And we’re back. The last time we saw The Flash Barry had told Iris he loves her (but not that he’s The Flash), Cisco had discovered there was more than one speedster in the room the night Barry’s mom died, and Dr. Wells had revealed to the audience (but not to anyone else) that he is The Reverse Flash, even though that didn’t make any linear sense since we had just seen him get his ass kicked by The Reverse Flash earlier in the episode. Since then, The Flash’s producers cast many more villains to appear in the second half of the season, and The CW announced one official spin-off (an animated series centered around the female superhero Vixen, set in the same fictional universe as Arrow/Flash) as well as the possibility of giving Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer character from Arrow his own show once he finally becomes the superhero A.T.O.M. They also revealed that although Arrow and Flash’s universes will continue to blend together they will limit the major “story begins on one show, finishes the next night on the other show” cross-over events to once a season. Oh, yeah, also, The CW renewed The Flash for a second season (Huzzah!).
So, with a second season confirmed what will The Flash do with the rest of its first season, especially considering that we’re not even to the halfway point yet (10 episodes into a 23-episode season)? The rest of the season is going to bring time travel and with it a likely resolution to the mystery surrounding the death of Barry’s mom, the evolution of Firestorm (i.e., Caitlin’s not-so-dead fiancé) from the brooding, unkempt fellow in the shadows to superhero and Flash ally, and a gradual expansion of the Rogues. By the end of the season, I’d guess that Barry and Iris will probably at the very least have had some sort of hook-up along the line. She’ll probablyl know he’s The Flash. Some of that is based on what the producers have said, some is simply common sense, and some is me making a guess based on how these same producers handled similar situations in the early days of Arrow.
But what did we learn from the actual episode that aired last night? It brought us not one but two bad guys, the return of Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and the debut of Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell). The basic plot of the episode was given away in the trailers: While Barry focuses on increasing his speed to be able to beat The Reverse Flash, Cold and Heat Wave team up to take down The Flash, and Caitlin ends up in a hostage situation as a result. What wasn’t spoiled in the trailer is that Caitlin only gets taken after Barry decides to ignore Cold and Heat Wave to maintain his focus on the Reverse Flash, a flawed strategy he’s talked into by Dr. Wells. That guy-always up to something. We met Jason Rusch, who eventually becomes part of Firestorm in the comics but showed up here to give us some background and hint as to what has happened to Caitlin’s fiancé. Iris and Barry were awkward around each other until they decided to be less awkward around each other. There was nothing more about the mystery of the second speedster, but Det. West is doing what good detectives do by continuing to be the only one to notice that something is not right about Harrison Wells. Plus, Eddie got over his hatred for The Flash pretty quick when he jumped into the middle of a super hero-super villain fight to give Flash a last-second save. When all of that comes with a FX-heavy Superman II-esque fight between Flash and two villains in the middle of the city I’ll come out of it a pretty happy camper, even if the inevitable “first episode back from break, we need to re-establish a bunch of things, let’s have our characters fire off even more obvious exposition than normal” was a bit an annoyance.
Here are the 8 questions I had after the episode:
1. Will everything with Dr. Wells be so laced with double-meaning from now on?
We now know Dr. Wells is probably The Reverse Flash. That gives us a good joke or two, like Wells’ signaling his approval of the “Reverse Flash” nickname when it’s coined by Cisco, but more than anything else it’s going to add an extra layer to every little thing he does because we’ve now entered into “the audience knows more about this than the characters do” portion of the mystery. We get to watch his every action, hear his every line of dialogue, and wonder what he’s actually up to. The only one in the actual show who seems to be wondering the same thing is Det. West, who called Dr. Wells out on his bullshit in this episode to the point that Wells could muster no response beyond simply rolling away in his wheelchair.
It’s a tricky thing, playing with a dynamic like this on a comic book show. For many, myself included, the overwhelming foreshadowing of Gotham quickly entered into the annoying territory, too much wink-wink, nudge-nudge, that person’s going to be [The Penguin/Riddler/Catwoman/Poison Ivy/Two-Face/Batman/etc.] someday. What The Flash is doing is not quite the same thing since Dr. Wells has already become whatever it is he is, but it could so easily fall into a similar wink-wink, nudge-nudge, he’s actually the Reverse Flash and they have no idea! Isn’t that cool! Yeah, it’s cool, but not if there’s nothing more to it than that. I loved the moment at the beginning of the episode when Wells lifted his foot from the wheelchair, ready to superspeed his way to save Barry if need be. That was cool! But what was interesting was Wells’ “I hope we’re not enemies” conversation with Barry. Harrison literally started out that scene in the darkened hallway before rolling into the light, with every single thing he said to Barry carrying a double meaning, e.g., “I hope you know that you push me to be better.” It offered us a surprising glimpse at Harrison’s true motivation as well as what he actually thinks of The Flash.
2. Was the general public even all that aware of “The Flash” before now?
This was The Flash’s big coming out party. After Captain Cold and Heat Wave’s ransom video challenging The Flash aired on TV, everyone in Central City has to know that The Flash is a real thing. By the close of the episode, Barry gets to smirk as he’s never smirked before while listening to everyone at the police precinct praise The Flash, one attractive female officer even wondering if he has a girlfriend. Have they maybe skipped a step here? Iris clearly has her blog, and the police briefly had their anti-Flash task force. Did I miss the part where The Flash was widely known in the city outside of those two circles? It seems like it might have been more effective to hold off The Flash’s coming out party until after we’d seen him become even more of a folk hero in Central City. In a film, this probably would have been covered in a montage with lots of interviews with random people on the street claiming to have been saved by the vigilante. I feel like the show hasn’t done anything like that, although the many headlines on Iris’ blog communicated the same general idea.
3. Are you annoyed that they keep having Barry use his powers in street clothes even though that should cause them to burn off?
Yes? I get that. No? Neither am I. Part of the fun of this show is the continual fun ways Barry uses his powers, e.g., completing everyone’s coffee order so he could get his coffee and to work in time, decorating the Christmas tree, helping Iris pack, etc. I like that part of the show too much to be annoyed that it doesn’t actually adhere to the rules established in the pilot, i.e., Barry goes so fast that it can cause normal clothes to burn or sneakers to partially melt. That’s happened just a couple of times now, but it wouldn’t be as fun watching Barry stack Iris’ moving boxes in a split second if his shirt then caught on fire. Or, considering Gustin’s physique, maybe it would be for a certain portion of the audience.
4. Where do we stand on Iris and Barry and Barry and Caitlin?
Den of Geek recently published an exploration of why it is exactly that comic book TV shows struggle with establishing compelling central romances. Of The Flash, they argued:
The Flash has offered viewers the slightly-creepy relationship between Barry and adoptive-sister Iris. Iris isn’t nearly as hated as Laurel was on Arrow, but common consensus has the potential romance as one of the series’ weakest elements during the first few episodes. The fact that some of these couples are already canon in the comic book-universe makes it harder to deviate, but as Arrow has proven, it’s not impossible. The favourite for an alternative is currently Barry and Caitlin (or ‘SnowBarry’), but that may be too similar to Olicity.
I might add that Barry and Caitlin are also an improbable coupling at the moment because she still has a fiancé out there somewhere. For now, Barry and Caitlin work well as friends, and I’d prefer not to interpret her silence in response to Heat Wave’s comment about how much she must care for The Flash to be willing to die to protect him as being an indication of some kind of romantic affection. Of course, f you’re a female character not related to the main hero on Arrow/Flash then being taken hostage is almost akin to foreplay. However, I liked that this episode set it up to make it seem like only The Flash would be able to save Caitlin, and then instead had Joe and Cisco save her, even if that meant the bomb beneath her chair turned out to be remarkably insubstantial.
I’m not in a rush for the show to go anywhere with Barry and Caitlin because they need to work through what they started with Iris and Barry. I’ve been critical of the show’s handling of these two in the past, but I like that we are now into a new phase of their relationship, letting Candice Patton play awkward around Grant Gustin instead of blissfully unaware. The implication seems to be that Barry’s declaration of affection has definitely given Iris second thoughts about moving in with Eddie, despite what she told him. Or at least that’s how I read the sigh Iris made when looking at Barry before Eddie asked her about having second thoughts. The trouble Arrow gets into with this stuff is when the romance overtakes the show, as it has at times with Felicity and Oliver. The amount of Iris-Barry romance drama in this episode seemed just right. It had to address the elephant in the room, but it wasn’t overbearing about it, and there was plenty more going on around it. Pushing Iris into that final fight scene, though, was a step in the wrong direction. Granted, she didn’t get involved, but she didn’t really need to be there at all. They didn’t even give her a “I’m just here to take pictures of the fight for my blog” excuse.
5. What do we think of Captain Cold and Heat Wave?
Did the painting they stole really have to be called Fire and Ice? Also, the painting was supposedly super unique, and their theft of it was done in such a theatrical way (one of them had a real life freeze ray!) surely the story would get out in the art world. So, would they have even been able to sell it on the black market? Also, how exactly does Heat Wave’s gun work? Wouldn’t it eventually run out of fuel like a normal flamethrower? And did Captain Cold turning his gun on Heat Wave during their little stand-off kind of come out of nowhere even though we eventually learned it was because Heat Wave had once lost control while working with him and just did so again?
Hmmm. Does that just about cover all the silly or nitpicky-y stuff? Good because with that out of the way I can state how much liked these two as a duo. Yes, Heat Wave’s little speech to Caitlin about his love of fire and the way it reveals our true selves was corny, Purcell sold it well enough by walking up to John Barrowman camp without crossing the line thus remaining menacing. Ultimately, when the villains are named Captain Cold and Heat Wave I’m not exactly looking for Shakespeare. I’m looking for a duo with contrasting personalities in keeping with their nicknames, cold and calculating Captain Cold and hothead Heat Wave. Nowhere was that dynamic more effective than when they were being taken through the police precinct at the end, with Cold’s calm reservation striking a hilarious contrast to Heat Wave’s “Let me at ‘em, let me at ‘em. I’ll take all of ya!” attitude. The Flash is one of those characters in the comics who people will argue is actually less interesting than his villains. I haven’t read enough of The Flash comics to know if I’d agree with that, and on the show I don’t know that I’d regard Heat Wave as a truly interesting villain. But when he’s put with Captain Cold he’s a lot of fun.
6. Are you ready for the stuff with Firestorm to get weird? Not that it was totally normal to begin with..
How did it never occur to Caitlin that “Firestorm” might actually be an acronym? It matters not. That gave us a good excuse for a friendly heart-to-heart between Barry and Caitlin about Iris and Ronnie Raymond respectively. However, this was the episode where they really started the process of delving into the what, how, and why of Firestorm, and if you’ve never read the comics I imagine you’d be really intrigued (or just confused) as to how all of this stuff with someone name Jason Rusch and some missing scientist relates to Caitlin’s fiancé. Well, then don’t go reading Wikipedia about Firestorm, or even plot spoilers for what the show is going to do with the character. I’ll just say that Firestorm is far from a very straight-forward superhero. It gets pretty weird in a way that might work on the page but the jury is still out as to how well it will play on The Flash.
7. Was there no reference to Oliver Queen being dead?
This episode appeared to roughly take place a month or so after the last one, thus reflecting the amount of time that passed in the real world between episodes, which is the Arrow way to handle a hiatus. So, to Team Flash Oliver Queen would have died over a month ago. Even so, unless I missed it there was no reference in this episode to his death. That seems like something which should have been referenced, the same way that when a major character died on Buffy the Vampire Slayer someone showed up on Angel to tell them about it. However, because of when these shows air that would have meant we would have seen The Flash cast react to the news before the actual cast of Arrrow, and maybe it’s best if Arrow goes first with that. Plus, maybe the two show’s timelines aren’t perfectly synced up right now.
8. Did we actually know where Barry had been living before now?
I thought that the loft where Barry was first struck by lightning was his apartment. However, is that actually just his crime lab? If so, does that mean we’d never actually seen where he lived? These were all the thoughts that went through my head when this episode ended with Barry moving in with Joe – Joe who had an empty nest for the first time since Iris was born, but it only lasted for like 2 minutes. If that loft was in fact Barry’s apartment who on Earth would he ever want to move out? That place is gorgeous!
TV.com – “So, yes, the villains were great, but the rest of the hour furthered a number of other plots as well, and fairly productively. One big annoyance that’s common on TV dramas these days, and that’s common on The Flash, is that characters just don’t talk to one another as human beings sometimes. They hide things, or they don’t address issues that are rightly bothering them. Sometimes it makes sense, but at other times, it’s just bad writing and bad plotting (looking at you, Arrow, and your refusal to clue in Quentin regarding, well, anything). The Flash had this issue with the Barry/Iris thing. Thankfully, that’s no longer happening after Barry’s confession of love, and it freed up Barry and Iris to not be too horribly boring around each other. Or, well, at least it gave Candice Patton something to play other than “cheerfully oblivious to everything around her.”
I’m done with my ramble. Your turn.