Some thoughts on the financial well-being of STAR Labs employees

I don’t ask for a lot of believability in stories. I don’t mind that the Death Star makes a loud BOOM when it explodes in the middle of soundless outer space. I prefer violence in TV and film to be bloodless, even when really sharp blades are involved. Show me a hero standing in the middle of a hailstorm of bullets and not receiving so much as a scratch and I won’t have a problem with it. But there’s one aspect of my favorite currently running TV show, The Flash, that tests my willingness to suspend disbelief every time I think of it.

How in the multiverse are Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow paying their bills?

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The Flash himself, Barry Allen, collects a paycheck from the Central City Police Department, where he works as a CSI. Iris West is a reporter. Detective Joe West, like Barry, is on the police payroll. They’re all financially secure.

But Cisco and Caitlin worked at STAR Labs for Dr. Harrison Wells at the time the lab’s particle accelerator exploded. It was established in numerous season one episodes that while Wells secretly planned this “disaster,” most of the world considered it a terrible accident. The incident left STAR Labs and Dr. Wells disgraced. Things were so bad, the STAR Labs building was never fully repaired, and it was declared a hazardous site. Four years later, it still features a visibly damaged exterior.

The financial fallout of the particle accelerator explosion – read: negligence lawsuits – should have sent STAR Labs into Chapter 11. If I remember correctly, the pilot episode said the company was headed towards bankruptcy. But on a more human level, Cisco and Caitlin refused to abandon Dr. Wells after the accident. They continued to work at STAR Labs, and they were part of the team that helped Barry discover and hone his speedster abilities. While this is a heartwarming display of loyalty, they still need to eat. How was STAR Labs bringing in enough money to pay their (not insignificant) mechanical and biological engineer salaries?

Idea 1:
Dr. Wells was secretly Eobard “Reverse Flash” Thawne, a super-villain from the future. Knowing exactly what kind of legal and financial trouble STAR Labs would find itself in post-explosion, he put lots of money away in legally sheltered funds. This allowed him to pay for electricity and pay the salaries of Cisco and Caitlin.

That could work, but at the end of season one, Wells was defeated, and he bequeathed STAR Labs to Barry Allen. How does the money keep coming in, post-Wells?

Idea 2:
Dr. Wells also left Barry all of his money, so after Wells’s death, business went on uninterrupted.

My problem with this idea is that I doubt Barry’s moral compass would allow him to keep and spend Wells’s probably illegally obtained cash. He’d take STAR Labs because it was the place from which he and his friends defend Central City. But he’d want a way to keep it financially viable independent of Wells’s shady funds.

Idea 3:
Barry’s rich friend, Oliver Queen, could foot the bill to keep STAR Labs running after Wells’s death.

Could be. But, while I don’t watch Arrow, my understanding is Ollie has lost most of his money. Isn’t Felicity Smoak also rich though, too? A big strike against this idea is that in season three when Barry offers the use of a STAR Labs hangar (that looked a lot like the Hall of Justice) to his team, Team Arrow, the Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, he says he owns the facility. If Ollie or Felicity was bankrolling STAR Labs, wouldn’t they now own it? Considering they were both present when Barry said he owned it, wouldn’t they have corrected him?

Besides, STAR Labs being bankrolled by someone from Team Arrow seems to me like something too big to not mention. Then again, I may be the only person crazy enough to be bothered by this. (Or not!)

Idea 4:
STAR Labs is bankrolled by Bruce Wayne.

We now know he does exist in Earth-1 of the CW DC Universe!

Idea 5:
Cisco and Caitlin live off income from some sweet patents they own.

They’re both geniuses. They’ve both invented new tech to help Barry defeat a criminal metahuman multiple times. And I’m confident they’re smart enough to monetize those inventions. But if this is the case, then in early season two, when Barry temporarily shut down Team Flash, why did Caitlin go work for Mercury Labs? Was it just because she loves her job that much? Or did she have bills to pay? And of course, while this would explain how Cisco and Caitlin get their money, it wouldn’t explain how STAR Labs, as a company, continues to pay its property taxes and water bill.

Personally, I think the answer is a little bit of all of these ideas.

  • I think Cisco and Caitlin both own some patents and that they collect a little money from them, but not enough to live on.
  • I think Dr. Wells continued to pay them, even after the particle accelerator explosion, and I think after taking ownership of STAR Labs, Barry continues to pay them.
  • I think their salaries must include an extra stipend towards buying their own personal health insurance, because what group health provider is going to offer a plan to a company with only two employees, whose corporate office is a “class four hazardous location”?
  • I think Dr. Wells, a speedster who has mastered time travel far more than Barry ever has (and who paid the price for it), obtained his wealth by putting money in a savings account in the past and living off the beaucoup interest.
  • I think when Barry came into possession of this wealth, he was OK with spending it since the only laws Wells broke in obtaining it were the laws of physics.
  • And I think Barry gives Cisco and Caitlin matching 401(k), continuous education via a generous training stipend, and an extravagant Christmas bonus every year because he’s Barry Allen, the fastest, and nicest, man alive.

That’s my headcanon, and I’m sticking to it. Now don’t even get me started about how CatCo must have an unlimited PTO policy because if they didn’t, Kara Danvers would have been fired halfway through Supergirl season one due to all of her sudden absences from work.

I wanted to love Batman vs. Superman

You guys… I need to talk about Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I know it came out a year ago, but I’m hopelessly behind the times. I don’t see most movies until they come to Netflix or DVD.com, even movies I really want to see. And I really wanted to see Batman vs. Superman. The first time in movie history Batman and Superman shared the screen? Sold! Wonder Woman joined them, too? I’m there opening night (in spirit anyway)! It has cameos from The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman? Shut up and take my money!

I knew it didn’t get positive reviews, to put things generously. But I figured, I’m a fan! It was made for me! I’ll love it! And the trailers looked amazing. That shot of the DC Trinity on screen together for the first time…?

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Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Glorious! I don’t think I stopped smiling for days after seeing that first trailer.

And then, just a couple of weeks ago, I finally saw the movie, and… and..

rzev1And I felt like Barry Allen visiting his dad in prison.

Much like the Transformers live action films, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is what I call a YouTube movie. I’ll watch individual scenes from it over and over and over. But the movie as a whole? Never again.

So how did this one fail so badly? Let me count the ways:

Too Dark
Hey, I know how it is with comic book hero meet-ups: first, they fight, then they band together. But the fight between Batman and Superman was more than just fisticuffs. Batman was going to kill Superman. That’s not just too dark for me, that’s too dark for Batman! Didn’t anyone remember his “no kill” rule?

Batman was also way too liberal with the use of machine guns on the Batmobile and the Batplane. A few times, explosions caused by vehicular gunfire pretty clearly killed bad guys. Maybe it’s just not cool in modern day America, but Superman is not the only hero with a no kill rule. Batman is, too.

It was a filmed comic book script.
I once looked forward to another Zack Snyder directed comic book adaptation: Watchmen. And once was enough for me on that one, too, because I felt like it was too literal an adaptation of the comic book. Specifically, it was in the pacing. It was paced like a comic book, not a movie. Batman vs. Superman had the same problem.

For example, there’s a scene in Batman vs. Superman where we hard cut to the front yard of a Kansas farmhouse. Clark Kent is looking at the stars. His mother walks up to him and gives him some advice. Then, cut. Next scene.

In comics, this works fine. It’s a one-page scene, and a narration box at the top left of the page says, “Smallville, Kansas… The Kent family farm…” But in a film, I’d barely even processed that we were back at Clark’s boyhood home in Smallville, Kansas before the scene was over. It felt extremely fast-paced — Flash-paced, you might say — and not in a pleasant way.

“Save Martha!”
So this one is well-documented, and I don’t need to beat a dead horse here. But let me just emphasize, again, that Batman was ready to murder Superman the same way a common criminal once murdered his parents, and if that weren’t wrong enough, he was stopped only when he learned his mother and Clark’s mother had the same first name.

Now that’s just dumb. But what makes it worse is: Batman should have already known Martha Kent’s first name at that point. We know Superman has figured out Batman’s identity because, during their fight, he calls Batman “Bruce.” But at Lex Luthor’s party, it is strongly implied that Bruce also knows Clark is Superman, what with his pointed criticism of the Daily Planet’s coverage of Superman. And the film’s climax reveals Lex Luthor has figured out Superman’s identity also.

Now I’m OK with Lex Luthor determining Superman’s identity, so long as the greatest detective in the world also knows, especially since Batman has been obsessed for two years at this point with preparing himself to face this “alien threat.” But the man who is always prepared for anything would also have run a full dossier on Mr. Clark Kent. He’d know where he lives, what car he drives, his annual income, his favorite breakfast cereal, who he spends his time with, and who his family members are.

But I’m supposed to believe that Batman only realized Clark’s mother and his mother shared a first name moments before driving a Kryptonite spear through Superman’s chest?

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The standard Picard facepalm is not enough for this one. Only the Picard double facepalm suffices.

On the bright side, Wonder Woman was awesome
I called Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice a YouTube movie because I will watch scenes from it over and over again. So I don’t want to be a complete negative nelly. There was a lot I really liked in this film.

  • Batman’s costume looked great — like right off the pages of Frank Miller’s Year One or Dark Knight Returns great.
  • The secret entrance to the Batcave opened underwater, and the Batmobile had to jump off a ramp to reach it. I was giddy.
  • You could feel the love between Clark and Lois. I’m a fan of stories in which those two are married, so I dug that.
  • “Maybe it’s the Gotham City in me. We just have a bad history with freaks dressed like clowns.”
  • The modern takes on Alfred and Lex Luthor were bold and worked really well for me. Today’s rich folks may not have butlers, but they do have directors of security. And Lex felt like an evil Mark Zuckerberg. I loved it.
  • The picture of Wonder Woman from World War I. The surveillance footage of The Flash in action. The underwater camera that caught a glimpse of Aquaman. The glimpse into the origin of Cyborg! Justice League, baby, Justice League!
  • And this. Every… single… moment. Of this:

As soon as Superman and Batman stopped fighting, and as soon as Wonder Woman joined the boys, the whole movie took an 180-degree turn for the better. Those final ten or fifteen minutes are my favorite scenes from any superhero movie that doesn’t star Heath Ledger as The Joker.

And I guess that’s why despite the fact that Zack Snyder disappointed me with Watchmen, despite the fact that he disappointed me with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’m still going to be there on opening night (which is to say, one month to the day after it becomes available from DVD.com) for Justice League. It stuck the landing.

There’s a very meta moment in the first trailer for Justice League where Commissioner Gordon tells Batman, “It’s good to see you playing well with others again.” On the surface, this is a hint at the Bat-family, and past Batman partners like Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing. But it’s also a clear statement from Warner Bros. that its next DC Comics film isn’t going to be like the first 95% of Batman vs. Superman. It’s going to be more like that last 5%: fun and hopeful.

I’m sure hopeful that one doesn’t turn out to be a YouTube movie, too.