a cheat— one along the lines of the abhorred “it was all a dream” ending— to re-set the events of last week so that Cisco wasn’t killed and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) never discovered that— at the very least— Dr. Wells didn’t need his wheelchair?

No. Because A) the viewer knows the truth about the Reverse Flash and B) Barry is himself now suspicious of Dr. Wells, which will no doubt lead to a season-ending confrontation.

In another character development, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) punched Barry at a crime scene after Barry’s meeting with Iris. He later apologized, saying it’s not like him to hit anyone. He and Iris were also led to believe (by Caitlin) that Barry’s “emotional outburst” was a side effect of the lightning strike all those months ago.

The other day, I saw a trailer for upcoming episodes. In it, Eddie shoots two fellow cops. Presumably those actions will turn out to be as uncharacteristic as his punching Barry. The question remains what causes him to do these things?

The Flash remains a smart and fun show and next week’s episode should be especially fun as Mark Hamill reprises his role of the Trickster from the 1990 Flash series.

The Trickster then.

The Trickster then.

The Trickster today.

The Trickster today.

Well, sort of. While the previous show isn’t acknowledged within the fictional universe of The Flash, for obvious reasons, photos and video clips of Hamill’s character when he was younger are taken from his appearances in the 1990 series.

Hamill, of course, is well-regarded for his portrayal as the voice of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. In some ways, his performance as the Trickster could almost be seen as a “trial run” for his later Joker portrayal.

On the subject of time travel, I mentioned earlier this year that I doubted Eddie Thawne was the Reverse Flash because he doesn’t mess up day-to-day details someone from the future might not know. How do I explain Dr. Wells not having that problem? He’s been in our century for 15 years. Plenty of time to get acclimated.

Yes, Eddie could have, too, if he’d arrived from the 25th century 15 years ago. But Eddie’s also 20 years younger than Dr. Wells (assuming the characters are the same ages as the actors). It’s doubtful the producers ever considered having the Reverse Flash be a teenager; so if he had been Eddie, we would have found that, like Barry, an adult Eddie would have eventually traveled back in time to that fateful night.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: Updates on The Flash and Arrow

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Flash and Arrow
First, The Flash.

Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.

Turns out Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) did kill Nora Allen 14 years earlier. In last Tuesday’s episode, “Out of Time”, he admitted to S.T.A.R Labs mechanical engineer Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) that he’s the Reverse Flash; his real name is Eobard Thawne and he’s from the 25th century. He also said killing Nora Allen (Michelle Harrison) hadn’t been his intention. Instead, he was trying to kill Barry that night.

Cisco confronts Dr. Wells.

Cisco confronts Dr. Wells.

Wait. What?

First, a recap of recent events in The Flash to explain how and why Dr. Wells/Thawne revealed his true identity to Cisco: Over the course of the season, detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), who raised Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) after Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) went to prison for his wife’s murder, has begun having doubts as to whether Dr. Wells has been entirely honest about himself and his actions. He’s even begun to wonder if Wells might have been involved in Nora Allen’s murder. Joe shared these suspicions with Cisco, who refused to believe them.

Still, Joe and Cisco searched for answers as to what really happened in the Allen home that fateful night and found blood splatters beneath some wallpaper. Cisco ran some tests and discovered that it was Barry’s blood. What’s more, the blood contained certain chemicals that build up as you age, chemicals an 11-year-old wouldn’t have accumulated. Conclusion: the adult Barry Allen had been at the scene (the young Barry had reported seeing both red and yellow streaks that night), which means that at some point in the future Barry will travel back in time to that night.

Streaks of red and yellow surround Nora Allen.

Streaks of red and yellow surround Nora Allen.

Despite his refusal to believe that Dr. Wells— whom he hero-worships— could have killed Nora Allen, something bugged Cisco about the containment field used to temporarily trap the Reverse Flash earlier this season. The Reverse Flash escaped and beat up Dr. Wells, but according to all the instrumentation, he shouldn’t have been able to do get out. Cisco asked bio-engineer Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) to keep Dr. Wells out of S.T.A.R Labs for a time while he conducted some tests.

So, while Caitlin kept Dr. Wells at a coffee shop, Cisco studied the containment mechanism and discovered a holographic image of the Reverse Flash, complete with pre-recorded “dialogue.”

The possibility that the Reverse Flash might not have actually been in that containment field never occurred to me. Which is ironic, considering that in the 1970s I bought a magic trick in which the magician “converses” with a tape recorder, just as Dr. Wells “conversed” with the “captured” Reverse Flash.

I also never expected Wells to be the man who was in the Allen home all those years ago. Okay, yes, Dr. Wells is a speedster, but I thought he might turn out to be Barry’s descendant, Bart Allen, and that he was impersonating the Reverse Flash in the present day for some reason to give Barry the proper motivation.

Dr. Wells, for his part, suspected something was up and when Caitlin was at the coffee counter, raced to S.T.A.R Labs, leaving his (unnecessary) wheelchair behind (and revealing the truth to Caitlin as well).

So, that’s how Dr. Wells came to confront Cisco. And subsequently to kill him.

Dr. Wells kills Cisco.

Dr. Wells kills Cisco.

Okay, so Dr. Harrison Wells is really Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, a man from the 25th century somehow stranded in our time. Why, as he told Cisco, would he have wanted to kill Barry? It doesn’t make sense that he’d try to kill the 11-year-old Barry, especially since he needs the adult Barry’s speed to help him return to his own time.

Also, why was Dr. Wells/Thawne in the Allen home that night 14 years ago? One possibility is that he went there looking for The Flash. By the 25th century, the Flash’s true identity might be a matter of public record. But maybe their records aren’t/won’t be entirely accurate and the Allen home (perhaps the site of the Flash Museum) is believed to be where Barry lived as an adult.

Maybe when the Reverse Flash found himself in the early 21st century, unable to generate enough speed to get back to his own time for whatever reason, he sought out the Flash for help.

Now, suppose that just then the time-traveling Flash arrives from the present day. He attacks the Reverse Flash and in the course of the struggle, Nora Allen is killed.

It would be ironic if Nora Allen died because Barry had gone back in time to save her, but the question remains: Why did Dr. Wells/Thawne attempt to kill Barry that night, as he told Cisco? Again, this wasn’t a case of the Reverse Flash finding himself in the early 21st century, seeking help from the Flash and being attacked for (from his perspective) no reason; Dr. Wells/Thawne told Cisco he’d intended to kill Barry.

Unlike Barry, who has yet to travel back in time to that night, Wells/Thawne has already experienced the confrontation in the Allen home. So it’s not a case of the two later becoming enemies, traveling back in time and having a fight in the past.

What’s more, unlike the Reverse Flash of the comics, Dr. Wells seems genuinely interested in Barry’s welfare. And not just because he wants to use him as a means to get home.

Of course he confessed to being fond of Cisco, but killed him anyway, telling him that from his point of view Cisco has been dead for centuries.

But if my theory as to why The Reverse Flash was in the Allen home that night is right (and he did tell Cisco he had only recently arrived in our time), he didn’t yet know Barry. And, as I said, killing him wouldn’t help him get home.

Now, it’s possible that from his perspective the Reverse Flash has already fought many battles with the Flash, ones that took place before he found himself stranded in our time. Maybe he thought the Flash who confronted him in the Allen home was an older version, one who was already an enemy. Maybe he intended to kill his enemy then ironically seek out the younger version of the Flash for help in getting home, only to discover that Barry Allen had not yet become the Flash.

So, he created the persona of Harrison Wells and played a waiting game.

Could be.

I don’t know what middle initial “Harrison Wells” has, if any, but it would be amusing if it were “G.” “Herbert George Wells” as an alias might have raised too many questions, but “Harrison G. Wells” as the name of a time traveler works as a subtle nod. I assume the producers chose that name for the character for that reason.

By the way, time travel “bookends” the episode “Out of Time.” At the start, Barry thought he saw himself run past while he was racing somewhere. And at the end, as he raced to stop a tsunami caused by the Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre), he found himself running alongside himself. Surprised, he stopped and discovered he was back when and where he’d been at the episode’s beginning.

From the trailer for tonight’s episode, it’s clear that Barry has “overwritten” recent events. And his past self, since there are no indications that two of him will be running around tonight.

Which means A) Cisco’s discovery of the truth and his subsequent murder haven’t happened; B) Barry, who knows the threat the Weather Wizard poses, can prevent the tidal wave from ever happening and thus avoid having to reveal his identity to Iris (Candice Patton) and C) Dr. Wells still has his secret, because although Caitlin tried to tell Barry about him, Barry was in a bit of a rush at the time.

No doubt Barry will learn the truth about Dr. Wells, but not just yet, it would seem. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop.

As for Arrow, the Feb. 25 episode, “Nanda Parbat” ended with Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) saying he wanted Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) to be his successor. In last Wednesday’s episode, “the Offer” , he explained how certain waters that keep him young are no longer healing him as they once did and that his time will soon be up. He said he believes Oliver is the man to succeed him and “as a gesture of goodwill”, let Oliver, John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) leave, all debts forgiven and all blood oaths waived.

Ra’s al Ghul makes his point to Oliver Queen.

Ra’s al Ghul makes his point to Oliver Queen.

Before he did, he told Oliver that Starling City would turn on him and that he would eventually be hunted down and killed as a vigilante. But, as the head of the League, he would have vast resources with which to make a difference.

As it turns out, Ra’s is stacking the deck against Oliver, because at the end of the episode, he kills some criminals— leaving one survivor— while dressed as the Arrow. He’s clearly orchestrating events to make his “prediction” come true and thus force Oliver to accept the leadership of the League.

Ra’s al Ghul impersonates the Arrow.

Ra’s al Ghul impersonates the Arrow.

These “healing waters” essentially fulfill the same function as the “Lazarus pit” of the comics, in that they allow Ra’s to live beyond a normal lifetime.

We also learn that “Ra’s al Ghul” (which means “the Demon’s head”) is a title, of sorts, one passed on from time to time. I don’t think that’s the case in the comics. I think “Ra’s al Ghul” is the name one man chose for himself.

No, the healing waters weren’t used to save Oliver’s life. Seems he survived his battle with Ra’s on that mountain due to a combination of the extreme cold, his indomitable will to live and a lot of luck.

By the way, Thea Queen (Willa Holland) now knows that she killed Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) while under Malcolm’s control. She has told both Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who doesn’t blame her, and Ra’s daughter, Nyssa (Katrina Law), who doesn’t believe her.

In the comics, Ra’s al Ghul is primarily a Batman adversary and (as was the case with Oliver in “The Offer”) has often tried to convince Batman to succeed him. Despite his love for Talia al Ghul (Nyssa’s older sister), Batman has always declined the offer. By contrast, Oliver, feeling he hasn’t really accomplished anything, was starting to give it serious thought. By the episode’s end, he’s snapped out of that mindset, but he might snap right back into it when people start thinking he’s dropping bodies.

Both The Flash and Arrow look like they’ll have exciting developments in the weeks to come.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.