Was “All Star Team Up” The Flash’s goofiest episode to date? Yes. Was it full of giant plot holes? Sure. Was it bad? Not at all. Because no Flash episode in which Felicity Smoak drops by could ever be anything but delightful, no matter how ludicrous it gets.
“All Star Team Up” is a very silly episode, and not just because Felicity and Brandon Routh’s delightfully square Ray Palmer stops by STAR Labs for help with the ATOM suit. Admittedly, Ray’s cheesiness and Felicity’s penchant for saying anything that’s on her mind helps, but when the villain is the barely-classic DC villain the Bug-Eyed Bandit, it’s hard to take things too seriously despite the fact that her army of robot bees literally kill Barry and Cisco at different points in the episode. Also, the bee puns don’t help.
That said, I greatly enjoyed “All Star Team Up,” I think mainly because I know this extreme silliness is the exception, not the rule. I mean, it’s supremely hard to hate an episode that begins with The Flash catching bad guy after bad guy, depositing them in Joe’s police car, and Joe literally cackling at how easy fighting regular old crooks in Central City has become. Of course, that sort of hubris can’t go unchecked, and it’s checked pretty hard by a swarm of robot bees that kills a roboticist. But who has time to investigate that when Felicity and Ray Palmer come to town? (Not only do the C&C Science Factory utter the “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” lines, but shortly after Ray asks for help with his suit, he does so explaining “I can’t keep it up.” ‘Tis a very silly episode.)
That’s not to say the episode is completely devoid of seriousness. Eddie chafes against Joe’s refusal to let him tell Iris about the Flash, and Iris is getting super-pissed that Eddie is clearly keeping a secret from him. Barry agonizes over whether he can tell Cisco and Caitlin about Wells’ identity as the Reverse-Flash, and more specific whether they’d side with him or their mentor. (This is also thanks to Joe, who basically stresses Barry into not following his gut about his friends.) Barry, as per usual, can’t conceal his emotions from a distracted six-year-old, so Wells already knows something is up. And in the most surprising development, Cisco has started having visions of the original timeline — the timeline in which Dr. Wells murdered him.
So this stuff keeps the show grounded even when Barry goes on a hilariously ill-advised dinner date with Felicity, Ray, Iris and Eddie, as well as when another swarm of robot bees attacks another scientist, and Felciity says, out loud, on purpose, “Bee careful! Bad pun, sorry, please don’t die.” However, Barry fails to take her advice and dies after about a million bees sting him and he’s goes into anaphylactic shock (no, I don’t know why he didn’t just outrun them or even creates a wall of wind to keep them away; the show seems to indicate there were just too many bees for Barry to keep up with, even at super-speeds, but I’m not buying it). At any rate, Cisco put a defibrillator in the Flash suit, so Barry gets better.
After a second victim is stung, the group realizes that Mercury Labs roboticists are being targeted, and ask scientist Tina McGee (who you might remember as the scientist whose tachyon thingamajig the Reverse-Flash stole, or who was the love interest to John Wesley Shipp on the original Flash show). In a refreshing bit of straightforwardness, all Tina has to hear is “robot bees” and she immediately points to Brie Larvan, a former employee fired for… well, making killer robot bees, mostly. Barry and Joe warn Tina she will be likely targeted next, but Tina waves them off, so they have another action sequence to end the episode with.
Brie, of course, immediately sends a swarm after Dr. Tina; Ray uses his suit to deal with those bee, while Felicity tracks the bees’ network to find where Brie’s lair is. The Flash heads there, only to be shocked when he encounters another swarm of bees — but eventually Felicity hacks Brie and shuts off the bees attacking the Flash as the Atom leads his swarm into the bay. Between the Atom’s humorously slow Iron Man pastiche and the Flash’s complete inability to deal with the bees (again), let’s just say no one’s going to confuse it for an Age of Ultron preview. (However, I’m betting Age of Ultron will be severely lacking in Felicity’s adorably dorky bon mots.)
Honestly, the more I think about it, the more giant, gaping plotholes this episode has. Why is the Flash completely outmatched by the robot bees not once but twice? Why does Dr. Tina refuse protection when there is a psychopath with an army of killer robot bees after her? Brie hid a bee on the Flash’s costume and saw everyone at STAR Labs — isn’t the fact she knows the Flash’s identity a problem? If this was somehow your first episode of The Flash, or perhaps if this had aired in the first half dozen episodes, back when the show was weaker and more formulaic, I imagine its flaws would be more obvious and much more annoying.
Yet for some reason I’m not annoyed. Yes, I’m not thrilled that there was some seriously lazy writing in “All Star Team Up,” but it was still a lot of fun, and it’s a lot easier to overlook these problems when I’m being too entertained to care. There’s also the fact that The Flash has had such strong run of episodes (pun intended so hard) since the mid-season premiere, I’m actually willing to cut it some slack once in a while. Everyone one stumbles once in a while, even the Scarlet Speedster.
More importantly, I get the feeling that this episode was one final bit of frivolity before The Flash enters its final five episodes of the season. I would put money down that the Flash writers specifically gave us this funny/wacky/ridiculous episode, as a sort of palate cleanser before the Speed Force really hits the fan. Because even by the end of “All Star Team Up,” Barry has told Caitlin and Cisco that he believes Wells is the Reverse-Flash… and Cisco tells them about his lucid dreams about Wells murdering him. Wells’ secret is out, and if Wells doesn’t know he definitely suspects. He was willing to kill Cisco in the alternate timeline — what will he do when everyone knows?
Suffice it to say, I don’t expect there’ll be much silliness in these last five episodes. And I can’t wait.
• For those of you who don’t known your ridiculous DC villains, the Bug-Eyed Bandit was a Silver Age nemesis of the Atom. He was a dude — Bertram Larvan — who did control an army of robot insects.
• Brie is likely the TV series’ silliest villain — she tosses out bee-themed puns like she’s auditioning for a new Joel Schumacher Batman movie — but again, I was down with it. Let’s just not make this a regular thing, okay, Flash?
• Jesus, Felicity KILLS IT with her lines. They’re almost all gems. “I thought Central City was the fun one.” “BOOM. DROP THE MIC. Not really.” And the absolute best: “Bee careful! Bad pun, sorry, please don’t die.” Emiy Bett Richards’ delivery, as always, is impeccable.
• Iris tells Eddie is he doesn’t come clean with whatever he’s hiding, she’s going to break up with him. Is this part of what starts his hatred towards the Flash? Because it seems like this nonsense is mostly Joe’s fault.
• Speaking of, Eddie and Joe’s conversation about whose opinion outweights the other — and specifically how Eddie’s only wins when he marries Iris — was super-weird, right? On a bunch of levels. Not least because no one has ever been able to explain how not telling Iris who the Flash is protects her to the tiniest degree.
• Brandon Routh himself said it, but the Atom definitely works better on The Flash than on Arrow. He’s much better as a happy, peppy anti-Batman than the faux-Iron Man Arrow presents him as. His “Hi! I’m Ray!” was adorable.
• New Flash Power o’ the Week: Cisco “takes a bee” for Ray, and goes into anaphylactic shock and dies as well. Barry vibrates his hands and generates electricity to resuscitate him. (But seriously, did no one at STAR Labs think to invent an epipen or something?)
• You know, my magnanimity towards this episode may just be because I know they’re about to put an evil, sentient, telepathic gorilla on my TV screen in the next few weeks. Seriously, that earns them a lot of leeway from me.
• Check out the very last letter in today's "Postal Apocalypse" for a Flash TV show idea so amazing it HAS to come true. Seriously. Once you hear it, it'll become canon in your head. I guarantee.