Finally – finally! – The Flash is back from winter hiatus, having gamely survived a rough stretch of bending over backwards to help set up the apparently ill-fated spin-off Legends of Tomorrow, which “almost couldn’t be worse” according to THR’s review of the first 2 episodes.
But, hey, that’s not The Flash‘s problem anymore. It can get back to its own business, and its first episode (“Potential Energy”) out of the mid-season break went straight to trying to energize all of its current story lines. My years of superhero movie/TV watching left me slightly cool to the episode’s charms, as I have grown weary of the trope “Right as the Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne/Oliver Queen/Barry Allen-type is about the tell the girl his big secret something happens to endanger her life.” That happens not once but twice in this episode. To be fair, even if it’s a tad familiar it was done well here, and elsewhere in the episode it was nice to see some stagnate characters get something to do. Heck, I find this show so immensely charming it was just nice to see everyone back again.
Let’s sum it up:
Barry and Patty are now close enough that she’s sleeping next to him every time he regularly wakes up in the middle of the night from nightmares in which he helplessly watches Zoom throw her over the side of a building. Patty possibly violates some kind of girlfriend code by going to Iris for advice, who handles it as well as she could, refraining from blurting out, “OMG, he lied to me about this too. He’s The Flash! You’re going to be mad at yourself for not figuring it out sooner, and mad at Barry for lying to you. I know I was.” Instead, she simply tells Patty she really needs to talk to Barry about it, who is quick to play the dead mom card (e.g., claim the nightmares are about dead momma, then flash those big, sad puppy dog eyes) as his way of getting out of telling her the truth.
A heart-to-heart with Iris helps Barry realize he owes Patty the truth if he’s serious about being with her. Cisco agrees. Harry does not, throwing down, “You do remember that Zoom took the one thing most precious to me in the world, right? He’ll do that to you, too” to which Barry quietly nods (barely) before walking away. Caitlin and Jay stay silent on the matter, and when the team gathers to take down the villain of the week (nicknamed the Turtle, he can slow everything down around him) at an art show Barry sees an opportunity to have a fancy evening with the girlfriend as well as easy shot at nabbing the bad guy. Of course, that backfires, and moments after Barry is going to tell Patty the truth she’s having a chandelier dropped on her head, narrowly pushed out of the way by The Flash. When Barry tires to charm his way out of explaining why, as far as Patty knows, he completely abandoned her, she admirably puts her foot down, telling him that she is genuinely upset and his goofy smiles won’t get him out of it this time.
The villain noticed how hard The Flash worked to save Patty. So, he takes her hostage, and is moments away from either putting her into something akin to a vegetative state or simply slitting her throat before Barry figures out how to defeat him (spoiler: it involves running really, really fast). The next day Barry tries to come clean to Patty about everything, but she cuts him off, breaking the news that she’s leaving town to join a CSI program as she only ever became a cop to catch her father’s killer. Now that she’s done that there’s nothing stopping her from pursuing her true dream of CSI work, especially not after Barry blew his shot at committing to her. She’s leaving, and they are effectively over as a couple. Plus, you know, she’s almost died several times now. That has a tendency to force a girl to re-evaluate things and finally face that thing she’d been putting off.
Grant Gustin and Shantel VanSanten are so great together, dorky banter and all, that even though the scenario was cliched it was enjoyable watching them play out a relationship conflict which ultimately boils down to “the guy just can’t quite bring himself to open up to the girl.” That being said, BirthMoviesDeath pretty well nailed it, These scenes, in which he tries to tell her but takes too long and loses his chance, are so familiar from every other superhero story as to become completely tired. It’s a cliché that’s beneath the characters and The Flash in general. Patty better come back – if the writers didn’t intend for her to be a long-term love of Barry’s, they shouldn’t have cast such an impossibly likable actress.”
Elsewhere, Joe tries to be Wally’s dad, showing him his desk at the police precinct and inviting him to dinner. Wally responds by mouthing off to Joe’s boss, and standing him up for dinner. Turns out Wally is just in town to make money as a street racer. He has to help his mother pay her hospital bills somehow. Meeting Joe was more like his cover story. In the end, they dine on low mein and kung pao chicken, agreeing to stop trying to force something that’s not there. We all know it’s pointless to resist the power of sad Jesse L. Martin eyes. Give it a couple of weeks and Wally will probably be bonding and crying with Joe.
Even further elsewhere, Caitlin and Jay are a couple now, and in her first act as his girlfriend Caitlin steals Jay’s DNA from a wine glass and runs tests which reveal he’s dying from some kind of disease. The only cure is for his powers to return, and the only way to do that is to stop Zoom. They hug it out.
It’s been argued by others that both Caitlin and Jay have been serious disappointments this season. Caitlin’s barely even a side character anymore, and the writer’s never have figured out what they want to do with Jay. At least this storyline will give them something to do for a while, but I do miss last season when Caitlin felt like a bigger part of the show.
Lastly, Harry’s still his ill-tempered self, throwing Cisco’s lab equipment around during tantrums and feverishly working on equations which he quickly erases whenever anyone walks in on him. He’s likely working in secret on ways to make Barry faster as per the deal he struck with Zoom in the mid-season finale, but the villain of the week offers him the tantalizing possibility of being able to slow Zoom down. After Turtle is captured, Harry treats him quite harshly while extracting blood (or something) for his own research.
As per usual, Tom Cavanagh’s new version of Harrison Wells is a consistent scene-stealer, his seriousness playing particularly well as a counterpoint to Cisco’s jubilance. That’s fully apparent in a stakeout sequence in which Harry reveals the story of how Zoom got his name (it involves killing a bunch of cops, and leaving one alive to tell the tale only to kill him once he’d done that). Cisco looks annoyed at first, but eventually offers to use his powers to check in on Harry’s daughter, reminded that his cute little nicknames and pop culture references hide the fact that this is life-or-death business they’re dealing with.
Cliffhanger: The Reverse Flash is back (with his original, non-Harrison Wells face), but he has no idea where he is.
That must be Earth-2’s Reverse Flash, right?
1. Favorite part of the episode might have been the way everyone but Barry knew about Cisco’s long list of unidentified meta cases.
2. Does it kind of feel like Caitlin and Iris have both been backburned this season, Caitlin more than Iris who at least had the drama with her mother to occupy her time for a couple of episodes?
3. I don’t truly believe this is the end of Patty Spivot on this show, or that we’ve seen the end of her and Barry. If this is it, though, will you miss her?
What did you think of the episode?