Warning! Full spoilers for the episode below.
The Flash did everything right this week in Magenta. Too often, the heap of comic book shows forget to balance the bits that make them best. Sometimes they opt for garish and expensive showboating spectacles (I’m looking at you, Legends of Tomorrow Season 1!). Sometimes they forget to focus on the main characters that define their source material (Hey there, Gotham!). Season 2 of The Flash has not only managed to avoid the same mistakes, but exceeded my expectation this week with Magenta.
Also, before we begin, there was a hint of Wally’s voice in our weekly, “I am, The Flash!” voiceover! I’ll have to re-watch/re-listen to be 100% sure, but I’m pretty darn sure. Shades of what is to come? Another hint, among a few others in this episode? I’ll get to that in a bit!
Tom Felton’s Julian continues to be an enigma, one that hopefully pays off in the long run. We begin Magenta with Barry anxiously excited about his date with Iris, but fixating on it to the nth degree. We see more shades of Julian, as a very by-the-book character. While this causes strife with our favorite goofy protagonist Barry, that doesn’t mean that Julian is inherently bad. He holds Barry to his higher standards, and it brings back shades of Eddie Thawne. Eddie was never the bad guy, but in relation to his Barry’s own goals, he was an antagonist. Julian shows similar shades, but remains intriguing all the same.
It’s interesting to see where The Flash is taking Iris and Barry, and refreshing that they’re giving them time to discover what their relationship is about. Sure, we know that eventually it will be Mrs. Iris West-Allen, but Magenta gave us a nice look into the development of this relationship. Iris and Barry attempt to have a dinner with “No Flash” talk, but it’s awkward, it’s boring, and it’s ultimately telling. They try to craft a relationship that isn’t true to who they are, and it doesn’t work.
By the end of Magenta, Barry and Iris share sweet sentiment in these thoughts. They can’t pretend their relationship doesn’t involve The Flash. It comes in stark contrast to someone like Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Both Bruce and Clark, use their daily persona as their mask, as their secret identity. Bruce and Clark ultimately exist, at their core, as Batman and Superman. But that’s not how Barry exists. Barry is The Flash. The Flash is Barry. There’s not a day and night shift between his two lives, and they instead exist in tandem. It was nice to see The Flash address this, in the form of Iris and Barry accepting that The Flash is part of their relationship, and that’s not something that they can ignore.
But of course, Star Labs, and the breach re-opening, disrupted the initial part of their date. With this breach re-opening, we had the return of Harrison and Jesse Wells. And thank goodness for Tom Cavanagh, we find out that Barry’s actions on Earth 1 only affected Earth 1. Harrison Wells is still the Harrison Wells we knew from Season 2. As much as Cavanagh would have surely accepted another multi-faceted performance, it’s good to have something consistent in Barry’s life. All the while, while some consistency cemented, change also comes. Jesse is now a speedster, affected by the Particle Accelerator blast that occurred at the end of Season 2. While Wells immediately notices that the timeline is altered, he is still in need of Star Labs’ help with Jesse, which creates a plethora of great moments within Magenta.
And that leads us into meeting “Magenta” or, well, first meeting Frankie (Fargo’s Joey King). While the setup for Frankie is as close to cliché as possible, with an abusive foster parent, the payoff later is certainly worth it. Immediately though, I did scoff at a scenario that has been repeated time and time again. Of course, we soon meet Magenta properly, who emerges when her foster father triggers her into a seemingly second personality. She attacks her foster father, and is soon being questioned in the CCPD.
While I didn’t care for the Magenta storyline immediately, I loved the end payoff, and it also played a huge role during Magenta with seeing Julian in action more. Barry may not like Julian, and vice-versa, but Julian is highly intelligent and intuitive in his investigative work. While Barry wouldn’t have given a second glance to Frankie as the perpetrator, Julian’s intuition led him to the truth. Again, Julian remains an interesting facet of The Flash as we continue into Season 3. Frankie is antagonized and triggered by Julian’s lack of social skills though, and Magenta once emerges. Barry saves Julian from being crushed to death, and Julian surely has to be putting two and two together about Barry.
In Magenta, we had lots of exciting moments, but what helped this episode excel, were the quiet character moments. We had these with Barry and Iris, but this episode was packed full of father/son and father/daughter moments between Joe/Wally and Wells/Jesse. Wells brought Jesse to Earth 1, in order to try to prevent the inevitable, to prevent Jesse from trying to be a hero. She wants to be just like Barry, she wants to be a hero and save the day. Wells, of course, just wants to protect his daughter, but doesn’t quite go about it the right way. His struggle as a father is apparent, but great to view in those moments. And, of course, it’s great to have Wells back with the Star Labs team, bringing back shades of what they once were in Season 2.
Alongside the pairing of Wells and Jesse, we had Joe and Wally. Although Wally took a backseat this episode, he still shared great moments with both Joe, as well as Jesse. Wally just wants to be a hero, like Barry, and now like Jesse. Joe gives a great “Dad Cop” talk, telling Wally that he could, “Build a better world,” instead of having to save it in the way that Barry does. Alongside the great talk with Joe, came a consolation between Jesse and Wally. Jesse figures out that Wells doesn’t want her to be a hero, and is hurt by his actions. She turns to Wally for comfort, but also tells Wally that her powers were “jumpstarted” in the face of crisis. This pushes Wally to step out into traffic, a dangerously dumb mistake. Jesse is forced to save Wally, and Wally is just as lost as ever.
While Wally isn’t happy, this does open the door for Professor Alchemy to step in and “help” in his unique ways. We saw Professor Alchemy in a bit of a mentor role initially with The Rival, and again this week with Magenta. I can appreciate this different approach with Professor Alchemy, after having somewhat same-y approaches by Reverse-Flash and Zoom. Not only does Season 3 set up Professor Alchemy to help Wally transform into Kid Flash, but to also manipulate his jealousy of Barry. And hey, if Barry has to face off against another speedster this season, at least Wally would present a much more interesting one. But of course, that’s just speculation for now.
Don’t call me Kid Flash.
With the various characters in Magenta, there was action and fun, but also serious drama. Deeper so, this was drama that made sense with the various family dynamics. As it’s been said before, sometimes the CW lineup is dramatic from the sake of drama, almost to the point of verbally groaning, but Magenta had the perfect balance. There was drama that was folded throughout the episode, hinging on the theme of family, and it made sense. It helped the episode pack a much more powerful punch in the end.
While I said that I didn’t love the character of Magenta initially, the themes of family during the climactic ending helped to pull me through. Magenta is urged by Professor Alchemy to take back her new identity by finalizing and end to the relationship with her abusive stepfather. It’s interesting that Tobin Bell was chosen to voice Alchemy, because many of the same ideologies that he preaches align closely to those that were in Saw. While I don’t expect grotesque traps, it will be interesting to track the similarities going forward. Regardless, Magenta attacks once more, but Barry isn’t able to face her alone. This sets up a charming, albeit cheesy situation of Wells saying, “Run, Jesse, run,” to his daughter as she is finally able to be the hero that she wants to be.
I loved this ending though, because it gave Barry the opportunity to be a different kind of hero. Barry so often punches or runs or fights his way to victory, but Magenta gave him the chance to find victory otherwise. He was able to talk, to instill hope in Frankie. The Flash has always shone so brightly, especially up against something like Arrow, because of the hope and optimism that is ever-present in Barry’s character. While Magenta was hyper-serious to a close point of silliness, it was all reigned in nicely with Barry’s approach and victory. It was a nice change of pace, and one that was entirely exceptional.
At the end of Magenta, Frankie talks about the dreams she had before being lulled in by Professor Alchemy, further solidifying the idea that Wally will be on the same path shortly. But most importantly, Jesse Quick finally got a fancy costume, and will be sticking around Earth 1 with Wells for a bit longer. Their presence will surely be welcome as Season 3 continues on. Finally, Joe and Barry and Julian viewed the security footage of Professor Alchemy killing Edward Clariss. Alchemy didn’t even appear on film besides a few bright flashes of light, and Clariss was dead before he hit the ground. The slow buildup of Alchemy has been well enacted, and I hope that The Flash continues the same solid approach.
Magenta managed to surpass my expectations, while still balancing an action-packed episode with heartwarming and important character moments. While there were many moving parts in Magenta, each part paralleled the next, acting perfectly in tandem to support and build upon the previous. Magenta had humor, heart, and is exactly what The Flash should be.