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“Bloodlines” turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag with a B-story that turns out to be more entertaining and interesting than the A-story. More characters get added to what is already becoming a pretty crowded cast as well. This definitely won’t be counted among the stronger episodes of the season, but I doubt it will be a contender for one of the weakest either.
The A-story of “Bloodlines” is a Flash-centric one and revolves around the introduction of Impulse, a character from the future and the Flash’s grandson. Given how so many other characters have shown up in this season, the arrival of Impulse isn’t all that surprising. In fact, comic fans would have noticed if he never made an appearance in this season. If you had to sum up the Impulse character in one word, that word would probably be “annoying.” This is sometimes used to comedic effect and at other times… annoying effect. For the most part, this episode keeps him restrained enough to avoid the latter and even ends up revealing an interesting facet on his behavior. It’s the right call to bring this character into the mix, and it also introduces the element of time travel to the season. When this season started, I took a guess that time travel will play a big role toward the end.
But one of the things that hurts this story is that Wally West has always been the face of the Flash family in this show and expectations were that this would kind of be his episode. Viewers have waited patiently for developments on Wally, one of the show’s original cast members and the member of the Flash family viewers are by far most invested in. He has barely appeared in this season, and we only recently learned that the character has given up the costume to live a normal life with his former teammate Artemis. Now, here’s an episode that puts his part of the show’s universe in the spotlight, and he gets so little to do in it. There’s been a lot of speculation that this season would see Wally step up to become the Flash as he very successfully did in the comics. This episode seems like it is going to set things up for that very development, but then, it pulls back from that, leaving Wally with very little development in what really should be a big episode for him. His return to the Kid Flash costume is even utterly underplayed. We don’t even get any information about why he gave up the superhero life. He just puts the old costume on and helps out like it’s nothing.
I don’t think I’m being all that unfair to hold it against “Bloodlines” for giving Wally West such an underwhelming role. The show sidelined the character and has made us wait for his return. It’s not unreasonable to expect big, exciting things when finally an episode focuses on his neck of the woods. We got the death of Aquagirl and Black Manta in Aqualad’s episode. We got a marriage to Cheshire and Lian Harper in Red Arrow’s episode. Here, we get Wally’s unceremonious return to his Kid Flash costume. It’s hard not to find that disappointing, and that disappointment overshadows the arrival of Impulse.
All in all, the Flash side of this episode plays itself out in a fairly safe and predictable fashion. Viewers will realize in no time exactly what Impulse has come back in time to do, and his success at it robs the episode of the most interesting outcome possible. There are some fun easter eggs here like getting to see all four Flashes stand together for a moment on screen. This isn’t really enough to carry it, though. I will say that the show comes up with a smart way of having Neutron pose a problem for the Flash, and this is probably the first time the Flash in this show doesn’t come off like just a grown up Wally West. There’s actually a little Barry Allen to him.
There is also a nice little bit that revisits the mistaking Kid Flash for Speedy joke from the first episode. It’s a nice touch given the subject of the episode’s B-story.
Red Arrow and Cheshire star in the B-story as they conclude their search for the original Roy Harper. It’s a shame this is only the B-story, because it really is more entertaining than the Flash side of the episode. Red Arrow and Cheshire have a pretty fun dynamic that I wish we could spend more time with. It makes both the action and the humor more effective here than in the Flash story.
The duo, with their daughter Lian in tow, raid a Tibetan installation to find the original Roy Harper. It’s really just a straight action story, showing them fighting and bantering their way to their ultimate destination. No, it’s not at all an example of good parenting. It is a lot of fun, though. Cheshire’s attempt to straighten out Roy’s life seems to be working as the character appears more like his old self here. But with a character like Cheshire, you really have to wonder how honest she’s being about her motives. There’s some ambiguity revolving around how she was able to find Speedy’s location when no one else could, and that leaves us plenty of room to wonder if she’s being legit or still working for the Light.
Honestly, I hope something like the latter is the case and things aren’t as simple as they seem. Otherwise, we’re expected to believe that the Light has just kept the original Roy Harper in cold storage for all these years for no apparent reason. That would stretch believability a little more than I’m happy with.
I’m not sure how I feel about this episode effectively adding two more characters to the show’s ridiculously large cast. Impulse and possibly Speedy will be two more characters to juggle, and they arrive in an episode that drops the ball with Wally West. That isn’t a hopeful sign for how well Young Justice: Invasion will be able to keep up with all its characters. It is far from a doomed sign, though. It’s just worrying to see so many character threads dangling out there. If the season manages to address all of them in a satisfying way, that will be one hell of a feat.
Despite being the episode that introduces Impulse, “Bloodlines” is carried along more by its secondary story with Red Arrow. Impulse’s debut is fun but also just too obvious and predictable as it plays out. Add to that the underwhelming use of Kid Flash, and you have a less than great outing for the Flash family. Meanwhile, the Red Arrow story gives more entertainment and more progress on a story thread viewers are invested in.