Spoilers for Flash Season 3 Episode 3, Magenta
For me, 3 themes stood out the most in Magenta:
Dating your best friend:
Ah, that awkward moment when you are now dating your best friend. As someone who is now engaged to her best friend, I can empathise with Barry and Iris’ plight.
Barry is waiting impatiently for his first date with Iris, and Julian scolds him for being so bouncy and for trying to leave a minute before work is over. (On a side note, I am interested that Barry has set office hours for his job as a CSI: 10am-7pm. I expected a more chaotic work pattern, given that crime can happen 24/7)
Barry gets flowers for Iris, arranged in the shape of a heart. When she arrives, his nerves get the better of him and he thinks that she doesn’t like it, so he changes it to her name with his powers. Iris tells him to stop being the Flash on their date. Barry agrees and they leave the flowers in the street.
I don’t think that it was fair of Iris to tell Barry to suppress a large part of him, although she is probably trying to show him that she likes him for who he is, and not his powers.
The date goes poorly. Iris is hesitant. as Barry has picked somewhere really expensive to try and impress her, and they make awkward small talk. It seems that with his powers off the table, and his work as a CSI putting Iris to sleep, Barry is not sure what to talk about.
Iris lets Barry go to stop the robbery across the street, and realises that dating the Flash means constant interruptions: cue Cisco calling.
Barry admits the date didn’t go well, and worries that he is boring without his powers. Iris tells him that this isn’t true, but they should wait until things have calmed down before they try again. It’s so awkward between the pair of them. The build up to their first date has taken so long that they have both put a lot of pressure on themselves to make things perfect.
Support of Family:
Harrison Wells and Jesse are back, and Jesse has super speed. The team test her powers in the speed lab, but Harry is being very protective, and had hoped that the team would talk Jesse out of using her powers. This causes friction between Jesse and her dad, because she believes that he is not supporting her.
Wally is jealous of Jesse’s speed, and hopes that he will develop powers because he was also hit by the dark matter. Joe explains that Wally should not get his hopes up: the night the particle accelerator exploded, the whole city was exposed, but very few became meta-humans. Wally pretends that he is OK, but part of him cannot shake the feeling that he is meant to have speed, and he is not reassured.
When Harry and Jesse fight, because Harry is reluctant to let her out in the field, Wally goes after Jesse, and they talk about how she got her powers. She hoped that he had powers too, and Wally admits that he dreamt about it. (Alchemy’s next target, perhaps?) When Wally hears that Jesse’s powers manifested when she was nearly killed, he throws himself in front of a car. He does not get powers, and luckily Jesse saves him.
Barry lays into Wally, and Wally leaves. Jesse meanwhile, is being told off for saving Wally’s life. When Jesse leaves, Caitlin says that Harry should not assume that Jesse’s powers will destroy her. This is, presumably, the assumption that Caitlin believes her friends will make if she admits to having similar powers to Killer Frost.
Neither Jesse or Wally seem happy with the support, or lack of it in Jesse’s case, that they are receiving from family.
Living with an abusive parent (trigger warnings, emotional & possible physical abuse?):
Frankie has an angry foster father, who is intimidating and wants everything his way. It is unclear whether or not John is physically, as well as emotionally, abusive, but we can assume from the conversation at the hospital with Iris that he has violent tendencies.
It is no wonder that Frankie/Magenta attacks John the moment she develops the power to fight back. Living with that kind of person is terrifying: you fear shouting and loud noises, and you tense up whenever they enter the room, for fear you may do something, or have done something, to trigger their temper. You just want it to stop, and most of the time the only option is to close yourself off until they calm down or leave.
It is therefore understandable that Frankie does not remember anything. Barry says that repressing memories is a common coping method for foster kids, but Julian is suspicious and tests her DNA. He corners Frankie as she is leaving and his yelling triggers her split personality. Magenta attacks Julian, and Barry, as the Flash, has to save him.
Magenta gets away and goes to Alchemy, who says that if she kills John, Frankie will know that Magenta is in control. When Iris is visiting John, Magenta’s foster father, in hospital, Magenta attacks and has a giant boat under her control ready to drop on the hospital.
Barry suspends the boat by running like a figure 8, but he cannot confront Magenta and be on the roof at the same time. In a major turning point for him, Harry tells Jesse to go help.
Jesse manages to keep the tanker up long enough for Barry to get through to Frankie, who admits that John called her weak, pathetic, a horrible person. John blamed her for everything and she just wants him to stop hurting her.
Barry explains that John couldn’t face who he really was and took his mistakes out on her. He couldn’t move forward, but she can. Frankie moves the boat away and apologises.
Back at Star labs, Frankie says that she started having dreams of Magenta, and Alchemy offered to make her powerful. Caitlin has found Frankie a good home in Keystone, and Barry tells her to fight Magenta if she comes back. Hopefully, Frankie will be able to, and will receive good support in her new home.
The sad thing is, many children who grow up with abusive parents continue to feel lost and confused into adulthood: because their parents, the ones who are meant to support them and provide a safe environment, instead tear them down and make them feel small. I feel that the Flash touched on an important issue this week, if only briefly.
Meanwhile, Joe notices that something is off with Wally, but Wally insists that he is fine. Wally is disappointed and confused, and the support that he gets from his family isn’t enough. He is left feeling alone, and wondering if he will meet Dr Alchemy too.
Jesse and Harry make up. Harry admits that he is always going to worry, because he loves her, but he congratulates her on her first victory as a superhero. Jesse knows that he will always love her, and she loves him too, even when he drives her insane. Harry says that they will stay a few more days and gives her a suit that Cisco and Caitlin have made for her. Jesse is happy, and has finally come to an understanding with her father.
Barry and Iris are determined to make their new relationship work, and hopefully, because of their feelings for each other, it will work out fine. On their second date, Barry says that his powers are part of him, and whisks Iris off to another city. They are both more relaxed together, and it’s all going well until Barry has to dash off: apparently, Iris will have to get used to being left (sometimes in far away cities!) when Barry dashes off to emergencies!
When Joe pulls Barry back from his date, it is to show him footage of Clariss, who was tossed around by an invisible force, and was dead before he hit the ground.
Maybe next episode we will find out why.
We get to see Jesse suited up, and a man with the ability to travel through mirrors, who traps Barry in a mirror to get him out of the way!