The Flash got off to a great start in last week’s premiere, but time will tell if it has the legs to go the distance. If you doubted Grant Gustin’s ability to portray Barry Allen, or the new-found powers that give the title hero his meta-human status, then you fell into lock-step with this episode’s central theme. Yes, it seems that doubt is currently The Flash’s biggest foe, since Barry is rather green when it comes to fighting other super-powered foes. He’s just beginning to learn the limits of his powers, but The Flash is quickly establishing its own identity; there’s no doubt about that.
Hit the jump for The Flash recap.
Okay, so I’m a fan of Barry Allen’s breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience directly since it lets more of his personality shine through. There’s an equally clever bit of reintroduction/exposition worked in early on for anyone who missed the pilot, though it teeters on the brink of being over-dramatic. True, the dialogue and some of the acting is pretty rough, but at least the show’s got personality, even when it’s recapping its own premiere in the first few minutes.
I continue to be impressed by the visuals, especially when The Flash saves multiple would-be victims of an apartment fire and then gets himself safely out of sight, or the episodes many confrontations with the Villain of the Week. We also get our first glimpse of the limitations to Barry’s new powers since he gets a bit light-headed after his rescue.
Barry gets to employ his forensics ability once again (along with the aforementioned cool visuals) to determine that although the security cameras show one man robbing a gun store, he suspects six men, all with the exact same shoes and size. (Barry even uses his abilities to help in the lab, fun!) I’m not sure how quickly Barry’s speed jokes will wear thin, but they’re okay for now.
Barry’s supposed to help explain Dr. Stagg’s science talk on organ replacement/cellular regeneration to Iris, who tries to get a quote from the scientist for her article for college, but he turns her down, just as a team of crooks robs the attendees. A well-meaning guard tries to stop them, but almost gets gunned down and is just saved by Barry, who passes out from the strain of his speedburst. I wonder who can diagnose this problem?
Since they’ve run out of airfields, Cisco built a suped-up treadmill for the S.T.A.R. Labs team to measure Barry’s speed and vitals. They determine that his glucose levels are crashing, just as he literally crashes into a wall of boxes. (Hilarious.) Joe tracks Barry to S.T.A.R. Labs after finding his bulletin board criminal investigation, and chastises him in front of the team. Barry brings up the existence of the meta-humans as a reason for him to use his own powers for good. (Oof, Barry drops the “You’re not my father” line, which is megaton…). Joe is not pleased and he lets Barry and the team know it.
Meanwhile, Danton Black, aka Multiplex, (Michael Smith) shows up to talk to Stagg’s bodyguard, Mr. Java. Apparently Black was hired to take out Stagg, but Java plays it too strong and ends up getting beaten by the many forms of Danton Black. Java’s dead and Barry is on the case with Joe, but perhaps there’s too much going on as Barry forgets to help Iris with her science talk again. (I love the scene where he gets to tell her how he feels in hyperspeed; I’m sure this device will be used in future episodes.) Barry discovers that the skin cells taken from the murder scene were naive stem cells, which “only come from babies” – which is not entirely accurate, but whatever. It’s revealed that Black used to work for Stagg, and guess who shows up to take him out? Black and Black … and Black.
Barry’s superhero hideout isn’t the best (it’s no Batcave or Fortress of Solitude), but it’s cool that we get to see him suit up at least. Barry shows up to save Stagg, followed by Joe, who resists but is outmatched by Barry’s speed, just as Barry is outmatched by Multiplex’s ability to regenerate; he gets his ass handed to him and just barely escapes being shot to death.
The team recons on Black, who apparently had his scientific research stolen by Stagg. They seem to think he was experimenting on himself at the time of the accelerator’s explosion, thus explaining his new abilities. Barry concedes that he probably should have left things to the police, but Eddie Thawne has already saved the day, or at least taken the credit for Barry’s heroics.
Stagg talks to Joe, saying that he hopes Black comes looking for him, but Wells (surprisingly) shows up to talk to Joe (even though he knows Stagg for a fraud). Joe finally asks some legitimate questions about Wells’ plans for Barry, to which Wells says that Barry’s plagued by doubt, which will cause him to fail the next time he heads into danger; Joe is a source of that doubt. (Wells is playing an interesting psychological game here since we don’t exactly know what his motives are.)
Iris has shied away from science, and her new interest for her journalism major is the heroic Red Streak that has been saving people all over the city. Too bad this conversation with Barry is interrupted by Black’s arrival at S.T.A.R. Labs … Oh hey, surprise! Caitlin “grew” Black’s replicant from his cells, from which they learn that the clones only react when the real Black (the Prime) is controlling them. His own weakness may be the key to Barry defeating him, along with Joe’s support for Barry. He shows up just in time to shoot down Black’s clone and to bolster Barry’s confidence.
The showdown at Stagg Industries: Black takes out the new security team rather easily, but Flash saves Stagg before Black can get to him. Barry calls Black out and dodges gunfire. Black continues to multiply (which apparently extends to his weapons as well, somehow) and reveals that his plan was to generate a new heart for his wife, Elizabeth, who died thanks to Stagg’s interference. Black goes crazy and generates dozens of clones who pummel Barry. He’s doubting himself, but the team encourages him. Again, there’s a cool shot of Barry mowing through the clones in order to find the Prime and knock him out. Black tries to take out Barry and accidentally crashes through a window, after which he … grows a new hand to detach himself from Barry’s saving grip, falling to the city street below.
Now that the villain is … well, cleaned up, Joe brings a conciliatory gift of pizza to Barry, also revealing that he knows Barry is trying to help his dad, and offers his assistance. Barry apologizes for saying Joe wasn’t his father, which is a much more touching moment than Barry’s previous interaction with the lab team. It ties in well with the episode’s efficient use of flashbacks, like Arrow. Unlike Arrow, The Flash employs the use of “Flash”backs to go all the way back to Barry’s childhood under the Wests’ roof. Barry’s desire to visit his father in prison, rebellion against Joe, and eventual reveal that it’s Mr. Allen himself who wants Barry to stay away were all finely planted seeds in a growing father-son relationship triangle. Solid dramatic stuff on screen here, especially on a network that’s 99% about young adult romances. Refreshing.
Another delight that’s been handled quite well in the first two episodes is the stinger scene at each hour’s end. In “Fastest Man Alive,” Wells and Stagg converse about “The Man in the Red Mask”, who Wells refers to as “The Flash” in the future tense, before stabbing Stagg to death (presumably). So, is Wells a good guy for protecting Barry? Or a bad guy for murdering Stagg and using Barry for his own devices? Intriguing!
- Joe: “Your ability to multitask is astounding, considering you embarrassed me, the captain, and yourself all at the same time.”
- I like the style of humor they’re bringing in with Barry forgetting his clothes and then, well, robbing a clothing store.
- Iris: “How fast can you get home and change?” Barry: “Pretty fast.”
- Interesting twist on the scientist Simon Stagg, his “Neanderthal servant” Java, and a potential nod to the appearance of the Element Man/Metamorpho in the future. I love these Easter eggs.
- Danielle Panabaker needs to tone it down a bit, but at least they all react appropriately to it. Then they talk about her fiance, Ronnie, ie Ronald Raymond? Possible spoiler: Firestorm, anyone?
- Joe: “You’re not bulletproof … wait, are you?”
- Cisco: “I’ve done a few calculations. You need to eat the equivalent of 850 tacos, unless we’re talking cheese and guac, which is like a whole other set of equations.”
- Joe: “You think because you can run real fast, you’re invincible? You’re not. You’re a kid. My kid.”
- (Hmmm, will we see Smith on a Suicide Squad ep in the future? Speaking of the antihero team, when will Waller show up in The Flash’s world?)
- One great thing about this show that works organically is Flash’s ability to arrive on the scene near-instantaneously, which means fewer establishing shots and scene transitions. I dig it, if only for pacing.
- Cisco: “Captain Clone! … Don’t worry, I’ll come up with something better.” Later on: “Well, at least Multiplex won’t be able to hurt anyone else. Told you I’d come up with a cool name.”
- Wells: “Some people when they break, they can’t be put back together again.” Barry: “Some people heal even stronger.” Wells: “I hope so.”
- Barry’s final cheesy line to his team was certainly forced, but was also something I could conceivably read on the pages of a comicbook.
- Stagg: “The man in the red mask … he’s the key!” Wells: “The man in the red mask … is known as The Flash. Or at least he will be one day.” Wells is quickly becoming the show’s most interesting character.