In the next episode of The CW series The Flash, called “Back to Normal,” a meta-human with super strength mistakes Harry (Tom Cavanagh) for Earth-1 Harrison Wells and kidnaps him, demanding that he cure him of his condition. At the same time, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has to learn how to help people without relying on his powers and with a little more help from the team.
Following a screening of the episode at the offices of The CW, actor Tom Cavanagh and executive producer Andrew Kreisberg were on hand to talk about the fall-out and what’s still to come. While we’ll hold off on any spoilers until part two of this interview, we did want to preview what fans can expect from this episode, why Griffin Grey (Haig Sutherland) makes a good villain, how Hunter Zolomon fooled Team Flash into believing that he was their friend, making subtle tweaks to all of the various versions of Harrison Wells, where Barry and Iris (Candice Patton) are at with their relationship, and what it was like to have filmmaker Kevin Smith direct an episode. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: What can you say to tease this week’s episode, “Back to Normal”?
ANDREW KREISBERG: The biggest tease is that Barry and the team are dealing with the fact that Barry doesn’t have his powers anymore. We’ve been at such a break-neck pace. TV scheduling put a couple of arbitrary stops in there, but if you think about it, the Earth-2 saga to King Shark to the trajectory episode to the flashback episode to last week and all of the revelations and Barry losing his speed, we’ve been pedal to the metal at a break-neck pace. This episode where Barry loses his powers was literally designed to slow everything down and let everybody catch their breath before the next four episodes.
TOM CAVANAGH: But the fashion with which we breathe with Barry, as he’s going through what he’s going through, in my personal opinion, is one of the most inventive things this show has done in the two seasons that I’ve been involved. I just think the way that that is crafted is brilliant. The way in which we take that breath with Barry, I think people are going to love it. It’s something we haven’t seen yet, and I think people are going to be extremely gratified.
This episode plays with power in an interesting way, with Barry Allen losing his power and a villain, in Griffin Grey, who doesn’t want his power. Was that a deliberate choice for the villain?
KREISBERG: With the episode title, “Back to Normal,” we talked about who would be a good villain for them to go up against. The idea that there was a villain who got the short end of the stick, as far as their powers were concerned, and who had taken Wells, we wanted this episode to have a profound impact on Harry. He was taken in a case of mistaken identity. He tries to rationalize, “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t create this guy, so I shouldn’t feel bad about it.” But the fact that Harry had his own guilt for what he had done and his own sins to atone for, made Griffin Grey the perfect villain to have grabbed him this week. It’s what pushes him to come up with the plan that he comes up with at the end of this episode, which propels the plot forward.
This is the first time we get to see just how crazy Hunter Zolomon is. How did he fool Team Flash into believing that he’s sane and their friend when he’s clearly so unhinged?
KREISBERG: We didn’t feel like this season is a repeat of last season. We feel like this season happened because of last season. They wanted to believe it. He kind of told them everything. The way he talked about Zoom and the way he lost his powers, they took a lot of it on faith, and a lot of that was because they wanted to believe it. Barry lost his mentor when Wells turned out to not be who he said he was, and Barry was looking for that partner. And then, along came Jay, who was willing to share secrets and teach him and give Barry all of that back. Caitlin, for her part, had lost Ronnie, and here was this knight in shining armor, coming along to replace him. I think he was able to do it because they let their guard down and wanted to believe it. Rather than getting cynical and jaded about what happened last year, because they are the sweet, nice people that they are, they wanted what they had lost back, so they let this fox into their hen house. He also has a line in an upcoming episode where he’s like, “Do you have any idea how hard it was to be Jay?!” So, I think hiding his crazy wasn’t always the easiest thing in the world for him to do.
Was Jay Garrick just a creation of Hunter Zolomon?
KREISBERG: That question will be answered down the line, and I think it’s worth not talking about.
Tom, you’ve played various versions of Harrison Wells on this show. How do you feel about the version that you’re playing now?
CAVANAGH: Here’s my thing, what I understood when I signed onto this show was that the highest tally wins. Recently, Grant [Gustin] and I had this discussion where he was like, “No, I’m #1 on the call sheet. I’m The Flash. That’s not going to change, if you do ten characters.” But I feel like, when a man sets a goal, that man should follow through with that goal. Personally, I feel like this version of Harrison Wells is coming swimmingly along. There’s a nice arc to it. The way that I play it, I like to keep all of that emotional stuff pretty close to the vest because your actions are your words.
KREISBERG: Why Tom deserves an Emmy – and I mean that in all sincerity – is that you’re reminded of the character that he played last season and how different, deadly and scary that character was, and what a wild card it was, and then, in this episode, you see a tortured man who’s beset with guilt, and then you see these incredibly loving scenes with his daughter and you see how much he loves her. It’s all played by the same guy, with shades and variations and subtle tweaks to the character, and you believe it all. Of all the things that we do, it’s the talent of the cast, and especially the performance that Tom puts in, week in and week out, and because it’s a superhero show, that won’t get recognition.
CAVANAGH: That’s one of the nice things that television can afford. You spend 40-plus hours crafting various things. It’s harder to do that on the big screen. It’s easier to do that on television, by virtue of putting in the time. If you’re fortunate enough to get on a show that runs for a little bit, then you start having these moments where you’ve invested time and you get the pay-off. That can’t happen in every episode, but when it does come along, that’s the domain of a long-running television show where people have come along with you, along the way, and they’re invested like you are, as the person playing it.
Where are Barry and Iris at, at this point?
KREISBERG: As far as Barry and Iris are concerned, we really like the idea that the trip to Earth-2 had a profound impact on everybody. It had an impact on Barry, and then when Barry told everybody what happened to him, it had an impact on them. This whole season has been about Iris, whether she realizes it or not, trying to take a step forward. She really did love Eddie and they probably would have had a life together, and a good one, if everything hadn’t happened in the finale. We couldn’t just slam [Barry and Iris] together. It would have been a disservice to Eddie and everything that happened between them. So, we’ve left it to simmer, all season long. She should be ready to move on, but she’s starting to feel like the universe is telling her otherwise.
Can we expect to see a kiss between them, before the end of the season?
KREISBERG: You can expect some twists and turns in that, but I think you can also expect it to be moving steadily forward.
Does Kevin Smith’s episode (Episode 21, “The Runaway Dinosaur”) have any nods to his movies?
KREISBERG: Yes, Jason Mewes guest stars. There is one scene in there that is literally a scene out of a Kevin Smith movie. Kevin is such a fan of this show, in a way that humbles me beyond my wildest expectations. To think about how often I quote his movies, and how he was who I wanted to be when I was in college, and to sit in a room with him and have him speak about this show so lovingly, intelligently and deeply, he didn’t approach this in the way of, “Well, here’s my chance to put my stamp on it,” or “Here’s my chance to Clerks-ify it.” His biggest drive was just to not mess it up because he’s such a fan. There was a reverence and an awe in how he approached everything. Usually, there’s a lot that goes on in editing, but this was an episode that we watched and gave very few notes and just said, “Go with God,” because it came out so great.
CAVANAGH: He’s achieved so much, and for many of us whose comedy goes in that direction, we love him. We love the fact that he is such a fan of this and is so knowledgeable about it. As a person, to watch somebody who has accomplished so much, come onto the set with such humility, it’s rare. Some people see accomplishments as power. For Kevin, it didn’t seem that any of that mattered. What mattered was the day and the fact that we were doing what we loved. The first time Grant [Gustin] showed up in that suit, it was incredible to watch Kevin. He was like, “I just can’t believe this is in front of me! Guys, isn’t this amazing?!” After lunch, he said, “I know it’s lame that I’m saying this in front of 45 grown men and women, but I think it’s amazing that we get to do what we love.” Our script supervisor is incredibly knowledgeable and is very good about stuff that needs to be done or that might be missing, and Kevin gave her credit for directing the episode. It didn’t seem false. It seemed like he felt someone needed to get credit. He would single different individuals out. His demeanor on set was unlike most. You rarely get that experience. Jesse Martin said, “I always feel like I’m energized about The Flash, but I feel like I’m completely reinvigorated just being around that man for eight shooting days,” and I think all of us felt that way. It’s rare that you see that kind of enthusiasm and gratitude. Kevin Smith proceeds from gratitude. A set is the kind of place that outs you as a person. You can be a certain way, but after 17-hour days for four months, your true personality will come out. Kevin Smith is a good human being. He’s incredible, and he’s incredible to work with.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.