Screenplay by Alison Schapker and Brooke Eikmeier.
Straight-off the bat, Schapker and Eikmeier demonstrate how to write characters well. A big problem with storytelling is that you’re required to show the audience your character deck, without telling them what cards you hold. To do that would be to give the game away, and then there’s just no point in playing. The biggest example of this over the course of The Flash is Harrison Wells. We’ve learnt that he’s not actually disabled, that he has a connection with Reverse-Flash, and then that he is Reverse-Flash. But on the side of the Flash himself, there are other things that have been revealed through their natural course of events rather than being forced to be dramatic, as with recent Arrow episodes.
For this particular episode, the way it’s demonstrated is with the villain Pied Piper. He causes a disturbance, the Flash captures him and takes him down to S.T.A.R. Labs. All quite standard. But whereas Revenge of the Rogues had distinctly comedic characters, with Captain Cold consistently making jokes, Pied Piper progresses to be a psychological gamer, who can unnerve the Flash and make him doubt his own abilities. No other villain’s done that so far. Until this point it was one power beating another, but with Pied Piper’s addition, the level’s been raised on what villains could be. Now that it’s been proven, he’s something of a watergate for quality in antagonists.
Especially as details about his personal life are also only released when it’s necessary. That’s what I like about The Flash – it might be light-hearted and at times cartoonish, but it’s tolerable because it doesn’t take the audience’s intelligence for granted. It knows that tension is created when we realise we don’t know something, not when we learn something new. So it insists on keeping things from us because it knows that’s best. In this relationship, The Flash is a bit of a kinkster, and we’re the gimp. But I love it. I never want to stop being beaten by it.
The Pied Piper even says that being dominated by a man dressed in leather is a long-time fantasy of his. See? Character. Yes, we find out he’s gay, but only from our deductions. He’s not saying that to draw attention to his sexuality, but because he’s playing a mind-game, and is using sex as one side of it. In this instance, that’s the kind of sex he understands. And we, as the audience, are treated intelligently enough to work out the context.
(Plus, he’s not wrong. Being handcuffed by a leather-bound Grant Gustin is a pretty enthralling idea. I mean, Pied Piper isn’t unattractive, but once you’ve discovered Gustin, everything else just leave you slightly less impressed. Not that I wouldn’t go with Pied Piper, cause I would, it’s just that I’d be thinking of the Flash.)
It sounds like I’m patronising the writers by doubting their capability, but it’s because – frankly – I’m fed up with being patronised by everything I see, so when I see something that’s actually good, my reaction to it could be construed as insulting.
But anyway, those are my thoughts on The Flash: the Sound and the Fury. It’s not so much a review as a compliment on this episode’s status as an example of how to write characters really well. Which isn’t to say that other things I watch don’t have well-written characters, it’s just that this is almost a demonstration in how to do it. Not that I have a problem with that.
The Flash: the Sound and the Fury: uncompromising tutorial in writing characters 8/10.