It’s a common trope in superhero stories that, at some point, the hero will lose his powers for a time and have to defeat a villain without them. Since this was inevitable anyway, at least ‘The Flash’ gets it over with fairly early in the show’s first season.
Episode ‘Power Outage’ actually gives us two villains. The first, and most important, is a teen named Farooq Jibran who was struck by lightning during the particle accelerator meltdown and inadvertently killed two of his friends when he awoke. His meta-human ability is that he’s a “power vampire.” He can suck the electricity out of everything around him, including human bodies. (Strangely, he’s shown doing this by shooting lightning bolts towards stuff, which strikes me as a major directorial slip-up.) He has an insatiable hunger for electricity and blames Dr. Wells for his curse.
Barry encounters Farooq draining a power station. Farooq blasts him when he tries to interfere. Barry survives (most victims don’t), but his is speed gone. (Barry bemoans that he had to use Uber to get back to the lab.) Dr. Wells slips away to his secret room in the lab and has his computer “Gideon” check newspaper headlines from the future. The paper, which was previously inundated with stories about The Flash, no longer has any record of him existing. This somehow causes the U.S. Postal Service to go out of business and a merger between Wayne Enterprises and Queen Industries (nice cross-promotion shout-outs, DC Comics!) to fail, for reasons that aren’t clear. Also, something about “Red Skies” isn’t explained but sounds bad. I guess the point is that the future is falling apart without The Flash.
Having gotten a taste of Barry’s sweet, sweet speed, Farooq needs another hit. Also, he’s really pissed at Wells. So he shows up at the lab and busts in. Barry thinks he can reason with Farooq, but that doesn’t go well. Dr. Wells sets loose Tony Woodward, the metal man we just saw one episode ago, and promises to let him go if he can kill Farooq – as if Tony needed an excuse to beat the crap out of someone. Meanwhile, Cisco believes that he can restore Barry’s speed if he can jump-start him with a power surge through his fancy treadmill.
Tony distracts and delays Farooq, but not for long. Farooq eventually kills him. Cisco gives Barry the jump-start, but it doesn’t seem to work. Dr. Wells thinks Barry is just having a mental blockage. Farooq makes his way to the group and shoots a lightning blast at Wells. This is enough to trigger Barry’s abilities again. He outruns the lightning and moves Wells to safety.
(Although this would appear to mean that Barry can now run faster than the speed of light, no one ever comments on that. I suspect that this is another scripting or directing oversight.) [Strike that. I’ve been informed that lightning actually doesn’t travel at the speed of light. Guess I learned something today.]
Farooq manages to hit Barry again, but this time Barry has better control over his power and causes a feedback surge that overloads and kills Farooq. Wells checks headlines from the future again, and stories about The Flash are back.
Despite some inconsistencies in logic, this is generally a strong storyline. I don’t understand why, therefore, the episode shoehorns in a second storyline and a second, much lamer villain.
While Barry is dealing with “Blackout” (as Cisco nicknames Farooq), a criminal named William Tockman, a.k.a. “The Clock King” (Robert Knepper from ‘Prison Break’), who wears goofy glasses and is obsessed with time, escapes custody and takes everyone in the police station hostage, including Det. West and his daughter Iris. Because The Flash can’t be there to save them, West’s partner (and Iris’ boyfriend) Eddie tries to be a hero and winds up getting shot. As he bleeds out on the floor, Clock King grabs Iris to use as a human shield as he escapes, but the girl gets the better of him and shoots him in the leg with her father’s gun. Clock King is taken back into custody and Eddie survives.
I suppose that Clock King is saved in order to become a recurring supervillain in Flash’s rogues gallery, but how threatening can he be if freakin’ Iris can outsmart and overpower him? As much as I like Robert Knepper and think he could make a fun supervillain, I’m not impressed.
This is an uneven episode. I hope that the show can pick things up again, but the next episode will be the much-hyped crossover with ‘Arrow’, a show I don’t care about. I’m afraid that I’m not setting my expectations too high for that.