So many guest-stars in this episode of “The Flash,” and more crossover with “Arrow.” This week, the Atom and Felicity come visiting Central City for an old-fashioned superhero team-up and come face to face with an old school Silver Age Atom rogue from the comics, updated for TV, called, believe it or not, the Bug-Eyed Bandit! Meet me after the super speed jump for my thoughts on “All-Star Team-Up.”
If we’re having a team-up, we need to know who’s teaming up. Over on the “Arrow” side of this DC TV Universe continuity, we’ve been introduced to Ray Palmer, played by former man of steel from Superman Returns, Brandon Routh. As Palmer, Routh is basically doing his Clark Kent from that film, yet acknowledging his smarts and his muscles, and with that super-cool-nerd combo, he has managed to get Felicity into his arms. Although Caitlin’s observation later in the episode that Ray is kinda a mix of both Barry and Oliver both stings and rings, if you know what I mean.
Ray Palmer is also the superhero known as the Atom. In the comics the Atom is one of legacy of heroes (almost like that of the Flash) whose powers revolve around shrinking. White dwarf star material in a belt mechanism allows him to shrink to any size from six inches to subatomic, while retaining his own mass and strength, or becoming lighter than air to fly, or even traveling along telephone signals with electric particles. Yeah, it’s classic Silver Age comics science, but then again, that’s what the Flash is all about too, so it’s all good.
Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism
The bad part is that the showrunners at “Arrow,” and over here at “The Flash” aren’t giving us that Atom. There’s white dwarf star material involved, Ray’s got nanobots that are shrinking computers that saved his life recently, and he’s calling himself the Atom, much to Cisco’s chagrin, but that’s about where the similarities stop. This Ray Palmer AKA the Atom gets his powers – like flight, lasers, and body armor – from a suit, the A.T.O.M. suit.
A.T.O.M. means Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism. Really, can you get much more vague than that? This isn’t the Atom we know from the comics other than barely in color scheme. If we were to recognize this character from the comics, I might say Iron Man from marvel Comics, or X-O Manowar from Valiant Comics. I really have to wonder if this is what the showrunners were shooting for, couldn’t they have found a better match in the DC Comics catalog than the Atom, or couldn’t they just create someone new? Don’t get me wrong, I like the character that Routh is playing, it just ain’t the Atom is all.
The Bug-Eyed Bandit
Other than the omnipresent shadow of Harrison Wells as the Reverse-Flash hanging over the proceedings, the villain our two heroes have teamed up to fight this episode may be an obscure one even for the most hardcore fanboys and fangirls amongst us. One of the more embarrassing members of the Atom’s rogues gallery, and yes, he has one, is Bertram Larvan, also known as the Bug-Eyed Bandit. He was a crooked inventor who built robotic insects to do his bidding.
Writer Marv Wolfman was quoted as saying he could not be involved in a company that had a character called the Bug-Eyed Bandit, and killed him during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. But comic book characters, no matter how lame, always come back. Later writers just called him Larvan to avoid the silly moniker, but that could never help his costume. As bad as he sounds, I always say, there are no bad characters, only bad writers. It’s proven here with Larvan, just like the Rainbow Raider in the first Arrow/Flash crossover.
Joe and Sons
Here’s where we stand at the start. Barry knows Harrison Wells is the Reverse-Flash. And now Eddie knows who the Flash is. As opposed to the current state of the Arrowverse right now, the only person who doesn’t know Barry is the Flash is Iris (as amusingly noted by Eddie this episode), and let’s face it, really she should be the only one who does know. But that’s an argument for another time.
I kinda dig the teamwork between Flash, Joe and Eddie as they clean up the streets. Granted, Eddie doesn’t seem like he’s having fun, but they’re getting the job done. Joe is having a ball doing his job with his two ‘sons,’ and Jesse L. Martin has a great hearty laugh we don’t hear enough. Love it.
Birds and Bees
We then cut to a professor being attacked by bees in her car at the Applied Physics & Robotics department at Hudson University. Old comics readers like me will remember this old Easter egg. Hudson University, located in the comics upstate from Gotham City (North Jersey actually), was where Dick Grayson, also known as Robin and later Nightwing, both attended and dropped out of college. Nice to see it remembered, even if hundreds of miles out of place.
After disagreeing about working with Wells, Joe and Barry decide to go about business as usual, but not letting Cisco and Caitlin in on their secret about Wells. Secrets like this are becoming more and more a part of this show, even though that more a trademark of the visiting “Arrow” cast than this one. Team Flash figures there’s something weird about the bees when suddenly Felicity shows up… with her boyfriend, flying in in full awkward armor. Cisco has the perfect Superman line, “It’s a bird…” etc. Ray needs help with the suit, and let’s face it, Felicity is always welcome on the show.
Both victims turn out to be former employees of Mercury Labs, home of Dr. Tina McGee. While it’s always nice to see Amanda Pays, it would have been nicer during the ‘old home week’ of “Tricksters.” Has it occurred to anyone else that she would make a good replacement for Harrison Wells once he’s revealed once and for all as the Reverse-Flash? One interesting tidbit we learn here is that the Flash symbol on our hero’s chest is actually a defribulator, cool.
Our villain turns out to be a disgruntled employee, a Brie Larvan, who controls lots of robotic bees. Surprise, surprise it’s Emily Kinney in the role, Beth from “The Walking Dead,” thankfully sans her guitar, but with a rather snazzy super-villain outfit. I was more than a little disappointed by the actual ‘all-star team-up’ of this all-star team-up. The Flash and the Atom don’t even actually team up against the Bug-Eyed Bandit, they just separately chase and get chased by robot bees.
Secrets and Lies
While the binds of distrust get snapped as far as Cisco and Caitlin go, secrets are still wearing on other relationships on the show. Eddie is apparently a terrible secret keeper, or Iris, with her reporter mentality, can see right through the boy. They break up, for who knows how long, but Iris is now back to living at home with Joe and Barry – and in no way is that going to work out well. It was never a comics storyline that I liked, but I wonder if this bad blood between Barry and Eddie might be the start of Cobalt Blue, and the generations long feud between the Allens and the Thawnes? I love me some comics, but that might be leaning too far into soap opera land.
Also, Barry and Joe finally let Cisco and Caitlin in on their suspicions/conclusions about Harrison Wells being the Reverse-Flash. Caitlin seems a bit hesitant to believe it, but Cisco gets another of the weird flashbacks he’s been getting of late, nightmares and waking dreams of another reality, another timeline, where Harrison Well’s reveals himself, and kills Cisco.
Obviously this leads directly into next week’s episode, aptly titled, “Who Is Harrison Wells?”