Last week, I used the love triangle portion of The Flash’s “Nuclear Man” to springboard into a larger conversation about what exactly it means to be a CW show. I had statistics (e.g., CW’s viewership is now 40% male) and everything! It wasn’t so much a review as it was an essay about the lingering stigma against all CW shows masquerading as a review. Yeah, don’t expect anything like that for “Fallout.” There is no grand statement to be made about this episode. This was just a good, old-fashioned fun hour of comic book television. The concept of time travel was discussed in detail, mostly explained through comparisons to Terminator and Back to the Future. The bad guy, General Eiling (mean Clancy Brown), was a military fella who wants to co-opts superpowers for supersoldiers (they always do). He also happened to have several glorified magic boxes he threw into the air to incapacitate the good guys. Dr. Stein and Ronnie, who as the combined entity Firestorm had appeared to have gone nuclear that last time we saw it, discovered that the secret ingredient to making everything work was simply “acceptance.” To top it all off, not only did the Reverse Flash pull off his mask to reveal that he is in fact Dr. Wells but Gorilla Grodd showed up and even got a line of dialogue.
If you are a DC comic book fan, you must be completely freaking out right now because this episode referenced the speed force, hinted at the cosmic treadmill, referenced Green Lantern’s hometown, showed us Wells as Reverse Flash, gave us an intelligent, seemingly psychic version of Grodd, finally put Firestorm closer to how he works in the comics, and ended by giving us a trailer for an insanely awesome looking next episode.
What if you aren’t a DC comic book fan, though? I hate to belabor this point since I have already discussed this same basic idea at length in prior reviews, but how far are you willing to follow The Flash into crazy town? Because it looks like we’re headed for a time when this show prominently features an intelligent, talking CGI gorilla as an adversary. Plus, when the show returns from next month’s hiatus it appears as if the “If Dr. Wells is The Reverse Flash how did he manage to beat himself up in the mid-season finale?” mystery is simply going to be answered with “Dude’s so fast he can make it appear that he is in two places at the same time.” Personally, I hope we don’t see Grodd again until next season at which point they might have a better CGI model (or guy in suit) because the version we just saw wasn’t amazing.
It was fine for just a quick glance, but it didn’t quite look primetime ready to me. Also, I had hoped for something more interesting than “Dude’s just super fast” to explain what happened with Wells in the mid-season finale.
I am, of course, getting way ahead of myself because for as fun as “Fallout” was its most obvious talking points came in its final moments: 1) Wells pulls off the mask; 2) Grodd takes General Eiling away; 3) Barry is going to try to travel back in time to save his mom, using Cisco’s holograms as a blueprint for what not to do. That’s enough to keep us excited and talking for a month of re-runs. There was more to “Fallout” than just that, though:
Firestorm Accepts | It seems odd to say this considering how I panned the CGO Grodd earlier, but there have been multiple times this season where some of the special effects on this show make me feel like I’m watching a movie, not a CW TV show. To my untrained eyes, some of the best examples of The Flash saving people this season has looked nearly as good as certain scenes in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Well, so far what they’ve pulled off with Firestorm lacks a movie-budget caliber costume but the actual sight of him flying in the air or going all “flame on” looks surprisingly good. In his episode, when The Flash and Firestorm raced away from the remote military base after having defeated General Eiling’s soldier it was an especially fun bit of “The Justice League on The CW.”
None of that would really mean much if I didn’t care about Dr. Stein and Ronnie Raymond, though. “Fallout” finally let Robbie Amell play Ronnie again as opposed to forcing him into a Victor Garber impression, and his performance improved considerably. For Garber’s part, he could probably play the “Brilliant but dickish” professor character in his sleep, and he seemed to have the most fun during the stretch of the story where Dr. Stein was beginning to slowly re-merge with Ronnie, manifesting as an extreme hunger for pizza. It says a lot about Garber’s abilities that they trusted him during that sequence with a probably pretty crucial expository bit explaining how Barry might be able to time travel. Their faith was well-placed because Garber nailed it. It’s not really his fault, then, that later in the episode after Stein has been knocked out by Dr. Wells and handed over to General Eiling he leaves town with Ronnie without offering anyone any kind of a “Hey, Dr. Wells totally tricked me” warning. That’s just messy plotting, an Arrow specialty that does occasionally pop up on The Flash.
The real arc of the story belonged to Ronnie, and I appreciated that the show did not go full CW with it and evoke any kind of Ronnie-Caitlin-Barry love triangle. They so easily could have when he says he wants her to leave STAR Labs with him, and she explains that ever since she started helping Barry she’s found her purpose. Instead, his suggestion was completely impractical but understandable. If I had suffered as much heartbreak at that place I’d probably want out, too. I don’t know how well his eventual realization that the world had changed and he needed to change with it worked, especially when he tells Caitlin that Barry was right about the world changing. I mean Caitlin wasn’t even around when Barry said that to Ronnie, yet when Ronnie mentions it to her she just smiles in complete understanding. It also came off as slightly awkward when Caitlin embraced Ronnie at the end and then just said, unprompted by any verbal or non-verbal cue, “I know that you have to leave.” However, those quibbles aside this has turned out to be a mostly satisfying origin story for Firestorm, and good for Caitlin for not being crushed to lose Ronnie again.
Iris Likes Danishes But Hates Unsolved Mysteries | I used to have this thing with Arrow where I would sometimes forget that Thea still didn’t know that her brother was the Arrow because other than Captain Lance it seemed like everyone had known his secret for a long time. I briefly had that same kind of thought during “Fallout” when Iris showed up at Joe’s house and had to endure being so clearly lied to by everyone, including her dad. Not only does she know not know Barry is The Flash (which I remembered) but she’s totally in the dark about anything that goes on STAR Labs (which I briefly forgot) meaning they couldn’t really introduce her to the newly resurrected Ronnie Raymond because to the rest of the world he’s supposed to be dead. As it turns out, Caitlin is a fairly bad liar, and I loved that Iris recognized something was up when her colleague pointed out that Caitlin had almost been killed at Jitters the day before and didn’t even mention it to her. That type of thing would have probably come up, right? So, now Iris is going to start investigating her friends, which probably means more cases of her catching them in obvious lies in the future, ultimately leading to her discovering Barry’s secret. It’s as logical a route as any to take to get to that point just as long as you’re cool with how abruptly the show has made Iris a news reporter by now. This is also another way the rest of the cast of the show is starting to close in on Dr. Wells’ secrets.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Grodd could have looked better, Dr. Wells pulling off that yellow mask suggests some kind of unsatisfying conclusions to long-standing mysteries, and Barry’s whole “No, see, I traveled back in time once and failed to save my mom, but now I am going to travel back in time to do it right even though I have not actually traveled back in time before” has wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey written all over it. But that just covers the last couple of minutes of the episode as well as what might come. Taken as a whole and on its own, “Fallout” was The Flash at its comic book fun best, perhaps worrying us about how quickly they are eating through plot, putting jokes into our heads about whether or not The CW is prepping a Firestorm spin-off to complete its transformation into the DC Comic Book channel, etc.
1. Like Joe even had to ask if Barry had been back to his childhood home since the murder. If he had that blonde divorcee might never have let him leave, making her efforts to seduce Joe last week look tame by comparison.
2. Speaking of which, where the flip was that cougar this week? People were just walking in and out of her house willy-nilly, and Cisco’s device projecting holograms in her living appears to have never been turned off. Did Joe just clear her out of there on official police business or something?
3. “Like all things in matter it longs to be whole” – Boy, it’s a good thing they cast Tom Cavanagh. Otherwise, some of Dr. Wells’ science-y lines would sound dreadful.
4. At one point, Iris referenced how she used to work at Jitters. It suddenly occurred to me that she must have just straight-up quit without giving a two-weeks notice considering how quickly she transitioned into working at the paper.
5. It’s the little things that make the difference, like how when Ronnie met Joe he introduced himself as “The dead fiancé” allowing Joe and, by extension, the show to kind of smirk at the oddness of the situation.
6. Is there any logical explanation for where Dr. Stein’s body goes when he merges with Ronnie to make Firestorm?
7. I have seen Morse code used in more films and TV shows than I can remember. Agent Carter’s done it in its past two episodes. However, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone just say out loud, “Tap, tap tap, Tap, tap tap tap” the way Ronnie did while relaying Dr. Stein’s code. Really, when you say it out loud like that you sound kind of crazy.
8. So, are Caitlin and Ronnie still engaged? Him skipping town didn’t change that, right? It did feel like this episode probably could have done a little better job of addressing their relationship in general.
GirlOnComicBookWorld – “I just can’t even comprehend the awesomeness I just witnessed, because this is how you do a comic book show! So clearly I’m very excited to discuss The Flash episode 14!”
TV.com – “And yet… I still felt like the time travel and Barry’s-old-house stuff brought the episode to a grinding halt in some ways.