“The Fury of Firestorm” episode of The CW series The Flash sees Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and the team having to look for another Firestorm match for Dr. Stein (Victor Garber), and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) expresses her reservations about whether Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh) is the right match. Meanwhile, Iris (Candice Patton) must decide just how well she wants to get to know her mother (Vanessa Williams).
Collider was recently invited, along with a handful of other press outlets, to screen Episode 4 of the season and learn more about what’s to come for the much loved characters. During the interview, actress Danielle Panabaker and executive producer Andrew Kreisberg talked about the search for another Firestorm counterpart, how Caitlin is handling her grief this time around, whether we’ll see more of Earth-2, what fans can expect from the next big cross-over with The Flash and Arrow, and why the cross-overs work so well. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: What can you say about the search for another Firestorm counterpart for Dr. Stein?
DANIELLE PANABAKER: What’s especially hard for Caitlin, and ultimately cathartic about this experience, is that she’s so connected to Stein and cares so deeply about him and for him. He’s this last connection to Ronnie, so she’s particularly invested in taking care of him and getting it right, and not messing this up and making sure that his next partner is just as good, if not better, than Ronnie was.
ANDREW KREISBERG: In any ensemble, some episodes are more about one character than another. We did have the episode where Ronnie died and Caitlin moved passed it, but this is the episode where she dealt with it. Because it’s The Flash and it’s about science fiction, she can grieve through wanting to protect her dead husband’s co-superhero. This episode makes me cry.
Caitlin has lost Ronnie again, and now Jay Garrick is only there for a little while. How is she handling her grief, this time around?
PANABAKER: This grief for Caitlin is very different than last year. She was in a much dark, much unhappier place. I think there is a new purpose for her, being at S.T.A.R. Labs, especially with the loss of Harrison Wells. She’s going to find her new position and have new things to focus on, which helps her get over her devastation from losing Ronnie again.
KREISBERG: There was also a six month gap that helped cover the time. It feels like the show got more mature, over the past year, and every one of the characters has grown up a lot. They’re not dealing with things in the very binary, raw way they used to. They’re starting to grow up, just like any of us do, and they’re realizing that there are the complexities of grief and happiness, and sadness and joy, and that you can still find your way. [Caitlin and Jay] are actually going to have multiple projects to work on. There are problems that come up that they’ll be working on together.
PANABAKER: He’s a fellow science nerd. What could be better for Caitlin?
What can we expect to see coming up for Caitlin?
KREISBERG: Obviously, we’re building a relationship between Jay and Caitlin. There’s going to be some fun and some surprises there.
Will Caitlin be stepping into more of a leadership role at S.T.A.R. Labs?
PANABAKER: Absolutely! The old dynamic from Season 1 was that this was Wells’ S.T.A.R. Labs. He created it, so he was the boss and we all followed along. This year, it’s feeling a little bit different. We’re trying to figure it out. Whoever has the most expertise or passion about something tends to be the one we follow.
KREISBERG: It’s a conscience effort on our part, too. The thing that Iris adds to those scenes, when she’s in them, is the heart that they don’t always have, being a bunch of scientists talking about things. But Caitlin, especially, has taken the reins, in a lot of ways.
Will we ever see Barry Allen fight a meta-human outside of Central City?
KREISBERG: We had actually talked about doing that last year, with a story where everybody goes to another city that looks remarkably like Vancouver. But, Arrow has such an international feel to it with the flashbacks that we wanted to keep The Flash homegrown. It’s actually one of the reasons that we were talking about the idea of Earth-2. For us, it was a way to introduce a whole bunch of villains without having to explain what all of these people have been doing until now, since the particle accelerator exploded two years ago. There are a couple of villains this year where you’ll see why they haven’t been able to use their powers. But we did have that idea, so maybe. We’re also seeing some of these meta-humans show up on Arrow.
Are we actually going to get to see more of Earth-2?
KREISBERG: It’s funny, when we were starting to do the season, we were afraid. A lot of it by design and a lot of it by luck, we really feel like in Season 1, we told the right story and we told it the right way, with all of the time travel stuff. When we decided to do Earth-2, we were like, “Wait a minute, how do we do the time travel thing, and how do we not mess this up?” In the beginning, we kept it all on the backburner and didn’t show a lot of the time travel stuff, so people could ease into it. And then, when we started to look at some of the earlier episodes, we realized that we weren’t starting from scratch again. People have already watched a year of The Flash. And even the characters on the show, when somebody flies in front of them, they’re not like, “What’s happening?!” They’re like, “Oh, that’s probably a meta-human.” So, since the characters were more accepting of it, we realized the audience could be more accepting of it. As long as Caitlin and Cisco accept it, because those are the two characters that most represent the audience, along with Joe, we could do that. That whole opening with Jay and Zoom fighting, and seeing Earth-2, was actually after the original conception ‘cause we realized that people could handle it and see it and not be like, “What the hell is going on?,” like the show just turned into a David Lynch thing.
What can you tease about the upcoming The Flash/Arrow cross-over?
KREISBERG: What Barry is facing when he goes into the cross-over is part and parcel with what everybody is going through in Episodes 5, 6 and 7. Just conceptually speaking, one of the ways we thought of these episodes, in a macro sense, was that The Flash episode this year plays more like an episode of Arrow, and the Arrow episode plays more like and episode of The Flash. That’s part of the fun of these episodes. This year, both Arrow and The Flash are different, and I don’t just mean the characters themselves. Thea is on the team now. There are all sorts of different color combinations that are occurring.
PANABAKER: And it’s exponentially bigger this year. We factored in all of the characters from Legends, too.
KREISBERG: It’s killing us. It really is bigger. We looked back and thought those Flash and Arrow episodes were the biggest things we’d ever done, and now we have more heroes, more people with powers, and bigger villains. It’s really exciting.
Do you find yourself doing more cross-overs than you initially expected?
KREISBERG: One of the special things about the shows is that all of these people are friends and they care about each other. The one thing we didn’t do last year on The Flash, and I keep kicking myself for it, is that when Oliver got exposed as the Arrow, there was no mention on The Flash about everything that Oliver Queen was going through. It’s two different shows and you don’t really think about it, but they’re all friends and they all know each other and they all know each other’s secret identities, so you think somebody would have said something about it. It’s actually gotten to the point now where it’s less about trying to prevent the cross-overs and to constantly make sure that we’re honoring the fact that all of these people are in each other’s lives. There are probably a lot more of the mini cross-overs, with one person here for one scene. We acknowledged the Green Arrow change in The Flash because Oliver went on television. In the beginning, there was concern that cross-overs would diminish the shows. For whatever reason, at least for us, and it seems like for the audience too, the cross-overs actually make both shows feel bigger. Because both shows are similar, as far as popularity is concerned, it never feels like a phony attempt to generate ratings. It’s just what we want to do. We make the show that we want to see. If we think, “Oh, my god, wouldn’t it be so cool if Oliver showed up?,” or “Wouldn’t it be great if Cisco went over there?,” we just do it.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.