The amount of joy I felt today about my superhero TV season starting up again was probably a little extreme. Summer is great – I love summer, but I also love my nerd TV.
First out of the gate tonight was “Flashpoint” the season premiere of The Flash. In some ways I loved it – it was great to see Kid Flash and normal optometrist Caitlin, however it also kind of bugged me.
One of my pet peeves about standard episodic television is how the structure artificially manipulates the story line. The standard now is that in April or May you needs some sort of epic gamechanging cliffhanger and/or something that wraps up the story line of the show in some way….
….And then you have to come back in October and start the story all over again. And if you want to keep your show in “real time” you have to explain where those three months went. (I could write a whole separate rant about “real time” – especially with superhero shows which feel like they can mess with the space-time continuum but heaven forbid it should be July in their fantasy world when it’s October in ours.) Some shows manage to do this gracefully – but honestly it’s a rare phenomenon.
Often the show comes back from those three months and tells, or quickly shows, us what has changed. We, as the audience, are supposed to just take it on faith and try not be irritated that we’ve been left out of a whole chapter of the story. On Arrow, for those of us who like the Oliver and Felicity relationship, it’s meant that the happiest (and for my money some of the most anticipated) bits of their dynamic have taken place off the screen. Super, super, frustrating. No wonder people write fanfiction.
The other thing that seems to happen is that the finale winds up to that big cliffhanger/game changer and then the season premiere finds some way to write everything back the way it was. This drives me nuts – it wastes some of the best moments of the story and makes it hard to invest in those big moments.
Unfortunately (spoiler alert) – that’s kind of the route The Flash went. Barry’s decision from last season radically altered the timeline – but we only get one brief shallow glance at that timeline before the show finds a way to put everything back. Yes, at the tail end of the episode we get a hint that there have been consequences to Barry’s actions, but to me it’s not enough. To me they’ve shortchanged a multi-episode worthy arc that could have explored, in detail, the power of what we think we want versus what we need. If Barry’s going to literally ask the bad guy to murder his mother – that moment should be HUGE – and not a 2 second throwaway to quickly get the show back to normal.
Am I still excited that my shows are back? Absolutely! I just occasionally wish that writers and networks would be as brave and bold as the heroes they’ve written and trust their audiences enough to tell a more complex story. Really guys, trust me, we can take it.